San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday Morning News Roundup

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SF: Campos Proposes Renaming SFO After Harvey Milk

San Francisco International Airport could be renamed after slain supervisor and civil rights leader Harvey Milk under a proposal introduced at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

Supervisor David Campos introduced a charter amendment to rename the airport in honor of Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the state.

The charter amendment, which would change the airport's name to "Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport," needs the support of a majority of supervisors to go on November's ballot for approval by voters.

The legislation already has four co-sponsors from the board -- Supervisors Scott Wiener, John Avalos, Jane Kim and Eric Mar. Campos, who is also openly gay, said the proposal was a very personal one for him.

"Coming to terms with my own sexuality and own identity is not something that came easily," he said.

Citing Milk's speech about the importance of giving hope to LGBT youth and other people facing discrimination or oppression, Campos said, "we as a city can give hope ... that's what this really is about."

Former Supervisor Dan White assassinated Milk, 48, along with Mayor George Moscone at City Hall in 1978.

Campos said Milk's family is in strong support of the proposal, as are many of his friends, such as Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and activist Cleve Jones.

Ammiano said in a statement, "I can't think of a more fitting name for the gateway to the city of San Francisco, for which Harvey and his legacy have done so much."

Campos said one of the deciding factors that led him to go forward with the legislation was a discussion with Stuart Milk, Harvey's nephew, about all of the passengers who come to SFO from overseas, including from many countries where being gay is illegal.

"We have always been at the forefront of civil rights and the forefront of LGBT rights," he said.

"It's an opportunity to ask, 'Who was Harvey?'" About 40 million people visit San Francisco International Airport daily, including 9 million from overseas, he said.

If the proposal becomes reality, SFO would join more than 80 other airports around the country that are named after individuals, Campos said.

Oakland: City Council Committee Approves Three Anti-Crime Measures

The Oakland City Council's finance committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve three measures aimed at beefing up the city's understaffed Police Department.

The measures, which were proposed by council members Libby Schaaf and Larry Reid before a wave of six homicides in the past eight days, including four on Friday, will now move to the full council for final approval next Tuesday.

Police Chief Howard Jordan said after the meeting, "This is a step in the right direction toward hiring more officers but we need a lot more."

But Jordan said he's pleased with Tuesday's action nonetheless.

He said, "I'm very honored to have so much support from the City Council" and "I feel like today is Christmas for me, especially with what happened last weekend," referring to the four homicides on Friday and several additional non-fatal shootings on Saturday and Sunday.

The measure that will have the most immediate impact is hiring 11 Alameda County sheriff's deputies for up to 180 days at a cost of up to $265,000 to work ten-hour shifts twice a week on violence suppression efforts in East and West Oakland.

Jordan said that if the full council approves the measure next Tuesday the deputies could begin working in Oakland as early as next week or at least sometime shortly after that.

He said the deputies would supplement a small group of California Highway Patrol officers who have been working on violence suppression duties in those areas twice a week for the past month.

Schaaf said Oakland's agreement with the CHP is scheduled to expire at the end of January but she's hopeful it will be extend for another 90 days.

Jordan said the combination of CHP officers and sheriff's deputies would give Oakland extra officers four days a week.

The other measures approved Tuesday call for funding an additional police academy to train new officers that will begin in September and hiring 20 police service technicians at a cost of $1.5 million to be assigned to field duty as well as one crime lab position.

The additional academy will supplement a police academy that began last fall and a second academy will begin in March.

Oakland had as many as 837 police officers four years ago but Jordan said it currently has only 613 and ideally he'd like to have 1,000 officers.

SF: Supes Vote to Ban Smoking at Street Fairs

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday gave unanimous initial approval to two pieces of legislation addressing smoking in the city.

The first item will ban smoking at certain street fairs and festivals in the city, including the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair and the Fillmore Jazz Festival.

The legislation requires various events with street closures to mention on all promotional materials that they are a smoke-free event, while also requiring at least one "No Smoking" sign and announcements about the smoking ban every two hours during the event.

Mar said the ordinance has broad support in the city and that San Francisco is believed to be the first large city in the U.S. to adopt such legislation.

The other item regarding smoking, also authored by Mar, requires property owners in the city to tell potential tenants whether smoking is allowed in a multi-unit residential building.

Mar said people are often unaware of whether their neighbors are allowed to smoke and that the secondhand smoke seeps into their own units, creating a health hazard.

This legislation allows them "to make an informed decision" and also helps landlords by reducing the number of potential nuisance complaints by tenants, Mar said.

Both tenants' rights and landlord groups support the legislation, he said, noting similar laws are already in effect in other nearby cities such as Oakland and Richmond.

Owners of less than 50 units in the city will have one year to comply with the legislation while ones who own more than 50 will have two years.

Both ordinances will return in front of the supervisors for final approval at their next meeting. 

SJ: Improving Morale, Retaining Officers, Among Top Priorities for New Acting Police Chief

San Jose's new Acting Police Chief said Tuesday he's concerned about staffing levels at the San Jose Police Department and that fostering morale among officers will be a top priority.

Acting Police Chief Larry Esquivel, 51, said that morale has been down due to issues from wage levels to work load and he wants to hear what officers have to say about them.

"Part of my job will be to get input from them," Esquivel said in an interview outside San Jose police headquarters at 201 Mission St. "I'm concerned about it," he said.

The police force currently has fewer than 1,000 street-ready officers -- around 940 not counting 59 new recruits -- which is low compared to about 1,400 officers only four years ago, Esquivel said.

In the meantime, his primary goals will be to recruit and retain personnel, maintain partnerships police have in the community and reduce crime through advances in technology, Esquivel said.

Esquivel on Monday accepted an offer from San Jose City Manager Debra Figone to take over temporarily for retiring Police Chief Chris Moore, whose last day on the force is Saturday, police spokesman Sgt. Jason Dwyer said.

While he is not privy to details of the city's hunt for a new permanent chief, Esquivel said he heard the search will resume in about a month and that he will serve the next few months as acting chief.

Esquivel, who said that he did not offer his name among candidates to replace Moore, added that he himself is eligible for retirement after 27 years with the force but he has chosen to stay on.

Also Tuesday, Esquivel announced his appointment of Deputy Chief Edgardo Garcia to serve as the department's Acting Assistant Chief. Garcia, who joined the force in 1992, has been overseeing the Bureau of Administration for the department while deputy chief, Dwyer said.

Sonoma Co.: Man Found Dead in Trunk at SSU Identified

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office has identified a 31-year-old man found dead in the trunk of a parked car at Sonoma State University on Monday as Sean Francis Parker.

Parker, who investigators say was murdered, had addresses in Santa Rosa and Vallejo, sheriff's officials said.

An autopsy was underway Tuesday afternoon.

Lt. Dennis O'Leary said Parker was a suspect in a domestic violence incident that occurred Friday around 9 p.m. on Stony Point Road in Santa Rosa.

Parker and the female victim had a prior dating relationship and had children together, O'Leary said.

The female victim suffered several cuts and bruises Friday during a heated argument with Parker, O'Leary said.

Parker left after the domestic violence incident and Santa Rosa police issued a "be on the lookout" alert for Parker and a gold sedan, O'Leary said.

Sheriff's deputies found the sedan parked in a no parking zone on Petaluma Hill Road north of East Cotati Avenue around 6:30 p.m. Monday, O'Leary said.

Deputies checked the license plate and learned that the vehicle was linked to the Santa Rosa domestic disturbance, O'Leary said.

It is believed the car had been there since late Saturday afternoon or evening, he said.

Deputies saw blood on one of the car's seats, then found Parker's body wrapped in a blanket inside the unlocked trunk.

While the domestic violence victim had access to the gold sedan containing Parker's body, she is not a suspect in the murder, O'Leary said.

Parker has a criminal history in Sonoma County, and some of the people he is associated with are involved in gangs, O'Leary said.

Neither Parker nor the female domestic disturbance victim attended Sonoma State University, O'Leary said.

Martinez: Supes Approve Budget Allocating State Realignment Funding

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a $20.7 million budget to support state inmates re-routed to county jails under California's realignment plan.

The more than $20 million will expand some departments and cover operational costs associated with the hundreds of additional low-level offenders that would previously have been housed in state prison and are now under county jurisdiction under state Assembly Bill 109.

Tuesday afternoon's vote comes after six months of debate among the members of the county's Community Corrections Partnership, or CCP, about how to allocate $19 million in state realignment funding.

The prolonged negotiations mean the county's public safety departments will receive the funding only now that the fiscal year is halfway through.

The CCP executive committee includes the county's public safety and criminal justice department heads, including Sheriff David Livingston, District Attorney Mark Peterson, Public Defender Robin Lipetzky and Probation Chief Philip Kader.

The committee's newly approved budget allocates more than $15 million to hire new personnel and for other costs related to AB 109 inmate caseloads.

In addition, $5.2 million of the spending plan is earmarked for partnerships with community organizations aimed at reducing recidivism, or the rate of inmates returning to jail.

Members of community groups such as the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, or CCISCO, and the Safe Return Project, as well as several community leaders from Richmond, packed CCP meetings over the past six months to voice their support for solid investment in programs that keep offenders off of the streets, such as one-stop service centers providing education, housing and employment resources to ex-offenders.

At Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, several community leaders and residents again urged the board to approve funding for such programs.

"You need to invest in people, not prisons," Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said.

"It's been said over and over again that we have to address the roots of crime, and that means to address the roots of recidivism by providing opportunities."

SJ: Gov. Brown Praises Pilot Project to Bring Low-Cost, For-Credit Online Math Classes to College Students

Gov. Jerry Brown joined a news conference Tuesday to announce the launch of a pilot project offering low-cost online classes to students at San Jose State University, community colleges, high schools and military veterans.

The online classes in the pilot project, created in a partnership between SJSU and Palo Alto-based technology start-up company Udacity Inc., include entry-level math, college algebra, and elementary statistics, classes that normally have high failure rates, university officials said.

Five college faculty members will oversee the three classes using instructional videos with imbedded quizzes and access to course mentors for support, according to Ellen Junn, the university's vice president for academic affairs.

The classes, which are good for college credit, will cost only $150 each with no textbooks required and are set to run from Jan. 30 to mid-May, Junn said.

Brown said that he emailed Udacity Inc. co-founder and CEO Sebastian Thrun last summer after reading about the company's free online classes and later convinced Thrun to run inexpensive math classes for California college students.

Udacity's online classes are open to anyone with an Internet connection and include short video lectures by university professors and quizzes.

The classes offered by San Jose State will differ in that direct human mentorship will be available and students will receive college credit.

"This is an exciting moment in the future of our state," Brown said.

The new pilot program will permit more students to take in-demand remedial math courses that often are unavailable or difficult to enroll in on a college campus, Brown said.

"We know millions of kids are not getting into college," Brown said. "Only 16 percent of California state university students graduate in four years."

Although the top third of high school students in California can get admitted to a California state university campus, as many as 70 percent fail to pass statewide exams in math and English and must take remedial classes in college, Brown said.

"They get into Cal State and 70 percent of them flunk," Brown said. "We have a right to get better results."

The governor looked on as San Jose University President Mohammad Qayoumi and Udacity's Thrun, a Stanford University researcher who helped develop Google Street View and self-driving cars, signed the agreement at the morning news conference at the university's Martin Luther King Jr. Library.

Registration began Tuesday and each of the three classes will be limited to 100 students, with 50 slots given to enrolled students at San Jose State and the other 50 allotted to high school students, community college students and military veterans. 

SF: Muni Board Approves $24.1M Project to Replace Subway, Systemwide Communications

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors Tuesday unanimously approved awarding a $24.1 million contract to a company to upgrade the agency's aging communication system.

At Tuesday afternoon's meeting at City Hall, the board gave the go-ahead for modern-age technology to replace the current network, which has been in use since the 1970s.

The $24,116,000 upgrade with Fremont-based Blocka Construction Inc. is slated to begin in the next month, according to Vince Harris, SFMTA director of capital programs and construction.

The project entails improving the platform displays and public address systems at the nine Muni Metro stations, the system for monitoring the 26 power substations used for trolley buses and light-rail vehicles, and creating a new subway Fiber Broadband Network system, which connects all underground infrastructures.

Muni's central control, which already exists, would be also improved and upgraded, Harris said.

Harris touted quicker response times to any service disruptions or other issues, easier parts replacement compared to working with the current obsolete systems, and compatibility with other newer communication networks, such as the one planned for Muni's Central Subway project.

In the event of a power outage, the new system will provide backup services.

The replacement is expected to take one and half years.

For passengers, the changes are expected to result in increased reliability, security and safety while riding on the transit system.

With the current system, especially in the underground subway, one small problem can cause widespread service disruptions, which is anticipated to be ameliorated with a modern network that can more efficiently isolate a problem and allow quicker fixes, SFMTA electrical and communication engineering project manager Frank Lau said.

SF Bay Area Wednesday Morning Weather Forecast

Sunny skies are expected in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s, with northeast winds up to 10 mph.

Mostly clear skies are likely this evening. Lows are expected to be in the mid 40s, with northeast winds up to 10 mph.

Sunny skies are expected Thursday. Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s, with northeast winds around 10 mph.

 

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