Daily news roundup for Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | KALW

Daily news roundup for Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mar 25, 2015

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

It's Time To Overturn the State Ban on Rent Control // East Bay Express

"...A twenty-year-old state law known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act blocks Oakland and other California cities from adopting sensible rent control rules that could help keep rent prices from getting even higher.

"Costa-Hawkins, which doesn't get nearly enough attention from the news media, prohibits Oakland from establishing rent control on buildings constructed after 1983. That means that about one-third of all rental units in Oakland — 32,000 out of 92,000 — are exempt from the city's rent control regulations. Landlords of those buildings are thus free to raise rents as much as they want — which is exactly what they're doing. And that's a big problem for a city like Oakland, in which approximately 60 percent of residents are renters.

"Legislators representing Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and other cities with skyrocketing rents should be clamoring to overturn Costa-Hawkins. But the law — like Prop 13 — has become an electric third rail in California politics: Nobody wants to touch it, not even liberals. But that shouldn't be the case, because Costa-Hawkins is helping make California unaffordable for millions of people, and there's evidence that it's hurting the economy."

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Oakland Hacktivists Are Pulling Back the Curtains on Local Campaign Finance // East Bay Express

"It's 2015. We live in the era of Big Data, and there's an app to fulfill seemingly every want and need...

"But if you're trying to look at the money behind California's local politics, it still feels like the pre-Internet era.

"Lots of local jurisdictions don't provide online access to campaign finance statements. Many still rely on paper filings buried away in clerk's offices, forcing journalists and activists to physically request forms and laboriously read through them to figure out who's giving money, who's taking it, and how the all-mighty dollar influences democracy at the local level.

"A team of civic-minded hacktivists and government ethics watchdogs, many of them hailing from Oakland, wants to change this. "OpenCalifornia is a coalition of Code for America brigades (local volunteer civic hacktivists) shining light on the sources of money funding local elections," explains thegroup's project page on the Knight Foundation website."

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The secret to this California city’s economic success // Market Watch

"Berkeley isn’t very diverse politically. It scores badly on income equality. Yet it has the most “worker diversity” in America.

"That surprising ranking, from Wallet Hub, reflects the city’s unusual mix of government workers, private-sector workers and the self-employed. And while not a common measure of diversity, it’s one that could help keep the economy humming in this California city of about 117,000 on the San Francisco Bay...

"In most cities, 70% to 80% of the working population is in the private sector. The percentage in Berkeley, while still a majority, is far smaller. Instead, it has a higher-than-average share of residents working for the government, which includes the university and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which employs 4,000 people. It is second only to Santa Monica, Calif. nationally in the share of those who work for themselves."

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Facebook said in talks with publishers on hosting content // San Jose Mercury News

"The plan would be a shift in the relationship between the world's biggest social-networking service and media outlets, which use Facebook to drive traffic to their sites and help boost revenue from online advertising. Facebook is proposing that publishers post directly to its platform, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.

"Facebook is in talks with the New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic about hosting their articles or videos directly on the social network, the New York Times reported Monday."

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All aboard San Francisco's startup bus craze // The Verge

"...The startup’s fleet consists of five vehicles, all heavy-duty transit buses that have been retrofitted with reclaimed wood, bar stools, USB ports, and Wi-Fi. The result feels like the reception area of a mid-to-large tech company. The kind that makes you sign an NDA on an iPad before they’ll let you in.

"Kirchhoff and his four co-founders beta tested Leap in 2013, but launched officially in San Francisco last Wednesday. Its inaugural route is a 25-minute trip from the Financial District and the edge of Soma to the Marina. The buses run during morning and evening rush hours. The app displays their location in real time as well as the number of seats available. To speed up the process, Leap does not pick up customers during the reverse commute. That afternoon, riders got on as we headed to the Marina, but we rode empty on the way back downtown, toward the cluster of tech offices. In New York terms, it was sort of like going from Union Square to Murray Hill, bougie to fratty and back."