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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.

 

toast-2

 

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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FIrst Openly Gay Bishop Rt. Rev. Otis Charles of San Francisco Dies April 24, 1926 – December 26, 2013

The Rt. Rev. Otis Charles, born April 24, 1926 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, died peacefully on December 26, 2013 at San Francisco’s Coming Home Hospice following a brief illness.  Charles was with family at his bedside at the time of his death.

Charles was the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah. Soon after his retirement in 1993 he came out as an openly gay man, making him the first openly gay bishop of any Christian denomination in history. Soon after he and his wife divorced. He relocated to San Francisco, where he helped to found Oasis California, the LGBT Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California. which seeks to open dialogue between LGBT communities and the congregations in which they worship.

Originally from New Jersey, he served first as a priest in Washington, Connecticut. From 1968 until 1982 he was a member of the Standing Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Church, which developed the 1979 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. In 1971, he was elected Bishop of Utah. He was active in the peace movement, and opposed Nevada and Utah being launching sites for the MX missile. In the >House of Bishops, Charles was chair of the Prayer Book Committee and a member of the Bishops’ Committee on Racism. Charles became Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in 1985. Charles also has significant academic achievements, including a Doctorate of Divinity, and a Doctorate of Sacred Theology.

Following his coming out, Charles retained his voting seat in the 300-plus member House of Bishops. Before and following his announcement, he was an active and forceful advocate on behalf of LGBT communities. In 1979, Charles was one of 17 dissenting bishops when the Episcopal Church’s General Convention stated that practicing homosexual clergy were prohibited from ordination  – a decision that continues to generate controversy to this day.  In 1999, Charles was arrested and led away in handcuffs for his civil disobedience at the Church’s General Convention in Denver, Colorado during a protest against what demonstrators described as the Church’s long history of oppression against lesbian and gay peoples.

Charles married Dr. Felipe Sanchez-Paris on September 29, 2008. Sanchez-Paris died on July 31 of this year.  The two appear in the documentary film Love Free or Die, testifying about a resolution directing the Episcopal Church to create a provisional rite for the blessing of same-gender relationships at its General Convention in Anaheim, California, in 2009.

Charles is survived by his first spouse, five children, 10 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, four children of Sanchez-Paris and his San Francisco family.

A memorial service and celebration of the life of Otis Charles will be held at on Saturday, January 11, 2pm at San Francisco’s St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church (500 De Haro Street).

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San Francisco Christmas Eve Day Toy Drive for Children at Handlery Hotel by Firefighters is a Success

 

San Francisco Firefighters Union Local 798 held a successful toy drive to make sure no child went without a toy in San Francisco this Christmas, thanks to Jon Handlery and his family’s landmark San Francisco hotel.

 

Dressed as Santa Claus, San Francisco Firefighter Bob Cuff and costumed characters accompanied by off-duty firefighters were in front of the Handlery Union Square Hotel, 351 Geary (between Powell and Mason), San Francisco from 9 a.m. to midnight on Christmas Eve day.

 

Beloved hotel owner Jon Handlery and Handlery hotel staff served as “Santa’s Helpers” and assisted with the collection of thousands of toys for needy San Francisco kids.

 

The Handlery Hotel has raised $3,500 and donated two barrels of toys to the drive this year to ensure no kid were without a Holiday present.

 

Firefighters Union Local 798 asked people to bring unwrapped toys which were collected in front of the Handlery Hotel. Everyone who brought a toy got free pictures with Santa and many children brought their lists of Christmas wishes to Santa in person.

 

An additional toy drive was held just next door to the hotel at Lefty O’Doul’s bar and pub, a property which is also owned by the Handlery family.

 

SF Firefighters Local 798 Toy Program

 

The Local 798 San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program is celebrating its 64th year of providing toys to San Francisco children in need during the holidays.  The San Francisco Firefighter’s Toy Program is San Francisco’s largest and the nation’s oldest program of its kind.  Since 1949 it has evolved from a few firefighters repairing broken toys and bikes for 15 families to, in 2012, 300 firefighters and friends volunteering their time to distribute over 200,000 toys to more than 40,000 disadvantaged children.

 

Besides helping individual families in need, the Toy Program serves many community organizations, including shelters for abused women and children, inner-city schools, children’s cancer wards, and pediatric AIDS units.

 

The Toy Program is made possible through public donations and the efforts and contributions of Local 798 members.

 

Firefighters Union Local 798 wishes to thank Jon Handlery & the staff of the Handlery Union Square hotel for welcoming the Toy Program at their property.

 

 

The Handlery Union Square Hotel

 

Located at Union Square, the Handlery Union Square Hotel offers the perfect San Francisco lodging for vacationers and business travelers.  As a fourth generation family-owned hotel, the Handlery has created great experiences for guests by offering personal service, beautifully appointed rooms, and a warm atmosphere.  Ideally located right next to the world famous Powell Street cable car line, the Handlery Union Square Hotel is a beloved San Francisco institution.

 

 

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Canvasback Missions Takes a Major Step in the Fight Against Diabetes in the Marshall Islands

By Alexander Hirata

Canvasback Missions has spent years working to reverse the diabetes epidemic in the Marshall Islands. They’ve brought specialty medical care to the islands for over 30 years, and have run the Diabetes Wellness Center on Majuro since 2006. Now, Canvasback is working to reverse the epidemic of diabetes in the Marshall Islands by preventing the onset of the disease before it begins.

 

Made possible by a generous grant from the World Diabetes Foundation, Canvasback is working with Antonia Demas, Ph.D., and Marshall Islands health officials to bring health education into the classroom. Dr. Demas has visited the Marshall Islands twice so far, traveling last with Canvasback co-founder Jacque Spence and employee Jaylene Chung to implement trials of the new food education curriculum in the public schools on Majuro and Ebeye in October. The team trained instructors how to teach from the curriculum, which involves special hands-on activities to engage children and make food education fun.

 

Dr. Antonia Demas studied education, nutrition, and anthropology at Cornell University. She has developed food-based curricula for schools for over 40 years, successfully implementing her “Food is Elementary” program in over 3,000 schools. Demas is also the founder and president of the New York-based Food Studies Institute, a not-for-profit created to improve children’s health through food education.

 

One of Demas’ key beliefs is that the food we eat directly affects our health. Processed foods have replaced natural ones, and chemical preservatives are now a regular part of our diets. Demas believes that children are the ideal group to teach food literacy to: they don’t have established diets that are difficult to change; they are open to new ideas, especially if taught using sensory (taste, touch, and visual) methods; and healthy habits now would prevent illnesses later.

 

Canvasback is proud to work with Demas, because both know that food education is essential to reverse diabetes in the Marshall Islands. It is cost-efficient, slipping into the existing educational system, yet its effects will last for a lifetime. And once established, local schools and teachers will be in full control of the program. The most difficult part of the program won’t be getting kids interested in healthy eating–it will be waiting years to see how well it pays off.

 

To learn more about the work of Canvasback Missions, contact them at: 940 Adams St., Suite R, Benicia, Calif. 94510. Phone: 800-793-7245 or email them at info@canvasback.org

 

 

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California PUC to Consider Historic Fine Against PG&E and Orrick Herrington Law Firm Attorney in Faulty Gas Line Case

Joseph M. Malkin

PG&E and its Orrick Herrington Attorney are Facing Historic Fines and Legal Sanctions for Misleading the California Public Utilities Commission

The California Public Utilities Commission will vote on historic sanctions and a fine of up to $17 million against the Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. Thursday, Dec. 19 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.

PG&E and its attorney Joseph M. Malkin of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP law firm are facing a fine of up to $17 million for violating CPUC rules and discreetly filing an “errata” – the legal term for a minor correction – on the status of two pipelines, located in San Carlos and Millbrae, nearly a year after a gas leak unexpectedly revealed faulty records for those pipelines.

Pipelines listed as “seamless,” as in the case of the line that ruptured in San Bruno, were in fact a 1929 vintage welded and reconditioned gas pipe with a strength test less than records showed. The legal correction was made quietly on the afternoon of July 3, 2013, a day before the CPUC took off for the July Fourth holiday, disclosing the fact that PG&E had relied on faulty records to determine the specifications for those pipelines to handle gas at high pressure.

The Commission will make this decision three weeks after PG&E CEO and Chairman Tony Earley made a special presentation before the CPUC in an attempt to convince commissioners and the public of the company’s renewed commitment to safety. Earley was met with a skeptical commission, which challenged PG&E’s credibility in the face of mounting recordkeeping errors and threats to public safety. “We find ourselves here today with a public that doesn’t believe you and in many respects doesn’t believe us,” Commissioner Mike Florio said to Earley at the hearing.

City of San Bruno officials have agreed with the proposed fine against PG&E and are calling on the CPUC to uphold proposed sanctions against PG&E for deliberately covering up the facts after it used faulty records to determine that two Bay Area pipelines could safely operate – a decision demonstrating the continued problem with PG&E record keeping practices. Bad record keeping was one of the causes of the 2010 PG&E disaster in San Bruno and continues to threaten public safety.

Calling the July 3 PG&E filing a “brazen and calculated act of damage control,” San Bruno attorneys say PG&E’s legal maneuver illustrates PG&E’s ongoing attempts to cover its tracks as it continues to use natural gas pipelines at inappropriate operating pressures, without accurate records and with the same flawed materials that caused a tragic explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more.

City officials were shocked to discover that, after gross negligence and bad recordkeeping by PG&E resulted in the fatal tragedy in San Bruno, PG&E paid its legal team to perpetuate their deception at the risk of public safety. They are now calling on the CPUC to issue sanctions and send the strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. Officials question how many communities must endure tragedy before PG&E and our state utility regulators wake up and put safety first.

Faulty recordkeeping was found to be a major contributor to the explosion and fire in San Bruno after federal and state investigators found that PG&E had maintained bad or nonexistent pipeline safety records for much of its 1,000+ miles of urban natural gas transmission lines. As a result, state regulators required PG&E to lower pressure on its other Peninsula gas pipelines until safety records could be verified.

In 2011, PG&E declared that the pipeline construction records were accurate for both Line 101, which runs from Milpitas to San Francisco, and Line 147, which runs in the San Carlos area. Based on PG&E’s representations, the CPUC allowed PG&E to increase the pressure back to pre-explosion levels.

In reality, PG&E’s pipelines were not rated to operate at higher pressure, as revealed after an October 2012 corrosion-related leak in San Carlos revealed seams in the pipeline previously not thought to exist. Yet, it took nine months for the company to admit – by way of the subtle “errata” filing — that the records it had relied on to make that determination were faulty.

At previous CPUC hearings, regulators pressed PG&E over the “profoundly troubling” oversight, which occurred despite “the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for record review and validation.” PG&E now faces fines of up to $17 million, on top of a possible $2.25 billion penalty and fine stemming from the fatal 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno.

San Bruno officials say this is just the latest example of PG&E expending millions on top attorneys – more than $120 million by PG&E’s own admission – to subvert the truth and put profits over people.

 

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Congresswoman Uses Steak, Vodka, And Caviar To Hammer Republicans On Food Stamp Cuts

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier decided to make an unconventional pitch on the House of Representatives floor Thursday to defend food stamps. Speier used a cooked steak, a bottle of vodka, and a can of caviar to point out members of Congress who had large numbers of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in their districts but opposed the program. The congresswoman pointed out many of the same members of Congress took trips around the world with large stipends for food and lodging.

“In my district, California 14, we have about 4,000 families who are on food stamps, but some of my colleagues have thousands and thousands more,” Rep. Speier said. “Yet, they somehow feel like crusaders, like heroes when they vote to cut food stamps. Some of these same members travel to foreign countries under the guise of official business. They dine at lavish restaurants, eating steak, vodka and even caviar. They receive money to do this. That’s right, they don’t pay out of pocket for these meals.”

Speier went on, using particular examples of members of Congress who went on sponsored trips and spent large amounts of money on food and lodging.

“Let me give you a few examples: One member was given $127.41 a day for food on his trip to Argentina. He probably had a fair amount of steak,” she said.

“Another member was given $3,588 for food and lodging during a six-day trip to Russia. He probably drank a fair amount of vodka and probably even had some caviar. That particular member has 21,000 food stamp recipients in his district. One of those people who is on food stamps could live a year on what this congressman spent on food and lodging for six days,” she added.

“Another 20 members made a trip to Dublin, Ireland. They got $166 a day for food. These members didn’t pay a dime. They received almost $200 for a single meal only for themselves. Yet, for them the idea of helping fellow Americans spend less than $5 a day makes their skin crawl. The families of veterans, of farmers, of the disabled, of the working poor are not visible to them, not even when they are their own constituents.”

In a previous article, BuzzFeed pointed out many of the Republican members of Congress leading the charge to limit the food stamp program represented large numbers of food stamp recipients.

A quick BuzzFeed search found that the member of Congress who took the trip to Argentina who spent $127 was Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma and the trip wassponsored by the Franklin Center for Global Policy Exchange. The member of Congress who took the trip to Russia was Rep. Steve King of Iowa. The 20 members of Congress who went to Dublin can be found here. The trip, sponsored by the Franklin Center for Global Policy Exchange, had an estimated budget of $450,000 to $750,000 according to Roll Call.

From Buzzfeed

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APP TO HELP RESIDENTS KEEP FOOD ON TABLE

Developed by Code of America Fellow, Promptly is Nation’s First Human Services Text Message App

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today launched Promptly, the first application in the country created to send text message notifications for human services clients. Developed by a Code for America Fellow at City Hall this year, Promptly provides clear and concise text messages delivered directly to San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) clients that allows them to quickly take action to preserve their benefits.

“Our City strives for strong, healthy communities that can participate in a prosperous economy, and Promptly helps us achieve this by enabling beneficiaries of programs like CalFresh to keep food on the table for their families,” said Mayor Lee. “I am impressed with the partnership with Code for America that uses innovation to help some of our most vulnerable residents.”

The application was built by Code for America Fellows in collaboration with the San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) and the Mayor’s Office. Promptly is first rolling out with CalFresh clients and then will continue on to other programs. When benefits for a client change or need to be renewed, they are currently mailed a notice of this change. However, these paper notices may be missed for a number of reasons – meaning a client’s benefits could expire without their knowledge until an inopportune time, like when checking out at the grocery store. Once this happens, reinstating benefits after a lapse can be frustrating and time consuming for the client. Text messages, delivered in addition to the mailed notices, reduce the likelihood of these lapses.
“The Human Services Agency mission is to promote well-being and self-sufficiency among individuals, families and communities in San Francisco,” said HSA Executive Director Trent Rhorer. “We must constantly improve ways for our residents to access our benefits and remain enrolled to receive the services they need. Promptly is a huge step forward towards doing just that.”

So far, 700 users have already signed up to receive text messages. In early piloting of the program, HSA has texted around 100 clients with a 50 percent response rate—a far greater response rate than traditional mailers or email. With more than 90 percent of the U.S. population having access to short message system (SMS) or text message capabilities on their cell phones, Promptly stands to make a big impact as more individuals enroll. Text messages from Promptly are translated into six languages.

“We are excited to let HSA clients know about Promptly. Both HSA and our team believe that text messaging is a quick and easy way to reach people who are in danger of not receiving necessary benefits. If clients receive a text message that enables them to stay on benefits – that’s food that a client has for the next six months,” said Andy Hull, a Code for America Fellow. “This project was a true collaboration between Code for America and the City of San Francisco, and we’re looking forward to expanding Promptly to every HSA client in San Francisco.”
Code for America

Founded in 2009, Code for America (CfA) is a nonprofit collaborating with local governments to foster and facilitate innovation. CfA is known for its fellowship program, which embeds tech and design professionals in local governments explore new approaches to resolving local challenges. Through the Accelerator, Brigade, and Peer Network programs, CfA is connecting cities with startups and volunteers, as well as each other. For more information, go to: www.codeforamerica.org.

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Scavenged Materials Used to Construct First “Recycled Holiday Tree” as Hillsdale Shopping Center Kicks-Off Holiday Season with “Zero Waste” Tree

Recycled plastic, plywood and bed slats scavenged and reused by Recology to make recycled tree

Hillsdale Shopping Center is bringing sustainable holiday cheer to patrons by installing its very first recycled tree, designed by Recology San Mateo County (RSMC), located in the South End of the Center near Forever 21.

“The holidays are a time for sharing and we thought the concept of sharing recycled materials was a fun way to share the idea of reuse with our community,” said Christine Kupczak of Hillsdale Shopping Center.

The tree was designed by the employee-owners of Recology San Mateo County and built from scavenged materials found in Recology’s Disposal and Recycling Centers in San Francisco and San Bruno. The tree stands roughly eight feet tall and was built from an Ikea bed frame, recycled plastic bottles, and plywood.

“We believe this tree serves as a beautiful reminder to all of us to be more conscientious about our environment this holiday season,” Kupczak said.

Recology V.P and General Manager Mario Puccinelli said that even the toy wagon and tricycle around the tree were rescued from the disposal area. “With just a little elbow grease and a coat of fresh paint they are ready to be enjoyed again and will be donated to the Redwood City/San Mateo County Toy Drive” said Puccinelli.

The tree will be installed at 9 a.m., Monday, Nov. 25 and will be on display through the end of December

For more information about how you can make your holiday just a little greener this season, check out Recology’s Holiday Tips page at www.recologysanmateocounty.com/holiday_tips.php

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MAYOR ANNOUNCES NEW NONPROFIT VENTURE TO PROVIDE PERMANENT HOMES FOR ARTS ORGANIZATIONS IN CENTRAL MARKET & THE TENDERLOIN

Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) Keeps Arts Organizations Thriving in Central Market & Tenderloin Neighborhoods

Mayor Edwin M. Lee and District Six Supervisor Jane Kim joined newly formed nonprofit Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) to announce the purchase of two arts building in the Central Market and the Tenderloin.

The CAST purchase will allow the Luggage Store Gallery owners to maintain occupancy of their building and ultimately to assume full ownership, which was at risk of sale due to private investors, and will enable the Luggage Store Gallery’s subtenant Hospitality House Community Art Program to sign a long term lease. CAST also announced the purchase of the underutilized former adult theater at 80 Turk Street in the Tenderloin, one block off Market, and CounterPULSE, a cornerstone of the Bay Area performing arts scene now located South of Market in a building it rents, will begin fundraising to assume ownership of the 80 Turk Street building and move its multi-use performing arts facility in early 2015.

“A major transformation is underway on Central Market, and arts are central to that revitalization,” said Mayor Lee. “Long-time neighborhood institutions like CounterPULSE and The Luggage Store not only anchor the growing arts district but maintain the fabric of creative nonprofit organizations that characterize Central Market.  Creative endeavors like CAST propel the City’s efforts to enhance the role of arts organizations in the neighborhood while ensuring the longevity of these important institutions.”

“I appreciate the importance of permanent physical centers to provide stable spaces for generating creativity and audiences for the arts,” said Supervisor Kim. “Recognizing the challenges for the arts during the last boom cycle, CAST took action and developed a program to permanently acquire buildings in the Tenderloin and Central Market to support these organizations. This is one solution the City can continue to support and expand in order to preserve what builds community and neighborhoods.

CAST was recently formed by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF) to support the City’s efforts to expand and provide long-term stability to arts groups in Central Market and the Tenderloin as part of the Central Market Economic Strategy. The Kenneth Rainin Foundation committed $5 million over five years as seed funding to pilot their program for stabilizing space for community arts organizations in the Central Market area. The pilot program includes the acquisition of two arts facilities sites in Central Market and the Tenderloin.

The City’s Grants for the Arts, the Arts Commission, and Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) are currently providing over $150,000 capacity-building funding for the Luggage Store Gallery and $180,000 to CounterPULSE for capacity-building and predevelopment for the Turk Street theater space. CAST will work closely with tenant organizations as they raise the remaining funds for building renovations. CAST is seeking capital to undertake more acquisitions to serve as permanent affordable art space in the neighborhood.

“CAST will enable these nonprofit arts organizations to build their capacity and contribute to the neighborhood’s vibrancy without the threat of displacement,” said CAST Board Chair said Eric Rodenbeck. “This is particularly important in the Tenderloin and Central Market where skyrocketing property values threaten the stability of community arts organizations.”

“In taking these vital first steps, CAST, with relatively limited means, is making the effort to achieve an equitable transformation of our Mid-Market neighborhood, securing affordable housing for not for profit arts organizations and the artists they serve,” said The Luggage Store Co-Founder and Director Darryl Smith

“I believe the arts can play a powerful role during this time of rapid change in our City,” said CounterPULSE Executive and Artistic Director Jessica Robinson Love. “CounterPULSE is a hub where long-time low-income residents are as valued as the tech workers new to the neighborhood, and where these communities can come into dialogue through shared cultural experiences. Participating in CAST offers us a unique opportunity to secure our future, and we will be looking to the community for the additional support we need to renovate and purchase our new building.”

Mayor Lee and Supervisor Kim also announced the availability of real estate and financing technical assistance services to nonprofit arts organizations and small businesses on Central Market, Sixth Street and the Tenderloin through City funding for NCCLF and Urban Solutions. The Central Market/Tenderloin Technical Assistance Program, along with CAST, were developed as part of the implementation of the Central Market Economic Strategy, whose objectives included the cultivation of an arts district in the area and a vibrant cluster of retail storefronts. The program is coordinated through OEWD and can assist existing nonprofit and small businesses in the neighborhood as well as act as a resource for those wishing to locate in the area. A primary goal of the program is to secure long-term leases for these businesses and organizations.

About Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST)

CAST purchases and leases space for the exclusive use of nonprofit arts organizations while also providing these groups with technical assistance to develop and expand their capacity to fundraise, manage their facilities effectively, and potentially own their building. CAST seeks additional support from foundations, individuals and investors for its capacity building efforts and expansion beyond its pilot projects. For more information, go to: www.cast-sf.org.

About Kenneth Rainin Foundation

The mission of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation is to enhance quality of life by championing and sustaining the arts, promoting early childhood literacy, and supporting research to cure chronic disease. The Foundation believes that people trying to affect change need an early champion for their ideas. Like its founder, the Foundation listens to and invests in innovative and collaborative projects that can achieve real breakthroughs and make life better for us all. For more information, go to: www.krfoundation.org.

About Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF)

NCCLF is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution that provides financial resources and real estate consulting and financial training to nonprofits that serve low-income communities throughout the 46 Northern California counties in its service area. NCCLF’s  mission is to alleviate poverty and provide economic justice to low-income, low-wealth and disadvantaged communities. NCCLF is one of the lead advisors for the Mayor’s Central Market Economic Strategy on revitalizing the Central Market area and also provides financial training and real estate consulting to nonprofits and project management services for CAST.  For more information, go to: www.ncclf.org.

About CounterPULSE

CounterPULSE is building a movement of risk-taking art that shatters assumptions and builds community.  The organization serves as an incubator for the creation of socially relevant, community-based art and culture by offering  a high-quality season of contemporary dance, theater and performance, providing subsidized studio space and support services to independent artists and cultural innovators, and partnering with social service organizations to offer unique arts experiences to youth, seniors, and neighborhood residents. For more information, go to: www.counterpulse.org.

About The Luggage Store Gallery

The Luggage Store Gallery (as known as 509 Cultural Center) is an artist-run nonprofit multidisciplinary arts organization founded in 1987 by a group of Tenderloin artists  and residents to build community by organizing arts programming accessible to and reflect of the Bay Area’s residents.  Their innovative programs are designed to broaden social and aesthetic networks, to encourage the flow of images and ideas between the diverse cultural communities that cross paths in the exceptionally dynamic downtown San Francisco neighborhood.  They operate three distinct venues: the Luggage Store Gallery, the Luggage Store Annex at 509 Ellis, and the Tenderloin National Forest at 511 Ellis Street.

About Hospitality House Community Art Program

Hospitality House is a community center for San Francisco’s Tenderloin, Mid-Market, and Sixth Street Corridor neighborhoods. Their Community Arts Program is the City’s only free-of-charge fine arts studio and gallery, offering more than 250 community artists the materials and space to create, exhibit, and sell their artwork.

 

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CAL PERFORMANCES PRESENTS ITS SECOND ANNUAL ARTS LEARNING CONFERENCE “REACHING FOR THE STARS” ON WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, FROM 11:00 A.M. TO 7:00 P.M. AT ZELLERBACH HALL

This year’s focus is Turning STEM to STEAM—

Enlivening Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics through Arts Integration

 Cal Performances’ second annual arts learning conference invites educators, scientists, artists, and policymakers to sustained dialogue about Turning STEM to STEAM—Enlivening Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics through Arts Integration. Conference goers will explore the commonalities between scientific and artistic thinking and delve into arts-based approaches to academic subjects on Wednesday, November 13 from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall. “This ongoing series of conferences speak to the values that sit at the heart of Cal Performances: the importance of the arts in every child’s education,” said Matías Tarnopolsky, Artistic and Executive Director of Cal Performances. “During this event we will explore the essential nature of arts education and how it transforms classrooms and the lives of students.”

Conference presenters include Jason Neulander, the creator and director of The Intergalactic Nemesis: Book One: Target Earth; keynote speaker Kenneth Goldberg, Distinguished  Professor of New Media and Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at UC Berkeley; Milton Chen, Senior Fellow and Executive Director Emeritus at The George Lucas Educational Foundation; Sabrina Klein, a theater artist, educator, and researcher; Violet Juno, a performer and teaching artist; and Rica Anderson, a Cal Performances’ teaching artist.

Because of its unique position in the arts world and its affiliation with the finest public university in the nation, Cal Performances is inspired to create this annual platform for in depth conversations about arts education. “Reaching for the Stars” is presented by Cal Performances in association with the Alameda County Arts Commission and Creative Impact, a Bay Area alliance of arts educators dedicated to strengthening, enriching, and improving the social fabric of our community through arts education. The first “Reaching for the Stars” conference was held in November 2012 and was planned in conjunction with the residency of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela with conductor Gustavo Dudamel; it centered on music education using the model of Venezuela’s famed El Sistema.

“Reaching for the Stars” begins at Zellerbach Hall at 11:00 a.m. with participants attending a one hour Schooltime performance of the science fiction live-action, graphic novel Intergalactic Nemesis: Book One: Target Earth, alongside an auditorium filled with Bay Area students. Following the performance, a brown bag lunch and discussion themed “Curiosity, Passion and Discipline: How artistic practice enlivens STEM,” will be facilitated by Sabrina Klein and Rica Anderson. Teachers, artists, and arts administrators will bring their experience to the table to explore the implications of STEAM in the classroom; the ways in which art and science are inherently linked; and how an arts-based approach to learning can benefit every student.

Afternoon sessions begin at 1:45 p.m. and include a hands-on approach to moving curriculum from STEM to STEAM through the insights of artists, scientists, and teachers. Topics covered include how the disciplinary practices of artists and scientists are congruent; the role of experimentation in learning, including an interactive Foley Sound demonstration with Jason Neulander using artistic elements from Intergalactic Nemesis; a look into the intertwined nature of art and science by Kenneth Goldberg—an equally accomplished engineer, artist, entrepreneur and thinker; an exploration of the roles of imagination, exploration and experimentation in creating art. The partnership of Campbell Union School District with the Montalvo Art Center will be examined for its effective integration of STEAM curriculum into the public schools. Milton Chen, author of Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools, will have the final word followed by a wine and cheese reception at 7:00 p.m.

Registration and further information is available on Cal Performances’ website (HOT LINK) http://calperformances.org/learn/discover-engage/calendar.php.

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Hillsdale Shopping Center and San Mateo Fire Department Team Up for 34th Annual Toys for Tots Drive

Hillsdale Shopping Center and the San Mateo Fire Department are teaming up to give back this holiday season. Together, the team is bringing the 34th Annual Toys for Tots Drive to Hillsdale.  Toy donations, both new and used, will be accepted Monday, December 2 through December 22 at the San Mateo Firefighter’s Booth near the LEGO store.

“It is always a joy to team up with the San Mateo Fire Department during the holiday season to continue to bring Toys for Tots to Hillsdale,” said Hillsdale Shopping Center Marketing Director Christine Kupczak. “We are so pleased to be a part of this generous community that continues to give back year after year, helping to make the holiday season brighter for the children in our community,” she said.

DATE:                        December 2-December 22

LOCATON:              Hillsdale Shopping Center, next to LEGO Store

Hillsdale Shopping Center is a leading San Mateo shopping destination that offers more than 120 specialty stores and restaurants. Tenants include anchors Nordstrom, Macy’s, Forever 21 and Sears as well as specialty shops like H&M, UNIQLO, The Apple Store White House | Black Market, Banana Republic, Coach, Trader Joe’s, Michael Kors, Crazy 8, Pandora, The Apple Store, DSW Shoes, LEGO®,  Williams-Sonoma, Guitar Center, Cost Plus World Market and more. Additionally, the shopping center offers several restaurants including The Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, The Counter Custom Built Burgers, and Andersen Bakery. Hillsdale Shopping Center is located at off Hwy 101 at Hillsdale Blvd and El Camino Real in San Mateo. For more information visit www.hillsdale.com or call 650.345.8222.

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San Bruno Demands Accurate PG&E Pipeline Records and Active CPUC Oversight

 San Bruno City leaders today called on the Pacific Gas & Electric Company and the California Public Utilities Commission to provide accurate pipeline safety records, enhanced emergency response protocols and vigilant State oversight following revelations of persistent safety threats to PG&E’s pipeline 147 in San Carlos, just 14 miles south of the deadly 2010 PG&E pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

At a hearing hosted by Sen. Jerry Hill and a California Senate subcommittee on Gas and Electric Infrastructure Safety on Monday, leaders from the cities of San Bruno and San Carlos said they were deeply troubled to discover that PG&E had once again used faulty records to falsely determine the San Carlos pipeline safe. Even worse, that it took 11 months for PG&E to alert San Carlos officials of possible threats to the defective pipe. Federal and state investigators identified faulty recordkeeping as the leading cause of the Sept. 9, 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed 8, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more.

Of equal concern was the lack of oversight provided by the CPUC, the regulatory agency that is supposed to act as a watchdog for public safety, which also failed to notify city leaders, city staff, and the public of the potential for “sitting on another San Bruno situation,” according to PG&E’s own engineer.

“We call on PG&E and the CPUC to remedy these persistent threats to the safety of our communities,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “We ask that PG&E and the CPUC communicate with local governments in a manner that is honest, timely and transparent so that city and county leaders are not left in the dark after a threat is discovered beneath our communities and our citizens.”

City leaders asked for the help of Sen. Hill and state leaders by establishing an Office of Local Government Liaison, which would coordinate emergency response plans with a community’s first responders and force utilities like PG&E to operate with transparency and integrity with regard to their facilities.

Ruane said state intervention was necessary to end the faulty recordkeeping by PG&E and the lack of transparency by PG&E and the CPUC, which continues to put the lives of all 740,000 county residents at risk.

“Each of the 20 cities in San Mateo and their citizens deserve to know about threats to their safety from PG&E and the CPUC,” Ruane said. “This is not just a matter of common sense but mandatory of a company that enjoys a legal monopoly and of the regulatory agency, the CPUC, whose very job is to protect the public, its interest and its safety.”

San Bruno is asking the following going-forward commitments from PG&E and the CPUC:

  • That PG&E notify cities, counties and the CPUC within 24 hours should it detect any immediate threats to public safety or any discrepancies in its records.
  • That PG&E staff a dedicated, 24/7, employee to its Dispatch and Control Room, trained to communicate with emergency responders and city officials in the event of an emergency.
  • That PG&E provide better public awareness and outreach programs to local governments so that emergency responders are aware of important pipeline information and know what to do in an emergency.
  • That PG&E work with local cities to establish a regular, productive and open 2 way communication to address important safety issues in each community.

San Bruno is seeking an Independent Monitor to ensure that PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement by politically appointed CPUC Commissioners with close ties to utilities.  San Bruno also reminded the committee that the City is seeking maximum penalties and fines from the CPUC against PG&E for its gross negligence in the San Bruno Explosion and Fire – a decision that is expected to be made within coming months.

“San Bruno will continue to hold PG&E accountable for its past actions and to advocate for changes and active oversight by the CPUC,” Ruane said. “We are committed to ensuring that legacy of our City becomes an opportunity to prevent another deadly explosion from happening again, in San Carlos or in any community in our state.”

 

 

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Man acquitted of sex with BART seat

If you miss BART during the strike, this might make you miss it a bit less: A man accused of trying to make love to a train seat was acquitted of felony indecent exposure and released from San Francisco jail Monday.

Leslie Bailey, 28, was arrested May 8 shortly after a BART train operator saw him on on his knees in the nearly empty first car, thrusting his pelvis against a seat next to the cab.

Bailey, who boarded the Dublin-Pleasanton train at the 16th Street Station, exited at Civic Center but returned to his paramour just before the doors closed, according to the San Francisco public defender’s office. The operator testified that she then saw him gyrating on his stomach, his feet in the aisle, before he flipped over and began masturbating and smoking crack cocaine.

Bailey never acknowledged the operator while in the throes of passion, but noticed her once he exited at the Powell Street Station, the public defender’s office said. The operator testified that while Bailey apologized to her for smoking, his genitals were peeking out from beneath his shirt. BART police arrested him in the station and confiscated his crack cocaine pipe.

This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened on BART. In July, the amorous actions of a pair of passengers, posted online, aroused an official investigation.

Deputy Public Defender Emily Dahm, Bailey’s attorney, said the problem in this case was that her client had not been taking his anti-psychotic medication regularly. Plus, he was binging on crack cocaine.

She argued during the weeklong trial that Bailey, who is homeless, had been trying to have a private moment and not to attract public attention. To convict someone of felony indecent exposure, prosecutors must prove that the defendant was seeking attention.

According to court records, Bailey was convicted of felony indecent exposure in 2007 in San Francisco.

This time, the jury acquitted Bailey of one count of indecent exposure, deadlocked on a second count and convicted him of misdemeanor lewd acts. Prosecutors dismissed the remaining felony charge Monday.

Bailey was sentenced to time served and released. Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Bailey is now free to seek the mental health treatment he needs.

The district attorney’s office declined to comment.

It is unknown if the BART seat in question in this case was a newer, easier-to-clean model or an older cloth version.
sfgate

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On Scene with Bill Wilson


As the government shutdown enters the second week, I attended three events last weekend that emphatically reminded me about the greatness of the human spirit that seems so not in evidence on the national political scene. The three events might at first seem unrelated – a 75th birthday party, a worship service honoring marriage equality and President and Mrs. Carter joining hundreds of Habitat for Humanity volunteers in Oakland, California to build hones for people who need them. However they were united by common use of the words like love, humanity, dignity and rights.

 

 Joy Bianchi celebrates her 75th birthday at the Fairmont

 

Joy Bianchi is an incredible woman who has spent 60 of her 75 years helping people with developmental handicaps. She founded Helpers of the Mentally Retarded, (a name which will soon be changed to just plain “Helpers”) a group devoted to helping provide for people with handicaps with safe places to be. From 1966 until 2003 they ran group homes. Their fundraising efforts included a boutique store in Ghirardelli Square and a Haute Couture Boutique on Fulton Street. Her birthday dinner was held at the Fairmont and preceded by a reception in the penthouse. She spoke very movingly of what it is that a person with developmental handicaps needs. I would do a disservice to Joy’s eloquence to try to paraphrase or summarize her words, but as I listened I was struck that the needs were universal – a place of safety, stability and interaction with people.

Both President Carter and Joy Bianchi understand the basic need for housing. Providing a safe place for people to live should be a basic human right that needs to be recognized by our society. Our society also needs to recognize the right of any individual the right to marry the person they love. That was the point of the annual Witness Our Welcome service held Sunday October 6 at the Walnut Creek United Methodist Church were John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, marriage equality advocates,  were honored with the Spirit Award.

 

 John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney at Walnut Creek United Methodist Church

 

After partying Saturday night, worshipping Sunday afternoon, Monday morning dawned bright and early as I made my way across the new Bay Bridge to Oakland to the Brookfield Village neighborhood in Oakland. The Carters were already at work when I arrived at 8:30am and I was able to get some photos of the Carters working on putting in window frames on the first floor of a two story home on Brookfield Court. For me both the Carters and Joy Bianchi exemplify the kind of people who live their faith through example rather than words and whose actions have made the world a better place for all.

 

President Carter measuring for a window sill.

 

There was a personal highlight of the day for me. One of the volunteers on the project was a nephew of Mrs. Carter. He bought his family over to where the President and Mrs. Carter were working to say hello. President and Mrs. Carter came outside to talk with them. After several minutes President Carter went back inside to go back to work but Mrs. Carter stayed a little longer to talk with them. The saw for cutting various pieces of wood were located in what will become the front yard. So when President Carter came back outside with a piece of wood that needed to be cut, he looked around to see where Mrs. Carter was. Seeing that she was still talking with her relative he turned to the group of media and said, “Can I get some help holding this?” Since I was the nearest person I ended up holding the wood while he made the cut.     

 

 President Carter gets an assist from Mrs. Carter as he cuts wood for a window frame.


If someone were to ask me what makes America great I would cite these three examples of people volunteering to make the world a better place for everyone.  

 

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This Is Why People Who Live In San Francisco Are So Happy And Healthy

The Huffington Post  

san francisco
Rudyard Kipling once said that the only drawback to San Francisco is how hard it is to leave.

Many San Franciscans would agree with Kipling: Bay Area natives and transplants alike tend to be fiercely loyal to their city, and most SFers would tell you that they could never imagine living anywhere else. With sweeping vistas on every hill, beautiful beaches, year-round free concerts and cultural activities — not to mention some of the best food, music and art in the country — it’s easy to see why so many have been lured by the siren song of the San Francisco Bay.

Besides being one of the most visually stunning seven-by-seven square miles on earth, San Francisco has also topped rankings of the happiesthealthiest and fittest cities in America, and Bloomberg Businessweek called San Francisco the best city in America in 2012.

Here are 12 reasons that San Francisco is one of the happiest and healthiest places in the U.S. — and lessons that it can teach the rest of America about living well.

It’s veggie-friendly.

vegan stew recipes

Considered one of the most “veg-friendly” cities in the US by PETA, San Francisco is not only an oasis of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, according to VegSF, but also has myriad vegetarian and vegan-friendly menus, even at restaurants with meat dishes. You can even eat the fruit that grows on the trees in certain public parks in San Francisco. And with the vegan paradise that is Berkeley right across the bay, herbivores will never run out of dining options.

It has a vibrant spiritual life.

buddha lessons

Meditation, yoga and Eastern philosophy are a part of the city’s DNA, thanks to a long history of Eastern religious studies at its cultural centers. The Buddhist philosopher and writer Alan Watts, a transplant to San Francisco from England, introduced thousands to Eastern philosophy in the late 1950s and early 1960s (his TV series “Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life” aired in San Francisco and helped spread Zen ideology in the U.S.). But no matter your faith, an emphasis on spiritual belief systems has been found to reduce stress levels and increase well-being, making it a likely contributor to its San Franciscans’ good health.

San Francisco is also home to the oldest Buddhist temple in the U.S., and it’s the birthplace of Burning Man, an event that attracts many seeking spiritual release. Centers like Mount Madonna, Green Gulch Zen Center, Spirit Rock and the Esalen Institute also offer workshops and retreats within a short drive of the city.

It’s organic.

farmers market berries

The city by the bay was voted the number-one best city to live the organic foodie lifestyle by the online magazine Organic Authority. Farmer’s markets, community farms, organic restaurants and food co-ops (Rainbow Grocery in the Mission has been sharing organic food with the community since 1975) are easy to find.

An organic diet can help to reduce the synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones that we consume from conventional food sources. And while the link between these compounds and human health isn’t definitive, most researchers agree that we don’t know what the long-term health consequences of eating these could be.

It’s home to some of the country’s best public parks.

golden gate park

San Francisco’s parks — ranging from Golden Gate Park to the Presidio to Dolores Park — were ranked the best in the country last year by nonprofit conservation group, The Trust for Public Land. Public art is also everywhere, including the famous Heartsdotted all over the city, commissioned in 2004 by the San Francisco General Hospital. Recently, Parkets – parking space-sized mini-parks that have copped up across town, offering greenery and seating to passersby — have become the latest addition to the SF park scene.

Maybe that’s why San Franciscans can seem so zen and so fit: Walking through green spaces, even in the middle of cities, can put the brain into a state of meditation,according to a recent UK study. And research has shown that public parks contribute to physical activity rates among city residents.

And speaking of fitness, outdoor activities are everywhere.

crissy field

Outdoor recreational activities and exercise options help make the San Francisco Bay Area the seventh-fittest metropolitan area in America. Between doing tai chi in Washington Square Park, surfing at Ocean Beach and practicing yoga in Golden Gate Park, there’s an outdoor activity for every fitness personality. The city’s beautiful public trails and temperate weather make it easy to fit in daily workouts without a gym membership. (Not to mention that San Franciscans also build quads of steel from walking up the city’s many steep hills.)

It has the “culture cure.”

outside lands lineup

Live music, art, theater and literary events are all over the Bay, all year round — and attending these cultural events could have some big health benefits. Studies have found that attending cultural events could lower blood pressure and also promote mental health by warding off anxiety and depression.

“When it comes to nourishing the soul, [San Francisco's] vibrant arts, entertainment, and recreational offerings set it apart,” wrote Sarah Mahoney and Susan Coenen as part of a Prevention study of the 25 healthiest, happiest cities in America. “While it may seem obvious that those options make people happier, they also make them healthier.”

It’s close to nature.

point reyes

The stress-relieving and happiness-boosting benefits of spending time in nature are well documented. Aside from the many green spaces and beaches within San Francisco proper, SFers can easily reconnect with nature by driving only a short distance from the city. Marin Headlands, Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods and Mount Tamalpais State Park offer miles of hiking and biking trails in some of the most beautiful natural landscapes on the West Coast.

Yoga is everywhere — even in the airport.

airport yoga meditation

Yoga studios are nearly as ubiquitous in San Francisco as coffee shops. The city’s New Age roots gave rise to a number of yoga and meditation centers and many of them are still popular today. And that’s great for city residents, who can enjoy the practice’sstrength and flexibility training as well as it’s calming effect on stress. Now, it’s easy to find nearly any type of yoga in the city, including naked yoga in Noe ValleyTerminal Two of the San Francisco International Airport also has a yoga room for travelers looking for a little on-the-go zen.

It’s one of the best cities for biking.

bike san francisco

As residents of the eighth-best city for bikers by Bicycling Magazine, Bay Area drivers are used to sharing the road with bikers: Since 2010, San Francisco has installed 20 new miles of bike lanes, 25 bike-parking areas, and traffic signals giving riders the right-of-way. The new Bay Bridge even included the installation of a $500 million hanging bike lane, the first of its kind.

And the research shows that biking and bike commuting can have a huge impact on health. One Danish study found that bikers had a lower risk of death from any cause than their more sedentary counterparts. And in a separate Australian study, researchers found that people who replaced their car commute with biking lowered their risk of stroke and heart attack, improved their cholesterol and their aerobic fitness within one year, NPR reported.

Locals enjoy the health benefits of moderate wine consumption.

napa wine

Thanks to world class vineyards in nearby Napa and Sonoma, wine is a part of the Northern California culture. We’ve all heard that one glass of red wine a day can improve your health, and it’s true: Numerous studies have linked moderate wine consumption with a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese. Red wine also contain heart-healthy antioxidants and Resveratrol, which may reduce bad cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It’s a dog-friendly city.

dog san francisco

It’s commonly said that there are more dogs than children in San Francisco, andaccording to the San Francisco Chronicle, it’s actually true. As of 2007, census data showed that the city’s dog population trumped that of children.

“Nobody beats San Francisco when it comes to doting on dogs,” the Chronicle wrote. “It’s a city with luxury dog hotels, rooftop dog cocktail parties, a pet cemetery and City Hall plans to turn dog droppings into alternative energy.”

And that isn’t just good news for pooches: Pet ownership has been linked to reduced levels of stress and relief from mild depression, and improved heart health

It’s a place that celebrates community.

san francisco baker beach

As HuffPost San Francisco Editorial Fellow Lydia O’Connor points out, the “event to be at” in San Francisco is frequently free, outdoors and well-attended. Free events ranging from concerts to yoga classes are easy to come by, as are group volunteering activities and community art projects like the 16th Avenue tiled steps in the Sunset.

These community events don’t just benefit the city as a whole, they can have an effect on individual residents. Strong social ties and community bonds have been linkedwith lower stress levels and increased well-being and longevity.

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Pablo Heras-Casado Leads The SF Symphony And Chorus, Leila Josefowicz, And Guest Vocal Soloists In Two-Week Festival Pairing Music By Thomas Adès And Mendelssohn October 3-13 At Davies Symphony Hall

Festival program is inspired by Shakespearean and literary themes, dance, and the Baroque

Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, whose compelling command of the repertoire ranges from early music through core classical works and new music, returns to the SF Symphony to lead the Orchestra and Chorus with violinist Leila Josefowicz and guest vocal soloists in a two-week Mendelssohn-Thomas Adès festival October 3-13 at Davies Symphony Hall. The festival’s musical focus explores and juxtaposes the works of the two composers in orchestral and chamber settings of music influenced by Shakespeare, dance, literature, and the artists’ mutual fascination with the Baroque. Thomas Adès performs two of his own works and music by Ravel at the piano and harpsichord in an October 3 chamber concert with SF Symphony musicians.

Week 1: October 3-6

The festival’s opening orchestral program, beginning October 3 at 2 pm, features the first SFS performances of Adès’ Three Studies from Couperin and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3, Scottish on a program with Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, performed by Leila Josefowicz. Illuminating Mendelssohn and Adès’ shared enthusiasm for the Baroque, the program also includes the first SFS performances of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Overture and Passacaille from Armide (1686).

Also on October 3, at 8 pm, Thomas Adès will perform two of his compositions, Piano Quintet, and Sonata da Caccia for Oboe, Horn, and Harpsichord, at the keyboard with members of the Orchestra in a chamber concert at Davies Symphony Hall. Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp and Ravel’s Chansons madécasses, with Adès on piano, round out the program.


Week 2: October 10-13

In a program inspired by William Shakespeare and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heras-Casado conducts the SF Symphony and Chorus with a cast of soloists including soprano Audrey Luna (Ariel), mezzo-soprano Charlotte Hellekant, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, tenor Alek Shrader, and baritone Rod Gilfry in the Orchestra’s first performances of scenes from The Tempest, Adès’ acclaimed second opera (his first was Powder Her Face). Luna sang the role of Ariel at the Metropolitan Opera in 2012 under Adès’ direction. The program also includes Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the first SFS performances of Die erste Walpurgisnacht.

Hellekant’s SFS debut and only previous performances were in 1992 under Conductor Laureate and then-Music Director Herbert Blomstedt, performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. Luna, Leonard, Shrader and Gilfry will all make their SFS debuts with these performances.


About Pablo Heras-Casado

 

Pablo Heras-Casado enjoys an unusually varied conducting career, encompassing the great symphonic and operatic repertoire, historically-informed performance, and cutting-edge contemporary scores. In 2011 he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York, beginning a four-year term, including an annual concert season at Carnegie Hall. He made his first conducting appearances with the SF Symphony in 2010, conducting the music of Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Liszt, and Kurtág. He returned in 2012 and 2013, with programs encompassing Stravinsky, Prokofiev, de Falla, Ravel, Liszt, Magnus Lindberg, and Luigi Dallapiccola.

In the 2013-14 season, Heras-Casado debuts with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, and Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig, as well as at the Metropolitan Opera, where he conducts Verdi’s Rigoletto. He returns to Carnegie Hall and the Caramoor Festival with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the New Year’s concerts of Staatskapelle Berlin. Other highlights, in addition to his performances with the San Francisco Symphony, include engagements with Münchner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Ensemble Intercontemporain. He also tours with Freiburger Barockorchester and guest conducts a series of concert and opera performances at the Mariinsky Theatre.

This month, Harmonia Mundi releases Heras-Casado’s recording of Schubert’s Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Freiburger Barockorchester. A second album, featuring Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2, Lobgesang, follows in March 2014. Also this fall is the release of a disc on Sony featuring Plácido Domingo in baritone arias by Verdi with the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, conducted by Heras-Casado.

Recognized also for his work with contemporary music, Heras-Casado is a laureate of the 2007 Lucerne Festival conductors’ forum. In summer 2013, he returned for the third time to co-direct the festival’s Academy at the personal invitation of Pierre Boulez.

Heras-Casado is the holder of the Medalla de Honor of the Rodriguez Acosta Foundation, and in February 2012 was awarded with the Golden Medal of Merit by the Council of Granada, his hometown, of which he is also an Honorary Ambassador. His 2011 DVD recording of Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny from Teatro Real received the Diapason d’Or.

About Thomas Adès


 

 

Renowned as both a composer and a performer, Adès works regularly with the world’s leading opera companies and festivals. He has conducted the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC, Finnish and Danish Radio Symphony Orchestras, the London Sinfonietta, and many others. The SF Symphony co-commissioned and performed his work Polaris with original video from Tal Rosner during its 2011-12 Centennial season. The Orchestra and Leila Josefowicz performed Adès’ Violin Concerto (Concentric Paths) in 2009.

Last season, Adès made his Metropolitan Opera debut both as a conductor and as a composer, leading the Met premiere of his 2004 masterpiece, The Tempest, in a new production by Robert Lepage that was also seen internationally as part of “The Met Live in HD” cinemacast series. He also led the Boston Symphony in performances of his piano concerto In Seven Days and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 – both with Kirill Gerstein – as well as Sibelius’s Sixth Symphony and Luonnotar with soprano Dawn Upshaw. During the 2013/2014 season, Adès returns to the Boston Symphony to conduct a program of Mendelssohn, Ives, Franck, and his own Polaris.

Adès’ first opera, Powder Her Face, has been performed all around the world, was televised by Channel Four, and is available on a DVD and an EMI CD. Most of the composer’s music has been recorded by EMI, with whom Adès has a contract as composer, pianist and conductor. Recently released to outstanding reviews, The Tempest is also available on an EMI CD. The disc was awarded the prestigious Diapason d’Or de l’année and Adès won the 2010 Classical Brit Award for Composer of the Year.

Adès’ most recent works include In Seven Days, a collaboration with video artist Tal Rosner, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and London’s Southbank Centre, and Lieux Retrouvés, a work for cello and piano written for Steven Isserlis and commissioned by Aldeburgh Festival and Wigmore Hall. Adès’ music has attracted numerous awards and prizes, including the prestigious Grawemeyer Award (in 2000, for Asyla), of which he is the youngest ever recipient.

About Leila Josefowicz

An outstanding advocate and champion of contemporary music for the violin, Leila Josefowicz is a frequent collaborator of several leading composers, and works with orchestras and conductors at the highest level around the world. She has also been awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, joining prominent scientists, writers and musicians who have made unique contributions to contemporary life.

Violin concertos have been written especially for Leila Josefowicz by Colin Matthews, Steven Mackey and Esa-Pekka Salonen, while John Adams and Luca Francesconi have recently been commissioned to write new pieces for her. The latter will be given its world premiere by Josefowicz in February 2014 with Susanna Mälkki and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The Salonen concerto was first performed by Josefowicz with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by the composer, before subsequent performances throughout Europe and North America. She also gave the premiere of Matthews’ Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra before performing the piece with the Orchestre national de Lyon and the BBC Symphony and Finnish Radio Symphony orchestras.

During the 2013-14, season Leila Josefowicz performs John Adams’ Violin Concerto with the Sydney Symphony and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the composer. Elsewhere, she appears with the BBC Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony and Toronto Symphony orchestras, the Orchestra della Scala, and the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai. In addition to her San Francisco Symphony performances, Josefowicz also has engagements this season with the Chicago Symphony and Baltimore Symphony orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and National Symphony Orchestra. Josefowicz also appears in recital at London’s Milton Court Concert Hall and Handelsbeurs Concertzaal in Belgium.

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CPUC Should Fine PG&E, Orrick Law Firm Millions for Gas Pipeline Safety Cover-Up Says City of San Bruno

CPUC Should Sanction and Fine PG&E and its law firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Attorney Joseph M. Malkin in Public Gas Line Safety Cover-up

San Francisco, Calif. – City of San Bruno officials this week called on the California Public Utilities Commission to sanction Pacific Gas & Electric’s legal team for deliberately covering up for PG&E after it used faulty records to determine that two Bay Area pipelines could safely operate – a decision demonstrating the continued problem with PG&E record keeping practices. Bad record keeping was one of the causes of the 2010 PG&E disaster in San Bruno and continues to threaten public safety.

In a filing late Sept. 26 with the CPUC in response to an order to “Show Cause Why It Should Not Be Sanctioned,” San Bruno asked that PG&E’s legal team, including top attorney Joseph M. Malkin of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, be sanctioned for discreetly filing an “errata” – the legal term for a minor correction – on the status of two pipelines, located in San Carlos and Millbrae, nine months after a gas leaked revealed those pipelines. The legal correction was made quietly on the afternoon of on July 3, 2013, a day before the CPUC took off for the July Fourth holiday, as a strategy to hide the fact that PG&E had relied on faulty records to determine the specifications for those pipelines to handle gas at high pressure.

Calling the July 3 filing by Malkin a “brazen and calculated act of damage control,” San Bruno attorneys say PG&E’s latest legal maneuver illustrates PG&E’s ongoing attempts to cover its tracks as it continues to use natural gas pipelines at inappropriate operating pressures, without accurate records and with the same flawed materials that caused a tragic explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more.

“Gross negligence and bad recordkeeping by PG&E resulted in a fatal tragedy in our community, and now we’re discovering that PG&E is paying its legal team to perpetuate their deception at the risk of public safety,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “PG&E and its lawyers continue to play Russian roulette with people’s lives, and we are calling on the CPUC to issue sanctions and send the strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated. How many communities must endure tragedy before PG&E and our state utility regulators wake up and put safety first?”

Faulty recordkeeping was found to be a major contributor to the explosion and fire in San Bruno after federal and state investigators found that PG&E had maintained bad or nonexistent pipeline safety records for much of its 1,000+ miles of urban natural gas transmission lines. As a result, state regulators required PG&E to lower pressure on its other Peninsula gas pipelines until safety records could be verified.

In 2011, PG&E declared that the pipeline construction records were accurate for both Line 101, which runs from Milpitas to San Francisco, and Line 147, which runs in the San Carlos area. Based on PG&E’s representations, the CPUC allowed PG&E to increase the pressure back to pre-explosion levels.

In reality, PG&E’s pipelines were not rated to operate at higher pressure, as revealed after an October 2012 corrosion-related leak in San Carlos revealed seams in the pipeline previously not thought to exist. Yet, it took nine months for company attorneys to admit – by way of the subtle errata filing — that the records it had relied on to make that determination were faulty.

At a Sept. 6 hearing at the CPUC, state regulators pressed PG&E attorney Joseph Malkin over the “profoundly troubling” oversight, which occurred despite “the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for record review and validation.” PG&E now faces fines of up to $250,000 for its mistake, on top of a possible $2.25 billion penalty and fine stemming from the fatal 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno.

San Bruno officials say this is just the latest example of PG&E expending millions on top attorneys – more than $120 million by PG&E’s own admission – to subvert the truth and put profits over people.

At the Sept. 6 hearing, the PG&E legal team was selectively unresponsive to questions posed by the CPUC’s administrative law judges, invoking “attorney-client privilege,” which allowed them to dodge tough questions. Attorneys for San Bruno are asking that the CPUC conclude that PG&E waived its attorney-client privilege.

“Enough is enough. San Bruno will not sit by and watch PG&E willingly take advantage of public trust any longer,” Ruane said. “Three years after tragedy struck our community, we will continue to serve as a vigilant watch dog for public safety so that what happened in our community never happens again anywhere.”

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