San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday Morning News Roundup
Golden Gate Bridge District Starts Phasing-In All Electronic Tolling
The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District is on
track to phase in all-electronic tolling on the Golden Gate Bridge in
Full implementation of all-electronic tolling will begin in
February when cash will no longer be collected at the Toll Plaza, district
spokeswoman Mary Currie said.
The district's Board of Directors began the all-electronic
planning process in January 2011.
The options for motorists who do not have a FasTrak account will
include a pay-by-plate or "one-time payments" that motorists will make up to
three days after passing through the toll plaza, Currie said.
Under pay-by-plate, customers set up a license plate account to
automatically deduct the toll from their account.
The license plate account can be opened online, by phone or in
person at the FasTrak Regional Customer Service Center.
One-time payments may be made online, by phone or in person at the
FasTrak Regional Customer Service Center or at a business that is enrolled in
the cash payment network system that will be set up in the Bay Area.
Businesses providing this service will charge convenience fees for
An invoice will be sent to the registered owner of a vehicle that
does not use FasTrak or make an automatic pay-by-plate payment.
The first invoice will be sent three days after passing through the Toll Plaza.
The payment will be due within 21 days from the date the invoice is mailed, and if necessary, subsequent invoices will be sent every 30 days.
The all-electronic tolling system will be tested and validated in
December and cash collections will still be in effect at that time, Currie
Supervisors Approve Plan To Provide Alternative To PG&E
San Francisco will soon provide an alternative to PG&E after the
city's Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved plans that will allow residents
to buy energy from fully renewable sources at an increased price.
The supervisors voted 8-3 in favor of CleanPowerSF, a $19.5
million program that includes a five-year contract with Shell Energy North
America and also sets aside $2 million to study local options for creating
green energy for the city.
Supervisor David Campos said the legislation "provides consumers
with a choice" in where they get their power, while also setting up the
framework in which the city can eventually create its own energy.
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Ed
Harrington told the supervisors that CleanPowerSF is the city's "only chance"
to meet its ambitious goals in reducing greenhouse gases and increasing
The program, which Harrington said will go into effect in spring
2013, will initially include about 90,000 customers, or roughly a quarter of
the city's residential ratepayers.
The program would cause an estimated increase of $18 per month on
the average utility bill in the city, with a discount for low-income
residents, he said.
Supervisor John Avalos said "There's a portion who I believe are
willing to pay a slightly higher rate" for clean energy, and said the
legislation "will put teeth to our goals on climate change."
However, other supervisors were uneasy about forcing some of the
city's residents to participate in the program.
The ratepayers selected for the system would have five months to opt out of the program for free, then would have to pay a $5 fee if they opt out afterward.
Supervisor Mark Farrell said the program "smells like coercion"
and would "foist onto consumers an increase of 20 to 30 percent" on their
monthly utility bill.
"The premise and numbers just don't add up right now," Farrell
Farrell, Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd were the only three
supervisors to oppose the legislation.
Witness Describes Burned Body Case
A witness Tuesday described the beginning of a gruesome incident
in Oakland last year in which two suspected gang members are accused of
beating a 21-year-old woman to death, dumping her body near a freeway and
then setting it on fire.
Pablo Ahumada, 31, testified that Salvador Valasco, 23, and Hector
Garcia, 32, abducted Monica Rodas-Alfaro from a house at Coolidge and Nicol
avenues in East Oakland shortly after midnight on July 14, 2011, after
Valasco had bound her hands with plastic, gagged her mouth and covered her
head with a sweater.
Ahumada, who was the prosecution's first witness in the
preliminary hearing for Valasco and Garcia, said initially "the atmosphere
was good" when a small group of people gathered at the house during a night
of smoking methamphetamine and marijuana but after he went outside to urinate
he heard screaming and arguing.
He said when he went back inside, he saw Valasco, who he said was
Rodas-Alfaro's boyfriend, sitting on top of her and "talking smack."
Ahumada, who initially was a suspect in the case but was never
charged, said that at a later point, Garcia grabbed a torch and told
Rodas-Alfaro, "Bitch, I'll burn you."
He said Garcia and Valasco then carried Rodas-Alfaro, a Union City
woman who was the mother of a boy who's now three years old, out of the house
and drove off.
Ahumada didn't testify about a possible motive for the attack, but
later in the day Oakland police Sgt. Steve Nowak testified that Ahumada told
him in an interview that Garcia and Valasco were asking Rodas-Alfaro if she
knew who had robbed Garcia in a previous incident.
Rodas' body was found at about 4:40 a.m. on July 14 in the 5800
block of Ivanhoe Road in Oakland's Rockridge District, near a state Highway
Valasco and Garcia are both charged with murder plus the special
circumstance of committing a murder during the course of a kidnapping.
They're also charged with desecrating human remains and evading police
Berkeley Superintendent Candidate Withdraws From Consideration
The sole finalist for the Berkeley schools superintendent post has
withdrawn his candidacy after rumors circulated that he opposes same-sex
Berkeley school board members announced three weeks ago that
Edmond Heatley, a retired Marine officer who is currently superintendent of
Clayton County Public Schools in Georgia, was the only finalist in a
comprehensive nationwide search for a new superintendent.
But some Berkeley parents and teachers criticized Heatley last
week after they found a memo he wrote in 2008, when he was superintendent in
Chino in San Bernardino County, which they said showed that he backed a
resolution in support of Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment
banning same-sex marriage.
School board president John Selawsky said Tuesday that there are
conflicting opinions about whether Heatley's memo actually supported the
controversial ballot measure, but in the wake of the publicity about the
matter he thinks it would have been difficult for Heatley to do a good job in
"Leaving aside Prop 8, the memo raises other issues that raise
questions about his prospects for success in our district because there is so
much explaining that he and the school board would have to do," Selawsky
He said, "I think Dr. Heatley recognized that as well."
In an email to Selawsky, Heatley said, "I want to thank you
personally for all of your time and support. I wish you, the board and
community of Berkeley nothing but success in the future."
The Berkeley school board has been searching for a new
superintendent since former Superintendent Bill Huyett announced his
retirement last December.
The search for a new leader is taking longer than expected, and
assistant superintendent Neil Smith and deputy superintendent Javetta
Cleveland currently are serving as co-interim superintendents until the post is filled.
Selawsky said, "We will advise the community as soon as we have
determined what that next step will be.
Fortunately we have two very capable interim superintendents doing a great job of running the disttrict while we work this out."
Divorce Lawyer Accused Of Conspiring With Chris Butler To Cars of Clients' Husbands
A San Ramon divorce attorney was arrested at her Oakland home
Tuesday on federal charges of evading taxes and conspiring with a former
private investigator to bug the cars of her clients' husbands, U.S.
Mary Nolan, 60, is accused in a federal indictment of plotting
with former investigator Christopher Butler of Concord to intercept
communications illegally by having Butler place secret listening devices in
the cars of her divorcing clients' husbands in 2007.
Butler pleaded guilty in federal court in Oakland in May to seven
felony charges in a Contra Costa County law enforcement scandal, including
counts of drug possession, extortion and illegal wiretapping.
He is due to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong
on Sept. 25.
The separate indictment against Nolan, who maintains her law
office in San Ramon, was issued by a federal grand jury on Sept. 6 and
unsealed after her arrest Tuesday morning.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Nolan made an initial appearance
in federal court in Oakland and was granted release on a $300,000 bond. She
was ordered to return to the court of U.S. Magistrate Donna Ryu on Sept. 25
The indictment accuses Nolan of four counts of failing to report a
total of $1,842,159 in income for the years 2005 through 2008, resulting in
unpaid federal taxes of $593,916 for those years.
It also charges her with one count of conspiring with Butler to
intercept communications and one count of procuring the illegal interception
of communications in a specific victim's car.
The conspiracy count alleges that the scheme took place from at
least Aug. 9 to Sept. 9, 2007, and that Nolan referred divorce clients to
Butler for the installation of concealed listening devices in their spouses'
or partners' cars.
The clients would bring the car to Butler, who would then hide a
silent cell phone with an active microphone in the vehicle, according to the
Injured Firefighter Released From Hospital
A firefighter injured in a two-alarm fire in downtown San Leandro
Tuesday morning has been released from the hospital, an Alameda County fire
While battling the fire, a firefighter cut his leg with a circular
saw, leaving a gash six inches long and two inches deep, Alameda County fire
spokeswoman Aisha Knowles said.
The cut tore into the firefighter's muscle, and he was transported
to a hospital, Knowles said.
The firefighter was released from the hospital early Tuesday
afternoon, she said.
Alameda County fire responded to reports of heavy smoke at the
Tequila Grill taqueria restaurant at 1350 E. 14th St. near Estudillo Avenue
at about 2:07 a.m., battalion chief Ron Figuera said.
The fire was upgraded from a one-alarm fire with 21 firefighters
responding to a two-alarm fire with a total of 33 firefighters responding at
the height of the fire, the battalion chief said.
Figuera said the fire may have started in a dumpster behind the
restaurant, but the cause of the fire remains under investigation.
The fire was under control by 2:45 a.m., Figuera said.
The restaurant's owner was not immediately available for comment.
Supervisors To Hear Mirkarimi Case On Oct. 9
The administrative case of suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross
Mirkarimi has been sent to the city's Board of Supervisors, which will hold a
hearing on the matter next month.
The date of Oct. 9 has been set for when the board will consider
whether to permanently remove Mirkarimi from office after he was suspended
without pay in March on official misconduct charges.
Board President David Chiu scheduled the hearing for that day via
a letter sent Tuesday to board clerk Angela Calvillo and the rest of the
Calvillo announced at the start of the board's meeting Tuesday
afternoon that the city's Ethics Commission had submitted the case to the
supervisors earlier Tuesday. The board now has 30 days to hold its hearing.
The Ethics Commission was tasked under the city charter to conduct
fact-finding hearings in the case against Mirkarimi, who was suspended after
he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge in connection
with a Dec. 31 incident in which he grabbed and bruised his wife's arm during
The commission voted 4-1 in favor of upholding the official
misconduct charges, with commission chair Benedict Hur providing the lone
The panel decided last week that Hur will give its presentation to
the supervisors, who will also hear from Mirkarimi's attorneys and the city
attorney's office, which is representing the mayor.
Chiu said Tuesday that the board has notified both sides about the
date of the hearing and also requested responses to the Ethics Commission's
findings, which will be due Sept. 25.
The decision to oust Mirkarimi from office would require the
approval of nine of the board's 11 members.
City Council Meeting Disrupted By Protest Over Police Shooting Death
Shouted down by rowdy protesters furious over the May police
shooting of Alan Blueford, the Oakland City Council adjourned its meeting
early Tuesday night with little of its agenda completed.
Blueford, 18, was shot and killed in the 9200 block of Birch
Street after police said he ran from police in the 1900 block of 90th Avenue
just after midnight on May 6.
Police initially reported that Blueford had been killed in an
exchange of gunfire that injured the officer.
However, the following day police said that while a gun believed to be Blueford's had been recovered, it had not been fired, and the officer's injury to his foot was self-inflicted.
Police said Blueford was transported to a hospital, where he died.
Several members of Blueford's family appeared before the City
Council Tuesday night, disputing the police account and pleading with council
President Larry Reid to help them uncover more information about Blueford's
death by releasing the police report.
"We still don't have a police report, Mr. Reid, I thought you were
going to help us," Jeralynn Blueford, Alan's mother, said. "You don't know
what it's like to bury your baby."
"The story has changed so many times, and we can't stand for it,"
she said, referring to the police retraction that an exchange of gunfire had
injured an officer.
She also disputed that her son had ever been transported to a hospital.
Other family members also demanded that the city produce the
police report from the night of their son's death, and in response Reid said
that Police Chief Howard Jordan was on his way to City Hall with the report.
After Blueford's family spoke, the council worked its way through
a long list of speakers outraged over the police handling of the Blueford
shooting, finally cutting off the public comment portion of the meeting by
calling a 10-minute recess.
When the meeting resumed about 30 minutes later, Councilman
Ignacio De La Fuente was chairing the meeting and announced that Reid was
outside speaking with Blueford's family.
The council attempted to move on with the agenda, beginning with a
recommendation to declare Oakland an International City of Peace and Sept. 21
as Oakland's International Day of Peace, but were consistently interrupted.
The audience in the crowded chamber booed and began chanting "No
justice, no peace" and "jail killer cops," drowning out any discussion by
Reid then returned briefly shortly before 7:30 p.m. to abruptly adjourn the meeting.
He said the next meeting would be in two weeks.
Protesters vowed to return then.
SFMTA Board Approves Traffic-Calming Plans For Masonic Avenue
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board
unanimously approved plans to modify a stretch of Masonic Avenue into a more
pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly boulevard Tuesday.
Traffic modifications with the "Masonic Avenue Streetscape
Improvement Project" between Fell Street and Geary Boulevard were approved
after about five years of meeting with residents, neighborhood groups, local
representatives, and bike and pedestrian groups, including Walk SF and the
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
The modifications for the $18 million project hope to create a
boulevard on the stretch of Masonic Avenue that connects the North of the
Panhandle neighborhood to Lower Pacific Heights by removing all 167 street
parking spots on both sides of the street and adding a landscaped median and
other greening and lighting improvements, and widening sections of sidewalks
for pedestrians and bus riders.
For bicyclists, plans include 1.2 miles of raised cycletracks,
which are bike lanes separated from car traffic.
Concerning bus service, transit plans include adding bus bulbs and
removing less-used stops such as the one at Golden Gate Avenue.
According to SFMTA bicycle program assistant engineer James
Shahamiri, Masonic Avenue is the only north-south corridor for half a mile in
either direction and provides a direct bikeway toward downtown.
SFMTA worked with the city departments of Public Health, Planning,
and Public Works in a "Masonic Avenue Redesign Study" in summer 2010 and met
with the community, including improvement advocates with "Fix Masonic" and
"Bike NOPA," as part of outreach efforts throughout 2010 and in the past two
Last year, SFMTA held a public hearing offering two options to
revamp the main arterial road, which offered a "gateway" plan, or a
SFMTA planners chose to continue with plans for a boulevard option
after a survey of 109 residents showed the community and users of the
thoroughfare preferred those plans over a gateway, that would have removed
commute-time tow-away lanes, but kept one lane of parking.
Car Burglary Suspects Apprehended In Pac Heights After Search
Two burglary suspects were arrested after a foot pursuit and an
hour-long search in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood Tuesday
afternoon, a police spokesman said.
U.S. Park Police alerted San Francisco police that two men
suspected of burglarizing cars in the Presidio had fled to San Francisco city
streets at about 2 p.m., San Francisco police Officer Carlos Manfredi said.
Officers located the car in the 2500 block of Filbert Street, but
when they approached it, the suspects got out and ran away, Manfredi said.
The men went through the yards of nearby homes, jumping fences as
they attempted to get away from the officers, Manfredi said.
Officers set up a perimeter when the pursuit reached the 2100
block of Scott Street, about nine blocks away from where the men had jumped
out of the car, Manfredi said.
The suspects were apprehended at about 3 p.m. No injuries were reported.
Traffic was not affected by the pursuit, he said.
Man Fatally Shot In Salinas Is Identified
A man slain on a Salinas street last Wednesday evening has been
identified as Richard Pimentel, 22, of Salinas, police said.
Pimentel was shot in the head from behind by a man who had just
walked past him on a street filled with pedestrians and motorists during rush
hour, according to police.
Witnesses to the 6 p.m. shooting in the 300 block of North Main
Street only gave police a vague description of the suspect, Officer Miguel
"The suspect was seen running behind a Salvation Army building,
and disappeared," Cabrera said.
Although the shooting happened during rush hour and many people
were in the area at the time, few people saw the shooting, Cabrera said.
The homicide does not appear to be gang-related or part of a
robbery, Cabrera said.
"The victim was walking in one direction, and the suspect in the
other," Cabrera said. "Then the suspect turns around and shoots him in the
back of the head for some reason."
"It sounds like the suspect meant business," he said. "As far as
we know, no words were spoken."
Officers arriving at the scene found Pimentel lying on the
sidewalk. He was later pronounced dead by medical personnel.
Witnesses described the suspect as a Hispanic man between 30 and
40 years old who was wearing a red shirt and dark pants. He was last seen
running behind the Salvation Army store on North Main Street toward Bridge
Street, police said.
Police have still not arrested anyone in connection with the
shooting, Cabrera said.
Wednesday Weather Report
Cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected in the Bay Area this
morning, becoming partly cloudy later in the day. Highs are expected to be
Partly cloudy skies are likely this evening, becoming cloudy with
patchy fog after midnight. Lows are expected to be in the lower 50s.
Cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected Thursday morning,
becoming partly cloudy later in the day. Highs are likely to be in the lower
Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137