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John King


‘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.

Antioch raid yields cache of weapons, drugs, money; 2 men held

Sat, 9 Jul 2016 21:18:19 UT

A home on a quiet-looking suburban block in south Antioch was visited last week by Contra Costa County sheriff’s detectives — who departed with a collection of firearms, drugs and $76,000 in cash. According to the sheriff’s office, the search revealed a dangerous bounty that included seven firearms: two assault rifles, four handguns and a shotgun. Green and Lowery were booked on a variety of charges including child endangerment, possession of stolen property and possession of drugs while armed with a loaded weapon.

Libertarian candidate brings presidential campaign to SF

Fri, 1 Jul 2016 05:04:32 UT

Libertarian candidate brings presidential campaign to SF The Libertarian Party’s nominee for president visited San Francisco on Thursday, extolling the virtues of small government and saying 2016 might be the year his minor party plays a major role in the national campaign. “I would not be doing this if there wasn’t the opportunity to win,” said Gary Johnson, the former two-term New Mexico governor who was also the Libertarian candidate in 2012. [...] Johnson, 63, has faced larger audiences of late — he and his vice-presidential running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, have appeared on a CNN “town hall” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” In terms of issues, Johnson emphasized libertarian positions likely to resonate with the crowd at the event organized by the Lincoln Initiative, which bills itself as working to bridge “the generational gap between the conservative political community and the technology community.” “I think we really need to be open to a debate and a discussion about how we keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and of terrorists,” he said before criticizing measures proposed by Democrats that would ban gun sales to people on no-fly lists, or restrict certain types of ammunition. In his conversation on-stage with Politico’s Carla Marinucci, Johnson was most comfortable applying Libertarian critiques to a domestic scene where, he suggested, governments at all scales are too eager to intervene. The burden of college debts on young adults? “The main reason for high tuition is guaranteed government loans,” Johnson said. If San Francisco were serious about this issue, it would take a six-acre site and build 30,000 units on that site,” Johnson said afterward, hearkening back to a scenario he laid out during his talk: “Without rules, regulations, zoning, what they come up with — there wouldn’t be a need for rent control because housing would be so incredibly affordable.

Girl flown to safety after horse throws her in Mount Diablo park

Fri, 1 Jul 2016 03:34:53 UT

A girl riding a horse Thursday afternoon in Mount Diablo State Park completed her journey in a much different form of transportation: a helicopter. The 16-year-old was thrown from her horse around noon on the Stage Road Trail in the rugged southwest corner of the vast park at the center of Contra Costa County. Park officers and a San Ramon Valley Fire crew that responded to the need for assistance then called the California Highway Patrol’s air operations unit to help hoist her to safety.

Livermore school hit with 2nd lawsuit stemming from molestations

Wed, 29 Jun 2016 23:01:18 UT

A second lawsuit has been filed against a Livermore school that employed a security guard who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two students and is now serving a six-year prison term. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a student at Livermore Valley Charter School when she was molested and sexually abused by Jason Quero, according to the victim’s attorney, Mary Alexander. “The school gave Jason Quero unfettered access to vulnerable young girls when it should have been asking itself, was it suspicious that a male employee is spending so much time with female students, sexting with them on social media, and giving them candy?” Alexander said Wednesday. The attorney is also representing another victim of Quero in legal action against Tri-Velley Learning Corporation, owner of the kindergarten through eighth-grade school.