Friday San Francisco News Roundup
FIREFIGHTERS USE CELLPHONE SIGNAL TO FIND BROTHER, SISTER CLINGING TO CLIFF
A teen brother and sister were rescued when they called for help while clinging to a cliff after tumbling from a scenic lookout in San
Francisco’s Lands End park Thursday afternoon, according to a San Francisco fire dispatcher.
The brother and sister, 15 and 16 years old, were hiking in the Dead Man’s Point area near the Legion of Honor when they fell from the side of the cliff. While holding on to cliff side, they used a cellphone to call firefighters at 4:42 p.m., the dispatcher said.
The siblings weren’t sure exactly where they were, so firefighters triangulated their approximate location using the signal from cellphone towers. Rescue crews started hiking down to the area, while a rescue boat spotted them from the water.
Once they were located, firefighters made quick work pulling them back to the top of the cliff. They had ground back under their feet by 6 p.m.
Paramedics checked them both out, but neither of the teens was seriously injured, the dispatcher said.
SANCTUARY CITY POLICY COMES UNDER FIRE, PETITION CREATED TO AMEND LAW
The shooting death of a 32-year-old woman at a San Francisco pier last week renewed a debate over the city’s sanctuary city policy after an undocumented immigrant, who is accused in the shooting and has felony convictions, was released by local law enforcement instead of being handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the man suspected of killing San Francisco resident and Pleasanton native Kathryn Steinle, has been deported from the U.S. five times and has a criminal history with seven prior felonies, including four involving narcotics, according to immigration officials.
Among those who are challenging the wording of the sanctuary city policy is San Francisco resident Jamie Whitaker, who started a petition on MoveOn.org Monday urging San Francisco policymakers to revaluate the city’s policy on civil immigration detainers and the wording of San Francisco’s sanctuary city law.
Whitaker’s petition, which as of Thursday evening had more than 100 signatures, states that the current administrative code failed “to prioritize public health, safety, and welfare of San Franciscans.”
Following Steinle’s death, Angela Chan, policy director at the Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, said that ICE hold requests, “are in fact unconstitutional.”
Chan said ICE requests to hold individuals for additional time at local jails violate the Constitution because they are not signed by a judge and are not based on probable cause findings.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) expressed her concernin the days following Steinle’s death, arguing that Steinle might still be alive if not for the release of a convicted felon and undocumented immigrant onto city streets by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.
In an open letter to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Feinstein urged the mayor and the city to participate in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s new Priority Enforcement Program, which was created as part of President Barack Obama’s Nov. 20, 2014 executive actions on immigration.
Feinstein said the program would enable federal law enforcement to better cooperate with state and local counterparts and take custody of individuals who pose a danger to the public before they are released.
A Facebook post by the San Francisco Police Officers Association on Monday was far more critical of San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy and Lopez-Sanchez’s immigration status.
The Facebook post reads: “Bottom line is a young innocent woman has been murdered in cold blood, in front of her father, by a five-time deported illegal alien drug dealer. He is an ILLEGAL ALIEN not an undocumented immigrant and if he was where he belonged (Mexico) this innocent victim would still be alive.”
In a statement released by the sheriff’s department following Steinle’s death, the department maintained that Lopez-Sanchez was deemed ineligible for extended detention because of the city’s 2013 ordinance that prohibits law enforcement officials from detaining an individual on the basis of an immigration detainer after the individual becomes eligible for release from custody.
The sheriff’s department noted that despite hundreds of municipalities throughout the country, including San Francisco, having amended their policies regarding ICE detainers, “ICE has not changed its policies or procedures to reflect that detainers are requests and not a legal basis to hold an individual.”
BAY BRIDGE COMMITTEE APPROVES $1.1M MORE TO FIX ANCHOR ROD PROBLEMS
A Bay Bridge oversight committee approved funding on Thursday to begin designing methods of drying and sealing anchor rods in the base of the new eastern tower that have been steeping in bay water because a contractor failed to grout them properly.
The Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee approved $1.1 million in funding at its meeting on Thursday for new design work and equipment, bringing the total tally for work on the problem to nearly $4.3 million.
What the final cost will be remains unclear and depends on recommendations from a panel of experts convened last month to study to what extent the rods have been damaged and how to best address the issue.
About a quarter of the 424 rods in the base of the 525-foot tower were confirmed this year to have been sitting in standing bay water because a contractor failed to adequately grout the steel tubes surrounding them.
The roughly 25-foot-long rods are designed to keep the tower from sliding on its concrete and steel foundation during an earthquake.
Bridge project chief engineer Brian Maroney reiterated on Thursday that the bridge as constructed is safe and the rods only come into play in the event of a major earthquake. The rods currently are performing as designed— 99 percent passed pull testing conducted earlier this year — what’s at stake is how long they will last.
The experts studying potential water damage to the rods are concentrating on making sure the bridge can last for 150 years.
The $1.1 million approved on Thursday includes $500,000 for the design of a dehumidifier to dry the rods, $250,000 to find a protection system such as grease to prevent water from reaching the rods once they’re dry, $100,000 to purchase jacks to facilitate cleaning the rods and $250,000 for further testing on the removed rods.
The panel of experts unanimously agreed that those were the first necessary steps in dealing with the problem. They will reconvene later this month to discuss future steps.
Another complication in determining the cause and extent of the damage to the rods is sorting through 158 boxes of hard copy records and almost 37,000 electronic records related to the project.
Some of the records relating to the initial construction of the rods have been difficult to locate, but the experts on the panel hope those records could glean new insight into at what point water started seeping into the steel tubes surrounding the rods.
The panel of experts is expected to issue a full report on problems with the bridge later this year.
COURT SAYS MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARY CAN’T DEDUCT BUSINESS EXPENSES
A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that a San Francisco medical marijuana dispensary can’t deduct business expenses for sales of the drug from its taxable income.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Vapor Room owner Martin Olive couldn’t subtract such expenses because federal tax law bans deductions for a trade or business that “consists of trafficking in controlled substances.”
Even though a 1996 California law allows the use of medical marijuana, “the use and sale of marijuana remain prohibited under federal law,” Circuit Judge Susan Graber wrote.
Olive established the Vapor Room as a medical marijuana dispensary then known as the Vapor Room Healing Center in a large rented room in the Lower Haight District in 2004.
The business closed its storefront in 2012 after federal prosecutors threatened to file a civil forfeiture lawsuit against the landlord. The action was one of a series of enforcement efforts pursued by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of Northern California against dispensaries located near schools or parks.
Olive’s lawyer, Henry Wykowski, said the Vapor Room has operated as a medical cannabis delivery service since then and is now considering reopening in another location.
The tax case concerned Olive’s business income in 2004 and 2005, when he operated the facility as a sole proprietorship. In 2006, the dispensary was incorporated as the Vapor Room Cooperative.
On his business tax returns, Olive listed net income of $65,000 and $34,000 for those two years, together with business expenses of $237,000 and $418,000 for those years.
He appealed to the San Francisco-based appeals court after a tax court judge denied the expense deductions.
Olive claimed in his appeal the law prohibiting deductions didn’t apply to him because the Vapor Room provided other services, such as free counseling, education and snacks, in addition to the sale of marijuana. He argued the law’s use of the phrase “consists of” meant that the ban on expense deductions should apply only to a business whose sole service was drug sales.
But the appeals court said Olive couldn’t deduct expenses for the other services because he didn’t charge any money for them.
The panel noted, however, that its decision didn’t conflict with a 2007 tax court ruling in which a different dispensary was allowed to deduct expenses for counseling services, although not for drug sales, because in that case the facility charged fees for the counseling.
The panel also rejected a second argument in which Olive contended the 1982 law was aimed at street dealers and that Congress hadn’t envisioned medical marijuana use when it passed the law.
The court said it would be up to Congress to change the measure. Even though Olive lost his case, Wykowski said the ruling was “good for the industry” because it appeared to uphold the doctrine that dispensaries can deduct expenses for services other than marijuana sales.
“This is going to benefit dispensaries that sell a variety of services including those that are not cannabis sales,” Wykowski said.
MARINE SANCTUARY ISSUES WARNING TO BOATERS REGARDING WHALES
Small boaters and large vessel operators traveling near San Francisco Bay should be extra cautious when traveling near endangered whales, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary announced on Thursday.
Because of the number of endangered whales documented recently near the Farallon Islands, officials with the Farallones sanctuary are asking boats and ships passing through the area to maintain minimum distances from them to prevent harassment or even life-threatening collisions.
During a one-hour survey near the Farallon Islands on July 4, sanctuary officials counted 115 endangered whales.
Officials with the sanctuary are working with the nearby Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the U.S. Coast Guard in order to get their message across. They’re requesting that large ships slow to at least 10 knots in the vessel traffic lanes approaching San Francisco.
The slower speed could reduce the threat of ships striking endangered blue and humpback whales, according to Farallones sanctuary officials.
Reports of small vessels approaching whales at ranges closer than the 300-feet federal minimum distance guideline in places such as Pacifica, Pillar Point and the Golden Gate Strait have risen lately, according to sanctuary officials.
All whales are legally protected against harassment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to sanctuary officials.Furthermore, whales within a national marine sanctuary, such as the Farallones and Cordell Bank sanctuaries, are additionally protected under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, sanctuary officials said.
Today will be cloudy with patchy fog in the morning. Highs will be in the lower to mid-60s. Southwest winds could reach 10 to 15 mph.
Tonight will be cloudy with patchy fog. Lows will be in the upper 50s and west winds could reach 10 to 20 mph.
Saturday will be mostly cloudy with patchy fog in the morning. Highs will be in the 60s. West winds could reach 5 to 10 mph.