Archive for the ‘Bay Area’ Category

Contra Costa DA joins forces with other prosecutors to combat organized retail theft

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

As thieves turn to new tactics, Bay Area, San Joaquin County prosecutors form alliance to ensure accountability

By Bobbi Mauler, Executive Assistant, Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney

Today, Nov. 24, 2021, Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton announced an alliance between Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Joaquin counties, law enforcement, and state agencies to combat the recent increase in organized retail theft. Each office has pledged a prosecutor to collaborate and participate in the joint effort. (See related article)

“Fencing and organized retail theft rings operate across jurisdictional boundaries,” said Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton. “As prosecutors, we must respond to the nature of these crimes and operate with our partners to more effectively meet this challenge. Those responsible for perpetuating these crimes are working together as a team, and to ensure accountability for their crimes, law enforcement needs to work together as a team too. These caught and arrested will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

“Organized retail theft has adverse and costly impacts on business owners and consumers alike,” said San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. “Through a partnership with our neighboring counties, we will hold all parties accountable, including fencing rings and individuals who purchase stolen goods. We commend Governor Newsom and Attorney General Bonta for taking organized retail theft seriously and we implore the community to report suspicious resell activity to assist law enforcement’s efforts in tracking organized retail theft rings.”

While police work to strengthen investigations and collaborations across jurisdictional boundaries, prosecutors’ offices similarly can better ensure accountability through information sharing. The partnership between counties and local agencies would allow for the sharing of information through data collection, crime analytics, as well as pooled investigative tools to successfully prosecute those involved with organized retail theft schemes. In addition to the shared resources between counties, the District Attorney’s Offices would continue to collaborate with their local retailers and State Representatives to ensure statues that cover organized theft rings are enforceable and improve safety for consumers.

“Retail theft crimes are affecting all counties in the Bay Area as well as across the nation.  Collaboration and shared strategies with neighboring prosecutors and law enforcement partners are critical to both preventing and responding to organized retail theft,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.  “This alliance of prosecutors is committed to developing strategies to combat these organized crimes.  Together, we are determined to stop those who participate in organized retail theft, including by dismantling the fencing networks that make this type of crime profitable.”

“The recent premeditated retail theft mob action in multiple cities across Northern California is intolerable and will not be accepted by District Attorneys, law enforcement officials and our community members,” said San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.  “Anyone caught engaging in such criminal conduct should expect to find themselves facing prosecution, conviction and incarceration. There is no leniency for such behavior.”

“The recent acts of retail thefts, robberies and mass-mob burglaries throughout Northern California will not be tolerated. These are clearly carefully orchestrated crimes, working together in large groups to create a mob-like mentality,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. They are instilling fear in merchants, customers, and the wider community. This is especially appalling at a time where many are out and about during the holiday season. Be assured that those caught and arrested will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

“California has seen shifts in crime trends and tactics, and Bay Area prosecutors are forming this partnership to meet the moment,” said Cristine DeBerry, Executive Director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California.  “Partnerships like these reflect the need to implement modern solutions to modern problems. These crimes happen quickly, and they may not be caught in the act.  Through information sharing and coordination, there will be greater likelihood of arrests and accountability than everyone working in isolation.”

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Park district turning Black Friday green with FREE Park Day

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

Special Visitor Center activities planned, one at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch

By Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor, Public Affairs, East Bay Regional Park District

For the past seven years, the East Bay Regional Park District has celebrated Green Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, as a healthy outdoor alternative to Black Friday holiday shopping. To encourage time in nature, the Park District is again making Green Friday a FREE Park Day, meaning all District fees are waived for park entrance and activities, including parking, dogs, horses, boat launching, fishing, as well as entry to Ardenwood Historic Farm.

“Time in nature improves physical and mental health and is a great way to relieve holiday stress,” said Park District Board President Dee Rosario. “The day after Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to get outside and spend time with family and friends.”

The fee waiver does not include State fees for fishing licenses and watercraft inspections for invasive mussels or privately operated concessions such as the Tilden Merry-Go-Round and Redwood Valley Railway steam train.

The Park District’s Green Friday is part of the “#OptOutside” movement that started in 2015 when REI closed its doors on Black Friday and encouraged its employees and the public to explore the outdoors instead of shopping. Millions of people and hundreds of organizations now participate in #OptOutside each year.

Visitor Center activities planned for Green Friday include:

To find a park or activity, visit www.ebparks.org/parks.

The East Bay Regional Park District is the largest regional park system in the nation, comprising 73 parks, 55 miles of shoreline, and over 1,300 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and environmental education. The Park District receives more than 25 million visits annually throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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ABAG, MTC adopt final Plan Bay Area 2050 and Environmental Impact Report

Monday, October 25th, 2021

“$1.4 trillion vision for a more equitable and resilient future for Bay Area residents” in thareas of housing, the economy, transportation and the environment

“Roadmap toward a more affordable, connected, diverse, healthy and vibrant region for all”

Includes “strategies that would produce more than 1 million new permanently affordable homes” and will “Implement a statewide universal basic income” to “provide an average $500 per month payment to all Bay Area households”

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), during their joint meeting Thursday evening, Oct. 21, 2021, unanimously adopted Plan Bay Area 2050 and its associated Environmental Impact Report. The unanimous votes by both boards cap a nearly four-year process during which more than 20,000 Bay Area residents contributed to the development of the new plan.

All six representatives from Contra Costa County, including Supervisors Candace Andersen and Karen Mitchoff, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and San Ramon Councilman Dave Hudson, who serve on ABAG, as well as Supervisor Federal Glover and Contra Costa City Representative Amy Worth, Mayor of Orinda, who serve on MTC, voted to adopt the plan.

Defined by 35 strategies for housing, transportation, economic vitality and the environment, Plan Bay Area 2050 lays out a $1.4 trillion vision for policies and investments to make the nine-county region more affordable, connected, diverse, healthy and economically vibrant for all its residents through 2050 and beyond. From housing strategies that would produce more than 1 million new permanently affordable homes by 2050 to transit-fare reforms that would reduce cost burdens for riders with low incomes and paths to economic mobility through job training and a universal basic income, the goal of a more equitable Bay Area is interwoven throughout the plan. With a groundbreaking focus on climate change, strategies also are crafted for resilience against future uncertainties, including protection from hazards such sea-level rise and wildfires.

It is a long-range plan charting the course for the future of the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. Plan Bay Area 2050 will focus on four key issues—the economy, the environment, housing and transportation—and will identify a path to make the Bay Area more equitable for all residents and more resilient in the face of unexpected challenges. Building on the work of the Horizon initiative, this new regional plan outlines strategies for growth and investment through the year 2050, while simultaneously striving to meet and exceed federal and state requirements. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments are expected to adopt Plan Bay Area 2050 in fall 2021.

“Plan Bay Area 2050 reflects a shared vision that can’t be implemented by any single agency,” explained ABAG Executive Board President and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín. “To bring all these strategies to fruition will require ABAG and MTC to strengthen our existing partnerships and to form new ones — not just with our cities and counties and the state government, but also with the federal government, businesses and nonprofits.”

What will Plan Bay Area 2050 do? What won’t it do?

Plan Bay Area 2050 outlines a roadmap for the Bay Area’s future. While it pinpoints policies and investments necessary to advance the goal of a more affordable, connected, diverse, healthy and vibrant Bay Area, Plan Bay Area 2050 neither funds specific infrastructure projects nor changes local policies. Cities and counties retain all local land use authority. Plan Bay Area 2050 does identify a potential path forward for future investments – including infrastructure to improve our transportation system and to protect communities from rising sea levels – as well as the types of public policies necessary to realize a future growth pattern for housing and jobs.

Ultimately, Plan Bay Area 2050 reflects a shared vision – one that cannot be implemented by any single organization or government agency. Only through partnership with local, state and federal governments – as well as with businesses and non-profit organizations – will the Plan’s vision come to fruition. Before the Plan is adopted in 2021, MTC and ABAG, along with partner organizations, will create an implementation plan that will advance the strategies outlined in Plan Bay Area 2050.

MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza acknowledged the work ahead. “Building and preserving affordable housing. Adapting to sea level rise. Getting more people closer to their jobs and more jobs closer to the people. Sharing prosperity equitably. All of these are big lifts. But the new plan can serve as a north star for the Bay Area’s journey to 2050.”

Among the features that distinguish Plan Bay Area 2050 from previous regional plans is an associated Implementation Plan that details the specific actions ABAG and MTC can take in the next five years to put the new plan into action.

“The Implementation Plan is a commitment to do hard things, not just think about them,” said ABAG-MTC Executive Director Therese W. McMillan. “Even if these steps have to be taken incrementally, they will lead us to a more equitable and resilient Bay Area.”

Housing Strategies

Costs for housing are estimated at $468 billion, with $237 billion budget to preserve existing affordable housing by acquiring “homes currently affordable to low- and middle-income residents for preservation as permanently deed-restricted affordable housing”. An additional $219 billion is budgeted for new, deed-restricted affordable housing and $2 billion to “further strengthen renter protections beyond state law” by limiting “annual rent increases to the rate of inflation, while exempting units less than 10 years old.”

Economic Strategies

The total cost for economic strategies in the plan is $234 billion. Of that amount $205 billion is budgted to “Implement a statewide universal basic income” and “provide an average $500 per month payment to all Bay Area households to improve family stability, promote economic mobility and increase consumer spending.”

Transportation Strategies

The plan projects to spend a total of $578 billion is projected to be spent on transportation over the next 20 years, with most of that, $389 billion, to “restore, operate and maintain the existing system”. An additional $81 billion will be spent to “expand and modernize the regional rail network” to “better connect communities while increasing frequencies by advancing the Link21 new transbay rail crossing, BART to Silicon Valley Phase 2, Valley Link, Caltrain Downtown Rail Extension and Caltrain/High-Speed Rail grade separations, among other projects.” The third largest budget item for transportation is $32 billion to “enhance local transit frequency, capacity and reliability. Improve the quality and availability of local bus and light rail service, with new bus rapid transit lines, South Bay light rail extensions, and frequency increases focused in lower-income communities.”

Environmental Strategies

A total of $108 billion is programmed for Environmental Strategies. The largest portion of that is $30 billion to “modernize and expand parks, trails and recreation facilities”. An additional $19 billion is budgeted to “adapt to sea level rise” by protecting affected “shoreline communities…prioritizing low-cost, high-benefit solutions and providing additional support to vulnerable populations.

In addition, the plan includes $18 billion to “fund energy upgrades to enable carbon neutrality in all existing commercial and public buildings” through “electrification and resilient power system upgrades”, and another $15 billion to “provide means-based financial support to retrofit existing residential buildings.” To “protect and manage high-value conservation lands”, an additional $15 billion is included in the plan.

The adopted final Plan Bay Area 2050, the EIR, and all the supplemental reports accompanying the new plan are available online at planbayarea.org/finalplan2050.

ABAG is the council of governments and the regional planning agency for the 101 cities and towns, and nine counties of the Bay Area. MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

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