Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday Must Reads: Dry Winter Means Drought Rules Likely to Continue; Oceans Rising at Fastest Pace in the Last 28 Centuries

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 9:41 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. A dry February in California likely means that the state’s drought rules will remain in effect this year, the Mercury News$ reports. So far, El Nino has failed to deliver a wet winter — the Sierra snowpack on Monday was at just 94 percent of normal. State water officials said it will have to rain nearly every day in March and April for the state to lift its drought regulations.

2. Human-caused climate change is prompting the world’s oceans to rise at their fastest pace in at least 28 centuries, and the problem will get worse in the coming decades, The New York Times$ reports, citing two new comprehensive scientific studies. Experts warn that sea levels could rise by three to four feet by 2100, and that “the situation would then grow far worse in the 22nd century and beyond, likely requiring the abandonment of many coastal cities.”

3. In the wake of the Yosemite renaming controversy, state Assemblymember Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, introduced legislation that would prohibit California from doing business with park concessionaires that attempt to trademark names associated with state parks, the SacBee$ reports. On March 1, Yosemite National Park is changing the names of several iconic places, including the Ahwahnee Hotel, because the park’s former private concessionaire claims it obtained the official trademarks to those place names.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Town Business: E. 12th Street Remainder Parcel Decision Coming Soon

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 9:52 AM

  • E. 12th Wishlist Design Team and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates
E. 12th Street Decision: Oakland Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio told a gathering of regional political leaders, developers, and housing policy experts on Saturday that she expects a decision will be made “very soon” regarding the fate of the E. 12th Street Remainder Parcel.

For the past several months, the Oakland City Council has been meeting in closed session to discuss proposals for how to develop the E. 12th Street Remainder Parcel, a one-acre swath of city-owned land near Lake Merritt that was once slated to become a luxury condo tower. A community coalition protested the deal, and last year the Oakland City Attorney’s office advised the city council, in a secret legal memo, that selling the land to the developer UrbanCore without requiring construction of any affordable housing would have violated the state Surplus Land Act. After the Express published this legal memo, the deal was scrapped. Since then, the city re-opened bidding on the land. Five developer teams are now competing to take control of the parcel. And all of them are required to build affordable housing on the site.

So who are the bidders, and what do their projects look like?

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Monday Must Reads: Lawmakers Want to Open Up Police Misconduct Hearings; Loni Hancock Sponsors Legislation to Block Oakland Coal Plan

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 9:31 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. State Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced legislation that would open police misconduct hearings and records to the public, the Chron reports. Leno’s bill, which is backed by San Francisco County District Attorney George Gascón, would roll back a 1978 law and subsequent state Supreme Court decisions that have made police misconduct cases and records secret. Leno and Gascón said restoring transparency is essential to regaining the public’s trust of law enforcement, particularly in light of recent high-profile killings by police. Police officer unions strongly oppose the bill.

Loni Hancock.
  • Loni Hancock.
2. State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, introduced a package of legislation that would block the controversial plan to build a coal terminal at the former Oakland Army Base, the Trib$ reports. Hancock’s four bills “would declare shipping coal through West Oakland a health and safety danger and prohibit shipment through the Oakland port; require extensive environmental reports for public agencies approving coal projects; prohibit public funds to build or operate coal-exporting ports located next to poor communities; and require state-funded facilities to prohibit coal or participate in the state’s cap-and-trade program.”

3. The Bay Bridge Tunnel through Yerba Buena Island is riddled with corrosion, thereby raising concerns that more large pieces of concrete will give way and crash into cars, the Chron reports. Caltrans has discovered at least twelve spots in the tunnel where concrete is in danger of falling — like it did last month when a big chunk narrowly missed a motorist.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Income Inequality Increases Across Bay Area

A recent report shows Oakland and San Francisco among cities with highest income inequality in the state.

by Sydney Johnson
Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 12:44 PM

Bay Area cities topped the charts in a recent report revealing that income gains in California largely went to the highest-income households during the past 25 years, while the remaining medium- and low-income households saw little to no income gains.

click image Ratio of the top 1 percent’s average income to the bottom 99 percent’s average income across California regions in 2013 - CALIFORNIA BUDGET & POLICY CENTER
  • California Budget & Policy Center
  • Ratio of the top 1 percent’s average income to the bottom 99 percent’s average income across California regions in 2013
The California Budget & Policy Center, an independent policy research center based in Sacramento that released the study, found San Francisco to have the highest income inequality ratio, where the average wealthiest household ($3.6 million in 2013) earns 44 times the average income of the bottom 99 percent ($81,094). San Francisco also had the highest share of income going to the top 1 percent, with 30.8 percent of the region’s income going to its highest earners in 2013.

The Oakland-Fremont-Hayward metropolitan area ranked 12th in terms of income inequality ratio, with its 1 percent earning $1,271,054 on average in 2013 – about 20 times that of the bottom 99 percent ($63,397). The East Bay region however jumps up to sixth in the study’s ranking of top 1 percent income growth over the study period. According to the report, the 1 percent in Oakland-Fremont-Hayward has grown by 87.8 percent since 1989, while the bottom 99 percent has seen only an 8.1% increase.

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Friday Must Reads: Schaaf Calls on Brown to Release Affordable Housing Money; Bullet Train Financing Remains in Doubt

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 10:42 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, along with other city, school, and county leaders, called on Governor Jerry Brown’s administration to release $45 million in affordable housing funds that were earmarked for the massive Brooklyn Basin project on the city’s waterfront, the Trib$ reports. The $45 million had been set aside by Oakland’s redevelopment agency ten years ago, but the funding might now be in doubt, because Brown killed redevelopment statewide in 2011.

2. California’s high-speed rail system, which now is slated to come to the Bay Area first, still has serious funding issues, the Mercury News$ reports. A crucial part of the financing for the first major leg of the system — from Bakersfield to San Jose — is supposed to come from the state’s cap-and-trade program, but that greenhouse-gas reduction progam is scheduled to expire in 2020. Moreover, extending it could be difficult because of opposition from Republicans and some centrist Democrats.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thursday Must Reads: Average Monthly Rent in Berkeley Now $3,600; Alameda Council Refuses to Cap Rent Hikes

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 9:32 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The average monthly rent in Berkeley has increased by 12 percent in the past year and has reached $3,584, Berkeleyside reports, citing a recent report by Dee Williams-Ridley, Berkeley’s interim city manager. Williams-Ridley’s report was part of wide-ranging discussion among Berkeley elected officials, housing activists, and developers, concerning how to build more housing in the city. In the past 14 years, only 427 units of below-market-rate housing have been constructed in Berkeley.

Alameda City Hall.
  • Alameda City Hall.
2. The Alameda City Council declined to cap rent hikes in the city and instead adopted so-called “tenant protections” that renters say don’t go far enough to stem the tide of displacement on the island, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. The protections include limiting the number of times that a landlord can raise rents to once a year, and requiring landlords to notify the city when they plan to raise rents by more than 5 percent. Landlord groups also opposed the new rules.

3. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has decided to keep the commercial Dungeness crab season closed until a dangerous neurotoxin is completely gone from coastal waters, the Chron reports. The toxin, domoic acid, which has kept the crab fishery closed all year, is still showing up in some areas.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Coal Opponents Claim Small Victory at Oakland City Council

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 10:03 AM

Members of the Ecumenical Economic Empowerment Council support plans to ship coal through Oakland. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Members of the Ecumenical Economic Empowerment Council support plans to ship coal through Oakland.
Last night, the Oakland City Council tabled a proposal to hire a consultant to help the city determine whether coal shipments will have negative health and safety impacts on residents and port workers. The decision to delay the contract vote was seen as a victory for anti-coal activists and a defeat for TLS, the company hoping to export millions of tons of coal from a planned marine terminal that will be built at the old Army Base site in West Oakland.

Earlier in the day, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf sent the councilmembers a letter requesting that they postpone the contract vote “so that we may further evaluate other, potentially more effective options,” to bar coal shipments through Oakland. “I remain strongly opposed to the transport of coal and crude oil through our city,” Schaaf wrote in her letter.

The council had been set to approve a $208,000 contract with Environmental Science Associates, but anti-coal activists raised concerns about the company’s track record. According to anti-coal groups, Environmental Science Associates recently authored an environmental report that found “negligible” impacts of shipping crude oil by rail through Benicia. Coal opponents feared the company would write a similar report, justifying coal shipments through Oakland.

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Wednesday Must Reads: State Snowpack at Below Normal for the Year; Commercial Crab Season May Face More Delays

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 9:42 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. In yet another sign that the California’s punishing drought is far from over and that this year’s El Nino may turn out to be a bust, state water officials announced that the overall snowpack in the Sierra is below normal for this time of year — it’s at 91 percent, the Chron$ reports. The snowpack in northern part of the Sierra is a bit better — 99 percent — but it needs to be much higher than that to help relieve the four-year drought.

  • Bert Johnson/File photo
2. Even though the recreational Dungeness crab season opened last week, an influential task force is recommending that the commercial crab season remain closed until the presence of a dangerous neurotoxin is completely gone from the West Coast, the Chron$ reports. The toxin — domoic acid — still exists in a few areas, including Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is expected to make a decision soon as to whether to accept the recommendation by the California Dungeness Crab Task Force to delay the season further.

3. A majority of Oakland residents — 56 percent — say they oppose the plan to transport coal through a new facility proposed at the old Oakland Army Base, the Trib$ reports, citing a new survey commissioned by the Sierra Club, which also opposes the coal plan. Opposition grew to 76 percent after respondents were told that the coal-train plan “could increase risk of asthma, bronchitis and cancer, and moves away from the city’s commitment to counter climate change.”

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday Must Reads: Bay Area Sets Heat Records; High-Speed Rail May Be Coming to the Bay Area First

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Feb 16, 2016 at 9:20 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Cities throughout the Bay Area established heat records yesterday, as temperatures soared into the seventies and eighties, the Chron reports. Oakland International Airport set a record of 74 degrees, as did Richmond at 77, San Francisco at 77, and Santa Rosa at 80. Forecasters expect Tuesday to be another warm day, but predict rain on Wednesday with temperatures returning to normal. Despite a wet January, much of the Bay Area remains below normal for precipitation this winter.

2. Managers of California’s proposed high-speed rail system may bring bullet trains to the Bay Area much faster than expected under a dramatically revised plan, the Chron$ reports. The proposal calls for fast-tracking high-speed rail along the Caltrain line between Gilroy and San Francisco because it would be cheaper than going forward with the original plan of first building the bullet-train line between the Central Valley and Los Angeles. The Southern California route is expected to be costly and time-consuming because it needs to cross the rugged Tehachapi mountains.

3. However, the high-speed rail system could be derailed if Big Agribusiness gets its way. The LA Times$ is reporting that Central Valley farming interests are proposing a ballot measure for November that would take billions of dollars in funds earmarked for high-speed rail and use them to build more dams in the state.

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Town Business: Honoring Black Leaders, Studying Coal, Increasing Ellis Act Eviction Assistance

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Feb 15, 2016 at 10:02 AM

A poster by Emory Douglas endorsing Bobby Seale for Oakland mayor and Elaine Brown for city council. - HTTP://BAD.ESERVER.ORG/ISSUES/2004/65/GAITER.HTML
  • http://bad.eserver.org/issues/2004/65/gaiter.html
  • A poster by Emory Douglas endorsing Bobby Seale for Oakland mayor and Elaine Brown for city council.
Honoring Black leaders: To celebrate Black History and Heritage Month, the full city council will honor twelve Black leaders, including Paul Cobb, the publisher of the Oakland Post newspaper; Ryan Coogler, who wrote and directed the film Fruitvale Station; and Emory Douglas, who, as minister of culture in the Black Panther Party, created memorable cultural weaponry for the Black freedom movement. The other honorees are Bishop Frank Pinkard Jr., William “Bill” Riley, Pastor George Cummings, Egypt King, Preston J. Turner, Assata Olugbala, Jean Blacksher, Gloria Jeffery, And Theo Aytchan Williams

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