<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Local News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Fri, 25 Apr 2014 02:04:13 -0700 Fri, 25 Apr 2014 02:04:13 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Pleasanton Students Inappropriately Contacted on Instagram]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 23:06:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/texting-sexting.jpg

Pleasanton school officials are warning parents to remind their kids about social media safety.

The call comes after officials said someone has been sending students messages through Instagram asking kids for inappropriate photos.

Parents received a letter from the Pleasanton Unified School District warning them that several students had been contacted by someone outside the area asking students to trade naked pictures with them.

The district is not saying exactly how many students were contacted through the photo-sharing mobile app, or what grade levels the kids are in.

Meanwhile, police are trying to track down the person who owns the Instagram account suspected of contacting students.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Calif. Drought Causes Rat Problem at SF Park]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 23:28:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/216*120/0424-SF-rats.jpg

California's severe drought apparently has created a rat problem at San Francisco's Heron Head Park.

Many park visitors report seeing rats running around during the day.

Tina O'Keefe of Dirty Rats Rodent Removal said the drought is driving rats out from hiding underground.

"There's no water source for them right now so they're going outside to get it," O'Keefe said. "They eat plants. They eat meat. They're going to the dog park because there are water bowls. They're going to horse stables because there's water."

O'Keefe has been busy and said calls for services have come from all over the Bay Area.

The Port of San Francisco plans to get rodent-proof garbage cans at Heron Head Park and is working with a no-poison exterminator to try and control the health hazard.

Erik Auerbach, a frequent park visitor, hopes the rat problem will be addressed soon.

"We do come out here with food," he said. "It's gross if I'm giving treats and see a rat scurrying by out there."

But with no end to the drought in sight, experts said rats all over the Bay Area will be out.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Is Uber Keeping Riders Safe?]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 23:41:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0424-Uber_accident.jpg

It’s the trendiest way to get around town, but Uber drivers have been linked to several alarming incidents including the death of a six year-old girl last New Year’s Eve. Now, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has found that Uber’s policies can leave drivers and passengers in the lurch if there are accidents. And despite administering background checks, Uber still employs drivers with criminal records that include burglary, domestic assault and drug trafficking.

Drivers for UberX, which unlike the more upscale Uber black car service allows regular folks to drive their own cars, say the hiring process is quite simple. “It's all over the internet,” said Driver Bassim Elbatniji. “You only add your name, you add your social security”.

Elbatniji had been an UberX driver for only nine days when he collided with another vehicle. Just a mile into a short drive from the Mission to the Marina Districts, Elbatniji’s 2008 Toyota Prius smashed into another car, badly inuring himself and his passenger, Jason Herrera.

“All I remember was waking up inside the actual ambulance,” said Herrera. Both Hererra and Elbatniji were left with hospital bills. Elbatniji had personal car insurance—not commercial—and his plan wouldn’t cover the accident. Uber claims it’s not their responsibility. NBC Bay discovered just yesterday that the driver of the other car in this incident is a relative of an employee at the station.

“You buy a car, it comes with a warranty, you go step in a cab, you’ve got coverage” said Herrera. “I stepped into an Uber car and I have to question whether or not I’m going to be covered if there’s an accident?”

Uber X driver Bassim Elbatniji’s totaled 2008 Toyota white Prius at the intersection of Octavia Street and Oak Street in San Francisco on September 25, 2013.

Elbatniji’s car insurance excludes accidents connected to driving for profit, making his policy essentially worthless for his gig with UberX. Elbatniji says Uber was fully aware that he did not have commercial insurance. “They knew,” said Elbatniji. “It’s not like a professional job they do. If anything happens, they hide themselves.”

The company insists customers and UberX drivers would be covered by the driver’s personal insurance and an excess policy – taken out by Uber. In an email to the Investigative Unit, company spokesperson Lane Kasselman said “the $1 million of liability coverage per incident is in excess to the driver’s own policy, but it acts as primary insurance if the driver’s policy is not available for any reason, covering from the first dollar.”

Kasselman did not clarify why the company is not providing coverage in the accident involving Elbatniji and Herrera. And so UberX drivers continue to operate under the assumption they are insured, while passengers could potentially pay a price beyond the fare charged if they are involved in an accident with an Uber approved driver.

The Investigative Unit found several cases of UberX drivers with criminal records. In November, a passenger claimed that UberX driver Daveea Whitmire was verbally abusive. He posted this video online showing confrontation with Whitmore.

Court records show that Whitmire has a significant criminal history including drug-related arrests dating back to 2005. He’s served time in state prison and jail and has multiple restraining orders related to domestic violence and selling drugs to underage girls.

The Investigative Unit was unable to reach Whitmire for comment.

Even though many of Whitmire's offenses occurred within the last seven years and he was on probation for a drug charge at the time he applied to be an UberX driver, Uber told us the ride service ran a background check and Whitmire had a clean record.

Kasselman confirmed to the Investigative Unit that Whitmire was a partner on the Uber platform from October 2013 through December 2013. “Whitmire had a clean background check when he became an Uber partner in October. Uber maintains a zero tolerance policy for any alcohol and drug-related offenses on any background check with any partner nationwide, unlike, for example, the taxi industry in San Francisco, which permits drivers with DUIs and drug offenses,” said Kasselman.

There are more cases like Whitmire across the nation. In Chicago, police found that an UberX driver was without a valid license when they pulled him over with a passenger in the backseat. Also in Chicago, Tadeausz Szczechowicz[pdf] was driving for UberX despite five prior arrests and two burglary convictions. In addition, UberX driver Jigneshkumar Patel was recently arrested for battery served a restraining order and hit with a civil suit - after a passenger accused him of sexual assault. He says the accusations are “rubbish.” But The Investigative Unit found Patel should have never been hired by Uber in the first place under their policy because of a 2012 DUI conviction.

In Los Angeles, NBC asked Beverly Locke to apply online to further test the system. The reformed ex-con has a 20-year rap sheet that includes burglary, cocaine possession and current probation restrictions.

But four weeks later, she did. “I was kind of baffled, still am baffled, how they let me in,” she admitted.

Uber says it runs background checks on all applicants and disqualifies anyone with a criminal record in the last seven years. NBC asked Uber how Locke cleared Uber’s backgrounding process and became an UberX driver. Kasselman wrote in part, “We screen for convictions and violations going back 7 years that are reasonably related to task the drivers perform (e.g., DUIs, violent/sexual offenses, major moving violations, etc.). We’re confident that every ride on the Uber platform is safer than a taxi.”

And all indications are that Uber has fired or suspended drivers when things go wrong. But publicly, Uber’s stance is that it is a technology company, not a transportation company.

In an email, Uber told the Investigative Unit that drivers are just “licensees of our software.” To Uber, the rules are different.

The California Public Utilities Commission now requires that ride services like Uber carry commercial liability insurance worth at least $1 million and must conduct criminal background checks and vehicle inspections. To help cover these costs, Uber announced just last week that it’s charging a $1 “Safe Rides” fee to all UberX riders.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Educators Question Proposal to Expand Pre-K]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 19:15:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0424-PreK.jpg

The kids in Mrs. Wilkins’ class at Dove Hill Elementary School in San Jose are preschool aged. But it’s not a preschool, or a kindergarten.

It’s transitional kindergarten, a free public school program in California that prepares older four year olds for kindergarten.

“So when they go into a classroom in kindergarten, they’ll already have confidence to take risks with their learning and try new things,” says transitional kindergarten teacher Tremayne Wilkins. “And they’ll have the endurance and I think the patience that they need.”

Right now transitional kindergarten is limited to kids who have fall birthdays and miss the age cut off for kindergarten. But a proposal making its way through Sacramento would expand transitional kindergarten to all 4 year olds.

At a press conference in January to announce the plan, bill author State Senator Darrell Steinberg (D- Sacramento) said, “There are few better uses of the taxpayer dollar than investing in evidenced-based change providing young people, 4 year olds, with the head start that they need.”

The backers of “TK for All,” as it’s often called, want to spend an estimated $1.46 billion to create a new grade.

“It’s a simple choice,” bill co-sponsor State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in January. “Invest in kids now and reap the rewards of a better educated and more productive workforce and a healthier state. Or pay the price later with more high school dropouts and more young people dropping into trouble, gangs, drugs and jail.”

But TK for All is by no means a done deal. While politician in Sacramento debate funding and merits of the program, educators are wrestling with how to expand public education to all four year olds.

“We just don’t believe this bill, as it’s currently written, is the best way to realize that goal,” says Wesley Smith, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators.

Smith says the school leaders who are members in his organization oppose the bill unless it’s amended.

“The classrooms are full,” Smith says. “So where are we going to put this new grade level? Are we going to bring in portables? There’s no facility bond in the budget, so how are we going to do that? How are we going to afford this?”

One idea is to enlist private preschools to provide public transitional kindergarten.

"We wonder if that’s even legal to, with public funds, fund private contracts for an entire grade span," Smith says. "We’re not just talking about programs here or there. We’re talking about an entire grade span."

Another concern is hiring. TK for All would require two adults in every classroom, which Smith says could be a deal breaker for cash-strapped districts still trying to dig out of the recession.

As for Mrs. Wilkins, she’s hedging her bets about the expansion of transitional kindergarten.

“If we open it up to all four year olds, I’m not sure what that program will look like and how it will translate to younger fours,” she says. “So I’m just kind of a little apprehensive just to see what the vision is.”

Wilkins likes the idea of public school for all four year olds, but she’s not convinced the current proposal is the way to go.

“I think having access to public education at any age is fantastic. Don’t get me wrong. I think that that’s wonderful,” she says. “But is it still transitional kindergarten? I’m not sure.”

Polls show a majority of California voters favor expanding public school to all four year olds. Some lawmakers support it, others do not. One voice missing in the debate over TK for All? Governor Jerry Brown. He has long been an education advocate but he’s been pretty much mum on the proposal to expand transitional kindergarten.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[SJSU Football Player Critically Burned in Apartment Fire]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 18:50:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-24-2014-jared-leaf-fire.jpg

A San Jose State football player is in critical condition after escaping from his burning apartment.

Jared Leaf, a junior Spartans linebacker, suffered second-degree burns on his back and arms as he ran through his apartment near the SJSU campus in an attempt to escape.

Firefighters are investigating whether a student lit a candle and ditched a match on a couch while talking on his cell phone just before the fire broke out about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night.

San Jose Fire Capt. Fernando Munoz said investigators think that match is likely the cause of the blaze, which displaced 11 people and injured Leaf, who is hospitalized at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. He is expected to survive.

The fire started in a third-floor unit on East Williams Street near the SJSU campus. A second alarm was quickly issued. The fire was under control by 12:20 a.m. Thursday.

Leaf’s roommate Clarence Chima said he stepped out of his apartment for only a few minutes to talk to his sister on his cell phone when he saw smoke. He said, when he looked inside, he saw the couch on fire and a wall of flames. That’s when he used his cell phone to immediately call his roommate, Leaf, who was asleep in a back bedroom.

“He was saying the living room and kitchen were in flames, so there were no options but to run through,” Chima said. “And that’s how he got the injuries he had.”

Chima said the fire destroyed everything inside the apartment.

Neighbor Shawn Balcorta was returning home when he saw the flames.

“I looked up and there was fire everywhere, and there were people running out saying 'fire' and then there were other people running out as well,” Balcorta said.

Chima said, after alerting Leaf, he started pounding on neighbors' door,  telling them to get out, too. He shared this apartment with Leaf and two other San Jose State students who were not home at the time of the fire.

One displaced student was shaken up afterward.

"I saw a little flames on [Leaf's] back," Ben Kung said. "I hope he's all right."

<![CDATA[Bay Area Gets Social to Fight Crime]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 19:16:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/nextdoor1.jpg

Bay Area neighborhoods are going social to try and take a "byte" out of crime.

Oakland has joined cities like San Jose and Palo Alto, hooking up with social networking site Nextdoor to use information as a tool to try and keep their neighborhoods safe.  Staff may be cut, but the internet is thriving.

“The City of Oakland understands the important role that technology can play in strengthening community relations and fighting crime," Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia said.

Essentially, Nextdoor lets neighbors report suspicious activity to the local PD; the officers know, and so do others living in the area.

The police department from another big Bay Area city, San Jose, has been involved with Nextdoor for two years now, and neighbors say they're happy about it.

Darryl Ospring, a neighborhood activist in her own right, says the Nextdoor network has helped her area through tough times, including a homicide investigation.

"When we found Nextdoor, it was one of the best things to happen in our neighborhood," Ospring said.

It's tough to quantify just how, or even if, a social-networked neighborhood can cut back on crime. But there has always been something positive about knowing your neighbors. And it seems a bit of technology in the mix is helping residents feel a little safer about where they live.


Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Paul McCartney to Play "Farewell to Candlestick"]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 19:10:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/paul-mc2.jpg

The rumors are true. Candlestick Park’s swan song will be sung by a Beatle.

Paul McCartney confirmed he has added a show at Candlestick to round out his "Out There" world tour.

The show, set for August 14, 2014, will be the last concert ever at the Stick before it's demolished.

Tickets for the concert go on sale May 5, but prices haven’t been set. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said he wanted the tickets to be “affordable.” They are expected to range from $50 to $275.

Candlestick Park was the site of The Beatles’ final ticketed concert back on August 29, 1966. Tickets to the Beatles’ 1966 Candlestick gig started at $4.50, with box seats going for $6.50.

In the decades since the stadium’s 1961 opening, it’s hosted everyone from the Giants to the 49ers to a Pope to the Rolling Stones.

McCartney last performed in San Francisco at this past summer’s Outside Lands festival in Golden Gate Park. It was then that the former Beatle told San Francisco city leaders he’d be interested in playing a sendoff show at the Stick.

Earlier this month, the Chronicle reported Levi’s Stadium and the 49ers were also interested in landing McCartney, to play an inaugural concert at the new Santa Clara venue. Team officials said that the idea of a Levi's show was promoter Live Nation's, according to the newspaper.

The “Farewell to Candlestick” concert is being promoted by Bay Area-based Another Planet Entertainment. APE’s Gregg Perloff says Candlestick holds a sentimental place for McCartney.

“One thing about Paul McCartney is, he has a sense of history and he understands how historic this will be,” Perloff said. “And for him, he’s very emotional about having played Candlestick before.”

Perloff said the stadium will hold 45,000 people for the concert. The stage will sit on the grass at the north end zone, where 49ers legend Dwight Clark hauled in the famous “Catch” in 1982.

Candlestick Park is scheduled to be demolished sometime at the end of this year or early next year to make way for San Francisco-based developer Lennar Urban's plans for a mixed-use housing and commercial development on the site.

The San Francisco 49ers, who have played at Candlestick since 1971, are moving to the new $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara for the upcoming NFL season.

The city is planning several other farewell events for Candlestick between now and August.

The final game to ever be played at Candlestick will be an exhibition held on July 12, with 49er favorites Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig and Dwight Clark taking on NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino from the Miami Dolphins and other all-stars in a "Legends of Candlestick" flag football game.

Ahead of the legends' game, San Francisco police will take on the city's Fire Department.

The game is part of the city's Recreation and Park Department's "Last Summer at the Stick" series.

Tickets for the all-star flag football game will be available starting May 10 at ticketmaster.com. Tickets range from $30 to $50.

The city is also planning a free day, where the public is invited to walk the field.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Moderate, Exceptional Drought Expands to All of CA]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 07:41:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/207*120/drought-monitor-map-april23.gif

Drought conditions expanded in California this week, marking the first time in the U.S. Drought Monitor's 15-year history that the entire state faces moderate to exceptional drought.

The Drought Monitor's weekly report (scroll down to view map) tracks drought conditions across the country. Drought Monitor researchers use five categories to indicate drought intensity -- Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).

Drought expanded across portions of southeast California and into southwest Arizona this week. Earlier this month, that extreme southeast corner of California was considered abnormally dry.

More than 96 percent of the state faces severe to exceptional drought. One year ago, only 30 percent of the state fell into those categories.

Severe and extreme drought conditions expanded in northern California this week. Exceptional drought expanded in the San Francisco Bay area and all of Monterey County.

No significant rainfall is in the forecast as communities and farmers struggling amid a third-consecutive dry year enter a hot, dry summer.

<![CDATA[Albany Pays Homeless $3K to Vacate Area for State Park]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 08:31:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0423-Albany-homelesscamp.jpg

The City of Albany is shelling out thousands of dollars to homeless people in an attempt to clear a tract of land for an eventual state park.

A lawsuit by the East Bay Community Law Center forced the city's hand to offer the buyout to homeless residents.

As of Wednesday, the city has agreed to pay 28 homeless residents $3,000 each to move out of a homeless camp at the Albany Bulb and stay out of the area for at least a year. About 45 people live at the Bulb.

"They were going to kick us out anyway, so I opted for the $3,000," said David Justus, a homeless person who jumped at the city's offer.

Amber Whitson rejected the deal. She has lived at the Bulb for seven years and has been deemed the unofficial mayor of the camp.

"It's somewhere magical where people of all walks of all abilities and disabilities come and create and bond with nature," Whitson said. "It's the closest thing to nature in the urbanized Bay Area."

The homeless residents who accepted the buyout must be out of the area by Friday, while the rest refusing to leave will be cited and could end up in jail, officials said.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges SamTrans Ignored Questions of Fraud]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 00:24:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SamTrans_generic.jpg

The San Mateo County Transit District is under more scrutiny after a lawsuit filed last week alleged the transit agency retaliated against a former accountant when she questioned how public money was being spent.

Ling La worked as a senior accountant at SamTrans for 2 years. The transit agency manages the finances for CalTrain, SamTrans buses, and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. La says she was fired after raising questions about a series of transactions she believed to be fraud.

“We as internal accountants, we saw a lot of things going on in there,” La told NBC Bay Area.

She is the second accountant to come forward with allegations the district is mismanaging public money.

La alleges she uncovered a pattern of fake expenses and improper payments occurring at the district for years. However, when she notified SamTrans CEO Mike Scanlon and the Human Resources director, her discovery was not welcomed.

“It’s very tough because I got a lot of retaliation,” La said.

In her suit, the former senior accountant alleges she was “subject to a pattern of harassment and retaliation” and later terminated for raising concerns.

SamTrans spokesperson Jayme Ackemann vehemently denies the allegations, and told NBC Bay Area the district is prepared to fight the claim in court.

“We are prepared to vigorously and thoroughly defend ourselves against this lawsuit and we expect to be successful in its resolution,” Ackemann said.

Ackemann says the district hired independent investigator Allison West to review all of La’s personnel complaints and sided with the district.
“We’re confident in the work of the independent investigator. We believe the findings speak for themselves and we look forward to the opportunity to review them further in court,” Ackemann said.

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit reviewed West’s findings and discovered the independent investigator was not asked to review La’s claims of fake expenses and improper payments.

Emails from La show that when she tried to bring them to West’s attention, she was told “The issue is beyond the scope of my investigation.”

An NBC Bay Area investigation looking into La’s claims found hundreds of thousands in improper payments that the district’s auditors found were “incorrectly coded,” but deemed immaterial.

Scanlon told NBC Bay Area the errors were an “honest mistakes.”

La is the second former SamTrans accountant to come forward with allegations the district is mismanaging public money. Former accountant David Ramires revealed a second set of books he used to keep track of the fake and inflated expenses La alleges in her complaint.

He said these “fake expenses” allowed the district to hide millions to be spent at the discretion of finance managers, namely SamTrans CFO Gigi Harrington.

“If these numbers are going out to the public and they [SamTrans] cannot stand by them, there’s something wrong,” Ramires said.

SamTrans acknowledges there are no invoices or proof for the expenses Ramires pointed out as fake, but denies Ramires was ordered to record them by his managers.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe says he is recommending an independent forensic audit on the accounts and transactions highlighted by David Ramires and La, but so far an auditor has not been named.

SamTrans firmly denies any fraud is occurring and maintains that its auditors have found no problems with the internal controls. The district upholds that any irregularities exposed by NBC Bay Area were caused by the “unilateral actions” of a single employee.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Housing Demands Rise in Gilroy, Morgan Hill]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:36:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/home_buyer_michael_son2.jpg

Construction of homes in Gilroy is booming after years of developers sitting on land and opting to not build new neighborhoods.

In south Gilroy two projects will bring 2,400 single-family homes. In addition, attached homes and town homes are going up all around the south county.

The hot real estate market in Gilroy has sparked buyers to ink mortgage papers before their new homes are completed.

"There's a limited number of homes for sales, but a lot of buyers out there," said Steve Barsanti, a real estate agent with Coldwell Bankers.

Barsanti said the new construction will not meet the demand for homes in the area.

In Morgan Hill, for example, there are about 50 to 60 homes for a sale a month at a time Barsanti said he could sell about 150 homes.

The high demand is in response to buyers finding no luck in the the tight Silicon Valley housing market.

"As people get outbid there, they come farther from where they work or want to live," Barsanti said. "So they come here where we have a little more for sale."

Growing interest in bedroom communities like Morgan Hill is driving up home prices, with an average sale price in April at $842,000 -- more than a quarter-million dollars higher than April 2012.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mark Zuckerberg Wax Figure on Display at New Madame Tussauds]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 09:29:47 -0700 More pictures below.]]> More pictures below.]]> http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-23-2014-zuck-wax.jpg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio headlined an event at San Francisco’s Fisherman's Wharf on Wednesday without saying a word.

The silent leading men and pop star Rihanna were part of a sneak preview for the new Madame Tussauds wax attraction in San Francisco.

The attraction is taking over the former San Francisco Wax Museum building on Jefferson Street. The museum had been entertaining tourists since 1963. It closed its doors last August.

“What really makes this a unique Madame Tussauds: 35 percent of the figures are from the San Francisco Bay Area or people, like Mark Zuckerberg, who have moved to Bay Area to make their mark on the world,” Madame Tussauds’ Lauren Fahrer said.

Madame Tussauds is yet to announce which Bay Area celebrities will be included in its "Spirit of San Francisco" room. On its website, Madame Tussauds only hints at which SF stars might be enshrined in wax:

"After a very special welcome for a local icon you will marvel at grafitti from a local artist as well as become a participant in a triumphant campaign for equal rights.

"As you follow the winding path of Lombard Street you end up outside the Sentinel Building home to a certain director's movie production company. The man himself is waiting for you outside with his latest film script in hand; perhaps he has you in mind for the leading role!

"A short distance away you can hear the faint sounds of music and smell burning campfires. As you investigate closer you step into a living breathing festival. Jump on the main stage and jam with a music legend."

Madame Tussauds opens its San Francisco location to the public on June 26.

The doors of the original wax museum now known as Madame Tussauds first opened in London in the early 19th century, after its founder Marie Tussaud first began creating wax figures of the likes of Ben Franklin and Voltaire.

The museum has since opened branches in major cities worldwide, displaying wax renditions of world leaders, celebrities and its founder herself.

BELOW: Images from Wednesday's preview event at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Kaiser Workers Strike To Protest Cost-Cutting, Suicides]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:07:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/IMG_11052.JPG

Mental health clinicians from Kaiser’s Oakland Medical Center launched a one-day strike Wednesday to address understaffing and cost-cutting in Kaiser’s mental health services. The clinicians say Kaiser’s policies have not only impacted patients in Oakland patients but throughout the state, leading to severe hardships, and even several suicides.

About 35 mental health clinicians, including therapists, counselors, social workers and psychologists were joined by nurses, patients and their families as they marched, picketed and sang outside the medical center.

The employeees, all members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, said they were protesting Kaiser’s efforts to implement policies in Oakland that have been used in Redwood City, where six Kaiser mental health patients have committed suicide.

Kaiser spokesperson Gerri Ginsburg said that Kaiser was taking the union's claim regarding suicide extremely seriously.

"While by law we can't discuss specific patients, I can say that we investigated this allegation when it was first made some months ago and found nothing to support it," he said.

According to the picketers, Kaiser members in dire need of psychiatric help are often required to wait months for appointments, which they called a violation of state law. When they do end up getting an appointment, Kaiser funneled them into group therapy instead of individualized care, they said.

"We strongly disagree with the union’s claims that this [work stoppage] is about the quality of mental health care at Kaiser Permanente," Don Mordecai, Kaiser's director of mental health, said in a statement. "This is about labor disputes at the Oakland Medical Center with the NUHW."

The clinicians said they were concerned that the problems at the Oakland Medical Center would increase as hundreds of thousands of California residents became Kaiser members under the Affordable Care Act.

"We are failing our patients, and for some the failures can prove fatal," said Clement Papazian, a social worker at Kaiser's Oakland Medical Center. "Kaiser Permanente's policies are forcing mental health clinicians throughout the state to provide substandard care."

A number of families have joined a class action lawsuit against Kaiser, citing inadequate mental health services. The lead plaintiff, Susan Futterman Paroutaud, sued Kaiser over the 2012 death of her husband. The lawsuit states that Fred Paroutaud, a composer and pianist diagnosed as bipolar, hanged himself in his home after repeated attempts to secure an appointment with Kaiser's mental health department.

Kaiser clinicians worked with NUHW since 2011 to document Kaiser's policies. Their efforts resulted in a report that caught the attention of California's Department of Managed Health Care, which confirmed the findings and fined Kaiser $4 million for delaying patients' access to mental health services, NUHW said.

Photo Credit: Justin DeFreitas]]>
<![CDATA[Levi's Stadium Set to Hire for Job Vacancies]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 22:00:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/levi-stad-1.jpg

Levi's Stadium is ready to give the South Bay another wave of job opportunities.

After giving the Silicon Valley a mini-construction boom, stadium officials are now looking to fill jobs inside the new home of the San Francisco 49ers. Job seekers can find opportunities that include working at Levi's Stadium restaurants and serving as an usher.

"I mean, who wouldn't want to work inside the stadium during a game or special event?" said Steve Van Dorn, Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce CEO.

Dorn said job creation to the area was part of the reason the city strongly supported the construction of Levi's Stadium.

"We know the unemployment rate is low in Silicon Valley, but people are looking for work," Dorn said. "This is another opportunity to find a job, and it's a great job."

Among the restaurants looking for help is celebrity chef Michael Minna's newest creation, which he said will be open every day of the year and not just on game days.

Jerry Wilburn attended the Wednesday job fair and said he would like to be part of the excitement to the growing South Bay.

"It's a great second job, plus it means a lot for Santa Clara and the whole South Bay to have a team here dedicated to football," Wilburn said.

Stadium officials ask job seekers to fill out a form on the Levi's Stadium website.

The $1.3 million stadium is just months away from completion.

Meanwhile, area businesses are ecstatic over the new stadium bringing in new customers.

The San Jose Sharks proved that with a boost to downtown San Jose. An NFL team like the 49ers would be a bottom-line enhancer.

In fact, it already has been for Butter and Zeus Waffle Sandwiches in Santa Clara.

"Vernon Davis called in an order and ordered 20 chicken and waffles on a Friday night," said Nga Huynh, restaurant manager. "We had customers here and they were so excited."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[84-Year-Old Man Arrested After Hospital Shooting]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 08:31:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-23-2014-daly-city-evacuees.jpg

Police arrested an 84-year-old man late Wednesday in connection to a reported shooting at a Daly City medical building.

Raymond Iwase was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Police arrested the elderly man without incident at his Daly City home on Plymouth Circle shortly after 10 p.m. He was booked into San Mateo County Jail.

Police also said a firearm and ammunition were recovered at Iwase's home.

Earlier in the day, officers and firefighters responded to the medical center at 1500 Southgate Ave. after a report of gunfire at about 1:30 p.m. and began to evacuate the building.

Police said shortly before 5 p.m. that no suspect or victim was found and said shortly afterward that part of Southgate Avenue that had been closed was reopened to traffic.

A doctor inside the building told Daly City police he saw a man inside the building with what looked like a handgun. He ran from the man and then says he thinks he heard a shot, police said.

The doctor was not hurt and called police.

Police and SWAT officers went inside the building looking for the suspect, described as an elderly Asian male.

Bullet fragments were also found in the hallway of the area described by the doctor, police said.

Nearby Seton Medical Center remained open during the ordeal.

People are seen being led by police away from the medical office building at 1500 Southgate Avenue in Daly City, Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

People are seen being led by police away from the medical office building at 1500 Southgate Avenue in Daly City, Wednesday, April 23, 2014.


Photo Credit: Cheryl Hurd]]>
<![CDATA["Allah Saved Him": Santa Clara Teen Stowaway's Father]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 07:16:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-23-2014-hawaiian.jpg

The father of a Santa Clara teen stowaway who survived a 5 1/2-hour flight from San Jose to Hawaii Sunday despite high altitudes, low oxygen and freezing temperatures tells the Voice of America that Allah protected his son.

“When I watched the analysis about the extraordinary and dangerous trip of my son on local TVs and that Allah had saved him, I thanked God and I was very happy,” Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi, who lives in Santa Clara, told VOA's Somali service in an interview Wednesday.

Abdi said he received the news about his son's trip in a phone call from police in Hawaii.

“They told me that they were holding my son,” he said. “I was shocked. I wondered how my son went there.”

The teen’s story has been met with amazement by experts, who say low temperatures and lack of oxygen in the wheel well would make it hard to survive such a journey.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, only 25 of 105 flight stowaways reported since 1947 have lived.

“They tried to explain to me about the stowaway and the plane story,” Abdi told VOA. “I got confused, and asked them to call the San Jose police department which later explained to me how things happened.”

Abdi told the news service his son was at home Friday at noon, and they had prayed together. On Sunday, the teen scaled the fence at San Jose Mineta International Airport, sneaking into the Boeing 767's wheel well.

The teen crawled out of the wheel about an hour after the plane landed in Maui and was spotted by airport workers on the tarmac.

When VOA asked what might have spurred his son to fly to Hawaii in such a risky way, Abdi said:

“He did not receive education when he was in Africa. Since we came here he had learning challenges at school. He was not good at math and science and I think he had a lot of education problems bothering him.”

Abdi described his son as a “very quiet person.”

“He was always busy with watching the TV and using computer. I can say he was really cool boy,” he said.

According to Abdi, his son always talked about going back to Africa, where his grandparents still lived.

“We want to go back, but due to the current living conditions we can’t go back.” Abdi said.

Photo Credit: Hawaiian Airlines]]>
<![CDATA["How Can You Resist That Face?" Harbor Seal Pup Born]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:34:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-23-2014-Lily_4-days_3.jpg

Easter is a time for spring and renewal - a time when babies and bunnies are born into the world.

Apparently, it's birth time for Pacific harbor seal pups, too.

One such pup was born Saturday morning - 24 hours before Easter - at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo - the first seal pup born at the park in eight years, according to spokeswoman Nancy Chan.

"How can you resist that face?" Chan asked rhetorically.

The pup, named "Lily," because of the time of year she was born, weighs in at 20 pounds. The black, gray and white pinniped is the offspring of her 9-year-old  mom, Maile, and 10-year-old dad, Dyson.

Harbor seal mom, Maile, kisses her pup, Lily, at Six Flags in Vallejo (Samantha Sanford).

Pacific harbor seals, also known as true seals differ from sea lions in a number of ways, including having shorter, stouter flippers and no visible earflaps. When swimming, they use their hind flippers to propel through the water.

Photos: Adorable Zoo Babies
Pups double their weight within the first four to six weeks nursing on the rich mother’s milk, which is about 45 percent fat, and then is weaned. In the wild, a mother will leave its pup after the first month to finish growing and fend for itself.

Chan said within hours, Lily was nursing, swimming, exploring, and of course, being "exceptionally cute."

 Harbor seal mom, Maile, swims with newborn pup, Lily, at Six Flags in Vallejo (Nancy Chan).


Photo Credit: Nancy Chan]]>
<![CDATA[Oakland Teen with 5.0 GPA in "Ellen Show" Appearance]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:36:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-23-2014-Akintunde-backstage.jpg

Oakland teenager Akintunde Ahmad's story is being hailed on social media as an example of why you should never judge a book by its cover.

The 18-year-old Oakland Technical High School senior has been accepted into Yale, Brown and Columbia, has a 5.0 GPA, and he scored a 2100 on his SATs. But when some people look at his dreadlocks and sweatpants they have trouble believing it. So he keeps photographic proof of his accomplishments on his cell phone. And also tweets them out.

Akintunde or "Tunde" as his friends call him, was on The Ellen Show Wednesday, announcing that he has decided to attend Yale in the fall. He also hopes to continue playing baseball at his new school.

"I've been a Bulldog at Oakland Tech for the past four years and I'm going to continue to be a Bulldog," he said to applause from the audience. Yale's mascot is a bulldog.

"How do you have time to dance like that if you're always studying?" Ellen asked Tunde as he capered to "Can You Do This" on her set.

And later, "I didn't even know you could get a 5.0 GPA ... Have you always been a good student?" she asked.

"Yeah, I guess it started when I was young - just got on like a good path, when I got home from school after practice and sports, always right to homework," Tunde said.

Ellen also presented Tunde with a check for $12,000 to help with tuition.

In earlier interviews -- Tunde's story was picked up by BET, the Daily Mail and SFGate -- Tunde describes himself as "any other street dude," but his story is one of courage and determination to win against all odds.

Despite living in a tough neighborhood – he can easily recall a long list of people he knew who were killed in street violence – Tunde was able to steer clear of the distractions that often befell African-American teenagers.

When you see Tunde for the first time, it’s hard not to notice his locks and gold chains, but the other thing that hits you immediately is his maturity and calm demeanor. He's wiser than his 18 years and has some good advice for kids who come from similar backgrounds.

“Manage your time wisely because it’s easy to get behind when you’re doing that much,” he said in a backstage interview on Ellen. "But staying busy kind of helps you do that because you don’t have any time to fall behind or procrastinate ... Makes it easier in a way."

Today it's not just the Ivies that want Tunde, he's getting acceptance letters from the University of Southern California, UCLA, Northwestern and a number of other schools.

“I wasn’t very ecstatic about it or anything - I didn’t tell my parents … it was like another day” he said of the acceptance letters backstage.

One of six children in a Rastafarian family, one of Tunde's brothers was caught carrying guns during a federal sting operation and sent to prison last year.

"We got the same mother, the same father, just a different path," he told SFGate.

On Wednesday, Tunde's parents were in the audience to cheer him on.

"You can say he's the smartest one of all the children?"

"Yes, we can say that," his mother replied smiling.

Photo Credit: Michael Rozman/ Warner Bros.]]>
<![CDATA[Silicon Valley Workers Get to Work Late]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 12:30:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/176640682.jpg

Silicon Valley embodies the heart of the country's entrepreneurial spirit, where inventors dream up highfalutin algorithms and wacky gadgets from their garages.

But, apparently, they don't wake up early to do it.

People in San Jose (8:21 a.m.), San Francisco (8:17 a.m.) and Santa Cruz (8:14 a.m.) rated in the Top 20 cities for not getting the worm, because the creative stragglers get to work so late.

According to the survey, only New Yorkers got to work later - at 8:24 a.m., nearly 30 minutes after the national average of 7:55.

Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of the FiveThirtyEight blog, compiled American Community Survey data that offered unique insight to America's work habits. He concluded that those in the most highly populated metro areas start their workday later than the rest of the country and in general, start time is dictated by the type of work rather than location.

Silver notes that the cities with the latest arrival times tend to be those that employ a lot of young professionals, college towns and cities whose economies rely on gambling and tourism. A quarter of workers in Atlantic City do not start their day until 11:26 a.m., according to census data. Those in Ithaca, N.Y., where Cornell University is located, start work at around 8:19 a.m.

So what is it about some jobs that allow its workers to clock in later?

"The occupation industrial mix makes a big difference because of how workers integrate with the global economy," said Dr. Liana Sayer, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on time use.

In other words, a later start means more of your day overlaps with different time zones, Sayer said. This could be a priority for professionals in cities like New York and San Francisco whose work is more linked to the global economy. Their start times stand in contrast to those who work in farming and agriculture and require daylight hours to generate income. Bakersfield, one of California's most agriculturally rich areas, boasts a 7:17 a.m. median start time to its work day, according to Silver's census data.

Professionals in dense cities might also be influenced by colleagues who hold the same work hours. Another explanation may be that professionals in these areas have longer commute times and therefore end up at work later, said Sayer.

Military towns like Killeen, Texas and Jacksonville, N.C., are home to some of the earliest risers. Hinesville, Ga, workers have the earliest median start time of 7:01 a.m.

The numbers in Silver's report refer to the location of the work and not the residence of the workers. The figures also do not include those who work from home. He used the median start time for each city, which means half of its workers start earlier and the other half starts later.

NBC Bay Area's Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Image Source]]>
<![CDATA[Sharks-Kings 1st Round Playoff Series]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 20:58:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*128/486564341_8.jpg The San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings square off in the first round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Walgreens Thieves Steal Nearly $6,000 of Cigarettes in Belmont]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 10:06:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/208*120/belmont23.jpg

Police are seeking the public's help to identify two men who smashed through the front door of a Walgreens and stole nearly $6,000 worth of cigarettes in Belmont, some of which was caught on video.

Officers arrived to the scene just after 4 a.m. to the store in the 900 block of Ralston Avenue.

Surveillance video showed the two suspects break down the front door of the drug retailer store.

Moments later, they rushed behind the counter and loaded trash bags with boxes of cigarettes.

The men were in the store for about two minutes before they ran off.

Investigators described the suspects wearing dark hooded sweatshirts and jeans.

Anyone with information on the two men are asked to contact Belmont police at (650)595-7400.

<![CDATA[1888 "City of Chester" Shipwreck Rediscovered in SF Bay]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 05:59:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-23-2014-chester-rosato.jpg

A steamship that sank with 16 passengers aboard in 1888 has been located again under the Golden Gate Bridge, leading to the release of new sonar images of the boat sitting upright, covered in mud.

James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Sanctuaries, called the rediscovery of the passenger ship the “City of Chester,” which was first located more than 100 years ago, quite remarkable. And not just because it was the Bay Area’s second most deadly shipwreck.

The find is significant, Delgado said, because its revelation allows the public to learn more about ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances. And re-examining the story of the ship, he said, allows for a bit of Gold Rush-era Chinese bigotry to be erased.

The shipwreck, which occurred following a collision with a boat carrying Chinese immigrants, was initially blamed on the passengers and crew of the other ship involved. While it was later revealed that the Chester was at fault -- and Chinese crew worked to save the lives of those on board -- the wreck "was then largely forgotten," according to the NOAA.

“History is made up of a  lot of people who never made it into the books,” said Delgado, an archaeologist who grew up in San Jose, Calif., and now works in Washington, D.C. “Same with this shipwreck. It was filled with everyday people who got into a situation beyond their control.”

“Not every discovery,” Delgado said, “is the Titanic.”

The ship was most recently found in 200 feet of water about  quarter mile away from the Golden Gate Bridge in May 2013, when coastal teams were scouring the bottom of the bay before the America’s Cup, according to Delgado. But the NOAA waited until Wednesday to present its findings publicly, after months of sorting through data and sonar imagery. 

2013 Multi-beam sonar profile view of the shipwreck SS City of Chester. (Credit: NOAA Office of Coast Survey NRT6)

Delgado said while his team was out on the Bay looking to make sure the racing sailboats wouldn’t get caught on anything, crews were also looking for this wreck, which he knew about from the history books.

High-resolution sonar imagery clearly defined the hull, according to NOAA, rising some 18 feet from the seabed, and the fatal gash on the vessel’s port side.

For Delgado – who said he was actually the first archaeologist aboard the Titanic in 2000 - the finding of the 202-foot long steamship is a chance to talk about his favorite subject, history.

Ninety people were aboard the ship on Aug. 22, 1888, which made a regular trip from the Bay Area to British Columbia. It was named City of Chester after the Pennsylvania city in which it was built. 

On the day of the wreck, the captain of the ship took an unsafe turn, Delgado said, forcing the oncoming Oceanic to strike it. The City of Chester was impaled and sank. Sixteen people died.

Delgado said that the deadly shipwreck was the captain of the Chester’s fault. But that at the time, because of anti-Chinese sentiment during the height of the Gold Rush era, the public blamed the Chinese crew aboard the Oceanic for the deaths. But Delgado said the animousity wasn't warranted. 

Modern view of the Golden Gate Channel and approximate location of the SS City of Chester. (Credit: Robert V. Schwemmer, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries)

 “The Chinese crew saved a lot of lives," Delgado said. "They pulled people onto their boats. If not for them, more people would have died.”

The City of Chester wreck is the second worst shipwreck of the San Francisco Bay Area, Delgado said, second to a 1901 Golden Gate Bridge-area wreck that killed 128 people.

NOAA officials gave credit to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey for locating the City of Chester 125 years ago. But no one verified the find, and no attempt was made to lug the ship to shore.

And no attempt will be made now, either. The shipwreck will remain submerged on the seafloor.

Just knowing it’s there is enough for Delgado.

“It’s a tangible link to another time," he said.

Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[Photo May Show Stowaway's Footprints on Airplane Wheels]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 09:16:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*155/wheel4.JPG

New images obtained by an NBC affiliate in Hawaii show what appear to possibly be the Santa Clara stowaway's footprints on the wheel of a plane he hid in for 5 1/2 hours from San Jose to Maui.

Hawaii News Now, which goes by the call letters KHNL, obtained photos from a source showing what looks like footprints on the wheel of the Hawaiian Airlines aircraft. Another photo (below) appears to  show footprints and handprints on the door of the craft.

The prints are believed to belong to the 15-year-old Santa Clara teen who hid in the wheel well on Sunday, traveling from San Jose Mineta International Airport to Hawaii. His story has been met with disbelief from experts, who say low temperatures and lack of oxygen in the wheel well would make it hard to survive such a journey. Only 25 of the 105 flight stowaways reported since 1947 lived, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

NBC Bay Area and NBC News have been unable to independently verify the photos.

Hawaii News Now also first reported that the 15-year-old boy - a student at Santa Clara High - may have been headed to Africa to reunite with his biological mother, according to an anonymous source with the Maui police department.

The station reported that the boy, who lives in Santa Clara, wanted to reunite with his mother in Somalia. Hawaii News Now reporter Lynn Kawano said that the boy lives with his biological father and a stepmother, but was not happy living with so many siblings and step-siblings.

The teen's family told NBC Bay Area in a brief interview Monday that the reports of an argument were untrue.

Both FBI Special Agent Tom Simon and Maui Police Lt. William Juan declined to confirm or deny to NBC Bay Area the report that the boy was trying to head to Africa.

NBC News also reported that the boy first hopped a fence at San Jose's airport at 1 a.m. on Sunday near a fuel farm . A video apparently shows him climbing into the wheel well of Flight 45 between gates two and three, NBC News reported. The plane landed at Kahlului Airport at 4:30 p.m.

The teen's former English teacher at Oak Grove High, Keith Chung, told NBC Bay Area he did not know much about the teen, other than that he had moved to the U.S. from Africa three years ago and that his father was a cab driver.

Chung said the boy had some recent run-ins in his English-learning class. Those issues, on which Chung did not elaborate, had culminated in a transfer to Santa Clara High.

"I'm totally shocked," Chung said. "I had this random thought that when I heard the news, that wouldn't it be funny if he went to Oak Grove? No, I wouldn't think he would do anything that this. He's very quiet."

Student Emanuael Golla, 18, told NBC Bay Area that the teen had just transferred to Santa Clara High about five weeks ago. Golla described him as very quiet, someone who kept to himself.

And Santa Clara High Principal Greg Shelby said that when the teen returns to school, he will be able to receive psychological services if he wants.



Photo Credit: Anonymous source via Hawaii News Now]]>
<![CDATA[FedEx Sued Over Deadly California Bus Crash]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 04:26:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/198*120/AP437289118866.jpg

The mother of a 17-year-old honors student who was among 10 people killed in a fiery Northern California bus crash sued FedEx on Tuesday, alleging that its trucks have a history of catching fire.

The negligence suit that seeks $100 million in damages is the first filed in connection with the April 10 freeway crash in Orland, said A. King Aminpour, the attorney for the plaintiffs.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of Rosa Rivera, mother of Jennifer Bonilla of Los Angeles.

The Dorsey High School student had earned a college scholarship. She and other teens were heading north for a free tour of Humboldt State University when the bus was struck head-on by a FedEx truck.

Dozens escaped through windows before the bus exploded into towering flames, but five students, three adult chaperones and both drivers died.

"She had her whole future before her," Aminpour said of Bonilla. "She was the first in her family to ever go to college."

The California Highway Patrol has not determined the cause of the crash 100 miles north of Sacramento.

Some witnesses reported that the FedEx truck was on fire before the crash, and the lawsuit alleges that FedEx trucks have a history of catching fire from mechanical problems, driver error or improper cargo loading.

"Our heartfelt condolences remain with everyone affected by this tragic accident," Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx Corp. said in a statement. "We remain focused on providing support to those affected and cooperating with the authorities as they conduct their investigation. This is not the time for us to discuss potential litigation."

The suit also names the estate of the FedEx driver and the bus owner, Silverado Stages, as defendants. The bus lacked adequate exit doors that would have allowed passengers to escape after the crash, the lawsuit contends.

A message seeking comment from a Silverado Stages executive after hours Tuesday was not immediately returned.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Strong Winds Hit Bay Area]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 06:53:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/0422-tree_down.jpg

Strong winds hit across the Bay Area Tuesday, prompting warnings on bridges and making it tough for firefighters at a three-alarm blaze in San Francisco.

A three-story Victorian went up in flames in the afternoon in San Francisco's Duboce Triangle neighborhood. The wind fueled flames to spread quickly, officials said.

A firefighter was injured in the blaze, which destroyed a home and damaged two others.

Officials said wind gusts reached up to 40 mph in San Francisco and generated plenty of eco-friendly energy at the Crissy Field Center.

The wind also caused branches to fall, even breaking the windshield of a car parked at Sansome and Chestnut streets.

While the wind presented a challenge, some Bay Area residents welcomed the strong gusts.

"Super exhilarating, and a fight," said Greg McKenney, a San Francisco kite surfer. "Cause you're fighting the current the whole time."

View more in Monte Francis' video report above.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Students Upset Over Michigan Affirmative Action Ruling]]> Tue, 22 Apr 2014 18:38:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0422-affirmative_action.jpg

Several Bay Area students are disappointed over a ruling to maintain affirmative action.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday morning upheld Michigan's ban on using race as a factor in college admissions.

In a 6-2 ruling, the justices said the state did not violate the U.S. Constitution when its voters banned affirmative action. The justices said that a lower federal court was wrong to set aside the change as discriminatory.

California has a similar ban when it comes to admitting students to public universities. Proposition 209 amended California's State Constitution banning public universities from using open affirmative action policies to increase the number of students of color.

A group of Bay Area students said on Tuesday they would fight to restore affirmative action.

"The Supreme Court decision is a racist decision," said Yvette Felarca, an organizer with the group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN.

The student group on Tuesday held a rally at the UC Berkeley campus to denounce the Supreme Court decision.

"It gives a green light to states to discriminate against and impose a cap on the admissions on Latino, black, Native American and other under-represented minority students," said Ronald Cruz, an attorney with BAMN.

UC Berkeley student Gabby Edwards said she feels the effect of the affirmative action ban on campus.

"It's really an isolating feeling being here, being the only black student in our class," Edwards said. "It's isolating and detrimental to your college experience."

Harmeet Dhillon, a spokesperson for the California Republican, supports Tuesday's Supreme Court decision.

Dhillon said that admission quotas based on race creates an advantage for one group and a disadvantage for another group.

"Those other groups are not just white people," Dhillon said. "They are minorities as well."

NBC News contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Residents Voice Concerns Over Santa Clara "Mini Dorms"]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 03:55:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/0402-SantaClara-MiniDorm.jpg

Santa Clara residents packed a city council meeting Tuesday frustrated over what is being called "mini dorm" projects moving into their neighborhood.

Many residents have urged city leaders to stop a home remodel on Park Avenue they fear will turn into housing for students at nearby Santa Clara University. About a hundred residents attended Tuesday's meeting to voice their concerns.

"I love Santa Clara, but on the other hand when you get 12 or 15 students together and the party is going on in the middle of the night, it can be a problem in a neighborhood," resident Mark Kelsey said.

Neighbors said the Park Avenue home remodel is just one of many across the city being converted into mini dorms.

Other concerns over the mini dorms include parking, traffic and noise.

"It seems like developers have more say with the process than residents do and that's really what we are asking for," Kelsey said. "That the residents have a voice in changes in development in the neighborhood."

City planners, however, said the buyer in the Park Avenue remodel is within zoning laws. Officials also said the city can't limit the number of bedrooms -- only the size of the home.

Neighbors are notified of remodeling plans if a second story is added.

The council in response to residents' concerns adopted two motions -- forming a committee to create new rules regulating multi-tenant rentals and planning commission approval will be needed for any future home remodels that increases the number of bedrooms to four or more.

NBC Bay Area's Jean Elle contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[San Jose Filmmaker Rushes To Tell The "Story Of His Life"]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:25:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Touched+By+Hannah+6.jpg

From the moment he bought his first video camera, more than 25 years ago, Chris Hennessy says he has felt right at home behind the lens.

"I pretty much became addicted right away to telling stories with it," Chris says.

It was such a good fit for Chris, now 57 and living in San Jose, that he soon left his career as a carpeting and fabric salesman to strike out as an independent video producer.

Chris has since made his living telling the stories of other people's lives, using his talents as an amateur improv comic to infuse humor in the wedding, bar mitzvah, and corporate videos he creates.

Lately, though, Chris has been consumed with creating a film to tell his own story. One he says that millions of people could benefit from hearing.

Chris Hennessy has been an independent video producer for the past 25 years.

"This is not the story I want to tell," Chris says. "This is the story I have to tell." 

The story Chris wants to share focuses on a three-week period in the late summer of 2009. After being diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, Chris underwent major surgery to remove the tumor.
Just three weeks later, while Chris was still recovering, his wife, Betsy, went into labor three months before her due date. When Chris and Betsy's daughter, Hannah, was born she weighed 1 pound and 9 ounces.
Within a span of 3 weeks in 2009, Chris had surgery to remove his cancerous prostate, and his daughter, Hannah, was born three months premature, weighing 1 pound 9 ounces.
"Immediately I was thrust into this situation: not only did I have a life-threatening situation," Chris says, "my daughter weighed a pound and a half."
Chris says he doesn't know why, but despair and hopelessness never seemed like an option to him. He decided to tackle the situation with a sense of humor and a positive attitude.
"This was one of the most brutal times of my life," Chris recalls, "and I had people around me laughing and feeling loose and relaxed."
Chris is convinced the positive atmosphere he created helped Hannah not just survive, but grow into the thriving four-year-old that she is.
Chris is on a mission to create an inspirational film, called Touched By Hannah, that will share his belief that humor and a positive attitude helped both he, and his daughter, survive.
It is that message of the power of humor and positive thinking that Chris wants to get across with the docudrama film, Touched By Hannah, he is trying to create. Chris also hopes the film, recreating some of the darkest hours of his life, will lead people to learn more about ways to reduce the instances of prostate cancer and premature births.
Chris is now in the fund-raising stage, hoping to get the film made as quickly as possible. That is because, while Hannah is doing well, there are signs that Chris' cancer may be returning.
"Every second that I am going to be here I am going to be passionate about what I do and try to make a difference. Even if it is only another five years or 10 years."