Spots Unknown

LA’s Sit/Lie Law in San Francisco

LA's Sit/Lie Law in San Francisco; photo by BayView Times/Sheet Roots
Photo by BayView Times/Sheet Roots

This article in the SF BayView doesn't pretend to be neutral on the issue. It does, however, provide a helpful perspective on the proposed law:

If we want to compare Proposition L with another city’s sit/lie law, we should really look to our tougher, rougher, bigger neighbor to the south: Los Angeles. The enforcement program for the sit/lie law there was designed while our current chief of police Gascon was second in command. The San Francisco law looks and feels eerily familiar compared to the Los Angeles one...

The main features of the initiative were described in a 2002 internal LAPD memo entitled “Homeless Reduction Strategies.” The public relations campaign for SCI was designed by Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow George L. Kelling, who was paid about $500,000 in consulting fees...

The San Francisco proponents of sit/lie are currently quoting arather long article by Manhattan Institute writer Heather Mac Donald, who has been described as “the thinking bigot’s Ann Coulter.” ...

Much like the LA law, the major proponents of Prop L are financial, real estate and hotel interests and the upper police department brass. Both initiatives were introduced by seemingly liberal mayors. In both San Francisco and Los Angeles, the image of the white mother and baby under threat were used repeatedly in their public relations work.

Several SU readers have spoken out in support of Sit/Lie here, where I pointed out the Manhattan Institute's connections with Giuliani's remaking of Times Square.

What do you think? (Read the whole BayView article here.)

Giuliani’s Brain Spanks San Francisco

Giuliani's Brain Attacks San Francisco

The visionaries who saved Times Square have decided to lend their beneficence to our fair city, and show us once and for all how only "the will to enforce common norms of public behavior" can clean up areas like the Haight-Ashbury, ridding it of the gutter-punks and pit bulls.

But in the process, our Doms have to deliver some tough love, especially to those employed by "Homelessness, Inc." here in the city. Yes, Daddy, we've been very bad. Hurt us! Give us what we deserve! We don't want to hear that the solution to every civic problem is incarceration, but my, we do NEED to hear it.

One of the more precious quotes in the article suggests our reward if we obey:

Police officials and local entrepreneurs speak wistfully of the transformation of New York’s Times Square, and they still hope that it could happen here [in the Tenderloin].

They do prescribe one non-police action to achieve this shopper's utopia:

Perhaps, too, such public passivity in the face of crime owes to the city’s lack of a tabloid newspaper; in New York, such grisly events, which were common in the early 1990s, sparked widespread outrage in no small part because papers like the New York Post made them front-page news.

Victory of the Mad Viking: Brooks Park

Brooks Park, San Francisco

Not long ago it was a post-apocalyptic den of drug abuse, blood sport, and murder. Now, it has been re-made as a virtual Valhalla by The Mad Viking himself, Peter Vaernet, and is a tribute to the past figures who battled to make something noble out of the parcel of land atop Merced Heights.

Today, Brooks Park is a model for creative land stewardship, urban gardening, and community pride.

Peter Vaernet is a cyclone of positive energy, and has swept folks like gardener John Herbert into the storm. Together they've completed the park's dramatic adventure from its auspicious beginnings with the Brooks family in the 1930s, through its 1970s and 80s descent, to its glorious present rebound.

We took our camera into the fog to Brooks Park last weekend while they were building a temporary tomato greenhouse in the garden, and met Peter and John:

Victory of the Mad Viking, San Francisco from Spots Unknown on Vimeo.

More after the jump...

This Synthetic Bacteria Thing-a-ma-jiggy

This is an interview conducted in my living room in Hayes Valley for a webzine and a podcast I produced back in 2007. (Here are MP3s of the whole interview: Part 1, Part 2)

In it, Dr. Alan Goldstein, a professor of bio-materials at Alfred University, proposes that the creation of synthetic biological life would in fact be our First Contact with alien life.

He also explains that such an endeavor represents the height of hubris if we assume that we can predict what will happen after that point, and whether it will work out well or not for our species.

I wonder how he thinks the newly-announced self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell fits in the context of his A-Prize, a contest meant to emphasize safeguarding humanity against over-ambitious researchers in this field.

Most of the commentary in the media is already being filled with the same old paranoia about "playing god," and it falls as flat as ever. That's because we rarely dig down to the existential issue at the core of the fear - our own mortality.

The Battle for Edgehill Mountain

Edgehill Mountain, San Francisco

It's wedged between Mount Davidson and Forest Hill, and it offers some amazing vistas and a thriving natural area, but you won't find Edgehill Mountain or its open space labeled on any official maps. Yet.

Because it's San Francisco, there is of course an epic clash between good and evil unfolding on this obscure, scenic bump in the topography. Land developers vs. stewards, citizens vs. city officials, native vs. invasive plants - and stuck in the middle, a humble little hillside that just wants to be who it was meant to be.

Large homes - many of them owned by Italian land magnate Angelo Sangiacomo - are densely-packed right up to the summit, but the south side is too steep. This fact was demonstrated several times in the past when large portions of the hill turned to mud and slid away. In the '50s a house was taken out entirely, and in 1997 mud crashed into some unfinished homes.

The city refuses to maintain Edgehill Way, the single-lane road that circles the crest. A patchwork of filled potholes and an abundance of foliage make it feel like a country road in the middle of the city. The lookout facing south at Mount Davidson is quite special:

Edgehill Mountain Lookout, San Francisco

On a clear day you can see the ocean from the park.

Edgehill is easily accessible from the Forest Hill and West Portal Muni stations. Check the Spots Map for exact location, and then visit. Go on a second Saturday for a work party and help local resident Stan Kaufman, president of the Friends of Edgehill Mountain Park, and Randy Zebell of SF Rec & Parks fight the good fight against non-native weeds.

Tagged as: , 5 Comments

An Almost Cleverly-Named Marijuana Delivery Service

An Almost Cleverly-Named Business

I refuse to engage in the perpetual punnitry (ha!) that wafts around the medical marijuana conversation in this country. It's just not funny anymore.

Seriously, people, we are on the verge of voting to make this plant legal in California. I, for one, am proud to live in a city where it's been effectively legal for years. The first time I was motivated to vote was when I moved here in 1996 and Proposition 215 was on the ballot. Since then, things have evolved, tons of other states have legalized medical pot - America has actually become more like San Francisco.

But the stoner jokes and wordplay mania are embarrassing. Thus, this business, as earnest and probably useful as it is, is embarrassing.

It's a shame, because one thing I love about the site is its appropriation of the pharmaceutical industry's aesthetic.

Also, this was totally inevitable.

Tagged as: , 1 Comment

Pony Express Turns 150

Pony Express Turns 150; photo by bikingantoine

Amidst all the furor over the impending USPS apocalypse, we might take a moment to remember that April 3rd is the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express.

It delivered mail between St. Joseph, Missouri and San Francisco in about 10 days - half the time claimed by stagecoach (it promised 23 days, but was almost always much, much longer). But the Express operated for only 18 months until the telegraph's westward expansion obsoleted it.

During its short life, it embodied and perpetuated cultural motifs such as "cowboy vs. Indian," "man vs. technology," and the gold/silver rush.

It has remained highly romanticized to this day, with both Wells Fargo and the USPS appropriating the "Pony Express" mark for subsequent branding efforts.

Some fun facts:

  • 600 "horses" (some were mules!) and 75 riders were in the fleet, each galloping about 60 miles until reaching the next relay station.
  • The riders were usually teenaged boys.
  • Horse and rider rode a riverboat from Sacramento to San Francisco for the final relay of the trip.
  • Stories exist of ads saying, "“Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 a week.” The stories have never been corroborated.

Links: 1, 2, 3

Tagged as: , 1 Comment

Google Teases SF With Promise of Fiber Internet Roll-out

Google Laying Fiber in San Francisco?

The SF Examiner reports that Google will make its initial presentation to the Committee on Information Technology (COIT) regarding its desire to bring ultra high-speed internet access to the city as part of a nationwide trial program. According to Google Project Manager James Kelly:

“We plan to provide fiber to the home service with speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second for at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people. In selected locations we’ll offer Internet connections up to 100 times faster than many Americans have access to today – and at competitive prices.”

Google will speak to COIT on Thursday morning.

I want to believe. Having said that, some of us remember the whole free city-wide wi-fi debacle, and even past promises of fiber.

(spotted @)

James “Da Pimp” O’Keefe Coming to San Francisco?

James "Da Pimp" O'Keefe Coming to San Francisco?

Everyone knows White Pimp is the new Black, and it's ALL GOOD, y'all. Word up.

But seriously, this jive turkey is scheduled to speak at the Commonwealth Club and teach badass mofo media poseurs how to stick it to the man.

However. Since the brotha's out on bail and might be, shall we say, indisposed at the time of the talk, there might be someone else speaking that night.

Tagged as: , No Comments

Police Scanner: Car-to-Foot Chase

The TV show Cops is great and all, but there is a special excitement to hearing and imagining the action as it's communicated between officers and the dispatcher.

This chase, which happened yesterday, goes through the Upper Haight as the perp blows a tire, then proceeds on foot through Golden Gate Park, and is finally tackled and apprehended.

The Often-Missed Beauty of Graffiti Tags

Even folks who think of themselves as open-minded urbanoids who can appreciate a good "mural" - unlike these wankers - will often mutter about tags as being mere marking of territory - simple, unimaginative, unskilled fuck-you-ism.

The above visualization of the motion of tagging, however, seems to challenge this notion. Anyone who's ever paid attention to the kids on Muni as they swipe their markers and fill the bus with dizzying fumes has had a chance to see this, on some level. And yet most cannot get past the criminality (or the smell).

Now they can. (There is, of course, an iPhone app.)

Tagged as: , 2 Comments

Love It or Leave It, SF Weekly

Twin Peaks, San Francisco, photo by Ron Kurti

The carpetbaggers over at Village Voice Media, aka, the SF Weekly, have launched an anti-SF hit piece that completely misses the point of San Francisco and why people choose to live here.

Now, like my old buddy, Mat, I hate things about SF - including much of what is covered in this piece. That makes my headline pretty much meaningless - at least I admit that, which is more than the Weekly would do about the one atop the article we're discussing here. More after the jump...

Tagged as: Continue reading

Native San Francisco Shrub – Not Dead Yet!

Franciscan Manzanita, San Francisco Native Shrub

The Franciscan Manzanita, a shrub thought to have been made extinct when its habitat in the SF cemeteries of old was eradicated, has been discovered growing wild near the Golden Gate Bridge. More after the jump...

National Anti-Prohibition Group Likes San Francisco (but not LA)

National Anti-Prohibition Group Likes San Francisco (but not LA), image by Troy Holden

You'd think that Los Angeles' 800-1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries would be considered some sort of success to pro-legalization advocates in Washington, D.C. According to an article in today's Chron by C.W. Nevius, you would be wrong:

"If you wanted to write a textbook on how to screw up medical marijuana," said Bruce Mirken, the San Francisco-based communications director for the national Marijuana Policy Project, "the first thing you should do is hire the Los Angeles City Council."

Mirken's low opinion of the state of medical cannabis in California's most populous city isn't a case of pious provincialism, it's the worst-kept secret in the entire pro-pot movement. More after the jump...

We Do Love Our Mayor

Has Gavin Newsome Resigned Yet?

The latest single-serving site from the creator of

Has Gavin Newsom Resigned Yet?

Tagged as: , No Comments

1962: SAVE the BAY AREA from CHOKING to DEATH (with BART)!

BART Proposition A 1962, courtesy Prelinger Library

My favorite bit from this scan of an original flyer in support of Proposition "A": "All statements in this leaflet are accurate and factual." That reassuring disclaimer apparently made this passage adequately persuasive:

Who endorsed Proposition "A"? Taxpayer's groups... labor... doctors, lawyers, merchants, housewives, educators, Republicans, Democrats - everybody who wants a prosperous Bay Area. Opposition? Scattered, local, self-interested.

Indeeeed. The proposition required a district-wide 60% "yes" to pass; it got 61.2%, with the help of folks who cynically voted for it even though they wanted, and expected, it to fail. More after the jump...

Statistical Fibs Will Not Make Pedestrians Safer

Pedestrian on StreetsBlog

Is it true that pedestrians die in San Francisco at a 70% higher rate than the national average?

I saw this claim come across my Twitter feed today from Walk San Francisco, the local pedestrian advocacy organization, and it immediately got my attention. It didn't smell quite right to me. More after the jump...