SAN FRANCISCO — The pilot of an empty oil tanker that crashed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was involved in three previous accidents, records obtained Tuesday show.
Pilot Guy Kleess was held responsible for two of the accidents and ordered to undergo more training after a ship he was piloting damaged a dock in Stockton in 2009, according to records from the state Board of Pilot Commissioners.
The disclosure came as two federal agencies and the state board pursued investigations of the crash of the 752-foot tanker Overseas Reymar.
The U.S. Coast Guard classified the accident as a "major marine casualty" because it exceeded $500,000 in property damage. However, no oil leaks were reported and the bridge remained open. No crew members were injured.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Pamela J. Boehland said investigators interviewed Kleess on Tuesday. The ship's master – or captain – and key crewmembers were also interviewed.
She also said no alcohol was found in any of the critical crew members tested, including Kleess. Boehland said investigators are still analyzing samples for drug use.
Human error is one factor being explored by the Coast Guard as a possible cause of the crash. Visibility at the time was about a quarter-mile, but officials didn't say if that was a factor.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it will coordinate its investigation with the Coast Guard and proceed in light of safety recommendations made after another tanker, the Cosco Busan, hit a nearby tower on the same bridge in 2007 and spilled 53,000 gallons of oil into the bay.
The state board licensed Kleess in 2005 after he completed a two-year training program and joined an elite cadre of mariners who are required by state law to guide every large vessel in the San Francisco Bay and other Northern California waterways.
Board records show Kleess was involved in three prior shipping accidents. He was found at fault in two of the incidents, and all were considered minor, agency chief Allen Garfinkle said.
"They in no way reflect on his skill," Garfinkle said.
Kleess was held blameless when the bow of a ship he was piloting in the Sacramento River on Aug. 27, 2009, "took a sudden sheer to the left" and ran into the bank at slow speed, according to a report to the Legislature.
Two days later, Kleess was found at fault when a ship he was piloting damaged a dock in the Port of Stockton. No damage estimate was provided for repairing a wooden pylon used to support a catwalk.
Kleess agreed to undergo four training runs in the narrow and shallow inland waterways that Garfinkle said are the toughest routes for pilots to navigate.
"Only our most elite pilots go up there," Garfinkle said. "It takes a special person to do that type of work."
The commissioners' 2010 annual report showed Kleess also was held responsible for allowing a ship he was piloting on May 26, 2010, to stray into shallow water in the Richmond Inner Harbor, causing a tug boat tending the ship to briefly run aground. The board found there was minimal damage and Kleess wasn't disciplined for the incident.
Other agency records also showed that pilot Guy Kleess was placed on medical leave in August 2010 for an undisclosed ailment. His license expired in November of that year. The Coast Guard cleared him for duty, and his license was renewed on Jan. 11, 2011, minutes of a monthly meeting of the pilot commissioners show.
A call to Kleess' San Francisco home on Tuesday went unanswered.
Board records show Kleess went to work on oil tankers for Exxon Oil Co. after graduating from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 1976.
The company promoted him several times during the next 13 years. He ultimately attained the rank of master – or captain – of his own ship. He held various other high-ranking mariner positions with other companies before entering the San Francisco Bay bar pilots training program in 2003.
Investigators also will inspect the hull above and below the water line, but Lansing said it wasn't breached.
The bridge sustained minor damage and remained open after the accident that damaged 30 to 40 feet of "fender" material that will need to be replaced.
The fender system made of steel and wooden timbers was built onto the west span to absorb such strikes.
OSG Ship Management Inc., the parent company that owns the Marshall Islands-registered Overseas Reymar, said the accident occurred as the vessel hit an underwater portion of the massive bridge structure. The ship was not carrying oil as cargo, only fuel to power its engines, Goodyear said.
The crew reported no loss of steering or propulsion, and initial investigations showed no water leaks from any of the ballast tanks, said Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for OSG.
California Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jordan Scott said the superstructure of the bridge was fine.
Associated Press writers Lisa Leff, Sudhin Thanawala and Terence Chea contributed to this report.
The No Wieners Club
Since the moment sometime in the mid-1960s when San Francisco suddenly became "San Francisco," the city has been synonymous with using the body as a form of personal expression. But when a group of guys started both literally and figuratively hanging out in the Castro's single most visible public space on a near daily basis, many of neighborhood's residents called for a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/20/san-francisco-bans-public-nudity_n_2165847.html">citywide ban on public nudity</a>. The question, both ludicrously inane and deathly serious, ran right to the heart of the city's very identity: where do the rights of the individual nudist end and the public's collective wish not to see old-man testicles begin? Ultimately, the forces of what some labeled "conservatism" won out. Now, if someone wants to go out in public, they better be sure their genitals are covered. (Excepting, of course, situations where it's officially "appropriate" to go sans underwear, like festivals and street fairs. This is still San Francisco, after all.) <em>- Aaron Sankin</em>
Frothing Orange And Black
Oh, San Francisco Giants. Oh, you. While the team's 2012 World Series sweep wasn't <em>quite</em> as exciting as its 2010 first-time-in-56-years win, that didn’t stop this city from descending into screaming, cheering, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/san-francisco-riots-giants-world-series_n_2036551.html" target="_hplink">Muni-bus destroying</a>, frothing black-and-orange madness. And in true Giants torture-style, the boys delivered plenty of excitement. First there was the historic NL Division Series, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/11/buster-posey-grand-slam-giants-reds-nlds-game-5_n_1959199.html" target="_hplink">starring a Buster Posey grand slam</a>. Then there was the NL Championship series, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/25/barry-zito-world-series-san-francisco-giants_n_2015529.html" target="_hplink">with an unexpected save by Barry Zito</a>. And finally, adding insult to injury, there was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/28/giants-world-series-2012-tigers-matt-cain_n_2036443.html" target="_hplink">the World Series</a>: an epic, embarrassing, Motor City soul-crushing sweep. Next came the (seemingly inevitable) street riot that quickly got out of hand, followed by a family-friendly parade, to which Sergio Romo donned a shirt that read "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/sergio-romo-sports-illegal_n_2052086.html" target="_hplink">I just look illegal</a>." As if that wasn't enough, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/15/buster-posey-mvp-2012-nl-giants-san-francisco_n_2140504.html" target="_hplink">Buster Posey won the National League MVP</a> weeks later, cementing a nod from Grantland dubbing San Francisco "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/20/san-francisco-best-sports-city_n_2339740.html" target="_hplink">the sports city of the year</a>." <em>- Robin Wilkey</em>
Our beloved bridge turned 75 this year, and though crowds didn't rush the Golden Gate as they did on the 50th (nearly causing the span to flatten it in the process), the celebration was no less spectacular. Events included special exhibits, performances by local bands and dance troupes, a vintage boat parade and an 18-minute firework spectacular that humbled every other firework show in the history of fireworks. (<a href="http://goldengatebridge75.org/celebrate/golden-gate-festival.html" target="_hplink">Watch it here!</a>) We can only imagine what 2037 will look like... <em>- Robin Wilkey</em>
Obama's aggressive crackdown on California's medical marijuana industry continued to slaughter jobs and small businesses across the state. The most notable casualty occurred in April, when federal agents raided Oaksterdam University, Oakland's legendary cannabis training school (and ground zero for the city's pro-pot movement). But there might be hope on the horizon -- with voters legalizing recreational use of the plant in Washington and Colorado, California appears poised to follow suit. And politicians are voicing support. Last week, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/21/gavin-newsom-marijuana_n_2348096.html">told the New York Times</a> that current anti-marijuana laws "just don't make sense anymore." <em>- Carly Schwartz</em>
A Light Shines On Market
For decades, every time San Francisco's economy has started to heat up, the "g-word" has come up: Will gentrification wash over the blighted section of mid-Market Street, reviving the city's grand promenade once and for all? Each and every time, that wave has always rolled back before true revitalization could ever occur. But now, during Dot Com Boom 2.0: Social Media Edition, things have been different, damnit. Commercial real estate in SoMa has become a scarce commodity. City leaders are luring arts organizations and restaurants into the neighborhood and giving tech companies like Twitter, Zendesk and Dolby hearty tax breaks to take over spaces that previously housed strip clubs, head shops, or most often, nothing at all. While some have worried the gentrification of mid-Market could cut off homeless and SRO hotel residents from the area's concentration of services, others are excited about a vibrant commercial corridor finally connecting the Civic Center and the Financial District. BART's construction may have killed much of Market Street's once-lively culture, but smartphone apps that give people something to do while waiting for BART may ironically be the thing that brings it back to life. <em>- Aaron Sankin</em>
The Sheriff And His Wife
It's been almost exactly one year since an argument between newly elected San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and his wife, former Venezuelan telenovela star Eliana Lopez, ended with a bruise on a her arm, a teary cell phone video and, ultimately, a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/11/ross-mirkarimi-vote_n_1958288.html">three-ring circus</a> from which no one emerged without some degree of egg on their face. While Mirkarimi managed to retain his job over the objections of Mayor Ed Lee, thanks to a handful of San Francisco's most forgiving supervisors, the real question remains: who should play billionaire investor/local political power player Ron Conway, who funded all the attack ads? Our money is on Richard Richard Dreyfuss. Or Ted Danson. Or Nicolas Cage. Yeah, Nicolas Cage. <em>- Aaron Sankin</em>
Need A Lyft?
They may have started as a minor amusement/eyeroll in the background of your commute home, but those pink mustache cars have quickly transformed San Francisco's entire transportation economy. 2012 was the year of the rideshare app, with more and more everyday citizens turning their cars into cabs for a markedly cheaper (or <a href="https://www.uber.com/">more expensive</a>) price than a traditional taxi. While companies like Sidecar and Lyft have <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/09/ride-sharing-apps-come-un_n_1948660.html">come under fire</a> for disrupting an entire industry and dodging state regulations, their unprecedented popularity -- coupled with Mayor Lee's support for the city's "sharing economy" -- makes us believe they're here to stay. <em>- Carly Schwartz</em>
Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away
Love it or hate it, the America's Cup is coming to San Francisco next year, and 2012 was the start of the action with a warm-up race in the bay. With significant backing from Larry Ellison, San Francisco's waterfront was transformed into an America's Cup village fully equipped to handle the biggest yachting race in the world. The excitement was not without a few anxious moments, including <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/America-s-Cup-prospects-fading-in-S-F-3759001.php" target="_hplink">team dropouts</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/17/americas-cup-capsize_n_1972553.html" target="_hplink">a capsized catamaran</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/25/americas-cup-crash-video_n_1830400.html" target="_hplink">an on-camera crash</a> and a loose boat that was wrangled by a local sailor <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/todd-tholke_n_1955871.html" target="_hplink">who later demanded a $200,000 reward</a>. And come December, the America's Cup king was even accused of espionage. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/06/larry-ellisons-oracle-racing_n_2252315.html" target="_hplink">No, seriously</a>.) But the spectators came and the race went on, helping to make a few days in October San Francisco's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/08/san-francisco-fleet-week-_n_1948732.html" target="_hplink">best weekend ever</a>. <em>- Robin Wilkey</em>
You Can't Afford To Live Here
In October, San Francisco's median home sale price was $522,600--the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/22/most-expensive-city_n_2002532.html">most expensive of any metropolitan area</a> in the country. The city also has the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/san-francisco-rents-the-highest-in-nation_n_1345275.html">most expensive average monthly rent</a> of anywhere in the United States. Earlier this month, one of the most expensive homes in the history of San Francisco <a href="http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2012/12/10/san_franciscos_most_expensive_home_sells_for_28250000.php">sold for $28 million</a>. Across the Bay Area, rental prices are rising faster than <a href="http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2012/01/bay-area-leads-nation-rental-price-increases">anywhere else in the country</a>. Long story short, San Francisco is crazy expensive. The reasons behind this are myriad: rent control artificially constricts the supply of available apartments, a booming economy increasingly favors high-income knowledge workers, a mind-bogglingly small number of new housing units come onto the market, the new developments that do come onto the market are heavily favored toward the luxury sector, both state and federal funding for public housing programs has decreased. And, most of all, San Francisco is pretty much the most awesome place to live in the history of awesome places to live. <em>- Aaron Sankin</em>
Movin' On Up
San Francisco wasn't going to allow a major sports team to get away without getting a new one in return. When the Niners announced they were moving from Candlestick Park to a shiny new arena down in Santa Clara, the mayor became a born-again basketball fan. City leaders <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/golden-state-warriors-san-francisco_n_1536111.html">coaxed the Golden State Warriors to relocate</a> to a state-of-the-art complex across the Bay, encompassing two waterfront piers and offering a decidedly more scenic view than the Oakland outskirts. The $500 million NBA palace is slated to open in time for the 2017 season, officially transforming the area east of China Basin into San Francisco's sporting kingdom (AT&T park is spitting distance). That is, if the city's usual cast of NIMBYs aren't strong enough to stop it. <em>- Carly Schwartz</em>
One evening in August, Richmond residents sheltered in place, taped up their windows and prayed as the nearby Chevron refinery--one of California's largest refineries and a top polluter in the state--<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/08/chevron-fire-richmond_n_1757571.html" target="_hplink">burst into flames after a malfunction</a>. A massive plume of smoke darkened the sky, visible all the way across the bay. Though the fire was extinguished within hours, the damage was done: gas prices skyrocketed, hundreds rushed to emergency rooms reporting breathing problems and the public screamed for environmental impact reports and accountability. "Events like this most recent fire are a trigger for a longstanding mistrust of Chevron," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/08/chevron-fire-richmond_n_1757571.html" target="_hplink">said Jason Corburn, a University of California, Berkeley public health and urban planning professor</a>, about the oil giant, which is based in the Bay Area. Indeed, the fire stoked not only mistrust in Chevron, but also deep-seeded tensions stemming from the socioeconomic inequalities existing on opposite sides of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. ("The wind never blows that smoke to Marin County, now does it?" <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Big-fire-at-Chevron-refinery-in-Richmond-3767221.php" target="_hplink">said one Richmond resident to the San Francisco Chronicle</a>.) Months later, <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Thousands-join-Chevron-refinery-fire-suit-4071649.php" target="_hplink">thousands joined together in a lawsuit</a> against the company. <em>- Robin Wilkey</em>
The world's most metropolitan movie director <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/07/woody-allen-in-san-francisco_n_1754061.html">finally decided to find inspiration</a> in the City by the Bay, and Find Woody Allen quickly became everyone's favorite summer pastime. The iconic filmmaker was spotted all over town while filming scenes for his newest flick, which is rumored to star Cate Blanchett and tells the tale of a rich New Yorker who moves in with her San Francisco-based sister after losing everything. Channeling his (naturally) hipster heritage, Allen appeared to spend most of his time in the Mission, enjoying a sandwich at Wise Sons deli, tapas at Eserpento and a stroll down 22nd Street. <em>- Carly Schwartz</em>