With a week left until Thanksgiving Day, the St. Anthony Foundation in San Francisco is hoping to reach its goal of collecting 1,500 turkeys and other items in time to serve the homeless.

Starting Saturday and continuing through next Thursday, volunteers wearing bright red coats will be standing on the curbside at 121 Golden Gate Ave. to accept donations, according to foundation spokesman Karl Robillard.

The curbside donation is scheduled on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

People can contribute canned goods, socks, hats, scarves, hygienic items, and monetary donations, Robillard said.

The nonprofit can accept more donations and volunteers since opening its new dining room in September, according to Robillard.

The organization expects to serve 4,000 meals on Thanksgiving Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The meal includes turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie.

About 180 volunteers are estimated to work in the dining room that day, according to Robillard.

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The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department and the city’s lawn bowling club reopened its lawn bowling green Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the oldest municipal lawn bowling club in the United States.

In 1901, Superintendent of San Francisco parks John McLaren laid out the green in Golden Gate Park, and co-founded the bowling club. The green is currently considered San Francisco landmark number 181.

“It’s not hard to imagine at least a hint of a smile from the gruff Scotsman who co-founded our club in 1901 … in finally viewing the finished product,” said Rod Arriaga, president of the San Francisco Lawn Bowling Club.

A grant from the Community Opportunity Fund, a 2008 Parks Bond Grant Program, provided the money to renovate the green.

“We’re privileged to have been selected as recipients of the COF grant and are proud of our members countless hours of volunteer service which helped qualify us,” Arriaga said.

“Golden Gate Park’s beloved lawn bowling greens are historic and were in great need of renovation to protect the integrity of the green space and the sport, said Phil Ginsberg, San Francisco Rec and Park General Manager.

Lawn bowling involves rolling a bowl as close as possible to a target ball, known as a “jack.” The team with the bowl nearest the jack scores one point and another point for each bowl that is closer to the jack than the other team’s closest bowl.

Tuesday’s celebration included a ceremonial rolling by BowlsUSA Hall of Fame member Bill Campbell, who is a San Francisco Bowling Club member. The event also included a ribbon-cutting, a celebratory lunch and games as part of the club’s November social.

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Drivers for a transportation service contracted to shuttle Facebook employees voted today to unionize, according to a statement from the service’s CEO.

Loop Transportation CEO Jeff Leonoudakis said in a statement released today that while the company “respects” the results of the vote, the service provides its employees with “one of the best wage and benefit packages in the Bay Area.”

Drivers receive between $17 and $25 an hour, up to $714 contributed to their medical benefits and paid vacations, holidays and sick days, according to Leonoudakis.

Their hourly rate can also bump up to amounts ranging from $24 to $31, he said.

In partnership with Facebook, the service also works to provide drivers with pay increases and bonuses based on their performance, the statement said.

“Even though we don’t feel that our drivers’ interests are best served by union representation, our drivers have spoken and we will now begin the negotiation process,” Leonoudakis said.

The 87 drivers voted to join Teamsters Local 853, based in San Leandro, according to a statement from Teamsters officials.

The drivers unionized in response to issues including low pay and a split shift schedule that means many drivers have to wait up to six hours between their morning and evening shifts.

Some drivers have to sleep in their cars between morning and evening shifts and work long days, starting at 6 a.m. and ending as late as 9:45 p.m., union officials said.

The union also staged a rally outside Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park yesterday, and delivered a petition calling on Facebook to stop condoning “anti-worker, anti-union behavior” by Loop Transportation, the statement said.

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brentwood

Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a man who robbed a Best Buy at knifepoint in Brentwood last month.

The robbery occurred at the Best Buy store at 6600 Lone Tree Way around 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 12, according to police.

The suspect entered the store and stole various merchandise while brandishing a knife, police said.

Police have released a store surveillance image of the man in the hopes that the public can help locate him.

The suspect is described as a black man who is between 40 and 55 years old and stands about 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall. He is described as balding, possibly with gray hair in back and a gray beard.

At the time of the robbery, he was wearing dark-framed glasses and walked with a cane, according to police.

Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call Brentwood police Detective George Aguirre at (925) 809-7726. Callers may remain anonymous.

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A 23-year-old Salinas man has been sentenced to 26 years to life in prison in the stabbing death of a store security guard in Salinas in 2013, Monterey County prosecutors announced today.

A judge in Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas today sentenced Richard Gutierrez, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Oct. 1 after agreeing to waive his right to appeal his conviction, Deputy District Attorney Rolando Mazariegos said.

On August 1, 2013, at 5:12 p.m., Gutierrez entered the 99 Cent Store on Laurel Drive in Salinas, confronted 57-year-old Victor Sosa, a store security guard, and stabbed Sosa repeatedly while customers in the store threw canned goods at the assailant to try to get him to stop, Mazariegos said.

Gutierrez, who took off his shirt and “made a display of himself” to people at the store, fled the business but was captured seconds later by Salinas police, who reported seeing the guard’s blood smeared on the suspect, the prosecutor said.

Sosa died from the stab wounds a short time later, Mazariegos said.

The defendant accepted a plea deal of 26 years to life to avoid additional special circumstances charges that might have resulted in a sentence of life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty, he said.

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Street robberies in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale have been targeting people of Indian descent wearing gold jewelry, the Santa Clara Police Department announced today.

Suspects in the robberies will come up to their victims on the street and either grab the jewelry and run or brandish a handgun and demand the victims’ jewelry and wallet, according to police.

The robberies have been reported both during day and evening hours, police said.

The suspects in the robberies have been described as African American or Hispanic males in their early 20s, according to police.

In September, Santa Clara police reported that some street robberies in the city involving victims of Indian descent had occurred near Bing Drive at Homestead Road, El Camino Real at Lawrence Expressway and Monroe Street at Los Padres Boulevard.

Police recommend that to avoid the possibility of a robbery, people should keep their jewelry less visible, walk in well-lit areas and remain aware of suspicious persons and vehicles in their surroundings, officers said.

People who feel unsafe where they are should go to a safe place and call for help, police said.

Victims should avoid fighting back and call 911 as soon as possible to report a crime or describe a suspect or suspects, according to officers.

Anyone with information about street robberies in Santa Clara may call the city’s police tip line at (408) 241-9495, or for such crimes in Sunnyvale, call the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety at (408) 730-7100.

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A 60-year-old woman was struck and killed by a car while crossing the street in Vallejo Wednesday evening, police said.

Officers responded to reports of the auto versus pedestrian collision in the 4300 block of Sonoma Boulevard at 6:03 p.m., according to Vallejo police.

The woman, a Corning, California resident, was hit by a car heading southbound while she was crossing Sonoma Boulevard, police said.

The victim was transported to an area hospital, where she died from her injuries.

The driver of the vehicle remained on scene and is fully cooperating with the investigation, according to police.

Drugs or alcohol do not appear to be a factor in this case.

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The Napa County District Attorney’s Office is warning residents about a new Green Dot Money Pak scam targeting computers.

The typical scam involves phone calls to residents demanding they purchase Green Dot Money Paks to avoid being arrested on a warrant. The scammers usually tell residents they missed jury duty, committed a red light violation or owe money to the IRS, the district attorney’s office said.

District Attorney’s Office Investigator Rich Garcia said the most recent consumer complaint about the scam involves blocking a resident’s computer with a notice from the “ICE Cyber Crime Center.”

The scammer locks the computer with a message that accuses the user of visiting illicit web sites, then advises the user to purchase $300 of Green Dot Money Paks to get their computer unlocked, Garcia said.

The scam is spread to unsuspecting computers through a cyber-net virus or by visiting unsafe websites, Garcia said.

To unlock a computer, the scam victims must use multiple search engines on an unlocked computer to find information on removing the locked screen by typing in “Remove Cybercrime Division Virus $300 Scam Step by Step,” Garcia said.

Residents with limited computer skills should contact a reputable skilled computer user to help unlock their computer, Garcia advised.

Garcia said if someone you do not know tells you to purchase Green Dot Money Paks and read the security numbers to them, they are being scammed.

Legitimate local, state, county and federal officials do not call to threaten residents with arrest and demand immediate payment with Money Paks, Garcia said.

Residents who receive such a phone call should hang up and call local law enforcement of the county district attorney’s office, Garcia said.

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victim

A woman who was found injured on state Highway 29 and later died on Sunday morning has been identified as 57-year-old Maria Cruz Pascual Bejar of Rohnert Park, according to the Napa County Sheriff’s Office.

Bejar’s family is believed to be living in Spain and sheriff’s detectives still haven’t been able to contact them, even with help from the Consulate of Spain in San Francisco, sheriff’s Capt. Doug Pike said.

Bejar worked at a group home for teen boys in Rohnert Park and she also had acquaintances in the East Bay, Pike said.

An autopsy indicated Bejar died of blunt force trauma, likely from being struck by a vehicle, Pike said.

There were no vehicles in the area where she was found in the 4100 block of Highway 29 near Old Lawley Toll Road around 4:45 a.m. Sunday.

Investigators are still trying to determine what she was doing in the area, Pike said.

Police released two photos today of Bejar and anyone who may have seen her on Saturday night is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at (707) 253-4591.

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Port_of_Oakland_A

Port of Oakland dockworkers have halted work today following the death of a colleague working on a ship docked in Benicia on
Wednesday afternoon.

Thomas Hoover, 56, collapsed while on the job at the Port of Benicia, according to International Longshore and Warehouse Union spokesman Craig Merrilees.  Hoover was taken to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vallejo, where he later died.

Coroner’s officials say no autopsy is planned since it appears Hoover suffered an asthma attack or cardiac arrest and his death was due to natural causes.

Hooever was a member of ILWU Local 10.  Workers with the union routinely stop work for 24 hours without pay following an on-the-job fatality.  Operations at the port are expected to resume Friday morning.

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guitar

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music announced the theft of two guitars each worth thousands of dollars stolen from the school’s fifth floor.

Stolen were a 1992 Michael Thames eight-string guitar and a 1983 Smallman guitar. The instruments owned by the school have been appraised at $25,000 and $5,000, respectively.

The loss of the guitars “cuts to core of what the school is all about,” Conservatory of Music spokesman Sam Smith said.

The conservatory has one of the top guitar programs in the world, Smith said. One of the stolen guitars has eight strings, which is unusual for a classical guitar.

Students and faculty are serenaded by the guitar each day at the school because the guitar is the only instrument school officials allow to be played outside of practice rooms. Students can play them in the hallway if they want to.

The San Francisco Police Department was not immediately available for comment today. The theft is under investigation, and Smith said police have not announced any suspects.

According to the school, a man who appears to be Caucasian wearing jeans, a red sweater and snow cap in still photos of video footage from security cameras entered the main doors of the school at 50 Oak St. around 1:46 p.m. on Nov. 9. He left through the same doors at 2:07 p.m. with the guitars, according to photos stills.

A student reported the theft at about 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 9. The student is sure he secured the locker where the guitars were kept prior to leaving the night before the theft.

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vacaville

Vacaville police are investigating the thefts of more than 20 catalytic converters from vehicles in the city in the past two months. The 21 thefts since mid-September have happened mostly in private driveways between midnight and 5 a.m., but some thefts have taken place in public parking lots in the middle of the day.

The thefts were primarily from Toyota Tundras, 4Runners and Sequoias, Dodge Ram pickup trucks and Honda Accords.  Police say those vehicles are being targeted because there is ample room under the vehicle to access the converters.

The converter is bolted on in older models and can be removed with a wrench, but on newer model vehicles thieves must cut the converters from the vehicles.

Police say they are highly valued because they are covered in platinum metal.  Thieves can get between $100 and $200 for
recycled platinum.

Investigators say the thefts mirror a nationwide trend.

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A former San Francisco police officer told a federal jury of several incidents in 2009 in which he alleged two other officers joined him in stealing cash during searches and sharing the proceeds.

“Mr. Robles kind of bumped my leg under the table and gave cash to me” in a café after one of the searches, former officer Reynaldo Vargas testified at the other men’s trial in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

“Then I saw he did the same thing with Mr. Furminger. In the act of doing it under the table, we were trying to be discreet about it,” Vargas continued.

Vargas, 46, of Palm Desert, has been the chief prosecution witness against Officer Edmond Robles, 47, of Danville, and Sgt. Ian Furminger, 47, of Pleasant Hill.

The two men are on trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on charges including conspiracy to commit theft, theft, conspiracy to violate civil rights and conspiracy to distribute drugs.

Vargas testified the under-the-table incident happened when he, Robles and Furminger were sitting at a Mission District café in San Francisco after a search of the residential hotel room of a suspected methamphetamine dealer in 2009.

During the search, he said, Robles showed him a stack of bills “a couple of inches thick” after a fourth officer had left the room to take the handcuffed suspect to a police station.

Afterwards, Vargas, Furminger and Robles went to the café, according to Vargas, who said the share Robles allegedly handed him was about $2,000.

Vargas was charged in the same indictment as Robles and Furminger in February, but pleaded guilty to four counts on Oct. 21 and agreed to testify against his former colleagues. He began on the witness stand Monday afternoon and completed his testimony on Wednesday.

Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney John Hemann, Vargas outlined five incidents in San Francisco and Newark in 2009 in which he alleged that either Robles or both Robles and Furminger joined him in thefts.

The five events are listed as examples of thefts in the theft-conspiracy count of the indictment.

Vargas testified that in the Newark search, he, Robles and Furminger aided Drug Enforcement Administration agents in looking for contraband in the home of a man suspected of being a large-scale heroin dealer.

Vargas said he went alone to the backyard, where he found a shovel and started digging in the ground. He said he unearthed a cache of $30,000 and an ounce of heroin.

Vargas testified that in the car on the way back, he told Robles and Furminger, “Hey you guys, I found it,” and then split the money three ways.

In a search of a house on Potrero Hill, Vargas testified, Robles found some cash in the closet of the master bedroom.

Vargas told the jury that Robles put the cash on the bed, and then motioned Vargas out of the room and shut the door.

“At that point I was acting as the lookout,” he said. When Robles opened the door a few seconds later, the cash was gone, Vargas testified.

Afterwards, the two men drove to a small side alley behind a police station and sat in the car, Vargas said.

“Mr. Robles reached into his pocket and pulled out the wad of cash, of which he gave me half,” Vargas testified. He said the amount he received was about $1,000.

During cross-examination, Furminger’s defense lawyer, Brian Getz, questioned Vargas about whether he was seeking to tailor his testimony to please prosecutors in hopes of getting a lenient sentence.

“Do you have an incentive to track the government’s narrative? ” Getz asked.

“I believe my motive is to be as truthful as possible,” Vargas responded.

Vargas, who joined the Police Department in 1999, was fired in 2012 for falsifying timecards. Furminger and Robles were suspended without pay after being indicted.

The trial resumes on Monday. Prosecutors told Breyer they expect to complete their side of the case by noon on Monday, after which the defense will begin presenting witnesses. The defense attorneys have not announced whether the two officers will testify.

The case is expected to go to the jury in early or mid-December. Furminger and Robles are both charged with eight counts. The charges include conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program – the Police Department – in 2009 and 2010 and theft of more than $5,000 worth of property from such a program.

Other counts are conspiracy against civil rights; two counts of depriving the citizens of San Francisco of their honest services between 2008 and 2012; two counts of wire fraud; and conspiracy to distribute drugs between 2009 and 2011.

Furminger alone is accused of a ninth count of extorting property in 2011 and 2012.

Vargas pleaded guilty before Breyer to charges of conspiracy to distribute drugs, distribution of marijuana, conspiracy to commit theft, and theft. His sentencing date has not been set.

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PG and E Holds News Conference To Discuss Most Vulnerable Pipelines

The California Public Utilities Commission is set to decide at a meeting in San Francisco today what penalty to impose on PG&E for sending improper judge-shopping emails to two commissioners and a top staff member.

The emails were sent by now-fired Vice President for Regulatory Relations Brian Cherry in January to CPUC Commissioners Michael Peevey and Michel Florio and to Peevey’s former chief of staff, Carol Brown.  The messages sought to influence the selection of a commission administrative law judge in a natural gas transmission and storage rate case.

In one set of emails on Jan. 17, Cherry wrote to Brown that a potential judge was “a major problem for us” and wrote to Peevey, “This is a problem. I hope Carol can fix it.”  Later that day, Brown wrote back, “Take a deep breath. I’m working on it,” and Cherry responded, “Thanks.”

Several days later, Cherry complained to Brown that a second judge under consideration “screwed us royally” in a previous case. When a third judge, whom Cherry had requested, was finally assigned on Jan. 27, the executive wrote to Brown, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

In a proposed decision submitted to the commission last month, Administrative Law Judge Hallie Yacknin said the emails violated a commission rule that bars utilities from engaging in ex parte, or private, communications to the PUC concerning the selection of administrative law judges.

At today’s hearing, the commission will be considering two options.  One would prohibit PG&E from any private oral or written communications with commissioners and their advisors in any aspect of rate-setting proceedings for at least a year.  The other would be the communications ban with a $1.05 million fine.

Both Peevey and Florio have recused themselves from the process.  PG&E has acknowledged the emails were improper, but has contended it took “immediate and definitive action” after discovering the messages.

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Police are asking for the public’s help in locating a man who broke into a Danville restaurant earlier this month.

The break-in happened at Los Panchos Mexican Restaurant at 480 San Ramon Blvd. around 5:15 a.m. on Nov. 7, according to Danville police Detective Anthony Perry.

A surveillance video shows the suspect peering into the restaurant before smashing a glass door with a rock and entering the building.

The video captures the man shining a flashlight in an office portion of the business and going through drawers.

Police did not say whether any cash or valuables were stolen.

Anyone with information about the breaking or the suspect’s identity is asked to contact Danville police Detective Anthony Perry at (925) 314-3710 or at apery@danville.ca.gov.

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