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Ready — or Not. Abrupt Climate Changes Worry Scientists Most

By Richard Harris, KQED News

An expert panel at the National Academy of Sciences is calling for an early warning system to alert us to abrupt and potentially catastrophic events triggered by climate change.

The committee says science can anticipate some major changes to the Earth that could affect everything from agriculture to sea level. But we aren't doing enough to look for those changes and anticipate their impacts.

And this is not a matter for some distant future. The Earth is already experiencing both gradual and abrupt climate change. The air is warming up slowly, and we're also seeing rapid changes such as the melting Arctic ice cap.

Read the complete story at KQED News.

For further information on how California is addressing the issue of climate change, read San Francisco Publie Press' 2013 special report: California's Cap-and-Trade Experiment.

Mission District Rental Market in a Churn

By George Lipp, Mission Local

The following graphs plot a now familiar curve. Rents in the Mission are continuing the upward trend that began three years ago. The number of units for rent as listed on Craigslist.org have nudged up from the tightest of times in the fall of 2011. I said to myself, “It’s about time for supply to take control and for the rate of rent increases to moderate.” So far, that hasn’t happened. I decided to check around a bit.

I looked for an example, and found Vara, a nice apartment complex at 1600 15th street, a 202-unit building with 40 below-market-rate units. The apartments are being occupied now. Two hundred new units surely should have changed the supply/demand calculus — especially when the market-rate units begin at $2,675 for a studio and $4,800 for a three-bedroom. The apartments are expensive, have clever floor plans and are filled with amenities. All that said, 200 apartments is a lot of space to rent. To my amazement I found that, as of yesterday, all of the three-bedrooms and studio apartments were “unavailable” and on “availability alert.” In fact, only 14 market-rate units remain unrented. The below-market unit lottery list had been capped at 500. So Vara is, for all practical purposes, rented and the paint is barely dry. Meanwhile, the overall availability numbers in the Mission seem to have experienced a slight uptick, that’s all.

Read the complete story at Mission Local. 

Thanksgiving Meals for Those Seeking Food, Fellowship

By KQED News Staff and Wires, KQED News Fix

Many people in the Bay Area are struggling to make ends meet this holiday season. For those looking to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at no cost — and perhaps good company as well — a number of places will be serving turkey with all the trimmings, or vegan/vegetarian feasts. All events are on Thursday.

EAST BAY:

Salute e Vita, 1900 Esplanade Dr., Richmond, has been offering needy families and homeless residents in Contra Costa County a free turkey meal and pumpkin pie for the past three years. Guests are seated at tables with white tablecloths and served by the wait staff and volunteers, which have included Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus. This year the restaurant hopes to feed 1,000. Starting at 9 a.m. it will bring in diners on chartered buses from 12 pick-up sites throughout the East Bay. All diners will receive a free flu shot after the meal, along with a goodie bag filled with toiletries, warm socks and scarves, and 10 coupons for a soup or sandwich from the restaurant. For details, call 510-215-0803.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.  

As Need Increases at Bay Area Food Banks, Donations Are Dropping

By Mina Kim and Erika Maldonado, KQED News Fix

Bay Area food banks are falling short on Thanksgiving this year. Though we’re climbing out of the economic downturn, more Bay Area residents are struggling to put holiday meals on the table, according to the leaders of several food banks throughout the region.

“It’s a reality many people in the community just don’t see,” says Second Harvest Food Bank CEO Kathy Jackson.

Jackson says that lack of awareness partially accounts for low donations this year. The San Francisco and Marin county food banks are 200 turkeys shy of their goal as of Tuesday, says Media Manager Blaine Johnson. The birds are distributed to local agencies and community groups, including Saint Anthony’s.

“We have more people at different places on the income spectrum. We have more people at the bottom who have very little and the people who used to be at the middle are moving toward the bottom. In an expensive place like San Francisco, you can make $30,000, $40,000, which may kind of sound like a good income, but if you have two or three kids and you have to rent a place, you can find yourself running out of food before the end of the month,” says Paul Ash, executive director of San Francisco and Marin food banks.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

Anti-Eviction Group Strives to Put Housing on S.F. Ballot

By Lynne Shallcross, Mission Local

Sergio Lainez is fighting to keep his family of five in the only home they’ve known for the past 22 years on Bryant and 24th streets.

“I don’t have peace at all,” said Lainez, 41, who, with the help of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, has been in a five-year legal battle with his landlord. “They just want me out.”

Lainez joined a group of about 50 other Mission and Excelsior residents Saturday at Everett Middle School for a tenant convention organized by Just Cause (also known as Causa Justa.) The event was intended to be the first step in getting a measure to fight displacement on next fall’s citywide ballot.

Read the complete story at Mission Local. 

Californians With Canceled Policies Cannot Renew, Says Covered California Board

By Lisa Aliferis, KQED/California Report/State of Health

After long discussion, the board of Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, voted unanimously to stay the course and phase out plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act by December 31.

The board’s decision comes a week after President Obama said states should consider allowing consumers whose plans were canceled to renew them through 2014. Dave Jones, California’s insurance commissioner, said he agreed with the president’s request.

But ultimately, the authority to permit renewals rested with board – because insurers have contracts with Covered California. The board weighed whether to release carriers from the provision requiring them to phase out plans. They had three options before them: permit no renewals; permit consumers to renew through March 31, 2014; or permit renewals through Dec. 31, 2014.

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

Why California’s Sudden Surplus May Not Last

By Scott Detrow, KQED News Fix

Sacramento is flush with cash. That’s no typo – for the first time since the end of the dot-com boom, the Legislative Analyst’s Office is projecting multibillion dollar cash surpluses over the coming fiscal years.

The Analyst's Office report on California’s fiscal outlook serves as an unofficial start to next year’s budget cycle, which will kick off in early January when Gov. Jerry Brown unveils his proposed state budget. The office predicts Brown and lawmakers will have a lot of money to work with: a projected $2.4 billion surplus next year, and $3.2 billion more in extra revenue in 2015.

Where did the extra money come from? Analyst Mac Taylor credited three factors: “We finally have an economic recovery — the best way to grow yourself out of problems,” he said. “We had [tax measure] Proposition 30, which has obviously provided relief and revenues.  . . .  And all of the efforts the legislature took during the bad years, of slowing the growth in many programs, and in some cases taking reductions in programs.”

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.

If Ride-Service Driver Gets in an Accident, Who Pays?

By Jon Brooks, KQED News Fix

Veteran San Francisco cab driver Ed Healey said he would never ever drive for Lyft, Sidecar or any of the other smartphone-driven ride-service  companies operating in the city.

It doesn’t matter that many of those driving for what state regulators call “transportation network companies” (or TNCs) say they’re making better money than old-school taxi drivers. It doesn’t matter that many cab drivers have moved over to the TNCs. Healey said his decision comes down to one issue.

“I wouldn’t ever drive in one because of the insurance,” Healey said. “I wasn’t going to leave my car exposed to an accident.”

This is Part Two of our series on the risks and benefits to drivers who sign up with the networked ride-service companies like Lyft, Sidecar and UberX versus those who work for the traditional taxicab industry. Part One — Will ‘Ride Sharing’ Kill San Francisco’s Taxi Industry? — focused on tensions between the two pools of drivers and the declining income earned by taxi drivers. Part Two looks at insurance issues related to the new ride services.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

Taking the Long View on BART Plazas and Homelessness

By Lynne Shallcross, Mission Local

Fifteen homeless men and women who were part of an encampment on Division Street got city-supported hotel rooms in October.

In addition, two city officials are trying to align the 16th Street BART plazas with a more comprehensive community court, where offenders ticketed at the plazas for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies can connect with social services.

These moves are elements of a strategy to both reduce homelessness in the Mission District and employ longer-term solutions to clean up the 16th Street BART plazas. Some homeless individuals living on Division Street also spent time at the plazas. Up until the housing placements, police tried to discourage the encampment by disbanding it, only to have it reappear a few blocks away.

“There isn’t one solution,” said David Campos, who represents District 9 on the city’s Board of Supervisors. “I think you’ve got to try different things, and you’ve got to work with different agencies to make it happen.”

Read the complete story at Mission Local. 

Building Strong School Communities Through Restorative Practices

By Jen Chien, KALW Crosscurrents

In October, a group of students from the 100% College Prep Club in the Bayview district marched into the San Francisco Unified School District board meeting. They were protesting suspensions for “willful defiance” – a vague term that in practice can encompass everything from talking back to a teacher to wearing a hat indoors. About a quarter of all suspensions in the district were for “disruption or defiance” last school year, and “willful defiance” infractions are the cause of 53% of suspensions statewide. AB420, a state bill to limit these kinds of suspensions, has made it through the Assembly, but has not yet been signed by the governor.

But the district has already made changes. In 2009, the school board dissolved what was then called the “Discipline Task Force” in favor of a new “Restorative Justice and School Climate Task Force.” It also made an official districtwide shift to the use of Restorative Practices. Now, students as young as kindergartners are learning the philosophy and techniques.

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents. 

To learn more about restorative practices in S.F. schools, read the San Francisco Public Press' award-winning  articles on experiments in San Francisco with “restorative justice."