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Suit seeks to stop development in SF's Presidio


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Preservation and environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking to block development of a new hotel in San Francisco's historic Presidio.

The lawsuit was filed by the Sierra Club and Presidio Historical Association in U.S. District Court, and argues that the 14-story hotel development — which seeks to expand an existing structure by 70,000 square feet — violates federal environmental, historical preservation and other laws.

The Presidio was established as a Spanish military post in 1776, and operated as a military base until 1994.

The U.S. took over the site in 1846 just before the Gold Rush, when tens of thousands of people moved to San Francisco. The military used the Presidio as San Francisco Bay's chief guardian from the Civil War through World War II, when it served as the site of the Western Defense Command.

In 1996, the Presidio Trust was created to manage and help transition the newly created 1,491-acre park to financial self-sufficiency. The Presidio's federal funding ends next year.

As part of this transition, a new inn will open in April in a remodeled building, and the park hosts a golf course, bowling alley, a rock-climbing facility and other destinations for visitors.

For years, the trust has planned to redevelop the Presidio's Main Post, which historically served as a kind of "Main Street" for the base. The trust says its plans will make the Main Post the "heart of the park," including a new hotel called the Presidio Lodge.


Site where carpenter buried alive had no permit

MILPITAS  (AP) — California workplace safety officials say the builder of a 5,800-square-foot Milpitas home where a carpenter was buried alive under an avalanche of dirt did not have a proper permit.

Erika Monterroza of the California Occupation Health and Safety Administration said state permits are needed to dig deeper than five feet.

Carpenter Raul Zapata died on Saturday when he was buried alive in a 12-foot trench at the worksite.

The city issued a stop-work order three days before the accident due to concerns over a rain-soaked hillside yet Zapata and others worked anyway.

Milpitas chief building inspector Keyvan Irannejad said he has been unable to contact the project's general contractor, Richard Liu of U.S.-Sino Investment, who is in China.

Calif high court tosses death sentence of pimp

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court has tossed out the death sentence of an Anaheim pimp convicted of killing a prostitute, citing bad jury instructions.

A unanimous high court ruled Thursday that the trial judge failed to make clear that jurors had to find that Gary Galen Brents meant to kidnap his victim as well as kill her. The kidnapping allegation was a "special circumstance" necessary to recommend the death sentence.

Brents was convicted in 2000 of beating 26-year-old Kelly Ann Gordon before placing her alive in the trunk of a Cadillac, which he set on fire. Prosecutors said he was afraid she would reveal his drug-dealing to police.

The high court on Thursday upheld his first-degree murder conviction.

Brents will be sentenced to life in prison unless prosecutors decide to pursue another penalty phase trial.