Bay Area News Briefs

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in News

Published on February 23, 2008 with No Comments

By Mike Aldax

February 23, 2008

California courts unanimously approves reforms in handling of domestic violence cases

The governing body of California courts Friday recommended major reforms in the handling of domestic violence cases, though their statewide implementation could take time and may be jeopardized by the state’s budget crunch.

At a meeting in San Francisco, the Judicial Council of California, comprised of 21 state judges and justices, unanimously approved the recommendations of its Domestic Violence Practice and Procedure Task Force, formed in 2005 with the goal of improving court rules and procedures to ensure safety for victims and accountability for perpetrators.

“We know domestic violence is a significant public health issue and that its presence has a significant effect on children,” said Laurence Kay, a retired justice of the state Court of Appeal in San Francisco, who chaired the task force and presented its results to council members Friday.

California Chief Justice Ronald George appointed the task force in September 2005, in the wake of a report by former Attorney General Bill Lockyer that concluded the entire criminal justice system was woefully deficient in protecting domestic violence victims.

“It is our hope that in adhering to this proposal, that lives may be saved,” Kay said.

Among the task force’s 139 recommendations are improving education for judges on domestic violence; streamlining the procedures for restraining orders and their entry into a state database so they can be quickly and safely issued, and all law enforcement agencies have access to them; and ensuring that firearms prohibitions are included in those orders, in compliance with both state and federal law.

Two male protesters arrested at Berkeley Marine recruiting office

Two men were arrested in Berkeley Friday when a violent scuffle broke out between dozens of protestors and police during a protest of a controversial U.S. Marine recruiting office.

Organizers with The World Can Wait received a permit Friday morning allowing them to hold the rally at 64 Shattuck Square, according to police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.

Soon after 4 p.m., the protestors began to march southbound on Shattuck Avenue and into the downtown area where many young people socialize, Kusmiss said.

“They took some large chains they brought with them in the morning and connected themselves together like a long chain gang,” she said.

Despite conditions of the permit that prohibits the protestors from having amplified sound away from the permitted area, police said three participants were using bullhorns to chant and shout.

“Bicycle officers followed the marching group to ensure public safety and make certain they were complying,” according to Kusmiss. “In front of Wells Fargo, one bicycle officer decided to detain one of the prime instigators with a megaphone. The young man refused to comply, pulling away from the officer.”

The officer arrested 26-year-old Rafael Schiller for obstructing or interfering with a peace officer.

The situation escalated when a crowd of more than 25 protestors began to encircle the officer and his partner, shoving and kicking them, Kusmiss said.

The officers, who felt they were in physical danger, called for immediate backup, which came in the form of about 15 additional officers, said Kusmiss.

Police attempted to hold the crowd back, using their batons and hands to push with some force.

According to Kusmiss, one participant began to incite the crowd, urging them to get Schiller back from the police while he forced his way past officers. The man, estimated to be in his 20s, was also arrested for obstructing or interfering with a peace officer but refused to identify himself.

Migden and Daly introduce rent control bill

On the steps of San Francisco City Hall Friday, state Sen. Carole Migden, Supervisor Chris Daly and affordable housing organization representatives announced the introduction of a bill that would help regulate the number of rent-controlled housing units in California.

“Rent control remains the largest and most effective affordable housing program,” Daly said during a news conference.

Senate Bill 1299 would allow city or county governments to require housing developers to create as many rent-controlled units as are demolished. As it is now, property owners can evict tenants without a stated reason to demolish a building and are not required to supply new rental units.

“We do not want to become just a billionaires’ abode,” Migden, D-San Francisco, said.

San Francisco has lost about 2,400 rental units in the last 10 years, according to Migden. In that same time, Los Angeles lost more than 11,000 units. Those hit hardest by the lack of affordable housing are the state’s most vulnerable populations, including young people and people of color.

“We don’t want seniors kicked out,” Migden said. “We don’t want people with HIV kicked to the street.”

San Francisco Tenants Union Executive Director Ted Gullicksen said Parkmerced – the biggest complex in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River – could be the next site affected by demolition due to San Francisco State University development.

Reed changes position on San Jose’s Vietnamese business district

For the second time in less than two weeks, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed changed his position on the controversial proposal to name a Vietnamese business district in the city.

Reed, along with Councilwoman Madison Nguyen, issued a memo Friday recommending that no name be designated for the business district along Story Road until city officials design a formal process for designating the names of proposed city districts.

Eleven days ago, Reed and Nguyen held a news conference announcing their support for having the district’s name decided by city voters in either June or November.

That proposal came after more than two months of protests by vocal elements of the city’s Vietnamese community over the district name, “Saigon Business District,” proposed then by Reed and Nguyen and approved by the city council. The protestors want the district to be named “Little Saigon.”

Reed and Nguyen cited the cost, estimated at more than $200,000, of including the naming proposal on the ballot as the reason for their latest change of direction.

“While we still believe that a citywide election offers the best opportunity for direct democracy, the city of San Jose has many needs more critical than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to place this issue on the ballot,” Reed and Nguyen said in their memo.

The moniker “Little Saigon” has political implications because Saigon was the capital of South Vietnam until the communist takeover of the country in 1975. Because of its connection to the former non-communist South Vietnam, “Little Saigon” is one of the symbols that unite all Vietnamese in America, most of whom came to the U.S. as refugees after the communist takeover, protest leader Barry Hung Do said after the November vote.

Kavanagh pleads no contest for lying about residency

After denying any wrongdoing for five years, former Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board member Chris Kavanagh pleaded no contest Friday to one felony count of falsely registering an ineligible voter, namely himself.

At a hearing in Alameda County Superior Court, Kavanagh, 49, said there was a factual basis for his plea, which was an investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office that concluded that his primary residence is on 63rd Street in Oakland, not the address at 2709 Dwight Way in Berkeley that he listed when he ran for office and voted.

Asked by Judge Robert McGuiness if he realized that pleading no contest is the same as pleading guilty, Kavanagh said, “I understand.”

In return for Kavanagh’s plea, Deputy District Attorney Trevor White agreed to drop five other felony counts against him, including voter fraud, filing false nominating papers, perjury, grand theft and fraudulently voting.

Kavanagh, who took a three-month leave of absence from his post in October shortly after charges were filed against him and then resigned effective Feb. 1, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Morris Jacobson on April 24.

Newsom and Harris unveil Graffiti Rewards Fund Program

In San Francisco’s latest effort to clean up city streets and building sides, officials hope a $250 reward will convince people to turn in graffiti vandals.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and District Attorney Kamala Harris unveiled a Graffiti Rewards Fund Program Friday in North Beach, offering $250 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of graffiti taggers.

“Our message to taggers is clear,” said Newsom. “We do not tolerate graffiti vandalism in San Francisco. Your tag will not stay up.”

Joe Arellano, the mayor’s deputy communications director, said closed and boarded-up businesses often become graffiti “hot spots,” repeatedly tagged by vandals who know their work won’t be removed quickly.

The problem is particularly prevalent in parts of North Beach, the downtown business district, the Western Addition and the Mission District, according to Arellano.

Department of Public Works Director Edward Reiskin said his agency spends millions each year to clean up graffiti.

A civil grand jury report from 2000-2001 estimated graffiti costs the city $22 million in damages and removal costs, in addition to the cost to private property owners — while last year, the city only allocated $3.2 million to clean 30,000 locations, according to the mayor’s office.

Graffiti arrests in 2007 nearly doubled from the previous year, to 238, the mayor’s office reported.

San Jose shooting victim dies

One of three victims of a shooting in San Jose on Sunday died from his injuries Friday, becoming the city’s fourth homicide this year, police said.

Luciano Saldana, 27, of Salinas, and two others were shot when gunshots struck their car headed southbound on Monterey Road near Alma Avenue at around 2:20 p.m. on Feb. 17, said Sgt. Mike Sullivan.

All three victims were transported to local hospitals. Saldana is the only victim who did not survive the attack, Sullivan said.

No motive or suspects have been established in the case. The investigation is ongoing.

Santa Rosa police indentify two suspects in shooting

Santa Rosa police have identified two suspects in the alleged gang related shooting of an adult man who was struck by gunfire while driving his truck on West Ninth Street Thursday.

Police are searching for Alex Casillas, 18, and Javier Gardea, 19, who are considered armed and dangerous. They are suspected of shooting the victim, an alleged member of a rival street gang, in the 900 block of Kingwood Drive around 1:30 p.m., Sgt. Lisa Banayat said.

The victim suffered a bullet wound in the back and rushed to an area hospital. His injuries were not life threatening, Banayat said.

The driver and a passenger were riding westbound in the truck near Link Lane. They called 911 and police found the injured driver at West Ninth and Rockwell streets, Banayat said.

Casillas is described as Native American, 5-feet 8-inches tall, about 250 pounds with black hair and brown eyes, police said.

Gardea is described as Hispanic, 5-feet 6-inches tall, about 120 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

Dillon Beach reopens

Dillon Beach was fully reopened Friday following a 250-gallon spill of untreated sewage, some of which flowed into the ocean from a damaged pipeline in Marin County on Monday, authorities said.

Following the spill, a section of Dillon Beach was closed to the public for cleanup and testing, North Marin Water District General Manager Chris DeGabriele said.

Cleanup was done Friday morning and test results released Friday from water samples taken on Tuesday upstream and downstream from the spill site showed bacteria levels well below the minimum state standard for human contact, DeGabriele said.

The positive results prompted the removal of warning signs at Dillon Beach alerting visitors of the spill, DeGabriele said.

A resident reported the spill, which occurred in the Oceana Marin subdivision near Kailua Way. A tree root apparently separated the joint in a section of sewage pipeline, causing untreated sewage to surface, flow into a storm drain, and eventually leak into the ocean.

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