News From Our Partners

The week in transportation: Cars 1, bikes 0

The state, which increasingly looks kindly on bicyclists, is cracking down on two-wheeled commuters who multitask. KTVU reported Thursday on a bill introduced by state Sen. Joe Simitian that would restrict cell phone by bicyclists. Just like the existing law for drivers, it would ban talking without a headset and texting while in motion. A first-offense ticket totals $100, including fines and fees.

In San Francisco, with hordes of bicycling advocates, the proposed law perhaps surprisingly has gained some approval. Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, told KTVU, “We think anyone using the roadway, whether driving or bicycling, needs to have their full attention to what they’re doing.”
On Wednesday CBS 5 reported that fewer unlicensed drivers are being pulled over in San Francisco this winter. This came as a result of a policy set last November that let unlicensed drivers allow licensed and insured drivers to move their vehicles within 20 minutes after a vehicle stop, avoiding tow-aways. The policy was made to benefit illegal immigrants, who are unable to get driver’s licenses.
The most recent police statistics show that for the month of February, San Francisco towed 76 cars driven by unlicensed drivers, down sharply from 423 in February 2009. Sgt. Jon Nestor told CBS 5, “the officers, since they are no longer required to impound the vehicles, may be using their discretion and letting the vehicles go without making a report.” How considerate.
See also:

Other big stories this week:

No hospitality from the Hilton -  4/8/10

SF denies ticket quotas as complaints rise -  4/7/10

Mayor Newsom and President Chiu introduce $27 billion 10 year capital plan - 4/7/10

Fewer unlicensed drivers pulled over in SF - 4/7/10

Richmond passes daytime curfew to curb teen crime -  4/6/10

David Chiu seeks to beef up controls over clubs -  4/6/10

Giants' coke bottle belches $6 million lawsuit - 4/6/10

SF imposes controversial HIV recommendations -  4/6/10

Net neutrality loses in court to Comcast -  4/6/10


BART directors consider temporary fare decrease -  4/8/10

Report to offer glimpse of high-speed rail plan -  4/5/10

Oak to Ninth pushing for 2012 -  4/8/10

Parkmerced to get 7,000 new apartments -  4/8/10

Golden Gate Bridge considering tolls for carpools in face of budget crisis -   4/7/10

New Development breaks ground in Hunter's Point -  4/7/10

Portrero Hill eyed for cohousing development -  4/7/10

Muni's state windfall delayed -  4/6/10

New law would fine cyclists for texting, talking on cell phones -  4/8/10

High-speed rail to end at Transbay Terminal -  4/9/10


Groups make stink over S.F. 'biosolid' compost -  4/7/10

Humboldt County blocks plan to import trash from the Bay Area -  4/6/10

$16.9M for Bay Area habitats harmed by oil -  4/6/10


Shortfall as much as $500 billion, study says -  4/6/10

Price for a small business in S.F. up nearly 50% -  4/6/10


Perry v. Schwarzenegger stretches into overtime


Don’t expect a ruling on Perry v. Schwarzenegger — the suit against California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage — anytime soon, even though courtroom proceedings began on Jan. 11 and testimony wrapped up on Jan. 27.

Muni expects $36 mil from bill, but will that help?

As news comes out that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency stands to earn $36 million from the state, millions of dollars have already been lost to non-paying riders.

On Wednesday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a transportation bill that gives $36 million to Muni, in state funding for this fiscal year and next. This comes at a time when some proposals call for a 10 percent cut in Muni service.
Muni spokeswoman Kristi Holland told SF Appeal that the $36 million endowment would help the agency: “The goal would be to make improvements where we can while still being respectful of these ongoing budget deficits.”
On Thursday ABC7 reported that the Muni system has lost as much as $11 million due to non-paying riders. This comes as bad news when the agency has already has a $56 million deficit.

In an effort to crack down on non-paying riders, the agency has been conducting a sting operation since 2006. Last year the agency increased the number of inspectors to 50 from four. Those inspectors’ salaries come to $4 million, even though they have collected under $2 million in fines in the latest count.

See also:

Muni not promising they'll restore service cuts with $36 mil windfall -  3/24/10

Muni loses $11 million due to cheaters -  3/25/10

Other big stories this week:


Local gun advocates move to "normalize" firearms in public -  3/22/10

Bay Area legislators celebrate health care vote -  3/22/10

Obama nominates new U.S. attorney -  3/26/10

Airport money-raising band ruled constitutional -  3/26/10

SF drug sweeps net hundreds of arrests -  3/25/10

Legal-marijuana advocates focus on a new green -  3/25/10

Newsom target of union ire -  3/24/10

San Francisco market to get AT&T MicroCells to boost coverage -  3/24/10

Healthy San Francisco will play a role in insuring residents -  3/23/10

Richmond gang rape sparks new bill -  3/23/10


San Francisco moves to lessen the impact of truck traffic -  3/22/10

Muni loses $11 million due to cheaters -  3/25/10

Muni not promising they'll restore service cuts with $36 mil windfall -  3/24/10

SF cable car system to be shut down for overhaul -  3/25/10


5 S.F. school principals under fire -  3/26/10

SF students rally for Muni "class pass" -  3/23/10


San Francisco stormwater management ordinance - 3/22/10

California Air Board says climate law will help economy -  3/24/10

NorCal dam project for endangered salmon begins -  3/23/10

Mojo Bicycle Café parklet

Parklets - Images by Michael LaHood


SF businesses to see tax fines, neighborhood rewards

As the local economy continues to sputter, businesses in San Francisco are being buffeted by a crackdown from the under-funded city government, but also lifted by an association aimed at encouraging neighborhood firms.

On Monday Mayor Gavin Newsom proposed new legislation that would crack down on San Francisco businesses with unpaid or unreported taxes. According to San Francisco Examiner writer Erin Sherbert, any business caught with fraudulent taxes “could be hit with a fine equaling 50 percent of the amount that is underreported.” Through this the city can expect to gain $331,000 in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

In response to the proposal Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California, told the Examiner, “Small-business leaders say they realize city leaders must go after companies that are not paying their taxes in full, but this legislation would only target a few thousand businesses, which doesn’t seem fair.”
The proposed legislation is only the latest challenge facing local business owners. Landlords whose properties are vacant are also feeling the squeeze. Last month, the city  increased the fine charged to owners of abandoned buildings, SF Public Press writer Angela Hart reported. The owners of more than 200 abandoned buildings in the city are now billed as much as $6,885 each, instead of the previous maximum fee of $765. The city is expected to make more than $3 million if all fines are paid in full.

Business associations are responding with incentives. On Thursday the San Francisco Business Times reported that the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau would award as many as 10 grants to local businesses that are “uniquely San Franciscan” and “have the pull to draw visitors away from traditional tourist centers.” The grants will exceed $1,600 and come with a one-year membership in the organization. Joe D’Alessandro, the group’s president and CEO, said, “By providing membership grants to under-exposed businesses, we hope to draw more visitors into the city's diverse and fascinating neighborhoods.”

See also:

San Francisco seeks stiff fine for unpaid taxes -  3/15/10

In crackdown, SF abandoned building fee hiked ninefold -  2/12/10

Visitors bureau promotes S.F. neighborhoods with membership grants - 3/18/10 

Other big stories this week:


Budget cuts put strain on city's mental-health services -  3/15/10

San Francisco seeks stiff fine for unpaid taxes -  3/15/10

Visitors bureau promotes S.F. neighborhoods with membership grants -  3/18/10

San Francisco sues to block PGE-funded ballot measure -  3/18/10

San Francisco's Public Health Department wins $9.5M stimulus grant -  3/16/10

Tougher smoking rules officially approved -  3/16/10

Gavin rethinking mass layoffs -  3/17/10

Newsom's 'stop state raids' hitch -  3/19/10


Newsom hopes to appoint rider to Muni Board -  3/15/10

Short sale tax shortchanges ex-homeowners -  3/15/10

SFPUC breaks ground on $332M pipeline -  3/18/10

San Francisco home sales dip for 2nd month -  3/18/10


Pink slips sent to thousands of teachers throughout state -  3/15/10

California college students missing out on Pell Grants -  3/18/10


S.F. asks eateries to trap grease, save sewers -  3/18/10

Scientist panel says Calif. water limits justified -  3/19/10


California lost 79,000 factory jobs in last year - 3/15/10

Bay Area schools face scrutiny over test scores

This week schools around the Bay Area went under the press’ microscope, as test scores and busing policies promised to reshape districts across the region.

On Monday, a list of California’s lowest-performing schools was released. Among the state’s 188 lowest-performing schools, five were from Oakland, five were from Hayward and one was from San Lorenzo. The “unwelcome distinction," as described by Oakland Tribune education reporter Katy Murphy, was given to schools that had low scores in reading and math standardized testing for the past three years and have shown little improvement in that time.
Janis Duran, interim superintendent of the Hayward Unified School District, said it was “very disheartening” to see schools in the district on the list, given recent achievements such as improved test scores and more instruction time.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education approved a new school assignment policy. The policy will go into effect in 2011 and takes into consideration the home location and standardized test scores of the student. It will be applied differently for elementary, middle and high school students.

“The goals of this system are to continue to diversify our schools and decrease the population of underserved students in one school,” said district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

See Also:

List of California's lowest-performing schools released -  3/8/10

SF schools agree to change in assignment policy -  3/10/10


Other big stories this week:



SF supervisors hearing push to regulate food carts -  3/8/10

Mayor Newsom gets fiscally conservative over $522 million San Francisco budget deficit -  3/8/10

San Francisco's LGBT Center asking city for $1 million -  3/10/10

San Francisco's shelter system leaves some out in the cold -  3/10/10

SF steps closer to becoming smokeless city - 3/10/10

Ruling expected on CA open primary ballot wording -  3/12/10

San Francisco mayor running for lieutenant governor -   3/12/10

Appeals court says 'under god' not a prayer -  3/12/10


Treasure Island development slims down -  3/11/10


List of California's lowest-performing schools released -  3/8/10

SF schools agree to change in assignment policy -  3/10/10

UC regents to look at changing policy on fees -  3/11/10

15 groups spent $1 billion to sway policy -   3/11/10


Texas oil companies fund measure to repeal California climate law -  3/8/10


Bay Area cities get 1/3 more in sales tax revenue in February - 3/11/10

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.