Friday Morning News Roundup
Non-Profit Offering Free Admission to 49 Redwood State Parks on Black Friday
A group advocating for the protection of coast redwood trees in California and the state Department of Parks and Recreation are partnering to provide free admission on the day after Thanksgiving to 49 redwood state parks, some of which are in the Bay Area, the group’s spokeswoman said.
Save the Redwoods League will pay the $8 to $10 cost for any vehicle to enter any of 49 redwood state parks in California, league spokeswoman Jennifer Benito-Kowalski said. The event is meant to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors, Benito-Kowalski said.
Outdoor company REI’s decision to be closed on the day after Thanksgiving inspired league officials to offer free admission to see the redwoods the group has been working to protect since 1917. The day after Thanksgiving is commonly known as Black Friday, a major shopping day, and is on Nov. 27 this year.
“It’s really breathtaking to walk through these parks,” state park spokeswoman Gloria Sandoval said. People can visit several redwood state parks close to the Bay Area, such as Mount Tamalpais State Park in Marin County and Jack London State Historic Park in Sonoma County, league officials said.
In the Monterey Bay area, people can also visit parks such as Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or Big Basin Redwoods State Park, league officials said. The free admission is only to the 49 state parks with redwoods, Benito-Kowalski said. Visitors to national parks, such as Muir Woods National Monument, on Black Friday will have to pay for admission, she said.
To gain entry to any of the 49 parks, visitors must download and print a Free Redwood State Parks Day-Use Pass at SaveTheRedwoods.org/freefriday, Crowley said. Visitors must present the pass to a state parks staff member at the park’s entry gate or visitors must put the pass on the dashboard of the vehicle they are traveling in to gain entry to the park for day-use only, league officials said.
Committee Approves Ordinance to Reduce Gun Theft from Vehicles
An ordinance requiring anyone storing a gun in a vehicle to secure it in a lockbox, including on and off-duty law enforcement personnel, is set to come before the Board of Supervisors next month. San Francisco Supervisor David Campos said the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee approved the proposed ordinance Thursday. It will come before the full board for a vote on Dec. 4.
The ordinance, which was introduced in September, originally focused solely on requiring law enforcement personnel to secure their weapons in vehicles, but has been expanded now to apply to everyone in the city. Campos said the ordinance would provide greater protection to San Franciscans and could lead the rest of the state, and the nation, to follow suit. He said that beginning with the July 1 shooting of San Francisco resident Kathryn Steinle on Pier 14 with a handgun stolen from a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger’s vehicle, there has been a troubling trend of guns stolen from parked cars in San Francisco and used in criminal activity.
Campos said hundreds of guns have been stolen or lost from Bay Area law enforcement agencies alone in the past five years. But the problem is bigger than law enforcement, as guns are also being stolen from civilian vehicles. Campos’ proposed ordinance will require anyone storing a gun in a vehicle in San Francisco to secure the weapon in a lockbox affixed to the vehicle or in a fully enclosed, locked trunk with automatic release levers disabled.
Current state statutes on the securing of guns in vehicles are vague, Campos said Thursday. He said in San Francisco, he wants the law to be “crystal clear.”Allison Anderman, attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, yet the state still doesn’t require gun owners to report when a firearm is stolen.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), more than 10,000 guns were stolen in California in 2012. Additional guns were stolen but went unreported in California that year, officials said. The ATF estimates that 15 percent of guns stolen from vehicles are then used to commit crimes. Campos noted that while there were roughly 9,000 victims of gun violence in California in 2013, San Francisco is the first city in the state to introduce an ordinance requiring firearms to be secured in vehicles.
University President Announces End to Talks with Beverage Companies
San Francisco State University President Les Wong has decided to end negotiations with beverage companies on a contract to provide drinks to students, university officials announced Thursday.
Campus officials had sought to sign a contract that would provide the university money that could be used for student programs, athletics and scholarships, a statement from Wong said. Wong made the decision after listening to faculty, staff and students, opposing the negotiations, his statement said. Research by students shows sugary drinks are killing people, senior David Melville said.
Melville said that at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday about 75 students attended a campus town hall meeting with university officials, where the students applauded Wong’s decision. “We love our university,” Melville said. Students want to make it better, he said. But Melville also said the conversation at the town hall quickly shifted to transparency in the work university officials are doing. He said many people did not know university officials were in negotiations with beverage companies.
“This was news to many of us,” Melville said. A resolution drafted last month by the Associated Students Inc. of SF State supported Melville’s assertion. “Up to this point, no official communications on behalf of the University has been made to the student body or faculty expressing President Wong’s and the University Administration’s intent to pursue a” contract with beverage companies, the resolution said.
Bart to Discontinue Late-Night Buses to East Contra Costa
BART’s board of directors voted Thursday to keep extra late-night buses going across the Bay Bridge for another year, but one of the routes will likely be nixed next month. When BART introduced a pilot partnership with AC Transit last year, it added a third late-night transbay bus route that ended at BART’s Pittsburg/Bay Point station. But the sparsely-used bus route has proven too costly to maintain and will likely be discontinued when the contract expires next month.
The pilot project started last December and is slated to continue through Dec. 6. It added extra trips to the existing 800 and 801 AC Transit bus lines to Richmond and Bay Fair so they run every 20 minutes on Friday and Saturday nights.
The program also included a new line, 822, that went from San Francisco to Rockridge, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and Pittsburg/Bay Point. But while the 800 and 801 lines have together had about 3,000 riders per weekend, the 822 line has had only 50-75 riders, most of whom get off in downtown Oakland. Only a few people take the bus to destinations in Contra Costa County, costing BART about $200 per trip to operate the service.
AC Transit, contracted to operate the service, doesn’t even normally operate in that area of Contra Costa County, making maintaining the service logistically difficult. The Board of Directors voted 8-1 Thursday to continue the expanded service for the 800 and 801 lines but not for 822. Only board member Zakhary Mallett voted against the motion. BART will conduct a survey of people traveling to those areas and look into options to provide late night bus service for them, but for now, it appears their late nights in San Francisco are numbered.
Philanthropists Donate $15 Million to USF for New Sports Facility
A couple who made a generous contribution to the University of San Francisco will soon have a new athletic facility named after them, university officials announced Thursday. Silicon Valley philanthropist and real estate developer John Sobrato and his wife Susan Sobrato gifted the university $15 million, the largest gift from individuals in the school’s history, according to the university.
The gift will help fund USF’s first-ever master plan for a new athletic facility, which would renovate the school’s 60-year-old War Memorial Gymnasium and help the school build up its Division 1 athletics, USF officials said. The multi-use facility will be named The Sobrato Center and will feature a new club level with preferred seating, according to USF officials.
John Sobrato founded the Sobrato Organization, a prominent real estate development firm. The firm has developed over 15 million square feet of commercial real estate in Silicon Valley, including headquarters for Apple and Netflix. The firm also owns over 75 commercial properties and 30 apartment communities, according to USF officials. During the last two decades, the Sobrato Family Foundation has given nearly $315 million to support education, economic opportunities and essential human services, USF officials said.