Hundreds of flag-draped, paint-smeared soccer fans wedged themselves into San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza on Sunday to see their team take on Japan in the Women’s World Cup finals.
[...] after girding themselves for the nerve-racking defensive stand many analysts predicted, they erupted in giddy shock as the U.S. players started scoring early and often, piling up the kind of lead more common to baseball.
A forward in an indoor soccer league in Fremont, Gonzalez has been hooked on the sport ever since watching Brandi Chastain’s shirt-shedding moment of victory in the 1999Women’s World Cup.
Making the possibility of victory all the sweeter, she had met Chastain a week ago at San Francisco International Airport, where Gonzalez works as a barista.
The Civic Center crowd contained plenty of both, many with flags painted on their faces, their eyes glued to the oversize screen.
“As much of a Japan fan as I am, I wouldn’t mind seeing the U.S. win, just for the kids to see it and get excited,” said Genki Watanabe, program manager for America Scores.
Soccer’s popularity in the United States has grown since the nation’s last Women’s World Cup title, in 1999.
[...] yet in many ways it remains the “other” American sport, loved by a passionate core audience while never reaching full mass-market acceptance.
Posted: July 6, 2015, 3:49 am
Vacaville grass fire scorches 325 acres
A four-alarm grass fire broke out in Vacaville late Saturday, scorching 325 acres of parched land and leading to the voluntary evacuation of 125 people.
By Sunday morning, officials said the fire near Peña Adobe Regional Park was largely contained.
Mazzaferro said firefighters would be on site Sunday to make sure the fire does not start up again.
Posted: July 5, 2015, 10:58 pm
The Bay Area exploded Saturday in its annual outburst of patriotism and pride in the USA as crowds across the region celebrated Independence Day.
Dozens of communities marked the Fourth of July with festivities ranging from parades and picnics in the morning and afternoon to musical celebrations and fireworks displays as the sky darkened.
In San Francisco, curtains of fog fell atop Alcatraz, Angel Island and the Bay Bridge, as if to set the stage for a very San Francisco fireworks display.
At 9:30 p.m. the sky above the bay was shattered by colorful explosions of light, often shrouded by low-hanging clouds.
Teresa Ortiz, a first-time visitor from Los Angeles, packed a warm hat and blankets.
The holiday excitement was nothing new for Vallejo, where for 162 years excited onlookers have turned out for the city’s Fourth of July parade.
The die-hards wake up early every year to unfold their lawn chairs in a good spot, while others watch from their front yards.
The “Stars and Stripes Forever!” theme consisted largely of cars draped in flags, stars, and red, white and blue.
A festival on the city’s waterfront, featuring a dog parade, pirating zombies and children’s rides, followed the parade.
People chanted “USA!” and honked car horns as the procession slowly moved past.
A man weaved through the parade on his bike, a parrot on his shoulder and another in a cage latched to a tiny trailer.
Horses pranced to the beat of a marching band, while members of a local karate club chopped the air.
Jessenia Cota sat along the parade route with her 5-month-old daughter, Olivia.
Posted: July 5, 2015, 5:49 am
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission received a report of the break at 8:22 a.m. in Eureka Valley, said Catania Galván, a spokeswoman with the agency.
On Friday, an aging 12-inch main at Potrero Avenue and 22nd Street burst, sending water spilling down the street past San Francisco General Hospital.
Hamed Aleaziz is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
Posted: July 4, 2015, 10:17 pm
July Fourth fireworks chief sees himself as an artist in the sky
When talking about his work as a pyrotechnician, Jeff Thomas is quick to address the misconceptions.
Having spent the past 41 years launching fireworks over the Bay Area, Thomas is just as quick when it comes to talking about the explosive craft he describes as an art form.
“We’re painting the sky with color and effects and pyrotechnic devices,” he said, as crews loaded the explosive shells and mortars onto a barge at Pier 50 in San Francisco.
The way you send it up in the air to match the feel of the music, the different sequences you choose, it’s very much an art form, and you try to outdo yourself every year.
All throughout this year, we’ll get the orders placed, they start getting shipped over, we do testing of the products, see what they look like, get a feel for them — and that fills our palette of paint for the next year.
Saturday’s show will feature 10,000 effects, with “every color you can think of and every shape you can imagine,” he said.
What used to be just random effects fired here and there into the sky is now charted on computer software, with technicians taking into consideration how high to shoot them, whether to compensate for the fog line and when to bring out the big guns.
With fireworks, “it’s easy to entertain,” Thomas said.
[...] this just allows us to take the art form to a higher level.
Hurry up, let’s go
Many of the dozens of people sweating in the sun as they loaded the barge Friday said they shared Thomas’ passion for the craft.
“I was always the kid saying, ‘Hurry up, let’s go, I can hear them!’” said Lisa Conley, an operator for the show.
“There are a whole lot of people besides myself that are working on this stuff, and there’s a sense of accomplishment,” Thomas said.
They won’t have much time to celebrate once their work is done Saturday — Thomas says as soon as the show is over, the crew is focused on cleanup.
[...] the next day, the planning begins again.
E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @VivianHo
Posted: July 4, 2015, 4:01 am
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission received a report of the break at 5:30 a.m., said Catania Galvan, a spokeswoman with the agency.
The break occurred in a 12-inch transmission line located at the intersection of 22nd Street and Potrero Avenue and did not affect local customers, she said.
The agency is replacing the entire aging water main along Potrero as part of its water system improvement program, she said.
Posted: July 4, 2015, 1:55 am
California regulators radically revamped the way electricity rates work in the state, approving changes Friday that will raise monthly utility bills for the most energy-efficient homeowners while giving many bigger energy users a break.
The California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to narrow the gap between prices paid by people who use very little electricity and those who consume more.
Over time, that gap has grown so wide that the most efficient Californians now pay less for electricity than the utilities spend supplying it to them.
California has long charged utility customers higher prices for using large amounts of electricity as a way to encourage conservation.
[...] while the commission’s vote will benefit many homeowners who use more than average, the biggest energy “hogs” now will face a new penalty, a “super-user electric surcharge” designed to prod them to conserve.
[...] most residential customers will soon pay different prices for electricity use at different times of day, with the highest prices likely hitting in the afternoon.
The move, long studied by California officials, could reduce the strain on the state’s power grid when electricity demand reaches its daily, late-afternoon peak.
Shifting some electricity use to midday or the evening, in turn, could help the state integrate more solar and wind power into the energy mix.
Solar power plants hit their maximum output just after noon, while California’s wind farms generate most of their electricity at night.
“We’re committed to helping our customers and their families understand the changes and the best ways they can be energy-efficient and save money,” said Greg Snapper, spokesman for PG&E.
[...] with many Californians installing home solar arrays and slashing their utility bills, the commission wanted to ensure that all customers pay their share for maintaining the power grid.
For years, all electricity rate increases — to pay for new equipment, safety upgrades or the state’s expanded use of renewable power — hit only the upper tiers, not the lower, letting the gap between them grow wider.
“Public opposition to eliminating conservation incentives was loud and clear, as was utility support,” said Mark Toney, head of The Utility Reform Network, a consumer group.
The commission also voted to slap a surcharge on the biggest residential energy users, those whose electricity usage is four times higher than the bottom tier.
The utilities preferred the first proposal, while consumer advocates largely backed Florio’s alternative.
Posted: July 4, 2015, 1:51 am
An unprecedented gathering of baby great white sharks near the Monterey Bay shoreline this week has scientists as curious as the public about what happens next.
The arrival of more sharks, perhaps even the giant great whites on the tails of these smaller ones?
Or their departure from local beaches to the sites of large elephant seal populations for feeding?
Most of the sharks are 8- to 12-foot juveniles, part of a rookery that has been displaced north by the gathering strength of an El Niño, said Sean Van Sommeran, executive director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation.
“It’s the same process of dynamics and water currents that has driven sea lions north,” Van Sommeran said.
No record exists of such a gathering in Monterey Bay or Bay Area coastal waters, though, perhaps as a prelude, a great white shark was verified inside Monterey harbor last year, Van Sommeran said.
Rangers have since posted a shark warning sign at the kiosk near the park’s campground.
A week after the first en masse sighting, a great white swam under a kayak Tuesday — and the paddler, a marine biologist out to see the sharks, snapped a series of photos unlike anything ever seen on the Central Coast.
“I was just off the cement ship (the ruins of the Palo Alto, just off Seacliff State Beach) when this 8-foot great white shark swam right under my kayak,” said Giancarlo Thomae, who works as an interpretive specialist for a whale watching operation.
Posted: July 4, 2015, 1:14 am
The University of California has a new feature on its undergraduate application — questions that ask aspiring students to share their gender identity and sexual orientation.
The voluntary, three-question survey won’t affect a student’s chance of getting in, officials said, but will gauge the LGBT population on campus so the schools know how to best provide support and services.
The questions represent one of several measures taken by a UC task force — made up of students and LGBT advocates and experts, on and off campus — that seeks to be at the forefront of reforms as they work with the nine undergraduate campuses.
Seeking a more inclusive climate, the university system as of this week requires new or renovated buildings to have gender-neutral restrooms and changing rooms, and this year allowed students to add a preferred name, along with their legal name, to campus records.
“This is something that is important to the president,” said Pamela Brown, vice president of institutional research and a member of the advisory council.
Last August, Mills College — a women’s college in Oakland — became the only single-sex college to let applicants choose a gender for enrollment, welcoming any applicants “not assigned to the female sex at birth,” as long as they identify as women.
Passed in 2011, it encourages changes to improve “quality of life” for LGBT students and requests that schools “collect aggregate demographic information regarding sexual orientation and gender identity of staff and students.”
Eventually, Brown said, the school hopes to expand the survey to graduate students and all UC employees.
Theresa Sparks, a transgender woman who directs the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and serves on the UC advisory board, said that knowing how many LGBT students are on campus will help the schools provide stronger outreach.
What sex were you assigned at birth, such as on an original birth certificate? (Male or female)
Posted: July 3, 2015, 10:43 pm
A Contra Costa County sheriff’s boat began taking on water and sank Thursday morning near Bay Point, forcing the deputies aboard to swim to shore, officials said.
Around 9:20 a.m., a marine patrol boat was traveling along the shoreline near Bay Point in eastern Contra Costa County when the vessel began leaking at an “uncontrollable rate,” according to Jimmy Lee, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
The location of the sunken boat was marked with buoys and a salvage crew removed it by Thursday evening, Lee said.
Posted: July 3, 2015, 2:30 am
A judge on Thursday rejected a request for a temporary restraining order against prosecutors by the company that built the Berkeley apartment complex where six people died in a balcony collapse.
Judge Evelio Grillo of Alameda County Superior Court said Segue Construction Inc. of Pleasanton had not shown evidence that it would suffer “irreparable harm” if the district attorney’s investigators were to inspect the balcony and a second rotted deck without the company’s participation.
The tests are part of a criminal investigation into the June 16 collapse of a rotted-out balcony at the apartment complex at 2020 Kittredge St., in which six people were killed and seven were injured.
In court Thursday, Victoria Ersoff, an attorney for Segue, said the company wanted to preserve evidence for both the criminal case and lawsuits likely to be filed over the collapse.
Assistant District Attorney Micheal O’Connor disagreed, saying, Forensic examination of evidence could hardly be described as tampering.
O’Connor wrote in a court filing that any court injunction “controlling a criminal investigation would infringe on the powers of the executive branch” and “fails to account for the interests of the public in general and of the victims of the collapse in particular.”
Posted: July 2, 2015, 11:00 pm
Transit service, S.F. parking for Fourth of July weekend
Holiday transit and services Friday and Saturday:
offices and courts
Regular weekday service Friday, Sunday schedule on Saturday
Regular weekday service Friday, Sunday/holiday schedule on Saturday.
Golden Gate Transit
Reduced weekday service for Larkspur and Sausalito ferries on Friday.
For buses, no service on the 25 and 37 lines, and extra service on the 36 and 71 routes.
On Saturday, weekend schedule for ferries and Sunday schedule for buses.
No service on 24, 60 and 86 lines Friday; weekday schedule for other routes.
Regular weekday schedule on Friday.
Weekend schedule on Saturday, with four extra southbound trains after the San Francisco fireworks show.
Regular weekday service on Friday, Sunday schedule on Saturday.
Meters and all weekday parking restrictions enforced on Friday.
Posted: July 2, 2015, 10:50 pm
San Francisco’s Embarcadero, one of the city’s most popular destinations for Bay Area residents and visitors, was the scene of a shooting Wednesday evening that left a woman dead and a man detained for questioning as a person of interest.
The fatal incident occurred at around 6:30 p.m. on Pier 14, a pedestrian pier atop a breakwater south of the Ferry Building and Mission Street.
Officers responding to calls found a woman with a gunshot wound in the upper torso, according to Officer Carlos Manfredi, a police spokesman.
Witnesses on the scene heard no argument or dispute before the gunfire, according to Manfredi, which suggests that the incident was random.
“It appears she was here with family,” Manfredi said, standing in front of yellow police tape on a promenade that attracts thousands of strollers and joggers each day.
Posted: July 2, 2015, 10:40 pm
Posted: July 2, 2015, 8:29 pm
Posted: July 2, 2015, 6:48 pm