Monday, April 30, 2018

Monday’s Briefing: Judge Said Desley Brooks Lied Under Oath; Head of Alameda Firefighters Union Seeks $200K from City

by Kathleen Richards
Mon, Apr 30, 2018 at 10:23 AM

A judge said Oakland councilmember Desley Brooks didn't show any remorse for shoving former Black Panther leader Elaine Brown during an argument. - PHOTO BY STEVEN TAVARES
  • Photo by Steven Tavares
  • A judge said Oakland councilmember Desley Brooks didn't show any remorse for shoving former Black Panther leader Elaine Brown during an argument.

An Alameda County judge said Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks lied “many times” under oath. The judge's comments came during a trial stemming from a lawsuit from former Black Panther leader Elaine Brown. Judge Paul D. Herbert agreed with jurors, who didn’t believe Brooks was telling the truth about events pertaining to an argument in which Brooks shoved Brown, and that Brooks didn’t show any genuine remorse for her conduct. But the judge also said that if the city drops its request for a new trial, the amount of damages the city and Brooks must pay to Brown will be reduced, to $1.2 million and $75,000, respectively. (East Bay Times)

The head of the Alameda firefighters union alleges City Manager Jill Keimach made false and malicious accusations against him in claiming that she was politically pressured to pick a union-backed candidate as fire chief. Jeff DelBono also accuses Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft of making “false, reckless, malicious and repeated accusations” against him, according to a claim he filed with the city. DelBono is seeking at least $200,000 in damages from the city. (East Bay Times)

Videos show that Oakland police officers visited the Ghost Ship warehouse many times before the deadly 2016 blaze and were aware of the dangerous living conditions there, although there’s no evidence that they notified fire or building officials about it. (Mercury News)

The Berkeley City Council is moving ahead with revisions to its rules regarding sidewalk use directed at its homeless population. Dozens of homeless advocates say the new regulations — which would limit the storage of personal items on sidewalks to nine square feet — will create more problems for the city’s unsheltered residents. (Berkeleyside)

A pilot program of six privately owned security cameras in downtown San Francisco has grown into a network of 350 surveillance cameras that share footage with the police. (SFGate)

A fire at an apartment building in East Oakland over the weekend displaced nine people. The fire in the 3800 block of 39th Avenue was electrical in origin. (East Bay Times)

A series of small earthquakes shook the East Bay yesterday and early this morning. (East Bay Times)

An unoccupied homemade submarine was recovered from the Emeryville marina. (East Bay Times)

A grey whale was spotted off the coast of Alameda on Friday. (KTVU)


Friday, April 27, 2018

Landlords and Tenants Continue to Fight Over Oakland Rent Control 'Loophole' Despite Moratorium

A permanent solution hasn't been proposed yet.

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 10:47 AM

Oakland's rent board denied a landlord's appeal last night seeking to permanently exempt two apartment buildings from rent control. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Oakland's rent board denied a landlord's appeal last night seeking to permanently exempt two apartment buildings from rent control.

Last year, the Oakland City Council put the brakes on a controversial rule that allows landlords to permanently exempt their buildings from rent control if they "substantially rehabilitate" them, but that hasn't stopped landlords and tenants from fighting about it before the city's rent board.

That's because the moratorium on the substantial rehabilitation rule — passed by the city council last November and extended in February for an additional six months — wasn't made retroactive, and several landlords had already filed petitions with the city to nullify rent control on their properties before the moratorium took effect. Meanwhile, the council has yet to decide if it wants to merely amend the substantial rehabilitation rule, as landlords are requesting, or get rid of it entirely, as tenants are asking.

In fact, legislation to create a permanent solution hasn't even been proposed yet.

At last night's rent board meeting, over a dozen tenants showed up and asked the board to help them get rid of the substantial rehabilitation rule.

“If my residence were to be stripped of rent control through substantial rehabilitation, I would have to leave Oakland,” said Grant Rich, a day-care attendant whose landlord is seeking exemption under the rule. “This loophole needs to be closed,” he told the board.

Other tenants testified with a similar story. Most were young and work in low-paying occupations like teacher and social worker. They said they can't afford current market-rate rents and rely on rent control for stability and would otherwise be displaced from Oakland if their housing isn't covered.

Jenny Nigro, a West Oakland resident whose landlord is also seeking exemption from rent control, told the rent board that she works as a social worker with seniors who have mental health issues. "Without rent control, I would not be able to live in this community," she said.

Under the substantial rehabilitation rule, if a landlord spends more than 50 percent of the cost of building an equivalent number of new units on fixing up existing units, they can ask the city to permanently strip away rent control on those units.

Oakland and San Francisco are the only cities that allow the substantial rehabilitation exemption, but San Francisco's version is much harder to qualify for and is mainly used to bring abandoned and uninhabited housing back on the market. In Oakland, landlords have frequently used the substantial rehabilitation exemption to take continuously occupied properties off the rent control rolls.

Tenants advocates say Oakland's rule is bad public policy because it's reducing the amount of affordable housing that's available in the midst of a severe housing crisis.

Landlords disagree and have sought to preserve the law.

Clifford Fried, an attorney representing Truckee Zurich LLC, a company that owns multiple properties in Oakland and filed substantial rehabilitation petitions with the city before the moratorium took effect, told the rent board members at last night's meeting that the law is designed to improve the quality of the city's rental housing stock and spur investment. He said without it, landlords might abandon Oakland, and housing conditions would further deteriorate.

Fried also argued last night on behalf of his client. Truckee Zurich LLC was seeking to overturn a previous decision made by a city hearing officer to deny its substantial rehab petition on two West Oakland apartment buildings.

In 2016, Truckee Zurich filed petitions with the city seeking to exempt the properties from rent control, but 14 of the tenants living in the buildings objected. The tenants claimed that the repairs made to the property took place over eight years — six more than is allowed under the law to qualify as substantial rehab — and also that the work was more like routine maintenance than overhauls to fix uninhabitable housing. The tenants also questioned whether the improvements amounted to 50 percent of the cost it would take to build an equivalent number of new apartments. They forced Truckee Zurich to prove this to the city.

Justin Wallway, the owner of the Truckee Zurich company, had argued during the hearing last year that his firm did pay well over the required amount fixing up the buildings. As proof, he showed a copy of an invoice for $518,999 made by JDW Enterprises, the general contractor that performed the work.

The hearing officer ruled, however, that Truckee Zurich could not prove that it fulfilled the requirements under the city's substantial rehabilitation rule because the company lacked basic records like proof of payment to vendors and contractors.

At last night's appeal hearing, Wallway's attorney told the board that this was a mistake. Fried said there are past precedents for approving substantial rehab exemption even when landlords don't have extensive documentation of the costs they incurred.

Jacqueline Zaneri, an attorney with Centro Legal de la Raza, which represents the tenants, countered that the hearing officer was correct and their decision should be upheld. “The hearing officer correctly ruled that the landlord provided very little evidence of the cost of the work," she told the rent board.

Zaneri also pointed out that Wallway's evidence showed that he merely paid himself half a million dollars, but couldn't show it was for rehabilitating the buildings. According to Zaneri, Wallway not only is the owner of Truckee Zurich LLC, which owns the property in question, but he's also the owner of JDW Enterprises, the contractor that carried out the substantial rehabilitation work. State corporation filings confirm Zaneri's point.

“Mr. Wallway paid himself for the work,” she told the rent board, describing it as moving a "large lump sum from one company he owns to another company he owns."

Fried said it didn't matter, and that the two companies owned by his client Wallway should still be treated as legally separate. The rent board agreed on this point, but it denied Wallway's appeal and sided with the tenants based on the lack of evidence showing the cost of the work and the length of time it took.

Landlords have filed 40 petitions for rent control exemption under the substantial rehabilitation rule since September 2016, according to city records. Of these, 27 are still being adjudicated by a hearing officer, or are on appeal. Wallway alone filed 16 petitions to exempt properties from rent control, according to city records.

It's unclear when the city council will revisit the issue.

Friday’s Briefing: Port of Oakland Enters Exclusive Talks with A’s for Howard Terminal Site; South Bay BART Extension Wins Grant

by Kathleen Richards
Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 10:20 AM

A new ballpark at the Howard Terminal site would enjoy waterfront views. - MANICA ARCHITECTURE
  • Manica Architecture
  • A new ballpark at the Howard Terminal site would enjoy waterfront views.

The Port of Oakland agreed to enter into exclusive negotiations with the A’s
yesterday to explore the possibility of building a waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal. The one-year agreement is an important first step to allow the team to study the economic feasibility and environmental, transportation, and accessibility issues at the 50-acre site. The team is also expected to enter exclusive negotiations with the city and Alameda County to study the Coliseum site as well. (East Bay Times)

A $730 million grant from the state would extend BART to the South Bay by 2026. But the 6.1-mile extension — which would go through downtown San Jose and into Santa Clara, with four stops along the way — relies on revenue from SB 1, which is being threatened by efforts to repeal the gas tax. (East Bay Times)

Berkeley’s proposed “Disposable-Free Dining” ordinance would not only reduce single-use plastic; it might also help restaurants save money. (East Bay Express)

Downtown Berkeley and parts of East, West, and Downtown Oakland are among the areas considered “Opportunity Zones” by the U.S. Treasury Department, with the goal of encouraging investment in low-income areas by allowing those who invest there to defer capital gains taxes. (San Francisco Business Times)

In utilities news … Berkeley residents will have an option for a greener, cheaper electricity provider in the coming months. East Bay Community Energy plans to take over municipal and commercial accounts in June, and residential accounts in November. The default service will be 38 percent renewable and 47 percent carbon-free, and cost 1.5 percent less than PG&E. (Berkeleyside)

Electricity rates in Alameda are going up 1 percent beginning July 1 to improve infrastructure. The community-owned and locally operated system is also using the increase improve fairness for customers, by aligning rates for each customer class with the cost of providing electrical service. (East Bay Times)

PG&E was fined $97.5 million by the California Public Utilities Commission yesterday for improper back-channel communications following the 2010 San Bruno pipeline disaster. The utility company won’t be able to pass on the fines to customers, nor can it deduct those penalties from its taxes. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Native American artifacts have been found among the North Bay fire debris — and then quickly reburied to deter would-be treasure hunters. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Union City has moved toward approving its first cannabis business. If approved, the 12,000-square-foot facility at 30540 Union City Blvd., operated by Eden Holdings LLC, would include a retail dispensary, as well as space for growing, manufacturing, and distribution. A vote for final approval is expected in the coming months. (East Bay Times)

The University of California has put off a vote on a possible tuition hike, pressing the state to increase funding instead. But even if the university secures the $140 million it’s looking for, it may still approve a “modest” tuition increase for the upcoming school year. (Daily Cal)

New fish ladders in Alameda Creek could bring salmon and steelhead back to the Fremont-area watershed after being denied access to their natural spawning grounds for decades. (East Bay Times)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thursday’s Briefing: Berkeley to Consider Homeless Policies, Creates Task Force to Study Racial Disparities in Police Stops

by Kathleen Richards
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 at 10:34 AM

PHOTO BY HAYDEN BRITTON
  • Photo By Hayden Britton
The Berkeley City Council will meet today to discuss homeless camps and sidewalk behavior. The proposed encampment policy would allow the city to remove homeless encampments at its discretion, giving homeless individuals up to 72 hours before an eviction. The sidewalk policy would limit individuals to nine square feet of space for their belongings. (Daily Cal)

In Oakland, 20 tiny homes have been added to one of the city’s largest homeless encampments, located beneath the I-980 freeway at Northgate Avenue and Sycamore Streets. The 120-square-feet Tuff Sheds, provided by the city, can house up to 40 people. The city opened its first shed community at Sixth and Brush streets in December. (East Bay Times)

The Berkeley City Council voted to create a new task force to study racial disparities in police stops. The task force will create an action plan for the Berkeley Police Department and make recommendations related to BPD’s approach to police stops. Members of the task force will be appointed by the city manager and will include representatives from the police, community groups, and academic experts. (Berkeleyside)

A 72-year-old former police officer is accused of being the “Golden State killer,” a serial killer and rapist who eluded authorities for more than 40 years. Yesterday, Joseph James DeAngelo of Citrus Heights was arrested following DNA analysis. He’s suspected of killing at least 12 people and raping at least 45 women, including in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara counties. (East Bay Times)

Is East Bay Congressman Eric Swalwell eyeing the 2020 presidential race? He made a recent purchase that indicates maybe yes. (EB Citizen)

A federal judge has ruled that conservative groups at UC Berkeley can sue the university over the restrictions it placed on high-profile speakers after the planned appearance of right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos caused violent protests. In their lawsuit, the Berkeley College Republicans allege that the university adopted an unwritten policy that allows officials to effectively censor conservative speakers by choosing the time and place of their appearance. (SFGate)

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) would give reparations to the Californians who were sterilized under the state’s eugenics law — often without their consent — over a 70-year period in the 1900s. The Eugenics Sterilization Compensation Program would give living survivors monetary compensation, although the amount is still unclear. (Washington Post)

An audit has found that the California State University system exposes students and employees to hazards such as faulty laboratory equipment, unsafe drinking water, asbestos, and chemical spills. The four schools examined — Sonoma, Sacramento, Channel Islands, and San Diego —appeared to fail to provide students with safety training before working in lab environments. (Capital Public Radio)

The owner of an Emeryville popcorn store has apologized for using a racial slur against Black customers after initially denying the incident. Mark Stone, the CEO of Cornology, which is located in the Bay Street shopping center, initially blamed an employee for his behavior, although witnesses disputed his account. (SFGate)

Body Time is closing its operations after nearly 50 years in the natural beauty product business. The company formerly known as the Body Shop is closing its Walnut Creek and Berkeley stores by the end of the week, citing high rent prices. (East Bay Times)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wednesday’s Briefing: Oakland and EBMUD Fined for Sewage Spills Into Bay; Bay Area Home Prices Reach Record Highs

by Kathleen Richards
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 10:05 AM

FILE PHOTO BY GABRIELLE CANON
  • File photo by Gabrielle Canon
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined Oakland and EBMUD for allowing untreated sewage into San Francisco Bay. Oakland is facing a fine of $226,500 for failure to prevent sanitary sewer overflows from reaching the bay and failure to repair sewer pipes between 2014 and 2017, in violation of a 2014 Clean Water Act settlement. EBMUD is facing a penalty of $134,000, and the Stege Sanitary District (El Cerrito, Kensington, parts of Richmond) is being fined $26,800. Richmond, Alameda, Albany, and Berkeley are facing smaller fines. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Home prices in the Bay Area have reached record highs, with prices jumping 14 percent in the region from March 2017. A report released yesterday by real estate data firm CoreLogic found that the median resale price for a home was a record $850,000. In Alameda County, the median home price rose 11.7 percent. (East Bay Times)

Speaking of astronomical home prices, the housing shortage in the Bay Area is leading to more hellish “super commutes” — that is, commutes of 90 minutes or longer. A study released today by Apartment List found that the San Francisco metro area, which includes the East Bay, ranked sixth out of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas in terms of percentage of commuters with super commutes — nearly 5 percent of Bay Area commuters enduring super commutes, which represents a doubling since 2005. (East Bay Times)

The Oakland Police Department’s newest police academy doesn’t have any Black or women officers. Although there was one woman and one Black trainee who started the program, both left for unknown reasons. The majority of rookies are white and Latino men. (East Bay Express)

A federal judge has ruled that the government must continue the DACA program and accept new applicants. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John Bates called the government’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program “virtually unexplained” and therefore “unlawful.” The Trump administration has 90 days to provide more solid reasoning before his ruling will take effect. (Washington Post)

An Emeryville business owner is being accused of using racial slurs against Black customers at his store on Sunday. Witnesses say Cornology CEO Mark Stone aggressively demanded that a group of about 10 young Black shoppers leave his popcorn store and repeatedly yelled the n word at them. While Stone has denied being involved in the incident, a city official confirmed his presence. An investigation is underway. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Chevron has agreed to pay $170,000 in fines for violating air quality standards at its Richmond refinery in 2014 and 2015, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced. At issue was Chevron’s failure to report several flaring events (venting out gases during a malfunction), as well as failure to take samples during flaring and failure to properly monitor for hydrocarbon leaks at cooling towers. (East Bay Times)

The battle over the development of a parking lot in West Berkeley has pitted a handful of Native Americans against two developers, who want to build a 260-unit housing complex at the site. (Berkeleyside)

A contract employee of Tesla filed a lawsuit alleging that the company failed to pay contract workers at the Fremont auto-assembly plant overtime and denied them legally mandated meal and rest breaks. Dorley Nezbeth-Altimore alleges she was fired for complaining about the company’s practices. (East Bay Times)




Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tuesday’s Briefing: Berkeley to Introduce Sweeping Legislation Aimed at Reducing Plastic

Plus, tenants of a building on 23rd Avenue in Oakland successfully raised funds to buy the property.

by Kathleen Richards
Tue, Apr 24, 2018 at 9:18 AM

Under the new ordinance, takeout foodware would have to preapproved recyclable or compostable in the city’s collection programs. - FILE PHOTO BY STEPHEN LOEWINSOHN
  • File photo by Stephen Loewinsohn
  • Under the new ordinance, takeout foodware would have to preapproved recyclable or compostable in the city’s collection programs.

The Berkeley City Council will introduce a sweeping measure to curb use of disposable foodware and packaging
today — the most ambitious and comprehensive piece of municipal legislation aimed at reducing plastic. The “Disposable-Free Dining” ordinance would mandate that only reusable foodware be used for dine-in service, that all takeout foodware be recyclable or compostable, and that all food vendors charge $.25 cents for every disposable cup and $.25 for every disposable food container provided. Food and beverage packaging make up the majority of street litter in the Bay Area, with much of it ending up in waterways. (Ecology Center)

The City of Oakland may use soda tax revenue to install drinking water stations at Oakland public schools and child-care centers. Last October, the school district discovered elevated lead levels in drinking water from fountains at several schools. (East Bay Express)

A 472-unit housing project is being proposed next to the South Hayward BART station. If approved by the Hayward City Council, the mixed-use development would include 400 townhomes for sale, 72 rental apartments, 20,000-square-feet of commercial space, 2.4 acres of parks, new pedestrian and bike trails, and 890 parking spaces in two 55-foot buildings. Twenty of the units would be for low-income residents, and 28 for moderate income. (San Francisco Business Times)

A large fire destroyed an apartment building under construction in Concord early this morning, forcing the evacuation of 250 people from the apartment building next store and sending two people to the hospital for smoke inhalation. (SFGate)

After hearing that they might get evicted, the tenants of a building on 23rd Avenue in Oakland successfully raised funds to buy the property. The building in the San Antonio neighborhood is home to a bike shop, martial arts studio, community garden, and residents who live upstairs. Now the tenants are hoping to create a new collective ownership arrangement that might help others facing displacement. (Oakland North)

Kenneth Hofman, the former co-owner of the Oakland A’s and a Bay Area homebuilder, died on Sunday at the age of 95. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Peregrine falcon chicks are getting ready to hatch in their nest atop UC Berkeley’s Campanile. (Berkeley News)


Monday, April 23, 2018

Soda Tax Revenue to Pay for Pure Drinking Water Stations at Lead-Contaminated Oakland Schools

The advisory board also recommends installing clean drinking water stations at Oakland parks and childcare centers.

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 6:08 PM

An example of a hydration station that Oakland's soda tax money will be used for in city schools. - SACRAMENTO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
  • Sacramento Unified School District
  • An example of a hydration station that Oakland's soda tax money will be used for in city schools.
An official advisory board is recommending that the City of Oakland spend hundreds of thousands in new sugar sweetened beverage tax revenue to rapidly install drinking water stations at 110 Oakland public schools and child care centers.

The Oakland Unified School District welcomes the help.

Last October, the school system discovered elevated lead levels in drinking water from fountains at several schools. The lead dissolves into the water from old soldering on pipes and fixtures. It's estimated that it will cost millions to fix.

"This funding from the City of Oakland’s Sweetened Beverage Tax Board will be key in helping us protect the health and well-being of our students, staff and families," said OUSD spokesman John Sasaki. "We thank the Board for taking on this important issue and recommending this needed funding."

The soda tax advisory board described the $371,000 grant as a "quick win" for the city and schools.

The board was established as part of a ballot measure approved by voters in November 2016 to impose a 1-cent per fluid ounce tax on the distribution of sugary-sweetened beverages, which are linked to obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, and other health problems. Although revenue from the tax is deposited into the city's general fund, proponents of the measure promised voters it would be spent on health programs and education.

"This one-time funding provides immediate access to clean water for children and youth who are not only vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure, but in neighborhoods with greater exposure, such as predominantly Black and Brown communities where children were tested positive for high blood lead levels," said Esperanza Pallana, the chair of the tax advisory board. "The [sugar tax] Board sees this allocation as a necessary step to provide relief to Oakland’s vulnerable populations while OUSD and the city address the infrastructure needed to provide long-term safe, lead-free water."

The funding will pay for clean water stations at 15 high schools, 13 middle schools, 54 elementary schools, and 28 childcare centers, according to a city report.

The advisory board is also recommending that the council allocate an additional $334,000 in soda tax revenue to install clean drinking water stations at various Oakland parks and 20 Head Start childcare centers. The city is currently testing for lead in water at its Head Start locations.

The Oakland City Council still has to approve the city's grant to OUSD and other allocations of the soda tax money proposed by the advisory board. The proposal will be discussed at a committee meeting tomorrow.

Monday’s Briefing: California May Vote on Repealing State Ban on Rent Control; Local Churches “Divesting” from Police

Plus, the Bay Area has fallen behind on seismic safety.

by Kathleen Richards
Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 10:43 AM

jacksonplace.png
California voters may decide on whether or not to repeal Costa-Hawkins this November, the 1990s law that limits cities’ ability to impose rent control. Tenants-rights advocates say they’ve got enough signatures to qualify the initiative, known as the Affordable Housing Act, for the November ballot. If the repeal passes, cities with rent control would decide individually whether to impose rent caps on units built after February 1995 or on single family homes. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Oakland churches are “divesting” from the police, urging congregants to avoid calling the authorities in light of the fact that there can be discriminatory, violent, and/or deadly consequences for Black and Brown residents. (Washington Post)

The Bay Area has fallen behind in seismic safety compared to communities in Southern California. For example, San Francisco has thousands of brittle concrete buildings — one of the deadliest types of buildings in an earthquake — yet no record of where they are located. And Oakland has nearly 2,000 so-called “soft-story” apartment buildings at risk of collapse in an earthquake, but no law requiring them to be fixed. (Los Angeles Times)

California could see more record flooding in the coming decades, according to a new study. The warming atmosphere will contribute to the type of storms that produced record flooding in the state in 1862, with a chance to see another such catastrophic event in the next 50 years. (San Francisco Chronicle)

The A’s and the city are once again discussing the possibility of a new ballpark at the Howard Terminal site. After concluding in 2014 that the waterfront site wasn’t a viable option, the team is now expected to enter into exclusive negotiations with Oakland’s Port Commission this week. But there are still many hurdles and agencies that would need to approve the project first. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Derick Almena, one of the defendants in the Ghost Ship case, was denied release from bail on Friday. Almena’s attorney had argued that the Ghost Ship master tenant, who’s been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, is not a danger to society and that he should be granted release with non-monetary alternatives because he can’t afford his $750,000 bail. But Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy said he doubted that Almena would stay in contact with the court if allowed to return to his home in Lake County. (East Bay Times)

The owner of the Elmwood Cafe, which closed abruptly on Friday after renewed attention to a 2015 racial profiling incident there, says it’s possible a worker co-op or nonprofit could take over the business. Owner Michael Pearce also apologized for the failure of his business’ various efforts to rectify the 2015 incident. (Berkeleyside)

Proposed legislation from State Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) would add workplace protections for those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes. Assembly Bill 2069 would limit an employer’s ability to turn down a job applicant for testing positive for cannabis use or for acknowledging that use if the individual has a medicinal cannabis card. (San Francisco Business Times)

In other cannabis legislation news, a bill before the state Senate proposes to legalize a limited type of banking for the cannabis industry. Senate Bill 930, introduced by Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), would create limited-service banks and credit unions that could issue special checks to allow cannabis businesses to pay some of their business expenses, such as state and local fees and taxes, rent, their vendors, and state and local bonds — instead of using cash, as they’re mostly forced to do because cannabis remains illegal under federal law. (San Francisco Business Times)

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt says Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston hasn’t responded to his request to visit the West County Detention Facility, in light of allegations of mistreatment of inmates, including ICE detainees. Other state legislators also say Livingston has ignored their request to reinstate a watchdog group’s visits to the jail. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Soda and oil companies are backing a state initiative that would make it more difficult to raise state and local taxes. The proposal would increase the threshold for passing any new tax or tax hike to two-thirds of voters or an elected body. It would also require the money from those taxes to be spent on specific purposes. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are among the companies that have contributed millions of dollars to the effort, in light of a wave of soda taxes across the country. (Sacramento Bee)

A hiker on Mt. Tam was bitten by a rattlesnake several times yesterday. After being airlifted to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, the 79-year-old hiker is reportedly in stable condition. (SFGate)



Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday’s Briefing: Huge Housing Project Proposed for Oakland’s Waterfront; Elmwood Café Abruptly Closes After Renewed Attention to Racial Profiling Incident

by Kathleen Richards
Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 10:29 AM

The owner of Eve's Waterfront wants to build a 500-unit housing tower at 15 Embarcadero West.
  • The owner of Eve's Waterfront wants to build a 500-unit housing tower at 15 Embarcadero West.

The owner of Eve’s Waterfront is proposing to build a 50-story, 500-unit residential tower on the Oakland Estuary that would be the city’s tallest building. Restaurant owner Chris Malki, also of Walnut Creek-based Capital Financial LLC, and his wife, Eva, want to build at the site of their restaurant, 15 Embarcadero West, although they don’t yet have a developer or architect for the project. The city has already approved a commercial boat dock at the location and Malki is exploring possible ferry service, as well as improving the Bay Trail, creating a public bathroom and water area, and improving a nearby condo complex, where Malki lives. (San Francisco Business Times)

Berkeley’s Elmwood Café has abruptly closed after attention to a racial profiling incident there three years ago recently resurfaced in light of a racial profiling incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. Last week, two Black males were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, the video of which went viral. On Monday, comedian W. Kamau Bell wrote a blog post for CNN recounting his experience of being racially profiled at the Elmwood Café in 2015, saying after promises to end implicit bias at the café, it’s been “business as usual.” Media reports and negative Yelp reviews followed. Elmwood Café hasn’t given any reason for its sudden closure. (Berkeleyside)

Despite promises to clear marijuana convictions, Bay Area prosecutors have only made a small dent in the number of cases they vowed to dismissed. An investigation by KTVU showed that Bay Area District Attorney’s offices have so far only dismissed or reduced between 4 to 10 percent of cannabis caseloads on their docket. (KTVU)

West Oakland is finally getting another grocery store. The 14,000-square-foot Community Foods Market, located on the 31st block of San Pablo Avenue, broke ground last Friday and is expected to open in October. (East Bay Express)

A state auditor’s report shows that California is doing a poor job of sheltering its homeless population — the largest in the nation — and needs better leadership to address the problem. The audit noted that 68 percent of the state’s homeless live in vehicles, abandoned buildings, parks, or on streets. Additionally, 82 percent of homeless youth are unsheltered, compared to 38 percent in the rest of the nation. It’s estimated that California now has about 134,000 people living on its streets. (SFGate)

The owner of a debris-hauling company who was sued by the city of Oakland in January for intentionally blowing toxic dust into a West Oakland neighborhood is being accused of violating a court order. Mocair Dos Santos of Santos Engineering has been using a warehouse at 1266 28th St. to haul and break down construction debris — improperly so — causing nearby residents to complain of coughing, lightheadedness, and swollen eyes. Despite the court order to cease such activity, the City Attorney believes the work is continuing. (Hoodline)

The city is going ahead with plans to purchase a vacant building for a new homeless shelter. The 70-unit, 9,500-square-foot former SRO, located at 641 W. Grand Ave., will be bought for $7 million and provide transitional housing for up to 140 homeless people. (Hoodline, East Bay Express)

California state workers who are accused of sexual harassment resulting in costly claims don’t necessarily lose their jobs; in some cases, they get raises and promotions. (Sacramento Bee)

A former medical assistant was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday for sexually assaulting a patient. Efrain Castanon, 48, pled guilty to one count of sexual battery for assaulting a woman at a Kaiser Hospital in Union City in January 2017. The woman sued Castanon and Kaiser in January, alleging that Kaiser knew of past complaints about his behavior. (East Bay Times)

Federal regulators are fining Wells Fargo $1 billion for forcing customers to buy unnecessary products such as auto insurance policies and fees related to mortgage applications. The stiff penalty represents the most significant move by federal banking regulators under the Trump administration. (The New York Times)

Happy 4/20! Looking for ways to celebrate cannabis’ biggest holiday? Here are some events.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday’s Briefing: Two Candidates Join the Race for Oakland’s District 4; Charlie Hallowell Sells Boot & Shoe Service

by Kathleen Richards
Thu, Apr 19, 2018 at 9:57 AM

Charlie Hallowell is selling Boot & Shoe Service. - FILE PHOTO BY ALESSANDRA MELLO
  • File photo by Alessandra Mello
  • Charlie Hallowell is selling Boot & Shoe Service.
Two candidates have joined the race for Oakland’s District 4 after Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington announced last week she wouldn’t seek re-election in November. Both candidates have worked for the city: Nayeli Maxon worked for Campbell Washington as a liaison to residents in the Oakland hills, while Joseph Tanios has been a construction inspector and engineering manager and is currently overseeing the city’s work around the construction of the East Bay Bus Rapid Transit line. (East Bay Times)

After being accused by more than 30 former employees of sexual harassment, Charlie Hallowell is selling one of his three Oakland restaurants, Boot & Shoe Service. The new owner, Jen Cramer, a former manager at Hallowell’s Pizzaiolo, will be taking over the restaurant with her husband, Richard Clark, within two months, but will keep the chef, menus, and recipes the same. (SFGate)

Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered the deployment of up to 400 California National Guard troops to the border with Mexico and elsewhere in the state — with the condition that the troops won’t be involved with immigration enforcement or construction of a wall. Instead, they’ll assist with fighting “transnational crime,” including gang activity, human trafficking, and gun and drug smuggling. (Sacramento Bee)

More than half of U.S. teenagers fear that there will be a shooting at their school, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center. Researchers found that girls are more anxious than boys (64 percent versus 51 percent) and that Hispanic and African American students are far more likely to be fearful than white students — 73 percent and 60 percent versus 51 percent, respectively. (San Francisco Business Times)

Despite promising reforms, the Berkeley Police Department lags in its requirements to report when their officers use force compared to other cities. “Little information has been disclosed publicly about what kind of force Berkeley police officers have used and when,” reports Scott Morris. (Berkeleyside)

A new program by the West Contra Costa Unified School District in partnership with San Francisco-based startup Landed will help teachers in that district buy homes by providing half of their down payment, up to $120,000 per household. In return, the teachers must share with Landed 25 percent of the gain or loss on the value of the home when they sell or refinance it. The program is part of an effort to recruit and retain teachers, as the West Contra Costa Unified School District has lost about 15 of its teaching force each year over the past four years. (Richmond Confidential)

A new solar farm has opened on a former Chevron landfill in Richmond, part of that city’s goal to greatly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The 10.5-megawatt Solar One project is the Bay Area’s largest public-private solar partnership — between Richmond and Marin Clean Energy, which services residents and businesses in Marin and Napa counties, unincorporated Contra Costa County, and the cities of Benicia, Concord, Danville, El Cerrito, Lafayette, Martinez, Moraga, Oakley, Pinole, Pittsburg, Richmond, San Pablo, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek — and is expected to generate enough electricity to power 3,000 MRE customers and replace 3,234 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. (East Bay Times)

An effort is underway to raise $4 million to save a large open space property in the Martinez hills from development. The John Muir Land Trust wants to protect the 281-acre Almond Ranch, which sits next to Mt. Wanda alongside Franklin Canyon Road and is currently being used for cattle grazing, and open it to hikers, dog walkers, and cyclists. The group has already secured $1 million from the East Bay Regional Park District and hopes another $1 million will come from Prop. 68, if it passes in June. If their efforts are successful, the land would help close a gap in the Bay Area Ridge Trail. A fundraiser is scheduled for April 28. (East Bay Times)

California’s OSHA is investigating Tesla for potential workplace safety violations, including whether the company reports injuries at its Fremont factory in a timely manner. The news comes after a lengthy investigation by Reveal and KQED showed that the company has failed to report some of its serious injuries on legally mandated reports. (San Francisco Business Times)

A new lane will open on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on Friday, allowing eastbound commuters a third lane during peak hours. For now, the lane will only be open for the evening commute, between about 2 and 7 p.m. It’s part of a four-year experiment to ease traffic. (SFGate)

A Berkeley High School history teacher has been put on administrative leave after bringing a historic bazooka to class. (Berkeleyside)

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