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Preview: SFGate: John King

John King


Gerson Bakar, developer behind SFMOMA and Mission Bay, dies

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 19:14:07 UT

Levi’s Plaza is his best-known project, a still-alluring blend of handsome brick buildings and naturalistic public space. [...] Mr. Bakar also was a catalyst in the development of the Mission Bay neighborhood and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s move to Third Street — two projects that have altered the map of San Francisco. “Gerson was unassuming — he didn’t want the attention,” said former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan, who was backed by Mr. Bakar in his successful 1991 mayoral campaign. Philip Gerson Bakar was born in Petaluma on March 12, 1928, the grandson of Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe and the son of a chicken farmer. For college he headed to UC Berkeley, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a passion for real estate. An early success was Woodlake, a garden apartment community in San Mateo designed in part by now-renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. With Halprin as the landscape architect, and a sensitive mix of low-slung masonry buildings amid a privately maintained oasis of willow trees, fountains, hillocks and an artificial creek, Levi’s Plaza felt as though it had been there all along. In the case of SFMOMA, Mr. Bakar was the board member who in the 1980s led the hunt for land where the private institution could build a permanent home. “Gerson’s legacy at SFMOMA is nothing short of profound,” Neal Benezra, the museum’s director, said last week in a statement. “The time frame of getting the property put together and getting it built was a time in the real estate market where everything went to the dogs,” Mr. Bakar said.

John King's impression from atop the Salesforce Tower

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 18:49:19 UT

The strangest thing about John King's visit this month to the wide-open summit of Salesforce Tower? No wind. He said he could have brought a picnic lunch and worked on my tan.

Construction of Transbay Transit Center running late

Thu, 11 May 2017 23:00:31 UT

Progress on the complicated project has bogged down in recent months and is now seven weeks behind schedule of the targeted “substantial completion” date of Dec. 22, construction manager Ron Alameida told the board of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority on Thursday. “We are now seeing some slippages and challenges,” primarily because of slower-than-expected installation of the huge structure’s engineering and mechanical systems, Alameida said. The challenge includes the complexity of crossing off details in a quarter-mile structure that will include everything from bus operations to a skylit entry hall and a 5.4-acre rooftop park. Transbay directors took the construction update in stride, while Alameida made the point that a year or so ago — there was no public mention at the time — the completion date had slipped by several months. There’s also still no firm budget or date for when construction might begin on the second phase of the transit center, which would serve commuter trains from the Peninsula and, possibly, high-speed rail service from Southern California.

Piedmont police investigate possible child abduction attempt

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 00:21:29 UT

Piedmont police say there may have been an attempted abduction of a child Thursday near Havens Elementary School. The incident occurred just after 3 p.m., when an 8-year-old walking home was approached at the corner of Vista and Bonita avenues. A black vehicle pulled up and the driver said, “Get in my car. I have something important to show you,” according to the child. When the child refused, the car drove off toward Oakland Avenue. Anyone with information is asked to call police at (510) 420-3000. John King is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @johnkingsfchron

BART makes first arrest in teen takeover robbery as police declare ‘emergency’

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:21:14 UT

BART makes first arrest in teen takeover robbery as police declare ‘emergency’ BART investigators have made their first arrest in connection with last Saturday evening’s takeover robbery by dozens of juveniles who mobbed a train at Coliseum Station in Oakland, officials said Friday. “More warrants for multiple identified suspects on the way,” BART said in a tweet announcing the initial arrest. In the mob robbery, BART said, at least 40 juveniles jumped the fare gates and rushed aboard at least two cars of a Dublin-bound train at Coliseum Station shortly before 9:30 p.m. Some members of the group held doors open, stalling the train, while others ran through cars and some robbed and assaulted passengers. By the time BART police arrived, five minutes after the initial call for help from the station, the youths had already scattered.

Crime was up on BART even before Saturday’s attack

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 05:36:38 UT

Crime was up on BART by more than 20 percent this year — most of it involving the theft of cell phones and other electronic devices — even before a group of youths swarmed a train Saturday, according to the transit system’s interim police chief. The increase of approximately 22 percent from the same time last year comes despite a drop so far in 2017 in car break-ins, as well as automobile and bicycle thefts, said interim Chief of Police Jeffrey Jennings. The spike had stirred extra police patrols at some stations before at least 40 juveniles and young adults rushed aboard multiple cars of a Dublin-bound train at the Coliseum station and robbed passengers Saturday night. Since March 11, there have been extra patrols, and 19 people aged 12 to 21 have been arrested on robbery charges, Jennings said. Several suspects have now been identified — in part because at least one of the cars that was stormed had a working video camera. Mostly, though, directors emphasized their concern for the victims, as well as the station staff members who are powerless in such situations to do anything except call for help. Coincidentally, an item that was on the agenda involved the strategies by which BART staff hopes to cut down on the growing problem of fare evasion, which is estimated to cost the system somewhere between $15 and $25 million. Another change would include giving police officers and new inspectors the ability to move through stations or cars and require passengers to show they have a valid ticket for their ride. Judging by the discussion after the presentation, BART directors are more comfortable with raising obstacles to hopping the gates than demanding proof of payment. Others said fare evasion is a too-obvious symbol of recent problems in the system, from frequent delays in service to the common sight of people panhandling on cars.

Homeless center planned for Mission district spurs debate

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 21:23:51 UT

An often raucous neighborhood meeting Monday evening in the Mission district drove one point loudly home — homelessness continues to be San Francisco’s most emotionally charged civic issue. Most people who got seats seemed to support the plan being discussed, a temporary “navigation center” intended to move people out of the ramshackle tent colonies that line many neighborhood sidewalks. “We resent that our desire to have safe streets is maligned ... we’ve got to do something about the crime,” said Kausar Wildman, a 22-year resident, referring to bike thefts and drug use associated with some people in tents. “People are getting incredibly frustrated and worried about stepping over human waste in front of their doors, and discarded needles” and being accosted by people with mental problems, Ronen said in her opening remarks. [...] she and other city officials made the case that the navigation center would help to reduce the number of tents in view and, ultimately, people on the streets. The advantage of such a center over a typical shelter, said one staffer with the city’s department of homelessness, is that residents have a month where they’re within safe and supervised conditions. In addition to beds, the centers have case workers on hand to assess people’s needs and to try to find them housing or social services, from mental help to job training. “People inside the navigation centers are away from the trauma of the streets,” said Jason Albertson, a clinical social worker with the Department of Homelessness. After an hour of public comments — alternating between supporters and opponents, each having their own separate line — Ronen thanked the crowd but voiced frustration of her own. There were other shouts, and then supporters started clapping and chanting “build the navigation center!”

2nd conductor accused of pocketing cable car fares in SF

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 04:46:21 UT

A second cable car conductor has been arrested on charges of pocketing the popular system’s $7 fares rather than turning them in. David Reyes of San Francisco, 55, was arrested Wednesday evening by police officers and charged with embezzlement and theft of public monies, according to a statement released by the police. The investigations began two months ago when officials at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency notified the police that there were suspicious discrepancies in the fare receipts being reported by some conductors.

5 heroin deaths reported in Santa Rosa over the past 10 days

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 05:12:11 UT

The surge in drug-related fatalities was being publicized “to warn the public of this disturbing trend,” according to a statement released Tuesday by the county Sheriff’s Office. The victims were not identified, and the final causes of the deaths has not been officially determined. John King is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

Defendant in Oakland college massacre ruled fit to stand trial

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 03:24:06 UT

Defendant in Oakland college massacre ruled fit to stand trial The man accused of shooting and killing seven people at a small vocational college in Oakland in 2012 has been ruled competent to stand trial. A hearing was set for Wednesday to determine a schedule for proceeding toward trial in the shooting rampage.

Blueprint for Bay Area aims to ‘change the dynamics’ of housing crisis

Sat, 15 Apr 2017 18:00:00 UT

The only way for the Bay Area to become a relatively affordable place to live again is for cities and counties to be more tolerant of different types of housing, according to the draft of a new regional plan. “We’re looking at what it would take the region to change the dynamics” that in recent decades have seen the creation of housing lag far behind job and population growth, said Matt Maloney, a planner with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which is working with the Association of Bay Area Governments on the document. Known as Plan Bay Area 2040, the draft released this month also spells out spending priorities for what is estimated to be $303 billion in transportation funding during the life of the plan. At least $12.5 billion of the sum, generated by state and federal funding as well as voter-approved initiatives and gas-tax revenue, would be a local contribution to the high-speed rail effort. Other potential and controversial expenditures are not approved, such as “congestion pricing,” a toll that would be charged to drivers entering downtown San Francisco during commute hours. The plan is mandated by the state, which in 2008 passed climate change-related measures that include a call for metropolitan regions to map out how they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while making room for substantial amounts of new housing. The Bay Area agencies added 11 other targets to aim for in the regional plan approved in 2013 — many of them tied to social equity, such as cutting by 10 percent the amount of income that low-income families need to spend on housing and transportation. The new draft, which is more of a progress report than a full-blown rethink of the plan, finds the Bay Area is on the right track in nine of 13 areas, including the protection of the region’s agricultural land and a boost in transit use instead of cars. Plan Bay Area drew opposition from local Tea Party activists, along with organizations as disparate as the Sierra Club and the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area. For more information on Plan Bay Area 2040, including the full document and a schedule of public meetings:

‘Borderwall as Architecture,’ by Ronald Rael

Thu, 6 Apr 2017 20:38:04 UT

Whether you view it as provocative or pragmatic, a satirical act of defiance or a spineless shrug, Ronald Rael’s “Borderwall as Architecture” confronts us with this undeniable fact: The question posed by Rael, an associate professor in the departments of Architecture and Art Practice at UC Berkeley who subtitles his book “A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary,” is whether walls along the border could be used to bring people together, rather than keep us apart. If this sounds like amoral opportunism, Rael makes plain his disgust for what exists: “The U.S.-Mexico wall has created a territory of paradox, horror, transformation, and flux, like the Berlin Wall did, but on a much larger scale.” “Borderwall as Architecture” would benefit from a livelier writer than Rael, whose prose is the sort that makes academics nod with self-satisfied smiles. [...] his imagination is audacious, and he smartly frames his “grand tour” of the border as a procession of vignettes that shift easily between history, architectural what-ifs and what you might call postcards from the front. Homemade cannons in the back of pickup trucks have fired 30-pound canisters of weed through the arid desert near Yuma, Ariz. [...] what has sprung up now, on the Mexican side? A stretch known as Tortilla Wall, where vendors sometimes sell food to border agents through openings in the chain-link fence. The catapults and ramps are the inspirations for Teeter-Totter Wall, with that playground mainstay inserted through existing barriers, one rider in each nation, so “people on both sides could directly experience the interdependency between the two countries.” Other proposals take the wall as a necessary evil and imagine it as beneficial in at least some way — having portions of the wall double as wastewater treatment facilities, perhaps, to improve environmental and sanitary conditions along the border. The subtleties at work here, the efforts to leapfrog our poisonous politics and imagine “design as a reparative measure,” won’t sway the debate in Washington.

Almost time for SF’s Salesforce Tower to hit the top

Sat, 25 Mar 2017 15:18:06 UT

The last steel beam will be maneuvered into place atop the 1,070-foot high-rise on April 6, developers Boston Properties and Hines revealed Friday. The high point will come four years after the ceremonial groundbreaking in March 2013, but barely a year since the first steel appeared above ground last March. Salesforce has leased more than half the space in the 1.4 million-square-foot building; most of it is on the lower floors, but the 60th and 61st stories will serve as a sort of sky-high company lounge for the software giant’s employees, customers and guests. The schedule calls for the tower to be completed in July, according to marketing director Helen Han of Boston Properties.

John Field, architect of Bay Area shopping centers, dies at 87

Thu, 2 Mar 2017 00:46:59 UT

John Field, an architect and self-described “urban choreographer” who strove to humanize shopping centers in the Bay Area and elsewhere, died of cancer at his home in San Francisco on Feb. 21. Rather than reshape the skyline, Mr. Field won notice in his profession by focusing on mostly suburban shopping centers — trying to turn staid lines of functional shops into community hubs. In the mid-’90s, his firm brought new life to 1000 Van Ness, a former Cadillac dealership converted into a mix of movie theaters, restaurant space and housing. Whatever the setting, Mr. Field’s gift was that he understood that individual works of architecture are part of a larger civic fabric. Born in Minnesota, Mr. Field earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture at Yale University, then “got in the car and drove as far as I could drive,” he told an interviewer in 2005. Increasingly, he sought to conjure up some of the atmosphere of the small cities that he and his wife, Carol, would visit in Italy, where the pleasure of wandering structure-lined byways was an attraction in itself. Mr. Field is survived by his wife, Carol, a novelist and cookbook author; his son, Matt, of San Francisco and daughter Alison of Chestnut Hill, Mass.; and three grandchildren.

Science sparks excitement for middle school investigators

Sat, 25 Feb 2017 22:51:59 UT

The range of topics ranged even wider — from the likes and dislikes of twins to the effect of cigarette butts on ocean acidification or whether people of different ages respond differently to shocks and if video games affect depth perception. “I would notice that after playing video games you feel dizzy,” said Catherine Ikeda, a seventh-grader at St. Brendan Parish School, explaining the catalyst for her project “2-D or Not To See,” which won a first-place ribbon. Santa Clara tech behemoth Intel has dropped its sponsorship of two high-profile science fairs, preferring to back hands-on maker fairs. President Trump has repeatedly claimed massive voter fraud in last November’s election despite an utter lack of evidence that any widespread fraud occurred. [...] the emphasis Saturday was a polite rebuttal to all that, with two large rooms in the zoo’s Lurie Education Center filled with tri-fold display boards showing that disciplined research can lead to demonstrable conclusions. “Some folks think science fairs are antiquated and outdated, and I totally disagree,” said Marcus Wojtkowiak of the Randall Museum, which is operated by the Recreation and Park Department and has sponsored the citywide fair for 35 years. By contrast, eighth-grader Lia Sanchez of Aptos Middle School pursued her line of inquiry with a camera, a stroboscope — and a prank pen that sends out electric shocks. To learn whether video games dull your depth perception immediately afterwards — they do — Ikeda needed 33 fellow students to test their depth perception on a home-made register, play “Minecraft” for three-minute stints, then take the test again.