All posts by Nicole Green

From Fauna to Flora

The work-space formally known as a garage, is a mix of motorcycles and flowers. One side of the dimly lit space is filled with tools and motorcycle parts while the other half has tables filled with freshly cut flowers. The two sides couldn’t be more different. They’re polar opposites.

Continue reading From Fauna to Flora

Students Walk for Gun Control

On March 14, thousands of students participated in a national school walk out to demonstrate their support for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students after a shooting occurred at their high school in February, in Parkland, Florida. The survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting have demanded change in gun regulations and have inspired youth around the country, including those at our very own San Francisco State University. Continue reading Students Walk for Gun Control

The Festival of Light Brightens San Francisco for the Fifth Time

San Francisco is shining bright now until New Year’s day with 37 eco-friendly light art installations located in 17 different neighborhoods throughout the city. This is San Francisco’s fifth year hosting Illuminate SF’s, The Festival of Light, which features artists from around the globe. All 37 pieces range in variety and type, making the festival even more unique.


Illuminate, a non-profit founded by Ben Davis, focuses on bringing public art to the masses. They’re mission statement reads:


“Our highly aspirational mission of changing humanity’s future for the better via public art—some would call it impossible—is a reflection of our core beliefs. The best of our projects will always be radically accessible, free to experience and widely viewable.”


Davis and his team began their journey with the first Illuminate piece, The Bay Lights, back in 2013. The Bay Lights is a light sculpture made of 25,000 white LED lights that creates a magnificent light show on the north side of The Bay Bridge. The display was set to run March 2013 to March of 2015 but has now become a permanent piece in the city. For many, this has become an iconic landmark in San Francisco. Since The Bay City Lights, Davis and the rest of Illuminate have helped multiple artists bring their public art to life.

“It’s hard to choose a favorite,” says Jordan Guerrero, a former student at San Francisco State University and now an employee at SoulCycle Castro.


“One of my favorites has to be the “Hope Will Never Be Silent” sign that’s recently been installed outside my work.”


Guerrero is referring to one of six new art light installations that has been installed for this years Festival of Light. The white neon sign reads “Hope will never be silent” and rests above the doors of Soul Cycle, which is located in The Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro district. The sign is meant to pay tribute to the late Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of California.


“It makes you smile when you see it. It’s a nice little reminder of how far we’ve come. It just goes to show what type of community lives within the Castro,” says Guerrero while smiling.


Another favorite, the Bayview Rise by Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan, towers over the Bayview District standing at 187 feet tall. The mural located at Port Pier 92 symbolizes change but also honors the rich history of the neighborhood.


“We wanted to honor the neighborhood,” says Haddad while talking about the process of creating the piece.

“We decided to ask the community to come up with words to describe the district. We thought that it was a nice way to get the neighborhoods input. The words they came up with were so empowering. The one that really stood out to us was  ‘rise’.”


Haddad goes on to explain other inspirations for their piece, including one special lady, Essie Webb.


Webb, one of five women a part of “The Big Five”, a group of black women who advocated for better housing and health clinics in their neighborhood, made a quote that brought the whole piece together.


“All the air came out of the balloon, and it just came to the ground and it’s still there, and it’s just waiting for someone to put some more air in and blow it up.”

Webb’s quote inspired Haddad and Drugan to incorporate balloons into their piece. The balloons are the most prominent on the mural. With the use of light, Haddad and Drugan showcase different elements of their piece.


“At night, the art extends this visual metaphor of transformation through a dynamic interaction of light and color. The light fixtures at the base of the building cycle through different colors that each highlight a unique combination of images within the painted mural. As the light colors shift, images appear to float in and out of the scene. This striking effect of “illumination animation” results in a kinetic image abstractly representing a neighborhood in flux, or Bayview Rising.” (Laura Haddad, Inimitable Glitter)


The incorporation of the lights creates a story for art-goers to interpret. Without them, some elements of the mural would go unnoticed.


Matthew Passmore, the creator of Handsignals, located in the Mission District, explains the importance of light in his piece.


“It’s (the light) critical. It was a little bit of a challenge to get the Arts Commission to go along with a lit piece. The lighting is so critical to it. If the lights don’t work, ya got nothing,” says Passmore.


“Light is the essence of the piece. It comes to life at night.”


Passmore is right when saying these pieces come to life at night, some more than others. One of this year’s new most-raved about exhibits is the Photosynthesis Love for All Seasons, a vibrant imagery show that is projected on the exterior of The Conservatory of Flowers. More events occurring during The Festival of Light include Sausalito Lighted Boat Parade, Parol Light Festival, and After Hours at the Conservatory-Botanicals and Brews Beer Garden.

Illuminate SF’s website provides maps of free self-guided walking tours along with detailed information about each piece and the artist behind the work. The festival along with its events will last until New Years Day. The final celebration will go off with a bang on the Moonlight New Year’s Eve Fireworks Party Cruise.




Upcoming Festival of Light Events:


SF Holiday Lights Tour

When: 5:00PM or 7:30PM Friday, November 25, 2017 – December 30, 2017

Where Fisherman’s Wharf: 2899 Hyde Street

SF Neon Light Tours

When: 5:00PM – 7:00PM Friday, December 15, 2017

Where: Union Square

When: 4:30PM – 6:30PM Friday, December 29, 2017

Where: Tender Nob

Night at the Jewseum: Light, Analog Edition

When: 6:00PM – 9:00PM Thursday, December 14, 2017

Where Contemporary Jewish Museum

de Young | Light Art Docent tour/activation 

When: Saturdays, December 16, 23, 30, 2017

Where: de Young Museum

After Hours at the Conservatory – Botanicals and Brews Beer Garden

When: 6:30PM – 11:30PM Friday, December 15, 2017

Where: Golden Gate Park – Conservancy of Flowers

Moonlight New Year’s Eve Fireworks Party Cruise

When: 9:00PM – 1:00PM Sunday, December 31, 2017

Where: Pier 3 – Hornblower Landings

Seeing Hope Through the Smoke

The air smells like a mix of chemicals and about a thousand bonfires. It feels as if there’s a cloud of sadness floating above the town and neighborhoods of Santa Rosa, California.  Thousands have lost everything.


“Did you hear the story about the ring?” asks Ian Derammelaere, a firefighter from San Francisco’s Fire Department.


“One woman was searching for a wedding ring,” adds Eli Thomas, another San Francisco firefighter, dressed head to toe in fire gear.


The two firefighters, exhausted and worn out, are covered in ash and dirt. Ian  and Eli, along with other members of their strike team, had been sent to Sonoma County in order to fight the North Bay Fires.


“There was a big slab of stucco, as long as a driveway,” says Eli, while using his arms to mimic just how large the slab was.


“A lady called me over to help her move it. She goes ‘hey, can you come help me lift this up? I want to look under it.”


He begins to smirk as he continues the story.


“I was like, ‘I am so flattered you think that I’m that strong!”



Eli, with the help of other firefighters, decided to break the stucco up into pieces, making it easier for them to peel back. The woman explained to the men in yellow, that she was looking for a wedding ring. The area where the slab of stucco remained used to be her bathroom. There, she had an amour full of jewelry, which held the missing wedding ring. The woman continued to look through the rubble as Eli and the rest of the crew continued through the neighborhoods, searching for hot spots.


“I told my cousin the story about the woman who was looking for a ring,” explains Eli.


“Later he called me and was like, ‘Dude! Some lady is on the news talking about how some fireman helped find her ring!’”


“And that was me,” the exhausted firefighter says while grinning from ear to ear.


“It was a trip, I’m glad she found it.”


Ash, toasted Hondas, and charred ceramic angel figurines are all that’s left in the eerie neighborhood of Fountain Grove in Santa Rosa. Coffey Park, along with other neighborhoods in Sonoma County, mimic similar scenery.  The county, known for its wine and natural beauty, looks like a scene from The Walking Dead.


The wildfires ripped through 107,407 acres of land, destroying thousands of structures, many of them being the homes. Town landmarks, like a local Applebee’s and Arby’s, are now unrecognizable piles of metal. Those who wander the damaged town of Santa Rosa wear white surgical masks in order to protect themselves from the smoke and chemicals within the air.


Since the start of the fires on October 8, more than 2,900 fire personnel from around the country have been called to California’s North Bay region. Those numbers don’t include the hundreds of police officers responsible for protecting the areas of destruction or the thousands of volunteers helping those affected.


“This is a once in career type of fire,” says SFFDs Jesse Bautista as he stares at the remains of a brick fireplace.


The four San Francisco firefighters, Lieutenant Jason Simmons, Jesse Bautista, Ian Derammelaere, and Eli Thomas begin to reflect on their week as they sit amongst the incredible amount of rubble.


“I turned on the news and they were talking about the Atlas Fire. It was just before 11 o’clock,” Lieutenant Simmons recalls as he begins to realize what was going on.


“As I’m watching, I pulled up one of the scanner apps. The next thing I hear is ‘second alarm on a structure fire in Santa Rosa, vegetation fire in Santa Rosa, Sonoma vegetation fire, Glen Ellen vegetation fire, Kenwood vegetation fire.”


He counts the numbers of fires with his fingers as he talks.


“It went to hell in about 20 minutes.”


The fires in the Sonoma county region spread, like they say, ‘like wildfire’. Up to 70 mph winds were the cause of the rapid spread. An estimated 90,000 people have been evacuated from areas surrounding the fires. Simmons, being one of them.


“I grabbed a computer and two leather firefighter helmets,” Lieutenant Simmons explains.


“My wife was like ‘why the hell did you bring the leather helmets?’,” says Simmons as the group of four laugh in agreement with his decision.


He explains that the two leather helmets were the first helmets he received when starting his career. They symbolize a lot more than just helmets for the San Francisco firefighter.


Thankfully, the Lieutenant’s home remains standing. For other Santa Rosa Natives, that is not the case.


“The biggest thing, the thing I keep reflecting on, is just download all your pictures,” says Eli Thomas when discussing the amount of photos families have lost in the fires.


“That’s huge,” adds Ian Derammelaere.


“Those are the things that you can’t get back. Those are frozen moments in time,” concludes Thomas.


Sophia Lassen, a senior at San Francisco State University was born and raised in Santa Rosa. Lassen’s family evacuated their home located in the neighborhood of Larkfield around 2 a.m.. Her family was woken by the sounds of honking horns coming from neighbors.


The fire absorbed Sophia’s neighborhood. With little time to grab valuables, her mom was able to grab a few photo albums before the fire destroyed parts of the home.


“Where I had grown up was virtually gone overnight,” recounts Sophia, as she looks down at her interlaced hands that lie on her lap.


Police have now begun to leading homeowners into the areas where the fires have destroyed their homes. Many have already begun rummaging through what’s left of their burnt belongings. Some homeowners, like the woman who found her ring, have found some valuables thanks to the help of fire personnel. Others, remain empty handed as their belongings have been reduced to nothing but ash.


What remains standing in these neighborhoods are dozens of a brick fireplaces that once warmed rooms.


The destroyed neighborhoods aren’t expected to make building progress anytime soon. However, PG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric, already have crews reconstructing and replacing power lines. When the time comes to rebuild, Bay Area construction companies will be busy.


“Eventually there will be a positive side, it’s just going to take a couple years to see,” Lieutenant Simmons explains.


And Lieutenant Simmons is right.


The Bay Area has already come together to provide incredible amounts of support for the friends and families that have lost their homes. Thousands of donations poured into Sonoma County, causing donation centers to stop accepting further donated items.


Thanks to the incredible amounts of fire personnel, police, volunteers, and the support of the Bay Area, Sonoma County, along with the other areas of destruction, will flourish again.


Like Lieutenant Simmons said, it’ll just take some time.

Free At Last: Gator Pass Grants SF State Students Free and Discounted access to Public Transit

Everyday, thousands of students from across the Bay Area commute to San Francisco State University. For a university that is consistently known for its commuters, you’d think the school’s administration would strike a deal with San Francisco’s public transit. Fear not, they finally have! 


We want to make our students commute cheaper and more convenient. We want to make life in this city better.


Last Spring, SF State’s Associated Students Organization, a student run government, along with SF State administrators, State Senator Scott Wiener, Nick Josefowitz, a member of Bay Area Rapid Transit’s board and the Gator Pass Project team, negotiated with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in order for SF State students to receive a Gator Pass. A Gator Pass, similar to a Clipper card, gives students access to unlimited rides on Muni and discounted rides on BART.  

Once negotiated, students at SF State voted on the proposition. More than half of student voters supported the proposition in May of 2016, leaving the Gator Pass Project Team about a year to negotiate with transit agencies, design the layout, and print 30,000 Gator Passes. 


SFSU students patiently waiting for the Muni to open its doors. In San Francisco, CA. On Monday September 25, 2017.
(Golden Gate Magazine/Cristabell Fierros)


“Technically if you look at our timeline, we had about a year and three months to complete all 30,000 cards,” John Gates, Director of Fiscal Operations at SF State, says.


“A lot of that time was consumed by negotiating and coordinating between the different transit agencies. The process of actually making, printing, and delivering the specialized and customized Clipper Card, took six months alone. We had to move quickly.”


In May of 2017, Gates and the team printed 23,000 cards in order to distribute them as quickly as possible. They wanted to hand the cards off to students before the start of summer. They chose to do this in order to minimize the amount of time students spent in lines. By providing students with more opportunities to pick up their cards, the lines shortened, saving students time.

SF State is one of the last universities in the Bay Area to implement discounted transit fares for students. University of San Francisco has been discounting their students Muni rides since 2001, while UC Berkeley followed in 2006. However, SF State is the first university to score a deal with BART.

The deal negotiated with Bart gives students a 25 percent discount on rides arriving at the Daly City Bart Station.


SFSU student’s tapping their Gator Pass on the Muni in San Francisco, CA.
On Monday September 25, 2017. (Golden Gate Magazine/Cristabell Fierros)


Muni is the only form of public transportation that is provided to students at the University of San Francisco. UC Berkeley also only provides AC Transit, Berkeley’s form of public transit, for students.

Associated Students, administrators, Wiener, and The Gator Pass Project Team knew that without BART, students wouldn’t have voted for the proposition. According to a study done by the university, nearly 20 percent of SF State students use BART when commuting to school.


“We want to make our students commute cheaper and more convenient. We want to make life in this city better.” Alexander Kozulin explains. He is the project manager and the brains behind the Gator Pass.


“Reducing the university’s carbon footprint. By implementing the Gator Pass, we’re definitely doing that,” Gates added as an additional goal of the Gator Pass.


So, all of this seems too good to be true. What’s the catch?

Not only are all enrolled students required to pay a one-hundred eighty-dollar fee per semester, but the pass only works during Fall and Spring semesters, leaving Winter and Summer student commuters empty handed. The fee has caused frustration among students who don’t use public transportation as a way to get to school.  


“I would say the feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive because of the unlimited rides on Muni and the discounted rates on Bart,” Gates says.


“There are some students who don’t take public transportation and are like ‘hey why do I have to pay this $180 fee?’. The fee is to benefit the university as a whole, not to buy out transit passes,” concluded Gates.


Gates, along with his fellow Gator Pass team members, took into account that some students wouldn’t be using public transportation. They came up with the one hundred eighty dollar fee after considering those factors.

While some students see the Gator Pass as a buy out, the majority of SF State students are enjoying it. The Gator Pass allows students to use their passes throughout the city. So whether or not students are using it to get to school, they’re still able to use Gator Passes around the city as long as school is in session.



“I use the Gator Pass to get to work in the Marina a couple times a week,” says Juliette Leite, a twenty-one-year-old senior, studying communications at SF State.


“It’s nice that students are able to use their Gator Pass throughout the city. It makes the fee totally worth it.”


Leite is right about the Gator Pass saving students money. In fact, it saves students one hundred and fifteen dollars each semester. That’s if students are using Muni seven days a week. The 2017-2018-fall semester is approximately seventeen weeks long equaling to one hundred and eighteen days. If students rode on Muni everyday without the Gator Pass, they’d be spending close to three hundred dollars each semester.

University of San Francisco and UC Berkeley also provide their students with a similar deal. Both University of San Francisco and UC Berkeley issue their students stickers to put on their ID cards indicating free transportation. SF State, however, uses a Clipper card which students scan when riding Muni. SF State is the first university in the Bay Area to partner with Clipper.

The Gator Pass Program team, along with Alexander Kozulin and John Gates, worked extremely hard over the course of a year in order to get the Gator Pass up and running.


“Alexander does this thing where when he’s worried about something he like pulls the hair on top of his head. I thought he was gonna go bald there for a couple months,” Gate continues as the room laughs.


SF State, administration, Nick Josefowitz, the Gator Pass Program Team, Kozulin and Gates went above and beyond to make sure are SF State students were well taken care of and that their needs were met.


“It’s a great feeling having this completed. There’s still work to be done. We’re thinking about the next steps. ” concluded Gates.


Thanks to everyone’s help, SF State students are sitting pretty on public transit.