Morning Splash: More High-Speed Rail Funds Cut; SF Municipal Bonds Downgraded
- Elimination of U.S. high-speed rail funds endangers California’s project (San Jose Mercury News)
In another swift blow to California’s $43 billion high-speed rail plan, federal officials Tuesday stripped all proposed funds for the mega-project this year — casting more doubt on the bullet train line’s extension into the Bay Area and Southern California. Officials in Washington had said Monday that President Barack Obama and congressional leaders had cut this year’s high-speed rail budget from $2.5 to $1 billion during Friday’s last-second deal to avert a government shutdown. But on Tuesday, officials eliminated the final $1 billion, essentially erasing all subsidies for local high-speed rail projects, including California’s 520-mile line from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It’s still unclear if the funding could be restored in the future, although the odds are stacked against bullet train backers.
- S.F. municipal bond rating downgraded by agency (SF Chronicle)
One of three major rating agencies Tuesday downgraded $2.6 billion in San Francisco municipal bonds because of concerns over shrinking reserves and short-term fixes that the city has used to balance its budget in recent years. Fitch Ratings found that “persistent and large budget gaps have been resolved year to year predominantly with one-time or temporary solutions, leaving a structural imbalance which seems unlikely to be resolved by an economic recovery.”
- San Jose council votes to sharply limit marijuana dispensaries (San Jose Mercury News)
Finally moving to stem the tide of medical marijuana shops in San Jose, a divided City Council on Tuesday tentatively approved sharp limits on where those shops can locate, restricting them largely to certain industrial and commercial zones. But the council, which has been struggling with the issue for well over a year, didn’t rally behind Mayor Chuck Reed’s effort to shut down more than 90 percent of the city’s marijuana clubs by capping their number at 10… The approved draft included a limit of 10 marijuana collectives in San Jose, a number Reed and Constant said they could support. But it was clear that several of those who had voted in favor were unaware that cap was included in what they approved, including Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, who had made the motion. She wanted 30.
- Teachers union wants Legislature to vote on taxes (SF Chronicle)
The leader of California’s largest teachers union said Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown should bypass voters and seek the approval of the Legislature for new taxes to close the state’s deficit. David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, said the union could have a harder time supporting an election later in the year, which is what would have to happen if the governor were to keep his campaign pledge.
- Bayview Dumped On — Again (Bay Citizen)
San Francisco wants to know who dumped more than 10 tons of debris, including shingles and other roofing material, on a sidewalk in the Bayview district. A neighbor discovered the mess near 1347 Donner Avenue. The Bayview has become a dumping ground for businesses that do not want to pay to dispose of their debris, leaving the San Francisco Department of Public Works to mop up. “The Southeast section of San Francisco is frequently targeted by large-scale industrial dumping activity,” said the Department’s spokeswoman, Gloria Chan.
- S.F. keeps admission fee for Botanical Garden (SF Chronicle)
Out-of-town visitors to the Botanical Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park will continue to pay an admission fee through September 2013, under an arrangement given preliminary approval Tuesday by a divided Board of Supervisors. The decision emerged as a compromise between two competing pieces of legislation, one sponsored by Supervisor John Avalos that would have ended the 9-month-old fee, the other sponsored by Mayor Ed Lee that would have made it permanent. Without board action, the fee was set to expire on June 30.
- Brown signs law requiring 33% renewable energy (SF Chronicle)
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation requiring California’s utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2020, casting the new law as a way to maintain the state’s lead in the emerging clean-energy industry.
- Sweeping plan aims to protect endangered species, cut red tape over the next 50 years (San Jose Mercury News)
Hoping to preserve endangered species while also streamlining permits for new housing, roads and flood control, five government agencies in Santa Clara County are steaming ahead with an unprecedented attempt to balance conservation and construction over the next 50 years. If approved, the idea, known as a “habitat conservation plan,” would raise $938 million in the next half-century from developer fees, government agencies, private donations, and state and federal grants. The money would be used to purchase 45,000 acres across Santa Clara County — an area that, if combined, would be five times the size of Grant Ranch County Park.
- Mt. Diablo school board OKs furloughs, eliminating three school days (Contra Costa Times)
The Mt. Diablo school board on Tuesday unanimously approved contracts with two unions that include furlough days in May, which will eliminate three days of classes for students. The agreements with the Mt. Diablo Education Association teachers’ union and California School Employees Association union were reached in an attempt to help balance the district’s budget, due to state education funding cuts.
- First question-and-answer session with Mayor Ed Lee devoid of controversial talk (SF Examiner)
Scripted and devoid of political excitement, the first-ever question-and-answer session between the mayor and supervisors Tuesday was about 30 minutes of straight policy talk. No one raised their voices, no one made any attacks and there was no criticism. It was nothing like the “gotcha” moment critics of the ballot initiative had warned about when it was first proposed during the era of former Supervisor Chris Daly and ex-Mayor Gavin Newsom.
- Federal cuts could devastate programs to help people living in poverty (Oakland Tribune)
(A) compromise budget reached between the White House and Congress contains cuts to federal block grant money that helps pay for (dozens of programs) across Alameda County, cuts that could have a devastating impact on low-income people who depend on these programs to help them escape poverty and become self-sufficient. Those cuts include a $942 million reduction to the Community Development Block Program and at least a $20 million reduction to the Community Services Block Program.
- Hastings’ board pulls UC brand from rights meeting (SF Chronicle)
UC Hastings College of the Law made a last-minute decision to cancel a speech by its dean and remove its name from a conference it hosted on using the courts to promote Palestinians’ rights after hearing protests from Jewish groups, campus officials said Tuesday. The conference, titled “Litigating Palestine,” took place at the San Francisco campus March 25 and 26. The 13 speakers – four of them Jewish, according to a school official – discussed legal issues and court cases involving Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, protests, consumer boycotts and related topics.
- Apartment rents rise in Silicon Valley, S.F., L.A., N.Y. as economy improves (AP)
Apartment bargains peppered virtually every block during the throes of the recession, even in typically high-demand cities like New York and San Francisco. Not anymore. More renters, feeling better about the economy and their jobs, are moving out of mom’s basement or ditching a roommate. Across the country, apartments are filling up and landlords are boosting rents… Rental activity recorded its best start to the year since 1999, despite a snowy winter and what’s traditionally a slow time for leasing, said real estate tracker Reis. The vacancy rate dropped to levels not seen since mid-2008, and rents have increased for the past five quarters to $991 a month on average.
- Huge solar farm proposed in eastern Alameda County (Contra Costa Times)
A proposal for what is thought to be the largest solar farm in the nation was disclosed Tuesday by developers who want to construct the complex in eastern Alameda County. The Mountain House Solar Farm, if built, would produce enough electricity for 250,000 homes and generate 400 megawatts of electricity, executives with Pegasus Energy Partners said.
- Longtime Kings season ticket holders reflect, prepare for likely last game (Sacramento Bee)
Since the team came to Sacramento 26 years ago, dentist Matt Campbell Jr. has seen nearly every home game… Tonight, Campbell and other original season ticket holders will show up to the last 2011 Kings game, expecting to say goodbye to old friends, arena staff and the team they embraced since it came to town in 1985.