The wet weather moving through the Bay Area on Friday evening caused headaches for air travelers out of San Francisco International Airport, with officials reporting major delays and cancellations.
Flights in and out of the SFO were delayed up to two hours, said duty manager Dan D’Innocenti, and more than 100 flights had been canceled as of 6 p.m.
D’Innocenti said travelers should call their airline to check on their flights.
Kale Williams is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @sfkale
Posted: December 20, 2014, 3:10 am
A person was fatally struck on the Caltrain tracks in Mountain View on Friday evening, authorities said.
The person, who was not identified, was struck by northbound train No. 381 around 6 p.m., according to a Caltrain spokeswoman.
Southbound trains were turning around at the Mountain View Station and a bus bridge was set up to cover the gap in service.
Caltrain officials told commuters to expect delays.
Kale Williams is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @sfkale
Posted: December 20, 2014, 2:57 am
The November election results were only finalized a few weeks ago, but already San Francisco’s political class is looking to 2016 — and it is already appearing that the city’s state Senate race could be interesting.
Progressive stalwart Tom Ammiano, who was just termed out of the Assembly, has already opened a 2016 campaign finance account for Senate District 11 — though he said he’s far from certain to be running.
Ammiano, 73, who previously served on the Board of Supervisors and school board and has been a gay-rights leader for decades, said he’s been getting questions from both supporters in the city and allies in the state Capitol.
[...] it should be said that it’s not unusual for politicians to open campaign finance accounts well before they officially decide whether to run — if for no for any other reason than to have a place to stash their cash.
Posted: December 20, 2014, 2:24 am
A Bay Bridge oversight panel voted Friday to leave more than 2,000 potentially problematic rods and bolts in place on the new eastern span, rejecting a metallurgist’s attack on the $20 million testing program that vouched for their safety as unmerited.
The unanimous decision by the three-member Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee appears to lay to rest one of the biggest uncertainties hanging over the $6.4 billion project — whether hundreds of the steel fasteners will have to be replaced at toll-payers’ expense.
After 32 high-strength, galvanized rods broke in March 2013, Caltrans created a testing program to determine whether the remaining zinc-coated fasteners on the bridge were similarly at risk.
The rods and bolts anchor the bridge’s main cable to the road deck, secure it to the top of the tower and hold down structures designed to keep the bridge from swaying excessively in an earthquake.
Testers concluded that the rods that failed last year were different from the other fasteners on the span and were particularly vulnerable to attack from hydrogen, which can make steel brittle.
In a study released this month, Chung concluded that the testing couldn’t reach any reliable findings about the rods and bolts and advocated replacing many of them.
At Friday’s meeting of the oversight committee in Sacramento, panel member Steve Heminger called Chung’s criticisms “credible but not convincing.”
In a related matter, Bill Casey, Caltrans’ resident engineer on the Bay Bridge project, briefed the panel about water found inside sleeves that house 400 high-strength anchor rods at the base of the span’s tower.
Posted: December 20, 2014, 1:48 am
The men wore suits and ties and the ladies hats and gloves, and the restaurant was also done up, with colorful Christmas lights competing for attention with the shiny red chairs and booths.
[...] many restaurateurs have a personal connection to their holiday decorating and notice, in turn, that many customers return year after year to experience the twinkly atmosphere.
The seasonal fever even makes some restaurant owners go all out and bring in a plant-scaping company for an evergreen overhaul or hire a designer to tie the decorations into the more contemporary spaces.
“We have generations of customers who come in just because it’s so festive,” said John Konstin, owner of the century-old John’s Grill, where the wood-paneled interior is practically obscured by 11 lit-up Christmas trees and nutcrackers the size of small children.
The interior landscaping company Plant Escape starts work on the restaurant’s second and third floors on the day before Thanksgiving, and then finishes up the main floor and exterior on Thanksgiving Day, one of the few times the restaurant is closed.
Several other San Francisco restaurants have a staff member with a flair for decorating who will head up the process.
At Boulevard, a longtime waiter leads a team of about 10 people in a 24-hour decorating spree.
Oakes broke a cardinal rule of her New England upbringing this year, she said, and asked for the decorating to start before Thanksgiving.
Zuni Cafe is dominated by a dramatic two-story tree, but there aren’t garlands and golden bows covering every other spare corner.
At AQ, which changes its decor seasonally, sparkly white balls hang from the warehouse-high ceilings and bare branches create the icy feel of a winter forest.
When Anthony Healy-London and Matt Conway opened Brass Tacks in the Hayes Valley space that had previously housed the beloved gay bar Marlena’s, it soon became clear they would also have to take over Marlena’s collection of Santas.
Most of the Santas were made by an artist in Santa Barbara and have a fairy-tale look, with pointy noses and round cheeks, and range in size from 8 inches to about 3 feet.
[...] that Elena Duggan (no relation to the reporter) and her brother, John, are in charge of Original Joe’s in North Beach, they put up white lights rather than the super-colorful ones her mom insisted on, but, overall, the decorations are still over the top.
Posted: December 20, 2014, 1:42 am
[...] behind the season’s promising start, California’s billion-dollar ski industry is trying to fortify itself for a future that may include higher temperatures and less snow, to allow it to thrive even during dry times like the past three years of drought.
The two big resorts west of Lake Tahoe are in the middle of a joint $70 million project to create a year-round entertainment village with a spa and yoga studio and a cluster of upscale restaurants and bars.
To the north, Boreal Mountain Resort opened a 33,000-square-foot action park, called Woodward Tahoe, to provide a playground not only for skiers but also for BMX bikers, skateboarders and cheerleading squads.
Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe, meanwhile, is pushing forward with a family-oriented Summer Mountain Adventure with rope courses, water tubing and an elevated toboggan ride.
While skiing remains the mainstay in the region, it’s no longer the only formula for success.
Federal legislation in 2011, sought by the ski industry, made it easier for winter resorts that operate on U.S. Forest Service land to get permits for non-ski activities.
Snowpack averaged just 40 percent of normal, according to state figures, and many resorts opened late in the season and closed early.
Many skiers either stayed home or took their passion to places like Colorado or Europe.
[...] the resorts didn’t give in to the downturn, said Dave Byrd, the director of risk and regulatory affairs management for the National Ski Areas Association.
The state has seen not only one of its driest three-year periods but also some of its highest temperatures in more than a century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
While several studies suggest that snowpack in Western states has declined since the 1950s, Sierra snow levels have remained fairly constant, the studies show.
Patrick Tierney, a professor of recreation, parks and tourism at San Francisco State University, said climate change and more extreme weather events, like drought, are already forging winners and losers in the ski industry.
Communities that rely on the ski industry, for work at the lodges or selling food and gear nearby, will be the hardest hit, Tierney said.
Posted: December 20, 2014, 1:40 am
Westbound traffic on the Bay Bridge was snarled Thursday evening after a motorcycle crashed into a car, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Just after 6 p.m. a motorcyclist clipped a car and went down on the westbound side of the bridge, CHP Officer Peter Van Eckhardt said, causing major injuries to the motorcyclist and closing three of the five lanes to traffic.
The motorcyclist was conscious and alert when paramedics arrived on and was take to a hospital, but the extent of his injuries was unknown, Van Eckhardt said.
Posted: December 20, 2014, 12:08 am
San Franciscans may be running out of dry socks during this December of welcome if relentless rain.
The afternoon westerlies, unchecked by buildings or trees, whipped through the sand that covered much of the city, invading buildings, tents and clothing with fine particles of grit.
On the August day he arrived, New York Tribune correspondent Bayard Taylor reported, “A furious wind was blowing down through a gap in the hills, filling the streets with clouds of dust.”
A 49er named Charles H. Randall lamented, A breeze springs up daily that is cold and blows the dust here so bad that all comfort is blown away with it.
Of all the places I have ever seen, this is the meanest climate, most disagreeable temperatures and I verily believe the dirtiest place in the world.
English novelist Eliza Farnham was so appalled by San Francisco’s weather that she predicted a dark fate for anyone who settled here: “What sort of end the unfortunates, who spend their lives there, can expect under such circumstances, one does not easily foresee.”
More than 3 inches fell that month, but the floodgates really opened in November, when 8.66 inches came down.
The constant rain turned the city’s unpaved streets into boulevards of slop.
San Francisco in Letters and Diaries, 1849-1850, edited by William Benemann, a New York artist named William Smith Jewett described what happened when he and his companions tried to walk into town after rowing from their ship to the wharf at Clark’s Point, near what is now the corner of Broadway and Battery.
Pick, jump, stride and totter and we got into something that no doubt looks very like a street on a map but it was not recognizable in its natural form, although they called it 'Broadway.’
The party gave up, went back and spent the night on their ship.
San Francisco in 1849, the instant city’s main commercial district, which extended from Montgomery Street at the edge of the bay up to Portsmouth Square, was a “virtual quagmire.”
A wag posted a sign at the corner of Kearny and Clay that read, “This street is not passable, not even jackassable!”
Because lumber cost $400 to $500 per thousand feet and was all being used for housing, planking the streets was too expensive.
[...] San Franciscans dumped anything they could get their hands on into the mud — branches, brush, boxes, garbage, sheet lead, cases of tobacco, even three barrels of revolvers.
Montgomery Street merchants used boxes and barrels to make stepping stones.
Throw in wet clothing and bedding, and it’s no surprise that many 49ers contracted pneumonia.
[...] many of the streets were planked, and houses increasingly replaced tents.
Gary Kamiya is the author of the best-selling book “Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco,” awarded the 2013 Northern California Book Award in creative nonfiction.
All the material in Portals of the Past is original for The San Francisco Chronicle.
Every corner in San Francisco has an astonishing story to tell.
Every Saturday, Gary Kamiya’s Portals of the Past will tell one of those lost stories, using a specific location to illuminate San Francisco’s extraordinary history — from the days when giant mammoths wandered through what is now North Beach, to the Gold Rush delirium, the dot-com madness and beyond.
Posted: December 19, 2014, 11:30 pm
The main complaint is about slow response times by the department’s ambulances.
There was an infamous two-hour wait on a call on Labor Day, and O’Connor says “we ran out of ambulances” as recently as Tuesday so some calls were turned over to private ambulance companies.
[...] to review, there aren’t enough ambulances or people to staff them.
The department is aware of that, and Hayes-White says now that the economy has improved — after six years of budget cuts — the department has the money to address those shortages.
The big news this week was a vote by O’Connor’s union that he says showed that 81 percent of the members voted “no confidence” in the chief.
There are 1,555 people in the department, meaning that 710 didn’t bother to vote.
Hayes-White’s supporters are taking that number, adding the 156 who voted for support and saying that more than 800 members did not support a no-confidence vote, either by casting a ballot in favor or by ignoring the poll altogether.
[...] while O’Connor sees that as stat-spinning — “There isn’t this huge, silent majority that didn’t vote” — it does undercut the idea that this is a unified Fire Department up in arms.
Hayes-White disciplined not only the driver, who fled the scene, but two assistant chiefs, saying they were accountable.
Not only was the driver seen on video chugging water at a nearby bar afterward, but a 2004 grand jury report found widespread drinking at firehouses.
Drinking on duty is inexcusable, and if the Fire Department supervisors didn’t stop it, or didn’t know, they were negligent.
O’Connor insists “this has absolutely nothing to do with discipline,” but it is an open secret that some of the rank and file weren’t happy being called on the carpet, particularly by a woman.
[...] it wouldn’t astonish me if Hayes-White decided to retire in the near future.
Posted: December 19, 2014, 10:59 pm
Rain causes Highway 1 mudslide, but dry spell coming A mudslide along Highway 1 north of Stinson Beach closed the road between that community and Bolinas on Friday afternoon. A lot of people, said California Highway Patrol Officer Andrew Barclay in Marin County, noting an especially high volume of cars near shopping malls. Since the rain year started July 1, downtown San Francisco has received 15.19 inches of rain, nearly twice what the city averages for the period.
Posted: December 19, 2014, 10:53 pm
A wastewater overflow will shut down down Angel Island State Park for the weekend, with ferry service canceled, officials said Friday. Park workers discovered the overflow of treated wastewater Friday morning, and believe it was caused by the recent rainfall. A park closure on Saturday and Sunday is necessary to allow the system to recover, officials said. Vivian Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @VivianHo
Posted: December 19, 2014, 8:54 pm
A decaying bayfront pier that has resisted development plans for decades would become a beach volleyball venue and then a new over-water park if San Francisco is awarded the 2024 Olympic Summer Games.
Tennis would be played on Treasure Island, and track and field events contested at a temporary stadium in Brisbane.
The idea is to contain costs in an era when the Olympic Games — particularly in Beijing in 2008 and Sochi, Russia, in 2014 — have often been marked by profligate public spending on facilities that sit vacant afterward.
Public funds are being counted on for transportation improvements, many of them already planned, that include electrifying Caltrain, extending BART to San Jose, and building bus rapid transit lines in San Francisco.
San Francisco’s Olympic Village to house the athletes would be in 2,000 units of housing already approved as the fourth phase of development at the Hunters Point shipyard, which Olympic organizers would rent from developer Lennar Urban.
[...] as it stands, 23 of the 26 planned venues are either already built, like Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara; in development, like the Golden State Warriors’ arena in San Francisco’s Mission Bay; or will be temporary, including a $350 million, 65,000-seat “pop-up” stadium on a damp stretch of land in Brisbane where track and field events and the Opening and Closing ceremonies would be held.
Rather than go the route of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, where construction of major venues helped drive costs to an estimated $44 billion, San Francisco is trying to apply the model used in London in 2012.
The only permanent facilities planned to be built are a tennis center and BMX park on Treasure Island, which would remain to serve the planned neighborhood there, and a canoe slalom course in Vallejo, organizers said.
Piers 30-32, a 13-acre concrete slab with gorgeous views of the Bay Bridge, reprise their role as a site for competitive beach volleyball.
The professional beach volleyball tour made it a regular stop from 2007 to 2009.
[...] the hope is the port and the Olympic bid committee together can come up with the money to repair the piers for a lighter use such as volleyball, and the funding to turn it into a park afterward — something neighbors have been seeking for years.
Hosting any Olympics, “looks more and more like a boondoggle,” said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in Massachusetts and author of the book Circus Maximus: the Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and World Cup.
Posted: December 19, 2014, 4:32 pm
The revelation by Oakland police that they didn’t know the CHP had planted masked undercover officers in a crowd of protesters in the city — at least until those officers were attacked, and one pulled out a gun — highlights concerns about how authorities are cooperating as they deal with demonstrations that often range across city borders.
An attorney who is part of a court-ordered police reform effort in Oakland said the California Highway Patrol operation violated Oakland’s crowd-control policy.
[...] he said it could have led to tragedy after one of the officers pointed his gun at members of the crowd, including a photographer working for The Chronicle.
The two officers were recognized and outed as law enforcement by protesters near Lake Merritt at about 11:30 p.m. Just before the officers were identified, vandals traveling with the group had smashed the windows of a T-Mobile store in Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood and made off with merchandise.
According to authorities and witnesses, one of the protesters took a hat from an officer and punched him in the head, prompting the second officer to pull out a baton and then a gun, which he aimed across the crowd to keep people away from him and his partner.
Berkeley police officials did not return calls for comment Thursday, and have not said if the department’s command staff knew about the CHP officers.
Chanin said the undercover officers were in violation of Oakland’s crowd-control policy, which mandates that officers from outside agencies who contribute “mutual aid” are not “assigned to front-line positions or used for crowd intervention, control or dispersal unless there is a public safety emergency.”
In 2001, an undercover narcotics officer was killed by two fellow Oakland police officers who came upon him in plainclothes with his gun drawn.
On Dec. 9, CHP officers who were protecting Highway 24 in Oakland fired projectiles designed to be less lethal than bullets into a crowd below the roadway, striking at least one person.
[...] Oakland’s crowd-control policy states that officers should only use weapons like beanbags or rubber bullets to subdue specific threatening people — not to control crowds.
An Oakland police spokeswoman said the department does not use those projectiles, while Chief Sean Whent said in a news conference the next day that department officers only deployed one chemical agent canister that night.
The officer who drew his weapon is still on active duty, and the officer who was attacked — and later kicked in the head by another protester while trying to make an arrest — suffered head injuries and was displaying concussion-like symptoms, officials said.
Court records show undercover Oakland officers have played key roles in numerous other protests, pointing out suspects accused of wrongdoing to uniformed officers.
Posted: December 19, 2014, 6:15 am
A common over-the-counter pain reliever found in most medicine cabinets may be the key to longer life — at least for worms and fruit flies.
[...] scientists want to discover whether regular doses of ibuprofen can extend human lives.
Researchers at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato found in a recent study that regular doses of ibuprofen equivalent to what a human would take extended the life span of yeast, worms and fruit flies by an average of 15 percent when compared with their species counterparts.
Ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, was created in England more than 50 years ago and is used for relieving pain and reducing fever and inflammation.
While most people can tolerate it, the drug can cause side effects such as bleeding ulcers and intestinal problems and can be particularly risky for elderly people.
[...] yeast and worms lack the pathways that respond to inflammation, so when the researchers noticed that they lived longer when dosed with ibuprofen, they realized something else had to be in play.
The three-year study, done in collaboration with Texas A&M University’s Agrilife program, showed that the painkiller’s effect on metabolic activity was probably responsible for its ability to extend life, researchers said.
Specifically, it interferes with the body’s ability to transport amino acids, the most important of which is called tryptophan, which humans get from protein sources in their diets.
[...] in addition to the side effects, Schwartz said, studies have shown that the medication may be associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and hasn’t helped those with dementia.
A growing number of people — most notably Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel in his controversial Atlantic article, “Why I Hope to Die at 75” — are also questioning the value of efforts to extend life span, especially if that means living with pain, dementia, disability and disease.
Posted: December 19, 2014, 5:20 am
“We understand that the community has been concerned about the flaring activity,” Chevron spokeswoman Heather Kulp said in a statement at 8:30 p.m. The initial flaring had died down by then, but she said it might recur intermittently as Chevron depressurizes one of its refinery process units.
“There has been no impact to the community, and the refinery fence-line monitors are showing that the air quality is well within quality standards,” Kulp said.
The refinery was the site of a fire in August 2012 that sent 15,000 local residents to hospitals complaining of breathing problems.
In a 2005 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Chevron agreed to limit flaring at Richmond and its other refineries and account for each flaring event.
Posted: December 19, 2014, 5:02 am