Volume 42 Number 09

November 28 – December 04, 2007

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Ultimate Holiday Guide


The holidays don’t only have to be about stress and shrinking wallets. How about making gifts that mean something? Donating time and money to worthy organizations? Attending events that embrace your playful (or wrathful) antagonism against this consumerist season? Check out the Guardian’s ultimate guide to these options, as well as green gifts, efficient neighborhood shopping, and more.

Happy challah-days
Take what you like, leave the rest

‘Tis the season for getting even
Create a celebration that makes your family as uncomfortable as theirs makes you

In the spirit
The Guardian’s guide to holiday giving

She’s crafty
DIY mini altars

Buy by Hand
Places to make and buy homemade gifts

Good things, small packages
Nifer Fahrion’s step-by-step guide to making your own tiny hat

Shopping for slackers

Neighborhood shortcuts for an efficient gift search

All I want for Christmas…
Locals talk about gifts that keep on giving and the ones they wish they could’ve given back

Fuck the holidays
Celebrating, ignoring, or just plain flipping the bird at Christmas

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas
A guide to ecofriendly gifts

Gluhwein by any other name

A miniguide to mulled wine

Nog on the noggin
Jon Beckhardt explores local producers of the holiday treat

Brian on the brain


RINK MASTER Even before South Park anointed Brian Boitano the coolest ice-skater ever to strap on blades, I was a fan. As a wee junior high schooler, I cheered his triumph at the Battle of the Brians at the 1988 Winter Olympics. (In your face, Brian Orser!) Now a full-time pro, the Bay Area native and resident is gearing up for one of his most ambitious undertakings: the "Brian Boitano Skating Spectacular," the first ice show to be held at AT&T Park, with rink legends like Dorothy Hamill and Viktor Petrenko — and a live performance by Barry Manilow. Naturally, I had to get Boitano on the phone for some inside dirt.

SFBG So are you stoked for the spectacular?

BRIAN BOITANO Yeah, I think it’s gonna be exciting! The ballpark’s really excited about it, and Barry’s really excited about it.

SFBG Will there be any baseball routines on the ice?

BB Yeah, we’re gonna do a baseball number. And since it’s a ’70s number, we’re gonna do a streaking thing. We’re gonna get a Barry Manilow look-alike and have him streak through the ball field.

SFBG [Stunned pause] Seriously?

BB [Laughing] No!

SFBG Dude, that would be awesome, though.

BB We did throw it out at the production meeting, because it’s a ’70s-themed show. But I don’t know if Barry would appreciate that!

SFBG How did you pick which Manilow songs to skate to?

BB It’s actually not all his songs. It’s a show with ’70s music, but there’s a lot of different ’70s music. He’s gonna sing eight of his songs. Four of them will be classics, and four will be from his new album, The Greatest Songs of the Seventies.

SFBG How’d you hook up with him?

BB I do shows every year with musical guests. I’m doing one with Seal this year and another with Wynonna Judd. I met [Manilow] years ago — he had a theatrical show called Copacabana, and I had a friend who was the lead in that. When we were throwing out names for the show this year, I said, "I wonder if we could get Barry. I would really love to have his music to skate to."

SFBG Being from the Bay Area, how did you get into ice skating? I mean, there’s the rink at the Yerba Buena Gardens….

BB That’s where I’m just leaving from! [Growing up,] I sort of was this daredevil roller skater, and I saw the "Ice Follies" one time at Winterland. And I was, like, "Wow, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life."

SFBG Where do you keep your gold medal?

BB It’s in my parents’ safety-deposit box. The last time I saw it was about 10 years ago. I think to see it every day would take away from the special quality of it. But I don’t forget what it looks like!

SFBG There’s one question I have to ask you, which I’m sure everyone asks —

BB "What Would Brian Boitano Do?"

SFBG Of course!

BB I still don’t know how that happened. I’ve still never met the [South Park] guys! It was funny because I went to the movie theater — it was that old movie theater on Sutter and Van Ness. I was scared! I didn’t know if they were going to trash me. And it was just sort of surreal sitting there watching a cartoon character of yourself with the whole movie theater laughing. The movie’s very funny, and I’m a big fan of their comedy. They’re so timely and so politically incorrect — it’s hilarious.

SFBG Do you get sick of hearing the song?

BB I still think it’s funny. People get a kick out of it — what the heck. All I can say is, thank god they were nice to me! (Cheryl Eddy)


Dec. 5, 8 p.m., $50–$150

AT&T Park

801 Third St., SF



For "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" T-shirts — sales of which benefit Boitano’s Youth Skate Program — visit www.brianboitano.com.

In and out


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Playwright Rebecca Gilman’s work has often courted subjects with ripped-from-the-headlines appeal, such as Spinning into Butter‘s take on racism at a small New England college or Boy Gets Girl‘s stalker scenario. Her latest play, The Crowd You’re In With, is no less timely. But at first blush it seems quieter and more understated in its choice of setting and subject matter: a backyard barbeque and a clash between three couples over whether or not to have children. By the end of a taut if laugh-filled 80 minutes, however, this successful comedy, enjoying its world premiere at the Magic Theatre, has uncovered the acute social import and anxieties behind a set of everyday characters and choices.

The play opens on a contemporary American idyll: a sunny Fourth of July afternoon in Chicago, where two thirtysomething white guys, Jasper (T. Edward Webster) and Dan (Kevin Rolston), hover beside a backyard grill in the archetypal pose (and perplexity) of the modern suburban male. Such a scene, including their young wives Melinda (Makela Spielman) and Windsong (Allison Jean White) arranging a table nearby, would seem to contain no more angst than the residual variety implicit in grill time’s spur to primitive masculinity. But there’s already a subtle cornered and concentrated effect in Erik Flatmo’s naturalistic scenic design, with its tiny swath of yard bracketed by the enclosing sharp angles of a two-story duplex and an adjoining high wooden fence. Reproducing Norman Rockwell is not going to prove so easy (if it ever was) in the age of global warming and unending war.

One of the first things we learn is that couple number one — Jasper and Melinda, the renters of the apartment whose yard this is — are trying to get pregnant. Five months and counting. This has Melinda, especially, nervous. Their friends Dan and Windsong, meanwhile, are already very pregnant, as Windsong’s eight-month bulge makes clear. Dan (a happy and good-natured but also slightly abrasive and unselfconsciously vulgar rock critic) and Windsong (the chipper, emotionally fragile, and determinedly conventional child of hippies) are more or less equally incurious and young beyond their years. Jasper and Melinda, by contrast, seem more mature and clever than their friends and yet, we come to suspect, are very much under the sway of their baby-making example all the same. Jasper (played with nicely measured intelligence and sympathetic earnestness by Webster) seems particularly uneasy with this dynamic.

Enter couple number three: Jasper and Melinda’s landlords and upstairs neighbors, Karen (Lorri Holt) and Tom (Charles Shaw Robinson), a pair of politically active progressive boomers without a baby or any desire for one. The genial but opinionated older couple soon evince a thinly veiled disdain for the crass yuppie ideals of their tenants’ friends and for the very idea of knee-jerk breeding under present social conditions. A final arrival helps stir the pot even more: a slovenly, cheapskate friend and bandmate of Dan’s named Dwight (Chris Yule), with a jaundiced eye on the overbearing culture of middle-class child rearing.

The ensuing tension leads to some very funny dialogue, oozing sarcasm, and slow-dawning insults. Ably helmed by Amy Glazer (who has directed all of Gilman’s work at the Magic) and beautifully brought to life by her thoroughly fine, enjoyable cast, the scenes build with a kind of chemical inevitability to temperatures hotter than the day or the barbeque. The fireworks not only start early this July 4 but also — in slyly showing up the repressed violence and bellicosity behind the national picnic and its whole rockets’-red-glare conceit — point to a larger, precarious pattern of denial.

Taking place in a single act in real time, The Crowd You’re In With proves a compact, genuinely entertaining, and provoking play. Even as it skirts stereotype, the types themselves are adeptly fleshed out and will resonate for most people with plenty of lived experience. Moreover, Gilman skillfully grounds her characters’ stories and dilemmas in issues of immediate and universal significance. The questions the play raises about them — like who is the more selfish given their respective life choices — reach down to deeper ones about conformity, consciousness, the meaning of happiness, and the fate of the world we live in.


Through Dec. 9

Wed.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 and 7 p.m.; $20–$45

Magic Theatre

Fort Mason Center, bldg. D, Marina at Laguna, SF

(415) 441-8822


My Xmas Muzak or yours?


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Santa Baby, I wanna know: when did holiday music get hijacked by small children and their grandparents? At least that’s what it looks like perusing this year’s yuletide Brandy Alexander coasters: there’s The Coolest Kidz Bop Christmas Ever comp (Razor and Tie) for the ankle gnawers, and then there’s the reissued My Favorite Time of the Year (Rhino) by Dionne Warwick (dang, D, why did you lose your way from Burt Bacharach?) for their doting oldsters. But what became of the holiday music product for everyone between 18 and 48? The prim ‘n’ proper Josh Groban — touting Noel (Reprise) — can’t be expected to satiate several ornery, ADD-diagnosed generations. Have my people been written off as cynical, rabidly downloadin’ freeloaders too immersed in World of Warcraft to notice the onset of Buy Nothing Day?

I confess, we’re a tough audience. "<0x2009>‘Christmas Time Is Here’ — that one song more than any heavy metal song or whatever has always made me want to kill myself," SF comic and spoken word slinger Bucky Sinister tells me after holding forth about his new What Happens in Narnia, Stays in Narnia (Talent Moat). "Hear that and ‘Little Drummer Boy’ back-to-back, and if you don’t feel shitty, you’re just dead inside. It’s like a kindergarten dirge."

Holiday music hammers all of our hot childhood buttons, inflamed by years of Xmas TV specials and deflated expectations regarding those flash lumps of coal at the bottom of our stockings. Still, I’m willing to suffer on the cross of lousy jingle-jangle juju, so you, dear reader, don’t need to. After listening to about a dozen new holiday discs, I’ve garnered a new appreciation for the recordings that eschew the obligatory sleigh bells and easy heart-warmers and employ less familiar classics (James Brown’s "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto" pops up more than once), a sense of humor, or, sweet baby Jesus, new numbers.

SLEIGH BELL OVERKILL On Oh Santa! New and Used Holiday Classics from Yep Roc Records (Yep Roc), Los Straightjackets turn in a rousing "Holiday Twist," but they, along with half of Yep Roc’s finest, must have their sleigh bells taken away and destroyed. Worse, Jason Ringenberg and Kristi Rose’s "Lovely Christmas" massacres a goofy but venerable C&W he-said-she-said jokey duet tradition with saccharine cowpunk. The second half of the CD fares better with original, moody takes from the Apples in Stereo and Cities. On the opposite end of the bell-abuse spectrum, consider Disney Channel Holiday (Walt Disney), a cash channel dialed to tweensters and soccer mom ticket scalpers: the disc kicks off with Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana drawling "Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree" — and it’s decent in a relentlessly upbeat, cheerleader-on-a-sugar-high way. Cyrus has an adorable, slightly hoarse, Southern-inflected voice perfect for whoops and cheers, which stands out alongside the punky power pop Jonas Brothers and bubblegum Lucas Grabeel.

SMOOTH OPERATORS Christmas goes down as smoothly with R&B vocal stylings as Chivas and dorm room blowouts. I have to say, the glittery synth and silky vocoder action — very K-Ci and Jojo — made Keith Sweat’s A Christmas of Love (Sweat Shop/Rhino) the best of the lot in the mail. Dude totally sweats the C-word: six of the nine tracks must remind us that it’s Christmas by their titles. But Mariah fans will find more listening fun here — and enjoy would-be heartthrob Sweat’s bad posture on the cover and inner sleeve — than on, say, the more trad, jazz standards treatment of the Isley Brothers’ I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Island Def Jam). The Isleys are in fine vocal form — and furs! — though producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis definitely didn’t cut back the melisma meter. Nonetheless, the biggest disappointment has to be It’s Christmas, Of Course (Shout Factory) with Darlene Love. The voice of Phil Spector classics like "(Christmas) Baby Please Come" attempts holiday numbers made famous by the Pretenders, Tom Petty, and XTC, though her robust belt doesn’t quite mesh with the uninspired vanilla rock-pop backing. Better is Patti LaBelle’s Miss Patti’s Christmas (Island Def Jam), which has busy elves Jam and Lewis giving LaBelle well-upholstered grooves with touches of glittered Steinway. Primo for the mom who must get down.

THE ODDS ON THE ENDS Is that all there is? I ended up glomming on to unexpected offerings that dive into the kitsch-flavored eggnog, like Homeless for the Holidaze, a self-released benefit CD for Seattle homeless charities from an Ensemble of Lonesome Fellas (ELF). You have to love the intentional bad taste of pairing a hobo rant next to a holiday version of "The Stripper" and their goof take on "Super Freak," retitled "Jesus Super Freak." Hey, camp and Christmas belong together, like raised lighters and teased locks in flames; hence, a little love to the quickie-looking hair band comp Monster Ballads Xmas (Razor and Tie). Nelson massacre "Jingle Bell Rock," but ya gotta appreciate Dokken applying every candy metal cliché in the book to "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," including screaming axes and a malevolent "Watch out!" as if the imaginary big guy were a refugee from Goblin. And then there’s the schlockiday Muzak and sleigh bell dysfunction of Wreck the Halls/Christmas Rock Records, sister label of Rockabye Baby!, the geniuses who dreamed up lullaby versions of Nine Inch Nails, etc. Green Day’s "Holiday" sounds downright crazed, yet the pomp of Metallica’s "Nothing Else Matters" off … And Christmas for All! actually works, and the holidays take on a nice absurd tinge with a nerve-jangling version of AC/DC’s "Big Balls." *


Sat/1, 9:30 p.m., $5

Edinburgh Castle

950 Geary, SF


For more music picks, see Sonic Reducer Overage at www.sfbg.com/blogs/music.

The smell test


Old joke: If you want to hear God laugh, make plans. (A tip of the trilby here to the Chronicle’s Jon Carroll, whose recent and perfect phrasing I borrow.) In the alternative, open a nice restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf: our very own cross between Vatican City and the Potsdamer Platz of Cold War Berlin, except with seagulls instead of barbed wire and searchlights. It is so different from the rest of the city that it feels as if it should have its own time zone and area code. It is a place where city dwellers do not tread, unless they aren’t paying attention and find they’ve ridden the cable car all the way to the end of the line.

And yet, there is a lovely, improbable restaurant in this precinct of gift shops, rental car lots, and tourist hotels. Its name is Bistro Boudin, and it can be found on the second floor of the Boudin Bakery, a handsome and fresh-from-the-ground-up building that opened about two years ago and is, against all odds, a fairly large-scale working bakery in the midst of the city.

Another tip of the trilby, then, this time to Boudin for investing in the city, and for making pretty good bread while they’re at it. Boudin, like Parisian, is one of the city’s old-guard bakeries, and building your new bakery in the heart of Touristan could certainly be seen as making a statement, or maybe just a pitch. If there are outposts of Tartine and Bay Bread in the area, they keep a low profile. But Boudin knows what it’s doing in the bread-baking department; its sourdoughs are soft, tangy-fragrant, and the loaves out for butter like the Sirens of the Rhine.

Bistro Boudin is on the second floor of the spiffy bakery. The large windows command a view of the bay and Alcatraz. The dining room seems to consist largely of glass, leather, and honey-colored wood: a traditional San Francisco look, subtly freshened. The executive chef, James Chan, was sacked from Harrow for undisclosed offenses, only to turn up in our little corner of the New World with a sophisticated menu that blends elements of New World and Old.

But can he blend locals and tourists? To find out, he will need locals, and what better way to draw them but with the smell of baking bread?

Paul Reidinger

› paulr@sfbg.com

Ask Dr. Rock


Question: What’s the biggest annoyance at rock shows?

Guardian calendar editor Duncan Scott Davidson answers: Loudmouths. Hecklers are usually silenced quickly enough, but it’s the person who thinks his or her banal conversation is more important than the band that drives me apeshit. A few months ago at 12 Galaxies, some guy behind me talked through 16 Horsepower’s set. I guess he thought he’d score underground cultural cred by asking his date to see a random band she’d never heard of. He got a little lubricated and soliloquized at a volume greater than that of the group, while positioned only a few feet from the stage. Simple etiquette, folks: would you go to a movie and shout through the whole thing? And that film may screen five times a day at five different theaters, whereas an out-of-town band may not play here for another year, if ever.

I bonded with the guy beside me over lover boy’s boorishness. "Let’s rush him," he said. Instead, I turned to the happy couple and said, "Excuse me, I don’t mean to be rude, but would it be OK if I asked you two to talk by the bar? I’m having a hard time hearing the band." At which point the dude started to tell me it wasn’t OK and I was being rude. Fortunately, the loudmouth’s date, being more attuned to social mores and imminent bodily harm, spoke up, saying it was a perfectly acceptable request.

Remember, at a show it’s never a bad idea to assume that people have come to see — and hear — the band. This type of cultural absolutism makes snooty Yale professors weep, but I say rock ‘n’ roll is high art, and people should be allowed to appreciate it without interference. For my money, a quiet café or restaurant is a better place for a date conversation. Maybe a bar or a dance club, if you enjoy shouting at your love interest.

Are you a musical artist with pressing career questions? Or a puzzled fan looking for answers to pop culture’s little unmentionables? E-mail askdrrock@sfbg.com.

Happy Garden Restaurant


REVIEW Wow, this place is excellent, and even better if you can swing an off-the-menu order or two. When I visited this affordable, familial gem on Clement, there was extra tomato soup in the back, a nice little on-the-house warm-up dish that was a bit on the sweet side but afforded a friendly lesson in etymology (ketchup is taken from the Cantonese for "tomato sauce").

Lover’s Shrimp seemed a suspiciously named special, against which we decided only after much debate. Instead, we opted to order some ee mein noodles and the catfish we smelled as it steamed by our table — it helps to have a friend with you who can ask, "What was that?" in Cantonese, even if the waiter answers in English.

I recommend the catfish (whole), so long as you’re willing to negotiate the bones. It’s steamed, then recooked in a pour of hot gravy, which also drenches the tofu bed underneath. And lo and behold, ee mein is unlike other Chinese noodles I’ve had. It has a deep-fried, maybe even refried, thing going on, and it tastes great with clumps of crab and mushrooms.

The staff liked my friend’s Cantonese bullshit and my cheesy smile well enough to throw some pastries our way too. Mmm … handheld, doughy, served-hot numbers filled with sesame goo … tsk tsk, now, not for tourists. Best of all? The bill was a laugh, especially considering the tasty extras and healthy portions. Next time it’s Lover’s Shrimp, come what may. (Chris DeMento)

HAPPY GARDEN RESTAURANT Daily, 9 a.m.–11 p.m. 815 Clement, SF. (415) 831-3322

He hears a new world


"I was just on the Farne Islands, off the northeast coast of England, near where I live, and at this time of the year they are covered with Atlantic gray seals that have come to birth their pups," environmental sound recorder and musician Chris Watson explains, recounting his latest field trip over a shaky Skype connection. "There are whole communities of female seals that sing and have these beautiful haunting voices. It’s sort of this siren voice. You can imagine sailors being drawn to it from across the waves."

Watson has made a peripatetic and enviable career for himself as a sound technician for radio and television (he earned a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for his work on the BBC’s The Sound of Birds), pursuing and recording the natural world’s siren calls. From the Rolls-Royce-like purr of a lounging cheetah to the deep groans of an Icelandic glacier following its inexorable 10,000-year-old course to the Atlantic or the literally visceral snap of vultures cracking through the rib bones of a zebra carcass, the sounds one hears on Watson’s solo releases (all on the Touch label) are a far cry from the ubiquitous whale song CDs that clog Amoeba Music’s new age bins. Stunning in their clarity, Watson’s recordings are often beautiful and at times frightening. But more often than not, despite their natural provenance, they are simply otherworldly.

"It never fails to astonish me, the connection between the wild sounds of animals and what we hear as music," Watson says, reflecting on our impulse to immediately draw aural associations. "These sounds have the power to connect straight to the imagination in the same way that a piece of music may evoke certain images." Watson’s first experiments with sourcing the "musical" from his surrounding environment were in early industrial groups such as Cabaret Voltaire and Clock DVA, whose gritty samples and martial rhythms held up an acoustic mirror to the grimness of life in Margaret Thatcher–era Britain.

Although urban Sheffield is worlds away from a cove in the Galápagos Islands or a Kenyan veldt, Watson’s MO has remained consistent even as his locations have become more exotic and the available technology has dramatically improved from the first tape recorder he received from his parents at age 11. "Even in Cabaret Voltaire, I was interested in taking sounds from the world and working with them, or not working with them — just letting them be," the musician says. "Gradually, I became more and more interested in the sounds I was hearing outside than the sounds I was hearing in the studio."

Watson’s latest full-length, last year’s Storm, is also perhaps his most musical — at least compositionally speaking. A carefully edited three-part suite of field recordings, Storm traces a series of particularly aggressive weather systems that hit the northeast of England and Scandinavia in 2000. Watson recorded the storm’s early rumblings — with the lonesome bellow of seals as accompaniment. Meanwhile, longtime collaborator B.J. Nilson — who has released his own subtly processed, environmentally sourced ambient recordings under the name Hazard — caught what Watson calls "its last breaths" as it descended into the Baltic Sea.

"We were really fortunate to have a sort of narrative already there for us to work with," Watson says. "Of course, we couldn’t record the storm as it was crossing over to Europe, so the middle track is a sort of conjecture of what it sounded like, a combination of [Nilson] and my recordings." The two have been experimenting with transutf8g the album into a live piece, a version of which will be presented, sans Nilson, as part of Watson’s performance at Recombinant Media Labs on Nov. 30.

Reflecting on past performances of the piece, Watson remarks that he is continually surprised by how audiences react: "It literally has a powerful, moving effect on people. People have said to me that they put their coats back on because they were cold or found themselves shivering." Certainly, many more of us have heard if not experienced a powerful storm than could identify a recording of or have witnessed firsthand, say, giant sea turtles mating.

I jokingly ask Watson if he has ever visited the Tonga Room, the famed Polynesian-themed bar in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel, in which a tropical storm lets loose at 20-minute intervals over an indoor grotto. He laughs at the idea of the place and says that, regrettably, he hasn’t been. "But wouldn’t that be an amazing venue in which to perform Storm?" he suggests excitedly. The Fairmont’s guests would never know what hit them.


With Florian Hecker

Fri/30, 8 and 11 p.m., $20 suggested donation (sold out)

Recombinant Media Labs

763 Brannan, SF


Eyes on the prize


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

"One thing about Chicago — it’s a no-bullshit city," Elia Einhorn, the maestro behind the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, explains. "It’s a blue-collar, working-class city. There’s no pretension here." We’re sitting in the band’s de facto office — a corner booth at the absolutely unpretentious Pick Me Up Café in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood — where Einhorn and bandmate Ethan Adelsman have taken it upon themselves to school this recent San Francisco transplant in the ways of the local music scene.

To say they’re worthy teachers is an understatement. The group’s self-released 2003 debut, I Bet You Say That to All the Boys, topped many a best-of list that year, won the praise of local critics, and garnered heaps of music industry attention. The album led to shared billings with marquee artists like the Arcade Fire, the Violent Femmes, Spoon, and even San Francisco’s Dave Eggers. The obligatory television soundtrack spots followed, with salivating record execs not far behind. Eschewing major labels for its friendly neighborhood indie, Bloodshot, the band continued on its unpretentious way.

Originally recording more than 30 songs for its first Bloodshot full-length, the chamber-punk syndicate ended up with all of nine tracks. But even at a paltry 26 minutes, the album is the most complete I’ve heard in years. Steeped in Chicago’s "no bullshit" tradition, Einhorn’s songwriting is all substance. "Most records today are two or three good songs and then filler," the Wales-born songsmith says. "I could put out a double-disc record of fine songs, but fine can be the enemy of the best."

There’s no mistaking anything on this album for filler. Opening track "Aspidistra" tumbles with the frenetic energy you’d expect from a song propelled by three guitars. Recounting Einhorn’s history of drug addiction, the lyrical meat offers sinister contrast to the upbeat instrumentation. "Then and Not a Moment Before" showcases a similar dichotomy: long-overdue words fired at an absentee father are delivered over exhilarating major chords. Confusing, cathartic, and bordering on musical brilliance — it’s clear Einhorn’s understanding of songwriting forms, paired with his hard-won wisdom, presents a force to be reckoned with.

Employing the impossibly lonely voice of cellist Ellen O’Hayer, "In Hospital" delivers a gut-twisting account of coping with the death of a loved one. O’Hayer — who moonlights in Bright Eyes — also lends that sad and wispy voice to the sparse "Broken Front Teeth." Built from snapshots of Einhorn’s drug-addled past, the tune ends with the line "I knew I was done" but offers no closure. This honesty runs throughout the recording. "Most situations in life aren’t just resolved," Einhorn says. "It’s about recognizing the sadness. I’m putting it out there to say, ‘Look, here’s the confusion we’re dealing with. Here’s recognition that we’re all going through this together.’"

As far as uniting the masses goes, the sweeping anthem "Everything You Paid For" does this better than any song I’ve heard in years. Flanked by the disparate voices of the rest of the Choir, O’Hayer traverses the insecurities burgeoning inside the human condition in Einhorn’s ever-poignant narratives.

Fearlessly navigating a world beyond rock-ready love songs, the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir aren’t afraid to pluck at frayed and forgotten nerves. Such subjects as parental abandonment, gender identity, and mental illness aren’t your typical pop fodder. "People don’t want to hear songs about people you love dying," Einhorn says. "They don’t want to hear songs about having a crush on the same gender." Chalk it up to that no-bullshit ethos, but finally, here’s a band that’s working with something real. "If we ever go mainstream, it’s by pure luck," Einhorn adds before our waiter, eyeing the untouched food on the table, comes over to scold him, "Eat now. Interview later."

Obediently diving into his lunch, Einhorn can’t help but crack a smile: "See? There’s Chicago for you. Priorities in the right place." *


With Reduced to Ruin

Sun/2, 9 p.m., $7

Make-Out Room

3225 22nd St., SF

(415) 647-2888


Eaux d’Anger


› johnny@sfbg.com

Whither Kenneth Anger? Has his signature hot temper withered into kind, grandfatherly wisdom? If the commentary tracks of the marvelous Films of Kenneth Anger Volume One and Films of Kenneth Anger Volume Two (Fantoma) are to be trusted, this is the case. But one can’t be faulted for suspecting that Anger has consciously decided to favor restraint over verbal fireworks when discussing his films. "There will always be mysteries," he decrees near the end of the second disc’s last moments, just after pointing out smoke from Lucifer Rising‘s burning script in one of the 1981 version’s final shots, a lingering, distant gaze at colossi in upper Egypt.

To say that the DVD issuing of Anger’s films has been long awaited would be an understatement. As months gave way to years, grumbles about what might be slowing or even permanently preventing the process mixed with a chorus of hopes regarding the film restoration efforts of Ross Lipman and the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Now that the restorations have been screened and the DVDs released, it’s time to rain praise on Lipman. Not only has he directed his and UCLA’s attention toward Anger and Charles Burnett — two filmmakers whose non-Hollywood artistry would have deteriorated and vanished otherwise — he’s delivered superb restorations that will change the way you see classic works. Both Anger collections deserve a place next to the just-released Killer of Sheep: The Charles Burnett Collection (New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque) as one of this year’s most vital and rewarding DVD collections.

The Anger DVDs seem ordered according to a masculine-feminine divide, with volume one showcasing Hollywood and European pageantry, and volume two gravitating toward motorcycle machismo, rock ‘n’ roll, and the occult. One thing that becomes clear on watching both is that the films that benefit most from restoration aren’t necessarily Anger’s best known or most canonical. In volume one, 1953’s Eaux d’Artifice truly seems born anew: what was once black and blurred now pulses with distinct energy. I once saw Anger berate a projectionist immediately after the movie was screened; at the time it seemed like a peevish diva display, but now I realize what the projectionist (working with an old print) was up against and why Anger was enraged by the overly dim images that had just been projected. By shooting in sunlight on black-and-white film with a red filter, he created a unique, electric blue nighttime hue.

If it were merely crude, Eaux d’Artifice would be the ultimate water-sports fantasy, culminating in perhaps the longest and most gorgeous money shot in the history of film. (After using a totem as a hard-on in 1947’s Fireworks, Anger rendered sexuality through playful metaphor or the more direct hint of nude eroticism.) Simply put, it’s resplendent: in an extended pure-light-and-dark passage that echoes a hand-marked moment in Fireworks, Anger almost allows nature to do the drawing. The streams of water from the baroque fountains of Tivoli Gardens are Anger’s chief material, creating an effect that’s a more dynamic femme foreshadowing or Euroecho of Jackson Pollock’s action painting.

They run hot, then cold, then hot again, but jewel-like strings or streams continuously run and spill through Anger’s films, from the slo-mo-homo(genized) milky money shots of Fireworks — in which fire also blazes next to the reflective surface of water — to the beaded dresses of 1949’s Puce Moment, through Eaux d’Artifice, to the snakelike lava flows and volcanic eruptions of Lucifer Rising. This love of ornamentation in motion might reach a hallucinogenic delirium in 1954’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, in which Samson de Brier literally swallows a series of jewels. While 1964’s Scorpio Rising is partly renowned for its subliminal qualities, trances invoked via overt repetition are another Anger motif, most at the fore in the lunar views of Rabbit’s Moon (1950–71; 1979) and the solar worship of Lucifer Rising.

Fantasma’s volumes of Anger’s films may not expose their mysteries or hocus-pocus, but the DVDs further reveal Anger’s impact on equally iconic but less experimental directors. That Martin Scorsese and David Lynch drew from Anger’s pop soundtracking is obvious — but one could also argue that the all-American family-room surrealism at the climax of Fireworks predates the Christmas tree rampage at the start of John Waters’s Female Trouble. Influence runs both ways, of course, and Aleister Crowley’s on Anger is also apparent, thanks to the presence of Anger’s 2002 slide show appreciation of Crowley’s frankly lousy paintings and drawings, The Man We Want to Hang, in volume two. The same wild eyes and crazed gazes that Crowley loved to draw dominate some of acolyte Anger’s far superior films, Inauguration and Invocation in particular.

Anger’s DVD commentary shares next to nothing about his soundtrack choices or his interpersonal dynamics with the many men who have stepped before his camera lens. But he does utter select camp trivia, witty anecdotes, and even symbolic explanations without giving away magic tricks. He repeatedly praises his interior designer grandmother, whom he considers a sorceress. He says Louise Brooks told him Eaux d’Artifice was his sexiest film, and that the film’s midget protagonist was discovered by Federico Fellini. He gossips that the star of his Puce Moment was a mistress of Lázaro Cárdenas, claims that Inauguration star de Brier "was rumored to be the bastard son of the King of Romania," says Invocation actor Sir Francis Rose is the in-joke inspiration behind a certain famous Gertrude Stein line, and notes with a tinge of irritation that Jimmy Page outbid him at a Sotheby’s auction of Crowley paintings. "Cameron thought she was a witch, and I’m in agreement with that idea," Anger says about the late painter-poet whose flame-haired appearance is the most vibrant of all of Inauguration‘s many grand entrances.

Only Lucifer Rising star Marianne Faithfull seems capable of sparking some off-the-cuff impish remarks from the cozy incarnation of Anger who recorded commentary for Fantoma’s DVDs. During a travel guide’s discussion of Lucifer Rising‘s journey through Icelandic, Egyptian, and Germanic Black Forest sites, Anger takes the time to softly but repeatedly chide Faithfull — perhaps because she mocks him in her autobiography? According to Anger, the mosquitoes of Egypt loved to bite Faithfull’s "tender inner thighs." But that tidbit is nothing in comparison with an anecdote he shares about her disguising heroin as face powder in order to smuggle it into Egypt. Whether this is true or false, it’s impossible not to laugh out loud when Anger states that, had this ploy been revealed, he and Faithfull would have faced a fate far different than — though just as dramatic as — the stories they’ve gone on to live: death by firing squad.

Talk talk


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

"I don’t like things that are about what they are."

The title character of Hannah Takes the Stairs says this to a coworker. The quip, though, constitutes something of a wink from the film’s director, Joe Swanberg, a leading light of a group of loose-knit DIY filmmakers regrettably known by the mumblecore moniker. That label is regrettable because it’s the kind of arch categorization that begets overbroad criticisms, chief among them the charge of navel-gazing, though in this film’s case the protagonist beats the critics to the punch.

Such flashes of self-awareness are essential for Hannah Takes the Stairs, a film that, it must be said, spends an awful lot of time attending characters who don’t have much to say. Chicago’s Swanberg is one of the most productive (with three features to his credit at age 26) and formally restless of the mumblecore set, and while Hannah isn’t quite so wracking as his other movies (LOL, Kissing on the Mouth), it seems more encompassing than its ilk. Fellow mumblecore directors Andrew Bujalski (Funny Ha-Ha, Mutual Appreciation) and Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair) costar, and the screenplay is credited to all of the involved parties, with improvisation and riffing being de rigueur for Swanberg’s sticky dialogue.

The participants confirm what is abundantly obvious from the substance of the film. Hannah incorporates all of the trademarks of this pseudomovement, including characterization (diffident postcollegiate bumblers), theme (shrugging through love and work), style (what critic J. Hoberman aptly — if harshly — described as the intersection of The Real World, Seinfeld, and The Blair Witch Project), pacing (constant streams of smoke-screen talk), and tone (not funny ha-ha). And yet the film reminds me in some ways of those Woody Allen made in the late ’70s (Manhattan especially), the ones that walk and talk like the New York nebbish comedies you expect but that in later viewings are heavier and more downbeat than you remember.

So perhaps when Hannah refers to her "chronic dissatisfaction," she betrays something about the roiling sensibilities at work here. The character, played by the sharp-eyed Greta Gerwig, moves through three hopelessly underrealized relationships during the course of the film: the first with Mike (Duplass), an unemployed scruffster, the next with Paul (Bujalski), an unnerving coworker, and the last with Matt (Kent Osborne), her other coworker. She floats through these relationships errantly, unreliable in love and crumpled without it. The narrative’s tumble makes the breakups indistinguishable from the romances — surely part of the point of Swanberg’s compressed (85 minutes) triptych.

The film does not offer a detailed interior portrait of its heroine, but it draws a clear enough map of her face and her fate to make for some well-pitched situational comedy. The humor is in the ingenious physical framings of the various love triangles (Jules and Jim is a frequent reference point for these films), the way characters interact with certain basic props for counterpoint (Hannah crunches on ice cubes through the first breakup), and the steady stitch of repeated scenes, deployed to underscore something like exhaustion.

The episodic narration will rankle some, as will certain schoolboy poses. Swanberg has already received flak for certain smug touches in Hannah, such as a childlike papier-mâché credits sequence. I’m as allergic to indie earnestness as the next, but I think Swanberg, while of that school, is too critical to give it a free pass. During their courtship, Hannah and Paul have a heartfelt conversation through a Slinky: typical cutesiness, except that in context it signals the characters’ real inability to communicate.

And then there are the bodies. It’s hard to accuse Swanberg of sentimentality when he casts his actors’ forms in such harsh light. Coming of age is more often conveyed with exuberance than pale flesh, yet in this the director is resolute (and the nudity is refreshingly egalitarian). I was taken with Bujalski’s soulful rendering of threadbare living quarters in Mutual Appreciation, but Swanberg’s unsparing lens cuts closer to the bone.

Needless to say, then, that Hannah Takes the Stairs isn’t eager to indulge its characters, and it certainly doesn’t present them with convenient outs. Swanberg’s warts-and-all approach may not be for everyone, but it’s an important redress of Knocked Up‘s mismatched fantasy. These kids are all right, even when they’re not. *



See Rep Clock for showtimes

Red Vic Movie House

1727 Haight, SF

(415) 668-3994


Osteria and Bacco Ristorante


› paulr@sfbg.com

When all else fails, we go to our neighborhood Italian restaurant. And since we’re staying in the neighborhood for dinner — whatever neighborhood that might be — we can walk. This means we can drink as much as we want without tempting the after-dinner fates by getting behind the wheel, not that we would dream of doing such a thing. Also, we can pretend we’re in Italy. The Italians spend a lot of time walking through their beautiful cities, at least when not scooting about on their Vespas. They tend not to drink too much, either. Wine in Italy is food, and is to be enjoyed like other food: heartily, but not to excess.

While in recent weeks the vanguard of the food involved have settled on just-opened Spruce near Laurel Village, like pigeons descending on the Piazza San Marco in Venice, we fluttered to a threshold nearby on a mild autumn evening. It was that of Osteria, a graciously homey restaurant of a certain age where the locals go when they’re not in the mood for trends like squab. (Squab is the food-involved word for pigeon.) The interior, a drawing-room assembly of hand-painted ceramic tiles, wallpapers, striped upholstery, and carved wood columns, has a terra-cotta luminousness, while chef-owner Vahid Ghorbani’s menu consists of well-constructed old friends, including a number of veal dishes.

Since veal has been banished from our home kitchen, mostly on grounds of animal cruelty, I find myself powerfully drawn to it in restaurants. Perhaps this is hypocrisy or some other moral failing. Perhaps I should not order veal and enjoy it — but I do and I do, and then that’s enough, at least until the next time. Osteria’s veal parmesan ($18) consists of several flaps of meat slathered in a garlicky tomato sauce, with slices of cheese melted on top. The meat was tender and tasty enough, if rather beefy, and it occurred to me that if I were making this dish at home, I would use turkey scallops, and they would be just as good. Elsewhere on the plate: neat piles of quartered carrot sticks and trimmed green beans, along with a lone boiled new potato. All handsome in a faintly apologetic way. One of the Dutch masters could have done something attractive with this colorful group.

The eggplant parmesan ($13) was essentially the same dish, with virtue substituted for the veal. I will never cheer for eggplant, but if the bitter juices are salted out and the slices are bathed in a tasty sauce, I can look the other way — backward, perhaps, at the fine first courses. One, an artichoke heart ($9) filled with bay shrimp and dressed like a sundae with a basil vinaigrette, was substantial enough to serve as a light main course, even without the heart of palm flute to one side. The other, a spinach salad ($8) with roasted almonds and gorgonzola, was given a note of insinuation by a dark and handsome balsamic vinaigrette.

For dessert: mocha torte ($6), basically a slice of coffee ice cream cake. Or just watch the people come and go, young and old, in groups big and small, even a table of bears with what could be a cub. Almost like Noe Valley!

Funny you should ask. For years the best Italian restaurant in Noe Valley was Bacco Ristorante (which opened in 1993). Of course, for years the competition was thin. Lately it’s intensified, with the arrivals of Incanto, La Ciccia, Pescheria (all on outer Church), and Lupa (just around the corner.) But Bacco’s owners, Paolo Dominici and Vincenzo Cucco, haven’t been lazing on their laurels. They’ve picked up a Zagat rating, for one thing, and, for another, they’ve replaced the terra-cotta paint scheme with one of sage and butter. There’s also now a beautiful interior Old World arch.

It would be difficult to improve on the food. We inhaled the crostino ($9.95), a pair of sizable toast rounds spread with a butterlike cannellini puree, then layered with garlic-sautéed broccoli rabe and shavings of pecorino cheese. A salad of wine red roasted beets ($11.95) — interpolated with sections of pink grapefruit and daubs of goat cheese — vanished with only slightly more ceremony.

Garganelli ($17.95) — pennelike pasta, tossed with smoked sausage and porcini in a spicy tomato sauce — was a gratifying country dish. Just a bit more exotic was a plate of fregola ($19.95), a pebbly pasta (like a Sardinian version of Israeli couscous), sauced with a mix of mussels and scallops in a saffron tomato sauce. If you squinted, you could convince yourself this was a seafood risotto made with especially fat grains of rice.

Dessert: a flourless chocolate torte ($8) with crème anglaise, raspberries, and mint, the colors of the Italian flag and the pizza margherita. Crowd: mixed and younger than Osteria’s, with more overt peculiarities. Middle-aged man with much younger man in beret: Son? Boyfriend? Other thoughts?

Our server asked me if I wanted a second glass of pinot grigio, which was peculiar, since on the first round I’d ordered vermentino ($8.50). The vermentino hadn’t tasted like vermentino; it was too plump, like an oaked California chardonnay or maybe a domestic pinot grigio. I demurred on a second glass, wondering if it would be rude to ask if it was poured right from the bottle. At Bacco’s prices, which are far from low, this wouldn’t seem unreasonable. Although we weren’t at all tipsy, we walked home — one of life’s loveliest luxuries.


Tues.–Sat., 5–9:30 p.m.; Sun., 5–9 p.m.

3277 Sacramento, SF

(415) 771-5030


Beer and wine


Slightly noisy

Wheelchair accessible


Mon.–Thurs., 5:30–9:30 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 5:30–10 p.m.; Sun., 5–9 p.m.

737 Diamond, SF

(415) 282-4969


Beer and wine


Moderately noisy

Wheelchair accessible

The importance of inches


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS I’m gettin’ some. Don’t worry. But a couple of months ago I was singing the blues to a trans woman friend who is a lesbian. I sang a verse about how no boys would go out with me, and she said, in effect, that she wouldn’t go out with me either.

This was discouraging. Not that I had any idea in the world of dating this woman, or vice versa. And not that she meant to be mean. On the contrary, she was sincerely, simply trying to help me understand a thing.

"Look, I’m into women," she said, "and I don’t know if I would date a trans woman." Why? "Because," she said, and she started to choose her words very carefully. I don’t think she liked saying what she was saying any more than I liked hearing it. "What I love about women is … they’re soft. Delicate. Fragile …"

Soft. Delicate. Fragile.

I’m those things! I swear! I’m soft. I’m delicate. I’m fragile. And I encourage you, dear reader, while those three words echo and retreat in the background — soft (soft soft), delicate (delicate delicate), fragile (fragile fragile) — to envision a montage of Your Chicken Farmer Truly holding a bird down on a stump and swinging the hatchet (soft), shoveling shit (delicate), flying through the air drenched in soccer sweat (fragile), skinning knees, muddying socks, playing tackle football, swinging from trees, chopping wood, climbing in and out of Dumpsters, slam-dancing to punk rock, hammering oil drums into musical instruments, and just generally kicking this world’s ass.

Now … there are two things I crave and have always craved even more than sucked-clean chicken bones or sex. In no particular order: athletic glory and to be female.

I never once wanted to be taller. I was the third-smallest boy in my class, and I envied the first-smallest. I was cut from my high school baseball team; reason given: "too short." But I never in my life, wanted to be taller than I was, ever. When I got my first female driver’s license, I lied about my height, not weight. I said five-six instead of five-seven.

So I play on this Brazilian soccer team. I can’t speak Portuguese, but I pass for Brazilian. I love playing with this team because they’re good. The guys, the girls, they know how to pass the ball and where to be when. I am the weak link. Only three women showed up on Sunday, so I got to play the whole game. I got to play forward, which I never do.

We were playing the best team in the league, and I was open the whole first half, but they would not pass me the ball. We were winning 3–1 at halftime. In the second half we were losing 4-3, then tied, then down 5–4 with time running out.

We’re Brazilian, but old. I’m 44, and I was not so open in the second half as in the first. However, in the final minute of the game, down by one, we had the ball and we had a shot. Our guy crossed it in front of their goal, and it sailed over the head of one of our best players, who was making a brilliant run up the center. I didn’t realize until the last second that I was sneaking in, uncovered, behind the pass’s likely intended target, toward the far post. I tried to time it just so, and I leaped for all I was worth, wishing for the first time that I was just one inch taller, as the ball skimmed the very top of my head, parted my hair down the middle, and is still rolling, as far as I know.

The whistle blew, and I clunked off the field with my head in my hands, knowing that any other player on the team would have made that goal. Hell, if I’d put five-seven on my driver’s license, I’d have made it.

I once asked a straight male friend about a straight male friend of his. "Oh, he’s single," I was told, "but there’s no way he’d go out with a dude." I pointed out that I wasn’t, technically speaking, a dude. (Which of course my friend already knew.)

He said, and I quote, "Yeah, but, you know …"

Oh, that.

So, OK. Yes, so … whence will my moment come, this athletic glory, this (soft, delicate, fragile) femalehood? I am one inch short and, oddly enough, two and a half inches long.

My new favorite restaurant is Lilly’s on Divis. Don’t let them talk you out of the hot sauce (it’s not that hot) or into the chicken (it’s not that great). The pork ribs, though! Great atmosphere: as in, no atmosphere. Just you and your meat and Wonderbread and the smell of smoke. Most people get it to go. Oh, and there’s a parking lot. You know the corner.


Daily, 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

705 Divisadero, SF

(415) 440-7427

Takeout available


Homocision follow-up


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Readers:

You want to talk about homophobia! That’s cool. So do I, especially if it means we don’t have to talk about circumcision, which — really, honestly, wow. People, some perspective here. I was watching Delicatessen the other night — you know, the surreal French horror-comedy about the landlord–cum–deli owner who keeps his meat locker stocked the same way Mrs. Lovett got her mince for pies in Sweeney Todd, my all-time favorite piece of musical theater? So I was watching that, and as the evil proprietor advanced on Granny with his cleaver, I suddenly remembered that at least one of you had called me a butcher, of all things, over the circumcision issue. If I weren’t laughing so hard at the image of my husband, myself, and the sweet, rather distracted gray-bearded mohel in his greasy black hat advancing on our helpless babe with a gleaming cleaver, I might’ve been offended. Another reader suggested that we did it to appease a magical being in the sky. I will have you know, sir, that I don’t believe in an MBITS any more than you believe in my (and my partner’s) ability to make a good decision for our kid. We did it, more or less, for tradition’s sake and to help our son connect with his ancestry, and to keep him from being burdened with the only foreskin at Jew Camp when he gets there. And that’s enough of that. Here are some recent responses to the homophobia columns:

I believe homophobia is rooted in some baser instincts among animals — as you said, we are wired to notice differences. We then perceive (or install) hierarchy as a self-esteem mechanism and — even more primordially — as a method of establishing some basis of feeling superiority as a potential mate. As animals we seek, by instinct, someone to feel we are superior to, so we can enhance our perception of our viability among competitors. The next step is to communicate that notion to potential mates and competitors. From that gesture we create culture in our tribes. Although today we love to believe that (for example) sending an e-mail to a writer proves our sophistication, it has not been that long since we were clubbing one another over the head for food.

Yeah, sorta, maybe. Although I’m convinced that human culture is founded on both our need and our capacity to tell us from them (what do you think circumcision was for, anyway? Isn’t it just a primal version of "shirts versus skins?") for both good and, increasingly, ill, there’s really nothing in it for a male animal who gets all puffed up and furious over the mere existence of another male who presents no threat. What a waste of energy. I’m not quite seeing homophobia as a mating strategy. But that was interesting, so thanks. Next we have:

My theory is that it is all about warfare — does that sound crazy? Let me explain. Long ago, there were probably different peoples at war with each other. One of them needed to demonize the other in some way, as warring parties do. Perhaps one of the cultures was strictly heterosexual and the other not. Thus, the hetero rulers locked onto homosexuality as something to demonize. The winner of the war appears to have been the hetero side, which perhaps explains the heavy homophobia throughout history. A stronger war-related reason might be the necessity of military secrecy. Without the serious taboo, there would be spies literally sucking the military secrets out of people (pun intended). It may also have been a smart political tactic of the rulers. I am going to assume that people who think independently are more likely to deviate from sexual norms. Those independent thinkers are most likely the biggest threat to a controlling, ruling entity. What better way to isolate these troublemakers than with sexual taboos?

Not a chance in hell, but thanks for writing! Have you ever heard of Occam’s razor?

More seriously, there are dozens of theories attempting to explain homophobia (or, more accurately, heterosexism), most of which make more sense than the above but none of which will ever be definitive, because different people hate for different reasons and because some pervasive human beliefs are so old that they have been lost in prehistory. Basically, though, the answer’s going to be a mixture of societal discomfort with sexuality in general (heterosexual intercourse excepted, what with the carrying on of the species thing), sexism, and the need to keep categories neat and distinctions distinct. I don’t think it’s hard to understand where homophobia might come from. It’s why we can’t make it go back there that’s bothering me.



Andrea is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question! Send her your tedious e-mail forwards! On second thought, don’t do that. Just ask her a question.

Graf legend


On Aug. 15, on what would have been the late Mike "DREAM" Francisco’s 38th birthday, his old-school graffiti pal SPIE ONE honored his slain partner in the best way he knew how: by creating new street art, on 24th Street between Capp and Lilac in the Mission.

But it’s not just on anniversaries when SPIE thinks about DREAM, the widely respected Bay Area graffiti artist who was gunned down in the East Bay in 2000. "I think about DREAM every day. A lot of us do. It keeps me going sometimes. He was a positive spirit," SPIE said in mid-November. "And it’s pretty amazing how DREAM’s legacy just keeps growing. He has become this really important figure to a lot of youths out here who may never have even met him." That influence will inevitably grow with the publication of a comprehensive book on DREAM that SPIE and others are working on meticulously.

Like DREAM, SPIE is an integral figure in the history of Bay Area graffiti. Born and raised in San Francisco’s Excelsior–Outer Mission District, SPIE remembers the birth of graf in the city. "The graffiti really took off around ’84 in San Francisco," he recalled. That same year he started bombing, first as a solo artist and later with the crews KKW and ACT, which he joined while attending McAteer High School. "McAteer was very unique because a lot of different kids from different neighborhoods all seemed to gravitate there … from the avenues, Hunters Point," he said of the Diamond District school whose courtyard was used as a "writer’s bench." "Some kids would cut school from Lincoln or Washington and cut up there, meeting in the afternoon. We didn’t have a big fence around the school, so it was very loose to come on and off the campus." Others unexpectedly showed up too. "We knew a lot of folks that would find easy ways to escape Juvenile Hall across the street, and they’d be chilling too at the writer’s bench in their county orange, their sandals ready to run through Glen Park Canyon," SPIE said, laughing.

In 1987, when writers from all over the Bay Area converged on the Powell Street BART station for an informal graffiti meeting, SPIE first met Alameda artist DREAM, who’d already been tagging under various names for a few years. "In the book will be one of the first DREAM sketches that he ever did. It was on his court papers," SPIE said. "He just got caught when he was like 16 years old, and he was sitting in court and did a DREAM piece on the court paper!" In the two decades since that meeting, the laws against graffiti have gotten much tougher, and many youths have been tried as adults. "With just over $400 worth of damage, a kid could be arrested and prosecuted as a felon," SPIE said.

Consequently, for writers like SPIE, who requested anonymity for this story, the stakes are high when they do illegal street art. It’s a lot less stressful for him to do legit pieces like the recent city of San Francisco–sponsored mural on 24th Street between Capp and Lilac, which he did with Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth. The bright, block-long collaborative painting — which includes art by Nancy Pili, Marina Prez-Wong, and Mike Trigger — is, like much of SPIE’s work, politically charged. "Overall, it is about solidarity between communities of color and oppressed people … and a commentary on fences and borders around the world, including the Mexican-American border," SPIE explained. "The fence that goes around the parking lot gave us the basis for this theme about fences, walls, and prisons…. It’s like the gating and jailing of a community."

It’s a timely work, appearing at a moment when San Francisco and its developers seem intent on erasing its underground-art past. "They buffed everything out at China Basin and a lot of other places in the city," SPIE said, concerned about the forces that are "pushing the public artists into the far reaches of the city."

For more information on SPIE, DREAM, and the forthcoming book, go to www.dreamtdk.com.

Up against the wall


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

There’s a new mural at 24th and Capp streets that does a stellar job of capturing the urban, cultural vibe of the Mission’s residents. No, not the skinny jeans–wearing, Burning Man bohemians who’ve colonized the area in recent years. I’m talking the baggy jeans–wearing Latino youths who are the inheritors of a proud local tradition of Chicano mural art. Craftily melding urban motifs, the mural celebrates their bicultural realities: lowriders cruise alongside hyphy "scrapers," pachucos and Mac Dre mingle, and graffiti lettering makes the same statement as silk-screened Brown Pride posters of the ’70s.

The work was created from July to September by members of Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth, a neighborhood-based youth leadership nonprofit serving at-risk Latino teens and young adults. The primary goal of HOMEY is violence prevention. Through art, education, and skill-building activities, the organization offers alternatives to young people growing up in a rough environment where gangbanging, drug dealing, gun violence, and incarceration are the norm.

The mural is a shining example of the numerous creative projects initiated by HOMEY to bring together young folks who might otherwise have beef or get caught up in the neighborhood’s dangerous Sureño-Norteño turf rivalry. According to HOMEY project coordinator Nancy Hernandez, the mural bolstered the organization’s other violence-prevention efforts because "young people who didn’t know each other got to know each other. People in the community who didn’t know each other got to know each other. And people were educated on a lot of things to be proud of about their culture, their history, and their neighborhood." Although a core group of teen and adult artists executed the initial planning and design for the mural, in the end more than 200 community members contributed to the painting.

The title of the piece is Solidarity: Breaking Down Barriers. Taking unity as a starting point, the artists began by brainstorming about the influences that divide people, communities, and cultures: everything from national boundaries to gang-affiliated colors. No national flags appear in the 100-foot-long painting. The United States–Mexico border wall figures prominently, snaking through the background of the mural’s central panels, but it’s juxtaposed with portrayals of intra- and interethnic alliance in the foreground. Mexican Revolucionarios, members of the United Farm Workers, and Brown Berets, all painted in sepia tones, float beneficently behind modern-day Raza activists wearing white tees and white bandanas — a purposefully neutral color worn nationwide by Latino youths during the immigrant rights rallies of May 1. In the Bay Area, many of those activists were HOMEY members.

As celebratory as the painting is, one controversial panel on its far right-hand side threatened to overshadow the entire project. It’s a portrayal of Palestinians garbed in traditional Arab kaffiyeh head scarves breaking through a concrete wall — ostensibly the Israeli West Bank security barrier. The image fits into a third-world rights vignette expressing solidarity with indigenous groups and colonized peoples.

Some members of San Francisco’s Jewish community took issue with the image, which originally included a hole in the wall in the shape of the state of Israel. Two Jewish advocacy groups, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Anti-Defamation League, brought these concerns to the San Francisco Arts Commission, the board charged with approving all public art. "We thought this one panel was disjointed from the rest of the mural," JCRC associate director Abby Michelson Porth recalls telling HOMEY and the Arts Commission at a public forum this August. "It didn’t demonstrate peaceful coexistence, which is, frankly, contrary to the theme of the work."

Rather than battle it out and fling loaded accusations of censorship and anti-Zionism at each other — which would indeed completely contradict the intent of the community-building project — the two factions engaged in a civil dialogue that turned out to be a learning experience for all. HOMEY agreed to make some changes to the imagery: the kaffiyeh shrouding one figure’s face, which the JCRC and the ADL claimed connoted terrorism, is now pulled back and worn as a simple Muslim head scarf; the wall opening now breaks into an expansive blue sky; and the branches of an olive tree now weave around the wall — a symbol of peace and a near-literal olive branch. Still, according to Porth, "It’s not the imagery that we would choose, but we recognize the muralists made significant changes and that they came far from the original design."

Hernandez is quick to point out that many Jewish San Franciscans supported the original design and that several of the artists are in fact Jewish. But she acknowledges that "when we’re painting somebody else’s culture, we have to be humble. We have to say, ‘You know what? We don’t know everything about everybody, but we do know about ourselves, and we’re trying to draw parallels between ourselves and other peoples.’<0x2009>"

To many, it may come as a surprise that the mural’s Palestinian imagery was so controversial. After all, claiming solidarity with Palestine is a common stance among San Francisco’s radical left. Nonetheless, by giving their input, the mural’s detractors wound up being collaborators on a project authored by, as it turned out, truly disparate voices in the community.


SF underground


› news@sfbg.com

The proposed Central Subway project has arrived at a critical point in its planning stage, with the public comment period for its environmental documents coming to a close Dec. 10 after a series of recent workshops and meetings.

Proponents see the project as an important next stage of the Third Street Light Rail Project and a vital link to Chinatown, which was made less accessible when the Embarcadero Freeway was torn down. But even some transit advocates question whether the project, with a price tag of $1.2–$1.7 billion, has enough bang for the buck to be worth it.

The Central Subway would realize the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s long-standing vision for a subway system that links to the northeast sector of the city, alleviates traffic problems, and improves connections with BART and Caltrain.

This phase of the project, which proposes to connect the South of Market area to Chinatown by underground rail by 2016, has received the fiscal green light — $1.2 billion in state and federal funding is already pledged.

Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin, whose District 3 includes Chinatown, called the Central Subway "a very good and wise investment in San Francisco.

"Any investment in public transportation is a good thing," he added. "Is it expensive? Yes. But so were" many other transit projects.

Rose Pak of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, an influential force in San Francisco politics, insists that the Central Subway project is imperative to the Chinatown community.

"It’s long overdue," she told the Guardian. "Over 70 percent of our people rely exclusively on public transit. It’s very important to them. They don’t own cars, but they still need to get here for work, to see friends and family."

But is a 1.7-mile stretch of subway the right priority for and the right way to spend San Francisco’s scarce transportation money? Tom Radulovich, elected BART board member and executive director of Livable City, said making the Central Subway a top priority is a "big mistake."

"If everything else was well with Muni, this might be a good project," he told us. "But we need to take care of first things first."

Radulovich emphasized that improving the existing Muni service is a better step toward resolving San Francisco’s transit problems. He pointed out that using state and federal government money for other projects would go a lot further in improving the overall system. He said the Central Subway project is prematurely being made a priority.

"It’s like trying to build a master bedroom suite on top of a foundation that needs reinforcement. It’s nice, but it doesn’t make much sense," he said.

When asked about the possibility of revamping the Muni bus lines that presently serve Chinatown, Pak explained that the existing bus service already functions at capacity.

"Stockton is one of the busiest streets in San Francisco," she said. "Have you ever tried to ride a bus there at rush hour? It’s almost impossible."

In fact, the project’s Supplemental Environment Impact Report states that bus service already runs at three-minute frequencies or better for most of the Central Subway corridor. It also affirms that the area is operating at capacity, "particularly Stockton Street."

Pak added that the Central Subway would allow for shorter transit times and a "minimum disruption of surface streets."

After the Embarcadero Freeway was disabled by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the decision was made to remove and not replace it. That angered many Chinatown merchants, who became the base of support for the Central Subway project.

At first the group "didn’t have the muscle nor the power," Pak told us. "But our community rallied. We did massive letter writing and postcard writing."

Now challenging the project or raising concerns about its cost or feasibility — which some critics and media reports have done — means doing battle with Pak and the Chinese American community, a substantial voting block. So Mayor Gavin Newsom, Sup. Peskin, and other top elected officials support the project.

At the San Francisco Planning Commission meeting held Nov. 15, David Chiu, a commissioner on the Small Business Commission (and candidate to succeed Peskin as District 3 supervisor), said he was "really looking forward to this project moving forward" but would like to see more detail in the SEIR about the process for relocating small businesses.

Commissioner Michael Antonini "strongly advised" extending the subway as soon as possible to North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf and all the way to the Richmond, arguing the current terminus in Chinatown doesn’t make long-term sense. But few at the hearing argued the project shouldn’t be built.

According to the SEIR, traveling from Fourth Street and King to Chinatown on the Central Subway would cut up to 12.4 minutes from the journey in 2030 — from the bus time projection of 17 minutes to less than five minutes in one subway alignment alternative.

Four "Alignment Alternatives," or designs for how the subway will be built, are laid out in the SEIR, which was released for public review Oct. 17 and made the subject of three community workshops and a Planning Commission hearing.

Options range from enhanced bus service and no subway to one that includes some surface rail along Fourth Street (with a new station at Moscone Center) to an option with more of the route underground and Chinatown stations in various spots.

Once an alignment plan is chosen, the SFMTA will vote on the final design next year. And if things go smoothly, construction on the project could start in 2010 and service begin in 2016.


Housing: the urbanist approach


OPINION We’re in a tough spot as a city when it comes to housing costs. As the price of living here goes ever higher, we lose everything special about the culture of San Francisco.

Here’s the dilemma: more people want to live here than we are creating places for.

Why do people want to live here? Cultural tolerance. Economic opportunity. To be part of a community that doesn’t feel like the rest of the United States. The same mix of reasons that caused most of us to come here.

But we are barely adding to the supply of housing. On average over the past two decades, we have produced around 1,500 units per year. The city would need to produce between 3,000 and 5,000 units per year to keep housing costs from going up. If we added 5,000 units a year, after 70 years we would have the same density as Paris.

We already know what happens when people in a city faced with high housing demand decide they like their community the way it is and do not allow new construction. You get Carmel and Colorado’s Aspen and Boulder. You get an ultraritzy resort town.

San Francisco is on the way to becoming the largest city to go down this path.

The easy answer is to blame gentrification on the high-rise condos for rich people. But the only thing that would gentrify the city faster than building those condos is not building them.

People are moving here. If they are not allowed to be stacked in little concrete boxes on top of other little concrete boxes, those with more money will displace those with less money, through the simple process of being willing to pay more for the Victorians and all the rest of the building stock. That’s why older housing units don’t sell for less than new housing units.

What do we need to do? Increase housing at all levels, but in a smart way:

Concentrate the housing in places with excellent transit and within walking distance of stores.

Add as much to the supply of affordable housing as possible. This costs about $200,000 per unit in subsidy. So if we want to help 10,000 families, we need $2 billion; if we want to help 25,000 families, we need $5 billion.

Carefully convert some of the historically industrial areas into new, mixed-use neighborhoods.

Stop requiring developers to build extra parking. Developers should never, ever be required by the government to build extra parking, since each space costs $40,000 to $75,000.

Require excellent design of new buildings. If people felt confident that most new construction was going to contribute as much to the city, in the long run, as the old buildings do, we would be halfway to solving the problem.

All of this, of course, happens to be the same strategy we need to embrace to fight sprawl and its attendant outcome, global warming. Not one more inch of farmland in California would need to be developed if we were just willing to put growth inside existing cities. But this requires fundamental changes in the way we have been planning our cities for a long, long time.

Gabriel Metcalf

Gabriel Metcalf is executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

Question of intent


› sarah@sfbg.com

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, former mayor Willie Brown, Sup. Sophie Maxwell, and Mayor Gavin Newsom in recent weeks have come out in support of a proposed ballot measure that would allow Lennar Corp. to develop thousands of new homes at Candlestick Point, create 350 acres of parks, and possibly build a new 49ers stadium at Hunters Point Shipyard.

The campaign for the Bayview Jobs, Parks and Housing Initiative just launched its signature drive, but the measure should qualify relatively easily for the June 2008 election, given new low signature thresholds and the campaign’s powerful backers.

The measure would give Lennar, which is also involved in Treasure Island and much of the Bayview–Hunters Point redevelopment area, even more control over San Francisco’s biggest chunks of developable land.

But should San Franciscans really reward Lennar with more land and responsibilities when the financially troubled Florida developer has a track record in San Francisco and elsewhere of failing to live up to its promises, exposing vulnerable citizens to asbestos dust, and using deceptive public relations campaigns to gloss over its misdeeds?

As the Guardian has been reporting since early this year (see "The Corporation That Ate San Francisco," 3/14/07), Lennar failed to monitor and control the dust from naturally occurring asbestos while grading a hilltop in preparation for building condominiums on Parcel A of the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

Last month the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Board of Directors asked staff to pursue the maximum fines possible for Lennar’s violations, which could run into millions of dollars, particularly if they are found to be the result of willful or negligent behavior.

"It’s clear to everyone in the agency that this case needs to be handled well," BAAQMD spokesperson Karen Schkolnick told the Guardian. "It’s in everyone’s interest, certainly the community’s, to get resolution."

The air district gives parties to whom it issues a warning three years to settle the matter before it goes to court. Lennar officials have publicly blamed subcontractors for failing to control dust and leaving air-monitoring equipment with dead batteries for months on end, but the BAAQMD is treating Lennar as the responsible party.

"It’s air district policy to deal with the primary contractor, which in this case is Lennar, although additional parties may be held liable," Schkolnick said.

Accusations of willful negligence also lie at the heart of a Proposition 65 lawsuit that was filed against Lennar for alleged failures to warn the community of exposure to asbestos, a known carcinogen (see Green City, 8/29/07).

Filed by the Center for Self Improvement, the nonprofit that runs the Muhammad University of Islam, which is next to Parcel A, the suit alleges that the construction activities of Lennar and subcontractor Gordon N. Ball "caused thousands of Californians to be involuntarily and unwittingly exposed to asbestos on a daily basis without the defendants first providing the adjacent community and persons working at the site with the toxic health hazard warnings."

Now fresh evidence from another whistle-blower lawsuit filed by three Lennar employees (see "Dust Still Settling," 3/28/07) shows that higher-ups within Lennar reprimanded and reassigned a subordinate who told subcontractors to comply with mandated plans or face an immediate suspension of construction activities at the Parcel A site.

In an April 21, 2006, BlackBerry message that was copied to Lennar Urban senior vice president Paul Menaker and other top Lennar executives, Lennar Urban’s regional vice president Kofi Bonner wrote to Gary McIntyre, Lennar/BVHP’s Hunters Point Shipyard Project manager, "Gary why do you insist on sending threatening emails to the contractor. If you can no longer communicate directly without the threat of a shutdown … perhaps we should find another area of responsibility for you to oversee. Such emails should only be sent as documentation of [a] conversation."

McIntyre says he was just trying to do his job, which involved ensuring that subcontractors abided by the long list of special health and safety criteria that were developed for this particularly hazardous work site, located in an area long plagued by environmental injustice.

The shipyard is a Superfund site filled with toxic chemicals, and although the 63-acre Parcel A had been cleaned up enough to be certified for residential development, it sits atop a serpentine hill full of naturally occurring asbestos, a potent carcinogen. So the Department of Public Health and the BAAQMD both insisted on a strict plan for controlling dust, which Lennar used to sell the community on the project’s safety.

Yet when McIntyre began insisting in writing that Lennar and its subcontractors adhere carefully to those rules, he was removed from his job. In a work evaluation signed Oct. 17, 2006, Menaker described McIntyre as "a good company spokesperson as it relates to Hunters Point Shipyard" but claimed that he required major improvement in his leadership and communication skills.

"As a manager, he needs to focus on achieving his ultimate mission, rather than focusing on details. Poor communication skills have led to incomplete and often incorrect information being disseminated," Menaker wrote.

The ultimate mission for Lennar — which has seen its stock tank this year as it’s been roiled by a crisis in the housing market — was to get Parcel A built with a minimum of problems and delays. And as concerns about its behavior arose, its communication strategy seemed to be more concerned with positive spin and tapping testimony from financial partners than with putting out a complete and correct view of what was happening.

Whether or not McIntyre was a good Lennar employee, he was at least trying to do right by the community, as records obtained through the lawsuit’s discovery process show. As McIntyre wrote in a three-page response to Menaker’s evaluation, "Our BVHP Naval Shipyard project has unique environmental requirements and compliance therewith is mandatory."

But the record is clear that Lennar didn’t comply with its promises, raising serious questions about a company that wants to take over development of the rest of this toxic yet politically, socially, and economically important site.


So who is really behind the Bayview Jobs, Parks and Housing Initiative, which does not even have the support of the 49ers, who say they’d rather be in Santa Clara?

The measure was submitted by the African American Community Revitalization Consortium, which describes itself as "a group of area churches, organizations, residents and local merchants, working to improve Bayview Hunters Point." Yet this group is backed by Lennar and draws its members from among those with a personal financial stake in the company’s San Francisco projects.

AACRC founders Rev. Arelious Walker of the True Hope Church of God in Christ in Hunters Point and Rev. J. Edgar Boyd of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of San Francisco are both members of Tabernacle Affiliated Developers, one of four Bayview–Hunters Point community builders who entered into a joint venture with Lennar/BVHP to build 30 percent of Lennar’s for-sale units at Parcel A. TAD is building the affordable units while Lennar develops the market-rate homes.

Neither Walker nor Boyd disclosed this conflict of interest at a July 31 Board of Supervisors hearing where they and the busloads of people Lennar helped ferry to City Hall created the illusion that the community was more concerned about keeping work going on Parcel A than temporarily shutting down the site while the health concerns of people in the Bayview were addressed.

Referring to reports from the city’s Department of Public Health, which claimed that there is no evidence that asbestos dust generated by the grading poses a threat to human health, Walker and Boyd warned that even a temporary shutdown of Lennar’s Parcel A site would adversely affect an already economically disadvantaged community. There is no way to test for whether someone has inhaled asbestos that could pose long-term risks, and Lennar supporters have used that void to claim all is well.

But even if community benefits such as home-building contracts, better parks, and job training opportunities do trickle down to Bayview–Hunters Point residents, will those opportunities outweigh the risk of doing business with a company that has endangered public health, has created deep divisions within an already stressed community, and is struggling financially?

In a recent interview with the Guardian, Minister Christopher Muhammad, whose Nation of Islam–affiliated nonprofit filed the Prop. 65 suit "individually and on behalf of the general public," described Lennar as "a rogue company that can’t be trusted."

"I’m concerned about the health of the community, as well as the other schools that border the shipyard," Muhammad said. "Our contention is that Lennar purposefully turned the monitors off. If you read the air district’s asbestos-dust mitigation plan, it appears that there was a way to do this grading safely. And the community went along with it. The problem was that Lennar was looking at their bottom line and violated every agreement. They threw the precautionary principle to the wind, literally. And the city looked the other way."

And even if Rev. Walker truly believes the June 2008 Bayview ballot measure is "a chance for all of us to move forward together," does it make financial sense, against the backdrop of a nationwide mortgage meltdown, to give Lennar permission to build thousands of homes at Candlestick Point when this measure doesn’t even specify what percentage of the 8,000 to 10,000 proposed new units would be rented or sold at below-market rates?

Lennar/BVHP has already reneged on promises to build rental units at its Parcel A site, and on Aug. 31, Lennar Corp., which is headquartered in Miami Beach, Fla., reported a third-quarter net loss of $513.9 million, compared to third-quarter net earnings of $206.7 million in 2006. Its stock continues to tumble, hitting a 52-week low of $14.50 per share on Nov. 26, down from a 52-week high of $56.54.

On Nov. 2, Reuters reported that Standard and Poor’s had cut Lennar’s debt rating to a junk-bond level "BB-plus" because of Lennar’s "exposure to oversupplied housing markets in California and Florida." And on Nov. 16 the Orange County Register reported that Lennar is shelving a condominium-retail complex in Long Beach and keeping high-rise condos it built in Anaheim vacant until the housing market bounces back.

Redevelopment Agency executive director Fred Blackwell, who was hired Aug. 30, told us his agency’s deposition and development agreement with Lennar wouldn’t let the company indefinitely mothball its housing units: "The DDA gives Lennar and the vertical developers the option to lease the for-sale units for one year, prior to their sale."

While the agency has been criticized for failing to do anything about Lennar’s problems on Parcel A and letting the company out of its obligation to build rental units, Blackwell said it is able to hold Lennar accountable.

"I feel like the DDA gives us all the tools we need," Blackwell told us. "We have opportunities to ‘cure’ whatever the contractor’s default is, but we can’t just arbitrarily shut things down."

But many in the community aren’t convinced. With the grim housing picture and the 49ers saying they’d rather be in Santa Clara, the only certain outcome from passage of this ballot measure would seem to be a mandate for the city to turn over valuable public lands and devote millions of dollars in scarce affording-housing funds to subsidize the ambitions of a corporation with a dubious track record that is actively resisting public accountability.

True, Lennar has promised to rebuild the Alice B. Griffith public housing project without dislocating any residents, and the measure also allows for the creation of 350 acres of parks and open spaces, 700,000 square feet of retail stores, two million square feet of office space, and improved transit routes and shoreline trails.

But although the rest of the shipyard is contaminated with a long list of human-made toxins, would passage of the initiative mean an early transfer of the shipyard from the Navy to the city and Lennar? And with that shift, the requirement that we put even more faith in this corporation’s ability to safely manage the project?

In October, Newsom, who was running for reelection at the time, told the Guardian he was worried about Lennar’s ability to follow through on "prescriptive goals and honor their commitments."

"We have to hold them accountable," Newsom told us. "They need to do what they say they’re going to do. We need to hold them to these commitments."

But how exactly is the mayor holding Lennar accountable?

In March, when the Guardian asked Newsom’s office if he intended, in light of Lennar’s Parcel A failures, to push ahead with plans to make Lennar the master developer for the 49ers stadium and Candlestick Point, the Mayor’s Office of Communications replied by referring us to Sam Singer, who has been on Lennar’s PR payroll for years.

On Nov. 18 the Chronicle reported that Singer was on the campaign team for the Bayview ballot initiative, along with former 49ers executive Carmen Policy, Newsom’s campaign manager and chief political consultant Eric Jaye, Newsom’s former campaign manager Alex Tourk, political consultant Jim Stearns, and political advertising firm Terris, Barnes and Walters, which worked on the 1997 49ers stadium bond and the 1996 measure for the Giants’ ballpark, both approved by voters.

In recent months Lennar has asked the Guardian to send questions to its latest PR flack, Lance Ignon, rather than Singer. In reply to our latest round of queries, about lawsuits and air district violations, Ignon forwarded us the following statement: "The record is abundantly clear that at each and every stage of the redevelopment process, Lennar has been guided by a commitment to protecting the health and safety of the Bayview–Hunters Point community. Lennar has fully cooperated with all relevant regulatory agencies and public health professionals to determine whether grading operations at the Shipyard pose a health threat to local residents. After months of exhaustive analysis, numerous different health experts — including [the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry] — concluded that the naturally occurring asbestos did not present a serious long-term health risk. Lennar will continue to work with the San Francisco Department of Public Health and other regulatory agencies to ensure the health of the community remains safeguarded."

Actually, the ATSDR report wasn’t quite that conclusive. It took issue with the faulty dust monitoring equipment at Parcel A and noted that exposure-level thresholds for the project were derived from industrial standards for workers who wear protective gear and don’t have all-day exposure. "However, there are studies in the scientific literature in which long term lower level/non-occupational exposures (from take home exposures and other areas of the world where naturally occurring asbestos occur) caused a low but epidemiologically detectable excess risk of mesothelioma," the ATSDR-DPH report observes.

It’s not surprising to see Lennar gloss over issues of liability, but it’s curious that Newsom and other top officials are so eager to push a proposal that would give Lennar control of Candlestick Point and perhaps result in a 49ers stadium on a federal Superfund site — without first demanding a full and public investigation of how the developers could have so miserably failed to enforce mandatory plans at Parcel A.

This fall the Newsom administration was peeved when the San Francisco Board of Education, which includes Newsom’s education advisor Hydra Mendoza, and the Youth Commission unanimously called for a temporary shutdown of Lennar’s Parcel A site until community health issues are addressed.

These demands were largely symbolic, since major grading at the site is complete, but the Mayor’s Office shot back with a Nov. 2 memo including the request that city department heads and commissions follow the example of the Hunters Point Shipyard Citizens Advisory Committee and the Bayview Project Area Committee, which have said they won’t hear further testimony on the dust issue "unless and until credible scientific evidence is presented to contradict the conclusions of the DPH, CDPH, UCSF and others that the construction dust at the Shipyard had not created a long-term or serious health risk."

Such complex points and counterpoints have been like dust in the air, preventing the public from getting a clear picture of what’s important or what’s happened at the site. But a careful review of the public record shows that, at the very least, Lennar has failed to live up to its promises.


As records obtained through a whistle-blower lawsuit’s discovery process show, Lennar employee McIntyre was reprimanded for e-mailing a group of Lennar subcontractors including Gordon N. Ball, Luster National, and Ghirardelli Associates and demanding that their traffic-control plan implementation be in place before Gordon Ball/Yerba Buena Engineering Joint Venture "begin using (oversize construction equipment) scrapers or articuutf8g trucks on Crisp Road."

In court depositions, Menaker, who became McIntyre’s supervisor in April 2006, claimed he "never told McIntyre that he should not raise issues related to what he perceived to be deficiencies in Gordon Ball’s dust control measures.

"Rather, I repeatedly advised him that management by e-mail would not accomplish the goal of improving Gordon Ball’s performance and that he needed to communicate with Gordon Ball and others on the project in a more effective fashion. As a result of my observations of his job performance and the feedback from others … on Aug. 1, 2006, we brought in other professionals to assist with duties initially assigned to McIntyre."

But public records reveal that things continued to go awry at the site, long after the bulk of McIntyre’s construction field-management duties were transferred to David Wilkins, an employee of Lennar subcontractor Luster National.

According to a report filed by the city’s Department of Health, on July 7, 2006, the DPH’s Amy Brownell drove to the Lennar trailers and informed McIntye that Lennar was in violation of Article 31, the city’s construction-dust ordinance, after she observed numerous trucks generating "a significant amount of dust that was then carried by the wind across the property line." She even observed a water truck on the haul road doing the same thing as it watered the road.

On Aug. 9 — eight days after McIntyre was relieved of his field-construction management duties and seven days after Lennar declared it could not verify any of its air district–mandated asbestos-monitoring data — Brownell drove to the Lennar trailers and spoke with McIntyre’s successor, Wilkins, about dust problems generated by hillside grading, haul trucks, and an excavator loading soil into articulated trucks.

"Every time [the excavator] dumped the soil into the trucks, it created a small cloud of visible dust that crossed the project site boundary. There was no attempt to control the generation of dust," Brownell observed in her Aug. 9, 2006, inspection notes.

On Sept. 21, seven weeks after McIntyre’s transfer, Brownell issued Lennar an amended notice of violation when it came to her attention that construction-dust monitors hadn’t been in place for the first two months of heavy grading.

On Dec. 8, 2006, five months after McIntyre’s reassignment, Lennar got slapped with another violation after DPH industrial hygienist Peter Wilsey observed on Nov. 30, 2006, that "dust from the work, particularly from the trucks on the haul road, was crossing the property boundary."

And on Aug. 17, a year after McIntyre left, the DPH issued Lennar its most recent violation for not controlling dust properly. But this time the notice included a 48-hour work suspension period to establish a dust-control plan monitor to be supervised by DPH staff, with costs billed to Lennar.

"The issuance of notices of violations shows the regulatory system is working," Brownell told the Guardian. "Dust control on a gigantic project like this is a continuous, everyday process that every single contractor has to do properly. That’s Lennar’s issue and problem. At DPH, we feel we have enough tools to do inspections, which Lennar gets billed for. And if they violate our requirements again, we’ll shut them down again. Or fine them."

So far, the DPH has not chosen to fine Lennar for any of its Parcel A dust violations.

"We considered it for this last violation but decided that shutting them down for two days was penalty enough," Brownell says, adding that while she’d "never just rely on air monitors, a monitor helps when you’re having problems with dust control, because then you can say, ‘Here’s scientific proof.’<0x2009>"

And scientific proof, in the form of monitoring data during the long, hot, and dusty summer of 2006, would likely have triggered numerous costly work slowdowns and stoppages. According to a memo marked "confidential" that the Guardian unearthed in the air district’s files, Lennar stated, "It costs approximately $40,000 a day to stop grading and construction" and "Gordon Ball would have to idle about 26 employees at the site, and employees tend to look for other work when the work is not consistent."

After Rev. Muhammad began to raise a storm about dust violations next to his nonprofit Muhammad University of Islam, Lennar Urban senior vice president Menaker accused him of being a "shakedown artist" when he refused an offer to temporarily relocate the school.

But Muhammad told the Guardian he refused the offer "because I didn’t want the school to be bounced around like a political football. And because I was concerned about the rest of the community."

Muhammad said he’s trying to sound the alarm about Lennar before it takes over all of Hunters and Candlestick points. As he told us, "This city is selling its birthright to a rogue company."


So what does the BAAQMD intend to do about Lennar’s enforcement record past, present, and future?

At an Oct. 29 hearing on asbestos dust, the BAAQMD Board of Directors unanimously instructed staff to pursue the maximum fines possible for Lennar’s Parcel A violations.

Air district staff tried to reassure the public that the "action levels" the BAAQMD set at the shipyard are health protective and provide a significant margin of safety.

Health impacts from unmonitored exposures, BAAQMD staffer Kelly Wee said, "are well within the guidelines," claiming a "one in three million" chance of developing asbestos-related diseases.

BAAQMD board member Sup. Chris Daly, who as a member of the Board of Supervisors voted July 31 to urge a temporary shutdown of Lennar’s Parcel A site, praised the air district for "moving forward with very conservative action levels.

"But these levels are political calls that are not necessarily scientific or health based," Daly added. "The initial violation, the one that, according to Lennar, CH2M Hill is responsible for, we don’t know what those levels of asbestos were, and that’s when the most significant grading occurred.

"The World Health Organization and [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] scientists are very clear that any level of exposure to asbestos comes with an increased health risk, and if you are already exposed to multiple sources, this becomes more serious," he said, referring to the freeways, power plants, sewage treatments plants, and substandard housing that blight the community, along with the area’s relatively high rate of smoking.

The BAAQMD’s Wee told the organization’s board that Lennar did not conduct proper oversight of its contractors and did not properly document the flow of air through its monitors but did discover and report its lapses in August 2006.

"Lennar exceeded the air district’s work shutdown level on at least 23 days in the post–Aug. 1, 2006, period, which is when the developer was monitoring asbestos dust," Wee observed, noting that the air district has two additional notices of violation pending against Lennar for 2007: one for overfilling dump trucks, the other for failing to maintain enough gravel on truck-wheel wash pads.

BAAQMD spokesperson Schkolnick later confirmed to the Guardian that the air district issued Lennar a notice of violation on Oct. 26 for failing to control naturally occurring asbestos at Parcel A, where grading is finished, but Lennar subcontractor Ranger is digging up the earth again to lay pipes.

"It’s time for the board to make sure the air district is as aggressive as possible to protect residents and sensitive receptors," Daly said. "Asbestos is carcinogenic. The state and federal government knows it. That was why there was an asbestos-dust mitigation plan. The air district asked for air monitoring because of the site’s proximity to a school. The air monitors were sold not just to the city but to the public as the major safeguards to the community, especially sensitive receptors, but during the most gigantic grading period and perhaps the most gigantic exposures, we don’t know what the levels of asbestos were."

Fellow BAAQMD board member Sup. Jake McGoldrick, who was a key swing vote against urging a Lennar work stoppage at the Board of Supervisors meeting in July, is now joining Daly in demanding full enforcement of the law.

"The July 31 resolution had no way to force Lennar or the SFRA to do anything," McGoldrick told the Guardian, explaining why he’s now taking a stronger stance. "It seemed that we’d reached the conclusion that the community didn’t want to shut down the project, since it included 31 percent affordable housing, and that the work was essential in terns of revitalizing the area and that the evidence presented seemed to show that everything is now under control."

But because the coalition of Lennar supporters — who didn’t mention they are on Lennar’s payroll until after the July 31 resolution failed — is now pushing a ballot measure to vastly expand Lennar’s control in our city, McGoldrick is demanding answers and accountability.

"We want to look into whether Lennar screwed up deliberately, and if so, fine them to the hilt," McGoldrick said. "But let’s get the project on Parcel A going, because the grading has been completed and it will be beneficial to the community."

McGoldrick claimed that in July he and Daly knew they had an air district hearing coming.

"And we knew where the strongest action could be taken in terms of sticking it to Lennar and showing them we won’t just be looking over your shoulder, we’ll be standing on it," McGoldrick told us.

"A fine means we have warned you — and we’ve got a gun to your head. It means if you don’t act properly, we can pull the trigger," McGoldrick said, noting that at the time of the July 31 vote the Parcel A grading was essentially done and no one could present any solid evidence that the public health had been harmed.

"So now the question is: did you or did you not do this? [A maximum fine of] $75,000 a day for 383 days, even if it’s not a lot of money to Lennar — it’s a lot of embarrassment," McGoldrick said.

But if Lennar tries to delay settling with the air district to avoid fines until after the June 2008 election, will its perceived unwillingness to face consequences backfire at the ballot box — and soil Newsom’s reputation as a great environmentalist in the process?

As McGoldrick observed, "Some of us are having serious second thoughts about going forward with Lennar. Our feeling is, you should sit down and cooperate with the air district and settle this thing with them. And you know darn well that we are standing there, ready to pull the trigger."

He framed the issue this way: "We’re saying to the Mayor’s Office, you guys have a responsibility [to ensure Lennar is accountable] before you give them another 350 acres — on top of the 63 acres they already have — just to save the mayor’s butt, since he blew it with the Olympics and the 49ers."


Number of days Lennar Corp. had been in violation of air district monitoring rules, according to the Sept. 6, 2006, citation: 383

Fine, per day, for vioutf8g the air district’s plan: $1,000–$75,000, depending on intent

Maximum fine Lennar faces: $28.7 million

Fine, per day, for vioutf8g the city’s construction-dust plan: $5,000

Number of cited violations of city’s construction-dust control plan: 5

Daily cost Lennar claims for stopping work at Parcel A: $40,000

Amount Lennar paid subcontractors for grading Parcel A: $19.5 million

Amount Lennar paid Sam Singer Associates for public relations work in 2005: $752,875

Amount Lennar paid CH2M Hill for environmental consulting work: $445,444

Parcel A acreage: 63

Acreage Lennar controls on Treasure Island: 508

Percentage of rental units promised at Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island: 27

Number of rental units Lennar is building at Parcel A: 0

Acreage in the Bayview Jobs, Parks and Housing Initiative: 780

Number of rental or below-market-rate homes in Bayview initiative: Unknown

Lennar’s share price Nov. 26: $14.50 (a 52-week low)

Lennar’s stock’s 52-week high: $56.54

Feed our students well


› news@sfbg.com

GREEN CITY Not long ago a green vegetable was a rare and startling sight on a lunch tray at a San Francisco school. Carnival-style food was the standard, with corn dogs as a regular entrée, packaged apple turnovers as the "fruit" course, and fried potatoes as the staple vegetable.

School lunches have come a long way since 2003, when San Francisco Unified School District parent volunteers, staff, students, public health professionals, and other community supporters joined together to begin creating the school district’s Wellness Policy. Lunches are fresher, tastier, healthier, and leaner, and the SFUSD’s "no empty calories" policy has been a role model in the nationwide effort to improve school food.

But even after all of those changes, a high school group recently surveyed more than 2,000 of their peers and learned that students still complain that school food doesn’t taste fresh and costs too much, and some question how nutritious it is.

So a growing movement argues it’s time to take the next step: the greening of school meals. Surely a food-savvy, health-conscious, environmentally aware city like San Francisco, which is located in one of the world’s most fertile agricultural regions, should be feeding its kids fresh, local organic produce at every meal.

But there’s an obstacle, and it’s green too. Government reimbursement for a free school lunch is just $2.71, nearly half of which goes to pay for labor. Other fixed overhead eats up another large chunk, leaving just about $1 to pay for the meal itself, including 34¢ for the required milk.

No wonder it’s hard to respond to requests for fresher, healthier food and more of it. New salad bars placed in three schools as part of a pilot program address these concerns, offering students mixed greens and raw vegetables, several kinds of fresh fruit, and whole grain breads and muffins, in addition to the hot entrée. When the first salad bar was created last year at Balboa High School, the average number of students eating its cafeteria lunch every day increased 26 percent, with virtually all of the new diners low-income students.

But that $1 per meal won’t cover a salad bar at every school, which is the SFUSD’s goal. The cost of just the equipment for a salad bar — the bar itself, added refrigeration and sinks, a couple more tables — can run more than $10,000 per school, depending on how much work needs to be done to reconfigure the lunch line. Organic produce drives the meal cost higher too.

Unfortunately, the SFUSD doesn’t have that money. Because it’s currently left to the school district to provide meals, the SFUSD must require that the Student Nutrition Department budget break even or else cut into classroom funds to cover the deficit.

The good news is that thanks to grants from the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families and Mayor Gavin Newsom, salad bars are being started in 25 SFUSD schools this year, stocked with seasonal, local produce. Still, despite this additional funding, only about 25 percent of district students will have access to the salad bars. Social justice demands that every student have equal access to a healthier school meal.

Most city officials and the greater community probably aren’t even aware of the situation. It’s time to put the need to feed our children adequately on the radar of the whole community and ask officials to step in with funding to ensure that our children can eat well without sacrificing classroom resources to cover the cost of their food. The Public Education Enrichment Fund, better known as Proposition H, provides a growing pot of city money aimed at improving the schools, and part of it could be used to fund the opening of more salad bars, so more school kids can enjoy the benefits of fresh produce and whole grains.

Providing the money to put salad bars in every school would pay off in healthier kids and related positive effects. Better nutrition is linked with higher academic achievement, improved behavior, and other benefits.

Let’s become a city that commits to teaching our children well, feeding them well, and promoting a greener food system. *

Paula Jones and Caroline Grannan are members of the SFUSD Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee.

Comments, ideas, and submissions for Green City, the Guardian‘s weekly environmental column, can be sent to news@sfbg.com.

Defying the injunction


› news@sfbg.com

While City Attorney Dennis Herrera can claim victory in winning court approval for his controversial gang injunctions, at least one targeted group is openly defying the terms of the preliminary order, trying to make a statement that they should be given a chance to heal the wounds they helped create.

Alleged members of the Eddy Rock gang in the Western Addition, from the Yerba Buena Plaza East housing complex at Eddy and Buchanan streets, have continued to hold small film festivals and other gatherings in an attempt to show the public that despite being labeled violent criminals, they are making a positive contribution to the community.

As the San Francisco Police Department and City Attorney’s Office say they are preparing to enforce the injunction, many of the named parties in the Western Addition say they will continue to congregate within the four-block "safety zone," an area where they are forbidden to loiter, be in the company of other gang members, or engage in other banned activities. In defying the injunction, they risk being jailed for up to five days.

"They’re trying to force us out of our community, but we’re [going to] fight it," Maurice Carter, a 32-year-old alleged gang member, told the Guardian.

The decision by targeted members to forge ahead with their community-building efforts is an attempt to sway city officials into easing the restrictions of the injunction, a prospect that seems unlikely at this stage.

"We’ve got the most influence of anybody," said Paris Moffet, whom the city attorney has identified as the leader of Eddy Rock, a label the 27-year-old disclaims. "But they don’t think so. Instead of putting us down, if they want to stop the violence, why aren’t they helping us?"

Superior Court Judge Peter Busch granted three injunctions sought by Herrera on Oct. 18 against two other gangs in the Western Addition and the Norteños in the Mission. The date for enforcing the injunction remains tentative, and city attorney spokesperson Matt Dorsey said, "Out of an abundance of caution, we will not begin to enforce the injunction against an enjoined gang member until after the proof of service for that individual has been filed with the court."

The city attorney is also holding sessions, with the help of the Gang Task Force, to properly train local police to enforce the measure. However, Lt. Ernie Ferrando of the task force said his unit can and likely will apply the restrictions to those who have already been served.

As of Nov. 26, 33 individuals have been served with injunctions, Dorsey said. Twenty people from the Western Addition — five from Chopper City, 10 from Eddy Rock, and five from the Knock Out Posse — have been given notice, along with 13 Norteños from the Mission.

Despite the measures being taken by police and the city attorney, which involve careful efforts to make sure only people named on the injunctions are prosecuted, critics of the approach say the injunctions may no longer be necessary in the Western Addition, where many of the targeted individuals seem to have made great strides over the past few months.

"I’ve been coming down here for four years, and this is the first summer that I haven’t had to drive over caution tape," said Sheryl Davis, program director of Mo’ Magic, which is based in the nearby African American Art and Culture Complex on Fulton Street. "So something is working."

The last gang-related homicide occurred in May, Northern Police Station captain Croce Casciato said. Police say the reasons for the decrease in violence are varied, but few can argue against its scope. The alleged gang members who have been targeted maintain that they — not outside forces or the injunction — are most responsible for the turnaround.

"There’s been a lot of bloodshed here. We’re trying to clean that bloodshed," Moffet said. About the looming threat of the injunction, he added, "We’re [going to] stand tall no matter what they say. Everybody makes mistakes. The main thing is trying to better yourself. That’s my leadership — stopping the violence."

Davis, who helped the film fest at Plaza East secure a digital projector, agreed that the respite in killings is directly attributable to the alleged perpetrators. While she didn’t criticize outright the efforts of the city attorney, she did say the recent positive actions by alleged gang members should be noted and that the injunction will likely act as a deterrent to such activities.

Of community-based efforts in the Western Addition, Davis said, they "should be duplicated, not shut down."

But proponents of the injunctions say they won’t hinder positive efforts. Nor will it be impossible for targeted gang members to be removed from the list. Public Defender Jeff Adachi is currently pushing for an opt-out provision that would permit injunction targets to petition for their removal by proving they are not involved with gangs. It’s an idea that has been supported in concept by the city attorney, though the details have yet to be worked out.

Lt. Ferrando pointed out that the injunctions might help gang members to escape the lifestyle without fear of retribution.

"This gives some guys the chance to leave the area for good," he said, noting that after the first injunction was approved, against the Oakdale Mob in Bayview–Hunters Point, several members simply never came back to the area and were never served.

Still, those named as members of Eddy Rock expressed concern that their recent positive efforts may go to waste.

"Some of the guys doing the good work are on the injunction. I find that very unique," said Marquez Shaw, a 26-year-old who is described in court papers as a member of the gang, though he is not on the list of targeted individuals.

In a video made by the group during a recent gathering, 20-year-old alleged member Hannibal Thompson says, "We got a lot of good stuff going on right now. Don’t take it away from us."

A real public voting system


EDITORIAL San Francisco, it appears, will have new voting machines in place for the February 2008 presidential primary, thanks to a deal that doesn’t really thrill anybody. But the city should take this opportunity to start looking at the long term — and the Board of Supervisors ought to consider abandoning its reliance on the private sector and bringing voting technology back to the public itself.

The November municipal election was a mess: Election Systems and Software, the vendor with the contract to provide local voting equipment, couldn’t meet the requirements of the secretary of state, so the city’s polling equipment was invalid and votes had to be counted by hand. Now City Attorney Dennis Herrera has initiated legal action against the company, and the city is prepared to hire a new vendor. Sequoia Systems of Oakland is poised to get a four-year contract to provide voting equipment that will meet state standards, handle the local ranked-choice-voting system, and, presumably, make election results available within a few hours after the polls close.

There are problems with the deal: Sequoia, like all private election-machine makers, refuses to release its source code. So the public (and city officials) has no way of knowing if the software is accurate, susceptible to hacking, or easily corrupted. Sequoia has agreed to let the city pick a neutral third party that will be given access to the code for the purpose of verifying its quality, but ideally, the source code for something as critical to democracy as a voting machine ought to be made public as a matter of course. And as long as private companies, which consider their code a trade secret, control the market for voting machines, that’s never going to happen.

Steven Hill, director of the Political Reform Program at the New America Foundation, has an excellent idea: the state of California or some group of cities ought to create a public, open-source election system. If San Francisco did that, the city could even franchise it — act as a vendor and make a little money licensing the program to other municipalities.

Creating a voting-machine system isn’t cheap or easy; in fact, most experts say it would take several years. But San Francisco has several years now — the Sequoia contract will carry through 2012. That ought to be enough time to either create our own system or form a consortium with, say, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and a few others to finance and build a true public voting system that can be vetted by outside experts, approved by the secretary of state, modified for new projects like RCV, and used for years at little or no additional cost. An open-source system would give the public confidence in the results. And it would put control of voting back where it belongs — in the public sector.

The supervisors should create a task force to begin looking into this, with the idea of having an operational alternative available when the Sequoia contract runs out.

Sex crimes grandstanding


EDITORIAL Sex offenders are an easy political target. Nobody wants to be portrayed as soft on child molesters; nobody wants to defend ex-cons who are required to register their whereabouts with the police. Jessica’s Law, the state bill that bars registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school or park, passed overwhelmingly in 2006, and only a few brave politicians, including San Francisco sheriff Mike Hennessey and Assemblymember Mark Leno, were willing to oppose the measure on the grounds that it’s counterproductive and unworkable.

Now Joe Alioto Veronese, a San Francisco police commissioner and candidate for State Senate, has launched an effort to force the local police to roust sex offender parolees who live in San Francisco. It’s good politics for someone who wants a high-profile campaign issue, but it’s bad law enforcement policy.

Proposition 83, which Veronese supported, imposes harsh penalties for anyone convicted of a sex crime. It also prevents all convicted offenders from living in San Francisco, since there’s not a single residential unit in the city that isn’t within 2,000 feet of a school or a park. That, of course, simply forces the problem onto other communities — and tends to send offenders to rural areas, where they lack access to services and ties to the community. By most accounts, isoutf8g ex-cons is a bad way to prevent future criminal conduct.

But there’s a loophole, and the state Bureau of Prisons has made no effort to hide it. If an ex-offender registers as transient — that is, homeless — the state can’t bust him or her for living too close to a school or a park. So some number of parolees — perhaps as many as 166 — released after committing sex crimes have returned to San Francisco and registered as transients. Some of them probably are, indeed, homeless. Some are no doubt trying to find a way to live in this city without vioutf8g Prop. 83 (and thus vioutf8g their parole, which means returning to prison).

Veronese wants the San Francisco Police Department to go out and find every one of these transients and, if they aren’t in fact homeless, arrest them for parole violation. That’s going to take a lot of police time — and is unlikely to be terribly effective.

For starters, it’s not the job of the SFPD to monitor parolees. The state’s Department of Corrections does that — and every transient parolee has to check in with his or her parole officer every single day anyway. Veronese told us he doesn’t expect the SFPD to send ex-offenders back to prison — but if they’re arrested, that’s exactly what will happen.

And for the record, as Sheriff Hennessey points out, only a very small percentage of paroled sex offenders are rearrested for sex crimes. The vast majority of child molesters — the category of criminals Prop. 83 was aimed at — are relatives of the child in question, not strangers on the street. And every one of these parolees already has to wear a GPS bracelet.

The whole effect of Veronese’s policy will be to drive further underground a population that shouldn’t be hiding in the shadows. It would encourage parolees to hide, to remove their locator bracelets, and to avoid service providers. It would divert police resources at a time when the murder rate is soaring.

It’s a bad idea that the rest of the commissioners should shoot down. And if Veronese wants to be a serious candidate for State Senate, he should start talking about real issues and leave the phony "tough-on-crime" stuff for the Republicans.