Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thursday Must Reads: Oakland Council Greenlights Luxury Tower; Berkeley Balcony Builder Has Paid Millions in Legal Settlements

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Jun 18, 2015 at 9:59 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

click to enlarge The proposed UrbanCore luxury-housing tower.
  • The proposed UrbanCore luxury-housing tower.
1. The Oakland City council approved a controversial deal last night involving the sale of public land near Lake Merritt to a market-rate developer who plans to build a luxury-housing tower, the Trib$ reports. The council greenlighted the deal after developer UrbanCore agreed to put $8 million into the city’s affordable housing fund. UrbanCore also will pay $5.1 million for the land at East 12th Street and 2nd Avenue. Affordable housing advocates are expected to the sue Oakland over the deal because they say it violates local and state laws that require the city to prioritize affordable housing on surplus public property.

2. Segue Construction, the Pleasanton-based company that built the Berkeley building where a balcony collapsed and killed six people earlier this week, has paid more than $6 million to settle lawsuits over shoddy workmanship in the past few years, the Chron reports. Experts say the Berkeley balcony likely was plagued by dry rot caused by improper sealing. Segue paid $3 million in 2013 for a similar problem on an apartment building it built in San Jose.


3. The National Park Service has awarded the concessions agreement at Yosemite National Park to Aramark — and has decided to not renew its deal with Delaware North, the current concessionaire who claimed that it owns the rights to iconic place names in Yosemite, including the Ahwahnee Hotel, the AP reports (via the Chron). The dispute over the naming issue between the NPS and Delaware North has not been resolved. Delaware North claims that it is owed $51 million for the names, and has said that if it’s not paid, then Yosemite cannot use them.

4. Police in South Carolina have arrested a young white man who is suspected of fatally shooting nine Black people at an historic Black church in Charleston, the AP reports (via the Chron). Police say that Dylann Storm Roof, 21, waited for nearly an hour inside the church Wednesday night before shooting six females and three males at a prayer meeting. The pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, state Senator Clementa Pinckney, was among those killed.

5. The world’s major aquifers — including California’s Central Valley aquifer system — are in serious trouble because of the over-pumping of groundwater, the Chron reports, citing a new study. California has virtually no statewide regulations on groundwater pumping.

6. State regulators, however, have decided to restrict groundwater use near the Russian River, recognizing that groundwater depletion is harming nearby streams and rivers and is imperiling salmon runs, the Chron reports. Sonoma County wineries have been using huge amounts of groundwater.

7. The California Labor Commission ruled that Uber drivers are employees of the company rather than independent contractors, the Chron reports. The ruling is expected to undercut Uber’s “sharing-economy” business model.

8. And the Alameda City Council voted to approve a $500 million development project that will include eight hundred new homes at Alameda Point on the former Alameda Naval Air Station, the Bay Area News Group$ reports.

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