Arson suspect arrested in El Cerrito

A 36-year-old suspected arsonist has been arrested for a string of recent fires in the El Cerrito hills, authorities said.

Marcos Gonzales, of El Cerrito, was arrested on July 22 and booked at County Jail in Martinez on suspicion of seven counts of arson, police said.

Gonzales is believed to be responsible for seven blazes between July 18 and July 22 in the area of Moeser Lane, Seaview Drive and Shevlin Drive, all arson fires, according to El Cerrito officials. Five of the incidents were grass fires and two spread to structures, according to police.

During the first reported fire witnesses told police they saw a man yelling at drivers and passers-by while flicking on a lighter. No one was injured in the fires.

Authorities did not say how the investigation by police and fire led them to Gonzales. An off-duty police lieutenant spotted Gonzales on Tuesday walking on Moeser Lane near the Hillside Nature area as detectives were finishing an affidavit to obtain a warrant for his arrest, police said.

He was later arrested with the help of a California Highway Patrol helicopter and El Cerrito police on off-road motorcycles.

The investigation is ongoing. Police have not ruled out the possibility that there is a second suspect at large.

All-day bike race to close city streets

An all-day bicycle racing event on Sunday will close several streets along the Albany and El Cerrito border.


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The 30th annual Berkeley Bicycle Club Criterium will bring some 400 to 450 entrants who will race in various brackets starting at 7 a.m. of up to 60 riders at a time.

The event, held in Albany for the past 10 years, has a different course than in the past, extending into El Cerrito for the first time in order to avoid a section of Thousand Oaks Boulevard in Albany made unsafe due to utility work.

The race will be on a loop of about .8 of a mile formed by Portland Avenue, northbound Key Route Boulevard, Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Ramona Avenue, Ward Avenue and Carmel Avenue. Those streets will be closed to motor traffic from 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Vehicles will also have to be removed from curbside parking spaces by 5 a.m.

Personnel will be stationed at intersections to direct traffic around the closures.

Races will be held throughout the day, said Steve Rosefield, one of the event organizers, and presentations will be held in Albany's Memorial Park near the finish line on Portland Avenue.

The event is hosted by the Berkeley Bicycle Club, the East Bay Velo Club of Oakland and Albany High School mountain bike club, which is the beneficiary of event proceeds.

"It's a nice venue because there's a park in the middle," Rosefield said. "People can come any time during the day and watch. These guys move pretty fast, they can get up to 40 mph."

For those who want to participate, registration is open through the morning of the event. For more details, look under the "events" section at berkeleybike.org.

Urban greening plan design session set

El Cerrito has five pilot projects in its urban greening plan and wants to get community reaction to them at a design charrette from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane.

Project areas are Fairmont Park, the Hillside Natural Area, the original site of Portola Middle School site, the stretch of Fairmount Avenue between Carlson Boulevard and San Pablo Avenue, and connections between the Bay Trail and Wildcat Canyon (Green Belt) Connections.

The projects were chosen for their strategic locations, multiple environmental and community benefits, and pilot potential.

The charrette will open with an overview and update on the urban greening plan, followed by a facilitated design workshop, lunch and presentations on the five projects.

Details: 510-215-4385, ealter@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us or www.ElCerritoUrbanGreening.org.

Opening date set for Whole Foods location

A Whole Foods store will open on Gilman Street in Berkeley on Nov. 4, the company said this week.

Whole Foods was previously planning to open in nearby Albany but decided on Berkeley after Albany residents protested a development plan on UC Berkeley land a few blocks away on San Pablo Avenue.

The new 47,800 square-foot store will be the second in Berkeley, adding to the brand's Telegraph Avenue location. The new store is currently under construction at the corner of 10th and Gilman streets.

Banjo master Bill Evans in Albany program

Hometown banjo wizard Bill Evans is the featured guest at the next @theCenter program at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave., from 6:30 to 8 p.m. July 25. Admission to "Bill Evans: Banjo in America," a journey through more than 250 years of American music, is $10. Seating is limited.

The @theCenter series will have live music, movies, demonstrations, lectures and other events.

-- Rick Hurd, David DeBolt, Doug Oakley and Chris Treadway