Sunday, March 29, 2015

Despite Bird Deaths, Electric Wind Farm Wins Permit Extensions

By Doug Oakley
OAKLAND -- An electric wind turbine company at the Altamont Pass can continue running 828 older generation windmills until 2018 despite estimates they will kill an estimated 1,600 birds during that time, following a 3-2 vote by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. 

The board overrode a vote of the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments to deny Altamont Winds, Inc., the right to run the older windmills. It also went against its own staff recommendation, the wishes of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state Attorney General's office, Audubon California and others. 

Those opposing the permit extension for the company argued that the older wind turbines are killing too many birds. But Altamont Winds argued rodent poison and other factors are killing more birds than people think. 

"There is a significant amount of unknown bird death reasons," said Altamont Winds President Rick Koebbe, who added that if his permits were revoked, his company would go out of business. 

The Fish and Wildlife Service said 31 golden eagles have been killed by Altamont Winds' turbines since 2010. In a letter to supervisors, the agency said an extension would likely result in more eagle deaths, increase the company's liability and subject the county to increased scrutiny. 

And a statement from the state Attorney General's office said a permit extension would "create serious inequalities for other turbine operators and will undercut current efforts to repower." 

But County Supervisor Nate Miley said he was not convinced. 

"What people are saying is Altamont Winds is responsible for avian mortalities," Miley said. "I find that incredulous. Even when the turbines are turned off, the birds are still dying. I don't understand why folks are putting all that responsibility on them. It baffles me. I don't understand why people want to put this company out of business." 

County planners say the company's turbines are at least 20 years old and that newer windmills, which are taller and more out of the bird flyway, will kill fewer birds. Just one newer model turbine can produce the same amount of electricity as 18 to 20 older ones, industry representatives say. 

Audubon California estimated a three-year extension of the permits would kill up 1,600 birds, including golden eagles, burrowing owls, American kestrels and red-tailed hawks. 

Cindy Margulis, executive director of Golden Gate Audubon Society, argued against giving the company more time to swap its older turbines for newer ones. 

"We believe it is possible to do wind power properly, and the time has come to end this 1980s technology in the middle of the Bay Area," Margulis said. "It means a huge net gain for jobs in Alameda County when you take 828 old turbines and build new ones. You need all kinds of people for that." 

According to an agreement with Altamont Winds and Alameda County, the company was supposed to have finished the job by Oct. 31 of this year. 

"We knew there was a possibility we couldn't get everything done because of all the variables," Koebbe said. 

Alameda County's portion of the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, a 14,000 acre area between Livermore and Tracy, is in the midst of a major decommissioning of old turbines, with companies such as NextEra Energy and EDF Renewable Energy making progress on replacing old turbines with new ones. In 2007, the wind companies, Alameda County and several environmental groups settled a lawsuit and agreed to cut bird deaths in half and replace turbines by 2015. 

Altamont Winds did not participate in the agreement. 

In 2013, the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments agreed to allow Altamont Winds to continue operating all of its old turbines on the condition it would shut them down completely by Oct. 31, 2015. The company requested an extension in 2014. The zoning board unanimously rejected the request on Feb. 2. Altamont Winds appealed. 

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

10 year old Eyes World Record in Half Marathon

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
OAKLAND -- When he grows up, 10-year-old Elliot Daniels wants to run the 10,000-meter race in the Olympics and break the world record. 

For now, though, the Campbell kid has his sights on the world record for 10-year-olds in the half-marathon Sunday (March 22) at the Oakland Running Festival. 

This will be his first half marathon. The longest he's run was in the 10K Valentine Fun Run in Campbell in February when he clocked in a personal best 38 minutes, 22 seconds. 

"I feel ready," Elliot said of Sunday's 13.1"'mile race, in which he needs to best a time of one hour, 31 minutes, eight seconds -- or just under 7 minutes per mile -- set March 7 in Davis by fellow 10-year-old Jack Butler, according to the Association of Road Racing Statisticians. 

In its sixth year, the Oakland Running Festival is expected to draw 10,000 runners, who will compete in a marathon, a four-person marathon relay, a half-marathon, a 5K, a combination race of a 5K and a half-marathon, and a kids fun run that tops out at a quarter-mile. 

Online registration is closed, but runners still can register at the Oakland Marriott City Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. 

Elliot will be wearing No. 2004, the year of his birth, festival spokesman Dave Gell said. 

"I really like running because it's something I'm good at," he said. "It's something I enjoy, because it keeps me from being bored. It keeps me out of trouble." 

Elliot, who loves to run and whose small and light body type lends itself to the sport, ran about 1,560 miles last year, according to his father, Brian Daniels. He's only been running competitively for a year but has already tallied about 30 races. 

"I was teaching a running club at his charter school," Daniels said, "and he asked if he could hang around with me and the rest of the kids, and the head coach of the club said, 'Hey, he's a runner.' " 

Elliot, who is motivated by an older cousin, who also runs, hasn't stopped hitting the pavement since. 

"He ran and won a 5K (in his age group) at an Oktoberfest down here in Campbell," Daniels said. "Then last summer we brought him to an open track meet at Los Gatos High, and he ran some races, and everybody in these running clubs was asking him to run with them." 

Daniels said his son will "destroy" the latest world record in the half-marathon. During training, he has clocked Elliot at one hour, 28 minutes. 

"He also wants to break his older cousin's time of one hour, 24 minutes, 42 seconds that he ran in 1984," Daniels said. "Running is our family gift. It's our thing." 

Having a 10-year-old run 13.1 miles is not worrisome to Elliot's dad, who said he's had "people bug me about pushing him and all that, but it's him. He wants to do it. If he couldn't run, he'd cry. It brings him joy. It's the most satisfying thing in his life." 

Daniels added that his kid probably knows "more about fitness than 90 percent of the adults out there." 

For the race Sunday, Elliot plans to eat some pasta, vegetables and juice the night before, then the day of the race he will eat "a little oatmeal, a little bit of sweet potato and some more juice." 

While he's running on Sunday, Elliot said he likely will be thinking "about how much time I have until my next race." 

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Oakland Funeral for Slain 14 Year Old Draws More Than 1,000

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
OAKLAND -- The open casket of 14-year-old Davon Ellis drew gasps from the throngs of teenage girls who filed by, hands over their mouths. Young men, wearing sunglasses and dressed in white from head to toe, tried to keep it together. 

Adults paused and wept; others stopped for only a second or two and kept on going. 

More than 1,000 people attended the funeral Tuesday in East Oakland for Davon, an Oakland Technical High School honor student and football player who was shot to death Feb. 28 on Brookdale Avenue in the Fruitvale district as he and two friends walked to a store. 

The high-profile funeral brought family and friends, a representative from Rep. Barbara Lee's office, Oakland school board member Nina Senn and Oakland Councilwoman Annie Campbell Washington. 

"He should not be in that casket," his father, Christopher Ellis, said during the funeral. "No family should go through this. It doesn't make any sense. We need to work as a community to clean up these streets. I'm going to spend the rest of my days to clean up the community." 

A peace march is planned for Davon 1:30 p.m. Sunday starting at Mosswood Park to Oakland Technical High School. 

"It's for all the kids," said Todd Walker, a close friend of the family. "We're tired of losing our kids. There's going to be a lot of kids there. And it's a march, not a protest." 

Christopher Ellis, at times overcome by tears, said that his son was "everything" to him and that he dedicated his life to making sure "everything was right for Davon." 

Like many of the other speakers at the funeral, held at Acts Full Gospel Church, Ellis called for an end to the violence. 

"At one point in time, black people had love for each other," Ellis said. "We gotta get back to that. There's too much fighting and too much shooting. We need to start showing more love and compassion toward each other." 

Police have not made any arrests in the case, but last week they did have a person of interest who was in custody for an unrelated crime, said Oakland police Chief Sean Whent. 

Russell Winston Jr., who coached Davon on the Bay Area Spartans football team, said he knew him from the time he was "this little chocolate boy, just galloping all over the place." 

"Davon was what us coaches call a coach's player," Winston said. "He never talked back. If Davon made a mistake, he'd say, 'My bad, coach. I got you.' He was the true meaning of an all-star player. He was an all-star in the classroom as well." 

Winston said Davon was a feared football player on defense. 

"You better not throw to his side; he's going to take it out of the air," Winston said. "On offense he played running back, wing back, right end, left end and receiver." 

LaKisha Ellis, Davon's stepmother, said she is going to miss Davon's friends coming over to her house and eating everything in sight. 

"Davon had a lot of friends who would come to my house, raid my refrigerator, raid my snack cabinet," Ellis said. "You guys are welcome to come to my house and still raid my refrigerator because that's what's going to keep him alive." 

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Oakland to Open School Closed in 2012

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
OAKLAND -- Parents pushing the school district to reopen Santa Fe Elementary School on 54th Street got their collective foot in the door Wednesday night with a nod from the school board. 

The board voted unanimously to reopen the school for two years starting in fall of 2016 to accommodate students displaced from Glenview Elementary School by a two-year seismic rebuild. In addition, the school district will allow students from the Santa Fe neighborhood to attend. 

"We're very happy," said Megan Low, who lives across the street from Santa Fe with her 3-year-old son and is expecting a second child. "We think it's a huge steppingstone for our goal, which is to have the school 100 percent dedicated to our community." 

Parents in the area want to reopen the school because their nearest options are over a mile away, and if they walk, they must cross busy streets to get there. 

The board's Wednesday night decision did not say whether the school will remain open permanently after Glenview is rebuilt and its students return there. 

But Oakland schools spokesman Troy Flint said the district is leaning toward keeping it open to neighborhood families. 

"While there was no decision on whether Santa Fe will remain open, the general tenor of the conversation of the board and the superintendent shows they are in favor of it," Flint said. "I would say they are open to the idea." 

While Glenview is closed for construction, the school district will offer busing for students in the Glenview neighborhood to Santa Fe, which is a distance of almost 5 miles. 

"We are absolutely looking into busing, and it's my full intention to make that available," said schools Superintendent Antwan Wilson. 

Santa Fe Elementary closed in 2012. At the time, there were about 400 school-age kids in the neighborhood, but only about 100 were choosing the school, which had an academic performance index score of 713 on a 200 to 1,000 scoring scale. 

Administrators hope that opening the school to neighborhood students does not draw down attendance at three other nearby schools: Sankofa, Emerson and Hoover elementary schools. The school district will help those schools financially with marketing materials to sell themselves to area families to try to prevent that scenario from happening. 

"This is a good opportunity for those schools to go through a self-examination process to decide what they want, and I'm glad we are going to do some promotion for them," said school board member Jody London. "Emerson and Sankofa would benefit from the resources the superintendent and staff can bring to them." 

Low and other members of the Santa Fe Education Committee who say the neighborhood is teaming with new families that could fill up the school spoke about the need for a school in their neighborhood at Wednesday night's board meeting. 

"We have a lack of accessible public schools in our area," Ben Brunetti said. "It's a school desert, and the charter schools are either not appealing because they focus on a specialty or they have difficult lotteries to get in. I have five friends who moved to the neighborhood with kids under age 4." 

The committee envisions restarting Santa Fe with kindergarten through third-grade classes in 2018, then adding one grade each year. 

Low is confident the neighborhood will have enough students to eventually fill up the school with classes from kindergarten through eighth grade. 

"We want the school district to take a closer look at the baby boom happening in this area," Low said. 'When we talk to our community, a lot of people are saying they have moved in since 2012." 

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Foster Youth Museum in Oakland Chronicles Despair and Hope

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
OAKLAND -- On his 18th birthday, Kevin Clark had "Forever Faded" tattooed on the inside of his biceps, a commitment to being wasted every day of his life: marijuana, heroin, alcohol, "basically everything you can imagine." 

Now sober, 25, and preparing to graduate with a degree in philosophy from the University of San Francisco, Clark figures prominently in the Foster Youth Museum's new exhibit called "Lost Childhoods," which opened Friday in Oakland. The museum, whose founder hopes to bring the exhibit to other venues, will be open Saturdays in March from 1 to 5 p.m. 

At the media preview Thursday night, Clark said he got the tattoo to impress his friends. The drinking and drugging probably had a lot do with the fact that his biological mother took him out of a stable foster care situation when he was 16, brought him home and enabled his addictions. 

The museum's heartbreaking displays are a slap in the face for anyone unfamiliar with the realities of foster care and the lives these young people live. 

Expertly curated and photographed by Ray Bussolari and founded by Jamie Evans, the museum includes graphic artistic depictions of developmental disruption, incarceration, psychiatric hospitalization, medication, substance abuse, physical abuse, loss and finally, hope and transformation. 

One collage tells the story, through official documents, of a Michigan woman's experience in foster care that includes hearing notices committing her to psychiatric hospitalizations, bills for electroshock therapy and lists of medications she was told to take. 

Another shows a homemade sanitary pad a woman remembers devising that used stacks of toilet paper stapled together because her foster family was too cheap to pay for supplies. Still another shows underwear and shoes issued in a juvenile detention center and a hair weave to show how kids get their hair cut when they are incarcerated. 

But you turn a corner and there is the section on transformation and hope. 

Haydee Cuza, 43, of Pinole, is featured in the transformation and hope section. Cuza was homeless at age 15 and in foster care from ages 16 to 18. 

"Don't go through this feeling sorry for foster kids," Cuza said. "People get stuck in pity and they feel overwhelmed. My foster parents saved my life. I think I was one of the lucky ones." 

Even so, she was homeless again when she was emancipated at 18 and had a child to care for. 

Clark was in foster care from ages 4 to 16, but when he was taken out, "that's when my drug use really ramped up." 

"The museum is awesome because people can take a second to think through foster care," said Clark. "It's an invitation to see an alternative lifestyle. I struggled with drugs and alcohol and was able to overcome obstacles. To my knowledge, there's nothing that's been done like this ever before." 

Evans, who works in youth leadership development, said she got the idea for the Foster Youth Museum while working with a group of former foster youth who were writing curriculum to train child welfare supervisors. 

"People kept talking about items they had from foster care they could bring in to trainings to show social workers," Evans said. "I thought, why don't we collect them, put them in an exhibit and use them in training so they can see them at their own pace." 

The exhibit, until now, has been shown only at conferences and trainings. 

"We weren't thinking, let's tell the bad stories, we were thinking, let's tell the true stories," Evans said. "This is not about hopelessness. It's about hope." 

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$500 Million Oakland Port Project Takes Trucks Off the Road, Adds Rail Freight

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
OAKLAND -- With hopes of reducing truck traffic on local highways, making shipping more efficient and creating jobs, a massive $500 million redevelopment project is taking shape at the Port of Oakland. 

Building begins this year on the publicly and privately financed project managed by the city of Oakland to replace a 330-acre U.S. Army base closed in 1993. Crews already have demolished 320,000 square feet of warehouses. 

Cleaning toxic waste left by the military and stabilizing soil for earthquakes is ongoing. 

Once the Oakland Global Trade & Logistics Center is finished, the port can use more trains to haul cargo and do more freight packing and unpacking on site rather than at locations outside the Bay Area. That, in turn, will reduce the number of cargo-carrying trucks heading out from the port along Interstates 80 and 880. 

"Everything we eat and wear is delivered by truck," said Phil Tagami, president of California Capital & Investment Group, the primary developer chosen by the city of Oakland. "Our objective is to shorten truck trips and do it in an environmentally responsible way. If we get more cargo on rail, we can reduce roadway congestion and emissions." 

Monumental project 

Motorists driving south on Interstate 880 just past the Grand Avenue exit can see some of the work begun last year, including a new $100 million rail yard with 16 parallel tracks stretching 4,000 feet. The rail yard will allow more trains to come to the port and increase the amount of cargo coming in and going out. 

Transforming the former base is a monumental process. 

"We've had 140 public meetings over three years, received 137 permits and approvals, and we're under the purview of 22 regulatory agencies," Tagami said. "The master plan is 1,700 pages in three volumes. This project is definitely not for the faint at heart." 

Tagami will start construction of a 34-acre bulk shipping terminal this year, where unpackaged commodities such as logs, steel, grain and potash will be loaded and unloaded from ships. 

Next year, new warehouses will start going up, allowing shippers to consolidate and break down shipments on site and load them on trains in the new rail yard. 

Currently, much of the packing and unpacking of loads is done off site, in places like Stockton or Reno. By doing it at the port, Tagami's group estimates 112,000 truck trips will be cut from local freeways each year. 

"The warehouses will allow shippers to consolidate and deconsolidate cargo in a number of hours," said Port of Oakland Maritime Projects Administrator Mark Erickson. "Shippers are always looking for ways to cut costs out of the supply chain, so we expect this to be very well received. Our goal is to balance the 85 percent of port traffic that comes by trucks by increasing rail trips." 

When the entire logistics center is finished in 2020, volume at the port is expected to increase by about 200,000 containers a year, a 9 percent increase over 2014. 

The new rail yard will make more room for trains to easily come and go, increasing the port's capacity from 17-car trains to 200-car trains. 

Local jobs 

The whole project is expected to create 1,800 permanent jobs and 1,500 construction jobs. It also will bring the city of Oakland about $2 million a year in rents. 

A second phase on land controlled by the Port of Oakland, where more warehouses will be built, has not yet broken ground. The port is negotiating exclusively with Tagami's team for that part of the project as well, Tagami said. 

While job estimates at the port have changed over the last few years, the city has been closely monitoring a hard-fought local rule that requires 50 percent of construction jobs to go to Oakland residents. Last year, a contractor in charge of tearing down warehouses was kicked off the job for not hiring enough local labor. 

"It's one of the biggest developments Oakland is going to have in our lifetime," said Kate O'Hara, executive director of East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, who fought for the local hire job rule. "It's a public investment on public property." 

So far, the project has generated 694 construction jobs where the city of Oakland is building warehouses and 427 on the rail yard project, which is under control of the port. While the city is meeting its local hiring obligations, the port is not subject to it, but has managed to hire 27 percent from Oakland and the remainder from local areas, including cities in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. 

Recycling facility 

Also part of the project is a 379,610-square-foot indoor recycling facility. The city is negotiating with California Waste Solutions to run that facility and hopes to sign a deal to sell the land to the company by July 2016, said Doug Cole, project manager for the city of Oakland. 

The timeline for finishing the logistics center was accelerated a bit because development on one large parcel had to be shelved due to an overwhelming amount of toxic waste under the surface. On that piece of land, crews found an entire building buried in the dirt. 

"The question is more like, 'What didn't we find there?'" Tagami said. "It's basically an Army debris field." 

By abandoning immediate development of that parcel, the city was able to focus on other areas, said Cole. 

"When we found that buried building -- we call it Building 99 -- we went back to the City Council in November and asked to put that area on hold," Cole said. "That way we can redistribute our money to different areas, so we can meet our goals by 2019 and 2020." 

The amount of demolition and recycling that has been completed is staggering. For example, 800,000 board feet of lumber was saved; 25,000 tons of concrete and asphalt were taken to grinding facilities to be reused on road projects; 383 tons of metal were recycled and another 1,650 tons of construction materials were recycled. 

Cole said that without a $242 million infusion from the state, the project never would have gotten off the ground. 

"There would have been no way the city could do this project alone," Cole said. "So there will be some big changes out there that otherwise would not have happened. It will put the old Oakland Army Base into productive use that will benefit the local and regional economy. Otherwise, it would have just sat there for who knows how long." 

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Oakland: Dori Maynard, Maynard Institute President, Remembered

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
OAKLAND -- Friends, family and colleagues from the journalism world gathered Monday (March 2) in Oakland to remember Dori Maynard, 56, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, who died of lung cancer Feb. 24. 

Maynard is the daughter of the late Robert Maynard, the first African-American editor and publisher of the Oakland Tribune. He founded the Maynard Institute, an organization dedicated to helping journalists accurately portray overlooked segments of society and to foster racial diversity in reporting. 

Novelist, poet, and playwright Ishmael Reed remembered Maynard as someone with a "droll" sense of humor. He said he visited her at home a few days before she died. 

"I said, 'Dori, look at all the people who are coming to visit you," Reed remembered. "She said, 'Yeah, when you die, everybody loves you.'" 

Maynard's mother, Liz Rosen, said her daughter "was willing to do things that might scare her to death if she thought they were worth doing," which included her first airplane flight at age 5. 

"Finally when the plane took off and I told her, 'Now we are flying,' she took hold of the arm rests on her seat and promptly fell asleep," Rosen said. "Later, she spoke truth to power even when addressing the most formidable audience. Her voice can now only be heard by those willing to carry on her work." 

In her work at the Maynard Institute, Maynard visited newsrooms across the country to teach the institute's Fault Lines training, which got journalists to recognize their own biases so they could do a better job in writing stories where race, class and gender entered the narrative. 

Felix Gutierrez, a journalism professor who helped form a partnership between the Washington, D.C.-based Freedom Forum and the Maynard Institute in the mid-1970s, said Maynard built upon the work of her father and his then-wife, Nancy Maynard. 

The two were at the "pinnacle of their careers, she at The New York Times and he at the Washington Post," when they decided to start training journalists to do a better job of reporting about whole communities, not just the white power structure, and to get more racial color in the newsroom, Gutierrez said. "They may have been at the pinnacle, but Bob and Nancy didn't want to be alone there. They wanted to help others play the game." 

So he said, they went after editors, something Dori Maynard continued. 

"They told me editors are like water buffalo: They travel in herds, they follow the leader and they gather at the same water holes, so that's where you take your message," Gutierrez said. "Many times I found myself with Bob and Nancy in front of editors, all white. Our idea was to get the message of diversity across to them. Dori built on that foundation, but she wasn't content to just to maintain it. She took the Fault Lines training into newsrooms and classrooms." 

Martin Reynolds, community engagement editor at the Bay Area News Group who teaches the Fault Lines class to colleagues at the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News, said Dori Maynard was a hard worker who was doing business until a few hours before she died. 

"Here's a woman who is a few hours away from death, and she was still pushing the work of the institute and making sure the legacy was continued," Reynolds said. "When she died, I was ready to give a Fault Lines session to my colleagues the next day. My wife asked me if I was going to take a day off. I said 'Oh no. Dori was working on the day she died; the best thing I can do to honor her work is continue the work she did.' The work of the institute must go on, and it will go on and the legacy will continue." 

Maynard is survived by her mother, Liz Rosen; brothers David and Alex Maynard; and sister Sara-Ann Rosen. 

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