Sengupta: Thank you so much for having me today. I'm really excited to be in San Francisco. I don't get to come here that often, which is strange because I live in Los Angeles, but I do like to come whenever I can. For my talk today, I'm going to talk about the future of transportation, specifically on the things that I worked on that I think are kind of the up and coming thing, the thing that I'm working on now and what's going to happen in the future. I think part of my career has always been about just doing fun and exciting new things and all my degrees are in aerospace engineering, ever since I was a little kid, I loved science fiction. I actually am a Star Trek person versus a Star Wars person, but I knew since I was a little kid that I wanted to be involved in the space program, so that's why I decided to go the aerospace engineering route and I wanted to build technology. I got my Ph.D. in plasma propulsion systems. Has anyone heard of the mission called Dawn that's out in the main asteroid belt? My Ph.D. research actually was developing the ion engine technology for that mission. It actually flew and got it to a pretty cool place out in the main asteroid belt looking at Vesta and Ceres. I did that for about five years and then I kind of felt like I had done everything I could possibly do on that front, from a research perspective. My management asked me if I wanted to work on the next mission to Mars. There's very few engineers in the space program who'd be like, "No, I'm just not interested in that." And they're like, "We want you to do the supersonic parachute for it."
Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration has set aside nearly 300 state-owned properties that may be turned into emergency housing for homeless people, half of which are in the Bay Area. The inventory was completed under an executive order that Newsom signed in January, directing four state agencies to identify excess state land that could be made available for free to local governments for short-term homeless shelters. Newsom said Wednesday during his homelessness-focused State of the State address that his administration had found 286 eligible properties, including vacant lots, fairgrounds and armories. "Those are available today," he said. "Lease templates are ready to go and we're ready for partnerships. There are 148 potential shelter sites listed in the Bay Area, including 49 in Sonoma County, 36 in Alameda County and 25 in San Mateo County. They are largely empty Caltrans-managed parcels next to state highways, many of which the state has previously identified as potential properties for affordable housing development. One is in San Francisco, next to Interstate 280 near 23rd and Indiana streets. Others include the Redwood City Armory, Napa State Hospital and the Sonoma Developmental Center. With the homeless population surging to more than 151,000 people in the latest state count, and recent polls showing that homelessness has become the top concern of California voters, Newsom is under increasing pressure to act. Because the state is merely making the vacant land available to local governments, however, there is no guarantee the sites will be used for temporary housing for homeless people. Justin Berton, a spokesman for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, said the city has no immediate plans for 18 Oakland properties in the state inventory. But he said Oakland would probably take advantage of them eventually, to expand its community cabin program, designate additional safe parking sites for people sleeping in vehicles, or set up more trailers provided by the state in the January executive order. He said the offer of excess state land is "stripping away all the bureaucracy" for cities like Oakland, which has already been leasing properties from Caltrans for minimal amounts to set up housing for homeless people. But Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said "land is the least of the problems" for communities trying to figure out how to get California's growing homeless population off the streets. He said neither of the Richmond sites identified by the state seem to meet the city's needs for homeless shelters. One appears to be in the middle of a cloverleaf interchange connecting to Interstate 80, which would require that people cross an on-ramp to reach. Butt is unsure whether the other, sandwiched between Interstate 580 and the bay, has adequate access to bus lines, grocery stores, health services and other basic amenities. You've got cars whizzing by there all the time," Butt said.
Matthew Kraft, a Marine lieutenant, has been reported missing this month, as a search continued Friday. Authorities' search continued Friday for a Marine based in Camp Pendleton, Calif., who was reported missing from a skiing trip earlier this week. First Lt. Matthew Kraft, with the 1st Marine Division, went on a backcountry trip on the Sierra High Route, but was not seen after his scheduled return date, the Inyo County Sheriff's Office said in a missing-person release. Local law enforcement reported him missing, the officials said. Kraft's itinerary began out of the Kearsarge Pass trailhead on Feb. 23 and was scheduled to end March 4 or 5 near Bridgeport, Calif., the release said.
Bay Area measures that seek to restore BART and extend the commuter rail system to downtown San Jose were ahead Tuesday in early returns, both of which require a two-thirds vote to pass. In Santa Clara County, Measure B asked voters to raise the sales tax by half a cent for every dollar spent to fund a host of freeway and transit improvements, including funding to bring BART to downtown San Jose, raising more than $6 billion over the next three decades. Measure B was garnering 71% support with an estimated 44% of the ballots counted. Voters in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties were deciding the fate of Measure RR, a $3.5-billion bond measure to rebuild the core systems of the aging electric train service, which has been plagued with ancient, faulty power systems and water leaks that have weakened steel rails so much they crack during the commute. With 76% of the precincts reporting, Measure RR was garnering 70% of the vote.
French inventor Frank Zapata grabbed headlines around the world this summer when he flew his hoverboard across the English channel from Pas de Calais, France, to the famous white cliffs of Dover. But Bay Area commuters may soon do Zapata one better by skimming above San Francisco Bay on autonomous, single-passenger drones being developed by a Peninsula start-up company with ties to Google. The automated drones are electrically powered, capable of vertical takeoff and landing, and would fly 10 feet above the water at 20 mph along a pre-determined flight path not subject to passenger controls. The drones' rotors are able to shift from vertical to horizontal alignment for efficient forward movement after takeoff. The company behind all this, three-year-old Kitty Hawk Corp., has personal financial backing from Google founder Larry Page, now CEO of Google's parent, Alphabet, who has long been interested in autonomous forms of transportation.