Friday Morning News Roundup
County Consolidating Coroner’s Bureau, Other Offices To Redevelop Jack London Properties
Hoping to sell or redevelop several publicly owned buildings in Oakland’s Jack London Square, Alameda County is preparing to move its coroner’s bureau and other public agencies to a single space in the Oakland hills in late December or early January, representatives from the county said Thursday.
Alameda County’s coroner’s bureau and its Public Health Department’s laboratory in Jack London Square, along with the sheriff office’s crime lab in San Leandro, will be moving to a newly refurbished building at 2901 Peralta Oaks Court in Oakland, said Aki Nakao, director of the county’s General Services Agency.
District Three Supervisor Wilma Chan said the opportunities for redeveloping the parcels “could be really exciting.”
“We’ve been trying to eventually empty out those buildings on Broadway that we own because those are really prime real estate,” Chan said.
There are no immediate plans to redevelop the buildings, but Chan said the county has been discussing the possibility for 15 years. The economic recession in 2008 slowed down the progress, but Chan said recent economic growth in the square made the timing opportune to vacate the buildings.
She said the county is considering selling the buildings to the city of Oakland, if they want them, or to a private developer.
“There had been a proposal many years ago about someone doing a hotel there,” Chan said. “I think the primary people we’ll be talking to is at the city … and their partners and getting input from the businesses in the area.”
The parcel housing the coroner’s bureau and the Public Health Department laboratory in Jack London Square is just over 600,000 square feet, according to the county Assessor’s Office. A representative from the office said there was no estimated value of the land or building because it’s exempt from taxes.
The move is a long time coming for the coroner’s bureau, according to coroner’s Lt. Riddic Bowers, who said the bureau has long been advocating for a change of venue.
The bureau has outgrown its current space, which it has occupied since at least the 1940s, he said.
Odor control in the old facility is a problem and there isn’t much space for families of deceased loved ones to wait while handling their affairs, Bowers said.
Seeking Cheaper Plan For Bay Bridge Walkway, Committee Commissions New $10m Study
With a bike and pedestrian pathway for the western span of the Bay Bridge estimated to cost up to $500 million, a bridge oversight committee agreed Wednesday to spend up to $10 million to hire a consultant to find a cheaper option.
While the idea of walking or bicycling between Oakland and San Francisco is appealing to many, how to add pedestrian and bicycle lanes to the bridge has been a longstanding logistical challenge.
The new eastern span of the bridge included a walkway when it opened last year, but it stops short of Yerba Buena Island and for now remains more recreational than functional. Bridge officials expect the connection to be completed next year.
But the 2-mile western span of the bridge has never been accessible to pedestrians — something that Bay Area Toll Authority executive director Steve Heminger hopes to change in the next several years.
A previously commissioned study by T.Y. Lin International on the feasibility of adding a walkway to the western span estimated that the project would cost between $400 million and $500 million and included potentially building an elevator from the bridge to San Francisco city streets.
Now the authority intends to hire another consulting firm, Arup North America Ltd., to prepare a proposal with a cheaper price tag. Though if the toll authority can’t reach an agreement with Arup, it would hire T.Y. Lin again.
The toll authority’s oversight committee unanimously approved the new study.
The proposal for the new walkway is expected to be completed sometime next year. If approved, moving forward with the project would require finding additional revenue to cover costs before construction could potentially begin in 2016.
Overnight Lane Closures On Western Span Of Bay Bridge To Begin Friday
Deteriorating joints in the upper deck of the western span of the Bay Bridge will be replaced over the next 10 weeks or more, necessitating overnight lane closures, a Caltrans spokesman said Thursday.
The six deteriorating joints between Spear and Beale streets in San Francisco are part of the bridge’s original construction, Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said.
Caltrans officials have known that the joints needed replacement since 2010 and have been slowly making repairs, but moved up the schedule when a hole opened up around one of the joints in April and crews had to make emergency repairs, Haus said.
The repairs will begin Friday night and work will happen during overnight hours between Monday nights and Saturday mornings until the replacements are complete. The project is estimated to take 60 working days, Haus said.
A previous plan to replace the joints that was expected to be faster and cheaper was scrapped last month when metal plates installed on the road caused significant traffic delays, Haus said.
The steel plates were placed over the joints during daytime hours when crews couldn’t work. But drivers were slowing down too much and causing heavy traffic delays, and Caltrans officials decided the lost productivity from delays made the project untenable, Haus said.
Now, they are using rapid-set concrete that can be installed and set in hours, eliminating the need for the plates.
The rapid-set concrete is more expensive and trickier to work with than normal concrete, but Haus said, “We think it is worth the extra cost just for the lack of traffic congestion.”
The project will cost about $2.7 million, about a million dollars more than the previous project estimate.
Crews have already tested the new technique on the shoulders and are ready to move into the traffic lanes, he said.
Up to four lanes of the bridge will be closed during the overnight hours with crews slowly closing more lanes throughout the night and the full four-lane closure only happening during three-hour periods between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m., Haus said.
At least one lane of the bridge will be open at all times, he said.
Suspect Shot, Killed By Police Identified; Officers On Leave
A suspected car thief who was shot and killed by police in Concord on Wednesday night after allegedly ramming a patrol car has been identified as 26-year-old Jose Avalos of Bay Point, a police lieutenant said Thursday.
The two officers involved in the shooting have both been placed on routine administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into the shooting. One has eight years of law enforcement experience while the other has spent three years on the job, according to Concord police Lt. David Hughes.
The shooting happened after Concord police were called to the Sunvalley Mall area around 8:45 p.m. Wednesday to assist Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputies pursue the driver of a stolen car.
Deputies pursued the driver after he failed to stop, leading them on a chase that was temporarily halted in Concord after he drove the wrong way on the freeway, Hughes said.
The driver of the stolen vehicle, later identified as Avalos, abandoned the car at the mall and fled on foot toward the nearby Willows Shopping Center, located alongside Interstate Highway 680.
Police said the suspect tried unsuccessfully to carjack two other vehicles but later gained control of a car on his third attempt.
Police confronted him in the rear of the shopping center’s parking lot and the suspect drove the recently stolen car into a police vehicle, Hughes said.
Officers shot Avalos several times “in defense of themselves and the public,” Hughes said in a statement.
Police said officers immediately summoned emergency medical aid, but the suspect died from his injuries.
Contra Costa County’s district attorney’s office and sheriff’s office along with Concord police were called to the scene and are jointly investigating the incident, Hughes said.
Police said Avalos was a felon with multiple convictions and was on probation for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Officers later located a gun near the stolen car Avalos abandoned in the Sunvalley Mall parking lot, Hughes said.
Man Accused Of Killing Wife Said He Was Trying To End Her Suffering
An 80-year-old man accused of murdering his wife in their Los Gatos home last month told his son he stabbed her to end her pain from recent surgery and then tried to kill himself, according to a police detective.
Detective Jamie Field of the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Department wrote in a statement of facts filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court that defendant Richard Stefanik appeared to have stabbed his wife and then himself when officers arrived at their home on Dover Court on Oct. 25.
Officers found Richard Stefanik touching the hand of his wife Lois in the master bedroom, where they both lay on a bed and “appeared to have been bleeding excessively,” Field wrote.
Los Gatos police received a report at 10:27 a.m. on Oct. 25 from the couple’s son at their home in the 100 block of Dover Court in east Los Gatos near Blossom Hill Road.
Their son told officers he had discovered the pair bleeding in their bedroom, saw his father holding a knife and at first believed both had died, but then thought his father might still be breathing, according to the detective.
The son said his father told him that “he could not watch his wife… in pain anymore so he killed her” and the son “advised that his father had a significant wound to his stomach,” Field wrote.
He directed police and fire personnel to the couple’s master bedroom, where paramedics pronounced his mother dead at 10:36 a.m., police said.
Lois Stefanik recently had bladder surgery and the previous night was the first she and her spouse had spent alone together since the procedure, Field said.
Richard Stefanik was arrested on suspicion of murder and was arraigned in Superior Court on Nov. 3. Prosecutors added an enhancement for allegedly using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony, according to court records.
Bail Hearing Reveals Sordid Past Of Street Performer Dressed As Elmo
A San Francisco Superior Court judge lowered the bail Thursday for a Fisherman’s Wharf street performer with a history of questionable behavior who allegedly threatened to kill a female shopkeeper while dressed as the Sesame Street character Elmo.
Adam Sandler, who is also known by the name Daniel Sandler and has been referred to as “Bad Elmo” and “Evil Elmo” in the media, was arrested on Oct. 24 after he allegedly threatened a shopkeeper who put a sign in her store window stating that the man dressed as Elmo was not an employee of her store.
When the woman refused to take the sign down, Sandler allegedly threatened to rip the woman’s throat out, according to Karen Catalona, an assistant district attorney who works on the San Francisco District Attorney’s Neighborhood Prosecutor’s team.
Sandler, a heavyset Caucasian man with brown and gray hair that falls past his chin, arrived in a courtroom at the San Francisco Hall of Justice Thursday in an orange prison uniform.
He has been in custody since his arrest, with bail initially set at $250,000.
Superior Court Judge Tracie L. Brown lowered his bail to $150,000 after hearing from the defendant’s attorney Rafael Trujillo and Catalona.
Catalona said many businesses have provided statements about Sandler’s problematic, if not illegal, behavior exhibited during his time working at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Those statements allege that Sandler yells at tourists who take his photo without tipping him, that he falsely claims to work at stores at Fisherman’s Wharf and that he intimidates merchants, employees and tourists with offensive rants.
Sandler also has a criminal background in other cities and countries, which Catalona brought up in court Thursday.
She said Sandler was previously deported from Cambodia for running a pornography website called “Welcome to Rape Camp.”
Catalona said Sandler was issued a bench warrant in Los Angeles in 2010 and that in 2012 he faced charges of felony extortion of the Girl Scouts of the USA.
Trujillo said that many of the complaints filed against his client are related to his aggressive solicitation in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, but that his client was often exercising his First Amendment rights.
Construction Worker Trapped In Equipment, Seriously Injured
A construction worker was seriously injured Thursday evening after he became trapped in a piece of machinery and had to be extricated, according to a Contra Costa Fire Protection District fire official.
Firefighters were called to the center median of state Highway 4 near the Hillcrest Avenue offramp around 7:30 p.m. on a report of a worker trapped in a large auger, a tool for boring holes in the ground, according to Robert Marshall, a district spokesman.
Marshall did not know which construction equipment the auger was attached to.
It took some time to extricate the worker, who was flown to John Muir Medical Center with a crushing injury in critical condition around 8:15 p.m., Marshall said.
There are currently two construction projects underway in the area where the injury occurred, including a highway widening project and a BART light rail extension. It is unclear on which project Thursday night’s accident occurred, Marshall said.
Authorities Investigating Death Of Baby Found In East SJ Tuesday
Police have so far found no evidence of foul play in the death Tuesday of an infant whose body was found inside a residence near U.S. Highway 101 in East San Jose, a police spokesman announced Thursday.
Police were dispatched at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday on a report of a suspicious circumstance at a residence in the 1500 block of East Capitol Expressway just east of Highway 101, San Jose police Sgt. Heather Randol said.
Officers went into the residence and located a baby who had died, Randol said.
The Police Department’s homicide unit and the Santa Clara County medical examiner’s office conducted a preliminary investigation and found “no obvious signs of foul play,” Randol said.
The medical examiner’s office has taken over the investigation into the baby’s death, police said.
An employee for the medical examiner’s office said that the child had not been identified and no further information was being made available on Thursday.
Man Held On $25,000 Bail After Arrest In Child Pornography Investigation
A 39-year-old man was arrested in Los Gatos Thursday on child pornography charges following an investigation by a law enforcement task force, a spokesman for the San Jose Police Department said.
The Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, made up of law agencies from 11 Bay Area counties, served the warrant at 10:30 a.m. at an address in the 300 block of Dardanelli Lane near Knowles Drive, San Jose police officer Albert Morales said.
Agents of the task force located the suspect targeted in the warrant, Arturo Ruiz Perez, detained and then booked him into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on suspicion of felony possession of child pornography, Morales said.
According to online jail records, Perez’s bail was set at $25,000 and he is set to appear in Santa Clara county Superior Court in San Jose on Dec. 1.
The task force, created in 2003, investigates child pornography facilitated by the Internet and cases of child exploitation and sexual abuse that resulted from contact on the Internet or other computer services.
Wedding Planner Convicted After Failing To Produce Wedding Services
A San Francisco wedding planner who ripped off dozens of couples surrendered Wednesday to serve a four-year prison sentence for grand theft, the district attorney’s office said Thursday.
Stanley Kwan, 45, owned a wedding planning business called To Have and To Hold, which operated out of San Francisco’s Chinatown district.
In 2005 and 2006, Kwan took money for wedding services but failed to provide his customers with the agreed upon services, either in part or in whole, the district attorney’s office said.
Among the services he agreed to provide, but did not produce, were photography, videography, bridesmaid dresses, tuxedo rentals, alcohol, flowers, and limousine services.
District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement released Thursday that he felt awful for the victims of these crimes, “many of whom discovered that they’d been ripped off just before their special day.”
According to the district attorney’s office, Kwan was initially charged with 25 counts of grand theft and one count of conspiracy.
Two of the grand theft charges were related to vendors who Kwan failed to pay for their services.
In 2009, the district attorney sought an arrest warrant for Kwan, but he was not located until Hayward police arrested him in July 2012.
On April 22, Kwan pleaded guilty to four counts of grand theft resulting in a total loss of $60,458.89 to his victims and was sentenced to serve four years in prison.
Kwan paid $7,000 in restitution and will be responsible for paying the remainder, including prejudgment interest, according to the district attorney.
Los Altos Investment Manager Indicted On 29 Counts Of Investment And Mail Fraud
A South Bay investment manager has been indicted by a federal grand jury in San Jose on 29 counts of fraud.
Mark Feathers, 51, of Los Altos, was the founder and chief executive of Small Business Capital Corp., or SBCC, which managed three funds that sold investments in mortgage portfolios.
He was indicted on Oct. 29 on 17 counts of securities fraud and 12 counts of mail fraud allegedly carried out between 2009 and 2012.
The indictment was unsealed Wednesday after Feathers’ arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Paul Grewal in San Jose. Feathers pleaded not guilty and was freed on bail of $250,000.
His next court appearance is a status conference before Grewal on Nov. 19.
The indictment alleges that Feathers raised more than $50 million from more than 250 investors and improperly transferred more than $7 million from the funds to SBCC for operating expenses in the form of management fees and unsecured loans to that company.
It alleges that as of June 2012, SBCC held $5.5 million in unsecured loans owed to the three funds and that Feathers had diverted $2 million to his own benefit.
The indictment also contends that some returns paid to early investors were funded with money provided by new investors, in a process known as a Ponzi scheme.
It alleges that Feather misled investors by telling them that loans made by the funds were secured by mortgage deeds and that the funds’ loans were providing returns that would pay investors at least 7.5 percent interest each year.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil lawsuit against Feathers and SBCC in federal court in San Jose in 2012, alleging violations of securities laws. A federal judge placed the company in receivership later that year.
Three Alleged Surenos Gang Members Charged With Mission District Murder
Three alleged members of a Surenos gang centered in the Mission District of San Francisco made an initial appearance in federal court Thursday on charges of committing a gang-related murder on July 19.
Miguel Ortiz, 27, of San Francisco; Antonio Castillo, 26, of San Bruno; and Marvin Cortez, 24, of San Francisco, were charged in a Nov. 6 superseding indictment with crimes including murder in aid of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, murder conspiracy and using a gun to commit murder.
The revised grand jury indictment was unsealed Thursday after the three defendants appeared before U.S. Magistrate Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco.
It adds their names and the new murder charge to a previous grand jury indictment filed on March 6 against 14 other alleged members of the gang, known as the 19th Street Surenos.
All 17 defendants are accused of racketeering conspiracy and murder conspiracy, among other charges.
Two of the others, Jairo Hernandez, 33, and Carlos Vasquez, 26, both of San Francisco, were accused in the original indictment of committing an earlier gunfire murder on Aug. 30, 2011.
Both murder charges could carry a possible death penalty for those five defendants if they are convicted and if federal prosecutors decide to seek that penalty. A decision to ask for capital punishment would also require approval of the U.S. attorney general.
At Thursday’s hearing, Corley ordered the three men held in custody while awaiting a future detention hearing. Their next appearance is a Nov. 20 hearing before Corley for identification of their defense lawyers.
11-Year-Old Boy Who Drowned In Swimming Pool In Aptos Is Identified
An 11-year-old boy who drowned in a swimming pool at his home in the Aptos area of Santa Cruz County on Oct. 31 has been identified as Evan Lane, according to the coroner’s office.
The boy’s death occurred on Halloween but did not appear to have anything to do with the event, an employee of coroner’s office said.
On Oct. 31, Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputies responded to a call about a missing person in the 1000 block of Via Tomasol in Aptos, deputies said.
One of the deputies found him underwater in a pool in a town home complex, pulled the boy out and immediately performed CPR on him. Medical personnel transported him to a hospital, but Evan died there at 4:55 p.m., deputies said.
Sgt. Kelly Kent of the sheriff’s office said authorities believe that Evan fell accidentally into pool and drowned.
Evan, whose middle name was Emilio, was born in Santa Cruz, had been attending Valencia Elementary School in Aptos and had just turned 11 on Oct. 6, according to his obituary posted online by the Benito & Azzaro Pacific Gardens Chapel in Santa Cruz.
“Evan’s affectionate and playful nature was his most prolific and recognizable gift; each spontaneous hug and burst of infectious laughter was a reminder that life, in this moment, is worth living,” his obituary read.
“Evan was a gentle soul, full of awe, wonder and love for everyone around him,” it read.
His parents, Ed and Sandra Lane, his maternal grandfather Alfredo Orozco and paternal grandmother Dianne Lane, survive him, according to the obituary.
The family has asked that donations be made in his memory to the Angelman Syndrome Foundation.
Driver In Suspected Dui Crash That Killed Pedestrian Due In Court Friday
A man is being held in jail on suspicion of drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter for a crash that killed an elderly woman in East San Jose on Tuesday, according to police.
Jamie Fernandez, 40, whose bail has been set at $250,000, is scheduled to be arraigned in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose on Friday, according to jail records.
San Jose police were called at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to Barberry Lane and South King Road about a reported crash involving a vehicle and a pedestrian.
The woman, identified as Rogelia Ochoa Lino, 74, of San Jose, died at the scene, according to police.
Fernandez, who pulled over following the crash, was arrested on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter, police said.
The collision became the 39th traffic fatality and the 21st one involving a pedestrian in San Jose this year, according to police.