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July 2, 2007

Palo Alto building catches fire

After over five hours, a four-alarm blaze that began in a commercial building in Palo Alto Sunday night is 99 percent extinguished, said Palo Alto fire spokesman Dan Ryan.

The fire began at 310 University Ave. at around 9:30 p.m. on the second floor of an office building that has a Walgreens Drugstore and Subway Sandwich shop on the first floor.

Ryan said the area where the fire ignited was used as office space and once housed the San Jose Mercury News.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Ryan said he is not sure exactly how much damage has been done to the businesses, but damage does appear to be extensive.

Several nearby buildings were evacuated as result of the fire.

Ryan said adjacent buildings that house a jewelry store, restaurants, a bakery and a sports memorabilia store may have suffered water or smoke damage.

Lake Tahoe fire 85 percent contained

The South Lake Tahoe fire that has been burning for a week is now 85 percent contained, a fire watchwoman said Sunday.

Since fire officials believe growth potential for the blaze is very low, those battling the fire Sunday were said to be only local firefighters.

"(The fire) as of (Sunday) afternoon is going to be turned over to the local folks," Penny Bertram, a watchwoman at the Command Post for the Angora fire, said.

The mandatory evacuation put into effect last week has been lifted, and those not displaced by the fire are welcome to return to their homes now, Bertram said.

In addition to local residents being allowed to return home, Bertram stressed that Tahoe visitors should not be worried about the fire either.

"A lot of people probably think they shouldn't venture into the area, but less than one percent of the basin area was even affected," Bertram said. "Everybody's welcome back (now)."

Firefighters are taking extra precaution to prevent the blaze from igniting again by "mopping up 500 feet past the containment line," according to Bertram.

One of the only worries left for firefighters is the warm weather, coupled with low humidity and dry conditions, expected this week, Bertram said.

The temperature is expected to reach the low 80s with dry winds of about 30 to 35 mph, and a red flag warning has been issued for the Tahoe basin Sunday from noon to 9 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

Saturday morning violence claims three lives

Violence in San Francisco early Saturday morning claimed the lives of two local teens and a 32-year-old man from Stockton, according to the San Francisco medical examiner's office.

The first incident was reported to police at 12:18 a.m., a San Francisco police dispatcher said. Alfonsol Roberson, 32, of Stockton, was found shot near the intersection of 16th and 7th streets, according to David LeNoue, a supervising investigator with the medical examiner's office.

Roberson was pronounced dead at the scene.

Around 4:20 a.m., police were called to Fitch Street and Innes Avenue in the Bayview neighborhood, where two male victims were found dead, according to police.

The medical examiner's office has identified them as Gregory Jones, 15, of San Francisco, and Chris Garcia, 16, of Daly City, LeNoue said.

Their cause of death has not yet been determined, but the incident is being investigated as a double homicide, according to police.

Oakland police searching for shooting suspects

Oakland police were looking for suspects Sunday in connection with a shooting that claimed the life of one victim on Saturday night, according to an Oakland police officer.

The shooting, which took place in the 4800 block of Fairfax Avenue at around 10:49 p.m., is the fourth fatal shooting in Oakland since Friday night.

This most recent fatal shooting took place a short distance from a Saturday afternoon shooting that claimed the life of one man in the 4600 block of Fairfax Avenue, according to police.

Schwarzenegger signs SB 376

A bill signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday will allow San Francisco to continue prosecuting business fraud cases under California's Unfair Competition Law, according to state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco.

SB 376, authored by Migden, removes minimum population limitations for cities and counties filing Unfair Competition lawsuits, often called Section 17200 cases.

Because San Francisco's population fluctuates around the current minimum requirement of 750,000, some defendants have challenged, though unsuccessfully, Section 17200 lawsuits by the San Francisco city attorney, Migden reported.

"This is a victory for the residents and consumers of San Francisco who would have become far more vulnerable to unfair and fraudulent business practices," Migden said in a statement.

Under the Unfair Competition Law, the San Francisco city attorney has previously sued the tobacco industry, resulting in a settlement that brings between $15 and $20 million to San Francisco each year, Migden said. Another lawsuit alleging overcharging by City Tow was settled for $5.7 million, according to Migden.

The new law will go into effect in January.

Man stabbed in Washington Square Park

One man received life-threatening injuries when he was stabbed in the back in San Francisco's Washington Square Park on Columbus Avenue Saturday at around 11:30 p.m., according to a San Francisco Police officer.

The officer said the man, who was in his 20s, walked several blocks to Powell and Lombard streets where he collapsed after telling bystanders that he had been stabbed.

The injured man was taken to the hospital, and no suspects have yet been identified, the officer said.

Car accident victim identified

A man who drove his vehicle into a tree Sunday morning and died at the scene of the accident was identified as Joseph Carl Powell, 19, of Guerneville, according to the California Highway Patrol.

There were two other passengers in the car with Powell when the vehicle crashed north of Guerneville in an unincorporated part of Sonoma County.

Powell was driving his 1997 Chevrolet Blazer K5 northbound on Armstrong Woods Road just north of Rio Nido Road when he apparently lost control of the vehicle, skidded off the road and collided with a tree at approximately 1:30 a.m., according to the CHP.

A 17-year-old Guerneville boy was hospitalized for injuries sustained in the accident, and a 15-year-old girl, also from Guerneville, was uninjured, according to the CHP.

Investigators consider alcohol to be a factor in the accident.

EEOC utilize MySpace and YouTube

A federal agency's quest to help teenage workers learn about their rights has reached into cyberspace to MySpace and YouTube.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's first step toward using the two popular Web sites took place last week, when it posted an educational video about workers' rights on both sites.

The video, geared towards young workers, was created by East Bay teens Danielle Shoshani, 18, of Oakland, and Kendra Cook, 18, of Berkeley. It was made while the pair participated in a month-long internship with the EEOC's Youth@Work Initiative in May.

Both students, who graduated in June from Bentley School in Lafayette, have part-time jobs. They interviewed fellow teens at work, on the street, at their school and at Galileo Academy in San Francisco about their attitudes toward harassment and discrimination at work. The video also explains how to contact the EEOC for help.

"We both hold part-time jobs and we felt we knew our rights as workers, but before we interned at the EEOC, we had never heard of the agency at all," Shoshani said.

State Building showcases art by foster children

A small art exhibit currently at the State Building in San Francisco is a testament to the talent of some of California's 80,000 foster children and the value of volunteers who act as their advocates.

The exhibit, entitled "Who Am I? Not What You See," is on view in the main lobby of the Hiram W. Johnson State Building at 350 McAllister St. through Friday.

It shows the work of eight Bay Area foster youths, between 12 and 19 years old, who were chosen to work with children's book author and illustrator Yuyi Morales in a workshop at the Museum of Children's Art in Oakland in April.

Each young artist painted a picture of himself or herself on a large wooden board with two smaller wooden doors attached. The doors open to reveal additional pictures -- a face, a sun, an Egyptian scarab -- that reveal more about the artist.

Morales said, "On each artist's piece you will see how layer upon layer of paint tells their stories, depicts their dreams and reflects their creative process."

The workshop was sponsored by the National Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association, based in Seattle. The Oakland event was the third annual workshop held by the association; the first two took place in Los Angeles and Atlanta.

Special advocates are adult volunteers who are appointed and trained by juvenile court judges to befriend children in the foster care system, write reports and make recommendations to the court and help make sure children receive needed services.

The state affiliate, California CASA Association, is based in Oakland.

The group says that 8,000 of the state's 80,000 foster children are served by 4,500 special advocates in 43 counties, but there are 72,000 other California foster children who still need an advocate.

All Bay Area counties have a CASA program; to contact a program and find out how to become a volunteer advocate, go to the group's Web site at http://www.CaliforniaCASA.org and click on "Find Local Program."

A brochure accompanying the exhibit has comments by the young artists about their art and their appreciation of their advocates.

Anna, 18, of Daly City, who was in a series of foster homes starting at age 6, said, "I've had a CASA volunteer for two years and it's changed my life."

"She helped me out with everything, like finding an apartment when I emancipated from foster care," Anna said.

Anna said the art workshop was fun and said, "I learned from this experience that I don't have to be afraid to express myself through art -- and that there are people out there who are there for me."

San Francisco State recognized for awarding minority degrees

A new survey reports that San Francisco State University ranks among the top 20 U.S. colleges and universities when it comes to attracting minority students.

The university 16th among all colleges and universities in awarding undergraduate degrees to minority students, according to results published in the May 31 issue of Diverse Issues in Higher Learning, the university reported.

Results from the survey were taken from U.S. Department of Education statistics compiled from graduation data for the 2005-2006 academic year, officials reported.

SFSU also ranked 10th as a destination for Asian American undergraduates, with the university awards more baccalaureate degrees than any other U.S. university other than the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

SFSU reportedly awarded 2,334 degrees to minority students during the 2005-2006 school year, representing 47 percent of the graduating class.

Annually, SFSU enrolls around 29,000 students and graduates around 7,000, the university reported.

Livermore fire under control

The brush fire that burned over 70 acres near Collier Canyon Road in Livermore is under control, a San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District spokeswoman said Sunday.

There has been no word yet on the cause of the fire or whether there were any related injuries or structural damages, the spokeswoman said.

SamTrans introduces new Montara route

SamTrans added bus service to the Coastside community of Montara beginning Sunday, a SamTrans spokeswoman announced.

The agency's Route 17 bus, which currently serves state Highway 1 between Half Moon Bay and Moss Beach, will extend into the city of Montara, according to SamTrans spokeswoman Christine Dunn.

The new schedule will include longer service hours, added Sunday service, and more morning and afternoon buses during the school year, Dunn said.

The expanded service was made possible through a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

For SamTrans schedule information, call (800) 660-4287 or visit http://www.samtrans.com.

For information about transit incentive programs or commute alternatives, call the Peninsula Traffic Congestion Alliance at (650) 588-8170 or visit http://www.commute.org.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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