Lafayette

City services — there's an app for that

Residents who want to report public maintenance issues to city officials have a new way of doing so — with their iPhone.

On Monday, the city will launch GORequest, a free application for the iPhone that allows residents to report problems and submit them to the city's public works department.

The iPhone's GPS capabilities will automatically detect the location of the issue or residents can enter a location manually. Residents will be able to select the topic the issue falls under and submit a photo, comments and contact information.

Residents can also use the application to check on the status of their requests.

— Jonathan Morales

Another step forward for BMX park

A BMX bike riding facility at Lafayette Community Park moved another step forward Monday, as the City Council voted to allow the company designing the park to hire an environmental consultant to proceed with the permitting process.

That company, Hilride Progression Development Group, plans to hire LSA&Associates at a cost of $21,785.

In addition to construction permits, the project would also require additional special permits and environmental studies due to a sighting in 1994 of a California red-legged frog, a threatened species, in nearby Las Trampas Creek.

Those permits would need to be obtained through the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Fish and Game, according to the city staff report.

The project, which would create an area of hills and jumps at the south end of Lafayette Community for riders of BMX and other bikes to use, has generated opposition from neighbors and other residents.

They say the project is too expensive and would negatively impact the park, the neighborhood and the environment.

Mayor Brandt Andersson on Wednesday acknowledged the opposition to the project but said he and other council members have received many letters in support of a bike park.

Although the permitting process is another step forward, the park will still be subject to all of the standard environmental and design reviews, he said. The estimated total cost of the project is $240,000, according to staff.

— Jonathan Morales

Moraga

Corp yard site purchase moves ahead

The Town Council on Wednesday voted to move ahead with the purchase of a parcel to house the town's public works equipment and staff.

The town plans to purchase property at 331 Rheem Blvd. for $1.2 million, with the goal of moving the corporation yard from its current location at the Hacienda de las Flores to the Rheem site.

A $1.3 million loan financed by the Association of Bay Area Governments would go to a $700,000 down payment on the 331 Rheem property as well as improvements to the town's current property at 329 Rheem, which staff hopes to make into a town hall.

Town properties on Devin Drive and St. Marys Road will be sold or swapped to help pay for the 331 Rheem purchase. Those properties could be on the market "within months," Town Manager Mike Segrest said.

The annual cost of paying off the loan would be about $130,000, according to Segrest, although the town would have the option of paying the loan off in full earlier.

— Jonathan Morales

Community Chorus looking for singers

The Moraga Community Chorus needs sopranos, altos, tenors and basses for its spring program and for year-round performances. No audition is required, just the love of singing and the ability to carry a tune.

The spring program includes pieces by Vivaldi ("Gloria"), Bart ("Oliver"), Verdi Opera choruses, Rodgers ("Carousel") and other show tunes and popular songs.

Rehearsals are Tuesdays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Miramonte Gardens club house, off Moraga Road at 1 Miramonte Way in Moraga.

The chorus is a group of singers who enjoy providing a community service, music and each other. They perform in a number of different venues, including clubhouses, churches, retirement communities, schools, hospitals, shopping centers, hospice Christmas tree lightings and others.

For more information call Tom Marnane at 925-376-6312, or simply come to a rehearsal.

— Sam Richards

Orinda

Orinda Books hosts author Hobbet

Walnut Creek writer Anastasia Hobbet, author of the novel "Small Kingdoms," published this month, will give a reading at 3 p.m. Feb. 6 at Orinda Books, 276 Village Square, Orinda.

The novel was chosen by National Geographic Traveler for inclusion in January's "New Books that Transport Us." Set in Kuwait between the two Gulf wars, "Small Kingdoms" traces the stories of five strangers — rich and poor, native and foreigner, Muslim, Christian, and nonbeliever — brought together by their joint discovery that a teenage Indian housemaid is being brutally abused by her employer.

A former journalist, Hobbet lived in Kuwait for five years and drew on personal experience in writing her book. "Small Kingdoms" is her second novel.

For more information and a listing of Hobbet's other Bay area readings, see her Web site at www.anastasiahobbet.com. For more information about the Feb. 6 event, call Orinda Books at 925-254-7606 or visit www.orindabooks.com.

— Janice De Jesus

Lamorinda

More 'Trust in Education' talks

Budd MacKenzie, the founder of a nonprofit that does humanitarian aid work in Afghanistan, will give several more talks in the area during February and March.

In addition to several presentations to private groups, Trust in Education founder MacKenzie will give talks open to the general public, including:

  • Feb. 16 at 9:30 a.m. at the Serbian Church, at 1700 School St. in Moraga

  • Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. in the San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church's Wesley Center in Alamo

  • A March 8 talk at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, with social hour starting at 11 a.m., lunch at noon. Cost is $15; RSVP to Philip Arth at 925-631-1211 by March 3.

  • 10 a.m. March 10 at the Walnut Creek Area Neighbors and Newcomers' Club; contact Carolyn Priest at 925-930-0129 to attend or for more information

  • A May 12 return to the Serbian Church in Moraga, 11 a.m. at 1700 School St.

    There's plenty to talk about, MacKenzie said, thanks largely to the United States' troop surge there, which he said means more work for his organization.

    For more information, go to www.trustineducation.org/speakingdates.

    — Sam Richards

    Walnut Creek

    Purina road tour to stop

    Purina One's "Tour of Heroes," which sets up food banks at local shelters to give away pet food to those in need, will make a stop Thursday in Walnut Creek.

    The food giveaway is coupled with adoption events. The tour will be at Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek from 1 to 7 p.m. Feb. 4.

    — Elisabeth Nardi