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SF Day of the Dead threatened by city deficit

 The elimination of a grant program by the city has put the annual Day of the Dead celebration in jeopardy. 

The Marigold Project, a Mission District-based non-profit organization that coordinates the annual festival of the altars at Garfield Park, faces a $9,000 deficit in the wake of the grant's cancellation, according to Mission Local. The city Arts Commission cut the Neighborhood Festival Grant that helps support smaller community celebrations to reduce the city deficit. The grant allowed the organization to pay artists to decorate the large altars and cover the cost for dumpsters, portable toilets and cleanup. 

Permits for the event have yet to be approved by the Parks and Recreation Department, as the organization has been asked to cut down the event's footprint, according to the Bay Area Reporter. The event celebrates the dead on Nov. 2 and regularly attracts some 15,000 people.

Marigold is counting on donations from those in the community who don't want to see the event canceled.

"It's a strong cultural touchstone event for the Mission," Marigold board member Kevin Mathieu said. "I think we'll be able to raise money, but we're really counting on community contributions. It's not a tremendously expensive event."

Mathieu estimated it will only cost 60 cents per person if the expected 15,000 people attend.

Teens protest outside retailer over toxic perfume

Teens marched in protest on Tuesday outside Abercrombie & Fitch's Westfield Mall location in downtown San Francisco over allegations that a perfume they sell is harmful to people.

Abercrombie & Fitch's signature perfume "Fierce" has been found to contain toxic ingredients that cause allergies, headaches, wheezing and impacts male sperm count, according to a study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found on the Huffington Post.

Members of the San Rafael-based group "Teens Turning Green" campaign organized the protest, creating posters that mock the company's racy ads by having models wear gas masks to symbolize the air being unsafe at their stores, according to KCBS.

The group alleges that Abercrombie & Fitch employees walk around stores spraying the perfume, constantly circulating the scent and its alleged toxic ingredients on unknowing customers and themselves.

The teens decided to march after they sent a letter and video regarding the perfume and its toxicity to company headquarters and got no response.

Protests also occurred in New York and Dallas.

New drunk-driving law cracks down on third-time offenders

On Tuesday the San Francisco Chronicle reported on a new drunk-driving law that allows judges to revoke someone’s driver’s license for up to 10 years if an offender has three or more convictions of driving under the influence within a decade. The measure by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

Hill told the Chronicle that the measure could take 100,000 DUI repeat offenders off the road each year. Hill also said: “Nearly 188,000 DUI convictions were handed down around the state in 2008 with 9,164 of those drivers on their third conviction and 3,200 with four or more DUI offenses.”

The National Highway Traffic Administration reported that there are roughly 1.5 million DUI arrests in California each year, with a third of them repeat offenses. According to the agency, more than 310,000 Californians have three or more DUI convictions.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told the Chronicle in a statement: “This legislation is an important step toward making California’s roads safer. Those who have multiple DUI convictions should not be on the road threatening lives.”

SF wants to limit toys in unhealthy child fast-food meals

A vote on a proposed ordinance to ban toys in kids' fast-food meals if they are deemed unhealthy was postponed Monday after amendments were made to the measure.

The plan, brought forth by Supervisor Eric Mar, would ban in kids' meals that exceed 600 calories, according to ABC7. 

Parents who frequent fast-food restaurants like McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell and others will have to look to healthy alternative sides like fruits, vegetables and milk if their kids want the toys as limits will be placed on calories, fat, salt and sugar, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Many in the fast-food industry have been meeting with city officials behind closed doors to voice their concerns. Opponents are trying to frame this as government regulation going too far.

Mayor Gavin Newsom is opposed to the legislation. Newsom's spokesman Tony Winnicker said the mayor supports kids eating healthier, but "dictating what plastic toys can be put in a box is not the right way to achieve that."

Mar said voluntary efforts by the fast-food industry haven't gone far enough to combat childhood obesity.

Proposed hospital sparks community outrage

 A new hospital proposed in a busy part of San Francisco has residents from surrounding communities up in arms.

The California Pacific Medical Center wants to build a 15-story, 555-bed hospital at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Geary Boulevard as part of a $2.5 billion project that would alter the purpose of the four other California Pacific Medical center campuses as well. 

At a Planning Commission meeting Thursday afternoon, about 100 residents of the Tenderloin and Cathedral Hill neighborhoods came to voice their opposition, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The residents said the new hospital could cause major congestion on Van Ness Avenue might not serve the needs of the many low-income people in the area.

The project would include closing the medical center's California campus in Presidio Heights, changing the Pacific campus in Pacific Heights into an outpatient-only facility and replacing St. Luke's Hospital in the Mission District with a much smaller facility.

Residents complained this restructuring will force many people to travel farther for health care.

Since the land is currently designated for residential use, the city would have to re-zone the area to allow the project to take place. According to the Bay Citizen, California Pacific Medical Center wants to modify the zoning in the area so that it won't have to build new homes as would be required to maintain the area's current three-to-one housing to commercial ratio.

Officials said the new hospital would provide a modern, seismically safe facility that could function in the worst disaster. Much of the project would focus on updating the other facilities to meet tougher earthquake standards.

The Planning Commission is not expected to make any decisions regarding zoning in the area for several months until an environmental impact report is completed.

PG&E gas line leaks higher than average

Pacific Gas & Electric has reported gas leaks on lines near large populated areas at a rate nearly six times those of other large pipeline systems across the country.

Federal records indicate PG&E has reported 38 leaks since 2004 along more than 1,000 miles of lines controlled by the utility near environmentally sensitive areas and population centers, according to CBS 5.

The utility has an annual average leak rate of 6.2 per 1,000 miles of line serving "high consequence" areas, which is more than six times the average leak rate for the nation's six other large operators, according to the Los Angeles Times.

PG&E has reported a 40 percent increase of gas leaks while reported gas leaks have fallen 30 percent nationwide in recent years.

The state's other large gas company, Southern California Gas, has a average leak rate of 2.3 per 1,000 miles, close to the national average for large operators.

Records indicate that equipment problems and corrosion are the leading causes of leaks in PG&E's transmission pipelines in high consequence areas. 

PG&E has asked federal regulators to address inconsistent gas leak reporting requirements.

 

Bay Area roads rank among worst in nation

On Thursday the San Francisco Chronicle via the Associated Press reported on the San Francisco Bay Area’s roads being among the worst in the nation. This information comes from the national report transportation group TRIP. The report came from an analysis of road conditions done in 2008.

Topping the list as the worst in the nation are Silicon Valley roads, with 64 percent considered to be in poor condition. The Concord area was ranked fourth while the San Francisco-Oakland Metropolitan area came in fifth, both with 58 percent of roads in poor condition. All of which are worse than New York, Baltimore and New Orleans.

The report also says that poor Bay Area roads affect cars as well as wallets with drivers paying an upwards of $690 annually in additional repair and maintenance cost. For drivers in San Jose, the tab runs to $756 a year.

 

Resident health measured in new online report card

A large number of private and public health groups have put together a report card grading the health of San Francisco residents.

The Community Vital Signs report was introduced online Thursday and will identify areas of concern using collected data.

The report has drawn from about 50 sources and uses 150 measures, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Some examples of data from the report include Bayview-Hunters Point residents will live 14 fewer years on average than those living on Russian Hill, and about 800 people are injured or killed by cars each year while walking around the city, with pedestrian accidents most commonly occurring in Chinatown, the Financial District, South of Market and Civic Center.

Health officials plan to use the report card to monitor the health of residents and to make improvements where ever possible.

The city has been posting health data online since 2007 with the Health Matters in San Francisco website. The Community Vital Signs report builds upon that and serves as a sort of one-stop shop for health providers, policymakers, employers and residents with more and comparable data to use to improve health conditions and find solutions to problems.

The report card took more than a year to develop. The report card will be managed by the Healthy Communities Foundation of Sausalito, who also designed the software used. Officials say data can be updated in real time once it becomes available.

Board president wants promoters to register with city

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu wants to make it city law that event promoters must register online with the city in order to host events at clubs.

Chiu said the ordinance will weed out untrustworthy promoters like those whose events in the past have attracted violence to areas where clubs are located, according to SF Appeal. 

The ordinance would provide officials with some level of oversight on promoters for the first time. 

If approved, all promoters would have to register with the city's Entertainment Commission, and clubs would only be allowed to work with registered promoters.

Promoters that get a record of putting on events that have resulted in violence would face tougher regulations, including increased security requirements, liability insurance and criminal background checks of employees, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

The ordinance is part of the city's attempt to curb violence at and around nightclubs after three widely publicized shootings in the past year.

Newsom looking to expand background checks on potential city employees

On Tuesday KCBS radio reported on Mayor Gavin Newsom looking to expand background checks on potential city employees. This was brought on by the case of former city engineer Terry Childs, who took San Francisco’s computer system hostage for weeks back in 2008.

Childs had felony convictions in Kansas for robbery and burglary, information that was left out because San Francisco only goes as far as California for background checks.

Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said: “This legislation will give us a greater ability to weed those kind of folks out, so nobody falls through the cracks like Terry Childs.”

Criminal history doesn’t automatically cut out an applicant, but it provides a better way to match the said applicant to the right position, according to the KCBS report.