September 13th, 2012

The Bay’s five trashiest waterways

Five waterways in the Bay Area have such high levels of trash that they’re in violation of the Clean Water Act, according to Oakland nonprofit Save The Bay.

Read more about these “Trash Hot Spots” here.

Photo courtesy of Save the Bay

August 20th, 2012

Man who armed Black Panthers was FBI informant, records show

The man who gave the Black Panther Party some of its first firearms and weapons training – which preceded fatal shootouts with Oakland police in the turbulent 1960s – was an undercover FBI informer, according to a former bureau agent and an FBI report.

One of the Bay Area’s most prominent radical activists of the era, Richard Masato Aoki was known as a fierce militant who touted his street-fighting abilities. He was a member of several radical groups before joining and arming the Panthers, whose members received international notoriety for brandishing weapons during patrols of the Oakland police and a protest at the state Legislature.

Get the full story and watch the exclusive video for more information.

Photo: A young Richard Aoki is involved in a 1969 protest at Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way near the UC Berkeley campus. CREDIT: Courtesy of the Oakland Tribune

July 17th, 2012

Depending on where you live in California, your hospital bill might be a lot more (or less) than in other areas, according to a new study from the California Public Interest Research Group.

The study looked at the 12 most common elective, inpatient surgeries performed across the state, like knee surgery, cesarean sections and angioplasty. Researchers found that the highest-cost regions (Alameda and San Mateo) charge prices 2.7 times higher than the lowest-cost region. The Fresno and Orange County regions are the least expensive. 

The research also outlined how much health care costs have risen since 1999:

In 2009, health care spending per Californian was $6,238, 79 percent more than just 10 years earlier. Family insurance premiums rose by 113 percent from 2001 to 2009.

Read the full report here.

June 29th, 2012

A new map from SF Public Press and the Cartography and GIS Education Lab at U.C. Berkeley shows how population has grown in the Bay Area over the past 50 years: 

Like trees, cities can be thought of as adding growth rings every year. For most cities on this map, the outer ring represents the current population, from 2010 census data. The smallest, inner growth ring was the population in 1960. The largest cities of 1960 — San Francisco and Oakland - have larger inner rings. San Jose is a notable outlier, having swelled to consume the Valley of Heart’s Delight. The spacing of the decennial rings allows the reader to understand whether cities’ population growth is sudden, like Concord between 1960 and 1970, or gradual, like Pleasanton, denoted by the regular interval between the growth rings. Slow-growing Moraga doesn’t show a 1960 ring at all, because it is covered up by the 2010 growth ring.

See a full-size version of the map here

December 21st, 2011

Controversial church sends kids to solicit money at BART stations in Bay Area

A West Oakland church and private school that sends children to solicit donations at BART stations has a history of financial and legal troubles, including two cases in which church leaders admitted they illegally received government assistance.

The children, including one who said he was 7 years old, have been raising funds for St. Andrew Missionary Baptist Church at East Bay BART stations for hours at a time on weekday evenings. They say they are collecting money for a new 24-hour day care center for the church, which runs a small K-12 private school.

"It’s going to be under my pastor’s house, and we’re going to put the pastor’s house on top," said 9-year-old Mekhi Sade Nosakhare, standing in the Downtown Berkeley BART station without an adult present. She said she doesn’t like soliciting donations every night, but if she doesn’t, she said she’ll get in trouble with her mother and stepfather, Andrew Lacy, who is one of the pastor’s sons. Lacy, who arrived shortly after, declined to be interviewed.

Image: St. Andrew Missionary Baptist Church and Private School in West Oakland

August 26th, 2011

Despite regulations, BART director received $7,000 from contractor

BART Director James Fang accepted $7,000 in campaign contributions this year from a contractor with business pending before the transit agency, in apparent violation of BART’s conflict of interest regulations.

Fang, who isn’t up for re-election until 2014, voted this month to give the company an engineering award worth up to $20 million.

Bay Area Rapid Transit regulations prohibit campaign contributions of more than $1,000 from contractors who have pending bids. Board members receive a list of contractors who are subject to the limit each week. Kal Krishnan Consulting Services was on the list in February when it gave $7,000 to Fang. In an apparent loophole in the regulations, two other BART directors each received the maximum $1,000 from the same company and an additional $1,250 from staff and relatives of the owner last year.

Fang said he thought Kal Krishnan – a longtime BART contractor – did not have pending business when he gave the money. Fang said he would return the contribution and look into whether it violated the rules.

"If there is an appearance that doesn’t look right then I really don’t want to perpetuate that and cause more problems," said Fang, who has served on the board since 1990. Read more.

May 24th, 2011

New state guidelines advise consumers to avoid eating shiner perch and sharks caught in the San Francisco Bay because the fish contain high levels of contaminants.

An advisory released yesterday by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment said that shiner perch had high levels of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, and that sharks had high levels of mercury.

The above graphics are guides for men, women and children from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to eating San Francisco Bay fish and shellfish.

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California Watch, the largest investigative journalism team operating in the state, was launched in 2009 by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Investigative Reporting. Areas of coverage include education, health and welfare, public safety, the environment and the influence of money on the political and regulatory process.