Thursday Morning News Roundup
Facebook Executive Apologizes To Drag Queens For The Flawed Handling Of Name Policy
A group of San Francisco drag queens who were locked out of their Facebook accounts in recent weeks because they didn’t use their legal names received an apology Wednesday from Facebook.
Chris Cox, the chief product officer at Facebook apologized to the community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and members of the LGBT community impacted by the recent real-name policy issues via a post on the social media site Wednesday.
Cox said in the post, which was “liked” by Facebook’s chief executive officer Mark Zuckerburg, that the company has come to understand how members of the Facebook community suffered as a result of the real-name policy and promised the company is “going to fix the way this policy gets handled.”
The apology comes weeks after a group of drag queens and members of the LGBTQ community, including San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, met with Facebook officials at San Francisco City Hall to discuss the far-reaching implications of the social network’s policy against pseudonyms and to urge the tech giant not to lock people out of their accounts should they choose not to use their legal names.
San Francisco drag queens including Sister Roma, Heklina, BeBe Sweetbriar and Lil Miss Hot Mess protested the crackdown on profile names and demanded Facebook update its decade-old policy.
The drag queens said that in recent weeks they had all been kicked off their accounts and could only regain access if they listed their legal name, such as one on a driver’s license or credit card.
The drag queens said the policy would “out” people who prefer to use alternate names “to ensure their safety and privacy,” including abused and battered women, bullied teens, political activists and sex workers.
Cox said the real-name policy, “on balance, and when applied carefully, is a very powerful force for good,” but he also noted that when an individual on Facebook reported several hundred accounts as fake, Facebook didn’t notice the pattern. That’s because, Cox said, those reports were mixed in with the several hundred thousand fake name reports which the company processes per week.
Cox said the spirit of Facebook’s policy “is that everyone on
Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that’s Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that’s Lil Miss Hot Mess.”
Three Men Named As Carnegie Medal Recipients For Heroic Acts In Bay Area In 2013
Three men who risked their lives to save people in peril in the Bay Area last year, including a man who prevented a suicide at O.co Coliseum, have received the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission’s Carnegie Medal.
Among the 21 people in the U.S. and Canada named as recipients of the medal on Tuesday was 61-year-old Donnie Navidad of Stockton, who caught a young woman who jumped from the third deck of the O.co Coliseum in Oakland after a Raiders game nearly a year ago.
After the Raiders game ended around 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 24, the 20-year-old San Jose woman went into an area of the Coliseum’s third deck that is closed to the public and appeared to prepare to jump.
The woman drew the attention of onlookers on the second concourse level some 67 feet below, including Navidad.
Seeing the woman jump, the former U.S. Marine and Vietnam War veteran sprang into action, moving to a point directly beneath her, bending his knees and stretching out his arms to catch her.
He grasped the 100-pound woman as she fell and was knocked to the pavement.
She was taken to a hospital in critical condition but survived.
Navidad was also hospitalized with contusions to his arm and shoulder but has since fully recovered, according to a statement on the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission website.
Alameda County sheriff’s officials said the woman likely would have died if Navidad had not stepped in.
He was also honored earlier this year by the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority.
Authority chairman and Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley said in a statement that Navidad “was already a brave hero who served our country courageously for many years,” and his quick thinking on Nov. 24 ensured that “a shocking incident did not become a tragedy.”
Two North Bay residents, Perry Hookey of Vacaville, 47, and Lance O’Pry, 42, were also honored for their bravery with a Carnegie Medal. The two helped pull a truck driver from a big rig after a crash before the cab burst into flames.
The crash occurred on state Highway 37 in Vallejo around 6:40 a.m. on Jan. 10, 2013.
City Begins Enforcing Ban On Feeding Wildlife In Parks
City of Berkeley officials on Wednesday began enforcing a new ordinance that prohibits the feeding of wildlife in city parks and other public spaces.
People caught feeding wildlife will face $100 fines after an initial warning period and fines of up to $500 for multiple infractions within a one-year period.
The ordinance applies to the feeding of all wildlife but was drawn up by city officials in response to widespread objections to a plan earlier this year to kill ground squirrels who were believed to be harming water quality by burrowing into the ground at Cesar Chavez Park, a former landfill near the Berkeley Marina.
Berkeley officials said the burrowing by the large number of ground squirrels and gophers at the park was endangering the clay cap that seals the toxic substances inside the former dump.
Because the toxic substances could potentially leak into San Francisco Bay, the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Board told the city it needed to find a solution.
In response, Berkeley officials came up with a plan in February to kill the squirrels, but withdrew the plan after thousands of animal lovers sent emails objecting to the plan.
On July 1, the City Council approved an alternative solution that creates an ordinance criminalizing the feeding of wildlife in Berkeley’s parks.
Animal rights advocates said in a statement that ground squirrels and gophers can be harmed by food handouts and feeding wildlife endangers animals by causing malnutrition, overpopulation, the spread of disease and the loss of fear of humans.
Another concern is that ground squirrels at Cesar Chavez Park have a symbiotic relationship with burrowing owls, which are classified as an at-risk species of concern, because the owls depend on the squirrels for their burrows to find shelter when they arrive at the park each winter.
The enforcement of the ordinance is being combined with new “no feeding” signs and brochures at the park.
Gov. Brown Signs Bill Lowering County’s Units Per Acre Density To Suburban Status
Marin County officials are lauding Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of a state Assembly bill that lowers the housing densities of future housing developments in the county from 30 units to 20 units per acre.
AB 1537 was authored by Assemblyman Marc Levine. It passed the state Assembly and Senate in August and was signed by Brown Tuesday.
The bill recognizes Marin County, San Rafael and Novato as suburban rather than metropolitan areas, such as San Francisco, for purposes of future housing densities.
The bill lowers the default housing densities in Marin County only between 2015 and 2023. It allows the Marin County Board of Supervisors to consider including sites to accommodate lower-income housing opportunities at 20 units per acre.
The default densities were first developed in 2004 and Marin and its two biggest cities were assigned the 30 units per acre density because they were contiguous to San Francisco and included in the San Francisco Metropolitan Statistical Area, the Marin County Administrator’s Office said.
Marin County’s remaining cities and towns were already considered suburban areas with 20-units per acre densities.
“We’d like to thank Assemblyman Mark Levine for his perseverance in addressing this long-standing issue,” Marin County Supervisor’s Chair Kate Sears said. “Since the beginning, we believed that AB 1537 was a common sense solution to a 10-year-old problem,” Sears said.
Marin County tried for several years to amend the default housing density, Deputy County Administrator Daniel Eilerman said.
The new law enables the county to “meet its affordable housing responsibilities while better reflecting the unique qualities in each of out communities,” Sears said.
Cal Students Stage Sit-In As Campus Marks 50 Years Since Start Of Free Speech Movement
As a large rally was held Wednesday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement on the University of California at Berkeley campus, a group of students who say they still face curbs on their speech on campus launched a sit-in of their own.
In the last 50 years, the university has come to appreciate the historical significance of the series of massive protests in late 1964 demanding the school lift a ban on on-campus political activity. While they were disruptive at the time, the school is now commemorating those protests with numerous events throughout the school year.
A noon rally was held in Sproul Plaza to mark 50 years since the movement’s catalyst — a spontaneous sit-in involving thousands of students who surrounded a police car for 32 hours after a former graduate student was arrested.
Jack Weinberg, the former student who was arrested for refusing to show his identification to campus police and remained in the immobile car the whole time, spoke at the rally, along with fellow organizers Lynne Hollander Savio, Bettina Aptheker and Jackie Goldberg.
A student group called the Cal Progressive Alliance participated in the rally and the school invited one of the students to speak there. Once it was over, however, they broke away to form their own protest over what they call the increasing privatization of school resources and militarization of the police force.
They marched to the Architects and Engineers Building, where about
15 students went inside for a sit-in, one of the protesters said.
Alison McDonald was outside of the building at about 3 p.m., where she said a larger group had gathered to show support for the students refusing to leave inside.
She said that not as much has changed since the Free Speech Movement took hold in 1964 as the students would like. While on-campus political activity is no longer banned, she said that police intimidation can make it difficult for students to effectively organize.
The students inside distributed a list of demands, mainly involving the Gill Tract, 6.3 acres of university-owned land in Albany slated for development but also used for agricultural research that was the site of Occupy the Farm demonstrations in 2012.
The students also expressed concerns about a planned satellite research facility in Richmond that is slated to be under construction next year.
The students are also demanding a meeting with university Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who they say backed out of a promised meeting with them in May.
Two Arrested, Five Stolen Cars Seized In Chop Shop Raid
Members of an Alameda County auto theft task force shut down an illegal chop shop and made two arrests in an early morning probation search in Oakland this week, officials said Wednesday.
The Alameda County Regional Auto Theft Task Force, consisting of members of the California Highway Patrol, Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, Oakland Police Department and other agencies, conducted the probation search around 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
Officers arrested two Oakland residents at the scene and recovered five stolen vehicles with switched vehicle identification numbers, as well as tools and other evidence, officials said.
Santos Avalos, 25, was arrested on suspicion of violation of probation, four felony counts of possession of a stolen vehicle, one felony count of owning or operating a chop shop and four felony counts of switching vehicle identification numbers.
Juan Avalos, 20, was arrested on suspicion of violation of probation, a felony count of auto theft, one felony count of possession of a stolen vehicle and one felony count of switching a vehicle identification number.
Both were booked into Alameda County Jail.
Domestic Violence Ad Campaign Launched On Muni Today To Increase Awareness
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon honored Domestic Violence Awareness Month Wednesday by announcing a new awareness campaign on
Muni and by urging professional sports leagues to denounce domestic violence by placing consequences on players for bad behavior.
Gascon said 2,000 advertisements printed in three languages will be placed on Muni lines around the city Wednesday and will remain through the end of October to remind victims that “Love Shouldn’t Hurt.”
The district attorney encouraged anyone who may find themselves in an abusive relationship to seek help from his office, community partners or the police department.
Beverly Upton, the executive director of the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium, a network comprised of 17 domestic violence service agencies operating in multiple languages, said the city’s community organizations are working closely with law enforcement officials to stop “batterers” and protect victims.
Gascon said studies have shown that children who are raised in a home where domestic violence is considered normal are likely to perpetuate domestic abuse when they are older.
He said a lot of young people look up to players in the NFL and other professional sporting leagues as role models and that teams, owners and leagues need to make sure actions exhibited by players remain positive.
He urged sports leagues and teams to take the high road and vigilantly condemn domestic violence by penalizing players who exhibit such behaviors.
Citizens’ Initiative Announced Today To Preserve Flower Mart
Amid concerns that the San Francisco Flower Mart in the city’s South of Market neighborhood could be dismantled or relocated by a new property owner in favor of high-rise development, a citizens’ initiative was announced Wednesday that would preserve the current zoning of the site.
Last month, the San Francisco Flower Growers Association voted to sell the property they own that makes up a portion of the Flower Mart, located on Sixth Street between Brannan and Bryant streets, to Kilroy Realty Corporation for roughly $25 million.
A lawsuit filed by flower vendor David Repetto, however, is pending. Repetto said negotiations for the sale were made “behind closed doors” and didn’t represent shareholders.
At a community meeting at the Flower Mart Wednesday, florists and their supporters expressed concern that if the market is sold, their leases may not be renewed once they expired in December and they could be pushed out to make room for tech companies.
The citizens’ initiative, titled the San Francisco Flower Mart Protection Act, will need 9,703 signatures to get a spot on the November 2015 ballot, according to Aaron Peskin, a former member of the city’s Board of Supervisors.
The initiative will preserve the existing zoning of the market, Peskin said.
Kilroy Realty Corporation’s senior vice president of development and land planning Mike Grisso said, “We have promised to keep the Flower Mart on-site and that is exactly what we are going to do.”
Grisso said that once Kilroy officially acquires the site from the San Francisco Flower Growers Association, which could be sometime in the next couple months, Kilroy plans to “create a modern facility to be enjoyed by growers, tenants, buyers, and visitors for many decades to come.”
He said the realty company would work with all adjacent owners, existing tenants, and the city to preserve the Flower Mart at its current location.
Judge Orders 18-Year-Old To Stand Trial For Murder Of Young Woman
A judge on Wednesday ordered an 18-year-old youth to stand trial on one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder for a shooting in East Oakland on New Year’s Eve that claimed the life of a 21-year-old woman.
At the end of a short preliminary hearing, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon ordered Dashawn Cooper to return to court on Oct. 16 to have a trial date set.
Cooper is accused of shooting Ashlee Walker, a college student and fast-food restaurant worker, in the 2000 block of 22nd Avenue in Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood at about 9:15 p.m. on Dec. 31.
Walker was transported to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where she died from her injuries a short time later.
In addition to the murder charge for Walker’s death, Cooper, who was 17 at the time of the incident but is being prosecuted as an adult, is charged with three counts of attempted murder for allegedly firing shots at three people who were with her in her PT Cruiser, although they weren’t injured.
Cooper’s lawyer, Roberto Landeros, said there are questions about whether Cooper was the shooter in the incident and both Channing and Garrett said they couldn’t identify the shooter.
But Oakland police Officer Robert Rosin wrote in a probable cause statement that several witnesses identified Cooper as the person who discharged a semi-automatic firearm into the car, mortally wounding Walker.
Governor Signs Bill To Clearly Distinguish Toy Guns From Real Weapons
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill that requires toy guns to be visually distinguishable from real weapons.
Senate Bill 199 was co-authored by state Sen. Noreen Evans, whose district includes the neighborhood near Santa Rosa where 13-year-old Andy Lopez was fatally shot seven times by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy on Oct. 22, 2013.
Deputy Erick Gelhaus believed the Airsoft pellet gun Lopez was carrying as he walked near Moorland and West Robles avenues was an AK-47 assault rifle. Gelhaus opened fire when the barrel of the pellet gun rose as the teen turned toward the patrol car.
Gelhaus was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting. Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch in July determined Gelhaus should not face criminal charges and he returned to patrol duties the following month.
The bill requires replica guns to be distinguished from real weapons by painting the entire exterior in bright colors or having florescent strips on their salient parts.
“A toy should look like a toy and not a lethal weapon,” Evans said. “Currently these copycat toys are manufactured to be virtually indistinguishable from real firearms. Toys should not get a child killed,” Evans said in a statement.
State Senate President Pro Tempore-elect Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, authored the bill, also named the Imitation Firearms Safety Act.
“Imitation guns have caused far too many tragedies,” de Leon said in a statement.
“The deaths of children as a result of toy guns should be a wakeup call to Airsoft manufacturers. Now with the Governor’s signature of SB 199, replica guns must be distinguished from real firearms so our communities and police officers are not placed in unnecessarily dangerous situations,” he said.
Toy guns such as Airsoft and BB guns are not currently in California’s definition of imitation weapons.
Critics of the Senate bill have said criminals could paint real guns to resemble the toy replicas to defeat the measure’s purpose.
The bill takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
Free Wi-Fi Now Available In 32 City Parks And Open Spaces
San Franciscans can now get free wireless Internet access in 32 city parks, plazas and open spaces, thanks to a grant from Google, city officials announced Wednesday.
Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell announced that the #SFWiFi network, currently available along Market Street between Castro Street and The Embarcadero, will now be available in new public areas including Alamo Square, Marina Green and the Tenderloin Children’s Playground and Rec Center.
“San Francisco is the center of innovation and technology, and providing free Internet access in our parks, plazas and open spaces is the first step in a broader vision to deliver free Wi-Fi to every resident in our city,” Farrell said in a statement.
Google’s grant of $608,000 helped the city expand the Wi-Fi network.
“This network will make the web more accessible than ever for thousands of our neighbors — getting online is as easy as heading to the local park,” said Rebecca Prozan, public policy and government affairs manager at Google.
City leaders said they hope expanded free Wi-Fi — which is also available at the city’s libraries and at City Hall — will help get more people online who might not otherwise have access to the Internet.
“Powering up parks across San Francisco with #SFWiFi gets us closer to bridging the digital divide by allowing the public to explore apps, share images and access city services on a free and robust Wi-Fi network,” said Miguel Gamiño, the city’s acting chief information officer.
Alleged Gang Member Convicted Of Triple Murder In South San Francisco In 2010
A Petaluma man was convicted by a federal jury in San Francisco Wednesday of a gang-related triple murder on a South San Francisco street in 2010.
Victor Flores, 22, was also found guilty of racketeering conspiracy and the attempted murder of three U.S. Homeland Security Department agents who conducted a predawn raid on his family’s house in Petaluma to arrest him in 2012.
The verdict came after a three-month trial of Flores and three other defendants in the court of U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.
The defendants were alleged members of the Norteno-affiliated 500 Block/C Street gang in South San Francisco.
Federal prosecutors said the three young men who were fatally shot on the evening of Dec. 22, 2010, were members of a rival Norteno gang, the Cypress Park Locos, which was perceived as threatening the territory of the 500 Block/C Street gang.
Another defendant, Benjamin Campos-Gonzales, 23, of San Mateo, who was alleged to have driven the car carrying the shooters, was acquitted of the three murders, but was convicted of racketeering conspiracy.
The two other defendants in the trial were not charged with the murders.
Armando Acosta, 29, of Pacifica, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, being an accessory after the fact to the murders and obstructing justice.
The fourth defendant, Mario Bergren, 25, of South San Francisco, was acquitted of all charges.
The three men who were convicted will be sentenced by Illston on Jan. 16. Flores faces a life sentence for the murders. Prosecutors could have sought a rare federal death sentence for Flores but decided not to.
The four defendants in the trial were the last of 19 alleged gang members and associates who were indicted on racketeering and other charges in 2012. The 15 others pleaded guilty to various charges.
Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area
Forecasted temperatures approaching 100 degrees in the Bay Area for today and Friday have prompted the National Weather Service to issue a heat advisory for the region.
The advisory for the San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay areas takes effect at about noon and lasts until Friday evening but may be extended into Saturday.
Temperatures are expected to be highest on Friday, with coastal areas climbing to the mid- to high-80s and potentially reaching the mid-90s in Santa Cruz, weather service forecasters said.
Inland areas are expected to get even hotter, with temperatures in cities like Concord, Livermore and San Jose expected to approach 100 degrees Friday afternoon.
Thursday’s temperatures are expected to reach the mid-80s in coastal areas and the mid-90s in inland areas. Saturday is expected to see some cooling, with temperatures similar to Thursday’s.
The hot weather, dry air and light winds could pose a potential fire danger, forecasters said.