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San Francisco’s Unique Character Crumbling as Wealthy Techies Take Over

From AlterNet

America’s favorite city is being Googlized, stripped of artists, minorities, and the non-rich.

It’s not just the 22 construction cranes dotting the San Francisco skyline and 5,000 pricey condos and apartments under construction. Nor is it the fleet of private buses ferrying 14,000 tech workers to Silicon Valley, or the explosion of restaurants and boutiques, or rents doubling, or the spike in evictions, or home sales now averaging $1 million.

What’s happening to San Francisco goes beyond the accelerating gentrification in multicultural districts like the Mission or Mayor Ed Lee minimizing affordable housing woes. The city that’s been a magnet for free spirits and immigrants and working-class people for decades seems to be losing its famous heart. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that its heart is being replaced by a software update.

The best encapsulation of this sea change, which is driven by a booming tech sector that’s generated 13,000 jobs since early 2012, might be this blog from former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor Tim Redmond, who begged the techie beneficiaries to stop treating the city he loves like a “rich kid’s playground.”

“When a 1990s tech-startup guy who admits he was part of the last generation of gentrification is now so fed up with the new arrival of high-paid techies that he’s ready to leave, it’s pretty serious,” he wrote in a piece titled, “The Mission ‘douchebags.’” He ended, “I know, I’m an old fart who is not rich and never will be… But if you’re lucky enough to be rich in your 20s, show some respect.”

All economic booms bring dislocations, but what San Francisco is undergoing seems deeper because unlike past decades, when hippies arrived in the 1960s and gays came a decade later, locals were not displaced. That distinction has also been noted by longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist Carl Nolte and by author Rebecca Solnit, another longtime resident, who recently wrote, “The problem is that we understand Silicon Valley’s values all too well, and a lot of us don’t like them.”

Today’s construction cranes and skyrocketing housing costs are merely the most visible signs of a city in transition. There are two ways to look at that boom—from the vantage of the tech elite like Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who brought the America’s Cup yacht race here but made it so expensive that almost no one can compete, or from the ground up where more of the city’s more pedestrian classes are feeling pressured by the boom.

Websites tracking apartments have declared, “You’re Never Moving Again,” noting that rents in desirable neighborhoods have doubled in less than two years and keep going up. Home prices are not far behind, jumping 35 percent since last year, one-and-one-half times the rate of the region. Downtown parking spaces are selling for $80,000.

Contrary to the breezy headlines, people are moving in and out. But in the latter case it’s not because they want to. Evictions have hit a 12-year high, in part because investors are using loopholes in otherwise strong tenant laws to buy apartment buildings and convert them to private homes. The business model, the San Francisco Tenants Union said, is targeting rental buildings with long-term tenants—as that makes them cheaper—and evicting everyone for resale as condos, tenancies-in-common or new mansions.

Meanwhile, hundreds more longtime residents have been put on notice for possible eviction. The Tenants Union says that the Mission, Haight-Ashbury, North Beach and Inner Richmond neighborhoods are the hardest hit, with upward of 100 households a month losing their longterm housing through a mix of evictions and paid buyouts, most of which aren’t recorded in city hall statistics.

The newly vulnerable are the outside-the-box and working-class people who always have given this city its character, but like San Francisco’s vanishing African Americans, seem destined for one-way tickets out of town.

“I am a 62-year-old senior living with AIDS. After living in the heart of the Castro district in SF for four decades and in my apartment for over 18 years, I am going through the eviction process brought on by the new owners (real estate speculators) through the use of the Ellis Act and through no fault of my own,” wrote Jeremy on his website.

The Ellis Act is a state law that allows rental apartment owners to evict tenants to go “out of business.” Other longtime city residents feel they are not far behind Jeremy.

“Our building is being painted and we are terrified that our landlord will sell the building to someone who will convert it into condos and evict us all! If I am forced out of my place, I will have to leave SF because I have absolutely been priced out as an arts administrator, non-profit worker, and fundraiser for LGBTQ artists,” Elizabeth wrote on TenantsTogether.org, adding she mistakenly thought she was protected by rent control.

These dislocations are the tip of an iceberg of even more startling negative social metrics. Homelessness in the entire Bay Area is up 20 percent since 2011. Food stamp use is at a 10-year high. Latinos are the hardest hit, the S.F. Examiner reports, in the city and to the south in Silicon Valley where’s there’s an educated but struggling tech underclass. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, alcohol-related emergency room visits are up 50 percent compared to five years ago, although it’s mostly people age 45 to 64, not yuppies.

“San Francisco used to be an eclectic city, filled with working-class folks, people of color, lots of artists, and families,” wroteMaria Zamudio, an organizer for Causa Justa, a low-income advocacy group. “But that’s changed dramatically. The black population has dismally plummeted, to 6.3 percent, according to the most recent census. Families of color are streaming out, expensive condos and sky-high rentals are shooting up, and the unique mix that once was the city and made it such a diverse and culturally rich place to live and thrive is changing.”

Zamudio’s comments were in an op-ed in an alternative weekly newpaper urging San Francisco City Hall to take back some of the subsidies given to developers during the Great Recession. Her argument underscores a larger reality about the latest development spree: that it’s been wholeheartedly encouraged by City Hall and business lobbies, despite the city’s rancorous and often ludicrous local politics.

Paving Over Tony Bennett’s Heart

San Francisco’s low-income advocates are well-organized, but most have not focused on development with the persistence of downtown’s business elite and the mayor’s office. The current building boom has been on architects’ drawing boards and in city planning documents for years. Progressive urban non-profits like SPUR have steadily worked to revise city codes to channel development into the neediest zones, but the biggest projects away from downtown have yet to break ground.

SPUR correctly says that nothing in San Francisco development circles is supposed to be fast-tracked. But even their magazine, the Urbanist, becomes breathless when reporting on the scope and speed of the current boom. It’s as if the San Andreas fault exploded from pent-up pressures and released a tsunami of projects flooding the city—starting in desirable areas.

“Twenty-two tower cranes dot the city,” the Urbanist reported. “By year’s end, there will be 26. Many of these cranes are for public projects rather than private development, yet these numbers are staggering by historic standards. Local union halls’ out-of-work lists are empty, and some unions are even calling in workers from other parts of the country.”

The public projects are transit hubs, hospital remodels and new university campuses. But those are not what’s driving longtime San Franciscans from their homes. It’s skyrocketing rents and property values. The new cafes with hand-picked coffee beans from around the world, or new bars with European beers on tap and $20 desserts, are following the infusion of new wealth.

“Halfway into 2012, more than 4,200 new residential units were under construction in San Francisco,” the Urbanist reported. Today, that number tops 5,000. “This is 20 times the number of units that were added in 2011… An additional 32,120 new residential units have been approved by the Planning Department, and applications for another 6,940 units have been filed.”

SPUR notes that historically “spikes in permitting activity are echoed by spikes in new construction three-to-five years later.” That means the city will be entering a growing development cycle that will change its face and continue for years, although, as SPUR notes, not every proposal will be built and at some point the factors driving today’s development surge will expire.

But for now the boom is back and is driven by an exploding technology sector. Many of the world’s top firms have campuses 20 miles to the south. Downtown San Francisco is now home for companies including Twitter, Square, Pinterest, Yelp, Airbnb and others.

The city had 44,429 tech jobs as of the third quarter of 2012, the most recent figures from City Hall. The sector has grown by 50 percent since Mayor Ed Lee took office in 2011 and has an annual job growth rate of 20 percent. These kinds of job figures are seen throughout the Bay Area, but one big difference is lots of people who work in Silicon Valley want to live in San Francisco. As a result, Google, Yahoo, Apple, eBay, Genetech and Facebook all have fleets of buses taking 14,000 people to and from the city.

Silicon Valley is a patchwork of upscale surburbs—not where most young techies want to live. They want San Francisco’s hipper urban neighborhoods, which has often been where artists, writers, musicians, immigrants and other outsiders living paycheck-to-paycheck have lived. That’s caused a cultural clash, because, beyond the jump in housing costs, today’s tech world has strong libertarian and solipsistic streaks. Its droves flocking to the city are often blissfully unaware of their impact outside their ranks.

That’s the bottom line in former Guardian editor Tim Redmonds’ plea to wake up and stop stepping on the vibrant but fragile cultures that came before them. Redmond was taken to task by readers for editorials saying, “Dear newly arrived tech population — with privilege comes responsibility.” But his complaints are not unique. Rebecca Solnit also notes that the Valley’s tech elite are not known for their charitable ways, saying, “Medici in their machinations, they are not Medici-style patrons.”

Yet apparently, this is the demographic that Mayor Lee and the business community wants. The mayor was unaware of a city rent board report putting evictions at a 12-year high, until questioned by a reporter. He recently said he didn’t think the city had an affordable housing crisis, because SF has strong pro-tenant laws. The Board of Supervisors recently restricted the number of tenancy-in-common units that can be converted into condos. That initiative removed an incentive for one corner of the real estate speculator market, and was seen as a victory by low-income advocates. But it’s not the only property play out there.

What’s clear is that the scale of change in the city—the building boom, its dislocations and cultural consequences—is larger than any of the planning efforts and counter measures by local government and activists. Perhaps the most optimistic comment about all this came from a recently arrived New Yorker who works in computer graphics. San Francisco seemed destined to remain hipper than lower Manhattan, he said, where the financial sector has driven almost everyone else away.

Indeed, many San Franciscans are determined to stay put. In the Mission, bar-hopping hipsters and liberal supervisors are trying to save the ‘Tamale Lady,’ who sells snacks after midnight—apparently violating city codes. But others, like Jeremy, the four-decade Castro resident with AIDS facing eviction after 18 years in a rent-controlled apartment, stopped updating his website. He has to watch his health before preparing for a Ellis Act court date, he said in an e-mail.

It may be that the affordable housing of the future is in the city’s outlying blighted corners or in 300-square-foot micro units in trendy neighborhoods, which have also been seen in New York. But San Francisco is undeniably being colonized by a new generation of tech workers, and longtime residents who aren’t part of that workaholic world are seeing their homes and lifestyles imperiled. And there’s little they feel they can do to stop that demise.

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San Bruno Demands Release of All CPUC Records in PG&E Explosion Penalty Phase Case

San Bruno officials today demanded the release of key internal California Public Utility Commission documents relating to the CPUC’s penalty decision-making process in the PG&E San Bruno explosion case following the San Francisco Chronicle’s disclosure of internal emails suggesting illegal interference by CPUC Commissioners.

San Bruno also demanded that the CPUC identify the individuals, or “fairies” as the CPUC safety division director Jack Hagan has called them, who supplied the information used to come to a decision on a recommended — and now controversial – failure by the CPUC to fine PG&E for the Sept. 9, 2010 PG&E explosion that killed eight San Bruno residents, destroyed 38 homes and tore a hole in the center of the city.

The City has called for the information to be provided to San Bruno by close of business tomorrow, June 26 or the city will take further legal action.

Further, the City said it demanded correspondence among CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio, Executive Director Paul Clanon, and Administrative Law Judges Mark Wetzel and Amy Yip-Kikugawa.  The city believes this correspondence “will show impropriety between senior management and the administrative law adjudicatory process.  This clearly raises serious questions of objectivity and fairness.  Under the law and basic tenets of transparency in government, San Bruno has a right to receive this email chain immediately.  If the CPUC makes a false claim of privilege in order to save face, San Bruno will file a writ of mandate demanding that the documents be produced,” the demand to the CPUC states.

“The latest revelations add to a long list of possible illegal activity at the CPUC,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “The integrity of the CPUC is at stake–as is the safety of every Californian. We are calling for full transparency of all communications so that we can feel confident that the CPUC is not in the pocket of the very utility company it has been tasked to regulate.”

San Bruno recently called for an investigation by the California Attorney General and the State Legislature into the re-assignment of top CPUC safety division attorneys handling the PG&E investigation who refused to sign Hagan’s $2.25 billion penalty recommendation. Two weeks ago, all were reassigned by Frank Lindh, head of the PUC’s legal team and a former legal counsel for PG&E, after raising concerns over what one of them called Hagan’s “unlawful” proposal that was “contrary to what our team had worked to accomplish in the last two and a half years.”

The new revelations in today’s leaked emails, obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, reveal Hagan not only threatened and intimidated CPUC attorneys – Hagan is known to carry a concealed gun and a knife into the state agency’s San Francisco office – but that he also credited anonymous individuals he called “fairies” as having supplied him with the terms of his recommendation favorable to PG&E.

San Bruno officials have said the revelations demonstrate that even highly regarded career professionals within the CPUC are fed up with the cozy relationships and conflicts of interest between the CPUC’s leadership and PG&E.

“The CPUC attorneys who refused to buckle to Hagan and his “fairies” should be considered public heroes for their refusal to follow Hagan’s orders,” said Ruane.

According to the leaked e-mails, two of the reassigned attorneys questioned Hagan about the list of PG&E expenses he had wanted to include as deductions in his $2.25 billion recommendation. When asked who had compiled the list, Hagan had responded: “Some fairies… I don’t have to tell you. Just include the items or else.”

San Bruno officials are now demanding to know the identity of the “fairies” as a matter of public interest, saying those sources suggest possible ex-parte contact and could pose an illegal interference in the case.

“We demand to know who the “fairies” are, their identifies, and any telephone, email, or other records that shed light on who really directed Hagan’s recommendation not to fine PG&E,” Ruane said.

Other attorneys within the PUC seem to share San Bruno’s concerns, revealing in emails that they believe Hagan may be operating with PG&E’s interest in mind – without any concern for the victims of San Bruno demanding justice. One PUC attorney, Travis Foss wrote in an email to Lindh that Hagan “is taking a position that is antithetical to the public interest, and directly beneficial to PG&E.”

San Bruno officials are demanding that the CPUC not destroy any documents or e-mails – which would violate state law – and instead make all records public immediately.

“The City of San Bruno is seeking justice for PG&E’s decades of mismanagement and yet the CPUC’s top staff and PG&E continue to play Russian roulette with the lives of Californians,” Ruane said. “We ask for full transparency so that some semblance of integrity can be restored in this process.”

 

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Top CPUC Attorney Calls upon Attorney General Kamala Harris to Investigate Charges Against Him of Unethical Action in PG&E San Bruno Explosion Case

This evening there is a growing firestorm in the California Public Utilities Commission legal department as attorneys are openly questioning the ethical behavior of the CPUC’s General Counsel Frank Lindh in removing attorneys from the penalty phase against PG&E for its gross negligence in the San Bruno explosion and fire.

The top public safety division attorneys quit the case this past week after spending nearly three years of their careers attempting to bring Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to justice for the death and destruction caused by its failure to maintain its pipeline in the center of the City of San Bruno.

The safety division attorneys rebelled and had refused to put their names to a CPUC document because they told the CPUC General Counsel Frank Lindh of its illegality.  Insiders say the overwhelming majority of attorneys in the CPUC are now lining up against Lindh and in support of their colleagues.  They are privately raising issues of conflict of interest between CPUC President Michael Peevey, PG&E and Frank Lindh, who formerly was a PG&E employee prior to joining the CPUC.

A number of news stories by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jaxon Van Derbeken, NBC 11 investigative reporters Tony Kovaleski and Liz Wagner, Mercury News Reporter Joshua Melvin and editorials in the Merc News and Sacramento Bee have shed light on CPUC conflicts and now the State agency appears to be spinning out of control.

Last night a special investigative report by NBC 11 reporters Kovaleski and Wagner showed CPUC President Peevey at a PG&E employee union event honoring him for his ‘leadership in safety’ which raises questions about conflict of interest as well as video footage that shows his possibly illegal ex-parte contact with CPUC safety division director Jack Hagen.

There is a growing revolt and more news and action is expected this week from attorneys inside the CPUC as well as parties in the case against PG&E, which includes its own Division of Ratepayer Advocates,  consumer advocate TURN, the City and County of San Francisco’s City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and the City of San Bruno, which has called upon attorney General Kamala Harris—followed by the same call from Lindh—to investigate the CPUC immediately.

The conflict has broken out into an open dispute this week when Lindh found he was talking to an unfriendly forum—his own staff—when he gave the keynote speech Monday at a legal conference his agency is hosting, according to a report first published by The Recorder reporters Max Taves and Cheryl Miller yesterday and picked up today in the American Bar Association Journal and Law.Com.

Attendees from around the country watched as top in-house CPUC lawyer Frank Lindh was heckled during his speech about staff attorneys at a “hypothetical” utility regulator who lacked judgment and loyalty, the Recorder reports.

Specifically, his speech discussed what duty of loyalty is owed by a staff lawyer who strongly disagrees with a client’s legally permissible position on a rate-setting proposal.

“My solution in this circumstance would be to ask for a reassignment, but also to take steps to make sure I am not leaving my client in the lurch by withdrawing at the last minute,” said Lindh. “In the end, it all comes back to loyalty.

Under the canons of ethics, I simply cannot be disloyal to my client, even in the circumstance where I disagree strongly with my client’s wishes.”

His comments at the National Conference of Regulatory Attorneys conference in San Francisco were apparently relevant to the recent reported reassignment of an entire team of CPUC lawyers. They were responsible for handling litigation over Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s culpability in a 2010 natural gas explosion and fire that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

The four-lawyer team had taken a position that supported the city of San Bruno’s call for more than $2 billion in fines to be imposed on the gas company, and the city asked earlier this month for the state attorney general and lawmakers to look into the lawyers’ reassignment.

In a Friday interview, Lindh also said the AG should investigate—to set the record straight—and said he “begged the attorneys to stay on the case,” the Bay Area News Group reported in an article published by the San Mateo County Times.

They withdrew from the case,” Lindh said, “and they left me with the obligation to fill in behind them.”

However, in an email to Lindh leaked to the newspaper that was also sent Friday, assistant CPUC general counsel Harvey Morris said the team had not sought reassignment. He said they had refused to sign a brief they believed to be unethical, apparently over concerns that it made unlawful recommendations about the penalties that should be assessed against the gas company in the San Bruno case, according to the Bay Area News Group article and other media reports.

Because you did nothing to resolve our ethical concerns, one attorney asked to be taken off the case, and then you claimed that all of us asked to be reassigned,” Morris wrote.

Frank Lindh, CPUC General Counsel Accused of Conflicts with PG&E, calls upon California Attorney General to Investigate Him, CPUC Actions

 

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Final Design Renderings Revealed for Prime Castro Market Corner

Designers of the proposed project slated to rise atop Arco Gas Station (376 Castro St.) have released a new version of the 65 foot tall, six story building set to break ground soon.

The SF Planning Department, Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, Merchants of Upper Market/Castro and Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association all requested architect Mitchell Benjamin work with them to rethink the original design and make it more modern and conducive to the surrounding neighborhood as a condition of having their plan approved. The building will be a dominant feature of the Castro. No one was interested in seeing just another residential box design perched there.

The redesigned rendering of the 6 story building soon to be constructed on the northwest corner of Market and Castro.

376 will sport 24 residential units-5 one bedroom and 19 two bedrooms-3,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, 14 car parking spaces and 12 for bikes. Additionally a street-level, community room for neighborhood groups to hold meeting in is included.

The developers have also chosen to offer Below Market Rate (BMR) units on site bucking the popular trend of many others buildings currently under construction who instead contribute to a City trust set aside to develop affordable housing at a as yet undetermined future date.

The Planning Department had this to say about the new design:

The building is a fusion of a bold transparent element at the intersection of Market and Castro Streets flanked by solid walls with rhythmically patterned window openings, balconies, and bay projections. The corner element is a spandrel glass system with non-tinted glazing and an aluminum frame in a warm, pewter color paint finish. The solid walls are clad with terra cotta tiles, grounding the building with a dark grey at the base of the building and a random palette of terra cotta red and buff colors for the body of the building. The precise palette may include less color variety than presented.

The building is flanked by a shallow bay window system on both Market and Castro Streets, and will be clad with the same aluminum color as the corner element. The roof terrace has a windscreen of glass and mesh that is a continuation of the corner transparent element, and it will be capped with a pewter colored aluminum cornice. Balcony rails are either comprised of clear glass elements or painted metal rails.

This will be a drastic change for the northwest corner of Castro/Market situated opposite Castro’s newly designated historic landmark, Twin Peaks Tavern, and the iconic Gay flag. Critics noted residents who lie behind the new project sunny views will soon be blocked by their new towering neighbor. Others worried the new build accommodates only half of its new residents parking needs pushing all overflow vehicles out onto already tight street parking.

Wether or not you applaud or abhor this project the truth is the ink is dry and the deal is done. Many new emigrants to SF want to claim the Castro as home. Real estate is limited with less than 2% rental vacancy reported per year throughout the neighborhood. New builds are inevitable.

376 Castro developers did the right thing working with all three of the organized (and often cantankerous) neighborhood groups, adjusted their original vision, supplied useable community space and provided desperately needed, affordable, BMR units.

 

From The Castro Biscuit

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FEMA To Replace California Forest With Chemical Wasteland

It’s no secret that wildfires are becoming more common. Residents of states like California, Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado have become accustomed to daytime smoke and sudden evacuations. Still, the developers who want their money continue to build homes and businesses in high risk areas.

Now, in California, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and land grant recipients the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), City of Oakland and East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), want to mitigate the threat by chopping down the trees and leaving behind a vacant lot soaked in Monsanto herbicides.

Here’s how FEMA describes the project:

The proposed projects include the removal of non-native trees (primarily eucalyptus, Monterey pine, and acacia), chipping cut trees, and leaving many of the chips in place for sediment and invasive weed control. The agencies would apply herbicides to the cut stumps to prevent resprouting. Additionally, they might reuse large logs to control erosion on slopes and, in some areas, might thin or remove native vegetation such as coyote brush. The agencies might burn cut brush and branches in piles and might use further control measures such as grazing or herbicide spraying on foliage.

According to estimates by MillionTrees.me, a blog project dedicated to saving trees in the San Francisco Bay Area, the project would result in the elimination of over 70,000 perfectly healthy California trees. FEMA claims that, though the area will be left covered in approximately 24 inches of wood chips, it will eventually replant itself with native grasses and plants. There are plenty of reasons to doubt this assumption, however, and they come in bottles made by Monsanto.

“The stumps of eucalypts and acacia will be sprayed with an herbicide (Garlon with the active ingredient triclopyr) soon after the trees are cut down to prevent resprouting,” explains MillionTrees. “An estimated 1 – 2 ounces of formulated herbicide will be required for each stump. Based on an experiment conducted by East Bay Regional Park District, an estimated 5% of the trees will require retreatment of subsequent resprouts. They are therefore predicting that between 633 and 1,266 gallons of herbicide will be required to prevent resprouting if only 5% of the stumps require retreatment as they claim…Herbicide (Roundup with active ingredient glyphosate) will also be sprayed to control non-native vegetation…”

In short, the planet will lose almost 100,000 perfectly healthy trees, and Monsanto will make a tidy profit by providing the government with the toxic chemicals it needs to prevent them from regrowing.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/fema-to-replace-california-forest-with-chemical-wasteland.html#ixzz2W3vFyhDi

by Beth Buczynsk, Care2.com

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California Center for Sustainable Energy Rolls Out Plug in Vehicle Presentation in San Francisco

San Francisco residents learned about recent advancements in the electric vehicle revolution sweeping across California this week at a presentation by California Center for Sustainable Energy.  The event featured presentations and an owner panel discussion on plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) as well as test-drives of some of the newest models for 2013.

“The Future is Electric: Plug In and Get There” was sponsored by the California Center for Sustainable Energy, SF Environment and San Francisco Clean Cities Coalition.

California is the nation’s largest PEV market with roughly 35 percent of the U.S. total. During the fourth quarter 2012, sales of PEVs in California reached a record-setting 2.5 percent of all new cars purchased or leased in the state.

During the workshop, Colin Santulli a CCSE transportation program manager outlined the financial and environmental benefits of PEV ownership and the currently available incentives. CCSE administers the statewide Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, a program of the California Air Resources Board. Since 2010, CCSE has issued more than $42 million in vehicle incentives and helped to educate Californians on the availability and benefits of zero-emission vehicles.

“By making the switch to cleaner, more efficient plug-in electric vehicles, individuals can reduce their use of petroleum and help create cleaner air for all of us,” Santulli said. “This workshop was a great opportunity for people to learn about the first-hand experiences of their neighbors who already own PEVs.”

Representatives from Pacific Gas & Electric and ICF International gave presentations aimed at consumers considering making the switch to a PEV. After the presentations, a PEV fair on Fulton Street included vehicle displays and test-drives and exhibit booths featuring PEV technologies, car-sharing and alternative transportation. Cars available included the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, BMW ActiveE and Ford Focus.

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) is an independent, nonprofit organization that accelerates the adoption of clean and efficient energy solutions including administration of the statewide Clean Vehicle Rebate Project for the California Air Resources Board. For more information and workshop listings, visit www.energycenter.org or call 858-244-1177.

 

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Santa Clara Supervisor Candidate Teresa Alvarado Lobbied for PG&E—Now Advocates Reform, but in the Past She Lobbied for 37% Energy Rate Hikes

Currently promoting herself as ‘the candidate for reform,’ District 2 Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors candidate Teresa Alvarado was once a lobbyist for Pacific Gas & Electric Co., where her job was to defend residential and commercial utility price increases of up to 37 percent for Bay Area residents, records show.

Today, Alvarado likes to position her role at PG&E as an advocate for solar energy, but records show she was also a government relations lobbyist for the monopoly utility. One of her jobs was to advocate for rate hikes and urge consumers to reduce energy consumption to decrease utility bills.

Just months before PG&E would announce that it was declaring bankruptcy, records from the Los Altos City Council meeting of Feb. 27, 2001, note that “Teresa Alvarado, Public Affairs Representative from Pacific Gas and Electric, provided the Council with a history of deregulation in the industry and identified one of the major reasons for the electric and gas shortages and increased costs as supply and demand, noting that energy demands have grown faster than anticipated. She distributed and summarized a pamphlet entitled “An Important Energy-Saving Message from Pacific Gas and Electric Company” as well as an outline of her comments, as well as an outline of her comments, dated February 27, 2001, which were incorporated into the record.”

The Los Altos Town Crier newspaper reported that when Alvarado was a lobbyist for PG&E, PG&E had a program called “Riding out Summer 2001,” where she explained rate increases PG&E sought from the State of California.  At that time, the California Public Utilities Commission set new electric rates which increased small commercial users’ bills an average of 37 percent. Residential customers saw an average increase of 7 to 37 percent depending on usage.

“This is not a pleasant discussion,” said Teresa Alvarado, PG&E representative told the The Los Altos Town Crier in its May 23, 2001 edition. “We have a crisis this summer and you can make a difference by reducing 10 percent of your energy use.”

These days, Alvarado, a candidate for Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors District 2 in a run-off election with Cindy Chavez, to succeed disgraced former Santa Clara County District 2 Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr., is running to reform county government that she said allowed Shirakawa’s secretive ways to thrive, while Chavez is running on her accomplishments as a two-term San Jose City councilwoman.

One of Alvarado’s first direct mail pieces to voters in District 2 says one of her platforms to move half the Supervisor’s meetings from the daytime until after 6 p.m. “when community members can attend—not just paid lobbyists.”

Alvarado’s mailer positions her as “The Reformer We Need.”  Whether she is a reformer or a lobbyist cloaking herself in reformer’s clothing remains to be seen.

 

The Many Faces of Theresa Alvarado

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Two Productions from Bay Area Playwrights Festival Receive Productions Nationally and in the UK

Playwrights Foundation is happy to announce that two productions that were part of the Foundation’s Bay Area Playwrights Festival (BAPF) 2012 have received awards and multiple productions in the 2013-14 season. Christopher Chen received the Glickman Award for the The Hundred Flowers Project, a co-production of Crowded Fire Theater and the Playwrights Foundation. The Hundred Flowers Project will be mounted by Chicago‘s Silk Road Rising in the 2013-14 season.  George Brant’s Grounded will receive three productions through the The NATIONAL NEW PLAY NETWORK (NNPN) Continued Life of New Plays Fund in the 2013/14 season, as well as productions in 5 other cities including two in the UK.* see list below

The process of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival gives writers a multi-faceted approach over three weeks – starting with an artists retreat without actors, followed by rehearsals, and two public readings separated by another week of rehearsals. This naturally leads to the exploration of new ideas — playwrights are at the center of the process

“The BAPF experience was truly magical and gave the script the final push it needed…this script has had many angels along the way, and you were certainly one of them.” playwright George Brant  (Grounded)

“What we do for the development of new plays during the Bay Area Playwrights Festival has proven over and over to be of tremendous value. George Brant is a hugely talented writer. And he still needed a lot of time to hone down on his script by hearing it in rehearsal — without the added focus on all the production elements. It’s amazing to watch a really exceptional actor, and playwright interacting in the room. And, then to note that the work, the audience interaction, the nights talking through each line was all worth it.” Amy Muller artistic director Playwrights Foundation.

 

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Rock Health to Move to Mission Bay

New Rock Health Lease Provides Space for New Innovative Digital Health Startup Companies & Highlights Mission Bay as Growing Center for Digital Health

Today Mayor Edwin M. Lee and Rock Health CEO Halle Tecco announced that digital health leader Rock Health will move their headquarters to Mission Bay in 2013. Rock Health supports entrepreneurs working at the intersection of healthcare and technology through a startup accelerator, public events, and open-source research.  Rock Health chose Mission Bay for its proximity to both the startup hub in South of Market (SoMa) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

“Rock Health’s move to Mission Bay comes at a critical time as San Francisco implements national health care reform and is striving to give residents more choices for healthier lifestyles,” said Mayor Lee. “We are partnering with innovative companies such as Rock Health to disrupt the way we do business and, at the same time, improve the health care industry. Rock Health’s new proximity to UCSF doctors, entrepreneurs and scientists at our small startups, pharmaceutical companies and investors will accelerate advances in the life science, healthcare and technology industries here in San Francisco.”

“Rock Health is committed to engaging with the brightest minds in healthcare to further innovation. Our choice of Mission Bay and new partnership with Alexandria reaffirms this commitment, and will enable us to support not just our portfolio companies but also the broader startup ecosystem,” said Rock Health Founder and Chief Executive Officer Halle Tecco. “This move will enhance our ability to collaborate with groundbreaking researchers, clinicians, and corporate partners in our industry.”

Rock Health will establish an open and creative space designed to bring together Rock Health’s network of investors, startup founders, and healthcare professionals, who are working together to make meaningful change in health through scalable, innovative, and groundbreaking technology. Rock Health will begin its fifth accelerator program, comprised of 11 startups, on June 10th. These companies, which deliver everything from intelligent software to wearable sensors to smartphone-enabled personal diagnostics, were selected out of a competitive applicant pool from across the country.  Companies were selected based on their potential to provide disruptive and transformative solutions to the nation’s most pressing healthcare challenges.

Rock Health’s move from their current location at 615 Grant Avenue to Mission Bay follows on the UCSF announcement in May 2013 of the creation of a state-of-the-art Center for Digital Health Innovation.

The City’s Mission Bay development covers 303 acres of land between the San Francisco Bay and Interstate 280. The 35-year plan for Mission Bay includes 6,000 total residential units (1,700 of which are affordable units) and 1 million square feet are allocated for the two hospitals. Mission Bay currently includes more than 1.7 million square feet of commercial office and lab space as well as 3,455 housing units already available or in use with more units of retail and office space coming out of construction soon. Anchoring institutions include University of California San Francisco (UCSF), California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), Gladstone Institutes and the Veterans Administration. There are 130 life science companies which are located or announced moves to San Francisco, 57 of which are in Mission Bay.

The building where Rock Health will locate, 455 South Mission Bay Boulevard, is owned and operated by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.

“For years, Mission Bay has been at the forefront of life science innovation,” said Alexandria Real Estate Equities Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Founder Joel S. Marcus. “Now, with Rock Health’s announcement that it will establish its global headquarters in Mission Bay, immediately proximate to UCSF and its new Center for Digital Health Innovation, this world-class ecosystem has emerged at the leading edge of the digital health revolution, as well. The intersection of life science and digital health is the wave of the future, and Mission Bay is poised to be at its epicenter.”

Mayor Lee last month announced a new biotech incubator at 953 Indiana Street in San Francisco’s Central Waterfront area called QB3@953 to advance QB3’s work to support life science companies and create jobs in California by providing two key elements of success for startups: efficiency and networking.

About Rock Health

Rock Health is powering the future of the digital health ecosystem, bringing together the brightest minds in health and technology to build better solutions. Rock Health supports digital health entrepreneurs through a startup accelerator, public events, and open-source research. Through their accelerator program, Rock Health provides crucial funding, mentorship and operational support to selected high-potential, early stage start-ups, nurturing the next generation of the digital health ecosystem to develop transformative tools that can be swiftly adopted by the marketplace to revolutionize health.  Founded in 2010, Rock Health is funded by top health, technology, venture capital and consumer product companies, and is backed by a wide network of mentors, advisors and partners, including leading hospitals.  Rock Health partners include Aberdare Ventures, Accel Partners, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Boehringer Ingelheim, Fenwick & West, GE, Genentech, Harvard Medical School, Kaiser Permanente, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mayo Clinic, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Montreux Equity Partners, NEA, Ogilvy Public Relations, Qualcomm Life, Quest Diagnostics, Silicon Valley Bank, UnitedHealth Group, and UCSF.  For more information, go to: www.rockhealth.com.

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Sixth and Howard, where hundreds died

For 16 years, a unique San Francisco landmark has stood at the corner of Sixth and Howard streets. It’s an abandoned old hotel, its exterior crazily adorned with couches, chairs and doors seemingly caught in the act of flying out its windows.

The 1997 installation by artist Brian Goggin is a superb example of public art, but it may not last much longer: Plans are afoot to raze the 104-year-old Hugo Hotel next year and replace it with a nine-story apartment complex featuring 67 units of affordable housing. Goggin says his work, aptly titled “Defenestration,” is a commentary on the downtrodden neighborhood and its inhabitants, many of whom are people society has thrown out. It’s an eloquent message.

But that frozen flying furniture also carries another, inadvertent meaning – a much darker one. For it was just across the street from where the Hugo Hotel now stands that the most appalling tragedy of the 1906 earthquake and fire took place.

In the early 20th century, the South of Market area was the most densely populated part of the city outside of Chinatown, home to thousands of working-class and poor people, many of them immigrants and transients. Sixth Street was lined with cheap hotels and boarding houses. Most of them were two- or three-story wooden structures, but many corner lots featured five-story rooming houses that could contain up to 300 small rooms.

One such building, the Brunswick House, stood on the northwest corner of Sixth and Howard, across the street from today’s Hugo Hotel. Three other, smaller, rooming houses stood next to the Brunswick, going north toward Natoma Street: first the Ohio House, then the Lormor, and finally theNevada House, on the corner of Sixth and Natoma. These four wooden buildings contained more than 1,000 rooms.

Area was swampland

Until the late 19th century, much of the South of Market area was swampland, part of the extensive wetlands that ringed old Mission Bay, which was once an actual bay that extended deep into the Mission District. The area around Sixth and Howard had once been known as “Pioche’s Lake,” a sunken area created by the Hayward Earthquake of 1868 then filled in. In an earthquake, “made ground” tends to liquefy. San Franciscans knew that even then, but it did not deter them from building on landfill: No less than one-sixth of the city’s 1906 population of 410,000 lived atop some type of reclaimed land.

The quake hits

At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, a massive earthquake took place on the San Andreas Fault near Mussel Rock in Daly City. Its shock waves raced toward San Francisco at 4,000 miles an hour. When they hit Sixth and Howard, they literally pushed the land under the buildings eastward. Watery soil under the foundations liquefied. Unbalanced structures began to tip. Then they started to fall.

It was a hideous game of dominoes. As the Nevada pushed against the Lormor, the Lormor fell on the Ohio House, which in turn fell on the Brunswick House, knocking it over and ramming it into the middle of Howard Street.

William Stehr was in his third-floor room in the Nevada House when the quake hit. Stehr was trying to decide whether to jump out the window to the Lormor House next door when the Lormor suddenly collapsed in a “cloud of dust from which I could plainly hear the agonizing screams of the inhabitants,” according to a recounting printed in the Argonaut journal in 1926.

Stehr was trying to open his door when “I felt the floor tilting and sinking under me, and I knew the house was going down like the others. So I hung on instinctively to the door handle while the whole floor dropped. As it sank, I felt three distinct bumps as the lower floors collapsed in turn under the weight of the roof and top story. With each bump came a frightful crash and cracking of timbers and glass and the cries of other people in the house who were being destroyed. The cries of the people who were being killed, especially the women, were dreadful to hear.”

The carnage was horrific. Two female doctors quickly arrived at the Brunswick House, but it was too late to save those trapped in the wreckage.

A terrible cry

One of the doctors wrote, “There was a terrible, low-heart-rending cry of utter resignation” from the people inside the ruins. Flames quickly consumed the wrecked buildings and everyone still alive in them.

The total number of those killed near Sixth and Howard will never be known, but it could be 500 or more. Eyewitnesses estimated that 150 to 300 people died inside the Brunswick alone. Whatever the final toll, Sixth and Howard was the place where the most people died during the earthquake and fire. And the permanently falling furniture that adorns the Hugo Hotel is a grimly appropriate reminder of that horror.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Sixth-and-Howard-where-hundreds-died-4588225.php#ixzz2VgDuoGJR

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The 17th annual Marin Art Festival is ON!

The Marin Art Festival at Lagoon Park on June 15 and 16 showcases the finest arts and crafts in Marin. The festival is a fabulous way to get a sampling of what’s going on all over the nation in painting, sculpture, jewelry and fine ceramic. Truly a masterpiece in itself, the Marin Art Festival combines a serious professional art exhibit with the natural beauty and casual atmosphere of a lawn party. The Lagoon Park at the Marin Center Fairgrounds is an extraordinary setting prompting some of the artists refer to this event as “the most beautiful art festival in America!”

In addition to the 200 artists displaying their works in bright pavilions all over the grounds, the entertainment includes world, R&B, Rock and Jam music designed to get folks dancing at the main stage. The popular Reggae band Lumanation and Jam Band Moonalice are a few of the bands scheduled to play. See full schedule below. Unique to the Marin Art Festival are the magical stilt – walkers, clowns and strolling musicians.

Arts lovers are invited to stroll through the sculpture gardens in a setting that is both leisurely and exciting. Children’s entertainments include face painting and creating their own arts projects, including a gift for Dad on Father’s Day. Sit-down garden areas for coffee, dessert treats and the glass of wine. Festival foods include oysters, veggie wraps and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Beverages include popular and premium beers, fine wines and sodas.

Enter the hourly raffle for $100 worth of art and patrons who buy $100 in art get a free pass to the next year’s event.

Every year the Marin Art Festival celebrates an artist in the community. To be chosen as a Marin Master the person must not only be a fine artist but must have dedicated themselves to furthering the arts in the community. This year’s Marin Master is Sausalito painter Jack Beck. An accomplished painter with a studio in the Industrial Center Building (ICB), he won the Grumbacher Award from the Marin Society of Artists (1993), and a Marin Arts Council Individual Art Grant (2004) for excellence in painting.

Jack, now 92, founded the First Tuesday Mill Valley Art Walk (1982) with Marin Art Festival Director Tyson Underwood. In 1990, during his five year stint as a Mill Valley Art Commissioner, Jack created the Mill Valley Paint-Off, an annual plein-air painting competition in the Mill Valley Plaza, now in its 22nd year. Over a four-hour period, 35 artists interpret any scene visible from the Plaza and create their final work, a moment in the life of downtown Mill Valley. Jack has personally funded the Jack Beck Award for the Most Original Work.

This is a great way to celebrate Father’s Day with plenty of things to do for the whole family and Dad can drink beer and soak up the sunshine and music.

Saturday and Sunday, June 15 & 16, 10AM to 6PM. $10, kids and parking are free.

 

About Tyson Underwood, Director of the Marin Art Festival:

Tyson moved to Marin in 1969 – had never been involved in the arts until he met the late Tim Rose of Sausalito. Tim founded the ICB and the Sausalito Art Festival, both of which Tyson was very involved. Tyson served as Director of the Sausalito Art Festival for 10 years starting in the early 70′s. Tyson took up art himself as a painter and learned the lingo of art. He has been a very successful artist liaison and promoter of the Arts in Marin. He was one of the founders of the Marin Arts Council and their first president. He was also instrumental in founding the Headlands Center for the Arts and was given the task of selecting the government buildings that would become the Artists spaces for the Center. Tyson served on their board for 12 years. He stared the Marin Art Festival 17 years ago, as he wanted to create a festival that was artist centric and catered to their needs. He is very loved and trusted by the art community.

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Recognized Business and Community Leader Dennis Wu Elected Chair of Recology Board of Directors

Internationally recognized business leader and accountant Dennis Wu is the newly elected chairman of Recology, the leading independent employee-owned recycling and landfill diversion services company in the western United States.

Mr. Wu is the managing partner and co-founder of WuHoover & Co., a professional CPA firm, and has served as a member of the Recology board for the past five years.

He founded WuHoover after a 37-year career at Deloitte & Touche where he served as partner-in-charge of Deloitte’s Enterprise Group in Northern California, managing partner of the San Francisco Emerging and Midsize Business Group, national managing partner for its Southeast Asia Desk Program, and national managing partner for its Greater China Desk Program. He is a former president of the Commonwealth Club and a former member of the board of directors of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and San Francisco Ballet.

“We are pleased and honored that Dennis is the new chair of our board,” said Recology President and CEO Michael Sangiacomo. “Dennis’s knowledge of our business, coupled with his independent and visionary thinking, brings the type of independent leadership we are seeking for our board of directors.”

Wu’s experience ranges from serving start up, privately held, high growth, and publicly listed companies in a variety of industries including not-for-profit, distribution, electric and gas, financial services, health care, manufacturing, service oriented, and venture capital companies. He also led numerous diversity projects while at Deloitte and served as one of five national leaders for the firm’s Diversity initiative as well as regional diversity leader for Northern California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Northwest.

In April, insurance executive Larry A. Colton, CEO of G2 Insurance Services, and recycling executive George P. McGrath, EVP and COO of Recology, were named to Recology’s board of directors.

Recology is an employee owned integrated resource recovery and landfill diversion company that provides collection, recycling, compost, consulting and disposal services to homes and businesses in the western United States.

The company manages municipal processes and services, including urban cleaning services, collection, sorting, transfer, recovery, and landfill management.

The company name, Recology, reflects its unique success record in driving resource recovery to unparalleled levels through recycling and composting.

Recology companies operate in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington coordinating dozens of recycling programs to recover a variety of materials. Recology programs have been replicated throughout the country and serve as a national model for resource recovery initiatives.

Recology is:
• The largest employee-owned company in the resource recovery industry, partnered with over 116 communities;
• Parent to over 40 subsidiaries that provides integrated services to over 670,000 residential and 95,000 commercial customers in California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington;
• Recognized as the industry leader in resource recovery, having established the first and largest curbside yard trimmings and food scraps collection program in the country.

Recology is 100 percent owned by the Recology Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and not by any outside investors.

Recology has been honored multiple times by the national Employee Stock Ownership Plan Association for the quality of its ownership program and its positive impact on corporate performance.

The Recology ESOP makes it easy for Recology to focus on providing long-term, sustainable solutions to our customers. It strengthens teamwork and collaboration by tying employees’ performance to the overall success of the company.

As the largest employee-owned company in our industry, Recology believes that its individual and collective hard work and dedication directly correlates to its long term success

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Summer Special at Squat and Gobble: Dinner for Four for under $40

Squat and Gobble is known for great deals on breakfast and brunch.  With a new dinner special recently announced, Squat and Gobble is becoming a perfect economic option for dinner, as well.

To introduce customers to some new dinner menu items this summer, Squat and Gobble is offering a deal to groups of four after 5 pm– 4 entrees for $37.95.  This includes any of the dinner items on the menu at its four San Francisco locations.

New menu offerings include a wide array of wok items, such as Blazing Beef, Prawns with Giant Shanghai Noodles, and Thai Chicken Curry.  These have been added to other dinner favorites like Angus Beef Rigatoni and Sausage Trottole.

“We are known for great neighborhood food at family-friendly prices,” according to managing partner Issa Sweidan.  “We want to let our customers know that there still are places in the city where you can get a delicious meal with hearty portions without breaking the bank.”

The dinner special is also available for parties of three ($28.95) and two (19.95).

The four Squat and Gobble locations include:  Haight, Lower Haight, Castro and Chestnut Street.

 

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Local 2 UNITE HERE Union Leader Mike Casey Denigrates Navy, Marines, Disabled Veterans: Sued by Centerplate For Violation of Federal Labor Law, Attempt to Eliminate Nonprofits In San Francisco AT&T Park Labor Dispute

 Local 2 UNITE HERE President Mike Casey: No Need for Military Veterans to Have Prosthetic Limbs

San Francisco– Centerplate, the concessionaire at AT&T Park today filed a dynamic lawsuit against Local 2 Unite Here union for violations of national labor laws and for attempting to block charity groups and nonprofits from raising money at the ballpark.

Centerplate said Local 2 is attempting to illegally force the San Francisco Giants into signing a “successor addendum” that would bind the baseball team, and any future concessionaire at AT&T Park, to the same terms Local 2 negotiates with Centerplate. This action is illegal under the federal labor laws, Centerplate officials said.

Normally, the legal charges as Centerplate made today are filed with the National Labor Relations Board, but Centerplate said immediate action is necessary by the legal system to protect the Giants, Centerplate and nonprofits from Local 2’s illegal activities, which could harm all the parties. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and seeks damages and declaratory relief.

Furthermore, the lawsuit says Local 2 President Michael Casey seeks to end Centerplate’s relationship with nonprofit organizations, forcing out such groups as St. Teresa Music and Arts, Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Athletes Committed to Academics, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, the United States Navy, and others nonprofits, from working at the stadium to raise money for their charitable works.

“Local 2’s President scoffed at the value of the (nonprofit) program at one point stating that the U.S. Navy did not need to work a stand at the ballpark to pay for prosthetic limbs for wounded Veterans,” the lawsuit states. “Casey also quipped about the Marines, “Why don’t you have them man a boat and they can sell hot dogs on the water,” according the lawsuit against Local 2.

The nonprofits make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through partnering with Centerplate at Giants games by staffing concession stands and earning commissions based upon sales for their charitable work. Local 2 is now demanding Centerplate pay a penalty of $200 for each volunteer used for charitable work, which would eliminate Centerplate’s ability to partner with nonprofits.

“Local 2 has overstepped the bounds of the law and of humanity,” said a spokesman for Centerplate.  “They are illegally attempting to force the Giants into a labor dispute between Centerplate and the union and wrongly trying to harm the many nonprofits that rely upon income from their charitable work at AT&T Park. We are going to fight to win this battle for Centerplate, our employees, our customers and the charitable causes which we support.”

This past week, Local 2 union leaders walked out on contract negotiations with Centerplate and a Federal Mediator, refusing to accept or to even make an economic counter proposal and thereby denying, for the time being, Centerplate’s employees at AT&T Park the economic benefits that would flow from a new contract.

Local 2 Unite Here publically acknowledged that Centerplate’s employees are already the highest paid workers in the concession industry. In a YouTube video posted on May 12, the union spokesperson is quoted saying “so what if they’re (the employees) the best paid…that doesn’t mean anything.”

As a seasonal, part-time labor force, Centerplate’s employees currently earn the highest wages in the nation, making an average of approximately $15 to $20 per hour. These part time employees also receive some of the best benefits, with fully paid healthcare individually and for their families. To ensure seamless exceptional service for fans, Centerplate has made an offer than includes:

  • A 4.5 percent ratification bonus for those who worked more than 40 games in 2012
  • A 1.7 percent annual wage increase on top of the best compensation package in the industry
  • Increased contribution of 9.2 percent to the Unite Here benefit plans
  • Employer paid health care for employees and their families

Since early this year, Centerplate has been in negotiations over a new contract. The previous one expired in 2010 but was continued from year to year when Unite Here failed to request new negotiations. Even after it sought to make changes to the existing agreement, Local 2 dragged its feet and delayed negotiations for months. Throughout this time, Centerplate has been encouraging Local 2 to move quickly to find a solution.

“Nothing is more important to Centerplate than our employee partners and the customer service experience we provide guests. Local 2’s threats are an attack against our guests and the community groups we partner with at AT&T Park. It is time for Local 2 to come back to the table and focus on a realistic agreement,” spokesman Sam Singer said.

Centerplate said in the unfortunate event of a strike by Local 2 that “protecting the guest experience at AT&T Park is paramount and it will not be disrupted as the company has contingency plans in place in the event of a labor action.”

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San Francisco Giants AT&T Ballpark Union Local 2 Refuses to Negotiate, Walks Out on Centerplate, Federal Mediator

Unite Here Local 2 union leaders have walked out on contract negotiations, refusing to accept or to even make an economic counter proposal and thereby denying, for the time being, Centerplate’s employees at AT&T Park the economic benefits that would flow from a new contract.

The union unilaterally left negotiations with Centerplate and a federal mediator last Thursday, refusing to make a counter offer to Centerplate’s economic package, which improves upon the industry leading compensation already received by Centerplate’s employees.

Local 2 Unite Here has acknowledged AT&T Park employees are already the highest paid workers in the concession industry. In a YouTube video posted on May 12, the union spokesperson is quoted saying “so what if they’re (the employees) the best paid…that doesn’t mean anything.”

For AT&T Park’s seasonal, part-time labor force, Centerplate’s employees currently earn the highest wages in the nation, making an average of approximately $15 to $20 per hour. These part time employees also receive some of the best benefits, with fully paid healthcare individually and for their families. To ensure seamless exceptional service for fans, Centerplate has made an offer than includes:

  • A 4.5 percent ratification bonus for those who worked more than 40 games in 2012
  • A 1.7 percent annual wage increase on top of the best compensation package in the industry
  • Increased contribution of 9.2 percent to the Unite Here benefit plans
  • Employer paid health care for employees and their families

Since early this year, Centerplate has been in negotiations over a new contract. The previous one expired in 2010 but was continued from year to year when Unite Here failed to request new negotiations. Even after it sought to make changes to the existing agreement, Local 2 dragged its feet and delayed negotiations for months. Throughout this time, Centerplate has been encouraging Local 2 to move quickly to find a solution.

“Nothing is more important to Centerplate than our employee partners and the customer service experience we provide guests. It is time for Local 2 to come back to the table and focus on a realistic agreement,” spokesman Sam Singer said.

Centerplate said in the unfortunate event of a strike by Local 2 that “protecting the guest experience at AT&T is paramount and it will not be disrupted as the company has contingency plans in place in the event of a labor action.”

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Patton Boggs Law Firm Sued by Chevron for Fraud and Deceit in Ecuador Lawsuit: Did Patton Boggs Know of ‘Ghostwriting’ of Fraudulent Ecuador Judgement?

Since late 2010, Washington, D.C. law firm Patton Boggs has been poking a sleeping tiger. It has filed three peculiar federal lawsuits — in its own name, not on behalf of any client — against Chevron, the third-largest corporation in the United States. These cases have fared poorly; two were quickly dismissed, and a federal magistrate judge recommended tossing the third in March.

 

On Friday, the tiger awoke. Chevron (CVX) sought a federal judge’s permission to bring counterclaims against the 455-lawyer firm for alleged fraud and deceit for its conduct in representing the Amazon Defense Front, which obtained a $19 billion environmental judgment against the oil giant in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, in February 2011. Chevron also seeks to charge the firm with “malicious prosecution” for having pursued its three lawsuits in bad faith. Chevron seeks to hold the law firm liable for any damages Chevron suffers from the Front’s allegedly fraud-infested litigation, plus punitive and treble damages.

 

In a statement, Patton Boggs wrote: “Chevron’s proposed complaint against Patton Boggs is perhaps the starkest example yet of how Chevron will use its limitless resources to intimidate and harass anyone that dares to help the Ecuadorian Plaintiffs in their 20-year battle for justice … Patton Boggs has acted conscientiously, ethically and in good faith at all times since becoming involved in this case in 2010, and will not be intimidated by Chevron’s scare tactics.” (See the full document here.)

 

Patton Boggs began representing the Front in February 2010. The firm is being paid on a partial contingency fee basis, under an agreement that gives it a 2.4% stake in the Ecuadorian judgment, according to earlier filings by Chevron. Thus, the law firm theoretically stands to make about $450 million if the Ecuadorian judgment can ever be collected. (Chevron has virtually no assets in Ecuador.)

 

Patton Boggs’s team working on the Lago Agrio case has been led by James Tyrrell, Jr., a regional managing partner of the firm’s New York and New Jersey offices and a member of its executive committee.

 

At the time Patton Boggs got involved in the matter, Chevron’s lawyers had just begun filing a series of U.S. court proceedings, known as Section 1782 actions, to attempt to expose fraud, fabrication of evidence, and other chicanery that Chevron claims the Front engaged in to obtain the Ecuadorian judgment. Patton Boggs’s task was, among other things, to assist the Front in resisting Chevron’s efforts to unearth such evidence.

 

Notwithstanding the Front’s and Patton Boggs’s efforts, Chevron eventually did obtain much of the evidence it sought, and in February 2011 it filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case in Manhattan against the Front’s leaders, including its top U.S. lawyer and strategist, Steve Donziger. Last July, in a ruling on a partial summary judgment motion in that case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan found that the March 2011 Ecuadorian judgment was, in fact, “unquestionably … tainted” by fraud. More recently, in a discovery order in March 2013, he also found that there was “probable cause” to believe that Front representatives “bribed the Ecuadorian judge to obtain the result they wanted and, as part of the deal, wrote the judgment to which the judge put his name.”

 

(The Front has repeatedly and unsuccessfully sought to remove Judge Kaplan from the case, accusing him of bias in strident and borderline contemptuous terms.)

 

One of the reasons Judge Kaplan found it likely that the Ecuadorian judgment was ghostwritten by the Front’s lawyers is that it incorporates large passages that appear to have been lifted verbatim from internal Front legal memoranda that were never introduced into the Ecuadorian court record. In the proposed complaint, Chevron alleges that at least one of the lifted passages incorporates Patton Boggs’s own work product.

 

Thus, it alleges, “Patton Boggs either knew in advance of the ghostwriting of the judgment against Chevron or must have become quickly aware of it once Chevron began to make the evidence known, and yet Patton Boggs continued to further the fraudulent scheme … Despite the uncontradicted evidence to the contrary, Patton Boggs has falsely asserted in the U.S. that this judgment is legitimate and not the product of a corrupt process in which Patton Boggs and/or its co-counsel colluded with the Ecuadorian court or court experts.”

 

Another focus of Chevron’s proposed complaint is Patton Boggs’s alleged role in “direct[ing] the creation of a declaration” signed by Front lawyer Pablo Fajardo that was filed in a Section 1782 action in Denver federal court in May 2010.

 

In his March 2013 ruling, Judge Kaplan called the Fajardo declaration “a seriously misleading account of what had happened” and, again, found “probable cause” to believe that “at least some” of the Front’s representatives “had committed mail and/or wire fraud and obstructed justice … by formulating and filing” it. The Front later filed the Fajardo declaration in at least eight other U.S. courts around the nation, including Kaplan’s.

 

Also in dispute is a strategy Patton Boggs allegedly “orchestrated” of hastily seeking testimony from seven newly hired experts — known internally at Patton Boggs as the “cleansing” experts — and introducing their written testimony into the Ecuadorian court record in late 2010 in an effort to give the Ecuadorian court something to base its opinion upon other than a court-appointed expert’s report that Chevron alleges (and appears to have proven) was secretly ghostwritten by the plaintiffs lawyers.

 

Chevron alleges that the cleansing experts in fact simply relied on the fraud-tainted report and that Patton Boggs’s lawyers tried to conceal that fact.

 

Chevron also takes issue with Patton Boggs’s continuing attempts to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment in foreign courts, including, so far, those of Canada, Argentina, and Brazil, “despite overwhelming and un-rebutted evidence that the Ecuadorian judgment itself, and the [court-appointed expert's report] upon which it is based, were fraudulently ghostwritten by the LAPs’ own team.”

 

Finally, Chevron faults Patton Boggs for having helped the Front secure funding for its allegedly fraud-tainted litigation by allegedly misleading the investment fund Burford Capital, which specializes in litigation finance. Burford has since renounced its interest in the case and has accused both the Front’s leaders and Patton Boggs’s Tyrrell of having made false representations to lure it into the case. (Patton Boggs has responded in the past that it is “fully confident that it has acted appropriately and ethically.”)

 

Chevron’s proposed complaint is based on documents already in its possession that relate to Patton Boggs’s role in the case, but it is already in the process of trying to obtain many more documents from the firm. In March Judge Kaplan ordered Patton Boggs to begin turning over millions of pages of files in the case, finding that any attorney-client privilege was pierced by the so-called crime-fraud exception. He wrote: “PB participated heavily in certain critical activities that make it likely that it is an important and, in many respects, unique source of evidence of the alleged fraud that is available nowhere else and that at least some of the materials in its possession or control were in furtherance of crimes or frauds regardless of whether PB was aware of them.”

 

Chevron’s new proposed claims against Patton Boggs are not being leveled in the RICO case itself, which is scheduled to go to trial in October, but rather as a counterclaim in a case Patton Boggs itself brought against Chevron in Newark last year, which was transferred to Manhattan earlier this year.

 

That case is the third of Patton Boggs’s suits against Chevron, which are the subject of Chevron’s “malicious prosecution” allegation against the firm. The string of Patton Boggs suits began in November 2010, when it sued Chevron seeking a preemptive declaration that Patton Boggs had no conflict of interest in representing the Front — though Chevron had not moved to disqualify it. (The potential conflict related to Patton Boggs’s July 2010 acquisition of the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, a lobbying firm that Chevron says was representing it with respect to its Ecuador litigation between 2008 and 2010.)

 

Patton Boggs later added Chevron’s main outside counsel, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, as a defendant, and also accused Chevron of “tortious interference with contract” for having allegedly interfered with the Front’s ability to find financing with which to pay Patton Boggs. U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy, Jr., dismissed this and a second, nearly identical Patton Boggs suit against Chevron in April, July, and August of 2011, and an appeals court unanimously affirmed both dismissals in June 2012.

 

By then, Patton Boggs had filed the third suit against Chevron in Newark. This one had to do with a $21.8 million appeal bond that Judge Kaplan had required Chevron to post when, in March 2011, he granted a preliminary injunction barring the Front from trying to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment outside Ecuador. After the injunction was vacated by an appeals court in January 2012, Chevron asked Judge Kaplan to release the bond — i.e., give Chevron back the money it had posted.

 

Patton Boggs opposed Chevron’s motion, but instead of simply doing so in a motion before Judge Kaplan on the Front’s behalf, it filed an entirely new lawsuit in Newark on Patton Boggs’s own behalf. Later Patton Boggs added a “malicious prosecution” claim against Chevron for its having identified Patton Boggs as a “co-conspirator” (though not a defendant) in its RICO suit. In December 2012, Newark federal judge Esther Salas transferred the case to Judge Kaplan in Manhattan, criticizing Patton Boggs’s “jurisdictional maneuvering.” (Judge Kaplan released the bond in April 2012, and Patton Boggs has appealed that order.)

 

In March 2013, Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV in Manhattan recommended dismissal of Patton Boggs’s third suit, and Patton Boggs has appealed to Judge Kaplan. Chevron’s new claims against Patton Boggs for fraud and deceit, filed today, come as counterclaims in that case.

 

It seems likely that Patton Boggs was already losing money from its representation of the Front — that was an underlying premise for all three of its lawsuits against Chevron — and the counterclaim against it by Chevron cannot help its situation. Patton Boggs did not respond to a request for comment on whether the Front was in arrears on payments owed to it.

 

Last week another of the Front’s U.S. law firms, Houston’s, Smyser Veselka & Kaplan, asked to withdraw from the RICO case, saying it was owed almost $1.8 million in fees. At the same time, Donziger’s law firm in that case, Keker & Van Nest — which the Front had also been paying, under the terms of its retainer agreement with Donziger — also asked to withdraw, saying it was owed more than $1.4 million in fees.

 

According to the Wall Street Journal, Patton Boggs laid off 65 lawyers and staff in late February, after a decline in profits. Its annual revenues were down 6.5% in 2012, the article said, while its profits fell 14%.

 

By Roger Parloff-Fortune, May 13, 2013

 

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CPUC President Michael Peevey Caught in The Act: He Ducks California Senate Hearing for Napa Valley Drinks with PG&E Executives

The embattled president of the California Public Utilities Commission recently ignored the call to answer tough questions by state senators in Sacramento and instead decided to attend a conference at an exclusive Napa resort and a reception at an upscale winery in St. Helena, both of which were captured on hidden camera by the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit, headed by reporter Tony Kovaleski. See the shocking story that most likely will cost Peevey his job as head of the CPUC after Governor Jerry Brown sees this news video: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/LEGALPeeveys-Priority–205838301.html

Michael Peevey was asked to appear before the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee on April 25 to justify keeping the job he has held for the past decade. The senate hearing was in response to growing conflict over a confidential report, uncovered by the Investigative Unit, which raises questions about the CPUC’s commitment to safety and its relationship with utility companies the agency regulates.

“The governor needs to replace the president of the Public Utilities Commission,” Sen. Jerry Hill said in an interview with NBC Bay Area last month. “The current president has been there for many years and he has had a very cozy relationship with the utilities, which this report indicates.”

Hill’s call for change at the CPUC was recently echoed by two lawmakers.

“I think the question is, who should be leading this organization so the people of California are safe,” San Jose assemblywoman Nora Campos said at a recent legislative hearing.

At that same hearing Los Altos assemblyman Richard Gordon added, “I have come to the point where we need serious change in the leadership of the PUC to bring change.”

After calling for his job two weeks ago, Hill wrote Peevey a letter formally requesting his presence at the subcommittee hearing. The letter states, “For all the shortcomings under your leadership at the CPUC over the last ten years as documented by independent reports… it’s critical that you testify…to justify your continued appointment as the president of the California Public Utilities Commission.”

Instead of addressing the conflict, Peevey kept a prior engagement at the Silverado Resort and Spa in the heart of Napa. According to the agenda, the conference was about clean energy, and Peevey was scheduled to give a short five to seven minute presentation for the non-profit organization, California Foundation for the Environment and the Economy (CFEE).

Before the conference started, at around 11 a.m.—the same time he was expected in Sacramento—NBC Bay Area’s hidden cameras spotted Peevey mingling with guests in the resort conference center.  The day officially started at noon, with a catered lunch after invited guests such as a representative from Pacific Gas & Electric and, somewhat ironically, more than two dozen Sacramento lawmakers, checked in at the event. Peevey gave his presentation at 1:30 p.m.—two and a half hours after he was scheduled to speak in Sacramento.

After four hours of conference sessions Peevey boarded a luxury bus and drove through the Napa Valley to the next event on the agenda—a reception and dinner at St. Helena’s exclusive Merryvalewinery. For more than three hours, Peevey ended his day inside the facility along with more than 100 guests.

Following the reception, NBC Bay Area’s Chief Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski met Peevey outside the winery to ask questions about his priorities, and the confidential report. Below is a transcript of a part of the conversation:

Tony Kovaleski: You were asked to speak to senators today about the safety of your PUC. Instead you spent your day here in Napa.

Michael Peevey: No, that’s not true.

Kovaleski: What is the message you sent by coming here to Napa instead of going to speak to the senate?

Peevey: You are very antagonistic you know. You are reading a script.

Kovaleski: Sir, I am not reading a script. I want to give you an opportunity to respond.

Peevey: But your questions are the wrong questions.

Kovaleski: You spent time here with the utilities you are paid to regulate.

Peevey: There’s no utilities here that I know of.

Kovaleski: PG&E was here. We saw them on the list.

Peevey: Oh, there may have been one person, I don’t know.

Kovaleski: That report said your agency is too cozy with utilities. Is that true?

Peevey: No. Stop. That’s one person who said that. That’s not what the report said. There was no conclusion in the report. It was an interview with various individual employees of the Public Utilities Commission.

Kovaleski: Sir, you have been asked by lawmakers to step down. Lawmakers have said you should be fired. Should you be fired, sir?

Man with Peevey: No, he shouldn’t be fired. They don’t have the authority.

(Peevey starts to walk away).

Peevey: You poor son of a b****. You have a job to do. It’s pathetic what you are doing. It’s pathetic.

(Peevey gets into a car).

Kovaleski: Sir, should you answer to lawmakers when they ask to speak with you? What’s the message you sent tonight by coming here?

(Car drives away).

NBC Bay Area asked to speak with Peevey about the confidential report prior to the conference in Napa, but did not receive a response to that request from the CPUC. The CPUC did provide a written statement about the report:

The CPUC has made safety an underlying principle in all its actions. As we work to instill a corporate culture in our regulated utilities that embraces safety as a tool and an enhancement to their mission, we must ensure we do the same at the CPUC. We have hired consultants to help us in our process of culture change across all the industries we regulate. As part of these efforts, our consultants conducted an informal survey of internal employees to see what they think safety means, how they see their role in safety, and how they think we can do better as an agency. The report is the result of the informal survey; it is not an analysis of our safety culture or conclusions by our consultants, but a reporting-back of what some employees said in informal focus groups. As the report says, “This report is not an evaluation of the objective truth of those views and perceptions.”  We will use the results of the report to help us define what we need to change, develop strategies and actions to implement the changes, and ensure accountability as the process continues.

This is not the first time Peevey has snubbed lawmakers for an all-expense paid event. He was asked to speak at an assembly committee meeting in 2011, but reports indicate he accepted a free trip to Sweden that was funded by the Swedish government and the California nonprofit, The Energy Coalition.

When asked by reporters in April about his confidence in the leadership of the CPUC, Gov. Jerry Brown said Peevey is “well-experienced.”

“He’s flawed like everyone else in this building,” Brown said, “but he has a lot of knowledge and he has great commitment.”

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Chevron Wins Another Round in Ecuador Fraud Case: Case Against Oil Company in $19B Pollution Case Collapsing

Chevron continues to battle charges against the oil company in Ecuador and win victory after courtroom victory against Steven Donziger and the plaintiffs in the fraudulent case of pollution in the Amazon region of Ecuador.

Just yesterday, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice stayed an action initiated by the Ecuadorian plaintiffs seeking to have a judgment of an Ecuadorian court against Chevron Corp. [NYSE: CVX] recognized and enforced in Ontario.

This latest success for Chevron comes right after a series of blockbuster announcements by former members of Donziger’s plaintiffs’ team who have now switched sides and joined Chevron, announcing the work they did for Donziger and the Ecuadorian was fabricated or faulty because they, too, were misled by Donziger.

Add to these recent announcements that a former Ecuadorian judge revealed that he accepted bribes from the plaintiffs’ team along with another Ecuadorian judge to draft rulings in favor of the plaintiffs and you have a lawsuit that is a better read than anything John Grisham has ever written.

The Canadian court ruled yesterday in the case and wrote:

“The plaintiffs (Steven Donziger, Ecuadorians) have no hope of success in their assertion that the corporate veil of Chevron Canada should be pierced and ignored so that its assets become exigible to satisfy a judgment against its ultimate parent.  There is no basis in law or fact for such a claim.… Ontario courts should be reluctant to dedicate their resources to disputes where, in dollar and cents terms, there is nothing to fight over.  In my view, the parties should take their fight elsewhere to some jurisdiction where any ultimate recognition of the Ecuadorean judgment will have a practical effect.”

In response, Chevron Corporation issued the following statement:

“We are pleased with today’s decision from Justice Brown. The Ontario Superior Court ruled that it ought not to entertain the plaintiffs’ claims on the evidence before the court. This is a significant setback to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ worldwide enforcement strategy given that it is premised on seeking to enforce the judgment against assets of Chevron Corporation subsidiaries that were not even parties to the Ecuadorian litigation.”

“The plaintiffs should be seeking enforcement in the United States – where Chevron Corporation resides.  In the U.S., however, they would be confronted by the fact that eight federal courts have already found the Ecuador trial tainted by fraud.”

Meanwhile, Chevron Corp. has made additional notable progress in the legal proceedings in the United States exposing the fraudulent nature of the plaintiffs’ judgment.  This evidence further demonstrates that the judgment is illegitimate and should be unenforceable in any court that respects the rule of law.  Evidence of the plaintiffs’ fraud includes:

  • A former Ecuadorian judge has admitted his role in orchestrating the fraudulent judgment against Chevron and a half-million-dollar bribery scheme.
  • Stratus Consulting, the lead environmental consultants to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ lawyers, provided sworn declarations (here and here), highlighting the lack of scientific merit to the plaintiffs’ damage claims.
  • Another of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ environmental consultants, Dr. Charles Calmbacher, has testified that plaintiffs’ evidence was being falsified from the very outset of the trial.
  • Litigation hedge fund Burford Capital has provided a sworn declaration outlining the firm’s knowledge of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ misconduct, testifying that the proceeding is irredeemably tainted by fraud.

Chevron Corp. remains committed to holding the plaintiffs’ lawyers accountable for their misconduct and demonstrating the judgment is the product of a corrupted judiciary.

Chevron Corp. is defending itself against false allegations that it is responsible for alleged environmental and social harms in the Oriente region of Ecuador.  Chevron never conducted oil production operations in Ecuador, and its subsidiary Texaco Petroleum Co. (“TexPet”) fully remediated its share of environmental impacts arising from oil production operations, before leaving Ecuador in 1992.  After the remediation was certified by all agencies of the Ecuadorian government responsible for oversight, TexPet received a complete release from Ecuador’s national, provincial, and municipal governments that extinguished all claims before Chevron acquired TexPet in 2001.  All legitimate scientific evidence exonerates Chevron and proves that the remediated sites pose no significant risks to human health or the environment.

More information on the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ fraud can be found here.  Additional background on the Ecuador litigation can be accessed here and here.

 

Chevron is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies, with subsidiaries that conduct business worldwide. The company is involved in virtually every facet of the energy industry.  Chevron explores for, produces and transports crude oil and natural gas; refines, markets and distributes transportation fuels and lubricants; manufactures and sells petrochemical products; generates power and produces geothermal energy; provides energy efficiency solutions; and develops the energy resources of the future, including biofuels.  Chevron is based in San Ramon, Calif.  More information about Chevron is available at www.chevron.com.

 

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Energy Upgrade California Gives Energy Efficiency Tips to Save Energy, Money, Environment

The average California home loses 30 percent of its energy each day and in the fast approaching summer months that number can spike due to hot outdoor temperatures and the increased usage of cooling systems in homes.

From simple tasks such as installing a programmable thermostat or closing curtains on hot summer days, to leveraging local and statewide rebates—up to $4,500—on home improvements, homeowners can take control of how their home  uses energy, save money on their utility bills and be more eco-friendly in the long term.

Energy Upgrade California recommends homeowners follow these 10 Quick and Easy No-Cost Energy Saving Tips to help save money on utility bills and make their homes more comfortable in the warm summer months:

  1. Take control of your thermostat. Set your thermostat to 78ºF or higher when you’re at home, and 85ºF when you’re gone. Keep inside air vents clear from furniture and other objects. Turning up your thermostat by just two degrees and use your ceiling fan instead can lower air conditioning costs by up to 14%.
  2. Turn your water heater down. Many homes’ hot-water heaters are set way above the recommended 120-degree temperature. Unfortunately, every 2.5 degrees above the mark unnecessarily boosts your hot water bill by about 1%.
  3. Cook with small appliances. Cook with your toaster oven, electric skillet and slow cooker for specialized jobs, rather than the range. Small appliances use less energy.
  4. Avoid using heat-producing appliances. If you’re home during the day, try to reduce the use of the oven, range, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer.
  5. Turn off the faucet. Many of us tend to leave the faucet running while we wash dishes, brush our teeth or shave. Turning on the faucet only when necessary can save thousands of gallons of water a year, not to mention the energy needed to heat it.
  6. Keep the blinds and windows closed during the day and open at night. This is a no-cost way to keep your home a little cooler.
  7. Keep lights off in unoccupied rooms. Get in the habit of turning off the light every time you leave a room for more than a few minutes.
  8. Turn off power adapters when not in use. Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use—TVs and DVDs in standby mode still use several watts of power.
  9. Check the thermostat on your refrigerator or freezer. Use the energy efficient settings. 35 degrees Fahrenheit for your fridge and 0 degrees Fahrenheit for your freezer.
  10. Air-dry your dishes and clothing. Air-dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle and hang your clothes out to dry instead of putting them in the dryer.

If you are looking for even more ways to save and are ready to take additional steps towards energy efficiency, you can follow these Low-Cost Energy Saving Tips:

  1. Replace old appliances. One of the first culprits of energy loss is inefficient and outdated appliances. By replacing energy-wasting appliances you are able to get that much more output with far less energy.
  2. Replace filters often. Keep air conditioner filters clean. They should be cleaned or replaced once a month during the season. If you can do so safely, clean the exposed grill and spines of the outside unit.
  3. Use Energy Star compact fluorescent light bulbs. Energy Star compact fluorescent light bulbs last longer and use up to 75 percent less energy than standard light bulbs. You can cut your electric bill by $60 per year if you replace the standard bulbs in your five most frequently used light fixtures.
  4. Install energy-efficient showerheads. Use efficient showerheads and faucet aerators. They reduce the amount of water released by up to 50 percent, with almost no noticeable difference in pressure.
  5. Put up white shades for your windows and install light-colored awnings. White shades will reflect the heat in the summer. Some studies report that an awning can reduce heat gain in your home by up to 77%.

If California homeowners would like to take additional steps towards creating a completely energy efficient and environmentally friendly home they can learn more about home energy assessments and home upgrades at EnergyUpgradeCa.org.  Energy Upgrade California offers the Basic and Advanced energy efficiency upgrade packages tailored to each homeowner’s specific needs. You choose the one that works best for your goals and budget. Here are some of the upgrades Energy Upgrade California may suggest:

  1. Repair cooling and heating ducts. Repair old ducts by patching them up to adequately heat and cool your home. By allowing the loss of your hot air through the ducts you must overcompensate with your heater usage to reach the same temperature.
  2. Thermostatic shower control. A thermostatic control valve shuts off the shower once the water turns warm, in order to save hot water until you are ready to enter the shower.
  3. Fix home air leaks. Closing off the air leaks in your home around doors, windows, attics, vents, and elsewhere in between reduces drafts and keeps warm air from coming in during summer months. Sealing air infiltration may decrease your energy consumption by up to 10%.
  4. Install energy-efficient windows. Installing energy-efficient windows can save as much as 24% off your air conditioning bills. Energy efficient windows will prevent outside air from entering your home and keep your inside at a constant temperature. If you live in an older home, consider replacing your inefficient aluminum, wood, or metal windows with newer ones, as these types of windows tend to transfer hot and cold air into your home.
  5. Insulate, Insulate, Insulate. Increase the insulation levels in your house, from your attic, walls or doors.

About two-thirds of the single-family homes in the Bay Area could benefit from these kinds of improvements.  Recent studies have found that eco-friendly and energy efficient homes sold for as much as 8.5% more than other homes. In addition, homes receiving official environmental certification by a third party group such as the U.S. Green Building Council sold for as much as 25% more than regular homes.

About Energy Upgrade CA

Energy Upgrade California is a program of the California Public Utilities Commission in collaboration with the California Energy Commission, California counties, cities, nonprofit organizations, and the state’s investor-owned utilities. It is your one-stop-shop for home improvement projects that lower your energy use, conserve water and natural resources, and make your home healthier and more comfortable. For more information, visit www.energyupgradeca.org.

 

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Executive Recruiter David Nosal of Nosal Partners Convicted of All Charges in FBI Investigation and Federal Grand Jury Trial

SAN FRANCISCO—David Nosal, an executive recruiter based in San Francisco, was convicted of all charges in a six-count indictment by a federal jury today, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced. Nosal is founder and president of Nosal Partners, a member of NGS Global.

The jury found that Nosal had conspired to gain unauthorized access to the computer system of his former employer, the executive search firm Korn/Ferry International, and to illegally obtain trade secrets belonging to Korn/Ferry. The jury also found Nosal guilty of three substantive computer intrusions in April and July 2005 and two substantives trade secret offenses that occurred in April 2005. The guilty verdict followed a two-week jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen.

Evidence at trial showed that Nosal, 55, of Danville, entered into an agreement with other Korn/Ferry employees in 2004 to take confidential and proprietary materials from Korn/Ferry’s computer system to be used in a new business that Nosal intended to establish with those individuals after he left Korn/Ferry’s employment in late 2004. The evidence showed that two of those employees downloaded large numbers of “source lists” (essentially, targeted lists of candidates developed by Korn/Ferry for the purpose of filling particular positions at particular client-companies) prior to their own departures from Korn/Ferry. Thereafter, those two employees used the Korn/Ferry login credentials of another conspirator who was still employed at Korn/Ferry to download additional source lists and other information from Korn/Ferry’s computer system in April and July 2005 for use in Nosal’s new business.

The trial in this case occurred after remand from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had affirmed then-District Court Judge Marilyn H. Patel’s pre-trial dismissal of several computer intrusion counts.

Nosal was initially indicted by a federal grand jury on April 10, 2008. The government obtained superseding indictments on June 26, 2008 and February 28, 2013. In the most recent superseding indictment, Nosal was charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of unauthorized access to a computer used in interstate or foreign commerce or communication, one count of unauthorized downloading and copying of trade secrets, and one count of unauthorized receipt and possession of stolen trade secrets. Nosal was found guilty on all six counts of this indictment.

The sentencing of Nosal is scheduled for September 4, 2013, before Judge Edward M. Chen in San Francisco. The maximum statutory penalty for the conspiracy charge in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371 and the unauthorized access charges in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030(a)(4), is five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate. The maximum statutory penalty for the trade secret charges is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Assistant United States Attorneys Kyle F. Waldinger and Matthew A. Parrella and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Jenny C. Ellickson are the attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rayneisha Booth, Elise Etter, Beth Margen, and Hui Chen. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

David Nosal of Nosal Partners

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California Public Utilities Commission President and Commissioner Must Recuse Themselves, City of San Bruno Says in Legal Filing Over CPUC Ex-Parte Discussions with PG&E

CPUC President Peevey Must Recuse Himself

San Francisco—The City of San Bruno today filed a legal motion demanding CPUC President Michael Peevey and Commissioner Michel Florio recuse themselves from an upcoming “safety” event featuring PG&E executives, noting it is illegal and unethical for the regulatory agency to participate when it will stand in judgment of the utility and fine it for the Sept. 9, 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, injured 60, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more. The safety symposium will focus on the same subject matter that is at issue in the CPUC investigations: natural gas safety and emergency response.

 

The California Public Utilities Commission Safety Symposium featuring PG&E is scheduled for May 7-8 in San Francisco to “explore solutions to safety within California’s utility services and infrastructure sectors” and “will focus on natural gas safety issues,” according to the invitation.

 

Among the scheduled speakers and panelists are PG&E President Chris Johns, PG&E SVP of Gas Operations Nick Stavropoulos, CPUC President Michael Peevey, CPUC Commissioner Michel Florio, CPUC Executive Director Paul Clanon, and CPUC Safety Director Jack Hagan.

 

“This is like the defendant in a criminal case taking the judge to play golf together before the judge rules on his case and his penalty,” said attorney Steven Meyers of the Meyers Nave law firm, representing the City of San Bruno.

 

The legal filing cites the symposium for being an illegal ‘ex-parte’ contact between the regulator (CPUC) and defendant (PG&E) at a critical time in the CPUC hearing process in the San Bruno explosion and fire case. The filing says “the participation of the defendant and the judges… (is) a violation of the law” and calls it “unethical and inappropriate.”

 

“On its face, the PG&E-CPUC Safety Symposium appears to be a step forward in promoting natural gas safety,” San Bruno’s filing says.

 

“However, upon further scrutiny, this Safety Symposium is nothing but a forum for PG&E to put on a dog and pony show in front of two out of the five Commission decision-makers charged with determining the fines and penalties warranted by PG&E’s past misconduct, right in the middle of unprecedented and high-profile CPUC investigations into PG&E’s deficient management and operation of its natural gas system.”

 

In conclusion, the filing says “San Bruno urges the CPUC to demonstrate to the intervenors in these proceedings, the residents of San Bruno, and to the public at large that its commitment to accountability is more than mere posturing, and to do so in these cases that are gravely important to the residents of San Bruno and the ratepayers of the State of California.  San Bruno has a strong and vested interest in a CPUC process that follows the rules.   San Bruno has participated in these proceedings in good faith for over two years in reliance on the belief that a just, transparent, reasonable outcome which is in the public interest can be achieved.  San Bruno cannot achieve this outcome when the very decision-makers that are determining PG&E’s fate will be in the same room with PG&E discussing natural gas safety in a forum other than the courtroom.”

 

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Recology Recycling Gets New Board Members as Insurance Company Exec and Recycling Pro Join Board

SAN FRANCISCO–Two prominent California businessmen have been elected to the board of directors of Recology, the leading independent employee-owned recycling and disposal services company in the western United States.

Insurance executive Larry A. Colton, CEO of G2 Insurance Services, and recycling executive George P. McGrath, EVP and COO of Recology, were named to Recology’s board of directors on April 18, announced Recology President and CEO Michael Sangiacomo.

“We are honored to have these leaders on our board,” Sangiacomo said. “Their expertise, insights and experience will help us expand our recycling and disposal services as we continue to grow and develop our employee-owned company.”

Mr. Colton, one of California’s leading insurance specialists, is active in community based causes. A founding board member of National AIDS Memorial Grove, he has served on the board of Larkin Street Youth Center, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, Working Solutions, Bureau of Jewish Education, Jewish Family & Children’s Service Honorary Board, Horizon Foundation, and Presidio Bank advisory board.

Mr. McGrath is responsible for all of Recology’s collection, processing, and disposal subsidiary operations. He has served the recycling company for 16 years, previously as SVP and CIO, responsible for the strategy and management of the company’s information systems.

Recology manages municipal disposal processes and services, including urban cleaning services, collection, sorting, transfer, recovery, and landfill management.

The company name, Recology, reflects its unique success record in driving resource recovery to unparalleled levels through recycling and composting.

Recology companies operate in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington coordinating dozens of recycling programs to recover a variety of materials. Recology programs have been replicated throughout the country and serve as a national model for resource recovery initiatives.

Recology is:

  • The largest employee-owned company in the resource recovery industry, partnered with over 113 communities;
  • Parent to over 40 subsidiaries that provides integrated services to over 670,000 residential and 95,000 commercial customers in California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington;
  • Recognized as the industry leader in resource recovery, having established the first and largest curbside yard trimmings and food scraps collection program in the country.

Recology is 100 percent owned by the Recology Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and not by any outside investors.

Recology has been honored multiple times by the national Employee Stock Ownership Plan Association for the quality of its ownership program and its positive impact on corporate performance.

The Recology ESOP makes it easy for Recology to focus on providing long-term, sustainable solutions to our customers. It strengthens teamwork and collaboration by tying employees’ performance to the overall success of the company.

As the largest employee-owned company in our industry, we believe that our individual and collective hard work and dedication directly correlates to our long term success.

 

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American Group at Center of Historic Israel-Palestine Effort to Remove Landmines from Bethlehem April 24

San Francisco, Calif.—The San Francisco Bay Area should be proud that one of its own locally headquarted non-profits has assisted in helping bring together–in an historic first–both Israel and Palestine to remove landmines from a residential neighborhood in the holy city of Bethlehem this week.  And, the effort would not have been possible without the financial assistance of Napa Valley winery Spiriterra Vineyards, which founded the landmine removal effort.

Roots of Peace, which spearheaded the historic Palestine and Israel agreement to remove landmines from the City of Bethlehem, will join Israeli and Palestinian officials at a ceremony in Bethlehem to begin safely removing and detonating mines left over from a 1948 territorial dispute in one of the holiest of cities to three of the world’s major religions, Muslim, Christian and Jewish.

Heidi Kühn, founder and CEO of Roots for Peace, a landmine removal advocacy group in the San Francisco Bay Area, will participate in the at 10 a.m. April 24 explosion of the first landmine to be removed from the Husan Village in Bethlehem.

The project began when Daniel Yuval, an 11-year-old Israeli boy who lost his leg three years ago playing in the Golan Heights, appealed to Roots for Peace, an international landmine removal organization, to ensure the explosives were removed so no other child would be harmed.  Present will be a 75-year-old Palestinian shepherd who lost his arm to a landmine as a young boy in the same field.

“This is an historic occasion made possible by the cooperation from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Ministry of Defense, Palestinian Ministry of Defense, and the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian Authority,” said Kühn.  “We are honored to have played a role in bringing these concerned and thoughtful parties together to make this neighborhood safe again for humanity.”

“The 3 acre site, located 4 miles from Nativity Manger Square where Jesus Christ was said to have been born, will be cleared of mines during a one month operation conducted jointly by Palestinian and Israeli militaries working cooperatively.  The area will be replanted with grapes as part of Roots of Peace’s Mines to Vines (Demine~Replant~Rebuild®) program.”

 

Governor of Bethlehem Mr. Abd Al Fattah Hamaye and Roots of Peace CEO Heidi Kuhn

The project cost was donated by well-known Napa Valley vintners Shirley and Paul Dean, owners of Spiriterra Vineyards, to Roots for Peace to pay the military for the mine removal.

“No child should be born anywhere in the world with the risk of losing life or limb to a landmine.  This is an important first effort in the Holy Land and we hope to clear other fields when additional funding becomes available,” Kühn said.

During the past 3 years, Kuhn has worked with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas to gain their support for her landmine initiatives.

Roots of Peace CEO Heidi Kuhn and Israel PM Netanyahu and Daniel Yuval, who lost his leg in a landmine explosion

Interfaith support for the landmine removal includes the Sheikh of Bethlehem. “We are pleased to put our hand in yours to demine The Holy Land and start from Husan Village in The Fields of Bethlehem where Jesus was born and his feet stepped once upon a time so as our children will step in the same place with peace and love,” the Sheikh said.

In a personal letter of support from Dr. Andy David, Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, he wrote of the effort: “the work of Roots of Peace is in alignment with the Hebrew phrase ‘Tikkum Olam’ which translates into ‘Repairing the World,’ humanity’s responsibility to make good amongst our nation and others, and bring justice to all mankind.”

There are an estimated 1.5 million landmines and UXO (unexploded ordinance) in The Holy Land. Following the completion of her work in Bethlehem, Kühn aims to broaden the Roots of Peace demining efforts in Qasr al Yahud, the Baptismal Site of Jesus—respected by Muslims, Christians and Jewish alike.

About Roots of Peace

Roots of Peace an international humanitarian, non-political organization works to unearth dangerous landmines in war-torn countries and empowers the local communities scarred by these inhumane weapons. For more information visit www.rootsofpeace.org

 

 

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Mayor Lee & Supervisors Sign City’s Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program For Soft Story Buildings

New Ordinance Requires Retrofit on All Soft Story Multifamily Buildings;

Highlights City’s Preparedness & Resiliency Efforts on 107th Anniversary of 1906 Great Earthquake & Fire

Today Mayor Edwin M. Lee joined the Board of Supervisors and City Officials to mark the 107th anniversary of the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire at the yearly commemoration at Lotta’s Fountain in downtown San Francisco, and signed into law the Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program for Soft Story Wood Frame Buildings, that will seismically strengthen thousands of buildings in San Francisco.

“In order to be a truly resilient City, we must protect our residents and make sure their homes are safe after a major seismic event,” said Mayor Lee. “This mandatory seismic retrofit program will protect San Franciscans, protect our housing stock and ensure San Francisco can rapidly recover from the next earthquake. Today, we renew our commitment to making sure that disasters such as the 1906 Earthquake and Fire do not devastate our City again.”

Seismologists predict that a significant Bay Area earthquake – two to three times as strong as the 1989 Loma Prieta quake – is likely to occur within the next thirty years.

San Francisco has come a long way since 1989, voters have approved several General Obligation Bonds to retrofit City facilities, and today nearly 200 buildings and facilities have been seismically improved. Through the 2010 Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond, the City’s emergency water system that helps fight fires is now being upgraded, neighborhood fire stations are being improved, and later today a new Public Safety Building is set for its construction topping out. These efforts ensure that public safety agencies can provide uninterrupted emergency services during and after a disaster. Also, in large part, the City is more prepared due to investment in critical infrastructure including projects like rebuilding San Francisco General Hospital, the Veteran’s Memorial Building and Doyle Drive and critical seismic upgrades to the Hetch Hetchy Water and Power system.

The City’s Ten-Year Capital Plan for Fiscal Year 2014-23 continues to make large investments in seismic safety. This includes $2 billion to relocate critical functions out of the vulnerable Hall of Justice such as a new detention facility, Medical Examiner’s Office, Crime Lab, SFPD traffic division and seismic upgrades to public health buildings, Animal Shelter, and police and fire stations. In addition, the Capital Plan invests $7 billion on the Sewer System Improvement Program as well as several hundred million dollars for seismic projects at SFO and along the waterfront.

The City’s improvements to critical infrastructure, however, point to the need to protect residents and their homes. San Francisco must start work as quickly as possible securing homes. Over 55,000 San Franciscans live in these wood frame soft story buildings built before 1978 having five or more units and at least two floors over a weak story that also house 7,000 businesses and employ 2,000 San Franciscans. The new Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program for Soft Story Wood Frame Buildings will take place over the next seven years, starting with a mandatory notice and evaluation period beginning in the late Fall. From there buildings shown to have a soft story condition will be classified into four tiers with phased requirements for completing the work.

The new ordinance also carries with it the support of the banking industry who have stepped forward to offer finance packages to building owners. Also with the support of Supervisors David Chiu, Scott Weiner and Jane Kim, the program contains provisions to help tenants navigate the City’s existing passthrough hardship process. These steps will ensure that residents stay in their homes and owners are able to successfully meet the new requirement.

This Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program for Soft Story Wood Frame Buildings is part of the City’s larger effort to protect San Francisco. The Earthquake Safety Implementation Program (ESIP) is the City’s latest planning effort and is a 30-year plan to reduce many of the City’s most dangerous risks in a future earthquake.

For more information and updates on this new program and the ESIP, go to: www.sfcapss.org

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Patton Boggs’ Partner James Tyrrell, Jr., Lied to Burford Capital in Chevron Ecuador Litigation

 

 

James E. Tyrrell, Jr.: Liar says Burford Investment Company

 

In the latest in a series of bombshell filings, Chevron today submitted a 26-page sworn declaration from the CEO of Burford Capital, a $300 million, publicly traded fund that in late 2010 agreed to finance Patton Boggs’s representation of the plaintiffs bringing an environmental suit against Chevron in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.

 

In it Burford CEO Christopher Bogart says his firm would never have invested in the case were it not for “false and misleading representations” made not only by Steve Donziger, the Lago Agrio team’s longtime New York lawyer, but also by Patton Boggs, a prominent Washington-based, AmLaw 100 law firm that agreed to take on the plaintiffs’ troubled environmental suit in February 2010 on a partial contingency basis. (Read the full declaration here.)

 

Burford relied on a misleading analysis of the case made by Patton Boggs partner James Tyrrell, Jr., with whom, Bogart says, Burford had a “‘special’ and multifaceted relationship” at the time. Most of the misrepresentations Bogart alleges concern the extent to which Patton Boggs already knew that a crucial damages assessment drafted by a purportedly “neutral and independent” court-appointed expert in the case had, in reality, been secretly ghost-written by the Lago Agrio plaintiffs lawyers themselves.

 

Emails seeking comment from Tyrrell and other Patton Boggs attorneys were not immediately returned. Nor were emails to Donziger’s counsel, John Keker (who is in a court proceeding this morning).

 

Lago Agrio plaintiff team’s spokesperson, Bill Hamilton of Fenton Communications said that “in the final analysis, this … is just more of Chevron’s non-stop Big Money attempt to intimidate and malign the Lago Agrio plaintiffs and their lawyers and supporters. It has no bearing on what happened in Ecuador, does nothing to remediate the harm that even Chevron has admitted took place in the Amazon and constitutes a side show that will not stop efforts to attach Chevron properties in Argentina, Canada, Brazil, and around the world.” He asserted that Burford’s allegation of misconduct by the plaintiffs is “at its core, just a dispute about money.”)

 

Because an Ecuadorian provincial court issued an $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron in February 2011 — later bumped up to $19 billion—Patton Boggs theoretically stands to collect hundreds of millions of dollars if the judgment can ever be enforced. The plaintiffs’ team is currently attempting to enforce it foreign courts, including those of Canada and Argentina.

 

Chevron is currently considering whether to bring fraud charges against Patton Boggs, the company stated in a Manhattan federal court filing Friday, and will make up its mind by May 10.

On October 31, 2010, Burford gave the plaintiffs $4 million in financing as the first tranche in what was planned to become a $15 million investment in the case. In exchange it received a 1.5% stake of any recovery, which was to rise to a 5.5% stake upon full funding.

But on February 1, 2011, Chevron (CVX) filed a civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) suit in Manhattan federal court against Donziger, the Amazon Defense Fund, and others key figures involved in the Lago Agrio case, alleging wire fraud, extortion, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan issued a preliminary injunction in March in a 131-page, 434-footnote ruling that detailed the disturbing state of the evidence against Donziger and his Ecuadorian collegues on the case at the time. (The injunction was later vacated on appeal jurisdictional grounds unrelated to Kaplan’s factual findings.) Burford never made any follow-up investments.

 

Although Burford quickly resold most of its stake in the case in December 2010, it retained until today an upside interest in the outcome of the lawsuit. With today’s settlement, however, Burford turns that remaining stake over to Chevron. In this morning’s joint press release, Bogart says, “Burford stands by its clients in the face of aggressive litigation tactics by their opponents, but Burford does not sit still for being deceived or defrauded and has no interest in profiting from such conduct.”

 

In Bogart’s affidavit he argues that Burford was especially inclined to credit Tyrrell’s assessments of the case because of Tyrrell’s “special relationship” with the firm. To begin with, he writes, Tyrrell was, as a former partner at Latham & Watkins, close friends of four former Latham partners who then occupied senior positions at Burford.

 

“Tyrrell was also an advocate and enthusiast of litigation funding,” Bogart continues, extending “support to start-up funders.” For instance, Patton Boggs was providing Burford with rent-free office space at its New York office, which Tyrrell heads, at the time the Lago Agrio investment was negotiated, Bogart writes.

 

Last month Judge Kaplan ordered Patton Boggs to make voluminous productions of documents, finding that any attorney client privilege that might apply would be pierced due to the “crime fraud exception,” which applies when there is evidence that documents were made in furtherance of a crime or fraud. Though Judge Kaplan made no finding as to whether Patton Boggs itself had any actual knowledge of any crime or fraud, his 73-page ruling was tart in its rejection of the firm’s portrayal of itself as an unrelated outsider who, if it complied with the subpoena, would be forced to incur excessive and burdensome costs.

 

He wrote: “Here, [Patton Boggs] was well aware of Chevron’s fraud allegations when it joined the [Lago Agrio plaintiffs] team — indeed it was brought on to combat them — and understood Chevron’s intention to fight this matter vigorously. Any failure to have anticipated that its involvement could lead to discovery obligations and expenditures on its own behalf, if there was such a failure, would have reflected an uncommon lack of foresight.”

 

Burford’s investment in the controversial case — which, like most such investments, remained secret until disclosed through ancillary U.S. litigation brought by Chevron — was the subject of a May 2011 Fortune feature story which had been highly critical of the investment firm. (See Have you got a piece of this lawsuit?)

While at least four federal court judges had already found “prima facie” evidence of fraud by the plaintiffs team at the time Burford invested, the quality and quantity of that evidence has strengthened geometrically since the filing of Chevron’s RICO case. Last July U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan ruled that “uncontradicted evidence” showed that the case had been “unquestionably … tainted” by this fraud. (See Chevron claims Patton Boggs tried to cover up a fraud)

 

In addition, Chevron has now also presented in its RICO case substantial evidence indicating that the entire 188-page, $18.2 billion judgment ruling was ghostwritten by the Ecuadorian plaintiffs lawyers themselves — an opportunity that was allegedly accorded to them after they agreed to pay two Ecuadorian judges $500,000 from the anticipated recovery. Chevron has shown, for instance, that at least one third of the judgment contains material that was lifted from internal plaintiffs memoranda that were never made part of the record in the case, and it has submitted an extensively corroborated affidavit from one of the two Ecuadorian judges in question.

 

(In reply, the Lago Agrio plaintiffs team submitted an unnotarized declaration from the other former judge, the titular author of the ruling, Nicolas Zambrano. In it Zambrano says he wrote the ruling himself and denies having accepted any bribe offer. But the Lago Agrio plaintiffs team has also indicated that Zambrano will probably refuse to submit to a deposition backing up his claim, rendering his declaration’s legal value dubious. Further, in his declaration Zambrano makes no attempt to explain away the voluminous corroborating evidence of ghostwriting that Chevron has submitted.

 

Similarly, in a terse, carefully worded affidavit the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ chief U.S. lawyer Donziger has denied personal involvement in or knowledge of bribery or ghostwriting of the judgment, but has not denied that bribery and ghostwriting may have occurred. The other Amazon Defense Front defendants have defaulted by failing to appear in the RICO suit.)

 

Finally, just last week, the plaintiffs team’s environmental experts, Stratus Consulting of Boulder, Colo., recanted all its scientific findings and conclusions in the case in exchange for being dropped as a defendant in the RICO suit. Its officials expressed regret for having “allowed the firm to be used the way it was.” (The Lago Agrio plaintiffs say Chevron “bullied” Stratus into the recantation by threatening it with “financial extinction.”)

 

By Roger Parloff, senior editor, Fortune Magazine

 

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