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Daily news roundup for Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Michael Short, Special To The Chronicle

Here's what's happening in the Bay Area, as curated by KALW news
Funding shortage leaves S.F. parks decaying // SF Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO  -- ​"The needed improvements are seemingly endless — to rusted swings, leaking water fountains, cracked pavement and a playground that turns into an island every time it rains.
"There’s never enough money to fix everything at John McLaren Park, said Mary Wong, who lives near the park and is president of the Excelsior District Improvement Association.
“Oh, the list is so long now,” she said. “The maintenance is backed up to the point that it’s ridiculous. The nice things we have had put in haven’t stayed nice over the years. It would take millions of dollars to take care of everything.”
"But that likely won’t happen, because funding for San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department has dropped by nearly half over the past 15 years, despite a ballot measure intended to provide more money.
"The Open Space Fund, a property tax set-aside, passed with 89 percent of the vote in March 2000. It earmarked money to supplement funds normally budgeted to the department. But since then, parks funding has fallen from 2.1 percent of the city budget as a whole to 1.2 percent."
Cell phones radiation is making headlines again with Berkeley’s Right to Know ordinance // Digital Digest​
BERKELEY -- "Beginning August 1, potential cell phone buyers in Berkeley, California will be greeted by a salesperson and a warning concerning potential radiation exposure. 
"Under the Right to Know ordinance passed unanimously by the Berkeley City Council back in May, cell phone retailers are required to inform consumers that by carrying a cell phone on your person (in your shirt pocket, pants, or bra), “You may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure.” The warning further states, “The potential risk is greater for children.”
"Already, there are federal regulations in place meant to warn cell phone users of the limits of safe radiation that can be expected from normal cell phones and cell phone usage, but under this new set of guidelines, Berkeley lawmakers are heightening the level of concern surrounding mobile devices.
"Proponents of the new Berkeley ordinance, however, say that they’re simply exercising extra caution — after all, the warnings aren’t impinging upon anyone’s right to buy a cellphone. As Dr. Morris stated, “Over the past twenty years, cell phone use has exploded to the point where it is almost universal, but we have limited understanding of the potential risk caused by these devices. This may well be the largest uncontrolled public health experiment in human history.” Morris noted that the health risks were uncertain, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, part of the World Health Organization) determined that the radiation emitted by cell phones was a possible cause of cancer.
"Morris concluded that until more definitive research was conducted, “… it seems prudent to reduce exposures, especially when doing so can involve something as simple as using headphones. Improving consumers’ access to warnings about potential risks, warnings that are already in the phones, is a no-brainer.”
San Jose, San Francisco Rank High in Health, Livability: Survey //NBC Bay Area
SAN JOSE -- ​"A new survey finds that San Jose and San Francisco are some of the best — and healthiest — cities to live in the country.
"WalletHub.com determined that San Jose is the fourth best city with a population of more than 300,000 to live in the United States. San Francisco is tied for eighth place with Lexington, Kentucky.
"Oakland follows at No. 23 in a list of 62.
"The cities ranked even higher when it came to the health of its residents: San Francisco is in the top slot, while San Jose is No. 3.
"Other factors studied in the survey include school system quality, job economy, political engagement, recreational opportunities and drivability."
Light displays could transform City Hall into billboard    // SF Examiner
SAN FRANCISCO -- "San Francisco has illuminated City Hall in orange to celebrate a Giants victory, and rainbow colors to celebrate Pride.
"But that’s nothing compared to Mayor Ed Lee’s proposal to allow corporations and city-events to use digital light displays on the golden-domed building.
"The prospect of digitally projected light and multimedia displays on the east side of City Hall overlooking the Civic Center Plaza is already raising questions whether it oversteps boundaries of public-private partnerships and is also sparking concerns among anti-advertisement groups.
"The digital light technology is more frequently in use around the world, most recently on a grand scale in New York City, where images of animals were projected on the Empire State Building to promote an upcoming documentary “Racing Extinction” to air on the Discovery Channel.
“We believe this display option can enhance special events held at City Hall, the Main Library and the Asian Art Museum, thus affording the City’s General Fund a revenue opportunity from event sponsors,” said John Updike, director of real estate, in a July 27 letter to the Board of Supervisors.
"Supervisor John Avalos said the proposal was indicative of the mayor’s cozy relationship with technology companies and his most prominent backer, tech investor Ron Conway.
“Like City Hall brought to you by Facebook, Salesforce, Big Brother of Public Private Partnerships Ron Conway?” Avalos said via text message."
Hundreds of Block Parties in the Area for National Night Out // Hoodline
SAN FRANCISCO -- "It's that time of year again: National Night Out is heading to precincts around San Francisco, Oakland and other Bay Area cities tonight.
"For the uninitiated, National Night Out is a community event that gives neighbors the opportunity to meet local police officers, learn safety tips, enjoy family-friendly activities and learn more about what city agencies do for public safety. Hundreds of block parties are being held around the area. Check your city's website for locations and activities near you."