SF News

Swat Team Responds To Possible Hostage Situation, No Hostage Found

A SWAT team and crisis negotiators were called to a possible hostage situation in San Francisco's Sunnydale neighborhood Wednesday night, but it appears there never was a hostage, a San Francisco police sergeant said.

A person called police at 9:18 p.m. to report an unknown suspect had called and told him that his relatives were being held hostage at their home, which police learned was located in the 100 block of Blythedale Ave.San Francisco police Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.

Officers arrived at the home and tried to talk to the residents on the phone, but were unsuccessful, Andraychak said. 

After police could not contact the residents, a SWAT team and crisis negotiators were dispatched to the area, he said.

Officers called the residents again to no avail, police said.

Around midnight, police reached the residents on the phone. The residents said there was no merit to claims of a hostage situation and told police they could enter the home, according to Andraychak.

Tactical officers entered the home and determined the residents, a 30- to 35-year-old husband and wife and two small children, were safe and no suspects were inside.

The case is now under investigation, police said.

 

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Superior Court Announces Reduced Hours At All Clerks' Offices Caused By Budget Cuts

The San Francisco Superior Court today announced reduced hours of its clerks' offices to adjust to deep budget cuts and staff layoffs put in motion last month.

Beginning Oct. 3, all criminal and civil clerks' offices will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., court Chief Executive Officer Michael Yuen announced.

The change will be a reduction of one hour per day in the clerks' offices of the criminal and traffic divisions at the Hall of Justice. Those offices have previously been open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The civil clerks' office hours at the court's Civic Center Courthouse were previously decreased to the 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule and thus will remain the same.

The changes will not go into effect until Oct. 3 because state law requires a 60-day notice.

The schedule change is part of a drastic restructuring of the court announced July 18 by Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein in response to funding slashes in the current state budget.

Twenty-five civil courtrooms, out of a total of 63 civil and criminal courtrooms, will be closed indefinitely, and 200 of the court's 480 employees -- or 40 percent -- are being laid off.

The closed courtrooms include 14 out of 17 civil trial departments, leaving only three courtrooms open for civil trials and causing delays of up to five years in some cases, Yuen said.

Criminal courtrooms at the Hall of Justice will remain in operation because criminal cases are a priority under state law. 

"The court regrets having to limit access to our clerks' offices and close these busy civil departments," Yuen said. "But we simply will not have enough staff to handle the filings or staff the judges on any given day.

"Employees will need time to process and file documents that pile up due to the lack of adequate staffing -- and even then, backlogged filings will persist for many months and civil cases will languish for up to five years," Yuen said.

The court currently has a deficit of $6.2 million out of a $65 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, Yuen said.

The amount is less than the $13.75 million deficit estimated by Feinstein last month; the difference is caused by $1.5 million more than expected in state funding, among other factors, Yuen said.

But Yuen said the revised deficit is not reduced enough to avert the changes required by an expected cumulative budget gap of $20.4 million over the next three years, resulting from budget measures already taken by the state Legislature, even if no further funding cuts are made.

The layoffs of 40 percent of the court's staff should save $17 million of that amount over three years, said court spokeswoman Ann Donlan.

"Looking at the multi-year process, if we don't have any more cuts, we hope we won't have to lay off any more employees," Donlan said.

Yuen said, "We must prepare for what's coming -- fee increases that expire in 2013, the sunset of one-time temporary fund shifts that do not address the structural deficit that has built up over four years of state budget cuts, and wishful increases in state revenue that are unlikely to materialize amid this enduring economic downturn."

The 200 workers who are losing their jobs include clerical and administrative staff, research attorneys and 11 of the court's 12 commissioners, who conduct hearings on matters such as traffic court cases. 

The court's 51 civil and criminal judges cannot be laid off because they are constitutional officers. But some will be assigned to other duties, such as taking over the hearings now conducted by commissioners, Feinstein said last month.

The San Francisco court is undergoing deeper cuts than some other superior courts in the state partly because it previously dipped into reserve funds to avoid layoffs and is no longer able to do so.

An audit of the court conducted by the state Judicial Council last year also noted some financial management problems, which court officials said they would correct.

 

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Man Dies In Boating Collision Near Hunters Point

A father and son whose dinghy overturned in the waters near San Francisco's Hunters Point today were rescued, but one of the men has died, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The dinghy collided with a motor vessel around 12:25 p.m., causing the dinghy to flip over and the father and son to be thrown into the water, Coast Guard Seaman Adam Stanton said.

The father was able to climb on top of the capsized hull, but his son, who is in his 20s, was trapped underneath the dinghy, he said.

The Coast Guard learned of the accident and dispatched a 25-foot response boat and helicopter to the scene. Both were rescued and taken to Oyster Point, where one was given CPR, San Francisco fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.

The victims were taken to San Francisco General Hospital by ambulance.

This afternoon, the father had been in stable condition, but Stanton said he did not know the son's condition.

Medical officials reported that one of the two men later died.

The South San Francisco Fire Department and the San Francisco Fire Department provided assistance.

The Brisbane City Police Department is investigating the capsizing and asks that anyone with information related to the accident contact the department at (415) 467-1212.

 

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Attempted Murder Charge Dropped in Shooting by Haight Market Employee

An employee at a market on San Francisco's Haight Street accused of shooting a customer in the back during a dispute over a dog in February had attempted murder charges dropped against him today but was ordered to stand trial on lesser charges in the case.

Sam Kazzouh, 44, is accused of the Feb. 9 shooting at Fred's New Lite Market, a store located at 1416 Haight St. near Masonic Avenue that is owned by his brother Fred.

The victim, a man named Michael Stafford, got into an argument earlier that day with Sam Kazzouh, who had allegedly kicked Stafford's tan Chihuahua named Gizmo while it was in the store, police and prosecutors said.

As the argument escalated, Kazzouh allegedly retrieved a gun and fired three shots at Stafford, one of which struck him in the back. He survived the shooting but is now paralyzed as a result of his injuries, prosecutors said.

Kazzouh was arrested shortly afterward and pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury, and discharge of a firearm in a grossly negligent manner.

Gizmo, the dog at the center of the argument, died less than two weeks later when it was run over by a car at the intersection of Haight Street and Masonic Avenue. It was being cared for by one of Stafford's friends, police said.

At a preliminary hearing in San Francisco Superior Court today, several people testified who had been in the market before and during the argument and subsequent shooting.

Kevin Lee, a customer at the store, said Kazzouh originally got out a knife and tried to get Stafford to leave the store but he refused, saying "I'm going to gut you."

Kazzouh then went to get a gun and asked him again to leave, and Stafford allegedly said "Go ahead and shoot me," Lee said. 

Police Officer Michael Diskin, the first officer at the scene following the shooting, said he was down the street when he heard gunshots and ran up to find the victim lying on the sidewalk.

Diskin said he went inside and found Kazzouh with the gun and arrested him.

Sgt. Reese Burrows, who interviewed Kazzouh following the shooting, said he admitted to kicking the dog after saying "he was in a mood" that day.

Burrows said Kazzouh told him that Stafford left after the initial confrontation over the dog, but came back several minutes later when the shooting occurred.

Donald Todd, who was working as a volunteer at the store at the time, said Stafford was "very loud and abrasive" during the argument.

Adam Huber, who lives nearby, said he heard Stafford say after initially leaving the store that he was "going to come back and finish (Kazzouh) off."

Kazzouh's attorney, Christopher Hite from the public defender's office, said the testimony provided "ample evidence ... that he felt he had to defend himself."

Assistant District Attorney Michele Dawson, who is prosecuting the case, countered that Stafford was unarmed and was shot in the back while trying to flee the store.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Suzanne Bolanos said there was not sufficient evidence to hold Kazzouh on the attempted murder charge, but ordered him to stand trial on the assault and firearm charges.

Bolanos also ordered the bail for Kazzouh to be reduced from $300,000 to $75,000 in light of the reduced charges in the case, over the objection of Dawson, who said Kazzouh was a public safety risk.

Kazzouh will return to court on Aug. 17 to be formally arraigned on the assault and firearm charges.

 

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Father, Son Rescued After Boating Accident Near Hunters Point

A father and son whose dinghy overturned in the waters near San Francisco's Hunters Point have been rescued, according to a U.S. Coast Guard seaman.

The dinghy collided with a motor vessel around 12:25 p.m., causing the dinghy to flip over and the father and son to be thrown into the water, Coast Guard Seaman Adam Stanton said.

The father was able to climb on top of the capsized hull, but his son, who is in his 20s, was trapped underneath the dinghy, he said.

The Coast Guard learned of the accident and dispatched a 25-foot response boat and helicopter to the scene. Both were rescued and taken to Oyster Point, where one was given CPR, San Francisco Fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.

The victims were taken to San Francisco General Hospital by ambulance.

The father is in stable condition, but Stanton said he did not know the son's condition.

The South San Francisco Fire Department and the San Francisco Fire Department provided assistance.

 

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Muni Robbery Suspect Arrested After Suffering Seizure

A man was arrested Tuesday after allegedly robbing a woman on a San Francisco Municipal Railway light-rail vehicle and then suffering a seizure when he was confronted by a witness, police said.

The robbery was reported at about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday on Muni'K-Ingleside line in the area of Ocean and Phelan avenues near City College of San Francisco.

The 20-year-old victim was sitting next to the suspect when he took out a knife and demanded her property. The woman complied, handing over her cellphone, driver's license and cash, according to police.

A bystander overheard the interaction and confronted the suspect, who then suffered the seizure, police said.

The suspect was taken into custody by police and transported to San Francisco General Hospital for treatment, according to police. Police said he is 39 years old but have not released his name.

The victim, who was not injured, got her property back, police said.

 

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Man Ordered To Stand Trial For Hitting, Killing Bicyclist From Germany

An Oakland man accused of hitting and killing a bicyclist with his car in San Francisco's North of Panhandle neighborhood last year was ordered today to stand trial in the case.

On the night of Aug. 13, 2010, Joshua Calder, 37, was driving south on Masonic Avenue near Turk Street when he allegedly struck 21-year-old Nils Linke, who was visiting the U.S. from Germany.

According to police and prosecutors, Linke was also riding south on Masonic Avenue and was struck from behind by an older-model Mercedes-Benz. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Calder allegedly fled the scene, but was found about two blocks away after witnesses gave police a description of the vehicle.

He pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, drunken driving, and hit-and-run, prosecutors said.

At the preliminary hearing in the case, which started on July 25 but was delayed for a week before it finished today, Calder's defense attorney Daniel Barton admitted that his client had been drinking before the crash but denied that his blood-alcohol content was above the legal limit.

Assistant District Attorney Todd Barrett countered that Calder had the equivalent of seven alcoholic drinks in his system, as well as THC from smoking marijuana.

Barrett alleged that Calder had been speeding and had swerved in the road prior to striking Linke, but Barton said that there is insufficient evidence that Calder had been driving negligently prior to the accident. 

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Newton Lam ordered Calder to stand trial on all of the charges, noting that police investigators found no skid marks on the road that would indicate that he was driving safely and tried to stop before striking Linke.

Calder will return to court on Sept. 1 to be formally arraigned on the charges.

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday News Roundup

Family Members and Friends Await Judge's Verdict on UC Berkeley Hikers Detained in Iran

Family members of two University of California at Berkeley graduates who have been detained in Iran on espionage charges for two years hope they will be freed later this week.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, and a third UC Berkeley graduate, Sarah Shourd, were arrested on July 31, 2009, after embarking on a hike in Iraq's Kurdistan region near the Iranian border.

Iran has accused them of espionage, but the hikers and their families say they aren't spies but instead were detained after they accidentally crossed an unmarked border into Iran.

Iran released Shourd, 32, who is engaged to Bauer, last September because she was in poor health. Shourd announced in May that she would not return to Iran for a trial because she is suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Iranian authorities held a four-hour hearing for Bauer and Fattal on Sunday, according to a statement issued by Shourd and the men's families. 

The families said the attorney for Bauer and Fattal, Masoud Shafii, told them that the judge in the case announced in court that he would issue his verdict within a week.    

Bauer and Fattal again testified as to their innocence, and Shaffii had an opportunity to present their defense, according to the family's account.

Shourd and the families of Bauer and Fattal led a rally outside the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York on Friday to demand that Bauer and Fattal be released.

Nine-Year-Old Boy Saves Two From Near-Drowning Incident

A 9-year-old boy who helped save the lives of a 3-year-old girl and her grandfather after finding them floating face down in a San Jose pool on Monday is the city's latest hero.

"He just feels very proud of himself," San Jose fire Capt. Mary Gutierrez said of Isheen Singh.

"He said, 'I'm very proud that I was able to save her,'" Gutierrez said.

Isheen was among 10 to 12 people who had been hanging out by the pool at an apartment complex at 355 South Kiely Blvd. around 1 p.m. when he noticed two bodies floating in the deep end.

He dove in and pushed the little girl to the side of the pool while other residents helped pull her out. Meanwhile, a woman dove in and pushed the man to the side of the pool, and he was also pulled from the water, Gutierrez said.

Bystanders administered chest compressions on both the man and the little girl until firefighters arrived.

Firefighters arrived within four minutes and found the man and child lying by the side of the pool. They were breathing but were unconscious and unresponsive, she said.

As of Monday evening, the little girl was doing well but her grandfather was in serious condition, Gutierrez said.

She said it is likely the girl was underwater for about three minutes that and her grandfather had been underwater for anywhere from three to five minutes.

Last week, a man came to the rescue of a 6-year-old girl and her father at another housing complex pool in San Jose. He found both at the bottom of the pool, pulled them out and helped resuscitate them.

Fire Chief William McDonald will present the Singh with a special award for his heroism today at 11:30 a.m. at Fire Station 14, 1201 San Tomas Aquino Road.

Participation in Oakland's National Night Out Continues to Increase

Oakland's participation in the National Night Out tradition has increased dramatically in recent years, growing from 35 parties in 2004 to 559 parties this year, a new city record and largest number in the Bay Area.

The nonprofit National Association of Town Watch started the tradition 28 years ago.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan started the evening's events with a short speech at Frank Ogawa Plaza, before 75 teams of police, firefighters and other government employees fanned out to introduce themselves to residents.

"How can we strengthen community policing?" Quan asked, saying that she would be visiting numerous parties in some of the areas with the highest unemployment and violent crime.

Chief of Police Anthony Batts followed Quan by addressing Oakland's recent spike in violent crime.

He has been in communication with police chiefs in several other Bay Area cities. "Each is having a spike in crime," he said.

Batts said he would be visiting several parties himself to "tell residents how much we appreciate them."

San Quentin Prisoners Perform Shakespeare Play

"If music be the food of love, play on ..." are perhaps not words one expects to hear in the halls of San Quentin State Prison.

This Friday, however, 13 inmates will perform one of Shakespeare's most popular romantic comedies in front of more than 300 of their peers.

Marin Shakespeare Company's Suraya Keating has worked with the inmates once a week for two hours a day over the past 10 months. The performers practiced songs, learned dance moves, and rehearsed lines for an adaptation of "Twelfth Night."

The Marin Shakespeare Company, which normally performs at Dominican University's Forest Meadows, began the program at San Quentin eight years ago and Lesley Currier, the company's managing director, said the enthusiastic response from participating inmates and the audience has been overwhelming.

Currier credits the acting experience with helping inmates to improve their self-confidence, enhance their conflict resolution skills, and learn to express emotions. She said that over the years she has seen the participants transform before her eyes.

Currier, who is also performing in the play as one of the show's three female characters, said that after all the hard work invested in the play, the participants would love to do more than just one performance -- but due to security issues, putting on even one show is a hurdle.

Keating and the performers are using a script adapted by Lesley Currier and her husband Robert Currier, the artistic director of Marin Shakespeare Company.

The Curriers' version keeps the original language, with a few exceptions, but has been modernized to take place in the 1960s. The actors will be lip-syncing and dancing to music from the period, including songs by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Federal Appeals Count Upholds San Diego State Policy on Sororities and Fraternities

A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Tuesday upheld a policy by San Diego State University to refuse to recognize a Christian sorority and a Christian fraternity as official student groups.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based its ruling on a similar case in which the Supreme Court last year upheld the denial by Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco of official student group status to the Christian Legal Society.

Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson wrote, "Constitutionally speaking... San Diego State's policy is not materially different" from the policy approved by the Supreme Court in the Hasting case.

"The university's policy does not violate plaintiffs' rights of free speech and expressive association," Pregerson wrote. 

"Plaintiffs are free to express any message they wish, and may include or exclude members on whatever basis they like; they simply cannot oblige the university to subsidize them as they do so," the court said.  

In the San Diego State case, the student sorority Alpha Delta Chi and the fraternity Alpha Gamma Omega required members to be Christians.

The university said that requirement violated a policy barring official student groups from discriminating on the basis of factors such as religion, race and gender.

At Hastings, the Christian Legal Society barred members who were nonbelievers or engage in "unrepentant homosexual conduct."

In both cases, the non-recognized groups were denied university funding, free publicity in student newsletters and free meeting rooms. But the groups could still hand out flyers on school property, recruit student members and rent university rooms for meetings.

One difference between the two cases was that Hastings required groups to open membership to all interested students, while San Diego State had a narrower policy barring discrimination against specific categories of students.

But the appeals court said the Supreme Court's ruling applied to San Diego State as well.

The court sent the case back to a federal trial judge in San Diego, however, to consider a second claim in which the sorority and fraternity allege that the policy is enforced unfairly.

Opponents of Train Connecting Sonoma and Marin Gather Petition Signatures

Opponents of the proposed passenger train between Sonoma and Marin counties have announced that they will gather signatures on petitions to repeal the 20-year, quarter-cent sales tax measure voters approved in 2008 for the project.

RepealSMART spokesman Clay Mitchell said in a news release the proposed 70-mile rail and pedestrian path between Cloverdale and Larkspur "has been chopped to a fraction" of what was promised to voters.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District is now proposing to build 37 miles of rail line and pathway between the downtowns of San Rafael and Santa Rosa because of less than anticipated sales tax revenue and increased costs to build the entire rail line and pathway.

The RepealSMART organization must gather 37,314 valid signatures of Marin and Sonoma counties' voters within six months to place the issue on the ballot next year.

Mitchell said repealing the sales tax measure will give SMART a "strategic timeout to re-evaluate their plan and come back to the voters with an accurate, effective and fully funded plan."

Valerie Brown, chair of SMART's board of directors, said that the district has been transparent with the rising costs of the project and that all transportation projects in the country are also dealing with that issue.

SMART originally estimated the project between Cloverdale and Larkspur would cost $541 million.

When that estimate rose to $695 million in the fall of 2010, SMART's board of directors cited a $350 million funding gap and proposed building the line in segments.

The first segment would be between Railroad Square in Santa Rosa and the Marin Civic Center. In January, the SMART board expanded that first segment to include downtown San Rafael.

In July, Farhad Mansourian, SMART's acting executive director, recommended proceeding with that initial segment. Though Marsourian estimated the total cost of the initial segment would be $403.8 million, he also forecast $407 million in available revenue.

SMART's board of directors is scheduled to discuss the latest cost and revenue projections in Mansourian's report on Aug. 17.

El Dorado County District Attorney Report Criticizes Garrido's Law Enforcement Failures

El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson has released a report blasting law enforcement failures related to Phillip Garrido, who was on parole when he and his wife kidnapped 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard in 1991 and held her captive for 18 years.

The report, released Tuesday, argues that despite improvements in federal and state parole supervision, law enforcement continues to rely too heavily on psychiatric evaluations of criminals to determine whether a person should be granted parole and to evaluate the level of risk they would pose to the public if paroled.

It also argues that the systemic flaws that led to Garrido's early release from prison could allow similar mistakes to be made again if further reforms to the system are not made.

While some reforms have been made to the system, Pierson's report argues that criminals like Garrido continue to be evaluated by what he calls a "dysfunctional process."

The report was released in anticipation of a meeting scheduled for today in Sacramento in which Pierson, Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, law enforcement leaders and victims' rights organizations plan to discuss possible state legislative reforms to better protect society from people like Garrido.

16-Year-Old Arreseted for Barber Shop Robbery

Antioch police reported a 16-year-old boy, originally the subject of a statewide Amber Alert, was arrested Tuesday in connection with a Monday barber shop robbery.

Police say the boy has admitted his involvement in the robbery, as well as the feigning of his kidnapping.

The robbery occurred at Al's Barber Shop, 11 W. 18th St., at about 3:40 p.m. Monday, police said.

Tuesday evening, police served a search warrant at an apartment in the 3100 block of Lone Tree Way in Antioch and arrested Eric Lerone Walker, 23, as the suspected gunman in the robbery.

According to police, the sawed-off shotgun believed to have been used in the robbery was located in a van during a search of the premises, along with items stolen during the robbery.

Al Holmes, who works at the barbershop, said Tuesday that he was in the shop alone when the gunman came in.

He said the man pointed the gun at his head and threatened toshoot him if he didn't do what he was told.

While this was happening, the boy, Hasaan Ameer Ford, who did odd jobs around the business, came back from running an errand, Holmes said.

The gunman stole Holmes' keys and wallet and appeared to force the teenager at gunpoint into Holmes' SUV, Holmes said.

Holmes reported the incident and police issued a statewide Amber Alert for Ford.

Investigators later heard from the boy's family that his captor had released him.

SFMTA's Board of Directors Vote to Increase City Taxi Fares and Number of Taxicabs

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's Board of Directors on Tuesday voted both to increase city taxi fares and the total number of taxicabs on city streets, SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said.

Rose said the board unanimously approved a flag drop rate increase by from $3.10 to $3.50. The flag drop rate is the amount of money on the meter when a passenger enters a taxi, Rose said.

According to Rose, the rate increase goes into effect in 30 days.

The board also voted 6-1 to increase the number of taxis driving in San Francisco, Rose said.

Currently, Rose said there are around 1,500 authorized taxis driving in the city. In 90 days, paperwork will be complete for the issuance of 85 new taxi medallions, according to Rose.

Rose said 50 of the new medallions will be for part-time single operators, which limit holders to driving for no more than 60 hours per week. 

Thirty-five of the new medallions will be issued for full-time taxicabs, and Rose said these enable holders to have drivers working up to two 10-hour shifts per day.

Another two medallions will be issued specifically for 'battery switch' electric taxis which will also be able to drive full time, Rose said.

The two electric cabs won't be in service until 2012.

In May, the board approved a 10-cent increase to taxi rates from 45 to 55 cents per fifth of a mile or minute of wait time.

Lanes Painted on Golden Gate Bridge Sidewalk to Separate Bicyclists and Pedestrians

New painted lanes advising bicyclists and pedestrians to stay on separate sides of the Golden Gate Bridge sidewalk were completed Tuesday, according to officials at the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.

 

The lanes are intended to help guide pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the iconic bridge, after they were crowded together following the closure of the western sidewalk in May.

The western sidewalk is currently closed for about four months of earthquake retrofitting work, and will reopen by Sept. 30, district officials said. Ordinarily, the western sidewalk is reserved for bicyclists and the eastern sidewalk is shared by both pedestrians and bicyclists.

Moving bicyclists to the eastern sidewalk has caused much more congestion and confusion for travelers on the bridge, as up-to-4,600 bicyclists previously used the western sidewalk on a daily basis, officials said.

Officials have reported two solo bicycle accidents on the bridge during the two months since the closure, while in the last three years, only four accidents have been reported each year.

Ongoing discussions of bridge safety have been partly spurred by a proposal from the transportation district to enforce a speed limit on cyclists crossing the bridge because of concerns about the cyclist safety.

There have been 164 bicycle-involved accidents reported over the past 10 years, most of which were solo accidents. Speed contributed to 39 percent of the incidents, according to the transportation district.

The speed limit proposal has drawn skepticism from local bicycle activists.

Currie said that the new advisories seem to be working well, and that the speed limit idea will not be examined again until September at the earliest.

Currie said that once the western sidewalk is reopened, another four months of work is planned for the eastern sidewalk. That sidewalk will need to be closed, significantly reducing access for pedestrians.

Weapons Stolen From Concord Home Still Missing

Albany police said Tuesday there are still weapons missing following the recovery of 22 stolen shotguns and rifles at a Concord home last Thursday.

Investigators are still seeking more firearms that were taken from an Albany home in a burglary reported late last month.

Police received a report of a home burglary in the 800 block of Hillside Avenue in Albany on July 26. The reporting party said the burglary had occurred sometime within the previous several days.

Three people, including a mother and daughter, were arrested at a Richmond motel in connection with the theft, in which precious heirlooms and a stamp collection were taken along with the cache of guns.

Police arrested the suspects -- Deanna Wilkinson, 64, her 35-year-old daughter Denise Wilkinson, of El Cerrito, and 38-year-old Gustavo Ramos, of Vallejo -- last Wednesday after they were found to be in possession of items connected to the burglary.

All three were arraigned on Friday, according to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. 

Deanna Wilkinson was charged with receiving stolen property. Her daughter is facing charges of receiving stolen property and residential burglary. Ramos faces three charges -- weapon possession by a felon, residential burglary and receiving stolen property, district attorney's office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said.

The trio was tracked down after a neighbor gave police a description of a suspicious vehicle seen in the driveway of the Albany home. 

The investigation led police to serve search warrants at homes in the 1100 block of in Monterey Street in Vallejo and the 2800 block of Loma Vista in Concord early Thursday morning.

No weapons were found in Vallejo, but 22 firearms were recovered at the Concord home with the help of Concord police. 

Police believe the weapons were awaiting sale to local gang members.

Massey Pleads No Contest to Murder

Jess Willard Massey pleaded no contest on Tuesday in Napa County Superior Court to the murder of Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician Donna Gross last year.

A court spokeswoman said Massey, 38, who was a patient at the hospital, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 23.

Robbery and kidnapping charges were dismissed against Massey in return for his no contest plea, the court spokeswoman said.

Massey had pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity last month to the strangulation murder on Oct. 23.

Two doctors were to evaluate Massey's mental health and report to Napa County Superior Court Judge Mark Boessenecker this week.

Massey was held over for trial in May on the murder, robbery and kidnapping charges.

Gross, 54, of Concord died of asphyxiation after she was attacked in an enclosed courtyard at the Napa hospital.

Gross took a dinner break around 4:30 p.m. She bought gum at a Target store and checked back in at the hospital at 5:15 p.m., Napa County Sheriff's Capt. Tracey Stuart said.

She was robbed of jewelry, gum and less than $2, Stuart said.

Gross's watch, two necklaces and her earrings were found in Massey's room and the gum was found in a trash can on Massey's ward, Stuart said.

The sheriff's office believed Massey used his hands and arms to strangle Gross, Stuart said.

Massey was sent to Napa State Hospital after pleading not guilty by reason of insanity to stabbing a woman in a Sacramento parking garage in May 1996.

San Jose City Council Votes to Annex Neighborhood in Unincorporated Santa Clara County

The San Jose City Council on Tuesday voted to move forward with a deal agreement that would annex a neighborhood in unincorporated Santa Clara County to the city of Campbell.

The council voted 10-1 to authorize City Manager Debra Figone to finalize negotiations with the city of Campbell under which Campbell would annex the 103-acre neighborhood known as Cambrian 36.

As part of the deal, Campbell would pay San Jose $200,000 every year for the next five years following the annexation, in order to offset lost revenue.

Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio cast the sole dissenting vote.

"This has been a long time coming," said Councilman Pete Constant. "I'm thankful to the residents that have stuck with it because it because it has been a very long and painful process."

The city agreed in 2006 to annex all unincorporated areas that are 150 acres or less by April 15, 2011, as part of a lawsuit settlement agreement between the city and Santa Clara County.

Over the last 4.5 years, the city has annexed more than 1,200 acres and gained nearly 16,000 residents.

The annexation has brought about changes in municipal services, shifting the authority of services such as garbage, police and fire from the county to the city instead of the county.

Many of the 1,000 residents who live in Cambrian 36 prefer to annex to Campbell or remain part of an unincorporated area because they are concerned that annexing to San Jose will result in significant reductions in basic safety services due to the city's budget deficit.

Opponents of the annexation have argued that it would result in slower response times with the nearest San Jose fire station being four times farther away than the nearest county station.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather

The Bay Area is forecast to be cloudy with patchy fog this morning, becoming partly cloudy, with highs in the 50s to upper 60s.

It is expected to be partly cloudy this evening, becoming cloudy with patchy fog and drizzle expected after midnight. Lows are expected to be in the mid 50s.

Thursday is expected to be cloudy with patchy fog and drizzle in the morning, becoming partly cloudy, with highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s.

 

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Supes Approve Permit Allowing Cafes, Restaurants To Host Live Music

 The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday gave unanimous
initial approval to legislation creating a new, cheaper permit that would
allow cafes and restaurants to host live music.
    The "limited live performance" permits would be available to
businesses whose primary function is not the presentation of live
performances, and would cost $385 with an annual $139 renewal fee -- well
under the $2,000-plus cost of a normal entertainment permit.
    Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who introduced the legislation, said
that about 700 cafes and restaurants in the city would be eligible for the
permit.
    Mirkarimi said the new permit "can help dispel any notion" that
San Francisco is not as inviting to musicians as other cities like New York
or Austin, Texas.
    Performances would have to end by 10 p.m., although after a year
of holding the permit, businesses would be eligible to extend performances to
11 p.m.
    Before the legislation was approved, Board President David Chiu
and Supervisor Mark Farrell proposed amendments to exclude businesses in
certain high-density neighborhoods -- such as North Beach, Polk Street, Union
Street and Chestnut Street -- from the 11 p.m. performance extension.
    Farrell also proposed an amendment creating an opt-in notice
system in which residents could sign up to be notified when an application
for the permit is submitted in their neighborhood.
    Before Tuesday's vote, Mirkarimi hosted a rally outside City Hall
with music by the group Jazz Mafia. The board is expected to give final
approval to the legislation after its August recess.

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Deshon Marman Supporters To Deliver Signatures To U.S. Airways Asking For Apology

  The family and supporters of a man arrested at San Francisco
International Airport
in June after allegedly ignoring instructions to pull
up his sagging pants on a U.S. Airways flight are headed to the airport this
morning to seek an apology.
    The group is delivering nearly 40,000 signatures on a petition
asking for U.S. Airways to apologize for the June 15 incident in which Deshon
Marman, 20, was arrested on suspicion of battery on a police officer,
resisting arrest and trespassing after boarding a flight to Albuquerque, N.M.
    San Francisco police said Marman, a student and football player at
the University of New Mexico, was instructed by airline crew members several
times to pull up his pants to cover his underwear both before and after he
boarded the plane.
    Police said he refused to leave the plane and then resisted
officers when they tried to handcuff him.
    Marman's family has said he told airline staff that he could not
pull up his pants because he was carrying bags and his hands were full.
    Last month, the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office
declined to file charges against Marman in the case.
    His family, along with the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People and the civil rights organization
ColorofChange.org, planned to deliver the signatures to the U.S. Airways
ticket counter at the airport this morning.
    The Rev. Amos Brown, president of the NAACP's San Francisco
chapter, said the Marman family also plans to file a lawsuit against U.S.
Airways in the next few days.
    The national NAACP is also pressuring U.S. Airways to apologize
and review its policies, Brown said.
    U.S. Airways officials were not immediately available for comment
this morning. The airline has previously said that the issue in Marman's case
was not his style of clothing but rather his refusal to comply with orders
from the flight crew.
    

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City To Test New Plug-In Hybrid Trucks Via Public-Private Partnership

 

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced Tuesday a partnership that
will provide the city with a fleet of 14 plug-in hybrid pickup trucks for the
next three years.
    The partnership between the city, the U.S. Department of Energy
and Chrysler Group
allows the Ram 1500 trucks to be tested by San Francisco
city departments to evaluate their charging performance and fuel economy.
    The trucks are part of a national fleet of 140 vehicles that are
being tested in a dozen cities. The program is funded by a $48 million
stimulus grant from the federal Department of Energy and a $49.4 million
grant from Chrysler.
    Lee said the trucks will be tested "in the most hardened way" by
picking up discarded items or stray pets.
    "It's appropriate for San Francisco to do this" program because
"we want to be the electric vehicle capital of the world," Lee said.
    The announcement was made Tuesday in Civic Center Plaza where all
14 of the trucks were parked.
    Melanie Nutter, director of the city's Department of the
Environment, said, "I never thought I'd be at an event in San Francisco
surrounded by pickup trucks."
    Nutter said replacing 14 gas-powered trucks with the plug-in
hybrids will save the city about 7,000 gallons of gasoline at a cost of about
$25,000 per year over the course of the three-year program, lessening the
city's annual carbon dioxide output by 91 tons.
    Abdullah Bazzi, senior manager of Chrysler's advanced hybrid
vehicle project, said the company had no current plans to produce the plug-in
hybrid trucks on a large scale, but said the company will soon be making
electric versions of its Fiat 500 vehicle for sale to the public.

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Supes Vote to Strengthen Enforcemment of City's Minimum Wage Law

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave unanimous initial approval Tuesday to an ordinance designed to strengthen enforcement of the city's minimum wage law.

The ordinance, co-authored by Supervisors David Campos and Eric Mar, would strengthen the city's ability to cite employers for violations, increase monetary penalties, require employers to notify employees when they are under investigation, and require that cases are resolved within a one-year timeline.

About 100 labor and community members joined several of the supervisors at a rally outside City Hall Tuesday in support of the ordinance before it was voted on during the board's meeting.

Mar said, "We should continue to lead the way here for basic labor protection" by passing the ordinance. 

Donna Levitt, director of the city's Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, said at the rally that her office has recovered more than $4.4 million in minimum wage violations for more than 2,500 workers since San Francisco's minimum wage law went into effect in 2004. 

Under the law, workers in San Francisco must make at least $9.92 per hour.

Attendees of the rally sang altered versions of popular songs by Beyonce and Cee Lo Green with lyrics about labor issues.

Many of the attendees came to the board's meeting as well and applauded loudly when the board voted 11-0 in favor of the ordinance.

Final approval of the ordinance will be voted on by the board after its August recess.

 

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Fall From BART Station Wall Hospitalizes SF Woman

A San Francisco woman is battling life-threatening injuries after falling 15 - 20 feet from a wall overlooking a city BART station this afternoon, according to police Sgt. Michael Andraychak.

The 51-year-old woman was reportedly standing on a high wall surrounding the Civic Center BART station when she lost her balance, Andraychak said.

Her fall was reported around 4 p.m.

According to Andraychak the woman was unconscious when she was transported to San Francisco General Hospital.

 

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More Taxis and Higher Fares Coming to SF

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's Board of Directors today voted both to increase city taxi fares and the total number of taxicabs on city streets, SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said.

Rose said the board unanimously approved a flag drop rate increase by from $3.10 to $3.50. The flag drop rate is the amount of money on the meter when a passenger enters a taxi, Rose said.

According to Rose, the rate increase goes into effect in 30 days.

The board also voted 6-1 to increase the number of taxis driving in San Francisco, Rose said.

Currently, Rose said there are around 1,500 authorized taxis driving in the city. In 90 days, paperwork will be complete for the issuance of 85 new taxi medallions, according to Rose.

Rose said 50 of the new medallions will be for part-time single operators, which limit holders to driving for no more than 60 hours per week.

 

Thirty-five of the new medallions will be issued for full-time taxicabs, and Rose said these enable holders to have drivers working up to two 10-hour shifts per day.

Another two medallions will be issued specifically for 'battery switch' electric taxis which will also be able to drive full time, Rose said. The two electric cabs won't be in service until 2012.

In May, the board approved a 10-cent increase to taxi rates from 45 to 55 cents per fifth of a mile or minute of wait time.

 

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Police Arrest Suspect in 2004 Denver Murder

A man was recently arrested in San Francisco in connection with a 2004 murder in Denver, police said today.

Billy Jene Wilson, 42, was arrested Friday afternoon at a residential hotel in the 1600 block of Market Street, police said.

Wilson, a transient, is suspected of kidnapping and killing a 27-year-old woman, Gina Gruenwald, early the morning of Aug. 21, 2004, according to police.

Gruenwald had been out with friends at a nightclub, and her body was found later that morning with stab wounds to her neck, authorities said.

Wilson was arrested in San Francisco earlier this year in an unrelated case. When he was booked, a DNA sample was obtained and entered into a national database, which matched it to the 2004 cold case, police said.

Denver police notified their San Francisco counterparts about the case on Friday, and Wilson was arrested for the murder later that day.

Wilson remains in custody in San Francisco. He has waived extradition and will be returned to Denver in the coming weeks to face charges of first-degree murder and second-degree kidnapping, according to the Denver District Attorney's Office.

 

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Court Cites Hastings Case in Denying Challenge by Christian Student Groups

A federal appeals court in San Francisco today upheld a policy by San Diego State University to refuse to recognize a Christian sorority and a Christian fraternity as official student groups.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based its ruling on a similar case in which the Supreme Court last year upheld the denial by Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco of official student group status to the Christian Legal Society.

Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson wrote, "Constitutionally speaking... San Diego State's policy is not materially different" from the policy approved by the Supreme Court in the Hasting case.

"The university's policy does not violate plaintiffs' rights of free speech and expressive association," Pregerson wrote.

"Plaintiffs are free to express any message they wish, and may include or exclude members on whatever basis they like; they simply cannot oblige the university to subsidize them as they do so," the court said.

In the San Diego State case, the student sorority Alpha Delta Chi and the fraternity Alpha Gamma Omega required members to be Christians.

The university said that requirement violated a policy barring official student groups from discriminating on the basis of factors such as religion, race and gender.

At Hastings, the Christian Legal Society barred members who were nonbelievers or engage in "unrepentant homosexual conduct."

In both cases, the non-recognized groups were denied university funding, free publicity in student newsletters and free meeting rooms. But the groups could still hand out flyers on school property, recruit student members and rent university rooms for meetings.

One difference between the two cases was that Hastings required groups to open membership to all interested students, while San Diego State had a narrower policy barring discrimination against specific categories of students.

But the appeals court said the Supreme Court's ruling applied to San Diego State as well because both policies were reasonable and did not discriminate on the basis of viewpoint.

The court sent the case back to a federal trial judge in San Diego, however, to consider a second claim in which the sorority and fraternity allege that the policy is enforced unfairly. 

 

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Lefty O’Doul’s to Host Memorial for Beloved Santa

A longtime San Francisco Santa Claus will receive a final sendoff this week as friends and fans come together to celebrate his life. 

Lefty O'Doul's will host "an Irish wake befitting 'Santa' John Toomey" on Friday that will include food and music, restaurant spokesman Lee Houskeeper said.

Toomey, 69, was found dead in his residential hotel room last Friday afternoon. The cause of his death has not yet been determined. Toomey, known as "Santa John," was the longtime Santa at Macy's Union Square before being let go last December for telling dirty jokes to adult patrons.

Lefty O'Doul's quickly hired Toomey, whose story made national news and earned him an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

Although Toomey didn't have any family in the region, he became close with a number of news reporters in the area, some of whom will play music at his memorial, Houskeeper said.

Among them will be Kevin Fagan from the San Francisco ChronicleJoe Rosato, Jr. from NBC Bay Area and some "musically challenged reporters" from KGO and KPIX, Houskeeper said.

Barry "The Fish" Melton of the band Country Joe and the Fish will also be at O'Doul's to celebrate Toomey's life.

In Irish fashion, the fare will include corned beef and plenty of beer.

The San Francisco Firefighters' Toy Program will be collecting toys at the event, which begins at 5:30 p.m.

Houskeeper encourages residents to "come on down, bring a present."

With Toomey's help, O'Doul's boosted its annual Christmas Eve toy drive total from 9,000 toys in 2009 to 15,000 last year.

Since Toomey's death, parents have sent letters to Lefty O'Doul's stating they are concerned their children will now think Santa is dead.

To keep his legend alive, Houskeeper said that at the memorial, Lefty O'Doul's will display the throne Toomey sat in while playing Santa with a banner above it that reads, "Santa John's gone to the North Pole."

The 11th Annual San Francisco Firefighters Toy Drive this holiday season will also be dedicated to Toomey.

 

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Giants’ Cody Ross to Host Charity Event for Fallen Firefighters

San Francisco Giants outfielder Cody Ross will host a charity event later this month to honor the lives of two San Francisco firefighters who died in the line of duty in June.

Lt. Vincent Perez and firefighter paramedic Anthony Valerio, who both worked out of Station 26, died after they were injured battling a fire in Diamond Heights on June 2.

Ross and his wife, Summer, have teamed up with the group Uncork for a Cause to raise money for the families of Perez, Valerio and other fallen firefighters.

Uncork for a Cause is a collection of businesses, professional athletes and celebrities working together to give back to the community. 

Ross and Uncork for a Cause will release a limited 2009 Cody Ross Napa Valley Red Wine, which will be on sale at the event, scheduled for Aug. 28.

The night will also include a dinner prepared by Executive Chef JW Foster and an auction featuring local and national sports and entertainment items.

Proceeds will be donated to the Surviving Families Fund of San Francisco.

The event will be held at the Fairmont Hotel at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 28.

Advance tickets are required. More information is available at www.uncorkforacause.com.

 

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Crocker Amazon Park Boasts New Bocce Ball Courts

City officials and neighborhood leaders will gather at San Francisco's Crocker Amazon Park this evening to celebrate improvements to the park's bocce ball courts.

The courts were renovated as part of a $265,000 project that also included installing a new water-saving irrigation system and making other improvements to the park, according to the city's Recreation and Park Department.

Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the department, is expected to join representatives from the mayor's office, the Outer Mission Merchants and Residents Association, and the Crocker Amazon Park Bocce Ball Club at a ribbon-cutting ceremony this evening to celebrate the project's completion.

The improvements to the courts include exterior perimeter wind screens, roof repairs, new gutters, the waterproofing of the back retaining wall, a new service counter, sink and storage cabinet, and an upgraded electrical system, according to park officials.

The ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the park, located at the intersection of Moscow Street and Italy Avenue. The celebration is also part of National Night Out.

 

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Suspect Posing as FBI Agent Robs Man in Bayview

A man posing as an FBI agent robbed another man in San Francisco's Bayview District on Monday afternoon, police said.

The robbery was reported at 4:23 p.m. Monday near the intersection of Third Street and Newcomb Avenue.

The 43-year-old victim was approached by a man who identified himself as an FBI agent. The suspect asked to see the victim's identification, and when he pulled out his wallet, the suspect punched him in the chest and stole cash from him, according to police.

The robber, described as a man in his 50s, fled with two other men in their 20s, police said.

The victim was not seriously injured and did not need to be taken to a hospital.

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