Tag Archives: San Francisco

Building Upward

By Colin Blake

San Francisco is getting taller. In fact, if the city’s 15-tallest buildings were laid end-to-end, they would be over 300-feet taller than the Golden Gate Bridge is long. This growth spurt isn’t slowing down, but accelerating.

San Francisco is in its fifth-straight year of economic and population growth, according to the city’s five-year financial plan released in May. What’s more, Mayor Ed Lee’s 2015-2020 city prospectus expects continued growth for both variables in the next five years.

As a result, city planners have continued dotting the Financial District and South of Market skyline with high-rise apartments and office buildings to accommodate San Francisco’s continuing expanse – resuscitating an old term: Manhattanization.

Manhattanization refers to the symptoms of vertical growth within a dense city, much like Manhattan experienced in the 1930s, a period in time which saw the completion of some of the world’s tallest buildings, including the Empire State Building.

“The term is very specifically talking about tall buildings blocking views, blotting out the sun and shadowing the streets, just like in Manhattan,” said John King, the architecture critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to King, who has covered city-planning-related issues for nearly two decades, San Francisco must build to keep pace with its economic and population growth, and has been doing so for a while. Much of what is visible this decade was set in motion in the last.

In 2005, then Mayor Gavin Newsom signed the Rincon Hill Plan, which, in conjunction with the Transbay Terminal Project and other neighborhood upgrowth from the period, is expected to add a total of 6,620 new units of housing to the area once fully developed.

The Transbay development, the larger of the two, aims to transform the South of Market neighborhood into a dense residential and mixed-use zone, creating 4,400 units of housing and 6 million square-feet of new office space.

Planners made this possible by up zoning, a special exception in the Transbay plan which changed the permissible height of structures in the area to allow for towers as tall as 550 feet.

For the Rincon Hill Plan, street-side housing, not on the crest of the hill, was up zoned to allow for eight-story buildings. This effectively tripled or quadrupled the units of housing many lots could accommodate. Two luxury apartment buildings occupy the top of Rincon Hill now – one was completed in 2008, the other in 2014. Together they have added 709 units of housing to San Francisco.

“San Francisco has targets set by the regional planning agency and the state to try and produce the amount of housing needed to keep pace with job growth,” King said.

In the past five years, nearly 45,000 new residents have called San Francisco their home. However, in that same period of time only 8,000 units of housing were added to San Francisco’s total housing stock of nearly 380,000 units.

In 2014, 91 percent of all new housing units added to the market were structures containing 20 units or more. Comparatively, in the 1990s only 60 percent of new housing stock contained structures that housed 20 or more units.

In fact, many were in the hundreds and one, the NEMA Luxury Apartments in the South of Market District, contains over 750 units. In the south of the city, the Schlage Lock Project, approved in 2014, will create over 1,670 residential units in the Visitacion Valley.

Even with construction elsewhere, the city’s 2014 housing stock analysis said that 74 percent of all new housing units were built in three downtown districts: the Financial, South of Market and Mission Bay Districts.

“There’s no turning back in the downtown area,” King said. “It’s really localized there. It’s not like the city is planning a 55-story building in the Outer Sunset District.”

For 2015, 88 percent of planned construction will consist of structures containing 20 units or more. The planning department stops differentiating beyond a unit count of 20, but building proposal records show many to be several hundred units in capacity.

According to King, these larger buildings have the benefit of bringing people closer to transportation, city services and jobs. The drawback being, to some, is that the look and feel of the city is completely changed.

“If you’re going to live in a city, you can’t expect your view not to change,” King said.

One view that is not changing is Sue Vaughan’s.

“We recognize the need of the city to prevent sprawl,” Vaughan, the chair of the San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club, said. “But we support the idea of smart development. You have to balance development with open space.”

On Nov. 3, San Francisco approved Proposition D, which granted approval for the San Francisco Giants to develop Pier 48. The 28-acre waterfront project, also known as the Mission Rock Development, has drawn criticism from the Sierra Club.

The primary concern for Vaughan and the Sierra Club is the walling off of the waterfront properties which would ultimately reduce open space and visual intrigue.

“They want to put a 10-story parking structure right on the waterfront,” Vaughan said. “This is the 21st century. San Francisco cannot be catering to cars while not making open space a priority.”

In the development plan the Giants will be able to exceed the height limitations currently placed on the site: no building greater than one story. This voter-approved zoning exception will allow three mixed-use towers to be raised to 240-feet tall. Furthermore, 10 adjacent acres will be zoned for multi-use development up to 190 feet. This development is expected to create anywhere from 1,000 to 1,950 units of housing and 3,100 new parking spaces for cars.

According to Vaughan, San Francisco leadership fast-tracks development plans without thoroughly looking at environmental or aesthetic consequences of the projects.

“The reason Manhattan is beautiful is because of the skyline,” Vaughan said. “The reason San Francisco is beautiful is because of the bay. We won’t be able to see the bay if we build like Manhattan.”

Jasper Rubin, the Chair of the Urban Studies and Planning Program at San Francisco State University and a former member of the city’s planning department, said the effort to build upwards has been going on for more than 50 years.

“Maybe the first example of Manhattanization in San Francisco would be the construction of the Fontana Towers,” Rubin said. “The neighbors were incensed because it blocked their views of the bay.”

The Fontana Towers, located west of Ghirardelli Square, were built in 1962. They are both 230-feet tall and feature 18 floors of residential space. According to Rubin, this new construction really struck a chord with residents of the time and, perhaps for the first time, differentiated the mentality of residents of San Franciscans and Manhattanites.

“Manhattan was always tall, it was always big, very antithetical to the idea of San Francisco’s connection with nature,” Rubin said. “When you live here, you feel connected to nature because of the hills, or because you have water on three sides.”

According to Rubin, early challenges facing city planners were devising ways to accentuate the natural topography of San Francisco, which is actually adorned with nearly 50 hills that make getting a view of the bay easy.

“Eventually, the planning department realized if we are going to build tall buildings, we need to build them at the top of tall hills,” Rubin said. “When you build on the hill, it maintains the notion that there is a hill there.”

The city adhered to this principle until approval and subsequent completion of the Transamerica Pyramid in 1972. At 853-feet, the Transamerica building is San Francisco’s tallest building. It boasts 48 floors and lies in the northern part of the Financial District.

“That threw a lot of people off,” Rubin said. “This is one of several reasons why San Francisco passed Proposition M in 1985. People saw a lot of tall buildings going up around them.”

Prop M amended the city’s Office Development Annual Limit Program. From that point forward, any office space project greater than 25,000 square-feet required additional square-footage to be reviewed and approved by the planning department.

As a result, the planning department now has the discretion to allocate 950,000 square-feet of additional office space per year, and any unused allocatable square-footage is carried over to subsequent years for disbursement. The planning department could technically allocate two Transamerica buildings worth of office space every year.

It’s really the office buildings that are driving overall growth in San Francisco. Of San Francisco’s 50 tallest buildings, 35 of them are offices, with nothing under 400-feet tall appearing on the list. As the tech economy burgeons, the supporting infrastructure to house the workers will have to grow as well.

“The thing is, it brings more demand for housing,” Rubin said. “They want to live closer to their jobs.”

What’s more, there are currently nine towers under construction, mostly in SoMa, that are greater than 400-feet tall, most notably the Salesforce Tower. Once completed, the Salesforce Tower will be the tallest building in San Francisco, reaching a height of 1070 feet.

On top of that, developers have submitted proposals for 15 more buildings greater than 400-feet in height. The tallest of these buildings would be 905-feet tall and contain one million square-feet of office space as well as 111 residential units.

This development may eventually spread to areas like the Marina, Western Addition and Sunset Districts as the Board of Supervisors debates relaxing height and density restrictions in those neighborhoods with a so-called density bonus program.

“There is no clear statement in any policy document, and there is nothing in the city’s charter that says, ‘OK, we’ve built enough, there’s a limit here,’” Rubin said. “Who knows if it’s good for San Francisco.”

All the while, debate will continue as to what the city is starting to resemble.

“We are always comparing ourselves to a city we don’t want to be,” Rubin said.

Fighting for the Spotlight

Iris Contreras and Vivian Flores trade punches at Beautiful Brawlers V in Pacifica. Photos by James Chan

 

Story by Steven Calderon

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he crowd crammed into every corner of the second floor of the Moose Lodge in Pacifica to witness the storm of jabs, hooks and crosses that ensued on a makeshift boxing ring. The air was thick with sweat and the room smelled like the bottom of a gym bag. Fighting with bloody noses, gloved fists and bundled up hair, 30 women paired up and threw down in front of a roaring crowd and a pay-per-view audience for the fifth installment of an all-female, all-amateur boxing tournament called Beautiful Brawlers.

The only screams heard over the fans cheering in the face of combat were those coming from the fighter’s corners. Trainers shouted commands to their wards as the women absorbed punishment and punches that came too fast and too often to count. Sometimes the fighters followed instructions and at other times they succumbed to the cacophony of cheers and flying leather that came their way, making it near impossible to follow specific instructions.

Beautiful Brawlers is the brainchild of trainer, manager and former fighter Blanca Gutierrez. She created the tournament in 2011 to give women fighters a stage and an opportunity to compete at an elite level against fellow top amateurs, as well as putting them in the spotlight to get the recognition she knows they deserved. For the first time in the history of Beautiful Brawlers an added bonus came for three young competitors; a World Boxing Council trophy in the form of an authentic green and gold champion belt. It was also the first time that a WBC belt was awarded to an all-female tournament.

“We started it to try to match girls who couldn’t get fights,” Blanca Gutierrez said. “Then it got to the point where girls wanted to come to us to fight, but we tell them ‘If you want to fight, it has to be the best versus the best.”

22537263374_041f8c9668_k
Boxer Heaven Garcia poses for a portrait at Beautiful Brawlers V in Pacifica

According to Blanca Gutierrez, women boxers are not only generally overlooked, but some can have difficulty finding fights if they fight at or above 145 pounds. Blanca Gutierrez said that her friend and fighting companion Martha Salazar had difficulty finding fights when they competed as amateurs in the 1990’s. Blanca Gutierrez likes to tell the story of how the two would scour show to show in search of fights.

“Well Martha and I always used to go to fights and we always used to want to beat up the pretty girl,” Blanca Gutierrez said. “And the pretty girl could always fight. So that’s kind of where Beautiful Brawlers came from — pretty girls can fight too.”

Now as WBC women’s heavyweight champion, Salazar helps train her niece Ari Borerro, who is also a heavyweight fighter. Borerro has only two fights as an amateur because of the lack of available competition, but Beautiful Brawlers was able to provided her an opportunity. With her aunt in her corner, she squared off against Alexis Coultier, losing a close three round decision.

Aside from Borerro, one of the most anticipated bouts on the card featured 15-year-old junior Olympic gold medalist Lupe Gutierrez, who won the world championship tournament in Taiwan for the 132-pound division over the summer. Lupe Gutierrez, a winner of 40 amateur bouts, squared off against Erika Sanchez, another standout amateur, for the WBC trophy.

The fight was not easy against the ever-throwing Sanchez. They traded hooks at the center of ring in the first round. They threw quick, rapid-fire shots but then suddenly Lupe Gutierrez quick-stepped to Sanchez’s left, changing the angle and flow of the punches. She caught Sanchez off-guard with the position change and began to fight from a further distance. Lupe Gutierrez, the longer fighter, stuck her right-jab in Sanchez’s face and kept her left hand high to guard her own face and chin.

Her corner shouted, “Jab, jab! Jab and work!” and Lupe Gutierrez followed instructions.

Sanchez continued to bull Lupe Gutierrez toward the ropes but Lupe Gutierrez kept her composure and did not fold under the pressure of Sanchez’s assault. After the round both went to their corners and made up their minds how they would fight the rest of the contest. The second round was a duplicate of the first but Gutierrez began to time and counter punch Sanchez who continued to throw wide punches.

The fight seemed close at the start of into the third round and Lupe Gutierrez received warning from the referee to keep her head up during the exchanges. Lupe Gutierrez then became the aggressor and forced Sanchez back to the ropes.

Lupe Gutierrez’s corner, which never stopped shouting and must have sensed the fight was up for grabs, began to plead to their fighter, “Now Lupe go! Now Go!”

The bell rang, the fight ended and the crowd showered them with cheers. Lupe Gutierrez came back to the corner and after her trainer removed her mouthpiece she complained about a pain in her stomach as she held her hand at her side. Lupe Gutierrez must have known it was a close fight because as she and Sanchez came to the center of the ring to await the decision, she took a knee and bowed her head. After the decision was announced the referee raised Lupe Gutierrez’s hand in victory and another trophy was added to her growing collection.

22538551553_a40d7dd9ea_k
Lupe Gutierrez poses with her new WBC belt after winning one of the championship bouts at Beautiful Brawlers V

“I’ve won a lot of titles but it doesn’t really compare to this,” Lupe Gutierrez said. “I mean this is a WBC belt and this is my first one ever. I think I have more to come as a pro but as an amateur it feels great to have this one.”

Jill Diamond, co-chairman of the women’s division for the WBC, said that the sanctioning body came on as a supporter for Beautiful Brawlers because of its “great interest in nurturing young athletes.” She also mentioned that the WBC has a lot of respect for Blanca Gutierrez who is “a creative and articulate spokesperson of the sport.”

According to Diamond, this was not the first time the WBC granted belts to the winners of amateur fights, but has recently decided to award the belts as a more prestigious trophy, according to Diamond.

Diamond explained that a possible reason these young ladies were so eager to win a WBC belt is because the history of the organization and what it represents.

“The WBC is known for having the greatest champions and a relationship with its champions,” Diamond said. “It’s the strongest of the organizations and the titles have been called the ‘Ali Belt’ and later the ‘Tyson Belt.’ It’s prestigious.”

Nonetheless, Blanca Gutierrez said that she would never “cheapen” the belts by awarding them to women who did not stand-out as elite, world-class amateurs.

“It’s the kind of thing where it’s going to create a bigger situation for female fighters,” Blanca Gutierrez said. “And the WBC is the best federation in the world. So to be connected with them is not only a blessing, it’s just the greatest thing that could have happened to the Beautiful Brawlers.”

 

 

 

Straight Outta’ Kuwait

Haidar Abu al Hasan (left) and Ahmad al Sumait (right) co-founders of Above All Elements studios pose for a portrait outside of the Honey Hive storefront in the Sunset. Photo by Imani Miller

By Jasmine Williams

[dropcap size=”50px”]S[/dropcap]eated in front of a mixer to check the levels in preparation for his next recording session, Haidar Abu Al Hasan rocked back and forth in his chair in a room in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset District. The room, which Hasan rents from the Honey Hive Gallery, houses his recording studio, Above All Elements. His desk held the mixer, a 20-inch Mac monitor, two Rokit 8 speakers and was littered with wrappers, empty bottles and sticky remnants of spilled soda. The mess went unnoticed by the 21-year-old rapper-turned-business-owner as he threw on headphones and submerged himself in the music. He was home.

Although Hasan was born in the United States, he grew up in Kuwait. He moved back to his birth country at 17 to pursue a future in music he didn’t feel was possible in the Middle East. That future is looking more and more like a reality ever since Hasan partnered with his best friend Ahmad Al Sumait and opened their very own studio. In addition to creating their own music, the pair also record other artists in an effort to further their dreams in the industry.

Because of the religious influence on the government, Kuwaitis aren’t allowed to possess drugs or alcohol or own items that express political views– liberties Hasan has come to appreciate in the states.

“There are no nightclubs in Kuwait,” Hasan said. “Alcohol is illegal. It’s a whole different place.”

From a young age, Hasan immersed himself in the hip-hop culture– so much so that he was given the name “MC Element” by a mentor because he dabbled in varying elements of the genre. He has involved himself in graffiti, poetry and hip-hop dance. Hasan even created a mural inside the studio at the Honey Hive.

After high school, Hasan was unsure of what he wanted to do and questioned pursuing higher education altogether. His parents gave him the final push he needed to make the decision to study abroad in the states. After his top choice, Layola Maroumount University, denied his application, Hasan decided to study Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts at San Francisco State University.

Basing himself in California was a priority for Hasan. He realized at a young age that there was no opportunity to grow in the hip-hop music industry in Kuwait.

“All I had in my mind was, ‘man, I’m getting out of Kuwait and I’m going to Cali,’ that’s one big step,” Hasan said. “It’s like I’m going the land of opportunity right now. This is where I can really count.”

[pullquote align=”right”]“All I had in my mind was, ‘man, I’m getting out of Kuwait and I’m going to Cali.” –  Haidar Abu Al Hasan[/pullquote]

Although excited for a rare opportunity, Hasan found it took a little over a year to adjust to his new life in America. Fighting off occasional feelings of homesickness, Hasan would frequently talk to friends back home and tell them about the wonders of the Golden State.

“One day I was talking to one of my friends on Skype in Kuwait, and I saw one of my best friends, Ahmad,” Hasan said. “It had been some months since we last talked. I told him he needed to come out here. I don’t think he would have been out here if I didn’t convince him that day.”

Hasan and Sumait met in the fourth grade after discovering they both shared a love for what their parent’s considered “the devil’s music.”

Like Hasan, Sumait dreamed of coming to the United States to pursue a career in hip-hop. While growing up in Kuwait together, the two developed their musical style and absorbed any hip-hop culture they could find, despite the risks. MC Element, Hasan, and Traphique, Sumait, would sneak off and hang around their close friend’s studio for hours out of the day. In school they spent class time writing one-liners and punchlines. Today, the friends consider each other brothers.

“The minute Element heard that I rapped he was someone that really believed in me and pushed me,” Sumait said. “For that I am always loyal to him.”

While Hasan was born in America, Sumait needed a visa from the Kuwaiti government to make his dreams of moving to San Francisco possible. To do this, he realized education was the platform that could get him to get to the states. His student visa allows him to live in America.

“There’s a small community for hip-hop and rap (in Kuwait) too,” Sumait said. “The mentality out there is if you want to make it you either have to be in California or New York.”

Under the conditions of the scholarship, Sumait is awarded a monthly salary to be a full-time student at SF State to study cinema. Sumait had to settle on the major because the Kuwaiti government wouldn’t support a major in theater, his first choice.

Sumait studies under an I-20 student visa, which restricts him from legally working in the country. When Hasan mentioned starting his own recording studio last year, Sumait was more than willing to help with the business endeavor– under the condition that his involvement remained under the table.

“He mentioned it in passing one night and of course I was down,” Sumait said. “When I got back from Kuwait after the break, he had all this paperwork ready, and then I just knew he was serious.”

Hasan believes owning his own studio was his destiny.

22361701581_f2a7ade967_k
Christian Thomas sorts through tracks on the computer located in Above All Elements studio. 13. Photo by Imani Miller

“I always knew I would have my own studio,” Hasan said. “I’ve saved all my life for this I just never really had the opportunity to make it happen until I got out to San Francisco.”

Hasan did his homework. After addressing financial options, and confirming Sumait as his new business partner, the next step was to find a sound engineer to run the studio.

Late one December night last year, Christian Thomas, an SF State student and musician from Los Angeles, received an elusive text from Hasan.

“It said ‘I have a proposition for you,’” Thomas said chuckling. “At first I thought it was kind of weird because it was like I was being summoned by a guy I just met.”

Shortly after a brief meeting with Hasan, 20-year-old Thomas became the head engineer of the first studio in the Above All Elements Studios franchise.

The studio, unlike the sudden text, did not just spring up overnight; it was the result of a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

“I had to sell my car,” Hasan said. “From that I had about $11,000 that I just wanted the majority of it to go to the studio.”

After cramped beginnings in their two-bedroom Daly City town home studio, the pair decided to upgrade to a more traditional place of business. They landed on the Honey Hive Gallery, a multi-use building which serves as a collective for local artists.

The partners have 24-hour access to their room in the Honey Hive and cater to at least two sessions per week on top of recording personal projects in their free time. They hope that by pushing their own projects created in Above All Elements, the quality of their sound and projects will encourage clients to book sessions.

Their short-term plans include getting a smaller booth to make the area around it more spacious for clients, along with other aesthetic changes like more art and new carpet.

Above All Elements plans to expand in the future with studios run by Hasan in San Francisco, Thomas in L.A and a third by Sumait in Kuwait.

“I would say that what you see now is not even 25 percent of where we plan on going,” Hasan said. “This is that one opportunity that we got. As far as me and Traphique, we don’t got this back home, so we’re not going to let this go. We’re not going to be lazy and we’re not going to quit.”

Goodbye Guns: San Francisco’s Last Gun Store Rides Off into the Sunset

Steve Alcairo, general manager at High Bridge Arms checks the sights of his personal rifle during downtime. Photo by Ryan McNulty

By Colin Blake

[dropcap size=”50px”]I[/dropcap]n 1971, Harry Callahan, played by Clint Eastwood, was the ice-cold San Francisco police inspector tasked with catching the city’s serial killer in the blockbuster movie “Dirty Harry.” Callahan solved this problem with astute, yet brute detective work, but ultimately closed the case with a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver.

At first glance, San Francisco might appear as if it welcomed swift, bullet-riddled judgement at the hand of one, but despite box office success, the characterization of Callahan and his methods were fictitious from the start.

A total of five “Dirty Harry” movies were made in San Francisco over a period of 17 years. Each iteration was arguably more and more contrary to the reality of San Francisco police work.

In 1978, two years after the third “Dirty Harry” installment, San Francisco saw real, bloody crime scene photos of two prominent San Franciscans as they lay lifeless on the marble floors of city hall. Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were shot by former Supervisor Dan White on Nov. 27, 1978 with a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver.

Following White’s trial, after which he served five of a seven-year sentence at Soledad State Prison, the White Night riots protested everything from gay rights to police brutality and the frequency of which guns were used as a primary tool of resolving issues.

Now, San Francisco, in what is a culminating into a politically-sticky event, will be the firearms antithesis of what was portrayed in the movies of yesteryear.

By the end of October, San Francisco’s last legally operated gun store, High Bridge Arms, is shutting its doors for good. The closure will make it impossible to buy firearms legally in the city by removing San Francisco’s last California firearms license holder.

However, High Bridge Arms isn’t being forced to close. The business is willingly closing to spare its customers from perceived intrusions coming from a new batch of gun control ordinances proposed by Supervisor Mark Farrell, which unanimously passed the Board of Supervisors Oct. 27.

High Bridge Arms, the last gun shop in San Francisco only has two guns left to display due to the closing of the shop. (Imani Miller/Xpress)
High Bridge Arms, the last gun shop in San Francisco only has two guns left to display due to the closing of the shop. Photo by Imani Miller

Supervisor Farrell’s regulations require all gun stores in San Francisco to operate multi-angle camera systems that law enforcement can draw upon if necessary.

More than that, the law requires comprehensive record keeping of ammunition sales, including, but not limited to, the purchaser’s full name, address as well as the caliber of the ammunition.

“This isn’t the first attempt to get us out of here,” said Steve Alcairo, general manager of High Bridge Arms. “Everyone is a little tired of fighting this stuff.”

In late 2009, High Bridge Arms closed briefly because the owner, Masashi Takahashi, believed it was too much work. Then, in 2010, High Bridge Arms was set to reopen for business at the same location.

Attempts were initially delayed due to the city holding off retail permits to the store because the neighborhood association Northwest Bernal Alliance claimed the store brought violence to the area.

Sgt. William Coggan, who led the permit committee in 2010, told SFGate that claims of violence were unfounded and that “High Bridge appears to be a reasonably well-run business.”

Permits were issued soon thereafter.

Supervisor Scott Wiener has long supported lessening access to firearms in San Francisco.

“San Francisco supports strict gun control, as do I,” Wiener said.”It’s fine with me for San Francisco not to have a gun shop. Guns whose sole purpose is to shoot people have no place in our city in the hands of civilians.”

[pullquote align=”right”]”San Francisco supports strict gun control, as do I,” Wiener said.”It’s fine with me for San Francisco not to have a gun shop. Guns whose sole purpose is to shoot people have no place in our city in the hands of civilians.”[/pullquote]

Mayor Ed Lee and Chief of Police Greg Suhr had to deal with a high-profile, murder-by-firearm case in July. A .40-caliber handgun was used to murder Kathryn Steinle as she walked with her father on Pier 14.

Steinle, 32, was shot once in the chest by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez in what prosecutors are calling a random event. Remanded until the trial, Lopez-Sanchez could serve the rest of his life in prison if convicted as charged. The family of Steinle is filing a wrongful death suit against the city of San Francisco.

The Steinle case brought the issue of gun control into focus in San Francisco politics.

Second amendment lawyer Doug Friesen said this new legislation would have done nothing to prevent the Steinle shooting, nor would it really get to the heart of gun violence.

“This is really just a feel-good fix,” Friesen said. “The real issue is, the underlying issue, is mental health and being able to treat people who need it.”

If the regulations pass, High Bridge Arms could challenge them by taking the city to court, according to Friesen. However, battling court cases is an expensive, arduous process which many people do not pursue due to financial reasons, no matter the strength of their case.

“The question here is, ‘is this going to be worth it?'” Friesen said.

Even if High Bridge Arms will be no more, establishments beyond gun stores sell firearms and ammunition. Places like sporting good stores and Walmarts have long been selling these accoutrements throughout California and the United States.

A Walmart does not currently stand in San Francisco, but a Big 5 Sporting Goods does. The sporting store does not sell firearms or ammunition.

Mark Smytheman is one-of-two assistant managers at the Big 5 Sporting Goods on Sloat Boulevard.

“No, we stopped selling guns and ammunition about five years ago,” Smytheman said.

Smytheman referenced the city’s 2012 and 2013 Master Fee Schedule of Budget Submissions, which steadily increased the cost to file, purchase and maintain the various licenses associated with selling firearms and ammunition as the reasoning for the decision.

“You can go down the road to Daly City and buy some,” Smytheman continued. Having previously worked at the Daly City branch, Smytheman estimates that half of the people in the store buying firearms were coming from San Francisco.

If not a sporting goods store, a final avenue where guns might be available is a pawn shop. Some pawn shops do have firearms in their business models, however, that is not the case in the city, according to licensing records.

Sunny Martin works at Pawn Shop on Sutter and Polk Streets in San Francisco.

“If a customer brings in a gun or a weapon to pawn, we have to send them elsewhere,” Martin said. “I don’t think we are permitted to, plus it’s company policy.”

The only pawn shops that he knows of that are capable of dealing with firearms are located outside of the city.

San Francisco’s proposed gun control ordinance is not groundbreaking or rare. From Los Angeles to Sacramento, several municipalities have implemented ammunition tracking as well as store surveillance for more than a couple years, with new regulations annually. Despite the growing trend, San Francisco will be unique in that it will be the only city lacking a firearms supply store.

Through the Cracks in the Groove

Photo by James Chan

By Lupita Uribe

[dropcap size=”50px”]W[/dropcap]hen you hear the words “record label,” San Francisco is not the first city that comes to mind –possibly because the commercial record labels are located in the southern region of our golden state. Though San Francisco has never been a mecca for the commercial music industry, according to Jon Bendich a former touring musician, commercial songwriter and current assistant professor at SF State’s Music and Recording Industry program, in the early 2000s the Bay Area was the highest producing region of independent labels.

The Bay Area has inspired and played an important role in past music movements; from its renowned jazz scene in the Fillmore District, to the 924 Gilman punk scene, to being the home of prominent psychedelic rock musicians such as The Grateful Dead. Unlike Los Angeles, the scene is stripped of bright lights, fake tans and auto-tuned musicians, which, while appealing to some, doesn’t exactly scream “showbiz.” Regardless of that, nestled in overpriced rented spaces or functioning straight out of homes, there are independent Bay Area record labels establishing themselves and maintaining business.

San Francisco has historically seen labels come and go with some more short lived than others. One notorious Bay Area record label, 415 Records, was a short-lived independent label that released fundamental records in the genres of new wave and post-punk. Record labels such as Prank Records, 1-2-3-4 GO! Records and Fat Wreck Records found themselves in staff changes and eventually, direction changes where some steered toward more digital music and focusing primarily on distribution. Similarly the evolution of 415 Records was guaranteed to happen; it was just a matter of what form the label would take. In this case, the label was sold in 1989 after an 11-year run, and founding members of 415 Records went on to other independent and mainstream levels of the industry.

The amount of record stores that were open throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s catering to music that ranged from punk to traditional Latin music, were clear indicators of the emergence of labels and the need to distribute. Although mail order was one of the bigger points of access for people to listen to their favorite artists from specific labels like 1-2-3-4 GO! Records opened stores to distribute titles within their label, such as Shannon and the Clams and Nobunny. However, other storefronts, such as the very popular and unique Discolandia, were central hubs for everything Latin, and connected the Mission District community to a variety of artists on local and international labels up until its closing in 2011.

Although San Francisco hasn’t always had a strong label structure for licensing – compared to other major label markets such as New York or LA – it has always had a strong core foundation in creation, production, distribution and performance of music, according to SF State’s Music and Recording Industry Program Director Robert Collins.

22567439431_5211a33e4f_k
Robert W. Collins shows a sound board used to teach classes in SF State’s College of Extended Learning Tuesday Oct 27. Photo by James Chan

Collins, who spent many years working in the music industry, started off as a music fan simply looking over friends’ contracts with labels. He began working at record labels in his early ‘20s and later went on to be the general manager of underground hip-hop label Ground Control Records. He also managed legendary local rap group Zion I, who have toured the world.

While touring, Collins also noted how San Francisco differed from other markets with its plethora of niche markets like Latin jazz, punk and underground hip-hop. He credits the Bay Area for instilling an “independent hustle” characteristic in local music moguls that carried into other aspects of the industry.

“As you started to move around, and you started to tour, that’s where you would move that independent hustle,” Collins said in reference to how the independent labels and artists had a stronger sense of urgency to make their money without the backing of a major label.

There has also been a shift in the way record labels are established and functioning now, which affects the San Francisco Bay Area. Bendich notes that it is much easier to be a label now. Digitizing music distribution has cut the costs of what is necessary to be a label, making it much more accessible, according to Bendich. He believes modern day record labels cut down on their costs and overhead fees.

[pullquote align=”right”]“You don’t have to have a warehouse to store records, because you don’t have physical records anymore –you’re distributing them digitally.” – Jon Bendich[/pullquote]

“You don’t have to have office space because you don’t have to have a staff to do everything, you can do it all on your computer,” Bendich said. “You don’t have to have a warehouse to store records, because you don’t have physical records anymore –you’re distributing them digitally.”

The absence of physical records also cuts down costs with regards to having a distributor. There is no longer a middle man to get your records sold, therefore you make a more direct profit. In the absence, the record label still acts as the bridge between artists and platforms of digital distribution such as iTunes and Spotify, as well as tying other loose ends and doubling up as an overarching artist manager.

The industry’s new accessibility allows a variety of people to establish their own record label, and not all labels are aiming to hit fame.

Cubby Control Records is based out of San Francisco and was established not for glory, but for hobby. Owner Brian Weaver works as a librarian at the San Francisco Public Library, and established the label as a medium to bring together his previous works and continue having a creative outlet.

“When I was younger I had ideas, or ambitions, that I (was) going to make it big at some point,” Weaver said. “At a certain point I came to realize ‘I’m not making money with this, I probably won’t make any money with this’ so I had to think about a career and stability.”

Weaver has performed in several bands and had a key role in Cubby, a collective of artists and musicians based out of San Francisco, but he does not question his decision to pursue a career as a librarian. He credits his job at the library for allowing his pursuit of his hobby.

“Having a full time job inhibits my ability to work on the label and to make music as much as I would like to,” Weaver said.

With independent labels being at the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene, whether it is as a medium of self expression, desire to create, or desire to make profits, it is expected that niche markets will continue to influence those labels and keep them surviving.

The city’s flooding hotspots prepare for El Niño

Stable Cafe’s cafe manager, Francisco Garcia, shows how high the water level was during last year’s Pineapple Express Storm. Photo by Katie Lewellyn

By Carlos Mendoza

Francisco Garcia couldn’t sleep. All he had on his mind was the rain and the feeling that his place of work was going to flood again. He left early in the morning from the East Bay to the Stable Café located at 17th and Folsom Street in the Mission District. While on his way, Garcia received a text saying “don’t rush we are already flooded.” Reality struck the café for the fifth time.

After a tormenting four days of rain, the city of San Francisco accumulated nearly four inches of water from the Pineapple Express storm last December. Both residential and commercial flooding was inescapable, especially low-lying areas of San Francisco, leaving behind property damage.

One of the areas the city has problems maintaining is east of S. Van Ness Avenue and between 17th and 18th Streets where Mission Creek flows. The restaurant Garcia works at sits directly in the middle of that disaster zone. After the major storm hit in 2014, the Stable Café was engulfed with both stormwater and sewage. The mess rose up to three feet, leaving the café in a nasty swamp, according to Garcia.

“We want the city to pay attention to our neighborhood,” Garcia said. “I want the city to replace the pipes in the street.”

Garcia said everything in the café had to be replaced. From the refrigerators to the walk-in freezer the damage cost them close to three months of business. The city helped pay for the damages in an effort to bring the Stable Café and other nearby buildings back to life.

“It’s not satisfying because they just help us to be back to where we were before,” Garcia said. “We lost customers and we lost business. We start from zero every time.”

Flood-Map-Inset-Legend
17th and Folsom Streets intersect where Laguna Dolores sits. The lagoon is now paved over, but the area still remains one of the lowest lying parts of the city and is prone to flooding. Map provided by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Produced by Carlos Mendoza and Drake Newkirk.

In the past five floods the Stable Café has experienced, none of them have occurred during an El Niño season. Garcia worries that rain during El Niño could bring even more damage than previous storms.

“Right now we are scared,” Garcia said. “We cannot sleep, and we are thinking ‘oh shit it is raining.’”

John Monteverdi, a professor in the Department of Earth and Climate Sciences at San Francisco State University, explained that this El Niño is on track to be record-breaking. Some of the heaviest El Niño years were 1982 and 1983 where the city accumulated 38 inches of rain and 1997 and 1998, which saw 47 inches of rain. This year, El Niño is predicted to give San Francisco 30 to 35 inches of rain, but could surpass those predictions. On average the city only sees 23 inches of rain per year.

The San Francisco storm and sewer system is not well equipped to handle copious amounts of water such as with last year’s Pineapple Express storm or the upcoming El Niño season, according to Jean Marie Walsh, the Communications Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

“No system is perfect and no system can handle all storms,” Walsh said. “That’s what makes it challenging when we have heavy rains. You can only build a system so big. At some point that system reaches capacity, and there is no more room in the pipes and in the system.”

The majority of San Francisco relies on 25,000 storm drains and catch basins according to the SFPUC, a network that Walsh calls the “combine system.”

Drains located in the newer areas of San Francisco direct storm water out to the ocean and the bay. Catch basins provide the same service, but escort the water to the main sewer pipes beneath the street, and into transport storage boxes.

These giant boxes lie beneath the Embarcadero and the Great Highway where their main purpose is to hold storm-water before it is treated.

San Francisco has 1,000 miles of sewer pipes beneath the city, but even with all this underneath, it is still not enough to hold the amount of water substantial downpour can bring. These storm drains and catch basins can get clogged up with leaves and debris, which leads to residential and commercial flooding, especially in low-lying areas of the city.

Walsh explained that 17th Street and Folsom Street is a major flooding zone in the city and provides a significant challenge during heavy rain seasons.

Aside from that area, there are additional pockets of San Francisco that are low-lying and are at a risk of flooding. “Challenge areas” include spots in the Sunset, and Bayview Districts. In an attempt to prevent flooding, SFPUC crews clean out the drains and catch basins prior to predicted storms.

Walsh described the crews as crucial, especially during the rainy seasons and in the months leading up to them. The crews are on stand-by and some even work late night shifts.

The SFPUC developed a “hydraulic analysis” where engineers developed a sophisticated model that tests the topography, soil and sewers of the low-lying areas of San Francisco. They do this to potentially predict what will happen during a storm, according to Walsh.

Walsh explained that residents need to understand what area of San Francisco they are moving into.

“Know your risk,” Walsh said. “A lot of people move into a neighborhood, it’s dry sunny beautiful weather, and they have no clue that their property is located over a historic creek, and when we get heavy rains they might flood.”

David Campos didn’t realize flooding plagued District 9 until he became its supervisor. Campos acknowledges flooding in the Mission District specifically along 17th and Folsom Streets, but he does not see any viable solutions.

“Until I became supervisor, I didn’t really know that this was an issue,” Campos said. “Because it is the lowest point in the city, it’s extremely expensive to fix. Even if you spend billions of dollars on it, there might still be flooding.”

Currently the city reimburses residents and business owners affected by floods, which Campos said may be the best solution. Between claims and cleanup, the Pineapple Express storm cost the city several million dollars, according to Walsh.

“It might be cheaper for the city to continue to pay that on a yearly basis than to be able to find the billions of dollars that is needed,” Campos said.

A short-term solution was presented to the board that would have cost the city $200 million, a price they did not feel was worth for a fix that might not even work. The SFPUC does not have the funding to work on a long-term study that could find a permanent solution, according to Campos.

While the city attempts to come up with a more permanent solution, Thomas Lackey, the owner of the Stable Café, is fed up with the perpetual delays. He wants to see a system that doesn’t put his restaurant out of business after every big storm.

“It would be worth it for them to bite the bullet and fix the problem,” Lackey said.

Election 2015: Get Informed

Photo provided by creative commons

 

By Xpress Magazine Staff

1-2-3 To Replace Ed Lee

A unique coalition of candidates is attempting to take advantage of San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system.

District 3

A Board of Supervisors race has the potential to tip the balance of power at City Hall.

What the Fuck Does it Mean to be Progressive in this Town?

In this editorial, an Xpress Magazine staffer goes on a journey to define San Francisco’s own brand of progressivism, in a town where everyone seems to already hold progressive values.

Proposition A

Ed Lee’s $310 Million Affordable Housing Bond will be put on the ballot for voters to decide on.

Proposition E

This ballot measure, which aims to provide a more open government, is getting unexpected resistance.

Proposition F

San Francisco’s love-hate relationship with home sharing website Airbnb will be determined with the outcome of this proposition.

CleanEnergySF

San Francisco’s new program to provide green energy to the city could sink or swim depending on the outcome of two ballot propositions.

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

Did you miss our June profile on mayoral hopeful Stuart Schuffman? Click the link above to catch up on our mayoral coverage.

Proposition Summaries

Don’t know what the rest of the propositions on the ballot will do this election? Follow our handy guide!

Prop B

Prop C

Prop D

Prop G

Prop H

Prop I

Prop J

Prop K

1-2-3 to Replace Ed Lee

Amy Farah Weiss (left), Stuart Schuffman (middle), Francisco Herrera (right) take a moment out of their campaigning at SF State to pose for a portrait. Photos by Ryan McNulty/ Xpress

 

By Zak Cowan

Amy Weiss ran to speak to potential voters about her hot-button issues. With her cap tilted slightly to the side and button up fixed to the top, she couldn’t wait to talk about housing issues, small businesses, non-profits and everything else relating to her campaign.

Francisco Herrera had a debonair demeanor, with his tied-back ponytail and sharp three-piece suit,  his hands gripped his bright green campaign sign.

Stuart Schuffman oozed San Francisco local with his neatly trimmed beard and trademark fedora. His disposition was relaxed, but he seemed anxious to move on to his next duty as potential mayor of San Francisco.

Mayor Ed Lee faces competition from these under-funded, but united candidates. The three mayoral hopefuls came to San Francisco State University Oct. 13 to inform students on their unique strategy to take the mayoral position. Herrera, Schuffman and Weiss have formed a campaign labeled “Vote 1-2-3 to Replace Ed Lee” in hopes of elevating at least one ahead of the incumbent.

Six candidates are on the Nov. 3 ballot for mayor and San Franciscans will decide if the city will lend its leadership role to Edwin Lee for another four years, or if someone new will take the reins of a community in transition.

“From the start, we’ve been ignored and haven’t been considered viable candidates because we don’t have millions of dollars,” Herrera said.

Each voter will have the option to choose not only who they wish to take the office, but also their second and third choices. This voting process, known as ranked-choice voting, will be used for the San Francisco mayoral election. The method has already lead to hotly-contested races in the Bay Area, most recently in Oakland when Libby Shaaf become the city’s mayor in November of last year.

According to the Department of Elections, counting the ballots starts with first-place votes, eliminating the candidate with the smallest tally. The voters that chose that candidate get their ballots shifted to their second choice. This continues until the city has a winner with at least 51 percent of the vote.

Ranked-choice voting is what Schuffman, Weiss and Herrera hope to take advantage of next week in the election.

“[Our goal] is to get a larger portion of the vote,” Schuffman said. “Whoever makes it to the third round of voting will get the other two persons’ second or third share of the votes. That way, you can get a huge percentage of the vote even if you start with a low percentage. It’s really advantageous”

According to the latest campaign finance reports, Lee raised over $1.18 million in the last calendar year, an amount that is unfathomable to the three underdog candidates, who raised $56,742 in combined campaign contributions. Weiss sees the three candidates’ supporters as a sort of collective that can unite against Lee or, as she calls him, “the corporate giant.”

“We all have different reaches,” Weiss said. “They overlap, but we do have different networks that can come together and support one another so that we don’t have to fight each other.”

Lee’s donations, according to the same campaign finance reports, comes largely from individuals, but also includes many political action committees. The difference between Lee’s campaign contributions and the others’ is the amount of real estate individuals and development individuals that have contributed to his campaign for mayor.

“Ed Lee is a millionaire candidate with corporations backing him up, facing the other candidates who have people instead of money who support us,” Herrera said.

It’s likely that this major discrepancy in funding is the reasoning behind the majority of local news outlets labeling Lee’s run for reelection as “unopposed,” according to Herrera.

“At this point, it’s very embarrassing to be a world-renown, international city, and have this behavior of ignorance,” Herrera said of the lack of attention his campaign and others’ have received.

District 3

Wilma Peng, candidate for District 3 Supervisor, encompassing San Francisco’s Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods, poses for a portrait in Chinatown. Photo by James Chan

 

By Sean McGrier

 

The race for the District Three seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors pits a familiar political face against a fresh mayoral appointee, while an educator and longtime community activist is content to sit in a distant third place.

Aaron Peskin represented the district, which encompasses the iconic North Beach and Chinatown neighborhoods, from 2001 to 2009. Peskin served as the board’s president for the last four years of his tenure.

Peskin is trying to win his old post back from Julie Christensen, who was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee in January. Lee is a longtime Peskin foe.

The tech-friendly, moderate mayor has a favorable majority currently sitting on the board. Moderate board members hold a six to five vote stranglehold over the progressive caucus on many civic issues. If Peskin takes the seat from Christensen, that balance of power could shift to the progressives.

“(Peskin) would certainly be progressive,” said District 11 Supervisor John Avalos. “Whether we would have enough to get to six votes and be a majority? On some issues, yes. On other issues, no.”

Peskin has, as predicted, relied on his record to help him regain the seat he vacated six years ago. While speaking to SFGov.TV, the Telegraph Hill resident championed his successful opposition to the 8 Washington luxury condominium development project. Had the 8 Washington project been allowed, it would have given developers the green light to build high-rise condos along the district’s eastern waterfront.

2000-results 2004-results

Peskin also pointed to a dysfunctional City Hall and a Lee-controlled District Three incumbent as reasons to reinstall Peskin on the board.

“We need an independent voice at City Hall,” Peskin told  SFGov.TV. “(Someone) not basing decisions on who’s for it or who’s against it, or what special interest has donated or what the mayor thinks.”

Rebecca Sarinelli, a North Beach resident and owner of North Beach Copy Center, said she’s voting for Peskin because she believes he’ll help redirect a city she claims has gone wayward. She said Peskin’s independence from special interest parties, like Silicon Valley investor Ron Conway, gives her some hope for San Francisco’s future.

“This is bigger than just San Francisco,” Sarinelli said. “(This election) is gonna set the tone and the footprint for what’s gonna happen in the next decade.”

2008-results2012-Results

 

Lee appointed Julie Christensen to the District Three seat on Jan. 8, 2015 to replace David Chiu, after Chiu was elected to the California State Assembly.

Christensen, a North Beach small business owner before her appointment, gained popularity in her neighborhood after she helped push through major renovations to the North Beach Library. That project came coupled with an overhaul of the then run-down Joe DiMaggio North Beach Playground, which sits adjacent to the new library. She helped the Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground, a non-profit organization comprised of North Beach residents, secure city funding for the park’s facelift.

Christensen could celebrate her first public office victory shortly before the park’s makeover is completed. The playground is scheduled to reopen 10 days after the Nov. 3 election.

Wilma Pang, 75, is District Three’s familiar long-shot candidate. The City College of San Francisco music teacher has run for the board of supervisors seat twice before. She has also run for mayor twice, and for the board education once. Despite running for office on five separate occasions, Pang is the only District Three candidate who has never held public office. The Chinatown resident said she doesn’t expect to win this time either.

“I am not trying to win the district because in reality, these two people spent millions in campaign money,” Pang said. “I really did not intend to run, but the community said, ‘You have to speak up for us.’“

Pang said Peskin and Christensen “bombard” Chinatown with signs and flyers because, according to the media, it’s the district’s swing neighborhood. If Pang carries a large enough number of votes, her involvement could determine the victor.

In 2008, Pang grabbed 3.5 percent of the District Three electorate, finishing fourth with 939 votes, according to the San Francisco Department of Elections.

Pang fared better in 2012,when she garnered 1,033 votes for 4.4 percent of voters.

Proposition A

 

By Ashley Goldsmith

Up first on the Nov. 3 ballot is a proposition aimed at addressing increasing rental prices caused by the ubiquitous gentrification in San Francisco. Proposition A, also known as the Affordable Housing Bond, allows the city to borrow $310 million dollars in the form of general obligation bonds. The proposition will help the city reach its goal of building 30,000 new housing units by 2020. The funds will be allocated for many uses including, but not limited to, development, preservation and purchasing of affordable housing.

“Prop A builds critically needed homes for low- and middle-income San Franciscans without raising taxes,” said Mayor Lee in an advertisement supporting Proposition A.

According to Zillow.com, the current median rental price in San Francisco as of September 2015 is $4,895. Affordable housing is determined by a pricing bracket that is based on a percentage of the area’s median income. Typically tenants of affordable housing, also known as below market rate units, pay no more than 30 percent of their income.

The Libertarian Party of San Francisco is one of the only groups to oppose the measure. Marcy Berry, vice chair of the Libertarian Party said that voters need to think about this bond proposal before voting yes because it is the popular opinion.

“Three hundred million dollars is just a drop in the bucket, because it can cost up to $800,000 to build one unit,” Berry said. “Bonds are a debt and once you incur a debt, it must be paid. The city is rolling in money now, but what happens if there is downturn? Most importantly, who says that we need affordable housing?”

Endorsers of the proposition include Supervisor David Campos, Senator Dianne Feinstein and the San Francisco Chronicle.

“San Francisco voters should not be under the illusion that they are making more than a very modest incremental dent in the city’s affordable-housing crisis when they vote for Proposition A,” read an endorsement piece released by the Chronicle on September 19.

The qualifications necessary to apply for affordable housing units in San Francisco require that the applicant’s household income must be less than 60 percent of the median income in the area. This varies depending on family size. It may be easy for many residents in San Francisco to qualify, but actually being approved for and moving into a unit is extremely difficult.

Qualifying-Income

One of the most qualified groups for affordable housing, are families living in single room occupancy units, or SROs, considered by many housing rights groups to be the “housing of last resort.”

According to an SRO family census conducted in late 2014 by the SRO Families United Collaborative, 60 percent of families living in SRO units have been on an affordable housing wait list for three years or more.

“The city needs this affordable housing bond to build more affordable housing and hopefully this time, we’ll get it passed, a two-thirds vote is no easy task,” said Norman Fong, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, a non-profit organization that has been fighting for housing and tenant rights since the late 70s. “The housing market is so hot, we need additional resources to counter the gentrification going on in this city. Please get out there to vote.”

Proposition E

By Colin Blake

Come Nov. 3 San Francisco voters will have the option to approve Proposition E, which aims to bring more participation to the political process by live streaming all public government meetings, allowing for digital and pre-recorded comment so constituents can engage in the political process remotely.

“With this, we are able to bring more government meetings to more people,” said David Lee, the San Francisco State political science professor whose students, in conjunction with himself, wrote the proposition.

Proposition E, also known as The Sunshine and Open Government Act, was added to the ballot after the application received nearly 17,000 signatures; Only 9,000 were required

Currently, San Francisco holds around 2,000 public meetings a year that are hosted by nearly 120 individual committees or boards. However, at a cost of $3.4 million to run SFGovTV.com and traditional tv broadcasting, San Francisco manages to cover the actions of only 33 of the committees and boards.

According to Lee, the meetings that are not shown control $6 billion of the city’s $9 billion budget.

Committee-Actions

Implementation of Prop E’s internet live streaming would have an initial start up cost of $1.7 million and an annual operating cost of $750,000, according to a report from the city controller. With that cost, full, translated coverage of government meetings would be possible.

“We think the cost will actually be much less because technology is constantly improving,” Lee said.

Prop E, beside the ability to view government meetings, would allow the public to comment via recorded video or audio messages. These comments would need to be submitted 48-hours in advance. In order to submit comment, residents would need to create an account that would confirm residency and provide attribution.

Convening governing bodies would retain the power to determine how long the comment section is – so long as it is not less than 30 minutes – the duration of the comments and the ability to screen comments for profanity and threats.

“This legislation has been formulated to afford the board or committee the most flexibility in administering this technology,” Lee said.

However, committees and boards would be bound by time-certain agenda items. This means items on meetings outline start as advertised. Also, if 50 or more persons request an item be moved to a specific time slot at least 48-hours before, the policy body must abide if possible.

“It’s a pretty simple idea,” said Lee. “If you come to a board meeting for particular item, it starts on time.”

Formal opposition to Prop E is condensed into the group Smart Open Government SF. Pledges of support for the group come from the SF Bicycle Coalition, San Francisco Democratic Party, President of the Board of Supervisors London Breed and the San Francisco Labor Council just to name a few.

Requests for comment from Smart Open Government SF have not been returned.

However, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, through its communications director Chris Cassidy, did make a comment.

“We aren’t heavily involved in the campaign,” Cassidy said.

Smart Open Government SF, through their webpage, contends that “Proposition E is billed as a ‘good government’ measure. In fact, it is not. Under the guise of good government, this proposal will reduce participation of San Franciscans in the policies that affect us.”

San Francisco Tech Dems is also listed as a supporter of Smart Open Government SF. Request for comment from its chief of policy, Rebecca Lee, were not returned.

David Maass is an investigative researcher for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF is a nonprofit that advocates for and defends civil liberties in the digital age. Maass and EFF have taken the position of supporting Prop E.

“This is a pretty ambitious project,” Maass said. “But if 10 teenagers can organize a video chat over their cell phones, government should be able to do this.”

While Lee contends that only San Francisco residents will be able to comment during meetings, Maass said more residents have a legitimate interest in San Francisco politics and should be involved.

“What if you have someone who works 60-hour weeks here?” Maass said. “They have a vested interest in how the city deals with policy because it affects them too.”

Maass also said expert testimony could be hindered if non-residents could not comment.

“Sometimes an expert on subject matter may be in Oakland or Huston,” Maass said. “The experts and advocates don’t always live in the area.”

Overall, this legislation would be a boon to keeping government transparent and accountable because more eyes on government is always better, according to Maass. However, some elements will need alteration if approved.

“The time table is a little ambitious,” Maass said. “The board of supervisors should, and probably will, vote to increase the time required to implement this.”

If the proposition passes, the city will have six months to begin implementing the live streaming network and the policy-body-specific links to view the feeds. A simple majority vote is required for passage.

“What we are trying to do here is for the people, not the politicians,” Lee said. “If this passes, this is designed to give the average citizen the power to see their government.”

Proposition F

By Jenna Van De Ryt 

Pissing off the public could in fact be one form of campaigning that is strategically working for Airbnb. If it was not for the $8 million imbursement to defeat the ballot measure, or the passive-aggressive billboards targeting different service groups across the city, taunting the rental company’s tax payments is what is putting not only Airbnb, but the proposition alike on the campaign map.

Proposition F is days away from being voted on by San Franciscans to either restrict Airbnb’s short-term home rentals, or continue the rental market frenzy as is.

Prop F requires a 50 percent plus one vote approval by residents in order to pass. If the proposition is approved, short-term housing rentals across San Francisco will be limited to 75 specific days throughout the calendar year to be rented. One significant requirement of the proposition is for owners to provide legitimate proof that the unit is publicized as a short-term rental. Furthermore, residents who put their units up for short-term renting must submit quarterly reports in regards to the number of days they personally reside in the home as well as the specific number of days the unit is occupied by renters. An increase of legal rights will be given to potential unit renters to sue housing parties if warranted. Prop F will restrict short-term renting of in-law units, as well as result in a misdemeanor if a host unlawfully cites a unit as a short-term rental.

Top California officials that support the proposition include, United States Senator Dianne Feinstein and State Senator Mark Leno.

According to Dale Carlson of Share Better SF,  “the yes campaign for Prop F has raised a total of $385,000.”

Unite Here, the leading campaign contributor, is financially backing Prop F with a total of $300,000 and Hotel Association of New York City has donated $25,000 towards the proposition. The third largest financial donation for Prop F is from San Francisco’s Apartment Association totaling $20,000, Carlson said.

San Francisco Supervisor, David Campos is the Prop F spokesman, claiming that the issue at hand is more complex than simply short-term renting, but a displacement issue. The current citywide housing crisis is forcing homeowners to lease their units, which in turn pushes for eviction of long-term residents. Campos said the most positive effect that will result from the passing of Prop F is to protect the housing stock properly, because the city is losing housing to Airbnb.

“Prop F will keep things from getting worse,” Campos said. “In the Mission District, 40 percent of potential units are going to Airbnb instead of to local renters.”

Campos said within the last year a total of 300 long term residents have been evicted from the Mission District, all while the same 300 units were registered for Airbnb.

“Currently the law does not provide tools for rental enforcing. The regulation of Prop F will finally do so,” Campos said.

Airbnb is standing firm on the notion that the amount of hotel tax San Francisco receives each year in lieu of Airbnb rentals would greatly decrease if Prop F were to pass.

According to Inside Airbnb, an independent data source that provides publicly provided information on Airbnb listings, there are 6,361 short-term rental units featured within the heart of the city. Currently the estimated number of nights per year that a unit is rented through Airbnb is 136 with an average $224 price per night cost. San Francisco has a 76.4 percent availability for booking, which is quite high compared to other cities.

There are nine key players financially backing Airbnb’s campaign total. The top three supporters are Sadler Strategic Communications, Joe Slade White Communications and David Binder Research. Sadler Strategic is commissioning a grand total of $1,715,097 towards the campaign. Joe Slade White totals in at $316,904.45 and David Binder Research rounds the third largest cash sum with $264,800.

Dani Sheehan-Mayer, owner of a high-end gallery and gift store, Cliche Noe Gifts and Home is voting no on Prop F.

“We do not usually get organic visitors to the area, but because of Airbnb we are receiving new customers, mostly tourists. ” Sheehan-Mayer said.

Voting no would create no change. According to Sheehan-Mayer renters and Airbnb alike already have checks and balances to protect local housing in San Francisco.

Currently 41 political parties across San Francisco have taken a stance on the proposition, with three parties claiming “no position.” There are 22 parties in favor of Prop F and 16 political parties voting against it.

The Consolidated Municipal Election will take place on Nov. 3.