EL CERRITO -- The city has a number of community activists who volunteer during their free time to make it a better place to live, but few have such a wide range of interests and involvement as Dave Weinstein.
Weinstein's volunteeractivities and civic leadership has ranged from historical preservation to recycling, land acquisition, trail construction and maintenance, and leading teams that remove garbage and debris from creeks, parks and open space.
He moved to El Cerrito in 1981, a couple of years before he was hired to cover the city as a reporter for the West County Times.
Weinstein, 62, learned about El Cerrito's key issues and identified its needs through his reporting job and soon set out to apply his interest in culture and the environment to community improvement.
He was appointed to El Cerrito's Integrated Waste Management Task Force and, as a member, helped convince the City Council to continue operating the city's pioneering recycling center when it was considering a takeover bid from the East Bay Sanitary Company.
"We convinced the city of the importance of the recycling center as a community hub for recycling things that people couldn't recycle curbside," he said.
El Cerrito eventually rebuilt and expanded the center, turning it into an award-winning, state-of-the-art facility.
Weinstein was also a key player in the movement to restore the historic Cerrito Theatre.
The art deco movie house on San Pablo Avenue operated from 1937 to 1966. After the theater closed, it was converted into a warehouse for a furniture store that had a showroom next door.
Harry Kiefer, the furniture store owner, removed the marquee from the building, covered up the front, and removed the seats, but left intact the art deco murals and art glass that were part of the interior, Weinstein said.
"The owner who bought the building from Kiefer wanted to gut the interior, so that set up an endeavor for several months where I was calling up everyone who might be interested in preserving it," he said.
Once Weinstein got the ball rolling, community members, some of whom didn't know the theater had even existed, came together to form the Friends of the Cerrito Theatre in 2002.
In February of that year, the group held an open house in the theater space and thousands of people showed up, Weinstein said.
The excitement over restoring the theater drew large turnouts at City Council meetings that helped convince the city to use redevelopment money to buy and restore the movie house.
Work was completed and the theater reopened in 2006.
"The city claimed it never knew there was a theater there," Weinstein said. "If I hadn't raised the issue, it would have been torn down."
That wasn't the end of the story. In 2009, the operators who contracted with the city to operate the Cerrito went out of business and the theater closed, but the Friends pushed the city to find a new operator, which turned out to be Rialto Cinemas, Weinstein said.
Weinstein also helped found the El Cerrito Trail Trekkers. The Trekkers, along with the Friends of Five Creeks and the El Cerrito High School mountain biking team, have spearheaded efforts to acquire a 7.5-acre parcel in the El Cerrito hills, raising $13,000 in pledges from private sources toward the project so far.
The land is a link between the northern and southern portions of the city's hillside nature area and the acquisition will allow El Cerrito to apply for grants to design and build a system of trails between the two areas.
The city embraced the idea almost immediately. Earlier this month, the City Council voted for a plan where the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land will buy the property for $475,000, help El Cerrito obtain grant funding and then resell it to the city for the same price in December of 2014.
Weinstein is also an original member of the city's Environmental Quality Committee and a leader of one of the city's "green teams" that has planted trees and removed invasive plants, and picks up trash on streets and in creeks and city parks.
"Dave is persistent and tenacious, but not confrontational or judgmental," said longtime resident Al Miller, a member of El Cerrito's Wall of Fame. "He just keeps giving you information about why his idea is a good one."
Weinstein has been program coordinator for the El Cerrito Historical Society for the past five years.
In that role, he has designed gatherings and tours at historically significant spots, including the Chung Mei School, more recently the Windrush School, at 1800 Elm St.
Weinstein has put together programs at the Eagles Hall, on Carlson Boulevard near Central Avenue, which once housed a gambling casino, and Camp Herms, a Boy Scout camp off Arlington Boulevard that was built by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.
"I give presentations on the history of the sites and try to get people who were around at the time to come and share their memories," he said.
Weinstein said he didn't pick El Cerrito as a place to live. Rather, he made it home after sharing a couple of rentals with roommates. He grew to like the city and he and his wife, Mary Barkey, would later buy a home on Ashbury Avenue.
"When I was living in Berkeley, I loved the area around Solano Avenue, which is within walking distance of where I live now," he said.
Weinstein grew up on Long Island, New York and developed an interest in film and architecture while majoring in art history at Columbia University.
He now works as a freelance writer and has authored four books about Bay Area history, architecture and culture, including "Signature Architects of the San Francisco Bay Area" and "It Came From Berkeley -- How Berkeley Changed the World."