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PUBLIC PUBLIC PRESS PRESS ISSUE 9
CIVICS FREE LIFELONG LEARNING CLASSES MAY BE VICTIM OF CITY COLLEGE OF SAN FRANCISCO’S BUDGET WOES PAGE A3
HOW PG&E USES DEFERRED MAINTENANCE TO PICK YOUR POCKETS, WITH STATE HELP
David Cay Johnston: Utility asks for rate hike to replace power poles — on a leisurely 346-year cycle PAGE B8
FOOD BANK RELYING ON LOCAL DONORS AFTER MISSING OUT ON FEDERAL FUNDS PAGE A3 ASIAN-AMERICANS ARE FLEXING POLITICAL MUSCLE LIKE NEVER BEFORE BY SEEKING ELECTIVE OFFICE PAGE A4 NOT ALL THINK LOSING A PARKING LOT FOR A PARK WOULD BE A GOOD SWAP PAGE A4
BRACING FOR THE BIG ONE: A SPECIAL REPORT
EARTHQUAKE RETROFIT DELAYS LEAVE THOUSANDS AT RISK
It will take at least seven years to secure older wood buildings dangerously p perched above windows or ggarages. g Meanwhile,, offi fficials aren’t anxious to say where tthey hey all are. PAGE PAGES G S B1-B5
CROSSWORD PUZZLE PAGE A4
STREET THE CURTAIN IS GOING UP ON A NEW PLAN TO REVAMP LONG-DERELICT ALEXANDRIA THEATER INTO SHOPS, APARTMENTS PAGE A5 FRUSTRATION OVER SAN FRANCISCO TAXICABS AND TRANSIT OPTIONS GIVING A BOOST TO LOCAL RIDESHARING PAGE A5
GREEN YOU CAN FILL UP YOUR GAS TANK IN THE BAY AREA WITH FUEL MADE FROM ALGAE — BUT SHOULD YOU? PAGE A7
HANDS-ON WORK REQUIRED FOR SAN FRANCISCO’S GOAL — KEEPING GARBAGE OUT OF LANDFILLS PAGE A8
PARKING LOT TO BECOME POCKET PARK, BUT NOT QUIETLY IN THE MISSION
NEW NETWORK OF SENSORS QUANTIFIES THE AMOUNT OF GREENHOUSE GASES IN THE ATMOSPHERE PAGE A8
BRACING FOR THE BIG ONE SAN FRANCISCO LAGS BEHIND OTHER CITIES IN PURSUING EARTHQUAKE RETROFITS FOR CERTAIN BUILDINGS PAGE B1
PROPERTY OWNERS JOCKEY FOR LAST PLACE IN RETROFIT ORDER B5
GAINING CLOUT, MORE ASIANS RUN FOR OFFICE
‘Lifelong learning’ could wither PAGE A3
RESTORED MARSHY AREAS NEAR HUNTERS POINT NOW PROVIDING HABITAT FOR PLANTS AND ANIMALS PAGE A7
IS YOUR HOME ON CITY’S LIST OF POTENTIAL PROBLEM STRUCTURES? PAGE B4
CITY COLLEGE WEIGHS COST OF FREE CLASSES
PHOTO ESSAY: HOMELESS PEOPLE CARVE OUT SPACES OF THEIR OWN PAGE A6
WHAT SHOULD YOU HAVE IN YOUR EARTHQUAKE PREPAREDNESS KIT? PAGE B3
Freed from Iran, seeing parallels
New voters boosted Democrats PAGE A4
HOMELESS PEOPLE IN SAN FRANCISCO SPEAK OUT ABOUT CHALLENGES THEY FACE DAILY AND CITY POLICY PAGE A5
WHAT KINDS OF BUILDINGS ARE AT RISK, AND WHY PAGE B2
CALIFORNIA’S SOLITARY CELLS UNIMAGINABLE
SEPARATING YOUR TRASH FROM RECYCLING: MESSY
Neighborhood activists rejoice, as merchants say car hatred goes too far PAGE A4
D.A. TO EXAMINE RECORD ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Gascón troubled by low prosecution rate compared with other Bay Area counties PAGE B6
City pays workers $20 an hour to do dirty work PAGE A8
JUSTICE JOURNALIST SHANE BAUER, WHO SPENT MONTHS IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN IRAN, DECRIES CALIFORNIA’S VERSION PAGE B6 SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY TO RE-EXAMINE CITY’S LOW RATE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROSECUTIONS PAGE B6 NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS: TIMID AUTO BURGLARY VICTIMS; RISING PARCEL THEFTS; AN OVERNIGHT PARKING BAN PAGE B6 POLICE TOLD THAT ALL RESIDENTS, INCLUDING THOSE IN SRO HOTELS, HAVE SAME PRIVACY RIGHTS PAGE B7 CIVIL LIBERTIES GROUPS CONCERNED ABOUT WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY THAT CAN DETERMINE USERS’ WHEREABOUTS PAGE B7
ECONOMY PULITZER PRIZE–WINNING REPORTER DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: HOW THE STATE IS HELPING PG&E INCREASE ITS PROFITS PAGE B8
NEIGHBORHOOD SENSORS MAP CARBON DIOXIDE
Berkeley researchers measure local greenhouse emissions, fight climate change PAGE A8
RESIDENTIAL HOTELS CAN’T JUST LET POLICE IN
Deadly 2010 confrontation leads to new rules affirming right to privacy PAGE B7
HOMELESS MAKE OWN ARCHITECTURE IN MARGINS
PUBLIC MEDIA PARTNERS IN THIS ISSUE READ MORE ON PAGE A2
Photo essay: Life on the street requires wits, design sense PAGE A6 S F P P
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| CIVICS | STREET | GREEN | EARTHQUAKE | JUSTICE | ECONOMY || San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012-2013
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CIVICS | STREET | GREEN | EARTHQUAKE | JUSTICE | ECONOMY || sfpublicpress.org || A3 SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, WINTER 2012-2013 | A3
Local Donors Make Up for Cuts In Federal Funds at S.F. Food Bank For second year, local philanthropy substitutes for Emergency Food and Shelter Program funds
City College of San Francisco is not just for youngsters. Gwendolyn Gee takes arts and crafts with other seniors at the Mission Creek Adult Health Center.
City College Budget Woes Threaten To End Free Lifelong Learning Classes Even with fresh infusion of money from voters, courses remain in crosshairs
t’s a busy Wednesday morning at the Mission Creek senior center, as arts and crafts students huddled around tables covered with artificial feathers, paints, stencils and glue are assembling Halloween masks. Vera Whelan, a diminutive 87-year-old, is hard at work on a white mask with pink and blue feathers on the pointed corners, and painted floral silhouettes. She used to teach arts and crafts to elementary students. “I enjoyed watching them and teaching them — now I’m doing it myself,” Whelan says. “I think it would Story: be nice to pay for these Lissette kinds of classes as long Alvarez as some of the other // Public Press seniors can afford it. We all have to do our part Photo: Audrey to keep them going.” WhitmeyerFor Whelan and hunWeathers dreds of other seniors, // Public Press this City College of San Francisco class, as well as courses in music, health and literature, could be beyond the reach of many “lifelong learning” students under changes proposed by the school’s leadership. The courses, which have been free for 30 years, could end up becoming fee-based as the college struggles to keep its accreditation by resolving looming budget deficits. While an official plan is being drafted for noncredit classes, the standard enrollment fee is $46 per semester unit. City College’s general fund budget for 2012–2013 is $185 million, the school’s budget office reported. Last year it was $190 million. Four years ago, the state Legislature required colleges to focus on three aspects of community college education: basic skills, transfers and careers, and technical education. While the state set these priorities, it was also cutting community college funding. Noncredit courses have suffered a steeper decrease than for-credit classes. The implication is that lifelong learning is no longer a priority. Because of these pressures, many California community colleges have either canceled lifelong learning courses or started charging for them. Unlike most peers across the state, City College of San Francisco has maintained about 500 of its noncredit courses for the 2012–2013 year. JOB TRAINING LATER IN LIFE Lifelong learning was a key part of the state’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education. Its intention was to give Californians the opportunity to upgrade their skills to qualify for jobs, learn new skills for personal enrichment and return for a degree in a new field of study. But now there is not enough money to pay for the classes, which include English as a second language, citizenship and olderadults courses. There are 2,900 students now enrolled in noncredit courses at City College, including
lifelong learning, and more than 15 fulltime professors. A large number of lifelong learning students at City College are senior citizens. Susan Hoffman, director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC Berkeley, said older adults need to be engaged in the world of ideas, and interact with others. She said a study by AARP found that seniors who participate in learning programs make fewer doctor visits and use fewer prescription medications. “From my point of view, lifelong learning is an underutilized public health strategy,” Hoffman said. Natalie Berg, who recently won re-election to the City College Board of Trustees, said one of the problems with noncredit classes such as lifelong learning is that the school receives much less money for them than it does for credit courses. “But we’re not going to cut them, with the population of San Francisco,” Berg said. “The ESL needs alone and the citizenship needs are much too high.” Berg said a city as diverse as San Francisco has diverse needs, complicating
forget about their aches and pains. “It gives them a lot of self-esteem, since they can’t accomplish much in their lives anymore,” she said. “So many things are closed to them.” Whelan, who has been taking Romaine’s class for more than three years, said the seniors are torn about the possibility of having to pay. Another student in the class, Gwendolyn Gee, 89, majored in music and graduated from City College 40 years ago. “I was never very good at art, but lately I found a lot pleasure in it,” Gee said. “I don’t think they should charge for these classes, but I understand that young people have to come first.” RETHINKING COMMUNITY SERVICE CLASSES
decisions about what classes to cut. She said charging fees for large noncredit classes could bring in badly needed revenue. Berg maintained that the board would not get rid of older-adult classes, but will consider charging for them.
The Legislature has recommended that schools that want to keep lifelong learning courses reclassify them as “community service” classes. Like lifelong learning, these courses are noncredit, but they do cost money. While the college is prohibited from profiting from them, it can charge for the costs of the instructor, room rental, heating and maintenance. City College still receives state funding for lifelong learning and other free noncredit courses. But that will end if it decides to reclassify them as fee-based classes. The school’s current budget for noncredit courses is $590,000. Many colleges have converted to community service classes, said Rita Mize of director of State Policy and Research at the Community College League of California, a nonprofit organization based in Sacramento. Hoffman said the question of fees, and the ability of low-income students to pay, cannot be separated from the question of how the state or city provides necessary social supports for the community. “The relentless attack on public education puts educational institutions in impossible situations: charge fees or drop programs,” she said. “It’s a terrible choice, and no college should have to make it.”
OLDER ADULTS BENEFIT
PROPOSITION 30 COULD HELP
The Older Adults Department offers free lifelong learning classes at City College, specially designed for those 55 and up, at more than 30 locations throughout the city. Courses span several disciplines, including computers, health and wellness, language arts and the arts. Diane Romaine, a City College professor who for the last 22 years has taught art for the Older Adults Department, said the elderly would not be able to afford to pay for courses. “I think it would be really sad if they do start charging for lifelong learning,” she said. “I don’t know how the Older Adult program will deal with it or if we’d get more funding.” Romaine said the program has therapeutic value in terms of helping the elderly
The state has been struggling with budget deficits for years, and has not been able to get approval for any tax increases through the Legislature. Mize said that was the reason for placing Proposition 30 on the Nov. 6 state ballot. Its victory at the ballot box should restore $10.3 million to the City College budget. But Prop 30 will not cover all the funds California community colleges have lost, which was $809 million. Lifelong learning and other noncredit classes will still be on the chopping block regardless of the election’s outcome, Mize said. San Francisco’s Proposition A, which easily won in November, will give the college $14 million annually for eight years from a new parcel tax.
“The relentless attack on public education puts educational institutions in impossible situations: charge fees or drop programs.”
ederal food aid cutbacks have forced the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks to seek more cash donations from the community after it failed to receive funds from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program for a second straight year. Since 2010, the Food Bank has not received any funding from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, which would have gone to purchasing more fresh produce. Its current Story: food purchasing budget Lissette is $3.8 million, which Alvarez // Public Press represents a $161,000 reduction in aid from Photo: last year. Though the Audrey loss received a lot of Whitmeyerpublicity, the Food Bank Weathers // Public Press — which serves San Francisco and Marin counties — does not rely heavily on federal funding, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency. On average, less than 15 percent of the Food Bank’s funding comes from government sources. Most comes from individuals (nearly 60 percent), corporations (12 percent) and foundations (12 percent). The Food Bank has worked for the past decade with food producers and providers to obtain a wide variety of fresh produce. It is working with farms in the Central Valley to get excess produce from growers and packers, said Blain Johnson, a Food Bank spokesman. Through Farm to Family, a program run by the California Association of Food Banks, the San Francisco organization gets produce that is too small or too large for grocery store sale, and gets excess crop production for pennies a pound. Watermelons are about half the size of the store-bought variety, but no less tasty. This reduces food waste and provides hungry families with farm-fresh food. The farm-direct supply is important because more than half of what the Food Bank distributes is fresh produce. It will distribute about 26 million pounds of fruits and vegetables to nonprofit partners this year, out of a total of 45 million pounds of food. The organization is working to make up the $161,000 loss of potential federal funds with donations from individuals and corporations. The ability of the Food Bank to obtain food from a variety of low-cost sources means every dollar donated translates into $6 worth of food, Johnson said. “The Food Bank had just signed with three other growers out in the Central Valley,” said Paul Ash, the group’s executive director. “We think we can get oranges year-round. Before we used to get those seven months out of the year.” Ash is also working on fresh milk. Although the Food Bank receives a substantial amount of dairy, the milk market is heavily regulated, making it difficult for farmers to offload any surplus even if they wanted to. “We’ve been working with food companies and regulators to try to make some exemptions when producers want to donate fresh milk and we were able to get a truck load donated this year,” Ash said. Struggles with federal funding are not anticipated to have any impact on the upcoming holiday season, although there was a shortage of turkeys for Thanksgiving. The bulk of holiday provisions come from private donations from food manufacturers and suppliers. “These are private companies who are kind enough to donate their food products to the Food Bank and they are unrelated to the federal government,” Johnson said. Karl Robillard, senior manager at St.
Anthony Foundation, which provides food and shelter to those in need, said 50 percent of the organization’s daily meals and 95 percent of its produce comes from the Food Bank. But it relies on private donors for its holiday meals. “If St. Anthony’s experienced a dramatic reduction from the Food Bank, we would have to scramble to find other ways to serve healthy and nutritious meals to 3,000 homeless and low-income San Franciscans,” Robillard said. “Of the seven items that comprise our daily lunch, more than three of the items come from the Food Bank.” But St. Anthony’s has not seen a reduction in food or an increase in cost from the Food Bank. St. Vincent de Paul’s Multi-Service Center, one of the largest homeless shelters in San Francisco, has utilized the Food Bank for many years and used FEMA for a short time, but was not dependent on it. “The Food Bank is a great source, but St. Vincent already has funding for meals,” said Chris Cody, the organization’s executive director. “This is supplemented by donations from private funding. Our survivors of domestic violence shelters, the largest in
“If St. Anthony’s experienced a dramatic reduction from the Food Bank, we would have to scramble.” the city, also have funding for food that is supplemented by private funding.” Budgeting problems with the city and the federal government since 2008 have taught St. Vincent’s organizers not to rely on funds from agencies such as FEMA, but to diversify and widen their donation base. “We receive very substantial food donations during the holidays,” Cody said. “These include food drives at schools, Catholic parishes, private companies and individuals. The food includes turkeys for the holidays and a great deal of canned and nonperishable foods that we distribute through our programs.” Michael G. Pappas, executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, said that after the recession hit and demand for food skyrocketed, the Food Bank asked the council to identify four congregations in heavily populated parts of the city to serve as emergency recession pantries. The relief pantries provide three meals to 100 homeless people each night during the coldest months of the year. They were able to identify congregations, gather volunteers to staff pantries and help the Food Bank in its campaign to inform faith leaders and congregants. For almost a quarter of a century the Interfaith Council has identified congregations as shelter sites and organized them to serve meals at the Interfaith Winter Shelter. Congregations that cannot afford to purchase food at grocery stores can get it at the food bank, and the council covers the cost. But some food comes directly from the members themselves. Each year at the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Breakfast, organizers collect tons of canned goods in large collection barrels.
San Francisco Food Bank volunteer Maurice Williams shifts onions to make room for more vegetables.
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| STREET | GREEN | EARTHQUAKE | JUSTICE | ECONOMY || San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012–2013
Chinese-American Political Star Rising, Along With Fears of China Confidence among leaders of Asian descent leads to flood of qualified candidates
arack Obama’s victory, the numbers show, is in large measure due to the support he received from, among others, Hispanics, blacks and female voters. Less credited, however, are AsianAmericans, who voted 72 percent in favor of the president. While their numbers remain small, at just 5.8 percent of the population, they are one of the fastestgrowing segStory: ments of AmeriPeter can society, Schurmann according to a // New America Media recent Pew study, having surpassed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants. They are also highly educated, with nearly 50 percent of those 25 and older holding at least a bachelor’s degree. Such statistics help explain the steady rise in political leaders of Asian descent in states like California, home to sizable Asian-American populations. And perhaps nowhere is that more clear than in the Chinese community, where rapidly growing civic engagement also coincides with the growing strength of the world’s No. 2 superpower. Last month, the Chinese-language World Journal ran a full-page spread profiling 35 Chinese-American candidates running for either local or national office in the state. In San Francisco, where the Asian-
The Chinese-language press had lots to write about on Election Day. This voter guide profiled 35 candidates. American population hovers around 36 percent, and where the first-ever Chinese-American mayor was recently elected, 10 Chinese-American candidates vied for seats in just about every branch of city government, from the Board of Supervisors to the Board of Education and the community college Board of Trustees. That unprecedented turnout, said
Harvey Dong, who teaches AsianAmerican and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, signals an awareness of the changing demographics in both the state and nation, which, in turn, is fueling a “rising confidence” among Asians and, particularly, the Chinese. But it also comes following a hotly contested presidential race in
which the candidates strove to outdo one another in lambasting China, which was portrayed by both as a major threat to America’s continued prosperity. China bashing, said Dong, poses a particular challenge for ChineseAmerican political hopefuls. “As Asian-American candidates, whether they like it or not, they are looked
at a certain way,” he notes, pointing out long-held stereotypes of AsianAmericans as not entirely American. “Their loyalty would definitely be questioned and challenged as they go higher up.” A 2010 ad put out by the lobbying group Citizens Against Government Waste, which ran again this past election, depicts a lecture hall 20 years into the future. A speaker addresses a room of students, explaining in Mandarin how it came to be that America now works for China. The camera pans across a room full of chuckling Asian faces. Dong said such ads, coupled with vitriolic campaign rhetoric, help only to reaffirm the belief among non-Asians that Chinese and other Asians in the United States are “perpetual foreigners.” And it’s that attitude, said retired business consultant George Koo, that continues to motivate Chinese-Americans to enter the political arena. Koo, a member of the Committee of 100, which works to improve the political stature of Asian-Americans and U.S. relations with China, agrees with Dong that political attacks on China could pose problems for Chinese-American politicians seeking higher office, especially in the country’s heartland. “It may not be as much of a problem in California,” he said, where the Chinese community has deep roots and where voters are more ex-
posed to dealings with China. Nor in New York, which just elected its firstever Asian-American congressperson in Grace Meng. “But in the south,
“We are going forward toward a more pluralistic society. The China bashing, the ethnic bashing … it won’t pay off.” and the Midwest … if opponents play the China card, it could work.” But with election results pointing to the growing clout of minority voters, and with an emerging cohort of elected Chinese officials, Koo questions the effectiveness of such a strategy in the long run. “We are going forward toward a more pluralistic society,” he said. “The China bashing, the ethnic bashing … it won’t pay off.” New America Media aggregates and elaborates on the ethnic press nationwide. Read more politics coverage at newamericamedia.org.
Parking or Park? Mission District Development Goes Green S.F. balancing need for community space with traffic demands
ack of parking is a leading gripe for San Franciscans, who live in a heavily commuted city with more than half as many registered vehicles as residents. The Mission District is no exception, and the opening of such large-capacity venues in the neighborhood as Preservation Hall West and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema means that the Story: tedious routine Talal Ansari of circling the // Mission block looking for Local an open parking spot is here to Photo: Alan Sanchez stay. // Mission The converLocal sion of a parking lot at 17th and Folsom streets into a park highlights the need to balance adequate parking in the Mission with the desire for meaningful community space. The transformation of the 220-space parking lot will begin in the summer of 2013. The lot will be split: Half will be used for a 32,000-square-foot park, and the other half is slated for housing at a future date. Parking is an important issue for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), but it must also consider the city’s transit-first policy, adopted in 1973, which encourages walking, biking and public transportation over the use of personal vehicles. “Like all neighborhoods in San Francisco, there is a finite amount
of parking [in the Mission], which makes managing demand for that finite supply all the more important,” said transit agency spokesman Paul Rose. “Parking occupancies in the area are some of the highest in the city.” Rose acknowledged the parking concerns that many neighbors and businesses expressed
“A majority of the people in the neighborhood have low incomes and tend to drive less.” when plans for the park at 17th and Folsom were announced. To help manage parking in the area, the city is considering adding new meters and expanding residential parking permit areas, Rose said. “The proposal for exactly where these tools are used on which blocks is being revisited this year,” Rose said. “The SFMTA is collecting additional data and will work with neighbors on the detailed block-level analysis for where different parking management tools are appropriate.” The transit agency is currently collecting data on a parking management proposal for the area.
Converting a parking lot into a park is a step in the right direction and in line with the city’s transitfirst policy, according to Connie Chan, director of public affairs for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. “Our city family believes in public transit first and to be environmentally aware for a greener environment. We work with other agencies to encourage this,” Chan said. Creating a new park in the Mission will help alleviate the neighborhood’s need for additional recreational and green space, Chan said. “This project is unique to the Mission neighborhood. We understand the lack of green space in the Mission neighborhood. We have more kids growing up in the Mission now, so the idea of turning the parking lot to a park, with a community garden, is driven by community needs. We are more than happy to accommodate that.” Plans to use 8 percent of the new park for a community garden were announced in July by John Dennis, an architect for the project. The parks department manages 36 community gardens in the city, with waits of up to two years for an individual plot. “We look at this park as a healthy, sustainable need for the community. We consider this part of the neighborhood,” said Oscar Grande, a community organizer for People Organizing to Defend Environmental and Economic Rights. Grande, who has been working
Half of the parking lot at 17th and Folsom streets will become a 32,000-square-foot park. Construction begins in the summer of 2013. The decision was a major victory for community activists demanding more green space, but local merchants bemoan the lack of parking.
with the city and the community to make the park at 17th and Folsom a reality, believes it will fill a greater need in the community than a parking lot. “A majority of the people in the neighborhood have low incomes and tend to drive less. You have a lot of family that don’t drive cars. We feel that those families and residents should benefit from a park,” he said. But parking remains an important
PUBLIC PRESS CROSSWORD
Crossword: Andrea Carla Michaels // Public Press
ACROSS 1 Whiz 5 Musicians’ copyright grp. 10 God of war 14 Hebrides island 15 Alexander of the old “60 Minutes” 16 “Funny ___” 17 Season to be jolly 18 Alarmist who cried “(39-Across)!” 20 Committee leader, briefly 22 Sheep’s clothing? 23 Hodges of the Dodgers 24 Fine, feathered friend of 18 Across 28 Starstruck sort, maybe 31 Fill to excess 32 “If looks could kill” type of stare 33 Do-fa connection 35 Birth of a notion? 39 See 18-Across 44 Actor Rogen of “Knocked Up” 45 “___ Shanter,” Burns poem 46 Big Apple sch. 47 “___ Tu” (1974 hit)
51 Dinghy or wherry 53 Fine, feathered friend of 18-Across 57 Hex or verb suffix 58 Trotsky, Spinks or Redbone 59 See 56-Down 63 Fine, feathered friend of 18-Across 67 Party pooper 68 Rendezvous 69 Dazzling display 70 Spiritual exercise 71 Hit the brakes 72 “I thought ___ never leave!” 73 Adam and Eve’s starter home? DOWN 1 Multivitamin mineral 2 Relative of “aaah” 3 Fit for duty 4 Speak evil of 5 Type of tray you see less and less of
6 Pronoun for 16-Across 7 “___ talk?” (Joan Rivers catchphrase) 8 Irks 9 Bribe money for a DJ 10 Questionnaire info 11 “Lord of the ___” trilogy 12 “Sesame Street” character 13 In a foxy way 19 Schemer’s creation 21 “The Fountainhead” character Howard 25 Old-fashioned wedding word 26 Big rig, for short 27 Trompe l’___ (optical illusion) 28 Wisecrackers 29 Tummy trouble 30 No, to Nikita 34 Marx and Mao suffix 36 “That’s Amore” singer Martin, to friends 37 Irish New Age singer 38 Bust ___ (laugh uproariously)
40 Chiang Kai- ___ 41 “M*A*S*H” ’s Klinger portrayer 42 Frenzied 43 Request from one getting a backrub 48 Count (on) 49 Shoelace hole 50 Exhibit poor posture 52 “Ta-ta!” 53 Rundgren and Bridges 54 “Round up the ___ suspects!” 55 Book’s right-hand page 56 With 56-Down, famous storyteller 60 Humor 61 Egg on 62 John and Yoko’s “beautiful boy” 64 Gardens of London 65 Mary, of cosmetics who awards pink Cadillacs to her top salespeople 66 Paycheck stub letters Answers PAGE A8
issue for Phillip Lesser, vice president for governmental affairs for the Mission Merchants Association. Lesser has conducted his own survey of off-street parking in the Mission, using San Francisco transit agency numbers and personal observations. With the increased demand for parking generated by new venues in the neighborhood and the loss of parking spaces to developments like
the 17th and Folsom park, the Mission is in the negative, Lesser said. “By 2013, people looking for curbside parking in the Mission will be wistfully longing for the mere inconveniences of 2012,” he said. Read more from Mission Local about the ways a diverse community is changing the face of the neighborhood at missionlocal.org.
San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012–2013 || CIVICS |
STREET | GREEN | EARTHQUAKE | JUSTICE | ECONOMY || sfpublicpress.org || A5 SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, WINTER 2012-2013 | A5
Alexandria Theater, a Richmond District Hub, Could Get New Life Shopping, housing proposed at cinema shuttered since 2004
he dilapidated Alexandria Theater might actually begin renovations by early next year, saving at least the facade of the Richmond District landmark. But the new building would not look much like its predecessor on the inside, with entertainment giving way to needed housing and retail. The owners want to revamp the theater by building apartments where there is now a parking lot. Their proposal could reach the approval stage by next January — if the owners get their act together before December, said Mary Woods, a staffer at the San Francisco Planning Department. Story and The housing portion has dragged photo: Jerold Chinn on because it kept changing and had // Public Press to weather a five-year environmental review. But ever since the theater shut in 2004, Richmond District residents have complained about blight — graffiti and homeless people sleeping under the entrance. City officials, neighbors and the owners have been debating these ideas for years with little to show for it, said Richmond District resident Linda Lyon. “It would be nice to see it in my lifetime — to see it done,” she said. Supervisor Eric Mar said he wanted to remedy the blight while preserving the historic theater. It became an issue in the last election, as his well-funded opponent, David Lee, excoriated Mar for letting the theater go empty for years. “My hope is that the current ownership is really able to move forward through the planning process so that we can have a spot that is really benefitting the neighborhood,” said Mar, who was re-elected on Nov. 6.
The owner, Alexandria Enterprises, wants to add retail storefronts on the first floor, a restaurant on the second floor and possibly a single-screen, 200-seat theater. The company envisions building 37 housing units in the parking lot and possibly more retail space, with two floors of underground parking. Jonathan Pearlman of Elevation Architects said many of the theater’s exterior features would be kept, including the signs and marquee. The first floor and main staircase would remain mostly intact. Ron Miguel, a former planning commissioner and member of the Planning Association for the Richmond, reassured neighbors at a recent community meeting that the run-down theater would be renovated and reopened. “It’s really coming close,” he said. “That dark building across the street and parking lot will come into fruition.” Ronald Yu, a representative for the company, said he remains optimistic. He said the “biggest hurdle” was the environmental impact report last year. The owners put up a chain-link fence to prevent homeless people from sleeping at the main entrance. Yu said that a janitor comes in twice a week to paint over graffiti. The owners will not set a construction start date until the Planning Commission approves the project, Yu said. Renovations to the theater building would most likely happen before the housing construction. Woods said residents could contact her with concerns about the project before a public hearing is set at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Richmond District Blog has posted the latest theater plans and renderings online. The Alexandria Theater on Geary Boulevard and 18th Avenue has descended into blight since its closure in 2004.
Ridesharing Is the Future For San Francisco, Says Ex-Cabbie
ean Clark loved being a cabdriver in San Francisco. The tall, laconic ex-Marine would drive night shifts after teaching full time as a special ed teacher, and even kept it up while running for city supervisor. But today, Story: he swears by Hannah Miller SideCar. Still // Shareable active in the United Taxi Workers union and an advocate for cabdrivers, he has “switched over,” driving several hours a day for the rideshare service that has already shaken up transportation in this city and across the country. Clark discovered the sharing economy after an on-the-job accident in 2010. The collision in downtown San Francisco threw his cab 30 feet, broke several of his bones, and temporarily blinded him. The cab company had not installed airbags in his car, and he was uninsured. “The EMT driver thought I was done for,” remembers Clark. Although Clark managed to finish his race for supervisor, he could no longer sit or stand long enough to go back to driving, teaching or his prior tech jobs. He had $100,000 in medical bills and an uncertain future. He now supports himself through a combination of car- and house-sharing, and sleeps and works when he wants. Clark started driving for SideCar, a ridesharing service based on a mobile app. It allows drivers to make extra cash by giving registered users of the service a ride on request. Clark jumped back into it with 12 hour shifts, overdoing it and hurting his back. “I was anxious and happy I could go back and do something,” Clark said. But it was worlds better than driving a cab. “Driving a cab, I was robbed three times. I was shot at,” said Clark, who talked about transit while on the stump as a candidate. “The cab companies just treat you terrible. There were no airbags in my cab at the time of the accident. The seat belt was held together by a clothespin.” In San Francisco and other cities, ridesharing companies like Sidecar and Lyft and the other, new mobileenabled services like Uber have grown so much because they are offer better user experiences and meet unmet demand. San Francisco, where these programs have first flourished, is the “worst metro city in America to grab a cab,” according to a national dispatcher quoted in the San Francisco Examiner. A study by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency found that calls for taxis only get picked
up 40 percent of the time. On the other hand, the Sidecar model of ridesharing offers a rating system for individual drivers and can often tell you to the minute when your ride is arriving. Payment is accomplished on your phone with one click, and you decide how much to pay. Technological change always affects government and policy, and transportation is no different. Most cities regulate commercial driving through taxi commissions, and the supply of cabs is limited to a point that purportedly serves both the public and the interests of the cab companies themselves. As of Aug. 27, the waiting list to get a cab medallion in San Francisco is 1,439 names long. This August, the California Public Utilities Commission issued cease-and-desist orders against SideCar and its ride-sharing competitor Lyft, saying that their drivers need charter carry permits, which would ensure they are licensed, screened and insured. The cab commission in Washington, D.C., has tried a couple of times to shut down Uber, a mobile-phone limo service. In Massachusetts, the State Supreme Court issued a cease-and-desist order against then Ubercab — and Gov. Deval Patrick overrode it. (The company removed the word “cab” from its name after the order.) As Clark sees it, expanded ridesharing is simply addressing a lack in the city’s transportation system. The transportation agency is undergoing an independent review to see how the city’s transportation needs are being met, according to spokesman Paul Rose. “We are exploring our options in terms of policies addressing alternative ridesharing companies,” said Rose. “In the short term, we are focused on making taxi service better throughout the city.” Rose said the agency had taken recent steps to improve service and increase the pool of taxis: increasing temporary full-time taxis by up to 200, utilizing temporary taxi licenses during special events, allowing the option to pay by credit card, and making data available for application development. With the amount of money at stake and the feuding interests of the cab companies, the rideshare companies, the city MTA, riders, and drivers, a showdown is inevitable. Clark says it’s needed, and that he is looking forward to telling his story. “If you try to argue that taxis are less safe than Sidecar, then just look at me,” said Clark, moving to ease the back pain that lingers from his accident. “I’m the poster child.”
Homeless People of San Francisco Speak Out
he discussion of homelessness in San Francisco assumes many viewpoints: tales of woe that evoke pity, illustrations of social inequities, homilies on the moral obligations to the less fortunate and tirades on homeless people’s perceived faults. Often that discussion is led by policymakers, service providStory: ers, business people and media. But the voices often lost in the T.J. Johnston dialogue are those belonging to homeless people themselves. // Public Press The San Francisco Public Press interviewed people living in the city without housing as they gathered at the Mission Resource Photos: Center and the S.F. Night Ministry open cathedral Sunday service Tearsa Joy Hammock at United Nations Plaza. They shared their experiences about // Public Press lacking a permanent place to live.
LEONARDO VIRGEN ROJAS, 51 (20 YEARS HOMELESS)
What need(s) have you had most difficulty meeting while you’ve been homeless? Washing clothes. It gets very depressing because it’s difficult to find a job. Have you ever been arrested or ticketed? If so, what role did your homelessness play? I got a ticket for
having an open container. I also got one for riding Muni without paying the fare. But I don’t think being homeless affected it. I got the ticket because I broke the law. What would you do to end homelessness? I’d help the Shelter Monitoring Committee because I want to help people.
What did you do for work before becoming homeless? I was a workaholic activist with the anti-apartheid and the anti-nuclear movements. I have been working extensively in nonprofits. I didn’t anticipate getting sick with an autoimmune disease that’s in the same family as HIV. I have a catastrophic illness.
Have you ever been arrested or ticketed? If so, what role did your homelessness play? I’ve been cited on the bus. Also, I was constantly told by police to move when it was raining with gale-force winds and I was huddled in a corner. The police said (then-Mayor Gavin) “Newsom doesn’t want the city to look like a Third World country.” What would you do to end homelessness? I was asked that question for a job at a homeless services agency, and
What do you miss most about being housed? I miss my home. I miss having a roof over my head. Having a safe building and I don’t have to carry my stuff around. I’m more stable being in a home. The cold makes my hip hurt more.
Have you ever been arrested or ticketed? If so, what role did your homelessness play? They tried to charge
LAUREN ALDEN, 60-ISH (SEVERAL YEARS HOMELESS)
What need(s) have you had most difficulty meeting while you’ve been homeless? I have no needs being met. Starvation is a key issue. I’ve lost a lot of weight. I think people don’t understand that when people are ill, you’re so far below on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it’s so hard you can’t move up from the first level of needs.
What did you do for work before becoming homeless? I was a personal care attendant and receiving disability (SSI), but I was able to work part time until I could no longer work.
What need(s) have you had most difficulty meeting while you’ve been homeless? Everything is different when you’re homeless. It could be something as simple as a toilet. I need my home back and my humanity back.
What did you do for work before becoming homeless? Seven years ago, I used to work as a janitor. The place was a bar (on California and Hyde streets) and the owner didn’t have a license to serve. I’ve also been doing some gardening and construction. What do you miss most about being housed? Cooking, making my own bed. Having a bathroom. The rainy days are coming and we need shelter then.
TAMARA COLE, 46 (THREE MONTHS HOMELESS)
What does home mean to you? A stable environment where you may not have everything, but you feel safe and secure. And all the things you have are entitled by law, so you don’t have to worry about minimal things every second you exist.
What would you do to end homelessness? I would definitely push for better laws protecting tenants from slumlords. They should stop discriminating based on credit checks. It’s not legal and it shouldn’t be. They use credit checks to deny people a place on live.
MARQUIS AUSBY, 23 (FIVE MONTHS HOMELESS) What did you do for work before becoming homeless? I’ve never worked. I volunteered with the LGBT Center, SF Drug Users Union and SF AIDS Foundation, overseeing groups and giving lectures regarding needle use and resources in the community. (Also) speaking to people about the church, where to get a bag lunch. What need(s) have you had most difficulty meeting while you’ve been homeless? Finding a place that gives you meals, not just food. If you don’t have a place where you have a refrigerator, what’s the point? A place to lay your head when you don’t have a bed. Have you ever been arrested or ticketed? If so, what role did your homelessness play? I’ve gotten five tickets within the last six months, all of them on Muni. The tickets are $103.
I didn’t have an answer for that. It all points in the direction of the allotment of federal funding for affordable housing. During the first few months of living in SROs, the government doesn’t consider it as housing. You don’t live in SROs — you die in them.
me twice for crimes I didn’t commit, for assault after I was assaulted. I was the only one taken in.
What would you do to end homelessness? I would get a big spot and build a location for 5,000 people and put toilets in it. It’s basically the only way to get people housed. The SROs really don’t work. They’re too expensive and infested with bedbugs and mice. It’s not a good situation. What does home mean to you? Some place where I don’t have to worry about my safety or my belongings. A sense of security.
CHARLES WISHER, 54 (4 MONTHS HOMELESS) What do you miss most about being housed? Having my own place and walking where I want and hanging out with my friends. What need(s) have you had most difficulty meeting while you’ve been homeless? Getting my birth certificate, I’m still working on that. And finding housing. Have you ever been arrested or ticketed? If so, what role did your homelessness play? I have one ticket. They call it “solicitation,” but I was walking down the street, going out for a normal night when the next thing I know, I get ticketed. I’m not paying it.
What would you do to end homelessness? Ha, I would find a way to fund it! I’d buy a hotel and fill it with homeless people. Or get one donated to me. What does home mean to you? A place where I could go in, put my feet up and relax and not worry about people taking your things away from you.
|| sfpublicpress.org || CIVICS |
| GREEN | EARTHQUAKE | JUSTICE | ECONOMY || San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012–2013
Architecture of Homelessness
nitiatives to restrict the use of public spaces by homeless people in San Francisco remain controversial. San Francisco’s 2010 “sit-lie” ordinance made it illegal to sit or lie down on city sidewalks for most hours of the day. The law’s supporters argue that it moves homeless people off the streets and into shelters, jobs or medical treatment. But some homeless people say it violates their right to dwell freely — essentially the right to be alive. Photo Essay: Anna Vignet How does one build a place of one’s own in a city where // Public Press other opportunities are not available? We all have the need to create a sense of home, even in extreme circumstances. These photos reveal the architecture of homelessness, and contribute to the understanding of a displaced people who make their own functional living spaces with creativity and resourcefulness. The images elaborate on the concept of a home. Streetlights look like house lights, and stairs are used for the intermediary space between sidewalk and door. Likewise, their spaces redefine architectural elements: A freeway off-ramp functions as an overhang to guard against the rain. Concrete traffic barriers act as walls that block the sound from passing cars. The definition of a wall changes to include cardboard, blankets, cinderblocks, even a Department of Public Works street sign. Some encampments have no walls at all, standing in sharp contrast to the houses that surround them, mirrored in each other’s windows. Meanwhile, efforts to constrict the spaces homeless people occupy continue. In November, voters in Berkeley narrowly rejected a measure similar to San Francisco’s. But whether strict or permissive, our policies about the spaces available to the homeless will continue to shape the blurred lines between public and private, urban and domestic.
Clockwise from top: A homeless encampment in Bay Front Park in San Francisco; a man sleeps on the sidewalk on Minna Street between Seventh and Eighth streets in San Francisco; a man makes his home along the Fremont Street off-ramp of the Bay Bridge; Cece built her home under a freeway on Brannan Street in San Francisco — heavy cardboard and tarps are her preferred building materials; a man sleeps in an alleyway behind a parking lot in Berkeley.
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San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012–2013 || CIVICS | STREET |
GREEN You Can Now Fill Up On Algae Fuel in the Bay Area. But How Ecological Is It? Diesel from algae competes with food sources
Once a dumping ground in the Bayview, a small wetland park is a slice of what will become a 13-mile corridor of waterways and trails from China Basin to Candlestick Point.
Trash Dump to Oasis in Southeast San Francisco The 8 acres of wetlands at Heron’s Head Park are becoming popular turf for San Francisco birders and other nature lovers
n a polluted industrial area in southeast San Francisco, city agencies and naturalists are carving out a series of oases along the San Francisco Bay meant to bring back wildlife and visitors. With recent sightings of rare birds — along with the reintroduction of a near-extinct plant — birders and biologists say the restoration effort is flourishing. Story and The restored marshy areas Photos: near Hunters Point now Dhyana Levey provide habitat for the // Bay Nature California clapper rail and a recovered plant called Suaeda californica. “I love the paradox: Natural habitat with shorebirds amidst these factories and gravel pits,” said Kimberly Jannarone, a Golden Gate Audubon Society member and habitat restoration volunteer. “I see the plants getting healthier and birds coming in and thinking about nesting here.” Jannarone was one of a smattering of birdwatchers out on a windy, sunny September day at Heron’s Head Park, a quiet stretch of nature providing eight acres of wetland habitat along the southeast waterfront of San Francisco. While this park provides the largest area of wetlands by the city’s bay, it is just a slice of a project under way to restore and connect a 13-mile corridor of waterways and trails from China Basin to Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, made possible by state and federal grants and the 2008 parks bond. The Blue Greenway Project is a $66 million long-term undertaking by the Port of San Francisco, San Francisco Parks Alliance and other city agencies, planners, biologists and volunteers. This project has been under way for about eight years and still has several decades of labor ahead of it. But workers are now putting the finishing touches on and around Heron’s Head, including a new meadow, fresh pathway, dog run and even a bidirectional track to protect bicyclists from traffic as they cycle through the Blue Greenway area to the park. Jannarone and fellow birder Richard Drechsler took turns gazing at an osprey nest through a telescope from the top of a park hill. They were trying to spot two rare birds other watchers had seen there just the day before: the lesser yellowlegs (a cousin of the more frequently seen greater yellowlegs) and a lark bunting. While they had yet to see the lark bunting, Jannarone said the lesser yellowlegs had recently made an appearance. But what has San Francisco bird enthusiasts really excited these days is a pair of California clapper rails, an endangered species that arrived and successfully nested in Heron’s Head Park about a year and a half ago. Drechsler said he was the one who first spotted them here on July 3, 2010. “They are shy, secretive birds,” he said. “Usually, you find them by surprise.” Birders also keep an eye out for American avocets, killdeer, herons and many other birds in the park — so many that the Audubon Soci-
Birders, joggers, horticulturists and children share the wetland space that will expand greatly with the help of a $66 million Port of San Francisco initiative. The diminutive park’s Eco Center provides internships for neighborhood youth at Heron’s Head through Literacy for Environmental Justice.
ety has released a publication called “A Field Guide to 100 Birds of Heron’s Head.” To the north of Heron’s Head, Pier 94 has five acres of wetlands that also provide an important habitat to birds and native plants within the Blue Greenway. This area used to be an unofficial dumping ground along the waterfront before volunteers began removing litter, debris and nonnative plants in 2002, said Noreen Weeden, volunteer coordinator for the Golden Gate Audubon Society. The trick is to balance public access with protecting wildlife, said Carol Bach, an environmental affairs officer for the Port of San Francisco. Despite the fact that Heron’s Head Park and Pier 94 provide only small areas of habitat, she said, they are important ones to migratory birds that use these wetlands as their only stop in San Francisco. “A lot of people in the neighborhood also have very little access to open space,” Bach said. “There are kids who live in the projects right above and have looked at the bay and the park but have never been to it, touched it or stuck their feet in the water. They don’t have appreciation for the natural environ-
“I love the paradox: Natural habitat with shorebirds amidst these factories and gravel pits. I see the plants getting healthier and birds coming in and thinking about nesting here.”
ment because they haven’t experienced it.” That’s one reason the group Literacy for Environmental Justice provides education and restoration work in the area with an Eco Center in Heron’s Head and environmental internships for youth from Bayview-Hunters Point. This group has pulled out more than 30,000 pounds of trash at Candlestick Point since 2005 and planted more than 10,000 native plants, with the help of youth volunteers, between Heron’s Head and Candlestick, according to Patrick Rump, acting executive director and nursery manager. Now, there are more than 130 bird species and 100 native plant species between those two areas. The reintroduction of Suaeda californica, a rare green shrub also known as California seablite, represents one of the biggest native plant successes along the city’s southeast
waterfront. Coastal ecologist Patrick Baye said this near-extinct plant was donated to the area around 1999 and produced many seeds before dying out. The seeds took root in Heron’s Head and, in 2004, were also transplanted to Pier 94, where they remain today. “It’s been over 10 years, and they are hanging on,” said Baye, a former biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service focusing on endangered species recovery. “The point is, San Francisco is supporting an endangered species. It’s the only place it’s really hanging on besides Morro Bay.” The whole area has experienced an influx of native plants and biodiversity within the last several years, said Rump, of the environmental justice group. He’s also helped to restore native plants at Candlestick Point, a part of the Blue Greenway that was recently spared closure by the state park system. “It’s not out of the woods, yet,” he said of the park and its financial stability. The closure would have meant reduced access at the southern end of the city, according to Meredith Thomas, director of policy and stewardship at the San Francisco Parks Alliance. This might have slowed the efforts of the Blue Greenway Project, meant to connect spaces along the waterfront — starting at Candlestick Point — to provide biking and hiking paths. “We want to have a connected trail, so if you live near Candlestick you can bike through to work and then bike back and enjoy some birds,” she said. “We want to have a world-class destination of waterfront parks, and we’re zooming in on little parts at a time.” The types of recreation that can be provided along the Blue Greenway are limited because of its location on public trust land, said David Beaupre, senior waterfront planner for the
Port of San Francisco. Activities allowed include “passive recreation,” such as picnic areas, and opportunities for fishing, kayaking, hiking and cycling. He said one goal of the project is to improve the area for boaters. Plans are already under way to create more kayak storage near Pier 52 within the next one to three years. Islais Landing, another space for boaters that was a junkyard 15 years ago, is now a park used and maintained by Kayaks Unlimited. “It was an industrial area that was being abused,” Beaupre said. “We felt like if we could get a user group in here we could start some positive activities.” The Port is also working with the San Francisco Arts Commission to beautify nearby former grain silos — now simply an eyesore — by adorning them with a big, bold piece of public art. Some areas, such as Pier 70, are in the early stages of extensive planning to cater to all their competing interests. The 65-acre site is trying to maintain its shipyard operations while preserving historic buildings that date back to the 1880s. But certain other places along the waterfront, such as Warm Water Cove Park, aren’t yet a priority of the project. The park, which attracts homeless camps, continues to struggle with limited support to care for its plants and keep the grounds clean. “There’s been a lifetime of public misuse of the bay front,” said Rump. “So you can expect a lifetime of restoration work.”
Dhyana Levey is a contributor to Bay Nature and a San Francisco-based freelance reporter covering the environment. Find more coverage of the Blue Greenways project at baynature.org.
o the list of things that started in the Bay Area — blue jeans, sourdough French bread, fortune cookies — you can now add automobile fuel made from algae. Last month, four service stations in Oakland, San Jose, Berkeley and Redwood City became the first in the world to pump the fuel, which Story: is blended with Laird Harrison // KQED conventional News Fix diesel in a 20 percent concentration. Other companies are working on algae fuels as well. This is a bioreactor being developed by OriginOil scientists. We were excited when we heard the news. It’s great to be first, after all. But we also wondered why anyone would want fuel made from algae. The fuel has a couple of advantages, said Robert Ames, a vice president at Solazyme, the South San Francisco company that makes it. When burned, the fuel gives off 30 percent less particulate matter, 20 percent less carbon monoxide and 10 percent less hydrocarbons than ultra-low sulfur conventional diesel, he said. That sounds pretty good, but there are other types of biodiesel. Enterprising chemists have concocted biodiesel from soybeans, canola and recycled cooking oil, among other sources, and some of these are already for sale in the Bay Area. We asked Ames how these compare with the algae fuel. “From a sustainability standpoint, there are a lot of similarities,” he said. “How the algae-derived biodiesel differs from biodiesels is that our technology platform can produce oils that are specifically tailored for specific applications.” The company is already working with the U.S. Navy on jet fuel. Genentech and Volkswagen are trying out fuel blends from Solazyme as well, he said. To get a broader perspective we spoke to Jeremy Martin, a biofuels expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. Back in 2006, then President George W. Bush announced a new initiative to produce fuels from plants in hopes of making the United States less dependent on imported oil. “The transition has been slower than people hoped,” Martin said. A lot of attention focused on ethanol, and 40 percent of corn is now used for that purpose, he said. But growing corn itself consumes a lot of energy. Technology to convert cellulose — a compound found in most plants — into ethanol remains promising but has not yet become feasible. Diesel made by algae offers possibilities, said Martin. But the type used by Solazyme poses a potential problem: It eats sugar. Currently the sugar comes from sugarcane, and that means that automobiles powered by the fuel are indirectly competing with hungry human beings. “I hope that Solazyme is able to make their process work with nonfood sources of sugar,” said Martin. “That’s ultimately what’s going to really bring us the environmental benefits that people are expecting from biofuels.” To really understand the environmental pros and cons of algae fuel would require a life-cycle analysis in which scientists look at the energy that goes into creating it, the effects on land, water and air, and emissions of all kinds, among other considerations, said Martin. No one has conducted such an analysis of the Solazyme fuel, said Ames. Still, the company is eager to find out how well its fuel is working in Bay Area cars, so if you own one that can run on regular diesel, you’ll be welcome at the Propel stations. Get daily news update from around the bay at blogs.kqed.org/newsfix.
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| EARTHQUAKE | JUSTICE | ECONOMY || San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012–2013
Not all recycling can be automated. Workers get $20 to $25 an hour to manually sort mountains of material speeding by on conveyor belts at Pier 96. It’s working: The city diverts 80 percent from the landfill.
f you think of Recology as a set of blue, green and black bins that hang out in the alley of your house that you roll out to the curb weekly — you have no idea. Over the last 10 years, what San Franciscans have been thinking of “garbage collection” has been transformed into something vastly different and much more industrial. What it actually does is closer to mining than just dumping trash. Last month the 91-year-old worker-owned company announced that 80 percent of what San Franciscans put in the bins is going somewhere other than the landfill (http:// sfpr.es/recycling1), a vast improvement on the 34 percent national Story: average. Hannah Miller All that requires a // Public Press highly complicated sorting company, like a vast Photos: Jason Winshell switching station for // Public Press stuff. The 650 tons a day of recyclables hauled by Recology is divided up almost entirely by hand, by a vast army of sorters into 20 different recycling programs that look at garbage as raw materials for something else. One redirects stuff to thrift stores, gypsum recycling, a wood-to-energy program, mattress recycling and of course residential and commercial compost, which makes its way from San Francisco curbs to the vineyards and produce farms of Northern California. The company has two programs for contractors tearing out and redoing houses (from small to big jobs). It has a couple of e-waste recycling programs for appliances and batteries. And there is an entire paint building, where the half-cans of paint people throw away are sorted by color, remixed and
San Francisco’s trash haulers obsessively sort and recycle what you dump — and set an example for the country
given away. (Get your free paint here: http:// sfpr.es/recycling2.) And most famously, the company has an onsite sculpture garden where artists in residence pull beauty out of garbage: (http://sfpr.es/recycling3). Even the plants are scavenged. The 44-acre campus at Pier 96 has three vast corrugated-roof warehouses, the largest one is 200,000 square feet. They are giant, loud, industrial plants with bulldozers and trucks shoveling piles of stuff into giant heaps, massive metal and rubber conveyor belts running in different directions up several flights of steel stairs. There are stacks of giant bales: paper, cardboard, crushed clamshell trays, all watched over by the fiercest and fattest seagull population in the Bay Area. Although the job is dangerous — many of the 2,100 workers have to wear hardhats, earplugs and safety gear — pay is $20 to $25 an hour plus participation in an employee ownership program and solid benefits. It may be one of the most important environmental jobs in the city, but as long as the waste streams come into the facility comingled, they have to be separated mostly manually. For all of this, Recology only makes 10 percent to 15 percent of its costs back from the sale of materials. Some of the most valuable is aluminum, which can actually be recycled into aircraft parts, and office paper, whose pulp can be turned back into the inside of the cardboard boxes that surround almost every food item. Recology does charge for the bulk compost it custom-mixes for farms, but in general, recycling still doesn’t make money. It’s not just that it costs a lot to remanufacture something — since products are just not made locally anymore, the cost of the fuel
to transport materials takes a toll. The remainder, 85 percent or so, ends up being the $25.77 Recology charges for household pickup service. With San Francisco’s stated goal of “waste zero,” that means Recology is going to have to deal with the remaining, and most difficult, 20 percent. The stuff that gets dumped by dozens of trucks into an enormous, stinking pit that is scraped into trucks destined
“The remaining 20 percent is the most difficult to recycle after it gets dumped in a stinking pit. Imagine a giant version of the trash-compactor room in ‘Star Wars.’” for the landfill (imagine a giant version of the trash-compactor room in “Star Wars”). Part of it is technology. Plastic — increasingly more and more of the waste stream — is commercially recyclable only insofar as it can be separated by color and polymer. Recology CEO Mike San Giacomo said at the VERGE San Francisco green business conference in November: “metals can be recycled over and over. I don’t know why we can’t do that with plastic.” The Recology plant has
new optical sorting machines that sense the color and weight of plastic bottles and shoot them with air jets into different areas, destined for new packaging, fiberfill for clothing or the landfill. And part of it is policy. Recology is a member of the California Product Stewardship Council (http://sfpr.es/recycling4), an organization pushing for a new idea in the way we think about industry and manufacturing: extended producer responsibility. In this way of looking at production, the company that manufactures a product is responsible for the materials in it, and therefore its reclamation or reuse. It’s based on the idea that manufacturers have more ability to change the components in their products. This approach acknowledges that many of the great leaps in working smarter with waste have come from political decisionmakers. The city’s big hope is in the future of composting. Since residential composting became mandatory in 2009, the rate of trash diversion has gone up, but 36 percent of compost is still going to landfills (http:// sfpr.es/recycling5). Increasing the supply of compost takes education across the city. But Recology is also working hard to increase demand for it on the farm. Spokesman Robert Reed reports that some of the farmers taking the compost aren’t just using it as a soil amendment, but to plant cover crops that fi x greenhouse gases back into the soil. If this were implemented nationally with all our food waste, Reed said, the U.S. could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. Hundreds of Recology trucks have been slathered with new posters that simulate a glass window on the side of the trucks, showing a cutaway to old pizza boxes, strawberry caps and Chinese food takeaway containers.
Mixed plastic, metal and paper recycling enter the sorting area at the Recology processing center.
“We want people to think about their refuse,” Reed said. “When you slow down and stop to look, it’s not garbage at all. These are all resources, and there is a relationship between these resources and the environment.”
Bay Area Carbon Dioxide Sensor Network Built to Check Climate Change Policies Greenhouse gas monitored on a neighborhood level for the first time, illustrating local role in global warming
cientists have devised an intricate network of carbon dioxide sensors in the Bay Area that could offer objective measurements to evaluate which climate change initiatives are effective in reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The sensors provide realStory: time local data Ambika on how much Kandasamy carbon dioxide // Public Press is being emitted, said lead researcher Ronald Cohen, professor of chemistry and of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. “What we hope the network will tell us is which of the many policies is working,” Cohen said. “It’ll tell us if cap-and-trade is the most effective thing we’re doing or electric cars is the most effective.”
Cap-and-trade, a component of California’s Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, uses various tools to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. The program puts an overall limit on emissions produced by oil refineries, utility companies and other emitters. Industries participating in the program receive emission allowances — either the full amount for free, or a set percentage for free and the rest for purchase — that they can then sell on the market if they lower their emissions, creating an incentive for each business to reduce its carbon footprint. The California Air Resources Board, the agency running the program, held the first auction for allowances on Nov. 14. Cohen said his team expects to distinguish among different sources of carbon dioxide pollution, such as the amount from cars versus that from home heating systems.
The measurements obtained from the network could potentially be used to guide climate-friendly policies, including the promotion of high-density housing near public transportation. In addition to carbon dioxide, the sensors monitor nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide levels. Data from the sensors are available on the Berkeley Atmospheric CO2 Observation Network project website. Cohen said the project is unique because of the large number of sensors to be installed across the region. So far only 10 sensors have been mounted, he said, but his team plans to put up a total of 40 in a network extending from El Cerrito to San Leandro. Most will be in Oakland. The sensors cost about $4,000 each and have been installed on rooftops of schools in Oakland with the goal of educating children about atmo-
spheric science and measurements. Cohen plans to install one at the Exploratorium in San Francisco when it moves to its new location at Pier 15. The carbon dioxide sensor network is interesting to government officials because the gas has not yet been monitored locally. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which regulates air pollution, does not itself monitor carbon dioxide, but tracks emissions of the gas from industry reports, officials at the agency said. “Carbon dioxide is not technically an air pollutant,” said Eric Stevenson, director of technical services at the air district. “It doesn’t have a direct health impact, so it’s not part of our monitoring network, but we do want to have a picture, because it’s important in terms of climate change.” The sensors may also prove to be a
useful tool for environmental policy planners. “Generally, we do not monitor air quality at this fine-grained of a scale,” said Laura Tam, sustainable development policy director at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. “It will be interesting to look at data from this network, once it is built out over time, to see how much variation there is at the city or sub-regional scale.” Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Tam said the major effects of climate change in the Bay Area would be a rising sea level and an increase in extreme weather patterns. “We’ll see increased hot weather in San Francisco,” she said. “In fact, parts of San Francisco and Alameda counties — because we haven’t really constructed buildings and housing
to deal with hot weather — are some of the most heat-vulnerable places in the entire United States.”
Solution to Crossword from page A4
San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012–2013 || CIVICS | STREET | GREEN |
| JUSTICE | ECONOMY || sfpublicpress.org ||
BRACING FOR THE
Delays in Earthquake Retrofitting Leave Thousands of S.F. Homes at Risk O ne in 14 San Franciscans lives in an old building with a first floor that city inspectors say could be vulnerable to collapse if not retrofitted soon to withstand a major earthquake. While officials have had a preliminary list of nearly 3,000 suspect properties for more than three years, they have not told landlords, leaving the Story: estimated 58,000 residents who live Noah Arroyo & there ignorant that their buildings Barbara Grady could be unstable. // Public Press A proposal circulating in City Hall Illustration: would require owners of soft-story Anna Vignet buildings — older wood-frame struc// Public Press tures with large windows or openings on the ground floor — to perform safety studies and retrofit if necessary. City earthquake specialists are not sharing all the details about the proposal, which they say will go before the Board of Supervisors as soon as February. But the Loma Prieta earthquake 23 years ago showed San Francisco just how dangerous soft-story buildings are. Now the city estimates it will take at least seven more years to carry out mandatory retrofits. Some independent earthquake safety experts say even that deadline is too optimistic, warning that the project could take a decade or longer because of a shortage of trained engineers and welders, who are busy trying to keep pace with a recent construction boom. Laurence Kornfield, a former chief building inspector who focuses on earthquake safety for the city administrator, said safety experts lately have made great progress helping to streamline complicated retrofit standards. While he and his colleagues have felt a sense of urgency
INSIDE WHAT KINDS OF BUILDINGS ARE AT RISK AND WHY PAGE B2 CHECK OFF YOUR EARTHQUAKE SURVIVAL LIST PAGE B3
to propose the mandate, he said, “it’s better to take the time to get everyone involved than to just push stuff past” the Board of Supervisors. Two years ago, after voters narrowly rejected a ballot measure to help soft-story owners pay for the retrofits, the idea of an unfunded retrofit mandate was put on the back burner. But in recent conversations with banks, San Francisco has determined that landowners now have better access to private funding for the repairs than during the depths of the recession, said Patrick Otellini, the city’s newly appointed retrofit program director. Retrofits can run tens of thousands of dollars per building, and a recent city report pegged the citywide total at $260 million. San Francisco officials said that the proposed mandate would require landlords to have the properties assessed, and would require reinforcement on the ground floor if necessary. But in the years that officials have debated the particulars of such a mandate, city officials have left tens of thousands of residents who live in these buildings unaware that, in a major earthquake, their homes might be at high risk of collapsing onto a structurally weak first floor. Several other Bay Area cities have decided to err on the side of safety and disclose this information to owners and tenants. William Strawn, spokesman for San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection, said it would be irresponsible to disseminate the preliminary list of soft-story buildings because it is incomplete and imprecise, and the city has not done follow-up studies to verify whether owners have performed retrofits without telling the city. Strawn said publicizing the list “might create anxiety and alarm” where it is not warranted. Andy Chou, a 33-year-old freelance illustrator, moved into a soft-story building in the Mission District two years ago, in what he said was a step up from his singleroom occupancy hotel in the Tenderloin. His new home is in a three-story Victorian corner building with big-windowed shops below, facing the street — a classic soft-story.
SEE IF YOUR BUILDING IS ON THE CITY’S LIST PAGE B4 NEGOTIATING WHO HAS TO RETROFIT AND WHEN PAGE B5
Chou said that when he signed the lease, he understood that there was some safety risk. But he had no idea the city had identified the building as potentially hazardous. Last year, though, after a series of moderate-intensity quakes rattled the city, Chou and his neighbors made it a morbid running joke. “We’d talk about how this place would just go under,” he said. A major quake, of course, can strike San Francisco at any time. There is roughly a 28 percent chance that an earthquake of at least magnitude-6.7 will hit the Bay Area within 10 years, said Edward Field, leader of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities. Critics are on edge about the city’s lack of a soft-story policy. Debra Walker, a member of the Building Inspection Commission who has worked for years on earthquake safety studies, said she is worried that technical debates will lead to further delays in getting a mandatory retrofit proposal to the supervisors. “We’ve been having the same conversation about seismic standards and funding for two years,” said Walker, who is also a board member of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. “We have what we need. So then, let’s do it. Now. Next week.” NO QUICK FIX There’s a dark side to San Francisco’s rich architecture — the rows of Victorian era wood-frame buildings with their famous bay windows. Many of these apartment buildings were constructed in the early 1900s, before earthquake engineering became an established science. Many of these buildings have big windows or glassfronted retail shops on the ground floor. Others have had multi-car garages carved into them. These openings eliminate load-bearing walls and leave the ground floor “soft” and susceptible to collapse beneath the rest of the building. All of the seven Marina District buildings that collapsed in 1989’s magnitude-6.9 Loma Prieta quake were soft-story. “These buildings are really vulnerable, and some are exceptionally vulnerable,” said Tom Tobin, story continued on page B2
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| JUSTICE | ECONOMY || San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012–2013
San Francisco’s Most Urgently Needed Retrofits
Photo collage: Erin Dwyer Cityscape photo: Atil Iscen
CURRENT PLANS: Soft-story buildings
UNRESOLVED: Non-ductile concrete buildings
NEARLY COMPLETED: Unreinforced masonry buildings
San Francisco has identified 2,929 buildings whose “soft” first stories appear to be — at least from a drive-by assessment from the outside — vulnerable to collapse during a quake. Built before 1973, these buildings are all over the city and usually have a store with large windows or a garage in the first floor. They house about 58,000 residents. The City Administrator’s Office is developing legislation for early 2013 to require building owners to retrofit them. That might involve anchoring the building’s wood frame to the foundation, reinforcing the first floor with a supplemental steel frame, modifying the foundation, or even installing a lighter roof. The city estimates that it will cost $260 million to retrofit all of San Francisco’s soft-story buildings. Major sticking point: Who’s going to pay for it? Meanwhile, tenants haven’t been told their buildings might be dangerous. Photo: National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering
These structures, built before 1980, cannot adequately flex during a quake, so they tend to break apart instead. While professionals estimate that San Francisco has up to 3,000 of these, no one knows for sure. That is because they are impossible to visually identify, and require an engineer’s on-site inspection. They need to determine whether the concrete supports have enough steel inside, but it’s often tricky to ascertain through study of the blueprints. David Bonowitz, a structural engineer who has helped document these buildings in the city, said they vary widely in appearance and use, “but they almost certainly include schools.” Retrofits, which could include installing steel support frames, could cost millions of dollars per building. “We just don't know,” Bonowitz said. The city expects to finish the decade-plus process to retrofit residential non-ductile concrete buildings by the early 2030s. Seismologists have said there is a 63 percent chance a major quake will occur between now and 2038. Photo: Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center
In the 1990s, the city identified 1,987 brick buildings that originally lacked wood or steel frames, making them vulnerable to shaking, and mandated they be retrofitted. Ironically, brick was the material of choice following the 1906 earthquake because they were so fire resistant. But in a strong quake, bricks can break away and injure people below. And the building itself can crumble if unreinforced by steel beams or diagonal braces. A 1992 ordinance mandating retrofits fixed all but 158 of these buildings. Voters approved a $350 million bond to help building owners cover costs, but to date only about $70 million has been used because private loans offered lower interest rates. Department of Building Inspection spokesman William Strawn said the department is working with the City Attorney’s Office to retrofit the stragglers, which are city-owned and uninhabited. Photo: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration/NGDC
While some Bay Area cities tell tenants of possibly weak first floors, S.F. says inspections should come first story continued from page B1
president of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, which is headquartered in Oakland. As opposed to other structural categories, soft-story buildings are “easy and cost-effective to make safer,” concluded a study by the Applied Technology Council, a Redwood City-based nonprofit structural engineering research organization. But until now, San Francisco has offered only a voluntary program that gives building owners a modest break on permit fees. Only 53 building owners have completed retrofits under this initiative. At the average rate of 15 projects a year since 2009, the voluntary program would take 195 years to retrofit all the problematic soft-story structures that the city has identified so far. Because the city’s survey was so rough, it could be that there are more, or fewer, soft-story buildings in need of retrofit work. In October, the city hired what might be called an earthquake retrofit czar. Patrick Otellini, 32, spent the last decade working as a consultant for some of the city’s largest landowners at A.R. Sanchez-Corea and Associates. His job was to save clients time and money by expediting permits with the Department of Building Inspection and other city agencies. Major projects included the Four Seasons Hotel, the Main Branch Library, San Francisco International Airport, the Asian Art Museum and the Ferry Building. His new job as a special assistant in the City Administrator’s Office pays $138,000 a year — a $42,000 step up from his old salary. Now Otellini is in charge of writing the regulations. Kornfield said Otellini would succeed at pushing a mandatory retrofit program through the Board of Supervisors because of his extensive experience and business connections. “He knows the financiers, the contractors, the city,” Kornfield said. Otellini said a draft ordinance mandating that owners retrofit soft-story buildings was circulating around the City Administrator’s Office before he arrived this fall, and as of early December was being reviewed by the City Attorney’s Office. “It’s largely complete,” he said. But when asked for a copy of the draft law, Otellini declined to provide it. The reason: the document was exempt from public disclosure because of attorney-client privilege. But Otellini did describe the proposed ordinance’s broad outlines. He said it would require soft-story building owners to hire a certified engineer or architect to perform an inspection and determine whether structural strengthening is needed. If an inspection finds the building lacking, the owner would have to invest in a retrofit. Retrofit schedules would be tiered for the next seven years, he said, with the most vulnerable buildings having earlier deadlines. While no city grants or loans are currently available, Otellini said his office was still considering whether to identify sources of funding — though that might come after the legislation is publicly unveiled. One potential financial incentive under consideration, he said, is to raise the property tax rate on parcels with soft-story buildings, and then provide that money back to the building owners in the form of grants or loans when they make retrofits. David Chiu, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said he would make the proposal from the City Administrator’s Office a high priority. “I believe we absolutely need to address the plight of thousands of softstory buildings,” Chiu said.
done by general contractors. S.F. HAS MIXED RECORD
Above: Julio Nieto, a retrofit specialist, uses a pneumatic palm nailer to anchor a wood-frame house in Palo Alto to its foundation. Thomas Anderson // Anderson-Niswander Construction
Left: Laurence Kornfield of the City Administrator’s Office presented a four-phase plan to retrofit the city’s soft-story buildings at a City Hall meeting in early December. Noah Arroyo // Public Press
Chiu appeared at a City Hall meeting on Dec. 3 with the retrofit team to urge them to bring their proposal to the board without further delay. But even if it passes quickly, the last retrofits would not be done before 2020. Some experts said even that goal was unrealistic. Independent structural engineer Patrick Buscovich said the shortage of skilled labor could push back the retrofit timeline to at least a decade. “There’s a lot of
these buildings,” he said. “You can only do so many buildings per year. There’s only so many engineers, so many contractors.” Michael Theriault, an ironworker who is secretarytreasurer of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, said the city’s seven-year timetable would happen only “if you were able to build constantly.” Theriault, a former Building Inspection Commission member, puts the date of completion even further out. “It could take 20 years,” he said. “I think that’s easily possible.” Over that time, said Field of the U.S. Geological Survey, the chance of an earthquake is about 48 percent. Softstory retrofits require specialized, certified steel welders who Theriault said are currently in high demand as several hundred construction projects ramp up. Some are massive: the new 49er’s stadium in Santa Clara, Apple’s new campus in Cupertino and the ongoing Bay Bridge East Span project. “The union halls are virtually empty,” he said. Kornfield said skilled labor would not dry up because the Bay Area “is one of the centers of structural engineering in the country.” Most of the work, he added, can be
San Francisco has scored some big successes in preparing vulnerable buildings for the next major shaking event. In 1994, voters passed a $350 million bond measure to help finance the mandatory seismic retrofitting of about 2,000 unreinforced masonry buildings. The measure went beyond requirements of a 1986 state law that merely required cities to inventory their stock of brick structures. To date, 95 percent of these buildings in San Francisco have been retrofitted, Kornfield said. At the time, the city considered it essential to use the bond funds to provide low-interest loans to owners. But $280 million went unused because interest rates from banks were even lower. For high-rise office towers, building codes now require new construction to be able to withstand a major earthquake, and to have elevator banks that are sturdy enough to allow use by firefighters even if the building is on fire. Some building types are harder to fi x, or even identify. Nonductile concrete structures — usually offices and light industry — are tricky to diagnose without an engineer poring over blueprints to determine whether the columns contain steel. A 2011 study estimated that San Francisco had roughly 3,000 of these buildings, and building officials have no prescription for them yet. Soft-story buildings are far easier to address. According to Kornfield, the city’s current draft ordinance will require owners to retrofit the first, “soft” floor, but not the rest of the building. This might involve anchoring the wood frame to the foundation, or reinforcing the first floor with a steel frame. So why hasn’t San Francisco required landlords to fi x the problem? Part of the reason is that, unlike with unreinforced masonry buildings, the state does not require cities to even catalogue their soft-story buildings. Section 19160 of the California Health and Safety Code only encourages local governments to identify their problematic soft-story buildings and adopt programs to “reduce unacceptable hazards” by 2020. No “cookbook recipe” exists for retrofitting these buildings, said Thor Matteson, a structural engineer who evaluates and designs soft-story retrofits in San Francisco. The amount and type of strengthening depends on soil type underneath the building, whether there is water or termite damage, or whether contractors had previously attempted partial reinforcements. San Francisco has yet to do what more than half the cities in the Bay Area have done — establish some policy to prod owners of soft-story apartment buildings to retrofit or warn tenants if they have not. Some Bay Area cities have not waited for strong guidance from the state. Several cities near the active Hayward Fault in the East Bay — Berkeley, Alameda, San Leandro and Fremont — require building owners to inform tenants whether they have retrofitted their buildings. Alameda and Fremont have gone a step further, forcing owners of multi-unit residential buildings to do the retrofits or face fines. Berkeley requires soft-story building owners with five or more apartments to hire an engineer to do an earthquake safety evaluation. Now the City Council is considering an ordinance to mandate that owners retrofit buildings that fail inspection. John Paxton, a real estate consultant who served on a long-running San Francisco earthquake safety study committee, called Berkeley’s approach “ahead of the curve” story continued on page B5
San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012–2013 || CIVICS | STREET | GREEN |
How to Increase Your Survival Chances In the Next Big Earthquake
| JUSTICE | ECONOMY || sfpublicpress.org ||
TH E ES S EN TI AL S
It’s never too late to prepare for the next big earthquake. The California Emergency Management Agency advises that the first 72 hours after a disaster are critical. Electricity, gas and water may be unavailable and first responders will be busy focusing emergency services on the most serious crises. Having an earthquake kit is key to toughing it out on your own. Your kit should be easily accessible and have enough supplies for you, your family and pets to survive for at least three days. There is no one-size-fits-all kit. Advice on kits varies by California Emergency Management Agency emergency relief agency. The http://www.calema.ca.gov/PlanningandPreparedness California Emergency Management Agency breaks down kits American Red Cross into: essentials, sanitation, www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/earthquake safety and comfort, cooking and tools, and supplies. See the San Francisco Dept. of Emergency Management checklist on this page. 72hours.org Once you have the essentials covered, add personal hygiene and sanitation items to the kit — large trash bags and cans, toilet paper and household liquid chlorine laundry bleach. The American Red Cross advises using 16 drops of bleach per gallon to sterilize any water that’s not bottled. If you can’t stay in your home, make sure to know where shelters are in your area. The American Red Cross distributes an iPhone app called Shelter View, for finding out when and where shelters have been opened in your area during disasters. Please consult the California Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross for further details. Artwork by Anna Vignet Research by Jason Winshell
W ATER R ECL AM ATI O N
S H EL TER
TO O L S & H EL P F U L I TEM S
|| sfpublicpress.org || CIVICS | STREET | GREEN |
| JUSTICE | ECONOMY || San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012–2013
A (Very Rough) List of Potentially Dangerous Residential Buildings San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection has kept a preliminary list of potentially dangerous ”soft-story” buildings since 2009, but inspectors say it has not been verified by actual building inspections, and was never intended for public consumption. Some of the addresses the city generated might be wrong. The Public Press is publishing the list (the best city record available) so that residents who might possibly be at risk in their homes can participate in the debate over how best to retrofit thousands of properties in coming years. We are doing so against the advice of some experts, and the Department of Building Inspection itself. Wide distribution of the list, said department spokesman William Strawn, ”might create anxiety and alarm” among residents in buildings that may actually turn out to be safe. But critics of the city’s approach, including Building Inspection Commission member Debra Walker, say the city needs more public pressure to move fast on a mandatory retrofit program. In February 2007, San Francisco commissioned the Applied Technology Council, a nonprofit structural engineering organization, to inventory the buildings whose weak ground floors can collapse in an earthquake. A team of engineers, architects, city staff and graduate students walked the city, noting wood-framed apartment complexes built before 1973, with more than three floors and more than five units. The buildings all had ”openings” on 80 percent of one wall, or 50 percent of two walls. The list flags 2,929 addresses. The city estimates those buildings house 58,000 people. David Bonowitz, a structural engineer who participated in the study, said the list is rough, containing only buildings that ”resemble in the most superficial way the few buildings that collapsed in the Marina in 1989” during the Loma Prieta earthquake. Laurence Kornfield of the city’s Earthquake Safety Implementation Program said any of the buildings on the list might have already been reinforced, but that would have been impossible for the team to know. Though San Francisco’s list has been available upon request since 2009, the city has never officially published it. A study summarizing the data but omitting the addresses, ”Here Today, Here Tomorrow: The Road to Earthquake Resilience in San Francisco,” is viewable at sfcapss.org.
Liquefaction Susceptibility Medium High Very High Listed Building Sources: building locations: ”Here Today — Here Tomorrow: The Road to Earthquake Resilience in San Francisco,” a study by the Applied Technology Council, 2009. Earthquake liquefaction susceptibility: U.S. Geological Survey, 2000.
Cartography by Darin Jensen and Mike Jones, U.C. Berkeley CAGE Lab Research and reporting by Noah Arroyo
Buchanan St — 235, 294, 500, 520 Fell St — 468, 480, 609-613, 647 Franklin St — 305, 325 Fulton St — 475, 495-497 Gough St — 330 Grove St — 315, 335, 486-490 1/2, 501, 582 Haight St — 39-57 173, 218, 220-224 Hayes St — 412422, 435, 500, 524, 552-556, 560, 780 Hickory St — 574 Ivy St — 202-212, 292 Jones St — 240 Laguna St — 201, 253, 409, 700 Market St — 18741878 McAllister St — 685 Oak St — 230, 400, 452, 500 Octavia St — 355, 431, 508, 535545, 636 Page St — 147, 210, 307, 400 Waller St — 68-78 201, 224-228, 235
6th St — 136, 170, 482 7th St — 140 8th St — 160 9th St — 150, 205, 227, 251, 385, 449 10th St — 120-122 11th St — 230, 250-254 12th St — 288-296 14th St — 85, 257, 281, 420, 422, 440-444, 477, 485, 530, 550 15th St — 1531, 1533-1539, 1801, 1813-1817, 1818 16th St — 2791, 2874-2884, 2888, 2945-2947, 3032, 3178, 3222-3226, 3228-3232, 3250, 3251, 3255-3257, 3256 Boardman Pl — 55 Clementina St — 454, 481, 715, 716, 746 Clinton Park — 263, 277 Dolores St — 75, 107, 115, 159, 161, 173, 179, 189, 198, 199, 201, 219-221, 225-231, 254 Duboce Ave — 105109, 131-135, 137, 170, 171-175 Elgin Park — 80, 88 Folsom St — 1040, 1137, 1582-1586, 1631, 1906-1908, 1910-1914, 19161918, 1930-1934 Guerrero St — 33, 125, 165, 186, 223227, 250, 295299, 334, 374, 389, 390-398 Hallam St — 10 Hampshire St — 101 Harrison St — 1849 Howard St — 1522, 1554, 1618-1624 Isis St — 14, 29-31 Julian Ave — 173, 179 Kissling St — 107-119 Lafayette St — 4858, 97 Minna St — 647, 651, 1341 Mission St — 1553-1557, 1845, 1906, 1914, 1930, 1939-1943
Moss St — 70 Natoma St — 526, 712-716, 1077-1087, 1084-1094 Pearl St — 19, 53 Ramona Ave — 30 Rosemont Pl — 30 Russ St — 15, 145, 155 S. Shotwell St — 100110, 107-111 Tehama St — 415417 Valencia St — 204208, 211-215, 224, 300, 418-422 Van Ness Ave — 303-305, 349, 359, 415-421, 436440, 460, 450 Woodward St — 54, 55-59, 58, 58A, 58B, 60, 60A, 60B 65, 65A, 67, 67A, 69, 69A, 85, 85A, 85B, 87, 87A, 87B
94105 2nd St — 268
5th St — 388 18th St — 1305 20th St — 2140, 2140 22nd St — 22742284 Connecticut St — 160, 250 De Haro St — 670 Folsom St — 977 Kansas St — 655, 741, 766 Mariposa St — 1335 Missouri St — 156 Pennsylvania Ave — 320, 324, 328 Rhode Island St — 625, 740 Shipley St — 239, 277 Tennessee St — 712 Texas St — 251 Vermont St — 604, 660
California St — 840 Clay St — 1037, 1123, 1140, 1144, 1150, 1171, 1199, 1235, 1275 Dashiell Hammet St — 39 Fella Pl — 5 Mason St — 1055, 1125 Pine St — 745, 935, 955, 961, 969, 977, 985, 995 Powell St — 634, 959, 1005, 1043, 1105 Sacramento St — 1242, 1246 Stockton St — 601, 621 Taylor St — 828, 840, 1146, 1219 Washington St — 959, 975, 1050, 1055, 1067, 1075, 1080, 1085, 1204
Bay St — 714-720, 785, 838-842, 900, 910, 940, 950, 960, 970 Broadway St — 1139, 1260, 1410, 1416, 1545, 1620, 1690, 1745, 1769, 1803, 1809, 1818, 1828, 1889 Bush St — 14481450, 1452 California St — 1260, 1320, 1337, 1430, 1436, 1450, 1462, 1507, 1512, 1544, 1633, 1817, 1960, 1966, 1987, 2011
Chestnut St — 1270 Clay St — 1301, 1441, 1452-1458, 14801482, 1534, 1538, 1556, 1611-1615, 1627, 1644, 1645, 1654, 1668-1670, 1680, 1714-1720, 1725, 1845-1847, 1865 Eddy St — 923 Filbert St — 1180, 1369 Francisco St — 1090, 1101, 1175 Franklin St — 909, 1920, 1930 Geary St — 947 Gough St — 1666, 1845, 1950, 2080, 2209 Green St — 1201, 1420, 1438, 14631473 Greenwich St — 1221, 1400, 1487 Hyde St — 963-969, 1010, 1020, 1127, 1135, 1142, 1150, 1215, 1221, 1250, 1326, 1438-1440, 1501-1521, 15501566, 1551, 1555, 1563, 1748, 1760, 1818, 1841, 19541964, 2054, 2140 Jackson St — 1225, 1276, 1278, 1312, 1323, 1345-1347, 1351-1353, 1398, 1405-1421, 1420, 1434, 1471, 14811485, 1524, 1534, 1542, 1552, 1567, 1574, 1580, 16271629, 1801, 1817, 1885, 2077 Jones St — 933939, 946, 953959, 1360, 1459, 1530, 1537, 1560, 1615, 1728 Larkin St — 1445, 1545-1549, 1600, 1625, 1631, 16371647, 1642, 1651, 1731, 1747-1755, 1748, 1754, 1831, 1864-1868, 2100, 2145, 2200, 2201, 2233, 2240, 2301, 2323, 2335, 2433, 2439 Leavenworth St — 936, 955-959, 1019, 1124, 1361, 1415, 1445, 1449, 1501, 1547-1553 North Point St — 870 Octavia St — 1808, 2411 Pacific Ave — 1215, 1218-1220, 1242, 1563-1565, 1630, 1720, 1740, 1750, 1760, 1770, 1828, 1831, 1845, 1856, 1920, 1964, 1966, 2007, 2010, 2016, 2060 Pine St — 10381042, 1044, 1060, 1155, 1163, 1167, 1173-1175, 1179-1181, 1225, 1243, 1324, 1355, 1385, 1490, 1515-1517, 15531565 Polk St — 1301-1327, 1437, 1618-1622, 1700-1718, 17291739, 1749, 18001808, 2023, 2048, 2055, 2208-2214, 2301, 2345, 2400, 2445, 2560, 2580, 2700, 2960, 3062-3064 Sacramento St — 1315-1325, 1329, 1345-1347, 1359, 1368, 1369, 1375, 1463, 1469, 1487, 1541, 1545, 1565,
1589, 1656-1658, 1677, 1950, 1970, 1980 Sutter St — 1525, 1646, 1688 Union St — 11781188, 1395, 1445, 1455 Vallejo St — 1250, 1441-1451, 1456, 1462, 1465, 14731475, 1481-1485, 1555 Van Ness Ave — 1840, 2307, 2350, 2360, 2420, 24442446, 2500, 2501, 2517, 2526, 2725 Washington St — 1465, 1471, 1575, 1605-1617, 16331639, 1664, 1674, 1720-1726, 1732, 1740, 1753
17th St — 32233227, 3331-3333, 3542, 3554, 3562, 3564 18th St — 3351 19th St — 33383346 20th St — 33313333, 3433-3437, 3440, 3605, 3783 21st St — 3140, 3256, 3380, 3430, 3471 22nd St — 2712, 2715, 2936-2946, 2989-2993, 30503066, 3074-3078, 3075, 3129-3145, 3410, 3449, 3488 23rd St — 2837, 2882-2896, 3247, 3258, 3270, 3425, 3601-3611 24th St — 24352437, 2959-2967, 3059, 3172, 3186-3192, 3343, 3345-3347, 3362-3372, 3407, 3416, 3424, 3435, 3440, 3560, 3653, 3675 25th St — 3026, 3285, 3364-3374, 3421, 3465, 3515, 3721, 3730 26th St — 2950, 3150-3160, 33163326, 3420, 3475 27th St — 33, 101, 157 28th St — 2, 60 29th St — 122, 133 Alabama St — 11551161, 1165-1167 Albion St — 157-163, 165-171 Bartlett St — 307, 322, 363, 390, 410, 452, 520, 530 Bryant St — 2258, 2262, 2266, 2270, 2350, 2403, 2426, 2503, 2689 Capp St — 135, 200-218, 307, 396, 401-409, 513, 540, 557, 563 627-31, 633-37, 639, 656, 711 767-69, 840, 899, 905, 949, 959, 1084, 1106 Cesar Chavez St — 3159, 3351, 3763 Coleridge St — 1 Cortland Ave — 1018 Day St — 22, 52 Dolores St — 366, 372-376, 755, 832, 878, 937, 1064, 1133, 1201, 1349, 1530, 1652 Duncan St — 132, 158 Fair Oaks St — 129, 220, 306, 479
Florida St — 900910, 1411 Folsom St — 2106, 2108, 2393-2399, 2420, 2487-2489, 2561, 2629, 2700, 2847, 2952-2960, 2973 Gladys St — 2 Godeus — 17 Guerrero St — 801, 812, 842, 851, 943-953, 10001004, 1028, 1038, 1130, 1262-1268, 1272, 1295, 1410, 1414, 1426-1428, 1451, 1499 Hampshire St — 600-612, 983-995, 1001, 1011, 1202 Harrison St — 2789, 2872, 3037 Leese St — 31 Liberty St — 65, 171 Mission St — 20262030, 2032-2034, 2135-2137, 2171, 2217-2221, 2257, 2261-2263, 2265, 2327-2329, 23312333, 2351-2361, 2360, 2420, 2487, 2629, 2641, 2647, 2677, 2697, 2735, 2745, 2766, 2852, 2903, 2960, 3010, 3018, 3184, 3207, 3266, 3275, 3301, 3308, 3317, 3527, 3633, 3666, 3812 Potrero Ave — 601, 980, 1034 Precita Ave — 22, 642 S. Van Ness Ave — 514-520, 624628, 654-658, 766-770, 880, 987-991, 1025, 1062-1066, 1065, 1073-1077, 10801090, 1102-1104, 1155-1167, 1186, 1271, 1311-1315, 1370, 1409, 1415, 1449, 1453, 1454 San Jose Ave — 215, 221, 251, 260, 267, 285, 289, 329-333, 330, 383-391, 692, 695, 730, 750, 865 Shotwell St — 604610, 700, 778-782, 945 Tiffany Ave — 199 Treat Ave — 818820, 864, 1103-1111 Utah St — 405 Valencia St — 504, 590, 901-907, 958-966, 975, 978, 991-999, 998, 1037-1041, 1152, 1159, 1206, 1234, 1355, 1362, 1390, 1406, 1424, 1451, 1470 Valley St — 36 Virginia Ave — 16 York St — 800-810, 952
Avalon Ave — 12 Broad St — 104, 119 Castle Manor Ave — 9, 10 Cayuga Ave — 993 College Ave — 190 Florentine St — 10
Italy Ave — 2 Maynard St — 2 Mission St — 3910, 3930, 3959, 3963, 3976, 3999, 4180, 4204, 4717, 4725, 4782, 4907, 4945, 5301, 5519, 5530, 5717, 5720, 5763, 5775, 5931 Naglee Ave — 2 Ocean Ave — 1344, 1401 Onondaga Ave — 288 Russia Ave — 515 San Jose Ave — 1780 Sickles Ave — 168, 132 Theresa St — 8
240, 267-275, 390 Market St — 2075, 2095, 2160, 2162, 2256-2258, 2257, 2260, 2264-2268, 2304, 2324, 2337, 2341, 2605, 2645, 2710, 2727, 2775 Noe St — 188, 334, 362, 363, 849 Parkridge Dr — 20, 30, 98 Sanchez St — 57, 81-93, 101-111, 211, 227, 245, 264266, 269-285 Sharon St — 36 Vicksburg St — 139-149
Anzavista Ave — 300-314 Baker St — 801, 844, 2208-2222 Barcelona Ave — 97 Broadway St — 2001, 2030, 2040, 2265, 2285, 2295, 2301 Broderick St — 900, 1250, 1730, 1903, 2025 Buchanan St — 2105, 2250, 2300, 2426 Bush St — 2345, 2357, 2472, 2476, 2696 California St — 2136, 2314, 2339, 2355, 2490, 2908, 3070, 3098, 3149, 3151 Clay St — 2514, 2539, 2585, 2595, 2735, 2829, 2835, 3014, 3101 Divisadero St — 1050, 1325, 1411, 1939, 1946, 1947 Eddy St — 1445 Ellis St — 2101 Fillmore St — 1912, 2121-2127, 2401, 2425, 2443-2445, 2530, 2632, 2635 Geary Blvd — 2416, 2434 Golden Gate Ave — 1440, 1450, 1460, 1470, 1495, 1645, 1700, 1750, 1761, 1819, 1827, 1885, 1888 Jackson St — 2275, 2325, 2351, 2363, 2380, 2401, 2429, 2455, 2705, 27722778, 2785, 2990, 3080 Laguna St — 2015, 2121 Lyon St — 2149, 2150-2152 McAllister St — 1284, 1400, 1560, 1604, 1670, 1755, 1780 Nido Ave — 90 O’Farrell St — 2025, 2171, 2185, 2231 Pacific Ave — 2171, 2199, 2230, 2240, 2300, 2301-2317, 2360, 2395, 2410, 3055 Pierce St — 956, 1925, 2107 Pine St — 2396, 2676, 2770, 2790, 2801 Post St — 1964, 2539, 2562, 2655
14th St — 702, 708, 726-730, 734, 750, 760, 819, 1056 15th St — 1970, 2035 16th St — 33103312, 3314-3320, 3322, 3336-3338, 3350, 3356-3358, 3362-3368, 3436, 3450-3452, 3459, 3475, 3491-3497, 3571 17th St — 36273633, 3836, 3946, 4135, 4521 18th St — 3801, 3824, 3875 19th St — 3830, 3856 20th St — 3821, 3939, 3945, 4323 21st St — 3560, 3600 22nd St — 3618, 3866 23rd St — 4475 24th St — 3730, 3986, 4001-4011, 4018, 4021 Alvarado St — 630, 690 Belcher St — 24, 34 Castro St — 2, 86, 161, 189, 700, 1400, 1450 Chattanooga St — 240 Church St — 235241, 262-298, 269, 500-512, 520, 550, 718, 800, 1001-1003, 10051009, 1165, 1376 Clayton St — 1349, 1420 Clipper St — 135, 301 Corbett Ave — 311, 315, 445, 607, 627, 630, 646, 670, 675, 681 Cumberland St — 219, 237, 271 Douglass St — 501 Elizabeth St — 410, 442, 481 Eureka St — 53 Grand View Ave — 30, 315, 495, 695 Graystone Ter — 120, 130, 140, 150, 160, 170, 275, 300, 301, 310 Hancock St — 155 Henry St — 161 Hill St — 300 Landers St — 53, 60 Liberty St — 211,
Presidio Ave — 250, 560, 720, 910 Sacramento St — 2329, 2542, 2590, 2620, 2635, 2645, 2760, 2870, 3000 Saint Josephs Ave — 240 Scott St — 930, 936, 1025, 2155, 2217, 2301, 2321, 2355 Steiner St — 2230, 2240, 2264, 2268, 2302, 2334-2336 Sutter St — 2495, 2750, 2760 Terra Vista Ave — 22A-G, 70, 71, 80, 90, 148, 156 Turk St — 1701, 1725, 1801, 1825, 1840, 1850, 1900, 1901, 2121, 2161 Vega St — 1 Washington St — 2266, 2351, 2418, 2470, 2474, 2504, 2565, 2575, 2576-2580, 2812, 2845, 2848-2850, 2870-2878, 31243134, 3299 Webster St — 2313
17th Ave — 2400 23rd Ave — 2401, 2411 27th Ave — 2396 29th Ave — 2395 34th Ave — 2395 43rd Ave — 2390, 2598, 2601 44th Ave — 2600 Great Hwy — 2090, 2440, 2690 Quintara St — 950 Taraval St — 812, 1255, 2515, 2920, 3100, 3232, 3660 Vicente St — 3090, 3100, 3225
Alpine Ter — 35 Ashbury St — 17, 147-161, 251, 508, 545, 555, 557, 608, 609 Baker St — 101, 340, 400, 430 Belvedere St — 481 Broderick St — 141, 145, 515, 535, 545, 555, 720-730 Buena Vista Ave (East) — 65, 111, 123 Buena Vista Ave (West) — 543 Carl St — 2-14, 92, 94, 94B, 96, 98, 100, 102, 108, 115, 119, 121, 121A, 123, 128, 134, 135, 136, 198, 301, 344, 375, 415 Central Ave — 133, 135, 160, 461, 530 Clayton St — 125, 520, 539-545, 609, 635, 654, 801-803, 1175 Cole St — 28, 43, 130, 154, 455, 525, 532, 540, 580-588, 610, 615, 624, 627629, 642, 675, 903-905, 917, 1012-1016, 1019, 1034-1038, 10401050
Divisadero St — 242, 244-246, 250-262, 270-272, 324-328, 330-334, 621-625, 655, 730, 744, 835-849 Duboce Ave — 400, 414-436, 800 Fell St — 701, 725, 949, 999, 1001, 1100, 1380, 15671570, 1578, 17701780, 1814-1818, 1852, 1970, 2070, 2100, 2130, 2136, 2140, 2150, 2160 Fillmore St — 105, 105A, 107-111, 136, 333, 339, 345, 349, 359, 500, 557, 657, 661-667, 709, 726, 733, 803, 837 Frederick St — 360 Fulton St — 1056, 1096, 1100, 1310, 1470, 1880, 1910, 1921, 1969, 1985, 2227, 2237 Germania St — 4044, 46-50 Grattan St — 244 Grove St — 822, 870, 1221-1229, 1228, 1230, 1231, 1240, 1250, 1255, 1265, 1270, 1280, 1341-1345, 1349-1351, 1371, 1387-1393, 1401, 1431, 1678, 1706, 1946, 1985, 2000, 2001, 2090, 2144, 2190 Haight St — 400402, 401, 417-421, 448, 493-499, 500-528, 555, 685, 707, 715, 720, 723, 739, 777, 801, 839, 849-859, 860, 863, 868-870, 876, 1042, 1190, 1296, 1300-1322, 1378, 1390, 1392, 1433, 1459, 1462, 1635, 1667 Hayes St — 800802, 861-865, 906-916, 1155, 1167, 1220, 1245, 1273, 1290, 1359, 1398, 1670, 1686-1696, 1801, 1873-1891, 19351939, 2047-2051, 2077-2095, 2101, 2267-2275 Lyon St — 345, 415, 422-426, 500, 605, 644 Masonic Ave — 829-851, 1015, 1030, 1100, 1159 McAllister St — 1577-1593 Oak St — 600, 677, 850, 880, 900, 929, 1041-1059, 1053, 1101, 1499, 1519, 1541, 1555, 1565, 1659, 1661, 1697, 1699, 18151819, 1865, 1875, 1997-1999 Page St — 547, 561565, 570, 585, 627, 635, 649, 655, 681, 751, 968, 990-998, 1003, 1038, 1300, 1325, 1333, 1337, 1363, 1373, 1375,
1456, 1591, 16831685, 1701-1705, 1746, 1801, 1859, 1881-1895, 1910 Park Hill Ave — 45 Parnassus Ave — 95, 101, 106, 144, 145, 156, 183 Pierce St — 120, 232, 261, 349-357, 400, 410, 415 Potomac St — 53 Scott St — 1, 65-67, 124-134, 208-216, 430, 556-560, 605, 635, 651 Shrader St — 40, 400-402, 520, 616, 629, 1409 Stanyan St — 650, 776, 850, 1044, 1050 Steiner St — 34-44, 115-119, 201-211, 206, 237, 399, 510, 548-556, 590, 612-616 Waller St — 301, 339, 371, 423, 511, 556-560, 604612, 648, 727, 751, 840, 845, 855, 875, 1270-1274, 1432, 1585, 1645 Webster St — 50, 61-65, 563, 610, 643 Willard St — 1302
2nd Ave — 126, 205, 435, 442, 716, 720 3rd Ave — 125, 146, 235, 276, 277, 334, 495 4th Ave — 159, 180, 203, 254, 269 5th Ave — 191, 201, 523, 550, 570 6th Ave — 110, 170, 360, 463, 554, 562, 786 7th Ave — 80, 81, 87, 180, 221, 225, 270, 420 8th Ave — 190, 205, 266, 276, 288, 348, 530, 565, 646 9th Ave — 136, 156, 195, 245, 246, 321, 325, 331, 333, 422, 430, 440, 444, 454, 695 10th Ave — 241, 280, 305, 337, 369 11th Ave — 161, 171, 180, 190, 201, 225, 246, 320, 330, 350, 384 12th Ave — 230, 238, 262, 268, 270, 274, 284, 356, 366 14th Ave — 195, 465, 495, 505 15th Ave — 410, 411, 430, 443, 447, 449 16th Ave — 131-133, 205, 220, 724 Anza St — 248, 740, 750, 960, 1010, 1304, 1600, 1726, 1940, 1944 Arguello Blvd — 112, 196-198, 200, 299, 300, 340, 345, 363, 367, 412, 418, 422, 430, 438, 440, 517, 521, 535, 545, 555, 561, 569, 583, 595,
707, 721, 725, 756, 765, 777, 860, 863 Balboa St — 735, 741, 745 Blake St — 65, 180 Cabrillo St — 1, 27, 300, 1045 California St — 3434, 3538, 35423544, 4131, 4432, 4450, 4540, 4950, 5000, 5010, 5011, 5021, 5431, 5441, 5450 Cherry St — 349 Clay St — 3595 Clement St — 18, 546, 817-823, 1059, 1345, 1550 Commonwealth Ave — 2 Cook St — 140 Cornwall St — 211 Euclid Ave — 236248, 280, 435, 455, 835-837 Fulton St — 2454, 2470, 2550, 2950, 3010, 3024, 3100, 3124, 3910, 3918 Funston Ave — 10, 184, 190 Geary Blvd — 2828, 2886, 3126, 32103232, 3430-3440, 4630, 5029, 5044, 5125-5129, 5140 Golden Gate Ave — 2550 Heather Ave — 75, 85, 90 Jordan Ave — 1 Lake St — 100, 105, 130, 530, 550, 601, 620, 630, 650, 720, 830, 840, 1030, 1445 Laurel St — 600 Locust St — 345, 400 Lupine Ave — 4, 10, 70, 71, 99 Masonic Ave — 51 McAllister St — 2701 N. Willard St — 135, 222, 229 Palm Ave — 9, 24, 29, 80, 100, 119, 125, 140, 168, 172 Parker Ave — 78, 82, 86, 90, 100, 233, 275, 701 Sacramento St — 3562-3570, 3590, 3780-3790, 3810, 3870, 3892, 39433949, 3949A, 3967 Stanyan St — 50, 310 Turk Blvd — 2200, 2210, 2220, 2230, 2801, 3125 Turk St — 3155 Washington St — 3535 Wood St — 140, 154
18th Ave — 105 19th Ave — 133, 159, 295 20th Ave — 271, 279, 283, 301, 319, 359, 376, 404 21st Ave — 167, 175, 190, 229, 232, 266, 318, 355, 359, 375, 376 22nd Ave — 335, 371, 790
23rd Ave — 305, 410 24th Ave — 329, 351, 355, 365, 375, 434, 445, 510-512, 860, 895 25th Ave — 239, 267, 334, 395, 400, 418, 423, 475, 477, 801, 815, 875, 880, 885 26th Ave — 239, 270, 274, 325, 380, 400, 414, 505, 578, 590, 800, 820, 880 27th Ave — 405, 474, 475, 495, 553 28th Ave — 400, 401 29th Ave — 390, 494, 700, 895 30th Ave — 524 31st Ave — 395, 490, 700, 895 32nd Ave — 360, 890 33rd Ave — 571, 600-610, 626, 630, 636, 667, 690, 695 34th Ave — 423, 430, 477, 600, 690, 890 35th Ave — 695 36th Ave — 695 38th Ave — 485, 495, 501, 695 39th Ave — 425 41st Ave — 600, 720, 776, 778 43rd Ave — 401, 464 44th Ave — 410, 422, 424, 430, 431 45th Ave — 601, 690 47th Ave — 731 48th Ave — 684, 695, 800 Anza St — 3501, 3525, 3735, 4300, 4340 Balboa St — 2715, 2742-2746, 3398, 3542, 3750, 4605, 4640, 4722, 4740 Cabrillo St — 1845, 1900, 2015, 2045, 2207, 2245, 2311, 2345, 2710, 2901 California St — 5700, 5940, 6310, 7001, 7015, 7025 Clement St — 1657, 2011, 2120, 3315 Fulton St — 4100, 4410, 4424, 4434, 4930, 5000, 5130, 5400, 5450, 6000, 6600 Geary Blvd — 5816, 5826, 5907, 5949, 6324, 6340, 6445, 6815, 6901, 7100, 7450, 7555, 7601, 8045, 8101 Lake St — 1711, 1735, 2450, 2455 Sutro Heights Ave — 150
2nd Ave — 1252 7th Ave — 1224, 1240, 1367 8th Ave — 1201, 1214, 1241, 1251, 1255, 1261, 1275, 1391 9th Ave — 1360, 1365, 1369, 1384,
1770 10th Ave — 1245, 1251, 1255, 1257, 1261, 1332, 1352, 1359, 1365, 1371, 1379, 1395, 1400, 1401, 1421 11th Ave — 1212, 1215, 1259, 1267, 1273, 1335, 1370 12th Ave — 1201, 1290, 1649 14th Ave — 1211, 1301 15th Ave — 1200, 1280, 1295 16th Ave — 1323, 1329, 1335, 1339, 1345, 1346, 1385, 1395 17th Ave — 1200, 1266, 1275 18th Ave — 1200, 1225, 1249, 1266 19th Ave — 1226, 1231, 1250, 1700, 1710 20th Ave — 1229, 1241, 1245, 1250, 1326, 1345, 1401, 1458, 1800 24th Ave — 1401 26th Ave — 1400 28th Ave — 1385 30th Ave — 1399, 1401, 1410, 1414 31st Ave — 1300 41st Ave — 1300 45th Ave — 1295, 1301 47th Ave — 1295, 1355, 1371, 1395, 1400 48th Ave — 1535, 1538, 1573, 1612, 1627 Arguello Blvd — 1230 Funston Ave — 1270, 1274, 1392 Great Hwy — 1280, 1734 Hugo St — 139, 144, 236, 445 Irving St — 200, 225, 250, 544, 1300, 1330, 1550, 1720, 3937, 4326, 4336, 4725 Judah St — 230, 301, 1000, 1044, 1336, 1500, 2415, 2421, 2440, 2504, 2525, 2728, 4210, 4211, 4220, 4243, 4314, 4321, 4340 Kirkham St — 1175, 1539, 1545, 1640, 4350 La Playa St — 1220, 1230, 1250, 1262, 1301, 1306, 1400 Lawton St — 1300 Lincoln Way — 209, 1325, 1845, 4101, 4611 Locksley Ave — 102 Moraga St — 616 Noriega St — 1410, 1530, 1550, 1625, 1825, 1835, 1901, 3760
Alhambra St — 2, 15, 27, 90, 175, 179, 190, 200, 290 Avila St — 401 Bay St — 1143, 1165, 1215, 1225, 1235, 1307, 1355, 1435, 1640, 1660, 1690, 2100, 2101, 2185, 2190, 2240, 2250, 2285, 2300, 2301
Beach St — 1601, 1695, 1700, 1740, 1750, 1801, 1901, 1955-1963, 1990, 2000, 2101, 2190, 2195, 2200, 2245, 2249, 2265 Broderick St — 3030, 3079, 3121, 3130, 3155, 3301, 3450, 3465, 3555, 3636, 3650, 3726 Buchanan St — 3221, 3615, 3645 Capra Way — 10, 25, 40, 50, 75, 100, 101 Casa Way — 2 Cervantes Blvd — 25, 40, 44, 65, 95, 98, 101, 190, 239, 241 Chestnut St — 1311, 1365, 1401, 1437, 1447, 1450, 1457, 1490, 1521, 1525, 1555, 1565, 1583, 1626, 1631, 1655, 1665, 1670, 1685, 1721, 1725, 1731, 1737, 1841, 1895, 1901, 1925, 1949, 1957, 1995, 2050, 2120, 2272-2298, 2300, 2335-2337, 2341, 2360-2370, 2381, 2390, 2395, 2401, 2410, 2411, 2450, 2490, 2500, 2530, 2665 Divisadero St — 2960, 3146, 3250, 3459, 3501, 3560, 3701, 3810, 3820 Filbert St — 1538, 1541, 1575, 1600, 1630, 1642, 1648, 1651, 1690, 1695, 1730, 1771, 1814, 1833, 1843, 1918, 1990, 2170, 2294, 2296-2298, 2345, 2350, 2360-2370, 2598, 2800 Fillmore St — 31453147, 3201, 3334, 3344, 3345, 3423, 3455, 3501, 3535, 3565, 3575, 3620, 3637, 3711, 3727, 3731, 3737, 3755, 3759, 3775 Francisco St — 1200, 1229-1261, 1234, 1407, 1490, 1500, 1526, 1530, 1535, 2200, 2201, 2230, 2275, 2290, 2300, 2301, 2340, 2395, 2460 Franklin St — 2323, 2338, 2341, 2420, 2433, 2625, 2635, 2650, 2655, 2665, 2774, 2810, 2915, 2942, 3010, 3033, 3040, 3044, 3045, 3141, 3150 Gough St — 2550, 2552, 2614, 2630, 2636, 2642, 2648, 2654, 2660, 2810, 2811, 2901, 2929, 3006, 3055, 3101, 3201, 3210, 3235, 3260 Green St — 1530, 1535, 1538, 1560, 1565, 1599, 1667, 1675, 1835, 1845, 1915, 1999, 2145, 2195, 2280, 2298, 2301-2303, 2701, 2785 Greenwich St — 1539, 1540, 1545, 1671, 1681, 1690, 1759, 1801, 1884, 1907, 1911, 1915, 1956, 2000, 2015,
2167, 2206, 2303, 2305, 2311-2313, 2451, 2590, 2601, 2640, 2740, 2828 Jefferson St — 1801, 1840-1842, 1890, 1895, 1935, 1945, 1955, 1961, 1980, 2040 Laguna St — 2620, 3101, 3110, 3124, 3125, 3250, 3255, 3300, 3316, 3326, 3336, 3360, 3501 Lombard St — 1402, 1501, 1545, 1580, 1601, 1610, 1618, 1626, 1671, 1738, 1770, 1848, 1880, 1940, 1990, 2240, 2265, 2322, 2361, 2386-2390, 2443, 2447, 2439-2453, 2729 Lyon St — 2844 Mallorca Way — 154, 160, 180, 201, 225 North Point St — 1626, 1690, 1695, 1770, 2101, 2200, 2260 Octavia St — 2634, 2904, 2922, 3010, 3124, 3140, 3155, 3201, 3333, 3337, 3355, 3360 Pierce St — 2754, 2855, 3366, 3445, 3450, 3548, 3554, 3560 Pixley St — 277, 279, 281, 283, 285, 287 Prado St — 5 Retiro Way — 80, 141 Rico Way — 5 Scott St — 3055, 3060, 3126, 3155, 3233, 3425, 3490, 3636, 3665, 3800, 3824 Steiner St — 2859, 3025, 3315, 3261, 3163, 3165, 3325 Toledo Way — 1, 85, 96 Union St — 1568, 1576, 1658, 1685, 1766, 1767, 2226, 2485, 2585, 2806 Vallejo St — 1600, 1614, 1624-1626, 1640, 1730, 1761, 1808, 1820, 1851, 1854, 1859, 1868, 1874, 1883, 1901, 2000, 2010, 2080, 2140, 2160, 2199, 2372-2378 Van Ness Ave — 2925, 2935, 2945, 2955, 2975, 3015, 3025 Webster St — 2660, 2710, 2714, 2755, 2828, 3008, 3035, 3100, 3130, 3201, 3250
Monterey Blvd — 585, 670, 740 Portola Dr — 667679 West Portal Ave — 41-45, 260
26th St — 3860, 4125 27th St — 201, 288 28th St — 101, 143, 150, 246, 250 30th St — 200, 211, 313 Arlington St — 455 Army St — 4135, 4150, 4155 Burnett Ave — 455, 465, 565, 571, 575, 579, 587,
601, 609, 725, 755, 765, 775, 785, 795, 807, 811, 815, 821, 825, 850, 855, 875, 895, 935, 969 Castro St — 2031 Church St — 1606 Corbett Ave — 725, 801, 814, 824, 834, 860, 908 Crestline Dr — 1, 11, 41, 80, 88 Day St — 117, 119, 158 Dolores St — 1672 Duncan St — 201, 228, 315 Gardenside Dr — 10, 18, 22, 30, 38, 44, 50, 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, 155, 160 Laidley St — 154, 158 Market St — 3801 Monterey Blvd — 174, 190 Noe St — 1351 Portola Dr — 110, 120, 146, 150, 160 Valley St — 164, 231, 336 Warren Dr — 405, 414, 415, 425, 430, 435, 444, 445, 455, 470, 475
Alta St — 40, 50 80-90 August Alley — 9 Bay St — 225, 649 Bret Harte Ter — 55 Broadway St — 402, 670-672, 835, 940 Chestnut St — 225, 321, 434-440, 780 Columbus Ave — 301-301 1/2, 342-354, 371-373, 500-524, 501543, 575, 700, 1050, 1321, 1323 Filbert St — 540, 558, 741, 949, 1000, 1061 Francisco St — 241, 271-273, 424-434, 460 Genoa Pl — 55 Grant Ave — 1232, 1340, 1345-1353, 1363-1371, 15251529, 1750, 1821, 1831, 2017 Green St — 517-523, 686 Greenwich St — 333, 407, 409, 409A, 411-411A, 425, 439, 477-481, 483-495, 509, 519-523, 561, 637, 637A, 641-641A, 801, 808-814, 824-830, 840848, 962-968, 1056-1062 Jackson St — 900, 1025, 1030, 1040, 1100, 1110, 1134, 1142 Jones St — 24122420 Kearny St — 1725 Leavenworth St — 1918-1928, 2100, 2545, 2555 Lombard St — 370, 444, 490, 566570, 640, 670, 724-734, 786-788, 892-896 Mason St — 1325, 1753-1779, 18571859, 2153-2163, 2244-2250 Midway St — 23 Montgomery St — 1000-1010, 1306, 1360, 1441-1443, 1451 Pacific Ave — 930, 1046-1050 Powell St — 1351, 1443-1449, 20272033 1/2, 2055 Romolo Pl — 15 Stockton St — 1300, 1344, 1763-1767, 1848, 1869 Taylor St — 1410, 1426, 1948-1956, 2040-2048, 2121, 2332-2342 Telegraph Hill Blvd — 201, 241, 275 Union St — 218, 296, 550-556, 558, 560-562, 570, 601-619, 701709, 755-763, 1011, 1020, 1074, 1082 Vallejo St — 637639, 865 Vandewater St — 55 Wayne Pl — 30
San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012–2013 || CIVICS | STREET | GREEN |
| JUSTICE | ECONOMY || sfpublicpress.org ||
No One Wants to Go First: S.F.’s Four-Phase Plan to Retrofit At-Risk Buildings
Andy Chou, a freelance illustrator, moved into his Mission District apartment two years ago unaware his building was on a list of potentially dangerous soft-story structures.
Noah Arroyo // Public Press
Financing of retrofits becomes less of a roadblock as local real estate recovers story continued from page B2
HOW YOU CAN SHAPE THE RETROFITTING ORDINANCE
in the region. RESIDENTS UNINFORMED In 2007, a team of earthquake engineers from several city and state agencies launched a sidewalk survey of woodframe properties in San Francisco with at least three floors and five apartments built before 1973 — the year the city changed its building codes to prevent soft-story weakness. The survey was completed in 2009. Of 4,573 buildings examined, the team located 2,929 properties that had potentially dangerous configurations on the first floor, with windows, garages or other openings making up 80 percent of one outer wall, or 50 percent of two walls. San Francisco has more soft-story buildings than any other Bay Area city, and they can be found in almost every neighborhood. The survey team found that 90 percent of these buildings are rental properties, where residents have little say in retrofit decisions. Though the list is not exactly secret, it has not been posted on any city website. Strawn, from the Department of Building Inspection, said doing so “might create anxiety and alarm, when there really isn’t a basis for it.” Kornfield added that the survey team created the list “for the purpose of diagnosing the scope of the problem. It does not, in any way, say, ‘here are the soft-story buildings.’” The list isn’t definitive, because some buildings might contain interior load-bearing walls not visible to the staff surveying from the outside. But officials in other jurisdictions concluded that the perfect is the enemy of the good and opted for public disclosure first. Armed with a similarly approximate list of soft-story buildings, Berkeley in 2005 passed an ordinance forcing owners of the listed buildings to notify their tenants in writing that they might be in danger. Owners also had to post a large-print notice in a conspicuous place within five feet of the main entrance: “Earthquake Warning.
San Francisco has more soft-story buildings than any other Bay Area city, and they can be found in almost every neighborhood. This is a soft story building with a soft, weak, or open front ground floor. You may not be safe inside or near such buildings during an earthquake.” Before removing signs, owners have to prove their buildings are not dangerous. If they do not get an engineer’s evaluation within two years, the city can declare the property a public nuisance, and can even tear it down. City officials say the public shaming puts market pressure on landlords. “I can tell you, there are some tenants that will not rent an apartment in a soft-story building,” said Berkeley councilmember Laurie Capitelli. “They will go somewhere else.” Owners got the message. As of 2011, the owners of 77 percent of the 320 buildings on Berkeley’s list had at least begun the evaluation process. Twenty-eight percent of those either are now retrofitting or already finished. Of the total number of properties on the list, 58 percent were soft-story, in need of retrofit. If the same proportion of San Francisco’s own estimate turned out to be unsafe, that would mean 39,000 tenants would be in harm’s way. The city of Alameda passed its law in 2009 to establish an inventory of soft story buildings. It posted its list of suspected soft-story buildings on its website. Owners had to warn tenants that they might be in danger, with similar posted warning signs and written notices — until they could get an engineer to prove their building was not hazardous. Owners who failed to comply within 18 months could not legally rent out the building or even occupy it themselves. But David Bonowitz, an engineer who represented the Structural Engineers Association of North America on San Francisco’s ongoing soft-story study, said San Francisco’s challenge is the scale of its soft-story problem. “Berkeley could do what it did only because the city
Got an opinion or idea about how best to brace the city for the Big One? The Earthquake Safety Working Group meets at City Hall. The meetings are open to the public. Schedule for January and February: • Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 (scheduled for room 370) • Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 (room TBA) • Subsequent meetings on an as-needed basis For more information contact: Patrick Otellini, Director, Earthquake Safety Implementation Program. (415) 554-5404; email@example.com
Since 2005, Berkeley has required owners of buildings on a softstory list to do seismic inspections. Until they are retrofitted, the buildings must display a standard warning sign. Noah Arroyo // Public Press
is small and the number of buildings is low,” he said, adding that the process there was messier than it needed to be. “They have a lot of false negatives and false positives.” Because it the public has a right to access public information, and also because other cities have disclosed similar lists apparently without causing harm, the San Francisco Public Press has published the full list of the San Francisco addresses at possible risk, along with a map showing their distribution throughout the city, here and online at sfpublicpress.org/softstorylist. POLITICS, RECESSION SLOWED PROGRESS San Francisco began a comprehensive earthquake safety study in 1998 during the administration of Mayor Willie Brown. The Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety did complete a proposal for soft-story retrofits — 12 years later. The report concluded that older wood-frame softstory buildings “would be seriously damaged” in a major earthquake and “a significant number could collapse.” Otellini and Kornfield said their new legislation would be based largely on that plan. The decade-plus delay was due partly to disbanding of the workgroup between 2003 and 2007, when the Building Inspection Commission suspended its funding. At the time, the Department of Building Inspection’s annual budget surplus fell by 78 percent from when it launched the workgroup, to $3 million. Among the committee’s biggest critics was Brown ally Joe O’Donoghue, then president of the Residential Builders Association of San Francisco. He said in public hearings that the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety was unproductive because it would produce information the city already had. The final 2010 study, which cost more than $700,000 to complete, developed a broad set of policies to help the city prepare its privately owned buildings for the next major quake. In 2008, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the study team to fast-track research on soft-story buildings, said Paxton, “so that he could push forward some legislation and get moving on that.” Had it passed, the fall 2010 ballot measure would have issued more than $46 million in bonds to provide grants and low-interest loans to landlords for soft-story retrofits. The idea at the time, Kornfield said, was to pass a softstory retrofit mandate swiftly on the heels of that victory. But the measure got 63 percent of the vote — painfully short of the 66.7 percent supermajority needed to pass a revenue bond measure. Newly appointed earthquake czar Otellini served on a committee Newsom set up after the 2010 report — the Soft-Story Task Force. Otellini said the combination of the measure’s failure and the collapse of real estate value stopped the city from moving forward. “When the task force concluded two years ago,” he said, “we were not in an economic climate to do this, since it was the worst recession we’ve had in 50 years.” Danielle Hutchings Mieler, coordinator of the earthquake and hazards program at the Association of Bay Area Governments, said cities have been loath to pass ordinances that could push recession-buffeted building owners into insolvency.
But now locally, at least, the recession appears to be lifting. By October 2012, a boom in the technology sector drove San Francisco’s unemployment rate down to 7.8 percent — a decline of 2.6 points from the height of the recession, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As tech workers moved in, apartment vacancies dropped. In July 2012, average rents had risen to $2,734, an increase of 12.9 percent, according to the real estate research firm Real Facts. This time, the city envisions that the private sector will finance most of the soft-story retrofits. Retrofitting a typical four-floor, five-dwelling-unit soft-story apartment building in San Francisco would cost about $60,000, according to several estimates. With the property prices high, the loan-to-value ratio would be attractive to banks, for typical buildings valued in the $5 million to $7 million range, Otellini said. But officials are well aware that some of the soft-story building stock is considered affordable housing and in low-income neighborhoods, he said. So the city expects to offer financial assistance in some circumstances, he said. With a soft-story retrofit mandate slated to be rolled out in early 2013, San Francisco officials say the city will soon become a leader in the field. Otellini said he believed San Francisco would be the first major city to mandate soft-story retrofits on multi-unit buildings. “The earthquake engineering world is very excited to see this thing succeed,” he said. “So, at the end of the day, it is very important to do this correctly.” But Walker said she is tired of all the waiting: “Each day we don’t do this, knowing what we know, we’re putting so many people’s lives at risk.”
plan to require seismic retrofits on as many as 3,000 “soft-story” buildings in San Francisco can’t be executed all at once, experts say, because there aren’t enough engineers and contractors who know how to do the work. So city officials are developing a system of triage: Deal with the most dangerous buildings with the most people in them first. Property owners, activists and public Story: officials are now starting to weigh Noah Arroyo // Public Press in on how the order gets set. Under a plan circulating through City Hall, and expected to be before the Board of Supervisors as soon as February, retrofits would occur in four overlapping groups, with the most hazardous buildings finishing upgrades by 2017. Subsequent deadlines will be staggered out to 2020. “We can’t do them all at once — we have to phase them,” said Laurence Kornfield, a longtime staffer in the Earthquake Safety Implementation Program in the City Administrator’s Office. A new committee, the Earthquake Safety Working Group, is tackling how to make seismic upgrades stick. It’s made up of volunteers from the legal, real estate and engineering communities, and it met at City Hall for the first time on Dec. 3 to address softstory retrofits and other earthquake issues. The meeting foreshadowed the likely controversy about which property owners should get more time to seismically stabilize their buildings. Laura Samant, an independent consultant on earthquake risk mitigation, said that even though restaurants and cafes have the highest safety risk, because the first-floor businesses are occupied all day, they should be taken off the Phase 1 schedule. “Livelihoods will be threatened by this program” when the businesses have to shut during the retrofits, she said. But Chris Poland, chairman of the Degenkolb structural engineering firm, said retrofit jobs are designed not to interrupt commercial operations. John Paxton, an independent real estate consultant, said small building owners would be “more concerned about how are they going to get the money together” than owners of larger buildings. So the city should give them more time to save for the retrofits. It costs $10,000 to $20,000 per dwelling unit to retrofit a soft story, Kornfield said. That means a typical San Francisco soft-story building with four floors above a bay windowed-ground floor would cost about $60,000 to $80,000 to retrofit. Department of Building Inspection records show that the voluntary program’s cheapest project was $8,000 and the most expensive was $5 million. The plan would require owners of wood-frame structures built before 1978, and possessing at least three floors and five apartments, to prove with an engineer’s inspection that they are not soft-story hazards. For those buildings needing a retrofit, the city would require the retrofit to meet engineering standards that are still under discussion. The preliminary four-phase proposal is intended to address the most dangerous situations first: PHASE 1 — 2015 TO 2017 The riskiest buildings, such as those serving many
occupants at one time, or used for educational purposes. These include day care centers, buildings in earthquake liquefaction zones and “assembly occupancy” buildings (large restaurants, cafes and non-retail businesses). PHASE 2 — 2016 TO 2018 Buildings with 15 or more apartments. These repre-
sent a potentially major loss of housing stock. They are at high risk of collapse, because of the bulk and weight riding on top of first-floor openings, such as store windows and garages. PHASE 3 — 2017 TO 2019 All other freestanding and corner soft-story build-
ings. PHASE 4 — 2018 TO 2020 Mid-block buildings. Even if their “soft” first stories
fail, these buildings are more likely to survive a major quake because their neighbors can hold them in place during the shaking.
Bracing for the Big One Reporting Team Reporters: Noah Arroyo and Barbara Grady Editors: Michael Stoll, Richard Pestorich and Jason Winshell Artists: Anna Vignet and Erin Dwyer Cartographers: Darin Jensen and Mike Jones Photographers: Anna Vignet, Atil Iscen and Noah Arroyo Read more online: sfpublicpress.org/earthquakes
B6 || sfpublicpress.org || CIVICS | STREET | GREEN | EARTHQUAKE | JUSTICE | ECONOMY B6 | SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, WINTER 2012-2013
|| San Francisco Public Press, Winter 2012-2013
D.A. to Examine Low Prosecution of Domestic Violence Cases San Francisco lags behind most of Bay Area, despite official ‘no-drop’ policy for victims who recant
an Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said he is examining why his office’s prosecutions for domestic violence crimes were the lowest per capita in the Bay Area. Gascón’s comments came after San Francisco Public Press executive director Michael Stoll Story: Noah Arroyo was interviewed in mid// Public Press September on the evening local news on KQED about the fall cover story, “Domestic Violence: A City Responds.” The special report reveals that despite a “no-drop” policy for prosecutions even in cases in which victims refuse to cooperate, more than three-quarters of cases are dropped before going to court. That’s the second-lowest rate in the nine-county Bay Area, and the lowest by population. Gascón, who did not make himself available for comment during the two months in
which Public Press reporters requested an interview, said at a news briefing that he was unsure why the department lagged behind the rest of the region in taking domestic violence investigations through to disposition in court. George Gascón “We are going to assess why that has occurred,” Gascón told KQED News. “But it appears to be a trend that has taken place during the last decade. And today I do not have an answer as to why.” Asked to elaborate on what such an assessment would consist of, Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian said he would research the question, but did not call back. When asked earlier to explain the low prosecution rate, Bastian issued a prepared
statement from the office: “Domestic violence cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Victims frequently recant, and depending on other evidence, the cases can be quite challenging. We only charge a case when we have a good faith basis to believe that we can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.” San Francisco instituted a “no-drop” policy through a series of citywide reforms after a gruesome homicide in 2000 showed gaps in the criminal justice response to domestic violence. “No drop” means prosecutors should pursue cases for which there is strong evidence even when victims refuse to cooperate. But in San Francisco, these cases go to court less often than in any other Bay Area county except for Contra Costa, a Public Press survey of the region found. Cases may be dropped for several reasons including lack of sufficient evidence, though in several cases, police documents show, prosecutors cited lack of coopera-
tion as a reason to decline a case. Domestic violence is the cause of half of all the murders of women in California, and many perpetrators are repeat offenders. Nodrop policies are designed to protect victims of domestic violence from retaliation, and also to disrupt patterns of escalating abuse. San Francisco prosecutes 29.5 domestic violence cases per 10,000 residents. That puts it last in the Bay Area. Napa County tops the list at 179.1. Cristine Soto DeBerry, Gascón’s chief of staff, has said that office only has data on domestic violence prosecutions going back to July 2007. That means that if San Francisco’s low prosecution rate has roots somewhere in the previous decade, as Gascón has said, his office may have trouble finding it. More from the fall edition’s domestic violence report: sfpublicpress.org/domesticviolence
Auto Burglary Victims Not Reporting Crime In Fillmore District
hile car break-ins are widespread in the Fillmore District, police statistics show these smash-and-grab burglaries have decreased by 7 percent from last year in the Northern Police District, which comprises a large chunk of the neighborhood. This is because many victims don’t file a police report or notify insurance companies of the crime, the New Fillmore reports. Victims said they remain silent about the burglaries, because they think the crime would not warrant an investigation, and they are afraid their auto insurers might hike up their premiums. But these concerns constitute the misconceptions surrounding the crime of auto burglary. “California state law says your rates can only go up if you cause an accident or have a moving violation,” said Jeff Johnson, an agent with the State Farm Insurance Company office on Divisadero Street. Police officers say victims and witnesses of car burglaries should call 911 if the crime just happened, and call 311 if several hours have elapsed since the crime occurred. Read the full story by Chris Barnett in the New Fillmore.
Rise in Package Thefts In Noe Valley
Solitary cells are 11 feet 7 inches by 7 feet 7 inches. With about eight feet of walking space, pacing — essential to quiet the mind — is difficult. Despite cold cement floors, socks are forbidden. INTERVIEW
In California’s Version of Solitary Confinement, 5 Years for Killing Guard, 6 Years for Fomenting Trouble
hane Bauer, who was hiking with two friends on the border between Iran and Iraq, was arrested by Iranian officials and jailed for 26 months. He writes, “No part of my experience was worse than the four months I spent in solitary confinement.” Now he’s back Host: in northern California, and Holly Kernan the investigative journalist // “Your Call” has written an article about on KALW Radio the conditions of solitary confinement in America’s prisPhoto: Shane Bauer ons, focusing on California. // Mother Last July prisoners in the Jones isolation wing at Pelican Bay Prison went on a hunger strike to protest conditions there. That strike, which began with a thousand prisoners, soon spread to six other prisons with as many as 12,000 inmates protesting against long-term secure housing unit confinement across the state. Bauer decided to find out what solitary conditions were like in the United States and how people ended up there. His article was the cover story of Mother Jones magazine’s November/December issue. KALW: For those of us who have never been in solitary confinement, tell us what that’s like. Shane Bauer: The typical answer to anybody
who you ask about solitary confinement is that it’s something that is impossible to describe, but it’s kind of the antithesis of what we experience day to day, almost every
tions and Rehabilitation says that they don’t consider the SHU solitary confinement because inmates have TV. They have contact with staff when they bring them food.
minute, having a world around us, people to interact with. When that’s taken away, everything changes, really. You were released in September of 2011. How much of that experience do you think you carry with you?
It’s definitely still a part of me, having gone through that. There’s a lot of research that’s been done on this — people who leave situations of isolation and have a hard time reintegrating. So explain to us what the SHU is. That’s the secure housing unit in Pelican Bay, built in 1989 to house supposedly the most dangerous inmates, and it’s very isolated — way up in the tip of northern California.
So there are actually five of these securityhousing units across the state, and they essentially are units of isolation where inmates are put, usually in a cell alone, sometimes with a cellmate. In Pelican Bay, more than 95 percent of prisoners are in solitary. The vast majority, I think it’s around 97 percent, are there on indefinite terms, which means they don’t know when they will get out. And the California Department of Correc-
Right, and there’s no correctional department in the United States that will say that they have solitary confinement. I was told the same thing in Iran. A TV is not human contact. A guard sliding food through a slot is not human contact, and the U.N. actually defines solitary confinement as 22 hours or more per day without human contact. So even two hours of human contact is still internationally considered solitary confinement. In the SHU, a guard will come to give them food, they have a television, they go out. Not actually outside — they go to what they call a dog run, which is a larger cell with an open top, for an hour. And you spoke with Daniel Vasquez, who was the former warden of San Quentin, and he said that it’s very common for AfricanAmerican prisoners who display leadership qualities or radical political views to end up in the SHU.
The evidence that was used included Black Panther literature and a lot of people who are jailhouse lawyers. They’re usually people who taught themselves law in prison and will help other prisoners in their cases and even help them in filing grievances. A lot of these people
are put in because they associate with a gang member — they’re helping them on their case. Caller “Polo” from El Cerrito: I guess [Shane Bauer] is comparing his incarceration to the current system that’s in place, the prisons that he visited. But in reality there’s no comparison. The guys who are in the SHU right now deserve to be there. They’re there because they committed very serious crimes, not only by getting into prison, but while in prison. They’re not accused: they’re known gang members. Bauer responds: The situation now is that
people can get put in the SHU for committing a serious rules violation. If you beat somebody up, you get a finite sentence in the SHU. The longest of those is five years. That’s if you kill a guard. But association is a minimum of six years, and when people get put into the SHU it actually has nothing to do with their original crime. It doesn’t matter if they killed somebody or didn’t kill somebody. Nobody gets put into prison and goes right to the SHU. It’s based on gang affiliation, and a little over 20 percent of people in the SHU are actually gang members. The rest are not. They’re gang associates, and many of them haven’t even committed rules violations. Listen this and other daily “Your Call” interviews on KALW’s website: kalw.org/programs/your-call.
oe Valley residents are seeing an increase in the theft of packages delivered to their doorsteps. Stolen items range from a box of diapers to electronics, the Noe Valley Voice reports. Jeff Fitch, U.S. postal inspector and spokesman for the San Francisco division of the Postal Inspection Service, told the newspaper that the agency has received numerous complaints from Noe Valley residents and is following up on them. Although tracking mail thefts is difficult, because the San Francisco Police Department does not categorize the crime, local neighborhood listservs are filled with reports of stolen packages. Robert Moser, police captain at the Mission Station, encouraged neighbors to report missing packages, even if the suspect is long gone. “The sooner we know about a crime pattern, the sooner we can react,” he said. “The more information we get, the better we can deploy our officers and be at the right place at the right time.” Read the full story by Heather World in the Noe Valley Voice.
Overnight Parking Ban In Parts of the Sunset
any streets in the Sunset District now prohibit parking large vehicles such as motor homes overnight as a result of a law passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors this fall. But homeless advocates say the legislation discriminates against people who live in vehicles, according to the Sunset Beacon. The advocates questioned the city’s conviction in assisting people impacted by the law in finding housing. “Some of them park for six to nine months,” said John Zwolinski, one of the founders of a neighborhood group that counted the number of large vehicles in the area. The law would also impact businesses with delivery vehicles, which would not be allowed to park overnight in the areas covered by the legislation. Read the full story by Jonathan Farrell in the Sunset Beacon.
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Thomas Riley Hester, a resident of the Granada Hotel, where in 2010 police entered another resident’s room — an incident ending in the resident being fatally shot. Hester, who has lived at the hotel off and on for about six years, said that he has become used to seeing bad things happen in his building. But Hester said he couldn’t see himself living anywhere else. “I live here because I love San Francisco. This is my home.”
San Francisco Police Told to Follow Privacy Law in Residential Hotels Following deadly incident in 2010, when manager allowed officer into room without tenant permission, department changes policy
fter a mentally ill man was shot and killed by a police officer inside his residential hotel room, the San Francisco Police Department has clarified its policy on entering homes: All residents, including those living in hotels, have the same privacy rights. Amid little fanfare, Police Chief Greg Suhr admonished the officer and issued a training memo to the department that Story: Shoshana outlines the law. The memo states Walter that officers are allowed to enter a // Bay Citizen residence without permission only when there is an immediate safety Photo: Audrey threat, to prevent the destruction of Whitmeyerevidence, when the officers are in hot Weathers pursuit of a suspect or if the resi// Public Press dence is a crime scene. Officers also are allowed to enter with a resident’s consent, with a warrant, to provide emergency medical assistance or if the resident’s probation or parole conditions permit searches. After the memo was distributed in July, officers were required to sign a statement that they had read and understood it.
“Members are reminded that individuals have an expectation of privacy in their residences,” Suhr wrote. “Tenants of hotels, including single room occupancy hotels, possess the same constitutional rights and protections related to law enforcement entry into their hotel room.” The memo was a quiet resolution to a tragic case. In 2010, a patrol officer shot and killed a mentally ill man inside his residential hotel room after the manager unlocked the man’s door. The officer, Kimberly Koltzoff, had been responding to a noise complaint. When she arrived at the Granada Hotel, the manager led her to the room of Michael Lee, a mentally ill man with a history of hostility toward the police. Instead of knocking, the manager unlocked Lee’s door, and Koltzoff walked inside. Moments later, the officer shot Lee. San Francisco’s Office of Citizen Complaints, which investigates complaints against officers, determined earlier this year that Koltzoff had violated department policy by illegally entering Lee’s residence. According to the group’s report, Suhr determined that Koltzoff had
received inadequate training and did not discipline her for the shooting. Although officers are trained in search and seizure law, Suhr ordered Koltzoff to receive new training and issued the memo to ensure all officers were familiar with the requirements pertaining to residential hotels. “The point is, you need to be treating these singleroom occupancy hotel residents the same way you treat anybody who lives in a single-family dwelling,” said Joyce Hicks, executive director of the Office of Citizen Complaints, which helped draft the memo. “You have the same rights.” San Francisco police officers have come under increasing criticism for using room keys to enter residential hotel rooms, a practice that led attorneys to accuse the department of abusing the city’s poorest residents. Last year, several hotel managers told the Bay Citizen that they regularly gave police officers the room keys because they believed it helped combat crime, which is common in some residential hotels. The FBI is investigating several cases after public defender Jeff Adachi released a series of surveillance videos
last year that allegedly showed San Francisco police officers illegally entering and searching residential hotel rooms. The videos show them taking items that were never booked into evidence or mentioned in police reports. In some cases, the officers had used hotel passkeys to get into the rooms. As a result of the videos, prosecutors dropped hundreds of cases, and many of the officers were placed on desk duty. The San Francisco Police Officers Association has reported that several officers have been called to testify as witnesses before a federal grand jury. Adachi, who had been lobbying the Board of Supervisors to pass legislation barring police officers from using hotel room keys, said Suhr’s memo satisfied his concerns. “We don’t want a situation where police can enter anyone’s residence without a reason,” he said. “And we certainly don’t want a different standard to apply just because they live in single-room occupancy hotels.” But Adachi, who said he has not seen any recent cases, still expressed skepticism. “It remains to be seen whether or not the practice will end,” he said.
Legal Case Sheds Light on Cell Phone Surveillance Device Civil liberties groups concerned about technology that can track users’ locations
San Francisco-based civil liberties groups filed suit to uncover government technology that tracks cell phone locations. The steps of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank downtown serves as a very public venue for a chat.
BI investigators used a court order authorizing access to cell phone customer data to quietly deploy a powerful surveillance technology known as “stingrays,” privacy groups Story: contend in a G.W. Schulz new court filing, // Center for Investigative which claims Reporting that the devices are overly invaPhoto: sive. Jason Winshell Your cell // Public Press phone can be singled out by its international mobile subscriber identity, or IMSI, which then makes it possible to secretly determine your whereabouts using stingray devices, also known as IMSI catchers. The law enforcement tool troubles security experts and civil libertarians alike because it mimics cell phone towers. Stingrays track the locations of mobile devices, including those that are not targeted but are nearby. IMSI catchers can also be adjusted to capture the content of communications, but the government claims that was not done in this case. in 2010 an expert showed spectators at a technology conference in Las Vegas that IMSI catchers could be built at home for as little as $1,500, exposing a potential weakness in cell phone security. Thirty cell phones in the room reportedly attempted to connect to his do-it-yourself tower, and anyone in
the room who made a call while connected to it received an automated message that said their communications were being recorded. The government’s pursuit of an alleged tax fraudster that began in Northern California and is now playing out in an Arizona courtroom has become the first major constitutional challenge to stingrays. Law enforcement agencies using the technology have held it close to the chest, and the public has little knowledge of it. In an Oct. 19 friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. District Court of Arizona, the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California argued that stingrays are “highly intrusive and indiscriminate,” and claimed government investigators sought to utilize them while providing Judge Richard Seeborg with scant details about the technology’s extraordinary power. “The government prevented the court from making an informed determination on the warrant application,” said Linda Lye, staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California. “Maybe the court would have said, ‘No, I’m not going to grant this at all because of the impact on third parties.’ Maybe the court would have said, ‘OK, you can do this, but let’s follow these safeguards and procedures to make sure that third-party privacy is protected.”
The point of warrants is to ensure that searches are confined only to those who are the focus of an investigation, added Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They’re also designed to make certain nothing is left to the discretion of individual officers, something framers of the Constitution had in mind after British soldiers prior to the Revolutionary War conducted door-to-door searches at will. “If you read the warrant affidavit, it has absolutely zero mention at all of IMSI catchers and stingrays or fake cell phone towers or any explanation of the technology,” Fakhoury said. “Courts are busy, judges are busy; they rely on the government in good faith to explain what they’re doing.” When a federal judge in Texas this year did grasp the technology, he denied an application by Drug Enforcement Administration investigators who wanted to use a stingray. “They did not address what the government would do with the cell phone numbers and other information concerning seemingly innocent cell phone users whose information was recorded by the equipment,” Magistrate Judge Brian Owsley wrote in June. “While these various issues were discussed at the hearing, the government did not have specific answers to these questions. Moreover, neither the special agent nor the assistant United States attorney
appeared to understand the technology very well.” The U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix declined to comment in response to the most recent case. But federal prosecutors stated in an Aug. 20 filing that all they had to do was show how a communications device, in this case an aircard, would provide evidence of a crime. They’re not required to specify how the device would be located, such as with a stingray. “Defendant was perpetrating a multi-million dollar tax fraud scheme, and he hid his tracks through the use of encrypted emails, money mules, layers of false identities, forged documents, forged identification cards, and botnets and/or proxies,” the filing reads. “The alleged inconvenience and intrusiveness of the aircard location operation (which went undetected by an individual who appeared to spend a significant portion of every day seeking to avoid detection or identification) was reasonable under the circumstances.” “Stringray” also happens to be the brand name for an IMSI catcher offered by the Harris Corp, but it’s also used to generically describe the technology. Other manufacturers offer the devices to law enforcement as well. Read more homeland security coverage from reporter G.W. Schulz at centerforinvestigativereporting.org
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Deferred maintenance has become a profit center for everyone’s favorite power company. PG&E charges ratepayers to replace utility poles — but does so very slowly. Power lines serve homes in San Francisco’s Richmond District. YOUR UTILITY BILL
How the ‘Profits Upkeep Commission’ Helps PG&E Pick Your Pocket
he next time you pass a power pole, consider this: Pacific Gas & Electric expects that pole to be there until the year 2357 and perhaps until 2785. The average PG&E pole has just nine years of useful life left, according to PG&E’s sworn testimony asking for more money to speed pole replacement. The utility got money through rate hikes to replace poles on a 50-year cycle, but it has been replacing them on a 346 to 778 year cycle while, by PG&E’s own testimony, diverting that money to Story: other purposes. David Cay The life cycles of power poles are Johnston // Public Press about as mundane as it gets, but that is exactly what PG&E and other Photo: corporate-owned utilities count on Jason Winshell as they inflate profits by raising rates // Public Press while deferring replacement of equipment, reducing maintenance and cutting staff. The result is that you are paying more and more for less reliable utility service. From 2000 to 2011 PG&E electricity prices rose at more than twice the rate of inflation. The Edison Foundation, which represents investorowned utilities, said in 2006 that utilities were not making enough profit and would require increased rates to improve their systems. Diversions of money from maintenance and repair risk enormous economic damage. Even a one-second interruption can cause billions of dollars of damage, as studies showed after the 1993 blackout in the Northeast and in Canada’s Ontario province. Beyond that, not taking care of the system literally puts lives at risk. The deadly failure of a PG&E high-pressure pipeline in San Bruno made that obvious two years ago. The pipeline, laid during the Eisenhower years in what was then an open field, ran under suburban homes, its existence unknown to the San Bruno Fire Department or homeowners. Eight people died, including the state Public Utilities Commission investigator looking into the safety of a PG&E pipeline system that, we now know, is dangerously decrepit. Paying more for less reliable service while increasing risks to life and limb is part of a much larger story about the remaking of the American economy, a rewriting of laws and rules taking place in plain sight. It is a story the mainstream news media has failed to report. Quietly, big companies use lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington to rewrite the rules of commerce so they can escape the rigors of competitive markets. Instead of sweeping changes that reporters might actually cover, lobbyists generally keep themselves employed for years by seeking incremental changes, a clause added this year, a regulation revised next year. The goal is to stay the invisible hand that Adam Smith wrote about in “The Wealth of Nations” in 1776. The invisible hand was Smith’s metaphor for how competition makes economies more efficient and thus improves society as a whole. Thwart the hand of competition and profits rise, but at the price of damaging economic growth and jobs. Thwarted competition and these new rules explain why Americans pay almost the highest prices in the
world for an Internet so slow and balky that it is the equivalent of a two-lane country road, not the Information Superhighway for which Americans have paid at least $360 billion in telephone rate increases so far. America invented the Internet, but in speed it now ranks 29th and falling in the world. Those triple-play packages that cost Americans on average $160 a month including taxes sell for just $38 in France, where the Internet is 10 times faster, free long distance extends to 70 countries instead of just two (U.S. and Canada) and cable television offers global, not just domestic, channels. Imagine the services and products that would be invented if America only had the Internet we paid for — the big-volume, high-speed digital pathways that are or will soon be universal in countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore and most of Europe. As a legal monopoly, PG&E has always been insulated from market forces. As a proxy for the market, California created the Public Utilities Commission. Its duty is to make sure customers pay only what the law calls “just and reasonable” prices while making sure utility owners earn “just and reasonable” profits. When I covered the commission in the 1970s, as a Los Angeles Times national correspondent based in San Francisco, the commission’s staff looked out for the interests of customers as well as utility companies. The commission included some members not in the industry’s pocket. And the consumer group now called The Utility Reform Network, or TURN, challenged favored treatment for utilities, winning hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds. But in the name of “deregulation” the Public Utilities Commission staff has been cut and hobbled, while the commission itself became so blatantly pro-industry during the Schwarzenegger years that three of the five commissioners had utility industry backgrounds and acted as guardians of utility interests. News coverage of the commission has shriveled to rewriting press releases. There is, by the way, no such thing as “deregulation,” which in practice means new regulation written by industry for industry and against consumer interests, as my reporting for The New York Times and other organizations has documented for many years. The commission became so pro-industry that the staff of one commissioner openly mocked people in Felton, near Santa Cruz, when they complained about price gouging by a corporate water utility. Residents later bought the California-American Water Company system, paying six times the going price just to escape predatory pricing and bad service enabled by the commission. The public knows little about the ways PG&E benefits from this official bias because mainstream news organizations seldom cover rate cases until after the amount is set. One exception is The Manteca Bulletin, which gave flint-eyed coverage to PG&E’s price gouging and the Public Utilities Commission’s role in helping it pick pockets. Its editor, Dennis Wyatt, even came up with a new definition of what PUC means — “Profits Upkeep Commission.” In my new book “The Fine Print,” and my 2008 bestseller “Free Lunch,” I show how supposed reforms promoted as using markets to set electricity prices were, from the
Paying more for less reliable service while increasing risks to life and limb is part of a much larger story about the remaking of the American economy.
get-go, a rigged game to raise prices. In states like California, where traditional utilities that sold power they generated were ordered to divest most of their power plants, the price of electricity rose 48 percent in real terms from 1999 to 2010. In states that kept the old model, prices rose just 9 percent. California has 1,400 electric power plants, but ownership of these plants is so concentrated that PG&E and five other generating companies can set an artificially high price of electricity virtually all the time, research at Carnegie Mellon University showed. Despite rigging the rules to inflate prices, PG&E and other utilities have been hollowing out their systems. Money for maintenance and repaid money is siphoned upstream to corporate parents known as holding companies. Growing risks to utility workers from unsafe conditions are ignored despite union complaints and repeated accidental deaths. “All the gas utility companies are basically playing the odds” on safety, said Charlie D. Rittenhouse, the top safety expert for the Utility Workers Union of America. “They’ve cut the workforces and cut the workforces and cut the workforces while at the same time keeping the CEOs’ and top executives’ wages going up and up and up. A major concern for our group and many other groups we deal with is that there’s not enough people there to do the work” and do it safely. Rittenhouse and engineering experts I interviewed all predict more pipeline explosions, like the one that destroyed a whole neighborhood in New Jersey during tropical storm Sandy. They note that aging pipelines run under or past schools, hospitals, offices and, in the case of San Bruno, a tot lot park. Yet most of these pipelines have never been inspected to see how much corrosion has worn through steel walls built to withstand only 1.4 times maximum pressure. That you already paid enough to finance maintenance and replacement is no barrier to PG&E seeking higher rates, as it is now doing to cover the costs of pipeline upgrades following the San Bruno blast. Then there’s taxes. In 2008 through 2010 customers paid PG&E enough money to cover its federal and state corporate income taxes in full, plus the taxes on the profits to pay the taxes, known as “grossing up” the taxes. But instead of an actual grossed-up income tax rate of more than 50 percent, PG&E received refunds, resulting in a real tax rate of negative 21.2 percent, analysis of company disclosures by the Institute for Economic and Tax Policy found. In 2011 PG&E set aside $440 million for corporate income taxes, but paid just $42 million, its cash flow disclosure statement shows, on $1.3 billion of profit. That is an effective tax rate of just 3 percent. That means you paid double — covering the maximum possible tax cost for PG&E in your monthly bills and then, as a taxpayer, financing refunds of taxes the company paid in prior years. The money you paid to PG&E for taxes that have not yet been sent to Washington and Sacramento — and may never get there — costs you about $48 annually. It is, in economic terms, an interest-free loan you are forced to make to PG&E shareholders each year. That would not be the case if any of three reforms were in place. One would be to exempt legal monopolies from the income tax, which since 1954 has transferred a half trillion dollars of value from customers to utility owners, a study for the American Public Power Association found. Robert Batinovich, a wealthy real estate developer who
looked out for consumers when he was Public Utilities Commission president and who died recently, advocated this reform in 1977. He said it would simplify rate setting and stop utilities from profiting off taxes. The second would be to enforce the Raker Act, which in return for letting San Francisco dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley in the Sierras a century ago required public power in San Francisco. Public power is exempt from corporate income tax and overall charges much less. The third would be to buy out PG&E, as Manteca citizens are trying to do so they can both cut their power costs and improve reliability. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted in September to sell CleanPower directly to residents, which could, possibly, have the same effect as a buyout if enough people switch to city power. But PG&E and its allies are sure to fight in court to keep their monopoly profits. PG&E’s average residential customer now pays $42 a month, or 31 percent, more than the Sacramento Municipal Utility District charges. That is more than $500 per year just in higher electric costs. More PG&E rate hikes are coming for sure. There is the cost of replacing those high-pressure pipelines laid during the Eisenhower years. Starting in about nine years, power pole failures should increase because half of PG&E’s 2.3 million poles will have exceeded their useful life. PG&E has stepped up power pole replacement from less than 3,000 poles in 2007 to more than 6,600 last year, spokesman Andrew Souvall said and it bought 10,000 more for nonreplacement work. That’s still far short of the 46,000 replacement poles PG&E testified it needs each year. By delaying pole replacement, PG&E also increased your costs. The price per pole, PG&E documents show, rose from $9,000 in 2007 to an estimated $13,000 next year, which represents inflation plus $2,600 per pole. That is $6 billion more, just in above-inflation costs, to replace all 2.3 million poles. That you already paid to take good care of the system will not matter. But going forward, public demands for reform can save money and improve safety. PG&E will, for sure, want higher rates it gets to make up for its past neglect to become permanent increases, charges that will continue even after the makeup work is finished. You can minimize that damage. Complain in writing to the Public Utilities Commission. Tell your legislator you want a law requiring PG&E and other corporate utilities to match each dollar they spend seeking higher rates with an equal amount for opponents, as former commission lawyer Patrick J. Power recommends. Write concise letters to the newspapers demanding less news on the Kardashians and more on utility company schemes. Call talk show hosts. Sign up with TURN, Women’s Energy Matters and other consumer advocates. Reform begins with you. Adapted from “The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use ‘Plain English’ and Other Tricks to Rob You Blind,” by David Cay Johnston. Johnston, a San Francisco native, is a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter and president of the 4,200-member Investigative Reporters & Editors who writes books about hidden aspects of the American economy. He teaches business regulation and tax law at Syracuse University’s law and graduate business schools.