SF News

Campbell Mayor Urges Federal Health Officials To Lift Ban On Gay Men Donating Blood

Campbell Mayor Evan Low is fighting for gay men to be able to donate blood in an effort that has spread nationwide.

The mayor, who is running for a seat in the California State Assembly in June 2014, created a petition last week on the online advocacy website Change.org urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Department of Health and Human Services to allow gay men to donate blood.

The petition quickly gathered thousands of signatures.

"I didn't intend for this to blow up like this," he said this afternoon.

The lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was imposed nearly 30 years ago but Low became involved with repealing the ban at the end of July when he was invited by the American Red Cross to host a blood drive in Campbell.

As an openly gay man, he said, "It's like being invited to a party I can't attend."

He accepted the invitation to host the blood drive for the good of his community, but was not able to participate in the drive, he said.

The mayor wants to keep the blood supply safe, but believes that restrictions against gay men is outdated and based on old research and data.

Low said potential healthy donors unable to contribute to blood supplies, which are often tapped into during emergencies and natural disasters, is unfair.

"This is blanket discrimination," he said. "Just because you are gay you have a lifetime ban."

In March 2012 Health and Human Services started looking into a pilot study, which would review the criteria for donors to give blood.

According to the department, the ban was imposed for all men with a history of having sex with other men since 1977 because of documented higher levels of infections, such as HIV or Hepatitis B.

However, since the ban was enacted in the 1980s, there is higher quality testing for infections that could be transferred in a blood donation, according to health officials.

HHS formed a committee in 2010 to look into the ban on gay men donors and said the policy was "sub optimal."

The ban was left in place but remains under review.

Low said he has received support for a repeal from the American Medical Association, the American Association of Blood Banks and the American Red Cross, who have called on the FDA to review the donation policies.

Low said he has a phone conference scheduled with FDA and HHS officials in the coming weeks to discuss the policy and what next steps can be taken.

Other countries, including the U.K. and Canada, have ended blood-donation bans for gays in recent years.

As of this evening there were more than 19,200 signatures on Low's online petition.

If the petition reaches 25,000 signatures, it will be sent to federal health officials.

The petition is available online at http://www.change.org/gaybloodban.

 

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Famous North Beach Strip Club 'Lusty Lady' To Close

A well-known strip club in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood has announced that it will shut its doors early next month.

A message posted on the Lusty Lady's Facebook page on Tuesday stated that the business was shutting down on Sept. 2 because of rent increases.

"It is with shaking hands & tear stained cheeks that I write to say, we just heard from our land lord, they will NOT agree to a new lease, they are closing our doors," the post read.

It was signed by "The Lusties."

The website for the club, located at 1033 Kearny St., touts the Lusty Lady as "the world's only unionized worker-owned peep show co-op," after its dancers voted to unionize in 1997 as a result of "random firings and pay cuts, ambiguous shift policies and other unsavory business."

The fight to unionize the Lusty Lady dancers was the subject of the 2000 documentary "Live Nude Girls Unite!" Under a prior threat of closure in 2003, the dancers purchased the Lusty Lady and ran it as a co-op, but saw declining revenues in recent years as Internet pornography grew in popularity, according to its website.

The dancers wrote Tuesday on Facebook, "Please help us spread the word, and make it a glorious & glamorous two weeks!"

 

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Bart Offering 24-Hour Train Service During Bay Bridge Closure Next Week

With the Bay Bridge closing for up to five days starting next Wednesday, motorists will have to find alternate ways to get across the span.

To put in the final touches to ensure the new eastern span opens by Sept. 3, the entire bridge will shut down starting at 8 p.m. on Aug. 28.

The bridge is expected to open at 5 a.m. on Sept. 3 -- if not sooner. During the shutdown, BART will be running 24-hour train service, there will be additional ferries, and other area bridges will be taking on extra motorists.

BART will run trains constantly through the night of Sept. 2.

Regular service will resume around 4 a.m. on Sept. 3.

Overnight service will be available hourly at 14 stations between the Concord and San Francisco International Airport stations and El Cerrito Del Norte and Dublin/Pleasanton stations.

Oakland's MacArthur Station will serve as a transfer point for both lines.

BART is anticipating heavy ridership during the bridge closure and will run longer trains.

During the 2009 Labor Day weekend closure ridership increased 30 percent, or an extra 230,000 passengers compared to the same five-day period from the year before.

On Labor Day BART will be on a Saturday schedule, and parking regulations will proceed as usual at all stations.

There will be free parking on Saturday, Sunday and the Monday holiday.

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit buses that normally carry passengers across the bridge will be diverting transbay bus riders to one of four BART stations, including the Coliseum, West Oakland, MacArthur, and North Berkeley stations, transit agency spokesman Clarence Johnson said.

The last AC-Transit bus will cross the Bay Bridge from San Francisco at 7:10 p.m. on Aug. 28 and once the bridge reopens normal service will resume, Johnson said.

AC Transit staff will be deployed at the four BART stations during the shutdown to assist passengers with altered travel logistics.

For those taking to the roads, regional traffic officials are advising drivers to allow extra time when taking other bridges such as the Golden Gate, Richmond-San Rafael, San Mateo-Hayward and Dumbarton bridges.

Those who need to get to Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island will be allowed with a special permit to access those areas from the San Francisco side.

Another transit option is taking a ferry, which will provide expanded service from Vallejo, Oakland, and Alameda into San Francisco.

The San Francisco Bay Ferry during the week will be running 10 boats instead of its usual eight, and on the weekend and Labor Day will have five boats instead of three, according to SF Bay Ferry spokesman Ernest Sanchez.

On some routes, such as those from Alameda to San Francisco, there will be boats available over the weekend and holiday when normally there is only weekday ferries, Sanchez said.

The bridge is closing to allow crews to pave, stripe lanes and put up barrier rails as part of finishing construction efforts for the $6.4 billion project.

 

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Police Say Drivers Should Plan Ahead For Bay Bridge Closure

Motorists should use common sense, remain calm and plan ahead when the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is closed next week for construction work on its new eastern span before it is reopened on the morning of Sept. 3, law enforcement officials said today.

California Highway Patrol Officer Sam Morgan said, "We're asking motorists to obey all traffic laws, to be patient and to allow themselves more time to get to their destinations."

The Bay Bridge will be closed in both directions from 8 p.m. on Aug. 28, a week from tonight, to 5 a.m. on Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day, to complete additional work in order to open the new eastern span to the driving public.

Morgan said motorists shouldn't try to pass CHP patrol cars when officers are in the process of closing the bridge because doing so would endanger CHP officers, Caltrans personnel and construction workers.

He said, "If some motorist tries to do something on their own, they will be contacted by the CHP."

Transportation officials are mounting a massive public information campaign to let people know that the bridge will be closed but Morgan said there are always some people who don't get the message and ask officers why the span isn't open.

"There are always a few people on another planet," Morgan said. "We get a lot of people who are from outside the area or who are on a different drumbeat."

He said drivers who usually use the Bay Bridge but plan to use other area bridges while the span is closed should learn about the geography in those other areas so they don't get lost.

CHP Officer Mike Ferguson said motorists should make sure they have a full tank of gas in case they get stuck in traffic while trying to use the Bay Bridge just before it closes and are suddenly forced to take an alternate route.

San Francisco police spokesman Albie Esparza and Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said their agencies will help the CHP during the bridge closure by having officers at the approaches on each side of the Bay Bridge.

In addition, Watson said the Oakland Police Department's marine unit will be available to help patrol the San Francisco Bay if there are emergencies.

Watson said that after the new eastern span opens, Oakland police officers on bicycles will patrol the pedestrian walkway and bike path on the span.

Morgan said the CHP also will have bicycle officers who will patrol the walkway and bike path.

 

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Legislators Request Audit Of Commission That Revoked CCSF'S Accreditation

The regional panel that decided last month to revoke the accreditation of City College of San Francisco effective next year is now under increased review itself after state legislators today approved a request to audit the organization.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges will be the subject of the audit requested by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, a member of the bipartisan Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which approved the request.

The ACCJC announced last month that City College would lose its accreditation at the end of July 2014.

The school is appealing the decision and is hoping to maintain accreditation by addressing recommendations made by the commission and making changes to its governance structure and finances.

However, the accrediting commission has already come under fire from the U.S. Department of Education, which last week issued a letter finding fault with the ACCJC's accrediting process for City College.

The letter mentioned a possible conflict of interest by having the commission's president's husband on an evaluation team for the school, as well as having a lack of faculty members on evaluation teams and providing vague instructions for compliance.

Now comes the pending state audit, which is expected to take about six months to complete.

Beall said in a statement that the audit was necessary because the ACCJC "virtually operates unfettered with little to no oversight, yet its decisions have a direct impact on the world's biggest system of higher education with over 2 million students."

He said, "The public and the Legislature deserves to understand how this commission makes and arrives at decisions that affects the futures of so many Californians."

State Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, who joined Beall in the audit request, said the commission "has overreached their authority and has not been forthcoming in their decision-making process."

According to Beall's office, members of the ACCJC's evaluating teams were allegedly instructed to destroy documents related to their reviews of community colleges after the commission has recently come under fire.

"Instead of serving the needs of college students, the commission is busy manipulating outdated regulations and shredding documents to prevent their disclosure," Nielsen said.

Representatives with the ACCJC were not immediately available to comment on the pending audit and allegations by the state legislators.

 

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Construction Worker Accused Of Dumping Hazardous Waste In Bayview

A construction worker whose company contracts with University of California Hastings College of the Law pleaded not guilty today to allegedly dumping hazardous waste in San Francisco's Bayview District.

Eusebio Castillo, 61, pleaded not guilty in San Francisco Superior Court to five counts -- four felonies and a misdemeanor -- of violating various health and safety codes in connection with the dumping in December 2012.

Castillo, working with American Building Maintenance Inc., a contractor with the school, was given permission to take construction materials home for personal use after the school no longer needed them, Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Wagner said.

After using some of the materials, Castillo allegedly abandoned 23 containers at Oakdale Avenue and Quint Street, including some with hazardous corrosive materials and others with latex paint, Wagner said.

The containers said "Hastings College of the Law" on them, allowing investigators to track them back to the school and eventually to Castillo, who admitted to abandoning them, Wagner said.

She said the Bayview District has had a lot of trouble with abandoned hazardous materials and this particular batch "could have endangered children or animals or gotten into the Bay. It's a very serious environmental crime."

Wagner asked for Castillo to be held on $63,000 bail, but Deputy Public Defender Ariana Downing asked Judge Rochelle East to release him on his own recognizance, saying he was a long-time employee at his company and "a very stable person."

Downing also noted that the containers were left upright so no materials spilled.

The judge agreed to release Castillo, who was ordered to return to court again Thursday to set a preliminary hearing in the case.

District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement that Castillo "created an environmental hazard that put the Bayview community at risk."

Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the neighborhood, said in a statement, "Long gone are the days where we turn a blind eye to illegal dumping -- we take this crime seriously."

 

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12-Year-Old Boy Robbed In Portola Neighborhood

A 12-year-old boy was robbed in San Francisco's Portola neighborhood on Tuesday evening, a police spokeswoman said today.

The robbery was reported shortly after 5 p.m. near Holyoke and Woolsey streets.

The boy was walking along the sidewalk when he encountered a man next to a car, police spokeswoman Officer Tracy Turner said.

The man demanded the boy's cellphone and wallet, and the boy was "so scared he didn't do anything," prompting the suspect to rifle through the boy's pockets and take his property, Turner said.

The suspect, described as between 20 and 30 years old, then got into a red four-door sedan occupied by three other people and the car drove away, according to Turner.

The boy was not injured in the robbery.

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

 

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Group Plans Rally To Protest 35-Year Sentence For Bradley Manning

Supporters of former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Pfc. Bradley Manning are holding a rally in San Francisco this evening in protest of the 35-year sentence Manning received today following his conviction on espionage charges.

Organizers with the Bradley Manning Support Network and other groups plan to gather at Justin Herman Plaza at 5 p.m.

Manning was found guilty last month of more than a dozen counts, including violating the Espionage Act and stealing government property, for leaking classified information to the online group WikiLeaks.

A military judge this morning sentenced Manning to 35 years in prison.

He had faced up to a 90-year term for the charges.

Rainey Reitman, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, said the sentence could have "a chilling effect on future whistleblowers."

Reitman said, "This sentence sends a dangerous message that the Obama administration is treating people who blow the whistle on war crimes and leak important information to the public as if they were committing acts of espionage."

Reitman said her group and Amnesty International have launched a joint campaign calling on the president to pardon Manning and allow his release.

Amnesty International officials said the information leaked by Manning included reports on battlefield detentions and footage of journalists and other civilians being killed in U.S. military helicopter attacks.

That information "should always have been subject to public scrutiny," Amnesty International senior director of international law and policy Widney Brown said in a statement.

The prosecution of Manning, including on a charge of aiding the enemy for which he was found not guilty, "can only be seen as a harsh warning to anyone else tempted to expose government wrongdoing," Brown said.

Along with the rally in San Francisco, protesters were also planning to gather elsewhere today, including outside the White House.

The Bradley Manning Support Network is raising money for the appeal of Manning's sentence, according to Reitman.

 

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Red-Flag Warning In Effect For North Bay Through 3 A.M. Thursday

The chance of more dry lightning has prompted the National Weather Service to extend a red-flag warning for the North Bay, a spokeswoman said today.

Forecaster Diana Henderson said the warning, which had been in effect for various parts of the Bay Area on Tuesday, has been extended until 3 a.m. Thursday in the hills and valleys of Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties.

Thunderstorms with gusty and erratic winds and lightning are possible through that time, she said.

A red-flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly, according to the National Weather Service.

The warning had initially also applied to parts of the East Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains, but the weather system that prompted it has moved north, Henderson said.

Eric Hoffman, chief of Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit, said lightning has not sparked any fires in that region yet, but pointed out that crews are battling lightning-related wildfires statewide, including in Butte and Shasta counties.

 

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Wednesday Midday News Roundup

Bicyclists Advocate For Safer Folsom Street After Bike Commuter's Death

Dozens of bicyclists heading down San Francisco's Folsom Street this morning stopped to sign letters to Mayor Ed Lee asking for the city to improve safety for cyclists in the city's South of Market neighborhood.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition set up a table at Folsom and Sixth streets where, for two hours this morning, bicyclists were invited to pull over and sign small green cards addressed to the mayor urging a Folsom Street redesign and other changes.

The letter-writing campaign was sparked by the death of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, of San Francisco, who was struck and killed by a truck making a right turn as she biked through the intersection on Aug. 14.

After the accident, someone attached a large handwritten sign to traffic-light pole at the intersection reading, "A bicyclist died here. Please ride/drive carefully."

According to the bicycle coalition, Le Moullac was the third bicyclist this year to be killed by a truck while biking in the city.

Coalition executive director Leah Shahum said she is asking city agencies to find funding to make improvements to Folsom Street and the city's driving culture -- and soon.

Some of the coalition's ideas include fast-tracking a redesign plan that would make Folsom Street a two-way street with separate bike lanes.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is analyzing two options for making Folsom Street safer -- keeping the street one-way but with fewer lanes for cars or making it a two-way street, agency spokesman Paul Rose said.

The proposed changes are part of a citywide bicycle plan.

The changes would still need to undergo an extensive review process before being implemented.

That process is expected to take until June 2015, Rose said.

At the earliest, revamping of the street would begin 2017, Rose said.

He said the SFMTA is looking into implementing some sort of pilot program to boost safety on the street in the meantime.

The bicycle coalition is also calling on the city to require training for large-vehicle operators on how to share the road, and wants the city to mandate that large trucks be fitted with convex mirrors.

One bicyclist, 30-year-old Tim Cannady, who stopped by to sign a letter on his morning commute from the Mission District to downtown, said he bikes cautiously when heading through the South of Market area.

Cannady said he rides every day on Folsom Street because it is the safest, straightest route, but that it needs improvements, such as a separated bike lane.

"Biking is here to stay," he said. "Let's keep everyone safe."

26 CCSF Protesters Arrested Outside Mayor's Office

More than two-dozen City College of San Francisco students and advocates were arrested at City Hall late Tuesday night after calling on the mayor to support the embattled school in its fight to maintain accreditation.

A total of 26 people were detained and cited for trespassing and unlawful assembly outside the mayor's office at City Hall at about 11:50 p.m. Tuesday, sheriff's spokeswoman Susan Fahey said.

Organizer Eric Blanc said his group has tried to meet with Mayor Ed Lee for a month but has been rebuffed, so the group decided to gather outside Lee's office for a sit-in after a large rally in support of the 85,000-student school earlier Tuesday.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges announced last month that City College would lose its accreditation at the end of July 2014.

The school is appealing the decision and is hoping that by working to address some of the problems cited by the commission it can maintain its accreditation.

However, the U.S. Department of Education last week issued a letter finding fault with the ACCJC's processes for evaluating City College, citing vague instructions for compliance, a lack of faculty members on evaluation teams and other issues.

Blanc said the group takes issue with the mayor's support of City College special trustee Robert Agrella, who was appointed by last month by California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris to oversee the school's efforts to stay open.

Blanc said the student group opposes Agrella, who has unilateral control to make changes to the school and is refusing to cite the Department of Education's letter as part of City College's appeal of the ACCJC's decision to revoke its accreditation.

He said, "We need the mayor to throw his weight in support of City College and he's throwing it against it right now."

Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for Lee, said this morning, "The mayor realizes that these are difficult times for the college and its students, but the best way we can support students is to focus on true reforms that will keep the college open and on a path to long-term success."

Fahey, of the sheriff's department, said a large group from the rally came into City Hall at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

They were given an order to disperse shortly before midnight, but 26 people refused.

Those protesters were cited and then released outside of City Hall early this morning, she said.

The group has posted pictures of the sit-in on its website at www.saveccsf.org.

Bank On Van Ness Avenue Robbed Tuesday Evening

A man robbed a bank along San Francisco's busy Van Ness Avenue on Tuesday evening, police said today.

The robbery was reported at 5:11 p.m. in the 2700 block of Van Ness, between Greenwich and Lombard streets.

The man, believed to be in his 30s, came into the bank and handed a teller a note demanding money, according to police.

He was given an undisclosed amount of cash and then fled through the rear bank doors.

He had not been found as of this morning, police said.

No one was injured in the robbery.

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

Local CA National Guard Troops Helping Fight Wildfires Statewide

Today more than 7,000 firefighters, several California National Guard helicopters and two C-130 cargo planes are battling a dozen major wildfires in the state, which have charred a total of nearly 100,000 acres, a Cal Fire spokesman said.

In the past two days, as many as 150 new wildfires have been sparked by lightning, keeping firefighters scrambling to put out hot spots, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

A red flag warning is in effect through Thursday for most of the foothills and mountains of Northern California because of the possibility of more lightning and gusty winds, state fire officials said.

The unusually active fire season has forced Cal Fire to augment its resources with personnel from the California National Guard, in a mutual aid relationship that spans decades.

Cal Fire trains several dozen National Guard pilots each year to aid in air suppression.

"The National Guard has excellent pilots that we train to help us fight fires from the air," Berlant said. "We use specialized air equipment -- a cargo plane that we put in a modular fire tank to drop fire retardant, much like an air tanker."

The National Guard pilots are trained in how to effectively drop water and fire retardant and how to safely fly over a fire, he said.

This year has seen one of the most active fire seasons since 2008, due in part to a lack of rain combined with high temperatures that did not allow the light spring rain to soak into the dry ground.

This is also the earliest fire season Cal Fire has seen in decades, Berlant contends.

From Jan. 1 through this past Saturday, Cal Fire recorded 4,700 wildfires statewide.

During roughly the same time in 2012, from Jan. 1 to Aug. 1, Cal Fire recorded just over 3,400 wildfires, Berlant said.

He added that the average number for that seven-month period is about 3,300. The Swedes Fire in Butte County, southeast of Oroville, is expected to be fully contained by Thursday.

The fire has burned nearly 2,500 acres and was 90 percent contained as of this morning.

The Burney Lightning Series in Shasta County near Fall River Mills is 80 percent contained, Berlant said.

Firefighters were battling seven fires spanning 190 acres. Cal Fire is assisting the U.S. Forest Service with 10 additional fires burning on federal land.

Among the largest are the American Fire, burning 15,738 acres in Placer County, and the Rim Fire in Tuolumne County northeast of Groveland.

The Rim Fire was only 5 percent contained as of this morning, and National Guard crews were leaving Moffett Field today to battle the fire from above, Berlant confirmed.

More than 16,000 acres have burned.

And Berlant pointed out that the fire season is only just beginning.

"While fire season ends when we see a good wetting rain for a significant period, usually in late October or early November -- unfortunately the end is usually the worst," Berlant said.

East Palo Alto 19-Year-Old Man Fatally Shot In Vehicle Tuesday Night

A 19-year-old man died after being shot while in a vehicle in East Palo Alto late Tuesday night, police said.

At about 10:10 p.m., officers received word of shots fired in the 2500 block of Emmett Way, about a block from University Avenue.

Upon arrival, officers found the victim slumped over in the driver's seat of the car with at least one gunshot wound, police said.

Menlo Park Fire Protection District crews arrived and rendered aid to the man.

He was transported to a hospital, but succumbed to his injuries, police said.

Police are continuing to investigate the incident and are asking anyone who may have witnessed the shooting or has any information to contact Detective Tommy Phengsene at (650) 798-5947 or the East Palo Alto Police Department at (650) 321-1112.

Tipsters can also send an anonymous email to epa@tipnow.org or send an anonymous text or voicemail to (650) 409-6792.

The victim's name is being withheld pending notification of his next of kin.

Belmont Firefighters Hitting The Streets Thursday To Raise Money For Charity

Belmont firefighters will take to the streets on Thursday to help raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Members of the Belmont Fire Department will participate in the "Fill the Boot Campaign" from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the intersection of Ralston Avenue and Alameda de las Pulgas.

Firefighters will be on the street corners with empty boots asking drivers and other passersby to fill them up with donations, according to the fire department.

The donations will be given to the MDA to fund services for Bay Area patients who suffer from neuromuscular diseases, fire officials said.

The MDA provides patients in need with wheelchairs, leg braces, speaking devices and other items, as well as trips to summer camps.

Belmont firefighters raised more than $3,000 during last year's "Fill the Boot Campaign," according to the fire department.

San Jose Auto Burglary Suspect Shot By Resident

Police are investigating a vehicle burglary that resulted in a shooting early this morning in South San Jose.

At 1:28 p.m. police received a report of shots fired in the 1100 block of Coleman Road, near Almaden Expressway.

The reporting party explained that he had confronted a suspect who was breaking into his father's car.

He attempted to detain the suspect, but the suspect ran toward a waiting vehicle, police said.

The suspect allegedly got into the vehicle and drove away, almost striking the reporting party, according to police.

Police said the caller told investigators that the suspect vehicle stopped a short distance away and a passenger exited the car and appeared to draw a weapon from his waistband.

He told officers that, fearing for his safety, he fired at the suspect, police said.

The suspect got back into the vehicle and fled.

The suspect vehicle was located near Starwood and Throntree drives, near Guadalupe Oak Grove Park, police said.

According to police, the car had been reported stolen out of San Jose.

A person was found lying on the ground about a block away from the vehicle suffering from at least one gunshot wound, police said.

He was transported to a hospital and treated for injuries that are not considered life-threatening.

He will be booked into the Santa Clara County Jail once he is released from the hospital, police said.

San Jose Police Restart Anti-Truancy Program To Locate Students Who Cut School

San Jose police have restarted a program to coincide with the beginning of the new school year intended to reduce both truancy and daytime burglaries.

The Police Department's Truancy Abatement and Burglary Suppression program, or TABS, was created because many juveniles who cut school in the past have been found to commit daytime burglaries, police Lt. Jason Dwyer said.

Police plan to run a TABS processing center at the San Jose Police Athletic League Stadium at 380 S. 34th St. staffed on a daily basis with one full-time officer working overtime, Dwyer said.

One or two officers are to be dispatched each school day with the sole purpose of finding truant students and either returning them to school or to the TABS center to be picked up by a parent or guardian, Dwyer said.

The department will release more details about the program on Wednesday, Dwyer said.

Car Drives Into Oakland Hills Home, Catches Fire

Fire crews were responding to an incident in which a car drove into a home in the Oakland Hills and caught fire around midday today, according to the Oakland Fire Department.

Firefighters were dispatched around noon to the home, located in the 8100 block of Hansom Drive, near Keller Avenue, a dispatcher said.

Crews arriving at the scene reported seeing flames coming from the house's garage, according to a tweet on the fire department's Twitter page.

Law Enforcement Veteran To Be Sworn In As City's Top Cop Today In Livermore

Livermore has a new police chief.

Law enforcement veteran and Modesto native Michael Harris, 45, will be officially sworn in as chief at a ceremony this afternoon.

Harris was chosen from a pool of nearly 40 candidates over a three-month application period, according to city officials.

He succeeds interim chief Randy Sonnenberg, who temporarily took over after former Chief Steve Sweeney retired earlier this year.

Harris said he has gotten to know the community through repeated visits to Livermore from Modesto.

"I made a lot of trips over here and I really fell in love with the community," he said.

Harris, who is married with five children, also said Livermore is the ideal place to raise his young family.

The move comes after more than 23 years with the Modesto Police Department, where he rose through the ranks from police officer to captain, most recently serving as the Operations Division commander.

After his swearing-in, Harris will spend much of the next few weeks meeting with city leaders, new colleagues and community members in the city he and his family now call home.

He also plans to continue his longtime commitment to community policing.

"I believe in using citizens as a force multiplier and using eyes and ears," Harris said. "We can keep little problems from getting big when we have good relationships."

The new chief will be sworn in at the Robert Livermore Community Center, located at 4444 East Ave., at 3:30 p.m.

 

 

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Bicyclists Advocate For Safer Folsom Street After Bike Commuter's Death

Dozens of bicyclists heading down San Francisco's Folsom Street this morning stopped to sign letters to Mayor Ed Lee asking for the city to improve safety for cyclists in the city's South of Market neighborhood.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition set up a table at Folsom and Sixth streets where, for two hours this morning, bicyclists were invited to pull over and sign small green cards addressed to the mayor urging a Folsom Street redesign and other changes.

The letter-writing campaign was sparked by the death of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, of San Francisco, who was struck and killed by a truck making a right turn as she biked through the intersection on Aug. 14.

After the accident, someone attached a large handwritten sign to traffic-light pole at the intersection reading, "A bicyclist died here. Please ride/drive carefully."

According to the bicycle coalition, Le Moullac was the third bicyclist this year to be killed by a truck while biking in the city.

Coalition executive director Leah Shahum said she is asking city agencies to find funding to make improvements to Folsom Street and the city's driving culture -- and soon.

Some of the coalition's ideas include fast-tracking a redesign plan that would make Folsom Street a two-way street with separate bike lanes.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is analyzing two options for making Folsom Street safer -- keeping the street one-way but with fewer lanes for cars or making it a two-way street, agency spokesman Paul Rose said.

The proposed changes are part of a citywide bicycle plan.

The changes would still need to undergo an extensive review process before being implemented.

That process is expected to take until June 2015, Rose said.

At the earliest, revamping of the street would begin 2017, Rose said.

He said the SFMTA is looking into implementing some sort of pilot program to boost safety on the street in the meantime.

The bicycle coalition is also calling on the city to require training for large-vehicle operators on how to share the road, and wants the city to mandate that large trucks be fitted with convex mirrors.

Shahum said that as a short-term fix, the bicycle coalition has proposed making the bike lanes on Folsom Street more visible, including by painting the pavement green.

She said it would also help to have more markings to show bicyclists and motorists exactly where they should be when making turns or crossing the intersection.

"We need to slow the street down," she said.

One bicyclist, 30-year-old Tim Cannady, who stopped by to sign a letter on his morning commute from the Mission District to downtown, said he bikes cautiously when heading through the South of Market area.

Cannady said he rides every day on Folsom Street because it is the safest, straightest route, but that it needs improvements, such as a separated bike lane.

"Biking is here to stay," he said. "Let's keep everyone safe."

Another bicyclist who declined to give his name said he broke several bones in a bike accident on Folsom Street in February but that he continues to ride on the street because it is the best route into downtown.

He said he signed the letter because "it's really important to have safe routes to work."

Coalition spokeswoman Kristin Smith said hundreds of letters collected at the event this morning and online will be delivered to the mayor in the next week or so.

Shahum said she attended Tuesday's San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board meeting to urge the board to find funding to change the layout of the Folsom Street between 10th Street and the Embarcadero.

She said she would like to see safety changes made as part of a Folsom Street repaving project scheduled for the end of 2014.

"Folsom Street doesn't have to be intimidating," Shahum said.

 

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26 CCSF Protesters Arrested Outside Mayor's Office

More than two-dozen City College of San Francisco students and advocates were arrested at City Hall late Tuesday night after calling on the mayor to support the embattled school in its fight to maintain accreditation.

A total of 26 people were detained and cited for trespassing and unlawful assembly outside the mayor's office at City Hall at about 11:50 p.m. Tuesday, sheriff's spokeswoman Susan Fahey said.

Organizer Eric Blanc said his group has tried to meet with Mayor Ed Lee for a month but has been rebuffed, so the group decided to gather outside Lee's office for a sit-in after a large rally in support of the 85,000-student school earlier Tuesday.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges announced last month that City College would lose its accreditation at the end of July 2014.

The school is appealing the decision and is hoping that by working to address some of the problems cited by the commission it can maintain its accreditation.

However, the U.S. Department of Education last week issued a letter finding fault with the ACCJC's processes for evaluating City College, citing vague instructions for compliance, a lack of faculty members on evaluation teams and other issues.

Blanc said the group takes issue with the mayor's support of City College special trustee Robert Agrella, who was appointed by last month by California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris to oversee the school's efforts to stay open.

Blanc said the student group opposes Agrella, who has unilateral control to make changes to the school and is refusing to cite the Department of Education's letter as part of City College's appeal of the ACCJC's decision to revoke its accreditation.

He said, "We need the mayor to throw his weight in support of City College and he's throwing it against it right now."

Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for Lee, said this morning, "The mayor realizes that these are difficult times for the college and its students, but the best way we can support students is to focus on true reforms that will keep the college open and on a path to long-term success."

Fahey, of the sheriff's department, said a large group from the rally came into City Hall at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

They were given an order to disperse shortly before midnight, but 26 people refused.

Those protesters were cited and then released outside of City Hall early this morning, she said.

The group has posted pictures of the sit-in on its website at www.saveccsf.org.

 

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Local CA National Guard Troops Helping Fight Wildfires Statewide

Today more than 7,000 firefighters, several California National Guard helicopters and two C-130 cargo planes are battling a dozen major wildfires in the state, which have charred a total of nearly 100,000 acres, a Cal Fire spokesman said.

In the past two days, as many as 150 new wildfires have been sparked by lightning, keeping firefighters scrambling to put out hot spots, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

A red flag warning is in effect through Thursday for most of the foothills and mountains of Northern California because of the possibility of more lightning and gusty winds, state fire officials said.

The unusually active fire season has forced Cal Fire to augment its resources with personnel from the California National Guard, in a mutual aid relationship that spans decades.

Cal Fire trains several dozen National Guard pilots each year to aid in air suppression.

"The National Guard has excellent pilots that we train to help us fight fires from the air," Berlant said. "We use specialized air equipment -- a cargo plane that we put in a modular fire tank to drop fire retardant, much like an air tanker."

The National Guard pilots are trained in how to effectively drop water and fire retardant and how to safely fly over a fire, he said.

This year has seen one of the most active fire seasons since 2008, due in part to a lack of rain combined with high temperatures that did not allow the light spring rain to soak into the dry ground.

This is also the earliest fire season Cal Fire has seen in decades, Berlant contends.

From Jan. 1 through this past Saturday, Cal Fire recorded 4,700 wildfires statewide.

During roughly the same time in 2012, from Jan. 1 to Aug. 1, Cal Fire recorded just over 3,400 wildfires, Berlant said.

He added that the average number for that seven-month period is about 3,300.

The Swedes Fire in Butte County, southeast of Oroville, is expected to be fully contained by Thursday.

The fire has burned nearly 2,500 acres and was 90 percent contained as of this morning.

The Burney Lightning Series in Shasta County near Fall River Mills is 80 percent contained, Berlant said.

Firefighters were battling seven fires spanning 190 acres.

Cal Fire is assisting the U.S. Forest Service with 10 additional fires burning on federal land.

Among the largest are the American Fire, burning 15,738 acres in Placer County, and the Rim Fire in Tuolumne County northeast of Groveland.

The Rim Fire was only 5 percent contained as of this morning, and National Guard crews were leaving Moffett Field today to battle the fire from above, Berlant confirmed.

More than 16,000 acres have burned.

And Berlant pointed out that the fire season is only just beginning.

"While fire season ends when we see a good wetting rain for a significant period, usually in late October or early November -- unfortunately the end is usually the worst," Berlant said.

The largest and most damaging fires typically burn toward the end of the season, when conditions are driest, he said.

Berlant said 94 percent of wildfires are accidentally or negligently caused by humans, so they are preventable.

He advises California residents to be extra careful outdoors, especially when using weed whackers, lawn mowers or having campfires.

"We are very busy with Mother Nature-driven fires, so it is important for residents and visitors to do their part in preventing fires," he said.

 

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Bank On Van Ness Avenue Robbed Tuesday Evening

A man robbed a bank along San Francisco's busy Van Ness Avenue on Tuesday evening, police said today.

The robbery was reported at 5:11 p.m. in the 2700 block of Van Ness, between Greenwich and Lombard streets.

The man, believed to be in his 30s, came into the bank and handed a teller a note demanding money, according to police.

He was given an undisclosed amount of cash and then fled through the rear bank doors.

He had not been found as of this morning, police said.

No one was injured in the robbery.

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

 

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Wednesday Morning News Roundup

Joseph Naso Found Guilty Of Murdering Four Women

A Marin County jury has found Joseph Naso guilty of killing four women in the Bay Area and Yuba County between 1977 and 1994.

After about five and a half hours of deliberations, the jury convicted Naso of four counts of first-degree murder, as well as the special circumstance of committing multiple murders, which makes him eligible for the death penalty.

Naso, 79, did not visibly react when the verdict was read at about 2:20 p.m.

He represented himself in the trial, which began in mid-June, with the help of an advisory counsel.

The jury convicted him of killing Roxene Roggasch, 18, of Oakland, and Carmen Colon, a 22-year-old East Bay resident.

Roggasch was found dead off of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard west of Fairfax on Jan. 11, 1977.

Colon's body was found near Carquinez Scenic Drive in Port Costa in Contra Costa County on Aug. 15, 1978.

Naso, a former commercial photographer, was also found guilty of the murders of Pamela Parsons, 38, and Tracy Tafoya, 31, whose bodies were found in Yuba County in September 1993 and August 1994, respectively.

All four women are believed to have worked as prostitutes.

Deputy District Attorney Rosemary Slote told jurors in her closing argument that Naso picked the women up in his car, then later strangled them and disposed of their bodies.

Naso's DNA was found in semen collected from the pantyhose Roggasch was wearing when her body was found, prosecutors said.

Evidence against him included a handwritten list that prosecutors allege refers to at least seven women, including the four victims, and contains some of the locations where their bodies were found.

A separate penalty phase of the trial will begin Sept. 4 to determine whether Naso will face capital punishment.

Deputy District Attorney Dori Ahana said Tuesday that prosecutors are seeking to present evidence during the penalty phase about a fifth murder for which Naso hasn't been charged.

She would not say which murder, but during the trial prosecutor Rosemary Slote said one of the entries on Naso's handwritten list, "girl in Woodland, Nevada County," could refer to a woman named Renee Shapiro.

Shapiro, an avid Bob Dylan fan, changed her name to "Sara Dylan," and was last seen at a Dylan concert in Hawaii in April 1992, according to prosecutors.

A skull found in Nevada County in 1998 is believed to be that of Shapiro, and a passport and driver's license with the name "Sara Dylan" were found in Naso's safe deposit box at a bank in Reno, prosecutors said.

During the trial, the prosecution presented 70 witnesses, and Naso called seven to the stand.

After the jury had left the courtroom Tuesday, Naso addressed Judge Andrew Sweet, saying it seemed to him that the jurors seemed uninterested in the details of the case during the trial.

He said he didn't see them taking a lot of notes and said it appeared to him that they just wanted to "get it over with and go home."

Sweet asked Naso to clarify what he wanted from the court.

Naso replied, "I'm making a motion to call a mistrial."

Sweet immediately denied the motion, saying he did not see any evidence of juror misconduct, and called Naso's concerns "inventive paranoia about what happened in the jury room."

He told Naso that he could make another motion for a mistrial in writing in the future if he desired.

Dublin Grass Fire Contained, Caused By Smoke Grenade During Military Training

Firefighters contained a grass fire that burned about 170 acres near the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin Tuesday afternoon, a U.S. Army spokeswoman said.

The fire burned in the southeastern area of the U.S. Army Reserve Parks Reserve Forces Training Area began around 1:40 p.m. and was contained by 4:30 p.m., spokeswoman Susan Clizbe said.

A smoke grenade used during an outdoor military training sparked the fire, she said.

The area is north of Interstate Highway 580 and east of Interstate Highway 680.

No structures were affected and no injuries had been reported, she said.

The Camp Parks Fire Department responded to the fire, along with the Alameda County Fire Department and Cal Fire, she said.

Driving On New Bay Bridge Will Be A Better Experience

In addition to being safer during earthquakes, drivers will have a better overall experience when they drive across the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge when it opens in two weeks, a bridge spokesman said Tuesday.

Andrew Gordon said, "It will be a very different experience for drivers" because traffic flow will improve, curves will be more subtle and graceful and eastbound drivers will have great views of the Port of Oakland and the East Bay hills.

In fact, Gordon said the views will be so good that bridge officials are warning drivers to keep their eyes on the road and "keep the gawking for their passengers."

That's because the new span will have parallel side-by-side decks, in contrast to the current bridge, which has an eastbound lower deck and a westbound upper deck, Gordon said.

"Driving will feel more wide open," he said.

The new span will have five lanes in each direction, as the current span does, but there also will be two shoulders in each direction, which means that stalls and accidents won't clog the bridge as often as they currently do, Gordon said.

In addition, maintenance work on the bridge can be done without closing lanes, he said.

The main reason transportation officials have been building the new $6.4 billion span is that it will be seismically safer than the existing span, which opened in 1936 and had a deck collapse in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Transportation officials have been planning for a long time to open the new span on Sept. 3 but that opening date was thrown in doubt in March when it was discovered that a significant number of 96 bolts that secure earthquake shock absorbers known as shear keys to the deck of the bridge failed when they were tightened on a pier east of Yerba Buena Island.

The long-term solution to fixing the broken bolts is to cover them with an exterior saddle and cable system that is encased in concrete but that work isn't expected to be completed until mid-December, Gordon said.

However, last week transportation officials approved a short-term fix that involved inserting large steel plates, known as shims, into each of four bearings, enhancing their ability to safely distribute energy during an earthquake.

That work was completed over the weekend, Gordon said. The entire Bay Bridge will be closed in both directions from 8 p.m. on Aug. 28 to 5 a.m. on Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day, to complete additional work that must be completed before the new span can be opened to the driving public.

But Gordon said "none of the work will be challenging" and the work will be much less complicated than when the Bay Bridge was closed for construction work during previous Labor Day weekend closures in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

The work over Labor Day weekend primarily will involve paving, striping lanes and erecting barrier rails, Gordon said.

He said most of the work on the new eastern span will be on its eastern side, which is at the Oakland touchdown and the toll plaza, and its western side, which at the Yerba Buena Island transition structure and the Yerba Buena Island Tunnel.

In addition, maintenance work will be performed on the western span, such as replacing lighting fixtures, cleaning and painting cables and repairing finger joints, Gordon said.

Describing the attitude of workers as they're putting the finishing touches on the new span, he said, "There's nervous energy but everyone is confident it will be done."

Danville Police Identify Woman Critically Injured In Suspected DUI Crash

Police have identified a woman who was critically injured when a suspected drunken driver in Danville struck her on Monday night.

Police said 53-year-old Danville resident Diana Gregory was walking near Camino Tassajara and Tassajara Lane at about 9 p.m. when a driver heading east on Camino Tassajara struck her, police said.

Gregory was taken to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek with life-threatening injuries.

She remained hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday afternoon.

Police said the driver, 50-year-old Samuel Herrick of Danville, was arrested on suspicion of DUI causing injury and was booked into county jail in Martinez, where he is being held on $50,000 bail.

The victim wasn't carrying any ID at the time of the collision, and police were initially unable to identify her.

Anyone with information about the collision is asked to call Danville police immediately at (925) 314-3700.

City Attorney Vows Lawsuit Against Nevada Over 'Patient Busing'

Allegations that a Nevada state psychiatric hospital improperly sent hundreds of mental health patients to California cities by bus have prompted San Francisco's city attorney Tuesday to vow to sue the state to recover costs to the city for the patients' medical care.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera Tuesday sent a letter to Nevada state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto informing her of his intent to file a lawsuit over the alleged "patient dumping" by the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas.

Herrera wrote in the letter that his office has found nearly 500 patients were bused from the Nevada hospital to various California cities since April 2008, including 24 to San Francisco.

Of those 24, 20 required emergency medical care within a short time after their arrival, according to the city attorney.

Herrera wrote that San Francisco has spent nearly $500,000 on medical care and housing for those patients, all of whom were homeless and suffering from mental illnesses.

He wrote that the busing practices were "inhumane and unacceptable," noting that they were allegedly transported without escorts, without adequate medication or food and without arrangements for someone to receive them at their destination.

Along with recouping costs to the city, Herrera wrote that he also plans to secure a court injunction barring Nevada officials from continuing to transfer patients into California without prior arrangements for their care.

"It's my hope that our investigation and possible class action will send a strong message to public health facilities nationwide that there is a price to pay for such inhumane treatment in the future," Herrera said in a statement.

After Herrera sent initial inquiries about the case to Nevada state officials in April, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval issued a statement saying "disciplinary actions have been taken and a corrective plan of action was put in place" at the hospital.

The changes would "provide additional oversight to ensure that discharge and transportation policies are followed correctly," Sandoval said.

Charge Dismissed For Man Accused Of Murdering Father In Oakland

A murder charge has been dismissed against a man who was accused of fatally stabbing his 71-year-old father in East Oakland three years ago.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta dismissed the charge against Kristien Tabora, 31, at a brief hearing on Monday after Deputy District Attorney Colleen McMahon said there was "insufficient evidence" to prosecute him for the death of Edward Tabora, his father.

Edward Tabora, who had lived in San Francisco, was found stabbed to death at an apartment at 10415 Graffian St. in Oakland at 11:08 a.m. on March 21, 2010.

Kristien Tabora, who police said has a history of mental illness, had been arrested the previous day, March 20, 2010, in connection with a robbery of a store in the 2000 block of Market Street in San Francisco.

San Francisco police said Tabora had a history with their department and apparently stole a pack of cigarettes at knifepoint.

Tabora was armed with two knives when he was arrested for his father's murder, according to a probable cause statement filed by Oakland police.

In March 2010 Oakland police didn't identify Tabora as a suspect or a person of interest in the death of his father but he eventually was charged with murder on Sept. 15, 2010.

The police statement said Simmah Tabora, Edward Tabora's daughter and Kristien Tabora's sister, reported both of them missing to San Francisco police on March 19, 2010.

She told San Francisco police that she hadn't heard from her father in three days and that was unusual because normally they would make contact daily, according to the report.

Edward Tabora was found dead two days after the missing persons report was filed when San Francisco police asked Oakland police to conduct a security check at the Graffian Street apartment.

The criminal complaint that was filed against Kristien Tabora said it is believed that his father died sometime between March 15, 2010, and March 19, 2010, but it didn't list a specific date.

According to the probable cause statement, Oakland police investigators learned that Edward and Kristien Tabora were temporarily living together at the Graffian Street location.

Investigators also learned that Kristien Tabora "had a history of mental illness as well as documented physical abuse reports where he was accused of assaulting his father," the statement said.

In an incident in October 2009, Tabora was shot by San Francisco police officers while attempting to slash his own throat with a knife, according to the statement.

Interviews with witnesses and family members eventually helped police develop enough evidence to charge Kristien Tabora with murdering his father, the statement said.

The criminal complaint against Tabora accused him of murder, using a knife to kill his father and of having a prior felony conviction in 2001 for having a concealed firearm in a vehicle in San Francisco.

Alameda County District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick and Tabora's attorney, Alameda County Assistant Public Defender Graciela Estrada, couldn't be reached for comment on Tabora's case.

CCSF Submits Request For Review Of Decision To Revoke Accreditation

City College of San Francisco officials on Monday submitted a formal request for review of a regional panel's decision to revoke the school's accreditation, but the request made no mention of recent criticism of the accreditors by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges announced last month that City College's accreditation would end in July 2014 unless changes are made to the school's governance structure and finances.

However, last week the Department of Education issued a letter finding fault with the ACCJC's accrediting process for City College, citing vague instructions for compliance, a lack of faculty members on evaluation teams and a possible conflict of interest between the commission's president and her husband, who was on an evaluation team.

Yet City College special trustee Robert Agrella said Tuesday that he decided not to include the federal criticism of the ACCJC in the school's request for review because he did not want City College to take an adversarial role against the commission.

"By doing that we would be attacking the commission," Agrella said. "That's a call I made and we're sticking with it."

Agrella, who was appointed last month by California Community Colleges chancellor Brice Harris to oversee City College's fight to maintain accreditation, expanded on his decision in an open letter posted on the school's website on Monday.

Agrella wrote, "I strongly believe that the best path to maintaining CCSF's accreditation is to follow the Commission's rules, regulations, and directions and to continue to show substantial progress toward meeting the eligibility requirements and standards."

He wrote, "If our review document joins the attack on the Commission, I believe that the review and appeals process will be unsuccessful. If this is the case, I also believe our timeframe for meeting the standards may be significantly shortened."

Agrella said Tuesday that rather than have their timeframe shortened, his hope is that the 85,000-student school will be able to show enough progress that the commission could extend its accreditation deadline past its current date of July 31, 2014.

"I wouldn't have taken this on if I didn't truly think we would maintain our accreditation," he said.

City College's faculty union last week called on the ACCJC to reverse its decision to revoke the school's accreditation in light of the Department of Education letter, but Agrella said that was highly unlikely.

Agrella, who spoke to reporters Tuesday at a panel convened in San Francisco by the group New America Media, said City College is continuing to address the commission's recommendations during the review process.

If the decision to revoke accreditation is upheld, the school plans to appeal.

Agrella said changes being made include redefining the roles of department chairs and deans and making sure the school maintains financial stability by placing at least 5 percent of its general fund in reserves.

"We want to put the pedal to the metal and work as hard as we possibly can," he said.

District Attorney's Neighborhood Courts Expanding To Evening Hours

San Francisco's district attorney announced Tuesday that his neighborhood courts initiative is expanding to offer hearings during the evening hours.

District Attorney George Gascon launched the neighborhood courts initiative two years ago to seek restorative rather than punitive solutions to certain low-level, nonviolent crimes in the city.

There are 10 neighborhood courts across the city that heard more than 700 cases in 2012, according to the district attorney's office.

The cases cost an average of about $850 to resolve, compared to more than $1,500 in the criminal justice system, and often take only a couple weeks to be heard, rather than several months in a regular court, according to the district attorney's office.

In the neighborhood courts, overseen by prosecutors, a panel of trained volunteer adjudicators handle cases like vandalism, disorderly conduct or minor thefts, with resolutions often involving agreements for community service or work with the victim.

The evening hours will start in the Southern District, with the possibility of expanding to other neighborhoods if there is a demand there as well, district attorney's office spokeswoman Stephanie Ong Stillman said.

The monthly night courts will begin from 6-8 p.m. this Thursday at the Eucharist church located at 285 Main St.

Men Featured In Taiwanese Film Start Motorcycle Trip With Americans From San Jose To Los Angeles

Nine men from Taiwan men ranging in age from 76 to 89 who once drove 730 miles in 13 days caught motorcycle rides Tuesday with American drivers in San Jose to start a three-day highway trip to Los Angeles.

The men, who starred in the award-winning documentary "Go Grandriders," hitched rides with members of the BMW Club of Northern California after a ceremonial send off attended by about 100 people outside the County Government Center in San Jose.

Hung-Tao Chang, 76, of Taiwan, who appeared in the movie, got on one of the BMW cycles outside the building on West Hedding Street in place of his wife, Ying-Mei, 78, the female of the Grandriders group who was unable to make the trip.

"I am very excited, it's a wonderful occasion," said Chang, adding that thanks to the box office success of "Go Grandriders" in Taiwan, "I'm famous now. I have a lot fans."

The Grandriders are the rage in Taiwan and Hong Kong, where the film, released this year, became the most popular documentary ever produced in Taiwan, said Deborah Yang, Santa Clara-based spokeswoman for CNEX Foundation Limited, of Taiwan, that is promoting the movie.

The men were among the 17 original Grandriders -- now mostly well into their 80s and the eldest 95 and confined to a wheelchair -- shown in the film, Yang said.

The movie chronicles their 730-mile ride in motor scooters around Taiwan over 13 days in 2007, Yang said.

They did it despite their ages to show it is "never too late to pursue one's dreams," Yang said.

The road trip will take three days, with stops and hotel stays in Monterey, San Luis Obispo and ending at the University of California, Los Angeles, according to Ed Perry, a former Santa Clara County assistant sheriff who is helping spearhead the journey.

Perry, 57, whose wife is from Taiwan, watched the movie earlier this year and heard that the Grandriders' sponsor, the Hondao Senior Citizens Foundation, wanted to send the seniors on a group ride in California.

He convinced the BMW organization and its president Z. Ortiz, to provide the motorcycles and drivers for them, he said.

The riders will spend most of the drive headed south on state Highway 1 down the coast of California and then switch back to 101 on the way to Los Angeles, Perry said.

The Taiwanese men could not qualify for driver's licenses in California and so each was assigned a member of the BMW club to drive them during the trip, Yang said.

At noon, with the Grandriders in place behind the American drivers astride the BMW cycles, they and several volunteers riding solo rumbled down Hedding to First Street on the way to U.S. Highway 101.

On Aug. 3, "Go Grandriders" won the best documentary award at the 36th Asian American International Film Festival in New York, according to focustaiwan.tw.

Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area

Mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected in the Bay Area this morning, with a slight chance of drizzle.

Highs are likely to be in the 50s to upper 60s, with westerly winds up to 30 mph in the afternoon.

Partly cloudy skies are expected this evening with patchy fog after midnight.

Lows are likely to be in the mid 50s, with westerly winds up to 30 mph.

Cloudy skies and patchy fog are likely Thursday morning, becoming sunny later in the day.

Highs are expected to be in the 50s to upper 60s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph in the afternoon.

 

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Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area

Mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected in the Bay Area this morning, with a slight chance of drizzle.

Highs are likely to be in the 50s to upper 60s, with westerly winds up to 30 mph in the afternoon.

Partly cloudy skies are expected this evening with patchy fog after midnight.

Lows are likely to be in the mid 50s, with westerly winds up to 30 mph.

Cloudy skies and patchy fog are likely Thursday morning, becoming sunny later in the day.

Highs are expected to be in the 50s to upper 60s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph in the afternoon.

 

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Two Dirty DUI Victims Testify At Trial Of Arresting Officer

Two victims of so-called "dirty DUI" arrests testified at the trial of the arresting officer in federal court in San Francisco Tuesday that they were plied with wine at a Danville bar on the night of the incidents.

"He kept ordering flights of wine," said witness Mitchell Katz, referring to a man he knew only as "Benny," who was present at a 2011 meeting at The Vine, a wine-tasting bar, that was supposedly for the purpose of discussing a future television program.

Katz, the owner of a Livermore winery, and Verizon technology strategist Hasan Aksu, of Martinez, were called to the stand by prosecutors at the trial of former Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriff Stephen Tanabe.

Tanabe, 50, of Alamo, is facing federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion for his alleged role in the drunken driving arrests of Katz, Aksu and a third man in late 2010 and early 2011.

Prosecutors allege the arrests were part of a scheme by former private investigator Christopher Butler to get husbands in divorce cases drunk and then arrested for driving under the influence.

The men were husbands or ex-husbands of female clients of Butler's who were seeking to gain an advantage in divorce or custody disputes.

The arrests were dubbed dirty DUIs.

Butler, who is expected to be a key prosecution witness against Tanabe, pleaded guilty last year to an array of charges including drug offenses, conspiracy and civil rights violations.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

He and former Central Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team Commander Norman Wielsch were chief figures in a police corruption scandal that included their sale of drugs Wielsch stole from CNET evidence lockers, phony arrests, extortion and Butler's orchestration of dirty DUI arrests and wiretapping of clients' husbands' cars.

Tanabe is accused only in connection with three DUI arrests.

He faces one count of conspiracy to deprive others of his honest services; three counts of wire fraud related to text messages he and Butler exchanged before the arrests; and three counts of extortion for allegedly receiving cocaine and a Glock gun from Butler in payment.

His trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer began Monday and is expected to last about two weeks.

Defense attorney Tim Pori told the jury during his opening statement Monday that the arrests were within Tanabe's duties and there was no proof he received cocaine and a gun in payment.

Tanabe, assigned to work as a Danville police officer, arrested Katz as he drove away from the bar on Jan. 14, 2011.

Tanabe arrested Aksu on Jan. 9.

He asked another officer to arrest Lane Bauldry outside a different Danville bar on Nov. 2, 2010, because Tanabe was off duty that night, according to prosecutors.

On the stand, Katz and Aksu gave similar accounts of how they were allegedly enticed to drink at the bar.

Aksu said a man who used the name John Brownell invited him to come to the bar for an interview for a magazine article about successful European-born businessmen in the East Bay.

Katz said "John Brownell" told him he was a producer for the A&E Network who wanted to talk about a possible television program comparing Livermore and Napa wineries.

The man turned out to be Carl Marino, an actor who was a top Butler aide.

Both men were told that the meeting had to be at the Danville bar and had to be on a weekend evening.

Both said attractive women later joined them at their table.

Both said that either "John" or the man known as "Benny" ordered them several flights of wine, with each flight made up of three one-ounce glasses of different wines for tasting.

Katz said that after being arrested, handcuffed and taken to the Danville police station, he began to suspect he was the victim of a scheme and voiced his suspicions to an officer there.

"I told him I felt it was set up," Katz said.

Butler and Wielsch were arrested a month later, and DUI charges against Katz and Aksu were never pursued.

The trial resumes in Breyer's Federal Building courtroom on Thursday after a one-day break.

Thus far, Tanabe is the only defendant in the police corruption cases to go to trial. In addition to Butler, Wielsch and former San Ramon police officer Louis Lombardi pleaded guilty to various charges.

They were sentenced to 14 years and three years in prison respectively.

One other defendant, San Ramon divorce attorney Mary Nolan, is awaiting trial on charges that she conspired with Butler to place secret listening devices in her clients' husbands' cars.

Katz, Aksu and Bauldry all have filed civil lawsuits in federal court against Tanabe, Butler and Contra Costa County over their arrests.

Those lawsuits have been put on hold until Tanabe's trial is completed.

 

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City Attorney Vows Lawsuit Against Nevada Over 'Patient Busing'

Allegations that a Nevada state psychiatric hospital improperly sent hundreds of mental health patients to California cities by bus have prompted San Francisco's city attorney today to vow to sue the state to recover costs to the city for the patients' medical care.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today sent a letter to Nevada state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto informing her of his intent to file a lawsuit over the alleged "patient dumping" by the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas.

Herrera wrote in the letter that his office has found nearly 500 patients were bused from the Nevada hospital to various California cities since April 2008, including 24 to San Francisco.

Of those 24, 20 required emergency medical care within a short time after their arrival, according to the city attorney.

Herrera wrote that San Francisco has spent nearly $500,000 on medical care and housing for those patients, all of whom were homeless and suffering from mental illnesses.

He wrote that the busing practices were "inhumane and unacceptable," noting that they were allegedly transported without escorts, without adequate medication or food and without arrangements for someone to receive them at their destination.

Along with recouping costs to the city, Herrera wrote that he also plans to secure a court injunction barring Nevada officials from continuing to transfer patients into California without prior arrangements for their care.

"It's my hope that our investigation and possible class action will send a strong message to public health facilities nationwide that there is a price to pay for such inhumane treatment in the future," Herrera said in a statement.

After Herrera sent initial inquiries about the case to Nevada state officials in April, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval issued a statement saying "disciplinary actions have been taken and a corrective plan of action was put in place" at the hospital.

The changes would "provide additional oversight to ensure that discharge and transportation policies are followed correctly," Sandoval said.

 

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Driving On New Bay Bridge Will Be A Better Experience

In addition to being safer during earthquakes, drivers will have a better overall experience when they drive across the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge when it opens in two weeks, a bridge spokesman said today.

Andrew Gordon said, "It will be a very different experience for drivers" because traffic flow will improve, curves will be more subtle and graceful and eastbound drivers will have great views of the Port of Oakland and the East Bay hills.

In fact, Gordon said the views will be so good that bridge officials are warning drivers to keep their eyes on the road and "keep the gawking for their passengers."

That's because the new span will have parallel side-by-side decks, in contrast to the current bridge, which has an eastbound lower deck and a westbound upper deck, Gordon said.

"Driving will feel more wide open," he said.

The new span will have five lanes in each direction, as the current span does, but there also will be two shoulders in each direction, which means that stalls and accidents won't clog the bridge as often as they currently do, Gordon said.

In addition, maintenance work on the bridge can be done without closing lanes, he said.

The main reason transportation officials have been building the new $6.4 billion span is that it will be seismically safer than the existing span, which opened in 1936 and had a deck collapse in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Transportation officials have been planning for a long time to open the new span on Sept. 3 but that opening date was thrown in doubt in March when it was discovered that a significant number of 96 bolts that secure earthquake shock absorbers known as shear keys to the deck of the bridge failed when they were tightened on a pier east of Yerba Buena Island.

The long-term solution to fixing the broken bolts is to cover them with an exterior saddle and cable system that is encased in concrete but that work isn't expected to be completed until mid-December, Gordon said.

However, last week transportation officials approved a short-term fix that involved inserting large steel plates, known as shims, into each of four bearings, enhancing their ability to safely distribute energy during an earthquake.

That work was completed over the weekend, Gordon said.

The entire Bay Bridge will be closed in both directions from 8 p.m. on Aug. 28 to 5 a.m. on Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day, to complete additional work that must be completed before the new span can be opened to the driving public.

But Gordon said "none of the work will be challenging" and the work will be much less complicated than when the Bay Bridge was closed for construction work during previous Labor Day weekend closures in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

The work over Labor Day weekend primarily will involve paving, striping lanes and erecting barrier rails, Gordon said.

He said most of the work on the new eastern span will be on its eastern side, which is at the Oakland touchdown and the toll plaza, and its western side, which at the Yerba Buena Island transition structure and the Yerba Buena Island Tunnel.

In addition, maintenance work will be performed on the western span, such as replacing lighting fixtures, cleaning and painting cables and repairing finger joints, Gordon said.

Describing the attitude of workers as they're putting the finishing touches on the new span, he said, "There's nervous energy but everyone is confident it will be done."

 

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CCSF Submits Request For Review Of Decision To Revoke Accreditation

City College of San Francisco officials on Monday submitted a formal request for review of a regional panel's decision to revoke the school's accreditation, but the request made no mention of recent criticism of the accreditors by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges announced last month that City College's accreditation would end in July 2014 unless changes are made to the school's governance structure and finances.

However, last week the Department of Education issued a letter finding fault with the ACCJC's accrediting process for City College, citing vague instructions for compliance, a lack of faculty members on evaluation teams and a possible conflict of interest between the commission's president and her husband, who was on an evaluation team.

Yet City College special trustee Robert Agrella said today that he decided not to include the federal criticism of the ACCJC in the school's request for review because he did not want City College to take an adversarial role against the commission.

"By doing that we would be attacking the commission," Agrella said. "That's a call I made and we're sticking with it."

Agrella, who was appointed last month by California Community Colleges chancellor Brice Harris to oversee City College's fight to maintain accreditation, expanded on his decision in an open letter posted on the school's website on Monday.

Agrella wrote, "I strongly believe that the best path to maintaining CCSF's accreditation is to follow the Commission's rules, regulations, and directions and to continue to show substantial progress toward meeting the eligibility requirements and standards."

He wrote, "If our review document joins the attack on the Commission, I believe that the review and appeals process will be unsuccessful. If this is the case, I also believe our timeframe for meeting the standards may be significantly shortened."

Agrella said today that rather than have their timeframe shortened, his hope is that the 85,000-student school will be able to show enough progress that the commission could extend its accreditation deadline past its current date of July 31, 2014.

"I wouldn't have taken this on if I didn't truly think we would maintain our accreditation," he said.

City College's faculty union last week called on the ACCJC to reverse its decision to revoke the school's accreditation in light of the Department of Education letter, but Agrella said that was highly unlikely.

Agrella, who spoke to reporters today at a panel convened in San Francisco by the group New America Media, said City College is continuing to address the commission's recommendations during the review process.

If the decision to revoke accreditation is upheld, the school plans to appeal.

Agrella said changes being made include redefining the roles of department chairs and deans and making sure the school maintains financial stability by placing at least 5 percent of its general fund in reserves.

"We want to put the pedal to the metal and work as hard as we possibly can," he said.

The appointment of a special trustee temporarily removed any power from City College's board of trustees, and Agrella said he does "not see a board coming back into the institution for some time to come," with him or another special trustee likely overseeing the school for "several years."

Agrella said City College also has to add details to a report outlining the school's plans in the event that its accreditation is indeed revoked next year and the school has to close.

Among the options the school is looking at would be to lease space in its buildings to neighboring institutions to allow City College students to transfer there without having to commute to other destinations around the Bay Area, he said.

"It's simply not possible to say every student at City College can just get in a car and go to another institution," he said.

Meanwhile, City College students are holding a march and rally starting at 4 p.m. today to demand that Mayor Ed Lee help save the school from losing its accreditation.

The march, which begins at 4 p.m., will end at City Hall.

 

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