Wednesday Morning News Roundup

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BART Strike to Continue for Third Day

BART announced Tuesday night that a strike that has paralyzed the Bay Area commute for two days now will likely continue today. 

The transit agency has received "no indication" that two striking unions will return to work this morning. There will likely be no BART service.

BART also announced that it will continue to run charter bus service from select BART stations to San Francisco.

The stations are West Oakland, El Cerrito Del Norte, Walnut Creek, Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont stations. It is recommended to arrive early as the buses fill up quickly, according to BART.

BART labor talks resumed Tuesday evening at the request of California Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern, a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown said.

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown, said, "All parties are returning to the bargaining table tonight. To facilitate discussion between BART and its unions, the state is sending in two of its top mediators."

He identified them as Anita Martinez, the chair of the Public Employment Relations Board, and Loretta van der Pol, the chief of the State Mediation and Conciliation Service.

BART spokesman Rick Rice said the talks will resume at 6 p.m. at the Caltrans building at 11 Grand Ave. in Oakland but Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said the talks will resume at 6:30 p.m.

Her union represents 945 station agents, train operators and foreworkers and the other union involved in the talks, Service Employees International Union Local 1221, represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers.

Tonight's bargaining session comes toward the end of the second day of a strike by BART workers represented by the two unions.

Previously, negotiations were halted after union representatives left the table on Sunday, hours before their contracts expired at midnight, Rice said.

Bryant said earlier Tuesday that workers were hopeful talks will resume soon.

The strike, which began Monday morning, stems from disputes over issues including wages, health benefits, pension plans and safety.

Rice said management has offered to double salary increases from 4 percent over four years to 8 percent over the same period. He said management has also lowered the amount it was initially asking workers to contribute to pension and health care plans.

Rice said Saturday that the unions had come down from demanding a 23 percent salary increase to a 21 percent increase over a three-year period.

"We had some conversation Sunday night, but we've not been able to have a real conversation about our response and our proposal," Rice said.

Bryant said the workers are asking for a 4.5 percent wage increase annually for three consecutive years. The unions have agreed to contribute half a percent more to their pension each year, she said.

She said union workers' pension funds are 92 percent funded by BART, but that BART does not contribute to social security.

She said workers contribute $92 a month toward medical benefits.

Rice said the average annual compensation for workers represented by the two unions, including base salary, benefits and overtime, is about $134,000.

Bryant, a station agent herself, said the average salary of workers in her union is about $60,000 a year.

One Shooting Suspect in the Oakland Wingstop Shooting has been Taken into Custody

Oakland police Capt. Anthony Toribio met with a merchant group Tuesday evening to discuss crime prevention and community involvement following a double homicide at a Wingstop restaurant Monday night. 

The victims, 22-year-old Kenneth Bradley and 26-year-old Jose Santa Maria, both Richmond residents, were fatally shot at the Wingstop at 528 Lake Park Ave., near Lake Merritt, at about 11:45 p.m. Monday, according to police.

Officers responded to the eatery after being alerted of an alarm activation there, police said. They found Bradley and Santa Maria with gunshot wounds, and both were pronounced dead at the scene.

Oakland police interim Chief Sean Whent said at a brief news conference at police headquarters Tuesday morning that the shooting happened inside the restaurant.

Investigators initially said the killings may have occurred during a robbery, but Whent said that does not appear to be the case, based on surveillance video footage and witness statements.

A suspect in the double murder was taken into custody just before 8 a.m. Tuesday in West Oakland, Whent said.

Police are seeking a second suspect but have not released a description of that person.

Another meeting with Toribio focusing the effects and future prevention efforts following the Wingstop murders will be held today at 7 p.m. at the Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church at 3435 Lakeshore Ave. in Oakland.

That meeting will be open to the public.

Following that meeting, Toribio will hold another gathering at the church with a merchant group from Oakland's Adams Point neighborhood around 8:30 p.m.

Wingstop company officials issued a statement Tuesday after the deadly shooting.

It read in part, "The Wingstop family is deeply saddened by the loss of two of our own, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families.

We will do everything we can to support them at this tragic and very difficult time."

Shooting Suspects During the Pride Parade Still at Large

Two men who were shot at San Francisco's Civic Center as the city's Pride celebration was wrapping up on Sunday evening were vendors at the event, according to organizers. 

The shooting was reported near Larkin and Grove streets at about 6:35 p.m. Sunday, just minutes after the official closing time of the celebration, which was held in Civic Center Plaza and the surrounding streets, police said.

Police said two suspects, described as men in their late teens or early 20s, approached a group of people and one suspect opened fire.

The victims, men ages 23 and 42, were both shot in the leg and are expected to survive, according to police.

The San Francisco Pride Celebration Committee issued a statement saying that the victims were vendors at the event and were in the process of closing their booth when the shooting occurred.

"The ability to hold our annual celebration would not be possible without the hard work of and the important partnership with our vendors," the statement read. "Our hearts go out to them for this terrible incident."

The committee added, "At the close of a week where the LGBT community had had such tremendous victories, we are saddened that such a senseless and selfish act has occurred to diminish even one moment of our celebration."

The suspects fled after the shooting and have not been found. Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the Police

Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411 with "SFPD" in the message.

Progress in the AC Transit Negotiations

Ongoing contract talks between AC Transit's management and the union that represents its bus operators and mechanics recessed Tuesday without an agreement but will resume today, a management spokesman said.

Union leaders weren't immediately available for comment.

The contract for employees represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 expired at midnight Sunday but union leaders have agreed to temporarily extend the contract while negotiations continue.

Bus agency spokesman Clarence Johnson said in a statement, "The ongoing negotiations are a signal that operators will be on the job today providing bus service as usual."

Johnson said, "Reportedly, there has been some slight progress in the negotiations over the past few days as both sides have altered their stances, if but modestly."

He said, "AC Transit management, in an effort to avoid a service disruption and keep negotiations on track, is proposing pay increases to the ATU employees along with some modification to current work rules and practices that will aid the district in efficiency and sustainability."

Earlier Tuesday, ATU Local 192 said in a statement, "We are at the table and bargaining, but our members will not support going backwards."

The union said management negotiators "need to bargain a fair contract that moves things forward, not backward."

ATU Local 192 represents 1,760 bus drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, clerical and other workers.

The bus agency serves parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

The union has said it will give 24 hours' notice before going on strike.

Jury Reaches Verdict in the Murder Case of Terry Spray 

A man accused of killing his partner of nearly two decades in San Francisco last year was found not guilty of murder on Monday, according to the public defender's office.

Timothy Stewart, 48, had been charged with murder for the death of Terry Spray, 60, who police said was assaulted in the 1100 block of Ellis Street on Aug. 3, 2012, and succumbed to his injuries more than a month later on Sept. 18.

But following a month-long trial, a San Francisco Superior Court jury acquitted Stewart of all charges, according to the public defender's office.

Stewart and Spray were longtime domestic partners who married in 2004 during a brief period when San Francisco performed same-sex marriages.

Spray was found unconscious and bleeding from the head in the garage of the couple's apartment building, and Stewart was arrested six days after Spray's death after spending weeks at his bedside, according to the public defender's office.

No blood, DNA or fingerprint evidence linked Stewart to the death. Prosecutors showed surveillance video of Stewart leaving the garage 10 minutes before the estimated time of the attack, then someone pushed the camera so a view of the garage was partially obscured, public defender's officials said.

Stewart's defense attorneys said there was no history of discord between the couple and that there had been numerous break-ins to the garage in the weeks and months prior to the attack.

Deputy Public Defender Danielle Harris said in a statement that the decision to charge Stewart with murder was "terrifying and unbelievable."

Harris said, "Timothy Stewart is an innocent man who has been through a Kafkaesque nightmare. The police and prosecutors took everything from him -- his freedom, his dignity, any chance he had to grieve for his life partner and best friend in a healthy way, or to give him a proper goodbye."

Stewart, a commercial fisherman, was released from custody on Monday night. He had been in custody since his arrest and missed Spray's memorial service.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi said in a statement that the jury's verdict was a triumph for justice.

"In this country, we cannot take away somebody's liberty without evidence. Mr. Stewart tragically lost his husband then suffered an unimaginable injustice at the hands of police and prosecutors," Adachi said.

District attorney's office spokesman Alex Bastian said, "Various judges ruled that there was sufficient evidence to present this case to a jury. We agreed with the judge and we respect the jury's decision."

No Two-Day Strike for the East Bay Regional Park District Employees 

A tentative agreement between the East Bay Regional Park District and the union that represents most of its employees averts a two-day strike that had been planned for Thursday and Friday, district and union officials said Tuesday. 

Carol Johnson, the park district's assistant general manager, said the pact means "the public can fully enjoy the holiday weekend in our parks this weekend."

Cliff Rocha, a park ranger who is president of Local 2428 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said union negotiators are recommending that members approve the new four-year contract in a vote that will take place soon.

The union represents more than 600 rangers, naturalists, supervisors, firefighters, lifeguards, clerical workers and other employees.

The park district has 65 regional parks in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

Johnson said the two sides have been in contract talks since February and finally reached the tentative agreement about 9 p.m. Monday after what she described as "quite a long discussion" in what was to be the last mediation session.

Johnson said the contract provides a 9.5 percent salary increase to park district over four years, which she said is more than double management's original salary offer to employees in February.

She said the district initially had asked employees to contribute to their health care costs but ultimately agreed to continue paying for full family medical coverage.

However, Johnson said the union agreed to have employees contribute an additional 4 percent of their wages to help pay for their pensions, bringing their total contribution to 8 percent of their wages.

Rocha declined to comment on the specifics of the tentative agreement because the union hasn't yet presented it to its members.

But he said he believes it's a fair agreement that addresses the union's goals for wage increases and retirement and health care contributions.

Rocha said employees' take-home pay has "eroded" during the economic downturn but the new contract will allow them to "share in the recovery" that is bringing more revenue to the park district.

The union's threat to strike on Thursday and Friday wouldn't have shut down the district's parks but it would have disrupted swimming, boating and other activities at some of the parks.

The union's previous contract expired on March 31. The park district declared an impasse in contract talks two weeks later and a mediator was called in to assist the two sides.

The new contract will be retroactive to April 1.

Lawsuit to Protect Imperiled Species at Pacifica's Sharp Park Golf Course

A federal judge in San Francisco has awarded $386,000 in attorneys' fees and costs to six environmental groups that filed a lawsuit seeking to protect two imperiled species at the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica.

The 18-hole public golf course is owned and operated by the city of San Francisco.

The 2011 lawsuit contended that pumping and mowing at the course hurt the California red-legged frog, which is federally listed as a threatened species, and the San Francisco garter snake, an endangered species.  

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said in a ruling Monday that even though she eventually dismissed the lawsuit, it speeded up the city's process of obtaining permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for incidental harm, legally known as "taking," of the two species.

"Plaintiffs' lawsuit spurred defendants into obtaining the necessary authorization for their take of frogs and snakes," Illston wrote.

The wildlife service issued the authorization in a 2012 biological opinion, which also set 31 conditions that the city of San Francisco must follow in operating the golf course.

The agency estimated that maintenance activities at the site would destroy 130 frog egg masses, kill or injure two snakes and one frog and harass all frogs and snakes in the area each year. But it concluded the operations "were not likely to jeopardize the continued existence" of the two species.

After the biological opinion was issued, Illston dismissed the lawsuit as moot in December 2012.

The attorneys' fee award levied against the city was one-fourth of the amount of what the environmental groups, which included the Wild Equity Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity, had sought.

The award included $327,000 in fees -- or 25 percent of the slightly more than $1.3 million requested -- and $59,000 in compensation for costs.

The U.S. Endangered Species Act provides that attorney fees can be ordered in citizen lawsuits when a judge determines an award is appropriate.

Illston said the partial award was appropriate because she plaintiffs achieved "some success," in that the requirements are now mandatory rather than voluntary and were imposed more quickly than might have been the case without the lawsuit.

But "little else has substantively changed in the management of Sharp Park," the judge noted.

San Francisco city attorney's office spokesman Gabriel Zitrin said no decision has been made on whether to appeal the fee award.

Driver Robbed in Petaluma Monday Afternoon

A driver was robbed of several hundred dollars after he pulled to the side of the road to make a phone call in Petaluma on Monday afternoon, police said.

The driver, a 40-year-old man, pulled over on Banff Way near Bond Park around 4:40 p.m., Sgt. Marty Frey said.

While he was stopped, two men approached his open driver's side window and threatened to assault him if he did not give them his wallet, Frey said.

The suspects removed several hundred dollars from the wallet and threw the wallet back to the driver, Frey said.

They then fled toward North McDowell Boulevard in a 1990s burgundy or maroon four-door sedan with a "for sale" sign in the rear window, Frey said.

The victim went home and called police about 10 minutes later, Frey said. Police canvassed the area but did not find the suspects or their vehicle.

The suspects are described as black men between 30 and 40 years old. One was heavyset with short, black hair. He was wearing a red T-shirt with stripes and dark jeans, Frey said.

The other suspect has a medium build and short, curly, black hair. He was wearing a blue shirt with "Best Buy" written on the front, Frey said.

Bay Area Weather Forecast July 3rd

Mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected in the Bay Area this morning, becoming partly cloudy later in the day. Highs are likely to be in the lower 60s to mid 70s, with winds up to 20 mph in the afternoon. 

Partly cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected this evening, becoming mostly cloudy later in the day. Lows are likely to be in the mid 50s to lower 60s, with southwest winds up to 20 mph.

Mostly cloudy skies are expected Thursday morning, becoming partly cloudy. Highs are expected to be in the lower 60s to mid 70s, with southwest winds up to 20 mph.

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