Park Life

Dolores Park: A Capitalist’s Utopia?

We hear people spouting off every so often about how the soon to be renovated Dolores Park is capitalist’s wet dream, with the invisible hand of party positivity letting folks buy and ingest whatever they damn please.  However, Priceonomics’ recent piece is the most thorough argument in favor of this we’ve yet read.  A peek at their findings:

You’d never know it from experiencing a Saturday in Dolores Park, but there exists a tireless set of park rules and regulations in the San Francisco Municipal Code. Smoking is prohibited, public drinking is prohibited, and vending food and/or alcohol is strictly defined as illegal. Add to the mix city violations — drinking in public, peddling without a permit, marijuana possession (albeit the lowest priority of the SFPD) — and it’s a wonder that Dolores Park continues to function as it does. […]

So, is Dolores Park truly a free market economy? Not entirely — but it’s probably as close as you can get in San Francisco. The forces of supply and demand are minimally impacted by laws and regulations; goods are sold at freely set prices, adjusted based on desirability. The vendors are more often at the mercy of sunny skies and generous crowds than legislation and police. By most accounts, Dolores is a capitalist’s utopia, and both the vendors and their clientele intend to keep it that way.

Read the whole piece for insight into the park’s history, and analysis on the various sellers the park is host to.

Feverish 2br Valencia Apartment Listing for a Gut-Churning $10,500/Month

“With the hottest micoclimate in San Francisco,” reads the latest vomit-inspiring apartment listing, “[the] Mission is caliente and this brand new boutique building at 19th + Valencia has only 3 rare rentals in the mix of 17 condominiums that were sold out for over $2.0 million per unit.”

That's right, chicos and chicas! Slap on your your favorite sombrero and shake your maracas over to 19th and Valencia, because the Mission is caliente.

Mild offensiveness aside, this listing transcends the bounds of absurdity and enters the realm of piggish extravagance.  Posted by Mark Venegas, a “Corporate Relocation Specialist for Employees Moving to San Francisco” for SF Dream Rental and Sales, the 1575 square foot apartments are listed for a modest $10,500 for a single month.  Those dollars buy you a lot: “billowing views,” “Italian-designed interiors,” close access to Tacolicious, and an optional “full concierge” package.  Plus, we're told by a neighbor that the building boasts private security guards to protect tenants from the local rabble.

But who could even afford such a thing?  We imagine that the average Joe Shuttlebus the realtor targets could never find a way to afford $126,000 in yearly rent.

We emailed Venegas over the weekend to get the story on this prized pad, and who owns these units and expects such a lavish monthly return.  We're yet to hear back.

Below, the original listing, which has been flagged off Craigslist:

Proposed Legislation Requires Landlords to Subsidize Rents of Evicted Tenants for 2 Years

San Francisco Supervisors have been railing against the Ellis Act for some time now, without much success in cutting down the eviction rate. But Supervisor David Campos' latest piece of legislation aims better compensate victims of the often-abused state law that allows landlords to evict tenants by getting out of the rental business entirely.

Via a press release sent out this morning:

The ordinance will require landlords who evict using the Ellis Act to pay the difference between the tenant’s rental rate prior to eviction and what would have been the market rate for that unit for two years. This ensures that relocation payments adequately represent true market costs and allow displaced tenants who would face dramatically higher rent costs the opportunity to stay in San Francisco.

Currently, landlords are required to pay relocation assistance amounts of approximately $5,261 per tenant capped at $15,783 per unit. Landlords must also pay an additional amount of approximately $3,508 for each displaced elderly or disabled tenant. The Campos law would keep the current law as a minimum, but in most cases, would make relocation reflect market increases.

“Almost every renter in San Francisco is just one eviction notice away from being displaced from our city,” said Supervisor Campos. “It is time that we recognize that tenants must receive assistance that is commensurate with market increases in rent if we are to truly address our affordability crisis and check the rampant growth of Ellis Act evictions.”

Campos added that he's working with Sacramento on “placing an outright moratorium on Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco”—a goal we imagine won't gain much traction up-river—and he sees this as an interim solution.

Of course, the San Francisco Apartment Association has already come out against the plan, with Association director Janan New suggesting that the proposal is “just clear theft.”

“It is very creative - and he is acknowledging the ultimate policy goal of transferring wealth from building owners to tenants, so at least they are clear,” she told the Chronicle. “The issue we have is how do you establish a definition of what these criteria are? How do you define what a comparable unit is, what a comparable neighborhood is? How do you define current market rate?”


Elbo Room at Risk for Demolition to Make Way for Condos

Valencia Street continues its turbocharged tailspin into terrible as developers and landlords club the last shreds of tolerable into a permanent state of soothing unconsciousness.  The latest victim is poised to be the undeniably important two-story venue Elbo Room, which SocketSite reports the owners have “quietly drafted plans to raze the bar and construct a new five-story building in its place.”  The grim details:

Early plans for the development include nine (9) residential units, three one-bedrooms and six two-bedrooms, ranging in size from 500 to 1,000 square feet over a 770 square-foot commercial space and parking for six (6) cars on the ground floor.

While the existing building at 645 Valencia Street wasn’t deemed to be historic when reviewed as part of the Inner Mission Historic Resource Survey in 2011, the Planning Department has since “received additional information that suggests that the subject property may have associations with the history of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals in San Francisco.”

After SocketSite's story broke, Elbo Room quickly shot it down, writing on Facebook:

Once again, despite what the real estate blog says, Elbo Room is Not Going Anywhere, Anytime Soon! But thanx so much for the concern, the kind words, and the support! We appreciate you!

Of course, “anytime soon” is subject to interpretation.  “Our report isn't based on rumor or speculation,” SocketSite fired back. “But rather the Preliminary Project Assessment for the development which was submitted to San Francisco’s Planning Department for review.”


We all agree building more housing is important, and landowners have the God-given right to cash out when the market is drooling over Mission real estate like a starved dog.  But not like this.  Nine units is a drop in our drought-stricken bucket, and won't move the housing cost needle anywhere.  And what do we get?  The undignified death of another venue and stripping away of one of the very institutions that make people want to move here in the first place.

At least the bus stop is nearby…

Golden Era Loses its Lease

I found myself up in the Tenderloin the other night, hungering for Golden Era's vegan drumsticks and the warm glow of cult propaganda on the television, but the restaurant had gone kaput.

I was hoping there might be something good to the closure—perhaps the owners going on to bigger and even better things?—but, sadly, it's just another verse in San Francisco's sad song:


Golden Era will be closed permanently at this location starting Monday, November 25, 2013. We thank you for your patronage in the past 15 years. We will miss you all. Love, Love….

We reached out to the restaurant over Facebook and are yet to hear back.  But according to some folks on Yelp, the landlord jacked their rent when the lease was over and were economically showed them the door.

On Facebook, they announced, “we are working very hard to find our new home in SF.”  We'll update if we hear more.

[Photo by Jovan J]

Mission Local's Egregious New Conflict of Interest: Pimping Tech Shuttles

“Genentech Joins Mission Local to Turn Buses Into Art!,” read Mission Local's giddy headline yesterday morning.  While protesters were blocking a Google bus for illegally using a Muni stop and the rest of the city was dumping napalm on the burning debate over technology's impact on San Francisco, UC Berkeley's neighborhood “news lab” was shilling for silicon shuttles.

“Mission Local is still giving a $500 reward for the best entry into our unofficial contest to turn the tech buses into art, [but] what’s better is that it is no longer completely unofficial.  Apart from our prize money, Genentech wants to bedazzle its buses and will select one winner whose art will adorn the side of one of its buses in 2014!”

Okay, fine.  There's nothing fundamentally wrong with dressing-up a bland bus, even if it seems like a completely off-mission initiative for a non-profit “quality journalism” outlet.  However, it's Mission Local's tactical legitimization of the controversial shuttles that grows our suspicions:

Genentech’s interests are similar to ours: community mindfulness. And sustainability themes might also play well.


Doesn't partnering with tech companies create a conflict of interest for the site, especially given those companies' increasing impact on the neighborhood?  We put the question to Lydia Chavez, Mission Local's co-editor and site founder, who emailed back a one-line non sequitur:

I would welcome all of the tech companies to join the contest and hire artists.

Okay, well, does this contest align with the non-profit's original mission of “covering a neighborhood fairly and thoroughly”?

Probably not. But I see the buses every day and I could not stop thinking about how they could be filled.

We're still scratching our heads. Chavez's comment to SFist seems to be her most articulate statement on the matter:

I returned from a year away from the Mission and was surprised to see how many buses were going through the neighborhood, but going through in an oddly anonymous way. But of course they are not anonymous at all. I see the benefits — fewer people in cars and the buses are often getting workers to places where public transportation fails to reach. But they’re so void of beauty and they’re such great canvases.

Those are your two choices? Really?

This is lame.  Mission Local is now giving cover to the very companies they should be holding responsible.  The reason seems unclear—beauty?  The contest was, obviously, poorly thought out; and Chavez herself acknowledges it “probably” doesn't align with the site's mission.

The whole thing stinks of a cynical play to squeeze out some donation dollars from companies worth 47.3 billion dollars 99.9 billion dollars, all on the backs on local artists fighting over a pathetic $500 prize.

Community mindfulness, indeed.

NY Times Blames Public Transportation for Gentrification Crisis

As many San Francisco residents have noted, the New York Times recently 'pivoted' away from lamenting The Death of Paris to join San Francisco's opinion page funeral precession.  And while their usual spiel explores known conclusions such as high rents pricing out the poor, yesterday, the Times' Timothy Egan pointed fingers at our terrible transit system.

Egan gets off on the right foot…

San Francisco still has its Hitchcock moments — the Mediterranean light, the Golden Gate Bridge poking out of the fog, the allure of possibility, all there in a film like “Vertigo.” But of late, the city named for a 13th century pauper from Assisi serves more as an allegory of how the rich have changed America for the worse. […]

The texture of inequality can be felt, and seen, in the rise in private transportation — the fleet of buses giving tech workers a bubbled commute between the city and the social media campuses to the south. At the high end, Google’s top executives are building an $84 million private corporate jet center at San Jose International Airport.

… but then he snaps his brittle ankle and falls to the floor:

While New York’s subway system boasted of moving 5,985,311 people on a single day in October (an all-time record), the Bay Area’s trains, buses and light rail cars limp through technical failures and labor strife. They’re old, dirty, slow and prone to “system-wide breakdowns,” as the euphemism goes.

In New York, at least, rich and poor are more likely to rub elbows, and even make eye contact while getting around. The commute is a daily reminder to the very wealthy that not everybody can afford those new condos overlooking Central Park, just listed at $53 million.

Here, transportation segregation is on the rise because you can’t rely on the public system. And when you put the working poor and middle class out of sight, you put them out of mind. The sleek fleet of Google-bound buses and black über-taxis is a market response to a costly, unreliable, unpleasant transit system.

Outta sight, outta mind.  The Peril of the Bay isn't the obscene concentration of wealth, the indifference to the poor and starving, the unsympathetic beliefs that the poor are that way because they're too lazy to program, companies extorting tax breaks from their paid-for mayor… No, it's that the cyber nobility aren't forced to smell the riffraff on the bus, so they forget that not everyone can afford to live in mansions atop Pac Heights.

If only we could be more like ungentrified New York…

This isn't to say that Muni is a beacon of perfection, or BART doesn't occasionally try to poison its passengers with toxic dust.  But blaming the one transportation network that doesn't discriminate is pure bullshit.

Luxury shuttles aren't a response to Muni's slowness—Muni doesn't go anywhere near Mountain View.  It's not BART's fault that Apple is building its new headquarters 30 miles from the nearest station. And let's not pretend that Uber passengers are disgruntled ex-bus riders, especially given that the company justifies its existence because of a “broken” taxi system.

Transportation segregation is all about the money.  Companies seeking cheap land and low taxes, proximity to transit or population centers be damned.

[NY Times | Photo by Cisco Kid]

Mission McDonald's: "Reclaimed Wood? I'm Lovin' It"

In a move that has me wanting to wear polo shirts just to start fucking with people, the 24th and Mission McDonald's and irl World Star video unveiled an authy-chic facade that already looks horribly dated.  As Fred Sharples observed:

Even the Mission McDonald's is getting that hip slatted salvaged-wood look. #itsover

It's over? Perhaps. But I'm sure there are plenty who fancied themselves as a Dollar Menu Dudes, but couldn't get past the garish, mural-covered classic look of the old place.  I mean, ick.

Finally, a place to buy a toxic mash of calories that understands Valencia Street's sensibilities.  High times.

[via Fred Sharples]

West of Pecos Guy Takes Over Cafe Du Nord [UPDATED]

We've been hearing rumors that famed Market Street rock venue Cafe Du Nord is slated to close in a couple of months, and now it's been confirmed.  Tablehopper reports on Du Nord's pump-and-dump to budding restaurateur Dylan MacNiven:

Based on some ABC license transfer activity, it looks like there will be some ownership changes at [Cafe Du Nord]. One person named on the license is Dylan MacNiven (of Woodhouse Fish Co. and West of Pecos). I reached out to him and he said he’s not at liberty to share details just yet, but did say this: “I can tell you that the story is not ‘Woodhouse Fish guy takes over Du Nord’; there are other people involved.” So it looks like we need to stand by on what the upcoming changes are, but something is brewing.

Tablehopper didn't discuss the future of the music program itself, but Uptown Almanac's former music editor Sierra Frost tells us that multiple bands have told her they're shutting down the stage.  A few tweets also repeated that rumor and Cafe Du Nord's calendar is light in January before going dark in early February.

Update 6:00pm: SF Weekly interviewed MacNiven over email, being told:

We are currently soliciting feedback from the community and have noted the overwhelming support for the Cafe Du Nord name and musical program. We also heard the desire for more controls of noise and crowds and can only surmise it will grow with the three adjacent residential developments. I can give you a small hint that I am a huge live music fan and that's why you see my name on the license.

He then further clarified, telling the Weekly, “I am intending for live music to stay.”

[Photo by Betabrand]

New Bummer Stencil Project Reminds Us Tenants Are Being Evicted Everywhere

With Ellis Act evictions up 170% over the past three years and rental prices surpassing NYC stupidity, people concerned with keeping people lacking Fuck You Money in the city are looking for new ways to show how big of a problem this is.

There's the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, which maps and animates every eviction in the city since 1997—a helpful resource, for sure, but in a culture that looks at maps and graphics daily, it doesn't have much punch.  Enter the “Tenants Here Forced Out” stencil.  It's been showing up all over the Mission, from seemingly every block of Capp to being generously splashed along 22nd, marking every building where landlords Ellised out their tenants.

Here's how the group behind the map and stencils describes the situation:

The Ellis Act is a key mechanism for undermining San Francisco’s rent control laws. The state law gives landlords the right to evict all tenants, even if they have always been good tenants and paid their rent on time. The use of the Ellis act is a legal deception where owners pretend to go out of business. In actuality they aim to create new expensive housing options in the form of group-owned tenancy-in-common flats or condos. Condos are forever exempted from rent protections even if subsequently rented out.

Once you start noticing the stencils, it makes your walk around the neighborhood particularly grim.  Fortunately, steps are being taken within City Hall to mitigate the eviction crisis.  Just yesterday, Supervisor Campos had the City Attorney begin drafting legislation that will double the relocation assistance landlords are required to pay evicted tenants, and he promises more future legislation.