SCHOOL TRUSTEE OUSTER SOUGHT: Residents have submitted a petition to unseat newly installed school board member Dana Dean and hold a special election to replace her.

Proponents on Tuesday gave 291 petition signatures to the Solano County Office of Education, said Diane Rieschick, the Benicia resident who organized the campaign. Election officials said 232 valid signatures are needed. They have 30 days to verify the signatures.

The petition would unseat Dean, who was appointed by the board majority Jan. 17 in what critics say was a rushed move.

The board selected Dean to fill the vacancy left by former president Dirk Fulton, who resigned in late December, days after agreeing to plead guilty to tax evasion.

To save time and money, the board majority opted against holding a special election to replace Fulton. Instead, the board interviewed eight candidates and selected Dean on Jan. 17.

-- MediaNews Staff

Benicia

COUNCIL OKS BUSINESS PARK REPORT: The City Council has approved the environmental report for a Benicia business park that has drawn fire from residents.

Although the council certified the report, members attached numerous conditions and asked for more environmental review and changes so the project complies with the city's general plan, said City Manager Jim Erickson.

In addition to project opponents, who worry about traffic and the project's size, union construction workers who hope it will create jobs squeezed into the packed council chamber for the hearing.

Councilman Tom Campbell cast the lone dissenting vote.

"We're a hop, skip and a rationalization from the project being OK'd," Campbell said Wednesday. "The project doesn't work, it doesn't match the plan and it's not at all what we're looking for."

Sal Evola, vice president of project developer Discovery Builders, said in a recent interview that an approved environmental report will allow the company to create a project that fits within the report's framework.

Next, the project plan will go to the Planning Commission, city staffers said.

-- MediaNews Staff

Berkeley

CODY'S BOOKS TO MOVE FROM FOURTH STREET: Cody's Books is closing its store on Fourth Street after 10 years in business, and it plans to open a new store in downtown Berkeley.

This is the latest move in a string of store closures for the longtime bookseller.

The flagship store on Telegraph Avenue closed in July 2006, blaming problems on Telegraph and a drop in book sales. The San Francisco store in Union Square closed last April after two years in business.

Berkeley's Fourth Street store will close at the end of March because of "skyrocketing rents," said store manager Melissa Mytinger.

The new Cody's will be located in the former Eddie Bauer store at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Allston Way, across the street from the downtown Berkeley BART station. It will open March 24.

The store will be smaller, but it should get busier as the downtown evolves, said Deborah Badhia, the executive director of the Downtown Berkeley Association.

-- Kristin Bender

Oakland

RAIL TANKER LEAK CREATES AMTRAK DELAYS: A railroad tanker car leaking corrosive material Wednesday morning stopped an Amtrak Capitol Corridor train in Oakland, stranding commuters for a half-hour and forcing them onto BART, buses and another train so they could continue their trips.

Zoe Richmond, a spokeswoman for Union Pacific Railroad, said the car spilled 20 gallons of the light brown, highly corrosive solution onto the ground at Union Pacific's rail yard between 8th Street, Interstate 880 and 5th and 13th Avenues. The accident occurred about 7 a.m., and no injuries were reported.

Capitol Corridor Train 524 from San Jose was stopped at Oakland Coliseum Station for about 30 minutes, said Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham. Many passengers walked across the street to BART, and at 7:47 a.m., the railroad began busing other passengers to Emeryville, where they boarded the California Zephyr train to Chicago, which follows the same route as train 524 to Sacramento.

The area was cleared for railroad traffic around 9:30 a.m. Union Pacific employees continued to investigate the cause of spill.

-- Eric Nelson

Antioch

MASKED MAN ROBS BUSY STORE: An armed, masked man robbed an Antioch convenience store Tuesday night, police said.

The suspect entered the Busy Mart, 3912 Delta Fair Blvd., around 5:30 p.m. with a handgun, demanding cash, Antioch police Lt. Pat Welch said. The suspect fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash. No one was injured during the robbery, Welch said.

The suspect is described as a 16- to 18-year-old black male with a slim build who was wearing a white bandanna over his face, a gray hooded sweat shirt and something covering his hands, Welch said.

-- Matthias Gafni

Bay Point

MAN ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF KILLING ROOMMATE: A 33-year-old Bay Point man was arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting his roommate Tuesday, a sheriff's official said.

Contra Costa Sheriff's investigators placed Andrew Mahler under arrest around 10:45 p.m. after interviewing him following a shooting that took place hours earlier at 44 Pensacola St., spokesman Jimmy Lee said. Mahler is accused of shooting his roommate William Lenox, 31, of Bay Point around 5:35 p.m., he said.

Deputies responded to a report of a shooting and found Lenox lying on the sidewalk in front of his house, Lee said. Lenox was taken to John Muir Medical Center in Concord, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy found that Lenox died from a gunshot wound to his stomach, Lee said.

Homicide investigators found Mahler at the scene and brought him back for questioning.

"We understand that night there may have been some type of argument between the two of them, but investigators are still looking into it," he said.

Lenox's death marks the second homicide of the year for East Contra Costa County.

-- Matthias Gafni