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Preview: SFGate: John King

John King


Cloud-shape design floated for Lucas museum

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 06:00:00 UT

Streamlined and metallic, the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art conjures up the futuristic realm of “Star Wars” rather than the romantic yesterdays of the Palace of Fine Arts, the filmmaker’s inspiration for the proposal rejected by the Presidio Trust in 2014. The unanswered question is whether Lucas will try again to place his eclectic collection of illustrative and cinematic art in San Francisco, or instead take a site offered to him in Los Angeles. If he and his team choose Treasure Island, the museum would be built on a 4-acre site at the south end of the island, next to a planned ferry terminal and the historic Building One from the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. [...] it fits within the height limits on the site that Lucas and his staff have been looking at since the Marin resident abandoned plans in June for a museum in Chicago because of legal opposition. Both the Treasure Island museum and a proposal for Exposition Park in Los Angeles are being designed by Ma Yansong, 41, a Chinese architect known for free-flowing sculptural drama. The public levels of the museum would be lifted up in a way that anticipates sea-level rise, but also to make room for a level of parking that would be cloaked in landscaping. The Los Angeles version of Lucas’ museum is more conventional but still has a turbo-charged air — it’s an elongated spaceship that would touch down on either side of a major road leading into Exposition Park. The largest local stumbling block apparently involves a determination of whether or not the museum’s traffic and environmental impacts are allowable within the island’s approved studies, or if a supplemental (and time-consuming) environmental impact report will need to be done. Planners are likely to offer several sites where it might be moved, either into the new shoreline park or to public spaces planned within the island. Overall, city officials say they’re intrigued by the idea of adding a major pop-culture attraction to a plan that has been on the drawing boards for more than a decade. The Lucas Museum “fits well with the plans for the island, and the overall programs we’re trying to have here,” said Bob Beck, director of the Treasure Island Development Authority. According to Don Bacigalupi, the museum’s president, the design work and search for approvals are being done simultaneously in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

State agency to draw up plan for sea level rise in Bay Area

Sun, 9 Oct 2016 21:03:35 UT

State agency to draw up plan for sea level rise in Bay Area “We need to take stock of what’s vulnerable, and prepare a response that makes ourselves more resilient and prosperous,” Larry Goldzband, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, said Friday. The unanimous vote by the agency’s commissioners Thursday also recommends that local governments “explore new institutional arrangements to address the impacts of climate change.” The commissioners agreed to begin working with Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to assess the dangers to major roadways and rail corridors as well as “communities with characteristics that make them more vulnerable to sea level rise.”

Embarcadero in SF on list of nation’s at-risk historic treasures

Wed, 5 Oct 2016 05:00:00 UT

San Francisco’s Embarcadero has been named one of America’s at-risk historic treasures — not because of development threats, but the looming dangers posed by earthquakes and sea-level rise. The combination of the 3-mile seawall that forms the downtown shoreline and the piers along it that extend into the bay are on the list of the nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places released Wednesday by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We wanted to call attention to the fact that thousands of historic resources along our shorelines and our rivers are at risk from sea-level rise,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust. Extreme shaking wouldn’t cause the century-old barrier of concrete and rocks to collapse, but the partially submerged structure could lurch down and out toward the bay, tearing apart portions of the roadway and structures above. Add the challenge of preparing for sea-level rise — the city now bases its planning on a 2012 study by the National Research Council that estimates tides in 2100 climbing as much as 66 inches higher than they are today — and “costs could reach $5 billion to fully incorporate adaptation measures needed for the next 100 years.” Given these scenarios, the city has budgeted $8 million during the next two years for a full assessment of the seawall’s strength or lack thereof, along with initial work on planning and environmental studies of a response In its annual listing, the National Trust calls the Embarcadero Historic District “a major economic engine for the Bay Area” that “has contributed to a remarkable urban waterfront renaissance.” [...] there have been popular restorations of the Ferry Building and Piers 11/2, 3 and 5, as well as waterside plazas and a new cruise terminal at Pier 27. Other places in the class of 2016 include a historic naval hospital facing demolition threats in Charleston, S.C.; two heavily Latino neighborhoods in El Paso, Texas, that are under pressure from gentrification; and the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears landscape in southeast Utah “threatened by looting, mismanaged recreational use, and energy development.” The 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears cultural landscape features archaeological sites, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs and ancient roads. Historic district played a prominent role during World War II as a re-entry point for American servicemen injured in Europe and Africa. Historic neighborhoods form the core of El Paso’s cultural identity, but homes and small businesses are threatened by demolition. Historic buildings at the core of the town that hosted “Trial of the Century,” Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial, are threatened by a development proposal that would demolish the iconic Union Hotel. The river and landscape remain threatened by a proposed transmission line project that would compromise their scenic integrity. Unique engineering marvel and a highly significant example of midcentury modern architecture, the domes are facing calls for their demolition. Two-mile corridor on Tucson’s Broadway Boulevard features one of the most significant concentrations of historic midcentury modern architecture in the Southwest but is threatened by a transportation project that would require demolition.

1st Bay Day to celebrate local treasure

Sat, 1 Oct 2016 00:24:37 UT

Billed as a local counterpart to Earth Day, the first Bay Day will take place Saturday with more than 40 themed events, ranging from bicycle tours and discounted kayak rides to a shoreline tai chi gathering. [...] while nobody expects the turnout to rival this weekend’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park, the organizers say they’re confident this year’s event will be the start of a tradition all its own. The nonprofit organization dates to the early 1960s, when cities along the bay routinely turned shallow waters into sites for dumps, industrial parks and whatever else was on the agenda. The group’s most recent achievement was the successful campaign for Measure AA in the June election, a regional parcel tax that is intended to raise $500 million over the next 20 years for marsh restoration and other bay improvements. Some of the planned events are for earnest devotees of the bay, such as hikes to showcase the challenges of sea level rise in East Palo Alto’s Ravenswood Open Space Preserve. Other events have a less obvious connection to the topic — such as $4 pints of ale at the 21st Amendment Brewery’s tasting room in San Leandro, several blocks inland from the shore.

‘Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs,’ by Robert Kanigel

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 19:22:56 UT

Jane Jacobs has had more influence on how we think about cities than anyone else since World War II, or at least since 1962, when her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” made a case for the messy vitality of old-fashioned neighborhoods at a time when clean-slate urban renewal was all the rage. [...] notions as the value of shops and apartments along a city sidewalk are treated as holy scripture by devotees, or fodder for checklists used by earnest planners and cynical developers alike. “She was social activist, gadfly, rogue, and rebel,” writes Robert Kanigel in Eyes on the Street: Kanigel sets out to chart the evolution of a physician’s daughter in Pennsylvania coal country into a Greenwich Village working woman and then a lay author of startling originality. [...] the author strikes a conversational tone throughout that tries too hard to be engaging. When Jacobs works for the Office of War Information in the 1940s, Kanigel gushes that “her talents, her bristling intelligence, were plain to see” but then frets that “she was still invisible to the great world of literature and ideas.” Another path in — the heretical one that I recommend — is to skip the masterwork and instead read “Downtown Is for People,” one of 37 articles, speeches and ephemera in the new collection Vital Little Plans: The piece appeared in 1958 in a surprising venue, Fortune magazine, and it maps out the terrain she would explore much more fully in “Death and Life.” The “ultimate expert” on urban conditions can be you or me: “What is needed is an observant eye, curiosity about people, and a willingness to walk.” There’s plenty more of value in “Vital Little Plans,” which ranges from a 1936 piece for Vogue on New York’s jewelry district to an excerpt from the book Jacobs was working on at the time of her death 60 years later at age 89. In small doses it may be beneficial, says the woman who can be seen as having (figuratively) paved the way for the trend, but there’s a tipping point where “so many people want in on a place now generally perceived as interesting … that gentrification turns socially and economically vicious.”

‘LightRail’ artwork could bring brighter days to 2 miles of Market

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 05:31:30 UT

The broad stroke of Market Street, long home to grand plans and thwarted dreams, is the focus of a $12 million arts concept that — if it comes to pass — could blend life above and below the pavement. The idea would be for two strands of multicolored LED lights to stretch from the Embarcadero to Van Ness Avenue and pulse in sync with the movement of BART and Muni trains in the subway. Davis spoke at a small media gathering Wednesday evening with two purposes: to display a 70-foot-long hint of what would be a 2-mile installation, and to announce the start of an effort to raise $10 million in private funds to complete an arts project that already has City Hall’s blessing. Reduced to basics, the arts installation, called “LightRail,” would add a pair of lithe cables to the wired clutter already in place above Market Street. [...] Twitter has gone from being a phenomenon to a company with a low stock price and rumors of possible acquisition by larger suitors. [...] he did suggest that one hindrance to Market’s still-bumpy turnaround is the continued presence of harsh 1970s-era lighting in the boulevard’s historic lampposts. The yellow lights are a scar — they make faces look sallow and are unflattering to the built environment. The setting for the news conference was the second floor of the Hall, a former billiard parlor near Sixth and Market streets that now holds pop-up food vendors while the owners seek city approval to build a 13-story residential building.

Mission Bay may need tidal barriers, huge levees as sea rises

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 23:06:13 UT

San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood might need large levees or a tidal barrier to help protect it from the impacts of sea level rise in coming decades, a study released Monday and done with the city’s participation concludes. [...] the emphasis on eventually altering the shoreline — one concept would turn Mission Creek into a lake — is a strong signal that local government sees the tidal aspects of climate change not as a distant possibility, but as a likelihood that needs to be planned for now. “We want to help the public understand what protecting us from sea level rise might look like,” said Laura Tam of the planning advocacy nonprofit SPUR, which managed the project for the city. Collaborators on the $200,000 study included five city agencies as well as the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which has final say over any projects proposed along the bay’s shoreline. The other four look at the district’s southern shore, a low-lying stretch next to land where rail yards have been replaced by the likes of the UCSF-Mission Bay campus and where the Golden State Warriors seek to break ground next year on an 18,000-seat arena. All are driven by the likelihood that if current sea level rise projections are accurate, and no protective measures are taken, a major storm during high tides could send water spilling down several streets in the neighborhood by 2050. By 2100 — when projections by the National Research Council set a 36-inch increase in tide levels as the most likely scenario — the same combination could flood the decks of Mission Creek’s historic bridges and cause as much as 4 feet of flooding of the city’s Public Safety Building, which opened last year and includes police headquarters. [...] a step goes against a half century of public efforts to keep the bay from being filled, a grassroots advocacy effort that helped lead to the creation of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission in 1965.

Oakland honors SF officer for interrupting armed robbery attempt

Sat, 3 Sep 2016 02:38:08 UT

Oakland honors SF officer for interrupting armed robbery attempt A San Francisco police officer who interrupted an off-hours jog to tackle an armed robber has received a medal — from his counterparts in Oakland, where the showdown took place. The Oakland Police Department on Friday awarded its second highest honor, the Silver Star, to Officer Riley Bandy as a recognition of the incident at Lake Merritt on July 8. Oakland police officers then arrived on the scene and arrested the boy.

Sen. Boxer’s ‘farewell tour’ a thank-you to California

Sat, 27 Aug 2016 03:30:09 UT

The triumphs include the effort by California politicians in 1995 to prevent portions of the green enclave at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge from being sold to developers. On Friday, she also pledged to see whether there’s a way in her final months in Washington to find federal money to help pay for a cloak of new parkland that would hide automobile tunnels near Crissy Field. “I would hope so — we have a great case to make on so many levels,” Boxer said at the conclusion of her brief visit to the 1,491-acre former Army post, now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The thank-yous were directed at the officials on hand from the National Park Service and the Presidio Trust. Since the military handed off control of the Presidio in 1994, it has blossomed with new trails and scenic overlooks, while hundreds of buildings were restored and dump sites were replaced by native landscapes. The Presidio also is the only piece of the Park Service that is required to be financially self-sustaining — a condition imposed in 1996 after Republicans in Washington balked at putting $25 million or more annually into parkland within the borders of notoriously liberal San Francisco. [...] the cost estimate now approaches $100 million, almost twice the original estimate for a project that relies on private fundraising being conducted by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Boxer, who moved several years ago from her longtime home in Marin to Rancho Mirage (Riverside County), made only one reference to the national political scene.

Federal review: No bias against Lucas in Presidio museum proposal

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 23:57:49 UT

The Presidio Trust’s board was not misled by its employees when it rejected George Lucas’ bid to build a waterfront museum within the unusual national park, federal investigators say. A Department of the Interior review of the controversial 2014 decision “did not substantiate the allegations” of Lucas supporters that the filmmaker was treated unfairly by staff members, according to a report released this week by the department’s inspector general. In sorting through 37,000 emails — generated by a Freedom of Information Act request from Lucas backers — investigators also found no evidence of any actions that violated trust policies. The report did say that some of the more caustic exchanges between one former staff member and consultant “created an embarrassment for the Trust” because of the tone of exasperation and disdain toward the “Star Wars” creator and his proposal. According to DiPaolo, it took “six or seven months” and involved “multiple investigators,” though not on a full-time basis.

Last big piece of old Bay Bridge ready to sail into history

Tue, 2 Aug 2016 23:11:38 UT

It’s 504 feet long and 80 feet high — the last of the five trussed spans that once formed the central third of the roadway from Oakland’s muddy shore to the forested knob of Yerba Buena Island. [...] even though two decks of asphalt and much of the steelwork has been removed, the homely structure still weighs roughly 3.2 million pounds. If you want a hint of how the latest act of deconstruction will take place, check out the four enormous green metal “wheels” that adorn the corners of the truss. The cables will lift the horizontal truss from its 60-year-old supports, swing it to the side and pivot it out to be lowered onto a pair of barges waiting below. The two barges then take a short voyage to the Port of Oakland, where the trussed section will be transferred to land and dismantled, with the individual beams winding up in recycling facilities across the Bay Area.

Man drowns after falling from cliffs near Sutro Baths

Sun, 31 Jul 2016 04:10:43 UT

Strong waves and cold water near San Francisco’s Sutro Baths on Saturday claimed the life of a man who plunged from the cliffs above, despite a rescue attempt by two National Park Service employees. The incident began at about 4:35 p.m. when the unidentified man fell from Point Lobos into the surf, according to Jonathan Baxter, a spokesman for the San Francisco Fire Department. The two park service men swam through hazardous waves and were able to get the victim onto a rescue board and beyond the surf to a U.S. Coast Guard boat. Despite the efforts, the victim was pronounced dead by paramedics from the Southern Marin Fire Protection District, which has a facility at the Sausalito harbor.

State Senate battle between Kim, Wiener moves to ‘Pokémon Go’

Sun, 31 Jul 2016 04:05:38 UT

The contest involved Jane Kim and Scott Wiener, two supervisors now running for the state Senate seat that represents San Francisco. [...] if the face-off was all in fun, the way it was conducted offered a glimpse of the two candidates’ campaign styles — as well as the extent to which the smartphone craze has permeated the local landscape. Kim challenged Wiener to the contest not long after the “Pokémon Go” app, created by local firm Niantic, became a frothy sensation in a summer dominated by more ominous news. Wiener dismissed them as “political grandstanding,” while Kim called her initiatives “serious challenges.” According to Kim, the extent of her preparation work before Saturday was “a 20-minute training (Friday), but I didn’t really understand it.” When the (figurative) starting gun sounded, Wiener and his threesome piled into a supporter’s car and headed to the Ferry Building, where they spent more than an hour chasing down whatever it is that hovers in the Pokémon-charged air. Asked if having a novice on the team was slowing them down, Duong’s campaign sense kicked in: No! Besides bragging rights, the challenge included a wager: $500 from the loser to the winner’s charity of choice. “This shows that walking is good for you,” Kim said, referring to the decision to focus more on neighborhood efforts than the lure of the downtown destinations.

Elderly pedestrian struck, killed by car

Sun, 24 Jul 2016 01:30:03 UT

The accident occurred at about 7:30 a.m. on the 800 block of Embarcadero Road and involved a pedestrian in his 80s, according to Palo Alto police. Police and fire personnel responding to a call from the scene found the victim unconscious with major injuries. The car that struck the victim was driven by a man from East Palo Alto in his 20s who remained at the scene after the accident, police said.

Black Lives Matter demonstrators block downtown SF streets

Sun, 10 Jul 2016 04:40:26 UT

A protest sparked by police killings of African Americans and conceived by recent high school graduates turned into an afternoon-long march that at different times closed three ramps leading to and from the Bay Bridge. The marchers briefly blocked the entrances to Westfield shopping mall and other shops near Powell and Market streets. For more than an hour, protesters were clustered on the Fremont Street off-ramp from the Bay Bridge in a sometimes tense standoff with police, after on-ramps from Essex and Bryant streets were closed briefly as well. At the peak, roughly 500 people were marching down Third Street past Moscone Center amid gridlocked cars while chanting, “Black Lives Matter” and “Hey hey, ho ho, these killer cops have got to go.” [...] that idea had been announced in the social media messages spreading word of the planned protest, so police were out in force. [...] protesters blocked the intersection of Fifth and Bryant streets while lines of police stood on the on-ramp, with seven motorcycles end to end as a barrier. The most combative moments were at the ramp standoffs at Fremont and Essex streets, with brief scuffles where at least one police officer raised a baton before protesters intervened between the police and other marchers. More often the mood was celebratory: “Look at how much attention we got,” one organizer told protesters as they blocked Market Street near the cable car turnaround.