Political Cynicism 101

Soda Companies Frame Anti-Childhood Obesity Measure As... Impacting SF Rents?

Election years are meat for political wonks: countless reports on position jockeying, candidates spewing tragically butchered sound bites, the occasional Republican defending rape, poverty blinders, and the endless stream of campaign mailers flowing straight into our recycling bin.  And here we are, eight whole months before we hit the polls and make a marginal impact on the direction our country takes, and mailers are already hitting our mailbox.

What fun! This mailer has such promise. Cost of living! Escalating rents!! Evictions!!!! It even depicts City Hall as drenched in the blood of a thousand puppies horrifically mowed down by Google buses.

For the San Francisco political junkie, the heart-pounding excitement felt by opening this mailer can only be matched by a young boy’s discovering of his first crusty porn stash.  Such suspense!  What is City Hall’s plan?…

The fuck is this?  Sure, I like a good cheap soda as much as the next miserable asshole struggling with control issues, but the mental gymnastics you have to go through to make this a cost of living issue is exhausting.  The horrible details, from this past November:

On Monday, three weeks after Supervisor Scott Wiener unveiled a proposal for a 2-cents-per-ounce sugary beverage tax, Supervisor Eric Mar stepped up to a podium to announce his own tax — and standing next to him was Wiener.

Mar, along with supervisors Malia Cohen and John Avalos, has been working on a soda tax proposal with public health advocates for the past year and said Monday they wanted to put the legislation they have been crafting forward. The two proposals, however, are remarkably similar: Both target sugary-drink distributors, both impose a 2-cents per ounce tax, and both would use the estimated $30 million a year for health and nutrition programs to fight diabetes and other health issues associated with sodas, energy drinks and other sugary drinks.

The mailer is put out by “The American Beverage Association, Member of Stop Unfair Beverage Taxes - Coalition For an Affordable City,” which is just an elegant way of saying “Coke” and “Pepsi,” who are rightfully worried about our concern for children’s obesity affecting stock prices San Francisco’s affordability.  And maybe they have a point: if we stop all those 2 cent taxes, anyone who drinks 195,000 ounces of soda a month will suddenly be able to afford a nice two-bedroom.

Catzilla

Meanwhile, Giant Cats Take Over Oakland

As anyone who’s been in San Francisco since 2010 can tell you, this new mural will need to incorporate laser eyes to achieve full feline virality.  Regardless, it’s been some time since we’ve seen an artist depict a future in which the Bay Area’s cat population is exposed to fierce levels of radiation and ballooned up to Godzilla-like proportions—and this new work by Megan Lynn does just that.

Catfunding

Chip In for the KitTea Cat Cafe, A Warm Place to Get Catty

While the Crowdtilt fundraising effort got off to a bit of a rough start, you can now pitch in a few or a few hundred dollars and help create create KitTea, “one of the first, well, probably the first cat cafe in the United States,” which co-founder Courtney Hatt hopes to open in Hayes Valley.

The cafe will be using an ongoing reservation system to keep the space manageably calm for the fostered felines, so now’s you’re chance to book early. Fellow co-founder Benjamin Stingle told the Business Times that the team is hoping to have the first month or two booked in advance.

Look, people, America needs to close the cat cafe gap with China and Russia or we’re all doomed to globadorable irrelevancy. Vladimir Putin is clearly crazy, don’t think he isn’t coming for your kittehs next.  If the good people of San Francisco can’t collectively come up with a $50,000, interest-free loan to sell attachment-free companionship to desperately lonely cat people, we may have already lost.

You have thirty days. Make the right choice.

A-Level Local Comedy!

Secret Mystery Headliner Takes Over Cynic Cave This Weekend

With a quick bit of searching, you can probably piece together who is taking over the Lost Weekend basement this weekend.  But, hey, don’t let the internet ruin the surprise.

Besides, it’s a deal: for the cost of a burrito and a beer, you can catch one sure-as-shit hilarious comic workshop an hour of new material.  What’s more? You don’t even have to leave the Mission.

The show runs Thursday through Sunday at 8pm nightly, with a solid crop of local stand-ups opening every night:

  • Thursday: Kate Willett & Matt Lieb
  • Friday: Sean Keane & Caitlin Gill
  • Saturday: George Chen & David Gborie
  • Sunday: Kevin O’Shea & James Fritz

[Tickets]

Everybody Take a Deep Breath

Elbo Room Landlord Assures Venue's Lease on Life

According to Susan Ring, co-owner of the building that houses Elbo Room with husband Dennis Ring, plans to redevelop the site into condos are just that—plans. “If we do anything, it’s not going to be for years,” she assured Uptown Almanac when reached by phone.

That echoes further assurances of the venue’s continued tenure by Matt Shapiro, booking agent and co-owner of the club with Erik Cantu. After contacting the club last week, Shapiro wrote in an email this morning that “Our lease is long and will be honored.”

Ring, who seemed entirely sincere, offered that “we had to submit something to the city” because “they won’t even have a discussion with you without submitting plans.”

“That’s all we’ve done. We haven’t made any decisions,” she added.  So relax, Afrolicious will still be holding their Thursday services through 2014 at the very least.

The proposal was submitted for assesment in September of 2013, and the Planning Department response gave the owners until May of 2015 to complete the work necessary for consideration, which includes required meetings with neighborhood stakeholders. News of the plans were first reported by SocketSite at the end of January, which later suggested that the expense of the plans, including drawings by Kerwin Morris Architects and the $5,000 application fee, were signs that the project would continue moving forward. However, Ring shrugged that off, saying “it costs a lot of money, but that’s how it goes.”

[Photo: Tim Lucas]

Smashy-smashy

Bricks and Invective Hurled at Vanguard Properties, Windows Broken

This morning, contractors were busy repairing two windows broken some time after close of business last week at the Mission Street headquarters of realtor and property manager Vanguard Properties.  A person in Vanguard’s office told us two halves of a brick were found inside, but no other information was left to suggest who threw the brick or why.

A message signed “Venceremos” was posted to Indybay the following morning taking credit, citing the new condos 3133 24th Street put up for sale last year and the trade of foreclosed homes in Oakland (like a home at 2678 75th Street that’s listed on the realtor’s website) as reasons for targeting Vanguard:

Last night, on February 28th, the windows of Vanguard Properties in the Mission District were smashed out. Vanguard thought it was pretty funny to build some luxury condos on 24th, but we thought it was more funny for their property to get smashed. Vanguard thought it was pretty funny to buy foreclosed houses in Oakland and flip them at a profit. We think its more funny to bring the fight to the developers themselves. Greetings to everyone fighting the good fight. 

LA LUCHA SIGUE / Brigada Anti-Gentrification

As you can see from photos of the scene, security cameras may have captured footage of the incident. We’ve left voicemail for Vanguard founder James Nunemacher and a comment for the Indybay thread seeking further information, but have yet to hear back.

Update: Reached by phone, a terse Nunemacher directed further inquiries about details of the incident to the SFPD, saying that “we gave them everything they need to investigate.” He continued, “It’s a shame that people resort to vandalism…I mean, it’s kinda random. You throw bricks through someone’s windows because they build condos? Honestly, I feel sorry for these people.”

The Wrecking Ball Tolls for Thee

Plans to Demolish Elbo Room Proceed Apace

It looks like plans to replace Elbo Room with condos are moving along after all, if slowly, according to SocketSite:

While it has yet to be assigned within the Planning Department, the application for Environmental Evaluation has been submitted for the development, a geotechnical report has been completed for the site, and a Historic Resource Evaluation form has been signed with planning for a full Historic Resource Evaluation Report underway.

We’ve reached out to the Elbo Room via Facebook, where a response to earlier reports assured patrons that the live music venue will be around for a while.  It’s true that it could take years before any bulldozers decend on the site even if it sails through planning.

And it just might, as the proposed development looks a lot like the plans for 1050 Valencia—five stories with ground-floor retail—which is going to move forward at the originally proposed height after an effort to downsize it by neighbors afraid of losing their taxpayer-subsidized street parking was overturned by the San Francisco Board of Appeals.

So you might start looking for public comment opportunities available during the permitting and approval process so you can voice your vocal opposition (or support, if that’s your thing).

[Photo: total13]

End of an Era

Pop's Will Close Tonight For Major Renovations

We’ve known this was going to happen for a while now, so there are no surprises here.  Still?  Damn.  Tonight is the last night before Pop’s is taken over by MadroneVia bartender Dara Santhai:

Tonight is definitely the last night at Pops as we have known it! This time for reals!!! I would really like all my friends to try and come out, it would really mean a lot to me. To all my patrons and coworkers that I’ve become friends with from all my years working there I will miss you all so much! I’m feeling pretty sentimental right now. I wish I could keep on serving you guys drinks somehow, and this is definitely the end of an era for me. Now I won’t know what the hell to do with myself for a while. Well…please come out tonight I would like it to be a good one!!!

Pop’s manager Tuffy tells us over email that the bar “will close for about 3 months for renovations and upgrades. At least half of the staff (including me) are staying on for the new bar.”

Also? “Bring the PMA. This is a celebration and not an invitation to steal shit or trash the place.”

[Photo: Jeremy Brooks]

Interview

Pansy Division's Jon Ginoli Talks Queercore, Going on the Dookie Tour, & 25 Years in the Mission

Pansy Division is the first all-out gay rock band that had success in the pop world. Formed in 1991 by Jon Ginoli, they’re known for their melodic rock & roll sound, similar to what you would hear in recent bands such as Shannon and the Clams, Tijuana Panthers, and Mrs. Magician.

The band came to the national stage while opening up for Green Day when touring in support of the Dookie album. The tour started with playing clubs and, by the end of the tour, the bands were playing to audiences of 20,000. Jon talked with us about moving to San Francisco, the significance of being an out rock band in the ‘90s, what its now like living in San Francisco as a musician, and reflecting on 25 years in the Mission.

You can catch Jon Ginoli performing with Bob Mould tonight at Great American Hall as part of Noise Pop.

UA: What brought you to San Francisco?
Jon Ginoli: I had lived in Central Illinois in a college town and I was looking to live in a gayer place. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go to California, but the last year in Illinois, we had a really cold winter and I said to hell with it, not everybody has to go through this.

When I got here in ‘89, I felt I had got to the right place. My rent was $325 a month; I had 3 roommates. And that wasn’t even the lowest. This is in the Mission. For a Mission flat in 1989, the entire 4 bedroom place rented for 1300 dollars. And that’s how musicians have survived in San Francisco.

UA: How did it feel when you first got here… what was the city’s energy like?
JG: It was exciting on one hand, and had a lot of activity. But I remember thinking a lot at that time about how empty San Francisco seemed. The north east Mission near where I lived just seemed to be abandoned. I remember riding my bike around the area and seeing all these empty buildings, thinking, “I know a lot of people who would love to live in these buildings. Why are these buildings sitting empty?” None of my friends got to live in them because they all became condos.

UA: What caused you to form Pansy Division?
JG: As someone that grew up loving rock & roll and being gay, there seemed to chasm. It seemed like the only musicians allowed to be out was people doing disco, which was played in gay clubs.

One of my long-standing gripes is that there is this thing being called dance music. And that’s what you are allowed to dance to in dance club. Whereas what people actually dance to over the years is a varied thing, but you put it into this dance club setting it becomes a product that is very uniform.

This was also a time when nobody was out in rock & roll yet. No one. Everyone you think was out… was not. I remember in ‘89 that there was the rap group N.W.A., and I thought, “wow, in hip hop you can be all these things, and in rock ‘n roll you can be all these things, but the one thing you can’t be is gay.” And I remember thinking, “alright if no one is going to do it, if no one is going to speak up, I want to sing about gay topics and do rock ‘n roll.”  It was an opportunity to sing about the things I wanted to sing about.

You have to remember this is the time of the AIDS crisis, so there was a lot of homophobia, but also a sympathy and realization that, yah, gay people aren’t going away and we have to deal with this. Also the alternative rock thing was really taking off, so if I had a band that was poppy and melodic with gay subject matter, some people would like it.

I had this idea back in Illinois, but couldn’t imagine an audience until I got here. I also didn’t think I would be the one to do it. I thought somebody that is gay is going to come out, and this whole thing is going to start. But then I realized no one was going to do it, so I did. Other people had the same idea that I did, and at the same time. One of the forgotten chapters is the band Tribe 8, which was a dyke band that started at the same time as us, and are an interesting parallel to us.

UA: I just listened to the ‘90s Howard Stern segment where he went to the Green Day Dookie show and spent a lot of time talking about Pansy Division. It reminded me that this was the time where the country was finally starting to talk about sexuality in the media and not hiding it so much.
JG: One of the things that is important is mainstream visibility, and [for the gay rock movement] Nirvana was a really important band.  At that time, Guns ‘n Roses and Nirvana were the two big bands. And what a stark contrast you have: Kurt Cobain, somebody who was pro-gay, and Axel Rose, who just spews homophobia in his lyrics and comments. That was a really interesting divide. In ‘92 there was a ballot measure in Oregon to restrict gay rights. There was a benefit concert against it and Nirvana headlined. And this was the early height of their career. That makes a tremendous difference on how these things are filtered down to kids. So when we got to do the tour with Green Day, it was really interesting to get out there and face kids.

With Green Day, they had been on the same label as us before they moved to Warner Brothers, and they had wanted to make a statement by having us opening up, saying they aren’t your typical rock band product. I think that worked very well for both of us. People could see that Green Day was thoughtful, and that we had something to offer. It was a mind-blowing experience for both us, and for the audiences, which had a very mixed reaction to us.

Back in ‘94 and ‘95, we would get letters from teenagers from all over the country who had seen us open for Green Day. They would write us and tell us about what was going on in their high school, like a really homophobic teacher, or a really cool teacher, or a person standing up for the gay kid in class. It was quite the experience.

UA: Of course there plenty of bands with all GLBTQ members, but there does seem to be a lot less in rock ‘n roll… and way less queer rock coming out than during the queercore scene of the ‘90s… is that a fair comment?
JG: I just don’t think its as big of a deal now. Like I said earlier, if someone had come out earlier and said, “I’m an out [rock] musician,” then I wouldn’t haven’t done what I did, and I don’t know what my life would be like. Even though we weren’t a huge band, we kicked in the door, and a lot of people came in after us. They didn’t want to be first, and I understand that.

UA: Lately San Francisco has been going through a lot of growing pains. I know you’ve seen it go through booms and busts before. How do you feel about the current situation, and how does it compare to other boom/busts?
JG: During the last boom there weren’t tens of thousands people living in San Francisco and working 30, 40, 50 miles away in the South Bay. It’s the way that San Francisco has become a bedroom community, which has really distorted the housing market here. But I also think the changes this time are more permanent.

The appeal when I moved here was that it was expensive compared to the Midwest, but still pretty cheap. San Francisco in the early 90’s seemed to have a lot of possibilities that did not seemed foreclosed by the sake of needing a lot of money. It was easy to move here, and a lot of people would come and go. I mean someone would go move to Berlin for a year, and easily move back the next year.  That isn’t news to anyone who’s been living here, but there was a freedom of mobility, and the idea that you could come and go and live somewhere cheap in the neighborhood you want to live in. That’s all gone now.

So when people say San Francisco is over, they are partly right. But a lot of us still persist, so until we’re gone, the whole thing hasn’t changed completely. What is going to change things is that the people who want to move here, and continue in the legacy that city has, won’t be able to.

There are pockets of resistance, but I don’t see how anyone that isn’t rich can move here. I know people who I would encourage to move here, but now I say no. It’s hand-to-hand combat to get an apartment.

A lot of people are tempted to come here, but they won’t be able to stay. I think people in the rest of country are starting to understand how hard it can be. I live in the Mission with a couple of stable roommates. But downstairs? The turnover rate is amazing. People in their 20s who keep coming here but failing and having to leave. It’s interesting to watch, and kind of sad.

UA: I have some friends wanting to move here. And 3 years ago, I would have told them to come. But now? “You don’t want to move here.” Even in a year it might be easier if the bubble pops. But you never know.
JG: You never know.

One of the reasons why I moved to the city is because it’s a gay city, and it’s still a very gay city. The difference now is, say you find someone and you fall in love with them, and you want to live together… it’s pretty much impossible unless one of you is rich. So if you want to live with your partner: let’s say you manage to find a place, and move in. If you break up you’re exiled from the city; I’ve seen it happen before. And that isn’t good for the city. People moving here can’t decide to move in together because they can’t get an apartment, or getting one means an incredible rent rise. It just changes the whole tenor of what its like to be here, and find someone to be in love. Will you get to live together maybe… but not in the city you love.