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QUEST TO MEET ELUSIVE 85% ON-TIME STANDARD

Officially, the recession is abating, but not for the average San Franciscan. Stanford researchers say 11 indicators — including Food Stamps — improve on the Dow and NASDAQ. p. A3

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Eleven years ago, transit rider activists sought to end Muni’s perennial lateness with a City Charter amendment. The voters approved it, but real progress remained elusive. Now, after a controversial push to pare driver salaries, a less visible reform could solve some of Muni’s problems. A new tracking center sees every late bus in real time. But critics say dozens of street-level staff were laid off prematurely. p. B1

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San Francisco, a pioneer in medical cannabis, has issued one-third of the ID cards in California. But despite a desire for accurate record-keeping, the city hands back paperwork to patients. p. C1

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On Nov. 2, voters narrowly rejected Proposition A, a modest bond measure that would have funded seismic retrofits for low-income housing. That fund targeted 156 buildings. Yet the city says thousands of others remain potentially unsafe in a major earthquake, which seismologists say is likely in the next 30 years. “There are a number of structures that are considered to be quite dangerous,” said one Berkeley researcher. p. C6

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Before the state legalization drive sputtered, KQED’s Michael Krasny questioned experts about the addictive nature of THC and need for studies. p.C1

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The burgeoning medical marijuana business has allowed dispensaries to expand their philanthropic work. In SoMa, about 100 AIDS and other patients get pot free or at a discount. p. C1

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a SO sc Fr hun ked ose The East Bay city averages n up g a h hi o S O tin nd et t 100 murders yearly. Amid record budget cuts, some of the gr c Experts say vehicles and the streets need DI s g e a A t l r r r R a w t The police ID likely University of California’s stewards have E fo to be re-engineered. Little design tweaks ga ne me en’t oEG ess ies in o criminals l r ar pr recommended placing hundreds of milLL m n S could save hours per day across the sysi r k O C ho y to h. us wee cto rfo b N w early. lions worth of equity in private deals, e . o tem. The biggest-ticket item: Geary bus el uc S O big ive t d pers , ep lik t m I T' p. C6 which significantly overlapped their m n nat ou pa ns rapid transit. p. B1 s o e W e te C8 r O io ab .S personal business activities. p. C2 . ip , N ve b alte ms ling stat the r p S t f i Bu Tong Acupuncture. Photo: Monica Jensen a on g i . C7 LIE s ha s of clai ds K e p i i t up vis isin ed. EE ab sue ng ANATOMY OF 3 QUESTIONABLE DEALS igh W nn t is peti ing tele vert ass bl h a T e c I UC ended up with investments m pp al l ad d p en th LOCAL BUSINESSES SEEK NEW STIMULUS G W dica rec f co pro loc ot , ha n Author Rebecca Solnit has worked with artists and map-makers to archive pivotal o N in Harrah’s Entertainment, I e ut s o re as d p 19 RT ne m A San Francisco microlender aims to fill moments — and movements — in the city’s history in a new atlas, “Infinite City.” The TA for w. B age s a uch owe tion zo Washington Mutual and S l p on s si s ra gaps in mainstream finance. Congress all no book explores extinct theaters across the urban grid, queer history and the extensive Univision. So did Ad rs with dati dia, ve ropo ltu u a a e c created a $30 billion pool for entrepren P e military history along the shores of the Bay Area. Twenty-two of the works are on h , y Regent Richard m t en me ea id at neurs, but the money is elusive. p. A4 lad om taid igh n b display, one at a time, at SFMOMA through Dec. 11. p. B2 C. Blum. re s c o m c i re re co E to ey zat p. C2 o Miwok BL ncis eM d th gali on A i r Coast Miwok L l a i il AI Fr ly n sa te le AV an ical p o e 1m S l 1 B S sta t l E e as t h eop n IC d$ i r V e d s R u p ACCESS VS. NET NEUTRALITY DEBATED is Bay Miwok SE ram 010 itho of ra R t g ty 2 E o i l o Three big telecoms, Comcast, Verizon W c Delta Yokuts pr in s. EW “a he and AT&T, could control who gets speedy T F ion ons olee te, rt n U a a t r i se B , m . C3 ye pa ita ct Jen Web access. The Internet giants have is ISE abil edu lp r in .” p ica h R n e o r T h me em spent $2 billion collectively on aid to oreh t :M RS LS to OL BE of r dge ty to for syst ho w P P ganizations with a say on the rules. p. A4 M o e u l l E C. n on the NU ders e b abi Th the even ON AR id in ea a tat eir O ITI ue SP g a e T L t h s ik s d L k n t l a S O h a c , n o t y s R a y a e a is ues EM the tes sa ced tsid t b pla TE am a ok e, n lo sid dis E D oes ma ay VO has Are aso ong ng, u ou igh t n d i n i ID o n r DEVELOPMENT WILL ADD CARS, AIR POLLUTION t i e i a e EW ity W es ay e r 90 ot o d est e B de the Fr th d up ar tsi E N e c he B On an ay v C3 n rce OR ge, s ew f th com y W L a The transformation of the artificial island u F n m h c . S h o u O . e N t o t d t a n p o ro e LL Ba e an s. o AJ in tio ore atur nt. is, in the Bay has been touted as a grand th ry. F . Th Res ll t CA e ch cial tion s to The dicSC p m it rds e S a D T r e e i a d m I s f . s e t L fi r i a c i r , l s o f n green experiment. 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NEW MEDIA

Reorient Yourself

S

an Franciscans have their own mental maps of the city that do not necessarily conform to standard-issue tourist guides, supervisor districts or Census tract boundaries. (The Tenderloin, which is nearly as old as the city, can’t be found in many visitor pamphlets. The Castro is, incongruously, labeled Eureka Valley.) This second print edition of the San Francisco Public Press plays with the city’s geography and sense of identity. Just as Rebecca Solnit’s newly published “Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas” creatively superimposes new, extinct and invisible landscapes on the same grid, this publication attempts to redefine what a newspaper is, whom it is for and what “news” even means. The front page is not just a conceptual map of downtown San Francisco. It is also quite literally a map to the entire paper. We know of no other newspaper that is laid out in this fashion. The reason it is so hard to find the information you are looking for in standard newspaers is that they are designed to slow down the reading experience intentionally. If you are looking for a report on San Francisco’s low voter turnout, for example, you can just scan for the brief right on the fold of the front page, which takes you — hyperlink style — to page C3. Tell us what you think about our comprehensive front-page index and any other parts of the paper by e-mailing us at info@sfpublicpress.org.

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WE ARE NOT ALONE This fall, we had the great fortune to attend the Block by Block Community News Summit in Chicago, sponsored by the Reynolds Journalism Institute, where we met more than 100 people involved in online community news start-ups around the country. It was a heartening experience to talk with people from so many small, scrappy ventures like ours filling the local news void left in the wake of a greatly diminished commercial press, and seizing opportunities that did not even exist five years ago because the technology and tools available to jour-

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Movers and Shakers By Andrea Carla Michaels

nalists today are evolving so rapidly. Locally the advent of other nonprofit ventures such as Oakland Local, Mission Local and the well-funded Bay Citizen are providing both competition and collaboration for traditional media. KQED has started a new news initiative at KQEDnews.org; KALW News has launched a new blog, The Informant, looking at criminal justice. (Ali Winston’s report on Oakland gangs can be found on page C6.) MAINSTREAM/ALTERNATIVE One of the questions we get asked most often is what our editorial slant is. The Bay Guardian is well known as a liberal bastion. SF Weekly has cornered the market on snark. Television is all about shock and awe. The other day, an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle fulminated against progressives and argued for a return to “moderate” politics. ’Nuff said. At the Public Press we like to say that if we have a bias, it is a publicinterest bias. The mission of the Public Press is to enrich civic life in San Francisco by delivering public-interest journalism to broad and diverse audiences through print and interactive media not supported by advertising.

Contact the editors: info@sfpublicpress.org

ACROSS 1. Vowel sound represented by an upside-down "e" 6. SF transport 10. "Famous" cookie guy 14. '89 World Series winners from Oakland 15. Fail to include 16. Ben & Jerry's choice 17. Mover and shaker 19. Sound of a Giant fan? 20. Mythological shapeshifter 21. Famous SF department store had it been a chain? 23. Something you find at Amoeba? 25. "Surfer," so to speak 26. Valley quail, for one 30. Like some Raiders fanatics 33. Where the San Jose SaberCats would play, for example 35. Change the décor 36. Speed limit abbr. 39. Carrizo Plain peril 43. At wit's ___ 44. Boo-boo 45. Choice cut 46. ____ San Francisco Centre 9 movie theater 49. Every four years 50. Clay-rich soil

52. Norse explorer Eriksson 54. Wife and mother of Oedipus 57. Make fun of 62. Egg 63. Follow-up to the Big One 65. Internet destination 66. Like Superman's vision 67. Musical repeat symbol 68. Futures analyst? 69. Atoms that have gained or lost electrons 70. Positive replies DOWN 1. "Watch your ___!" 2. Coal starter? 3. Guitar ___ (video game) 4. Light bulb unit 5. Incinerated 6. Hair care concoction 7. "Kill Bill" actress Thurman 8. "Just do it" sloganeer 9. Bit for Leah Garchik? 10. Crossword direction 11. "Dude, Where's My Country?" author Michael 12. KFOG sign? 13. "Will Be," in a Doris Day song 18. Pub trivia 22. Delay 24. "Watch out!" 26. AT&T Park first? 27. Ayatollah's land

28. Pull apart 29. "CSI" evidence 31. Actress Thompson of "Back to the Future" 32. Takes too much LSD, e.g. 34. 2002 World Series champs 36. Stubborn beast 37. "Not guilty!", e.g. 38. Website address starter

40. SF radio giant Blue 41. Decompose 42. Be under the weather 46. CNBC pundit Jim 47. Chester A. and Peg of '50s TV 48. 1906 or 1989, e.g. 50. "Escape from Alcatraz," e.g. 51. Less than 90 degrees

53. Persnickety 54. "Buffy" creator Whedon 55. Luxor or Yellow, e.g. 56. Angela Davis "do," back in the day 58. Yak butter 59. Harleys, familiarly 60. In-your-face problem? 61. Boxing ref's decisions 64. Ocean beach shade?


A3 sfpublicpress.org // Fall 2010

SF Public Press

ECONOMY

DEREGULATION

New Rules on Phone Competition Could Affect Prices for Poor

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proposal by state utilities regulators to deregulate basic phone service could open competition to companies using newer technologies, but critics say it could sharply increase costs for more than 2 million low-income Californians who rely on discounted landline service. All landline rates could rise under the proposed rules, which would increase the companies’ leeway in new charges for services, whose prices are now fixed. Phone rates have been under California Public Story: Connor Gallagher Utilities Commis// Public Press sion oversight Photo: Monica Jensen since the dawn of // Public Press phone service in 1915. The commission, which regulates the state’s telecommunication, energy, water and transportation industries, has proposed ending a requirement that basic phone service include free incoming calls and unlimited local calling for a flat rate. Both elements are among the minimum standards of phone service established in the 1984 Moore Universal Telephone Act aimed at keeping phone service affordable and efficient for all state residents. Under the CPUC proposal, telecommunication companies would not have to offer these features to receive state subsidies. The commission’s goal is to have cellular companies bid to be the subsidized service provider for these customers. Currently, cellular service does not meet the state’s basic service requirements, effectively eliminating the technology from subsidies. Before officially redefining basic phone service, the commission would hold public workshops and a formal hearing. No schedule has been set. Consumer groups adamantly oppose the proposal, saying it favors the telecommunication companies. The debate is part of a larger battle pitting those favoring a free market against regulation proponents, and it is an expensive game. AT&T and Verizon, which control 65 percent of all residential landline, wireless and broadband connections in California (and 85 percent of dedicated landlines), have spent $55 million since 2001 lobbying to sway state officials toward a free-market approach. In 2006, the CPUC declared “that competitive market forces will assure that rate levels are just and reasonable,” and allowed telecommunication companies to raise nearly all rates at will. Some charges have gone up several hundred percent since 2006. The commission still requires a 30-day notice on basic residential service rate changes, but that price cap is scheduled to come off on Jan. 1.

Catalina Dean has used LifeLine on and off for the past 20 years. She said she cannot afford to pay more on her limited budget. Some officials oppose the rush to deregulation. On July 16, the state Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes released a report criticizing the CPUC for scant oversight of the telecommunication industry and for ignoring consumer complaints, sometimes deleting thousands of cases at a time without resolution. The report stated that “no one knows what will happen” to California LifeLine rates, which are pegged at half the price of basic phone service. The rates will directly affect people like LifeLine customer Catalina Dean, 58, of San Francisco, who is thrilled she can afford phone service so she can talk to her family more often. She isn’t sure she will be able to afford it if her bill increases steeply.

PAYING MORE FOR LESS? Basic phone service requirements would be weakened by the CPUC proposal and would open the possibility of much higher bills, opponents of the plan say. Consumer advocacy groups such as Disability Rights Advocates, The Utility Reform Network and the National Consumer Law Center jointly argued in a brief to the commission that no one “has provided any reason why metering all incoming and outgoing calls is in the public interest.” The groups also asked why no analysis had been made of the supposed windfall the proposal would create for the telecommunication companies charging both callers and receivers for local, long-distance and wireless calls, as well as for calls exceeding a prescribed number of minutes. The CPUC’s stated aim is to be

“technologically neutral” in terms of service standards for mobile and landline phones and to “take advantage of market forces” by having companies bid to provide service for high-cost areas and low-income households. Consumer advocates disagree with the method the CPUC would use to be technologically neutral. Rather than increasing the service standards necessary for mobile service to receive subsidies, the commission wants to weaken basic service requirements for landlines, said Regina Costa, TURN’s telecommunications director. Costa said the proposal would turn “landline service into cellular service. Wireless doesn’t have to improve service at all to receive subsidies.” The lone beneficiaries of the commission’s plan, she said, would be AT&T and Verizon.

TELECOM TITANS APPLAUD California’s two largest telecommunication companies have applauded the commission’s decision to rewrite service requirements. Although the proposal would eliminate the requirement that free incoming calls and unlimited local calling be part of basic residential service, it does state that customers should have the option to receive a “reasonable allowance” of phone use without incurring per-minute charges. What constitutes “reasonable” is up for debate. “The Commission must resist the idea that it needs to tell carriers they have to offer an allowance of a certain number of minutes,” AT&T argued in suggestions submitted to the commission. The company said defining a

quantity is “too subjective” and that allowing companies to decide how many minutes are reasonable is what “competitive providers use to differentiate themselves.” Verizon agreed. “Any attempt by regulators to prescribe a pricing structure in a competitive market is unnecessary and counterproductive,” the company stated in an argument to the commission. “This should be left instead to the market.” Companies’ bidding to provide cellular service to low-income households and high-cost areas raises service-quality issues. The CPUC is unsure how to measure service quality other than the ability to send and receive calls from residences and the avoidance of dropped calls. Verizon and AT&T say measuring quality is unnecessary. Verizon said the commission “should make clear that oversight of such carriers will be limited.” Certifying quality would be “difficult if not impossible” and impracticable, Verizon said. AT&T urged that the commission “not impose any service requirements.”

CONTINUING FOUR YEARS OF DEREGULATION In 2006, the CPUC issued the Uniform Regulatory Framework decision allowing telecom companies to raise rates with only a day’s prior notice to the commission, and staff was told to treat the notice letters in a purely “ministerial” manner and approve the rates. The next year, the commission scrapped the notice requirement, mandating only that AT&T and Verizon maintain “a link to the carrier’s page for

accessing” rates, the oversight office’s report stated. The basic residential and the subsidized LifeLine rate hikes have been phased in during the past two years. Coupled with the overhaul of the basic service standards, the two decisions will “destroy phone service we’ve had for nearly 100 years,” said Costa. While the Senate oversight office said “no one knows what will happen” to LifeLine rates when price controls expire, the CPUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates said prices are likely to rise. In a 2008 report, the office said rates have “skyrocketed” since the 2006 decision to uncap prices, “which strongly suggests that basic residential rates will also increase as the price controls are lifted.” The report concluded that the 2006 decision was a failure, stating that “market forces have not led to stable or reduced prices.” Since deregulation, very few AT&T, Verizon, SureWest or Frontier rates have dropped and most have increased, some by several hundred percent, according to the report. AT&T, for example, has raised the surcharge for keeping a number unlisted by 614 percent. In 2007, the CPUC decided that price increases are “not subject to protest on the grounds that the rates are unjust, unreasonable or discriminatory.” But the Senate oversight office did just that: It disputed the reasonableness of the charges and asked if the commission had an interest in the matter. Jack Leutza, director of the CPUC’s telecommunications division, said the commission still monitors rates. “There isn’t a reporting requirement,” he wrote in an e-mail ro the Senate oversight office. “But we do sometimes discuss info we find publicly available with AT&T.” CPUC president Michael Peevey wrote in a memo that rate hikes were to be expected “in a transitioning period until market equilibrium is reached.” He added that while individual prices have increased, customers could save money by buying bundled services, meaning multiple services such as phone, highspeed Internet and television cable combined into a single rate package. The Division of Ratepayer Advocates countered that such savings don’t exist for customers who cannot afford multiple services. The commission believes the market allows customers to “vote with their feet,” leaving expensive phone carriers for competitors. Costa said the decisions to deregulate and to redefine basic phone service are “purely ideological” on the part of the CPUC, which operates under “the notion that there is competition” while a 2008 analysis by the commission’s own communications division described AT&T’s and Verizon’s control of land-

lines, wireless and broadband connections in the state as “oligopolistic.”

CONSUMER COMPLAINTS IGNORED In 2006, the commission asked the state Legislature for an additional $12.7 million for fiscal 2006-07 to protect consumers from fraud and abuse in the telecommunication market. The funds reportedly didn’t achieve their stated purpose. The Senate oversight office’s report found that the commission’s Consumer Affairs Branch focused on closing rather than resolving cases. More than 2,700 unresolved cases of customers who sought Consumer Affairs help regarding utility bills and services were closed in a single day in September 2006. That year, 21,000 cases were scrapped unresolved. Paul Clanon, CPUC director of consumer affairs, told the Senate Rules Committee in 2007 that discarding cases en bloc was “regrettable but necessary.” The oversight office found also that Consumer Affairs frequently directed Californians with cell phone billing problems to the Federal Communications Commission, though everything on a customer’s bill is under CPUC jurisdiction. Each year, Consumer Affairs receives about 100,000 complaints, two-thirds of them about telecommunications. Since 2004, only eight formal proceedings into the complaints have been initiated.

LOW-INCOME SERVICE HANGS IN THE BALANCE While the new definition of phone service could boost telecommunication company profits, it could strike hard at households with few phone service options. Dean pays $6.84 a month for unlimited local calls, plus a $10 installation fee that she paid in three installments. A former tow-truck driver, she has liver problems and lives off disability in a single-room occupancy hotel in San Francisco. With LifeLine, she can easily talk with her two daughters and arrange doctor appointments, and she called LifeLine a “lifesaver” in emergencies and “a miracle living off such a short amount of money.” Dean doesn’t like metered calling. “It’s not really anything we can depend on that we can write down when we sit there and do the budget,” she said. She worries that she’ll lose the phone service if prices rise much more. Her two biggest fears are losing contact with her family and with the 911 emergency line.

Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@sfpublicpress.org

TREND WATCHING

New ‘Distress Index’ Shows San Francisco’s Economic Pain Is Getting Worse

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ome economists and business groups say the Great Recession is over, but how do communities really know whether they’re moving out of the recession or falling behind? Now, a ground-breaking new tool that measures the real-world impact of the recession is providing Story: Nina Martin answers. It //New America Media shows that in Graphic: New America Media San Francisco, at least, the worst downturn in 70 years isn’t just continuing — it may be getting worse. The new San Francisco Distress Index, which assembles 11 types of monthly economic indicators such as foreclosure rates and food pantry visits, has risen 11 percent since June 2009 — the month when, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the U.S. recession supposedly bottomed out. The index, a joint project of San Francisco-based New America Media and the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, also shows that the Great Recession has been much harder on San Francisco than even the dot-com bust a decade ago. Although the down-

San Francisco Distress Index from January 2000 to June 2010

Data compiled by New America Media and the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality.

turn of 2000-2003 is widely recalled as one of the most devastating in San Francisco’s history, the current level of economic distress as measured by the index is nearly 40 percent higher than at the worst point of the dot-com bust. Yet the reality of this extreme distress is going largely unnoticed in San Francisco and the rest of the country. “The Dow has been going up, but we all know people are continuing to hurt,” said Aaron Glantz, who played a key role at New America Media in devel-

oping the index. “We wanted a real-time way to track the effects of the recession as people are really living it.” The idea behind the index, which took six months to develop, is to “make sure no community or individual left behind by the recovery becomes invisible,” said New America Media Executive Director Sandy Close. The NAM/Stanford Distress Index is believed to be the first economic measure of its kind in the United States. Stanford researcher Chris Wimer said

the tool is unique for two reasons: the way it assembles a number of types of monthly economic data into one broad index, and the way it focuses on just one city and its residents. Wimer said that many widely reported economic statistics — such as the U.S. Census Bureau’s report this fall that one in seven Americans were living in poverty as of 2009 — are “junk” because the data is collected so infrequently and is often based on outmoded ways of measuring economic well-being. “There is a poverty of poverty statistics,” he said. The 11 economic indicators that make up the NAM/Stanford Distress Index include jobless rates, bankruptcies, food stamp applications, food bank pantry visits and enrollments in such safety-net programs as the city’s Healthy San Francisco health care-access program and the state’s CalWORKS cash assistance program. Glantz said the goal was to include monthly data about “the different aspects of living that are essential to people,” such as food, shelter and income. “When these things become hard [to access], people really become distressed,” he said. New America Media and Stanford also wanted to include data that would show how the recession has af-

fected both the middle class and the poor, he said. The monthly data assembled by New America Media and Stanford paint a sobering picture of how the recession has hit San Francisco, which is widely thought to have weathered the downturn much better than many California cities and counties. According to the index, the Great Recession started to be felt in San Francisco in mid-2006, a full 18 months before what economists say was its official beginning, in December 2007. The pain has increased dramatically since June 2008, with few signs of abating. The number of bankruptcy filings this past June, for example, was 76 percent higher than in June 2008. In the same period, foreclosures jumped 51 percent and requests for homeless assistance rose 32 percent. This past June, more than 100,000 households in San Francisco visited one of the city’s food banks, up 52 percent from two years before. Close said she hoped the Distress Index would serve as a model for a new way of measuring poverty in local communities in real time. “In this instance we’ve applied the index to San Francisco, but as a tool, the index, using local indicators, can be ap-

plied anywhere in the country.” She said New America Media hopes to develop similar Distress Indexes for cities throughout the Bay Area and California and to use them to document not just how the continuing recession is being felt in different parts of the state, but the economy’s eventual recovery. Sandra R. Hernandez, chief executive officer of the San Francisco Foundation, said the index buttresses her organization’s decision to funnel $5 million into three key areas: preventing foreclosures, creating jobs and strengthening the city’s safety net. The San Francisco Foundation provided funding for creation of the Index, as did the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation. (The San Francisco Foundation is also a funder of the Public Press.) The NAM/Stanford Distress Index will be updated monthly, with the results available on New America Media’s website. Wimer’s report on the index, “Measuring Economic Distress in San Francisco,” can be found at the website of the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality.

Writer Nina Martin can be reached at: writers@sfpublicpress.org


A4 SF Public Press

ECONOMY Fall 2010 // sfpublicpress.org

FINANCING

Small Loans Having Big Impact on Local Businesses

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n the community acupuncture room at Bu Tong Clinic, patients wait in silence away from the bustle of traffic and hawkers on Mission Street. The clinic owner, Julie Baumhofer, has seen her clientele grow as word about her low-fee acupuncture treatment continues to spread. The clinic wouldn’t Story: have happened withLi Miao Lovett out a microlender. // National Radio Project Photo: “If they didn’t Monica Jensen do what they do, I // Public Press wouldn’t be here now,” she says. “You don’t have to be born rich and know the right people, and you can be a business owner.” Prior to learning about microlenders, Baumhofer says, she signed a lease for her clinic’s space before she had even obtained a loan. “I put the cart before the horse,” she says. In February of 2009, she found that credit was unavailable from traditional financial institutions. It was a microlender that came to the rescue, Baumhofer hadn’t had much luck with the Small Business Administration, but she noticed the awning for the Mission Economic Development Agency and walked in without an appointment. The nonprofit helped her develop a proposal for a $10,000 loan from Opportunity Fund, a leading microlender based in San Jose. Opportunity Fund’s lending has helped to create or save more than 1,200 jobs in the Bay Area, according to an independent study commissioned by the organization Microenterprises like Bu Tong Clinic typically

There’s no doubt that banks in general have tightened the standard by which they’ll provide credit to a small business. employ five or fewer employees and launch with less than $35,000 in startup capital. Small businesses are also expected to get a boost from Congress, which passed a bill in late September creating a $30 billion fund for community banks to lend to small businesses. Such businesses are increasingly turning to microlenders, also known as community development financial institutions, a move that has been intensified by the financial crisis. Surveys conducted by the nonprofit Aspen Institute thinktank indicate a steady growth in the number and total dollar amount of loans disbursed by community lenders between 2002 and 2008. Among 43 lenders who reported the value of their loan portfolios, the median amount increased from $598,400 to $1 million. Increased demand for microloans has grown substantially since the recession, according to a July report issued by the Institute’s Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning and Dissemination, or FIELD. “Microlenders reported receiving applications from business owners who previously would not have had difficulty receiving funding from mainstream lenders,” the program’s director, Elaine Edgecomb, said. Most of Opportunity Fund’s loan capital comes

Julie Baumhofer, owner of Bu Tong Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, received a $10,000 loan from Opportunity Fund to open her clinic in the Mission District. Bumahofer said she tried to get loans from several organizations in 2009 but no one was lending except the microloan funder. from partnering banks. “We’ve had a couple of banks that have dropped out on us, which we were very disappointed in and very surprised, given what’s going on in the economy that they would pull their investments in an organization like ours, but most of them have stuck with us,” says CEO Eric Weaver. The microlender also accesses capital through foun-

REGULATION

Internet Access as the Next Civil Rights Battle?

Advocates argue for ‘open Internet,’ some fear minority redlining

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he ongoing, often arcane, battle over whether telecommunications companies may slow certain online services and charge fees to speed up others has morphed into a civil rights controversy. Many of the country’s leading civil rights organizations are siding with the phone and cable companies in their bid to prevent federal regulations over their broadband, or high-speed, Internet services. At stake: Story: whether to preserve Christi Morales “network neutrality” — // Public Press the longstanding prinPhoto: ciple that all consumMonica Jensen // Public Press ers can access whatever websites or applications they want on the Internet, at the same speed and without limitations imposed by Internet service providers. Clouding the issue, however, is that more than half a dozen of these groups are fighting accusations of being bought off by the telecom industry. Records of telecom contributions to minority interests reveal a minimum of nearly $2 billion in cash and in-kind support has been made in the past decade by the top three providers — AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. The controversy is pitting traditional allies in the fight for social equality against one another as they clash over conflicting interpretations of what equal access on the Internet means for their constituents.

MINORITY GROUPS DIVIDED For years, officials at the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., have been debating claims by industry proponents that regulation stifles tech innovation and freemarket business activity. To that argument, telecom folks have added that the hit to their bottom line will inhibit their efforts to build out broadband infrastructure in digitally marginalized communities, especially those with heavily African-American, Hispanic and Asian populations. Advocates of net neutrality counter that without sufficient government oversight to keep the playing field level, service providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T will monopolize the Internet, reducing competition and creating a landscape in which only those with money can ensure that their online applications and Web content can be accessed by the public at top speed. The providers could not only slow the delivery of websites that don’t pay up but also impede those whose content they don’t like, neutrality advocates say. The prospect of telecom censorship was highlighted in a 2008 case, in which the FCC found that Comcast had secretly blocked its customers from using BitTorrent, a free file-sharing application. Such predatory business practices, say critics, would mean that millions of people would have much of the Internet unavailable to them, including low-income and working-class communities, small business owners, artists and political dissidents. Of special concern to activists is the impact unregulated telecom control could have on minority communities, where broadband Internet usage has grown but continues to lag that among whites. Imposing premium access fees would undermine efforts to close the digital divide, according to Amalia Deloney, grassroots policy director for the Oakland-based Center for Media Justice. “We all fear that these corporations — AT&T,

Anthony Fallin (left) uses the technology lab daily and it is the only way he can maintain contact with his doctors.

In the Tenderloin, net access becoming a key right? Whichever side in the debate about "net neutrality” prevails in Washington this fall, residents of one San Francisco neighborhood that’s home to a large minority population say that the issue is becoming increasingly relevant to their lives. As access to the Internet becomes the standard, it gets harder to get by in everyday life without it. Karl Robillard is manager at the Tenderloin Tech Lab operated by St. Anthony’s Foundation and San Francisco Network Ministries, offering low-income and homeless people free services such as drop-in Internet access, basic computer instruction, and job-search assistance. Robillard said he believes access to the Internet is a civil right. "What really is one of the most egalitarian ways of accessing resources will quickly be very divided, and everyone knows as soon as that happens, anyone who can pay is going be able to get the premium service, premium access,” he said. "It’s going to exacerbate the issues of social inequity.” At the tech lab, more than 100 low-income people use the Internet for free every day. Eighteen percent of them rely on it to apply for disability benefits, housing and other governmentprovided social services. About 13 percent come to the lab to build or maintain a website, and almost 7 percent use it to maintain an online business. Anthony Fallin, a former prison inmate liv-

Comcast, Verizon — really want to control the Internet for their own benefit,” Deloney said. “What it would cost for people to be able to get the Internet they want is a huge issue.” Deloney’s group banded with 45 national and local organizations to form Latinos for Internet Freedom. The Center for Media Justice also is part of the national Media and Democracy Coalition. These groups are promoting public debate on net neutrality and the future of the Internet. However, several minority organizations are not interested in the pro-net neutrality argument and question the FCC’s attempts to oversee the telecoms.

ing at a San Francisco halfway house, said he would be lost without the Internet. After 10 years in prison, Fallin first got on the Internet at the lab and relies on it to stay in contact with family throughout the country, communicate with his doctor regularly about medical issues and seek information to help him re-integrate into free society. "I don’t think the people in control of how it works should start putting limitations on how you access it now,” said Fallin, who said he is somewhat familiar with the net neutrality debate. "If you can access it as easily as you can access it now, I think it should continue that way, because it does help people’s lives.” A recent struggle to find quality broadband access highlighted why speed matters. When the center was using AT&T’s lower-cost DSL service, a technical limitation based on distance to the source — two miles in this case — cut speed to about 20 percent. The lab developed a relationship with Craigslist.org founder Craig Newmark, who helped it negotiate a more affordable price for higher-speed Internet from Comcast. Now, the lab provides online video materials, which was something it couldn’t do with DSL. "It’s online videos and online tutoring,” Robillard said. With Comcast now we can run all of that, so we’ve immediately increased students’ access to important training materials.” — Christi Morales

“There’s been no analysis of net neutrality rules and what that will do to the digital divide,” said Gus West, chairman of the Washington-based Hispanic Institute and co-chair of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership. By prohibiting the telecoms from charging more for priority access to content, West said, the FCC could significantly reduce the revenues available for these companies to invest in extending their pipelines into underserved communities. The Internet service providers might even end up charging higher rates to lowincome consumers to cover their costs in these areas, he said.

dations and government programs. Although proponents of the Congressional lending bill hope it will infuse capital into business and create jobs, federal programs for small businesses have been a mixed bag. For example, while the Small Business Administration has offered loans through the federal stimulus package to business owners in trouble, Robyn Fountain, the coordinator of the nonprofit Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center in San Francisco, said the system is unnecessarily complex. Nevertheless, Fountain has seen the number of clients at the Bayview Hunter’s Point location double in the past two years. “If you don’t have education, or you’ve been in prison, it’s nearly impossible to have access to formal employment. So a lot of the time, entrepreneurship is the only way for people to lift themselves out of poverty,” says Fountain. Many residents in the predominantly African American community don’t have access to credit, or the credit scores for a traditional bank loan. “One of the things we do is help business owners identify where they need access to credit and create relationships with them and bankers, specifically, the community development lenders,” she continues. Renaissance also provides one-onone counseling, business and financial management classes, as well as office space for small busi-

Among those who share West’s concerns are civil rights leaders from the largest, most established organizations — though they hesitate to take an official stance. These include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Organization of Chinese Americans, the Asian American Justice Center, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Japanese American Citizens League. The chief concern among these groups is that a lot of money is needed to spread broadband infrastructure to every corner of the country and close the digital divide. And they say they are not convinced that those funds will come through public mandate. George Wu, executive director of the Organization of Chinese Americans, said broadband expansion among minorities won’t happen through basic policymaking or consumer action. “We understand up front that broadband adoption, broadband accessibility has a lot to do with the bottom lines of the companies building the infrastructure,” Wu said. However, while West’s organization rejects net neutrality outright, the Organization of Chinese Americans has not committed to a public position. The same goes for the Asian American Justice Center. “The organization is still evaluating the situation, but they have not formalized an opinion on it as of yet,” said Vincent Eng, the group’s former deputy director, who still assists on broadband policy matters. Leaders from other groups echoed similar equivocations, saying they have taken no stance on net neutrality because they do not have a firm grasp on the issue. “Generally, there’s not a lot of understanding and people are still trying to develop their position on the issue,” said S. Floyd Mori, the Japanese American Citizens League’s executive director. “We’re trying to get information, or trying to listen to the various viewpoints,” said Stewart Kwoh, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. “But it’s kind of confusing.”

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST? The complexity of a debate mired in technical jargon may account for some uncertainty, but the telecoms nonetheless have managed to influence the civil rights groups because of millions of dollars in contributions over the years, say critics. Joseph Torres is senior advisor at Free Press, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group that supports net neutrality. His organization met with civil rights groups last December to discuss their positions. “One of the national groups said they personally support net neutrality, but they can’t take a position because of the relationship with telecoms,” Torres said. Since that meeting, several other groups have privately made similar statements, he said. Torres declined to identify the groups he met with. A June letter to the FCC from Comcast stated that the

ness owners. Some Small Business Administration programs hold more promise, and its Microloan funding program has seen recent increases. Opportunity Fund recently applied to be an SBA microlender to make loans of up to $35,000 to disadvantaged business owners. But getting federal money can be a lengthy process, reflecting the difficulty of addressing the economic crisis from a top-down approach. Meanwhile, small businesses continue to feel the squeeze. “There’s no doubt that banks in general have tightened the standard by which they’ll provide credit to a small business,” says the Opportunity Fund’s Weaver. His organization boasts an 85 percent survival rate among its small business clients. Opportunity Fund provides the kinds of loans that traditional banks don’t – to truckers and housecleaners, providers of health care and childcare. Almost one-third of Opportunity Fund’s clients fall below 80 percent of the federal poverty level. At the same time, an independent study of its clients showed that every dollar lent generated almost two dollars in economic activity each year. Back at her acupuncture clinic, Baumhofer says she realizes that her business could have fallen through the cracks. She acknowledges that she’s not the typical client for the Mission Economic Development Agency. She has an advanced degree and an earlier goal of going into medicine. The realities of the healthcare system convinced her to become an alternative healer But she credits the agency for paving the way to obtaining a microloan from the Opportunity Fund. Weaver started Opportunity Fund in 1992, when the Clinton Administration began to enforce the Community Reinvestment Act, a 1970’sera law that encouraged banks to make loans in redlined communities. He saw the chance to reach out to small business owners who faced numerous obstacles. “In general, you’re often going to find a reluctance to engage with traditional financial institutions, which could have to do with immigration status, language barriers, past experiences that have been humiliating," he says. “It’s important to have programs for small business, not just for reasons of financial inclusion, but also for good solid economic reasons,” says Weaver. Contact writer Li Miao Lovett at: writers@sfpublicpress.org

This story was funded via Spot.Us.

We understand up front

that broadband adoption has a lot to do with the bottom lines of the companies building the infrastructure.

company and its foundation contributed $1.8 billion in cash and in-kind support to minority community groups over the past nine years. Among the recipients were the NAACP, Organization of Chinese Americans, League of United Latin-American Citizens, the Asian American Justice Center the National Urban League, the National Council of La Raza and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Similarly, AT&T noted on its website contributions of $2.8 million over the past 10 years to African-American organizations, including the NAACP and the Urban League. This figure represents just a fraction of the telecom giant’s giving to minority communities. A partial online list of Verizon’s outreach includes $450,000 to the Latino organization ASPIRA this year; $500,000 to the NAACP in 2009; and a total of $3.2 million in 2008 to the National Council of La Raza, Urban League and League of United Latin-American Citizens. Telecom employees also have contributed time as volunteers and advisers to these groups. “AT&T, Comcast, Verizon have all served on our business advisory council for a number of years,” Wu said. But the group “would never put ourselves in a position” of taking a stand based on its corporate partners, he said League of United Latin-American Citizens and the NAACP did not respond to requests for comment. But they have consistently questioned net neutrality, as evidenced by public comments sent to the FCC and letters asking congressional representatives to intervene. ColorOfChange.org, a political advocacy group based in Oakland, is calling attention to these financial relationships. While there is no hard evidence of any quid pro quo, these connections should inform the public debate, said William Winters, an organizer with the group. “Obviously, money buys a certain amount of access, which affords a certain amount of influence,” Winters said. “If you have an organization like AT&T and Comcast helping to fund major initiatives for your group, then there’s a good chance that you’ll listen to what they have to say when they ask you to sit down to have a conversation about digital inclusion and net neutrality.”

PERSISTENT BARRIERS FOR MINORITIES With top civil rights organizations backing the Internet service providers, net neutrality proponents story continued on following page


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DEVELOPMENT

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ECONOMY sfpublicpress.org // Fall 2010

A5 SF Public Press

Fund to Boost Mid-Market Street Cultural District Has Money but Few Takers              

Small arts groups can’t come up with capital to lease property

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n $11 million city fund to create a mid-Market Street cultural district so far has yielded one government loan—to a restaurant—while dozens of small performing arts groups cannot take advantage of the program because of their limited financial resources. Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the Central MarStory: ket Cultural Ambika Kandasamy District Loan // Public Press Fund in JanuPhoto: Mark Ellinger ary as a way // Up From the Deep to support and concentrate arts groups to bring life back to the city’s long-depressed central corridor. Mid-Market stretches from Fifth to 10th streets on Market Street and from Mason to Larkin streets and up to O’Farrell Street in the Tenderloin, according to the city loan guidelines “We feel like in some ways, the arts piece is a means to a larger end,” said Amy Cohen, director of neighborhood business development for the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “It’s a means towards making the neighborhood a better place to do business, which will spur retail to locate in the area, thereby providing goods and services neighborhood residents need, such as a grocery store.” To date, the economic office has announced only one loan — to Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers — and will not even say whether any other organizations or businesses have applied. A public records request by the Public Press for copies of applications that the office has received was rejected. City officials cited California Public Records Act, section 6254.15, which allows an exemption from disclosure for some corporate proprietary information and information furnished to a government agency by a private company. Cohen said the city wants to be “flexible about the definition of what is part of the cultural district, and therefore what we can fund.” Loans from the $11 million fund will

be made in amounts from $250,000 to $1 million. But guidelines provided to prospective applicants say that “exceptional” cases could go as low as $50,000 and as high as $4 million. For-profit and nonprofit commercial endeavors are eligible for the loans, with “priority… given to businesses that anchor or complement the cultural district.” The loans can be used to buy real estate, for new construction or rehabilitation, and improvements, among other uses. The interest rate for these loans, funded through money the city received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is about six percent and the loan term is for up to 20 years, Cohen said. Although city representatives have said that the fund aims to help local arts organizations take advantage of the loan program, many do not have the capital or income to meet the loan requirements. Additionally, the terms of loans are linked to job creation in a low-income neighborhood, Cohen said, so every $50,000 borrowed needs to provide a brand-new job. Pearl’s, which will open its fourth location at 1001 Market Street near Sixth Street, is expected to establish 16 permanent jobs and between 22 and 33 construction jobs. “If we fund a theatre with that loan, it has to be a new theater or theatre that’s moving from somewhere to here, but is also expanding to create new jobs,” Cohen said. Which means a theater that is relocating with its existing staff, but not expanding, probably would not qualify, she said. “I think it’s very likely that we’ll use the money for restaurants,” Cohen said. “It’s easier to use it for a new venture because you have to create new jobs, so if you move a business from one location to another, that doesn’t count as new jobs.” While there is substantial interest among Bay Area performing arts groups to relocate to mid-Market, they do not have the financial ability to move to the envisioned arts-and-culture corridor –

Temp Job Increase Should Have Meant Good News For Rest of Economy

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t's generally been considered a sign of good things on the horizon when you hear about an increase in the number of temp jobs. These hires are usually a sign of employers tip-toeing back into a period of stability or even growth. That's why the latest U.S. Labor Department numbers have some prognosticators scratching their heads. According to the Labor Department, temp STORY: Chris Morran jobs are now up over 22 //The Consumerist percent from the same time last year. However, the overall job market has only grown by only

story continued from previous page

Internet Access face a stiff challenge. The kind of policy the telecoms and their allies want, Torres said, is going to create the same anti-competitive barriers online that affect traditional media and which neutrality advocates have for years been trying to dismantle. Complicating matters, the conflict over net neutrality has spread to the wireless Internet. In August, Google and Verizon jointly proposed to resolve the dispute by creating a paid-access level of service for mobile devices only, charging premium rates for more bandwidth-intensive content like high-quality video. While the companies agreed not to slow traffic on broadband Internet, no such restrictions would apply to mobile wireless. Both Google — which had been regarded as an avid defender of net neutrality — and Verizon claim this compromise solution is meant to protect net neutrality while also allowing legitimate revenue streams. But Torres of Free Press said the new proposal escalates the battle. The agreement would also prevent the FCC from enforcing net neutrality, relying instead on enforcement by an industry-controlled committee. The same rules that would apply to broadband should apply to wireless Internet, said the Center for Media Justice’s Deloney. Creating a net neutrality exemption for mobile devices would clearly impact minority communities. While a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project study said 56 percent of African-Americans use broadband, compared with 67 percent of whites, minority groups are actually ahead of the rest of the population in owning cell phones. Eighty-seven percent of African-Americans and Latinos own them, compared with 80 percent

Map: Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

The city’s efforts to revitalize mid-Market through the Central City Market Loan Fund excludes businesses that sell adult books, escort services and liquor stores within the zone. including taking advantage of the city’s loan program. In August, the loan fund released the results of a survey showing interest in mid-Market by arts groups. Theater Bay Area, an association of arts organization tallied the online survey results. Brad Erickson, executive director of Theatre Bay Area, said that of 110 performing arts organizations responding  to the survey, about “75 companies were interested in relocating to mid-Market if the venues were there and the rents were close to what they were currently paying. But very few of them have money to buy and build out spaces to create new venues. That’s going to be the hurdle — finding the capital.” According to the survey, which is posted on the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency’s website, the majority of arts groups interested in relocating, 48, have annual operating budgets of less than $100,000; another 14 have between $100,000 to $500,000. At the top tiers, 11 groups said their yearly bud-

0.2 percent during the same period. While even minimal growth is still better than nothing, such a lag between an increase in temp jobs and similar growth in the job market is unusual. CNN discussed the issue with Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the American Staffing Association. In previous recessions, the overall job market rebound followed that of the temp industry by about six to 12 months, he said. But it's been 12 months since the temp industry started to pick up and there are still few signs of an overall jobs recovery. Among the factors scaring off businesses from hiring, Wahlquist lists "mixed economic data, sweeping new financial and health care reforms and uncertainty about the expiring Bush tax cuts." Contact writer Chris Morran at: writers@sfpublicpress.org.

If you have an organization

like AT&T and Comcast helping to fund major initiatives for your group, then there’s a good chance that you’ll listen to what they have to say.

of whites, according to another Pew study on mobile access. It also said 64 percent of AfricanAmericans and 63 percent of Latinos are wireless Internet users. The same study found that nine in 10 Americans ages 18 to 29 owned cell phones, with 65 percent of them accessing the Internet through their devices. Among ethnic minorities and youth, who often don’t have access to broadband Internet or can’t afford it, wireless has become the affordable platform of choice for getting online, Deloney said. In San Francisco, Sekuh Paopao, a student at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School, said that because of the lack broadband at home, she and many of her friends have found another way to access the Internet: “I just get it through my phone.” This story was produced under the Internet Reporting Fellowship, a program sponsored by the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism in collaboration with New America Media, with additional research by Linda Jue.

Contact writer Christi Morales at: cmorales@sfpublicpress.org

gets are more than $500,000 and four said $1 million or more. Most organizations that responded to the survey said they could not raise the funds required to purchase space; the loans were also seen as a challenge because a company’s income would need to be significantly higher than the monthly loan payments in order to qualify. This is also a tough time for Bay Area arts groups to consider taking on debt, since the poor economy has led to reductions in grants by private groups. “We keep very close working relationships with private foundations in the Bay Area,” said Luis Cancel, director of cultural affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission. “They have reported to us that the foundation giving has dropped by at least $30 million in the last fiscal year — and that’s a very significant cut to the cultural organizations.” The irony, say arts champions, is that because of the real estate slump, this is a favorable time to relocate.

“The timing is good because property on mid-Market Street and throughout San Francisco is somewhat depressed,” said Bill Schwartz, founder and chairman of The Coalition for a Mid-Market Theater District and the founder of the San Francisco Theatre Festival. “The other side of the coin is that financing property is a little more difficult because of the lack of wealth in the community because of the recessionary time,” he said. PianoFight, a private production and venue management company, is moving from the Off-Market Theaters on Mission Street to where the Original Joe’s restaurant was located, 144 Taylor Street, without the aid of these loans. The founders — Dan Williams and Rob Ready — said that their new theatre complex will feature a 55-seat theater, a 99-seat theater, four rehearsal rooms, four office spaces, a lounge, and a bar/ café. At the end of October, the Tenderloin Economic Development Project, a pro-

gram of the North of Market Neighborhood Improvement Corporation, held a meeting on how arts facilities can be incorporated into community economic development. Meeting partners included the city, the Northern California Community Loan Fund, and other local organizations. “Many performing arts organizations are interested in this area because it’s essentially center stage San Francisco — tremendous visitors, tremendous public transit access,” said Elvin Padilla Jr., executive director of the Tenderloin Economic Development Project. Even if the city and the community want a mid-Market arts district, the primary challenge is that the property in the area is in private hands, Padilla wrote in an e-mail. Acquiring the land and development costs are additional obstacles. “We are attempting to meet these challenges through active negotiations with property owners and development of new resources — like redevelopment — to finance important projects,” Padilla said. The city’s loan program, said Erickson, is part of a bigger picture that includes other funding sources for the arts. A $250,000 grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts to the San Francisco Arts Commission earlier this year has facilitated the creation of an arts market in the United Nations Plaza. (Independent Arts & Media, the fiscal sponsor of the Public Press, is a beneficiary of the grant.) “What is getting people interested in this is that there are a number of these things that’s flowing together — there’s the Redevelopment Agency’s interest, the mayor’s office is looking at this, there’s the NEA money that’s coming into this, the S.F. Arts Commission— there are a number of things that’s coming together,” said Erickson.

Contact writer Ambika Kandasamy at: akandasamy@sfpublicpress.org

Q&A

Ask a Savvy Tenant Mold and Sanitation QUESTION: I live in the basement unit of an apartment building in the Richmond. Due to some heavy rains and a perennial fog that straddles our neighborhood, our apartment got particularly damp this winter. When spring sprung, so did the mold. There are what look to be miniature Chia Pets sprouting from some of the hidden corners of our unit and I’m starting to think twice about my extended coughing fits. The landlord said it wasn’t his problem but I’m tired of living in a petri dish. What can I do? For a long time, mold was the unrecognized cousin of environmental hazards such as lead and asbestos. But these days mold has really been coming into its own. The San Francisco Department of Public Health, for instance, added mold as a legally recognized nuisance, meaning tenants can now sue landlords over failure Michael Zelenko to address large breakouts. // Public Press Remember, the landlord has a legal responsibility to provide living conditions described as fit and habitable. And the State Housing Law considers “dampness of habitable rooms” to be “inadequate sanitation.” The problem is that there are a million types of mold ranging from the mildly disgusting (on your toothbrush) to the terribly harmful (the black and green Stachybotrys chartarum found in flooded homes). Identifying one from another is not a job for a layman. Furthermore, mold tends to be symptomatic of other problems—leaky windows, pipes or roofs; inadequate ventilation; or a slovenly, collegiate lifestyle. Report the mold on your walls to your landlord in writing and ask him or her to clean it up and provide any repairs or maintenance necessary (i.e. fixing pipes, sealing windows, providing a dehumidifier). Keep copies of those letters just in case the landlord refuses to act: they’ll be good evidence in case you have to go to court.

No Evictions for Minors? Q: I heard that the Board of Supervisors passed a law forbidding the eviction of households with children. Is that true? In June 2009, the Board of Supervisors passed what was then being called the “Renters Economic Relief Package,” which would have prevented the eviction of households with children in cases of owner move-ins, a right already enjoyed by elderly and disabled renters. But later that summer Mayor Gavin Newsom vetoed the entire package. Fortunately in the spring of 2010 the board passed, and the mayor signed in to law, Ordinance No. 33-10, which prohibits owner move-in

evictions of families with minors during the school year. So, with some exceptions that are specified in the ordinance, the answer to your question is yes, it is true. Proposition F, which was on the ballot this past June, would have put in place another part of the original Renters Economic Relief Package—namely, the temporary postponement of rent increases for tenants who are unemployed, have had wages cut by 20 percent or more, or depend solely on government benefits for income and did not see a recent cost of living increase. That proposition failed with 58 percent of voters voting against.

Security Deposit Limits Q: Is there a law that limits the size of a security deposit? Can a landlord just ask for any amount? The state of California has clear regulations regarding security deposit amounts: • If you’re moving into an unfurnished unit, the security cannot be more than the amount of two months’ rent -- except if you have a waterbed (why would you ever have a waterbed?). If you’re moving in with a waterbed, the security deposit can be as high as two-and-a-half times the monthly rent. • If you’re moving into a furnished rental unit, the deposit limit is three times your monthly rent. Except, again, if you simply must have your waterbed. Then its three-and-a-half times your rent. A couple of things to remember: The landlord can charge you around $40 for a non-refundable application screening fee, which has nothing to do with your deposit. The landlord can also ask for first month’s rent. However, new tenant processing fees — those incurred by providing application forms, listing the unit for rent, interviewing and screening you — are normally part of the security deposit and should be ultimately refundable unless the landlord uses them for lawful purposes, such as repairs. One last note: There’s absolutely no such thing as a “nonrefundable” security deposit in California.

Last Month’s Rent, Deposit Swap? Q: I don’t want to go into any incriminating details but we’re pretty sure that we’re not getting our deposit back. What’s the legality of not paying last month’s rent? Security deposits and rent payments are like oil and water: they just don’t mix. You are required by law to pay the rent you’ve agreed to unless you move out and quit the lease. Without a move-out notice, the landlord has a legitimate

right to expect your rent and withhold your security deposit until 21 days after move out. If you decide not to pay your rent, the landlord has the right to post a three-day ‘Pay or Quit the Premises’ notice on your door. And if you decide not to act on that, you’re entering a legal no-man’s land. The landlord could take you to court in order to evict you for nonpayment. This type of suit, while lawful, is uncommon in this type of case: A landlord is typically hesitant to start a process that takes at least a few weeks to come to trial if he or she knows you plan to leave the unit regardless. Just don’t expect a recommendation letter for your next landlord. That said, there is another way — a more civil process in which oil and water might, with a little understanding, come together: a rent/ deposit swap. In most circumstances ‘rent withholding’ is not legal. But it does happen. Write your landlord a polite, detailed letter describing your position and propose the trade. Maybe she will accept; maybe she won’t.

Undeclared Subletters Q: I’m taking off for a couple of months and want to find a subletter. Do I have to tell my landlord about this? Leasers are allowed to sublease their rooms if there’s no clause in their contract stating otherwise. Many leases have some sort of provision concerning subleasers, so be sure to check the paperwork first. If your rental agreement doesn’t contain a provision that prohibits subleasing, you might want to run the idea by your landlord anyway to avoid any inconvenient discoveries while you’re away. If you decide to sublease regardless of the fact that your lease prohibits it, both you and your subleaser run the risk of getting the boot. What’s important to remember is that when you do find that odd vagrant to sublet your room for a couple of months, he or she is responsible for paying money to you, not the landlord. You, in turn, should be paying the landlord. In fact, it should be as if you’ve never left. This means that all the odd provisions of your original lease (including those regarding pets) still apply. So if your tenant breaks those, it’s you the landlord will come after. To be safe, get all your agreements (including those between you and the landlord and you and the subleaser) in writing.

Contact writer Michael Zelenko at: mzelenko@sfpublicpress.org


A6 SF Public Press

Fall 2010 // sfpublicpress.org

LABOR EMPLOYMENT

Farm Workers in Barracks Are Hidden Unemployed

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n a ranch north of the Bay Area, several dozen men live in a labor camp. When there's work, they prune trees and vines or pick apples and grapes. This year, however, the ranch has had much less work, as the economic recession hits California fields. State unemployment is over 12 percent, but unemployment in rural counties is always twice what it is in urban ones. Despite these statistics, however, unemployStory and Photo: ment among David Bacon farm workers // New America Media is largely hidden. In the case of these workers, it's hidden within the walls of the camp, far from the view of those who count the state’s jobless. Because they work from day to day, or week to week, there are simply periods when there's no work at all and they stay in the barracks. In the past, the ranch's workers were mostly undocumented immigrants. In the last several years, however, the owner has begun bringing workers from Mexico under the H2-A guest worker program. While there are differences in the experiences of people without papers and guest workers, some basic aspects of life are the same. For the last several weeks, all the workers in the camp have been jobless, and neither undocumented workers nor guest workers can legally collect unemployment benefits. Everyone's living on what they've saved.

And since the official total of the state's unemployed is based on counting those receiving benefits, none of the men here figure into California's official unemployment rate. The camp residents share other similarities. Poverty in Mexico forced them all to leave to support their families. Living in the camp, they do the same jobs out in the fields. All of them miss their families and homes. And those homes, as they see them, are in Mexico. Here, in the U.S., they don't feel part of the community that surrounds them. Permanent resident visas, or "green cards," would allow them to bring their families and perhaps eventually to become integrated into the community. But for people coming from Mexico to look for work in California fields, green cards are not available. Their only alternative is what they call "walking through the mountains" — that is, crossing without papers — or signing up as a guest worker. In addition, as one man points out, because farmers are in the U.S. during planting season, the fields they'd normally cultivate at home go unplanted. Some of their options as unemployed workers are different, however, because of their different immigration status. Ironically, in one way, guest workers have a disadvantage they don't share with the undocumented. Guest workers have visas, but they can only work for the rancher or contractor who brought

them to the United States. If they're out of work and leave the ranch to look for a job with another employer, they violate the terms of their visa and can be deported. Undocumented workers, however, can and do look for jobs outside the ranch when work there gets slow. The dangers of deportation and working without a visa hang over their heads every day they're in the United States. Here’s the personal story of one immigrant, Jose Cuevas:

I'm 38, and I’m from León, Guanajuato, where there are a lot of factories making shoes. I spent 10 years working in those factories as a cutter. If you work a 10-hour day, you can make 1,100 pesos (about $100) a week. That's not enough to support a family, even there. And I have three kids, who are still living there with my wife. I came to the U.S. because of the economic pressure of trying to provide for them. I wanted them to get an education and just eat well, just so they'd be healthy. We all felt terrible when I decided to come here nine years ago. The kids were little — they didn't really understand. But when they got older, they'd ask me why I had to be gone so long. I came without any papers, just crossing the border in the mountains. When I think about my friends with papers, I wish I'd had the chance.

Jose Cruz, an immigrant farm worker from Mexico, lives on a labor camp on the Martinelli ranch in Graton, California. He works as an H2-A guest worker six months at a time. There always used to be times when you could go back to Mexico. But it's too difficult now. It costs about $5,000 now to cross the border coming back. And the border has become very dangerous. If you leave, you're not sure you'll be able to get back, even walking through the mountains. So I've been trapped here for five years. But I tried to take advantage of it, and not think too much about going back. I work here in the grapes and apples. I knew about the work here from my wife's brothers. Years

ago, a lot of people came here from Leon. Now I'm the only one. Lots of other folks left, and I was the only one who stayed. This year it's been harder. I've hardly worked on the ranch this year — just a couple of months. I looked for other work, but there wasn't a lot. In January and February, I went to the day labor center near here, and got work pruning apple trees. I'm very grateful. Even when there wasn't work on the ranch here, we could work other places and

still live in the camp. They never charged us rent. When they have work, they expect you to work for them. You're living in their housing. Some of the jobs are paid by piece-rate. When they pay by the hour, it's about $9.85 per hour. Sometimes, if we're working, we eat meat every day. But when you're not working, you eat tortillas and salt. That's the normal thing. Before coming here, when I was living in Mexico, we didn't eat meat very often. When you're here, you're always thinking about Mexico. This is going to be my last year. I've decided to stay in Mexico, and to try not to think about coming here anymore. I've put some money into a house and a little land. I'll go back to work in those shoe factories. I still know how to do all the work there. We'll suffer economically, but I hope we'll be OK. Who knows? Here everything is just work. It's all very serious. Mexico feels more free. Living here, it's not your country. My oldest son is studying psychology, and will go to the university in Leon. He has a good future because he studies, and I support him. I hope for a good future for my other kids too, and I'm hoping that they'll have a future in Mexico. I don't want them to leave. With more education, I hope they won't have to. Conract writer David Bacon at: writers@sfpublicpress.org

ENFORCEMENT

State Targets Dozens of Small Restaurants Without Workers’ Compensation Insurance

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n a single September day, California's workplace regulators found labor violations at nearly half of the restaurants they inspected – almost all of them for failing to provide workers' compensation insurance. The Division of Story: Labor Standards Deia De Brito Enforcement vis// California Watch ited 162 restaurants around the state on Sept. 16. At the end of the day, 79 restaurants were cited — and 74 of those had no workers' compensation insurance as required by law. The citations came with $448,950 in fines for a total of 88 citations. The restaurants also were given stop-work orders requiring them to shut down until their workers are insured. "It’s clearly defined in the labor code that establishments need to have workers’ compensation,” said Krisann

Chasarik, a spokesperson for the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. According to annual reports from the state Department of Industrial Relations, workers’ compensation violations have consistently made up the largest category of violations. During the recent sweep, more than 30 enforcement officers also issued a handful of citations to employers that paid their workers less than the minimum wage, failed to pay overtime, and, in one case, hired an underage worker without a proper permit. More than $1 million in wages is due to workers, Chasarik said. The sweep is not the first one this year — and probably won't be the last. In January, February and May, department investigators inspected restaurants throughout the state. But the most recent sweep was a larger operation resulting in more citations. "There are employers who are deliber-

ately disobeying the law in several areas, and there are employers who are falling behind, trying to make ends meet in a bad economy and a competitive industry," said Susan Gard, chief of legislation and policy for the Division of Workers' Compensation. The cost of workers' compensation in California is the fifth most expensive in the United States, Gard said. Private companies that sell workers' compensation policies can decline to do business with certain employers. A large number of the restaurants cited in the Sept. 16 sweep had Spanish or Chinese names. The majority are small businesses, not chains. Coincidentally, a study released by the Chinese Progressive Association a day after the sweep reported that half of restaurant workers in Chinatown earn less than minimum wage, and more than half work overtime without pay, among other issues.

A large number of the restaurants cited in San Francisco are located in Chinatown. "You have people from all over the world who may not be familiar with the way laws work here," Gard said. "You might have an employer who may be operating on the margins of profitability. English may not be their first language. They don’t have the resources that Applebee’s has, or a human resources department explaining how to comply with the laws." Workers’ compensation, the nation’s oldest social insurance program, is based on a trade-off between employers and workers, according to the state’s website. Workers are entitled to receive medical treatment for on-the-job injuries and illnesses no matter who is at fault. In return, workers are prevented from suing their employers for their injuries. If a worker is injured on the job and is not covered by workers’ compensation,

Gard said, they can take three courses of action: sue the employer in civil court for damages and benefits; make an arrangement with the employer to pay benefits out of pocket; or file a claim with the Division of Workers' Compensation. The division also conducts sweeps of six other industries of what it calls the “underground economy.” Those industries include garment manufacturing, car wash, auto body repair, agriculture, construction and pallet manufacturing. "The underground economy tears at the fabric of small businesses in California by creating unfair competition and putting these businesses at an economic disadvantage," said John C. Duncan, director of the Department of Industrial Relations. In 2008, the state passed a bill that identifies “potentially unlawfully uninsured employers apart from its normal complaint-driven investigations,” leading to an increase in citations and fines.

Despite an increase in restaurants inspected, the number of citations has dropped slightly over the past two years. In 2008, investigators inspected 1,299 restaurants and issued 1,113 citations. In 2009, it inspected 1,382 restaurants, and issued 953 citations. Chasarik said the number of violations this year is similar to last year's. Chasarik said in cases of repeated violations, the department can take employers to court or refer them to the local district attorney’s office. Last year, the state referred 228 employers to district attorney’s offices. This year, 28 cases have been referred. “It’s too early to tell now if the cases in this sweep will go to the DA’s office,” Chasarik said.

the costume was brown velvet fur.” Keane came to the United States from Ireland to work as an environmental scientist. “Back then, Ireland wasn’t quite ready for … the environment yet,” she says, delicately. And so she drilled soil, tested groundwater and moved her way up into writing reports. Lots of reports. She left it all behind to make a business out of the caramel and chocolate shortbread recipe that she’d been making since she was a kid because, as she puts it, “I always wanted to be my own boss.” Before the electric kettle showed up and septupled her output, Keane handstirred her own caramel for two years. La Cocina was there when, a few months after she started, she was written up in a local food blog and was suddenly faced with an order for 3,000 squares and no idea how to make them all quickly enough. She has a few employees now — some are pastry students from City College, one is a fellow La Cocina member who makes flavored peanuts. Maria del Carmen Flores was one of the original applicants accepted into the program. She’s the embodiment of a certain kind of Mission immigrant entrepreneur: When she wasn’t cleaning houses, watching people’s children, watching people’s elderly relatives, cooking in an Italian restaurant, making traditional handcrafted Oaxacan dolls or selling Mary Kay products, she was selling plantain chips, yucca chips, pupusas and whatever else she could make in her kitchen. “People tell me they can’t find a job,” she says. “But there is a job. You can sell anything.” Startup costs for her then-underground food business (which she named Estrellita’s Snacks, after her daughter) consisted of $20, which she spent on 10 pounds of plantains. She sold at the

BART stops, all over the Mission, and in local casinos. (“There you have to be careful,” she says. “Just walk up to people and show them what’s in your bag.”) The best spot to sell plantain chips, she says, was in front of the Bank of El Salvador. “If I saw the police, I would just tell them that I was just taking these gift bags of plantain chips to a party.” And when the bank’s manager came out to ask if she knew that what she was doing was illegal, she would say, “It’s not illegal to eat.” Flores will officially leave the incubator program in December, something which she does not appear to be especially thrilled about. She sells her chips in about 50 grocery stores around the area, but doesn’t feel quite ready to go. “They ask us what they can do to help us. And I say, ‘You can help me. I still need help.’” “There is a time when we begin to start pushing graduation a little heavier,” says Flynn, adding that Flores is welcome to stay on at La Cocina as long she starts paying commercial rates. It could be argued that training people to work in the food industry — a business with notoriously long hours and small profit margins — is not the best way to help them earn a living. But before Flores sold food full time, she took care of other people’s children. She hated it. “I had seven children already. I’m traumatized.” A life of uncertain plantain-based income is the best life she’s known. “I’m an artist,” she says, emphatically. “But with food.”

Contact California Watch writer Deia De Brito at: ddebrito@californiawatch.org

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

La Cocina: Nonprofit Food Lab in the Mission Incubates Startups

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t’s morning at La Cocina. Fresh ramen is being sorted into fiveounce bundles. A man is peeling yucca with what looks like a bowie knife. Broth filled with floating pork and chicken bones is bubbling away in an enormous stew pot. Caramel is heating in an electric cauldron that looks like the love child of R2D2 and Sputnik. La Cocina is a novel experiStory and Photo: ment. Recently Heather Smith the nonprofit // Mission Local has been caught up in the Dolores Park backand-forth over food carts — the permits awarded to it and Blue Bottle Coffee have been put on hold until the Recreation and Park Department figures out if there was enough outreach — but its main business is mentoring in the nuts and bolts of running a food business: inventory, food prices, building relationships with clients, scaling up to meet demand. There are field trips to places like Straus Dairy and Frog Hollow Farm. There are happy hours. And, most alluringly, there is deeply discounted commercial kitchen space — often the largest financial hurdle when a business goes legit. About 10 of La Cocina’s tenants pay market rate, providing a source of funding for the nonprofit. La Cocina is situated in the Mission because even five years ago the neighborhood was the hub of an informal food economy — one helmed by women who sold food in front of churches, at BART stops and late at night at hipster bars. Since then, it has become something else. La Cocina is its own brand. A few tenants have “graduated” from the program and moved to larger commercial spaces: Kika’s Treats, Peas of

Mind, Shi Gourmet. But space is limited — it’s a small kitchen, in a small building, and storage space is so small that many tenants rent additional food storage off-site. Last quarter, the incubator program had only two open spaces for applicants. The application period for the next quarter is coming up, and the number of available spaces will depend on how many manage to graduate from the program this fall. About 50 people showed up for the last orientation meeting. The application process is intensive. There’s the business plan — most of the newly admitted have already developed one through the Women’s Initiative or Renaissance Center programs. There’s making sure that the applicant’s product doesn’t directly compete with a product made by another student or former student. Two people selling pupusas = verboten. One person selling pupusas and one selling huaraches = permissible. And then, finally, there’s the food audition. If the food’s bad, says Julie Flynn, who does retail and public relations work for the nonprofit. “We’ll tell them to maybe go work on their recipe.” In early September La Cocina is having a slow day: The double-header of the SF Street Food Festival and the Eat Real Festival has just finished. Both events stretched the capacities of the kitchen to the utmost. “It really just comes down to scheduling,” says Flynn. “If you schedule to use the oven from 12 to 3 because you are baking muffins, are you really baking muffins for three hours? No. You’re making the batter, you’re putting the muffins into the muffin tins. So we just have to be very creative.” The events were hard on the tenants, too. “We worked a few 16-hour days, didn’t we?” says Richie Nakano of Hapa

Richie Nakano of Hapa Ramen sorts noodles at La Cocina.

Ramen to Victor Alvarado. Alvarado doesn’t look up from the enormous pile of garlic he’s peeling. “Yeah,” he says after a minute. Nakano, one of the space’s marketrate tenants, quit a gig as the sous chef at Nopa to start a ramen cart. Things are a little tense — he just began subcontracting out the noodle production and a few days ago had to send back 200 pounds of them because they were cut the wrong way. They still aren’t perfect. “The food business is risky. But it’s worth the risk. And the only risk, really, is that I left a well-paying gig. With a newborn baby.” He immediately pulls out his iPhone and plays a video of a cheerful-looking infant. It is laughing gleefully, with the openheartedness that humans only have before they acquire knowledge of things like botched noodle orders.

“Susanna,” he says to the woman intently weighing out noodles nearby. “Don’t go.” Susanna Ok has been volunteering at La Cocina this summer. She’s one of the tribe of global foodies who increasingly pass through the Mission on their voyages of culinary self-discovery. She is, as she puts it, “looking for something in food somewhere in the world that fits me.” Nothing will dissuade her. She leaves for the East Coast in a few days, followed by (in uncertain order) Italy, Spain, Oman, Turkey and Panama. Claire Keane, of Clairesquares, is also weary from a previous week of allnighters. “I made 3,000 squares,” she says. “Then I stayed up all night making costumes out of painted cardboard. They were for two people who dressed as chocolate caramel squares. I stayed up way too late. The chocolate part of

Contact Mission Local writer Heather Smith at: writers@sfpublicpress.org


A7 sfpublicpress.org // Fall 2010

SF Public Press

BEYOND THE BAY RECOVERY

Gulf Residents Doubt Government Committed To Working With Communities to Fix Spill Damage

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NEW OrLEANs

s the federal government promotes initiatives to ensure long-term recovery for the oil-spill-beleaguered Gulf Coast region, officials are attempting to court marginalized community groups whose members say their suggestions have been disregarded or they have been left out of discussions entirely. But the reaction has been skeptical, with residents saying they have been deceived by low-ball official assessments of environmental and health threats. Story and Photos: Residents say they are Kevin stark increasingly anxious // Public Press about the economic and environmental viability of life along the shoreline. As many as one-quarter of the region’s residents say they are thinking of moving away. Months after the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil-well platform blow-out — which spewed nearly 5 million barrels of toxic sludge into the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 workers — the government is vowing long-term commitment to recovery from the nation’s largest-ever oil spill. The Obama administration has launched a $20 million, multiyear health impact study and awarded $31 million in grants for coastal restoration and economic development. The effort crescendoed in late September as Ray Mabus, the Obama administration’s point man for the recovery effort, released his roadmap for rebuilding the region. The plan recommended BP pay civil penalties into a fund for the region and that the federal government dedicate money to strengthen the economy and restore the environment. “The plan is the result of listening to the people of the Gulf Coast. It balances the needs of the people, the environment and the economic livelihood of the region,” Mabus said. But community leaders, such as Diane Huhn, environmental outreach volunteer coordinator for Bayou Grace Community Services, believe that important community suggestions were left out of Mabus’ plan. “The big key is the citizen advisory committee,” Huhn said. She is worried the recovery funds, administered by politicians with ties to the oil and gas industries, will be too slow to save the ravaged coastline. “These folks representing the community and the tribes feel they are not being given a seat at the table,” said Denise Byrne, acting director of Friends of New Orleans, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the region’s interest. “These are the people that are living with the consequences.” Many local organizers, who have long advocated for coastal restoration projects to combat decades of erosion and environmental damage from oil drilling, see these funds as crucial to the cause. “We wanted to see true stakeholder engagement,” Huhn said, “I am concerned about the speed at which we move. We are losing land at 25 square miles per year, a football field of land every 30 to 35 minutes.” Some local residents like John Tesvich, chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force, don’t share Huhn’s sense of urgency. “I don’t see any

problems yet. It is still early in the process. There were probably some mis-steps early, but that can be expected as there was no dress rehearsal for that.” When asked if he trusted the Obama administration’s long term commitment, Tesvich said: “We have to. That is what they are saying.”

DEcADE’s sEcOND EXODus “People are worried about the changes to their way of life,” said David Abramson, director of research at Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness. One-quarter of Gulf Coast residents say they believe they will have to move, according to a study Abramson’s center published over the summer. The figure is striking, given that most Gulf Coast residents tend to have genealogies tracing back generations. “In New Orleans, for example, 85 percent of people that live in the city were born there,” Abramson said. Lance Nacio is a leader of the White Boot Brigade, a seven-year-old, nonprofit organization composed mainly of shrimpers. He did not fish all summer. Instead, he worked for BP, the oil-industry titan that operated the Deepwater Horizon platform, alongside 23 other shrimp boats in the Vessels of Opportunity program, an initiative meant to put coast residents to work cleaning up the spill, laying booms and gathering 10 million gallons of oil from Gulf waters before burning the collected muck. (Nacio said the boom and burn programs were “the most effective part of the cleanup effort.”) Now, as BP is talking with Nacio about ending his service, he is worried about the future of his business. “The fisherman, all they know how to do is fish,” he said. “Our culture, heritage and livelihood are at stake.” Already, 8 percent of coast residents have reported losing their jobs, according to the Columbia study. The number is expected to increase as BP scales back cleanup crews. Another study by Louisiana State University found that underestimates by federal officials and by BP of the spill’s impact have eroded public trust in both (BP’s initial leakage estimates had to be raised to 60,000 barrels a day from 1,000). Residents say the distrust is a result of draconian measures BP took to prevent negative press. Reporters were barred from oiled coastlands, marshes or waters without an escort. And even with an escort, journalists were restricted to specific areas. Photography was banned on public beaches and cleanup workers were made to sign pledges to avoid speaking to anyone about the spill. Over the summer, both BP officials and federal organizations coordinating the response said that instances of limiting news media access were few and far between. BP reportedly began issuing 40,000 cards to its cleanup workers saying they should cooperate with news media. But denial of access to many oil-affected areas continued, and residents complained of

psychological damage resulting from BP’s restrictions. “The media blackout is real within the community,” said Patty Whitney, a community organizer with the Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing, which represents 30,000 families in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Residents heard reports of workers ending up in the hospital with severe symptoms such as bleeding ears, and they did not know what to believe, Whitney said. “There is a feeling that if you have to hide it, then it must be bad.” In August, while preparing his report, Mabus toured the Gulf region to assure the public of the government’s commitment to helping the area rebound. Mabus’ visit came amid a flurry of sunny news reports that only 26 percent of the leaked oil remained in Gulf waters. But the handful of community discussions he held were reminiscent of heated “ObamaCare” town hall debates that saw Democratic Congress members shouted down. During a town hall meeting in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, a fishing area heavily affected by the spill, residents tore into Mabus and representatives from BP, the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and anyone else involved in the oil spill response. “I know everybody is concerned about today,” Mabus told the crowd, “ but we also have to worry about the long term.” That didn’t sit well with Mac Mackenzie, an organizer with the watchdog group Defenders of the Coast. “I appreciate that you want to take care of us in the long term,” he said. “But people don’t feel taken care of today.” When asked privately how the federal government planned to handle the anger and frustration of coastal communities suspicious of claims that the cleanup complete while pushing for long-term recovery, Mabus said, “I think it is important that there is no gap between the short-term response and long-term recovery.”

BOTTOm-uP LEADErsHiP In September, the National Institutes of Health launched a multiyear, $20 million study on the health impacts of the oil spill “Community involvement and participation is critical to the success of this study,” said Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Three weeks earlier, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke traveled to the coast to announce at an economic roundtable in Metairie, Louisiana, that the government was awarding $30 million in restoration funding to the state. But the money is not enough for community groups that seek to be involved in the process. In mid-September, Friends of New Orleans, a nonprofit organization advocating for the region’s interests, gathered a group of writers, business owners, environmental organizations, fishermen and others to testify before Congress that more engagement was needed. “It is a matter of what is considered engagement,” said LaTosha Brown, executive director of the Gulf Coast Fund. She said that thus far, the relationship between the federal government and community organizations in the region has been similar to that of a boss dictating to an employee. “There has been more engagement with high-level officials,” Brown said, “But the actual framing and leadership needs to be driven from the bottom up.” The Gulf Coast Fund, created after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, locates resources and funding for 175 community groups serving hurricane refugees spread out from Texas to Florida. Many of those residents would return to the Gulf Coast if the environment were returned to its previous state. “We don’t want charity,” Byrne said, “We want the government to preserve this incredible natural resource.”

Intel opened a large plant in Vietnam in October, highlighting the country's emergence as an alternative to China for companies establishing an Asian base. OPPORTUNITY

Americans Flock to Do Business In Vietnam — the Next Asian Tiger?

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HO cHi miNH ciTY, viETNAm

im Okuley has seen Vietnam in war and peace, and he says times have never been better than now. Okuley, one of thousands of American businesspersons searching for opportunity in the new Vietnam, views this nation through the prism of the Vietnam War – and the recent renaissance of free enterprise in a socialist society. He mingles memories old and new Story: from an elaborate Donald Kirk // Christian Science Monitor exercise center Photo: that he and his son Tran Vietnamese wife opened in a district where guerrillas once fired rockets into the downtown of old Saigon. Foreign business owners are increasingly coming to Vietnam, setting up offices and factories, playing on the golf courses, hitting the beaches and dining at great but inexpensive restaurants. During the first nine months of this year, the number of foreign visitors to Vietnam increased 34.2 percent over the same period in 2009, according to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam. Foreign investment is following. In an industrial zone north of Ho Chi Mihn City, Intel is investing $1 billion in a plant that includes a testing facility and an assembly line spewing out semiconductors.

WArTimE “My involvement with Vietnam goes back to when I got drafted and joined the Air Force to avoid going to Vietnam,” says Okuley, relaxing in a small restaurant in one corner of his establishment. “The first place they sent me was Vietnam.” A crew chief on a C130 transport plane, Okuley was 19 when he got to Vietnam, but he had one advantage over most other lonely and apprehensive GIs. Okuley’s older brother, Bert, was running the Saigon bureau of United Press International. In between flights in and out of Tansonnhut Air Base on the northern edge of the city, Jim would drop by to see Bert. The Melody Bar next door to the newspaper was a favorite hangout as military vehicles vied with motorbikes and small, Frenchbuilt taxicabs on nearby Tu Do, the fabled avenue of bars, shops, and restaurants running to the Saigon River. The war was still raging when Okuley left in 1971. His brother stayed on for another few years to cover the fall of the US-backed regime before moving to Hong Kong, where he later died. Jim pursued college in Michigan, his native state, and a law degree in California before returning in 2002 to a city and a country fast outgrowing its tragic past.

KiDs THEsE DAYs

Ray Mabus talked to community members at a town hall meeting in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

NEWS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED Published by Newsdesk.org since February 2002, News You Might Have Missed brings you breakthrough coverage of important but overlooked issues and underserved communities. Get the whole story at newsdesk.org.

 Alberta-to-Houston Oil-sands Pipeline Proposal sparks furor U.S. politicians face a gusher of lobbying over a pipeline that would deliver crude oil from the tarry oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to Houston, Texas — tapping into an economic wellspring with a deep environmental cost. Canada is the largest exporter of crude oil to

the United States, and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach says the pipeline would create more than 340,000 jobs. Environmentalists say the project will pollute water, destroy habitat, and kill birds and caribou. Political tides seem to favor the industry. In October, a federal judge in Minnesota dismissed a lawsuit opposing pipelines in the upper Midwest, and several key U.S. policymakers favor the project, or at least aren’t fighting it. They include Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Nebraska’s U.S. senators, Democrat Ben Nelson and Republican Mike Johanns, say the pipeline’s proposed route through their state could devastate the landscape and water tables.

Contact writer Kevin Stark at: kstark@sfpublicpress.org

Driving in a jeep left over from the war, Okuley cruises down newly paved streets flooded with vehicles filled with young people to whom the

war is as remote as it is to most Americans. These days, the cars are edging out the motorcycles on widening avenues and new bridges across the Saigon River – and, in the delta to the south, across the branches of the Mekong as well. “About 65 percent of the population is under 30,” says Okuley, echoing government statistics. “The only connection they have with the war is through one of their relatives. These kids, the majority of them, have no interest. Their interest is making money and helping their families.” Okuley prefers to take advantage of all the country has to offer without dwelling much on its tragic past. “People in the South were living off sweet potatoes and rice,” he says, harking back to when he was here as an airman more than 40 years ago. “When the government puts up a sign that says, ‘35 years of peace and prosperity’ since 1975, people say, ‘Why rock the boat?’ This generation essentially is a pretty happy bunch.” Okuley has a special reason to be happy. While in the United States, he met his wife, Nicole, whose family had fled the North Vietnamese port city of Haiphong after the communist victory over the French in 1954. Nicole, born in South Vietnam in 1963, and her family, including six sisters, fled again, this time in 1968 after the offensive in early February during the Tet holiday. They ended up in Paris but moved 12 years later to Alexandria, Va. Nicole had a lot to do with setting up the exercise center, called Nutri-Fort, which opened in shining new facilities in December 2008 and is now a magnet for foreigners as well as well-to-do Vietnamese.

GrOWiNG NumBEr Of visiTOrs In 2000, Vietnam issued 150,000 visas for people in the United States to visit, according to Mark Sidel, a law professor at the University of Iowa. In 2007, the English-language newspaper Viet Nam News cited the official number of expats in Ho Chih Minh City alone at 50,000, and projected that 100,000 expatriates would be living in the southern metropolis by 2008. For Okuley, the numbers add up to more clients for his center while certain nuisances diminish. “There was a time, they were asking for a handout,” he says. “If you’re doing everything correctly, there’s no need to participate in bribery.” Tom Harack, a travel-guide writer, stopping by to chat, is amazed by the profusion of golf courses – and construction of luxury hotels. “It’s weird to think there would be two golf courses in Danang,” he says after visiting the central coast city where U.S. Marines once had their headquarters. “The biggest business in Vietnam is tourism,” says Okuley. “High-end residential stuff is exploding.” He likes to ask visitors their favorite country. “It’s crazy,” he says. “Without exception people include Vietnam as one of their favorite places.”

Contact writer Donald Kirk at: writers@sfpublicpress.org

 Pakistan's Birth-control Hot Line Draws fire

 AiDs Toll up for African Women, Treatment funding Down

 Pushing Back Against Workplace Bullies

The June launch of a Pakistani birth-control hotline has garnered praise, skepticism and condemnation from medical and religious leaders there. The hot line, Sahailee (“female friend” in Urdu), advises women on the drug misoprostol used to induce labor, treat postpartum bleeding and prevent ulcers. Gulalai Ismail wrote in Change.org that she started Sahailee in hope of decreasing pregnancy-related deaths in Pakistan, where abortions are illegal unless the mother’s life is in danger.

Sub-Saharan nations lead the decline in new HIV infections but in Africa, woman are disproportionately affected by the disease, and the global effort to fight it faces a fund shortage, the United Nations reports. Nations are paring contributions to stem HIV infections while an additional $10 billion is needed for universal access to effective drugs, prevention and early diagnosis, reports The Guardian in the U.K. More than 5.2 million people are receiving HIV treatment but 10 million are not, The Guardian says.

An estimated 53.5 million Americans report being bullied at work, according to a survey of 6,000 adults by the Workplace Bullying Institute. Participants were asked about mistreatment, sabotage, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation or humiliation at work, with 11 percent of those with a college degree and 7 percent of those without saying they are bullied. The institute’s director, Dr. David Namie, leads a campaign for a Healthy Workplace Bill. Drafted by Boston legal scholar David Yamada, the bill has been introduced in 17 states, but has yet to be passed.


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Fall 2010 // sfpublicpress.org

THE ARTS

Book Recalls Immigrants Who Passed Through Angel Island

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o commemorate the centennial of the Angel Island Immigration Station, authors Erika Lee and Judy Yung shed light on the thousands of immigrants who passed through the “Guardian of the Western Gate” in their recently released book "Angel Island: Gateway to America." While more than 70 percent Interview: of detainees were from China, Monica Jensen others came from Japan, // Public Press Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Mexico and more than 70 other countries, a finding they discovered while examining hundreds of documents that were made public in the National Archives’ collection in San Bruno in the 1990s. Lee is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota and Yung is professor emerita at UC Santa Cruz.

Filming “The Running Fence Revisited” on Lonely Tree Hill in Sonoma County, where the Fence once ran. REFLECTION

40 Years After Sonoma ‘Running Fence,’ Christo Still Making Art — and Waves New documentary examines public battles over revolutionary installation

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ureaucracy has once again issued a daunting challenge to the art of Christo, this time “Over the River,” his proposed temporary installation of shimmering fabric across the Arkansas River in Colorado. The battle, waged this summer, mirrors one that arose just across the Golden Gate Bridge in the early 1970s, when Christo and his French wife/collaborator, Jeanne-Claude, fought government and naysayers to create “Running Fence.” For two weeks in Story and Photo: 1976, the 18-foot-high, Erin Van Rheenen 25-mile-long nylon cur// Public Press tain ran over the Sonoma hills and plunged into the Marin surf. The Smithsonian called it “the single most important work of art in the latter half of the 20th century.” “Running Fence” required the first environmental impact statement for a work of art. But the 450-page document from the 1970s looks like a pamphlet next to the paperwork already generated for “Over the River.” It’s a battle royale. In one corner stands the renowned Bulgarian-born artist, itching to suspend panels of luminous fabric over a Rocky Mountain river gorge for two summer weeks, three years from now at the earliest. In the other corner, the federal Bureau of Land Management wields a 1,400-page draft environmental impact statement listing all the problems with Christo’s plan. Released in July, it's a counterpunch to the 2,029-page proposal the artist submitted in May 2007. Christo's plan calls for 5.9 miles of "silvery, luminous fabric panels to be suspended high above" a 40-mile stretch of the river between Salida and Cañon City in south-central Colorado. Rafters will drift under the translucent panels, which from above will look like a silvery ribbon echoing the winding river. The panels “will be suspended at eight distinct areas of the river that were selected by the artists for their aesthetic merits and technical viability.” The environmental impact statement is all about that ‘technical viability.” The publication of the draft began a 60-day public comment period that lasted through mid-September. The Bureau of Land Managment plans to issue a final report in February and announce its decision in April next year.

DEFYING LONG ODDS At first glance, the environmental impact statement — with its detailed look at how the installation would negatively affect everything from highway traffic to bighorn sheep to bats — appears to trump an artwork that doesn’t yet exist. Its figures and conclusions are the opposition’s ammunition, as was the case a generation ago in Northern California. But Christo has bucked long odds his entire life. For half a century, he and Jeanne-Claude did the seemingly impossible to realize their epic outdoor installations. Their fierce dance of bringing-into-existence delivered to the world some of the most surprising and memorable large-scale artworks in modern history. They absorbed the delays and mistrust and opposition and kept offering explanations, adjustments

and assurances that the world would not end if they were allowed to “borrow space and create gentle disturbances for a couple of days,” as Christo put it. Last fall, Jeanne-Claude died suddenly, leaving Christo to complete and create art without the woman often seen as the voice of the duo. To ponder the future of “Over the River,” it’s useful to look to the past. The 2010 documentary “The Running Fence Revisited,” directed by German-born Wolfram Hissen, provides a reminder of the high-stakes, high-profile struggle that is an essential component in all of the artists' work. Part of a recently concluded exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (“Remembering the 'Running Fence'”) that will soon tour nationally, the 47-minute film can also be seen on its own. The film had its Northern California premier in June, and Hissen is working on a longer version due to screen at the Sonoma International Film Festival in April 2011. A preview is available on YouTube. It’s also worth watching the evocative 1978 film shot during the making of the project, “Running Fence,” by brothers David and Albert Maysles of “Gimme Shelter” fame.

'FENCE' RAN LIKE PALE WILDFIRE Hissen, who has documented the work of Jeanne-Claude and Christo for decades, filmed the artists’ 2009 return to the hills over which their fence ran like pale wildfire. “The ‘Fence’ is not the work of art," Christo said. Instead, it was how the fence interacted with the landscape that made the art, how the snaking curtain “underlined and energized the invisible topography.” In flickering, silent Super 8 clips folded into Hissen’s “The 'Running Fence' Revisited,” you can almost feel the wind as it catches the 2,050 panels of fabric (2,222,222 square feet) like sails on a landlocked ship, and hear the clanking of the 350,000 hooks and 90 miles of steel cable against the 2,050 steel poles holding the curtain aloft. "The fence came to life as it undulated with

Once you’ve seen the ‘Fence,’

you never look at the hills here in the same way. changing light and wind, as if it were breathing,” the Smithsonian writes. As interviews in “The Running Fence Revisited” make clear, it still looms large for people who saw the creation, or even just heard about it or saw it on film. “Once you've seen the 'Fence,'" says Jeannie Shulz, widow of "Peanuts" creator Charles Shulz, "you never look at the hills here in the same way." Hissen’s film also reminds us that apparent roadblocks are actually an integral part of Christo's artwork.

'OVER THE RIVER' CONTROVERSY In Hissen’s 2007 documentary “On the Way to ‘Over the River,’” we learn that the artists ex-

CHRISTO AND JEANNE-CLAUDE: SELECTED WORKS 1961 “Dockside Packages, Cologne Harbor” 1968 “Wrapped Kunsthalle, Bern, Switzerland 196768” 1969 “Wrapped Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69” “Wrapped Coast, Little Bay, Sydney, Australia, 1968-69” 1972 “Valley Curtain, Rifle, Colo., 1970-72” 1976 “Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties 1972-76”

pected that creation, proposed in 1993, would happen long before “The Gates,” conceived in 1979 for New York’s Central Park. What moved “The Gates” to the top of their list? Their friend Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor in 2001. Suddenly, much of the official resistance melted away. In February 2005, for two weeks, "The Gates" emerged in the wintry park — 7,503 saffron-colored banners. “Over the River” is generating no more or less controversy than the artists’ other projects. During the commenting period, debate was fierce. As is his habit, Christo sat in on town meetings. Some opponents stood up to say the project would increase traffic so much that ambulances wouldn’t be able to make it through. Others worried that the project would damage the environment and stress wildlife. Rafting guide Ben Goodin declared that "hanging rags over the river is the same as hanging pornography in a church." That imagery spawned Rags Over the Arkansas River (ROAR), which urges people to help “prevent this proposed destruction of the canyon.” There were no opposition web sites in the early 1970s when Jeanne-Claude and Christo were championing the “Running Fence,” but resistance was just as fierce. What were these foreigners up to? Why were they spending millions of dollars on something that had no use and would last for only two weeks? The word went out to the local ranchers, whose permission was needed for the artwork to wend through their property. Their response: Tell him we build our own goddamned fences.

'YOU ARE ALL PART OF MY ART' It wasn’t just the landscape that was part of the art: so were the people pulled into the vortex of this years-long project. At a contentious meeting in Marin, Christo took the microphone late in the evening. Gesturing to include all the sides of the debate, he said, “Like it or not, you are all part of my art.” The permitting process took 3½ years and included 18 public hearings, three sessions in the Superior Court of California and the mammoth environmental-impact report. And JeanneClaude was crucial to the outcome. "She had a way with those ranchers — and their wives," said journalist Gaye LeBaron, who covered the permitting process for the Santa

1978 “Wrapped WalkWays, Jacob Loose Park, Kansas City, 1977-78” 1983 “Surrounded Islands, Miami, Florida, 1980-83” 1985 “The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris 1975-85” 1991 “The Umbrellas, Japan-U.S.A., 1984-91” 1995 “Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin, 1971-95” 2005 “The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 19792005” In Progress: Over the River, Project for the Arkansas River, Colorado

Rosa Press Democrat. The ranchers and their families may have recognized something familiar in these foreign-born artists. Says LeBaron, "It was Yankee ingenuity run through a French lady and a Bulgarian man." But will the people of Colorado want to be part of Christo’s new artwork? How long will he have to fight? He is 75. Christo has supporters. Some point out that the artists’ 1972 project, "Valley Curtain," in Rifle Gap, Colo., employed a small army and put that remote area on the international art map. And some, like local gallery owner Jack Chivvis, point out that “whatever happens, he forced us to see that canyon in a whole different way. He's made us think about why we love the river and what makes it beautiful.”

'RUNNING FENCE' IS ABOUT PLEASURE With so much controversy and opposition, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the artists have always tried to make something beautiful. The work is really about pleasure, in various forms: • Surprise — what the Maysles brothers called the “Huh?” factor, as in, “How can they string a curtain of rejected airbag material for 25 miles?” • Sensuality — fabric, their favored material, is draped, wrapped, stretched, and then made to billow and soar. • Delight — combining the "Huh?"’with the "Wow!" when the work is finished. It’s how their work moves and delights people — not just critics, but the rank-and-file of every country — that makes the projects so successful. A friend endured a long ride with a “sweaty guy dressed in too much polyester” to see the 1978 “Wrapped Walkways” in Kansas City. “To stand there and see the walkways draped in yelloworange,” she said. “It was like ‘What’s this?’ and then an almost immediate, “Oh, YEAH.” The naysayers in Colorado should watch the “Running Fence Revisited” to see the awe that long-gone fence still inspires. It’s as if the “Fence” is as much of a force in it absence as it was in it presence, like a loved one gone away but held firmly in the heart. "Every time I go over the Cotati grade," says LeBaron, "I still see it." Contact writer Erin Van Rheenen at: writers@sfpublicpress.org

Question: How did researching for this book differ from other books about Angel Island? JUDY YUNG: I think with the current project, it was hard to find people still alive of any ethnic background who were on Angel Island to interview. But once we found them, I think the ones that I did (interview) … Russians, the Mennonites, the Filipinos, the Japanese picture brides … they weren’t so hesitant to talk about it. They just didn't think about that experience because it had been so much easier for them on Angel Island than the Chinese, so they were quite open to talking about it. ERIKA LEE: I think that with some of the other immigrant groups, that association with Angel Island is just becoming acknowledged. For some groups, it's a surprising thing and something that's been quite wonderful. And for others, and especially in today's anti-immigrant context, the words "detainee" and "immigration detention" all have a negative stain. Some parts of that immigration story are still being recognized as being shameful. Q: How did your personal connections to Angel Island lead to this book? LEE: You know, that personal question always brings us back to the story and it provides a lot of the drive that we have and the commitment to telling the story. But when I was going through these files, several hundreds of these files, I was mostly looking for Chinese, but then every now and then I (would) find another file from another immigrant group and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Q: What were some of the disparities between different ethnic groups? YUNG: The Chinese were singled out for detention, well they were singled out to be sent to Angel Island to begin with … 76 percent of … the arrivals who were Chinese would be ferried over to Angel Island automatically. They had a much more harsh physical examination as well as interrogation to verify their identities. And their answers were compared to witnesses. I think what’s interesting when comparing the Chinese versus other Asian immigrants, as well as European immigrants, Latin American immigrants, this pared out because basically they’re enforcing general immigration laws against all groups or specific laws, excluding Chinese, Japanese, Koreans or Asian Indians further down the road. LEE: The Chinese Exclusion Act was so broadbased, so extensive and put in place so many technologies of immigrant surveillance and interrogation and institutionalized suspicion that it really had a pervasive effect on all Chinese in America. Q: Were there any other differences? YUNG: Regardless of your ethnic or racial background, all women were given different treatment. There were certain kinds of gender bias in the law that they were trying to enforce … If you were poor and considered likely to become a public charge, it didn't matter that class base would single you out for exclusion and possible deportation. Q: What are some present-day parallels? LEE: One of the things that we hope that readers will think about when they're thinking about this history of immigration (is) that Angel Island was indeed an immigrant gateway to America. Those people, even those who had a difficult time, who were detained, many of them were able to enter the country. But it was also a place of detention, a place of deportation and when we think about the parallels today, we also want to have people think about how the United States still is a nation of immigrants, how there's still a need for new ideas, people with specific skills and backgrounds, as well as people with little skills to do a lot of the manual labor.

Contact Monica Jensen at: mjensen@sfpublicpress.org


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STREETSCAPE

MUNI

TRANSIT

TRANSIT AGENCY SAYS TECH WILL HELP IT TURN CORNER, BUT MONEY REMAINS TIGHT

Muni Planners Say Speed to Come From Untangling Messy Streetscape

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Finding the slow buses This map shows which San Francisco transit routes have the highest ridership and which adhere most closely to their schedules. Color indicates on-time performance; thickness of the lines indicates ridership. The 1-California and 30-Stockton, traversing San Francisco’s northern flank, are high-ridership lines (green), with 80 percent or better schedule adherence. The J-Church, K-Ingleside, T-Third, LTaraval, and N-Judah Muni Metro lines, and the 14-Mission and 38-Geary bus lines, also have high reliability, with 70 percent or better schedule adherence (yellow). In this view, the problem lines stick out: orange lines are on time 60 to 70 percent of the time. Red is on time less than 60 percent of the time. On-time performance data comes from Muni’s Fiscal Year 2010 On-Time Performance report. The thickness of each line is proportional to the ridership of the line according to somewhat older data — the Transit Effectiveness Project, measured from October 2006 through June 2007. The route shown for each line comes from Muni’s General Transit Feed Specification schedule data, effective Sept. 4, 2010. The outline of the city is from the Bay Area Outline file (Aug. 1, 2005) published on datasf. org. — Text and Graphic by Eric Fischer

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8BX This package of stories on Muni and San Francisco transportation issues was funded through micro-donations via Spot.Us.

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TRANSPORTATION

In Elusive Quest for 85% On-Time Performance, Computers Are Displacing Eyes on the Street

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ultimillion-dollar vehicle-monitoring technology installed at Muni headquarters is at the heart of a new initiative aimed at solving the transit system’s never-ending performance problems. By investing $13.6 million in the NextMuni satellite tracking system and a new 24-hour vehicle monitoring center, San Francisco tranStory: sit officials promise Jerold Chinn // Public Press major improvements Photos: in keeping the city’s Steve Rhodes more than 1,000 buses // Public Press and trains running on schedule. Already this year, Muni Metro trains in the Market Street tunnel are speeding up, they said. But Muni managers are still struggling with the question of how to get the most out of this new technology to increase performance at a time when budget pressures make it increasingly difficult to do that. Four years after the city rolled out its NextMuni satellite technology, officials have still not Muni riders protested the May service cuts outside City Hall — the deepest cuts in Muni's history. gotten close to meeting an 11-year-old voter mandate of 85 percent on-time performance. But possible reason, noted Greg Dewar, editor of Muni even tries to keep to a set schedule at all. Muni’s policy was set in 1999, when voter-apthat did not stop them from laying off nearly the blog N-Judah Chronicles, is that it’s easier 50 on-the-street human traffic checkers, street to make the buses run on time when there are proved Proposition E changed the City Charter to require the 85 percent on-time performance supervisors and line inspectors in the last two fewer of them. The top five worst buses in terms of on-time standard. Although there are no penalties on years. Some critics, including transportation ex- performance for the fiscal year ending in June Muni for missing the mark year after year, Muni perts, Muni rider advocacy groups and the were the 91-Owl (reaching its scheduled stop management has seen that one number as its transit union, say Muni’s street staff reductions only 38 percent of the time), 1AX-California ex- top goal for more than a decade. Now, the authors of that standard disagree could hurt its ability to solve transit-flow bottle- press (50 percent), 9BX-San Bruno express (55 percent) and the 39-Coit (57 percent). The best- about the value of focusing just on that number necks quickly. The pressure to perform is high. Cutbacks in performing bus was the 1-California (90 per- instead of a broader set of measures. One said the last six months sparked a rider revolt — a re- cent), which was also one of the most frequent that “on-time” is an outdated standard and in action to Muni’s 10 percent service cutback in lines, arriving every four minutes at peak hours. need of a major rethink. Is on-time performance really the best test of a Muni officials, who now can see slowdowns as May, which affected 28 bus and train lines. That revolt culminated in the successful ballot initia- they happen on every line at the agency's new transit system’s effectiveness? For those who still value the 85 percent goal, tive on Nov. 2 calling for changes to collective headquarters line-management center, are tarbargaining with the transit union that could geting these poor-performing lines and others there is much disagreement about how to get for possible streetscape restructuring and re- there. Transit planning professionals in the last lead to reduced driver salaries. decade have focused on the importance of fixing One measure of the disconnect between Mu- moval of bus stops as a possible solution. With changing rider habits, including the street infrastructure. ni’s internal benchmarks and the rider groups’ Last year, the San Francisco Municipal Transit perceptions is that after the service cuts, on- the widespread reliance on NextMuni outtime performance actually rose two percentage door displays and mobile apps instead of Agency, Muni’s parent bureaucracy, determined points, to 75 percent — an all-time high. One printed timetables, riders may wonder why that time could be saved if some bus stops were

an Francisco transit planners say a recipe of small fixes could amount to big changes in the nation’s fifth-largest urban transit system. But without new sources of money, many of these ideas, some of which would change the way the city’s streets are configured, will remain on the drawing board. The system is chronically slow and crowded in Story: Angela Hart part because its diverse // Public Press fleet of bus and rail lines Graphic: operates on a rollercoaster SF Municipal Transportation terrain in a fully built-out Agency urban grid. Street fairs and demonstrations, ball games and construction routinely clog major arteries, making schedules seem academic. The Municipal Transportation Agency launched its Transit Effectiveness Project in 2006, to reconfigure the city’s streets and tunnels — where physical constraints notoriously slow basic public transit to what one Muni planner called “a nightmare.” Muni says it needs at least $173 million over the next 10 years for planning, design and construction of new infrastructure. Officials say the overhaul should speed up service and improve reliability. But with a $16.9 million budget shortfall this year and budget deficits predicted for the next 20 years, it’s hard to see when even one proposal might be rolled out. “There’s a lot of things that can be done,” said San Francisco State University’s Jason Henderson, an associate professor of geography specializing in land use and transportation. “All of them by themselves seem mundane and small, but in the aggregate the cumulative result could be a first-class transit system.” Here is a list of ideas — some from the Municipal Transportation Agency and some from experts who study public transportation in San Francisco — that could speed Muni, improve ontime performance and promote the city’s “transit-first” policy to get more residents out of their cars.

consolidated. The 9-San Bruno, which has 126 stops, could save up to seven minutes per round trip if 20 stops were eliminated. The Service Restoration Task Force will be looking into consolidating stops and adding transit-only lanes on some of its problematic routes. Some of the changes could happen within a year, said John Haley, transit director for Muni. Such improvements are the focus of the Transit Effectiveness Program, which began experimenting with route changes last year. While these changes could speed the system as a whole, their success might not yet be captured in on-time performance statistics. “The moral of the story is that Muni should not be focused on just one number,” said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, an organization that promotes environmental approaches to urban growth and transit. Radulovich, who helped write 1999’s Proposition E, said he now believes the charter measure overemphasized on-time performance, allowing Muni officials and the office of Mayor Gavin Newsom to sweep other systemic problems under the rug. Another author of the Proposition E said he would not change the 85 percent standard and does not regret writing the goal into the charter. “It was clear then that unless we set a standard that could not be ignored or worked around, Muni would find a way to ignore it,” said Andrew Sullivan, chairman of Rescue Muni, a transit advocacy organization. Sullivan also said the standard is a reminder to customers that they are not getting the service that they deserve. He said the agency could meet the 85 percent goal by improving routine maintenance, adding more bus-only lanes, creating rapid-bus service and changing work rules. “This, rather than further excuses about why 85 percent is somehow unrealistic or inappropriate for the charter, is what SF riders deserve from their transit system,” he said.

“Signal prioritization” would give transit the first turn at traffic signals, allowing buses to pull out in front of congestion when cars are waiting at red lights. “Signal preemption” would literally give the green light for buses to speed through traffic signals. Implementing signal preemption would cost more than prioritization because traffic signals would have to be rewired. Another idea transit experts said could speed Muni is “queue jumping,” which would signal traffic to hold back a few seconds and allow buses to pull out first — similar to the metering lights on the Bay Bridge.

• Pay For Trips Ahead of Time and Accept Payment at All Doors Muni would run faster and be on time more often if a prepaid proof-of-payment system were implemented. All-door boarding along with prepayment would allow everyone to step on and off the bus at once. Passengers wouldn’t have to wait in line or scramble for change at the front door. “Everybody agrees — the single biggest bottleneck on Muni’s system is fare box collection,” said John Haley, director of transit for the Municipal Transportation Agency. Although the Clipper card is laying the groundwork for a proof-of-payment system across the Bay Area, it doesn’t speed Muni above ground because passengers are still required to enter through the front. Muni officials say it’s presently too expensive to implement all-door boarding because it would require more fare inspectors. Muni now checks fare payments of about 2 percent of riders each day. That would have to go up to 5 to 10 percent to be an effective deterrent to fare evaders. Also, Haley said, there aren’t yet enough Clipper vending machines. Muni wants to purchase ticket machines to speed up boarding. But again, there’s not enough money.

• Eliminate Stops Along Busy Streets Muni planners concede that reducing the number of stops is the most controversial idea. Consolidating bus stops along major corridors such as Mission Street, Geary Boulevard and the N-Judah light-rail line could shave as much as seven to 10 minutes off of average travel times. Over the next six to nine months, Muni is studying which routes might be good candidates for eliminating stops.

• Shorten Routes Along Crowded

Corridors

Some Muni routes cross the entire city — either story continued on page B6

story continued on page B7


B2 SF Public Press

STREETSCAPE Fall 2010 // sfpublicpress.org

CARTOGRAPHY

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n the night that San Francisco Giants fans took to the streets delirious over a World Series championship, a tamer crew of folk including cartographers and poets gathered to mark the release of “Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas.” The collection of fanciful maps of the city combines disparate but creatively juxtaposed items such as World War II shipyards and African-American political and musical landmarks, as drawn together in “Shipyards and Sounds: Story: the Black Bay Area Mineko Brand // Public Press Since World War II.” Other maps are called “Death and Beauty: All of 2008’s Ninety-Nine Murders, Some of 2009’s Monterey Cypresses”; and “Graveyard Shift: The Lost Industrial City of 1960 and the Remnant 6 A.M. Bars.” The book is part of a project started as a collaboration for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s 75th anniversary celebration. Author Rebecca Solnit worked with artists and mapmakers to issue six broadside copies of maps, with each release linked to live art events. The broadsides grew into this expanded compendium. Solnit has established herself as a prolific nonfiction author whose books are unique explorations of events, objects, spaces and experiences. Some of her previous work includes “A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster” and “Hollow City: Gentrification and the Crisis of American Urbanism.” In a similar vein to Chris Carlsson’s “Shaping SF” local history project, “Infinite City” presents the city from the sidewalks and bedrooms on up, depicting the lives of city residents whose points of view don’t usually make it into history books. Carlsson was one of 35 contributors to the book. “It was a remarkably flexible process but of course, it drove some people nuts,” said Ben Pease, who created most of the maps with his wife, Shizue Seigel. “I had a really good time working on the project. I’ve never worked with so many people in my life.” Solnit paid homage to everyone involved in the “colossal, sprawling, messy project,” saying they represented the diversity of the Bay Area. “Writing is so solitary, and this was like being Busby Berkeley,” Solnit said. Heather Smith, a writer for the neighborhood news website Mission Local, was asked to contribute an essay about San Franciscans over 100 years old. She relished the challenge of tracking down elderly people who, to a certain degree, live off the technological grid. So many had different perceptions of the same things. San Francisco, Smith said, is a place most individuals feel they own. “It’s a very territorial place, and I like the idea of creating an object that is all of these different people kind of marking their turf and how they see things,” she said. Patrick Marks, owner of the Green Arcade bookstore on Market Street at Gough Street, has copies of every broadside map issued by SFMOMA and hosted the “Infinite City” book release. He said this project draws from the writers’ varied views, artistic abilities and walks of life. He echoed Solnit’s sentiments that “Infinite City” was a Valentine to the city. “There are moments in the map that are beautiful and sublime,” Marks said, “and there are moments that are cartography as provocation.”

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Butchertown, hertown, 1870– 0–1969

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DEVELOPMENT

Treasure Island Building Plans Draw Fire

Coastal tribes, 4000 b.c.–1776

Foes say development would choke bridge traffic and worsen air

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roposed redevelopment on Treasure Island would increase traffic jams on the Bay Bridge, lengthening commute times and exacerbating Bay Area air pollution, critics say. Residents, environmental organizations and local agencies voiced those concerns this fall in almost 700 written comments on proposed new residential and commercial development that planners have said would make the island a world-class green neighborhood. Story: Victoria Schlesinger Comments about // Way Out West News the project’s draft environmental impact report submitted by the September deadline expressed deep misgivings with the plan by the city and the developer to limit driving on and off the island. “We are concerned that the project will be allowed to proceed and create profits on the island while causing delays to Muni and AC Transit, while both services are suffering with operating costs exceeding their available funding,” wrote Howard Strassner, a transportation committee member with the Sierra Club San Francisco.

Suggestions from commenters on how to remedy the problem include reducing the number of cars residents own by cutting parking spaces, and charging visitors for parking. Many comments argued that not only traffic, but also more vehicles, increase greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants. Forty percent of the Bay Area’s greenhouse gases reportedly come from vehicles. Other comments forcefully point out that if the project aims to be a cuttingedge green neighborhood, it must reduce the use of cars. A one-to-one residential to parking ratio “is no longer considered anywhere near the cutting edge of sustainability or carbon neutrality,” wrote Ruth Gravanis, a member of San Francisco’s Commission on the Environment, commenting on her own behalf. The uproar over congestion is no surprise, given that the draft environmental report concluded that the tangible effects of traffic would be “significant and unavoidable” even after mitigation steps suggested in the report. It found that a “significant impact on queuing” would occur during rush hour on San Francisco streets leading to the Bay Bridge and at the bridge’s toll plaza, and would slow Muni and AC

Transit buses. Development planners propose 8,000 residential units to accommodate 20,000 people. Judging from the proposal, which allows each unit one car, the commission found the project would lead to an additional:

• 1,613 vehicle trips during the weekday morning rush hour; • 2,462 vehicles trips during the evening rush hour; • 2,861 vehicles during the Saturday rush hour. The Bay Bridge can accommodate 9,000 vehicles per hour in each direction. Its capacity is exceeded at rush hour, evidenced by daily traffic jams. The Planning Department’s assessment takes into account the city’s and developer’s mitigation ideas, including adding a ferry from Treasure Island to San Francisco, running additional buses, requiring residents to purchase publictransit passes, charging residents a $5 toll for entering or exiting the island and building a high-density neighborhood to reduce the need for residents to leave the island frequently.

Money from commercial and on-street parking fees would fund improvements to public transportation, increasing ferry and bus service. The developer, Treasure Island Community Development, opposes reducing parking spaces, thus the number of cars the island can sustain, arguing it would limit public transportation revenues and diminish the marketability of the units. But the Bay Area environmental nonprofit Arc Ecology countered the developer’s concern by showing that the average San Francisco household owns 0.65 car, and the organization proposed allotting each residence 0.75 parking space. The Sierra Club said that the ratio of one parking space for every two residences south of Market has been successful. In objecting to the redevelopment, Gravanis wrote, “Please also address the illogical circuitousness of the argument that says that the only way to achieve the project objective of ‘discouraging automobile use and promoting the use of public transportation’ is to encourage more driving and parking as the way to generate enough revenue to make it possible for people to take transit.” Other points of contention included the project’s effect on migrating birds and surrounding

waters; air pollution caused by the construction and added vehicles, given that the Bay Area already fails to meet state and federal ozone and air particulate matter standards; and the impact of noise and air pollution on residents and staff using Federal Job Corps facilities on the island. The Planning Department and other city agencies are just beginning to sort through the responses, many of which are “fairly sophisticated comments in terms of their technical nature” said Michael Tymoff, city’s project manager for Treasure Island. The city originally hoped the project would break ground in summer 2011. Tymoff wavered in his response about the latest timeline. “It’s still likely to happen in the summer, the fall or the end of 2011,” Tymoff said. He said the large volume of comments would not likely slow the project’s progress — though other matters, such as the transfer of the land to the city from the Navy, might.

Contact Way Out West News writer Victoria Schlesinger at: victoria@wayoutwestnews.com


STREETSCAPE sfpublicpress.org // Fall 2010

B3 SF Public Press

Hayes Valley Farm is a reuse of a blighted lot between Oak and Fell streets at Octavia Boulevard in San Francisco. Using permaculture farming techniques, volunteers have turned the one-time on-off ramp into a thriving organic farm. ENVIRONMENT

A Farm Blossoms in Hayes Valley Where a Freeway Once Cast a Dominating Shadow Neighborhood rallies to site of collapsed freeway two decades after Loma Prieta earthquake

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n 1990, Madeline Behrens-Brigham and Russell Pritchard opened art boutiques in a crime-ridden section of Hayes Valley. They called their part of the neighborhood, from Laguna Street to Market Street, the “Tenderloin of the ’90s.” “It was only 20 years ago that you’d drive down Octavia Boulevard and on all corners it was prostitutes everywhere, like the Tenderloin is now,” Pritchard said. The self-proclaimed neighborhood activists were barely making rent. They began attending meetings between Caltrans and city officials, petitioning to get the Central Freeway taken Story: down. The doubleAngela Hart // Public Press deck structure had Photos: crumbled in the OctoEd Ritger ber 1989 Loma Prieta // Public Press earthquake and laid fallow for two years. “The freeway was huge, it was immense, it was a monolith,” BehrensBrigham said. The underpass “was all prostitutes and drug users. You really took your life into your hands to walk under there.” Caltrans began to demolish the Central Freeway in 1992 and a battle rages over what to do with the 22 vacant parcels where the structure stood. On two neighboring parcels in particular, on Laguna Street between Fell and Oak streets, an experiment is taking place. Over the past 20 years, the spot where the freeway used to touch down remained a magnet for crime and homelessness. But, in January, the Hayes Valley Farm opened. Volunteers cut the rusty chain-link fence, picked up vodka bottles and disposed of hypodermic needles that littered the vacant lot. Though at least half the land is still filled with decades’ worth of lead-based oils, carbon monoxide and other toxins from vehicles driving on and off the freeway, the Hayes Valley Farm is abloom.

We looked at the history of

freeways in San Francisco , and thought if people back then could stop a freeway running through the Panhandle through Golden Gate Park, we could certainly get this one taken down.

Farm co-director Jay Rosenberg said he never expected the farm to attract so many people to the 2.2-acre plot. “There was a lot of crime, a lot of prostitution, a lot of drug use and distribution,” Rosenberg said. “Many people considered this a black spot in their memories and forgot about the vacant lot.” The farm met its August goals six months early, attracting more than 7,000 volunteers. Rosenberg said he was only hoping for 20 volunteers a week, but upward of 150 people a week have been showing up.

ANTI-FREEWAY LEGACY Behrens-Brigham and Pritchard said the freeway revolts of the 1950s paved the way for the Hayes Valley Farm. In 1959, the Board of Supervisors gave in to pressure from neighborhood activists and voted to cancel seven of 10 freeways planned to dissect the city. The most fiercely opposed freeway would have extended through the Panhandle and tunneled under Golden Gate Park, then turning onto Park Presidio and finally across the Golden Gate Bridge. “We looked at the history of freeways in San Francisco, and thought if people back then could stop a freeway running through the Panhandle through Golden Gate Park, we could certainly get

this one taken down,” Behrens-Brigham said. What would go in its place, though, was a question that always gnawed at her. Back in 1992 she told the San Francisco Independent that she thought reclaiming the landscape from cars was possible: “We would like to put community gardens and a sculpture garden on the land in the interim.” What she didn’t know was that her humble dream of neighborhood transformation would be a decades-long project.

Contact writer Angela Hart at: ahart@sfpublicpress.org

Madeline Behrens-Brigham has lived in Hayes Valley since the early '90s.

FARM ISN’T PERMANENT The farm, an agriculture project, is funded by a $50,000 grant from the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development — and it’s not meant to be permanent. The city and the Redevelopment Agency, which each own one parcel of the farm, confirmed eventual plans to develop condominiums on the plots any time between three and 18 years from now. “It’s an interim use, until the housing market turns around,” said Rich Hillis, deputy director of economic development for the mayor’s office. “It’s been difficult to find financing to build new housing. “We’re activating many of the underutilized parcels but we fully expect to build between 700 and 900 total housing units on the parcels,” Hillis added. Project planners say they are ready to move the farm when they have to do so. The goal of the farm, they said, is to inspire people to grow their own food, rather than just grow food on the site. Classes and materials provided to the community are helping the idea of community gardens catch on, they said. “We intend to be a neighborhood partner, so when the mayor says, ‘It’s condo time, you have to leave,’ we’ll go wherever he says to go next,” Rosenberg said. “We want to be able to do this over and over again in vacant lots all over the city, and that’s not going to happen if we chain ourselves to the trees and say, ‘Don’t build here.’ “But if we can actually prove that this is better for the world than another condo, it’s perhaps possible that somebody may decide not to do that,” he added. On Sept. 19, the farm’s “university” was launched, offering classes such as Soils 102: Introduction to Worms and Methods, and 101: Permaculture Design Basics. The goal, farm directors said, is to create a model for urban sustainability — exactly what Mayor Gavin Newsom said he had in mind when he issued an executive order in July 2009 for healthful and sustainable

food for San Francisco. “Sustainable food systems ensure nutritious food for all people, shorten the distance between food consumers and producers, protect workers’ health and welfare, minimize environmental impacts and strengthen connections between urban and rural communities,” Newsom wrote. Aimee Hill, 31, is a volunteer at the farm and a high school science teacher at the Urban School in San Francisco. She teaches many of the soils classes at the Hayes Valley Farm. “We’re teaching classes on microbiology,” she said. “We’re building soils with food scraps, newspaper and worms.”

PROBLEMS PERSIST On any given day, the farm is buzzing with people. They’re planting herbs in the greenhouse, rotating compost pits and watering fava beans. “The problem is at night,” Rosenberg said. “For 20 years, since the earthquake, people have come here to sleep, to do drugs, to solicit prostitution.” Rosenberg pointed to the killing of more than 200,000 bees overnight last July 19-20 as an example of the ongoing problems. “Someone or a group of people jumped the fence and sprayed some sort of household bug spray on the hives,” he said. “When we got here in the morning, there were literally thousands of bees piled up right outside the door.” In response, Rosenberg and the team at the farm have launched a neighborhood watch program. The morning after the bees were killed, the Department of Public Works, along with a public safety team, patched holes in the fence line. “We’re getting spotlights that are motion activated so that if someone breaks in at night, the lights will go on, and anyone who sees the farm out their windows light up will know to look,” he said, and call the police at Northern Station. “When that’s in place, I’ll feel comfortable putting bees in here again.”

Marco Cochrane began production of his sculpture, Bliss Dance, on Treasure Island, starting with a foot-long prototype. The 40-foot tall sculpture took over a year to complete and was unveiled for the first time at Burning Man 2010 in Black Rock City. — Photo by Michael LaHood Burning Man Survival Guide: http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/ Burning Man website: www.burningman.com


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Fall 2010 // sfpublicpress.org

GREEN

POPULATION

Huge Development on Fringe of Bay Sparks Debate Over ’Smart Growth‘

New community of up to 12,000 homes, offices and schools would be built on site of Cargill Saltworks in Redwood City

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wide dirt road cuts through the middle of the large, multi-hued salt harvesting ponds that stretch as far as the eye can see. Except for a few heavy trucks that trundle past, and a couple of ramshackle buildings, not much sign Story: of human activity is Maureen Mitra visible on this stark, // Public Press Photos: sweeping landscape in Ian Umeda Redwood City, on the // Public Press southern fringe of the San Francisco Bay. Since 1901, a natural evaporation and crystallization process has produced salt from bay waters in these shallow ponds. But now plans to develop this 1,436-acre piece of property has set off an intense debate on how and where to house

the Bay Area’s growing population in an era of climate change and rising sea levels. Agribusiness giant Cargill, which owns the ponds, has teamed up with Arizona developer DMB Associates to propose an expansive development on the site. The project, which they promote as a “50/50 balanced plan,” envisions a mass transit-oriented community of 8,000 to 12,000 low-rise, energy efficient apartments, schools, office spaces and shopping centers mixed with 368 acres of open space and 436 acres of restored wetlands. “This is an ideal smart growth proposal because the peninsula is where job growth is and it’s where we have a huge jobs-housing asymmetry,” says project architect Peter Calthorpe, who is considered a pioneer in the field of sustainable urban development. “I think smart growth in

the Bay Area operates at many levels, but at the most basic level, it has to do with housing our own workforce instead of pushing them out into the Central Valley and beyond.” Smart growth is an anti-sprawl planning concept that promotes compact city-centered growth with public transportation options, open spaces and a mix of affordable housing, commercial and retail developments. It’s seen as the most environmentally friendly and sustainable way to address growth needs in a world with rapidly dwindling resources. Implemented correctly, smart growth plans can reduce carbonbelching commutes, save open space and create more livable communities. The Saltworks project fits all of these criteria. It plans to put 30,000 people close to the Bay Area's job centers in walkable communities that

would be served by transit links from Redwood City’s proposed ferry terminal to its Caltrain station and the planned high-speed rail system. It would help reduce commutes of a portion of the 200,000 people who drive into the Bay Area for work every day. But opponents say the location and the nature of the land makes it a dumb place for a smart growth project. While DMB officials describe the site as a “heavily engineered,” barren “moonscape” with no wildlife, it is in fact, a minimally developed open space separated from the Bay by three- to four-foot levees. Also, ample evidence proves the ponds provide habitat for shorebirds and other animals during certain stages of the salt crystal-

My argument is why even

consider putting a development around a piece of land that would need a levee to keep

water out? The Dutch do it because they have to. We don’t. There are other places where we can build.

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THE BAY

The amount of sediment entering the Bay from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Delta is declining, according California Flood Risk: Sea Level Riseto the draft guidelines. “As a result, the importance of sediment from local San Francisco North Quadrangle watersheds as a source of sedimentation in tidal marshes is increasing,” the draft guidelines say. Strawberry The BCDC says scientific studies dealing with ¬ « the issues of sediment flows into and around the Bay are needed. Belvedere A pilot project in Hayward seeks to protect low-lying electrical operations, a dump and waTiburon ter treatment facilities from rising seas by allowing naturally occurring sediment to build up the Sausalito height of surrounding marshland. “What we’re trying to do is to increase the spread flooding in the Bay Area. They might be What we’re trying to do is height of the marshes in line with the sea level underestimates because they don’t account for rise, and provide a steepening of the existing potential “catastrophic ice melting,” the task £ ¤ to increase the height of the natural shoreline,” project consultant Jeremy force warned. Lowe told BCDC officials during a recent public Under a long-running project, BCDC is proposmarshes in line with the sea meeting. ing new rules and guidelines about building and “The advantage of this is that we’re not continother activities near the Bay, including a new level rise, and provide a ually having to go out and build up a levee and finding that “landward marsh migration” may increase the height of it and put more rock on it. be necessary as sea levels rise. steepening of the existing We’re hoping that such a system would allow the “Appropriate buffers” around the Bay will marsh to rise adaptively in response to changes need to be created or left undeveloped to enable natural shoreline in sea level rise,” Lowe said. marshes to migrate upwards, under proposed climate change-related amendments to the 42-yearamount of land that can be developed near the old Bay Plan, which governs BCDC’s work. Bay, but they could also protect the region from “Some developed areas may be suitable for widespread flooding in the coming decades. ecosystem restoration if existing development As high tides rise, mud and other sediment is removed to allow the Bay [to] migrate inland, that eroded from upstream rivers flows into the although relocating communities is very costly Bay and accumulates on shifting shorelines, and may result in the displacement of neighborreplacing drowned habitat and providing natuhoods,” BCDC officials wrote in the proposed San Francisco ral defenses against floods. Such process can be guidelines. disrupted by low sedimentation rates, shoreline The agency is also proposing new shoreline topography and by the presence of buildings, protection measures, construction of flood-resilAreas subject to roads and other facilities. ient or easily relocated buildings in vulnerable flooding in event of The flow of sediment into the Bay, which areas, demolition of existing structures, new risk § ¦ ¨ § ¦ ¨ sea level rising 55 reached harmful levels after mud and other assessment tools and incorporation of sea level inches (1.4 meters) material was dislodged by now-banned mining rise projections into the agency's permit approvpractices in the Sierra Mountains during the al processes. 19th Century gold rush, could be running low. The proposed new guidelines could limit the 122°30’0"W

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Roughly 60 local government representatives, land use attorneys and BCDC officials met in the agency's downtown offices on Friday afternoon to discuss the agency's proposed new guidelines. Many of the concerns expressed by attendees related to the potential imposition of building rules upon local agencies within new areas by Albany the BCDC. BCDC Executive Director Will Travis said the agency would only impose building controls within its jurisdiction, which could only be broadened through the passage of new state legislation. Such legislation has not been proposed, he said. The agency’s jurisdiction will, however, swell with the Bay as land becomes inundated by rising water levels, he said. Guidelines affecting land outside the agency’s jurisdiction will serve as advisory policies. Public hearings regarding the proposals are planned during regular commission meetings later this year, with plans finalized early next year, according to Travis.

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GREEN sfpublicpress.org // Fall 2010

B5 SF Public Press

Booming growth projected for the Bay Area • The Bay Area’s nines counties and 101 cities are home to 7.2 million people, making it the fifth most populous metropolitan region in the country. • Over the next 25 years, the region’s population is expected to increase by 1.6 million, with an average of 64,760 new residents per year. About half of this increase is due to the difference between births and deaths, or natural increase. The other half is due to in-migration. • 1.6 million new jobs will be added to the Bay Area’s existing economy by 2035. • About 700,000 new homes will be needed by the same time to house the rising population. • The Bay Area is the most transit-rich region in California, yet only 6 percent of all trips are by public transit. Walking and biking account for 10 percent of all trips. Congestion is expected to increase by 103 percent by 2030. • About 200,000 people commute into the Bay Area daily. • Commuting between the Bay Area and the Central Valley is expected to grow 90 percent by 2030. In areas between San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, the increase is projected at 120 percent. • 50 percent of the region’s carbon emissions come from the transportation sector, 84 percent of which is from road vehicles. Source: The Association of Bay Area Governments (http://www.abag.ca.gov/)

Jurisdiction over salt ponds is in dispute Jurisdiction of the Redwood City salt ponds has been a matter of dispute for decades. Several state and federal bodies claim authority over salt ponds but Cargill disagrees with all such claims. Under the federal Clean Water Act, the ponds are considered "waters of the United States,” and fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. However, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s charter, the San Francisco Bay Plan, defines them as separate from the Bay. The Bay Plan states that the commission has jurisdiction over salt ponds "consisting of all areas which have been diked off from the Bay and have been used … for the solar evaporation of Bay water in the course of salt production.” Cargill argues that the ponds are not part of the Bay because they are above the high-tide line, which usually defines where the Bay ends. It also claims these specific ponds are outside the commission’s purview because they aren’t evaporation ponds but crystallization ponds. Crystallization ponds are the final stop in a five-year-long salt-making process that involves moving water through a series of evaporation ponds. In these ponds, the water is allowed to evaporate leaving eight to 12 inches of solid crystallized salt behind. Saltworks officials call the site a "factory without a roof” that’s "inhospitable to both man and beast.” The company’s strategy is to set aside the dispute for now and proceed as though its development proposal were imminently permissible, says Saltworks spokesperson Jay Reed. Should the question of permits from different agencies comes up, the matter will probably have to be resolved in court.

Above: Jay Reed, DMB spokesperson, shows a map with pins marking areas from which commuters drive to the Bay Area. Tim Frank, sustainability consultant for DMB, is in the background. Right: A view of one of the few tidal salt marshlands in the East Bay as seen from Eastshore State Park towards the city of Albany and highways 80 and 580.

story continued from previous page

Smart Growth lization process. The mostly sea-level ponds also fall within an earthquake and flood risk zone and project opponents say the best thing to do is restore them to the tidal marshes they originally were. That is being done with over 16,500 acres of former Cargill salt ponds that the company sold to the state and federal government in 2002 for $243 million in cash and tax credits. Coastal wetlands act as a natural buffer against rising tides and storm surges, and are crucial wildlife habitats. They serve as perpetual carbon sinks — absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it indefinitely. Tidal wetlands are particularly important as carbon sinks because unlike freshwater wetlands and decomposing trees, they don’t emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas. “Scientifically, it makes a lot more sense to restore the wetlands and leave them as buffer zones to protect for developments further inland,” says Rainer Hoenicke, ecologist and executive director of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a nonprofit that offers “impartial scientific interpretations” to aid environmental planning and policy development. The Saltworks project location doesn’t seem to offer any flexibility to respond to sea level rise, he said. “Ideally, you would want to have a sufficient buffer to minimize risks to life and property,” Hoenicke said. “As sea level rise scenarios become more precise in the next few decades, it will be expensive enough to come up with protection strategies of valuable existing infrastructure, let alone add to vulnerabilities that could be avoided in the first place.” State and federal agencies including the state water board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have weighed in on the matter, stating the salt ponds are a critical biological resource that should be protected. Some 140 local elected officials and several major environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Audubon Society, Sierra Club and Save the Bay, have added to the growing chorus of opposition to the project. “There aren't very many places left that are unprotected that can be restored. This is one of the few and the Bay needs all the places it can get,” said Dave Lewis, executive director of Save the

Bay, the Oakland-based nonprofit that has been leading the charge against the Saltworks project. Since the Gold Rush, about 40 percent of the San Francisco Bay has been diked, drained and converted into real estate and an estimated 90 percent of the regions’ wetlands (193,800 acres) have been filled in. Only about 44,000 acres of healthy tidal marsh exist today. Scientists project at least 100,000 acres of wetlands are required around the Bay to support a healthy, sustainable eco-system. State and federal agencies have acquired 32,0000 acres of restorable shorelines and are working to convert them into mixed intertidal habitat. However, Redwood City is going ahead with an environmental impact review for the project and is considering re-zoning the property for development. If approved, the Saltworks development would be the largest Bay fill approved since state and federal agencies began regulating shoreline development in the 1960s. DMB officials and Calthorpe say it’s a positive, climate-friendly trade-off since it would cut greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, which causes about 50 percent of the Bay Area's carbon emissions. The project, they say, is in keeping with California’s landmark 2008 antisprawl law, SB 375, that went into effect in late September and requires regional governments to devise a growth plan that reduces dependence on automobiles. Yet little proof exists that building a highdensity, energy efficient development along the waterfront would help mitigate global warming impacts rather than exacerbate them by destroying the opportunity to restore the land to tidal marsh. It’s a question that many bayside communities in the region are grappling with as they try to figure out how to house an estimated 1.6 million new residents over the next 25 years. The Regional Housing Needs Plan for the Bay Area estimates the nine-county region will need at least 700,000 new homes by 2035. A study by smart growth advocates, Greenbelt Alliance, shows cities can meet this demand through infill development, which involves building on vacant lots and redeveloping blighted urban areas. But redevelopment is a slow, painstaking process of which many planners and developers are wary. Calthorpe, for instance, openly admits that “big projects like the ones in Treasure Island, Alameda Point and the Saltworks, are easier for smart growth.”

Ironically, all the projects he mentions involve putting up thousands of homes by the Bay in clear contradiction of California's 2009 climate change adaptation strategy that recommends: “State agencies should generally not plan, develop, or build any new significant structure in a place where that structure will require significant protection from sea level rise, storm surges, or coastal erosion during the expected life of the structure.” The Bay Area is especially vulnerable to sea level rise. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission estimates about 270,000 people will be at risk of flooding and shoreline property worth $64 billion could be damaged if sea levels rise by 55 inches by the end of the century as some studies project. More recent studies suggest a possible 72-inch rise by 2100. The commission is proposing amendments to its governing document — the San Francisco Bay Plan — to incorporate climate change adaptation policies that would give it more power to regulate development around the Bay. But as of now, the commission has jurisdiction only over development within a 100-foot strip along the Bay shoreline. That’s part of the problem when it comes to figuring out where to build in the Bay Area. Though a growing body of scientific opinion recommends climate change adaptation strategies that involve retreating from the Bay, few legal regulations regarding building by the waterfront have been written. The commission’s proposed policy amendments, which would extend areas under its purview and impose a wide

range of restrictions over bayside development, has already created a furor among local developers and planners. They fear those amendments could scuttle or hold up development projects across the Bay Area if adopted. Back at the Saltworks site, DMB spokesperson Jay Reed says they will build strong levees 86.4 inches high, or just over seven feet – to cover for even the most extreme sea level rise predictions, and they’ll build them wide — as wide as 300 feet so that it can be raised if necessary. And they will build per Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations. “There is no solid levee. It's only as solid as it has to be to pass current regulations,” said UC Berkeley environmental planning expert John Radke, who’s researching the risk climate change poses to Bay Area infrastructure. “My argument is why even consider putting a development around a piece of land that would need a levee to keep water out? The Dutch do it because they have to. We don’t. There are other places where we can build,” he said. Contact writer Maureen Mitra at: nandini.mitra@gmail.com

This story was funded with micro-donations gathered via Spot.Us. Scan this QR code with your smartphone to view a multimedia presentation by FishBird Productions on the proposed smart-growth development.

ENVIRONMENT

Revealing the Hidden Bay: New Plan to Set 50-Year Course for Study and Restoration of Underwater Habitats

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very day, millions of people drive over it on a half-dozen bridges. Ferries and freighters cross it. Windsurfers, kayakers, and sailors ply its waters. It’s the picture-postcard backdrop for thousands of tourists along the San Francisco waterfront. And yet, much of the real action in San Francisco Bay is hidden beneath murky waters. Occasionally, we see some emissaries from the deep: sea Story: Dan Rademacher lions haul // Bay Nature out at Pier Illustration: 39, seals bob Tim Gunther // Bay Nature in the water off Sausalito, pelicans and cormorants congregate over schooling fish or perch on posts. But, really, even scientists don’t know much about what’s happening down there, and where. Familiar shoreline parks, from Crissy Field to Heron’s Head, are dwarfed by 250,000 acres of what scientists call the Bay’s “subtidal habitat” — endless mudflats, occasional rocky areas, beds of bright green eelgrass, undulating 10-foottall sand waves, all below the lowest low tide. “This is the predominant habitat in the Bay, but it’s always submerged, so it’s kind of out of sight, out of mind,” says Marilyn Latta,

who is managing an ambitious project for the state Coastal Conservancy to formulate 50-year goals for researching, protecting, and restoring the Bay’s underwater habitats. A final version of the report is expected in December or January. The draft, released earlier this year, made for wonky reading, but was peppered with surprises: Who knew that every year two million tons of sand are mined out of the Bay for use in local construction? Or that ancient oyster shell deposits are mined for chicken feed and dietary supplements? Or, perhaps more mind-boggling, that researchers with the San Francisco Estuary Institute painstakingly mapped 33,000 abandoned pilings? “This is completing the picture of what we need to understand about what a healthy bay is,” said Mary Selkirk, senior mediator at the Sacramento State University Center for Collaborative Policy, who has worked on the plan, “including all the organisms we can’t see.” This illustration was commissioned for a feature article about the subtidal goals in the October-December issue of Bay Nature magazine, a nonprofit quarterly that covers nature in the Bay Area. Contact Dan Rademacher at: dan@baynature.org Scan code: baynature.org

Artificial Surfaces

Rocky Areas

Shellfish Beds

Seaweed Beds

Sand & Mudflats

Eelgrass Beds

There are thousands of piers and pilings in the Bay, which provide rare hard surfaces that some organisms like to latch onto, though many of those are invasive invertebrates that scientists would rather see less of anyway. Herring lay eggs on pilings, but the wooden posts are usually coated in toxic creosote, so it’s a devil’s bargain for these important fish. The goals recommend removing some of the 33,000 abandoned pilings.

The Bay floor doesn’t have a lot of exposed rock, but what it does have is pretty important for plants and animals that either hide among rocks or latch on as waves wash over them. Some of the most notable rocks in the Bay, like Blossom Rock near Alcatraz, were dynamited decades ago to protect ships. The subtidal goals aim to protect remaining rock habitats.

Though hard to believe now, San Francisco Bay once provided a wealth of shellfish to local native peoples. Scientists debate how many native oysters were in the Bay immediately before Europeans arrived, but they generally agree that oysters are important habitat builders, creating hard surfaces and three-dimensional spaces with lots of hiding places for young fish and other critters. The goals aim to increase oyster beds to 8,000 acres, while figuring out just how large existing beds are (no one’s sure) and developing the best ways to restore and sustain healthy beds.

We don’t have the kelp forests of Monterey or Mendocino, but kelp and other large seaweeds (scientists call them macroalgae) do live in the Bay, and they are likely food and refuge for a range of species, just as they are off the California coast. But the goals here are mostly about research, since so little is known about these habitats in the Bay.

Some 90 percent of the Bay floor is either sand or mud. Watch shorebirds working a mudflat to get a sense of how many worms and other critters wriggle below the surface. In the central Bay, seven gill sharks swim above 10-foot-tall sand waves. But these habitats are far from pristine. Tons of sediment washed downstream as a result of gold mining. More recently, a lot of our junk, from abandoned tires to roadway runoff, ends up in Bay mud. Then there’s dredging for ports and marinas. So goals here focus on cleaning up contaminants and minimizing disturbance from dredging.

These beds of bright green grasses look, from the air, like giant underwater meadows. They are favorites of many species: Dungeness crab, migrating salmon and many kinds of birds. You can spot the beds from shore by watching for dozens or hundreds of birds diving in a single, green-tinged area. The largest beds are in Richardson Bay and off the northern shoreline of Richmond, near Point Molate. The goals call for more than doubling eelgrass from the current 3,700 acres to 8,000.


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STREETSCAPE Fall 2010 // sfpublicpress.org REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK

story continued from page B1

On Route: 28-19th Avenue Often Off Schedule

Muni On-Time A FLOOD OF DATA From Muni’s line-management center at 1 S. Van Ness Ave., which opened last year, Operations Manager Jim Kelly can live-monitor every Muni vehicle on a map using real-time NextMuni data. The system can tell which vehicles are late or early using Geographic Positioning System transmitters on all vehicles. Since 2006, the agency has relied on NextMuni to monitor daily operations of buses and trains along all 80 lines. It’s a big transit system — the eighth-largest in the country as measured by annual passenger trips, and the fifth-largest as measured by passenger miles, according to the American Public Transportation Association. The problem has been that until this year, Muni was not making use of all that data in real time. Before the line-management center opened, the central control facility located at West Portal worked directly with line supervisors on the streets to handle late buses and trains as well as the occasional major Muni meltdown. This work is now consolidated at the line-management center. Transit Effectiveness Project in 2007 deemed the old center’s computer system outdated and inadequate. The project said Muni’s reliability was hampered by the lack of a fully functional automatic vehicle location system. The new center is divided into five workstations with a technician monitoring each of the different types of vehicles Muni operates: diesel and hybrid gas-electric buses, electric trolley buses, light-rail vehicles, cable cars and historic street cars. Haley said that for the last two weeks in October, Muni Metro trains made 4,172 — or 95.5 percent — of their 4,376 planned scheduled trips from Embarcadero Station. “What was missing was this global view in real-time availability to react and adapt to changes,” Haley said. The center, he added, “is the first place we have where we can follow any vehicle in the system — we know exactly where it is. That’s where we’re making adjustments to lines all the time, and we use the inspectors on the streets.”

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eporter Jerold Chinn, Multimedia Editor Monica Jensen and Social Media Editor Sarah Fidelibus rode one of the Muni bus lines that has the most trouble keeping on schedule — the 28-19th Avenue. They documented the problems the bus faced while traveling on a recent Wednesday afternoon along the route from Fort Mason to Daly City. The bus travels for much of its route along 19th Avenue, or Highway 1, which leads to the Golden Gate Bridge to the north and Interstate 280 to the south. On their journey, they found construction on 19th Avenue, heavy traffic and packed buses. As a result, the bus Graphic Monica Jensen passed three stops with waiting passengers on 19th Avenue Jerold Chinn and was not able to pick up everyone at another stop. Sarah Fidelibus When the bus finally rolled into Daly City and dropped off // Public Press Photos: passengers, it left immediately because it was already four Monica Jensen minutes late. // Public Press Comments are from the bus driver, who asked that her name not be used, reporter observations and rider views.

1:14 p.m.: 28-19 Avenue Bus Leaves Fort Mason “I sympathize with the people. Like now, if I were to see someone running, I sympathize with them. I know they wanted the bus but I can't stop because one, it's against the rules and; and two, if I do it's going to put me behind further and further.”

1:25 p.m.: Bus 28 at Golden Gate Bridge

1:30 p.m.: Four Minutes Behind Schedule ”There are a lot of things we do. For instance, they want us to drive 25 mph, no faster. There a lot of things we do, a lot of rules we break, to keep it going, to keep the public happy and on time. And it's not appreciated.”

1:46 p.m.: Abraham Lincoln High School Students Board 19th Avenue and Quintara Street –ŽAbraham Lincoln High School students get out of school early on Wednesdays. Bus is already packed. Driver advises students to use back door to enter. A few students were not behind yellow line next to the driver and are told to wait for the next bus.

”We left on time, and I'm four minutes late. You would think I was lollygagging around, but I wasn't. It's just not enough time.”

1:40 p.m.: Bus 28 Near Capacity Fulton Street and Presidio — the 5-Fulton bus arrives at Fulton at the same time as the 28. At least 20 people are coming off and boarding the 28.

THE HUMAN ELEMENT At least, that’s how the new system is supposed to work. Kelly said the data the GPS tracking produces “can you tell you something is happening, but it does not visually tell you what that is.” The line-management center sees whether a bus is slow to get to an intersection, but would need to dispatch a human being to see what’s impeding the bus. That’s where human traffic checkers and onthe-ground schedulers are useful. “That’s where the visual comes in,” Kelly said. Starting in September 2008, Muni let go 32 line inspectors who managed buses and light-rail vehicles on the streets, citing shrinking budgets as city tax revenues fell. Haley said Muni is trying to balance the new technology with the continued need for line inspectors. He said the combination of street-level personnel, the control center and the line-management center will lead to a better-managed system and “make it more reliable — and hopefully improve the on-time performance.”

1:48 p.m.:Bus at Capacity

2 p.m.: Bus Arrives at San Francisco State University

19th Avenue and Taraval Street — The bus does not pick up passengers waiting at the stop. “It's really crowded and people are impatient. It's a battle to get on the bus,” said Christina Schroedle, 18, a student at San Francisco State.

19th Avenue and Holloway Street — It's still packed despite many passengers getting off at the university.

THE EYES AND EARS “I do a little bit of everything, kind of like a utility man,” said Myron Fong, who has been a line inspector for 12 years. Fong monitors seven bus lines that intersect at Geary Boulevard and 33rd Avenue, including the 1-California, 1AX-California express and 38-Geary lines. “I’m the eyes and ears for central command,” Fong said. He’s also a time keeper, monitoring buses to check if they are late or early. A bus should not be more than one minute early or four minutes late, according to Muni’s rules. The need for on-the-spot troubleshooters such as Fong is one area of agreement between the workers and rider advocates. Gerald Cauthen, once a Muni chief project manager, last year cofounded SaveMuni.com, a rider advocacy group. Cauthen said that GPS devices notwithstanding, skilled street-level staff are still key. “The line inspectors make a big difference in overall operations,” Cauthen said. “The computer system cannot perform all the functions of a line inspector.” Jason Henderson, an associate professor of geography at San Francisco State University, said getting more inspectors on the streets is only a start. “All Muni managers and members of the MTA commission, and locally elected officials, should ride Muni regularly,” Henderson said. “Muni managers should be documenting the problems they observe, especially recurring ones.”

2:10 p.m.: Time Juggling Daly City Station —ŽDriver’s break cut short to make schedule. “It's kind of a game. You get off BART and see which is one available, which line is bigger. Trying to get to school on time, it's kind of like gambling because you don't know which one to take,” said John Rebaldo, 18, San Francisco State student.

wide. “If you can get to the level where there’s a bus every 10 minutes, at least at peak times, then riders don’t have to worry about schedules,” he said. On-time performance is a flawed measurement, said Jarrett Walker, an international transportation network design consultant based in Sydney, Australia. One important measure to look at is spacing

for the buses that run the most frequently. According to that measure, “a transit operator’s job is not to run on time, but rather to run a specified number of minutes after the preceding vehicle on the line,” Walker said. “What should be reported in this case is not the time a bus came, but the actual elapsed time between consecutive trips.” Walker said many transit agencies using GPS

NO CONSENSUS ON PERFORMANCE STANDARDS Livable City’s Radulovich, who is also a BART board director, suggested that for the average Muni rider, frequency of service is the most important standard. “It might not matter what time the bus comes,” Radulovich said, “but knowing the bus arrives every two to three minutes is important for the rider.” Steve Winkelman, director of transportation and adaptation programs for the Center for Clean Air Policy, based in Washington, D.C., also said that frequency and predictability are increasingly important to transit riders nation-

"You'd be surprised what I see out these windows. If you have a problem on one part of the system, it delays the whole thing. I would challenge you to find comparable systems."

JOHN HALEY

Muni Transit Director

"There’s a lot of things that can be done. All of them by themselves seem mundane and small, but in the aggregate the cumulative result could be a first-class transit system.”

JASON HENDERSON

Professor of Geography, SF State

tracking and smart-card ticketing machines (such as San Francisco’s new Clipper card) are beginning to get more robust data. Each major transit agency has a unique performance standard, which influences how the system is run. New York City subways are counted similarly to San Francisco’s overall system (though New York counts missing runs as 100 percent not on time, while San Francisco ignores them). New York’s year-to-date target is 76.9 percent on-time; the actual score is 68.4 percent. In the Washington, D.C., Metro system, the agency not only looks at on-time performance for its rail and buses, but also bus fleet reliability, measured by the distance traveled before a mechanical breakdown. Last July, Washington also added a new measurement called the MetroAccess, which assesses on-time performance by examining whether the trips are adhering to the customer’s scheduled pick-up window.

AGING EQUIPMENT ADDS TO PROBLEMS Haley acknowledged Muni’s problems with keeping its diverse and aging fleet on the roads and tracks: “I have some buses that are over 10 years old and some that are as old as 18. The manufacturers are out of business. Trying to find parts is virtually impossible. You have to manufacture them or go on eBay or try to run them down through

museums.” Haley also said that out of a light-rail fleet of 151 cars, there are usually 10 out of service for major rehabilitation, and eight inoperable and undergoing repairs. San Francisco’s odd mix of equipment is only one of its many distinct challenges that make it hard to compare its performance with that of other cities. Other obstacles include the densest urban grid on the West Coast and killer hills. “I really think SF is especially unique in that it’s spatially constrained like no other North American city. Even in Manhattan, which is full of these vast wide streets, even removing one lane in NY doesn’t have the same ripple effect as it does in San Francisco,” said Henderson. In Muni's defense, Henderson said the buses and light-rail vehicles have a major challenge in dealing with the physical environment of the city. He said most sunbelt cities get to start fresh with traffic lanes. “You’ve got all these lanes to play with, but you just don’t have that kind of movement in San Francisco.”

Contact writer Jerold Chinn at: jchinn@sfpublicpress.org


STREETSCAPE sfpublicpress.org // Fall 2010

B7 SF Public Press

VOX POP

Riders Speak Out on How They View Muni and Its Service Interviews and Photos: Monica Jensen Vivian Morales // Public Press

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Rhoda Montero, 75, of the Western Addition. She takes the 2 Clement, 5 Fulton, 22 Fillmore, 38 Geary and 43 Masonic lines. You know, I travel quite a bit, When I come back home, I’m really pleased because to me comparing it to other cities -- New York, Boston, Pittsburgh -- it’s really no comparison because you get so much transportation here. I think if you are working, you would have a problem especially in the evening because so many people use Muni and at 5 o'clock it’s really congested. But for me, it works.

an Francisco Public Press photographer Vivian Morales and Multimedia Editor Monica Jensen took to the streets to get opinions on Muni — what people wanted to see improved or changed and some general thoughts on the system. Here is what they found.

Meme Chu. Has been riding Muni for 25 years. The 27 (Bryant) is not on time. I don't know why. Sometimes, it doesn't come, then two together coming. But 49 (Van Ness-Mission) and 47 (Van Ness) -— the service is good. Neal Taylor rides the 28, light rail and owl buses. There needs to be more of them. Muni doesn't do a very good job of maintaining their buses.

Emily Harris, 27, a student in the Sunset, and she takes the 29-Sunset, 43-Masonic and N-Judah. Regarding on-time performance: I think it differs from line to line. There’s certain lines where they won’t send a bus for like half an hour and then they’ll send like three all together, which is really frustrating. Even with the N, which I think is one of the better lines, they’ll still stack them up and sometimes you’ll get two or three in a row and it’s kind of annoying when you’ve been waiting awhile. What Muni could improve on or pay attention to: The night service could be a little bit better. It’s kind of sporadic on a lot of the lines. They just need to space it out better. The frequency, in of itself, wouldn’t be that bad if they actually spaced things properly. I think that Muni doesn’t really work too well with the unio. So, that would be nice to see a little bit more cooperation … because I think people take it out on the operators and it’s not always their fault, it’s the way Muni is set up.

George Bender, 58, of South of Market. He is legally blind. I don’t have any problems except when people don’t want to move for handicapped, like on the 31 Balboa. You have to remind the drivers to tell the people because when there’s kids and babies, they don’t want to move. What he wants Muni to do: For them, when they get from downtown, to still call the streets out. They normally do things down here but soon as they get outbound, there’s no more talking. They don’t do it. Kawai Tsuha It would be a lot easier if they had a lot more shuttles running. It's usually late at night. And it already stops. Maybe a little later services would be better. I actually just tried their new ticket system and

the transfers that you get don't tell you what time it is and it's like, well, if they give you a ticket, I can't remember every single time that I get on these buses or when I started. The old passes used to tell you, for example, you have until 5:30. These, you just kinda guess, did I get this right or not?

Contact Vivian Morales and Monica Jensen at: mjensen@sfpublicpress.org vmorales@sfpublicpress.org

story continued from B1

Muni Solutions north to south or west to east. One, the 28-19th Avenue bus, goes from Daly City to the Marina. The N-Judah goes from Ocean Beach to the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets. The longer the route, the more difficult it is to stay on time. Haley said the Metropolitan Transportation Agency is studying shortening routes on lines that are too long. Some examples include the 29-Sunset, 28-19th Avenue, 14-Mission, 30-Stockton and 71-Haight Noriega. “Here, there’s heavy ridership,” Haley said. “Muni operates both bus and rail in mixed traffic. You have a lot of stops and long routes.”

• Paint in Bus-Only Lanes Muni drivers have been the focus of rider frustrations, which prompted voters to pass Proposition G on Nov. 2. TRANSPORTATION

Drivers Take the Heat for Discontent of Muni Riders

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roposition G, the initiative that voters overwhelmingly approved to change pay and work rules for Muni operators, focused attention on the system’s drivers, painting them as a reason that San Francisco’s Muni transit system is notoriously slow and unreliable. And the drivers did little to help their cause on the public relations front — rejecting cuts that other city workers agreed to, boycotting the annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Story: Contest and threatening to Sarah Fidelibus strike if the measure passed. // Public Press But on the job, drivers Photos: Monica Jensen work in a high-stress environ// Public Press ment, with long hours and, for many drivers, few breaks. “We are on the front line,” said Emmanuel Andreas, 47, a Muni driver for 11 years who drives the 33-Stanyan bus. “Whatever happens with Muni, the drivers feel squeezed between the management and the union and the public.” Muni operators also encounter violent situations at work. The transit agency recorded 98 assaults on operators for fiscal year 2010, and documented 45 threats on operators. In addition, the problems they contend with — faulty equipment and daily changes in traffic conditions that interfere with their ability to ensure on-time performance — are largely out of their hands. On a recent day on the 28-19th Avenue line, the

Adding dedicated bus lanes would save time buses and trains spend waiting for traffic to clear. Transit officials say Van Ness Avenue is a good candidate for bus-only lanes.

• Create Bus Superhighways Along

the City’s Main Thoroughfares

driver was running late because of construction on 19th Avenue. By the time the bus arrived at the end of the line at Fort Mason, the driver had only a few minutes to stretch her legs before she had to re-board the bus to head to Daly City BART. It was not nearly enough time to eat lunch (which, if she did while inside the bus, would be one of a slew of rule violations), and not enough time to go to the bathroom without risking beginning her route already late. When the bus rolled into Daly City BART, the driver immediately picked up the waiting passengers and was again back on her route with no break. Adding to the stress is the punishment that drivers who get behind schedule face. Myron Fong, a supervisor with 20 years’ experience driving a bus in his 30 years with Muni, said drivers who are late on their runs get a warning each time. After three warnings, “the driver would go to retraining.” Fong said drivers also face stiff penalties for uniform violations. “The first one could be a warning. The second one could be a suspension day without pay,” he said. That stress takes a toll on the health of drivers. A series of studies in the late 1990s uncovered high instances of high blood pressure, diabetes and other stress-related diseases among transit operators.

Buses on Geary Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue are notoriously late and crowded, and transit experts say “bus rapid transit” lanes are the answer. The saga of the potential bus rapid transit lane along the Geary corridor began in 2003. It is still creeping through environmental and engineering reviews. The idea is to combine many of the time-saving physical changes to bus lines to make them look and act more like light-rail vehicles. Studies show that in some cities, bus rapid transit is as much as 40 percent faster than typical buses. Components of the system could include raised bus platforms with new stops, traffic preemption and large, enclosed bus shelters, and it would replace an entire traffic lane on Geary. Business owners and neighbors who want to preserve parking spaces said they feared that removing a car lane would hurt commerce. Muni officials said service could start in 2015 and later repeated in other parts of the city. Van Ness Avenue is another potential bus rapid transit corridor. Haley said another approach might be creating express “super-bus” lines. One Muni study explores the idea of running a bus on nearly the same route as the N-Judah light-rail line, with limited stops, all above ground, during rush hour. It would wind from Ocean Beach to Montgomery and Market streets in fewer than 30 minutes.

WHY IT MATTERS: SPEED Conract writer Sarah Fidelibus at: sfidelibus@sfpublicpress.org.

Dave Snyder runs the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, a nonprofit advocacy group that

A rendering of the Geary bus rapid transit lane, in which buses are expected to travel 40 percent faster than current buses. The city began planning in 2003, completion expected in 2016. lobbies for more reliable and efficient public transportation. He is also the transportation policy director for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. The Transit Riders Union is pressuring Muni to make changes many of these changes to the city’s streetscape. At a minimum, Snyder said, if one or two are implemented, Muni’s average speed could increase to 9 mph from the current 8.1 mph. The real problems are political, Henderson suggested. Changes to the streetscape involve compromises that not everyone wants to make. “That involves looking at debates about parking, debates about bicycling and how to allocate street space,” he said.

TESTING IDEAS IN MID-MARKET Muni planners are using Market Street as a sort of test for the Transit Effectiveness Project, and for the city’s transit-first policy. In one experiment, cars are forced to turn right at Eighth and 10th streets to make more room for buses and trains. On Market between Eighth and 12th streets, bike lanes weave in and out of car lanes, promoting nonmotorized commutes. Haley said Muni plans to implement similar changes throughout the city, but his options are stymied by perennial budget cuts. On a recent day from his seventh-floor office at the Municipal Transportation Agency headquarters, Haley surveyed the scene on Market Street and Van Ness Avenue, where some of Muni’s most heavily traveled routes converge. Even non-Muni-related incidents such as fires and police actions can bring buses to a standstill. Muni’s fleet of electric trolley buses, light rail vehicles, diesel buses, cable cars and historic streetcars are all connected. In the underground, if one train is delayed, it backs all of them up. “You’d be surprised what I see out these windows,” he said. “If you have a problem on one part of the system, it delays the whole thing."

Proposed Bus Rapid Transit Routes in San Francisco VAN NESS BUS RAPID TRANIST The city wants to build a bus rapid transit route running 2.2 miles along Van Ness Avenue. The draft environmental impact report for the project is due in winter 2011. The final report is due in summer 2012. Construction is expected from 2013 to 2014. Muni planners say the transit superhighway will open in 2015. COST: $124 million - $189 million FUNDING GAP: $15 million - $80 million WHAT THE MONEY IS FOR: Funding would cover costs needed to reconstruct roadways, to build new stations and other transit infrastructure and to purchase 60 new vehicles.

GEARY BUS RAPID TRANSIT Plans to finish the bus rapid transit route running 5.1 miles along Geary Boulevard are underway, Muni officials said at a board meeting on Nov. 2. The draft environmental impact report is due in fall 2011. The final report is due in 2013, and construction is expected from 2014 to 2016. The city said the project is scheduled to open in 2016. BUDGET: $210 million - $250 million FUNDING GAP: $115 million - $155 million WHAT THE MONEY IS FOR: Funding would cover 65 to 70 new Muni vehicles, new stations and infrastrucutre.

Contact writer Angela Hart at: ahart@sfpublicpress.org


STREETSCAPE sfpublicpress.org // Fall 2010

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C1 SF Public Press

Fall 2010 // sfpublicpress.org

CIVICS

KQED’s Forum with michaEl Krasny

Amid Marijuana Legalization Efforts, State Debates Toll On Health, Public Safety

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fter the voters’ defeat on Nov. 2 of state Proposition 19, which would have legalized possession and use of small amounts of marijuana, many questions remain about the health effects of recreational pot use and whether marijuana impairs cognitive processes, causes addiction or increases side effects. In a conversation on Oct. 18, two public health experts also tackled whether legalizing pot would be apt to cause more traffic accidents. Dr. Timmen Cermak, president of the California Society of Addiction Medicine, is a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction. He said marijuana is physically addictive, conInterview: trary to claims made in Proposition 19. Michael Krasny Dr. Larry Bedard, a Marin-based physi// ”Forum” on KQED cian, is a former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He endorsed Prop. 19. — The Editors Krasny: You’re saying that there is dependency and, particularly in high doses, there are perhaps really serious concerns? Cermak: There are two points. One is that there are several drugs that are legal which we become dependent to: tobacco, alcohol, even caffeine. So the fact that something is capable of creating dependence doesn’t mean that it has to be illegal. But what I object to is that in the Proposition 19… [it said] that it’s not physically addictive. All the research that I’ve seen shows that that simply is not true. There’s multiple lines of research that show that there is an addictive potential. Krasny: Particularly for those who start smoking at a young age. I read some statistics that if they start smoking at 15, about 17 percent turn out to be, by at least your definition, addicted? Cermak: It isn’t my definition, alone; it’s within the diagnostic and statistical manual for marijuana dependence. But you’re absolutely right, the data show that if you’re 18 or older when you first start smoking marijuana that upwards to about 9 percent will become dependent upon it at some point in their lives. That’s not data just from United States. That’s from Australia, that’s from New Zealand, so that’s fairly well established. Which means that that nine out of 10 people who start smoking, who are 18 or older, will not ever become dependent on it. But if you start smoking it at earlier ages — and we’re talking, say, about 15 — 17 percent will become dependent upon it within two years, so there’s a higher percentage and a more rapid dependence that develops among adolescents.

mariJuana

Free Pot for the Needy

SoMa Cannabis Dispensary Serious About Philanthropy

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OW DO YOU DEFINE COMPASSION? In the tight-knit medical marijuana community, the word has become a euphemism for small, periodic donations of cannabis-based medicine to patients who cannot afford to buy it at the going rate — now about $10 to $25 a gram. The tradition began in the mid-1980s, when a lack of adequate care and harsh nature of the drugs for AIDS patients led to the development of a patient-centered approach to medicinal uses of marijuana, said Wayne Justmann, a long-time medical marijuana advocate. One of the leadStory: ers in cannabisStefan Jora based charity work Monica Jensen is a dispensary, // Public Press Photos: HopeNet. Besides Stefan Jora providing free // Public Press marijuana, referred to as “compassion,” to about 100 residents of South of Market, on average, about a gram a week per patient, it supports a full suite of “compassionate” services, all financed through the sale of medical cannabis to its regular stable of paying patients. In the past, the dispensary has also bought its patients wheelchairs, provided companion dogs and paid for cremations. Of about 800 patients, every year HopeNet stops hearing from 15 or 20, who are presumed to have died, said Cathy Smith, who runs HopeNet with her husband, Steve. Vince Turner, a Vietnam veteran diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, refers to the couple as “mom” and “dad.”

“She’s a woman of my own age and I love her like my mother,” Turner said. “I consider Steve and Cathy and HopeNet my true family. While I have blood relatives, if they cared for me, they wouldn’t have allowed me to be on the streets.” HopeNet works with a patient-advocacy group called Axis of Love that runs a community center in SoMa. HopeNet brings in so much cash from its regular business that it can donate $5,000 a month to Axis of Love, which provides daily meals, palliative care and support groups to AIDS patients, veterans and the terminally ill, and others. For many patients, the center provides an important social support that would be otherwise missing from their lives. “Coming here,” said Elise Cleveland, 42, a patient since 2007 who was once a crack user and struggles with a chronic illness, “you don’t get stigmatized.”

Krasny: Dr. Bedard, let’s bring you into this. You’re concerned about young people too? Bedard: Absolutely. That’s why Prop. 19 was, I think, written to say that it’s only legal to possess or use if you’re 21 or older, much like alcohol. Krasny: What about Prop. 19 saying it’s not addictive, or at least that’s what a lot of endorsements are saying. Bedard: Well, I had a discussion with Dr. Cermak before, how you want to define an addiction ... I think it’s like caffeine. Perhaps it’s like tobacco. But as an emergency physician, I spent my career — the problem is alcohol addiction, in which there is a 5 to 10 percent mortality, causes seizures. Marijuana, I think, is like perhaps as addicting as coffee or tobacco. It does not have the serious medical withdrawal syndrome. People might get anxious, they may get cravings. Lot of the other drugs, some legal such as Valium and Xanax, they have serious withdrawal syndrome. The most common cause of seizures in California in an ER is someone withdrawing from alcohol. So the comparison of alcohol to marijuana, [there are] very little similarities in the health care consequences. Krasny: I think the number of those who turned up in emergency rooms for help with marijuana was fewer than 200 over the past year or so. Bedard: Right. In 2008, the last year there was data, there was 181 people admitted to a hospital because of an adverse reaction to marijuana. That same year, there were 34,200 people admitted for acute chronic problems due to alcohol. In my 25year career in emergency departments in Northern California ... I saw less than 10 people in my entire career who ever came to the emergency department for an adverse reaction to marijuana. By far, at least half them were parents whose teenage son or daughter convinced them to share a joint and then they

Contact Stefan Jora and Monica Jensen at: contact@stefanjora.com mjensen@sfpublicpress.org

TOP TO BOTTOM: Teresa Cooper medicates using a vaporizer at the offices of Axis of Love in SoMa. • Steve Smith does laundry in the basement of his home, where he grows medical cannabis for 16 patients. • Alex Pierson medicates using a bong at HopeNet. He suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bones.

story continued on page C7

Data

Tracking of Medical Pot Data, Key Aim of State Program, Varies Greatly by County

San Francisco hands back applications to cannabis card users

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an Francisco is among the most active cities in California in easing access to medical marijuana, having issued more than one-third of the 47,828 cannabis cards in the state. But unlike surrounding counties, San Francisco has a long-standing practice of handing back the paper applications for cards and not recording the names of patients or the doctors who give them the required recommendations. Story: The policy dates to Hank Drew // SF Public Press 2000, when then-Supervisor Mark Leno met with medical cannabis activists, who expressed fears that the federal government could seize the records and arrest patients. Accurate data about the use of medical marijuana and its health effects in California could inform the debate about efforts to liberalize laws against the drug, health researchers say. But even as marijuana activists push for broader legalization — including Proposition 19, the state measure to legalize pot for recreational use, which failed at the ballot box on Nov. 2 — counties are

wildly inconsistent about how much data they collect. Senate Bill 420, sponsored by now-retired state Sen. John Vasconcellos, established guidelines in 2003 for a statewide medical cannabis program. The bill clarified and expanded the medical marijuana act approved by voters in 1996. It requires “uniform and consistent application of the act among the counties within the state.” But application of the act has been anything but uniform. Colusa and Sutter counties have resisted issuing any cards, while others keep much of the data to themselves. The Santa Clara County Public Health Department keeps all application data. The Alameda County Department of Public Health said it keeps only ethnic data. Data from Marin demonstrates one of the issues the medical card program has faced in recent years. Out of about 1,000 cannabis cards handed out by Marin County, 57 percent were underwritten by just two doctors, said Timmen Cermak, president of the California Society of Addiction Medicine. Cermak said his main concern with inconsis-

tent record-keeping is that it could hide unscrupulous practices of problem physicians. “There's a wide range of non-life-threatening illnesses being treated,” Cermak said. “Some physicians are not truly treating, but providing access.” San Francisco’s medical cannabis card program became a model for the 2003 legislation that required all counties to set up similar programs. The state law cites the value in studying the health effects of the drug: “More information is needed to assess the number of individuals across the state who are suffering from serious medical conditions that are not being adequately alleviated through the use of conventional medications.” Ronald Owens, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health, said that the counties do not share any demographic information about medical marijuana users with the state. He said the only time the state gets information about patients is if the person applying for the card is a Medi-Cal recipient, because they can get a 50 percent discount on the card. Proponents of legalization say the science is in, arguing that marijuana is safer than legal, addictive drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. But there

have been far fewer studies about marijuana than other substances — a lack of clarity that clouds the public debate. Stanton Glanz, a tobacco researcher at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, said gathering consistent statewide medical marijuana data could be invaluable for researchers. But he noted that even with perfect records and access to them, a lack of funding for research is a big impediment, because it’s hard to convince federal grant-makers to back studies on the effects of marijuana. “I do know people who have tried to work in this area,” Glanz said. “It’s tough to get money for research.” New Jersey recently passed its own medical marijuana law and attempted to have Rutgers University grow cannabis to be sold at teaching hospitals, the Newark Star-Ledger reported in June. Rutgers refused because it feared losing more than $500 million in federal funding. Eileen Shields, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, confirmed that medical cannabis activists told city officials at the launch of the program that pri-

vacy was a priority. They did not want the city to keep card data because they feared federal prosecution of patients. At the same time, some retention of records was required to help local law enforcement identify legitimate card-holders. When legislators approved SB 420, they explicitly required the retention of records to protect patients from “unnecessary arrest.” The law set up a hot line through which local law enforcement could avoid arresting patients by verifying a nine-digit code and patient photo on the front of the cards. Because the cards bear only a number and photograph, and not the name of the card-holder, law enforcement has no easy way of determining the correct owner of an ID card. That could open the doors to fraudulent sale or use of cards. Bamberger said San Francisco issued 2,817 cards during the fiscal year ending in June, including yearly renewals. The California Department of Public Health's Medical Marijuana Program says the total for all counties was 12,859. Contact writer Hank Drew at: hdrew@sfpublicpress.org


C2 CIVICS

SF Public Press

Fall 2010 // sfpublicpress.org

University of California

Regents Push Risk

Investigation shows some officials profited while UC investments performed poorly

Richard C. Blum listened intently to the proceedings at a regular regents meeting in January 2010 in Mission Bay.

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ast fall, amid an unprecedented state budget crisis, the University of California Board of Regents took extraordinary measures to cut costs and generate revenue. Lecturers were furloughed, classes eliminated. The regents — the governing body for the vast public university system — also reduced admission slots for in-state students while increasing the cost Story: Peter Byrne// for out-of-state students. Spot.Us And to the consternation of tens of thousands Photos: Monica Jensen// of students, the regents Public Press raised undergraduate tuition by a whopping 32 percent, with more hikes to come. It now costs about $30,000 per year to attend the UC system as an in-state undergraduate (more if out-of-state.) Even with financial aid, it’s a sum beyond the means of many students and their families. But while education is taking a beating, this investigation reveals that some members of the board of regents have benefited from the placement of hundreds of millions of university dollars into investments, private deals and publicly held enterprises with significant ties to their own personal business activities. Conflicts of interest have arisen because some members of the regents’ investment committee, individuals who are also Wall Street heavy hitters, modified long-standing UC investment policies. Specifically, they ordered the UC treasurer to steer away from investing in more traditional instruments, such as blue-chip stocks and bonds, toward largely unregulated and risky “alternative” investments, such as private equity and private real-estate deals. There is no evidence that the regents advised about specific funds or companies, but the riskier investment categories they steered the UC treasurer toward investments that significantly overlapped with the regents' own business interests. The activities of two regents in particular — Richard C. Blum, financier and husband to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and fellow financier Paul Wachter — are spotlighted. Blum, for example, benefited from $748 million in UC investments in public companies and private deals in which he held significant financial interests. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (who is a regent) and his long time business partner, Wachter, benefited from $486 million in UC investments into firms and deals in which they held significant interests. And regent Sherry Lansing benefited from a UC investment of $397 million in a firm on whose board she sits. (The details of the Schwarzenegger and Lansing conflicts, as well as substantial Blum and Wachter conflicts of interest not covered in this article due to space considerations can be found at Spot.us. For example, UC has invested $53 million into two for-profit “diploma mills” largely owned by Blum Capital Partners, and Feinstein initiated federal legislation that benefited these two educational corporations.) State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was asked to review the findings of this investigation prior to publication. “These are amazing conflicts of interest,” he concluded. Other ethics experts agreed. Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, the liberal good-government advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., was also appraised of the findings of this investigation prior to publication. “A third-grader can see that what the regents on the investment committee are doing is unethical,” he said. “It goes far beyond the ‘appearance’ of a conflict of interest. These are core conflicts of interest.” Blum would not respond to repeated telephone calls and written requests for comment.

THE PRIVATE EQUITY FIASCO UC’s current operating budget is $20 billion. The various endowment and retirement funds totaled $63 billion at the end of 2009. With such an enormous amount of public funds in play, the regents are bound to meticulously adhere to state laws and university policies that prohibit self-dealing. It is incumbent upon

those individuals who are charged with overseeing the UC pension and endowment funds to avoid influencing or voting on investment decisions that potentially, actually or even appear to affect their personal business affairs. Many members of the current crop of regents have failed to consistently hold themselves to these ethical standards — especially when it comes to private equity investments. Private equity investing is attractive to sophisticated investors and large institutions because it has the potential for large returns. But unlike deals that take place on public stock exchanges — where sales and purchases are public information and regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — the realm of private equity is opaque, largely unregulated and extremely difficult to exit should a deal go bad. It was 2003 when regents Blum, Wachter and Parsky, who left the board in 2008, consolidated control of UC’s investment strategy. The committee instructed the treasurer to bypass the university’s in-house investment specialists and to hire private managers to handle many of these new kinds of transactions. This action increased management costs and limited transparency since the external managers are not subject to public record laws. Soon, the amount of money placed in private equity had more than tripled, and by March 2009, the university’s books carried a balance of $6.7 billion in 212 private equity partnerships, which consisted primarily of leveraged buyout funds — more than 10 percent of the investment fund total of $63 billion. This investigation determined that at least seven of these partnerships were linked to regents on the investment committee. And these investments have not proven to be prudent. UC’s private equity returns, as of spring 2009, were running at negative 20 percent since the inception of the investment. According to operating reports made to the investment committee by the current UC treasurer, Marie Berggren, much of the loss to the portfolio was tied

Regent George Marcus described the strategy of over-emphasizing private equity as equivalent to ”gambling in Las Vegas.” to the souring of leveraged buyouts during the recession. In a leveraged buyout, private equity firms act as a “general partner” by arranging private investment opportunities to purchase companies or real estate. The general partner finds “limited partners” — typically institutions, pension funds or wealthy individuals — to invest in that fund. The limited partners have little or no say in how the fund operates, since it is being managed by the general partner. The capital provided by the limited partners is used as a down payment for the purchase, and a large bank loan that covers the remainder of the sale price. Although leveraged buyouts can be lucrative for both the limited and general partners, the buyout can also take on a predatory quality. In this scenario, the limited partners have the most to lose. Here’s how the darker version of these deals goes down: Once a company has been acquired, the investors can offload the responsibility for paying back the large bank loan onto the company itself. Meanwhile, the new owners can strip the acquired company of cash and other valuable assets to pay dividends to the general partners. Looted companies often collapse from a lack of operating capital brought about by trying to pay off the combination of the unsustainable debt burden and the dividend payouts. Collapse can cause the limited partners to lose their entire investment. The private equity firm’s general partners may survive because they can charge their investors management fees regardless of a deal’s outcome. While less predatory leveraged buyout acquisitions can certainly benefit both the acquired company and all of its investors, the companies involved in the UC deals discussed in this story, for the most part, do not fall into the beneficial

category. In 2009, Berggren reported that the average annual internal rate of return for the retirement plan’s private equity portfolio since 1979 was a mere 1.8 percent. But fixed-income investments had generated an average annual rate of return of 6 percent over a similar period. The only sector of the portfolio that fared worse than private equity was private real estate. After the financiers took control of the investment committee, the university’s allocation to private real-estate deals increased from nearly zero to $4.5 billion in less than a decade. By mid-2009, the private real-estate portfolio had lost an astonishing 40 percent of its value. Nonetheless, this notable shift in strategy toward alternative investments — leveraged buyouts, in particular — has had clear benefits for individual regents. And good government experts question the ethics of these investments. “The investment committee’s act of increasing UC’s allocation to private equity was an extraordinary conflict of interest,” said Public Citizen’s Weissman. “Some of these regents obviously had vested interests.”

QUESTIONABLE INVESTMENTS The private equity losses should not have surprised the regents. In 2008, Berggren stated in her annual report to the investment committee that private equity and private real-estate investments were “overweighted” relative to other financial vehicles during the boom years. She also noted that the regents’ preference for private investment was disproportionately affecting UC during the economic recession. Amazingly, in the face of the disastrous performance of private equity and private real estate, Wachter and Blum have continued to advise Berggren to increase UC’s investments in these two ailing sectors, according to minutes of committee meetings. At the February 2009 meeting of the regents’ investment committee, Wachter, then the committee chair, observed that although private equity and real-estate investments were already “overweighted” in the portfolio, they should be “even more overweighted.” At an investment committee meeting three months later, Blum, who was then the chairman of the board of regents, urged his colleagues to continue on the same questionable course. According to the meeting minutes, “Chairman Blum expressed concern that the University might become too risk averse.” At the same meeting, Wachter suggested that UC buy bundles of distressed real-estate and mortgage debt to profit off of the collapse of the housing market. (Though a matter of continued debate, experts say such investments are a risky undertaking, since another wave of home foreclosures is expected.) Recently, Wachter has championed increasing the volume of UC’s investments in risky timber and oil ventures. But the entire investment committee does not share Wachter and Blum’s predilection for alternative investments. Regent George Marcus, a real-estate executive who sits on the committee, has consistently opposed them. In a March 2010 meeting, he described this strategy of overemphasizing private equity as the equivalent to “gambling in Las Vegas.” In an e-mailed statement, Berggren’s spokeswoman Lynn Tierney said, “It’s misguided to assume that there’s a conflict of interest simply because there’s an overlap between personal investments by University of California Regents and investments made by the UC Treasurer’s Office. The real issue is whether regents communicate with the Treasurer’s office about specific investments.”

ANATOMY OF THREE DEALS Blum Capital, based in San Francisco, handles a $2 billion portfolio. Regent Blum is the chairman of the investment firm’s board. He is also a principal executive and an owner of Fort Worth’s $45 billion private equity firm, TPG Capital, which has a history of partnering with a New York-based private equity firm called Apollo Management. Wachter, meanwhile, has disclosed multimillion-dollar holdings in a

range of Apollo Management funds. During Blum and Wachter’s seven-year tenures on the regents’ investment committee, UC has invested nearly $750 million in private equity deals involving Apollo Management, Blum Capital Partners and TPG Capital. Several of these deals received contributions from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the country’s largest public pension fund, for which Blum Capital Partners is a paid investment adviser. What follows are summaries of just a few cases in which UC had invested and where Blum had concurrent business interests; one of these deals involving Harrah’s Entertainment, which operates 52 casinos in seven countries, also involved Wachter. These facts were ascertained from reviewing thousands of pages of U.S. Securities and

It‘s misguided to assume that

there’s a conflict of interest simply because there’s an overlap. — Lynn Tierney, UC treasurer spokeswoman

Exchange Commission filings, commercial databases, UC public records and press accounts. 1. Harrah’s Entertainment, Las Vegas, Nevada. The company: Harrah’s Entertainment. The deal: In 2008, investment firms TPG Capital, Apollo Management and The Blackstone Group partnered in a leveraged buyout of Harrah’s for $30.7 billion. The Blum connection: In 2008, Blum disclosed investments worth “over $1 million” in various TPG funds (including funds named TPG IV and TPG V). He was also a TPG Capital owner and executive. The Wachter connection: Since becoming a regent, Wachter has disclosed investments worth “up to $1 million” in two Apollo investment funds (Apollo VI and VII) that provided capital to the Harrah’s deal. UC’s investment: At the time of the Harrah’s transaction, UC had $75 million invested in the same two Apollo Management funds in which Wachter was invested and which were themselves invested in the Harrah’s deal. During that period, UC also held $4.1 million in two TPG Capital funds, including one that helped finance the Harrah’s deal (TPG V). The investments in the TPG funds were made by several UC campus endowment foundations overseen by the regents while Blum — a TPG Capital executive who was himself invested in the Harrah’s deal (via TPG V) — served on the regents’ investment committee. UC also had $120 million invested with a private equity fund run by The Blackstone Group (Blackstone Capital Partners V), which participated heavily in the Harrah’s buyout. In total, UC’s general endowment and retirement funds committed $200 million to four private equity funds that financed the Harrah’s buyout, a deal in which Blum and Wachter each had significant financial interests. The fallout: Since the buyout, Harrah’s has hemorrhaged capital due to the overall decline of the gambling industry amid the global recession. Its ability to generate enough cash to pay back limited partner investors such as UC has been hampered by the $12.4 billion acquisition debt that Apollo Management, TPG Capital and The Blackstone Group placed on the books of the casino empire after acquiring it. UC’s investment in the private equity funds that participated in the Harrah’s deal had lost up to 40 percent of their value as of March 2009.

New York sued a title company, First American Corporation, for conspiring with Washingon Mutual to inflate real-estate appraisals. The price of Washington Mutual and First American stock fell through the floor. The deal: In June 2008, in a major miscalculation of risk factors, TPG Capital bought a $7 billion stake in Washington Mutual, becoming its largest shareholder. The Blum connection: Blum participated in the Washington Mutual investment through an interlocking series of TPG Capital funds (including TPG V and a related fund named Olympic Investment Partners). Blum Capital Partners also invested heavily in First American shares when the price plummeted following the allegations of appraisal collusion. UC’s investment: In 2008, the UC Berkeley campus endowment fund invested $4.1 million in two TPG Capital funds that financed the Washington Mutual deal (TPG V and TPG VI). UC retirement fund managers made a bad bet by increasing UC’ stake in Washington Mutual bonds sevenfold, from $31 million in 2006 to $215 million by the end of 2007. Through its external managers, UC also purchased First American stock when its share price fell, putting $7 million into the failing company by the end of 2009. The fallout: The Federal Deposit Insurance Commission seized Washington Mutual in September 2008, selling its assets on the cheap to JPMorgan Chase. Stockholders were wiped out. TPG Capital is reported to have suffered a loss of $1.3 billion, which would likely negatively affect the fund that UC had invested in (TPG V), although this information is not public. By the end of 2008, the value of UC’s investment in Washington Mutual bonds had declined by $48 million. First American continues to struggle financially and in the courts. 3. Univision Communications, New York, New York.

2. Washington Mutual, Seattle, Washington First American Corporation (now CoreLogic) Santa Ana, California.

The company: Univision Communications is the dominant Spanish-language media company in the United States, operating 62 television stations and 69 radio stations. The deal: In March 2007, a consortium of five private equity investment companies led by a former UC regent named Haim Saban acquired Univision Communications in a $13.7 billion leveraged buyout. The private equity investors were Saban Capital Group, TPG Capital, Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners. The Blum connection: Blum participated in the Univision deal through his investments in two TPG Capital funds (TPG IV and TPG V). His spouse, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, disclosed Univision as an asset in 2007. Blum also maintained a financial interest in the deal by virtue of being a principal executive and owner of TPG Capital. UC’s investment: A member of the UC investment committee, Saban resigned as a regent in 2004. Saban then put together the Univision deal. During the acquisition, UC campus endowment funds had invested $4.1 million in two relevant TPG Capital funds (TPG IV and TPG V). Additionally, UC had invested $150 million in the two Madison Dearborn funds that financed the Univision buyout (Madison Dearborn IV and Madison Dearborn V). The fallout: Following the buyout, Univision’s new owners — including TPG Capital and Apollo Management — placed the $10 billion debt from the buyout on the company’s balance sheet, creating a financial burden. The value of UC’s investment in one Madison Dearborn fund decreased by 17 percent as of the spring of 2009, while the other showed a gain of 18 percent. Apollo Management and TPG Capital collectively charged its investors, including UC, a $200 million transaction fee for managing the deal.

The companies: Before its acquisition by New York’s JPMorgan Chase, Washington Mutual was one of the country’s largest banks. In the fall of 2007, it stunned investors by declaring a loss of several billion dollars in the sub-prime housing market. Simultaneously, the attorney general of

This article is an abridged version of an eight-part series of stories independently financed through Spot.Us, a journalism micro-funding website. Read the series at http://www.spot.us/stories/544-the-investors-club-how-theuniversity-of-california-regents-spin-public-money-intoprivate-profit


CIVICS Fall 2010

C3 SF Public Press

CORRECTIONS

Former Women Prisoners Face Longer Odds Staying Out After Aid Programs Slashed ” B

“Every time, I was released back into homelessness or an abusive partner,” she said. “I didn’t have the resources or tools to get back on my feet.” It was only three years ago, after leaving a California prison at age 27, that Schmidt was able to pursue legitimate jobs and an education. After living in transitional housing, she became a client of Way-Pass, a City College of San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that helps female ex-prison inmates adjust to everyday life. But young women in Schmidt’s situation now may have a harder time getting on their feet. Leaders of re-entry programs in San Francisco say state budget cuts in 2010 drastically reduced their ability to help parolees. Collectively, California’s prison rehabilitation programs took a nearly 45 percent cut — $250 million — in fiscal year 2009-10 as legislators and the governor grappled with the state’s budget crisis. The 2010-11 budget, passed in October after a 100-day delay, cuts $1.1 billion from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. State officials said they expected most of this to come from staff cuts, reductions in medical care and early release of prisoners. The previous year’s cuts are not expected to be reversed anytime soon. Way-Pass lost two of its four paid positions and no longer has funds to provide scholarships, schoolbooks or cash stipends to clients. Karen Shain, policy adviser at Legal

All these people around

Services for Prisoners with Children, said life in California’s female prisons is worse than ever. The reduction in education and drug treatment programs has led to violence and unrest. The female prison population soared eightfold nationwide between 1977 and 2007, double the rate of increase for men. Mounting evidence points to economic factors, addiction and abuse as the primary causes of criminal behavior among women. Women respond much better to rehabilitation and drug treatment programs than men do, according to a corrections department study. Schmidt said programs such as the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and City College’s Second Chance Program, both operated by and for the formerly incarcerated, are particularly effective. “We empower each other to lift each other up,” Schmidt said. Women in prison struggle with issues distinct from those affecting men, including reuniting with parents and children, sexual abuse and trauma, gender-specific health needs and the social stigma of a felony record, said Edith Guillén-Núñez, an adviser to the Way-Pass program. But because 90 percent of released prisoners are male, many rehabilitation programs target men only.

Chowchilla and the adjacent Central California Women’s Facility together house most of the state’s 10,000 female prisoners and are often mentioned as the world’s most populous women’s prison complex. Walden House this year had to reduce the number of women it serves in these prisons by more than 75 percent. “There were 750 women that we saw in the Central Valley,” Eisen said. “Now we have 175.” The last year and a half also saw the San Francisco treatment centers downsize to 427 employees from 689 last year. Of those, 125 were laid off one day in January.

FRAYING NETWORK OF SERVICES

FAILED REFORM EFFORTS

San Francisco’s Walden House — Schmidt’s first stop after prison — saw a huge reduction this year in the number of female ex-inmates it was able to serve. “That cut happened essentially overnight,” said Vitka Eisen, the nonprofit group’s chief executive officer. They were given little more than a month to prepare for a major decrease of staff and services at the beginning of 2010. Walden House offers rehabilitation for substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual trauma, mental health services and family reunification at locations scattered around San Francisco. The organization also offers treatment inside prisons throughout California. Valley State Prison for Women in

A state law that had made the transition out of prison easier for offenders with drug problems was undermined by another bill three years later. Senate Bill 1453, introduced by thenstate Sen. Jackie Speier in 2006, allowed prisoners to reduce their sentence by one day for every two days spent in drug treatment in prison, provided that they also completed 150 days of an “aftercare” program upon release. When Schmidt got out of prison, this law mandated her release to Walden House, where she completed a fourmonth residential treatment program. Parolees were guaranteed a spot in a treatment program and a place to stay, rather than being given a phone number, a bus ticket and a “good luck

me helped me to

completely get away from these bad situations.

Women

It became a spiral of everything going on around me being good instead of bad.

New admissions to California prisons by offense Women Violent crimes: Property: Drugs: Other offenses:

15.3% 45.4% 32.8% 6.5%

Men 33% 26.8% 25.7% 14.5%

Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

ABOVE: Advocates say female felons are often low-income single mothers who are serving time for economic crimes such as theft and drug sales. LEFT: Sunshine Schmidt talks with Norma Ruiz, a City College student and former Way-Pass client, about a problem she had with campus police. The two first met when they were incarcerated at San Francisco county jail.

Men Percent Change 5427 78911 1989 100 100 5858 88264 1990 107.36 110.6 5678 92837 1991 104.42 115 5973 99494 1992 109.14 120.69 6745 108828 1993 119.54 127.49 7397 113705 1994 126.63 130.6 8263 122969 1995 134.32 135.83 9395 132986 1996 142.24 140.66 10281 141944 1997 147.21 144.41 10863 145997 1998 150.04 145.95 10653 147555 1999 149.06 146.52 10427 147690 2000 147.95 146.57 9375 145663 2001 142.11 145.83 9426 148328 2002 142.43 146.8 10097 149914 2003 146.25 147.36 10671 at the 151681 2004 149.14 Sunshine Schmidt City College of San Francisco where she takes147.98 classes and counsels other formerly incarcerated 11076 155313 2005 151 149.19 women like 11358 herself. “This159436 is not an issue that a lot of people think about,” Schmidt said of the rights of the incarcerated 2006 152.22 150.51 and the recently released. "The system is incarcerating people and it's not helping." 11107 159022 2007 151.14 150.38 11408 159753 2008 152.43 150.6 At age 24, having been in and out of #DIV/0! prison in Wisconsin, she moved to San Female Incarceration in California, 1989-2008 Women Francisco, looking for a fresh start. Her 12000 only job experience as an adult was doing make-up in a Wisconsin beauty 10000 shop. She applied for jobs at local department stores with no success. 8000 Unable to find work, she sold drugs again to pay her rent. One offense led 6000 Column A to another, she got evicted, went to jail a few times, then found herself home4000 less and pregnant on the streets of San Francisco. In 2007, she lost custody of 2000 Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation her 2-year-old daughter the day before 0 her release from Valley State Prison for 1 2 3 4 51994 6 7 8 9 101999 11 12 13 14 152004 16 17 18 192008 20 1989 Women. Schmidt knows from experience and Source: of Corrections and Rehabilitation from talking to people on both sides of The number of women California in CaliforniaDepartment prisons increased 152 percent between the walls that once you’re in the sys1989 and 2008. Pew's Prison Count 2010 reported the first decrease in tem, it can be very difficult to get out. state prison populations in 38 years for 2008 - 2009, when the number of Upon release, Central Valley prisons’ inmates in state prisons decreased by 0.3 percent. female inmates without family to pick them up receive $200, a pair of flip-flops and a muumuu. The downtown Fresno sexual, violent or serious felonies, and bus station is said to be crawling with getting in.” “That was huge,” Schmidt said. “They who would be aided by the support pimps and drug dealers on the lookout would actually transport you to the pro- services and early release that SB 1453 for those cheap, flowered dresses. “They’re going to do what’s comfortprovides also qualify for non-revocable gram.” She added, “Senate Bill 1453 saved parole. This “unsupervised commu- able and what they know,” Schmidt nity release” blocks access to services said. “A lot of people end up right back my life.” But this year, on top of the budget provided by the parole system, such as in the system.” For her, the turning point was access cuts, another reform added to the com- housing, education funding and job opto treatment programs, and a place to plications for programs offering reha- portunities. stay once she was free. bilitation to women. State Sen. Denise Way-Pass offered her case manageDucheny’s SB 18 implemented a non-reCUTTING TIES TO CRIME ment, peer counseling and referral vocable parole policy in January. Those who qualify are, in effect, on parole in Schmidt’s story testifies to a system de- services for clothing, food vouchers, name only. They have no parole officers signed for punishment, not necessarily health care and housing. Schmidt is now a case manager there. and no drug tests, and can’t violate rehabilitation. She is getting A’s in school as she their terms of parole. Any new offenses When Schmidt turned 12, she took are treated as crimes, not parole viola- her birthday money and ran away counsels other formerly incarcerated tions. from home in a Wisconsin suburb. She women and works toward a bachelor’s California enacted SB 18 to comply wasn’t having any real trouble at home, degree in legal studies or public policy. with a federal mandate to reduce the but her best friend had an abusive step- She wants to work to change legislation state’s prison population to 137 percent father, so they took an early jump at regarding incarceration. When she has time to talk between of design capacity by 2012. Prisons have independence. nearly double the number of inmates Schmidt didn’t think it amounted to five classes and her jobs at the college they were built to contain. This order much at the time. She was just rebel- and an environmental non-profit, she is being contested before the U.S. Su- ling. Her mother felt differently. After speaks somberly about her experiences preme Court. she was picked up by the police and re- and the challenges facing incarcerated Eisen said the reform is a step for- turned home, she was placed in a men- women. Though talking about these things is part of her job and her studward because it spares people from tal institution. returning to prison repeatedly for mi“I’ve been going through the in- ies, it never gets easy, she said. nor offenses. At 70 percent, California carceration system my whole life,” has the highest recidivism rate in the Schmidt said. “I was institutionalized Contact writer Mineko Brand at: country. in one form or another from a young mbrand@sfpublicpress.org. But those who have not committed age.”

Incarcerated Women

y the time Sunshine Schmidt was 19, her rebellious streak led her to prison in Wisconsin for violating probation on a forgery charge. But it was just the beginning of her troubled young adulthood. As she tells it, the uncaring reaction from a criminal jusStory & photos by Mineko Brand tice system on // Public Press autopilot put her back in prison for minor violations, only driving her further into the life of small-time crime as she racked up drug and theft-related charges.

Outspoken but Outvoted: Low Turnout at the Polls Plagues Activist Hotbed of San Francisco

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an Francisco voters overall do not have too much in common with defeated GOP candidate Meg Whitman. However, they share one trait: Politically active as they may be, much of the time they cannot be bothered to vote. The daily street protests forming the backdrop of the city’s life for generations belie a lack of engagement at the ballot box. San Francisco has consistently one of the Story by worst voter turnout reTheresa Seiger cords in the Bay Area // Public Press and even the state. While press coverage of Whitman’s repeated failure to show up to the polling place forced her to “apologize” to the voters during her first televised gubernatorial debate with Jerry Brown in late September, San Francisco officials are sounding decidedly less moralistic. Experts disagree about the causes, with some proposing a demographic explanation. Many city residents are immigrants and other marginalized minorities. The problem has city officials and civic groups grappling for ways to lure voters to the polls. Some advocate opening the polls on the Saturday before election to increase turnout. San Francisco has ranked dead last of the nine Bay Area counties in 10 of the 26 elections since 1990. Twice — once during the November 1992 general elections and again during the March 2000 primary elections — the county ranked last out of California’s 58 counties. The turnout on Nov. 2 was 55.18 percent. Melisa Michelson, a professor of political sci-

ence at Menlo College, said she is not surprised at the low turnout rate for San Francisco. However, more concerning than how people vote is who gets to vote. “There are a lot of naturalized citizens and people that are less proficient in English,” she said. “It’s very much a city of immigrants.” The Bay Area is home to a large number of languages —112 according to a 2005 study based on Census data and 94 in San Francisco. And beyond the language barrier, new potential voters are often overwhelmed. Many voters are anxious about the process of voting or fear they will do something wrong. Countering these fears, an array of civic groups, such as the League of Women Voters, produce pamphlets to explain the ballot and its measures. Others, such as the Chinese American Voter Education Committee, reach out directly to voters. The Department of Elections runs voter outreach programs with community organizations such as Friendship House, an American Indian organization. “The degree to which a simple invitation can help is important,” Michelson said. “Some people feel like voting isn’t for ‘people like them.’” Charlie Macnulty, the city’s voter education manager, said voter education needs to be deep as well as broad. “Turnout is important,” he said, “but having an informed electorate is important as well.” His aim is to reach voters who might have a harder time voting, such as seniors and exconvicts. The city works to educate and register people, using posters and advertising in ethnic

San Francisco trails Bay Area voter turnout 80%

60%

40% S.F. general

20% '90

'92

Bay general

'94

'96

'98

S.F. primary

'00

'02

Bay primary

'04

'06

'08*

'10

With the exception of the 2008 statewide primary, San Francisco voter turnout has been consistently lower than the rest of the Bay Area. Percentages represent total number of registered voters. *2008 primary lines represent the June state primary, not the February presidential primary.

media and Muni shelters. They also present at community events in five different languages, including the basics of voting, deadlines and the mechanics of the vote.

WHEN TO VOTE? California residents have been able to vote at county elections departments in the 30 days before an election. Alex Tourk, a former aide to Mayor Gavin Newsom, wants to change the way the city votes. He is the founder of Why Tuesday? San Francisco, the group behind local Proposition I, which would

open polling places the Saturday before the November 2011 election as part of a pilot program — provided enough donations are found to pay for it. The goal is to increase turnout by making voting more convenient. “My gut says the day gets away from people,” Tourk said. “I’m a business owner. I can move a meeting from 9 to 9:30, but not everyone has that luxury. We want to build a community around families coming out and voting together.” Not everyone buys the idea of tinkering with Tuesdays. Terence Faulkner, a member of the San Francisco Republican Party Central Committee and the most consistent opponent of local ballot

propositions year after year, and Republican state Senate candidate Doo Sup Park, say in the official ballot pamphlet that the measure is unnecessary because “there will most likely be one or two voters per hour.” They call Saturday voting “a massive waste of resources.” The Why Tuesday? campaign said Tuesday was chosen as the day to vote more than 100 years ago, when communities were much smaller. It gave rural farmers time to get to polling places without disturbing religious celebrations. “We have an antiquated electoral system with no movement,” Tourk said. “Almost half of voters aren’t voting. We’re trying to inspire them.” But it’s far from clear that Tourk’s strategy will work. Although the early day might be more convenient, studies have shown that early systems don’t inspire many new voters. Political scientist Adam J. Berinsky, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has found that voting reform encourages those who already vote to continue to do so, rather than bringing new participants into the fold. Advocates for early voting say any measure of increased engagement would be welcome. “It makes sense to vote on Saturday — it’s definitely more convenient. But it’s not so much about convenience, it’s more about the cognitive barrier and making people feel welcome,” said Michelson.

Contact writer Theresa Seiger at: tseiger@sfpublicpress.org.


C4 SF Public Press

CIVICS Fall 2010 // sfpublicpress.org POLICY

OBSERVATION

Steering City’s Homeless Focus From Sin to Sickness

Canner under the 280 Freeway.

'Hobos, Hustlers and Backsliders' examines politics and how the debate changed over the years In her new book on homelessness in San Francisco, “Hobos, Hustlers and Backsliders,” Teresa Gowan describes how former Mayor Frank Jordan’s framing of the issue in terms of crime and sin evolved into Willie Brown’s conflicted policies, finally emerging as Gavin Newsom’s version of “authoritarian medicalization” policies, most controversially the policy idea that got him elected in 2003, Care Not Cash. This essay condenses some of the discussion of the book (University of Minnesota Press, 2010).

S

an Francisco, a historical stronghold of the labor movement, civil rights activism and other social movement activity, embodies the tension between valuable public space and progressive politics to a high degree, an important reason for the central position of the “homelessness problem” in the city’s electoral politics over the last 25 years. The same streets which attract visitors from all over the world are also wandered by Book Excerpt and Photos: thousands of homeTeresa Gowan less paupers. In the 1990s the city’s rental market become one of the most expensive in the world, and threshold of homelessness dropped lower and lower. People with limited resources who insisted on staying in the city lost tenure in cheap apartments or hotels, and resorted to living in cars, homeless shelters and encampments under freeway bridges. For many poor San Franciscans, the extraordinary strain of trying to maintain housing was compounded by an absence of strong social ties. As a great destination for cultural, economic and political migrants, more than half of the city’s population were born elsewhere and had no local family members to help them. San Francisco represents a particularly important case of the criminalization of homelessness. Even in liberal San Francisco, the social construction of homelessness as bad behavior became powerful enough to propel large-scale police campaigns against nuisance offenses, repeated attempts to abolish general assistance, and numerous other programs aimed at pushing the “visible poor” back into invisibility. The narratives activists and advocates had developed linking homelessness to system flaws (‘system talk’) gradually lost ground. Their emphasis on combating unemployment and low wages was drowned out by the kind of aggressive ‘sin-talk’ exemplified by San Francisco’s Police Chief-turned-Mayor Frank Jordan, which painted men and women living on the streets as dirty, dangerous blights on the social landscape. (Jordan’s Matrix program instituted a number of violations subject to citation or arrest, all of them aimed at curbing the behavior and presence of homeless people downtown. Some of the offenses included blocking the sidewalk, aggressive panhandling and urinating outdoors.) Equally important, though, was the rise of ‘sick-talk’:narratives defining homelessness as a symptom of individual pathologies, especially substance abuse and mental illness. Nurtured within the professionalizing agencies and shelters, medicalized discourses on homelessness were developing a formidable institutional base, unlike the systemic critique of the cash-

strapped activists. Mayor Willie Brown’s administration energetically pursued clearance, but the mayor still seemed conflicted about his position on the city’s persistent “homeless problem.” Brown’s public statements on homelessness remained split between primarily aesthetic justifications of the police sweeps and his continued effort to present himself as a defender of the poor. At this point, many other Democratic public officials had abandoned system-talk about poverty and homelessness. President Bill Clinton was skillfully navigating the shoals of welfare reform and Democratic politicians across the country were developing parallel strategies for withdrawing citizenship rights and existing social entitlements in the name of “tough love.” It was only a matter of time before San Francisco’s leaders created their own Clintonesque combination of therapeutic and punitive discourses on homelessness. Spearheading the breakthrough in the early 2000s was ambitious young Gavin Newsom, then a member of the Board of Supervisors. Seeing that visible homelessness continued to create consternation among business interests and the electorate, Newsom tied his bid for the 2003 mayoral race to a set of initiatives that would bring San Francisco’s homelessness policy closer to that of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Newsom was no Frank Jordan. From the beginning, he was extraordinarily careful to couch law and order initiatives within the terminology of sick-talk. This was not the punitive authoritarianism of Jordan, but a gentler, more

From the outset, the

"chronic homeless" were defined in terms of cost-benefit analysis

medicalized authoritarianism. At the center of Newsom’s mayoral campaign strategy was the aptly-named Care Not Cash, the 2002 pledge to abolish (finally) the general assistance entitlement then dubbed the County Adult Assistance Program. San Francisco was the last big city in the nation (and one of only two counties in California) still providing more than minimal pocket money to indigent single adults. At the time of Newsom’s proposal San Francisco’s homeless adults in the assistance program were drawing between $320 and $395 a month, while their counterparts in Oakland were receiving a maximum of $24 a month. Newsom proposed that payments be cut to $57 per month, and that the money the city saved go into a fund to support permanent supportive housing for recipients. Care Not Cash was heavily advertised and it passed as a ballot initiative in November 2002, with 60 percent of the vote. Voters were impressed, and Newsom was elected mayor the following year. After a long legal battle, the program was fully implemented in May 2004. The mayor’s office mobilized volunteers for

Sleeping under cover on Market Street.

high profile monthly Homeless Connect events, creating prominent moments of collective effervescence around the anti-political narrative of disability and “compassion. In the meantime, he vigorously pursued his “quality-of-life” agenda, instituting centralized shelter intake and fingerprinting, and pushing through a new measure (Proposition M) tightening restrictions on panhandling near automated teller machines and “aggressive” panhandling anywhere. Where Brown’s policy on homelessness had been fragmented and prone to U-turns, Newsom layered a skillfully coherent discourse over a set of policies that were, if anything, even more equivocal. Again, punishment was couched in terms of “care.” "The idea is not to just throw the homeless into cells, but to help them," said Newsom. "The main thing is, we don't want them suffering on the streets, and if they're not suffering it's better for everyone, including them." Offenders were to be fined, or, if deemed appropriate, diverted to substance abuse or mental health programs, where they would have precedence on the waiting list. Both Care Not Cash and Proposition M shifted city resources toward pulling the most visible and rowdy members of the homeless population from the streets, especially in downtown and tourist areas. For justification, the administration increasingly emphasized the need to serve the “chronic homeless” — a new categorization popular in the policy circuit. From the outset, the “chronic homeless” were defined in terms of cost-benefit analysis — as single, long-term homeless individuals with “disabling conditions” who accounted for a strongly disproportionate outlay of homeless assistance dollars. The principle behind Care Not Cash was to offer single-room-occupancy hotel rooms to all the homeless Community Adult Assistance Program recipients whose benefit was cut - more than 1,200 people. A lucky 15 percent of the single homeless population had gained basic housing, but the conditions were now even harder for the rest. With the designated Care Not Cash rooms

filled, new homeless assistance program claimants were left forfeiting most of their check just to stay in the city shelters. The assistance program rolls predictably fell sharply, yet the annual homelessness count showed little change. Newsom astutely incorporated elements of system-talk — discussing “putting people directly in housing,” and even arguing, “there is no such thing as housing-resistant” — ideas long used by the activists of San Francisco’s Coalition on Homelessness in criticizing the authoritarian medicalization of the transitional shelters. Just as his support for same-sex marriage had won the hearts of liberal San Franciscans, his promotion of the progressive housing first principle seemed to inoculate him from stronger objections to his homelessness policy. San Francisco was no longer the famous radical outlier in the arena of American politics on homelessness. With the victory of Care Not Cash, the name of which so neatly symbolizes the gradual but inexorable shift of American poverty management from cash transfers to authoritarian medicalization, Newsom had pulled the city closer into line with the national zeitgeist. Contact writer Teresa Gowan at: writers@sfpublicpress.org.

Crossword solution from page A2.

Homeless Advocates Say Federal Government Has Key to Ending Problem

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an Francisco is not alone in its public housing woes and a homeless activist group’s recent report said it is up to the federal government to lay groundwork for housing to end homelessness. Recent attempts by policymakers to create and preserve housing are just the first steps to housing reform, the Western Regional Advocacy Project wrote in an update of its 2006 report, "Without Housing: Decades of Federal Housing Cutbacks, Massive Homelessness and Policy Failures." The update was Story: released in July. T.J. Johnston The San Francisco// Public Press based network of homeless organizations said the rise in homelessness over the past 30 years is directly related to two factors: the slashing of affordable-housing programs and increased tax breaks for wealthy homeowners. The report drew from government data and other sources in making those correlations. "What we are documenting is a 35-year disinvestment in housing that's not going to be resolved in a short-term approach," said Becky Dennison, co-director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, an anti-poverty advocacy group and a member of the Western Regional Advocacy Project. In the four years since the original report, the economic picture has grown bleaker. In 2009, foreclosures drove 3.4 million families out of their homes, with unemployment as the leading cause. The Obama Administration recently added $3 billion in funding to help unemployed homeowners meet mortgage payments under a plan from the 2008 Wall Street bailout, the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The advocacy project cited the drastic reduction in funding to the Housing and Urban Development Department's Low-Income Budget Authority. In 1978 funding for low-income housing was at $77.3 billion. But by 2004, constant dollar funding dropped to $17.6 billion. Since then, the only substantial increase in funds came last year with an infusion of stimulus funds. Despite the administration's increase in funding for homeless assistance, affordable-housing programs continue to decline. “Congress could easily authorize enough funding to keep public housing and Section 8 funded and keep units functioning," said Sara Shortt, director of Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. "The political will is not there." Shortt sees a scarcity of livable units as a result of continued defunding. In December 2009, the San Francisco Housing Authority wrote in a memo that the average waiting time to move into a unit is 10 years. The next month, they closed their waiting list which had a 5-to-1 ratio: It had 29,997 people in line for 6,262 units, with 104 units vacant at any given time. "Unfortunately, the federal government is seeing public housing in such poor shape," Shortt said. "The only thing to bring it back is full demolition and rehabilitation. In that, there is a lot of possibility for privatization." That prospect could occur under a HUD plan called Transforming Rental Assistance. Under that plan, 280,000 units would be mortgaged off to private investment. The advocacy project said it would be likely that the HUD plan would prioritize better-kept properties to attract private investors. Also, no tenant protection would be assured. Meanwhile, federal housing expenditures are climbing for homeowners, whose costs are subsidized by deductions on their mortgage interest. At $104 billion, the mortgage interest deduction is the second largest tax break. The largest tax break is employer-paid health insurance at $177 billion a year. The deduction yields a value of $5,459 to

What we are documenting is a

35-year disinvestment in housing that's not going to be resolved in a short-term approach

households making over $250,000 per year, but only $91 to those earning less than $40,000, according to the Tax Policy Center of the Brookings Institution. Because of the disparity, the deduction fails to increase homeownership, economists told policymakers in August at a HUD-sponsored conference in Washington, D.C., Mark Zandi, an economist with Moody Analytics, criticized the deduction as too costly for a government with an $8.8 trillion debt. "We aren't getting our money's worth," he said. Mary Canning, dean of the taxation and accounting schools at Golden Gate University, disputes the critiques of the deduction. "I don't see an abuse in the system there," she said. Democratic and Republican lawmakers are unlikely to repeal the popular homeowners' deduction. Modest recommendations made by a panel of George W. Bush appointees to reform the tax code also fell on deaf ears. Overall, the advocacy project wants new priorities in federal domestic policy. These include regulating housing finance, extending current Section 8 contracts another 20 years and diverting military spending to domestic poverty programs. Contact writer T.J. Johnston at: tjjohnston@sfpublicpress.org


CIVICS Fall 2010

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MILITARY

Iraq Veteran’s New Battle: Defeating ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Back in war zone as contractor, decorated sergeant yearns for return to military life

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nthony Loverde joined the military at 22 because he needed money for school, and because he felt a deep love for country. But the real reason, he said, was to gain discipline — to “fight being gay.” Starting as an Air Force radio technician, he climbed quickly to the rank of staff sergeant, and then served as a cargo loader flying missions in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. His close Story: Angela Hart crew of six did every// Public Press thing together — ate, Photos courtesy of slept, fought a war. Anthony Loverde While the team built camaraderie, Loverde had to lie about his personal life constantly. One summer day in 2008, a battle buddy asked what was wrong. Loverde had to let his secret out: he was gay. Military procedure required his friend to tell their commander. After seven years of service, Loverde was discharged under the military’s long-standing “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. “I fell in love with the military, but I was leading a double life,” said Loverde, a Sacramentoarea native who found his way to San Francisco to study photography at the Academy of Art University. “I was forced daily to lie to my family and my crew. I reached my breaking point. But I’m determined to get back in.” Now Loverde has joined a small nationwide cadre of outspoken former service members vying to re-enter the military after being fired under the Clinton-era law banning gays from serving openly in the armed forces. The issue has only grown more contentious this fall. In September, a federal judge in Southern California ruled that “don’t ask, don’t tell” was unconstitutional, and last month issued an injunction to stop enforcing the law. The government then requested a freeze on the injunction, which was granted by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Oct. 20. Also in September, a Republican threat of a filibuster kept the Senate from voting on a repeal of the policy. These developments have catapulted some gay former service members into the public spotlight. Loverde and about a dozen other high-

profile repeal advocates have spoken on network news and political punditry shows about the difficulty of serving under “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Some have even seen fleeting glimpses of success. In October, Dan Choi, a former Army lieutenant and Arabic linguist, publicly re-enlisted during a two-day lift of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” “Today he got what he said he wanted from day one: the opportunity to serve his country in the armed forces again,” the Huffington Post reported. On his own website, Choi laid out what he told the Army in his new contract: “I was discharged in 7/2010 from the U.S. Army because I told the truth about my sexual orientation and refused to lie about my cherished lover and partner. I do not intend to lie about my identity or family in any portion of my service.” Choi later tweeted that his enlistment papers were shredded and the Army deemed him “unqualified” to serve. Like Choi, Loverde is not giving up on re-enlisting. He became convinced that best way to do that was to repeal the 17-year ban. Loverde was one of 12 expert witnesses who testified in the federal case in Riverside that ruled the policy unconstitutional. The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay-rights group, had sued the federal government on the grounds that “don’t ask, don’t tell” violated service members’ First and Fifth Amendment rights to free speech and due process. He told the judge that he had to tell his commander he was gay for the same set of reasons that opponents of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., prominent among them, use to defend the policy: morale and cohesion of fighting units and overall military readiness in wartime. “The more and more I deployed, the more I had to keep building my walls up, not talking about the holidays, significant others, break-ups,” Loverde said. “They started to wonder if they could even trust me. That’s what breaks down the morale, all the hiding.” After he was discharged, Loverde was quickly recruited by the Department of Defense to serve again — but not in uniform. He was offered a civilian contractor position as a radio technician.

Moving Is Hard; Moving With Animals Is Harder

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Each year, Travis and a team of volunteers care for about 600 orphaned and injured wild animals on a residential property high in the Oakland hills. But soon they’ll have to find another place to do their work. The wildlife center is being evicted. In 2002, Travis started Yggdrasil — whose name comes from a mythical tree — because Berkeley and Oakland had nowhere to care for wildlife. Animals from all over Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda arrive to be nursed to health and returned to the wild. Often animals have been hit by cars; others are babies who lose their mothers. The center is an important resource for the city, said Oakland Animal Services Director Megan Webb. If it weren’t for Yggdrasil, Oakland would have to put down many more animals. Story: rachel Zurer // Oakland Local

“There's no way for us to do rehabilitation,” Webb said. “We don't even have the permits.” In order to be on-call for emergencies, Travis lives with her family on the center’s grounds. Meanwhile, rescued animals occupy cages around the yard and in an infirmary. . When the wildlife center first moved to the property in 2004, Travis understood from the owner that it would be welcome for 30 years. With that in mind, volunteers renovated the grounds, including terracing the steep hillside and building stairs. Then this year, Travis said the landlord raised the rent and asked the center to leave. Travis fought the eviction with the Oakland rent board, but lost. She and the center have until April 2011 to vacate the property. Meanwhile, their rent increased 66 percent, she said. “We’re in a bit of a difficult situation right now,” Travis said. ”We’re going to lose all of the time, money, blood, sweat and tears of hundreds of people, and we don’t know where we’re going to go.”

Contact writer Rachel Zurer at: writers@sfpublicpress.org

AFRICA

What’s Powering Economic Growth in Africa?

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ccording to James Manyika, San Francisco-based director of the McKinsey Global Institute, it’s more than just a resource boom. MGI is the business and economics research arm of McKinsey & Co., a globally active management consulting firm. Manyika told a World Affairs Council audience on Sept. 30 that while oil and other natural resources make up about a quarter of the growth of African nations’ gross domestic product, i.e. goods and services output, in the last decade, wholesale, retail, agriculture, transport and telecommunications activity also have contributed to the economic development. “If you also look at the rate of return in the last two decades of foreign investment in Africa, it’s actually been higher than any other developing region,” Manyika said in discussing MGI’s recent annual report on African economic trends. “So that’s actually real

TOP: Anthony Loverde was discharged from the Air Force under “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” He is working as a Department of Defense civilian contractor at Balad Air Base, Iraq. ABOVE: Loverde and his air crew in the rear of a C130 cargo plane in Iraq.

Contact SFPP writer Angela Hart at: ahart@sfpublicpress.org

PERCEPTIONS

OAKLAND

raigslist lets you search for dog- and cat-friendly rentals, but what about squirrels, raccoons, fawns and opossums? That’s a feature Lila Travis, founder and director of the Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue Center, could use right now.

Although he is now earning four times the money he would make as an airman, he’s only biding his time until he can re-enter the military. He doesn’t care about the money, he said. In August Loverde left for his fourth tour in Iraq or Afghanistan as a civilian contractor. He is now working from Balad Air Base in northern Iraq. The time away from the military allowed Loverde to explore creative outlets for his activism as well. As a graduate student in photography at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco he developed a portfolio of photographs that this fall he self-published as “A Silent Force: Men and Women Serving Under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The book depicts faceless soldiers wearing uniforms, holding the American flag or saluting, showing the human side of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Most of the soldiers photographed are still enlisted, and none was willing to speak publicly for fear of discharge from the military. But Loverde is staying public, he said: “My love for country will not falter and I will continue to fight. The battle is not over.”

performance — economic performance — in the last decade or two.” Africa’s GDP is about $1.6 trillion — about equal to Brazil’s and slightly above Russia’s, judged from data in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook. Manyika said consumer spending in Africa is $860 billion, which tops that in India. He added that the level of urbanization in Africa is very similar to China’s and higher than India’s, with about 40 percent of the African population living in cities. “If you project the performance that we’ve seen, if you follow the trends over the next decade, it’s also quite striking,” Manyika said. “You’ll find that if the GDP growth collectively continues at the same pace, it could be as much as $2.6 trillion by 2020.” — Ambika Kandasamy Contact writer Ambika Kandasamy at: akandasamy@sfpublicpress.org

Judge and Media Navigate Claims of Gay Bias

Ruling in same-sex marriage appeal puts spotlight on personal lives of those judging — and reporting on — the issues

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veryone has an opinion on gay rights — and this fall it is clear that it is becoming a problem for the law and the media. How can a judge deliver a ruling on gay marriage, “don’t ask, don’t tell” or other policies when he or she is either gay or not? How can journalists, who have sexualities too, write about the issue? Same-sex marriage opponents complained that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker — who Story: kristine Magnuson this summer over// Public Press turned Proposition 8, a 2008 state constitutional amendment banning the practice — should have recused himself because he is gay (a suggestion Walker has declined to discuss). Walker’s sexual orientation will be front and center in arguments before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Dec. 6. This puts journalists, too, in a funny position. Who will believe a gay reporter covering the question about whether a gay judge should be disqualified? “I think if you disclose your bias, disclose the fact that you’re personally impacted by this, then I think it’s OK,” said Scott James, a gay reporter who writes a column for The New York Times and The Bay Citizen. “I’m a huge believer in transparency.” In August, James wrote a personal narrative “So Close … But Not Today,” on his experience of becoming part of the story while waiting in line to get married just after Walker nixed Proposition 8. No same-sex marriages took place, because Walker filed a temporary stay just minutes after filing his ruling. But that was not the case in 2004, when San Francisco Chronicle reporter Rachel Gordon and photographer Liz Mangelsdorf were taken off the same-sex marriage beat after marrying each other during a brief window of opportunity as Mayor Gavin Newsom announced he would allow marriages. Chronicle editors feared the appearance of a conflict of interest. Kelly McBride, who teaches journalism ethics at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism

Gay and lesbian journalists

bring acuity to stories about same-sex marriage that comes from living life on the outside.

school in St. Petersburg, Fla., questioned the decision, saying bias goes beyond identity. “Yes, journalists should avoid becoming part of the story,” McBride wrote in an e-mail. “But when newsrooms worry only about the most evident conflicts, we sew a flimsy safety net.” McBride said assigning a gay journalist to a story on sexuality could provide a more complete perspective: “Gay and lesbian journalists bring acuity to stories about same-sex marriage that comes from living life on the outside.”

LuCk of tHe drAw The Northern District Federal Court selected Walker, the district’s chief judge, via lottery assignment from its pool of jurists to oversee Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, the case in which four samesex plaintiffs sought to marry. The Alliance Defense Fund, a religious nonprofit led by Charles Cooper, said in its opening brief before the appeals court that Walker delivered a biased ruling. But it did not link the alleged bias to Walker’s sexuality, nor did it make that the focus of its appeal. Walker’s purported orientation entered the court record on Sept. 29, when Robert Wooten, an unaffiliated private citizen, applied to file an amicus brief calling for the appeals court to weigh Walker’s sexual orientation when reviewing his ruling. Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage, a New Jersey-based nonprofit, launched a $1.5 million campaign to run television ads, organize bus tours and collect signatures to proclaim Walker’s bias as a gay man. The organization also released several TV ads, including one just shortly after the ruling that called Walker “a gay San Francisco federal judge” and blasted what it termed “San Francisco values.” Walker’s ruling applied only to California,

though it will doubtless influence other courts’ decisions around the nation. In an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, Maggie Gallagher, the organization’s chairwoman, wrote, “Judge Walker is off-base: Samesex marriage is not a civil right, it is a civil wrong. The Supreme Court and Congress will reject his biased view.”

ACtIVISt or journALISt? Gallagher is also a conservative syndicated columnist who is no stranger to conflicts of interest. In 2005 she apologized for not disclosing that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to promote President George W. Bush’s $300 million promarriage initiative through a magazine article, brochures and briefings for government officials. Asked by the Washington Post whether she violated journalistic ethics, Gallagher initially replied, “Frankly, it never occurred to me.” Journalist Matt Baume (a contributor to many local publications including the Public Press, where he has written about development issues) is in his spare time a gay-rights activist. The creator of the website Stop8.org, Baume countered claims made in the National Organization for Marriage’s commercials with his own video on YouTube. Baume decried the references to Walker’s sexuality, pointing out that Walker has neither confirmed nor denied being homosexual. The assertion first surfaced in a column by San Francisco Chronicle political reporters Phil Matier and Andy Ross in February. Salon.com cited a lack of evidence regarding the judge’s orientation, but included a photo of Walker eating lunch with a male companion. Does the photo prove that Walker is gay? James, the Times columnist, said that eating lunch in San Francisco’s Castro District reveals only an appreciation for fine dining. On the other hand, he said of the Matier and Ross item, “I can’t imagine that they were cavalier about reporting that.”

Contact writer Kristine Magnuson at: kmagnuson@sfpublicpress.org


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CIVICS Fall 2010 // sfpublicpress.org

SEISMIC SAFETY

City Struggles to Move Beyond Piecemeal Approach to Earthquake Retrofitting

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an Francisco’s piecemeal approach to seismic retrofitting took a big hit when voters rejected a $46 million bond to retrofit affordable housing and residential hotels. This was the third time in as many years that the city sought the ability to borrow money to fix structures that were most vulnerable to a major earthquake. Advocates say this measure’s passage could saved the lives of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. But seismic safety experts argue it was only a fraction of what is needed to prevent widespread building collapses when the next big quake strikes. While this year’s bond measure, Proposition A, could have saved as many as 156 buildings, the city has identified at least another 2,700 similar structures that are not covered by any retrofit program. The city has taken Story: a piecemeal approach By Rosemary Macaulay to seismic tune-ups // Public Press for two decades. Since Photo: courtesy of UC Berkeley the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, city voters have given a go-ahead to 13 local and regional bond and tax measures. Three of these measures aim to repair San Francisco General Hospital, privately owned unreinforced concrete masonry buildings, totalling $1.3 billion. Some earthquake safety advocates see such a piece-by-piece approach as too laid back. However, this strategy is advised not only by the city’s financial planning staff in order to maintain a solid credit rating, but is also politically prudent, said Jason Elliott, a policy adviser to Mayor Gavin Newsom and also a key campaigner for Proposition A. Elliott said city officials try to put forward measures that “could get two-thirds on the ballot.” With all the other financial challenges the city faces, “the piecemeal approach is what we’re stuck with,” said Chris Poland, a structural engineer and key player in the city’s seismic retrofitting initiatives. The speed of retrofitting work, however, could pick up in 2011 if the newly elected Board of Supervisors makes some of the quake work mandatory. Since early spring, officials have been preparing a new requirement that would apply to all soft-story buildings — wood-frame structures with large openings on the ground floor — built before 1973. City officials now estimate that the plan will not be ready for consideration for about six months. Still up for debate is whether there will be funds to help building owners comply. The debate is timely: Seismologists predict that a 6.7-magnitude earthquake has a 63 percent chance of hitting the Bay Area in the next 30 years. Loma Prieta was magnitude 6.9, and it killed seven people in San Francisco and collapsed seven buildings in the Marina District, all of which were soft-story.

CONCRETE BUILDINGS ALSO IN DANGER While this year’s efforts focued on soft-story

The Loma Prieta earthquake wreaked havoc on the Marina District in 1989. Seismologists say soft-story buildings are among the most vulnerable.

There are a number of buildings that are considered to be quite dangerous. There are many levels of danger and softstory buildings are in the top two or three.”

buildings, all affordable housing, some seismic safety engineers say more must be done. Nonductile concrete buildings also pose a serious quake risk and are costly to revamp. The Concrete Coalition, a volunteer group of engineers and planners, estimates that there are as many as 3,000 such buildings in San Francisco, both commercial and residential. An advisory committee, called the Committee Action Plan for Seismic Safety, which reconstituted in 2008 after years of inactivity, has been pushing for an inventory of vulnerable structures the city should act on. “I would have preferred a substantial amount more to cover private buildings that are rent controlled,” said Debra Walker, a member of the committee who also ran for supervisor in District Six this fall. “In some ways they’re more dangerous than wood-frame buildings. But there are less of them and they affect fewer people and businesses,” Walker said. “It’s not enough,” said Sarah Karlinsky, deputy director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. “We should be looking at nonductile concrete buildings, other SRO buildings with different vulnerabilities — all kinds of

buildings,” she said, adding that Proposition A would have been a step in the right direction. “If casualties are a concern, you should go after older concrete buildings,” said Lauren Samant, a consultant evaluating seismic safety for the city. “There are a number of buildings that are considered to be quite dangerous,” said Stephen Mahin, professor of structural engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center. “There are many levels of danger and soft-story buildings are in the top two or three.” But in the financially strapped city, getting a green light for more funding is no easy feat. The Capital Planning Committee of the General Services Agency often discourages bond ideas that cost too much. Proposition A, however, seemed affordable to the committee. “It doesn’t impact on the city’s ability to do future capital projects,” Elliott explained. But anything more would have been “more than the city can afford.” Proposition A wasn’t the first program designed to toughen up the city’s buildings. In 1992, a bond measure gave the city the authority to lend out hundreds of millions to fund retrofitting of unreinforced masonry buildings. Nearly two decades later, however, $270 million remains, and the mayor’s office says that tapping into that fund is complicated. Though about 95 percent of the approximately 2,000 such masonry structures have been retrofitted, according to building inspection officials, the city was only able to find willing borrowers for a fraction of the $350 million that was available at that time. The reason is that the loans offered by banks came with better terms than those the city of-

fered. Kevin Kitchingham, housing director of the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center — an organization that owns buildings that might have benefited from the Proposition A loans — expressed disappointment that this $270 million fund has not been tapped into. “There was more money available for that bond issuance than the mayor would sign off on,” Kitchingham said. “We wanted to take the unspent bond authorization from the prior issuance and repurpose that money along with these funds.” Repurposing the unreinforced masonry building bond would require sending two ballot measures to the voters. One would deauthorize its current use and another would reauthorize it to pay for seismic retrofits in other types of structures. The city’s financial rating agencies have assumed the bond, authorized in 1992, will never be sold. Repurposing it might weaken the city’s bond rating.

VOLUNTARY MEASURES In April, the Department of Building Inspection rolled out a voluntary seismic retrofit program to encourage owners of soft-story building to safeguard their properties against potential damage and collapse. The participation rate, however, has been minimal. Despite the offer of expedited permits and waived fees, only 14 building owners have applied for permits. The Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety even went as far as recommending fines for noncompliance. The mayor’s office, however, is opposed to the fines.

Poland, chair of a mayoral committee preparing the mandatory ordinance, said the proposal was ready in September but got bogged down in debates about funding incentives. The basis for the Proposition A effort was a report published by the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety in February 2009. It identified risks and issued recommendations regarding soft-story buildings. The city prioritized residential hotels in part because they house so many people. Poland said that because the buildings damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake were all softstory structures, people are more aware of their dangers: “Whenever there’s an earthquake and a particular building is damaged, it causes the public to be concerned and for us to focus on that.” Identifying which kinds of danger the city should try to avoid is not straightforward. “If your priority is to make sure people aren’t thrown out of their houses after an earthquake, then these wood-frame soft-story buildings are more important,” said Samant, a project manager for the community action plan and consultant for the Applied Technology Council. “Not only those covered by Prop. A, but also smaller ones with three or four units.” Samant explained that the focus on buildings with only five or more units is somewhat arbitrary, as the number of units in a building says little about its size or risk of collapse.

MORE PRESSURE FOR REFORM Despite its numerous recommendations, the community action plan has little ability to act. As an advisory group, its recommendations on legislation and programs are passed on to the Department of Building Inspection and politicians, where the fate of these programs is decided. “Ultimately it’s the job of the city, the Board of Supervisors and the mayor to move forward with these recommendations,” Walker said. Three more reports will be published by the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety before the end of the year. These include a detailed study of what is likely to happen in San Francisco in the event of a major earthquake, a report clarifying which buildings will need to be repaired and retrofitted after an earthquake and a list of risk-mitigation recommendations for the city. Though the city contracts for the community action plan are due to expire soon, the advisory committee, composed of volunteers, will continue its work. “Even without money from the city,” Poland said, “there’s a strong army of volunteers interested in doing this for San Francisco.”

Contact writer Rosemary Macaulay: rmacaulay@sfpublicpress.org

TOP LINE

Oakland Police Anti-Gang Efforts Draw Criticism Activists prefer education and boosting businesses to stepping up arrests

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akland is a city of hills and waterfront, plenty of sunshine and mild weather as well as a vibrant cultural and political history. Yet for all that, Oakland is often best known for its crime problem. Just ask Rickey Henderson. A T-shirt featurStory and photo: ing baseball’s stolenAli Winston // ”Crosscurrents” base king bears his on KALW News quote: “Everything I know about stealing, I learned in Oakland.” What police there are more concerned about isn’t stealing, but the city’s violent crime. The city of 400,000 consistently averages over 100 murders annually. And the Oakland Police Department claims most of the city’s violent crimes come from street gangs. “What we’re trying to do here is, we’re doing something that’s called hot-spot policing,” said Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts. “We’re using technology to identify down to the block, down to the house on a block, where crime is being committed.” Over the summer, Batts hosted a two-day summit of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as well as social service providers to talk about gang crime. He said he wanted to make sure the police did not appear “as an occupying army to impact every resident in the city of Oakland, every minority child in the city of Oakland. “We focus on that 1 percent of the community that is doing the most violent act, and we’re going after them and holding them accountable,” he said. Oakland Police officials say gangs are an equal opportunity employer. “We have Hispanic gangs, we have AfricanAmerican gangs, and we have Asian gangs, we have white gangs,” said Deputy Police Chief Jeff Israel. “They’re pretty much the entire color of the rainbow — we’ve got it.” Israel said the city has been handling them better since voters in 2004 passed Measure Y funding a range of city programs aimed at steering at-risk youth and young adults away from violence, through education, employment or

other methods. “Violent crime is down in this city,” he said. “I believe it’s a direct result of a lot of the Measure Y services that have been provided that otherwise may not be there.” Measure Y also changed how police dealt with suspected gang members: They tell them what they are being investigated for and what will happen if they don’t change their ways, he said. “We tell them, ‘You’re on our radar,’” Israel said. “I mean, years ago we didn’t tell you if you were under investigation. We’re calling you in and we’re having the FBI and the U.S. attorney tell you, ‘You’re on our radar. Stop it. And by the way, here’s another way to go.’” But Measure Y hasn’t eliminated Oakland’s gang problem. The city’s murder rate is still high for a city that size. So when Batts arrived in January, he decided to get some more help. One of the first people he called on Joe Russoniello, who has twice served as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California – most recently from January 2008 until mid August 2010 – and has spent a lot of time dealing with street gangs. “The whole focus now is on evidence-based en-

We focus on that 1 percent of

the community that is doing the most violent act.

forcement – being smarter in law enforcement,” Russoniello said. “We started with an analysis. We have the best people that we have from the state, from the police department, give us a backgrounder, a primer on what organizations there were out there, how they were established and so on.” The result was two gang sweeps: Operation Knockout in April and Operation Tapout in June, both aimed at the Norteño street gang and Nuestra Familia, a prison-based gang that calls most of the shots for Norteños around California. “We treat these gangs, by the way, much like the military treats insurgents in Iraq or Afghani-

stan,” Russoniello said. “And in fact, in Salinas, we had the benefit of being able to use some of the technologies from the Naval Postgraduate School that had actually been developed on the battlefield for gathering intelligence, being able to identify people who associated. Using that same technology in a domestic environment works very well.” The operations resulted in 64 arrests that police claim has brought violence down sharply: shootings by 50 percent from last year, murders by 80 percent. Batts was so impressed with the results that he decided to replicate the operations. The August summit featured meetings with community members to discuss intervention measures. And law enforcement officials met to share information and develop a plan of attack. At this stage, Israel said, federal agencies like the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration can help Oakland conduct expensive, timeconsuming investigations that will target violent gangs and their sources of income. “If we could get the feds to come in and all help us with these targeted gangs and we could do it all at once, then I think just like (in) Salinas, there’s going to be a huge impact,” he said. “You take off a hundred of your most violent offenders all at once, that’s going to have a huge impact. “And the people that you didn’t arrest? Hopefully they’re going to look at that and say, ‘Those guys are gone for many, many years in a federal penitentiary and I’ve got all these services being offered to me. Maybe I’m not doing this as smartly as I could.’ That’s the end game we’re looking for.” Although many of Oakland’s elected officials have bought into the plan, community members aren’t sure that more policing, more arrests and more prison time are the answer. “What other choices do people have but to support their families?” said Tony Marks-Block, an organizer with the Stop the Injunction Coalition. That’s a reference to the controversial North Oakland gang injunction that took effect earlier this year. Marks-Block said Oakland’s gangs exist because the black market is the only economy

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Police Chief Anthony Batts available to some residents. “Oftentimes, it is those commodities, the drug commodities, that can actually control,” he said. “And that is where the violence comes in, because in order to maintain control over any market, there is always going to be violence. You can see that in oil markets or in any sort of natural resource.” Marks-Block said locking people in prison only locks them into a life of crime: “When you get out of prison, of course with a felony conviction, you do not have many job opportunities. So to include a stick measure, like rounding up supposed gang members — one, you’re going to get people who aren’t necessarily gang members but who fit a description into the system. And second, those who are active in organized underground economy activities, they are going to be in that economy for the rest of their lives, because it’s the only option for them once they get out, if they do ever get out of prison.” So instead of bolstering enforcement efforts, Marks-Block would prefer seeing money spent on job training, education and small business development — things that will support the entire community, rather than turning them against

the authorities. “I think you’re right to say in the past, there has been antipathy between the police and the community,” Russoniello said. “There’s been a certain level of cynicism on the part of the community towards the police, but they’re their best friends they’re going to find, and the police are the difference between being victimized on a regular basis and feeling some sense of security.” Both Oakland’s Police Department and Russoniello say they can replicate the success of the Salinas program in Oakland. But while crime has dipped in the coastal valley city since the gang sweeps earlier this year, it is too early to tell whether the calm will hold. The one thing Oaklanders can be sure of, Russoniello said, is that this gang crackdown will be anything but brief. “This is not the Seventh Cavalry going in there for two or three days, showing the flag and then leaving town,” he said. “We’re in this for the long haul.” Contact Ali Winston at: writers@sfpublicpress.org


CIVICS sfpublicpress.org // Fall 2010

C7 SF Public Press

Upscale Medical Cannabis Club Aims To Change Image of Industry

Marijauna advertising is getting bolder, and bulking up anemic newspapers. GREEN MARKETING

SPARC, as the new dispensary is know, renovated the first floor of a warehouse building on Mission Street, just a block away from the new federal building.

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he San Francisco Patient and Resource Center in the South of Market area resembles an art gallery where customers in sports coats and skirts suck THC vapors from plastic balloons and feast on cannabis-laced caramels. The medical cannabis dispensary at 1256 Mission St. was designed by Larissa Sand of Sand Studios in the South Park neighborhood with the intention of luring new customers in this evolving area, which includes the new Federal Building just two blocks away. The most striking design element of the center is the blue-and-gray, modStory: ern, stained-glass window Katy Gathright inspired by Twin Peaks in the Hank Drew Castro, one of the first gay // Public Press Photos: bars to not have blacked-out Monica Jensen windows. The blue panels // Public Press are transparent, inviting the public to peer in. “While patient privacy is a concern,” founder David Owen said in an e-mail, “SPARC was designed with the same notion of openness in mind ... removing the stigma and the ‘dark alley’ feeling.” Owen said the window’s design represents segments of the genetic map of the cannabis plant. Nicholas Smilgys, the center’s marketing director, said the reaction to the dispensary’s more open and modern design has been positive. He said it seems to have attracted more women who come in alone. Wayne Justmann, a San Francisco medical cannabis activist, agreed that the center has created a more customer-friendly environment. Many San Francisco dispensaries are plain storefronts with a small service counter. The Re-Leaf Herbal Center next to the resource center has iron bars on its entrance door and windows. “From the front door to the urinal,” Justman said, SPARC “has the most modern washroom that I have ever seen. They are creating a very patient-friendly environment.” The forward-looking center has ties to several establishments that fit the progressive model. J. Erich Pearson, the center’s executive director, is also affiliated with CannBe, a for-profit marijuana consulting and lobbying firm. He also is a cofounder of the San Francisco Cannabis Collective and serves on the city’s new Medical Cannabis Task Force. Oakland’s Harborside Health Center may be the model for the center. Steve DeAngelo, Harborside’s chief executive officer, works with Pearson at CannBe. The New York Times noted that Harborside’s corporate features, including its modern motif, yoga classes and chiropractic services,

story continued from page C1

Marijuana and Health went on to have an anxiety reaction. Cermak: I’m shaking my head, because how many people go to the emergency room because of tobacco smoking? I don’t think that happens. And yet it kills over 400,000 people a year. So just looking at the number of people who go on an acute basis in the emergency room is not the best way to look at this. Also, the fact that it is addictive. You’re absolutely right, it does not have a terrible withdrawal. There is a distinct withdrawal, which has been defined, but people aren’t jonsing in the gutter because they are withdrawing from marijuana. What they are doing is continuing to smoke in order to relieve the withdrawal symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, irritability. The fact that there is an addiction is in this case just something that leads people to continue using it. Krasny: Is it like Facebook or texting? Cermak: I completely dislike anytime someone denigrates addiction by saying that it’s like Facebook. What we know is that there is a reward center in the brain, that every drug of addiction leads to an increase in dopamine in that reward center, 10 to 15 times higher than anything that you can do. That reward center is there so that when we have a meal, when we have sex, when we exercise, the dopamine level goes up and it leads us to repeat that beneficial behavior. Drugs of abuse will lead that dopamine to go up 10 to 15 times higher, ultimately changing the architecture of the cells in the reward center. Krasny: Dr. Cermak, you conceded that there will be more use … doesn’t that mean more traffic accidents, more impairment, more potential bad consequences?

The Wal-Mart industry of ‘Big

Pot’ is coming in to take over your city. And they’re going to come in, and they’re gonna lowball prices, put all the small guys out of business, then jack prices up.

are giving new credibility to the marijuana business. “I think that SPARC is really going to bring a completely new model to San Francisco,” DeAngelo said. Kevin Reed, 36, runs San Francisco’s Green Cross dispensary on the lower floor of his home. He said he worries about bigger dispensaries coming to town. “What I see opening now are the superstores coming in,” Reed said. “The Wal-Mart industry of ‘Big Pot’ is coming in to take over your city. And they’re going to come in, and they’re gonna lowball prices, put all the small guys out of business, then jack prices up, and they’re gonna be your daddy.” Cannabis dispensaries in California may operate only as nonprofits. Dispensaries like Harborside and the new resource center are well prepared to prove their nonprofit commitment by channeling their cannabis revenue into wellness classes and other services, DeAngelo said. By becoming members of the resource center, patients also fund advocacy work for improved marijuana access. They also get exclusive access to a variety of services in addition to cannabis products, including cooking classes, art therapy and meditation sessions. At the resource center, the wood counters, constructed with salvaged, old-growth oak, were lined with customers asking questions about the different strains on display in the well-lit glass case. Display samples were housed in clear petri dishes with colorful cards detailing the cost, potential effects and the levels of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the active chemical compound in the cannabis plant. Flat screen monitors display the strains and tout special prices. Cannabis supplies are stored behind the counter in wooden apothecary drawers, giving a bit of old-world charm to the modern area. The group plans eventually to test the drug

Cermak: Those are potential. What we know is that we continually see at this point, 16 percent of the people who are admitted for in-patient treatment of any drug dependence, 16 percent are there because of marijuana. Our position is to be educating people as much as possible about the fact that there are risks. The risks need to be managed and the risks are greatest for adolescents. Krasny: What do you say, Larry Bedard, to that 16 percent figure you just heard cited? Bedard: One of the questions I would ask is, how may of those were coerced into treatment? There’s been a dramatic increase of 300 percent, from 20,000 to 60,000, of people who get arrested for recreational use. When they then get arrested, a judge will say, “If you go into a treatment program, we will completely eliminate any reference to this infraction or misdemeanor.” So people are coerced. If you’re halfway intelligent, you would take the option of participating, being coerced into some treatment program as opposed to having this on your record, which would potentially make you ineligible for scholarships, ineligible for federal housing such as a college dormitory, certain jobs, professions you couldn’t get into. So you look at the number of people going into treatment, it exactly replicates the curve of the number of people who are arrested for recreational use. Krasny: Do you have a breakdown along those lines, Timmen Cermak, of coercion as opposed to voluntarily? Cermak: Well first, everyone who goes into treatment is coerced. Whether you’re coerced by parents, your spouse, your job. So no one goes in because they’re happy to go there. One of the things that’s been most interesting to me is to look at the fact that if you see people who are coerced by the law, by the courts into treatment, their outcome from treatment is just as good as

levels of its strains of cannabis, which are grown by the center’s collective in the Bay Area, and edibles, currently supplied by an outside vendor. Smilgys said the center will test for THC levels as well as for mold and other contaminants. He said the center will also start manufacturing edibles such as “mighty bites” brownies and “cosmic caramels,” which now come from an outside vendor. Smilgys said he thought medical cannabis treats were extremely strong across the board. “We are going to ratchet it down so it’s not unbearable for the average person to use,” he said. ”We did empirical testing with our employees on all the edibles to make sure they were acceptable for us to sell here.” One other interesting plus for the dispensary is its entertainment license. It could be the first true pot club in the city. “Finding performers with [medical cannabis] cards shouldn’t be too difficult,” Smilgys said. “Very professional, very clean” Jeffery Pagalion walked out onto Mission Street from the resource center with a bag of cannabis that he said he uses to treat stress. The 20-something said the club is very attractive. “The atmosphere is very nice, very professional, very clean,” Pagalion said. “It’s all around really good.” As with many businesses aimed at higher-end clientele, he said, beauty sometimes is skin deep. “It’s not one of my favorite spaces, but it is a place I’d like to buy [from] once in a while depending on what type of medicine they have available,” Pagalion said. He said the Love Shack and the Green Door were his favorite dispensaries. “It’s the quality of the weed,” Pagalion said. “I like their OG Kush better than what they have here. It’s about the quality of the medicine.” In the end, Smilgys said, the resource center wants to make medical cannabis a legitimate business. “We’re transparent — we’re a true nonprofit,” he said. The group operates as a mutual benefit corporation organized under California’s Corporations Code, and pays state and federal taxes, he said. “We want to create real change and let people see that this doesn’t have to be an industry as it was in the past.”

Contact writers Katy Gathright and Hank Drew at: kgathright@sfpublicpress.org hdrew@sfpublicpress.org

people who go in, quote, voluntarily, unquote. We have found that forcing people into treatment at times is just as beneficial. [Caller, Penny from Texas, says marijuana is a gateway drug.] Bedard: No evidence that it’s a gateway drug. I think illegal drugs are gateways to other illegal drugs. For example, if your son or daughter were smoking pot and they got a regular dealer and he says, “Let me give you a present. Let me give a little bit of ecstasy, you’ll have a great time with it.” And next time, he says, “Boy that was good, do you have any ecstasy?” He says, “Sure it’s $25 a tablet.” The first one’s free, the second one costs ya. If you want to have drug dealers who have very little ethics, driven by the profit motive, being the ones that provide your sons and daughters with marijuana, keep it illegal. And that’s going to expose them to other illegal drugs. The World Health Organization looked at this issue and correlation is not causality. I mean, there is a 100 percent correlation between having milk as an infant in any kind of addiction, but it’s not causative. There’s no biochemical or neuroanatomy reason to say or suggest that it’s a gateway drug to other drugs. Krasny: Where do you stand on that, Timmen Cermak, on the gateway question? Cermak: It’s a difficult question. How would you prove that something is a gateway drug? Basically I think you would have to find something happening in the brain, which would then lead a person to be more likely to be using other drugs. Dr. Bedard is basically right about that, there isn’t any smoking gun there. Other than the fact that once that reward center has been changed by addiction to any drug, it becomes more likely that someone can be addicted to other drugs. Krasny: Perhaps a question for you, Dr. Cermak, from a listener who writes: Do most educators

With Few Restrictions and Bundles of Cash, Cannabis Ads Help Sagging Media Profits

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edical marijuana advertising is taking off, propping up the fortunes of ailing media companies that have seen income from other business sectors plummet in the recession. Advertisements offering free edibles for new patients and products such as “super silver haze” are helping to keep the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly and East Bay Express in business. Similar ads have even started cropping up — tentatively — in more staid publications, such as the San Francisco Chronicle. Ads for pot are growing Story: so fast in part because they Anna Rendall face fewer regulations and // Public Press restrictions than marketing materials for cigarettes and alcohol. The only real regulation is one requiring the ads to warn customers that they need a doctor’s recommendation. “Marijuana advertising is a small percentage of our total advertising — we wish that we had more,” said Mina Bajraktarevic, advertising sales manager at the Bay Guardian, whose back page has become a wall of green with medical marijuana advertising. “We’ve been involved in this for years,” said Bruce Brugmann, publisher of the Bay Guardian. “We haven’t heard any complaints.” Not all media companies are comfortable with pot ads, and some have equivocated about whether to accept them. Some advertisers were waiting to see the outcome of the Proposition 19 state legalization vote on Nov. 2 before agreeing to take money from the burgeoning industry. Ten years ago most medical cannabis clubs were intentionally low-key and relied only on word of mouth. Being illegal, they were inconsistently tolerated by the authorities. Now, with rapidly liberalized enforcement policies, the most successful medical cannabis businesses are the ones that get their brand name out to the public. Dozens of the businesses are racing to capture the pot-smoking community’s mindshare, and are pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into local media this year to do so. “We probably spend around $2,500 to $3,000 a month on advertising,” said Kevin Reed, president of the Green Cross, a medical cannabis dispensary on Market Street between Eighth and Ninth streets. “We’re in a world where you’re competing with all these fly-bynight businesses who don’t have to follow the rules — they’re not regulated.” Until recently, more than half a dozen dispensaries had failed

see marijuana use improving or worsening school performance? Which educators are encouraging their students to smoke marijuana? What about school performance and marijuana? What do we know? Cermak: Two things. One is that if you smoke 100 times — now, 100 times is not that many if you’re an adolescent. If you smoke once every weekend for two years, or twice on the weekend for one year, that equals 100 times. And if you do that, you are 5.8 times more likely to leave school. You are 3.3 times less likely to go to college. You’re 4.5 times less likely to graduate from college. Diminished educational achievement is, in some ways, the No. 1 problem that we find with adolescents. And one of the reasons for that is that when adolescents stop smoking, compared to adults, we can follow the cognitive deficits. In adults they will clear within just a few days. In adolescents they can be measured for as long as a month. Krasny: You have no quarrel with this, Larry Bedard? Bedard: Again, I’ll accept your numbers as accurate. But correlation does not mean causality. For example, we know that heroin dependency is related to [the] age at which you start drinking alcohol. So if you’re 12 or 13. But then, maybe if you’re drinking at 12 or 13, it’s because your father is a heroin addict, beating the crap out of you’re mother, slapping you around. So I think to look at these studies, you would have to do something in-depth. Were there other problems in the family or other issues? ... So you would have to look before you could say this correlation is really causality. I think it does cause short-term memory loss. Once again, I would not advocate its use in adolescence. [Caller said she started using marijuana at age 13. She is now 33 and has been sober for one year. She said she was depressed for most of the time

to register their businesses with the San Francisco Department of Public Health. One of the pioneers of pot advertising was KUSF Radio. Four years ago the station, run by the University of San Francisco, had a Green Cross-underwritten public-service announcement that ran on 90.3 FM. But sometimes it’s hard for pot clubs to buy ads; several have lined up ad agreements only to have them retroactively rejected. In May, Facebook canceled the Green Cross’ existing advertisements on the site. MediCann, a group of clinics specializing in medical marijuana evaluations, also had its Facebook ads snuffed. In August, the Green Cross paid in full for a slot on a huge electronic billboard on Interstate 280 at the Serramonte Shopping Center in Daly City — only to see it taken down a day later. The circumstances surrounding that reversal were not quite clear. SF Weekly ran a blog post suggesting the ad was taken down because its content was objectionable. But a spokeswoman for the mall, Cherie Napier, said that the real reason was that the billboard was only permitted to run ads for products or services sold at the mall. The marijuana ad, she said in an e-mail, “would have been a violation and could have resulted in a $10,000 fine from the state.” Aside from the weeklies, the medical pot business supports a whole genre of “cannabis friendly” magazines, such as West Coast Leaf and Kush. “We don’t do general newspapers or anything like that,” said Adrian Moore, director of operations at 7 Stars Holistic Healing Center in Richmond. Bigger news outlets don’t appear ready to take advertisements for marijuana, at least not yet. To what extent can marijuana be advertised? Kris Hermes, executive director of the Oaklandbased Americans for Safe Access, called advertising for the drug a First Amendment issue. “Our rough position is that we’re in favor of patients finding out how to access medical marijuana,” Hermes said. “We encourage local governments to figure out ways of allowing advertisements that aren’t counterproductive to [get to] the members of the community.”

Contact writer Anna Rendall at: arendall@sfpublicpress.org

she was smoking, and when she stopped smoking the depression began to be alleviated. For many people, marijuana is very addictive mentally and physically, she said.] Bedard: Well, I had another teenage daughter who said, “Gee, Dad, everybody drinks.” So I came up with the 50/80/10/10 rule. In reality, not everybody drinks. Less than 50 percent of people over the age of 21 drink. People don’t drink for religious reasons, health reasons — whatever. You legalize marijuana … right now 42 percent have tried it at one time. You mentioned earlier that 80 percent of the people who drink do so responsibly. They enjoy it, they like wine, they relax with a cocktail, and I think the same thing would happen with marijuana. Ten percent of people who have alcohol are addicted, have cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, seriously ill, and I think you’re going to have 10 percent of people who would abuse marijuana and perhaps sit around and [not] do much else. And then maybe have another 10 percent of people who would drive and do something irresponsible or reckless. And the same thing with alcohol. So … of the 50 percent that do, 80 percent will use it responsibly. Krasny: Any comment from you, Timmen Cermak? Cermak: If we choose to legalize this … we have the responsibility to deal with the collateral damage. That if we make it more available, there will be a small percentage of people who are more likely to experience significant difficulties from it. And so that the first funds that come from it ought to go for treatment.

Contact KQED’s Michael Krasny at: form@kqed.org


C8 SF Public Press

Fall 2010 // sfpublicpress.org

SF Finds Revenue Under Every Rock From the mundane to the taboo to the absurd, city leaders hike any fee they can think of to balance city budget

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he cost of living and doing business in San Francisco increased this year in hundreds of little ways. Though they didn’t garner as much attention as the city’s massive budget cuts, a series of new and increased fees emerged from the Board of Supervisors from late May to early July. The goal was to generate Story: revenue beyond taxes, reducing city Conor Gallagher departments’ reliance on an anemic // SF Public Press general fund. The following list was compiled from

records from the board. It includes all new and increased fees introduced with the 2010-11 fiscal year. The supervisors enacted more than 400 fee hikes, some for rare activities with small constituencies, such as hosting a masked ball or shooting off a cannon. (Seriously.) If you are a patient at San Francisco General Hospital or have filed for a permit to host bingo games, you have helped the city zero out the massive $483 million budget deficit it faced for the 2010-11 fiscal year. Even the fee for adopting pets from Animal Care and Control swelled.

On the bright side, the fee for adopting hoofed animals decreased — to $15 from $25 last fiscal year, marking one of only a handful of fee decreases — a square deal indeed for all you urban equestrians. Few of the fees adopted by the Board of Supervisors came with projections for the expected revenue gains, with a few exceptions: botanical garden tickets, Board of Appeals surcharges and Coit Tower elevator fees. Those are expected to produce nearly $540,000 through next summer. Mayor Gavin Newsom sponsored all of the new fees and fee

hikes. The legislation text explains that the old fees did not cover the costs of providing the corresponding services and administrative work. To ensure that fees continue to meet departments’ costs in future years, the supervisors gave the city controller the authority to adjust them without further action by the supervisors. (In case you were wondering, the passage on Nov. 2 of California’s Proposition 26 — which will require two-thirds legislative approval for some state and local fees — won’t affect the city’s ability to adjust the fees in this list.)

Vehicle for hire, nonmotorized — filing Vehicle for hire, nonmotorized — annual license

Laguna Honda Hospital In-Patient Care Acute inpatient care per day Inpatient rehabilitation care per day Skilled nursing facility inpatient care per day Skilled nursing facility patch inpatient care per day All-inclusive acute inpatient care per day All-inclusive inpatient rehabilitation care per day All-inclusive skilled nursing facility care per day

$3,401 $3,401 $727 $135 $4,464 $3,720 $847

10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10%

Community Mental Health Services Inpatient care per 24 hours Skilled nursing facility per 24 hours Psychiatric facility per 24 hours Residential crisis center per 24 hours Residential center per 24 hours Rehabilitation day service Rehabilitation half day service Intensive treatment day service Intensive treatment half day service Intensive child treatment day service Intensive child treatment half day Crisis stabilization per hour Socialization per hour Case management brokerage per hour Outpatient services per hour Therapeutic behavioral outpatient services per hour Medication support per hour Crisis intervention per hour

$3,948 $1,305 $683 $399 $194 $163 $105 $252 $179 $368 $263 $186 $53 $152 $200 $200 $357 $299

10% 10% 5% 5% 5% 5% 5% 5% 5% 5% 5% 10% 6% 5% 5% 5% 5% 5%

Community Substance Abuse Residential detoxification per 24 hours Basic residential service per 24 hours Residential family services per 24 hours Residential medical support per 24 hours Home recovery services per 24 hours Therapeutic community services per 24 hours Rehabilitative daycare visit Counseling per visit Group counseling per visit Prevention/intervention per hour Methadone services per day Buprenorphine services per day Naltrexone services per visit Individual narcotic counseling per 10 minutes Narcotic group counseling per 10 minutes

$142 $137 $210 $310 $110 $126 $152 $152 $84 $74 $39 $68 $63 $39 $12

5% 5% 5% 5% 5% 5% 5% 5% 5% 6% 5% 5% 5% 5% 9%

Adult Immunization Clinic Hepatitis A vaccine per injection Hepatitis B vaccine per injection

$65 $75

10% 9%

$565 $1,003 $1,130 $1,256 $1,506 $1,695

NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW

$87

74%

$127 $323

154% NEW

RECREATION AND PARK DEPARTMENT Botanical Gardens entrance fees Child (5-11) non-San Francisco resident Youth (12-17) and senior non-San Francisco residents Adult non-San Francisco resident

$2 $5 $7

NEW NEW NEW

Coit Tower elevator fees Ride for adult non-San Francisco resident Ride for youth and senior non-San Francisco residents Ride for child non-San Francisco resident

$7 $5 $2

NEW NEW NEW NEW

Fee amount % Increase DEPARTMENT OF ANIMAL CARE AND CONTROL Adoption (hoofed pets excepted) Retrieve impounded pet, first occurrence Retrieve impounded pet, second occurrence Retrieve impounded pet, third or subbsequent occurrence Care per day Anti-rabies vaccination, one-year license Anti-rabies vaccination, two-year license Anti-rabies vaccination, three-year license Penalty for not having a current dog license Field service transport Disposal Euthanization DEPARTMENT OF BUILDING INSPECTION Reproduction of public information: 11 in. x 17 in. copy of building plans Reproduction of public information: 8.5 in. x 11 in. copy of aperature cards, electronic copies of building records Records retention fee: each page Records retention fee: each 10 pages of specifications (soils report, structural calculations, etc.)

$15 $30 $60 $90 $25 $50 $95 $140 $25 $40 $20 $25

50% 20% 20% 20% 150% 108% 111% 112% 150% NEW NEW NEW

$5

NEW

$3 $3

NEW NEW

$2

NEW

OFFICE OF ECONOMIC AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT San Francisco Enterprise Zone tax credit. (Covers the cost of processing forms and supporting documentation enterprise zone participants need to receive tax credits.)

$80

NEW

DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT Initial application for emergency medical technician EMT Certificate renewal, every two years

$145 $107

NEW 215%

FIRE DEPARTMENT Inspection of building, structure or property for code compliance, per hour California health and safety code inspection per 1,000 square feet for high-rise structures Per hour fee for inspection during a fire department fficial’s time off Treatment without transportation Basic and advanced life service, including transportation Removing vehicle gas, oil, debris from street after an auto accident. For one fire department suppression unit clearing junk in one hour or less, person at fault for accident pays Removing vehicle gas, oil, debris from street after an auto accident. For two or more fire department suppression units taking one hour or less, person at fault for accident pays MAYOR’S OFFICE OF HOUSING Mortgage credit certificate application Down-payment assistance loan application Refinance mortgage credit certificate application First-time homebuyer loan application Borrower for an escrow account administration Loan subordination for single-family borrowers Loan servicing fee for multi-family rental projects per application (plus time and material charges) Application fees for new building $0–$99,999 estimated construction cost $100,000–$499,999 $500,000–$999,999 $1 million–$4,999,999 $5 million–$99,999,999 $100 million or more All applications for new buildings are also charged a discretionary review surcharge All applications for new buildings are also charged a categorical exemption fee Fee for demolition applications Fee for review of applications by fire, police or entertainment commissions or state alcohol and beverages control, or health department Fee for sign permits Landmark preservation application fee Revocation, designation or amendments to application for a historical district

$180

6%

$12

9%

$128 $365 $1,642

$249

$498

9% 4% 12%

NEW

$1,039 $322

65% 20%

Encounter studio (An establishment to which patrons or members are invited and is so arranged as to provide booths, cubicles, room or rooms, compartments or stalls wherein an entertainer provides entertainment as defined herein to patrons or members or groups of members or patrons within the aforesaid booths, cubicles, room or rooms, compartments or stalls.) Owner — annual license $510 20% Employee — annual license $58 21% Escort service Owner — filing Owner — annual license Employee — filing Employee — annual license Extended hours — annual license Funeral procession escort filing fee General soliciting agent annual license Soliciting agent traveling show — each concession stand — license fee per day Junk dealer filing fee Junk dealer — annual license Junk gatherer Resident — filing Resident — annual license Nonresident — filing Nonresident — annual license

$976 $516 $373 $90 $505 $353 $88

38% 19% 85% 20% 7% 58% 19%

$443 $1,358 $542

2% 44% 19%

$768 $103 $841 $103

75% 20% 127% 20%

Licensed tour guide Bus owner — filing Bus owner — annual license per vehicle Other motorized vehicle owner — filing Other per vehicle — annual license Bicycle, Segway, other — filing Bicycle, Segway, other per mechanism — annual license Owner/walking — filing Owner/walking per mechanism — annual license Employee — filing Employee — annual license

$975 $957 $694 $153 $483 $153 $389 $153 $114 $26

258% 648% 155% 20% 78% 11% 43% 11% NEW NEW

Loudspeaker, commercial — annual license Masked ball per day license fee Massage establishment — annual license Masseur/Masseuse — annual license Masseur/Masseuse — trainee 90-day license Mechanical amusement device — annual license

$150 $231 $860 $119 $119 $279

11% 19% 86% 59% 59% 9%

Mobile caterer Filing Annual license Additional stop — filing Assistant — filing Assistant — annual license Transfer of stop

$1,092 $695 $257 $320 $49 $820

41% 19% 252% 338% 20% 1023%

$206

20%

$488

20%

$90 $667 $38 $469 $925 $535

20% 40% 19% 19% 21% 20%

$824 $747 $511 $199 $161 $81

57% 20 55% 20% 109% 21%

$165 $26 $446 $161

114% 18% 503% 92%

$634 $206 $415 $80

48% 20% 439% 21%

$634 $166 $227 $80

48% 19% 195% 21%

NEW

$600 $500 $600 $500 $200 $500

NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW

$2,000

NEW

$1,849 $1,850 $11,823 $15,803 $28,049 $33,118

7% 7% 7% 7% 7% 7%

$87

7%

$285 $1,441

7% 7%

$121 $127 $262

6% 7% 5%

$1,047

5%

Certificate of appropriateness fee Less than $1,000 construction cost Less than $20,000 construction cost $20,000 and more construction cost

$308 $1,227 $5,676

7% 7% 7%

Transportation study fee MTA review of transportation study Application fee for relocation of advertising signs

$21,317 $4,100 $1,224

7% 3% 7%

$6,277

7%

Fees to alter buildings and districts deemed to have architectural, historical and aesthetic importance Building, designation or change of boundary Permit to alter a “significant” building in a conservation district Significant building demolition outside of a conservation district

Driverless auto rental — filing Driverless auto rental — annual license

$8,287

7%

$8,287

7%

POLICE & ENTERTAINMENT COMMISSION Note: License fees are paid to the city tax collector for permits issued by the police department or the entertainment commission and for their renewal. Antique Shop filing fee Auto wrecker filing fee Auto Wrecker annual license renewal fee Billiard parlor - first table license fee Billiard parlor - additional tables license fee Bingo games filing fee

$943 $1,069 $488 $139 $14 $257

69% 61% 20% 11% 17% 129%

Charitable organizations Sales solicitations filing fee Non-sales solicitations filing fee Charitable organizations — document copies I.D. card

$130 $99 $25 $25

NEW NEW NEW NEW

Firearms/Ammunition dealer — filing Firearms/Ammunition dealer — license Firearms/Ammunition dealer — renewal Discharge of cannon — filing Discharge cannon — per day

$1,276 $424 $364 $636 $49

33% 21% 67% 59% 20%

Museum — annual license Nude models in public photo studio (owner) — annual license Nude models in public photo studio (employee) — annual license Off-heliport landing site — filing Off-heliport landing site — license per day Outcall Massage — annual license renewal Pawnbroker — filing Pawnbroker — annual license renewal Peddler Food for human consumption — filing Food for human consumption — annual license renewal Nonfood — filing Nonfood — annual license renewal Employee — filing fee Employee — annual license renewal Pedicab driver — filing Pedicab driver — annual license renewal Pedicab; first vehicle filing fee Pedicab; each additional vehicle filing fee Photographer, public place Owner — filing Owner — annual license Solicitor — filing Solicitor — annual license Photographic solicitor Owner — filing Owner — annual license Employee — filing Employee — license Place of entertainment — annual license Poker — filing Poker — annual license renewal Poker — amendment to permit — filing Public bathhouse — annual license Public outcry sales — filing Public outcry sales — annual license renewal Recreational equipment vendor — annual license Second hand dealer — filing Second hand dealer in auto accessories — filing Shooting gallery — filing

$486 $1,259 $312 $257 $436 $1,134 $436 $312 $925 $1,075 $886

8% 41% 20% 225% 20% 58% 20% 20% 66% 93% 23%

Tow car business Driver — filing Driver — annual license Firm — filing Firm — first tow truck — annual license renewal Firm — each additional truck — annual license

$570 $34 $1,013 $546 $217

182% 21% 76% 20% 19%

Trade-in dealer — filing Trade-in dealer — annual license renewal

$1,039 $613

46% 19%

Valet parking Fixed location — filing Fixed location — annual license Annual special event — filing Annual special event — annual license

$886 $266 $886 $166

66% 20% 153% 19%

$966 $166

50% 19%

OTHER POLICE DEPARTMENT SERVICE & CERTIFICATE FEES Advertising and notices $165 Background checks $66 Fingerprints $96

NEW NEW NEW

Street art Quarterly street artist certificate fee Annual street artist certificate fee

$166 $664

8% 8%

DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH PATIENT RATES In-Patient Care Medical surgical care per day Intensive care per day Coronary care per day Chest-Pulmonary per day Stepdown units per day Pediatrics per day Obstetrics per day Newborn care per day Nursery observation care per day Nursery semi-intensive care per day Nursery intensive care per day Labor/Delivery (6G) per day Labor/Delivery per hour Psychiatric inpatient per day Psychiatric forensic inpatient per day AIDS unit per day Skilled nursing facility per day Mental rehab unit per day Adult residential facility per day

$5,045 $10,086 $10,086 $8,405 $7,284 $4,825 $3,948 $2,016 $3,508 $6,722 $10,086 $3,125 $175 $3,948 $3,948 $3,948 $1,580 $1,305 $264

10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10%

Respiratory Therapy Respiratory O2 therapy per day

$515

19%

Surgical Services Minor surgery I first hour Minor surgery I each additional half hour Minor surgery II first hour Minor surgery II each additional half hour Major surgery I first hour Major surgery I each additional half hour Major surgery II first hour Major surgery II each additional half hour Major surgery III first hour Major surgery III each additional half hour Extraordinary surgery first hour Extraordinary surgery each additional half hour Two-team surgery first hour Two-team surgery each additional half hour Three-team surgery first hour half hour Major trauma III first hour Major trauma III each additional half hour Major trauma II first hour Major trauma II each additional half hour Major trauma I first hour Major trauma I each additional half hour Recovery room first hour Recovery room second hour Recovery room each additional hour Anesthesia first hour Anesthesia each additional half hour

$2,641 $1,345 $2,883 $1,438 $4,341 $1,735 $4,888 $1,957 $5,440 $2,176 $5,970 $2,388 $8,067 $3,226 $3,588 $7,069 $2,828 $6,722 $2,690 $5,114 $2,046 $1,682 $1,345 $1,009 $3,777 $1,885

10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10%

Trauma Care Level 900 per visit Level 911 per visit Level 912 per visit

$16,500 $14,262 $7,780

10% 10% 10%

Emergency Clinic Rooms (depending on level of care) Resuscitation

$287-$6118 $4,239 10%

Psychiatric Emergency Services Crisis intervention Crisis stabilization

$838 $186

10% 10%

General Clinic Focused exam initial visit Expanded exam initial visit Detailed exam initial visit Comprehensive exam initial visit Complex exam initial visit Brief exam for established patient Focused exam for established patient Expanded exam for established patient Detailed exam for established patient Comprehensive exam for established patient Focused consultation visit

$193 $321 $366 $490 $612 $149 $177 $234 $331 $516 $169

10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10%

Primary Care Focused exam initial visit Expanded exam initial visit Detailed exam initial visit Comprehensive exam initial visit Complex exam initial visit Brief exam for established patient Focused exam for established patient Expanded exam for established patient Detailed exam for established patient Comprehensive exam for established patient

$211 $262 $380 $471 $740 $107 $160 $257 $364 $568

10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10%

Dental Services Complete dental exam initial and periodic visit Adult prophylaxis visit Child prophylaxis visit Extraction of single tooth One surface permanent tooth

$98 $133 $124 $195 $160

10% 10% 10% 10% 10%

Home Health Services Nurse home visit Health aide home visit Medical social services home visit Physical or occupational therapy home visit Speech therapy home visit

$333 $176 $459 $382 $380

10% 10% 10% 10% 10%

DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH Above ground petroleum storage Annual fee for 1,320 - 10,000 gallon storage capacity Annual fee for 10,001 - 100,000 gallon Annual fee for 100,001 - one million gallon Annual fee for 1,000,001 - 10 million gallon Annual fee for 10,000,001 - 100 million gallon Annual fee for more than 100 million gallons Fee if Deptartment of Public Health has to have efuse removed from a residence Fee if Deptartment of Public Health has to have refuse removed from a business Class O permit to handle food, application fee for caterers

Parking rates at Golden Gate Park Concourse underground parkinng lot Weekdays per hour $4 40% Weekends per hour $4 33% Weekdays maximum $25 39% Weekends maximum $28 27% Flat rate after six p.m. maximum $12 20% Early bird (in between 7 and 8:30 a.m., out by 6 p.m.) maximum $11 10% Monthly daytime maximum rate $200 60% REVENUE CONTROL EQUIPMENT AT FOR-PROFIT PARKING LOTS Annual fee for each parking station subject to city monitoring and enforcement of revenue control equipment (ensures customers are not being overcharged) $500 NEW STRUCTURAL PEST CONTROL BUSINESS FEE Registration fee for a pest fumigation supervisor Amendment fee to a pest fumigation supervisor's registration Registration fee for employee applying the pesticide, rodenticide or other chemicals Fee to amend an employee's registration

$25

NEW

$10

NEW

$10 $10

NEW NEW

SURCHARGES ON PERMITS THAT CAN BE REVIEWEDBY SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF APPEALS Note: Permit decisions by various city departments can be appealed to the San Francisco Board of Appeals. Surcharge is collected when fee for permit application, issuance, review, or renewal is collected. Surcharge on Department of City Planning permits that can be appealed $25 11% Surcharge on Department of Building Inspection permits that can be appealed $25 11% Surcharge on Department of Public Works permits that can be appealed $6 33% Surcharge on permits issued by the SF Entertainment Commission that can be appealed $4 33% Surcharge on permits issued by the SF Police Commission that can be appealed $7 100% Surcharge on permits issued by the SF Department of Public Health that can be appealed $51 113%

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12 SF Public Press

NEIGHBORHOOD June 22, 2010 // sfpublicpress.org // Neighborhood Editors: Firstname Lastname, email@address.com; Firstname Lastname, email@address.com

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Issue 2  

Issue 2 of the San Francisco Public Press

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