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Crosscurrents

Daily news roundup for Tuesday, July 7, 2015

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Susan Cohen/KQED
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Oakland relies on graffiti complaints before citing a business, which is required to clean up the graffiti in 10 days.

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

It’s On: Airbnb Regulation Set To Hit San Francisco’s Ballot This November​ // Tech Crunch

"A coalition of home owners and affordable housing activists submitted more than 15,000 signatures today for a ballot initiative in the November election that will more tightly regulate short-term rentals and Airbnb. In response, an organization financially backed by Airbnb called ‘San Francisco For Everyone’ held a rally on the steps of City Hall today urging voters to give the city more time to work out the existing regulations."
"It is a fascinating collision of city’s political cultures — San Francisco’s historically very participatory (and litigious) approach to land-use and urban development against a venture-backed astro-turfing group representing the interests of a home-grown startup that is now a $25 billion company.

"Backers of the ballot initiative say the existing regulation passed last fall doesn’t go far enough, and neither will changes proposed by Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell. The initiative proposes a law with a 75-day limit on hosting, quarterly data reports from platforms and an ability to go to civil court if the planning department does not react to complaints in time. Last week, Lee ordered the creation of a new enforcement office just as the city also sent violation letters to 15 hosts for allegedly turning 73 housing units into full-time short-term rentals. Lee and Farrell are trying to strengthen a short-term rental laws passed last year by putting a 120-day limit on the number of nights a host can rent out their home."
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San Francisco Mission District Housing Moratorium May Qualify for November Ballot // NBC Bay Area

"Activists who want to halt demolition and construction in San Francisco's Mission District moved one step closer to putting a housing moratorium on the November ballot.

"Volunteers on Monday submitted to the Department of Elections 15,000 signatures required for the moratorium to be placed before voters. The moratorium was previously rejected by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors."
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Oakland Struggles to Keep Pace With Changing Graffiti Culture // KQED News

​"In West Oakland, mint-green paint covers up a large swath of letters on the side of a concrete wall. Lauren Westreich has already brought out the paint four times since relocating her business here in February. She remembers helping paint her neighbor’s wall, too, which was hit by graffiti 30 feet high. “Somebody came in literally the next day and took a spray can of paint and just scribbled on the wall every inch of freshly painted surface,” said Westreich.

"The city’s cost of cleaning up graffiti has been increasing, not including the dollars spent by private business owners like Westreich. While the city is hungry to keep and grow business in areas like West Oakland, a new task force with limited resources is trying to address an old symbol of urban grit in the face of a changing Oakland."

"In 2013, Oakland passed a law that allowed the city to fine people caught tagging or defacing property without the owner’s consent. The idea is to help the city recoup costs without sending the case to court, where the level of proof is higher, said DeVries. The city hasn’t fined anyone under the law yet, he said, but there are two major cases that the task force is working on.

"DeVries said Oakland has had success with its illegal dumping task force, which has caught around 150 people and gathered about $50,000 in fines over the past year. But it’s easy for people to take a snapshot of a license plate from a phone, he said. With graffiti, it’s harder to identify people in pictures and prove their guilt.

"Meanwhile, Oakland saw an increase of more than 50 percent in costs for graffiti cleanup between 2012 and 2014. Last year, the city spent $1.2 million on graffiti. Caltrans is also cleaning up more graffiti on state-owned property in the city. In fiscal year 2012, that totaled  339,985 square feet (roughly six football fields). But the real costs, to private businesses, can’t be calculated, DeVries said."
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Martinez: Activists protesting oil trains detained // Mercury News

"Activists protesting against crude oil transporting trains were arrested Monday morning while attempting to hang a banner in front of the Benicia-Martinez railroad bridge.

"The 60-foot banner read, "Stop Oil Trains Now: Are you in the Blast-Zone.org," according to a news release from Communities for a Better Environment and ForestEthics."

"The move was part of a planned week of action with more than 80 scheduled events opposing oil trains across the United States and Canada, according to the release. The protests correspond with the second anniversary of the fatal oil train rail disaster that killed 47 people in Lac-Magantic, Quebec.

"The weeklong protests will conclude at 11 a.m. Saturday with a rally at Atchison Village Park in Richmond.
"We are facing a triple threat. Oil trains dangerously roll through to burn filthy crude in refineries from Richmond to LA and Wilmington, all contributing to toxic pollution and global climate catastrophe," said Jasmin Vargas, CBE, associate director, in a news release. "Communities for a Better Environment is working in communities challenging the worst cases of environmental racism in CA."

"The protesters who climbed as an attempt to hang the sign represent Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, and ForestEthics. The groups say that they're concerned about fatal oil train accidents, a spike in air pollution near refineries and railways, and carbon pollution from high-carbon crude oil transported by oil trains."
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San Jose: Amid homelessness and drugs, summer camp makes stand at Backesto Park // Mercury News

"Carmen Cautiverio knew that opening a children's summer camp at Backesto Park would be risky, so she introduced herself to the homeless and lowlifes who hang out there by bringing them a breakfast of warm tamales.

"This is my backyard, and somebody has to step up," Cautiverio explained at the 93-year-old park in San Jose's Northside. "Nobody was stepping up. I thought I would take the chance, and it seems to be working."
"The groggy and bewildered park regulars that morning in May probably appreciated the traditional Mexican, stuffed-cornmeal treats, if not her message.

"I told them they had to go to the other side of the park from now on and stay there," she recalled. "This side belongs to the children now."

"After only a few weeks, most of the destitute, chronically unemployed or downright suspicious types got the message that Cautiverio's Downtown Enrichment program was not to be messed with. Housed in a cramped, old, wooden clubhouse, the program tried to keep the two dozen or so children busy outside. Cautiverio even received unexpected support from some tough hombres."

"As summer settles in, the south side of Backesto Park has become a cheerful oasis filled with the laughter of children at play or their soft reading of bilingual books in Spanish and English. Cautiverio still has to chase drug addicts out of the children's rest room, just not as often as before."
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San Francisco hotels are​ ​world's priciest // Bloomberg News

"San Francisco already is one of the priciest U.S. cities for apartment renters and companies seeking office space. Now the area has a new distinction: it’s the world’s most expensive place for visitors to spend the night.
"The average price for a San Francisco hotel room has jumped 88 percent in the past year to $397 a night, according to an index compiled by Bloomberg of the world’s top 100 financial centers. The city ranks ahead of Geneva, where rooms set travelers back $292 a night, and Milan, at $271. Chicago, with rates at $240, ties Miami as the second-costliest U.S. cities. The Hotel Council of San Francisco and the San Francisco Travel Association say the price calculations are skewed because they include the dates for next year’s Super Bowl.
"The surge in San Francisco room rates was the biggest among the lodging markets tracked by Bloomberg. The rising costs are being driven by the region’s technology-industry boom, a soaring job market and a dearth of hotel construction as developers focus on office and residential buildings -- a combination that’s allowing operators to be aggressive with their pricing.

“The influx of tech companies into San Francisco has been tremendous, and with it this new emerging traveler, this millennial traveler, who is looking for downtown experiences,” said Chuck Pacioni, general manager at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. “Many of them may travel for work to Silicon Valley, but instead of staying at a suburban hotel, they want to stay in the city for the culture and the experiences.”
"The Bloomberg gauge measured 100 cities based on the average daily cost of hotels, regardless of star ratings, for two adults in a double-occupancy room. Rate calculations were taken in May for two blocks of time -- Aug. 1 to Aug. 10 of this year and Feb. 1 to Feb. 10, 2016 -- to account for holiday, promotion and convention-related pricing."