Thursday, February 28, 2019

Thursday's Briefing: PG&E faces more trouble; Oakland has $43 million budget shortfall

Hayward's police chief is leaving

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 6:00 AM

Stories you don’t want to miss for Feb. 28:

Day 6 of the Oakland teachers strike.

1. There was some movement in negotiations between striking Oakland teachers and the school district, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The Oakland school district upped its offer to teachers to an 8 percent wage increase plus a 2 percent bonus. Teachers are asking for 12 percent. Meanwhile, the Oakland school board meeting on Wednesday was shut down by protesting teachers. $$

2. PG&E deferred maintenance for five years on the power line suspected to have caused last November’s Camp Fire, the inferno that destroyed Paradise, Calif, reports KGO-TV, and first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

3. Oakland’s two-year budget outlook appears dim once again. The East Bay Citizen reports the city’s finance department is projecting a combined $43 million budget shortfall over the next two fiscal years. The overview does not include a shortfall already identified in the current fiscal year outlook or the specter of a looming recession.

4. East Bay Rep. Ro Khanna was one of the stars of Wednesday's Michael Cohen hearings.

5. Proponents of Alameda’s Measure B, the April 9 special election initiative aiming to block construction of a wellness center for homeless seniors took a pair of hits to their cause, the Alameda Sun reports. First, the group called Friends of Crab Crove, was issued a fine by the Fair Political Practice Commission for failure to disclose their financial report in a timely manner, and then an Alameda County Superior Court judge denied its request to put the special election on hold. The group preferred to place the question on the November 2020 ballot.

6. Hayward Police Chief Mark Koller announced his retirement after just over two years on the job, reports the East Bay Citizen. Koller, 55, is a Hayward native who served 38 years for the department. An interim police chief will be named in the coming days, the city said.

7. Inspiration for progressives in California? Oregon is set to pass a law enacting rent control for the entire state, reports The Huffington Post. The law limits annual rent increases to seven percent and prohibits no cause eviction after the tenant’s first year. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill today. In contrast, California voters declined last November to repeal legislation than banned rent control on single-family homes.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wednesday's Briefing: Day 5 of the Teachers’ Strike; Xavier Becerra Sides With Criminal Cops

by Stephen Buel
Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 9:13 AM

Attorney General Xavier Becerra
  • Attorney General Xavier Becerra

Stories you don’t want to miss for Feb. 27:

1. School districts gets paid when students attend class. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that just 6 percent of Oakland students have attended class since the strike began last Thursday, meaning the Oakland Unified School District has lost $1 million per day in revenue. Meanwhile, negotiations continued for most of Tuesday and are scheduled to resume today. $$

2. New York magazine provides another view of the Oakland teachers strike from 20,000 feet. “In the yawning gap between the rich and the poor, the Bay Area’s public institutions struggle to bear up under a crushingly heavy economic burden,” Sarah Jones reports. “Local billionaires can afford to exempt themselves from crumbling public transit and roads clogged with commuters. Their children don’t have to rely on a school nurse for preventative health care, and they can live as close to or as far from their work as they please. Oakland’s strikers are asking for equity — for themselves, and for their students, too.”

3. All eyes will be on the House Oversight Committee hearing early Wednesday morning featuring testimony from Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney and fixer. The Los Angeles Times has a primer on the blockbuster hearing. Three Bay Area congressmembers sit on the committee: Reps. Jackie Speier, Mark DeSaulnier, and Ro Khanna. $$

4. Rain continues to pound the North Bay. The Russian River is forecast to be 14 feet over flood level, the East Bay Times reports, the highest since 1995. $$

5. An Oakland resident was sentenced to 15 years in prison for identity theft and a single count of attempting to offer his services to ISIS, the East Bay Times reports. Amer Alhaggagi told the court he does not support any terror groups. $$

6. San Leandro is giving Harborside and another of its permitted medical cannabis dispensaries until the end of the year to open their doors for business or risk losing the permit, the East Bay Citizen reports. Harborside, for example, has held the permit since late 2015 without generating any sales tax for the city. But, in order to help the dispensaries succeed, the San Leandro City Council is moving to allow the sale of adult use cannabis sales.

7. Thousands of police officers in California have committed crimes over the past decade reports Robert Lewis and Jason Paladino of the Investigative Reporting Program on KQED and elsewhere, but because of rigid state laws that protect law enforcement personnel records, their identities are kept secret. Democratic State Attorney General Xavier Becerra has sided with the police in the ongoing quest to keep such crimes hidden from the public.

8. With rising temperatures comes possible state regulations to keep workers safe while cooking indoors, reports Molly Peterson for KQED. “This is about restaurants in the South Bay and factories in the East Bay, and any office building where there's no air conditioning and the sun gets brutal behind big windows,” she writes.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tuesday's Briefing: Raiders Back to Coliseum, and State Tax Proposals

Plus, crunchy cannabis clusters

by Steven Tavares
Tue, Feb 26, 2019 at 4:00 AM

Stories you don’t want to miss for Feb. 26:

1. Oakland Unified School District’s state oversight trustee said the teachers union’s demand for a 12 percent wage increase was beyond the district's ability to pay, and that he would will “stay or rescind any agreement” that includes the figure, the East Bay Times reports. The state has oversight of the school district after loaning it $100 million in 2004. A balance of roughly $30 millions remains. Meanwhile, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, along with negotiators from the union and school district met in talks until late Monday. They will resume negotiations today. $$

2. A deal to allow the Raiders to play at the Oakland Coliseum is all but wrapped up, says the NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport. According to the report, the Raiders and the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority have agreed in principle to a lease agreement to be finalized possibly by this Wednesday and ready for a vote by JPA on Friday or next week.

3. The proposed clustering of cannabis dispensaries in one particular area of a city is becoming a hot-button issue in several East Bay communities. Berkeley could have three dispensaries within a six-block area of Telegraph Avenue near U.C. Berkeley, Berkeleyside reports. Recently, Alameda and Hayward have or will be tackling variations of the same issue, as they begin their own nascent cannabis industries.

4. Are Democrats in Sacramento aiming too high this year when it comes to proposed tax legislation? The Sacramento Bee’s Andrew Sheeler lists all the proposed tax bills including a oil excise tax proposed by East Bay state Sen. Bob Wieckowski. Take note: A tampon tax bill — albeit tax exemption —proposed again in the Assembly is set to be endorsed next week by the Alameda City Council next week.

5. East Bay Rep. Eric Swalwell’s interest for running for president is well-known. But his speech last weekend in New Hampshire, site of the country’s first primary, is his most policy-oriented yet. In the speech, reports WMUR, a New Hampshire television station, Swalwell said, “Go big. Be bold. Do good, while advocating for universal health care, elimination of the federal college loan rate, and allowing college graduates to refinance their school loans.

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday’s Briefing: Day 3 of the Oakland Teachers Strike and Fire Insurance Fund

Plus, Mahershala Ali repeats at the Oscars.

by Steven Tavares
Mon, Feb 25, 2019 at 1:18 PM

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond will join the Oakland teacher strike negotiations.
  • State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond will join the Oakland teacher strike negotiations.

Stories you don’t want to miss for Feb. 25:

1. Negotiations between striking Oakland teachers and the school district Sunday lasted just one hour, signaling a third day on the picket lines for over 3,000 teachers, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is set to join negotiations Monday, the East Bay Times reports. Meanwhile, tragedy struck after a news crew for KPIX-TV was robbed while covering the strike Sunday afternoon, and their security guard was shot, the station reports. $$

2. Oakland-born and Hayward-raised Mahershala Ali won his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor Sunday night for his portrayal in Green Book, which also took away a surprise Oscar for Best Picture. Oakland’s Ryan Coogler took home three Oscars for his film The Black Panther.

3. For Oakland’s roughly 5 percent of registered Republicans change is in the air (somewhat). The state’s dismal party has a new leader, but she support President Trump. Republicans in Sacramento last weekend selected 38-year-old Jessica Patterson, report Jeremy White in Politico. She is the first woman chair in the state party’s history. The remade GOP in California is also led by women in the both houses of the Legislature. Santa Clara businessman Peter Kuo, a Taiwanese immigrant, was also chosen as vice chair.

4. California wildfires aren’t going away. The state could be eyeing the creation of a new insurance fund to help pay for the exorbitant costs that following these fires, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. $$

5. How does PG&E come away relatively unscathed from repeated wildfire-related disasters in recent years? Follow the money, writes Thomas Fuller and Ivan Penn in The New York Times. $$

6. Former Alameda Firefighters Union President Jeff Del Bono and the city of Alameda agreed to a $21,000 settlement after he alleged the former city manager retaliated against him during the controversy last year involving the hiring of a new fire chief, reports the East Bay Citizen.

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Friday, February 22, 2019

Friday’s Briefing: Soda Taxes Work, and SF Worries About Warriors Traffic, (Heh)

Plus Oakland at the Oscars

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Feb 22, 2019 at 9:09 AM

Mahershala Ali in Green Book.
  • Mahershala Ali in Green Book.

Stories you don’t want to miss for Feb. 22-24:

Day 2 of the Oakland teachers strike.

1. A large rally at City Hall along with numerous picket lines at schools across the city marked the first day of the Oakland teachers strike, reports the Associated Press.

2. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra argues in a court document filed Thursday that state Sen. Nancy Skinner’s police accountability law intended for law enforcement to release retroactive investigations of police officers involved in shootings and various types of misconduct, the Los Angeles Times reports. Police unions have argued it applied only to records after Skinner’s bill become law on Jan. 1. Despite the filing, Becerra’s own office has not complied fully with the law. $$

3. A new study finds Berkeley’s sugary soda tax, approved by voters in 2014, is a smashing success. The San Francisco Chronicle reports soda consumption has dropped in half over the last three years. $$

4. In the aftermath of Hayward Police releasing body camera footage of the killing of Agustin Gonsalez showing the officer waited just seven seconds before opening fire on the man who was holding a razor blade, the family is asking the city to open an independent investigation into the shooting, the East Bay Citizen reports. Family and supporters of Gonsalez erupted in anger during a meeting this week after the mayor encouraged them to hear the police officer’s side of the story.

5. The Golden State Warriors’ last season in Oakland could very well end in another championship. The San Francisco Chronicle reports Mayor London Breed wants to make sure the team’s first at the Chase Center across the bay next season and new infrastructure improvements are working are as crisply as a Warriors pick-and-roll. $$

6. Mahershala Ali, the pride of Mt. Eden High School in Hayward, is a frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor at The Oscars this Sunday for his portrayal in Green Book. The Black Panther, directed by Oakland’s Ryan Coogler, is up for six Oscars, including Best Picture. Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look back at Oakland’s starring role in cinema in 2018. $$

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Thursday’s Briefing: Teachers Strike in Oakland, Lights Fail in Berkeley

Plus, questions about Oakland Diocese’s list of molesters

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 9:01 AM

Oakland Technical High School
  • Oakland Technical High School

Stories you don’t want to miss for Feb. 21:

1.Oakland teachers went on strike today. Union teachers and Oakland Unified School District negotiators met Wednesday to discuss the district’s latest offer, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, a 7 percent raise spread out over three years with and a 1.5 percent increase paid retroactively. $$

2. Big Tech is prospering wildly in the Bay area writes Shirin Gaffary in Recode, but it's skipping some groups. For example, Oakland school teachers. “What makes Oakland’s case unique — and raises the stakes of the issue at hand — is that it’s the first strike in the recent wave of teacher action in the San Francisco Bay Area, the backyard of tech. Oakland, along with the greater region, has seen a sustained economic boom amid growing income inequality and higher costs of living over the past several years.”

3. With already razor-thin reserves, many East Bay municipal governments have been quietly preparing for a possible recession sometime this year or next. But Jeff Collins of the Bay Area News Group reports, some housing economists believes a downturn is more likely in 2021. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that if a recession occurs this year, don’t blame it on a cooling housing market. $$

4. The Oakland Diocese released the names of 45 clergymen “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct of minors, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. None of them, the diocese said, occurred after 1988. “I hope this will help bring healing to those who have suffered,” Oakland Bishop Michael Barber said in a letter. Five of the names had not been known previously to the public. But some are questioning the breadth of the disclosure, speculating there are more accused out there, Robert Solanga reports in the East Bay Times. $$

5. Oakland writer Pendarvis Harshaw pens a loving ode in The Root to the city’s diverse culture, along with some of the obvious and less obvious contributions African Americans in The Town have made to popular culture. He writes: “There’s a spirit here that takes anything and makes it blacker than it was before. Shit, after you read this, you’re going to be blacker, too.”

6. All of the streetlights in Berkeley will soon be replaced just four years after being installed, Berkeleyside reports. The LED lights were expected to last up to 15 years, the city said, but soon experienced failures. Good news is the streetlights are still under warranty.

7. U.C. Berkeley suspended a tenured arts and humanities professor after learning he sexually harassed a student last year, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. $$

8. Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon is the latest candidate seeking to break the incumbent’s stranglehold at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Bacon announced his candidacy last weekend to unseat Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty in the March 2020 primary, the East Bay Citizen reports. Haggerty has served Fremont and the Tri-Valley for 20 years, but has never once faced a single challenger for his seat until now.

ON TAP THURSDAY: Striking Oakland school teachers will hold a rally at Oakland City Hall at 11 a.m.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday’s Briefing: School Strike Looms, So Do Raiders

Plus, will the East Bay “feel the Bern” again?

by Steven Tavares
Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Feb. 20:

1.Amid signs an Oakland school strike could be lengthy, comes an state-appointed arbitrator’s finding that the Oakland Unified School District cannot afford to oblige the union’s demands for a 12 percent pay raise, the East Bay Times reports. $$.

2. President Donald Trump ordered California to return $2.5 billion in federal funding allocated for the state’s uncertain High-Speed Rail project, the Associated Press reports. The order includes the cancellation of nearly $1 billion in future funding. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the costly rail project would be limited for now to a stretch between Merced and Bakersfield.

3. Will the East Bay “Feel the Bern” again? Will America? Sen. Bernie Sanders, the progressive standout who captured the imagination of lefties, announced a presidential campaign Tuesday, joining a growing field of Democrats in the 2020 primary race, including the Bay Area’s Kamala Harris.

4. Democrats in the Legislature are proposing a package of five bills Wednesday to limit sales of sugary drinks, Alexei Kosoff reports in the San Francisco Chronicle. $$. The proposed legislation would ban large fountain drinks such as “Big Gulps,” along with a prohibition on displaying sodas for sale in checkout lines.

5. Oakland Coliseum Joint Powers Authority officials and the Raiders are close to a deal to allow the team to play the 2019 season in Oakland, Phil Matier reports in the San Francisco Chronicle. $$. Meanwhile, your Oakland Athletics open up their Cactus League slate of spring training games on Thursday.

6. California’s estimated $1 billion windfall in legal cannabis taxes revenue hasn’t panned out, reports the East Bay Times. $$. The actual amount is $345 million.

7. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the upcoming 2020 Census can include a question on citizenship, reports Politico. A decision in favor will likely result in California losing seats in Congress. Some experts speculate the East Bay could be one area that loses representation.

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Monday’s Briefing: Oakland School Strike and Kevin Durant MVP

by Steven Tavares
Mon, Feb 18, 2019 at 12:13 PM

Proposed Howard Terminal ballpark
  • Proposed Howard Terminal ballpark

Stories you don’t want to miss for Feb. 18:

1. Oakland teachers are set to strike this Thursday. The union is demanding a 12 percent raise spread over 3 years, while negotiators for the Oakland Unified School District are offering 5 percent.

2. Forces are lining up to place obstacles for the A’s proposed ballpark at Howard Terminal, Phil Matier reports in the San Francisco Chronicle. The environmental group Save the Bay is raising questions as are neighboring tenants at the Port of Oakland. $$

3. The past few weeks of heavy Bay Area rainfall is alleviating any short-term fears of drought. The San Jose Mercury news reports recent wet weather has pushed the region’s rainfall total above 100 percent of normal.

4. The marquee at the Grand Lake Theater continues to be voice of Oakland’s resistance against President Trump. A day after Trump announced a national emergency on the southern border, Grand Lake theater owner Alan Michaan’s marquee read, "We have 4 actual national emergencies. Climate change, fake elections, guns, and a lying traitorous criminal president."

5. Warriors forward Kevin Durant won his second Most Valuable Player award Sunday at the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte. Durant scored a team-leading 31 points as Team LeBron beat Team Giannis, 178-164.

ON TAP MONDAY: Presidents’ Day holiday.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday’s Briefing: Oscar Grant Way, and Oakland Rent-Increase Moratorium

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Feb 15, 2019 at 9:34 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Feb. 15, 2019.

1. East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee wasted no time in finding her choice for president, announcing Thursday her endorsement of Kamala Harris. "Watching Kamala’s career in the East Bay and San Francisco for 20 years, I’ve witnessed her deep passion for justice and opportunity, and I know she will be a president truly of the people, by the people, and for the people," said Lee. Reaction to endorsement of the centrist Harris from Lee's deep progressive base was swift and mostly negative.

2. BART Board of Directors unanimously named a road near Fruitvale station after Oscar Grant, who was killed on the platform at Fruitvale by a BART police officer. The roadway between 33rd and 35th Avenues in Oakland is now named "Oscar Grant Way." The naming of the road had been championed by former Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks. Two weeks ago, the Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking the BART board to rename the thoroughfare after Grant.

3. Oakland approved a six-month emergency moratorium for rent increases larger than 3.4 percent during a special meeting Thursday, the East Bay Times reports. The vote was 6-0, with two councilmembers absent. The emergency ordinance is effective immediately. $$

4. Here's a macro look at the "atmospheric river" AKA "heavy rainfall" that has pounded the Bay Area this week. An atmospheric river is bringing heavy rain and mountain snow to #California. Check out the conveyor belt of clouds and moisture heading toward the West Coast in this loop from our newly operational #GOES17 (#GOESWest) satellite.

5. When Lyft donated $700,000 last week to help residents in transit-deficient East Oakland, the move was lauded by the local media, but Darwin BondGraham, writing for The Guardian, reports there may be more to the announcement than meets the eye. Back in late 2017, "Lyft and Uber lobbied Oakland officials to kill a proposed municipal tax of 50 cents per ride. According to city staff, the tax could have generated up to $2.5 million per year when applied to the city’s estimated 13,699 daily Uber and Lyft trips — substantially more than Lyft’s recent donation."

6. The Berkeley City Council will soon decide whether the city should boycott Amazon over its contractual ties to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The New York Times' California Today newsletter takes a look at Berkeley's proposal. Last year, the Alameda City Council balked at approving an Automated License Plate Reader contract when it learned the company, Vigilant Solutions, also shares data with ICE. Berkeley is also looking at boycotts of Microsoft and Thompson Reuters due to similar concerns over data-sharing with ICE.

7. The controversy over the validity of Oakland's Measure AA and what exactly constitutes a winning revenue-generation tax measure is becoming a growing question all over the state. CalMatters' Ben Christopher poses the question: "How many votes does it take in California for a new tax to become law?" The uncertainty can be blamed on the California Supreme Court.

ON TAP FRIDAY: Oakland Coliseum Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors meet Friday morning, 8:30 a.m., at Oracle Arena for a closed session meeting potentially to reopen talks for a lease agreement with the Raiders to play the 2019 season in Oakland. The Coliseum JPA also will continue discussions on allowing a homeless encampment at a portion of the publicly-owned property.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Thursday’s Briefing: New City Manager for Alameda, Plus Trump Wants His Money Back

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 7:28 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Feb. 14, 2019:

1. The Alameda City Council named Eric Levitt as its next city manager Tuesday, the East Bay Citizen reported. Levitt served the last five years as city manager in Simi Valley, Calif. His first day is April 12. The appointment by the Alameda City Council comes nearly nine months after the controversial departure of former city manager Jill Keimach, who alleged two councilmembers violated the charter. Keimach was later placed on administrative leave after the council learned she secretly recorded the same two councilmembers. The city later bought out Keimach’s contract for $900,000.

2. Oakland administrators plan to move up to two dozen homeless individuals from a growing encampment at Lake Merritt, reports Kimberley Veklerov in the San Francisco Chronicle. The city will begin enforcing a no-camping zone at Lake Merritt starting Thursday. The city plans to move the homeless individuals to two facility and Tuff Sheds located nearby at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. $$

3. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board is coming down on CalTrans and the vast amounts of garbage flowing from highways in the bay. Peter Fimrite in the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the regional body. “The seven-member board, fed up with unsightly garbage on the roadways, voted unanimously, with one person absent, to require Caltrans to install devices to capture roadway debris or otherwise clean up all 8,820 acres of land under its jurisdiction in the Bay Area identified as “significant trash generating areas” by 2026. Failure to comply with the directive could result in fines of up to $25,000 a day.” $$

4. With an Oakland teachers strike looming, the non-profit Teach for America is taking heat for "pressuring” its members to become scabs, the Associated Press reports. Instructors with Teach for America were warned they could forfeit up to $10,000 in financial rewards if they do not cross the picket line, in the event a strike is called possibly next week, according to letter obtained by AP.

5. State Sen. Nancy Skinner’s police records accountability law gets the national treatment from The New York Times. The new law requires the records of police officers involved in shootings of individuals be publicly released. Proponents of police accountability laud the bill, while police unions across the state have fought to block implementation of the law or undermine its scope, arguing the law is not retroactive to Jan. 1. $$

6. Gov. Gavin Newsom surprised many last Tuesday by mothballing the controversial High-Speed Rail project. Now President Trump wants California to refund the federal government $3.5 billion in funding, according to Politco. “We want that money back now,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. Newsom responded he does not intend to return the federal money, but a state audit last year warned the money may have to be refunded if a construction benchmark for a portion of the proposed project was not finished by December 2022.

7. A bouquet of red roses and baby’s breath in a vase will cost you $100 at the Safeway in Alameda. Love also hurts your wallet. So other than simple supply and demand, why do roses costs so much around Valentine’s Day? One reason is the long supply line coming from South America, but the holiday also affords retailers to recoup slim profit margins during the rest of the year.

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ON TAP FOR THURSDAY: BART’s Board of Directors is expected to approve a resolution to name a road between 33rd and 35th Avenues near Fruitvale BART after Oscar Grant at Thursday morning’s meeting. …

The Oakland City Council will hold a special meeting at 11:30 a.m. to discuss approving an interim emergency rental ordinance to remove exemptions from the Rent Adjustment Ordinance for owner-occupied parcels with, two or three units. To do so, the council will need six of eight members to approve the legislation. …

An Alameda County Board of Supervisors Public Protection Committee will hear a proposal by the Alameda County Fire Department to begin formulating a drone policy. …

Early Friday morning, the Oakland Coliseum Joint Powers Authority holds its monthly meeting, 8:30 a.m. at Oracle Arena. The board will meet in closed session to discuss the renewed possibility of the Raiders playing their final season at the Coliseum.

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