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Bay Area News Briefs

By Maya Strausberg

February 13, 2008

Berkeley City Council refuses to apologize for calling Marines "unwelcome intruders"

An unrepentant Berkeley City Council refused at a marathon meeting that ended after 1 a.m. today to apologize for a vote two weeks ago that said members of a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting office downtown are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders."

Instead, the council voted 7-2 to approve what it said is "more clear language" indicating that it recognizes the recruiter's right to locate in "our city" and to emphasize that "we deeply respect and support the men and women in our armed forces."

The council majority also said it wants to "publicly differentiate between the city's documented opposition to the unjust and illegal war in Iraq and our respect and support for those serving in the armed forces."

At a public hearing that began about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday and didn't end until the council finished voting at 1:07 a.m. today, a large group of veterans and military supporters told the council should apologize for its Jan. 29 vote against the Marines recruiting office, which has been located at 64 Shattuck Ave. for about 13 months.

They said the language in the council's action was insulting and demeaning to the Marines and others in the military.

But an equally large group of anti-war protesters from Code Pink and other organizations said they supported the council's vote against the recruiting office and urged council members not to back down.

After the council finished voting today, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said there was no reason for the council to apologize.

"What would we apologize for?" he asked.

Referring to the Marines, Bates said, "They were uninvited and unwelcome."

SF Board of Supervisors postpones pot club resolution

A San Francisco Board of Supervisors resolution condemning federal authorities for sending landlords who lease space to pot clubs letters notifying them of the possibility of imprisonment and seizure of their property was postponed Tuesday after one supervisor objected.

The resolution calls the letters -- issued in December by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to about 50 Northern California landlords, some in San Francisco -- "misguided and sensationally threatening harassment."

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who represents neighborhoods in southwest San Francisco, said he wanted the opportunity to go on record against the resolution and asked that a vote on it be deferred. The resolution was part of a group of resolutions that would have passed or failed as a group, by unanimous vote and without specific mention.

According to Elsbernd, a few medical marijuana clubs in his district, along Ocean Avenue, "have caused an inordinate amount of neighborhood concern and I don't want to be on record as supporting complete amnesty."

Supervisors will now vote on the resolution individually at their Feb. 26 meeting, when Elsbernd will register his "no" vote. Elsbernd acknowledged the resolution would likely pass.

The resolution was authored by Supervisor Chris Daly and co-sponsored by supervisors Jake McGoldrick and Ross Mirkarimi.

According to DEA spokeswoman Casey McEnry, "the letters were sent out basically as a courtesy," informing landlords the cannabis clubs were operating on their property, constituting a violation of federal law, the penalty for which includes seizure of assets, including property, and up to 20 years in prison, she said.

In the past, said McEnry, the DEA would notify landlords after raids on marijuana dispensaries.

"This is a different approach," she said. "We're hoping that people comply with federal law," she added.

The resolution, which reaffirms San Francisco as "a sanctuary for medical cannabis," states that the DEA "has repeatedly subverted and undermined California's, and many other states', laws governing medical cannabis."

It also accuses the DEA of "increasingly acting on its irrational policy and hysteria regarding medical cannabis specifically, and the so-called War on Drugs in general."

According to the resolution, medical marijuana dispensaries are a health and safety issue that should be governed by the state of California.

The resolution pledges to support "lawfully operating" cannabis dispensaries and property owners who lease to them. Those facing federal prosecution would receive the support of the city attorney, according to the resolution.

The resolution also calls on the U.S. Congress to investigate the conduct of the DEA and to revise federal law to authorize states to legalize medical marijuana.

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board member resigns after being charged with voter fraud

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board member Chris Kavanagh, who faces six felony counts for allegedly misrepresenting where he lives, has resigned from his post, his attorney said Tuesday.

In a letter sent to the Rent Stabilization Board on Monday, Kavanagh, 49, said he is resigning retroactive to Feb. 1.

Kavanagh had taken a three-month leave of absence from his post in October, shortly after criminal charges were filed against him, and he decided it would be better to resign rather than seek another three-month leave, his attorney, James Giller, said Tuesday.

The criminal charges against Kavanagh are still pending and he's due back in Alameda County Superior Court on Feb. 22 for a preliminary hearing, Giller said.

However, Giller said he's been in discussions with prosecutor Trevor White about a possible plea bargain in the case.

In September, Kavanagh was charged with three counts of voter fraud, one count of perjury and one count of grand theft for accepting a monthly stipend and health insurance benefits while serving on the rent board.

In October, prosecutors added an additional count of voter fraud, alleging Kavanagh cast a ballot in the June 6, 2006, Berkeley election even though they believe he was actually living in Oakland.

All the counts stem from allegations his real home is in Oakland even though he insisted that he's a Berkeley resident.

In his resignation letter, Kavanagh acknowledged he didn't "technically comply" with Berkeley's residency requirements.

Kavanagh said he rented units both in Oakland and Berkeley and that in part of 2006 and 2007 he had to "involuntarily vacate my Berkeley unit" and therefore didn't meet the Berkeley requirements.

Kavanagh was first elected to the rent board in 2002 and was re-elected to a second four-year term in November of 2006. His term wouldn't expire until November 2010.

The Rent Stabilization Board is expected to appoint a replacement to fill Kavanagh's seat through the November election, at which time there will be five open slots on the board.

The fifth-highest vote-getter would complete the remainder of Kavanagh's term.

EPA slams Marin County for deteriorating sewage pipes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday its inspections of five of six sewage collection systems in Marin County led to the discovery of significantly deteriorating sewage pipes that are overwhelmed by rainwater during wet weather and affect operations of the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin's treatment plant and its discharge into San Francisco Bay.

The federal EPA report comes as the California Environmental Protection Agency investigates the release of more than 5 million gallons of partially treated sewage and storm water into Richardson Bay from the sewerage agency's Mill Valley treatment plant on Jan. 25 and Jan. 31.

The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board also is investigating the spills and California EPA's Water Resources Control Board is investigating the San Francisco regional water board's failure to accurately report the Jan. 25 2.45-million-gallon spill.

The U.S. EPA said its October 2007 inspections confirmed the sewage collection systems at Almonte, Tamalpais, Homestead Valley and Richardson Bay districts have deteriorating sewage pipes.

The clay pipes in the Tamalpais Community Services District, for example, were installed in the 50s and 60s, according to the report, and many of the documented sewage spills cite root intrusion for the spills.

In a written statement, Alexis Strauss, the EPA's Water Division director for the Pacific Southwest region said, "The public may be surprised to learn we have many neglected sewage collection systems which are small, under-funded and under-managed.

"These systems will continue to pose threats to San Francisco Bay if communities fail to upgrade and maintain their systems' sustainability," Strauss said.

On Friday, the water quality board ordered the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin to compile a full report on the recent spills into Richardson Bay and an audit of its operations, due April 7.

The federal EPA said the deteriorating pipes combined with extreme peak flows from rainwater overwhelmed the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin's treatment plant causing flows to exceed capacity of emergency holding basins at the plant on Jan. 25.

The EPA said the Jan. 31 spill occurred when the treatment plant "failed to operate all of its discharge pumps designed to achieve higher levels of treatment offsite."

The Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin treats wastewater from approximately 28,000 people in the Mill Valley area. The sewer pipes are owned and maintained by five separate sanitary districts and the City of Mill Valley.

The U.S. EPA inspections in August and October documented six sewage spills totaling 1,560 gallons at the Almonte Sanitary District between 2005 and May 1, 2007.

The district has no equipment or staff to contain or mitigate spills and like other districts, relies on Roto-Rooter to correct problems as they arise, according to the inspection report.

There were three reported spills totaling 760 gallons at the Alto Sanitary District between Sept. 30, 2005 and Nov. 10, 2006. Root intrusion was blamed for the spills.

The Homestead Valley Sanitary District reported six sewage spills totaling at least 1,245 gallons in 2006, according to the federal EPA inspection report.

The Richardson Bay Sanitary District reported three spills larger than 100 gallons in 2005, eight larger than 100 gallons in 2006 and 11 larger than 100 gallons in 2007, the federal EPA report states.

The Tamalpais Community Services District reported seven sewage spills in 2005, eight in 2006 and eight through May 1, 2007. The spills totaled nearly 11,000 gallons.

The Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin reported three spills totaling 7,800 gallons at its plant during a large storm on Dec. 27, 2004, the report states.

The federal EPA also cited some of the districts who failed to maintain adequate records for reported and unreported spills.

Only "Post-It" notes were used before October, 2007 by the sewerage agency to document calls from the community and other entities that were reporting spills and there were no additional records or documentation of past spills available at the agency's office, the EPA inspection report states.

Stephen Danehy, general manager of the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin, was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon. He has called the two large spills last month "an embarrassment" and said the agency is reviewing all its procedures.

Schwarzenegger issues proclamation for District 12 special election

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a proclamation Tuesday declaring that a special election will be held June 3 to elect a congressional representative to fill the seat left vacant after Congressman Tom Lantos' death Monday.

June 3 is the statewide direct primary election.

Lantos died early Monday morning at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland due to complications from cancer.

The 80-year-old congressman, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in late December, announced he would not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 2, but had committed to serving the rest of his 14th term through December, spokeswoman Lynne Weil said. Before his death Lantos had endorsed former state Sen. Jackie Speier as the candidate for his congressional seat.

Lantos, D-San Mateo/San Francisco, was the only Holocaust survivor to be elected to Congress and served as a senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He was the founding co-chairman of the 24-year-old Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and was elected chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in January 2007, according to Weil.

He leaves behind his wife, two daughters, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A public memorial service will be held Thursday for Lantos at Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., according to Weil.

SFPD obtains warrants for murder suspects

The San Francisco Police Department is looking for two suspects in connection with a 49-year-old man found dead in a van outside his home earlier this month, officials announced Tuesday.

Leonard Hoskins was discovered in the Ingleside neighborhood Feb. 1 after a relative reported him missing to Oakland police.

Homicide inspectors obtained a $5 million arrest warrant for 38-year-old Richard Carelli and a $1 million warrant for 38-year-old Michelle Pinkerton.

Police determined the two suspects lived in an in-law unit at Hoskins' home and fled the city Jan. 25. It is believed they are traveling in a white 1996 Mercury Mystique with California license plate 5VIB951.

According to police, Carelli and Pinkerton are also wanted on child endangerment charges and are traveling with 6-year-old Viana Carelli and Faith Carelli, an infant.

The two are considered dangerous and may be in Mexico, the Santa Cruz area or Las Vegas, police said.

Oakland homicides rate reaches 21

An outbreak of fatal shootings in Oakland since Friday has brought the city's homicide total to 21, eight more than were reported last year at this time, police said Tuesday.

The most recent homicide occurred at about 8 p.m. Monday night in the 900 block of 39th Avenue and claimed the life of 28-year-old Aquaylis Chavis, according to police Sgt. Jim Rullamas. Initial reports indicate Chavis was driving a vehicle when a suspect walking nearby fired shots at him, police said.

At about 12:40 a.m. Monday, Romeo Mendez-Martin, was killed in a shooting that occurred in the 2400 block of the Fruitvale Avenue, Rullamas said. Police could not immediately confirm Mendez-Martin's age.

About a half hour earlier, at 12:10 a.m., Sedric Dennis, 42, of Oakland, was fatally shot in the 1100 block of 62nd Street.

A late Sunday night shooting occurred in the 2200 block of 64th Avenue and claimed the life of 51-year-old Dwane Walker of Oakland, police said. The shooting was reported at about 11 p.m.

John Alfred Dennis Jr., an instructor at Saint Mary's College in Moraga and City College of San Francisco, was found dead Saturday night by San Mateo County sheriff's deputies at Montara State Beach. Oakland police said evidence was discovered linking the crime to a home at 8011 Hansom Drive.

Troy Thomas, 44, of Oakland, allegedly admitted to the killing of Dennis and was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Also on Saturday, Juan Barnes, 34, and Alphonso Lawson, 38, were killed in a shooting in the 9000 block of Hillside Street, according to police. The shooting was reported at about 2 a.m.

At about 1:20 p.m. Friday, a fatal shooting occurred in the 500 block of 58th Street and claimed the life of 26-year-old Dwayne Griffin.

Police are asking anyone with information regarding the any of the shootings to call the Oakland Police Department Homicide Section at (510) 238-3821.

Gilroy stabbing suspect turns himself in to police

A suspect in a Gilroy stabbing in January turned himself in to police Tuesday and was charged with attempted murder.

Gilroy resident Joe Manuel Salcido, 28, was booked into Santa Clara County Jail after self-surrendering around 4:30 p.m.

Police were searching for Salcido after officers responded to the 400 block of Taft Court on Jan. 24 on a report of a stabbing. Salcido allegedly entered the home and confronted the victim before stabbing him and fleeing.

The victim survived his wounds and his identity is being withheld while the case is being investigated.

CHP indentifies accident victim

The California Highway Patrol has identified 58-year-old Alfredo Alcaraz of Glen Ellen as the driver who died Tuesday morning when a 2003 Toyota Avalon struck his 1998 Honda Civic head-on on state Highway 12 in the Glen Ellen area of unincorporated Napa County early Tuesday morning.

The Santa Rosa resident driving the Toyota, 63-year-old Allen Gates, suffered major injuries and was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, CHP Officer Jaret Paulson said.

Gates was driving eastbound at approximately 55 mph on Highway 12 near Aurora Lane around 5:57 a.m. when he made an unsafe pass of an eastbound garbage truck, the CHP said.

Gates' Toyota then collided with Alcaraz' Honda in the westbound lane, Paulson said. The impact pushed the Toyota into the path of the garbage truck, Paulson said.

The driver of the garbage truck, 24-year-old Juan Garcia of Santa Rosa was not injured, Paulson said.

Glen Ellen Fire Chief Bill Murray said the Honda spun into a ditch. The accident happened in a legal passing area where there have been at least four deaths in the past five or six years, Murray said.

The crash closed Highway 12 between Arnold Drive and Madrone Road until 9:45 a.m. Paulson said alcohol does not appear to be a factor in the crash.

San Mateo Board of Supervisors passes tax measure to raise park revenues

San Mateo County parks may get a much needed allowance increase after the board of supervisors voted Tuesday to put a sales tax measure on the June ballot that will provide revenue for county parks.

A one-eighth cent tax for park and recreation purposes in the county will provide around $16 million in annual revenue for the parks, according to the board of supervisors. That funding will go toward operation, improvement and maintenance of county parks.

A handful of people praised the legislation during Tuesday's board of supervisors meeting. Executive Director of the San Mateo County Parks Foundation Julia Bott discussed how well maintained parks raise the value of homes in the area, and that the tax is tailored toward new building practices of apartments and homes with little to no yard space.

Parks are "invaluable to the fabric of our community," Bott said.

Bott also discussed a previous attempt to pass the park tax, in 2006. She said that proponents of the tax have the same support, but are much more organized this time.

The proposed tax did not pass in 2006 because it did not garner two-thirds of the vote, according to the board of supervisors. Because the measure is a special tax, Senate Bill 203 requires a two-third approval of the electorate.

Ambassador Bill Lane, formerly the ambassador for the U.S. to Australia and Japan, supported the tax as well. He highlighted the value that parks provide to county residents, in addition to the immense economic value they provide.

Tourism in San Mateo County concentrates on park areas, Lane said. Hotels, restaurants and other businesses, especially those in coastal areas where many of the county's parks are located, greatly benefit from the parks.

All five supervisors voted to place the tax on the June 3 ballot.




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