The city has lost at least the first round of its legal fight to prevent one of the largest crematoriums on the West Coast from taking root in East Oakland.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ruled late last month that Oakland's hastily drafted law requiring council approval for new crematoriums does not apply to a crematorium project by the Neptune Society of Northern California that had already secured a city building permit.
"As we've said all along, we followed the rules ..." the company's president Mike Miller said in an email. "We are pleased that the judge agreed the treatment we received afterward by the city was unfair and inappropriate."
A spokesman for City Attorney Barbara Parker said she will consult with the City Council about a possible appeal.
Neptune got a permit to build the facility at Kitty Lane near the Oakland Airport in May 2012. One day later, citing community concerns about mercury and other toxins emitted by crematoriums, Councilman Larry Reid proposed an emergency ordinance that would have required all proposed crematoriums to obtain a special permit from the council.
The council unanimously passed the law, but Grillo said Neptune's building permit wasn't subject to the law because it predates it.
Oakland has three other crematoriums, but none that would be as big as Neptune's, which is projected to cremate more than 3,000 bodies a year. The company had tried to build a similar facility in Richmond, but gave up in the face of community opposition.
Nehanda Imara, an organizer at Communities for a Better Environment and East Oakland resident said putting the facility in East Oakland was disrespectful to residents and that the city needed to appeal.
"They won the battle," she said. "But it's not over."
Jimmy Carter coming to East Oakland
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter plans to hammer some nails in East Oakland next month, and he's bringing former first lady Rosalynn Carter and another power couple: country music singers Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.
The annual Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project is spotlighting two Habitat for Humanity housing developments that the nonprofit group is building for low-income families in the Bay Area. One is in Oakland's Brookfield Village neighborhood, the other in East San Jose.
The Oct. 6 and 7 Oakland visit, which includes a ceremony at the Paramount Theatre, won't be the one-term Democratic president's first East Bay jaunt. When Carter toured the Port of Oakland in July 1980, he told Oakland residents he was "very delighted to be the first president, really since 1904, to come here to Oakland on an official visit."
Four months later, Alameda County was one of just three California counties Carter carried in his bruising electoral defeat to Ronald Reagan. The others were San Francisco and Yolo, home to UC Davis.
Brown signs Alameda County hospital law
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Friday that prohibits Alameda County's public hospital authority, the Alameda Health System, from privatizing the medical services provided by its doctors. The bill also further clears the way for San Leandro Hospital and Alameda Hospital to join the county consortium by protecting the existing retirement benefits of employees who work at those hospitals as they merge with the Alameda County system.
Assembly Bill 1008, sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, had support from several unions and no registered opposition.
Berkeley city clerk to issue passports
The Berkeley city clerk's office has become an official passport issuing office authorized by the U.S. Department of State.
The city clerk's office, located on the first floor of 2180 Milvia St., can take passport applications between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
City Clerk Mark Numainville, in a memo to the City Council, said the office trained seven members of its staff to become agents of the State Department after his staff noticed there was a need for additional passport services downtown. The main post office downtown issues passports, as does the Recreational Sports Facility at UC Berkeley.
In addition, the city clerk's office will offer passport photo services at the going rate of $10, the memo said.
For more information on the city's passport services, check the Internet at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/Home/Passport_Information.aspx.
Hayward Clean, Green Task Force wins grant
Hayward's Clean and Green Task Force is being honored for its work to improve the community through its cleanups.
Waste Management awarded the task force a $4,000 Think Green grant, one of 50 handed out nationwide. The money will go toward cleanup events, waste collection supplies and equipment, and a pilot project to address illegal dumping in Hayward.
The Clean and Green Task Force was started by Mayor Michael Sweeney several years ago to improve the city's appearance. On the fourth Saturday of the month, the volunteer group targets a different neighborhood, gathering in the morning to collect trash and illegally dumped items.
On Sept. 28, the group will focus on the Burbank neighborhood from 8:30 a.m. to noon.