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Apple’s Echo complaints, classic crimes, Goodwill gets greener, and more

Four things to know today

Photo: Thomas Hawk

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

Allegedly fake landlord arrested

We hear enough about questionable real landlords, do we also need bad actors who don’t even own property preying on possible tenants? According to police in Marin County, we most certainly do not, as they arrested a man who allegedly offered apartments in exchange for sex, even though he had no apartments to offer.

He allegedly sought victims, the Marin Independent-Journal reports, via notices posted to bulletin boards in San Rafael’s Canal area, a part of the city with a high percentage of residents who’ve recently immigrated to the U.S. from Spanish-speaking countries. Following an investigation, 38-year-old San Rafael resident Tifiano Ariel Rodas Maldonado was arrested for allegedly demanding $2,000 a month and unspecified sex acts from an undercover detective, KRON 4 reports. In return, Maldonado (who was allegedly going by the name “Roberto Mendez”) reportedly said he’d give the lucky lady the keys to an apartment. He later confessed to arresting officers that he’d been posting the ads for months but “was not affiliated with any real estate management company and he did not have any access to apartments or other housing.”

“The victims called him and he would call them and offer housing in exchange for sexual acts, basically,” San Rafael Police spokesperson corporal Christian Diaz told CBS 5. “He posted advertisements in local laundromats and the canal neighborhoods in San Rafael under a fictitious name. I guess his belief was that the immigrant community wouldn’t report a crime to the local police or authorities.”

He was arrested Friday for felony fraud and prostitution charges, was booked into Marin County Jail, and has since been released on bail. Diaz says that all victims, regardless of immigration status, can report crimes to San Rafael police without fear of deportation. People who believe they had dealings with Maldonado are urged to contact police at 415-485-3000.

Photo: Goodwill San Francisco

Goodwill goes electric

While second-hand shopping is arguably a fun and possibly profitable pursuit, one can also make the argument that its a solid environmental decision—one can make oneself crazy reading articles on the damage the fashion industry (and our consumption thereof) is doing to the world. By buying clothing that’s been passed on by someone else, you’re likely saving money and a doing a small bit to offset the reported 84 percent of unwanted clothes in the U.S. that ends up in a landfill or an incinerator.

Goodwill of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin, which is based at 295 Bay Street in SF, is taking that environmental win a bit further, by trading in some of their big, gas-powered trucks for electric ones.

According to Clean Technica, the California Air Resources Board and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is helping the non-profit score 11 electric trucks, 10 of which will replace the big box trucks you presently see shuttling donations between local Goodwill stores. This small pilot will be used to determine if Goodwill can scale a zero-emissions plan out to its full fleet across “165 regions with more than 2,500 retail locations.”

The ring of Apple Park. Screen grab via YouTube, Kagen

Apple disses the screenless smarthome

We’re still in the early days of the smart home (a future predicted, we should point out, by 1977 horror film Demon Seed, the trailer for which you can watch above), but to many people the Amazon Echo or Google Home have already become valued members of the family.

That is, unless you are Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, who dished the dirt on these smart home devices to Gadgets 360. Neither the Echo nor the Home has a screen, you see (guess Schiller hadn’t heard about the rumored new touchscreen Echo), which means they just aren’t that great. When asked about the Echo and Home, Schiller first replied “Well, I won't talk to either one specifically, [I] don't want to. My mother used to have a saying that if you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all,” before proceeding to excoriate voice assistants as limited.

So remember that the next time you ask Alexa to turn off your wi-fi connected kitchen light or Google to secure your front door’s smart lock, Schiller doesn’t think you’re living your best life. And, oh yeah, one day your Echo might try to get you pregnant.

Get your bloody SF history fix

The Sunday San Francisco Examiner is a good one for fans of San Francisco history, as that’s the day Paul Drexler, who leads the Crooks Tour of San Francisco, pens his weekly column. If you haven’t ever taken Drexler’s tour, you should—his award-winning walks through the streets of Chinatown will give you a new look at the tourist-infested area, as Drexler recounts the area’s colorful past.

In the pages of the Examiner, Drexler digs up a new crime from the Bay Area’s distant past every week (and it’s unlikely he’ll run out anytime soon). This week, his topic is a strange tale of silk synthesis, a real-life doppelgänger, and a grisly Walnut Creek murder. People who enjoy history, crime, or want to learn how to get away with murder should take a dive into his archives today.