Wednesday Midday News Roundup

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Transit Agencies Prep For Bay Bridge Closure As Motorists Grow Nostalgic

An era of transbay commuting is coming to an end tonight with the closure of the Bay Bridge to transition traffic onto the long-awaited new eastern span.

The closure begins at 8 p.m. and will start with California Highway Patrol officers running traffic breaks on the bridge to stop vehicles from crossing, CHP Officer Sam Morgan said.

Once the bridge is cleared, crews will begin final work on the new span, which is scheduled to open by 5 a.m. Tuesday, or possibly earlier if the work is done ahead of schedule, Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin said.

During the closure, BART is running longer trains on Thursday and Friday and providing 24-hour service at more than a dozen stations.

BART officials say they expect a surge in ridership, noting that during previous Bay Bridge closures, trains have carried 30 percent more passengers than usual.

The CHP expects traffic to increase on other Bay Area bridges and advised drivers to expect delays.

"Allowing yourself additional time to get to your destination would be a wise thing to do," Morgan said.

Golden Gate Ferry service is being boosted this Labor Day weekend from Larkspur and Sausalito into San Francisco, and San Francisco Bay Ferry is adding ferries between the East Bay and San Francisco.

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit buses that normally take riders across the bridge will instead go to the MacArthur, Oakland Coliseum, West Oakland and North Berkeley BART stations, agency officials said.

A low-key ceremony celebrating the opening of the new eastern span is tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday.

A large-scale, public celebration had initially been in the works, but the plan was scrapped after problems with anchor bolts on the new span left the bridge's opening date in limbo.

A temporary fix was since devised to cover the broken rods with an exterior saddle and cable system encased in concrete.

The old eastern span, a cantilever bridge that opened in 1936, has been slated for replacement since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which caused a section of the span's upper deck to collapse.

Social media users are expressing nostalgia about the impending bridge closure, with many posting pictures and video on Twitter of their final drives across the old span.

One Twitter user wrote, "Last trip over the ol' bay bridge miss u bb."

Bay Area residents and visitors are advised to call 511 or visit alert.511.org to learn about all of the options for getting around during the closure.

Old Eastern Span Of Bay Bridge To Take Three Years To Dismantle

Even though it will be closed for good tonight, the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge won't be disappearing from view anytime soon -- bridge officials say it will take about three years to dismantle the seismically unsafe span.

The old cantilever eastern span was built in 1936 to connect Oakland to Yerba Buena Island.

After years of delays after the Loma Prieta quake, it is finally closing and will be replaced by a new self-anchored suspension bridge opening next week.

But while a building on land can be demolished fairly quickly, the bridge's location over the Bay requires the painstaking removal of the span piece by piece.

Bay Bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said the demolition can begin "as soon as traffic is off the bridge" and should be completed by 2016.

Crews will begin taking apart the bridge from west to east, starting with the temporary S-curve installed in 2009, and then moving east along the cantilever section toward Oakland, Gordon said.

The project will use the plans for the old bridge to help crews take it apart, Gordon said.

"We're studying the blueprints of how the bridge got built to use that as a guide to how to basically take it apart," he said.

Bridge officials say the demolition work must be done with great care because it will be performed within close proximity of moving vehicle traffic on the new span, as well as a new bike and pedestrian pathway on the bridge.

Gordon said Silverado Contractors Inc. and California Engineering Contractors Inc. are carrying out the project.

The two East Bay-based companies both have experience working on the Bay Bridge project, as well as the replacement of the old Carquinez Bridge near Vallejo.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin said authorities do not anticipate drivers being distracted by the dismantling work, citing the Carquinez Bridge project as a similar example.

"To a large degree, people are used to it," Goodwin said. "It's pretty slow work, cutting loose one piece at a time, so you're not seeing an entire section of bridge coming down at one time."

He said the current cost forecast for the demolition project is $233.7 million, which is part of the overall $6.4 billion cost of the bridge replacement.

Two SF Ministers Recall Experiences At March On Washington

With the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington occurring today, two high-profile San Francisco ministers who participated in the 1963 march and rally remembered their experiences.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech that day in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and the Revs. Amos Brown and Cecil Williams were there to hear it.

Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and pastor at Third Baptist Church, called the march the "zenith" of the civil rights movement.

Brown was a student at Morehouse College in Georgia and said he was in the only class King taught in his life.

He was arrested along with King at a student sit-in in Atlanta in the years prior to the march, and drove a busload of students up from Atlanta for the big event.

Williams, the founder and minister of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, recalled coming from Kansas City for the march and being inspired by what he saw.

"It was just uplifting," he said. "It was really the first time I had felt that strongly about what I had to do as an African-American."

Williams said he was just to the left of the Lincoln Memorial as King and other speakers addressed the crowd.

"As far as I could see, it was just a sea of humanity," he said.

He said participating in the march and listening to the speeches "was probably one of the most important events in my life to spur me on and give me direction."

Brown has been back in Washington since last week and is taking part in the large 50th anniversary event there today.

President Barack Obama is speaking at the event.

In San Francisco tonight, an event is planned at City Hall to honor Clarence Benjamin Jones, a former speechwriter, attorney and adviser to King.

Jones will be given a lifetime achievement award by the city's Human Rights Commission at 5 p.m.

Palo Alto is also organizing a celebration in its City Hall Plaza, which in 2007 was renamed King Plaza in honor of Coretta Scott King.

The event will feature a 5 p.m. showing of the documentary "Soundtrack for a Revolution," followed by music and oratory performances at 7 p.m.

Massive Fairfield Fire Damages 15 Homes, Displaces 5 Families

Five homes were all but destroyed and 10 more were damaged by a stubborn seven-alarm fire in Fairfield on Tuesday, a fire battalion chief said.

The fire was reported in the 2800 block of Marigold Drive, near Interstate Highway 80, at about 3:45 p.m., fire officials said.

About 50 people were evacuated as firefighters fought the blaze, which was contained around 6:30 p.m., fire Battalion Chief Matt Luckenbach said.

In addition to the five homes deemed uninhabitable, 10 sustained minor to moderate damage including broken doors and windows, the battalion chief said.

Fire officials said the blaze appears to have started in the grass along the highway and then rapidly spread to homes along Marigold Drive, which is parallel to the roadway.

The flames consumed at least a dozen yards, and vegetation behind the homes -- including palm trees, cypress trees and pine needles -- appears to have fueled the flames, he said.

The fire displaced five families.

One of the families accepted temporary housing assistance from the American Red Cross, while the others made other arrangements, Luckenbach said.

No injuries were reported. Luckenbach said fire crews remained at the scene this morning to monitor hot spots along with investigators who are trying to determine what caused the fire.

No damage estimate from the fire was immediately available, but Luckenbach said it would likely be well over $1 million.

Crews from Contra Costa County, Yolo County and Cal Fire assisted the Fairfield Fire Department in battling the blaze.

Antioch Police Shoot, Kill Vallejo Man Who Allegedly Pointed Gun At Officers

Police shot and killed a man in Antioch on Tuesday after he allegedly led them on a chase and pointed a handgun at officers, a police captain said this morning.

Police identified the man as 24-year-old Korey Marcel Germaine, of Vallejo.

At about 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, officers responded to reports of someone in a Mercedes brandishing a gun, Capt. Leonard Orman said.

Police found Germaine driving the vehicle and attempted to pull the car over but he sped away, sparking a pursuit, police said.

During the chase, Germaine hit a police patrol car and a civilian vehicle, Orman said.

He later lost control of the Mercedes, which ended up in the dirt near the intersection of Hillcrest Avenue and Wildflower Drive, next to the Crossings Shopping Center, according to police.

Police said Germaine ran from the car carrying a handgun, and officers chased him.

At least one officer opened fire when Germaine allegedly pointed a gun at the officers, according to police.

Germaine was shot several times and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

No officers were injured.

Police did not say how many officers were involved in the shooting, which is being investigated by Antioch police, the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office and the Contra Costa County Forensics and Crime Lab.

SFPUC Officials Say Water Quality Still Unaffected By Rim Fire

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission officials said today that the city's water supply in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is still unaffected by the massive Rim Fire that continues to burn in and around Yosemite National Park.

The blaze, which started Aug. 17 and has charred more than 187,000 acres, reached the area around the reservoir this week, SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue said.

The water, which supplies 2.6 million customers in San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area, has maintained the same turbidity, or cloudiness, it had before the fire, according to the commission.

The fire is burning on the south side of the reservoir, and Jue said the rocky terrain around Hetch Hetchy is preventing adverse impacts.

"There's not much vegetation around the perimeter of the reservoir," he said. "It's basically in a giant granite bowl."

Some ash has fallen on the surface of the reservoir, but the water sent to San Francisco is withdrawn from 260 feet below the surface, according to the commission.

Jue said that although the drinking water supply has not been affected so far, the SFPUC could have to deal with erosion problems if the flames reach deeper into the Hetch Hetchy watershed.

Winter or spring runoff could affect water quality, he said.

"That's where you might have more of an issue," Jue said.

He said if a problem arises, the SFPUC will "make the appropriate adjustments to the system."

The commission recently began increasing the amount of water delivered to the Bay Area to maximize the supply stored locally, and also has agreements with other nearby utilities if supplements are needed.

SFPUC crews are also working to repair hydroelectric facilities that were damaged by the fire last week.

All of San Francisco's municipal electric customers continue to be fully supplied, according to the commission.

The Rim Fire had burned 187,466 acres as of this morning and was only 23 percent contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Santa Clara County Voters Renew Parcel Tax To Fund Libraries

Voters in nine cities and unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed Measure A, a parcel tax that will continue funding libraries for the next 20 years.

Of the 55,022 residents who cast votes in the all-mail election, 81 percent favored maintaining the annual tax, which has been in place for most of the past two decades, according county Registrar of Voters.

The tally exceeded the two-thirds approval required for Measure A to pass.

The initiative essentially renews a similar measure originally passed in 1994 and since reauthorized by voters that was set to expire this year.

The tax is levied on homes and property, and the rates will stay the same under Measure A, meaning owners of single-family homes and condominiums will continue to pay $33.66 per year, deputy county librarian Carol Frost said.

The $6.2 million raised through the tax each year accounts for 18 percent of the Santa Clara County Library District's budget.

The district is governed by the Library Joint Powers Authority of Santa Clara County's board, Frost said.

The money will be used to purchase up-to-date books and research materials; provide children's reading programs and mobile book services for seniors and the disabled; maintain library hours; retain qualified librarians, and other library services, according to the measure.

The district includes unincorporated areas of the county and the cities of Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill and Saratoga, according to the district's website.

The measure will also renew taxes levied on non-residential properties, which range from $84.15 to $252.50 per acre annually, according to the library district.

The Registrar of Voters mailed out about 204,000 ballots to district voters for the special election starting in July, registrar spokeswoman Shannon Bushey said.

Appeals Court Leaves State Shark Fin Ban In Place

A federal appeals court in San Francisco refused to block a California law Tuesday that bans the possession and sale of shark fins that are detached from shark bodies.

Two Asian-American groups claim the law, which went fully into effect on July 1, discriminates against Chinese Americans because it prevents them from engaging in the traditional cultural practice of eating shark fin soup at ceremonial occasions.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision in which U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton of Oakland declined to issue a preliminary injunction suspending the ban.

The appeals court said the two groups "presented no persuasive evidence indicating that the California Legislature's real intent was to discriminate against Chinese Americans rather than to accomplish the law's stated humanitarian, conservationist and health goals."

The case now goes back to Hamilton's court for further proceedings, including a possible full trial on whether there should be a permanent injunction against the law.

The court said that other issues in the case, including U.S. government claims that the law may interfere with federal management of fisheries, could be considered during the further proceedings.

The purpose of the law, according to the Legislature, is to "help ensure that sharks do not become extinct as a result of shark finning."

Shark finning is the practice of catching a shark, cutting off the fins, and throwing the body of the fish back into the water to die.

The law went partially into effect on January 1, but allowed restaurants and individuals to use or sell previously legally obtained fins until July 1.

It was challenged in a lawsuit filed against state officials last year by the San Francisco-based Chinatown Neighborhood Association and the Burlingame-based Asian Americans for Political Advancement.

A lawyer for the two organizations was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

The Humane Society of the United States, which became a party in the case to join the state in defending the law, applauded the decision.

Jennifer Fearing, the society's California senior state director, said, "The new shark fin law is a critical tool in eliminating the market for shark fins in California and ending our state's role in facilitating this cruel and wasteful practice."

Alice's Now And Zen Festival In Golden Gate Park Announces 2013 Headliners

The Goo Goo Dolls and Plain White T's are among the bands set to perform at Alice's Now and Zen 2013 music festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park this September, festival organizers announced today.

The free concert, to be held on Sunday, Sept. 29, will also feature the bands One Republic and Walk Off The Earth.

The on-air staff from Radio Alice@97.3 will introduce the bands during the 15th annual one-day festival, held in Golden Gate Park's Sharon Meadows, near JFK and Kezar drives, according to festival organizers.

From noon to 5 p.m. on Sept. 29, festival-goers of all ages are invited to listen to live musicians, eat gourmet food and are encouraged to utilize the free bike valet at the festival's main entrance.

Contra Costa County To Test New Community Alert System Tonight

Contra Costa County will test its community warning system this evening to ensure the efficacy of its newest telephone alert system vendor.

Residents of cities throughout the county are set to receive automated phone calls this evening as part of the test.

The phone calls are scheduled to go out at 5:30 p.m. to homes and businesses in Pittsburg and Antioch near the Dow Chemical facility; at 6 p.m. to areas in Martinez and Pacheco near the Shell oil refinery; at 6:30 p.m. to neighborhoods near the Philips 66 oil refinery in Crockett and Rodeo; and at 7 p.m. to parts of Richmond and San Pablo near the Chevron refinery, according to the sheriff's office.

Some residents will get callbacks asking them to participate in a brief survey to gauge how well the phone alert system worked, sheriff's officials said.

 

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