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Bay Area health care gets an upgrade

Bay Area hospitals were in the news this week, and while the news was not all good for the facilities’ administrators, even the bad news is likely to benefit patients. One facility, San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital is nearing completion. Meanwhile, two other Bay Area hospitals have been slapped with fines by the California Department of Public Health.

On Wednesday the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the near completion, after 10 years, of San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital renovations. The restorations for the nursing home hospital are, reporter Erin Allday wrote, “state of the art.” With a price tag $585 million — $296 million of from voter-approved bonds — the hospital can accommodate 780 elderly patients who need skilled nursing and rehabilitation care. Laguna Honda Executive Administrator Mivic Hirose told the Chronicle, “It’s going to have quite an impact on people’s quality of life.”
The San Francisco Business Times reported Friday that two Bay Area hospitals were among nine facilities fined by the California Department of Public Health for “noncompliance with licensing requirements” that caused, or were likely to cause, serious injury or death. Hospitals are charged $50,000 for a first offense, $75,000 for a second, and $100,000 for a third or consequent offense.
Alameda County Medical Center in Oakland was fined $75,000 for a medication error, while Marin General Hospital was charged $50,000 for failure to follow surgical policies and medical procedures. Hospitals that were fined by the Department of Public Health are required to show follow-through by submitting a plan of correction on how they will solve the problem and avoid similar situations in the future.

Better test scores roll in; fewer truants sought

California made progress in two ways this week to improve student achievement, with the passing of an anti-truancy bill and the release of a list with California’s lowest- and highest-ranking schools.

On Thursday KTVU via the Associated Press reported on the state Senate-approved bill, SB 1317, which gives prosecutors the power to charge parents of chronically truant kids from kindergarten through eighth grade with misdemeanors. Parents of kids who miss too much school could face up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who proposed the measure, said SB1317 “is a public safety measure, because children who do poorly in school or drop out are more likely to commit crimes.” Leno also told the Associated Press: “Three-quarters of our state inmate population are high school dropouts.”
The measure passed the Senate by a 21-9 vote, even with several Republican senators changing their votes from yes to no.
On Friday the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the yearly release of California’s school rankings. State schools are ranked according the Academic Performance Index (API) and compared with all schools, including ones with similar demographics. The API scores are based on statewide tests students took last spring. From there schools are ranked 1 to 10. Rankings are added together within a district. The perfect score is 1,000 points, and anything over 800 is considered excellent.
San Francisco Unified School District was just short of “excellent,” receiving a collective API score of 775, compared with last year’s score of 772. The city's schools had diverse rankings, with some of the lowest and highest within the state. Forty-five percent of San Francisco schools received a ranking of 7 or higher, while 37 percent attained a rank of 4 or lower. The city has eight of the state’s highest-ranking schools, yet 20 were at the bottom.

Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Education Trust West, told the Chronicle, “We’re seeing some improvement, but we’re seeing a lot of unfortunate failure to improve, particularly by the state’s lowest-performing schools.”

California comes to the defense of critters

This week San Francisco felt the effects of California policies that have San Francisco’s Asian community up in arms.

On Thursday the San Francisco Chronicle reported on a new state ban on the importation of live turtles and frogs for sale as food. The California Fish and Game Commission adopted the ban last month to prevent people from freeing non-native species into the state’s sensitive habitats. The sanction faces opposition in San Francisco from Asian American politicians and merchants, as it targets Chinese businesses that sell those animals.
In response to the statewide ban, the Chronicle reported that Assemblywoman Fiona Ma said, “These minority markets have had this practice for hundreds of years, and all of a sudden the commission comes up with this policy — I understand the non-native species concern, but they don’t ban the importation of fish and frogs at pet stores.”

Arizona and public smoking feel the heat in San Francisco

This week San Francisco sought to outlaw a few things: doing business with Arizona and smoking in public places.

Last Friday Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law SB 1070, a measure that would require immigrants to carry documents verifying their immigration status. It also gives police officers the authority to question a person on their citizenship based on reasonable suspicion that they might be in this country illegally.

In response to the signing, the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday reported on a call for a boycott of Arizona by San Francisco politicians. Proposed and supported by City Attorney Dennis Herrerra and members of the Board of Supervisors, the boycott calls for an end of all business with the State of Arizona and to all city business with Arizona-based companies. Supervisor David Campos told the Chronicle, "We want to send a message [that] there are consequences when you target a whole people."

On Monday, NBC Bay Area reported on new anti-smoking rules that went into effect in San Francisco. Under the new rules lighting up at sidewalk cafes, restaurant patios, movie and ATM lines and the common areas of housing complexes have all become illegal. Smokers can be fined up to $100 if they are caught in violation of the ban. In six months, it will also be illegal to smoke at outdoor dining tables at restaurants.

BART giveth, Muni taketh away

As Muni strives to tighten its belt with the recently proposed San Francisco transit budget, BART aims to please with a daily $5 discount and decreased SFO surcharge fees for San Francisco Airport employees.

On Wednesday the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board adopted a $750 million budget for the next 15 months that would cut service 10 percent and eliminate 584 jobs. The Board of Supervisors, has yet to review the Muni budget. The supervisors have the power to reject the proposed budget and ask for a new one. If the current plan is rejected, the agency’s board has until May 1 to adopt it. 

Nathaniel Ford, the Muni’s chief executive officer, told the Chronicle: “We are in a situation where we don’t have the money coming in to support the level of service we have. We can better handle and more safely manage a smaller system than we have today.”

On Friday the San Francisco Chronicle reported that San Francisco International Airport workers will get a daily $5 discount from BART for their commute. On top of that, SFO and BART made arrangements to change the one-way surcharge to use the SFO stop to $1.50, down from $4, for all employees. The discount would save a full-time worker $1,300 a year. There is a downside, though: BART is projected to lose $300,000 to $400,000 in yearly revenue because of the new discount.

SF sewers and emergency infrastructure could get an upgrade

It’s no secret: San Francisco’s infrastructure is aging. A pair of proposals in the news this week might fix problems with how the city deals with one piece of that puzzle: water.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported on a “green” landscaping law that would force developers to make at least half of front yards rainwater permeable with either in-ground plantings, interlocking pavers or other porous material. The ordinance, which the Board of Supervisors passed unanimously Tuesday, is designed to reduce the strain of excess rainwater on the city’s sewer system. Mayor Gavin Newsom, who proposed the ordinance, is expected to sign it into law.
On Tuesday SF Appeal elaborated on a $412 million earthquake safety measure on the June 8 San Francisco ballot. The money from the proposed measure would go into retrofitting aging neighborhood public safety facilities, such as fire stations, and upgrade the emergency water system.
Proposition B (See: “election quick guide”), the Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond, funds a variety of projects. An Associated Press article on SF Gate Tuesday reported that $104 million of the bond would go to improving deteriorating pipes, hydrants, reservoirs and water cisterns built after the 1906 earthquake. The remaining $308 million would go to building new seismically safe police and fire buildings.

sfappeal.com - 4/13/10


Other big stories this week:


Gay marriage ban repeal falls short
insidebayarea.com - 4/12/10

Prop 14 'fake open primary': the destruction of California's independent political parties
indybay.org - 4/12/10

Calif. smoking ban at state parks on gov's desk
cbs5.com - 4/15/10

Dogs becoming concern on Haight
sfexaminer.com - 4/14/10


BART police suspends use of tasers
cbs5.com - 4/15/10


San Francisco home price median jumps 7%
thestreet.com - 4/15/10

Muni would like to ask you to tax yourself
sfappeal.com - 4/15/10

California sell-off plan has high cost
cbs5.com - 4/14/10

The lure of creeks beneath San Francisco's streets
sf.streetsblog.org - 4/14/10


SF school district, teachers at impasse
SFgate.com - 4/14/10

UC campuses report record low admission rates
cbs5.com - 4/14/10


California's climate law could help poor
cbs5.com - 4/14/10

Santa Clara supes bring county closer to ban on single-use carryout bags
ktvu.com - 4/13/10

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
beyondchron.org -  4/8/10

SF denies ticket quotas as complaints rise
cbs5.com -  4/7/10

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

Fewer unlicensed drivers pulled over in SF
cbs5.com - 4/7/10

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

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

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

SF imposes controversial HIV recommendations
abclocal.go.com -  4/6/10

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


BART directors consider temporary fare decrease
cbs5.com -  4/8/10

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

Oak to Ninth pushing for 2012
bizjournals.com -  4/8/10

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

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

New Development breaks ground in Hunter's Point
abclocal.go.com -  4/7/10

Portrero Hill eyed for cohousing development
portreroview.com -  4/7/10

Muni's state windfall delayed
sfappeal.com -  4/6/10

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

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


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

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

$16.9M for Bay Area habitats harmed by oil
cbs5.com -  4/6/10


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

Price for a small business in S.F. up nearly 50%
bizjournals.com -  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
sfappeal.com -  3/24/10

Muni loses $11 million due to cheaters
abclocal.go.com -  3/25/10

Other big stories this week:


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

Bay Area legislators celebrate health care vote
cbs5.com -  3/22/10

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

Airport money-raising band ruled constitutional
SFgate.com -  3/26/10

SF drug sweeps net hundreds of arrests
cbs5.com -  3/25/10

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

Newsom target of union ire
SFgate.com -  3/24/10

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

Healthy San Francisco will play a role in insuring residents
abclocal.go.com -  3/23/10

Richmond gang rape sparks new bill
nbcbayarea.com -  3/23/10


San Francisco moves to lessen the impact of truck traffic
sf.streetsblog.org -  3/22/10

Muni loses $11 million due to cheaters
abclocal.go.com -  3/25/10

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

SF cable car system to be shut down for overhaul
cbs5.com -  3/25/10


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

SF students rally for Muni "class pass"
cbslocalblogs.prospero.com -  3/23/10


San Francisco stormwater management ordinance
bomasanfrancisco.blogspot.com - 3/22/10

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

NorCal dam project for endangered salmon begins
cbs5.com -  3/23/10

Mojo Bicycle Café parklet

Parklets - Images by Michael LaHood