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Supervisors target bedbug problem in new legislation

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is aiming to cut down on a growing bedbug problem by imposing penalties on property owners who do not correct public health nuisances.

The legislation comes at a time when bedbug cases reported to the Public Health Department have increased 44 percent over the past three years, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Some 373 cases were reported in 2007,  537 were reported in 2009 and 501 cases have been reported so far this year.

Fines of up to $1,000 per day would be imposed on property owners who do not correct health nuisances such as bedbugs, garbage, mold, mildew and rat infestations, according to CBS San Francisco.

The health department said tenants could also be held responsible by the legislation.

Opposition to the legislation has come from the San Francisco Apartment Association, a group that represents landlords, according to the Examiner.

"They don't need this," said Janan New, executive director of the association. "It's just a piling on by the Department of Public Health. Bedbugs are a national epidemic. They can't be the sole responsibility of rental-housing providers."

The Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee appproved the bill on a 2-1 vote on Monday and the full board will vote next Tuesday.

U.S. attorney general says marijuana prosecutions will continue if Prop. 19 passes

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government will continue to enforce marijuana laws even if California's Proposition 19 passes, which  seeks to legalize the drug.

Holder said the Justice Department is committed to enforcing federal laws under the Controlled Substances Act, which bans the use of marijuana and other drugs, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The initiative would allow Californians over the age of 21 to posses an ounce of marijuana and be able to grow up to 25 square feet of marijuana plants, according to CBS San Francisco.

Holder made the comments in a letter to nine former directors of the Drug Enforcement Agency, according to the Christian Science Monitor. 

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca hosted a news conference Friday morning to draw attention to the letter.

"Let me state clearly that the Department of Justice strongly opposes Proposition 19," Holder wrote in the letter. "If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts to the detriment of our citizens."

If Prop 19 passes in November, California would be the first state to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use. Enforcement of federal marijuana laws may be difficult with its passage because nearly all marijuana arrests are made at the state level.

SF Pride director, board president quit

 The executive director and board president of the annual San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride parade committee have resigned their posts.

Executive director Amy Andre and Board President Mikayla Connell both announced their resignations after months of being defensive regarding Pride's declining finances, according to the Bay Area Reporter. The two have left the organization with up to $150,000 in debt for the year.

Andre's future was in doubt after a miscommunication between the organization's bookkeeper and her led to the underpayment of tens of thousands of dollars to beverage partners from June's pride parade, according to Edge San Francisco. It is estimated the organization owes $55,000 to $60,000 to beverage partners.

Connell, who has been board president for four years, had expressed a desire to retire. Her term expired Tuesday night and she decided not to run again. Her resignation was effective immediately.

Andre started as executive director last October. The effective date for her resignation was not made clear.

Shawn Parker and Nikki Calma are the board's new co-chairs.

Supervisors Bevan Dufty and David Campos, both openly gay, have said they will be "stepping forward and offering to help Pride balance their financial situation and restore community trust."

Hilton Hotel Union Square employees go on six-day strike

On Wednesday KTVU reported on the beginning of a six-day strike for 850 Hilton Hotel Union Square workers.

Workers for the city’s largest hotel picked a busy week for hotels, according to the San Francisco Examiner. MLB playoffs, the Avon Breast Cancer Walk and the Nike marathon, are expected to draw 20,000 alone to hotels.

Housekeeping staff, bellmen, cooks and bartenders told KTVU they hope a highly visible and loud protest will pressure hotel management to agree to a new four-year contract. All workers have been on the job without a contract for 14 months. Though the current strike is held at Union Square, 9,000 hotel workers in San Francisco are facing the same problem.

Hilton Union Square General Manager Michael Dunne told KTVU: "This is not going to get settled with a strike. This is going to get settled with negotiations and we're eager to get back to the table."

 

San Francisco unveils new 311 service for veterans

The city and a veterans' group have launched a new program aimed at helping veterans in the city get assistance.

The Veterans 311 program unites the city with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a large nonprofit organization for veterans of the two conflicts, to provide veterans with access to services such as jobs, education, housing and social services, according to CBS San Francisco. Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the new service at the conclusion of San Francisco's Fleet Week celebrations.

"Military veterans and their families make tremendous sacrifices for all of us, and we owe them as much help as possible in transitioning out of military service and into a fulfilling civilian life here at home," Newsom said in a prepared statement.

The new program will be a one-stop shop for veterans, combining services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, federal, state and local governments, as well as local nonprofit organizations that assists veterans, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

The Veterans 311 program emerged from existing 311 models developed by the city for the San Francisco Unified School District and for public housing. It can be reached by calling 311 or by visiting www.sf311.org.

Study reveals commuters changing driving habits to avoid Bay Bridge toll

On Tuesday CBS San Francisco reported on a study conducted by the Bay Area Toll Authority that reveals commuters have changed their driving habits in response to the recently increased rush hour toll on the Bay Bridge.

The toll authority increased the toll for non-carpool drivers on July 1 from $4 to $6 for the hours between 5 a.m. and 10.m., and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays. The agency compared data from Sept. 13-24, 2009, and Sept. 13-24, 2010. The data showed that more drivers crossed before or after the peak commute hours this year.

Several hundred more cars passed through the toll plaza between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. during that time period this year, compared to last year.

BART reported increased ridership in light of the increased tolls.

Federal judge orders military to stop 'don't ask, don't tell' discharges

A federal judge in Riverside has ordered the military to stop discharging openly gay service members under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, who declared the policy unconstitutional last month, rejected the Obama administration's request to delay an injunction that blocks enforcement of the policy while it is before Congress, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The order applies across the nation and halts any continuing military investigations and proceedings to discharge personnel suspected of being gay, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Phillips stated in her ruling in the case last month that the policy harms service members by "infringing on their fundamental rights."

President Obama has called the policy discriminatory and has urged Congress to repeal it, though the government is defending the policy in court. The House voted to repeal the policy in May, but a Republican-led filibuster blocked a vote in the Senate.

Muni sees ridership decrease

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has reported a drop in Muni ridership for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The system carried 10 million fewer riders, a 4.4 percent drop, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Muni had 215,982,240 boardings during the last fiscal year, an average of 591,732 boardings per day. Ridership decreased the most on the electrified trolley lines, followed by the motor coach bus fleet and then the light-rail lines. The cable cars saw an increase in ridership, but the increase was not enough to offset the losses on the other lines.

San Franciscans are skipping Muni because of fare raises and service reductions, according to NBC Bay Area. A Muni spokesperson said a drop in ridership was expected.

"Considering the service reductions, fare increases and the national trends of other agencies around the country, we anticipated ridership to drop more than it did," Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Paul Rose said.

This was the first drop in ridership for Muni since 2007. It coincides with an increase in San Francisco's unemployment rate, so fewer people were riding Muni to and from work. 

Faced with budget woes, Muni eliminated some lines last fall and cut service by 10 percent in May. A little more than half of the service reductions were restored last month. Muni also raised fares by 50 cents to $2 while also raising the cost of the monthly Fast Pass last year.

Despite the drop in ridership, Muni brought in $181.2 million in fare revenue last year, $2.5 million more than expected.

Caltrain to raise fares, cut service

The Caltrain Board of Directors has voted to increase fares while decreasing service in order to reduce a $2.3 million budget deficit.

Caltrain will increase its fares by an average of 7.2 percent and erase four trains from its weekday schedule, according to the San Jose Mercury News. A trip on Caltrain will now cost 25 cents more for each "zone" riders travel through. There are four zones between San Francisco and San Jose, with two more in the extension to Gilroy.

A one-way ticket between San Francisco and San Jose will cost $8.50, up 75 cents. A monthly pass between the two cities will increase $20 to $225. The fare increase is expected to bring in about $1.4 million in revenue. Eliminating the four trains will save around $160,000. An additional $600,000 will be saved by eliminating ticket offices at the San Francisco and San Jose Diridon stations.

The changes were discussed at three community meetings in August and one public hearing in September, according to the San Francisco Examiner. About 1,700 comments were submitted to Caltrain officials at the meetings or via e-mail, mail or telephone input, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

"Most people were in favor of increasing the fare and keeping as much service as possible," Dunn said.

The last rate increase for Caltrain was in January 2009, when fares went up 25 cents.

The changes will take place on Jan. 1.

Note sharing website receives cease-and-desist letter

On Thursday SF Appeal reported on the new social network NoteUtopia.com receiving a cease-and-desist letter from California State University’s chancellor’s office, saying the site violated California and CSU educational codes.

NoteUtopia lets students create discussion groups, post questions, receive feedback from professors and, most controversially, lets students buy and sell notes, study guides and exams. The site keeps 40 percent of the profits and has a minimum asking price of 99 cents.

California and CSU education codes keep students from selling any “contemporaneous recording,” including handwritten or typed notes. If caught, they are subject to disciplinary action. Chancellor’s office associate director Ray Murrillo told SF Appeal, “students can be subject to sanctions, suspension, all the way up to expulsion from the University.”

NoteUtopia’s founder and president, Ray Stevens, fresh out of Sacramento State, told the Appeal: “If a student is taking notes and writing it down in their own words, that’s their work.”

Meanwhile, the commotion surrounding the cease-and-desist letter has more than tripled the visits to the site. Stevens told the Appeal, “If anything, the letter did a lot of good for us.”