Thursday Morning News Roundup
Update: Woman Pleads Not Guilty to DUI in Marina Crash That Injured Two Boys
A 30-year-old woman who seriously injured two 12-year-old boys as they were walking to school in a crosswalk in San Francisco’s Marina District last week pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon to driving under the influence of alcohol.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has charged San Francisco resident Kirsten Andereck with one count of felony DUI with injury, one count of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 percent or greater, and two counts of child endangerment with enhancements for causing great bodily injury.
Andereck was arrested on suspicion of DUI after she struck the two boys at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday near Buchanan and Bay streets, according to police.
The boys suffered injuries initially considered life threatening, but they are now expected to survive. Andereck was driving a white Volkswagen Tiguan SUV and stayed at the scene of the collision, where she was later arrested.San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian said Tuesday that both boys were seriously injured and that “one of the kids is in bad shape,” while the other appears to be on the road to recovery. Bastian said he is “hopeful that both kids make a full and speedy recovery.”
Andereck appeared for her arraignment before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Daniel Flores after posting $230,000 bail last week. She entered the courtroom Tuesday wearing a blue sweater, a white collared shirt, khakis and tan moccasins, her long blonde hair hanging past her shoulders. A host of news reporters awaited her arrival and a news camera was permitted by the judge to tape her court appearance.Two private defense attorneys are representing her, V. Roy Lefcourt and Betsy Wolkin. Lefcourt said outside court, “This has been an exceptionally emotional” time for his client. He refused to comment on Andereck’s blood-alcohol level or what she had been doing before she struck the boys.
Bastian said Andereck has been charged with driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 percent or greater, and that if it had been more than .15 percent, additional enhancements would have been filed. At the request of Assistant District Attorney Thomas Ostly, Judge Flores has ordered Andereck not to operate any motor vehicle and to wear an alcohol-monitoring device. Andereck’s pre-hearing conference is scheduled for Jan. 20, 2016.
City Drops Plans for Bayview District Homeless Shelter Due to Cost Concerns
San Francisco city officials on Tuesday said they have dropped plans for a 100-bed homeless shelter in the Bayview District after the project’s costs proved to be higher than anticipated, but hope to pursue another project in the neighborhood. In a letter dated Tuesday, Trent Rhorer, executive director of the city’s Human Services Agency, told the state Department of Housing and Community Development that the city was withdrawing its funding application for the shelter at 2115 Jennings Ave. Rhorer said the project, located next door to an existing drop-in shelter, was initially expected to cost around $1 million, with the cost to be covered by a $978,000 state grant approved in 2013.
However, as work proceeded officials found that due to overhead costs and environmental standards not covered by the original estimate, the project would cost closer to $4 million, with the city on the hook for the additional $3 million, Rhorer said. When efforts to bring the cost down failed, the city concluded that it would be more cost effective to pursue options such as supportive housing or a facility similar to the homeless Navigation Center now operating at 1950 Mission St., Rhorer said.
The proposed shelter drew strenuous opposition from some neighborhood groups, who voiced concerns about bringing more drug and alcohol use to an area that already struggles with crimes, and from Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the Bayview. Cohen on Tuesday said in a statement that the project was “flawed from its inception.”
“For years, the Bayview community has been forced to carry a bulk of many of San Francisco supportive services and the idea to build a 100-bed shelter was another example of a unilateral decision made by the City that completely lacked any real community process or input,” Cohen said.Opponents also cited concerns with industrial activities taking place nearby, which they said made the site inappropriate for a shelter. Rhorer said the community opposition did not play a role in the decision to drop the project. “Every time we try to site something for the homeless, we get opposition,” Rhorer said. “Sadly, nimbyism is part of the equation when you’re trying to site a project to serve the homeless, but it’s not a reason to abandon a project.”
Rhorer said the city is searching now for another location for a project in the Bayview District. He noted that the neighborhood currently has only one shelter, and it isn’t open 24 hours a day. According to San Francisco’s 2015 Homeless Count, supervisorial District 10, which includes the Bayview, had 1,272 homeless people out of the total 6,686 counted in the entire city. The only district to have more, at 4,191, was District 6, which includes the South of Market and Tenderloin areas.
City Sues Monsanto for Decades of PCB Contamination
The city of Oakland is suing the Monsanto Company for financial assistance in mitigating the amount of dangerous pollutants present in storm drain runoff to San Francisco Bay. The suit filed Tuesday in U.S District Court in San Francisco seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the continuing presence in Oakland runoff of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, synthetic organic chemicals produced by Monsanto and widely used until they were banned in 1979. Among other things, the chemicals were used in power transformers, electrical equipment, paints, caulks and other building materials, according
to the city attorney’s office.
San Francisco Bay is already polluted with the chemicals, and the amount of PCBs allowed to be present in runoff is regulated by the state. Because of that, Oakland has already financed mitigating PCB runoff from the city, and stricter state regulations enacted this year will only make that expense steeper, according to the city. The costs for Alameda County could reach $1 billion.
“The company that is responsible for this vast contamination should bear the burden of cleaning up our environment, not the taxpayers of Oakland and California,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement.The city alleges that Monsanto knew about the products’ adverse effects to human health for decades but hid its findings before the Environmental Protection Agency banned PCBs in 1979. The company found the chemicals were a “global contaminant” and present in the air and oceans as of
the late 1960s.
The adverse health effects have only become more clear since the ban, as the EPA found in 1996 that PCBs are likely a carcinogen in humans. They can also have adverse effects on human immune, reproductive, endocrine and nervous systems, according to the compliant. Several cities have filed similar lawsuits against Monsanto, including San Jose in July.
Update: Repairs to Power Pole Downed by Runaway Big-Rig to Take Overnight
A steep stretch of street where a runaway big-rig crashed into a power pole and sheared off a gas line Tuesday morning in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood is expected to remain closed until Wednesday, a PG&E spokesman said. The big-rig slid down De Haro Street near 20th Street at about 9:30 a.m. and took down high-voltage power transmission lines, leaving a power pole dangling from the cables and live wires in the street, fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said. It knocked out power to 11,000 residents and businesses in the Mission District, Potrero Hill, Bernal Heights and Noe Valley neighborhoods of the city, PG&E spokesman Joe Molica said.
After hitting the power pole, the truck crashed into a house, shearing off the home’s gas meter, Molica said. The gas leak prompted a brief shelter-in-place order to residents, which was lifted after PG&E crews shut off the gas a few minutes after arriving there. As of about 1 p.m. all but seven PG&E customers in the neighborhood where the crash happened had their power restored, Molica said. But the remaining customers’ power could be out until repairs on the downed pole are complete. As of Tuesday afternoon, Molica said they were expected to take until about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Meanwhile one PG&E customer at the home where the truck crashed and damaged the gas meter remains without gas service, Molica said. The truck also started leaking diesel fuel into a sewer line, but San Francisco Public Utilities District spokesman Tyrone Jue said that is no cause for concern. The sewers there, like most in the city, go straight to the district’s sewage treatment plant in the Bayview District, Jue said. No injuries were reported.
SF, Oakland Workers Fight for $15 Minimum Wage
Hundreds of fast food workers and their supporters in San Francisco and Oakland participated Tuesday in a nationwide action to demand a $15 minimum wage. Demonstrations kicked off in San Francisco at 6 a.m. today and will continue in Oakland into the evening as part of the Fight for $15 day of action happening in hundreds of cities across the U.S. Currently, the minimum wage in San Francisco and Oakland is $12.25 per hour.
Last Wednesday, Fight for $15 leaders and Service Employees International Union California filed an initiative for the 2016 ballot that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2020 and guarantee at least six sick days for all full-time workers, according to SEIU officials. Early Tuesday morning in San Francisco’s Mission District, a group of 250 to 300 workers, peace leaders, and elected officials gathered at the McDonald’s restaurant at 2801 Mission St., demanding that companies respect their right to a minimum wage and defend their fight to live in the city, officials with the nonprofit Causa Justa Just Cause said. Afterward, the group marched to 16th and Mission streets to call attention to the issue of low wages, higher rents, and increasing displacement and to demand action by elected officials, according to Causa Justa Just Cause.
Tuesday afternoon, workers and their supporters gathered at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse at 661 Washington St. in Oakland to call on Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to drop the charges against the “Black Friday 14” protesters who chained themselves to BART trains last year. The day of action concluded with a march to Frank H. Ogawa Plaza to join a Fight for $15 rally at 4 p.m.
Update: Police Kill Shooter Outside of St. Luke’s Hospital
A man who allegedly opened fire Wednesday afternoon outside a hospital in San Francisco’s Mission District is dead after police officers shot him, Chief of Police Greg Suhr said. Officers responded at about 4 p.m. to reports of shots fired outside California Pacific Medical Center’s St. Luke’s campus at 3555 Cesar Chavez St., police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said. Suhr described the man as Hispanic and in his late 20s and who matched the description of a man who robbed a Big 5 Sporting Goods store in San Bruno earlier in the day. The man in both incidents was wearing white coveralls, Suhr said.
Police do not know why he did what he did in San Francisco, Suhr said. The chief said the man allegedly robbed the Big 5 Sporting Goods store of a rifle and ammunition, which he fired shots with in San Francisco. The man allegedly used a handgun to rob the sporting goods store, Suhr said. The chief said the man police killed had a handgun on him and he was aiming a rifle at the hospital before officers shot him. No one other than the suspect suffered injuries in the incident, Suhr said. Hospital spokesman James Macksood said no staff or patients were injured.
Former Aide Testifies Against Raymond Chow
A former aide to Chinatown tong leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow testified at Chow’s murder and racketeering trial in federal court in San Francisco Tuesday that he conspired in the murder that Chow is accused of ordering. Kongphet Chanthavong told the U.S. District Court jury that his role in the plot was to surveil the business office of the victim, Allen Leung, for several weeks before Leung was slain by a masked gunman on Feb. 27, 2006. At the time, Leung was the leader or dragonhead of the Chee Kung Tong civic association. Later that year, Chow became his successor.
Chow, 55, is accused of murder in aid of racketeering for allegedly ordering the Leung’s murder. He is also charged with racketeering conspiracy; conspiring to murder another associate, Jim Tat Kong, in 2013; conspiring to receive stolen property and money laundering. If convicted of the murder in aid of racketeering charge, Chow would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Chanthavong, who has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges, also testified that a few months before the murder, Chow told him and three other associates outside an Oakland bar, “I want you to take care of this.” He said Chow made that statement in English after speaking with the other three men in Chinese, which Chanthavong, a Thai citizen, does not understand. A little later, Chow reiterated to the group, “I want you guys to coordinate with this and make it happen,” Chanthavong testified.
Chanthavong did not testify, however, that Chow explicitly mentioned Leung’s name or the nature of the assignment. Instead, Chanthavong testified, as he and two other men subsequently “brainstormed” how to carry out Chow’s instruction, “That’s when I learned someone was going to get taken out…killed.” Chanthavong said he realized that Leung was the intended victim later when he was surveilling Leung’s import-export office to gather information on when he might be most vulnerable. Chanthavong, 37, of San Francisco, is one of several co-defendants who have pleaded guilty to various charges and agreed to testify against Chow in hopes of gaining a more lenient sentence.
Another is Andy Li, 42, of South San Francisco, who prosecutors say will testify that Chow asked him in 2011 or 2012 to murder Kong, but later told him his services were not needed. Kong was found fatally shot in his car in Mendocino County in 2013. Chanthavong pleaded guilty in a public court session in September to one count of marijuana distribution, three counts of selling guns without a license and three counts of being an ex-felon in possession of a gun. Sometime later, in a sealed document, he also pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy charge and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
He testified Tuesday that as part of the racketeering plea, he admitted to conspiring to murder Leung, being at meetings where the murder was planned and conducting the surveillance. The recent agreements by Chanthavong, Li and several other former associates to testify against Chow led prosecutors to seek a revised grand jury indictment last month that added charges that Chow participated in the two murders. Until then, no one had been charged in either murder.
Defense attorney Tony Serra contended in his opening statement Monday that the former associates’ testimony will not be credible because the witnesses are “acting out of desperation” to obtain lighter sentences. Chanthavong testified that in February 2006, he was summoned to a meeting with several other men, not including Chow, in a South San Francisco hotel and was told, “The job is going down tonight.” At that point, Chanthavong said, “I wasn’t comfortable” with the prospect of participating in murder and told the others that he wasn’t needed because there were enough other people to carry it out. “I’m not a killer. I’m a drug dealer,” Chanthavong testified. The murder didn’t happen that night, but a week or two later, Chanthavong read in newspapers that Leung had been killed, he said. When he saw Chow after that, Chanthavong said, he didn’t mention Leung’s name. “Some things you just don’t talk about. The guy was murdered. You don’t ask questions,” he said.
Chanthavong told the jury that when he attended Leung’s funeral in March 2006, “It felt strange.
“I knew what happened. I knew I played a part in it. I knew who ordered it,” he said. Chanthavong testified for about an hour Tuesday afternoon and will continue on the stand when the trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer resumes today.
Veterans Outfitted with New Suits in Honor of Veteran’s Day
Low-income and homeless U.S. veterans were given a shopping spree for new business attire Tuesday at St. Anthony Foundation in San Francisco, just in time for Veterans Day. Thirty men who served in various branches of the U.S. military were invited to shop at St. Anthony’s in the Tenderloin, where they received free haircuts and picked out dress suits, shirts, shoes, socks, ties, belts, and even a voucher for tailoring to help them look their best.
The veterans were recommended for the shopping spree by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the San Francisco Veterans Success Center or Swords to Plowshares. They also got the opportunity to have their photograph professionally taken and receive resume building and computer training.
San Francisco resident Nixon Matignas, 30, was invited to Tuesday’s event by the Department of Veterans Affairs and was thrilled to get a new suit for job interviews. Now living in the Bayview District, Matignas was previously in the U.S. Army from 2007 to 2010. While he was stationed in Iraq, he suffered a back injury and came home to the Bay Area. Matignas found himself injured and unemployed. He said when he did go to interviews, he felt judged because he didn’t quite look the part. “I never really had the attire when I went to interview,” Matignas said as he picked out a new three-piece suit. “Got me a three-piece and I’m not talking about KFC,” Matignas joked. Matignas said he went into the Army after getting his GED and that since leaving the Army, he has taken business classes and is interested in information technology. He said he thinks his new outfit will improve the interview experience and allow him to dress the part.
Marcellus Ducreay, who monitors St. Anthony’s free clothing program year-round, said that while Tuesday’s event was just for a small group of veterans, anyone who is homeless or low-income is welcome to stop by St. Anthony’s at 121 Golden Gate Ave. and pick up new clothes. Ducreay said every weekday the free clothing program takes appointments from 7:30 to 8 a.m. and then outfits people for the rest of the morning. Families can drop in at 2:30 p.m. and are then outfitted throughout
Additionally, St. Anthony’s schedules appointments through caseworkers for clients with pressing needs. St. Anthony’s also serves roughly 2,400 meals per day in their free dining room in the same building. Roughly 15 percent of those meals are served to U.S. veterans, even though veterans constitute only 3 percent of the city’s general population, according to the St. Anthony Foundation.
Crab Fest Rebranded due to Uncertainty Over Fishing Season
Uncertainty over the start of the Dungeness crab season has ended the first Half Moon Bay Crab Fest before it begins. Festival organizers have decided to throw the “SOS Seafood Fest: Sustaining Our Seas” instead, which will add a discussion of how to enjoy seafood while sustaining ocean ecosystems.
The SOS Seafood Fest will take place Jan. 30-31, with the first Half Moon Bay Crab Fest slated for 2017. The change comes because there still might not be any crab to eat when the festival rolls around. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife pushed the start of Dungeness crab season, scheduled for this month, back until levels of domoic acid, a neurotoxin, found in local crabs have returned to safe levels.
The high levels of domoic acid have been attributed to a massive toxic bloom of algae along the California coast caused by warmer than usual ocean temperatures. Crabs from Oregon to Santa Barbara have been found with high levels of domoic acid. Exposure in humans can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness. Exposure to high levels can cause short-term memory loss, epilepsy or even death.
Even without crabs, there will be plenty of fun at the SOS Seafood Fest, organizers said. Numerous food trucks will gather in the lots around the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company in Princeton-By-The-Sea along with tents for beer, wine and cocktails. Food and drink packages will be available for purchase. They will be accompanied by a concert stage and a variety of booths for arts and crafts, local surf businesses and ocean advocacy groups.
The educational portion of the event will be led by speakers chosen by the Google Food Team to discuss ocean warming and sustainability, the seafood chain and how restaurants are shaping the future of local seafood.
(News brought to you by Bay City News.)