Election Section

Environmental groups are denied funding

The Associated Press
Saturday April 13, 2002

OAKLEY — A government water-protection agency has denied funding to a coalition of environmental groups that hope to turn farm land into a tidal marsh. 

Groups including the Natural Heritage Institute and the Coastal Conservancy must now revamp their proposal if they want to get a $32.5 million grant for the Dutch Slough preservation plan in eastern Contra Costa County. 

CalFed, the combined state and federal agency, will award $150 million annually for the next three years to projects that protect or rehabilitate watersheds. 

On Thursday, CalFed recommended full funding to 55 of 257 applicants, including one from Richmond. 

“I was expecting them to fund the project outright,” said John Cain, a restoration ecologist for the Heritage Institute. “But it shows good judgment on CalFed’s part if they want to better understand exactly what we’re doing. This allows for more discussion, which will ultimately make a better project.” 

Although the Dutch Slough plan didn’t get immediate funding, the coalition has until the summer to develop the plan further and resubmit the proposal. 

The Oakley city council has opposed the project and threatened legal action. The city designated the dairy farmland for housing and already has big plans for how to spend the fees it would generate. 


Overgrown shrubs may land senior in jail 

PALO ALTO — A 61-year-old woman is facing criminal charges for letting her shrubs grow too high, making her the first person to be prosecuted under a city public-nuisance law. 

The law prohibits any shrub more than 2 feet high in the strip of dirt between a street and a sidewalk. Police and the city attorney say it’s a safety issue, but software engineer Kay Leibrand says she just wants to have a barrier between her house and the busy street. 

She faces a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail for the misdemeanor charge. Leibrand will be arraigned next month. 

“This is about protecting kids who are too small to be seen from being hit by cars,” City Attorney Ariel Carlonne said. 

Carlonne said Leibrand had every opportunity to trim the shrubs. But Leibrand says she won’t do it as a matter of principle. 

Leibrand, who has lived in her house since 1966, said the six-feet shrubs give her some privacy and shield the stone patio where she reads and gardens. 


Oakland diocese speaks out about alleged sexual misconduct of priest 

FREMONT — The Oakland diocese said it barred a priest recently accused of molesting a teen-age parishioner in 1979 from working with children after two boys complained he sexually abused them in 1985. 

The church did not report the abuse to the police, but instead performed their own investigation and sent Rev. Robert Freitas to counseling, diocese chancellor Sister Barbara Flannery said Thursday. He returned to the church with limited duties and was not allowed to have contact with children since 1985. 

Flannery said the diocese only learned of the alleged 1979 abuse last month when the former parishioner, now 37 years old, came forward. This time, the diocese immediately notified police before stripping Freitas, 56, of all ministerial duties. 

Alameda County authorities charged Freitas on Tuesday with one count of committing a lewd act upon a child and one count of oral copulation with a child. He pleaded innocent to the charges earlier this week. 

Police are investigating the possibility that there are as many as four more victims. 


Presidio shaves its staff to save some cash 

SAN FRANCISCO — The organization in charge of running the Presidio has eliminated 62 positions, a company spokesman said Friday. 

Through a hiring freeze, voluntary exits and layoffs, the Presidio Trust cut 13 percent of its 458 employees, said spokesman Ron Sonenshine. 

Congress created the trust in 1996, requiring it to become financially self sufficient by 2013. The staff cut will help the organization drop its yearly operations budget by more than $6 million, to $44.6 million next year, Sonenshine said. 

Roughly $21 million comes from the federal government, with the rest coming from the rents on the 1,100 homes on the property. 

Employees received a severance package equal to six weeks pay.