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Chevron Ecuador Lawsuit: International Tribunal Cites Ecuador and President Rafael Correa in Breach of its Obligations Under International Law

An international arbitration tribunal issued an award yesterday finding that the Republic of Ecuador and the administration of President Rafael Correa has violated the Tribunal’s prior Interim Awards authorized under international law and a treaty between the United States and Ecuador by not preventing the attempted enforcement of a $19 billion judgment against Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX)  In prior rulings, the Tribunal put the Republic on notice that if Chevron’s arbitration ultimately prevails, “any loss arising from the enforcement of (the judgment) may be losses for which the (Republic) would be responsible to (Chevron) under international law.”

This decision is a stunning rebuke to President Correa and his re-election campaign in Ecuador and casts a pall on all efforts by the plaintiffs in the case  because of the illegal behavior of Ecuador and the plaintiffs.

Convened under the authority of the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (the BIT) and administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, the Tribunal found Ecuador in breach of the Tribunal’s prior rulings and ordered the Republic to explain why it should not be ordered to compensate Chevron for all harm resulting from the plaintiffs’ attempts to enforce a judgment resulting from an environmental trial against the company in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.

Almost one year ago, the Tribunal issued a Second Interim Award ordering the Republic of Ecuador—and all of its branches, including the judiciary—to take all necessary actions to prevent enforcement and recognition of the Lago Agrio judgment, both inside and outside of Ecuador.  That award expanded upon a prior award requiring Ecuador to “take all measures at its disposal to suspend or cause to be suspended the enforcement or recognition within and without Ecuador of any judgment.”

“The Tribunal’s decision confirms that the enforcement actions being pursued against Chevron in Argentina, Brazil, and Canada fly in the face of international law,” said Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel.  “Yet Ecuador has consistently aligned itself with American trial lawyers who have used corrupt courts to advance an unprecedented fraud.  It is not too late for the Republic to reverse course, declare the Lago Agrio judgment illegitimate, and address the real challenges facing its citizens.”

Despite the Tribunal’s Awards, the Republic of Ecuador has facilitated the plaintiffs’ pursuit of enforcement in Argentina, Brazil, and Canada.  These actions are the result of Ecuador’s failure to meet its international law and treaty obligations.

Chevron’s arbitration claim stems from the government of Ecuador’s interference in the ongoing environmental lawsuit against the company in Ecuador and its courts’ failure to administer justice in a trial that has been marred by fraud.  Additionally, Chevron maintains that the government of Ecuador has failed to uphold prior settlement and release agreements that the government of Ecuador entered into with Texaco Petroleum Company (now a Chevron subsidiary) when the consortium between Texaco Petroleum and Petroecuador was terminated.

In its ruling, the Tribunal found that “Neither disagreement with the Tribunal’s orders and awards on interim measures nor constraints under Ecuadorian law can excuse the failure of the (Republic), through any of its branches or organs, to fulfil its obligations under international law imposed by the Treaty, the UNCITRAL Rules and the Tribunal’s orders and awards thereunder, particularly the First and Second Interim Awards on Interim Measures.”

In August 2011, a different international arbitration tribunal convened under the BIT awarded Chevron and Texaco Petroleum $96 million, plus interest, in a claim against the Republic of Ecuador related to past oil operations.  The Tribunal found that Ecuador’s courts violated the BIT and international law through their decade-long delays in ruling on certain commercial disputes between Texaco Petroleum and the Ecuadorian government.  A court in the Netherlands has upheld the award and Ecuador has filed a second appeal.

 

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The Castro Street Fair Announces Date for 40th “Ruby Anniversary” Celebration; Prepare to Paint the Town Red! The 40th Castro Street Fair, October 6, 2013 at Castro & Market

The 40th Castro Street Fair, October 6, 2013 at Castro & Market

Today, the Castro Street Fair Board of Directors announced the date for their Ruby Anniversary, celebrating 40 years! The fair will take place on Sunday, October 6, 2013 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Castro & Market Streets.
“It’s such an honor to continue a tradition that was started by Harvey Milk almost 40 years ago,” said Fred Lopez, President of the Castro Street Fair Board of Directors. “This year, we plan to highlight how this incredible San Francisco tradition continues, year after year, to bring this wonderful community together. We will celebrate the unique spirit of the Castro as we move toward the day of the fair,” he continued.

The Castro Street Fair is a part of the enduring legacy of Harvey Milk, who founded the Fair along with other local merchants in 1974. Since then, the Fair has been a thriving celebration for the Castro neighborhood, and for all of San Francisco. Plans are under way to make this one of the biggest and best Castro Street Fairs ever. Live performances and dance areas will pay tribute to some of the original Castro Street Fair entertainers– such as disco legend, Sylvester.

Charity

Every year, the Castro Street Fair raises money for local charities and the 40th year will be no different. The 39th Annual Castro Street Fair was a huge success, amidst one of San Francisco’s busiest weekends in history. The Fair attracted huge crowds and raised over $76,000 for local charities.

More than 460 individuals logged nearly 2,000 volunteer hours to assist with the production of the event.

On December 11, 2012, the Castro Street Fair Board of Directors distributed $76,327.21 in proceeds to over thirty local beneficiaries.
“The Castro Street Fair takes its role as a fundraising vehicle for local non-profits very seriously, while ensuring that everyone who comes to the Fair has a seriously good time” said George Ridgely, Executive Director of the Castro Street Fair Board of Directors.

Sponsors and Exhibitors

There are many exciting sponsorship opportunities for the Castro Street Fair 40th Anniversary. Exhibitor booths are expected to go on-sale in late March. For more information, contact: info@castrostreetfair.org

About the Castro Street Fair

The Castro Street Fair is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and all proceeds go directly to charitable causes important to the Castro community. Additionally, the Fair funds the rainbow flag that flies over the intersection of Castro and Market.

The Fair is located in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro District, at the intersection of Market & Castro Streets and the surrounding area. The Fair is a piece of the enduring legacy of Harvey Milk, who was a co-founder of the Fair in 1974. The Castro Street Fair is a community street celebration – with hundreds of local artists, vendors, craftspeople, and community organizations lining the streets to celebrate the diversity of the neighborhood. Stages with live entertainment and dance stages can be found throughout the fairgrounds.

For more information about the Fair, visit www.castrostreetfair.org

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Will Citizens United Repeal Begin in a Marin Carpool Lane?

From the Pacific Sun

A lone Marin driver’s naughty sneak into the carpool lane could spell the end of corporate personhood as we know it—or at least that’s San Rafael resident Jonathan Frieman’s plan, as he heads to Marin Superior Court next week to challenge a traffic violation and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Frieman was heading south on Highway 101 through Novato on Oct. 2 when he was cited for violating California vehicle code 21655.5, which prohibits drivers from entering unauthorized vehicle lanes—in Frieman’s case, being a solo occupant in a lane requiring two or more persons. But Frieman plans to contest the $478 violation in court on Jan. 7, arguing that he had corporate incorporation papers in his car at the time and, he says, the state vehicle code views corporations as persons—therefore he and his corporation constituted a two-person carpool.

According to a press release from Kathleen Russell Consulting, the Mill Valley-based firm handling publicity for Frieman’s quest for justice, state vehicle code 470’s definition of a person includes “natural persons and corporations.”

If he loses in court on Monday, continues the press release, Frieman says he is prepared to appeal the ca se all the way to the Supreme Court “in an effort to expose the impracticality of corporate personhood.”

“Corporations are imaginary entities, and we’ve let them run wild,” says Frieman. “Their original intent 200 years ago at the dawn of our nation was to serve human beings. So I’m wresting back that power by making their personhood serve me.”

The concept of corporate personhood has been an ongoing controversy for years—but it hit the mainstream in 2010 following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which held that restricting political expenditures by corporations was a violation of their First Amendment rights to free speech. Implicit in such a ruling, some argue, is that the Constitution grants protections to corporations as if they were people.

Representing Frieman is attorney Ford Greene—he, too, says the state vehicle code treats a person and a corporation as equivalent.

“When a corporation is present in one’s car, it is sufficient to qualify as a two-person occupancy for commuter lane purposes,” says Greene, who’s also a San Anselmo city councilmember. “When the corporate presence in our electoral process is financially dominant, by parity it appears appropriate to recognize such presence in an automobile.”

Also unclear: If Frieman’s ticket is dismissed on the grounds that he and the corporation constitute a carpool–could the San Rafael activist then be fined for driving with an un-seat-belted passenger?

Frieman’s court appearance takes place Monday at 3pm at the Marin Superior Court, 3501 Civic Center Drive in San Rafael.

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St. Anthony’s Breaks Ground on Their New Dining Room on January 24 at 3 pm

After 60 years and almost 39 million free, hot meals, St. Anthony Foundation is partnering with Mercy Housing California to develop a new home for St. Antony’s dining room, crowned with 90 affordable apartments for seniors at 121 Golden Gate.

This partnership makes the most of the original Dining Room site by raising a new 10-story building that will bring St. Anthony’s Dining Room, Free Clothing Program, and social Work Center together under one roof and increase service and food storage space.

Above, Mercy Housing California will develop and operate 90 supportive studio and one-bedroom apartments for very low-income and formerly homeless seniors.  Residents will only have to take the elevator to get a nutritious meal or an emergenmcy grocery bag, a set of clothing. or advice from a social worker at St. Anthony’s.  Together, St. Anthony’s and Mercy Housing Califronia will enusre that seniors live in dignity in a safe, stable and accessible home.

Financing partners for the development include the CA Tax Credit allocation commitee, the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, the City and County of SF, Citibank Community Capital, National Equity Fund, Silicon Valley Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank of SF, and the Kendeda Fund.

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Drakes Bay Oyster Company Gets Backing From Virginia-Based Interest Group

The Virginia-based Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has agreed to administer a litigation fund to be used to help finance the Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s lawsuit against the United States National Park Service.

The oyster operation was ordered to close by the government after its long-term lease expired in November. Drakes Bay is fighting the issue in court. Drakes Bay will solicit support from its customers, supporters, restaurants and others from the Bay Area and Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties with the defense fund managing the money.

The money in the fund will be used to finance the company’s public interest litigation against the park service. Contributions to the fund are not tax deductible as charitable contributions.

 

From The Marin Independent Journal

 

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San Francisco-Based Company Leases Entire New Construction Downtown Office Tower at 350 Mission; Space for Thousands of New Employees in Transbay District; Also Signs 100,000 Square Foot Expansion at 50 Fremont


Salesforce.com has leased approximately 450,000 square feet of office space in a new office tower to be built at 350 Mission Street. The largest San Francisco lease transaction of 2012 to date, the building will break ground in January 2013 with anticipated occupancy in 2015. Salesforce.com also announced a 100,000 square foot expansion at 50 Fremont Street. This comes less than a year after salesforce.com’s January 2012 announcement of a 400,000 square foot lease in the same building.

“Salesforce.com’s major expansion downtown proves once again that investor confidence is driving San Francisco’s economic recovery,” said Mayor Lee. “This will bring thousands of new jobs and anchor the City’s Transbay District as a leading destination for innovative companies. Salesforce.com started in San Francisco, and I want to thank Marc Benioff and salesforce.com for their commitment to grow and add jobs in the City.”

“I’d like to thank Mayor Lee and his team for their continued support of Salesforce.com’s expanding downtown San Francisco campus,” said salesforce.com COO George Hu. “We are proud to have our global headquarters in San Francisco and are committed to continuing to grow and add jobs in the City.”

Owned by Kilroy Realty, the 27-story office building at 350 Mission is set to break ground in January 2013 becoming the first new high-rise building built in San Francisco since 2008 and will be the first new LEED Platinum office tower in San Francisco.

“Eight weeks from purchase to full pre-lease is a new record for Kilroy Realty Corporation” said Kilroy Realty CEO John Kilroy. “It’s an incredible outcome that couldn’t have been achieved without a phenomenal tenant in salesforce.com and the support of the Mayor’s office. We are so thrilled to have salesforce.com occupy this iconic tower in the heart of the South Financial District.

50 Fremont Street is owned by TIAA-CREF.

Today’s announced leases total more than half a million square feet and will provide space for thousands of new employees in San Francisco.  This move expands salesforce.com’s “downtown campus” and is adjacent to the new Transbay Terminal under construction.   Salesforce.com will have 1.6 million square feet of office space in San Francisco by 2016, reinforcing their status as one of the City’s largest employers. 

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Stanford’s Hoover Pavilion Gets a Beautiful Rennovation and Update

After more than half a century, the rooftop of the Hoover Pavilion is once again graced with a finial, an architectural ornament akin to the cherry on a sundae. On a cold and overcast morning in late November, a crane hoisted the 500-pound aluminum sculpture more than 105 feet off the ground. It was then lowered onto a kind of pedestal — a cube-shaped concrete stack, sheathed in copper, that sits atop the Hoover Pavilion’s tower — and bolted into place by construction workers.

The undertaking capped a 14-month, $50-million renovation of the Art Deco building, which stands at the corner of Quarry and Palo roads on the Stanford campus. The Hoover Pavilion will house several community physicians, a medical pharmacy, the Stanford Neurology Clinic, Stanford Internal Medicine, Stanford Family Medicine, the Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine, the Stanford Coordinated Care Clinic, the main branch of the Stanford Health Library and a café.

“This was Palo Alto’s skyscraper in 1931,” said Laura Jones, PhD, director of heritage services and university archeologist at Stanford, referring to the year the building first opened. She stood in the parking lot watching the crane, her hands stuffed into the pockets of a brown leather jacket. “It’s such a great building,” she said. “I think it’s pretty exciting that it’s been revitalized and will be reopening soon. People will have a chance to see how fabulous it is.”

The edifice, which has a 105-foot-tall tower and 50-foot-tall wings, had become dilapidated over the decades. Before renovation work began last year, the façade was faded and dirty, with air-conditioning units protruding from windows. Now the roughly 82,000-square-foot building has been restored to its former glory on the outside and refurbished to accommodate modern medicine on the inside. (Those AC units are gone, too, thanks to the installation of centralized heating and cooling.)

The building is scheduled to reopen Dec. 17. Originally constructed as the Palo Alto Hospital, the building was designed in the style of a ziggurat — a terraced pyramid built by Babylonians and other denizens of ancient Mesopotamia. Its south and east wing, which was added in 1939, are each four stories and connect to a five-story tower, atop of which sits a sixth-story penthouse. The ziggurat form can be seen in many Art Deco skyscrapers and large structures constructed in the early 20th century.

An iron finial once stood atop the tower of this old hospital: The adornment consisted of a spherical object, resembling a cross between a gyroscope and an armillary sundial, on a pole supported by a four-prong base. But then the finial was removed, possibly for use as scrap metal during World War II. Nobody knows for sure.

In any case, the new finial is an exact replica, except that it is made of aluminum. “Fortunately, on this project we had significant documentation to show what it originally looked like,” said Erin Ouborg, a designer and materials conservation specialist at Page & Turnbull, the architectural firm in charge of restoring the building’s historic façade. “We had the original construction drawings with all the details.”

“It’s an interesting building without the finial,” Jones added. “But with the finial, it’s just superb.”

The original, decorative terra-cotta paneling that covers portions of the building’s facade was in remarkably good shape, said Rachel DeGuzman, a senior project manager at Stanford Hospital & Clinics who oversaw the renovation project. The same couldn’t be said of the steel-reinforced concrete making up the building’s floors; decades of remodeling had left a motley array of boreholes in many of the slabs, and they needed extensive patching, she said.

Some repair work also was needed to decorative relief panels in the façade, and hundreds of repairs had to be made to the exterior walls, Ouborg said. In addition, the clay tiles on the sloping roof of the tower were replaced. Original Art Deco grillwork and other embellishments, such as a rectangular metal angel above the entrance to what is now the health library, remain intact.

But the interior of the building has been largely reconfigured to support the clinics that will be there. The building appears to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources, according to Architectural Resources Group Inc., a San Francisco-based firm. The Hoover Pavilion renovation is part of the Stanford University Medical Center Renewal Project.

 

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Estate of Thomas M. Dross Makes Major Long Term Gift to AIDS Emergency Fund

The estate of San Francisco resident Thomas M. Dross intends to donate $1 million to the AIDS Emergency Fund (www.aef-sf.org) to be used over several years including for the solicitation of ongoing challenge grants. The gift was announced today in San Francisco as part of the 30th Anniversary gala benefiting the acclaimed nonprofit that provides ongoing support to the AIDS/HIV population.

“The AIDS pandemic has been with us for more than 30 years, and those living with the disease continue to need care, funding and support, especially as they age,” said AIDS Emergency Fund Executive Director Mike Smith. “This bequest, while the largest single donation ever made to AEF, does not eliminate the continuing and growing need for funding. In light of the continuing financial crisis and the challenge faced by the AIDS/HIV community to raise vital funds, we are especially grateful for the incredible generosity of the Dross estate, and the message it will send: AIDS is not over, and we still need your help in the ongoing fight.”

Dross, of Palm Springs and San Francisco, died following a sudden heart attack on January 7, 2012. Originally from Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, Dross moved to San Francisco in the 1970s where he became a well-known advertising and marketing professional, working for such prestigious firms as Pritikin & Associates. Later, he was the founder and owner of one of San Francisco’s most popular financial district restaurants, “Upstairs, Downstairs.” He attended Widner College in Chester Pennsylvania and received his degree from the University of Pennsylvania. As a youth, He went to St. Mary’s Parochial school, St. Matthew’s High School and was a member of St. Mary’s Church all in Conshohocken. Dross is survived by a family of friends in both Palm Springs and San Francisco and family in Pennsylvania.

“Tom was one of the kindest and most generous people we ever met,” said a joint statement from Alfredo Casuso and David Perry, co-executors of the Dross will. “His will stipulated that the main beneficiaries of his will would be AIDS charities. There is no greater example of the ‘San Francisco Model’ of AIDS care than the AIDS Emergency Fund. We look forward, over the next few years, to working with AEF to make sure these funds get put to good use.”

The AIDS Emergency Fund responds compassionately to the AIDS crisis by providing immediate, short-term financial assistance to help people disabled by HIV/AIDS to cover their basic human needs and stabilize their living situations. The AIDS Emergency Fund operates with low overhead to raise and distribute funding to those most in need who are experiencing genuine emergencies or have an opportunity to permanently stabilize their living situation. Short-term financial assistance from AEF is a key element of San Francisco’s continuum of care, and AEF collaborates with other service providers to insure that clients access all available resources and assistance.

Through compassionate intervention by AEF, people living with HIV/AIDS can maintain access to medical care and drug therapies, avoid eviction and homelessness, and live with greater stability and dignity during their illness. For more information go to www.aef-sf.org

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California Center for Sustainable Energy Appoints Rear Adm. Len Hering as Executive Director

Brings strategic leadership, business acumen and innovation in sustainability             

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) announced today, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, the appointment of retired Rear Adm. Len Hering Sr., a prominent military and civilian sustainability leader, as its new executive director.

Alan Ball, an energy consultant and chair of CCSE’s board of directors, said Hering was selected after a nationwide search to succeed long-time CCSE executive director Irene M. Stillings who served as the center’s executive director from 2002 to 2012. CCSE is a San Diego-based nonprofit organization that works with stakeholders throughout the state’s energy sector to meet California’s aggressive energy goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“CCSE’s entire board of directors is very excited to have an individual with Admiral Hering’s sustainability credentials take over leadership of our organization,” Ball said. “We are confident that Hering, working with CCSE’s talented staff, can provide the knowledge, skills and direction to take the organization to higher levels, offering its energy services statewide and beyond.”

“After extensive outreach and search, Len Hering’s outstanding leadership skills and proven track record in delivering renewable energy projects rose to the top from a group of very talented applicants,” said San Diego attorney John Moot, CCSE board member and search committee chairman. “CCSE is indeed fortunate to have someone of Hering’s skills follow in the steps of Irene Stillings.”

“Len Hering is an excellent choice to lead CCSE because of his broad experience and leadership role in planning and implementing a wide range of sustainable initiatives in both the government and private sectors,” Stillings said. “His passion and focus on saving the environment, becoming oil independent and reducing greenhouse gas emissions will serve well CCSE’s goals and will no doubt influence the business community and government agencies to move forward with programs and policies leading to a more sustainable energy future.”

Hering, a resident of Chula Vista, Calif., served 32 years in the U.S. Navy, retiring in 2009, and was noted as one of the Navy’s top experts in base operations and facility support with an emphasis on sustainability and the environment. He received several state, local and federal awards for efforts ensuring the Navy’s environmental responsibilities with fiscally sound practices, including the creation of the Federal Sustainability Network in the Pacific Northwest and Southern California.

Hering has also been recognized with awards for instituting numerous sustainable measures, including solar energy, water conservation and waste reduction, while vice president for business services and administration at the University of San Diego during 2009-2012.

Most recently, Hering has been an advisor to a number of boards and companies on matters of sustainability, energy use and water conservation. He was selected as one of San Diego’s Top 100 Influentials in 2006-7, 2008 San Diego’s Deal Maker of the Year, 2008 winner of the Spirit of San Diego Award and 2010 American Lung Association Climate Champion Award. He founded the San Diego Regional Sustainability Partnership, a consortium of business, government, academic and community organizations promoting practices that support a sustainable future for the region.

While in the Navy, Hering was responsible for building a team recognized throughout the Department of Defense as the best in environmental protection and sustainable innovation. Within three years, the team reduced energy consumption by nearly 42%, diverted 75% of Navy waste from landfills and reduced water consumption by more than one billion gallons, saving tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Hering instigated wind, thermal, photovoltaic and conversion technology at all levels in Navy facilities. President Bush awarded Hering a 2005 Presidential Award for Leadership in Federal Energy Management for recognition of efforts reducing oil spills and for recycling.

CCSE has almost 90 employees and closed 2011 with more than $75 million in revenue. During 2011, CCSE awarded about $62 million in direct incentive payments to Californians who made investments in sustainable energy by purchasing solar electric, solar water heating systems, fuels cells and electric vehicles. For more information, visit www.energycenter.org <http://www.energycenter.org> .

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The California Center for Sustainable Energy is an independent, nonprofit organization that accelerates the adoption of clean and efficient energy solutions via consumer education, market facilitation and policy innovation. For more information and workshop listings, visit www.energycenter.org <http://www.energycenter.org>  or call 866-733-6374.

 

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Curry Senior Center’s Ends Fortieth Year with Increased Caseload, Increased Volunteer Hours and Ever-increasing Need

Curry Senior Center began operations in 1972 to assist the city’s most vulnerable population with medical assistance, housing and meals.   Completing its 40th year of operations this month, Curry’s mission is as important today as it was in 1972.

“As we begin our 5th decade of service, there is a growing population of seniors who need our in the neighborhood,” according to Dave Knego, Executive Director.  “The senior population is most concentrated in the Tenderloin and these people need a place where all of their needs – medical, nutritional, social, and housing – can be met.”

Medical visits to Curry have increased over 10% over 2011, serving 1,625 clients with 10,509 visits. Of these statistics, this includes 166 in-home visits by physicians and nurse practitioners for seniors too frail to leave their homes.

Curry’s meal site served 49,320 breakfasts and 61,480 lunches.

The housing arm of the agency was working overtime this year securing housing for 42 seniors who were previously homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.  And the occupancy rate for Curry’s Senior Housing was 97.5%.

The mission of Curry is not possible without the dedication of it s volunteers who have donated over 10,000 hours of time serving the agency.  This includes over 540 hours of medical translation into languages including Cantonese, Lao, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

Program highlights in the 40th year include:

  • Recruited  a new group of daily volunteers who help serve seniors and socialize with them
  • The addition of mental health services.
  • Enhanced the infrastructure with new kitchen equipment, sturdy chairs, an expanded bathroom, and a refurbished elevator
  • Preparing for electronic health records and transitioning to team-based care.
  • Health education efforts included the addition of pain management and smoking cessation classes and expansion of one-on-one and group education on diabetes.
  • Started a new after-lunch walking group and a monthly raffle in the Dining Room.

 

 

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AutoReturn of San Francisco Wins New Contract with Kansas City to Start Municipal Towing Program

Kansas City, MO.– After a nationwide procurement search and selection process, Kansas City selected AutoReturn, the nation’s leading municipal towing management and logistics company, to oversee the city’s towing operations and handle, track, and report on towed vehicles.  Kansas City selected AutoReturn for its unique municipal towing management and logistics program.

Kansas City’s choice of AutoReturn highlights the city’s dedication to transforming its municipal towing services and streamlining city operations. The contract represents a prime example of public and private entities coming together to share best practices to simplify government services.

“We believe our solution fundamentally transforms the way cities and residents think about municipal services,” said AutoReturn CEO John Wicker. “We have been working closely with city officials and the police department in Kansas City to provide superior service and make the sometimes unfortunate experience of towing a lot easier for everyone.”

AutoReturn’s Municipal Towing Management Addresses Safety Logistics Issues

“AutoReturn’s software, people and processes have already addressed some of Kansas City’s most difficult public issues related to towing,” said Gary Majors, manager of Kansas City’s regulated industries division.  “By shortening the time it takes for equipment to reach a tow scene, the city reduces officer wait times, decreases traffic congestion, and limits the chance of secondary accidents, saving money and increasing safety.”  The average response time from dispatch to arrival since going live in October, 2012 has been reduced measurably to approximately 11 minutes.

Additionally, said Lesly Forsberg, Manager of Kansas City’s Tow Services Division, “AutoReturn’s model has relieved Kansas City of the day-to-day management of towing operators and tow requests from the Police Department, allowing city staff and police to focus their time on different important public safety issues.”

AutoReturn Technology Benefits Small, Local, Women and Minority-owned Tow Companies

By leveraging Android applications, AutoReturn is able to electronically dispatch tow trucks closest to the call, helping reduce costs incurred by the small, local, women and minority-owned tow companies.  Timothy Marshall, owner of Recovery Tow Service, Inc., said, “AutoReturn technology runs on our existing smart phones, streamlining our business.  Their fair and transparent process provides me the tools to exceed service level expectations.”

AutoReturn currently manages municipal towing and logistics operations in Baltimore County, Maryland, San Francisco, San Diego and, now, Kansas City, Missouri.

The company was founded a decade ago in San Francisco and continues to grow its business nationally. AutoReturn has been praised by cities and municipalities for bringing transparency and efficiency to what the notoriously disorganized business of municipal towing.  AutoReturn uses a proprietary computerized system and software that allows the company to efficiently tow vehicles, reducing time and manpower of police departments and municipal staff while at the same time creating fast and efficient service in returning cars to owners. AutoReturn is expected to continue to grow as other municipalities, police departments, city and regional government review the advances that AutoReturn has made to the industry.

About AutoReturn

AutoReturn is the leader in municipal towing management and logistics solutions, partnering with municipalities and existing local tow operators to help achieve efficiency, superior service, and increased cost recovery. Founded in 2002 as a technology-enabled towing management and logistics company, AutoReturn has revolutionized municipal towing, making sizable investments in technology, repeatable processes, training programs and other infrastructure. Learn more at http://www.autoreturn.com.

 

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Arthur Beren Shoes Supports Project Open Hand This Holiday Season

Arthur Beren Shoes, a retail luxury shoe store located in San Francisco’s Union Square, is excited to announce that it will be raising money for Project Open Hand this holiday season through a joint promotion on Facebook.  Through the months of November and December, for every new sign up on Facebook, Arthur Beren Shoes will donate $5 to Project Open Hand up to a total amount of $5,000.

In addition, each entrant will also have the opportunity to win a free pair of shoes valued up to $500 in our random shoe giveaway.

 

About Project Open Hand

Project Open Hand is a nonprofit organization that provides meals and groceries for people with symptomatic HIV/AIDS and breast cancer and meals for people who are homebound and critically ill. They also prepare congregate lunches for seniors over 60 years of age. They serve San Francisco and Alameda Counties, engaging more than 100 volunteers every day to nourish the community. Learn more at www.openhand.org.

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California Center for Sustainable Energy Roadshow Guides Californians to Home Energy Savings

Center for Sustainable Energy’s mobile Energy Center travels around California.

 

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) wrapped up the Energy Upgrade California Roadshow on Sunday, Nov. 18 in Cupertino, California, the eleventh stop on the energy education tour. The program, Energy Upgrade California, took energy education for homeowners on the road with the Energy Upgrade California Roadshow, a statewide mobile exhibit on energy efficiency. The roadshow started in San Diego on Nov. 1 and ended in Cupertino last Sunday reaching hundreds of homeowners throughout the state.

The Roadshow spent the last two weeks of November traveling the state to educate homeowners on the Energy Upgrade California program, how to increase home efficiency, provide energy cost savings and improve home comfort.

The roadshow made eleven stops in nine cities including Woodland Hills, Pacific Palisades, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, San Francisco, Antioch, Oakland and Cupertino. The stops included local farmers markets, community workshops and UC Santa Barbara. In the Bay Area, the Roadshow stopped at the Greenbuild Global Conference in San Francisco, a Contra Costa Homeowner Workshop at the Antioch Community Center, Oakland Tech High School and Sears at the Vallco Shopping Center in Cupertino.

Energy Upgrade California provides a “whole house” approach that focuses on a house as a system and looks at how various elements affect energy use. The program presents residents with an array of improvements to increase home health, comfort and safety while saving money on their utility bills.

The program educates homeowners on basic improvements to increase home efficiency and provides eligible homeowners a chance to sign up for an assessment, the first step towards improving their home and receiving rebates. Rebates range from $1,000 to $4,000 depending on the energy savings achieved.

Eligible California homeowners can sign up for a home assessment by visiting the Energy Upgrade California website at EnergyUpgradeCA.org and typing in their county name or zip code.

About Energy Upgrade California

Energy Upgrade California™ is a program of the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission to reduce residential energy use, curb greenhouse gas emissions and create more comfortable and healthy homes. For more information on Energy Upgrade California, visit www.energyupgradeca.org.

About Energy Upgrade California Roadshow

The Energy Upgrade California Roadshow is a mobile exhibit in a trailer designed to inform and inspire Californians to learn about and install energy-saving improvements in their homes. The Energy Upgrade California Roadshow is funded in part by the Department of Energy in support of the goals of its Better Buildings Neighborhood Program. It was built by CCSE, an independent nonprofit organization that accelerates the adoption of clean and efficient energy solutions, based in San Diego.

About the California Center for Sustainable Energy

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) is an independent, nonprofit organization that accelerates the adoption of clean and efficient energy solutions via consumer education, market facilitation and policy innovation. For more information and workshop listings, visit www.energycenter.org or call (866) 733-6374.

 

 

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Airbnb Study Finds Online Travel Service Has Positive Effects on San Francisco Economy, Neighborhoods

Airbnb, the world’s leading marketplace for booking, discovering, and listing unique spaces around the world, today released a study that highlights Airbnb’s impact on local economies.

The study was conducted by HR&A Advisors, an industry-leading real estate and economic development consulting firm, and demonstrates that Airbnb provides a major economic boost both to its users and the neighborhoods and cities where they visit and live.  HR&A conducts sophisticated economic impact analyses for a wide variety of industries and clients, and cities around the United States come to HR&A for guidance on fostering strong and sustainable local economies and attracting new sources of economic activity.  Drawing on this expertise, HR&A developed a customized approach to quantify the unique impacts of the new kinds of tourism that Airbnb brings to San Francisco.

The study found that people who rent their homes on Airbnb use the income they earn to stay afloat in difficult economic times. Additionally, the study determined that travelers who use Airbnb enjoy longer stays, spend more money in the cities they visit, and bring income to less-touristed neighborhoods.

“Airbnb represents a new form of travel,” says Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky. “This study shows that Airbnb is having a huge positive impact – not just on the lives of our guests and hosts, but also on the local neighborhoods they visit and live in.”

The economic impact study underscores the significant benefits that Airbnb, a pioneer of the new sharing economy, has on cities and their residents. Some highlights from the study’s findings:

- From April 2011 to May 2012, guests and hosts utilizing Airbnb have contributed $56 million in total spending to San Francisco’s economy, $43.1 million of which supported local businesses throughout the city’s diverse neighborhoods.

- 90% of Airbnb hosts rent the homes they live in to visitors on an occasional basis, and nearly half the income they make is spent on living expenses (rent/mortgage, utilities, and other bills).

- Airbnb guests stay an average of 5.5 days and spend $1,045 during their stay on food, shopping and transportation, compared to hotel guests who stay an average of 3.5 days and spend $840.

- 72% of Airbnb properties in San Francisco are located outside the central hotel corridor. More than 90% of Airbnb guests visiting San Francisco prefer to stay in neighborhoods that are “off the beaten track.” Over 60% of Airbnb guest-spending occurs in the neighborhoods in which the guests stay.

Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, Calif., Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world – online or from a mobile phone.  Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences at any price point, in more than 30,000 cities and 192 countries.  And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.

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President Obama, John Boehner begin year-end duel on taxes

Washington (CNN) — Flush with re-election vigor, President Barack Obama on Friday will provide his first public comments on the upcoming negotiations with Congress on how to deal with pending tax hikes and spending cuts that create the so-called fiscal cliff facing the economy at the end of the year.

Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are positioned as the lead negotiators in a showdown between Democrats and Republicans over the issue identified by voters as a top priority: reducing the chronic federal deficits and debt considered a threat to economic prosperity and national security.

Boehner, R-Ohio, has signaled a willingness to deal but also maintained hardline GOP opposition to any tax increase. He will speak to reporters two hours before Obama delivers his statement on the economy Friday afternoon at the White House.

His hand was weakened by the election results Tuesday that returned Obama to the White House, broadened the Democratic majority in the Senate and slightly narrowed the Republican majority in the House.

Retiring GOP Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio told CNN that a poll commissioned by centrist Republicans showed that voters wanted Congress to fix the nation’s fiscal problems rather than cling to political orthodoxy.

“They didn’t send the same bunch back to town in this election because they love what they’re doing,” LaTourette said. “They sent him back because they don’t trust either side, but they do expect them to get this thing done.”

While the result was another split Congress like the current session that has become a symbol of legislative dysfunction, both sides have signaled a possible new openness to an agreement that was unreachable in the past two years.

In the final days of the campaign, Vice President Joe Biden referred to private talks with members of Congress on the pending fiscal impacts of expiring tax cuts and mandatory budget cuts. This week, Boehner called on Obama to work with him to complete a comprehensive deficit reduction agreement — the “grand bargain” that eluded them last year.

LaTourette said both Boehner and Obama were held back from a deal back then because of pressure from their respective bases — Republicans who signed a pledge against any new taxes stopped Boehner, while liberal defenders of entitlement programs halted Obama.

“The ‘no tax pledge’ people in the Republican Party yanked Boehner back and the ‘don’t you dare touch the middle class’ entitlement people in the president’s party pulled him back, and as a result those talks collapsed,” LaTourette said.

Boehner made clear this week that a comprehensive agreement won’t happen by the end of the year in the lame-duck session of Congress. He proposed that the two sides use that time to set up a framework for substantive negotiations when the new Congress comes in next year while taking short-term steps to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a top Democrat in the chamber, said such a timetable could work.

“We have a chance in the lame duck to at least start the process, and I think there’s a chance to rally bipartisan support,” he said. “These are basic issues we can work out, and the president is in a position to do that.”

The fiscal cliff comprises two main elements. Tax cuts from the administration of President George W. Bush will expire on December 31, triggering a return to higher Clinton-era rates for everyone.

In addition, $1.2 trillion in mandatory across-the-board budget cuts — known in legislative parlance as the sequester — will take effect next year unless Congress finds a way to offset that amount in the federal budget.

Another looming issue will be the need to again increase the nation’s debt ceiling sometime in the spring, creating the potential for more political brinksmanship that contributed to last year’s first-ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating.

Both sides agree the best outcome would be a broad deal addressing the overall need for deficit reduction, including reforms to the tax system and entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

However, they remain far apart on exactly how to forge such an agreement.

Obama campaigned on having wealthy Americans contribute more to deficit reduction efforts, and administration officials say the president will veto any package that extends the Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000.

“I’ve already signed a trillion dollars’ worth of spending cuts. I intend to do more, but if we’re serious about the deficit, we also have to ask the wealthiest Americans to go back to the rates that they paid when Bill Clinton was in office,” Obama said last week on the campaign trail.

In an e-mailed statement, Obama campaign policy director James Kvaal said the president wants “a balanced plan that cuts the deficit by $4 trillion with $2.50 worth of spending cuts for every dollar in revenue and reduces spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements.”

Boehner and Republicans oppose raising taxes on anyone, and instead back a broad reform of the tax system that would lower rates further for everyone while eliminating some deductions and loopholes.

While Boehner said this week that his side was open to increasing revenue from such reforms, he made clear that such increases should come from resulting economic growth instead of higher tax rates.

In essence, Boehner proposed the kind of tax reform championed by failed Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, whose plan was criticized by Obama and many economists for being unrealistic in assuming that the combination of closed loopholes and economic growth would equal the lost revenue of tax cuts.

Obama’s victory gives him new leverage in the budget battles after Republicans forced the president and Democrats into prolonged and sometimes bitter showdowns in the last two years, including threats of government shutdowns and default.

One top Democrat with close ties to leaders on Capitol Hill and the White House said that the imminent expiration of the Bush tax cuts means Obama “doesn’t have to do anything and everyone’s taxes go up,” which is a GOP nightmare.

Such an increase would affect personal income tax, the estate tax, dividends and capital gains taxes.

In addition, some officials are hinting the feared sequester cuts don’t have to be implemented right away in the new year, giving at least a few months for a deal to be worked out.

By Tom Cohen, CNN. CNN’s Jessica Yellin and Allison Brennan contributed to this report.

 

 

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Victory for San Bruno, S.F., Ratepayer Advocates Over CPUC, PG&E Scheme to Impose Unilateral Mediation in San Bruno Blast Settlement

Former Sen. George Mitchell his law firm DLA Piper have offered to back out as mediators in talks to determine the fines Pacific Gas & Electric Co. should pay for the deadly San Bruno pipeline blast, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today.

“Sen. Mitchell and his law firm DLA Piper did the right thing by telling the California Public Utilities Commission that he wouldn’t mediate settlement discussions in the San Bruno explosion and fire without all the parties agreeing. We are very pleased and looking forward getting back to direct negotiations with PG&E,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane.

“We hope this decision sends an important message to the CPUC and PG&E. They must immediately return to the negotiation table and offer a real settlement to atone for the safety laws they violated and the people and community they have devastated.

“We thank the City of County of San Francisco, the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, and TURN for standing with us to fight and stand up for fairness and to ensure justice is done in San Bruno and statewide.  We also thank Assemblyman Jerry Hill and the citizens of San Bruno for standing firm and challenging the CPUC and PG&E actions.

“The unilateral announcement this past week by the CPUC that it had selected a mediator without consulting any of the parties is consistent with the cozy and unholy relationship between the CPUC and PG&E.  This action was symbolic of the broken, dysfunctional and dishonest relationship between PG&E and the CPUC, the agency that is supposed to be the watchdog and protector of the public’s interest.

“We call into question the integrity of the entire CPUC process that has occurred over the past two years since our community was ripped apart by the negligent and systematic safety failures of PG&E and the inability of the CPUC to independently protect and represent the interests of the residents of San Bruno and the people of California.

“We look forward to returning to the settlement negotiations to represent the interests of the citizens of San Bruno, the memory of those whose lives were taken by PG&E’s negligence, their families and friends, and equally important, every other city, town and community in the State of California so we can help others prevent what happened to us,” Mayor Ruane concluded.

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Francis Xavier “F.X.” Crowley For San Francisco District 7 Supervisor

Editorial: Sentinel Endorses Francis Xavier Crowley for District 7 Supervisor

There is only one candidate that truly represents the west of Twin Peaks neighborhoods and that is F.X. Crowley. We give Crowley our strongest endorsement as the best candidate to succeed outgoing Supervisor Sean Elsbernd and represent District 7.

Crowley is the right leader to represent the District and to ensure public safety by adding more police and fighting crime in our neighborhoods as well as being a voice of fiscal responsibility on the Board of Supervisors.  Having grown up in the District, there is no better candidate to represent D7 than F.X. Crowley.

Crowley is a native San Franciscan who was born and grew up in the District in Miraloma Park–and graduated from St. Ignatius College Preparatory (SI) in 1977. He is a longtime Stagehands union leader who has won the respect of the business community and a highly regarded civic leader, having served as the President of the Public Utilities Commission and a Port Commissioner with distinction.  He fought to rebuild and protect Hetch Hetchy on the PUC and was a strong leader for growth and fiscal responsibility as a member of the Port Commission.

Crowley has won the endorsement of Sen. Diane Feinstein; Lt. Gov. and former Mayor Gavin Newsom; San Francisco Police Officers Association; San Francisco Firefighters; Sen. Leland Yee; Assembly Speaker Pro Temp Fiona Ma; Former Mayor and Police Chief Frank Jordan, Retired Judge and former Senator Quentin Kopp; Planning Commissioner Mike Antonini; Justice Harry W. Low; Thomas “Tippy” Mazzucco, President, San Francisco Police Commission; Diarmuid Philpott, President, United Irish Societies, and retired SFPD Deputy Chief; Joe Russoniello, former United States Attorney; and Kevin Ryan, former United States Attorney.

And he has our endorsement as well.

Crowley’s leadership is in sharp contrast to the other candidates in the race, one of them being Mike Garcia, a retired Louisiana options trader who until recently was a registered Libertarian who expressed his desire to legalize drugs.  Garcia is clearly out of step with the voters of the District who favor strong enforcement of drug laws to prevent home break-ins; and Norman Yee, a left-wing/ Progressive member of the school board and advocate of legalizing prostitution, has demonstrated that he is out of touch with voters. Lastly, there is candidate Joel Engardio, who has at least been honest in admitting he is a carpetbagger who only moved into the district over a year ago to run for this seat.

There is only once choice for District 7 voters and that is district native Francis Xavier Crowley.

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DLA Piper, Sen. Mitchell Tainted by PG&E San Bruno Case: Recusal is the Only Path to Integrity for Law Firm, California Public Utilities Commission

George Mitchell: Reputation at Stake

Editorial

This week’s unilateral announcement by the California Public Utilities Commission to select DLA Piper—a global law firm that has represented the company headed by the current CPUC President Michael Peevy and worked to defend utility companies in major litigation—has sent shock waves throughout California’s legal community, elected leaders, the public and the media.

The fact that none of the parties at the negotiating table–with the exception of the ‘defendant’ in the case, Pacific Gas & Electric Co.–knew of or agreed to mediation nor was a party to the selection of the mediator, has raised ethical and legal questions that stun even the most passive observers in this monumental national public safety case.

The most fundamental basis of mediation is the agreement by all parties that it is necessary, closely followed by the mutual agreement of an unbiased and neutral mediator.  That very principal has been broken in every conceivable fashion by the California Public Utilities Commission and admitted as such to the Associated Press when CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio said in an interview he felt the move to inform PG&E first about the selection of DLA Piper had not been well thought out: “I think we handled this rather poorly. Announcing it before people were brought into it was not a good idea,” Florio said.

In our opinion, it’s beyond not being a ‘good idea,’ it breaks the very foundation of mediation and ruins the integrity of the CPUC process and DLA Piper’s participation.

If DLA Piper and Senator George Mitchell hope to retain any integrity and their reputations in the legal community, they must immediately resign this assignment now they have become aware of the unethical and potentially illegal manner in which they were selected.  We urge them to resign even before the CPUC leadership has the opportunity to rescind their appointment. It is not only the honorable thing to do, but it is the only thing that will preserve their reputation and demonstrate that they are not simply stooges for the utility industry and CPUC President Michael Peevy.

We commend San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera for standing up and demonstrating his leadership in joining the challenge to demand the CPUC decision to unilaterally appoint DLA Piper and Sen. George Mitchell as mediators when they have conflicts not only with their representation of utility companies, but directly with the interests of San Francisco itself.

As always, San Bruno must win praise for being a leader in its attempt to protect public safety and its citizens in opposing this dubious appointment.  And The Utility Reform Network and the California Division of Ratepayers Advocates should be justly proud that they stood up and truly represented the ratepayers in calling attention to this disgraceful appointment of the clearly conflicted DLA Piper and Sen. Mitchell.

We hope for the sake of Sen. George Mitchell and DLA Piper that they resign now that they know their appointment was tainted, their position conflicted, and their very reputation is at stake.

Their integrity is in their hands and their decision.

 

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San Francisco City Attorney Blasts CPUC, PG&E Over DLA Piper Law Firm Selection in San Bruno Blast: Will DLA Piper Recuse Itself?

DLA Piper Law Firm Conflict in CPUC PG&E Case

More Bad News for DLA Piper: Conflict is raised by SF City Attorney. DLA Piper is adverse to S.F. in litigation, claims several utilities among its clients. CPUC Has Refused Comment on Conflict, Call for DLA to Recuse Firm

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today expressed serious concerns about the California Public Utilities Commission’s unilateral appointment of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell and DLA Piper to mediate a settlement of enforcement actions against Pacific Gas and Electric Company over the deadly September 2010 explosion of its natural gas pipeline in San Bruno, Calif.

Mitchell currently serves as chairman emeritus of DLA Piper LLC, an international law firm that represents multiple parties currently involved in separate litigation against the City and County of San Francisco. The firm’s utility sector clients include Southern California Edison and Exxon Mobil.

“I have the highest regard for U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, and I greatly admire him for a distinguished public service career that includes major diplomatic achievements in Northern Ireland and the Middle East,” said Herrera. “But the legitimacy of an enforcement action involving one of the deadliest gas pipeline catastrophes in California history must be beyond reproach. What’s at stake in these proceedings is the safety of millions of Californians, and they deserve a process untainted by the appearance of utility industry bias. I don’t doubt Sen. Mitchell’s integrity or good intentions.”

Herrera continued “But the fact is, he leads a law firm that is both adverse to San Francisco in litigation, and that represents major gas utilities involved in cases before the CPUC. Moreover, the commission’s decision to unilaterally appoint a mediator raises larger questions about why the CPUC elected to appoint an outside mediator in the first place. It’s possible that mediation could prove helpful. But it is far more important that CPUC live up to its obligations as an industry regulator that protects the public interest.”

Herrera has been sharply critical of the CPUC following revelations from an independent review panel’s 2011 investigation into the San Bruno tragedy, which concluded that the commission’s “culture serves as an impediment to effective regulation,” and which went on to fault state regulators who “did not have the resources to monitor PG&E’s performance in pipeline integrity management adequately or the organizational focus that would have elevated concerns about PG&E’s performance in a meaningful way.” In July 2011, Herrera initiated steps to sue the CPUC along with federal regulators for failing to reasonably enforce federal gas pipeline safety standards as required by the U.S. Pipeline Safety Act. Herrera later elected to omit CPUC as a defendant after the commission showed signs of progress.

DLA Piper LLC contacted Herrera’s office last Friday, before the CPUC announced its appointment of Mitchell to serve as mediator, to inform city lawyers about litigation and other matters in which DLA Piper is currently adverse to the City and County of San Francisco. Those cases include litigation involving hotel chains and airlines.

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San Bruno, Ratepayer Advocates Challenge California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E: Demand CPUC Rescind Appointment of Sen. George Mitchell in Blockbuster PG&E Announcement

A blistering attack by the City of San Bruno, ratepayer advocates and Assemblyman Jerry Hill called into question the California Public Utility’s appointment of Sen. George Mitchell and his law firm DLA Piper as mediators in the PG&E explosion and fire settlement.

Mayor Jim Ruane of San Bruno, Thomas J. Long, Legal Director of consumer advocacy group The Utility Reform Network (TURN), and Karen Paull, Acting Legal Counsel, The Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) all stood in front of the CPUC this morning and lambasted the “unholy and cozy alliance” between regulator CPUC and the regulated Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

The City of San Bruno and consumer advocates signed a letter demanding the CPUC rescind the appointment of Sen. Mitchell immediately because the CPUC  went behind their backs in appointing the mediator to oversee the talks and presented evidence that CPUC and PG&E had ex-parte contact in making the decision. The groups objected to the choice of mediator and said they should have been consulted before regulator CPUC appointed the mediator.

The California Public Utilities Commission had announced Monday that it had appointed former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to serve as mediator in the talks.

San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson and attorneys with San Francisco and the consumer groups said the CPUC had notified PG&E before it appointed Mr. Mitchell, but didn’t notify San Bruno, San Francisco, or ratepayer advocates and officials.

“The unilateral announcement by the CPUC Monday that it had selected a mediator without consulting any of the parties at the negotiating table is consistent with the cozy and unholy relationship between the CPUC and PG&E.  This action is symbolic of the broken, dysfunctional and dishonest relationship between PG&E and the CPUC, the agency that is supposed to be the watchdog and protector of the public’s interest,” said Mayor Ruane of San Bruno.

“San Bruno is rightly concerned that the DLA Piper law firm has previously represented utilities–and that the firm was selected unilaterally by the CPUC and PG&E without the participation of any other party, which goes against the fundamental principles of mediation,” said Mayor Ruane at the press conference today.

“It also is of deep concern to us that DLA Piper has a lengthy list of corporate clients, including Southern California Edison, which the current chairman of the CPUC, Michael Peevey, once headed, according to news media reports about the appointment.

“In order for any mediation to succeed, the mediator will have to assure all the parties to our satisfaction that they have no conflicts, that they can be an unbiased mediator, and that the process will be open, transparent and fair,” Mayor Ruane said.

He continued: “We find that there is too much of a coincidence that one week before the announcement of DLA Piper as mediator, we were told that “a mediator with gravitas” is necessary to settle the negotiations, and now, with the unilateral start of mediation, that PG&E shareholders are paying for the mediation. This leads us, we rightly believe, to the conclusion that the CPUC and PG&E have had improper ex-parte contact as part of this process.

“We state unequivocally for the record that no fine or settlement with PG&E will ever be legitimate or credible without the participation of the City of San Bruno.

“We call into question the integrity of the entire CPUC process that has occurred over the past two years since our community was ripped apart by the negligent and systematic safety failures of PG&E and the inability of the CPUC to independently protect and represent the interests of the residents of San Bruno and the people of California.

“The healing process has physical manifestations in the reconstruction of our Crestmoor neighborhood. However, the scars and horrors of the explosion and fire remain. The City committed to its citizens that it would be an active and relentless participant in all of the investigations that followed.

“We remain at the table to represent the interests of the citizens of San Bruno, the memory of those whose lives were taken by PG&E’s negligence, their families and friends, and equally important, every other city, town and community in the State of California so we can help others prevent what happened to us,” Mayor Ruane concluded.

Mayor Ruane and the consumer advocate attorneys said Sen. Mitchell’s previous work for Southern California Edison, a utility where CPUC Chairman Michael Peevey was formerly an executive, made them question whether he would be impartial.

PG&E and CPUC investigators said Friday that they had started fresh talks to settle the investigators’ allegations that the utility violated numerous state and federal safety rules prior to the fatal 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

The CPUC had been holding public hearings following three investigations investigators completed after a section of the utility’s gas pipeline in San Bruno ruptured on Sept. 9, 2010, igniting a giant fireball that killed eight people and injured 58. The fire destroyed 38 homes and damaged 70 others. The neighborhood where the blast occurred hasn’t been fully rebuilt, although some houses have been rebuilt.

Both federal and state investigators blamed PG&E for the blast and found that defects in the utility’s aging pipeline and inadequate pipeline safety management contributed to the pipe’s rupture.

A CPUC judge suspended those hearings last week, after state investigators, who are employed by the CPUC, asked to stop the hearings to allow time for a fresh round of talks with PG&E.

Members of the CPUC have said they plan to order fines and possibly other penalties against PG&E over the San Bruno disaster.

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MAYOR LEE & KEY FEDERAL OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE $942.2 MILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDING FOR CENTRAL SUBWAY PROJECT

Funds from Federal New Starts Program to Finance Extension of Muni Metro T Third Line through

SoMa, Union Square & Chinatown Neighborhoods

Mayor Edwin M. Lee and several key officials today announced Federal approval of an agreement dedicating $942.2 million in federal funds to the Central Subway Project. The agreement finalizes the financing for extending Muni Metro’s T Third Line through South of Market, Union Square and Chinatown and is the latest in a series of rigorous Federal, State and local approvals.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Peter Rogoff, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and other Federal, State and local officials joined Mayor Lee at a ceremony held today at the future site of the Central Subway’s Union Square/Market Street Station to announce the approval of the New Starts funds.

“This historic investment in San Francisco’s modern public transportation system will not only connect our City’s diverse neighborhoods and create thousands of jobs today, but it will vastly improve our transit system for our City’s growing population and workforce,” said Mayor Lee. “We thank President Obama, Secretary LaHood, Democratic Leader Pelosi, Senators Feinstein and Boxer and all our Federal, State and local funding partners for their vision and support.”

“When the Central Subway is complete, our City will see a stronger economy, a larger workforce, decreased pollution, less congestion, and faster, safer commutes,” said Leader Pelosi. “Working with partners and leaders from government, business, and the community, this project will serve as an economic engine for our City, improve and enhance our infrastructure, and connect the diverse communities of San Francisco.”

“This federal grant will fund San Francisco’s first new downtown subway in decades, transforming the Third Street line into the busiest in the city and moving tens of thousands through the central business district every day,” said Senator Feinstein. “With bus traffic, rush-hour congestion and pollution on the rise, this quick, emission-free alternative will be a vital addition to our infrastructure. It’s a key investment to modernize San Francisco’s public transit system.”

“There was a time when the transcontinental railroad was finished and the nation was knit together,” said Congresswoman Speier. “The Central Subway Project is one of those moments—bringing San Francisco closer to the Peninsula and Santa Clara counties.  This is a great vision and a great day for all commuters.”

“By extending the T Third Line through SoMa, Union Square and Chinatown, we will connect major job, retail and cultural centers to rapid transit and speed up transportation through two of the City’s most congested corridors,” said Board President Chiu. “The Central Subway is an essential addition to our local transit network. We look forward to realizing the decades-long vision of bringing fast, efficient transit to the 4th and Stockton corridors.”

The Central Subway’s Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA), the formal agreement of financial assistance through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts program, was approved by FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff on October 11th. The investment will help fund construction of the subway tunnels, subway stations, surface-level station, train tracks and operating systems that make up this critical transit extension. New light-rail vehicles, utility relocation and project design, planning and administration are also included in the total project cost, to be financed in large part by New Starts.

New Starts contributed $92.4 million to the Central Subway Project to date. The remaining $849.9 million will be distributed in annual allocations as the project progresses. The second phase of the two-phase Third Street Light Rail Project, the Central Subway is expected to cost about $1.6 billion, with the federal government contributing close to $1 billion and state and local funding sources providing the remaining amount. Combined, the SFMTA will receive 50 percent of the funding for Phases 1 and 2 of the Third Street Light Rail Project from federal sources.

The Central Subway will extend the T Third Line from the Caltrain Station at 4th and King streets to Chinatown, providing a direct, rapid transit link from the Bayshore and Mission Bay areas to SoMa and downtown. Traveling north from 4th and King streets, T Third Line trains will enter a subway tunnel on 4th Street between Bryant and Harrison streets, beneath the I-80 overpass. They will then continue north under 4th Street, stopping at the Yerba Buena/Moscone Station before passing beneath Market Street and the existing Muni and BART tunnels. Trains will then travel below Stockton Street, stopping at the Union Square/Market Street Station before continuing to the line’s terminus in Chinatown.

A major improvement over existing transit service along the congested 4th Street and Stockton Street corridors, the Central Subway will cut travel times by more than half. Peak-hour travel times along this 1.7-mile route now average more than 20 minutes on Muni buses. Travel times on the Central Subway will average less than eight minutes.

With the addition of the Central Subway, the T Third Line is projected to become the most heavily used line in the Muni Metro system by 2030. About 65,000 customers per day are projected to ride the T Third Line in 2030 – about 20 percent more than are projected to ride the most heavily used existing Muni Metro line, the N Judah Line.

Construction is currently underway at four sites along the Central Subway Project alignment. Tunneling contractor Barnard Impregilo Healy Joint Venture is constructing a major excavation known as a launch box at the site in SoMa where tunneling will begin next year. Also in SoMa, work has begun to build below-ground walls, called headwalls, at the future site of the Yerba Buena/Moscone Station on 4th Street between Folsom and Howard streets. At Union Square, two blocks of Stockton Street between Ellis and Geary streets are currently closed to vehicle traffic to allow for headwall construction at the site of the future Union Square/Market Street Station. In addition, crews are working to relocate utility lines in North Beach to prepare to construct a retrieval shaft – an excavation on Columbus Avenue where the project’s two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) are planned to be removed in 2014.

The Central Subway Project is the second phase of the SFMTA’s Third Street Light Rail Project. So far, the Third Street Light Rail Project has received $256.8 million in federal funding, including $123.4 million for Phase One of the project. Phase One constructed the 5.2-mile segment of the T Third Line currently in service between the Sunnydale Station in Bayshore and SoMa’s 4th Street Caltrain Station.

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Shuttle Ridership from SF to Silicon Valley up to 14,000 daily

If you live in San Francisco and work at a tech company in Silicon Valley, you probably take a shuttle to work.

A fantastic new map by design company Stamen Design shows just how extensive these shuttle services are.

Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook, eBay, and Electronic Arts all operate shuttles that go up and down the San Francisco Peninsula every workday. It’s a substantial employee benefit: You can live in culturally-rich San Francisco, surrounded by young, well-off techies like yourself; you get to work in the heart of Silicon Valley where the biggest and best-paying companies are located; and instead of spending hours a day driving, you pass the time in air-conditioned comfort.

Companies win, too: With Wi-Fi on these buses, employees can start working the instant they hop on the bus instead of waiting until they walk in the door an hour later.

Stamen estimates that the number of people taking these shuttles is huge: over 14,000 people per day, or 35 percent as many as train service Caltrain, which also runs between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

That could be a sign that something is not working with public transit. If so many companies are forced to pay buses to carry workers to and fro, it’s probably a safe bet the existing train systems aren’t convenient enough.

On the other hand, at least those 14,000 people aren’t driving their own cars up and down 101 and 280, adding to traffic congestion and pollution.

The story of how Stamen assembled this visualization is pretty cool. Its researchers used a site (and open-source project) that Stamen created called Dotspotting to collect information about the locations of shuttle stops around the city (using information from Foursquare to help it ID locations). Then it sent field workers out into the city, riding bicycles and armed with data-collection forms created using another Stamen site, Field Papers, which simplifies getting field notes in the proper geographic locations. Then the notes were scanned (or camera-phoned) and imported into a database.

Finally, Stamen designers assembled and massaged the data until they had a good sense of the main shuttle routes and the volume of passengers on each.

The resulting visualization is on display at the ZERO1 Biennial Exhibition, “Seeking Silicon Valley,” in San Jose, through December 8.

Via Waxy.org and All Things D

 

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In Conversation with David Perry

How Do You Do That?

David Perry, founder/CEO of David Perry & Associates, Inc. (www.davidperry.com),  will be interviewed at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club on Thursday, August 23.

Perry has been entrusted to manage public, media and community relations for signature events on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco, ranging from the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay to the 2011 Fleet Week to the current America’s Cup Races. How does he juggle thousands of moving parts to consistently deliver consistently excellent results, and how can you, too, get a job traveling the world and meeting fascinating people? Come find out!

Location: The Commonwealth Club of California 595 Market Street, 2nd Floor, Gold Room San Francisco Time: 5:30 p.m. networking reception, 6 p.m. program Cost: $20 standard, $8 members, $7 students (with valid ID) Program Organizer/Moderator Julian Chang

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Communications Workers of America in California Question CWA Union Leadership Over Failure to Sign Contract with AT&T

 

There is growing dissent among California Communications Workers of America against their union leaders’ intransigence and failure to approve a new contract with AT&T.

While every single CWA District and Local in the United States, with the exception of Connecticut and California, has signed a new contract deal with pay increases and generous health care benefits, California AT&T workers are starting to strike back at their own union and demand settlement.

Just this week, more than 20,000 AT&T workers in California, Nevada and Connecticut started two-day strikes Tuesday to protest what the union called harassment by the company. But a number of union members opposed the two day strike and question their union leadership’s action, which cost them two days of pay.

The phone company is negotiating new contracts with the Communications Workers of America. The company is restricting standard bargaining-support activities such as wearing union stickers and buttons, said Libby Sayre, president of the CWA district covering California and Nevada.

The contracts expired in April, and negotiations have been going on since February.

Dallas-based AT&T Inc. is the country’s largest employer of unionized workers. About 140,000 of its 256,000 employees are union members.

California AT&T workers are quietly saying they don’t care about the ‘sticker issue’ raised by CWA District 9 President Libby Sayre and are pushing back at union leadership and demanding an immediate conclusion to contract negotiations with AT&T.

“We are at odds with our own union leadership, not with AT&T,” one worker, requesting anonymity, said.  “The deal that was accepted by AT&T workers in other states is a good one and we want it here, too.”

The growing dissent by CWA workers against their leadership was visible in northern California this week as a number of members protested the two day strike and instead held signs protesting against CWA’s leadership, holding signs that read: “Our Union Has Us Striking Over a Stupid Sticker!” and “We Just Lost 2 Days Pay: Thanks CWA.”

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San Francisco comes together to support America’s Cup

Creation of ‘One-Stop-Shop’ will allow smooth flow of information

to benefit San Francisco businesses, Cup teams, and public

 

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce (SF Chamber), the San Francisco Travel Association, and the America’s Cup Organizing Committee (ACOC), in partnership with several City agencies, including the Port of San Francisco, 311, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and the Office of Small Business, are promoting the smooth flow of information and boosting local business opportunities generated from the 34th America’s Cup through the creation of a ‘One-Stop-Shop’.

 

Opening this week at the new America’s Cup offices at Pier 23, and managed by the OEWD, the One-Stop-Shop is a place where visitors, teams, stakeholders and Bay Area businesses can access information, get assistance on local issues related to the America’s Cup, and learn about business opportunities.

 

“The ‘One-Stop-Shop’ at Pier 23 is another tangible example of how the economic benefits of the America’s Cup races are coming to San Francisco.” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “I congratulate all our partners for developing this exciting new center to serve the America’s Cup teams, local businesses and local visitors and deliver a world-class series of events.”

 

The new initiative will also streamline the procurement process and help connect contractors with local and small businesses in San Francisco and across the nine-county Bay Area. The America’s Cup is expected to deliver nearly 9,000 jobs and $1 billion in economic activity across the Bay Area.

 

“The One-Stop-Shop is an important tool in disseminating information about the America’s Cup to all interested parties,” said Stephen Barclay, CEO, America’s Cup Event Authority.

 

A key component of the One-Stop-Shop will be the Business Connect web portal, which will be managed by the SF Chamber to help facilitate the procurement process for work contracted by ACEA, the City and County of San Francisco and the America’s Cup teams. The SF Chamber will also serve as an in-house resource for America’s Cup competitors to help streamline and fulfill procurement needs.

“The 34th America’s Cup is providing unprecedented opportunities for local businesses here in the Bay Area,” Barclay continued. “Our partnership with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce helps to ensure that local organizations can take full advantage of our ongoing commitment to supporting the local economy.”

 

“The Chamber is proud to partner with the America’s Cup to make sure that local and small businesses benefit from the anticipated $1 billion economic impact soon coming to the Bay Area along with the America’s Cup,” said Steven Falk, President & CEO, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. “We are committed to providing an inclusive, responsive and transparent process that will boost local business participation and help drive job and economic growth throughout the region.”

The One-Stop-Shop opened on August 1st at the new America’s Cup offices at Pier 23 on the Embarcadero and will be open each weekday from 10am to 2pm.

 

The America’s Cup World Series kicks off its second season with races in San Francisco from August 21-26 and October 2-7, 2012. The Louis Vuitton Cup, the America’s Cup Challenger Series, will be held in San Francisco from July 4 – September 1, 2013 and the America’s Cup Finals will be held September 7 – 22, 2013.

 

Businesses interested in staying informed of America’s Cup business opportunities are encouraged to register with AC Connect at http://sf.americascup.com/business. More information on the America’s Cup is available at: http://www.americascup.com. More information on the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is available at http://www.sfchamber.com.

 

About the America’s Cup

One of the most fiercely competitive and sought after trophies in all of sport, the America’s Cup was first raced in 1851, 45 years before the modern Olympics. The U.S. yacht America won, giving the international sailing competition its name.

 

The next Louis Vuitton Cup, America’s Cup Challenger Series (July-August 2013) and America’s Cup Match (September 2013) will be held for the first time in San Francisco Bay, a natural sailing arena where more than one million spectators are expected.

 

About the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce

Founded in 1850, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is recognized as the pre-eminent business organization for advocacy, networking and economic growth. The Chamber delivers on its mission to attract, develop and retain business in San Francisco by representing companies and organizations that make San Francisco a preferred destination for businesses and visitors.

 

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