It’s Food Smack-Down Time!



It’s the  fifth year of the Pinole food smack-down also known as the Culinary Clash, presented by Kitchen@812.
2016 Culinary Clash
Friday, June 10 from 5:30-9 PM
812 San Pablo Ave., Ste. 2
Pinole, Ca. 94564

Four Teams
Four Culinary Creations
One Champion

Watch as four teams Fire up the Stoves and do battle in the kitchen for the Grand Prize.
This year’s Master of Ceremony, “Mack” Williams, welcomes the four teams:
Team Chevron led by Chef Narcisco Salvador
Team Contra Costa County led by Chef Phillipe Routhier
Team Mechanics Bank led by Chef Marc Maier
Team PG&E (the defending champions) led by Chef Meyta Saetern

The Judges:
Greg Dunmore, The Japanese Pantry
Alison Negrin, Chef Alison Negrin & Associates
Kevin Tucker, Old Skool Cafe
Your ticket entitles you to sample the teams’ creations, samples from 15 businesses, beer, wine and entertainment.
This is a fund-raiser for the Non-Profit Food Incubator, Kitchen@812.


812 San Pablo Avenue
Pinole, Ca. 94564
Tickets here


Pinole Community Playhouse Gets a Facelift


One of the nice things about living in a small community is that you get a chance to know great people who make contributions for all the right reasons.
This is the case with Patti and Dave Clark, the couple behind Pinole’s Community Playhouse.

*The Pinole Community Players, a group for adult performers, was organized in 1986 when local residents Dave and Patti Clark and Gary and Nancy Gill met and created a non-profit theatre organization with a goal of bringing live theatre to our community.
Since the beginning, full-scale Broadway shows have been performed without interruption. In the beginning the formative company consisted of a group of traveling players who performed in venues such as St. Joseph’s Parish Hall, St. Joseph’s School Auditorium and the Pinole Valley High School Little Theatre.
In 1991 after meeting with the Pinole City Council, the group moved to the former Eagles Hall and Senior Center and the Community Playhouse was formed.
Recent renovations supported by the Pinole Community Players, The East Bay Regional Parks District (Measure WW funds), the City of Pinole, and local residents who contributed financially to the project are now completed and make the Playhouse a downtown jewel with a totally remodeled theatre including new, comfortable stadium seating and expanded audience sight-lines.
The Art Deco design and air-conditioned interior create an elegant, artistic environment that is pleasing to all who attend performances there.

Ribbon cutting ceremony with Pinole Councilmember Tim Banuelos who donated his architectural talent to this project.


In 2016 the Pinole Community Players are celebrating their thirtieth year of producing full-scale Broadway shows in our community.
Recent productions have included Godspell, Arsenic and Old Lace, Next to Normal, Carrie, Rent, Thirty-Nine Steps, Chicago and Merrily We Roll Along.
Their newest production, Wait Until Dark opened on June 3 and runs through June 18.

Upcoming shows are, The Rocky Horror Show in October and a Holiday Production, Sounds of the Season,  in December.
In addition to the Broadway productions the Community Playhouse holds a 5-week drama  workshop for youth. The drama workshop starts Monday June 20 and runs through July 24.
There is also the Pinole Young Actors Group, a 4-week Summer Drama Workshop.

The Pinole Community Playhouse is located at the center of Old Town Pinole at Tennent Avenue and Park Street.
Plan a night out with dinner at one of our fine local restaurants and walk to the Community Playhouse for a show.
You don’t have to travel very far to enjoy a great night out in your own little corner of the world.

Pinole Community Playhouse
601 Tennent Avenue
Pinole, Ca. 94564

*Excerpts provided by Patti and Dave Clark.

Pinole Artisans – Movement and Growth


The Pinole Artisans group,  was founded in 2004.
They began as a small group of dedicated artists, eventually growing to its current roster of over 60 members. The Artisans held their first public art show in July of 2004 and have been adding more members, shows and venues since.
Previously located in Old Town Pinole, the Artisans’ Gallery is now located at Pinole Vista Crossing, 1360 Fitzgerald Drive, between Togo’s and Avenue.

Their new location is open and airy and enhances the many pieces of art on display.
Currently the works of 19 artists are on display and 28 artists will be represented in their Show.

Featured artists will also be featured.
New ideas and new types of art is included in the works of art, as an example they currently featured tattoo art.

But they also have beautiful pieces of jewelry and even hand-made soaps.

The new location is a new beginning for the Artisans and the “Movement and Growth” title accurately reflects that spirit.
Eric Carlstrom and Ira Velken are the Co-Managers at the new gallery and are happy to help you become a member or simply view the works of art.
The Artisans hope to add new members, expand their vision, and to work with the City of Pinole on projects such as the restoration and the maintenance of many of the murals around town.

Stop by the new gallery, open Tuesdays – Saturdays, 11-5, Sundays 1-4.
1360 Fitzgerald Drive, between Togo’s and Avenue.
Visit their website or call, 510-724-2008.


Garden of Gems, Thanks for the memories


A popular and unique small business is closing its doors, the Garden of Gems.
This one-of-a-kind business, one that provides custom care and service has been  challenged in today’s business environment.
Lee Ann Miller and her daughter Amber have offered their unique brand of service for the last 18 years, but sadly they have been pushed out.

The Garden of Gems was previously located at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Tennent, (for seven years) where Tina’s Cafe is currently located.
The landlord raised the rent and Lee Ann was forced to relocate to its current location at 2235 San Pablo Avenue.
In spite of the lack of parking at the newer location Lee Ann had been able to maintain a loyal following and customer base, even during the Great Recession.

I asked Lee Ann why she has decided to close the store.
“Our revenue is down 46% and there is not enough sustainable business.”
“Customers are buying jewelry from places such as Costco, but when they need a ring sized or anything custom done, they can’t get that from places such as Costco, there is no customer contact or custom services.”
“In addition Costco doesn’t need to maintain inventory as we do, so their overhead is lower.”

Lee Ann says that most of her business comes from repairs, repeat customers and word of mouth.
I asked Lee Ann to speak directly to her customers:
“We are so grateful for all the years of support and appreciate, above all, the relationships we’ve made and maintained.”
“As a matter of fact, I met my husband here, he was a customer, as was my sister-in-law.”

“After 18 years in business we have decided to close our doors. We realize we can no longer survive these tough economic times. Our mission has always been to service the needs of the community by providing unique quality jewelry at a good value. We are proud of the reputation we have earned as your local jeweler. We are honored that you have allowed us to be a part of many of your lives and special events.”

Lee Ann laments the fact that customers are wondering where they can go to take care of their needs and they wonder who they can trust, the way they trust Lee Ann.
But, the good news is, that her daughter Amber, will remain in Pinole, and has secured a location on Quinan Street where she will continue her mother’s business, although on a smaller scale. So the Garden of Gems will live on.
Amber will provide repairs and other custom services and sales.
I will update this article when Amber is ready to open her doors.

I asked Lee Ann what her plans were and where she was going.
Lee Ann and her husband David are heading north to Oregon.
They aren’t exactly ready to retire, just ready to explore other possibilities and forge new adventures.

I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing and working with Lee Ann, she has been a great supporter of the Pinole Chamber of Commerce and has generously contributed her time, and talent to our many events, especially the Annual Awards Dinner.
She also has always generously donated items for Chamber raffles as well as for other local organizations.
Thank you Lee Ann for being such a wonderful person and business owner. You will be missed.
Thank you for everything you have done for this community.

Before Lee Ann heads north, be sure to go by and say thank you.
There is a Going Out of Business Sale taking place with discounts of 20-60%

The Garden Of Gems
2235 San Pablo Avenue
Pinole, Ca. 94564
Tues-Fri 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM



A Toast to Youth – Cheers!


The Pinole Youth Foundation invites you to their Wine Tasting Fundraiser.
Saturday, June 25, 2016. From 4 – 8 PM.
Pinole Senior Center, 2500 Charles Ave., Pinole.
Tickets are $20 per person before May 25, $25 after May 25.
Tickets are available at the Pinole Senior Center or at





Spring Plant Sale



The Pinole Garden Club is holding its annual plant sale this Saturday, May 21.
The Pinole Farmers Market in Old Town Pinole (in the Pear Street Bistro parking lot).
From 9 AM to 1 PM.
Succulents, herbs, vegetables, annuals, perennials, tomatoes, drought tolerant plants.
All propagated or grown from seed by Pinole Garden Club Members.

The Pinole Garden Club has been active for over 50 years.
They are dedicated to creating and promoting further interest in outdoor and outdoor gardening, plant life, in pollinators and appreciation of the natural beauties of California.
They contribute to:
USDA Penny Pines Reforestation Project
Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker
Horticultural College Scholarship
Gardens at Heather Farms
World Gardening through Heifer International Tree Seedling Program
Pinole Library – Garden Books and DVDs
Pinole Garden Club
P.O. Box 25
Pinole, Ca. 94564

Join them at the Pinole Farmers Market on Saturday.


About Pinole


What’s happening? Or as we say in Spanish, Que Pasa?
Well for one thing, lots.
I am sad to say that one of Pinole’s most iconic and generous small businesses is closing its doors.
The Garden of Gem will shut it doors for good on June 26.
It has been my personal pleasure as the Executive Director and President of the Pinole Chamber of Commerce to know and work with Lee Ann Miller and her daughter Amber.
In addition it was Lee Ann who convinced my screaming granddaughter Rachel, when she was only 5 to let her pierce her ears.
Lee Ann has always given back to the community with grace and generosity.
It is now time for the community to express its appreciation for all that she has done, her generosity and community spirit.
I will be writing a story about Lee Ann, Amber and the Garden of Gems for this blog, stay tuned.

Here’s a sample of the goings on in Pinole as posted to the City Manager’s Weekly Report, May 5, 2016.
You can read the entire report here.

Date and Time



Tuesday May 17, 2016 6:00 pm

City Council meeting

City Council Chamber 2131 Pear Street

Monday, May 23, 2016 6:00 p.m.

Joint Planning Commission/Council meeting

City Council Chamber 2131 Pear Street

Wednesday, May 25, 2016 3:00 p.m.

Finance Subcommittee Meeting

City Council Chamber 2131 Pear Street



The City of Pinole along with the City of Hercules will be holding a groundbreaking event for the Water Pollution Control Plant Upgrade Project the morning of May 18th. Attendance at the event is by invitation only due to space constraints.
Many people have work tirelessly to bring this project to this very important milestone.
At the event, we will be thanking all the project team members.

This upgrade has been in the works, pun intended, since 2009.
There has been a lot of talk about this Plant Upgrade and some community members remain convinced that the cost of this project is extreme.
These resident are also voicing concern about Pinole’s rate increases given Hercules’ rapid rate of growth, Hercules’ population is listed at approx. 24,000 while Pinole’s is listed as approx. 18,000.
Hercules and Pinole share expenses for the plant.
The City Website provides data on this subject.
I have also heard some grumbling about the lack of information being provided regarding the May 18, 2016 ground breaking ceremony.
Comments are welcome on this blog or via email to


The Pinole Youth Center would like to celebrate art and fun with the community through a Cookies & Canvas event. The event is scheduled for Saturday May 21st from 4:00 pm -8:00 pm at the Pinole Youth Center. We invite everyone to enjoy cookies, while painting a beautiful masterpiece. This event is open to the public! All ages are welcome. Call (510) 724-9004 for ticket sales.


The sixth annual Pinole Community Service Day will be held Saturday, May 21, 2016. This is a great opportunity in Pinole for residents to help make their community or neighborhood a better place to live. Last year, more than 150 volunteers participated in a variety of community projects which paired volunteers with community organizations for three-hour, hands-on service projects, followed by a free thank you lunch. Register and have a free breakfast from 8-9 a.m. at the Pinole Youth Center, work from 9 a.m. to noon, and then return to the Youth Center for lunch. To sign up to volunteer as an individual or a group, click the Volunteer Application in the Manager’s Report or email

Community Service Day, 2011.
The Community Corner Team.




Please see the attached Wanted Poster that the Police Department is circulating. You can also find the information on the Police Departments Facebook as well as other social media outlets. We want to encourage residents of Pinole to be the “eyes and ears” in the community and to report crimes when they see them.


The Police Department will be sponsoring a Citizen Academy beginning May 21st and continuing until June 25th. Classes will meet on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the Public Safety Building. The Citizen Academy is designed to give an inside look at the Pinole Police Department. Speakers will include the Chief of Police, Police Officers, K-9 Officer, Dispatchers, Detectives, and others. There will also be a tour of a Contra Costa County jail facility. The Citizen Academy is open to Pinole residents and citizens who work in Pinole who are 18 and older. Please see the attached application form. Call Crime Prevention Officer, John Palmini, at 510-724-8961, for more information.

Layout 1

Items in Italics are derived directly from the Pinole City Manager’s Report, May 5, 2016.
Got news? Got something to say?
Ok, but I control this blog so keep it clean.
Want to promote a local event?
Shout out.




Gateway West, A Map


Recently I have been asked by members of the community to tell them what exactly is being built on Pinole Valley Road adjacent to Kaiser.
I had a vague idea but couldn’t answer all of their inquiries.
Most residents are aware that several developments are taking place but are not quite sure what is going where.
I took a look at the City’s website to try and get a better visual picture and answer the questions I have been asked.
But the diagrams on the City’s website don’t help the average person who has little or no background in land development or construction or those who have not kept pace with the actions of the City.
I asked the City Planner, Winston Rhodes if he could provide a simple map to better define the ongoing projects.

The diagram below was sent to me by Winston, thank you Winston.
*5/13/16, the developer’s map, (link) has more detail, thanks Tony.


The “map” indicates that there will be a Tropical Smoothie Cafe and a Habit Burger on PV Road adjacent to the Bowling Alley.
Sprouts is shown on PV Road adjacent to Henry and across from Kaiser.
Starbucks drive-thru is located at the PV Road Highway 80 Exit (westbound), adjacent to Kaiser.

I hope this helps everyone who asked me to get this info for them.

WCCUSD Approves New Master Plan


The Goal:
“The Facilities Master Plan will guide the prioritization and sequencing of construction projects utilizing the remaining bond funds and future projects beyond current funding. The process includes a data gathering activities in the fall including Demographics, School Capacity, Input Meetings, School Site Assessments and Standards leading to the creation of an overall District wide Needs List. A Prioritization Committee of Community Members from each city, Elementary Parents from each High School Family, Community Bond Over-site Committee Representative and K-12 Operation Representatives will be tasked with taking the input from the Input Meeting and devising criteria for creating a score card for sequencing construction projects. In January and February, the results of these efforts will be brought back out to the community for additional input. The final option will be taken to the Board of Education before Implementation can begin.”

The Result:
By a vote of 3-2 the WCCUSD voted on April 27, 2016 to approve an amended New Facilities Master Plan.
This process concludes months of meetings with special committees created specifically  to develop priorities and criteria, followed by community meetings.

Recognizing the limited bond funds available and the critical needs of schools, the Board voted to attempt to address the most pressing and serious safety issues for the remaining schools identified, a total of 21 schools were included in the scope of the New Facilities Master Plan.
Implementation plans will follow.
Read the CCT article here.

Pinole Valley High – update


There is good news to report on the fate of Pinole Valley High School.
CCT article here.
At the April 13 WCCUSD Board meeting, the Board, by a vote of 3-1-1 approved the new budget, thereby setting the stage for the completion of Pinole Valley High School.
If all goes well the school will be ready for the graduating class of 2019.

I thought long and hard about this important decision.
I had discussions with members of the public and elected officials, the Pinole City Council and members of the School Board,  about this critical vote.

As a member of the CBOC I have had a front row seat on all things Bond related.
Our task is to oversee the Bond Program expenditures.

I took everything I knew and felt into consideration.
After crunching the numbers, I reached the conclusion that there was no guarantee that any of the other options offered would decrease the cost of the school, and in fact, the other options would delay this project further and possibly result in little if any cost savings.
In the end, I supported Option A, to increase the budget for the school by approximately 33M, thereby setting the budget for PVHS at approximately $233M.

It is as, I’ve said, a staggering amount of money.
Is this an ideal conclusion? For many, it is not.
I won’t get into the politics of this, I have heard enough political rhetoric and seen too much political theatre and histrionics already.
There was certainly no lack of that at the meeting.
A wise man told me that often politics gets in the way of thoughtful discussion and conversation, yes, indeed.

I also think it is fair and appropriate for WCCUSD staff to bring options to the Board.
Unfortunately that type of long-term and bottom-line thinking and initiative has been lacking and perhaps discouraged for many years.
Former staff members have spoken to me, in confidence, about their frustration and inability to implement cost controls, or adhere to budgets because of political pressures.
A current staff member, Dennis Clay, has put his job on the line to speak out about the Bond Program.

So, I applaud staff for offering options and playing an important role in these decisions.
They are, after all, our experts, the people we hired, they are not contract workers.
It’s an important distinction.

I am pleased that the Board understands that after 16 years, this program must be better managed.
It is time to put a long-term strategy in place.
It is also time that this District learn from the mistakes that have been made.

The District must be held accountable for the Bond Program, its successes and its failures.
Taxpayers must be able to rely on bond measure language that is precise and can be the tracked back to expenditures.
Taxpayers I have spoken to are not willing to “trust” or believe in this District.
It will take major philosophical changes to improve the communities’ relationship with the district.
Leaders must lead.

The Clay Investigation report is tentatively due in August or September.
This comprehensive forensic investigation should tell us how this program has been functioning and what, if any changes, need to be made.

What we need now is a clear strategy to address the very real needs of the remaining schools.
The New Master Plan optimistically identifies $200M to try to meet the needs of some of the 21 schools.
It is in my opinion, akin to putting your finger in your ear to stop a nosebleed.

The Facilities Subcommittee meets today. The Options it will choose to recommend to the full Board will be discussed.
That recommendation will go before the Full Board on April 27.
Once the Board has chosen an option that option will be converted to a plan which will be ratified by the Facilities Subcommittee on May 17 and the full board on May 25.

PVHS will be built, students and parents can look forward to a beautiful new, modern school.
But this School District must hit the reset button and find a way to embrace the needs of all of its students.