A.M. Splash: Jobless Benefits Threatened; Salmon Return to S. Joaquin; Big Rain Still in Forecast; MTC Building Price Soars

  • Federal jobless benefits could vanish (SF Chronicle)
    Talk about a hard landing: About 2 million Americans, including 400,000 in California, will abruptly lose their unemployment benefits after December unless Congress votes to continue federal funding for extended benefits. This part of the “fiscal cliff” has received less attention than tax increases and other spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, but it’s well known to people like Suzanne Schellenberg of San Francisco. The 53-year-old graphic artist has been cycling between contract and freelance jobs and unemployment benefits for almost four years.

  • Healthy salmon mark San Joaquin revival (SF Chronicle)
    Two big, thrashing chinook salmon were released Wednesday into the once-mighty San Joaquin River, a small but pivotal act in the boldest plan ever devised to restore a depleted California waterway and bring back native fish that vanished decades ago… It is the first time in 62 years that chinook have been seen swimming the upper reaches of the San Joaquin to spawn, the culmination of a decades-long fight to restore the river, which was sucked dry when the 319-foot dam was built… The fish are among 80 chinook that have been trapped, trucked up the river and released since early November. Another 50 have been moved from a Merced River hatchery. The idea is for the salmon to find a place to lay eggs somewhere in the 20 miles leading up to the dam.

  • Oakland’s Gibson McElhaney has tax liens (SF Chronicle)
    Lynette Gibson McElhaney, a newly elected Oakland City Council member, and her husband face tax liens for failing to pay state and federal taxes, she said Wednesday, adding that she is on a repayment plan and hopes to resolve the debt before her swearing-in in January. Gibson McElhaney called the liens “embarrassing” and attributed the unpaid taxes to a series of personal tragedies in succession – grief over several close family members’ deaths and the loss of her husband’s job.

  • Season’s first big storm turned out to be a piddling puddle; but just you wait (Bay Area News Group)
    It was the fizzled drizzle. The little storm that couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. A howling storm that forecasters said would drop up to an inch of much-needed rain on the South Bay actually delivered more wind than wet when it slithered out of town by midday Wednesday, leaving a cotton patch of clouds and little hint of the gully-washer to come. Now we turn our faces to the skies and await Friday morning, when another storm could bring up to an inch of rain to San Jose. No fooling this time, according to meteorologist Jan Null of Golden Gate Weather Services.

  • MTC building price soars $218 million (SF Chronicle)
    Things are looking up for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s controversial plan to transform the old tank factory and postal facility at 390 Main St. into a suitable place for regional agencies to cohabit – particularly the price tag. The estimated cost now stands at $218 million, which is $38 million higher than the original estimate from July 2011 but $51 million more than the most recent estimate, adopted in November 2011. (The projected cost fell after the agency bought the building at a lower price.)

  • VTA light-rail extension to Los Gatos: $175 million for 200 new riders (SJ Mercury News)
    Just how many new riders would jump on a train to one of Silicon Valley’s most desired destinations? About 200, it turns out — and it would cost taxpayers up to $175 million to build the rail line to Los Gatos. The new projections come from the Valley Transportation Authority’s updated forecast for a long-envisioned light-rail extension. Still years from reality, the Los Gatos line would be one of the least-used light-rail extensions planned in the nation — and would reduce South Bay vehicle traffic by a mere 0.01 percent.

  • Exclusive: Apple’s rapid expansion moves tech behemoth to third city (Oakland Tribune)
    Apple is planting its flag in Santa Clara in a big way for the first time as the technology giant continues its shopping spree for new offices, agreeing to occupy a site where Apple could locate 1,200 or more workers. Cupertino-based Apple has struck a deal with developer Peery Arrillaga for a custom-tailored two-building campus that is under construction on the north side of Stevens Creek Boulevard in Santa Clara a short distance from the Cupertino city limits.

  • Mystery surrounds shooting deaths of teen girls in East Oakland (Oakland Tribune)
    The two teen girls had been friends since they were 8 years old and their bond was unbreakable. So, when one wanted to leave a relative’s East Oakland mobile home at 5 a.m. Sunday, the other followed her out into the cold, dark night. No one really knows what happened after that, but the girls, Bobbie Sartain, 16, and Raquel Gerstel, 15, were found shot to death about an hour later near Brookdale Park, about a mile from the mobile home park. Their killers remain at large.

  • Movie chronicling final hours of Oscar Grant’s life chosen for Sundance Film Festival (Contra Costa Times)
    The saga of the shooting of Oscar Grant lives on, and come January, moviegoers will be able to watch the drama unfold on screen at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Utah. “Fruitvale,” which stars a bevy of Hollywood heavyweights including Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, details Grant’s final hours before he was shot and killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year’s Eve 2009. On Wednesday, Sundance Institute announced films in competition for dramatic and documentary prizes at the 2013 festival — and “Fruitvale” was listed in the dramatic category.

  • Fremont’s California School for the Deaf football team finishes second in Sports Illustrated contest (Fremont Argus)
  • The California School for the Deaf varsity football team got some good news and some bad news this week. Tuesday, the Fremont high school finished second in the voting for a Sports Illustrated contest, losing out on the chance to receive a $25,000 grant and a trip to Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year ceremony in New York City. The contest’s winner is Ishpeming High School in Michigan, whose place-kicker, Eric Dompierre, has Down syndrome.

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