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Lead-filled bounce houses face lawsuit

Who knew that colorful, springy blowup houses found at parties and fairs could be havens for lead? State officials — and now they are doing something about it.

Attorney General Jerry Brown has filed a lawsuit against several businesses that rent out children’s bounce houses, claiming that their structures violate the federal and state lead limit, according to a recent story on KTVU.

Testing from the Center for Environmental Health showed high levels of lead from 5,000 to 29,000 parts per million. The federal limits are 90 parts per million for painted surfaces and 300 for all other parts. Brown told KTVU: “Kids at birthday parties can spend hours playing in bounce houses. The goal of our lawsuit is to eliminate any chance they will be exposed to lead while they’re jumping around having a good time.”

Officials break ground on Transbay Transit Center

City and state officials were on hand this morning at First and Mission streets for the groundbreaking of the new Transbay Transit Center, a project that was 40 years in the making.

“Today, in breaking ground on the Transbay Transit Center. We are opening a new chapter in that history of progress,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi said the project would provide 48,000 jobs in just the first phase of the project that will replace the existing Transbay Terminal.

City starts marking new bike lanes after court ruling

A San Francisco Superior Cout judge ruled Friday that the city may continue with several bike projects after he found that the city was in compliance with enviromental reviews of traffic and parking problems.

The decision by Judge Peter J. Busch allows the city to start implementing the Bicycle Plan Program, which includes adding more bike lanes on city streets. The plan was approved by the Board of Supervisors 2005, but an injunction was placed the following year, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Transbay Terminal to shut down; high-speed rail planners narrow right-of-way

Plans for a new Transbay Transit Center and bullet train route that would connect San Francisco to San Jose circulated this week. Both involve not just construction but also contentious demolition.

On Thursday the San Francisco Business Times reported on the Transbay Terminal closing permanently on Friday. A temporary terminal on Howard and Main streets will be in use for the next seven years, until the new $4.2 billion Transbay Transit Center on First and Mission streets is finished. The Transit Center project is just one part of a redevelopment proposal bounded by Mission, Folsom, Main and Second streets that would produce 2,600 new homes, 3 million square feet of new office space and 100,000 square feet of new retail.
 

On Thursday the San Francisco Business Times reported on high-speed rail planners narrowing the right-of-way for the San Francisco to San Jose route to minimize the possibility of bulldozing residential areas. Bob Doty, who leads a joint venture between Caltrain and the California High-Speed Rail Authority, told the Business Times that route designers have reduced the width of the right-of-way to 80 feet from 120 feet by running two high-speed rail tracks in between parallel Caltrain tracks.

Other plans to decrease the right of way involve putting part of the route below ground along some parts of the Peninsula. Bullet train planners want to start construction on the $42.6 billion project in September 2012 and possibly finish by 2020.

$100 million in counterfeit designer goods seized from wharf shops

Federal officials seized more than $100 million of counterfeit designer merchandise Tuesday from eight shops at Fisherman’s Wharf. The stores were accused of selling fake brand-name merchandise including Louis Vuitton, Nike and Prada. Eleven people were charged with conspiracy, smuggling goods into the United States and trafficking in counterfeit goods.

The investigation began when U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted a container in December 2007 at the Port of Oakland. Customs officials said the container held 50,ooo counterfeit items, at a manufacturers’ price estimate of $22 million. The consignee of the container was C & K Gifts, one of the stores where agents seized merchandise.

“The significant impact of trafficking in such merchandise on the American economy should be obvious,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello. “Wherever evidence leads to the identification of persons engaged in that enterprise, the Department of Justice will vigorously pursue the case and prosecute the offenders.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents went undercover as customers and said they were told by store clerks that the merchandise indeed was fake, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Trademark infringement and intellectual property crime not only cost this country much needed jobs and business revenues, but the illegal importation of substandard products can also pose a serious threat to consumers’ health and safety,” said John Morton, director of the agency.

The 11 store clerks suspected of selling the counterfeit merchandise could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Preliminary hearing on alleged Muni transfer scam postponed

A preliminary hearing for a Muni mechanic and street seller accused of selling late-night Muni transfers illegally was postponed Friday until Aug. 17.

The Public Press reported this week that San Francisco police arrested Muni mechanic Edmund King and charged him with providing late-night transfers to another suspect, Leroy Gutierrez, to sell them on the streets illegally. The police said they caught both during an sting operation following a months-long investigation.

King is charged with two felonies, possession of stolen property and embezzlement by a public employee, the district attorney’s office said. King is out of police custody on $33,000 bail.

Gutierrez faces a felony charge for possessing stolen property and a misdemeanor for possessing a knife. His bail was set at $10,000. He did not make bail.

If convicted, King could spend a maximum of three years in state prison for each felony count. Guiterrez could face three years in state prison for the felony and six months in county jail for the misdemeanor.

King has a new attorney representing him, which caused the postponement.

Higher taxes possible for multimillion-dollar properties — and one Mission block

Mayor Gavin Newsom may be sticking to his no-new-taxes pledge through a second year of brutal deficits, but there are several moves afoot to put additional revenue into city coffers. One is a plan for higher taxes for properties with a $5 million to $10 million price tag. And another is a one-block special tax zone for the Mission District that local businesses say works well for them to help combat blight.

On Tuesday the San Francisco Business Times reported on a proposed tax measure that would raise taxes for properties in the price range of $5 million to $10 million. The proposal goes on the ballot in November and would increase the levy to 2 percent from the current 1.5 percent. Properties worth more than $10 million would be bumped up to 2.5 percent. The reform could raise an estimated $35 million annually, which would help San Francisco deal with its expected $500 million shortfall.
 
On Thursday the neighborhood website Mission Local reported that property owners on the 2500 block of Mission Street were willing to pay more in taxes for better services and street maintenance for five more years. Denizens of the block set out to make the area more “safe, clean and green” five years ago through a special tax district. Much has been accomplished, with frequent street cleaning, graffiti removal and maintenance of security cameras and floral arrangements. The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve their request sometime next month.
 
The neighborhood cleanup effort mirrors a similar push on neighboring Valencia Street, which has benefitted from a recent $6.1 million facelift, the Bay Citizen reported. But the reporter, Scott James, pointed out that construction was so extensive that some businesses experienced temporary drops in business. The Valencia Streetscape Improvement Project caused the owner of the restaurant Frjtz to say he had experienced his “worst business in 10 years.”

New Bay Bridge eastern span tower going up

The expansion of the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge project hit a new milestone on Wednesday when Caltrans workers began raising one of the four new towers to support the suspension span.

KTVU reports the tower is 155-feet tall and weighs 1,190 tons. The piece arrived from Shanghai on June 18 and eventually made it to the Port of Oakland the following month. Inspectors checked the tower to make sure there was no damage during its voyage to the Bay. 

“This part of the bridge is designed to be iconic, and this tower has got a lot of architectural features built into it that take it beyond an A-to-B workman bridge that the Bay Bridge is known for,” said Bart Ney, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation.

The installation of each tower should take approximately take 12 hours, according to Caltrans. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2013.

New smart meters debut in SF

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency this week launched its first phase of a new parking meter program called SFpark.

The agency replaced 190 parking meters with new smart parking meters along Hayes Street and around Civic Center on Tuesday. The program is a way to ease congestion in the city and reduce air pollution, according to the agency.

Schwarzenegger threatens to leave office without signing budget

The Associated Press reported on Monday that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger may not sign the state budget before he is termed out of office in January.

The state is facing a $19 billion deficit for the fiscal year which began on July 1.

"If I don't get what I need, I will not sign it and it could drag on to the next governor," Schwarzenegger said after meeting with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday. The governor wants pension, tax and spending reforms added to the new budget.

California has been without a budget for four weeks. If a budget is not passed soon, the state controller's office would have to delay payments to local agencies and possibly send out IOUs, an action taken last year. The state has enough cash until August, according to the state controller's office.

A new ballot measure could speed things along in the future when it comes to the state's budget. Proposition 25, if approved by voters in November, would let the state Legislature pass a budget with a simple majority. Currently, they need a tw0-thirds majority to pass a budget. California and Rhode Island are the only states with a two-thirds vote requirement.

Schwarzennger said he would oppose the initiative because he believes it would give the dominate party more power. "One party will make all the decisions," he said.