Here's looking at you, 2010: What's sure to capture attention 

As we move into the first year of a new decade, dozens of big stories are right around the corner, waiting to capture headlines or slowly fade away. The Examiner compiled a road map to keep you well-informed for the next 12 months.

Will home run king Barry Bonds strike out in the courtroom?

Former Giants slugger Barry Bonds — who holds Major League Baseball’s career home run record — will face a challenge harder than hitting a baseball when he goes to trial for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury in 2003 about never knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.

The case, which is caught up in an appeals process about evidence, has yet to receive a court date for next year. But if it moves forward, there could be a who’s who of professional baseball players and their trainers dragged forward to testify against Bonds, who ended his career with 762 homers.

One key player in the case is Bonds’ former trainer Greg Anderson, who has spent time in prison for refusing to testify against Bonds. Anderson is a linchpin in the case since he may be the only person who can link positive drug tests found by the feds to the ex-Giant.

Former BART officer gets ready for murder trial in Los Angeles

It’s not often that news from nearly 400 miles away captivates an entire Bay Area audience for weeks at a time, but all eyes will be on Los Angeles when former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle goes on trial for the New Year’s Day fatal shooting of a passenger.

The killing of Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland was caught on video by several passengers, leading to intense media coverage and public scrutiny. Because of the widespread publicity, the case was moved out of Alameda County. After considering San Diego and Los Angeles counties as possible locations, a judge decided the trial would be in the City of Angels. It also landed in the courtroom of Judge Robert J. Perry, who is no stranger to high-profile police cases. He presided over the case of Rafael Perez, an ex-officer in Los Angeles who pleaded no contest in 2000 in the Rampart corruption scandal.

The one thing that Perry already made clear is that court-watchers in the Bay Area will not be able to tune in remotely to keep tabs on the case, as he has decided to ban all TV cameras from the courtroom.

Field of nightmares for The City if 49ers opt to skip out of town

The game plan for the 49ers in their push for a new stadium will likely become more apparent in 2010.

The team, which has been moving ahead with plans to relocate to Santa Clara, could still end up staying in San Francisco after its lease at Candlestick Park expires in 2012. The South Bay location has several hurdles ahead, including approval by voters to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the project.

If the site near the Great America amusement park south of The City fails, the Niners may decide to stay in San Francisco and play at a new stadium planned for the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, which is undergoing redevelopment, or move even farther south. The NFL is looking for a team to play in the Los Angeles market, and the 49ers have been mentioned as a possibility.

As the countdown toward the 2012 lease expiration nears, expect battles off the field that will rival anything the team has done in recent years on the gridiron.

Meter proposal promises to be hot topic in City Hall

The idea of forking out more money to park in San Francisco causes people on both sides of the argument to see red — and not the flashing of an expired meter.

Proponents of a plan to extend meter hours late into the night and operate them on Sundays say it would be a much-needed revenue generator for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni. The higher prices also could be used as a tool to combat traffic congestion.

Opponents typically point out that drivers increasingly are being charged to help pay for public transportation costs.

Finger-pointing and heated debates are bound to ensue as the transit agency drives ahead with its study of extending hours
and days.

Deficit-ridden city likely dipping into your pockets to save services

Taxes, fee hikes, layoffs and reduced services all are likely as The City heads into 2010 where it’s facing a $522.2 million budget deficit for the fiscal year.

Mayor Gavin Newsom acknowledged that jobs — which are the largest city expense — inevitably will be lost as San Francisco struggles during a down economy that has shrunk revenue sources. The mayor also has said he’s willing to look at new revenue sources, which would mean additional fees or taxes for San Franciscans.

If the last round of budget cuts holds any clues as to what’s coming next year, there also will be city services that are slashed in order to help stop the financial bleeding.

Controversial sanctuary policy could become high-stakes drama

Crimes, arrests, deportations and lawsuits. What could be featured in movies or crime TV shows may be playing out in San Francisco during the next year.

The Board of Supervisors altered The City’s sanctuary policy so illegal immigrant youths arrested on suspicion of a felony are not reported to federal authorities unless they are convicted. Established in 1989 to foster an environment in which illegal immigrants feel safe engaging with police and city workers, Mayor Gavin Newsom changed the policy so youths were reported at the time of arrest. That came after the ordinance was thrown into the spotlight by high-profile events, including the revelation that The City was ferrying illegal immigrant youths out of the country to protect them from federal authorities.

U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello refused blanket amnesty for city workers complying with the policy, setting up a showdown. Newsom said he will tell city workers to ignore the policy.

The issue could be forced with a lawsuit, especially if it’s revealed that an illegal immigrant youth is released to the feds when arrested, which would be against the policy.

Changing of the guards: Board seats up for grabs

Every two years, half of San Franciscans have the chance to elect new representatives to the Board of Supervisors and perhaps shift the balance between progressives and moderates. In 2010, voters in even-numbered districts head to the polls in November. All supervisors in those districts, except Carmen Chu, are termed out of office.

With four seats wide open, the makeup of the board could significantly alter if either progressives or moderates win out.

Big money likely will be spent on heavily contested districts, and attack ads are sure to run rampant before Election Day.

Caltrans continues at snail’s pace on new eastern Bay Bridge span

The trouble-plagued eastern span of the Bay Bridge needs to be replaced sooner than later, but it keeps dragging on and becoming later, leading to a bevy of repairs to the old roadway.

After a portion of the bridge collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Caltrans opted to replace the eastern span. Now, more than two decades later, that replacement is still in the works — and delays abound, stretching the project completion date at least another six months into the middle of 2013.

As the new span is being built, the old one continues to deteriorate. One critical bridge support, called an eyebar, was found to be cracked during a planned Labor Day weekend bridge closure. That fix failed and came crashing down onto rush-hour traffic Oct. 27. Caltrans acknowledged that a longer-term fix needs to be put into place, and work started this month on a permanent repair.

Police will try to keep homicide tally down

Police will have the large task next year of trying to keep a cap on homicides that have plagued neighborhoods across San Francisco and been a political hot potato in previous years.

The final tally for 2009 is a three-decade low, and it’s roughly 50 percent less than in 2008. Changes to the department that began under recently retired police Chief Heather Fong helped bring down the tally this year. Among those is the zone strategy, which concentrates police in violent areas of The City. The department also changed how it investigates homicides, such as by sending additional inspectors to the scenes of killings.

Now, new police Chief George Gascón will be tasked with making sure the number of murders doesn’t shoot back up to levels of years past.

Senate showdown in Bay Area could tip the voting scales

It’s not often a Republican from the Bay Area garners enough political steam to mount a serious challenge to a U.S. Senate seat held by one of two Democrats who collectively have been in the upper chamber of Congress for more than three decades.

So when former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina announced she was taking on Sen. Barbara Boxer, it caused a stir among politics wonks, who immediately began calculating the odds.

Fiorina, who lives in Los Altos Hills, will first square off against Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, in the Republican primary. If Fiorina wins, she would run on the November ticket against Boxer, who lives in Oakland and is seeking her fourth term in office.

A strong showing by Fiorina also could be an eye-opener for the Democratic Party, which generally counts on the Bay Area as a stronghold.

Span plan: Increase tolls, pay for seismic upgrades to bridges

Add another cost to driving in the Bay Area next year: bridge crossings.

All state-owned bridges — which excludes only the Golden Gate Bridge in the Bay Area — will be raising tolls $1 as early as July.

The Bay Bridge is implementing a $2 hike during peak driving times. And car poolers on all bridges will no longer have a free ride, as they will have to pay $2.50 per crossing.

Money generated from the increase is earmarked for seismic upgrades on the Dumbarton and Antioch bridges.

The work on the 1.6-mile Dumbarton Bridge that connects Menlo Park to Fremont also is expected to begin in 2010. Repairs, which include strengthening the 36 piers that hold up the span, are expected to require several full closures of the bridge.

We hope these events don’t become repeat offenders

As 2009 comes to a close, it leaves a handful of blemishes the new year could do without.

Muni crashes

A light-rail crash between two trains in the West Portal station July 18 was the largest of 2009, injuring at least 50 people. That incident highlighted a year with several other high-profile crashes — such as two historic F-line streetcars sandwiching a sport utility vehicle Aug. 3 — Muni could do without in 2010.

Torching portable toilets

A series of loo lightings in late 2008 stretched into the early months of 2009 and popped up again late this year. Portable toilets outside buildings undergoing construction or remodeling were targeted. The blazes left behind melted plastic and a mess of the toilets’ contents — one city streets can do without.

BART nearly strikes

It was a tense few months in the middle of the year when it appeared BART workers would go on strike and shut down the transit system, which carries approximately 350,000 riders daily. Contract talks between any groups during the dour economy are likely to be heated, but any more near-shutdowns of public transportation in 2010 may end up sending drivers back to their cars for good.

Violence at schools

Alexander Youshock allegedly strapped 10 pipe bombs on a vest, carried a 2-foot sword and a chain saw, and set out to wreak havoc on his former high school Aug. 24. Two of the bombs were set off, but the heroics of several teachers and school workers — one of whom grabbed the 17-year-old and held him down until help came — ended the attack in San Mateo before anyone was killed or injured.

Oil spills in Bay

The Dubai Star leaked hundreds of gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay during what appeared to be a mishap while refueling Oct. 30. The tanker that was anchored south of the Bay Bridge reportedly had equipment onboard to contain oil spills but never used it. With the fallout from the Cosco Busan incident in 2007 still reverberating throughout the Bay ecosystem, it could use a significant break from oil spills.

mbillings@sfexaminer.com

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