Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday Must Reads: Bay Bridge Rods Riddled with Cracks; City of Berkeley Concludes that Balcony Was Plagued by Dry Rot

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jun 24, 2015 at 10:07 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Steel rods inside the main tower of the new Bay Bridge are riddled with tiny cracks and at least one of them snapped from “fast brittle fracture” during a test, the Chron reports. Caltrans officials are now saying that some or all of the four hundred rods inside the tower may need to be replaced. The rods have been exposed to rain and salt water because of shoddy workmanship and a failure to properly seal the structure.

2. The City of Berkeley has officially concluded in an inspection report that the apartment building balcony that collapsed last week and killed six people was inundated with dry rot, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. The dry rot likely was caused by a failure to properly waterproof the wooden structure. City officials plan to recommend changes to Berkeley law that would require tighter inspections of balcony construction.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Oakland Replaces Car Parking With Street 'Parklets'

by Sophie Ho
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 4:20 PM

Laurel Cyclery owner Jason Wallach (center).
  • Laurel Cyclery owner Jason Wallach (center).
Some parking spaces in Oakland aren't being used for cars anymore — instead, they’re being revamped and remodeled into small, urban parks known as “parklets.” As part of a program Oakland launched in September 2014, the city is allowing business districts and community organizations to transform select parking spots, unused bus stops, and other street spaces into miniature parks, which can feature public seating and bicycle parking.

The newest parklet sponsor in Oakland is the Laurel Cyclery, a bicycle repair store and retailer in the Laurel District, which announced this week that it is moving forward with its proposal for a parklet outside of its shop at at 3715 MacArthur Boulevard. The shop is in the process of finalizing the designs for the parklet, which will replace two parallel car parking spots by the store. 

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Tuesday Must Reads: Oakland Council Approves Race & Equity Department; Oakland Refuses to Release Coliseum City Financing Plan

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 10:03 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Desley Brooks.
  • Desley Brooks.
1. The Oakland City Council last night approved the creation of a department of Race & Equity in the city to address disparities in city services, the Chron reports. Councilmember Desley Brooks, who proposed the new department, noted that areas of East and West Oakland are often neglected by the city. The council still must decide how much money to allocate to the new department.

2. The City of Oakland received a financing proposal from Coliseum City developer Floyd Kephart but so far is refusing to make it public, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. The Oakland Raiders have estimated that the cost of a new stadium as part of the Coliseum City plan would be $900 million, and the NFL and the team have agreed to pitch in $500 million. Kephart is expected to propose that proceeds from the creation of hotels, housing, and restaurants and bars will finance the rest of the stadium’s cost.

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Alameda Mayor In Hot Water Over Racially Insensitive Comments

by Steven Tavares
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 8:44 AM

Trish Spencer.
  • Trish Spencer.
There was an audible gasp followed by quizzical looks from a crowd earlier this month when Alameda Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer welcomed dignitaries from Dumaguete City — Alameda’s sister city in the Philippines. And now some people are calling Spencer’s comments racially insensitive and embarrassing to the Filipino American community in Alameda. 

The flub occurred June 5 as Spencer greeted the sister city’s mayor, his staff, and members of the community. Spencer said her children, like Filipinos, eat “white rice.” Spencer’s remarks were recorded, and then slowly disseminated around the island.

Fearing a small-scale diplomatic controversy was about to erupt following the delegation’s four-day visit, a Filipino-American activist sent a passionate letter apologizing for the mayor’s remarks. The letter, however, has also caught the attention of Alameda’s political establishment, which is often at odds with Spencer. And the incident could now alienate Spencer from the city and region’s fast-growing Filipino community.

However, this isn’t the first time that Spencer, a surprise winner in last fall’s mayoral election, has come under fire for her comments, nor is it the first time a recording has fueled the fire.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

US Mayors Gathering, Paid for by Municipal Contractors, Draws Protest Against Police Violence

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 11:25 AM

SFPD officers guard a bus carrying Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • SFPD officers guard a bus carrying Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Mayors from throughout the United States gathered in San Francisco over the weekend to discuss pressing public policy matters facing urban areas. East Bay leaders in attendance included Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison, Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, and San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter.

Paying for the conference were dozens of companies that stand to gain or lose billions, depending on the decisions that cities make regarding regulation of everything from soft drinks to air pollution to real estate development.

The transportation networking giant Uber, which has been fighting labor and safety regulations from California to New York, not only helped pay for the mayor’s conference, but also had numerous employees in attendance lobbying city leaders. Uber distributed a San Francisco case study, based on the company’s confidential data set, touting the benefits of its transportation networking application. According to Uber, its app helps to lower the number of DUIs, provides flexible jobs for workers, and reduces the numbers of cars clogging city streets.

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Monday Must Reads: A’s Don’t Want to Build Ballpark Next to Raiders; Wealthy East Bay Residents Continue to Waste Water

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 9:51 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Coliseum City.
  • Coliseum City.
1. Oakland A’s co-owner Lew Wolff said the team has no interest in building a new ballpark at the Coliseum site if the Raiders construct a new stadium there, too, the Trib$ reports. Wolff indicated that the A’s would only be interested in building at the Coliseum site if the Raiders were not there. Wolff’s comments undermine the city and county’s Coliseum City plan, which would include new facilities for both the A’s and the Raiders on the publicly owned property.

2. Wealthy residents in the East Bay are still using huge amounts of water despite the drought — and are using much more water than residents in less affluent areas, the Bay Area News Group$ reports, citing its own analysis. Residents of the wealthy suburb of Diablo have been using a whopping 354 gallons per person per day, compared to just 57 in Oakland and 52 in San Lorenzo.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Warriors Parade Draws Massive Crowd

by Bert Johnson
Fri, Jun 19, 2015 at 3:19 PM


Warriors fans from around the Bay Area flocked to Oakland for a parade through downtown and a rally on the shore of Lake Merritt. The massive crowd spilled into the streets, stopping traffic in many parts of the city, as team members, coaches, staff, and members of government gave speeches to commemorate the Warriors' historic championship. The team defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday, marking the first time in 40 years that they have won the title.

Friday Must Reads: Berkeley Balcony Design Was Fine; 2015 on Pace to be the Hottest Ever

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Jun 19, 2015 at 10:12 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Experts say the design of the Berkeley apartment building balcony that gave way earlier this week and killed six young people was fine — and that if the structure had been built to specifications, then it probably would not have collapsed, the Chron reports. The revelation means that the cause of the collapse appears to have been the result of shoddy workmanship by the lead contractor on the Kittredge Street building — Segue Construction Inc. of Pleasanton — a company that has paid out millions in lawsuits over similar issues. Experts say the wooden balcony was beset by dry rot, likely caused by a bad sealing job that allowed rainwater to rot the wood.

2. The year 2015 is on pace to be the hottest ever recorded worldwide, the Chron reports, citing federal climate scientists. May was a whopping 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average around the globe. And California is even worse than that — by June 1, the state was 5.1 degrees hotter this year than the average last century. Climate scientists say global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

3. Pope Francis called for “radical change” in the fight against global warming, criticizing cap-and-trade programs, like the one in California and in Europe, for being too speculative, the Chron$ reports. He said they likely will not be able to keep the Earth from overheating. “This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require,” he wrote.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Restricting Public Access, Oakland City Council Approves Controversial Land Sale for Luxury Apartments

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Jun 18, 2015 at 10:44 AM

Opponents of the public land sale made a last ditch effort last night to prevent council approval. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Opponents of the public land sale made a last ditch effort last night to prevent council approval.
Late last night, the Oakland City Council finalized the sale of city-owned land to the developer UrbanCore for construction of a 300-plus-unit luxury apartment building near Lake Merritt. But the decision was made during a council meeting in which numerous members of the public complained about new rules — including a beefed up police and security force — that restricted public access.

See also: Oakland Councilmember Abel Guillen Cuts Deal to Include Affordable Housing in Controversial Lake Merritt Tower

See also: Protesters Shut Down Oakland City Council Meeting Preventing E. 12th Street Land Sale

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Thursday Must Reads: Oakland Council Greenlights Luxury Tower; Berkeley Balcony Builder Has Paid Millions in Legal Settlements

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jun 18, 2015 at 9:59 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

The proposed UrbanCore luxury-housing tower.
  • The proposed UrbanCore luxury-housing tower.
1. The Oakland City council approved a controversial deal last night involving the sale of public land near Lake Merritt to a market-rate developer who plans to build a luxury-housing tower, the Trib$ reports. The council greenlighted the deal after developer UrbanCore agreed to put $8 million into the city’s affordable housing fund. UrbanCore also will pay $5.1 million for the land at East 12th Street and 2nd Avenue. Affordable housing advocates are expected to the sue Oakland over the deal because they say it violates local and state laws that require the city to prioritize affordable housing on surplus public property.

2. Segue Construction, the Pleasanton-based company that built the Berkeley building where a balcony collapsed and killed six people earlier this week, has paid more than $6 million to settle lawsuits over shoddy workmanship in the past few years, the Chron reports. Experts say the Berkeley balcony likely was plagued by dry rot caused by improper sealing. Segue paid $3 million in 2013 for a similar problem on an apartment building it built in San Jose.

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