Road Flares Left By Maintenance Crews Likely Started Fires in Bay Bridge Expansion Joint

Road flares left by maintenance crews are the likely cause of two
fires in an expansion joint on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, a Caltrans spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The fires, one Wednesday afternoon and one Monday night, both started in an expansion joint in the eastbound lanes of Interstate Highway 80 just east of Treasure Island, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A fire coming from beneath the bridge and up through the expansion joint into the roadway was first reported on Monday around 10 p.m. near the Treasure Island exit. The blaze, quickly extinguished, blocked two lanes of traffic for around an hour.

A second fire was spotted just after noon Wednesday, with lanes
reopening around 1:50 p.m.

Caltrans spokeswoman Leah Robinson-Leach said the fires damaged the rubber seal on the joint, which protects it from debris and saltwater, and repairs will be needed. However, the damage has not created any safety hazards for drivers, she said.

She said the fires were likely caused by road flares left by
maintenance crews doing work on the bridge, but she did not immediately know what the crews were doing or how many flares were left on the bridge.

Caltrans has not yet determined when repairs on the seal and joint
will take place, she said.

CPUC Judge Recommends $7.3 Million Fine For Uber Subsidiary For Failing to Report Required Information

A California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge
in San Francisco Wednesday recommended a $7.3 million fine for an Uber subsidiary for failing to report required information about the ride-for-hire company.

The subsidiary, Rasier-CA LLC, operates the company’s UberX service in California, which enables passengers to use smartphone applications to hire drivers to give them rides in their private cars.

Administrative Law Judge Robert Mason also recommended a 30-day suspension of Rasier’s operations in California unless the company complies fully with the requirements and pays the fine.

The annual reporting requirements were part of a September 2013 order in which the commission began regulating ride-service companies, which it calls transportation network companies.

Mason wrote in a 96-page decision that Rasier-CA provided some information, but failed to comply fully with requirements for reports in three areas.

The areas were the number of accidents and violations by drivers and the amount of insurance or other compensation paid; the number of rides requested within each zip code and how many were accepted or rejected; and the number of requests for accessible vehicles by wheelchair users and blind people with service dogs, and how many of those requests were accepted.

“Rasier-CA had the ability all along to comply with (the) reporting requirements…yet declined to do so by interposing a series of unsound legal arguments and objections,” Mason wrote.

The decision can be appealed to the five-member commission, and Uber said it will do so. The commission can accept, modify or reject the proposed ruling and any penalties it accepts won’t go into effect until the commission’s final action.

Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend said in a statement “This ruling — and the associated fine — are deeply disappointing. We will appeal the decision.”

Behrend said the San Francisco-based company had already given
substantial amounts of data and said, “Going further risks compromising the privacy of individual riders as well as driver-partners.”

CPUC spokeswoman Terri Prosper said Uber is the only company that failed to comply with the requirements for reporting due in September 2014 for the first year in which the transportation network companies were under CPUC regulation.

Mission District Housing Moratorium Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot

A proposal to enact interim zoning controls, and thereby freeze the development of market-rate housing for 18 months in San Francisco’s Mission District, has qualified for the Nov. 3 ballot.

The proposed measure, certified on Tuesday and entitled the Mission District Housing Moratorium, calls on the city to develop a plan that sets aside at least 50 percent of new housing for households that are low-to-middle income.

The housing moratorium aims to suspend issuance of city permits for construction of new housing, demolition of old housing or conversions, unless for the purpose of creating projects consisting of 100 percent affordable housing.

Permits for demolition, conversion or elimination of industrial spaces in the Mission District would also be suspended unless the site is to be used to create 100 percent affordable housing units.

Jonathan Scott Weaver, an attorney with the San Francisco Tenants Union who helped draft the language for the initiative, said Wednesday that it was intentionally written to be open-ended and allow the community to consider broad solutions going forward.

“There are any number of strategies,” Weaver said, explaining that the overall goal of the moratorium is to put pressure on the city to make choices that allow low, moderate and middle income residents to remain in the city.

Weaver said that under San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s watch, “We’ve overbuilt luxury already,” which he says negatively impacts the community and has led to an exodus of the Latino population.

According to Weaver, 88 percent of the housing built over the last seven years in the Mission District has been luxury, or market-rate, housing and that the needs of those residents who cannot afford to rent or buy luxury housing must be addressed.

Weaver said that Lee “has a lot of friends in the development community who contribute to his campaign,” and that without the interim zoning control, the luxury housing in the Mission District will likely to continue to be built at a rapid pace.

The reaction during signature gathering for the ballot initiative was “very, very positive,” Weaver said.

The moratorium, if passed by voters, would apply to the neighborhood roughly bound by Cesar Chavez Street to the south, U.S. Highway 101 to the north, Guerrero Street to the west and Potrero Avenue to the east.

The Mission District Housing Moratorium would require the city to develop a Neighborhood Stabilization Plan to develop, as well as preserve, housing that is affordable to low, moderate and middle-income households in the Mission District.

The proposal stipulates that units created must be made available to Mission District residents who are facing displacement, but how that would be enforced remains to be seen.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Plan would be required to include an affordable housing development strategy that could use zoning and other land use tools to promote and fund affordable housing development and designation of special use districts, as well as additional incentives for developers who choose to build affordable units, Weaver said.

The moratorium idea previously failed in a vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last month, despite hundreds of supporters who filled the board chambers and testified to being priced out of the neighborhood as young technology workers move in to the area.

The proposed measure would also authorize the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to hold a vote on whether to extend the moratorium by another 12 months.

Ballot Initiative Challenging Airbnb Law to Come Before Voters

The Airbnb law, which has divided San Franciscans on whether there should be limits to short-term housing rentals to mitigate their impact on the long-term housing market, was amended at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting and requires hosts, rather than hosting platforms to report their rental activities.

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos said the law “does nothing more than maintain the status quo. In fact, if anything, there is reason to believe that the new law will make things worse.”

Campos supported an ordinance that failed Tuesday, but that would have capped short-term rentals at 60 days per year and required hosting platforms to verify that a residential unit is on the city registry prior to listing and then require the platform to remove the listing once the unit has been rented for 60 days.

Airbnb and other platforms, such as Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO), would have been required to share usage data with the San Francisco Planning Department. The ordinance would also have provided for criminal penalties against hosting platforms found to be in violation.

Supervisors London Breed, Julie Christensen, Malia Cohen, Mark
Farrell, Katy Tang and Scott Wiener shot down Campos’ proposed ordinance and instead passed an ordinance sponsored by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell.

In a statement released by Campos following the vote, he maintained that, “In this climate, real regulation is impossible without the voters of San Francisco taking control of the issue.”

On Monday, a ballot initiative to limit short-term rentals to 75 days a year, regardless of whether the rental is hosted or not hosted, qualified for the ballot.

The ballot initiative, if passed by voters in the November election, would also require hosting platforms to take listings down once they have been rented on a short-term basis for more than 75 days.

The ordinance that passed on Tuesday shifts the reporting responsibility to hosts and creates an Office of Short-Term Residential Rental Administration and Enforcement.

For now, Airbnb hosts in San Francisco can still rent out their homes for 90 days a year when they are not present and for unlimited days when they are present.

Hosts must still register with the city prior to placing a unit up for short-term rental and it is still considered a misdemeanor offense if they fail to do so.

The ballot initiative would also make it a misdemeanor for housing platforms to unlawfully list a unit as a short-term rental.

Today’s Weather Forecast

Today will be cloudy in the morning with patchy fog before skies begin to clear. Highs will be in the 60s to lower 70s. Southwest winds could reach 5 to 15 mph by the afternoon.

Tonight will see clear partly cloudy to cloudy skies and patchy fog. Lows will be in the upper 50s and southwest winds could reach 5 to 15 mph.

Friday will be cloudy in the morning with patchy fog. Highs will be in the 60s to lower 70s and southwest winds could reach 5 to 15 mph.

(News Roundup Via Bay City News)