Tag Archives: San Francisco

New Clear Power

Solar panels sit atop Sunset Reservoir overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and George Washington High School. The instillation is the largest in the city and provides up to 5 megawatts of power. It tripled the amount of municipal solar generating capacity upon completion in 2010. Photo by Emma Chiang

 

By Naomi Outlaw

After 12 years of patience San Francisco may finally see the fruits of its environmentally conscious labor. Set to launch in spring 2016, CleanPowerSF is the city’s nonprofit program that will provide green and renewable energy to San Franciscans as well as challenge Pacific Gas & Electric, which provides power to 5.4 million Californians.

Since 2004, San Francisco has pushed a zero emissions goal. Seen in the forms of composting, plastic bag taxes and environmental improvements to public transportation, the city has aggressively attacked greenhouse gases and the climate change they produce.

Typically, citizens have always been offered environmentally friendly programs. Residents will be automatically enrolled in CleanPowerSF, which is overseen by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Customers will have the choice between the “Green Plan” which utilizes 33 to 55 percent renewable energy at rates equal to PG&E’s, which is 23 cents per kilowatt per hour. The second option is the “SuperGreen Plan,” which offers 100 percent renewable energy at rates 10 to 15 percent higher than the standard price of PG&E. Customers have the option to opt out and stick with PG&E if they wish, and will continue to receive the current energy cocktail containing 27 percent renewable energy.

Renewable energy is “derived from resources that are replenished naturally” and can be replenished in an average human lifespan, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. Such resources include biomass, geothermal heat, sunlight, water and wind.

The exact cost of CleanPowerSF’s renewable energy will be determined in the coming weeks, when SFPUC will choose from 52 eligible local renewable energy providers, not including conglomerates like PG&E or Shell.

Propositions G and H, which are set to appear on the November ballot, have the potential to determine the effectiveness of the program.

“The definition would change calling nuclear energy green,” said Kim Malcolm, director of California Policy and Programs at Local Energy Aggregation Network U.S. and former director of CleanPowerSF. “It would not allow the city to call all of its purchases green even though the state would consider it green.”

If passed, Proposition G would restrict San Francisco to only use one of three energy categories for its clean energy. PG&E would be able to label all three categories as green energy. Both propositions will require CleanPowerSF to inform its customers about the varying percentages of renewables included in their plan.

Proposition G, originally proposed by one of PG&E’s unions, is seen as a threat to CleanPowerSF. In response, Supervisors London Breed, John Avalos, Scott Wiener, and Julie Christensen fired back with Proposition H, which would require the city to follow state renewable energy standards, just as PG&E does.

While all supervisors support the CleanPowerSF program it has hit its fair share of road spikes. Until January, Mayor Ed Lee opposed the program, saying that the original $19.5 million in investments could be used for something more relevant, like city infrastructure, according to SFGate. The mayor eventually voiced his support, but even with his backing, the people stalling the decisions are SFPUC board members, which he appointed.

“There has been a rabbit hole of continual excuses between SFPUC and the mayor,” said Jason Fried, executive officer of the Local Agency Formation Commission, who has been monitoring CleanPowerSF.

CleanPowerSF has the potential to eventually lower energy bills while creating local, consistent revenue, jobs, political power and meeting California’s stringent renewable energy objectives without much more planning, according Fried.

“The goal isn’t what the program looks like on the first day,” Fried said. “It’s what it looks like in 10 years and where that puts San Francisco.”

Proposition I

By Jordan Lalata

Sponsored by a coalition of neighborhood organizations such as the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods, with funding from the Mission Economic Development Agency and Yerba Buena Consortium, a yes vote on this measure will protect middle-income housing, businesses and art and culture in the Mission District. The proposed Mission Moratorium is an 18-month prohibition of any housing project containing five or more units that is not 100 percent affordable housing. The city will be required to develop a Neighborhood Stabilization Plan, a plan to protect working class families and businesses by creating affordable housing by January 2017. It also prohibits buildings that are in the production, distribution and repair zone such as automotive and wholesale businesses from being demolished, converted or eliminated. Supervisor Scott Wiener is opposing this measure.

Proposition K

By Marc Arguello

Proposition K would authorize the city to use public lands specifically for low income housing. The proposition would expand the target income levels of housing developments allowed on surplus lands to a range of incomes, from homeless to those making nearly double the median income.

According to the city controller, the proposition wouldn’t cost the city any extra money if it were enacted, as the proposed changes would be taking advantage of the existing sources of subsidies for affordable housing.

The proposition would also establish policy that encourages the building of affordable housing on public lands that aren’t owned by the City and County of San Francisco, such as state and special district agencies. The policy would prioritize the building of more affordable housing over any other type of development on these lands.

Prop K currently enjoys overwhelming support from a variety of political parties, including the Democratic party and many of San Francisco’s news organizations. One party who has voiced its opposition to prop K is the San Francisco Libertarian party.

“The Libertarian position is that if the city has land that it doesn’t need or use, it should sell it at market rates and reduce the tax rates and ‘fees’ this city charges,” said Aubrey Freedman, chair of the Libertarian Party of San Francisco. “With the market as crazy as it is right now, it would get millions and millions of dollars.”

According to Freedman, if the city really wanted to help the middle class in terms of affordable real estate, the city should get out of the real estate business by selling off all the property it doesn’t need.

Proposition H

By Naomi Outlaw 

Proposition H will define that the city can call clean energy, green energy and renewable greenhouse gas-free energy by state standards. State standards, under Senate bill 2, require that all entities that provide power to end-use consumers must have at least 33 percent of the electricity they provide from eligible renewable resources by 2020.

In 2016 San Francisco will be rolling CleanPowerSF to directly provide its citizens more renewable energy than PG&E currently offers. If this bill is passed then CleanPowerSF will be allowed the same renewable energy resources and guidelines as large conglomerates such as PG&E.

This measure is supported by Supervisors London Breed, John Avalos, Scott Wiener, and Julie Christensen, The Sierra Club Bay Area Chapter, IBEW 1245, The San Francisco Labor Council, The League of Women Voters, and the San Francisco Young Democrats.

There has not been an officially campaign filed to oppose this measure, but The Libertarian Party of San Francisco supports this measures counterpart, Prop G.

Proposition C

By Carlos Mendoza

Proposition C’s plan on regulating lobbyist that spend an amount of $2,500 or higher on city officials and legislations in City Hall creates an equal atmosphere in the political realm.

The proposition is aimed at individuals, party groups and unions who spend the regulated amount to disclose information. The information would contain how much money was spent, and who or what the money was spent on.

Supported by the San Francisco Ethics Commission, Prop C not only regulates funding, but it also prohibits individuals or groups to provide city officials with gifts higher than 25 dollars.

Setting the political field in a fair environment is crucial because it guarantees that every city official and legislation has a fair chance of representation and eliminates the influence of money.

Proposition J

By Marc Arguello

Proposition J would establish a legacy business historic preservation fund. If approved, a ‘legacy list’ of businesses in the city that have been around for at least 20 years would be eligible to receive benefits from the city. Any business that the city considers to be a legacy business would receive $500 for every full-time employee under its employ, and property owners that lease to any business on the list would be compensated $4.50 per square-foot provided they agree to lease the space to the business for at least 10-years.

According to the analysis from the city controller, the measure would cost the city about $3.7 million for the 2015 to 2016 fiscal year, although the actual costs of the proposition would depend on the size of the approved budget and number of businesses on the list.

Proposition J is supported by the San Francisco Democratic party, the San Francisco Labor Council, and the South Beach Mission Bay business association.

Prop J is opposed by the San Francisco Republican Party and San Francisco Moderates. The Libertarian party also opposes prop J. The San Francisco Taxpayers association has voiced its opposition to prop J as well.

Proposition D

By Jordan Lalata

Sponsored and funded by the San Francisco Giants, a yes vote on this measure will convert Lot A, a surface parking lot south of AT&T Park, into something more dramatic and vibrant. The Mission Rock project achieves to create 40 percent affordable housing to low and middle-income individuals and families with approximately 1,500 new rental homes. The project will also include eight acres of parks and open space for family-oriented and recreational activities, and an expansion of Anchor Brewing, the city’s very own brewery, to Pier 48. This would result into more than 13,500 construction jobs, 11,000 permanent jobs and produce over $1 billion in revenue to go toward city services. Those opposed of this measure include the San Francisco Green Party, San Francisco Tomorrow and the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay.

Proposition G

By Naomi Outlaw

Also known as the “San Francisco Renewable Energy Truth In Advertising Act”, Proposition G will require the City to define renewable, greenhouse-gas free electricity as electricity solely derived from renewable resources located or adjacent to California, or electricity generated by the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

This proposition also requires the city to send out three notices informing citizens of CleanPowerSF’s renewable energy percentages before the program commences and then a notice of the current percentage in every communication about the program.

Originally supported by IBEW 1245, one of PG&E’s three unions, they withdrew their support and instead endorsed Proposition H. According to Hoodline, Bernalwood and the Libertarian Party of San Francisco still support the measure while the League of Women Voters, the League of Pissed Off Voters, and Supervisors London Breed, John Avalos, Scott Wiener and Julie Christensen oppose the bill.

Proposition B

By Carlos Mendoza

Proposition B’s plan on expanding paid parental leave for all employees that work for the City and County of San Francisco is miniscule to the majority but helpful to the minority.

The proposition that is supported by Supervisor Katy Tang, will allow all government employees to receive a full 12 weeks of paid parental leave. This comes before employees are allowed to keep their 40 hours they have gained at the end of their leave.

According to federal, state and local law, all employees are granted 12 weeks of parental leave after arrival of a new child. Compensation comes after employed parents use their sick hours they have accrued.

This new proposition will make sure that compensation will happen during the full 12 weeks and let new or existing parents keep their 40 hours of paid sick leave.

Pink or Blue, Who the Hell Cares?

By Jenna Van De Ryt

Have you ever heard the saying, “a child’s brain is like a sponge?”

The saying goes, when children are young they are equivalent to a sponge constantly soaking up the world around them and learning a multitude of new information all for the very first time. For the sake of education, the early years of a child’s life can simply be defined as the optimum time for learning. But, with learning comes teaching, and what do toy store’s all pink and all blue aisles teach them?

It teaches children that there is a distinct difference between the segregated lines of color that divide toy store aisles. It prompts children to select one team to play on and to understand that they may never pinch hit for the other color. So, what would happen if a little girl wants to play with a dinosaur? Maybe she will grow up to be a paleontologist. Or, heaven forbid a young boy asks to have his very own doll. Maybe his professional path will lead him to becoming a pediatrician. Both, successful career paths in their own right, but for some reason at an early age it’s frowned upon for children to dabble in different subject areas that are not true to their gender.

Society says it’s unacceptable because, girls are pink and boys are blue. But not anymore. Big name retail stores Toys ‘R’ Us and Target have both announced that they are eliminating gendered toy marketing in all stores. “Boy” and “girl” labels on store aisles and toy packages will soon become a thing of the past. Gendered specific colored wall paper strung behind toy shelves will also be eliminated and transformed into a more monochromatic color. Toy products will be organized according to theme as opposed to gender.

These changes are in lieu of the UK-based campaign “Let Toys Be Toys,” which launched in November of 2012, and fights for the elimination of gender specific toy labeling. According to the campaign’s website, “isn’t it time that shops stopped limiting our children’s imagination by telling them what they ought to play with?” the site stated. “Let Toys Be Toys” is asking retailers and manufactures to start labeling and sorting toys according to function and theme opposed to gender. Allowing the child to decide which toy interests them the most will encourage imagination and creativity in lieu of their personal selection. The parent-led campaign has so far been successful in leading a total of 14 nation-wide retail stores, down the path of change and gender equality.

One of the first gender-neutral toys to be introduced to the neither pink nor blue shelves of toy stores is the Easy-Bake Oven. Hasbro, the maker of the new and improved oven, released a unisex version for bakers everywhere. Previously purple and pink, the 21st century oven is black, blue and silver, allowing all kids to simply bake!

Jon Whooley, an international relations professor at SF State, recently purchased a shopping cart and kitchen set for his two-year-old son, Miles simply because- his son wanted them.

“He likes shopping for groceries and then cooking food for himself and us,” Whooley said.

Whooley said his son cares more about the toy itself opposed to the color palette on the packaging.

“He seems to love playing with his tea set, as much as he likes driving his cars.” Whooley said.

“Let Toys Be Toys” continues to fight for gender fluidity in toy stores throughout the nation. Capitalizing on the theme that, “toys are toys for all girls and boys.”

What is Gender Fluid?

By Oscar Gutierrez

A mirror shows the reflection of Jay Garcia as they get ready for another day of work. Amongst a closet of dresses, suits and ties, Garcia decides on a bright red collared silk shirt and denim pants. To complete the look, they wear a binder to press their breasts down to make them less visual. This is a daily routine for Garcia. Some days they decide on more feminine clothing and other days they may decide to mix feminine and masculine apparel. Garcia is gender fluid, a title that refers to people who switch amongst many gender identities, not just male and female.

“It was difficult growing up and knowing that I did not fall in the ‘either, or’” Garcia said. “It was one of the most comforting things when I learned that I did not have to fall into either and there was a community to support me.”

Gender fluidity has recently received attention because of people like actress Ruby Rose, who came into the public eye with her visual androgyny that challenged the aesthetic aspects of gender. Rose identifies as gender fluid, but according to Garcia, there is still work to do in recognizing people that are gender fluid. Currently, articles discussing the topic have been met with a mix of comments specifically discussing that children and youth are not at a mature enough age to know what gender they fit into, while supporters of gender fluidity have claimed that as children and youth, parents should give the flexibility to switch amongst genders to express themselves fully.

“It is wonderful to have people representing gender fluidity, both in what they wear and how they may perform identity through types of jobs and daily interactions,” said Vida Bonilla, a volunteer at the Lavender Youth Recreation & Information Center. “We need to realize that many people deal with not wanting to fit within the one single gender and don’t visually represent it for a multitude of factors.”

LYRIC is an organization helping people, specifically San Francisco youth, with expressing their identity freely. According to Bonilla, culture and religion are two major factors in the failure to present oneself in their true identity.

Garcia mentioned that before they began presenting themselves in multiple genders and changing their gender pronouns to “they, them and their” it took about 11 years from when they found a name for the identity to when they actually started presenting themselves in androgynous clothing. Garcia attributes this delay to the strong Mexican and catholic beliefs that were strongly held in the family.

“Jay had no way of explaining it because there was hardly any resources for them to explain what was happening with them,” said Bertha Garcia, mother of Jay Garcia. “Yes, I still hold my beliefs strongly, but within my beliefs is also always being there for my child and supporting them in any way possible.”

Although conversations on gender fluidity are beginning to gain traction, the amount of research and data documenting those who identify solely as gender fluid is close to non-existent. Many times, gender fluid people are treated within the category of transgender or queer people, and although they may fall under the categories, the development of these resources such as support centers and reference materials for parents and children have mostly come from things like online forums and discussions amongst gender fluid people in spaces such as LYRIC and other LGBTQ centers in the city of San Francisco.

“I wish there were more things for us to look at and feel like we were being represented, but I know that’s a process and there is progress with more of the conversations we have,” Garcia said. “We need to recognize the amount of problems that youth who are questioning their gender have from depression to suicides, but I feel that is part of my purpose, to educate.”

SF’s Vision Zero Aims for Perfection

Pedestrians cross Fifth Street at Market, Sept. 21, 2015. (Brian Churchwell / Xpress)

 

By Marc Arguello

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s no secret that riding a bicycle or walking the streets of San Francisco is a dangerous endeavor. Bicyclists weaving between traffic in “the wiggle,” car doors opening suddenly into the bike lane on Valencia Street and pedestrians walking against the light in the Financial District, are all common occurrences one can see, not just in those areas, but in every neighborhood of the city. Along with poorly planned streets, these risky maneuvers have given San Francisco a bad reputation in traffic safety.

In 2014 alone, 31 people lost their lives and more than 200 were injured in collisions according to a San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority traffic fatality report.

To reduce the risk, a city-wide campaign called Vision Zero aims to reduce San Francisco traffic deaths to zero by 2024. In a metropolis as congested as San Francisco, this will be no easy feat.

Vision Zero, which has been in action for over a year and a half, has the SFMTA following a two-year action plan to quickly increase safety on San Francisco’s streets. The action strategy encompasses a broad range of solutions to increase safety of drivers, pedestrians and bike riders in their everyday commutes.

Ben Jose, a public relations officer for the SFMTA, said that he thinks absolutely zero traffic fatalities is an achievable goal, though it will require the continued efforts of both the SFMTA and the public at large.

“Our philosophy with Vision Zero is that traffic deaths aren’t acceptable and are preventable,” Jose said. “Vision Zero is about increasing safety for everyone, whether they’re walking, biking or driving.”

Vision Zero is working to increase the safety of the city’s streets in multiple ways. This includes engineering projects designed to immediately increase safety of high incident neighborhoods. The city will also be increasing the enforcement of traffic violations in these areas while educating the public of the dangers of reckless driving and speeding. The SFMTA will be evaluating the progress of these changes and reporting every traffic incident via the Vision Zero website, and will support all of their efforts by passing comprehensive policy reforms.

One such engineering effort is the Polk Streetscape Project, where the SFMTA has implemented a variety of short term safety measures such as a new bike lane and painted safety zones, with more projects to come, Jose said.

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Bicyclists, private vehicles and public transit vehicles share Market Street, Sept. 21, 2015. (Brian Churchwell / Xpress)

The SFMTA has identified 13 miles of “high injury network” in the city, where more than 70 percent of all severe and fatal traffic injuries occur. As part of the two-year action plan, the SFMTA will give priority to making improvements in these areas, which include Market Street, Mission Street, Geary Street, the Embarcadero and most streets in the financial district.

Vision Zero was behind the recent restriction of private vehicles being able to turn onto Market Street between Third and Eighth streets. This move was done to give bicyclists and pedestrians a safer thoroughfare through the heart of the city.

Between 2012 and 2013 there were 162 collisions resulting in injuries along Market Street, according to Paul Rose, a spokesman for the SFMTA. The ban on private vehicle turns is accompanied with other changes that include extending transit-only lanes and installing new loading and painted safety zones to boost visibility.

City planners are working on adding a new bike lane to 13th Street between Bryant and Folsom streets. This stretch of 13th Street and Division Street lacks bike lanes in both the eastbound and westbound directions. Under the new plan, traffic will be regulated to just two lanes in the westbound direction, with the parking lane acting as a buffer between moving traffic and bike lanes.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has been advocating for improvements to be made to the city’s streets for bicyclists for over 40 years. While the coalition praises the changes SFMTA has already made, such as the addition of bike lanes with barriers, the coalition’s communications director Chris Cassidy, who has been biking in the city for 10 years said there is still room for improvements. According to Cassidy, San Francisco has become a much better place to be a cyclist in the city since riding here, but not every neighborhood is getting the same kind of attention.

“In underserved neighborhoods like Bayview-Hunters Point, the civic leaders have a long way to go in delivering safe ways for people to live more active lifestyles,” Cassidy said.

Yani Asega lives in Oakland and takes his bike along with BART to get to his job at the Valencia Cyclery. Asega said that while he thinks Oakland is generally a better place to bike, San Francisco is still an overall good place to be a cyclist.

“I think the city could use a few more bike lanes,”Asega said. “Overall (San Francisco) is a good place to bike in.”

Ross Cook-Golesh is a bicyclist who lives and works near Valencia Street. Cook-Golesh said that riding a bike in the city is fun, but drivers who don’t look in their rearview mirrors before opening their door present a constant threat.

“With city riding, it’s all about looking out for stupid people and cars,” Cook-Golesh said. “Riding your bike in San Francisco is just like any other city.”