Oakland finds new contractor for surveillance hub

After aborting its deal with one company to build a surveillance center, the city has found a new vendor to complete the $10.9 million project, which has been the subject of protests by privacy advocates.

Later this month, the City Council's four-member Public Safety Committee will consider a recommendation to pay Schneider Electric Inc. as much as $1.6 million to complete the Domain Awareness Center later this year.

The joint city-Port of Oakland project, funded through federal grants, will provide a data hub where police can view feeds from street cameras, gunshot sensors and other surveillance tools on a bank of constantly monitored television screens.

The center has been billed as a resource that will help police solve crimes and help first responders better serve residents during emergencies. However, opponents have countered that it could allow authorities to stockpile information on residents and provide a boost to domestic spying efforts.

After hearing concerns from privacy advocates, the City Council late last year cut ties with the firm it picked to build the center, Science Applications International Corp. (since renamed Leidos Holdings). Opponents had noted that contracting with the firm violated a city prohibition on doing business with companies that are connected to nuclear weapons makers. They also noted that the firm had paid a $500 million penalty in connection with a scandal-plagued project in New York City.

In the city report recommending Schneider, a multinational industrial equipment firm, staffers detailed the firm's recent litigation history and confirmed that it was not involved in nuclear weapons. Schneider got the recommendation over Motorola Solutions, Inc and G4S Technology LLC.

12th man shows his colors in Hayward

A couple of Hayward city councilmen got caught up in the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry.

Councilman Greg Jones sported a Seattle shirt during Tuesday's meeting, where he challenged fellow Councilman Mark Salinas to a friendly bet.

"If the 49ers win, I will shave my head. If the Seahawks win, will you shave your head?" Jones asked Salinas.

It wasn't much of a bet on Jones' part, since he recently started shaving his head. After the laughter died down, Salinas replied that he had to walk into a classroom the next morning.

Big changes possible in Fremont

Are residents of Fremont, a city known as much for suburban tranquillity as its growing tech sector, ready for big changes?

Soon, the city might have that question answered. City leaders are asking the public for feedback on the Warm Springs/South Fremont Community Plan and the project's draft environmental impact report, which were released earlier this month.

The Warm Springs/South Fremont development area covers 879 acres near the Milpitas border and is bounded by Auto Mall Parkway, Mission Boulevard and Interstates 880 and 680.

The area's 118-page community plan, released Jan. 9, envisions a departure from the city's predominant housing stock: single-family houses. The city plans to expand the sprawling commercial zone, whose warehouses and office parks house a growing biotech sector, by adding 20,000 jobs in 11 million square feet of new office and retail space.

Also planned are up to 4,000 new homes, with most being high-density condominiums and apartments, creating a walkable neighborhood where residents might work, shop and play. Most of the development would be within a half-mile of the Warm Springs-South Fremont BART station, scheduled to open in late 2015.

Those pedestrian-friendly proposals represent change, and the submitted comments from Fremont residents next month will reveal whether the vehicle-heavy city is ready to embrace it. The public has until Feb. 28 to give comments on the draft environmental impact report, which was released Wednesday.