East Bay Express

One year ago, an explosion at the Chevron refinery in Richmond sent a plume of black smoke into the air and more than 15,000 people to local hospitals. Now, as the city still tries to assess the total damages from the incident, new concerns have erupted that the refinery and others in the Bay Area may start processing significant amounts of tar sands oil.

On the afternoon of June 29, 1998, Trina Gomez and Maximilian Patlan were closing a branch of Fidelity Financial Services in Fullerton, California, when two men knocked on the door. They asked if they could make a payment, so Patlan let them into the bank. Once inside, one of the men punched Patlan in the face and ordered him to lie on the ground. The other man pulled out a shotgun and forced Gomez to collect all of the available cash. Minutes later, the two thieves walked out of Fidelity with more than $5,400 in cash and personal checks. The armed robbery and assault happened so quickly that Gomez and Patlan later had difficulty identifying the perpetrators.

East Bay Express: BART's big gift to wealthy corporations

Jul 18, 2013
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BART's board of directors, many of whom were elected on progressive, pro-labor platforms, have taken a hard line against employees at the bargaining table, arguing that the transit system is starved for cash. In truth, however, BART's financial documents show that the agency regularly diverts tens of millions of tax dollars each year that could be used to fund day-to-day operations — including worker salaries — toward expensive expansion projects, such as the planned rail extensions to San Jose and distant East Bay suburbs.

The Supreme Court issued historic rulings on gay marriage today, dismissing an appeal by Prop 8 supporters and stating that married same-sex couples are entitled to the same federal benefits as opposite-sex ones. While the justices did not rule on the constitutionality of states’ rights to prohibit same-sex marriages or give guidance on the effect of their ruling, legal analysts believe today’s decision regarding Prop 8 will open the door for same-sex marriages in California.

East Bay Express: Throwing more money at police

May 29, 2013

Oakland already directs a larger percentage of its budget to police than comparable cities nationwide, yet it's planning to spend even more money without demanding reforms.

East Bay Express: A people-focused solution

May 23, 2013

Students at Montera Middle School in Oakland said the school's eighth-grade class was full of "drama" earlier this year. There had been a fight between two girls, and the conflict had broadened to the girls' friends. Some students "were coming to school in sweats, ready to fight," recalled Yari Ojeda-Sandel, a staffer at Montera who coordinates the school's new conflict-resolution program known as restorative justice.

East Bay Express: Debtor's purgatory

May 8, 2013
Erika Pino

Felipa Martinez is a petite woman to begin with, but standing beneath the dais in Contra Costa Superior Court she looked even tinier. Martinez had arrived with her adult daughter in tow, partly for visual assistance (a degenerative eye condition has left her unable to take the bus by herself), partly for translation (she speaks just enough English to get by), and partly for emotional support. The daughter grasped Martinez' shoulder while Judge Steven K. Austin rifled through a stack of old bank statements and receipts.

East Bay Express: Underground Dining Goes Online

Apr 2, 2013

A year ago, Amanda Yee and a dozen of her neighbors began gathering every month for an informal dinner party, bringing together folks of diverse cultures, ages, and tastes to share a meal. So when Yee heard about Feastly (EatFeastly.com), a new website that markets private dinners to the greater public, she decided to join, becoming one of the first to host an event in her home — a post-First Friday midnight snack of French fries topped with carne asada and hollandaise sauce, plus a savory milkshake that included duck fat and crunchy waffle bits. One of her neighbors, eight friends, and four strangers paid $19.80 each for the experience, and although she didn't make any money on the meal, Yee was hooked on the concept.

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Thien Pham is what you might call a big personality. In a 2011 Expresswrite-up of the artist, Oaklander, and graphic novelist's last book, Level Up, Luke Tsai described him as an "outsized personality: the smack talker, the maker of outrageous statements." Pham's speech is loose, expressive, and uncommonly fast, his words occasionally stumbling over each other as they exit his mouth. Even his drawings, which are rendered in thick lines, graphic shapes, and bright colors, impart a sort of existential bigness.

Over the years, Bill Aboudi has portrayed himself as a champion of independent truckers in Oakland. The local businessman has a city contract to operate a large parking operation for big rigs at the former Oakland Army Base. But records also reveal strong evidence that Aboudi has violated several labor and environmental regulations in recent years, along with multiple city laws, and that he owes city taxpayers more than $235,000 in back rent and penalties for use of public property.

East Bay Express: The fate of alcohol at First Fridays

Feb 22, 2013
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A few months ago, Kim Nguyen realized she had a problem on her hands — except maybe it wasn't a problem, or at least it was the kind of problem every business owner dreams of having: Saigon Market, the narrow, cluttered convenience store that she runs along with her husband just north of the corner of Telegraph Avenue and 23rd Street, was absolutely overrun with customers. Or rather, it was overrun exactly one night a month: the first Friday, when the art walk and street fair of the same name descends on Uptown Oakland, its center right in front of her little store.

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Kao Saeturn liked to intimidate people with his Glock. Referring to himself as "the King of Oakland," Saeturn, along with his gang, kicked off a methamphetamine-fueled spree that wreaked havoc on the Bay Area. After holding up a San Rafael massage parlor at gunpoint, Saeturn's gang targeted another one in El Cerrito and then a Hayward karaoke club, threatening victims with their firearms. Then in a bizarre episode, Saeturn and an accomplice attempted to carjack a retired San Francisco Sheriff's deputy at gunpoint on Interstate 580. When police finally apprehended Saeturn's gang on February 7, 2008, officers recovered the Glock 17 pistol that the 25-year-old ringleader had used during the crime spree, along with other firearms. In 2010, the King of Oakland was sentenced to 272 months in prison.

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For all everyone's been talking about the tragic shooting at First Friday, it's worth noting that there's still a lot we don't know. We can't yet tell the extent to which this was related to First Friday itself — that is, we don't, and may never, know whether something about the event's general melee facilitated this, or whether the suspect would have killed Campbell anywhere, and that intersection and that moment just happened to be the time and place.

East Bay Express: Teachers financing guns

Jan 28, 2013
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The state teachers' retirement system is attempting to divest itself from a company that finances the manufacture of assault weapons like the one used at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But even if it does, it still won't be out of the gun business.

East Bay Express: Sketching the extra-ordinary

Jan 18, 2013

If you've ever seen a motley crew of ten or so individuals in Pastime Ace Hardware in El Cerrito sketching a row of toilet seats — enraptured — or tracing columns of roast ducks on a corner in Oakland Chinatown, you've probably encountered the Bay Area branch of Urban Sketchers. Their subjects may skew toward the ordinary, but their goal is to capture the extraordinary therein.

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Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern has publicly stated that the drones he wants to buy and deploy in the East Bay would be used primarily for emergency and disaster response. However, internal sheriff's office documents show that Ahern's staffers also envision using drones for traditional police work, including "intelligence gathering" and "crowd control" during large demonstrations.

In the interest of firm footing, let's first approach Momentum Still, a group installation now at headquarters gallery, by way of literal description. First observation: Ornately patterned rugs carpet the small, downtown Berkeley storefront studio, softening the usually hard-tiled interior. Second: A wreath of tree boughs, several feet in diameter, occupies the room's middle space, suspended from the ceiling by taut twine. The wreath itself supports a loose weave of string and wood planks, suggesting a sort of reconfigured dream catcher or rustic veil. A constellation of pinecones hangs in its midst. Third: One wall is paneled with salvaged wood planks of various shapes and sizes. The nooks between their strata contain little surprises: crystals, dried moss, 'zines, dollar bills, and so on.

In the interest of firm footing, let's first approach Momentum Still, a group installation now at headquarters gallery, by way of literal description. First observation: Ornately patterned rugs carpet the small, downtown Berkeley storefront studio, softening the usually hard-tiled interior. Second: A wreath of tree boughs, several feet in diameter, occupies the room's middle space, suspended from the ceiling by taut twine. The wreath itself supports a loose weave of string and wood planks, suggesting a sort of reconfigured dream catcher or rustic veil. A constellation of pinecones hangs in its midst. Third: One wall is paneled with salvaged wood planks of various shapes and sizes. The nooks between their strata contain little surprises: crystals, dried moss, 'zines, dollar bills, and so on.

East Bay Express: Fixing Berkeley's watershed

Nov 27, 2012
Nate Seltenrich

As is the case in many other cities in the Bay Area and across the country, Berkeley's stormwater infrastructure is in sad shape. But help could be on the way. On Election Day, Berkeley voters overwhelmingly supported Measure M, a $30 million bond aimed at street and watershed improvements. The city also recently completed environmental review of its 2011 Watershed Management Plan, a one-hundred-page document outlining the problems facing the city's infrastructure and offering a mix of solutions.

The most controversial local ballot measure facing San Franciscans this November — whether to develop a plan to reform the Hetch Hetchy water system and restore Hetch Hetchy Valley — reflects a question that cities everywhere are grappling with. As geologist Andrew Alden asked in a recent essay about the measure, "Do we want to arrange our society as if nature really matters?"

Throughout the 1990s, tough-on-crime laws were extremely popular in California. Numerous pieces of legislation lengthened prison terms for many crimes, and the War on Drugs locked up an unprecedented number of small-time criminals. However, it was California's Three Strikes law — approved by an overwhelming majority of voters in 1994 — that exemplified the tough-on-crime mindset of the decade.

East Bay Express: Berkeley at a crossroads

Oct 10, 2012
East Bay Express

On a recent weekday, Fourth Street between Bancroft and Allston ways in West Berkeley was mostly abandoned. Unlike the upscale stretch of shops and eateries on the other side of University Avenue, this section of Fourth Street, a former hub of West Berkeley's once bustling industrial and warehouse sector, is now an empty reminder of glory days gone by.

The East Bay has been experiencing something of a wine boom over the past decade or so and the East Bay Express devotes this week’s edition to exploring it in the Taste Edition. There are now at least 25 wineries in East Bay cities. Ellen Cushing wrote about them and their history. She spoke with KALW’s Holly Kernan about wine culture in the East Bay.

Listen to the interview above.

EastBayExpress.com

In January of 2011, 38-year-old Lamar Deshea Moore walked into the Detroit Police Department's sixth precinct and opened fire. Two officers were hit in the head with shrapnel, a commander was shot in the back, and a fourth officer was shot in the chest, although a bulletproof vest saved her from serious injury. "As you can imagine, utter chaos and pandemonium took place," Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said at the time.

Oakland A's pitcher Travis Blackley was watching video of the Texas Rangers this summer, preparing to make a start against the league's premier offense, the very one standing in the way of the A's and the American League playoffs. Blackley was deep in study, identifying tendencies, looking for weaknesses in the reigning pennant winner's armor. He looked at a season's worth of at-bats, contemplated dozens of pitchers' approaches.

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A major port terminal operator, Stevedoring Services of America, is pushing forward with a lawsuit against the Port of Oakland that could ultimately cost the public agency $123 million or force it to hand over control of public property to a corporation in which Goldman Sachs owns a major stake. Late last year, an administrative law judge with the Federal Maritime Commission denied the port's request to dismiss the suit.

East Bay Express: Straight outta brokeland

Sep 10, 2012

Just chapters into Michael Chabon's tightly contained Telegraph Avenue —a novel so engaging, fun, and, to us locals, coolly familiar — the Berkeley author throws politically correct caution to the wind with a delightful portrayal of President Barack Obama, back in 2004. Chabon dresses down the then-senator with a funky attitude, a deep love of black music, and way with the ladies, as he attends a fundraiser in the Berkeley Hills to rap positive with Gwen the midwife. Suddenly, admiring the stutter-step speech of this young black man, all seems hopeful again.

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Margaret Billsborough has survived unspeakable traumas: childhood abuse, wrenching poverty, homelessness, and crack-cocaine addiction. So when she, and many other vulnerable people like her, were given the opportunity to move into an apartment on San Francisco's Treasure Island, it seemed like a dream come true. Here, she thought, was a quiet, idyllic refuge where she could begin to heal.

East Bay Express: Oakland's latest mess

Aug 31, 2012

The troubling saga of the Oakland Police Department took an ugly turn last week with the news that City Administrator Deanna Santana has accused Robert Warshaw, the independent court monitor overseeing OPD, of making inappropriate advances toward her earlier this year. The revelation has already threatened the integrity of the oversight process of OPD and could delay a decision on whether the department should be put in federal receivership. In short, it's a big mess.

EastBayExpress.com

Today, The East Bay Express is reporting that the Port of Oakland workers may go on strike for the first time in 41 years. Recently, contracts between the SEIU and three other unions representing port workers have expired. SEIU says that port management is asking for major concessions, including an increased five percent employee contribution to their pension plans and no cost-of-living increase in wages which workers say equates to about a 10 percent pay cut.

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