San Ramon Valley Year in Review: Part II

Top headlines from local government, crimes, courts, drought, schools and more between July and December

2014 was another busy year in and around the San Ramon Valley. Here's a look back at the year's top headlines for Danville, San Ramon and the rest of the Valley.

Note: The list is organized by the dates on which the original stories ran.


July 2: Work is underway at San Ramon's Neil Armstrong Elementary School to bring seismic upgrades to older parts of the 45-year-old campus.

July 4: The Kiwanis Club of the San Ramon Valley holds its annual Independence Day parade in downtown Danville.

July 8: During a study session, the Danville Town Council expresses interest in creating a resolution of intent to propose a local ordinance banning stores from distributing single-use carryout plastic bags effective in July 2016.

July 9: The San Ramon City Council discusses the proposed 740-home Faria Preserve residential development for nearly four hours before deciding to continue the public hearing to an undetermined date later in the summer.

July 15: The San Ramon Valley school board plans to correct recently approved meeting minutes that reflected a procedural vote that never took place, district officials say.

July 16: Gov. Jerry Brown appoints Danielle K. Douglas, a San Francisco Democrat and former local prosecutor, to the Contra Costa County Superior Court.

July 17: The Danville council approves a new three-way stop sign and raised center median along portions of Lawrence Road to allay traffic-safety concerns in a residential neighborhood near Diablo Vista Middle School.

July 18: Danville golfer Sara Banke wins the California Women's State Championship tournament at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa golf course in Ventura County.

July 22: School board selects Sarah Wondolowski to succeed retiring Mark Corti as principal at San Ramon's California High School. Wondolowski had been an assistant principal at Cal High the previous two years.

July 23: TRAFFIX officials announce plans to expand bus services to include San Ramon Valley High on a one-year trial basis for the upcoming school year.

July 28: Safeway shareholders vote overwhelmingly to approve the acquisition of the Tri-Valley-based supermarket chain by an affiliate of Albertsons, another national supermarket firm that has its corporate headquarters in Boise, Idaho.

July 31: County judge rules the town of Danville acted improperly in 2013 when it rezoned agricultural land at a residential development site, known as the Magee Ranch property, without first seeking a general plan amendment to change the agricultural land-use designation.

It's a mixed ruling for plaintiff SOS-Danville (an environmental advocacy group), as the judge did side with the town when he denied all but one of SOS-Danville's arguments that the town failed to adequately assess specific environmental impacts during its public review process of the 69-house SummerHill Homes project.


Aug. 3: A Contra Costa County man celebrates a $750,000 lottery win from a ticket bought at Danville Wine & Liquor.

Aug. 4: San Ramon couple Tatiana Nikolskaya, 44, and Vadim Raizanov, 45, are killed on Lake Tahoe when their powerboat crashes into a dock pier piling at a high rate of speed just before 1:40 a.m.

Aug. 4: The Monte Vista High community pool is closed for a day after a small amount of feces is discovered in the water.

Aug. 5: School board holds preliminary discussions on whether to seek an extension of the Measure C parcel tax, learning the results of a recent phone survey of voters and receiving a refresher on the renewal process. The $144 parcel tax is set to sunset in June 2016.

Aug. 5: The San Ramon council extends its Faria Preserve public hearing for the second time after much discussion during a well-attended, four-hour special meeting.

Aug. 6: Amid the statewide drought, customers of Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) have cut back their water consumption by 17.4 % but have not reached the district's goal of 25%, as of late July, DSRSD says.

Aug. 10: More than 50 police officers and fire personnel team up for an active shooter training at Monte Vista High.

Aug. 11: Candidate lists are set for November's general election, with local races including Danville council, San Ramon Valley school board, San Ramon Valley Fire board and Contra Costa County Board of Education. Also on the ballot will be runoffs for Congress and State Assembly.

Aug. 12: San Ramon city officials post a message on the city website denying claims made in a flyer that has been mailed to residents asking them to contact the city about a "new casino in San Ramon." According to officials, there is no proposed San Ramon casino and the city has not received an application to operate a casino.

Aug 12: The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) tells its customers to comply with new statewide mandatory watering restrictions, but says it will not issue tickets or fines to users who ignore the recently adopted rules.

Aug. 13: Danville council votes unanimously to appeal a Contra Costa County judge's recent ruling that the town acted improperly during its approval of a new residential development proposed for the northeast part of town -- the 69-house SummerHill Homes project at the Magee Ranch site.

Aug. 13: Danville council approves resolution of intent to restrict retailer distribution of single-use carryout plastic bags in the town, setting the stage for consideration of a local bag-ban ordinance.

Aug 14: Danville council restricts parking on Las Barrancas Drive near San Ramon Valley High on school days after residents voiced concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety in the neighborhood.

Aug. 17: San Ramon Parks and Community Services Commission discusses options for relocating 24-hour lightened basketball courts due to be displaced by the San Ramon City Hall construction project.

Aug. 18: 450+ people participate in a hike to protest against Creekside Memorial Cemetery proposed for the Tassajara Valley.

Aug. 18: Danville police volunteer Paul Cowell is honored for years of service to the town through the department's Volunteer In Policing (VIP) program.

Aug. 19: Filming occurs in Pleasanton for the upcoming feature movie "Gibby," written and co-produced by Alamo resident Greg Lyon -- whose 14-year-old daughter Shelby stars in the film.

Aug. 19: For the 13th year in a row, the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District (SRVFPD) receives the certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.

Aug. 21: Police say foul play does not appear to be involved in the death of a 20-year-old Concord man who was found dead in a Concord apartment several days after being involved in a fight in Danville.

Aug. 22: Authorities arrest Mitchell Wolf, a Danville resident and Diablo Vista Middle School teacher, on suspicion of possessing child pornography.

Aug. 30: After being missing for nearly four days, San Ramon resident Luba Lusherovich is found alive in the Norris Canyon Road area. The 77-year-old woman was considered at-risk, as she suffered from dementia and spoke limited English.


Sept. 1: Michael Sevenau, 60, of Alamo is killed after his Jaguar went off the road, hit several mailboxes, plowed through a wooden fence and into a tree, and caught fire on Stone Valley Road near Hidden Valley Road. The fire engulfed the car with Sevenau trapped inside, authorities say.

Sept. 2: Shae Kapulica, 18, is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after allegedly crashing his car into a house on Midland Way and rupturing a residential gas line in an early-morning incident in Danville.

Sept. 2: San Ramon Planning Commission discusses proposal to bring a new Walgreens to the Dougherty Valley on Windemere Parkway.

Sept. 2: Danville police arrest two Alamo men (Damon Carthen, 41, and Jason Sprague, 38) suspected of stealing copper wire -- one of whom was allegedly caught in the act at San Ramon Valley High.

Sept. 2: Diablo Vista Middle School teacher Mitchell Wolf, 58, pleads not guilty to charges of possessing more than 600 videos and images of child pornography. Wolf has been placed on administrative leave, school district officials say.

Sept. 3: Danville council approves an updated framework agreement with PG&E regarding the utility company's Pipeline Pathways Project, which proposes the removal of trees and vegetation near its natural gas pipelines.

Sept. 5: Danville teens Sofie Naprawa, Emma Olson and Mari Bray team up and create the "True Epilepsy" campaign to help raise awareness about an issue near and dear to their hearts.

Sept. 8: Cal High is evacuated for nearly two hours after a caller reports seeing rumors online about a bomb on the San Ramon campus. The school is searched and no bomb is found.

Sept. 10: The proposed 740-home Faria Preserve residential development receives initial support from the San Ramon council, which votes unanimously to indicate its intent to uphold the Planning Commission's prior approval of the housing project, with four new conditions of approval.

Sept. 10: The Danville council decides to appeal a second component of a recent court ruling against the town in a lawsuit over its 2013 approval of the 69-house SummerHill Homes project at Magee Ranch. In a 4-0 vote, council members opt to challenge a county judge's finding that the town failed to adequately address bicycle safety impacts of the project.

Sept. 10: Police arrest Cal High wrestling coach and church youth group leader Kevin Lopez, 27, on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor.

Sept. 10: More than 150 people attend the ceremonial groundbreaking of the new San Ramon City Hall project.

Sept. 11: Authorities ask for public's help in finding Adrianna Melendez, 23, of Winters, who is accused of hitting and killing Alamo bicyclist Dan Taylor on a Solano County road in March.

Sept. 15: Police arrest Walnut Creek resident Kyle Facchin, 30, who is accused of committing residential burglaries in Alamo and south Contra Costa County.

Sept. 15: Coyote Creek Elementary transitional kindergarten teacher Karen Young finishes outside the Top 2 in the county's Teacher of the Year competition. Young was one of four finalists.

Sept. 16: The Rotary Club of Alamo names Alamo Elementary principal Stan Hitomi as the 2014 Alamo Citizen of the Year.

Sept. 18: Crews begin work on a county project to add a traffic signal, sidewalks and bike lanes at the junction of Livorna and Wilson roads, near Alamo Elementary. Crews will also widen roadways and enhance sight lines in the area as part of the multimillion-dollar project.

Sept. 23: The Interstate 680 morning commute is brought to a standstill after a northbound truck carrying wet concrete crashes, spilling the substance onto both sides of the freeway between the Bollinger Canyon Road and Alcosta Boulevard.

Sept. 24: The San Ramon council formally gives support to the 740-home Faria Preserve residential development, with Councilman Harry Sachs dissenting in the 4-1 vote.

Sept. 24: Student enrollment in San Ramon Valley schools increases to 31,900 students as of Sept. 8, more than 500 students above the enrollment count from early in the previous school year.

Sept. 25: San Ramon rejoins four Tri-Valley communities in utilizing a Virginia-based lobbying firm for federal advocacy services.

Sept. 25: DSRSD reports its customers have used 30% less potable water than in the same period last year in the time since the district adopted mandatory water use restrictions in May.

Sept. 26: State reports that 98% of the 2,358 San Ramon Valley sophomores passed the English and math sections of the California High School Exit Exam during the 2013-14 school year -- the same percentages for the 2012-13 school year.

Sept. 30: San Ramon's Windemere Ranch Middle School is named a National Blue Ribbon School, joining more than 330 other schools across the country in receiving the honor from the U.S. Department of Education.


Oct. 8: San Ramon bank executive Thomas Yu, 51 pleads guilty to conspiracy for false and misleading financial reporting during the recession, according to federal prosecutors.

Oct. 8: Joseph Badiali, a 2012 Dougherty Valley High graduate and current student at UC Santa Cruz, is charged with murder for allegedly fatally stabbing his 57-year-old mother with scissors at her home in Hayward.

Oct. 9: Roughly three-dozen Dougherty Valley High speech and debate team members and parents crowd into the San Ramon Valley school board meeting in support of their recently dismissed coach Jonathan MacMillan, who was relieved of his coaching duties for unspecified reasons last month. MacMillan continues to be employed as a teacher at the San Ramon campus.

Oct. 9: The San Ramon Parks and Community Services Commission extends the public hearing regarding the relocation of two basketball courts that were demolished last month as part of the construction of the new city hall.

Oct. 9: The San Ramon Parks and Community Services Commission unanimously supports conceptual designs for renovations at the city's public library located at 100 Montgomery St.

Oct. 12: Retired Contra Costa County sheriff's Sgt. Gary Clark receives the Award of Valor from the California Peace Officers' Association for his actions during an active shooting in unincorporated San Ramon in September 2013.

Oct. 14: Danville resident Billye Chilcott, 82, dies at the hospital after crashing her car on Contra Costa Boulevard in Pleasant Hill, losing control of the vehicle, driving onto the sidewalk, knocking over signs and hitting a young man holding a bicycle, according to police.

Oct. 14: Two San Leandro men are arrested in connection with a million-dollar marijuana grow operation on Shadowhill Circle in San Ramon, according to police.

Oct. 16: Angela Laird is crowned Miss Contra Costa County 2015 and awarded a $750 scholarship at an event held in the Cal High theater.

Oct. 19: The school district recognizes the ceremonial groundbreaking of Bella Vista Elementary School, which is expected to open in fall 2016 in Dougherty Valley.

Oct. 21: San Ramon author Dana Mentink wins a Carol Award in the romantic suspense category from the American Christian Fiction Writers for her book "Jungle Fire."

Oct. 21: Danville resident Kamran Azizi and his wife, Hedyeh Shoar, are indicted in federal court on charges of stealing money from an Islamic educational institute and filing false tax returns.

Oct. 23: Dublin-area California Highway Patrol officer Sean Harrington is under investigation for allegedly sending nude photos of a DUI suspect (a young San Ramon woman) from her cellphone to his own phone while she was in his custody.

Oct. 23: Aleisha Readye, the Dougherty Valley High speech director, is appointed as the head coach and adviser for the school's speech and debate program. Meanwhile, parents and team members again speak to the school board in support of ousted prior coach Jonathan MacMillan.

Oct. 23: announces the winners of the 2014 Readers Choice contest.

Oct. 28: The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors votes to give its members a $32,000 raise, despite vocal opposition from numerous county employees' unions. The supervisors vote 4-1 to pass an ordinance that will boost their pay by about 33%, with San Ramon Valley supervisor Candace Andersen in dissent.

Oct. 31: San Ramon city officials solicit public input on conceptual designs for Iron Horse Regional Trail overcrossings at Bollinger Canyon and Crow Canyon roads.


Nov. 2: Officer Sean Harrington, from the CHP Dublin-area office, is formally charged with two felonies for allegedly stealing nude pictures from two women in his custody, including one woman from San Ramon.

Nov. 2: Stephanie Joaquim Almeida, 32, of San Jose is arrested by San Ramon police after she allegedly led officers on a chase along city streets before ultimately crashing her stolen vehicle into a patrol car in Danville, sending herself and a police officer to the hospital.

Nov. 4: Contra Costa County's election website crashes for more than five hours on Election Day after the outside vendor that hosts the site experienced a system failure.

Nov. 5: Incumbents thrive in most local races in general election, according to Election Night results.

* Danville council: Councilwoman Karen Stepper and councilman Robert Storer win re-election, each finishing ahead of lone challenger Tony Adamich.

* School board: Incumbents Rachel Hurd, Denise Jennison and Ken Mintz win re-election, with lone challenger Jerome C. Pandell coming in fourth in the three-seat race.

* Congress: U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), whose district includes San Ramon, secured his second straight term by defeating Hugh Bussell (R-Livermore).

The San Ramon Valley's state senator, Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), defeats retired Judge Tue Phan (R-Danville) in the race to represent Danville and the rest of the 11th Congressional District.

* 16th State Assembly District: Republican attorney Catharine Baker, of Dublin, edges out Dublin Mayor and Democrat Tim Sbranti.

* San Ramon Valley Fire board: Challengers Donald R. Parker and Chris Campbell defeat fellow challenger Dale A. Price and incumbent Glenn Umont.

* County Board of Education: Challenger Mike Maxwell beats incumbent Richard Asadoorian to represent Trustee Area 4 (which includes San Ramon, Danville and parts of Alamo).

Incumbent Christine Deane finishes ahead of challenger Ray Andersen to represent Trustee Area 2, which includes parts of Alamo.

Nov. 5: PG&E caps a gas leak in Alamo that prompted nearby Alamo Elementary to release students earlier than scheduled.

Nov. 6: A CHP motorcycle officer is hospitalized after being involved in a three-vehicle crash on northbound I-680 near the Crow Canyon Road off-ramp.

Nov. 10: Moody's Investors Service, a bond credit-rating business, announces that the town of Danville's bond rating has been upgraded from Aa1 to Aaa -- Moody's highest rating.

Nov. 10: A new recycled water fill station is now available for residents from the San Ramon Valley and other parts of the county, with the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District offering free recycled water service six days a week at its Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility in Martinez.

Nov. 11: The San Ramon Valley recycled water program receives a $4 million grant from the state for a project to expand its drought relief efforts in the community.

Nov. 12: A big-rig loaded with thousands of frozen turkeys overturned along the Alcosta Boulevard off-ramp to southbound I-680 in San Ramon, causing delays on the freeway and city streets through the morning commute.

Nov. 14: San Ramon's Congressman, Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), is selected by his Democratic colleagues to become a regional whip for the upcoming 114th Congress.

Nov. 14: Ex-CHP officer Sean Harrington pleads not guilty to charges stemming from allegedly stealing explicit photos from two arrestees cell phones, but Harrington's attorney says the pleas do not mean his client denies the allegations against him.

Nov. 16: San Ramon resident and former University of Arizona track and field star James Frazier is inducted into his alma mater's sports Hall of Fame. An Arizona Wildcat from 1978-82, Frazier was named an All-American in 1979 and 1980 and owned a school record in the high jump for more than three decades

Nov. 17: The girls of the Diablo Water Polo Club bring home the TYR Championship Cup crown from the national competition in Lewisville, Texas.

Nov. 19: The town of Danville is on track to implementing a prohibition on single-use carryout plastic bags after the town council expresses initial support for a proposed local ordinance establishing the ban.

Nov. 19: Several Contra Costa County public employees' unions announce the launch of a referendum to overturn the county Board of Supervisors' recent decision to give its members a 33% raise.

Nov. 20: Three students from Alamo's Stone Valley Middle School are taken to area hospitals as a precaution after reporting they felt unwell during a fingerprint activity in science class.

Nov. 21: Former Alameda County auditor-controller candidate Kathleen Knox pleads to three misdemeanor counts of election fraud to resolve the criminal case that arose after authorities said she misled election officials by claiming to live in San Leandro while actually residing in Danville.

Nov. 24: San Ramon resident Douglas Trampetti, 69, dies at an area hospital after being found in his Avocado Court home as it was burning.

Nov. 25: San Ramon attorney Spencer Freeman Smith pleads guilty to charges of hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter in connection with the 2012 death of bicyclist Bo Hu, a Chinese national living in San Ramon at the time. The crash occurred on Dougherty Road near Fall Creek Road in Dublin.

Nov. 30: David Ruenzel, a 60-year-old Oakland resident who taught at The Athenian School in Danville, is found fatally shot on a trail in the area of Huckleberry Botanic Regional Reserve in the Oakland hills. Police announce a $10,000 reward for information in the case.


Dec. 1: The San Ramon Valley officially has its new assemblywoman, with Catharine Baker (R-Pleasanton) taking the oath of office in Sacramento. Baker defeated Dublin Mayor and Democrat Tim Sbranti in the runoff to replace termed-out Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo).

Dec. 2: For the fifth year in a row, the SRVUSD is recognized as one of the top performing districts on the annual Advanced Placement exams, becoming one of 547 school districts in the U.S. and Canada named to the College Board's AP District Honor Roll.

Dec. 4: Mike Doyle is named Danville mayor for the fifth time. The 85-year-old Doyle has served on the council since 1991. Recently re-elected Councilwoman Karen Stepper is appointed vice mayor.

Dec. 5: Two San Francisco police officers, including one who lives in Danville, are convicted of federal felony charges related to the theft of money and property during searches in 2009. SFPD Officer Edmond Robles, 47, of Danville was convicted of five counts: two counts of wire fraud, conspiracy against civil rights, conspiracy to commit theft and theft of more than $5,000 worth of property from a federally funded program.

Dec. 9: EBMUD board approves a handful of drought-related measures, including a call for higher voluntary conservation (now 15%), support for purchasing federal water to supplement local supplies and implementation of a staged drought rate structure.

Dec. 10: San Ramon council withdraws support for proposed Tassajara Valley cemetery following a two-hour special meeting that drew more than 200 attendees.

Dec. 12: School board approves the Stone Valley Middle School renovation project amid support from district and school officials but strong opposition from neighbors of the Alamo campus who object to a proposed two-story classroom building.

Dec. 12: Second-term school board member Denise Jennison is named board president for the first time.

Dec. 12: Former San Ramon Valley assemblywoman Joan Buchanan announces that she will seek a soon-to-be-vacated seat in the California State Senate, vowing to run a "strictly positive campaign" in the yet-unscheduled special election. The seat is currently occupied by Mark DeSaulnier, who was elected to Congress in November.

Dec. 16: The Alamo Municipal Advisory Council and county officials reach out to the public for ideas about a new community park planned for the southwestern part of Alamo, at the corner of Danville Boulevard and Hemme Avenue, backing up to the Iron Horse Regional Trail.

Dec. 16: Beverly Lane is profiled as the recipient of the Tri-Valley Hero Life Achievement award. Lane sat on Danville's first town council and has served on the East Bay Regional Park District board for the past 20 years -- all the while helping to preserve local history through her research and published writings.

Dec. 17: Danville council directs the Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority to increase trash and recycling service rates for town residential and commercial customers by an average of 4.5% for the upcoming rate year.

Dec. 18: Two golf professionals at San Ramon Valley clubs earn top awards from the Northern California Section of the Professional Golfers' Association of America. Tim Burr, PGA director of golf at Blackhawk Country Club, received the 2014 NCPGA Patriot Award while PGA teaching professional Eric Jones, from San Ramon's The Bridges Golf Club, was named 2014 Teacher of the Year.

Dec. 18: Wetter than usual weather conditions across Northern California prompts a downgrade of the drought classification from "exceptional" to "severe."

Dec. 22: The Workday Student Center at Danville's Monte Vista High School receives an architectural honor award from The American Institute of Architects, Santa Clara Valley.

Dec. 23: Police increase reward to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the fatal shooting of David Ruenzel (a teacher from Danville's The Athenian School) in a park in the Oakland hills last month.

Dec. 24: Dougherty Valley High grad Apoorve Agarwal, 20, is identified as the man found dead in the middle of UC Berkeley's fraternity and sorority residential area four days earlier.

Dec. 29: Dublin resident Herman Shum, 40, is identified as the bicyclist killed in a crash east of San Ramon. He was the vice principal of a Berkeley high school and was slated to become principal of a school in Napa.

Dec. 29: Clare Dowling, a Danville native and dual-lung transplant recipient, is set to appear in the 126th annual Rose Parade on New Year's Day in Pasadena, standing as a symbol of the lives that can be saved by organ donation.

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