Apr 222016

francine picFacilitated by Francine Brevetti

Have you ever thought of writing your life story or your family history?

May 5 is coming up soon. Sign up now for this limited-sized class offering personal attention.

You may want to pass on a legacy to your descendants, or achieve a clearer picture of your life story, or commemorate family members. Maybe you want to relive the highs and the lows that made your life yours.

Maybe you already started this endeavor but did not finish. If so, this 6-week class is for you.

Join us  at Unity, 2222 Bush St. near Fillmore St.

Thursdays, May 5th – June 16th
(no class on May 26th)
6:30 – 8 pm – Class
8 – 8:30 – Private Consultation

I am a journalist, author, ghost-writer and public speaker. I am resuming my popular six-week class on how to start, continue and feel fulfilled in this highly personal project. Learn how to revive memories, start writing and keep writing, and structure your manuscript.

Pre-registration is required. The fee is $125 for the 6 classes and private consultation. Payment through PayPal at Francine@FrancineBrevetti.com. To learn more, call me at 415-397-7830.

Visit my website at www.francinebrevetti.com.


Mar 302016
By Francine Brevetti, For the Contra Costa Times

Posted:   03/22/2016 01:25:41 PM PDT | Updated:   2 days ago
Plaintiff Betty Dukes stands outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 29, 2011, after attending a case of women employees against Wal-Mart.

Plaintiff Betty Dukes stands outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 29, 2011, after attending a case of women employees against Wal-Mart. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) ( Jacquelyn Martin )

PITTSBURG — The woman who faced down Walmart is carrying on her battle for workers’ rights now that she is no longer an employee of the largest retailer in the world.

“Now I can talk about how I felt,” said Betty Dukes, who worked for Walmart for 21 years, seven months and six days. She will appear at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to kick off her push for equal rights for all employees and the freedom to unionize.

“The D.C. event will be the launching, the nucleus for going forward for women’s equality and a workers’ rights movement,” said Dukes, who spent her career at the Pittsburg Walmart store.

The March 29 date will mark the fifth anniversary of the largest civil rights class action lawsuit ever brought before the Supreme Court.

Betty Dukes, of Pittsburg, is photographed on Tuesday,  April 19, 2011 in Antioch, Calif. Dukes, who currently works as a greeter for Walmart, is suing

Betty Dukes, of Pittsburg, is photographed on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 in Antioch, Calif. Dukes, who currently works as a greeter for Walmart, is suing Walmart for gender discrimination. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Staff) ( SUSAN TRIPP POLLARD )

Dukes was the lead plaintiff in the case, Dukes v. Walmart Stores Inc., that represented 1.6 million women. However, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case as a class action.

Plaintiffs settled individually with Walmart, as did Dukes who left the retailer’s workforce on Dec. 31, 2015.

By establishing The Betty Dukes Foundation, she hopes to create a national campaign and is planning to appear in other cities to rouse support. She was not ready to announce the other cities on her agenda.

“What you know, Walmart knows,” she said, explaining her hesitance to show her hand.”I’m trying to create a movement that could change the lives of many.”

Dukes is passionate about protecting low-income workers who, she says, have been marginalized as a viable part of society.

Her issues are both equal pay for women and the freedom to unionize.

President John F. Kennedy signed a bill assuring equal pay for women. “But,” she observed, “it still has not happened in all of the 50 states.”

Her goal is to strengthen survival of the next generation. “So many jobs are outsourced. There’s not much work left in United States.”

“The National Labor Relations Board says that every worker has a right to unionize without retaliation. But not everybody is aware of that.”

Dukes hopes her foundation and her campaigns will educate workers of these rights.

According to the American Association of University Women, at the time the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, requiring employers to give equal pay for equal work, women received 59 cents for every dollar men were paid. In 2015, that figure was 79 cents.

 Posted by at 8:32 pm
Jan 132016


Sunday, January 17,  2-4 PM

home-pic3Remember those stories grandpa used to tell after Sunday dinner? Or the time Aunt Rosie fell in the stream when you all were on a picnic? But now Aunt Rosie is gone.

Where did you put that album of grandma’s old mementos from her girlhood?

Let’s capture these wonderful tales while you still remember them so you can share them with your loved ones and pass them onto your descendants.

Time goes so fast, doesn’t it?

Come join me, Francine Brevetti, author and biographer, at the second floor conference room of Cypress Lawn Funeral Home in Colma, California on Sunday, January 17, 2-4 PM.

We will talk about how to collect these touching memories and how to write them.

Probably, you have been meaning to do this for a long time.

Finally, you can.

Bring your notebooks and a pen.

Here is a link to the directions:




Jan 052016


Sunday, January 17,  2-4 PM

home-pic3Remember those stories grandpa used to tell after Sunday dinner? Or the time Aunt Rosie fell in the stream when you all were on a picnic? But now Aunt Rosie is gone.

Where did you put that album of grandma’s old mementos from her girlhood?

Let’s capture these wonderful tales while you still remember them so you can share them with your loved ones and pass them onto your descendants.

Time goes so fast, doesn’t it?

Come join me, Francine Brevetti, author and biographer, at the second floor conference room of Cypress Lawn Funeral Home in Colma, California on Sunday, January 17, 2-4 PM.

We will talk about how to collect these touching memories and how to write them.

Probably, you have been meaning to do this for a long time.

Finally, you can.

Bring your notebooks and a pen.

Here is a link to the directions:




Dec 072015


optin-imgThe perfect gift for animal lovers

this holiday season.


Most of us get a little harried right before the holidays, worrying about what to give friends and family that won’t break the bank. That will stand out as unique.


This year make it easy on yourself and give the gift that will bring hours of joy. If you have anyone on your list who loves animals, then Cat Naps And Doggy Snorts is sure to be a hit!


Great for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas gift giving.


Only $14.99, this enchanting collection of real people’s stories sleeping with their animals –from dogs and cats to bunnies and birds (not to mention livestock, rodents and the wouldn’t believe – a boa constrictor!).


Cat Naps And Doggie Snorts is not a joke book! While you will certainly read humorous anecdotes and absurd passages of human and animal interactions, this collection covers the range of emotional interactions. Reviewers have likened it to Chicken Soup for the Soul for its wealth of touching stories.


Take the headache out of gift giving and save by ordering your books now:


Go to www.Facebook.com/catnapsanddoggiesnonrts and click the link that says “Shop Now.”


Happy holidays.


Francine Brevetti,  www.francinebrevetti.com




Oct 222015

By Francine Brevetti For the Contra Costa Times
Posted: 10/20/2015 04:50:50 PM PDT

OAKLEY — The fish are biting again at Big Break Marina.

The once-troubled marina, now under new ownership, held its first fishing tournament in many years Sept. 26 and followed with another one this past Saturday. Yet another striped bass competition will be held on Nov. 7.

Newly opened tackle shop Dan’s Delta Outdoors sponsored the event that will present eight black bass tournaments in 2016.

Ryan Hulbert and Jesse Schryuer won first place and $500 for bringing in two fish that together measured 61 total inches.

Tackle shop proprietor Dan Mathisen was exuberant about bringing sport, traffic and commercial events back to the marina, and expects a resurgence of pleasurable activity at one of the public gateways to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Formerly, the marina was home to pleasure craft, restaurants, bait shops and residences.

“Years ago all the tournaments launched from the Big Break Marina,” said Mathisen, who opened his tackle shop June 1, not long after the marina resumed activity under new management this year.

Twenty boats entered the competition during this first tournament and spectators were estimated to number about 60. Marina general manager Sean Ferguson said Big Break Marina LLC is working to attract more tournament directors.

Since the marina’s resurgence, visits to its facilities have increased.

Ferguson said, “We’re having new monthly launches and acquiring a couple of additional rental berths a month.”

Earlier this year San Rafael-based Sequoia Mortgage Company assumed ownership of the facility and created a new corporate name, Big Break Marina LLC, to distinguish the facility from its former owner. The marina had fallen into disrepair under its previous ownership, going into bankruptcy and ultimately foreclosure. The sporting tournaments and festivals ceased, and fun-seeking folks stopped coming.

“There was a big drop in business,” Mathisen said.

Much of the fishing activity and all of the tournaments moved to Bethel Island, according to both Mathisen and Ferguson.

Sequoia Mortgage Company intends to repair, refurbish and revive what once was the center of entertainment and sport life in Oakley and on the Delta.

The mortgage company’s CEO Jason Freskos reported his company is making progress, removing tons of garbage, rotting docks and derelict buildings. “We’re slogging forward,” he said.

 Posted by at 8:07 pm
Sep 092015
Legend Crafter’s founder talks about ghostwriting a memoir

- See more at Sevenponds

Today in the first part of a two-part interview, SevenPonds speaks with Francine Brevetti of Legend Crafter from her home in San Francisco, California. Francine is a biographer, ghostwriter, book coach, journalist and author of two books: Fabulous Fior: Over 100 Years In an Italian Kitchen, The Fior D’Italia of San Francisco, America’s Oldest Italian Restaurant and Cat Naps And Doggie Snorts: The Joy of Sleeping With Critters. After a long and fruitful career in journalism, she left her job as a reporter and branded herself as Legend Crafter, turning her attention to helping people shape their life stories into books. She ghostwrites memoirs and biographies for some clients and acts as a book coach for others who want to write their own books.

Francine Brevetti

Credit: Francine Brevetti

Ellary: What is Legend Crafter, and how did it get started?

Francine: I was a reporter for about 30 years covering business, and about seven years ago, I left the Oakland Tribune. I already had two clients who wanted me to help them write their memoirs just as I was leaving the Tribune. Legend Crafter is my brand name. So I kept on looking for people who wanted me to write their story – it could be a nonfiction story, could be their memoir, could be about their business. And I’ve had several clients over the years. And I wrote a book about 10 years ago that was published and sponsored by the oldest Italian restaurant in the United States, in San Francisco. They wanted me to write their history, so I did that for several years. Last year, I published my own book about people who sleep with their animals, and I’m working on another book about how to write a book about your business.

Ellary: Who were those initial two clients who wanted you to write their memoirs?

Francine: Well, you know, as a ghostwriter, I generally don’t talk about my clients. I can talk about one of them. She’s deceased and her father founded the Oakland Zoo. She wanted to share the story of her childhood at the zoo.

Ellary: What got you interested in helping people write their life stories?

Francine: I was a business writer and a business reporter, and my forte seemed to be in writing profiles of people rather than in talking about their stock prices. That’s just something I seem to do well. I interview people intensely and gently, but thoroughly, and help them open up about things that they had forgotten, or hadn’t wanted to talk about for a long time. I’m just good at that.

Ellary:  It sounds like really fulfilling work

Francine: It is.

Ellary: And it sounds like you probably develop pretty close relationships to your clients.

Francine: Yes, I do get close to them, and I feel honored when they ask me to help them, because I know they’re sharing a very private part of themselves with me.

Ellary: What do you think it is that makes people want to turn their life into a memoir?

Francine: Well, people have lots of reasons for wanting to do that. Like the lady who grew up in the zoo, she wanted to share her experiences with her grandchildren. Other people want to take an accounting of their lives, they want to understand how they got where they are, or they want to have an outlet for sharing their point of view. Maybe you grew up in a family where everybody else’s opinion counted more than yours did. Some people feel that way. Some people just want to enjoy the experiences they had. Some people look at it as a sort of spiritual exercise, an examination of consciousness type of thing. A lot of them want to say something that they think will help someone.

Ellary: What are some of those triggers and blocks that arise when someone is undertaking the memoir writing journey with you and how do you help them with those? 

Francine Brevetti

Credit: Francine Brevetti

Francine: I try to be very alert about what is not being said. I try to lead them down the path. I try to help them articulate something they’re either unwilling or unable to articulate. Of course, all of this is done without any judgement on my part. They have to feel totally safe with me and have a trusting relationship.

Ellary: Do you build a relationship with your client before you start the memoir writing process?

Francine: Not necessarily, no. A year ago, a man called me up from another part of the country, found my name online, and he told me some difficult things about himself and we started working. In fact, he came to San Francisco to spend three days with me. And so that was that. Another woman I just started working with recently got my name through somebody else who knew me ever so briefly about a year ago. So business comes in all different ways.

Ellary: What do you think is the most powerful benefit of writing a memoir?

Francine: I think that people really need to feel heard and they need to feel their story is being treasured with some amount of honor and respect.

Ellary: It’s so important to feel heard.

Francine: I’ve had people tell me things they hadn’t told the rest of their family.

Ellary: And then those people are often going to share the book with their family members?

Francine: Not necessarily. Some of them do, but not all of them. Some of them just have to tell it to somebody, and since they’re paying for it, I don’t necessarily have to write everything they say, just everything they want to be read. I mean, if they want to expunge something, they can, but at some point they just have to say something and they tell me.


Come back next week for part two of our interview.

 Posted by at 11:57 pm
Aug 132015

By Francine Brevetti
For the Contra Costa Times

ANTIOCH — Do the dead walk? No, but their headstones can travel.

While the remains of Rebecca Abraham (1860-1878) lay at peace in Rose Hill Cemetery, near Antioch, her headstone went on a walkabout for decades.

Recently a Napa resident returned Rebecca’s headstone from where he found it years ago, discarded and defiled behind the Contra Costa County’s Sheriff’s workshop. The marker has had a strange trajectory.

Newly married 18-year-old Rebecca was sitting by a kerosene lamp, which toppled over in the fall of 1878. As she tried to douse the fire, the fuel spilled on the floor, the flames enveloped her and she died two days later. The account in the Contra Costa Gazette reported her demise and described the widespread grieving among her neighbors and her funeral cortège.

Her grave and headstone remained at Rose Hill Cemetery as late as 1955, a photograph so proves, said Eddie Willis, naturalist with Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, the site of Rose Hill Cemetery.

“But by 1965 we have a photograph that shows the stone was missing,” Willis said.

There are folks who care about preserving the past and mementos of real-life people who inhabited this area even 200 years ago. Other folks do not.

The park is attempting to restore the cemetery. To encourage the return of these artifacts, Willis asserts the cemetery does not ask any questions about the provenance of gravestones gone missing.

Of the 80 original gravestones, 40 have vanished.

“This is the fourth stone we’ve recovered since the mid-1970s; in other words, one per decade,” Willis reckoned.

How do gravestones disappear?

“The cemetery is inside the (Black Diamond Mines) preserve and is available for hiking, about half a mile from the parking lot. … ” he explains.

In other words, it is fair game for scalawags and the high-spirited who migth carouse through the cemetery at night, and, just for the fun of it, steal gravestones.

“Teenagers,” Willis muttered.

The emergence of this mournful relic puts in relief the history of Rebecca Abraham’s community in the 19th century.

Gold wasn’t the only lure to California’s hills in the 19th century. Rose Hill Cemetery is what remains of five coal mining communities of the 19th century. Then called Nortonville (Rebecca’s home), Somersville, Stewartville, West Hartley and Judsonville, they constituted California’s largest coal mining operation, where nearly four million tons of coal (“black diamonds”) were extracted from the soil during these horse and buggy days.

Mining folks knew hardship, hard work and long hours. Rose Hill served as the resting place for children who perished from epidemics, women in childbirth and laborers from mining disasters. At its peak it is estimated to have held the bodies of 250 residents. Because of the expense of erecting a marker, many individuals and families combined their resources to share the same headstone.

Sometime between 1955 and 1965 Rebecca’s headstone was wrested from its plot and found years later by criminalist John Thornton at the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s office in Martinez.

During his laboratory work for the Sheriff’s office from 1963 to 1972, Thornton said, “I saw several headstones leaning against the mechanics shop. They were covered in crankcase oil and other debris. They had not been tended with dignity.”

He explained that several had been collected when the Sheriff’s office made an arrest for some offense and found them on the perpetrator’s property.

Out of respect for the deceased, Thornton appealed to Sheriff Harry Ramsey to return the headstones to the deceased. The sheriff, however, did not want to spend County resources on this endeavor. Ramsey told Thornton he was free to track down their origins on his own time.

But California did not collect death registries until the 20th century, Thornton said, and who knows how many counties and their cemeteries he would have to call.

So he took two headstones, that of Rebecca and one of a Manuel Medeiros, to his property in rural Napa and constructed a small, 10-by-10-foot, private cemetery for them. And there they stayed. Recently his wife, Kim Wildman, pointed out that he might be able to track down the deceased online — a facility unavailable when he first collected the headstones.

He got a hit on Rebecca Abraham and saw she should be in the East Bay Regional Parks, which had acquired the Rose Hill property. He came up dry with Medeiros and assumed it was because of the common use of that name. The dates on his headstone are 1896-1941; that is all that is known about him.

Thornton immediately called the staffers at the East Bay Regional Park District who already knew about the two departed individuals and their missing markers.

Willis of the Diamond Mines Regional Preserve collected the headstones and returned them to Rose Hill Cemetery where they were restored and will soon be placed back in their original spots.

Welcome home, Rebecca and Manuel.

The East Bay Regional Park District began acquiring land for Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, south of Pittsburg and Antioch, in the early 1970s.

Today, most of the former mining district is within the Preserve’s nearly 6,096 acres.


To return a tombstone or marker to the East Bay Regional Parks District — no questions asked — call 510-544-2750. 

 Posted by at 9:54 pm
Jul 312015

Monday July 27, 2015 , ,


The reunited Barra family from the right: Giuseppa, Matilda, and Vincenzo Barra, Bob Hokanson and Alicia Barra Hokanson

By Francine Brevetti

Why would I want to go to Sicily? My family’s from Northern Italy. Three reasons:

My education in college and graduate school exposed me to the histories of ancient Greece, and Rome, their drama and their mythologies. I’m crazy about antiquities.
Then this past spring I attended two lectures on Italian history by Dr. Douglas Kenning at the Museo Italo-Americano in San Francisco. He explained in greater detail than I had ever heard before the colonization of Sicily by the Greeks – in fact it was called Magna Graecia – Great Greece.

Only under his lectureship did it click in my head that the tragedies of Sophocles and Aeschylus, the great myths of Zeus, Hera and Demeter played out on Sicilian soil.
I’m a sucker for mythology. So I signed up for the tour of Sicily that he does regularly.

I met him and the other four members of the tour in Siracusa – our first hotel looked over the Ionian Sea and I imagined I could see the Greek ships of 3500 years ago sailing my way. The rest of the ten-day venture was devoted to Agrigento, Erice, Taormina and so many other places, all enriched by Douglas’s encyclopedic knowledge of history and mythology.

Oh yes there was another reason I went to Sicily as well. I had heard the best cannoli in the world can be found there. This was true.

But it wasn’t until another tour member announced that she wanted to trace her family in Sicily that I became personally involved in this island of volcanoes and pastry.

Tour member and Colorado resident Alicia Barra treasured her Sicilian family and heritage. Trouble was, she’d never been to the old country.

So when a door opened and wizened woman, not 5 feet high, sturdily built with piercing black eyes greeted us on the main street of Partinico, Sicily, Alicia was astounded and speechless. This 75-year-old packet of dynamite was beckoning us in.

When Alicia and her husband Bob Hokanson had signed up with Sicily Tour (www.Sicily-tour.com) for a historical and archaeological exploration of the Italian island as I had, she had it in her mind to trace her parentage. Some years earlier she had accompanied Bob to track down his roots in Norway. Now he was supporting his wife in her search.

But how could she do this? Her family had long lost contact with her grandfather’s relatives, the Barra family, in the town of Partinico, 20 miles from Palermo.
“I kept wishing I could share this trip with my Dad,” said Alicia, thinking of her father in hospital in Long Island, NY.

Fortunately, the three leaders of Sicily Tour, Douglas and his partners, Lucia and Steve Davies, were long-time residents of Siracusa and knew their way around public records and Sicilian phonebooks.

It was Lucia who identified Alicia’s relatives in Partinico and their contact information. While we were exploring the island and heading towards Palermo, Lucia called Giuseppa Barra to ask if Alicia could visit. There was an enthusiastic yes on the other side of the line.

“It is one of my happiest jobs – bringing family together!” Lucia said later.

We were to spend two days in Palermo, the first for sightseeing and the second for free time. But that second day Doug agreed to drive Alicia and Bob to find la signora Barra. I came along to support Doug in translation since Alicia did not speak Italian.

As we came over the mountain from Palermo, Alicia remarked feelingly, “These are the same mountains my grandfather saw and the same roads he traveled on.” Alicia had been devoted to her grandfather Ignazio who lived with her and her family through her adolescence.

We twisted our way through the streets of the village – were all the streets one-way? Finally Doug was able to point the car in the proper direction toward the Barras’ front door. Looming over the main street we could spy a small figure on the balcony of the second level of a three-story building that dominated the street. A woman was leaning out scanning the street with intensity.

The brass plaque next to the main door read: Vincenzo Barra, Architetto. Alicia was thrilled to see her family name displayed with such dignity.

The door opened and Giuseppa Barra, a 75-year-old packet of dynamite, was beckoning us in.

There were no embraces or kisses. Alicia and her relative were still unclear on how they were related to each other.

We followed Giuseppa up the stairs to her quarters, entering a room from the 19th century, crowded with heavy dark furniture, festooned in doilies and lace curtains. Imposing photographs and yellowing portraits covered each inch of wall space.

She motioned to the four of us – Alicia and Bob, Doug and myself, to be seated. Many excited words were exchanged to clarify who was related to whom and how. Alicia’s grandfather, Ignazio, was the brother of Salvatore, Giuseppa’s deceased husband. Ignazio left the US when he was 17 and spent his majority on Long Island, NY. He returned for a single visit in his 60s. His son and Alicia’s father Vincenzo never ventured to the old country.

Giuseppa was prepared. On the table in front of Alicia was a stack of photographs, decades old. The older woman had been collecting these photos that Ignazio had sent home to his brother over the years. Most of the people in the photographs could have meant little or nothing to our hostess. Yet she had preserved them.

partenico 1

Alicia was astounded to discover images of all the relatives she knew throughout her childhood and adolescence. The image of her father with her little black dog was especially endearing to her. A picture of her at age 12 lined up with her whole family in front of the house her father had built was also meaningful.

The Colorado traveler was particularly taken with two photographs, side-by-side high up on the wall. They represented a young woman in shorts and a light top smiling with all of the sensuality she could express in that era – 50 or 60 years ago. They turned out to be photos of the young Giuseppa.

“She was so beautiful,” Alicia said to the uncomprehending Giuseppa.

“Molto (very) sexy,” I quipped. Everyone laughed except Giuseppa who looked away with a smile. Yes people in Italy understand the word sexy.

Alicia and Bob photographed the photos, “So I can bring them back to my Dad,” she said. Her dad is 86 and in poor health so she felt there was no likelihood he would come himself.

The elder Barra’s son Vincenzo, the architect whose plaque glinted on the building façade, had just come from Palermo to meet his newly found cousin. He brought his seven-year-old daughter Matilda and gave us a tour of his own quarters in the building. He had modernized his rooms with skill and they stood in stark contrast to his mother’s outdated though cherished furnishings.

Their home was an imposing three-story building on the main road and overlooked the town square and the church. Giuseppa and the Barras were well known. When we ventured out to the gelateria across the street, the couple dozen older men sitting outside the building kept trying to engage her. They must have wondered who these foreigners were but Giuseppa had little time for them. She wanted to keep us all for herself.

Library dedicated to Salvatore Barra

Library dedicated to Salvatore Barra

With our gelato joyfully indulged in, Vincenzo guided us to another treasure – a private library dedicated to his father. It must have been named recently for the sign outside was a flimsy placard that said “La Biblioteca Salvatore Barra. “ Salvatore was being remembered for his passionate work as an antifascist. Materials in the library were of that nature, including the works of Karl Marx and portraits of Che Guevara, among others.

When we sadly took our leave of mother and son, Alicia vowed, “I will definitely see that my children come. And I will come back too.” She swore to learn Italian when she returned to Conifer.

The embraces and kisses that were absent when we first met them were bountifully exchanged at this point.

We were all deeply grateful for the successful reunion of two generations.

Zeus and Hera notwithstanding, this was one of the high points of my trip to Sicily – something I could never have foreseen.

Francine Brevetti is an author and ghostwriter who resides in her hometown of San Francisco, California. Her work can be seen at www.FrancineBrevetti.com and www.Amazon.com. She specializes in nonfiction work, especially memoirs and business books.


 Posted by at 9:57 pm
Jun 292015

OAKLEY — A neglected marina that once hosted pro bass fishing tournaments and formerly served as a busy hive of entertainment and sport is waiting for a second wind under new owners.

San Rafael-based Sequoia Mortgage Co. assumed ownership of the Big Break Marina in February after its previous owner, David Biron, filed for bankruptcy two years ago and then lost the property in foreclosure.

The 32-acre facility adjacent to the Big Break Regional Shoreline is undergoing a complete face-lift under the mortgage company, which hopes to revive it to its previous glory, Sequoia CEO Jason Freskos said.

A newly rebuilt boating dock at the Big Break Marina in Oakley is seen to the left as a fisherman fishes in Oakley, Calif., on Wednesday, June 4, 2015. The

A newly rebuilt boating dock at the Big Break Marina in Oakley is seen to the left as a fisherman fishes in Oakley, Calif., on Wednesday, June 4, 2015. The marina was foreclosed in February and there is a new group of investors doing new improvements. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group) ( DAN ROSENSTRAUCH )

The marina is one of far East County’s few public gateways to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and is home port to pleasure craft, restaurants, bait shops and residences. It once even served as a backdrop in an episode of the “Mythbusters” television show.

Freskos is optimistic about bringing new business and revitalizing what was once considered Oakley’s “gem.” He looks forward to the return of bass fishing derbies and other activities that were common before the marina’s decline.

“We want to rent to tenants who will bring in viable businesses. The most happening bar and restaurant in Oakley used to be at this marina. It’s not there anymore. Neither is a clubhouse that once was here,” he said.

Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery is enthusiastic about the new plans for Big Break Marina. He said the facility under the previous ownership had fewer connections to the river whereas the new owners plan to provide more access to the shoreline.

This facility “used to be such a gem,” Montgomery said. “But it was not as much of an amenity as we wish it had been for the last 10 years.” He said he looks forward to greater opportunities for boat owners to launch from the marina.

Under state law, the city is prohibited from funding private businesses. But Montgomery endorsed the new project and said that from time to time should the marina sponsor public events, “we would be supportive.”

Freskos was not ready to speculate on when new construction would begin or what a new facility might look like. He is also leaving the door open for new opportunities for ownership or redevelopment, including a possible new subdivision.

Over the past decade, the marina has fallen into disrepair. Today, visitors will see derelict buildings, rotting docks and dilapidated residences awaiting salvage and renovation. A Dumpster is currently on the site removing tons of garbage, according to the marina’s new general manager, Sean Ferguson.

Freskos describes the facility as being “in an incredible state of disrepair. We took over the property on Feb. 23 and on May 1 we got a citation from the city that one of the buildings was a public nuisance.” Freskos says the facility’s problems are almost overwhelming, but the new management is attending to them.

“We are currently plugging up holes in a sinking ship. Once we do that, there will be more method to our reconstruction,” he said.

Both Freskos and Ferguson bemoaned the state of docks that are falling down and dangerous.

“Some launches are sinking,” Freskos said. “One of the major covered sheds for boats is under such bad repair that some of the boats have broken loose and are floating away. We’re going to dismantle it.”

Even the residential buildings are falling apart. Freskos said tenants have had to plug up their broken windows with duct tape and say they received no response from their previous landlord to their appeals for any other repairs.

When Sequoia Mortgage took over the property this winter, they retained Biron as its interim manager for the three weeks it took to find a replacement. Freskos says Biron continued to bill tenants under his previous management through the last week of May.

Calls to Biron for comment were not returned.

Freskos acknowledged that some of the marina’s tenants had complained about past issues, and that his company is trying to make it up to them by offering reduced rent for several months.

In the meantime, Sequoia Mortgage created a new corporate name, Big Break Marina LLC, to manage the operation and to distinguish it from its former owner.

They intend to haul away derelict vessels and buildings. Freskos reported that 15 trailer loads of yard waste have been taken away so far. Several commercial buildings need to be renovated and one of them has been red-tagged for removal.

But firm plans to sell are on hold until the cost of revitalizing the property and the prospects for selling it become clear.

“We are trying to determine the highest and best use for this property,” Freskos said. “Our immediate goal is to stabilize the income while exploring the feasibility and cost of creating a large-scale subdivision. Firm plans to sell are temporarily on hold while we make these determinations.”

Full Article here: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_28284777/oakley:-new-owners-may-be-big-break-for-broken-marina

 Posted by at 8:53 pm