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Tourist-centered ‘sit-lie’ law follows reports of higher petty crime

Cleaning up the streets of San Francisco, whether it’s in the Tenderloin or the Haight, has risen to the top of the political agenda.

This week Police Chief George Gascon proposed a new anti-loitering ordinance that would make it illegal to sit or lie on a public sidewalk. Dubbed by the local press a “sit-lie” law, the plan was criticized by opinion writer Thomas Wong in the San Francisco Chronicle, who called the plan an effort to displace the city’s large transient population. A reporter for ABC 7, Carolyn Tyler, said on Monday that the proposal was aimed at making the streets in areas like Haight Ashbury “less confrontational.”

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that petty crimes were on the rise in San Francisco, adding that “quality-of-life” crackdowns are happening all across the country. New York, Washington and Chicago have joined in. With a reported homeless population of 6,514 in 2009, San Francisco has big problem.

See Also:

San Francisco supervisors debate anti-loitering ordinance in Haight -  3/1/10

Rise in petty crime even making San Francisco bristle - 3/1/10

Other big stories this week:


Cameras keep an eye on crime in Oakland Chinatown - 3/3/10

City Hall reeling after news of layoffs - 3/3/10

Ban proposed for CA sex offenders on social sites - 3/2/10

SF supes approve changes to end ‘pension spiking - 3/2/10


Muni riders just say no - 3/1/10

Reminder: save Muni summit tomorrow - 3/5/10


S.F. Police Commission rejects tasers - 3/4/10


College credit for 9th-grade ethnic studies - 3/1/10

Education funding demanded in ‘Day of Action’ - 3/4/10

UC Santa Cruz students shut down campus - 3/4/10


What S.F. calls compost, activists call ‘toxic sludge’ - 3/4/10


Bay Area hiring plans uneven - 3/4/10

Crazy and composed, college students across the Bay react to budget cuts

Facing unprecedented budget cuts in higher education, protests — both planned and impromptu — are lighting up colleges throughout the Bay Area.
San Francisco State University and U.C. Berkeley have contributed more than their share of protests. While their methods differ, students at both universities are pushing for better funding.
On Thursday, Berkeley students shook it up a bit in the form of an open-air dance party in Sproul Plaza, followed by the occupation of Durant Hall, and then culminating in what the San Francisco Chronicle characterized as a riot on Telegraph Avenue. Only the dance party was planned (or at least announced).
In contrast, students in San Francisco have been rather subdued. They are planning to host student general assemblies weekly, courtesy of Students Faculty Staff United. These assemblies have been building up to the March 4 statewide “Day of Action,” organizers said.
At stake is who can attend college, as the budget plan for the coming academic year will decrease admissions even more. The California State University system plans to reduce enrollment by 40,000 students over the next two years. The University of California system would cut 2,300 over one year. In addition, current students at California State Universities face a 20 percent tuition increase, while U.C. students faces a 32 percent hike.
See also:
SFSUnited prepares for statewide walkout - 2/18/10


Other big stories this week:

Rally against the cuts to education - 2/23/10

South San Francisco Unified teachers brace for layoffs - 2/24/10


Home prices still falling, but getting better - 2/24/10


Forced sales delayed at personality hotels - 2/23/10

Yelp hit with class-action suit - 2/25/10

Police force

Gascon pushes again for tasers - 2/24/10


N. Calif cities to pay for sewage plant violations - 2/24/10

EPA dings South San Francisco salami factory for ammonia leaks - 2/25/10


S.F. on pace with 10-year plan on homeless - 2/24/10


Sewage pollution flows into bay; many beaches closed

As anticipated last week, the combination of heavy rainstorms and antiquated sewer systems have dumped millions of gallons of untreated, undertreated and diluted sewage into the bay and ocean. For at least part of last week, Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, China Beach, Baker Beach, Crissy Field and Candlestick Point were closed because of  the unsanitary conditions, and some closures have continue into this week. The SF Appeal did not mince words about what exactly was dumping onto the beaches and into the water.

Heavy rainfall increases bay, ocean pollution

News coverage of this week’s rainfall is almost as saturated as the weather itself, but one item being overlooked is the impact on San Francisco’s sewer system. Rainwater runoff from streets and sidewalks drains into the antiquated structure, where it joins the city’s untreated wastewater.

During heavy bursts of rain, the system can become deluged and overflow into the bay or ocean. Last winter Richmond and Sausalito spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons into the bay. San Francisco runs the same risk with every significant rainfall.

Hundreds of cities across the U.S. have the same problem. The overflows are illegal, and sewage systems are the most frequent violators of the 1972 Clean Water Act, according to the New York Times.

To alleviate the surges of fouled water, several city agencies have been quietly taking measures to lessen the amount of rainwater going into city drains. The whole system is on track to get a $4 billion upgrade, but the SF Public Utilities Commission would still prefer to not have the excess water in the system.

 The SFPUC is offering rain barrels at a reduced price so city residents can collect the rain from their roofs. While the water isn’t drinkable, it can be used to water plants or flush a toilet tank. It could even be drained into the city’s system at a non-peak time.

PlantSF has partnered with the SF Parks Trust to undertake more permeable landscaping in the city. They arrange for more planted areas in sidewalks and parking lots (and even plantable, permeable driveways) to absorb the rainfall and avoid contributing to runoff.


Governor eyes more cuts to cash-starved transit agencies

Transit agencies across the state are facing a move by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to take $1 billion in transit funds as he attempts to counter California’s budget deficit, the San Francisco Examiner has reported. The timing could not be worse in San Francisco, where Muni ridership has increased 1.1 percent in the first nine months of 2009, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The trend runs counter to national statistics that show a decline in public transit ridership.

Police chief aims to fix record-keeping, ease overtime

Police Chief George Gascón made headlines in October, when he was thrown into a controversy around immigrant youth suspects — a battle he might not have otherwise taken up. But now, four months into his term, he’s beginning to take steps that reflect his priorities for the office.

Just weeks after he was hired in August, Gascón sided with Mayor Gavin Newsom in refusing to shelter undocumented immigrant youths accused but not yet convicted of a crime. Newsom’s decision — to ignore a veto-proof vote by the Board of Supervisors mandating that the youths not be turned over to federal authorities — was the most controversial move that Gascón has made in the four months that he has been chief. He did so even though he had supported a so-called sanctuary-city policy when he was police chief in Mesa, Ariz.

In the past week, however, Gascón seems to have begun following his own initiative.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, he recently had the department’s system for record-keeping analyzed and found that many crimes had been misclassified. The Police Department should have reported 1,200 domestic violence incidents to the U.S. Department of Justice as aggravated assaults. He also found many cases of crimes that had been mislabeled, or where multiple crimes described the same incident. The chief said the reporting errors should be fixed by the end of next month, as part of an $8 million system overhaul.

In a separate article, the Examiner reported that Gascón is taking steps to cut overtime spending. He has already reversed an increase in patrols in North Beach initiated in 2006 by Newsom and then-Chief Heather Fong. The department is attempting to close a $6 million deficit and is anticipating cuts next year. Overtime spending cost $34 million in the last fiscal year.

Holiday season, under the radar

Dear readers,

During the next few weeks, we would like to write up a short series on holiday-related events and activities — but not the typical homogenized corporate fare. We’re looking for authentic and uniquely local cultural activities that bubble up from San Francisco’s underground.

Suggestions and ideas are very welcome as part of a collective brainstorm. We’re looking to examine San Francisco-specific events, as far off the Hallmark-holiday-beaten path as possible. We are looking for that rare, well-wrapped present that flies in under the radar. It does not make sense for us to include anything that already garners heavy media attention, because there is little we can add.

The Ghiradelli Square tree lighting ceremony probably does not qualify. The Renegade Craft Fair at Fort Mason is a better fit: attendance is free, it supports small businesses, and we had never heard of it before doing a little research.

We’re looking for a dozen items; you are invited to make suggestions below. Check back for daily posts.

Toy donations tumble in down economy

As money becomes more scarce throughout the Bay Area donors are pulling back from holiday philanthropic gift-giving.

Toy drive organizers in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area say this is the worst year for donations since the drives began decades ago.

The San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program has received only 40 percent of the amount of donations as last year, and the Oakland Mayor’s Community Toy Drive is at half of last year’s donations, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The firefighters’ program began 60 years ago, and Mayor Ron Dellums says Oakland’s program has been going for 30 years.

The decrease is even more painful since there is an increase in families in need — almost 20 percent more in San Francisco. The chair of the firefighters’ program told the Chronicle that many former donors are now in waiting in lines to get help themselves.

The Oakland toy drive has looked past its immediate community too, reaching out to neighboring Contra Costa County, as well as to churches and businesses for assistance in meeting the needs of those who are without.

SF-based chain hires holiday help from abroad

Following recent news reports, one major retailer in San Francisco has been thrust in the spotlight after hiring foreign workers for the holidays.

San Francisco wants state to pay $2 million for trial costs

Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors introduced a resolution Tuesday that urges state officials to reimburse the city $2 million in legal fees stemming from&nb