San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday Morning News Roundup

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Santa Clara: 49ers Stadium Construction Suspended Until Thursday After Death of Elevator Worker

The general contractor of San Francisco 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara Tuesday suspended construction until Thursday after a worker was killed in an elevator accident at the site, a spokesman said.

Building on the project will resume at 6:45 a.m. after "we talk to our 1,200 employees about the tragic day," said Robert Rayborn, project co-director with general contractor Turner-Devcon.

Rayborn said that based on what people said in a flood of calls and emails about the victim, Donald White, "he was such a committed person that he would want us to go on, so we decided on Thursday as a good day."

The contractor made the decision after the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which is investigating the accident, said Tuesday afternoon it was up to them when to resume construction, Rayborn said.

The accident was reported at 6:53 a.m. at the site of what will be Levi's Stadium, the $1.3 billion venue at Centennial Boulevard and Tasman Drive slated to open in 2014.

Rayborn said that White was an employee of subcontractor Schindler Elevator Corp. and a 43-year veteran in the elevator trades with a wife and four sons.

White, 63, was apparently standing on a ladder beneath the elevator's counterweight when the counterweight "came down and struck him," said Peter Melton, a spokesman for Cal/OSHA.

Melton said it is not yet clear what went wrong.

Greg Siggins, a spokesman for Cal/OSHA, said the agency would determine what if any state safety code violations occurred during the accident and complete a report within six months, as state law requires.

Cal/OSHA is reviewing information provided by the West Coast regional operating manager for Schindler, which as White's employer could be cited and fined if code violations are found, Siggins said.

Companies may be fined $7,000 for general and regulatory violations, $25,000 for a serious violation and from $5,000 to $70,000 for a willful violation of occupational safety codes, Siggins said.

The investigation will look into whether Schindler's employees were properly trained to operate equipment and wore proper gear while working, Siggins said.

Siggins said he did not know whether White was wearing a helmet or if the man was killed at a temporary or stadium elevator.

Rayborn said the accident occurred in one of 14 elevator shafts at the stadium site.

After the accident, work on the stadium was stopped and workers were sent home.

Project co-director Jonathan Harvey said safety is the company's primary concern.

"We will never put a worker in a hazardous situation," he said. 

Oakland: East Bay Water Rates to Increase by Nearly 20 Percent

East Bay Municipal Utility District directors voted 5-2 Tuesday to increase customers' water rates by 19.25 percent over the next two years to pay for infrastructure and maintenance work.

The rate hike calls for the typical single-family EBMUD customer to pay an extra $8.15 a month in water rates over the next two years and see their monthly bill rise from $40.45 to $48.60 over that time span.

And they come on top of water rate increases that have totaled 12 percent in the past two years that the water agency has imposed on its 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

Most of the 17 customers who spoke at Tuesday's board meeting oppose the rate hike, saying it's too steep.

But a majority of board members said the 90-year-old water agency needs to raise its rates again to help pay for infrastructure and maintenance work, such as replacing aging pipes and other equipment, that's been deferred during the economic downturn in recent years.

Referring to the infrastructure and maintenance work, Director William Patterson said, "You can only put it off so long. Our number one priority is our infrastructure and we're here to do out best for our ratepayers." 

Director Lesa McIntosh said, "We don't take this (the water rate increase) lightly, but we've been limping along quite a while. I know it's painful but I think it's necessary."

Director Doug Linney said, "Nobody likes to increase rates" but he said that even with the increase EBMUD's rates are still lower than most water agencies in the Bay Area.

Director Frank Mellon said, "If we don't do this now, the cost later on will be so much more. It's my fiduciary responsibility to support this."

The board's vote means that water rates will increase by 9.75 percent on July 1, when the new fiscal year begins, and by another 9.5 percent on July 1, 2014.

It also means that wastewater rates will rise by 9 percent on July 1 and by another 8.5 percent on July 1, 2014.

Before the board voted, EBMUD finance director Eric Sandler said the water agency faces fiscal challenges from the drought and the economic recession, such as reduced sales volumes, capacity charges revenues and interest earnings.

Sandler said some of the strategies that EBMUD has used to mitigate its financial challenges, such as increasing its maintenance backlog, letting its infrastructure age and risking its AAA credit rating, are no longer sustainable.

BART Calls For State Mediator to Assist With Contract Negotiations

BART management has requested assistance from a state mediator because of stalled contract negotiations with its labor unions, the transit agency announced Tuesday.

Contracts between BART and several unions that represent more than 2,400 employees expire on June 30, and both sides are pushing for a compromise over wages and health benefits.

The unions involved in the negotiations include Service Employees International Union Local 1021, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3993.

The transit agency Tuesday issued a statement confirming that BART management is asking for the assistance of a state mediator to "bridge a large gap in negotiations."

The unions represent maintenance workers, mechanics, operators, station agents, supervisors and mid-level managers.

Antioch: Elderly Man Beat and Robbed Last Month Dies

An elderly man who was beaten during a robbery in Antioch last month died of his injuries Tuesday, according to the Contra Costa County coroner's bureau.

Patrick Chang, 83, died late Tuesday morning at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, according to the coroner's office.

Chang was in critical condition after a juvenile allegedly beat and robbed him in the parking lot of an Orchard Hardware Supply store at 4873 Lone Tree Way on May 18, police said.

Police did not locate the suspect after the incident and released surveillance photographs showing a male near the scene, police said.

On May 23 a suspect was booked in to Juvenile Hall in Martinez on suspicion of felony assault and robbery, police said.

Police did not say if the juvenile was the male shown in the photographs.

SF: Proposal Would Improve Work Flexibility for Families

Employees in San Francisco who are parents or caregivers could soon have the right to request a more flexible and predictable work schedule via legislation proposed Tuesday at the city's Board of Supervisors meeting.

The legislation was introduced by board president David Chiu and would go in front of voters on the city's ballot this November if the supervisors approve it.

Under the proposal, employees with parental or caregiver responsibilities would have the right to request the different work schedules.

Employers would then be required to respond in writing outlining "undue hardship" reasons if they decided to deny a request.

The law would be enforced by the city's Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, which would handle any appeals or disputes between employee and employer.

Chiu said the legislation was a response to changing social mores that have seen an increasing number of families with two working parents or a single parent in recent decades.

San Francisco also has seen many families flee the city -- only 13.5 percent of its residents are children, the lowest percentage of any major city in the country, Chiu said.

He said similar laws have been passed in the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and "have increased worker satisfaction, loyalty and productivity."

Supervisor Eric Mar, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said he is a father and understands the need to work flexible hours.

Mar said along with helping to keep families in the city, the legislation would help to decrease traffic by reducing the number of car trips during peak commute hours.

He said the ordinance could be an example "that will be followed by many other cities."

However, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is already voicing opposition to the proposal because of its potential impact to the city's business community.

Chamber president Bob Linscheid said Chiu did not reach out to the business advocacy group before announcing the legislation.

"We were a little bit surprised," Linscheid said. He said "our companies in San Francisco already do a pretty good job of providing flexible hours" and that the legislation "doesn't send the right message to the business community."

Mayor Ed Lee said he understood the concerns of both the business and labor advocates and said he would wait until seeing a final version of the legislation before forming an opinion because "the devil's in the details."

Chiu said he looked forward to discussing the legislation with the various stakeholders and noted that businesses with under 10 employees would be exempt, as would employees who have not worked for a company for at least six months. 

East Palo Alto: Police Chief Declares End to 'Crime Emergency'

East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis on Monday called an end to a three-week crime emergency he declared in response to a sudden increase in gang violence.

Since the emergency went into effect on May 20, there has been only one shooting reported in East Palo Alto, which police said was accidental and self-inflicted.

"The Crime Emergency has ended, but our sense of urgency and resolve in stemming violence in our community has not," Davis said in a statement.

The number of patrol officers deployed throughout the community during peak hours -- which doubled during the crime emergency -- will return to prior levels.

The Police Department pledged to continue fighting gang activity in the community by coordinating prevention efforts with neighboring law enforcement agencies, faith-based organizations, local probation departments and service providers, Davis said.

Overall, crime in East Palo Alto has decreased by 15 percent compared to this time last year, according to statistics released by the Police Department.

A recent increase in homicides and shootings -- including a May 5 shooting at a bus stop that injured a six-year-old girl, her grandmother and four others -- was attributed to an internal feud in the Norteno gang.

The fatal shooting of 15-year-old Jose Quinonez on May 19 was believed to be connected to the same street gang.

Police have since arrested 27 people in East Palo Alto and San Mateo County and part of its gang crackdown, at least 10 of which were known members of the Nortenos, officials said.

Davis said that violence prevention efforts will continue "with a renewed sense of urgency," and that the department hopes to achieve the "bold goal" of no more murders for the remainder of 2013. 

SJ: DA: 39 of 48 People Indicted for Alleged Gang Activity in Custody

All but nine of 48 alleged members or associates of the Nuestra Familia criminal gang indicted in May are in custody in the largest gang prosecution ever in Santa Clara County, the district attorney's office said Tuesday.

One San Jose-based associate of the Nuestra Familia, Mario "Green Eyes" Soria, was arrested Tuesday on gang participation and methamphetamine sales charges, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said at a news conference in San Jose.

Rosen announced that a Santa Clara County criminal grand jury had indicted the 48 Nuestra Familia gang members or associates on 77 felony counts including murder, robbery, drug sales, witness intimidation and weapons violations.

A three-year probe into the gang's activities in the county, involving more than a dozen federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, ended May 30 when the grand jury handed down the indictments, Rosen said.

"We began in 2010 and we were able to bring charges against more and more defendants until finally you have the largest gang indictment in the history of our county," Rosen said.

The district attorney's office is prepared to prosecute the extensive number of defendants by using a special courtroom, Department 54 in the county's Hall of Justice in San Jose, that is able to try multi-defendant cases, Rosen said.

Prosecutors also expect that some of those charged will agree to plea deals to avoid trials, he said.

"We believe that as this prosecution goes forward, certain individuals will plead guilty and whittle down the number eventually left for trial."

"Sometimes when there are a dozen or more defendants left for trial, we may split it up into two trials, depending on what the evidence is, without going to a stadium to do it," Rosen said.

However, Rosen said the cases would take "many, many months to prosecute."

Nuestra Familia is a violent street gang that has operated out of prisons in California going back to the 1960s, according to the district attorney's office.

Of the 48 people indicted, 38 are men and 10 are women, 23 are believed to be full-fledged members of Nuestra Familia in the county and 25 are suspected associates of the group, the district attorney's office said.

Two alleged members, Juan "Rico" or "Juanito" Carrasco and Jose Luis "Looney" Garcia, and seven associates of Nuestra Familia remain at large, Rosen said.

According to the indictment, "All 48 defendants and others, on or about and between June 10, 2010, and May 30, 2013, sold methamphetamine in association with the Nuestra Familia street regiment."

The 77 felony crimes listed also include a series of five robberies of banks and credit unions in San Jose in which six defendants got away with $60,000 from late 2011 to early 2012, according to prosecutors.

For instance, the indictment charges defendant Martha Frances Castro with allegedly using a fake bomb to threaten employees and steal cash from the Alliance Federal Credit Union on Snell Avenue on Dec. 29, 2011.

Larry "Conejo" Lucero, who like Castro is in custody, is considered the leader of what prosecutors call the Nuestra Familia's "Santa Clara County Regiment" of made gang members.

Lucero oversaw 12 gang members from the so-called San Jose Regiment, six from the Gilroy Regiment and four from the San Jose Federal Regiment, prosecutors said.

Members of in the federal regiment are in custody in federal prison while the others are in state prisons or still on the street, Rosen said.

Of the Nuestra Familia associates named in the indictment, 20 are affiliated with the San Jose regiment and five with the Gilroy group.

All four members of the federal regiment, Rubin Cruz, Angel Martinez, Alberto Jose "Bird" Larez and Josef Ryan Oaks, are named in the indictment for the murder of Martin Chacon, 38, who was shot to death in San Jose on Aug. 13, 2012, while he sat in his car.

Nuestra Familia's members are predominantly in California, but some may be in other Western states, Rosen said.

SF: Court Says Robber Has No Right of Privacy Against GPS Search of Stolen Phone

A person who steals a cellphone doesn't have a privacy right that would prevent police from using global positioning to find the phone and arrest him, a state appeals court ruled in San Francisco Tuesday.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the conviction of Lorenzo Barnes and sentence of 13 years and eight months in prison for a 2009 armed robbery in San Francisco.

According to the ruling, Barnes stole a purse from Carolyn Fey and a wallet from Charles Parce after brandishing a handgun at them as they walked near Fort Mason in San Francisco shortly after midnight on Nov. 5, 2009.

Fey's handbag contained her cellphone, and after she told police the phone had a global positioning system, an officer contacted the Sprint PCS phone service, arranged for Fey to sign a release, and then asked Sprint to ping the phone.

On the basis of several pings by Sprint, two officers followed Barnes for several blocks in the Mission District and with the help of a third officer stopped him in a car in a car at 13th and Mission streets about one hour after the robbery.

The officers arrested Barnes after seeing a cellphone on the front seat of the car and a handbag on the back seat that matched the description of Fey's turquoise Prada purse, and after Fey was brought to the scene and identified him as the suspect.

Barnes later pleaded guilty in San Francisco Superior Court to two counts of second-degree armed robbery and one count of being a previously convicted felon in possession of a handgun, and was sentenced to 13 years and eight months in prison.

But he reserved the right to appeal his claim that the phone pinging carried out without a search warrant violated his expectation of privacy under the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable search and seizures.

The appeals court said, however, that there is no right to privacy in stolen property.

"Did defendant have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the cellphone he had stolen?

The answer is an emphatic 'no,'" Justice James Richman wrote in the court's decision.

Richman cited a 2005 decision in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said, "The Fourth Amendment does not protect a defendant from a warrantless search of property that he stole."

Richman also noted that the arrest was based on a combination of the cellphone pinging and the victims' description of the stolen purse and the suspect.

That information taken together provided the officers with "ample reasonable suspicion for a detention," the appeals court said. 

Salinas: Woman Arrested in Gang Murder of 14-Year-Old Boy, Police Seek Second Suspect

A Salinas woman was arrested Tuesday morning on suspicion of the gang-related stabbing death of a 14-year-old boy, but another suspect remains at-large, a police spokesman said.

Leslie Denise Rico, 23, turned herself in at the Salinas Police Department at 10:37 a.m. after seeing her photo distributed by police in the May 17 stabbing of Ricardo Ruiz, Officer Miguel Cabrera said.

Rico was arrested on suspicion of homicide, a street gang enhancement and attempted carjacking, Cabrera said.

Police are still searching for a second suspect in Ruiz's slaying, Angela Zuniga, 21, a resident of King City, Cabrera said.

Ruiz was stabbed in the neck after answering a question about his street gang affiliation allegedly posed by Zuniga, Cabrera said.

"It's a gang-related homicide," he said.

"The motive involved was a challenge about what his gang affiliation was."

The boy was transported by a citizen to a hospital and later died after his family decided to take him off life-support, Cabrera said.

Police released photos of Rico and Zuniga after the fatal stabbing, Cabrera said.

The two major street gangs operating in Salinas are the Surenos and Nortenos, Cabrera said.

Anyone with information about Zuniga's whereabouts is urged to contact Salinas police at (831) 758-7134 or (831) 758-7322.

Those who want to remain anonymous may phone the crime tip line at (831) 775-4222 or the "WeTip" line at 1-800-78-CRIME. 

SF: Airbnb, Other Companies Partnering With City in Emergency Preparedness

In the event of a natural disaster or another type of emergency, companies like Airbnb that are part of San Francisco's "sharing economy" will assist the city in accommodating residents who are displaced or need other assistance, Mayor Ed Lee announced Tuesday.

Lee and other city officials met Tuesday with various companies in a growing industry that specializes in sharing assets like living spaces, cars, bikes and skills through the use of social media and other technology.

The companies, which include Airbnb, Zipcar, City CarShare and others, will help link people interested in helping out after a disaster to those in need of assistance.

"I think there will be a lot of people that want to help, and they just need that medium," the mayor said.

Lee and other officials cited the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as an example of how "sharing economy" companies can be helpful.

Nate Blecharczyk, founder of Airbnb, said last October's storm that hit New York City and other populated areas on the East Coast led to many of the company's customers changing their profiles to offer empty rooms for free to displaced residents.

Airbnb was eventually able to temporarily waive its service fees for residents following the storm and made more than 1,400 homes available for free through their website for New York City residents, Blecharczyk said.

"It's fundamentally changed how our system worked," he said.

"If we had been a little bit more prepared, we could've done so much more."

The company now has a tool in place that can be activated in less than 30 minutes in an area where a disaster has struck to waive the service fees and allow people to offer rooms for free, Blecharczyk said.

Mayor Lee also invited BayShare, an advocacy group for the city's "sharing economy" companies, to join its Disaster Council.

The council includes key city officials and private sector organizations and meets four times per year to share information about emergency planning activities.

"We are excited to work with the city by sharing our skills and evolving social infrastructure to contribute to a more connected Bay Area community and a resilient city in the event of a disaster," BayShare executive director Milicent Johnson said. 

Antioch: 21-Year-Old Man Fatally Shot

A 21-year-old man was fatally shot this morning in Antioch, according to police.

Police received a report of a shooting in the 1900 block of D Street, near Fremont Elementary School and Antioch High School at about 12:26 a.m.

Upon arrival, officers found a 21-year-old Antioch man with a gunshot wound.

Medical personnel and police officers took life-saving measures, but the victim was later pronounced dead at a local hospital, according to police.

The Antioch Police Department Investigations Bureau is continuing to investigate the homicide and identify suspects, police said.

Weather Forecast for the San Francisco Bay Area

Sunny skies are likely in the Bay Area this morning.

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

Mostly clear skies are likely this evening.

Lows are likely to be in the upper 40s to mid 50s, with westerly winds up to 30 mph.

Sunny skies are expected Thursday morning.

Highs are expected to be in the upper 50s to lower 70s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.

 

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