What had been proposed as a forbidden garden will now be open to the public thanks to an agreement between Kaiser Permanente and its Oakland neighbors.

After deciding not to build on its property fronting Piedmont Avenue and West MacArthur Boulevard, Kaiser confounded nearby residents and city leaders by proposing to build a garden on the site that would have been fenced off to the public and Kaiser employees alike.

But after Oakland planning commissioners made clear they opposed that plan, Kaiser started working with residents on a new design that will create two oval plazas, open to the public and potentially available for health fairs and farmers markets.

"We are all very pleased with the final product," said resident Lorri Arazi.

The Planning Commission approved the new design last week and residents expect the plaza to open by the end of this year. The garden will last until Kaiser decides to build on the site.

In a prepared statement, Kaiser wrote, "We appreciate the community's desire for green space, and worked with our neighbors to come up with an agreeable interim landscaping solution ..."

Quan to give State of the City Thursday

When Oakland Mayor Jean Quan delivers her State of the City address at 7 p.m. Thursday, one her top priorities likely won't be to follow the City Charter to the letter of the law.

Like Mayors Ron Dellums and Jerry Brown before her, Quan opts to deliver her signature speech in the beginning of the year even though the City Charter requires the State of the City be delivered "at the first meeting of the City Council in October."

Among recent mayors Dellums came the closest to following the much ignored city law. His last State of the City came in November. The only problem was that not only did he not deliver it to the City Council; he didn't deliver it all. Dellums instead released a written report.

City Attorney Barbara Parker chose not to answer questions about the charter provision, but Oakland law, be it enshrined in the charter or not, has never been sacred text. In recent years the council has expunged long-ignored laws against dance marathons and cross-dressing.

But the October State of the City requirement would seem to benefit sitting mayors, especially one such as Quan who is facing a crowded field of competitors as she seeks re-election in November. Quan said through a spokesman that her State of the City is a time to take stock of the prior year and "set strong, concrete goals for job creation and public safety in the coming year." And, she added, "I'll be happy to provide an update in October."

Hayward OKs 157 Cannery Area homes

One of the last remainders of the Hayward's cannery past, a distribution warehouse, soon will be replaced by 105 townhouses and 52 houses.

The nine-acre development approved by the City Council on Tuesday is part of the larger Hayward Cannery Area project, where housing has been phased in since 2001. As envisioned then, the 370-acre area would have 800 to 950 dwellings.

The project by Sullivan Development Group provides for 2.77 parking spaces per unit. Lack of parking in the neighborhood is a common complaint heard at neighborhood meetings, council members said at Tuesday's meeting. Garages often are being used for storage with residents parking vehicles on the street.

The site is north of the Hunt's Food cannery water tower, a city landmark listed on Hayward's register of historical resources. The last cannery closed in 1996.

Berkeley trash rates to rise 25 percent

Berkeley residents are likely to get a 25 percent rate increase in garbage collection rates this summer, following a 5-0 City Council vote earlier this week that precedes a final vote in May.

Rates for the typical 32-gallon garbage can will rise $7.38 a month to $36.94 in order to help close a $3.5 million deficit in the Zero Waste Fund.

Commercial rates will rise 2.5 percent.

"If we do nothing and don't raise the rates, in five years we'll be between $13 million and $15 million in the hole," said Public Works Director Andrew Clough.

As part of the increase, the city will begin phasing out the big 96-gallon cans by not offering them once the new rates take effect July 1.

Rates were last raised, also by 25 percent, in 2009. At that time the Zero Waste Fund had a $4 million deficit.

As the city's 23,000 garbage customers use less trash and switch to cheaper, smaller cans, the city collects less money. But at the same time collection rates rise. The new rates will close the deficit in the department and help pay for repairs at the city's trash collection station, according to a city report.

Notices of the rate increase will go out to residents March 28. They can protest the rates, but the city can finalize the increase if there is not a majority of people filing formal protests. There will also be a final public hearing on the increases May 20.