PUBLIC PRESS ISSUE 12
REFINERY TESTS NEW AIR RULES
Amid protests, California approves expansion at Richmond plant, saying cap-and-trade will help Chevron keep carbon footprint in check PAGE B1
HELP WANTED City Hall focuses on hot job sectors, but struggles to track workforce training budget PAGE A3
BIG BUSINESSES USE STATE TAX FUND TO TRAIN THEIR OWN STAFF PAGE A5 WILL ENTERPRISE ZONE REPLACEMENT WORK? PAGE A6 SUMMER YOUTH EMPLOYMENT STRETCHES JOB STATISTICS PAGE A6
CONSTRUCTION ACADEMY: GOOD JOBS ... FOR A FEW PAGE A8 NOT MANY TECH GIGS FOR MID-MARKET NEIGHBORS PAGE A7
ALSO: • COST OF TRAINING RANGES FROM THE PRICE OF A SANDWICH TO THAT OF A PRIUS PAGE A4 • STATE AND SAN FRANCISCO UNEMPLOYMENT RATES TRACK CLOSELY PAGE A5 • MAYOR ED LEE PREDICTS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF NEW JOBS IN COMING YEARS PAGE A7
A SPECIAL REPORTING PROJECT BY THE PUBLIC PRESS. PAGES A3-A8
AMID PROTESTS, CALIFORNIA SAYS ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS CAN CONTROL CHEVRON’S CARBON FOOTPRINT STATEWIDE, DESPITE COMPANY EXPANSION PLANS. PAGE B1 MOST RESIDENTS DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT CALIFORNIA’S LANDMARK CAP-ANDTRADE PROGRAM TO LIMIT GREENHOUSE GASES, SURVEY SAYS. PAGE B1 ENVIRONMENTAL AND INDIGENOUS GROUPS SAY CALIFORNIA’S PLAN TO COUNT OVERSEAS CONSERVATION PROJECTS IN ITS CARBON OFFSET SCHEME IS FLAWED. PAGE B2
PUBLIC MEDIA PARTNERS IN THIS ISSUE READ MORE ON PAGE A2
EFFORTS ARE NEARLY COMPLETE TO ERADICATE AN INVASIVE FROG KNOWN FOR CARRYING A FUNGAL PATHOGEN THAT TARGETS HUNDREDS OF AMPHIBIAN SPECIES. PAGE B3 TECH STARTUPS SIDESTEP RETAILERS AND FARMERS’ MARKETS TO CONNECT LOCAL GROWERS AND FOOD PRODUCERS WITH CONSUMERS. PAGE B3 PUBLIC PRESS CROSSWORD PAGE B3 JUSTICE
RATE OF ARREST IN CASES WHERE NO CHARGES ARE PURSUED IS DISPROPORTIONATELY HIGH FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN YOUTH IN OAKLAND. PAGE B4
A NEIGHBORHOOD NEWSPAPER AND LOCAL MINISTERS HONOR LIVES WITH FINAL TRIBUTES IN THE TENDERLOIN. PAGE B5 CIVICS
IN A LEGAL TWIST, RICHMOND’S MAYOR WANTS TO USE EMINENT DOMAIN TO PROTECT RESIDENTS FACING FORECLOSURE FROM LOSING THEIR HOMES. PAGE B7
TECH BOOM BRINGS ECONOMIC GROWTH, RENT HIKES AND MANY, MANY BUSES TO SAN FRANCISCO. PAGE B8
A NEW SAN FRANCISCO INITIATIVE ENCOURAGES PERMANENT RESIDENTS TO BECOME NATURALIZED CITIZENS AND PROMOTES FULL CIVIC PARTICIPATION, INCLUDING VOTING. PAGE B6 A FAMILY OF FOUR NEEDS $84,000 FOR A “SECURE YET MODEST” STANDARD OF LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO, ACCORDING TO THE ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE. PAGE B6 SAN FRANCISCO’S CAST OF MOVERS, SHAKERS AND POWER BROKERS IS EVOLVING. PAGE B7
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A2 || sfpublicpress.org || ABOUT US | ABOUT US | WORKFORCE | GREEN | JUSTICE | CIVICS | STREETSCAPE || San Francisco Public Press, Fall 2013
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San Francisco Public Press, Fall 2013 || ABOUT US | WORKFORCE | GREEN | JUSTICE | CIVICS | STREETSCAPE || sfpublicpress.org || A3
Students in Asian Neighborhood Design’s training course get hands-on experience in environmental construction. Organizers say the city needs more supportive vocational programs that do not require students to have high school diplomas. Joseph Lily (front), Krayla Hogg-Lawson and Cleo Nash figure out the correct angles to construct a section of a roof for a class project. Noah Arroyo // Public Press
Behind the ‘Jobs, Jobs, Jobs’ Mantra
Auditor says S.F.’s fractured workforce development system needs new strategy
ix years ago, San Francisco politicians called for better coordination of job training and placement services across the city. A new report reveals that since then, spending has more than doubled while control and evaluation of the sprawling system remain as elusive as ever. At least 14 local agencies now independently operate an array of workforce development initiatives at an estimated combined cost of $70 million, the city’s budget and legislative analyst found. Story: Without a common citywide stratNoah Arroyo egy, no one has been able to measure // Public Press accurately how many or what kinds of jobs are being filled, or how much is spent to prepare unemployed San Franciscans for new careers. Mayor Ed Lee, whose approach to workforce development has focused on meeting the labor needs of some of the fastest-growing local industries, has ordered his own review this fall to map out all employment programs across the city. In a flood of speeches and press releases, Lee has boasted that the city added 31,000 jobs since he became mayor in 2011. The claim is based on data showing a similar employment recovery across the state. Yet the mayor’s office was unable to point to more specific information about how many of those jobs originated through citysponsored programs. The analyst’s report recommends the city create a committee to develop standard performance measures across departments, define citywide goals and set funding priorities. David Chiu, president of the Board of Supervisors, said he endorses this approach. Experts in and outside of government complained to Chiu earlier this year about the city’s disorganized and cumbersome workforce development system. So he asked the city’s budget and legislative analyst, Harvey Rose, to follow up on a 2007 study that had called that system “fragmented.” Chiu said the city had to be assured it was getting its money’s worth for the mounting funding levels for workforce development. “You would think and hope that would have a significant impact,” he said. “And maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. We just don’t know right now.” The analyst’s report — an unfinished draft of which was released to the San Francisco Public Press through a public records request — estimated that the city’s workforce development system served 10,883 clients last fiscal year, while providing the caveat that some people may have been counted twice. If the budget and number of people served turn out to be accurate, it would pencil out to a cost of $6,424 per person. But the costs vary widely by program. Documents provided by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development show that they range from just a few dollars per person for access to a job-listings website to more than $33,000 each for a hands-on, 18-week training course leading to union construction jobs. Perhaps the highest-profile local jobs program is TechSF, Lee’s federally funded effort to retrain technology workers for the expected influx of thousands of jobs. The city intends for the $8 million program to place 500 people in tech jobs over four years, a cost of $16,000 per job. Some critics warn that putting so much focus on industry’s demand for skilled labor ignores the needs of less educated and chronically unemployed workers. “The mayor’s all about jobs,” said Steve Suzuki, executive director of Asian Neighborhood Design, one of 10 organizations that petitioned City Hall this summer
executive director of Mission Hiring Hall, which recruits students for the city’s construction sector academy. “They need a job, now.” ‘FRAGMENTED’ SYSTEM
The city offers free and discounted multimedia production classes through workforce development programs at the Bay Area Video Coalition. San Francisco is putting $8 million into meeting the needs of a growing technology job sector. Tearsa Joy Hammock // Public Press
HELP WANTED: San Francisco’s Workforce Reboot Since the recession hit California, jobs have been the first, second and third priorities for politicians. San Francisco now spends more than ever on job training, placement, subsidies and a slew of supportive services. The latest trend is to emphasize the labor needs of growth industries — technology, construction, health care and hospitality. How well do job seekers fare? How much does this cost taxpayers? For many programs it is hard to say, because the system is so fragmented. The city has never managed to get a clear picture of who is hired, a recent audit says. That could change. This team project was produced by reporters Noah Arroyo, Alex Kekauoha, Miguel Sola Torá, Yoona Ha, Chorel Centers, Kevin Forestieri and Adriel Taquechel; photographer Tearsa Joy Hammock; and editors Michael Stoll and Liz Enochs. For more on this project see: sfpublicpress.org/workforce
More Inside: Counting costs A4, State training controversy A5, Employment trends A5, Replacing enterprise zones A6, Summer jobs A6, Mid-Market hiring A7, Mayor’s promises A7, Construction course for lucky few A8
A STRATEGY FOR SOME
Front page photos by Tearsa Joy Hammock.
to partially restore funding for training economically disadvantaged job-seekers. “But our question is, what are those jobs, and who has access to them?” The local economy is recovering from the recession, led by high-tech and real estate. San Francisco’s unemployment rate for August was just 5.6 percent, the thirdlowest of any county in California, where the overall rate was 8.8 percent. But the city’s jobless population, now about 27,300, is demographically diverse, and many idled workers are unprepared to enter some of the city’s highest-growth sectors. Roughly 88,000 San Francisco residents over 25 years old lack a high school education, making them more than four times as likely to be unemployed than residents who finished high school.
The analyst’s report said the city failed to consolidate San Francisco’s workforce development offerings after a 2007 audit called the system fragmented and inefficient. Rhonda Simmons, the city’s workforce director, has been tasked with trying to set a clear policy direction since then-Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed her in 2006. The following year the Board of Supervisors made it her responsibility to manage a vast array of programs spread across the city. But that assignment was “infeasible,” the analyst’s report concluded, because Simmons lacked legal authority over other departments. And the chronic lack of communication means no one is able to standardize tracking of job programs or even create a common definition for “workforce development.” The 14 city departments identified by the report operate “with varying degrees of awareness” of other programs — suggesting that the programs could be overlapping or neglecting certain needy populations. For those seeking to re-enter the workforce, the system can be confusing, say front-line job trainers and counselors. “The same client can be going through programs in different places, with different case managers,” said Abby Snay, executive director of Jewish Vocational Services, a San Francisco-based organization that manages the city-sponsored health care academy. Snay said sector academies help streamline the city’s offering of training programs and make it easier for job seekers to find help, but that the system is far from perfect. “We’re certainly not where we need to be,” she said. The system’s complexity can make it hard for service organizations to provide comprehensive services. Many city offices, including Economic and Workforce Development, offer grants for very narrowly focused activities. So organizations have long been forced to hunt around for money from other city departments or private donations to keep complementary services alive, said Suzuki of Asian Neighborhood Design. That only got worse when Gov. Jerry Brown dissolved redevelopment agencies statewide in 2012. San Francisco’s agency had a fund that subsidized a variety of pre-employment needs, such as bus passes or child care, or even a new pair of glasses.
But Lee’s approach has been to focus on the industries that are projected to create the most jobs, a philosophy known in the workforce development world as “sector strategies.” At a meeting of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce in mid-September, Lee cited the 31,000-newjobs number, attributing the growing employment base to local business leaders, “who have invested in our city and helped me create these jobs every single day.” The city has established four sector-specific training “academies” for technology, construction, health care and hospitality. But they are not for everybody. All but the hospitality academy are accessible only to those with high school diplomas. And for many, the academies take too long to complete. “The people who walk through our doors aren’t usually looking to get into the sectors,” said Don Marcos,
The city’s four sector academies are designed to feed into the local industries that will experience the most job growth by the year 2020: Health care jobs are predicted to grow by 13 percent, hospitality by 25 percent, construction by 32 percent and information and communication technology by 52 percent, according to workforce officials. Sector academies are “considered best practice across the country,” said Rob Black, chairman of the Workforce Investment Board of San Francisco, which oversees the spending of federal workforce dollars, a major revenue source for the academies. The city spent more than twice as much on the sector academies in the last fiscal year as it did in 2008-2009. “You structure the training programs in alignment story continued on following page
A4 || sfpublicpress.org || ABOUT US | WORKFORCE | GREEN | JUSTICE | CIVICS | STREETSCAPE || San Francisco Public Press, Fall 2013
Counting Costs for S.F. Workforce Development Programs
ity programs offering workforce development services range from simple access to a job-listings database to a full-time, 18-week certification course that funnels graduates into union apprenticeships. They vary widely in cost, with some intensive programs costing tens of thousands of dollars for each participant Story: Adriel placed in a job. Taquechel & Some are funded Noah Arroyo with federal dollars, // Public Press some with local, and at least one through a tax charged to all employers in the state. The city Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office put the total cost at about $70 million for workforce development programs, but did not provide a breakdown. Details from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development were available for some programs and not for others, particularly those run out of other departments. We did some simple math for nine city programs for which data were available to help readers decide which are worth the cost.
$5 PER PARTICIPANT
$790 PER PARTICIPANT
HireSF.org Site provides access to thousands of jobs. Employers can also contact job seekers.
Layoff and Outplacement Programs Services that place job seekers into a variety of industries including manufacturing and biotechnology. Trainees can apply to one of four “sector academies” — construction, health care, hospitality and technology.
Uses only non-local funds. Average annual cost (Fiscal Year 2009-2010 to 2012-2013): $54,902 Average participants per year (FY 2009-2010 to 2012-2013): 12,034
$68 PER JOB Summer Jobs+ Provides employment to young adults ages 16 to 24 during the summer. Uses only local funds. Total cost (FY 2012-2013): $355,000 Job placements (2012): 5,204
Uses only federal funds. Average annual cost (2008 to 2013): $274,905 Average participants per year (2008 to 2012): 348 (Although the program received an initial investment of $197,781 in 2008, it served no one that year. After omitting the first year’s costs, the price per participant becomes $677.)
$1,155 PER JOB
$1,019 PER PARTICIPANT Employment Training Panel Reimburses employers for training incumbent workers, with revenue from a state tax all California employers pay. Most funding is directed to training at larger companies rather than small firms or state-run agencies. Uses only state funds. Average annual cost (FY 2011-2012 to 2012-2013): $47,882 Average participants per year (FY 2011-2012 to 2012-2013): 47
First Source Hiring Program Connects city residents with entrylevel jobs with city contractors or public-works agencies. Uses only local funds. Average annual cost (FY 2008-2009 to 2012-2013): $221,738 Average job placements per year (FY 2008-2009 to 2012-2013): 192
$4,113 PER JOB On-the-Job Subsidized Training Assists employers with hiring and training new staff, and reimburses employers 50 percent of wages. Uses a combination of local and non-local funds. Average annual cost (FY 2008-2009 to 2012-2013): $98,700 Average annual job placements (FY 2008-2009 to 2012-2013): 24
San Francisco’s Workforce Development Funds Increasingly Target Labor Needs of Growth Industries story continued from preceding page
with where you see potential hiring and job growth,” Black said. “We want to make sure we’re training people for work in real jobs.” When TechSF launched last year, Lee’s office said it would help the economic recovery reach every neighborhood in the city, placing some people in jobs and helping others keep their skills fresh. As of August, TechSF had placed 102 enrollees in jobs and 50 in paid internships, and those numbers could increase when more graduate in November, said Gloria Chan, spokeswoman for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. But not all graduates end up becoming part of the San Francisco economy. At least 12 TechSF graduates have landed at companies elsewhere in California, said Mindy Aronoff, director of training at the Bay Area Video Coalition, an organization that contracts with the city for media career training. Three trainees got jobs out of state, in Utah and Michigan, Aronoff said. Trainees do not even need to be current San Francisco residents. About 20 percent hailed from outside the city, Aronoff said. “Because this is a federal grant, I could not stipulate that it’s only San Francisco residents,” Simmons told the Government Audit and Oversight Committee of the Board of Supervisors during a City Hall presentation in April. In fact, several city departments have fashioned programs to accommodate the quirks of their remote funding. The federal grant for TechSF was pitched as a way to buffer the Silicon Valley region against labor competition from abroad. “We’re frustrated because there are people in San Francisco who can do these jobs,” Aronoff said. “And they’re getting passed over because companies see them as more expensive than workers from outside America.” BACK TO BASICS TechSF may be a godsend for experienced workers who were laid off during the recession or sidelined because of injury. But the program is too small and competitive for the large numbers of unemployed residents who are less prepared. Enrollees must have a high school
education. And some classes require previous training in programming, Web development or motion graphics. Suffice it to say, candidates need to have stable lives to begin with. “It’s really not for someone who doesn’t have access to a computer, because you need to do your homework,” Aronoff said. “It’s really not for someone who doesn’t have a home.” It can be hard to place job seekers in TechSF, said Shamann Walton, executive director of Young Community Developers Inc., which prepares residents of the city’s economically disadvantaged southeastern neighborhoods for the workforce. “There’s a tremendous skill gap, a tremendous education gap,” he said. “It’s definitely frustrating. It’s increasingly difficult for them to be connected to the tech world.” Most of Walton’s clients live in Bayview-Hunters Point, which has the third-highest unemployment rate in the city, according to a 2009 local economic analysis. Marcos, of Mission Hiring Hall, said he has to actively seek out recruits for CityBuild construction academy because most people who come to the organization for help do not qualify for the program. Many lack driver’s licenses, and some are enrolled in drug-treatment programs. Mission Hiring Hall clients often say they need a job immediately, not after CityBuild’s all-day, five-day-aweek, 18-week certification course. “You get this funding because you show that the people need these types of programs,” Marcos said, “but then the people can’t qualify for the program.” Instead of shoehorning workers into industry-focused training, Marcos suggested, programs should evaluate individual clients’ interests and work histories, and match them with available jobs. “That’s what works.” PERSONAL BARRIERS Some of the most vocal city and nonprofit staff say services for residents with major impediments to employment, such as language barriers or criminal records, face dwindling funding. Part of the reason, they say, is that social services that help people become job-ready are often dismissed as being outside the scope of workforce development. “There are groups that straddle the
line between trying to help people more on a human services side, but also help them get a job,” said Black of the city’s Workforce Investment Board. Workforce development, he said, “is about training someone for a job.” But hard job skills alone are not enough for participants in the San Francisco Conservation Corps, said Ann Cochran, the group’s executive director. The corps educates and trains 200 people annually, helping them get their GEDs while providing light construction or landscaping experience. All are below the federal poverty level, 80 percent have dropped out of high school, and about 15 percent have criminal records. “If they don’t have housing, if they have a substance-abuse problem, if they have tickets and can’t get a license, then all the job training in the world doesn’t matter,” Cochran said. Unemployed city residents face two kinds of barriers: “addressable” and “hidden,” Marcos said. Some could use assistance with résumés or employer networks, and may also need help paying for food, clothing, transportation or work gear. But other people exhibit harder to address, and sometimes hidden, antisocial behaviors — drug or alcohol dependency or a tendency toward rage or domestic violence. People in this category are expensive to bring to the point of competitiveness on the job market. Asian Neighborhood Design’s construction training program accepts people “who are on probation or parole, who are homeless, who reside in a drug program,” said program manager Jamie Brewster. “You know, the odds are against them. And we take ’em.” Brewster recruits in BayviewHunters Point and Visitacion Valley, and has even shopped his program around to inmates about to be released from San Quentin prison. He said his job-placement rate is between 65 and 75 percent. The 14-week program costs a total of $140,000 — penciling out to $8,750 for each of 16 students. Among other things, the money covers a weekly stipend of $50, which helps students attend the program full time, instead of “flipping burgers or standing on the street corner,” Suzuki said. But the organization used to dip into the local redevelopment agency’s Job Readiness Initiative, and
Trent Hanible is a 21-year-old intern who recently landed an administrative assistant position at HBO through connections at BayCat, The Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology. Tearsa Joy Hammock // Public Press
when the agency dissolved, Asian Neighborhood Design scrambled to pay for things like expunging criminal records, high school equivalency degrees and driver’s license fees. As of September, the program appeared poised to shut down after the last classes ended in October. If that happens, Brewster said, “there’s an entire population that will go unserved, who will now recidivate.” FEDERAL STRINGS ATTACHED Simmons said her work at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, which operates the four sector academies, is limited by the ebb and flow of state and national grants. Restrictions on the target populations also make local strategic planning difficult. “All federal money is on the decline historically over the last 10 years,” she said, “and our office lives and dies off of federal money.” More than 60 percent of the office’s $14.9 million budget this fiscal year
comes from U.S. government grants that are unlikely to grow. Recessionera stimulus funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has expired. “Remember, we’re in two wars,” Simmons said. “Therefore, when it trickles down to us at a local level, there’s less to play with.” That has consequences for enrollees of the San Francisco Conservation Corps. After receiving $1 million in federal funds every year since 1988, the organization saw the money stop flowing in 2009. Cochran blamed the shift on a “diminishing priority of the federal government to fund workforce development programs for poor people.” Without new funds, by January the corps will be unable to offer individual case management, career planning, résumé coaching, mock interview practice and training in social skills in the workplace. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development is unable to re-route funds from a program like
TechSF, which has funding for four years, to other services that are at risk of disappearing. “We have to do what they say, within the confines of the grant,” Simmons said, referring to the federal government. A coalition of nonprofit organizations banded together after the regular budget season in July and was able to press the Board of Supervisors to spare an extra $1 million, even though they had asked for $3 million. To get the money, each organization will have to apply for one grant at a time, Simmons said. That is the usual process. To the Board of Supervisors president, Chiu, the summer’s budget battles indicated that the city could be inadvertently neglecting the most deserving job seekers. “We just need to have a better understanding of who’s being served,” Chiu said. “We need a more complete analysis of what the needs are, what the demand in the workforce is, and a map of all the programs that are out there.”
CityBuild Academy uses workshops at the City College Evans Campus for construction training targeting low-income unemployed residents of San Francisco. Tearsa Joy Hammock // Public Press
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$6,806 PER JOB
$33,296 PER JOB
TechSF Mostly trains people with a technology background to re-enter the field by updating their skills and connecting them with industry employers that are hiring.
CityBuild Academy Construction training for San Francisco residents. Based at City College of San Francisco’s Evans Campus. Works with unions to fast-track workers into journeyman jobs.
Uses almost entirely federal funds. Cost (FY 2012-2013): $1,034,480
Uses only local funds. Average annual cost (FY 2008-2009 to 2012-2013): $2,230,852
Job and paid internship placements (FY 2012-13): 152
Average annual job placements (FY 2008-2009 to 20122013): 67
$30,718 PER JOB RAMP-SF Provides employment resources for young adults between 18 and 24 who have minimal work experience. Uses a combination of local and non-local funds. Average annual cost (FY 2008-2009 to 2012-2013): $927,681 Average annual job placements (FY 2008-2009 to 2012-2013): 30
At least 14 city departments operate workforce development programs — more than we could list here. Three will outspend the rest in fiscal year 2013-2014: the Human Services Agency ($24 million); the Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families ($11.5 million); and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development ($14.9 million). Spending has grown the fastest for OEWD, which focuses on local voluntary training and operates most of the programs listed here.
How Large Companies Dominate State Fund to Train Existing Staff
The Ups and Downs Of a Recession Job Market
Some subsidies, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, are awarded to multinational corporations valued in the billions
San Francisco’s employment numbers have ebbed and flowed with California’s, but the city has recovered at a faster pace in the last four years. Local employment strategy focuses on technology and other high-growth sectors, but workforce development programs are run by many departments that do not coordinate their efforts. Job statistics come from annual economic surveys by the California Employment Development Department.
Time frame: January 2007 to August 2013
San Francisco jobs
Stimulus funds Federal stimulus funding begins through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009, with $1.4 billion flowing to San Francisco
The ‘Great Recession’ U.S. recession officially starts in December 2007, according to National Bureau of Economic Research
Lowest point California’s lowest job numbers during the last six years were recorded in November 2009, bottoming out at 15.9 million
Recovery August 2013
After breaking past 17 million jobs in May and June, California fell back to 16.9 million
Audit’s warnings In August 2007, San Francisco’s first management audit of workforce development programs finds fragmentation in a system “with inconsistent planning and coordination of resources and inadequate monitoring of programs to ensure that the programs’ goals and outcomes are achieved.” San Francisco jobs 400,000
Budget battle In July 2013, 11 nonprofit workforce organizations petition San Francisco Board of Supervisors for $3 million in extra funds, but get only $1 million Tech training TechSF training program for technology workers launched with $8 million federal grant in March 2012
Lee appointed Ed Lee is appointed San Francisco mayor in January 2011 after Gavin Newsom’s departure, and pledges job creation as a key goal
Give Something Back, an Oakland-based company selling office supplies, used state Employment Training Panel reimbursements to get employees up to speed on a new online chat system. The company is one of the smaller grantees. Tearsa Joy Hammock // Public Press
New Gold Rush August 2013 Most recent job numbers for San Francisco: 457,100
Oversight needed A draft report from city Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office finds workforce development system needs to be reorganized by a citywide committee. San Francisco “needs a citywide policy that defines the goals of its workforce development programs and how these programs benefit the City, sets priorities for funding allocations, and establishes standard program performance measures.”
Research: Alex Kekauoha and Noah Arroyo Graphic: Tom Guffey // Public Press
tate subsidies for vocational training might provide a windfall to large corporations already able to offer similar instruction, if a planned expansion of a program funded through a tax on all businesses in California moves forward. State officials say they aim the vocational training funding at big businesses in key industries that are in danger of relocating to other states. These firms provide stable employStory: Alex Kekauoha ment and career ladders for large // Public Press numbers of workers, they argue. But while tens of thousands of smaller companies pay into the program via the Employment Training Tax — a small add-on to unemployment insurance payments from employers — it is hard for most to qualify for grants. Many do not even know the program exists. Advocates for small businesses say that in practice, many employers are excluded because the state focuses on a few industries: manufacturing, health care, technology, media and life sciences. Gov. Jerry Brown wants to expand the ceiling on the state unemployment insurance tax from the current levy on the first $7,000 of each employee’s annual pay to $9,500 and eventually $12,000. A legislative push to expand the tax in September was unsuccessful, but supporters expect another attempt next year. If an increase is implemented, it would also raise the Employment Training Tax, thereby funneling more revenue into the training program. Once a month, the eight members of the Employment Training Panel convene in Sacramento to award training reimbursements to between 20 and 50 businesses. Since its 1982 inception, the panel has doled out subsidies ranging from $10,000 to more than $1 million. Overall it has reimbursed more than $1 billion to some 80,000 California businesses. Some grants go to consultants, community colleges and nonprofit organizations that train workers in a variety of occupations. But others go to multinational corporations, who have an advantage if they are large enough to have significant training infrastructure and grant-application know-how. In June the panel approved $672,100 for Boston Scientific Corp., a multibillion-dollar global manufacturer of medical devices. The funds will pay for training at the company’s Bay Area offices in Santa Clara and Fremont, and in the Southern California city of Valencia. In its training proposal, the company said it would use the funds for training in manufacturing, accounting and equipment operations. But it did not itemize the training costs or explain whether an outside firm would be retained. Boston Scientific is hardly hurting for cash. Just days after the approval, the company announced it would spend $275 million in cash to acquire a competitor, Bard Electrophysiology. The company was contacted several times via email and phone, but representatives declined to comment or did not respond. Stories like this one raise questions for skeptics in Sacramento who are looking to reduce state spending: Is training a normal business expense or the responsibility of the government? If the state plays a role, who benefits from this largesse? State politicians started looking for expenses to cut when the state’s finances went into a tailspin a decade ago. Starting in 2003, the California Performance Review, created by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, analyzed hundreds of state programs and agencies to see where money was being used ineffectively. The commission concluded that the Employment Training Panel “is not needed to perform job forecasting, training and advisory responsibilities. Many of its programs are duplicative of programs in other state agencies.” The review suggested that the training panel be eliminated. That never happened, although the panel’s training subsidy program has declined. Jill McAloon, the panel’s executive director, said 20 years ago the panel had a $90 million budget. “Now we’re lucky if we get $40 million,” she said, adding that this year’s appropriation is $50 million. FEW COMPANIES REJECTED “Anyone paying into the fund is eligible to come forward and use it,” McAloon said. “They’re coming to us and accessing their own funds.” But eligibility requirements suggest an uneven playing field. Grant recipients must show that they face strong out-of-state competition, that they are located in areas of high unemployment or that they fit into the panel’s priority industries. The program calls itself “performance-based,” meaning subsidies are payable only after businesses complete
training and retain workers for at least 90 days. Workers must earn their regular wages during training. Applicants develop their own funding and training proposals. While employers might be asked to change some things, nearly all applications are authorized, McAloon said: “I’ve been here since 1990, and I don’t remember there ever being a proposal that was not approved.” But some industry associations say that there is little competition for the funds because smaller companies do not even know they exist. Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California, a San Francisco-based association representing 3,000 companies, said few owners have heard of the training assistance. “If I put out an email and said, ‘Does anyone know what the Employment Training Panel is?’ — if I got five people I’d be surprised,” he said. “If one person said they used it, I’d be surprised.” Many employers also do not know they pay the Employment Training Tax, Hauge said, overlooking the small add-on to their unemployment insurance bills. Currently, the tax is one-hundredth of 1 percent of the first $7,000 in wages, making the maximum $7 per employee per year. Hauge said he doubted many employers would bother with the tedious application process. McAloon said training and reimbursement plans take 120 days to develop. “If they have few employees and no one designated to work on this kind of stuff, then they see it as burdensome,” Hauge said. GROWING FIRMS BENEFIT While the training panel focuses on big firms in key sectors, it does also offer a small-business program with expedited contracts and higher reimbursement rates. Employers must have fewer than 100 employees in California and 250 worldwide. But many small businesses that employ a dozen or so workers — family-owned restaurants, neighborhood retailers, bike and auto body shops and day care centers, among many others — offer low wages, have high turnover rates and offer little opportunity for career advancement. They likely would not qualify even if they did apply. McAloon said eligibility requirements include low turnover rates and career advancement opportunities for workers. “We support training for good-paying jobs and career mobility,” she said. “We’re focused on doing targeted training for industries that have the biggest impact.” Patrick Johnston, a former state senator representing Sacramento and San Joaquin County, wrote the law creating the Employment Training Panel in 1981. He said the program was designed to benefit larger companies with a wider economic reach. “The employer has to front the money for training and provide a career ladder, and then move people into higher-paid positions,” said Johnston, who now heads the California Association of Health Plans. “And by its nature, that’s less often the case with many small businesses.” DEBATING ECONOMIC BENEFIT Some policy researchers express skepticism of the panel’s claim that it stimulates overall economic growth in California. While the Employment Training Panel boasts that its grants do not come from the state general fund, the tiny tax paid by every employer does produce economic drag. “Even if there was some sort of stimulative effect from pushing money into these job training programs, there would be at least an equal anti-stimulative effect, because of all the businesses that pay the tax that don’t benefit,” said Adam Summers, a senior policy analyst with the Reason Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Los Angeles. “They would have invested that money in their own companies rather than sending it to Boston Scientific and others.” The decision about which sectors receive subsidized training is always a highly political one. In 2012, the health care industry — one of the five industries the Employment Training Panel focuses on — spent more than $230 million to lobby government, more than any other sector. In California, too, health care remains one of the top lobbying interests, spending $4 million in just the first half of 2013. By contrast, small businesses lack the organizational capacity and political clout to ask lawmakers for subsidies. California’s training funds “take money from a large group of people and give it to a small, politically favored group, and somehow claim there’s going to be a benefit,” Summers said. “But it doesn’t work that way.”
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Employers Scramble to Claim New Tax Breaks After State Kills ‘Wasteful’ Enterprise Zones Among the companies benefiting were two Sacramento strip clubs and some of the nation’s largest corporations, including Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Yum! Brands, FedEx, Starbucks and Wells Fargo
arge businesses in California “enterprise zones” reaped billions of dollars in tax breaks in recent years, but tax privacy laws made it impossible to tell whether the program actually encouraged companies to hire new workers in economically disadvantaged parts of the state. So over the summer, Story: the Legislature overMiguel Sola Torá hauled the $700 million // Public Press program, which Gov. Jerry Brown derided as “wasteful” and “inefficient.” Instead of killing the program outright, though, the state put aside an equivalent amount for an even more elaborate array of tax credits. While San Francisco officials said that a local, parallel tax break program will continue, businesses across the state are now trying to figure out how to change their hiring practices to recapture some tax benefits as the December 2013 sunset approaches for the statewide enterprise zones. Tax consultants and business groups are complaining that the new credits will upset a program that helped hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged workers, and will create hurdles for businesses that want to add jobs. Some repeat the criticism leveled against the old system: that it favored big businesses over small ones. Enterprise zones started in 1985 as a modest effort to help a handful of underdeveloped neighborhoods by providing hiring incentives for businesses. Back then it offset state tax revenue by just $675,000. But the cost to taxpayers soared as many more businesses discovered they were eligible, even ones located in areas that were in no way economically depressed. Three years ago the state credits shot past $700 million annually, according to an analysis by the California Budget Project, an independent think tank in Sacramento. All told, the state spent $4.8 billion on the program. One of the biggest problems was that the identities of the companies benefiting were secret due to tax privacy laws. When legislators restructured the program, they made the names of new participating businesses public — though the disclosure will not be retroactive. Among the fiercest critics of enterprise zones was the California Labor Federation, a union advocacy organization, which launched a reform campaign that called the tax break a “corporate gravy train.” Steve Smith, a spokesman for the labor group, said the program grew rapidly in the middle of the last decade, when tax consulting firms discovered they could help companies get credits for hiring workers under a wide range of financial and geographic circumstances. By 2013, he said, about two-thirds of the credits went “to corporations that make billions of dollars and are getting tax credit for existing jobs instead of making new jobs.” In a study released in June, the California Budget Project found that businesses with assets of $1 million or more claimed 70 percent of all enterprise zone dollars. Opponents in the Assembly said the program strayed from its original purpose: to encourage employers to hire disadvantaged workers in economically depressed communities. Instead, they said, it became a giveaway to big businesses for jobs that would have existed regardless. LOCAL ZONE UNCHANGED
and we never objected to conversations of change,” said Craig Johnson, president of the California Association of Enterprise Zones. But the old program achieved its goals, he said: “The beauty of enterprise zones is that they are proven job creators in poor neighborhoods.” The old law allowed credits based on wages up to $12 per hour. Under the new law, employees must make between $12 and $28 per hour. Robert Salazar, president of the Alliance Group, a Los Angeles-based tax advisory firm specializing in federal and state tax credits, said the problem with the reform is that businesses that hire those qualified employees tend to be small- and medium-sized and won’t meet the wage requirements. Qualifying for the new credits could be costly because companies usually rely on tax advisory companies to apply for them. Proving a net increase of jobs is the hardest part. It is a time-consuming process. “It’s almost impossible for a small business to take advantage of the new tax break,”
The enterprise zone program is being replaced with three new credits. Together they will cost up to $700 million. Supporters say these programs will create jobs more efficiently than did the old enterprise zones. The new program allows for up to $400 million a year for equipment tax credits in the manufacturing and biotech sectors, $100 million in incentives for businesses to relocate to California and $200 million in incentives for hiring disadvantaged workers. For the hiring credits, one important change is that companies must prove a net increase in jobs. Previously, most companies located in enterprise zones got tax breaks by hiring “disadvantaged” workers — the chronically unemployed, ex-offenders, veterans and recipients of federal or state economic assistance. Under the new hiring credits, companies can still claim credits if they are in the former enterprise zones (except the wealthiest areas), in census tracts with the highest rates of poverty or unemployment, or on former military bases. The old system started with a $36,000 credit per employee, an amount that fell in subsequent years. That meant companies that replaced workers frequently could claim bigger tax benefits. The new tax breaks
The enterprise zone program is being replaced with three new credits. Together they will cost up to $700 million.
Salazar said. “Small businesses just don’t have enough resources.” Max Schenker, vice president of the Los Angeles-based Tax Credit Company, said the number of different kinds of tax breaks for companies that previously claimed them will be “drastically smaller” under the new rules, and many of the companies claiming large tax credits will lose that money at the start of the new year. Johnson said an unpublished report from the California Enterprise Zones Association surveyed 15 state enterprise zones and found that fewer than 1 percent of 2012 applications by companies would qualify for the credit under the new, more restrictive requirements. Johnson said the change would seriously harm those businesses that counted on the tax break for the upcoming years. Money previously saved through the enterprise zone program “to hire more employees, or grow their businesses,” Johnson said, “will now go to paying higher state tax bills.” Brown’s proposal passed the Assembly quickly in late June — within 72 hours of its introduction. Most of the support came from Democrats, who gave it 54 votes, the minimum required to meet the two-thirds voting threshold for tax law changes. The Senate passed the bill in June by a 30-to-9 vote. The speed with which the law passed made tax advisory consultants’ heads spin. David Goss, vice president of GMH Tax Credits in Fresno, said no one in the Legislature understood what the effect of the bill might be. “They just wanted to pass it as soon as possible.” One of the legislators’ main concerns while crafting the language of the bill was that privacy provisions of state tax law made it impossible to know which companies took advantage of the tax breaks — meaning that the real effect on job creation could never be known. The new law solves that by creating a public database of companies that claim the credit and the number of jobs they create.
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STATE SHAKES UP RULES
increase that amount to $56,000, and hold steady over a worker’s first five years, creating an incentive to retain staff. Smith said the new plan, proposed by the governor, “taps into the strengths of California as an innovative economy and what it economically has to offer.” But an industry group set up to advocate for the enterprise zone system says the cure will be worse than the disease. “We know the program wasn’t perfect,
an Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has repeatedly proclaimed that a city-sponsored youth employment program “created” more than 5,000 jobs last year. As the city prepares to issue its scorecard for 2013, we can expect more claims of jobs created, including “permaStory: nent” ones. Kevin Forestieri What’s the // Public Press problem? In this instance, most of those jobs were temporary internships with city agencies. And for those few private-sector opportunities that led to supposedly permanent jobs, no one bothered to check whether the youths were employed after mid-September last year. Before the program, known as Summer Jobs+, headed into its second year last spring, Lee issued a press release saying 39 percent of the 1,738 private-sector jobs became “permanent positions.” The city recorded the summer jobs as permanent if youths were still on the payroll on Sept. 15, 2012. After that cutoff the youths were not tracked, meaning the city never knew how many were laid off or left their jobs later that fall, perhaps transitioning back to school. In its first year of operation, the program cost $355,000, city records show. That would mean a cost per job of just $68 if the final tally of 5,200 jobs created holds true. Lee has identified job creation as his No. 1 priority for the last twoand-a-half years and has looked to programs throughout city government for evidence that his administration is expanding employment opportunities for city residents. But accurate follow-up data matters. Patrice Cromwell, director of economic development and integration initiatives at the Boston-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, said employment programs need to track youths long-term if they are to make realistic assessments of effectiveness. A research report on best practices for youth employment programs by Jessica Collura, a graduate student at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, found effective programs not only track participants’ progress but also offer them additional services for a year after completion. One program, Jobs for America’s Graduates, provides job-placement services and guidance into post-secondary education. Summer Jobs+ started in the summer of 2012 as a way to place city youth between 16 and 24 in meaningful paid work experiences. It came as a response to a national “call to action” to create employment opportunities encouraging youth to finish high school, get into college and kick-start their careers. Most of the jobs were with city agencies. With private-sector jobs, it is unclear how many were created expressly for Summer Jobs+ and how many were simply referrals to already existing jobs. Glenn Eagleson, senior policy and planning analyst at the city’s Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, said the program acts largely as a coordinator between employers and youth. Eagleson said tracking youth hired through the program after summer is difficult because employers are not required to record or release information about their hires.
Political hostility to enterprise zones reached a tipping point in May when journalists discovered that among the companies benefiting were two Sacramento strip clubs and some of the nation’s largest corporations, including Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Yum! Brands, FedEx, Starbucks and Wells Fargo. The names were disclosed because a few cities decided to honor a public records request by KCRA-TV, a Sacramento television station. For the most part, only state tax officials know what companies got the tax breaks. Citing privacy concerns, the Franchise Tax Board for years refused to identify the companies. But a memo from the Department of Housing and Community Development to the city of Santa Clarita argues that local governments are free to release information about enterprise zone applications at their discretion. The San Francisco Treasurer’s Office declined to release the names of local participating businesses to the San Francisco Public Press. But the office did provide an annual financial summary from the 2010 tax year. The state tax enterprise zone tax savings for San Francisco businesses was $37.8 million, the report shows. San Francisco also passed a complementary local enterprise zone program in 1992. Data from the Treasurer’s Office shows that 63 companies received the local tax break by claiming payroll tax exclusions for 287 employees. That added up to a total local 2010 payroll tax savings of $220,000. The San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development says it plans to continue to offer a local tax break equivalent to 1.5 percent of workers’ salaries. That will remain unchanged even as the city moves away from payroll taxes toward a gross receipts tax in 2014. San Francisco’s program is geographically
identical to the old state zone. City officials maintain that these areas need development help because they are economically distressed. But the zone, one of 42 in the state, was expanded in 2007 to include almost the entire eastern half of the city, and includes some prosperous residential and business areas, along with low-income ones. The zone encompasses the Financial District, SoMa, North Beach, Civic Center, Chinatown, the Western Addition, parts of the Mission, Dogpatch and Bayview.
Mayor Says Summer Youth Jobs Add to Tally of Permanent Jobs Created
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Tech Companies Getting S.F. Tax Breaks Show Little Progress Hiring in Neighborhood The largest of the firms settling in mid-Market signed extensive community agreements, but critics call them toothless
ast year, 14 San Francisco technology companies received $1.9 million in tax breaks for setting up shop in the midMarket Street area. Supporters said it was a good investment, bringing economic development and jobs to an economically depressed strip in the core of the city. The zone is certainly coming back to life, and the companies that benefited now employ more than 2,700 workers. But it is less clear that the deal resulted in entry-level jobs for residents of Story: the hardscrabble Yoona Ha neighborhood — // Public Press one of the goals most sought by skeptics of the tax break. The largest six of the companies promised a list of community benefits that included an effort to identify qualified job seekers in the Tenderloin and mid-Market area. But the agreements are vaguely worded, the companies have been slow to report their progress to the city, and most were unresponsive to direct questions about employment practices. Advocates for neighborhood employment say the community benefit agreements — instituted nine months after the April 2011 approval of the tax breaks — lack teeth. The agreements urge companies to forge “meaningful engagement” with the neighborhood by doing things like exploring community training and hiring initiatives, donating computer equipment to schools, encouraging employee tutoring and appointing community liaisons. But the City Administrator’s Office requires compliance with only 80 percent of the memorandums’ provisions. While “binding,” the documents call for a “good-faith effort” by companies to follow through on their community obligations. One provision asks the companies to “partner” with a program that identifies entry-level jobs for local residents. But signatories — many of whom were late in filing quarterly reports to the city this year — are under no obligation to report whether that resulted in any actual jobs. Supervisor John Avalos, a skeptic about the tax breaks, said the loose wording means tech firms got something for nothing. He said their promises to the community in exchange for reduced taxes were
“barely worth the paper they’re written on.” Within three months of taking office in January 2011, Mayor Ed Lee worked with the Board of Supervisors to pass a payroll tax exclusion law for technology businesses in the mid-Market and Tenderloin areas. It allows the companies to avoid payroll taxes on new hires for six years. Under the subsequent deal on community benefits, companies with payrolls of more than $1 million get the tax break only if they enter a community benefit agreement with the city. Some stakeholders remain unconvinced that the agreements are sufficient. Mara Blitzer, a longtime neighborhood social services advocate, said that while she appreciated technology companies’ community volunteering efforts, other stipulations, especially local hiring, are more important. “The community really had high hopes for what the agreement was going to do, but I think, frankly, it isn’t the strongest,” said Blitzer, who until this year was a senior project manager at the nonprofit Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, and has since taken a government job. The agreements call on companies to use the First Source Hiring Program, which was set up in 1998 to funnel “economically disadvantaged” city residents into entrylevel jobs. The program is primarily geared toward major city-funded contracts, public works and business activities needing building permits or planning approval. The community benefit agreements ask technology firms to “partner” with First Source. FIRMS QUIET ON HIRES Representatives from some of the biggest tax break recipients — Twitter, Zoosk, 21Tech and Yammer — declined to comment on the status of their agreements. Zendesk, a customer service software firm, and One Kings Lane, a home decor company, did respond to questions. Both said they had not hired any employees through First Source. Raquel Redondiez, a legislative aide to Avalos, said one of the problems is a lack of follow-up by the city. Until this year, she said, First Source had no budget for a dedicated
enforcement staff. The Board of Supervisors created the payroll tax exclusion after Twitter indicated it was considering moving its expanded headquarters out of San Francisco. The breaks applied to any business within a tax zone area straddling Market Street from Sixth Street to Van Ness Avenue, including some side streets. The idea behind the community benefit agreements was to mitigate gentrification as tech expansion raises rents for neighboring businesses, residents and public amenities. The companies are required to report the status of their agreements quarterly to the City Administrator’s Office. Incomplete provisions must be carried out the following year, said Bill Barnes, the office’s project manager. But Avalos said the community benefit agreements were weak because the city created them after passing the tax exemption. That left little room for negotiation with technology firms. “It could have been stronger if we were building our tax breaks contingent on stronger community benefit agreements,” he said. “If the agreement comes afterward, then obviously it’s not going to be as strong as it could have been.” The requirements should be sharpened, said Dina Hilliard, executive director of the North of Market/Tenderloin Community Benefit District, a nonprofit group providing beautification and safety services. “The existing agreements clearly are not utilized in a way that is customized to each company’s strengths,” Hilliard said. “Unfortunately, we can’t mandate them to hire locally, because the neighborhood might not have the skilled candidates these companies want.” For many low-skilled neighborhood residents, the education and experience qualifications for entry-level jobs may be too strict. Some neighborhood job candidates lack regular access to computers, hampering the online application process. FEW ENTRY-LEVEL JOBS The Central Market and Tenderloin Area Citizens Advisory Committee, which advises the mayor, Board of Supervisors and the city administrator, agreed that a strict hiring man-
San Francisco politicians welcomed mid-Market tech firms warmly. Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, left, and Mayor Ed Lee inaugurated Zendesk’s Market Street offices in August 2011. At right is company CEO Mikkel Svane. // Center for Investigative Reporting date would be impractical, because Zendesk requires highly skilled workers, said company spokeswoman Tiffany Apczynski. She said most office jobs require advanced degrees and years of experience. In any event, First Source would not help with neighborhood hiring, since it is available to all city residents. Instead, Zendesk decided to fulfill its “obligation to the neighborhood” under its agreement by offering two paid marketing internships for clients of local nonprofit groups such as the Vietnamese Youth Development Center. The company also pledged to work with TechSF, a citywide workforce training initiative, to host networking events for employment trainees. It has invested $15,000 in community event sponsorships, and says it is on pace to spend about $120,000
in the community this year. One Kings Lane has identified entry-level positions in customer service that could be filled locally, spokeswoman Stephanie Pettinati said. But Avalos sounded frustrated by the paucity of job opportunities for locals. He said he would push for an overhaul of local hiring laws. “As far as we’ve heard, there’s never been any kind of penalty for someone who doesn’t follow the First Source Ordinance,” Avalos said. “There is this belief that if you support big businesses, then the benefits will trickle down, which doesn’t actually do much for the community.” Hilliard questioned whether community benefit agreements were even good ideas in the long run: “I want the city to sit down with the company and come up with a cus-
tomized plan on how they are going to provide community benefits.” Brightline Defense Project, a nonprofit organization based in SoMa that promotes environmental, economic and social sustainability in low-income neighborhoods, is pushing for reforms to require more than just “good faith” efforts to make local hires. In 2010, Avalos sponsored one such successful effort. The ordinance mandated that an increasing percentage of city residents be hired for city-funded construction projects. Joshua Arce, Brightline Defense’s executive director, said the city has been “rolling out a red carpet” for technology companies through special tax treatment. Hiring programs, he said, should require “job guarantees and a track record.”
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: What Ed Lee Has Promised
n the two and a half years since he became mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee has predicted that his economic developResearch: ment efforts across the board Adriel would yield hundreds of thousands Taquechel // Public Press of new jobs for San Francisco. But it could be years or decades before we know whether many of these predictions pan out.
SUMMER JOBS “The goal of the San Francisco Summer Jobs+ program is to partner with San Francisco businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to create 5,000 jobs and paid internships for City youth, with a focus on low-income and disconnected young people.” APRIL 12, 2012 Mayor’s office
CONSTRUCTION JOBS “The bond will also create more than 1,275 construction and other jobs in related industries to support San Francisco’s current economic recovery and put residents back to work.” MAY 15, 2012 Mayor’s office, regarding a proposed $195 million bond measure to improve city parks and playgrounds
TRANSBAY CENTER JOBS “Between now and 2035, approximately 17 percent of the projected job growth in San Francisco will occur in the area surrounding the new Transbay Transit Center. The project anticipates more than 27,000 new permanent jobs in the district — the most significant concentration of projected job growth in the city.” AUG. 8, 2012 Mayor’s office, regarding San Francisco Transit Center District Plan
PIER 70 JOBS
“The Pier 70 historic core, the most intact 19th century industrial complex west of the Mississippi River, is a collection of six historic commercial and industrial buildings that line 20th Street near Illinois Street that are located south of the new UCSF Research Campus at Mission Bay. When the project is complete, the buildings will accommodate a range of new businesses from light industrial, commercial office, studios and showrooms for artists as well as neighborhood dining destinations, in addition to creating an estimated 500 new jobs.”
“GoSolarSF has shown a proven trackrecord of success and has created more than 100 jobs for San Franciscans while jump-starting our own local solar industry.”
OCT. 23, 2012 Mayor’s office, on a $58 million investment to revitalize central waterfront area
CAPITAL PROJECTS JOBS “The ten-year capital plan for FY 2014-23 recommends $25.1 billion in capital projects over the next ten years, including $4.7 billion for general fund departments, $14.5 billion for enterprise departments, and $5.9 billion for external government agencies within the City and County of San Francisco. These proposed investments will safeguard and improve the city’s infrastructure, facilities, and parks, and will support roughly 223,000 local jobs over the next decade.” MARCH 5, 2013 Mayor’s office, on announcement of Five-Year Information and Communication Technology Plan
MARCH 13, 2013 Lee, regarding the city’s solar initiative GoSolarSF
CONSTRUCTION JOBS “Lee, whose campaign platform could be summarized as ‘jobs, jobs, jobs,’ has touted the deal as a means to create 1,500 construction jobs, pump $2.5 billion into the economy and get two seismically safe hospitals built.” MARCH 28, 2013 San Francisco Chronicle, regarding the announcement to build a large hospital complex on Van Ness Avenue
SUMMER JOBS “Today Mayor Edwin M. Lee and the United Way of the Bay Area along with City Departments and private sector employers announced the launch of Summer Jobs+ 2013, challenging employers this summer to create 6,000 jobs and paid internships for San Francisco youth.” MARCH 30, 2013 Mayor’s office announcing Summer Jobs+ program’s second year
AIRPORT JOBS “Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced a $4.1 billion capital improvement plan for San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The long-term infrastructure plan provides funding for terminal improvements, facility enhancements, and the creation of an on-site luxury hotel, pending environ-
mental approval. The plan is expected to create more than 36,000 jobs over the next 10 years.” MAY 20, 2013 Lee, regarding a plan to expand San Francisco International Airport
BREWERY JOBS “Phantom Coast Gastropub and Brewery leased 5,000 square feet at the corner of Turk and Taylor streets. Their lease includes the rehabilitation of four storefronts for Phantom Coast and creates 20 jobs in the Tenderloin.” MAY 29, 2013 Mayor’s office, regarding businesses moving to Market Street
RETAIL JOBS “The Market will complement the innovative companies, new small business employers, art organizations and residential development in the neighborhood and bring more than 200 jobs into the community, and I am thrilled to welcome the Market to Central Market.” JUNE 21, 2013 Lee, regarding the plan for a 22,000-square-foot food emporium at 1355 Market St.
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CityBuild Academy students, above and below, learn to solder by building toolboxes out of pipes at City College of San Francisco’s Evans Campus. The city-sponsored training course can lead to union jobs, but not for those without high school diplomas.
City Construction Course Offers Job Placements, But Excludes Many Who Could Use a Hand Up Rigorous screening limits candidates, who are groomed for union apprenticeships
he good news: San Francisco offers a free 18-week training course through City College that takes low-skill, out-ofwork city residents and sets them on the path to construction trade careers. The not-so-good news: While the instructors try hard to be inclusive, some city residents who need the program do not satisfy the minimum qualifications, including Story: a high school Chorel Centers // Public Press equivalency degree. Photos: Each year, Tearsa Joy neighborhood Hammock organizations // Public Press direct candidates to CityBuild Academy from the low-income communities they serve. From there, unions are able to find job placements for 85 percent of graduates. It helps that San Francisco is experiencing a massive construction boom that has raised demand for trade laborers to levels not seen in a decade. Since CityBuild began in 2006, its organizers have sought out workers who are “economically disadvantaged” — those who have had interactions with the criminal justice system, lived in public housing, used a substance-abuse treatment program or received welfare or financial aid. The theory is that construction is ideal for people whose backgrounds exclude them from other labor sectors. But applicants must possess a few basic requirements: a valid California driver’s license, a high school diploma or GED, and the ability to pass a drug test. A background check is not part of the process. Even these minimum standards disqualify some San Francisco residents who could benefit from construction work the most, say some job training experts and advocates for workers from poor neighborhoods. “CityBuild is not inclusive to those in the community, based on the prerequisites,” said Jamie Brewster, the employment training center site manager for Asian Neighborhood Design, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that offers a pre-apprenticeship program in solar panel installation. Ethnic minority workers are disproportionately affected by the program’s union-based criteria, he said. Brewster’s organization channels its graduates into jobs that do not
require union certification. “When they brought the unions into the mix, they have their own standards,” he said. But Michael Theriault, secretarytreasurer of the San Francisco Building Trades Council, said unions can absorb only so much responsibility for placing workers with multiple barriers into stable careers in construction. From its inception, Theriault said, CityBuild “was intended to be a feeder to apprenticeships with unions. The requirements answer to the realities of the industry.” THOROUGH TRAINING No more than 100 students will make it into the academy this year. CityBuild runs two courses a year, accepting 40 to 50 applicants per cycle. Meanwhile, the number of applicants is growing: 250 are expected in the next cycle, up from fewer than 100 in the program’s early days. The budget for the training course is $2.2 million, city officials said, bringing the average cost to the city to $33,296 per job. The academy provides students with all the supplies they need for the 18-week program — boots, helmets, tools, even transportation
and grocery vouchers. They also get college credit. In mid-August, CityBuild students learned plumbing at City College of San Francisco’s Evans Campus in the Bayview. They got experience soldering, joining copper pipes to forge the handle of their own toolboxes. When one student expressed nervousness about the assignment, the instructor replied: “The thing is to learn from the mistakes.” Some CityBuild students already have jobs but are looking to move into better-paying careers. “I figured that if I’m going to bust my back at work, doing this for $12.65, I might as well actually go and bust my back and make $25 an hour,” said Donald Williams, who left his job refueling airplanes to retrain for construction with CityBuild. During the plumbing exercise, an independent contractor was on site, instructing students and scouting for talent; Williams pocketed his business card enthusiastically. “When you start to actually learn these things — hands on — then I can look at a site, I can analyze it and I can tell, OK, this is what the plumbers are doing, this is what the electricians are doing, this is what the glazers are doing,” he said. “The
carpenters are building this framing, the ironworkers are laying this in the raw patch.” RIGOROUS SCREENING? But CityBuild is small compared with the ranks of unemployed manual laborers. The program is “relatively competitive,” said Jacqueline Flin, executive director of the San Francisco chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a nonprofit group that does training and community organizing with minorities and public housing residents. “There are only a certain number of slots per cycle,” she said, “and we need to make sure we are screening the right folks.” Many of the candidates she refers to CityBuild are rejected. Sometimes the prospects are clearly irresponsible — they miss a meeting or neglect to answer the phone. All she can do is help them to reapply. But Flin said CityBuild needs to take care not to exclude workers who can take advantage of a hand up, adding that the APRI considers what additional resources, such as childcare, might be needed. Those who meet the minimum program application requirements
must attend five days of “job-readiness training,” beginning at 7 a.m. — a schedule that filters out undisciplined workers. Then students are interviewed and undergo physical fitness training, which continues throughout the 18 weeks of the academy. “CityBuild provides a polished product,” said David De La Torre, business manager of the Northern California District Council of Laborers. He said the academy provides students with simple life skills, such as getting up early and arriving at work 15 minutes ahead of time. The program’s director, Patrick Mulligan, said students are filtered, and only those likely to follow through are selected. Otherwise they will graduate from the program without a real chance at apprenticing with a union, which is the impetus of the entire training. “We don’t want to bring people into our program and not be able to help them,” he said. “We want to set them up for success.” CityBuild was originally designed to provide minority communities with good jobs, said Terry Anders, founder of the Anders & Anders Foundation, a San Francisco workforce training organization focusing on preventing criminal recidivism and drug abuse. But he said that CityBuild and unions should be helping larger numbers of disadvantaged workers. “If you’re not trying to include someone, then you are excluding them,” Anders said. “Why should a hundred people out of a community of a thousand be able to say that we work?” ON-SITE RECRUITING Experienced contractors and trade workers supply instruction and are paid through the program, but they donate materials for the classes. They also scout for promising apprentices. “Contractors come to City College and as part of their community outreach, to give back, they bring back people who have gone through the program, and they bring supplies,” said Miquel Penn, project manager for the Mission Hiring Hall, which helps recruit for the academy. The partnership with contractors is two-sided. It exposes students to 26 construction trades and prepares them for union jobs. It also eliminates the uncertainty for employers in hiring inexperienced workers. “The thing with CityBuild is you
take a lot of the risk away,” said Chris Iglesias, the first director of the academy. Use of the City College facilities allows access to federal financial aid for the intensive 18 weeks of handson training. After their apprenticeships, usually lasting five years, construction workers reach journeyman status. Construction offers higher wages — $20 or more an hour, basically middle-class work — than entry-level positions in other industries, as well as health insurance and a pension. Ironworkers tend to make the most. But City College is now facing the loss of its accreditation next summer over management and financial issues. Mulligan said that in that circumstance, CityBuild would have to reevaluate its programming. “We try to measure the pulse daily,” Mulligan said. “I can’t say definitively where that’s going to go.” There has also been talk of moving to another school. ALTERNATIVE PATHS TO JOBS Not everyone in the industry is impressed by CityBuild’s results. Brian Colombo, apprenticeship coordinator for Ironworkers Local 377, said graduates do cultivate a better understanding of what’s required in the workplace, but that does not guarantee success. “It’s been a mixed bag of results,” he said. “There are some that do fairly well and some that bomb.” And the slim prospect of steady union jobs only disappoints those hundreds of hopeful workers who are not selected for the program. Brewster of Asian Neighborhood Design said one of CityBuild’s original aims was to help residents of Bayview-Hunters Point, but few applicants from the neighborhood get in. “It’s a double-edged sword,” he said of the academy. “They’ve done a lot. They’ve put a lot of people to work, but now they are neglecting the southeast sector.” Brewster’s own agency, which trains workers who need more help with basic life skills, was facing the prospect of closure in October as government funding dried up. He said he worries that the city’s workforce development infrastructure is missing the chance to bring the long-term unemployed into productive and stable careers. “We work with people CityBuild won’t touch,” Brewster said. “Who’s going to take them when our funding is getting cut?”
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State Says Carbon Trading Neutralizes Refinery Expansion Cap-and-trade offsets allow Chevron’s Richmond facility to process more crude oil, angering East Bay neighbors
alifornia says it has found a way to control Chevron’s carbon footprint within the state, despite the company’s plans to expand. That might surprise the hundreds of activists who converged in August at Chevron’s Richmond refinery to protest the company’s Story: contribution to Anna Vignet global warming. // Public Press The refinery, occupying a large swath of San Francisco Bay west of the Carquinez Strait, has received permits to build out extra capacity to refine low-grade crude oil. Yet the expansion would not contribute to global warming, state regulators said, because a new statewide cap on total industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases requires the company to neutralize any increases by buying pollution rights from other companies planning to cut their own emissions. Chevron acknowledged in a permit application to state regulators that new equipment at its sprawling Richmond facility, if run at full capacity, would increase its green-
“Our concern is about the safety of the community and the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions that will affect us all.” house gas emissions, though it did not provide any numbers in the application. The new plant can process higher-sulfur crude oil, a particularly energy-intensive activity. Environmental activists with 350 Bay Area and other groups demonstrated against Chevron in reaction to the expansion. The protest marked the one-year anniversary of a major industrial accident in which an explosion and fire led to the release of an enormous plume of toxic fumes that sent 15,000 residents to area hospitals complaining of breathing problems. The fire, caused by a corroded pipe, injured six workers at the site. The “peaceful civil disobedience” at the facility’s main gate led to more than 200 arrests. Activists said the government should do more to limit the expansion of refinery capacity and accelerate the adoption of cleaner and renewable fuels. The “350” movement gets its name from climate scientists’ warning that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations beyond 350 parts per million will cause widespread environmental damage. This year the level surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time in recorded history. The organizers also used the protest to highlight an imminent decision by the Obama administration
on the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry especially dirty tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Beyond the climate effects, said lead organizer Bill McKibben, Chevron should reduce its reliance on the dirtiest fuel stocks at its Richmond facility, which lead to local air pollutants such as soot and could increase the chances of industrial accidents. But regulators at the California Air Resources Board say the state’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, which started last fall, will use market forces to reduce carbon emissions. Any company wishing to pollute more than its share must buy credits on a new cap-and-trade marketplace launched in November 2012. David Clegern, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, said that if emissions were to rise from refining dirtier crude oil at the Richmond Chevron facility, the change would need to be reported only after construction was complete. “We don’t want them to estimate,” Clegern said. “We want them to tell us what they’ve done.” While Chevron conceded that its ability to emit more greenhouse gases would increase with the expanded facility, it stressed that the new equipment would be more efficient, reducing emissions “per unit volume” of production. The facility will have the ability to process crude oil with a sulfur content of up to 3 percent. That is nearly double the 1.7 percent average sulfur content of the oil currently processed in Richmond, already a high percentage by industry standards. Cleaning that oil is an emissionsintensive process in which the oil coming into the factory must be heated and pumped through a hydrogen plant to break it down into its chemical components and remove contaminants such as sulfur. The company says it is seeking to broaden its ability to stay competitive. This is Chevron’s second attempt at pushing through construction of the new equipment. A Contra Costa County court found in 2009 that the refinery’s 2005 permit application was riddled with inconsistencies in its description of what kind of oil the new equipment would be able to refine. The judge also rejected the refinery’s proposal to wait a year after completion to measure emissions and then plan how to reduce them. In June, Chevron touted its community commitment by announcing that it would use local labor, hiring 1,000 workers to construct the new plant. But the equipment upgrade was already 50 percent complete at the time of the court decision. Chevron filed a more complete permit application in 2011. In it, the company said the new plant would be approximately 15 percent more energy efficient than the existing one “on an emission basis per unit volume of hydrogen product.” But the permit application also explains that it will have additional capacity, which at maximum production will generate “more Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions
Above, Richmond police arrested 209 protesters at the gates of the Chevron refinery on Aug. 3, 2013, who engaged in acts of civil disobedience by crossing the refinery property line and refusing to leave. Anna Vignet // Public Press
At left, an industrial accident led to a fire at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif. on Aug. 6, 2012.
in facilities’ emissions. Karras wrote in an email that “switching to fundamentally different, lower quality oil is the worst thing a refinery like Chevron’s in Richmond could do for our environmental health and safety.” He mentioned two damaging effects that could result from heavier crude: more heavily toxic emissions that wouldn’t be mitigated locally and the increased risk of explosions from corrosive pipes. “Processing dirtier crude could double or triple refinery greenhouse gas emissions of toxic and smogforming pollutants for burning more fuel,” he wrote. Miya Yoshitani, associate director of the Oakland-based Asian Pacific Environmental Network, said her group wanted Chevron to fix corrosion problems in the entire refinery, not just the unit that sent thousands to the hospital. But the materials Chevron used did not meet the highest standards, going against recommendations of the Chemical Safety Board, she said. With corrosion in the pipes, there is particulate matter and the potential for toxic releases from the refinery, Yoshitani said. “Our concern is about the safety of the community and the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions that will affect us all.” In addition to creating more emissions from a more intensive fuelcleaning process, sulfur is highly corrosive. If not rigorously checked, pipes could spring a leak and cause an explosion or fire. According to the Associated Press, Chevron agreed to pay $2 million in fines and restitution and pleaded guilty to six charges related to last year’s fire. The state Attorney General’s Office and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office filed the charges. The city of Richmond has hired a law firm to sue Chevron for damage resulting from the accident.
Public Press reporter Lisa Weinzimer contributed to this report.
Stephen Shiller via Creative Commons
MORE ONLINE: than the existing Hydrogen Plant.” But if public statements are any indication, the company must also be betting on cap-and-trade providing a way to make its effect on climate change balance out. Melissa Ritchie, a spokeswoman for the Richmond Chevron refinery, told the East Bay Express that the equipment upgrade would have no net greenhouse gas emissions. Chevron must comply with California’s cap-and-trade legislation, which forces facilities to account for their pollution either by buying allowances to pollute or buying “offsets” offered by other companies on a registry of environmental projects, which could be in other states or countries. Those projects must document a net greenhouse gas reduction, though they do noth-
ing to protect residents of California communities near pollution sites from local toxic effects. Because 90 percent of a petroleum refinery’s allocations are given for free, the refinery must account for just 10 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions through the extra expenditures. But the formula for how many metric tons of carbon dioxide a facility gets credit for involves some complex calculations that try to estimate not only the actual output but also a baseline for efficient operation for each industry. Communities for a Better Environment, one of the groups that filed suit against Chevron in 2009 over its construction plans, has for years kept tabs on the refinery’s construction plans and possible environmental effects.
Andres Soto, a community organizer for the group, has spent his whole life in Richmond, and has seen many neighbors suffer from respiratory problems. He said the health and safety of residents and workers will be even more at risk of accidents if the construction project resumes. “There is a long history of abnormally high rates of cancers as well as asthma and other autoimmune diseases along the refinery corridor,” Soto said. “Dirtier crude is also more corrosive in piping systems and has more polluting byproducts.” Greg Karras, a senior scientist for Communities for a Better Environment, studies the emissions effect of processing dirtier crude. His research found that the type of oil a refinery processes is the main factor
For reporting on top-polluting industries lobbying the California Air Resources Board for exemptions from cap-and-trade, see: “Years of Lobbying Helped Transportation Fuels Industry Win Exemptions From California’s Climate Rules” sfpr.es/climate-lobbying For an explanation of how the carbon offset market will work, see: “California’s Market for Hard-to-Verify Carbon Offsets Could Let Industry Pollute as Usual” sfpr.es/climate-offsets See the entire summer 2013 edition cover story on climate change, plus updates: sfpublicpress.org/climate
Many Still in the Dark About California Carbon Cap-and-Trade Program Survey finds that the multibillion-dollar market to limit greenhouse gases a mystery to most
majority of California residents have never heard about the state’s landmark cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions from industries that pollute the environment, a survey from the Public Policy Institute of California shows. While 54 percent of state residents sampled had heard nothing about the new multibillionStory: dollar carbon market, 33 percent had Lisa Weinzimer heard a little and 12 percent a lot, the // Public Press Californians and the Environment survey, which was released July 31, found. Launched last November, the cap-and-trade program requires most California companies, cities and other organizations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or purchase allowances that let them pollute one metric ton of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas equivalent. The new market is a key element of California’s 2006 landmark climate law, the Global Warming Solutions Act, requiring the state to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. One notable finding: some ethnic minorities were more likely than the total population to support action on climate issues. Among Latinos, 65 percent said they were willing to use state government action to combat global warming. That figure was 55 percent for blacks, 46 percent for Asians and 37 percent for whites.
Miya Yoshitani, associate director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, linked the lack of awareness of cap-and-trade with the absence of information about it from government agencies, advocates, industry and the media. She said one problem is that cap-and-trade is very technically complex and plans to implement the program are technocratic in nature. Yoshitani spoke on the sidelines of a news briefing on the survey recently sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California and New America Media. “These processes need to be made more accessible to non-English-proficient communities and for everyday, normal people to be able to weigh in and engage,” Yoshitani said. Among other findings, the survey showed that 67 percent of residents who work full or part time drive alone to work. Just 14 percent said they carpool, and 8 percent said they take public transportation. The percentage of Californians driving alone to work dropped to 62 percent, from 73 percent, between 2003 and 2008, but has remained above 65 percent since 2011. The Public Policy Institute of California has conducted an annual survey on public attitudes about environmental policy since 2000. This year’s findings were based on a land line and cell phone survey of 2,103 adult residents throughout the state. The multilingual poll was conducted in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.
A new survey of Californians’ environmental attitudes found that while about half approve of government policies to fight global warming, about two-thirds of commuters still drive alone in their commute instead of carpooling or taking public transit.
Ingmar Zahorsky via Creative Commons
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The Mexican state of Chiapas canceled its only REDD+ pilot project over the summer, saying it lacked clear focus and did not consider historical tensions over land rights in the area.
Some Greens See Red as California Plans to Introduce Overseas Carbon Offsets Critics say REDD+ increases deforestation and won’t help mitigate global warming
plan by the state of California to include overseas forest conservation projects as part of its carbon offset scheme is drawing criticism from some environmental and indigenous groups who say the effort will do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If that weren’t conStory: fusing enough, Maureen the controversy Nandini Mitra is further convo// Earth Island luted by the fact Journal that partisans Photos: on each side of Orin Langelle the issue can’t //PhotoLangelle even agree on .org which programs are supposed to be involved. The confusion is emblematic of how the entire offset infrastructure is less than transparent. The Mexican state of Chiapas scrapped one such pilot project earlier this month. It was plagued by a lack of clear objectives and had failed to take into account historic tensions over land rights in the region. For the summer 2013 edition of the Public Press I wrote an in-depth report about why carbon offsets, especially forest offsets, are problematic, and how they could undermine California’s new cap-and-trade program that aims to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. So far, California restricts offsets to U.S.-based carbon capture projects. But it is considering including offsets from a controversial program called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (known as “REDD+” by policy people), which offers carbon credits for preserving natural forests and forest plantations in developing nations. REDD+ projects, which are all in pilot phases, are so riddled with problems that the European Union in 2008 banned the use of forest offsets in its Emissions Trading Scheme until 2020, citing too many “unresolved monitoring, reporting, verification and liability questions.” But what the largest carbon trading market in the world rejected, California appears to be willing to take on. In 2010 it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Chiapas, Mexico, and the Brazilian state of Acre to set up an arrangement that would allow carbon offsets from REDD+ projects in these states to be included in the California cap-andtrade program. A REDD+ Offset Working Group, which includes technical experts from all three states, has been working on figuring out a framework that would enable California to use
REDD+ offsets. The group has come up with recommendations and submitted its final report on July 17 to the California Air Resources Board, the main state agency writing regulations to fight global warming. Supporters of REDD+ argue that reducing deforestation offers an easy and cheap way of cutting back greenhouse gas emissions. But critics say the “pay-to-pollute” scheme that relies on market forces, one of the key drivers of deforestation in the first place, to tackle deforestation is inherently flawed. “With REDD, when you look at how these policies are implemented, it’s basically making nature itself into a kind of tradable commodity; it’s setting up markets to trade clean air or other natural assets around the world,” said Kathleen McAfee,
An easy and cheap way of cutting back greenhouse gas emissions or a “pay-topollute” scheme? a professor of international relations at San Francisco State University who studies global markets for environmental services. “But the problem with markets is that they generally tend to distribute wealth upwards — from the less wealthy to the more wealthy. And in the particular case of REDD+ you can really see this. Any time you have trading between highly unequal societies or highly unequal communities, the result is that the less empowered and less wealthy lose. And that’s what is happening here.” That’s why many human rights advocates, indigenous peoples’ organizations and some environmentalists are fiercely opposing REDD+ projects. From the nonprofit research group Carbon Trade Watch: “REDD+ projects have already proven to be fundamentally unjust. Indigenous and forest-based communities have few formal titles to their lands, and many are still struggling for legal mechanisms that recognize their rights and territories. In this regard, REDD+ has already encouraged forest enclosures, militarization, fraud, coercion, forced displacements and evictions in Kenya, Congo, Papua New Guinea, Brazil and many others.” The group said despite being such
a contested issue, REDD+ projects are already happening simultaneously on different levels outside the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, through national and sub-national programs like the one being mulled in California. While the California Air Resources Board says it hasn’t made a final decision on whether it is going to include REDD+ offsets, Chiapas and Acre are already working on REDD+ projects that they hope the board will approve. But it appears the projects in both states have been facing some resistance on the ground. As an earlier Journal report details, the REDD+ project being worked out in Chiapas’ Lacandón Jungle had already run into trouble as far back as two years ago. In recent comments to the REDD Offsets Working Group, the Indigenous Environmental Network noted that even “the supposedly exemplary case, State of Acre,” had problems. The organization said Acre officials “have not sought through meaningful consultation, [indigenous peoples’] free, prior and informed consent to REDD+ on their territories nor the time, place or manner of the imposition of REDD+.” Then, in July, the environmental group Friends of the Earth sent out a press release saying that the state government of Chiapas has scrapped its REDD+ project. The release relied on an interview in the Chiapas daily El Heraldo where the Mexican state’s environment secretary, Carlos Morales Vázquez, was quoted as saying that the project “was an utter failure” and had been cancelled. Friends of the Earth noted that it was likely that the project could be moved to other areas since Chiapas was still referring to REDD+ as a keystone of the state’s climate change strategy. To muddy the waters some more, the same day as Friends of the Earth sent out its press release, Code REDD — a San Francisco-based nonprofit that partners with corporations to “profitably integrate REDD+ into their business strategies” — sent out its own in support of REDD+ in California’s climate policy that was signed by “key stakeholders,” including global NGOs like Conservation International and indigenous community leaders. In California, the REDD Offsets Working Group responded to the release by calling it misleading. In an email to me, Tony Brunello from the working group called the Friends of the Earth release “poorly researched” and said the project of concern wasn’t one that ROW was looking at. He directed me to this article and asked me “to do a little more homework.” So I did. Because,
Women healers discuss preparation of traditional medicines deep in the jungle of Chiapas, Mexico, in the community of Amador Hernandez. Several communities faced the threat of forced relocation due to the Chiapas– California REDD+ deal.
really, I’ve been following the Chiapas story for quite a while, and as far as I knew, there was only one REDD+ project being worked on over there. I contacted Jeff Conant, who’d written about Chiapas for the Journal earlier. Conant now works on REDD+ issues with Friends of the Earth. Here’s what he had to say: “Until we received formal notice, on Friday July 19, of the Chiapas administration’s plan to cancel the former REDD+ effort and move ahead with a program more fully integrated into the ROW process, our understanding was that the REDD+ program of the state of Chiapas was the self-same program instituted by Gov. Juan Sabines in 2011, and which we have documented and strongly criticized.” He said the cancelled program was frequently referred to as REDD+ by the Chiapas administration and that until this point there had been no public disavowal of the program either by the state officials or by members of the REDD Offsets Working Group. Curiouser and curiouser! I relayed his response back to Brunello and got this emailed comment in return: “It is a great thing Chiapas is revising their jurisdictional forest carbon program to better align with ROW recommendations. The project they cancelled was one constantly criticized by all for not being a red (sic) project.” Am I the only one seeing some mixed messaging here? This odd mix-up isn’t much of a big deal in the end, but it does serve to reinforce just how convoluted, fractious, and lacking in transpar-
ency the whole REDD+ process is and how difficult it is to oversee projects from thousands of miles away. As San Francisco State’s McAfee said: “There’s so much conflict of interest, there’s so much uncertainty, that the greater the distance between the purchaser of the permit to pollute and the actual activity that is allegedly resulting in less environmental damage, the less the likelihood that there’s actual net
“With REDD+, when you look at how these policies are implemented, it’s basically making nature itself into a kind of tradable commodity.” environmental gain.” I asked Brunello via email, given how problematic these projects seem to be, why was California was still considering REDD+ offsets? He didn’t reply. But the answer is pretty simple — the state needs to be able to supply business with more offsets. The capand-trade scheme allows polluting companies to meet up 8 percent of their emissions reductions require-
ments via Air Resources Board pre-approved offsets. That 8 percent number can add up to a lot — more than 200 million tons of carbon offsets over the next eight years. (Once the offsets program is up and running, that is; it’s scheduled to start this summer.) “We think there’s not going to be enough supply … everybody’s on agreement on that,” said Belinda Morris, California director of the American Carbon Registry, one of the two agencies certifying offsets in the state. Morris and other market analysts predict that forestry, which they say has the greatest potential for producing offsets, is the sector where the bulk of California’s offsets will be generated. Bottom line, if California is going to use offsets in such high volume, and if it wants them cheap, it will have to look at forests beyond U.S. borders. REDD+ offsets also face a legislative challenge in California — Senate Bill 605. Authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, the bill, which has received little publicity so far, includes a proposal to limit the offsets used to those generated by projects within the state of California. The idea is that this would give priority to reducing pollution within California. The bill has been passed by the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality and is now with Senate Committee on Appropriations. Reuters Point Carbon analysis said the bill, if passed, would reduce the supply of offsets by 85 percent. It predicted the bill had only a 20 percent chance of passing in its current form.
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Tech Startups Give Power Back to the Family Farm Local food supply chain is going online
The fungus-bearing South African clawed frog is a menace to other species. Photo by Gregory Moine via Creative Commons
Biologists Battle Disease-Spreading Invasive Frogs in Golden Gate Park Pathogen infects about 350 amphibian species
iologists in Golden Gate Park have discovered an exotic fungal pathogen, responsible for the demise of as many as 500 amphibian species around the world. The California Fish and Wildlife Department is in the final stages of eradicating Story: from the park Jackson Mauze the invasive // Bay Nature South African clawed frog, one of the original carriers of a fungus known as Bd (short for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), which exclusively targets amphibians. “This disease is causing the biggest decline [in amphibians] ever recorded by a single pathogen in history,” said Vance Vredenburg, a biologist and researcher at San Francisco State University. “It makes the bubonic plague look like a drop in the bucket.” The pathogen infects roughly 350 species of amphibians and is found on all continents except Antarctica. The United States holds the leading number of known cases, and scientists have been struggling to find ways to control the spread of the disease, called chytridiomycosis, before it decimates amphibian species. Scientists have taken to eradicating carriers like the South African clawed frog, which is immune to the disease, in spots where the frogs turn up — including Golden Gate Park’s Lily Pond. The pond, a dank pool of water completely covered in duckweed and other aquatic vegetation, is just off John F. Kennedy Drive and a stone’s throw from the California Academy of Sciences. It used to be a place where turtles sunbathed and ducks waddled, but the South African clawed frog has turned the pond into a virtual dead
Lily Pond before it was chlorinated. Photo by Flickr user Albedo20 via Creative Commons zone. “The clawed frogs will eat anything that moves in front of them,” said Eric Larson, an environmental manager with the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department. “There’s nothing else at the pond now because of them, no fish and no frogs. They’re voracious feeders, highly reproductive and have no known predators.” When the clawed frog arrived in the U.S. in the 1940s, little was known about the fungus it secretly carried. Amphibian populations were not well measured and the immediate effect was unknown when the frogs were released into the wild. The first publicized case of the fungus in California was the death of the yellow-legged frog of the Sierra Nevada in 1978, but scientists now believe that it mysteriously killed many more amphibians, such as the California slender salamander. “There were many more species
infected with Bd back then,” Vredenburg said. “We just don’t have the studies yet to show it.” Bd infects the outer skin cells of amphibians that produce keratin. Keratin is responsible for the tough and waxy skin of frogs. When infected, the growth of these keratin cells explodes at a pace that the frog or salamander cannot shed fast enough. When a thicker outer skin-layer stifles the absorption of electrolytes, the amphibian, which absorbs nutrients directly through its skin, dies slowly from malnutrition. To make matters worse, the fungus is easily transferrable through contact with a diseased animal. Even swimming in the same river can infect other amphibians. Scientists are hopeful that a new procedure known as bioaugmentation may grant native frogs immunity to the fungus. Bioaugmentation works by employing friendly bacteria to defend
their host bodies, and has had some success thus far. “A lot of bacteria have anti-fungal capabilities,” Vredenburg said. “We’ve identified some of these bacteria on native frogs that shield them from Bd.” Scientists bathe frogs in solutions of the “good” bacteria and then release them into the wild. The hope is that the bacteria, already native to California, would spread and multiply through habitats exactly like the fungus, providing amphibians with a defensive buffer. “It’s working in some places, but not in others. It’s a real mixed bag,” Vredenburg said. With more practice, researchers will continue to investigate this promising method. In the short term, Golden Gate Park’s best bet is simply to rid the park of the highly invasive frogs from Lily Pond, an old quarry site. Five years ago there were an estimated 10,000 of the little monstrosities in the pond. “When we started, we were trapping between 200 to 500 per week, and toward the end we were getting just two to five,” Larson said. State biologists are adding low doses of chlorine to the pond water to kill off the remaining clawed frogs, which like other amphibians cannot tolerate the chemical. The chlorinated water is toxic to them, but researchers believe the long-term ecological harm will be minimal because chlorine breaks down quickly in sunlight. The tarps currently covering the Lily Pond are helping to contain the chlorine while it’s doing its magic on the clawed frogs. “Now that we’ve identified the fungus in the park, it’s very important that we get rid of these invasive frogs,” Larson said.
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One Leg At a Time ACROSS 1 Biceps or triceps 7 Exam for future M.D.'s 11 "Oh yeah? ___ who?" 14 Like expensive floors 15 Poison ivy symptom 16 Mai ___ (cocktail) 17 Sartorial showoff? 19 Sea predator 20 LP part 21 Bayou "blue" 22 Blabbed 23 "Decorates" with bathroom tissue, for short 24 Birth announcement abbr. 26 Gomorrah's sister city 28 South American transported goods? 32 "Mr. ___ Risin'" ("Jim Morrison" anagram) 35 Card game 36 How some tuna is packed 37 The "E" of N.E.A.: Abbr. 38 Extreme
41 42 44 45 46
Old Venetian V.I.P. Update, as an atlas Computer file suffix Something in the air Blue Grotto island mansion? 50 Shrek creator William 51 1880s White House monogram 52 Wet behind the ears 55 Jupiter's Greek counterpart 57 Relax 59 Town square 61 "Entourage" agent ___ Gold 62 Blue jeans, e.g. or what 17-Across, 28-Across and 46-Across, literally are 64 Something to pick 65 "___ girl!" 66 Become flushed, as cheeks 67 "You betcha" 68 Onyx and opal 69 Crackhead
By: Andrea Carla Michaels // Public Press
DOWN 1 In the center 2 Tear out, as a seam 3 Christmas gifts for kids up north 4 Size up the joint 5 Portugal's capital, to the Portuguese 6 Koch and McMahon 7 "I'm Yours" singer Jason 8 Italian opera legend 9 Houston baseballers 10 "___ kingdom come" 11 Sauna setting 12 Make money 13 Oomph 18 The San Diego Chicken, e.g. 22 No-goodnik 25 Bantu people 27 601, in old Rome 28 Soapbox racers 29 Monopoly purchase 30 "Junk begets junk" computer acronym 31 Cassini who designed for Jackie
32 Grand Marquis automaker, briefly 33 Old Greek theaters 34 70s discowear 39 "Precise" knife 40 Shah Pahlavi 43 Trivial Pursuit piece 47 Swashbuckler 48 Discrimination against senior citizens 49 Microwaved 52 "Amazing" magician 53 Quetzalcoatl worshiper 54 "Fuzzy Wuzzy ___ fuzzy" 55 Kooky 56 Canal with a mule, in song 58 Spanish ladies: Abbr. 60 "Charlie's Angels" actress Cheryl 62 Squealer 63 Monk's title
Solution on page B6
ven here in the local-food loving Bay Area, most food isn’t “farm to table.” It’s farm to processor to distributor to wholesaler to retailer to the consumer, before hitting the dining table. But shoppers increasingly want to know where their food comes Story & Photo: Mary Willis from, and a // KALW growing number Crosscurrents don’t like that long, convoluted route. A group of food lovers and techies are teaming up to shorten the supply chain by putting the food market online. Goodeggs is one of these companies, based out of the Dogpatch neighborhood in San Francisco. Consumers go to the Goodeggs website and select which food they want to buy. There’s fresh fruit and veggies, eggs, dairy, bread, meat, snacks and even baby food. It’s grown organically wherever possible — and the growers and producers are local. Once the order’s placed, Goodeggs coordinates with the farmers and food makers, who deliver their products to the tech company’s warehouse. Goodeggs then either delivers it directly to the customers, costing $4. Or it can be picked up at vans around the city. Goodeggs is one of a growing number of businesses putting the farmers market online. At an event called Food Hackathon, held in a warehouse near the South of Market district of San Francisco, about 200 engineers, designers and foodies met to come up with new ideas to build technology products and tools specifically for the food industry. One of the mentors at the hackathon is Naithan Jones, who is founder of a startup called AgLocal that connects independent farmers
and ranchers directly with chefs. His wife comes from a family of farmers in Kansas. “Hearing their stories of how they would see their friend’s names on menus, but they know that that person is really poor,” Jones said. “But on the menu the steaks were like $80. This doesn’t make sense. … The more I dug into this, I realized that the Internet is a really good solve for this problem.” There are already existing models for helping farmers make more from their food — farmers’ markets for example, or Community-Supported Agriculture subscriptions. Lauren Bass runs an online market called LolaBee’s Harvest, which connects consumers with local cooks, farmers and food makers. She wanted to set up an online tool that responded directly to problems she saw with the community-supported agriculture model. “You get too much food that goes to waste. You don’t get a lot of variety, and you have to go pick it up from a farmer in a parking lot somewhere between 3 and 5 on a Wednesday,” Bass said. And she said many consumers won’t go to a farmers market every week either. “So basically we’re giving farmers access to those people,” Bass said. Dan Martin is one of LolaBee’s suppliers. He said selling through the startup gives him the freedom to concentrate on the farm. “Because my operation is a sevenday-a-week operation, and so I would have to be, theoretically, at a farmers market every day of the week trying to sell my eggs. Whereas they provide me with the release I need to focus on what I’m good at, which is raising chickens which lay delicious eggs,” Martin said. “I believe it’s going to require sincere startups like LolaBee’s to keep farmers like me
Customers purchase food from local growers and producers by placing orders on Goodeggs’ website. The company is based in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco.
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Oakland police search a 15-year-old passing through a protest gathering space. He said the officers gave him no reason for the search. Photo courtesy of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
Oakland's Black Youth Arrested, but Not Charged, in Stunning Numbers Report raises questions about appropriate role of police in schools
frican American youth in Oakland are arrested — but then not charged — at “vastly disproportionate” rates compared with others, which raises troubling questions about police interactions with some of the city’s most vulnerable young people, according to a recent report by civil rights advocates. During a five-year period between 2008 and 2012, black children repreStory: sented 29 percent of Oakland’s schoolSusan Ferriss age population but 78 percent of the // Center for more than 13,680 juveniles arrested Public Integrity — mostly by city police — and referred to the Alameda County Probation Department, according to the study, “From Report Card to Criminal Record.” “Shockingly,” the report also says, more than half of those arrests did not lead to charges or further involvement by probation officials. Black kids represented 78 percent of the youths whose arrests were not “sustained” in the end, according to an analysis of information obtained by the report’s authors. Data also showed that 72 percent of calls from schools to the Oakland Unified School District’s own police force were requests to respond to allegations of “non-criminal conduct” by students or others. Only 28 percent of calls were requests to respond to allegations of drugs, alcohol, weapons, crimes involving property or crimes against a person. “This raises questions about the appropriate role of police in our schools,” the report says. “Why are police being called for so many non-serious incidents, situations that may be better handled by counselors, administrators, school staff or parent volunteers?” That question may have particular resonance in Oakland, where the city police force has lost a quarter of its force since 2008 due to budget cutbacks that have hampered its effectiveness. Violent crime in Oakland — the Golden State’s No. 1 city in crime per capita — rose almost 20 percent in one year between 2011 and 2012. The report on juveniles was produced by Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono law firm, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Black Organizing Project, a community group focused on both police shootings of black youth and low graduation rates for black males in Oakland, estimated at about 50 percent. The groups are calling for more oversight and a “memorandum of understanding” to define the role of school police as well as city police involvement at or around schools in Oakland.
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California legislators are considering an amended proposal that would encourage schools to clarify police roles on campuses statewide in safety plans. The idea of deploying police in schools is popular, especially in the wake of last December’s schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn. But juvenile and family court judges and civil rights groups nationwide warn that putting police in and around schools can lead to more arrests of kids for minor indiscretions, as the Center for Public Integrity reported earlier this year. The more than 13,680 juvenile arrests in Oakland that were cited in the rights groups’ report were made citywide; arrests in or near schools, however, are not broken out. The Oakland schools’ own police officers made 85 arrests between 2010 and 2012. The rights groups are also urging more accountability for how the Oakland Police Department is using nearly $11 million in federal funds received as part of a Com-
A first-time arrest “doubles the chances that a student will drop out of high school, and a first-time court appearance quadruples those chances.” munity Oriented Police Services hiring grant. The U.S. Department of Justice gave Oakland the grant, which was sought with support from Oakland school officials. Under the grant, which runs from late 2011 through mid-2014, more police officers are being assigned to Oakland schools. But the rights groups argue that there is insufficient clarity on the role of police. In the grant application language, Oakland officials state that officers will help enhance safety “by role modeling and mentoring” young people “at a critical stage in their lives.” In Oakland, police officials did not return calls for comment about the report. The San Jose Mercury News quoted a police representative recently who did not provide data, but said juvenile arrests had dropped during the grant’s first year in 2012. The data cited in the report, the rights groups say,
shows that Oakland’s black youth were six times more likely than Latinos and 23 times more likely than whites their age to be arrested and referred to county probation officials. Oakland is one of America’s most ethnically diverse cities, and while the black population has declined as a proportion of the population, the city is still considered a hub of black culture on the West Coast. The city is currently struggling with the aftermath of severe budget cuts that have taken a toll on services of all kinds. Rising income inequality and family crises — poverty, high rates of incarceration of parents, violence — are also serious concerns. The Oakland police have been under fire, too, for some time. Allegations of incompetence in addressing crime, abuses of residents and racial profiling led to a court appointment of a federal overseer to supervise reforms in the department — and avert a federal takeover. Former Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton, now a consultant (he also led New York City’s police), recently issued a report criticizing Oakland’s police practices and made recommendations to improve investigations and crime prevention. Alarmingly high dropout rates among blacks prompted Oakland Unified School District officials in 2010 to set up an office of African-American Male Achievement, believed to be the first office of its kind in the nation. The purpose is to end “epidemic failure” by instituting teaching and conflict-resolution models proven to work inside the district and elsewhere. The district also agreed to voluntary federal oversight almost a year ago after officials at the U.S. Department of Education began investigating increasing numbers of suspensions of black students. Forcing children to miss school to punish them only contributes to them falling behind academically, the department’s Office for Civil Rights said. Studies show that 44 percent of black male students removed from Oakland’s schools multiple times were ousted as punishment for “defiance of authority.” District officials concurred that reforms were needed and agreed to push ahead with more staff training and the institution of “restorative justice” methods of counseling designed to get students to understand their infractions and learn to resolve conflict. School officials think that if they are helping children cope with problems and better engage in school, fewer arrests on Oakland’s streets will follow, said Troy Flint, director of communications for the Oakland Unified School District.
Flint called some of the arguments in the new report “redundant” and said that the district is already working to address disproportionate suspensions at school and conflicts that might lead to negative interactions with police. He said the district would probably not have a problem establishing a memorandum of understanding for the role of police, but that it wouldn’t want to try to set quotas for arrests of students of certain ethnicities. “It’s a leap to conclude that because more students of one ethnicity are arrested it’s because of bias,” Flint said. But he said the district supports reforms that aim to prevent “criminalization” of kids and police involvement when it’s not warranted. Laura Faer, statewide education rights director in California for the Public Counsel Law Center, said that the new report’s findings underscore how too many kids are still being swept into the criminal justice system in Oakland — a phenomenon that isn’t good for trying to improve kids’ engagement in school. As the report also notes, scholarly criminology research has found that “a first-time arrest doubles the chances that a student will drop out of high school, and a first-time court appearance quadruples those chances.” Other studies, the report points out, have found that getting kicked out of school — repeated suspensions, for example — also puts youths at greater risk of dropping out, getting into more serious legal trouble and developing records that complicate youths’ attempts to get a job, seek financial aid for education or join the military. “There is incredible cause for alarm when you look at this data,” Faer said. She questioned what happens to kids who are arrested and then not charged, and whether they or their families are directed to resources where they might find aid to help deal with individual problems or family crises that might contribute to the type of behavior that drew police attention. Sometimes, said former Oakland student Joevonte Kelly, black kids just feel picked on. A 2010 high school graduate, he now works with the Black Organizing Project. In the report, he recounts being stopped for changing lanes without a signal while driving and being held for 45 minutes in a squad car because he was told he matched a robbery suspect’s description. Kelly said the officer laughed at him and insulted him before letting him go. While Flint said many parents and kids believe police officers in schools make people feel more secure, students quoted in the report say they feel uncomfortable or harassed by officers, and that police “always assume you are doing something” wrong.
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Lives of Tenderloin Residents Remembered Ministers and community newspaper memorialize those who might have been forgotten
early every city in the United States has a Tenderloin. Here in San Francisco, it’s a neighborhood home to a dozen social-service agencies, low-rent single-room-occupancy residential hotels, or SROs. And thousands of low-income — and-no-income — residents. Premature deaths from HIV and AIDS, heart disease and complications from substance use and abuse mark the lives of many in the Tenderloin. It’s a part of the city known for Story: open drug use; a place many people Laura Flynn avoid and one where individual lives // KALW Crosscurrents can be easily forgotten. “I went to this hotel and the social worker there was almost in tears and she said it would just break my heart if no one comes. And no one came,” said the Rev. Glenda Hope. “It was the two of us but we had a memorial for the person who had died.” Hope has officiated memorials in the Tenderloin for more than three decades. In 2004, she asked the neighborhood paper, the Central City Extra, to begin covering those memorials. Since then the Extra’s reporters have written more than 200 obituaries. In early 2013, they were anthologized in a book called “Death in the Tenderloin.” It includes obituaries and photos, as well as analysis — essays on the neighborhood’s health conditions, poverty and crime. It’s all based on the meticulous work the Extra’s reporters have done. I accompanied Extra reporter Marjorie Beggs to a few memorials. From the busy street I walk into the Ritz Hotel on Eddy and Taylor in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin. I’m greeted by Heather, one of the social workers at the residential hotel. She leads me upstairs to the third-floor kitchen to Randi Givens’ memorial. Beggs reads his obituary: “Randi Givens lived at the Ritz Hotel for two decades and had many visitors over the years, but, according to social worker Heather Venisse, he ‘didn’t socialize much’ with fellow residents. That’s why his memorial was so lightly attended by neighbors — only Thanapa Simphanth and Otto Duffy showed up for his Feb. 21 sendoff.” Simphanth still lives at the Ritz. “I really miss him,” he recalls of Givens. “A memorial is really important. And nobody came and when I saw Otto, I said, ‘You don’t have to go anywhere, you come here first for a few minutes please.’” Givens’ memorial is one of many Beggs has covered over the years. She remembers another. This one took place a few blocks away, in the intimate listening room at the Ambassador Hotel.
“It’s a really hard place to live and even a harder place to die.” “There were probably 25 people there,” Beggs said. “It was a very small room that it was held in. And they were actually flowing out the door to stand and pay their respects and listen to what was going on.” Speedy, as he was known, had many friends in the SRO. When I walk down there I meet one, Edmond Juicye. “He was a Navy guy, very grandfatherly, brotherly to us people who lives in SROs,” Juicye said. He said people took the news of Speedy’s death hard. “I remember several others saying, ‘No, no, no, not Speedy!’ They told me that so many people had a special bond with him, because a lot of times in a SRO hotel you don’t know a person that much. We don’t see each other. But so many people had feelings to let out, and show that he was definitely connected to a lot of different people.” Beggs said Speedy’s memorial was one of the most emotional she’s ever attended. The memorials convene wherever there’s space: in community rooms, kitchens, lobbies and other common spaces in the Tenderloin’s roughly two dozen SROs. No recordings are allowed: no video, no sound, no photos. Rev. Hope officiates most of the memorials. “We give to the poorest among us that final dignity which all of us hope will be given to us,” Hope said.
“An uneasy black youngster born to a teenage mother in a poor Memphis family that grew to 10 ended his life of being shunted off to foster families by hopping on a bus to San Francisco, arriving alone at 19. It was 1988. The high school drop-out had wrestled for years with his sexual identity. As a Jobs Corps graduate he took construction jobs and worked as a hospital orderly before embracing a war against injustice as a social activist and becoming a new personality. In his late 40s, he finally transformed into a woman, gained great confidence, became a well-known advocate for transgender rights, the aged, the homeless and dispossessed in settings from community meetings to City Hall. Ms. Jazzie Collins, a familiar sight in SoMa, had bright eyes, toothy smile and ropy hair. She lived for her work, was energized by it, then was honored for it at just the right place and time — on the floor of the California Legislature the month before she died at age 54.”
She began holding the memorials more than 35 years ago, through her nonprofit, Network Ministries. She delivers services in a minister’s traditional garb — a clerical collar, black slacks and shirt over her slight frame. A cross with a peace sign always rests on her chest. “It’s important that we can offer comfort and an opportunity for healthy grief and healing for those who are the survivors,” Hope said. “And that we communicate to the survivors that when they die, their deaths will also be noted and will be mourned.” At the memorials she asks everyone in attendance to close their eyes and reflect on the life of the departed. She reads a short scripture passage, then opens the floor up for anyone who wants to speak. Central City Extra reporters Tom Carter and Beggs have attended hundreds of these memorials. Both said that at this point, they’re as much participants as anyone else. “We hold hands at the end,” Beggs said. “We don’t sit on the outside. We usually sit in the inner circle with the people who are talking. So we really feel we’re part of the memorial even though we’re taking notes and nobody else is.” Carter said the memorials reveal the fabric of SRO communities. “It is closure for anyone who has known the deceased, and I really think it promotes community. The stories themselves show community and how people are dedicated to each other. Every SRO is a little bit different but that glue of wanting to belong and be significant I think is there,” Carter said. Still, some memorials have no guests — just Rev. Hope and one of the reporters. Carter said when no one shows up they have to dig deeper. “In one case I remember, they knew the man used to drink a lot at the corner tavern. So I went down there to find out more about him. And the tavern owner said, ‘Look, this guy was so fabulous. He would just volunteer help around here, and then I would hire him to fix this and that. And he always sat in that stool. And I’m going to have a plaque and attach it to the bar where he sat,’” Carter said.
“Born in Cairo, Mr. Malak came to the United States when he was 13, and by 19, he’d begun a downward spiral that lasted three decades. To his family, the results of his rehabilitation were astonishing. Pulling out of it, they said, he was able to live independently at the Arlington, get a credit card, pay his bills, get back the driver’s license he’d lost 17 years before, talk to them regularly, attend family events, including a recent wedding, and visit his mother every weekend by bus. ‘God let you live until you cleaned up your life,’ his mother said.”
“The week before he died, Mr. Busch was energized, seemed in good health and recently had led a meditation for a halfdozen people in a Tenderloin community center. That was a first for him and a hint that the dark-haired, handsome, 6-foot-3 man was more ‘stabilized’ than he ever had been, a contrast to his life’s ‘negative base’ that all were reluctant to describe.”
“‘I didn’t know he wouldn’t get well — I was thanking him for being a good friend,’ Angelina Herman said tearfully at his July 16 memorial. ‘Now I’m having a hard time remembering he’s gone. I wanted to call Richard today, but I couldn’t.’ Mr. Ramirez, who had lived at the Iroquois for 17 years, died July 11 at Chinese Hospital from complications of leukemia. He was 67. Herman was friends with him for 10 years, ‘a trustworthy man who looked out for you, checking to see if you were okay,’ she said. ‘If you have a friend like that, be grateful.’”
Wanda June Hill
“The memorial at Alexander Residence to honor the life of Wanda June Hill opened softly with the sounds of 1950s Elvis, Ms. Hill’s favorite, crooning spirituals. A table with a flotilla of framed family photos surrounding a green and gold urn holding Ms. Hill’s ashes graced the front of the community room. Two Mexican votive candles — veladoras — burned beneath a photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge, the setting sun burnishing the red towers. At the end of World War II, a teenage Ms. Hill and her family wandered west from El Dorado Springs, Mo., stopping first in New Mexico and later in small towns in California’s Central Valley. When she reached San Francisco, she found home.” In addition to providing closure the obituaries illuminate daily life in the Tenderloin, Carter said: “It’s a really hard place to live and even a harder place to die. And for the most part, people are very glad to die inside and not on the street. So we’re glad to document that.”
Samuel “Shorty” Lagasca
“After years of ill fortune marked by emotional depression and paranoia arising from his combat experiences in Vietnam — where he was twice wounded — he finally brought order into his life. As he did so, he decided to help those around him. He first became a volunteer for Food Runners, a 27-year-old nonprofit that now boasts more than 200 volunteers collecting perishable food from restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores and farmers’ markets and delivering it to the hungry. Shorty once joked that his efforts ‘got me good hot meals.’ In 2001 he became a tenant representative with the Tenderloin Housing Clinic’s Central City SRO Collaborative, organizing tenants and trying to improve conditions at his home at the Drake Hotel. Mr. Lagasca once described the Eddy Street SRO as ‘hell’ in the times before THC took over its operation. He was a compelling organizer and relentless advocate. If he saw something not right, he spoke up against it.”
“His reading and intellectual curiosity were recurring themes. ‘Paul and I passed books back and forth all the time,’ said neighbor Steven Hatch. ‘I’d read something I liked, and he would, too, and we’d trade. This morning, I was reading a book and thought, ‘I’ll have to tell Paul about this.’ I can’t anymore. It makes me so sad.’”
Samuel “Shorty” Lagasca — photo by Mark Ellinger, story by Jonathan Newman Donald Busch — photo courtesy of Camelot Hotel, story by Tom Carter Wanda June Hill — photo courtesy of family, story by Jonathan Newman Jazzie Collins — photo by Christopher D. Cook, story by Tom Carter Paul Pernice — story by Marjorie Beggs Michael Malak — photo courtesy of family, story by Marjorie Beggs Richard Ramirez — photo courtesy of Iroquois Hotel, story by Marjorie Beggs
These tributes are excerpted from past issues of Central City Extra. Read more online at www.studycenter.org/test/cce To order a copy of “Death in the Tenderloin: A Slice of Life From the Heart of San Francisco,” ($29.95, full color; $17.95, black and white) call 415-626-1650 Details available at studycenter.org.
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More than 1,200 people from 103 countries became U.S. citizens during a 2009 naturalization ceremony in San Francisco.
Photo courtesy of Susan Hobbs
San Francisco Pushes to Get Permanent Residents Naturalized Three-year pilot program launched to increase political participation in the city
an Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials launched an initiative recently to push for naturalization among those who are eligible. One in eight San Franciscans are permanent residents, but not naturalized citizens, preventing them from fully participating in Story: civic activities, Vivian Po such as voting, // New America city officials said. Media “We need to bring voices and communications to hidden communities and unheard communities about Pathways to Citizenship and the benefits of being citizens,” Lee said. In September Lee, along with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and members of more than a dozen local nonprofits and foundations, gathered at the mayor’s office to unveil the city’s Pathways to Citizenship Initiative — a three-year pilot program to push for naturalization among those who are eligible. Lee said he wants to be as inclusive as possible when decisions are made on issues such as education, health care, public transportation and public safety. Given that one-third of San Francisco’s population is made up of immigrants, Lee said he’s worried some of their voices are lost because of their non-citizen status. There are 100,000 permanent residents in the city not fully participating in the political process because they are not citizens, he said. The initiative is a public-private program with a budget of $1.2 million over the course of three years. Half of the funding comes from
the city’s general fund through the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs, while the other half comes from local foundations. The funding will be channeled to seven local community-based organizations to promote citizenship by providing counseling, training, language support and legal services to immigrants. The idea for the program arose when a group of nonprofit leaders first came together to prepare for the 2010 Census. The city’s population has always been undercounted, especially among immigrant neighborhoods, affecting levels of funding for social service and other programs. Ed Lee, then city administrator, worked with local partners to create
“We need to engage every citizen to make our democracy better. It is a fundamental part of our city life to do so.” effective and culturally competent messages to promote the Census. However, being counted is just the first step; the planning group’s long-term goal is to enhance civic participation. Sandra R. Hernandez, a planning group member, said she sees the project as a way to promote democ-
racy in the city. Growing up in an immigrant household in which her father, after becoming a citizen, voted in every election, Hernandez said she knows firsthand how gaining the right to vote encourages civic participation among immigrants. “We need to engage every citizen to make our democracy better,” Hernandez said. “It is a fundamental part of our city life to do so.” Other than voting rights, Hernandez pointed out that there are other benefits, such as access to certain federally funded social services, employment opportunities, immigration sponsorship and travel flexibility, that apply to citizens only. The San Francisco Foundation is one of six philanthropic organizations funding the pilot program. However, the path to citizenship can be a daunting experience, especially for those facing language barriers. Su Fang Gao, 79, immigrated to San Francisco from Shanghai, China, in 2006 through her daughter’s sponsorship. Like many senior immigrants, she is monolingual in Chinese and finds it difficult to study for the naturalization test while learning English at her age. According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are only two scenarios in which elders can take the naturalization test in their native languages. They are either green card holders who are at least 50 years old and have lived in the country for 20 years, or those who are at least 55 years old and have lived in the country for 15 years. Gao and many of her classmates
do not qualify. Gao said she has studied English for two years now and plans to take the naturalization test before the end of this year. “America is a great country,” she said. “I want to become a citizen.” Apart from the test itself, the expensive application fee for naturalization is another obstacle, said Anni Chung, executive director of Self-Help for the Elderly, a member of the planning group and a nonprofit organization serving predominantly low-income Asian seniors. “Many of our seniors live on Supplemental Security Income and have to make tough choices between putting food on the table and becoming citizens,” she said. The current application fee for naturalization is $680. It jumped
from $320 in 2007, while the monthly disability benefit is $710 for an individual and $1,066 for a couple. “A fee waiver is available for low-income families, but not many people know about it,” said Chung, adding that the new city initiative helps bring resources to outreach programs as well as providing legal counseling. Claudia Rodriguez became a citizen earlier this year. She said she would not have filled out the naturalization application without the help of Clarisa Sanchez, her case manager at Catholic Charities CYO. “It was a long form,” said Rodriguez, adding that it was daunting to her even though she has been studying English since 2001 and is a certified nurse assistant working in the city.
Rodriguez said the encouragement and legal support she received from a trusted local organization was key to her success in becoming a U.S. citizen. Coming to the country from Mexico in 1999 as an undocumented transgender woman, Rodriguez has struggled through discrimination, financial hardship and a decade-long immigration process, which included applying for asylum and finally receiving her green card in 2005. She said becoming a citizen is a milestone in her life. She finally feels her voice counts and she knows her rights. “I feel I am more confident, and I have a new life beginning,” she said. Rodriguez is now studying at City College of San Francisco parttime to become a registered nurse.
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How Much Does a Family Need to Survive in San Francisco? A family of four needs to earn $84,133 to attain a “secure yet modest living standard” in San Francisco
ecently we wrote about a new budget calculator released by the Economic Policy Institute that attempts to offer a contrast to the Federal Poverty Guidelines, which say a family of four is “officially” poor only if it earns less than $23,550. Story: What the institute Kelly O’Mara hoped to do was illustrate // KQED that in plenty of places NewsFix (the San Francisco Bay Area certainly being one of them), $23,550 is not even close to enough for that four-person family.
But, as many readers noted, the numbers that the institute comes up with might not be enough either. According to the calculator, a family of four needs to earn $84,133 to attain a “secure yet modest living standard” in San Francisco. The numbers are similar, but slightly lower, for San Jose–Sunnyvale at $79,261 and the Oakland–Fremont area at $75,064. The Economic Policy Institute’s budget calculator simply uses an algorithm based on housing, food, transportation, child care, health care and other necessities, as well as taxes. Those rough numbers are calculated
in each geographic area to provide varying benchmarks for different locations, based on the cost of living in those places. The housing costs, for example, came from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fair market rents, which represents the 40th percentile of housing prices in that region. That means that 60 percent of two-bedroom apartments in the San Francisco metro area are more expensive than the $1,795 per month the budget calculator used. In the Oakland–Fremont area, the HUD 40th percentile projected that a two-bedroom apartment would cost $1,361. These numbers
are not averages, which would be slightly higher. The other costs are calculated from different guidelines and methodology. Transportation costs are based on the average number of miles driven in that region, according to the National Household Travel Survey, and child-care costs came from the annual Child Care Aware of America report. It was the housing prices that raised the most questions.
Solution to Crossword on page B3 Side affects of cheating on a Public Press Crossword include a case of the guilty feels.
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Twitter installed a green roof with space for employees to socialize atop its headquarters in the former SF Mart building on Market Street in San Francisco. Sergio Ruiz // SPUR ROUNDTABLE
Who Are San Francisco’s Movers and Shakers? S
an Francisco has the most expensive rental market in the country, beating out New York City. It is almost impossible to find a studio under $2,000 a month. Home sales average $1 million. The city is undergoing a construction boom that will bring 4,000 new housing units. At the same time, evictions are at a twelve-year high. Every month, 100 households lose their long-term housing through evictions and paid buy-outs. KALW’s “Your Call” Host Rose Aguilar discussed the forces that shape the political and cultural landscape of San Francisco and the city’s “power Interview: elites” with Gray Brechin, historical Rose Aguilar geographer and visiting scholar in the U.C. // KALW’s Your Call Berkeley Department of Geography, and founder and project scholar of California’s Living New Deal Project; and Tim Redmond, former editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He now covers politics at timssanfrancisco.blogspot.com, and recently founded the San Francisco Progressive Media Center. This is a condensed transcript of the conversation. Rose Aguilar:
Why are rents going through the roof? Tim Redmond:
You have the growth of Silicon Valley. They want to live in San Francisco where it’s cool. Their employers have purchased these expensive luxury buses to get them back and forth, so it’s easy to commute. We basically have become the bedroom community for Silicon Valley. You mentioned 17,000 tech workers moving to the city — all of them want your apartment. And many of them can pay more for your apartment than you can. And we have landlords who are more than happy to take advantage of the situation, throwing out families who have been in the city for 20, 30 years just so that they can bring in someone who can pay a little more rent. Aguilar:
Who runs or who owns San Francisco?
their real constituents, their true constituents are not those of us who write to those people. It’s those who pay them. And those are frequently those who own the land.
Not that long ago, I was writing about how power in San Francisco had become fairly diffuse. Power in the city was more vested in a district-elected Board of Supervisors, and you had a mayor who was not an all-powerful type. The power brokers were kind of off on the side. All of a sudden, as the tech boom started happening again, as land value started going up very rapidly, we’ve seen a tremendous and extraordinary consolidation of power. The handpicked selection of Ed Lee as mayor. The influence of Willie Brown, who is his buddy, of Rose Pak, who is his friend, and of people like Ron Conway, a venture capitalist in the tech industry who is very close to the mayor — the influence of these people is extraordinary. But the true power in the city still in many ways rests with, as Gray said, the landowners. Look — the tech workers — we can complain about the sudden wealth and we can complain about how 25-year-olds don’t know what to do with all this money and aren’t thinking about what the community is like that they are moving into. But in reality, these are working folks who are looking for a place to live. It’s the people who own that property who are really making all the money here. Even for the amounts of money the tech workers are making, they’re paying exorbitant rents. Brechin:
We saw the same thing in the 1870s. William Randolph Hearst, at the tender age of about 22, wrote to his pop and said, “Take your money out of mining and put it into land … Every atom of humanity added to the struggling mass means another figure to the landlord’s bank account.” The Hearst fortune has always been based very much on land, as well as on media. Perhaps even more so. Aguilar:
There’s been a complete, an enormous turnover of the people who actually run the city. Willie Brown has immense power. He is a fixer. You have Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi — these people wield enormous power. But
Tim, you were talking about the influential developers: Can you give us some names?
downtown San Francisco, remains a very influential player. The organized groups like the Building Owners and Managers Association. All of the money is going into residential high-rise development. We’re building a lot of housing, but none of it is affordable to the average San Franciscan. Simon Snelgrove is trying to build 130 condos on the waterfront at 8 Washington that will be, he says, the most expensive new condominiums ever built in San Francisco. He intends to sell them for around $10 million. He is going to make about $400 million dollars off of this project. Russ Flynn, who owns about 3,000 units, is taking a building he owns on Nob Hill with 33 apartments and converting it into tenancies in common, which is the equivalent of a back-door way around the condo law. He paid $35 million for the building; he’s going to put about $10 million into renovating it, and he’s going to sell it for $100 million. So in one fell swoop, he’s going to make about $50 million. When that kind of money is floating around, it buys a lot of political influence.
People often say that renters in San Francisco have a lot of power. Is that true? Redmond:
Tenants have less rights and less power than they’ve had in a long time. The state Legislature has taken away from cities the ability to pass laws that would protect tenants — for example, has taken away from cities the ability to have rent control on vacant apartments, which Berkeley had for many years. If rent control continues to apply when an apartment is vacated, housing prices don’t skyrocket quite as fast, and there’s less incentive to evict a long-term tenant. What’s happening now is renters are being evicted to turn rental units into condominiums or tenancies in common. Property owners are finding that it’s very lucrative. Aguilar:
Doug Shorenstein, whose father built about half of
We’re going to have 4,000 new housing units. What does this mean for the city’s infrastructure?
The infrastructure is going to be more and more unpleasant to use. It’s going to be stretched to the limits. Redmond:
The amount that developers pay to the city in fees does not come close to the cost of covering transit alone, much less the other infrastructure. Aguilar:
What about the tax break that was given to Twitter? Twitter and other companies that move to the Central Market and Tenderloin areas do not have to pay a 1.5 percent city payroll tax for six years. Redmond:
Part of what was behind this, of course: The Twitter employees didn’t want to have to pay payroll taxes on the huge profits they’re going to make when the company goes public. Those stock options were potentially taxable under the city’s 1.5 percent payroll tax. The one who’s really making out here is Doug Shorenstein and his company. They’re the ones who got a tenant for a building that had been vacant for a long time. And every landlord in mid-Market is seeing the value of their property soar. So in fact, we’re seeing nonprofits and small businesses being evicted from mid-Market. Aguilar:
Twenty years ago you had a very progressive Board that had a lot of power. So what happened? Redmond:
When you’re talking about one guy making $50 million over a couple of months off of one building, the stakes are pretty high here. Brechin:
It also has to do with San Francisco’s — I should say the Bay Area’s and the nation’s impoverished media environment. San Francisco 100 years ago had a very rich and competitive newspaper field. Four major morning papers, three of them owned by leading families in San Francisco who hated one another. Of course that’s all gone.
Richmond Mayor in Spotlight for Threat to Seize Foreclosed Homes From Banks
even years ago, Richmond became the largest city in the nation to elect a Green Party mayor, Gayle McLaughlin. During her tenure, Richmond has made national and even international headlines by threatening to invoke eminent domain laws if banks do not agree to work with the city to keep residents facing foreclosure in their homes. She also pioneered other progressive policies Interview: including the call for for a citywide “soda Malcolm tax” and a suit against oil giant Chevron. Marshall // Richmond Pulse
Photo: Robert Rodgers // Richmond Confidential
What do homeowners facing foreclosure in Richmond need to know right now about the city’s plan to invoke eminent domain?
of our neighborhoods continue to spiral downward. When one home goes into foreclosure, nine other homes are impacted. [Foreclosures] create blight in the neighborhood, and then all the property values of the neighborhood go down. That means less property tax revenue for the City of Richmond. It also means more crime, because blight attracts crime. So this is an opportunity for the city to acquire these loans and work with the homeowner to refinance with a lower principal.
What kind of time frame do you see this being played out on?
Once again, Richmond is making national headlines.
Even though the city has done nothing as far as eminent domain at this point, Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank attempted to sue the city [because] we were considering it. And the court said, you can’t do that. At this point though, they’re still trying very hard and we want to be able to move forward and, again, we hope that the banks open their eyes and say, hey, this is a good thing.
We call it the Cares Program or the Local Sensible Reduction Program because, first and foremost, we would like to continue to call on the banks to work with us, to cooperate with the City of Richmond to sell us these underwater mortgages, and to do it voluntarily in a cooperative way so that we don’t have to invoke the eminent domain process, although we hold open the option. We fully believe it’s within our legal rights to do so, to help our community. We continue to have this ongoing housing crisis. Many
we were on “PBS News Hour.” The idea is to build a national movement to put pressure on the banks that got the $1.2 trillion bailout. They haven’t provided a solution, and the federal government hasn’t provided a solution, so we’re stepping in with a common sense fix that will help everybody. It’ll help the housing market because we’ll be fixing a problem that continues to spiral down.
We’re in the process of building a national movement. We want other cities to join us in a Joint Powers Authority. Just this morning I was in San Francisco at a meeting with two supervisors, and there are other cities in California looking at this: Oakland, Vallejo, El Monte. Across the nation there are cities like Newark, New Jersey, Long Island, New York and Seattle. And Richmond has played a leading role. We got articles in USA Today, The Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, MSNBC, CNBC and
The threats that Wall Street and their lobbyists have made to restrict credit in Richmond are totally illegal. What they’re talking about is called “redlining.” We went through that years ago, and we fought battles to stop redlining of communities where credit had been restricted. We overcame that, and we can’t go back in history. There are laws on the books, and in fact, there are civil rights firms that have engaged with the City of Richmond to say they’d be happy to defend us if any of these practices actually get implemented. In Richmond, 70 percent of our community is people of color. Restricting access to credit — either to residents who want to move within the city or to people who want to move into Richmond — would [be] a civil rights issue. These banks and these lobbyists are trying to scare, and they have managed to scare some on the Richmond council. But, by far, the larger number of community members are in favor of this. I get so many emails, hard copy letters and phone calls from people in Richmond, and from people all around the country who think this is really a sound, innovative solution.
What do you say to critics who claim the move would hurt the city financially in the long run by dissuading potential investors and damaging credit? McLaughlin:
More coverage of Richmond online: www.richmondpulse.org
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Tech companies have established private bus routes throughout San Francisco on their way to Silicon Valley. One impromptu Duboce Triangle bus stop served workers headed to Menlo Park.
The Dark Side of Startup City Tech influx brings sky-high rents and private bus systems, changing the face of San Francisco neighborhoods
Lyft car idling at every stoplight, a smartphone in every hand — and an eviction on every block. Few cities have seen as much disruption as San Francisco has over the last 10 years. Once a hotbed of progressive political activism and engagement, the city is being remade in the image of the booming tech industry, headquartered in Silicon Valley to the south. Rents in some of San Francisco’s most desirable neighborhoods have doubled in a year. Apartment construction has exploded in order to absorb the new residents. The city is developing so rapidly that Google’s street view photos from 2011 are already well Story: outdated. Susie Cagle The local // Grist.org government has embraced the disruption. Longtime residents, meanwhile, talk about fleeing or saving their city as though a hurricane is coming. But the hurricane has landed. The storm has brought a surge of tech-driven initiatives designed to supplant services that have traditionally been viewed as public domain. Where downtown urban planning failed, city leaders hope a new Twitter headquarters and other tech outlets will transform a long-troubled business district — and they’re offering up the tax breaks to make it happen. And on the streets, Google and other companies now run their own, very private version of public transit: a fleet of unmarked buses that shuttle the tech class to and from jobs at corporate campuses south of the city. San Francisco may be an outlier in this trend. But as goes California, so will the rest of the country. There are lessons to be gleaned from Detroit’s recent bankruptcy, but there is also much to be learned from San Francisco’s recent influx of tech cash. This place is redefining what public and private really mean in all civic spaces — and the implications are not as bright, shiny and truly shareable as the tech blogosphere would like you to believe. One blogger asked, “What if Google bought Detroit?” Well, we know what if: It would make another San Francisco. Much has been made of Silicon
Valley’s private bus system lately because there is much to be made. The private shuttles ferry upward of 35,000 workers each day between San Francisco and the sprawling tech company campuses 40 to 50 miles south. That’s about 35 percent of Caltrain’s ridership and 17 percent of the number that ride the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. They may use the city’s public bus stops, but these are no ordinary buses. They are gleaming white, unsigned and completely anonymous. Riders flash their work IDs to gain access to these luxury shuttles, each outfitted with Wi-Fi, of course. “Sometimes the Google Bus just seems like one face of Janus-headed capitalism; it contains the people too valuable even to use public transport or drive themselves,” Rebecca Solnit wrote in an essay at the London Review of Books. “Right by the Google
“San Francisco changes because the world changes. It was formed in a gold rush and reshaped by every one that followed.” bus stop on Cesar Chavez Street, immigrant men from Latin America stand waiting for employers in the building trade to scoop them up, or to be arrested and deported by the government.” Last summer, San Francisco design firm Stamen did the gumshoe work of mapping the private bus lines that run between the city and Silicon Valley. Of course, everybody wants a piece of that action. The startup RidePal promises to deliver “the Google shuttle experience” to companies looking to “recruit and retain top talent.” Another private bus service, Leap, proudly declares on its website: “San Francisco, we’ve built a better bus.”
But when these buses use public bus stops, they often screw up schedules and force public-bus passengers to get on and off at different stops or in the middle of the street. They block bike lanes and crosswalks, back up traffic and don’t pay a dollar to the city. The city finally laid down the gauntlet on the buses — kind of. A new proposal would restrict the private shuttles to a network of about 100 city bus stops, require them to obtain permits and pay some kind of fee — yet to be determined. As Bill Bradley writes at Next City, this all basically amounts to “asking the shuttles to play nice” with the public. This comes about a month after a Yahoo bus nearly ran into a group of anti-gentrification protesters. Perhaps nothing revealed the split between public and private services more clearly than the recent BART strike, when BART workers shut down the regional transit system for four days to protest low wages and safety issues. While BART’s regular ridership — especially the 39 percent who are low-income — struggled to find another way to work, San Francisco’s tech workers just hopped onto their usual private coaches. During the BART strike, startups salivated at the chance to make some cash. Rideshare company Avego bought the website Bartstrike. com and advertised constantly on social media before and during the strike, offering low-ish-cost rides for regular folks and helicopter airlifts to those who could afford them. According to the company, nine people took those helicopter rides. A crisis for San Francisco’s working class became a business opportunity for its tech class. Where the public infrastructure is broken, there has been tremendous opportunity for private startup efforts. Tech begets more tech. Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and other transportation disruptors would not have gotten a foothold here were it not for a pervasive private car culture and limited rail and bus systems. But a proliferation of private services means fewer customers using public ones — and, in turn, less public investment in those systems. In cities, public transportation is often discussed as a great equalizer. In San Francisco, it’s become the dividing line. But it’s not the only one. San Francisco home prices are still rising faster than anywhere else in the country. (Nearby Oakland and San Jose are No. 2 and No. 5 on that pricey list, respectively.) The Wall Street Journal attributes the rise almost entirely to the tech industry. San Francisco’s tech influx has reached a tipping point. People are pissed. There have been personal essays, delightfully ragey, NSFW music videos and a fair bit of graffiti. “A group of gentrification protesters unleashed their rage on a piñata
of a Google Bus, an act that seemed at once sadly impotent and uncomfortably close to violence,” Chronicle tech columnist James Temple wrote in June. Temple defended the tech industry as best he could, dispensing with all substantive critiques to conclude: This is just how this city rolls. “San Francisco changes because the world changes. It was formed in a gold rush and reshaped by every one that followed.” But this libertarian, gold-rush mentality is not what we had come to expect from progressive San Francisco. Officials recently passed a comprehensive plan to reduce the Bay Area’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent over the next 20 years, in part by investing in public transporta-
Stamen Design produced its private bus shuttle route visualization using social media posts from observers to measure traffic and count passengers. It hired bike messengers to follow the buses and verify routes. In 2012, corporate shuttle buses were transporting about 35 percent as many passengers as Caltrain did on weekdays. To learn more about Stamen’s research methods, visit stamen.com/zero1
tion and building more densely. For hours, suburban Bay Area residents took to the mic to declare, in some form or another, that we don’t need buses, that cars are nice, that things are just fine. A few warned that they planned to wage a revolution. This, coming from people who, like Google, have fled the urban center. While San Francisco is now home to about 1,800 tech companies, many of the largest escaped for massive, gated, concrete bunkers in the suburbs. But in moving to the ’burbs, Google, Facebook, et al., didn’t count on the modern lifestyle preferences of their young workers. In a perfect reverse of old geographic lifestyle trends, many urbanites now leave every day for work in the burbs, and then return to their homes in the
city each night. It’s a trend in cities across the country, but perhaps nowhere else has it taken such a visible toll on a place’s civic and physical infrastructure as it has here. Entrepreneurs and techies delight in the idea of “disrupting” business as usual. But it’s worth considering what things might be like if tech companies and their employees were less interested in walling themselves off from the rest of the world, and instead worked for the collective good. Sometimes these companies will buy us a parklet or some free Internet access. But we do ourselves and our fellow citizens a disservice if we equate these efforts with real innovation in our cities and our lives.