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This Hour: Latest Northern California news, sports, business and entertainment

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San Francisco considers ending rental ban

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Legislation set to be unveiled by a San Francisco supervisor would make it legal for city residents to rent out their homes on sites such as Airbnb, but only if they have liability insurance and meet other requirements.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Supervisor David Chiu will unveil the legislation on Tuesday. Short-term rentals are currently banned in San Francisco. Chiu's bill would lift the ban, but also impose regulations.

In multiunit buildings, for example, short-term rentals would only be allowed in apartments where someone lives 75 percent of the year. The restriction would effectively ban a unit from becoming a full-time vacation rental.

Airbnb said in a statement to the Chronicle that it was reviewing the proposal and looked forward to working with policymakers.


Mother says police failed to track sex offenders

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - A mother has blamed authorities for failing to do enough to track two sex offenders who are charged in the death of her daughter.

The two men wore GPS devices, but investigators say they didn't piece together a pattern of rapes and killings until at least four women were dead.

The situation has raised new questions about the effectiveness of the devices that are supposed to deter criminals.

Jodi Michelle Pier-Estepp said Tuesday that her daughter might still be alive if the suspects had been properly monitored.

Jarrae Nykkole Estepp was found dead last month on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting plant.

Officials say the GPS devices helped link suspects Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon to the deaths and pinpoint their movements.


Officials: Huge San Francisco blaze was accidental

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A massive blaze that barreled through an apartment building construction site in San Francisco last month was accidental, not arson, fire investigators said Tuesday.

The five-alarm fire on March 11 in the Mission Bay neighborhood began when a hot or smoldering object ignited wood between the top floor and roof of the six-story building, investigators said in a report.

The fire gutted the building and damaged three other structures. The report estimated damage at about $40 million.

Fire officials said a day after the fire that they were looking into preliminary reports that workers at the block-long site were doing torch work.

A more detailed report that could explain what caused the blaze is expected in the next couple of weeks, fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.

The fire created a plume of black smoke that was visible for miles and led to the evacuation of nearby buildings. A wall of the burning building collapsed about an hour after the fire began.

City officials said a catastrophe was narrowly avoided in the neighborhood near AT&T Park, home of the Giants.

About 150 firefighters were called in to contain the blaze.


Body of missing hiker found on Mount Tamalpais

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (AP) - Authorities say the body of a missing hiker has been found on Mount Tamalpais in Marin County.

The Marin Independent-Journal reports that the body of 33-year-old Magdalena Glinkowski was found Sunday, weeks after she had last been seen.

Marin County sheriff's officials say there were no obvious signs of trauma or foul play.

Glinkowski was reported missing in early April after a California State Park ranger found an abandoned car rented in her name in a lot near the Pantoll Campground.

A search on April 5 and 6 found nothing.

Authorities in recent days received a tip from a man who said he saw Glinkowski alive when he was going for a run on March 30.

The information helped authorities better target their search in recent days.


Final deadline arrives for health exchange sign-up

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - It's not just tax day. Tuesday also is the two-week extension deadline to sign up for health coverage through California's insurance exchange.

Consumers who were unable to create an account or fill out an application because of technical problems on the Covered California website have until midnight Tuesday to secure a health insurance policy and avoid a tax penalty.

The agency offered the extension after its systems were overwhelmed by the number of people trying to sign up before the March 31 enrollment deadline under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

Exchange officials are encouraging people to contact service representatives, enrollment counselors and certified insurance agents to help them complete the process.

More than 1.2 million people had enrolled before the deadline. Covered California plans to release updated figures Thursday.


Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A trade group for wireless providers says the country's biggest smartphone makers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the devices to try to deter rampant theft.

CTIA-The Wireless Association announced Tuesday that under a "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment," the providers agree to install a free preloaded or downloadable anti-theft tool on smartphones sold in the U.S. after July 2015.

The wireless industry has said putting a permanent "kill switch" on phones has serious risks, including potential vulnerability to hackers.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have demanded that the wireless industry create kill switches. They say CTIA's plan still falls short of effectively ending smartphone theft because the measures will rely on consumers to seek out and turn on the technology.


Scientists find new sponge species off La Jolla

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Scientists using a remote-controlled robot submersible have discovered a new species of poisonous sponge in the deep waters off San Diego.

U-T San Diego reports researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute were studying bacteria when they came across the strange sponge just northwest of La Jolla, at a depth of 3,300 feet.

They describe it as a twig-like carnivore that is able to survive along the dark, frigid ocean floor. It is similar to three other sponge species found along the U.S. West Coast and Baja California.

The institute says scientists first discovered that some sponges are carnivorous 20 years ago. Since then only seven carnivorous species have been found in all of the northeastern Pacific.


'Shrimp Boy' pleads not guilty to felony charges

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A central figure in a sweeping San Francisco organized crime and public corruption case has pleaded not guilty.

Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow entered his plea Tuesday in federal court to eight counts of money laundering, one count of conspiracy to sell stolen liquor and one count of trafficking in illegal cigarettes.

Prosecutors say Chow is the leader of a notorious gang based in Chinatown.

Chow's lawyers counter that their client is an innocent community organizer wrongly caught up in a politically charged investigation that also led to charges against state Sen. Leland Yee.

Yee is accused of accepting bribes and attempting to connect an undercover FBI agent with an arms dealer in exchange for cash. Yee has pleaded not guilty.


Youth baseball coach sentenced for molestation

MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) - A judge has sentenced a longtime San Francisco Bay Area youth baseball coach convicted of molesting children to nearly 11 years in prison.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that 53-year-old Joel Kaufman was sentenced Monday after he pleaded guilty to four counts of felony child molestation.

Kaufman had coached at Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High School and Palo Alto High School in addition to having led Little League and youth traveling teams.

The abuse for which Kaufman was convicted occurred from 2005-2012, though during the investigation numerous accusers came forward detailing abuse over a 30-year period.

At the time of his arrest, Kaufman was coaching an 18-and-under traveling team out of San Jose called the California Smoke.


State audits LA-area city of Cudahy after scandal

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California State Controller John Chiang has released several audits of Cudahy (CUD'-uh-hay), a small Los Angeles-area city where corruption led to the conviction of three former city officials.

Chiang has ordered Cudahy to return nearly $23 million to the city's redevelopment fund, saying officials had virtually no internal controls to prevent the misuse of taxpayer dollars.

The report released Tuesday identifies questionable leave pay, violations of the city's contract code, uncontrolled credit card spending and mismanaged state grant funds.

City officials requested the audit after a federal bribery investigation revealed broad corruption among some of their predecessors.

Former Mayor David Silva, a former councilman and another official were convicted for their roles in the payment of cash bribes from a businessman in exchange for supporting a new pot dispensary.


California man pleads guilty in dragging death

WILLITS, Calif. (AP) - A Northern California man accused of killing his 84-year-old grandfather by dragging him behind a pickup truck for nearly six miles has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.

The Ukiah Daily Journal reports that 24-year-old Kenneth Wilkinson entered his plea in Mendocino County Superior Court on Monday, just as jury selection was set to begin. In return for his plea, prosecutors dropped a special circumstance of torture.

Authorities were called to a Willits-area home last March after family members reported Richard Mel Wilkinson missing. Deputies ultimately discovered a trail of blood and body parts leading to his body, which was found in a ravine.

Public Defender Linda Thompson has said the younger Wilkinson was impaired by drugs and suffered from mental health problems.

Wilkinson is scheduled to be sentenced on May 9.


San Jose police officer pleads not guilty to rape

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - A San Jose police officer accused of raping a woman while on duty has pleaded not guilty.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that 38-year-old Geoffrey Graves entered the plea in court on Monday and then left without talking to reporters.

Graves is accused of raping the woman in September after responding to a family disturbance call at her home. Prosecutors say police determined the woman and her husband had been drinking, but no crime had occurred.

Graves allegedly took the woman to a hotel where she wanted to stay for the night. Prosecutors say he later returned to her room and assaulted her.

He was arrested last month. He has been placed on paid administrative leave.

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