Wednesday Midday News Roundup

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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.

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

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 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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