Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Must Reads: Oakland Loses Bid to Keep Pot Club Open; Judge Indicates that He Will Uphold Berkeley’s Cellphone Law

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Aug 21, 2015 at 10:05 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. A federal appeals court turned down the City of Oakland’s bid to keep the US government from closing Harborside Health Center — the nation’s largest medical cannabis dispensary, the Chron reports. The Ninth Circuit court ruled 3-0 that the city does not have legal standing to intervene in the US Department of Justice’s decision to seize Harborside’s property through asset forfeiture. The city had argued that the DOJ’s action would illegally rob Oakland of more than $1 million a year in tax revenues and would force the dispensary’s patients to buy pot on the black market. Harborside’s own suit against the DOJ is ongoing and the club remains open.

2. Despite industry objections, a federal judge indicated that he intends to uphold Berkeley’s cellphone warning law, except for language that states that cellphone radiation poses dangers to children, the Chron reports. US District Judge Edward Chen said that the dangers to children aspect of Berkeley’s law is “controversial,” and thus too far-reaching. But Chen said the rest of the law is based on FCC findings.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Oakland Police Let Media Watch Body-Cam Footage of Fatal Incidents, But Refuse to Publicly Release Videos

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 3:30 PM

  • file photo / bert johnson
This morning, the Oakland Police Department held an invite-only screening of videos for select members of the media showing recent police incidents that resulted in the deaths of two men. Although OPD allowed this small group of reporters to view the footage, the department is now claiming that the broader public doesn’t have a right to see the videos, and that copies will not be released to the public until several investigations are completed. Legal experts say this policy might be a violation of the California Public Records Act.

Officer Johnna Watson, OPD spokesperson, said she invited eleven print, TV, and radio news organizations to this morning’s viewing. According to Watson, the Express was on the list, but was mistakenly excluded. The Express was later invited to view the footage, but we have not yet seen it.

According to reporters who attended the screening, the videos included police body camera footage taken by officers who were chasing Richard Linyard and Nathaniel Wilks (in two separate incidents). On July 19, Linyard was allegedly fleeing the police on foot when he was later found wedged between two buildings. A coroner’s report said Linyard died from injuries he suffered when he was apparently stuck between the buildings.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tenants Accuse San Francisco Bank of Financing Evictions

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Aug 18, 2015 at 3:42 PM

Activists outside of First Republic Bank's headquarters in San Francisco. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Activists outside of First Republic Bank's headquarters in San Francisco.
Protesters picketed outside the downtown San Francisco headquarters of First Republic Bank this afternoon, alleging that the prominent financial company is fueling the city's displacement crisis by lending to real estate investors who evict tenants and eliminate rental housing. Using the Ellis Act, landlords who purchased buildings with loans from First Republic Bank have evicted tenants and sold the apartments as tenants-in-common homes (TICs) to affluent buyers.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thursday Must Reads: Protesters March After OPD Kills Robbery Suspect; Forecasters Say Monster El Niño a Near Certainty

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Aug 13, 2015 at 10:17 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Anti-police violence demonstrators briefly shut down traffic on Interstate 980 last night as they protested the killing of a man by Oakland police yesterday. According to the Chron, police say they shot and killed a robbery suspect who was brandishing a firearm after a chase to West Oakland. The man’s identity has not been released — nor has the identity of the officers who killed him. It was the third fatal shooting by OPD in the past two months after the department had not shot anyone for two years.

2. Climate scientists said today that the odds of a massive El Niño weather event this year remain at 90 percent, and that temperatures in the Western Pacific are about as high as they were during the torrential rainstorms of 1997-98 and 1982-83, the Chron reports. However, scientists are also unsure about the effects of another warm water phenomena in the Northern Pacific known as the “blob.” The blob has been associated with California’s punishing drought and it’s unclear whether it will lessen or strengthen the effects of El Niño.

The Oakland Raiders' proposed stadium in Southern California.
  • The Oakland Raiders' proposed stadium in Southern California.
3. The Bay Area News Group$ notes that while Oakland officials have taking the blame for the Raiders' possible move to Los Angels, the team has yet to offer a viable plan for building a new stadium in Oakland — and seems to be more focused on relocating to Southern California.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Uptown Oakland High-Rise Project Moves Forward With Huge Excess of Parking

by Sam Levin
Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 11:15 AM

  • City of Oakland / Brick LLP
The Oakland Planning Commission has approved a proposal for a 33-story high-rise apartment building on 19th Street and Broadway — a project that will include 345 residential units conveniently located next to BART in the city's Uptown district. But while many agree that this kind of high-density project in an urban center can help promote sustainable development and that new apartments are needed during the current housing crisis, the proposal has one feature that contradicts a key principle of environmentally friendly planning.

The tower, proposed by developer Seth Hamalian, calls for the construction of 333 parking spaces for residents, meaning the building is designed to accommodate and encourage car ownership in nearly every single unit — despite the project's central location directly adjacent to BART and other public transit. 

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Wednesday Must Reads: Governor Bans Secret Grand Juries in Killings by Police; Raiders Make Their Pitch for LA Stadium

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 10:05 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Governor Jerry Brown signed landmark legislation, making California the first state in the nation to ban the use of secret grand juries in cases in which a police officer has killed someone, the Mercury News$ reports. The governor’s action, which was opposed by law enforcement groups but backed by civil rights organizations, will take effect on January 1. Under the new law, prosecutors must present criminal cases against police officers in open court rather than behind closed doors. The bill, authored by Los Angeles state Senator Holly Mitchell, comes one year after Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Mike Brown, but then was not indicted by a secret grand jury.

Mark Davis.
  • Mark Davis.
2. Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis personally pitched his plan to the NFL yesterday to move his team to the City of Carson near Los Angeles and build a new stadium there with the San Diego Chargers, the AP reports (via the CoCo Times$). Davis has said his first choice is to keep in the team in Oakland, but he has not pushed a proposal for a new stadium here.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tuesday Must Reads: Oakland Is Now the Hottest Rental Market in Nation; Bernie Sanders Picks Up Key Labor Endorsement, Draws Huge Crowds

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Aug 11, 2015 at 9:47 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Oakland is now the hottest rental market in the United States, with apartment prices jumping 20 percent in the past year, SF Gate reports, citing Zumper’s National Rent Report for August 2015. The average price of a one-bedroom apartment in Oakland is now $1,980 a month — the sixth highest among large cities nationwide. San Francisco passed New York City to become the priciest city in the country. The average one bedroom in San Francisco is now $3,500 a month.

  • Erci Tadsen/File photo
  • Bernie Sanders.
2. Self-described socialist Bernie Sanders is continuing to rock the US political world this summer. Last night, the surging Democratic presidential candidate drew 27,500 people to an event in Los Angeles, following a similarly sized one the night before in Portland. Sanders is drawing the biggest crowds of any presidential candidate by far. And yesterday in Oakland, the progressive senator picked up a big labor endorsement: National Nurses United and California Nurses Association, the Bay Area News Group$ reports.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Updated: Dark Money Group Paid for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's Inauguration Festivities

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Aug 6, 2015 at 1:46 PM

Libby Schaaf and John Protopappas at a 2014 fundraiser. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Libby Schaaf and John Protopappas at a 2014 fundraiser.

To pay for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s inauguration festivities, a shadowy group of her supporters created a nonprofit corporation and collected $88,000 from individual, and possibly corporate donors. But who made these contributions, and how much they gave, is a secret.

Called Made In Oakland, the organization is a dark money group, a 501(c) 4 entity organized under the same section of the federal tax code used by other shadowy political groups nationwide. Under current law, 501(c) 4 groups can keep their donors secret. Groups like Made in Oakland, which was incorporated specifically for an inauguration event, are not allowed to make expenditures to benefit a candidate or ballot measure.

The use of private nonprofits to pay for events, and in some cases to even pay rent and travel expenses for elected officials, has been criticized by good government watchdogs who say the practice appears to confer undue access or influence on those who give money.

Made in Oakland was established by John Protopappas and Steve Berley, two Schaaf supporters who are also the only directors on the group’s three-person board. The mailing address for Made In Oakland is listed as Protopappas’ Madison Park Financial offices in Oakland.

Protopappas, an Oakland real estate developer and close friend and supporter of Governor Governor Jerry Brown, also recently served as the finance chair of Schaaf’s 2014 mayoral campaign. Protopappas and his family members contributed $1,750 to Schaaf’s mayoral campaign committee, according to city records. Protopappas has multiple major real estate projects in the planning phase which will require city approvals. Neither Protopappas nor Schaaf's office immediately responded to requests for comment.

In addition to serving as Schaaf’s mayoral campaign treasurer, Berley, who lives on the same street as Schaaf in Oakland’s Oakmore neighborhood, contributed $700 to her campaign — the maximum allowed under city law. Berley runs a technology consulting company called the Oakmore Group. 

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Thursday Must Reads: Monster El Niño Might Miss Much of NorCal; Corporations Now Required to Reveal CEO-to-Worker Pay

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Aug 6, 2015 at 10:12 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. It’s not yet clear whether the massive El Niño weather event forming off the West Coast will bring heavy rainfall to much of Northern California this winter, the Chron reports. El Niño weather patterns are associated with wetter-than-normal winters, and it looks as if the Bay Area and Southern California could get drenched this winter, but climate scientists remain unsure about areas north of the Bay.

2. The US Securities and Exchange Commission voted to require publicly traded corporations to reveal for the first time the ratio of CEO pay to that of the average worker in the company, the LA Times$ reports. The 3-2 vote was along party lines, with Democratic-appointed commissioners voting for the new rule and Republican appointees voting against.

3. Despite a Congressional ban on federal interference in states in which medical cannabis is legal, a newly released US Justice Department memo reveals that the Obama administration still plans to target medical pot businesses even if they’re in compliance with state law, the Chron reports.

John Chiang.
  • John Chiang.
4. State Treasurer John Chiang is considering a run for governor in 2018, the LA Times$ reports. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has already announced his candidacy and other potential Democratic candidates include billionaire Tom Steyer, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How Bay Area Apartment Buildings Waste Money, Space on Car Parking

by Sam Levin
Wed, Aug 5, 2015 at 2:06 PM

  • Illustration by Roxanne Pasibe
This week's cover story, "A Green Solution to Oakland's Housing Crisis," examines how Oakland developers, guided by outdated planning policies, continue to construct unnecessarily large parking garages in new apartment buildings. As a result, residential developments often waste a significant amount of money and space on parking spots that sit empty, which drives up the cost of housing and stymies the creation of affordable units. And the suburban-style zoning policies that lead developers to build giant parking lots and garages also continue to accommodate and encourage excessive car ownership, making the city less environmentally sustainable. 

TransForm, an Oakland-based transportation advocacy group, is spearheading an effort to push Bay Area cities and developers to build less parking and instead invest in more affordable housing and in projects that promote alternative modes of transit (for example by giving tenants public transit passes, car-share memberships, and bike parking). As part of its program called GreenTRIP — which recognizes developments that have forward-thinking parking strategies — TransForm has compiled and analyzed extensive data from across the region showing how wasteful existing apartment garages are how cities are on track to build a huge excess of parking if policies don't shift. Below are some of the group's most revealing findings that I wasn't able to include in the print feature. 

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