Google Barges, BatKid, Public Nudity Among Top Bay Area Buzzworthy Stories Of 2013
Stories about mystery barges, a Batkid living a dream and a very visible debate on public nudity were among the most talked-about and shared on social media. Here are the top ‘talkers’ in the Bay Area in 2013.
The discovery in October of a mysterious barge off of San Francisco’s Treasure Island and another in Portland, Maine prompted widespread speculation about their purpose. They were eventually revealed by Google to be planned high-end showrooms and party decks; a facility to market Google Glass and other gadgets to invitation-only clients. But the tech giant has still to overcome a mountain of red tape before the barges are put into use.
5-year-old leukemia survivor Miles Scott realized his dream to become Batman for a day as San Francisco transformed into ‘Gotham City’ on November 15. The ‘Batkid’ phenomenon took on a life of its own as he maneuvered through huge throngs of admirers while fighting crime against the likes of The Riddler and The Penguin with the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and an army of volunteers.
The Peninsula town of Atherton, one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S., wasn’t happy about shelling out the $8,000 for extra security and cleanup during two President Obama fundraisers on April 4. The town sent invoices to the White House, Democratic National Committee, the Secret Service and two people who own the homes where Mr. Obama raised more than $3 million for Democrats. Atherton taxpayers eventually footed the bill and the city said it would warn homeowners in advance they would be on the hook for costs associated with similar events.
Following months of public protests by demonstrators in various stages of undress, San Francisco enacted its ban on public nudity February 1 amid yet another naked protest. Days before, a judge ruled this week that nudity was not protected free speech and dismissed a lawsuit by the nudists trying to overturn the ban. The ordinance prohibits nudity on city streets, sidewalks, plazas and other public spaces and was initially passed in late 2012 during meetings interrupted by protesters stripping off clothing inside the Board of Supervisors chambers. UPDATE: One of the main protesters, Gypsy Taub, announced she and her fiance plan to wed outside of City Hall on December 19 — in the nude, naturally.
Bay Area Fox affiliate KTVU-TV was duped into releasing fake and racially-offensive names of the four pilots aboard the deadly Asiana plane crash at San Francisco International Airport. The National Transportation Safety Board said a summer intern had confirmed the erroneous names. Thousands of clips of the KTVU anchor reading the names over a graphic with the names spelled out were uploaded to YouTube within days, with the most-viewed tallying more than seven million views. The gaffe resulted in three staffers losing their jobs at the station.
BART passengers who thought they had seen it all found out they were mistaken on June 12. That’s when 24-year-old Yeiner Alberto Perez Garizabalo, a member of a local clown/acrobat troupe, began doing flips, splits and jumps while completely naked inside the 16th and Mission station in San Francisco – and assaulting several people in the process. He was arrested on two felony counts of false imprisonment and four misdemeanor counts of battery. In October, Perez was released on his own recognizance so he could seek mental health care. He still faces possible deportation to his home country of Colombia.
In early July, dog owners in San Francisco were warned after someone planted nearly 100 meatballs laced with rat poison in the Diamond Heights and Twin Peaks neighborhoods. The death of a dachshund, Oskar, prompted the establishment of a reward for information in the case, which grew to $5,000. So far no one has been arrested and police have warned there may still be meatballs that have not yet been found.