SF News

Virtual Aquarium Brings Monterey Bay Sea Animals To San Francisco Hotel

   Fans of the Monterey Bay Aquarium can visit their favorite sea creatures in the lobby of a San Francisco hotel this summer.
    The Hyatt Regency San Francisco at 5 Embarcadero Center has teamed up with the aquarium to create an underwater experience in the hotel's 42,000-square foot lobby, hotel officials said.
    Oversized images on the walls, windows and elevator doors will bring to life some of the aquarium's ocean life.
    Beginning today, hotel visitors can also experience a virtual game that lets participants create a scuba avatar that can virtually swim with sea creatures. The Virtual Aquarium Dive Adventure, which uses smart phone and mobile application technology, runs through Sunday.
    The lobby displays will be in place through August.     

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Bicyclist Hits Pedestrian In Crosswalk, Causing Life-Threatening Injuries


A bicyclist struck a pedestrian at Embarcadero and Mission Street in San Francisco this morning, causing life-threatening injuries, police
    Police were called to the scene of an accident at 8:33 a.m., police Officer Albie Esparza said.
    Officers found a bicyclist had struck a woman in her 40s who was crossing in the crosswalk, causing a life-threatening head injury.
Preliminary information suggests the woman was crossing legally with the light, Esparza said.
    The bicyclist remained at the scene and was being interviewed by investigators.
    Esparza said the bicyclist would face the same potential legal repercussions as the driver of any car involved in a collision with a pedestrian, if they were found to be at fault.
    "Every bicyclist in the city should be reminded each and every day that all the laws on the books apply to them too," Esparza said. "They need to stop at every stop sign and every stop light."


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SF Firefighters Battle Laurel Heights Fire

Firefighters responded to a two-alarm blaze at an apartment building in San Francisco's Laurel Heights neighborhood Thursday afternoon, a fire dispatcher said. Emergency crews responded to the building at 95 Heather Ave., at Euclid Avenue, at 3:51 p.m. The blaze was under control by 4:29 p.m. and no injuries were reported, according to the dispatcher. The American Red Cross was contacted to assist residents in need of temporary housing. It was not immediately known how many residents were displaced.

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San Francisco Bay Area Friday News Roundup

UC Regents Approve 9.6% Tutition Hike to Close $650 Million State Budget Cuts

A 9.6 percent tuition increase for University of California schools was approved Thursday by a 14-4 vote of the UC Regents Board. Despite passionate reservations from several board members, the finance committee approved the tuition hike, an attempt to close $650 million in state funding cuts in the new state budget. The hike is the second tuition increase for UC students in the past eight months -- an eight percent increase was already added in November. The tuition increase will only affect about 55 percent of current students, according to UC officials, because of financial aid options given to students whose family income is less than $80,000 per year. The new fees will cover 26 percent of a $1 billion budget shortfall the UC system faces next year. The remaining funds will be made up through cuts to campus services and increased enrollment of out-of-state and international students, who pay higher tuition than California residents. Under the new tuition rates, and including all required fees, California resident undergraduate students will pay $13,218 per year and out-of-state students will pay $36,096. Graduate students in academic programs will pay slightly less, but their tuition will still be raised by 9.6 percent, to $12,824 for Californians and $27,926 for non-residents. Graduate students in professional programs, such as law and business, pay different tuition. UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau outlined Berkeley's strategy of increasing out-of-state and international enrollment to generate revenue. California residents receive a large tuition break, so increasing out-of-state enrollment generates significantly more funding. Birgeneau said UC Berkeley has kept California resident enrollment consistent over the last several years while increasing non-resident enrollment. He said that the extra revenue has allowed Berkeley to provide more services for all students. Despite the advantages of increasing out-of-state enrollment, several board members worried that if the cuts continue, the university would be forced to turn more and more California residents away in favor of students that pay higher tuition.


BART Directors Frustrated with Slow Pace of Charles Hill Shooting Investigation

Several BART directors expressed frustration Thursday at the slow pace of the investigation into a July 3 incident at San Francisco's Civic Center station in which BART police shot and killed a knife-wielding man. Director James Fang said one of the lessons from the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant III at the hands of a BART police officer at the Fruitvale station on Jan. 1, 2009, is "to get in front" of the situation and quickly release information to the public. Board president Bob Franklin said, "There's frustration in the amount of time it takes." BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey said the investigation into the death of 45-year-old Charles Hill is taking time because authorities are still interviewing witnesses to the shooting. He said 40 witnesses have been identified and only about 20 have been interviewed so far. Rainey has said that BART police shot Hill because he was armed with a broken bottle and at least two knives, and was using them as weapons. Hill's has sparked an outcry by some, including about 100 demonstrators who disrupted service at the Civic Center station and two other San Francisco stations during the evening commute on Monday. Richard Kales, a real estate agent from San Mateo who works in San Francisco, was one of three speakers at Thursday's meeting. He said he has "the utmost empathy" for Hill but that he thinks Monday's protest was conducted by "reactionary groups and anarchists who are disrupting the public's right to get from point A to point B." Kales said the investigation into Hill's death "should be conducted by the proper authorities, not by people who are running amok in the streets." He said he thinks the protesters' tactics on Monday have "caused animosity" among most BART riders.


Suspect Admitted Killing Musician Dewey Trucker, according to CHP Detective

One of four men charged with the Jan. 12, 2010, fatal freeway shooting of Dewey Tucker last year admitted killing the musician, a California Highway Patrol violent crimes detective testified at a preliminary hearing in Sonoma County Thursday afternoon. Raul V. Vega, 19, of Santa Rosa, said he turned sideways in the passenger seat of a stolen Honda, pointed the gun at the door of Tucker's white Nissan in the next lane and fired three to five times, CHP Officer William Harm said. Vega said he had both hands on the gun and pulled the trigger with two fingers, Harm said. Tucker was shot in the head. His Nissan collided with the concrete center median, then with the right guardrail on westbound Interstate Highway 80 near Hercules. The bass player for Lauryn Hill and Bobby Brown had been on his way to band practice. Harm said Vega told him during a Jan. 8, 2011, interview at Santa Rosa police headquarters that Javier Ivan Carreon-Lopez was driving the Honda that had been stolen earlier in Vallejo. Harm testified Vega said co-defendants Hector Barragan, 29, and Christopher Mancinas, 29, were following him and Carreon-Lopez in a separate vehicle, Vega said. All four Santa Rosa men are charged with the gang-related murder. There was a rivalry between the Angelino Heights and Varrio Sureno Locos sects of the Sureno gang in southwest Santa Rosa at the time of Tucker's murder, and the defendants mistook Tucker for a rival Sureno gang member who was living in Vallejo, according to the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office. Harm said Mancinas told him in an Oct. 21, 2010, interview that there was a meeting at Barragan's house on Jan. 12, 2010, with the intention of brokering a peace between the two factions. Sheriff's office detective Brandon Cutting testified Thursday that rival Varrio Sureno Locos gang members had targeted Barragan, his brother and Mancinas, who are alleged Angelino Heights gang members, for murder. The hearing resumes this morning.


Kevin Mack of UCSF Killed in Shuttle Bus Crash Mourned by Students, Colleagues

Students and colleagues are mourning the loss of Kevin Mack, a doctor and associate professor at the University of California at San Francisco's Department of Psychiatry, who was killed in a shuttle bus crash early Thursday morning. The shuttle was taking Mack and about 15 others to work at San Francisco General Hospital around 6:20 a.m. when it collided with a big-rig that was headed north on Octavia Boulevard at Oak Street in the city's Hayes Valley neighborhood, police Lt. Troy Dangerfield said. Mack, 52, was ejected in the crash and landed underneath the big-rig, which was carrying several cars, Dangerfield said. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Three other passengers -- two women and a man -- were injured in the crash and were taken to San Francisco General Hospital for treatment. Mack's peers remember him as an inspiration to students and faculty members who reminded them to consider the bigger picture. "He had a strong commitment to global health and to medical education in resource poor settings," said Sue Carlisle, associate dean at the UCSF School of Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital. Mack looked beyond his work at UCSF, where he was an advisory college mentor, to identify mental health needs in other communities. "He worked with the World Health Organization developing problem-based learning programs for use in Africa and the South Pacific," UCSF School of Medicine Dean Sam Hawgood said. Revered by colleagues as a gifted educator and an expert in bipolar and psychotic disorders, Mack also served as the director of Educational Technology and Faculty Development in the UCSF-Berkeley Joint Medical Program. Mack studied medicine at the University of Hawaii, and completed his residency at Harvard, according to his faculty biography at the UCSF website, where he described himself as an educator first, and a doctor second. "I'm basically an educator at heart, who chose medicine as a career after deciding that gay teachers weren't going to be 'safe' professionally for several decades," he wrote. Mack is survived by his husband and their two children.


California Becomes 1st U.S. State to Require Public Schools to Teach LGBT History

California Thursday became the nation's first state to require its public schools to teach students about the history and contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The new law, SB48, was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday and will take effect in January. "History should be honest," Brown said in a statement. The measure authored by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, adds LGBT groups to a list of cultural and ethnic categories that school districts have previously been required to describe accurately and fairly in social studies classes. Previously listed categories include minority groups and women. "Thursday we are making history in California by ensuring that our textbooks and instructional materials no longer exclude the contributions of LGBT Americans," Leno said. Changes in textbooks used in California schools are not expected to appear until the 2015-16 school year, when the next round of textbook revision in the state will be put in place. In the meantime, Leno said, the law also requires teachers to include lessons about the role and contributions of LGBT people, but gives them wide latitude in deciding how to do so and does not require specific lesson plans. "School districts have the ability to choose which textbooks and supplemental materials to use and teachers have the ability to create lesson plans. Specific material will vary from classroom to classroom," Leno said during a telephone news conference. Leno and gay leaders said during the phone conference that they expect the measure to help gay students by promoting greater understanding of homosexuality and thereby reducing harassment and bullying. "It will improve students' safety and create an atmosphere of respect for all California students," said Roland Palencia, executive director of Equality California. The measure was opposed by traditional-family groups, including Sacramento-based SaveCalifornia.com, whose director, Randy Thomasson, called the new requirement "immoral indoctrination." "Jerry Brown has trampled the parental rights of the broad majority of California mothers and fathers who don't want their children to be sexually brainwashed," Thomasson said.


Defense Argues Burns Inflicted on Baby Dropped on Hot Oven Were "Explainable as an Accident"

The defense attorney for a Daly City man accused of dropping his 17-month-old son into a hot oven told the jury that the second- and third-degree burns inflicted on the child's lower legs were "explainable as an accident." Mara Feiger broke into tears during her closing arguments in the San Mateo County Superior Court trial of Gregory Colver, 20, who is on trial for felony child endangerment and felony child abuse with a special circumstance of causing great bodily harm. Colver has been accused of trying to teach his son a lesson about the dangers of a hot stove by dangling him above an open range in their Daly City kitchen on December 28, 2010, and dropping him on the hot oven rack when the boy began to squirm. The boy was taken to Seton Medical Center with multiple vertical and horizontal burn marks, each about two or three inches long, on the sides and backs of his lower legs. The defense maintained that the boy -- who was prone to climbing on the oven -- managed to hoist himself on top of the stove, turn on the range, and then fall, burning his legs on the heated inner racks and a cookie sheet on the way down. "It is a three-dimensional environment and this is a kid in motion," Feiger said, pleading with the jury to move beyond the emotional impact of seeing graphic photos shown by the prosecution of multiple fresh burns on the boy's legs and understand that accidents happen. "There are lots of accidents that happen with children that don't involve criminality," Feiger said. The defense also sought to unravel Colver's confession, which he made to investigators while he was in custody on Dec. 30. Feiger said the investigator in charge of "interrogating" Colver was "icky" and a "cowboy," and that the confession only came about from the use of questionable interviewing tactics on a sleep-deprived, overly suggestible Colver. The jury of three women and nine men began deliberating Thursday afternoon. Colver, who is out of custody on $100,000 bail, faces up to nine years in prison if convicted.


Man that Intentionally Drove Wrong Way on Highway 17, Killed Woman Charge with Murder

A man suspected of intentionally driving the wrong way on state Highway 17 in Santa Cruz earlier this week and crashing head-on into the vehicle of 48-year-old Ana Barajas has been charged with murder in her death. Eric Weers, 28, of Soquel, faces one count of murder with a special allegation for probation ineligibility in connection with Barajas' death on Monday, according to his public defender William Weigel. The crash happened at about 3:10 p.m. on southbound Highway 17 near where it connects with state Highway 1, according to the California Highway Patrol. Barajas was driving south on the highway when Weers allegedly drove his silver Acura SUV head-on into her maroon Chrysler sedan. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Weers' SUV caught fire, but he managed to escape unharmed, CHP Officer Hatcher said. A preliminary investigation indicated that the collision was intentional but that Weers chose Barajas' car to crash into at random, Hatcher said. Alcohol and drugs do not appear to be factors in the crash, he said. If convicted as charged, Weers faces 15 years to life in prison, Weigel said. He will return to court for a plea hearing on July 28. Barajas was a Santa Cruz resident and single mother of four, according to the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office. District Attorney Bob Lee offered condolences to Barajas' family in a statement released on Wednesday. "This senseless horrific act must be held appropriately accountable," Lee said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Barajas' family and friends."


Teen In Critical Condition After Rescue from Tennessee Beach Waters

A 17-year-old girl remains in critical condition Thursday morning after she was rescued along with two other teens from the waters near Tennessee Beach on Wednesday evening, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The teenager and three other friends were attempting to climb to Tennessee Cove around 5:45 p.m. when a large wave knocked three of them off a rock into the water, Golden Gate National Recreation Area spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet said. The 17-year-old was swept out the furthest and was struggling against a rip current when a Petaluma man in his 40s dived into the water to bring her closer to shore, Picavet said. "Unfortunately, the good Samaritan needed our help since he was in a precarious place that was unsafe because of the currents and waves," she said. The Coast Guard sent a helicopter from Air Station San Francisco, which arrived within 20 minutes, along with a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Station Golden Gate. A rescue swimmer was lowered from the helicopter to administer first aid to the girl. The Southern Marin Fire Protection District also assisted with the rescue. A California Highway Patrol helicopter then transported the teen to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, where she remains in critical condition as of about 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Coast Guard Lt. Chris Hanzlick said. The two other teenagers swept into the water, a boy and a girl, were also taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries, Picavet said. It appears the four teens, who range in age from 17 to 18 years old, were not trying to swim in the water, she said. The National Park Service lists Tennessee Beach as not suitable for swimming. "If you try to cross through to the cove, you need to know what the tide is doing," Picavet said. "It isn't an easy place to get out of if tide comes up, not mention the danger of rogue waves."


San Jose Police Investigate Travel Agency Fraud Scheme Targeting Vietnamese

San Jose police are investigating a travel agency fraud scheme in which several members of the Vietnamese community were targeted. Numerous members of the Vietnamese community called police on June 29 to report that they had been defrauded from 2010 to 2011 by the owner of Asia Travel & Tours travel agency at 1816 Tully Road, according to police. They alleged that the travel agency owner promised them he would purchase airfare and make travel arrangements in exchange for their money, but he kept the money and did not render the services, police said. Some of the victims realized they had been duped last month after arriving at the airport and discovering that the owner of the travel agency had not purchased airline tickets or made other travel arrangements for which they had paid, police said. The agency has since closed its doors for business, and the owner's whereabouts are unknown, police said. Investigators are in the process of seeking an arrest warrant for the owner. Police believe there are additional victims who purchased travel services months in advance and paid the owner for the services last year. Victims may file a report at the San Jose Police Department, located at 201 W. Mission St., San Jose. They are asked to reference case No. 11-184-9514 and provide as much documentation or transaction receipts as possible. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Hau Ngo at (408) 277-4521. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call the Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at (408) 947-STOP (7867) or visit their website at www.svcrimestoppers.org.


AT&T to Host International Soccer Match Between Manchester City & Club America

AT&T Park officials are hoping an international soccer match scheduled for this weekend will prove that the home of the Giants is also a world-class soccer venue. England's Manchester City will take on Mexico's Club America on Saturday evening during a friendly match leading up to the Football Association Cup, an English premiere league tournament. The match will be only the seventh soccer game ever hosted at AT&T Park -- and one of the few held during baseball season -- but Jorge Costa, senior vice president of ballpark operations, said he was excited about the challenge of creating a temporary soccer pitch. "I would like to establish this as a venue for soccer," he said. "I want to show we can do this whether it's in season or not." Ballpark crews had to remove the portable baseball mound and clear away an inch of dirt before laying about 9,000 square feet of sod, Costa said. The process took about a day and will need to be reversed as soon as the match ends on Saturday so the field is Giants-ready for Monday's game against the L.A. Dodgers. "We had to remove the dirt to make it even so the ball rolls flat and has even bounces," Costa said. "We bought the sod especially thick and have spent a lot of time on hands and knees" lining it up. The goals had not been erected yet Thursday morning but will run parallel to the third base line so most of the audience will have a better view of the game, Giants spokesman Jens Weiden said. The franchise has been working closely with the British consulate to promote the game, and unique requests -- including whether fans can bring drums and vuvuzelas -- have poured in all week, he said. "We're going to have a separate line for fans with drums," Weiden said. "We're hoping to get a new type of fan in to AT&T -- maybe they'll come back for a Giants game next week."

Man Shot While Working On His Car In Hunters Point

  A man was shot in the buttocks while working on his car in San Francisco's Hunters Point neighborhood late Wednesday night, police said.
    The shooting was reported at about 11:45 p.m. Wednesday near the intersection of Hudson Avenue and Bertha Lane.
    The 52-year-old victim was working on his vehicle when he heard five or six shots and realized he had been struck, according to police.
    He was taken by a friend to San Francisco General Hospital to be treated for his injuries, which are not considered life-threatening.
    No arrests have been made in connection with the shooting.
    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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Cab Driver Robbed At Knifepoint In Lower Pac Heights

 A taxi driver was robbed at knifepoint in San Francisco's Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood early this morning, police said.
    The robbery occurred shortly before 1:50 a.m. near the intersection of Sutter and Baker streets.
    The cabbie, a 70-year-old man, had picked up the suspect and driven him to that intersection, according to police.
    When they arrived there, the suspect pulled out a knife, put it to the driver's throat and demanded money, police said.
    The victim complied, and the suspect, described only as a man in his 50s, got out of the cab and fled with the cash, according to police.
    The cabbie was not 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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Shots Fired Into Empty Vehicle In Visitacion Valley

  Shots were fired into an empty vehicle in San Francisco's Visitacion Valley neighborhood on Tuesday evening, police said.
    Gunfire was reported in the 100 block of Blythedale Avenue at 7:21 p.m. Tuesday.
    Officers arrived to find a car with fresh damage from bullet holes, and bullet casings were found on the ground near the car, according to police.
    A search of the area for the shooter was unsuccessful, police said.
    No one was injured in the shooting.
    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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Los Angeles Mayor To Speak At Anti-Violence Group's Dinner

   A legal group is hosting a dinner in San Francisco tonight to
honor individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to ending gun violence, including Dr. Peter Rhee, the trauma surgeon who treated Congresswoman
Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in Arizona in January.
    Rhee will receive the Distinguished Leadership Award and will speak at tonight's Legal Community Against Violence dinner.
    Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be the keynote speaker at the event, which also commemorates the 18th anniversary of the tragic shooting at 101 California St. in San Francisco that left nine dead and five injured.
    The 1993 shooting led to the founding of Legal Community Against Violence, which started in the Bay Area and has since become a national organization, organizers said.
    Tonight's dinner is taking place at the Sheraton Palace Hotel.

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Man Dies, Three Injured in Crash Involving Big-Rig, UCSF Shuttle Man Dies

One person died and three others were injured in a crash that
involved a big-rig and a shuttle bus in San Francisco's Hayes Valley
neighborhood this morning, a police spokesman said.
    Octavia Boulevard was closed to traffic between Market and Fell
streets after the crash, which was reported around 6:20 a.m., police Lt. Troy
Dangerfield said.
    A big-rig headed north on Octavia Boulevard collided with a
University of California at San Francisco shuttle bus taking San Francisco
General Hospital employees to work.
    A white man in his 40s was ejected from the shuttle bus and died
at the scene. As of 7:45 a.m., his body was still underneath the big-rig,
covered by a yellow tarp.
    Two females and one male on the shuttle bus suffered minor
injures. It was not immediately clear how many passengers were on the shuttle
    The driver of the big-rig was not injured.
    The big-rig was carrying several cars and suffered damage to the
left front end. The front right side of the shuttle bus near the door was
crushed inward and a side window was broken.
    The cause of the crash is under investigation.
    San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes
Hayes Valley, was at the scene of the accident this morning.
    Like police, he was still trying to learn the circumstances of the
crash but said he is aware of the dangers of Octavia Boulevard.
    He called Octavia "a fabulous boulevard, but it has its
challenges, especially for drivers who aren't familiar with San Francisco and
rely on GPS."
    Mirkarimi also brought up the issue of seat belts on shuttle
    In today's crash, he said, "Quite clearly a seat belt could have
potentially helped." 

San Francisco Bay Area Thursday News Roundup

Key Witness in MS-13 Gang Trial Convicted for Lying About Involvement in Murders

A Honduran man who prosecutors hoped would be a star witness in an MS-13 gang trial has been convicted in federal court in San Francisco of lying about having taken part in eight murders in his native country. Former MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, gang member Roberto Acosta was convicted by a jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on Tuesday of making a false statement to federal authorities. He will be sentenced by Breyer on Oct. 5 and faces up to five years in prison. Acosta, whose gang nicknames were "Zoro" and "Little Bad Boy," became an informant and infiltrated a San Francisco branch of the gang in 2005 and 2006 and again in 2008, when he returned illegally to the United States after having been deported. Federal prosecutors had expected him to give key testimony at the current racketeering and murder conspiracy trial in San Francisco of seven members of MS-13's 20th Street Clique, which was based at the 20th and Mission streets in the city. That trial began in April in the court of U.S. District Judge William Alsup and is expected to continue into August. But in February, Acosta told a federal prosecutor and immigration agents for the first time that he had taken part in eight gang-related murders in Honduras in 2003 and 2004, participating directly in five and arranging for three others. Acosta had not previously disclosed those murders to his handlers, despite repeatedly having been asked to reveal previous acts of violence, according to a trial brief filed by prosecutors. Prosecutors then cancelled plans to use Acosta as a witness. On March 29, a week before the gang trial began, they obtained a grand jury indictment accusing him of lying. "Acosta's failure to disclose his participation in the eight murders, despite repeated questions about the same, form the basis of the charge against him," Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Wong wrote in the trial brief filed this month.


Chilean Government Helps Boost Reward for Info About Killer of Adolfo Ignacio Celedon Bravo to $20,000

A contribution from the Chilean government has boosted the reward for information leading to the killer of Adolfo Ignacio Celedon Bravo to $20,000, according to Berkeley police. Bravo, a Chilean citizen, had recently moved to Berkeley to be with his fiancee when he was shot during a robbery attempt in the early morning of Sept. 12, 2010. The City of Berkeley and the Bay Area Crime Stoppers previously had offered a reward of $17,000, but the Chilean government has added to that reward following strong interest from the people of Chile. Berkeley police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said Bravo's story was covered extensively by major news outlets in Chile. "It was of great interest to the Chilean community. A promising young man coming to the United States to follow his dreams," she said. "We receive emails every other week from four different national media outlets in Chile asking for information," Kusmiss said.


SJ Tech Museum Invites Harry Potter Fans to Premiere Party

Fans of the beloved "Harry Potter" film series are invited to dress as their favorite character and come to the Tech Museum in San Jose today for a premiere party celebrating the end of the decade-long franchise. Fans will likely start lining the red carpet for the sold-out party early in the day, but the party inside the museum begins at 10 p.m., followed by a 12:01 a.m. premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2." Hagrid, a big-bellied character who is over 7 feet tall, is expected to emerge from his one-room hut to greet and entertain fans while they wait. Prizes will be given to the first person in line and the person with the best costume, as well as for in-theater trivia games and a literary quest. Inside the museum, fans will be treated to chocolate frogs, sweet pumpkin pasties and swigs of non-alcoholic butter beer amid music from the film series. They can take photos with life-size standees in a room designed to look like The Great Hall. Roqua Montez, a spokesman for the museum, said he anticipates an attendance of anywhere from 300 to 400 fans. "When we put the tickets on sale, they sold out in 90 minutes," he said. To accommodate fans that could not get tickets to the first show, an additional screening was added for 2:30 a.m. As of Wednesday afternoon, 40 tickets, each priced at $12, remained for that time slot. The film, which marks the final confrontation between the wizards Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, will be screened at the eight-story Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater.


Death Penalty Will Not be Sought for Fisherman's Wharf Souvenir Shop Worker

A San Francisco prosecutor said Wednesday that the death penalty will not be sought against a Fisherman's Wharf souvenir shop worker accused in the January killings of two employees at a neighboring business. Hong Ri Wu, 56, is suspected of shooting Feng Ping Ou, a 30-year-old woman, and Qiong Han Chu, a 30-year-old man, at about 8:20 p.m. on Jan. 30 inside the souvenir and luggage shop where they worked at 269 Jefferson St., police said. He pleaded not guilty to charges in the case. Wu is accused of walking into the victims' store and shooting them both. He worked at a nearby competing store and knew Chu and Ou, who died inside the store. A gun believed to be the murder weapon was recovered at the scene. During a mental competency hearing for Wu in San Francisco Superior Court Wednesday morning, Prosecutor Linda Allen said the district attorney's office would not seek the death penalty. Last month, Wu's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Kleigh Hathaway, said in court that after conversations with her client, she had doubts about his mental competency to understand the nature of the charges or assist in his own defense. A judge suspended criminal proceedings while a forensic psychologist assessed whether Wu was mentally competent, and following Wednesday's hearing, Hathaway said the psychologist's report found he was not competent to stand trial. During Wednesday morning's hearing, Wu asked for a hearing later Wednesday on the right to change his attorney from Hathaway, who was court-appointed, because "he was not satisfied with my legal representation of him," Hathaway said. That motion was denied by Judge Wallace Douglass at a hearing Wednesday afternoon. When Wu returns to court on July 25, prosecutors will decide whether to seek a trial on his mental competency or allow him to go to a medical facility to get treatment, "which is my wish," Hathaway said. "What's gradually coming to light is that Mr. Wu is mentally ill," she said.


4 Bay Area DA's Reach Settlement Against Dele ware Company Accused of Underpaying for Recyclables

Four Bay Area district attorney's offices have reached a settlement against a Delaware company accused of underpaying consumers for their recycled materials. Tomra Pacific Inc., which operates recycling centers outside grocery stores in California, did not admit liability or wrongdoing when it agreed to a $662,244 settlement with the district attorneys officers in Napa, Sonoma, Contra Costa and Santa Cruz counties. The company was accused in a civil complaint of underpaying consumers by inaccurately weighing the empty barrels used to determine the weight and monetary value of consumers' recyclable materials they contained over a four-year period, according to a news release by Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch. The company complied with the investigation and will pay $662,244 in civil penalties, costs and restitution, Ravitch said. The judgment against Tomra Pacific Inc. requires it to implement new procedures to weigh the barrels. The new system requires that each transaction start with an empty barrel and that the "tare" weight be set to the weight of that barrel before recyclable materials are added and the barrel is weighed again to determine the gross weight. The weight and value of the recyclable materials are then determined by subtracting the tare weight from the gross weight. The new system must be in place starting Sept. 1. The civil complaint did not specify how the weight inaccuracies occurred. The settlement also requires Tomra Pacific Inc. to start a "secret shopper" program using a Tomra Pacific Inc. employee to ensure the tare weight is taken in every transaction for the specific container used by each consumer. The company also must ensure the weighing instruments were sealed before being placed in operation and that they are accurate.


Teenager Accused of Killing Baby Pleads Not Guilty

A 17-year-old boy accused of fatally shooting an infant in East Palo Alto last month pleaded not guilty to murder in San Mateo County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon. Fabian Zaragoza, wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit with his long hair in a ponytail, entered his plea before Judge Barbara Mallach as the 3-month-old victim's parents -- Ivonne Garcia Lopez and Oscar Jimenez, of Redwood City -- sat in the front row of the courtroom. "I'm not guilty," Zaragoza said. Zaragoza is suspected of lying in wait with another gunman and firing as many as 15 gunshots into the family's car as they left an East Palo Alto baby shower on June 5, according to police. Baby Izack Jesus was shot in the head, and later died at a hospital. The infant's parents were both wounded. Investigators believe that Zaragoza and an accomplice targeted the family after mistaking them for Sureno gang members who had assaulted Zaragoza in Redwood City on May 31. In addition to murder, Zaragoza has been charged with two counts of attempted murder with the infliction of great bodily injury, along with the special circumstances of lying in wait and the use of a firearm in the commission of the crimes. He is being held without bail and faces life in prison if convicted. Zaragoza is scheduled to reappear in court Aug. 10 to set a preliminary hearing date.


Berkeley Developer Sets Final Deadline to Reach Agreement on Reopening Oakland Parkway Movie Theater

A Berkeley developer interested in reopening the Oakland Parkway movie theater has set a final deadline for Friday to reach an agreement with the building's owner. J. Moses Ceaser, who has been negotiating to reopen the vacant theater at 1843 Park Blvd. since October, said he has submitted a lease to the building's owners and if they do not accept the terms of that lease, he will seek another location to develop. "The whole process with the landlord has been frustrating," said Ceaser. He said that more than 40 investors are involved in the effort to reopen the popular theater, which closed in early 2009, and that the investors have grown impatient with the slow pace of negotiations. "They're just kind of tired of dealing with these landlords," he said of the other investors involved. "We're very comfortable to walk if we don't get the deal done by Friday," he said. The building is owned by Yan Cheng of Ming WA LLC and has been vacant since closing in early 2009. A representative from Ming WA LLC declined a request for an interview. The theater was a unique destination in Oakland that served pizza and beer, offered older movies at discount prices, and would hold special events like screenings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Ceaser said that his first choice is to open the Parkway in its old location on Park Boulevard because of the previous theater's success there and because of its popularity with Oakland residents. "Oaklanders have been waiting for a long time to get their theater back," he said. One condition of his proposed lease is that he and the other investors will control the renovation process. Ceaser said the reason for this condition is because the building owners have been uncommunicative and have missed several deadlines in the negotiation process, so he would be more comfortable handling the business personally.


Menlo Park Teenager Shot, Dies of Injuries

A 19-year-old Menlo Park woman who was shot in East Palo Alto early Wednesday morning has died, police said. Catherine Fisher was sitting in a car with a male and another female in the 2500 block of Annapolis Street when she was shot at about 2:10 a.m., acting Capt. Jeff Liu said. She was taken to Stanford Hospital, where she was being treated for her injuries. She succumbed to those injuries and was pronounced dead at the hospital, Liu said. The car's other occupants were not hurt. Liu said it is too early to tell whether the trio had been targeted and whether the shooting was gang-related. Police were working Wednesday morning to identify the shooter. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call or text (650) 409-6792 or email epa@tipnow.org. An anonymous voicemail may be left for investigators by calling the same phone number. Liu said it was the city's fourth homicide this year.


Antioch Police Arrest 2 men for Gunning Down Teenager

Antioch police arrested two men Tuesday night for the murder of a 19-year-old Antioch man who was gunned down on a sidewalk in May. The shooting happened May 22 in the 2300 block of D Street, and officers responding to calls of a shooting found the victim, Bridain Harold, lying on the sidewalk with gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. Witnesses helped lead police to the two 21-year-old suspects, Steven Abundis, a Pittsburg resident, and Antonio Esquivel, a transient with a last known address in Pittsburg, police said. Officers obtained arrest warrants for the men and, on Tuesday, they spotted Esquivel driving in Antioch and arrested him. Later that night, detectives arrested Abundis as he was driving in Oakley. When officers searched his car, they allegedly found a loaded 9 mm pistol hidden in the driver's side door panel, police said. Abundis' vehicle was also identified as the vehicle used during Harold's murder, police said. After arresting Abundis, detectives served a search warrant on a home in Pittsburg where Abundis lives with his parents. The search turned up an AK-47-style assault rifle, a .22-caliber rifle and about a pound of marijuana, all of which allegedly belonged to Abundis, police said. Investigators interviewed the two men throughout the night, and Esquivel allegedly confessed to shooting and killing Harold, police said. He told officers that he did not know the victim and that he threw the gun used in the shooting in the trash somewhere on Buchanan Road in Pittsburg, police said. Esquivel also allegedly told investigators that he and the victim had been involved in a confrontation among members of two opposing groups in October 2010 on the Antioch waterfront, police said. Esquivel allegedly told officers that during the confrontation, the victim tried to throw him off a wall above some railroad tracks, police said. Esquivel said he was able to hold on to a rail until his friends came to help him. One of his friends allegedly stabbed Harold.


Study: Turk Street Has Most Violent Crime Per Capita

Turk Street Has 35 Times More Violent Crimes Than the Rest of San Francisco

The first block of San Francisco's Turk Street has drastically more violent crime per capita than any other part of the city, including the rest of the Tenderloin neighborhood, according to a study released Wednesday by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and Central City SRO Collaboration.

The authors of the report, "Taking Back Turk Street," analyzed public data compiled by the San Francisco Police Department between November 2010 and May 2011, and found that the first block of Turk Street has 35 times more violent crimes per 1,000 residents than the rest of the city.

During the 168 days surveyed, there were 248 crimes on the block, which is home to just 438 people, many of them who live in single-room occupancy hotels, or SROs.

"When we started this study we knew it was bad, but it's even worse than we thought," said co-author Randy Shaw of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, located at 34 Turk St.

He and co-author Jonathan Nathan attribute the statistics to a decline in policing and the operation of an alleged nuisance business, Tenderloin Liquor.

The store allegedly violates city planning code regulations meant to curb the effects of alcohol outlets, such as selling malt beverages with more than 5.7 percent alcohol content, selling single servings of beer, and allowing drinking outside the store, according to the report.

Tenderloin Liquor owner Ahmed Said denied the claims.

"We've been here for 20 years and have no violations," he said, pointing to a large sign prohibiting loitering outside the store. "We run a legitimate business."

Shaw, however, questioned why the first block of Turk Street has five times as much violent crime as the 200 block of Eddy Street, which has several SROs and similar resident demographics.

He also pointed to a 27 percent decrease in the number of officers at the Tenderloin police station since July 2009 -- from 101 to 74 -- even though the citywide force has only been reduced by 8 percent.

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Man Found Fatally Shot Monday Night Identified

A man found shot to death in San Francisco on Monday night has been identified by the medical examiner's office as 20-year-old Sean Wilson.

Officers responded at 11:22 p.m. Monday to a report of shots fired in the 500 block of Webster Street, a few blocks from Alamo Square.

They arrived to find Wilson, a San Francisco resident, who had been shot in the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

No arrests have been made in the case, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza 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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Bank on Montgomery Street Robbed Tuesday Afternoon

A bank in San Francisco's Financial District was robbed on Tuesday afternoon, police said.
The robbery was reported shortly before 3:15 p.m. at a bank in the 500 block of Montgomery Street.
The suspect, a white man in his 40s, handed a teller a note saying he was robbing the bank, then gave the teller a bag, according to police.
The teller put cash into the bag, and the robber fled with the money, police said.
Police had not found the man 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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San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday News Roundup

CSU Trustees Approve 12% Tuition Hike

California State University trustees approved a 12 percent tuition hike Tuesday that would take effect this fall. The increase is expected to help close the budget gap created by $650 million in state funding cuts. CSU officials said the tuition increase will generate $150 million for the CSU system, and the remaining $400 million shortfall will be saved through cutbacks and through an additional 10 percent tuition hike approved in November. The board is also planning to reduce enrollment by roughly 10,000 students statewide. Campus budgets will be reduced by a combined $281 million, according to CSU officials. The increases will bring annual tuition for CSU campuses to $5,472. Students and faculty have criticized the board because of the hikes, which became necessary when tax increases proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown were blocked by the Legislature. Brown himself issued a letter Tuesday criticizing the board for planning to raise the salary for incoming San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman by $100,000 while asking students to pay dramatically increased tuition. The CSU system faces additional cuts of $100 million mid-year if state revenue projections are not met, and are bracing to potentially make additional cuts or fee increases. Prior to the vote, CSU officials said that state funding to the CSU system is roughly the same as it was during the 1998-99 school year; however, at that time the system served 72,000 fewer students. Adjusted for inflation, CSU received more than $10,000 per student from the state in 1998-99, but now receives less than $6,500 per student. One-third of the revenue from the tuition increase will be allocated for financial aid, but many are still concerned that lower income students will still be faced with untenable costs that may keep them out of college. California State University, Los Angeles psychology professor Kimberly King addressed the board before their vote, raising concerns that the proposed increases would hurt all students but lower income students in particular. "The students that are paying will be paying more and getting less," she said.

El Dorado DA Shows Jaycee Dugard was Phillip Garrido's 5th Kidnapping Victim

The El Dorado County District Attorney's office released information Tuesday showing that kidnapping survivor Jaycee Dugard was Phillip Garrido's fifth identified victim. According to a map of Garrido's crimes, four of his previous victims had also been attacked in South Lake Tahoe. The first known assault was a rape and kidnapping in Antioch on April 14, 1972. That attack was followed by another rape and kidnapping on June 7, 1976, in South Lake Tahoe. The next assault was on November 22, 1976, when Garrido attempted to rape and kidnap one woman and then raped and kidnapped a second woman, also in South Lake Tahoe. That attack led to his conviction in federal court for kidnapping and in state court for rape. He was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison and five years to life in state prison. He only served 11 years of that sentence, however, and was paroled in 1988. On June 10, 1991, Garrido and his wife, Nancy Garrido, used a stun gun and forcibly kidnapped Dugard, then 11, as she walked to the school bus stop near her South Lake Tahoe home. The couple took her to their home on Walnut Avenue just outside Antioch, where they held her captive for the next 18 years. During that time, Garrido repeatedly raped Dugard and she gave birth to two daughters fathered by him. She wasn't found until Aug. 4, 2009, despite numerous searches by state and federal parole agents. Phillip and Nancy Garrido have since pleaded guilty to rape and kidnapping charges. They were sentenced in June to life in prison. A memoir written by Dugard telling of her abduction, captivity and survival was released in bookstores Tuesday. The book, titled "A Stolen Life," is published by Simon and Schuster. A statement released Tuesday by El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson said that law enforcement investigators knew that Garrido had committed the previous assaults at the time that they were searching for Dugard, but somehow Garrido never became a suspect. Pierson, along with Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, law enforcement leaders and victims' rights organizations plan to discuss some of the unanswered questions in the case at a public meeting in Sacramento on Aug. 3.

BART Police Chief, Police Review Committee Questioned about Charles Hill Shooting

BART's police chief and members of its Police Review Committee were subjected to tough questions Tuesday about a recent confrontation at San Francisco's Civic Center station in which BART police shot and killed a knife-wielding man. A leader of the activist group No Justice, No BART who identified himself as Krystof angrily asked committee members, "What training do you have in running your police department?" The Police Review Committee was formed after passenger Oscar Grant was fatally shot by former officer Johannes Mehserle on Jan. 1 to try to make the transit agency's police department more accountable to the public. But Krystof, who was one of only four speakers at Tuesday's meeting, said the fatal shooting of 45-year-old Charles Hill at the Civic Center station on July 3 marks the second time BART police have killed someone since Grant was killed. Fred Collins, a 48-year-old Oakland man, was fatally shot by BART and Oakland police officers near the Fruitvale station in Oakland on July 17, 2010, after allegedly charging at them with knives in each hand. BART Director Lynette Sweet, who chairs the Police Review Committee, said she and other committee members are also upset that Hill was killed, saying, "None of us are happy." Krystof responded, "The solution is simple: disband the BART Police Department." Director Tom Radulovich, another committee member, said he considered asking for the department to be dissolved after Grant was killed, but he ultimately came to the conclusion that it would be better to reform the department instead of contracting out police work to an outside agency that would not be accountable to BART and the public.

Crowd in Front of SF City Hall Shows Support for Deshon Marman & His Sagging Pants

About 100 people gathered in front of San Francisco City Hall Tuesday in support of a man who was removed from a U.S. Airways flight and arrested last month after he allegedly refused to pull up his sagging pants. Deshon Marman, 20, was arrested on suspicion of battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and trespassing on June 15 after boarding a flight from San Francisco to Albuquerque, N.M., where he is a student and football player at the University of New Mexico. San Francisco police said Marman 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. He allegedly refused to do so, and eventually the plane's captain told the other passengers to deplane, ordered Marman to leave the aircraft and then placed him under citizen's arrest when he refused to exit, police said. Marman was escorted off the plane by police and then allegedly resisted officers when they tried to arrest him. One officer suffered a cut to his hand and a sprained knee in the struggle, according to police. At Tuesday afternoon's rally in support of Marman, his family, friends and other backers questioned the police version of the events, and called on U.S. Airways to apologize to him. His aunt, Sheila Burton, said Marman could not initially pull up his pants because he was carrying his baggage, and acted respectful throughout the incident. "They're the ones that took it to another level," Burton said. She said the incident was especially unfortunate because Marman had flown back to San Francisco for the funeral of his friend, former high school football star David Henderson, who was fatally shot in the Bayview. Marman's mother, Donna Doyle, said she was "very appalled that U.S. Airways sees fit to stop my son, but not the cross-dresser," a white man who was apparently allowed to travel while wearing women's underwear, according to various media reports in the days after the incident.

Jury Convicts James Raphael Mitchell of Murder of Ex-Girlfriend, Kidnapping Baby daughter

A Marin County jury Tuesday afternoon convicted James Raphael Mitchell of first-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend Danielle Keller and kidnapping the couple's one-year-old daughter at her Novato home two years ago. The jury reached the verdict after deliberating two days in Marin County Superior Court. Deputy District Attorney Charles Cacciatore said the jury did not convict Mitchell of the special circumstance of murder during a kidnapping. Mitchell, 29, faces 34 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 16, Cacciatore said. Cacciatore said the verdict reflects "the seriousness with which we treat domestic violence cases here in Marin County." "We want to make sure the victims take steps to get out of violent relationships and know they will have the assistance of the Marin County courts when they make that decision," Cacciatore said. Mitchell, an heir to the Mitchell family pornography and strip club business, was charged with killing Keller by repeatedly hitting her head with a softball bat at her Diablo Court home in Novato and kidnapping their daughter on the toddler's first birthday on July 12, 2009. He also was convicted of stalking, child endangerment and domestic violence, Cacciatore said. Mitchell testified he fought off two men who actually killed Keller and tried to take their daughter from the residence as he arrived to celebrate the girl's birthday. He was arrested about five hours later in Citrus Heights after he ran out of gas. His daughter was not injured. The prosecution claimed the slaying was the culmination of a series of domestic violence incidents committed by Mitchell against Keller. The verdicts also came four years to the day after Mitchell's father Jim died.

Michael Heartsman-Anthony Charged with Murder for Shooting Death of Ditiyan Franklin Jr.

A suspect has been charged with murder for the shooting death of a well-liked 17-year-old senior at the Castlewood Leadership Preparatory High School in East Oakland, Oakland police said Tuesday. Michael Heartsman-Anthony, a 22-year-old Oakland man, was arrested last Wednesday for the shooting of Ditiyan Franklin Jr. in the 2400 block of Ritchie Street at about 2:30 p.m. on May 25, but Oakland police waited until late Tuesday to announce his arrest. Franklin was weeks away from graduation when the shooting occurred. Alameda County Chief Assistant District Attorney Kevin Dunleavy said Heartsman-Anthony was arraigned Friday and returned to court Monday to be assigned an attorney. Heartsman-Anthony is scheduled to return to court soon to enter a plea. The Castlemont campus, which hosts three small schools, including the Leadership Preparatory High School, is located at 8601 MacArthur Blvd., which is about five blocks away from the shooting scene. Oakland police spokeswoman Sgt. Holly Joshi said Heartsman-Anthony has denied being involved in the shooting. Dunleavy said Heartsman was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and with attempted murder because another person was standing in the line of fire when Franklin was shot. That person was not injured. Joshi said Heartsman-Anthony shot at Franklin as Franklin rode a bicycle in the 2400 block of Ritchie Street. She said Franklin dismounted the bicycle and tried to run away, but Heartsman-Anthony chased him and fatally shot him. Joshi said homicide investigators believe the shooting stemmed from a dispute between Heartsman-Anthony and Franklin, who knew each other.

29th Birthday of UC Graduate Shane Bauer Detained in Iran Marked at Fundraiser

The 29th birthday of a University of California at Berkeley graduate who has been detained in Iran for nearly two years will be marked at a fundraising event at a photo gallery in San Francisco tonight. Shane Bauer, his fiancee, 32-year-old Sarah Shourd, and 28-year-old Josh Fattal were arrested on July 31, 2009, while hiking in Iraq's Kurdistan region near the Iran border. Shourd and Fattal are also UC Berkeley graduates. Shourd, who was released last September, said in an interview Tuesday that they were detained after they accidentally crossed an unmarked border into Iran. "It's impossible to just walk into Iran," she said. But Iran has accused all three hikers of espionage and entering the country illegally and plans to prosecute them. 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. She said the trial of Bauer and Fattal has been postponed several times but is now scheduled to begin on July 31. Shourd said Bauer is a photojournalist who has had his work published in many prominent publications and some of his photographs will be shown at the event at the Rayko Photo Center at 428 Third St. from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Shourd will be one of the speakers as will Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Kim Komenich, former Reuters photographer Lou Demattais and Shon Meckfessel, who was with the other hikers but escaped captivity because he stayed in their hotel with a cold on the day that they were detained. The money raised at the event will help pay Bauer and Fattal's legal fees as well as the media campaign aimed at getting them released from prison.

Fatal Rush Hour Collision on Highway 17 that Killed a Woman Intentionally Caused

A collision on state Highway 17 in Santa Cruz in which a woman was killed during rush hour on Monday was intentionally caused by a wrong-way driver, according to the California Highway Patrol. The collision occurred at about 3:10 p.m. on the transition from southbound Highway 17 to northbound state Highway 1, near the Ocean Street exit, according to the CHP. The victim, whose name will not be released until her family is notified, was a 49-year-old woman from Santa Cruz. She was driving north on Highway 1 when the suspect, identified as 29-year-old Eric Weers, of Soquel, drove his silver Acura SUV head-on toward her and collided with the woman's maroon Chrysler sedan. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Weers' SUV caught on fire, but he managed to escape unharmed, CHP Officer Hatcher said. A preliminary investigation indicated the collision was intentional, but that the vehicle Weers collided with was chosen at random, Hatcher said. "There was an element of premeditation," Hatcher said. Alcohol and drugs do not appear to have factored into the crash, he said. Weers was arrested on suspicion of murder, assault with a deadly weapon, driving the wrong way on a divided highway, and vehicular manslaughter.

Public Support Growing for Revitalizing Market Street into Thriving Public Place

The overcrowded room at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association Tuesday afternoon represents just a fraction of the 250,000 people who use Market Street every day, but signifies the public's growing interest in the street's improvement. The findings released at a 12:30 p.m. forum will be the basis for the Better Market Street Project, an initiative between city agencies and community groups to revitalize the stretch from The Embarcadero to Octavia Boulevard. Surveyors recorded pedestrian traffic and stationary activity, as well as evaluated crosswalks, intersections, and public spaces. Research showed that nearly half of Market Street users are pedestrians, accounting for 49 percent of its traffic on weekdays, said Kris Opbroek, the project manager from the Department of Public Works. Of people who use public transit along Market Street, 32 percent navigate on foot after arriving at their destination, she said. Opbroek said she expected a high percentage of pedestrians, but the heavy concentration of walkers between Fourth and Fifth streets was surprising. The area encompasses the street's retail hub, including the Westfield San Francisco Centre. Market Street motorists and bikers represent the remaining 14 percent and 5 percent, respectively, of weekday traffic. About 75 percent of the people on Market Street are involved in stationary activities, such as waiting for a bus, said David Alumbaugh, a senior urban designer for the San Francisco Planning Department. However, the staying activity for the street is slim. "How little people come to Market Street as a place, versus just passing through, is surprising," Alumbaugh said. He said he hopes the improvements will focus on making Market Street a destination rather than a layover. "People should meet on Market Street, as you might meet someone in Union Square," Alumbaugh said.

Judge Approves EIR for Hunters Point Redevelopment Project

A massive redevelopment project at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Candlestick Point in San Francisco has cleared a major hurdle, gaining a judge's approval of most of an environmental study. The 702-acre project by the city's redevelopment agency and Miami-based Lennar Corp. will include 10,500 housing units as well as offices, stores and parks on the southeast shore of San Francisco. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith on Monday upheld most of an environmental impact report on the plan, rejecting several challenges in a lawsuit by two citizens' groups. But at the same time, Goldsmith barred development of some sections of the shipyard -- estimated by one lawyer to amount to at least 235 acres -- until a multi-year cleanup of contamination is complete. Lennar and the city had envisioned a so-called early transfer of several parcels of land from the Navy to the developers, under which the developers rather than the Navy would complete the cleanup of hazardous waste caused by ship building and repair. But Goldsmith said that because the EIR did not discuss a possible cleanup by the developers instead of the Navy, the document could not be used as a basis for allowing an early transfer of the contaminated land. Instead, the judge said, Goldsmith said the development of those parcels may not proceed until "the remediation process is complete and approved by regulating agencies as safe for human health and development." Meanwhile, however, the remaining portions of the project "may move forward," the judge ruled. Kofi Bonner, president of Lennar's urban development division, called the ruling "a great victory for the city and the residents of Bayview Hunters Point." "We are gratified that Judge Goldsmith has concluded that the Environmental Impact Report is not only adequate but provides a way forward to protect human health, "Bonner said. "As the Navy completes cleanup of individual parcels, we will be ready to begin development," he said. The report was required by the California Environmental Quality Act. Its adequacy was challenged by People Organized to Win Employment Rights, known as POWER, and Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.

Women's World Cup Viewing Party at Civic Center Today

The Women's World Cup semi-finals will be broadcast on a giant screen in San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza today, with family-friendly activities, food, and games.
Encouraged by the popularity of last summer's display of the men's World Cup, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department has been hosting a similar event for the women's tournament.
The event includes games and activities for both children and adults, including mini-soccer games and soccer skills sessions.
Gourmet food trucks from Off the Grid will be parked nearby.
Today's semi-final matches are USA vs. France at 9 a.m. and Sweden vs. Japan at 11:45 a.m. The final match will be held on Sunday and will also be broadcast on the 13-by-17-foot screen in Civic Center Plaza.

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Pension Reform Battle Heating Up THis Week

Pension reform is a hot topic this week in San Francisco, where two competing plans to address the issue are coming into the spotlight.

On Monday, Public Defender Jeff Adachi dropped off more than 72,000 signatures at the city's elections department to get his pension reform measure on the November ballot.

Today, the Board of Supervisors is set to consider a separate measure being put forth by Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials.

A coalition of city workers and retirees planned to hold a rally prior to today's board meeting to oppose both measures.

Adachi said his measure, which proposes higher pension contributions from city employees and caps on pensions for new employees, among other changes, would save the city more money than the mayor's proposal.

Lee's plan is the result of months of negotiations between city officials and labor and business leaders. The Board of Supervisors will consider it today and will likely vote next week on whether to place the measure on the ballot.

Adachi said today that the 72,640-plus signatures his measure received far exceeded the 46,177 required to get it on the November ballot. The signatures will have to be certified by the Department of Elections within the next 30 days.

He said the number of signatures shows "not only the level of support from voters but their level of awareness."

"They're very concerned about the pension crisis, people are realizing how this affects their lives," Adachi said.

Adachi said he is open to compromise with the other city officials and that he hopes the supervisors today will consider incorporating his proposal into the other measure in order to have "a unitary proposal" rather than two competing initiatives on the ballot.

He said his plan would save the city about $1.25 billion over 10 years, compared to about $750 million in savings from the mayor's plan over the same period. He said a compromise plan he offered last week would fall somewhere in between.

However, if his proposal is not considered by the board, Adachi said he plans to move forward with his measure.

"I'm not interested in kicking the can down the road for a couple of years," he said.

Today's protest prior to the board meeting is organized by a coalition that includes the United Public Workers for Action and the West Bay Retirees chapter of Service Employees International 1021, the city's largest labor union.

The rally was set for 1 p.m., and the Board of Supervisors meeting begins at 2 p.m.

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Commuters' Opinions Split on Monday's BART Protest

Commuters inconvenienced by rowdy protests at several BART stations in San Francisco on Monday expressed mixed reactions to the demonstrations this morning.

The protesters gathered on the platform of the Civic Center station late Monday afternoon to protest the death of Charles Hill, 45, who was shot at that station by BART police on July 3 during a confrontation in which police said he wielded a knife and a broken bottle as weapons.

Several commuters arriving at the Civic Center station this morning said they left work early on Monday in anticipation of the protest, but others were left waiting on crowded platforms, or forced to take an alternate routes when the Civic Center, Powell Street and 16th Street stations were closed.

Rebecca Hathaway, a 29-year-old case manager from Berkeley, said she first heard of the shooting because of the protests.

"It kind of took me by surprise, I didn't know there was any kind of incident," she said. "I wish they had picked a different time, though I can see why they would when there's traffic."

Erica Kesel, a 35-year-old fundraiser from San Francisco's Mission District, said she understands the protesters' motivations but thinks that their tactics were inappropriate. 

"I don't understand protesting on the platform where people are inconvenienced," she said. "I do understand it's a serious issue but I think there's a more constructive way."

Despite the inconvenience, several commuters expressed support for the demonstrations.

"Civic Center was closed so I had to walk to Powell," said Nate Allbee, a 31-year-old political consultant.

He said, however, that he didn't mind.

"I think it's important that people's voices are heard," he said. "I'm definitely on the side of the protest."

Essie Nelson, a 32-year-old Oakland resident who works at Alcatraz, also said she supports the protests.

"There should be a big protest," Nelson said. "It's ridiculous how they tried to justify that, them being sober and him being drunk. It's going back to a police state in a way."

The BART officers involved in the confrontation were responding to a report of a "wobbly" man on the platform with an open container of alcohol, according to BART.

The protests were organized by No Justice No BART and Oakland for Justice, two groups that came together after the BART police shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009.

Organizers said that because of those shootings and others, they believe that BART police should be disbanded.

The protesters began their demonstration at Civic Center on Monday, then moved around to other stations, which caused the closure of the 16th Street and Powell Stations later in the evening. It at times became rowdy, with a scuffle on a train and a protester climbing atop a train at one point.

One person was arrested by San Francisco police, but BART police made no arrests. 

BART spokesman Linton Johnson criticized the protesters on Monday night. 

"These fringe groups have apparently shown no regard for the work of their fellow citizens and, of course, the customers on the train, the elderly -- all those folks who need Civic Center station open and rely on the station," he said.

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Tenants Sue City for Its Approval of Parkmerced Project

Tenants of San Francisco's Parkmerced apartments filed a lawsuit against the city on Monday for its approval last month of a plan to add thousands of apartments and demolish others at the complex.

The lawsuit comes after tenants delivered signatures to the city's Department of Elections on Friday for a ballot measure that could nullify the plan, which would add about 5,700 apartments and replace about 1,800 others during the next two to three decades.

Some tenants of Parkmerced, located at 19th and Holloway avenues, say the proposal, approved by the Board of Supervisors last month by a 6-5 vote, would displace them and leave them at risk of losing their rent-controlled housing.

The tenants' groups that filed the lawsuit include the Parkmerced Action Coalition and San Francisco Tomorrow.

Their attorney Stuart Flashman said the groups are making "a two-pronged attack on the city's approval of the project -- one on the legal side and the other on the political side."

Flashman said the lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that the environmental impact report certified by the board was inaccurate and inadequate.

He said the project also contradicts policies and priorities enacted by Proposition M, an initiative approved by voters in 1986 that puts limits on high-rise developments and sets planning priorities that protect affordable housing.

"That was put in place to prevent developers from attempting to take over the city, and running roughshod over existing neighborhoods," he said.

Flashman said the lawsuit also addresses alleged violations of the city's sunshine ordinance because during Planning Commission hearings on the plan, public comment time was reduced from three minutes to one minute per speaker.

During the final board committee hearing on the proposal, Board President David Chiu issued four pages of amendments at the start of the meeting that he said would help protect the rights of Parkmerced tenants.

But Flashman said, "That's the first anybody saw them, and I think that's outrageous."

He said the residents of Parkmerced should have "an opportunity to receive notice of changes to a development agreement that's going to have a tremendous effect on them, and to spring it on them at the last minute is really unfair."

Chiu, who was the swing vote in the 6-5 decision on the plan, defended his vote in a letter posted on his website.

He wrote, "I fully recognize that change is never easy, but Parkmerced strikes the right balance between protecting existing tenants while providing a tremendous opportunity to add much-need housing and community improvements to the west side of the city."

Parkmerced spokesman P.J. Johnston has also said that while many residents will be relocated within the complex, the new apartments will be
built before the old ones are demolished so people will only have to move
once, and the new units will be similar in size and will have the same rent
control status.

But Cathy Lentz, a spokeswoman for the Parkmerced Action Coalition, argued that might not happen if the project changes ownership at some point in the future.

She added, "Who would want to live through 30 years of construction?"

Lentz, who was one of two women who had to be removed from the Board of Supervisors chambers after yelling at supervisors during a contentious hearing at which the board initially approved the plan, said the tenants' actions Friday and Monday mark the beginning of their effort to overturn the project.

"There was a small group of people that started this, and we're slowly moving a mountain," she said.

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Rally Held for Man Escorted from Flight Due to Saggy Pants

A crowd is expected to gather outside San Francisco City Hall today in support of a man who was removed from a U.S. Airways flight and arrested last month after he allegedly refused to pull up his sagging pants.

Deshon Marman, 20, was arrested on suspicion of battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and trespassing on June 15 after boarding a flight from San Francisco to Albuquerque, N.M., where he is a student and football player at the University of New Mexico.

Marman was instructed by airline crew members several times to pull up his pants to cover his underwear, both before he boarded and while on the plane, according to San Francisco police.

He allegedly refused to do so, and eventually the plane's captain told the other passengers to deplane, ordered Marman to leave the aircraft and then placed him under citizen's arrest for trespassing after he refused to exit, police said.

Marman was escorted off the plane by police and then allegedly resisted officers when they tried to handcuff him. One officer suffered a cut to his hand and a sprained knee in the struggle, according to police.

The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office has not filed charges against Marman, who posted $11,000 bail and was released from jail. The district attorney's office has until the end of the week to decide whether to charge him.

Today's rally is also in support of a resolution that will be introduced at today's Board of Supervisors meeting by Supervisor Malia Cohen, whose district includes the Bayview, where Marman grew up.

The resolution calls for San Francisco to join the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in asking for the case to be dismissed and for a formal apology from U.S. Airways.

The airline released a statement after last month's incident, saying while the company "does not have a specific dress code, we ask our customers to dress in an appropriate manner to ensure the safety and comfort of all of our passengers."

Today's rally was scheduled to start at noon and will precede the 2 p.m. meeting of the Board of Supervisors where Cohen will introduce the resolution.

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July 16, 2011

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