<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:31:45 -0700 Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:31:45 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[49ers' Aldon Smith Suspended for 9 Games]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 18:24:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/aldon-smith-preason-2014.jpg

The San Francisco 49ers will play more than half the season without the team’s best defensive player.

The NFL has suspended outside linebacker Aldon Smith for the first nine games of the 2014 season for violating the league's policies on substance abuse and personal conduct.

Smith's suspension is without pay, the league announced Friday.

Smith will be eligible to return to the 49ers’ active roster on Monday, Nov. 10, following the team’s Nov. 9 game against the New Orleans Saints, the NFL announced. He'll likely be back on the field when the Niners play the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 16.

“Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team," San Francisco 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said in a statement following the league's announcement. "Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead.”

Smith will not be able to appeal the suspension as the appeals process has already run its course, CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco reported.

The 24-year-old Smith, one of the NFL's top pass rushers, missed five games last season to undergo treatment at an in-patient facility following his DUI arrest Sept. 20.

Just before training camp began last month, the 24-year-old Smith was sentenced to serve three years of probation and to spend 11 days with a work crew after he pleaded no contest to drunken driving and weapons charges.

He has repeatedly said he has been sober since his DUI arrest last September. Smith played in a 27-7 home loss to the Colts on Sept. 22, two days after he was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. After the game, he publicly apologized for his behavior and later announced he would leave for treatment.

While the Niners went on a five-game winning streak without him, Smith's menacing presence was sorely missed. The team still picked up his 2015 contract option this spring.

In his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport. Police said Smith was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb. No charges were filed.

In November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home. Investigators said several shots were fired, two partygoers were injured and Smith was stabbed. In the subsequent investigation, prosecutors say detectives found five unregistered, illegal weapons in Smith's house.

Last season, Smith finished with 8 1/2 sacks and 34 tackles in 11 games with eight starts. He was initially worked back in slowly, but demonstrated he had stayed in shape while away.

Selected seventh overall in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, Smith had a franchise-record 19 1/2 sacks during the 2012 season for the 49ers, who lost to Baltimore in the Super Bowl after that season.

Read more from CSN Bay Area.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Convict Charged in Mom, Kid Attack]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 08:45:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pedro+vargas+inset.jpg

A man convicted of kidnapping and robbery in the 1990s was arrested for allegedly posing as a livery cab driver and assaulting a mother and two of her young children before hitting the youngest with the door of his fleeing car after driving them to a Queens homeless shelter, authorities say.

Pedro Vargas, 48, faces charges of misdemeanor assault, two counts of felony assault and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child after the alleged attacks outside the shelter that sits on the site of the former Pan Am Hotel in Elmhurst, prosecutors say.

Vargas, of Yonkers, was arrested late Thursday, four days after a man claiming to be a cab driver picked up a 26-year-old mother and her three kids -- ages 1, 3, and 5 -- and said he would drive them to the shelter. The man drove them around the back of the building and started to assault the family.

The attack was captured by surveillance cameras. Footage shows the man, allegedly Vargas, hurl the 3-year-old child from the back of the cab to the sidewalk, then elbow the 5-year-old, forcing her to the ground. Prosecutors allege the man then fought with the mother as she held her 1-year-old child in her arms, and the 1-year-old fell to the sidewalk. The man allegedly then got back into his car and sped off with the front passenger door still open; the car door hit the 1-year-old as the man drove away.

The children were taken to Elmhurst Hospital with minor injuries, including bruising and swelling. Their mother wasn't hurt. 

Vargas' attorney Howard Greenberg claimed the victim tried to "proposition" his client after she refused to pay the fare.

"He just wanted to get rid of her and them," he told reporters. "Some of it might have been a bit somewhat of an overreaction but there's no injuries to the children. So what's the crime?" 

Police say Vargas was arrested 12 times between 1984 and 1994, including on kidnapping and robbery charges in Manhattan and the Bronx. He served 18 years in jail on those charges. 

Vargas admitted in court he did not have a license to operate a taxi. 

-Lori Bordonaro contributed to this report

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Accused Nurse Showed Baby's Room]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 10:22:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Michael-Lutts-Folo-crop.jpg

A longtime friend of a San Diego nurse accused of molesting a 2-month-old foster child said she visited the suspect at his home before the graphic allegations came to light and he even showed her the nursery he had set up for his new baby.

Michael William Lutts, 50, a pediatric nurse working at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, allegedly sexually abused a foster child in his care, recording the crimes on camera, according to a complaint filed by the FBI Wednesday.

He’s accused of beginning the lewd acts on Aug. 4 – the very same day he received custody of the prematurely born baby. According to graphic details in court documents, the alleged abuse included Lutts touching and manipulating the baby boy’s genitals while masturbating, among other things.

Lisa Rosenfeld and her family have known Lutts for the past 20 years.

She said Lutts once worked with her sister caring for children with autism. Rosenfeld’s father was also Lutts’ landlord, renting him an apartment for many years.

On Friday, Rosenfeld told NBC 7 she was completely shocked and disturbed by the accusations of child molestation against Lutts.

She said she had recently visited Lutts at his new home where he showed her the room he had prepared for his incoming foster child.

“I had gone to see him at his new house and he showed me the room he had all set up because he was going to adopt a baby boy,” Rosenfeld recalled. “The room was set up beautiful – all set up for a baby boy.”

Rosenfeld said Lutts mentioned he “had to do a lot of stuff to show he was a proper parent” prior to becoming a foster father.

She said she never imagined Lutts would soon be charged with the molestation of the baby boy.

“I was shocked to hear this, like, ‘Oh my God.’ Totally shocked; it’s not acceptable. Nobody should do that to a baby,” she said. “I never dreamed he would do something like that to a baby.”

Rosenfeld said she saw no signs that Lutts might commit these alleged crimes.

While he was a tenant at her father’s apartment, Rosenfeld said Lutts had no problems, always paid his rent on time and had lots of friends, all of whom were “age-appropriate.”

Given his job as a pediatric nurse and access to children, Rosenfeld said officials will have to thoroughly investigate just how far his interactions with young patients went. She also hopes investigators look at Lutts’ time working with children with autism to ensure there were no victims there.

Rosenfeld said that if Lutts is guilty of the sexual abuse, he should be in prison.

“That’s the kind of person that needs to be locked up. It doesn’t matter who it is – anybody that’s going to do harm to a baby. It’s a baby. That’s not acceptable,” she said.

“I never saw this coming. Wow. There’s nothing else you can say,” she added.

On Friday, Lutts appeared in federal court for a detention hearing with his head down, shackled at the waist. He did not speak and appeared sullen.

Through his attorney, he agreed to spend at least the next two weeks in jail without bond
Prosecutors could not comment on the case due to the ongoing investigation but did say Lutts may be indicted before his next court appearance, which is scheduled for Sept. 9.

Lutts was arrested Tuesday after the FBI raided his College Grove home. Investigators allegedly found thousands of photos and videos on his phone and computer depicting graphic sex acts with children, including his 2-month-old foster child.

According to court documents released this week, Lutts was also videotaped naked in his living room with the baby near him while he performed lewd acts on himself. Pictures show the hospital tag was still attached to the infant’s leg.

FBI agents said the newborn can be heard crying through many of the videos. The abuse happened over the course of at least five days, according to investigators.

The 2-month-old victim has since been placed in the care of Child Protective Services.

On Thursday Kaiser Permanente said Lutts had been suspended from work and would not be returning until the investigation and criminal proceedings are completed.

The medical group's spokesperson said the hospital has had no indication from law enforcement that their patients were possible vicitms but its administration is working with authorities.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Trans-Fat Labels on Food Deceiving: Study]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 23:37:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/181*120/transfat.jpg

You may be eating more bad fat than you think. Researchers at the New York Health Department checked 4,340 top-selling packaged foods, and found 9 percent of them contained trans-fats. Of those, 84 percent proclaimed themselves as trans-fat free.

SJSU Associate Professor of Nutrition and Food Science Marjorie Freedman says labels can be deceiving.

"The FDA allowed anything with up to 0.5 grams of trans fat to be labeled as zero grams,” she said.

Freedman says the ingredients will show if there’s trans-fat in the food even if the label does not. She says people should look for hydrogenated oils.

As a nutritionist, she’s more concerned about people sitting down and eating a half box of cookies even if they’re fat free.

"To me the problem is not the trans-fats that they're getting in those cookies, it's all of the calories,” Freedman said.

She applauds the industry for efforts to cut trans-fats out of foods.

"Ten years ago, thousands of foods contained it so the industry has really made great progress,” Freedman said.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[San Jose Police Plan "Officer Retention" Program]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 18:20:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sjpd-san-jose-police.jpg

The City of San Jose will soon be considering a controversial program aimed at boosting its understaffed police department. The goal: to entice officers to stay on the force, after retirement.

The police proposal, what the department calls a new “officer retention” program, is expected to be announced publicly next week, but it’s already drawing fire behind the scenes. Critics say it's a bad version of an old idea won't solve the staffing crisis and may create new problems.

Hundreds of San Jose police officers have quit over the city's pension reform efforts. To stem the tide, the San Jose Police Department, with support from the mayor and city officials, plans to offer retiring cops a deferred retirement option program, called DROP. In essence, the officer retires, but their pension is put in a trust fund so they can work two or three more years without paying into the retirement system. Then, when they actually leave, they get that pension money in full.

San Jose councilman and mayoral candidate Sam Liccardo said, regardless of rank, most officers would be put in patrol units.

"We want to send a clear signal to all members of the department, that if they're contemplating retirement in the coming year, they've got an option,” Liccardo said.

The police union said the city rejected similar proposals before, including one once used in San Francisco, and called the latest version politically motivated and “desperate.”

"What if the officer who's now 'retired' but still working is seriously injured?” said Sgt. Jim Unland, president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association.

The city asked the union on Friday to meet next week to discuss the proposal.

"The mayor and I will be coming out with a memorandum this coming week, and we want to begin negotiations right away,” Liccardo said.

"This is a smoke screen to take attention away from the Measure B problems, away from the police exodus problems,” Unland said, “and it's really a disingenuous effort at this point.”

Despite the disagreement, the union said it will meet with the city after the proposal is “officially” unveiled on Wednesday.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Video at Napa Train Yard Shows Violent Shaking from Quake]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 22:27:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0829-2014-NapaTrain.jpg

New video taken from cameras at the yard that houses the Napa Valley Wine Train shows how strong the quake was felt in the area.

The video shows trains shaking violently on the tracks, while transformers explode in the background. The quake forced the popular tourist train to be shut down last Sunday and Monday.

The train, tracks, bridges and trestles all passed inspection and the service has since re-opened.

Photo Credit: Napa Valley Wine Train]]>
<![CDATA[NorCal's Best Pot Smuggled Out of State: Report]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 22:27:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Medical-Cannabis-Marijuana-.jpg

Humboldt and Mendocino counties are running out of marijuana.

How could this be? It's not the drought, according to VICE: it's profits.

Motherboard reports that most growers in California's famous marijuana-growing regions are "illegally diverting their product" to recreational markets in Colorado and Washington.

In those states, keep in mind, regular old adults can buy marijuana without a doctor's recommendation, which is still required for a cannabis purchase in California.

As a result, the famous "Emerald Triangle" is "nearly out of weed," according to Tim Blake, who runs the region's annual cannabis contest, the Emerald Cup.

Most cannabis is going to dispensaries in Colorado, where adults could buy pot over-the-counter beginning in January, VICE reports.

<![CDATA[1-Day Sentence for Deadly Crash]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:09:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Wood-Steffey-0829.jpg

A woman who pleaded guilty to causing a head-on crash that killed an off-duty firefighter in Campo last year will only spend one day in jail, a San Diego judge ruled Friday.

Several months ago, Natasia Wood, 22, pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter in the death of U.S. Forest Service firefighter Darin Steffey, 37.

On Friday, Wood was ultimately ordered to spend one day at Las Colinas Detention Facility for the deadly crash and was given three years of probation and community service in what a judge called a "very terrible, tragic, one-time mistake."

Steffey's mother, Jill Reid, was overcome with emotion at Wood's sentencing. She spoke in court about everything Steffey's family will have to miss now that he's gone.

"It means no wedding celebration, no grandchildren to love, no family gatherings that we would be a cherished part of," said Reid.

The mother said she recently spent her son's birthday not celebrating with him, but rather visiting his gravesite at Miramar National Cemetery in "the most painful way imaginable."

Steffey's sister, Heather Steffey, also addressed the court, speaking about how her only sibling's death has forever changed her life.

“There is nothing in life that will ever be worse than losing my brother. He was my built-in best friend, family and support. [His death] has crippled my existence, left me almost hysterical and unable to deal with the things that I used to be able to deal with," she said. "It has broken my life.”

“I valued no person more on this Earth. That’s what you took from me," Heather added, holding back tears. "I wear my brother around my neck in an urn every day and sometimes hear his sweet voice joking around as we used to.”

Steffey's girlfriend, Jessica Raddatz, also spoke at the sentencing. She said she and Steffey had planned to get married and some day start a family. Since losing Steffey to the deadly crash, Raddatz said she's suffered from depression and PTSD, and still can't believe he's gone.

“My world no longer shines. There are days when I just lay on the couch. I may not have been on the back of that motorcycle but I may as well have been killed because [Wood] has killed me too,” Raddatz said, sobbing.

“The defendant killed a man. And it was so preventable,” a prosecutor told the court, speaking about the dangers of speeding.

According to police, Wood was driving at more than 70 mph – about 15 miles over the posted speed limit – when she lost control and veered into northbound traffic lanes on Buckman Springs Road on Oct. 3, 2013.

Wood’s vehicle collided head-on with Steffey, who was riding his motorcycle. He was killed in the accident.

Steffey, also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and former hotshot firefighter, was on his way home from work at the time of the deadly crash.

The collision happened just a mile away from Steffey’s fire station. His colleagues were the first responders on scene.

Wood's father, Carlos Wood, also spoke at Friday's sentencing. He said his daughter had been unexpectedly called into work on the day of the accident, which may have played a role in how rushed she felt as she drove.

“I don’t justify speeding in any way, shape or form, but I believe this was an accident,” said Carlos.

The defendant's father said his daughter feels extreme guilt for causing the crash and "wakes up in the middle of the night screaming because of what she did."

Wood's attorney also told the court her client "regrets every day what she did, driving on that road too fast," and is truly sorry for taking Steffey from his family.

Since the accident, Steffey’s family, girlfriend and friends have been working to get justice for their loved one.

In January, Steffey’s mother spoke one-on-one with NBC 7 about her beloved son and urged others not to speed while driving.

Steffey's loved ones maintain a Facebook group that follows their fight for justice in this case.

Raddatz has also created a "Darin Steffey Roadside Memorial Fund," which collects donations to erect a permanent roadside memorial sign in Steffey's honor that will "remind others of the tragic consequences of reckless driving." To donate, click here.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[$50M in Quake Damages to Napa's Wine Industry]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 18:48:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP22521433321.jpg

More than 110 Napa wineries sustained damages from Sunday's earthquake, which amounts to more than $50 million in losses to the region's wine industry, according to the Napa Valley Vintners trade association.

The famed Mondavi family was on the long list of wineries impacted and damaged by the temblor.

"There has never been a disaster that's been so hard hitting and fast like this," said Rob Mondavi, a fourth-generation vintner. "We've had droughts, we've had floods, but this has been the most dramatic, most emotionally impactful."

The Mondavi family said they have lost at least 5,000 gallons of wine. Some of the wine was barreled and stored at the Napa Barrel Care, which took a major hit during the quake.

"My estimation is the damages will continue to escalate as we dig out in the Napa Valley," Mondavi said.

Garret Ahnfeldt of G Wine Cellars had much of his 2012 and 2013 vintages stored at the Napa Barrel Care as well, and is still tallying his losses.

"It's like adult Jenga, wine Jenga. You walk into the room, everything's tacked on top of each other. Everything has fallen in piles," he said. "In my lifetime there's not been a huger catastrophe in the wine industry. This is going to be something for the history books."

Most vintners are looking forward to getting back to normalcy and said they will make a comeback.

"We have a blessing from a higher power and also a little reminder that there might be something going on upstairs," Mondavi said. "This is wine -- even though this is our soul and what we do, and it's our art -- we in the future have to continue to build and create new wines."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bay Area Police Agencies Suspended from Pentagon Program]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 23:41:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/napa+county+-+Frank+Deanrdo+-+Crown+Vic.jpg

The Napa County Sheriff's Office has been suspended from a federal military-surplus program after an M-16 military rifle was stolen out of an employee's vehicle in May, information released by the Pentagon reveals.

As a result, the agency can no longer obtain military gear from the Defense Department's 1033 Program. The department is one of two Bay Area law enforcement agencies that have been suspended from the program.

The Pentagon program distributes surplus military gear, including weapons and vehicles, to local law enforcement agencies around the nation. It's the same program responsible for outfitting the police in Ferguson, Missouri, with tactical gear such as armored trucks and assault rifles.

Napa County Undersheriff Jean Donaldson confirmed Friday that the agency was suspended on May 6 of this year. He told NBC Bay Area that the weapon was "stolen from a vehicle" but could not recall what specific model it was, saying only that it was a "military-grade" rifle.

According to The California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), the weapon in question was an M16A1, a 5.56mm assault rifle capable of semi-automatic and automatic fire. According to Department of Defense data obtained by the New York Times, Napa County law enforcement agencies received 10 5.56mm rifles in 2008.

Donaldson could not say how long the suspension will last but said the agency would have to undergo a federal inspection of its storage and safety procedures.

The Pentagon data also indicated that nine other California law enforcement agencies have been suspended, including the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department. CalOES told NBC Bay Area that each agency was suspended because it was "unable to account for some equipment acquired through the 1033 program."

According to CalOES, San Mateo County Sheriff's department could not account for two M16A1 rifles and was suspended on October 23, 2013. Calls to the Sheriff's office were not immediately returned.

All told, 148 local law enforcement agencies are currently suspended around the country as of August 25th, 2014 when the data was obtained. About 8,000 agencies participate in the program nationwide.

A "suspended" agency does not have to return previously obtained military equipment, but cannot obtain new gear until the Department of Defense considers the agency in "good standing" again. More egregious handling of military gear could result in a rare "termination," meaning the agency has to actually return the equipment. At this time, only seven agencies have been terminated.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: Frank Deandro / Flickr]]>
<![CDATA[Senate Passes Bill to Strengthen Electrical Grid Safety]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 17:45:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0827-2014-Metcalf-substation.jpg

The state Senate passed a bill Friday that would beef up security for California's electrical grid.

The bill was sent to the governor's desk just days after a South Bay electrical substation suffered the second of two significant security breaches.

In the first breach, in April 2013, a lightning fast sniper attack took out 17 transformers at Metcalf substation in less than 20 minutes. It's unknown if there were one or many shooters and nobody has been arrested for the sabotage. Some suggested the attack may have been a trial run for a larger terrorist attack on the nation's electrical grid.

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit recently reported that some Santa Clara Sheriff's Office insiders are now criticizing the initial police response to that attack.

Senate Bill 699 would require the California Public Utilities Commission(CPUC) to create new safety rules for utilities to follow. In a press release, the bill's sponsor Senator Jerry Hill wrote "Whatever PG&E is doing doen't seem to be working. We need independent oversight to validate the company's work and claims they are making."

The bill does not spell out specific reforms but rather tasks the CPUC to create them. The Commission's existing regulations mostly have to do with maintenance. They have in fact begun the process of developing a new set of safety oriented regulations, but Senator Hill's staff believed the rules would not be completed for years.

SB 699 requires that a new phase of existing proceedings must be completed by July 3rd 2015.

PG&E was upgrading the Metcalf substation when the second security breach occurred. Burglars cut through the fence at three locations in the middle of the night. According to PG&E, no electrical infrastructure was damaged, but construction equipment was stolen. The utility is asking for the public's help in locating the equipment and have urged anyoen with information to call the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department at 408-808-4431.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Rare Giraffe Twins Born at SF Zoo, Only One Survives]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 17:13:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/giraffe+calf+31.jpg

Rare twin male giraffe calves were born at the San Francisco Zoo Tuesday morning, but only one survived, zoo officials said Friday.

The stronger calf weighed 100 pounds and is 5'6" tall and was "immediately healthy, alert and nursing," zoo spokesperson Abbie Tuller said. The second giraffe was described as "much smaller and weak at birth and was not able to nurse or function independently on his own," Tuller said.

Despite efforts by the zoo's medical staff, he passed away due to post-birth complications.

Twin reticulated giraffe births are an extremely rare occurrance -- the birth at San Francisco Zoo is only the tenth recorded live birth of both twins in zoos worldwide.

“This is a bitter-sweet announcement to make, but this very unique twin birth is something for all of the Bay Area to take pride in,” SF Zoo president Tanya Peterson said.

The surviving calf is yet to be named, Tuller said.

His mother is 11-year-old Bititi, who was born at the Oakland Zoo and went across the bay to call San Francisco Zoo her home in 2005. His father is 12-year-old Floyd, who was born in Albuquerque at the Rio Grande Zoo.

Bititi and her calf will be outdoors in the south corral of the Osher Family Giraffe Lodge on Friday. Keep checking the zoo's website, Facebook and Twitter for more information on the new calf.


<![CDATA[California Drought Spurs New Look at "Cash for Grass" Programs]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:13:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP36505113488.jpg

Daniel and Joanne Azarnoff had the quintessential, grassy green lawn outside their house in the San Francisco Bay area -- until this bone-dry summer.

With the help of the Solano County Water Agency, they ripped up turf and replaced it with a mix of slate, stones, redwood mulch and drought-resistant plants more suitable to Rio Vista's Mediterranean climate.

“We did it because California has a drought, and we thought it would be a good way to reduce the amount of water which we use,” Daniel Azarnoff said.

Their decision is one California officials wish more residents would make. Communities and water agencies across the state have been paying to encourage homeowners and businesses to replace grass with more appropriate and less thirsty plants. Now, with California in its third year of a severe drought, the so-called “cash for grass” programs are bursting in popularity, if still small in size.

In the city of Long Beach, about 1,500 homeowners have taken advantage of the 4-year-old program there, which pays $3.50 per square foot — but that is out of the owners of about 60,000 single-family homes.

“A lot of people love their lawn,” said Joyce Barkley, the city’s water conservation specialist. “It’s a challenge.”

Instead of grass, Barkley tries to interest residents in sages, blue fescue, lion’s tail, lilacs, lavenders, olive trees and other drought-tolerant plantings.

The hope is that other homeowners will imitate the gardens made up of plants that thrive in Long Beach's annual 12 inches of rainfall, rather than lawns that need seven times that amount, Barkley said.

Water-greedy irrigation

In many ways, Californians do well conserving water, with most of the state's water going toward irrigating crops, said Hadley Arnold, executive director of the Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University in Burbank.

One exception? Lawn irrigation. In Los Angeles, 54 percent of residential water consumption is used outdoors, according to the 2010 Urban Water Management Plan from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. Add in commercial, industrial, governmental and multi-family consumption and that number is 39 percent.

“Where we’re still water-greedy is irrigation,” she said. “You can irrigate with recycled water.”

At least 26 water agencies across the states are offering rebates, according to the Association of California Water Agencies. There has been a surge of interest this summer, said Lisa Lien-Mager, the association’s director of communications.

The number of requests for turf removal the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has received since January are nearly double the total number of requests over the last five years, the district says.

In July, it got requests to remove 2.5 million square feet of turf — the equivalent of 1,665 typical front yards, and up from 99,000 square feet in January.

The rise in requests from businesses was even more significant: 4.7 million square feet, or the equivalent of 82 football fields, up from 22,000 square feet.

In May, the district, a cooperative of cites and water agencies serving nearly 19 million people, doubled its rebates from $1 to $2 per square foot for consumers and businesses.

Nurturing wildlife, conserving resources

Water restrictions put in place as a result of the drought have left lots of dead lawns and have prompted homeowners to think about what to do with a much more limited water supply, said Bart O’Brien, director of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Berkeley.

“Everyone has taken water supply pretty much for granted until this unprecedented, longer, drier drought than we’ve had in historic times,” he said.

Gardeners are taking new interest in native California plants, which not only use less water but also can help sustain insects, birds, lizards and other wildlife that have become endangered by the loss of natural areas.

"Through the act of thoughtful gardening, we can make a rather significant difference," said Carol Bornstein, the director of the Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The Solano County Water Agency's program is four years old, but 65 percent of its 282 participants signed up in the last fiscal year, according to the agency. Since July, 56 projects have been completed. It pays $1 per square foot for up to 1,000 square feet for environmentally friendly landscaping.

"I think it's opening up a lot of people's eyes especially right now," said Lara Remitz, a landscape architecture student at the University of California, Davis, who has been working with the program. "It helps people understand that there is an issue with water."

But she has noticed that some homeowners still leave a patch of dirt that they plan to return to lawn if the drought eases.

"There's still a large resistance to the idea," she said.

In Rio Vista, the Azarnoffs are happy with their new landscaping. They had liked their lawn, but it was maintained by a sprinkler system, Daniel Azarnoff said. By switching to a drip system that targets only the plants, they are using much less water, he said.

“And it still looks very beautiful,” he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Fetus Found at High School: Police]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 07:04:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/woodrow.JPG

Authorities are investigating after they say a human fetus was found in a girls restroom Friday afternoon at Woodrow Wilson High School in East Dallas.

A staff member made the discovery, officials said, and responding medical authorities determined the remains to be a human fetus.

Dallas police said surveillance video at the school is being reviewed, and they tweeted that the investigation is in the preliminary stages:

The Dallas Independent School District said parents and guardians of Woodrow Wilson students will be notified, and they encourage families to discuss the situation. Counseling support will be available to students and staff members into next week.

Officials ask that if any student knows who the fetus may belong to or has any other information that could help, they should contact Dallas police.

DISD released the following statement Friday evening:

Dallas ISD is deeply saddened by the situation that occurred today at Woodrow Wilson High School. This afternoon, responding medical authorities determined that a human fetus had been found in a girls restroom at the school. The Dallas Police Department, assisted by Dallas ISD Police, is handling the investigation.

Dallas ISD immediately dispatched staff from the district’s Psychological Services Department to the school to provide professional support for students and staff members. Additional counseling support will continue to be available next week. The district encourages any member of the Woodrow Wilson community to utilize these services.

Dallas ISD is in the process of notifying parents and guardians of Woodrow students via the school’s webpage and SchoolMessenger phone system. The district encourages parents and families to discuss the situation with their students, and when appropriate, encourage their students to meet with counseling staff at the school.

Dallas ISD will continue to provide additional support and resources to the school community during this difficult time.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[SF Street Artists Sue Roberto Cavalli]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 22:36:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/rosatojr1.jpg

Mission District graffiti art has made its way onto a famous fashion designer's clothes, backpacks and shoes.

And that's a problem.

Three Mission muralists -- Jason Williams, Victor Chapa, and Jeffrey Rubin, who go by Revok, Reyes, and Steel when painting street art -- say that Roberto Cavalli stole their work for his new line of clothes, according to reports.

Just Cavalli used the street graffiti all over its new line of items, including "superimposing" the name of the company over images of the street art, the trio allege in a lawsuit.

The Hollywood Reporter brings word of the suit, which further alleges that the way Cavalli presents the art on his clothes lends the impression that the designer was the one who had spray paint can in hand, making the graffiti himself.

At the heart of the lawsuit is intellectual property, the website notes, but street art cred has a lot to do with it, too. For starters, having their art on "European chic" clothes gives people the impression the trio has sold out.

Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[Thieves Hit Popular Downtown SF Parking Garage]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 20:00:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Valet+Park+Parking+Garage+Generic.jpg

Thieves love the Sutter-Stockton garage as much as commuters and shoppers -- 80 of whom have had their cars broken into at the popular San Francisco parking garage.


The San Francisco Examiner reported that at least 80 cars have been broken into at the parking garage at the corner of Stockton and Sutter streets near Union Square and Chinatown.

That's one-third of all car break-ins in the northeast part of town, which has led police to make patrolling the area a top priority, the newspaper reported.

The number of car break-ins was news to some of the people parking there this week, who told the newspaper that they had no idea so many thefts were happening.

The garage is receiving now "most" of the attention from police as well as transit officials, according to the newspaper.

The garage is city-owned, and at 1,865 spaces over six floors, it's one of the city's largest parking garages.

<![CDATA[Taxi Hits, Kills Woman in NYC]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 06:40:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/shane+kennedy.jpg

A 58-year-old woman died after being hit by a taxi SUV as she tried to cross a Manhattan street Friday afternoon, police say.

Police say the 30-year-old taxi driver was making a left turn onto East 79th Street from Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side around 2 p.m. when he hit the woman as she was crossing the street, pinning her underneath the cab.

"Everybody was screaming. We just wanted to know what happened," said Guillermo Silva, a construction worker who was working nearby. 

Silva and a group of good Samaritans, including at least six other construction workers, lifted the taxi and pulled the woman from under it, their only thought to "gotta get her outta there, gotta get her outta there," said Silva. 

One of those bystanders, Justin Havlik, said: "I took what strength I had and belted it out and lifted the car. The other two guys pushed it and we rested it on my thigh. We braced ourselved and then tossed it over." 

Witness Stephanie Knepper said: "I saw them lift up the car to bring a woman who was trapped under the car." 

Despite the good Samaritans' attempts, the woman was pronounced dead at Lenox Hill Hospital, according to police. 

Silva said he would do it all over again if there was any chance the woman could have been saved.

"We would do that for anybody. Nobody wants to see stuff like that, you know?" he said. 

It wasn't clear if the driver of the taxi was hurt, or if he will face charges. 

Photo Credit: @SeamusPK via Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[E-Cigs Excluded from Burlingame Smoking Ban]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 19:52:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tlmd_e_cigarettes_la.jpg

An extension of Burlingame's smoking ban does not extend to the popular electronic cigarettes, or vaporizers, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

The smoking ban now applicable to parks, trails and some parking facilities does not cover e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes, the small, electronic devices that vaporize oil by means of a heating coil, are being regulated at the county level, the newspaper reported.

E-cigarettes are officially banned in other public places in cities like San Francisco, where e-cigs can't be used in bars or in city buildings.

In San Mateo, the county may take the step of banning cigarette use -- that is, normal cigarettes -- in apartment complexes.

Photo Credit: Foto/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Violent Tweets Land Teacher in Hot Water]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:23:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/newark7.JPG

A teacher in California's Bay Area has been reprimanded after she reportedly tweeted that she wanted to stab some students and that her "trigger finger is itchy."

The Oakland Tribune reported Newark Memorial High School administrators disciplined teacher Krista Hodges with a written reprimand, but she remains in the classroom as the new school year begins. The tweets, which were sprinkled with obscene language, were posted before the end of the last school year, in June. The tweets have since vanished from her account.

Some parents said they found the posts insulting. One tweet allegedly insinuated that Hodges wanted to dump hot coffee on some of her students.

“I have a student here. He was expelled when he was a freshman for saying something to a teacher. They kicked him out of school. So now this is going on with this teacher, and I don’t feel it’s acceptable," parent Angela Newell said. “I feel that she should be able to receive the same punishment he did – get expelled from the district.”

Hodges told the newspaper she has apologized, saying she was only kidding, and realizes she acted unprofessionally.

The district had no comment on the issue, but one parent told NBC Bay Area on Thursday that she plans to start a campaign to get the teacher fired.

"I know the kids love her, but I think she should be fired," parent Vanessa Chavez said. "She should not work in the school -- it's not OK, it's unacceptable."

On Twitter, fittingly, Hodges appeared Thursday to be getting some support from students, including one who wrote that the "tweets were blown up into a bigger deal than what it was. Everyone vents."

Meanwhile, the Newark Police Department is taking the incident seriously and investigating.

"I think the concern is safety of everybody -- the admin, students, teacher, faculty," Cmdr. Mike Carroll said. "Concerned about everybody's safety. It doesn't matter where the threat is coming from."

NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Secret Service: Man May Pose Threat]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 09:38:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/obama+westchester+aug+28.jpg

Police in Westchester and Secret Service were investigating a report of a "potentially suspicious person and vehicle" near where President Obama visited Friday for a set of fundraising events, authorities say.

An official with the Secret Service told NBC News the agency was working with local police to determine the validity of the report. 

The official did not elaborate on why the person and vehicle were considered suspicious.

Connecticut State Police were also told by Secret Service to be on the lookout for the suspicious person as Obama prepared to head to another fundraiser in Rhode Island later in the evening, a police spokesperson said. 

Obama landed in Air Force One at Westchester County Airport shortly before 2 p.m. Friday, and the presidential motorcade headed toward Sound Shore for the first fundraising site. The president then headed to Purchase later in the afternoon to attend a DNC Labor Day barbecue. 

Area streets were closed off as the president made his way through the area. He left the area at 5:30 p.m. for another fundraiser in Rhode Island. 

<![CDATA[Threat to Obama: Person in Custody]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 09:00:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP995664873180.jpg

Hamden, Connecticut, police say that a vehicle believed to be driven by a suspicious person who may have threatened President Barack Obama has been located and a person involved was taken into custody late Friday night.

According to Hamden Police Lt. Kevin Samperi, a car possibly involved was located on Mix Ave. in Hamden late Friday. The Secret Service took a suspect into custody for questioning.

"We have taken all appropriate investigative steps in this matter, based on the information we received yesterday about a suspicious vehicle and person, " said Nicole Mainor, Public Affairs Staff Assistant for Secret Service. "There have been no arrests or charges brought in this case at this point."

The Secret Service said earlier on Friday  that a suspect believed to be involved in a possible threat against President Obama may have been driving a car with Connecticut plates. The vehicle was described as a 2014 blue Volkswagen Jetta.

It is unclear at this time if the car located was the blue Jetta and how the person taken into custody may be connected. It is unknown whether the person is still in custody.

Neither police nor Secret Service officials released information on the nature of the reported threat or said why the individual they were looking for was deemed suspicious.

President Obama landed in Air Force One at Westchester County Airport just before 2 p.m. on Friday before heading to fundraising events in Sound Shore and Purchase, NBC New York reported. He then landed at Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island on Friday evening.

On Friday, police in New York's Westchester County received reports that someone possibly trying to harm the president was headed in that direction. 

A number of police bulletins went out in New York and Connecticut searching for the car the person was driving and the Secret Service also asked Connecticut State Police to keep an eye out for the vehicle.

The president returned to the White House Friday evening.

No more information was imediately available. Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Gang Ties in Abduction, Murder Case]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 17:14:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Schuylkill+River+Abduction+Police+Search.JPG

Police have narrowed their search for the suspects who killed two brothers -- slitting their throats before dumping their bodies in the Schuylkill River -- and critically injured another man over a $100,000 debt.

"We'll be coming to get you shortly," said Philadelphia Police. Capt. James Clark when asked if he had a message for the five people suspected in the abduction and double homicide.

Authorities learned of the barbaric crime Wednesday morning when the surviving victim, 23-year-old Thanh Voong, climbed from the banks of the Schuylkill River and began screaming for help around 4 a.m.

Hours earlier, the abductors were holding the three men -- who have ties to gangs and are well-known to authorities -- at a home on the 2400 block of 72nd Street, according to investigators.

The suspects were holding the brothers -- both in their late 20s and originally from Vietnam -- captive after they gambled away $100,000, which they were given to buy drugs, according to reports.

Voong showed up at the house with $40,000 to pay off the debt, but it was not enough to satisfy the suspects, sources said.

Early Wednesday morning, investigators found the bodies of the two brothers submerged in the water. Their throats were slit and both were bound with tape and tied to buckets.

Investigators removed similar buckets filled with roofing materials from the home on the 2400 block of 72nd Street Thursday.

Neighbors told NBC10 a woman and five children lived in the home. But they fled in an apparent rush since food was still on the stove when police arrived, according to reports.

Authorities also towed away an Audi A8 sedan Thursday as part of the investigation. They did not disclose how the vehicle,which was found on the 22nd Street overpass above the Vine Street Expressway, was related to the crime.

Police said they know who committed the crimes, but they are still searching for the suspects.

"They have obviously means, they have a lot of money, " Clark said. "They have a lot of different locations they've lived at through the years so right now we don't know where they're at or where they're headed."

As the investigation continues, Voong is recovering from seven stab wounds at Hahnemann University Hospital.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: NBC10.com]]>
<![CDATA[Fire Near Highway 152 Could Impact Labor Day Travelers]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:44:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/HIGHWAY-152-BRUSH-FIRE-VO---00002409.jpg

An 80-acre brush fire alongside Highway 152, east of Gilroy, could cause some problems for people heading to Southern California for the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Flames were still burning Friday morning on the north and south sides of the highway, near Casa de Fruta.

Traffic has been heavily affected by the fire and some lanes remain closed Friday morning, though by 1 p.m. Friday all lanes had reopened, officials said. Drivers are advised to avoid the area.

Highway 152 is is one of the major routes drivers can take from the South Bay to get to Interstate Five on their way to Southern California.

As of Friday morning, firefighters said they have the fire contained about 60 percent contained and still have a lot of work ahead of them.

The fire appears to have started after a vehicle collision Thursday afternoon on westbound state Highway 152.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Giant Millipedes Intercepted at SFO]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 17:32:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sfo-millipedes.jpg

Customs agents are used to confiscating fake Viagra pills, counterfeit sports jerseys and illegal DVDS. They're not accustomed to snagging giant myriapodous arthropods, however, that wriggle in the dirt and eat decaying plants.

But the U.S. Customs and Border agriculture specialists found and intercepted 20 foot-long millipedes at the San Francisco International Airport mail facility, the agency announced on Friday, and in doing so, stopped the slimy creatures from any further travel.

The intended recipient in Vista, California, was sent a letter that his or her package of exotic wormlike insects would not be arriving from Berlin, Customs Chief J. Frederick Ho told NBC Bay Area. Ho didn't know why the box would be sent to San Francisco and not LAX.

“I'll be honest, we do get certain strange things here," Ho said. "But I can't recall ever getting something like this here. It is out of the ordinary.”

Shipping millipedes – which some like to keep as exotic pets – isn't illegal, Ho said, but they do need a special permit to be sent through the mail – and this package didn't have that. In fact, the package was mislabled "toy car model."

An agent discovered the millipedes while inspecting the facility's X-ray machine and noted the discrepency. Inside the X-rayed package was a large Styrofoam box, containing a mesh bag that held the millipedes, along with chunks of soil and paper.

Ho said, since the shipper lives in Germany, it is unlikely that person will face a fine or a penalty.

The millipedes were whisked off to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and were euthanized.

Photo Credit: Courtesy U.S. Department of Homeland Security]]>
<![CDATA[Police to "Immediately Purge" License Data After 1-Year]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:16:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/217*120/cir+license+plate+reader+interior.jpg

Los Altos police must delete data collected through high-tech - and controversial - license readers after one year.

The slight policy change came Tuesday at the council's regular meeting. Before this, there was a one-year minimum to retain the data, now there is a one-year maximum.

Police Chief Tuck Younis, in an interview with NBC Bay Area on Friday, said has "no problem" getting rid of the data after one year, which he agreed to "immediately purge" at the end of the 365-day period from both the Santa Clara County and federal systems. The only exception will be, he said, is if it is reasonable that the information will become evidence in a criminal or civil action.

Mayor Pro Tem Jan Pepper added in an interview that she'd like to actually look at this issue again in the future, as some departments in other parts of the country purge the data in 30 days.

"I'm concerned that using it could invade people's privacy," she said.

Automatic license plate readers, mounted on police cars or on objects like road signs and bridges, use small, high-speed cameras to photograph thousands of plates per minute - and have been highly criticized by groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, which has devoted a web page to the issue called "You Are Being Tracked: How License Plate Readers Are Being Used to Record Americans' Movements."

But many police officers like the new technology because it saves them from having to relay a license plate number to a dispatcher or enter it into a mobile terminal in order to check it against law enforcement databases.

While the data is in use, Younis promised that the "sensitive and confidential" data would not be made public and only shared with other law enforcement.

And any officer who doesn't comply will be dealt with, Younis said.

"Any violation of the ALPR policy will result in appropriate disciplinary action up to, and including, termination and may also result in criminal prosecution," the report states.

Los Altos police received one reader in 2013. Santa Clara County Sheriff's purchased 13 readers with a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, and handed them all out to each county agency.

Last year, Younis noted the readers scanned 135,941 license plates, which produced just 68 system notification alerts. They ranged from identifying vehicles associated with criminal activity to lost or stolen license plates.

In July 2012, ACLU affiliates in 38 states and Washington sent public records act requests to almost 600 local and state police departments, as well as other state and federal agencies, to obtain information on how these agencies use license plate readers. In response, the agency received 26,000 pages of documents detailing the use of the technology around the country.

According to the ACLU, New Hampshire and Maine are the only states with "positive laws" governing license plate reader laws. Click here to see the map.

<![CDATA[Kids in Car as Parents Gambled: PD]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:33:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/082914+tyrell+johnson+josephine+laidler.jpg

Two young children were left in a car outside a South Florida casino while their parents gambled inside early Thursday, police say.

The children, ages four and one, were found in a car in the parking lot of the Hialeah Park Casino at 2200 E. 4th Ave., said Hialeah Police spokesman Carl Zogby.

The kids were spotted by casino employees in the unattended car just after midnight, Zogby said.

"The kids were subject to anything happening to them. They could've walked out of the car, or someone could've come in — who knows what could've happened," Zogby said.

He said the parents had been inside gambling, possibly for over an hour, while their children sat in the car, which had the engine running and the air conditioning on.

The parents, Tyrell Johnson and his girlfriend Josephine Laidler, were both charged with child neglect, Zogby said.

Footage showed the man and woman being detained by police at the scene and the two young children playing with officers.

Hialeah Police and the Department of Children and Families are investigating the incident.

The children were put into the custody of their grandparents by a family court judge Thursday afternoon. If the parents bond out of jail, they are not allowed to go near the kids.

The Hialeah casino also banned the couple for life.

Photo Credit: Miami-Dade Corrections]]>
<![CDATA["Gun Violence Restraining Order" Bill Approved]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:17:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/UCSD-Vigil-Isla-Vista-05262.jpg

The California Senate has passed AB 1014, which would allow law enforcement or family members of a person who is displaying signs of violence to petition a court for a restraining order.

That order would allow law enforcement officials to take away the person’s guns temporarily. The bill comes as a response to the Isla Vista shooting spree that left six UC Santa Barbara students dead.

“It's just another tool in law enforcement's tool box to help mitigate or deal with situations that can potentially turn violence," said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson.

Christianson is also the president of the California State Sheriff’s Association.

“It's no different from what we're doing with domestic violence restraining orders. It just expands our abilities to look for those danger signs,” he told NBC 7.

In February 2013, two deputies were shot during a SWAT standoff in Encinitas with a 22-year-old man.

His family says he struggled with anxiety and depression.

His mother filed for a restraining order just days before the shooting. During the standoff, the young man killed himself. His family told NBC 7 they tried their hardest to get him help.

Gun rights advocate and CEO of Ares Armor Dimitri Karras says although the bill was created with the best of intentions, he believes it’s unconstitutional.

“Having law enforcement show up and strip you of your rights simply because of an allegation is a huge violation of the second amendment,” he said. “It will be challenged, it will be struck down it is unconstitutional and that's going to be the end of it.”

The bill now heads back to the Assembly for further action.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Napa Wineries Hope to Draw Labor Day Weekend Crowds]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 09:23:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP573502597763.jpg

Napa city leaders are hoping swarms of tourists will flock to wine country for the holiday Labor Day weekend – and spend money that was lost this week after Sunday’s earthquake.

Workers at Saintsbury’s Winery - which suffered many broken bottles - spent Friday morning picking up grapes and allowed the public to be part of the process. The winery's co-founder, David Graves, said reservations this weekend are solid.

"We have had a few cancellations, but I think people realize Napa is open for business," he said.

While some of Napa is open for business, several blocks of the downtown area remain fenced off. In addition, several restaurants and shops on Main Street remain closed.

City officials on Friday said more than 1,000 structures have been tagged unsafe due to damage sustained from the 6.0-magnitude earthquake.

It has been a frustrating week for the owner of Velo Pizzeria -- building inspectors closed the restaurant on Thursday. Owner Lewis Chilton said he started the business nearly three weeks ago.

"For the last year we've been investing money in this business," Chilton said. "Our landlord has been investing money in this business."

Chilton is hopeful the restaurant will reopen soon so that he can start earning some of the money he has invested in opening the business back.

"It's a big weekend, a kick-off of the harvest of Napa Valley," he said. And it's important for our employees. It's a big weekend for them to make money too."

The city is hoping all the attention from the quake will help entice the tourists back.

Meanwhile, businesses depending on locals are suffering. A local deli said business is down 30 percent since the temblor hit and a hair salon reports a 70 percent drop this week.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Napa Says 822 Buildings Damaged, Not Safe After Quake]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 06:46:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0827-2014-napa.jpg

Napa city officials say 822 buildings have now been tagged unsafe after sustaining damage from Sunday's magnitude-6.0 earthquake. The city now estimates damage from the quake at $362.4 million.

Nearly every restaurant on Main Street was shut down by the city on Thursday after authorities examined and tagged the buildings.

"It's just a hard one to swallow," said Sam Badolato, a chef whose restaurant got red-tagged Thursday morning. "We're no good outside. I'm way better in the kitchen running the restaurant."

Badolato and other business owners are waiting for guidance from the city on what it will take to start serving customers again.

Damages from the quake also extend to the Napa County Jail.

"I'm holding onto my bunk thinking I'm about to get tossed out," says Victor Graham, who was in a small jail cell with two other cellmates when the temblor struck. "I'm looking at the ceiling, 'Please don't come down on me.'"

Graham says the quake left his cell with cracks in every corner. The jail's 203 inmates are still inside.

Some say the inmates should be relocated, despite county officials insisting inmates are not at risk and are safe.

"Everyone is the same in these situations," says attorney Abe Gardener, who is not being allowed inside the jail to visit his clients. "And just because you're behind bars doesn't make you any less human."

Photo Credit: (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)]]>
<![CDATA[Woman's Body Found in San Jose Church Parking Lot]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:06:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sj-car-body.jpg

San Jose police found a woman who was apparently stabbed to death inside a car parked in a church parking lot Thursday morning.

Sgt. Heather Randol said a passerby called police about 11 a.m. to report the body in the 2600 block of Aborn Road. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. Police had previously reported the female victim appeared to have suffered a gunshot wound, but later said she had been stabbed at least once and had not been shot.

No arrests have been made.

NBC Bay Area cameras spotted the vehicle in the back of the parking lot of Grace Church of Evergreen at 2650 Aborn Road, a residential area in a normally quiet part of the city. The car appeared to be a late model gold-colored Honda.

The circumstances of the death "are unknown at this time," Randol tweeted. SJPD's Homicide Unit was called to the scene to investigate.

“There is some indication that the vehicle has been there for at least a few hours,” Randol said. “We don’t know anything more than that.”

Police haven’t released any details on a possible suspect or the identity of the victim.

The homicide is San Jose's 25th of 2014. (Correction: An earlier version of this story said the death marked the 26th homicide. It is the 25th, according to police.)

Kent Wilhoite contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Menlo Park Residents Asked to Cut Water Use by 30 Percent]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 06:40:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP223500730484.jpg

Menlo Park is responding to the state's call to conserve more water during the severe drought by implementing an urgency ordinance.

The ordinance calls for residents to cut back their water use by 30 percent -- 10 percent more than what the state is asking.

"We're actually conserving a lot of water right now," resident Harry Williams said. "It would be really hard to find another 30 percent."

Mayor Ray Mueller said the state mandate requires the city to implement water district's individual plans for mandatory rationing. Menlo Park's conservation plan was drafted in the 1990s, requiring 30 percent.

"That is a significant reduction that I'm not sure some of us are going to be able to do," Mueller said.

Mueller said with so much already done to save, he is asking the state to allow the city to modify the plan to be in line with the state's 20 percent mandate.

"Whether it's 20 percent or 30 percent, the message to the consumer, the message to our resident is that this is serious," Mueller said.

Residents that are already serious about California's severe drought said there's no where else to cut.

"That would be difficult because we're already so low," resident Richard Recht said.

City officials said they had no choice but to implement the plan and are working again to lower the requirement.

Meanwhile, city officials are telling residents they will work on educating them about conservation prior to dishing out any fines.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Napa Residents, Businesses Continue to Rebuild]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 23:41:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0827-2014-napa.jpg NBC Bay Area's Jean Elle shows how Napa residents are coping with rebuilding efforts after Sunday's 6.0 quake.

Photo Credit: (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)]]>
<![CDATA[Officers ID'd in Fatal Shooting of Mentally Ill Man in Los Angeles]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:11:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ezell+ford+lapd+ois+victim.PNG

The officers involved in the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man have been identified, Los Angeles police said Thursday.

The officers involved in the shooting of Ezell Ford in South LA on Aug. 11 were Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas, both assigned to the Newton Area Gang Enforcement Detail, police said in a statement.

The officers shot him after they said he ignored their instructions and went for one of their guns during a struggle.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, the president of the Los Angeles Urban Roundtable, said conflicting accounts of the shooting have emerged.

Witnesses said that Ford was not resisting, that he had mental challenges, and that police officers in the area aware of him and his condition, Hutchinson said. A family member has said that Ford had schizophrenia and other disorders.

Hutchinson called the release of the names a "first step in insuring an transparent and impartial investigation."

Hutchinson said he had made the call for officer identification in two meetings with Assistant LAPD Chief Earl Paysinger and other LAPD officials.
"The identification of the officers involved in the Ezell Ford slaying allows us to determine if the officers performance record and that includes discipline for any prior instances of or pattern of misconduct or involvement in other officer shootings," Hutchinson said in a statement, adding that Wampler was involved in a prior use of force civil lawsuit. "The report that one of the officers was the subject of a civil suit for force is of major significance. This could be major factor in the investigation to find whether excessive force was used in the Ford killing."

Wampler was named in a civil rights lawsuit filed three years ago that claimed he, along with other officers, entered a family's home without probable cause, the lawsuit stated.

The suit alleges that the officers subjected them to unlawful searches, intimidation and assault.

"The majority of the family, the adults in the family, were abused, like physically hit and beat," the family's lawyer, James Segall Guttierez, told NBC4. "One of the brothers was being, his head was being held underwater in a kiddie pool."

Wampler was commended years before the suit for his role in the arrest of a double-murder suspect, the Los Angeles Times reported.

When asked for comment, LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said the department is prohibited by law and policy from discussing personnel complaints.
A funeral for Ford is planned for Saturday. The incident came two days after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The Brown shooting touched off days of protests.

Robert Kovacik contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Man in Pulled LA From High Surf]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:55:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/211*120/chicago+vacationer+pulled+venice.JPG

A man vacationing from Chicago was in grave condition Thursday night after being pulled from high surf by friends at Venice Beach and resuscitated by lifeguards, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The 27-year-old was swimming in the water with his friends when he became separated from the group, LAFD Capt. Rex Vilaubi said.

The man's friends had not seen him for about 10 minutes and went to look for him. They found him face down in the water about 6 p.m., Vilaubi said.

Lifeguards gave him CPR, and fire officials arrived to help perform CPR and take him to the hospital. While en route, the man regained a pulse, Vilaubi said.

He was hospitalized in grave condition, officials said.

The incident comes during a week with Southern California's high surf described as "the most significantly southerly swell event" in 18 years.

A surfer died in Malibu on Tuesday, and dozens of rescued were performed across the region as waves from then-Hurricane Marie, now a tropical storm, pounded the coast.

Photo Credit: Mingo]]>