San Francisco Bay Area Tuesday Morning News Roundup

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Regional: Prosecutors Accuse BP and Arco of Environmental Violations

California Attorney General Kamala Harris and district attorneys from seven counties across the state filed suit Monday alleging that BP and Arco have engaged in environmental violations at more than 780 gas stations in the state.

The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges that BP West Coast Products, BP Products North America, Inc., and Atlantic Richfield Company have violated state laws governing hazardous materials and hazardous waste by failing to properly inspect and maintain underground tanks used to store gasoline for retail sale at gas stations in California.

Arco is a subsidiary of BP, which is headquartered in London.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley and prosecutors from Glenn, Merced, Nevada, Placer, San Bernardino, Stanislaus and Yuba counties joined Harris in filing the suit.

The suit claims that since October 2006 the BP companies and ARCO have improperly monitored, inspected and maintained underground storage tanks used to store gasoline for retail sale.

It alleges that the oil companies tampered with or disabled leak detection devices, and failed to test secondary containment systems, conduct monthly inspections, train employees in proper protocol, and maintain operational alarm systems, among other violations.

The suit says inspectors from the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health obtained documents that showed that BP officials instructed their service stations in Alameda County to maintain gasoline leak detection sensors at a height contrary to California law.

The suit alleges that this resulted in leak detection sensors at multiple ARCO stations in the county to be positioned so they were unable to detect a fuel leak at the earliest possible opportunity.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Ken Misfud said prosecutors believe BP and Arco officials wanted less stringent leak detention standards to avoid having to shut down gas stations, as leaks can force stations to be closed for an entire day or longer and the companies consequently lose revenue.

The lawsuit also claims that the oil companies improperly handled and disposed of hazardous wastes and materials associated with the underground storage tanks at retail gas stations throughout the state.

The suit says a statewide investigation found violations of hazardous materials and hazardous waste laws and regulations at gas stations in 37 counties across the state, including 28 gas stations in Alameda County.

Misfud said the suit is seeking an injunction ordering BP and Arco to comply with state law as well as unspecified fines and legal costs.

SF: Candlestick Park Likely Won't Last Long After 49ers Leave

Those with sentimental feelings about San Francisco's Candlestick Park better visit in the next year because the stadium likely won't be there long after the 49ers move out.

Lennar Urban takes over ownership of the land from San Francisco following the 49ers' last game at the 53-year-old building and plans to take down the stadium within weeks, according to company officials.

The 49ers will be moving out following the 2013-14 season and into their new $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara.

The San Francisco Giants moved out of Candlestick Park following the 1999 baseball season.

The Candlestick site is slated to become retail space and might even house a smaller arena, which could be a potential home for the San Francisco Bulls minor league hockey team, company officials said. Candlestick Park has been the site of a number of memorable events in sports, including two Giants World Series trips and several 49er playoff runs.

It has also been the place where many sports legends have called home. Willie Mays, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Willie McCovey, Barry Bonds, and Juan Marichal are among the Giant and 49er greats to play at the stadium.

Candlestick Park is currently owned by the city and run by its Recreation and Park Department. Rec and Park will be working with stadium stakeholders on a public ceremony for the stadium and will likely hold an auction of Candlestick memorabilia, department spokeswoman Sarah Ballard said.

When Candlestick Park has its ownership shifted to Lennar Urban, it will become part of the Hunters Point Shipyard development deal already in place with the city, company officials said.

As part of the deal, Lennar Urban is responsible for taking down Candlestick Park within 10 years but company officials don't expect it to even last one month.

The stadium was completed in 1960 and was initially a baseball-only facility.

The 49ers did not move into Candlestick until 1971.

Oakland: U.S. Judge Declines to Halt Closure of Oyster Farm

A federal judge in Oakland refused Monday to block the closure of a decades-old oyster farm at Point Reyes National Seashore.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said courts have no authority to review a decision by U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar last year to deny a permit extension to the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.

The judge said a 2009 law enacted by Congress specifically gave the Interior Department secretary the discretion to decide whether to renew the farm's special use permit.

"The express language and legislative history of (the law) evidence Congress's intent to grant the secretary complete discretion on the issue of whether to grant the company the new special use permit," Gonzalez Rogers wrote in a 31-page decision.

She turned down a bid by the company for a preliminary injunction blocking Salazar's decision.

The company, bought by Kevin and Nancy Lunny from a previous owner in 2004, was given a 40-year permit to harvest oysters in 1972, which expired on Nov. 30.

Oyster farming at the site in Drakes Estero, an estuary of Drakes Bay, began in the 1930s.

The company asked for a 10-year extension, but on Nov. 29, Salazar announced he would allow the permit to expire so that the area could return to wilderness.

The Point Reyes seashore has been part of the national park system since 1962. The company challenged Salazar's action in a federal lawsuit filed four days later.

Amber Abbasi, a lawyer for the company, said, "We are disappointed in the judge's decision to deny our request for a preliminary injunction.

"Without this injunction, not only will a small business close, but families will be forced out of their homes, and the community will lose a sustainable farming resource," she said.

Abbasi said the company's owners have not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling.

SJ: Police Search for Two Suspects in Connection with Violent Home Invasion Robbery

Police are seeking the public's assistance in locating two suspects wanted in connection with a home invasion robbery in East San Jose early Friday morning.

At 1:51 a.m. on Friday, police received a report of two adult male suspects who conducted a robbery at a residence and assaulted a 74-year-old woman in the 400 block of Mahoney Drive.

Police said two adult female residents, a mother and daughter, were at home when they heard someone breaking into the daughter's vehicle parked just outside their residence.

The 74-year-old mother yelled at the suspects to stop, at which point the suspects gained entry into the residence through a front window, according to police.

One suspect proceeded to repeatedly punch the mother in the face, according to police.

The two victims were able to flee the residence on foot, but the suspects pursued the victims into the street.

The first suspect caught up to the mother and assaulted her a second time.

The mother fled again, but the suspect caught up with her and assaulted her a third time, police said.

During the assault, the suspect placed a gun to the woman's neck and threatened to kill her, according to police.

The daughter, age 43, was able to escape the suspects and run to a neighbor's home, where she was able to notify police. 

The suspects returned to the victims' house, ransacked it and took multiple pieces of property.

The suspects fled the scene on foot before officers arrived.

The mother was transported by ambulance to a local hospital and treated for a broken nose, multiple abrasions and bruises to her face, two black eyes and abrasions to her arms, police said.

The daughter was not injured, police said.

The two suspects remain at large. One suspect is described as a Hispanic man standing between 5 feet 11 inches and 6 feet tall with a thin build and a light complexion.

The suspect was wearing dark clothing at the time of the robbery.

Police have released a composite sketch of the first suspect, but have not released a description or a sketch of the second suspect.

Anyone with information regarding the home invasion robbery and assault is asked to contact San Jose police at (408) 277-4166 or anonymously at (408) 947-7867 or online, at tipsubmit.org and may be eligible for a reward.

SJ: Last of Four Defendents Convicted in Severe Neglect of Residents in Filthy Care Home

A San Jose woman became the final person convicted in Santa Clara County Superior Court last Tuesday in the severe neglect of a dozen mentally disabled people in a filthy care home last year in East San Jose.

Kathy Le, 42, pleaded guilty to charges of adult abuse, resisting arrest and animal neglect for her part in running a care home on Cortona Avenue with packs of dogs inside and dog feces all over the floor, Deputy District Attorney Charles Huang said.

"Some (residents) had open (dog) bite marks," Huang said.

"It's a terrible story. If we sat down for three hours, I'd still have things to tell you." Le, her mother Jennifer Ngo, 63, and her half-brother Charles Nguyen, 25, each face sentences of four years in prison at a hearing on March 19 and more time if they violate probation terms, Huang said.

A fourth defendant, Margaret Ngo, 27, Le's half-sister, was sentenced to months she served after her arrest last May because she played a lesser role and took responsibility early on, Huang said.

The other defendant, George Nguyen, 72, Jennifer's husband and the father of Margaret and Charles, died late last year while in the Santa Clara County Jail.

The victims, most suffering from schizophrenia and other severe disorders, were denied toilet paper and regular bathing, Huang said.

They had to live among about 30 dogs roaming inside the care home that operators bred for sale on the Internet, Huang said.

When police raided the home on May 31, officers reported finding locks on a refrigerator door and people who looked severely neglected, sleeping on mattresses on the floor and forced to remain in their rooms almost all day.

The victims' clothes were washed only once a month before a doctor came to visit and the defendants cashed their Social Security checks.

The inhabitants lived in "terrible, squalid conditions" and some "were disabled to the point where they could not take care of themselves," Huang said.

Those unable to afford toilet paper, offered by the care home for $3 a roll, had none to use and feces from the dogs was "everywhere" inside the home, he said.

The family-owned home began from word of mouth in San Jose's Vietnamese community as a place to house mentally ill relatives, Huang said.

Sonoma Co.: Woman Arrested for Fatally Stabbing Mother

A Sebastopol-area woman has been booked into jail for fatally stabbing her 59-year-old mother Monday morning, a Sonoma County sheriff's lieutenant said.

Julie Franzen, 24, was arrested for murder shortly after the body of Nancy Franzen was found around 8 a.m. in the home they shared in the 7900 block of Tocchini Street north of Sebastopol, sheriff's Lt. Dennis O'Leary said.

Deputies recovered what is believed to be the murder weapon, a large kitchen knife, in what O'Leary described as "a bloody crime scene" at the home, which had blood on the floor and furniture.

He said the fatal assault took place in multiple areas of the house.

No motive for the murder is known, O'Leary said. He said the sheriff's office has responded to incidents at the home in the past.

Deputies responded around 8 a.m. after Julie Franzen showed up at her next-door neighbor's house with a knife and blood on her hands.

She told her neighbor she had just killed someone, sheriff's Lt. Steve Brown said. Deputies found Nancy Franzen's body on the floor of a bedroom.

An autopsy will be done today or Wednesday, and Franzen likely will be arraigned in court Wednesday, O'Leary said.

Orinda: Man Suffers Major Burns While Making Hash Oil in Shed Behind Home 

A man was badly burned after apparently trying to make hash oil in a shed behind a home in Orinda on Sunday afternoon, a police sergeant said Monday.

Officers responded shortly after 1:30 p.m. Sunday to 12 Orchard Road and found crews attending to a man who suffered chemical burns, Orinda police Sgt. Neil Rafanan said.

The 24-year-old man was apparently in a shed behind the home and using butane to make hash oil when he suffered severe burns to his hands, upper torso and legs.

He was taken to a hospital where he remained Monday afternoon, Rafanan said.

There was also a marijuana grow operation in the shed, he said. The man had not been arrested as of Monday afternoon but charges could still be pending, Rafanan said.

SF: Two Women Shot, Third Pistol-Whipped During Attempted Robbery

Two women were shot and another was pistol-whipped during an attempted robbery near San Francisco State University early Sunday morning, a police spokesman said Monday.

The incident was reported at about 2:50 a.m. Sunday near Garfield and Byxbee streets in the city's Merced Heights neighborhood, police spokesman Officer Gordon Shyy said.

A suspect approached and pointed a gun at one of the victims and demanded her purse.

A struggle ensued and the suspect struck her with the firearm and then shot her in the neck, Shyy said.

The suspect then struggled with a second victim and shot her in the leg and then pistol-whipped the third victim before fleeing empty-handed, according to Shyy.

All three victims were transported to San Francisco General Hospital to be treated for their injuries, which are not considered life-threatening, he said.

The suspect was described only as a black man between 20 to 25 years old who was wearing a black puffy jacket.

He had not been found as of Monday afternoon, Shyy said.

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

Oakland: Man Pleads Not Guilty to Charge he Murdered His Girlfriend

An Oakland man pleaded not guilty Monday to a murder charge alleging that he fatally shot his girlfriend in early December.

Christopher Carter, 31, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on March 25 for a pretrial hearing on charges stemming from the death of 32-year-old Jokay Ellis at their home at 10324 Longfellow Ave. in Oakland at about 7:45 p.m. on Dec. 7.

According to a probable cause statement filed in court by Oakland police Officer Sean Barre, Carter called police after the shooting and reported that he had just shot Ellis.

Carter told police that he was calling from the 1800 block of 109th Avenue so officers went there and arrested him without incident, Barre said.

Carter later told police where he had discarded the gun he had used to shoot Ellis and officers were able to recover it, according to Barre.

In addition to being charged with murder, Carter is charged with being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

He's also charged with having two prior convictions, which could add to his sentence if he's convicted of murdering Ellis.

According to the criminal complaint against him, Ellis was convicted of possession of a controlled substance in Alameda County on Oct. 23, 2009, and of second-degree commercial burglary in San Joaquin County on Sept. 14, 2006.

Contra Costa Co.: Phillips 66 Refinery Worker Injured in Haz Mat Incident

A delivery driver was injured in a hazardous materials incident at the Phillips 66 refinery in Contra Costa County Monday afternoon, according to fire crews.

Emergency personnel responded to a report of a hazardous material injury at about 12:18 p.m. at the refinery, located at 1380 San Pablo Ave. in Crockett, according to the Contra Costa County Fire District Battalion Chief Lon Goetsch.

According to emergency crews, a delivery driver was injured when an unknown leaking chemical spilled in the back of his truck.

Phillips 66 medical personnel and fire brigade were at the scene when the Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Team and additional fire crews responded to the incident, Goetsch said.

Firefighters evacuated the area, secured a perimeter, and provided the victim with medical assistance.

The victim was transported by ambulance to Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center, according to Goetsch.

Fire and hazardous material crews identified the spilled product, mitigated the hazards, and ensured that there were no additional risks to the public or the environment, according to Goetsch.

SF: Rally Supports Legislation for Bathroom Grab Bars, Telephone Jacks at SROS

Community members held a rally at San Francisco City Hall Monday afternoon supporting legislation that would mandate bathroom grab bars and telephone jack installations at single-room occupancy buildings.

The rally was attended by roughly 50 people who held signs that read, "Handrails not Handouts" and "Great Minds Need Landlines."

The legislation was discussed Monday during the land use and economic development committee of the city's Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Eric Mar, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said the legislation would make it "safer for elders and those with disabilities."

Other sponsors include Supervisors David Chiu, David Campos, Jane Kim and John Avalos.

Joanna Fraguli with the Mayor's Office on Disability said her office has also been involved in the issue and plans to make a technical assistance manual for property owners if the legislation passes.

Carla Johnson, interim director of the office, said the manual would consist of photographs and diagrams demonstrating where the grab bars can be installed.

Johnson said, "This legislation is smart, it's simple, and economically sustainable and should provide minimal burden to property owners in the implementation."

Dan Jordan, a peer counselor with the Central City SRO Collaborative, has lived at a private SRO building in the city's South of Market neighborhood on Sixth Street since 2003.

Jordan said he has fallen in his bathroom multiple times due to its smooth tiles, which are older than ones in other facilities.

Jordan said the previous owners of his building would not install bathroom grab bars unless the city required it, highlighting the high costs property owners would incur.

Jordan has a telephone jack installed in his room and said the benefits of a telephone jack at SROs for the elderly include allowing them to make doctor appointments and call family members.

With five supervisors from the 11-member board sponsoring the proposal, Jordan said he hopes the legislation will pass.

"I'll keep my fingers crossed," he said. Other organizations at the rally included Senior and Disability Action, Community Tenants Association and the Mission SRO Collaborative.

Oakland: Ex-Con Pleads Not Guilty to Murdering Woman in Oakland

An ex-convict pleaded not guilty Monday to a murder charge stemming from the stabbing death of a 26-year-old Berkeley woman at an East Oakland apartment complex in late December, authorities said Monday.

Jamaal Prince, 35, of Berkeley is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on March 25 for a pretrial hearing for the death of Jennifer Kingeter, who was found dead in an apartment at 5800 Walnut St. in Oakland at about 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 28.

In addition to murder and the use of a deadly weapon, namely a knife, Prince is charged with having five prior felony convictions, which could add to his state prison term if he's convicted of murdering Kingeter.

Prince's prior convictions are for assault by means to produce great bodily injury in August 2010 for attacking his mother, vandalism causing more than $400 in damage in June 2008, possession of a firearm by a felon in January 1999, grand theft from a person in September 1996 and leaving the scene of an accident in which someone was seriously injured in January 2008.

All of Prince's previous crimes occurred in Alameda County except for the leaving the scene of an accident incident, which occurred in Stanislaus County.

Bay Area Tuesday Morning Weather Forecast

Mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog are likely in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are likely to be in the mid 50s, with western winds up to 20 mph.

Partly cloudy skies are likely this evening. Lows are expected to be in the mid 40s, with northwest winds up to 15 mph.

Sunny skies are likely Wednesday. Highs are expected to be in the mid 50s, with western winds up to 20 mph in the afternoon.

 

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