A dozen tenants in a West Oakland apartment building infested with bedbugs were awarded nearly $30,000 in rent reductions after filing a complaint with the city's Rental Adjustment Board.
Hearing Officer Barbara Cohen awarded tenants of the Booker Emery apartments about $21,000 in rental rebates. She also lowered current rents until the property owners fully remedy pest and mold issues.
Earlier this year, tenants in 13 units testified at a hearing about their problems with cockroaches, bedbugs and mold in the 55-unit building. Yolanda Scoggins said the bedbug infestation in her apartment was so bad she slept in a white shirt so she could see the little red bugs crawling on her.
Tenants also complained about the conduct of building owner Ramdas Darke. Before the hearing, Darke had been declared mentally incompetent to take care of his financial affairs and was placed in a memory care facility.
His wife and sons, who said they had been unaware of the problems at the building, have since taken over management. Their attorney, Stephen Kennedy, said the family had no plans to appeal the ruling.
Cohen wrote that the tenants, who pay less than $700 per month for studio and one-bedroom apartments, will be entitled to an ongoing rent decrease until cockroaches are eradicated in each unit and until each unit has had "an inspection, with written confirmation, and determined to be free of bedbugs."
Rio Scharf of the East Bay Solidarity Network, which helped organize tenants praised the ruling, saying that it was a "kick in the butt to management to get to work on repairs and needed improvements."
Permit granted for Oakland gay bar
The first seven-day-a-week gay bar in downtown Oakland appears a sure bet to open after getting unanimous approval from the city's Planning Commission.
The Port Bar is scheduled to welcome its first customers toward the beginning of autumn at 2021 Broadway, next door to the Paramount Theatre.
While watering holes have been opening all over downtown, The Port will be the first to cater to Oakland's large gay population.
"The Bay Area is one of the largest congregating places for LGBT people in the world, yet in the East Bay we haven't had a 7-day-a-week space to gather socially in a downtown setting," said Sean Sullivan who will be a majority owner in the bar along with his partner Richard Fuentes.
Downtown Oakland is home to two gay clubs that are open several nights a week. The city's only gay pub, The White Horse Bar, is near the Berkeley border.
Sullivan said The Port will pay homage to Oakland's industrial roots. There will be lots of exposed wood and steel and the bathroom will be inside a shipping container.
Berkeley, Oakland rank high in motorless commutes
Seventeen percent of Berkeley workers now walk to their jobs, and 8.1 percent arrive by bike, according to a new report by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Among mid-sized U.S. cities, Berkeley ranks second in commuting-by-foot, behind another university town: Cambridge, Mass. Berkeley ranks third in bike commuting rates, behind Boulder, Colo., and Eugene, Ore.
Among bigger American cities, Oakland ranks 10th highest in bicycle commuting. About 2.4 percent of Oakland's workforce now bikes to work, double the rate of 2000. Topping the big city list was Portland, Ore., where the bike commuting rate is 6.1 percent. San Francisco ranks fifth.
Alameda County picks head librarian
A retired director of the Oakland City Library is headed back to the stacks, this time as interim Alameda County librarian.
Carmen Martinez this month replaces Jean Hofacket at the helm of the county system that manages library branches in Fremont, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, Newark, Union City and Albany.
Martinez ran the Oakland libraries for 12 years before retiring in 2012. She also directed the 67-branch Los Angeles public library system for eight years. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors appointed Martinez to the interim role as it plans to begin recruiting for a permanent replacement for Hofacket, who ran the county libraries from 2000 until her retirement last month.
Berkeley council OKs cop Taser study
Following intense debate and public comment Tuesday night, the City Council voted 6-3 to allow the Berkeley city manager's office to investigate the use of Tasers for the city's police department.
The issue also will go to the city's health commission.
During a public hearing, Berkeley police packed the room to speak in favor of using Tasers, with 11 officers at the podium. Seventeen speakers during public comment were on the opposite side of the issue.
"Tasers save lives," said Berkeley Police Association President Sgt. Chris Stines. "If it saves one life in Berkeley, then it's worth studying the option."
Stines said his research shows that there are 40 percent fewer injuries to suspects and 70 percent fewer injuries to officers in departments where Tasers are used.
"Berkeley, which has always prided itself as being forward thinking, is one of only three law enforcement agencies in the nine county Bay Area whose officers are not authorized to use Tasers." Stines said.
But Councilman Max Anderson, who voted against the study with Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin, said one more weapon in the hands of the police will not make them better public servants.
"If someone is drunk and disorderly or suffering from a mental health crises, the penalty should not be risk of death, and we should not rule that out when thinking about Tasers," Anderson said. "A better investment in our time and money would be in crisis-intervention training."
San Leandro mayor will not run for office
San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy will not seek re-election. His term expires at the end of the year.
The mayor announced his decision Sunday on his Facebook page.
"I see no way I can meet my obligations as mayor at a high level, as well as my work duties and be present for my young daughters, while also running a vigorous campaign for re-election," he wrote.
The mayor promised he would work with the council and community to put a revenue measure on the November ballot to repair the city's neighborhood streets. Other goals he listed were creating a commission to support the arts in the schools and extend broadband to the schools.
Cassidy was elected mayor in 2010, and served on the San Leandro Unified school board from 2004 to 2008.