BART DELAYS:Planned Weekend Work to Close Tracks Between Coliseum and Fruitvale BART stations

Thousands of BART riders will be impacted by weekend closures of a section of track in Oakland for necessary repair work starting in April, transit agency officials said.

The 7-mile stretch of tracks between the Coliseum and Fruitvale stations will be closed on non-consecutive weekends through August and passengers will have to take a bus between the stations, BART officials announced at a news conference Wednesday.

Eight of the nine planned closures start at 7 p.m. on Saturdays and continue all day on Sundays.

Paul Oversier, BART assistant general manager of operations, said the closures are necessary to maintain the level of service on the system.

Train operators have already reduced speeds from 70 mph to 50 mph along a crossover halfway between the stations because of a track switch in need of repair, transit agency officials said.

One in five BART passengers on any given day travel between the Coliseum and Fruitvale stations, Oversier said.

The roughly $2 million project includes repairing 1,000 wooden railroad ties, 2,000 rail pads, 3,000 feet of rail and four interlocking switches, according to acting chief engineer Tamar Allen.

The railway will be cut off into sections and crews will work on each section for a day, Allen said.

Most of the equipment needed for the work will be transported by rail, she said.

Welded rail will be installed to make for a “quieter and smoother ride,” Allen said.

The weekend closures are estimated to add 30 to 60 minutes to a trip, but can be avoided if passengers make alternate transportation plans.

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit will be providing a dozen buses for free as a “lifeline service” during the closures and more buses may be added if needed, Oversier said.

At peak ridership times on the weekends, the buses are expected to carry about 660 people every 20 minutes, Oversier said.

The buses, which are accessible for the disabled, will travel between the stations along San Leandro Street, Allen said.

Both stations and the Oakland airport connector will remain open during the closures.

Within the next two years, Allen said the agency hopes to repair tracks at other portions of the nearly 45-year-old system, including ones between the San Leandro and Bay Fair stations and between the West Oakland station and the Transbay Tube.

A similar closure took place a few years ago between the Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek stations, but the upcoming closure is the first of its kind since it is at a central part of the system and more extensive, Oversier said.

In the past 12 to 18 months, BART looked at other techniques to complete the work without impacting riders, including making repairs at night when the system was shut down, but that proved to be unsuccessful, he said.

BART is planning the closures around weekends when it anticipates fewer riders, officials said.

The first confirmed closure is on April 5 when the tracks will be closed all day. A second confirmed closure is scheduled on April 18 at 7 p.m. and continues all day on April 19.

The schedule past April may change and updates will be posted on BART’s website.

More information on the closures can be found at

Vera Haile Senior Housing Opens to Serve Low-Income and Formerly Homeless Seniors

A 90-unit apartment building constructed to house formerly homeless and low-income seniors in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood held a grand opening ceremony today.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim were among the community members who celebrated the opening of the Vera Haile Senior Housing complex today.

The 10-story building located at 129 Golden Gate Ave. is comprised of 43 studios and 46 one-bedroom apartments, plus a two-bedroom unit for staff.

Eighteen of the 89 units for seniors are earmarked for formerly homeless senior citizens.

The housing complex is named after one of San Francisco’s leading elder advocates, Vera Haile.

Haile was a staunch supporter of keeping San Francisco affordable for seniors and worked for many years in the city’s Department of Social Services.

She also worked at Self-Help for the Elderly in Chinatown and later served as the executive director of North Market Senior Services, now Curry Senior Center.

Following her retirement, Haile served on the Aging and Adult Services Commission, the Advisory Council to the Aging and Adult Services Department, and the mayor’s Long Term Care Coordinating Council, among many others.

Haile passed away on July 9, 2014 at the age of 79.

Jurors Acquit Man Accused of Fatally Injuring 77-Year-Old Newspaper Vendor

A jury acquitted a man on Monday accused of fatally injuring a 77-year-old newspaper vendor outside a San Francisco BART station in 2013, according to the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Mark Anthony Cassell, who is now 39, was accused of killing newspaper vendor Dallas Ayers in an attack on Jan. 28, 2013 near One Post St. outside the Montgomery BART station.

Ayers was taken to a hospital after the incident and died almost a month later from complications from a broken hip.

Colleagues said Ayers had worked as a newspaper vendor for about 30 years and was on his midday break from the stand in the BART station when he was attacked.

Prosecutors have called the incident a random assault and said the suspect picked the older man up and threw him to the ground.

But defense attorneys said witnesses saw Ayers picked up by someone in a joking manner, then accidentally dropped to the ground, and that the identification of Cassell as the suspect is flimsy.

On Monday night, San Francisco jurors found Cassell not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, elder abuse and assault likely to cause great bodily injury, according to the public defender’s office.

If convicted, Cassell faced up to 11 years in state prison, according to his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Azita Ghafourpour.

Following the assault, a witness took a blurry photo of the attacker, which police distributed in a crime bulletin that led to an officer concluding Cassell resembled the person in the photo.

Cassell has been in custody since he was arrested in March 2013.

“Like the suspect, Mr. Cassell is a Caucasian man with a beard-but that is where the resemblance ends,” Ghafourpour said. “He was an easy target because he was homeless and had mental health issues. He was swept off the street and charged with a serious crime.”

According to the public defender’s office, none of the witnesses were able to pick Cassell out of a lineup as the attacker following the incident, although one witness identified him in court a year later.

Ayers’ attacker was described as 5 feet 8 inches tall while Cassell stands 6 feet 4 inches tall, according to the public defender’s office.

“It did not take the jury long to realize this was a case of mistaken identity,” Ghafourpour said.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi Cassell said Cassell has been living behind bars because his arrest was “based not on evidence but on bias and a rush to judgment.”