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Diablo's Week in Review: February 7-14

Cheesecake lovers rejoice over new Walnut Creek restaurant opening, man sentenced in elderly Lafayette woman's murder, David Duffield downsizes, and dog art gets interesting in Berkeley.

Cheesecake Factory opens this week in Walnut Creek: The nationwide chain will open its newest restaurant in downtown Walnut Creek's Plaza Escuela Wednesday. The restaurant features more than 200 dishes on its lunch and dinner menus and around two dozen kinds of cheesecakes.

David Duffield agrees to scale back his mega-home plans: Alamo residents and Save Mount Diablo managed to convince the software developer and PeopleSoft founder to downsize his plans to build a bigger-than-Hearst-Castle-sized mansion next to Mount Diablo. The original 72,000-square-foot proposal has been reduced to a far more modest—by mega-house standards—18,000 square feet.

Doggie sex sculpture as public art in Berkeley: To celebrate its dog-friendly waterfront, the City of Berkeley paid $196,000 for an Emeryville artist to add interesting decorative medallions to sculptures on either end of the pedestrian and bike bridge over Interstate 80. These medallions show dogs sniffing each other, defecating, and having sex.

Man sentenced in murder-rape of 90-year-old Lafayette woman: A door-to-door salesman for a Missouri-based magazine subscription company was sentenced to life in prison without parole for sexually assaulting, smothering, and robbing Elizabeth Ann Vuori in her Lafayette home in December 2005. Richard Craig McNew, 34, escaped the death penalty by pleading guilty to multiple charges.

Danville delays decision on family's controversial private baseball field: Danville's Planning Commission put off deciding whether to give David and Connie Lowe permission to re-do their ridge-top baseball field. The Lowes' neighbors complained after the family erected an 18,000-square-foot field with 16-foot-high fencing, saying the field looks like Guantanamo Bay. The Lowes, who originally didn't seek city permits, submitted scaled-back plans to the city, but planning commissioners said some issues remain unresolved.

Super high-end homes not selling: Another recession victim? Apparently no one is buying homes priced more than $5 million anywhere in the Bay Area. Real estate watchers have found only one example of a home that sold for more than $5 million since November, and this one was in Atherton.

The San Jose A’s? Opposition by some Fremont residents to a new $500 million, 32,000-seat A’s stadium in Oakland prompted owner Lew Wolff to check out San Jose as a possible new home for his team. Wolff says he should know this summer whether the Fremont plan will work or he needs to go to Plan B, which could be San Jose.

Doughterty Valley High student scores Sully interview: Jegadeswaran (Jega) Sanmugam, 15, a student journalist at San Ramon’s Dougherty Valley High School, scooped every other print publication in America—New York Times, People, Diablo—by winning an interview with Danville’s hero pilot Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger in conjunction with Katie Couric’s 60 Minutes interview, which aired this past Sunday. Check out Sanmugam’s interview with both Sully and Couric here.

No place to call home: As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators squabble over the budget during our tough economic times, money was drying up for Contra Costa County’s efforts to house poor families. Only 350 slots are available for Section 8 vouchers, and 40,000 families have applied.

Mt. Diablo schools superintendent resigns: Superintendent Gary McHenry ended months of public debate and squabbling amongst board members about his future by announcing his resignation Tuesday, effective immediately. The board will try to involve the community in a search for the new superintendent for the 35,000-student district.