Battle Between Berkeley Group and UC Berkeley Over Student Population Size Heads to State Supreme Court

By Jay Barmann :sfist – excerpt

Depending on what happens at the California Supreme Court, 3,050 fewer students might get acceptance letters from UC Berkeley this spring, because a Berkeley citizens’ group is irritated with the pace of the school’s growth.

The court is taking up the case Wednesday, after the group called Save Berkeley Neighborhoods sued the University of California Regents back in 2019 over its growth plan for the school, which called for a 33.7% increase in the size of the student body between 2005 and 2020. At issue, primarily, is the fact that UC Berkeley only has housing space for around 10,000 students, but its undergraduate classes enroll around 32,000 students, which means many have to seek housing off-campus. Save Berkeley Neighborhoods says that this drives up rents in the city, consequently displacing other residents, increasing homelessness. And, they say, the larger student body puts too much strain on city services…

The suit from Save Berkeley Neighborhoods resulted in an Alameda County judge ruling last year that UC Berkeley must cap its enrollment at 2020-2021 levels until it redoes an environmental impact report on a housing complex it plans to build. The school appealed the ruling, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling and now the appeal has gone to the state Supreme Court.…(more)

This New Device Can Deliver Clean Drinking Water for Just $4

By Miriam Fauzia : yahoo – excerpt

Freshwater is essential to all life on Earth, but water shortages brought on by climate change, pollution, and increased human demand make that resource harder and harder to come by. Water scarcity impacts over two billion people around the world. According to UNICEF, that number could balloon to half of the world’s population by 2025. Nearly half of the United States’ 204 freshwater basins are projected to have monthly shortages by 2071, according to one 2019 study.

Of course, there is one insanely vast source of water that covers 70 percent of the planet: the ocean. Through a filtration process called desalination, unusable seawater is converted into freshwater. It’s a method that has been employed mainly in the Middle East, but also increasingly in water-stressed parts of the U.S., particularly California.

How to Weaponize Our Dying Oceans Against Climate Change

One major problem desalination systems face is the fouling of equipment caused by salt buildup, which requires a device’s parts to be cleaned regularly or replaced entirely if damaged. In pursuit of a solution, researchers at MIT and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China have developed a solar-powered desalination device that avoids salt buildup and could provide a family with continuous drinking water for only $4…(more)

Court halts development of 760 luxury homes in Tahoe, a win for grassroots activists

By Julie Brown : sfgate – excerpt

The developers behind housing project Martis Valley West wanted to build hundreds of high-end homes in a gated community on a forested ridgeline hugging the northern rim of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

But in their environmental review, they stopped short of disclosing the impact all 760 of those homes would have on Lake Tahoe’s famous clear water, including the traffic driving between the development and the Tahoe Basin. Pollution caused by cars and traffic is one of the leading causes of Tahoe’s declining lake clarity.

This week, a state court decision halted the development, stating that Placer County’s review of the Martis Valley West project was “inadequate” because the developers didn’t disclose the project’s impact on traffic in Lake Tahoe…(more)

CEQA advances environmental justice, so why all the hate?

By Jennifer Ganata, Aruna Prabhala : calmatters – excerpt

Imagine if a new development proposed in your city would cause the sewage system to overflow after it rains.

Imagine a new warehouse coming in to occupy 3,800 acres in your community, bringing truck exhaust and around-the-clock lighting to your neighborhood.

Now imagine there’s nothing you can do about it.

That’s what might happen if public agencies across California weren’t required by law to consider and mitigate the significant environmental harms of a project. Concerned neighbors, including those from low-income and disadvantaged communities, would not be able to speak out and participate in local land-use decisions.

Since 1970, the California Environmental Quality Act has been advancing environmental justice and protecting vulnerable communities by holding government officials accountable for the health and welfare of the residents they represent.

The state’s premier environmental law requires that when housing, warehouses or oil refineries are built, environmental harms have to be carefully studied and reduced. CEQA is an extremely important tool for advancing environmental justice because its review process requires that local communities – including those with fewer resources and more barriers – be notified when toxic and polluting projects are coming to their neighborhoods…(more)

Which brings us to the state ballot initiative to return local zoning options to the local communities where they belong. Details here:

Star Creek Land Stewards helps fight wildfires with goats and sheep

By Silvio Carrillo : abc7news – excerpt

SAN GERONIMO, Calif. — On a foggy morning near San Geronimo, a small mountain community 20 minutes west of Fairfax in Marin County, Silvio Justo, a Peruvian herder, unrolls temporary electric fencing he places around herds of sheep and goats rapidly devouring acres of wild grass surrounding a hilltop home.

The livestock belong to Star Creek Land Stewards. The Los Banos-based company was hired by a local homeowner to clear the brush surrounding the home in an effort to help combat wild fire spread…(more)

SFPUC’s Self-serving Bureaucrats

By Brian Browne : westsideobserver – excerpt

As crooked as a dog’s hind legs?

The narrative. That is the story or interpretation of events as told by a source. One source tells us that our bureaucratic establishment knows what is best for us and should be trusted regardless of the mandating prose. My narrative about government bureaucrats and committee appointees might be summed up as incompetent, answering to unseen self-serving puppet masters, and often more crooked than a dog’s hind legs.

Law enforcement agencies have identified numerous folks that have broken the law and offended the public well-being for their selfish gains. But what about the incestuous and self-serving manipulation of voter-approved committees – who have sworn to uphold the law and independently protect the public coffers – but in reality have deliberately ignored their responsibilities to often go in a 180 degree opposite to law and an anti-public good direction by allowing the regulated to manipulate the regulators for their objectives. I have exhausted myself in identifying (See: The regulatory morass of the City and County) this malaise (hijacking) with the Revenue Bond Oversight Committee (RBOC) overseeing multi-billions in acquired debt to be repaid through special taxes (rates). Water off a duck’s back. I challenge the local, state, and federal legal entities to subject this multi-billion seeming deception that arbitrarily interpreted “independent oversight” to mean “dependent self-serving oversight.” When in U.S. law was it ever acceptable for the regulated (SFPUC/CCSF) to control the voter-approved regulators (RBOC)? This is contrary to the concept of a public utility. Public meaning exactly that – not just political operatives, not special interest groups, and not overpaid and woefully under-skilled bureaucrats.

The solution – have the appropriate legal entities objectively investigate and remove from office (regardless of title or political connections) all who dishonored the mandated dichotomy between a regulator and the regulated. There must also be accountability. There are no free lunches, not even in San Francisco…(more)

There are a lot of stories flying around about the corrupt SF Family, but, few describe a cure for the problem that has a reasonable objective of removing the bad apples a the level required to see any improvement. This one does. If we follow the money down and as well as up the ladder we will get rid of a lot of people who accepted jobs they were not qualified for in exchange for doing what they were told without much knowledge or ability to judge the meaning of those demands. In this case, incompetence should not be tolerated or excused. We need qualified people taking the positions in order to fix the problems.

CANCER ALLEY … At Hunters Point Shipyard

By Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai : westsideobserver – excerpt

Seventeen years have passed since demolition, deconstruction, deep soil excavations and grading of the Hunters Point hilltop began to make way for dirty residential development on a federal Superfund site. Welcome to the unveiling of Cancer Alley at the Hunters Point Shipyard!

documentary produced by Golden State Warrior Steph Curry, follows residents of St. James Parish in Louisiana. Cancer Alley is an 85-mile chemical corridor along the Mississippi River where multiple industrial plants operate. It is home to seven of the ten most cancer ridden census tracts in America…

Yet while residents of Cancer Alley face a cancer risk from exposure to toxic air contaminants and chemical emissions 20 times higher than the national average, Louisiana does not place among the Top 10 states with the greatest number of dangerous chemical emitting industrial facilities. With 886 fully operational petrochemical facilities…California does…

The California Department of Public Health verified eight disease and cancer clusters in the state by 2011. Additionally, independent researchers detected “significantly increased rates of cancer of radiosensitive organs” in population centers adjacent to the nine major nuclear installations in the U.S. that include Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos laboratories operating under the auspices of the University of California…(more)

Supes grill PG&E exec on how the company is holding SF hostage

By Tim Redmond :48hills – excerpt

The company is basically saying ‘Screw You’ to the city, and is unapologetic about wanting to block SF from using its own clean public power.

I’ve been covering the city’s relations with PG&E for more than 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything remotely like the hearing that the Land Use and Transportation Committee held this week.

The immediate issue was PG&E’s refusal to connect city projects to the grid unless San Francisco paid a huge fee for very expensive, and often unnecessary, equipment.

But Sup. Hillary Ronen took on a PG&E vice president in a way that showed exactly how the company is trying to squeeze money out of the city and prevent public-power competition.

And the PG&E exec, Aaron Johnson, basically said that the city could either pay its huge fees or let the company take over providing electricity to city projects, including streetlights.

In other words: Screw you, San Francisco.

In essence, he said that the policy, going back almost 100 years, of allowing the city to deliver its own cheap, carbon-free public power to municipal facilities over PG&E lines is ending…

Dennis Herrera, the head of the SFPUC, said that “we want reliable and safe public power,” and that the only solution was to take over the local grid.

And it appears the only way to do that is to start eminent domain proceedings. I await Herrera’s next move.…(more)

‘A huge sigh of relief’: Petaluma mobile home park residents celebrate after rent increase blocked

By Amelia Parreira : pressdemocrat – excerpt

Residents of a Petaluma mobile home park voiced excitement and relief Tuesday after a third-party arbitrator blocked the park owner’s effort to raise rents by 40%.

The ruling comes nearly three months after a new ownership group for the Youngstown Senior Mobile Home Park informed residents of plans to hike rent of lots by nearly $300.

Owner Daniel Weisfield defended the proposed increase during a pair of January hearings, saying they were needed to cover rising property taxes and other expenses at the 102-unit McDowell Boulevard property…(more)

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