Volume 42 Number 02

October 10 – October 16, 2007

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Rock Doc


Director Paul Rachman and writer Steven Blush collaborated on every aspect of American Hardcore — literally. “This is a two-person operation,” Blush explained as we settled into a booth at a downtown San Francisco restaurant, where the filmmakers (and passionate music fans) discussed their new documentary.
SFBG What drew you into the hardcore scene?
PAUL RACHMAN I was a college kid at Boston University in the early ’80s [when] I went to my first hardcore show at the Gallery East: Gang Green, the Freeze, and the FU’s. I’d never heard anything like it. It was dissonant, it was loud, and it was coming from 16-year-old angry kids. It just socked it to me, and I wanted more of this all the time. That’s what made me pick up a Super 8 camera and start shooting; it was the beginning for me in terms of both my introduction to hardcore and me becoming a filmmaker. Ever since those days I’ve never, ever done anything else.
STEVEN BLUSH Somewhere at the end of my freshman year [at George Washington University in Washington, DC], I saw Black Flag at Nightclub 9:30, right before Henry Rollins joined the band. It just wrecked my life. A decade later I realized how much the subculture affected me, as to who I am today — but I also realized that the history was totally lost. I just decided, DIY-style, to write a book. Around that time [when it came out], I ran into Paul again — we knew each other from the hardcore scene — and he broached the idea of making the film.
PR I instantly knew what the film should be. It needed to be this kind of visceral, first-person account — no narrator, no experts. Because hardcore didn’t have that. You didn’t listen to anybody. Nobody explained to you how to do anything. You didn’t want that around, and the film had to reflect that. So it was documentary in its rawest, purest form: let your subject tell its story. We shot 120 interviews and it was about culling the story out of that.
SFBG Were there any artists not in the film that you wish you could have included?
SB There’s two bands you will not see in American Hardcore: Dead Kennedys and the Misfits. With both bands there’s a real problem between the singer and the other band members. It was like, if you work with one, you couldn’t work with the other. We just had to bail out of that situation. Ultimately, this is the story of a culture. It’s the story of a scene and a community. There were no stars in hardcore. We wanted every single person — we did extend the offer to everybody. But at a certain point, if they don’t come through, you have to move on.
SFBG Do you hope that people who aren’t hardcore fans will see the movie, and what do you think they’ll take away from it?
SB American Hardcore is a rock film, but it’s really about youth culture. It’s a testament to the power of youth, about what you can achieve against all odds. Because these bands had nothing. They had no resources, no talent, no hot look. They had nothing to fall back on except their conviction. So it is kind of a clarion call to kids to say, you know, seize the moment. Take off the iPod. Log off MySpace and get with it. (Cheryl Eddy)
For an extended interview with Paul Rachman and Steven Blush, visit www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision.

Reagan youth regurgitated


› kimberly@sfbg.com
REVIEW Tired of those battered punk-rock veterans of the hardcore years? You know, the geezers rocking in their thrift-store easy chairs, wheezing, “You had to be there — those were the days. I saw Darby when …” before heading to the acupuncturist? Can you help it that you never saw Flag back before My War? That you never tasted the ostracism that the real punks experienced?
No — and those born too late, after the jocks took over the mosh pit, will be thankful that none of the aforementioned ’tude is present in this exhaustive but not exhausting documentary by Paul Rachman and Steven Blush. The filmmakers’ cred is impeccable (Rachman directed music videos for Bad Brains, and Blush wrote Feral House tome American Hardcore: A Tribal History, upon which the film is based), and their resilience (the two toiled in true DIY style for five years on this sprawling document) allows them to rise above Johnny-slams-lately poseur status. And as historians, journalists, and cat wranglers, they deserve the highest praise meted out to those hoping to encapsulate a fired-up, barely containable, and truly grassroots DIY movement: they get the story mostly right.
The filmmakers conducted more than 100 interviews with key players in the US hardcore scene (as well as sundry head-scratchers like, um, visual artist Matthew Barney). My, does it show. Getting essential punkers like Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye, Bad Brains’ HR, Circle Jerks’ Keith Morris, Cro-Mags’ Harley Flanagan, and Black Flag’s Henry Rollins to party with the camera and to tell their own stories was the best possible move the filmmakers could have made. Their subjects look back with all the intelligence, humor, honesty, urgency, and perhaps surprising to some, subtlety that made them form their own bands, book their own tours, and put out their own music in the first place.
Within the first half hour, Rachman and Blush do the important work of politically contextualizing the 1980–86 wave of hardcore, connecting the dots between the “mourning in America” election of Ronald Reagan; an era that only appeared to offer the alternate balms of disco decadence and shallow sitcom kicks; and the rise of a disgusted and less-than-heard generation that produced more songs, posters, and agitprop railing against a sitting president than the world has seen … until Dubya. Few other recent music docs have been as refreshingly clear-cut — and cutting — about their politics, a direct reaction to an ’80s marked, as one commentator puts it, by a ’50s-style return of the “white man’s order.” In a sense, American Hardcore will be an education not only for kids bred on MTV-appropriated mall punk but for baby boomers convinced of Generation X’s apathy; a far-from-mellowed Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith) offers, “If you’re looking for radicalism in the 1980s, you should look at hardcore.” The film also gives adequate shrift to the pressures that shaped and perhaps ultimately destroyed the genre — for instance, the TV news–making melees between punks and the Los Angeles Police Department — drawing the line from those clashes and band names like, natch, Millions of Dead Cops (MDC).
Bristling with the energy of its music, fans, and grainy shots of men yelling into mics at rec centers, Kiwanis clubs, and random bunkers-turned-venues throughout the country, American Hardcore abounds with great moments. Rachman and Blush rightfully focus on the nexus between DC and LA — Minor Threat–Bad Brains and Black Flag–Circle Jerks — giving Bad Brains in particular, and notably the few black faces in a wash of pasties, their genuine due and eyeballing that straight-outta-an-unwritten-great-American-novel, Apollonian-Dionysian odd couple, MacKaye and Rollins. Though one wishes the filmmakers had snagged more and better live footage, American Hardcore can still claim such incredible, illustrative instances as that of the graying Rollins complaining today of all the crap he’d catch from audiences as Black Flag’s frontperson (remember the halcyon days when being in a punk band meant getting loogied on?) followed by archival images of Rollins onstage getting repeatedly pummeled by an audience member before the vocalist finally loses it and starts wailing back a hundredfold.
But even as the filmmakers display a real affection for their subject, they resist getting too nostalgic. Rachman and Blush don’t pull punches when it comes to fingering the sexism and violence in the scene — and go as far as to name names. Yet the filmmakers talk to too few women and apart from Bad Brains, too few players or observers of color: perhaps there’s no skewing reality, but for a scene that’s this politicized, it looks pretty pale and male.
Perhaps revealing their native predispositions and personal connections, the pair also give the Boston and NYC scenes far too much emphasis and they pointedly neglect the flyover zones. Where are Minneapolis’s Hüsker Dü and Texas’s Big Boys? And while Rachman and Blush get brownie points for their cultural-anthropological leanings and quirky side stories, they eventually fall down on exploring the music itself, its permutations, and its impact outside the rec rooms: do we get any inkling, for instance, of the fact that hardcore started to seep into the MTV mainstream with bands like Suicidal Tendencies?
When the scene finally peters to a close in ’86, Rachman and Blush chalk it up to fickle fans moving on with the trends — wither hair bands? — and stalwarts like MacKaye wearying of the fisticuffs, but there’s just as valid a case to be made for the music changing and artists evolving, as they so often inconveniently do. Black Flag morphed toward heavier, sludgier metal, Bad Brains embraced tradder Rasta sounds, and MacKaye broke it down, post-punk-style, with Fugazi. But perhaps that’s for the next installment: American Hardcore: the Metal/Grunge Years. SFBG
Opens Fri/13 in Bay Area theaters

Breakfast with Dr. Bish


This weekend brings a major event: the rare return of Bruce Baillie — whose visions of San Francisco are just as brilliant and uncanny, if not as famous, as Alfred Hitchcock’s — to a movie screen in the city. Contemporary filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the director making the most revelatory commercial features today, cites Baillie as his favorite experimental filmmaker. Though Baillie primarily made short films, the philosophical rivers of beauty that run between their works are deep. The moment seemed more than right for a conversation between Baillie and filmmaker Michelle Silva, who helps run Canyon Cinema, one of the two organizations (along with SF Cinematheque) that Baillie founded. They got on the phone and let the tape roll. SFBG We’re recording. BRUCE BAILLIE How do they say that in the industry? SFBG “For quality assurance, we’re recording this conversation.” BB Well, for the recorder’s sake, I might be mumbling a little, because I’m still eating my second bowl of cereal. It’s the famous Dr. Bish’s elixir, which all filmmakers require. SFBG You’ve built a monumental body of cinema now housed in our Library of Congress. You’ve also founded two distinguished organizations, the avant-garde film distributor Canyon Cinema and the experimental film and video exhibitor San Francisco Cinematheque, which both began in your own backyard over 40 years ago. At the beginning, did you have any forethought about the significance of your work and the movement you would initiate? BB To give a generic response, probably not. People don’t operate that way generally. Adolf Hitler probably had a pretty grand idea at the beginning, but it was ill founded. Theater was always one of the bases. I was very taken by Balinese theater and Noh theater. Also [Jean] Cocteau’s admonishments that all theater must arise from local familiarity. We had all those ingredients there, almost like baking bread, and it did arise very nicely and warmly and simply. We had a theater in the woods with the neighbors coming over and putting up park benches. There was a big old willow tree by our house and conveniently, a hill behind that held the big surplus screen nicely. I always say to myself, “What is theater made of?” and it really is any collage collection of sticks and stones. It can be highly technical or it can be like the charred bones and the fire out in the desert of Mongolia. If it’s done with that kind of ancient mind-set, that kind of respect and adulation of the content — and also the Irish tradition of the manner of presentation — then you’re all right. It could be under the apple tree that I’m looking at now while we speak. I’m not too worried about all the modern stuff, aside from the problem of the way semiconscious people identify with the mere technology of it and become two-dimensional. Then you don’t have theater, you have President Bush at Harvard taking business administration. SFBG When I watch your films, such as Here I Am, the tightly framed faces reveal unconventional beauty. Could you talk about the people who do appear in your films? BB I will try … I’m going to have to wash the Bishery off my teeth. The only trouble with the Bish formula at breakfast is that it not only gives you thick ankles eventually if you keep eating it, but it’s also hard on the dentures or teeth. We don’t like to admit it on the labels. We have a big business shipping this stuff out of the house in a dehydrated form to all the filmmakers in the world. Especially in Asia, it’s very popular. We sent a batch to South Korea for a festival. I just got their booklet back, from a Dr. Kim. I didn’t realize she was such an esteemed colleague of the doctor here. Apparently the huge batch of dehydrated Bishery was rejected by most of the younger people there, who prefer their own diet, so they sent it up to North Korea. I don’t know what’s going to come of that. I might be able to save us from the bombs and everything they’re trying to throw over here. Anyway, avante, as my old friend would say — on to the question. There’s all kinds of references in our literature, especially, I suppose, in the holy works like the Gita and the writings of the Buddha, which run across the idea of direct perception. Just seeing. Or in the Bible, the Old Testament. Or the Tibetan teachings for the acolytes who were becoming monks and priests — they used to sit up above the road, maybe one at a time, and observe the faces coming up from the world below. For some reason, when most people take a camera in hand and click on a face, all they get is a two-dimensional representation. I don’t see why I’d wanna be satisfied by that. When you photograph, you photograph what is, not what is merely apparent or not. That’s the assignment, really, and it’s not completed and shouldn’t be exceptional. SFBG The spiritualism in your films, like Mass of the Dakota Sioux, Tung, and On Sundays, seems to be combined with a little bit of disdain for modern civilization. There’s that mixture. BB Well, there’s what Jesus called hatred of the world — which is something one might be able to teach his or herself along the way, to give up all the appearances and become one with the continuity of life flow itself. That’s a whole process. Some people, like myself, are born with a disdain, yes, for the world in that other sense. For example, my totem animal is a wolf, and I’ve never liked my neighbors. That’s a horrible thing, but I was born with that in my portfolio and I work with that every day. Some people really are very fond of going to the supermarket and the malls and are able to behave themselves when they’re buying a pair of shoes. Actually, whether they believe in it all or not doesn’t seem to come into any question, and overall it’s quite wonderful that they’re able to be not only very kind but loving with all of these comings and goings. To me, going to the aerodrome to pick up the Alaska Air number 387 is the most frightening kind of experience that anyone could have devised in purgatory. In my own case, since you’re asking me, this person, not someone else, about the images they project, the images are contaminated with not only a great universal love but at the same moment a great hatred for the goings on of worldly affairs and events and shapes and forms. So as I get into nature I find it less contaminated by man’s touch, but it’s also frightening in its own way, of course, with all the monsters at the edge of the world that are ready to devour you when you’re out on your sailboat in the Atlantic. And the tigers in the night and the ragings of the great beasties. SFBG In your work there will sometimes be a shot where the subject is the mist or the fog. Those two aspects cut together create a tension that has an emotional effect. How would you say your palette developed and matured over time? BB I lived my life with the camera and I deliberately took on nothing else. No family, which is the main thing one gives up to live that kind of life, and I lived en route, always on the move. Living in my car, just seeing and trying my best to get it through that little eyepiece, that little Bolex viewfinder — the first version, which was half the size of the later version. I can’t see through it anymore, it’s so small. There’s no reason at all to settle for anything less than a grand attempt at bringing back from the unknown what is there. The what is of this. Part of it can kind of humorously involve a practice that I used to throw out when I was teaching, that is, to learn to become invisible. I would line all my students up and say, “OK, everybody close their eyes,” and then I would run around the corner [laughs] and disappear. We’d go into it a little further, where I’d say, “What I really meant was we have to learn not to use the camera, just the way a policeman has to learn not to use his or her pistola.” It’s a weapon, a medium, that exists between self and other. One must become selfless, invisible, in order to relate to the other or vice versa. “When you meet the tiger on the trail, you become one with him instantly by your training so that there’s no fear.” Rather than ignorantly involving one’s self in confrontational relationships, one intelligently unifies the selfhood between the two appearances and it becomes one reality. That’s how you work with a Bolex. (Intro by Johnny Ray Huston; interview by Michelle Silva)

Subtle and sincere


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER Honestly, is sincerity back? And if not sincerity, then can we expect at least Bruce Springsteen, Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott, and that word-drunk, narrative-schwinging, Dylan–damaged breed of songwriter that you associate with a kind of East Coasty, epic rust belt, bar-band earnestness that freedom-rocked our worlds in the early ’80s? I know Bob Seger is back — please don’t make me listen to the new album.
You can be forgiven for assuming a J. Geils Band revival is schlumping right around the corner once you cock your vulnerable hearing aid to the Killers’ new album, Sam’s Town (Island). Am I the only one who thinks that someone at the label misread the memo and got the sponsor, whoops, the title wrong? “Sam’s Club” rolls off the tongue much more naturally. I mean, it’s pretty easy to read these songs — more Freddie Mercury and Bono than Bruce and John Cougar Mellencamp — as dispatches from some sorry rocker stuck deep in the aisles at a big-box discount retailer. “My List” — that’s gotta be about forgetting what you went in there for. “Why Do I Keep Counting?” doubtless involves bulk purchases of those butter horn megapacks. “For Reasons Unknown”: yeah, I also buy too much bargain toilet paper and then give half away to relatives — does anyone actually save money this way? “Bling (Confessions of a King)” — Sam’s Club isn’t just about pepperoni-pizza-flavored Combos, and hulking bottles of Motrin.
I don’t care what the Killers kids think — as ambitious and against type as it plays, Sam’s Town simply sucks. So I urge you, if you are truly in need of barfed-up visions of Dylan (and his more rocking imitators), to check out this year’s underacknowledged Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice opus, Second Attention (Kill Rock Stars). There is such a thing as being too prolific. Mr. Wand makes so much music that this one was easy to skip.
Another band of would-be rock gods from the all-boy school of Les Paul essentialism is the Hold Steady. Call me a girl, but I never got their shtick and just assumed they were snarky, annoyingly sarcastic smart-asses with prep-school blazers who were made to listen to too much anthem rock at an impressionable age. That is, until I actually saw them at CBGB’s during last year’s CMJ Music Marathon, playing their hearts out, looking like insurance adjusters taking their favorite Cheap Trick fast songs out for a spin.
Yup, it was one of those moments that make you punch the air with your fist, yell like a middle schooler, and pour beer over the guitarist’s Converse. Instantly, you reverted to the brain-dead, raving, ravaged die-hard rock ’n’ roll fan in full ear-bleed death roll — all you needed was a stingray to whip around and pierce you in the aorta so you could die happily, destroyed by the wilderness you’d always deep-down loved. Like an extremely famous TV crocodile hunter.
That performance — and maybe even the Hold Steady’s new Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant) — may be all that it takes to fluff your flaccid affection for stale Bruce Hornsby–style piano lines. Thus it was heartening to hear HS vocalist Craig Finn sounding so, er, out of it in the touring vehicle last week, stuck in traffic outside Atlanta. “Hopefully, I write about the highs and the hangovers,” he drawled. One KISS anecdote later and he was gone. Next up: Tad Kubler, who writes the band’s music.
Kubler assured me that HS have suffered — suffered Guided by Voices comparisons, thanks to the amount of spilled beer that drenches their stages. “Getting hurt onstage is definitely kind of a drag,” he offered. “I almost knocked myself out in Bowling Green, Ohio. Jumping over a railing, I caught my head on monitors that I didn’t see over the stage. Personal injury onstage is something we avoid, but if it’s for the art …”
SUBTLE TRANSITION The Bay Area geniuses of Subtle know all about personal injury — and they know it’s not worthwhile — despite the blatant excellence of their new full-length, For Hero: For Fool (Astralwerks). It’s “a distinctive blend of television, Monty Python, Galway Kinnell, and comic books,” as vocalist Adam “doseone” Drucker described it, also in Atlanta. The band manages to impress despite the fact that one of its core members, Dax Pierson, was seriously injured and paralyzed when Subtle’s van hit black ice while on tour last year.
Drucker began the band with Pierson and recalls starting the new album when Pierson got out of rehab: “The accident struck like lightning. It was the heaviest of times, so we turned around and worked on the record. One of the major motifs of the record is diving into whatever it is,” although, he adds, “we refrained from putting it on our sleeve and wearing it around all day.”
Pierson contributed some demos to the album but has been unable to tour — in fact, Drucker said last week Pierson returned to the hospital for a major operation to reinstall his medication pump. “It’s the main thing on his plate, to put it frankly,” explained Drucker, who added that Pierson has been making phenomenal music since the accident. As for performance, Pierson wants to be prepared when he returns to the stage, Drucker said, because he was “probably the greatest performer. He was a gangsta at it. When he wants to return to performance, he wants to kill it in the capacity he is in.” SFBG
Sat/14, 10 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455
Sun/15, 9 p.m.
Hemlock Tavern
1131 Polk, SF
(415) 923-0923
Tues/17, 8 p.m.
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF
(415) 885-0750

Change of heart


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS It still says Carl’s on the sidewalk in the doorway because that’s what it used to be, and the light from the big scripted Carl’s sign used to romanticize our windows. I was on the bottom (like I like it), and then Wayway lived upstairs from me, and Earl Butter lived on top of him. So anytime any of us looked out our windows, Guerrero and 18th, that was what we’d see: Carl’s.
Ten years later, Wayway, having circled around the Mission, is back on that corner, haunting my old apartment (or vice versa), and Earl Butter still lives up top. Carl’s is something else. The latter-day Missionaries line up around the corner weekend mornings, and their dogs bark, and their cars block people’s driveways, and horns blow, and the longtime residents of 18th and Guerrero wake up too early with hangovers and hate the world. Or at least the little section of it called Tartine. At least Earl Butter does.
I crash in his closet sometimes, and I see him in the morning looking out the window and shaking his fist or worse. Out of respect for Earl and Carl and the “good old days,” I refused for years to eat at Tartine.
Then this: I get an e-mail in response to something I wrote about unisex bathrooms being like bacon to me, and this cool-sounding woman with a cool-sounding name wants to point me to a cool-sounding Web page called PISSR (People in Search of Safe Restrooms). Cool. Oh, and by the way, while she’s at it, she wonders if I’m still looking for dates, and if so, would I happen to be at all interested in queer girls?
I wrote back and said, in effect, where do you eat and when do you want to go there?
Of the three places she mentioned, the only one I’d never been to was Tartine. So we made a plan — Monday, lunch — and that was the day I was cooking one of my chickens all day to say good-bye to my closest, dearest friend Carrie with. Remember?
Big dinner, four courses. So around 11 in the morning, well into Lucille Ball mode and covered in feathers, flour, and tears, I called my lunch date to cancel. First time we’d actually spoken, but before I could come to the point, I must have accidentally said something funny, because she laughed, and that was the end of it. I don’t know if you know this about your favorite chicken farmer, but whether it’s menfolk or the wimmins, the sexiest thing in the world to me is a good laugh. Know what I mean? You can have all your body parts. I want to hear what you laugh like.
She laughed like I like.
“I’m running a wee bit late,” I lied. (I was running a lot late.) “Can we push it back a bit?”
We could! We did, and I was halfway to the city before I realized I was still wearing my apron. At red lights, in the rearview mirror, I tried to make myself pretty, plucking my eyebrows and feathers, etc.
Now, out of necessity, I use the word “date” very loosely these days. Watch out! If you’re meeting me to return a book you borrowed, chances are I’m telling everyone I have a date. In this case, she’d used the word first, so even though it was a pressed sandwich to go, a short walk to Dolores Park, and sitting in the grass for an hour between cooking and more cooking, hell yeah, I was nervous.
Especially about the getting-the-sandwich part, because what if Earl Butter saw me? I had no doubt he would have opened his window and ruined everything. (He confirmed this later: he would have.)
My date was sitting on a bench out front, as planned, reading a Nancy Drew book. She was beautiful, the kind of beautiful that makes you want to run back home and take a longer bath (or in my case, a bath), put on different, cleaner clothes, do something about your hair, and read a lot more than you’ve read so that at least you might seem smart.
Too late for all that. Too late for any of it. I knew Earl Butter to be out gigging until three, and it was quarter till. We got our sandwiches, prosciutto and provolone and something ($8.25) for me, banana and something for her, and we escaped into the park.
So just like that, I have a new favorite restaurant. The sandwich — I’m serious — was awesome!
As for the date … oops, outta space. SFBG
Mon., 8 a.m.–7 p.m.; Tues.–Wed., 7:30 a.m.–7 p.m.; Thurs.–Fri., 7:30 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.–8 p.m.
600 Guerrero, SF
(415) 487-2600
Takeout available
Wheelchair accessible

The Michelin men


› paulr@sfbg.com
Although the Michelin guide is no worse an offender than Zagat as a distant judge of our restaurants — its offices are farther away, but only because the guide is French and cannot be blamed for the relative remoteness of France — there is nonetheless something galling about the colonialism of outsiders’ kiting in to assess us, then trumpeting their findings to the rest of the country and world as authority.
Zagat relies on a vox populi method, actually: its surveys reflect the views of hundreds of locals. Michelin, on the other hand, uses “inspectors” — none of them, we hope, named Clouseau — to provide “objective evaluations” of eating establishments’ kitchen performance, including the “personality” of the cuisine under review. Hmmm. Could it be that “objective” is just ever so slightly subjective? Is there any other way to talk honestly about food?
Last week Michelin brought out its first-ever evaluation of restaurants in San Francisco and Northern California. As in France, Michelin awards us stars for jobs to a greater or lesser degree well done. (Seinfeld’s sonorous dandy Mr. Peterman to Elaine, after deposing her as president of his mail-order clothing company: “And thank you, Elaine, for a job … done.”) We do not seem to merit the subtleties of half stars, but we are graced by the presence of a three-star establishment, and that is Thomas Keller’s the French Laundry, in Yountville.
I cannot say I found this judgment stunning. In fact, there could scarcely have been a less newsworthy bit of news. Somewhat more interesting was the guide’s granting of two stars to Aqua and Michael Mina while a host of other worthy — and, one would have thought, comparable — places, including Gary Danko, the Ritz-Carlton’s Dining Room, and Chez Panisse, must make do with one. Two-star places are supposed to be “worth a detour,” while one-starrers are merely “very good” in their categories, with “cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.”
Implicit in all this is Michelin’s bias toward inventiveness and innovation — “personality,” if you will, or perhaps “tinkering.” It is not unexpected, in this sense, that les inspectors would not fully grasp the meaning and fineness of a place like Chez Panisse, whose very philosophies — of cooking, of agriculture, of living richly but wisely on this fragile earth — emphasize ingredients, even make stars of them.

Charm latitudes


› paulr@sfbg.com
Presidents are so seldom intentionally funny that when a genuine wit makes it to the Oval Office, we (the people!) tend to notice and remember. As a quipster, John F. Kennedy is without peer in modern times, and while his crack that Washington, DC, is “a city of Northern charm and Southern efficiency” might not be his best line, it’s still a pretty good one — not to mention useful for certain latter-day restaurant writers, who admire the deftly phrased paradox while being perennially fascinated by the truth embedded in it. Whether in the New World or the Old, we tend to think of the north as the home of efficiency and practicality, the south of beauty and sensuality, and can ever the twain meet without some sort of Death in Venice disaster?
Kennedy described himself as “the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris” — another excellent line — so we know he traveled to France. Did he notice, when there, that France might be the one place on earth where the twain could indeed be said happily to meet — that France is simultaneously a northern land of clean cities, fast trains, and a more or less honest bureaucracy and also a Mediterranean realm on easy terms with life’s sunlit pleasures? If so, he has left us no witticism to announce the fact. But I think he would have warmed to Cafe Claude, which isn’t in Paris but feels as if it is, on some lane in the Marais too narrow even for Europe’s ubiquitous Smart Cars.
Here the lane is Claude Lane, a brief segment of asphalt lined by tall glassy buildings that rise in the complex borderland of Union Square, Chinatown, and the Financial District. Nearby Belden Lane, paved with bricks and lined from one end to the other with cafés, trattorias, and fish houses, is better known as a Euro-style restaurant row, but the basic principle is the same, as is the strollable, alfresco feel. The city seems less encroaching in these places, and that is largely because cars are unable to speed through.
Cafe Claude opened more than 15 years ago, so teething and shake-down issues belong to the deep past. The more pertinent question for a place of this age is whether it manages to be both polished and self-renewing or whether senescence has set in. In Café Claude’s case, the answer is pretty clear: it’s in its prime, lively and well run, with food of the urban-earthy sort — rustic dishes prepared with soupçons of metropolitan flash — so characteristic of a certain stratum of Paris restaurants.
For many people, the ultimate treat in French bistros is a plate of steak frites. For me, it is roast chicken ($12.50), a leg and thigh slow-cooked to a gold-dripping tenderness and served with a bright mix of chard, lemon slices, and black olives adrift in the jus. Fries go quite as well with roast chicken as with beef, but at Claude you have to order them on the side ($4, plenty for two). They are sprinkled with herbs and served with a “sauce piquant,” a kind of paprika-enhanced sauce gribiche, lumpy with stubs of cornichons.
The duck rillette ($5) situates a petite slice of meaty pâté, about the size of a brownie, in a vast nest of greens. If shared by two people, the dish is like a charcuterie version of an Easter egg hunt, with the spoils consisting of a single egg. It is best to think of the rillette as a tasting experience: a burst or two of flavor, then on to something weightier, such as that excellent blast from the past, coquilles St. Jacques ($11). Here we have a trio of sea scallops on the half shell bundled with shrimp, mussels, and mushrooms and sealed, oysters Rockefeller–style, under a broiled cap of Gruyère and bread crumbs. The presentation is simple but impressive, and there is a definite unwrapping-a-present pleasure in cracking through the cap to the glistening treasures within.
Weightier still is lamb confit ($23), two rounds of lamb loin braised to pot-roast tenderness and served atop shreds of green cabbage dotted with black olives and bits of red bell pepper. Lamb fat can get pungent if heated, and I had a worry or two beforehand that lamb cooked in lamb fat would be a little too gamy, but the dinnertime kitchen (under chef Leo Salazar) succeeded in discreetly hitting the mute button, with the result a nice lamby — but not too lamby — flavor.
Complaints: the roast-carrot soup ($7), with a submerged reef of Emmentaler gratings, was tongue-searingly hot. A napoleon ($12) of sliced tomatoes and tabs of feta cheese was underseasoned, though the heirloom tomatoes were gloriously ripe. A pan bagnat ($10) featured a smear of tuna salad apparently made from ordinary canned tuna.
But all this was forgiven and then some when the list of digestifs was found to include Armagnac. Armagnac! A snifter for $8 — not bad. Could this be the next big thing? I sippingly pondered that question while the clafouti monster across the table dove into a griotte cherry version ($7) — eggy, I thought (upon a sample or two), but attractively so and baked in a handsome dish of white porcelain.
Cafe Claude must be one of the nicest spots in town to eat outside. There is less tumult and wind than on Belden, and while conventional wisdom teaches that the alfresco season is fleeting in this land of pampered softies, we must remember that the French have a different view: Parisians will take their coffee at sidewalk cafés even with snowflakes twirling softly down around them. So there is northern charm after all. SFBG

Continuous service: Mon.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Dinner: Sun., 5:30–10:30 p.m.
7 Claude Lane, SF
(415) 392-3515
Full bar
Wheelchair accessible



› annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION About 18 people were gathered in the San Francisco offices of Urban Mapping, a company whose mild-mannered founder, Ian White, described their business model to me as “selling polygons.” Instantly, I felt at home. I was among the geowankers, a group of high-tech map enthusiasts whose areas of expertise range from making customizable Web maps (often built out of polygons) and geolocation software to map-based online storytelling and handheld devices that provide information about your environment as you walk through it. Imagine getting a tour of the Mission neighborhood via your smart phone, which pops up information about who painted the cool murals you’re looking at in Clarion Alley, as well as which cafés are in the immediate area. Now imagine using that same phone to upload pictures you’ve taken of the cappuccino at Ritual to your blog, complete with a map showing the exact GPS coordinates of this excellent cafe. If anyone is going to invent that device, it’s going to be a geowanker.
All of us had heard about this meeting via the geowanking e-mail list, founded by überdork Joshua Schachter, where map geeks of all stripes have been engaging in banter and mad science for more than three years. Tonight was the inaugural San Francisco geowankers meeting, and it was the first time many of us had had a chance to meet each other in person. The evening was to be an informal eat-and-chat, with presentations from Rich Gibson, coauthor of the astonishing Mapping Hacks, and Mike Liebhold, a brainiac from the Institute for the Future who said (only half-jokingly) that he wants to invent a “tricorder for planet earth.”
Gibson told us that he’s currently thinking about how to use technology to deal with the “probability characteristics of space.” In other words, how do you create an accurate high-tech map that reflects the fact that a given geographical location has a high probability of being referred to as “the Mission,” but at least 10 percent of the time might be referred to as “Noe Valley”?
This kind of question might sound silly if you look at neighborhoods purely as the creation of real estate companies that have rigid ideas about where the Mission ends and Noe Valley begins. But geowanking is all about making maps democratic and creating representations of space that reflect ordinary people’s lived experiences. The idea of letting a real estate agency call the shots on where your neighborhood’s boundaries are is absurd to a geowanker. Why not just build a digital map in layers so that you can see the real-estate-defined neighborhoods, then click into another layer that shows what ordinary people on the street think are the boundaries, then move to another layer to see where all the rivers run underneath the city?
Liebhold pointed out that as more and more people start creating their own maps and putting them online, we’re going to need to invent a system where we know which maps are “trusted” and which are just somebody rambling about how there are many paths to Blue Bottle Coffee from the Haight. Everybody began specuutf8g about a not-so-distant future when you’ll subscribe to somebody’s map data the way you might subscribe to an RSS feed (and in fact, thanks to smarty-pants Mikel Maron and pals, there is a geoRSS format). Some feeds would be trusted and some wouldn’t.
Then we got sidetracked by potential problems. What happens when the map democratization process goes nuts and so many people are tagging places on digital map services that the spatial data is a mess? And what about map spam, where people buy ads on (for example) Google Maps and suddenly your nice map of the Mission is covered with flags advertising Wells Fargo ATMs and places to buy Bud?
When the conversation wound down, we broke for wine and cookies. I got a chance to chat with Anselm Hook, the hacker who prototyped build-your-own-map service Platial.com. Platial is a mashup of Google Maps and allows you build and store customized maps that you share with friends (try it — it’s insanely addictive). Hook said his newest obsession is trying to create maps with “near-instantaneous information,” kind of like instant messaging and Google Maps rolled into one. “Imagine saying to somebody online, ‘I’m here, what should I do?’ and getting an instant reply with a map,” he enthused. “That’s what I want.”
At last it was time to go, and I headed out into the South of Market area, wishing I had Anselm’s device so I could find a local restaurant and wondering what the probability might be that somebody else would call this neighborhood Mission Bay. SFBG
Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who became a geowanker because she’s always getting lost.

Dizzy spell


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com
Dear Andrea:
You’ve written occasionally about infatuation, but is it really such a bad thing? I mean, is it meaningless? When it wears off, what happens next?
I know it when I feel it. It has driven even logical, structure-loving me to be romantic and well, loopy. But isn’t it based on genuine attraction? Is it something to be wary of?
The object of my desire lives far away, and infrequent visits keep the natural relationship progression at bay. It’s always exciting to see each other, and many of the normal daily annoyances and issues of relationships don’t arise.
Here’s the rub though: while I’m convinced I’m in love and confident in his feelings as well, I fear that making huge decisions and life changes (he’s thinking about selling his house, for instance) may be rash and based on infatuation.
Cloud Head
Dear Head:
I have written about infatuation, yes, but never without mentioning the word’s etymology, which never fails to charm me, if not as deeply and enduringly as I am charmed by the source of bugger, which is a corruption of Bulgarian, or herpes, which shares a root with herpetology, the study of reptiles, or “things that creep.” Infatuation, of course, means “to make foolish,” and shares a root with fatuous. Aren’t you glad you asked? What? You didn’t ask?
I don’t know what definition your psych 101 teacher gave. I’ll assume that you’re thinking of infatuation as the dizzy, dopey first flush of attraction which has no time for those aspects of love which take time, by which I don’t mean marriage and baby carriage as much as putting the other person’s needs and comfort first, or at least on a level with one’s own, and being made happy by the other’s happiness plus trust, commitment, and mutual support. These latter qualities get something of a bad rap — they’re the nice, dull things you earn in compensation for the sexy, shiny part wearing off — but of course they are no such thing. You can have trust, commitment, and an investment in each other’s happiness and still want to see each other nekkid.
Neither of these is to be confused with limerence, a word that did not exist until the ’70s, when a psychologist, Dorothy Tennov, saw fit to coin it. Unlike infatuation and herpes, limerence shares a root with exactly nothing. It’s rather a lovely sound, though, and seems fitting for that transcendent sensation, that sense that since you and your limerent object met or connected, the world has been utterly transformed. Surely others can see it! If they can’t see it, it’s only because they’re not as sensitive as you are. They could never understand the exquisite torture that is your special, special love.
Limerence is not love, it’s “being in love” (without infatuation’s connotations of foolishness and brevity): the intrusive thoughts to the point of obsession, the feeling of walking on air, the mad longing, the way that every touch, every word, every glance from the beloved is imbued with meaning, and the palpable pain (heartache) of separation or lack of reciprocity. Without limerence all popular music would be either “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or “Kill You,” nothing in-between. The Rodgers and Hart song “This Can’t Be Love,” which is has been playing in my head since the XM radio in the kids’ room got stuck on the show tunes station, ought to have been called “This Can’t Be Limerence,” but it just doesn’t scan as well:
This can’t be love, because I feel so well,
No sobs, no sorrows, no sighs.
This can’t be love; I get no dizzy spells,
My head is not in the skies.
My heart does not stand still, just hear it beat.
This is too sweet to be love.
Limerence does not become love as much as it can leave you and the limerent object ideally positioned to find love together. You ask, is this really love or merely infatuation? I answer, it’s limerence, and better yet, requited limerence; enjoy it. You ask, “But is the attraction real?” and I say, of course it’s real. Limerence causes a certain type of temporary insanity but you still know what you feel. And finally, should the two of you throw all caution and real estate to the wind and throw in together, despite not really knowing each other that well? Um. This is pretty wishy-washy (limerence is never wishy-washy), but … sort of? How about you wait a year? How about traveling together a little first? Sharing a vacation house? Those situations are not real life but they do involve real stressors. I’d agree that this can’t be love but I won’t say it can’t get there. Let him see you without make-up. Find out what he’s like when you’re lost and hot and cranky on a road trip. Head in the clouds? Easy. How about shaving scum in the sink?
Andrea Nemerson has spent the last 14 years as a sex educator and an instructor of sex educators. In her previous life she was a prop designer. And she just gave birth to twins, so she’s one bad mother of a sex adviser. Visit www.altsexcolumn.com to view her previous columns.



› deborah@sfbg.com
There’s something about the infectious confidence of do-it-yourselfers that makes me feel like I can learn to build my own space rocket in the blink of an eye.
That’s definitely the vibe I got when I pedaled up to the BioFuel Oasis in West Berkeley’s light industrial district and met with three of the six women who run the worker-owned cooperative, which is doing so well it’s in the market for new digs.
After pulling off the blue coveralls she wore for a Guardian photo shoot and quickly returning to a project she had going on the computer, Melissa Hardy tells me, “It’s not that hard to work on the fuel delivery system of a car…. Let me just demystify that for you.” Folks who haven’t ventured under their own hood much may be put off knowing that the fuel filter and lines of their trusty old Mercedes-Benz could need changing if they make the switch to biodiesel, but Hardy likens these tasks to changing the tire on a bicycle.
Hardy met the women of BioFuel Oasis in the Berkeley Biodiesel Collective (www.berkeleybiodiesel.org), a group that promotes the use and creation of alternative energy through educational seminars. Before getting into biodiesel, Jennifer Radtke brewed her own wine and Gretchen Zimmermann always enjoyed tinkering with cars. They learned to make their own biodiesel while with the collective. Radtke then started BioFuel with SaraHope Smith, who no longer works with the group, in December 2003.
Thanks to them, diesel car owners can go to the BioFuel facilities garage and fill up on recycled oils processed from the greasy waste of a potato chip factory. At $3.70 per gallon, that’s more than the falling diesel prices, currently $2.83 per gallon in California, but biodiesel drivers still get pretty good mileage — about 8 percent less than when they use regular diesel fuel — and they won’t be contributing to asthma in children.
One reason the price is so high is lack of supply. After filling up his Mercedes 1980 240D and three five-gallon tubs for $113.40, customer Ryan Lamberg, who works with Community Fuels, a company in the process of building a biodiesel refinery, points out that the price can come down as more local farmers turn to growing feedstock crops.
As Radtke explains, the collective has “a commitment to selling biodiesel from recycled vegetable oil, because it is the most sustainable feedstock.”
Though veggie oil has less than half the carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gas emissions of diesel fuel, it does release more nitrogen oxides than other fuels. Perhaps in recognition of this downside, the collective has been running a series of events called “Driving Still Sucks,” which encourages people to continue to walk, bike, and bus.
“We think biodiesel is a transitional solution — not the answer,” Radtke says.
Still, the group believes in its mission to provide an alternative fuel in an alternative way to meet the demands of green-minded Bay Area residents — not to mention Willie Nelson, who stops by to fill up every time he passes through town.
“We’re busting at the seams,” Hardy says. The collective currently is seeking a new, larger space to serve the 1,600-plus customers signed up with the co-op. “We want to create a place that isn’t just a pump and run but more of a crossroads or meeting place, like a natural food store,” Radtke says. SFBG
2465 Fourth St., Berk.
(510) 665-5509

Defeating Pombo


EDITORIAL One of the half-dozen worst members of the United States Congress represents a district less than 50 miles from San Francisco. Republican Richard Pombo of Tracy chairs the House Resources Committee and has used that post to attempt to eliminate the Endangered Species Act and gut a long list of environmental regulations. He’s been an ally of Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff. He’s rabidly antichoice. And if the Republicans keep control of the House, he will become even more powerful.
A few months ago, his seat seemed fairly safe: Pete McCloskey, a liberal Republican, challenged him in the primary but didn’t even come close to defeating Pombo. His Democratic challenger, energy consultant Jerry McNerney, was way behind in fundraising and the national Democratic Party wasn’t exactly targeting this as a competitive seat.
But times change quickly, and right now some polls (although admittedly ones taken by McNerney and his allies) show the race close enough that an upset is entirely possible. The GOP is clearly worried and has poured half a million dollars into Pombo’s campaign. McNerney’s now on the national radar; retired general Wesley Clark came out to endorse him, and there’s Democratic Party money flowing in too. But he’s still behind Pombo, and resources may turn out to be a key factor in the final weeks.
McNerney isn’t a San Francisco liberal by any stretch (he’s even been a consultant to Pacific Gas and Electric Co., albeit on alternative energy). But he’s radically better than Pombo: he’s pro-choice and pro-labor, and as someone whose career is in the wind power business, he’s got a real understanding of energy and environmental issues.
We support McNerney, and we’re more than happy to endorse him, even though he’s outside the area for which we usually issue recommendations. But for San Francisco and central East Bay residents, whose Democratic congressional representatives face no real opposition, this may be a place to put some money and political energy: McNerney is holding an SF fundraiser, and his campaign is looking for volunteer help. Defeating Pombo would be a huge coup and might be one of the most effective ways for local folks to help Democrats take back the House. SFBG
McNerney’s fundraiser is Oct. 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Delancey Street, 600 Embarcadero, SF. Info: (925) 556-7077.

Same-sex marriage: On to the Supreme Court


EDITORIAL It’s hard to take the California Courts of Appeal decision on same-sex marriage seriously. It reads like some sort of joke, the product of a bad old mind-set that this country put behind it almost 40 years ago when the US Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage. It’s worse though: the court, by a 2–1 decision, seems to imply that gay and lesbian people don’t have the same fundamental legal rights as everyone else, that discrimination against them doesn’t need to be viewed with strict legal scrutiny.
Hiding behind the absurd notion that the court would be usurping the role of the legislature by finding that it’s unconstitutional to outlaw same-sex marriage, Justices William R. McGuiness and Joanne C. Parrilli overturned a landmark ruling by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer and set the stage for what has to be a full debate before the state Supreme Court.
On many, many levels, this is the defining civil rights issue of our era — and the state’s highest court must agree to take the case and overturn this embarrassingly misguided decision.
The court goes out of its way to try to sound sympathetic to gay and lesbian couples, acknowledging in its ruling that social standards are changing and that “gay and lesbian couples can — and do — form committed, lasting relationships that compare favorably with any traditional marriage.” But the two judges in the majority argue that the state legislature hasn’t legalized same-sex marriage, so there’s nothing the courts can do.
That, of course, is nonsense and flies in the face of centuries of American legal jurisprudence (and most recently, of the well-reasoned decision by Judge Kramer). The Virginia legislature had explicitly refused to legalize marriage between people of different races when the Loving case came before the US Supreme Court in 1967; the court ruled, quite properly, that the so-called antimiscegenation laws by their very nature deprived people of a fundamental constitutional right. The right to an abortion was never established by Congress; the Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that the constitutional right to privacy protected the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy. The list goes on and on: when courts find that state and federal legislators have acted in a way that undermines basic legal rights, they often wind up enshrining in law rules that were never put to a majority vote.
Besides, let’s remember: the state legislature did take up this issue and passed a bill — which the governor vetoed, saying he was leaving the issue to the courts.
Justice J. Anthony Kline, the lone dissenting voice, put it very nicely: “To say that the inalienable right to marry the person of one’s choice is not a fundamental constitutional right, and may therefore be restricted by the state without a showing of compelling need, is a terrible backward step…. Ignoring the qualities attached to marriage by the Supreme Court, and defining it instead by who it excludes, demeans the institution of marriage and diminishes the humanity of the gay men and lesbians who wish to marry a loved one of their choice.”
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera will, of course, appeal this decision to the state Supreme Court, where everyone has assumed it was heading anyway. But there’s a danger here: the high court could duck the entire issue, more or less, by simply declining to hear the case and letting the appeals court decision stand. That would be a tragedy. Everyone involved on all sides agrees that this is a huge issue, both legally and politically, and two appellate judges on a sharply divided three-judge panel simply can’t be allowed to hold the last word.
We urge the Supreme Court to take the case. So should every Democratic (and decent-minded Republican) politician running for office this fall, starting with Jerry Brown, the leading candidate for attorney general.
The ultimate outcome of the debate over same-sex marriage isn’t in doubt. A few years from now — 5, 10, 15, 20 — the bigots will have lost their hold on politics and same-sex marriage will be as widely accepted as interracial marriage is today. California can either be a national leader in this progressive cause — or suffer the shame and embarrassment of being a state where the highest court enshrined unconscionable and indefensible discrimination into its constitution. SFBG
The appeals court decision and Justice Kline’s dissent can be viewed at www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A110449.DOC.



› tredmond@sfbg.com
I get a little nervous when I hear prominent Democratic leaders talking about how important it is to elect John Garamendi lieutenant governor. Republican Tom McClintock, his ugly-right Republican foe, is such bad news that he must be stopped; the checkbooks need to come out and the boots need to hit the ground.
I don’t disagree on one level — but the prospect of a bad lieutenant governor isn’t by any means the scariest thing that could happen in November. In fact, the prospect of another four years of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t the scariest thing. That designation is reserved for Proposition 90.
And the situation with Prop. 90 is pretty damn scary.
This is a measure that would effectively end the ability of state and local government to regulate business. It would prevent any new law reguutf8g rents or condo conversion. It would halt most new zoning (and would allow developers to build almost anything they want in Southeast San Francisco). It’s awful, awful, awful.
And right now, it’s way ahead in the polls.
There’s a reason for that: the right-wing backers have carefully hidden the worst of the measure behind language about halting the abuses of eminent domain. If you ask California voters whether the government should be able to seize someone’s house to hand it over to a private developer who wants to build a Wal-Mart, 90 percent of them will say no. And if we hit Nov. 7 and the majority of the electorate thinks of this proposition as a way to protect homeowners, it’s going to pass.
The No on 90 message is a bit more complicated. That’s the problem with this sort of Trojan horse initiative — it’s hard to explain why it’s bad in a 30-second sound bite. But it’s possible: every single public safety group in the state (cops, firefighters, etc.) is against it, as is every major environmental group and some of the big taxpayer-rights groups, who say it will cost the public a fortune and lead to bogus lawsuits.
Explain it right and the voters will get it — but in California, that’s a very expensive proposition.
The airwaves are choked with political TV ads right now. Schwarzenegger and Phil Angelides are beating each other up, the tobacco companies and the health industry are battling over the cigarette tax (Proposition 86), the oil companies and environmentalists are going at it over Proposition 87 — and needless to say, with all the numerical alphabet soup, the public’s attention is a bit scattered.
Without a really big splash in the next few weeks, it will be hard for No on 90 to be heard above the din.
The campaign isn’t by any means floundering. The two main No on 90 committees have raised more than $3 million and have about half of that still in the bank. But $1.5 million isn’t going to be enough to make the case in a huge state where TV time is really expensive.
Most of the money right now comes from political action committees controlled by the League of California Cities, the State Association of Counties, and a few well-heeled businesses. But everyone needs to step up here; all these Democrats who have big stashes of money (Carole Migden, John Burton, etc.) need to get on the stick before we run out of time. SFBG

A real war on crime


OPINION Once again, with their backs against the wall, Republicans are attempting to stave off political defeat in November by playing to Americans’ fears about safety and security. Central to the conservative playbook for years has been the lie that progressives cannot keep our communities safe.
The reality is that the current, shortsighted approach to public safety, which touts punishment without rehabilitation, has been a failure. One of the starkest examples is the crisis in California’s prison and parole system — and every day that crisis comes home to San Francisco. Thousands of people are being released from behind bars with no plans and few skills or opportunities. More than 1,500 parolees are living in San Francisco at any given time, and thousands more are being released from county jail every year. Of the estimated 125,000 California prisoners who will be released this year, three out of four will end up back in prison by 2009. California has the highest recidivism rate in the country.
Behind every rearrest is a new crime, often with a new victim. Taxpayers also foot the bill — to the tune of more than $34,000 a year for each person who ends up back in prison.
It’s time for a change. We can no longer accept the fact that three out of four former prisoners will be back behind bars within three years. In this progressive city, we are committed to working together to break that cycle of recidivism by channeling former prisoners into productive lives. These programs must target the crucial process of what’s called “reentry,” the release of individuals from state prison or county jails back into their families and neighborhoods.
Two weeks ago, more than 200 reentry experts and service providers, along with government and criminal justice agencies, gathered for the city’s first-ever Reentry Summit. This past year, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi sponsored a $1.2 million budget allocation to support new reentry programs. We’ve also spearheaded the San Francisco Reentry Coordinating Council, bringing together members from the business sector, labor, key city agencies, the clergy, and community organizations.
Members of the council have pioneered concrete reentry programs that are delivering results. District Attorney Kamala Harris has created a new accountability and workforce reentry initiative for drug offenders called Back on Track. Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s Clean Slate program provides community-education services and programs to clear criminal records to nearly 2,500 people a year. Sheriff Mike Hennessey is poised to open the Women’s Reentry Center, which will provide direct practical support services to women coming out of jail and prison.
While the city is more than doing its part at a local level to address this issue, we cannot do it alone. It is time for the state to own up to its responsibility for rehabilitating parolees and probationers and ensuring their successful return home. With a detailed, sustained, statewide reentry effort, we can guide former prisoners away from crime, reduce corrections costs, and keep our neighborhoods safe. SFBG
Kamala D. Harris, Jeff Adachi, Ross Mirkarimi, and Michael Hennessey
The writers are, respectively, the district attorney, public defender, District 5 supervisor, and sheriff of San Francisco.

Buried treasure


› gwschulz@sfbg.com
Despite the fast-moving urban centers that surround it on each side of the San Francisco Bay, not much about Treasure Island has changed since it was shut down as a United States naval station 10 years ago.
After the feds ceased operations on the island and at several other military installations in the mid-’90s, the idea was to give the land to local governments for redevelopment to fill the economic void of losing active bases. Since then, several plans for Treasure Island have been floated with great fanfare in the press, but all have become mired in the infamously contentious development politics of San Francisco.
Late last month, after three years of deadline extensions, the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) finally received a full-blown plan from the developer — a partnership between Lennar Corp., Wilson Meany Sullivan, and Treasure Island Community Development — that was given exclusive negotiating rights over the land three years ago.
The $1.2 billion redevelopment plan must now run a gauntlet of state and local approval, including consideration from the Board of Supervisors, which is expected to hold hearings and debate the plan by the end of the year. It isn’t likely that construction will begin on the island for at least a couple more years.
The latest proposal anticipates about 6,000 new homes, 1,800 of which will be targeted to low-income residents, including 750 units for households earning no more than 60 percent of San Francisco’s median income and 440 built as part of a program for the homeless. Plans include town houses, single-family homes, and high-rise residential towers, although at least half the properties will be limited to 65 feet in height.
Right now the island contains about 800 occupied units, over half of which are market-rate leases with the John Stewart Co., while about 200 are operated under the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative. By the time the project is done, according to the newest plan, the island’s population is expected to balloon to around 10,000 residents, plus around 3,000 new workers necessary to maintain the minicity.
Some of the existing housing stock will be demolished, or as the plan calls it, “reconstructed.” Current residents will have an option to move into the new units or be placed in a lottery if demand for certain types of units outstrips the supply. The plan calls for about 27 percent of the overall planned housing units to be rentals.
Private automobile use would be regulated by metering ramp access to the island during peak commute hours; assessing possible congestion fees for driving on the island; limiting residential parking; and emphasizing thruways that promote walking, bicycling, and public transit.
Much of the development is slated for the west side of the island — with its breathtaking and profitable views of the city — near an existing ferry terminal that would provide access to the city all day long.
Treading lightly, Sup. Chris Daly, whose District 6 includes the island, said he supports the environmental and housing components so far, but if existing island residents mount significant opposition for any reason, he’d consider opposing the plan.
“You don’t know how clean something is until you take it out of the wash, and they’re just now starting to throw it in,” Daly told the Guardian.
Rob Black, Daly’s main challenger in the upcoming election, lives on Treasure Island. He was similarly cautious. “I think people have finally begun to think in a more progressive way about making this a more sustainable neighborhood,” Black told us. “Past plans have been so poorly put together.”
On the local level, the plan must be approved in the coming months by both the TIDA board and the Board of Supervisors. After that, it will undergo an extensive environmental impact review by the city’s planning department before returning to the board for final local approval.
The developer and the TIDA board — which is composed entirely of mayoral appointees, three of whom work directly for Mayor Gavin Newsom — must still overcome other major hurdles as well, including the fact that the Navy hasn’t turned over any of the land yet and likely won’t without major concessions.
The Bush administration has stalled the transfer, pushing for some payment before giving up valuable federal land. One tentative option is to relieve the Navy of about $45 million in environmental cleanup costs for which it is currently responsible. Those costs would then be borne by the redevelopment plan and the developer, which has already pledged $26 million for remediation. The land became contaminated in part after decades of military activity that included emergency drills with radioactive materials.
David Rist, a project manager for the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is overseeing the cleanup, said that while there is some contamination where residents are living today, it doesn’t pose an immediate threat to human health. Identified contaminants include dioxin, lead, and PCBs. Rist told us the cleanup, regardless of who ends up paying for it, will be “significantly done in the next two and a half years.”
After mulling over ideas, TIDA finally brokered an exclusive deal in 2003 with a company incorporated as Treasure Island Community Development, a group of Democratic Party heavyweights with deep links to the current and former mayoral administrations and other top elected Democrats.
Jay Wallace, a project planner for Treasure Island Community Development, said the plan’s mammoth size and uniqueness have required considerable and time-consuming attention to specifics. Investors anticipate spending $500 million of their own money, but they’re looking to earn upward of $125 million in profits, according to the plan.
The remaining cost of about $760 million for infrastructure, open space, and transportation system improvements could be covered largely by tax increment financing from the redevelopment area and Mello Roos bonds, both of which would essentially be funded by future property taxes, according to the latest term sheet.
Wallace told the Guardian that his group “has worked in good faith and transparency throughout this project, with over 150 public meetings before reaching this milestone and presenting this plan to the city.”
Daly said that while “there are going to be a hundred issues that need to be worked out,” the green-meets-affordable-housing theme “is the right proposal for San Francisco.”
“Political connections to the Newsom juggernaut notwithstanding, these guys are politically savvy enough to know what’s wise and what isn’t,” he said. “On the actual merits of the proposal, it’s palatable if you’re OK with the concept of high-rises in the middle of the bay.” SFBG

East Bay races and measures


Editor’s note: The following story has been altered from the original to correct an error. We had originally identified Courtney Ruby as running for Alameda County Auditor; the office is actually Oakland City Auditor.

Oakland City Auditor
Incumbent Roland Smith has to go. He’s been accused of harassing and verbally abusing his staff and using audits as a political weapon against his enemies. The county supervisors have had to reassign his staff to keep him from making further trouble. And yet somehow he survived the primary with 32 percent of the vote, putting him in a November runoff against Courtney Ruby, who led the field with 37 percent. Ruby, an experienced financial analyst, would bring some credibility back to the office.
Peralta Community College Board, District 7
Challenger Abel Guillen has extensive knowledge of public school financing and a proven commitment to consensus building and government accountability. In the last six years Guillen, who was raised in a working-class community and was the first in his family to go to college, has raised $2.2 billion in bond money to construct and repair facilities in school districts and at community colleges. Incumbent Alona Clifton has been accused of not being responsive to teachers’ concerns about the board’s spending priorities and openness.
Berkeley mayor
This race has progressives tearing at each other’s throats, particularly since they spent a ton of cash last time around to oust former mayor Shirley Dean and replace her with Tom Bates, who used to be known as a reliable progressive voice.
Bates’s reputation has shifted since he became mayor, and his record is a mixed bag. This time around, he stands accused of setting up a shadow government (via task forces that duplicate existing commissions but don’t include enough community representatives), of giving developers too many special favors instead of fighting for more community benefits, and of increasingly siding with conservative and pro-landlord city council member Gordon Wozniak.
The problem is that none of Bates’s opponents look like they would be effective as mayor. So lacking any credible alternative, we’ll go with Bates.
Berkeley City Council, District 1
Incumbent Linda Maio’s voting record has been wimpy at times, but she is a strong proponent of affordable housing, and her sole challenger, Merrilie Mitchell, isn’t a terribly serious candidate. Vote for Maio.
Berkeley City Council, District 2
A valiant champion of every progressive cause, incumbent Dona Spring is one of the unsung heroes of Berkeley. Using a wheelchair, she puts in the energy equivalent of two or three council members and always remains on the visionary cutting edge. If that weren’t enough, her sole challenger, Latino businessman and zoning commissioner Raudel Wilson, has the endorsement of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. Vote for Spring.
Berkeley City Council, District 7
Incumbent Kriss Worthington is an undisputed champion of progressive causes and a courageous voice who isn’t afraid to take criticism in an age of duck and run, including the fallout he’s been experiencing following the closure of Cody’s on Telegraph Avenue, something conservatives have tried to link to his support for the homeless. His sole challenger is the evidently deep-pocketed George Beier, who describes himself as a community volunteer but has the support of landlords and the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and has managed to blanket District 7 with signage and literature, possibly making his one of the most tree-unfriendly campaigns in Berkeley’s electoral history. Keep Berkeley progressive and vote for Worthington.
Berkeley City Council, District 8
Incumbent Gordon Wozniak postures as if he is going to be mayor one day, and he’s definitely the most conservative member of the council. During his tenure, Wozniak has come up with seven different ways to raise rents on tenants in Berkeley, and he didn’t even vote against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election last year. Challenger Jason Overman may be only 20 years old, but he’s already a seasoned political veteran, having been elected to the Rent Stabilization Board two years ago. Vote for Overman.
Berkeley city auditor
Ann-Marie Hogan is running unopposed for this nonpartisan post, which is hardly surprising since she’s done a great job so far and has widespread support.
Berkeley school director
With five candidates in the running and only three seats open, some are suggesting progressives cast only one vote — for Karen Hemphill — to ensure she becomes board president in two years, since the job goes to the person with the most votes in the previous election.
Hemphill has done a great job and has the support of Latino and African American parent groups, so a vote for her is a no-brainer.
So is any vote that helps make sure that incumbents Shirley Issel and David Baggins don’t get reelected.
Nancy Riddle isn’t a hardcore liberal, but she’s a certified public accountant, so she has number-crunching skills in her favor. Our third pick is Norma Harrison, although her superradical talk about capitalism being horrible and schools being like prisons needs to be matched with some concrete and doable suggestions.
Rent Stabilization Board
If it weren’t for the nine-member elected Rent Stabilization Board, Berkeley would have long since been taken over by the landlords and the wealthy. This powerful agency has been controlled by progressives most of the time, and this year there are five strong progressives running unopposed for five seats on the board. We recommend voting for all of them.
Oakland City Council
When we endorsed Aimee Allison in the primary in June, we pointed out that this was a crucial race: incumbent Patrician Kernighan has been a staunch ally of outgoing mayor Jerry Brown and Councilmember Ignacio de La Fuente — and now that Ron Dellums is taking over the Mayor’s Office and a new political era could be dawning in Oakland, it’s crucial that the old prodevelopment types don’t control the council.
Kernighan’s vision of Oakland has always included extensive new commercial and luxury housing development, and like De La Fuente, she’s shown little concern for gentrification and displacement. Allison, a Green Party member, is the kind of progressive who could make a huge difference in Oakland, and she’s our clear and unequivocal choice for this seat.
From crime to city finance, Allison is well-informed and has cogent, practical proposals. She favors community policing and programs to help the 10,000 parolees in Oakland. She wants the city to collect an annual fee from the port, which brings in huge amounts of money and puts very little into the General Fund. She wants to promote environmentally sound development, eviction protections, and a stronger sunshine ordinance. Vote for Allison.
East Bay Municipal Utility District director, Ward 4
Environmental planner Andy Katz is running unopposed. Despite his relative youth, he’s been an energetic and committed board member and deserves another term.
AC Transit director at large
Incumbent Rebecca Kaplan is a fixture on the East Bay progressive political scene and has been a strong advocate of free bus-pass programs and environmentally sound policies over the years. A former public interest lawyer, Kaplan’s only challenger is paralegal James K. Muhammad.
Berkeley measures
Measure A
This measure takes two existing taxes and combines them into one but without increasing existing rates. Since 30 percent of local teachers will get paid out of the revenue from this measure, a no vote could devastate the quality of education in the city. Vote yes.
Measure E
Measure E seeks to eliminate the need to have a citywide special election every time a vacancy occurs on the Rent Stabilization Board, a process that currently costs about $400,000 and consumes huge amounts of time and energy. The proposal would require that vacancies be filled at November general elections instead, since that ballot attracts a wider and more representative group of voters. In the interim, the board would fill its own vacancies.
Measure F
Measure F follows the council’s October 2005 adoption of amendments that establish the proper use for public and commercial recreation sports facilities, thereby allowing development of the proposed Gilman Street fields. Vote yes.
Measure G
Measure G is a nice, feel-good advisory measure that expresses Berkeley’s opinion about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions to the global climate and advises the mayor to work with the community to come up with a plan that would significantly reduce such emissions, with a target of an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Vote yes.
Measure H
In left-leaning Berkeley this is probably the least controversial measure on the ballot. Do we really need to spell out all over again the many reasons why you should vote yes on this issue?
If this measure passes, both Berkeley and San Francisco will have taken public stands in favor of impeachment, which won’t by itself do much to force Congress to act but will start the national ball rolling. Vote yes.
Measure I
Measure I is a really bad idea, one that links the creation of home ownership opportunities to the eviction of families from their homes. It was clearly cooked up by landlord groups that are unhappy with Berkeley’s current condo conversion ordinance, which allows for 100 conversions a year. Measure I proposes increasing that limit to 500 conversions a year, which could translate into more than 1,000 people facing evictions. Those evictions will hit hardest on the most financially vulnerable — seniors, the disabled, low- and moderate-income families, and children. With less than 15 percent of current Berkeley tenants earning enough to purchase their units, this measure decreases the overall supply of rentals, eliminates requirements to disclose seismic conditions to prospective buyers, and violates the city’s stated commitment to fairness, compassion, and economic diversity. Vote no.
Measure J
A well-meaning measure that’s opposed by developers, Measure J earns a lukewarm yes. It establishes a nine-member Landmarks Preservation Commission; designates landmarks, structures of merit, and historic districts; and may approve or deny alteration of such historic resources but may not deny their demolition. It’s worth noting that if Proposition 90 passes, the city could face liability for damages if Measure J is found to result in substantial economic loss to property — all of which gives us yet another reason to say “vote no” on the horribly flawed Prop. 90 while you’re voting yes on Measure J.
Oakland Measures
Measure M
Measure M would amend the City Charter to allow the board that oversees the Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) slightly more leeway in making investment decisions. The board claims that its current requirements — which bar investment in stocks that don’t pay dividends — are hampering returns. That’s an issue: between July 2002 and July 2005, the unfunded liability of the PFRS grew from $200 million to $268 million — a liability for which the city of Oakland is responsible. We’re always nervous about giving investment managers the ability to use public money without close oversight, but the new rules would be the same as ones currently in place in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Measure N
Oakland wants to improve and expand all library branch facilities, construct a new main library at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, and buy land for and construct two new library facilities in the Laurel and 81st Avenue communities. The upgrades and construction plans come in response to residents’ insistence that they need more space for studying and meeting, increased library programs and services, tutoring and homework assistance for children, increased literacy programs, and greater access to current technology and locations that offer wi-fi.
This $148 million bond would cost only $40 a year for every $100,000 of assessed property. Vote yes.
Measure O
Ranked-choice voting, or instant runoff voting, is a great concept. The city of Oakland is using it to elect officials in the November election without holding a prior June election. There’s only one problem: so far, Alameda County hasn’t invested in voting equipment that could make implementing this measure possible. Voting yes is a first step in forcing the county’s hand in the right direction. SFBG



Oct. 10



From its beginnings as a modest two-day event in 2002, Litquake has rapidly expanded this year to nine days and will feature over 300 participating readers in a variety of venues. Though pricey, “The Politics of Food” panel at the Commonwealth Club is our pick for Oct. 10. (Nicole Gluckstern)

Through Oct 14.
See www.litquake.org for locations, times, and prices


Sufjan Stevens

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens creates whimsical musical landscapes with cohesive themes that give even his most abstract endeavors a strange concreteness. Whether fashioning an ambient album dedicated to the animals of the Chinese zodiac or a set of songs about his home state of Michigan, he cleverly binds eccentric whimsy with solid concepts. You can see him perform at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley and pick up his Christmas album, Songs For Christmas (Asthmatic Kitty, 2006), which will give you a few idiosyncratic yuletide tunes to piss off your family with this holiday season. (Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman)

With My Brightest Diamond
8 p.m.
Zellerbach Auditorium
UC Berkeley, lower Sproul (near Bancroft and Telegraph), Berk.
(510) 642-9988

The 2006 political candidates let loose with us


(For our 2006 endorsements, click here.)

Guardian endorsement interviews are, well, unusual: We bring in candidates for office, set aside as much as an hour or more, and quiz them about local issues. Sometimes we argue; sometimes the candidates yell at us. Nobody pulls any punches. They are lively political debates, fascinating discussions of political policy – and high political theater.

For the first time this year, we’re posting digital versions of these interviews, so our readers can get front-row seats for all the action.

Participants include Editor and Publisher Bruce B. Brugmann, Executive Editor Tim Redmond, City Editor Steven T. Jones and reporters Sarah Phelan, G.W. Schulz and Amanda Witherell. If you’re confused about who’s speaking, here’s a handy guide: If the question is long and involved and about tax policy, it’s probably Tim. If it’s about an incumbent’s record or personal style, it’s probably Steve. George asks about criminal justice a lot; Sarah has a British accent. Everybody knows Bruce’s voice; you can’t miss it. Enjoy.

Sup. Sophie Maxwell
“Redevelopment in the Bay View is different.”
Listen to the Maxwell interview

Sup. Bevan Dufty
“I’m willing to piss people off on both sides of the [landlord-tenant] issue.”
Listen to the Dufty interview

Jaynry Mak, candidate for supervisor, District 4
“I would have to look at it.”
Listen to the Mak interview

Alix Rosenthal, candidate for supervisor, District 8
“We’re going to make it extremely expensive to build market-rate housing, in terms of the community benefits.”
Listen to the Rosenthal interview

Mauricio Vela, candidate for school board
“I probably would lean toward getting rid of [ROTC} … but it would be difficult.”
Listen to the Vela interview

Marie Harrison, candidate for supervisor, District 10
“The one thing I did learn from Willie Brown is that an MOU means I understand that you understand that I don’t have to do a damn thing on this paper.”
Listen to the Harrison interview

Starchild, candidate for supervisor, District 8, and Philip Berg, Libertarian candidate for Congress
“Nobody will invade Switzerland. Everyone has guns, M-16s and AK-47s and grenade launchers in their living rooms.”
Listen to the Starchild-Berg interview

Bruce Wolfe, candidate for community college board
“When you ask where the money is, you want a trail where the money is, the answer you get is it’s in a fungible account.”
Listen to the Wolfe interview

Kim-Shree Maufas, candidate for school board
“My kid was in JROTC …. I like the community, I liked the structure, I liked the commitment to family… I absolutely could not stand the military recruitment.”
Listen to part one of the Maufas interview
Listen to part two of the Maufas interview

Hydra Mendoza, candidate for school board
“There are some schools that are not serving our children.”
Listen to the Mendoza interview

Krissy Keefer, Green Party candidate for Congress
“I’m running against a ghost”
Listen to the Keefer interview

John Garamendi, candidate for lieutenant governor
“Phil Angeledes is wrong [about taxes] in the context of our time.”
Listen to the Garamendi interview

Dan Kelly, school board member
“I don’t think JROTC is a terrific program … it doesn’t teach leadership skills, it teaches follow-ship skills.”
Listen to the Kelly interview

Rob Black, candidate for supervisor, District 6
“Developers have fancy lawyers and they know how to get around things.”
Listen to the Black interview