News From Our Partners

Insurance Rules May Get Tougher for Ride Services Like Lyft and UberX

By Jon Brooks, KQED News Fix

In the past two weeks, a lot has happened on the increasingly volatile ride-service front. The California Public Utilities Commission will revisit the issue of insurance coverage for drivers who use their cars to carry paying passengers through companies like Lyft and UberX. As a result, these two firms are opposing the changes the commission is proposing.

On April 10, the commission granted a rehearing on the insurance requirements it issued last year. At that time, as part of a decision that laid out rules and regulations for what the commission formally calls transportation network companies,  the commission required the companies to provide at least $1 million in commercial liability insurance.

Now the commission is considering extending the time period during a driver’s shift for which transportation network company coverage must be valid. A significant gap in this regard came to light on New Year’s Eve, after a fatal accident involving an UberX driver in San Francisco. Although the driver’s Uber app was open as he waited for another call to come in, Uber said he was excluded from its $1 million policy because he was not carrying a passenger or on the way to pick one up. That left the driver and the victim’s family reliant on his much more minimal personal policy, which almost surely won’t come near to paying the eventual liability costs. (The family has filed a lawsuit against the driver and Uber.)

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

S.F. Drug Users Bring Harm Reduction to the Streets

By Charlie Mintz, KALW Crosscurrents

There is a plan circulating in San Francisco to make using crack cocaine safer: give away free crack pipes. It might sound farfetched, but it is supported by science.

Many cities offer  health services that target people who use drugs. For example, there are methadone clinics and substance abuse recovery programs. One of the programs that came with the most controversy is needle exchange, which came to San Francisco back in 1992.

Needle exchanges typically involve city health departments teaming up with nonprofits. They give away clean syringes to people who inject drugs. Used syringes can spread infectious diseases like HIV or hepatitis C. New syringes eliminate that risk, so needle exchanges have drawn the support of organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Medical Association.

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents. 

Drift Gillnet Fishing — Photos Tell Grisly Tale

By Alison Hawkes, Bay Nature 

Drift gillnets are a fairly ineffective method for capturing swordfish and thresher shark.

The nets are suspended like underwater curtains, a mile long and more than 600 feet wide, and anything that swims into them can get entangled.

In the deep sea waters off the California coast, that has meant everything from sea turtles to gray whales, as well as dozens of other species. Environmental groups call California’s drift gillnet fishing industry one of the nation’s deadliest catches, since more than 60 percent of what’s caught in the nets gets tossed away. They now have the images to lend drama to their statistics.

In February, the nonprofit Oceana obtained a treasure trove of photographs from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in a public records request. The images — nearly 500 taken from 1997 to 2011— show a gruesome scene of hundreds of dead marine life entangled in nets. The images were obtained by association observers who are, by law, stationed on fishing boats.

Read the complete story at Bay Nature.

A Call for San Francisco to Boost Eviction Defense Funding

By Bryan Goebel, KQED News Fix 

Many tenants facing eviction often fight a losing battle because they can rarely afford attorneys, and there is a scarcity of city funding available to the network of nonprofits offering legal assistance, according to tenants rights activists.

At City Hall Wednesday, activists were joined by the city’s public defender and Supervisor David Campos at a rally calling on the city to ramp up funding for eviction defense.

“The sad fact is that many people being evicted should not be evicted and would not be evicted if they had an attorney,” said Ted Gullickson of the San Francisco Tenants Union.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.


S.F. Supervisor’s Airbnb Proposal Would Legalize Some Short-Term Rentals

By Jon Brooks and Lisa Pickoff-White, KQED News Fix

San Francisco is considering regulating home rental vacation services like Airbnb in hopes of reducing illegal short-term rentals.

Supervisor David Chiu proposes to let residents rent their dwellings for a period shorter than 30 days, currently illegal for owners and tenants alike. But those who want to legally rent their residences short-term will have to comply with some stiff requirements, and landlords could still prohibit the rentals through language in a lease.

Under Chiu’s proposal, tenants or landlords who want to become Airbnb “hosts” would need to register with the city, prove they occupy the unit 75 percent of the year and pay the same taxes as hotels. Airbnb has already agreed to pay San Francisco’s 14 percent hotel tax.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

Studies Prompt San Francisco Action for Seniors on Safer Hotels

By Tom Carter, Central City Extra/New America Media

Seniors and those with disabilities are the most vulnerable people in this city’s poorest neighborhood.

But at a time when San Francisco’s corporate technology boom is boosting the fortunes of the city’s Mid-Market Street area, impoverished residents of that district’s adjacent Central City neighborhoods – the Tenderloin and South of Market – are hanging on economically by their fingernails. 

In the last five years, two studies have attempted to determine the needs of San Francisco residents living in single-room-occupancy (SRO) hotels, the first and often the last refuge very poor people call home. And one of the reports, released by a consortium of community groups in 2010, is gradually pushing the city to enact changes for the safety and health of SRO residents.

The first study, published in 2009, focused on SRO senior living in the city’s downtown Tenderloin district, and paints a portrait of loneliness, poverty, fear of outsiders wandering in, mental and physical illnesses, addictions and bad diet. 

Read the complete story at New America Media. 

Cosco Busan Spill’s Toxic Effects: Scientists Report Link Between Oil and Fish Heart Health

By Elizabeth Devitt, Bay Nature

When the Cosco Busan spilled oil into the S.F. Bay in 2007, the toxic toll on wildlife came as no surprise. More than 6,000 birds died after the spill, with grebes, cormorants, and murres among the hardest hit. Within two years, the herring population collapsed, too. The cause of death for the oil-coated birds seemed obvious. But the way the fish died was not as clear.

Scientists suspected the fish had heart problems. After other oil spills, scientists had seen fish with barely beating hearts. But until about a month ago, no one knew why.

Now, seven years after the Busan spill, a group of scientists led by Barbara Block at the Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey have discovered the exact chemical pathway that makes oil such an insidious toxin – and it has implications beyond fish health to humans as well.

Read the complete story at Bay Nature. 

Interview With Bevan Dufty on Combating Homelessness

By Holly Kernan, KALW Crosscurrents

On any given night in the United States, there are more than 600,000 people who are homeless. In San Francisco, the government estimates that there are about 6,400 people living on the street or in shelters. The numbers have increased only slightly over the past few years, but with the lack of housing in the city, many are wondering what the county is doing to help. Bevan Dufty works with the mayor's office as the Director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement, or HOPE. 

Listen to the complete interview at KALW Crosscurrents.

Coming Right Up — Showers to Go

By Mary Rees, KALW Crosscurrents

There are roughly 6,400 homeless people in San Francisco. According to Laura Guzman, Director of the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center, one of the biggest challenges they face is finding public restrooms.

“I remember when we opened, the conversation was all about poop on the street,” said Guzman. “We used to talk about ‘poop and needles,’ we call it. But it’s critical that the community understands – if there is no bathroom access, people are going to poop on the streets.”

Nowadays, the conversation is not about just keeping the sidewalks clean, but how to provide more showers for those without homes. Now one of the cleanest forms of transportation is about to hit the streets.

At the morning shower period at the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center, a drop-in facility for San Francisco’s homeless, the bright yellow and light green painted walls make for a cheery atmosphere. A chess game is underway at one table, and along another wall, a few people move things around in lockers.

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents. 


Living Shorelines: Recruiting Oysters for Habitat Restoration and Climate Adaptation

By Sean Greene, Bay Nature

When the first live eastern oysters came to the Bay Area by train in the late 1800s, Victorian-era foodies lined up to buy them by the box at four dollars for 200. Capitalizing on San Franciscans and their love of trendy food, would-be oyster farmers followed, hoping to raise their imported shellfish in the Bay.

But life proved difficult for the farmers and their oysters. For the preferred eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica), summers in the Bay Area were too hot and dry, stingrays too hungry, and one particular “parasite” far too fast-growing for the bivalve to take hold, as the naturalist Charles Townsend wrote in 1893. “It is possible that I have not attached sufficient importance to the evil of overcrowding,” Townsend declared, by this “remarkably fertile” competitor.

The so-called parasite was the once-abundant Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida), the West Coast’s and the bay’s only species of native oyster. But in the years since Townsend wrote about them, the public’s attitude has changed. Dismissed as “worthless” a century ago, native oysters are now one of the key parts of an ambitious idea to restore the Bay’s health and simultaneously protect people and land from the danger of sea level rise.

Read the complete story at Bay Nature.