Monday, January 25, 2016

Town Business: Oakland to Consider Housing Impact Fees and Taxing the 'Sharing Economy'

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 9:48 AM

Activists rally for affordable housing impact fees at Oakland City Hall last year. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Activists rally for affordable housing impact fees at Oakland City Hall last year.
The full Oakland City Council isn't meeting this week, but the council's six committees are scheduled to meet, and there is important business to  discuss.

Impact fees: The proposed impact fees that developers would pay to fund affordable housing, transportation and capital projects are coming before the council's community and economic development committee on Tuesday afternoon. We've written a ton about the proposed affordable housing impact fee, which has been several years in the making. Tuesday's hearing on the proposed impact fees will be the first opportunity for public input since the city released the nexus study and feasibility analysis, two reports that estimate how much the city can justifiably charge developers without negatively impacting their ability to finance new market rate housing projects.

Taxing the “sharing economy”: The finance committee is schedule to consider ways of better regulating and taxing so-called sharing economy comapnies like Airbnb, and on-demand services like Uber. According to a staff report, there are at least eight different companies that currently operate short-term rental platforms that Oakland landlords use to rent out their houses, apartments, or other real estate properties as virtual hotels. Uber and Lyft dominate the app ride hailing industry, and both platforms have an unknown, but large number of drivers now providing rides in Oakland, especially around downtown and the West Oakland and MacArthur BART stations.

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Monday Must Reads: Transportation Funding Hurt by Plummeting Gas Prices; Bullet Train May Connect to Bay Area First

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 9:38 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Plummeting oil and gas prices will force state officials to slash transportation funding by about $754 million over the next five years, the LA Times$ reports. California’s transportation funding is tied to the state’s gas tax, and revenues have nosedived because of falling gas prices due to the oversupply of oil worldwide. The planned $754 million cut in funding is the largest in two decades, and more cuts are expected unless gas prices rebound.

2. State officials may switch the first operating segment of California’s new high-speed rail system from Southern California to the Bay Area, the LA Times$ reports. Officials are considering making the first operating segment from Bakersfield to San Jose, because the planned route to Los Angeles will be costly and time-consuming, due to the fact that it must traverse “the geologically complex Tehachapi and San Gabriel mountains with a large system of tunnels and aerial structures.”

3. Bay Area transportation officials finally got some good news about the Bay Bridge: The problem of water leaks on the new eastern span’s cable system appears to be fixed, the Chron reports. The leaks were threatening to cause widespread corrosion on the $6.4 billion bridge, but Caltrans crews seem to have plugged the leaks with large amounts of caulk.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

For-Profit 911 Cellphone Service Coming to Oakland in February

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 9:46 AM

  • BlueLight
A company called BlueLight plans to roll out a smartphone app that works as a subscription-based 911 service in Oakland next month. The service cost $20 a year and promises users that when they dial 911 from anywhere in Oakland, the Oakland Police Department will have access to their exact geographic location, making for a faster response. But the app appears to be widening the tech-fueled inequality gap. Will those able to afford smartphones and a BlueLight subscription receive superior emergency services over those who cannot?

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thursday Must Reads: Global Heat Record Incinerated in 2015; PG&E Pushes Hard to Penalize Solar Users

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 9:25 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The year 2015 smashed the global heat record, and this year is expected to be even hotter, the AP reports (via KQED), citing a new analysis by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and NASA. The average temperature worldwide last year was 0.29 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the previous record set in 2014 — the second biggest single-year heat spike on record. The global average temperature was 58.62 degrees last year, which was 1.62 degrees higher than in the 20th century. Scientists blamed greenhouse gas emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels, along with El Nino, for the 2015 heat record.

2. PG&E and the state’s two other major utilities are pushing hard to penalize Californians who install and use rooftop solar, the LA Times$ reports. The utilities strongly oppose a plan put forward by staffers of the California Public Utilities Commission, which would keep solar prices low in order to continue to lessen the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. PG&E and the other utilities want to slap solar users with hefty surcharges, because they say the CPUC plan will result in higher rates for residents who don’t have solar. The CPUC plans to vote on the issue next week.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Environmental Giant Sylvia McLaughlin of Berkeley Dies at Age 99

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 5:37 PM

Sylvia McLaughlin. - LAURA WAINER
  • Laura Wainer
  • Sylvia McLaughlin.
Sylvia McLaughlin, an environmental trailblazer and longtime leader of the Bay Area’s environmental community who co-founded Save the Bay and served on the boards of the National Audubon Society, East Bay Conservation Corps, Save the Redwoods League, Citizens for East Shore Parks, Trust for Public Land, and Greenbelt Alliance, died Tuesday at her Berkeley home. She was 99.

“Words are hardly adequate to convey [McLaughlin’s] profound influence on protecting the environment, restraining runaway development around the bay, and providing a powerful role model for those whose power is based not on wealth or inside political connections but on determination and a just cause,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates in a statement. “If there were a Mount Rushmore of Bay Area environmentalists, Sylvia should be there.”

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Wednesday Must Reads: Backers of $15 Minimum Wage Measure Turn in Signatures; Vaccination Rates Soar in Oakland

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 10:03 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Backers of a November ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in California by 2021 turned in petition signatures to the state, the Chron reports. Currently, about 4 million California workers make less than $15 an hour. The wage increase is being pushed by the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West and is opposed by many businesses in the state. The Service Employees International Union’s state council is collecting signatures for a separate measure that would also raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — but by 2020.

2. Childhood vaccination rates have soared in Oakland and Alameda County thanks to a new statewide mandate that eliminated the so-called “personal belief” exemption and requires all schoolchildren to be vaccinated unless they have a medical excuse. KQED reports (h/t Rough & Tumble) that vaccination rates in Oakland public schools jumped from 74 percent in 2014–15 to 97 percent this year. In Alameda County overall, rates increased from 89 percent to 97 percent.

3. Pro-development members of the California Coastal Commission, which is in charge of protecting the state’s coastline, are attempting to oust Executive Director Charles Lester, who is backed by environmentalists, Capitol Weekly reports (h/t Rough & Tumble). The pro-development coalition, which is aligned with Governor Jerry Brown, has been in a fight with environmentalists over the future of the California Coast.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday Must Reads: World’s Oceans Are Warming Rapidly; Protesters Blocked Bay Bridge on MLK Day

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Jan 19, 2016 at 9:21 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The world’s oceans have been warming at an increasingly rapid rate in the past two decades, as they absorb massive amounts of heat created by the burning of fossil fuels, the Chron$ reports, citing a new study from scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The new data shows that deeper parts of the oceans are also warming up.

2. Greenhouse gas emissions are also warming lakes around the world — at even a faster rate than oceans, the Chron$ reports, citing a new international survey. The survey of 235 lakes worldwide, including Lake Tahoe, found that the water temperature of lakes “has risen by an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit during every decade for at least the past 25 years.”

3. Protesters with the group Black.Seed shut down the westbound lanes of the Bay Bridge on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, after driving onto the bridge, parking their cars, and chaining themselves together, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. Police arrested 25 demonstrators. The protest followed a large march in Oakland.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Town Business: On the Oakland City Council's agenda for the week of January 18

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Jan 18, 2016 at 9:53 AM

An earlier drawing of the building proposed for construction at 2330 Webster Street. - THOMPSON DORFMAN PARTNERS
  • Thompson Dorfman Partners
  • An earlier drawing of the building proposed for construction at 2330 Webster Street.
On Tuesday night, the Oakland City Council is planning to renew two expensive court-mandated contracts for police oversight, establish a Privacy Advisory Commission, sell two large blocks of city-owned land in the Uptown to developers for $9.45 million, take a final vote on three new firearms safety laws, and discuss ways of providing shelter for the homeless.

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Monday Must Reads: Bay Area Records Wettest January Since 2010; A’s Majority Owner Expresses Interest in Howard Terminal Site

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Jan 18, 2016 at 9:37 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The Bay Area is experiencing its wettest January to date since 2010 — before the drought began, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. It has rained twelve of the first eighteen days of the month so far. The latest storm brought 1.8 inches of rain to Oakland, and more than four inches to certain parts of Marin County. Forecasters expect more rain throughout  January.

2. The El Niño-fueled warm storms, however, are keeping snow elevations high in the Sierra, the Chron$ reports. Snow levels are expected to be at about 7,000 feet, meaning that many ski resorts are not receiving that much snow.

Artist's renderings of a proposed A's ballpark at Howard Terminal.
  • Artist's renderings of a proposed A's ballpark at Howard Terminal.
3. Oakland A’s majority owner John Fisher, who, over the years, has not taken a lead role in running the team, is interested in the possibility of building a new A’s stadium on the Oakland waterfront next to Jack London Square, the Chron$ reports (last item). Fisher has expressed interest in the Howard Terminal site at the Port of Oakland, which Mayor Libby Schaaf has been pushing heavily because of its proximity to downtown.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday Must Reads: Yosemite Changes Names of Historic Places in Legal Dispute; Walmart to Close Oakland Store This Sunday

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Jan 15, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

The Ahwanhee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.
  • The Ahwanhee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.
1. National Park officials have decided to change the names, at least temporarily, of historic places in Yosemite — including the Ahwahnee Hotel and Badger Pass — because of a trademark dispute with the former private concessionaire of the park, the Chron reports. As the Express first reported more than a year ago, Delaware North, a Buffalo-based company that used to be the concessionaire at Yosemite, claims it owns the names of numerous historic parts of the park, and is demanding a $51 million payout from the National Park Service in exchange for legal control of the names.

The park service disputes Delaware North’s claims, but has decided to change the names of certain historic places while the case plays out in court. As of March 1, the Ahwahnee will be renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel; Curry Village will become Half Dome Village; the Badger Pass Ski Area will change its name to Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area; the Wawona Hotel will become; and Yosemite Lodge at the Falls will be renamed Yosemite Valley Lodge.

2. Walmart announced that it will close its Oakland store on Edgewater Drive this Sunday as part of plan to shutter 269 stores around the globe, the AP reports (via the Trib$). The retailing giant is facing increasing competition from online retailers, particularly

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