Sad 'Stache

Uber Drivers Protest Low-Fares with Low-Grade Art

On the corner of 17th and Vermont, beside the freeway and just up the hill from both the Uber and Lyft driver recruitment/services offices, sits this sign. Its DIY vibe in not-so-subtle contrast to the massive Uber and Lyft billboard trucks constantly cruising the neighborhood, the sign serves as a reminder of the questionable employment practices (widespread across the tech industry) that both companies use to drive down operating costs.

And while this lone poster seems a sad testament to how little recourse drivers have when they feel they’ve been taken advantage of by either company, it does feature a sweet drawing of an upside-down Uber logo driving a mustachioed car. So I guess all is not lost.

Local Music

Gardens & Villa and Astronauts Etc Stand Out in a Saturated Genre

It seems like just about anyone can record an EP. Grab a MIDI keyboard and a laptop, record a few hooks, sample 12 tracks of harmonies and a plagiarized Lorde beat - blam! You’re the next Banks. But, just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. In a crowded sonic space, where everyone’s hook sound like everyone else’s, two bands stand out among the pack.

Gardens & Villa headline The Independent Saturday, November 22nd with main support from local Oakland-outfit, Astronauts Etc. Grab your tickets here.

Anthony Ferraro of Astronauts Etc (and Toro Y Moi) shows off his professionalism and songwriting savvy in a genre that’s chock-full of Randy Marsh quality Lorde’s, and poorman’s Beach House’s. Ferraro hit a stride with the release of his debut EP Sadie, getting the single “Up For Grabs” featured on NPR Music.

Ferraro crafts densely layered hooks that he cuts through with an unmistakable falsetto. As wispy as Ferraro’s voice sounds on record, it is still confident. You can tell Ferraro is right at home on stage after years of touring with Toro Y Moi, and countless Bay Area shows fronting Astronauts Etc. This Saturday, do yourself the favor of catching Astronauts Etc in action, and pay close attention to the interplay between Ferraro’s vocal melody and guitarist Derek Barber’s tasteful countermelodies. My guess is they can communicate to each other telepathically.

Gardens & Villa are making the trek up from their hometown of Santa Barbara for a quick run of shows to promote their latest release, Televisor, a collection of B-sides and rarities the band amassed over the years. What Gardens & Villa lack in finesse they make up for in pop-friendly power. Throbbing, repetitive synth patterns are a staple of their work on their latest release Dunes. However, expect a new look from the band on Saturday as they’re highlighting their heavier side on Televisor, trading in a few hand-claps for a thicker guitar sound.

Ball Gags and Turkey

Nato Green and Imaginary Radio Program at Z Space

Comedian Nato Green and Imaginary Radio Program (Drennon Davis & DJ Real) are performing at Z Space on the 25th of November, and if this amazing flyer by Jane Harrison (who will also be on stage) is any indication, the show is going to be a turkey and ball gag-filled comedy feast. 

Nato always puts on great live sets (he actually headlined the last Uptown Almanac’s Locally-Sourced Pop-Up Comedy Night) and we’re stoked to see him at Z Space again this November. Having Nato on a double bill with Imaginary Radio Program is going to make for a rowdy night. 

The performance also features Jane Harrison and Nick Stargu, and advance tickets are only $8.

Get on it. 

Music Music Music

Don’t Miss This Show: Sean Hayes & Eric and Erica Hit The Independent Tonight and Tomorrow

This week, Sean Hayes and Eric + Erica set up shop at The Independent for a two night run. For Sean Hayes, the two night stint is a solidification of his spot as one of the top San Francisco songwriters. For Eric and Erica, it’s an opportunity to remind San Franciscans about the power duo, and its undeniable charm. Grab your tickets for the November 13th and 14th shows here.

Getting To Know Sean Hayes (Again)

Leading his band for over 20 years, Sean Hayes has toured with big wigs like Ani DiFranco, Aimee Mann, and Cold War Kids. His veteranship and tact comes across in his music now more than ever. 

Hayes knows the delicate balance of making music that’s accessible but far from pedestrian.  Sean drops in little stops and hooks to let you know that you’re not just inside some neo-soul song, you’re in his wheelhouse. What sounds groovy on record, absolutely erupts in a live performance.

Now reprising his latest 2012 record, Before We Turn To Dust, Hayes’ marks a departure from the gang vocals and bright guitar tones of his 2010 release Run Wolves Run. Hayes isn’t telling you how he feels these days- he’s telling you how things are. That translates into deeper backbeats, and overall more danceable tunes.  The confidence comes across in Hayes’ lyrics as well, as he sings on “Miss Her When I’m Gone”— “Time to pray or time to fight/ Time for howling / Drop a seed into the dirt / You’re wandering.” Adding, “Miss her when I’m gone / Got to make my money.”

Go on with your bad self, Sean Hayes. Make that money for your lady and your baby. We’ll be there watching.

Eric and Erika have a near depressing level of talent. If you watch them play, you’ll have the desire to either 1) go back and time and start playing music, 2) go practice, or 3) quit music all together. Where bands like Beach House use a waves of synth to cover up the more vulnerable parts of their tunes, Eric and Erika chase after those moments. They’re freakishly in sync in their tone, harmonies, and dynamics.

Take a look for yourself:

[Photo: Nathaniel Ray]

What A Surprise

Munchery Sweeps Garbage Under the Rug

Ever since Uptown Almanac first reported that Munchery was storing food in refrigerated trucks on the street—obstructing traffic and idling those trucks in the process—the dinner delivery startup has been quick to change their practices. They’ve stopped illegally idling trucks at all hours and began parking the trucks further away from their facilities. They’ve even cleaned up the rotting food from the sidewalk and street. We’ve walked by and noticed the changes ourselves.

But when our story was picked up by other news outlets, Munchery was forced to publicly respond. And respond they did: Munchery’s CEO published a blog post saying the company only occasionally received street sweeping tickets and never idled their trucks. This is simply not true.

The blog post by Munchery CEO and co-founder Tri Tran made the following claims:

3. Are your truck engines left idling throughout the day?
No. In compliance with state law, our trucks’ engines are never left idling. Because these trucks are loaded with chilled food ahead of delivery, we run the refrigeration units while they are loading (the units turn on and off automatically to keep the temperature at a level which is food-safe). These units, which are mounted on top of trucks, operate independently of the trucks’ primary engine. This is permitted under state law.

4. Why do Munchery’s trucks receive parking tickets?
At times, we have failed to move our trucks during street cleaning. We’re working hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again and understand this is a serious issue.

These statements, while sounding good on their face, do not correspond to the facts. Let’s address them individually.

First, Munchery claims their trucks were “never left idling.” This directly conflicts with what Uptown Almanac observed (on repeated occasions) outside their facility. Munchery’s claim also directly contradicts numerous statements made by individuals not affiliated with this blog. For example, someone tweeted that their husband observed the trucks running on Monday:

It is important to note that this tweet came after our publication, but before the story got picked up by outlets like SFist, Eater, and Valleywag. In other words, before the story began generating real pressure on Munchery to change their practices.

We received numerous emails from neighbors confirming our original report, and thanking Uptown Almanac for writing it. While they all asked to remain anonymous, here is one typical example:

Thanks for your November 9th article about Munchery in the Uptown Almanac. This business has had a huge negative impact on our neighborhood. Thanks for pointing out that the refrigerated trucks are being used to store food, not transport it.

Uptown Almanac has also obtained a copy of a complaint sent to the Planning Department on October 16th, which also reported idling trucks:

[Munchery has] six trucks running or generators running all the time.  Their entire dispatch delivery department is on the sidewalk and street.

That is negatively effecting every other business in this area […]

All day and through 7pm.  Six big trucks with motors and generators running. 

This complaint also contradicts Tran’s statement that Munchery “always turn[s] [the trucks] off by 6pm.”

And then there are the statements left in the comments section of the original report. One commenter writes:

Thanks for the info. I work right by here and often wondered what all those trucks were doing. And yes, they seem to be constantly idlling, but never really going any where.

While it could be argued that Tran was simply unaware of his company’s practices, the same cannot be said of his second point that “at times, [Munchery] failed to move our trucks during street cleaning.”

Tran cannot deny that his trucks are parked illegally, as it is obvious that they are all ticketed in this photo. But he denies it anyway. He explains it away as an occasional street sweeping violation—tickets any ol’ San Francisco car owner has received. He makes it sound like an honest, small mistake. But the trucks weren’t ticketed for failing to move for street sweeping as Tran claims. They were ticketed for obstructing traffic.

Tran undoubtedly knows the distinction, as the fine for obstructing traffic is almost double that of a street cleaning ticket. And the Munchery trucks don’t just “occasionally” obstruct the street and adjacent sidewalk: they do it on such a large scale that it is to the point of being dangerous. Take this email we received from one of Munchery’s neighbors:

I live very close to this intersection and one of the munchery trucks backed up far into the sidewalk and came within inches of hitting my 7 yr old on the way home from school last month.  We usually don’t bother trying to go down that side of the street anymore but it was an unusually hot day and the kids wanted to be in the shade, so we attempted to go down that sidewalk behind the trucks.  When the incident occurred there were at least 5 young men sitting in chairs and standing chatting on the sidewalk outside the business.  None of them warned the truck in time that there were pedestrians passing.  The trucks are already overhanging the sidewalk so much that I didn’t anticipate any reason for a truck to back up even more.  It scared me deeply and I won’t attempt to use that west sidewalk again until the trucks are permanently gone.

The emails we received affirm statements left in the comments section of our original report:

I live on that block and drive a slightly larger vehicle. I literally can’t fit down that road, because all of their trucks are blocking traffic.

It’s a huge traffic hazard because it forces that street into a one-lane road, so you have to peer ahead and negotiate with whatever oncoming traffic is coming.

Or this comment:

Not to mention that driving down this block of Alabama is now impossible, and on a bike is quite dangerous.  Cars are doing all sorts of unsafe maneuvers because these trucks take up ⅓ of the width of the street.

The fact that Tran wishes to play this off as just an occasional street sweeping ticket is understandable. The truth of the matter—that his business practices necessitate creating an unsafe environment for his neighbors—is simply bad press.

In the overwhelmingly positive response from neighbors we received after publishing our original story, one additional theme consistently surfaced: Munchery is habitually dumping food waste on the street. As one neighbor sick of Munchery’s practices told Uptown Almanac:

Prior to the noise from the refrigerator trucks, my biggest concern was the unsanitary condition of the sidewalk. To me it seems like they use the street and sidewalk as a garbage dump. I live downstream from what I call Munchery Creek. There seams to be a constant flow of rotting vegetable mater floating down the street.

This is what the wonderfully named “Munchery Creek” looks like:

We’re not disputing Munchery has cleaned up their facility since our report was originally published. In fact, according to city documents obtained by Uptown Almanac, Munchery was hit with a surprise inspection by the Department of Public Health yesterday and passed. They did, after all, have three and a half days to clean up their act. However, Munchery says “a lot of the facts in [the original] article are wrong” because they have cleaned up their mess after we exposed it. That’s simply not true.

The facts are not in Munchery’s favor and we stand firmly behind our original report.

In the end, Uptown Almanac is not surprised that Munchery has launched a full court press denying the truths of our reportage—after all, a lot of money is riding on Munchery’s ability to distinguish itself from competitors such as Spoonrocket and Sprig, and claiming to be “green” is one way to do it.

We just wish they weren’t so transparently full of shit about it.


Fancy Food Critics Will Need to Find a New Restaurant to Vandalize

It seems that merely calling yourself “local” does not necessarily endear you to the neighborhood. Inside Scoop is reporting that after two and a half years in business, Local’s Corner will close by the end of November. Plagued by repeated protests and vandalizations over accusations that the restaurant refused to seat a Latino family (among other things), Local’s Corner struggled to find its place in the surrounding neighborhood.

In an open letter, owner Yaron Milgrom explains that he considered opening a different restaurant in the same location, but in the end decided against it:

We considered a pivot and shift, to reopen with a different restaurant. Though recently, as we weighed next steps, we bore significant departures of kitchen management, including Timmy, Chef de Cuisine of Local’s Corner, who will be headed to Seattle.

The operational challenge of hiring, emotional loss of losing key staff, and cumulative financial losses made an easy conclusion of a hard decision.

But don’t fret— you’ll still be able to purchase your favorite nine dollar artisanal yogurt as the other parts of the “Local” empire (Local Mission Eatery, Local Cellar, and Local Mission Market) remain open.

[Photo: Steve Rhodes]

Baby It's Cold Outside

Munchery Illegally Storing Refrigerated Food on the Streets of the Mission

Not just content to disrupt the burgeoning Bay Area meal-delivery industry, Munchery, the Mission-based start up that promises to “handcraft meals fresh from scratch each day in small batches” has begun a rapid process of expansion. Having raised $28 million in funding this past April, expanded to Seattle in July, and with plans to service New York, LA, and DC in the works, it appears that Munchery has developed a successful formula for growth.

So what new and game-changing technique has Munchery, a company that delivers chilled, fully plated meals to your door, brought to the scene?

Outside refrigerators. 

Prep for the evening’s deliveries begin each morning at 5:00 AM, and at some point assembled meals need to be stuck in a refrigerator to await delivery. Munchery’s Alabama Street location just so happens to be unable to accommodate the volume of food that needs refrigeration. And so to solve this problem, Munchery has devised a genius solution: rent diesel powered refrigerated trucks and run them as auxiliary coolers.

The trucks, pictured above parked outside of Munchery’s kitchen, are a solution that only a start-up could conceive. Unlike your regular pesky “inside refrigerators,” these paradigm-shifting mobile cooling units are parked outside on the public street. And therein lies the brilliance: with real estate in the Mission at such a premium, Munchery has managed to drastically increase their kitchen size without paying a cent in property costs.

And so what if in order for the refrigeration units in the rented trucks to actually work, the trucks’ engines have to be on and idling? In the last week, Uptown Almanac has walked by the Munchery offices approximately fifteen times (we live and work in the area), and on every occasion at least one of these trucks has been idling and pumping out exhaust into the surrounding neighborhood.

In addition to being a general nuisance/bad for the environment, this practice is expressly illegal under California law.

The trucks, which are parked illegally and ticketed daily (see the above photo) at a rate of $110 per violation, also contribute to chronic congestion on a street that has over the past few years seen a drastic uptick in commercial use.

When reached for comment, Munchery co-founder and CEO Tri Tran stated that “it’s absolutely false that we have refrigerated trucks running at all times. We use them during the middle of the day (mostly for transporting food to other facilities), and always turn them off by 6pm.” However, one Uptown Almanac tipster says that isn’t true—at least one truck is kept on and idling all day.

This practice has not gone without notice, and has in fact generated numerous complaints from neighbors. A tipster tells us that Munchery’s response to these complaints has been to give the surrounding neighbors free meals—which could be interpreted as a cheap bribe to buy their silence. But to be fair, who doesn’t love free food with an even freer side of exhaust?

Disregard for laws and regulations that get in the way of growth is something we’ve come to expect from the start up world. This specific example just happens to be a bit more jarring because it comes from a company that brags about its “eco friendly everything” and dedication to “greening [their] footprint in every way.”

Tran stressed that the company is working to rectify the situation, and that in addition to turning off the idling tucks by the end of the business day, Munchery is moving its main operations team to another location (“targeting before the end of the month”). Presumably, this new location will have appropriate cold-storage space.

Tran insisted that “it’s very important to us that our neighbors see us as a positive part of the community,” and that among other positive contributions to the community, Munchery has “hired a private security team to improve general security of the neighborhood (not just [the Munchery] facility).”

So the next time you’re chowing down on your quinoa, mushroom and cheddar burger, rest easy knowing that not only was your meal made with the best intentions but that it was protected from the ravages of its Mission birth place via private security.

If only such consideration could be given to the people living and working in the neighborhood.

Their acorn squash tangine does look pretty delicious, though.

Update November 13th, 2014: Since the publication of the above piece, neighbors of Munchery’s Alabama Street kitchen reached out to Uptown Almanac to detail the many ways in which the “business has had a huge negative impact on [the] neighborhood.” Read our follow up piece

Update February 12th, 2015: Since this story was originally published, Munchery opened a second kitchen a few blocks east of their Alabama Street location. Munchery’s new neighbors reached out to Uptown Almanac with a 20 page document detailing the ways in which the company’s business practices have “created a major disruption and created health & safety issues for residents, visitors and employees of local businesses.” Find our follow up story here.

More Of The Same

Here's What The Condos That Might Replace Elbo Room Look Like

A meeting held yesterday at the Mission Police Station made clear that plans to replace the Elbo Room with condos are pushing ahead, despite protestations to the contrary. One of the meeting attendees, Darius Lock, says that “the community packed the Mission Police Station with most people opposed to the project and some prepping to organize against it.”

The meeting included the below rendering of the proposed development project.

We’ve emailed the project developers, and will update this post if we hear back.

[Photos: Darius Lock]

Be Careful

Two Shootings in the Mission Last Night

The Mission played host to two separate shootings last night, the first of which took place on Alabama at 23rd Street (pictured above).

CBS reports:

The first shooting occurred around 10:15 p.m. in the 1100 block of Alabama Street near 23rd Street, according to police.

Four people were standing in front of a building before being shot, three hit in the leg and one in the arm. All four victims were taken to San Francisco General Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.

Three unidentified men were taken into custody for the first shooting, according to police.

The second shooting was responded to around 11:15p.m. in the 1300 block of Natoma Street near 14th Street, police said.

As always, be careful out there.

[Photo: Google Street View]


Tech Companies Get It Right With Donation to CounterPulse

CounterPulse, the rad non-profit arts organization currently located on Mission at 9th Street, has been producing cutting edge work in some form or another for the past twenty years. With a focus on “socially relevant, community-based art” and a location that serves as “a theater, performance space, community center, gallery and more,” they are without a doubt a pillar in the San Francisco arts scene.

And so when CounterPulse announced that their lease was set to expire at the end of 2014, many in the arts community were understandably nervous that “the organization [would] likely face eviction or a dramatic increase in its rent.” So, in a refreshing bit of news, CounterPulse demonstrated that they have their shit together by deciding to preemptively move to a permanent home. CounterPulse explains that they “embarked on an exciting partnership with the newly formed Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) to lease-to-own the rundown former pornography theater located at 80 Turk Street in the Central Market/Tenderloin neighborhood” pictured below.

With a planned move-in date of early 2015, renovations on the space began this past summer. However, as these things tend to go, the renovation process turned out to be quite costly and CounterPulse decided to do what many non-profits do: crowd-fund some of the expenses with an Indiegogo campaign.

The campaign, which successfully ended this past Monday, is notable for two reasons. First, it surpassed the targeted goal of $50,000 by more than $20,000. Second, it did so with the not-insubstantial help of Twitter, Honey Soundsystem and Zendesk. As CounterPulse put it, “adding to the Twitter match, the Zendesk contribution marks another endorsement by a local tech company that values space for experimental performing arts in San Francisco.”  Twitter and Honey Soundsystem contributed a $10,000 match, and Zendesk contributed $15,000.

As the San Francisco arts community so frequently struggles to benefit from the city’s tech boom, seeing two major tech companies donate to CounterPulse provides a glimmer of hope that positive engagement from the tech sector is indeed possible. Hopefully this donation is just the first of many.

If you’re interested in learning more about CounterPulse, check out this recent interview with Shamsher Virk and Julie Phelps, the Communications / Engagement Director and Artistic Director of CounterPulse, on the Born Ready Podcast.

[Top Photo: Sandra Fang]