Front page of Issue 16Get the winter 2015 print editionwith a special report on school segregation. Plus an insert commemorating the now-defunct S.F. Bay Guardian.

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What Does 'Affordable Housing' Really Mean?

By Liza Veale, KALW Crosscurrents

When we say “affordable housing,” we are actually using a precisely defined concept. "Affordable," in this context, means housing that costs no more than 30 percent of a household’s income.

Here in the Bay Area, almost half of us are living in housing we cannot, by this definition, "afford." It has become so common that it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the economy did not used to work this way.

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents.

To learn more about affordable housing in San Francisco, read San Francisco Public Press Summer 2014 special report, Creative Solutions to San Francisco’s Housing Crisis.

Urban Shield: Training or Militarization for First Responders?

By Sandhya Dirks, KALW Crosscurrents

For the past eight years, one weekend in late summer brings first responders from across the country and around the world — firemen, medics, SWAT teams and police officers -- to Alameda County for Urban Shield, one of the largest law enforcement training exercises in the country.

Urban Shield throws these first responders into simulated scenarios out of the direst headlines: terrorist attacks, downed planes and catastrophic natural disasters. The situations are all mock events, complete with actors and even stage makeup, but these trained, professional first responders treat them as if they are real.

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents. 

Ship Retraces Legacy of Once-Mighty Bay Shrimp

By Jimmy Tobias, Bay Nature

Captain John Muir sails the Grace Quan into a small basin in South San Francisco, as spectators gather on shore to watch the wooden boat slice through the choppy waters. Muir, who is not directly related to the famous naturalist with whom he shares a name, smiles as he tacks back and forth in a tight zigzag pattern. “Showtime!” he says.

The boat’s single sail is taut against the wind and its wide rudder strains against the muddy waves. The onlookers cheer and clap on this cool September afternoon.

The Grace Quan, owned and operated by the National Park Service, is a replica of the Chinese ships that sailed these waters during the heyday of San Francisco’s commercial shrimp fishery in the late 1800s. It is on a weeklong voyage around the San Francisco Bay, sailing from Richmond to Redwood City to San Francisco and then San Rafael to visit the old Chinese fishing camps that once hugged the estuary’s shore.

Read the complete story at Bay Nature. 

California’s ‘Water Year’ Ends as Third Driest on Record

By Craig Miller, KQED Science/News Fix

Tuesday is “New Year’s Eve” for water managers in California, but they are not celebrating.

This is the end of the state’s official “water year,” kind of a fiscal year for the water budget. Officials watch water years more closely than calendar years because they run from October to September, centered around the months in which California gets virtually all of its rainfall. And this one appears to be clocking in as the third driest on record, according to state climatologist Mike Anderson, with less than 60 percent of normal precipitation.

Read the complete story at KQED Science/News Fix. 


More Than Half of Those Killed by San Francisco Police Were Mentally Ill

By Alex Emslie and Rachael Bale, KQED News

Often it starts with a call for help. A family member, a caretaker or even a stranger dials 911 seeking paramedics to treat someone in a psychiatric crisis. But when there is a threat of violence, the first responders are usually police, and what started as a call for help can quickly turn deadly for a person with a treatable illness.

That’s what happened when Christine Goias called 911 seeking help for her son, 34-year-old Errol Chang, who was in the midst of a schizophrenic breakdown at his father’s Pacifica home in March.

“He has paranoia and he’s thinking people are wanting to assassinate him, and now he doesn’t trust anyone,” Goias told the dispatcher.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.

Research Cruise Keeps Eye on Marine Sanctuaries’ Rich Life

By Jason Jaacks, Bay Nature

Twelve feet above the Pacific Ocean on the flying bridge of the research vessel Fulmar, Jason Thompson, a volunteer observer with Point Blue Conservation Science, sits at the alert, eyes glued to his binoculars. It is eerily calm — no wind, hardly any swell and no fog — a perfect day for conducting research. Out here, halfway between the Golden Gate and the Farallon Islands, the water and the sky seem to mirror each other.

It is so quiet that I can perfectly hear the words as Thompson mutters them.

“There’s an orca,” he says. His eyes never leave the binoculars, but a beat later, he gets louder. “I’m not even kidding, there’s an orca.” This time, somebody else hears him and, suddenly, the Fulmar is swerving left and the flying bridge fills up with everyone on board — scientists and volunteers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Point Blue and the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Association. The engine cuts and the Fulmar bobs on its own wake.

Read the complete story at Bay Nature. 

S.F. District Attorney Threatens Action Against Uber, Lyft and Sidecar

By Bryan Goebel and Dan Brekke, KQED News Fix

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and his counterpart in Los Angeles are threatening action against ride-service companies Uber, Lyft and Sidecar over alleged violations of state law.

In a letter to San Francisco-based Sidecar, Gascón said an investigation conducted with L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has found the company has made misleading statements about its background checks on drivers and has illegally quoted individual fares for passengers.

The letter promised legal action against the company unless it meets with prosecutors by October 8 to discuss how it will remedy the alleged violations.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

Minimum Wage Survival or the Flip Side of a Boom

By Laura Wenus, Mission Local

Behind the counter of every tasty sandwich joint, hip bar and go-to cafe so popular in the Mission are low-wage workers, manning the registers, chopping the vegetables, pulling the espresso shots.

Many have worked for minimum wage for years, but that could change in November when voters will decide on a ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage from $10.74 an hour to $15 an hour by 2018.

In the meantime, we wondered how Mission workers manage in one of the country’s most expensive cities? And how do they view the ballot measure? We will be doing a series of stories on minimum wage workers and families.

Read the complete story at Mission Local.

Read  the San Francisco Public Press story about how San Francisco has taken the lead in raising the minimum wage:  "Following S.F.’s Lead, Cities Leapfrog State in Race to Raise Minimum Wage." 

San Francisco Officials on Collision Course With Developers Over Tax

By Bryan Goebel, KQED News Fix

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously to approve a special downtown tax district meant to support transportation infrastructure projects.

The Transbay Transit Community Facilities District is designed to collect a levy from developers of high-rise projects surrounding the new Transbay Terminal. The funds collected would help pay for the terminal itself and other projects, including extending Caltrain from its current South of Market location to downtown.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.

Finding Faults: Scientists Close In on Napa Quake Origins

By Craig Miller, KQED Science/KQED News Fix

It took less than 20 seconds to shake apart historic buildings and topple chimneys from Vallejo to St. Helena.

But throughout the Napa Valley, the August 24 South Napa Earthquake left its calling cards — not just the startling damage in downtown Napa but also subtle traces on the ground itself: clues to what actually happened deep below the surface. In fact, geologists now say that the South Napa quake created more surface fractures than any known quake of its size in California.

Weeks after the magnitude-6.0 shaker, a new picture is emerging of the complex geology underneath. The quake is literally redrawing the fault maps and providing valuable clues to the next major seismic event.

Read the complete story at KQED Science/KQED News Fix.