Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On 

Scientists predict an even bigger Big One, Mervyns to shut its doors, and rats swarm People's Park.

Okay, the East Bay's sitting right on top of the Hayward Fault, making it one of the most potentially dangerous earthquake zones in the world. But aside from Loma Prieta, we've done alright for ourselves, yes? We've spent our lives dodging bullets; why shouldn't things stay the same?

Unfortunately, those pointy-headed types at the US Geological Survey have just compiled some pretty bad news about what a major quake in the East Bay would look like. First off, an earthquake the size of 7.0 on the Richter Scale is likely to happen very soon, so anyone who's thinking about dying of old age before the Big One hits had better consult their actuarial tables again. Second, the damage from a major quake on the Hayward Fault could be unthinkable — worse than you've ever imagined.

When the quake hits, between two and four million people will probably find themselves in the impact zone. USGS scientists estimate that the event could kill up to 4,500 people, but that's not really the worst news. If the quake is as severe as researchers fear, the disaster could ultimately cause $210 billion in economic damage, far more than Hurricane Katrina ever inflicted. Finally, East Bay residents are hardly ready for this disaster, even when it comes to insurance; USGS researchers claim that only about seven percent of the homes likely to be affected are covered. For years, doomsday scenarios projected a catastrophe for New Orleans should the crumbling levees break, but to most people, it sounded like some science fiction book. We're blithely careening toward the same fate.

Mervyns Goes Out of Existence

But at least Mervyns won't have to worry about how it'll recover from the earthquake. That's because last week, the proprietors of the decades-old, Hayward-based middlebrow department store announced they were closing every single store, liquidating every tangible asset, crawling into their grave, and pulling the dirt over. For years, Mervyns had struggled to find a niche in the new world of consumer goods; Wal-Mart squeezed them from the low end of the price spectrum, while more fashionable stores beat them on the other end. The company recently declared bankruptcy and sued its own parent company, Cerberus Capital Management, alleging that the firm only acquired it for the land and let the business corrode. But it just couldn't make a go of it, and after fifty years of being a mainstay in the lives of working-class suburbia, has died and gone forever.

East Bay Firms Flirt with Catastrophe

Last week's big stock meltdown didn't do the East Bay's public companies any favors. According to the San Francisco Business Times, Chevron lost 12.49 percent of its value; Clorox lost 5.15 percent; Onyx Pharmaceuticals lost 8.27 percent, the PMI Group lost 17.31 percent, and Safeway lost 8.9 percent. The only company to weather the storm was Longs Drug Store, probably because it's due to be bought up by the CVS pharmaceutical chain this week.

Cop Tax Measure in Trouble

As Oakland's ballot measure to raise property taxes and hire more cops churns toward an uncertain future this November, the Oakland City Council declined to pass a measure forcing landlords and tenants to split the bill. Originally, the proposal would have required tenants to pay half of the annual assessment, which would finance the hiring of 105 additional police officers. But councilmembers rejected it after noting that many of the developers backing the plan were opposed to the tax measure in the first place. So screw them, apparently. In the unlikely possibility that the measure passes, let's hope Oakland uses the cash to hire a better caliber of cop than the ones implicated in the evidence-fabrication scandal that threatens to overturn drug and gun possession convictions dating back years.

No More Pencils, No More Law Books

Officials with the Oakland School Board and the District Attorney's office are investigating whether the school district overpaid Bryant and Brown, a local law firm, for work on contracts that could have been handled by the school's in-house counsel. Tim White, the bureaucrat overseeing the district's facilities management, apparently paid the firm more than $800,000, while the general counsel never had any oversight into what Bryant and Brown were doing.

Angel Island Looking Ragged

Now that firefighters have killed the blazed that swept across Angel Island, park officials have gone in to assess the damage. And it's pretty bleak. One half of the island was consumed by the fire, with all of the trees and foliage in the fire zone wiped out. Mt. Livermore, the peak of the island, is ash. But the historic buildings on the eastern end of the island were saved. Trees can always grow back.

Three-Dot Roundup

Rats are swarming through People's Park, even in daylight, prompting UC Berkeley officials to consider deploying owls to devour the little pigeons without wings. ... The City of Berkeley has almost finished assembling a statue on the I-80 pedestrian bridge commemorating the city's legacy of protest and social dissent. .... The Raiders actually won a game last week, as kicker Sebastian Janikowski's field goal put them over the Jets in overtime. ... But the Bears decided they didn't need any more touchdowns after the second quarter in Saturday's game in Arizona. The Wildcats had a different approach and won the game, 42-27.

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