Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday’s Briefing: Uber Is Not Coming to Oakland; White Areas Refuse to Build Affordable Housing

Plus, California is poised to begin executing inmates again.

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Aug 25, 2017 at 10:06 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Aug. 25, 2017:

1. Ride-hailing giant Uber has jettisoned its plans to move some of its operations to Oakland and instead intends to sell its Uptown office building, reports Blanca Torres of the San Francisco Business Times$. Uber, which has been embroiled by internal turmoil, could make a tidy profit on its Uptown property—the old Sears Building on Broadway—because downtown office real estate prices have soared in the past few years. Two downtown office buildings recently sold for nearly triple what they did in 2013.

2. White Bay Area cities and neighborhoods have been failing to build their fair share of affordable housing for years, reports Kevin Truong of the San Francisco Business Times$, citing a new study by UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute. A major part of the problem is that Bay Area planners have refused to require predominantly white areas to build affordable units. The research found “clear relationships between the number of units allocated, adjusted for population size of each city, and the racial composition of cities.”

3. California is poised to begin executing Death Row inmates again, after the state Supreme Court upheld most of Proposition 66, a statewide ballot measure that voters approved in November, reports Maura Dolan of the LA Times$. The only part of Prop 66 that the high court struck down was the mandate that death penalty appeals be completed in five years. Justices said that was an unconstitutional infringement on the court’s authority.

4. The city of Berkeley denied a permit for a white supremacist rally scheduled for Sunday in downtown, but the demonstration and counterprotests are expected to take place nonetheless, reports Emilie Raguso of Berkeleyside. Most protests in Berkeley do not obtain city permits.

5. The University of California’s upgraded computer payroll system is expected to cost at least $200 million more than originally planned, reports Patrick McGreevy of the LA Times$, citing yet another audit of UC by state Auditor Elaine Howle.

6. Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, are vowing to fight the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to close the historic post office in downtown Richmond, reports Tom Lochner of the East Bay Times$.

7. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending to reduce the size of three national monuments, including Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the Washington Post$ reports.

8. California Assembly GOP Leader Chad Mayes was ousted from his post because of his vote for Gov. Brown’s extension of the state’s cap-and-trade climate change program, reports Melody Gutierrez of the San Francisco Chronicle$. Assemblymember Brian Dahle of Bieber (Lassen County), who voted against cap and trade, will replace Mayes.

9. And Hurricane Harvey is expected to reach Category 3 status when it slams into the Texas Gulf Coast late tonight and could bring up to 35 inches of rain to some areas over the next several days, the Washington Post$ reports.

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thursday’s Briefing: McClymonds Water Tainted With Lead; 2017 Could Be Worst Salmon Season Ever

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 10:07 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Aug. 24, 2017:

1. The water at McClymonds High School in West Oakland is tainted with unsafe levels of lead, a severe toxin, reports George Kelly of the East Bay Times$. Oakland public school district officials blamed the lead problems, which can harm brain development in young people, on old fixtures and plumbing. The school has replaced some old faucets, but replacing water pipes could cost $2.3 million and more than a year to complete.

2. The price of once plentiful California king salmon has soared to $30 a pound and has become a luxury item during what might be the worst salmon fishing season in history, reports Tara Duggan of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The current population of king salmon, also known as chinook salmon, was born during the drought when the lack of Northern California river water caused mass die offs.

3. Conservative students at UC Berkeley have invited ultra-right-wing speakers Steve Bannon, Ann Coulter, and Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on campus in late September, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. And new Cal Chancellor Carol Christ said the university will honor the invitations because of Berkeley’s long history of protecting free speech.

4. UC Berkeley climate change expert Daniel Kammen resigned from his science envoy position with the Trump administration in a letter in which the first letters of each paragraph spelled out IMPEACH, reports Jenna Lyons of the San Francisco Chronicle. Kammen expressed disgust with Trump’s hate-filled rally this week in Phoenix, Ariz.

5. Bigots plastered Kehilla Community Synagogue on Grand Avenue in Piedmont, on the Oakland border, with racist hate-speech stickers, reports Linda Davis for the East Bay Times$. Police are investigating the vandalism at Kehilla as a possible hate crime.

6. The National Park Service gave final approval for a white supremacist rally at Crissy Field in San Francisco on Saturday, despite requests from local political leaders to cancel the event because of public safety concerns, reports Casey Tolan of the Bay Area News Group$. Park service officials said they could not deny a permit for anyone planning to exercise his or her First Amendment rights.

7. The California Supreme Court is scheduled to rule today on whether to speed up executions in the state, as voters requested when they passed Proposition 66 last November, the Associated Press reports.

8. And state lawmakers are considering legislation that would establish the first-ever tax on water in California, reports Katy Murphy of the Bay Area News Group$. Proceeds from the tax would be used to fix hundreds of public water systems with unsafe drinking water.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday’s Briefing: Bay Area Cops Brace for Neo-Nazi Rallies; Trump Threatens Gov’t Shutdown Over Border Wall

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 10:07 AM

Trump supporters face off against anti-fascists on April 15 in Berkeley. - BRIAN KRANS
  • Brian Krans
  • Trump supporters face off against anti-fascists on April 15 in Berkeley.

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Aug. 23, 2017:

1. Bay Area law enforcement agencies are bracing for possible violence at this weekend’s planned white supremacist rallies in Berkeley and San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. Hundreds of police officers are expected to be on hand for the rallies and anti-fascist counterprotests scheduled for San Francisco’s Crissy Field on Saturday and in downtown Berkeley on Sunday.

2. President Trump threatened to shut down the federal government if Congress refuses to fund his controversial plan to build a giant wall on the Mexican border, the Washington Post$ reports. But Trump’s agenda appears to be in serious trouble because he has been feuding with GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The New York Times$ reports that the two are no longer on speaking terms after Trump harangued McConnell for not blocking the Russian collusion investigation.

3. Some Piedmont residents are calling on Mayor Jeff Wieler to step down from his position because of alleged bigoted comments on Facebook, reports Linda Davis for the East Bay Times$. Resident Conna McCarthy, daughter of the late former state Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy, said Wieler posted on Facebook: “Black lives matter encourages cop killing” and “Transgenders are mentally ill.” Wieler said he couldn’t remember the exact wording of his posts, but acknowledged having different views from those of McCarthy.

4. California’s latest cap-and-trade auction was wildly successful, with nearly $1 billion in pollution credits being sold, reports Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee$. The funds raised by the auction can be used for green energy programs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Previous auctions had been disappointing because of uncertainty over the fate of cap and trade, but that changed after Gov. Brown and the legislature agreed to extend the climate change program until 2030.

5. State Auditor Elaine Howle found that the University of California has sometimes contracted out services to private companies that pay their workers less than UC employees, reports Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle$. UC unions strongly criticized the UC’s contracting practices.

6. BART has delayed the planned opening of its new Milpitas and Berryessa stations in Santa Clara County until sometime next year, reports Michael Cabanatuan of the San Francisco Chronicle. The new stations were scheduled to open by the end of 2017.

7. And former Oakland solar company Sungevity announced that it "has merged with another California solar giant, Horizon Solar Power, to create the state’s second-largest residential solar company,” reports Riley McDermid of the San Francisco Business Times$. The merged entity’s headquarters will be in the Southern California city of Temecula.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tuesday’s Briefing: Oakland Office Space Prices Soar; Alameda Hit By More Bigotry

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Aug 22, 2017 at 10:10 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Aug. 22, 2017:

1. The value of Oakland office space continues to soar in downtown, with two major buildings selling recently for nearly triple what they sold for just four years ago, reports Blanca Torres of the San Francisco Business Times$. Institutional investor KBS Capital Advisors purchased 505 14th St. and 1300 Clay St., totaling 367,357 square feet, for a reported $154 million. Those same two buildings sold in 2013 for $65 million. Downtown Oakland’s office vacancy rate for Class A offices space is now under 4 percent.

2. Alameda has once been rocked by bigotry—this time Swastika fliers with a hate message directed at Muslims posted on Sherman Street, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. The Island has been repeatedly hit with anti-Semitic and bigoted graffiti and vandalism in the past year. Late last week, the windows of Temple Israel on Bay Farm Island were smashed.

3. California must address its housing crisis if it’s going to meet its climate change goals, reports Lauren Williams of the Orange County Register$ (h/t Rough & Tumble), citing a new study by the California Green Innovation Index released by Beacon Economics and Next 10. Transportation-related emissions have grown in the past few years despite the state’s strict vehicle emissions rules because residents are increasingly having to drive long distances to work due to the lack of housing in cities.

4. Oakland-born rapper Keak Da Sneak, whose real name is Charles Williams, is in critical condition after being shot repeatedly outside a Richmond gas station early Monday, the East Bay Times$ reports. Williams, who now lives in Sacramento, was the headliner Sunday evening at Complex, a venue on 14th Street in downtown Oakland.

5. Oakland’s Feather River Camp, a popular city-owned family camp near the town of Quincy in the Sierra Nevada, has been evacuated because of a large wildfire, reports George Kelly of the Bay Area News Group$.

6. Prosecutors charged a San Jose man with murder and attempted murder for shooting off-duty Oakland firefighters during an event in San Jose last week, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. Authorities say Oliver Juinio, 27, walked up and opened fire on the Oakland firefighters for no apparent reason.

7. Nearly 60 groups, including cities, counties, and environmental organizations, have now sued to block Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build two giant water tunnels under the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the Sacramento Bee$ reports.

8. And every year more than 70 whales—blue, humpbacks, and fin whales, all endangered species—are struck and killed off the West Coast by giant ships, reports Paul Rogers of the Mercury News$, citing a new study. Scientists say shipping lanes and traffic should be altered in order to protect the whales.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Bill Would Extend Hate Crime Law to Protect 'Allies'

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 4:17 PM

Nancy Skinner.
  • Nancy Skinner.

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, is proposing to amend California's hate crime statute so that if someone is killed because they're an ally to an oppressed group, their killer will face stricter penalties.

Currently, California's hate crime law protects people against attacks due to their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and disability status.

Skinner's change would extend the law to protect allies who themselves are not part of the "protected class," but who are attacked because they're standing in defense of or in solidarity with them.

The change was prompted by the killing of Heather Heyer, a white woman who died after white nationalist James Fields allegedly drove a car into a group of protesters in Charlottesville, Va. on August 11. Charlottesville was the scene of a racist rally that drew hundreds of neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. Many of the counter-protesters were also white.

"Taking these actions, California will ensure that racist and hateful groups can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Skinner said about her bill in an emailed statement.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley supports the change and said it will aid in prosecuting hate crimes.

Monday’s Briefing: Lawmakers Push for $20 Billion for Affordable Housing; Alameda Synagogue Vandalized

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 10:10 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Sept. 21, 2017:

1. California lawmakers are pushing forward with a package of legislation that would generate about $20 billion for affordable housing in the state over the next five years, reports Angela Hart of the Sacramento Bee$. However, the fate of one of the bills, which would establish a new recording fee on real estate transactions, ranging from $75 to $225, is uncertain because some moderate Democrats are wary of raising taxes again this year. Earlier this year, the legislature approved a gas tax hike that has generated a backlash in some regions.

2. Temple Israel of Alameda was vandalized late last week, and state Assemblymember Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, raised alarm about the increase in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide during the Trump era, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. Two windows of the synagogue’s school were smashed at 3183 Mecartney Road.

3. A coalition of cities, counties, and environmental groups has sued to block Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build two giant water tunnels under the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the Sacramento Bee$ reports. The litigation alleges that the state has illegally ignored the likely environmental harm that the tunnels will create and that 700 acres of prime Delta farmland will be rendered unusable during the 13-year construction period. The tunnels would make it easier to ship Northern California river water to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

4. Fog in much of the Bay Area today blocked the viewing of the solar eclipse, reports Evan Sernoffsky of the San Francisco Chronicle.

5. Legislation in Sacramento would create a gender-neutral option for people to use on their California driver’s license or state-issued ID card if they identify as nonbinary, reports Tammerlin Drummond of the East Bay Times$.

6. The Berkeley City Council on Friday passed an emergency ordinance to allow the city manager to establish temporary bans on certain weapons at political protests, in anticipation of possible violence during this Sunday’s planned white supremacist rally, reports Natalie Orenstein of Berkeleyside.

7. The Oakland school district has opened a new language-immersion school in an effort to convince families from leaving or sending their kids to private schools, reports Jill Tucker of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The Oakland School of Language, which offers classes in English and Spanish for middle schoolers, is located near the Coliseum.

8. Celeste Guap, the young woman who was sexually exploited by East Bay police officers, has sued the city of Richmond, reports Steven Rubenstein of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 19-year-old previously settled her suit against the city of Oakland for $1 million.

9. And officials identified the rookie Oakland firefighter who was fatally shot last week at a San Jose event as Jake P. Walter, a 30-year-old Oakland native, the Bay Area News Group$ reports.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday’s Briefing: Kevin Durant Won’t Go to White House, Says Teammates ‘Agree’; Oakland Firefighter Fatally Shot, Another Injured

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Aug 18, 2017 at 7:38 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Aug. 18, 2017:

1. Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant told ESPN that he will not visit the White House if the NBA champions are invited, saying “I don’t respect who’s in office right now,” reports Mike Lerseth of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The NBA Finals MVP also said he also doesn’t think his teammates will go to the White House as long as Donald Trump is president: “I know my guys well enough, they’ll all agree with me.”

2. One rookie Oakland firefighter was shot to death and another was badly injured at a food and music event in San Jose last night, reports Jason Green of the Bay Area News Group$. The two young firefighters had recently graduated from Oakland’s fire academy. Other Oakland firefighters held vigil outside Valley Medical Center, where the injured firefighter was reported as being in stable condition.

3. Two powerful water agencies that would benefit from Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build giant tunnels underneath the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta are scheduled to vote in September on whether they will pick up most of the project’s $17 billion tab, the Sacramento Bee$ reports. Metropolitan Water District, which serves Los Angeles, is expected to greenlight the project, but it’s uncertain whether Westlands Water District, which represents agribusinesses in the dry San Joaquin Valley, will do so. Environmentalists and Delta farmers and residents strongly oppose the tunnels.

4. California’s three chapters of the ACLU have broken with longstanding tradition and are refusing to represent neo-Nazis who engage in violent rallies, saying “white supremacist violence is not free speech,” reports Matt Pearce of the LA Times$. The American Civil Liberties Union has a long tradition of representing people who espouse hate speech, but the California chapters say the First Amendment does not apply to those who engage in violence.

5. Despite widespread opposition in Richmond, the U.S. Postal Service has shuttered the historic downtown post office in the city and plans to sell it, reports Tom Lochner of the East Bay Times$. The art-deco style post office in downtown Richmond was built in 1938. The Postal Service has been selling off historic post offices in recent years throughout the nation.

6. And in response to the deadly Islamic State terrorist attacks this week in Spain, President Trump pushed a false and debunked century-old story about U.S. Gen. John J. Pershing killing captured Muslim rebels in the Philippines in 1913 by shooting them with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, The New York Times$ reports. Trump claimed on Twitter that Pershing’s actions stopped terrorism, but no part of the story is true.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Kyle "Based Stickman" Chapman Charged with Possession of Leaded Stick by Alameda District Attorney

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 5:26 PM

Kyle "Based Stickman" Chapman. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Kyle "Based Stickman" Chapman.

The Alameda County District Attorney filed a felony charge against Kyle Chapman yesterday for possession of a leaded stick. The charges stem from a melee between Trump supporters and anti-fascists in Berkeley on March 4. Chapman was seen carrying a long baton into several fights and was filmed cracking the weapon over the heads of a masked antifa and other counter-demonstrators.

Berkeley police arrested Chapman on March 4 for suspicion of felony assault. He was also arrested in Berkeley on April 10 after another fight.

If convicted, Chapman would be ineligible for probation and would have to serve time in state prison, as opposed to a jail sentence, due to his prior convictions.

According to charging documents on file in Alameda County State Superior Court, Chapman was arrested and convicted of felony grand theft in San Diego County in 2001 and received a prison term. He was also convicted of felony robbery in Travis County, Texas in 1993 and served a term in state prison. Alameda prosecutors are therefore charging Chapman under sections 1170.12(c)(1) and 667(e)(1) of the penal code.

Following the March 4 attacks in Berkeley, Chapman was given the nickname "Based Stickman" by his followers in the white supremacist and pro-Trump movements. He's given speeches at white nationalist rallies, and become the subject of propaganda memes.

Berkeley police officer Darrin Rafferty wrote in court documents that Chapman was observed in several videos wielding the stick, but that "it was unclear if he hit anyone as the camera did not stay focused on him during the entirety of this altercation."

The Express reached out to Chapman for comment over Facebook, but he did not respond.

On Facebook, Chapman is listed as one of approximately 280 people who plan to attend another right-wing rally in Berkeley on August 27. He has implored his followers to return to San Francisco and Berkeley, calling the East Bay city "the most important Battle ground in the country."

Thursday’s Briefing: Trump Admin. Overturns Plastic Water Bottle Ban; Far-Right Anti-Google Protest Postponed

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 7:52 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Aug. 17, 2017:

1. The Trump administration has overturned an Obama-era rule that allowed national parks to ban the sale of plastic water bottles, reports Kurtis Alexander of the San Francisco Chronicle. Park officials have long noted that plastic bottles litter lakes and forests, but the beverage industry lobbied fiercely to roll back the rule approved by then-President Obama in 2011.

2. Far-right demonstrators who planned to protest at Google in Silicon Valley on Saturday have postponed their rally in the wake of last weekend’s deadly white supremacist rally Charlottesville, Va., the LA Times$ reports. The anti-Google protesters, who do not appear to be connected to the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville, planned to demonstrate against the firing of a Google engineer who claimed that the lack of women in tech is due to biological differences.

3. A Berkeley electrician has become the second white supremacist from the East Bay to lose his job after participating in the violent rally at Charlottesville, reports Jill Tucker of the San Francisco Chronicle. “John Ramondetta, known as Johnny Monoxide on white supremacist and neo-Nazi social media sites, was a union electrician working in the Bay Area on a project for Rosendin Electric, a national outfit.” Earlier this week, an employee at Berkeley’s Top Dog lost his job after taking part in the Charlottesville march.

4. Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley middle school teacher who was arrested for punching a neo-Nazi at a Sacramento protest last year, said in court that charges should be dropped against her, the Huffington Post reports, citing a news story in Al Jazeera. “Standing up against fascism and the rise of Nazism and fascism in this country is not a crime,” said Felarca, a member of the radical leftist group, By Any Means Necessary. “We have the right to defend ourselves.”

5. National Park officials are reconsidering their decision to grant a permit to far-right protesters for an Aug. 26 march at San Francisco’s Crissy Field, reports Kurtis Alexander of the San Francisco Chronicle. Park officials have said that they can’t deny permits based on political speech, but they can cancel an event over public safety concerns. San Francisco political leaders have lobbied the park service to rescind the permit.

6. Cities and statehouses around the nation are starting to remove Confederate monuments after the Charlottesville violence, the Washington Post$ reports. City officials in Baltimore removed four Confederate monuments on Wednesday.

7. And Steve Bannon, a senior Trump advisor who many liberals consider to be a white nationalist, revealed in an interview with the American Prospect that he considers white nationalists to be “clowns.” “Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element.”

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday’s Briefing: Downtown Oakland Retailers Struggling; 83% of Bay Area Renters Plan to Leave

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 10:05 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Aug. 16, 2017:

1. Some downtown Oakland retailers are struggling despite the hype that the area is undergoing an economic resurgence, reports Will Callan of Hoodline Oakland. Some merchants say they’re on the verge of going out of business, including Luan Strauss, owner of Laurel Bookstore in downtown, who recently sent an email to customers, pleading for help. Merchants say the downtown area lacks the foot traffic needed to sustain retailers.

2. About 83 percent of San Francisco Bay Area renters say they plan to leave the region, with 63 percent of renters blaming the extremely high cost of housing as their main reason for wanting to move elsewhere, reports Riley McDermid of the San Francisco Business Times$, citing a new study from the real estate firm Apartment List. The extreme housing shortage in the region has been causing rents to soar.

3. BART is considering a plan to delay service each weekday by one hour to 5 a.m., reports Michael Cabanatuan of the San Francisco Chronicle$. Transit agency officials say they need the extra time each night to complete $3.5 billion of modernization projects approved by the region’s voters last year.

4. Two whistleblowers have sued the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, alleging that they were fired because they spoke out about the destruction of thousands of pages of air pollution records, including from East Bay refineries, reports Angela Ruggiero of the East Bay Times$.

5. San Francisco politicians are trying to block a planned white supremacist rally at the Presidio, scheduled for Aug. 26, reports Matier and Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle$. Mayor Ed Lee, along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, expressed outrage that the National Park Service granted a permit for the rally at Crissy Field. Meanwhile, Berkeley officials say white supremacists have yet to request a permit for a planned rally there for Aug. 27.

6. President Trump reversed himself and once again blamed “both sides” for the deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president also called some of the white supremacist demonstrators “very fine people.” White supremacists hailed Trump’s remarks.

7. And the president’s unexpected remarks on Charlottesville overshadowed an executive order he signed, overturning an Obama-era rule that required public agencies to take sea-level rise into account when building infrastructure, The New York Times$ reports.

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