Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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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Friday, October 2, 2015

Hayward Superintendent Keeps Job Despite Allegations of Possible Criminal Conduct

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 3:54 PM

Stan Dobbs
  • Stan Dobbs
Hayward school Superintendent Stan “Data” Dobbs, who is alleged to have verbally abused and made physical contact with some school boardmembers at a closed session meeting last month, will keep his job. In addition, a third boardmember substantiated the violent tenor of the incident while reciting her own version of what happened.

No official announcement about Dobbs’ future was actually made during Wednesday’s meeting. And during the meeting, Hayward school boardmember Annette Walker admonished some boardmembers for previously disclosing publicly what Dobbs had done during the closed-session meeting. “What happens in closed session, stays in closed session,” Walker said before disclosing that the board had decided in the same closed session not to terminate Dobbs.

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Coal Opponents File Legal Action in State Court Seeking New Environmental Analysis

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 2:45 PM

  • Tom Anderson / file photo
Opponents of plans to ship millions of tons of coal through Oakland filed a legal action in state court today in an effort to require a new California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis for the Oakland Bulk Oversized Terminal project. According to the groups, coal was never studied in the original environmental analysis, and the city cannot say what impact shipping coal through Oakland would have on people's health. The groups maintain that an analysis of shipping coal will show significant health and environmental harms.

See also: Environmental Groups Say Oakland Can and Should Ban Coal Exports
See also: Banking on Coal in Oakland

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Oakland Cambodian Man Set to be Deported for Nonviolent Drug Case

by Momo Chang
Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 12:31 PM

In August, the Express published a news story about the case of Chea Bou, an Oakland man who faced deportation for his involvement in a federal drug case. Immigration reform activists have rallied to Bou’s defense, noting that he has family that depends on him here, and his legal case involved no accusations of violence.

But he’s going to be deported anyway. In the last week, the Cambodian Embassy issued about forty travel documents for Cambodians facing deportation, according to Linda Tam, Bou’s lawyer at the East Bay Community Law Center. “So Chea is one of a number of Cambodians scheduled to be deported,” Tam said. “We don’t have an exact date yet, but we think it will be the week of October 19 or October 26.”

Che Beau's wife, Sambath Nhep, may not be able to see him before he's deported.
  • Che Beau's wife, Sambath Nhep, may not be able to see him before he's deported.
Bou, who is not considered a threat to the community, served approximately a year for his criminal sentence and is being held in an immigration detention jail in Texas. Bou came over as a refugee as a child and has lived in the United States for more than 35 years. His wife, Sambath Nhep, and their minor children, who live in Oakland, have not seen him for a year and a half, and it’s unclear if they will be able to see him before he is deported.

“With Chea, I feel very strongly that deporting him is not going to do any good, especially because his family is relying on him,” said Katrina Dizon, policy manager at the Washington, D.C.-based Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, which has advocated on Bou’s behalf.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wilma Chan Drops Out of East Bay State Senate Race

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 3:33 PM

Wilma Chan.
  • Wilma Chan.
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma is abandoning her bid for next year’s open state Senate race in the East Bay’s Ninth District. Chan cited a struggle to raise what she believes is the requisite amount of money needed for a likely grueling June primary and general election campaign, while still performing her duties as a county supervisor and being with her family. She leaves the field to fellow Democrats Sandré Swanson and Nancy Skinner. They both have sizable support in the East Bay among progressives following three terms each in the state Assembly.

While Chan said she was successful in building a campaign based on local support, she also found that raising at least $1.6 million to run an effective race was an “exceedingly high bar.”

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Oakland City Council Discusses the Housing Crisis, But Action Still Awaits

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 11:05 AM

Latifa Lewis of Causa Justa :: Just Cause told the council that she and her children are facing displacement from their home. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Latifa Lewis of Causa Justa :: Just Cause told the council that she and her children are facing displacement from their home.
Last night the the Oakland City Council approved a housing equity roadmap, which includes a palette of measures that the city can use to make housing more affordable for everyone in Oakland. The council approved the roadmap after a lengthy special hearing on the city and region’s housing crisis.

But approving the housing roadmap doesn’t mean any of the policies spelled out in it – from restricting condo conversions, to implementing a housing impact fee, to dedicating public lands for affordable housing – will actually be put into practice. Each of these ideas, and other laws that could address the housing crisis, must be brought to the council separately and voted on. Therefore it remains an open question as to when, and if, the city will take action to address the growing crisis of affordability and displacement that is pushing out longtime residents, especially low-income households.

See also: Will Oakland Protect and Expand Affordable Housing?

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Thursday Must Reads: Oakland Lowers Compost Rates for Restaurants; Governor Brown Greenlights Ticket Amnesty Program for Poor

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 10:24 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The Oakland City Council voted this week to reduce compost rates for restaurants and other businesses following an outcry over a new rate structure that made it cheaper to throw away food waste than to compost it, the Chron reports. Under the new plan, compost rates will become 30 percent lower than trash rates. The council also rejected a proposal to increase recycling rates by 10 percent. The request was made by Oakland’s recycling contractor, California Waste Solutions, which claimed that the city had misrepresented the total number of homes it would have to serve.

2. Governor Jerry Brown approved a traffic ticket amnesty program that provides deep discounts for low-income residents who cannot afford to pay the high fees, the Chron reports. The state will cut ticket fees in half for everyone who received one prior to 2013 and will offer discounts of up to 80 percent for low-income residents. More than 4 million Californians have lost their drivers’ licenses because of unpaid tickets.

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