The state agency responsible for ensuring that rides with Uber and Lyft are safe has acknowledged that it failed to consistently monitor passenger complaints about rapes and assaults for years. The California Public Utilities Commission confirmed in an unpublicized ruling that it had let the ride-hailing giants use varying definitions of sexual assault and harassment in their mandatory reports to the agency since at least 2017.
In an effort to keep certain buildings from collapsing during an earthquake, thousands have received city-mandated seismic retrofits. But as Joe Eskenazi, managing editor at Mission Local, revealed in a recent special report, some of these upgrades left gas lines encased in concrete, which raises concerns about post-quake fires or explosions.
“The real problem is if it breaks and the gas leaks out inside the building, where it’s leaking out quote-unquote under slab,” meaning under the concrete foundation. “Then all you need is some manner of spark, and then you have an explosion,” Eskenazi told “Civic.”
It’s unclear how many of the 4,000 retrofits completed in the city have potentially problematic encased gas lines, which makes it difficult to measure exactly how catastrophic the aftermath of an earthquake could be. “If even just a small percentage of the retrofits have a problem like this in an earthquake situation, that could be a significant number of fire risks throughout the city,” Eskenazi said. “Even a small portion of these having this risk could lead to a terrible situation following an earthquake, because all the emergency services are going to have enough to do after an earthquake.”
In a second special report, he surfaced complaints that engineers have been making for years about shoddy construction work on such retrofits, which they allege were brushed off by the building inspection department.
In 2009, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant, later claiming he had meant to use his Taser and not his gun. In April 2021, Brooklyn Center, Minn. police officer Kim Potter shot and killed Daunte Wright. Police say this, too, was due to confusion between the less-lethal weapon and the gun. Demian Bulwa, now director of news at the San Francisco Chronicle, covered Oscar Grant’s death and Johannes Mehserle’s trial extensively and spoke with “Civic” about how much these two shootings more than a decade apart have in common.
Bystanders to harassment, conflicts and even violent attacks sometimes find themselves at a loss for what to do, and refrain from getting involved. For victims, that can add insult to injury. In response to a wave of attacks against Asian Americans, two organizations have partnered to offer a bystander intervention training, which has been in very high demand.
“Law enforcement budgets are like the weeds that choke out all other spending,” said James Burch, policy director for the Anti Police-Terror Project and the Justice Teams Network and president of the National Lawyers Guild Bay Area. Burch spoke with “Civic” about the trial and the movement to defund law enforcement.
Jeff Chang, author of several books including “Who We Be: The Colorization of America and We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation,” has written extensively about this history and talked with “Civic” about the legacy of white supremacy and how it has influenced the discussion of recent anti-Asian violence: quietly rather than overtly.
Nearly 4,000 incidents of anti-Asian attacks — including verbal and physical assaults — were reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a national tracking project launched by a coalition of activist groups last year, as of late February 2021. Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, one of the founding partners of Stop AAPI Hate, reflected on the increase in attacks with “Civic.”
Charging decisions are made by district attorneys, so “Civic” spoke with San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin about recent cases in which local law enforcement officers have killed people and why he did or did not bring criminal charges against those officers.
The spate of violence against Asian Americans, particularly seniors, has spurred communities around the Bay Area into action. In Chinatown, several groups of volunteers can regularly be seen patrolling the street, keeping an eye out for trouble. “Civic” tagged along with one group on their recent evening rounds.
A series of violent crimes against Asian seniors in the Bay Area has sparked concern and calls to action, including public gatherings. In San Francisco and Oakland, organizers arranged for socially distanced events over the weekend to emphasize the need for additional resources and services to advance public safety.
In an attempt to limit police involvement with emergency calls about homelessness, a city group is proposing eliminating a multimillion-dollar program launched in 2018.
The group, composed of representatives of about two dozen city agencies and non-profits, released a 74-page paper Tuesday outlining its plan, called the Compassionate Alternative Response Team.