Monday, November 2, 2015

Beware of the Swarmers

Last night's rain and today's comfortable temperatures have brought out the swarmers.

No, not lazy Halloween zombies who have belatedly risen from soggy graves. I'm talking about something much more menacing--flying termites. 

Actually, flying termites are not all that menacing. It's the colonies from which they emerge, or the ones they might create, that represent the real danger.

Winged termites, or swarmers, are those that are leaving an established colony to reproduce and create new ones. These swarmers have no biting or chewing mouthparts. Consequently, they themselves pose no immediate risk. But their presence in large quantities indicates a significant nearby nest and a potentially growing threat.

Well established subterranean termite colonies can have hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds-of-thousands of wingless worker termites. Given enough time these tiny, but voracious, workers can turn your wood home into dust.

So be on the lookout.

If you spot a line or cluster of these insidious winged insects on, in, or around your home, now or in the future, you'd be well advised to follow up with a thorough home inspection and any advised corrective action.

Most local pest control companies offer free termite inspections.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

$90-million Library Investment at Risk? It's Hayward's Fault

On tonight's City Council Consent Agenda is a resolution to award a construction contract for a new library and park plaza.

According to the subject staff report, the cost for the project will be about $65.7-million.

But, let's be honest, that's not really the total amount. What the report neglects to mention is the cost of the required financing. That amount has to be inferred from another source.

Architectural rendering of Hayward's proposed new library--the front entrance at C Street. 
A July staff report on financing authorization identifies the need to borrow $53-million for the project. This amount is to be paid back over a period of 20-years at an interest rate of as much as 4-percent. This will result in an overall finance charge of nearly $25-million and an overall project cost of about $90-million.

Allow me to state the obvious: $90-million is a tremendous amount of money. It's equivalent to $600 for every man, woman and child living in Hayward ($90,000,000 ÷ 150,000).

But the expenditure isn't just massive, it's risky as well.

In response to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the City issued a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the project. It includes eight appendices of investigative reports that collectively total over 1,300-pages of information including such things as tree health, noise levels, and historical resource quality. Yet it doesn't include a single page of what is perhaps the most important document of all, the site's geotechnical study. Why is that?

Planned library location (red square) within a regulatory
Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone (yellow) and ad-
jacent to known fault creep (C) traces of the Hayward
Fault.        Map Image from CA Dept. of Conservation.
Being that the site is located within a regulated earthquake fault zone, shouldn't the public (and perhaps those who actually authorize the project) know the full extent by which the site's seismic risk was investigated?

More specifically, how does it demon-strate, as required by California's Alquist-Priolo Act and City policy, that the proposed structure won't be built across an active fault? 

There doesn't appear to be any surface disturbance at the project site that is large enough to suggest that a proper trenching study had been performed. In fact, the text of the Neg Dec indicates that only cone penetrometer testing (CPT) was conducted.

If this is true, it's woefully insufficient. For a project of this type, size, and cost, considerably more ought to be done. Guidelines for evaluating the hazard of surface fault rupture published by the California Geological Survey (CGS) state that trenching needs to be conducted in conjunction with other methods. It also states that CPT must be done in conjunction with continuously logged borings. Nothing in the Neg Dec indicates that this has occurred.

It's widely known that a creep trace of the Hayward Fault is located no farther from the building site than the proposed building is wide. This separation is apparently sufficient for some to presume that the Hayward Fault represents a less than significant impact to the safety of the site. But seismologists at both CGS and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have told me that a known creep trace is not a definitive indicator as to where a significant surface displacement might occur during a major seismic event.

A trenching study at Tyson's Lagoon in Fremont, for example, has revealed that adjacent to a known creep trace is another active trace of the Hayward Fault that appears to only move during major events. Additionally, Jim Lienkaemper of USGS has told me that many trenches in the wider Hayward Fault zone have revealed second and third order fault traces away from the main creeping trace that are active and in most cases are believed to have moved in a seismic rupture.

These numerous inconspicuous possibilities for lateral shift across a wide swath of a fault is the reason that the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zones are as wide as they are and why appropriate investigations are required.

Not withstanding the potential physical danger posed by not properly investigating a site, the failure to demonstrate proper compliance with the Act exposes the City to enormous financial liability for possible negligence.

One section of the Alquist-Priolo Act effectively strips away the "act of God" defense by stipulating that a city that does not comply with specific provisions of the Act "may be liable for earthquake-related injuries or deaths caused by its failure to so adhere."

I've previously heard project proponents brush aside concerns over any seismic risk. They've confidently stated that the proposed library will be a robust steel structure built to modern building code standards.

Design professionals and city officials shouldn't have to be reminded that our modern building code doesn't guarantee anything. It merely defines minimum building standards in an effort to reasonably protect public health, safety, and general welfare. In a worst case scenario, the hope is that today's minimum standards are sufficiently adequate to provide occupants enough time to escape a structure before it might ultimately suffer catastrophic failure.

As demonstrated by past deadly failures constructed to standards that were considered modern for their time, success is not guaranteed. Our knowledge and, consequently, our regulations are constantly evolving.

Case in point, a UC Berkeley study published earlier this year revealed a newly discovered connection between the Hayward Fault and the Calaveras Fault. This connection supposedly increases the amount of energy that could potentially be released during a major event by more than 2½-times that which had previously been thought possible. Will future building standards for this very project site be revised to consider greater local ground accelerations based on the new findings? Probably.

But regardless of regulations, be they modern or not, no building, steel or otherwise, can withstand a massive lateral shift of the earth directly beneath its foundation. During a major seismic event, it's believed that the Hayward Fault has the potential of shifting 4-feet or more. Any building walls straddling such a rupture will most definitely yield.

PG&E map (click to visit the interactive web page). The blue lines indicate
the location of high-pressure gas transmission pipelines. The red pin
indicates the proposed location of the new library, and the red lines indicate
known creep traces of the Hayward Fault (both added by this blog).
There's also a potential-ly exacerbating issue not even mentioned in the Neg Dec. 

Just a few steps from what will be the new library's front door lies a PG&E, high-pressure, gas transmission pipe-line -- the kind that exploded 20-miles to the west in San Bruno in 2010.

As can be seen on the inset PG&E map, this high-pressure gas line crosses the Fault Zone perpendicularly at C Street.

It really won't matter where the ground surface actually ruptures in a major event, at a previously identified fault trace or somewhere adjacent, the shearing of this and other pipelines will be a virtual certainty. (Just last month, the East Bay Municipal Utility District reported nine water pipes broke throughout its service area following a minor quake on the Hayward Fault.)

PG&E believes it has addressed the threat posed by fault crossings with the installation of automatic shut-off valves. However, not being able to find any detail as to the actual extent of its efforts, I remain dubious. And apparently, I'm not alone. The Public Utilities Commission has also indicated a lack of confidence in PG&E's safety policies and practices by announcing last month its consideration of an investigative review.

Don't forget that the principle cause of San Francisco's citywide destruction in 1906 was not due to the shaking earth, but to the relentless fires that ensued--which were abundantly fueled by broken gas lines.
Some will suggest that we have nothing to fear. After all, Fire Station No. 1 is only a block away at C Street and Main. Unfortunately, however, that building may be similarly at risk. Like the proposed library, it's located within the earthquake fault zone, across the street from an identified fault trace, and immediately adjacent to the PG&E gas transmission line.

Hayward PD Substation.  Main St at its front, fault trace at its rear.
And if that doesn't suggest a cavalier attitude toward the city's namesake fault, then consider that across from the fire station is the local police substation. It's located in an old masonry structure (constructed in 1927) whose rear wall sits inches from a mapped fault trace, and it too is immediately adjacent to the high-pressure gas transmission line. Clearly, if the City considers a site like this suitable for its public safety personnel, then nothing must be off limits for other civic buildings.

This then begs the question: hasn't anything been learned from history?

Hayward has a rather unfortunate legacy with regard to its public buildings.

The city's first permanent library, the Carnegie Library, was located just over a thousand feet from the proposed project site. It was substantially damaged during the historic 1906 earthquake.

The abandoned City Hall on Mission Blvd, which sits kitty-corner to the proposed project site, was constructed directly atop one of the creep fault traces. It's now slowly being ripped in half.

The city's widely admired Union High School was torn down and the site abandoned because it was considered too seismically hazardous. But then the City Center complex was erected at the very same spot only to be rendered useless by the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.

Two years ago Cal State's iconic Warren Hall was imploded because it was considered the most seismically unsafe building in the entire state university system. (The Hayward Fault lies at the base of the hill upon which Warren Hall was perched.)

How is it that one city can have such an infamous record?

It's partly out of stupidity and partly out of pride, but mostly it's due to simple ignorance. Decision makers generally didn't know any better. The fact is the Hayward Fault wasn't mapped, nor a regulatory fault zone established, until after most of these structures were constructed.

Today, however, we know better.

Therefore, it has to be asked. If in the future this incredibly expensive project becomes prematurely unusable simply because of its risky location (like the fiasco of LA's Learning Center Complex) then what's going to be our excuse?

Proverbs 16:18

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

For God's sake, we're renaming city streets after churches now?

Quite by accident I tuned-in to last week's Hayward City Council meeting in time to hear the Council approve the renaming of a public street to that of a church.

Astonishingly, council members voted 7-0 in favor of changing the name of Forselles Way to Glad Tidings Way as petitioned by the Glad Tidings Church of God in Christ. (The church's most prominent facility is located at 27689 Tyrrell Avenue at the corner of Forselles Way as shown in the street image below.) 

Google Street View Image - March 2015

Forselles Way is a city owned, tax-payer maintained, thoroughfare that connects Tyrrell Avenue with Tampa Avenue. It's only about a quarter-of-a-mile long and flanked by eight privately owned parcels. Only three of these parcels have Forselles Way addresses, all of which are mixed use developments primarily consisting of residential apartments. A former Hayward mayor owns one; a corporation owns the other two. Both (i.e. all) of these immediately impacted property owners The former mayor and her property representatives objected to the name change at the council meeting. Despite this, the council members unanimously sided with the church. Now the objecting property owner and twenty tenants are obligated to change their addresses.


Correction: It was originally stated that the corporate property owner also objected to the name change at the council meeting. It did not.

Map of Forselles Way (gray cross-hatching). Yellow shaded parcels are the only ones with a Forselles Way address. The owner of the smallest yellow shaded parcel opposes the renaming of Forselles Way to Glad Tidings Way.

Never mind respecting property owner's rights, how about having some respect for the separation of church and state? The concept, after all, is only defined by the very first line of our Constitution's First Amendment, i.e. the Establishment Clause.

Incredibly, the City Attorney asserted at the meeting that Council's approval of the name change is not in conflict with the First Amendment, because it doesn't recognize or choose one religion over another.

Excuse me?

This is precisely what it does. By rechristening the street with the church's name, the Council is not only recognizing Glad Tidings Church, it's chosen to promote it over all others.

Or are we to understand that the Council plans on equalizing things by further renaming streets to recognize other religious establishments in the city? Considering that there are scores of religious organizations in Hayward, many sharing the same street, things might get rather interesting. Pandora's box has now been cast wide open.

What if the former mayor, who happens to be a champion of the Jewish faith, invites a rabbi to establish a synagogue on her Forselles Way property? Does the Council believe it's proper to force a Jewish institution, or even just a citizen of Jewish faith, to accept a street name that, according to the King James Bible, means preach God in Christ?

It should be obvious that the new name will have a chilling effect on the desire of other religious organizations and even citizens of other faiths to locate on the street. This equates to a form of discrimination--a blatant violation of constitutional rights.

And if the Council's decision isn't offensive enough, consider the manner by which the City advanced the cause. It too is similarly egregious and most definitely suspicious.

First, the City didn't even intend to have the matter heard or discussed by anyone at all. It was buried within the Council's 'consent agenda'--the part of the meeting where numerous routine, supposedly non-controversial issues are voted on as a whole, all at once, without discussion. In this particular instance, it was Item #8 in a group of 20 "routine" items. Had it not been for the in-person objections, the name change would have been approved with hardly anyone noticing at all.

Secondly, it seems oddly convenient that a decision that might subsequently be challenged was scheduled for the last typical Council meeting before its summer break. The next opportunity for the Council action to be redressed is September 15, 2015--after the new name has most likely been implemented.

Next, isn't it peculiar that there isn't any discussion of the glaring First Amendment issue in the Council Staff Report? Isn't it also odd that none of the Council members inquired about it? It wasn't until the presiding mayor made her closing remarks that she awkwardly alluded to a non-public discussion on the matter, apparently introduced by an email message that remains undisclosed. She then asked the City Attorney to weigh-in, where he provided the comment previously mentioned. Curiously, the Council's meeting webpage doesn't include the referenced message. It only links to correspondence in support of the name change--one from the Police Chief of neighboring Union City and another from a former Hayward School Board President.

Screenshot of the Council's meeting webpage that shows it providing links to only correspondence in support of the Item #8 name change, but not to the inquisitive message alluded to in the meeting (7/28/2015).
Click the image to visit the Council webpage.

Finally, at the end of the discussion and just prior to the vote, the presiding mayor actually thanked those responsible for bringing the name change request to Council. She also said she was sorry that the issue had caused such dissent and hoped that differences would be resolved as we all move on.  Kumbaya, Madam Mayor. Kumbaya.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bring Back the Blotter!

Two years ago, the Hayward Police Department joined the public safety website Nixle. Each week, the department would post a blotter to the Nixle platform. It provided an informative description of recent criminal activity, the corresponding police response, and the outcome.

In March of this year the regular posting of the blotter abruptly stopped with a promise that it would return three weeks later in a new and improved format. Two months have now passed since it was supposed to have returned.

(Message posted to Nixle by Hayward PD in March)

When I inquired to staff as to what was going on, I was told that the blotter was discontinued because it was thought that it cast Hayward in a bad light. It would return when it could be figured out how to present the information in way that didn't reflect so negatively on the city.

Huh? This doesn't really seem to jibe with the PD's previous message. But if what I was told is true, we're probably in for a long wait. How do you put a happy face on criminal activity? still appears to be updated by the department. But with descriptions of only one or two words in length, the information is hardly useful or interesting. What's more, this kind of limited reporting actually does make the city look bad, because it only indicates widespread criminal activity and not successful policing in the form of identifying suspects and making arrests.

To be useful to residents and businesses (and therefore the department itself), the reporting should be detailed and accurate without any unnecessary censorship or spin. It should also include mug shots like those included in the Union City Police Blotter. Geo-referencing the information to an interactive map is also nice, but without a truly descriptive narrative it is of little value.

Please bring back the blotter.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Free photovoltaic systems for qualified homeowners

Last month, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that some low-income homeowners are eligible to receive free solar arrays that typically cost $15,000 or more. According to the article, the generous giveaway is made possible through a California program managed by Grid Alternatives, an Oakland based, non-profit company.

Upon browsing the Grid Alternatives website, I was confused to find program eligibility requirements that apparently differed from those mentioned in the article. While I personally wouldn't qualify under the requirements of either list, I wondered how anyone could if the requirements of both needed to be satisfied. So out of curiosity, I decided to contact the company to find out more.

As it turns out, Grid Alternatives purchases and installs solar panels using subsidies acquired through multiple State programs having different qualifications. Depending on a client's particular situation, the company will seek funding from the appropriate source.

Of course, "appropriate" is a subjective term. Some argue that none of this is appropriate, since it all appears to be a questionable gift of public funds.

Whatever the case, it is what it is. So I figured I'd just share what I've learned for those who might be able to take advantage of the opportunities while they last.

The two programs currently worth trumpeting are the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program and the Low Income Weatherization Program. The SASH program is the more established of the two (for photovoltaics) and the one most prominently featured on the Grid Alternative's website at the time of this posting. The Low Income Weatherization program is the one highlighted by the Chronicle article.

The common fundamental prerequisites for both programs are:

  1) The homeowner must live in the home, and
  2) The household must earn no more than 80-percent of the area median income (AMI)
        (based on the previous year's tax return).

For those living in Alameda County, the income limits are as follows:


Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program

The Single-family Affordable Solar Homes or SASH program is a solar incentive program intended to fully or partially subsidize the installation of a photovoltaic system for low-income homeowners. It's offered through the California Solar Initiative (CSI) and is overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The program has a budget of $108.3-million and is managed by Grid Alternatives on the PUC's behalf.

In addition to the common requirements previously described, this program requires that the home be classified as "affordable housing" as defined by the Public Utilities Code 2852.

If not, the home should otherwise be located in a qualified census tract. In Hayward, current qualifying census tracts include those shaded in green and blue on the map below. These can change from year-to-year; so what qualifies this year may not in future years and vice-versa. (This census tract qualifier is a new one that was recently approved by the State and is not listed on Grid Alternative's website at the time of this posting.)

Blue and green shaded area = Currently eligible census tracts in 2015.
Purple shaded area = Previously eligible census tracts, but no longer.


Low Income Weatherization Program

The Low Income Weatherization Program has traditionally disbursed funds to organizations like Hayward's Spectrum Community Services for repairing or replacing inefficient, energy consuming appliances and systems in low income households.  But thanks to the greenhouse gas-reduction funds generated by California's Cap-and-Trade Program, it now also provides money for Grid Alternatives to install photovoltaic systems for low income homeowners.

While the Weatherization Program currently has a smaller budget than the SASH program, the funding windfall generated by cap-and-trade, together with a legislated minimum allocation requirement, suggest that this program will potentially offer greater opportunities in the future.

In addition to the common fundamental requirements previously described, this program requires that the home be located in a disadvantaged community. A disadvantaged community is an area disproportionately burdened by environmental pollution and socioeconomic issues as established by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), In Hayward, this is the red shaded area on the map below.

Only Hayward's western most neighborhoods have been assigned this designation. This is obviously based upon a recognition that these neighborhoods are primarily disadvantaged by their proximity to the Russell City Energy Center. Strangely, however, the delineated boundary doesn't appear completely rational or fair. While the area includes the Eden Shores Community, where some homes are currently valued at over a million dollars, the boundary appears to deliberately exclude the more economically depressed neighborhood portions surrounding Mt Eden Park. These excluded portions are closer to the power plant, are clearly at a greater disadvantage, and are seemingly more suitable candidates of current and future offers of assistance in terms of program requirements and objectives.

Future boundary changes are possible, according to CalEPA. Therefore, it should be incumbent upon the City Council and Assemblyman Bill Quirk to lobby hard for the proper expansion of the disadvantaged area. Considering that they didn't offer any resistance to locating the offending pollution source in the community in the first place, it's the least they can do now. 

Red shading represents a disadvantaged area that potentially  qualifies low-income homeowners
for free or greatly discounted photvoltaic systems.

If all of this seems a bit convoluted, that's because it is. These are multifaceted bureaucratic programs with evolving rules and conditions. Be sure to contact Grid Alternatives if you think you qualify or are otherwise uncertain. As the programs' adminstrator/contractor, only they can definitively determine and correctly explain how they might be able to assist.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

EBRPD Police - A Nextdoor Introduction

This past week, the Police Department of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) joined the online social website 'Nextdoor.'  As a way of introduction, a brief description of the department was posted. It partially states:

"By land, by sea, and by air we provide around-the-clock services through a variety of specialized assignments. Our department includes patrol teams, the Air Support Unit, Marine Patrol, Equestrian Patrols, K-9 Unit, Special Enforcement Unit, Investigations Unit, and a 24-hour per day 9-1-1 Communications Center."

Rather impressive I think...and also somewhat sad. After all, what does it say about our society that our park spaces require such extensive law enforcement?

When you visit the District's website you learn that its police force is made up of 65-sworn officers costing more than $13-million per year. You'll also find images and video of the department's operations and equipment, including a SWAT team and a "Ballistic Armored Tactical Transport" (BATT) truck. The armored vehicle is similar to the one used by Hayward and that recently ordered by the City of San Leandro.

I can't help but wonder; don't our cities, counties, state and federal law enforcement agencies have enough warrior cops and militaristic hardware that we have to further fund a dedicated SWAT team and an armored truck for our parks as well?

Images from East Bay Regional Park District Police Department webpage and recruitment video.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hayward's Sales Tax Increases to 10-percent -- April 1, 2015

No, it's not an April Fools' joke unfortunately. Today, Hayward's sales tax--together with that of San Leandro, Union City, and Albany--increases to 10-percent, the highest in the state. The increase is a result of voters approving County Transportation Measure BB this past November. (Hayward's sales tax rate had just previously increased from 9- to 9½-percent this past October as a consequence of Measure C.)

El Cerrito and four Los Angeles communities share our top tier tax status. At 10-percent, we now have a higher sales tax rate than 99-percent of the nearly 1,800 communities listed on the State Board of Equalization's website.

Approximately 500 California communities have a sales tax rate of 7½-percent--the State's base rate. What's the difference? 2½-percentage points obviously, but in more tangible terms: a $30,000 vehicle purchased and registered in a city having a 10-percent sales tax rate will cost $750 more in sales tax than one purchased and registered in community having a 7½-percent rate--an appreciable difference.

For a breakdown of Hayward's sales tax composition, see this previous post.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

New Senior Apartments at Grand and B Streets

Construction of Eden Housing's Hayward Senior Phase II project, located at the intersection of Grand and B Streets, is now complete. The new 22-apartment facility, as seen in the photo above, is fairly faithful to the plan approved by the City Council in May 2011 (below).

Revised development proposal after collaborating with neighbors.
While I'm not a fan of the bright white window frames that contrast rather harshly with the earth tone colors of other materials, I think that overall the project turned out quite well--considerably better than what was originally proposed before neighbors got involved.

I recall receiving a postcard back in early 2011 announcing the proposed project. The card contained a tiny black & white image, not much bigger than a postage stamp. I couldn't make out the details, but it didn't appear to be particularly attractive. Upon requesting and receiving the original pic (below), it was confirmed; I didn't like it, nor did my neighbors.

Original development proposal before neighborhood involvement.
There weren't any neighbor-hood meetings conducted prior to the scheduled project approval. So a petition was circulated requesting that it be rejected. With about 50 households signing the petition and numerous individuals expressing objections and concerns at the Council meeting, consideration was postponed to a later date.

Eden Housing and its architectural firm, Struthers Dias Architects, then worked diligently to respond to the community's concerns. They held two neighborhood meetings and went back to the drawing board after each one. The outcome speaks for itself. The community collaboration clearly resulted in a much improved plan for which all involved can be generally proud.

NOTE: All of the apartments at this new facility have already been leased. Those interested in similar housing opportunities should regularly check the Eden Housing website

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Police Response and Posturing - Things Need to Improve

In the relatively recent past, there have been numerous shootings at the Hayward BART Station:

In each instance, the police response was remarkably underwhelming. I know this, because I live and work across the street. The response to the 2012 shooting, in fact, didn't even get noticed by the press. You won't find a single article about it online.

As far as I know, none of the shooters in any of these instances were ever identified or arrested. This is despite the fact that the Hayward Station is a bustling transit hub with numerous security cameras and a near 24/7 police presence.

Last week, in a neighborhood just a few blocks away, it was a whole nother story. Early Sunday morning, some moron decided that the smartest response to being pulled over was to shoot at the officer and then flee on foot. What ensued was a neighborhood lockdown, a 12-hour manhunt, and a spectacle that made the streets of Hayward look like those of Fallujah. The dummy was eventually captured, and I imagine he'll remain locked up for quite some time--to which I applaud and say good riddance.

But all this leaves me wondering; why is the response to a threat on an officer taken so much more seriously than a threat on an entire station of civilians? How is it that anyone can walk into a downtown transit hub adjacent to City Hall and get away with discharging a firearm, time and time again? Why is it though, that when an officer is threatened, a militaristic dragnet is launched? This kind of disparate response doesn't seem right to me.

To be clear, I'm not objecting to a thorough and professional police response as is warranted. But in my humble opinion the police are not nearly as dedicated to responding to threats on the public as they are to threats on the brotherhood--I'm talking to the point of absurdity.

When images of last week's manhunt started to appear on various social media sites. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Images posted to various social media sites showing Hayward PD's 12-hour manhunt on Sunday, March 1, 2015.

When I look at these pictures, I don't see peace officers; I see commandos. Many are not wearing police uniforms, badges, or the regular police patch. They're wearing battle-fatigues, special forces insignia, and they're armed to the teeth. These guys look like they're going to war.

Now I won't pretend to know what the proper armament is for any given policing situation, but let's be honest, dressing up like G.I. Joe is completely ridiculous and unnecessary. We're not in the desert, the jungle, or any theater of war. It seems to me that this kind of dress is purely for the intimidation factor.

Police vehicle marketing image.
Policing by intimidation appears to be an increasingly disturbing trend throughout the country. Even regular police cruisers are being marketed as menacingly aggressive.

Why? Does anyone believe that the bad guys are being scared straight by all of this posturing? They're not. It's primarily serving to creep out decent folks who want to live in a safe and welcoming community--me included.

Hey Hayward, let's work to ensure that our police responses are always properly adequate without all the unnecessary bravado. Can we do that please?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reduce your garbage costs

Now that the Hayward City Council approved a garbage collection rate hike of nearly 10-percent come March, residential customers should re-evaluate their disposal habits and determine their true garbage collection needs. Doing so could offset the rate increase by manyfold.

According to the most recent StopWaste Benchmark brochure, 45-percent of what Hayward residents are discarding in their garbage carts should actually be placed in their recycling carts or green waste carts. If this is true, then the average Hayward resident may be using a garbage cart that is at least one size too large. Think about it: a 35-gallon volume reduced by 45-percent is about 19-gallons; a 64-gallon volume reduced by 45-percent equals 35-gallons; and a 96-gallon volume reduced by the same amount leaves 53-gallons. Admittedly there is a bit of incongruity here as the StopWaste survey was conducted as a percentage of weight not volume. However, it's reasonable to assume that more meticulous sorting and more conscientious consuming could reduce needed cart volume by at least one size.

If an overly large cart is currently desired for the purpose of occasional overflow, consider metering out some of the garbage to future regular pickups, a special bulk pickup, or a free transfer station drop-off (customers can get two free bulk pickups and two coupons for free transfer station drop-offs each year). Or consider purchasing a trash compactor, the year-after-year savings might justify it.

          Possible savings:

          Switching from a 35-gallon cart to a: 20-gallon cart will save $113/year

          Switching from a 64-gallon cart to a: 35-gallon cart will save $280/year
                                                               20-gallon cart will save $393/year

          Switching from a 96-gallon cart to a: 64-gallon cart will save $280/year
                                                               35-gallon cart will save $560/year
                                                               20-gallon cart will save $673/year

In addition to the above, cart based customers with low incomes may qualify for a reduced cost savings of $93/year.

To adjust cart size, schedule bulk pickups, request coupons for transfer station drop-offs or to learn of eligibility requirements for a low income rate reduction, call
Waste Management of Alameda County at 510-537-5500.
The various collection cart sizes. The 20-gallon size is the 35-gallon cart with a small bucket liner inside.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Garbage collection rates are going up, up, up

Last month, Hayward property owners and businesses received notice of proposed rate increases for garbage, recycling, and organics services. The notice provides a table that lists comparable residential rates of nearby jurisdictions. The table indicates that Hayward's rate after the proposed increase will actually be low relative to others for the first year. This is somewhat comforting, until you realize that collection rates have been increasing significantly among all local jurisdictions and will probably continue to do so.

The issue will be taken up this evening as the City Council considers approving a new franchise agreement with Waste Management. The proposal now on the table could increase our garbage collection rates by as much as 27.5-percent over the next four years and as much as 52-percent over a seven year term.

The staff report on the matter explains that substantial increases are necessary to stem Waste Management losses and to ensure a positive return on investment.

Pardon me for being skeptical, but something doesn't seem right. How can the magnitude of these increases be justified when you consider:

  • Inflation is low and has been for years. The Bay Area Consumer Price Index (CPI) has been averaging only 2.4% per year over the past six years;
  • The volume of discarded material per capita is dropping, while more rate payers are being added in more densely populated and more easily serviced neighborhoods. Hundreds of new rate payers have been added to the Burbank neighborhood in just the past few years alone. Additionally, customers are separating more of their waste for recycling;
  • Recycled materials are an increasingly valuable commodity as a greater number of consumer goods are manufactured with them;
  • With each passing year we're paying more and more disposal/recycling fees at the point of sale or as a property assessment--this includes fees for household hazardous waste, tires, lumber, paint, electronic waste, cans, bottles, etc.

Despite all this, our rates continue to increase substantially. What gives?

Beats me. The problem here is that we have a business effectively operating as a monopoly. Waste Management has been servicing Hayward for at least four decades and will apparently continue to do so for at least the next seven years. Property owners and businesses must accept this as the company has exclusive operating rights in the city--no other company can legally duplicate it services. The city yields some regulatory authority with this arrangement, but true transparency is not available to the general public.

What is the company's cost of servicing Hayward? What amount of revenue is it generating here? Without competition, is it operating efficiently? Who knows? The only information readily available on the Internet is that the company posted a $270-million profit in its most recently reported quarter and that its CEO recently received over $10-million in annual compensation. Not too shabby, eh?

I understand the City is requesting that additional services be provided by Waste Management, which of course would impact rate payer costs. But its not clear how a dollar of additional service costs translates to the invoice of an individual rate payer. If the proposed rate increase is due primarily to the desired additional services, then perhaps the Council needs to reconsider its wish list.

Another problem, that is certainly impacting cost, is that the City is effectively taxing rate payers through the franchise agreement. This is done by charging Waste Management impact fees. The city has been charging the company a fee for street sweeping, and it's now proposing a fee for roadway rehabilitation. According to the staff report, these fees total 3.5-percent of revenue, which, of course, is passed on to captive rate payers. The result is basically a clandestine tax on property owners and businesses that was never approved by voters as required by Proposition 218.

Unfortunately, in the end, we all know how this story plays out. As long as Hayward's rate payer costs are in-line with those of neighboring jurisdictions, it makes no difference whether the proposed increases are clearly justifiable or not. They're going to happen, so budget accordingly.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Plastic plumbing... soon to be permitted in Hayward homes?

Tomorrow the City Council will consider ending Hayward's long standing prohibition of plastic plumbing in homes and other buildings.

PEXABSPVC, and CPVC pipes and fittings are all allowed by the California Plumbing Code. However, Hayward has traditionally adopted the State code with amendments that specifically forbid them. While this may have been warranted decades ago following initial quality concerns, doing so now just serves to add excessive costs to new construction and remodeling projects.

As a result, this prohibition generates a considerable amount of ridicule directed at the City. Many project owners and contractors with whom I'm familiar consider the ban incredibly burdensome and unnecessary. It's one of the frustrating hindrances frequently mentioned when discussing development in Hayward.

Now numerous city departments have come around to recommending that the restrictive amendments to the State plumbing code be eliminated. I wholeheartedly concur.

If the Council acts as recommended, construction using plastic plumbing materials may be permitted by the end of February.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

January is Restaurant Month in Hayward

Throughout the month of January, seventeen Hayward restaurants are offering the discounts listed below via a promotional voucher booklet--Dine Hayward. The booklet costs $10, and proceeds benefit the City's Homework Support Center and the Leadership Hayward Program.

Booklets can be purchased at the Hayward Main Library as well as the Hayward Chamber of Commerce.

25% off on full order
  Bijou Restaurant & Bar (with purchase of entree)

20% off on full order
  IHOP (after 2pm)
  Kin Cafe (excludes beverages)

15% off on full order
  Acqua e Farina Ristorante (excludes alcohol)
  éko Coffee Bar & Tea House
  Ristorante Di Palermo (2 dinner entree purchase)
  San Marcos Taqueria (minimum $25 purchase)
  The Golden Peacock

10% off on full order
  Bubble Crab Cajun Restaurant
  Buon Appetito (dinner order)
  Skywest Bar & Grill
25% off a dozen cupcakes
  The Cupcake Shoppe (2 dozen maximum)

Buy one, get one free
  The Cannery Cafe

Buy one, get one 50% off
  The Golden Tea Garden (high tea service)

One free dessert
  Buddy's Bites & Brews (w/purchase of 2 meals)

Free Buffalo Poppers
  Buffalo Bill's Brewery (w/purchase of an entree)

Free flan
  El Taquito #2 (w/purchase of specialty items 1-12)

Note that all the coupons expire at the end of the month, and they may not be combined with any other offer or promotion. All restaurant offers are for dine-in only.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Explore Hayward Businesses using Google Business View

Now here's something fun. Have you ever used Google Maps Street View to move from an outdoor street scene to an indoor view of a store or restaurant?  It's a Google feature called Business View, and scores of Hayward businesses can be explored this way.

Business View of Val's Burgers. Click on the image to navigate around this venerable Hayward institution.

Participating proprietors offer a navigable, virtual tour of their business locations with the hope that you'll be enticed enough to visit in person. Having perused some interesting sites, like The Book Shop, the Reptile Room and Karen's Flower Kottage, I would say mission accomplished. Some others, however, may leave you wondering what they were thinking.

Whatever the case, check out some of what Hayward has to offer using the links below. If you like what you see, resolve to visit and support them in 2015.

Note: Fluid navigation requires a high-speed Internet connection.
        Links will open in a separate tab.

Auto DealersRestaurants / Cafes / Bakeries
Hayward NissanAcqua E' Farina
Team Volkswagen of HaywardBest Burger
Bronco Billy's Pizza Palace
Barbers / SalonsBuon Appetito
Antonio's Old Fashion BarberCaffe Caribe
Cuts n Stuff - Hair Designs Phase IICalifornia Gyro & Pizza
High Fashion StudiosCarmen Family BBQ
Nails InternationalCelia's Mexican
Perfect Hair & NailsChina Best
Tracy Hair SalonEl Taquito
Vizion's Beauty SalonEl Taquito Restaurant #2
Wonder NailsEmil Villa's California BBQ
Eon Coffee
Gyms / Fitness / HealthFink's Bakery
24 Hr FitnessGrand Taipei Restaurant
24 Hr Fitness Super SportGreen Tea House
Arthur Murray Dance StudiosHayward Ranch
Hayward Martial ArtsKenkoy's Grill
Hot Box YogaKona BBQ & Grill
Kraski's NutritionKorea House
Sparta Gymnastics AcademyLa Cosita
La Paradis
OthersLos Compadres
Acme Awards and EmbroideryLos Dos Hermanos
Airport Home ApplianceLos Planes De Renderos
Alma's CreationsMr. Pho
Avalon JewelryMy Favorite Indian
BedrosiansPizza House
Chalk It Up Pool HallRed Chili
Colyer's Used AppliancesRibs-n-Things
Cycle Path HaywardShark Shack
East Bay Lawn MowerSunflower 2
Eden Jewelry and Loan Co.Taqueria Los Gallos 2
Fiesta DepotThe Bistro
Hayward FloralThe Golden Tea Room
Hayward GiftTogos
Hayward Minuteman PressTommy's Donuts
Hayward VideoTomodachi Sushi Bistro
Higgins Jewelry CenterUnited Bar & Grill
Karen's Flower KottageUnited Paleria y Neveria
Kim Pacific Martial Arts SupplyVal's Burgers
La Esperanza TricolorYuki Hana Sushi
La Mexicana
R&H Liquors
Reptile Room
Sun Tans to Go
Superway Aquarium
The Book Shop
Tu Tiendo Azteca

Lastly, for those who like to reminisce; here are a couple of old time classics--gone but not forgotten...    Vasiliki's (now Black Bear Diner) and Medina's Gym.

Please report broken links, businesses that no longer exist, or businesses using Business View that have not been included here.