Following the fairly successful rollout of Bay Area Bike Share last summer in downtown areas, SFMTA was poised to expand the bike-sharing program to residential neighborhoods earlier this year. However, that expansion has been delayed until the fall “at the soonest” as Bixi, the company that provides the hardware and software for BABS, has filed for bankruptcy. Streetsblog reports:
“Our main technology and software provider is actually for sale,” said [SFMTA bike-share program manager Heath Maddox]. “We should know what becomes of that sale later this month. Hopefully, it’ll be bought by our current operations and maintenance provider [Alta Bicycle Share], and they could just move, without a hitch, and once again fire up production.”
Maddox said after the sale and re-organization is completed, “it takes five to six months to produce the equipment once it’s ordered.”
The immediate future of the program looks pretty grim, as Maddox noted the fall expansion would only happen if “everything went very well.” Of course, the local bike thief business community might bring bike-share to the neighborhoods soon enough.
On Tuesday, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve an amendment by Supervisor Eric Mar to the city’s health code that will effectively ban e-cigarettes wherever smoking is currently prohibited, which includes most publicly accessible indoor areas, areas around building entrances and windows, and city parks. Mayor Ed Lee has voiced his support for the proposal, meaning the law will likely come into effect within the next few weeks.
Nicotine replacement therapy to treat addiction is an established practice considered very low-risk with ample long-term data. It’s obviously too soon to have any long-term studies on vaporized nicotine yet, but there are plenty of indications that the route of administration offers significantly reduced risks compared to smoking. And that’s not just according to device manufacturers like Mission-based Ploom. This may be a unique opportunity to significantly reduce smoking-related illness, the number one cause of death in the United States. If the goal of amending the Health Code is to reduce the impact of smoking, why is San Francisco actively discouraging alternatives?
“You must have a cigarette. A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?” So declares Lord Wotton to the titular protagonist in Oscar Wilde’s fable of aesthetic philosophy and hedonism, The Portrait of Dorian Gray. During the Victorian era, the cigarette became a popular marvel of industrial technology, combining mechanized mass production with a global commodities trade in tobacco to create a product that was simple, portable, inexpensive and wildly, wildly addictive.
In the novel, Gray’s friend Basil Hallward paints a flattering portrait which shows the reality of Gray’s decline, allowing Gray to indulge in a fantasy of immortality. An apt metaphor Big Tobacco’s propaganda efforts throughout the 20th century as the health risks of cigarettes became widely known.
In 1964, the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health formally declared in the United States that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer. The next year, Herman Gilbert patented “an object to provide a safe and harmless means for and method of smoking by replacing burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavored air.” But it never made an impact commercially, and tobacco companies largely chose to continue the propaganda campaign.
Some product development did take place, and in 1988 and then again in 1994, RJ Reynolds introduced the Premier and Eclipse, respectively, which were an effort to create a cigarette-like experience without most of the carcinogens and external effects like second-hand smoke. They did surprisingly succeed in achieving those goals with a carbon-heated vaporizer technology, but it also never caught on among smokers.
Finally, in 2003, pharmacist Hon Lik developed an electric vaporizer that emitted a nicotine-laced aerosol for Chinese company Golden Dragon Holdings, which later changed its name to Ruyan. The first commercial models were released in 2004, and exported in 2005 and received international patent protection in 2007.
After over a century, a product with much of the aesthetic experience of smoking a cigarette but without much of the mortal danger actually began to catch on among smokers around the world.
At the time, James Monsees and Adam Bowen were students at Stanford’s Joint Program in Design. There they started what became the company and product Ploom as a masters thesis in 2005, which they presented as a prototype concept. “In 2005, my brother was living in China and he was able to pick one up for me,” Monsees explained in an interview at his office, in a building the company incidentally shares with the Burning Man Project. “I’d heard only because we were heavily researching the market.”
It was this huge box, this entire kit. Because there was nowhere you could buy refills for the thing. E-cig liquid you couldn’t buy aftermarket, either, so you had to buy an insane number of cartridges. I think the kit included like 50 cartridges. And the device was like a big cigar, it was not very good. It was the first generation e-cigarette technology that used a true atomizer, it used a vibrating mesh to create an aerosol. Everything you see know is a resistive heating coil-based technology. And it cost, like, at least $300 use for this giant kit. So we got one, and that was my first exposure to the product.
Monsees and Bowen spent two years on further research and searching for investors before raising seed capital and incorporating in 2007. The first product released by the company, the Model One, was a butane-heated vaporizer that uses disposable pods of leaf tobacco. Their next product, the Pax, dropped the pods and switched to battery power but, to be frank, is probably not used primarily to vaporize tobacco. Today you can pick up a Pax along with your favorite strain of medicine at SPARC.
But as the consumer demand for nicotine vaporizers began to become clear, the business interest from tobacco companies also surged. Japan Tobacco International, which owns Camel among other brands, announced an investment in Ploom and a distribution partnership in 2011, the same year the Model One was released. In 2013, the company introduced the Model Two, a battery-powered device specifically for tobacco.
The rapid growth of the market has produced dozens of competing brands and technological approaches. The blu disposable e-cigarette, which uses the more common nicotine solution technology, has become a leader in the American market and was purchased by Lorillard in 2012. A wide variety of manufacturers of vaporizer parts and accessories and nicotine solutions now create hundreds of products which are now widely available wherever cigarettes are sold, as well as through speciality shops and online retailers.
That was less than ten years ago we first really saw these products at all, in any way, and now they’re so commoditized all of the sudden. That is at the heart of why these regulations are so difficult right now, and really why your seeing them at all. I think in time, in another ten years—or less, hopefully, fingers crossed—there will be a heightened understanding of the substantially improved benefits for public health in particular based on that technology.
The Food and Drug Administration first attempted to regulate e-cigarettes as medical device for drug delivery under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, but that effort was challenged in court and struck down in a decision which held up under appeal. However, the FDA now plans to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products under the provisions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed in 2009, and “intends to issue a proposed rule extending FDA’s tobacco product authorities beyond the above products to include other products like e-cigarettes.” The European Parliament is waiting for final approval from member states for its proposed rules, which ban advertising, require health warnings and limit nicotine levels.
Also in 2009, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (a cigar enthusiast) vetoed Assembly Bill 400, which would have declared nicotine vaporizers a federally regulated drug and effectively banned them, but leaving the state free to regulate them as tobacco products in order to bar sales to minors. Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, introduced a bill this year to ban all online sales of tobacco products in California, including e-cigarettes, while municipal governments in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have put bans into place since the end of 2013, when long-time anti-smoking crusader and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed that city’s ban into law on his last day in office.
At public comment during the Rules Committee hearing on San Francisco’s ban, supporters argued that e-cigarettes are being marketed to children, who might try the devices and start smoking real cigarettes as a result. However, the evidence of this risk was not particularly compelling, no evidence at all was presented of secondary risks to non-users, and the amendment won’t affect marketing or advertising to children or anyone else. But it will shut the window on the opportunity to vaporize nicotine indoors, a liberty that has significantly increases the appeal of e-cigarettes to existing smokers.
Maybe the most significant data point is that only 12.5 percent of San Franciscans smoke regularly according to Doctor Tomas Aragon at the Department of Public Health, and fewer still likely use e-cigarettes, making their concerns as a constituency easy to marginalize. Anti-smoking activists, who could once count on scientific evidence to support their arguments, seem to be leaving science behind in favor of pious zealotry just as technology may have actually come around to address many, if not most, of the negative consequences typically associated with nicotine addiction.
“I think that’s why this is particularly sad that it’s happening here. We’re smarter than this,” Monsees lamented. In his opinion of San Francisco legislators, “They’re moving quickly to adopt something that has just become a trend across major metropolitan areas.” He feels that the city could be leading the way by sponsoring research independent of federal regulators rather than following the crowd. “I don’t think that action like these at the government level in San Francisco are reflective of the generally mentality of San Franciscans — or would be, if people were properly informed.”
He believes there will be a review of any decisions as more scientific research becomes available, and that the government bears a role in conducting that research if it’s going to make policy proactively. “Is there the financial incentive for companies like us, or major tobacco companies, to do that kind of research if it means an open opportunity to sell those products on the market? Absolutely! But are those products needed today? Are they already on the market? Yes. That’s the reality we live in. There’s been a pent up demand for these products for decades.”
Director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products Mitch Zeller was cited by Monsees as a pragmatist in this regard. Before being appointed in 2013, Zeller was employed at Pinney Associates, which describes itself as a pharmaceutical risk management group. There, in 2012, Zellar wrote an assesment of strategies for continued tobacco control efforts. “Anyone who would ponder the endgame must acknowledge that the continuum of risk exists and pursue strategies that are designed to drive consumers from the most deadly and dangerous to the least harmful forms of nicotine delivery.”
When asked if he feels that Ploom’s products will be target for enforcement as something which “simulates smoking,” Monsees didn’t seem troubled in any case.
I don’t think that it will have a major impact on our business. I think that our products are really attractive to consumers, in particular because, in our view, internally, they don’t simulate smoking. We’re kind of an oddball in the tobacco industry. In that we’re not interested in simulating smoking. What we’re really interested in doing is understanding, from a consumer level, what people like about smoking and giving them a totally new experience that builds on the good stuff and eliminates the bad stuff. In a totally new way, totally different.
In my view, we don’t simulate smoking. But I don’t think that view has much of anything to do with if it will hurt business or not. The reality is, I don’t think it will hurt business because I don’t think people care about this law. I don’t think it’s going to discourage people from doing what they think is reasonable. It does give law enforcement a tool to enforce offensive behavior by an individual when it’s not appropriate.
Wilde describes how Gray’s wealth and incorruptible beauty—the wages of his sins accruing only on the canvas—bought him access both to the base delights of London’s streets and access to the exclusivity of polite society. On the one hand, supporters of the ban worry e-cigarettes will become as fashionable as cigarettes once were if regulations are too lax, turning back the clock on smoking eradication efforts. Whereas opponents hope smokers, who are more likely to live below the poverty line than non-smokers, might be encouraged to switch if offered less social marginalization, legal complication and regressive taxation.
Our products enable more broad use without offending people. There’s no doubt about that. Smoking, it lingers, it leaves walls and floors and desks and carpets smelling like smoke for a really long time afterwards. It’s really easy to offend people when it survives your presence for such a long period of time. And our products don’t really do that, so it’s much easier to be courteous. And that’s what we suggest people do.
While Monsees supports consumer protection regulations, like product quality control and marketing towards children. But his belief is that the market may have already trumped any political fait accomplis. A familiar laissez fair sentiment, but then some good always does survive gilded ages, and it’s not clear which view is the more “progressive” in this particular case. Preemptively legislating etiquette with punitive measures in the absence of facts and possibly at the expense of positive community health results seems at least as, if not more, irrationally exuberant.
Hopefully the next time the issue comes up, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors can put on a science show instead of a morality play.
Thanks to a court ruling against the Federal Aviation Administration, commercial operation of drone aircraft under 400 feet is, for now, legal. So startup QuiQui is already offering deliveries of drug store purchases 24 hours a day for current beta testers at $1 per delivery. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the fun stuff like cannabis, booze, and controlled substances, just shelf items like hemorrhoid creams and pregnancy tests. So while Shotwell’s Bar won’t be facing any competition for alcoholics, the bartenders will still have to handle some drug seeking behavior.
To be clear, we're not going to be delivering marijuana. Even the medical kind. That was a misprint.
When a drone arrives at a delivery site, “your phone will buzz, saying your delivery is here,” Ziering said. “You go outside and swipe to tell it to drop your order. It will drop it and then fly away. I kind of want it to beep like Roadrunner and then fly.”
The plan is to offer deliveries in under fifteen minutes, but flight paths will be designed to avoid schools, parks and construction site fires, while inclement weather may ground the fleet at times as well according to the company’s press page. So just as Tacocopter proved too good to be true, getting your doctor recommended dose of high-CBD strains delivered to you in Dolores Park from the Apothecarium is, for now, still just a pipe dream.
You can sign up to be a beta tester by submitting your email address. Naturally, the startup is seeking investment.
Last time Betabrand madeheadlines it was for selling sweatpants cut like dress slacks (with or without pinstripes), because if you haven’t figured it out already, we’re witnessing the decline of Western civilization. But rather than cater to lazy men this time, the San Francisco-based clothier selected Ph.D.s and doctoral candidates to model its new spring line of women’s fashions. Hopefully this can become a new line of work for postgraduates, who are facing declining job prospects even as they face mounting school loan debt, and some of those jobs - like adjunct professorships - are pretty terrible! So go buy some clothes for the hungry, hard-working academic in your life.
Other local entrepreneurs that are making the news include beloved local chain Philz Coffee, which will be opening its first outpost outside of the Bay Area in sunny Santa Monica. The Atlantic sat down with artist Wendy McNaughton to talk about the changing city as she promotes her new book, “Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in its Own Words.” And because an incredibly long line means it must be worth it, pop up Eastside Bagels will be back at Dear Mom with exactly 180 bagels from New York’s Russ & Daughters. Hopefully it won’t rain.
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!
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.”
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.”
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).
Google Glass is ugly, expensive and, at best, semi-useful, but it’s also new, rare and exclusive, which makes it catnip to the inordinately entitled. Unfortunately, saying “no” to the inordinately entitled triggers their equally over-developed persecution complex. So after yet another Glasshole was kicked out of a local business because it made the otherwise warm, friendly folks at Grand Coffee uncomfortable, he suggested that Google start running television commercials to show how awesome Glass is so he won’t have to face “fear, uncertainty and doubt.”
Yes, Google customer Steven Mautone is asking the company to mount a major media campaign to educate the proles so that a handful of wealthy people with terrible taste won’t occasionally be excluded from social settings. Instead, what Google has done is create an etiquette guide which “Explorers” like Mautone may have read but which he seems to have trouble understanding.
For example? One of the tips is “respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy.” Mautone originally wrote on his blog, Living Thru Glass, that “the first thing I asked [Grand Coffee’s] manager was: ‘Have you ever worn Glass? Do you know what it’s all about?’” But later, in a Google+ thread (naturally), he admitted to fellow Glassholes that “I honestly didn’t know what to say at first. My response was ‘are you serious?’” Certainly not the first time that a Glasshole has desperately tried to make themselves seem more sympathetic.
What Google’s guide doesn’t do is clarify anyone’s rights under the law. For instance, while it’s true that you are allowed to take photographs of anything that’s in plain view from a public space, including people, “When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which continues, “If you disobey the property owner’s rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).”
So the fine folks at Grand Coffee are completely within their rights to refuse service to Glassholes, and to call the cops if the Glasshole throws a temper tantrum.
Google also helpfully suggests that Explorers “ask for permission” before “standing alone in the corner of a room staring at people while recording them through Glass.” The fact Google has to write that down for users a year after the product was released says more about what Glassholes must be like as a class more succinctly than I ever could.
What the company doesn’t mention is that in California, standing alone in the corner of a room staring at people while recording them through Glass could land you in jail. As the Digital Media Law Project explains, “California makes it a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation.” They continue:
If you are recording someone without their knowledge in a public or semi-public place like a street or restaurant, the person whom you’re recording may or may not have “an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation,” and the reasonableness of the expectation would depend on the particular factual circumstances. Therefore, you cannot necessarily assume that you are in the clear simply because you are in a public place.
Over at Slow News Day, Beth Spotswood asks “is there a line when it’s cool and when it’s not?” Well, recording people at a business with a stated policy banning photography, such as at the Zeitgeist, could provide such “an objectively reasonable expectation” that they won’t be subject to electronic eavesdropping. Or maybe not! So no, there is no bright line as my lawyer friend would say. It’s decided on a case-by-case basis, so pushing the issue could take you from creepy to court proceedings faster than you can say “Glass, search for criminal defense attorneys.”
In the aforementioned Google+ thread, Mautone’s fellow Glasshole Stephen Cerutti has already suggested that someone create an app to track businesses that don’t allow patrons wearing devices on their face capable of secretly recording employees and customers. And by “someone,” I have to presume he means “someone else,” because did I mention inordinately entitled?
Since Mission Local launched five years ago, it’s been chiefly funded by UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and served as platform for students to hone their reporting chops. But that’s no more.
In a memo sent out by Edward Wasserman, Dean of the Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, (and published on Mission Local), he announced that the department would be pulling funding, faculty support and student participation from the site. Excerpted below:
The Mission Local hyperlocal site has been a vibrant and valuable part of the School of Journalism since it was created five years ago. It has developed well beyond its initial scope as an incubator for J200 students, and under [Prof. and Mission Local Editor Lydia Chavez]’s imaginative, impeccably professional and tireless leadership has become the premier place for the community it serves to learn about itself and talk about its future.
It’s now time for Mission Local to take the next step and re-launch itself as an independent, stand-alone media operation. That means ending its role in the J-School’s curriculum. While Prof Chavez would have liked to see the school keep the site, she is ready to assume responsibility for the site, and we expect that it will continue under her ownership.
To paraphrase: “She wanted us to keep the site, and we were like, nah.” Ouch.
My reasons for spinning off ML are several.
First, it’s an expensive undertaking, which obliges us to operate a remote site on a year-round basis, even when the curricular value to our students is limited or even, at times, non-existent (as when we pay non-students to keep the site from going dark.)
This alone will provide a challenge for the site. While it’s unknown how much UC Berkeley was spending on the site, Mission Local has disclosed in fundraising pitches that site extras, including “money for rent, a translator [for the Spanish edition], extra reporters over the summer and holiday breaks, and the print edition,” cost the site between $50,000 and $75,000 annually. Removing the steady stream of low-wage student contributions while school is in session will prove costly (unless Mission Local decides to go down the shady unpaid intern route), and likely means the site will have to cut back features and coverage.
Third, the natural evolution of the site itself is toward being an integrated media operation, and that requires sustained attention to marketing, audience-building, ad sales, miscellaneous revenue-generation, community outreach, special events, partnerships, and 1,001 other publishing activities that are essential to any site’s commercial success.
That’s not really what we do. Those are specialized areas, and the J-School doesn’t have the instructional capacity to teach them to a Berkeley standard of excellence. What’s more, our students wouldn’t have the curricular bandwidth to learn them—not unless we pared back other areas, and redefined our core mission as something other than journalism education.
It’s worth noting that UC Berkeley is continuing their support of Oakland North and Richmond Confidential, the school’s other two ‘news lab’ websites. All this suggests that Mission Local has grown too big for its own good, with stunts like a misguided Tech Shuttle bedazzling contest and paying to win a Webby Award throughout the years. It departed from its original mission of providing a platform for meandering, over-reported stories on neighborhood minutae, and now its parents are kicking them out of the house.