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Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

New Maps of Hell: 2042 c.e.

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 1, 2016

These four maps depict part of the world in 2042 c.e., during the scope of my near-future science fiction novel, 1% Free. I’m reducing the three regional maps to fit into the larger North American map, which will then be one side of the presentation/swag for my Thursday, November 3, 6 pm Book Launch at the Book Passage Bookstore in the San Francisco Ferry Building.
img_01871) San Francisco
img_01882) Los Angeles
img_01893) Palm Springs
img_01904) North America

Posted in 1% Free, bookstores, life, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Home Decor

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 5, 2016

I’m a flâneur for enjoyment, a stroller of my city and other cities for pleasure. Both of these houses are in the Castro. This one is on 20th Street. These stylized mural geese remind me of Walter Van Der Heyden or Tom Killion in style.
Geese 1Geese 2Geese 3Geese 4

While this one is on 19th Street. The characters on these two steel strips are rendered in a turn-of-the-20th-century art nouveau style and represent various professionals of the day.
Steel 1Steel 2Steel 3Steel 4Steel 5Steel 6Steel 7Steel 8Steel 9

Posted in art, Castro Street, life, San Francisco, The Castro | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

END TIME reprint

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on May 1, 2016

2nd printing cover of END TIME built by JOHN YATES at STEALWORKS.

2nd printing cover of END TIME built by JOHN YATES at STEALWORKS.


I am reprinting my prescient, near-future thriller END TIME: NOTES ON THE APOCALYPSE through my publishing business 62 MILE PRESS. Written in a slashing, evocative style, END TIME received rave reviews in underground and small press circles in 1994.

END TIME: NOTES ON THE APOCALYPSE

Greg Kovinski, the novel’s protagonist, lives in interesting times. War and civil war rage across the former Soviet Union and much of the globe. The United States is fighting a sophisticated high tech counterinsurgency war in southern Mexico, against a popular revolution claiming the tradition of Zapata, in order to preserve the North American free trade zone. In Alabaster, a small town north of San Francisco, a draft-aged Greg, and a group of anti-war college students, gain possession of enough bomb grade riemanium to build a nuclear weapon several times more powerful than the one detonated over Nagasaki. As Greg struggles to “do the right thing” with his deadly power, friends turn out to be thieves, civil unrest rages, and the City of Oakland rises in revolution to become the 21st century’s Paris Commune.

George facebook pic
Born in 1952, I was a late hippie and an early punk. I began self-publishing at 17 with a high school underground newspaper, and burned my draft card at age 18. Essays from my publication Point-Blank/San Diego’s Daily Impulse have been reprinted in Semiotext[e] USA, the Utne Reader, and War Resisters’ League’s short-lived youth publication SPEW! I have also published essays in Against The Wall, the New Indicator, Draft NOtices, and the San Diego Newsline. My first science fiction novel END TIME: NOTES ON THE APOCALYPSE was published in January, 1994 by AK Press when I lived in Oakland, California, with a second edition printed in September, 1996. End Time sold around 4,000 copies and was reprinted in Portuguese by a Brazilian publisher. Presently, I live in San Francisco, where I write a regular monthly column of news analysis and political commentary for Maximum Rocknroll under the name “Lefty” Hooligan. I am currently self-publishing my second novel, 1% FREE, through my business 62 MILE PRESS.

End Time: Notes on the Apocalypse can be purchased for download from Smashwords.

Posted in anarchism, anarchists, bookstores, life, Oakland, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Near-Future Past

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on April 30, 2016

Black Bloc
California, 2007.

The storm black Hooligans took Van Ness, but never made the jog off to the park, Instead, they massed, some one hundred thousand strong, up to the hastily formed police blockade on Van Ness and Grove, then east back around on Market. They stopped in fact. March peace monitors, realizing what was happening, evaporated from around the autonomous columns to beat hasty retreats up Grove, Fell, Oak and Page with the march’s stragglers. People pulled on masks, bandanas, ski masks and balaklavas. Sunglasses hid eyes. Adrenaline once more raced through Greg, somewhere in the middle of that black mass, as he pulled up his own ‘kerchief. He watched a gauntly beautiful girl, a rare, anti-war Null, put her large black scarf over her gold electroplated cheek plates, before putting on shades in synch with hers…

Noble Eagle
It’s not just sex, drugs and rock’n’roll!

A wing of fighter jets, low over Nimitz Field, shrieked toward Oakland. Toward Jack London Square and the dual battle laser positions on Oakland’s inner harbor. People were running around the tower then, running away from the Harbor as fast as was humanly possible. A second roar, and surface-to-air missile batteries leapt into action to lay up a defensive curtain of heat seeking rockets. The jets broke into evasive action. Battle laser auroras danced up ultraviolet into the descending sun as the weapons primed. Two jets looped back tightly and managed to let loose their own rockets before having to dodge again. The harbor erupted under the jet strike, counterpointed quickly by one jet taking a direct hit and another spinning off, minus one wing. The battle laser fired. The precise x-ray beam could not be seen. But it produced a sharp fold in the air as it pierced across the bay and stripped the top off San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid…

laser-weapons-soldiers-670x333
Armageddon’s been in effect!

For a brief moment Marcus witnessed a phantasm, bathed in the smoky light of its own making. The creature was humanoid, dressed in a form fitting, single-piece, eel-gray body suit. The hands were gloved, with thick seams running up the arms and shoulders. And the head was entirely, strangely helmeted. It was a type of skull-tight ski mask, fitted with shear goggles and headphones, and crested with a soft, gun-metal colored apparatus. The goggles pulsed with that on-edge-of-sight light Marcus had observed seconds before, from under the door.

“Freeze,” Joe yelled, crouched and aimed.

An invisible light, apprehendable by a sense more visceral than sight and tailored minutely to Joe’s shape,streaked with precision from the refractive goggles, cookie cutting Joe perfectly. Joe exploded backwards…

End Time: Notes on the Apocalypse can be purchased for download starting May 1, 2016 from Smashwords.

Posted in black bloc, California, class war, direct action, life, Oakland, police, punk, San Francisco, US military | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Neighborhood hangout

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 13, 2016

NeighborsCorner#6
In New York City, its a bodega on every corner. In LA, its corner liquor stores. Here in San Francisco, its the corner grocery store which, unfortunately, is being threatened by rampant gentrification.

NeighborsCorner#5
We live in an already upscale part of the City, between Noe and Eureka Valleys. Two blocks down from our house, an old funky grocery store (no fresh fruits or vegetables, just canned or packaged food items, often with expired dates, plus the usual alcohol) gave up the ghost several years ago. This allowed four local entrepreneurs to take over the empty space and do a soft-story earthquake retrofit in addition to overall improvements.

NeighborsCorner#2
The resulting business is part coffee shop/ice cream bar/prepared food store/event and class location/commercial popup/neighborhood hangout. And its been successful from the start. They’ve scheduled a class on the “Art & Science of Saving Bees, Birds & Trees,” and host boutique flower arranging by the FloraCultural Society on weekends.

NeighborsCorner#4
Ryan and Laurel can often be found preparing gourmet coffees and teas or serving Laurel’s sweet and savory pastries. And people do what they usually do in San Francisco coffee shops, set up their laptops for long sessions of work and play online. Neighbor’s Corner is bright and airy, with a modern bathroom to boot.

NeighborsCorner#3
The previous store owner left quite mysteriously and was unable to pass on the location’s liquor licenses to the new owners. Now the new owners are working through the lengthy city permit process to allow for regular coffee shop occupancy and patronage during business hours. Given the enthusiastic response from the residents, Neighbor’s Corner looks like it’s here to stay.

UPDATED 2-14-16:
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Posted in Eureka Valley, gentrification, life, Noe Valley, Paris of the West, San Francisco, San Francisco neighborhoods | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fuck the Super Bowl!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 5, 2016

Huffpost Impact article:

Protestors Want San Francisco To ‘Tackle Homelessness’ Before Super Bowl
“You can spend $5 million on a big half time party. You can spend $5 million on a big show. But you can’t feed homeless people?”

Krithika Varagur
Associate Editor, What’s Working, The Huffington Post

A woman holds up a pair of signs as police look on during a protest to demand city officials do more to help homeless people outside Super Bowl City, a pro-football's weeklong theme park near the famed Ferry Building in San Francisco on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. Dozens protested what they say is San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's plan to push homeless people out of the scenic bay-front Embarcadero, where Super Bowl festivities are being held. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

A woman holds up a pair of signs as police look on during a protest to demand city officials do more to help homeless people outside Super Bowl City, a pro-football’s weeklong theme park near the famed Ferry Building in San Francisco on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. Dozens protested what they say is San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s plan to push homeless people out of the scenic bay-front Embarcadero, where Super Bowl festivities are being held. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

As the host of this weekend’s Super Bowl, San Francisco has spared no expense, erecting a huge “Super Bowl City” compound for the event.

This perceived excess angered homeless advocates in the Bay Area, a few hundred of whom protested at the compound on Wednesday afternoon, according to KTVU. They asked the city to spend more money on its thousands of homeless residents.

“You can spend $5 million on a big half time party. You can spend $5 million on a big show. But you can’t feed homeless people?” asked a protestor named Joshua Shrader, according to Time.

The protesters set up a “tent city” outside the Super Bowl City compound and were fairly orderly. The organizers, led by the Coalition on Homelessness, met with police to set its parameters beforehand, according to SF Gate. They called for San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to invest $5 million, the approximate cost of the Super Bowl, in housing and social services for homeless people.

Lee has become unpopular among homeless advocates for saying, with regards to homeless people during the Super Bowl, “They are going to have to leave.”

The city has been accused of moving homeless people out of sight to keep up appearances before the Super Bowl. In response, city officials say they are only trying to help the homeless during severe El Niño rains.

“Our only goal is to help people in out of the rain, and it has nothing to do with the Super Bowl,” Trent Rhorer, head of the city’s Human Services Agency, told SF Gate.

But Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, told Time that homeless people are being illegally searched, cleared from encampments, and ticketed for arbitrary offenses like “sitting or lying.”

By the protest’s end, many homeless people left to find places to sleep for the night, according to SF Gate. One 61-year-old homeless woman, Cynthia Lee, told the news outlet, “I think if San Francisco has money to throw at the Super Bowl — even if it brings in tax money — they should give us places to live.”

INDEPTH SUPER BOWL ARTICLE
from 48Hills by Tim Redmond

Posted in Bay Area, homeless, life, poverty, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, SFGate | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Aroma Tea Shop, San Francisco

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 3, 2016

Aroma Tea 6th Ave

I can’t imagine how I missed this place until now.

Aroma Tea Shop inside

Aroma Tea is a quirky—inside and out—tea shop on 6th Avenue in the Inner Richmond. The owners are eccentric yet extremely knowledgeable, traveling often to China to select and buy the teas they sell.

Colorful Teas Multiple Varieties

It’s “all tea all the time” here, with the varieties of tea in wildly packaged tins. The selection is outstanding; black/red, oolong, jasmine, green, white, pu-erh, even herbal. They have daily tea tasting during business hours where you can sample the teas you wish to buy, which also means looking over and smelling the leaves.

Aroma Tea owner

They have two locations:

302 6th Ave @ Clement St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
415.668.3788
Everyday 11am—7pm

845 Washington St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
415.362.6588
Everyday 10:30am—6pm

Tea Tasting

The first time I visited yesterday I purchased 2 ounces of premium white tea. I’ll be back for more.

Posted in Bay Area, life, Paris of the West, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ed Lee urges homeless to self-deport

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 1, 2015

A brilliant little op-ed piece, written by San Francisco Chronicle’s columnist Jon Carroll:

Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle Mayor Ed Lee stopped to talk with residents of the Raman Hotel on Howard Street where he made the announcement Wednesday May 13, 2015. Mayor Ed Lee and members of the Board of Supervisors announced $28.9 million in new funding over the next two years to support the homeless in San Francisco, Calif. including the addition of more than 500 supportive housing units for chronically homeless seniors, expand medical care and continue the new Navigation Center.

Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle
Mayor Ed Lee stopped to talk with residents of the Raman Hotel on Howard Street where he made the announcement Wednesday May 13, 2015. Mayor Ed Lee and members of the Board of Supervisors announced $28.9 million in new funding over the next two years to support the homeless in San Francisco, Calif. including the addition of more than 500 supportive housing units for chronically homeless seniors, expand medical care and continue the new Navigation Center.

Ed Lee urges homeless to self-deport
By Jon Carroll
August 31, 2015 Updated: August 31, 2015 7:11pm

So this happened: Ed Lee told homeless people on the Embarcadero that they will “have to leave the street” before the weeklong waterfront-spanning Super Bowl carnival of cross-promotional opportunities that will precede the 2016 game.

“OK,” said the homeless people, “we’ll go to our second homes in Tahoe.”

So many questions! The first, I would think, is “Why is Ed Lee pimping for the NFL?” The NFL is a gigantic corporate entity, zealously guarding its brand while doing everything possible to degrade it. The league came very late to the notion that beating up women was a bad idea, and is now in an utterly dumb and maddening fight with one of its star quarterbacks over deflated footballs.

It’s just like when Lee tried to pimp for the Olympics, a known money loser that leaves behind a lot of infrastructure and no money to pay for its upkeep. Residents of the Bay Area were all “Can we think about this?” while Lee was going, “It’ll be great!” Lee lost that fight, so he transferred his allegiance to another rapacious entertainment cartel.

So the idea was: Get out, you filthy people, because we need a postcard-ready city for media executives to stroll around in.

Then there’s the larger pesky problem of what to do about the homeless. Many words have been expended recently on the deepening problem of San Francisco residents forced to encounter urination and defecation in public places. I hold no brief for those activities, although I do point out that they are a predictable consequence of being alive.

It should be mentioned that a fair number of the urinators and defecators are, to use the clinical term, crazy. We don’t believe in mental hospitals anymore (because they are too costly, unlike homelessness, which is, wait, even more costly), so the crazy people walk among us and, guess what, act like crazy people.

And there’s no street-level policy that can deal with that. Either kill ’em or move ’em out or deal with ’em. San Francisco has made a morally courageous decision to deal with the problem. That decision has to be made again and again, because the problem is intractable.

That decision comes with consequences, one of the least of which is bad smells and disgusting sights. Caring enough about human misery to risk discomfort is a virtue; caring together is a civic virtue.

A large subset of the crazy people are also addicts of various kinds. They’ve been offered the programs; they didn’t want them. Or they couldn’t stay with them. Or whatever. Addiction kills people by convincing them they don’t need help.

Most homeless people are not crazy addicts. They would experience great shame and humiliation if they were forced to do their business in the streets. Like any experienced urban resident, they have a very good idea where the publicly available bathrooms are. If that alternative were somehow not feasible, they would do their best to go deep into the most secret corners of the landscape.

Homeless people are not animals; they are very poor people, is all. Poverty is not an infectious disease; you can’t get it even by brushing past a homeless person on your way to the Nike Gatorade Punt Like an All-Star Celebrity Game.

Homeless people are sort of like me and you. They have mothers and fathers. They’ve known love and heartbreak. Maybe they never had a chance; maybe they had a chance and then stuff went wrong.

How far are you away from homelessness? How many multiple bad things have to go wrong before you run out of your last couch to surf on? Suppose financial reversals plus death of a partner plus debilitating costly disease — how’s your cushion? Maybe all that would be so depressing you’d seek escape in a bottle. And then you’re at a bus station and you’ve got $2.30 in your pocket. And, hey, how about a civil war? You a refugee yet?

It could happen. It could even happen to Ed Lee. Everything is mutable; status comes and goes. We’re all human. Which is sort of the point. We treat other people the way we would want to be treated ourselves. I think that’s some kind of Rule.

So maybe there’s something better than urine-shaming as a social philosophy. Maybe there’s trying to be useful. The problem will be with us as long as there are people, so the only approach that makes some kind of sense involves finding your place in the social fabric. There are dozens of useful volunteer groups; find one.

You may find homeless people offensive. It may also be that some of them find you offensive, you resource-hogging, water-swilling, ocean-warming, sweatshop-clothes-wearing, vacation-in-Bali-taking human placeholder. It’s all a matter of perspective.

“And the moral of that is — ‘Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.’” “How fond she is of finding morals” in jcarroll@sfchronicle.com.

Posted in capitalism, homeless, life, San Francisco, San Francisco Chronicle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Two bookstores with Bay Area roots help literary life thrive in Paris

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 31, 2015

Reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Berkeley Books of Paris, 8 rue Casimir Delavigne, Paris.

Berkeley Books of Paris, 8 rue Casimir Delavigne, Paris.


By John McMurtrie
July 27, 2015
Updated: July 30, 2015 9:04pm

No visit to Paris, for any book lover, is complete without a pilgrimage to Shakespeare and Co., the creaky, cozy bookshop on the banks of the Seine that has been a home away from home for so many writers, among them James Baldwin, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Robert Stone and many others.

But stroll 10 minutes to the south, in the Latin Quarter, and you’ll find two other, lesser-known but invaluable English-language bookstores — both of which have deep ties to the Bay Area. In fact, their very names say it all: They are San Francisco Book Co. and Berkeley Books of Paris.

As it happens, these two Left Bank stores are only a block apart from each other. Not surprisingly, given their names, they have common roots. And they’re competitors.

San Francisco Book Co., 17 rue Monsieur le Prince, Paris.

San Francisco Book Co., 17 rue Monsieur le Prince, Paris.


San Francisco Book Co. is the older of the stores. It was co-founded in 1997 by Americans Jim Carroll and Phil Wood. Carroll, a former San Francisco bookseller who once owned Carroll’s Books in Noe Valley (it closed in 2004), eventually bought out Wood’s share of the business. Wood went down the street, opening Berkeley Books in 2006 with Richard Toney and Phyllis Cohen, who used to work at San Francisco Book Co. Wood then sold the store to Cohen.

“We’re not bosom buddies by any means,” Carroll wrote in an e-mail, “but healthy competition is good, and the more the merrier.”

Jim Carroll, owner of San Francisco Book Co.

Jim Carroll, owner of San Francisco Book Co.


Vanishing bookstores

The more the merrier is right, especially given that Paris, like other cities around the world, has lost some of its treasured bookstores to rent increases and the rise in online book sales. Just last month, La Hune, a famous Left Bank bookstore frequented by the French intelligentsia, shut down after more than 60 years in business. Also gone are the English-language bookstores Village Voice, the Red Wheelbarrow, and Tea and Tattered Pages.

There is no doubt that the Latin Quarter, the student district centered on the venerable University of Paris (founded in the 12th century), has lost much of its bohemian allure as real estate prices have risen. But as the accompanying interactive map of the Left Bank shows, there is still a thriving literary culture in the city’s 5th and 6th arrondissements. San Francisco Book Co. and Berkeley Books of Paris fit nicely into that tradition, keeping alive the rich history of Americans and other foreigners contributing to the literary life of Paris.

“Paris is a great city for books, and I really enjoy life as a book dealer here,” Carroll wrote. “My shop is just a block from the original Shakespeare and Co., where ‘Ulysses’ was published. This area of Paris, close to the Sorbonne, has always been a prime location for bookshops, publishing houses, agencies, authors, critics, printers, binders and anyone else drawn to the world of books.”

This cat has been coming in to San Francisco Book Co. to escape the heat. Asked about the cat’s name, bookseller Richard Aldersley said, “Here’s one, off the cuff: Penelope.”

This cat has been coming in to San Francisco Book Co. to escape the heat. Asked about the cat’s name, bookseller Richard Aldersley said, “Here’s one, off the cuff: Penelope.”


‘A bit messy’

San Francisco Book Co. is a small store, with roughly 12,000 to 15,000 mostly used titles (and about 8,500 online), but Carroll said the shop has good walk-in business. San Francisco visitors frequently pop in, lured by the store’s exterior, painted in international orange, the color of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“It’s also a bit messy inside,” wrote bookseller Richard Aldersley, “with books stacked on the floor and on spare counters for lack of shelf space, and we like it that way because people go through the books and handle them, and everything is much more approachable and comfortable and unsterile.”

The store even has its own cat. “It’s been coming in during the recent heat wave to lay on the cool tiles under the fan,” Aldersley wrote. Asked about the cat’s name, he added, “Here’s one, off the cuff: Penelope.”

Berkeley Books of Paris also gets its fair share of visitors from Northern California. “The Bay Area people always seem chuffed with the bookshop,” Cohen wrote. “We named the shop in honor of the great bookshops of Berkeley. I tell them stories about Moe’s and Cody’s, and show them my wall of homage, covered with bookmarks.”

1024x1024-3
The store also hosts art exhibitions, concerts, poetry readings and lectures, and Cohen said a lot of its patrons are professors, students, artists, writers and musicians.

“Many bookshops have gone under for reasons of real estate — those famous spikes in rent,” Cohen wrote. But, she added, “This is not specific to bookshops. People are still reading, and as far as I can tell, many of them actively miss bookshops that are long gone. Some have closed because Amazon and all that entails, but these shops mainly sold only new books” — unlike Berkeley Books, which sells only used books.

“Good old hand-selling and book swapping,” Cohen wrote. “There are quite a few loyal customers who frequent the place, and who have known me as their bookseller since 1999. Some of them are so attached to the bookshop that they’ve made me promise to stay open forever. Which is sweet, don’t you think?”

John McMurtrie is the book editor of The San Francisco Chronicle. Twitter: @McMurtrieSF

Posted in bookstores, life, Paris, San Francisco, Shakespeare & Co | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

My sentiments exactly

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 16, 2015

I haven’t been a fan of SF supervisor Scott Wiener, until this happened. Scott was ambushed by Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor outside his office in City Hall where they demanded a comment from him regarding the recent tragic murder of Kate Steinle. His response was priceless:
scott-wiener-fox-news-2

Posted in life, San Francisco, San Francisco Board of Supervisors | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Power to the Squirrels!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 11, 2015

01SQUIRRELjp-master675
SAN FRANCISCO, June 8 (Reuters) – A squirrel knocked out power for some 45,000 energy customers in the San Francisco Bay area on Monday, according to officials and the local Contra Costa Times newspaper.



Pacific Gas and Electric Company said on its Twitter account that service had been restored for virtually all those affected by the outage about 10:15 p.m. local time, but it did not provide a cause for the disruption.



PG&E spokesman J.D. Guidi told the Contra Costa Times that power was down in cities east of San Francisco, including Berkeley and Oakland, on Monday night after a squirrel “impacted equipment” at the El Cerrito substation. He gave no details
.


The downtown Berkeley station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system was closed for several hours on Monday due to the outage, the agency said on its Twitter account.



Cities to the south, including San Jose, also suffered outages on Monday that Guidi said were caused by equipment failures due to triple-digit temperatures. (Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

01SQUIRREL-articleLarge
NYTimes
SundayReview | OPINION
Squirrel Power!

By JON MOOALLEM * AUG. 31, 2013

SOME say the world will end in fire. Some say ice. Some say coordinated kamikaze attacks on the power grid by squirrels.

At least, some have been saying that to me, when they find out I’ve spent the summer keeping track of power outages caused by squirrels.

Power outages caused by squirrels are a new hobby of mine, a persnickety and constantly updating data set that hums along behind the rest of my life the way baseball statistics or celebrity-birthing news might for other people. It started in April, after I read about a squirrel that electrocuted itself on a power line in Tampa, Fla., cutting electricity to 700 customers and delaying statewide achievement tests at three nearby schools. I was curious, just enough to set up a Google news alert: squirrel power. But as the summer progressed, and the local news reports of power outages caused by squirrels piled up in my in-box, my interest in power outages caused by squirrels became more obsessive and profound.

I know: it’s hard to accept that a single squirrel can disrupt and frustrate thousands of people at a time, switching off our electrified lives for hours. But since Memorial Day, I’ve cataloged reports of 50 power outages caused by squirrels in 24 states. (And these, of course, are only those power outages severe enough to make the news.) Fifteen hundred customers lost power in Mason City, Iowa; 1,500 customers in Roanoke, Va.; 5,000 customers in Clackamas County, Ore.; and 10,000 customers in Wichita, Kan. — and that was just during two particularly busy days in June. A month later, there were two separate P.O.C.B.S., as I’ve come to call power outages caused by squirrels, around the small town of Evergreen, Mont., on a single day.

Squirrels cut power to a regional airport in Virginia, a Veterans Affairs medical center in Tennessee, a university in Montana and a Trader Joe’s in South Carolina. Five days after the Trader Joe’s went down, another squirrel cut power to 7,200 customers in Rock Hill, S.C., on the opposite end of the state. Rock Hill city officials assured the public that power outages caused by squirrels were “very rare” and that the grid was “still a reliable system.” Nine days later, 3,800 more South Carolinians lost power after a squirrel blew up a circuit breaker in the town of Summerville.

In Portland, Ore., squirrels got 9,200 customers on July 1; 3,140 customers on July 23; and 7,400 customers on July 26. (“I sound like a broken record,” a spokesman for the utility said, briefing the press for the third time.) In Kentucky, more than 10,000 people lost power in two separate P.O.C.B.S. a few days apart. The town of Lynchburg, Va., suffered large-scale P.O.C.B.S. on two consecutive Thursdays in June. Downtown went dark. At Lynchburg’s Academy of Fine Arts, patrons were left to wave their lighted iPhone screens at the art on the walls, like torch-carrying Victorian explorers groping through a tomb.

One June 9, a squirrel blacked out 2,000 customers in Kalamazoo, Mich., then 921 customers outside Kalamazoo a week later. A local politician visited the blown transformer with her children to take a look at the culprit; another witness told a reporter, “There was no fur left on it. It looked like something from ‘C.S.I.’ ” She posted a photo of the incinerated animal to her Facebook page.

WHEN I tell people about power outages caused by squirrels — and trust me when I say that I tell people about power outages caused by squirrels quite often — I wind up hearing a lot of the same snarky jokes. People say the squirrels are staging an uprising. People say the squirrels are calculating, nut-cheeked saboteurs trying to overthrow humanity. Like the apes in “Planet of the Apes,” or the Skynet computer network in “The Terminator,” the squirrels represent a kind of neglected intelligence that’s suddenly, sinisterly switching on.

Don’t panic, I say. Squirrels have been causing power outages since long before I started cataloging power outages caused by squirrels. (In 1987, a squirrel shut down the Nasdaq for 82 minutes and another squirrel shut down the Nasdaq again in 1994 — a seminal bit of P.O.C.B.S. history that was sometimes noted in coverage of the power outage at the Nasdaq in August, which was a power outage not caused by squirrels. “This is a terrible pain in the neck,” the president of one brokerage firm told The Wall Street Journal in 1994 — which, I’ve found, is still a typical reaction to power outages caused by squirrels.)

Matthew Olearczyk, a program manager with the Electric Power Research Institute, explains that typically a squirrel will cause a blackout by scampering across electrical equipment and touching simultaneously both an energized component, like one of the cylindrical transformers at the top of a utility pole, and a grounded piece of equipment. The squirrel completes the circuit, generating an arc. There is an instantaneous flash of blue light. At its center is the squirrel, combusting. (In one news story, the squirrel was said to make a “popping sound” when it ignited.)

And yet the grid is actually designed to handle this violent interruption. As soon as the dead animal drops to the ground, eliminating the interference, the flow of electricity should resume. But if the squirrel doesn’t fall off the equipment — if its charred carcass is lodged there — the squirrel can trigger a so-called continuous fault, interrupting the restarted flow of electricity all over again. It’s a zombie attack: a lingering, second wave of obstruction. The lights go out when our electrical grid can find no way around this stuck hunk of dead weight that used to be a squirrel.

The aftermath can be gnarly. Often, there are burned-out circuit breakers or other costly, obliterated equipment to clean up or replace. And occasionally, a P.O.C.B.S. will generate an idiosyncratic storm of ancillary mayhem, too. I’ve read about a squirrel that, last February, chewed into high-voltage lines near a water-treatment facility, setting off “a chain of improbable events” that forced the city of Tampa to boil its water for the next 37 hours, and I’ve read about a flaming squirrel that allegedly fell from a utility pole in April and started a two-acre grass fire outside Tulsa, Okla.

Mr. Olearczyk insists that there is no credible way to estimate the number of power outages caused by squirrels nationwide. (He explained that attempting a tally would mean consulting a particular piece of paperwork from every local utility in the country, and that some of those forms might not even have the information I was looking for. Though he told me encouragingly, “You’re after something important, so let us know if you find out!”)

What exists, instead, are only flecks of information, the partial outline of a very annoying apparition. In Austin, Tex., squirrels have been blamed for 300 power outages a year. Other utility companies have claimed that between 7 and 20 percent of all outages are caused by some sort of wild animal, and a 2005 study by the State of California estimated, hazily, that these incidents cost California’s economy between $32 million and $317 million a year. Feral cats, raccoons and birds are also nuisances. Last month, reports surfaced in Oklahoma of great horned owls dropping snakes onto utility poles, thereby causing frequent power outages. Still, no one seems to dispute the disruptive primacy of squirrels.

However, Mr. Olearczyk believes strongly that power outages caused by squirrels are on the decline. For at least a decade, utility companies have been tricking out their equipment with an array of wildlife deterrents to combat the problem, like “arrester caps” and “bushing covers,” the Southwire SquirrelShield, the E/Getaway Guard and free-spinning baffles to make squirrels lose their balance.

The industry has also researched discouraging squirrels by spraying utility poles with fox urine and painting equipment red, though both of these tactics have failed; it’s not even clear whether squirrels can see the color red. Some utilities have installed the kind of plastic owl used to keep pigeons off building facades. However, an industry study notes, “one utility reported that the fake owl was attacked by a hawk which in turn caused a substation outage.”

AT some point this summer — I think it was around July 31, when just under 13,000 customers got hit by a P.O.C.B.S. in Hendersonville, Tenn. — I found myself trying to imagine power outages caused by squirrels from the squirrels’ point of view. So I called John L. Koprowski, a squirrel biologist at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

There have been very few squirrel specialists throughout history. The most accomplished was Vagn Flyger, a University of Maryland biologist who trapped squirrels with a mixture of peanut butter and Valium and then affixed them with radio transmitters; his major contribution to squirrel science was mapping the so-called Great Squirrel Migration of 1968 across the Eastern Seaboard. (Mr. Flyger also liked to eat squirrels.) Mr. Koprowski started studying squirrels as a biology student in Ohio because he needed to study some sort of wild animal and he didn’t own a car.

Essentially, Mr. Koprowski explained, power outages caused by squirrels are the product of a cascade of coincidences — of various forces, including basic squirrel behavior, colliding.

Squirrels chew through electrical wiring because the animals are constantly teething. An adult squirrel’s incisors never stop growing — they can grow as much as 10 inches per year — and the animals must chew constantly to keep them worn down. Squirrels gnaw or burrow their way into transformers for the same reason they enter rotting cavities of aging trees: hollow spaces offer them den sites and safety from predators. Squirrels break into equipment at substations because the seeds and insects they eat get sucked into that machinery by cooling fans, or are pooled inside by the wind. Mr. Koprowski described the flat tops of transformers as perfect spots for squirrel “basking behavior,” when squirrels sprawl out in the sun to warm up, or in the shade to cool down, and also ideal “runways” from which squirrels can start their flying leaps into the canopy.

“Squirrels value many of the same things that humans value,” Mr. Koprowski explained. It’s why they’re among America’s most successful synanthropes, what biologists call species that thrive alongside humans, in the landscapes we dominate. The beautiful, shade-producing, property-value-raising trees that we’ve filled our neighborhoods with, like oaks, walnuts, maples and elms, also produce the seeds, nuts and acorns at the core of the squirrel diet. Thirty-five percent of America’s urban areas are now covered with trees, while sprawl and exurban development have pushed homes further into formerly natural areas. Squirrel habitat and our habitat are increasingly converging. And we are only now reaching what may be peak P.O.C.B.S. season. In late August and September, squirrels are both abundant and most active: skittering around, stockpiling food, hustling to get stuff done before winter — more prone to crossing paths with the path of our electricity.

“People are living in areas with higher squirrel densities now,” Mr. Koprowski said. It’s as simple as that. We’re getting in their way, too. It’s easy to forget that the party most inconvenienced by a power outage caused by a squirrel is the squirrel that caused it.
WHAT has my interest in power outages caused by squirrels taught me, ultimately? Why do I find power outages caused by squirrels so meaningful?

Naturally, I’ve been giving these questions some serious thought.

I’ve come to see each P.O.C.B.S. as a reminder of our relative size on the landscape, recalibrating our identity as one set of creatures in a larger ecology. We are a marvelously successful set of creatures, though. A power outage caused by a squirrel feels so surprising only because we’ve come to see our electrical grid — all these wires with which, little by little, we’ve battened down the continent — as a constant. Electricity everywhere, at the flick of a switch, seems like the natural order, while the actual natural order — the squirrel programmed by evolution to gnaw and eat acorns and bask and leap and scamper — winds up feeling like a preposterous, alien glitch in that system. It’s a pretty stunning reversal, if you can clear the right kind of space to reflect on it, and fortunately power outages caused by squirrels do that for you by shutting off your TV and Internet.

After the city of Fort Meade, Fla., suffered more than two dozen P.O.C.B.S. in a year, a resident told a reporter: “I just didn’t think a squirrel could make the lights go out. They’re just tiny little things.” A century ago, a shrewd squirrel might have been equally skeptical about our ability to make so many lights go on, watching a few little humans raise the first wooden pole.

A contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and the author of “Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America.”

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Triple Tech Bus Blockade with Teachers at Fairmount Elementary School

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 15, 2015

I’ve reprinted the following story from IndyBay about the continuing protests against tech bus usurpation of public bus stops. This action was taken by the teachers at San Francisco’s Fairmount Elementary School in coordination with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project.

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On February 6th, at 8am, teachers at San Francisco’s bilingual public Fairmount Elementary School joined with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project to block 3 private tech buses. Buses from Google and Facebook were blocked, as we protested the takeover of what had been four parking spots for teachers at the school by a tech bus stop. Teachers had not been consulted before their parking stops were privatized, just this past month. A video of the action by Peter Menchini can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/118965425.
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There are other parking metered spots in the city, such as on 16th between Capp and South Van Ness, that now have restricted parking so that private tech buses can load and unload their passengers, presumably to avoid paying the $3.55 that is now required through the SFMTA shuttle bus pilot program.
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Claudia Tirado, the third grade teacher who led the demonstration, is not only being ousted from her parking spot through collusions of high tech and “secret handshakes” with the SFMTA, but she also being evicted from her home by Google’s head of e-Discovery, Jack Halprin.
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As Claudia implored to other teachers, “Please come and stand up for parking and less congestion in the area we need our school to be safe for us and for our children. We need parking for the people that serve these children.”
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In this city, gentrification does not only mean being displaced from one’s home, but also from public spaces and city infrastructure. From parks to BART plazas to public bus stops, we are seeing public spaces increasing privatized and surveilled. In a city in which people are being kicked out of their homes and crowded into small rooms just to pay rent, public spaces are increasingly valuable. In this case, private tech companies are being privileged at the expense of teachers.

A photo of the blockade can be seen here: https://twitter.com/tigerbeat/status/563737348517539840

http://vimeo.com/118965425

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Not Phở Enough

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on January 25, 2015

I’m a big fan of Vietnamese phở soup. Phở differs from north to south (Hanoi to Saigon) in Vietnam by the noodle width, sweetness of the broth, and choice of seasoning herbs. When I lived in Oakland, I frequented an establishment where the phở was southern (thin rice noodles, basil herbs, bean sprouts). Since moving to San Francisco, I’ve been introduced to northern phở (wider noodles, cilantro, no sprouts). Southern phở tends to predominate in much of San Francisco, with exceptions like My Father’s Kitchen, which specializes in Vietnamese comfort food where the phở is decidedly northern. For restaurants and eateries where Vietnamese cuisine is not the main focus of the menu, the phở is often mixed, for instance cilantro with sprouts. Within the past year, three separate establishments in the nearby neighborhood of the Castro have either been started with phở on the menu or have added phở to the items they offer. Since they don’t tend to offer authentic phở as such, this will be a review of the quality and taste of the phở, not its authenticity.
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URBAN PICNIC (4039 18th Street) is “casual” Vietnamese food located in a previous beloved pizza parlor. The tagline “California Vietnamese Eatery,” plus the fact that Urban Picnic is a mini-chain, emphasizes the “fast food” nature of this establishment, with that clean new chain vibe. That doesn’t mean the food is bad. The ingredients are all organic and locally sourced, with a preference for raw, minimally prepared and cooked items. But the service was lackadaisical, the soup selection limited, and the phở barely warm the three times I ate there.
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CASTRO TARTS (564 Castro) is a longtime Castro Street cafe that’s been through several iterations, the latest one offering Vietnamese sandwiches and phở soups. This place is funky and caters to the locals, with Supervisor Scott Weiner’s seal of approval posted on the window. The soup selection is pretty decent, although the quality is not much above average. The friendly ownership, and the in-house bakery items are a plus.
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SLURP NOODLE BAR (469 Castro Street) is owned by the same folks who put together the previous restaurant Fork, which took over the location occupied by the beloved Castro Fuzio. The makeover was not just physical, but gastronomical, with Slurp offering noodle dishes from around the world. The phở here is the best of the bunch in the Castro, but its only one item on a quite varied menu featuring top notch ingredients. This place is a regular Castro scene; crowded and loud, with a full bar for those interested in that kind of thing.

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Annual Practice: Giving to Panhandlers

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on December 31, 2014

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Every year, I take out $100 in $5 bills and distribute the cash to panhandlers during the holiday season as a gesture of good will. I have a few rules. I start the giveaway the day after Thanksgiving and finish by New Years Day. And I give only to people actually asking for money, either verbally or with a sign. I’ve never, ever had a problem giving away 20 $5 bills to different people down on their luck during the holidays every year.

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Full disclosure: I tend to give my “spare change” to panhandlers all the time. Also, my wife and I give regularly to charity through more institutional channels. I started this holiday practice when I had the money to spare, inspired by having been down-and-out, homeless, and pennyless for a period in my own life. Yeah, yeah, there’s the argument posted by many a municipality that giving money to panhandlers only perpetuates the problem, that the money I give only goes toward alcohol and drugs, and that I need to be giving to charity instead. Having experienced the good cheer and sliver of hope when somebody surprised me with a gift of cash when I was homeless, and having realized how much time and effort it took to get out of a similarly bad situation in my life, I never begrudge a bit of cash to the less fortunate, even if that money goes toward self-medicating or feeding an addiction. Americans tend to be so fucking puritanical and moralistic, always willing to look down on the foibles or sins or bad habits of others. Plus, in my experience, those who demand that I forego giving to panhandlers and donate to charity instead are often singularly lacking in personal charity and the impulse to give to formal charity.

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I was startled when I first came upon panhandling in Paris. The nature of the begging in the City of Light is, in itself, a kind of theater, a performance of misery and supplication so overt that it is meant to be visually overwhelming. And yet, most everybody in Paris does exactly what most everybody in American cities does when confronted by such begging, they walk right on by.

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What really pisses me off is that all the anti-panhandling talk frequently comes from conservative Republican types who have nothing bad to say when the panhandler in question is a US corporation coming hat in hand looking for a bailout from the federal government to cover its losses due to shit business practices or an economic downturn. And that’s on top of the economic subsidies (read charity) that governments give to business as part and parcel of what’s laughably called the free market. As a taxpayer, I have absolutely no say in this type of charitable giving to corporations or giving to corporate panhandlers. Yet I have to listen to oh-so-entitled corporate owners, their representatives, shills and hacks, berate me for giving my spare change to the begging poor. The fucking nerve!

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Flower war

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 7, 2014

The tech industry, and consequent real estate boom, are not only crowding out San Francisco’s poor and its ethnic/cultural diversity, but also its economic diversity as well. Here’s the latest front in the fight for The City’s heart and soul, the flower war (from 48hills):

Turn the Flower Mart into tech offices? Say it’s not so
By Zelda Bronstein

Former Mayor Art Agnos speaks at a rally to save the Flower Mart

Former Mayor Art Agnos speaks at a rally to save the Flower Mart


The Flower Mart, a beloved San Francisco institution, is in danger of falling victim to the City Hall-stoked tech real estate boom.

The wholesale market for flowers, a staple for local florists at Sixth and Brannan since 1956 that Martha Stewart once called the “best flower market in the country,” could soon be bought by a real-estate developer, meaning the tenants may face eviction since the property is far more valuable if it’s turned into office space.

Although the headline in the July 25 Chronicle—“Developer acquires S.F. Flower Mart”— suggested that the market is doomed, the Mart can still be saved, and with it a big piece of the city’s old, industrial, blue-collar base.

But that will take a prompt and vigorous show of public support and political muscle.

The beginning of a campaign to save the Flower Mart was on view this week, as Mart tenants, joined by florists, flower market enthusiasts and advocates of an inclusive San Francisco, gathered for a noontime “Save the Flower Mart” press conference and rally in Repetto’s Nursery at the site.

Organized by Mart tenant Patrick McCann of Greenworks, the rally featured an impressive array of speakers: tenants David Repetto of Repetto’s Nursery, “Mama” Lee of SoMa Flowers, and Lupe Rico of Lassen Ranch; former State Senator Quentin Kopp; former Mayor Art Agnos; former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin; District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim; Small Business Commissioner and florist Kathleen Dooley; and the grand old man of the city’s flower-selling industry, the proprietor of the “I. Magnin” flower stand, 92-year-old Albert Nalbandian.

The 92-year-old Albert Nalbandian, dean of the SF florist world, speaks on behalf of saving the Flower Mart

The 92-year-old Albert Nalbandian, dean of the SF florist word, speaks on behalf of saving the Flower Mart


Six years ago, then-Board of Supervisors President Peskin sank the Academy of Art’s attempt to buy the Flower Mart and turn it into sculpture studios.

Some of the Mart’s 100 tenants approached him and Agnos after the Los Angeles-based Kilroy Realty Corporation announced on July 11 that it had “executed a merger agreement to acquire all the outstanding shares” of the San Francisco Flower Growers Association, one of the three firms that own portions of the Mart site.

Describing the SFFGA as “a privately owned entity whose only material asset” is a 1.9 acre portion of the Flower Mart site, Kilroy said that the transaction was valued at about $27 million. The merger is contingent on its approval by a majority of the SFFGA stockholders in a September 11 vote.

Last Wednesday Agnos and Peskin presided over a meeting of 40-odd tenants in the patio of the Flower Mart Café. Both made it clear that they were neither running for office nor being paid to advocate the tenants’ cause. They were there, Agnos said, because protecting the flower market is “part of a struggle to save the heart and soul of this great city,” a fight that he linked to the defeat of the 8 Washington condo project at the polls last November and the successful defense of the tenants at the San Francisco Design Center at the BoS Land Use Committee in July.

A major impetus for the meeting was an August 19 letter that the SFFGA had sent to its sixty tenants, copies of which Peskin distributed to the group.

“Rest assured,” wrote SFFGA’s Ron Chiappari,

that an integral part of Kilroy’s development plan includes a new, state of the art Flower Mart enabling continued operations of present and future flower mart tenants and customers, as well as a plan for continuous operations of the Flower Mart during construction.Our understanding comes directly from the highest decision-makers at Kilroy and is consistent with the statements that John Kilroy, President, CEO, and Chairman of Kilroy, has made in the attached news article [the Chronicle story referenced above, which has been removed from the paper’s website].

Peskin, however, focused on another line in the letter:

“After the transaction has been completed[,] Kilroy will be able to meet with you on site, show you its preliminary plans, and seek your feedback.”

Mart tenant “Mama” Lee delivers an impassioned speech in Chinese

Mart tenant “Mama” Lee delivers an impassioned speech in Chinese


This, Peskin observed, was not at all reassuring. If the SFFGA and Kilroy really want to demonstrate their commitment to the tenants and the Mart, they should offer to meet with them and seek their input—not just their feedback—before the transaction is completed, not afterwards. Peskin also said that the developer had called him and asked him not to hold the meeting.

He went on to suggest terms that the tenants should ask Kilroy to guarantee in writing before the deal closed:

* no tenant will be displaced even temporarily under construction

* leases will be renewed (at affordable rates)

* tenants’ expenses due to the new construction will be paid for

* Kilroy will reveal its plans for the site and its management

Former Sup. Aaron Peskin says tenants should demand honest answers from the developer

Former Sup. Aaron Peskin says tenants should demand honest answers from the developer


A week later, neither Kilroy nor the SFFGA had contacted the tenants.

Addressing the rally, tenant David Repetto said, “We need long-term leases at rental rates that are affordable for small business….Kilroy also needs to tell us who will run the Flower Mart? Will it be the biggest tenants? Wholesalers? Retailers? Will it be democratically run? And we need professional management that understands the flower business, not just a real estate entity.”

According to McCann, what’s at stake is not just the 60 locally owned businesses that lease from the SFFGA but also the thousands of living-wage jobs provided by the growers, shippers, and truck drivers who supply our region’s 46,000 florists. The Flower Mart is one of only five such markets in the U.S. In most other places, florists have to drive around from small wholesaler to small wholesaler.

My North Berkeley neighborhood florist, Amir Abdolhosseini of Solano Flowers, was shocked to learn that the Mart might close. “The Flower Mart cannot disappear,” he said. “Where would people”—i.e., florists such as himself—“go to get their flowers?”

At last week’s tenants meeting, Peskin said he neither trusted nor distrusted Kilroy. But he told the rally that he’d changed his mind. That’s because former Planning Commissioner Bill Sugaya had just handed him the Planning Department’s preliminary assessment of what Kilroy is proposing for the SFFGA property at 575 Sixth Street: an 11-story, 160-foot-tall, 655,150-square-foot development separated into one nine-story building and one 11-story building, connected by pedestrian bridges at the fifth and sixth levels. The buildings would include 508,040 square feet of new office space, plus 16,410 square feet of retail on the ground floor. All structures on the site would be demolished. The proposal says nothing about phasing in existing businesses.

In other words, Kilroy has known for more than a year exactly what it’s proposing to build — and yet has said nothing to the Flower Mart’s tenants.

Peskin also noted that the Kilroy project “does not fit the current zoning.”

No kidding. For starters, the SALI (Service/Arts/Light Industrial) District prohibits offices. In addition, the proposed Floor Area Ratio (FAR) exceeds the allowed maximum, and the proposed 160-foot-tall building exceeds the current 40-55 foot height limit.

But like the many other big developers salivating over SoMa’s industrial lands, Kilroy is looking beyond the current zoning to the relaxed standards of the forthcoming Central SoMa Plan. As is their wont, the city’s planners have evaluated Kilroy’s proposal with respect to both current standards and to proposed zoning—in this case, proposals that won’t come before the Planning Commission, much less the Board of Supervisors, before next year.

To wit, the draft Central SoMa Plan would replace SALI with Mixed Use-Office (MUO), a category that exemplifies the Planning Department’s deregulatory approach to land use. In SoMA Leadership Council President Jim Meko’s memorable phrase, MUO is “zoning for people who don’t like zoning.” It permits just about everything but adult entertainment and heavy industry.

In another respect, however, the Kilroy project would be inconsistent even with the relaxed development standards of the proposed Central SoMa Plan. The city’s planners want to raise the height allowances on the block from 40-55 feet to either 55/65 feet or 65/85 feet—significantly less than the 160 feet Kilroy hopes to construct.

At the rally, Supervisor Kim announced that at the September 9th Board meeting, she would be proposing that interim controls that would prohibit conversions from Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR), i.e., light industry, to office or residential during the time the Central SoMa Plan is under deliberation and encourage the Planning Department “to work with the developer to ensure the vibrancy of the Flower Mart.”

That’s a step in the right direction.

But it’s going to take far more than interim controls and requests that the planners work with the developer to protect the Flower Mart and the rest of SoMa’s light industrial economy. As 48 hills reported last winter, the Central SoMa Plan is openly premised on the destruction of that economy and its replacement by a high-rise, high-rent, tech-dominated second Downtown.

The Planning Department says the Central SoMa Plan emerged out of “a community planning process.” When did the “community” embrace the elimination of 1,800 blue-collar jobs (that’s Planning’s figure, not mine), including the jobs at the Flower Mart?

As for the Flower Mart: The city’s planners, too, have known for well over a year what Kilroy intends to do at 575 Sixth Street. Why haven’t they come forward and supported the tenants, or at least informed them about the proposed project?

At the rally, Art Agnos said he’d called Mayor Lee and asked him to bring his Planning Department and Kilroy to the Mart and tell the tenants what they’re going to do to protect them. Will the mayor accept that invitation?

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By any other name…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 20, 2014

I’m a bit leery of this article’s conclusion, which claims that there are four different types of gentrification, but here’s the story in full.
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There Are Actually 4 Types of Gentrification That Could Change Your City
The Huffington Post | By Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson

Posted: 08/20/2014 12:53 pm EDT

In 1985, gentrification was as easy to spot as a bottle of New Coke. According to a quiz published by the San Francisco Chronicle (and recently found by UCLA Ph.D. candidate Devin McCutchen), markers of a neighborhood on the cusp of yuppiedom included the introduction of gourmet bakeries, needlepoint boutiques and, puzzlingly, pet stores specializing in exotic Central American birds.

And while a neighborhood’s rapidly changing demographic is often as easily identifiable today (just look at how New York City has changed before our eyes), the reasons a certain area may appeal to more “upscale” interests is trickier than you’d think.

“Gentrification is a nuanced phenomenon … but most people engaged in any gentrification fail to acknowledge the nuances.”— Pete Saunders

On his blog, The Corner Side Yard, urban planning expert Pete Saunders set out to establish some ground rules for understanding the trend. In short, this isn’t just about mom-and-pop shops being overtaken by the latest farm-to-table restaurant, or high-rise condos looming ominously over one remaining row of single-family homes. Rather, it’s about what makes a neighborhood ripe for gentrification to begin with.

Saunders’ basic premise is that the amount of pre-World War II, walkable areas in a given city (what he refers to as “old form”) combined with the number of African-Americans who live there can forecast gentrification activity.

“Once areas of a city obtain a majority of minorities, particularly a majority of African Americans, it somehow drops from the mental landscape of whites when thinking of the city at large,” Saunders wrote in an email to HuffPost Home. “Because some cities have had historically lower black populations, less of the city has become invisible to current residents. This means that more of the city became ‘available’ for potential future gentrification.”

And, as Saunders writes on his blog, gentrification can look different depending where it is. Most of what comes to mind when we think of gentrification is the experience of those in cities such as New York, San Francisco and Boston. There, the debate is fueled by concerns over affordability, displacement and growing inequality. “But the gentrification debate is quite different in cities like Philadelphia and Atlanta, where seeking ways to more equitably spread the positive benefits of revitalization might lead such discussions,” he says.

According to Saunders, there isn’t one single way to define gentrification, but four: Expansive Gentrification, Concentrated Gentrification, Limited Gentrification and Nascent Gentrification. Here’s where each type is likely to occur.

Here’s how he breaks it all down:

Expansive Gentrification
Best examples: New York, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle
Each city has a strong older core — a pre-World War II, traditional grid street system that you can easily walk, shop and live in without using a car much. Each has also had smaller historical black populations (when compared with Southern cities and Rust Belt cities that had extensive migration for manufacturing jobs). This gave them a leg up when the back-to-the-city movement gathered steam. Gentrification often sprouted from a number of places within a city and those often connected with each other to create even larger and stronger gentrified areas.

Concentrated Gentrification
Best examples: Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Here, the cities share the same type of older layout as the cities above, but have had larger (relative) black populations. This is where you see that larger parts of such cities have been “written off” by many residents. In each case, gentrification sprouted usually from one area that was a last bastion of white affluent residents (Chicago’s North Side, Northwest D.C. or the area around the University of Pennsylvania in Philly) and spread outward from there. Although most large cities have vast inequality, it’s most evident in these cities because they tend to be racially, economically and socially divided.

Limited Gentrification
Best examples: Phoenix, San Diego and Las Vegas
These are largely Western cities that developed after World War II and have had historically small black populations. Gentrification is more limited in these cities because of their largely suburban structure. Some black neighborhoods have grown and thrived here, but they’ve usually been small when compared to the city overall. Many residents see the value of creating walkable and dense areas that they’ve been lacking, and they are leading the charge in developing them. They are also investing in transit in ways that cities in other parts of the country are not.

Nascent Gentrification
Best examples: Houston, Charlotte and Memphis
This a largely Southern phenomenon. These are cities with a newer layout, but higher black populations that are still wedded to the conventional suburban development model. This is not to say that there isn’t any development of walkable/dense areas, but it likely occurs less often than in any of the other three categories.

Posted in City Living, economics, gentrification, life, Manhattanization, Manhattanization of San Francisco, New York City, Oakland, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

From MDC to MDBC?

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 13, 2014

There’s a punk band called MDC, one version of their name being Millions of Dead Cops. You get the idea.

Train Station Shooting
BART police’s latest tactic targets vulnerable people
By Jennifer Friedenbach

If in hearing about the latest attempts to clear out evacuation routes at BART stations, you smelled a rat, you may be closer to the truth then you realize. BART police have been gearing up for months to clear homeless people who are doing nothing wrong or illegal out of BART stations, and some cynical pencil pusher came up with a perhaps not-so-perfect cover story.

When BART police officials first announced their intentions of clearing out travelers trying to catch a wink under the guise of clearing evacuation routes, my first thought was: “In an emergency, wouldn’t the well-healed alongside the down and out be evacuated together?”

Add to that a close look at the areas they are clearing people out of — open plazas and 20-foot-wide hallways, and the yarn falls apart.

The BART Police Department has been embattled almost since its inception, with bad publicity flowing directly from poor decisions and horrific incidents. In 1992, BART Officer Fred Crabtree, who was white, shot and killed 19-year-old Jerrold Hall, who was black, near the Hayward station after receiving reports that a BART passenger had been robbed. Hall was unarmed and shot in the back, and the department initially reported he was shot in the chest, and tried to hide the truth. Hall’s father asked for civilian oversite for BART police, but they didn’t bother putting that together for more then a decade later after Oscar Grant III was killed on New Year’s Day 2009.

BART police made precedent in the U.S. by being the first government agency to shut down cellphone service when activists gathered to protest the fatal police shooting of Charles Hill, a homeless man in psychiatric crisis. Then there was the well-known shooting of Grant, which was caught on numerous cellphones, and which BART police attempted to suppress. More recently, BART police were caught on film literally torturing a nonviolent black passenger by repeatedly tasering him as he cried and begged them to stop. Let’s not forget an earlier shooting that occurred of Bruce Edward Seward, a naked mentally ill man who had gotten a hold of the officer’s billy club at the Hayward station. See a pattern? Each of these victims were poor, and either black or mentally ill.

Let’s recap. Fatal shootings of black and mentally ill people, suppressing evidence, trampling free speech, no oversight, torture and, as if they just can’t stop this downward spin into the dark sinkhole of immorality, they are now citing and arresting often black or mentally ill destitute people seeking shelter from the elements.

We are facing an unprecedented housing crisis in San Francisco. Mothers with their children are being forced to sleep at the Civic Center station while waiting six months for proper shelter. People are so desperate for a place to sleep, free of harassment, they are sneaking into elevator shafts and down train tunnels, literally risking their lives to get some rest. Last year, homeless father David Thomas was crushed to death by the elevator, and another poor man was killed by a Powell Street train when trying to get his belongings from below the platform.

We have one shelter bed for every five homeless people in San Francisco. People working three jobs cannot afford housing. We have passed laws making it illegal to sit or lie on sidewalks, closed down our parks at night, power-hosed down public areas under freeways that offer shelter, and just generally kicked and shoved people to the point where they have nowhere to simply exist. Instead of recognizing the crisis and coming up with effective solutions, BART has chosen the tried and failed route of rousting, citing and arresting. These latest efforts by BART to displace poor people from the stations will only drive them deeper into the tunnels, and even more deaths will occur.

BART police’s latest move is unconscionable and follows right along that same old path of fear and intolerance of our poor communities. It is long past time for that train to stop.

Jennifer Friedenbach is executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness.

August 11, 2014 San Francisco Examiner opinion
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Posted in life, militarizing police, police, police brutality, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco Examiner | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

San Francisco and hipsters

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 21, 2014

Here’s a humorous Lonely Planet inspired video of “tourists” finding out about hipster San Francisco:

And here are two “man-in-the-street” interviews of folks in San Francisco speculating about what exactly constitutes a hipster:

Finally, all you really need to know about hipsters in San Francisco:
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Posted in hippie, hippies, hipsters, life, Lonely Planet, Millions of Dead Hipsters!, San Francisco, The Mission | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Walking in the nabe

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 14, 2014

After breakfast and the morning paper, it was time for a walk down to one of our local neighborhoods. Noe Valley had the Summer Fest in action, with a bouncy castle and a petting zoo for the kids.
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The Real Foods Daily storefront, owned now by Nutraceutical but kept abandoned despite every effort by San Franciscans and Noe Valleyans to put something of use and value to the community in its place, hosts regular performances by area musicians. These folks have played here often on the weekends. (Here’s a link in the Noe Valley Voice providing background to the abandoned storefront.) My suggestion is to make this patch of sidewalk a regular venue for local musicians on the weekends.
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Then it was back home via the bus. Not quite as snazzy a form of transportation as this, but it did the job.
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Posted in life, neighborhoods, Noe Valley, Noe Valley Voice, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The end of an era

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 4, 2014

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The Defenestration Building is no more. According to the website, this “[s]ite-specific installation on the corner of 6th and Howard St. in San Francisco” is a multi-disciplinary sculptural mural created in 1997 that “involves seemingly animated furniture; tables, chairs, lamps, grandfather clocks, a refrigerator, and couches, their bodies bent like centipedes, fastened to the walls and window-sills, their insect-like legs seeming to grasp the surfaces. Against society’s expectations, these everyday objects flood out of windows like escapees, out onto available ledges, up and down the walls, onto the fire escapes and off the roof. ‘DEFENESTRATION’ was created by Brian Goggin with the help of over 100 volunteers.”
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When I used to work in the East Bay I would drive home via the Bay Bridge, exit on Fifth Street and, traffic permitting, I would make the jog up to Howard just to pass by the Defenestration Building on my way home. This wacky landmark was a wonderful gateway icon to view upon entering the City.
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Here’s more from the Defenestration website: “The concept of ‘DEFENESTRATION’, a word literally meaning ‘to throw out of a window,’ is embodied by both the site and staging of this installation. Located at the corner of Sixth and Howard Streets in San Francisco in an abandoned four-story tenement building, the site is part of a neighborhood that historically has faced economic challenges and has often endured the stigma of skid row status. Reflecting the harsh experience of many members of the community, the furniture is of the streets, cast-off and unappreciated. The simple, unpretentious beauty and humanity of these downtrodden objects is reawakened through the action of the piece. The act of ‘throwing out’ becomes an uplifting gesture of release, inviting reflection on the spirit of the people we live with, the objects we encounter, and the places in which we live. The ground level has served as a rotating gallery for the vibrant artwork of street muralists.”
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After unsuccessful attempts were made to restore the building to its artistic glory, the Defenestration Building sat, unused and awaiting demolition, for over a decade. Well, yesterday, its deconstruction as it were was begun. Here’s the SF Chronicle article about the demolition. Included is a slideshow of some 17 photos by James Tensuan. And here’s a video featuring Brian Goggin, the artist behind the art.
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This one post cannot substitute for an entire website like Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, a beautiful, intelligent, and highly awarded site mentioned by me in this post. The city of San Francisco is vanishing before my eyes, our eyes, and it is all so very sad.

Posted in life, San Francisco, South of Market | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Going, going…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on May 18, 2014

Shakespeare_and_Company_store_in_Paris
The famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris is a well known tourist destination. Actually, it was a bookstore begun by Sylvia Beach in 1919 which closed during the German occupation in 1940 and then a second bookstore founded by George Whitman in 1951, a tribute to Beach’s original which is still around.
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Shakespeare and Company is also a small chain of locally owned bookshops in New York City unaffiliated with its Paris namesake. With three locations all in Manhattan, Shakespeare and Co started in 1981. In May of this year, it was announced that the Broadway location will close due to an astronomical rent increase.
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I often visited Shakespeare and Co when I made regular pilgrimages to New York City in the 1980s and 1990s. The scourge that was (and remains) Barnes and Noble, which spread like cancer across the City and systematically killed off most of New York’s independent bookstores, is still around if financially ailing due to competition with Amazon. This mainstream New York Times obituary hopefully does not portend the overall Shakespeare chain’s demise.
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I’m constantly lamenting the death of all the joys that make living in San Francisco and New York so wonderful. The steady destruction of independent bookstores, record shops, cinemas, etc. due to urban gentrification and stratification doesn’t make me nostalgic, but rather sad and angry. A marvelous blog, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, had this to say about Shakespeare and Co. Jeremiah’s is where I first heard that Little Rickie, a famous novelty store in Manhattan, also recently closed. Little Rickie is where I bought a smokin’ fez monkey.
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So fucking sad!

Posted in gentrification, independent bookstores, life, New York City, Paris, San Francisco, Shakespeare & Co | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Back to the “office”

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on May 6, 2014

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My novel rewrite is progressing in leaps and bounds, so to speak. From February, 2013 through April, 2014, I’ve been taking Cary Tennis‘s Finishing School, a workshop designed to get literary projects done. Last month, I read the whole novel out loud from hard copy, and noted corrections on my printout. Not exactly something I can do in public. With the “reading out loud” done, I’m back to my “office” away from my home office to make the changes in my digital copy in Scrivener. Today, I’m working at an excellent local coffee shop/dining establishment in the Castro called Réveille Coffee (4076 18th St), enjoying a pot of white tea. Here are pictures of my nomadic office. PS–the food here is excellent, if limited!
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Posted in Castro Street, life, San Francisco, The Castro, The Novel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“San Francisco’s Class War, By the Numbers,” by Susie Cagle

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on March 21, 2014

This is a fucking excellent comic. Enough said.
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This comic, “San Francisco’s Class War, By the Numbers,” by Susie Cagle, can be found in its entirety here. Fucking brilliant!

Posted in Bay Area, class war, gentrification, life, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, tech industry, techies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Defend the Bay Area: March 28-April 5: Direct Action Gets Satisfaction

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on March 20, 2014

Anti-Gentrification
Here’s a week long series of events targeted toward defending the Bay Area and fighting back against the big tech takeover. I suspect this is being organized by the usual leftist suspects, but I think it behooves everyone in the Bay Area to start taking action against the tech incursions and gentrification of our communities. Below is the 4-1-1:

DEFEND THE BAY AREA!

Evict the Evictors
March 21 @ 11:45 am – 12:45 pm
After 20 years of successfully evicting Bay area tenants, BORNSTEIN & BORNSTEIN are now in need of support as they face their own eviction. Join Project Lawyer Connect, a new network for lawyers in need. Help us help them access the life saving social services they have become accustomed to, including sealskin manicures, diplomatic immunity, cocaine fondue, and Michelin rated dinners at Sheriff Mirkarimi’s palatial compound. With community support they can get back on their feet and continue holding their “eviction bootcamps” for the countless landlords who are held captive by renters throughout San Francisco.

Anti-Tech Movie Night: Das Net
March 27 @ 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Das Net: The Unabomber, LSD and the Internet

A marvelously subversive approach to the history of the internet, this insightful documentary combines speculative travelogue and investigative journalism to trace contrasting counter-cultural to the cybernetic revolution.

Free screening.
Some food and drink will be provided.

Kick-off week of action
March 28 – April 5
Kick-off week of action
Week of loosely coordinated actions against gentrification, real estate speculation, surveillance, invasive technology and displacement. Link to call here.

Faces of the Mission, Faces of Bernal Heights
March 29 @ 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Faces of the Mission, Faces of Bernal Heights
PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT AND TOWN HALL MEETING
Come hear from long-time Mission and Bernal residents about the issues they are facing in their daily lives and in their communities. From the displacement of our neighbors to new businesses that don’t cater to the surrounding communities, our neighborhoods are changing around us. Come see some of the “faces” of our neighborhoods in person and in photograph, and discuss how we can band together for the changes we need.

Anti-Tech Movie Night: startup.com
April 3 @ 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Friends since high school, 20-somethings Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman have an idea: a Web site for people to conduct business with municipal governments. This documentary tracks the rise and fall of govworks.com from May of 1999 to December of 2000, and the trials the business brings to the relationship of these best friends. Will the business or the friendship crash first?

Free screening.Some food and drink will be provided.

Assembly of Bay Area Residents
April 5 @ 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Assembly of Bay Area Residents
An assembly of residents from across the Bay Area, coming together to discuss resistance to the current wave of financial speculation and tech development.

come to find others taking action
meet other tenants fighting displacement
resist the proliferation of surveillance
combat racist “redevelopment”
plan actions with others

Development Without Displacement
April 7 @ 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Causa Justa :: Just Cause (CJJC) is excited to announce the release of Development without Displacement: Resistance against Gentrification in the Bay Area. This report is a culmination of a year of work with the Alameda County Public Health Department. The report digs in to the root causes of gentrification and displacement and calls for urgent policy changes and using a different paradigm of human development. As tenants in both San Francisco and Oakland reel under the highest rents in the nation, new development and investment is causing tremendous market pressures destabilizing everything from housing to health to political power. On April 7th, CJJC will release our nearly 100-page report on Displacement and Gentrification and we want to celebrate it with you.

Click on the above links for more details re: dates, times, venues, organizers, and relevant websites.

It’s about time to take direct action to defend our communities…
Anti-Capital

Posted in Bay Area, Bernal Heights, gentrification, neighborhoods, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, tech industry, techies, The Mission | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Oh No!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 9, 2014

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For being such a radical commie pinko would-be revolutionist, I really don’t handle change all that well. Case in point: Cafe Ponte is, or was, a neighborhood coffee shop/eatery within walking distance of my home, at 24th and Diamond Streets. I spent many an afternoon comfortably nestled among its worn cafe furnishings and odd artwork with my laptop, availing myself of their free wifi, and happily working on my writing while people watching. I enjoyed their chai lattes, green teas and fruit smoothies, as well as their spinach salads, pastrami sandwiches, and chicken pot pies. They baked their own cookies and pastries, but I deliberately avoided indulging my sweet tooth on these items.

Imagine my consternation when I recently passed by the location and discovered Cafe Ponte’s windows covered with newspaper, with no notice of what might become of one my favorite writing spots. If I’m not mistaken, the owner once owned an Italian deli specializing in hefty sandwiches just a block down on Elizabeth and Diamond that closed some ten or so years ago. And now Cafe Ponte is closing. According to the folks at Pasta Gina next door, the owner sold the cafe to people who plan to reopen as the Diamond Cafe (a name used by a previous incarnation of this location) with a different menu.

True, all things change, although I wish they wouldn’t.

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