tv NBC Bay Area We Investigate NBC January 23, 2021 6:30pm-7:00pm PST
case make its way through court? alfonso rocciola: yes. mark stone: i don't think it's justice. no, it's not justice. jack liebster: this beach, stinson beach, it'll be gone. a lot of it would be underwater. stephen stock: if we don't do anything, what happens? jack liebster: the water's going to come in the front door. dar mims: we need to really start living with fires opposed to really trying to suppress it all the time. ♪♪♪ stephen stock: good evening, i'm stephen stock. thanks for joining us on "nbc bay area," where we investigate. we're not far from a year into this pandemic that has put many parts of our lives on hold, but what happens if you can't wait for when we come out the other side of this tunnel? terminally ill people are fighting for their day in court before it's too late. senior investigate reporter bigad shaban has the story.
bigad shaban: how do you build a legacy? alfonso rocciola spent his whole life building his. alfonso rocciola: if you drive through the city, you can say, "wow, well, look what i did." you accomplished something. bigad: he's been in charge of some of the most iconic construction projects in san francisco: the cliff house, exploratorium, and his favorite, this chapel in north beach. throughout his life, alfonso also built a marriage. alfonso: my wife is the number one-- bigad: a family. alfonso: we have five grandchildren. bigad: and now he's building a court case. alfonso is suing nearly 20 companies that made and distributed construction materials to the sites. according to his lawsuit, those companies failed to protect workers from asbestos, a material known to cause cancer.
it's the very same cancer alfonso has. alfonso: i have a lot of things to lose. stephen: it's caused mesothelioma. alfonso: i have the grandchildren to lose. bigad: and it's terminal. alfonso: the worst part is you know that you're going to die, and my life is gone. bigad: are you scared of dying? alfonso: yes. marisa rocciola: i don't want to think about him not being here. bigad: marisa is his wife. they met as teenagers in italy. marisa: i want to enjoy every day that i have with him, and hopefully, tomorrow we have another one, but not thinking that it may be the last one. bigad: how often are you in pain? alfonso: oh, every day. every moment. bigad: every moment. alfonso: every moment. i'm in pain right now. bigad: alfonso is suing for pain and suffering, which can provide legal payouts worth millions of dollars. in most of the country, that money goes to the family if a plaintiff passes away before the end of the trial. but that's not the case in california, where once the plaintiff dies, the pain and suffering claim dies too.
bigad: do you worry you may not be here to see the case make its way through court? alfonso: yes. bigad: and what is that feeling like? alfonso: it's a mission not accomplished. bigad: court closures during the pandemic are making it harder for the terminally ill to make it to trial. across the bay area's nine counties, four still aren't allowing juries in these kinds of civil cases, so the trials can't begin. dr. raja flores: that court date for them, that's air that they breathe. they need that. that is what's keeping them going. bigad: dr. raja flores has been treating mesothelioma patients for 25 years and says the pain they endure is excruciating. dr. flores: it is like a boa constrictor that strangles you with each breath until the tumor basically suffocates you. bigad: but as california courts see it, once the plaintiff dies, they're no longer experiencing that pain
and suffering, so they can't sue for it. bigad: that is the law, but is it justice? mark stone: i don't think it's justice, no. it's not justice. bigad: assemblyman mark stone chairs the state's judiciary committee, which serves as a watchdog over california's legal system. bigad: do you think there's enough political will in sacramento to change this law? mark: i think that's a very tough one. the insurance companies, they're whole obligation to their shareholders and others is to minimize their--the payouts, and that sounds kind of cold and cynical, but that's a reality of this legal structure. bigad: the nation's largest insurance association tells us pain and suffering is intended to compensate the one who actually suffered. the group says changing the law would lead to greater expenses for businesses and ultimately consumers. and it argues terminally ill plaintiffs already have "other means" to speed up their cases. bigad: in california, the terminally ill can request their trials begin in four months or less, but in the midst of the
pandemic with courtrooms still closed or severely backlogged, we've confirmed some plaintiffs never got their trials. bigad: just how many statewide is difficult to say, because as we've found out, no one is keeping track. mark: to me, that's kind of an administrative failure within the system. bigad: after we started asking questions, assemblyman stone is now calling for each california court to discloseo the state whether it violated the law by not poritriing cases for the terminally ill. bigad: are california courts failing some people right now? mark: i think they are. we should be able to know whether or not that right is truly being implementeand d w it's being implemented. bigad: alfonso rocciola had to wait an extra two months before filing his case. he was finally assigned a trial date for december. alfonso: before i'm gone i want to make sure that everybody being taken care of. i want to die in peace. ♪ ave maria. ♪
bigad: alfonso never made it to court. the trial, he told us, was never about him. the case he built was for the family he built. angela bergamini: when we think of life without dad, it's hard to breathe. bigad: angela bergamini is alfonso's oldest daughter. she gave the eulogy with her siblings, viviana and dino, at her side. angela: you may be gone from my sight, dad, but you are never gone from our hearts. bigad: alfonso's death could soon lead to changes at the state capital. in the new year, california lawmakers are now expected to explore ways to better protect the legal rights of the terminally ill. it's not exactly what alfonso would hope to leave behind for his family, but there is more than one way to build a legacy. with the investigative unit, i'm bigad shaban. stephen: up next, i'll look into how the pandemic is impacting out fight against rising sea levels.
ellen rook: i really don't know what we're going to do. i don't swim. i guess get a boat and throw it out? stephen: why experts say it's costing us time we don't have. i have the power to lower my blood sugar and a1c. because i can still make my own insulin. and trulicity activates my body to release it like it's supposed to. trulicity is for type 2 diabetes. it's not insulin. and i only need to take it once a week. plus, it lowers the risk of cardiovascular events. trulicity isn't for people with type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis. don't take trulicity if you're allergic to it, you or your family have medullary thyroid cancer, or have multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2. stop trulicity and call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction, a lump or swelling in your neck, severe stomach pain, changes in vision, or diabetic retinopathy. serious side effects may include pancreatitis. taking trulicity with sulfonylurea or insulin raises low blood sugar risk. side effects include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, belly pain,
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worth of property flooded by 2050 if something is not done and soon. jack liebster: if we don't start very soon, we're going to be in a world of hurt. stephen: jack liebster showed us around one of the most pristine and sought-after pieces of property in marin county, stinson beach. stephen: if we don't do anything, what happens? jack: the water is going to come in the front door. stephen: listed by the national park service as one of the best swimming beaches in all of northern california with beachfront property values in the millions, stinson beach is also one of the most vulnerable locations in the bay area to the unrelenting rise in sea levels. jack: this beach, stinson beach, it'll be gone. a lot of it would be underwater. ellen: it'll come flowing in from here. stephen: across the marin headlands and down the peninsula in redwood city, ellen rook and her family deal with flooding nearly every winter in lemar mobile home
park, which sits right on the edge of the bay. though this area has flooded with heavy rains since the 1990s, historical maps from the federal emergency management agency show the flood risk directly from the bay has increased significantly with rising sea levels. female: it's always living on edge. you don't know if you're going to wake up and you're flooded. stephen: flooding here could soon be not only every winter but year-round. while older scientific models show a gradual sea level increase in recent decades, the latest satellite data shows seas rising exponentially around the bay area. that puts this entire mobile home park several inches underwater by 2030 if something isn't done and soon. stephen: what are you going to do if the water comes or when the water comes? ellen: i really don't know what we're going to do. i don't swim. i guess get a boat and throw it out. stephen: along 400 miles of bay area shoreline, we found more than a dozen projects that were meant to slow, stop, or protect against the rising tides, now put on hold or
delayed all because of the covid crisis and its economic impact. stephen: projects that have been delayed or halted include exploring ways to prevent frequent floods on highway 1, in marin county, by elevating the roadway and buildings and creating artificial reefs and sea walls, protecting water treatment plants in san rafael, in one case, by replacing an outdated levee with a new environmentally friendly one, and the multiyear, multimillion-dollar south bay salt ponds restoration project, the largest tidal wetlands effort on the west coast, meant to absorb rising sea levels. while some planning work continues, most construction has stalled. warner chabot: we can't afford to lose a week, a day, certainly not a year or two. stephen: warner chabot is executive director of the san francisco estuary institute. warner: this is probably going to rob us of one to two years ou governments are simply going to be cash-strapped. stephen: does that worry you?
warner: it terrifies me. i mean, we have an enormous challenge ahead of us. stephen: a challenge that currently has no long-term funding, thanks to the high cost of the covid crisis, a $4.7 billion bond meant to address the issue statewide, pulled by governor gavin newsom. yet another law proposed by san mateo assemblyman kevin mullen would've protected important assets like highway 101, caltrain, bart lines, and local residential communities from flooding due to sea level rise. kevin mullins: this is going to be a huge challenge that is going to take resources at the local level, the regional level, the state level. stephen: but mullin's bill was shot down this fall, all due to a lack of funding. stephen: now, when the tax base does rebound from the covid crisis, experts worry it might be too late. coming up, crime-free housing? our investigative unit looks into a program that's keeping some people from renting a room even when they can afford it.
stephen: a disturbing practice in the city of vallejo, uncovered by our investigative unit, a police-run housing program that compares people with criminal records to dangerous animals. here's investigative reporter candice nguyen. john jones: i didn't have my dad in my life, and i always said as a kid, if i ever had-- "if i ever became a father, i'm going to be present." candice nguyen: john jones has been out of prison for eight years. his turning point? his children.
john: so from day one, i made a personal commitment-- candice: to live a crime-free life and to find a home for him and his boys. john: a lot of landlords were-- they were advertising, "no, you must have a clean criminal record." i'm applying to places, and i'm begging and pleading, saying, "look, i'm a changed person. here's my son here. i'm a father." candice: rejected because of his criminal record, jones and his sons lived in this basement for two years. john: and as a father, just the sense of shame that i couldn't provide better housing and shelter for my two kids. candice: while investigating why people like jones are being kept out of housing, we came across the crime-free multi-housing program. tim zehring: hello, my name is tim zehring. candice: police officer tim zehring from mesa, arizona, created the program in 1992. tim zehring: the crime-free multi-housing program was our best option to deal with crime and rental housing. candice: zehring never responded to our multiple requests to speak with him, but on his website, it says the program has spread to 3,000
law enforcement agencies internationally. tim: did you know that it is not illegal to discriminate against people based on their behavior? louis chicoine: we challenged the fundamental assumption that just because someone had a problem when they were younger, years ago often, that they're going to have a problem going forward. candice: louis chicoine is the ceo of the housing nonprofit abode services. he believes the program discriminates against people of color who have more contact with police. louis: this is an example of institutional racism. candice: after weeks of research, our investigative unit found hundreds of crime-free housing developments in the bay area, most of them in these cities. candic we e:und the most troubling guide to crimeree-f housing here in the city of vallejo, illustrated in its program booklet. candice: here, you compare crime and people with criminal records to a dangerous dinosaur.
judy shepard-hall: mm-hmm. candice: that's vallejo's housing director judy shepard-hall. she oversees the program. candice: and then there's an actual picture of a dinosaur that your program says needs to be killed while still in the egg. judy: mm-hmm. female: i would say that, candice, judy doesn't have the answers to these questions 'cause-- candice: that voice off-camera? that's vallejo's public information officer, also known as a pio. candice: have you gone through it? judy: right, it doesn't have a date on the booklet so-- candice: but this is the one i got two weeks ago. judy: where did you pull it from? yeah. candice: the city pio. judy: yeah, i've not seen that. i have looked at the powerpoint. i've been in two sessions, and this is the first i've seen this. it's not language that i would think that--most of the communities are multifamily properties in the city are senior properties. this is-- candice: i mean, right there, it says off the top, and i think you see it. "criminals are like weeds."
document that has to be revised. so, candice, i'm going to have to stop the interview. candice: on monday, the city put out this press release where shepard-hall says, "i am grateful that the reporter shared her findings with the city regarding the unsuitable terminology of this training document. it did not speak to the values of the city nor the housing or police department." the city got rid of the former vallejo officer they had hired as a consultant to run the program. the program is now on pause until it receives a much-needed update. but 15 properties throughout vallejo are still operating under the program or version of it along with many more throughout the bay area. chicoine says it's only fueling the bay area's crippling homeless crisis. louis: so we saw over and over again, landlords unwilling to even consider one of our clients for housing because of this policy. judy: i'm someone who made mistakes.
i am not the sum of those mistakes. candice: we went to a local homeless shelter where the director told us every single one of her clients had been turned away from housing because of this crime-free program. to view vallejo's full statement on what they're doing to change, go to our website, nbcbayarea.com. candice nguyen, nbc bay area news. stephen: coming up, we investigate how cal fire is partnering with native americans to prevent megafires.
what can we learn from the native americans? how did they control wildfires while still preserving epn: the land around them? gets worse every year, here's investigative reporter jaxon van derbeken. elizabeth azzuz: we offer up smoke to you for prayer. jaxon van derbeken: twice each year, members of yurok tribe venture into the klamath river forest-- elizabeth: we only want to make our world better. jaxon: invoking the spirits of their elders. elizabeth: they help us guide our hands as we bring back the greatest tool left to us, to the land, which is fire. jaxon: and seeking forgiveness. elizabeth: the birds, the trees, we call them the one-legged people. you know, asking permission to come into their home basically and to light it ablaze. jaxon: elizabeth azzuz first learned about fire's sacred role to her people at age four when she was caught playing with matches. elizabeth: my grandfather, who was blind, could smell what
i so he could explain to me what fire meant to us and how important it was. jaxon: for hundreds of generations, the yurok saw fire as a gift from the creator. the animals they hunted flourished in the open spaces. medicinal herbs and wild berries sprung from the ashes, and the flames made brittle hazelnut sticks pliable enough to weave into baskets. state officials say they have a lot to do before we come close to honoring that special bond. native americans burned some two million acres each year in the state, before european settlers, who saw fire as the enemy, outlawed burning in 1850. the yurok resorted to secretly burning on their land. some paid a price, branded arsonists for life. elizabeth: i have a relative who cannot light his barbecue. he cannot light his wood stove. a family member actually has to go and do these thin for him so that he can cook his food or heat his home, because he can be arrested for having a match, flint, a lighter.
jaxon: the yurok had to fight to bring back the kind of fire that many experts now believe helps preserve the state's forest and offsets the damage from climate change. in 2013, the yurok finally got the state's approval to bring fire out of the shadow. it started with just a seven-acre patch with cal fire crews awkwardly standing guard. elizabeth: you know, they're all in their uniforms, and they're very, you know, professional, but they were pacing because they were bored. they basically had to stand for eight or ten hours and watch us burn while they just stood there. jaxon: that awkward beginning is now a full partnership. cal fire recently gave the yurok a grant to burn several thousand acres, telling us native people "bring thousands of years of traditional ecological knowledge to our partnership." dar mims: and the native americans have always lived with fire, and they continue. jaxon: dar mims is a meteorologist with the air resources board and a leader of the state's wildfire task force.
dar: and we live with fire. we just haven't embraced it to the degree that they have, and that's where we're going. we need to really start living with fire as opposed to really trying to suppress it all the time. jaxon: to do that, mim says, the state has joined the u.s. forest service on a plan to thin or burn one million acres of wild land a year, starting in 2025. u.c. berkeley professor scott stevens says that's a start, but he thinks the most important lesson native americans could teach us is the never-ending need to cleanse the forest from being choked by fallen branches, dry needles, and small trees. getting rid of the fuel that kindles megafires, he says, must now become the state's perpetual mission. scott stephens: the native people, they thought about this as land stewardship, about really a relationship with the land that went on forever. elizabeth: that creator gave us, you know, the ability to warm ourselves, to cook our food and gave us the creatures that we have here to sustain us.
but in return, it's our obligation to take care of them. we have to take care of the land, the water, the animals, the creatures. jaxon: elizabeth azzuz says she hopes one day soon the state will truly honor that sacred obligation. jackson vander beckon, nbc bay area news. stephen: that's our show. if you have a story for our investigative unit, call 888-996-tips, or visit our website, nbcbayarea.com/investigations. thanks for joining us. i'm steven stock. stay safe, and have a good night. ♪♪♪
just a little bit. but let's begin with regina king. she makes her feature film directorial debut with "one night in miami." it brings together four legends in one hotel room during the civil rights movement. and on the same day it was released on amazon prime video, regina turned 50. but she told me there is no way she'd rather trade places with her younger self. i read somewhere that you said you are more interesting now, you feel like, than you were at 25. and i thought, "i wonder what she means by that." >> absolutely. i've lived more life, you know? i can talk more smack and back it up. >> [ laughs ] that's right. >> and just more comfortable in my own skin. and i think when you are more comfortable in your own skin, you get to see the real person, not the representative. and i think my representative is less interesting than me. >> after winning the best supporting actress oscar in 2019 for "if beale stre