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independent

nonprofit

in-depth

ISSUE 8

SAN FRANCISCO

$ 1.00

PUBLIC PRESS SfPUBLICPRESS.ORG

MEGA INDEX

STREETSCAPE WhEN IS AN ApARtMENt tOO SMAll? hOW AbOut 150 Sq. ft. lIvING SpACE? PAGE A3

fALL 2012

S.F. TRAILS REGION IN PROSECUTION For domestic violence, city charges fewest cases per capita despite strongly worded policy

SPECIAL REPORT PAGE B1

If yOuR RENt SEEMS hIGh, yOuR ROOMMAtE MIGht bE CAllING thE ShOtS PAGE A3

SUFFERING AbUSE, FINdING ShELTER

MuNI DISRESpECtS RIDERS by tuRNING StREEtCARS AROuND, SAyS pANEl PAGE A4 RApID buSES ON GEARy COulD upGRADE tO RAIl — but flEXIbIlIty hAS A pRICE PAGE A4 MERIt bONuSES fOR tRANSIt EXECutIvES RElIED ON INflAtED StAtIStICS PAGE A4

A domestic violence survivor’s life, illuminated

CIty COllEGE COulD lOSE ACCREDItAtION, StIflING DREAMS Of thOuSANDS PAGE A5

SPECIAL REPORT PAGE B1

JUSTICE SAN fRANCISCO’S pOlICE ChIEf bASE pAy tO bE hIGhESt Of ANy IN u.S. PAGE A6 REtIREMENt pROGRAM SAvED MONEy thEN, but NEW RECRuItS tO COSt MORE PAGE A6 SIt-lIE ENfORCED IN thE hAIGht, but thE NEIGhbORS REpORt MIXED RESultS PAGE A6 jAIl-tO-jObS pAthWAy A ChAllENGE IN AN ERA Of hIGh uNEMplOyMENt PAGE A7 pRISON OvERCROWDING REquIRES SOlutIONS fROM lOCAl lAW ENfORCEMENt PAGE A7

GREEN ClIMAtE ChANGE COulD WREAk hAvOC WIth COAStAl CItIES AS SEA lEvEl RISES PAGE A8 IN pOllutION pOll bREAthING pROblEMS AffECt MINORItIES MOSt PAGE A8 lEAthERbACk tuRtlES, lONG ENDANGERED, MAkE A COMEbACk IN bAy AREA PAGE A8

SPECIAL REPORT

POLICE NEEd hUNdREdS OF NEw RECRUITS City spends millions to fix earlier retirement incentive

SwITChbACkS ShOw mUNI’S ‘CALLOUS dISREGARd’

Civil grand jury tells transit agency to stop dumping pasengers to fix schedules

JUSTICE PAGE A6

STREETSCAPE PAGE A4

hUmAN TRAFFICkING’S AFTERmATh

Some who flee captivity struggle to find housing, risk re-exploitation in low-wage jobs CIVICS PAGE B5

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

a city responds

ThE vOICES OF CITy COLLEGE: STUdENTS, STAFF ON CRISIS

pROSECutION Of CASES tRAIlS bAy AREA RAtES, EvEN WIth NO-DROp plEDGE PAGE B1 bAD RECORDS ClOuD 8-yEAR AppARENt DEClINE IN pOlICE INvEStIGAtIONS PAGE B1

‘I’m a displaced worker.’ ‘First in my family to go to college.’ ‘I’d be forced to go back to my country.’ STREETSCAPE PAGE A5

COMICS REpORtER DAN ARChER INtERvIEWS A vICtIM Of yEARS Of AbuSE PAGE B1 MIRkARIMI CASE CAllS AttENtION tO WIDER SOCIAl pROblEM, ADvOCAtES SAy PAGE B2 q&A: CultuRE REpRESENtS bIG ChAllENGE tO EDuCAtION AND OutREACh PAGE B2

CIVICS huMAN tRAffICkING’S fORMER vICtIMS SAy thEy StRuGGlE tO READjuSt PAGE B5 CROSSWORD PAGE B5 pOEM PAGE B5 hEAlth INSuRANCE fOR SAN fRANCISCANS hAS bIG buSINESS lOOphOlE PAGE B6 SuNDAy StREEtS, A CIvIC SuCCESS, COulD bE COMING tO thE tENDERlOIN PAGE B6

POLLUTION hITS mINORITIES hARdEST Statewide poll: blacks, Latinos report more respiratory ailments; Chevron refinery fire leads to investigation of disparate health effects GREEN PAGE A8

REAdING ThE SUPERvISOR CANdIdATES CIVICS PAGE B8

bOOk REvIEW: ‘SEASON Of thE WItCh’ CAptuRES fREE SpIRIt Of ’60S S.f. PAGE B6 plAStIC bAG bAN GEtS GO-AhEAD, DESpItE ONE MAN’S lEGAl ChAllENGE PAGE B7 ElECtORAl REfORMS ENACtED thIS yEAR MAkE RACES MORE COMpEtItIvE PAGE B7

LOCAL FIxES TO PRISON CROwdING

vOtER GuIDE: CANDIDAtES fOR SupERvISOR StAkE pOSItIONS ON kEy ISSuES PAGE B8 SECtION INDEX

ABOUT US A2 STREETSCAPE A3-A5 JUSTICE A6-A7 GREEN A8 SPECIAL REPORT B1-B4 CIVICS B5-B8

R F N SA

O C S I ANC

S S E R P C I L B PU

Solving overpopulation in state facilities

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ED M C I L B U P PENDENT

DE SUPPORT IN BER M E M A E BECOM s

A2 t pa g e u o k Chec : online o g r O n a te rg/do o . s s e icpr fpubl

JUSTICE PAGE A7

S f p p


A2 ABOUT US Fall 2012

San Francisco Public Press // sfpublicpress.org

FROM THE EDITORS

A New Look and a New Status

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f you’re picking up this newspaper for the first time, you might wonder why it doesn’t look like the others on the newsstand. It’s an old-style broadsheet — but it might take you longer to put your finger on another major distinction: no advertising. The San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit, noncommercial news organization, has published in-depth, ad-free, local publicinterest journalism in a quarterly print edition since 2010, but we’ve been publishing online at sfpublicpress.org since 2009. Members and loyal readers will notice a few changes in this issue. We’ve got a new front-page flag designed by Justin Allen. But what’s the most significant transformation, which will have a big effect on our ability to grow and reach long-term sustainability? After more than two and a half years, the IRS has awarded 501(c)3 nonprofit status to the San Francisco Public Press. This is a big deal. We had to wait 32 months, and our plight garnered national attention from “Dan Rather Reports,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Columbia Journalism Review, American Journalism Review and other publications focused on media, nonprofits and tax law. The ruling allows the Public Press to accept tax-deductible donations directly from individuals, and elevates the organization

to the same legal status as NPR, the Associated Press and the Center for Investigative Reporting, among others. It will help us solicit more substantial support from foundations, many of which are more comfortable funding 501(c)3’s. Before our IRS determination, we were able to accept grants and donations under the aegis of Independent Arts & Media, a San Francisco-based 501(c)3 nonprofit that had served as our fiscal sponsor since we started meeting in 2008. Experts say that the application processing typically takes between two and 12 months. After more than a year of waiting, we sought pro-bono help from the Digital Media Law Project at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard; the Investigative News Network, a nonprofit organization representing more than 60 nonprofit news producers around the country; and the legal firm of Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, D.C. “It is reassuring that the IRS has finally recognized the critical educational function that the San Francisco Public Press serves,” said Jeff Hermes, the Digital Media Law Project’s director. “Hopefully, the Public Press has now paved the way for other journalism organizations to receive their federal tax exemptions more quickly.” While not commenting on pending

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INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT IN-DEPTH Fall 2012 • Issue 8 (Vol. 3, No. 2) Published Sept. 18, 2012

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A3 sfpublicpress.org // San Francisco Public Press

Fall 2012

STREETSCAPE Soaring Rents Prompt Effort to Legalize Tiny Apartments in San Francisco City would allow units with only 150 square feet of living space

T

he San Francisco of the near future could be a place where thousands of young high-tech workers pack into 12-by-12-foot boxes in high-rises, each equipped with a combination window seat/ dining table, a single bed and having the overall feel of a compact cruise ship cabin. Supervisor Scott Wiener’s proposal first appeared before the board in June. It would redefine “efficiency” apartments — reducing Story: the minimum allowChase Niesner able living space to 150 // Public Press square feet from the current 220 square feet, not including the kitchen, bathroom and closet. On July 31, Wiener delayed a vote on the legislation until at least Sept. 24. Supporters of the plan say they are scrambling to line up the necessary votes on the Board of Supervisors. Since the ordinance’s introduction, it was amended to clarify that it would only apply to new construction — an effort to mollify concerns that landlords could circumvent rent control by chopping up apartments and by calling them new construction, which would qualify for new certificates of occupancy. Another amendment, which requires residency in the smallest units to be limited to two people, was proposed after tenant activists expressed fears that families now living in larger efficiencies could be evicted if their living conditions became retroac-

“How small is too small? There’s a slippery slope when it comes to habitability and quality-of-life issues.” tively illegal. Tim Colen, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition, a group of developers, lobbyists, lawyers, architects and a few civic organizations, proposed the idea and is its biggest supporter. Colen said that Wiener pulled the proposal back temporarily to avoid having it voted down this summer. “We go back to the drawing board and see if we can address the concerns,” Colen said. At the last board meeting before the summer recess, Wiener said that ongoing discussions with the board’s president, David Chiu, and Supervisor Jane Kim “may prove fruitful.” Wiener did not return calls or emails seeking comment. A report from the Planning Department showed that most of the new efficiency units would be constructed in neighborhoods without density controls, such as South of Market, part of Kim’s supervisorial district. Kim questioned whether there was market demand for such tiny dwellings: “Will tech workers with some of the highest salaries in the city really want to live in a 150-squarefoot efficiency space when they could rent a larger apartment with roommates? “If developers want to go ahead and build 220-square-foot units, I’m not crazy about it, but they can already do that under our building code,” she added. “I guess I question why

we need to allow developers to go smaller.” Supporters say the plan would boost residential development in a city reeling from a scarcity of housing. The average monthly price of an apartment lease is now $2,734, up 12.9 percent since 2011, according to the rental market research firm Real Facts. Housing developers call the proposed tiny apartments “affordable by design,” yet many housing advocates call the units, which would need custom retractable beds and kitchen tables, compact storage and showers right next to the toilet, “shoeboxes.” “How small is too small?” asked Sara Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee, a San Francisco-based tenant rights organization. “There’s a slippery slope when it comes to habitability and quality-of-life issues.” IS ALL CONSTRUCTION GOOD? Wiener said his ordinance would increase the city’s housing stock quickly, while working within a regional push for “smart growth” — transit-friendly urban housing that reduces the economic demand for suburban sprawl. “We have a housing shortage in San Francisco,” Wiener said. “It’s a densely populated city where a lot of people want to come, and we have to add to our housing supply in a smart way.” Colen said the citywide small-apartment ordinance would help San Francisco meet the smart-growth goals of the Association of Bay Area Governments. The regional planning agency has allocated 31,193 housing units to be built in San Francisco by 2014 to keep up with population predictions. But the city has fallen short of the needed pace of construction. The city’s Planning Department reported a net gain of only 269 housing units in 2011. For Patrick Kennedy, owner of the Berkeley-based development firm Panoramic Interests, and member of the Housing Action Coalition, this legislation would address the housing needs of young tech workers, often blamed for the overheating rental market. Kennedy, who is also an architect, presented a scale model of his “affordable by design” apartments to the Planning Commission, and said these prototype micro-apartments could alleviate the price pressure on rentals. He claimed these units would divert single renters away from the market for larger family-sized units, a process he calls the “cannibalization of family housing.” “There’s always going to be two to three young techies who can pay more than your average family,” Kennedy said. “When tech workers can’t find housing, they bid up the housing for everyone else.” Land use attorney Sue Hestor said she worries that the move would hurt efforts by nonprofit developers to build affordable housing. For Hestor, the legislation will, above all else, increase land values. In a free market, the ability to extract more profit per square foot produces a bidding war for real estate. “The competition to build affordable housing is up to the land values,” she said. “If nonprofit developers are competing with Patrick Kennedy for the same lot, and the affordable housing community doesn’t have those profit margins built in, the developer can always pay more.” Kennedy built a prototype model unit with just 160 square feet of living space in a Berkeley warehouse. He said it was the

Developer Patrick Kennedy was inspired by the Airstream trailer he once camped out in, at left, to design a prototype tiny apartment. The “window” behind him is a poster showing a potential view of the Bay Bridge. Photos courtesy of faircompanies.com

COMMENTS ONLINE These are exactly the apartments that need to be built around City College. Too many students live in their cars or in illegal and dangerous “in-laws” in people’s garages. I live in the neighborhood — I see it every day.

— Anonymous San Francisco is such a great city that any “shoe box” living space proposal should be greeted by the supervisors with open arms. Students and lower-income workers should not have to make the trek across the Bay Bridge for the evening only to get up early and return.

— Patrick Hodge There is never any long-term thought put into these ideas. While shrinking apartment sizes sounds great, as it will allow lower-income individuals to afford something, there is no thought to what will happen to the existing neighborhoods. First, people will take advantage regardless of whatever legal restrictions are put in place. If you say two people, there will be four or more. Ergo, with no space to spend time in the apartment, the lower-income individuals will spend most of their time outside of the apartment loitering. This drives the desirable appearance of the neighborhood into an unfavorable light. This in turn makes others leave the neighborhood and drives business out of the area.

— Jamal

smallest legal studio apartment that could be built in California, though it is currently banned in San Francisco. On the wall: a window plastered with a photo reproduction of a million-dollar Bay Bridge view. The room features a dining room table that converts into a guest bed, a master bed that becomes a couch and a shower that drains to the floor one foot from the toilet. “Someone asked Aristotle Onassis, what was your secret to being rich? And he said

two things: Always have a suntan and always have an address in the best part of town, even if it’s a broom closet,” Kennedy said in a video produced by Faircompanies.com, a video blog about sustainable technology. “Now I’m providing the broom closets in the South of Market area, metaphorically speaking.” ONE ROOM FOR A FAMILY Although the ordinance caps occupancy at two residents, housing advocates worry that the city won’t have the resources to enforce the limit. That could mean that low-income families, previously squeezed into efficiency apartments of 250 to 300 square feet, would end up in units half that size. “We right now have a very large number of efficiency-type units that have three, four, five people living in it,” said Paul Wermer, a sustainability consultant who spoke before the Planning Commission at a hearing in June. “That’s a lot of people in a small space, but that’s the reality.” The two-person limit is unlikely to have much sway with critics. Shortly after Wermer spoke, Gwyneth Borden, a member of the Planning Commission said it would be virtually impossible to enforce the limit. Without the ability to meaningfully enforce the building code, multigenerational families might end up pooling their resources to live in much smaller quarters than ever, with hardly enough room for everyone to sleep. “I have the ability to make the trade-off between a lower rent and a spacious apartment,” said Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee. “But if it becomes a basic overall lowering of standards for the market as a whole, then what we will start to see is units marketed to other income brackets that

aren’t necessarily fit for people to be forced to live in.” Amanda Heier, executive director of the Raphael House, a San Francisco nonprofit organization dedicated to helping at-risk families find stable housing, echoed that concern. “It’s worrisome that we have this less-sustainable model being supported, when the real need is to create larger units that can be used time and time again,” Heier said. “What if there’s a sudden change in the economy, the tech-boom? Then we have this surplus of units that are essentially hotel rooms that can’t easily be converted into family or multi-use units.” Asked to review the legislation for environmental impact, the Planning Department reported that potential building projects based on smaller apartments were too varied to allow its effects to be quantified. Each proposed building project would have to be evaluated via environmental analysis. A position paper from the Housing Action Coalition, submitted by Wiener along with the legislation, notes that other large West Coast cities, including San Jose, Seattle and Santa Barbara, already allow for 150-squarefoot apartments. Those cities were motivated by the need to house students, formerly homeless people and “low-income and special-needs” residents. But Kennedy and Colen said the most likely market for San Francisco would be the technology workers who have flooded the city seeking high-paying jobs in an expanding sector. Hestor sees a private agenda at work: “Patrick Kennedy has a model, and he builds housing, and he makes a lot of money doing it, and he wants to do it. And so they will approve his units.”

City Dwellers Raising Rents on New Roommates Leaseholders pass along extra costs in tight housing market

F

inding a place to live in the Mission District can be daunting. Often, dozens of hopeful renters show up at open houses, and Craigslist ads elicit responses from hundreds of people. With demand comes desperation. In addition to those who offer to cook meals or slip in an addiStory and tional $600 to sephoto: Lisette Mejia cure a spot, some // Mission are willing to Local pay extra rent to a master tenant for a room — and some tenants are willing to charge it, even without the roommates knowing. In the Mission and throughout San Francisco, master tenants are charging incoming roommates more than an equal share of the rent, thereby reducing the master tenants’ own rent — a practice the rent board says is illegal if all rooms are proportionally sized. Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union said that his organization receives complaints every few weeks from tenants who say they are being cheated by a master tenant. But Sepand Tehrani, a master ten-

People looking for a place to rent may be paying more than their fair share. ant, said he is justified in charging new tenants extra. “I’m a student. I barely make my own rent,” Tehrani said. “Why shouldn’t I benefit if I’ve been at the place the longest and others have come and gone?” Tehrani first signed the lease at his apartment on 24th Street with three other roommates. Since then, all have left, new roommates have moved in and out and, as of last

month, three rooms have opened up again. The total rent is $3,500 a month for a unit being used as a four-bedroom apartment. Until now, each roommate has paid $875. Tehrani is now charging new roommates an extra $75 a month, bringing their rent to $950 each and his to $650. “I could have increased that even more,” he said, adding that when he realized how many responses he

was getting, he almost took down his Craigslist ad so he could put up a new one that would allow him to pay only $525. “But I felt bad about it,” he said. “I didn’t want to limit people and have it be only professionals who can afford it.” The practice is expected, said Damon Fanucchi, the property manager with the Rental Source, which is at 16th Street and Potrero Avenue and serves surrounding areas. “Wherever there’s a chance for somebody to do something sneaky and get away with it, it will happen,” he said. “I’m not saying I have clear evidence of this, but it’s understood.” There is no clear evidence because the practice is difficult to prove. “It’s hard to catch people doing it, so it can slip by,” Fanucchi said. Often the landlord gets one monthly rent check from the master tenant, he said, and in those cases, the landlord doesn’t know how the rent is being split and isn’t going to waste time trying to find out. The owner might care, Fanucchi said, because it could be used as a reason to try to end rent control. But proving the practice exists would require a legal procedure that could involve many parties, and

it is usually not worth it, he said. According to rent board regulations, a unit’s rent must be split evenly if the rooms are proportional. But if a room has an amenity such as a balcony, the person living there can be charged more. Roommates often don’t know how much the master tenant is paying the landlord, Gullicksen said, and the rent board does not have the authority to force master tenants to tell roommates the unit’s true cost. Such is the case with Tehrani, who hasn’t told his new roommates that he’s charging them more than he is paying. Why didn’t he fill in the newest roommate when they met? “He never asked; I don’t know him,” he said. “I don’t want him to feel resentful for some reason. It is what it is.” If roommates are suspicious, “they can go to the rent board and file a petition to try and figure out who’s paying what,” Gullicksen said. For Tehrani, the practice isn’t wrong or immoral. He’s the only person living in the apartment who is on the lease, he said. He buys toilet paper for the house. He tallies the utility payments. He’s the point of contact with the landlord if a prob-

lem arises. “It’s my responsibility. They benefit because they’re taken care of,” he said of his roommates. “I increased the rent because, reasonably, it’s less than what you find at other places,” he said. “I’m not gouging anybody.” That might be true for someone like Ryan Devissen, a 24-year-old San Bruno man who has been looking in the Mission for a place to rent with a friend for two months. “It’s been kind of a trying time,” Devissen said. “Every place we go to has 50-plus people applying.” He would be willing to pay $300 more than a room is worth if it’s the right fit, he said. “That’s what it’s getting to. It’s not that I don’t mind overpricing, but if we get a space, we get a space.”

missionlocal.org


A4 STREETSCAPE Fall 2012

San Francisco Public Press // sfpublicpress.org

Bus Rapid Transit Is Cheaper, But Planners Lay Groundwork for Light-Rail Upgrade Geary corridor could get high-speed center lanes, buried tracks to be unearthed if additional funds appear

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snappy, futuristic bus rapid transit line serving the Richmond District — a replacement for the sluggish and overcrowded 38 Geary bus — Story: will set the city back about $200 Jerold Chinn million. As public transit construction // Public Press goes, that’s really cheap, compared with the city’s high-end estimate of $2 billion for a light-rail line on the same street. But transit planners are not ruling out a later upgrade to bring full streetcar service someday. The idea is to spend a few hundred million more now to make the line “rail ready” for future light-rail expansion. Still battling perennial budget deficits, Muni in 2012 can hardly afford to build light rail on Geary Boulevard at the same time it’s excavating the $1.6 billion Central Subway to Chinatown. But depending on future funding, certain designs for bus rapid transit (now scheduled for completion by 2019), could make it easier to upgrade if new funding ever emerges. Chester Fung, a transportation planner for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, said officials are debating various options to allow bus rapid transit on Geary Boulevard to later morph into light rail: • A high-cost option, including burying rail tracks under a dedicated bus lane. This could double the Geary project construction cost to about $400 million. • A low-cost option, including relocating utility lines and clearing away curves and grades for light rail. This would cost only “a few million dollars more,” officials said. “We’ve been approaching the bus rapid transit project with the idea of trying to be as rail ready as possible,” Fung said, citing a 2007 research report. Previous studies of the Geary corridor have estimated the cost of installing surface light rail lines in the range of $1 billion to $2 billion. Some planners even talked of putting parts of the light-rail system in tunnels, which would have doubled the price tag to $4 billion. Fung said that when Proposition K, a half-cent sales tax program funding long-term projects, passed in 2003, planners recognized the magnitude of costs for a light-rail project and opted instead for buses. “At that point, I think that the decision was made that we could either spend a lot of money on just Geary, or we could

Conceptual alternatives for the Geary Corridor Bus Rapid Transit. Source: San Francisco County Transportation Authority

spend less money and improve Geary and other corridors around the city.” He said the city was also more likely to get federal dollars for buses than for light rail. But the county’s Transportation Authority cannot make the line rail-ready without seeking public feedback. Fung called for a citywide conversation on how the city should spend its funding. The public should weigh several transportation priorities, including the extension of Caltrain

commuter rail service from its current terminus at Fourth and King streets to the new Transbay Transit Center downtown. Before making further decisions about putting light rail on Geary, planners still need to choose a design for the corridor. Certain street intersections have complicated the design process. Masonic Avenue and Fillmore Street have underpasses, which allow auto traffic to zoom under Geary. But the arrangement is a headache for rapid-transit planners. “It’s relatively complex and poses constraints to us in how we provide both the dedicated bus lane and how we provide a transit station in this area,” Fung said. Of at least a dozen proposed designs for those two intersections, planners have in the last year narrowed the options down to three. One keeps bus rapid transit on the street-level side roads, sweeping away parking and loading zones. This plan would not require new transit stations. Another option calls for a center bus rapid transit lane that would require transit centers below the street, requiring staircases and elevators for the underpass at Masonic Avenue. At Fillmore Street, because of an 8 percent grade below the underpass, it would not be possible to put an elevator and staircase in the center. Instead, the intersection would need be filled and leveled in order to continue running a center bus rapid transit lane. Fung said that could cost as much as $50 million. Muni rider Johanna Ward, who attended one of three community meetings held by the Transportation Authority in June, said the project looked “very promising.” Ward disapproved of the idea of putting a bus stop below the underpass. She said it would be difficult for riders with baby strollers to use the stairs. She also worried about malfunctioning elevators, a persistent problem in Muni Metro stations. Lack of funding for such plans is the biggest complication. Fung said the Transportation Authority is applying for a federal grant. It is also trying to persuade the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission to help. The authority could get as much as $75 million from the federal grant and $50 million from the local sales tax, but that would still leave it $75 million short of its funding needs to start construction. Planners aim to select a final design as soon as 2014, with construction beginning in 2017.

Muni Paid Bonuses Tied to Inflated On-Time Rates

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uni paid thousands of dollars in bonuses to top executives for meeting or exceeding on-time performance goals, even as the agency inflated its on-time rates by as much as 18 percent. The agency's two previous chief executives, Michael Burns and Nathaniel Ford, received the bonuses. Both men have denied Story: knowing about the onZusha Elinson time rate inflation. // Bay Citizen Ed Reiskin, the current Muni chief, does not have any performance bonuses written into his contract. Shortly after Burns joined the transit agency in 1999, San Francisco voters approved a ballot initiative mandating an 85 percent on-time rate for Muni, a goal it has never reached. The measure allowed the agency to give performance-based bonuses. The Bay Citizen has reported that Muni used accounting maneuvers to boost its ontime rate by 13 to 18 percent for more than a decade. Under the terms of his contract, Burns, who ran the agency until 2005, was eligible for an annual $3,000 bonus for meeting on-time performance goals. He earned the first such bonus in 2001, according to Muni spokeswoman Kristen Holland. That is the same year Muni began inflating its performance rates, according to Muni's Chief Information Officer Travis Fox. Burns earned his second and last $3,000 bonus for meeting on-time goals in 2002. Under his watch, Muni's on-time performance increased from 55 percent in 2001 to 71 percent in 2005, according to the agency's inflated data. Burns received a total of about $30,000 in bonuses for meeting other goals during his tenure. He wrote in an email that he recalled accepting some of those bonuses, but said he turned down the additional money when the agency's budget was tight. Ford, Muni's chief executive officer from 2006 to 2011, was eligible for bonuses worth 10 percent of his base salary, or about $31,000 each year. He had the highest salary on the city's payroll, earning $308,000 annually, and he received bonuses for three of his

“The performance bonuses were based on dozens of service metrics, not just on-time performance.”

N-Judah streetcar riders are forced off trains before entering the Market Street tunnel in San Francisco.

Muni Train Switchbacks Insult S.F. Riders, Says Watchdog Panel Civil grand jury says agency shows ‘callous disregard for San Francisco passengers’

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ou get on a Muni train headed for work in the morning, with five minutes to spare before your employer starts to dock your pay. You squeeze onto a crowded N-Judah and all seems to be going well ... until the operator tells everyone to get off just before entering the Market Story: Street tunnel so he can Jerold Chinn “switch back” on the // Public Press outbound track to avoid Photo courtesy vehicle bunching. Mike Dillon Muni gets points for making its trains meet a theoretical schedule. You, on the other hand, arrive late and are yelled at by your boss. You’re not the only one who’s frustrated. San Francisco’s civil grand jury — an officially sanctioned panel of city residents who report on what doesn’t work in county government — recommended in August that

Muni officials do away with the practice of switchbacks. That’s when riders are forced off a Muni train before it makes its usual final stop, and heads in the opposite direction to make up for lost time elsewhere. Muni uses switchbacks during transit delays and traffic jams to help put the whole system back on schedule. John Haley, Muni’s director of operations, said his agency approves switchbacks during non-peak times, and only if there is another vehicle coming within five minutes. “We recognize that anytime you do a switchback, it is an inconvenience to the riders,” Haley said. “So we do everything we can to minimize that.” The civil grand jury report said switchbacks were an inconvenience for riders. The report recommends eliminating switchbacks except for accidents, other emergencies or equipment breakdowns. The panel surveyed other transportation

agencies to find out if utilizing switchbacks was the common practice Muni officials claimed. In a comparison that included BART and transit systems in Paris, Boston, Oakland and Santa Clara Valley, none used switchbacks to reduce delays except Santa Clara. From this research, the report concluded that Muni “expresses a callous disregard for San Francisco passengers.” Haley disputed the finding that other transit agencies did not use the practice, and disagreed with the basis for some of the comparisons. He said BART does not operate in the same high-traffic, street-level environment that Muni trains must negotiate. He also noted that Boston’s Green Line does switchbacks every day. The civil grand jury said the transit agency should “effectively use new technology” to solve some of its most chronic problems. On a tour of Muni’s monitoring facility, panel members reported finding it

understaffed, with no direct communication with vehicle operators. Haley countered that the report made no mention of improvements now under way, including staffing changes and a new radio communications system. He added that the NextMuni online prediction system is being upgraded, letting riders with smartphones know when a train is switched back. This is not the first time Muni officials have gotten heat for the practice of switchbacks. The Board of Supervisors held hearings in 2010 and 2011 because of complaints from riders. Most came from Sunset District residents who said switchbacks came too often on the N-Judah and L-Taraval lines. “At a time when we’re aggressively reaching out to talk about the things that we are doing and need to do more of, and what are the right kinds of things to improve the service, this report contributes nothing to that dialogue,” Haley said.

five years at the transit agency. Although he received a total of about $69,000 in bonuses, most of the money was not tied directly to meeting or improving Muni's on-time performance. One-quarter of his annual bonus was based on 10 factors; improvements to the on-time rate represented one of those factors. During Ford's tenure, the on-time rate improved from 69 percent to 73 percent, according to Muni's inflated figures. A percentage of the bonuses he received were based on that improvement, according to Paul Rose, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “I believe the board may have recognized my performance regarding on-time performance from one year to the next to note the progress I made,” Ford wrote in an email to the Bay Citizen. In a 2010 memo sent to Ford and other top Muni managers, Fox, the chief information officer, outlined accounting maneuvers that he said resulted in on-time rates that were 13 to 18 percent higher than the actual rates. Those maneuvers, which Fox called “quirks,” included not counting in-bound trains headed to the Embarcadero Station; expanding the definition of “on time” from one minute early or four minutes late to one minute early or four minutes and 59 seconds late; and excluding buses that skipped their routes. Ford said he didn’t remember seeing the memo, adding that it would have set off “alarm bells.” Ford, who is now working as a consultant, said that because those maneuvers were in place before he arrived, the progress Muni made under his tenure was real, based on an “apples to apples” comparison. Burns, who now runs the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, said he had no knowledge of the maneuvers. “This is a level of detail that is something I had no reason to question or be involved in,” Burns said. “If I had any indication that four minutes and 59 seconds was being used, I would have reported that.” Muni officials say they have no plans to recoup the bonus money paid to the men. “The performance bonuses were based on dozens of service metrics, not just ontime performance. We are not going to go backward at this point,” said Tom Nolan, chairman of the SFMTA Board of Directors, in a prepared statement. “Moving forward, I am confident that our efforts to craft more comprehensive service standards will give our customers more useful information and help us manage service more effectively.” Muni has said it will no longer use the accounting “quirks” when reporting its ontime performance rates.

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STREETSCAPE A5 sfpublicpress.org // San Francisco Public Press

Fall 2012

VOICES OF CITY COLLEGE

Students, Staff Praise City College as School Risks Shutdown Next Year

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s students returned to City College of San Francisco for Fall classes, a caveat hung over every classroom: this Fall semester could be one of the school's last. After a harsh accreditation review detailing financial and administrative failures was published in July, the school was given a year to prove itself worthy of retaining accreditation or face the risk of losing it next spring. Accreditation allows schools to confer diplomas, receive federal financial aid and offer transferStory & Photos: able course credit. Its Ruth Tam loss would impede the // Public Press careers of more than 120,000 City College students, faculty and staff. The situation is not new to California community colleges, which have faced budget cuts for years. In response to schools that have not been able to curtail their missions to meet a downsized budget, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges has placed 10 campuses on probation and warned 14 others. The school’s community has promised to change, but finding a consensus within a diversity of views may prove difficult. In individual interviews conducted throughout the school's summer session, City College's own offer up their views of the situation.

Did you anticipate the negative accreditation report? Craig Kleinman: I didn’t see the Show Cause report coming, but I thought there was going to be a good chance we’d get put on probation. We’re spread out too much, and we don’t have enough management to handle a place this big. Doretha Fuller-Evans: I wasn’t surprised at what the report had to say about the school’s leadership, but I was surprised to hear about the recommendations the school got in 2006 and never acted on. I felt like we as a staff were betrayed. Jeffrey Fang: It didn’t come as a complete shock. As the last student trustee, I kind of expected it. I knew that the trustees were playing political games internally and externally more than doing their jobs.

If City College lost its accreditation, how would it affect you personally? Alejandro Castro: My dream is to teach English and Spanish in Korea. If we lost accreditation, it would make it difficult to satisfy my remaining requirements. I'd feel lost because I don't have the money to transfer to different schools. Yulla Nicolas: If I don’t get my diploma, it would be really difficult for me to transfer afterwards. I wouldn’t be able to get a job in my field without a degree, and I’d be forced to go back to my country. Shanell Williams: For me, I really, really need City College. I can’t envision myself going to another county to complete my last year, and it’s really anxiety provoking. It makes me want to fight even harder, because I’m not someone on the outside saying they want to fight for students, I’m actually an enrolled student trying to finish my education and this is my one option.

What brought you to City College? Ana Sauceda: I hadn’t been in school for a while, but I knew I needed to go back and finish my education. It’s a highly respected school and for most students in my position in San Francisco, you don’t even think twice about it. Craig Kleinman: I had just finished my Ph.D. at Rhode Island and was offered a tenure-track job. San Francisco’s a very literary city. I’ve taught in other parts of the country, and it can be dull, stagnant, Wal-Mart- and NASCAR-centered. San Francisco has its issues of haves and havenots, but it’s not a boring place. Saul Mira: Around 2009, when the recession began and the economy started getting bad, I was afraid that I would become unemployed and I’d have to enter the labor force without the necessary skills. I started coming to City College so I could get the education for a better job. I knew that I needed something else. Carmen Melendez: When I first came to San Francisco in 1987, I wanted to study art but discovered that it was going to be an uphill battle financially. I’m back to City College because they have the training and capability to give me an education for a fraction of what you pay everywhere else. Yulla Nicolas: I’m an international student from France, and I want to go to San Francisco State University. The only way for internationals to do that is to get an associate’s degree here first.

Doretha Fuller-Evans: I was with the Unified School District. Then there was an opening in 1988 for a full-time position, and I took it. William Walker: I’m a displaced worker. I lost a job in Los Angeles in November 2010 while I was on medical leave. While living in L.A., I realized I didn’t have any resources so I moved back home to Diamond Heights with my family briefly. I decided that I needed to retrain. Shanell Williams: I came to City College in 2002 straight out of high school and the foster care system because I thought it was the best next step. Jeffrey Fang: It was the last stop for me. I didn’t work very hard in high school. Coming to San Francisco as an immigrant, I didn’t know what to do. I dropped out the first time around after working. Afterwards, I worked as a banker at Bank of America. I came back in 2008 to finish my degree. Alejandro Castro: I’m the first in my family to go to college, and I want to finish for my parents. Back in Mexico, my parents were unable to go to a university and they didn’t get a good education. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I wanted to learn from people from different backgrounds — people who have no income and need help, people in the middle and people who are doing really good.

Are you optimistic for the future? Craig Kleinman: Yeah. I think this will turn out to be very healthy. There’s stuff that’s overdue and I think it might be uncomfortable, and it will mean new layers of work for many of us, mentally and psychologically, but it’s gonna turn out to be a healthy thing. Jeffrey Fang: I am. City College survived a crisis close to this degree about 12, 14 years ago. There’s just the question of how we will survive and what we will end up being afterwards. Ana Sauceda: I am. In the long run, I think San Francisco has the potential to be a leader in this. We’ve led the country in so many other ways. We decided that we were going to provide affordable health care to everyone in the city. I think San Francisco could really rise to the occasion and say, “We’re going to make affordable education a priority, despite what’s happening to other community colleges.” That’s what I hope.

Doretha Fuller-Evans, 62, Lead custodian Ocean Campus Rosenberg Library

What’s the best idea you’ve heard to save CCSF? Craig Kleinman: We need to craft a list of 10 institutional learning outcomes that can be tracked in all of the programs. That way, when all of the programs are revising their outcomes, they can match up their goals with the institutional learning outcomes and we can feel like much more of a unified force. I think we really need to revisit the cost of non-credit courses and our different campuses, and some real assessment needs to be done. Ana Sauceda: I think that we’re looking at two paths that we’ll have to take simultaneously. The administrators need to do everything they can to not lose accreditation. The other path involves looking at the bigger picture. We need to start combining forces with alumni, UC and CSU campuses and people in the community. People need to come together and make public education a priority.

Jeffrey Fang: The best plan calls for everyone to come together and for the first time, stop politicking against each other. That will stop the war internally. The second best thing has been on the table for two years: We need money. For the past two years, the board has known about the parcel tax option but they’ve been delaying it for their own benefit so it doesn’t hurt their chances when they run for reelection. Another plan is to look at efficiency and the number of instruction sites we have. We certainly need the 10 campuses but not 200 instruction sites.

Craig Kleinman, 47 English instructor

Jeffrey Fang, 30 Philosophy student, former student trustee

William Walker, 32 Geographic information studies, student trustee

Yulla Nicolas, 24 Marketing student

Shanell Williams, 27 Urban Studies, Associated Students president

Alejandro Castro, 20 Education student

Saul Mira, 29 General education student

Carmen Melendez, 50 Art student

Saul Mira: Every campus should have control of their resources and keep track of how they use their money best. Shanell Williams: I think the best plan is two-pronged: making our internal structure more efficient and generating revenue with the tax proposals in November. In terms of the internal structure, we need to have everyone’s voice involved to look at systems that would make us more effective. William Walker: I think if we want to save all our campuses, we need to figure out if that’s something the residents of San Francisco will prioritize. Part of the funding could come from the parcel tax, but from what I understand, that would only cover $14 million a year. I think that the best plan that we have is to come together as a community and figure out how we’re all going to give up something to keep moving forward.

Do you have confidence in the school’s leadership? Jeffrey Fang: If you’re talking about the Board of Trustees, I have faith in individuals but I’m not certain that the group will get things done. More often, they have served to divide the institution for their own political gain than looking out for the greater good. I’ve seen it firsthand, and it’s undeniable. Doretha Fuller-Evans: I didn’t think that the board would let stuff slip like that. I’m still dealing with that. They’re supposed to be public servants. You can’t just sit and watch something go wrong. You gotta say something. When you have a school of this magnitude, with 90,000 students, you gotta have your stuff together. If they don’t work together, this school is history. It won’t fly.

These interviews are edited excerpts of an online series. See the full version online at sfpublicpress.org.

Ana Sauceda, 30 Biology student


A6 Fall 2012

San Francisco Public Press // sfpublicpress.org

JUSTICE Delayed Retirement Program for Police Results in Higher Costs, Hiring Boom T he San Francisco Police Department appeared to save money over the last three years by paying veteran officers extra to delay their retirement and freezing hiring of new recruits. But the bill for those changes is now coming due. Much of those savings have been wiped out since 2008, after a flood of officers took advantage of the Deferred Retirement Option Program to dip into their pensions early while still earning a salary. An April 2011 report by the city controller’s office projected story: potential net christopher Peak costs as high // Public Press as $47 million, the equivalent of up to nine Police Academy classes or about 460 cadets. Now, with the proposed reopening of the Police Academy for classes of new cadets and a plan to hire 900 new officers over six years at a cost of $90 million to $108 million, the budget is shooting up again. Mayor Ed Lee boosted the police budget for the fiscal year that began in July by $30.3 million — a 6.6 percent increase — due in part to the need to catch up with the deferred retirement program. FEWER oFFicERs In a letter introducing his fiscal 2008–2009 budget, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom wrote he was hopeful that, after years of investment, the Police Department would reach minimum staffing requirements

for the first time in the city’s history. However, as of the end of May, the department had 1,751 officers, well below the 1,971 mandated by voters in 1994, when the city had the highest violent crime level in the state.

“Everybody knows the projected attrition rate in the Police Department is going to be devastating.” Four hundred officers are expected to retire within the next three years, including eight station captains who left by the end of June. “Everybody knows the projected attrition rate in the Police Department is going to be devastating,” said Kevin Cashman, deputy police chief of the operations bureau, at a Police Commission meeting on June 6. In February 2008, voters overwhelmingly approved the deferred retirement plan through Proposition B. The program allowed officers eligible for retirement — those over 50 years old who had served for at least 25 years — to continue working for up to three years, collecting their usual wages and storing up

pension benefits in an account with a 4 percent return guaranteed. At the end of the period, the officer received the savings in a lump sum, in many cases totaling more than $200,000. Designed to encourage veteran officers to stay and thus forestall the need to hire new recruits, the program’s main selling point was the claim that it was “cost-neutral.” Theoretically, avoiding the cost of training and health benefits for new officers would save the city money. Yet an analysis by Cheiron Inc., a consultant for the city’s retirement system, predicted that if the program were to continue, the city would accrue $52 million in added retirement costs. A report by Controller Ben Rosenfield concluded that the cost of recruitment would have been far less than the cost of deferred retirements, largely because an influx of officers who retired early to gain the program’s benefits. Rosenfield’s report found that before the retirement program, only 12 percent of 55-year-old officers with 25 years of service elected to retire. When the program started, that figure jumped to 33 percent. Overall, 60 percent of the officers eligible for retirement over the program’s three-year existence chose to take advantage of the deferred retirement option — 340 cops out of 564. Rosenfield’s report estimates that if all the officers who enrolled in the program were planning to retire anyway, the city would have saved $5 million at most. But since officers retired prematurely, the

city ran up a bill totaling as much as $29.5 million as of January 2011. The controller’s office only produced this one report to determine the program's “cost neutrality,” and there has been no analysis of the program’s costs since. The most recent annual report by the San Francisco Employee Retirement System assessed $17.6 million in costs for the program for fiscal year 2010–2011, and $8.7 million for 2009–2010. The deferred retirement program ended a year ago, after the Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 against renewal. Gary Delaganes, president of the San Francisco Police Officers’ Association, said the program was a success and faulted the supervisors for not extending it. HiRing AnEW The retirement changes led to massive shortages on an already understaffed force, whose last Police Academy class graduated in October 2009. “Our cops are spread thin,” Delaganes said, especially since newly developed areas of the city need policing. “We’ve taken on Treasure Island and the Mission Bay neighborhood, which continues to expand.” Even with the budget increases proposed by the mayor, the police force will not meet the mandated 1,971 officers until June 2018, police spokesman Daryl Fong said. Each Police Academy class of 50 cadets costs between $5 million and $6 million.

Most Haight Merchants Say Nothing Changed On Street After ‘Sit-Lie’ Prohibition Neighborhood leads the city for most tickets issued to offenders

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y the end of September, San Francisco’s Greg Suhr will be the highest-paid police chief in any major American city, bringing in a $307,450 annual salary. That’s 9 percent more than Mayor Ed Lee brings in, and nearly onethird more than California Gov. story: christopher Jerry Brown. Peak This distinc// Public Press tion for the police chief comes during difficult financial times for San Francisco, which has struggled with across-the-board budget cutbacks for more than three years and started out this spring with a $263 million deficit. Suhr’s scheduled 2 percent raise on Sept. 29 will put his salary $159 ahead of that earned by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who commands a force more than four times the size of San Francisco’s. And it’s more than 50 percent higher than that of New York’s chief, who oversees 15 times as many officers. The salary increase comes automatically as part of a bargaining agreement between the city and the Municipal Executives’ Association. “It was what it was when I got there,” Suhr said. The contract, which expires in 2015, says the Police Commission may also award “merit pay base annual adjustments” up to 5 percent of the chief’s annual salary. But Suhr said that for the last two years, he turned down the $15,000 bonus. “It’s not that I don’t like money,” Suhr said. He explained that he could not take the bonus “in good conscience” while other city employees were forced to take 12 furlough days during the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Suhr, who became chief in April 2011, acknowledged that San Francisco had “one of the most wellcompensated police forces in the country, through all ranks, all the way up.” But he said the higher salaries also help officers live in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. QuEstioning ‘inFlAtEd sAlARiEs’

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majority of retailers surveyed in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood said the enactment of San Francisco’s sit-lie law hasn’t worked as expected: Homeless people still hang out in front of local stores. An independent research report commissioned by the city and released in the spring found that 58 percent of the merchants story: in the district t.J. Johnston — the focus of a // Public Press political battle Photos: that led to voter Jason Winshell approval of the // Public Press ban in 2010 — say the same number of people or more continue to park themselves on sidewalks. Sixty-one percent said they encountered sidewalk sitters at least three times per week. City Hall Fellows, a nonpartisan policy research group that trains college graduates for public-service careers, was asked by the San Francisco Police Department to study the law’s effectiveness. They surveyed 50 neighborhood merchants last November, asking them how often people sit or lie on their premises since enforcement began in March 2011. Sixty percent said the law had no effect in preventing quality-oflife violations, such as aggressive panhandling, soliciting and loitering. Under the law, police must give offenders a warning before ticketing them. But Booksmith owner Christin Evans, who is also a board member of the Haight-Ashbury Merchants Association, questions how the survey was conducted. She noted that available employees responded to the survey during the weekend. “The report tries to reflect the merchant perspective,” she said, adding that the researchers did not contact any of the association’s nine board members. “So, I think it’s questionable that they had a representative sample.” Sometimes sidewalk sitters comply with requests from merchants to move along without police involvement, said Dave McLean, owner of the Alembic Bar and Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery.

San Francisco Police Chief To Be Nation’s Highest Paid, Leading 14th-Largest Force

More citations have been issued for sit-lie violations on Haight Street than anywhere else in San Francisco.

While he believes the law works on the criminal justice front, it fails to address attendant issues of homelessness. “The new law may be another tool for the police to assist in these cases, but the issues are so complex and extend into so many other arenas, that I think it is, overall, of limited utility,” McLean said. One employee of a nightclub called Milk, at Haight and Stanyan streets, agrees that policing efforts can go only so far. “If the police ask them to get up and move, they’ll move up to the next block,” said the employee, who gave only his first name, Regan. “It’s just a dance.” Evans said that neighborhood street people have migrated to Alvord Lake by the entrance at Golden

Gate Park, where the sit-lie code wouldn’t apply. But Ted Loewenberg, president of the Haight-Ashbury Improvement Association and a proponent of the ordinance, said he was surprised by such accounts. “When I go out, people are not sitting on the sidewalk in nearly the numbers as before,” he said. Merchants, he added, “are missing the point, that people were colonizing the sidewalks. We don’t see that anymore.” The neighborhood is where the most citations have been issued since the ordinance took effect. The Police Department’s Park Station, which has jurisdiction over HaightAshbury, recorded 152 of the city’s 306 sit-lie violations in its logbook. The City Hall Fellows also

concluded that city courts are ill equipped to process these cases and suggested neighborhood courts as alternatives to traffic court. They also found that the legally required referrals to social services are inadequate — the warning notices handed out to those sitting on the sidewalk devote only a half page to the city’s 311 telephone system with no specifics on available services or instruction on how to access them. Advocates from the Homeless Youth Alliance said this approach fails to address the medical or mental health care needs of their clients, most of them under the age of 24. “Sitting and lying on public sidewalks should not be considered criminal behavior, period,” the alliance said in a press release in response to the survey.

News of the raise did not sit well with some elected leaders who struggle each year to trim hundreds of millions of dollars while avoiding the need to eliminate social services or defer necessary maintenance projects. “There’s a lot of bloated salaries at the top level of the police and Fire Department,” said District 11 Supervisor John Avalos, who is chair of the Public Safety Committee and vice chair of the Budget and Finance Committee. “Certainly, they have tough jobs, but I don’t think their inflated salaries are beyond question.” Suhr’s salary is $100,000 more than the average for chiefs of the nation’s 24 largest forces, according to a review of police departments by the San Francisco Public Press. The average major-city chief salary across the country was $193,692. In California’s 60 largest cities, police chiefs received slightly higher salaries: $205,963 was the average maximum pay in 2010 to lead a police force in the 54 cities with more than 100,000 residents. San Francisco, which this spring counted 1,751 officers, has the nation’s 14th-largest force, which means Suhr earns more than other chiefs with similar or significantly greater responsibility. • New York’s chief, Joseph J. Esposito, made $201,096 in 2011. New York had 8.37 million residents in 2010, making it 10 times the population of San Francisco. And the New York Police Department is America’s largest force, with 34,817 officers in 2010, more than 15 times as many as in San Francisco. • The Los Angeles Police Department, with 9,858 officers in 2010, currently pays its chief slightly more than Suhr. According to the Los Angeles city controller, as of the first quarter of 2012, Police Chief Charlie Beck received a salary of $307,291. The city’s force is the nation’s thirdlargest — more than four times the size of San Francisco’s and is charged with protecting the city’s 3.84 million residents, nearly five times San Francisco’s population. • Boston Police Department Superintendent-in-Chief Daniel P. Linskey makes about half as much as

Suhr at an annual salary of $161,017. He managed about 100 fewer officers than Suhr does, according to 2010 FBI data. After seeing Suhr’s salary, Cheryl Fiandaca, chief of the Bureau of Public Information for the Boston Police Department, said, “I think we all may be transferring to San Francisco.” In San Francisco, the Fire Department also pays quite well. Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White’s annual salary is nearly the same as Suhr’s — $302,068, also negotiated as part of a contract with the Municipal Executives’ Association. Among the few city officials earning six figures, Mayor Ed Lee makes $272,103, and each of the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors takes in $105,723. MAnAgERs’ stRong unions The Department of Human Resources lists the starting salary for the chief of police as $301,418. Micki Callahan, the department’s director, who represented the city in the negotiations with the Municipal Executives’ Association, did not respond to requests for comment. Spokeswoman Jennifer Johnston said the salary of a department head is set in accordance San Francisco with the size of the agency, the responsi- Police Chief Greg Suhr bility and the scope of its function. Steve Ponder, the classification and compensation manager at the Department of Human Resources, said San Francisco is unique in that almost all employees are unionized, including managers. Out of the 26,000 city employees, only about 150 lack union representation. Ponder said that determining police officer salaries is primarily based on comparison with the 13 largest cities in the greater Bay Area, which make up the “regional labor market.” For the 13 largest cities in the Bay Area, the average pay for a chief of police was $207,421. Ponder said the discrepancy is based on the high level of responsibility entrusted to the San Francisco chief. While “there’s drugs, robberies, murder” throughout the Bay Area, Ponder said, San Francisco’s chief has to deal with large events and protests, among other big-city issues. He said other major cities on the West Coast, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and Phoenix, provide a better comparison. PolicE cHiEF As cEo Thomas Mazzucco, president of the Police Commission, equated the job of San Francisco’s police chief with that of the chief executive officer of a major corporation. “He’s running a business with 3,700 employees, almost threequarters of a billion dollar budget,” Mazzucco said. “And you add to that, it is the most high-profile corporation in the city. At a corporation, you don’t get woken up at 2 in the morning because an officer has been involved in a shooting. We expect a lot out of him.” Last December, the mayor forecast a $262.7 million deficit, in large part due to increasing labor costs. As the city’s economy strengthened, deficit projections shrank and city departments revised their estimates in March, predicting a shortfall reduced to $169.6 million for the 2012–2013 fiscal year and $312 million for 2013–2014. The balanced budget finally submitted by the mayor found a variety of solutions to these shortfalls. The budget, which the Board of Supervisors passed at the end of July, increased the money allotted for police wages by 6.1 percent, or $19.3 million, in part to hire new officers as a flood of veteran officers are expected to retire. The city’s total labor cost increased by 7.6 percent, or $267.8 million. Half of the funds in the $7.3 billion budget for the next fiscal year will go toward citywide personnel costs. While Suhr will receive his raise in September, most other city employees can look forward to a boost of 1.75 percent in the fiscal year starting in July 2013, what the mayor’s office calls “a modest wage increase.”


JUSTICE A7 sfpublicpress.org // San Francisco Public Press

Fall 2012

In Era of High Unemployment, Firms Reluctant to Hire Ex-Convicts Most employers don’t know that discrimination against workers with a criminal record may be illegal

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ith a presidential election looming, the issue of the day is still the economy. California has the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation, and that just counts people who are actively looking for work. It doesn’t include those who’ve been looking longer than four weeks, or those who are so discouraged that they’ve given up altogether. One report shows that a worker who’s been unemployed for more than one year has less than a 10 percent chance of finding a job. story: That chance is Kyung-Jin lee even lower for // KAlW news those with a criminal offense on their records. For 65 million people with an arrest or a conviction, the increased use of background checks in hiring makes it that much more difficult for them to find work. In April, new policies were issued for employers regarding how they should consider someone’s criminal background. By the time Cheryl Lozano was 27 years old, she already had several run-ins with the law. She says all of them had been under the influence of PCP. “Possession of PCP — on one occasion, DUI. Second time that happened, then a third time, then I was sent to prison,” Lozano said. She got clean when she came out and held down several jobs as a radiology clerk, receptionist and bookkeeper. She said back then, “they weren’t doing that many background checks. So it was easier for me to establish a job.” For 14 years, everything was fine.

But in 2005 she relapsed, and she lost her job. When she got back in the job market, she didn’t realize how much things had changed since she came out of prison in the late 1990s. She always checked “yes” when asked about criminal convictions, but she never got called back. “And the one job I did get called back, when they did a background check, they said ‘no’ because I had DUI on my record,” she said. Today, competition for jobs is as fierce as ever. As of March, there were about three unemployed workers for every available job in the U.S. This allows employers to be picky. Sil Krevocheza owns a beverage company in Livermore and is looking to hire two drivers. Because of the overwhelming response in the past, he now requires applicants to apply in person with their DMV records. His Craigslist ad also specifies “no criminal history.” “It seems to me that anyone that has a criminal history has a DMV problem,” Krevocheza said. “To me, that’s someone that may have a criminal background, so we eliminate that immediately.” He said he has had some bad experiences with ex-offenders in the past. He once got a call from a WalMart manager about a couple of his employees. “He wanted to let me know two of my trucks had been sitting behind the store for an hour,” Krevocheza said. “So I drive there. They thought it was a good time to get together and smoke dope. And you can imagine — as an owner of a company. I took the keys and fired them both on the spot.”

Krevocheza said he also had positive experiences with ex-offenders and would still consider someone with a criminal record, but he needs a way to filter applicants. “We would be here all day long interviewing people,” he said. “And actually, 90 people last time applied.” But Maurice Emsellem, an attorney with the National Employment Law Project, said this type of hiring practice might be illegal.

“The employers need to take a look at the individual.” “They have to show that the practice is job-related,” he said. “That they’ve looked at the age of the offense, the seriousness of the offense, and the person’s record compared to the job that they’re applying to.” That’s according to guidelines issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 25 years ago. Emsellem said that conditions have gotten much worse for people with criminal backgrounds because that population is growing, and background checks are more common. So the commission issued new guidelines. They reinforce the basic principles of its past policy, but now the guidelines provide updates on what is legal and illegal in hiring. “The employers need to take a look

at the individual,” Emsellem said. “If you have a system online that says so-and-so with a record won’t qualify, and they’re immediately rejected by the online application, then by definition they haven’t taken a serious look at the individual.” That’s Raymond Chen’s problem. Chen was a sophomore at San Jose State University studying computer science when he was arrested and sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. “I went in for possession and attempt to distribute MDMA,” he said. MDMA is also known as ecstasy. Chen’s been out of prison since November and has been looking for work. He diligently checks Craigslist and submits one or two job applications every day, mostly for warehouse or data-entry positions. Chen said he’s gotten a couple of calls back. But since his resume shows that he hasn't worked since 2008, he says employers often ask what he's been doing since. “And I can’t really lie about it. So I tell them the truth, and they never call you back.” Today, 65 million people in the U.S. — 1 in 4 adults — have an arrest or conviction that will show up in background checks. What’s worse, they are often riddled with incomplete information. In fact, Emsellem said that in 2006, a Department of Justice report found that half of the FBI’s background checks were inaccurate. That means an arrest that never leads to a conviction might still pop up on one of these checks. Emsellem said this disadvantages millions of workers searching for

employment, especially people of color. “African-Americans are arrested at three times the rate compared to their representation in the general population,” he said. “Whites are arrested at half the rate compared to their representation in the general population. So that’s a significant disproportionate impact. And that’s true around the state.” To give you a sense of the scope of this imbalance, in some major U.S. cities like Chicago, almost 80 percent of working-age African-American men have criminal records. In Oakland, there’s an office supply company looking to improve this situation. It’s called Give Something Back. It proactively hires people who have had trouble finding work, including ex-offenders. “If you walk around the office, you’ll find tremendous diversity in this office, and that’s a residue of a design,” said Mike Hannigan, president of the company. “It doesn’t happen by accident. We reach out to try to make sure our workforce is representing the community.” Hannigan said while his company provides additional training for these employees, their quality of work is no different from those without records. And he says the myth that ex-offenders are more prone to stealing or causing trouble is just that — a myth. “The fact of the matter is, people misunderstand what the incarcerated population is like,” Hannigan said. “It’s as diverse as the regular population. Some of them are hard cases, some of them are people who had bad experiences and did bad

things once in a while. But some of them can transition into very productive careers.” Hannigan said there are also certain benefits for employers who hire people with criminal records, such as tax credits. “Also, there’s lots of benefits once they do integrate, because they tend to be very loyal and very productive and appreciate the opportunity to work,” he said. “I was a go-getter. I believed at an early age I wanted to be a DEA agent,” Lozano said. “I know that sounds crazy, but that is the truth.” She didn’t get that Drug Enforcement Administration job, but she did find a position in sales. She’s grateful her employer didn’t use a background check when evaluating her. Some companies are coming around reluctantly. Earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission successfully sued Pepsi because its hiring policy excluded anyone with an arrest record. The beverage company has since changed its hiring practices. Advocates hope these high-profile cases will encourage smaller employers to change their practices voluntarily. As for job seekers with criminal records, the two words of advice heard over and over again are, “don’t lie,” no matter how tempting.

kalw.org/programs/crosscurrents

PANEL DISCUSSION

Finding Solutions for State Prison Crisis on Local Level

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he United States imprisons more people than any other country, but in California, a current policy aims to reduce the state prison population. It’s called realignment, and the state says it’s working. Could the incarceration nation finally be slowing down? National Radio Project’s “Making Contact” producer George Lavender asked experts in the field in a program that aired on June 26.

lavender: Alisha Coleman, a San

Francisco County Jail inmate, says she’s been in prison twice and been in jail at least 10 times. In California, the state government runs the prison, while each of the 58 counties is responsible for jails. coleman: I’m a pretty smart per-

lavender: Along with Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Alameda counties, San Francisco has invested some of its realignment money in community-based programs and services. still: The resources that were sent to San Francisco for realignment, a third of our resources, right off the bat, were identified for services and public health — you know, mental health services, substance-abuse services — housing also, through the housing authority, because we recognize that we need to make that sacrifice.

Host: george lavender // national Radio Project

lavender: San Francisco received nearly $6 million in funding for realignment in the first year, most of which went to the probation department. They’ve invested in drug treatment programs, GED courses, clothes and housing. Their aim is to reduce the likelihood of someone returning to jail or prison. Prior to realignment, 7 out of 10 people returned to prison within three years. Still says her approach is working and points out that San Francisco’s jail population has fallen in the first six months of realignment without an increase in reported crime.

Edited: Kristine Magnuson // Public Press Photo:

son. I just don’t know where to start lucy nicholson // Reuters whenever I leave here. I don’t have the proper resources or help. Living out here, I basically commit the crime that I commit, to take care of myself, and end up in jail, or my addiction overpowers my situation and I end up in jail. It’s horrible here. You don’t get to go outside. You don’t get to do anything. You get the bare minimum of everything. It’s little tiny slits of windows that you can look out. It’s no way to open them or get any type of air. Everyone here is pale due to lack of sunlight. There’s no exodus to any type of fresh air at all. We don’t leave outside of the cots unless we’re going to be screened in the medical facilities. And that’s San Francisco County Jail to me in a nutshell.

lavender: Coleman’s story is shared by tens of thousands. For years, California has had one of the largest prison systems in the country, both in terms of facilities and inmates. Between 1980 and 2000, California built 23 new prisons. Ruthie Wilson Gilmore, a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the City University of New York Graduate Center, is the author of “Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing California.” gilmore: By the late 1980s, California was faced with a problem — if you could call it a problem — of having many, many new prisons opening or on line to open and really not enough laws that would guarantee that they would stay full. And California embarked on such a frenzy of criminal lawmaking. The production of law after law after law after law guaranteed that long after crime had begun its secular decline, more and more people would be sent off to state prison. lavender: Prisons were being filled and overfilled. In

May of 2011, the United States Supreme Court ruled that overcrowding in California’s state-run prison system was causing needless suffering and death. On average, one prisoner was dying every week due to inadequate medical care. Matthew Cate is secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. cate: The prison system had two big problems. One, it

was terribly expensive: $10 billion a year. And California at that time had a $26 billion deficit. And then secondly, the 9th Circuit — our federal appellate court here — had decided that our population was a primary cause for unconstitutional conditions regarding the provision of health care to inmates, so as a result they’ve ordered us to reduce the density of our population to 137.5 percent of our design capacity. So to solve those two problems, public safety realignment was our answer.

still: San Francisco has a long history of trying to address what the individual offender’s needs are and change the behavior, so that we ultimately can have recidivism reductions that are going to last.

Inmates in a gymnasium where they are housed due to overcrowding at the California Institution for Men state prison in Chino.

lavender: Just five months after the Supreme Court decision, AB109, the Public Safety Realignment Act, came into effect. Although the Supreme Court ordered the state to reduce its population by 30,000, it didn’t mean that anyone would be released. cate: No one is actually released from prison early and shipped down to local government, but as people are newly convicted or commit new parole violations, if they’re lower level, they’re housed in the county jails and supervised by probation, and if they’re high-level, serious and violent offenders, then they’re housed by the state prisons.

her sentence is split between time in jail and time in a community-based program. Prince: I’m 40, and I’ve been going to jail for the last 20

years of my life, in and out. And so it just became like a repeated pattern for me. Had it not been for the realignment, I would be sentenced to a lot of years in prison and probably not getting the help that I needed. lavender: Prince says she’s been able to beat a methamphetamine addiction while inside San Mateo jail and now mentors other prisoners.

lavender: Under the new law, counties are now respon-

Prince: Instead of just being thrown into a prison setting, we’re able to stay in our community, where we’re closer to our family, where we’re also closer to resources.

gilmore: There’s nothing in realignment that says

lavender: But others are not so sure that realignment brings them closer to home. Alisha Coleman has been in San Francisco County Jail for eight-and-a-half months and has another eight to go.

sible for people convicted of nonviolent, nonserious, nonsexual offenses.

that the county keeps somebody it has convicted, that prisoner must be locked up in jail. What realignment says is: You counties — all 58 of you — can make your own policies, your own procedures, your own plans. We’ll give you a little money for it, and we don’t want to see any of these people sent to state custody. lavender: The state is providing about a billion dollars to counties for the new responsibility, about a third of the cost of keeping the same people in state prison. Proponents say the new law is already working. California’s state prison population dropped by 23,000 in the first six months of realignment. But if people aren’t being sent to prison, then where are they going? Jennifer Prince has been held at the San Mateo County Women’s Jail for 18 months. Under the old rules, her conviction for identity theft would have meant spending time in state prison, but because of realignment,

coleman: I don’t think whoever thought up the realignment had it in mind that mentally this is very challenging for people. Even the visiting, it’s a 30-minute visit, and we just sit across the table from one another, and we scream back and forth over whoever else is in the visiting room. Not to say that prison is the best thing that ever happened, but it’s like, at least I would be able to hug my mother or my sister or my significant other and tell them that I really love them. It just gives you a sense of hope, but this is just almost like torture. Wendy Still is San Francisco’s Chief Probation Officer: still: County jails were not absolutely built for long-term incarceration. I mean, prior to realignment, the max sentence was about a year.

lavender: Although realignment doesn’t require counties to sentence people to jail time, that’s where many are ending up, and it’s causing problems. Prince: It’s never been so crowded. It causes tension. Everybody gets too loud. You know, it’s like cramming people into a little space. It’s not good. cate: (Realignment) certainly will expand jail populations to a degree. We didn’t provide enough money for the counties to do their business the same way the state has tried to run its correctional system, so we know there just isn’t enough money to have a jail bed for everyone who would have otherwise had a prison bed. And we’ve empowered local governments to find better solutions. lavender: But are counties finding better solutions? Wilson: The money that would be available for programming and alternatives and so forth is available, but there’s a lot of dough that everybody can easily see and identify for bricks-and-mortar expansion, and this is under AB900 and AB109. So this money available for bricks-and-mortar expansion is essentially an encouragement for the counties, who suddenly are going to take responsibility for some number of people who are to be under supervision for some number of months or years, to say, “Well, the easiest way for us to do it is to just build some more cages and throw ’em in there, and then when they’re done with their sentences, let ’em go unless they come back.”

National Radio Project radioproject.org


A8 Fall 2012

San Francisco Public Press // sfpublicpress.org

GREEN Coastal Communities Challenged by Climate Change Rise in sea level, extreme weather imperil Bay Area

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he rise in the sea level and extreme weather, both caused by climate change, threaten cities and towns along the world’s coasts, including San Francisco. Just as it is crucial to slow climate change, it is equally important to plan for dealing with the adverse Story: Claire Schoen impact of such a // Searise.org change. Until recently, Photo: such efforts were Jan Sturmann // Searise.org seen as an either/ or proposition: fighting climate change or adapting to it. But many see this as a false choice. “It was — either you try as hard as you can to reduce greenhouse gases, and if you adapt — it’s almost like admitting failure,” said William Travis, director of the Bay Area Development and Conservation Commission. “Now, we’ve recognized we have to do both, we have to couple the two together.” Adapting to the effects of climate change takes many forms. Dealing with floodwaters is an example. There are two traditional solutions to the floodwaters problem. One is a wetlands approach, which lets the waters spread as the sea level rises. The second is a hard levee system approach, like the Embarcadero on the S.F. waterfront. But as sea levels rise and storms increase, levees may not be up to the job.

Michelle Orr and Jason Vandeber, a coastal engineer at ESA, measure the mud accumulated at the Coolie Landing wetlands restoration site in East Palo Alto, gauging progress on restoring the area to a natural state. “You tend to build a levee, and it is a certain height, but sea level is going to continue to keep going up,” Travis said. Levees have other drawbacks, too. “Levees are expensive to build,

and they are very expensive to maintain. They break the connection between land and water, and they destroy habitats,” Travis said. Wetlands are as important has levees in protecting against floods;

they also increase habitats for wildlife. The problem is: Wetlands are diminishing. Of the historical tidal wetlands of San Francisco Bay, 85 to 90 percent

have been lost. They’ve been diked and drained for development, said Mendel Stewart, manager at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Industrial salt ponds around the bay are what remain of the wetlands, and they do offer some hope. “If it wasn’t for those marshes being converted to salt production, they would have been filled and built on,” Stewart said. “It gave us the opportunity to do many of the restoration projects that we’re doing all around the bay.” One of these salt ponds is the Coolie Landing Salt Pond Restoration. It sits along the bay’s shoreline about an hour’s drive south of San Francisco near the city of East Palo Alto. The nearly 115-acre site used to be marsh a long time ago. “And 10 years ago, the tides were reintroduced so that it could once again become natural marsh,” said Michelle Orr, a hydrologist and principal at Phillips, Williams and Associates. “These marshes will help provide flood protection,” Orr said. “As a wave travels from the bay across a marsh, the marsh surface and the plants on the marsh will absorb the wave energy so by the time that wave hits this levee ... it’s going to be a lot smaller.” But wetlands aren’t the perfect solution. “We can accommodate wetlands in some areas, but we have airports.

We have highways. We have cities that are built up very, very close to our edge,” said Craig Hartman, an architect at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. “A place like San Francisco, we don’t have the luxury of letting water creep up Market Street as the sea levels change.” Travis created a design competition asking for other solutions to the rise in sea levels in the bay. He got 130 solutions. Bay Arc was one of them. It proposes to solve the problem for the entire bay by regulating the water that comes through the very narrow throat of the Golden Gate. “The idea would be to create a dam, think of it as a curtain, which will be submersed down actually to the floor of the bay,” Hartman said. “And only when we have a flooding condition – when we have these combinations of storms, tidal surge and sea level rise, of course — this curtain would be deployed to rise up to the surface.” Some counsel against taking the literal approach to these proposals. “We want to inspire people to think differently about how we deal with the problems of the future,” Travis said. “This is the time for imagination and hope. I’m not suggesting that it will be easy, but the strength of human beings is that we’re best when conditions are worst. And this is a time for us to be our best.”

Leatherback Turtles Return in Earnest Endangered species on track to be state’s marine reptile

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eatherback turtles were spotted in the coastal waters south of San Francisco earlier this summer than ever before. Sightings of sea turtles began in July, earlier than their usual arrival time in August. “That’s pretty amazing. There’s still a lot that is not known, so every sighting you get is critical,” said Chris Pincetich, marine biologist with SeaTurtles.org. Story: He relays information on each Elizabeth Laubach sighting to marine biologists who // Bay Nature do field work in early August. The leatherbacks journey from Photo: the Far East to the West Coast of Kate Cummings North America to feast on brown // www.blue oceanwhale sea nettle jellyfish, a culinary watch.com adaptation that’s helped ensure the leatherback’s 70 million years of existence. In early July, marine biologists reported the most abundant and dense jellyfish bloom seen in years, Pincetich said. A week later, the ancient creatures started showing up, first in Monterey Bay, then by Santa Cruz and up to Half Moon Bay. On Feb. 27, this critical habitat was finalized offshore from San Francisco Bay to protect the leatherback’s feeding grounds. Pacific leatherback turtle Life isn’t always easy for the Pacific leatherback turtle, whose population has plummeted by up to 95 percent in past several decades. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project has pushed for laws to better protect leatherbacks in California. A bill to designate leatherbacks as California’s official state marine reptile was approved by the state Legislature. The bill gives the leatherbacks some extra PR, but more important, encourages education about leatherbacks in public schools, the recording of sightings, and communication about conservation practices with the turtles’ birth home, Indonesia. It was awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature at presstime. In February, almost 17,000 square miles of offshore waters surrounding San Francisco Bay were deemed a protected marine area for leatherbacks. Activities that harm the jellyfish require special consideration, and drift gill nets have been banned. “The designation is a huge victory for the sea turtle, protection of its food and the awareness of this creature which is basically a living dinosaur,” Pincetich said. The fishery regulations took effect Aug. 15.

baynature.org

Firefighters douse a flame at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond on Aug. 6. The sole crude oil unit may be shut for at least four months due to “extensive damage,” analysts said.

Poll: Air Pollution Takes Heaviest Toll on Black, Latino Communities High rates of respiratory ailments reported in minority neighborhoods

T

he huge fire at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond in early August, which produced a towering column of acrid black smoke and aroused widespread panic in the area, served as a dramatic backdrop to new research showing that minorities and low-income people believe they bear the brunt of health Story: problems related to T.J. Johnston air pollution. // Public Press Investigators are still working to deterPhoto: Josh Edelson mine whether the re// Reuters finery incident posed long-term health risks to neighboring African-American and Latino communities. After the fire, the second such major incident in five years, Richmond residents were told to “shelter in place” by staying home and shutting all windows and doors to avoid inhaling dangerous pollutants. Community groups have long charged that industrial facilities disproportion-

ately affect marginalized demographic groups. On Aug. 7, the day after the fire, the Public Policy Institute of California released results of phone interviews with 25,000 Californians as part of its annual environmental issues survey. The July poll found that 62 percent of Latinos and 53 percent of African-Americans report air pollution as a serious threat to themselves and their immediate families, a higher percentage than whites at 41 percent or the general population at 50 percent. When the survey respondents were asked if social class was a factor in endangering the health of low-income people, more Latinos and African-Americans agreed: 66 percent of Latinos and 58 percent of African Americans said yes, as opposed to 47 percent overall and 35 percent of whites. “The statistics bear out what we see with our eyes and smell with our noses,” said the Rev. Daniel Buford, director of the Prophetic Justice Ministry of Allen

Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland. He spoke at a panel discussion on the day of the Chevron fire at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco, sponsored by the Public Policy Institute and New America Media. While 41 percent of adults statewide reported asthma or other respiratory ailments in their households, the rate was higher among African Americans (54 percent) and Latinos (43 percent). Buford said the black communities in Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood are dying as a result and that these communities formed a “toxic triangle.” The poll found that many state residents were unaware of major climate change policy reforms. The majority of respondents had not heard about California’s carbon cap-and-trade program, which begins in November. Under the program, the state would issue permits to companies that limit greenhouse gas emissions and allow them to sell unused

permits to other companies. Fewer people in ethnic minority communities — 27 percent of African-Americans and 26 percent of Latinos — were aware of the program than were whites or the general population. But members of most ethnic communities were apparently ambivalent about the program. Despite support of cap-and-trade from a majority of African-Americans and Latinos, higher percentages from both groups — as compared with whites and the general population — feared that capand-trade would worsen health risks for low-income residents. Sixty-six percent of Latinos and 60 percent of AfricanAmericans said they thought the new rules would create health problems. Less than half of all adults — 48 percent — and about one-third of whites — 34 percent — said there would be potential negative effects.


B1 sfpublicpress.org // San Francisco Public Press

SPECIAL REPORT

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

Fall 2012

a city responds

Poor Record Keeping Hinders Analysis of Domestic Violence Policing Practices As statistics go from tick marks to laptops, police struggle to make sense of trends

T Cornelius Loewenstein, center, facilitator at the Abuse Violence Anger Cessation Alliance, teaches a class for domestic violence offenders. They must attend a weekly two-hour class for 52 weeks.

San Francisco Trails Bay Area In Domestic Violence Prosecutions Far fewer charged than across the region, even with strongly worded ‘no-drop’ guidelines

I

n January 2010, police in the Richmond District responded to a call from a woman who said her ex-boyfriend threw a broken vase at her, punched her and choked her, shouting “I am going to kill you!” The officers reported that when they tried to handcuff Story: the apparently Christopher Peak intoxicated man, // Public Press he took a swing at one of them. Photos: But despite Anna Vignet physical evi// Public Press dence, photos and a taped interview with the alleged victim, the District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute on any of the 10 charges against the suspect. In court records, prosecutors said they dropped the case because the victim withdrew her complaint. Later that year, the court dismissed charges against the man in another domestic violence arrest. In a third incident a few months after that, prosecutors dropped charges

of causing injury and violating a restraining order, citing “lack of evidence.” Though San Francisco’s so-called “no-drop” policy requires pressing domestic violence charges when evidence is sufficient to convict — even when victims refuse to testify — prosecutors here decline to bring the great majority of cases to court. Over the last half-decade, the District Attorney’s Office pursued just 28 percent of cases through to trial or plea bargaining. Across the Bay Area, seven of eight other counties brought higher percentages of domestic violence cases to trial. Summing up all cases in the region over a similar period, court charges were filed 45 percent of the time. (Contra Costa’s rate was 25 percent, roughly tied with San Francisco’s.) On a per-capita basis, San Francisco ranked last among Bay Area counties in per-capita prosecutions for domestic violence — 29.5 per 10,000 people — about half the rate for the whole region.

Except in rare circumstances, prosecutors in San Francisco are required to bring cases to court if they believe they can persuade a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict. No-drop policies are designed to protect victims who fear retribution from batterers if they call police for help. In many domestic violence cases, the batterer has been at it before. And all too often a series of beatings can have deadly consequences. Half of all murders of women in California are the result of domestic violence. Authorities across the state have adopted similar policies, arguing that aggressive prosecution disrupts patterns of escalating abuse. “When you are dealing with this intimate relationship, we still have to try,” said Rolanda Pierre-Dixon, an assistant district attorney in Santa Clara County, who in 1991 established one of the first domestic violence units in the country. “If we don’t, something worse is likely to happen. We need to get away from

the mentality that the victim drives the case. We drive the case, even in the face of the victim.” San Francisco’s “no-drop” policy made headlines early this year in the domestic violence prosecution of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, stemming from a dispute in which his wife’s arm was bruised. District Attorney George Gascón said he pursued charges despite the wife’s denial that any abuse occurred and her resistance to cooperating with police. In March, when Mirkarimi pleaded no contest to one charge of false imprisonment, Gascón said at a news conference that he would aggressively prosecute cases of abuse in the home. “Domestic violence will not be tolerated, no matter who the perpetrator, no matter who the victim,” Gascón said. But records show that in thousands of cases, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has declined to prosecute. In the last story continued on page B4

he San Francisco Police Department cannot precisely measure the number of domestic violence cases it handled before 2011, because investigators in the Special Victims Unit hand-tallied monthly records, and used changing and inconsistently understood categories of crimes. The published statistics suggest that from 2004 through 2011, the number of domestic violence investigations fell by more than Story: 10 percent. If Kevin Stark // Public Press accurate, that might indicate that the police have prevented crimes by supporting early-intervention programs — or that the department is simply following up on fewer cases. But because of record-keeping inconsistencies, the Police Department and agencies that for 10 years have overseen the handling of family abuse crimes cannot be sure. Less than a year after installing a new unified crime database, officials said they could only guarantee accuracy of the older case counts to within a few hundred cases per year. The lack of reliable statistics makes it difficult for agencies across the city that strive to prevent domestic violence to evaluate the success of a decade of reforms, including an additional $10 million for violence prevention, community centers and victimoutreach programs, said Kenneth Theisen, a longtime member of the Justice and Courage Oversight Panel, established in 2002 after a high-profile domestic violence murder exposed gaps in the criminal justice system’s response. “How can the city determine how many police inspectors and other law enforcement personnel are needed to be assigned,” Theisen said, “if we do not know the true numbers of arrests, the number of cases investigated or the numbers of cases charged?” The police say that current efforts to overhaul information technology will prevent such errors in future reports. This summer, the department rolled out a new database to enable officers on the street

to better respond to incidents by accessing suspects’ case histories on laptop computers mounted in patrol cars. But this new technology cannot easily unscramble poor records from the past, meaning the department will be stuck with a fuzzy understanding of recent citywide and neighborhood trends. In 2011 the Police Department reported 1,470 domestic violence felony cases. As best the police can make out, that is an 11 percent drop from 2004. Michelle Jean, the police lieutenant who took over domestic violence cases at the Special Victims Unit a year and a half ago, said the published figures were “not completely off,” but acknowledged the real annual counts could be anywhere between 1,400 and 1,700 cases per year. When she took charge in April 2011, she said, investigators were still tallying monthly counts on photocopied sheets of paper by hand using tick marks, then entering them into a spreadsheet. The categories changed from year to year, making comparisons difficult. For instance, one column labeled “filed” was changed to “contact” in 2011. And since these terms were not precisely defined, investigators from month to month assumed different meanings for each. “It was ridiculous that we were hand-counting stuff,” Jean said. But if the recorded decline in cases handled by investigators is accurate, she argued, that would indicate that the city’s decade-long coordinated response to domestic violence was working, because improved public education and training for first responders led to earlier intervention, preventing escalation to ever-more serious crimes. Another measure of the city’s overall performance, calls to crisis lines and community groups, increased steadily during this time. Jean said this also shows that the city’s outreach and education initiatives have paid off: “If you are informed that you cannot batter your spouse, and you know about it, you are not going to do it.” story continued on page B3

continued on following page


B2 Fall 2012

San Francisco Public Press // sfpublicpress.org

continued on following page

Mirkarimi Case Brings Spotlight to Domestic Violence in San Francisco

I

n a hearing room in City Hall in late June, reporters scrambled to get play-by-play reaction from followers of suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, sporting blue-and-white “Stand With Ross” stickers, and organized opponents, with purple signs saying, “There’s no excuse for domestic violence.” As the city’s Ethics ComStory: mission deChristopher bated whether Peak // Public Press Mirkarimi was fit to hold his Photo: elected position, Ruth Tam the complex // Public Press game of personality, politics and procedure for the most part eclipsed larger policy questions about the city’s approach to handling thousands of cases of domestic violence each year. But advocates for victims said the hearings helped to generate awareness about the wider problem of domestic violence and the needed response from social service agencies and law enforcement. Data from the city’s Department on the Status of Women show that compared with the same period last year, the number of nights spent by clients at shelters was up 64 percent, to 3,822. Those numbers indicate an 8 percent increase from the previous quarter. “The results of this hearing have

Ross Mirkarimi, center, attends an Ethics Commission hearing. the potential to cost lives,” said Beverly Upton, executive director of the Domestic Violence Consortium. “The world is watching. Victims and perpetrators are watching what you do here. I’m worried about the people who are seeing this on television inside their homes.” The ethics commissioners, Upton added, “are not thinking about the message they are sending to women, children and male victims in their

community.” (On Aug. 23 the commission voted 4-to-1 that Mirkarimi was guilty of “official misconduct,” but made no recommendation to the Board of Supervisors as to whether he should be removed from office.) Kathy Black, the executive director at La Casa de las Madres, California’s first domestic violence shelter founded in 1976, said her agency had seen a 12 percent increase in calls since January, which she attributed to

the publicity around the Mirkarimi case. She said the movement to curb domestic violence is still “young,” so a high-profile case gets people to pay attention and helps victims step forward. Calls to the crisis hotline run by Woman Inc., a San Francisco-based organization that helps domestic violence victims, jumped 22 percent between December and January, to 1,909 for the month. In February, calls remained 19 percent above the same time last year. “Domestic violence was treated as a private matter,” Black said. “Police would come and walk the father or husband around the block to separate the two, then tell them to go work it out or to keep it to themselves. Not acknowledging domestic violence — minimizing it — is a disservice to hard-fought strides.” Upton said that the city has reduced domestic violence homicides by 80 percent since 2000, when, in a highly publicized case, Claire Joyce Tempongko was killed by exboyfriend Tari Ramirez at her home in front of her two children. “We’ve had a lot of success by being able to sit at the table with all law enforcement and trust that they have the same agenda of protecting our city’s most vulnerable residents,” she said. David Waggoner, one of Mirkarimi’s lawyers, said, “Sheriff Mirkarimi welcomes any increased

attention to domestic violence and the empowerment of victims and families.” At the Ethics Commission hearing, Mirkarimi expressed regret for earlier saying that the case was a private family matter. After an incident in January that resulted in bruising his wife’s arm, former Venezuelan soap opera star Eliana Lopez, Mirkarimi was suspended from his job by Mayor Ed Lee. Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of false imprisonment for not allowing his wife to leave their home for 18 hours after the incident, and he was sentenced to three years of probation and 52 weeks of domestic violence classes. “Countless women have lost their lives because society turned a blind eye to the violence they suffered in their homes,” District Attorney George Gascón said at the time of Mirkarimi’s plea. “People in our community should know that domestic violence will not be tolerated, no matter who the perpetrator, no matter who the victim.” However, as Mirkarimi’s case changed from an incident of domestic violence to a political tussle over whether the sheriff could hold his post with a “standard of decency, good faith and right action,” the issue of domestic violence has also grown increasingly lost in the political debate. Some advocates against domestic violence said they hoped that the

Q&A

The Role That Culture Plays in the Response to Domestic Violence in S.F.

sheriff’s suspension would be sustained as a symbol to perpetrators of abuse. The website of La Casa de las Madres features a list of actions Mirkarimi’s opponents can take to show they are “engaged in this process and that domestic violence is NEVER a private matter.” “It’s bigger than one person and one incident,” Black said. “It’s about the community’s response to domestic violence.” Jamie Cox, outreach and volunteer coordinator, said she hoped that the Ethics Commission would arrive at a result that “champions accountability and appropriate standards of conduct from our elected officials.” On the other side, Shepard Kopp, Mirkarimi’s attorney, said the issue of domestic violence does not relate to whether Mirkarimi can uphold his duties as sheriff. “If the sheriff were to take office and not come right out … and say, ‘Domestic violence is a serious issue that has to be taken seriously,’ I’m pretty sure that sheriff would not be subject to removal from office.” Among the handouts Mirkarimi’s supporters distributed was a poster criticizing Lee, ending with: “Who has not bruised the heart of the ones we love.” Ruth Tam contributed reporting to this article.

Domestic Violence Resources EMERGENCY SHELTERS & HOUSING

Orchid Pusey is interim director of the Asian Women’s Shelter in San Francisco.

as you, but it can also be really hard. You still have to talk to them about their culture. Someone will say, ‘Oh, you know how it is for us.’ But it’s not like you know what that means just because you’re from the same country of origin. You still have to ask. A lot of times, when people say, “You know how it is in our culture,” what they really mean is ‘This is how it was in my family. This was my experience.”

What’s your background in the field?

I’m in my 11th year at Asian WomStory and en’s Shelter as a staff member. Before Photo: that I was a volunteer and a language Ruth Tam advocate where I did bilingual advo// Public Press cacy and interpretation with English and Mandarin. When I became a staff member, I spent eight years as the national network coordinator. I’ve been the interim executive director for about two years now. What can you tell me about the attitude surrounding domestic violence in San Francisco?

It’s more cutting edge in terms of language, culture access and outreach. The culture of domestic violence cooperation here is really movement-based, survivor-centered and more aware of the community. For example, in San Francisco, there is not a single domestic violence provider that forces or pushes a survivor to engage with the state. How do you gauge your success?

There’s the measurable and the immeasurable. For the measurable things, we do all of our intakes and exit surveys so that our evaluation methods have quantitative measures of success. We think of independence as people choosing the next step in their life. When we say our percentage of success is at 80 percent, we mean that 80 percent of our clients move on to that next step. Some people want to go back to their old living situation. If that happens, we want to make sure it’s because they chose it, not because they had no other option. To us, success is having options and choosing one that is violence free and self-sustainable. How is your job different from someone’s who works at a non-cultural domestic violence shelter?

One of AWS’ core values is to always look for who has been forgotten or left out. At the shelter, we ask each resi-

Is there a domestic violence issue that you’ve seen swept under the rug or underreported?

Orchid Pusey dent to make a list of food that they’d like us to pick up. We realize that getting the right kind of rice, melon or green might sound trivial, but picking the right kind of green can be a step to ending domestic violence. If a survivor needs to heal, they need to heal somewhere safe. If ‘safe’ means a certain kind of green, we’ll buy that green whenever that survivor writes it on our list. When other shelters are just, “wham, bam, get it done” with restraining orders, police reports and transitional housing, it just treats someone like an issue. People aren’t issues. How have you seen culture hold someone back from fighting domestic violence?

There’s a famous 1989 case where the defendant justified a murder for the “defense of traditional Chinese values” and got five years of probation. Last year, there was a very similar case here with a Vietnamese family. It was an extremely horrific murder. They used the same defense of protecting Vietnamese masculinity. It didn’t work, but people still use culture to defend what they’re doing. Every culture has patriarchy in it and ways that people use it to condone violence. But every culture has a history of resisting violence. What are the challenges that come with working with someone from a similar ethnic background?

It can help to talk to someone as the same background

During the Mirkarimi trial, I was worried the community at large would misunderstand the role of domestic violence agencies. La Casa de Las Madres put out that big billboard that said “Domestic violence is never a family matter.” And the same billboard company offered us an opportunity to put up a similar message in Japantown or Chinatown. They kept pressuring us to turn it in, but for the communities that we serve, that message wouldn’t have translated well. Why is that?

Asian communities are in different places. Not every group is at a place where they can read a sentence like that and feel empowered. Some people might read that and think that if they tell a friend about abuse, their friend is going to tell the police and the media, and their whole life is going to be public. I want people to know that in San Francisco, if you choose to get support as a domestic violence survivor, you aren’t forced to file a police report. How do you see the response to domestic violence evolving in the next 10 years?

One of the main things AWS wants to do is open a public center that’s about a new way of life. It would be part of the community where everyone who goes there is connected to a bigger vision of nonviolence. I don’t think we can end violence. We’re human beings and sometimes we’re nature at its worst. But when we’re at our best, we can make sure that when violence happens, we can address it immediately and repair it.

Asian Women’s Shelter 3543 18th St. #19 San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 751-7110

Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic 3543 18th St. #5 San Francisco, CA 94111 (415) 864-1082 SERVICES

Jewish Family and Children’s Services Transitional housing with counseling and children’s services 2150 Post St. San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 567-8860

Community United Against Violence Advocacy and services for LGBTQ victims 170 A Capp St. San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 777-5500 Crisis line: (415) 333-HELP

La Casa des Las Madres Emergency shelter 1663 Mission St.reet, #225 San Francisco, CA 94103

Donaldina Cameron House Counseling, immigration and translation service for Chinese and Vietnamese women 920 Sacramento St. San Francisco, CA 94108 (415) 781-0401

Riley Center Emergency shelter and transitional housing with counseling and support services 3543 18th St. #4 San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 255-2894 LEGAL AID Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach 1121 Mission St. San Francisco, CA 94103 (415) 567-6255 Bay Area Legal Aid 50 Fell St. San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 982-1300

W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Crisis line with shelter availability and group/individual counseling, including programs for lesbian and Latina survivors. 333 Valencia St. Ste. 251 San Francisco, CA 94103 (415) 864-4777 EDUCATION/RESESARCH Family Violence Prevention Fund 383 Rhode Island St. #304 San Francisco, CA 94103 (415) 252-8900


B3 sfpublicpress.org // San Francisco Public Press

Fall 2012

SVU’s numbers show investigations of battering cases decreasing, but new database will improve future accuracy

From policing to community services, the city responds to domestic violence and abuse in a number of different ways. The data show monthly rates of each statistic starting in 2004, and in some cases is averaged from annual statistics.

35000 30000 25000 20000

10000 COMMUNITY CRISIS LINE CALLS: The city funds two organizations, WOMAN Inc. and La Casa de las Madres, which provide telephone support for victims of abuse. Data is averaged from annual statistics.

UNIQUE INDIVIDUALS SERVED: Total number of people (including victims, batterers and family members) who received some type of domestic violence-related service through the city’s array of community groups. Records start in 2007. Data is averaged from annual statistics.

15000

5000

911 CALLS: The total number of domestic violence-related emergency line calls. Records start in 2007. Data is averaged from annual statistics.

2000

1500

TOTAL INCIDENTS: Any incident of domestic violence that comes across the desk of detectives of the San Francisco Police Department.

1000

FOLLOW-UP INVESTIGATIONS: When a report of domestic violence is made, but responding officers choose not to make an initial arrest, domestic violence detectives will follow up with the victim by making a phone call or sending a patrol car to further investigate and educate the victim about city services.

400

500

300 200

Sources: San Francisco Police Department, Department of the Status of Women

Graphic: Thomas Guffey

2 20 1

1 20 1

0 20 1

9 20 0

8 20 0

20 07

6 20 0

20 0

FELONY CASES: The number of felony cases of domestic violence, according to the records provided by the Special Victims Unit. These numbers may not be exact, as the police kept poor records until two years ago. No records yet for 2012. Data is averaged from annual statistics. See story on page B1.

5

100

4

This year, 31 organizations fighting domestic violence in San Francisco received a total of $2.7 million from the city, a 37 percent increase from 2000. This pays for housing, clinics, emergency phone lines and education for both victims and known batterers. Emily Murase, who heads the Department on the Status of Women, has been working with the Justice and Courage Oversight Panel since 2008 to oversee the city’s response to domestic violence. The police, the 911 call center and other departments are required to make semiannual reports summarizing the number and disposition of cases. A 2002 audit by the panel urged the police to track statistics for cases in several stages, including 911 calls, investigations and cases referred to the District Attorney’s Office. The oversight panel said at the time that these numbers would be used to assess the success of policing and social service programs. But Theisen said the group has “never really been confident” in the police tallies. It was not until this summer that the oversight committee first discussed the data discrepancies publicly. Police Lt. Art Stellini told the panel on Aug. 1 that official counts of cases dating back to 2004 were inconsistently kept, and that his personal files differed significantly from official records. Murase often cites nonprofit organizations’ annual reports regarding the number of people accessing services, which has increased by 28 percent since 2007 (the first year for which records are available) to about 29,000 this year. So have domestic violence calls through the city’s 911 center — a rise of 17 percent since 2005, to 7,700 calls this year. But these numbers give little indication of how many suspects and victims interact with the criminal justice system, or how frequently. When shown the official police statistics suggesting that the Special Victims Unit was handling fewer cases, Murase said she was “stunned,” because if more victims are seeking help, more ought to be going to the police as well. She said outreach efforts and the training of 435 officers in techniques to evaluate what constitutes domestic violence should have led to more criminal investigations. Murase said she thinks police record-keeping practices were “conscientious,” adding that the department has long suffered from a “lack of adequate information technology infrastructure.”

TRACKING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN SF: Police, Prosecutors and City Services

20 0

story continued from page B1

Research: Kevin Stark, Jason Winshell

TRAUMA SPURS REFORM A series of reforms in the way the city handled domestic violence cases followed the particularly high-profile murder of a woman named Claire Joyce Tempongko in 2000. After ex-boyfriend Tari Ramirez was charged with the murder, San Francisco embarked on a thorough overhaul of domestic violence response infrastructure and policy to figure out why he was not removed from the home after repeated domestic violence calls to the police. Tempongko, a mother of two, had desperately tried to get out of the relationship. She contacted the police on six occasions and won a restraining order. But after she was stabbed to death in front of her children in October 2000, Ramirez fled to Mexico, and he was on the lam for six years, but was arrested and brought back to San Francisco for trial. He was convicted of murder in 2008 and sentenced to 16 years to life. But the case is not yet settled: His conviction was overturned in 2011 after a state appeals court found the trial judge had misled jurors about the option of a manslaughter verdict. Ramirez remains behind bars and his case is before the state Supreme Court. At the request of then-Supervisor Michael Yaki, the Department on the Status of Women launched an investigation into the city’s domestic violence policies. The Justice and Courage Oversight Panel, made up of community advocates, convened to evaluate police and community efforts and identify problems. Louise Renne, then city attorney, oversaw the probe. In 2002 the panel published a blueprint for sweeping changes throughout the city. The primary concern was communication among departments. The goal was to create a “seamless criminal justice response to domestic violence,” reducing costs and decreasing the number of cases introduced to the criminal

justice system. “The Justice and Courage Panel has always asked for accurate and up-to-date stats,” said Theisen, who is also communications director for Bay Area Legal Aid, which provides legal advice and representation to low-income people. “We wanted reliable, useful data. We have often asked about this at our meetings.” Yet the panel never established any data-driven benchmarks to evaluate progress. The panel made similar recommendations for the District Attorney, Adult Probation Department and the San Francisco Superior Court. The police have racked up numerous qualitative successes, including changing departmental protocols: developing a script for 911 operators and providing confidential investigation rooms for domestic violence detectives to interview victims. MODERN POLICING METHODS Police Chief Greg Suhr and Chief Information Officer Susan Giffin say modernizing the department’s technological capacity is a priority. A new system, the Crime Database Warehouse, went live in January. The department has trained 1,500 officers to use a new mobile application giving them instant access to criminal histories and complaints, making for speedier and more accurate assessments responding to family violence incidents. Jean said the new system will allow the Special Victims Unit to produce better statistics. “We will get clearer data,” she said. But errors from the past may not be recoverable. Giffin,

who spearheaded the new database, said the case file “hub” may help officers solve new crimes, but cannot by itself reconstruct statistics on past trends. The digital filing cabinet allows police to store all incident and investigation records, Giffin said. In the last two years, she scanned 10 years of investigative case files. Under the old system, if a batterer changed his or her name or address or started abusing someone new, the Special Victims Unit had a hard time making connections among cases unless they pulled the paper case files. Now detectives perform Google-style searches to find information about suspects — an address with a history of complaints by neighbors, a victim’s name or a suspect’s unique tattoo or hair color. “There are a lot of different ways to connect cases together,” Giffin said. Domestic violence investigators used to sum monthly summary records by hand on loose sheets of paper, with two investigators cycling through record-keeping duty each month. Investigators entered data inconsistently, and the categories for crimes and how they were handled changed over the years. The differences among the past official numbers vary by as many as 300 cases per year, Jean estimated in an interview in late August. The Crime Database Warehouse fits into a broader citywide system called JUSTIS, accessed by other departments, such as the District Attorney’s Office. Nationally, many of the largest police departments have embarked on extensive data-driven policing initiatives. New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles were among the first to use CompStat, a system that tracks

crimes by location, allowing analysts to plot crimes on maps and timelines to more efficiently deploy street patrols. In recent years, as more and more departments move to digital records, third-party services such as CrimeMapping.com have begun to aggregate neighborhood trends for reporting to the public, in collaboration with police departments. In San Francisco, accurate trend data on domestic violence cases could be useful for determining which neighborhoods are long-term hot spots for domestic abuse and crimes. The published statistics indicate that across the city, some of the highest pockets of domestic violence are in low-income neighborhoods. The highest concentration appears to be in the jurisdiction of the Tenderloin Police Station, with 173.1 cases per 10,000 residents. Other police districts with high domestic violence rates are Southern Station located south of Market Street, at 138.9, and Bayview Station, responsible for most of the city’s southeast corner, at 99.4. The lowest concentration of domestic violence cases, according to the official data, is under Richmond Station. These neighborhood differences should become more clear under the new computer tracking methods established by Giffin and Jean. “Is there a better way that we can be doing tracking? Yeah,” Jean said. “I think it’s a given. SFPD has admitted to it. We have old computer systems. Nothing is updated. We are working on it. Is it as fast as we would like it to be? No, but we are trying.”

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B4 Fall 2012

San Francisco Public Press // sfpublicpress.org

Citing evidence hurdles, prosecutors drop court charges in three-quarters of cases

HIGHER LEGAL HURDLES

S.F. BREAKDOWN

Population

Reviewed by DA

Charged in court

% of cases charged

SANTA CLARA

1,781,642

23,184

13,737

59%

77.1

ALAMEDA

1,510,271

26,460

10,133

38%

67.1

1,049,025

13,591

3,375

25%

32.2

805,235

8,596

2,375

28%

29.5

718,451

6,634

3,195

48%

*

SONOMA

483,878

4,352

3,045

70%

62.9

Bringing domestic violence cases to trial has become increasingly difficult for prosecutors across the country. In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Crawford v. Washington that a victim’s statement could not be used in court if the victim did not testify or submit to cross-examination. In California, it’s been a mixed bag. One state Supreme Court ruling allows prosecutors to have expert witnesses testify if victims recant. Another permits the use of out-ofcourt statements if the witness is missing or dead. But then in 2008, the Legislature voted to prohibit forced testimony from uncooperative victims. San Francisco’s Department on the Status of Women’s 2010 “Comprehensive Report on Family Violence” cited recent changes in law as major challenges to gathering evidence for court. But the changes do little to explain why San Francisco’s prosecution rate is well below that of other counties in the region from 2007 to 2011. Domestic violence remains a major public safety concern nationwide. A 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 71 million Americans had experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetimes, and 10 million experienced violence in the previous year. Domestic violence “is a crime that we should not respond to with silence,” said Michelle Daniels, head deputy district attorney with the Family Violence Division in Los Angeles County. “It affects not only the lives of the victims, but also those who grew up in the household. The more people are educated, the better and safer our society will be.” Research suggests that local authorities often know about abusers before they commit crimes that land them in jail. The Police Foundation, a Washington, D.C., policy group, found in one study that half of domestic violence assault cases followed at least five prior visits by the police to the same address. “When domestic violence is ignored,” said Brian Namey, a spokesman for National Network to End Domestic Violence, “lives are literally on the line.”

SOLANO

413,344

2,660

1,959

74%

47.4

THRESHOLD FOR PROSECUTION

MARIN

252,409

4,145

1,640

40%

65.0

NAPA

136,484

2,720

2,444

90%

179.1

92,342

41,903

45%

The tsunami of media coverage of the Mirkarimi saga, which stretched into the fall of 2012, sparked a debate about when it is appropriate to pursue prosecution without the cooperation of the victim. In late January, the San Francisco Chronicle prominently mentioned the “no drop” policy, though representatives from the District Attorney’s Office now seem to back off the term. Gascón himself was not quoted using it. But with thousands of cases declined forprosecution in recent years, the city’s official policy appears to contain a few ambiguities. Sometimes, if the evidence is iffy, it comes down to a judgment call. Police reports are filled with details that, before they ever get to prosecutors, contain disturbing stories. But they may or may not end up considered pressing in court as crimes. On Jan. 7, 2011, San Francisco police responding to a domestic violence report in the Taraval District found a woman with two black eyes and a swollen right cheek. A neighbor had called police after the woman rang his doorbell and said she had been abused by her boyfriend, and did not know what to do. The police report said the boyfriend had injuries on his hands, suggesting he had attacked her. The boyfriend’s father told police that he witnessed the couple physically fighting throughout the previous evening. But the injured woman said she loved her boyfriend and did not want him to face charges. The final disposition of this case? Court records show the district attorney declined to prosecute, citing a lack of evidence.

TENDERLOIN

story continued from page B1

five years, the district attorney’s domestic violence team reviewed about 8,600 criminal cases. Of those, the they dropped about 6,200 before court. About 600 resulted in a referral to parole or probation; cases dropped for other reasons — such as further investigation, a complaint withdrawn by the victim or lack of evidence — were not enumerated in city records. Prosecutors across the Bay Area reviewed a total of more than 92,000 such cases between 2007 and 2011, and charged nearly 42,000 cases. (Two caveats: This five-year period differs because the city used to record data by fiscal year. Also, some counties counted specific charges, not cases.) Small and large counties alike reported higher per-capita numbers of prosecutions for domestic violence than San Francisco, the lowest, with 29.5 charged cases per 10,000 residents. The highest was in Napa County,

“They should assume from day one that the victim will not want to participate later on” with 179.1 per 10,000 residents. The regional average was about 58.5 per 10,000. San Francisco’s percentage of domestic violence cases prosecuted has fallen 1.5 percent during the year-and-a-half tenure of Gascón, who was previously the city’s chief of police. He succeeded Kamala Harris when she was elected state attorney general. After a month of repeated requests for an on-the-record response, Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian declined to comment specifically on the statistics his office issued under a California Public Records Act request, but he issued a written statement: “Domestic violence cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Victims frequently recant, and depending on other evidence the cases can be quite challenging. We only charge a case when we have a good faith basis to believe that we can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.” The office’s policy on domestic violence endorses the concept of “victimless prosecution.” It states: “As long as the remaining evidence is sufficient to prove the matter beyond a reasonable doubt, domestic violence and stalking cases shall proceed whether or not the victim chooses to participate.” That’s the policy. But bringing real-world criminal cases through the legal system can be much more complicated, experts said. “There is a culture in every community of how things are done,” said Eugene Hyman, who served as a judge in the state Superior Court judge in Santa Clara County for more than 20 years. Speaking generally about challenges prosecutors face, he said, “If there are disproportionate statistics on arrest and the refusal to issue, either you have timid prosecutors or the police are not doing their job or both, and prosecutors need further training.” He added: “The police and the prosecutor work extremely closely. If there is a training issue, then usually the prosecution will say to the police — privately — that there is a problem here.” Terry Spitz, chief assistant district attorney in Monterey County, said prosecution statistics vary from county to county for many reasons. Aggressive law enforcement might lead to a profusion of “marginal or questionable cases,” and thus a higher rejection rate. More restrained enforcement, on the other

hand, can weed out weaker cases. District attorneys also need to be mindful that they could spread themselves too thin if they try to litigate every case put in front of them: “Prosecutors should not be filing cases they can reasonably expect will be rejected by their local juries,” Spitz said. “Filing such cases is a waste of scarce court and law enforcement resources.”

173.1

SOUTHERN

138.9

48.7

47.6

Average No. of incidents in a year per 10,000 residents

RICHMOND

24.7

PARK

33.5

Greater than 150 125-150 100-124.9* 75-99.9 50-74.9 25-49.9 less than 25

MISSION

65.4

DISTURBING INCIDENTS The Police Department produced more than 100 pages of domestic violence case files in response to records requests. The reports detailed several incidents the district attorney declined to prosecute for lack of evidence or uncooperative victims. The names of the victims were blacked out to preserve their privacy. For similar reasons, the Public Press is withholding the names of those who were arrested but not prosecuted. The Richmond District incident in 2010 was the first of three times the police responded to a domestic dispute with the same man. When two officers arrived at the apartment, the man answered the door. “This time she called the police,” he told them. Inside they found a middle-aged woman soaking wet and struggling to breathe. They calmed her down, and she told them about the attack. The bedroom was in disarray. She said in a taped interview that the man, 53, broke a vase and threw the bottom half at her, hitting her left arm. He then threw a champagne bottle, but she moved to the side of the bed to dodge it. He pounced on top of her and choked her, she said. Eventually he stopped, punched her twice, threw water on her and ripped her shirt. The officers immediately went outside to arrest him. With one wrist in a handcuff, he swung at them with his elbow, according to the report. The officer blocked the blow, punched him and guided him to the ground, they said. He was taken to Richmond Station and booked on 10 charges, including resisting arrest. The woman spent the night in a shelter. Police evidence included 19 photos of the scene and the suspect, the shattered vase, the champagne bottle and the interview tape. But after the police’s Special Victims Unit investigated and forwarded the case to the District Attorney’s Office, the lawyers chose not to prosecute, said Ann Donlan, communications director for the San Francisco Superior Court. In legal documents, prosecutors said the woman withdrew her complaint. There were two other abuse incidents over the next 14 months. In November 2010, police again responded to a 911 call from the apartment. The woman recounted to the officers that the man, after catching sight of her ex-husband earlier in the evening, punched her arm, abdomen, stomach and back with both fists. He pushed her up against a closet and used the scarf around her neck to choke her. The woman fought back and scratched his face. She ran across the room to call 911. After he was arrested again, an officer obtained an emergency protective order against him. A medic treated the woman for redness around her neck and injuries on her left side. Police entered nine pictures, the scarf and a written statement from the victim into evidence. This time, the case was dismissed by the court, as indicated by a standard notation in the record: in the “interest of justice.” Four months later, she told police that the man pushed her and she fell on a piece of furniture, hurting her neck and upper chest. The man kicked her out of his apartment, so she went to a shelter again. A counselor later sent her to St. Francis Hospital, where she was put on suicide watch. Though he denied pushing or hitting her, the man was arrested for violating the restraining order. The district attorney declined to prosecute

CENTRAL

NORTHERN

TARAVAL

26.8

INGLESIDE

50.2

BAYVIEW

99.4

The rate of incidents of domestic violence across San Francisco’s 10 police districts. Numbers reflect the average annual incidents since 2004. Treasure Island is part of Southern District, which also includes SoMa.

*Value not shown Sources: SFPD, U.S. Census Map: Darin Jensen, UC Berkeley CAGE Lab

BRINGING BATTERERS TO COURT When compared with the other eight Bay Area counties, San Francisco trails all but Contra Costa in the percentage of domestic violence cases sent to the District Attorney that resulted in charges in court.

County

CONTRA COSTA SAN FRANCISCO SAN MATEO

BAY AREA

7,150,739

Cases charged per 10,000 residents

Sonoma County omitted data from one quarter of 2008. Solano and San Mateo provided data only related to three penal codes that explicitly mention domestic violence. *San Mateo's data refers to charges, not cases, so it cannot be added to the regional cases charged per 10,000 residents. Sources: County district attorney's offices, U.S. Census.

the case, citing a lack of evidence, Donlan said. Bastian, from the District Attorney’s Office, would not comment on any of these incidents. He said he did not have access to the prosecutors’ closed files, which contained more details about the legal case, because they were stored in a remote facility. A PIVOTAL MURDER CASE Part of the problem in addressing prosecution rates for domestic violence in San Francisco is that the record is incomplete. Gascón’s chief of staff, Cristine Soto DeBerry, said her office had no data on domestic violence prosecutions before July 2007, so it is uncertain whether the recent prosecution rate is anomalous compared with earlier periods, or with other jurisdictions over the long haul. But the District Attorney’s Office says it is working to improve the handling of domestic violence cases, especially when victims are reluctant to speak up. To overcome obstacles to gathering evidence, it has provided training to first responders on collecting admissible statements and encouraging victim cooperation. “They should assume from day one that the victim will not want to participate later on,” said Nancy Lemon, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law and author of the text “Domestic Violence Law.” She called this practice “evidence-based prosecution.”

Graphic: Thomas Guffey

San Francisco’s no-drop policy emerged in response to the highly publicized homicide of a woman named Claire Joyce Tempongko in October 2000. The killing followed multiple domestic violence incidents in which the criminal justice system was slow to act. The episode led to an investigation by the City Attorney’s Office and a series of recommendations by the Department on the Status of Women aimed at eliminating gaps in the city’s response to domestic violence. These included increased tracking of cases across agencies and a Police Department policy mandating arrest after any domestic incident that turns physical. Reformers also pushed through changes in education and social services. Police now hand a list of resources to victims who might need help after they leave the scene. Raising public awareness of the problem, advocates say, encourages victims to come forward before they are badly hurt. San Francisco’s “no drop” approach is by no means novel. Similar policies have been in place since 1985, when the San Diego district attorney mandated pursuit of all domestic violence cases for which evidence was available, even without victim cooperation. Defenders of the policy touted a subsequent decline in domestic violence-related homicides. Deborah Epstein, a professor at Georgetown University Law School, said domestic violence homicides fell in San Diego.

Ruth Tam and Jason Winshell of the Public Press, and Chase Davis of the Center for Investigative Reporting, contributed research to this report.


B5 sfpublicpress.org // San Francisco Public Press

Fall 2012

CIVICS Without Support, Human Trafficking Survivors at Risk Some who flee captive labor conditions end up with low-wage jobs, insecure housing

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hen Lili Samad was hired to work as a nanny for an Egyptian government official in the Bay Area, she thought it was an ideal job. Instead, she said, she was forced to work long hours doing domestic chores and forbidden from contacting her family in Indonesia and was often locked inside the house. “First when I arrived there, they treated me like a prisoner,” Samad said. After almost 3 years, for which she was paid just $1,000, she sought help from a neighbor she had met a few times. She said the neighbor concealed her in the back seat of a car Story: and took her to a Ambika Kandasamy police station. // New America But after she Media escaped, Samad faced a whole Photo: new set of chalJason Winshell // Public Press lenges: finding housing and a stable job to pay for it. Samad stayed with the neighbor for a few months before moving to the Asian Women’s Shelter, a San Francisco nonprofit that provides temporary housing for women who have suffered violence. There, case managers connected her to community rehabilitation services for victims. Still, the road to recovery was rocky. Over the course of six years, she lived in four temporary apartments before settling down in subsidized housing. People trafficked into the country — through force, fraud or coercion — receive temporary government and nonprofit social service benefits after rescue or flight from captivity. These include shelter, health care, counseling, employment and legal help. Victims are helped to stay here in exchange for cooperation with law enforcement, and because they might face retribution from trafficking rings if they returned home. But once these benefits term out, counter-trafficking specialists worry that victims, who generally have little work experience and weak social and family networks, could fall back into labor conditions as exploitative as the ones they fled. As a victim of international labor trafficking, Samad received government help to stay in the U.S. But she is among hundreds of trafficking survivors each year who end up, months after getting help trying to build a new life, living in marginal housing and working in low-wage jobs. Samad, who works part-time as a waitress at an elder care facility with her husband and lives in a low-income public housing unit in the Bay Area, said their combined income is only sufficient to pay for basic needs. “We cannot spend on other things, so only food and rent,” she said. From fiscal year 2002 through May of this year, the U.S. government issued 3,042 visas for trafficking vic-

tims, called T-1 Nonimmigrant Status visas, data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show. These provide temporary protection and a chance to apply for permanent residency for those trafficked from foreign nations. Experts say it is difficult to identify and quantify the number of victims in this country or those who are re-exploited. Not all victims of sex or labor trafficking seek help from government agencies or community groups. And international trafficking incidents in the U.S. are diverse. They can involve the exploitation of farm laborers by contracting companies, the abuse of domestic workers by foreign diplomats and the coercion of people into prostitution by pimps. Traffickers often hide victims in their homes, brothels, boats or other clandestine locations. RISK OF RE-EXPLOITATION

the kitchen when she was ill. “I was so scared,” she said. “I was always nervous. I was feeling sick.” With the help of the ambassador’s driver, she contacted the Damayan Migrant Workers Association, a nonprofit group in New York City, which helped rescue her. She said finding work has been difficult, and potential employers fear her trafficking background. She now works as a part-time nanny, but the pay is not sufficient to support herself. “In truth, it’s short,” she said. “Not enough. My part-time work is just enough for the housing. There’s no health insurance.” Community groups say survivors run the risk of re-exploitation if they work in sectors that are not properly regulated. “This is especially true in the domestic worker industry, but any kind of informal sector where people are kind of more hidden from sight,” said Cindy Liou, staff attorney and coordinator of the Human Trafficking Project at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that provides legal services for victims. “It’s not uncommon that some of our clients sometimes come back to us with wage-and-hour questions, and we refer them out to the Employment Law Center and other places usually so they know their rights,” Liou said.

A recent in-depth academic study by researchers at the University of Texas, Austin and North Carolina A & T State University, looked at women in Texas who had been trafficked from other countries. It showed that victims need targeted, long-lasting and culturally sensitive services to help them rebuild their lives. Almost all of the women interviewed for the study now work in restaurants, hotels and other service jobs. This presents a challenge for THE BENEFITS CLOCK their rehabilitation, said Noël BuschArmendariz, director of the Institute County, state and federal governon Domestic Violence and Sexual ments offer a variety of temporary Assault at the School of Social Work benefits to help smooth the way to at the University of Texas at Austin, rehabilitation for victims of internaand one of the authors of the report, tional human trafficking. published in the Journal of Applied Victims granted a T visa or continResearch on Children. ued presence status — a short-term One of the long-term needs of trafimmigration status from the U.S. ficking survivors is acquiring new Department of Homeland Security life and professional skills, so they — receive certification from the U.S. can move toward jobs that give them Department of Health and Human more security and income, BuschServices to access public benefits at Armendariz said. the same level as refugees. “If we don’t give survivors and Benefits typically last eight their children ways to fully intemonths, and include cash assistance, grate, ways to be self-sufficient, they health care, food stamps, job traincould continue to be targeted as ing, English courses, transportation somebody who could be exploited,” passes and other services. she said. Some states, such as California A 38-year-old single mother from and New York, have approved shortthe Philippines, who requested that term benefits to assist trafficking her name not be used, said she came survivors in the process of qualifyto the U.S. to work as a housekeeper ing for federal benefits. for an ambassador from Africa more The maximum benefit for single than three years ago. But as soon as adult T visa clients in San Francisco she arrived in New Jersey, her emis $422 per month, which includes ployer seized her passport and work a county supplement of $105, said contract. Josef Bruckback, eligibility man“The first thing that made me ager of the state’s welfare program scared is they said their house is CalWorks at the Human Services alarmed — if I open the door, the Agency in San Francisco. Clients alarm will go off, and the police will with children receive benefits arrive and take me away,” she said Andrea Carla Michaels through CalWorks and are eligible in her native Tagalog through an andrea carla michaels for services for up to 48 months. interpreter. andreacarla.michaels@gmail.com “The overarching problem is that The woman said her employer once they time out paid her $1,000 per month for work- Leavenworth 1100 St of#6those benefits, they’re really left on their own,” said ing 17-hour days, threw a fork at her San CA 94109 Denise Brennan, associate profesin a fit of anger and made her scrubFrancisco,

Lili Samad, a survivor of international labor trafficking, holds her 3-year-old daughter in her new Bay Area home. sor and chair of the department of anthropology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. “It’s a very short time frame. It’s not likely that they have built a social network that could fill in where the government support leaves off.” Survivors generally find work in the same labor sector they worked in when they were trafficked, Brennan said, and it’s usually low-wage work, limiting their economic mobility. “What I think is really quite concerning is that over time, some of the first T visa recipients who now have green cards are just treading water,” she said. “Just in the past six months, I’ve heard about some folks who have lost their jobs.” HURDLES IN FINDING HOUSING Trafficking survivors often have difficulty finding an economical place to live in the long term. Some migrate from shelters to transitional housing until they can secure an affordable room or apartment. Others find temporary accommodations by

working as live-in nannies. A 64-year-old woman, who requested that her name not be used because she feared her former captor, said she came to California from Peru because her brother-inlaw offered her work as a nanny to take care of his granddaughter. But he made her cook, wash, clean, garden and do other domestic work for about 14 hours a day, and he restricted her from getting in touch with her family, she said. “He invited me to come over here with the promise of work, and that he would support me in everything, but it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t true,” she said in Spanish through an interpreter. After he released her from his house more than a year later, she found work as a nanny for a family in the Bay Area, who provided a space for her to stay in their home. She said she has lived in low-income housing apartments and has worked low-wage jobs at stores and cafes in the region since then. She now earns $11 an hour work-

PUBLIC PRESS CROSSWORD

Cheat Sheet ACROSS 1. Bird seen in hieroglyphics 5. "The ___ Kid" : '50s TV western 10. Removes from the squad 14. Prefix with -zoic or -physics 15. "We Can Work ___" (Beatles) 16. "The check ___ the mail" 17. At the summit 18. Mock 19. Org. for Venus and Serena 20. Lumberjack contest goal? 23. Vague, as a recollection 24. 1959 hit with the line "Charlie couldn't get off of that train!" 25. Make ends meet? 28. Miles from Plymouth 33. Styx rock? 35. Siemens, formerly 36. Crosby's road companion

ing at a chain supermarket and lives in a subsidized apartment with her son. Community organizations that provide shelter and rehabilitation services for international trafficking victims say finding both short-term and long-term affordable housing is difficult, and without proper housing, they could be at risk for revictimization. At the Asian Women’s Shelter in San Francisco, case managers start looking for housing once the victim has stabilized and recovered from the trauma, said Hediana Utarti, the group’s community projects coordinator. For trafficking survivors in the process of applying for a T visa, they look for housing that meshes with the government benefits. “It’s very, very tight, but we would look for a place where maybe they can share with other people,” Utarti said. “Usually we are able to find something like a live-in situation, like help with the elderly.” Those situations often work as barter: trafficking survivors provide support for elderly people who give accommodations in return. Survivors sometimes find these work opportunities on their own through friends. While most of the time this type of arrangement works, employers have been known to abuse the trafficking survivors by making them do more work than they signed up for, or not giving any breaks during their shifts, Utarti said. When this type of re-exploitation occurs, case managers advise the trafficking victims to talk about the situation with their employers. “If need be, then we’ll do intervention,” she said. In San Francisco, case managers also work with the city to identify space in single-room occupancy hotels, and if the clients have children, they look for housing in transitional facilities, such as the Compass Clara House, Raphael House and Hamilton Family Center. Clients can stay for up to three months, but the Asian Women’s Shelter provides extensions for clients unable to find housing, to ensure that they do not find themselves on the streets. “If they end up in a homeless shelter, then they’re going to go back to the whole cycle again — re-abuse,” Utarti said. “And we don’t want to do that.”

This story was made possible by a grant from Atlantic Philanthropies and was produced as part of New America Media’s Women Immigrants Fellowship Program. Find out more at newamericamedia.org.

POEM

Day-Old Bread

Crossword: Andrea Carla Michaels // Public Press

37. Self starter? 38. Skewer 39. Hagen of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" 40. Food critic's job? 44. Throat soothers 46. In a spinetingling way 47. "So, what else is ___?" 48. "Dies ___": Latin hymn 49. Excitedly explained nightmares to one's shrink? 57. Mischief-making Norse god 58. Hawaiian Islands veranda 59. Golf course hazard 60. Not very much 61. Bordeaux book 62. 1816 Jane Austen novel 63. Pay, with "up" 64. Foxier 65. Baseball's strikeout king

DOWN 1. Apple variety 2. Pulitzer playwright Henley 3. Langston Hughes poem about equality 4. Blue birthstone 5. "___ Kane" 6. Venice locale 7. Marvin Gaye music 8. Big Apple college inits. 9. Soft footstool 10. Juárez, por ejemplo 11. "Back in the ___": Beatles 12. 'Mambo King' Puente 13. Zest 21. Mexican snack 22. Alternative magazine basedin Minneapolis 25. Hebrew school (Var.) 26. Snapshot 27. Bolivian capital 28. Tizzies 29. When said three times, a film about Pearl Harbor

30. JFK Library designer 31. Three-card monte assistant 32. With great passion 34. Brogan or oxford 38. "Father of the Bride" author 40. CBS-owned tech review site 41. Creator of the Morlocks and Eloi 42. Not as cool 43. Toots 45. Something or someone 48. "Do ___ to eat a peach?" (T.S. Eliot) 49. Clean, as erasers 50. Skid row denizen 51. Consanguineous 52. One should avoid the third one 53. Deadly sin 54. Swarm 55. Cry from a crib 56. Expanse

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Today I am thinking about brown girls too quiet to say, who knew more than their teachers about history. The boxes of coloring crayons with stupid names, and the rich kids with their boxes of 64 and more. Today I am thinking of the coloring books I lived in during mom’s A.A. meetings. Today I am thinking of the free lunch program and all the dirty looks. The food stamp lines near East 14th and all our stray cats mewing for the first of the month. The worn women hiding coin purses in their bras, walking to the food bank. Their daughters, their sons, their stomachs, their dreams.

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Solution on page B6

Today I am thinking about guilt and secrets, of all the women’s eyes that loved too easily and lived out their days retelling a betrayal. Today I am ashamed of how little has changed. Today I’m wanting to hold everyone all at once just to let everyone go at the same time, for today is not equal. Today is a rain like 1989, only now I am not ashamed. Today I guess I understand powdered milk.

Poet’s Note: I grew up in the Alameda/Oakland area — spent a lot of time crossing bridges, in more ways than one. Walking to school and back. Walking to the food bank. Walking the Bay Area’s rhythms. I wrote this prose poem a few years ago after thinking about the week of the Loma Prieta and how, then and now, so many of us here are moving from one quake to the next.


B6 CIVICS Fall 2012

San Francisco Public Press // sfpublicpress.org

S.F. Civil Grand Jury Slams Restaurant Health Care Surcharges Report says city eateries profit off employee benefits

S

an Francisco’s civil grand jury chastised many of the city’s restaurants for profiting from surcharges they add to customers’ bills under the name of paying for health care and recommended that the city ban the practice. In its July report, the civil grand jury recommended that restaurants no longer be allowed to add surcharges or be allowed to Story: offer health Barbara Grady reimbursement // Public Press accounts to Photo: comply with a Cindy Chew city law requir// Public Press ing businesses to help workers with health care expenses. The San Francisco Public Press reported on this problem last November as part of a team report on the city’s universal care program, Healthy San Francisco. In a summary of its investigation into compliance with the Health Care Security Ordinance, the civil grand jury said most of the restaurants adding surcharges made

money off those charges. The ordinance requires most San Francisco businesses and nonprofit employers to spend some money on health coverage for employees. “The jury found that a growing segment of restaurant establishments are profiting from the practice of adding a surcharge to the bill of every customer,” the report said. “These same employers are legally able to reclaim funds intended for employee health care thus increasing their profits even more. This blatant capture of funds is at the expense of their employees and their customers who believe they are paying surcharges for health care.” The civil grand jury directly looked at a small number of restaurants. Of 18 restaurants adding surcharges to customers’ bills, 16 profited, said the chairman of the committee that looked into the issue. He said their average profit on the surcharges was 46 percent. The two that didn’t profit offered standard health insurance instead of health reimbursement accounts, said the committee chair, Mark Busse.

“On HRAs, the jury concluded that the system is broken when less than 10 percent of the HRA funds make it to the employees,” Busse said. “The jury calls for the end of this gratuitous practice of allowing business owners to add surcharges to recover the cost of employer mandates,” the group stated in releasing its report. “Additionally, the jury recommends the elimination of employer Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) in favor of the city option, since the city cannot effectively police the rampant abuse of HRAs.” The Health Care Security Ordinance, which took effect in 2008, requires that every business with 20 or more employees and every nonprofit employer with 50 or more employees contribute to financing health care for those who work at least eight hours a week. The ordinance allows them to choose from three methods to comply. One is to offer standard health insurance. A second is to enroll their employees in Healthy San Francisco, the city’s health plan for the uninsured. A third is to offer health reimbursement accounts that employees can draw from to pay for

medical expenses. A number of employers with mostly part-time staff, such as restaurants and retail shops, chose this option. If employees don’t get sick or don’t draw from health reimbursement accounts, the law has allowed employers to recoup unspent funds in those accounts. The city’s Labor Standards Enforcement Office started getting complaints last year about the reimbursement accounts. It studied employer compliance with the ordinance over the last three years and found that four-fifths of those using health reimbursement accounts were recouping funds. Supervisor David Campos proposed an amendment to the Health Care Security Ordinance last year to disallow businesses to recoup unspent money. It passed, but Mayor Ed Lee vetoed it. Early this year, supervisors passed a compromise amendment that requires businesses using the reimbursement accounts to keep money in those accounts for two years before recouping unspent health funds.

Healthy San Francisco patient Darren Barrett gets his blood pressure taken by medical assistant Joyce Chong-Grogg at San Francisco General Hospital’s outpatient clinic.

BOOK REVIEW

Magic, Terror and San Francisco: Book Explores the History of the City

Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of Love David Talbot Hardcover 480 pages Publisher: Free Press, 2012

Solution to Crossword on page B5 L I

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represented these voices in City Hall, resigned his post on the Board of Supervisors due to personal matters, the conservative establishment persuaded him to stay. As Talbot writes, “The cops and the downtown business establishment were increasingly frantic about San Francisco’s leftward direction. They knew that political control of the board of supervisors was hanging in the balance.” It was no secret that Moscone, at Milk’s urging, was already looking for White’s replacement to push forward his agenda, which included settling a civil rights lawsuit against the SFPD. White, whose complicated relationship with Milk was at turns conciliatory and hostile, sneaked into City Hall where he pumped bullets into Moscone, before shooting Milk down in cold blood. To White, this act of violence was apparently less a matter of vengeance than it was a crusade against the encroaching liberal permissiveness that both Moscone and Milk represented. The assassinations cast a pall over the city. The gay community, which lost not only an advocate in City Hall but also a gay community leader, rioted after a jury found White not guilty of murder (he was found guilty for the lesser charge of manslaughter). In the third section, Redemption, Talbot looks at how Feinstein, who, as president of the Board of Supervisors, became acting mayor, helped to heal some of the divisions in the city. Though centrist at heart (Talbot goes to great pains to show how much of a humorless stick-inthe-mud Feinstein is), Feinstein continued Moscone’s liberal agenda during her term as acting mayor, appointing a liberal successor to Milk’s seat and settling the civil rights lawsuit. After Feinstein’s election to mayor in 1979, she pursued a more centrist agenda, including firing Po-

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Central City Extra is a publication of the San Francisco Study Center. studycenter.org/centralcityextra

population grew, bringing with it drug abuse, poverty and violence. While the Diggers and Edward J. Beggs (a former minister who opened Huckleberry House, a sanctuary for runaway teens) offered novel approaches to the growing problems of drug abuse and STDs, their meager resources were swamped by the demand. The city’s freewheeling ways were appealing to groups like the Hells Angels, which terrorized the hippie community; and to Charles Manson and his family, who briefly made the city its home. While the city was opening its doors to rebels and outcasts, it was also squeezing the life out of the black community in the Fillmore District through Mayor Alioto’s urban renewal program. And the Summer of Love, which heralded a promising era of peace, instead turned into a winter of violence. The 1970s in San Francisco were, in fact, wracked by violence. The Zodiac killings and the Zebra serial murders (a series of racially motivated slayings) occurred before or during the Symbionese Liberation Army’s kidnapping of Chronicle heiress Patty Hearst. Rev. Jim Jones and the 1978 Jonestown mass murder shocked and horrified citizens — many family members of the dead still lived in the city — but the more shocking revelation was how much the city’s liberal establishment was in the pocket of Jones, who manipulated and won its support. The crony system in the San Francisco liberal establishment was every bit as deep-seated as the oldboy network a few decades earlier and would prove to be just as embarrassing, especially in the district attorney’s office, which ignored the complaints of Jonestown’s defectors. However, the violence of that era came home to roost with the assassinations of Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Milk. This time, it was the result of forces from the right.

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was dropped this year. “And every possibility needs to be considered. We check pavement quality and avoid tracks, which aren’t safe.” Six bus lines were chosen for detours, a 2-mile pattern (22 blocks). Even so, that was costly. One line cutting across just one block had to be rerouted. Other buses lost electric overhead power when they went elsewhere and had to switch to diesel power. And it cost $8,000 for parking control officers to redirect traffic at eight drive-through intersections. An average Sunday Streets costs the city about $35,000, King said, and the Tenderloin event was “significantly more expensive.” Sunday Streets so disrupted established transportation patterns that residents — more than 90 percent of whom depend on public transit — were in an angry tizzy following the event. King said Tenderloin organizations didn’t get behind Sunday Streets. Few businesses stayed open, and barely 7,000 people showed up. That compares to crowds 10 times that size in the Mission. Typically, a neighborhood plans Sunday Streets around another special event such as a cook-off or music festival. As businesses open, organizations put up tables or pitch tents for their promotions, art groups perform. “(Ours) isn’t Critical Mass,” King said. “We want the least invasive, and we’ve gotten good at it.” But Sunday Streets’ existence depends on corporations. “We need to raise $300,000 per year, and the majority of the funds come from corporate sponsors,” King wrote. Sunny Angulo, aide to Supervisor Jane Kim, suggested some of the tech companies moving in might underwrite the costs. “We need them to put their imprint on this.”

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unday Streets isn’t happening in the Tenderloin this year because the 2011 event was a bust — costly, poorly attended with meager community support problems organizers felt they couldn’t overcome in time to stage another. But they are willing to give the Tenderloin a second chance in Story: 2013 — if stakeTom Carter // Central City holders pitch Extra in to make the event a big deal. Photo: Sunday Jason Winshell Streets takes a // Public Press village, they say, and that village, hopefully, will include the new tech companies on the block. Already, with serious event planning months away, Zendesk has shown interest in supporting it, after being contacted by Central City Extra. It was the first tech company to move to Market Street, at Sixth, and the first to draft and sign a Community Benefits Agreement with the city. “We are always interested in hearing about new ways we can help in the revitalization of this neighborhood,” Tiffany Apczynski, Community Relations manager, wrote in an email. “We would be eager to hear about Sunday Streets in 2013 and learn about the different ways we might support it.” Zendesk, a cloud-based customer service software company with 100 employees, signed its lease agreement in February, capitalizing on the payroll-tax exclusion benefit, an incentive of Mayor Ed Lee’s initiatives to revitalize Mid-Market, and moved into 989 Market St. Twitter and Zoosk, two other tech firms new to Market Street, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A major complication in the Tenderloin last year for the popular Sunday event was the neighborhood’s maze of Muni lines. Sunday Streets typically ropes off a long area and bans motorized traffic to allow fun and games. But last year, the staff and its local advisers struggled to find a course for the Tenderloin. “We try not to reroute more than two routes,” said Sunday Streets organizer Susan King at a community meeting to explain why the event

While Talbot avoids delving into typical baby boomer nostalgia, he nonetheless paints a portrait of a free-spirited, glamorous and passionate city.

lice Chief Charles Gain, a Moscone hire whose liberalism irritated the rank-and-file. Despite Feinstein’s centrism, the city’s residents, from moderates to the liberal and leftist ranks, embraced her, if not for her politics, then certainly for the “firm but fair mother figure that the city ridiculed but needed.” Talbot ends with the San Francisco 49ers ascendancy to the NFL dynastic throne after routing the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship (“The Catch”), and the AIDs pandemic that swept the country but left its deepest marks in the city. Ironically, according to Talbot, both events were palliatives. Each rallied a city deeply wounded by the political and cultural battles of the 1960s and ’70s. Where the 49ers victory had “come to the salvation of its wounded fans,” the AIDs epidemic, in response to the non-response from Washington, caused “San Francisco [to take] care of its own sick and dying, its own scorned brothers” and thus unite in its battle against the health crisis. Anyone who is familiar with the history of the city or who happened to live there during that tumultuous period will find a lot of familiar ground covered in Talbot’s book. So it’s to his credit that he retells it with the skill of an astute storyteller. His account of “The Catch” between Dwight Clark and Joe Montana, cinching the NFC win for the 49ers, is as gripping as the actual play. And of Hibiscus, the Cockettes’ flamboyant founder, whom he describes as “an angel of light,” he writes: “[he] dusted the world with glitter and sequins. His lovers, including [Allen] Ginsburg, had to accustom themselves to being glitter encrusted after spending a night with him.” While Talbot’s honest account helps prevent Season of The Witch from delving into typical baby boomer nostalgia, he, nonetheless, paints a portrait of a free-spirited, glamorous and passionate city that, for better and for worse, is abundant with an uncompromising zeal for life.

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Sunday Streets Tells Tenderloin ‘Maybe Next Year'

Dan White was a former cop and firefighter who went into politics to fight against what he thought was the moral degradation of the city he loved. The Gay Pride Parade, the SLA, and the New World Liberation Front, which was responsible for bombing attempts against the homes of various politicos, symbolized to conservatives that the city had gone wild with liberal permissiveness and perversion. Though the city had become entrenched in left politics, “the oldboy power structure,” which included the business class, the Catholic Church, and the police and fire departments, continued to battle for dominance. When White, who

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Amandeep Jawa, a San Francisco bicycle activist, pedaled his tricked-out trike at San Francisco Sunday Streets on 24th Street in the Mission.

rock bands, including the Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, and Big Brother and the Holding Company (along with singer Janis Joplin); and social and political figures, such as Joe Alioto, George Moscone, Harvey Milk, Dianne Feinstein, Willie Brown, Bill Graham, Herb Caen, Scott Newhall and others. Season of the Witch, however, isn’t a nostalgic paean to the city. Talbot doesn’t shy away from the ugly consequences of this period. While the hippie movement offered alternative communities to the crowd that wanted to “tune in and drop out,” it also opened the door to many changes the city was ill equipped to handle. The youth

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avid Talbot’s latest book “Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love,” a biography of San Francisco during the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, is populated by the free spirits and kooks for whom the city has always been known. It kicks off Story: Cynthia C. with the story of Scott Vince Hallinan, // The Creosote a brawling Irish Journal solicitor (lawyer) who carved his way through the city in the 1930s by defending the misbegotten and marginalized. Brought up within a rigidly structured Irish Catholic community, whose orthodoxy he later rejected, Hallinan exemplified the vigorous liberal values that San Francisco would embrace some 30 years later. As an attorney, Hallinan represented clients as diverse as Harry Bridges, the longshoreman labor organizer who led a shutdown of the city’s port in 1934, and Frank Egan, a formerly popular public defender accused of murdering a widow. While Egan was on the lam from the cops, Hallinan stashed the suspect in a hideaway on the coast, employing his then-girlfriend, Vivian Moore, to use her charms to distract detectives on the hunt. Glamorous and eccentric, the Hallinans, along with their five sons (including Terence “Tayo” Hallinan, who became the city’s district attorney in the early 1990s), defended civil and free speech rights during the McCarthy era, facing jail time and ostracism from their Marin neighbors. The fact that the city, which at the time was deeply embedded in conservative Catholic orthodoxy, could also embrace an outsider like Hallinan is a major theme in Talbot’s book. Hallinan is but one example of the vibrant and colorful cast of eccentrics, outcasts, and innovators who round out this account. Talbot, who is the son of actor Lyle Talbot and the founder of Salon. com, covers fertile ground during a period in San Francisco history that reshaped American culture in ways that still resonate today. Gay rights, the drug culture, communes, the foodie revolution and other cultural tremors began in earnest among the many freespirited denizens who, in search of sexual and spiritual liberation, flocked to the city Chronicle columnist Herb Caen called “Babylon by the Bay.” Divided into three sections— Deliverance, Terror, and Redemption—the book recounts how San Francisco’s political and religious establishment crumbled under the weight of the hippie movement, the rise of the gay community in the city’s Castro district, and the ascension of a liberal establishment that would uproot the old-boy conservative order in City Hall. Talbot plumbs the stories of this period, from the Diggers, hippie anarchists who provided free health care and food programs in the Haight-Ashbury district; the Cockettes, a drag queen burlesque group;


CIVICS B7 sfpublicpress.org // San Francisco Public Press

Fall 2012

Ubiquitous pink plastic grocery bags toted by customers of Chinatown’s Stockton Street markets will be phased out under the City’s plastic bag ban, which goes into effect Oct. 1.

Court Approves San Francisco’s Plastic Bag Ban Appeal vowed over city move to expand in October from grocery, drug stores to other retailers

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an Francisco’s hard-fought ban on plastic bags is scheduled to expand in October from grocery and drug stores to other retailers, bookstores and clothing stores. By October 2013 even restaurants will have to rethink their packaging options. Take-out may never be the same. Yet despite the political momentum behind the battle against litter and landfill bulk, not all San Franciscans are taking this news well. Story: A group — actuHaley Zaremba // Public Press ally, mostly just a lawyer with a Photo: distaste for what Jason Winshell he calls envi// Public Press ronmentalist “know-nothings,” and who has friends in the plastics industry — struck back, and tried to stop the measure in court. But on Sept. 12, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Teri Jackson ruled that the ordinance was valid and could go into effect in October as scheduled. On top of the plastic ban, the city is also trying to discourage consumers from using any type of disposable bags by charging an additional 10 cents for every paper bag. While this might seem like small change, it has a potentially huge effect. For San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, this new step

brings the city significantly closer to meeting its self-imposed goal of becoming “waste-free” by 2020. A San Francisco-based organization called the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition has fought the ban every step of the way. The group filed a lawsuit against the city in February, claiming that the ban of single-use plastic bags in restaurants violates the California Retail Food Code. “The restaurant bag ban is so

“They are trying to intimidate local governments to not take action.” invalid,” said Stephen Joseph, who is the coalition’s counsel. “I’m stunned that San Francisco did it.” After the court ruling, he vowed to take his fight to the appeals court. Joseph said the city’s ordinance, adopted in April 2007, was not proper because the city failed to submit an environmental impact report detailing the harm that plastic bags bring to the Bay Area. Though Joseph now practices law in San Francisco, he used to be a

Washington, D.C., lobbyist and activist. While living there, he sued the city to remove graffiti, and filed suits against companies for their transfat content, including Kraft’s Oreos. San Francisco is only the latest of several California cities Joseph has sued for banning plastic bags without releasing environmental impact reports. His quest even piqued the interest of Time Magazine, which in a 2008 profile dubbed him “The Patron Saint of Plastic Bags.” ‘TOTALLY INDEPENDENT’ Joseph started the coalition one year after plastic bag manufacturers approached him, he said. Yet he clearly gets defensive about any accusations that he is serving business interests and goes out of his way to say the organization is not connected with, nor has ever been funded by the American Chemistry Council or Progressive Bag Affiliates, two big names in the plastic bag industry. The group’s website jarringly proclaims in bold red capital letters: “THE COALITION IS TOTALLY INDEPENDENT IN ALL RESPECTS.” Joseph acknowledged that the majority of the coalition’s members are in the plastics industry. Rather than being polluters, he said, the people making plastic bags are the ones making the true environmental strides. He noted that polyethylene

plastic bags are made by refining ethane, a byproduct of natural gas that is already extracted from the ground for energy. Joseph argues that the “knownothings” in the environmental community are functioning on myth, not fact. To him, plastic bags are better for landfills, because they do not decompose and therefore do not release carbon dioxide as paper bags do. And paper bags are bulkier than plastic, so they take up more space in landfills. “I’m not talking about the silly stuff” in environmental journals, he said. “I’m talking about science.” Joseph refused to identify his supporters within the coalition or San Francisco storeowners who he said support it. There are “thousands of opponents to the ban,” he said, “but they’re not coming out. I can’t name any names, because they are going to be under attack by environmentalists.” The only member of the coalition named on the website is Joseph himself. In his 2008 interview with Time, he referred to himself as a “one-man show.” Jack Macy, commercial zero-waste coordinator for the city’s Department of the Environment said the organization’s lawsuit was nothing but intimidation. The arguments from the industry, and from Joseph’s organization, “are

California's New Electoral Reforms: How Did They Work? Incumbency disrupted, races poised to become more competitive

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alifornia voters recently adopted two ambitious electoral reforms that first took effect in the primary election. One reform is the establishment of new district boundaries for the state Assembly, state Senate and U.S. Congress, drawn by a citizens’ commission. (Ten years ago, the Story: Eric McGhee state Legislature drew // PPIC the lines and largely protected incumbents Graphic: in the process.) Tom Guffey The other reform is a // Public Press new "top two” primary system that combines all candidates on a single ballot for all voters, with the two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of party, advancing to the fall election. Both reforms were intended to change the makeup of the state Legislature to increase its accountability to voters and its ability to reach consensus on major issues. The redistricting has disrupted established incumbents. There are fewer safe seats, and the average incumbent had a

“The reforms are more complementary than reinforcing, with each having its own effect.” district that was 45 percent new territory. More incumbents faced primary challenges from within their own party this year than they have on average in the last five election cycles (42 percent vs. 18 percent). Redistricting does not fully explain this change, because incumbents in districts that changed a great deal were not substantially more likely to face a challenge than those in districts that did not change so much. Instead, the top-two was probably the stronger cause. Indeed, almost all of the increase in primary challenges occurred in seats where the odds of a same-party runoff were the best.

The top two also discouraged competition from minor parties, which are no longer guaranteed a spot on the fall ballot. Districts without a candidate from one of the major parties were also more common this year (16 percent, up from 7 percent over the last five elections). The political establishment suffered some defeats, but mostly saw victories. All incumbents who ran this year advanced to the fall campaign, and all but four finished in first place. Likewise, 101 of 113 nonincumbent candidates endorsed by the major parties advanced. There will also be 28 same-party runoffs, which fell almost entirely in safe seats.

just about every desperate effort they can make to protect the bottom line and to sell more plastic,” Macy said. “They want local government to keep wasting resources to do those studies. They are trying to intimidate local governments to not take action.” The ordinance had already been delayed once. The Board of Supervisors pushed back the original July 1 start date to give businesses more time to implement the change. The Department of the Environment has begun a campaign to educate business owners about the ban. Macy said the department is doing “extensive outreach,” including mailings, public events and distribution of materials to post in stores, to inform customers. Though some business owners express worries about asking their customers to pay for bags, in other jurisdictions the charge has been shown to reduce bag use and save stores money. The charge also makes consumers conscious of their own bag use. “All bags are bad,” said zero-waste associate Steven Chiv. “We would love to have a universe where everyone reuses bags and brings their own. We want behavior change.” Initial enforcement of the ban will be relaxed, Chiv said. The department is “less looking to enforce and more looking to inform.” Dollar

amounts and strictness of fines have yet to be decided. “Fines are not our primary focus,” he said. “The threat of it is there, but it’s just a tool to get into a conversation as a unified city.” The department cites dwindling natural resources, litter, damage to aquatic life and marine ecosystems and incompatibility with recycling systems as reasons for the ban. Macy said only 2 percent of plastic bags used in San Francisco get recycled. Save the Bay, a San Franciscobased environmental watchdog, estimates that more than a million bags enter the bay each year. “That’s a conservative estimate,” said Allison Chan, a policy researcher for the group. Plastic bags are a problem here not just because they create an eyesore, but also because they get caught in wetlands and endanger wildlife. In 2007, San Francisco enacted a precursor ordinance to reduce plastic bag use. The goal was to increase diversion of waste from the landfill by 75 percent by 2010 and to achieve “zero” waste by 2012. The city said it met its 2010 goal, diverting 78 percent of the waste stream, largely through mandatory recycling and composting. “Plastic bags don’t represent a lot of tonnage,” Macy said, “but they are an obstacle toward zero waste.”

REFORMS DISRUPTING OLD PATTERNS Races for California’s 53 U.S. House seats in 2012 have seen a significant increase of competition from within political parties. “Open seats” refer to percentage of districts with no incumbent running, “Same-Party Competition” is the percentage of districts where at least one major party has at least two candidates, “Same-Party Incumbent Challenge” is the percentage of incumbents with challengers from their own party, and “Same-Party Run-Offs” refer to the percentage of districts where two candidates of the same party will face each other in the fall.

79% AVG. 2002-10 2012

52%

51%

31%

Source: Just the Facts: California’s New Electoral Reforms, PPIC, 2012.

17%

15% 7%

5%

Source: California Secretary of State. Supported with funding from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

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B8 CIVICS Fall 2012

San Francisco Public Press // sfpublicpress.org

EDITORS NOTE: CANDIDATES CHRISTINA OLAGUE, DANIEL EVERETT, JOHN RIZZO AND ROBERT J. SQUERI DID NOT RESPOND BY DEADLINE

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Issue 8  

Issue 8 of San Francisco Public Press

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