Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Must Reads: Brown Signs CEQA Reform Bill; Governor Also Aids Warriors’ Plan to Move to San Francisco

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 9:40 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that reforms the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to make it easier to build dense housing developments along major transit corridors in cities, the LA Times$ reports. The new law prohibits lawsuits that seek to block smart growth projects based on parking and aesthetics issues. The new law also could make it tougher to block smart growth based on traffic impacts. The reforms were part of legislation that also will make it easier to build a new basketball arena for the Sacramento Kings.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Hacker Scouts Will Change Name After Legal Threats from Boy Scouts of America

by Sam Levin
Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Hacker Scouts, an Oakland-based nonprofit group dedicated to science and technology education for youth, has decided to change its name after repeated legal threats from the Boy Scouts of America.

"We did not want to dedicate the next year to fighting this. We did not want to slow down," Samantha Cook, executive director and founder of Hacker Scouts, tells the Express. "We're not a name. It's our substance. It's what we do that makes us who we are."

The organization, which now has dozens of programs across the country, posted a note this week announcing that BSA is refusing to compromise — and that the Hacker Scouts board does not want to get involved in a legal battle.

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Court Hands Victory to Environmentalists in Battle Over Navy Training Exercises

by Adelyn Baxter
Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Environmental groups are celebrating a victory this week after a federal court ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMSF) had failed to properly evaluate the effects of US Navy warfare training exercises on marine mammals along the Pacific Northwest coastline. The court decision stated that the NMSF should have adequately assessed the immediate and longterm dangers of sonar testing and other Navy practices have on protected and endangered species like whales and porpoises in the region before authorizing Navy training activities in the expansive Northwest Training Range Complex, which stretches from the Canadian boarder to Northern California, beginning in 2010.

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Friday Must Reads: Brown Signs Bill Blocking BART from Shutting Off Cellphone Service; UN Climate Panel Says Point of No Return for Carbon Emissions Could be 2040

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that prohibits BART and other transit agencies from shutting off cellphone service for commuters — except for emergencies, the Chron reports. The new law stems from BART’s controversial decision in 2011 to kill cellphone service in order to disrupt a demonstration over the killing of a homeless man. The transit agency wanted to block protesters from planning their demonstration via cellphone.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday Must Reads: 60% of Californians Support Pot Legalization; Republicans Want to Ban BART Workers from Striking

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. A new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of California voters — 60 percent — now supports the legalization of marijuana, News10 reports (via Rough & Tumble). The poll, conducted by the nonpartisan Pubic Policy Institute of California, marks a dramatic turnaround from 2010, when state voters rejected pot-legalization measure Prop 19. "This is the first poll we've ever conducted in which we found a majority supporting marijuana use," said Mark Baldassare of PPIC. The only voter subgroups that oppose cannabis legalization are Republicans and Latinos, the poll showed.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Oakland Council Gets Earful Over ‘Urban Shield’ War Games

by Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston
Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 5:24 PM

For the past seven years, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has hosted the “Urban Shield” SWAT team competition at various locations across the Bay Area, attracting dozens of tactical units from law enforcement agencies throughout the nation and the world. The whole show — it's as much theater as it is practical exercise — is sponsored by major weapons manufacturing companies like ATK, which makes everything from small caliber bullets to depleted uranium ammunition. Over the years, the Oakland City Council has routinely approved expenditures and reimbursements for the participation of the Oakland Police and Fire Departments in Urban Shield.

This year, however, a group of activists from across Alameda County are raising cane about Oakland playing host to what they characterize as “war games.” At the council’s Tuesday's Public Safety Committee meeting in City Hall, community members surprised councilmembers during an otherwise routine approval of $200,000 in reimbursement to the fire department for its participation in the exercise. Opponents called Urban Shield a “militarized” training for police.

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Report: Oakland Median Home Sales Price Jumps 76% in One Year

by Sam Levin
Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 2:56 PM

The median home sales price in Oakland skyrocketed a whopping 76 percent over the last year, according to newly released data from ZipRealty, a local real estate firm.

The price shot up from $245,000 in mid-August of 2012 to $432,000 in mid-August of 2013. Homes are going quicker, too. As of August 15 of this year, median days on the market were 13 compared to 19 the previous year in Oakland.

The rate of the increase in Oakland largely surpasses the jumps in San Francisco and the Bay Area in general. More details and graphs below.

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Wednesday Must Reads: Court Rejects Brown’s Private Prison Plan; Obamacare Insurance Rates Cheaper than Expected

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 9:52 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. A federal court rejected Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to send inmates to out-of-state private prisons, the LA Times$ reports. Brown had submitted the proposal as a backup plan should the court reject his request for a three-year extension to relieve prison overcrowding. But the court nixed Brown’s private-prisons idea, and may deny his request for a three-year extension, too, telling the governor that he has just thirty days to hammer out an agreement with lawyers representing inmates to solve the state’s overcrowding crisis.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Environmentalists File Second Lawsuit to Protect Threatened Smith River

by Adelyn Baxter
Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Environmental groups have filed a second lawsuit in an effort to block a plan by Caltrans to widen two highways along the pristine Smith River in Northern California. The groups are concerned that the widening project, which is being done to accommodate additional big rig trucks in a remote area near the Oregon border, will ultimately result in an accident that could spoil the state’s last undammed major river.

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Tuesday Must Reads: Oakland Police Nab Carpool Robbers; Governor Signs Law Requiring Motorists to Give Bicyclists Three Feet of Space

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Oakland police arrested two men who are suspected of robbing commuters who were waiting yesterday morning in a casual carpool lane in the city’s Rockridge district, the Chron and Trib report. Police apprehended the suspects after spotting them in a vehicle that matched the description given by the robbery victims of the thieves’ getaway car. The two suspects are believed to be part of stick-up crew that robbed the commuters at gunpoint, stealing their cellphones, electronics, and other personal items.

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