Archive | Local

Paul Hobbs Winery, Sonoma County Beat Back Attack On Vineyard Protection Law

Paul Hobbs Winery Joins Sonoma County in Victory Over Activist Lawsuit to Repeal Landmark Sonoma County Vineyard Development Rules

Paul Hobbs Helps Sonoma County Win Victory
Sonoma, Calif.,–A lawsuit threatening long-standing Sonoma County environmental regulations was dismissed today in a ruling by the Sonoma County Superior Court.

The ruling upholds Sonoma County’s 15-year-old Vineyard Erosion and Soil Control Ordinance (VESCO), thereby preserving the county’s clearly defined standards for protecting soil, water and air during vineyard development.

This represents a significant victory for Sonoma County and responsible farming advocates, including Paul Hobbs, who was named in the suit. A small activist group targeted Hobbs’s 39-acre Watertrough Road property as the test case in their campaign to subordinate County vineyard regulations to the oft-abused statewide regulations of the California Environmental Quality Act, more commonly known as CEQA.

“We are relieved and thankful that this attack on VESCO was thrown out,” said Hobbs spokesman Christopher O’Gorman. “The results of this suit could have been devastating both for farmers and the environment. Now we can continue to grow and thrive, responsibly.”

The suit, brought by a small parent group called the Watertrough Children’s Alliance, hinged on whether VESCO should be considered a “ministerial” or “discretionary” ordinance. Today’s ruling underscored the prevailing view that VESCO is a ministerial ordinance, meaning that CEQA does not come into play during vineyard development.

This comes as a relief to local winemakers, as the environmental review process triggered by CEQA is notorious in California for being abused by activists to delay and add significant cost to projects large and small.

“The impact of CEQA review would be very negative for Sonoma County agriculture, as has been noted by the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission and many others” said O’Gorman. “This ruling protects Sonoma farmers, Sonoma’s environment, and Sonoma’s economy.”

With this court’s final word on this legal question, Hobbs is happy to return his full attention to farming and winemaking.

Continue Reading

S.F. Archbishop Cordileone Priest Joseph Illo was Focus of Abuse Lawsuit: Star of Sea School Parents Demand Removal

 

Ft. Joseph Illo: Emotional Abuse Lawsuit Comes to Light

Ft. Joseph Illo: Emotional Abuse Lawsuit Comes to Light–Star of Sea Parents Demand Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone Remove Priest

Canonical and court documents have come to light from 2003 and 2005 that cast a negative light on the ministry of Priest Joseph Illo during his time in the Stockton, Calif., diocese — including a court ruling that he inflicted “intentional emotional distress” on an 11-year-old girl — have further enraged parents at San Francisco’s Star of the Sea School who have sought the priest’s removal as Star of Sea Parish administrator, according to news stories on KGO Radio and in the National Catholic Reporter and the San Francisco Examiner.

“We do not want Father Illo around children or in our community,” said Christy Brooks, a Star of the Sea parent.  “The details of this past lawsuit are deplorable. There is no one, who after reading this lawsuit, would want to have their children near Father Illo.  Archbishop Cordileone should remove him immediately from our school and parish. The safety and well-being of our children must be paramount.”

“We believe Archbishop Cordileone was aware of this verdict against Ft. Illo for intentional infliction of emotional distress on a child and still knowingly placed him in our community with foresight and knowledge of his history.  That is shocking and unforgivable,” Brooks added.  She and a group of parents from Star of the Sea have written and phoned the Archbishop demanding Illo’s removal.

The facts of the 2005 lawsuit against the priest, Father Illo, which required him to pay $14,000 for therapy for the young girl he traumatized, are as follows:

An 11-year-old girl came to Father Joseph Illo in confidence to report an incident of sexual abuse by one of the priests in Illo’s parish in Modesto.

Upon listening to the child’s report of abuse, Father Illo responded by yelling at the child, calling her a liar and calling the character of the child’s mother into question.

Father Illo then invited the offending priest into his office, where the two of them further confronted the child.

It was only after Father Illo invited his secretary in the room and she found the child in a hysterical state that she was removed and the mother was called.

Father Illo has a sworn duty to immediately report all allegations of abuse to the police.

As part of the case, church documents detailing an internal canonical investigation were subpoenaed. This report raises questions about Father Illo’s leadership and referring to his personality as being “dictatorial, manipulative and insensitive.” Another report for the court in Modesto said Father Illo had “a Jekyll and Hyde” personality. The canonical report recommended counseling for Father Illo.

Controversy has dogged Father Joseph Illo since he was appointed by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to Star of the Sea Parish and School in late 2014.  After taking charge of the San Francisco parish he banned altar girls, saying only boys can be altar servers. The move sparked criticism along with his statements to parents that he planned on replacing the school’s teachers with nuns from Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist order, the same nuns that walked out on students at Marin Catholic High School last week to protest an event to prevent bullying of LGBT youth.

The Star of the Sea parents have contacted Archbishop Cordileone and his staff by mail and phone and have “respectfully demanded that Father Illo be immediately and completely removed from his involvement at Star of the Sea,” according to the Star of the Sea parents group.

Just earlier this month, Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese resigned after a canonical review of Finn to determine if he violated church law by failing to report suspected child sexual abuse in connection to former priest in that diocese.  Many parents are wondering if the same fate will befall Archbishop Cordileone since he placed Father Illo at Star of the Sea school with the knowledge that Father Illo had a history of emotional abuse of children.

Prominent Catholic leaders have written Pope Francis and took out a full page advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle requesting the Pontiff remove Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for “fostering “an atmosphere of division and intolerance.”

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading

S.F. Archbishop Faces New Controversy: His Nuns Boycott Anti-Bullying Program at Catholic High School

Here’s a tough question to answer: What anti-bulling event does McDonald’s, Target, Disney, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Google and the NBA support, but Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s hand-picked Nuns oppose?

The answer: an anti-bullying event program intended to protect gay and lesbian high school teens from bullying.

goetia_girls_gremory_gamori_nightgaunt_nun_succubus_of_faustus_crow

Just after 100 of the most prominent Catholics in San Francisco signed an open letter to Pope Francis asking that Archbishop Cordileone be removed, Cordileone proved the signers of the petition right. He is out of step and out of his league in San Francisco.

These are the same Nuns that the Archbishop imported to the Bay Area from Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Cordileone and his controversial Star of the Sea Parish priest Father Joseph Illo have publically said they want to replace current Star of the Sea teachers with these same “pro-bullying” nuns from out of state—which has ignited a firestorm by parents at the school.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross just reported this latest disaster for Archbishop Cordileone in their column.

Here’s what Matier and Ross wrote:

The divisions within the Bay Area’s Catholic community over gay rights hit Marin Catholic High School full force the other day, when a group of nuns walked out of their classes to protest the sponsors of a program intended to protect gay and lesbian teens from bullying.

The five members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary order exited their classrooms Friday as students began handing out flyers at the Kentfield school promoting a nationwide Day of Silence.

Their walkout came one day after 100 prominent local Catholics attracted national attention by taking out a full-page ad in The Chronicle calling on the pope to oust Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, in part for trying to get teachers at Catholic schools to sign off on a morality clause that characterizes homosexual relations as “gravely evil.”

Marin Catholic High President Tim Navone and Principal Chris Valdez tried to put out the latest brushfire with a letter to parents about “a challenging day on our campus resulting in both students and faculty feeling confused about our mission.”

At issue was Friday’s annual Day of Silence, promoted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network — whose corporate sponsors include McDonald’s, Target, Disney/ABC, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Google and the NBA. It bills itself as a group of “students, parents, and teachers that tries to effect positive change in schools,” but the nuns at Marin Catholic High see it as anti-Catholic.

The school declined to participate in the Day of Silence. Instead, a morning prayer was read over the school’s PA system “to acknowledge and pray for students everywhere who have the experience of being ostracized, marginalized or silenced by bullying,” school officials wrote in their letter.

“Our intention was not to take part in a Day of Silence, but rather take a moment in the morning to pray together as a school community,” the letter to parents said.

Unfortunately, the administrators said, the school’s message was “compromised and misinterpreted” the night before when it was linked on Facebook to the campaign by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, “an activist group with which we are not affiliated.’’

When some Marin Catholic High students began handing out Day of Silence-related stickers and flyers on campus Friday morning, the five nuns felt “felt compromised, offended and uncomfortable,” Sister Clare Marie, one of the teachers, later wrote in a lengthy e-mail to her students.

She said the sisters “do not support bigotry or any kind of prejudice,” but that they were compelled to act out against an event promoted by a group that “believes actively in promoting homosexuality in all classrooms, K-12.”

Her e-mail also accused the group’s members of speaking out “against Christians who do not share their views” and handing out materials that “say that any church which teaches homosexuality is sinful is an ‘oppressor’ and should be opposed.”

Valdez told us in an interview that the sisters — who make up a small portion of the school’s 60 teachers — stayed away from the campus for the rest of the day, but had informed him of their intentions before they left.

Kari Hudnell, a spokeswoman for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, denied that the group “actively promoted” homosexuality in the classroom.

“We are not trying to convert anyone,” she said. “We are just trying to make sure schools are a safe environment for all kids.”

Hudnell pointed out that the group has pushed for antibullying and antidiscrimination laws that apply to religious beliefs, as well as race, gender and sexual orientation.

School officials told parents that the walkout by the five nuns “further confused the students and created some false rumors about the sisters not caring for students who feel bullied, ostracized or marginalized.”

Valdez told us that the school is working hard to cut through the politically charged atmosphere to “bring authentic dialogue to the campus” in hopes of healing any rifts between the students and sisters.

 

 

Continue Reading

UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Graham Fleming Resigns Under Protest After University Botches Harassement Investigation

Graham Fleming Resigns—Returns To Teaching After Biased, Flawed UC Investigation

 Fleming Says Charges Against Him by Fired Employee Were False, Then Mishandled by University Office of the President Janet Napolitano in Bungled Investigation

Graham Fleming

Graham Fleming

Berkeley—Expressing both his admiration for and his deep disappointment with the University of California at Berkeley,  Graham Fleming resigned his position as Vice Chancellor for Research following a deeply flawed University of California Office of the President (UCOP) investigation into allegations made against him by former UC Berkeley employee Diane Leite.

Fleming, one of the most successful Vice Chancellors for Research in UC-Berkeley history, resigned under protest. He strongly denies the charges of harassment made by Leite, as well as allegations by the University that he failed to disclose a conflict of interest because of his close relationship with her—even though he was ultimately responsible for her dismissal.  He will return to his tenured role as a professor of chemistry.

“I resign under protest, with profound objections to and great personal disappointment in the investigation into those allegations,” Fleming said in his resignation letter to Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks.  “This process violated fundamental principles of due process and fairness, and resulted in a report riddled with inconsistencies, mischaracterization of the facts, and distortion of witness statements, as well as the selective omission of relevant information.”

Fleming’s legal counsel provided evidence to UCOP, including sworn declarations from respected members of the University and business communities, that demonstrated that the findings against him were not supported, and that the investigation was biased.  Fleming’s counsel unsuccessfully sought retraction of the investigation report.  Efforts to obtain an independent and unbiased review of the investigation process and all the evidence were summarily rejected by University officials.  An urgent letter to UC General Counsel and Vice President-Legal Affairs Charles F. Robinson, sent on April 6 and requesting his immediate intervention in this matter, went un-responded to in UC President Janet Napolitano’s office.

“Because I was not afforded due process by UCOP, and because there is no independent mechanism to appeal a biased and unjust report, there is no way for me to clear my name.  I am concerned that my professional and personal reputations have been irreparably damaged,” Fleming said.  Despite the flawed investigation and its unsupported conclusions, Fleming continues to have positive feelings about the University he has served with distinction for the past 18 years.   “I still strongly believe in the University and its mission….I remain committed to serve the University, its students, and faculty, and to continue to build and enhance this great institution for future generations,” Fleming said.

“Unfortunately, given the current climate around issues of sexual harassment on college campuses,  the rights of the accused are often lost in the rush to judgment, with devastating impact,” said Sam Singer, Fleming’s spokesman. With no way to fight or appeal the findings, Fleming had no choice but to resign.

Singer said UCOP began its investigation of Fleming in 2014,  after ex-University Assistant Vice Chancellor Diane Leite made a series of inflammatory allegations, long after her termination, claiming sexual harassment by Fleming—charges that were never made at any time during her employment, or even at the time of her firing in May of 2012.   Given the circumstances, Fleming believes that Leite made these charges against him because he did not protect her job after she was involved in a pay hike scandal benefitting her subordinate, with whom she had had a sexual relationship.

Fleming notes that he and Leite had a long-standing and affectionate friendship, as well as a close professional partnership at Berkeley, for almost 11 years.   While Fleming acknowledges that their relationship was occasionally flirtatious and familiar, both he and Leite agree that at no time were the two ever sexually or romantically involved.

Fleming maintains that he was nothing more than supportive of Leite, and that she never gave him any indication that any of his actions toward her were unwelcome.  In fact, Leite did not even raise any issue of alleged sexual harassment until well after her firing, Singer said.

“The allegations of harassment are not true,” Fleming said. “I am hurt and disappointed that Diane Leite has fabricated these charges to harm me and the University.  She wanted me to protect her job after the details of her affair became public.  I ultimately had to terminate her, once it became clear that she had lost the confidence of many in the University community.

Fleming noted that during the course of his 35 year career mentoring, teaching, and working with women, this is the first and only complaint of alleged improper conduct he has ever received.

Fleming also vehemently denied the UCOP finding that he had a “conflict of interest” and that he improperly tried to protect Leite’s job during the investigation into her conduct.   He noted that he acted in full accordance with UC procedures, and with the guidance and at the direction of University counsel. He did not protect Leite and, in fact, he ultimately made and carried out the decision to terminate her.  Leite herself admitted that Fleming never promised or gave her any favors and never made any threats to her.

“The University has made egregious errors in its handling of my case, but there is no internal procedure for me to appeal this unjust decision, and no way to clear my name,” said Fleming.  “At this point, I have not ruled out legal action.”

The allegations by Leite against Fleming are suspect as she never made them at the time of her firing in 2012.   Fleming was not even told of these charges until May of 2014– two years after Leite had been fired– even though her allegations went back to 2008, Singer said.

“These facts alone should have given the University pause in evaluating the merits of Leite’s allegations,” Singer said.  Rather than undertake an independent and unbiased review of all the relevant facts as required by its own policies and procedures, the University found against Fleming with no due process, said Singer.

About Graham R. Fleming

Graham R. Fleming has been the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of California-Berkeley since 2009.   A decisive and visionary leader, Professor Fleming used the Office of Research to mobilize the vast and diverse scholarly talents of the Berkeley campus to address major challenges confronting the world. Because of his leadership, the campus is now positioned at the forefront of research in many areas, including energy and climate research, the theory of computing and data science, neuroscience and precision medicine. He strengthened and invigorated the invaluable role that ORUs, museums, and field stations play in the campus research landscape. He led the effort to strengthen UC Berkeley’s entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem. These efforts will continue to ensure the university’s research excellence in the years to come.

He transformed the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. Among other things, he substantially expanded new funding opportunities, and successfully engaged external partners – federal and state agencies, industry, investors, foundations, private philanthropists, as well as other researchers – from around the world.

Professor Fleming created faculty teams that led successful proposal development for numerous new large-scale interdisciplinary institutes and centers that are fully supported by private philanthropy, including the Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology, the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute (BECI), the Philomathia Center for energy and environmental research, the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, the Berkeley Institute for Data Science, the Social Science D-lab, the Kavli EnergyNanoscience Institute, and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Convergence Research.

Professor Fleming also established many new campus-wide programs to support faculty research based on a merit-based competitive review process across a wide area of disciplines that have attracted significant, new private philanthropic support. Prominent examples include the Bakar Fellows Program, which supports innovative research by early career faculty at UC Berkeley with a special focus on projects that hold commercial promise; the Rose Hills Innovator Program for faculty who are who are developing highly innovative research programs in STEM fields; the Chau Hoi Shuen Foundation Women in Science Program, which supports education and research projects of leading female UC Berkeley faculty; and most recently the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program to support faculty interested in developing market-based applications in the data science area.

In addition, Professor Fleming engaged with a group of prominent alumni and entrepreneurs to enhance UC Berkeley’s innovation ecosystem which, with the close partnership of the College of Engineering and the Haas Business School, led to the creation of new accelerator space at Skydeck in downtown Berkeley in 2012.

Prior to his appointment at Vice Chancellor for Research, Professor Fleming served as Berkeley Lab’s Deputy Director from 2005 through 2007, at the forefront of a major revolution in the biophysical sciences. Through joint appointments as a faculty member at UC Berkeley and founding director of both the Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and UC Berkeley’s California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), Professor Fleming played a critical role in proposing and planning the construction of Stanley Hall which became the Berkeley home of QB3. Professor Fleming also played a key role in bringing the Energy Biosciences Institute to UC Berkeley, to date the largest industry partnership in higher education.

Throughout his career, Professor Fleming has worked to re-shape the intersection of physical and biological sciences, while maintaining his own ground-breaking research into ultrafast chemical and biological processes, in particular, the primary steps of photosynthesis. He has published close to 500 scientific papers in his field.

Continue Reading

“Castro Cares” Outreach And Enforcement Program is Up and Running

Castro Cares, the pilot program aimed at addressing neighborhood quality-of-life issues and homeless outreach, is rolling out this week after several months of preparation. A collaboration between the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District and the City of San Francisco, SF Police Department, Patrol Special Police, and the Department of Public Health, the program includes increased police presence and on-the-street engagement with the local homeless population.

As the program gets underway, some local activists have accused Andrea Aiello, Executive Director of CUMCBD and District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener of being “hostile to the homeless”, such as Kenneth Bunch, a former member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who spoke out at a community meeting in early February. Not so, Aiello and Wiener assured Hoodline.

“Right now we have four hours a week of homeless outreach workers dedicated to the Castro/Upper Market, because of Castro Cares,” Aiello said. “In three weeks we’ll have 20 hours a week of homeless outreach services. Before Castro Cares, there was none.”

The hostility, according to Wiener, is not against the homeless, but against anti-social behavior, some of which has been directed at the homeless. In recent months many neighborhood residents have complained of increased crime around the neighborhood, and of fights breaking out in Jane Warner Plaza, as well as vandalism—some residents say they’ve been threatened in and around the Plaza, which is now being redesigned (again).

“We want more homeless outreach workers, more homeless people to access homeless services,” Wiener said. “It’s not humane to let people die in the streets.”

Aiello described what Castro Cares would be offering. “Castro Cares provides both additional dedicated compassionate care to those in need and additional dedicated law enforcement to the Castro/Upper Market,” she said. “We are slowly launching the program as contracts get signed and funds continue to be raised.”

Aiello said that this week Castro Cares will be paying for an additional 15 hours of Patrol Special officers, which would increase to 30 hours a week in May.

According to Aiello, funding is coming in the form of “$115,000 from City grants, championed by Supervisor Wiener,” she said. “Funding has also come very generously from residents and merchants.”

“The goal is to have dedicated outreach and law enforcement support for the Castro,” said Wiener. “The police department is understaffed and the City does not have enough homeless outreach workers. Castro Cares will hire off duty police officers and homeless outreach workers who will be able to focus on the needs of the Castro.”

“The ultimate goal for Castro Cares is to improve the quality of life in the Castro for those who are at risk and living on the street and also for those housed residents of the Castro,” Aiello said. “And for those who work and play in the Castro/Upper Market.”

If you’d like to help, making a donation to Castro Cares is the best way to pitch in, and donations are tax deductible. “The fully funded Castro Cares budget is $330,000 annually,” said Aiello. “We’re about halfway there at this point, so please make a donation now!”

From Hoodline

Continue Reading

San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone “Morality Clause” Respectfully Criticized in National Catholic Publication by S.F. City Attorney

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera Respectfully Criticizes Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera Respectfully Criticizes Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

 

San Francisco’ top legal officer today published an opinion piece in the National Catholic Reporter newspaper that was respectful to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, but also challenged his stand on loyalty oaths and morality clauses for Catholic teachers, calling the Archbishop’s  move “high-handed and wrong.”

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera wrote “To me, San Francisco’s recent controversy threw into stark relief the challenges that make Pope Francis’ leadership so vitally important at this moment in our church’s history. Progress is desperately needed to renew our church’s mission to serve the world rather than scold it and to emphasize teaching that young Catholic consciences will recognize as legitimately Christlike.”

“So when church ideologues express disdain for contemporary society (as Cordileone often does) or bring disproportionate emphasis to the catechism’s most discriminatory and divisive elements (as Cordileone did last month), it risks losing a generation of Catholics quite unlike anything has before,” Herrera wrote.

Herrera’s respectful, but bold statement sent an arrow through the heart of the Archbishop’s stated arguments about why the loyalty oath for teachers is necessary in his opinion.

The Archbishop is fast becoming a pariah in San Francisco. He has grown distant from the parishioners, Catholic grade school and high schools, as well as San Francisco’s top Catholic families, all of whom have banded together to protest his loyalty oath.

There is a discreet, but fast growing grassroots movement against the Archbishop and it is hard to imagine how quickly he has lost both power and prestige in the Bay Area.  He is badly damaged as a leader and seems to be sinking in his own morass.  Now, with one of the top Catholic elected leaders in Northern California weighing in against him, he has no chance of success.

On top of the Archbishop’s rebuke by Herrera, the Teacher’s Union representing high school teachers said it will not accept his language as part of any of its collective bargaining agreements.  And, to add insult to injury, grade school parents at the historic Star of the Sea school are revolting against the Archbishop’s handpicked parish priest, Ft. Joseph Illo.

Illo started an international controversy by banning Altar Girls at Star of the Sea, removing Filipino women who had served for generations on the church altar, refusing to give blessing to non-Catholics and passing out an inappropriate sex pamphlet to second through sixth graders.

Lastly, City Attorney Herrera may have gotten the best line off in this entire debate: the San Francisco Chronicle reporter Kevin Fagan reported “Asked if he (Herrera) felt heinous as a man who has officially and unofficially promoted ideals so contrary to Cordileone’s moral code, Herrera paused for a moment while he carefully picked his words.

“Let’s just say I know I’m not gravely evil,” Herrera said.

The archdiocese had no comment on Herrera’s essay, the Chronicle reported.

Continue Reading

Out of the Ashes — The Birth of MUNI

Trains circle out front of the Ferry Building on Sept. 25, 1914. - SFMTA PHOTO ARCHIVE | SFMTA.COM/PHOTO

San Francisco is a city full of nicknames — City by the Bay, the dreaded Frisco or San Fran, Paris of the West and Baghdad by the Bay, to name but a few.

Another one, long out of fashion, was coined before the Panama-Pacific International Exposition 100 years ago by President William Howard Taft. While visiting, he learned firsthand how San Francisco citizens helped pave the way for that world’s fair, calling us The City That Knows How.

One reason Taft bequeathed San Francisco as such was the immense amount of civic support that went into building the expo grounds for the world’s fair. As San Francisco celebrates the event’s centennial this year, much focus has been on the city within a city that stood for much of 1915, and was largely lost to history save for the Palace of Fine Arts and some other artifacts.

But there is another major contribution from the expo that continues to impact the lives of tens of thousands of residents every day.

The world’s fair helped birth Muni.

HOPE BURNS ETERNAL

The 1906 earthquake was devastating in its own right, but the fires it sparked are what really destroyed half of The City. Amid reconstruction in the years that followed, San Franciscans found renewed optimism. Adding to the upswell of hope, on Jan. 3, 1911, Congress announced that The City would host the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, or world’s fair, in 1915. 

“It was a time when San Franciscans really came to embrace what was possible,” Rick Laubscher, president of the Market Street Railway historical group, told The San Francisco Examiner.

Despite all the good cheer, one major problem loomed for hosting the world’s fair. At Muni’s inception in 1912, the agency owned just 10 streetcars, which ran from the Ferry Building and down Geary Boulevard. The cars ran east-west, but not north-south.

“Muni was a dwarf at the time,” Laubscher said.

The fair was certain to draw millions and so public transit was going to be a necessity.

At the time, few train lines stopped near the fair’s future site at Harbor View, which today is Cow Hollow.

Horses trotting down Market Street were a much more common site than automobiles or trains. Overpriced jitneys, or taxis, rolled for the rich. Neither of these options would be sufficient for fair visitors.

And those famous cable cars? The City did not consider new cable lines for the expo because of the expense of the infrastructure and the obsolete technology, Laubscher said. It was cheaper to do things like build the Stockton Tunnel, which San Francisco still uses today. That resulted in a far faster trip to the Marina from Market and Stockton streets than cable cars could have provided.

The final decision was that San Francisco needed to expand its streetcar fleet.

Thus, City Engineer Michael O’Shaughnessy drafted street-rail plans to transport as many as 8.4 million visitors, according to transit historian Grant Ute’s “Fair, Please: Public Transportation To and Through San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.”

The City first approached the privately owned United Railroad, or URR, a fierce competitor to Muni at the time. But public sentiment was against URR.

For one thing, two streetcar workers died during a 1907 strike against URR for fair wages, which became known as “Bloody Tuesday.” And as San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency historian Robert Callwell told The Examiner, URR allegedly bribed mayors to get overhead lines built in The City.

“Absolutely, people hated URR. There’s no doubt about that,” Callwell said.

So when URR pressured The City to make outsized concessions in exchange for expanding toward Harbor View, Laubscher said, Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph Jr. and the Board of Supervisors made a decision.

The sentiment, as Laubscher put it, was: “Screw it, we’ll do it ourselves.”

MUNI’S GREAT EXPANSION

Rolph lobbied “10 city groups a day,” Callwell said, and the result was a bond approved by San Francisco voters to expand city-run rail. Muni blossomed in 1914, creating six new train lines, purchasing a seventh and building the Stockton Tunnel.

The first four lines directly served the world’s fair. A flat steel gray with red accents, the new Muni streetcars rolled out across The City.

The D-Van Ness ran from the Ferry Building to Geary Street, Van Ness Avenue, Union Street and then its end point at Chestnut Street at the edge of the fairgrounds. The F-Chestnut was known as the Fort Mason Loop, running along Stockton Street, Columbus Avenue and Van Ness Avenue.

The H-Potrero ferried folks from Potrero Avenue and 25th Street north to Bay Street.

San Francisco also purchased a line from URR and renamed it the E-Embarcadero, which ran from the waterfront to the Presidio along Columbus Avenue. This summer, the SFMTA said it plans to restart the line, which would run through a tunnel under Fort Mason by Aquatic Park.

Three other lines were also created and temporarily served the world’s fair before being rerouted — the G-Stockton-Union-Exposition ran along Union Street, the I-33rd Avenue-Exposition ran along Geary Boulevard and the J-Columbus traversed Columbus Avenue, but has no relation to the current J light-rail line.

This being San Francisco, hills had a significant impact on the infrastructure design. A pernicious one along Stockton Street, for instance, stood in the way of laying new track.

“Streetcars are far too heavy to climb hills,” said Brian Leadingham, manager of the San Francisco Railway Museum.

The City opted to just cut straight through the rock, creating the Stockton Tunnel that today is exclusively used by automobile traffic.

All of this infrastructure, Laubscher said, “was a game-changer.”

On the opening day of the world’s fair, Muni operated 177 train cars, a far cry from its initial 10-strong fleet. Those trains carried more than 80,000 people in its inaugural run to the glittering lights and vast wonders of the expo.

STREETCAR LEGACY

The ghosts of Muni lines to the world’s fair linger today, historians say.

“If you ride the 30-Stockton bus,” Laubscher said, “you’re riding a line that came into existence for the Pan-Pacific International Exposition.”

The 41-Union, 47-Van Ness and other north-south bus routes were created thanks to the existing streetcar lines, Laubscher said. Also, he added, the fair generated “public enthusiasm” to burrow into Twin Peaks to create Muni’s K-Ingleside, L-Taraval and M-Ocean View light-rail lines.

Laubscher lamented how much public perception around mass transit has shifted since then. San Francisco’s optimism helped spark an explosion of mass transit in 1915 that the region relies on heavily even still, he said. But in 2015, the public finds massive investments like BART or high-speed rail controversial and large-scale projects become mired in political fights, leaving the public to keep paying at the pump to get around.

Birth of Muni
To learn more about the Panama-Pacific International Exposition’s influence on the birth of Muni, visit the exhibit at the San Francisco Railway Museum and Gift Shop at 77 Steuart St. near The Embarcadero or visit www.streetcar.org.

 

From the Examiner

 

Continue Reading

San Francisco in the ’90s Wasn’t a Better Era Than Now

I love San Francisco. This is the only place where I want to live. I’ve had so many discussions about What Is Happening to the Place We Love, though, that I am frayed. I feel loss as the funky bits are swept away, and I’m experiencing culture shock in the city I’ve lived in for almost 20 years. But let’s face it, things weren’t so much better when I first got here. Let’s remember, for a minute, the San Francisco of the 1990s.

During online discussions and wine-fueled dinners spent rehashing the state of the city, I hear those of us who came of age (and now middle age) in San Francisco talking about the good old days. Everyone was an artist; you could rent a huge, sunny flat in the Mission for cheap; you could take a date to Axum Cafe for $10. We sound like the baby boomers who once blamed us for changing their town — staking their claim to cheap rents, working part-time as a daisy painter, and living downstairs from Janis Joplin.

I have to call cease-fire on the hysterical reminiscing. San Francisco wasn’t all Bohemia and rainbows when I moved here. Some things are actually better now than they were back in the day. No one misses the old Ferry Building, which was like a forgotten bus station on the waterfront, with pigeons swooping overhead. I don’t miss Mayor Willie Brown, who is a walking caricature of a well-connected politician. Brunch lovers should be glad they didn’t live here before 1998, when the statewide ban on raw or runny eggs was lifted.

This has always been a food town, but we didn’t fetishize the home cook until recently. Farmers’ markets didn’t feature pastured meats, and Safeway didn’t have an organics section. We had Cala Foods, a local chain of grocery stores with locations scattered around town. There was no joy in shopping at Cala. I went there because it was close to home, and I didn’t have a car. Every store smelled like sour milk and looked like something out of the 1950s. Herbs with faded labels, raw shrimp that reeked of ammonia, and five kinds of instant rice: Cala had it all. Twice I purchased rotten meat there that had been repackaged and flipped over so the green part was facing down. I’m surprised I didn’t give up on cooking and stick to inexpensive Thai takeout (RIP, all you forgotten delivery restaurants). Rainbow Grocery was around, but its overpriced offerings were out of my reach.

Farmers’ markets are everywhere now. There are dozens in San Francisco. Small weekly pop-ups and the large city-run markets are bringing fresh food at decent prices to areas considered urban-food deserts. The Ferry Building Farmer’s Market gets all the glory, but even tiny Crocker Galleria holds its surprises (and lower prices).

Outdoor concerts inside city limits are a welcome addition to San Francisco’s cultural offerings. Once upon a time you had to drive to places like Concord or Mountain View to see a big-time musical act in a large amphitheater, or you could attend the occasional concert at Candlestick Park. Now you can take the bus (or walk!) to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park or shuttle over to the Treasure Island Music Festival. Pack your layers, spread out a blanket, and bask in the fog-glow of how great it is to live here.

Dolores Park is another outdoor attraction that has changed in the last few decades. When I first moved here, the only cannabis for sale in the park was sold in $10 bags from behind the trees near the J-Church tracks. It was sketchy business. Now upstart vendors sell pot truffles and hashish ginger snaps. The playground was run-down, and the public restrooms were for emergencies only. When I lived nearby, I logged some hours sitting in Dolores Park, but it was not the destination it is today (except for the nude sunbathers on the upper shelf of the park, also known as Gay Beach). A warm afternoon in the grass is a full-on scene of cruising and idling, ground-level entrepreneurship, and ragtag community. Dolores Park is a testament to open public spaces, but I do wish people would clean up after their rosé- and pot-cookie-fueled benders.

Biking in San Francisco is definitely better than it used to be. It’s still scary — someone’s always double-parked on Valencia Street, and delivery trucks never pull into those red meter spaces that only they can use. But if you think the bike lane on Folsom Street is edgy and dangerous, consider Folsom Street before there was a bike lane. It was one rodeo clown shy of a circus. When I first started biking, I had a near miss on Market Street. A car I had been riding beside turned into me in broad daylight. Somehow I jumped off my bike, threw it into a gas station (now high-rise condos), and hurdled to safety. The driver of the car rolled down the window and asked, “What are you doing there?” After that I started riding in Critical Mass.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has worked with the city to make this a safer place for bikers and to get more cars off the roads. Demarcated green bike lanes remind motorists that yes, indeedy, a bike with a person on it might be present. The first bike lane in the city was on Lake Drive in Golden Gate Park in 1971 — a quaint ride but not exactly a commuter route. Enter the Wiggle, a route used to get from Market Street to Golden Gate Park with the least amount of uphill riding. Shared-lane marking, also known as sharrows, were added to the Wiggle’s green lanes in 2011 to make the route more visible to bikers and drivers. Plotting official routes to get people across town on two wheels has led to a huge increase in bike commuting.

It wasn’t just biking that offered a scary ride in the ’90s. In 1998, Muni took old streetcars out of service and added the gray cars now in use. At that same time, the underground system became automated. What happened was known as the Muni Meltdown. It was bad — so bad that I don’t think Muni is all that terrible anymore. Railing against Muni is a point of pride for San Franciscans, but the system of yore was a different beast. I almost got fired because of that crappy transit system. My supervisor, who drove to work, didn’t believe me when I was almost in a Muni-on-Muni head-on collision and had to walk through tunnels below Market Street because the train I was riding on had somehow gotten on the opposite tracks heading the wrong way. She did not believe that I could stand in the Castro station and that a single train wouldn’t come for 45 minutes. In those days, it was faster to walk.

The Castro reminds me of my early days in San Francisco: late-night meals at Orphan Andy’s diner, shopping for housewares at Cliff’s Hardware, and, on a much more serious note, the tail end of the AIDS crisis. The Castro had a sadness that wound its way through the neighborhood. I remember young men who should have been in the prime of their life using canes. The obituaries in the Bay Area Reporter contained pages and pages of photos of people who had died. It was a sad and horrible time for so many San Franciscans. I try to imagine how different our city would be if those people were thriving, if AIDS have never happened. This would be a different place.

I’ve been thinking about my little studio on Castro Street and my life back then. My rent was $600 a month — about half my monthly income. Even back then it wasn’t a lot of money for a girl fresh off the plane who needed West Coast clothes and tickets to the Fillmore and who eventually got her landline shut off because she couldn’t pay her phone bill. I soon made friends, who taught me the ways of San Francisco — things like buying clothes by the pound and that I should never unwrap all the foil from a burrito before eating it.

We all think we were the last of the cool kids to set up shop here. In coming here, we set out on our own personal gold rush in search of opportunity, acceptance, or fortune. I wonder what future San Francisco will remember about today’s city. Will the city seem as polarized in the rearview as it is right now? I’ll have to ask my daughter when she grows up. I hope she remembers a creative, colorful, accepting, occasionally dirty, and sometimes funky place. Fingers crossed.

MOLLY DITMORE, The Bold Italic

Continue Reading

S.F. Archbishop Cordileone Flip Flops on Catholic School Teacher “Morality Clause”

Parents, Teachers, Students, Alumni at Catholic Schools React to SF Archbishop’s Latest Statements:

“Nothing Has Changed”

Star of the Sea School Parents Mount Effort to Overturn Changes at Grade School

1 Arch best pix 

San Francisco—Concerned parents, students, teachers and alumni of Bay Area Catholic high schools today released the following statement regarding Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s proposed “morality clauses” for teachers and other staff:

“The San Francisco Chronicle today published an editorial stating that Archbishop Cordileone will no longer attempt to reclassify teachers and staff at four Catholic high schools as “ministers.” While it is true that he is no longer using that word, it is a mistake to believe that he has backed off his effort to reclassify teachers and other staff as ministers who would be exempt from anti-discrimination and other workplace protections. He has not. The Archbishop is still proposing that the teachers and other staff are ‘called to advance this religious mission’ and that their work is ‘ministry.’ This is not a meaningful change from the Archbishop’s previous proposal. The teachers want to be classified as teachers – and nothing else.

The Archbishop has also made no move to retract the language condemning members of our community by labeling their lives as ‘gravely evil.’ In fact, in a February 24, 2015 media advisory, his Archdiocesan spokesperson stated that ‘Nothing already planned to go in is being removed or retracted or withdrawn.’

The Archbishop is also now proposing to establish a committee of theology teachers ostensibly to help clarify the proposed handbook language. His formation of a handpicked committee gives the false impression of openness to dialogue, and gives him cover for speech that is very harmful to our children, faculty, staff and community.

We are concerned that Archbishop Cordileone was ‘surprised at the degree of consternation’ over his proposed changes to the collective-bargaining agreement and faculty handbook.  This clearly shows he is out of touch with his flock, with his teachers, with his parents, and with his alumni. We believe the solution is straightforward. We ask the Archbishop to cease in his attempt to reclassify the teachers as anything but teachers, and to use the current faculty handbook which has been in place and successfully utilized for years by Catholic high school administrators and staff.

We will remain steadfast in fighting for the elimination of handbook language which in any way would make our children, teachers or staff members feel unwelcome, unsupported or unsafe in our schools. We will insist that the employment rights of all teachers and staff be respected.”

Students will rally on Friday, March 6, from 5:30 – 6:30 at St. Mary’s Cathedral Plaza to celebrate the bedrock Catholic values of acceptance, love and justice. A forum to include parents, students and theologians is also planned for Monday, March 16 at the University of San Francisco. A number of parents and parishioners plan to boycott the Archbishop’s Annual Fundraising Appeal by either giving nothing or donating only a token $1 donation.

A full version of the Archbishop’s interview with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board is available at http://blog.sfgate.com/opinionshop/2015/02/25/archbishop-cordileone-were-not-on-a-witch-hunt-video/

San Francisco parents at Star of the Sea School are also concerned over recent changes at the beloved neighborhood Catholic grade school where Archbishop Cordileone has installed one of his own, Father Joseph Illo.  Father Illo unilaterally ended a tradition of Altar Girls at the school and church and handed out pamphlets to second graders that “asked questions such as, “Did I perform impure acts by myself (masturbation) or with another (adultery, fornication and sodomy)?” and, “Did I practice artificial birth control or was I or my spouse prematurely sterilized (tubal ligation or vasectomy)?” as well as, “Have I had or advised anyone to have an abortion?” The Cordileone appointed  priest is also evicting homeless mothers and children from the Star of the Sea’s facilities that were the recipient of a grant from Salesforce.com founder and his wife Marc and Lynne Benioff.  Parents at the school are mounting an effort to undo changes made by Father Illo and Archbishop Cordileone there.

 

 

Continue Reading

AirBnB Host Speaks Out

This is my story as an Airbnb host; I am one of thousands of good citizens in San Francisco and around the world who have discovered the enriching phenomenon of homesharing.

I arrived in San Francisco 43 years ago and have lived on Potrero Hill ever since. I bought a 2 unit building in 1975, which I could never afford to purchase today. I rent the second unit long term and contribute to affordable housing in our city, historically charging well below market rate –because I want to make my space available to a regular person like myself – a retired social worker.

I became intrigued by what I heard about our quirky home grown start up Airbnb. It appealed to my friendly curious nature. So, starting three years ago, I’ve offered a small guest room with private bath in my home only while I am present. The income makes a huge difference in my retired standard of living. It has been a life saver with medical expenses. It secures my ability to remain in my house and in SF because I am spared depleting my savings so quickly. Thus, I can postpone selling the house which is my main asset. The income also literally allows me to subsidize my long term tenants’ rent.

Meeting amazing people from around the world is of equal value to the income. My guests add a wonderful flavor to my life. I get to know people young enough to be my grandchildren, learn about their lives and their dreams. Over the years, I’ve had several returning guests with whom I’ve created true friendships. I’ve had the pleasure to know two university professors from Kentucky whose son and family lived one block away without a guest room. They spent numerous holidays with me and came when a new baby was added to the family. Even when they could not stay with me they brought the baby by to say hello. I hosted a young woman from Manhattan doing reconnaissance on where she would move, who became my neighbor and invited me to her engagement party. I’ve had high tech workers based in the Ukraine. I’ve had visitors of all ages and walks of life from Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. The world has come to me from at least three if not all four corners of the globe. We’ve shared stories about our families, politics, and communities. My existence has been made much richer by this endeavor.

I had my first experience as a guest this past December and got to experience the magic of homesharing from the other side. It was so positive that I’ve changed plans for an upcoming trip to Italy and will stay in hosted Airbnb rooms instead of more traditional B&Bs.

I do not have the hosting experience in a vacuum. Being a good neighbor has always been crucial to me. I live on a very stable block where we have known each other for decades. When I decided to try homesharing, I let my nearest neighbors know in advance. When we are literally sharing space with our guests, we have a vested interest in safety, security and consideration–which impacts us as much if not more than our neighbors. While I definitely had some trepidation about trying this at first, my guests have been some of the most respectful, quiet, clean and delightful people I have ever encountered anywhere.

My guests have been very appreciative of the home sharing experience and love our City. They bring value to our community. They dine at local restaurants and cafes; they shop at our markets. I cherish my neighborhood and welcome the safeguards contained in the new law in San Francisco that protect against those bad apples who give our activity a bad name. I have faith that our Planning Department can and will enforce those provisions and will work towards making it easier for myself and fellow home sharers to comply.  We are all excited to share this marvelous adventure.

 

Nancy Neiderhauser

 

 

Continue Reading

Is the Bay Area in a Bubble and Will it Burst?

Are we in a bubble? Is it going to burst? And if not, what do I do?

N’Jeri Eaton lives in Oakland’s Eastlake neighborhood. “Funktown,” she told us. “It’s amazing.”

It’s part of what she loves most about Oakland, where she has lived for 10 years. She remembers her first visit to the Grand Lake Farmers Market near Lake Merritt — she couldn’t believe how diverse it was.

“Seeing white Rastafarians and Ethiopians and Vietnamese musicians playing for the crowd … it was just everyone. Oakland felt like a real-life version of United Colors of Benetton,” she said. “This is the first place that has felt like home ever in my entire life.”

Eaton loves her cozy apartment and would like to stay here forever, but she’s worried that she won’t be able to. She’s in her 30s, with a full-time job in documentary film. Her life can stay the way it is only if absolutely nothing changes — not her job, not her rent, not the number of people living in her apartment. And, of course, that’s not realistic.

“I just feel vulnerable,” says Eaton, who grew up outside Chicago and has lived many places in the Midwest and on the East Coast. “And I want control of my own space. I want to have kids someday soon, and I can’t have a kid in this apartment and have a healthy semblance of a life.”

So Is It a Bubble?

“This is not a bubble,” says Chris Thornberg, an economist in Los Angeles.

Though he’s just one guy, we called him because he has the dubious distinction of having predicted the 2008 market crash. His colleagues used to call him “Dr. Doom.”

He says that the money flooding the Bay Area isn’t built on speculation like the last boom.

“These are people with real money, with real incomes,” he says. “They have enough money to live in whatever cities and neighborhoods they want, so if there’s not enough high-end housing, they’ll just gentrify lower-income neighborhoods.”

And while the growth may slow, it won’t stop, Thornberg predicts. He believes the solution is a matter of adding to the housing supply. As more units come on the market, prices become more reasonable for everybody, he says.

But others argue that without policies making sure some of the housing is affordable, it’s not going to make any difference for middle-class and poor people.

“That’s completely wrong,” Thornberg says. “The evidence tends to suggest that for the most part, when you start layering rule after rule after rule on real estate developers, ultimately you end up simply hurting the supply worse.”

So what should Eaton do?

Thornberg’s answer? Buy now. Anything you can get.

The Bigger Problem

“Did you tell him what I do for a living?” Eaton said, laughing, when we told her Thornberg’s advice. “I can’t just plop down $200K for a condo in deep East Oakland. That’s great advice for someone who has a lot of equity and doesn’t work in nonprofits.”

Eaton reached a troubling conclusion: “It’s time for me to leave.”

But is that really her only hope?

Paul Saffo is a technology forecaster who thinks about the future of the Bay Area for a living. He said he’d understand if someone like Eaton chose to leave, but he thinks we should try really, really hard to keep her here.

“I’m less concerned about your caller’s problem than the region’s problem,” he says.

More and denser housing alone isn’t going to keep people like Eaton here, says Saffo. We also have to build better transit, bend outdated rules and think creatively about how the region works.

Some work on this front is already underway. People have proposed new rules for in-law apartments, and some are banding together to buy buildings cooperatively through structures like co-ops and land trusts.

Saffo says we all need to start thinking cooperatively — to see the Bay Area as a city-state. Even if this isn’t a bubble, the reality is that single-industry booms don’t last forever, he says.

“I think the danger today is becoming a monoculture,” said Saffo. “So we need to keep thinking about diversity in the ecological sense of lots of different kinds of people, lots of different kinds of industries, lots of different kinds of housing. That’s what protects us when booms go bust.”

From KQED

Continue Reading

THE TECH BACKLASH IS OVER?

On the whiteboard above the bar at Doc’s Clock in the Mission, “Google” was scribbled in red marker. But the tech giant’s name wasn’t highlighted for the sake of criticism or mockery as one might have expected a year ago. Instead, the message described Google’s offer to match all donations in a fundraiser hosted last weekend to raise money for victims of a devastating fire on 22nd street.

At the Doc’s Clock fundraiser, people from all walks of life gathered in support of the community and a shared goal. The experience of the event itself, plus the collaboration between Google and the “real” Mission institution seem to support new research from Mayor Ed Lee’s office that suggest the anti-tech movement has run its course.

As we reported last week, a new survey conducted by Mayor Lee’s office in December polled 501 probable SF voters and reported that 65% had a positive view of the tech industry and 68% thought the mayor should support its growth. Of course, 501 isn’t the hugest sample size, and since this is the first survey of its kind, we don’t have a baseline against which we can measure. But on top of that news came a story in SF Gate Friday asking if the antitech movement is now obsolete. Reporter Kristen V. Brown answers that question with purely qualitative assessments seem to indicate that energy around protests has notably died down. Despite the occasional screed stereotyping workers as “tech invaders,” it seems safe to assume that the anti-tech movement has drawn to a close, with people focusing more now on criticizing individual companies and leaders for specific misdeeds instead of slamming the industry as a whole. But why?

As an anonymous member of the protest group Counterforce told the SFGate, they were unable to recruit the necessary support for their group because most people in SF “are either captured by the capitalist economy and working full time to pay rent, have been priced out, or are a transplant working for the tech industry.” But even here in the Flaky Capital of America, it’s hard to believe the movement dissipated simply due to lack of human resources.

Instead it seems a few big things have changed in the past year. For starters, tech companies seem to be trying harder to do good; tech dollars comprised almost 50% of the $9.8 billion donated in 2014 by the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy 50 list. They’re not only engaging in generic philanthropic efforts, but also choosing projects that actually serve the SF community, such as the Doc Clock’s fundraiser or Google’s donation of $6.8 million towards free Muni passes for lower income students. Those types of activities, combined with the taxes that companies now pay to use Muni stops, indicates that the Google bus protests actually resulted in positive action from tech companies.

As tech companies have made an effort to support the city, it’s been easier for people to focus on the real issues rather than scapegoating the city’s newer residents. For example, most people now understand that while the tech boom caused the spike in population, the housing crisis is much more tied to city regulations around building. It’s also become clearer that the average tech worker isn’t all that wealthy and is having trouble finding and affording housing here, as well. That issue is reflected in Lee’s survey, in which the cost of housing was voted a top concern for respondents. It’s also reflected in the news, where we hear about tech collectives for those who can’t find housing (or friends) and of course that programmer on Reddit who wants to live in a tent. There’s still the urge to condemn or mock the occasionalentitled Dropbox employee, but there’s also a more realistic view of the problems we face as a city.

There’s also the fact that San Franciscans seem to be tired of getting swept up into a toxic, internal battle based on generalizations about an entire industry. In the past year, I’ve spoken to many people who were negatively impacted by tech wealth and gentrification for various articles. So many of them, particularly influential people who had the opportunity to get their supporters riled up, opted instead to take the high road. When the Urban Flow yoga studio closed, its owner Rusty Wells decided not to speak poorly about the landlord who was evicting them because it was against the values of the studio. When I spoke to Randy Shaw from the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, he didn’t exaggerate tech’s negative impact on the SRO community  — even though if he had, it would have made an incendiary story. I was and am impressed by these community leaders who have chosen not to feed the dragon.

Even in the artist community, I see people who are mourning the economic changes but are still continuing to create. When Jason Kick was priced out of the city and had to move to Oakland, he developed the concept album and band “Rent Control.” People are still mourning and undoubtedly experiencing difficulty as a result of this latest boom. But it seems like hostility and blame are slowly giving way to behavior that better exemplifies the hippie city we knew and love: working together, solving problems, and making stuff

Rachel Balik, Bold Italic

Continue Reading

Oro Loma Sanitary District Board Member Laython Landis Competency Questioned

Oro Loma Sanitary District Seek California Attorney General Kamala Harris Permission to File Quo Warranto Action

1 landis 

 San Lorenzo, Calif.–The Board of Directors of Oro Loma Sanitary District  decided Tuesday to seek permission from the Attorney General of the State of California to sue to remove District Board Member Laython Landis from the Board on questions of mental competency.

“We are compelled to take this action to remove Director Landis because of concerns related to his mental capacity to hold office, ” said Board President Timothy P. Becker.

There have been numerous instances and complaints about the mental stability of Landis.  On a recent talk show appearance on KGO Radio, host Brian Copeland reported that Landis was unaware of his location or why he had been invited to attend – all after detailed invitations had been provided to him and he had travelled to the radio station’s studio.  At the Board Meeting of February 2, 2015, while members of the public described how hurtful his comments about African Americans had been, Director Landis stated “Who are they talking about?”

The District said it will seek permission from California Attorney General Kamala Harris to file a Quo Warranto action against Landis.  Quo Warranto is a special form of legal action used to resolve a dispute over whether a specific person has the legal right to hold the public office that he or she occupies.

Details about how a Quo Warranto works in California.

The District believes this action against Landis is warranted because his diminishing capacity is hurting the community and hindering the District’s ability to conduct normal business.

In a separate action, on Dec. 23, 2014, the District voted unanimously to publicly censure District Board Member Landis for a racially derogatory comment about African Americans made during a public committee meeting, as well as for other personal misconduct.

“As public servants to the citizens of the Oro Loma Sanitary District, we hold ourselves, our staff, and our elected officials to the highest standards.  That is why we were compelled to respond swiftly and responsibly to the unacceptable racial slur against African Americans made by District Board Member Laython “Judge” Landis at a Committee meeting held on December 10, 2014,” said Board President Becker.

Becker added that the District has previously warned and reprimanded Director Landis, but he seemed unwilling or unable to change his behavior.  The Board took the action to publically censure Director Landis for his behavior because it wants the public and the District staff to know that offensive, repugnant and wrongful behavior will not be tolerated.

Continue Reading

FORMER SAN FRANCSICO SENTINEL OWNER PAT MURPHY DIES AFTER LONG ILLNESS

Pat Murphy, a San Francisco political reporter and rabble-rouser, died this week after a series of health complications including emphysema and cirrhosis.

 Murphy was the founder and previous owner of the San Francisco Sentinel, an online information source for local and national politics and culture. He took over the publication in May of 1997 (then called the “District 9 Sentinel”) out of his “concern over the republican control of Congress.”  Knowing that all politics is local, he covered San Francisco city hall and local politics to make sure that views from the left and libertarians were heard and celebrated.

Murphy worked as publisher, editor, and reporter at the paper for 10 years until he went into semi-retirement due to health problems in 2009.

Murphy began his career as a General Assignment reporter for the Richmond Independent, the Berkeley Daily Gazette, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He served as Managing Editor of the St. Albans (Vermont) Daily Messenger at age 21.

He also launched ValPak couponing in San Francisco, as the company’s first San Francisco franchise owner. He walked the bricks, developing ad strategy for a broad range of restaurants and merchants.

As Terence Alan, former board member of the North of Market Neighborhood Improvement Corporation once said, “Murphy is an excellent example of hands-on journalism in a changing delivery news market.”

Continue Reading

SF Tribal and Textile Arts Show Opens Feb. 5

114

Excitement by collectors and fans of tribal, ethnographic and textile arts is building as two major tribal and textile arts shows are coming to San Francisco.

The annual San Francisco Tribal and Textile Arts Show at Fort Mason opens Feb. 4 and runs to Feb. 8.  The exhibition is the leading art fair devoted to the arts of tribal cultures in the U.S. and presents a comprehensive selection of international galleries representing the arts of Asian, Oceanic, African, Native American and Latin American indigenous peoples.

The 80 participating galleries will open from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5 for a sneak preview benefiting the DeYoung Museum Oceanic, African and Americas Department.  Opening night tickets cost $150.  This event features live music by Pacific Chamber Jazz, cuisine by McCalls Catering, and early access to the show.

The show opens to the public at 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday Feb. 6 and runs through Sunday, Feb.8.  Tickets are $15.

Some of the world’s leading galleries and dealers of tribal arts will be exhibiting at the show: Wayne Heathcote, Jack Sadovnic Indonesian Art , Michael Hamson Oceanic Art, Bruce Frank Primitive Art, Robert Brundage Himalayan Art, Cathryn Cootner, Marc Assayag African & Oceanic Art, Jim Willis Tribal Art, Thomas Murray Ethnographic Art, Mark A. Johnson Tribal Art, Steve Berger Art Textile, Mehmet Çetinkaya Gallery, Joel Cooner Gallery,  Patrick & Ondine Mestdagh,  Pascassio Manfredi Gallery, John Ruddy, James Stephenson,  Ernie Wolfe Gallery, Jewels, Robert Morris Fine Art, Jacaranda Tribal, Farrow Fine Art Gallery, Miranda Crimp, Gary Spratt, Taylor Dale Tribal Art, Gebhart Blazek, Peter Boyd, Chris Boylan Oceanic Art, Galen Lowe Art & Antiques,  Anavian Gallery, Galerie Arabesque,  Bryan Reeves, and others.   

087

A special tour of the show by Cathryn Cootner, emerita curator of textiles at the DeYoung, and a respected collector, author, lecturer, and tribal art dealer, is back by popular demand, as a tour guide leading “The Delight of Looking Closer.”  Cootner’s tours will be at 9 a.m. on both Friday Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 and cost $40 per person.

For more information or tickets, call 310.305.4543 or visit: http://caskeylees.com/SF_Tribal/SF_Tribal.html

The second event that is generating excitement in the tribal world is the opening of the DeYoung Museum’s exhibition of Masterworks of African Figurative Sculpture from the collection of Richard H. Scheller. The exhibition runs Jan. 31 to July 5.

A number of the works from the extraordinary collection assembled over the past 30 years by Scheller, a biochemist and executive at Genentech, are being gifted to the Museums in 2013 and 2014, and the Museums will receive additional gifts from the collection in the future.  These will enhance one of the world’s most important collections of Oceanic Art, the John and Marcia Friede collection, which is already exhibited at the DeYoung. This new addition of African art, combined with the Friede Oceanic collection, makes San Francisco one of the world’s premier museums of tribal art and keeps it at the forefront of presenting art that showcases the diversity of the world.

IMG_0186

Continue Reading

Leslie Hatamiya To be Appointed First Executive Director of San Bruno Community Foundation

The Board of Directors of the San Bruno Community Foundation will consider final action to appoint Leslie Hatamiya as the Foundation’s first Executive Director effective Feb. 1. Ms. Hatamiya, a San Bruno resident, led the California Bar Foundation as its Executive Director from 2004 to 2012.

“The San Bruno Community Foundation presents a unique opportunity to benefit San Bruno’s dynamic, diverse, and resilient community over the long term,” said Ms. Hatamiya. “I would be honored to help build the Foundation into a valuable community resource that supports all of San Bruno.”

A graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Law School, Ms. Hatamiya has more than two decades of experience in building organizations and programs. Over seven years, Ms. Hatamiya transformed the California Bar Foundation into a vibrant center of philanthropy for California’s legal community.  She rebuilt the Board of Directors, developed a growing fundraising program, launched a highly successful scholarship program to increase diversity in the legal profession, sharpened its grant-making strategy, spearheaded a remake of its brand and public image, and strengthened its relationship with the State Bar of California. While at the California Bar Foundation, Ms. Hatamiya earned recognition as one of the “Best Lawyers Under 40” from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

Prior to joining the California Bar Foundation, Ms. Hatamiya served as chief of staff and director of corporate communications and special projects at wireless broadband startup SOMA Networks; ran the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs in San Francisco; and helped build former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley’s 2000 presidential campaign as a deputy campaign manager. Recently, she staffed the John Paul Stevens Fellowship Foundation and launched the “Vote with Your Mission” campaign for the California Association of Nonprofits. She has also held positions at Stanford University, Yale University, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and in Senator Bradley’s Capitol Hill office.

Ms. Hatamiya has been a longtime Stanford University volunteer, including service on the University’s Board of Trustees, the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, and the National Advisory Board of the Haas Center for Public Service, which she chaired. She is also the author of Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and the Passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, a publication of Stanford University Press.

Since moving to San Bruno in 2003, Ms. Hatamiya has been an active member of the community as a PTA leader, a volunteer for San Bruno Pee Wee Baseball, and a past AYSO soccer coach. Her ties to San Bruno reach back to World War II, when her mother and grandparents were among the Japanese Americans interned at the assembly center on the site of what are now the Shops at Tanforan.

“Ms. Hatamiya has wide-ranging experience in the public, nonprofit, political, and private sectors,” commented Nancy Kraus, Board President. “She has the perfect combination of experience, energy, vision, and sense of the community to lead the Foundation forward in its important work.”

The San Bruno Community Foundation was established by the San Bruno City Council to administer, for the long-term benefit of the San Bruno community, $70 million the City received in restitution from PG&E after the 2010 gas pipeline explosion in the City.

The Board-appointed Search Committee to fill the Executive Director position included Directors Dr. Regina Stanback-Stroud, Frank Hedley, and Board President Nancy Kraus. The recruitment process spanned several months led by the nationally recognized firm, The 360 Group.

 

 

Continue Reading

Private company issuing “parking tickets” at Market St. Safeway

Retailers at the shopping center parking lot at 2020 Market Street that is home to Safeway, Starbucks, and Jamba Juice have hired a private company to issue what appear to be unlawful parking “tickets” on cars parked in the shopping center.

Notices delivered by plainclothes workers monitoring the parking lot come in bright orange envelopes and look very much like SFMTA parking citations. Inside the orange envelope, a “Notice of Unauthorized Parking Charge” in the amount of $63 can be issued to any car whose owner walks off the lot, including customers who have patronized the shopping center’s businesses.
It’s not uncommon for customers to purchase groceries over at Safeway and then continue to shop in the area. In fact, that is exactly what had happened in the case of one person who reported receiving the charge notice.
After purchasing groceries at Safeway and loading them into a car parked in the lot, the individual headed over to Golden Produce to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables, then came back to find the following ticket on the car. In the “reason for charge” section, it is evidenced that the violator was watched as they walked across Church street.
As stated on the ticket:
The vehicle identified below is parked on private property in breach of posted and established rules and use limitations of this property. As a result of said breach, Parking Control Services hereby demands the follow charge.
The property owners have posted signs around the parking lot, some obscured by trees, that let parkers know that any walk-off will be met with the $63 charge.
The private company that is issuing the notices, Parking Control Services, Inc., settled a lawsuit with the Marin County District Attorney in 2007 when consumers complained that the company was placing parking tickets that looked like government-issued citations on cars parked at free public and private parking lots. Parking Control Services did not respond to our inquiries.

According to an opinion filed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris in 2011, it is unlawful for “private property owners to issue parking citations imposing monetary sanctions to the owners of vehicles parked on their property.”
Absent express statutory authority, a private property owner may not issue a citation to a vehicle owner, and this remains the law even when the owner issues a preprinted ticket claiming otherwise. Moreover, absent legislative authorization and regulation of the practice, allowing private property owners to issue their own parking citations would circumvent many of the consumer-protection purposes embodied in the Vehicle Code statutes governing towing and parking citations.
In the opinion, the Attorney General acknowledges sensitivity to the losses private property owners might face with “improper parking,” but says the state has “chosen to alleviate that harm by authorizing towing as an alternative to suing the vehicle owners for trespass, and has limited the issuance of citations to government employees and agents.”
We contacted San Francisco City Attorney’s office to find out if the practice is lawful in San Francisco and if the City was aware of what was going on or had granted the parking lot owners the “statutory authority” mentioned in the opinion, but have so far not received a response. Supervisor Scott Wiener did not have anything to add, telling us that this wasn’t an issue he was familiar with.
We reached out to Safeway, the largest merchant in the shopping center, to find out if it was aware of what was going on and knew of the 2007 lawsuit against Parking Control Services. Safeway store manager Dave Papalias referred us to Safeway Media Relations. We heard back from Safeway Director of Public and Government Affairs, Keith Turner, who told Hoodline that Safeway reserves the right to tow people in the parking lot, but did not respond to questions about issuing charges to Safeway customers who walk off the lot. Turner did mention that visitors to the Delancey Christmas Tree lot at the southeast corner of the parking lot “may park in the lot to load their tree for free.”
While the owners of the parking lot are within their rights to tow people who improperly park on their lot without being a customer, it seems that they have gone a step further in their parking enforcement in what might be a violation of California law. However, it’s unclear at this time what sort of recourse might be available to recipients of the parking lot citations.
Barring any action from the City Attorney or a private party against the parking lot’s owners, next time you head to park in the shopping center, whether you are a customer or not, you’d better not step off the lot lest you risk that $63 dollar fine.
From Hoodline
Continue Reading

MAYOR LEE LAUNCHES BUSINESS PORTAL TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES SUCCEED

New Comprehensive One-Stop Web Tool Helps Small Businesses Start, Stay & Grow in San Francisco; Uses Technology to Make Government More Efficient, Consolidates Information on 400+ Permits & Licenses & Provides Step-by-Step Starter Guides for Small Businesses

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today launched the San Francisco Business Portal, a new comprehensive web tool that brings together the complex information surrounding business registration, permits, and licenses in a single user-friendly City website.

“Small businesses are the heart and soul of our City’s economy, and helping them succeed is a priority because when they succeed, the City succeeds,” said Mayor Lee. “The San Francisco Business Portal puts our small businesses first by bringing together all the information a small business owner needs to start, stay, and grow in San Francisco. This is the first step in streamlining the City’s permit process and make it easier for small business owners to do business in San Francisco.”

“The Business Portal is the most comprehensive and user-friendly City website ever developed for San Francisco businesses,” said Supervisor Katy Tang, a key supporter of the project. “I look forward to supporting future phases of this program so that government can be more responsive and effective to the needs of residents and entrepreneurs.”

“The Business Portal is an unprecedented resource for our small businesses because it breaks down a complex process in a way anyone can understand,” said Small Business Commission President Stephen Adams. “The small business community asked the City to make the process easier and Mayor Lee has delivered with the Business Portal.”

“The many rules and regulations around business registration and permits can be so confusing, even for an established business,” said Marty Sanchez, an owner of the family-owned local tortilla and salsa manufacturer Casa Sanchez. “The Portal makes it much easier.”

The Business Portal consolidates information on more than 400 permits and licenses available to small businesses. Some examples of forms that are accessible in the Business Portal include the Business Registration form from the Treasurer and Tax Collector required of every business, the Permit to Operate from the Department of Public Health for all restaurants, and the Dog Walking permit from Animal Care and Control for any dog walker with four or more dogs.

The Business Portal also provides step-by-step starter guides for small businesses that want to start in San Francisco. Created by an interagency team in close collaboration with a dozen departments across the City, the Business Portal was designed based on in-depth research with business owners at different stages of the business life cycle.

A joint project of the Department of Technology, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and Office of Small Business in partnership with the design firm Tomorrow Partners, San Francisco Business Portal advances Mayor Lee’s goal of using technology to make government more responsive and effective to the needs of residents and entrepreneurs.

“Clear, user-friendly and easy to navigate – it helped me find the answers to all my business-related questions,” said Everest Waterproofing and Restoration Inc. President Keith Goldstein. “The whole site is very intuitive.”

The Business Portal is only the first step to improving the small business experience in San Francisco. Future phases will add functionality to the Business Portal and begin to streamline the business permit and license process.

“The Portal is a great resource for deaf business owners now that everything is online,” said Melody Stein, Owner of Mozzeria, a deaf-owned pizzeria with an all deaf staff. “I love how it’s basically a one stop shop for business, from foundation to rooftop and everything in between. It cuts down on the wondering and gives you all the information that you weren’t sure about, or maybe were not even aware of.”

To access the San Francisco Business Portal, go to: businessportal.sfgov.org.

 

Continue Reading

The 19 Worst Decisions You Can Make in San Francisco

You make great decisions all of the time, starting with the fact that you live in San Francisco. But c’mon, admit it: you make some terrible ones as well. Hopefully, none of them are these:

Giving up your rent-controlled apartment
Unless you’re a Twitter millionaire which, ugh, you probably are if you would do something so frivolous.

Not bringing a jacket with you
Yes, even when it’s 90 degrees outside. Even in September. And even when you’re going to The Mission. Have you learned nothing by now?

Assuming the plans you made will actually happen
You need same-day text confirmation — if not same-hour — otherwise you’re totally getting flaked on.

Not leaving 20 minutes to find parking
It will always take at least 20 minutes. Always.

Trying to figure out what kind of poop that is
You lose either way. Also, it’s probably human poop.

Telling your friend in Oakland you’ll go to his party
Don’t get his sad little East Bay hopes up when you know there’s no way you’re taking BART across the bay on a Saturday night. Or ever, if you can help it.

Eating at the Taco Bell on Duboce
Yeah, there tooootally aren’t any legit taquerias just a few blocks away or anything.

Letting your friend tell you about his app idea
Ohmygod NO ONE cares. Unless he’s buying drinks and then, well… nope, sorry, not even then.

Not working at a start-up
You know who’s rich in SF? Start-up people. You know who’s not? The rest of us.

Waiting until after 11pm to go out
Last call in SF is 1:30am.

Hosting a guest
People who come to SF don’t just come for a weekend; they come for weeks. When’s the last time you wanted to see the same person for more than three days in a row?

Having a baby
The public schools are awful and private school costs 25K. For kindergarten. So basically procreating in SF is just your way of taking forever to say goodbye.

Not bringing cash
Unless you love taking one dollar bills and ripping them up into teeny-tiny pieces, which is basically the equivalent of paying ATM fees.

Expecting your bus to be on time
The buses in SF take after the people. Or is it the other way around? Either way, your bus is going to be late. Fact.

Thinking cyclists are going to obey the rules of the road
No, they will not stop at the stop sign. Not even if it’s your turn to go

Being on the road during Critical Mass
Even on a bike. Sorry, dude.

Telling your tourist friends you’ll do touristy stuff with them
Touristy stuff will always include Fisherman’s Wharf and rarely include whiskey. Meet them for dinner and drinks instead.

Driving across the Bay Bridge at 5pm on a Friday
Yes, you really want to get to Tahoe (why else would you be on The Bridge?). Thing is, you can leave at 7pm and make it there at the exact same time.

Telling the police at the Giants riot you need to get by because your Uber is down there!
Actually, never mind. That was totally classic, ridiculous SF.

Daisy Barringer, Thrillist

Continue Reading

A 330-sq-ft former earthquake cottage in Telegraph Hill sells for $765K

When the refugee camps began closing a year after the big 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires, anyone with a mule and a piece of land could take a U.S. Army-built earthquake shack and make it a home. These tiny cottages were dragged all over the city, but many of them ended up in Bernal Heights and the Sunset—outlying neighborhoods with plenty of room.

But, according to Socketsite, at least one ended up in densely populated Telegraph Hill, where land was already selling at a premium a century ago. Obviously, that trend has only continued and the 330-square-foot former shack at 1448 Kearny Street has recently sold for $765K—or over $2,000 a square foot.

Admittedly, the artist owner of the home has done as much as could be done to make the small single-family feel bigger, from white-washing the fir floors to raising the ceiling to adding a loft bedroom to making room for a walk-in closet. (Check out the gallery above for some impressive before and afters.) But even so, that price per square foot is pretty astounding considering that the average price per square foot in the neighborhood is about half that.

However, it is rare to find a condo in the neighborhood south of $1 million, and single-family homes in Telegraph Hill are practically nonexistent. So, even with the small footprint and no real room to expand, the sellers seemed to have no problem finding a buyer. It was listed in late September at $679K and closed less than a month later for nearly 100K over asking, netting the new owners a pricey piece of San Francisco history and honorary membership into the Tiny House Movement.

Emily Landis, SF Gate

Continue Reading

Charles Schwab Files Libel, Defamation Lawsuits against Beverly Hills Law Firm for Bogus Websites

Law Firm Steiner & Libo, Partner Leonard Steiner, Plaintiff Nicholas Behunin Sued by Charles Schwab Family For Libel

San Francisco-The Los Angeles law firm Steiner & Libo and one of its clients is being sued for defamation and libel for creating bogus websites as part of a plot to extract money from the family of respected investment advisor Charles R. Schwab, according to lawsuits filed today in Superior Court.

Legal complaints from Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael Schwab were filed against Steiner & Libo, partner Leonard Steiner, and plaintiff Nicholas Behunin of Los Angeles, Calif.

The lawsuits claims the law firm and its client knowingly made false claims on defamatory websites to purposely harm the reputation of the Schwab family in retaliation for not settling a lawsuit, which itself was an effort to shakedown the family.

The Charles R. Schwab lawsuit alleges the sites were “a tool for the extortion of Schwab” by creating the false impression that Mr. Schwab, his son, and family did business with a brutal dictator.

The defamatory sites state that Mr. Schwab sought to do business with the family of the late Indonesian dictator Suharto and his son Tommy Suharto, a convicted murderer. The sites advertise that Mr. Schwab can provide advice to investors on “how to profit from a brutal dictator” and methods to “launder money overseas.”

The Schwab lawsuits unequivocally state that neither Mr. Schwab nor his son Michael ever met President Suharto or Tommy Suharto or had any business dealings with them.

“The only reason to create these fraudulent websites was to besmirch the good name and reputation of Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael. Not one claim on the landing page of the site is true or correct and the guilty parties were aware of that prior to making the defamatory statements,” said attorney Robert R. Moore of the law firm of Allen Matkins, representing Charles R. Schwab.

The lawsuit claims “In sum, (Leonard) Steiner (Steiner & Libo and Nicholas Behunin) used the Websites as a tool for the extortion of Schwab.  The Website’s clear objective was, and is, to publicly embarrass and shame Schwab and then to leverage that public embarrassment into litigation advantage in Behunin’s lawsuit against Schwab.”

“The Defendants agreed to a scheme that included providing false and defamatory information to third parties who would post articles or blogs on the internet repeating the false and defamatory statements provided to them by Defendants…creating the impression that the false statements on the websites had been independently corroborated by the third-party posters,” according the lawsuit by Michael Schwab filed by his attorney David H. Schwartz.

Schwartz pointed to a false and defamatory story by HuffingtonPost.com blogger Bruce Fein entitled “Does This Schwab Charity Satisfy the IRS Perfume Test?<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-fein/does-this-schwab-charity-_b_5978502.html>” which is based on the libelous and defamatory statements from the bogus websites.

The Schwab’s attorneys said the bogus websites were posted after they refused to pay $25 million to Nicholas Behunin, who, through his attorney Leonard Steiner, threatened to sue unless the payment was made.   When no payment was made, Behunin sued the Schwabs on May 28, 2014, to recover his purported ownership interest in a real estate development venture with Michael Schwab. (The case is Sealutions LLC et al. case number BC546925, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles).

“The only purpose and intent of this scheme was to force a settlement through the implicit threat that Defendants would continue to disseminate such false and defamatory statements to the public unless and until Plaintiff and/or his father agreed to a settlement of the pending action,” according to the suit by Michael Schwab.

The Schwab legal filings claim that they initially contacted attorney Steiner in early October to inquire if he or his client was responsible for the websites. Steiner told them he had no knowledge of the sites, according the lawsuits.  The websites were registered anonymously. After further investigation, the Schwab’s attorneys found the sites were registered to Levick Strategic Communications public relations.  Later, after notifying attorney Steiner again, he still denied knowledge of them. After that contact with Steiner, the Schwab lawsuit says, the website was changed to include the name of Steiner & Libo law firm. In the past few days, the firm removed its name and now the site lists its owner as: N. Behunin.

Charles R. SchwabCharles R. Schwab

Continue Reading

Koret Foundation Criticized for Sexism in Lawsuit Against Susan Koret

Koret Foundation Should Apologize for Statements Against Immigrant and Domestic Workers

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

 

Anita Friedman, JFCS

Anita Friedman, JFCS

 

San Francisco—A diverse group of immigrant, domestic worker, labor and Jewish advocates demanded the Koret Foundation apologize for and withdraw negative comments directed against Susan Koret, the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret, who sued for the Foundation for misdirecting and misusing monies from her husband’s fortune that were meant for the poor.

“The comments by the Koret Foundation and its spokesperson denigrate not only Ms. Koret, but they demean people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others,” said Alysabeth Alexander.

At issue was a statement by official Koret Foundation spokesman Nathan Ballard who told the media, in response to Ms. Koret’s lawsuit, that “Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period.” Mr. Ballard is also the spokesman for the Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team.

The group said Ballard’s “denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.”

The group also wrote the Foundation in its letter, saying “While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.”

The letter was sent to the entire Koret Foundation board, including real estate investor Tad Taube; Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh; Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco; Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The Koret Board is expected to attend  the opening next week in Warsaw, Poland, of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. There may be protests in Warsaw against the Koret Foundation because of  the alleged misdirection of Koret funds to the museum by Taube and the Koret Board and their alleged discrimination against Mrs. Koret.

The full text of the letter is below:

 

Open Letter to the Koret Foundation Board of Directors

October 17, 2014

It is with great concern we write to you regarding comments made by your spokesperson, Nathan Ballard, in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 8th about Susan Koret.

“Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period. Susan is an incompetent director who lacks even a basic understanding of the foundation and its operations.”

Mr. Ballard’s denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.

From reports, we understand that Susan Koret is an immigrant from Korea who began her career as a housekeeper. While we can’t speak to her personal experience or to the legal dispute at the Koret Foundation, we know that the contributions of millions of immigrant women–a great many of whom are domestic workers–should never be slighted.

Domestic workers care for our children, our parents, our elderly, and our communities. Many of us in San Francisco have fought to get the importance of domestic work recognized, so that the workers can enjoy many of the same right that the rest of us take for granted. With a significant legislative victory this year in Sacramento, now is not the time to go backwards.

We know that millions of immigrant women work tirelessly to improve the lives of their families and communities. This experience provides a critical perspective that is often-times missing when important decisions are made.

While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.

We demand that the Board of Directors and Nathan Ballard immediately apologize for and withdraw the negative comments directed against Ms. Koret that demean all people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others.

Sincerely,

National Domestic Worker Alliance

Alysabeth Alexander, Vice-President of Politics, SEIU Local 1021*

Juanita Flores, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Katie Joaquin, Campaign Director, CA Domestic Workers Coalition

Hene Kelly, Jewish Labor Committee*

Andrea Lee, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Shaw San Liu, Tenant and Workers Organizing Center, Chinese Progressive Association*

Kay Vasilyeva, Former Board Member, SF Women’s Political Committee*

*organization listed for identification purposes only — does not imply organizational endorsement

Continue Reading

Judge tosses S.F. law meant to shield evicted tenants

San Francisco apartment owners scored a major victory Tuesday when a federal judge declared unconstitutional the city’s attempt to shield evicted tenants from soaring rents by substantially increasing the relocation fees the tenants must be paid by landlords who decide to get out of the rental business.

The law, which took effect in June, requires property owners to pay displaced tenants the difference for two years between the current rent and the amount needed to rent a comparable unit in the city at market rates — more than $100,000 in most cases. That violates property rights, said U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, because it requires owners to pay for conditions they didn’t cause — the skyrocketing prices of rental housing, and the gap between market rates and maximum charges under the city’s rent-control law.

The ordinance “seeks to force the property owner to pay for a broad public problem not of the owner’s making,” said Breyer, who held a one-day trial in the case this month. “A property owner did not cause the high market rent to which a tenant who chooses to stay in San Francisco might be exposed, nor cause the lower rent-controlled rate the tenant previously enjoyed.”

He said the city’s claim of a causal link between a landlord’s actions and the relocation fees was further weakened by the fact that the ordinance did not require tenants to spend the fees on replacement housing in San Francisco, or anywhere else.

Breyer stayed his ruling until Friday to give the city time to ask a federal appeals court to intervene. Gabriel Zitrin, spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said Herrera was “very disappointed” by the ruling and would decide whether to appeal in the next few days.

Previous ordinance

An earlier city ordinance, enacted in 2005 and upheld by the courts, required landlords to pay displaced tenants $4,500 plus inflation adjustments, an amount that Breyer said was roughly equal to the expenses they face in moving out. But tenant advocates said it came nowhere near the actual costs of finding new housing.
The author of the new ordinance, Supervisor David Campos, urged Herrera to continue defending it.

“When you stand up against powerful special interests like San Francisco did, by demanding fair payments to tenants evicted under the Ellis Act, you can expect those interests to fight back,” Campos said in a statement. “That’s what we’re seeing right now. This is not a permanent setback.”

Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, a statewide advocacy organization that filed arguments in support of the ordinance, criticized the ruling. He said the Ellis Act, a state law allowing property owners to evict all their tenants without cause when they leave the rental business, contemplated that local governments could pass laws to reduce the impact on tenants.

“There’s no reason why the city can’t tie that (landlord’s decision) to the cost of displacement,” Preston said.
But J. David Breemer of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a lawyer for landlords who challenged the ordinance, called the ruling “a great win for property rights.”

‘Pay a ransom’

Campos’ measure “requires property owners to pay a ransom simply to stop being landlords and use their own property,” Breemer said. “Property owners didn’t cause the affordable housing crisis. The public should address it, not put it on the backs of property owners.”

The lead plaintiffs, husband and wife Daniel and Maria Levin, bought a two-unit North Beach building in 2008 with a single downstairs tenant. The Levins, who lived upstairs, filed an Ellis Act eviction in December, saying they wanted to use the lower unit for family members. The eviction was still pending when the new ordinance took effect, requiring the couple to pay their tenant nearly $118,000, the difference between the current rent and two years’ payments on a comparable unit elsewhere.

Breyer said the ordinance was unprecedented and violated a constitutional principle: When the government confiscates private property, by condemning land or exacting a fee for owners’ use of their property, the price must be at least “roughly proportional” to the impact of the owners’ actions.

Judge’s assessment

“The ordinance requires an enormous payout untethered in both nature and amount to the social harm actually caused by the property owner’s action,” the judge said. He said Ellis Act evictions — just over 200 in a recent 12-month period, in a city with more than 230,000 rental units — have little impact on the housing crisis or on tenants’ relocation costs.

“San Francisco’s housing shortage and the high market rates that result are significant problems of public concern, and the city (supervisors’) attempts to ameliorate them are laudable,” Breyer said. “But there are outer limits to how this may be done.”

By Bob Egelko, SF Chronicle

Continue Reading

San Francisco Bay Guardian Closed by San Francisco Media Company

Employees of San Francisco Print Media Company, the parent company of the Examiner, SF Weekly, and San Francisco Bay Guardian were this morning informed that the latter paper will be shuttered after 48 years.

The paper was founded by husband and wife Jean Dibble and Bruce Brugmann — whose visage, urging locals to “Read my paper, dammit” — grew ubiquitous over the years. Its founding mission was to “print the news and raise hell,” and, as an independent paper, it ostensibly did just that for 46 years. In 2012 Brugmann and Dibble sold the Guardian to the  San Francisco Media Company, which subsequently acquired theWeekly last year. After decades of lawsuits and acrimony, the dueling San Francisco weeklies were situated next door to one another, within the same office suite.

That situation changed today, however.

“Unfortunately, the economic reality is such that the Bay Guardian is not a viable business and has not been for many years,” wrote SFMC publisher Glenn Zuehls in the interoffice communique “When SFMC took over the publication, the company believed the publication’s finances could rise out of the red and benefit from joining forces with the Examiner and the Weekly. We have tried hard to make that happen over the past few years. … Since then, I have come to realize that this isn’t possible and that the obstacles for a profitable Bay Guardian are too great to overcome. The amount of money that the Bay Guardian loses each week is causing damage to the heart of the company and cannot justify its continued publication. The success of this company, providing the highest quality journalism for our readers along with superior results for our advertisers, is my sole priority.”

Zuehls characterized the decision as the most difficult of his career.

Guardian editor Steven T. Jones describes himself and the staff as “in shock. We’re still trying to stay cool. We’re still trying to absorb this.”

The paper’s curtailment is effective immediately. The edition hitting the streets tomorrow figures to be its last.

“We are in discussions of the possibility of buying the paper,” Jones says. “We’ll turn to our community and try to see if this is possible.”

Zuehls tells SF Weekly that a sale is possible: “Anybody can come and ask.” Exactly what one obtains in buying the Guardian is a matter to still be negotiated.

“I hope the passion of the Guardian lives on. Everyone in San Francisco can learn from that passion,” Zuehls continues. But “it has lost revenue since day one and the trend is losing more.”

Continue Reading

Koret Foundation Sued by Widow Who Claims Board Members Uses Charity as “Personal Piggy Bank”

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

Anita Friedman Jewish Family and Children’s Services

President of Koret Foundation

Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Board Member and Silicon Valley Real Estate Investor Tad Taube, San Francisco Attorney Richard L. Greene, JFCS Director Anita Friedman, Other Board Members Shun the Poor, Bay Area, Jewish Causes—in Favor of Spending Foundation Resources on Conservative and Pet Projects at Half-Billion Dollar Charity

 

San Francisco—The Jewish community from San Francisco to Poland was rocked this week when the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret filed a lawsuit against the Koret Foundation and its Board of Directors for conflicts of interest and self-dealing.  The lawsuit says the Koret Board is illegally funding pet projects that include right-wing conservative causes in the United States to wrongly spending $10 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The lawsuit said the wrongdoing is being orchestrated by Koret Foundation President Tad Taube, a native of Poland and well-known right wing conservative Republican.  The suit also lays blame on Taube’s personal attorney and Board member Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP and Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco as well as board member Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; board member Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and board member Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The suit filed October 7, 2014 in San Francisco Superior Court by Mrs. Koret alleges that under Taube’s direction the board has ignored the priorities established by her late husband to help the poor and assist Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel.

Instead, her suit claims, the Koret board is using foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members and is purposely confusing the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube’s name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.

“Defendants’ duty of loyalty to the Foundation has been corrupted by these directors’ close affiliations with many of the Foundation’s recent grants, resulting in tens of millions of dollars distributed due to self-interest,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit demands the removal of the Koret board members and calls for their replacement with the appointment of an independent board with a majority of Jewish directors.

“Taube says publicly that giving to the poor is “a bottomless pit.” Instead he has led the Koret Foundation by focusing its giving to organizations identified with him, creating a corporate culture of directors who rubber stamp his decisions as long as their favored organizations are also supported.  “In elevating their own and affiliated interests while ostensibly making decisions for the Koret Foundation, defendants are breaching duties of loyalty that require them to serve faithfully the interests of the Koret Foundation” the lawsuit claims.

“Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband’s top priorities,” said Mrs. Koret. “Joe and Stephanie’s money shouldn’t be used for Tad Taube’s pet projects in Poland or to help conservative economic and policy think tanks–not when so many in the Bay Area go to bed hungry every night and Jewish causes need support.”

Supporting her lawsuit is Joe and Stephanie Koret’s closest surviving family member, nephew Merv Brown of Walnut Creek, who worked with the Korets for decades.  He said about the suit:

“With all respect to Mr. Taube, if he wants to spend money on Poland, he should use his own money–not my uncle’s and my aunt’s–to assist his homeland. I am proud to stand with Susan Koret to support and endorse the directions and wishes of my family that their fortune be spent as Uncle Joe wished: to help the poor and Jews in Israel and the Bay Area.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that: “Mrs. Koret is doing a favor for the entire Bay Area community with her lawsuit,” said longtime friend Julie Goodman. “She has a lot of courage. No one else has had the guts to take on Mr. Taube, who has used his power, plus his and the Koret Foundation’s money, to bully a lot of people and organizations into subservience.”

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit alleges that others, including “philanthropic civic leaders and former and current staff members will support Mrs. Koret in her efforts to restore the Koret Foundation’s purpose and dignity free of the control of Mr. Taube.”

The lawsuit claims that, at Taube’s direction, the Koret Foundation has donated approximately $9 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, a pet project of Taube, who was born in Poland.  “

While the Polish Museum commemorates significant Jewish history, the diversion of Koret funds to Poland is not in keeping with my husband’s charitable mission…and in effect drains funds that could benefit the needy in communities in the Bay Area and Israel,” the lawsuit states.

Sam Singer of Singer Associates, Inc., who is acting as a spokesman for Mrs. Koret in the lawsuit, said the lawsuit will attempt to claw back the $9 million in money from Taube that was given to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and return it to the Koret Foundation. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is scheduled to open Oct. 28 in Warsaw. The Museum is reported facing financial difficulties, according to Polish media reports.

Mrs. Koret noted her husband was a native of Odessa, Russia, who immigrated to America, struggled growing up poor in the U.S., and then struck it rich later in life in clothing and real estate. He was deeply committed to humanitarian causes such as alleviating hunger,  and would “be deeply angered and offended by Tad Taube and the board’s strong support of conservative  causes and grants that divert money needed for the local community and Jewish causes.”

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the spending down of the Foundation’s assets by Taube and the board members with whom he has surrounded himself and allow the appointment of a new, independent board to carry out its mission and save the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret was named a lifetime director and chairwoman of the Foundation prior to her husband’s death in 1982. She was entrusted by her late husband to carry out the family legacy of caring for the poor and supporting Jewish and community causes through the Koret Foundation, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also recites that the board has rejected a series of Asian and African-American candidates for board membership, including their rejection last month of former Mayor Willie Brown as president of the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret said she has been marginalized as Taube, a Silicon Valley real estate investor, and his hand-picked supporters on the board steer donations toward causes in which they have affiliations.

Mrs. Koret said she filed the suit as a last resort after her efforts to diversify the board, get independent legal advice, confirm the perpetual nature of the Foundation and redirect funds back to her late husband’s mission were rebuffed.  She fears the Koret Foundation is facing destruction of its mission and eventual collapse unless changes are made.

She said in the last 12 months, Taube has undertaken three major real estate transactions:  the sale of the Foundation’s largest real estate asset; marketing of another Foundation property; and refinancing a significant loan on a third Foundation property. The collective value of the real estate involved in these transactions is several hundred million dollars, according to the lawsuit.

“Over Mrs. Koret’s objections, defendants approved engaging a broker associated with defendant Taube’s real estate businesses to sell, market and refinance the Foundation’s properties and split its commission with Taube Investments, without disclosing the percentage commission split.  This conduct violates state and federal law and is breach of fiduciary duty,” the lawsuit states.

The Foundation’s general counsel and Taube attorney Richard L. Greene, over Mrs. Koret’s objection, failed to advise that an independent appraisal or broker was needed to market the Foundation property and refinance the loan, even though the same broker associated with Taube’s businesses was engaged for both these real estate transactions, according to the suit.

“Greene’s conduct … may expose the Foundation to claims of self-dealing, is contrary to California professional rules for attorneys in avoiding conflicts of interest, and causes economic injury to the Foundation,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that Taube is a shameless self-promoter who has personally selected board members to rubber stamp his decisions in exchange for support of their own pet projects. Additionally, the suit says Taube established his own foundation, called Taube Philanthropies, but uses money and staff from the Koret Foundation to pay for and enhance joint projects of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation.   A review of the Koret Foundation’s public filings shows reported annual salaries and compensation of officers exceeded $1.9 million in 2011, while Taube Philanthropies showed no such expenses for the same period, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit charges that out of the $64 million gifted by the Koret Foundation between 2010 and 2012, nearly 60 percent was spent on causes outside the stated mission of her husband, the late Joseph Koret.

The lawsuit claims conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and breaches of duty abound on the board:

  • The Koret Foundation’s Executive Director Jeffrey Farber provides no independent management, reaps a large salary and perks at the Foundation, has little involvement in grant-making and does only what Taube asks him to do.  Farber is also a member of the Taube Philanthropies board, creating a serious conflict of loyalty and duty.   His wife works for Koret Board member Anita Friedman at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, yet another conflict.

Koret Board Member Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, JFCS, sits on the Taube Philanthropies board as a director. Friedman makes up to $380,000 per year as executive director of JFCS, which is a major recipient of Koret funds. During September’s Koret Foundation meeting, she oversaw and participated in a vote granting $1.2 million to the Shalom Hartman Institute, where she also sits on the board.

While JFCS and Shalom Hartman are worthwhile causes, Friedman has failed to recuse herself in any discussions of massive grants to entities where she is on the board or employed. Friedman sees no conflict in directing millions in additional funds to entities where she has other interests and has no inclination to resign her JFCS position. Friedman has voted against every initiative by Mrs. Koret over the past two years seeking to bring independence, balance and transparency to the Koret board.

  • Michael J. Boskin is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, which has received millions from the Koret Foundation over the years. Earlier this month, the board approved another $280,000 grant to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research where Boskin is also a Senior Fellow and former director. Since 1992, Koret has approved grants totaling $4.5 million to support SIEPR, and millions to Hoover through Stanford.

 

  • Abraham Sofaer is another interlocking director on the board of Taube Philanthropies, and is also a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Hoover Institution, based at Stanford University.  From 2010-2012, the Koret Foundation’s funding to Hoover and Stanford of nearly $4 million was about equal to its total support of all social welfare causes in the Bay Area combined.

 

In the lawsuit, Taube, a member of the Board of Overseers and the Executive Committee of the Hoover Institution, is alleged to have misused Foundation money to pay consultants to write editorials opposing Obama administration policies and to attend trips in support of Hoover.

The lawsuit also alleges that Taube:

  • Reduced funds targeted for Koret Foundation grantees and increased funds to organizations that are his personal favorites.

 

  • Used Koret funds to pay millions of dollars to entities affiliated with him or his close associates to manage the Foundation’s real estate holdings.

 

  • Without board approval, commissioned and installed a life-size mural depicting himself and now hung inside the Koret Foundation’s new headquarters in San Francisco at a cost to the Foundation of $80,000.

 

  • Paid more than $75,000 in Foundation money for promotional materials about himself, including booklets and newspaper advertisements.

 

  • Subsidized the operating costs of Taube Philanthropies by using Koret staff and resources for joint grant projects, and used Koret Foundation resources for travel, marketing and personal expenses.

 

  • Terminated a $35,000 contract of an independent publisher of a book about the life of Joseph and Stephanie Koret, the founder’s first wife. Taube was reportedly angry that the book was not about him or his contributions.

 

  • Along with counsel and board member Richard L. Greene, discriminated against and ridiculed Mrs. Koret and prevented her from speaking with Foundation staff.

Mrs. Koret in her lawsuit pledges to maintain the priorities of her husband by broadening the Koret board to include community leaders while maintaining a majority of Jewish directors.  She is committed to maintaining support for the anchor institutions in the Bay Area that Koret has supported over many years and to prevent any continued diversion of funds to out of mission organization and countries.

 

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

SUED: Anita Friedman, Jewish Family and Children’s Services

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

SUED: Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

President of Koret Foundation

SUED: Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

 

Continue Reading