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News From Our Partners

Keeping Watch on the Bay

By Beth Slatkin, Bay Nature

When several hundred surf scoters and other diving ducks wintering on San Francisco Bay were recently found to be coated with an unknown sticky substance (referred to as “mystery goo” by stumped investigators), San Francisco Baykeeper was one of the first organizations on the scene, helping with wildlife search-and-rescue efforts.

This small grassroots watchdog organization founded in 1989 has racked up an impressive number of victories against polluters of our estuary, from oil refiners to municipal governments to private marinas. We spoke with Baykeeper program director Sejal Choksi about the ongoing fight to protect the quality of San Francisco Bay.

Read the complete story at Bay Nature. 

One Night With S.F. Homeless Outreach Team

By Liza Veale, KALW Crosscurrents

When most people are on their way to sleep, San Francisco’s Homeless Outreach Team is just beginning its graveyard shift.

The 24-hour patrol team responds to the immediate needs of the roughly 7,000 homeless people living on the city’s streets. Some need blankets or medical attention. There are also issues, like noise violations, public urination or blocking the sidewalk.

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents. 

Nowhere to Go But Up — Flood of New Ideas on Sea-Level Rise

By Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, Bay Nature

“Not a very burly building” is the way planner Maggie Wenger describes the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center. It is a homey, roomy place crafted of wood and seasoned by bay fog and salt spray — the kind of structure you would  imagine Roosevelt’s WPA crews might have built in a national park. It sits on short stilts right in the middle of an 1,800-acre marsh, as well as squarely in the memories of thousands of schoolchildren and other visitors who have come here to learn about the bay. The Hayward Shoreline is both a beloved open space on Alameda County’s heavily urbanized bayshore and one of the low-lying assets that planners like Wenger know are most at risk from sea-level rise. “It’s already in trouble,” she said. “When there’s a king tide or a storm event, their trails flood. And they can’t take kids on flooded trails. So it’s not just about the building. They need trails and they need marshes or they’re not going to have anything to interpret.”

Read the complete story at Bay Nature.

State DMV Retracts Notice That UberX, Lyft Drivers Need Commercial Plates

By Jon Brooks, KQED News Fix

The California Department of Motor Vehicles sent out a retraction Friday night of a memo it had issued earlier this month that vehicles even occasionally used for commercial purposes — like those driven for ride services such as Lyft and UberX — would need to be registered as commercial vehicles.

That announcement had drawn a flurry of press coverage since it was first reported by BuzzFeed. Switching registration of a personal vehicle to that of a commercial vehicle would add another layer of bureaucracy to signing up for ride-service work and potentially dissuade drivers from joining up.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.


Sick Sea Lions Wash Up on California Beaches

By Lindsey Hoshaw, KQED News Fix/KQED Science

Last year, a record number of sea lions washed up on Central and Northern California beaches, according to the Marine Mammal Center, the organization that treats wounded wild marine animals.

Usually, the center near Sausalito treats fewer than 20 sea lion pups a year, but in 2014 that spiked to 245. Older sea lions also stranded themselves in record numbers last year, 449 up from 176 in 2013. A neurotoxin found in algal blooms affected 34 percent of the adults.

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

California Announces Strictest Rules on Pesticide

By Scott Smith, Associated Press/The California Report

California farmers now must abide by the nation’s strictest rules for a widely used pesticide in a change designed to protect farmworkers and people who live and work near agricultural fields but is likely to raise prices on produce.

The restrictions announced Wednesday target chloropicrin, a pesticide injected into the ground before planting crops, such as strawberries, tomatoes and almond orchards. In recent years, the chemical has caused hundreds of people to suffer from irritated eyes, coughing fits and headaches, state officials said.

Read the complete story at Associated Press/The California Report.

City College of San Francisco Gets 2 More Years to Fix Accreditation Issues

By Dan Brekke, KQED News Fix

The agency in charge of certifying the state’s junior and community colleges has given City College of San Francisco two more years to comply with eligibility standards. For now, that decision — made last week and announced Wednesday — effectively ends a shutdown threat that has hung over the school for more than two years.

The vote by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to grant City College “restoration” status does not exactly amount to a clean bill of health.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

Boomtown Real Estate Angst, 1855 Style

By Dan Brekke, KQED News Fix

If you showed up in the Bay Area in the last three years or so, you know that you have moved into a world where rents and home prices appear to know no limits. The current “up” market has seen the median price of single-family homes sold in San Francisco hit $1 million. Million-dollar home sales have become commonplace in non-chic locales like Burlingame.

Rents have blown through the roof, too, with the Bay Area average for all apartments topping $2,200 last summer (and $3,400 in San Francisco, the region’s most expensive market).

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

S.F. Building Boom Sparks Hiring Spree by City, State Agencies

By Ted Goldberg, KQED News Fix

Three San Francisco government departments and the local office for a state agency are scrambling to hire staff to keep up with the city’s steady increase in construction projects.

In recent years, several thousand buildings have been put up or substantially renovated throughout the city, leading San Francisco’s Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection and Fire Department along with California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, to fill positions, add jobs and recruit talent.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 


Why Obamacare Means One of the Most Complicated Tax Seasons Ever

By April Dembosky/The California Report/State of Health

Most days in early January, tax preparation offices are dead. Most people will not get their W-2 or other tax documents until later this month.

But at an H&R Block office I visited in San Francisco, office manager Sue Ellen Smith is expecting things to pick up fast. The IRS commissioner declared back in November that this tax season will be one of the most complicated ever. Why?

Read the complete story at The California Report/State of Health.