Thursday, December 28, 2017

Breaking: Berkeley's KPFA Radio Facing Ruin as New York Real Estate Corporation Considers Seizing Station's Assets to Settle Lawsuit

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Dec 28, 2017 at 11:41 AM

kpfa.png
KPFA radio first went on air in 1949, broadcasting from Berkeley and chronicling wars, social movements, and scandals with depth rarely seen in the mainstream media.

But now, KPFA faces the possibility of closure for reasons having nothing to do with the station itself.

A ruinous lawsuit by a New York City real estate company over sister station WBAI's $1.8 million in delinquent rent has thrown the Pacifica Foundation, which owns KPFA, WBAI, and several other stations, into turmoil.

The crisis began following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center which destroyed WBAI's transmission tower. Afterward, to continue broadcasting, WBAI signed a lease with the Empire State Realty Trust, a large Manhattan property owner, and began using a transmission tower on the top of the Empire State Building. ESRT subsequently increased rent by about 9 percent each year, charging more than a typical broadcasting tower costs.

WBAI's management called the rent increases unfair and complained of "being held hostage" by ESRT due to a lack of other options for a transmission tower, and the fact that the lease runs until 2020. As a result, WBAI failed to make its full rental payments and fell $1.35 million behind as of November 2016.

But ESRT successfully sued WBAI and Pacifica. Last October, a New York judge ruled that WBAI and Pacifica must pay what's owed, plus legal fees.

The judge also ruled that ESRT can seize Pacifica's assets to collect what it's owed. This could include KPFA's real estate, station license, or other property, even though KPFA is doing well financially thanks to its strong listener support. In fact, KPFA helps prop up weaker stations like WBAI.

The October ruling was devastating for Pacifica. Independent auditors wrote in Pacifica's last financial report that there is "substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern."

Yesterday, KPFA General Manager Quincy McCoy warned the station's staff about the "imminent threat" they're facing in an email:

"Come January 12th KPFA's money and property may be seized by the Empire State Realty Trust because of a 1.8 million dollar debt of our sister station WBAI. If this happens we will cease broadcasting because we will be unable to operate the station. At that point, our building and our bank account will no longer be under our control."

Pacifica insiders say the situation has been made worse by the foundation's notorious infighting. Over many years, Pacifica's board has been slow to address its debilitating financial problems. Board members are deeply divided about how to manage the five radio stations under their control. Although some board members have been calling on Pacifica to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy to protect its assets like KPFA, it has yet to do so.

Another option is to sell WBAI's station license, which could be worth as much as $10 million. Others are opposed to this possible solution.

Doug Henwood, a longtime show host on KPFA, wrote in a blog post today that the Pacifica Foundation's interim executive director Bill Crosier has now called for the foundation to file for bankruptcy.

The Pacific Foundation board is scheduled to meet tonight to consider its options.

As to whether KPFA can survive this financial mess created by its parent foundation, McCoy told the Express in an email, "this is the season of miracles, I like many others in the network are hoping for the best."

Thursday’s Briefing: Charlie Hallowell Accused of Sex Harassment by 17 Women; New Laws to Protect Workers go into Effect Jan. 1

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Dec 28, 2017 at 10:19 AM

Charlie Hallowell. - FILE PHOTO BY ALESSANDRA MELLO
  • File photo by Alessandra Mello
  • Charlie Hallowell.

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Dec. 28, 2017:

1. Charlie Hallowell, chef-owner of three celebrated Oakland restaurants — Pizzaiolo, Boot & Shoe Service, and Penrose — has been accused of sexual harassment and verbal abuse by 17 women, reports Tara Duggan of the San Francisco Chronicle. Hallowell, a former chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, apologized for his pervasive misconduct and has decided to step away from the businesses. The women said that “Hallowell expressed an obsession with female bodies, particularly pregnant ones, detailing romantic partners’ bodily functions and sexual acts. He also routinely made vivid comparisons between food and sex or female anatomy.”

2. Several new laws that protect workers in California are going into effect on Jan. 1, including bans on employers asking applicants about their salary history or whether they have a criminal record, reports Kathleen Pender of the San Francisco Chronicle$. Another new law “will require employers with 20 to 49 employees to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child within the first 12 months of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster placement.”

3. A federal appeals court ordered the Trump administration’s EPA to tighten federal standards to protect children from toxic lead exposure, reports Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “to draft new rules within 90 days and issue final regulations no more than a year later.”

4. Untold numbers of Americans are scrambling to pay property taxes before the first of the year out of fear that the new GOP-backed tax law will slash their ability to deduct property tax payments from their federal taxes — but the IRS said the mad dash to local tax collector’s offices may be a waste of time, The New York Times$ reports. The problem is that prepaying 2018 property taxes might not work because properties have not been properly assessed yet.

5. And another California Democratic legislator — Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas of Los Angeles — has resigned from office, leaving Democrats short of a two-thirds majority in the legislature, reports Ben Bradford of Capital Public Radio (h/t Rough & Tumble). Ridley-Thomas cited health reasons for his departure.

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The Daily Briefing will return on Jan. 2, 2018. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tuesday’s Briefing: Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks’ Violence Costs City $3.75 Million; GOP Tax Plan Strips Affordable Housing Funds

Plus, nearly 800 families apply for 12 affordable units in East Bay city.

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Dec 26, 2017 at 10:27 AM

PHOTO BY STEVEN TAVARES
  • Photo by Steven Tavares

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Dec. 26, 2017:

1. A jury decided that the city of Oakland must pay ex-Black Panther Elaine Brown $3.75 million because Councilmember Desley Brooks assaulted her, reports Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle. The jury ruled that the city is liable for the large judgment because Brooks was acting in her official capacity as an elected councilmember when she attacked Brown at a downtown restaurant in January 2016. The penalty phase of the civil trial, which could result in personal damages levied against Brooks, is scheduled to start next week.

2. The GOP tax plan signed by President Trump last week likely will cost California about $500 million a year in affordable housing funds, reports Louis Hanson of the Bay Area News Group$. The affordable housing cut likely will result in the loss of about 4,000 housing units a year and comes at a time when the state is gripped in an affordability crisis.

3. Nearly 800 families applied in a city lottery for the chance to purchase one of 12 new affordable housing units in Livermore, reports Denis Cuff of the East Bay Times$. ‘“This number is unprecedented,’ said Matt Warner of Hello Housing, a nonprofit that manages the affordable housing lottery for the city of Livermore. ‘We are doing about the same amount of marketing [for the lottery], but housing prices keep climbing and more people are worried about being priced out of the market.’”

4. The owners of an apartment complex at 470 Central Ave. in Alameda issued eviction notices to tenants just five days before Christmas, reports Steven Tavares of the East Bay Citizen. Over the past two years, the apartment complex has become a flashpoint in the battle between landlords and renters on the Island as the building’s owners have repeatedly attempted to evict people for no cause.

5. Oakland’s minimum wage will rise to $13.23 an hour on Jan. 1, as minimum wage levels increase throughout the state, reports Annie Sciacca of the Bay Area News Group$. Statewide, the minimum wage will increase to $11 an hour for businesses with more than 26 employees. In the East Bay, El Cerrito’s minimum wage will rise to $13.60, and Richmond’s will go to $13.41.

6. Only 11 cadets graduated from Oakland’s latest police academy after 22 cadets either dropped out, flunked out, or were injured, reports Kimberly Veklerov of the San Francisco Chronicle$. Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said the department has heightened its standards after numerous rookie cops in recent years became involved in scandals.

7. And rookie CHP officer Andrew Camilleri was killed on Christmas Eve when his cruiser was struck by a drunken driver on I-880 near state Highway 92 in Hayward, the East Bay Times$ reports.

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday’s Briefing: Bay Area Residents Back Bridge Toll Hikes; Alameda County OKs Adult Weed Dispensaries

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 10:10 AM

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

1. A majority of Bay Area residents — 59 percent — supports raising bridge tolls by $3 over the next decade to pay for infrastructure upgrades and mass transit improvements, reports Michael Cabanatuan of the San Francisco Chronicle$, citing a new poll from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The MTC is expected next month to put a bridge toll measure on the June ballot. The $3 toll increase would be phased in with $1 hikes and would generate an estimated $4.5 billion over 30 years.

2. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow the two county permitted medical cannabis dispensaries to sell adult recreational weed in 2018, reports Steven Tavares of the East Bay Citizen. In addition, the supervisors greenlighted a plan to allow three more marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. The two current dispensaries are We Are Hemp, in Ashland, and the Garden of Eden Medical Marijuana Clinic, in Cherryland.

3. Fresh off passing large tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, the GOP-controlled Congress is now scrambling to keep the federal government from shutting down tomorrow, Politico reports. Because some right-wing Republicans have refused to increase the government debt limit, the GOP leadership needs Democratic votes to pass funding legislation that will keep the government operating. Republicans are hoping to attract Democrats by adding billions in disaster relief aid for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were devastated by hurricanes in 2017, in the spending bills. Democrats also want funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program through March “as well as language to waive automatic cuts to Medicare and other programs” caused by the big tax cut.

4. Congress, however, put off protecting Dreamers — young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children — until 2018, reports Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle$. A group of senators has been working on a deal to help Dreamers but has yet to reach agreement. Some Democrats are pushing to shut down the federal government unless a fix for Dreamers is included in the government spending plan, too.

5. The city and county of Santa Cruz have sued fossil fuel companies over climate change, seeking to “recoup not only the costs of rising seas but of other climate-related events, including big storms, wildfires, and drought,” reports Kurtis Alexander of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The suit contends that fossil fuel companies knew that their products caused climate change but concealed the dangers.

6. And ICYMI: Rod Dibble, a beloved pianist and singer at the Alley in Oakland for more than 50 years, died on Monday. He was 85.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday’s Briefing: Uber Sells Oakland Uptown Building for $180M; Alameda Tables Plan for 589-Unit Housing Project

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Uber sold the old Sears building for $56.5 million more than it paid two years ago.
  • Uber sold the old Sears building for $56.5 million more than it paid two years ago.

Stories you shouldn't miss for Dec. 20, 2017:

1. Uber sold the old Sears building in Uptown Oakland for $180 million — or $56.5 million more than the ride-hailing company paid two years ago, the San Francisco Business Times$ reports. CIM Group, which also owns Oakland’s Jack London Square, purchased the 356,000-square-foot building and plans to spend about $50 million upgrading it to Class A office space. The value of downtown Oakland commercial space has skyrocketed in recent years.

2. The Alameda City Council tabled a development proposal for 589 units of housing on the estuary, reports Laura Casey for the East Bay Times$. The Encinal Terminals project by developer Tim Lewis Communities requires four votes to pass on the five-member council because it includes a land swap involving public waterfront property. Councilmembers called for more negotiations with the developer before voting again on the plan.

3. The Berkeley City Council voted 5-3 to affirm the police department’s ability to use pepper spray on violent protesters, reports Annie Ma of the San Francisco Chronicle. The city’s Police Review Commission had urged the council to reinstate a ban on pepper spray use. The council voted in September to lift the pepper spray ban after a series of violent protests between neo-Nazis and anti-fascists.

4. The GOP-controlled Congress is expected to give final approval today to large tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, The New York Times$ reports. The legislation slashes the tax rate for corporations from 35 percent to 21 percent and reduces the top tax rate for wealthy people from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. The bill also raises taxes for millions of middle-class and low-income Americans, depending on where they live.

5. And UC Berkeley has agreed to pay $80,000 to settle a claim filed by a doctoral student who alleged that Nezar AlSayyad, a tenured architecture professor and an internationally recognized Middle East scholar, had sexually harassed her, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. AlSayyad remains employed by the campus but is under investigation by the Faculty Senate to determine whether he violated the Faculty Code of Conduct.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Parent and Teacher Fundraisers Proliferate to Fill Budget Gaps Caused by Oakland Schools Mismanagement

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 1:51 PM

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It's not unusual for schools to hold bake sales to pay for extra-curricular activities. But this year, Oakland parents and teachers are trying to raise substantial amounts of money to soften the blow of budget cuts affecting core academic programs.

Last week, the district's board voted to adopt another $9 million in mid-year cuts on top of tens of millions more in reductions imposed earlier this year.

Melissa Ramirez-Medina's child is a second grader at Think College Now Elementary, which last spring was being asked by the district to layoff one of its 12 teachers in the first round of cuts. The layoff would have meant combining classes and increasing student-teacher ratios. To prevent this, Ramirez-Medina set up a fundraiser in May. Donors gave $73,600.

"I didn’t want to see combined classes," she said in a recent interview. "I just knew immediately it would be a bad idea."

But it was only a temporary reprieve. "With the bigger cuts coming," she said about the district's latest $9 million in reductions, "we're losing funding for our family resource center."

The family resource center serves as a hub, providing parents with English language classes, computer access and tutoring, and even food and clothing, all to help low-income families address basic needs that impact student learning.

Other fundraisers from earlier this year included last ditch efforts to save camping and field trips for students. Some schools managed to reach their goal and save a program. Others did not.

As the district's fiscal problems worsened this fall, parents and teachers have launched fundraisers to make up for the exact amounts their school budgets are being cut by.

For example, at Laurel Elementary, the district is requiring an immediate $63,850 cut. The reduction will lead to layoffs or furloughs of a librarian, two coaches, and a computer teacher. In response, the school's PTA is trying to raise exactly $64,000.

At Urban Promise Academy, teachers are trying to save the school's "college for all" field trips which are designed to help students learn about college options. Most of the school's students qualify for free and reduced lunches, one measure of the low-income community the campus serves.

"Unlike other schools that have the ability to raise funds via a PTA, we do not have such capabilities here at UPA," wrote Kate Krumrei, a teacher involved in the fundraising effort.

At OUSD's Frick Impact Academy, math teacher Alefiyah Lokhandwala is trying to raise $3,000 to pay for printing supplies so that students can simply have materials to work on.

Even the school district is encouraging donations from the community as a response to the district leaders' mismanagement of the budget.


But not everyone is comfortable with the explosion in fundraising efforts. Mike Hutchinson, an activist who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the school board last year, said he hopes schools can raise enough money on their own to make up for the district's fiscal issues.

"But we shouldn't have to do this," he said about the fundraisers. Like many students, parents, teachers, and activists, Hutchinson believes that the mid-year reductions were too extreme, and he blames a top-heavy administration for wasteful spending.

The proliferation of grassroots fundraisers are just one more burden put on parents, teachers, and students, he said.

Oakland Approves Tenant Relocation Assistance for Owner Move-Ins and Condo Conversions

Assistance amounts phase in over two years, and homeowners can move back into their primary residence without having to pay relocation assistance.

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 10:45 AM

Rebecca Kaplan.
  • Rebecca Kaplan.
The Oakland City Council last night approved new financial assistance for renters displaced by certain types of no-fault evictions.

Under the new rules, if a tenant is evicted by a landlord who is moving into the rental unit, or whose immediate family member is moving in, the landlord must pay the tenant an amount between $6,500 and $9,875, depending on the size of the rental unit. Similarly, if a landlord evicts a tenant in order to convert the apartment into a condominium, the payments also have to be made.

The sponsor of the legislation, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, said the assistance is necessary to help Oakland tenants pay moving expenses, put belongings in storage, and make a security deposit on a new apartment. It's supposed to prevent residents from being displaced and falling into homelessness, or having to move out the city, which has become increasingly unaffordable.

Landlord groups opposed the proposal and implied that it will cause property owners to hold apartments and homes off the rental market because they will not want to pay tenants to relocate if they or a family member eventually want to move into a home or apartment building.

Several landlords at last night's meeting requested the council to include a "means testing" in the legislation that would only provide relocation payments to lower-income renters. But for the most part, landlords urged the council to vote down the assistance.

One landlord proposal that was included in the final version of the law is a phase-in approach. Instead of becoming eligible immediately for relocation payments, tenants have to live in a unit for a certain amount of time.

Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington proposed phasing in the payments so that new tenants get one-third of the total amount if they're evicted. A renter will have to live in a unit for over one year before becoming eligible for two-thirds of the total relocation payment. After two years they become eligible to receive the total $6,500 to $9,875 if they're displaced by an owner move-in or condo conversion.

Kaplan accepted this amendment, and added one of her own to address another landlord concern. Some homeowners said they might not rent out their house when they go on an extended vacation or move out of city for several years if they have to pay thousands in relocation assistance when they move back.

"I'm trying to move to Ecuador for one to three years," said Jane Stallman, a homeowner who spoke at last night's council meeting. "I plan to come back, but I would have to add thousands to my rent to pay the tenant's relocation assistance."

In other words, a small number of landlords temporarily renting their homes might increase rents, or not rent their house out at all due to the relocation assistance.

The version of the law approved last night included included an amendment to exempt property owners who are moving back into what was formerly their primary residence from having to pay relocation benefits.

As a rule, any rental unit that isn't covered by Oakland's Just Cause ordinance is exempted from the new relocation assistance law. This include apartments built after 1995, single-family homes in which a landlord has roommates, and apartments buildings with three units or fewer, with one of the units being occupied by the owner.

Still, even with these numerous exemptions protecting small mom-and-pop landlords, and with the phase-in, and with Kaplan's primary residence exemption, leaders of landlord groups weren't happy.

"You're asking landlords to subsidize tenants," said Jill Broadhurst of the East Bay Rental Housing Association. She requested the council create a "small-owner exemption" that would allow landlords with fewer than five rental units from having to pay the assistance. She also requested a means testing for tenants so that middle class renters won't be helped by the law.

"Sometimes, they do make more than homeowners," said Broadhurst.

Councilmember Gibson McElhaney voted for the relocation assistance, but then added that she intends to bring legislation next year that would create hardship exemptions for landlords.

"We want to work on a hardship exemption," said McElhaney, and "some kinds of means-testing." She added that she believes hundreds of rental units are being held off the market currently because of "onerous laws" that penalize landlords and make it difficult for them to earn a profit.

Housing values have more than doubled in the past five years in Oakland, according to Zillow, and rents have gone up an average of 72 percent. Some neighborhoods, like West Oakland, have seen even more dramatic rental price increases.

Councilmember Dan Kalb said he would fight any attempt to impose means testing on any kind of tenant assistance.

"Means testing is a backdoor way to phase out rent control," said Kalb. He said it would create a discriminatory rental market in which every time there's a vacancy, a landlord would pick the highest income tenants. But Kalb said he is open to the idea of a hardship exemption for landlords who genuinely cannot afford to pay relocation assistance.

Tuesday’s Daily Briefing: Bay Area Median Home Price Soars to $910K; GOP Poised to Damage Obamacare

Plus, U.S. military has evidence of apparent alien space ships.

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 10:00 AM

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Stories you shouldn’t miss for Dec. 19, 2017:

1. The median home price in the Bay Area soared to $910,350 in November, a 12.5 percent increase over the previous year, reports Richard Scheinin of the Mercury News$, citing a new analysis by the California Association of Realtors. The median home price in Alameda County jumped to $880,000, a 10 percent increase over 2016. And it rose 8 percent in Contra Costa County to $615,000. The Bay Area “continues to reflect dire market conditions of tight supply and low affordability,” the report said.

2. The GOP-controlled Congress is poised to seriously damage Obamacare as part of its tax overhaul plan, a move that threatens to greatly increase healthcare costs for most Americans, The New York Times$ reports. The Republican tax package, which both houses of Congress are expected to pass this week, eliminates the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, a provision that requires people to purchase health insurance. Analysts say the elimination of the provision likely will lead to healthy young people not buying insurance, thereby raising rates for everyone else.

3. A former 18-year Navy pilot said he spotted what appeared to be alien space ship off the coast of California in 2004, and his story is part of a revelation that the Pentagon operated a secret program to track UFOs starting in 2007, the Washington Post$ reports. ‘“It was a real object, it exists, and I saw it,’” former Cmdr. David Fravor told the Post. “Asked what he believes it was, 13 years later, he was unequivocal. ‘Something not from the Earth,’ he said.”

4. An off-duty Richmond police officer shot up a San Francisco hotel over the weekend and was acting erratically and “talking about spirits,” the East Bay Times$ reports, citing 911 dispatch recordings. No one was injured in the shooting, and Sgt. Phillip Sanchez was placed on administrative leave after being booked on felony criminal charges.

5. Despite marketing claims that brain games, diet, drugs, exercise, and vitamins can delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a new comprehensive study concludes that nothing can prevent cognitive decline later in life, reports Lisa Krieger of the Mercury News$, citing research U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

6. And plans for a major new shoreline park with beaches, meadows, and expansive views of the bay near the foot of the Bay Bridge are moving forward, reports Denis Cuff of the East Bay Times$. The 170-acre park will cost an estimated $170 million and will completed in several years.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday’s Briefing: Republicans Poised to Pass Tax Cut for Rich and Corporations; Cellphone Radiation Linked to More Miscarriages

Plus, people increasingly living in RVs because of extreme housing shortage.

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 9:57 AM

GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
  • GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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

1. The GOP-controlled Congress is poised this week to enact a large tax cut for corporations and the wealthy, the Washington Post$ reports. Republicans appear to have just enough votes for passage, although they will have to do it without U.S. Sen. John McCain, who returned to Arizona following cancer treatment. The legislation will raise also taxes on millions of middle-class Americans, particularly in California. The GOP also faces a Friday deadline to keep the federal government from shutting down.

2. Scientists have linked radiation produced by cellphones, wireless networks, and power lines to increased rates of miscarriage, reports Sophie Haigney of the San Francisco Chronicle, citing a new Kaiser Permanente study, published last week in the journal Scientific Reports. Pregnant women exposed to radiation from cellphones and other electromagnetic fields were nearly three times more likely to miscarry.

3. The Bay Area’s extreme housing shortage is prompting an increasing number of people to live in RVs, reports Louis Hansen of the Bay Area News Group$. The “number of residents in Alameda County lacking permanent shelter jumped nearly 40 percent since 2015, with 5,600 people now considered homeless.”

4. More than 17,000 people commute to the Bay Area from Sacramento because of the lack of affordable housing in the Bay, reports Phillip Reese of the Sacramento Bee$.

5. Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco abruptly announced his retirement Monday, following allegations of sexual misconduct from at least 15 women, reports Sarah Ravani of the San Francisco Chronicle.

6. And California Democratic Party’s East Bay director Craig Cheslog resigned from his post following allegations that he sexually harassed a 23-year-old woman, the East Bay Times$ reports.

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Town Business: Oakland Seeks $65 Million for Affordable Housing and the City Council Debates Relocation Assistance for Tenants

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 8:58 AM

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The Oakland City Council is reconvening tonight after a week of cancelled meetings due to the municipal employees' strike. The city's two largest unions, SEIU 1021 and IFPTE Local 21 still haven't agreed with Oakland on terms of a new contract, but the parties are in mediation right now.

In the meantime...

Affordable housing: Oakland is hoping to obtain up to $65 million in state Strategic Growth Council grant money to help fund four affordable housing projects that would add 346 below market-rate units to the city's stock.

The Growth Council's affordable housing program was set up using money raised from the state's cap-and-trade pollution credit auctions. Major CO2 emitters purchase the credits. The goal is to help cities build denser infill housing that's accessible to transit, thereby reducing carbon emissions.

The application deadline for Oakland is Jan. 16. Projects that could benefit from the money include former Black Panther Elaine Brown's 78-unit "Oakland and the World" complex at 1664 7th St.; a 50-unit apartment complex on San Pablo Avenue that Satellite Affordable Housing Associates is developing; a 58-unit project called "Coliseum Place" being developed by Resources for Community Development at 905 72nd Avenue; and 160 units planned for phase II-B of the Fruitvale Transit Village by Bridge Housing and the Unity Council.

No fault eviction assistance: Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan wants to extend relocation payment assistance to renters who are displaced by no-fault owner move-in evictions and condo conversions. Renters of studios and one-bedroom units would get $6,500 if forced to leave. Renters with two and three-bedroom units would get $8,000 and $9,875, respectively. Kaplan's proposal would apply to all rental units in the city, including single-family homes.

The relocation amounts are based on the cost of finding a new place to live in the East Bay rental housing market, one of the most expensive places to live in the nation.

Kaplan's bill was delayed last month when Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington pulled it from the council's agenda after a landlord group expressed concerns about it.

The Oakland-Berkeley Association of Realtors wrote the council and requested that tenants be required to live in a property for a certain amount of time before they're eligible for relocation assistance.

Last Friday, Campbell Washington submitted amendments to Kaplan's legislation that would do this. Her version of the bill phases in relocation payment amounts with new tenants getting one-third of the total amount if they're evicted. They'd have to live in the unit for over one year before becoming eligible for two-thirds of the total relocation payment. And after two years they'd be able to receive the total $6,500 to $9,875 if they're displaced by an owner move-in or condo conversion.

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