Mechanics Bank on Solano Ave. robbed

Police are looking for a suspect who used a handgun to rob the Mechanics Bank on Solano Avenue in Berkeley just after it opened Wednesday morning.

Berkeley police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats said the robbery occurred at 9:26 a.m. No injuries were reported and police are searching the neighborhood and talking to bank employees. Police were not sure if the man left in a car or fled on foot, Coats said.

The suspect is described as a black man, possibly in his late 30s, about 6 feet 6 inches tall, stocky, wearing a black watchman's cap and a dark sweatshirt and carrying a black backpack.

Report lauds Albany for tobacco control

Albany and Richmond were among the Bay Area cities lauded for their tobacco control efforts in the American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control 2013 reports released Tuesday.

The annual American Lung Association report grades California cities and counties on "local tobacco control policies including those for smokefree outdoor environments, smokefree housing, and reducing sales of tobacco products."

Albany, Richmond and Contra Costa County were ranked among the top 17 jurisdictions in the state for their efforts with an overall grade of A in the report, available online at www.lung.org/california.

Berkeley was given a B grade, Pinole earned an overall grade of C, San Pablo a D, while El Cerrito and Hercules were given F grades.

Statewide efforts fared poorly. "While the state earned an A grade for smokefree air policies, it received a D for its low cigarette tax, an F for failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and control programs, and another F for poor coverage of smoking cessation and treatment services," the association said.

Theater Showcase set at El Cerrito High

El Cerrito High School's Supporters of the Theater Arts group will present a Theater Showcase featuring student performances of original commercials, musical numbers, pantomimes and classical scenes at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at the ECHS Theater, 540 Ashbury Ave. A suggested donation will be requested at the door.

Free opera program at Berkeley Library

A lecture and concert previewing highlights from West Edge Opera's production of "L'incoronazione di Poppea" will be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the fifth floor Art and Music Room of the Central Library, 2090 Kittredge St.

General Director Mark Streshinsky will introduce the upcoming production as cast members perform selected arias from the Monteverdi opera.

The West Edge Opera production opens Feb. 1 at the Performing Arts Theater at El Cerrito High School, 540 Ashbury Ave. Details: www.westedgeopera.org.

Community service week honors King

Albany is holding a commitment to service week in honor of the Martin Luther King holiday. Commit to Serve Week started Jan. 15 and runs through Jan. 21, which is the holiday honoring the birth of the slain civil rights leader.

To take part, stop in at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave., to make a volunteering pledge of service. Details: 510-524-9283.

Talk on city's movie house history

Author Dave Weinstein will give a free talk on "Berkeley's Movie Theaters -- the Lost and the Found" at 2 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Berkeley Historical Society's offices at 1931 Center St. Weinstein is chairman of Friends of the Cerrito Theater and author of "It Came from Berkeley."

Discussion will include the city's once-high number of theater screens in a concentrated area, efforts that preserved some movie houses and others that were lost, and the city's role in the start of repertory cinema.

Tickets available for Lions Club crab feed

The annual Albany Lions Club Crab Feed is set for 6:30 to 8 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Veterans Building in Memorial Park, 1325 Portland Ave. The evening starts with a 5:30 p.m. social hour.

There will also be a silent auction. All proceeds benefit the club's programs and projects.

Tickets are $40 each, available by calling Harry at 510-524-9839 or Valerie at 510-685-7844 or sending an email to albanylionsca@gmail.com.

Exchange Club crab feed benefits sports

The Albany-El Cerrito Exchange Club is again serving a crab feast to benefit El Cerrito youth programs, including the girls varsity and junior varsity soccer teams at El Cerrito High School.

The crab feed, which includes a raffle, no-host bar and prizes, is at 6 p.m. Jan. 26 at the El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane. No outside alcohol or take home food is allowed. Tickets are $40 each, available by contacting Cheryl Burnell at 510-364-0198 or cburnell94547@yahoo.com.

-- Chris Treadway and Doug Oakley