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July 15, 2009 > The bigger picture

The bigger picture

By Dat Nguyen

In an ongoing effort to enhance Hayward's appearance and reputation, Hayward City Council unanimously approved at its July 7 meeting the creation of a mural next to the Cinemark Theater.

Suzanne Gayle, a local artist and resident, will produce the artwork with the help of an assistant and a local high school student. Local businesses, store fronts, landscape and pedestrian activities will be depicted.

The mural will be located at 1051 B Street on the alley wall facing the Cinema Place Theater. It will cost $36,219 plus $5,000 to prepare the wall and meet other project expenses.

"Hayward needs a face lift big time," said Jim Hernandez, a 36 year-old Fremont resident. According to outsiders like Hernandez, Hayward has a big crime and gang problem. Hernandez travels to Hayward frequently and didn't like what he saw.

The City Council, staff and community are taking great strides to make the City a more welcoming and appealing place for people like Hernandez and to dispel some of the myths that have grown over time.

Urban areas have attendant problems. In his "State of the City" address on May 19 at Cal State East Bay, Mayor Sweeney drew attention to the success of the City's Neighborhood Partnership Program, Chief Ron Ace's reorganization of Hayward Police Department and emphasis on community policing, City Manager Greg Jones' restructuring of the City's organization and the City's efforts to limit blight. He would like that success to continue.

"The statistics are encouraging but more must be done to tackle crime. Over the past two years, annual auto thefts fell from 2,200 to 1,200. In 2008, there were eight homicides; all were solved and the perpetrators prosecuted," stated the Mayor.

Enhancing the Cinema Place Theater Alley with landscaping, lighting and mural painting was an important goal according to the Redevelopment Agency Board members. Hayward's Mural Program combines best practices employed by other communities that have suffered graffiti vandalism.

The board members hope that the activities in the mural will engender a sense of safety in the Theater Alley. The mural will provide visitors with a "visual draw" to direct them to B Street and the theater complex.

Avalon Jewelers, the owner of the property to which the artwork will be applied, is eager to participate in the Mural Program. Other property owners, such as the owner of the Foothill Blvd building, which will bear local artist Andrew Knight's mural as part of the City Gateways Project, are keen to be involved. They fully support the eradication of graffiti vandalism and the Council Priorities of Cleanliness, Fiscal Stability, Neighborhood Services and Crime & Public Safety.

"I think a mural next to Hayward's new theater is a way to glamorize the City which is generally perceived as 'ghetto.' However, murals won't solve problems associated with crime committed by people against people. Citizens must compromise with each other to solve crime," said 24 year-old Gloria Lau.

Lau lived in Hayward for 17 years before moving to Fremont a year ago. She found Hayward to be in much better condition than when she left.

"When I lived in Hayward, there wasn't a nice theater like the new one on B Street and all those fancy restaurants," she said. "Whether the mural will create peace in Hayward or not, I'm still ecstatic something is being done to make the City more attractive. I think the presence and beauty of murals will attract more people to Hayward and, hopefully, spread harmony."

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