JAILBIRDS OF A FEATHER: During the recent death penalty trial of Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza killer Nathan Burris, the Eye couldn't help but notice the similarities between Burris and Edward Wycoff, the last person to receive a death sentence in Contra Costa Superior Court.
Burris, of Richmond, will be sentenced to death Dec. 18 for the Aug. 11, 2009, shotgun murders of his ex-girlfriend, Caltrans toll taker Deborah Ann Ross, and Ross' friend, Golden Gate Transit bus driver Ersie "Chuckie" Everette. Wycoff was sentenced to death in 2009 for murdering his sister Julie Rogers and brother-in-law Paul Rogers in the couple's El Cerrito home in 2007.
Both killers were long-haul truck drivers.
Both protested assertions that they were, at least in part, financially motivated. Burris turned murderous when Ross cut him off financially. Wycoff decided to kill his sister and her husband after they announced they wanted to sell the Sacramento County home he was living in.
Both killers ambushed their victims in a well-planned attack. Both were caught quickly while on the lam and immediately admitted their crimes to police.
Both fought hard for their constitutional right to act as their own attorney, despite having a minimal education. Both insisted they had no mental health issues, yet came off as crazy during their trials.
Both were unapologetic for their crimes, and gave illogical
Both frequently laughed throughout their trials, needled their prosecutor, and made a mockery of the criminal justice system.
With so much in common, the Eye wonders whether San Quentin State Prison should make these two bunk mates.
WHO'S BUILDING IS THIS? About two dozen residents gathered in the Hercules City Council chamber Thursday night to offer their ideas about what to do with the historic Civic Arts building, currently occupied by a failing restaurant.
Among the suggestions: a language school, culinary arts academy, cafe, yogurt store, events center -- or another restaurant.
But first, the city needs to figure out who -- or better said, which branch of itself -- owns the building, on which the now-defunct Hercules Redevelopment Agency spent more than $1.6 million to acquire and rehab for a restaurant.
In June 2009, the City Council passed resolutions authorizing the transfer of the property, on Railroad Avenue overlooking San Pablo Bay, from the redevelopment agency to the city for $1.
But a January 2010 lease amendment granting Sala Restaurant a $230,000 redevelopment loan for tenant improvements is between Sala and both the city and the redevelopment agency.
What does it matter? If the city owns the building, it alone can decide what to do with it. But if the city as redevelopment successor agency owns it, it is subject to state rules governing the disposition of redevelopment properties. That means the state could order a sale of the building, with the proceeds to go toward paying redevelopment debt, rather than into the city's general fund.
And the state would have the final say whether to turn the building over to the city for a civic use -- not that the city knows where it would find the money to take on that responsibility anytime soon.
In the meantime, the city is researching the building's title, City Manager Steve Duran said.
Calls to the restaurant last week were not returned.
BLACK FRIDAY GRATITUDE: Half Price Books in Concord was among the thousands of retailers that took part in the Black Friday shopping frenzy on the day after Thanksgiving. But it did more for its customers who lined up in the early morning hours than simply offer doorbuster bargains.
"About 20 minutes before the doors opened, one of their employees pushed a cart down the block distributing juice, water, cookies and doughnut holes to those in line," customer Anita Bell-Karno reported. "We were told that it was the bookstore's way of saying 'thank you' to its customers. I've never seen anything remotely like it on a Black Friday or any shopping day."
The first 100 people also got a tote bag with a $5 gift card, and one bag had a $100 gift card, Bell-Karno wrote.
Staff writers Malaika Fraley, Tom Lochner and Craig Lazzeretti contributed to this column.