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Transbay Transit Center Completes Excavation of More Than 600,000 Cubic Yards of Soil

Today, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) reached a significant project milestone – completing excavation for the Transbay Transit Center.

“This brings us another step closer to the opening of the ‘Grand Central Station of the West,’ said Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, Executive Director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority. “The Transbay Project has revitalized San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood and will continue to generate economic growth throughout the region. Construction of the new Transbay Transit Center will strengthen the Bay Area’s position as a national leader in sustainable, transit-oriented development.”

Today’s milestone marks the end of an excavation process which removed 640,000 cubic yards of soil from a work site that spans four city blocks and is among the largest excavations in the City’s history.  The excavation for the Transit Center is the equivalent of 120 Olympic size swimming pools or has enough room to stack 50,400 Mini Coopers.  The TJPA recycled much of the excavated soil or sold it for reuse on other construction projects while bay mud or soil with high clay content went to clean landfills.

With the soil removed, crews are free to continue laying the five-foot thick layer of cement that will serve as the foundation for the future Transbay Transit Center.  The foundation, the pouring for which began in September, will ultimately require 60,000 cubic yards of concrete.  Once the foundation is complete, the TJPA will begin erecting the structural steel for the Transit Center.

“After more than three years of hard work below grade, we are excited to bring this building to life as the steel framework emerges from the excavation,” said Executive Director Ayerdi-Kaplan.

The Transbay Transit Center, located between Beale, Mission, Second, and Howard Streets, is a revolutionary transportation facility.  When the Transit Center opens in late 2017, it will connect eight Bay Area counties and is designed to accommodate 11 transit systems, including Caltrain and future intercity rail.  The emerging South of Market neighborhood, focused on the new Transit Center, will become the new heart of downtown San Francisco.  To learn more about the Transbay Project, please visit our website at www.TransbayCenter.org

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PG&E Attempt to Improperly Influence California PUC Should Result in Penalty, City of San Bruno Demands in Legal Filing

Jack Hagan, CPUC Safety HeadElizaveta Malashenko

Jack Hagan and Elizaveta Malashenko of the CPUC Safety Enforcement Division made allegedly illegal deal with PG&E

San Bruno, Calif. – An attempt by Pacific Gas & Electric Company to broker what appears to be a secret deal with a California Public Utilities Commission staffer should result in significant penalties and fines for the utility company and the creation of an independent monitor to ensure transparency and accountability of the CPUC, San Bruno demanded in a legal filing with the CPUC today.

The apparent backroom deal, revealed in a report by Jaxon Van Derbecken San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, detailed how PG&E hoped to quietly pay  a $375,000 fine to avoid paying a proposed $2.5 billion in penalties and fines for the 2010 San Bruno explosion and fire that killed eight, injured 66, destroyed 38 homes and left a giant hole in the center of the city.

In a legal motion filed with the CPUC on Friday, San Bruno officials demanded that PG&E face a significant fine for violating CPUC rules when, in December, it paid a $375,000 fine imposed by the CPUC’s safety enforcement division – and then quietly asked that the fine count against the multi-billion-dollar penalty it faces for violations stemming from the San Bruno pipeline disaster.

It was revealed that no parties involved in the more than three-year San Bruno penalty proceeding were made aware of PG&E’s secret payment. Instead, the CPUC withdrew the fine and refunded the $375,000 payment amid concerns that PG&E had attempted to broker a backroom deal that could have triggered a form of regulatory double jeopardy, preventing the CPUC’s administrative law judges from levying a sufficient future penalty.

“Instead of being transparent and forthcoming, PG&E appears to have consciously elected to conceal an ill-fated attempt to quietly settle for the fatal and tragic pipeline disaster in San Bruno,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “We believe PG&E should be fined and reprimanded for trying to undermine the ongoing penalty investigation and possibly jeopardizing more than three years of work to ensure that what happened in San Bruno never happens again, anywhere.”

“This attempt to circumvent the legal and public process also raises troubling questions about the CPUC safety division and its staffer who attempted to conceal this backroom deal,” representatives for the city added. “This action is just the latest attempt by the PG&E and some members of the CPUC safety division to hide from public view the unholy alliance and power PG&E has with our State’s regulatory agency.  That is why San Bruno demands an independent monitor to ensure the CPUC is operating properly and transparently.”

The $375,000 fine was originally levied in December by the CPUC’s safety enforcement division in response to a 2012 audit, which concluded that for more than four decades PG&E lacked the proper procedures to monitor its gas-transmission pipelines. Reliable reports indicate that CPUC safety division deputy director Elizaveta Malashenko, who made this deal with PG&E, has a longstanding personal relationship with PG&E outside of her CPUC job.

Because the infraction related directly to the ongoing San Bruno-related penalty proceeding, it should have been handled as part of that process. Instead, it was handled and paid separately, without notification to any parties and in violation of CPUC’s own procedures.

San Bruno officials say they suspect that a backroom deal, involving illegal ex-parte communications between PG&E and the CPUC, played a role in this mishap. Attorneys for San Bruno have filed a public records request to determine whether PG&E officials spoke directly with CPUC leadership to arrange for the fine that PG&E paid – and later tried using to reduce their overall penalty.

In December, the CPUC fined PG&E $14 million for failing to disclose faulty pipeline records in San Carlos to both the CPUC, the public and the City of San Carlos for nearly a year, creating a possibly dangerous public safety issue that one of its own engineers likened to possibly “another San Bruno situation” in an internal email to PG&E executives.

San Bruno officials say this latest attempt to undercut its obligation to the public further underscores the need for an Independent Pipeline Safety Monitor to serve as a vigilant third-party watchdog over both PG&E and its regulator, the CPUC.

“The Commission lacks the resources to effectively comprehend and oversee PG&E’s compliance,” said the city’s filling. “An Independent Monitor would partner with and provide additional resources to the Commission in order to have more robust regulatory oversight necessary to protect the safety of the public.”

The San Bruno filing came on the same day as the announcement that CPUC Commissioner Mark Farron will be resigning from the Commission to concentrate on beating prostate cancer.

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San Francisco Christmas Eve Day Toy Drive for Children at Handlery Hotel by Firefighters is a Success

 

San Francisco Firefighters Union Local 798 held a successful toy drive to make sure no child went without a toy in San Francisco this Christmas, thanks to Jon Handlery and his family’s landmark San Francisco hotel.

 

Dressed as Santa Claus, San Francisco Firefighter Bob Cuff and costumed characters accompanied by off-duty firefighters were in front of the Handlery Union Square Hotel, 351 Geary (between Powell and Mason), San Francisco from 9 a.m. to midnight on Christmas Eve day.

 

Beloved hotel owner Jon Handlery and Handlery hotel staff served as “Santa’s Helpers” and assisted with the collection of thousands of toys for needy San Francisco kids.

 

The Handlery Hotel has raised $3,500 and donated two barrels of toys to the drive this year to ensure no kid were without a Holiday present.

 

Firefighters Union Local 798 asked people to bring unwrapped toys which were collected in front of the Handlery Hotel. Everyone who brought a toy got free pictures with Santa and many children brought their lists of Christmas wishes to Santa in person.

 

An additional toy drive was held just next door to the hotel at Lefty O’Doul’s bar and pub, a property which is also owned by the Handlery family.

 

SF Firefighters Local 798 Toy Program

 

The Local 798 San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program is celebrating its 64th year of providing toys to San Francisco children in need during the holidays.  The San Francisco Firefighter’s Toy Program is San Francisco’s largest and the nation’s oldest program of its kind.  Since 1949 it has evolved from a few firefighters repairing broken toys and bikes for 15 families to, in 2012, 300 firefighters and friends volunteering their time to distribute over 200,000 toys to more than 40,000 disadvantaged children.

 

Besides helping individual families in need, the Toy Program serves many community organizations, including shelters for abused women and children, inner-city schools, children’s cancer wards, and pediatric AIDS units.

 

The Toy Program is made possible through public donations and the efforts and contributions of Local 798 members.

 

Firefighters Union Local 798 wishes to thank Jon Handlery & the staff of the Handlery Union Square hotel for welcoming the Toy Program at their property.

 

 

The Handlery Union Square Hotel

 

Located at Union Square, the Handlery Union Square Hotel offers the perfect San Francisco lodging for vacationers and business travelers.  As a fourth generation family-owned hotel, the Handlery has created great experiences for guests by offering personal service, beautifully appointed rooms, and a warm atmosphere.  Ideally located right next to the world famous Powell Street cable car line, the Handlery Union Square Hotel is a beloved San Francisco institution.

 

 

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Canvasback Missions Takes a Major Step in the Fight Against Diabetes in the Marshall Islands

By Alexander Hirata

Canvasback Missions has spent years working to reverse the diabetes epidemic in the Marshall Islands. They’ve brought specialty medical care to the islands for over 30 years, and have run the Diabetes Wellness Center on Majuro since 2006. Now, Canvasback is working to reverse the epidemic of diabetes in the Marshall Islands by preventing the onset of the disease before it begins.

 

Made possible by a generous grant from the World Diabetes Foundation, Canvasback is working with Antonia Demas, Ph.D., and Marshall Islands health officials to bring health education into the classroom. Dr. Demas has visited the Marshall Islands twice so far, traveling last with Canvasback co-founder Jacque Spence and employee Jaylene Chung to implement trials of the new food education curriculum in the public schools on Majuro and Ebeye in October. The team trained instructors how to teach from the curriculum, which involves special hands-on activities to engage children and make food education fun.

 

Dr. Antonia Demas studied education, nutrition, and anthropology at Cornell University. She has developed food-based curricula for schools for over 40 years, successfully implementing her “Food is Elementary” program in over 3,000 schools. Demas is also the founder and president of the New York-based Food Studies Institute, a not-for-profit created to improve children’s health through food education.

 

One of Demas’ key beliefs is that the food we eat directly affects our health. Processed foods have replaced natural ones, and chemical preservatives are now a regular part of our diets. Demas believes that children are the ideal group to teach food literacy to: they don’t have established diets that are difficult to change; they are open to new ideas, especially if taught using sensory (taste, touch, and visual) methods; and healthy habits now would prevent illnesses later.

 

Canvasback is proud to work with Demas, because both know that food education is essential to reverse diabetes in the Marshall Islands. It is cost-efficient, slipping into the existing educational system, yet its effects will last for a lifetime. And once established, local schools and teachers will be in full control of the program. The most difficult part of the program won’t be getting kids interested in healthy eating–it will be waiting years to see how well it pays off.

 

To learn more about the work of Canvasback Missions, contact them at: 940 Adams St., Suite R, Benicia, Calif. 94510. Phone: 800-793-7245 or email them at info@canvasback.org

 

 

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California PUC to Consider Historic Fine Against PG&E and Orrick Herrington Law Firm Attorney in Faulty Gas Line Case

Joseph M. Malkin

PG&E and its Orrick Herrington Attorney are Facing Historic Fines and Legal Sanctions for Misleading the California Public Utilities Commission

The California Public Utilities Commission will vote on historic sanctions and a fine of up to $17 million against the Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. Thursday, Dec. 19 for failing to disclose faulty pipeline records in San Carlos to both the CPUC, the public and the City of San Carlos for nearly a year, creating a possibly dangerous public safety issue that one of its own engineers likened to possibly “another San Bruno situation” in an internal email to PG&E executives.

PG&E and its attorney Joseph M. Malkin of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP law firm are facing a fine of up to $17 million for violating CPUC rules and discreetly filing an “errata” – the legal term for a minor correction – on the status of two pipelines, located in San Carlos and Millbrae, nearly a year after a gas leak unexpectedly revealed faulty records for those pipelines.

Pipelines listed as “seamless,” as in the case of the line that ruptured in San Bruno, were in fact a 1929 vintage welded and reconditioned gas pipe with a strength test less than records showed. The legal correction was made quietly on the afternoon of July 3, 2013, a day before the CPUC took off for the July Fourth holiday, disclosing the fact that PG&E had relied on faulty records to determine the specifications for those pipelines to handle gas at high pressure.

The Commission will make this decision three weeks after PG&E CEO and Chairman Tony Earley made a special presentation before the CPUC in an attempt to convince commissioners and the public of the company’s renewed commitment to safety. Earley was met with a skeptical commission, which challenged PG&E’s credibility in the face of mounting recordkeeping errors and threats to public safety. “We find ourselves here today with a public that doesn’t believe you and in many respects doesn’t believe us,” Commissioner Mike Florio said to Earley at the hearing.

City of San Bruno officials have agreed with the proposed fine against PG&E and are calling on the CPUC to uphold proposed sanctions against PG&E for deliberately covering up the facts after it used faulty records to determine that two Bay Area pipelines could safely operate – a decision demonstrating the continued problem with PG&E record keeping practices. Bad record keeping was one of the causes of the 2010 PG&E disaster in San Bruno and continues to threaten public safety.

Calling the July 3 PG&E filing a “brazen and calculated act of damage control,” San Bruno attorneys say PG&E’s legal maneuver illustrates PG&E’s ongoing attempts to cover its tracks as it continues to use natural gas pipelines at inappropriate operating pressures, without accurate records and with the same flawed materials that caused a tragic explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more.

City officials were shocked to discover that, after gross negligence and bad recordkeeping by PG&E resulted in the fatal tragedy in San Bruno, PG&E paid its legal team to perpetuate their deception at the risk of public safety. They are now calling on the CPUC to issue sanctions and send the strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. Officials question how many communities must endure tragedy before PG&E and our state utility regulators wake up and put safety first.

Faulty recordkeeping was found to be a major contributor to the explosion and fire in San Bruno after federal and state investigators found that PG&E had maintained bad or nonexistent pipeline safety records for much of its 1,000+ miles of urban natural gas transmission lines. As a result, state regulators required PG&E to lower pressure on its other Peninsula gas pipelines until safety records could be verified.

In 2011, PG&E declared that the pipeline construction records were accurate for both Line 101, which runs from Milpitas to San Francisco, and Line 147, which runs in the San Carlos area. Based on PG&E’s representations, the CPUC allowed PG&E to increase the pressure back to pre-explosion levels.

In reality, PG&E’s pipelines were not rated to operate at higher pressure, as revealed after an October 2012 corrosion-related leak in San Carlos revealed seams in the pipeline previously not thought to exist. Yet, it took nine months for the company to admit – by way of the subtle “errata” filing — that the records it had relied on to make that determination were faulty.

At previous CPUC hearings, regulators pressed PG&E over the “profoundly troubling” oversight, which occurred despite “the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for record review and validation.” PG&E now faces fines of up to $17 million, on top of a possible $2.25 billion penalty and fine stemming from the fatal 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno.

San Bruno officials say this is just the latest example of PG&E expending millions on top attorneys – more than $120 million by PG&E’s own admission – to subvert the truth and put profits over people.

 

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Coke executives meet in days to decide if they should condemn Russia’s anti-gay crackdown.

Coca-Cola executives are just days away from deciding whether or not to speak out against Russia’s brutal new anti-gay laws – and we need to show them the potential brand damage at stake if they stay silent.

Coke is a major sponsor of next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The Olympics should be about celebrating all that is good in humanity. But instead,the Sochi Olympics risks being known for hatred and homophobia, due to a draconian new Russian anti-gay law that criminalizes even coming out of the closet.

So far, Coke has remained silent on Russia’s LGBT crackdown – that’s why we’re joining with All Out to show Coke how many people want the company to speak out against this law. If we succeed, we can set off an earthshaking domino effect that pushes other international sponsors to follow.

This is the best shot we have at creating a billion-dollar problem for Russia that can ultimately push it to overturn its horrific anti-gay laws.

Tell Coca-Cola executives meeting this week to condemn Russia’s anti-gay laws and call for their repeal.

Russia’s anti-gay law forbids anyone from “promoting non-traditional sexual relations’. In practice, this means anyone can be arrested and jailed for something as simple as coming out, wearing a rainbow pin, or demonstrating in public.

Mega-corporations like Coca-Cola have invested millions in sponsoring the Olympics and billions in their operations in Russia. In effect, Coca-Cola and others are bankrolling the Sochi Olympics. This gives them huge influence on the thinking of the International Olympic Committee and the Russian government.

It’s easy to think we can’t influence what’s happening in an authoritarian regime like President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But Putin craves legitimacy and glory. If we can get the companies that are paying for his personal public relations exercise to step up and criticize this vicious anti-gay law, then Putin’s Olympic games are in trouble.

As a community, we’ve shown what can be achieved when we work together for LGBT rights. We’ve fought against transphobia in newspapers like the Daily Mail. Together, we persuaded Pepsi to fight against Uganda’s anti-gay law, and we ran a huge campaign to thank Starbucks for supporting marriage equality. We’re defending the most basic of all human rights: the right to life, the right to live free of unfair arrest, and the right to be yourself.

Tell Coca-Cola to support Russian LGBT people and condemn the brutal anti-gay law.

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San Bruno Demands Accurate PG&E Pipeline Records and Active CPUC Oversight

 San Bruno City leaders today called on the Pacific Gas & Electric Company and the California Public Utilities Commission to provide accurate pipeline safety records, enhanced emergency response protocols and vigilant State oversight following revelations of persistent safety threats to PG&E’s pipeline 147 in San Carlos, just 14 miles south of the deadly 2010 PG&E pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

At a hearing hosted by Sen. Jerry Hill and a California Senate subcommittee on Gas and Electric Infrastructure Safety on Monday, leaders from the cities of San Bruno and San Carlos said they were deeply troubled to discover that PG&E had once again used faulty records to falsely determine the San Carlos pipeline safe. Even worse, that it took 11 months for PG&E to alert San Carlos officials of possible threats to the defective pipe. Federal and state investigators identified faulty recordkeeping as the leading cause of the Sept. 9, 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed 8, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more.

Of equal concern was the lack of oversight provided by the CPUC, the regulatory agency that is supposed to act as a watchdog for public safety, which also failed to notify city leaders, city staff, and the public of the potential for “sitting on another San Bruno situation,” according to PG&E’s own engineer.

“We call on PG&E and the CPUC to remedy these persistent threats to the safety of our communities,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “We ask that PG&E and the CPUC communicate with local governments in a manner that is honest, timely and transparent so that city and county leaders are not left in the dark after a threat is discovered beneath our communities and our citizens.”

City leaders asked for the help of Sen. Hill and state leaders by establishing an Office of Local Government Liaison, which would coordinate emergency response plans with a community’s first responders and force utilities like PG&E to operate with transparency and integrity with regard to their facilities.

Ruane said state intervention was necessary to end the faulty recordkeeping by PG&E and the lack of transparency by PG&E and the CPUC, which continues to put the lives of all 740,000 county residents at risk.

“Each of the 20 cities in San Mateo and their citizens deserve to know about threats to their safety from PG&E and the CPUC,” Ruane said. “This is not just a matter of common sense but mandatory of a company that enjoys a legal monopoly and of the regulatory agency, the CPUC, whose very job is to protect the public, its interest and its safety.”

San Bruno is asking the following going-forward commitments from PG&E and the CPUC:

  • That PG&E notify cities, counties and the CPUC within 24 hours should it detect any immediate threats to public safety or any discrepancies in its records.
  • That PG&E staff a dedicated, 24/7, employee to its Dispatch and Control Room, trained to communicate with emergency responders and city officials in the event of an emergency.
  • That PG&E provide better public awareness and outreach programs to local governments so that emergency responders are aware of important pipeline information and know what to do in an emergency.
  • That PG&E work with local cities to establish a regular, productive and open 2 way communication to address important safety issues in each community.

San Bruno is seeking an Independent Monitor to ensure that PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement by politically appointed CPUC Commissioners with close ties to utilities.  San Bruno also reminded the committee that the City is seeking maximum penalties and fines from the CPUC against PG&E for its gross negligence in the San Bruno Explosion and Fire – a decision that is expected to be made within coming months.

“San Bruno will continue to hold PG&E accountable for its past actions and to advocate for changes and active oversight by the CPUC,” Ruane said. “We are committed to ensuring that legacy of our City becomes an opportunity to prevent another deadly explosion from happening again, in San Carlos or in any community in our state.”

 

 

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Where Even the Middle Class Can’t Afford to Live Any More

FROM THEATLANTICCITIES.COM

High-cost cities tend to have higher median incomes, which leads to the simple heuristic that, sure, it’s costlier to live in San Francisco than in Akron, but the people who pay bills there make enough money that they can afford it.

In reality, yes, the median household income in metropolitan San Francisco is higher than it is in Akron (by about $30,000). But that smaller income will buy you much, much more in Ohio. To be more specific, if you make the median income in Akron – a good proxy for a spot in the local middle class – 86 percent of the homes on the market there this month are likely within your budget.

If you’re middle-class in San Francisco, on the other hand, that figure is just 14 percent. Your money will buy you no more than 1,000 square feet on average. That property likely isn’t located where you’d like to live. And the options available to you on the market are even fewer than they were just a year ago, according to data crunched by Trulia. To frame this another way, the median income in metro San Francisco is about 60 percent higher than it is in Akron. But the median for-sale housing price per square foot today is about 700 percent higher.

The gulf between those two numbers means that the most expensive U.S. cities aren’t just unaffordable for the average American middle-class family; they’re unaffordable to the relatively well-off middle class by local standards, too.

To use an even more extreme example, the median income in metropolitan New York is about $56,000 (including families in the surrounding suburbs). If someone making that much money wanted to buy a home on the market this October in Manhattan, the most expensive home they could afford would cost about $274,000. A mere 2.5 percent of for-sale housing that’s available in Manhattan now costs that little. Oh – and those properties are averaging 500 square feet.

Trulia ran these numbers based on the assumption that a family shouldn’t spend more than 31 percent of its pre-tax income on housing (and that it must pay local property taxes and insurance). This data also assumes that a family makes a 20 percent down payment on a home – a daunting feat even on a six-figure income in somewhere like Los Angeles or New York.

In San Francisco, a household making $78,840 a year can top out buying a home worth about $409,000. 24 percent of the homes for sale in the area were below that threshold last October. Now it’s just 14 percent. In fact, in every one of those 10 metros, a smaller share of homes are considered affordable now to the middle class than last year.

Affordability is effectively declining as home prices are rising (and at a much faster rate than median incomes). Within the most expensive metros, the most affordable housing is also located in the areas that require some of the longest commutes. In metro New York, for instance, the Bronx and Nassau County are home to the bulk of the most affordable housing in the region.

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CPUC Should Fine PG&E, Orrick Law Firm Millions for Gas Pipeline Safety Cover-Up Says City of San Bruno

CPUC Should Sanction and Fine PG&E and its law firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Attorney Joseph M. Malkin in Public Gas Line Safety Cover-up

San Francisco, Calif. – City of San Bruno officials this week called on the California Public Utilities Commission to sanction Pacific Gas & Electric’s legal team for deliberately covering up for PG&E after it used faulty records to determine that two Bay Area pipelines could safely operate – a decision demonstrating the continued problem with PG&E record keeping practices. Bad record keeping was one of the causes of the 2010 PG&E disaster in San Bruno and continues to threaten public safety.

In a filing late Sept. 26 with the CPUC in response to an order to “Show Cause Why It Should Not Be Sanctioned,” San Bruno asked that PG&E’s legal team, including top attorney Joseph M. Malkin of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, be sanctioned for discreetly filing an “errata” – the legal term for a minor correction – on the status of two pipelines, located in San Carlos and Millbrae, nine months after a gas leaked revealed those pipelines. The legal correction was made quietly on the afternoon of on July 3, 2013, a day before the CPUC took off for the July Fourth holiday, as a strategy to hide the fact that PG&E had relied on faulty records to determine the specifications for those pipelines to handle gas at high pressure.

Calling the July 3 filing by Malkin a “brazen and calculated act of damage control,” San Bruno attorneys say PG&E’s latest legal maneuver illustrates PG&E’s ongoing attempts to cover its tracks as it continues to use natural gas pipelines at inappropriate operating pressures, without accurate records and with the same flawed materials that caused a tragic explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more.

“Gross negligence and bad recordkeeping by PG&E resulted in a fatal tragedy in our community, and now we’re discovering that PG&E is paying its legal team to perpetuate their deception at the risk of public safety,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “PG&E and its lawyers continue to play Russian roulette with people’s lives, and we are calling on the CPUC to issue sanctions and send the strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated. How many communities must endure tragedy before PG&E and our state utility regulators wake up and put safety first?”

Faulty recordkeeping was found to be a major contributor to the explosion and fire in San Bruno after federal and state investigators found that PG&E had maintained bad or nonexistent pipeline safety records for much of its 1,000+ miles of urban natural gas transmission lines. As a result, state regulators required PG&E to lower pressure on its other Peninsula gas pipelines until safety records could be verified.

In 2011, PG&E declared that the pipeline construction records were accurate for both Line 101, which runs from Milpitas to San Francisco, and Line 147, which runs in the San Carlos area. Based on PG&E’s representations, the CPUC allowed PG&E to increase the pressure back to pre-explosion levels.

In reality, PG&E’s pipelines were not rated to operate at higher pressure, as revealed after an October 2012 corrosion-related leak in San Carlos revealed seams in the pipeline previously not thought to exist. Yet, it took nine months for company attorneys to admit – by way of the subtle errata filing — that the records it had relied on to make that determination were faulty.

At a Sept. 6 hearing at the CPUC, state regulators pressed PG&E attorney Joseph Malkin over the “profoundly troubling” oversight, which occurred despite “the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for record review and validation.” PG&E now faces fines of up to $250,000 for its mistake, on top of a possible $2.25 billion penalty and fine stemming from the fatal 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno.

San Bruno officials say this is just the latest example of PG&E expending millions on top attorneys – more than $120 million by PG&E’s own admission – to subvert the truth and put profits over people.

At the Sept. 6 hearing, the PG&E legal team was selectively unresponsive to questions posed by the CPUC’s administrative law judges, invoking “attorney-client privilege,” which allowed them to dodge tough questions. Attorneys for San Bruno are asking that the CPUC conclude that PG&E waived its attorney-client privilege.

“Enough is enough. San Bruno will not sit by and watch PG&E willingly take advantage of public trust any longer,” Ruane said. “Three years after tragedy struck our community, we will continue to serve as a vigilant watch dog for public safety so that what happened in our community never happens again anywhere.”

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Bakery that Refused to Make a Cake for a Same-Sex Couple Closes its Doors

The Oregon bakery that is the target of a discrimination complaint for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding, has closed its doors.

Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Ore., closed its storefront Saturday, after owners Aaron and Melissa Klein said they would operate their business out of their home.

Sweet Cakes owner Aaron Klein

 

 

“This will be our last weekend at the shop we are moving our business to an in home bakery. I will post our new number soon. Email will stay the same,” read a post on the bakery’s Facebook page.

The Kleins are at the center of a complaint filed with the OregonDepartment of Justice last month citing an alleged possible violation of the state’s human rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation andgender identity in places of public accommodation.

The complaint, filed by Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, stated that Aaron Klein called them “abominations unto the Lord,” and said their money wasn’t equal.

Klein said he sells cakes to customers of all sexual orientations, but draws the line, however, at wedding cakes for same-sex couples.

The Sweet Cakes websitereinforces the Klein’s belief in marriage as between one man and one woman, and a sign posted on the door of their now closed bakery read, “The fight is not over.”

The Klein’s say their religious freedom is being violated.

The 2007 Oregon law provides an exemption for religious organizations and parochial schools but does not allow private business owners to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

If state investigators find substantial evidence of discrimination, the complaint could lead to a settlement or proceedings before an administrative law judge.

The amount of the damages that could be awarded isn’t capped and depends on the circumstances of each case, said bureau spokesman Charlie Burr.

Last week, a Portland bar owner was ordered to pay about $400,000to a group of transgender patrons he banned from his establishment last year, a violation of the same human rights law the Kleins are accused of violating.

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Drakes Bay Oyster Co: Judge Slams Majority Opinion, Calls it a “Hand Waving” decision

INVERNESS, CALIF. — Owners of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company today said they strongly disagree with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to eject the historic oyster farm, and that attorneys for Drakes Bay are now reviewing all options before announcing the farm’s plans moving forward.

The Ninth Circuit’s three-judge panel ruled 2 to 1 today against the oyster operation, with Justice Paul J. Watford writing a dissenting opinion in support of the oyster farm. In the dissent, Watford wrote that Drakes Bay should have prevailed on its claim that Secretary Salazar’s decision was, “arbitrary, capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law.” Watford also stated that the majority opinion consisted of “hand waving” containing “nothing of any substance”, and that the injunction should have been granted (see pg. 47 from the Ninth Circuit decision).

The well-loved oyster farm asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to prohibit the Federal Government from ejecting Drakes Bay from its property, destroying its business and taking away the jobs of its 30 employees before the case was even fully litigated.

“As community farmers and environmentalists, we continue to hold firmly in our belief that we have taken the appropriate measures to protect and preserve the waters of Drakes Estero and the wildlife that calls the National Seashore home,” said Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay.

For years, Drakes Bay has been fighting against false science and unsupported accusations from the Interior Department and the National Park Service in their attempts to close down the farm.  In a decision made last November, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar refused to issue a permit to allow Drakes Bay to continue farming upon the expiration of its 40-year-lease. The lease allowed the farm to operate on public land within the Point Reyes National Seashore, which was created decades after the oyster farm’s inception.

Drakes Bay asserts that the Ninth Circuit panel failed to consider several critical issues in their decision. Drakes Bay alleges that Salazar illegally determined that the Estero’s “potential wilderness” designation prevailed over Congress’ more recent direction, which authorized the renewal of the farm’s permit due to the fact that Salazar’s decision relied heavily on scientific misconduct and false science.

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision to deny this injunction is a step backwards not only for Drakes Bay, but also for Marin County, proponents of sustainable agriculture and farmers around the country. Our attorneys are now reviewing all of our options before we announce our plans moving forward.” Lunny said.

About Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Oyster farming in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, Marin County, has been part of the region’s history for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation ranching family, purchased Drakes Bay in 2004 to revive a historical part of the local community and ensure the continued environmental health of Drakes Estero.  Drakes Bay currently employs nearly 30 community members, and farms sustainably in Drakes Estero, producing approximately one-third of all oysters in California. The Lunny family works hard to participate in keeping the agricultural economic system in West Marin alive. Drakes Bay actively participates in the creation of a more sustainable food model that restores, conserves, and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.com.

 

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America’s Cup Race Jury Decision Makes Oracle Team USA Underdog in Most Contested America’s Cup in History

 

Oracle Team USA Now Is The Underdog in Most Heated America's Cup in History

 

An international jury has levied the harshest penalties in the 162-year history of the America’s Cup, docking defending champion Oracle Team USA two points in the finals against Emirates Team Zealand and expelling a key sailor.

The penalties announced against the syndicate Tuesday are for illegally modifying prototype boats in warmup regattas last year and earlier this year.

Oracle Team USA must win 11 races to retain the silver trophy. Team New Zealand must still win nine races in the series, which starts Saturday on San Francisco Bay.

Dirk de Ridder, who trims the wing sail, is barred from sailing in the regatta, and two shore crew members also have been expelled. Grinder Matt Mitchell has been barred from the first four races.

Oracle Team USA also was fined $250,000.

“The rules infractions involved only a few of our 130 team members, and were done without the knowledge of either our team’s management or the skippers who were driving the boats,” said team CEO Russell Coutts in a statement. “While we disagree with the unprecedented penalties imposed by the Jury, we have no choice but to make the necessary changes to personnel on our race boat and do our best to use the next four days for the new team to practice and get ready for the start of the 34th America’s Cup.”

The scenario creates the most hotly contested America’s Cup race in the storied history of the sport, clearly placing the Oracle Team USA as the underdog in the series against Emirates Team Zealand.  Despite the stupidity of Team USA members for participating in the boat weighting affair, the hard lesson learned has created a more than healthy rivalry with the Kiwi team.

The Kiwi team and the New Zealand media may have overplayed their hand and protested too much, creating an animosity with the American team.  American’s fight best when they are down, and they are assuredly down now, having lost three members of their team and two match points.

The New Zealander team has been together for four years and now the Oracle Team USA has only been selected and together for four days.  That’s quite a contrast, and, combined with the jury’s penalties, puts them in a fight, win or die position.  And, it also adds excitement and a new angle to what has been, up until now, a rather lackluster sporting event in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hand it to Larry Ellison. Even when his team screws up, they make the best and most exciting things out of it.

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America’s Cup: Is Emirates New Zealand Team Celebrating America’s Cup Jury Decision Too Soon?

America’s Cup: Jury Rigged?

The level of glee by the Emirates New Zealand  team and news media over foibles of Oracle Team USA has taken such a decidedly nasty turn that members of the International Jury have delayed their decision over what penalties, if any, should be given to defending America’s Cup champion team in the “weighting scandal.”

Clearly, Oracle Team USA made a serious mistake. Who in Hell puts weights on a ship to make it go faster? And, who in Hell does it in “pre-season” matches when it doesn’t matter in scoring America’s Cup races?

It was a stupid move by someone/s on Team USA, but it shouldn’t impact the most sought after silver trophy in the World, The America’s Cup.

But the New Zealand team, and the media down-under, have gone “John Bull Mad” over the alleged scandal and created such an ugly scene they have brought disrepute on themselves as much as Team USA. It’s embarrassing to read the ‘homer” news copy from the Kiwis.

The N.Z. media’s fawning stories about the “cheating scandal” and how it has harmed the sport are hogwash.  The America’s Cup is always controversial and the Kiwi’s namby-pamby media patter has made the entire sport look amateurish, low-class and soft.

The jury should make its decision and it should be fair and square–something that has not been so far with leaks from the Jury and other questionable allegations making their way into the media.

The Jury’s pending decision should not be delayed any longer and the decision must be commensurate with the alleged wrong doing: if no harm and no impact was had on the America’s Cup race itself, why should any of the sailors or Team USA be penalized? Really?

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Did PG&E CEO Tony Earley Lie to Bloomberg News on Bankruptcy Statement on CPUC San Bruno Fine?

 

Did PG&E CEO and Chairman Tony Earley Knowingly Mislead Bloomberg News and Wall Street?

 

Pacific Gas & Electric Company CEO Tony Earley’s statement to Bloomberg News this week has landed the utility executive between a rock and hard place.

The City of San Bruno today criticized statements by the top executive of Pacific Gas & Electric Company who told Bloomberg News on Tuesday that a proposed penalty and fine by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) for the deadly 2010 PG&E gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno could force the utility into bankruptcy – statements that contradict the sworn legal testimony of PG&E’s own finance expert.

PG&E Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tony Earley told Bloomberg in a news interview the proposed $2.25 billion penalty and fine for the Sept. 9, 2010 explosion in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged the community could not be funded with equity alone. He told the news service the penalty would require PG&E shareholders to sell billions in additional stock and, if shares failed to sell, could land PG&E in bankruptcy.

San Bruno city officials said these comments contradict the findings of multiple experts, including PG&E’s own paid finance consultant.

“Mr. Earley’s comments are inconsistent with the company’s own sworn testimony made before the CPUC on March 5 this year,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “PG&E’s own expert said the company has the financial capability to withstand a penalty of this magnitude. We are deeply concerned that these comments could mislead the market, shareholders, and the public, and we hope these were not made in a deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of the ongoing penalty process.”

Earlier this year, PG&E’s paid expert, Eric O. Fornell of Wells Fargo Securities, said during a penalty proceeding under oath that it was “doable” for PG&E to issue equity or raise enough capital to cover a $2 billion penalty. His statements followed a separate, impartial report by Overland Consulting, independently commissioned by the CPUC in 2012, which similarly found that PG&E would be able to afford a $2.25 billion penalty without hurting its creditworthiness.

Meanwhile, PG&E stock prices remain strong. PG&E Corp.’s second-quarter earnings rose 39 percent as the utility reported stronger revenue and lower charges related to its natural-gas pipeline efforts, among other items.

The company’s solid financial footing and multiple expert findings are partly what guided the $2.25 billion recommendation of the CPUC’s safety division, which issued its revised penalty proposal in July. The proposed $2.25 billion penalty would fund ongoing safety improvements and include a $300 million fine to PG&E shareholders, which is not tax deductible and would be paid directly to the State of California’s general fund. In addition, the proposal also curtails PG&E’s ability to deduct “credits” for safety repairs made since the 2010 explosion and fire – a provision San Bruno has advocated strongly for.

San Bruno officials said they support elements of the CPUC’s proposed penalty, but given the scope and magnitude of PG&E’s misconduct, they are pushing for a penalty of $3.8 billion, which would amount to $2.45 billion in after-tax dollars. This penalty would also fund ongoing safety improvements and give no credits for past expenses. San Bruno based its recommendation on the Overland report, which determined that PG&E could bear a maximum financial consequence of $2.45 billion and remain solvent.

San Bruno said it will also continue pushing the CPUC to direct PG&E to adopt and fund a series of remedial measures that will ensure systemic regulatory change in the future. These include $5 million per year for a “California Pipeline Safety Trust,” an Independent Monitor to make sure PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement and the installation of lifesaving Automated Shutoff Valves.

The CPUC’s five-member commission is expected to issue its final recommendation in coming months.

“As we approach the three-year anniversary of this devastating tragedy, we remain firm in our belief that the only way to prevent future accidents is by penalizing PG&E to the maximum,” Mayor Ruane said. “The independent experts – even PG&E’s – have agreed that PG&E is financially able to weather a penalty of this magnitude—and then some. We are now looking to the CPUC to do the right thing and penalize PG&E in order to send a strong message that public safety cannot be compromised by the bottom line.”

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Study: Single-payer healthcare system would save billions

Expanding the nation’s Medicare program to cover people of all ages would save the government billions of dollars, according to a new study released Wednesday.

The study found that a single-payer health care system based on the principles of legislation by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, would save the federal government about $592 billion in one year.

That’s more than enough to pay for comprehensive benefits for all Americans at a lower cost to the public, according to Physicians for a National Health Program, which circulated the study. The extra money would go to paying down the national debt.

The savings would come from slashing administrative waste and negotiating drug prices.

The study was conducted by Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“Paradoxically, by expanding Medicare to everyone we’d end up saving billions of dollars annually,” Friedman said. “We’d be safeguarding Medicare’s fiscal integrity while enhancing the nation’s health for the long term.”

The study comes as Republicans in Congress are pulling out all the stops to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul. Tea Party Republicans have in recent weeks vowed to oppose any measures to keep the government running after the current funding bill runs out on Sept. 30 if it also means funding ObamaCare.

Republicans have generally opposed the idea of a single-payer health care system in the past.

 

By Lara Seligman, The Hill

 

 


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Prince William and Kate’s Royal Baby Boy is Third in Line to British Throne

Prince William’s wife Kate gave birth to a boy on Monday, the couple’s first child and the third in line to the British throne, heralding celebrations in London and messages of goodwill from across the world.

“We could not be happier,” Prince William said in a brief statement, after he witnessed the birth of his son at 4:24 p.m. (11:24 a.m. ET), an event that sparked an international media frenzy and the illumination of London landmarks in blue.

His office said Kate and the baby, weighing 8 lbs 6 oz (3.8 kg) and to be publicly named at a later date, were both doing well and would stay in hospital overnight.

Prince William phoned his grandmother the queen to give her the news, and also contacted his father Prince Charles and brother Prince Harry, all of whom were said to be delighted. The addition to the family is third in line to the throne after Prince Charles and William.

It might take some time for the name to emerge however. The announcement of William’s name took more than a week, but bookmakers make George the favorite, followed by James.

As the birth of the queen’s third great-grandchild was announced, a loud cheer went up from the well-wishers and media gathered outside St. Mary’s Hospital in west London, where William was also born to the late Princess Diana in 1982.

“It is an incredibly special moment for William and Catherine and we are so thrilled for them on the birth of their baby boy,” said Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.

Within minutes, messages of congratulations began flooding in, while crowds gathered outside the queen’s London residence Buckingham Palace where an official notice was placed on a gold-colored easel at the main gates.

U.S. President Barack Obama was one of the first world leaders to welcome the birth.

“Michelle and I are so pleased to congratulate The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the joyous occasion of the birth of their first child,” he said. “We wish them all the happiness and blessings parenthood brings.”

The royal couple, officially known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, had arrived at the hospital shortly before 6 a.m. and entered through a back door to avoid massed ranks of British and international media camped outside the main entrance.

Kate and William, both aged 31, met when they were students at St. Andrews University and were married in April 2011 in a spectacular wedding broadcast around the world.

FRENZY

The royal birth has provoked a similar frenzy, with media keeping up a deluge of speculative reports for days beforehand and particularly throughout Monday.

“Right across the country and indeed right across the Commonwealth people will be celebrating and wishing the royal couple well,” Prime Minister David Cameron told waiting reporters in Downing Street.

“It is an important moment in the life of our nation but I suppose above all it’s a wonderful moment for a warm and loving couple who got a brand new baby boy.”

Outside Buckingham Palace, there was a party atmosphere with well-wishers laying flowers and teddy bears, singing “God Save the Queen” and “Happy Birthday”, and children waving flags.

“The build up to the birth has been so big I’m just happy it’s finally come. I’m pleased it’s a boy, you always want a boy really,” said Alice Durrans, who rushed from a nearby restaurant after hearing the news.

Deborah Beeson, a banker from the United States, was ecstatic.

“It’s wonderful. I got chills. I cried,” she said. “You know America loves Kate. She’s just beautiful, she has dignity.”

There will be a 41-gun salute at London’s Hyde Park and 62 rounds fired at the Tower of London on Tuesday to herald news of the birth.

The baby arrives at a time when the royal family is riding a wave of popularity. An Ipsos Mori poll last week showed 77 percent of Britons were in favor of remaining a monarchy over a republic, close to its best-ever level of support.

DARK DAYS

The dark days for the House of Windsor after the death of William’s mother Princess Diana in 1997, which led to public anger at the royals, have been replaced with outpourings of support for William and Kate’s wedding and the Diamond Jubilee for the queen last summer.

“It’s been a remarkable few years for our royal family,” Cameron said.

The couple, who have been living in a cottage in north Wales where William is based as a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, will eventually take up residence with their baby at Apartment 1A at London’s Kensington Palace when a 1 million pound refurbishment is completed later this year.

The palace was also William’s childhood home.

The young royal couple have become global stars after some 2 billion people tuned in to watch their glittering marriage ceremony in 2011, while Kate is seen as a fashion icon.

(Additional reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Sarah Young, Limei Hoang and Mark Anderson; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Michael Roddy and Eric Beech)

 

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Major Victory for Drakes Bay Oyster Co. as Marin Court Allows Farm to Remain Open Until Federal Lawsuit is Resolved

Amy Trainer, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin executive director, discredited by false statements against Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Court makes favorable  judgement for DBOC

A Marin County Superior Court Judge put two orders by the California Coastal Commission on the back burner that would have forced the historic Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) to shut down prior to the resolution of a pending federal lawsuit.

“We are pleased that the court stayed the restoration order, recognizing that it was inappropriate for the Commission to act while the federal permit is still  under review by the Court,” said DBOC owner, Kevin Lunny.  “We are  troubled, however, that the Commission continues to misrepresent the oyster farm operations to the public and the Court. We are confident that theirmisrepresentations will be revealed for what they are—completely unfounded and contradictory with their own reports—when the hearing on the merits occurs,” he said.

In February 2013, the Commission issued a Cease and Desist Order and Restoration Order against Drakes Bay, alleging that the historic farm was not complying with required standards and was harming harbor seals, eelgrass and the environment of Drakes Estero. These allegations were  repeatedly proven to be false by the Nation’s top scientists and the Commission’s own reports.

A special Commission Trip Report, prepared in 2007, directly contradicts the two major claims the Commission has made in court. The Commission argued that the oyster farm harms harbor seals because “there are boats cruising around near harbor seals”, but its report admits that “servicing the oyster bags located several hundred yards away from the haul-out sites probably would not result in disturbance to the seals.”  The Commission also argued that DBOC is “expanding” operations, but its own report admitted that the historical production cap was 700,000 pounds/year, a recommended level of production which DBOC has not violated.

Even the Commission’s own vice-chair, Steve Kinsey, has called the Commission’s treatment of DBOC “morally disturbing.” Kinsey stated that the Commission has “repeated the same disproven assertions that the operation was harming harbor seals and eelgrass” and “chosen to portray the Lunnys as irresponsible operators to aid and abet the Park Service’s myopic interest in terminating the lease.”

“With the support of our employees, thousands of environmentalists, community members and elected leaders around the nation, we will continue to fight and remain confident and hopeful that we will be successful in the next stages of our legal battle,” Lunny stated.

Recently,  Amy Trainer, Director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, has been  exposed in a series of false statements against Drakes Bay Oyster Co.  Trainer has issued a series of false news releases and made statements regarding  the scientific evidence about the benefits of oyster farming.  She and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, were also behind the false statements that the DBOC was being funded by the conservative Koch brothers.  It has been proven there was no tie or link between the Koch brothers and DBOC and Trainer and her environmental group have been discredited.

About Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Oyster farming in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, MarinCounty, has been part of the region’s history for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation Point Reyesranching family, purchased Drakes Bay Oyster Company in 2004 to revive a historical part of the local community and ensure the continued environmental health of Drakes Estero.  DrakesBaycurrently employs nearly 30 community members, and farms sustainably in Drakes Estero, producing approximately one-third of all oysters in California. The Lunny family works hard to participate in keeping the agricultural economic system in West Marin alive. DrakesBayactively participates in the creation of a more sustainable food model that restores, conserves, and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.com.

 

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San Bruno Commends Improved CPUC Recommendation to Punish PG&E, Demands Even Tougher Remedies from Regulators

San Francisco—The City of San Bruno today commended the latest legal filing by the California Public Utilities Commission’s safety division and called the improved penalty and fine proposal of $2.25 billion against Pacific Gas & Electric Company “a step in the right direction” to punish the utility for its gross negligence that caused the Sept. 9, 2010 San Bruno explosion and fire.

 

San Bruno officials have long demanded that PG&E pay the maximum for the tragic explosion and fire that took eight lives, destroyed 38 homes, and damaged scores more.  The City today said it will continue its push for additional remedies, including lifesaving fully automated safety shutoff valves and an independent safety monitor to serve as a watch dog for the completion of required system safety improvements.

 

San Bruno is also asking that the CPUC mandate that PG&E fund a Pipeline Safety Trust in California, an independent group that would advocate for pipeline safety and would serve as a legacy to the tragic explosion.  San Bruno has until Aug. 1 to file its formal response to the CPUC.

 

“The latest penalty proposal is a long-awaited step in the right direction for public safety, and we commend the attorneys within the CPUC’s safety division for exhibiting the courage to significantly strengthen the division’s previous, and inadequate, penalty recommendation,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “While we wholeheartedly support the tougher penalty and fine, the City of San Bruno will continue to fight for additional and ongoing safeguards to protect the public and help us ensure that what happened in San Bruno never happens again, anywhere.”

 

The City cautioned that it just received the CPUC safety division filing this morning and needs to review it thoroughly before fully commenting on the revised proposal.

 

The CPUC’s revised $2.25 billion penalty and fine proposal replaces the CPUC’s original — and now discredited — recommendation announced with much hype by Jack Hagan, director of the CPUC’s safety division, in May but which was soon revealed to be 100 percent tax-deductible and littered with credits and perks to benefit PG&E, amounting in a net penalty of almost nothing for the utility.

 

Not one of the CPUC safety division’s senior attorneys agreed to sign the original penalty recommendation, calling it “unlawful” and “contrary to what our team had worked to accomplish in the last two and a half years.” Those attorneys were reassigned off the investigation as a result of their protest.

 

The shocking internal turmoil at the CPUC led San Bruno to call for an investigation by the California Attorney General and the State Legislature and, ultimately, forced the recusal of the CPUC’s chief counsel and the lead attorney on the case, Frank Lindh, a former PG&E attorney.

 

The formerly reassigned attorneys returned to the investigation and last week they requested to withdraw the old filing and “correct certain inaccuracies,” characterizing the events as “unorthodox.”

 

The amended filing not only imposes a tough penalty of about $2.25 billion that will fund ongoing safety improvements but it also incorporates a $300 million fine to PG&E shareholders, which is not tax deductible and would be diverted into the State of California’s general fund. In addition, the proposal also curtails PG&E’s ability to deduct “credits” for safety repairs made since the 2010 explosion and fire – a provision San Bruno has advocated strongly for in the past.

 

And while city officials say they generally support the monetary component of the CPUC’s revised proposal, given the widespread dysfunction at the CPUC, they will continue to push for PG&E to adopt and fund a series of remedial measures to ensure systemic regulatory change in the future. These include funding for a California Pipeline Safety Trust advocacy organization, an Independent Monitor to make sure PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement, and the installation of lifesaving fully Automatic Shutoff Valves.   The City also opposes the proposed $435 million credit to PG&E shareholders which effectively reduces the  penalty against PG&E to $1.815 billion.

 

“While we continue to applaud those CPUC attorneys who displayed exceptional courage in their effort to uphold justice for the people and victims of San Bruno, we believe the level of chaos and disarray at the CPUC is proof that additional, going-forward remedies are needed, specifically an Independent Monitor to oversee the CPUC’s activities and correct the overly cozy relationship with the CPUC,” Ruane said. “We will continue to fight for additional safeguards so that, as the legacy of the City’s involvement in this process, we can feel confident that the state’s regulatory and public utility systems are changed for the better.”

 

 

Contact: Connie Jackson, City Manager

Phone: (650) 616-7056

Sam Singer, Singer Associates

Office: (415) 227-9700

 

 

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America’s Cup sponsor Louis Vuitton wants a refund

One of the most prestigious and longest running sponsors of the America’s Cup wants some of its money back.

Louis Vuitton, the posh French retailer that has been a primary financial backer of the competition, wants $3 million refunded because so few teams have entered.

Louis Vuitton’s initial sponsorship was for $10 million, according to an America’s Cup source. Its contract was based on at least eight teams taking part in the Louis Vuitton Cup, a round-robin playoff to determine which team will ultimately sail against Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup championship.

There are three teams entered in the Louis Vuitton Cup: Italy’s Luna Rossa, Sweden’s Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand.

Since the 1980s, there have been anywhere from 7 to 13 teams taking part in the competition. Several potential challengers — from Korea, France, Australia, Spain and Italy — pulled out of the America’s Cup, many citing the financial burden of competing at sailing’s highest level.

Louis Vuitton can get a $1 million rebate for each team less than six that participate, the Cup source said. That would mean the company is entitled to get $3 million back.

Should any of the remaining teams pull out of the competition — which they have hinted they might do — Louis Vuitton would be entitled to even more money back.

A spokesman for the America’s Cup, which began this week and runs until September, said that Louis Vuitton’s actions were “a very old story.”

Due to a dispute with the regatta director of the America’s Cup, the Italian team has boycotted sailing. That lead to a bizarre scenario July 7 in which Emirates Team New Zealand sailed the race course alone in San Francisco Bay to formally win the first of several matches in the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Bruno Trouble, a former America’s Cup sailor for France who is Louis Vuitton’s ambassador to the America’s Cup, told the New Zealand Herald he is “very upset” that the opening day of the event was overshadowed by Luna Rossa’s no-show. Louis Vuitton will continue to support the regatta financially, but at a reduced rate, the newspaper reported.

“We have a deal,” Trouble said. “We are committed to this event, we are not happy, but we are committed.”

Louis Vuitton has been a Cup sponsor for 30 years. Prior to its sponsorship of the Challenger Series, the teams who took part in the pre-races had to divide the cost of the event themselves.

Louis Vuitton briefly dropped its sponsorship of the Cup in 2007, saying that commercialism had overtaken the competition. Then in 2010, after Oracle Racing won the America’s Cup, Louis Vuitton renewed its sponsorship of the Cup.

“There’s nothing new here,” said America’s Cup spokesman Tim Jeffery.

A Louis Vuitton spokesman was not immediately available for comment. But a Louis Vuitton representative told a New Zealand newspaper that the company was “not happy” with the Louis Vuitton Cup so far.

From the San Francisco Business Times

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America’s Cup Shocker in San Francisco: Louis Vuitton Wants its Money Back for Race Sponsorship

One of the most prestigious and longest running sponsors of the America’s Cup wants some of its money back, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

Louis Vuitton, the posh French retailer that has been a primary financial backer of the competition, wants $3 million refunded because so few teams have entered.

Louis Vuitton’s initial sponsorship was for $10 million, according to an America’s Cup source. Its contract was based on at least eight teams taking part in the Louis Vuitton Cup, a round-robin playoff to determine which team will ultimately sail against Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup championship.

There are three teams entered in the Louis Vuitton Cup: Italy’s Luna Rossa, Sweden’s Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand.

Since the 1980s, there have been anywhere from 7 to 13 teams taking part in the competition. Several potential challengers — from Korea, France, Australia, Spain and Italy — pulled out of the America’s Cup, many citing the financial burden of competing at sailing’s highest level.

Louis Vuitton can get a $1 million rebate for each team less than six that participate, the Cup source said. That would mean the company is entitled to get $3 million back.

Should any of the remaining teams pull out of the competition — which they have hinted they might do — Louis Vuitton would be entitled to even more money back.

A spokesman for the America’s Cup, which began this week and runs until September, was not immediately available for comment.

A Louis Vuitton spokesman was not immediately available for comment. But a Louis Vuitton representative told a New Zealand newspaper that the company was “not happy” with the Louis Vuitton Cup so far.

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Audubon Society Accused of Fraudulent Land Grab By Ranchers: How Audubon Society Used “White Out” To Change Boundries

MAYACAMAS MOUNTAINS, Calif. — A group of California families are accusing the National Audubon Society of whiting out parts of maps to swindle them out of their best land. This is property that in some cases has been in the families’ hands since the 1920s.

The Cervieres brothers, immigrants from France, came to California in 1895. By 1924 they had money to buy beautiful plots of land high up in the Mayacamas Mountains, towering over Sonoma wine country in northern California.

They wanted a place of retreat and refuge for what they hoped would someday be a large and extended family of Cervieres. Their descendants became five families who bought even more land in the Pine Flat area of these mountains.

And they did form a tradition across the decades of enjoying almost every major family occasion, summers and holidays in this mountain paradise. They built five homes they collectively dubbed “the ranch.”

“The ranch was like the lifeblood, the glue that held the family together,” said Lea Raynal, now one of the extended family’s matriarchs.

But a fire swept through in 2004 and burned down three of the houses.

“Torched this whole thing,” Lea’s son Mike Raynal said, looking up at a bare chimney that’s all that’s left of one home.  “We lost everything.”

Family members felt horrible but fanned hope by deciding to rebuild as quickly as possible.

Another Blow

Then came another devastating blow from a surprising source. A neighbor had bequeathed thousands of acres next door to the National Audubon Society, best known for its love of birds and conservation.

To rebuild, the families would need to upgrade the roads leading across Audubon land to accommodate their heavy construction equipment.

But after decades of everyone sharing these roads, Audubon said no and then hit the families with yet another bombshell: It said it had proof their very best acres, the flat ones where their houses had been, were actually Audubon land.

“It was like being hit in the stomach, the wind knocked out of you,” Lea recalled.

Audubon representatives showed the family survey maps that appeared to bolster Audubon’s claim, maps that years later family members would find had parts whited out by Audubon.

According to the family’s lawyer Peter Prows, the reps gave them an ultimatum:  “We’re not going to let you rebuild your homes unless you agree to the boundary as we’re claiming it to be on our drawings.”

Mike’s brother, Phil Raynal, said that would have pushed family members’ new houses “approximately 300 yards up the hill, way up in an upper meadow – virtually impossible to build on.”

“This is the only flat area,” he said, pointing to the area around him where their houses had been.

Prows said Audubon then informed the families, “If you don’t agree, we’re going to go out and build a fence on that line, and if you try to interfere, we’re going to call the police.”

Legal Battle Begins

In court documents later, Audubon insisted it believed its claim that it truly owned the best acres of its next-door neighbors.

And since it was legally bound to preserve the wilderness acres bequeathed it, the company said it couldn’t just hand those acres back to the families if it really owned them.

Audubon said it held meetings and bent over backwards to work out a deal with the families.

But here’s what Phil heard from an Audubon representative at one of those meetings: “This property has never, ever been yours. Get over it.”

“That haunts me. I tell you what, that haunts me every day,” he said.

Phil and his family accuse Audubon of simply coveting their land.

“It really bothers me that they’d come up here and try to take something that’s ours,” Phil’s young son Ryan said.

So the families decided to fight, with Mike and Phil Raynal leading the way. They threw themselves into a years-long effort to prove the ancient boundaries were correct and their land was indeed theirs, not Audubon’s.

A Costly Fight

Their efforts cost them and their families hundreds of thousands of dollars across several years, and much more than just money but “thousands and thousands and countless hours,” Phil said, shaking his head.

The brothers for years cut their way through rugged brush to find the original surveyors’ landmarks, facing rattlesnakes, ticks, poison ivy, and exhaustion.

They both already had full-time jobs. This fight became another one. Mike’s daughter Danielle feels it cost her her father.

“I’ve lost a father pretty much,” she said. “Me and my dad were very close, and it’s been hard. We’ve all drifted apart.”

Some family members were not only spending every spare hour fighting to prove Audubon wrong. But while all this was working its way through the legal system, the families couldn’t rebuild and were cut off from their piece of paradise and all those family gatherings like they’d had for decades.

“You have family reunions. You’re always having holidays,” Danielle remembered as she recalled how the five families would spend months of each year together on the ranch.

“And then it’s just an abrupt stop,” she said.

“Everybody getting together. It was just absolutely amazing,” Danielle’s mother Carin Raynal recalled. “And this whole debacle has just torn all of it apart.”

Another family member, Bruce Young, testified in a sworn declaration.

“There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the emotional stress and aggravation to which Audubon subjected me is the cause and underlying reason for the three strokes I have suffered and survived,” he said.

‘White Out’ Gate

Then another stunning surprise in 2010 after years of legal wrangling: Audubon caved and said it would accept the original property lines and let the families use the roads unimpeded.

“They completely capitulated,” Prows stated.

No one outside of Audubon knows why this capitulation, but one more shock was ahead. In 2012, the families’ lawyers discovered with a subpoena that at the start of all this, Audubon had held back from family members some of the surveying maps it had commissioned.

They had also altered the maps they presented to prove Audubon’s claim.

“Audubon had actually doctored the drawings that it showed to our clients,” Prows said. “It took white out, and we have emails from Audubon’s very top people talking about putting white-out on the maps – removing the lines that its surveyors had put on the maps that Audubon didn’t like, showing that the boundary really was in the right place all along.”

This screamed lies and coverup to the families.

“We actually call it ‘White Out Gate’ now,” Phil said.

He still gets mad thinking of those thousands of hours he and Mike spent researching, gathering documents, combing through the thick brush on their land.

“Really what sunk in was all those years – seven, eight years of hard work when they knew from day one this was never their property. Ever! They knew it,” Phil fumed.

“I couldn’t believe anybody would do that,” Mike Raynal said. “I wouldn’t do that to another human being, period.”

A Bid for Restitution

Now the families are suing for fraud. Audubon admitted in court documents it didn’t give them all the surveyor’s maps but said that was because not all were relevant. It said it did white out lines on the maps but only lines it said were extraneous.

Audubon calls this lawsuit frivolous, demanding the families pay its legal bills.

Family members refuse to give an inch because all these years of legal war have certainly cost them.

“It’s affected everybody mentally, physically, emotionally,” Carin Raynal said.

When CBN News asked repeatedly for an interview or written comments, Audubon suggested researching the court documents and would only give the following mission statement:

“Audubon is fully committed to its mission as a non-profit organization dedicated to faithful care of the earth. We believe that every person on earth is a steward of land, air, water and wildlife. We believe that safeguarding America’s great natural heritage builds a better world for future generations, preserves our shared quality of life, and fosters a healthier environment for all of us.”

Lea Raynal summed up her family’s feelings about Audubon: “They came in and stirred up all this mess, and we’re left with nothing.”

From a CBN News Report

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Gay Marriage Financial Check List

After celebrating the Supreme Court’s historic rulings on gay marriage last week, it’s time for same-sex married couples to sit down and go over their finances.

That’s because legally married same-sex couples are now entitled to the same federal benefits as their straight counterparts. Married gay couples can file joint federal income taxes for the first time, and as spouses they won’t have to pay inheritance taxes when one partner dies.

But the decision still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What do couples who move to states that don’t recognize gay marriage do? Can they file taxes jointly? (Thirteen states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.)

It could take a few months before there are clear answers, says Lisa Siegel, a senior wealth planner at Wells Fargo Private Bank. The Internal Revenue Service says that it is reviewing the Supreme Court decisions, and will offer “revised guidance in the near future.”

But gay married couples can take action now by checking in with an adviser. Advisers may not have all the answers yet, but they can set out a plan and begin to get familiar with your circumstances, says Siegel.

FIND GOOD HELP

Before you start making financial plans, make sure the lawyer or accountant you hire has experience working with same-sex couples. “Ask them; it’s very important,” Siegel says.

Look for financial planners who have received the accredited domestic partnership adviser designation, or ADPA. You can search for planners with an ADPA designation here:http://apne.ws/12HkbAo.

Lambda Legal, a legal nonprofit that fights for equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, can refer you to lawyers if you call its help desk. Go to www.lambdalegal.org/helpfor the phone numbers.

Pride Planners, an organization of financial professionals that helps gay and lesbian people, has a search function on its websites to find financial planners and accountants in most states around the country. Go to PridePlanners.com to conduct a search.

CALL A TAX ACCOUNTANT

Married couples who filed separate federal income taxes in the past couple of years may be entitled to a refund, says Elda Di Re, a partner in Ernst & Young’s personal financial services group.

Ask a tax accountant to amend your past returns to determine if you would have gotten a refund if you had filed jointly. The IRS allows taxpayers to amend income taxes from the past three years.

Filing jointly is not always beneficial. Couples in which one person earns much more than the other could see a refund. But if both people have high incomes, they will probably pay more taxes than if they filed separately, says Mark Luscombe, an analyst at tax software and services company CCH.

It’s still unclear if the IRS will be giving out refunds, but experts expect the agency to allow couples to amend their returns. So ask your accountant to run the numbers now, or amend the returns yourself on any tax software you may have used.

Widowed individuals who were in same-sex marriages and paid inheritance taxes may be able to get money back, says Luscombe.

REVIEW YOUR BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS

Check with your employer and see who the beneficiary is on your 401(k) plan. 401(k) account holders should know that their spouse will automatically inherit the account, unless the spouse signs a waiver. So if couples want to make other arrangements, it needs to be outlined clearly in the beneficiary form and, if necessary, a waiver needs to be in place from the spouse, says Alexander Popovich, a wealth adviser at JP Morgan Private Bank.

You should also check to see if your spouse is a beneficiary on your life insurance and any other retirement accounts, such as an individual retirement account, says Alexander Popovich, a wealth adviser at JP Morgan Private Bank.

RE-EXAMINE REAL ESTATE DEEDS

Some married gay couples may have left spouses out of real estate deeds to avoid a gift tax, says Popovich. Same-sex married couples no longer have to pay gift taxes after the ruling. If you want to add a spouse to a real estate deed, speak to a lawyer.

REVISIT YOUR WILL

Now that married gay spouses don’t have to pay federal estate taxes on anything they inherit after a spouse’s death, married couples should review their will, says John Olivieri, a partner at law firm White & Case.

CHECK HEALTH BENEFITS

If your employer didn’t allow your spouse on your health insurance, it should now, says Frank Fantozzi, founder of Planned Financial Services. Find out whose benefits are cheaper, or which employer offers more coverage, and decide if you want a change.

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CPUC Filing by City of San Bruno Calls for PG&E to Pay Maximum Penalty without Credits for San Bruno Blast and Fire

San Francisco—The City of San Bruno filed legal arguments this week calling for the California Public Utilities Commission to levy the maximum penalty against the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. without granting it hundreds of millions in past repair credits for its gross negligence that caused the explosion of PG&E’s line 132 in San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010.

San Bruno’s motion filed late Monday calls on the CPUC to strike the vague “credit” concept altogether from the CPUC safety division’s so-called penalty proposal of $2.25 billion – which has been revealed to provide significant tax benefit rewards in addition to huge credits to PG&E – and to prohibit PG&E from deducting an ill-defined list of safety improvements made to date since the 2010 explosion and fire.

“These credits would let PG&E off the hook for more than 50 years of  systematic safety failures that caused the 2010 explosion and fire, which took the lives of eight citizens of our city, destroyed 38 homes, and left a hole in the heart of San Bruno,” said Mayor Jim Ruane. “We ask that this ill-defined provision be struck completely from the penalty recommendation so that PG&E can be held accountable for this tragic disaster and justice for the victims of San Bruno can finally be served.”

The concept of allowing PG&E to deduct for past safety repairs made since the 2010 explosion and fire surfaced first in the so-called penalty recommendation of Jack Hagan, director of the CPUC’s safety division.  That recommendation is now mired in controversy after it was revealed to be 100 percent tax-deductible and littered with credits and perks to benefit PG&E, amounting in a net penalty of almost nothing for PG&E.

Senior attorneys on the CPUC’s safety division refused to sign the proposal – calling it “unlawful” and “contrary to what our team had worked to accomplish in the last two and a half years” – and, bowing to political pressure, the lead attorney on the case, Frank Lindh, a former PG&E attorney, has since recused himself entirely from the investigation.

San Bruno city officials contend that allowing PG&E to reduce its penalty by amounts already spent on safety improvements since 2010 will result in a calculation that is an “untested, unaudited, unverified back of the envelope calculation of alleged PG&E shareholder expense,” according to San Bruno’s filing with the CPUC.

“To award PG&E a massive, and in San Bruno’s view, undeserved ‘credit’ against the significant fines, penalties and remedies warranted by PG&E’s decades of irresponsible and deadly mismanagement in this manner does not comport with due process or offer the residents of San Bruno any measure of justice,” the filing states.

San Bruno has instead called for PG&E to be penalized a total of $3.8 billion – or $2.45 billion in after-tax dollars – the maximum financial consequences that the CPUC safety division experts determined it can bear without giving PG&E the benefit of significant state and federal tax breaks and no credits for past expenses.

San Bruno has also demanded that the CPUC direct PG&E to adopt and fund a series of remedial measures to ensure systemic regulatory change in the future. These include funding  for a California Pipeline Safety Trust advocacy organization, an Independent Monitor to make sure PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement, and the installation of lifesaving fully Automatic Shutoff Valves.

“The concept of granting so-called credits for safety improvements that PG&E should have been making for the past 50 years is a slap in the face to the residents of San Bruno and the citizens of California who place trust in our public utility system to keep our gas lines functioning safely,” Ruane said. “We ask that the CPUC do the right thing by eliminating this onerous credit concept and by penalizing PG&E so that we can ensure this tragedy never happens again, anywhere.”

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BART Strike Update: Former BART Director Michael Bernick Calls for Parties to Continue Negotiations, Not Strike

Oakland–Former BART Director Michael Bernick today called for BART management and unions to continue negotiations, if no agreement is reached by 12:00 a.m. July 1, according to a news release just issued by the transit district and its communications agency Singer Associates Public Relations and Public Affairs.

 “In 1991, 1994 and 2009 the parties continued negotiating past the strike deadline, and a settlement was reached without a strike. The same process at least should be tried this time,” said Bernick, who formerly served as  a director of the BART transit system.

The former director noted that the collective bargaining process by which the parties negotiate with the threat of a Bay Area transit strike needs to be changed by the state legislature. The same dynamics of negotiations to the end and threat of a transit strike have occurred in each of the negotiations over the past three decades. The current process is a disservice to Bay Area residents, and over the past negotiations has not resulted in better settlements for the BART workers.

Regarding the structure of a settlement,  Bernick noted that Governor Brown has set a structure for pension contributions that should guide BART negotiations.

Bernick also urged other politicians to stay out of the process. “The BART Board is a responsible body and should be given the authority to handle the negotiations.”

Bernick was elected to the board of directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail system in 1988 and soon began to note the lack of land development linked to rail. With UC Berkeley Professor Robert Cervero, he established a research center at UC-Berkeley focused on the link of land use and transit, and together they published a series of articles leading to their 1996 book, Transit Villages in the 21st Century.  The book helped to develop and popularize the transit village concept.

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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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