In a move that could be the political death knell for environmentalists' efforts to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has approved a plan to block the draining of the famed reservoir unless the 26 cities and water districts in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda counties that receive Hetch Hetchy water give their approval. "It's a fairness question," said Michael Carlin, deputy general manager of the commission. "They are paying two-thirds of the bills. They are two-thirds of our customers. We need to make sure that whatever we do is fair and equitable to all of our customers."
The Maloofs' plan to sell the Sacramento Kings to a Seattle group ran into a pair of hurdles Thursday – a possible counteroffer from America's third richest man and a potential legal challenge from at least one of the Maloofs' own limited partners. Larry Ellison, one of the titans of Silicon Valley, is expected to meet soon with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson about the Kings situation, according to Kings minority owner Bob Cook.
A plan to boost BART's security system by adding wireless capabilities to cameras could also bring free - and reliable - Wi-Fi service to passengers. The BART Board of Directors approved a $2.7 million contract on Thursday to buy 100 onboard communications devices that will allow the transit district to stream live video to the transit agency's security and control centers in emergencies. But because the devices essentially create a wireless hotspot on the cars in which they are installed, they will also deliver stable Wi-Fi service to people riding in those cars.
Responding to last month's controversial killing by game wardens of two 4-month-old cougar cubs, state Sen. Jerry Hill on Friday will introduce legislation to reform how the California Department of Fish and Wildlife handles encounters between humans and mountain lions. The bill would require the agency to use nonlethal methods when dealing with cougars unless there is a dire public safety threat. It would also authorize the department to work with wildlife groups and other organizations in capturing the animals. Critics say the agency has tied its own hands with guidelines that allow practically any wayward lion to be dispatched.
Here's how the federal Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, introduced Thursday by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., compares with California's ban, the oldest and one of the toughest in the nation: On specific makes and models banned: Feinstein's bill is even broader, listing more specific makes and models of banned weapons than California's law. For example, California specifically bans the Bushmaster assault rifle and all rifles in the Bushmaster XM15 line, while Feinstein's bill specifically names those plus the Bushmaster Carbon 15 and Bushmaster MOE series.
Lawyers for the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will square off today before a federal judge in Oakland in the first round of a legal battle over the commercial oyster operation in the Point Reyes National Seashore. At stake is Salazar's decision in November not to renew a 40-year lease that gave oyster farm operator Kevin Lunny the right to commercial operations in 2,500-acre Drakes Estero, a five-fingered estuary that features extensive eelgrass beds and a harbor seal colony.
Toymaker Mattel Inc. scored a partial victory in the Battle of the Dolls on Thursday when a federal appeals court overturned a jury verdict and $170 million in damages for allegedly stealing trade secrets from the maker of Bratz dolls. But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a judge's award of $137.2 million to Bratz's manufacturer, MGA Entertainment, for its successful defense against Mattel's own trade-secrets claim. Earlier, the same court had struck down another judge's ruling that would have transferred ownership of the billion-dollar Bratz brand to Mattel.
A Board of Supervisors committee unanimously supported a performance audit of the city's troubled Housing Authority, but not a single supervisor even mentioned the name of the agency's chief, Henry Alvarez, who is being sued by three employees, and they skimmed over the laundry list of tenant complaints dogging the authority. The Chronicle has been reporting for two months about the lawsuits, other allegations of bullying and intimidation against Alvarez, and low ratings by the federal authorities that fund the agency, which provides housing to low-income San Franciscans. And this week we reported that if Alvarez can hang on a few more months, he will get a full pension and health care for life.
Officials with the Alameda Unified School District say they are offering teachers an overall raise of 2 percent in their current contract talks, plus other financial rewards for those who participate in a pilot program aimed at boosting student achievement. The offer, which the district announced Thursday, follows teachers overwhelmingly rejecting a tentative contract in April, saying it did not go far enough to offset previous pay cuts or to support lower class sizes.