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Daily news roundup for Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Restoration project at Pier 70

Here's what's happening in the Bay Area, as curated by KALW news:


Restoration ‘full steam ahead’ of Pier 70’s former shipyard // SF Examiner

SAN FRANCISCO  -- "After the restoration project at Pier 70 is complete, the space will be available for private businesses and public events, like farmers markets and concerts.

"Inside the crumbling walls of a former shipyard machine shop at San Francisco’s Pier 70, construction crews are humming along, repainting the century-old red bricks that are losing their mortar by the minute.

"Broken windows, with panes dating back to when the workshop was constructed in 1885, line the 62-foot-tall walls. Dirty skylights, partially covered by corrugated metal, will soon shine with daylight once again.

"In less than two years, the room where iron workers once slapped together ships used by the U.S. military in the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II will brim with employees of yet-to-be-named companies and, for the first time, the public. This is Building 113, the oldest of eight structures within the historic core of Pier 70 that comprises the most intact 19th century industrial complex west of the Mississippi River.

"The $80 million restoration of the 20th Street Historic Buildings began early last month, after the master lease for the property was signed between Orton and the Port of San Francisco, which oversees the land. Each of the eight buildings will take up to two years to rehabilitate, meaning the project is expected to be finished by late 2017."


BART's improved commuter service on track /Oakland Tribune

PLEASANT HILL -- "BART's revved-up commuter service appeared to smoothly speed riders to work Monday morning, with longer, more frequent trains from the East Bay to San Francisco.

"Until Monday, those riders were more likely to see a train coming in with standing room only having filled up at the three stations up the line. A few had always chosen to wait for the next train if the one coming in had no open seats.

"BART has more riders than ever, but it has a finite number of train cars for them, 669 in all.

"To ease the commuter crush on morning and afternoon trains, the agency added shifts for its maintenance and rehab crews to keep more cars on the tracks. It also shifted cars from the eastbound routes -- the reverse commute -- to the more heavily traveled westbound commuter runs to San Francisco.

"One consequence is that some reverse-commute trains from San Francisco's Montgomery station have become limited runs to Pleasant Hill, where they turn around and head back toward San Francisco to help ease the commute crunch. Those eastbound trains now bypass riders waiting at the Rockridge, Orinda, and Lafayette stations. BART calculates their waits will be a few minutes longer.

"The bigger relief is more than a year away: BART plans to put the first of its new trains on the tracks by December 2016."


California wildfires: 23,000 people displaced from homes // BBC

SACRAMENTO -- "The governor of California has declared a state of emergency after wildfires forced about 23,000 people to flee their homes in the north of the state. 

"Jerry Brown said the fires, which have left one person dead, destroyed and threatened buildings in the Napa and Lake counties.

"More than 1,300 people fled Middletown, north of San Francisco, as their homes were consumed by the flames. Four firefighters who were badly burned are receiving treatment in hospital."


Well-loved Harbin Hot Springs ravaged by Valley Fire; pools survive // SF Gate

MIDDLETOWN, Lake County — "Harbin Hot Springs, a tranquil New Age health resort in Middletown with clothing-optional communal soaking pools, was a favorite destination for those on a holistic pilgrimage to serene rural California. But the classic 19th century retreat was in much need of healing Monday after being leveled by the ferocious Valley Fire. Power poles and wires collapsed along Highway 109, blocking firefighters from getting into the area northeast of Middletown in time to save the resort, which was first developed in 1867 and destroyed by previous fires in 1894 and 1943.

"A note on the Harbin Hot Springs website said it was a 'miracle, and a testament to our staff and guests' that no one was killed.

"The loss of Harbin comes a year and a half after another beloved California hot springs and lodge was consumed by flames. The historic two-story lodge at Wilbur Hot Springs in rugged Colusa County was destroyed by a fire in March 2014. That fire, though, likely started in the kitchen of the rustic wooden structure, built in 1863 and remodeled in the 1970s. The lodge has since reopened."


California Legislature: Green tech gets green light  // Oakland Tribune

SACRAMENTO -- "Despite a testy and drawn-out political battle, the new green mandates just approved by state lawmakers -- higher efficiency standards for buildings, more reliance on renewable energy -- signal good news for the state's clean-energy industry.

"The guidelines are expected to draw new investment and jump-start wind and solar projects, benefiting many Bay Area companies. But industry insiders also say the burgeoning market still faces regulatory challenges ahead.

"Lawmakers last week fought over the measure, SB 350, and stripped out controversial requirements for higher efficiency standards for gas vehicles. Still, clean energy advocates say the altered proposal provides a boost for long-term projects, research and development and jobs. The bill passed the state Assembly and Senate late Friday night and is expected to be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

"The mandate requires the share of electricity drawn from renewable sources by the state's utilities to increase from 33 to 50 percent by 2030. It also calls for doubling the efficiency of existing buildings. It's designed to dramatically decrease the state's reliance on fossil fuels and combat climate change.

"While the new standards are expected to primarily benefit large projects -- electricity generated from residential rooftop solar is not included -- the bill is expected to drive future demand for green products and technologies."


Thousands will turn out on September 19 to tidy up 1,200 miles of coastline // Patch

COASTAL CALIFORNIA -- "California cities and taxpayers pay $428 million per year to stop litter from becoming pollution that harms the environment, tourism, and other economic activity, according to a study conducted on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"In an effort to offset the environmental damage and economic impact of litter, the California Coastal Commission hosts Coastweeks from September 19 through October 11."


Oakland’s on the verge of huge change // SF Chronicle

OAKLAND -- "But where it takes the city is anyone’s guess. SPUR, a Bay Area pro-growth think tank, warned in a recent study that one of two things could happen.

"The economy could really take off in a way that harms Oakland’s cultural dynamism, racial and ethnic diversity, political activism and identity as a welcoming community.

"Or the economic boom — and all the new jobs and housing that come with it — could pass the city by. 'It’s right on the cusp, and we’re excited about the potential, but this is also a time to have a strong vision of what kind of city Oakland wants to be and for its downtown, what kind of downtown Oakland wants to have,' said Egon Terplan, the organization’s regional planning director, who wrote the report.

"The report calls for 50,000 new jobs and 25,000 new residents, expanding on former Mayor (and now governor) Jerry Brown’s proposal to repopulate the district with 10,000 new residents."