Muni Operators Reject Contract Agreement, Arbitrator To Make Final Decision
A tentative agreement between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and its transit operators' union was voted down by union members, according to voting results released by the SFMTA Wednesday night.
Union members rejected the agreement, which had been signed by union representatives and SFMTA management, by a 944-488 vote. Union leadership had made a yes-vote recommendation.
The agreement comes after three months of bargaining between the SFMTA and Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, and would have saved the agency a minimum of $38 million in labor costs over the course of the three-year contract, according to the SFMTA.
"From the beginning, SFMTA focused on negotiating a contract that would permit management to run a safe, efficient and reliable transit operation," SFMTA Board of Directors Chair Tom Nolan said in a statement Wednesday night.
In accordance with Proposition G -- passed by city voters last November -- an arbitrator is now responsible for the contract and will have to decide between each side's final offers on outstanding issues.
The arbitrator's decision is final and binding, and the SFMTA said that it expects a decision before Tuesday, the latest date the proposed contract could be submitted in compliance with sunshine laws.
The new contract will take effect on July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.
Among the provisions in the rejected proposal were a pay freeze for operators, the ability for the agency to hire about 200 part-time workers, and several changes to work rules, including overtime and discipline procedures, according to the SFMTA.
The union represents the roughly 2,200 operators of Muni's buses and light-rail vehicles.
Debra Johnson, SFMTA's lead negotiator and director of administration, said that the agency aims to achieve a contract that will make Muni more efficient in years to come. "Ultimately, we believe an arbitrator will preserve most of what we negotiated at the bargaining table," Johnson said.
PG&E Admits to Repairing San Burno Pipeline in 1988
PG&E has informed federal investigators that repairs were made in 1988 on the same gas transmission pipeline that exploded in San Bruno in September.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said Wednesday that PG&E recently admitted to repairing a leak on the pipeline about 9 miles south of San Bruno 23 years ago.
Hersman said that the information was provided to the NTSB in the last month and that she did not know why PG&E did not disclose it earlier.
"We certainly would have expected to receive that information sooner," Hersman said.
A spokesman for PG&E said Wednesday afternoon that utility employees have been poring over millions of historical records and documents to provide to NTSB investigators, and that information about the leak on Line 132 was handed over as soon as it was uncovered on May 20.
"We've acknowledged several times since the tragedy that our operations and recordkeeping practices aren't where they should be," PG&E spokesman Brian Swanson said. Swanson said the information about the leak was found in a document uncovered at a local office. "
We know it was a small leak," he said. "It was discovered in 1988 as part of our annual routine gas survey."
A 12-foot section of Line 132 was cut out and replaced to repair the leak, which only released trace amounts of gas, Swanson said.
Hersman spoke at a news conference Wednesday morning in the Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood where Line 132 ruptured, causing an explosion that killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes.
She was joined by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo. Hersman met privately with survivors before touring the disaster site and called her first visit to the area "sobering."
The chairwoman, who was accompanied by NTSB member Mark Rosekind, said the agency has placed the San Bruno investigation on the fast track before all other pipeline incident investigations.
"The goal for our agency is to complete this report as soon as possible," Hersman said.
Ting Announces Additional $50M In Tax Revenue Created By His Office
San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting announced Wednesday that his office generated an additional $50 million in property tax revenue above expectations, helping the city close a large budget deficit for the coming fiscal year.
Ting's office is expected to generate about $97 million in supplemental and escape property taxes by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, far above the $47 million that was initially forecasted.
The taxes are in addition to a regular tax bill and reflect the difference between the prior assessed value of a property and a new assessment, according to Ting's office.
The additional revenues were included as part of the proposed budget Mayor Ed Lee presented to the Board of Supervisors last week to close a $306 million budget deficit for the next fiscal year.
"San Franciscans and our City Hall leadership is dealing with an extremely difficult budget, so I am very pleased our office is helping locate every dollar of revenue the city can use to pay for essential services and programs," Ting said in a statement.
Ting, a candidate in San Francisco's mayoral race this November, made Wednesday's announcement at a news conference outside City Hall, where he was joined by education, labor and community leaders who he said will be helped by the additional revenue for the city.
By the end of July, Lee's proposed $6.83 billion budget has to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, which can also make changes to it.
Apple to Build New Campus in Cupertino
Cupertino Mayor Gilbert Wong reacted enthusiastically Wednesday to Apple CEO Steve Jobs' announcement on Tuesday night of his plans to build a 3.1-million-square-foot campus in the city.
"This is a huge shot in the arm for us," Wong told reporters at a news conference Wednesday morning. "While other cities are struggling, we can grow."
Wearing his trademark black turtleneck and blue jeans, Jobs presented his proposal for a new Apple campus in a surprise appearance at Tuesday night's city council meeting.
"We've come up with a design that puts 12,000 people in one building," Jobs told the city council. "It's a pretty amazing building. It's a little like a spaceship landed."
The new facility would be built on nearly 150 acres of land Apple purchased from Hewlett Packard.
The space is currently mostly asphalt with some landscaping, which Jobs said he wanted to increase by doubling the trees on the property.
Jobs envisioned curved four-story building with a parking garage underneath and a courtyard in the middle.
Amenities would include an on-site energy center, auditorium, cafeteria, and fitness center.
Groundbreaking for the new campus would take place next year with a scheduled opening in 2015.
Apple is the largest employer in Cupertino.
Roughly 2,800 people work in the main campus while the remaining 12,000 work in rented buildings throughout the city.
Jobs originally announced the plan to build a new campus in April 2006. "Apple's grown like a weed," Jobs said. "We need the building we've got, but we need another one to augment it."
Public Outraged at Alameda Police for Inaction in Crown Beach Drowning
The Alameda Police Department Wednesday released 911 calls and a timeline of events surrounding the death of a man who intentionally drowned at Crown Beach on Memorial Day while rescuers watched from the shore for almost an hour, prompting outrage from the public.
"He's trying to drown himself," 53-year-old Raymond Zack's elderly mother told a 911 dispatcher in the calls released Wednesday. "Hurry up, he's way out there. He doesn't swim. Please hurry."
Zack had waded about 150 yards into the water near the 2100 block of Shoreline Drive.
He had tried to commit suicide before, his mother, Dolores Berry, told the dispatcher at 11:33 a.m.
Emergency responders arrived on scene just minutes later, but they watched from the beach as Zack eventually lost consciousness and was brought to shore by a good Samaritan, according to the police transcript.
Zack later died at a local hospital.
Fire department protocol prohibited rescuers from going into the water because their water-rescue certification had lapsed, the fire department's acting deputy chief of operations, Daren Olson, said the day after the drowning.
According to the transcript, police contacted the U.S. Coast Guard at 11:32 a.m., two minutes after the first call was made to 911, to request a rescue boat and helicopter for Zack.
The Coast Guard said its crews were about 40 minutes out, so the Alameda Police Department contacted the sheriff's office, Oakland Police Department, and Alameda County Fire Department in search of a closer boat.
None of the agencies could offer faster assistance, according to the transcript.
The day after the drowning, the fire department changed its policy so rescue swimmers could be sent into the water at the discretion of the incident commander on scene, acting city manager Lisa Goldman said at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
The department has 30 volunteers scheduled for rescue swimmer training, including 16 who will begin the certification process next week, she said.
The city will also conduct an independent review and is compiling documents relevant to the incident, Mayor Marie Gilmore said at the meeting.
The materials will include transcripts, timelines and department memos regarding water-rescue training.
Oakland Parents Raise Funds After School Safe Stolen
Burglars who stole a safe from the principal's office at an East Oakland elementary school over the weekend messed with the wrong students, according to a group of parents preparing to fight back.
The safe at Grass Valley Elementary School, one of two schools targeted over the weekend, contained about $800 when it was pulled from its foundation on either Saturday night or Sunday, Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint said.
A cache of electronics was also taken from Redwoods Heights Elementary School, at 4401 39th Ave., which is missing computers, projection systems and other devices, Flint said.
No suspects have been arrested in either case, and it was not yet clear if the burglaries were related.
Some of the money taken from Grass Valley had been raised by parent volunteers, who are handing out flyers and holding a community meeting to prevent any future thefts at the school, Oakland Unified employee and Grass Valley parent Robin Moore said.
"We are appalled that someone came in to our school and stole from our children," said Moore, whose son is in the first grade. "The school doesn't have any money whatsoever, the district doesn't have any money. So we fundraise."
The parents have spent countless hours organizing concession stands, raffles, dinners, yard sales and other fundraisers, she said.
They cook for school events such as PTA meetings and Black History Month, and try to make sure the roughly 285 students at Grass Valley get to participate in field trips and other social events.
"We value each other, and teach our kids to value and respect themselves and others," Moore said. "We're pissed."
Flint said break-ins are a recurring problem for Oakland Unified, although not necessarily at Redwood Heights or Grass Valley.
The weekend theft was the first Moore knows of at Grass Valley, she said, but parents are acting now to "nip it in the bud."
Stabbing Victim Found in Storage Unit Identified
The San Mateo County coroner's office has identified the body of a man who was found stabbed to death at a San Mateo storage facility Tuesday as that of 33-year-old Pacifica resident Justin Lockwood.
Lockwood's body was found at about 1:30 p.m. on the property of All American Self Storage at 2000 E. Third Ave., at Detroit Drive.
Police established a crime scene perimeter and spent Tuesday afternoon and night combing the storage facility for evidence, interviewing potential witnesses, and launching a search for information to reconstruct the events that led to the homicide.
As of Wednesday night, detectives had not yet identified a suspect in the homicide.
Body Found Near UCSC
The body of a 25-year-old man was found Wednesday morning near the University of California at Santa Cruz campus, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The man was found by a passing bicyclist around 8 a.m. on Empire Grade Road south of Heller Drive, according to the CHP.
It appears the man was hit by a vehicle as he was riding his bicycle and that the vehicle's driver fled afterward, the CHP said.
The man is a resident of Santa Cruz, but his name is being withheld pending notification of his family.
The vehicle that struck him was either a maroon or metallic burgundy-colored Nissan or Infinity that has sustained some damage, according to the CHP.
The CHP is investigating the hit-and-run collision and asks any witnesses or anyone with information to call (831) 662-0511.
Arson Suspected in Wednesday's Fires
Two fires that broke out simultaneously at homes a block away from each other in the Berkeley hills early Wednesday morning may have been caused by arson but there is no definitive proof at this time, Berkeley Fire Chief Debra Pryor said.
Pryor said fire crews first responded to a report of a fire at a home at 548 Cragmont Ave. at 12:43 a.m.
A firefighter on his way to that house noticed a second blaze at 494 Cragmont Ave. and diverted to that house, she said.
At 548 Cragmont Ave., a vehicle that was parked in the driveway apparently ignited and the blaze then transferred to an outside building -- a combination of a garage and storage area -- but did not transfer to the house, Pryor said.
The fire was soon brought under control and no one was injured, she said.
Pryor said the cause of the blaze has not been determined and "arson hasn't been ruled out."
However, she said there is no firm evidence of arson, as no ignition sources have been found.
Pryor said the fire at 494 Cragmont Ave. was small and was confined to an area outside the house and that the firefighter who diverted to that blaze was able to put it out quickly with a fire extinguisher.
She said at this time fire officials "are considering that it was a coincidence" that the two fires occurred at the same time a block away from each other but they are concerned just the same.
The residents of the two homes were evacuated temporarily while the fires were being extinguished, but they were allowed to go back into their homes after a short time because there was no fire or smoke damage to the homes, Pryor said.
She said damage estimates for either fire were not yet available.
Man Killed on 101 in Palo Alto Identified
A man who was struck and killed on southbound U.S. Highway 101 in Palo Alto early Wednesday morning has been identified by the Santa Clara County medical examiner's office as 63-year-old Sidney Brown.
Brown, a resident of South San Francisco, was either standing or attempting to cross the freeway near Oregon Expressway when at about 2:50 a.m. a Honda Civic struck him in the No. 2 lane, according to California Highway Patrol Sgt. Paul McCarthy. McCarthy said the impact caused Brown to fly over the hood of the car, through the windshield and land in the passenger seat of the Civic.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver of the Civic, a 71-year-old San Jose man, suffered minor lacerations on his hand. He was not cited or arrested. Alcohol does not appear to be a factor in the collision, McCarthy said.
Parking Near Golden Gate Park Impacted Due to Sinkhole
Several parking spots along San Francisco's Golden Gate Park will be inaccessible for the next few weeks because of a water leak that caused a sinkhole about 10 feet in diameter on the north side of Lincoln Way, a public utilities spokeswoman said.
The leak, which occurred near Funston Avenue and Lincoln Way, probably started on Tuesday, but the city's dispatch center was not informed of it until about noon Wednesday, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission spokeswoman Suzanne Gautier said.
The leak damaged the parking lane on Lincoln Way near the intersection as well as the curb and a nearby light pole, she said.
Crews will probably need a few weeks to repair the damage, and the parking lane on the westbound side of Lincoln Way will be blocked off during that time, Gautier said. One lane of eastbound traffic was also blocked off for a couple of hours Wednesday while crews investigated the leak.
Sandwich Shop Robber Arrested in Pittsburg
A man suspected of robbing the Subway sandwich shop in San Rafael last month was arrested in Pittsburg Wednesday, police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher said.
The robbery suspect ordered two sandwiches at the eatery in the Marin Square Shopping Center on Bellam Boulevard around 4:45 p.m. on May 27, Rohrbacher said.
When the cashier rang up the sale, the robber pulled out a black semi-automatic handgun and demanded cash, Rohrbacher said.
The robber fled with two sandwiches, two soft drinks and cash.
The robbery was filmed on the store's surveillance camera and widely viewed on TV and the web, leading to valuable investigative leads, Rohrbacher said.
Police identified 43-year-old Arthur Luis Martinez as the suspect, Rohrbacher said.
The robbery victim identified him from a photo and an arrest warrant was issued, Rohrbacher said.
Detectives learned he was possibly in the East Bay and he was spotted eating lunch around 1 p.m. outside Carnitas Tijuana on Railroad Avenue in Pittsburg, Rohrbacher said.
San Rafael and Pittsburg police took Martinez into custody without incident and he was booked into Marin County Jail for armed robbery, Rohrbacher said.
Police and other law enforcement agencies are investigating whether Martinez was involved in other unsolved Bay Area robberies, Rohrbacher said.