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City Initiative to House 50 Veterans in 100 Days

San Francisco, CA–Mayor Edwin M. Lee today urged San Francisco landlords to join the City’s SF Homes for Heroes campaign and help house 50 homeless veterans in 100 days. The campaign provides help to homeless veterans with federal supportive housing vouchers who cannot find an apartment to rent in San Francisco.

“San Francisco remains steadfastly committed to supporting our veterans and giving them a second chance,” said Mayor Lee. “This unprecedented initiative will help us serve the men and women who have proudly served us in our armed services. While we have a long road ahead to care for our nation’s heroes, we can make a big difference beginning today. I am encouraging property owners to join this effort.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development/Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) combines direct rental subsidy to landlords, as well as case management and clinical services provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Last week, a one-bedroom unit was rented to a HUD-VASH client for $1,612 per month. San Francisco’s goal is to house 50 Veterans who have HUD-VASH vouchers from prior year allocations, but who have been unable to find apartments.

In March 2012, Mayor Lee announced that the federal government awarded San Francisco $2.7 million in HUD-VASH funding which includes 200 vouchers to the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA) to provide permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless veterans in San Francisco and funds for the City to move forward with a groundbreaking adaptive re-use project that will house veterans in need at 150 Otis Street. The funding is part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to end veteran and long-term chronic homelessness by 2015.

“President Obama and I are personally committed to ending homelessness among Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. “Those who have served this Nation as Veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is collaborating with the “100,000 Homes” Campaign and its 117 participating communities to help find permanent housing for 10,000 vulnerable and chronically homeless veterans this year. San Francisco is one of 17 communities in the country selected to participate in the Rapid Results 100 Day Campaign to end veteran homelessness.

“In keeping with the Obama Administration’s goal of ending Veteran homelessness, I am confident that HUD, working with the VA, the City and County of San Francisco – including the San Francisco Housing Authority – and a host of local nonprofits and property owners, will succeed in housing our heroes,” said HUD Regional Administrator Ophelia Basgal. “SF Homes for Heroes is 1 of 17 community-driven efforts around the country that have committed via the 100,000 Homes Campaign to rapidly house homeless Veterans in 100-days using the HUD-VASH program and we are  well on our way to reaching the goal. Our Veterans deserve nothing less.”

“The San Francisco VA Medical Center is committed to President Obama and VA Secretary Shinseki’s plan to end homelessness. We are working hard to ensure our homeless Veterans acquire needed health care services; have opportunities to return to employment; receive benefits assistance, and are able to secure safe and affordable housing,” said San Francisco VA Medical Center Director Lawrence H. Carroll. “Our partnerships with HUD, the City and County of San Francisco, the San Francisco Housing Authority, community non-profit agencies and property owners will make safe housing a reality. Those who have served this nation as Veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope. Joining together with our partners, as a part of SF Homes for Heroes, reinforces our unwavering commitment and dedication to caring for and housing our Nation’s Veterans.”

The 100 day countdown for the SF Homes for Heroes campaign began on May 9th and has been focused on accelerating the approval process and working to make the housing vouchers more competitive in the active San Francisco rental market. The efforts include streamlining San Francisco Housing Authority inspections, increasing the allowable rent payments to landlords and outreach to private landlords. Mayor Lee has also convened City departments with Federal agencies to cut delays related to paperwork and inspections that can discourage a landlord from renting to a veteran with a HUD-VASH voucher.

Working together to end veteran homelessness in San Francisco, SF Homes for Heroes is an unprecedented collaboration with the City, Swords to Plowshares, the Department of Veterans Affairs, HUD, small and large property owners including the San Francisco Apartment Association, business leaders, and non profit organizations such as the Chronicle’s Season of Sharing, Hotel Council and Philanthropy by Design who play vital roles in terms of rental deposits and furnishings for veterans’ new homes.

For more information, go to: <> .



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Big City Mayors Unite to Call On Mortgage Loan Servicers to Provide Relief Against Foreclosures

San Francisco, CA–Mayor Edwin M. Lee today asked the nation’s five mortgage loan servicers that settled in the joint federal-state mortgage settlement to voluntarily pause foreclosure proceedings against homeowners who are at risk for foreclosure but could be eligible for assistance under the terms of the settlement.

San Francisco was joined by Fresno, Oakland, Sacramento and San Jose in a letter to executives at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial to pause foreclosure proceedings against some borrowers until the settlement is finalized and the monitoring mechanisms are fully in place.

“A temporary pause in foreclosures provides relief to property owners and gives families an opportunity to remain in their homes,” said Mayor Lee. “We are calling on servicers to provide the time people need to access relief available to them under the federal-state settlement agreement that is now just months away.”

“Fresno is one of the cities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis, and a significant percentage of our population is just now seriously delinquent and facing imminent foreclosure,” said Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin. “The costs of foreclosures on homeowners, neighborhoods and the cities are substantial. This pause will help people stay in their homes, resulting in an opportunity to stabilize our neighborhoods, and also have a positive impact on our economy.”

California State Attorney General Kamala Harris represented the residents of California at the bargaining table for the federal-state mortgage settlement and continues to advocate for opportunities to participate in the terms of the agreement.

The pause will allow cities to partner with servicing staff, the Attorney General’s office, and local HUD-certified counseling agencies to plan a comprehensive communication and outreach strategy to identify eligible borrowers and inform them of their rights under the settlement. As a result, borrowers will get the information they need to protect their rights, the time to organize their financial documentation, and time to evaluate their loans for modification.

Beginning July 1st, a monitor will oversee implementation of the servicing standards and consumer relief activities required by the agreement and identify where servicers are not in compliance.

While the process unfolds, Mayor Lee is asking to pause foreclosure proceedings against borrowers who could be eligible for relief under the judgments. The settlement is targeted at homeowners who could remain in their homes if a principal reduction or refinancing option were available. Under the settlement, borrowers must continue to make payments or risk losing protection from this temporary halt in foreclosures. Bank of America has already instituted a pause in foreclosure proceedings for its eligible borrowers. Wells Fargo previously instituted a pause in foreclosures until it had its consumer relief programs in place on March 1st.

Acknowledging that distressed borrowers are difficult to reach, Mayor Lee is forming a working group that will include the Attorney General, mortgage servicers, housing counselors, City agencies and community leaders to identify San Francisco homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure, but could be eligible for assistance under the terms of the settlement including immediate cash payments, principal reductions, short sales and refinancing.

Residents seeking modification will be able to use the City’s 311 system to find a housing counselor. The Mayor also announced that the Housing Trust Fund proposal has up to $15 million for housing stabilization for residents.

“As a City we have a collective responsibility to address the impacts of foreclosures on our communities,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen. “This collective responsibility includes the financial institutions and lenders that agreed to the state settlement. The myth that San Francisco is not suffering from the destabilizing effects of foreclosures is simply not true.”



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Gay marriage ban backers look to US Supreme Court

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Gay marriage took another step Tuesday on its march to the U.S. Supreme Court, when a federal appeals court that struck down California’s ban on same-sex unions refused to reconsider the ruling.

Now that the case has run its course in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the measure’s sponsors “absolutely” plan to take the case to the high court, said Brian Raum, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal defense group.

Backers of the ban, known as Proposition 8, now have 90 days to petition the Supreme Court to review the finding that the ban violates the civil rights of gay men and lesbians in California.

If at least four justices agree to accept the case, oral arguments would likely be held next spring.

The developments came after the 9th U.S. Circuit declined to review a February ruling by two of its member judges who found the state’s voter-approved same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, in part because it rescinded a right that gay and lesbian Californians already had won.

Same sex unions briefly were legal in the state before 52 percent of voters approved the ban in November 2008.

Gay marriage supporters welcomed the latest news in the long-running legal battle. If the Supreme Court refuses to take up the case and lets the appellate ruling stand, same-sex marriages could be legal again in California by the end of the year.

“The final chapter of the Proposition 8 case has now begun,” said American Foundation for Equal Rights co-founder Chad Griffin, whose group is funding the effort to overturn the ballot measure. “Should the United States Supreme Court decide to review the 9th Circuit’s decision in our case, I am confident that the justices will stand on the side of fairness and equality.”

A majority of the 9th Circuit’s 26 actively serving judges voted against giving the case a second look while leaving Proposition 8 in effect until a Supreme Court appeal is resolved.

Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain issued a terse dissent, arguing that the full 9th Circuit should have reexamined its panel’s 2-1 decision because in his view it was based on a “gross misapplication” of Supreme Court precedent and “overruled the will of seven million California voters.” Judges Carlos Bea and Jay Bybee joined him in that opinion.

The 9th Circuit does not often agree to rehear cases, a procedure known as en banc review. Federal court rules reserve the practice for appeals that involve “a question of exceptional importance” or if the original decision appears to conflict with Supreme Court or 9th Circuit precedents.

Several other high-profile same-sex cases also are moving toward the high court. A three-judge panel of the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared last week that the federal law that prohibits recognition of same-sex couples unconstitutionally denies Social Security and other federal spousal benefits to married gay couples.

The Massachusetts and California cases could reach justices at the same time, which “probably increases the likelihood the court will take the (Proposition 8) case,” said David Boies, a lawyer representing the two unmarried couples who first sued to overturn the ban three years ago.

At the same time, because the 9th Circuit limited its decision to California instead of ruling that gay marriage bans are inherently unconstitutional, the Supreme Court might be inclined to let it stand, he said.

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Chevron Rolls with the Punches as Ecuador Lawsuit Gets Filed in Canada: Motley Fool Reports Case Has No Impact on A Good Stock

Motley Fool is one of the most highly read and valued financial newsletters in the U.S.  A story posted today by The Fool shines a light on the fraudulent case against Chevron in Ecuador.  See story below.

By David Lee Smith, The Motley Fool

In the National Hockey League, the term “dropping the gloves” indicates that fisticuffs are imminent. And since there was a day when the NHL was populated almost exclusively by Canadians, it seems appropriate to observe that Chevron (NYS: CVX) and its Ecuadorian plaintiffs have dropped the gloves in Canada. Their two-decades-long bout of legal pugilism has now moved north of the border.

During the past wild and woolly week, which ended with the market’s Friday plummet, lawyers for residents of an Amazonian rain forest filed a lawsuit against the big oil company in Canada. Their intention is to help themselves to Chevron’s assets in Canada to satisfy an $18.2 billion judgment that was slapped on the California company — which ranks second in size only to ExxonMobil (NYS: XOM) among U.S.-based fossil fuels producers.

Chevron has no assets in Ecuador. In Canada, however, it’s an active operator on land and off the shore of the country’s eastern provinces. It also refines product and cooperates with a host of other companies in producing crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands. Approximately 3% of its worldwide production emanates from the land of our northerly neighbor. As a result, the plaintiffs and their attorneys could go a long way toward satisfying their questionable judgment, were they able to gain acquiescence from Canadian courts.

Perhaps the only thing that’s completely clear about this bizarre case is that Chevron isn’t guilty in the slightest of any sort of pollution in the country that constitutes OPEC’s runt. What it did do was to acquire Texaco Petroleum in 2001. Texaco had worked in Ecuador until 1992, nine years before it became even a twinkle in Chevron’s eye. Before it ceased its operations and departed the country, Texaco received certification from Ecuadorian government agencies that it had completed all necessary remediation for its share of environmental impacts from its operations in the country.

Three other significant aspects of the case deserve notation here:

  • State-owned Petroecuador owned a majority 62.5% interest in the consortium of which Texaco was a part. It      has continued to work in the affected area during the 20 years since Texaco departed.
  • Before and during the trial in Ecuador — which sported a succession of about a half-dozen judges —      evidence of apparent fraud was uncovered by Chevron on the plaintiffs’ side, including reports by “independent” environmental consultants likely having been ghostwritten by plaintiffs’ attorneys. Indeed, the Ecuadorian court’s judgment may have benefited interested attorneys’ penmanship.
  • The case and the related judgment are currently being considered by a three-judge panel under the      auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The impetus for that action involves a treaty to which both Ecuador and the United States are signatories.

It also turns out that Chevron isn’t the only U.S. oil company crying foul in the face of Ecuadorian tactics. A half-dozen years ago, Occidental Petroleum (NYS: OXY) filed a suit for damages following the country’s cancellation of the company’s operating contract there. In a skirmish that also lingers on, Ecuadorian authorities claimed that Oxy violated the contract by failing to gain the country’s approval before transferring its 40% stake in a project to Canada’s Encana Corp. (NYS: ECA) . Like its bigger compatriot, Oxy also maintains that Ecuador violated the U.S.-Ecuador bilateral investment treaty.

It’s progressively becoming more apparent, however, that if Chevron didn’t stumble onto bad luck in South America, it probably wouldn’t have any luck in the region. On the other side of the continent, the company continues to joust with Brazilian authorities over a pair of relatively small oil spills from its Frade field operation in the Campos basin. Indeed, the second — and tinier — of the spills may have resulted from natural seepage, rather than from the effects of drilling operations.

Nonetheless, Brazilian authorities have grabbed a big stick, including levying criminal charges against a dozen Chevron employees in Brazil. That’s occurred despite Brazil’s state-run Petrobras (NYS: PBR) having “skated” in the face of a trio of more sizable spills in the past several months.

Regarding Ecuador, however, I continue to scratch my noggin regarding a few significant, but unanswered, questions relating to the lingering Chevron contretemps:

  • Why has Petroecuador — like Petrobras in Brazil — been absolved of culpability for environmental damage in Ecuador, despite its holding a majority position in the original consortium and its continuing to work in the affected area long after  Texaco had bid adios to the country?
  • Based on their bi-lateral  treaty with the U.S., Ecuadorian authorities have been ordered by the  judges in The Hague to disallow the plaintiffs from attempting to collect on the judgment until the panel’s work has been completed. Doesn’t the Canadian suit place Ecuador in violation of its treaty with the U.S.?
  • Why, if their claims are legitimate and untainted by the sort of fraud that’s already been turned up in the      case, haven’t the plaintiffs’ attorneys sought enforcement of their claim in Chevron’s home country, where the largest amount of its assets is  located?

Ideally these questions will be answered before another pair of decades has passed. In the meantime, you may have a question about the attractiveness of Chevron as an investment in the face of sliding oil prices and its disputes in South America. My response: The company is solid, with quality management and sound operations globally. Further, while Exxon’s shares have declined by just over 10% since mid-March, Chevron’s have fallen by nearly 14%. As such, Chevron now trades at a 7.2 times forward P/E ratio, versus 8.8 times for Exxon

With all that in mind, along with my admittedly unlawyerly contention that the dual imbroglios discussed above will ultimately prove frivolous, I’m inclined to urge Fools to place Chevron on their individual versions of My Watchlist.

At the time this article was published Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn’t own shares in any of the companies named in this article. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Chevron and Petrobras. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

From the Motley Fool online post.


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Campaign and Ethics Violation Filed Against Prop A Proponent Quentin Kopp for Hiding California Waste Solutions as True Source of Prop A Last Minute Mailer

Kopp uses long dormant Committee to fund Prop A mailer

The No on Proposition A Campaign will file an ethics complaint today over the unethical action of Quentin Kopp’s Good Government Alliance committee. The complaint, filed with both the Fair Political Practices Commission and the San Francisco Ethics Commission, states that the long dormant group accepted a large contribution by California Waste Solutions, Inc., an out of town waste company, for the express purpose of distributing a Yes On A campaign mailer intended to mislead voters without disclosing its source of funding. This is a violation of state and local government election laws that require the disclosure of the true source of funds in political advertising.

“Since Prop A closed their campaign committee for lack of funding, we’ve been on the look out for inappropriate expenditures and sure enough – the last minute blitz of mail paid for by Waste Solutions,” said Gale Kaufman, the No on A campaign consultant. “You would think Quentin Kopp, a former Judge, who funneled this money through a long dormant committee he controls — would know the Ethics Laws and would abide by them.”

In addition to asking the FPPC and the Ethics Commission to rule on the violations of good government laws requiring the disclosure of the true source of funding for the mailer, the No on A campaign is also asking both enforcement agencies to look at other potential violations in which the committee falsely re-established itself as a general purpose committee in order to deceive the public by sounding like a neutral sounding third-party instead of as a primarily formed ballot measure committee supporting Proposition A.

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Online Dating is among the fastest growing sectors on the Internet.  Dating websites are third in usage, behind only music and video games.  (Pornography, surprisingly, has fallen to fourth).   The industry is growing 10% annually and the time spent on these dating sites is growing — along with user disappointment and frustration.

“We decided to look directly at the numbers to understand the “true cost” of online dating incurred by our target audience,” says Odette Pollar of Matches That Matter, the new service that introduces small groups of over-40 singles by doing nonprofit, community-based projects together.  “With dating industry revenues now in the billions annually, there’s obviously a market out there, but is it money well-spent?”

Members of online sites that offer self-written profiles, spend over 5 hours a week reading profiles and nearly 7 hours a week reading and responding to emails just to get 1.8 hours of offline interactions, according to People are Experience Goods: Improving Online Dating with Virtual Dates published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing. Our proprietary research indicates that it takes 25 first dates and 5 second dates to get one third date; and only after 3 dates will individuals know if there is chemistry and if the relationship should move forward.

So what does this mean financially? Assuming that:

  • The process to get to a third date takes 3 months
  • The 25 first dates are for coffee and cost $7 for a pastry and coffee for approximately $175
  • Conservatively the 5 second dates are lunches at an average cost of $50 that adds $250 to the food costs.
  • 12 hours per week people spent to get to the first date (over the three-month period), at roughly $28 hourly average for the Bay Area, comes to over $4,000

The grand total to get to a third date, in the Bay Area, just to see if there is chemistry, is $4,425. This does not include the online dating monthly membership fees.

“To add insult to injury the satisfaction study in the Journal of Interactive Marketing asked participants to rank the online and offline search activities compared to watching a movie: The movie won!  After seeing this statistic combined with these costs, it is obvious that an opportunity for an alternative service exists in an industry that is growing and thriving,” Pollar adds.  “I asked myself what type of service could I offer that would be more effective, less expensive and a more realistic alternative for busy people.”

Pollar founded Matches That Matter to provide an economical, expedient and comfortable service to singles over the age of 40.   She decided that the only way to honestly assess a potential companion is to see them in a natural environment doing activities they enjoy. “No time spent reading questionable profiles.  All you do is show up and be yourself, ” Pollar said.

Matches That Matter’s enrollment process determines your preferences and desires in a little over an hour. Members are then presented with options for activities. 6 men and 6 women, over a three week period spend 8 to 9 hours together.  Using the same assumptions as the online dating example above, the total cost for three quality interactions with 11 other compatible singles is less than $280. Even if you add the one-time membership fee and the cost of activities the total fees remain well under $500. Pollar says, “The time savings to our busy members is important but the real proof is the size of the smile as they make new friends and meet romantic partners after completing their first set of activities.”

For additional information on the affordable Matches That Matter approach, call (510-496-0040 or 888-713-7779 or visit


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“SLIPPING” – Now at New Conservatory Theatre Center

Sean Martinfield, Arts Contributor

Playwright Daniel Talbot’s Slipping makes its Bay Area premiere at New Conservatory Theatre Center now through July 1st. The story is about “Eli” – a really out and reticent Gay high school student long-accustomed to the physical taunts and verbal jabs that simply go with the territory. The play combines two time frames – that was then, this is now. Eli and Jan (his mother) used to live in San Francisco. Now they’re in Des Moines. Not much going on in Des Moines for an angry skinny boy with punkish blue hair, a camera around his neck, who smokes too much, and has taken to cutting himself again. Since her husband’s death – and the relocation to Iowa to become an English teacher and start all over – Jan has jumped into an affair with a younger man, not one of her students. No mistaking the variety of moaning coming from her bedroom. But Eli has plenty of noise going on his head to block it, some of it about missing an abusive relationship with Chris – a wild kid back in the City who would threaten to kill him should he open his mouth about their big secret. But now, Eli has outed Jake – the gawky guy in Art Class who is into sports and, since their experimental encounters, believes he and Eli may have a future together. Eli and his mother reach the overdue boiling point, firing the F-word back and forth. He cuts his wrist. Jake crawls into bed with him at the hospital. No secrets now. Perhaps Eli will learn to accept love.

Evan Johnson (Lois Tema Photography)

Whatever may be missing in Talbott’s script is made-up for in the intense and compelling performances by its cast and the fine direction of Andrew Nance. The situations are topical and the characters are familiar. New Conservatory Theatre’s production of Slipping is a positive move in its continuous effort to bring complex issues to the stage and to encourage new playwrights who challenge the status quo with the benefits of excellent production values and an increasingly loyal subscription audience.

“To me,” says Daniel Talbott, “the play is about reaching out. I had this really intense relationship for a long time, and that relationship—having someone love me and be there for me—was what sent me over the edge and really kind of crashed me out. The play is about that and the need to break that open in order to start to become healthy.”

Benjamin Ismail (Jake), Fernando Navales (Chris), Evan Johnson (Eli), and Stacy Thunes (Jan) (Lois Tema Photography)

Click here to purchase tickets on-line: SLIPPING

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Mayor Lee announces San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center Opening New Research Center In Mission Bay

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced that the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center will open a 42,000 square foot research center in Mission Bay. The new Medical Center will locate at 1700 Owens across from UCSF’s Mission Bay Campus close to UCSF and the Mission Bay life sciences community.

“Mission Bay offers the VA an unrivaled location for science, collaboration and the discovery of improved treatments for our nation’s veterans,” said Mayor Lee. “The relocation of these VA research programs to Mission Bay brings cutting edge research in HIV/AIDS, health services, neurosciences and bone disease to the center of the Mission Bay science and innovation cluster. I am incredibly proud to welcome the VA to Mission Bay.”

“The San Francisco VA Medical Center has the largest research program in the VA system with $83 million in research expenditures in Fiscal Year 2011. This opportunity allows us to decompress the VA campus and provide new state-of-the-art facilities to conduct important scientific work,” said San Francisco VA Medical Center Associate Chief of Staff for Research and Development Carl Grunfeld, MD, Ph.D. “Expanding our Research program to 1700 Owens is significant because it gives us the opportunity to continue the existing collaboration and partnership with our research counterparts at UCSF. It is because of this close collaboration that we have facilitated important advancements in medicine and research that is the cornerstone of our reputation for excellence in health care.”

Designed from the ground-up as a premier center for science and innovation, Mission Bay is a 303-acre mixed-use, transit oriented, and sustainable redevelopment project area. Mission Bay is anchored by a number of leading research institutions including UCSF’s Mission Bay Campus and Medical Center, the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), the Gladstone Institutes and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). Mission Bay is home to more than 38 life sciences companies including FibroGen, Nektar, Celgene, Bayer, and Pfizer. There are now four life sciences incubators located in Mission Bay. The first phase of the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay is under construction and will include a 289-bed complex featuring three separate hospitals specializing in serving children, women, and cancer patients.

At full build out, Mission Bay will accommodate 6,000 units of housing (28 percent affordable), 4.4 million square feet of office and R&D space, a 57-acre UCSF research campus and 550-bed medical center, 500,000 square feet of retail, a 500 room hotel, 49 acres of new public open space, a new 500-student public school, a new public library, a new fire and police stations and other community facilities.

About the San Francisco VA Medical Center

The San Francisco VA Medical Center, established in 1934, has a long history of conducting cutting edge research, establishing innovative medical program, and providing compassionate care to Veterans. The Medical Center serves a Veteran population of more than 179,000 Veterans in Marin, Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. In Fiscal Year 2011, the Medical Center treated over 37,000 unique patients with over 326,000 outpatient visits and 5,600 inpatient stays.

San Francisco VA Medical Center has the largest funded research program in the Veterans Health Administration with $83 million in research expenditures in Fiscal Year 2011, and is the home of the nation’s leading non-profit research affiliate, NCIRE – The Veterans Health Research Institute. Areas of particular interest are: prostate cancer, aging, oncology, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, breast cancer, PTSD, substance abuse, traumatic brain injury, neurological diseases, health services research, and advanced medical imaging. The Medical Center is one of the few medical centers in the world equipped for studies using both whole body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy, and is the site of VA’s National Center for the Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases.

The Medical Center has been affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), School of Medicine for over 50 years. All physicians are jointly recruited by SFVAMC and UCSF School of Medicine. Annually, more than 700 UCSF trainees from 36 programs rotate through the Medical Center.

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Mayor Lee announces major support for neighborhood commercial districts and small businesses

Mayor Edwin M. Lee has announced new commitments to neighborhood commercial districts and small businesses in his proposed two year budget. The budget will more than double grants funding to $1.5 million; add $4 million to dramatically expand loans and other grants specifically targeted at neighborhood small businesses; double the team that works full time in neighborhood commercial corridors to streamline permitting and link small businesses with City programs and resources; and launch the Jobs Squad to help neighborhood small businesses get expert City staff out of City Hall and into the neighborhoods.

Mayor Lee was joined by Board Budget Chair Supervisor Carmen Chu, District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, area business owners, neighborhood residents and leaders, community-based groups and City department heads to make the announcement in Little Saigon in the Uptown Tenderloin Historic District neighborhood.

“We are strengthening small businesses and entire neighborhood commercial districts,” said Mayor Lee. “This requires real resources and an ‘all hands on deck’ approach from City departments, business owners, and neighborhood leaders. By bringing a substantial commitment of new support, we are replacing vacant store fronts with vibrant small businesses. We will continue to invest in our existing small businesses, the jobs they create and aid entrepreneurs looking to open up shop in our City.”

The Invest in Neighborhoods Strategy will provide focused, customized assistance that meets the specific needs of San Francisco’s neighborhood commercial corridors by leveraging existing programs from across multiple departments and nonprofit partners. Neighborhoods selected for Invest in Neighborhoods will receive an initial corridor assessment, a point person at City Hall, access to small project grants, and access to a range of other services aimed at strengthening neighborhood commercial corridors. Based on the findings of the initial assessment, customized interventions, such as streetscape improvements, storefront improvements, business attraction, community benefit districts, will be deployed. In neighborhoods requiring additional support, the City will work with community-based organizations to offer extra support.

In the first phase of the Invest in Neighborhoods Initiative, Mayor Lee is proposing to provide more than $1.5 million dollars to neighborhood commercial districts over the next two years. The Mayor’s proposed budget for neighborhood commercial districts represents more than double the annual average funding for neighborhood commercial districts in recent years.

Mayor Lee is also allocating $4 million over the next two years to dramatically expand loan funds and other grants and support specifically targeted for neighborhood small businesses. This is in addition to the $1 million for the Small Business Revolving Loan fund that was recently replenished with the unanimous support of the Board of Supervisors. Included in the $4 million are neighborhood improvement programs including a new centralized vacancy tracking system, a new targeted business recruitment program for high-vacancy commercial districts and a mini-grant program targeted at merchant and neighborhood groups.

Invest in Neighborhoods will leverage another new initiative, Jobs Squad, for which the Mayor also announced today.  The Job Squad will first consist of two new staff people in the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) to get out to into commercial corridors to offer direct assistance, cut red tape and navigate City government and services. The Job Squad will work with the City’s Office of Civic Engagement, Office of Small Business, OEWD and other City Departments to help small businesses access City programs and services that can help them navigate City requirements and rules. The commitment follows through on a campaign pledge Mayor Lee made to send City representatives out to businesses across the City, bringing the services of the City Hall Small Business Assistance Center directly to small business owners.

In February, Mayor Lee established the Invest in Neighborhoods Working Group, a collaboration among City agencies and nonprofit partners. Twenty-five neighborhood commercial districts will be selected in conjunction with the Board of Supervisors over the next month. The Invest in Neighborhoods Initiative and Jobs Squad are part of Mayor Lee’s 17-point Roadmap to Good Jobs and Opportunity plan to create jobs and promote smart economic growth and development for San Francisco.

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Fraud in Chevron Ecuador Case at Center of Controversy for Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network and New York’s Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli


At right, Atossa Soltani, founder and director of Amazon Watch, with her arm around “Crude” director Joe Berlinger. The movie has exposed the case against Chevron by Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network and attorney Steven Donziger as a fraud.


Environmental groups Amazon Defense Coalition, Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network’s attempt to blame Chevron for alleged damage to the Ecuador rainforest took a major blow this past year as evidence counted to mount that they are simply front groups for the plaintiffs in a fraudulent lawsuit.

While the three groups are planning protests against Chevron at its annual shareholders’ meeting this week in San Ramon, Calif., all have been exposed as front organizations that have been funded by the plaintiffs in the case against Chevron.   Equally damning, New York’s comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, who is leading a small shareholder’s challenge to Chevron, was paid with campaign contributions by the plaintiffs for his support of their cause, according to a New York Times story.

Chevron Corp. recently released a series of public information videos which provide never-seen-before evidence documenting the legal and scientific deceptions committed by the plaintiffs in the fraudulent $18 billion legal case against Chevron in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.

The case against Chevron in Ecuador was brought by U.S. plaintiffs’ lawyers, and funded by hedge funds and other speculators.  They even produced their own documentary film, Crude, as part of their multi-billion-dollar scheme.

But through legal discovery in the United States, Chevron has exposed the fraud using the plaintiffs’ own videotapes, emails, and internal documents.  This unimpeachable evidence—including over 600 hours of video outtakes from Crude—vividly depicts the falsification of evidence, judicial corruption, and government collusion permeating this litigation.

The videos contain outtakes from the movie “Crude” by Hollywood director Joe Berlinger as well as new video from depositions of lead plaintiff attorney Steven Donziger, plaintiffs’ Philadelphia attorney Joe Kohn, environmental experts Douglas Beltman and Ann Maest from Stratus Consulting in Denver, and other plaintiffs’ experts who admit that their submissions to the court in Ecuador were falsified and that no contamination exists by Chevron.

The evidence also shows that Amazon Defense Coalition, Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network are not independent environmental organizations, but in fact paid front organizations that represent the plaintiffs and do their bidding, according to the court documents.  DiNapoli’s meetings and the contributions that he received from the plaintiffs against Chevron were also exposed in the materials obtained by Chevron and submitted to the court.

At the heart of the fraud in Ecuador against Chevron is ‘independent’ environmental expert Richard Cabrera, who was appointed as an expert in the trial. The Lago Agrio court ordered him to “perform his duties . . . with complete impartiality and independence vis-á-vis the parties.”  Yet the same day as his appointment, lead plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Donziger arranged to have a secret bank account opened to pay bribes and hush money to Cabrera.  Donziger then arranged to have Philadelphia attorney Joe Kohn transfer $100,000 to the secret account once Cabrera’s work was underway, the videos prove.

Despite the secret agreements and his filing of plaintiffs’ work as his own, Cabrera emphatically stated his independence before the Ecuadorian court:  “I should clarify that I do not have any relation or agreements with the plaintiff, and it seems to me to be an insult against me that I should be linked with the attorneys of the plaintiffs.”

While having Cabrera pose as the Court’s independent expert, Donziger and attorney Joe Kohn hired U.S. contractors at Stratus Consulting to secretly draft Cabrera’s ‘independent’ report.  Stratus Consulting ghostwrote the Cabrera report in English, a language Cabrera does not speak, with the opening line – “This report was written by Richard Cabrera…to provide expert technical assistance to the Court in the case of Maria Aguinda y Otros vs ChevronTexaco Corporation.”

Shortly before the report was to be filed, it was translated into Spanish.  A forensic analysis of Plaintiffs’ lawyers’ computers revealed that on March 31, 2008 – the day before the Cabrera Report was filed – plaintiffs’ lawyers were putting the finishing touches on the report.

The “Cabrera Report” found on plaintiffs’ lawyers’ computers matches word-for-word the $16 billion damage assessment filed by Cabrera the next day, on April 1, 2008.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers continued their fraud by employing Stratus Consulting in Denver, an environmental consulting firm, to draft objections criticizing the Cabrera Report as “unjustly favorable to Chevron.” Plaintiffs’ lawyers and Stratus then ghostwrote a second report in Cabrera’s name, responding to their own criticisms and inflating the damages to over $27 billion.

In all, Stratus was paid nearly $1 million to secretly draft Cabrera’s report, criticize that report, and then respond to that criticism in Cabrera’s name. Commenting on their deception, Stratus Principal Douglas Beltman wrote:  “Oh what a tangled web…”

Ecuadorian attorney Pablo Fajardo denied the Plaintiffs’ relationship with Cabrera to the court and stated publicly:  “Chevron’s claim that Professor Cabrera is cooperating with the plaintiffs is completely false….Chevron is frightened by Cabrera precisely because he is an independent and credible expert.”

After reviewing this mountain of evidence of wrongdoing, one of the plaintiffs’ newly recruited U.S. lawyers concluded in a memo sent to fellow counsel that plaintiffs and Cabrera “can be charged with a ‘fraud’” and that Stratus “was an active conspirator.”

And in a discovery proceeding brought by Chevron against Stratus Consulting, at least two of the U.S. law firms representing plaintiffs withdrew from the case citing ethical reasons. With their case crumbling, the plaintiffs’ lawyers scrambled to devise a cover up.  They decided to try and “cleanse the record” by laundering the Cabrera Report’s conclusions through the mouths of six new experts.

Under oath, lead plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Donziger admitted that none of the new experts ever visited Ecuador, or “did any kind of new site inspection,” “new sampling,” or “environmental testing of any kind.” And the new “experts” admitted when deposed that they relied on the data and conclusions in the discredited Cabrera Report and did not conduct any independent.

Presented with evidence of the Cabrera report and cleansing expert frauds, courts across the United States have concluded that the plaintiffs’ Ecuador litigation is a massive fraud.

Reflecting the views of courts across the country, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina wrote:  “While this court is unfamiliar with the practices of the Ecuadorian judicial system, the court must believe that the concept of fraud is universal, and that what has blatantly occurred in this matter would in fact be considered fraud by any court.”

The video exposes that when the Ecuadorian lawyers found out that a US court had authorized discovery of their internal documents demonstrating their collusion with Cabrera, one wrote to Steven Donziger, “The effects are potentially devastating in Ecuador.  Apart from destroying the proceeding, all of us, your attorneys, might go to jail.”

Even though video and email evidence from the plaintiffs’ lawyers and consultants secretly acknowledged they have no evidence of environmental contamination in internal e-mails, the Ecuadorian court swept aside the undeniable evidence of fraud and issued an $18 billion judgment later proven ghostwritten by the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Based on the same evidence of fraud ignored by the Ecuadorian court, an International Treaty Arbitration Tribunal ordered the Republic of Ecuador “to take all measures at its disposal to suspend or cause to be suspended the enforcement or recognition” of the Ecuadorian Judgment against Chevron.

Despite the fraud in the lawsuit, the corruption of Cabrera, and the clear evidence that the $18 billion judgment itself was ghostwritten, Ecuador claims the judgment is legitimate, and that Chevron should pay.  But Chevron remains committed to exposing the truth about the Lago Agrio lawsuit, and ensuring that the perpetrators of the fraud are brought to justice.

Filled with intrigue, accusations of corruption, bribery and dirty tricks, the complex case is now being fought on three fronts: Ecuador’s Supreme Court; a New York court handling the racketeering lawsuit filed by the Chevron against Steven Donziger and the plaintiffs and their experts; and an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague.

And, back here in the United States groups like Amazon Defense Coalition, Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network continue to present themselves as environmental organizations when the reality is that they are paid front groups that do the bidding of the plaintiffs in the case. New York comtroller DiNapoli is in the same boat.

As the New York Times reported: When Mr. DiNapoli took office in 2007…Mr. Donziger sent an e-mail to allies in the environmental movement, according to the court records.

“The advantage of a guy like this,” Mr. Donziger wrote, “is that he is political, meaning, if we show him how he can look good going after Chevron, he might be even more likely to help us.”

In a January 2009 e-mail, Mr. Donziger told an assistant to deliver a number of campaign contributions to Mr. DiNapoli, and to write one check from Mr. Donziger’s personal account.

“Take checks to his office and deliver them personally,” he wrote. “However, call me before u do this — I am worried this might not be a great idea.”

State campaign filings show that several thousand dollars were contributed to Mr. DiNapoli’s campaign at the time by Mr. Donziger and others on the plaintiffs’ side.

In May 2011 Mr. Di Napoli said that the case “is looming like a hammer over shareholders’ heads,” and called on the company to settle it to repair its “grave reputational damage.”

Last month he repeated the demand. A spokesman for Mr. DiNapoli, Eric Sumberg, said the comptroller’s involvement in the case had nothing to do with lobbying or campaign contributions.

It “is directly attributable to the potential impact of a negative legal outcome that would have an economic impact on the Common Retirement Fund,” Mr. Sumberg said.

Ms. Hinton (the publicist for the Amazon Defense Coalition) pointed out that Chevron had contributed millions of dollars to political campaigns during the course of the lawsuit.

“It’s Chevron’s right to do that, but when we contribute a few thousands, it’s a criminal conspiracy,” she said.


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The Gold Dust Lounge in San Francisco is History: Tourist Bar to Move to Fisherman’s Wharf


The Gold Dust Lounge will shut its doors Wednesday, May 23, and move into a new location at Fisherman’s Wharf sometime in the next four months, according to a source close to the bar.

A press conference will be held at 2:30 Wednesday at the bar, 247 Powell St., to announce that the bar and lounge will fold its tent and move to an undisclosed location at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Recently, the bar was sued by its landlord, the Handlery family, which owns the building where the bar is situated for failing to abide by the terms of its lease and staying beyond the term of its lease.  The bar and its owners, the Bovis brothers, lost a series of legal rulings this past week that sealed its fate.

The Gold Dust tried to use public relations tactics to overcome the fact that the bar didn’t have a lease.  One of its previous attempts to remain on Powell Street was to seek historic status from the City of San Francisco, but the bar suffered a setback when the Historic Preservation Commission decided against granting it landmark status.

Supporters of the 47-year-old bar near Union Square hoped the designation would help save the business from being evicted by the building’s owners, the Handlery family. Next, the bar’s supporters sought help from Supervisor Christina Olague, who said she planned to introduce legislation that would override the agency, whose members said the bar had cultural significance but did not meet criteria for historic landmark designation.

But the supervisor changed her mind. She told the board she’d “respect the process” and stay out of the fight.

The day after the Historic Preservation Commission’s ruling, attorneys for the Handlery family filed a lawsuit against Jim and Tasios Bovis, who run the bar, accusing them of intentionally breaching their contract. The Bovises, in turn, sued their landlords, saying they were intimidated into signing their contract.

The battle over the watering hole started in December last year, when the Handlery family, who wants to put an Express store in the Gold Dust’s space, exercised a clause in its lease and gave the Bovises three months to clear out. The Bovises refused to leave.

At that time, Lee Houskeeper, a spokesman for the Bovises, said bar supporters would appeal the Historic Preservation Commission’s decision to the Board of Supervisors within a month. But the bar never did.

At that time, Houskeeper bragged: “We’re going to keep pouring,” he added. “We’re not going anywhere soon.”

But the Bovises and Houskeeper changed their tune this week after the bar lost a series of three important legal decisions this past week to the Handlery family.

Now the tourist bar is moving to a tourist location, Fisherman’s Wharf, where it can continue to pour drinks like it has since 1966, when the Bovises first started the lounge in the Handlery building on Powell Street.

The biggest question is why the Bovises (and their mouthpiece Houskeeper) didn’t move in the first place, except that they would have lost the publicity and income that comes from flogging a dying bar.  And, of course, who in San Francisco doesn’t like a good ‘ol tenant landlord dispute? It only makes everyone drink more. Just ask the Bovis’ attorney Joe Cotchett who got his hat handed to him by the court and led to the bar finally giving up the ghost and moving to Fisherman’s Wharf.  He will most likely be drowning his loss with a few drinks at the Gold Dust Bar in its final hours, courtesy of the Bovis brothers, no doubt.

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Mayor Lee renames street in Golden Gate park in honor of Nancy Pelosi

On Monday afternoon Mayor Edwin M. Lee participated in a ceremonial renaming of Middle Drive East in Golden Gate Park in honor of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to celebrate her 25 years of public service to our City and its residents. Leader Pelosi represents California’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes most of San Francisco including Golden Gate Park, Bayview to Bernal Heights, Chinatown to the Castro, the Mission to the Marina, and North Beach to Noe Valley. In her 25 years of service, Leader Pelosi has transformed San Francisco by preserving public lands and parks, expanding transit, protecting the Bay and the environment and ensuring affordable housing.

“San Franciscans have benefitted immensely from Leader Nancy Pelosi’s leadership, passion and commitment to San Francisco and our nation,” said Mayor Lee. “She is a trailblazer who has fought for the residents of our City from jobs to healthcare and HIV/AIDS to affordable housing and a more sustainable environment to critical infrastructure and transportation funding that we will celebrate for many generations to come.”

Middle Drive East is the main pathway to some of the most celebrated destinations in Golden Gate Park including the National AIDS Memorial Grove, California Academy of Sciences, Botanical Garden, Japanese Tea Garden, popular family recreation sites. All these locations attest to Leader Pelosi’s leadership and contributions to crucial social issues including the fight against HIV/AIDS across the nation and around the world, commitment to strengthening our school system, pressing for legislation to combat climate change and moving toward energy independence, and building an economy and a society that supports “families earning, children learning.”

“Leader Nancy Pelosi is celebrated as she leads the way to legislate pioneering initiatives that change our country,” said SF Recreation and Park Commission President Mark Buell. “It is befitting to rename a historic pathway within the celebrated Golden Gate Park destinations after Leader Pelosi.”

After the Army closed the Presidio of San Francisco, a former military post from 1776 to 1994, Leader Pelosi led the fight to preserve the Presidio for the residents of San Francisco and passed a bill creating the Presidio Trust, with the twin goals of preserving the essence of a magnificent national park and achieving economic self-sufficiency. Leader Pelosi’s work in the Presidio can be seen from the trails and overlooks, to the Main Parade Ground, with the Walt Disney Family Museum and Futures without Violence, along with the Letterman Digital Arts Center and the Japanese American Historical Society’s future Military Intelligences Service Historic Learning Center. Thanks to Leader Pelosi’s advocacy in securing millions in federal funds, the barren, broken asphalt of Crissy Field Air Field became Presidio’s spectacular front window to the San Francisco Bay with public walkways, restored dunes and wetlands, the Crissy Field Center and spectacular spaces for recreation beloved by people and dogs alike.

After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Leader Pelosi worked to ensure her constituents received timely assistance, joining her California colleagues to secure a $3.45 billion earthquake relief package, raising the Small Business Administration loan cap and leading efforts to restore City Hall and the American Conservatory Theater’s Geary Theater.

Leader Pelosi has fought to improve bus and rail transit, walking, biking, and transit-oriented development while creating vibrant livable communities. Over the past 25 years, she was instrumental in extending BART to the SFO Airport, creating the Third Street Light Rail and the Central Subway, securing $400 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds allowing the Transbay Transit Center to break ground, assisting the seismic and security upgrade of the Golden Gate Bridge, renovating Doyle Drive / Presidio Parkway, and putting San Franciscans back to work on these projects and through San Francisco JOB NOW!.

As an advocate for affordable housing and services for the homeless, Leader Pelosi has been critical in securing federal funds to rehabilitate public housing units at Hunters View, Sunnydale and Alice Griffith and was instrumental in the creation of Housing Opportunities for people with AIDS (HOPWA). She has also supported projects such as the Veterans Commons housing project at 150 Otis Street, renovating Nihonmachi Terrace in Japantown, the Kelly Cullen Community and clinic for the chronically homeless at 220 Golden Gate, and a new San Francisco Federal Building at Mission and 7thStreets, one of the greenest federal buildings in the country.

Since its closure by the U.S. Navy in 1974, the Hunters Point Shipyard has been a neglected and contaminated neighbor to the Bayview / Hunters Point Community. Leader Pelosi has helped secure over $750 million to clean up contamination and transform the former shipyard into a source of jobs and economic development, parks and open space and affordable housing for the community.

At Treasure Island, a man-made island in the Bay between San Francisco and Oakland, Leader Pelosi was crucial in finding a path forward to redeveloping the former Navy base, helping to secure an agreement that will allow the City to quickly move forward with substantial redevelopment plans that include essential infrastructure, open space, affordable housing and extensive commercial activities.

In 2007, Leader Pelosi was elected as the first woman in American history to serve as Speaker of the House, and under her leadership, the 111th Congress was heralded as “one of the most productive Congresses in history” by Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein. In the 111th Congress, Leader Pelosi also led the Congress in passing strong Wall Street reforms to rein in big banks and protect consumers as well as the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which expands educational opportunities and reforms the financial aid system to save billions of taxpayers’ dollars.

In addition, Leader Pelosi has made energy security her flagship issue, enacting comprehensive energy legislation in 2007 that raised vehicle fuel efficiency standards for the first time in 32 years and making an historic commitment to American home grown biofuels. Leader Pelosi passed into law groundbreaking legislation including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to restore the ability of women and all workers to access our judicial system to fight pay discrimination, legislation to provide health care for 11 million American children, national service legislation and hate crimes legislation.

In late 2010, Leader Pelosi led the Congress in passing child nutrition and food safety legislation as well as repealing the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibited gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

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Mayor Lee’s Statement on the City’s unemployment drop to 7.4 percent

Mayor Edwin M. Lee issued the following statement on San Francisco’s unemployment rate dropping to 7.4 percent in April, the lowest unemployment rate since December 2008, based on preliminary unemployment numbers released today by the State Employment Development Department (EDD):

“Job creation remains my highest priority, and will remain so to continue our City’s economic recovery. As today’s unemployment report demonstrates, we are making significant progress putting people back to work in neighborhood small businesses, tech and innovation companies and active construction sites.

With the unemployment rate at 7.4 percent, the third lowest in the State and the lowest since December 2008, San Francisco is moving in the right direction, but our efforts to get people back to work will continue.

Already, this summer through Summer Jobs +, we are putting 5,000 youth to work and I am working hard to make sure all San Franciscans have access to good paying jobs as we keep our economy growing.”

Since January 2011, the unemployment rate has dropped steadily from 9.6 percent to 7.4 percent in April, reflecting the creation of approximately 22,500 net-new jobs in San Francisco over the last year, reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs and wage data for U.S. Counties. This report also found that jobs located in San Francisco County increased by 4.1 percent from September 2010 to September 2011 ranking San Francisco 10th in performance of the 323 largest counties in the nation.

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PHANTOMS OF ASIA – At the Asian Art Museum, through 9/2

Asian Art Museum organizes its first large-scale exhibition of contemporary art,

offering unique insight into Asian mythologies and belief systems

Sean Martinfield, Arts Contributor

The Asian Art Museum debuts Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past, an ambitious exhibition exploring the complex, diverse, cross-cultural perspectives of Asian cosmology and spirituality through a compelling interplay of 140 artworks from the past and present.

Phantoms of Asia – the first large-scale exhibition of contemporary art organized by the Asian Art Museum – fills its special exhibition galleries with artworks by living artists and integrates new works throughout the museum’s renowned pan-Asian collections. Providing visitors with immersive experiences, the exhibition offers rare insights into a range of belief systems and mythologies that have shaped Asian cultures over the ages.

On view May 18–September 2, 2012, and featuring more than 60 works by 31 contemporary artists, including Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan/USA), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand), Adeela Suleman (Pakistan), Raqib Shaw (India), and Choi Jeong Hwa (Korea), alongside 90 objects from the museum’s collections—some dating back 2,000 years—Phantoms of Asia challenges visitors to view traditional objects not as relics of the past, but as vibrant connections to the present.
Click here for ticket information: Asian Art Museum

RAQIB SHAW. Absence of God VII, 2008

RAQIB SHAW. Absence of God VII, 2008

“The concept of phantoms—or ‘spirits’—is elusive, yet it’s felt and shared across cultures and time periods,” said Jay Xu, museum director. “Through its emphasis on interconnectivity, this exhibition provides a rare opportunity to experience those ‘invisible forces’ in a tangible, accessible, and provocative way, with Asian art at the center.”

Curated by Mami Kataoka, chief curator of Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, in collaboration with Allison Harding, assistant curator of contemporary art at the Asian Art Museum, Phantoms of Asia is organized around four themes: (1) Asian Cosmologies: Envisioning the Invisible; (2) World, Afterworld: Living Beyond Living; (3) Myth, Ritual, Meditation: Communing with Deities; and (4) Sacred Mountains: Encountering the Gods.

The exhibition includes artworks by contemporary artists hailing from Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Tibet, and the U.S. Many of the contemporary installations are new or site-specific commissions. When combined with objects from the museum’s collections, these artworks represent a vast array of materials, forms and media, including works of stone, metal, fabric, wood, and modern materials; and masks, textiles, sculptures, ceramics, film and video, photographs, and paintings.

Expressing the museum’s new aspiration to “awaken the past and inspire the next,” the building itself will undergo a transformation to meet the full-scale challenges of the exhibition, starting with a 24-foot installation outside the museum, moving into the building’s public courtyards, and finally throughout the special exhibition and collection galleries.

CHOI JEONG HWA. Breathing Flower

CHOI JEONG HWA. Breathing Flower

Asian Cosmologies: Envisioning the Invisible
The exhibition begins with Choi Jeong Hwa’s (Korea) 24-foot red lotus (titled Breathing Flower) in Civic Center Plaza, across the street from the museum. With motorized bright red fabric leaves opening and closing, simulating the movement of a live lotus flower, the installation creates a link between the modern world and one of the most important cosmological symbols in Asia.

Inside the museum, Sun K. Kwak’s (Korea/USA) site-specific drawing made with masking tape dramatically transforms the museum’s North Court, manifesting invisible energies in the space. Kwak’s installation relies on the artist’s process of “lyrical meditation” to detect the subtle energies in the room, and serves to shift visitors’ consciousness from the mundane concerns of daily life to the spiritual/cosmological themes of Phantoms of Asia.

The exhibition then takes a look at the future, with Heman Chong’s (Singapore) installation, Calendars (2020–2096). One thousand and one calendar pages, each showing one of Chong’s photographs of public and domestic spaces, transfigure the installation space. Repetition, an imagined future time, and haunting stillness encourage meditation on being and absence, mortality and eternity.

Moving into Lee Gallery, Hiroshi Sugimoto’s (Japan/USA) Five-Elements series stands as a shrine to the origins of existence. Seven crystal pagodas resting on wooden plinths form a single, stark line across the gallery. Using geometric symbols from thirteenth-century Buddhism, Sugimoto encases a single image from his iconic Seascape series in each glass structure. The sea and air, origins of all life, are seen through a prism of ancient Buddhist views of the universe.

PALDEN WEINREB. Astral Invert, 2011

PALDEN WEINREB. Astral Invert, 2011

In Hambrecht Gallery, several objects from the museum’s collections present traditional Asian cosmographic symbols. In one area, Chinese bronze mirrors (some dating back to 480 BCE) depict the cosmos on their nonreflecting sides even as they reflect the real, earthly world on their polished surfaces. The mirrors orient viewers to Poklong Anading’s (Philippines) Anonymity series, where subjects hold mirrors to their faces to reflect flashes of light into the camera. With people’s faces obscured, Anading’s photographs ask viewers to consider how they construct personal and collective identity. In another section, Guo Fengyi’s (China) drawings map the flow of energy through the artist’s own nervous system. Influenced by her study of qigong, the drawings illustrate the experience of artistic practice as spiritual practice. Palden Weinreb’s (USA/Tibet) minimalist works (including paintings and light boxes) are meditations on existence and the universe: “Abstraction,” Weinreb suggests, “parallels the sublime emptiness of Buddhism.”

World, Afterworld: Living Beyond Living
Works in the next phase of the exhibition explore the connection between this life and the afterworld. The theme begins in Hambrecht Gallery with Araya Radsjarmrearnsook’s (Thailand) video installation, The Class, in which the artist gives a seminar on death to several shrouded corpses. Her lecture prompts our own contemplation: How do we speak about death? What do we envision in the afterworld?

Between Hambrecht and Osher Galleries, Jakkai Siributr’s (Thailand) Karma Cash & Carry depicts a spirit house similar to those found in the artist’s native country. Siributr’s work shows the intersection of modern-day animism, Buddhist practice, and material culture. Jompet’s (Indonesia) Anno Domini, an arrangement of colonial military uniforms hanging bodiless, reenacts traditional mythologies, symbolizing protection from the exigencies of modernization and colonization.

Also just outside Osher Gallery, Takayuki Yamamoto’s (Japan) San Francisco version of his ongoing video project, What Kind of Hell Will We Go To, documents the artist’s workshop with elementary school children from the Bayview area. After showing students the Kumano Kanjin Jikkai Mandala, a collection of traditional Japanese paintings depicting Buddhist notions of vice, virtue, and punishment, Yamamoto then encourages them to create and talk about cardboard dioramas representing their own ideas of hell. These dioramas are presented along with the video.

Myth, Ritual, Meditation: Communing with Deities
Marking the transition to the third theme, seventeen traditional masks greet visitors at the entrance of Osher Gallery. Masks play an integral role in ceremonies and rituals across many Asian cultures, and provide the context for Motohiko Odani’s (Japan) carvings. Odani’s SP Extra: Malformed Noh Mask Series: San Yujo transforms the surface of Noh masks to depict the sinew and flesh of the human face, exposing the vulnerable underside of the masks’ spiritual beauty.

JAGANNATH PANDA. The Cult of Survival II, 2011

JAGANNATH PANDA. The Cult of Survival II, 2011

Communication between humans, plants, and animals plays a part in the mythologies of many cultures. Several artists take up this theme in Osher Gallery. In Jagannath Panda’s (India) The Cult of Survival II, the artist symbolizes endless cycles of consumption and production in the form of a snake crafted from pipes. Adeela Suleman (Pakistan) uses stainless steel reliefs of natural objects—birds, flowers, trees—to act as storytellers. Interrupting these traditional motifs are contemporary images of death (including suicide vests), prompting awareness of the ever-present threat of violence and extinction and the transitory nature of all things.

Within the gallery, Adrian Wong (USA/Hong Kong) constructs two rooms following the precepts of feng shui (a system of geomancy that attempts to incorporate laws of heaven and earth), one auspicious and the other inauspicious. Using Korean ceremonial objects from the museum’s collection, Wong experiments with the space between spaces and challenges visitors to tune into nearly imperceptible harmonies and disharmonies.

Sacred Mountains: Encountering the Gods
Sacred mountains have a place of prominence in Hinduism and Buddhism, among other religions, and several artists working with this theme are featured in the second-floor Tateuchi Gallery. Lin Xue (China/Hong Kong) connects to a spiritual past through his paintings of imagined mountains, rendered with a sharpened bamboo twig. His Untitled 2010-9 takes experiences from mountainous landscapes to create newly imagined landscapes, such as an island floating among an ocean replete with marine life. Aki Kondo’s (Japan) newest work, which depicts mountain deities, was motivated by the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

AKI KONDO. Detail, Mountain Gods, 201

AKI KONDO. Detail, Mountain Gods, 201


Exploring the same theme, but located in the Korean gallery on the second floor, Bae Young-whan’s (Korea) depictions of nature demonstrate a view of the body as a microcosm of the universe; for example, his installation of tiny ceramic mountain ranges echo the shape of his brain waves.


Partnering curator Kataoka suggests, “Asia is not a timeless construct,” but rather an ever-evolving concept that can “awaken a new awareness of our existence in this world.” Harding considers how the collection at the Asian Art Museum connects to art of today’s Asia and “how these traditional and contemporary objects can reveal new aspects of each other.”

To express these points of view, regional artists’ works are situated among traditional objects in the museum’s region-specific galleries, including Raqib Shaw’s (India/UK) hedonistic, dreamlike canvases in the South Asian galleries. The Kashmiri artist fuses influences as diverse as Japanese screens, Mughal miniatures, and Hieronymus Bosch paintings. Shaw’s style is both opulent and fastidious: his materials include glitter, rhinestones, and industrial paint, all applied painstakingly with a porcupine quill.

In the Chinese Buddhist sculpture gallery, Charwei Tsai’s (Taiwan) minimalist works evoke meditations on the ephemeral. Tsai’s calligraphy of the Chinese characters of the Heart Sutra on organic, transitory materials—tofu, mushrooms, lotus leaves—are exercises in the Buddhist precept of nonattachment.

“We hope visitors will connect with the essence of creative activity in Asia, a region that is rapidly changing on the surface, but where ancient phantoms still linger and spread their spells,” said Kataoka.

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Mayor Lee announces City will protect HIV/AIDS funding and allocate $6.6 million to programs and services

HIV/AIDS Health Services & Prevention Funding Restored in City’s Budget After Major Federal Funding Cuts

Mayor Edwin M. Lee joined by Supervisors Scott Wiener, David Campos and Christina Olague has announced a total $6.6 million full budget restoration for HIV/AIDS care, treatment and prevention funding in FY 2012-13 to protect essential services to the City’s most vulnerable despite major Federal funding cuts. Mayor Lee has also committed to cover half of the Federal funding shortfall in his proposed FY 2013-14 budget and met with the HIV/AIDS community and Supervisors today to commit to collaborating in the coming year to identify budget solutions.

“San Francisco will continue to maintain investments in HIV/AIDS care, treatment and prevention, which reflect our values to care for our most vulnerable populations and prevent the spread of infection,” said Mayor Lee. “Despite continued budget challenges, we remain committed to funding critical care services for those living with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco. Our City will continue to be a model for the rest of the nation, and we will continue to work collaboratively with our local community partners to build greater efficiencies in providing services to protect against future destabilizing Federal cuts.”

“I’m deeply grateful to Mayor Lee for his understanding of the critical need for this funding and for his swift and decisive action restoring the Federal cuts,” said Supervisor Wiener. “I represent many people living with HIV or at risk for it. This funding will save lives and prevent new infections.”

“We are grateful for Mayor Lee’s leadership on funding critical HIV/AIDS programs and services that will save lives, ensure that basic HIV/AIDS services are provided to the most vulnerable and prevent the spread of the disease in our community,” said Supervisor Campos.

“I thank Mayor Lee for working closely with the Board of Supervisors and community advocates to take bold actions against potentially devastating impacts in our community,” said Supervisor Olague. “Every dollar that we restore is going to save lives and prevent another infection.”

“As Director of Health, I am pleased that the Mayor has taken the extraordinary step of bridging the gap in federal funding for HIV AIDS services,” said San Francisco Director of Health Barbara Garcia. “This will allow us to continue to address the health needs for people living with HIV/AIDS and those who are at risk for HIV/AIDS.”

“We are deeply grateful to the Mayor for his bold decision to use City funds to fully replace Federal HIV/AIDS funding cuts that would have destabilized San Francisco’s nationally recognize system of care and prevention.  His leadership will help thousands of San Franciscans continue to access HIV/AIDS treatment services and will prevent the further spread of new infections,” said San Francisco HIV/AIDS Provider Network (HAPN) President Mike Smith. “In this time of decreasing state and federal funding, his action today reaffirms our City’s long-standing commitment to people with HIV/AIDS.”

The $6.6 million in funding restoration in the San Francisco budget reflect a total budget impact from a $4.3 million Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act reduction to HIV/AIDS health services and a $2.3 million Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reduction to HIV/AIDS prevention.

The $4.3 million Ryan White Care Act funding restoration will maintain primary care services and critical support services for San Franciscans living with HIV/AIDS, including hospice, treatment adherence, case management and housing. Maintaining these services is critical because San Francisco’s aging population living with HIV/AIDS is creating more complex conditions due to accelerated aging co-morbidity.  In addition, over half the people living with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco do not have private health insurance.

The $2.3 million CDC HIV/AIDS prevention funding restoration will maintain local surveillance, research, and prevention and evaluation activities and to build capacity and infrastructure to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. These activities are critically important because CDC estimates that about 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV, and that 21 percent of these persons do not know they are infected. In addition, the number of people living with AIDS is increasing, as effective new drug therapies keep HIV-infected persons healthy longer and dramatically reduce the death rate.

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Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones Announces Good News for California Drivers

Beginning mid-May, insurance premiums for Low Cost Auto Insurance program decrease up to 9% across California – biggest changes seen since 2009.

PR Newswire

As a result of the premium reductions, the statewide average cost of an annual Low Cost Automobile Insurance policy in California is now $257.69 a year and the premiums for all California counties are now less than $350 annually. The greatest changes in premiums are in the following counties: AlamedaContra CostaMarinSacramentoSan FranciscoSan JoaquinSan MateoSanta Clara,Stanislaus and Sutter.

“More than 4 million cars, or 15 percent of the cars on California roads, don’t have insurance,” Commissioner Jones said. “If financial limitations have kept consumers from purchasing car insurance, these changes make Low Cost Auto Insurance a more viable option for uninsured drivers.”

Established by the legislature in 1999, the CLCA program provides liability-only insurance for less than$350 a year, and the amount could be much less, depending on the county where the consumer lives.

Drivers may qualify if they:

  • have a good driving record
  • are at least 19 years old
  • have been continuously licensed to drive for three years
  • own a vehicle valued at $20,000 or less
  • meet the income eligibility requirements ($27,925 for one person, $37,825 for two people, up to$57,625 for a family of four)

California‘s Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program was established to provide income eligible persons with liability insurance protection at affordable rates as a way to meet California‘s financial responsibility laws. To learn more about the program, consumers can call 1-866-602-8861, visit or text “low cost” to 65374. For a full list of the new annual insurance premiums for each of the 58 counties visit the website.

And to assist more California drivers, the Low Cost Web site is now offered in Spanish. The website address is:

Please visit the Department of Insurance Web site at Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP. Out-of-state callers, please dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

SOURCE California Department of Insurance

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A 5,300 square foot warehouse in Dogpatch has been turned into one of the largest ballroom dance studios in San Francisco. Vima Dance Studio relocated to the new space on 26th Street at Third on April 1, 2012, quadrupling its dance space.

The studio plans to host a grand opening party on Saturday, June 14th at 8:00 p.m.

“There has been a huge upswing in interest in ballroom dance since shows like Dancing with the Stars began,” according to Vima owner Photis Pishiaras. “Over the past several years there has been an obvious need for more space to accommodate the growing Bay Area dance community.”

Pishiaras spent two months renovating the warehouse space, adding new flooring, mirrors and a new sound system. The new space includes a competition-size dance floor as well as several smaller dance floor areas. He envisions that the space will be able to nearly triple the numbers of Vima students as well accommodate larger dance showcases, social dances and competitive events.

Vima offers both social and competitive dance instruction. Classes include Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep, Salsa, Rumba, Cha-Cha, East Coast Swing,

West Coast Swing, Lindy Hop, Nightclub Two-Step, Bolero, Samba, Mambo, Merengue, Hustle, Country Western and Argentine Tango. The studio offers private and semi-private lesson, group classes and wedding dance instruction.

The studio also hosts a weekly social dance every Thursday at 9:00 p.m.

For additional information, contact Vima at 415.977.0203 or visit the website at

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Mayor Lee Announces Plan to Support Local Manufacturing Industry

Five-Point Local Manufacturing Plan Proposes: Manufacturing One Stop; Coordinated Marketing Effort for

San Francisco Made Products & Continued Investment to Support Local Manufacturers

As part of the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2012-13 budget proposal, Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced a five-point plan to support San Francisco’s local manufacturing industry during SFMade Week. According to SFMade, a local nonprofit that assists and supports the vibrant manufacturing sector in San Francisco, the City is home to more than 325 manufacturing firms employing 3,000 people.

“San Francisco is becoming a national model for innovative local urban manufacturing,” said Mayor Lee. “We are working with SFMade to provide a focused effort and demonstrate our commitment to manufacturers in San Francisco who continue to thrive and produce not only great products, but also great jobs for San Franciscans.”

“San Francisco – a City that melds the cultures of design, making, and technology – is a natural home for the next chapter of US urban manufacturing,” said SFMade Executive Director Kate Sofis. “The Mayor’s manufacturing plan will help ensure a vibrant manufacturing sector, sustain jobs for a diverse cross-section of residents, fuel economic diversity, and helps ensure that San Francisco will remain at the forefront of innovation.”

Mayor Lee’s local manufacturing plan would:
• Create a manufacturing desk in the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. The City’s manufacturing desk would serve as a single point of contact for manufacturing businesses assisting with everything from accessing incentive programs to navigating the City’s permit process;
• Focus on key sectors where San Francisco is well positioned to compete and succeed. The manufacturing plan builds on the lessons of FashionSF—the City’s initiative focused on supporting the retention and growth of apparel manufacturers and fashion designers—and would focus on sector such as food and beverage, consumer products, and rapid prototyping;
• Continue to invest in local manufacturers to support job retention and creation through continued support of groups such as SFMade. In 2011, support from the City and other partners allowed SFMade to serve 75 manufacturers, supporting more than 500 blue collar jobs;
• Work to ensure San Franciscans get connected to local manufacturing jobs, which provide employment opportunities for people of all education levels, particularly those without a four year college degree;
• Work with local manufacturers to launch a coordinated marketing campaign to promote San Francisco made products around the world by capitalizing on the City’s 70 foreign consulates, 20 trade offices, 18 Sister City programs, hundreds of international firms and millions of annual visitors.

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FAIRMONT HOTEL – Oaktree Capital Management and Woodridge Capital Partners Purchases Historic Hotel for Nearly $200 Million

The world renowned Fairmont San Francisco Hotel atop Nob Hill was sold today for close to $200 million to a consortium led by an affiliate of Oaktree Capital Management LP and real estate investor Michael Rosenfeld and his Woodridge Capital Partners LLC. The hotel was purchased from Maritz, Wolff & Co., which acquired its investment in the hotel in 1998 in partnership with Kingdom Holding, which is retaining its interest. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, based in Toronto, Canada, will continue to manage the storied hotel.

The Fairmont San Francisco opened in 1907. The Beaux Arts-style building was designed by New York architectural firm McKim, Mead & White and Julia Morgan, also well known for her design of Hearst Castle. Over its 105-year history, it has been home to many “firsts” from the drafting of the United Nations Charter to Tony Bennett’s premier of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. The Fairmont was home to America’s first concierge, and since its opening, has served as the San Francisco residence for U.S. presidents, world leaders and entertainment stars.

fairmont-hotel1THE FAIRMONT
John Brady, head of global real estate for Oaktree Capital Management, said, “We look forward to joining Oaktree’s significant real estate experience and an investor base that includes prominent public and corporate pension funds together with longstanding relationships with Woodridge, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Kingdom Holding and our new partners – the hotel’s outstanding employees and the City of San Francisco, one of the truly great cities of the world.”

With 591 guest rooms and suites and over 55,000 square feet of conference and function space, the hotel is renowned for its three restaurants and lounges including the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar with its thunderstorms and floating stage. Its location at 950 Mason Street atop Nob Hill offers spectacular views of the city and the Bay, and is the only spot in San Francisco where each of the city’s cable car lines meet.

Michael Rosenfeld stated: “The Fairmont San Francisco hotel’s rich history, elegance and beauty make it a one-of-a-kind property that cannot be replicated today. We are excited to be in such a distinguished partnership with a property that symbolizes the great City of San Francisco.”

Oaktree is a leading global investment management firm focused on alternative markets, with $77.9 billion in assets under management as of March 31, 2012. The firm emphasizes an opportunistic, value-oriented and risk-controlled approach to investments in distressed debt, corporate debt (including high yield debt and senior loans), control investing, convertible securities, real estate and listed equities. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the firm has over 650 employees and offices in 13 cities worldwide. For more information visit: OaktreeCapital

Woodridge Capital Partners, headed by its CEO Michael Rosenfeld, is a Los Angeles based real estate investment and development company with hotel, residential and commercial assets throughout the United States. Woodridge and Rosenfeld have been active in the real estate industry for more than 25 years. Rosenfeld also has other hotel interests with Oaktree, including the iconic Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, and the recently acquired Fairmont Orchid Resort on the famed Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

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Oakland, CA – – A unique social introduction service begins this week to offer the 51 million singles over the age of 40 in the United States opportunities to give back to their communities while meeting one another in a natural, non-threatening environment.Matches that Matter introduces small, compatible groups of 6 men and 6 women with similar interests to work together on projects at local nonprofit organizations. The group meets together in a series of three meetings (called a Flight), the initial awkwardness goes away and relationships more easily bloom.

“Our three years of research that lead to the model for Matches that Matter showed us that the needs of the over-40 single are very different from younger singles,” according to Odette Pollar, company Founder. “Traditional ways this group met dating partners when they were in their 20s and 30s are less available today or carry a negative or superficial image, like bars or online profile sites.

Pollar worked diligently over a three-year period on an ongoing research project to reveal the needs of single people over 40 as they approach dating and finding a meaningful relationship. She ran dozens of gender split focus groups to discuss dating experiences, dating services, and expectations of the over-40 single person. Further interviews with therapists, sociologists, matchmakers and relationship coaches helped to refine the model for understanding how couples create and sustain healthy relationships. She came away from this research with a “rules of the road” for successful dating in the 21st century and founded Matches that Matter.

All Matches That Matter participants have been professionally interviewed and undergone a background check as part of the enrollment and membership process. Everyone in the group has the time, energy and desire to meet like-minded singles. Plus, the nonprofit partner benefits from over 100 hours of volunteer activity with each Flight group sent to work on a project.

For additional information, contact Matches that Matter, 510/496-0040 or 888/813-7779.

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Mayor Lee and SFMTA announce 4-month Sunday Streets Mission Route Pilot

First of four consecutive monthly Sunday Streets Events along popular Mission route begins this Sunday as Pilot Program

Mayor Edwin M. Lee and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) today announced that this weekend’s Sunday Streets event will kick off a four-month pilot on the popular Mission route. Over the next four consecutive first Sundays of the month, residents can enjoy the 2.2-mile route along Valencia Street between Duboce Avenue and 24th Street and 24thStreet between Valencia and Hampshire Streets. The pilot will explore the feasibility of holding more frequent Sunday Streets events on this and other established routes.

“Sunday Streets showcases our City’s commitment to sustainability and innovation, and has also proven a cost-effective way to improve the health of San Franciscans,” said Mayor Lee. “We are committed to ensuring the program’s continued growth and success in 2012 and beyond.”

“San Francisco residents, merchants and visitors have enthusiastically embraced Sunday Streets and are consistently asking us for more of these kinds of programs,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Edward D. Reiskin. “We are proud to introduce a new element to Sunday Streets by testing a regular car-free route through one of San Francisco’s most populated and diverse neighborhoods. During this pilot, we will be looking closely at how we can help create open spaces in communities like the Mission where park space is limited and support the many small businesses along the way.”

Sunday Streets Map, May 6th

Sunday Streets Map, May 6th

As the hosts of this popular event, business leaders, residents and community organizations play a significant role in presenting diverse and engaging programs that embrace the area’s diverse cultural heritage. The Lower 24th Street Merchant and Neighbors Association and the Mission Merchant Association will host local performers, artists and community programs along 24th Street. Valencia merchants invite participants to explore the many unique shops, art galleries, eateries and community organizations located on this corridor.

Brava Theater, Casa Sanchez and businesses along the eastern portion of Lower 24th Street will enliven their area with performances and activities to encourage participants to travel the length of the route. Participants are invited to stop by Harrison Street between 24th and 25th streets to check out local cultural programming presented by LatinZone Productions and the Lower 24th Merchants.

Program highlights include:
• Live music and activities between Valencia Street at Duboce Avenue and Brava Theater on 24th and York streets
• Circus Center miniature circus show
• Free bike rentals by Parkwide LLC at Valencia and 15th streets, tune ups from Sports Basement’s Lube Fairies at 24th and Harrison streets and the SF Bicycle Coalition’s popular ‘Freedom from Training Wheels’ course at Valencia and 24th streets
• Programs for pets presented by Happy Hounds Massage at Valencia and 22ndstreets
• Dance, music and performances by Mission Cultural Center at 24th Street BART Plaza at 24th and Mission streets
• Capoera classes, DIY screenprinting and City Circus Acrobatics on Valencia Street between 14th and 15th streets
• Young Performers International, Stern Grove KidStage and other activities for kids in front of the Mission Public Library at 24th and Bartlett streets
• Classic Pedal Bike show and Bboy/Bgirl Hip Hop performances and lessons at 24thStreet and Treat Avenue
• Lowrider vehicle expo, featuring custom bicycles and cultural performances at Harrison and 24th streets.

Sunday Streets Neighbors
Although not on the car-free route, this year the McCoppin/Valencia Neighborhood Watch group will join their neighbors to the south by working with Off the Grid and the merchants along Valencia Street between Market Street and Duboce Avenue to offer fun and healthy programming and activities. Off the Grid will set up food trucks at the “McCoppin Hub” (on McCoppin Street, just west of Valencia Street), and Valencia merchants will feature live music, sales and special deals to participants.

While this area is not formally part of the Sunday Streets route—there will be vehicle traffic on these blocks of Valencia—Sunday Streets encourages participants traveling to the Mission via Market Street to check out additional programs at this end of the route.

Sunday Streets is presented by the SFMTA and Livable City, Sunday Streets’ nonprofit fiscal partner in partnership with the Mayor’s Office, San Francisco Police Department, Department of Public Works and the Recreation and Parks Department. The 2012 season is co-presented by Bank of America.

Sunday Streets Program Partners include the YMCA of SF, whose local branches help organize youth activities along each route; the California Outdoor Rollersports Association, founded and led by legendary D. Miles a.k.a. “The Godfather of Skate;” and free bike programs and services provided by Parkwide LLC, Mikes Bikes, REI and Sports Basement.

The following community organizations and businesses join Sunday Streets 2012 Presenting Sponsor Bank of America to provide financial support to Sunday Streets: AT&T, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Bi-Rite Markets, Blue Shield of California, The California Endowment, California Pacific Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, Recology, Shape Up SF and United Healthcare Workers West. Major in-kind support is provided by The American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter, which provides emergency medical support, City CarShare and Parkwide LLC. The San Francisco Examiner and Clear Channel Radio are media sponsors. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition runs Sunday Streets’ volunteer program.

Sunday Streets 2012 Season Schedule
May 6: Mission
June 3: Mission
July 1: Mission
July 22: Bayview
August 5: Mission
August 26: Chinatown
September 9: Western Addition/N. Panhandle Alamo Square
October 21: Outer Mission/Excelsior

Click here for more information: SundayStreetsSF

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A CONVERSATION WITH GENNADI NEDVIGIN – Principal Dancer, San Francisco Ballet

Sean Martinfield, Arts Contributor

For Gennadi Nedvigin, a Principal Dancer with San Francisco Ballet, the 2012 season has been rich with opportunity. He delivered a stunning performance as “Lensky” in the Opening Night production of John Cranko’s Onegin. In Program 2 he was featured in the world premiere of Mark Morris’ all-male ballet, Beaux, and Christopher Wheeldon’s Number Nine. In Program 3 he appeared in Helgi Tomasson’s Trio which was set to music by Tchaikovsky. Even in the largest of ensembles Nedvigin’s electric energy is easily spotted and in an intimate pas de deux with such partners as Maria Kochetkova – he radiates crystalline strength and transcendent joy. When those qualities are channeled into the popular story ballets, he has mastered an array of determinate Royals – “Albrecht” in Swan Lake, “Desiré” in Sleeping Beauty, the “Nutcracker Prince” – and shines as the boy-next-door, “Franz” in Coppélia. In March he delivered a captivating interpretation of “Mercutio” in Romeo and Juliet. The role is notorious in the canon of Shakespeare’s plays, requiring first an actor of unconventional vitality followed by a long list of endowments that run from attractive to zany, all of which spin about in a character who has the soul of a poet, the endurance of a ladies’ man, the tenacity of a best friend, and a solid reputation for being the village inebriate. Tomasson’s choreography captures these attributes and Gennadi Nedvigin conveyed them with ease. This week, in the final production of Don Quixote, he is scheduled to dance the leading role of “Basilio” on Friday, May 4th, and the closing performance on Sunday afternoon, May 6th. Click here to purchase tickets on-line: DON QUIXOTE  GENNADI NEDVIGIN and MARIA KOCHETKOVA. Tomasson's "Trio".  Photo, Erik Tomasson

GENNADI NEDVIGIN and MARIA KOCHETKOVA. Tomasson’s “Trio”. Photo, Erik Tomasson

The City’s golden gates were opened for ballet star Gennadi Nedvigin in March 1997 when Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet, handed him the opportunity of a lifetime – the kind served-up on the proverbial silver platter. From the time he was ten years old the young Russian-born dancer had trained at the Bolshoi Ballet School. Now he was on tour with Le Jeune Ballet de France and San Francisco was in its sights. The company would stay about two weeks, take classes with San Francisco Ballet, and collaborate on a number of pieces to be performed at the Palace of Fine Arts. After that, who knew? Gennadi needed a job and the curtain was coming down on this gig with the French company. A few years later, it completely folded.

“They always had young dancers,” he said, “not more than 20 years old. With Jeune Ballet de France you usually stayed for a year and then moved on. It was like a transitional company that helped young dancers get some practice, become stronger, learn new things and then head into a bigger company. Right after our last performance, Helgi was standing in the wings and asked if he could have a word with me. He said, “I have a contract to offer you – as a Soloist. Give it some thought and get back to me within two weeks.” I didn’t have to wait two weeks. I had never been in America before and the City was so beautiful. The weather was great, we were performing at the Palace of Fine Arts which is so romantic, and everything that surrounded me at the time was so enjoyable. So, I changed and went back to the reception. A lot of dancers from San Francisco Ballet were there, a lot of students – I didn’t realize everyone was watching me. I signed the contract right there and all of a sudden the champagne bottles started popping.”

GENNADI NEDVIGIN. Act 3, "Coppelia".  Photo, Erik Tomasson

GENNADI NEDVIGIN. Act 3, "Coppelia". Photo, Erik Tomasson

Three years later Gennadi was promoted to Principal Dancer. Since then, his continued openness to all things new and commitment to excellence has turned him into the consummate artist/dancer. But it was in this season’s opening production of John Cranko’s “Onegin” that Gennadi’s dramatic abilities took on a new dimension. Based on the classic novel by Alexander Pushkin and set to a collection of various works by Tchaikovsky, Gennadi portrayed “Lensky”, friend to the dashing and arrogant “Eugene Onegin” danced by Vitor Luiz. The second Act involves a party scene where the dazzling Onegin decides to alleviate his boredom by inviting Lensky’s fiancée Olga to dance. Onegin’s deeper motivation is to provoke Lensky by aggressively flirting with her. Olga is naïve and unaccustomed to such overt sexual energy, especially coming from someone who is obviously way out of her league. As they continue to dance, it is apparent to everyone that she is foolishly responding to Onegin and creating an atmosphere that has gone beyond inappropriate. Lensky fails to stop their dance and responds by challenging Onegin to a duel. By this point, not only had the dramatic tension risen to its highest point but so had the hot-blooded magnetism of the very-appealing Mr. Nedvigin. Like never before.

GENNADI NEDVIGIN and CLARA BLANCO in John Cranko's "Onegin".  Photo, Erik Tomasson

GENNADI NEDVIGIN and CLARA BLANCO in John Cranko's "Onegin". Photo, Erik Tomasson

“Lensky has purer feelings,” he said. “He is sincere and genuinely mad. It’s basically a black and white situation, with Olga in-between them as “red” – the kind of woman that goes with one man and then with another. Audiences always have better feelings towards Lensky. I re-read the story before we started rehearsing. It is so dear to me. The hardest part for me was to find Lensky’s fragility and innocence and to actually bring those emotions to the stage. You don’t want to fake it or overplay it and then look ridiculous, because Lensky is a sincere soul. There are not many characters like this in ballet.”

“Sincerity must be the food of love then,” I responded, “because I’m sitting out there glaring at Olga (Clara Blanco) and thinking, “Fool! Why would you be throwing yourself at Onegin when you’ve got a lover like Lensky?”

Gennadi laughed. “Well, you know, as my girl says – ‘Girls always like the bad boys.’”

SARAH VAN PATTEN and GENNADI NEDVIGIN in Mark Morris’ "Joyride".  Photo, Erik Tomasson

SARAH VAN PATTEN and GENNADI NEDVIGIN in Mark Morris’ "Joyride". Photo, Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet has an international roster of world class dancers with varying gifts who can step-in for each other at a moment’s notice. Compared to European companies which may favor taller dancers in lead romantic roles, at San Francisco Ballet the look is about balance and perspective. It is not unusual within a course of nine performances of certain programs for there to be as many as five casting combinations. All of them are “star-studded”, each ensemble delivering an artistically remarkable product. Gennadi acknowledged my observation that artists here have the opportunity to flourish.

“In Europe, it’s usually the taller people who do principal parts,” he said. “I know if I were in Europe, I probably wouldn’t have been as fortunate to have danced as many of the leading roles in Classical ballets as I have here. It’s true. Here we are given the chance to do it. And I am so grateful.”

“With that leeway in mind,” I asked, “that everything is possible for you – what leading Classical role do you still dream about doing?”

“I would like to do a production of Sheherezade. Something like that. Not what our Company has ever done or maybe thought of doing. These ballets are very different – very different style, different color, and ethnicity. The roles are very different. It has a more Eastern style and approach. The character of the “Golden Slave” is not a prince, but more like the pirate in Le Corsaire. That’s what interests me – the opportunity to explore different types of characters. That’s why I enjoy the roles of Albrecht, Franz, and Lensky. They are all different. A Prince is a Prince. You’re doing different steps, but your character is pretty much the same everywhere.”

GENNADI NEDVIGIN. Act 3, "Swan Lake".  Photo, Erik Tomasson

GENNADI NEDVIGIN. Act 3, "Swan Lake". Photo, Erik Tomasson

Along the way, I have missed seeing Gennadi as “Prince Albrecht” in Giselle. He recounted his adventure with a last-minute call to replace Joan Boada who’d had an injury and could not finish the rehearsal of Act II. Gennadi had not been scheduled into the role that season. Like riding a bike, does the choreography just stay in your body?

“I wasn’t upset. I’ve done the role. There were lots of casts. But I had to jump in because of his injury. We would be doing this Giselle in two days. I danced with Masha (Maria Kochetkova). I had been rehearsing something else at the time. They called me and said, “Can you come on stage, please?” It was during their first run-through. They were in the first Act and Joan was already starting to hurt, but they weren’t sure. I did the second Act – with only my memory of the performances from about three years before. It went pretty smooth. We had another rehearsal the following day and the day after that we did the performance. It was one of those really good performances! Sometimes when you just jump in, without a lot of planning, you have a kind-of freedom. You think, ‘OK, if I do something wrong, well, I’m sorry. I really didn’t have that much time to prepare.’ You don’t feel the same kind of pressure as when you’ve been rehearsing for a month and then go on stage and do something wrong. Then you feel really horrible! But when you jump in like this, you have to work within that limited time frame. Whatever happens, happens. Yes, it was running through my head for two days. But you go on stage with more freedom. And sometimes it turns out that it’s one of the best performances you’ve done. Actually, when I was in school, Albrecht was one of those roles I did dream about doing.”

GENNADI NEDVIGIN. Act 4, "Swan Lake"  Photo, Erik Tomasson

GENNADI NEDVIGIN. Act 4, "Swan Lake" Photo, Erik Tomasson

I asked Gennadi how he comes down from a role such as Albrecht – one that is so physically demanding and, emotionally speaking, so high-strung. The plot and dramatic style of Giselle sits on a very high plane. After all, not every Prince gets to have one last dance with the ghost of his sweetheart. “Do you still feel the choreography running through your body? How do you end the day, go home and turn off?”

“I’m still looking for an answer,” he replied. “It’s pretty much impossible. Your mind is running, somehow your body is still running. I may not be able to fall asleep until two or three o’clock in the morning. I may wake-up at five or six and not be able to fall asleep again. It’s horrible. I can be sitting still and thinking of how I did it or will do it the next time and all of a sudden my leg gets very tight or the whole body becomes very tense because I’m going through the steps again. And then I think, “OK! Just relax, just relax.” It’s really challenging, just to be able to relax afterwards. I don’t think anyone has the answer. It just takes time.”

Casts are subject to change. Click here to purchase tickets on-line: DON QUIXOTE

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Mayor Lee Announces Major Expansion of Sharing Economy Leader Airbnb

Company Signs 169,000 Square Foot Lease in

Showplace Square with Capacity for more than 1,000 New Jobs

Today Mayor Edwin M. Lee and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced that Airbnb has signed a 169,000 square foot lease at 888 Brannan Street in Showplace Square. Airbnb’s lease will allow their company to grow from their current 125 employees to more than 1,000 staff. The ten year lease will quadruple Airbnb’s square footage and allow for an eight fold increase in jobs as they continue to grow in San Francisco.

“San Francisco is at the forefront of the sharing economy and companies like Airbnb are creating real jobs for San Franciscans,” said Mayor Lee. “The sharing economy was born here, and I am committed to ensuring that San Francisco supports this emerging sector’s growth and success. Congratulations to Airbnb on their new Showplace Square home joining the growing innovation hub in the neighborhood.”

“The entrepreneurial spirit of San Francisco is what inspired us to create Airbnb, and the Mayor’s commitment to the sharing economy made us decide to strengthen our roots here,” said Airbnb CEO and Co-Founder Brian Chesky. “This lease not only signifies a 10-year commitment to San Francisco, but also to this neighborhood, where we want to be a great neighbor to the local community. We hope to create an inspirational space that brings people together and promotes the sharing of ideas.”

In April 2012, Mayor Lee formed the nations first Sharing Economy Working Group, bringing together City departments, neighborhood and community stake holders and sharing economy companies. The first working group discussions will focus on how to better support parking and car sharing while discussions between policy makers on the appropriate level of taxation and regulation of both short term vacation rentals and year round rentals are ongoing.

Today’s announcement solidifies Showplace Square as a hub for technology companies. Airbnb will join technology leaders including Adobe Systems, Advent Software, Dolby, Eventbrite, Flixter, Jawbone, Sega and Zynga in the neighborhood.

About Airbnb

Founded in 2008 and based in San Francisco, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world – online or from a mobile phone. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 19,000 cities and 192 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.

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KILLING MY LOBSTER – A One-Night-Only Appearance at A.C.T., 5/24

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) announced two special events associated with their upcoming production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and Play, opening May 9th at the American Conservatory Theater. San Francisco’s premiere sketch comedy troupe – Killing My Lobsterwill perform Beckett-inspired sketches during a one-night-only appearance at the American Conservatory Theater on Thursday, May 24th following the 8:00 performance of Endgame and Play. A.C.T. also invites all graphic artists, illustrators, and comic enthusiasts to submit their Beckett-inspired original art to a special Beckett Design Contest. All entrants will receive discounts to the production, and selected submissions will be displayed online and as part of a special gallery in the theater during the run of Endgame and Play, where they will be eligible for audience voting and additional prizes.

Using the unique style and characters of Samuel Beckett as their inspiration for a wholly original evening of sketches, Killing My Lobster will perform in Fred’s Columbia Room, the lower-level lounge at the American Conservatory Theater. Says Killing My Lobster producer Andy Alabran: “We were thrilled to be invited by A.C.T. to perform in the American Conservatory Theater. The Killing My Lobster writers are working to create a hilarious evening of sketch comedy using Beckett’s more well-known plays such as Endgame, Happy Days, and Waiting for Godot as fodder for parody. Possible sketches include ‘Hunger End Games,’ a cooking show called ‘Cooking with Clov,’ and a speed-dating sketch featuring Beckett characters. This will be a one-night-only Killing My Lobster event not to be missed!” Admission is free, but seating is limited. Click here for ticket information: BECKETT



A.C.T. also invites all illustrators, graphic designers, and comic fans to submit a comic or drawing inspired by master playwright Samuel Beckett to a special Beckett Design Contest. Comics should illustrate one of three provided topics: 1) Single-Frame Comic: a one-panel comic inspired by Samuel Beckett (e.g., Beckett history, the themes of his plays/prose, etc); 2) Multi-Frame Comic: a depiction of one of two Beckett scenes from Endgame or Play as a page from a graphic novel; or 3) A Portrait of Samuel Beckett. Widely regarded as one of the great writers of the 20th century, and a master of absurdist fiction, Samuel Beckett has had an influence on many visual artists through the years, inspiring illustrations of his plays and portraits (or caricatures) of his distinctive visage. His plays are full of comic routines (slapstick behavior, clown-like characters, and ridiculous conversations), even as they employ dark humor, post-apocalyptic settings, and vivid imagery to explore heavy themes of despair and existential uncertainty.

Comics will be viewed and judged by members of A.C.T.’s artistic and graphic design staff. All appropriate pieces will be featured in a gallery at the American Conservatory Theater during the run of Endgame and Play, as well as on a special page of A.C.T.’s website. Audience members will be given the chance to vote for their favorite. A grand prize will be awarded and will include four VIP tickets to an upcoming A.C.T. production, a private backstage tour of the historic American Conservatory Theater, and a signed cast poster from Endgame and Play. Other winners, including an audience favorite, will win a pair of tickets to an A.C.T. production of their choice. Winners will be notified by Friday, May 25. All entrants will receive discounted tickets to Beckett’s Endgame and Play. Deadline for entry is May 18, 2012. Submissions can be sent via email or post. All submissions must include a completed copy of the submission form. Print copies must be postmarked by May 14, 2012. Click here for full details: DESIGN CONTEST

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Mayor Lee presents proposed May 1st balanced budget

Two-Year Budget Proposal for Seven Enterprise Departments Creates

More Than 8,700 Jobs & Infuses $1.3 Billion into Local Economy Through Capital Projects

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today presented his proposed two-year balanced budget for seven City departments totaling $5.2 billion. The May 1st budget focuses on enterprise departments or agencies within City government that generate revenue.

“This May 1st budget focuses on putting San Franciscans back to work, investing in our City’s infrastructure and keeping San Francisco safe, solvent and successful,” said Mayor Lee. “By creating thousands of jobs, seismically strengthening our water system, improving our Airport terminals and runways, investing in Muni maintenance and upgrading our piers, we are ensuring that San Francisco will have a secure economic future. This budget proposal, and this year’s budget process, reflects my commitment to innovate to solve our City’s challenges, involve the public, and invest in our capital assets and workforce.”

The City departments included in this May 1st proposed budget are critical to the short-term and long-term economic health of the City. These enterprise departments include:

• Airport

• Board of Appeals

• Environment

• Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA)

• Port

• Public Utilities Commission (PUC)

• Rent Arbitration Board

This May 1st proposal is an important step toward crafting a balanced citywide budget for the upcoming years. By June 1st, the Mayor must propose a citywide budget that closes the $170 million General Fund budget shortfall in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012-13, and a $312 million General Fund shortfall in FY 2013-14. This budget reflects the City’s third year of two-year budgeting for our largest enterprise departments, and the first year that Airport, PUC, Port and MTA will all move forward with a fixed two-year budget.

Innovation. Cities like San Francisco thrive because of their ability to cultivate innovative ideas. This is why Mayor Lee has reached out across the City’s departments and communities to find innovative ways to bring costs down while allowing the City to continue providing the essential services that keep neighborhoods and diverse communities moving in the right direction.

Involvement. Mayor Lee recognizes that achievements as a City are founded in commitment to hear directly from residents, communities and neighborhood organizations about what matters most to them. This is why Mayor Lee co-hosted six district-based budget town halls with all of the members of the Board of Supervisors, met with numerous stakeholders and will continue to work for greater transparency around the budget process.

Investment. By choosing to live, work, and play in San Francisco, we are all investing in the City. The May 1st proposed budget reflects our City’s significant capital investments over the coming years. Over the next two years, for example, the PUC proposes spending $71.5 million to maintain and improve the water, wastewater and power resources for the City. In addition, the budget includes implementation of the San Francisco International Airport’s 10-year $206 million investment in the development of the Runway Safety Area Plan. The Port of San Francisco will continue to invest in our waterfront piers and facilities, including the Cruise Terminal project at Pier 27. These investments will provide much-needed jobs for San Francisco residents as the City works to emerge from the economic downturn. Over the next two years, these departments will support more than 8,700 jobs in San Francisco by infusing $1.3 billion into the local economy through capital projects.

Click here to view: Mayor’s proposed May 1st Balanced Budget

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