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Bay Area Headlines: Thursday, 7/9/20, AM

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Another San Quentin Death And Changes Are Coming / Long-Awaited Berkeley Affordable Housing Breaks Ground / Newsom Talks Schools, Sends Masks To Other States / Before You Go To The Beach, Check Its Pollution Score

Another San Quentin Death And Changes Are Coming

Another California death row inmate at San Quentin State Prison has died from apparent complications of the coronavirus, according to corrections officers. He is the sixth death row inmate to die of COVID-related complications at the prison.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said 60-year-old David Reed died, yesterday, at an outside hospital. He was sent to death row 2011 in the racially motivated murder of Ricky Mosley in Palm Springs. Reed was white — Mosley was Black.

Nearly 1,400 of the 3,500 people incarcerated at San Quentin have tested positive for the virus — that’s about 40% of the population. Today, Governor Gavin Newsom said he’s visited the prison several times, and officials are actively reducing the population.

“We've been able to decompress that hot- that — it feels like a hospital now — but that prison from 4,051 prisoners on March 1. The goal is to bring the population down to 3076. So from 131% capacity where we were just a few months ago, and now getting it down below that 100% capacity threshold we still want to do more than that, so that we could provide more cohorting, more isolation of inmates. Of course we have staff concerns as well.”

There have now been 30 deaths from COVID-19 in California’s prison system, according to state figures. More than 5,000 inmates are listed as actively having the infection, along with more than 600 employees.

Long-Awaited Berkeley Affordable Housing Breaks Ground

A pair of non-profits held a ceremonial groundbreaking event, yesterday to celebrate a joint affordable housing project 17 years in the making.

The Berkeley Way Development will provide units for homeless and disabled people as well as 89 separate affordable housing units for the general population. The complex is a collaboration between Bridge Housing and The Berkeley Food and Housing Project, or BFHP.

Former BFHP executive director Terrie Light conceived the idea back in 2003, but it clearly took a long time to get into the ground. State legislation helped: In 2018, Senate Bill 35 required cities across the state to ensure they offer enough affordable housing. The Berkeley Way Development is part of Berkeley’s efforts to comply. Nearly all of the units will be rented to households making only 50 to 60 percent of the median income for the area. 

At Tuesday’s groundbreaking event, current BFHP Executive Director Calleene Egan spoke about the transitional housing — which will be called “the Hope Center.”

“The vision of the Hope Center is to bring people experiencing homelessness together in a variety of different housing capacities on a peer to peer level offering encouragement, shared experience, and of course, hope.”

Construction is expected to be completed in May of 2022.

Newsom Talks Schools, Sends Masks To Other States

President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold funding from states that don’t reopen schools this fall. Here in California, Governor Gavin Newsom says he’s not worried about the pressure. He says safely reopening schools is non-negotiable.

“All of these things need to be managed at the local level with the foundational framework of keeping our kids and our teachers healthy and safe. And yes, I fear that more than I fear a tweet.”

The State Department of Education put out guidelines last month that include limiting the number of students on campus and physically-distant bus rides.

Some educators say they need more resources to ensure schools can safely reopen. Newsom acknowledged that for many districts, that could mean a hybrid of in-person and remote learning.

Before You Go To The Beach, Check Its Pollution Score

COVID-19 is putting a dark cloud on some Californians’ beach plans this weekend. Los Angeles County is closing many of its shorelines temporarily. But there’s good news about the state’s beaches overall. 

Water quality at a majority of state beaches are cleaner this year than they were last year, according to a new report by the group Heal the Bay. Researchers graded more than 500 California beaches. They found that this year's dry conditions meant less pollution was carried by rain into the ocean. 

Luke Ginger led the report, and says Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in the Bay Area ranked the worst in the state. He calls that a ‘Bummer Beach:’

“This beach is one of six San Mateo County Beach Bummers this year, which is an unprecedented number of beaches in one county.”

Four other ‘Bummer Beaches’ are in Southern California and have been ranked problematic before. 

The shoreline with the best water quality: Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City not too far away from the Oregon border.

 

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