Thursday, October 8, 2015

Letters to the Future: A Call for Letters on Climate Change

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 2:33 PM

This December, leaders from around the world will convene in Paris for the historic United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. These pivotal talks could represent the last best hope for the world’s governments to reach a binding agreement that will help humanity avert the coming disasters caused by climate change, from calamitous storms and floods to droughts and rising oceans.

Many scientists and world leaders agree that our window for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions is quickly closing. And environmentalist and former US Vice President Al Gore has said that “the future of the world” hinges on the outcome of the talks in Paris.

In advance of the talks, the Express, along with dozens of weekly publications across the nation, is participating in the Letters to the Future Project, which asks “writers, scientists, artists, and others to predict the outcome of the Paris talks (the success or failure and what came subsequently) as if writing to their children’s children, six generations hence.” Letter writers are urged to “tell future members of their own family or tribe, living at the turn of the century, what it was like to be alive during and after the historically crucial events” in Paris this year.


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Oakland to Take Down Lake Merritt Signs Prohibiting Musical Instruments, Activists Plan Protests

by Sam Levin
Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 12:08 PM

Last week, Oakland police responded to complaints about a small drum circle by Lake Merritt, prompting significant backlash from local activists who argued that the city has been aggressively policing the social activities of people of color in the park. The criticisms escalated this week after residents started circulating photos on Facebook and Twitter of signs by the lake explicitly prohibiting the use of a "musical instrument without a permit." In response, activists are coordinating multiple protests at the lake this weekend to speak out against what they say is excessive policing of barbecues and music at the lake. 

Now, however, city officials are saying that the signs in question are old and do not reflect current rules — and that people are, in fact, allowed to play music during park hours. 

"There is no prohibition against music while the parks are open from dawn to dusk," Councilmember Abel Guillen told me by phone this morning. Guillen — whose district includes Lake Merritt — said he has fielded numerous complaints from residents about the signs, which he said are five to eleven years old. Drum circles that aren't amplified are permitted, he said, adding that the city plans to remove the outdated signs today. The sign circulating on Facebook is at Cleveland Cascade, which is on Lakeshore Avenue on the east side of the lake. 

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Thursday Must Reads: Anti-Vaxx Ballot Measure Fails; Governor Brown Signs Bill to Abolish High School Exit Exam

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 9:49 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Tim Donnelly.
  • Tim Donnelly.
1. An initiative to overturn California’s new mandatory vaccination law has failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, the Mercury News$ reports. The effort, pushed by anti-vaccination groups and conservative radio talk show host Tim Donnelly, collected only about half of the needed signatures. In addition, anti-vaxxers took a hit from the US Supreme Court, when it ruled that New York state’s mandatory vaccination law is constitutional, KQED reports. The high court’s decision likely means that anti-vaxxers will not be able to overturn California’s law either.

2. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that abolishes the California high school exam retroactively to 2004, thereby making tens of thousands of state residents eligible to receive their high school diplomas, the Mercury News$ reports. Students who were denied high school diplomas because they did not pass the exam can now get them, as long as they’ve completed all of their high school graduation requirements. Earlier this year, the state stopped administering the exam because it’s woefully outdated.

3. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he wants the A’s to remain in Oakland, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. "I want the A's to stay in Oakland," he said during a news conference Tuesday. "I think it is possible to get a stadium done in Oakland, and that remains my preference."

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Oakland's Top Housing Official: There Is No Affordable Housing Crisis

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 11:43 AM

click image Rachel Flynn at a recent meeting of the Bay Area Planning Directors Association. - ASSOCIATION OF BAY AREA GOVERNMENTS
  • Association of Bay Area Governments
  • Rachel Flynn at a recent meeting of the Bay Area Planning Directors Association.
Oakland's Director of Planning and Building Rachel Flynn reportedly told a conference of real estate developers in San Francisco yesterday that Oakland's residents are not facing an affordable housing crisis. Her comment was tweeted out by several attendees, including journalists.

Flynn made the comment while speaking on a panel of planning directors from major cities organized by the Urban Land Institute, a developer funded-think thank. Her comments also sparked some strong criticism on social media.

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Wednesday Must Reads: Jerry Brown Opposes Prop 13 Reform; Governor Signs Anti-Drone Law to Protect Celebrities

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 9:59 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Governor Jerry Brown told a group of real estate professionals in San Francisco that he opposes a measure that would reform Proposition 13, the Chron reports. The measure, sponsored by state Senator Loni Hancock of Berkeley and backed by education activists, would close a loophole in Prop 13 that allows corporations to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes. The measure would generate billions a year in tax revenues for California public schools, and a recent poll showed that 55 percent of Californians favor the idea. But Brown said the issue is too complex for him to support.

Governor bans drones over celebrities' homes, but not over wildfires.
  • Governor bans drones over celebrities' homes, but not over wildfires.
2. Just days after the governor ignored pleas from firefighters and vetoed legislation that would have banned private aerial drones from flying over wildfires, saying the bill was too "burdensome," Brown signed a bill that makes it illegal to fly drones over celebrities’ homes, the LA Times$ reports. Firefighters had strongly urged the governor to sign the previous anti-drone bill, saying private drones have interfered with firefighting efforts. Wealthy celebrities have also lobbied the governor, contending that drones operated by paparazzi invade their privacy.

3. UC San Francisco officials say they now support the Golden State Warriors’ plans to move to the city and build an arena across from UCSF Medical Center, the Chron reports. UCSF officials had opposed the arena plan on the grounds that it would create too much traffic near the hospital, but the Warriors agreed to limit the number of home games that coincide with San Francisco Giants’ games and to spend at least $10 million on traffic mitigation measures. However, wealthy donors to UCSF still oppose the arena plan.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Victim Reaches Out to Troubled Man Who Shot Her at Local Park

by John Geluardi
Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 4:43 PM

Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.
  • Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.
The victim of a BB gun sniper attack last weekend is now working to get help for the man who shot her above the eye while she was hiking with her husband in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in the East Bay hills. The victim, Cori Pansarasa, a clinical psychologist, said the man who shot her is mentally disabled and she wants to work with his family to get him help.

“His family has been trying for many years to get help for him and since I work as a psychologist, I want to see if there’s something I can do,” Pansarasa said two days after the man shot her with a BB gun.

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Oakland Housing Authority Police Getting Body Cameras

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 4:40 PM

A still image from an Oakland Housing Authority police recruitment video. - OAKLAND HOUSING AUTHORITY
Following other police departments across the nation, the Oakland Housing Authority Police Department is proposing to outfit its officers with body cameras. The Housing Authority, which runs its own police department independently from the City of Oakland, has 34 sworn officers who patrol in and around the city's public housing and Section 8 homes. Last Monday, the Housing Authority posted a request for proposals seeking vendors who can outfit its cops with cameras.

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Tuesday Must Reads: Californians Overwhelmingly Support New Aid-in-Dying Law; Fort Bragg Facing Extreme Water Shortage

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 9:43 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Jerry Brown.
  • Jerry Brown.
1. A near super-majority of Californians — 65 percent — support the new aid-in-dying law that Jerry Brown signed yesterday, the SacBee$ reports, citing a new Field Poll that was conducted prior to the governor’s decision. In his signing statement of the legislation, Brown, a lifelong Catholic, wrote, “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death.” The new law, which allows physicians in California to prescribe life-ending drugs for terminally ill patients, was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church, some Latino political leaders, and many conservatives.

2. The Northern California coastal city of Fort Bragg is facing a severe water shortage because of the drought and has ordered restaurants to use paper plates and disposable utensils in order to save water, the Chron reports. The city’s primary water source — the Noyo River — is at extremely low levels, to the point that salty seawater has been pushing into Fort Bragg’s freshwater supply.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Berkeley Councilmember Lori Droste Proposes Reforms to Prioritize Affordable Housing Over Parking

by Sam Levin
Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 12:38 PM

click image Lori Droste.
  • Lori Droste.
Berkeley City Councilmember Lori Droste is hoping to encourage developers to build more affordable housing in the city by allowing them to construct fewer parking spaces in new buildings. Droste's "Green Affordable Housing Package [PDF]" — on the agenda at tomorrow's city council meeting — requests that the city Planning Commission and City Manager's Office explore a number of policy changes that would eliminate barriers to the creation of affordable housing in Berkeley. One key part of her proposal seeks to address major flaws in outdated municipal parking policies — a topic which I explored in a recent cover story focused on Oakland's laws (see "A Green Solution to Oakland's Housing Crisis"). 

Like cities across the country, Oakland has not updated many of its archaic zoning rules that require developers to build large parking garages in new residential buildings, which are very expensive to construct and can significantly drive up the cost of housing and lead to higher rents. As a result of the high costs associated with parking requirements, developers can also end up offering fewer affordable units or ultimately build less housing altogether. These parking rules further contradict sustainability goals since they encourage high rates of driving and car ownership. 

Droste, citing the recent Express story and other research on the impacts of overly strict parking rules, said that reforms in Berkeley could go a long way toward increasing the supply of affordable housing and promoting more sustainable modes of transportation. In some ways, Berkeley already has more progressive policies than Oakland, but still requires a relatively large amount of parking in certain new residential projects.

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Monday Must Reads: Supreme Court Rejects San Jose’s Bid for Oakland A’s; Corrosion Risk for Bay Bridge’s Main Cable

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 10:10 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The US Supreme Court rejected an appeal today by the City of San Jose, thereby effectively ending the city’s bid to attract the Oakland A’s to the South Bay, the Mercury News$ reports. The high court refused to hear San Jose’s appeal of a lower court ruling that had dismissed the city’s anti-trust claims against Major League Baseball. The high court’s decision effectively means that the owners of the Oakland A’s, who want a new ballpark, cannot move their team to San Jose.

2. The chief designer of the $6.4 billion new Bay Bridge said the span’s main cable is at risk of corrosion and catastrophic failure because rainwater has been leaking into the cable’s anchorages, the Chron reports. The new suspension bridge would collapse if the cable breaks. “In a suspension bridge, the cable is what holds the whole thing up,” said Russell Kane, a corrosion expert in Texas who has advised companies in the oil and aerospace industries. The concerns over the cable are just the latest in a long-running scandal involving construction defects on the bridge.

Laurie Capitelli.
  • Laurie Capitelli.
3. Berkeley City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli personally profited from a taxpayer-funded home loan awarded to Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. Capitelli served as Meehan’s real estate agent on the home deal. The councilmember, however, maintains that he did nothing wrong because he said he voted for awarding the loan to Meehan before he became the chief’s realtor.

4. Governor Jerry Brown signed an anti-racial profiling measure, despite strong criticism from law enforcement groups, the LA Times$ reports. The new law requires police agencies throughout the state to begin collecting race and demographic data on all police stops. Police chiefs decried the legislation, contending that it would be too burdensome.

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