Volume 43 Number 44

City Hall’s collaborators



As the Board of Supervisors prepared to give final approval to the city budget July 21, Sup. John Avalos, who chairs the board’s Budget and Finance Committee, told his colleagues the budget deal that he and President David Chiu negotiated with Mayor Gavin Newsom is "ushering in a new spirit of cooperation and collaboration at City Hall."

But at the end of the day, frantic last-minute revisions and indignant criticism from Avalos’s progressive colleagues felt more like a family feud than the culmination of a team effort. Avalos and Chiu were able to restore $44 million of Newsom’s proposed cuts and got the mayor to promise to fund progressive priorities, such as public health and social services. Progressive supervisors, however, voiced deep skepticism about whether Newsom can be trusted.

To make matters more complicated, the messy conclusion of San Francisco’s budget process coincided with the news that Sacramento officials had finally struck a state budget deal that proposes borrowing more than $4 billion from local government coffers. So the city’s spending plan, balanced with no small amount of pain, may already be thrown out of balance.

Compounding that problem, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that San Francisco voters will have an opportunity to weigh in on new tax measures that could help soften the blow of rapidly declining city revenues this fall, a situation that could quickly test this "new spirit of cooperation."

The tension at the July 21 meeting stemmed from Newsom’s decision last year to close a massive cash shortage by making midyear cuts aimed at the heart of the progressive agenda — even after giving his word that he would not do so.

In some cases, the money was never allocated to begin with. According to a report prepared by the city’s budget analyst, "The Board of Supervisors approved $37,534,393 in monies that were restored in the FY 2008-2009 budget, which include $30,657,078 in General Fund monies and $6,877,315 in non-<\d>General Fund monies. Yet $15,627,397 in restored monies were either cut to meet mid-year reductions or never expended."

The mistrust generated by this episode and others prompted Sups. Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi, and David Campos to push for a series of last-minute changes that were designed to shield critical services from future cuts and give the board some power in its dealings with the Mayor’s Office.

"We need a hedge. We need a contingency. If we put a number of items on reserve … it gives us leverage," Mirkarimi noted. A Campos motion to place $45 million on reserve from the city’s seven largest departments was approved by the progressives on a 6-5 vote. Mirkarimi also succeeded in winning approval for a motion to move $900,000 from the trial courts to restore cuts to the Public Defender’s and District Attorney’s offices.

Other proposals failed to win over Avalos and Chiu, such as Mirkarimi’s pitch to target reserve funding for mayoral projects, including the Community Justice Center, 311 call center, and Newsom’s bloated communications staff. Daly’s suggestion to put $300 million on reserve also went nowhere.

"We are on the border of tearing apart a lot of goodwill," Avalos warned. "A $300 million reserve gets to toxic levels. I would be remiss in not saying that the mayor did give us his word. I believe that there was a new Board of Supervisors elected and … a new spirit of negotiation and collaboration in City Hall."

But Daly, making scathing references to "Gavin Christopher Newsom" as he fumed about budget cuts, clearly wasn’t buying it. Also on the afternoon’s agenda was his proposal to place a charter amendment on the ballot that would force the mayor to fund board-approved programs in the budget.

"Without it, we only have blunt instruments at our disposal," Daly said. "A blunt instrument is to take a significant fund, put it on reserve and have a hostage to make sure the administration doesn’t use this most significant loophole. This is crafted to allow a majority of the Board of Supervisors to place a special marker on an appropriation that the board feels strongly about."

But Daly’s idea went down in flames after Chiu and Avalos voted no along with Sups. Michela Alioto-Pier, Bevan Dufty, Sophie Maxwell, Sean Elsbernd and Carmen Chu. Afterward, Daly left the chambers and later returned to circulate a letter addressed to Chiu reading, "I am no longer interested in serving as Chair of the Rules Committee or Vice Chair of the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee."

Daly wasn’t the only one not feeling this new spirit of collaboration. All the last-minute changes clearly exasperated Elsbernd, who paced his corner of the room for much of the meeting, rubbing his forehead, and looking irritated. Eventually, Elsbernd and Chu were the only two votes against the final budget.

The prospect of new revenue measures also dimmed at the meeting. A proposal to place a measure on the November ballot calling for a 0.5 percent sales tax hike fell short of the eight votes it needed (Alioto-Pier, Chu, Dufty, and Elsbernd voted no). And it’s still too early to say whether a move to place a vehicle tax on the ballot can move forward because it’s contingent on state legislation.

The state’s funding raid could also hit the city hard. Leo Levenson, budget and analysis director with the San Francisco Office of the Controller, told the Guardian the city stands to lose $71 million in General Fund dollars and $32 million in other funds, although those numbers were still in flux at press time.

"The state must repay these funds within three years with interest," Levenson explained. "It is likely that San Francisco could be able to borrow money to mitigate the short-term financial impacts of this proposal, since the state is legally obligated to repay the funds within three years."

If the state goes after the gas tax, it could impact the city’s General Fund by an additional $18 million, Levenson noted, "so the city would need to backfill this reduction to sustain basic street cleaning operations."

So budget season isn’t over yet.

Gabrielle Poccia contributed to this report.

Appetite: Drink on the cheap…with class


Every week, Virginia Miller of personalized itinerary service and monthly food, drink, and travel newsletter, www.theperfectspotsf.com, shares foodie news, events, and deals. View the last installment here.

Redwood Room.


RN74’s $1-3 offerings
Didn’t think it was possible? Michael Mina’s newest wine bar/restaurant mecca offers a real deal. Every day after 10 pm, late-nighters are rewarded with $1 shots of Fernet and $3 Kronenbourgs. No, it’s not fabulous wines from the 3000+ list, though you can still order any of those. But Burgundy can wait when Fernet and Kronenbourgs are this cheap.
Daily, 10 pm-close
301 Mission, SF


5A5’s Steak Lounge happy hour… and once a week $1 champagnes
5A5, downtown’s chic/hip steak lounge, has a 5 at 5 deal going six days a week. Enter the dimly lit bar area, gaze at the striking dome, and fill up on a $2 daily-changing bar bite and $5 appetizers, like truffle fries, beef carpaccio (this is a steak lounge, after all), or 2 for $5 popular hamachi, poke, or oyster shooters. Wash it all down with $5 wines, beers, and cocktails. Bonus "secret": hit 5A5 on Thursday nights between 9-10pm and you can sip as many $1 glasses of champagne as you like.
Monday-Saturday, 5-7:30 pm
244 Jackson, SF


Redwood Room’s weekly $8 cocktail
Duck into the Clift Hotel, housing the historic Redwood Room. Though we love those redwood walls and retro-meets-modern ambiance, I know the bar can get touristy — even snooty. That’s why I prefer it on a weeknight for a chance to soak up the gorgeous surroundings while those creepy-cool "live portraits" follow me with their eyes. Redwood is now introducing a different specialty cocktail each week for $8 (their drinks are usually $12 or more). Recent creations include a Clementine Blossom, made with St. Germain and prosecco, or a Blackberry Margarita with Tres Generaciones Plata Tequila, fresh blackberries and lime juice and simple syrup.
Sunday-Thursday, 5pm-2am
Friday-Saturday, 4pm-2am
495 Geary Street


Best of the Bay 2009




Best of the Bay 2009: Rediscovery

By Marke B.


The perfect journey is

no need to go …

— A. R. Ammons, The Snow Poems

Welcome to the San Francisco Bay Guardian‘s Best of the Bay 2009! This is our 35th annual celebration of the people, places, and things that make living here such a ridiculous joy, a behemothic shout-out to everything Bay-you-tiful — from Best Jazz Club and Best Asian Restaurant to Best Burlesque Act and beyond.

As usual when putting this tribute together, we couldn’t help thinking about how the Bay has changed, yet how resilient its remarkable denizens have remained. Times are rocky, y’all. Local businesses, charitable nonprofits, and arts institutions — already the "little guys" fighting against the onslaught of big-box blanding, intellectual dumbing-down, and commercial cynicism — are more endangered than ever. And we don’t need to tell you that stretching a dollar has become a whole new exercise regimen. We call it "subprime yoga." Look for our infomercial on the HGN network.

But economic reality can’t quash our native creative spark. That ebullient Bay ingenuity bubbles up no matter what — evidenced in the recent gourmet food cart, street fair, and spontaneous party explosions. You can find someone "doing their thing" on almost every street corner these days, and local businesses are pulling out the stops in terms of specials, outreach, and overall friendliness. Forget those odiously snobbish buzzwords like "staycation" and "funemployment" — for anyone but the still rich, the current squeeze is nothing to laugh about. But in typical Bay Area spirit, citizens are ingeniously rediscovering all the vast, affordable pleasures available to us in our own shared backyard, embarking on a journey of rediscovery, relishing the comforts of home with renewed vigor and determination.

The Guardian has been celebrating that special brand of dynamism for years. In 1974 Esquire asked us for ideas for its Best of the U.S.A. issue, and the we responded by publishing the original Best of the Bay. Made by the people of the Bay Area for the people of the Bay Area, it’s our annual chance to celebrate the people and places that make this city great. We were the first weekly paper to print a regular "best of" issue. Thirty-five years on — and 43 years after we opened our doors — we’re still going strong.

Inside this issue you’ll find the results of our Readers Poll — more than 8,000 people voted this year, and there were a few surprise upsets in some of the categories. Also within are our Editors Picks, where we shine a little light of recognition into some of the bay’s more brilliant corners. And our Local Heroes single out people and organizations that inspire awe and remind us that we can all work to make the world a better place.

Editing this year’s installment was something no one could possibly do alone. I had the extreme privilege of working with the marvelous Guardian staff and an amazing smorgasbord of local talent to get 2009’s Best of the Bay out the conceptual door.

I shower grateful smooches on them all, especially my right-hand cheese puff Molly Freedenberg, creative wizard Mirissa Neff, amazing illustrator Barbara Pollak, our steadfast advertisers, and the ever-supportive Hunky Beau, my own personal Best of the Bay.

But most of all we thank you, dear reader, for pouring your unique pluck and zing into this great community, for keeping the doors of hope open, and for forging ahead in the quest to keep the Bay an incredible place to live. Happy trails!



Marke B.


Mirissa Neff


Molly Freedenberg


Ben Hopfer


Barbara Pollak


Jake Balakoohi


Bruce B. Brugmann, Kimberly Chun, Paula Connelly, Sam Devine, Deia De Brito, Cheryl Eddy, Rita Felciano, Cecile Lepage, Nicole Gluckstern, Johnny Ray Huston, Billy Jam, Steven T. Jones, Justin Juul, Danica Li, Mayka Mei, Virginia Miller, Amy Monroe, C. Nellie Nelson, Scott Owen, Laura Palmer Peach, Sarah Phelan, Tim Redmond, Charles Russo, Joe Sciarrillo, Karen Solomon, Scott Steinberg, Diane Sussman, Stephen Torres, Juliette Tang, Andre Torrez, Susan White


Constance Smith


Pat Mazzera


Scott Steinberg, Diane Sussman


Barbara Pollak’s colorful, whimsical depictions of people and objects have been featured in publications including Seventeen and Time, in various games, and in her children’s book Our Community Garden (Beyond Words, 2004). When not creating a line of personalized wall art for kids or contributing images to the Guardian, she enjoys traveling, collecting Japanese fashion magazines and ’70s kitsch art, making toys, and cooking at her home in Potrero Hill, where she lives with her husband, two young children, a cat, and some resilient tropical fish. You can see more work on her Web site at www.happypix.com.

Nosaj Thing


PREVIEW A delicate secret lies behind electronic producer Jason Chung’s musical alias, Nosaj Thing. I’ll break it down quickly. Invert Jason from front to back so that the sound rolls off the tongue in an ephemeral two-step hop from palate to teeth. Supplement that spacious beginning with a full-bodied surname, and the paradoxical nature of "Nosaj Thing" is complete. Corporeal sensuality whisked away in nebulous lightness. Might there be such an impossible thing? I point the nonbelievers in the direction of Chung’s full length debut, Drift (Alpha Pup), a brilliant soundscape still building in momentum since last month’s release. A lesson in the elegant aerodynamics of heavy objects, Drift reflects the harmonious relations of galactic bodies floating in space and the unbelievable lightness of human-made aircrafts soaring in the air.

The 24-year-old Chung’s committed but decidedly loose affiliation with the versatile Low End Theory collective has fueled his lift-off into ethereal robotics. But Chung has picked up a free range ethic of self-determination from the L.A. underground more than any ideological doctrine. On Drift, Nosaj Thing’s disembodied mind sets off on an odyssey through eerie, oil-spill melodies and cavernous rhythmic voids. Darkly harmonic sounds are submerged under the android lights of an indigo night sky. The result is a soundtrack for an ancient sci-fi film about a genetically engineered Moses drifting along a river between Virgil’s hell and a raver’s ecstatic heaven. Oh, I can keep going.


Fri/31, 9 p.m., $12.50. Mighty, 119 Utah Street, SF. (415) 762-0151, www.mighty119.com

Funny People


INTERVIEW In anticipation of Funny People, about a friendship between a famous comedian (Adam Sandler) who falls ill and a seemingly hopeless rookie (Seth Rogen), I sat down with director Judd Apatow to discuss stand-up, life and death situations, and his early comedic influences.

SFBG This film is a total departure with a terminal illness thrown into the mix. What was your inspiration?

Judd Apatow I just wanted to write something that I cared about. I’ve seen too many people struggle with being seriously ill and a lot of times people get better, and it’s not easy to take the wisdom that you suddenly have when you’re sick and use it when you get a second chance. Funny People is all about how George (Adam Sandler) hits bottom when he gets sick and then he needs to hit bottom again to figure out how he wants to live the rest of his life.

SFBG Funny People centers on the stand-up circuit, your old stomping ground. Who were your comedic influences growing up?

JA There was [Jay] Leno and Jerry Seinfeld and Charles Fleischer. And for filmmakers, I loved all the Hal Ashby movies and Cameron Crowe and James Brooks. I like movies that make me laugh and cry or make me really feel something, and it’s difficult to pull that off. That’s something I’m trying to find more courage [to do] — to put more weight on the story and the emotions and at the same time try really hard to make these movies just as funny as a balls-out comedy.

FUNNY PEOPLE opens Fri/31 in Bay Area theaters.


Pixel Vision blog: Laura Swanbeck’s complete Judd Apatow interview.

What went wrong


EDITORIAL David Dayen, a political blogger at Calitics, had the best line on the California budget crisis.

"Whoever cares the least about the outcome wins," he wrote July 20. "If you don’t care whether children get health care, whether the elderly, blind and disabled die in their homes, whether prisoners rot in modified Public Storage units, whether students get educated … you have a very good chance of getting a budget that reflects that."

In the end, the Republicans largely carried the day because they had all the power: they could block any budget deal, they refused to raise any taxes, and they don’t really care if the state goes bankrupt. In fact, Gov. Schwarzenegger was happy to draw the crisis out as long as necessary — it helped his poll rating.

San Francisco should have had a very different situation and a very different outcome. The progressives control the Board of Supervisors and the mayor is in a tight spot — he’s running for governor and wants to show that he can manage San Francisco better than anyone in Sacramento is managing the state. It’s part of his campaign theme. A prolonged budget standoff was not in his interest.

And while the city budget is far, far better than the state budget, and the progressives managed to get a few concessions, the bottom line remains: this is a no-new-taxes budget, balanced largely with cuts and regressive new fees. In fact, for all the mayor’s talk of working with the board on possible tax measures, it now appears likely that there will be no revenue proposals whatsoever on the November ballot.

And the mayor is going to make another deep round of cuts soon, when the figures on what San Francisco will lose in state funding (almost certainly more than $150 million) become available.

It took last-minute efforts by Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, supported by Sup. David Campos, to win back funding for the Public Defender’s Office and at least a shot at funding the public finance system for the next local elections.

The supervisors, frankly, should have pushed harder. The message to Newsom should have been: no budget without new revenue. And as the board approaches the next fiscal year — projections already call for a $300 million deficit — that absolutely has to be the bottom line. Critical services have been cut too deeply already.

The process needs to be better too. Allowing two supervisors — the budget committee chair and the board president — to negotiate a closed-door deal with the mayor without briefing their colleagues or letting the other stakeholders know what was going on was a big mistake that can’t be repeated.

The New York Times ran a front-page story July 21 describing in bleak terms how California has abandoned its safety net and given up the ambitious dreams that for so long defined the state. "At no point in modern history," reporter Jennifer Steinhauer wrote, "has the state dealt with its fiscal issues by retreating so deeply in its services, beginning this spring with a round of multibillion-dollar budget cuts and continuing with, in total, some $30 billion in cuts over two fiscal years to schools, colleges, health care, welfare, corrections, recreation and more.

That can’t be the model for San Francisco to follow. *