Town Crier: Beware the Montclair ‘garbage police’


MONTCLARION: August 27, 2010

They aren’t kidding when they call it the Dog Days of Summer.

I’m getting complaints about everything from soot in the air to the “garbage police” running amok in the hills. The sooty air is being documented by a number of homeowners, who say there’s a black film on their window sills and patio furniture. Reader Chris Piganelli blames the Caldecott Tunnel construction for aggravating his allergies.

“I need a third bore in my nose just to breathe” he says sniffingly.

Speaking of bad smells, garbage cans are being tagged as blight in the hills. Several readers have complained about citations they’ve received after putting their cans out too early, or leaving them out too late after pickup. Rebecca Robins says she was one of the “lucky recipients” of a trash can letter, and was mystified as she’d always been diligent about putting away her cans. “I asked the really nice fellow at the city about what was going on, and he said that an unknown resident (privacy issues) up the hill decided to do a drive-by collection of trash-can scofflaws.”

She was told that once a complaint is made, even a blanket complaint like this, the city is obliged to send out the letters.

IN DEMAND: Dick Spees and wife, Jean, are in their new digs in Alameda and loving the quiet island life. Now if only the phone would stop ringing. “When I came over here,” says the former Oakland city councilman, “a friend of mine made me hold up my hand and vow that for three months I’d only say NO. Those three months are up.” Apparently the word is out that Spees is a tireless volunteer who can help a number of causes at once. Oakland’s loss is Alameda’s gain.

PITT STOP: Local actress Gigi Benson got some eye candy recently in the form of one Mr. Brad Pitt. He was shooting the movie “Money Ball” at the Oakland Coliseum and Benson had a couple of lines with him, including an exchange in which he said something like “it’s nice to meet you” and put his hand on hers. Yow! All that and a paycheck, too, as she gets Screen Actors Guild wages for the shoot, which started at 4 a.m. She says it was an added bonus to see Angelina Joli and the couple’s six children on the set.

ALL WET: When it rains, it pours. In the midst of Oakland’s ongoing money malaise, the city now has to spend dough it doesn’t have on repairing flood damage at the Temescal Library.

Because the building is on the historic register, taxpayers will foot the bill for handmade molding along the library’s floorboards, which were reportedly ruined in last month’s sewer pipe break.

Meanwhile, the tool lending library is running about half-speed, with most of its tools still in storage because of the water damage.

IN MEMORY: Funeral services were held this week for Lawrence Hoffmann, 86, the father of Montclair Village Hardware owner Erik Hoffmann and a Montclair resident since 1959.

Often seen working at the hardware store with his son, Hoffmann was a tool and die maker who loved to tinker.

“He invented a can end to replace the old pull tab,” says Erik. “It was a two-button end that you would push in. Only Coors tried it.”

Hoffmann also made medical devices while working at UC San Francisco.

“He had a knack for improving the machines that the hospital purchased,” remembers Erik, who says his dad once made a laser device at a fraction of the cost of what the hospital was paying for a similar product from Switzerland. “They got the patent, he got a pat on the back,” says Erik.

Hoffmann’s sense of selflessness and humility stayed with him to the end. Erik says his father’s last words were “I want to thank you for everything you did for me.” He died the next day.

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