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SPRING 2012 — ISSUE 6 SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG
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COSTS VARY WILDLY FOR HEALTH CARE MANDATE COMPANIES USE LEGAL LOOPHOLE TO POCKET MONEY INTENDED FOR WORKERS’ MEDICAL COVERAGE PAGE A3
FEDERAL HEALTH REFORM COULD HIT HEALTHY S.F. IN THE POCKETBOOK
‘FORCE, FRAUD, COERCION’: HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN THE BAY AREA A SPECIAL REPORT PRODUCED IN COLLABORATION WITH NEW AMERICA MEDIA AND EL TECOLOTE PAGES B1-B6
State Inaction Slows Anti-Trafficking Effort BAY AREA POLICE SHIFT TO ‘VICTIM-CENTERED’ APPROACH; ACTIVISTS PRESS FOR STIFFER CRIMINAL PENALTIES PAGE B1
How Infamous Berkeley Case Fueled Reform
AS MIDDLE-CLASS USERS LEAVE PROGRAM, UNIVERSAL PLAN COULD REVERT TO SAFETY NET FOR POOR PAGE A3
LAX RULES FOR CONTRACTORS QUESTIONED
LANDLORD WAS CONVICTED OF TRANSPORTING YOUNG WOMEN AND GIRLS FROM INDIA FOR WORK AND SEX, BUT SPENT JUST 8 YEARS IN PRISON PAGE B1
Visa Aimed at Helping Victims Requires Clearing Legal Hurdles THOSE SEEKING TO STAY MUST HELP LAW ENFORCEMENT WITH CRIMINAL CASES, BUT MANY FEAR RETRIBUTION PAGE B2
WHILE UNLICENSED BUILDERS ARE BUSTED, LOOPHOLE LETS OTHERS AVOID TESTS, BACKGROUND CHECKS PAGE A4
TIME REPLACES CASH, ALLOWING NEIGHBORS TO SHARE SKILLS HOLIDAYS TEST COMMUNITY-BASED WAYS TO EXCHANGE GOODS AND SERVICES PAGE A4
TRUE STORIES OF RESCUES BY ASIAN PACIFIC ISLANDER LEGAL OUTREACH CENTER IN S.F. PAGE B5
Cops, Labor Agencies Fail to Connect
Trafficking: Growing World Epidemic
Ballot Drive Seeks Stiffer Penalties
WORKPLACE RAIDS RARELY END IN TRAFFICKING ARRESTS PAGE B3
ESTIMATES PUT THOSE ENSLAVED IN MILLIONS PAGE B4
GROUP WANTS TO INCREASE SENTENCES, TRAIN POLICE PAGE B5
TRAFFICKING TIMELINE: A decade-plus look at federal, state and local efforts to combat the problem. PAGES B2-B3
DEMOGRAPHICS: Department of Justice statistics on suspected human trafficking cases, 2008-2010. PAGE B4
ENVIRONMENT / EDUCATION
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE INCHES FORWARD
OAKLAND LIBRARIES TURN INCREASINGLY INTO COMMUNITY CENTERS
DECISION BY S.F.-BASED APPEALS COURT THAT PROP. 8 IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL SETS STAGE FOR NEW FIGHT PAGE B6
PAYDAY LOANS STILL DRAWING INTEREST
ECONOMIC DOWNTURN HAS PATRONS SEEKING HELP FOR JOB APPLICATIONS, PRENATAL CARE PAGE A5
BLOGGERS, SOCIAL MEDIA USERS SOUND OFF ON ‘LOW-FINANCE’ INDUSTRY PAGE B6
HOMELESS IN THE STACKS, PATRONS GET HELP IN S.F.
A POEM: Melissa Mack on the aftermath of the Occupy Oakland general strike. PAGE B6
SOCIAL WORKER BASED IN THE LIBRARY HAS REFERRED MORE THAN 1,000 TO CITY SERVICES PAGE A5
INVASION OF THE ZOMBIE HONEYBEES SCARES S.F. STATE RESEARCHERS
HARD TIMES FOR BAYVIEW GARDENS
PARASITE NOW PREYING ON EUROPEAN SPECIES KEY TO STATE’S AGRICULTURE PAGE A7
HIGHER TUITION COULD BE LOWERING COMPASSION BERKELEY RESEARCHERS SAY ECONOMIC DIVERSITY OF STUDENTS IS VITAL PAGE A7
QUESADA GARDENS INITIATIVE PRODUCES TONS OF FRESH FOOD EACH YEAR, YET STRUGGLES TO SURVIVE AS SOURCES OF FUNDING DRY UP PAGE A6
JUST HOW ORGANIC IS THAT PLATE OF FOOD? SOME CHEFS FIND COMPLIANCE PROBLEMATIC PAGE A7
UCSF DEBATES ITS ROLE IN UNIVERSITY SYSTEM THAT IS STRUGGLING WITH FUNDING AND RISING TUITION CHANCELLOR SAYS SYSTEM SHOULDN’T LOWER EXPECTATIONS PAGE A6
RANKED-CHOICE VOTING FACES TOUGH CHALLENGE FROM SKEPTICS OPPONENTS SAY IT CONFUSES VOTERS, BUT SUPPORTERS NOTE THAT IT SAVES MONEY OVER RUNOFF SYSTEM PAGE B7
THE BEAUTY OF STREET ART MAY BE IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER MISSION DISTRICT MURALISTS SEEK TO REPLACE GRAFFITI WITH VIBRANT CULTURAL MESSAGES PAGE B7
CLIMATE: Scientists are studying the effects of global warming on coastal wetlands in the Bay Area. PAGE A8
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AMERICA’S CUP GIVES MUNI A CHANCE TO EXPERIMENT NEW RAIL LINE, REVAMPED BUS ROUTES TO HELP MOVE EXPECTED FLOOD OF SUMMERTIME VISITORS PAGE B8
INFILL AND TRANSIT-ORIENTED POLICIES MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH SOME SMART-GROWTH DEVELOPMENTS COULD EXPOSE PEOPLE TO MORE TOXIC AIR POLLUTION PAGE B8
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Seasons in the Sun 2
Andrea Carla Michaels
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sfpublicpress.org // Spring 2012
A3 SF Public Press
Some San Francisco Firms Using Legal Loophole to Skimp on Health Care Cost
I Darren Barrett gets his blood pressure taken by medical assistant Joyce Chong-Grogg at the San Francisco General Hospital outpatient clinic, which serves enrollees in Healthy San Francisco. The program faces uncertain future funding. Cindy Chew // Public Press
City’s Health Plan Risks Reverting to Safety Net for Poor Local, state officials must develop new models for care by 2014
an Francisco’s experiment in universal health care, which grew over the last five years to cover an estimated 85 percent of the city’s uninsured, may need to partly return to its origin as a network of safety net clinics and hospitals for the poor as national reforms syphon off middle-class patients. Healthy San Francisco, the universal health care program that now provides medical services to more than 50,000 city residents, has received praise as a national model for offerStory: ing inexpensive access Angela Hart to higher-income resi// Public Press dents who lack insurance, and the longerterm promise of cost containment. But the program could take a financial blow within the next two years as cities and counties adapt to national health reform. While thousands will get insurance, the federal law leaves some of the most vulnerable populations exposed and in need of care. Because fees are means-tested, that will reduce the income Healthy San Francisco earns from the patients themselves. Nearly 70,000 city residents will remain uninsured after federal reform, according to a 2011 report by the San Francisco Health Reform Task Force. In California, that figure is estimated at 3.1 million. Nationally, 23.3 million people will not have insurance. FEDERAL HEALTH ACT CRITICIZED Lawmakers who passed Healthy San Francisco in 2007 now criticize the Affordable Care Act, saying it leaves out huge swaths of the population — largely undocumented immigrants, prisoners and those with very low income. The city is already struggling to pay for universal health care. Healthy San Francisco pays $114 per patient, per visit, to medical clinics. But a dozen medical directors from the city’s 35 clinics interviewed last fall said they were shouldering the burden of uninsured patients. On average, a doctor visit costs individual clinics roughly $300 per patient, and patients typically make three visits a year. Some clinics say this cost requires them to turn patients away. User fees, federal grants and a special requirement on businesses that brings in payments for each employee, 2010 city data show, brought in $78 million, less than half the $178 million total cost of the program. The balance comes from the city’s General Fund. But as of 2014, patient fees and business contributions will be eliminated, as residents become eligible for MediCal or for
the purchase of insurance through state health exchanges as called for by federal law. Further threatening Healthy San Francisco, federal grants that currently help pay for local initiatives will be diverted from counties to fund the Affordable Care Act. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who as San Francisco’s mayor signed Healthy San Francisco into law in 2007, said it is devastating that immigrants, prisoners and the very poor will fall through the cracks as federal funding for safety-net providers is stripped. As patients who use Healthy San Francisco move to the national program, San Francisco’s system starts to look more like a safety-net model. Yet, while medical experts and politicians say the city is unusually dedicated to caring for the needy, it could lose political support in the long run if middle-class users exit the program. As the “universal” moniker falls apart, the program could be more vulnerable to future budget cuts, say officials who have championed the program. ‘HEALTH CARE IS A RIGHT’ Under federal reform, Healthy San Francisco would primarily serve populations who regularly “get thrown under the bus,” said state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, an original author of the program. “Health care is a right, not a privilege,” Ammiano said. “The way we see it, Healthy San Francisco can pick up who Obama’s plan leaves behind.” Newsom said the issue is urgent and policymakers need to start planning now for how to care for those left out by the Affordable Care Act. “The reality is that there are millions of Americans who will fall through the cracks when health reform is implemented federally,” Newsom said. “It’s a legitimate question to ask how we’re going to keep paying for the program. No doubt it’s going to change who we cover.” “Dollars are going to be taken away from cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles to pay for the Affordable Care Act,” he added. “So there’ll be less money to pay for the indigent and undocumented.” Kim Belshe, a senior health policy adviser for the Public Policy Institute of California who studies access, quality and cost, said counties like San Francisco will be left to figure out how to care for the uninsured not covered nationally. “The Affordable Care Act is near-universal coverage, so moving towards 2014, the question becomes how do we care for these underserved populations who are left out?” Belshe said. “What we need to ask is what’s the size and profile of who Healthy San Francisco serves today? How many will
remain outside the provisions of the Affordable Care Act? And who will become responsible for providing and funding their care?” Newsom said Healthy San Francisco is safe politically, even as the city struggles to pay for itself, and has successfully fended off attacks in court by restaurant groups. The hope is that the program will morph into a safety-net model that other municipalities can look to for lessons. STILL POLITICALLY VIABLE The program works largely because of San Francisco’s unique character. Its management is simplified by being both a city and county. Politicians are mostly socially progressive and assisted by special-interest groups that rallied together in support. Labor unions supported the program in 2007, along with the Chamber of Commerce, local hospitals and small business, officials said. But the city’s key advantage was the existing safety-net infrastructure, which permitted economies of scale after they were networked together. One of Healthy San Francisco’s innovations is the “medical home” concept, in which patients are sent to one location for all their primary care concerns and referrals to specialists. Studies indicate that medical homes lead to more preventive care and lower costs overall. Tangerine Brigham, director of Healthy San Francisco, a program of the Department of Public Health, said that despite financial challenges, the program remains vital. As of Jan. 1, the program provides access to care for nearly 46,000 San Francisco residents. The General Fund allocation in the last fiscal year was $99.7 million, a sum the city can afford because it is similar to what the city was spending previously on charity care. But as counties lose federal government funding, San Francisco’s safety net could be at risk. “We’ve said since the beginning, that insurance is preferable to Healthy San Francisco,” Brigham said. “But we will always have the program — our city has made a commitment to that.” Brigham estimated that 40 percent of San Francisco’s population will be left out of federal health care incentives, and she said San Francisco is dedicated to serving their needs. “We believe that access to health care will continue to be an important issue for individuals irrespective of income status, immigration status or unemployment status,” she said.
t’s no wonder there is a hue and cry about an uneven playing field among businesses as they comply with San Francisco’s Health Care Security Ordinance. The law requires most employers to provide health care benefits to workers who put in at least eight hours a week. But an analysis of compliStory: ance reports submitted by 15 Barbara Grady randomly selected employers // Public Press to the city’s Labor Standards Enforcement Office finds that they spent wildly different amounts on health benefits per employee in 2010, the most recent year reported. The analysis provides details of a major loophole city leaders tried to patch last fall to recoup an estimated $50 million that businesses put in the bank last year to cover employees’ health costs but withdrew when employees failed to use it by year’s end. While some of the differences between health care spending by businesses reflect part-time versus full-time workforces, the differences also reflect how an employer chooses to comply with the law. Employers have three options: provide health insurance, use the city’s own Healthy San Francisco program, or set up health reimbursement accounts. For instance, A16 Restaurant, a trendy cafe in the Marina district, enrolled most of its eligible employees in health reimbursement accounts, according to its own reporting. The cafe spent $71 per year per employee with those accounts. Wayfare Tavern, an upscale pub on Sacramento Street, spent even less — $26 per employee — for all but one of its employees, for whom it spent $3,610. How? It enrolled all but that one employee in health reimbursement accounts, contributed $60,114 into those accounts and paid out only $601 in benefits — or an average $26 per worker — recouping the remaining $59,513. By comparison, Zuni Cafe, which like the others depends on part-time workers, spent $738 on each of 41 employees it enrolled in health reimbursement accounts. Zuni bought conventional health insurance for 49 more employees. And the Marriot International Hotel (admittedly in a different industry with more full-time workers), bought health insurance for 1,901 employees. The hotel spent about $9,368 on each and enrolled 34 more employees in Healthy San Francisco, the health care access plan run by the city, and spent $1,845 on each of those employees, according to the report filed by Marriot with the Labor Standards Enforcement Office. The compliance report information was released by the enforcement office through a California Public Records Act request. COSTS SPUR CITY SCRUTINY Evidence of compliance disparities with San Francisco’s Health Care Security Ordinance led the Board of Supervisors to amend the law, effective January 2012. The disparities also appear to have spurred the San Francisco civil grand jury to investigate. The citizen commission, which writes independent reports examining the effectiveness of city government, has been questioning people involved with the program in and out of city government about the ordinance and seeking documents. The civil grand jury also interviewed this reporter after the release of a detailed report on the program in the winter edition of the San Francisco Public Press. The commission’s report is expected by June 30. The landmark Health Care Security Ordinance provides for health insurance for any San Francisco resident by requiring most employers to spend a minimum amount on employees’ health care benefits and by establishing Healthy San Francisco, a health access plan, for people who do not have employer-based health care coverage. The 2007 law requires businesses with at least 20 employees and nonprofit organizations with at least 50 employees to spend a minimum on health care coverage for any employee working more than eight hours a week. The minimum currently is $1.46 an hour per worker, which adds up to $607 a year for an eight-hour-a-week worker. Employers have three ways of meeting that re-
quirement. One is to provide health insurance. Another option is to enroll their employees in Healthy San Francisco. And the third option is to set up health reimbursement accounts and put in a minimum per hour per worker. It was that third option, contributing to health reimbursement accounts, that led to compliance problems, although only a small percentage of employers used this option. $50 MILLION AT ISSUE After the ordinance was passed, some employers found a loophole in setting up health care reimbursement accounts. They found they could recoup any money in these accounts unspent at year’s end. And so they did. An analysis last summer by the city’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement of 2010 compliance data found that 860 employers using this option together contributed $62 million to health reimbursement plans for their employees, but spent only $12 million in actual health care reimbursements. They took back the remaining $50 million at year’s end. In fact, half of the companies using health reimbursement plans to meet the requirement were retaining 90 percent of the money they allocated. Noting this “raises public policy concerns” especially because it coincided with a detectable climb in the number of companies ditching health insurance in favor of reimbursement plans, the analysis caught the attention of Supervisor David Campos. He had heard from workers, particularly in restaurants, who found their benefits gone when they got sick in January. Campos
Businesses that do follow the rules … have to unfairly compete with those paying less into health reimbursement accounts.
Hillary Ronen, chief of staff for Supervisor David Campos
introduced an amendment to forbid employers from taking back any unspent money in health reimbursement accounts. The withdrawals created an uneven playing field among businesses trying to compete because some had lower costs than others did, Campos said. The amendment that passed and was signed by Mayor Ed Lee, however, was a compromise with businesses. Groups like the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce said leaving money in reimbursement accounts would harm small businesses, which could otherwise use the money to hire more workers. The new rules require that employers allow 24 months worth of contributions to accrue in health reimbursement accounts before taking back any unspent money beyond the 24-months’ worth. The amendment also required employers to actively inform workers that they have the health care benefit and a reimbursement account. One study found there was an incentive in the previous system for employers to not promote the existence of these accounts so employees wouldn’t use them. But Campos’ office expressed frustration that this solution was merely a patch. “It doesn’t really close the loophole,” said Hillary Ronen, Campos’ chief of staff. “Businesses that do follow the rules and provide health coverage to employees through insurance or Healthy San Francisco, they have to unfairly compete with those paying less into health reimbursement accounts.” Because employers can still take money back from reimbursement accounts, there is still a monetary incentive, she said, for employers to choose them over insurance. “The issues remain,” she said, adding that allowing employers to take some of the money back leaves an incentive for employers to limit the type of reimbursable expenses that workers can use. The Labor Standards Enforcement Office, meanwhile, won’t receive reports for 2011 until April. “It’s too early to tell whether the amendment made a difference,” said Donna Levitt, a division manager.
EVENT: Panel Discussion & Speak Out
THE FUTURE OF UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE: IS SAN FRANCISCO LEADING THE WAY? Four years ago, the city launched Healthy San Francisco, a pioneering plan to bring universal health care to residents through a network of community clinics and hospitals. Though the program has earned rave reviews for the quality of care and expanding access to thousands of the uninsured, the city is not immune to the national pressures of skyrocketing health care costs. In an election year in which health reform is on the political front burner, what lessons can the nation learn from San Francisco’s experiment? Will preventive care save or cost more money in the long run? What are the potential long-term policy implications for patients and health care providers? What other cities might have the answers? Hear diverse perspectives from a distinguished panel of public health planners, care providers, patients and journalists — and share your own health care experiences.
Moderator: Barbara Grady, reporter, San Francisco Public Press
Date: Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012 Time: 5:00–6:30 p.m. Where: Glide Health Services 330 Ellis St. (Main Building), San Francisco
Panelists: Tangerine Brigham, director, Healthy San Francisco program William Dow, researcher, UC Berkeley School of Public Health Pat Dennehy, director, Glide Health Services Karen Hill, clinic manager Glide Health Services Abbie Yant, vice president, Mission, Advocacy and Community Health at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, Dignity Health ... and a Healthy San Francisco patient Admission is free. Healthy snacks and beverages will be provided. The facility is wheelchair accessible. Sponsored by: The San Francisco Public Press, Glide Foundation, Glide Health Services, Association of Health Care Journalists, UC Berkeley School of Public Health For more information: www.sfpublicpress.org/healthy-sf-forum
A4 SF Public Press
ECONOMY Spring 2012 // sfpublicpress.org
State Says Lax Rules Might Let Builders Use Questionable Licenses Board to investigate program that allows contractors to oversee multiple job sites, even across the state
he agency overseeing companies that build houses and office buildings across California has for years trumpeted its ability to sniff out phony contractors, often publishing photos of dramatic undercover police stings of unlicensed builders at work on half-finished suburban cul-de-sacs. Story: But now the Les Mahler agency, the Con// Public Press tractors State License Board, is looking into a problem of the state’s own making — a program that allows contractors to essentially lease out their licenses. The board has allowed some licensed contractors to earn extra income by supervising as many as three projects across the state. In some cases, licensees would have to travel hundreds of miles to oversee work performed by others, which experts in the field say could pose liability problems. The agency said it has no way to search records that might reveal whether convicted felons are using the program as a loophole to work as contractors legally. Alerted by a reporter to one case in which this could be happening, investigators say they are looking into possible improprieties. The idea of the “responsible managing officer” program was to provide
With three licenses, who’s going to be responsible if there’s failure on the field? Somebody has to be the liable person.
Gary Fiehmann, founder of Industry Schools
a bridge to licensure for those just starting their businesses. But stories of improper use of licenses worry industry representatives. One of the state’s largest companies that trains licensed contractors is asking the board to monitor its own graduates. The market for leased licenses is “an industry we don’t regulate,” said Venus Stromberg, a spokeswoman for the state licensing board. “It’s a complicated and convoluted issue, and that’s what we’re struggling with. Does it rise to the level of consumer harm and is it worth addressing? That’s what we’re going to determine.” Stromberg said in early February that the agency would hire programmers to restructure its databases to allow investigators to look for inappropriately licensed contractors.
“The board is taking a look at this to make sure people are legitimate, and are legitimately acting in the capacity they say they are,” said contracting industry expert David Kalb, president of Capitol Services, a licensing consulting firm in Sacramento. The responsible managing officer program allows builders to start without having to go through the state’s exam or qualify based on journeyman’s experience. Under the state licensing board rules, responsible managing officers can oversee three businesses or corporations, and they do not have to be clustered geographically. That’s part of the problem, said David Fogt, chief of enforcement with the licensing board. He said his office investigates cases to determine if the licensed officers, or “qualifiers,” are actually participating in a job. “If we find the qualifier is not actively involved, we allege there’s a violation.” Industry trainers worry that abuse of state licenses could make it harder for the state to claim the license actually means something. And it could also deprive them of business if more contractors use the backdoor method that does not require a test. “With three licenses, who’s going to be responsible if there’s failure on the field?” said Gary Fiehmann, the founder of Industry Schools, which says its staff have trained more than 100,000 would-be California contractors over more than three decades. “Somebody has to be the liable person.” Ultimately, he said, the rules are in place to protect consumers: If things go wrong with contractors, the state board has a system in place to clear up any problems between homeowners and contractors. Fiehmann sees problems if a sublicensed company goes bankrupt and workers aren’t paid. Another problem, he said, is on-site safety monitoring. While the responsible managing officer is on location at one job, who is responsible for work at another location at the other end of the state? “That’s dangerous,” he said. WIDE GEOGRAPHY Now the state is investigating whether the responsible managing officer program has been used irresponsibly to sanction work on jobs that are so spread out that they are hard for one person to monitor regularly. In 2007, Paul Herman Hayhurst II was the qualifier for two businesses in Southern California: Oceans Builders Seven Inc. in Studio City, and ABS Construction Group in Los Angeles. While he was the responsible managing officer for ABS Construction, he was fired for being an absentee
In January, Brian Gross of Valley Springs was one of 10 contractors arrested in an undercover sting operation in Pine Grove (Amador County) and charged with contracting without a license and illegal advertising. Gross was also charged with violation of probation for a previous workrelated felony. Photo courtesy of Contractors State License Board
license holder, said the company’s president, Amos Ben Shmuel. “He was here from February 2007 until November 2007,” Shmuel said. A responsible managing officer “is supposed to help, but he was never around.” Hayhurst is now the qualifier for three businesses in California: Roofing USA in Los Angeles, Oceans Builders Seven Inc., and World Exteriors Inc., in Livermore, according to state records. Stromberg, the licensing board spokeswoman, said she thought that being a responsible managing officer for a business in Southern California and also Northern California would present a problem. “Perhaps if the two businesses were in Los Angeles, if they weren’t far apart, that would be feasible,” she said. “But if one was in Livermore — where is he physically?” Hayhurst is not listed on the company’s phone directory. He did not return a request for comment over email. The accusation of absentee licensing by ABS Construction sparked the licensing board’s interest in Hayhurst. World Exteriors founder John Arbuckle was convicted in court in 2011 for lying about his roofing experience. The company’s president,
George A. Coelho, pleaded guilty last year to embezzling $150,000 from his previous employer, Pinnacle Roofing Company in Tracy, where Arbuckle had also worked. Arbuckle was removed from his position with World Exteriors at an administrative hearing in Sacramento in June 2011. After his embezzlement plea in Manteca Superior Court in San Joaquin County, Coelho removed himself as president and CEO in June 2011, Stromberg said. Now, both men are permitted to be only employees at the company they used to run. Their sons have taken over the business. Coelho is serving a year in home detention. The state decided to investigate when a reporter asked questions about Coelho’s licensing status in the wake of the conviction. Although Coelho is not listed as president of World Exteriors on state documents, he is still listed as such on the company’s local business license, according to staff at the city of Livermore’s business department. Coelho also lists himself as the contact person for World Exteriors, according to the city’s economic development department. “He’s the only officer we have listed for the Livermore business,” said Siobhan Tyler, a staff member at the city’s
business department. The department was updating its list of businesses officers in February, she said. “There’s a possibility it’s in the mail. There’s a possibility it’s not.” Coelho and Arbuckle did not respond to emails or to messages left for them on company voice mail at their listed phone numbers. Listing a recent felon as the president of a licensed company is a violation of the licensing board’s rules that bars Coelho from holding a contractor’s license for seven years after a conviction. “That’s part of our investigation,” Stromberg said. “Taken into context altogether, we’ll see if there’s cause to discipline the licensee or him for running the business without a license.” FINDING FELONS Fiehmann said it’s not uncommon for ex-convicts who are having a difficult time getting a job sometimes to find a way into the construction industry on someone else’s license. Fingerprinting of licensees has “been on the books since 2005,” Stromberg said. “Before that, we didn’t do background checks.” That presents the possibility that someone with a felony conviction could qualify “if they could show journeymen
experience, had the $2,500 operating capital and pass the exam.” The far bigger problem of felons in the industry is unlicensed contractors, Stromberg said. Consumers who might think they are saving money could be employing a felon. In police stings throughout the state about twice a month, one-third of unlicensed contractors caught are “sexual predators,” she said. Just how many state-registered sex offenders are working in the construction trade is unknown, she added. The board has no authority over sex offenders. Enforcement is up to the local police, the sheriff and the Department of Justice. “We are charged with enforcing the business and profession’s code,” Stromberg said. “We can’t cite someone because they hired a sex offender.” The monitoring of the licensing database will take a while to get going because the agency is still developing a protocol. The hang-up right now is building computer programs that can find repeated licenses and records in other databases that flag felons — “the technical stuff.” “We don’t know how complicated the program will be,” she said. “So it could be six months from now.”
Gift-Givers Get Firsthand Lesson in Banking Time for the Holidays
enise Minter, a vendor at the Bay Area Community Exchange’s holiday fair in San Francisco, was selling gomasio, a Japanese condiment made from toasted sesame seeds and sea salt. The price: 50 cents to cover the cost of the container Story and photo: of the seasoning Ambika and 30 minutes Kandasamy of time that each // Shareable buyer agreed to contribute to the community exchange’s Timebank. Minter also earned 30 minutes of time credit at the Timebank for every bottle of gomasio that she sold. Likewise, Meredith Buck, a knitter who was selling sweaters, hats, scarves and other clothing items, sold a furry vest for 10 hours of time credit. During the most recent winter holiday festivities in 2011, a year marked by global protests over economic inequality, people in the Bay Area turned to alternate, communitybased means of exchanging goods and skills. Collectives like the Timebank help people circumvent buying gifts with money during the holidays. Economic activist and Shareable adviser Mira Luna co-founded the local nonprofit Bay Area Community Exchange, or BACE, which runs the Timebank, a little over two years ago. From that time, the organization has been facilitating trades of talents and commodities among people via its website, by using time rather than money as the currency. “The systemic way in which the
economy works undermines every good that we try to do,” Luna said. “There’s a lot of underutilized resources and a lot of needs out there. The way to connect them partly is through the Timebank.” The Timebank also works with local service organizations such as the San Francisco Bike Kitchen, San Francisco Free School, People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights and the Community Living Campaign to bring the Timebank to their members. Luna said members from those organizations participate by creating an account on the Timebank to trade with each other or with other users. When Allison Ambrozy, an afterschool educator in San Francisco and BACE board member, joined the Timebank, she found a person who helped fix a broken window in her kitchen. “I was going to have to pay someone $200 an hour to get it fixed. Mira suggested this guy she knew on the Timebank, and he fixed it for $14, and that was just on the glass,” Ambrozy said. In return, she contributed to the Timebank by giving a ride to a woman who had a physical condition that prevented her from driving to the Laundromat in Oakland. The Timebank and other skill-sharing endeavors function on the notion that extending an individual’s skills to the larger community will help build a society that is less dependent on money, more equitable, and better at meeting the needs of everyone. Sharing skills also leads to chain reactions as it brings people who possess
Nonprofit online magazine about the shareable world.
different skills together to work on projects that help individuals and social services groups. Chip Rath, an Oakland resident and longtime supporter of Project Open Hand, a local nonprofit that provides food and nutritional services to seniors and low-income individuals with critical illnesses, wanted to use his knitting skills to contribute to the organization. Hannah Schmunk, Open Hand’s director of communications, said Rath shared the idea for knitting scarves with some friends, and his small group soon burgeoned into a network of 49 people that Rath called the “Knitters for Open Hand.” The knitting group ended up with 347 scarves. Schmunk said 300 scarves will be distributed to Open Hand’s clients in Oakland, and the remaining 47 scarves will be dropped off at local homeless shelters. “It’s a great expression of community, and he made some great relationships through this,” Schmunk said. Some people are coming together to create free courses to share their expertise in areas such as cooking, baking and gardening. A local graphic designer, Kate Koeppel, became in-
Denise Minter, left, sells a bottle of gomasio for 30 minutes of time credit through Timebank. terested in skill-sharing techniques when she was a student at the California College of the Arts. Koeppel has been collaborating with Donna Suh Wageman, owner of Pot and Pantry, a kitchenware store in San Francisco’s Mission District, to present work-
shops focusing on gardening in containers, brewing coffee, sharpening knives and curing meats. Koeppel and Wageman invited their friends and associates to teach classes, but people who attended these workshops began volunteering
to teach classes to share their skills. “I’ve found that it’s more sustainable if you can share your skills and learn through your community. There’s less pressure and responsibility placed on you to try to do and be everything,” Koeppel said.
ECONOMY A5 sfpublicpress.org // Spring 2012
SF Public Press
Economic Crisis Changes Role of Oakland Libraries Branches turn into community centers where patrons seek guidance on jobs, foreclosures and immigration problems
ibraries have always been a hub for a wide spectrum of the public, but the economic crisis has many librarians working as social service agents supporting patrons with everything from home foreclosure documents to job applications to young mothers seeking advice on prenatal healthcare. Libraries have become one of the last truly public service centers. Many community members turn to the women and men who work there Story and photo: Steve Fisher for support when they // Oakland Local can no longer afford even a consultation with their doctor. The 11-month-old, stateof-the-art 81st Avenue Branch Oakland Library has become what branch manager, Sally Bean, calls a “community center.” One recent evening, the library was buzzing with activity as youth browsed books, music and movies, and checked their Facebook profiles. Next to a row of computers was a sign that promised “Job Application Support Tuesdays and Wednesdays.” Bean said they have seen an incredible spike in the demand for job search support in the past few years. “We have an hour limit on Internet use, but if someone is filling out a job application, we give them all the time they need,” Bean said. “Also, lots of people come in with questions
We do not care about the legal status of a migrant, we are here to provide accurate information to patrons. Anthony Propernick, senior library assistant
about home foreclosures.” Bean described one woman who came in with a letter bearing a false government letterhead that turned out to be from lawyers in Florida promising to defend the woman and her home against foreclosure, for a mere $700 per month, if she only signed at the bottom. “The woman spoke no English and had no idea what the letter meant,” said Bean, a veteran librarian of 17 years. “I speak Spanish and so was able to able to explain to her that this was not in her interest. But she is not the only person that comes looking for help with foreclosures. We get this all the time.” Bean said that the hardest part of her job is hearing the numerous tragic stories of patrons who are losing their homes and livelihoods. Anthony Propernick, the senior library assistant at the branch, said that Oakland libraries have long served as a safe place for migrants to seek out information. “We do not care about the legal status of a migrant, we are here to provide accurate information to patrons,” he said. In fact, the library focuses on supporting immigrants in prepar-
The 81st Avenue Branch Library in East Oakland, which has faced years of budget cuts, remains popular with parents and children. “For many of them, this is their day care,” youth librarian Eric Hannan said. ing for their citizenship tests. Propernick explained that many Oakland libraries bring in bilingual lawyers to work with migrants and that their branch planned to do so as well. The 81st Avenue branch is unique in that it is connected to the Woodland school and EnCompass Academy elementary school, which serve around 500 children. Youth librarian Eric Hannan is responsible for growing the youth hangout area in the library and explained that often the facility is a haven for everyone from second graders to high schoolers. “It’s especially popular here in the summer,” he said. Hannan added: “Some morn-
ings there will be 10 kids waiting at 9 a.m. when we open, and they stay all day. For many of them, this is their day care.” However, Hannan insists that the library is not as safe as some parents may assume and that it should not become a substitute for daycare. He said there is a constant concern that strangers will approach children, and it can be difficult to ensure their protection. Hannan said that his goal is to make the library as appealing to teenagers as possible and that means having “Video Game Saturdays” and a flat screen. The walls of the youth lounge were lined with posters of everyone
from Lil’ Wayne to Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Last summer, the Alameda Food Bank collaborated with the library to serve free lunches for schoolchildren to fill in the gap left by the seasonal school lunch program. According to Bean, the program was a great success, and they plan to continue providing free lunches this year. Nine-year-old Lita is an avid patron of the 81st Avenue branch. She loves to read and plans to be a chef one day. “I come here every single day,” she said. In fact, Lita is leading a project called “No Books
Left Behind,” in which she and her peers write reviews for their favorite children’s books. Bean glowed with pride as she introduced Lita, saying, “she came up with the idea entirely on her own. This opportunity would have been lost if we had not been here.” Oakland Local // oaklandlocal.com
Independent nonprofit community news and information hub for Oakland.
S.F. Public Library Steps Into New Role — Helping Its Homeless Patrons City’s social worker program now a national model, with employment centers and referral services for affordable housing and shelter
medley of people wait for the San Francisco Public Library to open in the morning. Students on a deadline. People who really need a library book. Retired folks. And people checking email. As the doors open, patrons stream into the atrium at the main branch Story and photo: near the Civic Center in Julia Scott downtown San Francisco. // KALW News Some head to their favorite reading nook, others to computers to start surfing the Web. The library is by nature a transitory place. Most people come and go. But Craig, who didn’t want his last name used, is usually here all day. Craig is homeless. Like thousands of other homeless people, he comes to the library when he has nowhere else to go. “It’s one of the few buildings that’s open seven days a week — and thank God for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, when it’s open until 8,” he says. Craig sits in a sunny room and reads the newspaper. He eats some bread and bananas. If he’s bored, he dozes off. “I come to the library basically because it’s quiet and it’s clean. It also doesn’t have the atmosphere that a lot of the drop-in centers have. A lot of the drop-in centers, you just feel like you’re homeless,” says Craig. “I’d never been homeless up until three months ago, so this is a new experience for me.” San Francisco’s public library system has become known for its digital innovations, special collections and reading events. The Civic Center branch has also become known, for better or worse, as a homeless hangout. That has prompted a new kind of innovation. What started as a tough situation — staff members worried about people washing up in the bathrooms, or acting badly — turned into an opportunity. The library, which has always thought of itself as a resource, found it had nothing to offer people who came in asking for help finding housing or places to sleep. The city’s solution? Bring in a social worker assigned to deal with the needs of homeless people. That’s how, in 2009, Leah Esguerra became the first homelessness social worker in the country to be based out of a library.
The San Francisco Public Library’s main branch has become a popular hangout for homeless people, who often have no other place to go during the day. “What I’ve learned from being here is that the library’s goal is to include everybody, to make the library accessible for everybody and not to screen anybody out,” she says, adding that the goal has been to help its homeless patrons and to make the library safer.
“Having a library is a true part of democracy in our country, and democracy meaning you include everybody,” said Esguerra. Since the program’s inception three years ago, Esguerra has reached out to nearly 1,200 homeless people at the library and referred
them to city services. So far, 74 of them have also found housing. Esguerra doesn’t advertise her services. Instead, she relies on her outreach workers, also known as Health and Safety Associates. Kathleen, who didn’t want her last name used, is
one of them. “I hang out in the library,” says Kathleen. “I check the bathrooms out, trying to get people to comply with library rules, like, don’t wash your hair in the bathroom sink and that kind of stuff. But the bigger picture is to give them options.” Just a few years ago, Kathleen also was homeless at the library. She used to be a house painter in Sacramento. Then the recession hit. “October 31, 2008, was the last day I worked and Lehman Brothers had just crashed and it was just like, the light switch. … Someone flipped it off, and there was no more work. It just stopped,” she recounts. Kathleen and her partner lost their house and started living in their car in San Francisco. When the car broke down, they spent rainy days drying off at the Mission Branch Library. Eventually, some homeless outreach workers found them and helped them get back on their feet. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, more than 3.5 million Americans may be homeless on a given night. Libraries across the country have become a destination for the poor and homeless to seek help with everything from finding a job to finding a place to sleep. “This question is always huge in urban libraries, around how much should a library take on of the homeless problem,” says Jill Bourne, San Francisco’s deputy city librarian. “Having the program is helping, but the bigger social issue is still looming, and that’s kind of the bigger challenge.” Hundreds of city libraries across the country, including San Francisco, have tried to address that “bigger challenge” by opening job centers and adding resume workshops. The city’s social worker program has become a national model. Sacramento now has a homeless outreach worker on call at the Central Library. San Jose’s Martin Luther King Jr. Library brings social workers and lawyers in for free. KALW News // kalwnews.org
A team of professional staff, volunteer and student reporters covering Bay Area arts, news and culture on-air and online
A6 SF Public Press
Spring 2012 // sfpublicpress.org
ENVIRONMENT/EDUCATION URBAN AGRICULTURE
Bayview Community Garden in Peril as Funding Dries Up Responding to food insecurity, neighbors cultivate network of plots to provide locally grown bounty and education
he Quesada Gardens Initiative, which has helped green and revitalize one of San Francisco’s most economically neglected neighborhoods, is struggling to survive as funding is running dry. Formed in 2002 as a community-building effort by Bayview residents, it has gone on to transform portions of the community, spreading Story: through vacant lots, backLeigh Cuen // Public Press yards and community spaces. It has also begun to produce significant quantities of food for a neighborhood where the available of healthy options is limited. Malnutrition is a problem even in a wealthy city like San Francisco. An estimated 85,000 low-income adults in San Francisco County are “food insecure,” living in fear of hunger or starvation, according to a report last year by a group that researches diet in communities called California Food Policy Advocates, which has offices in Oakland and Los Angeles. “Especially since the recession, the poverty rates are quite extreme,” said Anne Lee Eng,
We are barely holding on. It is very likely Quesada won’t be around next year. It’s hard to say what would happen to the gardens.
Jeff Betcher, an organizer at Quesada Gardens
environmental justice program manager for San Francisco’s Department of the Environment. “People have had to make do with less. The philanthropic community and nonprofits are struggling. Through projects like the Quesada Gardens, people learn to leverage resources and share. People are learning to build those partnerships themselves.” Quesada Gardens has been able to spread through vacant lots, backyards and community spaces in the Bayview, thanks to ample volunteer labor and government grants that have now ended. More than two-thirds of the gardens’ $296,000 in funding since its founding in 2002 has come from government sources. A little more than $5,000 came from individual donors and $87,000 came from a combination of foundation and corporate donations. The bulk of the funds came from a nowclosed environmental justice grant program that resulted from the closure of the polluting Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power plant. “Place-based, grassroots community building projects are multiplying for all the right reasons,” Jeff Betcher, one of the organizers of
the project. “They produce sustainable social and environmental change at a fraction of the cost of top-down approaches. Yet we haven’t identified a reliable revenue stream to cover even that fraction.” The group’s members fear what the future may hold without the support of government grants. “We are woefully underfunded,” Betcher said. “We are barely holding on. It is very likely Quesada won’t be around next year. It’s hard to say what would happen to the gardens.” National recognition The Quesada Gardens Initiative sees itself as a social movement and has earned the city a 2012 Gardens and Green Spaces Award from the United States Conference of Mayors. One of its newer collaborations, the Bridgeview Teaching and Learning Garden on Bridgeview and Newhall streets was awarded the Neighborhood Empowerment Network’s 2011 Best Green Community Project. Quesada Gardens also sponsors public art, education, health and other communitybuilding programs. “It’s important to get people involved in the creative process,” Betcher said. “They used recycled materials to build,” said Daniel Homsey, director of strategic initiatives for the city administrator's office. “They’ve nurtured relationships between neighbors, with local schools and universities.” The Bridgeview Garden has produced 1,650 pounds of food so far. Quesada gardeners have also become active in social policy and research in the fields of public health, community-building and building social capital for future projects. Quesada Gardens grew an estimated 10,000 pounds of food each year throughout BayviewHunters Point, a densely populated neighborhood that has one of the highest unemployment rates in the city and severe public health problems, according to a report by the Healthy Communities Initiative and the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California. With several huge mixed-income housing developments in the works, the neighborhood is expected to double its population in 20 years. Sign-up sheets indicate that at least 2,400 people have been involved with Quesada Gardens since its founding, though those records leave many people off. Two-thirds of participants are Bayview-Hunters Point residents. “We can quantify this increase in green space corresponds to a decrease in crime and the increase in property values,” said Mei Ling Hui, urban forest coordinator at the Department of the Environment. Quesada Gardens has become a network of
Tony Tarket, a Quesada Gardens horticulturist, directs Russian students volunteering as part of a conference at Stanford in 2009. Jeff Betcher // Quesada Gardens public art and spaces, community gardens, free educational resources and more than 20 backyard gardens. It has also helped create a garden for the Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church on Third and Paul streets. “We won’t do it for you, but we’ll teach you how,” said Joel McClure, a co-founder of Bridgeview Garden. Each project has its own local leaders, lending the projects flexibility within Quesada Gardens’ network. Typically, between 12 and 18 volunteers come to Quesada Gardens every weekend to work the land and eat together. “This garden provides safety and security,” Eng said. She added that Bayview is the neighborhood with the highest hospitalization rate, and that the garden project could help prevent disease.
Extra hours Organizers also cite the community-building benefits of the project. Cars driving by the gardens frequently slow down, honk and shout “good job!” McClure said the projects have become places for “drive-by exchanges” of encouragement. “People think we are all about gardening,” Betcher said. “That’s not our main goal. Social cohesion and community strength naturally allow positive environmental and social developments.” Quesada Gardens’ staff consists of eight “food guardians,” including a horticultural educator, a volunteer coordinator and a project leader coordinator. They are each paid about $8,000 a year, without benefits. Officially they work part time, but they also give
innumerable volunteer hours. “It is professional-level work, and they deserve to be paid for it,” Betcher said. Having paid staff has allowed Quesada Gardens to do policy research and advocacy, and provide free educational programs. “We are beautifying the neighborhood, we are reducing obesity and carbon emissions,” Betcher said. “Hold us to goals, but it needs to be about the people we’re reaching. Foundations have no category for us.” Ling said she hopes Quesada Gardens won’t go under in 2012. “Their work has been very inspiring,” she said. “I don’t think we could quantify the loss.” Betcher remains optimistic. “I see the gap in private foundations funding social sustainability as an opportunity in social policy,” he said.
UCSF Re-evaluating Ties to UC System: An Interview With Susan Desmond-Hellmann
ince 2009, Susan DesmondHellmann has been chancellor of UCSF, one of the top biomedical research institutions in the world and one of the top medical centers in the United States. On Jan. 19, Desmond-Hellmann proposed to the UC Regents that a small working group be formed to help Interview: UCSF explore Michael Krasny // KQED’s ways to ensure its ”Forum” financial future. Last year, UCSF received $532.8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, second in public institution funding only to Johns Hopkins. But the chancellor believes a new structure is needed to keep UCSF as a premiere institution and to ensure its future growth — especially with the costs that continue to accrue with the Mission Bay project, seismic upgrades and pensions, and in the wake of severe budgetary cutbacks. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation, which aired Jan. 25 on KQED-FM. Michael Krasny: You’re really talking about a new business model. Get this working group exploring alternative financial relationships between UCSF and the UC system, and alternate governance. Susan Desmond-Hellmann: I think the most important thing to start with is what this is not. We want to be a part of the incredible University of California system. So this is not a split; this is not a secession. In addition, we agree with and want to contribute financially to the UC system as a member of the University of California system. We want that financial relationship to be fair
does things like pensions. They do negotiations with unions. They provide legal and accounting and audit services that we utilize and we’re grateful for. So we want to pay for that, and we want to pay to be part of the UC system. On the other hand, as the state has cut back and as our expenses rise, we would like that to be as fair and transparent as possible. We don’t utilize undergraduate services, as an example.
and transparent and predictable. This is about answering the question, how can UCSF maintain its excellence? How can we train leaders and contributors in science and health? How do we stay excellent at such a turbulent time? And how do we ensure that we execute our public mission, which we hold near and dear, at a time of diminished resources? Krasny: By 2015, your projected expenses will exceed the revenues that come in, and costs are rising faster than the revenues are coming in. Desmond-Hellmann: That’s what our 10-year plan showed us, and there’s reasons for that. We’ll be opening up a new medical center at Mission Bay, and the transition of patients and staff to a new Benioff Children’s Hospital, women’s hospital and cancer hospital is coming up in 2014 to 2015. We have an increase in personnelrelated costs; specifically the pension costs are rising for UCSF. And this is at a time of health care reform, so we expect lowered clinical dollars and we don’t expect a rise in the NIH budget that we’ve seen. All that said, we think we have opportunities. We are working to cut as much as $50 million annually by 2013, but we can’t cut our way to excellence. So part of this is pushing ourselves to say: “What will we do to make sure that we don’t end up in the red by 2015?” Krasny: And you can’t keep bringing costs up with respect to tuition. That’s just not going to make a dent in the costs that you face, is it?
The Mission Bay Campus of UCSF, a hub of biotechnology research, will also soon host a medical center. Steve Rhodes // Public Press Desmond-Hellmann: Well, it’s more than that. We are not looking at tuition as a way to solve our financial challenges for a couple of reasons: One is that tuition is 1 percent of our budget. But more importantly, we think if we raise tuition we’re at risk of driving away those very students who we want most at UCSF. Who may come from disadvantaged backgrounds or be the first in their family to go to (college). We also want students to pick whatever career inspires them and
drives their passion. That might be primary care. That might be innercity dentistry; it might be global health; it might be health policy. We don’t want their choice of career to be driven by debt. So if you are facing a $100,000 loan obligation at graduation, it’s really tough to say: “I’m going to go back and give back as a matter of public service.” So we don’t think of tuition as a financial lever and have a lot of reasons to maintain as low as possible a tuition.
Krasny: President Mark Yudof has said he’s uncertain what the effect of this would be if you went into this autonomous plan. Ivan Evans, who’s president of the San Diego Faculty Association, came out with a statement and said, “The funds are essential to the system,” meaning the funds from UCSF. “Without it, a share from external funds professional schools such as UCSF and hard-science divisions annually bring in, it’s clear that UC could not survive.” There is this concern. There is this anxiety about what this autonomy will mean in terms of the ongoing unity of the UC system.
Krasny: As long as we’re talking about revenue, 80 percent of the revenue comes from the medical center and grants. And when you said earlier that you want to stay within the UC system, about $49 million goes to the $4 billion budget of UC.
Desmond-Hellmann: And I hear that concern. I think UCSF does have obligations as a member of the family of the UC system. But here’s what we can’t let happen. We can’t let a 10-university system be driven to mediocrity or be driven to lower our expectations.
Desmond-Hellmann: We feel like we should contribute to the UC system. We’re a part of the UC system, and we’re also incredibly grateful for services we get from the Office of the President, which
KQED'S "FORUM" // kqed.org/radio/programs/forum/
sfpublicpress.org // Spring 2012
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Parasite Fly Turns Area Honeybees Into Zombies
esearchers at San Francisco State University have found a potential new threat facing honeybees in the Bay Area. It’s a fly parasite that preys on native bees and paper wasps. But for the first time, they’ve found it in the European honeybees that are the backbone of California’s agriculInterview: tural industry. The parasite could Lauren Sommer also be causing some very strange // KQED zombielike behavior in the bees, News Fix said John Hafernik, a professor of biology. Lauren Sommer: How did you first find this parasite? John Hafernik: It was really serendipity. I was walking into the biology building one morning and noticed a large number of stranded bees in front of the building. I picked them up to feed to a praying mantis that I had down in the entomology lab. One day I forgot the vial of bees on my desk. I came back a few days later, and it was full of fly pupae that look like small brown pellets. I knew something strange was going on with the bees. Sommer: So what does this parasitic fly do to the bees?
The seasonal and uncertain nature of organic, sustainable food means that some wiggle room is necessary to allow for variation in harvest and availability. Yet chefs can use this flexibility to do nothing at all or, worse yet, cheat the system. Kelowna09 // Flickr
Many Restaurants Fake It as Demand for Organic Food Rises Tough certification means chefs find compliance tricky, sometimes violate rules unintentionally
t first, I thought nothing of it. I had just landed a new job, and it was only my second day. And so when I was asked to peel the stickers off apples received that morning I went about the task as if it really mattered. I was really going to impress my new bosses with my Story: apple-de-stickering, I Aaron French thought. The job done, // Earth Island Journal I asked for my next assignment. “Oh, make a little sign,” I was told, “with these markers and some paper and that popsicle stick. You know, make it look like an apple cart from the olden days.” Then the kicker came — write “Organic Fuji Apples” on the label. What? The apples I had just been manhandling were about as organic as a McDonald’s Apple Pie. The box and stickers I had just removed clearly revealed their non-organic origins. Oh yes, I was told, they were organic, they were just labeled wrong. You can’t always trust labels, can you? This was years ago, at a little deli that was much loved in its neighborhood for its homemade pasta that was cut to order for each customer. Except the “homemade” pasta wasn’t “homemade” at all — it was, in fact, ordered and delivered from a factory across town. Other red flags started to appear. The owners would come in with bags from Trader Joes filled with products that we would unwrap and re-label with exotic sounding names. “I’ve learned what to call things in order to sell them,” I was told. True to form, a few days later, the rest of those apples that hadn’t sold were cut up and cooked into an “Organic Granny Smith Apple Pie,” made (of course) with conventional Fujis. Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent that this is not an isolated event. It is happening all the time, every day, at the restaurants and cafes where we
The temptation is always there for some low-life chef to exploit the public because one can sell ‘organic’ produce at a much higher price than ‘non-organic.’
Alex Ong, chef and owner of Beetlenut Peju Wu
all eat. At the same time, the trend toward local, sustainable and organic foods is ever increasing. As a response, chefs often write some variation of the now-obligatory sentence at the bottom of each menu: “We use organic, local and sustainable sources for all our products, when possible.” And here lies a serious conundrum: The seasonal and uncertain nature of organic, sustainable food means that some wiggle room is necessary to allow for variation in harvest and availability. Yet chefs can use this wiggle room to do nothing at all, or, worse yet, to cheat the system directly. “The temptation is always there for some low-life chef to exploit the public because one can sell ‘organic’ produce at a much higher price than ‘non-organic,’” says Alex Ong chef and owner of San Francisco’s Beetlenut Peju Wu. Jason Kwon, chef and owner of Joshu-ya Brasserie in Berkeley, agrees. “As a restaurateur, everyone wants in on the sustainable food topic,” he says. “A lot of my cooks work second jobs at restaurants that promote organic vegetables, but they probably buy one box of organic tomatoes each month, and that’s all that they do.” Kwon says that these establishments are hurting consumers and also other local sustainable businesses. The irony of this organic deception is that organic food is, in fact, very clearly
regulated at the federal level by the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 and the national organic standards published in 2000. And as a result, most consumers now know that organic produce needs to be certified by a third-party agency. These agencies certify farms that are following the organic regulations, significantly reducing fraud in the industry. But what about fraud at restaurants? In California, California Certified Organic Farmers is one of the largest and oldest certifying agencies in the United States. It has been inspecting and certifying organic farms since 1973. But “CCOF doesn’t certify any restaurants,” says Robin Boyle, CCOF’s marketing director. And one of the reasons is that restaurants are excluded from certification requirements. “Retail food establishments that process and sell organic foods at the same site — like restaurants — are excluded from certification,” says Gwendolyn Wyard of the Organic Trade Association, a trade body that represents the organic industry in the U.S. and Canada. “However, they are not excluded from keeping records that verify their organic claims,” she adds. And this, she says, is a very serious issue that most restaurants don’t even know about. “They need to be able to verify with their records what quantities of organic food are produced from organic ingredients at their establishment, and have to retain and maintain these records on site for no less than three years.” So every restaurant everywhere in the U.S. that lists the word “organic” on the menu has to be able to back up that claim. I asked Wyard what a restaurant would have to do to if it printed that same menu statement from above: “We use organic, local, and sustainable sources for all our products, when possible.” Her answer: “Listing ‘organic’ on the menu ‘when possible’ would mean that the restaurant would need to keep records for all organic pur-
chases and also they would need records to show specifically what efforts they are making to buy organic food. They would also need to specifically define ‘when possible.’” Wyard lists a few of the other requirements: Invoices for organic foods have to contain a specific “lot number” that is matched to the specific box of food in the restaurant, and restaurants have to have separate storage facilities dedicated to organic versus non-organic products to avoid “co-mingling or contamination.” All this revolves around training, and most restaurants have no idea they need to comply with these rules, she says. After speaking with Wyard, I realized things were even more complicated than I had thought. Not only is there intentional fraud around organic and sustainable produce, but also unintentional violations of national organic regulations on top of that. It’s no surprise, then, that some chefs try to avoid the organic issue altogether while still offering excellent food. Chef and owner Michael Dotson from Martins West in Redwood City says: “I’m more a proponent of sustainable produce than organic. It comes down to the certification when it’s organic. When you work with farmers that are sustainable, you have that promise if you know them. But if you’re certified organic, you can still be a crappy farmer.” Chef Ong of Beetlenut Peju Wu adds: “No one knows how big the problem is, and I think one of the best ways to avoid this issue is to talk to as many chefs as possible and to find out who and where they buy their produce from. Then get to know those farmers and support them.”
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High Tuition, Low Compassion? Berkeley Researchers Point to Upside of Economic Diversity
s perennial tuition increases threaten to shut out students of low-income backgrounds from the University of California, could the school be on the road to making its student body less caring? That’s just one implication from new psychology research on compassion and economic class from the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, which was reported by Public Press Story: contributor Jeremy Adam Smith on Michael Stoll the center’s website in late December. // Public Press As the price of admission to the state’s premier public university system goes up — as much as 16 percent a year through 2015, according to a proposal from the state Board of Regents last fall — critics argue that the university will lose economic diversity. In October, KALW News interviewed Jonathan Stein, a graduate student in public policy and law at UC Berkeley and student liaison to the regents. Stein told KALW’s Holly Kernan that the cost of an education would place it beyond even some middle-class families ...
... from the current $13,000 which is a dramatic increase from just a couple of years ago, to just four years down the line from now: $22,000 a student. And you could make a very serious argument … In fact I think it’s inescapable that the UC will have completely lost its role as a leader in access and affordability nationwide and in public higher education.
A new program from the university to cap tuition increases at 15 percent of household income for middle-class
Altruism isn’t a universal value, new UC Berkeley research shows. In 2006, students from the school volunteered to pull invasive ice plants in a coastal restoration project. Friends of Five
Creeks // Flickr
families will help, according to the Christian Science Monitor. But the debate over economic fairness and access to education is far from settled. Now the critics have a solid, scientific reason to emphasize economic diversity in the student population — it makes for more empathetic alumni. The Greater Good Science Center’s Jennifer Stellar, a graduate fellow investigating emotional differences be-
tween the rich and poor, found that student research subjects from poor families were more likely to display compassionate behavior in the lab. The research, published in the psychology journal Emotion, indicates that the wealthy are less emotionally equipped to understand the signs and meaning of adversity. Through a battery of questions asked of more than 300 UC Berkeley students, Stellar and colleagues asked questions that distinguished emotions such as sorrow from those displaying compassion or empathy. “All reported feeling sad in response to the video about families of cancer patients,” Smith wrote. “However, members of the lower class reported higher levels of compassion and empathy as distinct from sorrow.” The more compassionate students also displayed slower heart rates, a measure of emotional preparation for caregiving. Wealthier students are not necessarily bad people, Stellar said. “They may just not be as adept at recognizing the cues and signals of suffering because they haven’t had to deal with as many obstacles in their lives.” When the Board of Regents next sits down to discuss raising tuition rates to avoid “an irreversible decline into mediocrity,” as officials told KQED News in September, they may also want to consider what they can do to stop the potential hemorrhaging of compassion among its graduates.
Hafernik: We think the foraging honeybees are out collecting nectar when they encounter these flies. The fly jumps on the back of the bee and uses a long egg-laying device to insert its eggs in between the segments of the bee’s abdomen. Then the bee flies off back to the hive. Soon, the maggots hatch inside the bee and start eating the internal contents of the bee. At some point, that alters the bee’s behavior, and the bee leaves the hive. We find they abandon their hive at night, which is a really unusual time for bees to be active. Basically it’s a death flight for the bee. We’ve termed it the “flight of the living dead.” They set off to die somewhere alone, and if there’s a light nearby, they’re attracted to the light. They’re often disoriented, walking around in circles, almost as if they’re a drunken bee. Once they get stranded, then it takes another five to seven days for the maggots inside to complete their life cycle. They eat all the wing muscles in the bee and then push their way out between the head and the thorax. We’ve found up to 15 maggots coming out of a single bee. Sommer: That’s pretty gross. Hafernik: Not a pleasant way to go for the bees. If I were going to pick among the parasites and pathogens that bees get, this would be right at the bottom of the list. They’re literally writhing inside you and eating your innards. Sommer: So it’s possible that the fly parasite is controlling the bee’s behavior? Hafernik: That could be the case here. It gets the bee to flee the hive and land in a place that’s better for the parasite. If the maggots hatch inside the hive, they could be attacked by worker bees. So it might be better for them to get outside. At this point, we don’t know that for sure, though. The bees could also be committing altruistic suicide to take this parasite away from their hive mates. Bees are very careful about keeping a clean hive. There are even undertaker bees that will grasp bees that are sick and fly them out. Sommer: How can an organism make another organism into a zombie? Hafernik: It could be that they’re producing a neurotransmitter mimic that affects the bee’s behavior. Or it changes the expression of genes in the bee that control their daily behavior patterns or their attraction to light. There is some work that’s been done on a caterpillar virus that turns on and off the genes for caterpillar behavior. It induces the caterpillar to crawl up high and then die and rain viruses down to other caterpillars. Sommer: That’s incredible. Hafernik: This is one of the reasons we do science — to find the unexpected. You don’t think you’re going to find something new just by walking into your office in the morning. The intricacies of the natural world are amazing. Sommer: What effect is the parasite having? Hafernik: We’ve sampled a hive here on campus, and we find parasitism rates are 5 percent to 20 percent. It’s a lower percentage than some of the viruses and infections they might have. But this is always a death sentence for the bees that have it, unlike some viruses. And as bees abandon the hive, they potentially disrupted the colony organization. A 20 percent loss ends up being a lot of bees over time. This parasite peaks over the fall and winter, when the bees are already under the most stress.
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ENVIRONMENT/EDUCATION Spring 2012 // sfpublicpress.org
From the rear deck of a research catamaran, U.S. Geological Survey technicians Jamie Grover and Joanne Ferreira retrieve a platform called a “top hat.” It carries instruments used by researcher Jessie Lacy to measure waves, currents, temperature and salinity at the bottom of San Francisco Bay. Jessie Lacy // USGS
Taking the Measure of Climate Change in the Bay Scientists study effects of global warming on coastal wetlands, probing vulnerable spots along shoreline In January 2009, Bay Nature published “Taking the Heat: Bay Area Ecosystems in the Era of Climate Change,” a special report intended to “bring home” the reality of climate change, outlining the impacts global warming is having on our landscapes, shorelines and waterways. The bad news: In the subsequent three years, the global community has failed to reduce its carbon footprint; in fact, new reports indicate that greenhouse gas emissions are increasing, and at a faster rate than before. So we face a dual challenge of working even harder to reduce emissions (mitigation) while at the same time dealing with the impacts that are already under way (adaptation). The good news: In the Bay Area, groundbreaking initiatives are under way to meet this challenge, many working through the recently formed Bay Area Ecosystem Climate Change Consortium (baeccc.org). “Dispatches From the Home Front” is a series of articles that will highlight this exciting work, to make it clear that, yes, the problem is real; and, yes, we can do something — many things — about it.
wave is more than a wall of water rolling into shore. It has a height and a speed, a direction and duration. It can carry tawny plumes of silt or buckets full of sand. Waves in San Francisco Bay rarely rise to more than 3 feet, a pretty white chop, midget Pacific combers. But they have muscle. Enough to erode shores and crack sea walls. Enough, if combined with a high tide, a rising sea level and Story: the wallop of a winter storm, Ariel Rubissow Okamoto to roll right past San Quentin // Bay Nature Prison into Corte Madera and San Clemente creeks, over the Greenbrae boardwalk and trailer parks, to splash on the mall wall of Nordstorm. Or even flood Highway 101 in that low spot near Lucky Drive. Or not. A few things stand in the way. A levee here, a concrete wall there. And 210 acres of wetlands. Indeed, since last spring, scientists have been measuring everything from the depth of the bay floor to the height of waves and the elevation of Corte Madera Marsh, all so they can better understand how these softer edges of the shore might be able to dampen, or withstand, the walls of water coming our way with climate change. “When you have sea level rise, you can look at it as a simple case of flooding over the edge of the bathtub,” says oceanographer Bruce Jaffe of the U.S. Geological Survey, one of the guys they send all over the world to study tsunamis. “But what really happens is that as the sea level rises, the bay changes in configuration, sediment moves, topography shifts ... That’s where we get the interesting science.” Interesting science is certainly unfolding around Corte Madera Marsh Ecological Reserve in Marin County, chosen as a test site for the new research spotlight because it’s exposed to wind waves, ringed with both historic and restored wetlands, and has a history of erosion along the marsh scarp and flooding in the creek. “If we can figure out how resilient this specific wetland is, and what it’s sensitive to, then we can get a better idea of how to manage it to retain its flood control benefits and other ecosystem services as our climate changes,” says Wendy Goodfriend of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. This commission is the state agency charged with regulating development along the shoreline of San Francisco Bay. The agency is spearheading the $1.3 million study on wetland adaptation in the Corte Madera Creek watershed with funding from the San Francisco Estuary Partnership and in-kind matches from research partners. The hope is that data collected can be plugged into computer models to create localized sea level rise scenarios and to project impacts on wetlands and shoreline around the bay. A recent report from PRBO Conservation Science underscores the timeliness of going to the next level of scientific scrutiny at Corte Madera. PRBO concludes that the bay could lose more than 90 percent of its wetlands in the next 50 to 100 years if cur-
The view of Corte Madera Marsh and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard could change as seas rise. Charles Kennard // Bay Nature rent conservative projections of a more than five-foot sea level rise are correct. The report also notes that most of this rise will come in the second half of this century, which is why some biologists are beginning to recommend accelerating restoration activities now, while we have the time. Results from the Corte Madera study aren’t due out till late 2012, but some of the research is starting to appear on Geological Survey Web pages. The findings aren’t just of academic interest. Planners like Goodfriend need to be able to tell people with bay shore property, paved or green, how they might adapt to sea level rise. And the planners need to back up their recommendations with good science. “One thing that’s hard about climate change research is it's so interdisciplinary,” adds Geological Survey biologist Karen Thorne. “We can be plant and animal
Habitat management in the face of sea level rise gets complicated because these species are so highly tied to
Karen Thorne, U.S. Geological Survey team member
people, but we have to work with the marsh sediment people who then have to work with water sediment people. It gets complicated. You have to have a lot of partners, so building these large research teams is what it’s going to take.” When the first research vessel set out to collect data in winter 2010, it wasn’t “a duck pond day,” according to Geological Survey marine technician Mike Boyle. Rain pelted the RV Parke Snavely’s aluminum decks. Ferry wakes bobbed the normally stable 36-foot-long catamaran on meter-high waves, as it rounded the Tiburon Peninsula and began zigzagging across the shallows, bouncing sound beams off the bottom to map the bay floor. The Snavely carries enough sophisticated computer power to account for every pitch and roll, and to recalibrate its bathymetry (bay floor depth) measurements accordingly. But Boyle and colleague Dave Finlayson, who tap their onboard keyboards with the confidence of Navy guys trained to hunt submarines, still seemed flummoxed: The sonar couldn't get a good fix on the bottom. “We tried nine times and never got it right,” says Finlayson, though they did succeed on subsequent calmer survey days. Lat-
er, they speculated that an amorphous “fluffy mud layer” created by freshwater input from a previous storm and a recent sewage discharge may have faked out their instruments. Fluffy mud or not, the Snavely can boldly go where few other research vessels have gone before — into the tidal shallows of San Francisco Bay. The boat needs only about 1.5 meters of depth to proceed. On your average bathymetry survey cruise, Snavely skipper Jenny White spends most of her time glancing back and forth from the window to the screen on her helm, trying to steer the boat perfectly between lines set by Boyle. “I used to be a tech on Antarctic icebreakers,” says White. “I had to retrain to the small scale of bay work. It's a whole different thing working close to shore.” But close to shore is where all the action will be as sea level rises and tides may collude with extreme weather to produce more frequent and severe storm surges. So scientists and planners agree that accurate local bathymetry, close to shore, will be key to modeling how waves change as they traverse the shallows and marshes, and predicting the damage they may do. That’s why another Corte Madera Marsh cruise of the Snavely found Geological Survey oceanographer Jessie Lacy stationed on the rear deck, placing tripods in the shallows between the Larkspur ferry channel and the edge of the marsh. She equipped each tripod with sensors to measure wave height, velocity, duration and direction. Instruments also recorded tides and currents and concentration of suspended sediment — all key factors in any wetland adaptation scenario. To place two other pressure sensors, Lacy climbed into a kayak and paddled up a small marsh creek where the Snavely couldn’t travel. As waves rolled in past each of her five sensors over the course of three months, their characteristics were recorded. In examining the data, Lacy found that wave height diminished by 55 percent, on average, as waves rolled in from deeper waters across the shallows of Corte Madera Bay. Crossing the mudflats and marsh, they decreased even more. By the time waves reached the most landward pressure sensor, 150 meters up that creek inside the marsh, they were less than a centimeter tall — or for all intents and purposes, undetectable. “I wasn’t surprised by how much the marsh slowed down the waves, but I was surprised by how much the mudflat did,” says Lacy. Her results suggest that both bathymetry and marsh vegetation will influence the way future waves impact our shores. With data from the bay side now being loaded into
computer models, the tricky part will be to mesh it with data collected on the land side. Using legwork, stakes, GPS and eyeballs, other scientists have walked the marsh to measure elevation, map topography, document vegetation and wildlife, and assess historic rates of sediment buildup. One thing they’ve found is that Corte Madera is one of the lowest marshes around the bay. “For the endangered California clapper rail, this means their habitat is being flooded more often, so the risk from sea level rise is higher than at other sites we studied,” says Karen Thorne, part of a Geological Survey team tracking ground elevations and endangered species habitat in 13 marshes around the bay. The Geological Survey added Corte Madera to its survey so it could match up its data with Development Commission’s. “It’s a beautiful healthy marsh, with a lot of clapper rails,” she says. “Habitat management in the face of sea level rise gets complicated because these species are so highly tied to marshes. They’re not going to suddenly decide to go live in oak trees.” But the rails won’t have to go anywhere if the marshes can trap enough of the sediment floating around the bay and coming in from watersheds to keep up with rising water levels. To get a handle on this part of an increasingly complex wetland adaptation equation, University of San Francisco wetland ecologist John Callaway sank an aluminum tube into the marsh surface at six different places in the study area, pulling up 50-centimeter “cores” of sediment. He then took them back to the lab to estimate how quickly these sediments had accumulated. Now that all of the gold mining debris that clouded San Francisco Bay for more than a century is finally petering out, according to Geological Survey, those interested in saving wetlands are looking around for other sources of this key ingredient of marsh formation. “If sea level rises and suspended sediments go down, that puts double pressure on the marshes to keep up,” Callaway says. Callaway is measuring not only past levels of sediment buildup, but also current levels in Corte Madera Marsh and nearby Muzzi Marsh. For the Development Commission study, he walked through the pickleweed and cordgrass every three months at low tide to check 48 markers that show recent deposits of sediment left by waves and tides. He found this location, like other bay marshes, to be accumulating about 3 to 4 millimeters per year, enough to keep pace with sea level rise in the near term. “Marshes like Corte Madera are not going to just disappear,” says Callaway. “Between the upper and lower marsh, we measured about 40 to 50 centimeters in elevation change, so even if they lose some elevation each year as sea level rises, they’ll still remain marshes the next 40 years. It’s 60 to 100 years out where the marshes could really be under significant threat.” Certainly managing a soft-edged marsh, which naturally adapts to sea level rise, appears to offer more options than managing a hard-edged sea wall. So our recent investments in restoring bay wetlands may pay off in more ways than just improving ecosystem health and endangered species habitat; it turns out they will also buy us time to make the difficult choices represented by Corte Madera’s waterfront homes, shopping mall, and nearby Highway 101. In the meantime, modeling the resilience of this particular marsh — by getting down in the water and the mud with sensors, sonar and sediment cores — may help us stay a step ahead of the walls of water surely heading this way. Bay Nature // baynature.org
Through its award-winning quarterly magazine and comprehensive website, Bay Nature is your portal to the natural world of the San Francisco Bay Area. Online and in print, Bay Nature reports on the Bay Area's parks, landscapes, and wildlife. Learn more at BayNature.org.
sfpublicpress.org // Spring 2012
B1 SF Public Press
‘FORCE, FRAUD, COERCION’:
Human Trafficking in the Bay Area A SPECIAL REPORT PRODUCED IN COLLABORATION WITH NEW AMERICA MEDIA AND EL TECOLOTE
Bay Area Agencies Improvise Tactics To Battle Trafficking
With little guidance from state leaders, local police, nonprofits fight for scarce funding
Anti-trafficking activists said the legal reforms that later made prosecutions easier coincided with growing public awareness about the problem of human trafficking — transporting people for labor through force, fraud or coercion.
cross California, local agencies have been left to scramble for limited resources and improvise strategies to fight human trafficking, a problem whose scope has yet to be defined with reliable numbers. A high-profile state task force studying California’s human trafficking problem made 46 recommendations in October 2007 to reform criminal law, improve training, coordinate among agencies and provide better victim services. But the group did not set up mechanisms to monitor progress. The task force disbanded shortly after releasing its report. Attorney General Kamala Harris, who represented San Francisco when she was district attorney, has begun picking up the pieces this year. In February she reconvened the panel in Sacramento to assess the remainStory: Jason Winshell ing challenges. An updated report is due this spring. // Public Press Without clear guidance from the state, nine regional task forces have sprung up in California to devise their own solutions. Their efforts have been supported mostly by federal grants. But as the funding rules become more stringent, the groups at times have been pitted against each other for resources. “We’re competing for a shrinking pool of money,” said Lt. Jason Fox, leader of the San Francisco police’s human trafficking unit. “We’re competing with jurisdictions that are absolutely broke.” Bay Area agencies say they are doing the best they can. Nonprofit organizations say they cannot provide services to all the victims who come forward. Without adequate training and coordination, police departments often default to what they are trained to do — routine public safety, not investigations of international organized crime. As recently as last June the San Francisco Police Department got permission to use a portion of a human trafficking grant to arrest 41 prostitutes in the Polk Gulch neighborhood in response to residents’ complaints. Then in October, the department lost out on a critical half-million-dollar grant to add staff for long-term investigations and victim support, increase training, direct more resources to labor trafficking and create an office at San Francisco International Airport, where local police would work with federal investigators to uncover international human trafficking schemes. The grant went instead to the San Jose Police Department, which outlined a detailed plan, cited its record of 60 investigations — some in collaboration with federal law enforcement — and extensive outreach and training programs. San Francisco’s application, while ambitious, cited few investigative accomplishments in recent years, federal grant reviewers wrote. It was vague on goals, and revealed that the police department placed human trafficking investigations in its prostitution-focused vice crimes unit, an indication that it had neglected labor trafficking. San Francisco’s loss of the grant highlights a problem across California, which experts say has seen high numbers of trafficking cases compared with most other states. But reliable numbers are hard to come by. Even some highlevel collaborative anti-trafficking operations rely on exaggerated, unscientific estimates of the scale of the problem, say researchers in government, advocacy organizations and academe. In a 2008 study of the 13 worst afflicted regions of the country, California accounted for 26 percent of federal prosecutions for human trafficking. Local law enforcement and victim service providers identify the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego as hubs. Traffickers take advantage of these cities’ immigrant and ethnic enclaves, the southern border with Mexico and convenient travel connections to the Pacific Rim and Latin America. The sparse statistics notwithstanding, the U.S. State Department in 2009 sketched out a possible trend, tied to the current recession: Worsening economic conditions abroad have contributed to an increase in worldwide slavery and debt bondage. People who come to the U.S. illegally in search of work are more likely to become victims of traffickers than in the past. “They’re being brought in from countries where there is no economic future for them,” said Robert Uy, a former staff attorney for Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, a victim-services agency in San Francisco.
story continued on page B6
story continued on page B4
Lakireddy Balireddy shocked the Bay Area a decade ago when investigators discovered how the Berkeley landlord transported young women and girls from India for sex. He served eight years in prison. His case still inspires reformers who want to put human traffickers away for longer. File photo India West
Anger Over Mild Punishment Spurs Reform Advocates for increased prison terms say 10-year-old sex trafficking case changed conversation
ore than a decade after she was freed from a sex trafficking ring in Berkeley, one survivor still has nightmares about Lakireddy Balireddy. “Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night after I dream that he is lying next to me, or see Story: someone taking me to him,” Viji Sundaram // New America said the young woman, now Media in her late 20s, who agreed to an interview on the condition of anonymity. “I jump out of bed and turn on all the lights to make sure he’s not in the room.” The media circus that resulted as the sex trafficking case broke in early 2000, with daily outraged headlines about Lakireddy’s “sex slaves,” started a statewide conversation that led directly to the passage in 2005 of Assembly Bill 22, California’s first law setting higher criminal penalties for human trafficking. This year’s campaign to get tougher anti-trafficking laws on the November ballot as a voter initiative is the latest attempt to deal with what proponents call the unfinished business of legal reform. Former Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, the chief sponsor of the 2005 state law, said the Lakireddy case “was confirmation of what the problem was,” and “was definitely on our minds” when she and colleagues in the Legislature drafted the law. The final version established human trafficking for forced labor or services as a felony, punishable by a sentence of 3, 4 or 5 years (depending on severity of the case) in state prison for trafficking of an adult, and a sentence of 4, 6 or 8 years for trafficking of a minor. The law also provides for monetary restitution and allows trafficking victims to bring civil actions against traffickers. It might seem like a potent tool, but Lieber said tougher laws are needed.
The new initiative, a reform that proponents are calling the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, would extend prison terms and allow fines of up to $1.5 million for human traffickers. It would also require training for law enforcement, something that could have helped police detect the sex trafficking ring much sooner, said San Francisco attorney Michael Rubin of the law firm Altshuler Berzon LLP, who represented some of Lakireddy’s victims in a 2002 civil suit. AN ACCIDENTAL DEATH In 2001, federal law enforcement officials convicted the then 64-year-old restaurateur and real estate tycoon — one of Berkeley’s richest landlords, who raked in at least $1 million a month from his 1,000 or more rental properties — of two counts of transportation of minors for illegal sexual activity. He was also convicted of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and filing a false tax return. A federal investigation also found that Lakireddy had been “carrying out a widespread conspiracy since 1986 to bring at least 25 Indian laborers into the United States through false pretences,” according to a March 2001 Department of Justice statement. The immigrants were brought from his native village of Velvadam in southern India. The sexual abuse of the girls began years earlier in the village and continued after he trafficked them into the United States, prosecutors said. “He turned Berkeley into a Velvadam-by-theBay,” Rubin said. In addition to subjecting the trafficked girls to what federal prosecutors called “sexual servitude,” Lakireddy allegedly forced many of them to work in his downtown Berkeley Indian restaurant, and do cleaning and maintenance work on his rental properties. He justified not
putting them on payroll, or paying them very little, by saying he provided them free food and accommodation. Few of the girls were sent to school. The abuse might have gone undetected even longer but for a carbon monoxide leak in November 1999 in one of his Berkeley apartments that killed Chanti Pratipatti, 17, whom he had trafficked months earlier. She and her 15-yearold sister had been brought to the country by two of Lakireddy’s relatives who masqueraded as their parents, and were siblings themselves. Lakireddy was arrested on Jan. 14, 2000, two days before his planned departure to his native land with one of his trafficked victims. A March 7, 2001, Department of Justice press release said Lakireddy might face up to 38 years in prison under a plea deal he struck with prosecutors. But that April, before he could be sentenced, his attorneys managed to bargain it down to a 97-month term. Lakireddy also agreed to pay $2 million in restitution to the surviving sister, her parents and an 18-year-old girl who was living with the sisters at the time of the accident. Lakireddy spent a little less than eight years in Lompoc federal prison. After his release in 2008, he registered as a California sex offender. Asked why the real estate tycoon received so much lighter a punishment than originally threatened, the two main prosecutors declined to comment. The presiding judge did not return several phone calls seeking comment. ‘CREATIVE’ WAYS TO SUE
INSIDE THIS SECTION TIMELINE: DECADE-PLUS BATTLE AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING PAGE B2 IMMIGRATION: SPECIAL VISA HELPS VICTIMS WHO QUALIFY PAGE B2 LABOR: STATE AGENCIES SLOW TO IDENTIFY TRAFFICKING CASES PAGE B3 INTERNATIONAL: WORSENING ECONOMY REWARDS EXPLOITATION PAGE B4 CAMPAIGN: SUPPORTERS OF REFORM TRY FOR BALLOT MEASURE PAGE B5 PROSECUTORS: LAWYERS SAY THE LAW NEEDS REWRITING PAGE B5 ‘Force, Fraud, Coercion’: Human Trafficking in the Bay Area
// A SPECIAL REPORT
In and around San Francisco, the battle against the scourge of human trafficking has made halting progress. State budget cuts and unsteady leadership have hindered local law enforcement agencies and nonprofits, but there are signs of better coordination across the state. This team reporting project was produced in collaboration with New America Media and San Francisco’s bilingual newspaper, El Tecolote. Selected articles will appear at sfpublicpress.org/ trafficking. Also find more stories online at newamericamedia.org and eltecolote.org. Special thanks to Elena Shore of New America Media, Hank Drew of the Public Press, Bernice Yeung of California Watch, Linda Jue of the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism, Barbara Grady of the Public Press and Oakland Local, and independent journalist David Bacon for ideas and consultation. Thanks also to David Cohn at Spot.Us, the journalism micro-funding website of American Public Media, for helping raise funds for this project.
full story on page B5
B2 SF Public Press
HUMAN TRAFFICKING Spring 2012 // sfpublicpress.org
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act offers definition of trafficking, special visa and reporting system.
Victims now allowed to sue their traffickers in U.S. courts.
Berkeley landlord arrested on suspicion of trafficking young girls.
"Trafficking in Persons" report ranks countries on their efforts to eliminate trafficking.
LAKIREDDY BALIREDDY CASE
FIRST STATE DEPARTMENT REPORT
TRAFFICKING PLEA BARGAIN
Lakireddy pleads guilty to smuggling girls from India, but has several charges dropped.
CALIFORNIA TRAFFICKING LAW California makes human trafficking a felony punishable by up to eight years in prison. The law was authored by thenAssemblywoman Sally Lieber, a Democrat from Mountain View.
Photo courtesy Sally Lieber
OPERATION GILDED CAGE BUSTS
Raid of suspected brothels exposes South Korean sex-trade ring in San Francisco. Darryl Bush // San Francisco Examiner (Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley Bancroft Library)
U.S. Visas Help Trafficking Victims, If Applicants Can Vault Legal Hurdles
special visa created 12 years ago to save thousands of victims of human trafficking and curb international human trafficking has been vastly underutilized. Attorneys for rescued victims seeking residency protection say law enforcement agencies are often unwilling or slow to “certify” victims’ claims of having been brought to the U.S. to work by force, fraud or coercion. Legal experts and social service providers in high-trafficking regions, including the San Francisco Bay Area, suggest Story: that victims are Ambika placed in a danKandasamy gerous dilemma: // Public Press Promising to cooperate with an investigation could possibly help their visa cases, but it could also expose them and their families back home to retaliation. One result is that victims only apply for a fraction of the visas available each year. Last year the government received one-fifth of its quota, and of the applications received nearly 23 percent were rejected. Lawyers and service providers for trafficking victims said the lack of assistance from law enforcement slowed or derailed what they called deserving applications. In one case, a domestic servant who worked 16hour days for no pay for years earned a T visa with the help of a crusading lawyer despite the lack of certification by federal law enforcement officials. Created by the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the T-1 Nonimmigrant Status visa provides trafficking victims from foreign countries temporary legal status, with an opportunity to apply for permanent residency and access to federal benefits if they cooperate with law enforcement in the investigations of their traffickers. Minors and those unable to participate in investigations because of physical or psychological trauma are excused, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that adjudicates the visa applications. Data supplied by the agency reveals that only a few hundred T visas have been issued each year since the program began, despite a yearly
quota of 5,000 available. According to the agency, in the last fiscal year 557 T visa applications were approved and 223 were rejected. The original federal trafficking law, authored by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-New Jersey, has been reauthorized three times, and revisions have included lowering the visa qualification standards and increasing services available to trafficking victims. Scholars specializing in international human trafficking laws say the program is flawed because the help it offers victims is hinged on their willingness to assist in the investigations. “It would be much better to have a system where your protections were not dependent on you giving evidence against the person who trafficked you, which is the case for children,” said Jacqueline Bhabha, director of research at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights. HELPING LAW ENFORCEMENT The T visa application encourages applicants to submit “primary evidence” of their cooperation, which consists of a law enforcement certification that they have agreed to support investigations of their traffickers. Attorneys and social service providers who work with T visa applicants say obtaining the certification is often an impediment in the application process. Zoraida Peña Canal was trafficked from Peru to be a domestic servant in Contra Costa County five years ago. Sacramento attorney Avantika Rao helped her obtain a T visa, even though she said she was unable to get certification from law enforcement. Peña Canal entered the U.S. in July 2006 to live with and work for a Walnut Creek family. She was put to work from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day for no pay caring for two children and doing chores, though her employer assured her that she would be paid. Rao said Peña Canal escaped with the help of three neighbors. She learned about Peña Canal’s case when she was working at La Raza Centro Legal, a San Francisco-based organization that provides legal services to immigrants and low-income
Zoraida Peña Canal, left, was trafficked from Peru to be a domestic servant in Walnut Creek. Lawyer Avantika Rao guided her through the complex T visa program. Peña Canal prevailed, without law enforcement certification of her case. Photo courtesy of Avantika Rao people. Rao said in an email that law enforcement denied the certification though her client was doing everything possible to cooperate in the investigation. “Ms. Peña Canal and I met with law enforcement agents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office on at least a dozen occasions during which Ms. Peña Canal provided physical evidence as well as testimony with regards to the crime,” Rao said. After a series of requests to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to supply the certification, she was notified in September 2008 that the office would not provide the document. “I was absolutely devastated by their decision, especially because they implied that they did not trust
my client and did not view her case as important,” Rao said. She submitted the T visa application anyway, without the certification. The lack of certification, she said, places “a much higher burden on the victim’s advocate to insert more details and documents in the T visa application, all of which are potentially discoverable by counsel for the trafficker in a legal proceeding.” Despite these hurdles, Peña Canal’s T visa application was approved in January 2009. Peña Canal relocated to San Francisco, where she now can be legally employed. She works as a janitor at a San Francisco company, cares for seniors in their homes and cleans houses on a referral basis.
FEAR OF RETALIATION Government agencies denying certification for T visa applicants is a common theme. Hilary Chester, associate director of anti-trafficking services at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, said law enforcement officials stalled on signing the certification for a client who was trafficked from El Salvador. “I think what still bothers me personally is this notion that so much weight is given to the law enforcement piece, and that there is this requirement that a person be willing to cooperate in the prosecution,” Chester said. “I think it’s slippery.” Her client did receive a T visa — more than two years later. Legal service providers said that in
addition to the hassle of getting law enforcement’s blessing, trafficked individuals also fear that applying for the visa may subject their families back home to threats. “I think the biggest concerns are not so much fear in reporting the trafficking or talking to law enforcement about what’s happened, but it is very scary to be in a situation where they may potentially have to confront their traffickers in court — and the fears of retaliation for family back home,” said Lynette Parker, clinical supervising attorney for the immigration program of the Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center, based at Santa Clara story continued on following page
sfpublicpress.org // Spring 2012
B3 SF Public Press
Federal trafficking law is pending reauthorization for fiscal year 2012–2013. Bills are moving through Congress.
Grant program passes for state and local law enforcement to investigate, prosecute trafficking cases.
Creates system for monitoring antitrafficking efforts, lowers standard of proof in commercial sex act cases.
STATE SERVICES FOR VICTIMS
Bill allows noncitizen crime victims, including in trafficking cases, to gain access to state-funded social services.
SF COLLABORATIVE AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Group launches with representatives from 20 government agencies and service providers, and other community members.
DEBT BONDAGE OUTLAWED
State bans contracts that withhold wages for assisting in migration into the U.S.
SAN FRANCISCO POLICE GET STATE GRANT
Police department receives $375,000, of which $93,000 goes to Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach.
STATEWIDE REPORT PUBLISHED
The California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force issues report listing 46 sweeping recommendations to address the human trafficking problem. THE WORKPLACE
State Labor Agencies Slow to Coordinate With Law Enforcement on Trafficking Cases
espite a strongly worded recommendation from a California-wide task force four years ago urging labor standards officials to look for signs of human trafficking, state and local investigators say there has so far been little coordination or direct follow-up with law enforcement or organizations supporting victims. The task force, which was disbanded in 2007 but is reconvening throughout this spring, Story: outlined the need to Alejandra Cuéllar identify and rescue // El Tecolote victims — as opposed to deporting them in the course of routine labor enforcement sweeps. Representatives of the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement said they could not recall any recent cases in which a raid on a business for suspected violations of labor law led to a criminal investigation or prosecution for human trafficking. They also said they had not instituted a training program for state labor agents. But California’s new labor commissioner Julie A. Su, who previously worked on some of the state’s most high-profile trafficking cases as an advocate at nonprofit organizations including Sweatshop Watch, said she intends to improve training of agents. In 2010, the last year for which the state has reliable statistics, labor enforcement investigations of more than 13,000 businesses across the state yielded more than $2 million in fines on employers. That year several dozens of San Francisco Chinatown businesses drew attention for substandard working conditions. In raids that fall, the state labor standards office found 79 restaurants to be in violation of a variety of employment laws. The raids followed a disturbing study of restaurant workers published by the Chinese Progressive Association and other groups. It found that 50 percent of workers received less than minimum wage, 20 percent worked more than 60 hours a week,
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University. “One of the biggest challenges for us is to identify NGOs on the ground in the home countries that can help give information and provide safety to the families,” she said, adding that many non-governmental organizations provide services to victims in coordination with U.S. groups. Some clients are also apprehensive about going through with the investigations because of the stigma they and their families might face in their communities if U.S. investigators start asking questions abroad, as the FBI does occasionally. Hediana Utarti, community projects coordinator at the Asian Women’s Shelter in San Francisco, said she had a case in which a family brought a young woman to the U.S. from Asia by promising her work as a cook and offering to send her to
48 percent had experienced burn injuries, only 3 percent got employer-provided health care and 95 percent did not receive a San Francisco “living wage.” Experts say human trafficking — the transportation and exploitation of workers through force, fraud or coercion — is hard to stop because it is so difficult to detect. Traffickers commonly conceal abuses of immigrant workers in plain sight, through intimidation and sometimes physical or sexual abuse. In some cases employers confiscate passports, threaten deportation, withhold wages, restrict movement or isolate victims from the community. Dozens of such examples are documented in a 2007 report by the state task force, convened by the California Attorney General’s Office and the Crime and Violence Prevention Center on Human Trafficking. The report stressed that sex abuse was the tip of the iceberg in a much larger pool of trafficked and exploited labor. In addition to training, the task force urged labor standards agencies across the state to “report such findings to their superiors for further investigation and service referral rather than potential deportation.” Alden Pinkham, center program specialist and trainer for the National Human Trafficking Resource of the Polaris Project, which operates a 24-hour national call center, said isolation of immigrant workers from the rest of American society is a telltale sign of trafficking. “One of the elements that would manifest when you work in a restaurant all day, and you live in housing provided by employers, and are transported from your work to your house, is that you have no meaningful opportunity to leave,” she said. Another warning sign, according to Pinkham: Some employers charge for overseas transportation, so workers are perpetually indebted. Large debts for promised employment in the United States could be considered involuntary servitude, whether or not victims are even aware that they have
school. She said the woman did cook, but was also forced to participate in sex parties in the family’s home. Utarti said that when the trafficking survivor applied for a T visa, law enforcement officials interviewed her, and they contacted her client’s siblings in her home country for the investigation. “So it’s very scary for that person to have that situation where there are a lot of people talking about you,” Utarti said. Steven Merrill, a supervisory special agent at the FBI’s San Francisco office, said agents sometimes travel to home countries of trafficked victims, but it is rare. He said the hardest part for investigators in trafficking cases is that in many cases victims are unwilling to share their stories of victimization. “There’s a variety of reasons why that may be, but that will always remain a difficulty from the FBI and any other law enforcement’s perspec-
been deceived or trafficked. Workers’ lack of understanding of their own rights makes exposing such cases through labor violations difficult, but important. Su, who was appointed as the California labor commissioner in April 2011, as a nonprofit organization advocate in 1996 worked on an infamous human trafficking case involving dozens of garment workers. In El Monte (Los Angeles County), 72 rural mostly female Thai workers were confined in apartment buildings, where they were forced to sew garments for less than $2 per hour, and worked for more than 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Their living quarters were infested with cockroaches and rats. Razor wire outside the compound deterred escape. “Knowing that those are the kind of schemes they engage on,” Su said, “one of the priorities of mine and this administration is having in-depth investigations on site and off site. And off site is important because sometimes inside, workers are afraid to speak. So we specialize in doing quality inspections versus quantity inspections.” Su said that developing a training program to help labor investigators recognize a broad range of criminal activity was her priority. She recently launched the Labor Commissioner’s Criminal Investigation Unit, made up of peace officers, which will help crack criminal trafficking cases related to labor law violations. Su stressed the importance of having state labor investigators speak the language of the workers, scrutinizing payroll records, interviewing employers and making sure prospective workers recognize common scams. She said victims should understand that the state is on their side and that undocumented and trafficked workers will be helped, not deported. “Immigrants should know that no matter how they arrived to the United States,” she said, “they do not check their humanity at the border.”
tive in accomplishing our mission to put human traffickers — to convict them in court,” Merrill said. SUCCESS STORIES In cases in which the T visa program works, it offers trafficking victims freedom to emerge from oppressive situations and live and work in the country. A 63-year-old Bay Area woman who was trafficked from Peru to the U.S. by her brother-in-law said she was paid $80 every 15 days for working at his house in Los Angeles. The woman, who requested anonymity for fear that her trafficker might track her down, said in an interview that she worked about 14 hours a day, seven days a week. She said he forbade her from contacting her family in Lima, Peru. “They didn’t want me to answer the phone, they didn’t want me to call my children on the phone,” she
Brett Myers // Youth Radio
SEX RING BUSTED
Raids in Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties find dozens of women from China and Taiwan were sex-trafficked. SEPTEMBER 2010
SUPPLY CHAIN LAW PASSED
California requires business with receipts of more than $100 million to disclose efforts to remove slavery, trafficking from supply chains. JANUARY 2011
State law allows for confiscation of assets used to facilitate human trafficking. JULY 2011
State boosts penalties for pimping or procuring minors. SEPTEMBER 2011
TRAFFICKING OF MINORS
State law says coercion no longer needs to be proved in trafficking of minors.
said. “I would never receive a letter from my kids. Nothing. They didn’t want me to go to church either. I am Catholic, so I wanted to go every Sunday, but they didn’t want me to go to the street, leave the garden. They didn’t want me to go out at all.” After fleeing the situation, she was helped by the attorneys at Santa Clara University to obtain a T visa, and she is now free to live and work in the U.S. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has sought to raise public awareness of the T visa program. Sharon Rummery, the agency’s spokeswoman in San Francisco, said her office has provided training nationwide to law enforcement, community-based organizations and the media, to explain the T visa and similar programs. “We very much want people to know that the T is available, people to understand what it means to be trafficked,” she said. “Some people
Graphic: Hyemi Choi, Tom Guffey and Jason Winshell // Public Press
may not even know that they’ve been trafficked.” OVERCOMING ISOLATION Some human trafficking experts said that building a life in the U.S. after receiving a T visa is challenging for survivors because they feel isolated, and have trouble finding long-term housing and accessing victim services. Denise Brennan, an associate professor and chair of the anthropology department at Georgetown University, said that in contrast to trafficking survivors, political and economic refugees tend to settle in communities where others from their communities are located. “Generally speaking, refugees, they are not moving to a community completely alone,” Brennan said. “Formerly trafficked persons generally are resettled alone in communities that are not made up of formerly
trafficked persons. In fact, no one would know that they were trafficked unless they told them.” Some Bay Area advocates for trafficking survivors said that finding long-term housing after escaping is also problematic. Mollie Ring, chief of programs at Standing Against Global Exploitation, a nonprofit group that provides services to trafficking victims, said it is tough for her clients to find affordable housing in San Francisco after they leave short-term, transitional housing. Victims, she said, face a dilemma: “A client sometimes leaves the Bay Area in order to find a reasonable quality of life. But that means that they are disconnected from services. So it’s some of the Catch-22 there.” Monica Jensen contributed additional reporting for this article.
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HUMAN TRAFFICKING Spring 2012 // sfpublicpress.org
State Trafficking Panel Could Help Local Police story coninued from page B1
In places like the Philippines, he said, the average wage is $150 a month. “And guess what, there’s huge amounts of unemployment, so most people make even less than that. They make like $30 a month.” Immigration policy has worsened the situation, he added: “We’ve made it so damn difficult to get into the country now that people have to pay people to bring them in, or go to the shady recruiters who will promise them status.” FEDERAL ASSISTANCE Nationwide the anti-trafficking movement is picking up steam. The federal government has funded 45 regional task forces across the country since 2004. Most of the focus is on sex trafficking, particularly the commercial sexual exploitation of minors. The Department of Justice reported that as of October 2009, these regional task forces, along with activist groups and nonprofits “rescued over 891 children from commercial sexual exploitation and produced over 500 convictions in state and federal court, according to FBI statistics.” In 2010, the Federal Bureau of Justice Assistance provided $3.75 million in federal stimulus grants administered by the California Emergency Management Agency to nine regional task forces in the state, three of them in the Bay Area: San Francisco, San Jose and Alameda County. The grant language defined goals broadly, such as “Decrease the demand for human trafficking” and “Increase the number of individuals arrested for human trafficking.” They did not dictate approaches or set deadlines for meeting the goals, so the task forces were able to report routine policing operations as progress against human trafficking. The San Francisco vice crimes unit reported the arrests of “johns” as human trafficking offenders. The unit also got permission to repurpose some of the grant money for prostitution street sweeps last summer in the Polk Gulch area, arresting dozens of prostitutes in response complaints. While neither action violated the guidelines, it departed from the original intent of the grant: to pursue long-term investigations. NEW STANDARDS After a review last year of task forces nationwide, the Bureau of Justice Assistance laid out stringent new standards for grantees to make local agencies more effective and accountable. Trafficking investigations could no longer be run out of vice squads, whose role traditionally has been investigating prostitution. Nor could investigators overemphasize sex; the less recognizable problem of labor trafficking in all its forms must also be tackled. In retrospect, San Francisco’s failure to get the new half-million dollar grant could have been foreseen: Its grant application followed years of work in which successes focused largely on raids at brothels, massage parlors and other sex-related businesses. The highest-profile success of the San Francisco police to date was Operation Gilded Cage. After a nine-month investigation local officers and FBI agents busted a network of massage parlors where more than 100 women, many of them Korean immigrants, had been forced into prostitution. The stings, which targeted 10 suspected brothels in San Francisco, were the inspiration for a 2005 series in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Diary of a Sex Slave.” Since then, however, the department has been slow to build investigative capacity or training. Currently each officer receives just a half-hour of training every two years. Last fall Police Chief Greg Suhr reformed the human trafficking team, relocating two dedicated investigators to a newly reorganized special victims unit. Until recently, there have been few labor trafficking investigations. No labor-related cases have ever been referred to Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang, who was specifically assigned that duty by the police department in September 2009. However, in early 2012 the police said they uncovered a major international labor trafficking case involving multiple victims throughout the Bay Area. They said it involved trafficking across state and international borders. Out of concern of jeopardizing active investigations and prosecutions, the police said they could not yet reveal certain details from the case. The scale of the arrests and prosecutions were too big for San Francisco police to handle. The case was turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Federal agents have made arrests in early February, said Fox of the San Francisco police. “We gave it to the feds because they have resources we don’t have,” Fox said. SEX VS. LABOR Federal law enforcement agencies such as Homeland
Security Investigations, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are more likely take on labor trafficking cases because of the resources, time, experience and training needed to successfully investigate and prosecute them. Last year the Department of Justice reported that in more than 2,500 suspected cases of human trafficking, 56 percent of labor-related investigations included a federal agency — versus 23 percent for sex trafficking. Federal agencies were four times more likely to take the lead in labor trafficking cases. In a high-profile labor trafficking case last June, an employee of the Italian Consulate in San Francisco, Giuseppe Penzato, and his wife, Kesia Penzato, were arrested, accused of keeping a Brazilian woman in domestic servitude. Accounts of the case made headlines. The victim was rescued and her traffickers charged. What was not revealed at the time was that the case took more than a year of work by Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and local nonprofit victim service providers. The case was brought to federal officials in April 2010 by Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, which had been helping the victim since she fled the couple’s home in late 2009. Lori K. Haley, a spokeswoman for Homeland Security Investigations, said the case was brought to another government agency less than nine months earlier, but would not specify which agency that was. Special Agent Jennifer Alderete, the initial investigator on the case, who interviewed the victim several times, said the critical element was keeping the woman engaged and cooperating. The victim’s nonprofit advocates and those at another agency, Standing Against Global Exploitation, found the woman shelter and worked with immigration authorities to allow her to remain in the country. Alderete said providing victims with social, medical, legal and immigration services from the moment of rescue helps build successful prosecutions.
BY THE NUMBERS
THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING TASK FORCE CASES: 87% INVOLVED SEX, 13% LABOR In 2011, the Department of Justice gathered data on 2,515 suspected human trafficking incidents occurring between 2008 and 2010, from 45 federally funded task forces. Only 18 of the task forces kept records accurate enough to provide meaningful numbers. Following is the demographic breakdown of 527 confirmed cases of human trafficking. Totals for each category do not add up to 527 because of incomplete demographic data for some cases.
MALE 27 FEMALE 432
YOUNGER THAN 25 390
25 AND OLDER 58
TYPES OF TRAFFICKING
HISPANIC/LATINO 95 9
ASIAN 17 U.S. CITIZENS, U.S. NATIONALS, 351 AND PERMANENT RESIDENTS UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS, QUALIFIED ALIENS, AND TEMPORARY WORKERS 65
TOTAL 460 Graphic: Tom Guffey and Jason Winshell // Public Press
63 Source: U.S. Department of Justice "Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010"
SENTENCING CONTROVERSY Forty-four states have felony human trafficking laws. Prison time ranges from less than 10 years to life in prison. California Assembly Bill 22 of 2005 provides a maximum eight years in prison for trafficking a minor. For the same crime, federal law (authorization for which expired last September) prescribed a sentence of 15 years to life. The shorter maximum sentence has led many prosecutors in California to use other charges — kidnapping, domestic violence, child sexual assault and extortion — to increase sentences to as much as life in prison. Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Sharmin Bock, who has more than 20 years of experience prosecuting sex offenders, criticized the current law. “All you can get is the max, eight years,” she said. “So if you’re the trafficker, what are you going to do? You’re going to go to trial. But if you charge extortion, what’s the penalty? Life. Do you think he is going to roll the dice?” But providing tools for prosecutors is not the only concern of the Legislature. Overcrowding in prisons has hampered the state’s antitrafficking agenda. Since a federal court ordered the state to reduce prison populations in 2010, lawmakers have been allergic to passing any laws that put offenders in jail longer. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said she tried to get the trafficking law amended in 2011 to broaden the definition of human trafficking. “But right now, any bill with punishment attached doesn’t get out of committee,” she said. “No one wants to add more people to the prison rolls.” The 2005 human trafficking law, authored by thenAssemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, included criminal provisions. Lieber said senators opposed it because it would add more felonies to the state’s complicated code without considering the impact on public safety and correctional resources. They preferred comprehensive sentencing overhaul to a piecemeal approach. Then-Assemblyman (and now state Senator) Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, supported the bill, but warned that it would not pass with felony provisions. “We were thinking it would be great to get twice what we asked for — 16 years,” Lieber said. “But we knew that there was no way that was going to fly.” Lieber said she encountered opposition from several Republicans, including Tom McClintock — then a state senator, now a member of Congress — and former assemblymen Ray Hanes and Tim Leslie. Some senators objected to providing legal protections to victims who entered the country illegally. “We had a lot of people making comments in committee of ‘Well, if people game the system by trying to get here through these traffickers, then they deserve what they get,’” Lieber said. Although criminal penalties in the state’s anti-trafficking law have not increased, other laws have been created
or amended that provide more support and protection for victims: •Police now must exercise “due diligence,” and assess victims of domestic violence or rape for indications of human trafficking. •It is now a misdemeanor to reveal the location of shelters for victims of domestic violence or human trafficking. •The addresses of sex abuse victims cannot be revealed by law enforcement. •The law no longer requires that coercion be proved in cases involving minors. •Debt-bondage contracts are now illegal. •Domestic workers now receive labor law protections. •Foreign victims of trafficking can receive social services while qualifying for a federal human trafficking T visa. •Criminal fines and any profits from human trafficking go to the state Victim-Witness Assistance Fund. POOR STATISTICS It remains difficult to measure the scope of human trafficking because reliable large-scale studies are lacking. The 2007 state task force recommendations included the creation of a system for collecting data from state and federal law enforcement and prosecutors. But when asked for human trafficking prosecution statistics, Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Rebecca MacLaren said the agency does not track the data. Some data are maintained by the counties themselves, although the quality of the information varies widely. Alameda County keeps a full accounting of cases in which human trafficking charges are filed, back to January 2006. Records provided to the San Francisco Public Press by the Alameda District Attorney’s Office for cases that included at least one human trafficking offense show 113 people charged under that law in the last six years. Of those, 39 were convicted of human trafficking and 28 on other charges. More than 20 defendants await a resolutions or verdicts. And the pace of cases is accelerating; more than half entered the court system since 2010. During that time the work of the office’s trafficking task force led to the filing of a variety of criminal offenses in a total of 180 cases, which led to 140 convictions. San Francisco’s data is minimal, though it is not clear whether this is due to poor record-keeping or the lack of arrests and prosecutions. The police began tracking basic human trafficking data in 2010 through its domestic violence unit. In response to a public records request, the department produced records of one prosecuted human trafficking case in 2010 and two in 2011, though it was only from one division. Other parts of the department might have records of additional cases but they could not be found.
Nationwide, experts disagree even on the order of magnitude of the human trafficking problem. Last June The Village Voice, a weekly newspaper in New York, concluded that frequently quoted statistics are inflated and based on questionable methodologies. It singled out one of the most commonly cited statistics — that an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 children are “at risk” for, or are, being sexually exploited each year in the U.S. They traced the statistic back to the work of two University of Pennsylvania professors. But statisticians who reviewed their methodology found significant flaws. The newspaper turned to a federal report that concluded that of 45 surveyed regional task forces, only 18 kept paperwork accurate enough to provide meaningful numbers. Adjusting for the holes in the data, the paper concluded, documented cases of trafficked children would be only about 250 per year. Somewhere between that number and hundreds of thousands lies the truth. The newest effort to reform California trafficking laws has also leaned on the questionable statistics. A citizen drive to get an initiative on the November 2012 ballot, called the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, would among other tough penalties provide for sentences of up to life in prison for trafficking a minor, and fines as high as $1.5 million. Daphne Phung, founder of California Against Slavery, the organization sponsoring the initiative, removed the “100,000 to 300,000” statement from the initiative’s website after the San Francisco Public Press pointed out the methodology questions. Phung said the real challenge for the anti-trafficking movement is educating voters that it exists in the United States. “I think it’s really a mental block for voters — that this is not an issue that can happen in this country,” Phung said. State Senator Yee, an advocate and author of some human trafficking legislation, cites the 2007 state task force statistics on his own website, saying trafficking remains “a significant problem, particularly in San Francisco.” The statistics: Forty-seven percent of victims are used in prostitution, 33 percent in domestic servitude, 5 percent in sweatshops and 2 percent in agriculture. But Yee and his staff clearly did not read the footnotes. On the last two pages of the 128-page report, the task force in 2007 disavowed the reliability of its own statistics. The task force got back only 10 percent of the more than 1,000 surveys it sent to organizations working on the issues. “This is a very low response rate, a respectable rate being at least close to 50 percent,” the report said. “Thus, the results are not scientifically reliable. We have included the results in the report, however, because many of the results mirror what is already known about human trafficking.”
Human Trafficking Is a Growing Global Scourge
n the 900-mile trek of mostly desert that stretches between Eritrea and Egypt, hunting for humans has become routine. Eritrean refugees who have fled their homeland fall prey to Bedouin or Egyptian traffickers. The Story: refugees are Andrew Lam // New America held for ransom. Media Those with relatives abroad who can pay for their release might survive. Those who do not are often killed. The United Nations confirms that some are harvested for their organs — their livers and kidneys sold on the black market — while others, the young and able, are sold off. One survivor told the U.N., “People catch us, sell us like goats.” Slavery is alive and well in the 21st century. There are more people enslaved today than at any other time in history. The U.S. State Department says that estimates of those enslaved through human trafficking ranges from 4 million to 27 million. Human trafficking is the fastestgrowing criminal business in the world, according to the State Department. It ranks only second to drug trafficking in profitability, bringing in an estimated $32 billion annually. The majority of those trafficked are
young adults between ages 18 and 24 — but children also make up a large part of it. Almost all have experienced either sexual exploitation or violence, often both, during their time being enslaved. But the statistics can be disputed. The United Nations notes that “the lack of accurate statistics is due only in part to the hidden nature of the crime, and that the lack of systematic reporting is the real problem.” In other words, the number of those trafficked worldwide might be far greater than what is estimated. What we do know is that traffickers practice the trade with relative impunity. In 2006 there were 5,808 trafficking prosecutions and 3,160 convictions worldwide, which would mean that one person is convicted for every 800 people trafficked. Though most of those trafficked are exploited for their labor and or are thrown into sexual servitude, the area that’s particularly grotesque is the organ trade. One human rights lawyer who did not want to give his name said cases involving the removal of human organs for transplantation are more miserable than those involving genocide. “At one end someone is killed for their organs, which in some perhaps overly theoretical way is worse than murder,” he said. “In the latter, the
victim’s death is at least a motive — the murderer seeks to kill a human being. In the former, the victim is merely a box containing an object, and the murder is merely the process of throwing out the box and wrapping.” The international commodification of humans is becoming the new norm of our age. In Bangkok, Thailand, a “baby factory” was discovered last year in which more than a dozen Vietnamese women were impregnated (some were raped), and their babies were sold for adoption. Whether or not the babies — unregistered, non-existent in the eyes of the law — were truly adopted, raised to be slaves or farmed out for body parts is not known. What is certain is that Vietnam, like many other impoverished countries with a growing population of young people, has become a major supply country, where vulnerable young women and girls are in high demand on the international market. In certain bars in Ho Chi Minh City, rural girls are routinely trucked in to parade at auction blocks. The girls are often naked except for a tag with a number on it, and in the audience are foreigners — South Koreans, Taiwanese and mainland Chinese are the main consumers — who call them down for inspection. They
leave together under the pretense of marriage after the paperwork is done, but many end up in brothels or sweatshops instead. Diep Vuong, executive director of Pacific Links Foundation, an organization that works to combat human trafficking by providing education to the poor in Vietnam, is pessimistic. Overpopulated and dwindling in resources, Vietnam is full of young, uneducated people. “The only resource we have left in abundance are the humans themselves,” she noted wryly. “We’re moving toward the Jonathan Swift version of reality.” While children of the poor are not being eaten as Swift sarcastically suggested, they are being abducted and enslaved. They work in the fields as slave laborers as in the Ivory Coast’s cocoa plantation where half a million children work and provide 40 percent of the world’s chocolate — something most of them have never tasted. Or they are abducted at ages as young as 5 in Uganda and forced to become soldiers. Or they work in the carpet and brick factories of South Asia, many shackled and branded by their masters. Those too weak to work are killed off and thrown into rivers. Closer to home, border drug cartels have incorporated the lucrative
human trade into their business, and in some parts of Mexico they have the tacit support of the local authorities. Mass graves were discovered last year full of migrants’ corpses. Their crime: They weren’t worth much alive. The forces of globalization have only intensified the trade in humans. After the Cold War ended, borders became more porous. New forms of information technology have helped integrate the world market. Increasing economic disparity and demand for cheap labor have spurred unprecedented mass human migration. The poor and desperate fall prey to the lure of a better life. Nongovernmental organization workers who battle trafficking often describe victims as being “tricked.” In March 2004, eBay shut down sales when it discovered that three young Vietnamese women were being auctioned off, with a starting bid of $5,400. Their photos were displayed. The “items” were from Vietnam and would be “shipped to Taiwan only.” “I was browsing on the Internet and this guy kept trying to chat with me,” one Vietnamese teenager rescued from a brothel in Phnom Penh recounted. “There’s a coffee shop in Cambodia. He said I could make money over there.”
They crossed the border from Vietnam to Cambodia, and she soon became enslaved. She was saved in a police raid, just as the traffickers were planning to move her again. The madam “was waiting for more girls to show up to ship us to Malaysia,” she said. Her fake passport had already been made. The trafficking network is sophisticated and well organized, and if the lure of money and a better life elsewhere becomes the entrapment of the poor and vulnerable, the abundance of cheap labor coupled with an atmosphere of impunity becomes the seduction for others to become traffickers. “A slave purchased for $10,000 could end up making her owner $160,000 in profits before she dies or runs away,” Siddharth Kara noted in a talk on sex trafficking at the Roberta Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies at Northwestern University. In fact, a child in Vietnam can be bought for as little as $400. Slavery is not going away because the agony of human enslavement remains largely invisible in the public discourse. It is just as shocking that Eritrean refugees are hunted nightly by traffickers as it is that their story remains hidden in darkness.
sfpublicpress.org // Spring 2012
California Voter Initiative Would Strengthen Penalties for Traffickers
California group dedicated to stopping human trafficking is hoping to take its fight directly to voters this fall. In January, the nonprofit advocacy group California Against Slavery began circulating petitions to Story: get a measure on the Leigh Cuen November 2012 ballot // Public Press to strengthen the state’s human trafficking laws. The measure is called the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, and the campaign has mobilized hundreds of people around the state to collect the 800,000 valid signatures required for the measure to make the ballot. Among the harsher penalties on traffickers and provisions to protect victims, the act would: •Increase criminal penalties on human traffickers, require them to register as sex offenders and make them report private Internet access to law enforcement •Use criminal fines to support victim services •Require all police to undergo at least two hours of training on trafficking and how to treat victims •Prohibit evidence of a victim’s past sexual history from being used in a trafficker’s trial In 2009, Daphne Phung first learned about human trafficking in the United States from a TV documentary. “I was shocked by the lack of justice,” said Phung, who went on to found California Against Slavery. “We first circulated the petition two years ago, when the organization started, but couldn’t get all the signatures in five months.” The initiative is a joint effort. Authors include Sharmin Bock, who spent 23 years as a prosecutor in Alameda County, which the FBI has identified as a hotbed of domestic human trafficking. Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer and head of global public policy for Facebook, wrote the proposed law’s digital penalty. The Polaris Project, another anti-trafficking organization, reviewed the petition as well. Phung said more than 1,000 volunteers from across California have contributed to the campaign. The effort to put this measure on the ballot has some skeptics. “One gentleman told me the CASE Act wouldn’t pass — voters wouldn’t continue overcrowding prisons,” said Robert Joeger, a filmmaker from Orange County who volunteered his time creating videos for the organization. “But it’s not just going to be funded by tax dollars.” Some question the statistics the group has used to promote the cause. Much of the initiative was formed on the recommendations of a 2006 study that Phung now acknowledges was outdated. Last June The Village Voice in New York criticized the methodology used to gather the sta-
California Against Slavery volunteers are promoting a measure on November’s ballot to stiffen penalties on traffickers. They held an early signature-gathering effort in 2010. Sarah Terry-Cobo // Oakland Local
tistics. But backers of the initiative say they cannot wait for perfect studies. “Trafficking victims don’t raise their hand,” said Sandra Morgan, director of the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University, a Christian liberal arts college in Orange County. “No one with experience in this will give a flat number.” Morgan is also founder of Live2Free, a youth initiative against slavery and the former administrator of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, so she has seen many cases that don’t get officially counted. “Some crimes related to human trafficking never show up in the statistics,” she said. “For example, it might have been prosecuted as a gang case.” Morgan said more awareness is needed about labor trafficking and exploitation. “We find what we are looking for,” she said. “Sometimes immigrants fall through the cracks.” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley is worried about the scope and implementation of the new voter initiative. “I’m leery of laws that come to us through initiative process,” O’Malley said, noting that once they are passed they are difficult to amend if found later to be flawed. “You can’t change the initiative.” Others in the legal system don’t share her concerns. “I’m not political, but anything that can help us fight against human trafficking is a step in the right direction,” said Holly Joshi, head of the Oakland Public Defender’s Office vice and child exploitation unit, which has five officers. “We are struggling,” Joshi said. “It’s the second-fastest-growing crime in the country. This crime has really gotten ahead of us. It has reached epidemic proportions.”
Weak State Law, Lack of Police Savvy Frustrate Attorneys Who Prosecute Traffickers
hile California prosecutors mostly agree that the state’s human trafficking laws need strengthening, they also suggest that failure to recognize the crime itself remains a greater impediment in the fight. Story: State law is still relatively new. Dhyana Levey Assembly Bill 22 of 2005 creates // Public Press penalties specifically for human traffickers. But some attorneys say it has not been much help. A maximum jail time of eight years, coupled with the tough standard of proof regarding intent to traffic, has led prosecutors to pursue existing, related charges — pimping and pandering, forced imprisonment, etc. — to assure sufficiently tough convictions.
Some Girls Are Tricked by Pimps Who Call It Love NANCY O’MALLEY Alameda County DA’s Office Since 2006, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has filed criminal charges in 180 cases originating from its human trafficking task force; those cases resulted in 140 convictions. The majority of these cases were for sex trafficking, she said. Alameda County is just beginning to focus on labor cases, which are difficult to uncover because they are hard to pick out from the general underground economy. But sex trafficking victims, especially minors, come with their own complexities that should be better addressed by law enforcement and legislation, O’Malley said. At first glance, a relationship between a young victim and a trafficker might start out looking consensual but then become unbalanced as the trafficker takes more control. “Some of these kids tell us they thought they were going to be the trafficker’s girlfriend,” she said. “Part of the challenge with the law is that it doesn’t clearly define that the human trafficking can be the result of coercing the minor.”
Law enforcement, service professionals in the field and activists said deep budget cuts have hampered their efforts. Joshi’s unit has no safe place for victims to stay, except for juvenile hall. She told of a young, domestically trafficked girl who was released from custody in 2008 to return to her family. The girl returned to her pimp, who killed her. Trafficking victims talk of negative experiences and a culture of distrust between them and law enforcement. Leah Albright-Byrd recalled her arrest at age 15, when she was already a victim of human trafficking. She described the tight clasp of handcuffs and how the police officer said she “looked like a hooker.” “I was treated like a criminal,” AlbrightByrd said. Had that officer known what kinds of questions to ask, Albright-Byrd might not have remained a victim of human trafficking for three more years after that arrest. When she was 14 a pimp convinced her that abuse and exploitation would be inevitable parts of her life. He told her that she “might as well get paid for it.” She recounted how he used words like “love” and “protection” as weapons. Today, Albright-Byrd is executive director of Bridget’s Dream, a nonprofit dedicated to advocacy, prevention and victim services. She works with California Against Slavery as a speaker and educator. Phung acknowledges that the two-hour police training the initiative requires would not by itself form bonds of trust with victims. “This is only the beginning of awareness,” Phung said. Yet offering more training for law enforcement had dramatic results in Orange County, said Live2Free founder Morgan. “They start to see cases that were there all along,” she said. “Now they are able to recognize and prosecute them.”
Law Should Treat Sex and Labor Trafficking Differently MARSHALL KHINE San Francisco DA’s Office Assembly Bill 22 of 2005 defines human trafficking in rather broad terms. It could be made more user-friendly for prosecutors by clarifying the difference between labor trafficking and sex trafficking, said Marshall Khine, assistant district attorney in San Francisco. Blurring the two categories appears to have resulted in the law leaving out a sex offender registration requirement for those convicted of sex trafficking, he said. But a conviction of pimping and pandering of a minor under the age of 16 can result in a lifetime registration. A human trafficking conviction is also harder to get because a prosecutor must prove the alleged trafficker’s intent. And even if convicted, the jail time for such an offender maxes out at eight years. “The penalties don’t really add much, if anything, for having to prove more,” he said, adding that human trafficking “should be considered more serious than it is.” Even when prosecutors are on their way to nailing down a solid conviction, a case can fall apart due to lack of victim cooperation, Khine said. Simply getting victims to testify can be challenging. Even if they are available as prosecutors build a case, there is no guarantee they will stick through it and remain cooperative. “Often the difficulty is getting our victims in a stabilized position to have them testify,” Khine said. “We have a lot of victims in the marginalized sections of society. We don’t always have a way of tracking them.”
Workplace Slavery Too Often Goes Unrecognized LYNETTE PARKER Community Law Center, Santa Clara University Just getting started on a case by finding and properly identifying human trafficking victims remains one of the largest roadblocks for prosecutors, said Lynette Parker, clinical supervising attorney for the Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center, based at Santa Clara University. That is why law enforcement needs better and more consistent education on what a labor or sex trafficked victim looks like, said Parker, whose law center is part of the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. “New people come in and out of law enforcement agencies and it takes a while to be able to explain how everything fits,” she said. “When it’s for slavery, law enforcement doesn’t always see how they can respond, what their role is. Is it a crime they can respond to as opposed to something from the wage and hour division?” But of the roughly 45 trafficking cases her law center has dealt with, only a few involved sex trafficking. Labor trafficking, while less recognized, is a big problem in the Bay Area, Parker said. But getting the public to realize this has been a struggle. “It’s an education piece,” she said. “Most cases talked about in the media have been domestic or international sex trafficking. So it’s taken time and more cases being discussed and more training programs on what forced slavery looks like. I don’t think in this nation we really have an idea of how many people have been trafficked.”
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HUMAN TRAFFICKING Spring 2012 // sfpublicpress.org
Prop. 8 Court Decision Narrowly Tailored to State
Lakireddy Balireddy was escorted out of jail in Oakland in 2000 after relatives signed papers saying he would not flee the country. Darryl Bush // San Francisco Examiner (Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley Bancroft Library)
Mild Punishment Galvanized Activists story coninued from page B1
“Until 2000, nobody knew what human trafficking was, what the term meant,” said Cupertino-based Kavitha Sreeharsha, executive director of Global Freedom Center, a recently launched nonprofit organization that fights trafficking worldwide. Sreeharsha, who has been at the forefront of women’s rights for nearly 20 years as a lawyer and activist, said the case of the notorious Berkeley landlord was a game changer. It “galvanized” victim assistance providers in the Bay Area and ultimately served as “the building block for the state’s anti-trafficking movement.” But when Rubin filed the civil lawsuit against Lakireddy, he did not have the benefit of the state’s anti-trafficking laws. Nor could he apply any of the provisions of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the nation’s first anti-trafficking law enacted in 2000. “When we filed the civil suit, federal law did not yet provide civil action for victims of sex and labor trafficking,” Rubin said. The federal act strengthened criminal sanctions for forced labor, mandated that victims receive social and legal support and gave victims the right to remain in the United States if they cooperated with law enforcement. But that was only for federal cases. California prosecutors would wait another five years for the state’s own anti-trafficking law. Rubin had to base his case on other laws. He said he thought the victims had not received justice in the criminal case, and that they should be compensated for the harm done to them. “We had to pursue our lawsuit in a very creative way,” Rubin said. “We had to develop new theories because there were no applicable anti-trafficking statutes back then.” The civil complaint, filed in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, accused Lakireddy of “slave labor,” “false imprisonment,” and “infliction of emotional distress,” among other claims. The allegations of the civil complaint also accused Lakireddy of having raped the women he trafficked. The complaint also included claims brought under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization, or RICO, statute. Filed on behalf of nine alleged victims of the Lakireddy clan, the lawsuit sought up to $100 million in damages. In the complaint, Rubin accused the defendants of exploiting the victims’ “youth, their fear, their caste status, their poverty, their unfamiliarity with the American legal system, their inability to speak English, and their immigration status” for the defendants’ “personal pleasure” and “illicit profit.” The class-action lawsuit resulted in an $8.9 million settlement in June 2004. Lakireddy Balireddy did not act alone to mistreat the women he brought to America. He had help from several members of his family, prosecutors discovered. Five members of Lakireddy’s family were also implicated by law enforcement in various aspects of his criminal activities. His sons, Vijay Kumar Lakireddy and Prasad Lakireddy, were indicted in 2001 on several counts of rape and conspiring with their father for more than a decade to smuggle women and girls into the U.S. to have sex with them, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. In an agreement with prosecutors, the most serious charges were dropped and Vijay Kumar Lakireddy pleaded guilty to immigration fraud conspiracy. He was sentenced to two years in prison and agreed to undergo drug treatment and pay $40,000 in fines. Lakireddy Balireddy’s brother and sister-in-law were also convicted of related crimes. Beyond the criminal case, Rubin’s civil suit also brought in several other relatives as defendants. Influence in Indian village The Lakireddy trafficking saga revealed elements of feudalism and casteism that clashed with American cultural and social norms. Those factors made it complicated
to address what prosecutors and lawyers in the U.S. saw as a broader trafficking operation. In Velvadam, an agrarian village of about 8,000 in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Lakireddy’s immense wealth — his Berkeley properties alone are worth an estimated $60 million — and his long ties to America earned him both respect and fear. Western journalists who descended on the village soon after his arrest were surprised by the extent of his power among locals. Minutes after reporters entered the village, banners went up on buildings. One read: “Lakireddy Is Our God. Leave Him Alone.” Another declared: “Lakireddy Is Innocent.” Lakireddy used his inherited and earned wealth to launch several philanthropic ventures. Starting in the mid-1980s, he built two elementary schools and a high school in Velvadam. The state-of-the-art Lakireddy Balireddy College of Engineering, opened in 1998, lent a certain cachet to the neighboring township of Mylavaram. He also created new sources of clean drinking water. Bus shelters sport the Lakireddy name. Many of the girls he was accused of exploiting belonged to the so-called untouchable communities, their parents barely making $1 a day from menial jobs. Most lived in one-room thatched-roof houses. Prosecutors said during his criminal case in U.S. District Court in Oakland Lakireddy convinced villagers that an American lifestyle was within their grasp if they just gave him their young daughters. Many obliged, including the parents of the two sisters who had lived in the Berkeley apartment where the fatal gas leak occurred. The girls’ older sister had already been married off when the two younger sisters went to live with Lakireddy. “We couldn’t have afforded the kind of dowry we paid for our older daughter,” explained their mother, Lakshmi Pratipatti, in an interview in Velvadam in 2000. She said she and her husband felt that sending two of the daughters off to the United States with Lakireddy would save them a fortune. The two sisters, like nearly all the other girls, had ostensibly been recruited to work as servants in his opulent three-story home in Velvadam that sat on a beautifully landscaped two-acre plot. Behind those walls, they also worked as his sex slaves, Rubin’s civil lawsuit alleged, something that some trafficked victims said their parents must have known would happen. Victims still uneasy “I was given to him when I was nine,” one trafficked woman said, adding: “The day I was given to him, my childhood ended and my misery began.” Lakireddy “was unimaginably wealthy, all-powerful and in apparent full control of the world in which they were brought to live,” prosecuting Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kennedy said in court papers during the criminal proceedings. The Lakireddy case may have led to California’s first anti-trafficking law, but reform advocates say its longer-term aftermath is less heartening. Victims and lawyers say the Lakireddy case continues to haunt its victims. Even as the momentum grows to combat trafficking in the state, the survivors have been unable to find peace of mind. More than a decade after she was rescued, one young woman still needs to take sleeping pills to help her cope with flashbacks. Meanwhile, Lakireddy Balireddy, now 75, roams freely in his village, which he visits twice a year, and continues to enjoy the admiration of many of those around him, according to his brother, Lakireddy Hanimireddy, a cardiologist who lives in Merced. “He has the 100 percent respect of the people of Velvadam,” the brother said. “His overwhelming good deeds and not his bad deeds are what earn him so much respect.”
or once, supporters and critics of California’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage can agree on something. In declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional in February, a panel of judges on the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals narrowed their ruling to reflect the peculiar twists and turns of the marriage debate in Story: Kristine the state, making it at Magnuson least in theory harder to // Public Press challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling was narrow in that it applied only to Proposition 8, and did not attempt to sweep away similar laws in other states or jurisdictions. In effect, because so many gays and lesbians got married in a short window of opportunity in 2008, the ban, the judges said, deprived others of their equal rights under the state Constitution. The ruling from a three-judge panel of the court affirmed the 2010 Northern District Federal Court’s decision but also extended a stay on enforcement, which continues to bar any same-sex couples from marrying. Judge Stephen Reinhardt concluded in his opinion that, “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. “The People,” he wrote, “may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry.” Supporters of Proposition 8 had little to celebrate following the ruling, apart from continuance of the stay and the possibility of another appeal. The panel ruled that the backers of Proposition 8 have the authority to appeal the ruling. Because neither the governor, nor the state attorney general, nor any other qualified state official has been willing to defend the proposition on behalf of California, the court allowed the proposition’s original backers to do so. The judges were unanimous in their decision that retired Chief Judge Vaughn Walker had no cause to recuse himself from the case and that his successor in the case ruled
Same-sex marriage supporters march from U.N. Plaza to City Hall Feb. 7. Steve Rhodes // Public Press correctly on that matter. The panel stressed that their ruling was based on the strength and merits specific to this case. California couples were denied the right to marry in 2008, after having been granted that right by the state some six months earlier. The ruling explained: “By emphasizing Prop 8’s limited effect, we do not mean to minimize the harm that this change in the law caused to same-sex couples and their families. To the contrary, we recognize the extraordinary significance of the official designation of ‘marriage.’ That designation is important because ‘marriage’ is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults.” The celebration at the steps of the James R. Browning Courthouse and the subsequent march to San Francisco’s City Hall Feb. 7 were relatively small. Fewer than 200 participants gathered at any moment. San Francisco District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener gave an immediate reaction to the ruling: “I’m ecstatic.” “It’s one of those things that happens once in a while where we reaffirm our faith in the court system and the Constitution — that it recognizes that LGBT people are full
citizens of this country,” Wiener said. “And so we need to celebrate this victory today, and look forward to full marriage equality in California, but then understand that we need to recommit ourselves to seeing this fight through to the end.” Wiener also criticized a previous ruling that a coalition of media organizations could not have access to trial video recordings. That ruling was made based on the grounds that Walker had assured the participants in the case that the recordings would not be released. “I think it’s important to have transparency in our court system, as with any other part of government,” Wiener said. “We’ve been moving in that direction in recent decades, and it’s a gradual process. And hopefully we’ll get there eventually, where people can really see what goes on in our court system.” Protesters against the ruling and same-sex marriage failed to turn out in large numbers, though at least one vocal opponent, not affiliated with any particular group, arrived at City Hall carrying his own portable audio system and a copy of the Bible. He repeatedly warned the celebrators to check themselves and follow Jesus.
ONLINE HIGHLIGHTS: Nicholas Bollman, a month ago, on Facebook, reminisces: ”I remember when payday loans used to be called loan sharking and was illegal. Guess that shows that its ok to be a crook as long as you make it corporate.”
Payday Loan Industry: The Stories
ublic Press writer Rick Jurgens reported on San Francisco’s payday loan industry in our Winter 2011 edition. He found that large corporations like Wells Fargo and Credit Suisse were among the biggest backers of profitable low-finance Compilation: firms. We blogged about the issue using Storify, an Ambika online social media reporting tool. Kandasamy // Public Press
From Jurgens’ piece ”Big banks help payday lenders offer quick cash at steep prices”: High-interest, unsecured “payday” loans are readily available at 32 establishments along Market Street and in low-income communities around the city. Most people with bank accounts qualify. These stark storefronts — where hard-pressed consumers line up to speak with clerks behind Plexiglas windows and apply for highcost payday loans — may seem unconnected to Wall Street. But while their names and brands are nowhere to be seen, banks and rich investors based here or in distant financial enclaves like Manhattan or Zurich provide funds to or own stakes in some of San Francisco’s largest payday lenders. These include Money Mart, with eight stores, and California Check Cashing Co., with five. But fast money comes at a high price. The $300 shrinks before the borrower walks out the door. The lender normally withholds a $45 fee. For the $255 the borrower actually gets, with a two-week repayment deadline, the annual percentage rate is a cool 459 percent. Currently, California has a $300 limit on each payday loan. But legislation pending in Sacramento would raise the maximum amount to $500. Read the full story at: http://bit.ly/zjwC9O
Night After General Strike
Moneymagpie also chimes in on this issue in a tweet: ”Payday loans – the facts: I’ve been getting quite a few press releases from Payday loans companies telling me how the bad press they get is so unfair. Really? I don’t think so…” It was an excruciating ordeal for an S.F. man, when he had to take out a $300 payday loan to pay for his trip home to his mother's funeral. After two years, however, the loan amount had ballooned to $1,000. Hear him talk all about it at: “Payday Loan Becomes Monthly Ordeal” http://newamerica.net/node/62254 In spite of these risks, payday loans continue to be a popular financial product locally, nationally and internationally. The Financial Times reported that approximately 1 million people in Britain took out payday loans in 2011. http://on.ft.com/zAJe6I Some people in San Francisco are using alternate methods of lending and borrowing money by forming old-fashioned community lending circles, as Public Press news partner, KALW News, reported last year in ”Mission District lending circle helps low-income earners pursue dreams.” http://bit.ly/xpA3gu ”Since the banking crisis of 2008, major lenders have become much more cautious about giving out loans. That’s left many people who have low or no credit in a deep financial hole. So one local group decided to re-invent an old concept — the lending circle: Members of a community deposit money into a common pool; then they take turns using that money to start businesses, pay off bills, and send their children to college.”
// Melissa Mack
Oakland, CA, November 2, 2011 <weather: high winds, the people’s will> How does the Port of Oakland really work?
in my dream
boys from Roxbury running i was with each runner cinematically, which was also experientially I heard the Mass accents, but I felt the fast ones’ flight, and the panting ones’ pace up a hill with three names there was straw and stone, like at the camp a man, teacher betrayer caretaker vision quest guide handled my hands rubbing into them a slick dirt like slip how it made me sick, not the dirt not the material I knew it was made from, but the feeling of it on my skin when I thought/felt/knew it was polluted. we moved from site to site at one point I woke (still dreaming) I was reading the story of my waking, “tented” with larval bugs (I only had to see one example)
DON’T BE AFRAID GO AHEAD OCCUPY WALL STREET OCCUPY OAKLAND ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US! a place like a port a place like a road a long port road where the trucks got stopped before they go to the boats and the trains, wedding gown would do as much good for girls (shake head) I I I I
like like like like
resting dressing dancing housing
Do we know what we’re doing? some see the Chronos far ahead like chess, some the Kairos, the Cairo, the climbing on the signs and the cars a silence went inside the thousands for me pulled over and slept with / my eyes /open the fixed point of the meditator was every point I touched with my sight. into the sun. brass band blow I go back
sfpublicpress.org // Spring 2012
B7 SF Public Press
Supervisors Move to Kill or Change Ranked-Choice Elections This Year
arlier this year, the Board of Supervisors wrestled with changing the way the city elects mayors, district representatives and other officials. Two proposals in early February would give San Francisco voters a choice: expand the instant-runof f voting system, in Story: use since 2004, or T.J. Johnston return to a gener// Public Press al election with a possible later toptwo runoff. Why does this matter? Opponents of ranked-choice say the relatively novel approach still confuses voters. Opponents of the two-election approach say it wastes money. Experts disagree about the numerous strategic political merits of each system. But the method used to decide city races could affect the tenor of campaigns and timing of elections, as well as voter turnout. A voter-approved ballot measure in March 2002 brought the city rankedchoice voting. Ballots allow voters to select up to three candidates in order of preference. An immediate “runoff” occurs, eliminating candidates with the fewest votes and redistributing the voter’s next choices until one office-seeker passes 50 percent. Previously, candidates in November elections needed a majority to win, but races with three or more candi-
dates often precluded the “50 percent plus one” requirement. So the top two would enter a December runoff. The problem there was that turnout typically dropped 30 percent from the month before. San Francisco is not alone in the Bay Area: Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro have adopted ranked-choice voting. Nationally, Portland, Maine; Minneapolis; and Ann Arbor, Mich., use the ranked-choice method. COMPETING PROPOSALS Two plans were proposed for the June 2012 ballot. Two members of the Board of Supervisors, representing different blocs, introduced them late last year. Supervisor David Campos, one of the self-identified progressive members of the board, proposed a measure to increase the number of ranked votes on each ballot from three to as many as votes as candidates in the race — a method similar to Portland’s. Campos’ proposal is a counterattack to a plan by Supervisor Mark Farrell, one of the board’s more politically moderate members. Farrell wants to abolish ranked-choice voting and move the election cycle to September general elections and November runoffs. “We’ve found out we have a system that works well,” Campos said. “What we’re producing is a way that keeps
MANY WAYS TO DECIDE While most people understand that a candidate gets elected to office by getting the most votes, the majority-vote system isn’t the only means of choosing officeholders. Many methods of voting are in use around the world: MAJORITY VOTING The candidate who collects more than 50 percent of votes wins. Sometimes called “first past the post.” Ex.: U.S. federal and state elections. PLURALITY VOTING The candidate with the most votes wins. With more than two contestants, the top vote-getter could win with less than 50 percent. Ex.: Canadian and United Kingdom elections. SUPER-MAJORITY Sometimes, legislative bodies must reach a higher threshold, typically two-thirds, a to override executive vetoes, ratify treaties or remove an incumbent from office. RANKED-CHOICE VOTING Also called instant-runoff voting, this is a preferential system in which voters rank their candidate choices. If no candidate gets 50 percent of first-choice votes, second- or third-choice counts are counted in successive tallies, while last-place candidates are eliminated. The first candidate to pass the 50 percent mark wins. Ex.: Municipal elections in San Francisco and Oakland; Portland, Maine; and Ann Arbor, Mich.; presidential elections in Ireland. APPROVAL VOTING Voters choose as many candidates as they want. The candidate with the most votes in a single round gets elected. The objective is to elect a candidate who is considered acceptable by the greatest number of voters. Ex.: Selection of secretary-general of the United Nations. ”BORDA COUNT” VOTING Voters rank candidates in order of preference, assigning points that correspond with each position. The candidate scoring the most points wins. This variation allows voters to endorse all acceptable candidates while giving greater weight to preferred candidate. Ex.: Elections in Slovenia, MVP awards in baseball and Heisman Trophy winners in NCAA football.
the system, but with tweaks to it. The answer is not to throw it out, but to make it better.” The additional costs to amending ranked-choice voting would be negligible, Elections Department Director John Arntz told the board’s Budget and Finance Committee at a hearing late last year. He said the only new cost would be a software vendor’s annual fee, about $70,000. Farrell filed his proposition last Nov. 8, the same day the city elected its mayor, district attorney and sheriff using ranked-choice voting. He argued that the system complicates the electoral process. He cited an ABC 7 News segment in which four voters gave varied (and mostly wrong) explanations about how ranked-choice voting worked. “I don’t think we should promote a way that confuses the voter,” Farrell said. “People should be concerned about who to vote for or what to vote for, not how to vote.” Farrell also points to two recent developments as evidence of the system’s failure: rising public sentiment against Jean Quan, the embattled Oakland mayor who was elected under ranked-choice voting; and overvotes, in which two votes are cast in the same column or the same candidate is marked in more than one column. Although Elections Department data from 2011 show only 0.3 percent invalid ballots out of a total of 197,242 cast, Farrell argued that overvotes were more likely to occur in low-income districts. CHEAPER, QUICKER Advocates for ranked-choice voting say it saves the costs a traditional runoff, while deciding a winner in shorter time. “In today’s climate, where cities are struggling,” said Stephen Hill, author of ranked-choice voting measures in San Francisco and Oakland, “saving $7 to $10 million is not insignificant.” However, economic arguments are not swaying opponents. In 2009, Ron Dudum, a former supervisorial candidate in District 4, sued the city, alleging that the system violates principles of “one person, one vote” and equal protection under law. Dudum, with financial support from the California Apartment Association, lost the suit in state court and an appeal in federal court. Hill said the failed legal challenges and continued critical news coverage and editorials create and feed public sentiment against ranked-choice voting. While the plaintiffs failed in litigation, Hill said, “They could win in the court of public opinion.” Election law attorney Alix Rosenthal is not surprised by the opposi-
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu votes using a ranked-choice ballot. Chiu was the self-defined progressive in District 3 in the 2008 election. Regardless of ballot format, he likely will face more left-leaning opponents this fall. Steve Rhodes // Public Press tion. “It’s always been the grassroots who support RCV and the moneyed interests who opposed,” she said. “The runoffs were where the more moneyed candidates would win after the grassroots campaigns would burn through their cash in the runoff. The candidates with more money would do better because of more access to cash.” As a former San Francisco elections commission president and staffer in the Oakland City Attorney’s Office, Rosenthal had an up-close look at ranked-choice voting implementation in both cities, and accused detractors of political opportunism. “The interesting thing about their argument is the opponents waited for a couple of election cycles” before launching a campaign against the system, she said. BALLOT EDUCATION As mandated by the ranked-choice voting law, the Elections Department conducts a public outreach campaign for every city election. Staff talk with voters at street fairs, partner with community organizations, give presentations at civic meetings and publish printed and online how-tos. In addition, the department uses TV, radio and billboard campaigns. But it also does a lot of one-on-one.
For the 2011 election, which included a high-profile mayoral race with a dozen serious candidates, outreach liaison Denise Van Alstine estimated that 12,411 people attended voting presentations at community meetings between June and November. “We had much more requests this period, because it was much more in the public eye,” she said. Yelena Kravtsova, a training supervisor in the department, tutored poll workers on potential voter queries: How are ballots marked? Do all three choices get marked? What happens if the machine spits the ballot back? The workers responded with scripts, posters in polling places and flip charts on voting machines. When asked if voters understood the explanations, Kravtsova said, “I would think yes, because it’s not just a verbal explanation. There’s an illustration on the machine. It’s trilingual — English, Chinese and Spanish. They have visual representation and verbal and written explanations that are available. For any further questions after looking at the info, hotlines are available for more in-depth questions.” Van Alstine said voters walk away able to figure out the system. “They understand by the end of the presentation,” she said. “They might need an analogy here and there, but by the time we discuss it, they understand.”
POPULAR WITH VOTERS Independent studies bear out public understanding of ranked-choice voting. After the city’s first election using the system in 2004, an exit poll from the Public Research Institute at San Francisco State University found that 86 percent of voters favored this method over traditional runoffs. Another poll in 2005 yielded similar results. The institute found that most voters — crossing ethnic and economic lines — made the transition with ease. According to polls, voters were aware of, understood and used this method to rank their preferences. The study also determined that local voters were less likely to see their ranked-choice ballots as “wasted” and found improvements in political discourse. Rich DeLeon, a retired political science professor at San Francisco State University, wrote that in his opinion, ranked-choice voting “is particularly well-suited to cities like San Francisco that have a high degree of racial, ethnic, social and cultural diversity, a high level of political activism and mobilization, and multiple axes of political conflict.” DeLeon also found voters preferred the immediate runoffs to December contests, by a 5-1 ratio.
17th and Capp Mural Provokes Neighborhood Debate: Beautification or ‘Visual Garbage’?
he intersection of 17th and Capp streets is no pretty sight. It’s littered with empty Cheetos bags, Red Bull cans, Trojan condoms and the occasional heroin needle. “It’s a bad neighborhood,” says Max Marttila, an instructor and muralist at Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center. “There’s prostitutes walking around all night long.” And there’s graffiti, too — lots of it. Businesses located at the intersection bear the cost of cleanup. Now, a mural going up on the walls of the art space Engine Works might help deter the grafStory: Christy fiti — but it’s not winning the approval Khoshaba of the artists who occupy the space. // Mission Local “We are people who have to cover (the graffiti) — with our money and time,” says Jennifer Bromme, owner of Werk Statt, a motorcycle repair shop. Graffiti, says Bromme’s co-worker Ed, is “exactly what the Mission doesn’t need.” He calls tags “visual garbage — there’s no art to it.” He compares tagging to peeing on the street. Nearby business Twin Brothers Auto Glass, an auto service shop, deals with the same issue. “The owner has to paint (the graffitied wall) today and tomorrow,” says Hector Galarza, sweeping leaves on the ground. The walls of Engine Works are hit the hardest in the intersection. Graffiti has become so common that it leaves the artists inside no choice but to cover the tags. “It’s just something that has to get done,” says Engine Works artist Sam Ferguson. “I’ve embraced it as part of the culture.” But his culture is about to change. The owner of his building decided it was time to bring an end to the graffiti on his walls. He approached Precita Eyes with the idea of creating a mural along Engine Works’ walls. He wanted one done by youth, with a multicultural theme. “I’ve learned not to see lines, but to look at shapes and tones,” says instructor Fred Alvarado. Precita Eyes agreed. The organization turned to its Urban Youth Arts Program. The program is “for kids who don’t have an outlet for the energy and potential talent they have,” says Eli Lippert, the program’s coordinator and muralist. For this project, the youth took that energy and talent and put it to use. “We researched different types of patterns, like Indian, Arabian and Hawaiian ones,” says Jose, 17, a participant who also goes by the name Sonie. They also integrated cultural motifs and symbols.
Jose, an Urban Youth Program muralist, researched Indian, Arabian and Hawaiian patterns. Christy Khoshaba // Mission Local “They become conscious, awake and creative,” says Fred Alvarado, an instructor and muralist with the youth program. “They’ll ask, ‘What’s a Ganesh, where’s India?’” From there, a final design blossomed. Mexican mariachis, Hawaiian hibiscus flowers, ancient Aztec heads and Palestinian checkered kafias blend together, representing unity. Incorporated within are urban patterns, including brick walls, barbed wire and broken windows, indicating an end to barriers.
The youth made sure to give their design a spin. Within the mural, a man pans for gold — but with a 49ers hat. “It gives it San Francisco relevance,” says Marttila. The young people have been painting for a few weeks now on the walls at Engine Works, which are 130 feet wide and 10 feet tall. But a few Engine Works artists wish things had worked out differently. “We could have very well painted this mural,” says Engine Works artist Sam Ferguson. He’s also displeased with what the mural represents.
“The Mission Mural Association or whoever is in charge of these murals needs to stop illustrating multiculturalism on every single mural,” he says. “It’s getting monotonous.” He says he would expect San Francisco, a creative place, to break out of the box. “There’s more room for creativity.” Some, like Bromme, don’t even like the idea of having to use art to deter graffiti. Although she likes murals in general and is happy to see one across the street, she doesn’t see the mural as a solution to tagging.“I shouldn’t have to paint a mural to stop graffiti,” she says. “I just want a clean wall.” She adds, “Are we gonna have murals all over the city?” But some people, like Victor Perez, owner of Twin Brother Auto Glass, believe the mural might help stop the graffiti. In fact, Perez says that if he notices less tagging, he’ll consider a mural on his garage. That’s not to say that the mural won’t get tagged. Ferguson believes it’s a possibility, but he says, “It won’t be nearly as much, which is cool.” Marttila agrees: “We have a pretty cool rep with most graffiti artists. We’re still young and in to find out who the taggers are,” he says, only half joking. “Yeah, we’ll call their moms,” adds Sean Vranizan, a local artist and volunteer on this project. But some have hope. “If the mural is well done, it won’t get tagged,” says Ed. “But if it’s not, then it’ll get tagged.” That’s not to say it will solve all the intersections’ problems. “If there’s a mural over there,” Bromme says, pointing across the street, “then they’ll tag us instead.” For now, nearby neighbors are glad to see anything but tags. Pamela G., who lives around the corner, says she could stop by the mural every day. “It’s nice to see the work and talk to the artists,” she says, a huge smile on her face. Experienced artists want in on the project, too. “I was super down to help out,” says Vranizan, who cruised to the scene on a skateboard and is wearing a brown beanie. “I’m stoked that it’s youth-related and artrelated.” Mission Local // missionlocal.org
Covering the Mission District in print and online.
B8 SF Public Press
Spring 2012 // sfpublicpress.org
Study: Bay Area’s Urban Planners Must Address Public Health
Tom Guffey // Public Press
S.F.’s Muni Makes Waves for America’s Cup City scrambles to invent temporary bus and train lines for legions of yacht race spectators
an Francisco is planning to use the expected flood of visitors for America’s Cup pre-events this August and September as a chance to experiment with new transit options. With an estimated 300,000 spectators around the waterfront — the equivalent of almost half the average weekday Muni ridership of 637,000 — city planners said they have to get nearStory: ly everyone out of Jerrold Chinn cars to prevent trans// Public Press portation chaos. New, temporary transit lines are being invented. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will introduce a new E-Line historic streetcar service from Caltrain to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s also adding shuttle bus service from the Ferry Building to Fisherman’s Wharf. And Muni will test limited-stop service on the 47-Van Ness and 30-Stockton buses. The America’s Cup will hold its 2012 “world series” events between Aug. 11 and Sept. 2. The official America’s Cup final competition will happen a year later — Sept. 7–22, 2013. “One of the silver linings here was that we could pilot new ideas and test them for America’s Cup,” said Peter Albert, the transit agency’s manager for urban planning. The transit agency will also pilot a bicycle-sharing program along the waterfront this spring. If successful, it will expand the program to America’s Cup events locations in the Marina Green and Piers 27 and 29, near Chestnut Street. Transit activist David Pilpel of Rescue Muni said he hopes other transit lines will not be affected. “Other lines around town should not lose service that’s then programmed for priority here,” Pilpel said. Muni’s Albert said some of the improved services would be in place for
One of the silver linings here was that we could pilot new ideas and test them for America’s Cup.
Arkadi Kuhlmann, ING Direct President and CEO
events this year, including increased bus and light-rail service and improved sidewalks. Albert said the pre-events would be a “dress rehearsal” for September 2013, when more visitors are expected. Some of the money to pay for this plan is to come from private fundraising. The America’s Cup Event Authority, a private nonprofit organization that has raised its own money for the event, has created a committee to raise $32 million over three years to help the city sort out transit challenges ahead of time. Albert said the committee reached its first-year goal of $12 million.
or nearly four years, Cassandra Martin lived in West Oakland, a few blocks from two freeways and the city’s port. This has made her an accidental expert on air pollution. “I used to wonder what that black stuff was on the windowsill,” said Martin, who was diagnosed with asthma in 2009. “I would constantly wipe the walls and windowsills, but it would get so caked with soot. That’s a reason I was wondering about Story: particulate matter.” Bernice Yeung Martin now works part time collect// California Watch ing air-quality data for a West Oakland environmental group. As the hub of a busy port and freeways, much of West Oakland has been designated by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District as a Community Air Risk Evaluation site, which means residents living there face some of the greatest health risks due to toxic air. West Oakland also has been identified as a priority development area under a 2008 state law that requires regional agencies to draft urban plans aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Public meetings are being held in the Bay Area this year to draft its plan, which could be finalized by 2013. But according to a recent analysis by Oakland’s Pacific Institute and a group of public health and air-quality advocates known as the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative, California’s efforts to build sustainable communities as mandated by the state law could unintentionally threaten the health of Bay Area residents. What we’re faced “Unless health-protective measures are incorwith are some difficult porated into infill and transit-oriented develtrade-offs between opment policies, these forms of development short-term respiratory may actually exacerbate the adverse impacts of health concerns and freight transport on community health and qualiconcerns related to the ty of life,” the report said. According to the Pacific Institute analysis, long-term habitability about a quarter of Bay Area land prioritized for of our Earth. smart-growth developGabriel Metcalf, executive director of ment under the 2008 law the San Francisco Planning + Urban intersects with the air Research Association district’s high health risk communities. “Infill development could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by locating more housing near job centers and public transportation, making it easier for people to avoid driving long distances to meet their everyday needs,” the report stated. “However, infill development could also expose more people to toxic air pollution if more housing is sited near freeways and other freight-related land uses without accounting for the risks that this poses to human health.” It’s a scenario that has created unexpected tensions between public health advocates and smart-growth-oriented urban planners. “What we’re faced with are some difficult trade-offs between short-term respiratory health concerns and concerns related to the long-term habitability of our Earth,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association. East Bay neighborhoods along the Interstate 880 corridor and near the Port of Oakland are among the Bay Area communities that face the most severe air quality related health risks, according to the air district. “There is a far-reaching impact from freight transportation in these neighborhoods,” said Catalina Garzon, program co-director at Pacific Institute. “Toxic diesel pollution is a harmful substance that has been shown to contribute to additional cancer risk in these communities and which has contributed to respiratory conditions like asthma.” To address these air-quality concerns, the Pacific Institute recommended building new Bay Area housing and schools “far away from polluting land uses to protect the health of current and future residents,” said Garzon, lead author of the report. Increasingly, modern urban design is seen as playing a crucial role in improving public health. “We’ve built places that are designed for disease,” said Robert S. Ogilvie, program director of the Planning for Healthy Places initiative of Oakland-based Public Health Law & Policy. “Kids can’t walk to school; people have a hard time accessing healthy food. We’ve designed places like this, and it’s up to us to undo it, and the only way is through urban planning.” Some land-use experts, however, say the Pacific Institute report doesn’t fully acknowledge some of the realities of Bay Area development. “Here’s the dilemma: There is an urban ring around the Bay Area where all of the jobs are concentrated, all of the houses are concentrated, and from a land use, transportation and greenhouse gas reduction perspective, what we want to do is direct new growth into the existing urban footprint,” Metcalf said. “I don’t know the right way to resolve all of these tradeoffs. I do know it will not be a good outcome if we unintentionally push new growth into the suburban fringe in the name of promoting public health.” Kate White, executive director of Urban Land Institute San Francisco, said the report also failed to consider the airquality benefits to creating dense and walkable developments.
Source: San Francisco Planning Department; SFMTA
City Controller Ben Rosenfield reported in early February that $3.2 million of that amount is in pledges spread over three years and that of the $8.8 million raised so far, almost all of it came from the race organizers. Donors have included the Conway Family Foundation, the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation and Charles Schwab. PLEASE, NO PARKING! The transit agency wants to stop spectators from driving into the city. It is urging them to leave their cars at BART parking lots and take rail to the viewing stands in San Francisco. Albert said parking would be limited to disabled drivers, bikes and tour buses. Muni is recommending parking at satellite garages miles away — the Civic Center garage and the Fifth and Mission Street garage, both close to transit. Albert said the agency is also looking at using parking facilities at the University of San Francisco (5.2 miles from Piers 30–32) and the University of CaliforniaSan Francisco (5.6 miles from Piers 30– 32), both near Muni lines. A REGIONAL TRANSIT PROBLEM San Francisco cannot sort out the transit chaos on its own. It has appealed to other Bay Area agencies to help out and coordinate the influx of sightseers during the sailing events. Muni plans to partner with regional
Historic streetcars on San Francisco’s Muni F-Line will get company. They are calling it the E-Line — shuttling between Caltrain and Fisherman’s Wharf — transporting crowds from the Peninsula, Mission Bay and elsewhere. Jason Winshell // Public Press transportation agencies, such as Golden Gate Transit and AC Transit, to pilot a program to pick up San Francisco residents during peak event periods. Albert said Golden Gate Transit’s 93 Line already passes near Crissy Field, a major viewing area for the America’s Cup, heads down Van Ness Avenue to the Civic Center. “This line can help Muni do
the heavy lifting of getting people from Civic Center to the northern waterfront,” he said. Clipper Cards will help make payment easy for riders. Muni is working with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to get high-value pre-loaded cards to visitors before they enter the city, and hoping to distribute them to hotels.
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Founded by the Center for Investigative Reporting, California Watch is a nonprofit investigative reporting team covering California issues.
San Fransisco Public Press Issue 6