Thursday Midday News Roundup

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SF Judge Declines To Issue Injuction Blocking Richmond's Eminent Domain Plan

A federal judge today rejected a request by Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the potential implementation of a plan by the city of Richmond to use eminent domain to force the sale of more than 600 underwater mortgages.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled that the city's legislative process for approving the proposal is not yet complete, so it would be premature to issue an injunction.

"It's better for a court to not rule ... unless it appears this eminent domain process is essentially imminent," Breyer said at this morning's hearing in San Francisco.

Richmond is partnering with the investment firm Mortgage Resolution Partners in a plan to buy 624 mortgages to modify the loans and provide homeowners with more affordable payments.

The plan is meant to prevent foreclosures in a city where about half of its homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, meaning the homeowners owe more money than the home's current value.

Richmond recently sent letters to lenders and said that if their offers weren't accepted, the city would use its municipal power of eminent domain to force the sale of the mortgages.

However, the lawsuit filed last month by international law firm Ropes and Gray, LLP, on behalf of the two banks representing the bond investors holding the mortgages, argues that the use of eminent domain is unconstitutional.

Eminent domain is typically used to purchase private land for public use like infrastructure or parks.

John Ertman, an attorney with the firm, told the judge today that the Richmond City Council meeting Tuesday night on the proposal represented "a significant development in this case."

Ertman said the council addressed eminent domain at length at the meeting and voted 5-2 to reject a motion to scrap the plan to use it.

Scott Kronland, an attorney representing the city, told the judge that the banks' request was "like challenging immigration reform legislation before Congress adopted it."

Breyer agreed and declined to immediately issue the preliminary injunction, but gave both sides the opportunity to file briefs by Friday on whether the motion for the injunction should be dismissed or stayed.

He said he would then make his formal ruling on Monday.

Kronland said the judge should dismiss the motion because Richmond is seeking other cities to join it in a joint powers authority for the plan.

"Having the case out there is an interference with the political process and other cities would be hesitant to join," he said.

So far, the Southern California city of El Monte has expressed interest in joining Richmond, city officials said.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin attended this morning's hearing and called the judge's decision not to grant a preliminary injunction "a great victory for us."

McLaughlin also rejected the banks' assertion that the injunction was necessary because the city was trying to quickly pass the legislation.

"We're taking this step-by-step in a very careful, conscientious way," she said.

 

Oracle Drops Bay Area Native From Crew As America's Cup Finals Continue

Defending champion Oracle Team USA today dropped a Bay Area native from its sailing crew as the team tries to find a way to come back from a large deficit in the America's Cup Finals, which resumes this afternoon in San Francisco.

Tactician John Kostecki, who grew up in San Rafael and has years of experience sailing on the Bay, was dropped from Oracle's racing crew after making perceived tactical errors.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie will replace Kostecki as the sixth race begins at 1:15 p.m. today.

Emirates Team New Zealand is leading Oracle by a score of 4 to negative-1 in the finals.

Oracle was docked two points by the regatta's International Jury before the racing began for making illegal modifications to its boats during exhibition races in 2012 and earlier this year.

It has since won one race in the finals.

The New Zealand team needs to win just five more races to become the new America's Cup champions, while Oracle needs to win twice that number to retain the Cup.

Oracle used its only "postponement card" to regroup after losing the fifth race of the finals on Tuesday, and is hoping the replacement of Kostecki with Ainslie will help get them back on the winning side.

The team has struggled on the lone upwind leg of the race course, losing an average of 48 seconds to the New Zealand team on that portion.

"We can win these races," Oracle team skipper Jimmy Spithill said.

"We just need to be very, very smart about how we go about it and we have to sail our boat well."

The two teams are scheduled to race a second time today at 2:15 p.m., with more races scheduled on Saturday and Sunday.

More information about the races can be found online at www.americascup.com.

 

Joint Vigil Being Held Saturday By Families Of Five Men Who Went Missing In SF

Five families whose young adult sons have gone missing in San Francisco over the past few years are holding a joint vigil in the city's Golden Gate Park this weekend to call attention to the cases.

The families of Sean Sidi, 19, Crishtian Hughes, 20, Shawn Dickerson, 24, Cameron Remmer, 31, and Jackson Miller, 23, are all gathering at the park's Music Concourse for the vigil at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Lynn Ching, the mother of Sidi, said the vigil is meant to raise awareness about the five cases and highlight the struggles the families face in getting assistance from law enforcement.

Ching said cases involving missing men often get less attention -- from both police and the public -- than cases involving missing women.

"Most of them, people don't know they're missing," she said.

Ching said another problem many families face is that if the missing person lived outside San Francisco, their case will be sent to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over that residence, even if it's thousands of miles away.

"It leaves the families in a bind," she said.

Ching's son Sidi went missing this past May, while Hughes went missing in February, Dickerson went missing in December 2011, Remmer went missing in October 2011 and Miller went missing in May 2010.

San Francisco police were not immediately available to comment on the status of the five cases.

 

Passengers Facing Up To 1 Hour Delars For Arriving Flights

Passengers flying to and from San Francisco International Airport today can expect some delays until early this afternoon, an airport duty manager said.

A weather-related ground delay program is in effect at the airport until 1 p.m., duty manager Larry Mares said.

Delays for arriving short-haul flights are between 30 minutes and an hour, he said.

The delayed arriving flights are pushing back some departure times, he said.

There have also been a few canceled Southwest Airlines flights this morning, he said.

 

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