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LGBT Youth Advocate Wins 2014 SF Peacemaker Award

Anayvette Martinez of LYRIC to be honored at Community Boards Luncheon on June 6

Anayvette Martinez, Founder of the School-Based Initiative for Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC), has been named as the 2014 winner of the Raymond Shonholtz Visionary Peacemaker Award, given to an outstanding individual who has made or is making significant contributions to peacemaking, community building and/or anti-violence work in her or his respective San Francisco neighborhood and community. She will be recognized by Community Boards, San Francisco’s non-profit conflict resolution center, during the fourth annual San Francisco Peacemaker Awards luncheon on Friday, June 6.

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“Martinez exemplifies the Raymond Shonholtz Visionary Peacemaker Award by turning a problem for LGBT students into an opportunity for all students to make peace and build community in San Francisco schools,” says Community Boards Executive Director Darlene Weide. “We are thrilled to recognize her contribution to making San Francisco a more peaceful and better place to live.”

Martinez will be honored alongside two other winners of the 2014 SF Peacemaker Awards. Lincoln High School Senior Sasha Rodriguez, peer mediator and peer counselor, will receive the Gail Sadalla Rising Peacemaker Award, which is awarded to a youth peacemaker (ages 12-24) who is making a difference in his or her school or community, setting an example for other youth in anti-violence and peacemaking activities. Bayview Hunters Point Foundation for Community Improvement will be presented with the Community Boards Leadership Peacemaker Award, presented each year to an organization that is making a meaningful track record in contributing to community building and peacemaking in San Francisco. Bios of all the winners are included below.

The 2014 Peacemaker Awards luncheon is slated for Friday, June 6, from 11 am to 1 pm, at the City Club of San Francisco, located at 155 Sansome Street. Tickets are available online for $175 for individuals, with discounts available for additional guests and for Community Boards members. Table sponsorships are also available, starting at $1000 and including 10 tickets to both the awards luncheon and the morning workshop with continental breakfast.

The Honorable Judge Cruz Reynoso, first Chicano Justice of the California Supreme Court, will present the keynote address, focusing on Restorative Justice. Claudia Viera, Esq., will teach the morning workshop at 9 am, focusing on implicit bias in the mediation process and in court.

About Community Boards

The mission of Community Boards is to empower the communities and individuals of San Francisco with the strength, skills and resources needed to express and resolve conflicts peacefully and appropriately for their culture and environment. Mediation, training and facilitation services are offered in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese to all San Francisco residents. Community Boards serves over 2,000 residents, nonprofits and businesses a year with its pool of 300+ volunteer mediators. Since 1976, Community Boards has assisted 46,000 San Francisco residents and trained more than 16,000 community members to be skilled mediators. More information is available at www.CommunityBoards.org.

About the Peacemakers  Anayvette Martinez: The Raymond Shonholtz Visionary Peacemaker Award

Anayvette Martinez believes every student deserves a safe learning environment, including the 3,000+ lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth in the San Francisco United School District. That’s why she joined Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC), and it’s why she founded the organization’s innovative School-Based Initiative.

According to Martinez, “To create LGBTQ and gender-inclusive schools, we need a holistic strategy. School community transformation doesn’t happen with once a year workshops; we need to envelop these conversations in school norms, curriculum, monthly activities, and bring everyone to the table.”

So, three years ago, she launched and took the helm of LYRIC’s School-Based Initiative. Based on a Restorative Justice approach, the program promotes allyship over tolerance, while giving participants practical tools to address harassment, bullying, and other violence against LGBTQQ youth. Under her leadership, the initiative is making public schools in San Francisco safer for LGBTQQ students by providing a year-long gender/sexuality-emphasized social justice course for students, a professional development training track for teachers and school staff, and discussion circles and support groups for families. Not only has her work made a substantial and immediate impact at Everett Middle School, Balboa High School, Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8, and Mission High School, it serves as a model for schools throughout California and across the nation.

Sasha Rodriguez: The Gail Sadalla Rising Peacemaker Award

“I like feeling like I am actually helping; it brings me satisfaction. I am helping make a difference by helping people make a difference in themselves. When I help other people it actually helps me figure out ways to solve problems in my own life,” she explains.

As a Peer Mediator and Peer Counselor, the Lincoln High School senior helps her fellow students by offering a safe venue and expert mediation skills to resolve conflict between students and with teachers. As one of only two student members of the Restorative Practices Leadership Team, she is working with teachers and staff to introduce and promote Restorative Practices at her school. As a Peer Mentor, she has taken a Freshman under her wing, working one-on-one with her in a support role. And as a Peer Educator, she teaches other young people – at Lincoln High and city-wide – to know their rights with law enforcement.

Teachers and peers describe Rodriguez as a bridge-builder, bridging the often-wide gulf between adults and youth. She actively and consistently amplifies the youth voice at Lincoln High, where she is seen as a role model for collaborative problem solving, effective communication and peacemaking in a diverse environment.

After graduation, she plans to attend Skyline College and work part-time, eventually transferring to a University to study and pursue a career in Marine Biology.

 

Bayview Hunters Point Foundation for Community Improvement:  Community Boards Leadership Peacemaker Award

Residents of Bayview Hunters Point are far too familiar with violence and crime in the neighborhood. And one organization has been working for more than 40 years to ensure they’re just as familiar with resources and opportunities to create an empowered, clean, safe and healthy community. Established by Bayview citizens in 1971 to serve the needs of residents of the community, Bayview Hunters Point Foundation for Community Improvement tackles youth gang violence and other crime head-on by connecting community members with – and fostering collaboration between – existing neighborhood services. Their Community Response Network (CRN) provides counseling at crime scenes as well as continuing support at the hospital, in the home, and in the neighborhood, connecting crime victims, their families, and witnesses with trauma recovery and mental health services, job training and placement, alternative education, health services, and recreation opportunities.

Their Youth Services program provides a safe space for 11-18 year olds to congregate and connects them with counseling and treatment, community beautification projects, and positive educational and recreational opportunities. The ROSIE Project provides hands-on, ongoing support to help 14-25 year old women meet court obligations and follow up with positive life choices in school and the community. The programs are all modeled on a vision of youth advocacy which honors the individual needs of participants, and supports and enhances individual, peer, and family life.

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Shipwreck: San Francisco’s Worst Remains Undiscovered — Along with Millions in Silver

Amazing scenes were witnessed today when it was revealed the elusive wreckage of the City of Chester has been located 216 feet beneath the waves, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge.

That ship’s 1888 sinking killed 16 people; it was the second-worst disaster recorded on the waters of San Francisco Bay.
The worst disaster, however, vanished without a trace. And, as is the case with so many horrendous incidents later rendered insignificant by the Great Quake of 1906, it has equally vanished from public memory.
There is, however, a story to tell. It was 1901. It was the extreme tail end of a journey from Hong Kong to San Francisco.
And it was foggy.
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Golden Gate National Recreation Area Archive
Happier times

 

On Feb. 22, 1901, the City of Rio De Janeiro steamed through the Golden Gate; had it not been so perilously foggy the city’s lights would have beckoned.

The voyage from the Far East was ostensibly 99.9 percent complete. But 99.99 percent is not 100 percent. Some 130 people would soon learn this in the most unforgiving manner possible.
San Francisco’s worst maritime disaster didn’t take long to unfold. The City of Rio de Janeiro sank in just eight minutes after striking submerged rocks near Fort Point. The ship’s underside was ripped nearly completely open and its hold flooded rapidly. Rescue crews only hundreds of yards away remained oblivious due to the dense fog; their first clue of the unfolding tragedy came when lifeboats floated by two hours later.
By the time rescue vessels could be dispatched, it was too late to save many passengers. A few were found clinging to scattered bits of wreckage, but, of the 220-odd people aboard the boat, only 82 were saved — many by Italian fishermen on the scene far sooner than official personnel.
Captain William Ward, who always said he’d go down with his ship, went down with his ship. So did silver ingots with a present-day value exceeding $22 million.
Detritus from the wreck washed up throughout the bay; luggage and chairs were found as far off as Suisun. In 1931, a man known to history only as “Captain Haskell” told gawping news reporters that he’d discovered the vessel with a two-man sub of his own devising. He filed a claim on the wreckage and hatched plans to become a millionaire.
Instead, in July of that year, he would disappear, never to be seen again.
The City of Rio de Janeiro has long since been forgotten. Its wreckage was never recovered.
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Mayor Lee & Board President Chiu Launch Ellis Act Housing Preference Program

New Law Gives Displaced Tenants Preference for City’s Affordable Housing

Mayor Edwin M. Lee and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu today launched the Ellis Act Housing Preference Program (EAHP) for tenants who are evicted under the State Ellis Act. Displaced tenants will now be given preference for the City’s affordable housing programs.

“This gives San Francisco’s longtime tenants and working families the much needed and urgent help they need after an Ellis Act eviction,” said Mayor Lee. “While we work on Ellis Act Reform to eliminate speculative evictions in our City, we are also providing some relief to tenants who can now more easily participate in San Francisco’s affordable housing programs, so that we remain a City for the 100 percent.”

“We must do everything we can to help San Franciscans facing Ellis Act evictions,” said Board President Chiu, who began this legislative effort in October 2013. “This safety net measure assists our most vulnerable tenants and reinforces our commitment to building more affordable housing as quickly as possible.”

The Ellis Act Displacement Emergency Assistance Ordinance, which responded to concerns in the rise of Ellis Act Evictions that paralleled rising market-rate housing prices, was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors and signed into law by Mayor Lee on December 18, 2013.

Landlords subject to the Rent Ordinance must have “just cause” to evict existing tenants. Of several allowable reasons for eviction that are not the tenant’s fault (“No-Fault Evictions”), Owner Move-In and Ellis Act Evictions are historically the most numerous. No-Fault Evictions rose significantly in 2013.

In response, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development created the EAHP to assist the rising number of tenants displaced due to Ellis Act evictions and for whom a market rate rental unit is unaffordable.

The EAHP gives displaced tenant preference in City affordable housing programs. Tenants who have been or may be displaced by Ellis Act Evictions that took place in 2012 or later may apply for an EAHP certificate from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. An EAHP Certificate will give tenants priority consideration to obtain a housing unit in a City-funded or Inclusionary housing development. Applicants must meet program eligibility rules.

For more information on the EAHP and the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, go to sf-moh.org.

 

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Officials from the Netherlands Come to SF to Kick Off Project Senior Vitality – Based on a Successful Dutch Model


Program Connects Seniors to Social Workers and Family via Internet

The Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, and San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim join Curry Senior Center Executive Director Dave Knego to kick off Project Senior Vitality.    The program is a joint effort between the two cities to assist 4,800 of San Francisco Tenderloin’s 14,000 seniors who live alone and are susceptible to states of loneliness, depression, acute and chronic illness and lower vitality.

The program builds on a successful Dutch model, where socially-isolated seniors living in the Netherlands were provided a tablet and a one-on-one coach, who gave 2 hours of weekly tablet training over a period of three months.  After the three months, the seniors were able to easily access the internet, connect with family and friends, create their support network and eventually access specific resources that helped to improve their overall health and nutritional habits.    Results for the Dutch program found that 51% of the seniors experienced less loneliness, and 63% felt safer and more secure in their environment.

Project Senior Vitality is designed to start with Curry Senior Center residents and grow to the surrounding Tenderloin community.  Over three years, Project Senior Vitality will put 250 seniors on an upward quality-of-life spiral focused on peer and community support, less loneliness, better wellness, and self-management of chronic conditions.

“Curry Senior Center has an in-house computer center filled with seniors learning and exploring technology every day.  The Dutch Model takes the desires of seniors toward positive steps in managing their health and wellness, and extends digital access to their own homes.  I see Project Senior Vitality as a win-win for the city of San Francisco and its resident seniors,” said Knego.  “The expected outcomes include: less loneliness, more community connectivity, better resident health at a lower cost and a reduction in the use of emergency health care services. We fully anticipate this scalable effort to grow far beyond our own community. “

Mayor van der Laan, a long-time supporter of the needs of the elderly, will hand out the first tablets and sensors to begin the process of improvements in low-income senior health and well being to two formerly homeless seniors living in Curry Senior Center Housing, Linda Rosependowski and Judith Vincent. Both women were the first two who leaped at the opportunity because they hope to reconnect with family as well as be empowered to be more active in the process of managing their own healthcare. Many other seniors have already signed up on the waiting list even though the program is just getting started.

The pilot is facilitated by Healthcare Innovation Transfer, a Dutch public-private program hosted by the Dutch Consulate General in San Francisco., with additional tangible support offered by two tech companies: San Francisco’s Salesforce.com and Withings in France.

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Powerball Winner to Use $425 Million to Travel, Start Charity

Ray Buxton, the winner of the $425 million Powerball lottery, wants to use his new found fortune to travel and start a foundation to do good by fighting child hunger and promoting pediatric health and education.

Buxton claimed his prize today from the California Lottery and is still overwhelmed with excitement. “Unbelievable” is the best word, he said, to describe his winning the sixth largest Powerball jackpot in history.

“Once the initial shock passed I couldn’t sleep for days,” is how the senior citizen described his feelings after realizing on Feb. 19 that he was sole ticket winner.

Since winning, he said, he has sat in front his computer in disbelief frequently re-checking the numbers across multiple sources. While validating the numbers at the California Lottery web site, he came across the “I Won! Now What? Winners Handbook,” and started to put a plan in motion. As advised in the handbook, it took some time to solidify legal and financial representation.

Buxton said his short term goals are to “spend time with my family and friends, start a charity and consult with professionals on how to pragmatically utilize this windfall.”

“My longer term plan is trying to find a way to live a normal and discreet life,” Buxton added.

Who was the first person he told about winning? Nobody, he said.

“Sitting on a ticket of this value was very scary. It’s amazing how a little slip of paper can change your life. I’m going to enjoy my new job setting up a charitable foundation focused on the areas of pediatric health, child hunger and education,” he added.

Buxton estimates he has been playing the lottery for 20 years. He beat the odds, which were one in 175 million, to become the winner of the $425.3 million Powerball Lottery on Feb. 19. He purchased his ticket at the Dixon Landing Chevron in Milpitas.  His winning Powerball numbers were 17, 49, 54, 35, and 1, with a Powerball number of 34.

He said played the lottery regularly under the mantra: “You can’t win if you don’t play.” The Feb. 19 Powerball jackpot was big – so he decided to test his luck twice purchasing a second ticket for the week’s draw. He had previously purchased an entry for the draw, but luckily chose to purchase a second Powerball ticket while picking up food at the Subway inside Milpitas Chevron on California Circle. It was a smart choice because he ended up matching six of six Powerball numbers to win.

He has selected the cash option, which according to Lottery officials, is around $242.2 million before Federal taxes.

Buxton waited until today to claim his prize. Since winning in February, he has been working with his attorney Susan von Herrmann at the law firm of Schiff Hardin LLP to establish bank accounts, a charity, and work on tax issues.

Buxton does not want to do media interviews at this time and referred all media to his public relations representative Sam Singer of Singer Associates Public Affairs and Public Relations in San Francisco.  Phone: 415-227-9700. Email: Singer@SingerSF.com

 

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Gluten Free Crepes Contest Winner at Squat and Gobble

Jessann Cohn, a trained chef who works as a caterer, has just moved the Gluten Free bar a bit further.   The Haight resident is the winner in the Squat and Gobble gluten free crepe contest and won $300 and a years worth of monthly meals.  Cohn currently works as a caterer with one of the larger SF catering companies.

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“”Crepe’ and ‘Gluten Free’ are rarely heard in the same sentence” according to Squat and Gobble managing partner Issa Sweidan.   “Because we specialize in crepes, we wanted to include an alternative for people with gluten issues.  So we conducted this contest to get some new ideas to make sure all of our customers can enjoy our family-friendly menu.”

Cohn’s winning recipe replaces traditional flour with chickpea flour among its chief ingredients.   Beginning this month a version of her crepe will appear on the menu at all five Squat and Gobble locations.

At the same time, all locations will offer gluten-free pasta, as well.

Squat and Gobble has served the Upper Haight, Lower Haight, Marina, Castro and West Portal since 1994.  Www.squatandgobble.com.

 

 

 

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In San Francisco, Plastic Bottles Going the Way of Plastic Bags

Bottled water is no longer welcome in San Francisco.

The City by the Bay earlier this week scored yet another environmental first when legislators here unanimously voted to end the sale and distribution of plastic bottled water on municipal property—a move that will bring the city nearer its goal of diverting all its waste from landfill or incineration by 2020.

The sales ban takes San Francisco a step beyond former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s 2007 executive order forbidding it to purchase bottled water with city funds. While six states and at least 140 other American cities, such as Seattle, have also officially stopped buying bottled water with municipal money, San Francisco is the first major city to prohibit vendors on its property from selling the item.

The city estimates that worldwide, tens of millions of single-serving plastic water bottles are sent to landfills every year. More than 75 percent of the 50 billion plastic bottles of water consumed by Americans each year—167 per person—are not recycled, according to journalist Charles Fishman.

“Given that San Franciscans can access clean and inexpensive water out of our taps, we need to wean ourselves out of our addiction to plastic water bottles,” said David Chiu, the county supervisor who introduced the ordinance. “The bottled water industry spends millions of dollars to undermine the public’s faith in tap water,” said Lauren DeRusha, an organizer with Corporate Accountability International, whose organization worked with San Francisco on the legislation as part of a national campaign to protect public water systems.

The legislation—which applies to bottles 21 ounces or smaller—will become official if signed by Mayor Ed Lee later this month and will be applied only to new leases and permits granted by the city. Exceptions will be made for events in areas with restricted access to public water until October 2016. Footraces and public sporting events will always be exempt, as will special circumstances where public health and safety are of concern.

The development in San Francisco is part of a growing movement to ban the bottle. Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Vermont have prohibited use of public money to buy single-use plastic bottled water. In January 2013, the town of Concord, Mass., stopped sales of any plastic bottled water 34 ounces or smaller within city limits. Dozens of colleges and universities have rid themselves of the bottles in their stores and vending machines. And U.S. national parks, such as Mount Rainier in Washington state, are getting in on the cause as well. Fourteen have already enacted a ban, says DeRusha, who is working on a national effort with Corporate Accountability International.

Not surprisingly, an industry group expressed opposition to the San Francisco ordinance.

“Water is good for you, and people should be able to choose how they drink it—whether from a tap, a fountain, or recyclable container,” the American Beverage Association expressed in a statement.

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Mayor Lee Announces Doubling Of City’s First Time Home Buyer Down Payment Home Loan Assistance Program

City’s Housing Trust Fund Grows Homeownership Opportunities for San Francisco Residents

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced the doubling of loan amounts for San Francisco’s Down Payment Assistance Loan Program (DALP), a homeownership program that provides financial assistance to low- to moderate-income first time home buyers, by offering a deferred-payment loan that requires no repayment for 40 years or at the re-sale of the unit. Starting this week, individual loans of up to $200,000 will be available to qualified buyers.

“The expansion of the DALP program proves the immediate and tangible impact of the Housing Trust Fund to assist the City’s first time home buyers and provide homeownership opportunities for San Francisco residents,” said Mayor Lee. “This down payment assistance program has assisted many working families in our City and will continue to support our diverse workforce that is so critical to our economy.”

Originally created through the passage of Proposition A in 1996, the program has traditionally provided loans of up to $100,000 for down payment assistance. However, given the high cost of homes in today’s market, a higher loan amount is need to enable low to moderate income borrowers to keep up with market conditions, especially families. Increased DALP amounts will enable San Francisco low to moderate income, first time homebuyers to better compete in today’s housing market, where the current median sales price is in excess of $800,000.

Through the passage of the Housing Trust Fund, the DALP will have available funds of $2 million this year, which will enable the larger downpayment amount to be available for individual down payment loans. The Housing Trust Fund will also provide an additional $1 million for the First Responders Program this year. Altogether, during the first five years following the passage of the Housing Trust Fund, through loans provided through the DALP and the First Responders Program, San Francisco will be able to help at least 100 households buy their first home.

The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) offers qualified buyers a number of programs that can assist first time homebuyers. In addition to the DALP, the BMR – DALP Downpayment Assistance Program (CalHome) aids first time home buyers purchasing a Below Market Rate unit. To date, MOHCD’s homeownership assistance programs have helped almost 3,000 families to buy a home. More than 600 DALP loans have been made, and since this program’s launch in 2013, MOHCD has funded four First Responder loans totaling nearly $500,000, with six other loans in process to close in 2014.

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Squat and Gobble Returns from the Ashes

After nearly 17 months of reconstruction, the West Portal         Squat and Gobble restaurant has returned from the ashes.  The corner of West Portal and Ulloa had turned to rubble in November of 2012 from a fire that has consumed the restaurant and adjacent businesses.

After a new design team headed up by architect Suhel Shatara and interior designer Rod Rossi, created a second floor to be used as a separate meeting/dining space to be used by community groups and private parties along expanded seating areas.

“The new restaurant will be able to serve more customers in a contemporary dining room from a efficient and gorgeous new kitchen,” according to Managing Partner Issa Sweiden.  “Our rebirth also includes a new menu that includes gluten free crepes and pastas and new dinner items.

To celebrate the opening of the new space, Squat and Gobble will offer free coffee to commuters as they go to work all week through March 15.  Also there will be reception for the neighboring businesses and non-profit groups to show them the new space and invite them to book the new private meeting/dining area upstairs.

 

 

 

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Build My Heart Foundation Hosts Major Sports Memorabilia Auction to Raise Money to Support Children with Congenital Heart Disease

Fourth Annual Heart and Soul Gala & Auction scheduled for March 15, 2014 in Emeryville

The Build My Heat Foundation will host a sports memorabilia auction at its upcoming gala from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, March 15 at St. Columba Rectory, 6401 San Pablo Ave, Emeryville.

The free gala event will feature drawings, giveaways, and a silent auction for signed sports memorabilia from notable Bay Area sports teams such as the San Francisco 49ers, the Oakland Raiders, the San Francisco Giants, and the Golden State Warriors. The proceeds will help to support families with children who are affected by heart disease in the Bay Area.

BryceBryce, a Build My Heart Foundation Client

“We are honored to be hosting the Fourth Annual Heart and Soul Gala to spread awareness of congenital heart disease, and raise money to support those families who have been most impacted by it,” said Ella Bell, the founder of Build My Heart.  “We are deeply touched by the generosity of our local sports teams who have provided autographed memorabilia and other auction items that will go toward helping families cope with this disease.”

The Build My Heart Foundation is a non-profit that provides emotional, social, and financial support to at-risk, low income, families with children affected by congenital heart disease. A congenital heart defect is an abnormality in any part of the heart that is present at birth. Heart defects originate in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming. The Foundation was established in 2010 when Ms. Bell’s son, Bryce Malik House, was born and diagnosed with heart disease. She became inspired to help other struggling families in similar situations by raising money to offer them gas cards, hotel accommodations, food, and care packages. To date, the Foundation has worked with over 20 families in the Bay Area to offer their support and services.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information about the Build My Heart Foundation and the Fourth Annual Heart and Soul Gala, please visit www.buildmyheart.org or call 1.866.838.9490.

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Build My Heart Foundation Clients and Friends

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Ecuador Plaintiffs, Steven Donziger, Committed Fraud against Chevron in Ecuador Case

Berlinger and Donziger

Joe Berlinger’s (left) Film “Crude,” paid for by Ecuador Plaintiff Attorney Steven Donziger, ultimately led to a crushing victory for Chevron Corporation in the Ecuador Case

Chevron Corporation won a major victory today when a New York federal judge ruled that the case against the oil company in Ecuador was procured by fraud.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York found that lead plaintiff attorney Steven Donziger used bribery, coercion, fraud and other illegal means to create a fraudulent case against Chevron in Ecuador.

Donziger, whose fraudulent lawsuit was supported by environmental organizations such as AmazonWatch in San Francisco, Rainforest Action Network, Earthrights International, and other alleged environmental groups, might have gotten away with the crime if it were not for the sloppy work of Hollywood movie director Joe Berlinger.

Berlinger, who was paid by the plaintiffs to produce a film that lambasted Chevron for alleged pollution in Ecuador, ultimately and ironically, became Chevron’s savior.

Berlinger’s movie “Crude” produced evidence that led Chevron to its important court victory today in New York.

In making his ruling, Judge Kaplan  said Donziger and the Ecuador plaintiffs used “corrupt means” to secure a multi-billion-dollar pollution judgment against Chevron Corp in Ecuador, giving a major setback for attorneys hoping to collect on the award.

Kaplan said he found “clear and convincing evidence” that attorney Steven Donziger’s legal team bribed an Ecuadorean judge to issue an $18 billion judgment against the oil company in 2011.

The villagers had said Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992.  Ecuador’s high court cut the judgment to $9.5 billion last year.

Kaplan’s decision bars Donziger and environmental groups like AmazonWatch and public relations agent Karen Hinton from enforcing the Ecuadorean ruling in the United States. It may also give Chevron legal ammunition in other countries where the plaintiffs could try to go after Chevron’s assets.

At a six-week trial last year, Chevron accused Donziger of fraud and racketeering and said Texaco cleaned up the site, known as Lago Agrio, before handing it over to a state-controlled entity.

Below is the full text of U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s opening judgement today against Steven Donziger and the Ecuador plaintiffs:

“Steven Donziger, a New York City lawyer, led a group of American and Ecuadorian lawyers who brought an action in Ecuador (the “Lago Agrio” case) in the names of 47 plaintiffs (the“Lago Agrio Plaintiffs” or “LAPs”), on behalf of thousands of indigenous peoples of the Orienté region of Ecuador, against Chevron Corporation (“Chevron”).

They claimed that Chevron was responsible for extensive environmental damage caused by oil activities of Texaco, Inc. (“Texaco”), that ended more than twenty years ago and long before Chevron acquired Texaco’s stock.

After years of pressuring Chevron to settle by a variety of both legitimate and illegitimate means, Donziger and his clients obtained a multibillion dollar judgment (the“Judgment”) in the Ecuadorian courts and now seek to enforce it around the world.

Chevron then brought this action, contending among other things that the Judgment was procured by fraud.  Following a full trial, it now seeks equitable relief against Donziger and the two of his Ecuadorian clients who defended this case in order to prevent any of them from profiting from the alleged fraud or from seeking to enforce the Judgment in the United States.

This case is extraordinary. The facts are many and sometimes complex. They include things that normally come only out of Hollywood – coded emails among Donziger and his colleagues describing their private interactions with and machinations directed at judges and a court appointed expert, their payments to a supposedly neutral expert out of a secret account, a lawyer who invited a film crew to innumerable private strategy meetings and even to ex parte meetings with judges, an Ecuadorian judge who claims to have written the multibillion dollar decision but who was so inexperienced and uncomfortable with civil cases that he had someone else (a former judge who had been removed from the bench) draft some civil decisions for him, an 18-year old typist who supposedly did Internet research in American, English, and French law for the same judge, who knew only Spanish, and much more. The evidence is voluminous.

The transnational elements of the case make it sensitive and challenging. Nevertheless, the Court has had the benefit of a lengthy trial. It has heard 31 witnesses in person and considered deposition and/or other sworn or, in one instance, stipulated testimony of 37 others. It has considered thousands of exhibits. It has made its findings, which of necessity are lengthy and detailed.

Upon consideration of all of the evidence, including the credibility of the witnesses– though several of the most important declined to testify – the Court finds that Donziger began his involvement in this controversy with a desire to improve conditions in the area in which his Ecuadorian clients live. To be sure, he sought also to do well for himself while doing good for others, but there was nothing wrong with that. In the end, however, he and the Ecuadorian lawyers he led corrupted the Lago Agrio case.

They submitted fraudulent evidence. They coerced one judge, first to use a court-appointed, supposedly impartial, “global expert” to make an overall damages assessment and, then, to appoint to that important role a man whom Donziger hand-picked and paid to “totally play ball” with the LAPs.

They then paid a Colorado consulting firm secretly to write all or most of the global expert’s report, falsely presented the report as the work of the court-appointed and supposedly impartial expert, and told half-truths or worse to U.S. courts in attempts to prevent exposure of that and other wrongdoing. Ultimately, the LAP team wrote the Lago Agrio court’s Judgment themselves and promised $500,000 to the Ecuadorian judge to rule in their favor and sign their judgment. If ever there were a case warranting equitable relief with respect to a judgment procured by fraud, this is it.

The defendants seek to avoid responsibility for their actions by emphasizing that the Lago Agrio case took place in Ecuador and by invoking the principle of comity. But that warrants no different conclusion.

Comity and respect for other nations are important. But comity does not command blind acquiescence in injustice, least of all acquiescence within the bounds of our own nation.

Courts of equity long have granted relief against fraudulent judgments entered in other states and, though less frequently, other countries. Moreover, the United States has important interests here. The misconduct at issue was planned, supervised, financed and executed in important (but not all) respects by Americans in the United States in order to extract money from a U.S. victim.

That said, considerations of comity and the avoidance of any misunderstanding have shaped the relief sought here. Chevron no longer seeks, and this Court does not grant, an injunction barring enforcement of the Lago Agrio Judgment anywhere in the world.

What this Court does do is to prevent Donziger and the two LAP Representatives, who are subject to this Court’s personal jurisdiction, from profiting in any way from the egregious fraud that occurred here. That is quite a different matter. Indeed, the LAP Representatives’ lawyer recently conceded before the Second Circuit that the defendants “would not have a problem” with “the alternative relief that [Chevron] would be seeking, such as enjoining the person who paid the bribe from benefitting from it,” assuming that the judge was bribed.

Defendants thus have acknowledged the propriety of equitable relief to prevent individuals subject to the Court’s jurisdiction from benefitting from misdeeds for which they are responsible. And while the Court does enjoin enforcement of the Judgment by these defendants in the United States, that limited injunction raises no issues of comity or international relations. It is the prerogative of American courts to determine whether foreign judgments may be no different conclusion.

Comity and respect for other nations are important. But comity does not command blind acquiescence in injustice, least of all acquiescence within the bounds of our own nation.

Courts of equity long have granted relief against fraudulent judgments entered in other states and, though less frequently, other countries. Moreover, the United States has important interests here.  The misconduct at issue was planned, supervised, financed and executed in important (but not all) respects by Americans in the United States in order to extract money from a U.S. victim.

That said, considerations of comity and the avoidance of any misunderstanding have shaped the relief sought here. Chevron no longer seeks, and this Court does not grant, an injunction barring enforcement of the Lago Agrio Judgment anywhere in the world.

What this Court does do is to prevent Donziger and the two LAP Representatives, who are subject to this Court’s personal jurisdiction, from profiting in any way from the egregious fraud that occurred here. That is quite a different matter. Indeed, the LAP Representatives’ lawyer recently conceded before the Second Circuit that the defendants “would not have a problem” with “the alternative relief that [Chevron] would be seeking, such as enjoining the person who paid the bribe from benefitting from it,” assuming that the judge was bribed.1

Defendants thus have acknowledged the propriety of equitable relief to prevent individuals subject to the Court’s jurisdiction from benefitting from misdeeds for which they are responsible. And while the Court does enjoin enforcement of the Judgment by these defendants in the United States, that limited injunction raises no issues of comity or international relations. It is the prerogative of American courts to determine whether foreign judgments may be laws of any nation that aspires to the rule of law, including Ecuador – and they knew it. Indeed, one Ecuadorian legal team member, in a moment of panicky candor, admitted that if documents exposing just part of what they had done were to come to light, “apart from destroying the proceeding, all of us, your attorneys, might go to jail.”2

It is time to face the facts.”

Link to the judgement: http://tinyurl.com/o8p6gve

 

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San Bruno Files Court Petition for Expedited Hearing for CPUC Public Documents in PG&E Explosion Case

 The City of San Bruno has been assigned a March 27 court date to argue why the California Public Utilities Commission should be ordered to immediately turn over public records believed to show improper contact between senior management and judges, among other public records, related to the Sept. 9, 2010 Pacific Gas & Electric pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

Also, last week, attorneys for San Bruno filed a separate order asking that a Superior Court judge expedite the court’s review and–due to the urgent nature of this case and impending decision by the CPUC’s administrative law judges–quickly demand that the CPUC turn over records connected to the PG&E penalty and fine for the 2010 San Bruno explosion and fire that killed eight people, injured 66 and destroyed scores of homes.

San Bruno believes these records may demonstrate the ongoing “cozy relationships” between the CPUC and PG&E that federal investigators determined to be a leading cause of the explosion and fire.

The hearing in Superior Court is at 9:30 a.m. March 27 in room 203 of the San Francisco Superior Court, 400 McAllister St.

“This lawsuit calls for full transparency so that the people of San Bruno and the citizens of California can be confident about the integrity of this long penalty process against PG&E,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “Due to the urgency and importance of this matter, we’ve asked that the court  expedite the process so that the public can have full knowledge of conversations behind the scenes that may directly affect the outcome of the case to hold PG&E and its shareholders fully accountable for their gross negligence that caused tragedy in our community.”

San Bruno filed the original public records lawsuit in Superior Court on Feb. 4 after the CPUC refused to fulfill four separate public records requests dating back more than 10 months, in violation of the California Public Records Act.

At the center of San Bruno’s legal filing is an email correspondence from Executive Director Paul Clanon to the Administrative Law Judges that allegedly violates the CPUC’s own rules and is believed to demonstrate improper communication and influence between the CPUC’s senior management and the judges tasked with determining whether to levy a recommended $2.45 billion penalty and fine against PG&E.

The CPUC’s excuses for not producing the records have ranged from the deliberative process privilege to arguing that it was “very busy” and would respond when it had free time – a “response that makes a mockery of the value of public participation within its own government,” according to the suit filed on Feb. 4. Every public agency in California has an obligation to respond to requests for public records as a result of legislation that was adopted by the state more than 40 years ago.

San Bruno officials say these records are important because they may reveal the very problems that federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board identified as a cause of PG&E’s persistent and troubling inability to maintain accurate gas pipeline records, which continues to threaten the public’s safety by keeping the utility at risk for future pipeline failures.

“An open, honest and fully transparent process is the only way that we can ensure the safety of PG&E’s gas pipelines so that what happened in San Bruno never happens again, anywhere in California,” Ruane added.

San Bruno city officials have just launched an online petition drive that seeks the public’s participation in calling on the CPUC to hold PG&E and its shareholders accountable for the 2010 pipeline explosion.  San Bruno’s petition – which already has more than 15,000 signatures – is available at: www.gaspipelinesafety.org.

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This Map Shows Why People Should Stop Freaking Out About Rent Prices In San Francisco

From outrageous listing prices to Google Bus protests, soaring rents in San Francisco have been all over the news lately.

But new data from online real estate marketplace Zumper tells an altogether different story.

Zumper compared median prices for 1-bedroom apartments from hundreds of listings posted on their site during the month of January. They then calculated the change from January 2013 to January 2014. What they found was that while some neighborhoods certainly did see an increase in rents year-over-year, rents in other neighborhoods stayed the same or even decreased significantly.

 

11Jan14rentchangesf_RENTCHANGESFZumper

 

Instead of taking information from Craigslist or other boards, Zumper’s platform allows realtors to post their listings directly to their site. According to Zumper Co-founder and COO Taylor Glass-Moore, this means that listings are more accurate, and there’s no duplicate information.

 

Glass-Moore says that one reason for the frenzy surrounding San Francisco rent is that the media tends to focus on certain neighborhoods that have historically been popular with residents, including techies.

“A lot of the focus is on overall prices and trying to identify unit types where there’s been the most appreciation to have a number that is really dramatic,” Glass-Moore said to Business Insider. “Multiple factors are causing the changes, but only one is being discussed.”

The tech sector has largely been blamed for causing rents to rise and longtime residents to be evicted from their homes, but that’s only one part of the problem, according to Glass-Moore.

“Yes, tech is driving demand and prices for apartments, but only in specific neighborhoods,” he said. “A lot of focus is placed on SOMA or the Mission where a lot of tech workers have moved, but that’s not representative of the city as a whole. There are plenty of neighborhoods where people aren’t wearing Google Glass and jumping into a Google shuttle.”

Other factors contributing to high rents include rising construction of luxury condos, increase in short-term rentals (which tend to be more expensive than long-term), and rent-controlled housing. Most units in San Francisco are protected under rent control, but that locks up housing supply, according to Glass-Moore.

Though rents in San Francisco were up 2.74% as a whole over the last year, Downtown and the Financial District were two neighborhoods that saw a decrease of up to 10% in rent prices. Sunset is another desirable neighborhood with relatively reasonable rent.

He also emphasized that high rents in San Francisco are nothing new.

“Rentals were expensive in San Francisco last year as well, so it’s not like they were cheap last year and now they’re much more expensive,” Glass-Moore said. ”The message that I think should be made clear is that San Francisco is still an affordable city to live in if you’re open to other neighborhoods.”

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/san-francisco-rent-map-2014-2#ixzz2uh5h6Id0

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Injured Carpenters in Good Shape, One Recovering at Home, Other Improving, Construction Company Says Work Resumes at 350 Mission St. Construction Site Today

Work Resumes at 350 Mission St. Construction Site Today

State safety inspectors have declared the 350 Mission St. office development site safe for construction work to continue today after two carpenters were injured when vertical scaffolding tipped over according to Webcor Builders officials.

One of the carpenters has already been released, is at home and will soon begin physical therapy. The other is still in the hospital but we are expecting a full recovery, said Jes Pedersen, president of Webcor Builders.

The carpenters were injured around 2:20 p.m. Thursday. The pair was attached to the scaffolding with safety harnesses at about 35 feet above ground.

Cal/OSHA finished investigating the site Friday and gave it’s full clearance to re-start work today on the 30-story tower building adjacent to the new Transbay Transit Center.

“We take all safety precautions very seriously,” Pedersen said. “That’s why these carpenters were attached with safety harnesses.  This was an unfortunate accident and it’s something we work very hard to prevent.”

Webcor Builders broke ground on the project in April 2013 and it is slated to be completed by early 2015.

 

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Mayor Lee & Senator Leno Announce Legislation To Amend State Ellis Act Law To Protect Long-Time Tenants

Closing Loophole in State Law to Prohibit Real Estate Speculators From Using the Ellis Act to Displace Tenants in San Francisco

Today Mayor Edwin M. Lee and State Senator Mark Leno joined State and local leaders, including Assemblymember Phil Ting and Supervisors David Chiu and David Campos along with tenant advocates, labor groups and business leaders to announce legislation closing a loophole in the Ellis Act that allows speculators to buy rent-controlled buildings in San Francisco and immediately evicting long-term tenants. To counter a recent surge in Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco, Senate Bill 1439 authorizes the City to prohibit new property owners from invoking the Ellis Act to evict tenants for five years after the acquisition of a property, ensures that landlords can only activate their Ellis Act rights once, and creates penalties for those who violate the law.

“We have some of the best tenant protections in the country, but unchecked real estate speculation threatens too many of our residents,” said Mayor Lee. “These speculators are turning a quick profit at the expense of long time tenants and do nothing to add needed housing in our City. These are not the landlords the Ellis Act was designed to help, and this legislation gives San Francisco additional tools to protect valuable housing and prevent Ellis Act speculator evictions, which already displace working families and longtime San Franciscans. This carve out is a good policy for San Francisco, and I thank Senator Leno for being a champion on this issue. Together we have built a large coalition of renters, labor and business leaders to fight this battle in Sacramento to support middle income and working families here in our City.”

“The original spirit of California’s Ellis Act was to allow legitimate landlords a way out of the rental business, but in recent years, speculators have been buying up properties in San Francisco with no intention to become landlords but to instead use a loophole in the Ellis Act to evict long-time residents just to turn a profit,” said Senator Leno. “Many of these renters are seniors, disabled people and low-income families with deep roots in their communities and no other local affordable housing options available to them. Our bill gives San Francisco an opportunity to stop the bleeding and save the unique fabric of our city.

Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco have tripled in the last year as more than 300 properties were taken off the rental market. This spike in evictions has occurred simultaneously with huge increases in San Francisco property values and housing prices. About 50 percent of the City’s 2013 evictions were initiated by owners who had held a property for less than one year, and the majority of those happened during the first six months of ownership.

In light of the growing problem of speculative Ellis Act evictions, Mayor Lee joined Senator Leno, Assemblyman Ting, Supervisors Chiu and Campos and a diverse coalition of supporters, including business leaders, property owners and developers, to reform the Ellis Act in Sacramento. Senate Bill 1439 was the result of this effort.

“Rents in San Francisco are at an all-time high. My former neighbors and I, working families and seniors, were displaced from the place we called home for several decades,” said evicted senior Gum Gee Lee. “Those that have yet to receive an Ellis Act notice continue to live in fear, fear that they too will be evicted from their homes. For seniors such as myself who rely on public transportation and access to social and health services within our community, Ellis evictions cut our lifeline, our independence to thrive. For working class families such as my former neighbors from Jackson Street, they continue to struggle to survive in San Francisco. San Francisco is our home.”

Enacted as State law in 1985, the Ellis Act allows owners to evict tenants and quickly turn buildings into Tenancy In Common (TIC) units for resale on the market. In San Francisco, the units that are being cleared are often rent controlled and home to seniors, disabled Californians and working class families. When these affordable rental units are removed from the market, they never return.

SB 1439 will be heard in the State Senate Policy Committees this Spring.

 

 

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San Bruno Online Petition Calls for CPUC to Hold PG&E Accountable for Gas Explosion

The City of San Bruno launched an online petition drive last week that seeks the public’s participation in calling on the California Public Utilities Commission to hold Pacific Gas & Electric Company and its shareholders accountable for the fatal Sept. 9, 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno and to demand that a penalty levied against PG&E is invested in a safety improvement program to prevent future tragedies in other California communities.

More than three years after the explosion, the CPUC’s administrative law judges are expected to issue their recommended penalty in the coming weeks, after which the CPUC’s five-member commission will ultimately determine how much PG&E will be forced to pay for the fatal explosion that federal and state investigators determined was entirely preventable and did not have to happen.

San Bruno’s petition – which already has more than 6,900 signatures – is available at: www.gaspipelinesafety.org, a website established by the City of San Bruno to petition the CPUC through the free, online petition platform Change.org.  City officials said they started the website and petition after members of the public asked how they could voice support for a penalty and fine to force PG&E shareholders to fund repairs to its aging and deadly pipeline infrastructure.

Federal investigators found that PG&E’s years of neglected safety repairs resulted in the 2010 explosion that killed eight, injured 66 and destroyed scores of homes in San Bruno. Now, the City of San Carlos is facing a similar problem with PG&E over similar faulty data for a gas pipeline. PG&E estimates that it doesn’t know the safety status of nearly 20 percent of its thousands of miles of gas pipelines in California.

“The public is outraged by PG&E’s decades of neglect and misallocation of resources that resulted in eight people losing their lives,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “Citizens and cities throughout California are at the same risk of what happened in San Bruno. Now is the time to take action and this petition gives the public that ability.”

“Citizens throughout California often ask me and other city leaders what they can do to support San Bruno and change our broken public utility system,” Ruane said. “We started this online petition to provide the public an outlet for those concerns, and we encourage everyone to join myself and the members of the San Bruno City Council in signing to support a safe gas pipeline system here and in communities everywhere.”

The petition calls on the CPUC to levy the recommended $2.45 Billion penalty and fine against PG&E shareholders – not ratepayers – for the San Bruno explosion, requiring that shareholders  invest in needed repairs to guarantee the safety of PG&E’s aging pipeline infrastructure.

In addition, the petition to the CPUC’s Executive Director asks the CPUC to assign an Independent Monitor to serve as a statewide safety watchdog. The Independent Monitor would protect public safety at the risk of future negligence by PG&E and weak oversight by the politically appointed CPUC commissioners with close ties to utilities.

Last, the petition implores the CPUC to change the way regulators do business and end regulators’ cozy relationships and the conflicts of interest with utility companies. Federal investigators identified these troubling relationships as contributing factors to the disaster in San Bruno.

Every time a member of the public signs the petition, an e-mail will be automatically sent to CPUC Executive Director Paul Clanon, Gov. Jerry Brown and PG&E CEO Tony Earley – sending a direct message that the public is watching and holding them accountable.

“Members of the public, especially those who have been personally affected by PG&E’s gross negligence here and across the state, are invested in this process, and they are paying attention,” Ruane said. “We hope this petition sends the message to not only the CPUC but also to the Governor of California and to the CEO of PG&E that the public is concerned, and that we are watching to make sure public safety is a priority.”

City officials say the public outreach campaign and petition drive at gaspipelinesafety.org is also designed to inform the public about why the ongoing penalty process against PG&E is, more than three years after the explosion, still relevant and important to the safety of communities statewide. Federal investigators determined the explosion to be result of faulty pipeline construction, bad record-keeping and decades of neglected pipeline safety improvements that continue to threaten the safety of communities across California.

PG&E executives recently admitted to serious record-keeping errors and were sanctioned by the CPUC for failing to inform regulators of these problems on a pipeline in San Carlos, Calif. – problems a PG&E engineer likened to “another San Bruno situation” in an internal e-mail to company officials.

It is projected that PG&E will need to spend nearly $10 billion in the coming years to test and replace its gas lines because PG&E historically failed to track and maintain those lines.  City officials say the proposed $2.45 billion penalty and fine is important and necessary because PG&E will be forced to spend it on these very improvements.

More importantly, the penalty is structured such that shareholders – not ratepayers – will be forced to cover these costs, saving ratepayers from shouldering about 20 percent of PG&E’s total capital needs.

“This decision before the CPUC has lasting implications about the safety of our aging pipeline infrastructure,” Ruane said. “We implore members of the public to learn more and support our drive to change a flawed system so that what happened in San Bruno is never permitted to happen again, anywhere.”

Visit www.gaspipelinesafety.org to sign the petition or get more information.

 

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Class Warfare SF Style

The young woman at the blockade was worried about the banner the Oaklanders brought, she told me, because she and her co-organisers had tried to be careful about messaging. But the words FUCK OFF GOOGLE in giant letters on a purple sheet held up in front of a blockaded Google bus gladdened the hearts of other San Franciscans. That morning – it was Tuesday, 21 January – about fifty locals were also holding up a Facebook bus: a gleaming luxury coach transporting Facebook employees down the peninsula to Silicon Valley. A tall young black man held one corner of the banner; he was wearing a Ulysses T-shirt, as if analogue itself had come to protest against digital. The Brass Liberation Orchestra played Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ as the television cameras rolled.

The white buses took up most of the four lanes of Eighth Street at Market, and their passengers were barely visible behind the tinted windows, scowling or texting or looking at their laptops for the half-hour they were delayed by the blockade. GET OFF THE BUS! JOIN US, another banner said, and the official-looking signs from the 9 December blockade were put up at either end of the Facebook bus: WARNING: INCOME GAP AHEAD the one at the front said. STOP DISPLACEMENT NOW, read the one at the back. One protester shook a sign on a stick in front of the Google bus; a young Google employee decided to dance with it, as though we were all at the same party.

We weren’t. One of the curious things about the crisis in San Francisco – precipitated by a huge influx of well-paid tech workers driving up housing costs and causing evictions, gentrification and cultural change – is that they seem unable to understand why many locals don’t love them. They’re convinced that they are members of the tribe. Their confusion may issue from Silicon Valley’s own favourite stories about itself. These days in TED talks and tech-world conversation, commerce is described as art and as revolution and huge corporations are portrayed as agents of the counterculture.

That may actually have been the case, briefly, in the popular tech Genesis story according to which Apple emerged from a garage somewhere at the south end of the San Francisco Peninsula, not yet known as Silicon Valley. But Google set itself up with the help of a $4.5 million dollar government subsidy, and Apple became a giant corporation that begat multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns and overseas sweatshops and the rest that you already know. Facebook, Google, eBay and Yahoo (though not Apple) belong to the conservative anti-environmental political action committee Alec (the American Legislative Exchange Council).

The story Silicon Valley less often tells about itself has to do with dollar signs and weapons systems. The industry came out of military contracting, and its alliance with the Pentagon has never ended. The valley’s first major firm, Hewlett-Packard, was a military contractor. One of its co-founders, David Packard, was an undersecretary of defence in the Nixon administration; his signal contribution as a civil servant was a paper about overriding the laws preventing the imposition of martial law. Many defence contractors have flourished in Silicon Valley in the decades since: weapons contractors United Technologies and Lockheed Martin, as well as sundry makers of drone, satellite and spying equipment and military robotics. Silicon Valley made technology for the military, and the military sponsored research that benefited Silicon Valley. The first supercomputer, made by New York’s Remington Rand, was for nuclear weapons research at the Bay Area’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The internet itself, people sometimes remember, was created by the military, and publicly funded research has done a lot to make the hardware, the software and the vast private fortunes possible. Which you wouldn’t know from the hyperlibertarian language of the tech world’s kings. Even the mildest of them, Bill Gates, said in 1998: ‘There isn’t an industry in America that is more creative, more alive and more competitive. And the amazing thing is that all this happened without any government involvement.’ The current lords talk of various kinds of secession, quite literally at the Seasteading Institute, an organisation that’s looking into building artificial islands outside all national laws and regulations. And taxes. Let someone else subsidise all that research.

The same morning the buses were stopped in downtown San Francisco, some hellraisers went to the Berkeley home of a Google employee who, they say, works on robots for the military. (Google recently purchased eight robotics companies and is going in a lot of new directions, to put it mildly.) After ringing his doorbell, they unfurled a banner that read GOOGLE’S FUTURE STOPS HERE, and then blockaded the Google bus at one of its Berkeley stops. ‘We will not be held hostage by Google’s threat to release massive amounts of carbon should the bus service be stopped,’ their statement said.

So there’s a disconnect in values and goals: Silicon Valley workers seem to want to inhabit the anti-war, social-justice, mutual-aid heart of San Francisco (and the Bay Area). To do so they often displace San Franciscans from their homes. One often hears objections: it isn’t the tech workers coming here who are carrying out the evictions. But they are moving into homes from which people have been evicted. Ivory collectors in China aren’t shooting elephants in Africa, but the elephants are being shot for them. Native sons and daughters also work in the industry, and many of the newcomers may be compassionate, progressive people, but I have seen few signs of resistance, refusal to participate, or even chagrin about their impact from within their ranks.

2013 may be the year San Francisco turned on Silicon Valley and may be the year the world did too. Edward Snowden’s revelations began to flow in June: Silicon Valley was sharing our private data with the National Security Agency. Many statements were made about how reluctantly it was done, how outraged the executives were, but all the relevant companies – Yahoo, Google, Facebook – complied without telling us. These days it appears that the NSA is not their enemy so much as their rival; Facebook and Google are themselves apparently harvesting far more data from us than the US government. Last year, Facebook’s chief security officer went to work for the NSA, and the New York Times said the move underscores the increasingly deep connections between Silicon Valley and the agency and the degree to which they are now in the same business. Both hunt for ways to collect, analyze and exploit large pools of data about millions of Americans. The only difference is that the NSA does it for intelligence, and Silicon Valley does it to make money.

The corporations doing this are not the counterculture, or the underground or bohemia, only the avant-garde of an Orwellian future.

City of Refuge, a church serving people of colour and queer people, left San Francisco, a city that has long considered itself a refuge, last September and moved to Oakland. ‘It became clear,’ its pastor said, ‘what the neighbourhood was saying to us: This is not a haven for social services.’ The current boom is dislodging bookstores, bars, Latino businesses, black businesses, environmental and social-services groups, as well as longtime residents, many of them disabled and elderly. Mary Elizabeth Phillips, who arrived in San Francisco after getting married in 1937, will be 98 when she is driven out of her home of more than half a century.

In many other places eviction means you go and find a comparable place to live: in San Francisco that’s impossible for anyone who’s been here a while and is paying less than the market rate. Money isn’t the only issue: even people who can pay huge sums can’t find anything to rent, because the competition is so fierce. Jonathan Klein, a travel-agency owner in his sixties living with Aids, jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge last year after being driven out of his home, with his business in the Castro facing eviction. ‘EVICTION = DEATH’, a sign at the memorial said, echoing the old ‘SILENCE = DEATH’ slogan of the Aids-activist era.

When it comes to buying a home, your income needs to be nearly one and a half times higher in San Francisco than in the next most expensive city in the US. What began as vague anxiety a couple of years ago has turned into fear, rage and grief. It has also driven people to develop strategies aimed at changing the local and statewide laws that permit the evictions.

When a Google bus was surrounded on 9 December, it made the news all over the English-speaking world. Though what the blockaders wanted wasn’t so easily heard. They were attacked as people who don’t like carpools, by people who don’t get that the buses compete with public transport and that their passengers displace economically vulnerable San Franciscans. It’s as though death came riding in on a pale horse and someone said: ‘What? You don’t like horses?’ Many of the displaced then become commuters but they don’t have luxury coaches pulling up in their neighbourhoods to take them to their jobs and schools in San Francisco: they drive, or patch together routes on public transport, or sink into oblivion and exile. So the Google bus and the Apple bus don’t reduce commuting’s impact. They just transfer it to poorer people.

San Francisco was excoriated again and again by lovers of development and the free market for not being dense enough, on the grounds that if we just built and built and built, everyone would be happily housed. ‘Let San Francisco have the same housing density as Tokyo & Taipei, both earthquake zones, then watch rental costs crater,’ a tech worker tweeted. (His feed also features photographs of a toy mule, the mascot of the company he works for, and occasional outbursts aimed at Edward Snowden.) Another day he insisted with the blithe confidence Silicon Valley seems to beget (as well as the oversimplification Twitter more or less requires): ‘Higher minimum wage and looser, pro-development zoning laws, housing problem in San Francisco goes away. Simple as that.’ (Minimum wage would have to be more than $50 an hour for someone to be able to buy a house in San Francisco, or to ensure that a $3200 a month rent accounted for no more than a third of their pre-tax income.)

San Francisco is already the second densest major metropolitan area in the US, but this isn’t mentioned much, nor is the fact that the densest, New York, is also unaffordable and becoming more so even in its outer boroughs, despite a building boom. Meanwhile San Francisco developers are building 48,000 more units of housing in the few cracks and interstices not already filled in, mostly upscale condominiums far out of most people’s reach, and most of which won’t be available in time to prevent the next round of evictions.

How do you diagnose what is wrong with San Francisco now? People bandy about the word ‘gentrification’, a term usually used for neighbourhoods rather than whole cities. You could say that San Francisco, like New York and other US metropolises, is suffering the reversal of postwar white flight: affluent people, many of them white, decided in the past few decades that cities were nice places to live after all, and started to return, pushing poorer people, many of them non-white, to the margins.

You can also see the explosion as a variation on the new economic divide, in which the few have more and more and the many have less and less: a return to 19th-century social arrangements. (It gets forgotten that the more generous arrangements of the 20th century, in much of Europe and North America, were made in part to sedate insurrectionary fury from below.) It’s the issue to which Occupy Wall Street drew our attention.

It is often said that this city was born with the Gold Rush and that the dot-com boom of the late 1990s bore a great deal of resemblance to this current boom: lots of young technology workers wanted to live here then as now. The dot-commers were forever celebrating the internet as a way to never leave the house and never have random contact with strangers again and even order all your pet food online. But it turned out that many of them wanted exactly the opposite: a walkable, diverse urban life with lots of chances to mingle, though they mingled with their own kind or at least with other young, affluent people in the restaurants and bars and boutiques that sprang up to serve them. Then it all collapsed and quite a few of the tigers of the free market moved back in with their parents, and for several years San Francisco was calm again.

You can think of these booms as half the history of the city: the other half is catastrophe, earthquake, fire, economic bust, deindustrialisation and the scourge of Aids. And maybe you can think of them as the same thing: upheavals that have remade the city again and again. Though something was constant, the sense of the city as separate from the rest of the country, a sanctuary for nonconformists, exiles, war resisters, sex rebels, eccentrics, environmentalists and experimentalists in the arts and sciences, in food, agriculture, law, architecture and social organisation. The city somehow remained hospitable to those on the margins throughout its many incarnations, until now.

But people talking about the crisis don’t talk about urban theory or history. They talk about the Google bus: whether the Google bus should be regulated and pay for the use of public bus stops, and whether it’s having a damaging effect on public transport. There were municipal transport studies on the Google bus, which is shorthand for all the major Silicon Valley tech shuttles that make it possible to commute forty miles down a congested freeway and back daily in comfort, even luxury, while counting the time as being at work (the buses have wifi; the passengers have laptops). In New York Magazine Kevin Roose pointed out that the Google bus was typical of the neoliberal tendency to create elite private solutions and let the public sphere go to hell. A Google bus song was released on YouTube (which belongs to Google), with mocking lyrics about its cushiness and the passengers’ privilege.

A recent bus decoration competition called Bedazzle a Tech Bus seemed to be suggesting that artists could love tech and tech could love artists: the prize was $500. That’s about enough to buy some aspirin or whiskey and pay for a van to take you and your goods to one of the blue-collar cities on the periphery of the Bay Area that are, like most of the US, still struggling in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. The artist Stephanie Syjuco began soliciting proposals from friends and acquaintances and swamping the competition with scathing mock-ups. One showed a bus bearing advertisements for the 1849 Gold Rush; in another, a bus was wrapped in Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa; in a third, a photograph of a homeless encampment was pasted on one of the sleek white buses with tinted windows that transport the well-compensated employees to their tech campuses, as we now call these corporate workplaces. (There are also a lot of badly compensated employees in Silicon Valley, among them the bus drivers, who work for companies that contract their services to the tech giants; the security guards; the people who photograph the innumerable books Google is scanning, whose mostly brown and black hands are occasionally spotted in the images; and the janitors, the dishwashers and others who keep the campus fun for the engineers.)

The winner of the competition submitted a Google Street View photograph of the neighbourhood: not of a generic spot, but of the hallowed charity shop Community Thrift and the mural-covered Clarion Alley next to it. The murals are dedicated to the neighbourhood and to radical politics, and have been painted by some of the city’s best artists of the last twenty years. Against their express wishes, the competition would have their work become the décor – or, as the organisers put it, ‘camouflage’ – for a multinational corporation’s shuttle bus.

On the afternoon of 21 January, the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency held a meeting to discuss putting in place a pilot programme to study the impact of the buses and limit them to two hundred bus stops in the city. As the San Francisco writer Anisse Gross has pointed out, if you evade your fare on a bus, you get fined $110; if you pull a car in at a bus stop, you get fined $271; if you just pay your fare it’s $2 per person. But if you’re the Google bus you will now pay $1 to use the public bus stop. This pissed off a lot of people at the hearing. Not everyone, though. Google had dispatched some of its employees to testify.

The corporation’s memo to the passengers had been leaked the previous day. The memo encouraged them to go to the hearing on company time and told them what to say:

If you do choose to speak in favour of the proposal we thought you might appreciate some guidance on what to say. Feel free to add your own style and opinion:

My shuttle empowers my colleagues and I to reduce our carbon emissions by removing cars from the road.

If the shuttle programme didn’t exist, I would continue to live in San Francisco and drive to work on the peninsula.

I am a shuttle rider, SF resident, and I volunteer at …

The idea of the memo was to make it seem that the luxury buses are reducing, not increasing Silicon Valley’s impact on San Francisco. ‘It’s not a luxury,’ one Google worker said of the bus: ‘It’s just a thing on wheels that gets us to work.’ But a new study concludes that if the buses weren’t available, half the workers wouldn’t drive their own cars from San Francisco to Silicon Valley; nearly a third wouldn’t be willing to live here and commute there at all.

There’s a new job category in San Francisco, though it’s probably a low-paying one: private security guard for the Google bus.

Diary by Rebecca Solnit from The London Review of Books

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City Arts & Lectures Remembers Philip Seymour Hoffman With 2 Days of Film Screenings at the Nourse Theater

 Free Movie Marathon on Saturday February 22 & Sunday February 23 To Include Highlights From The Actor’s Career

City Arts & Lectures will pay tribute to the late actor and director, Philip Seymour Hoffman, with free screenings of nine films. Presented over the course of a weekend – Saturday February 22 and Sunday February 23 – the movie marathon will showcase some of Hoffman’s most memorable roles and his directorial debut. The event is free and open to the public (no tickets required). The Nourse Theater at 275 Hayes Street.

The back-to-back screenings (over nineteen hours playing over the course of two days) encourage people to remember, or perhaps see for the first time, Hoffman’s remarkable talents. The selection testifies to his broad range, his sensitivity to character and story, and the subtlety and concentration Hoffman brought to some of cinema’s most complex characters. The films include early career highlights like Magnolia, Boogie Nights, and The Big Lebowski and under- appreciated works like Synecdoche, New York, where Hoffman plays an eccentric playwright losing his mind, Jack Goes Boating, Hoffman’s directorial debut, and Owning Mahowny, featuring one of Hoffman’s most moving portrayals of an addict. Also screening: The Master, The Savages, and Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead.

Full schedule below and more info at WWW.CITYARTS.NET

About Philip Seymour Hoffman

As one of America’s most appreciated artists, Philip Seymour Hoffman inhabited a nearly impossible range of characters in more than 50 films and in numerous plays, both on and off Broadway. The consummate character actor portrayed flawed, complicated, and lonely individuals with intelligence and depth. His exceptional talent for subtlety and concentration compel many to call him an “actor’s actor,” but Hoffman impressed a much wider audience by bringing profound empathy to what might otherwise be dark or remote characters. Hoffman won an Oscar for his stunning work in “Capote,” and showcased a capacity to transform himself and enliven a part in many other unforgettable roles in movies like “Boogie Nights,” “Happiness,” “The Savages,” “25th Hour,” and “The Master,” and on Broadway in “Death of A Salesman.” In January 2006, City Arts & Lectures presented Hoffman in conversation with Roy Eisenhardt at Davies Symphony Hall. The program was a benefit for New York’s LAByrinth Theater Company, a multi-cultural ensemble devoted to producing new works. Hoffman was Artistic Director at the time. City Arts & Lectures will re-broadcast that conversation Tuesday, February 11 at 8pm on KQED 88.5 FM. Hoffman died on February 2, 2014 at the age of 46.

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Event Schedule

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Saturday, February 22

Magnolia – 10 AM (running time: 180 min)

Synecdoche, New York – 1:30 PM (124 min)

Jack Goes Boating – 4:00 PM (89 min)

The Master – 6:00 PM (144 min)

The Big Lebowski – 9:00 PM (117 min)

Sunday, February 23

Boogie Nights – 12 PM (155 min)

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead – 3 PM (117 min)

Owning Mahowny – 5:00 PM (104 min)

The Savages – 7:00 PM (113 min)

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Transbay Transit Center Completes Excavation of More Than 600,000 Cubic Yards of Soil

Today, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) reached a significant project milestone – completing excavation for the Transbay Transit Center.

“This brings us another step closer to the opening of the ‘Grand Central Station of the West,’ said Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, Executive Director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority. “The Transbay Project has revitalized San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood and will continue to generate economic growth throughout the region. Construction of the new Transbay Transit Center will strengthen the Bay Area’s position as a national leader in sustainable, transit-oriented development.”

Today’s milestone marks the end of an excavation process which removed 640,000 cubic yards of soil from a work site that spans four city blocks and is among the largest excavations in the City’s history.  The excavation for the Transit Center is the equivalent of 120 Olympic size swimming pools or has enough room to stack 50,400 Mini Coopers.  The TJPA recycled much of the excavated soil or sold it for reuse on other construction projects while bay mud or soil with high clay content went to clean landfills.

With the soil removed, crews are free to continue laying the five-foot thick layer of cement that will serve as the foundation for the future Transbay Transit Center.  The foundation, the pouring for which began in September, will ultimately require 60,000 cubic yards of concrete.  Once the foundation is complete, the TJPA will begin erecting the structural steel for the Transit Center.

“After more than three years of hard work below grade, we are excited to bring this building to life as the steel framework emerges from the excavation,” said Executive Director Ayerdi-Kaplan.

The Transbay Transit Center, located between Beale, Mission, Second, and Howard Streets, is a revolutionary transportation facility.  When the Transit Center opens in late 2017, it will connect eight Bay Area counties and is designed to accommodate 11 transit systems, including Caltrain and future intercity rail.  The emerging South of Market neighborhood, focused on the new Transit Center, will become the new heart of downtown San Francisco.  To learn more about the Transbay Project, please visit our website at www.TransbayCenter.org

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Kronos Quartet presents Kronos: World Premiere featuring Bombs of Beirut

The Kronos Quartet / Kronos Performing Arts Association is proud to announce Kronos: Under 30 / #5 World Premiere, a series of four concerts featuring the world premiere of Mary Kouyoumdjian‘s Bombs of Beirut, the 5th work commissioned through the Under 30 Project. Launched in 2003, the Under 30 Project is designed to help nurture the careers of young artists, while enabling Kronos to forge stronger connections with the next creative generation. Each show also features a special locally-based opener: Friction Quartet (Feb. 6), Mobius Trio (Feb. 7), The Living Earth Show (Feb. 8), Amy X Neuburg (Feb. 9.)

Kronos: Under 30 / #5 World Premiere will take place February 6 – 9, 2014 at Z Space in San Francisco.

Kouyoumdjian (pronounced koo-YOOM-gee-an), who lives in New York and grew up in the Bay Area, was chosen from a call for composers that yielded nearly 400 applicants in 43 countries on five continents, the largest response in the program’s history. Upon her selection, she was commissioned to write a work for Kronos. Her new work, Bombs of Beirut, is a 23-minute piece for string quartet with prerecorded backing track and live processing.

A first-generation Armenian-American whose family was directly affected by the Lebanese Civil War and Armenian Genocide, Kouyoumdjian was inspired to create a work that would reflect day-to-day life during wartime in Beirut. Bombs of Beirut includes interviews with the composer’s family and friends about their experience in the war, together with recordings of ambient sounds taken from an apartment balcony during the war. Those recordings include the sounds of missiles hurtling through the air and bombs exploding nearby.

Organized into three connected movements, the piece is designed, says Kouyoumdjian, “to put a human face on violent events in the Middle East and to arouse feelings of disorder and nostalgia.”

The latest installment of the Kronos: Under 30 Project was open to all composers who had not reached the age of 30 by the application deadline. Choosing a recipient from the hundreds of applicants was no simple matter: “What people are writing now is amazing, just thrilling,” says Kronos Quartet Artistic Director David Harrington. “As we narrowed down the field, we were looking for someone who seemed poised to write their breakthrough piece. And every time I came back to Mary’s work, I was magnetized. She’s an exceptional composer, incredibly creative, and her connection to her family’s Armenian history has brought her sensibility into a very beautiful place.”

Each evening Kronos: Under 30 / #5 World Premiere will open with a performance by a special guest artist based in the Bay Area. Those guests include Friction Quartet, a string quartet with a reputation for edgy programming and the commissioning of new works, performing February 6; Mobius Trio, an ensemble of three guitars dedicated to contemporary music, performing February 7; The Living Earth Show, an electro-acoustic guitar and percussion duo which specializes in contemporary compositions, performing February 8; and Amy X Neuburg, a well known Oakland based genre-crossing artist known for her 4-octave vocal range, innovative use of live looping technology, and ‘avant-cabaret’ songs, performing February 9.

The Kronos: Under 30 / #5 World Premiere series will feature two different programs. On Thursday and Friday Kronos will perform works by Krzysztof Penderecki, John Oswald, Bryce Dessner and Dan Becker. On Saturday and Sunday the Quartet will perform works by Krzysztof Penderecki, John Oswald, Geeshie Wiley, Laurie Anderson, Terry Riley and more.

Since its inception in 2003, Kronos: Under 30 Project has commissioned a total of five pieces. Previous commissions include: Alexandra du Bois’ String Quartet: Oculus Pro Oculo Totum Orbem Terrae Caecat (2003), Felipe Pérez Santiago’s CampoSanto (2004), Dan Visconti’s Love Bleeds Radiant (2006) and Aviya Kopelman’s Widows & Lovers (2007).

 

ABOUT THE KRONOS QUARTET

For 40 years, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet-David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello)-has combined a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually re-imagining the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the world’s most celebrated and influential ensembles, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 50 recordings, collaborating with many of the world’s most eclectic composers and performers, and commissioning more than 800 works and arrangements for string quartet. A Grammy winner, Kronos is also the only recipient of both the Polar Music Prize and the Avery Fisher Prize. With a staff of ten, the non-profit Kronos Performing Arts Association (KPAA) manages all aspects of Kronos’ work, including the commissioning of new works, concert tours and home-season performances, and education programs. www.kronosquartet.org

 

ABOUT MARY KOUYOUMDJIAN

Mary Kouyoumdjian is a composer with projects ranging from concert works to multimedia collaborations and film scores. As a first generation Armenian-American and having come from a family directly affected by the Lebanese Civil War and Armenian Genocide, she uses a sonic pallet that draws on her heritage, interest in folk music, and background in experimental composition to progressively blend the old with the new. She has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, Carnegie Hall, the American Composers Forum/JFund, REDSHIFT, the Los Angeles New Music Ensemble, the Nouveau Classical Project, Friction Quartet, Experiments in Opera, and Ensemble Oktoplus. In her work as a composer, orchestrator, and music editor for film, she most recently orchestrated on the soundtrack to The Place Beyond the Pines. Kouyoumdjian holds an M.A. in Scoring for Film & Multimedia from New York University and a B.A. in Music Composition from UC San Diego. She is also a co-founder and the executive director of contemporary music ensemble Hotel Elefant. www.marykouyoumdjian.com

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Drakes Bay Oyster Will Remain Open Pending Supreme Court Petition

Ninth Circuit Grants Motion Based on Significant Possibility of Oyster Farm Win in High Court

The Ninth Circuit has granted Drakes Bay Oyster’s motion to allow the historic oyster farm to remain open while its legal team petitions for the case to be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.  The small, family-owned farm has been in a heated legal battle with federal regulators for its survival.

In granting the stay, the court had to find that there is a “reasonable probability” that the Supreme Court will take this case and a “significant possibility” that the oyster farm will win.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve our community while the high court considers our case,” said Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Farm.

Observers of the closely watched case have expected the Supreme Court might want to hear the case in order to resolve three circuit splits—that is, issues on which two or more circuits in the U.S. court of appeals system have given different interpretations of federal law. The splits in this case are on important issues:  jurisdiction over agency actions, applicability of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and prejudicial error under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The Ninth Circuit majority’s decision also presents a conflict with several decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court itself. In addition, Drakes Bay Oyster will suffer irreparable harm if the mandate is not stayed.

About Drakes Bay Oyster Company

The historic oyster farm in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, Marin County, has been part of the community for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation Point Reyes ranching family, purchased the oyster farm in 2004. Modern environmentalists and proponents of sustainable agriculture praise Drakes Bay Oyster as a superb example of how people can produce high-quality food in harmony with the environment. The farm produces approximately one third of all oysters grown in California, and employs 30 members of the community. The Lunnys also contribute the oyster shells that make possible the restoration of native oysters in San Francisco Bay and the oyster shells used to create habitat for the endangered Snowy Plover and Least Tern. As the last oyster cannery in California, Drakes Bay is the only local (and thus the only safe and affordable) source of these shells. The Lunny family is proud of its contributions to a sustainable food model that conserves and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.com.

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PG&E Attempt to Improperly Influence California PUC Should Result in Penalty, City of San Bruno Demands in Legal Filing

Jack Hagan, CPUC Safety HeadElizaveta Malashenko

Jack Hagan and Elizaveta Malashenko of the CPUC Safety Enforcement Division made allegedly illegal deal with PG&E

San Bruno, Calif. – An attempt by Pacific Gas & Electric Company to broker what appears to be a secret deal with a California Public Utilities Commission staffer should result in significant penalties and fines for the utility company and the creation of an independent monitor to ensure transparency and accountability of the CPUC, San Bruno demanded in a legal filing with the CPUC today.

The apparent backroom deal, revealed in a report by Jaxon Van Derbecken San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, detailed how PG&E hoped to quietly pay  a $375,000 fine to avoid paying a proposed $2.5 billion in penalties and fines for the 2010 San Bruno explosion and fire that killed eight, injured 66, destroyed 38 homes and left a giant hole in the center of the city.

In a legal motion filed with the CPUC on Friday, San Bruno officials demanded that PG&E face a significant fine for violating CPUC rules when, in December, it paid a $375,000 fine imposed by the CPUC’s safety enforcement division – and then quietly asked that the fine count against the multi-billion-dollar penalty it faces for violations stemming from the San Bruno pipeline disaster.

It was revealed that no parties involved in the more than three-year San Bruno penalty proceeding were made aware of PG&E’s secret payment. Instead, the CPUC withdrew the fine and refunded the $375,000 payment amid concerns that PG&E had attempted to broker a backroom deal that could have triggered a form of regulatory double jeopardy, preventing the CPUC’s administrative law judges from levying a sufficient future penalty.

“Instead of being transparent and forthcoming, PG&E appears to have consciously elected to conceal an ill-fated attempt to quietly settle for the fatal and tragic pipeline disaster in San Bruno,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “We believe PG&E should be fined and reprimanded for trying to undermine the ongoing penalty investigation and possibly jeopardizing more than three years of work to ensure that what happened in San Bruno never happens again, anywhere.”

“This attempt to circumvent the legal and public process also raises troubling questions about the CPUC safety division and its staffer who attempted to conceal this backroom deal,” representatives for the city added. “This action is just the latest attempt by the PG&E and some members of the CPUC safety division to hide from public view the unholy alliance and power PG&E has with our State’s regulatory agency.  That is why San Bruno demands an independent monitor to ensure the CPUC is operating properly and transparently.”

The $375,000 fine was originally levied in December by the CPUC’s safety enforcement division in response to a 2012 audit, which concluded that for more than four decades PG&E lacked the proper procedures to monitor its gas-transmission pipelines. Reliable reports indicate that CPUC safety division deputy director Elizaveta Malashenko, who made this deal with PG&E, has a longstanding personal relationship with PG&E outside of her CPUC job.

Because the infraction related directly to the ongoing San Bruno-related penalty proceeding, it should have been handled as part of that process. Instead, it was handled and paid separately, without notification to any parties and in violation of CPUC’s own procedures.

San Bruno officials say they suspect that a backroom deal, involving illegal ex-parte communications between PG&E and the CPUC, played a role in this mishap. Attorneys for San Bruno have filed a public records request to determine whether PG&E officials spoke directly with CPUC leadership to arrange for the fine that PG&E paid – and later tried using to reduce their overall penalty.

In December, the CPUC fined PG&E $14 million for failing to disclose faulty pipeline records in San Carlos to both the CPUC, the public and the City of San Carlos for nearly a year, creating a possibly dangerous public safety issue that one of its own engineers likened to possibly “another San Bruno situation” in an internal email to PG&E executives.

San Bruno officials say this latest attempt to undercut its obligation to the public further underscores the need for an Independent Pipeline Safety Monitor to serve as a vigilant third-party watchdog over both PG&E and its regulator, the CPUC.

“The Commission lacks the resources to effectively comprehend and oversee PG&E’s compliance,” said the city’s filling. “An Independent Monitor would partner with and provide additional resources to the Commission in order to have more robust regulatory oversight necessary to protect the safety of the public.”

The San Bruno filing came on the same day as the announcement that CPUC Commissioner Mark Farron will be resigning from the Commission to concentrate on beating prostate cancer.

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How did toast become the latest artisanal food craze? Ask a trivial question, get a profound, heartbreaking answer.

All the guy was doing was slicing inch-thick pieces of bread, putting them in a toaster, and spreading stuff on them. But what made me stare—blinking to attention in the middle of a workday morning as I waited in line at an unfamiliar café—was the way he did it. He had the solemn intensity of a Ping-Pong player who keeps his game very close to the table: knees slightly bent, wrist flicking the butter knife back and forth, eyes suggesting a kind of flow state.

The coffee shop, called the Red Door, was a spare little operation tucked into the corner of a chic industrial-style art gallery and event space (clients include Facebook, Microsoft, Evernote, Google) in downtown San Francisco. There were just three employees working behind the counter: one making coffee, one taking orders, and the soulful guy making toast. In front of him, laid out in a neat row, were a few long Pullman loaves—the boxy Wonder Bread shape, like a train car, but recognizably handmade and freshly baked. And on the brief menu, toast was a standalone item—at $3 per slice.

It took me just a few seconds to digest what this meant: that toast, like the cupcake and the dill pickle before it, had been elevated to the artisanal plane. So I ordered some. It was pretty good. It tasted just like toast, but better.

A couple of weeks later I was at a place called Acre Coffee in Petaluma, a smallish town about an hour north of San Francisco on Highway 101. Half of the shop’s food menu fell under the heading “Toast Bar.” Not long after that I was with my wife and daughter on Divisadero Street in San Francisco, and we went to The Mill, a big light-filled cafe and bakery with exposed rafters and polished concrete floors, like a rustic Apple Store. There, between the two iPads that served as cash registers, was a small chalkboard that listed the day’s toast menu. Everywhere the offerings were more or less the same: thick slices of good bread, square-shaped, topped with things like small-batch almond butter or apricot marmalade or sea salt.

Back at the Red Door one day, I asked the manager what was going on. Why all the toast? “Tip of the hipster spear,” he said.

I had two reactions to this: First, of course, I rolled my eyes. How silly; how twee; how perfectly San Francisco, this toast. And second, despite myself, I felt a little thrill of discovery. How many weeks would it be, I wondered, before artisanal toast made it to Brooklyn, or Chicago, or Los Angeles? How long before an article appears in Slate telling people all across America that they’re making toast all wrong? How long before the backlash sets in?

For whatever reason, I felt compelled to go looking for the origins of the fancy toast trend. How does such a thing get started? What determines how far it goes? I wanted to know. Maybe I thought it would help me understand the rise of all the seemingly trivial, evanescent things that start in San Francisco and then go supernova across the country—the kinds of products I am usually late to discover and slow to figure out. I’m not sure what kind of answer I expected to turn up. Certainly nothing too impressive or emotionally affecting. But what I found was more surprising and sublime than I could have possibly imagined.

IF THE DISCOVERY OF artisanal toast had made me roll my eyes, it soon made other people in San Francisco downright indignant. I spent the early part of my search following the footsteps of a very low-stakes mob. “$4 Toast: Why the Tech Industry Is Ruining San Francisco” ran the headline of an August article on a local technology news site called VentureBeat.

“Flaunting your wealth has been elevated to new lows,” wrote the author, Jolie O’Dell. “We don’t go to the opera; we overspend on the simplest facets of life.” For a few weeks $4 toast became a rallying cry in the city’s media—an instant parable and parody of the shallow, expensive new San Francisco—inspiring thousands of shares on Facebook, several follow-up articles, and a petition to the mayor’s office demanding relief from the city’s high costs of living.

The butt of all this criticism appeared to be The Mill, the rustic-modern place on Divisadero Street. The Mill was also, I learned, the bakery that supplies the Red Door with its bread. So I assumed I had found the cradle of the toast phenomenon.

I was wrong. When I called Josey Baker, the—yes—baker behind The Mill’s toast, he was a little mystified by the dustup over his product while also a bit taken aback at how popular it had become. “On a busy Saturday or Sunday we’ll make 350 to 400 pieces of toast,” he told me. “It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?”

But Baker assured me that he was not the Chuck Berry of fancy toast. He was its Elvis: he had merely caught the trend on its upswing. The place I was looking for, he and others told me, was a coffee shop in the city’s Outer Sunset neighborhood—a little spot called Trouble.

THE TROUBLE COFFEE & Coconut Club (its full name) is a tiny storefront next door to a Spanish-immersion preschool, about three blocks from the Pacific Ocean in one of the city’s windiest, foggiest, farthest-flung areas. As places of business go, I would call Trouble impressively odd.

Instead of a standard café patio, Trouble’s outdoor seating area is dominated by a substantial section of a tree trunk, stripped of its bark, lying on its side. Around the perimeter are benches and steps and railings made of salvaged wood, but no tables and chairs. On my first visit on a chilly September afternoon, people were lounging on the trunk drinking their coffee and eating slices of toast, looking like lions draped over tree limbs in the Serengeti.

The shop itself is about the size of a single-car garage, with an L-shaped bar made of heavily varnished driftwood. One wall is decorated with a mishmash of artifacts—a walkie-talkie collection, a mannequin torso, some hand tools. A set of old speakers in the back blares a steady stream of punk and noise rock. And a glass refrigerator case beneath the cash register prominently displays a bunch of coconuts and grapefruit. Next to the cash register is a single steel toaster. Trouble’s specialty is a thick slice of locally made white toast, generously covered with butter, cinnamon, and sugar: a variation on the cinnamon toast that everyone’s mom, including mine, seemed to make when I was a kid in the 1980s. It is, for that nostalgic association, the first toast in San Francisco that really made sense to me.

Trouble’s owner, and the apparent originator of San Francisco’s toast craze, is a slight, blue-eyed, 34-year-old woman with freckles tattooed on her cheeks named Giulietta Carrelli. She has a good toast story: She grew up in a rough neighborhood of Cleveland in the ’80s and ’90s in a big immigrant family, her father a tailor from Italy, her mother an ex-nun. The family didn’t eat much standard American food. But cinnamon toast, made in a pinch, was the exception. “We never had pie,” Carrelli says. “Our American comfort food was cinnamon toast.”

The other main players on Trouble’s menu are coffee, young Thai coconuts served with a straw and a spoon for digging out the meat, and shots of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice called “Yoko.” It’s a strange lineup, but each item has specific meaning to Carrelli. Toast, she says, represents comfort. Coffee represents speed and communication. And coconuts represent survival—because it’s possible, Carrelli says, to survive on coconuts provided you also have a source of vitamin C. Hence the Yoko. (Carrelli tested this theory by living mainly on coconuts and grapefruit juice for three years, “unless someone took me out to dinner.”)

The menu also features a go-for-broke option called “Build Your Own Damn House,” which consists of a coffee, a coconut, and a piece of cinnamon toast. Hanging in the door is a manifesto that covers a green chalkboard. “We are local people with useful skills in tangible situations,” it says, among other things. “Drink a cup of Trouble. Eat a coconut. And learn to build your own damn house. We will help. We are building a network.”

If Trouble’s toast itself made instant sense to me, it was less clear how a willfully obscure coffee shop with barely any indoor seating in a cold, inconvenient neighborhood could have been such a successful launch pad for a food trend. In some ways, the shop seemed to make itself downright difficult to like: It serves no decaf, no non-fat milk, no large drinks, and no espressos to go. On Yelp, several reviewers report having been scolded by baristas for trying to take pictures inside the shop with their phones. (“I better not see that up on Instagram!” one reportedly shouted.)

Nevertheless, most people really seem to love Trouble. On my second visit to the shop, there was a steady line of customers out the door. After receiving their orders, they clustered outside to drink their coffees and eat their toast. With no tables and chairs to allow them to pair off, they looked more like neighbors at a block party than customers at a café. And perhaps most remarkably for San Francisco, none of them had their phones out.

Trouble has been so successful, in fact, that Carrelli recently opened a second, even tinier location in the city’s Bayview neighborhood. I met her there one sunny afternoon. She warned me that she probably wouldn’t have much time to talk. But we chatted for nearly three hours.

In public, Carrelli wears a remarkably consistent uniform: a crop top with ripped black jeans and brown leather lace-up boots, with her blond hair wrapped in Jack Sparrowish scarves and headbands. At her waist is a huge silver screaming-eagle belt buckle, and her torso is covered with tattoos of hand tools and designs taken from 18th-century wallpaper patterns. Animated and lucid—her blue eyes bright above a pair of strikingly ruddy cheeks—Carrelli interrupted our long conversation periodically to banter with pretty much every person who visited the shop.

At first, Carrelli explained Trouble as a kind of sociological experiment in engineering spontaneous communication between strangers. She even conducted field research, she says, before opening the shop. “I did a study in New York and San Francisco, standing on the street holding a sandwich, saying hello to people. No one would talk to me. But if I stayed at that same street corner and I was holding a coconut? People would engage,” she said. “I wrote down exactly how many people talked to me.”

The smallness of her cafés is another device to stoke interaction, on the theory that it’s simply hard to avoid talking to people standing nine inches away from you. And cinnamon toast is a kind of all-purpose mollifier: something Carrelli offers her customers whenever Trouble is abrasive, or loud, or crowded, or refuses to give them what they want. “No one can be mad at toast,” she said.

Carrelli’s explanations made a delightfully weird, fleeting kind of sense as I heard them. But then she told me something that made Trouble snap into focus. More than a café, the shop is a carpentered-together, ingenious mechanism—a specialized tool—designed to keep Carrelli tethered to herself.

 

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EVER SINCE SHE WAS in high school, Carrelli says, she has had something called schizoaffective disorder, a condition that combines symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolarity. People who have it are susceptible to both psychotic episodes and bouts of either mania or depression.

Carrelli tends toward the vivid, manic end of the mood spectrum, she says, but the onset of a psychotic episode can shut her down with little warning for hours, days, or, in the worst instances, months. Even on good days, she struggles to maintain a sense of self; for years her main means of achieving this was to write furiously in notebooks, trying to get the essentials down on paper. When an episode comes on, she describes the experience as a kind of death: Sometimes she gets stuck hallucinating, hearing voices, unable to move or see clearly; other times she has wandered the city aimlessly. “Sometimes I don’t recognize myself,” she says. “I get so much disorganized brain activity, I would get lost for 12 hours.”

Carrelli’s early years with her illness were, she says, a blind struggle. Undiagnosed, she worked her way through college—three different colleges, in different corners of the country—by booking shows for underground bands and doing stints at record stores and coffee shops. But her episodes were a kind of time bomb that occasionally leveled any structure in her life. Roommates always ended up kicking her out. Landlords evicted her. Relationships fell apart. Employers either fired her or quietly stopped scheduling her for shifts. After a while, she began anticipating the pattern and taking steps to pre-empt the inevitable. “I moved when people started catching on,” she says. By the time she hit 30, she had lived in nine different cities.

Like a lot of people with mental illness, Carrelli self-medicated with drugs, in her case opiates, and alcohol. And sometimes things got very bad indeed. Throughout her 20s, she was in and out of hospitals and periods of homelessness.

One day in 1999, when Carrelli was living in San Francisco and going to school at the University of California-Berkeley, she took a long walk through the city and ended up on China Beach, a small cove west of the Golden Gate. She describes the scene to me in stark detail: The sun was flickering in and out of intermittent fog. A group of Russian men in Speedos were stepping out of the frigid ocean. And an elderly man was sitting in a deck chair, sunbathing in weather that suggested anything but. Carrelli struck up a conversation with the man, whose name was Glen. In a German accent, he told her that people congregated regularly at China Beach to swim in the ocean. He had done so himself when he was younger, he said, but now he just came to the beach to sunbathe every day.

Carrelli left San Francisco shortly thereafter. (“Everything fell apart,” she says.) But her encounter with the old man made such a profound impression that five years later, in 2004—after burning through stints in South Carolina, Georgia, and New York—she drove back across the country and headed for China Beach. When she arrived, she found Glen sitting in the same spot where she had left him in 1999. That day, as they parted ways, he said, “See you tomorrow.” For the next three years, he said the same words to her pretty much every day. “He became this structure,” Carrelli says, “a constant.”

It was perhaps the safe distance between them—an elderly man and a young woman sitting on a public beach—that made Glen relatively impervious to the detonations that had wiped out every other home she’d ever had. “He couldn’t kick me out,” Carrelli says. She sat with her notebooks, and Glen asked her questions about her experiments with strangers and coconuts. Gradually, she began to find other constants. She started joining the swimmers every day, plunging into the Pacific with no wetsuit, even in winter. Her drinking began to taper off. She landed a job at a coffee shop called Farley’s that she managed to keep for three years. And she began assiduously cultivating a network of friends she could count on for help when she was in trouble—a word she uses frequently to refer to her psychotic episodes—while being careful not to overtax any individual’s generosity.

Carrelli also found safety in simply being well-known—in attracting as many acquaintances as possible. That’s why, she tells me, she had always worked in coffee shops. When she is feeling well, Carrelli is a swashbuckling presence, charismatic and disarmingly curious about people. “She will always make a friend wherever she is,” says Noelle Olivo, a San Francisco escrow and title agent who was a regular customer at Farley’s and later gave Carrelli a place to stay for a couple of months. “People are taken aback by her, but she reaches out.”

This gregariousness was in part a survival mechanism, as were her tattoos and her daily uniform of headscarves, torn jeans, and crop tops. The trick was to be identifiable: The more people who recognized her, the more she stood a chance of being able to recognize herself.

But Carrelli’s grip on stability was still fragile. Between apartments and evictions, she slept in her truck, in parks, at China Beach, on friends’ couches. Then one day in 2006, Carrelli’s boss at Farley’s Coffee discovered her sleeping in the shop, and he told her it was probably time she opened up her own space. “He almost gave me permission to do something I knew I should do,” she recalls. It was clear by then that Carrelli couldn’t really work for anyone else—Farley’s had been unusually forgiving. But she didn’t know how to chart a course forward. At China Beach, she took to her notebooks, filling them with grandiose manifestoes about living with guts and honor and commitment—about, she wrote, building her own damn house.

“Giulietta, you don’t have enough money to eat tonight,” Glen said, bringing her down to Earth. Then he asked her a question that has since appeared in her writing again and again: “What is your useful skill in a tangible situation?”

The answer was easy: she was good at making coffee and good with people. So Glen told her it was time she opened a checking account. He told her to go to city hall and ask if they had information on starting a small business. And she followed his instructions.

With $1,000 borrowed from friends, Carrelli opened Trouble in 2007 in a smelly, cramped, former dog grooming business, on a bleak commercial stretch. She renovated the space pretty much entirely with found materials, and with labor and advice that was bartered for, cajoled, and requested from her community of acquaintances.

She called the shop Trouble, she says, in honor of all the people who helped her when she was in trouble. She called her drip coffee “guts” and her espresso “honor.” She put coconuts on the menu because of the years she had spent relying on them for easy sustenance, and because they truly did help her strike up conversations with strangers. She put toast on the menu because it reminded her of home: “I had lived so long with no comfort,” she says. And she put “Build Your Own Damn House” on the menu because she felt, with Trouble, that she had finally done so.

GLEN—WHOSE FULL NAME was Gunther Neustadt, and who had escaped Germany as a young Jewish boy with his twin sister during World War II—lived to see Trouble open. But he died later that year. In 2008, Carrelli became pregnant and had twins, and she named one of them after her friend from China Beach.

That same year, after having lived in her shop for months, Carrelli got a real apartment. She went completely clean and sober, and has stayed that way. She started to hire staff she could rely on; she worked out a sustainable custody arrangement with her children’s father. And Trouble started to get written up in the press. Customers began to flock there from all over town for toast and coffee and coconuts.

The demands of running the shop, caring for two children, and swimming every day allowed Carrelli to feel increasingly grounded, but her psychotic episodes hardly went away; when they came on, she just kept working somehow. “I have no idea how I ran Trouble,” she says. “I kept piling through.” In 2012, after a five-month episode, Carrelli was hospitalized and, for the first time, given the diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. Under her current treatment regimen, episodes come far less frequently. But still they come.

At bottom, Carrelli says, Trouble is a tool for keeping her alive. “I’m trying to stay connected to the self,” she says. Like one of her old notebooks, the shop has become an externalized set of reference points, an index of Carrelli’s identity. It is her greatest source of dependable routine and her most powerful means of expanding her network of friends and acquaintances, which extends now to the shop’s entire clientele. These days, during a walking episode, Carrelli says, a hello from a casual acquaintance in some unfamiliar part of the city might make the difference between whether she makes it home that night or not. “I’m wearing the same outfit every day,” she says. “I take the same routes every day. I own Trouble Coffee so that people recognize my face—so they can help me.”

After having struggled as an employee in so many coffee shops, she now employs 14 people. In an almost unheard of practice for the café business, she offers them profit-sharing and dental coverage. And she plans on expanding the business even further, maybe opening up to four or five locations. With the proceeds, she hopes to one day open a halfway house for people who have psychotic episodes—a safe place where they can go when they are in trouble.

WHEN I TOLD FRIENDS  back East about the craze for fancy toast that was sweeping across the Bay Area, they laughed and laughed. (How silly; how twee; how San Francisco.) But my bet is that artisanal toast is going national. I’ve already heard reports of sightings in the West Village.

If the spread of toast is a social contagion, then Carrelli was its perfect vector. Most of us dedicate the bulk of our attention to a handful of relationships: with a significant other, children, parents, a few close friends. Social scientists call these “strong ties.” But Carrelli can’t rely on such a small set of intimates. Strong ties have a history of failing her, of buckling under the weight of her illness. So she has adapted by forming as many relationships—as many weak ties—as she possibly can. And webs of weak ties are what allow ideas to spread.

In a city whose economy is increasingly built on digital social networks—but where simple eye contact is at a premium—Giulietta Carrelli’s latticework of small connections is old-fashioned and analog. It is built not for self-presentation, but for self-preservation. And the spread of toast is only one of the things that has arisen from it.

A few weeks ago, I went back to Trouble because I hadn’t yet built my own damn house. When my coconut came, the next guy at the bar shot me a sideways glance. Sitting there with a slice of toast and a large tropical fruit, I felt momentarily self-conscious. Then the guy said to the barista, “Hey, can I get a coconut too?” and the two of us struck up a conversation.


This post originally appeared in the January/February 2014 issue ofPacific Standard as “A Toast Story” by John Gravous.

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A Modern tragedy

After more than 40 years in San Francisco, the progressive independent bookstore Modern Times may have to close its doors in the near future, but not before issuing one final appeal for help from the community.

In the 1990s, Modern Times managed to survive chain retailers’ predatory business strategies and cheap prices. More recently, it was able to withstand changes in the industry due to the increasing popularity of e-books and online retailers. More than half of the independent bookstores in the country shut down between 1990 and 2011.

This time, the threat is local: the gentrification and eviction crises that are on so many San Franciscans’ minds these days.

“Our rents on Valencia Street, where we were for 20-some years, kept going up,” explains Ruth Mahaney, the senior member of the collective that runs Modern Times. “When our most recent lease was up in 2011, the landlord wanted to raise it by over $1,000 a month, probably $2,000.”

The bookstore had already been functioning at a loss for years because of its continually rising rent and other factors. There was no way it could afford such a massive rent increase, so Mahaney and her associates moved deeper into the Mission to their current location on 24th and Alabama streets.

“It’s been lovely,” Mahaney says of the new location. “People in the neighborhood have been really welcoming. We have much better rent and a great landlord. We’re getting new customers and younger people. So we’re really happy there.”

Unfortunately, the bookstore has continued to function at a loss, albeit a much smaller one.

“Since we’ve moved, I think a lot of people haven’t found us again, so we’re not as much a center of activity as we used to be,” Mahaney speculates. “I think a lot of our old customers thought we closed.”

Progressive hub

Modern Times first moved to the Mission District in 1980, nine years after the bookstore opened as an all-volunteer collective project responding to “the hopes and passions” of the ’60s. In the ’70s, it was a resource for political activists striving to make progressive changes for social justice in the US. But by the ’80s, the nation’s political and economic climate had changed. If it wanted to survive, Modern Times would have to change as well.

The bookstore broadened its focus to meet the literary needs and interests of progressive people and the Latino community. It developed the city’s first broad selection of Spanish-language literature and non-fiction. It was among the first bookstores in San Francisco to feature feminist and queer sections. From poetry readings to its Fall Zine Expo showcasing local artists, the variety of events it has hosted over the years made Modern Times a gathering place.

Mahaney and her associates have many ideas for how to make Modern Times a vibrant community space again, from new books to expanded lighting and more comfortable reading chairs.

“We want to make it more of a place for people to hang out and have meetings and events,” she explains. “We want to have all sorts of new events, not just readings. We’ve been remodeling and we have a wonderful space in the back now that works really well for small things. We just need people to find us again.”

Before this new vision of Modern Times can be realized, it will have to find some way to get rid of the debt it incurred trying to pay the rents on Valencia Street.

“We’re hoping to raise $60,000 by the end of January,” Mahaney states. “We need more than that ultimately, but $60,000 will take care of a lot of the back debt and get us going so that we’re on more stable footing. If we can raise that, I think we have a chance. We can make it on the kind of business we have at this point and earn the rest of what we need more gradually, but we need this push first.”

Friends are spreading the word through e-mail and Facebook. During meetings held in the store, these people have spoken up about how important its presence is in the city, and how much they want to see it survive. If the money cannot be raised in time, there is a good chance that Modern Times will shut down.

“We really, really don’t want to do that,” Mahaney is quick to declare, “but we cannot continue to operate at a loss at this point.”

Changing city

When the bookstore first moved to Valencia in 1991, the street was very different. Then, gentrification hit quick and hard. Witnessing the same transformation on 24th Street, the purveyors of Modern Times have joined the anti-gentrification and anti-eviction cause. It might be too late though; the twin plagues might have already fatally infected the bookstore.

“I’ve known Modern Times as a really important part of the fabric of the city since they opened,” says Paul Yamazaki, a coordinating buyer for City Lights, the legendary local independent bookstore harking back from the days of the Beat Generation. “They were not only great booksellers, they were also great citizens of San Francisco.”

City Lights is doing remarkably well, considering the recent economic crisis and the specific hardships that have afflicted the print industry. The last three years have been its best three years, but Yamazaki sees what’s happening to the city.

“We’re losing our economic diversity, which has been such a key part of how San Francisco has developed,” Yamazaki states. “When we lose artists and arts organizations, we lose another thread of that tapestry that’s made San Francisco such a rich and vital place, that diversity of voices. And if we let this continue happening, we’ll walk down 24th Street 10 years from now, and we’ll see not a lot of independent businesses, but a lot of places that look like anywhere else in the United States.”

Whenever Yamazaki finds himself on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, where the independent bookstore Cody’s Books stood from 1956 to 2008, he feels a hole in his heart. He knows the hole made by Modern Times will be even bigger because of the bookstore’s unique political role here.

“It represents a real important part of the politics of the Bay Area, and has been able to keep us informed about a variety of issues throughout its years,” he explains.

This is the bookstore whose phone rang off the hook when the Gulf War began, with calls from people from all over the city who wanted to educate themselves about the Middle East and the economics of oil. In the immediate wake of 9/11, it was here that one could attend a series of lectures investigating media and military responses to the event.

Back in the heyday of protests and demonstrations, Modern Times was who you called to ask where the rally would be starting that day. And if you were arrested by the evening, your one phone call would often go to Modern Times as well, and they would find you a lawyer. There aren’t as many demonstrations as there used to be, but the bookstore remains a crucial source of progressive political information because it has never abandoned its core objective—the mission of keeping dissident ideas in circulation.

From the Bay Guardian

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This Is What San Francisco Could Look Like In 2033

It’s been a wild year for San Francisco. Batkid took over the city, the tech community came under attack and the only thing people can agree on is that the rent is too damn high.

But if the city’s big plans are any indication, the future looks bright — projects are underway from the Embarcadero to the beach. Take a look through some renderings of what San Francisco could look like 20 years from now. Happy New Year to the cool, gray city of love.

1. Warriors Waterfront Arena
NIMBY concerns notwithstanding, the Golden State Warriors’ potential move to San Francisco would bring a 18,000-seat waterfront arena to piers 30-32. The plan faces obstacles from affordable housing advocates and environmental groups, but the stated goal of the project is to “restore the crumbling pier, build a new event pavilion and create nearly eight acres of new public open space on the waterfront –- the equivalent of three new Union Squares.” And, of course, bring the Warriors across the bay to San Francisco.
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2. Transbay Transit Center
Envisioned as the “Grand Central Station of the West,” this transit hub will replace the Transbay Terminal with a new structure near Second and Mission Streets connecting eight Bay Area counties through 11 different transit systems. Scheduled for completion in 2017, the Transbay Transit Center will feature a rippling metal facade, a column allowing natural light into the station and a rooftop City Park with gardens, trails, an open-air amphitheater, a children’s play space, a restaurant and a cafe. Following the transit center’s completion, planners will begin developing a surrounding residential and business neighborhood and extend Caltrain and California High Speed Rail underground.
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Project Architect Pelli Clarke Pelli. Renderings courtesy of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.

3. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Set to open in 2016, the new SFMOMA will tower seven levels and double the former museum’s capacity for art presentation. A threefold expansion of its schoolchildren education program and nearly 15,000 square feet of art-filled space aims to make SFMOMA a stronger pillar of the community, while an environmental design puts it on track to achieve LEED Gold certification.
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4. Candlestick Park
It was one heck of a game. The Atlanta Falcons led the San Francisco 49ers 27-24 and, with less than two minutes on the clock, Atlanta recovered an onside kick, priming the team for victory. But with a deflection and a miracle interception, San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman ran 89 yards for a game-winning touchdown: one final victory for Candlestick Park’s final game.

The San Francisco 49ers head to a new stadium in Santa Clara this year and, though the departure is bittersweet, San Francisco has big plans for the old site. Part of the Hunter’s Point Shipyard project, the park will become an outdoor commercial center with shopping, restaurants and entertainment venues. The center will anchor the massive neighborhood redevelopment plan — the largest development project in the city since the 1906 earthquake. The neighborhood will be home to apartment complexes, affordable housing, community facilities and office space.
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5. Hunter’s Point Shipyard
The decommissioned naval shipyard was closed in 1974 and has since been used by the Shipyard Artists Community. While the artist community will remain, thousands of homes, parks and commercial space will soon rise up around it.

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6. The Fisherman’s Wharf Public Realm Plan
The Fisherman’s Wharf Public Realm Plan reimagines the popular tourist destination with more waterfront access, improved walkability, a stronger identity and more diverse activities to attract locals. The central element of the plan is a revamped Jefferson Street — the most widely used route through the wharf — with widened sidewalks allowing for cafe seating and public recreation space. With improved appearance and street schemes, Danish urban design firm Gehl Architects visualizes a destination that takes advantage of its waterfront access and welcomes tourists and strengthens the community with a clear heart, or center, of Fisherman’s Wharf.
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7. Geary Bus Rapid Transit
The Geary BRT project aims to improve transportation and street conditions on the heavily used Geary Corridor, which includes Geary Boulevard, Geary Street and O’Farrell Street and brings riders from the Richmond district to Downtown. Proposals include lanes exclusively for buses with transit-signal priority and all-door boarding, high-visibility crosswalks with corner “bulb-outs” and medians with improved lighting and stations, landscaping and added trees. The approximately $240 million project is aiming for a 2018 opening.
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8. Central Subway
Already underway, the Central Subway Project will create a light-rail connecting the Bayshore and Mission Bay areas to downtown with stops in SOMA, Yerba Buena, Union Square and Chinatown. The 1.7 mile, $1.56 billion project is expected to open to the public in 2019.
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