Not since we partied like it was 1999 or enjoyed 1967’s Summer of Love has the international media horde descended on San Francisco to try to explain to the rest of the world about how exciting it can be here! New York Magazine, maybe questioning their faith in the widespead belief among New Yorkers that they live at the center of the universe, has turned the volume up to 11 articles about San Francisco in their latest issue. The lead photo for the series is of nudists Gypsy Taub and Jaymz Smith, identified by the Chronicle’s Ellen Huet, followed by the above illustration which shows a good deal of artistic license taken with local geography. (Seriously, it’s like there was no attempt whatsoever to actually connect the legend with the map, but then New Yorkers have always struggled with perspective.)
Honestly, after reading Kevin Roose’s lead story, “Is San Francisco New York,” we didn’t have any fucks left to give about the rest of the articles, so we’ll leave it up to SFist’s Jay Barmann to explain why, to New York Magazine’s apparent dismay, our new money douchebros are slightly less overtly awful than their new money douchebros:
But it’s true, we are less inclined to embrace asshole behavior, unapologetic displays, and the giddy capitalist fervor that has made Manhattan a bohemia-free retail Disneyland where no one ever thought twice about bulldozing a building to build something newer and bigger.
What do you think, are you proud of all the attention and feel it validates your decision to stay or do you wish everyone would just go away and let us fight over real estate development amongst ourselves in peace?
[h/t Melissa Gira]
We’re not sure what on earth someone could have done to get Google Glass banned at The Animal House, a pet store on Fillmore, but here we are. You can add it to the list over at Glasshole Free, found via Susie Cagle who later pointed out that “Sure it’s about surveillance but it’s also about class war — a specific Glass ban in the Bay Area now is a kind of cultural statement.”
[Photo and h/t @clowntraps]
Bordering the Castro, Noe Valley, the Inner Mission and even Mid-Market, realtor Jennifer Rosdail has defined a hot new neighborhood — The Quad! What makes The Quad unique? Housing costs are rising there even faster than the aforementioned Noe Valley and Inner Mission! How do you know if you’re cut out to be a “Quadster?”
Quadsters are young – under 40 anyway. They like to hang in the sun with their friends. They work very hard - mostly in high tech – and make a lot of money. They value time greatly and want to be in a place where they can get to work quickly, meet up with their friends easily, and walk or bike instead of sitting in traffic. They take the Google Bus, the Apple Bus, or another of the reputedly less well equip shuttles like the eBay Bus. They also like to eat really good food, but don’t often have time to cook it. And since they work on “campuses,” and are the millennial version of the Cow Hollow “Triangle” dwellers of the 70s and 80s, the name “The Quad” seems a good fit.
So basically The Quad is Frat Mason for Ivy Leaguers? Would explain the upturned nose directed at eBay employees. Also, did anyone ask the Sureños if they were cool with this? “A bit of an edge does not detract too much – it may in fact be desirable,” writes Rosdail. After all, from your $6,000 two bedroom, two bath apartment over the new Whole Foods at Market and Dolores it’s only a few blocks to 16th and Mission to cop some black tar (while you still can), currently running around $80 a gram. Qué sabroso!
For more on The Quad, Rosdail prepared presentation slides complete with recent sales figures.
When it came to light in December that Aesop, an Australian luxury cosmetics chain, was moving into 20th and Valencia, it seemed all-but-certain that there would be another Jack Spade-level anti-chain protest against it. And as predicted, the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association—the same group that successfully defeated Jack Spade’s Mission expansion—emailed Aesop the next day expressing their concern.
Over the next two and a half months, the VCMA struggled to have a dialogue with the retailer, but nevertheless formed a task force to strategize an opposition campaign. However last week, while attempting to contact Aesop again, Jefferson McCarley was able to reach a spokesperson for the company, who acknowledged the company was abandoning their forthcoming Valencia Street location next to the newly opened Chrome Store.
Jefferson writes us over email:
Aesop confirmed with me that they have decided not to open a store on Valencia. The head of public relations said that they have decided to support our efforts.
So you can imagine how thrilled we are that Aesop has decided to support us.
This means we won’t have to host fundraisers, make posters, walk door-to-door to speak to merchants on our mile-long street, spend long nights at City Hall, pay huge filing fees, write multiple 12 page briefs, solicit letters of support, reach out to politicians, and spend every other Tuesday night in a conference room, after a a long hard day of work.
We can get to go back to the work that we prefer to do:
- Working with the SFMTA on bringing bikeshare to Valencia
- Helping to bring a cool new music festival to Valencia
- Helping to bring the Cinco de Mayo festival to Valencia
- Keeping the street vibrant during the day (by minimizing retail conversions to restaurants)
- Organizing a sidewalk sale
- Developing new resources and a sense of community for Valencia corridor merchants.
Oh yeah. And running our own businesses.
956 Valencia St. is now available for lease to a local independent small business.
Details are light as this is breaking, but a uniformed police officer was shot around 3pm on Florida Street between 25th and 26th. The officer, 23, had recently joined the police force [update: we have since learned the officer is 28 and has been on the force for six years]. What prompted the shooting is currently unknown, but a rumor is circulating that it was following a car chase on 101.
There were 6 or 7 shots fired according to a neighbor, and the officer was struck in the shoulder. The officer was seen “bleeding out” and “someone was looking for a belt to tourinquet him.”
The suspect fled the scene in a gray Mustang. We will update as we learn more.
Earlier this morning, the San Francisco office-set were delighted to witness One Kearny barf up all the excess “water” within. Speculation was flying at street level, as the initial deluge was tainted brown. An enema? Perhaps a shit-colored holy miracle?
The truth was less exciting: SFist discovered the “waterfall was caused by ‘a broken pipe.’” Which makes more sense than my theory of a building come-to-life and flushing its bowels.
The Rules Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors moved yesterday to recommend an ordinance amending the city’s Health Code that would “prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes where smoking is otherwise prohibited.” In addition, retailers of vaporizers would have to obtain a tobacco permit, and sales would be barred at locations where cigarettes are also barred, such as pharmacies which sell nicotine gum and lozenges.
Supervisor Eric Mar, the author of the bill, has been a valiant crusader against smokers during his term and opened the discussion of the matter by warning that “this might shock and horrify” before doing something that is “completely legal” and puffed on an e-cigarette. Though discussion on the matter had been stacked with supporters of the measure, opponents broke out with a boisterous cheer and applause. Later, Supervisor Norman Yee stiffly delivered his line: “Stop blowing that in front of my face!”
As theatrics go, Mar and Yee could benefit from taking an improv workshop together, or at least running through some rehearsals. But the sketch comedy was followed up by a line of equally passionate anti-smoking true believers, including UCSF researchers like Doctor Stanton Glantz who’ve built their careers on studies detailing the harms of tobacco smoking.
The only problem is, electronic cigarettes or portable vaporizers don’t emit any smoke. There is no combustion. While they do deliver nicotine, it’s not as fine smoke particulate but as an aerosol vapor for absorption through the mucus membranes lining the mouth, throat and nose. While it’s possible to inhale the aerosol into the lungs, most regular users don’t after a time because it doesn’t do much to speed delivery of nicotine to the blood stream, it just makes you cough like you might if you got a lungful of steam from a hot shower.
Glantz, who was invited to speak, and his colleague Lauren Dutra, who spoke during the public comment period, had just published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics using data over a year old from the National Youth Tobacco Survey which concluded that among minors who have experimented with vaporizers, there is evidence that they have also experimented with cigarettes. So they concluded that “use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage, conventional cigarette use among US adolescents.” On which basis they argued in the hearing that, clearly, vaporizers were therefore going to lead more minors to smoke cigarettes. Sorry, vaporizers “may” lead more minors to smoke cigarettes.
Won’t somebody think of the children!
(No word on if this same cohort in the study also experimented with alcohol, pornography, video games, roughhousing, grabassing, sassback or other objectionable behaviors, but I’m sure a correlation could be found if an ambitious PhD candidate with an agenda looked hard enough.)
I poke fun because during most of the hearing, anyone presenting anecdotal evidence of the efficacy of nicotine vaporizers as a smoking cessation tool and harm reduction strategy, or even asserting that the aerosol is relatively more benign than tobacco smoke, or that what toxins there were in vaporized aerosol were in minute amounts, or evidence from studies that contradicted those presented by UCSF representatives were immediately and aggressively challenged by Mar from the dais and their assertions summarily dismissed. It became clear very quickly that this was in no way a hearing on the evidence, but a political passion play.
In other words, the nicotine fix is in. Having sailed through committee, this is probably going to pass the Board of Supervisors, possibly unanimously. And either way, Mayor Ed Lee will probably sign it.
It’s true that there aren’t a lot of studies on the topic of vaporized nicotine toxicity, but what studies exist aren’t necessarily conclusive. If anything, the medical consensus is that while there may be some unanticipated harms, for the most part, the levels of toxins are multiple orders of magnitude lower than those in tobacco or tobacco smoke, and while nicotine is a carcinogen, it is a relatively weak one compared to the compounds in tar. According to Reuters:
Mitch Zeller, head of the FDA’s tobacco division, said in an interview that there is a “continuum of risk” among nicotine products currently on the market, with cigarettes on one end and medicinal nicotine on the other. He declined to say where on the spectrum he expects e-cigarettes to fall or what is contained in the FDA’s proposals. In general, he said, people smoke for the nicotine and die from the tar.
“I’m not saying nicotine is benign, but when compared to the risk associated with regular tobacco, it pales,” he said.
The good news is, as Supervisor Katy Tang pointed out in her remarks asking to be included as a sponsor for the legislation before committee chair Yee banged the gavel on the motion to recommend it to the full board, is that it’s not a full ban. Though it’s not really clear how the new regulations will do anything more to protect children when sales of vaporizers to minors are already illegal under state law, it provides no provisions to regulate the production or marketing of the product (though the FDA should be handing down guidelines on these soon enough) and there’s no way this will impact the potential sale to minors online.
There were repeated assurances that this won’t impact the use of vaporizers for medical marijuana patients, based on the City Attorney’s interpretation of the language in the ordinance. And Mar suggested that the regulations will only apply to vaporizers that look like traditional cigarettes. In the definitions listed under Section 19, Number 2, item B of the proposed legislation, it reads:
“Electronic Cigarette” or “E-cigarette” means any device with a heating element, a battery, or an electronic circuit that provides nicotine or other vaporized liquids to the user in a manner that simulates smoking tobacco.
As Chris Roberts pointed out at the San Francisco Weekly, “other vaporized liquids” could mean a whole host of things, including simply flavored vapor with nothing otherwise fun about them. Mar suggested that this only means vaporizers that look like traditional cigarettes, including Lorillard’s market-leading Blu. Most of the vaporizer users I know, including myself, use devices that look more like a pen which can be used with both nicotine and cannabis solutions.
So Mar and supporters are arguing that vaporizers shouldn’t be used in bars and other public places because staff, security or police can’t necessarily tell the difference between a cloud of smoke or a cloud of vapor and that it’s asking too much for them to take the time to distinguish before intervening. But they turn around and assure people who legally use cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation or devices that don’t attempt to resemble cigarettes that they won’t be unduly harassed because, well, the City Attorney has assured everyone that the regulations don’t apply to them.
So which is it, are authorities and concerned citizens too busy to be bothered to tell the difference, or will they be expected to narrowly enforce the regulations? Users are concerned that it’s the former, and people will be fined first and forced to defend their use later. And whatever the City Attorney’s opinion, the interpretation of the language in practice will be up to the courts. As it stands, business owners are already allowed to make their own decisions regarding use in their establishments, much like they are with Google Glass and other new technologies, and the San Francisco Board of Education is set to mandate vaporizer use on public school campuses soon.
Trust me, I’m as uncomfortable as most San Franciscans with anything coming from the American Enterprise Institute, but Sally Satel’s recent opinion piece in the Washington Post has a number of good arguments as to why policy makers shouldn’t rush to make hasty decisions that aren’t unreasonable.
Yes, we still need research on the long-term health and behavioral impacts of e-cigarettes. Brad Rodu, a pathologist at the University of Louisville, offers an apt analogy between electronic cigarettes and cellphones. When cellphones became popular in the late ’90s, there were no data on their long-term safety. As it turns out, the risk of a brain tumor with prolonged cellphone use is not zero, but it is very small and of uncertain health significance.
In my own experience, I was a pack a day (or more) smoker for almost eighteen years before finally making the switch early last year — after trying traditional nicotine replacement therapy and varenicline (Chantix), neither of which ultimately proved successful and the latter’s side effects include suicidal depression. While I do occasionally still enjoy an analog cigarette, my use dropped almost immediately to two packs a month, then one, and is now considerably less than that.
I have a pack of cigarettes at home that I’ve been ignoring for weeks. Once in a while, they’re a special treat, but the times I’ve had to switch back for whatever reason it quickly became apparent after only three or four cigarettes when the headaches would set back in and my lung capacity and energy levels would begin to fall that vaping was by far the healthier option. Not to mention the fact that I quickly started to reek of tobacco again.
I spoke about the proposed legislation with a local business owner who sells vaping supplies and preferred to remain anonymous. He already has a policy of not selling to minors or even non-smokers in place. He said that he’d back restrictions on advertising and marketing, understood the concerns of other business owners who’d rather not have to distinguish between vapor and smoke, and was enthusiastic about regulations on the manufacture of the solutions, with and without nicotine, that are used in the devices.
His customers, by and large, “are working people,” he pointed out, something that’s been backed up by my experience—and while it costs a little more up front, it’s a cheaper habit over the long term, which reduces the economic harm of nicotine addiction as well. His biggest gripe is with the hypocrisy of pretensions to acting for the good of public health by restricting the use of something that’s pretty clearly less harmful to people addicted to smoking tobacco and those around them.
According to University of California, Berkeley Political Science professor Zachary Kahn and Boston University School of Public Health professor Michael Siegel in a paper for the Journal of Public Health Policy titled “Electronic cigarettes as a harm reduction strategy for tobacco control: A step forward or a repeat of past mistakes?”
With entrenched skepticism toward harm reduction now manifested as deep cynicism about electronic cigarettes - a distinct product that actually does reduce risk and threatens cigarette makers - the tobacco industry is ironically benefitting from its own past duplicity. The push to ban electronic cigarettes may repeat the mistakes of the past in the name of avoiding them. Regulatory policy for electronic cigarettes and other novel nicotine products must be guided by an accurate understanding of how they compare to tobacco cigarettes and [Nicotine Replacement Therapy] in terms of reducing toxic exposures and helping individual smokers quit.
With all due respect to Supervisor Mar and supporters of the regulation, they may be doing the smokers in their lives whom they’d wish to see live longer a grave disservice by eliminating incentives to switch, such as the ability to use vaporizers in public settings like bars and many workplaces where modeling behavior to minors isn’t an issue. In a perfect world, even I’d rather not be addicted to nicotine. But harm reduction saves lives, and vaporizers are one of the most exciting advancements in the field in a generation.
There are three arguments floating around as to why the rent is too damn high in San Francisco, all of which just happen to serve the interests of local real estate developers:
- San Franciscans make it hard to build!
- Rent control actually causes rents to go up!
- This has been happening since the Gold Rush!
All of these arguments hinge on the assumption that what’s happening right now in the Bay Area generally is somehow unique to San Francisco specifically. This morning, an article about the “yuppification” of San Francisco from the L.A. Times, published in 1985, was making the rounds on Twitter, and plenty of people making these arguments have cited it as proof of one, or all, of the above. It certainly does sound familiar!
Whatever its name, its result is spiraling housing costs, clogged traffic, an exodus of middle-class and poor families and declining black and Latino populations. And the trend seems certain to continue despite a new effort by the city to limit growth, restrain housing costs and preserve neighborhoods.
But it doesn’t just sound familiar to San Franciscans, because it’s happening all over the country.
It’s true that by 1985, the impact of the de-industrialization of American cities and increasing income inequality was first starting to reshape the streets and skyline, helped in no small part locally by then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein (who’s husband, incidentally, is investment banker Richard Blum, chairman of the board of commercial real estate developer CB Richard Ellis). Not to mention the economic policies of the Reagan administration, neo-liberalism’s legendary benefactor and hero. Economic policies which have thrived through the following Republican and Democrat administrations, including the current one.
What is new is that it’s accelerating. And as the divide between the haves and have-nots grows larger, the haves are concentrating their wealth and the have-nots are either clinging to ever-more-precarious perches on the one hand and following the money in a desperate search for economic opportunity on the other.
Earlier this week, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, a blog which documents the passing of that city’s urban institutions, populations and traditions, published a lengthy article on, frankly, Manhattanization, partly in response to Spike Lee’s recent remarks on what’s happened to the Fort Greene, Brooklyn neighborhood of his youth. It’s as colorful an illustration on the impacts of real wage decline since the 1970s as the above graphs.
Many New Yorkers today, across racial and class lines, do wish for old-fashioned gentrification, that slow, sporadic process with both positive and negative effects—making depressed and dangerous neighborhoods safer and more liveable, while displacing a portion of the working-class and poor residents. At its best, gentrification blended neighborhoods, creating a cultural mix. It put fresh fruits and vegetables in the corner grocer’s crates. It gave people jobs and exposed them to different cultures. At its worst, gentrification destroyed networks of communities, tore families apart, and uprooted lives. Still, that was nothing compared to what we have today.
I want to make one thing clear: Gentrification is over. It’s gone. And it’s been gone since the dawn of the twenty-first century. Gentrification itself has been gentrified, pushed out of the city and vanished. I don’t even like to call it gentrification, a word that obscures the truth of our current reality. I call it hyper-gentrification.
If you want a window into what that earlier era of gentrification looked like, Mission Local also reached back to their archives for an interview with author Michelle Tea about her experience moving to San Francisco in the early 90s (shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake momentarily relieved pressure on the San Andreas fault, population in-migration, and real estate prices).
Mission Local: Why did you move to the Mission?
Michelle Tea: It’s not that it was a particularly cool neighborhood, although I later found out that it was. This is just where the cheap rents were. I moved here in 1993, and when the bus let me off on Valencia, I remember the street felt deserted — like almost all of the storefronts were closed.
But somewhat tragically, wherever artists and activists go, real estate developers tend to follow, often because they lead the artists and activists there in the first place. Before moving to the Bay Area, my apartment in Brooklyn was at Underhill and Washington Avenue in a community largely composed of immigrants from the Carribean—“because that’s where the cheap rents were.” The year was 1998, and my girlfriend had found the place through a broker, who told her straight out, “We’re trying to move white people here.” Less than ten years later, a Richard Meier-designed condominium had sprouted up on the site of an old synagogue at Grand Army Plaza. A few more years after that, “New York’s first steampunk bar” opened a few blocks from my old place.
The units in the Meier building were sold from a realty office in SoHo, which had itself been transforming from a former light-industrial neighborhood with a heroin problem into a chic retreat for couture boutiques by the time that L.A. Times article was published in 1985. The denizens of the downtown art scene who survived and succeeded kept their pied-à-terres well after moving their families to the North Fork. One couple had me score some cocaine to save them the trip to Washington Heights, which now is actually being called WaHi by apartment brokers presumably looking to move white people in.
By then, the only “art” actually still happening in SoHo was sometimes even funded by venture capital like Josh Harris’s legendarily profligate failure Pseudo.com on Broadway. Which is to say, the process of reshaping neighborhood demographics and urban industry was no longer an ad-hoc effort led by a handful of privileged but tolerant middle class white people fleeing the cultural homogeneity of the suburbs. Now it’s funded by institutional investment in startup businesses and real estate development and enabled by local governments interested in attracting the middle class refugees from the rust belt who can afford to relocate and learn professional skills (which all sounded harmless enough when it was called “brain drain” in the old dead tree media).
We moved to Oakland’s Temescal in 2000 largely because it was pretty clear that we weren’t going to make much progress toward any kind of financial security on artist incomes in New York. Here, there was well-paid, if very temporary, web development work for me and a job at a non-profit with low wages but good health insurance for her. We did our part for displacement, certainly, but like the many techies in Silicon Valley’s lower contractor caste who sometimes get to ride the private shuttles, we might have had more stylish lifejackets than most, but we were just trying to keep our heads above water by swimming along with the currents of global capital like everyone but a few.
Let’s go back to that article from 1985, and the plight of the Brandolino family’s experience having to move from their rent-controlled apartment North Beach after “a group of lawyers bought the 17-unit Victorian building in which they had been living to convert it into offices.” They couldn’t afford units in their old neighborhood at the going rate of “$900 or $1,000 a month” on their combined income of $30,000 a year, so they moved to Brisbane—which has no rent control, and could hardly be characterized as “anti-development”—where they found a place for $500 a month.
In today’s numbers, according to the inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, their income would now be near San Francisco’s median around $65,200, presuming it rose in step with inflation (which they haven’t). That would also put the apartments in North Beach out of their reach around $1,950 to $2,150 and the place they found in Brisbane at more like $1,100. But what are rents in North Beach and Brisbane right now? Based on an average of listings, one bedroom units are $2,995 and $1,839, respectively. And that’s assuming the Brandolinos were living in and looking for a one bedroom.
Granted, the average of units in Brisbane is from a very small sample, but again, if the reason real estate developers won’t build is because “the system is intentionally designed to make it as difficult as possible to build new housing,” according to Supervisor Scott Weiner, then why haven’t they been capitalizing on the massive demand by building units in Brisbane? Back in 2006, the suburb was the last stop on Google’s shuttle bus route, and a wave of Googlers were moving in.
But these were people who’d presumably already paid off their school loans and saved a down payment, if not cashed in on the 2004 IPO. The latest generation haven’t had time to make that progress for themselves, and the only they have of doing it is by working themselves to exhaustion at some fly-by-night mobile app startup, so necessarily they’re flocking to the region looking for places to rent. So why weren’t thousands built in Brisbane built during the last boom?
We can look back to that old L.A. Times article for some ideas. The second section leads off with, “a few years ago, there were no vacant offices here. Now, there is a 10% vacancy rate.” What happened was, as the vacancy rate increased, the value of the commercial real estate that companies like CB Richard Ellis were building began to drop. But it was still more expensive per square foot than building in San Mateo County, and because municipalities in California have more to gain for their tax base from commercial development because of Prop 13 restrictions on property taxes, among other reasons, the next twenty years did see a building boom. It’s just that it was corporate campuses and office space sprawling along the peninsula, not apartments.
What housing was built pushed further and further into the exurbs as people chased the home ownership dream, even as transportation costs rose and infrastructure spending dropped. And we all know how well that worked out.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, real estate developers actually turned coat and allied with planned growth advocates because, by limiting new construction, they could bolster the value of what they’d already built, as detailed in Richard Deleon’s San Francisco political history “Left Coast City.” So the optimism in the following paragraph from our archived article, it turned out, was misplaced — much of these buildings never happened:
The first glass and concrete downtown high-rise sprouted in 1960, [California historian Kevin Starr] said. Now, there are 120 buildings of more than 10 stories in the 470-acre downtown area, with 60 to 70 more expected by the year 2000, the Planning Department says.
Keep that in mind when you read articles from the likes of New York Times technology reporter Nick Bilton, who wandered off the reservation to chime in on local real estate development and parroted pro-development advocates like Wiener’s quote above. Bilton reported that Redfin’s numbers showed homes selling for, on average, 60 to 80 percent above asking. Hard to believe? That’s because it isn’t true, as Priceonomics pointed out. The New York Times had to issue a correction, because in fact over the last two months it’s true that 60 to 80 percent of homes are selling for above asking, but the average premium is only six percent.
As we reported last Spring, the City has been long hoping to install a European-style pissoir in Dolores Park to save the Muni tracks from their weekly processed Tecate washdown. And, now, they’re becoming a reality. Via the Chronicle:
First came the iPod - now comes the pPod, a custom-made, open-air urinal that San Francisco is installing at Dolores Park to help deal with the hordes of male hipster inebriants that descend on the popular Mission spot on weekends.
Essentially, says Recreation and Park Department project manager Jake Gilchrist, “we are talking about a screen and a drain” that can get the potty job done using “a much simpler design.”
That’s right, degenerate hipsters! Now you can ‘go public’ without having the police bust your bladder.
At a cost of $15,000, the celery stick (you be the peanut butter) will be installed in the coming months near the 20th and Church Muni stop. For the time being, we’re only getting one, so we imagine this won’t have much impact on the lines. Alas, potty progress?