SF News

San Francisco Bay Area Friday News Roundup

More Than 20 Protesters Arrested At Powell Street Station

More than 20 protesters were arrested at San Francisco's Powell Street station Thursday evening at a rally organized by a group whose goal is to disband the BART Police Department.

An estimated 25 to 30 protesters were arrested by BART and San Francisco police officers on suspicion of interfering or disturbing the safe operation of a railroad after they were corralled together in a circle outside the fare gates, shutting the station down for about two hours, according to BART police Deputy Chief Daniel Hartwig.

The group "No Justice, No Bart" organized the protest, which drew dozens of supporters who are angry about the fatal shooting of Charles Hill, 45, at Civic Center station by BART police officers on July 3. Hill was allegedly wielding knives and a broken bottle as weapons when he was shot, police said.

Protesters filed into Powell Street station carrying signs reading "Disband BART Cops" and chanting "How can they protect and serve us? BART Police just make me nervous!" around 5 p.m.

The group marched around the concourse before huddling together outside the fare gates. At this point, BART police officers told protesters to disperse and many left the station, except for about 25 people.      

Officers circled the remaining protesters, who cried out, "I'm being arrested for what BART administration told me to do." At about 5:30 p.m., officials closed the station's gates at Hallidie Plaza and blocked off all entrances. Passengers still exiting trains at the station were ushered out.    

A couple of protesters pushed against police officers and were arrested and taken away in handcuffs. Most of the remaining protesters who were arrested would be cited and released, Hartwig said. Members of the media were also asked to leave the station.

Giselle Esteban Arraigned On Michelle Le Murder Charge

The arraignment of Giselle Esteban on a charge that she murdered her former high school classmate Michelle Le, a 26-year-old nursing student who disappeared in Hayward in May, was postponed Thursday for medical reasons.    

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Gary Picetti told reporters that he does not have firsthand knowledge of Esteban's medical condition but he said jail officials have "some concern" about her health and her medical issues might be related to her pregnancy.

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson said Esteban's medical condition is not an emergency but jail officials decided that she should be taken to see a doctor instead of being brought to court Thursday.    

Nelson said privacy laws bar him from disclosing the specific nature of Esteban's medical problems but he said he can confirm that Esteban, a 27-year-old Union City woman, was not attacked by fellow inmates and did not try to harm herself.

Picetti said Esteban, who had been scheduled to be arraigned at the Hayward Hall of Justice at 2 p.m. Thursday, is tentatively scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. today.

But he said "she can't come to court until she is cleared by medical people" so it's possible that her arraignment could be postponed until next week or later.

Although Le's body has not been found, earlier Thursday the Alameda County District Attorney's Office charged Esteban with murdering her, citing DNA evidence and cellphone records.

Five-Year-Old Hit By Shuttle Bus In Bayview District Thursday

A five-year-old boy was hit by a shuttle bus while crossing a street in San Francisco's Bayview District Thursday afternoon and was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries, police said.

A woman was walking with two children southbound on Third Street at Williams Street at around 3:30 p.m.

The woman had a one child immediately with her and the five-year-old was trailing behind her as they crossed the street, according to police.

A private shuttle bus was driving eastbound on Williams Street and struck the boy as it turned right onto Third Street.

The shuttle bus had one passenger who was not injured and the driver of the bus was cooperating with the investigation, police said.

The cause of the crash has not been determined and police said impairment was not suspected. No arrests have been made.

Stanford Hospital And Clinics Posted On Website By Outsider Vendor's Sub-Contractor

The names and medical information of some patients seen at Stanford Hospital and Clinics were posted to a website by an outside vendor's sub-contractor, a hospital spokesman said Thursday.

Limited information -- such as medical records numbers, hospital account numbers, emergency room admission and discharge dates, and billing charges -- about patients seen at the hospital's Emergency Department was contained in the leaked file, hospital director of communications Gary Migdol said.

The information pertains to patients seen in the department between March 1 and Aug. 31, 2009.    

Information commonly associated with identity theft, such as credit card or social security numbers, was not involved, Migdol said.

The hospital learned of the privacy breach on Aug. 22 of this year and took swift action to ensure the file was removed from the website, which was achieved within 24 hours, Migdol said.    

A full investigation was launched by the hospital to determine how this leak happened.

The vendor, Multi Specialties Collection Services, is conducting an independent investigation regarding the breach, which also represents a contractual violation in terms of safeguarding the privacy and security of patient information.

According to Migdol, the incident was not caused by the hospital, which may take further action when the investigation is complete. Responsibility has been assumed by a contractor working for Multi Specialties Collection Services.

Fairfield Man Murders Childhood Friend In Pinole Over Animosity Over Affections Of A Woman

Animosity over the affections of a woman appears to have driven a Fairfield man to murder his childhood friend in Pinole on Tuesday, Senior Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett said Thursday.

Brian Fitch, 42, has been charged with murder with an enhancement for the use of a gun in connection with the shooting death of 42-year-old San Pablo resident Jeffrey McCoy.

According to Jewett, the two men had been childhood friends and, at one point, Fitch was even married to McCoy's sister, making him McCoy's brother-in-law.

But the two men had a falling out over a woman and, on Monday night, Fitch allegedly armed himself with two guns, Jewett said.

On Tuesday morning, he allegedly met up with McCoy in a borrowed pickup truck on the pretense of going to buy some heroine, Jewett said.

Fitch allegedly shot McCoy with both guns at around 7 a.m. as they were driving in Pinole, Jewett said.

Once he was shot, McCoy either dove out of the truck or was dumped out in the area of Fern Avenue, where he died, officials said.

Police said they received a call reporting gunshots in the area of Buena Vista Drive shortly after 7 a.m. and then a second call about two minutes later reporting a gunshot victim in front of a home on Fern Avenue, down the street from Buena Vista Drive, police said.

Fitch allegedly drove away after the shooting and attempted to get rid of the two guns. He then allegedly tried to dispose of the pickup truck, which was covered in blood, at an auto wrecking business, Jewett said.

Pinole police, with help from Fairfield police, arrested Fitch in Fairfield at about 10 p.m. Tuesday night, police said. He is being held without bail in county jail.

Berkeley Woman Charged With Felony Vandalism

A Berkeley woman has been charged with felony vandalism for allegedly puncturing the tires of dozens of vehicles in a crime spree in Berkeley and Oakland last week, Berkeley police said Thursday.

Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said 33-year-old Mandisa Monroe was arrested at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday near her home in the area of the Berkeley-Oakland border, which is where all the vandalism occurred.

Police learned of the vandalism at about 7 a.m. on Aug. 31 after a community member reported that one of her car's tires had been slashed or punctured.

Kusmiss said a total of 74 vehicles were vandalized -- 61 in Berkeley and 13 in an adjacent area of North Oakland.

Most of the vandalism involved punctured tires, but some vehicles had Egyptian phrases spray-painted on them, Kusmiss said.

Kusmiss said the vandalism spree occurred on California Street from 62nd Street to Blake Street; the 1600 block of Russell Street; several blocks of King Street; and Alcatraz Avenue in Oakland.

She said Berkeley police obtained a warrant to search Monroe's home and found items that connected her to the crimes, including spray paint and a head wrap they believe she wore while vandalizing the vehicles.

Kusmiss said police also obtained surveillance tapes from homes in the area where the crimes occurred that they believe show Monroe committing one of the crimes.

Kusmiss said Monroe denied puncturing the tires but gave an explanation of the Egyptian phrases that had been tagged onto some of the cars. The phrases weren't threatening, Kusmiss said.

Kusmiss said it turned out that Monroe was spray-painting a fence on her own property, which was legal, but the officer who responded didn't know that at the time. She said the officer wound up arresting Monroe because she threw a can of spray paint at him.

However, the charges against Monroe eventually were dropped, Kusmiss said.

Man Suspected Of Stabbing Another Man At Balboa Park BART

A man suspected of stabbing another man in the neck at the Balboa Park BART station in San Francisco Thursday morning had apparently ridden the bus with the victim on the way to the station, a BART police deputy chief said.

Wilfred Brown, 35, allegedly arrived at the station at the same time as victim, but did not speak to him before stabbing him near the agent's booth around 6:10 a.m., BART police Deputy Chief Benson Fairow said.    

The victim, a man in his 60s who was on his way to work, was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with injuries that are not life-threatening. He was expected to be released later Thursday, Fairow said.    

San Francisco police, who had been given a description of the attacker by BART police, located and arrested the suspect.    

Two witnesses, including the station agent, identified Brown as the stabber. Brown was then taken to the hospital, where the victim and a third witness also identified him, Fairow said.

Brown was in possession of two knives when he was taken into custody -- including one with blood on it that is believed to be the attempted murder weapon, he said.

Fairow said that after being interviewed by detectives, Brown confessed to the stabbing.

Brown, who is a transient and did not know the victim, appeared to have stabbed him in an unprovoked attack, he said.    

He was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and booked into San Francisco jail.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Forecast

Partly cloudy skies are expected in the Bay Area today after patchy fog and drizzle this morning. Highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s are likely.

Tonight is anticipated to be partly cloudy before becoming mostly cloudy with patchy fog after midnight. Lows in the lower 50s are expected.

Partly cloudy skies are expected Saturday after mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog in the morning. There is a slight chance of thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s are expected.

 

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Store Robbed After Employee Refuses To Sell Cigarettes To Suspects

An employee at a store on San Francisco's Market Street was punched in the throat and robbed after refusing to sell cigarettes to three suspects on Wednesday evening, police said.

The robbery was reported at 6:40 p.m. at a business in the 1800 block of Market Street.

The suspects, described as about 20 years old, walked into the store to buy cigarettes but the 41-year-old employee refused because the suspects looked young, according to police.

One of the suspects then punched the man in the throat and grabbed various tobacco products, and the trio ran out of the store, police said.

The victim suffered minor injuries in the attack but declined transport to a hospital.

The three suspects had not been found as of this morning. Anyone with information about the robbery is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

 

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Update: Police Arrest Suspect In Balboa Park BART Station Stabbing

BART and San Francisco police have arrested a man suspected of stabbing a passenger at the Balboa Park station this morning, a BART spokesman said.

Officers arrested Wilfred Brown, 35, hours after he allegedly stabbed a rider entering the station around 6:10 a.m., BART spokesman Jim Allison and San Francisco fire officials said.

The victim was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, and Allison said he did not have an update on the victim's condition.

Brown, a transient, apparently stabbed the victim in an unprovoked attack, Allison said.

 

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Police Investigate String Of Taxi Driver Robberies

San Francisco police are investigating a series of at least seven robberies of taxi drivers since July, including three that occurred at the same Western Addition intersection, a police spokesman said.

The most recent robbery happened at about 2 a.m. Wednesday at O'Farrell and Beideman streets, the same intersection where two other robberies have occurred since Aug. 18.

In Wednesday's robbery, the 53-year-old cabbie drove the suspect to the intersection, where he was held at knifepoint and robbed of an undisclosed amount of cash.

Police spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield said that intersection might be targeted by the thief because it's a relatively low-traffic area.

Police are asking cabbies to be more alert about the suspect, who is described as a black man between 35 and 45 years old who sometimes wears a hoodie and does not like to show his face to the driver.

"If they don't want to show their face, that might be something you want to take into account," Dangerfield said.

Anyone with information about the robberies is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

 

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Hundreds Of Hyatt Hotel Workers Start Weeklong Strike

Hundreds of Hyatt hotel workers this morning started a weeklong strike at two of the chain's hotels in San Francisco, a union spokeswoman said.

Unite Here Local 2, which represents about 700 room cleaners, dishwashers, clerks and other workers at the two hotels, began the strike at 4 a.m. today outside the Hyatt Regency at 5 Embarcadero Center and the Grand Hyatt at 345 Stockton St., union spokeswoman Julia Wong said.

The strike is also taking place at Hyatt hotels in Chicago, Honolulu and Los Angeles, Wong said.    

The Hyatt workers' labor contract expired in 2009 and negotiations for a new contract are still under way.

Wong called Hyatt "the most abusive company in the hotel industry," alleging that the hotel chain overworks employees, resulting in frequent workplace injuries.

She said about 100 workers were picketing outside the Hyatt Regency this morning, and that the picket lines would remain there for all seven days of the strike.

Hyatt spokesman Pete Hillan said guests at the hotels, which are mostly booked through the next week, will still receive the same level of service that they normally would.

"For us, the real issue is the disrespect Local 2 leadership is showing for its own members," Hillan said.

He said Hyatt management in March offered the union a contract similar to ones they signed with other hotel chains in San Francisco, but that the union is now making new demands that he says are "a ruse for the membership-building they're trying to do nationally."

He said, "Local 2 leadership is just taking a week's worth of pay out of the hands of their own members."

 

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Victim Stabbed At Balboa Park BART Station

A person was stabbed at a San Francisco BART station this morning, a San Francisco fire official said.

Around 6:11 a.m. a stabbing was reported at the Balboa Park BART station near Geneva Avenue, officials said.

A BART official said the stabbing occurred at the concourse level where riders buy tickets.

The victim was taken to the hospital, the fire department said.

Further details were not immediately available.

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Thursday News Roundup

Hayward Police Arrested Suspect In Michelle Le Missing Person Case

Hayward police Wednesday announced that they have made an arrest in the case of Michelle Le, the 26-year-old nursing student who went missing in May.

The suspect, Giselle Esteban, 27, was taken into custody Wednesday morning as she was leaving her Union City home, Hayward police Lt. Roger Keener said. She was arrested on suspicion of murder, Keener said.

Le's body has not been found, but police have classified the case as a homicide. Le's family is still holding out hope for her safe return, family members said at a news conference at police headquarters Wednesday afternoon.

Le disappeared on May 27 from Kaiser Permanente Hayward Medical Center. She left the medical center around 7 p.m. that day, telling a classmate she was going to go to her car during a break, Keener said.

She never returned. Her instructor later went to the parking garage looking for her and called police to report her disappearance.

Le's car was found the next morning around 9 a.m. parked on Ponderosa Court, about half a mile from the medical center, Keener said.

He said investigators found bloodstains in the vehicle, and it was later determined that the blood was Le's.

Keener also said footage from security cameras at the Kaiser Permanente parking structure showed that Esteban was present around the time of Le's disappearance.

Additionally, he said, evidence found inside Le's car indicated that Esteban had been in the vehicle.

He said cellphone records show from wireless tower activations that Le and Esteban traveled along the same path leaving the area just after Le's disappearance.

Police served a search warrant at Esteban's house on May 29 and found a pair of athletic shoes, one of which contained Le's DNA, Keener said.

He said police won't stop looking for Le until they find her.    

"It may only be Esteban that can tell us where Michelle is," he said.

Esteban will be booked into Alameda County Jail on the murder charge.

Keener did not discuss a possible motive in the case.

SFMTA Responds To Central Subway Project Criticism

In response to recent criticism lobbed at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's Central Subway project, agency leadership and engineers said Wednesday that the project has a legacy of broad support and is on the cusp of securing final federal funding.

Two months ago, a San Francisco Civil Grand Jury released a report calling for overhaul of the project, which the report alleged was inefficiently designed and would stress system-wide service.

"We certainly welcome the scrutiny and oversight," SFMTA Executive Director Ed Reiskin said at a media availability at the project's South of Market headquarters Wednesday morning. Reiskin said that the feedback allows the engineers and project managers to revisit how they got to where they are.

Wednesday morning SFMTA officials and members of the Chamber of Commerce emphasized that the project would link neighborhoods and create construction jobs for local workers.

The Central Subway project will create a new branch of the San Francisco Municipal Railway's T-Third line. It is designed to run north along Fourth Street from Brannan Street before going underground at Interstate Highway 80, with stops at Moscone Center, Union Square and Chinatown.

Senior project manager John Funghi said that the civil grand jury report had good intentions but that its findings were taken out of context.    

"It was a different project; it was a different alignment," he said. The report scrutinized several alignments that were under consideration during early design phases, but Funghi said that some of those had not yet been subjected to environmental review.

The project has received nearly $96 million in federal funding, including $20 million secured in June from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration. The project received the award through the FTA's New Starts program, which considers rapid rail, light rail, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit projects, among other fixed guideway systems.

Teen Shot Near 24th Street Mission BART

A teen was shot in the hip near the 24th Street Mission BART station in San Francisco Wednesday, a police spokesman said.    

The shooting was reported at 11:59 a.m. in front of a McDonald's restaurant at 24th and Mission streets, San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

The 19-year-old victim was taken to a hospital to be treated for his injury, which is not believed to be life-threatening, Esparza said.

Two suspects are believed to have been involved in the shooting and were seen running into the BART station, according to Esparza.

BART police were notified and the train tunnel was briefly shut down while authorities searched the station, but the suspects were not found, Esparza said.

They are described as a Hispanic and black male, one of whom was wearing a white hat and blue jacket, Esparza said.

The shooting is the latest act of violence in the Mission District, which has had three homicides in the last eight days.

The violence prompted police to increase patrols in the area. 

Santa Cruz City Officials Expressed Grief Over Murdered Local Attorney

Santa Cruz city officials Wednesday expressed grief over the murder of a local attorney in Hawaii last week.

Celestial Cassman, 35, of Santa Cruz, died Sept. 1 while on vacation in Maui, the city attorney's office said Wednesday.    

She worked for the law firm Atchison, Barisone, Condotti and Kovacevich, which provides services to several local cities including Santa Cruz.

"As a beloved and integral member of our firm, and more importantly a dear friend, she will be missed by all of us," Santa Cruz City Attorney John Barisone stated.

At about 6:30 p.m., Maui police responded to a report of a domestic dispute on Kahekili Highway near Nakalele Point, according to Lt. Wayne Ibarra.

Officers found a man there, and when they went to talk to him, he jumped off a cliff and into the ocean, Ibarra said. An hour later, officers found the body of a woman, later identified as Cassman.

The man was located and picked up by rescuers Friday morning at Nakalele Point. He was transported to Maui Memorial Medical Center and is expected to survive his injuries.

Maui County prosecutor John Kim identified the man as Gerald Galaway, Jr., 38, of Santa Cruz. He said prosecutors have charged Galaway with one count of second-degree murder and one count of kidnapping in connection with Cassman's death.

Galaway is still recovering from his injuries at the hospital, but he will be booked into jail on $500,000 bail, Kim said.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials Wednesday celebrated completing the demolition of the old Transbay Transit Terminal in the city's South of Market neighborhood to make way for a new transit center there in 2017.

Standing on the construction site for the new $4.1 billion Transbay Transit Center near First and Natoma streets, Lee said the project "represents the future of our city."

The center will eventually serve as the hub for 11 transit operators and the terminus for the planned high-speed rail system between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Lee said when the first part of the project is completed in October 2017, "it will be such a transformation of the whole downtown."    

Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district contains the center, said it will be "a bustling center of activity, our Grand Central here in San Francisco."

The project is expected to create more than 27,000 permanent jobs in the operation and maintenance of the center and from private development in the Transit Center District, which will also contain 200,000 square feet of new retail space, more than 6 million square feet of new office space and nearly 4,400 new residential units.

Demolition began in December on the old terminal, which was built in 1939 but declared seismically unsafe after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

To celebrate the completion of the demolition, Lee, Kim and former Mayor Willie Brown Wednesday signed a large metal bar that will be part of the new center's structure.

Man Beaten Unconscious Outside San Francisco's Candlestick Park

A man was beaten unconscious outside a college football game at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on Saturday, two weeks after several instances of violence in and around the stadium during an NFL preseason game, police said.

The latest attack occurred at about 4 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot outside of the stadium near the start of a game between University of California at Berkeley and California State University, Fresno.

Officers responding to a report of a fight found a victim unconscious and bleeding with several witnesses pointing at another man and saying he was the attacker, according to police.

The witnesses said two groups of fans from the opposing teams were yelling back and forth at each other and a fight broke out, during which the victim was struck, police said.

The suspect allegedly admitted to the attack and was arrested. His name was not immediately available, an officer at the Bayview Police Station said Wednesday.

The victim was taken to a hospital with injuries that were serious but not considered life-threatening, the officer said.

Cal ended up defeating Fresno State 36-21 in the season opener for both teams.

Saturday's attack came exactly two weeks after violence marred an Aug. 21 preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders at Candlestick Park.

Golden Gate Bridge On Heightened Security This Sunday During 10th Anniversay of 9/11

This Sunday, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Golden Gate Bridge operators and law enforcement will continue to enforce heightened security measures that have been put in place since the terrorist attacks, officials said Wednesday.    

At a news conference at Vista Point at the bridge's north end, transportation authorities discussed the evolution of bridge security over the past decade.

Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District spokeswoman Mary Currie said Wednesday that $15 million in state and federal grants collected over the past decade has allowed authorities to implement district-wide security upgrades on the Golden Gate Bridge, transit and ferry.

The money has helped district officials equip the bridge with the latest security technology, including a $19 million communications information system to aid interagency communication that is set to launch next year.

Currie said safety and security have always been top priorities for the district and local law enforcement, but the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 spurred them to reinforce existing security measures.    

She said the key to that heightened security has been the formation of a multi-agency coalition, teaming bridge security staff with the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Park Police, and the San Francisco and Sausalito police departments, among others agencies.

San Francisco Man Struck And Killed By SUV In The Castro

A San Francisco man died after he was struck by an SUV while crossing the street in the city's Castro neighborhood Tuesday morning, San Francisco police said.

William Cox, 59, was in a crosswalk at the intersection of Noe and 14th streets when a Ford Explorer hit him as the driver made a left turn onto 14th Street around 10:40 a.m., according to San Francisco police and the medical examiner's office.

Cox was transported to San Francisco General Hospital, where he later died from his injuries, police Officer Albie Esparza said.

Traffic at the intersection is controlled by a four-way stop sign, and Esparza said Cox was crossing the street legally.    

The driver, who spoke with officers after the collision, is cooperating with the investigation, he said.

"It's too early to determine whether charges will be filed," Esparza said.

Martinez Man Arrested In Pleasant Hill For Burglary

A 42-year-old Martinez man was arrested in Pleasant Hill Wednesday after a homeowner allegedly caught him burglarizing a house, Pleasant Hill police said.

A resident in the 700 block of Grayson Road returned home shortly before 12:40 p.m. and found a burglar inside.

The alleged burglar, later identified as Ronald Allen Stilwell, fled the home and was seen jumping over fences.Officers responded and set up a perimeter, police said.

Detectives searching for Stilwell reportedly flushed him out of a creek onto Grayson Road where he was arrested.

A Concord police dog searched the area and found jewelry that had been stolen during the burglary, police said.    

Stilwell was booked into county jail on suspicion of first-degree burglary, possession of stolen property and petty theft with priors. He is being held on $100,000 bail, police said.

San Francisco Giants Player Greeter Missing

A man known for greeting San Francisco Giants players as they arrived at AT&T Park has gone missing, and police are asking for the public's help in finding him.

For years, 43-year-old Billy Chamberlain has been a constant presence at Giants games, greeting team members as they arrived at the ballpark's entrance at Second and King streets, police said.

But Chamberlain has not been seen at any Giants games for the past month or so, and his whereabouts are unknown -- circumstances that prompted the police investigation.

Chamberlain is a white man who is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs about 170 pounds. He is disabled and is taking medication, according to police.

Anyone with information about Chamberlain's whereabouts is urged to call San Francisco police at (415) 553-1071 or Sgt. McAuliffe with the department's missing persons unit at (415) 558-5508.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Forecast

Mostly sunny skies are expected in the Bay Area today after mostly cloudy skies with patchy fog this morning. Highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s are likely.

Tonight is anticipated to be mostly clear before becoming mostly cloudy with patchy fog after midnight. Lows in the lower 50s are expected.

Partly cloudy skies are expected Friday after mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog in the morning. Highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s are expected.

 

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Santa Cruz Officials Grieve Loss Of Attorney Murdered In Maui

Santa Cruz city officials today expressed grief over the murder of a local attorney in Hawaii last week.

Celestial Cassman, 35, of Santa Cruz, died Thursday while on vacation in Maui, the city attorney's office said today.

She worked for the law firm Atchison, Barisone, Condotti and Kovacevich, which provides services to several local cities including Santa Cruz.

"As a beloved and integral member of our firm, and more importantly a dear friend, she will be missed by all of us," Santa Cruz City Attorney John Barisone stated.

At about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Maui police responded to a report of a domestic dispute on Kahekili Highway near Nakalele Point, according to Lt. Wayne Ibarra.

Officers found a man there, and when they went to talk to him, he jumped off a cliff and into the ocean, Ibarra said. An hour later, officers found the body of a woman, later identified as Cassman.

The man was located and picked up by rescuers Friday morning at Nakalele Point. He was transported to Maui Memorial Medical Center and is expected to survive his injuries.

Maui County prosecutor John Kim identified the man as Gerald Galaway, Jr., 38, of Santa Cruz. He said prosecutors have charged Galaway with one count of second-degree murder and one count of kidnapping in connection with Cassman's death.

Galaway is still recovering from his injuries at the hospital, but he will be booked into jail on $500,000 bail, Kim said.

Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty said he was "incredibly sad" to hear the news about Cassman, whom he considers a friend as well as a colleague.

"We're shocked and we're extremely saddened by her death," Coonerty said. "She was a tremendous person, had a real joy for life and was an excellent attorney for the city."

Coonerty said he is waiting to hear from Cassman's family regarding a memorial service.

Cassman is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz and UC Davis' King Hall School of Law.

She served on the board of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Cruz County, or CASA. The website for CASA states that Cassman was born Hawaii and grew up in Lake County.

Her hobbies included wine tasting, yoga, cooking and learning to surf, according to the site.

 

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Man Shot In Hip Outside 24th Street Bart Station Today

A teen was shot in the hip near the 24th Street Mission BART station in San Francisco today, a police spokesman said.

The shooting was reported at 11:59 a.m. in front of a McDonald's restaurant at 24th and Mission streets, San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

The 19-year-old victim was taken to a hospital to be treated for his injury, which is not believed to be life-threatening, Esparza said.

Two suspects are believed to have been involved in the shooting and were seen running into the BART station, according to Esparza.

BART police were notified and the train tunnel was briefly shut down while authorities searched the station, but the suspects were not found, Esparza said.

They are described as a Hispanic and black male, one of whom was wearing a white hat and blue jacket, Esparza said.

The shooting is the latest act of violence in the Mission District, which has had three homicides in the last eight days.

The violence prompted police to increase patrols in the area.

Anyone with information about today's shooting is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

 

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Streets Closed In Mission While Police Investigate Suspicious Item

San Francisco police are asking people to stay away from part of the city's Mission District while a bomb squad investigates reports of a suspicious item in the area, a police spokesman said.

The department received a call at 10:27 a.m. reporting a "suspicious item" in the area of 26th Street and San Jose Avenue, police spokesman Albie Esparza said.

As of noon, a bomb squad was en route to the scene and occupants of nearby buildings were being evacuated as a precaution, Esparza said.

Several streets have been closed to facilitate the investigation, and police are asking people to steer clear of the area bounded by 25th and 26th streets and Guerrero Street and San Jose Avenue.

 

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Avalos Proposes Transitioning Sharp Park Golf Course To Open Space

Sharp Park, a San Francisco-owned golf course located in Pacifica, would be repurposed as a new open space area managed by the National Park Service under a plan proposed by Supervisor John Avalos at Tuesday's board meeting.

The proposal is an attempt to protect two endangered species that inhabit the area -- the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake -- and provide more recreation options at the park, which would become part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Avalos said.

"This has been a longstanding issue at the park," he said. "We can find a form of recreation there that can be broader than the current golf needs that are probably impeding on the ability of the endangered species to continue at the park."

Maintaining the 18-hole public golf course has led to cost overruns of nearly $1.2 million in the last six years, according to Avalos, who said the money would be better spent on neighborhood parks and clubhouses threatened by budget cuts.

"The work to create national parks in San Francisco ... has always been met with a great deal of resistance and controversy, but I do believe it's the right direction for the city," he said.

Avalos said the legislation he is proposing does not call for the immediate conversion of the golf course, but rather "a roadmap to make sure we can make conversion a reality."

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd appeared to oppose the idea in comments he made shortly afterward at the meeting.

Elsbernd brought up the Golden Gate National Recreation Area's policy of allowing off-leash dogs at most of its parks, although the National Park Service is currently considering a proposal to drastically reduce the off-leash dog sites.

"I look forward to Sharp Park and discussing the potential transfer ... and whether or not we'll defer to their thoughts on off-leash dogs or impose our own thoughts," he said. "Off-leash dogs might be a little more of a danger to the endangered species than a golf ball."

 

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Shoe Store On Sloat Boulevard Robbed At Gunpoint

A shoe store at the Lakeshore Plaza Shopping Center on San Francisco's Sloat Boulevard was robbed at gunpoint on Tuesday night.

The robbery was reported at about 8:25 p.m. at a business in the 1500 block of Sloat Boulevard, police said.

An employee at a nearby business said the robbery occurred at the Payless ShoeSource at 1563 Sloat Blvd.

According to police, a man in his early 20s entered the business and brandished a handgun at two people in the store.

The suspect demanded money, and the victims, a 45-year-old man and 18-year-old woman, handed over cash, police said.

The suspect fled and had not been found as of this morning. No one was injured in the robbery.

Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

 

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Bay Area Lawmakers Outline Pipeline Safety Bills As San Bruno Explosion Anniversary Nears

Two days before the anniversary of the deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno, four Bay Area lawmakers held a news conference in Sacramento this morning to highlight a package of legislation aimed at improving the safety of the state's natural gas transmission system.

Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett joined state Sens. Leland Yee, Mark Leno and Assemblyman Jerry Hill on the south steps of the state Capitol to outline the legislation.

The four bills, which propose changes including requirements that utilities adopt stricter emergency response plans and install automatic shutoff valves on certain pipelines, are all expected to be signed by the governor by the end of this week.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the explosion, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

 

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Chiu Proposes Creating Online City Budget Database

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu proposed at Tuesday's board meeting the creation of an online database that would allow the public to better understand and keep track of the city's budget.

Chiu said the budget, which is $6.83 billion for the current fiscal year, is "enormously complicated" but that "with technology we have new tools" to understand it.

The database would include a variety of information, including spending amounts, recipients of the spending and the sources of the funding, according to Chiu's office.

Chiu said the federal government and many states, counties and cities around the U.S. already have some version of an online budget database.

"It would help increase the confidence of our constituents in their government," Chiu said.

 

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Man Shot While Sitting In Car In Soma Dies

A man who was shot early Saturday morning while sitting in his car in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday, a police spokesman said today.

The victim, identified by the medical examiner's office as John Moore, 23, was sitting in his car in the 1000 block of Harrison Street near Sixth Street when he was shot shortly before 2:30 a.m. Saturday, police said.

According to the preliminary investigation, two suspects approached the car, opened fire, then fled on foot.

Moore was struck several times by the gunfire. He was transported to a hospital where he died Tuesday, police spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield said.

Witnesses provided information that enabled an officer to arrest one of the suspects and recover a handgun, Dangerfield said.

Police have not yet released the suspect's name, and the second suspect remains at large, he said.

The shooting is being investigated by the Police Department's Southern Station and the gang task force, Dangerfield said.

Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

 

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Man Fatally Shot Monday In Mission District Identified

A man who was fatally shot in San Francisco's Mission District early Monday morning has been identified by the medical examiner's office as 45-year-old Dwayne Spruell.

Spruell, a San Francisco resident, was killed in a shooting reported at 2:18 a.m. in the first block of Camp Street, near Guerrero Street.

Officers responding to a report of shots fired found him lying on the ground suffering from a gunshot wound to the head and another to the chest, police said.

Spruell was pronounced dead at the scene.

No arrests have been made and no suspect information was available as of this morning, according to police.

The homicide was the third in the city's Mission District in less than a week.

Early the morning of Aug. 30, Gaspar Puch-Tzek was killed in a shooting near the intersection of 19th and San Carlos streets. Later that night, 29-year-old Edson Lacayo was found fatally shot in the 800 block of Hampshire Street.

No arrests have been made in either of those shootings, which prompted the Police Department to step up patrols in the neighborhood over the weekend to try to quell potential violence between the Norteno and Sureno gangs.

Both of the Aug. 30 shootings are being investigated as gang-related, according to police. Investigators believe Puch-Tzewk may have been mistaken for a gang member, which he was not.

Anyone with information about any of the three shootings is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

 

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Medical Emergency Causes Southbound Caltrain Delays

Caltrain is reporting that southbound train No. 208 is 25 minutes behind schedule this morning because of a medical emergency.

Southbound train No. 312 is delayed by five minutes, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

She said there are no delays to northbound trains.

 

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Woman Killed In Hit-And-Run Identified

A woman killed in a Redwood City hit-and-run accident Tuesday evening has been identified as Nora Fuentes-Arias, a San Mateo County deputy coroner said.

Fuentes-Arias was a 53-year-old Redwood City woman, Deputy Coroner Roger Fielding said.

Police found her lying on the ground in the 3000 block of E.Bayshore Road around 7:15 p.m. Medical personnel pronounced her dead at the scene, according to police.

Witnesses told police that a vehicle struck Fuentes-Arias and fled. The vehicle was found at a trailer park in the 1900 block of East Bayshore Road with front-end damage.

The driver and registered owner of the vehicle, Julio Montenegro, 58, of Redwood City, was found and arrested.

Montenegro was booked at the San Mateo County Jail on hit-and-run causing death and vehicular manslaughter charges, according to police.

The hit-and-run investigation is ongoing and anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact Redwood City police detectives Val Cook or Joe O'Gorman at (650) 780-7100.

 

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CHP Reports More DUI Arrests Over Labor Day Weekend

The California Highway Patrol has reported more DUIs over the Labor Day weekend compared to last year, but fewer fatalities this year in the Bay Area.

In the Bay Area CHP jurisdiction, there were 258 DUI arrests compared to 252 suspected drunken drivers last year. In 2010 the Labor Day holiday weekend saw two fatalities compared to one fatal accident this year, according to CHP reports.

In San Mateo County, holiday weekend enforcement agencies reported 211 DUI arrests, compared to 224 arrests last year over the same Friday through Monday night period, officials said.

In other parts of the Bay Area, there were more DUI arrests this year compared to the 2010 Labor Day weekend. Agencies from Santa Clara County reported 439 arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Last year, 385 people were arrested, officials said.

Solano County agencies reported one death from a traffic collision involving two cars and two suspected drunk drivers in Vacaville Sunday morning.

This year 76 people were arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, down from 85 arrests in 2010 in Solano County.

Statewide DUI arrests and fatalities were up over the long weekend. Twenty-two people were killed in CHP jurisdictions, compared to 16 in 2010. This year, 19 of the people killed were not wearing seatbelts. One motorcyclist was killed, as was a pedestrian, CHP officials said.

The CHP said they continue to advise all drivers to buckle up, obey all speed laws and always have a designated driver.

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday News Roundup

Rally Held Tuesday In San Francisco To Protest Police-Involved Shootings

Another rally was held in San Francisco Tuesday in protest of two police officer-involved shootings in the city in July that both resulted in a death.

Tuesday's rally was the latest in a string of protests in response to the July 3 shooting of 45-year-old Charles Hill by BART police at San Francisco's Civic Center station and the July 16 shooting involving Kenneth Harding, 19, in the city's Bayview District.

The police versions of events surrounding both shootings were doubted by the protesters, who questioned whether deadly force was necessary.

Authorities have said Hill was shot after allegedly throwing a knife and bottle at officers on the BART station platform, while Harding died after exchanging gunfire while running from police who were conducting a San Francisco Municipal Railway fare check.

An autopsy later determined that the bullet that killed Harding did not come from a police gun, and police said he may have shot himself -- either accidentally or on purpose -- while running away.

Tuesday's rally held on the steps outside of City Hall was attended by about a dozen members of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, a national coalition started in 1996.

The group called on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to conduct an independent investigation into the two shootings, and many attended Tuesday afternoon's board meeting to repeat their request during the meeting's public comment period.

The group is also seeking the prosecution of the San Francisco and BART police officers involved in the shooting if it is found that they are at fault, and for an end of fare inspection by police in the Bayview District.

Sculpture Unveiled In Oakland's Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park

Under a cloudless blue sky, a long-anticipated, $8-million sculpture that organizers have dubbed the largest bronze monument in the West was unveiled at the Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park in Downtown Oakland Tuesday afternoon.

Three of four sections of the 1,000-square-foot "Remember Them: Champions for Humanity" monument depicting 25 celebrated humanitarians were revealed during a ceremony at the small park next to the Fox Theater.    

The faces of historic icons, ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Maya Angelou, Cesar Chavez and Mahatma Gandhi, shone in bronze from the new statues Tuesday after event staff pulled off the maroon sheaths covering them during most of the ceremony.   

The City of Oakland gave over $100 thousand to the project, according to project spokesman John Ellis.

Ruby Bridges, an African-American woman depicted in the sculpture for her pioneering integration into an all-white Louisiana elementary school in 1960 spoke during the ceremony along with a handful of the memorialized humanitarians' family members.

Echoing many of the event's speakers, she thanked the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and applauded Mario Chiodo, the Oakland artist who designed and created the 21-foot commemorative piece.

Chamber officials said Tuesday they would continue to raise the $2.2 million needed to complete the monument's fourth piece, which will feature historic figures such as Malcolm X, Susan B. Anthony and Elie Wiesel.

Suspicious Object Found At Martinez Unified School District 

A suspicious object found at the Martinez Unified School District office Tuesday morning turned out to be a minor explosive device like those used to shoot fireworks into the air, Martinez police Lt. Jon Sylvia said.

A school district employee discovered the device, which was wrapped in paper and had a fuse coming out the top, at about 7:12 a.m. at the rear door of the school district offices at 921 Susana St.

Police responded to the scene and closed Susana Street between Court Street and Estudillo Street.

Staff members at the nearby Martinez Junior High were notified of the situation and kept students away from the area, Sylvia said.

Police also checked all the schools in Martinez for similar objects, but didn't find any.

The Walnut Creek bomb squad arrived at about 9 a.m. and quickly neutralized the device, which was a commercial mortar filled with black powder, Sylvia said.

If the device had discharged, it likely wouldn't have caused any injury or damage, Sylvia said.

San Francisco Aquatic Park Shooting

A shooting near San Francisco's Aquatic Park on Monday night sent a man to the hospital, a Golden Gate National Recreation Area spokeswoman said Tuesday.

San Francisco police informed National Park Service dispatchers about the shooting at 8:12 p.m. after receiving reports of several shots fired in the area, and U.S. Park Police arrived a short time later, spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet said.

San Francisco police were at the scene with the victim, a young adult from San Francisco who had been shot in the back, she said.    

The victim had been found in a parking area at the end of Van Ness Avenue, near the bocce ball courts, Picavet said.

He was transported to San Francisco General Hospital and in listed in stable condition. Park police investigators interviewed him Tuesday, she said.

Because the shooting happened on national park property, it is in the jurisdiction of the park police, who are collaborating with San Francisco police on the investigation.

"We work together often and well," Picavet said.    

Several people had cars parked in the parking area at the time of the shooting, and they were unable to remove their cars for about an hour while the investigation was under way.

The victim is expected to recover, and police are continuing to analyze the evidence collected from the crime scene.

Police have not yet identified any suspects in the shooting.

Santa Clara Sheriff's Deputies Arrest Second Murder Suspect

Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies arrested a second suspect in the murder of a 96-year-old man during a Saratoga home invasion robbery in 2009.

Juan Cortinas, 33, of San Jose, was arrested late last week on suspicion of beating Charles Maridon to death in the 20000 block of Wardell Road on Dec. 3, 2009, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.

Cortinas will be arraigned on one count of murder and one count of robbery this afternoon, according to Lisa McCrary, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

Cortinas is the former co-worker of 34-year-old Sonny Lopez, of San Jose, the first suspect in the case who was fatally shot by Fremont police officers on March 7, 2010, in Cupertino.

Lopez was wanted on suspicion of fatally shooting his uncle, 49-year-old Larry Lopez, inside his Fremont home in the 100 block of Sycamore Street on March 1, 2010, according to Fremont police.

In the Maridon case, two men broke into his home around 11 p.m., beat Maridon and his 64-year-old daughter and fled with their property, according to the sheriff's office.

Both victims were found the next morning by a landscaper who worked at the home. Maridon's daughter survived, but Maridon died of his injuries on Dec. 18, 2009.

Cortinas was in custody and awaiting a pre-trial hearing on Sept. 14 for a separate charge of battery on a peace officer, for which he was arrested on Oct. 19, 2010, McCrary said.

Cortinas was also involved in a third case for which he was sentenced in July to two years in state prison for second-degree burglary and five years for second-degree burglary, grand theft, reckless driving while fleeing or eluding peace officers, and forgery.

San Francisco Board Of Supervisors Give Unanimous Approval Of Electronic Voter Information Pamphlets

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave unanimous initial approval Tuesday to legislation allowing city residents to receive their voter information pamphlets electronically rather than via regular mail.

The proposal to send the pamphlets by email is an attempt to make the city more cost-conscious, said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who introduced the legislation.

"We have elections every year at a heavy cost to the city and taxpayers," Mirkarimi said.

As of Aug. 15, there were 462,913 registered voters in San Francisco, and it costs nearly a dollar to print and mail each voter pamphlet, according to Robert Selna, Mirkarimi's legislative assistant.

"It's a cost-saving and environmental issue," Selna said.    

For this November's election, the city's Department of Elections has to send out the voter pamphlets by Oct. 10.

While the proposal will likely be given final approval by the board next week and signed into law by the mayor soon afterward, that will probably not leave the department enough time to set up a process to send the pamphlets by email for this year's election, Department of Elections Director John Arntz said.

"We want to get it started ... but haven't sat down yet" to discuss the details, Arntz said.

The legislation is allowed after a similar bill, AB 1717, was approved at the state level last year to allow each county in the state to potentially offer the email option.

San Francisco is one of the first counties in California to approve the option, Selna said.

Two-Alarm Fire Destroys $400,000 Worth Of Property

A two-alarm fire that destroyed a partially built house and damaged two or three other houses in Concord on Monday afternoon caused an estimated $400,000 damage, a fire marshal said Tuesday.

The fire was reported at 4:43 p.m. at a house under construction at 5213 Skyler Court.

Firefighters could see black smoke from the fire station and were on scene within about six minutes, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Lewis Broschard said.

When they arrived, firefighters found the house fully involved in fire. Flames had also spread to dry grass and vegetation around the house and were moving up a hill behind the house to houses on Mar View Circle, Broschard said.

Firefighters called for a second alarm to help protect the threatened homes and had the blaze contained by 5:22 p.m.

Several units, including a fire investigator, remained on scene until about 8:30 p.m., but the cause of the fire remained undetermined Tuesday.

A fire investigator is scheduled to return to the house today to see if a cause can be determined.

One person was transported to a hospital, but information about the person's injuries was not available.

The house where the fire started was a total loss, Broschard said, and two or three other houses were damaged.

PG&E crews responded to the fire as well to shut off gas to the area.

Pedestrian Struck By Vehicle In Santa Rosa

A pedestrian suffered life-threatening injuries Tuesday afternoon when she was struck by a vehicle in Santa Rosa, police said.    

The crash occurred at the intersection of Fulton and Guerneville roads shortly before 3 p.m.

The female pedestrian was struck in the crosswalk while she was attempting to cross Guerneville Road, police said.

The vehicle was traveling southbound on Fulton Road and turning west onto Guerneville Road.

The female suffered major injuries to her head and was taken to a hospital, according to police.

Police said the crash is under investigation. Anyone with information about this incident is urged to call Officer Hiroshi Yaguchi at (707) 543-3636.

Bay Area Air Quality Management District Issues Spare The Air Alert Today

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a Spare the Air alert for today.

Air district officials are encouraging Bay Area residents to try
 to drive less, take public transportation and limit home energy use to reduce
pollution levels.
    "Air quality is expected to be unhealthy again in the Bay Area,"
air district executive officer Jack Broadbent said in a statement. "Hot
temperatures and tailpipe exhaust contribute to unhealthy smog so it is
important that we all reduce our energy use every day and take precautions to
protect our health."
    The region is expected to see high temperatures reach the upper
60s to mid 70s at the coast and upper 80s to mid 90s inland, according to the
National Weather Service. Winds are predicted to be between 5 and 20 mph.
    There will be no free transit today, officials said.
    This is the fourth Spare the Air alert for smog in 2011.
    For more information about the Spare the Air program, visit
www.sparetheair.org.
    -0-
    Mostly sunny skies are expected in the Bay Area today after mostly
cloudy skies with dense fog this morning. Visibility will be a quarter of a
mile or less at times this morning. Highs in the 60s to lower 70s are likely.
    Tonight is anticipated to be mostly clear before becoming mostly
cloudy with patchy fog after midnight. Lows in the mid 50s are expected.
    Mostly sunny skies are expected Thursday after clouds and patchy
fog clear in the morning. Highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s are expected.

 

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Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137