San Francisco police say Special Victims Unit to investigate more cases for evidence of human trafficking

Jason Winshell, SF Public Press — Oct 18 2011 - 4:10pm

The need to focus investigations on cases of suspected human trafficking was one of the key reasons for the reorganization of the San Francisco Police Department’s Special Victims Unit starting this week, the captain in charge of the new office said. The move places three full-time human trafficking investigators, including the police department’s acknowledged expert, in the same office space as more than 40 colleagues working in disparate areas such as sex crimes, domestic violence and financial crimes. Until now, no investigator worked full time on trafficking cases. The change will accompany increased coordination with federal law enforcement officials this week.

Saving the UC — but at what cost?

Holly Kernan, KALW Crosscurrents — Oct 17 2011 - 11:46am

In the University of California system, officials are considering raising fees as much as 16 percent a year through 2015. To learn more about what this means for students, and for public education in California, KALW’s Holly Kernan spoke with UC’s student liaison to the Regents, Jonathan Stein. Stein is a graduate student in public policy and law at UC Berkeley, and he’s one of two students represented in the University’s decision-making body.

San Francisco Police Department overhauls Special Victims Unit

Jason Winshell, SF Public Press — Oct 13 2011 - 6:10pm

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr is consolidating four sections of the Special Victims Unit scattered in offices throughout the city and combining them with human trafficking investigations, which were previously handled by the Vice Crimes Unit. The newly constituted Special Victims Unit will open for business Monday, Oct. 17, in a new office on the fifth floor of the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St.

On College Radio Day, KUSF staff fight (and spin) on

Nina Thorsen, KQED News — Oct 13 2011 - 11:32am

Hundreds of college radio stations around the country came together this week to proclaim College Radio Day. The celebration of stations that often have a cult following came amidst a particularly trying time for the format. One by one, universities are selling off stations to raise cash. FM licenses in major markets are worth millions. Recent sales include KUSF at the University of San Francisco. The January sale of KUSF to the Classical Public Radio Network, just one transaction in a multi-station radio shake-up of the Bay Area dial, set off strenuous protests by the station's staff and fans. Many of the DJs and programmers moved to the online-only KUSF in Exile.

Free Farm Stand will stay, city says

Justine Quart, Mission Local — Oct 12 2011 - 12:51pm

The Free Farm Stand and its supporters won. The stand will continue to give away free food to the community on Sundays from noon to 3:30 p.m. in Parque Niños Unidos. At the same time, it will coordinate with the Department of Public Health to obtain a health permit, Connie Chan, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, wrote in an e-mail.

Muni eliminating stops on one of its worst performing bus routes

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Oct 12 2011 - 12:40pm

UPDATE: 10/19/11 Muni announced more service improvements to other lines this week. Plans to improve one of the Muni’s worst performing bus lines will finally take affect on Monday. The 28L-19th Avenue bus line, which usually is packed with riders and not on-time (42 percent on-time performance in the latest Muni report), will not make stops at the Golden Gate Bridge and four stops along 19th Avenue and Park Presidio.

Empty S.F. hotels occupied in World Homeless Day protest

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Oct 11 2011 - 4:59pm

As the Occupy Wall Street movement gains momentum nationwide, a band of housing activists occupied 10 vacant buildings in San Francisco on Monday. Following a late afternoon rally at the Civic Center, at least 30 members of Homes Not Jails entered the Cathedral Hill Hotel at 1101 Van Ness Ave. by cutting the gate open. Then they started occupying some of the 600 vacant units.


Fur seals making a comeback on the Farallones

Juliet Grable, Bay Nature — Oct 10 2011 - 11:40am

The rocky Farallones, 28 miles west of the Golden Gate, serve as a refuge for thousands of seabirds and five species of pinnipeds: elephant seals, harbor seals, California and Steller sea lions, and the northern fur seal. At one time, fur seals may have dominated the islands, but relentless hunting in the early 19th century exterminated most of the colony and sent the rest fleeing. Biologists have spotted individual seals over the years, but it wasn't until 1996 that the first fur seal pup was born on Southeast Farallon Island. Today hundreds of fur seals breed here, and the colony is growing exponentially. The high count for 2011 was 476 individuals, a 69 percent increase from the year before.

Governor signs bills to ban open carry of handguns, shark fin sales

Jerold Chinn and Richard Pestorich, SF Public Press — Oct 10 2011 - 10:18am

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed bills to make it illegal to openly carry handguns and to ban the sale and possession of shark fins in California. The shark fin bill goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 while the open carry ban begins Jan 1, 2012. The shark bill has been a controversial topic in the past few months, with state Sen. Leland Yee, who is running for San Francisco mayor, calling the ban “insensitive to the Chinese culture” when the bill was introduced by Assemblyman Paul Fong in February.

Medical pot industry faces big tax bill

Mina Kim, KQED — Oct 6 2011 - 9:30am

The Bay Area's budding medical pot industry is facing a big tax bill. The IRS has ruled Oakland's largest dispensary can not deduct business expenses. In a letter last week, the IRS told Harborside Health Center that it can not deduct standard expenses like rent, payroll and health insurance ... because it traffics drugs. Harborside's executive director Steve DeAngelo said the dispensary now owes the federal government $2.5 million in back taxes and penalties.

Occupy Wall Street movement births newspaper

Michael Levitin, New America Media — Oct 5 2011 - 10:47am

Last Saturday, prior to the thousands-strong march of Wall Street protestors attempting to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, which ended in some 700 arrests, the first edition of The Occupied Wall Street Journal hit New York City’s streets. Within three days, all 50,000 copies had been snapped up and distributed by volunteers throughout the five boroughs, leading to another print run Tuesday ahead of the paper’s second edition, which comes out Friday. The Journal, a 4-page weekly broadsheet funded entirely through online contributions at, is the latest manifestation of a social media-driven movement that is growing in real body numbers and gaining national momentum. 

Tenant buyouts making a comeback

John Osborn, Mission Local — Oct 3 2011 - 11:02am

As the real estate market picks up, buyouts — the practice of owners getting rid of tenants by offering them cash to move voluntarily — are making a comeback. Buyouts reached a high of 30 to 50 a month in the Mission before the crash in late 2008, a number that suggests as many as three times that citywide, according to the San Francisco Tenants Union.

SF economic protests focus on foreclosures

Christopher D. Cook, SF Public Press — Sep 30 2011 - 11:14am
As “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations entered their 12th day in New York and economic justice rallies spread across the country, several hundred San Franciscans took to the streets Thursday to “make the banks pay,” as the protests signs put it. Snaking through the Financial District, the crowd rallied outside the offices of Goldman Sachs, CitiBank, Charles Schwab and then Chase Bank, where six demonstrators sat in and were arrested.

San Francisco works to prevent ex-convicts from re-offending in city

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Sep 28 2011 - 10:43am
San Francisco is preparing for the October release of state prisoners to the custody of local governments by forming a commission to prevent them from re-offending. Currently about three-quarters of ex-convicts in the city commit new crimes.

Supervisors Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen Tuesday introduced an ordinance to establish a sentencing commission in hopes of reducing recidivism. The commission would be led by District Attorney George Gascón and would include representatives from the police and sheriff’s departments, public defender’s office, nonprofits serving victims and ex-prisoners, among others. 

Dissecting the news media's claim of anti-panhandling 'clamor'

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Sep 23 2011 - 8:35am

“Aggressive panhandling” made Page One of the San Francisco Chronicle again recently. But the report, like so many others before it in newspapers, magazines, TV and websites, left readers with more questions than answers about whether the trend indicated by the paper really existed. The Chronicle reported an increase in complaints from tourists and the local hospitality industry at the presence of panhandlers who won’t take no for an answer. While it quoted hoteliers and travelers opining on the city’s homelessness problem, some vital information was missing from the story: When they say aggressive panhandlingwhat activities precisely are they complaining about? How do they know the panhandling problem is growing — are there any statistics? If there is more desperate poverty on the street, what are the causes?

"Visual Aid" offers outlet, insight into artists with AIDS

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Sep 22 2011 - 3:28pm

Group archives, displays works of hundreds from Bay Area

To help artists who were suffering from life-threatening illnesses, a collective of artists, art collectors and gallery owners began convening at local art spaces in the city in late 1980s. Their mission was to find a means to record the existing works of artists with AIDS and provide them with the materials they needed to create new ones. The group grew into a fullfledged nonprofit called Visual Aid in 1989, and the organization has been supporting hundreds of Bay Area artists since then.

Bay Area nonprofit helps develop affordable medicines for Third World patients

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Sep 22 2011 - 2:37pm

Q&A with OneWorld Health CEO Richard Chin

A South San Francisco nonprofit drug development organization, OneWorld Health, is shattering the conventional profit-generating model of pharmaceutical companies by using a social enterprise approach to global health problems. Richard Chin, an internist and CEO of OneWorld Health, said the organization develops new therapies for diseases where there is either no treatment or the cost of treatment is too high.

Black flight from Oakland to suburbs is reshaping makeup of the city

News Partner, KQED — Sep 21 2011 - 1:31pm

Oakland remains the largest African American city in California after Los Angeles. In the last decade, however, the city has had a net loss of 33,000, nearly a quarter of its African American residents. This decline is part of a larger trend seen across cities nationwide.

A 1950s-60s Golden Age for newspapers?

Jay Thorwaldson, SF Public Press — Sep 12 2011 - 3:11pm

MEMORIES: It was more like fool's gold, recalls a veteran Bay Area journalist and teacher

If there was ever a "Golden Age of Newspapers," it was long before my half century in journalism and  if there was, "golden" referred to advertising revenue when newspapers were the primary means of getting out a commercial or personal message. In terms of quality, I don't think there ever was  a "Golden Age," although from our tarnished times of confronting a digital tsunami, looking back may seem brighter than looking forward.

Legislature bans sale of shark fins

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Sep 7 2011 - 2:43pm

Shark fin soup soon will be off the menu in California. A law banning the sale, possession and distribution of shark fins passed in the state Senate on a 25-9 vote on Tuesday. A companion bill that makes exceptions for taxidermy and scientific research passed 28-8. The bill already passed the Assembly in May, and it is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. California follows Washington, Hawaii and Oregon in passing similar legislation.