Volume 46 Number 15

How to celebrate MLK Jr. Day in the Bay

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Use your national day of service wisely —  jump in one of of the day’s volunteering fairs, take in a black history flick, catch some awe-inspiring youth spoken word, learn about colleges 

“In the Name of Love” MLK musical tribute

Mavis Staples, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Youth Speaks (that group’s going to be busy! See below), and Oakland’s Children’s Community Choir occupy the deco wonderland of the Paramount for this stirring tribute to the great man’s work. Hyped as the only non-denominational musical tribute to MLK Jr. in Oakland, the program also features the presentation of humanitarian awards. 

Sun/15 7 p.m., $18 

Paramount Theatre

2025 Broadway, Oakl.

www.livingjazz.org


Freedom Trains

Planning on spending your MLK Day in the city? Every year, the Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara sponsors the Freedom Trains so that everyone can afford to make it to the celebrations. Instead of paying $17.50 for a round-trip ticket on Caltrain, today it’s just $10 – and you’ll be treated to in-route presentations on the importance of the civil rights movement in our lives. 

Mon/16, $10

Departs San Jose 9:30 a.m., arrives in San Francisco 10:55 a.m. (see website for stops in-between)

Rod Diridon train station

65 Cahill, San Jose

www.scvmlk.org

 

“Renewing the Dream” MLK Jr. birthday celebration

A health fair, a civil rights film festival, children’s reading celebration, interfaith commemoration, special presentations, and free entry to the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Museum of the African Diaspora, and Children’s Creativity Museum give you and yours plenty to do if you feel like spending your Monday in San Francisco’s (greener, sorry Union Square) living room. Down to attend? Check your local transportation agency for possible discounts to the event.

Mon/16 11 a.m.-5 p.m., free

Yerba Buena Gardens

Mission between Third and Fourth Sts., SF

www.norcalmlk.com

 

“What is Your Dream?” MLK Jr. day of service

Soak in the spirit of the day by spending it at MoAD. The regular museum offerings (currently featuring “Collected: Stories of Acquisition and Reclamation,” about the contributions of people of African descent to the American zeitgeist) will be free to the public, there will be screenings of MLK films and a documentary on a barber who turned into a civil rights leader during the 2008 elections, chalk drawings outside on the sidewalk, and vision boarding galore. But the day’s not just for remembering and dreaming – the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Fair will be providing concrete information on education for tomorrow’s march-leaders and soul-freers. 

Mon/16 11 a.m.-5 p.m., free

Museum of the African Diaspora

685 Mission, SF

(415) 358-7200

www.moadsf.org


Parks Conservancy’s MLK Jr. day of service

Let the Parks Conservancy plug you into a wildlife restoration project – you’re too late to sign up for restoring the gardens on Alcatraz, but there’s still time to help out at Crissy Field, Fort Baker, Muir Woods, Ocean Beach, and the Presidio. Contact volunteer@parksconservancy.org to reserve your spot. 

Mon/16 various times, free

Various locations, SF

(415) 561-3077

www.parksconservancy.org


MLK Jr. Day service fair

Spend your day off work (if you have it off work) with your family making a difference in the Bay Area. Organizers of this event have made it easy for you: choose from over 25 different projects from serving food at shelters, planting trees – even making toys and biscuits for homeless puppies and kitties. All ages welcome. 

Mon/16 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., free

Oshman Family Jewish Community Center

3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto

www.paloaltojcc.org


Piedmont’s annual MLK Jr. Day celebration

First: eating. All comers are invited to bring a dish that reflects their own cultural heritage to this lunchtime potluck at the Piedmont Community Center. Once those pressing matters have been tended: music. Oaktown Jazz will provide some lilting melodies, and Piedmont students will make presentations on the significance of the day. Capping off the festivities, the 1993 movie At the River I Stand, which revolves around the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike and concurrent assasination of King. 

Mon/16 noon-3 p.m.

Piedmont Community Center

777 Highland, Piedmont

(510) 420-1534

loiscorrin@gmail.com


“Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” 

If you haven’t been to a Youth Speaks spoken word event, pack tissues and your future-seeing 3-D goggles – the young people that the organization gives an opportunity to perform are the truth. On no other day of the year should this be more evident, because these kids are all about having a dream. Today’s event brings performers to the stage who have worked up pieces on what they’d like the future to bring, imbued as ever with the fire of Youth Speaks performances. Could there be a more relevant forum to attend on today’s holiday?

Mon/16 7 p.m., $16

Herbst Theatre

401 Van Ness, SF

(415) 621-6600

www.youthspeaks.org

 

 

“Martin Luther King Jr. Day Double Feature”

“All of us have something to say, but some are never heard” — Richard Pryor, Wattstax (1973). MLK Jr. Day calls into question how we remember the past. The Wattstax concert is sometimes recalled derivatively as “the black Woodstock.” But while soul music may have been the response, the event was put on by Stax Records to commemorate and come to terms with the seventh anniversary of the Watts Riots in LA, which challenged the limits of MLK Jr.’s nonviolent philosophy. As a double feature the Wattstax documentary will be shown with The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011), a revelatory look at a movement’s era that sadly took the distance of continent and a few decades to make. 

Wattstax 3, 7p.m.; The Black Power Mixtape 4:55, 8:55 p.m., $7.50–$10

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

(415) 621-6120

www.castrotheatre.com

 


Martin Luther

It’s the second coming! Not really, no relation actually. But this R&B-funk crooner spins out tunes appropriately uplifting for this day of rememberance and looking forward. Bliss out, eyes closed, mind on the change you want to make, at this smoothed-out groovefest. 

Mon/16 8-9:30 p.m., $15

Yoshi’s

510 Embarcadero, Oakl.

(510) 238-9200

www.yoshis.com

Obstructions of justice

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The uneasy relationship between OccupyOakland and the Oakland Police Department has resulted in a troubling spate of controversial arrests recently.

At a press conference last month, Police Chief Howard Jordan stated, “The plaza area outside of City Hall is a public area. We do not have any legal right to remove you if you’re standing there, at any time during the day, if you’re exercising you’re First Amendment rights. If you’re not breaking the laws, we’re not concerned about your presence.”

But now, Oakland police have arrested dozens of people who were doing little more than “standing there, exercising their First Amendment rights” — and one man even faces life in prison for it.

There have been 40 arrests in the last couple weeks, including two incidents at Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza. In each episode, police say they were just doing their job, enforcing laws surrounding permit violations. But many supporters and lawyers associated with OccupyOakland say that police have created a targeted and discriminatory campaign to wipe out the movement.

 

VIGIL TURNS VIOLENT

About 100 protesters were present at a permitted vigil on Dec. 30. An OccupyOakland participant had been issued a permit for a teepee and one table, but police showed up at noon to explain that they were in violation of that permit, claiming people were sleeping, eating, bringing in trash cans, and storing belongings in the teepee

Protesters say they were cleaning up the plaza when police started making arrests; police say they refused to comply. But both parties say that the scene turned violent.

“Who instigates the violence? I don’t know,” Matt Perry, a movement supporter, told us. “A cop tells you to back up and you don’t back up, he’s gonna use his baton on you.”

But many of the arrests and citations had nothing to do with assault. Carly says she was arrested for “having a yoga mat under her arm.” She was later charged with obstruction of justice. In an even more puzzling case, 23-year-old Tiffany Tran was arrested and charged with “lynching.”

“The taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer is a lynching,” reads California Penal Code 405a, a felony charge punishable by two to four years in prison.

The law attempts to prevent white mobs from forcibly taking African Americans from police custody to kill them, but police have a history of using it against protesters, stating that anyone trying to stop an arrest is guilty of lynching.

Tran says she was held in a pitch-dark police van for seven hours before she was booked at Santa Rita Jail, where she was held in 22-hour daily lockdown due to overcrowding. She was held for four days without being told why.

On the fourth day, she was finally arraigned, but prosecutors opted not to file charges and she was released. But Tran said the tactic left her uneasy because prosecutors said charges could still be filed until the statute of limitations expires in a year. As she told us, “Now I feel I can’t go out and express myself as I should be able to.”

 

ON THE GROUND

When I arrived at 10pm on Jan. 4 to investigate the situation at the vigil, the scene was calm. About 40 people sat and talked, a few worked on computers.

“Some of the people here were arrested mainly for contempt of cop, or being against the government. And then charges of lynching or obstruction of justice were brought after the fact to substantiate an unlawful arrest, to allow the wheels of so-called justice to turn a few more times,” Svend La Rose, an ordained minister and member of OccupyOakland’s tactical action committee, said of the Dec. 30 arrests.

Suddenly, the cry of “riot police!” rang out.

Police cars had pulled up on 14th street, and a line of police exited. In unison, they started advancing, brandishing batons. Many who were at the scene grabbed their possessions and fled. Most just backed away as the cops advanced. A handful stood in front of the teepee, and were arrested on the spot.

Twelve were arrested, including La Rose. Also arrested was Adam Katz, a photographer from the media committee who was documenting events. Katz said that police told him to back up, and when he complied and backed up “probably 50-60 feet,” he was still arrested.

“I took one picture and I was told to back up,” he said. “I repeatedly asked ‘Back up to where?’ as an army of police pushed me out of the plaza. They said, ‘Back up behind the line.’ I kept saying, ‘What line? I don’t see a line.'”

Then there’s Chris, another occupier arrested Jan. 4. According to Katz and other witnesses, Chris had already left the plaza and gone across the street when he was arrested for somehow delaying the police who were trying to clear the plaza.

 

DISCRETION

On Jan. 7, OccupyOakland held an “anti-repression march,” claiming that recent arrests are an overt attempt to repress the movement. The National Lawyers Guild issued a statement demanding an end to the “ongoing violence, harassment, and unconstitutional arrests of Occupy Oakland protesters.”

“There is evidence that would go to show that they were targeting people based on First Amendment activity, and not for illegal activity,” said attorney Mike Flynn, president of the NLG-SF. “Police charged into the plaza and grabbed whoever they could, and also targeted selective people who withdrew and didn’t even linger there.”

But OPD spokesperson Johnna Watson told us these arrests were perfectly legal. “The law allows us to use our discretion,” she said.

A person’s history with the movement is factored into this discretion. Many of those Perry deems “regulars” are, according to the police, “repeat offenders.” As Watson said, “There may be knowledge of a past history, like a repeat offender. If an officer has knowledge that a crime is occurring, has occurred, or is about to occur, we have the right to issue a citation or arrest. If we have someone constantly continuing to break the law, we may not issue a citation.”

In other words, involvement with this political movement can get people arrested who might otherwise not be.

“That police have escalated their attacks on people is pretty disturbing. It looks like they really think they can drive this movement out of Oakland with violence and repression,” said Dan Siegel, a former legal advisor to Mayor Jean Quan who resigned over her handling of OccupyOakland.

Siegel is now representing Marcel Johnson, aka Khali, one of the several protesters arrested Dec. 30, who faces life in prison. A homeless man who became an OccupyOakland regular, Khali was arrested when he tried to hold on to his blanket, which police wanted to throw away, saying that it was unpermitted property.

While in jail, he was charged with felony assault on a police officer, his third strike. A protester called Black Angel who knows Khali said he was transformed by the movement. “He came here and found a family,” he said. “He was like, I’m going to protect this. It gave me some sense of myself.”

But now, Siegel said, “He faces life in prison because of his status of being poor, homeless, and with mental health issues.”

Juries may decide whether OccupyOakland defendants are guilty, but Siegel said the arrests aren’t just: “You still have to ask yourself, why are the police doing this when we have 100 unsolved murders in Oakland?”

Let him entertain you

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FILM The most famous and honored Hollywood directors have always been easily identifiable by style, genre, emotional tenor, or all the above. There’s Hitchcock with his wryly misanthropic suspense, and John Ford’s outdoor archetypes of masculinity. Even Steven Spielberg, who’s made just about every kind of narrative, has a telltale penchant for sweep and sentimentality running through everything from Jaws (1975) to The Adventures of Tintin (2011).

But the director probably responsible for more popularly embraced classics than any other during the industry’s golden age remains less familiar by name than many inferior talents, and his was the classic case of a lifetime achievement Oscar offered as thinly veiled apology for being ignored by the Academy over a long, conspicuous career haul. Howard Hawks could be said to bring all this upon himself: while far from modest, he was never much interested in self-promotion, or publicity in general. Nor did his films provide the obvious auteur identification points of a recognizable visual style, or consistent interest in particular genres or story elements.

They’re immaculately crafted, with some thematic similarities one can poke an analytic stick at after extended scrutiny. Yet as much as Hawks fought for creative freedom, often exasperating studio executives with his stubborn independence, he had few pretensions (or tolerance) toward art, pretty much measuring his movies’ value by their box-office performance. As has been noted elsewhere, that wasn’t because he was a bottom-line-focused hack, but because for decades his personal taste really did seem precisely in synch with the majority public’s.

The Pacific Film Archive’s “Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man” offers plenty of opportunity to weigh that discriminating yet popular appeal via a retrospective that’s thorough if not quite exhaustive. It reaches from his earliest extant feature (1926 comedy Fig Leaves) to his penultimate (’67 John Wayne horse opera El Dorado).

Between, there’s an almost staggering array of gems, more than any one life’s work should encompass: the seminal gangster flick (1932’s Scarface); deathless screwball classics Twentieth Century (1934), Bringing Up Baby (1938), His Girl Friday (1940), and Ball of Fire (1941); war epics (1930’s The Dawn Patrol, 1941’s Sergeant York); Western totems Red River (1948) and Rio Bravo (1959); setting the standard for cinematic sexual cool via the invention of Bogart and Bacall (1944’s To Have and Have Not, 1945’s The Big Sleep). Hawks wasn’t particularly attracted to musicals or sci-fi. Yet he made one of the all-time most enduring titles in each category, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and The Thing from Another World (1951, with “official” directing credit going to Christian Nyby).

Hawks came from Gentile gentry, which lent him an air of entitlement he didn’t mind using to intimidate the largely Jewish, working-class backgrounded studio chiefs he infuriated by running way over budget and schedule. The motion picture business was an odd, borderline-disreputable choice for his like just post-World War I. Yet its wooliness (not to mention the never-ending wellspring of pretty girls) struck his fancy, and he worked in numerous capacities before getting to direct a first feature in 1923.

Later he’d dismiss his silent-era films as apprenticeship, though the few that survive have their points — 1928’s A Girl in Every Port introduces an ongoing motif of jokily tough-loving male camaraderie and finds a quintessential Hawksian woman in coltish flapper legend Louise Brooks, while the same year’s hunk of “Arab sheik” exotica Fazil has some unusually vivid (for Hawks) depictions of sexual desire.

With sound, however, Hawks was immediately in his element: snappy patter and hardboiled realism (or something like) were more to his liking than the pictorial emotionalism of the silent screen, even if as a director he remained close-lipped toward cast and crew to a “sphinx-like” degree. (The many superficially contradictory comments about his on-set demeanor gleaned from collaborators in Todd McCarthy’s definitive biography Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood reveal a technique that liberated some and frustrated others.)

Scarface, which prompted his first of many censorship battles, came out as the gangster vogue was considered kaput. Yet it was a sensation, and remains the only such film from that era still shockingly violent, sexual, and modern. It’s arguable that the Hawksian template wasn’t fully formed until 1939’s Only Angels Have Wings. Its loose, episodic script suited his essential disinterest in narrative (which would become a problem in the 1960s), allowing all the greater focus on a tight group of wisecracking, poker-faced men in daily peril (as mail-delivering pilots in the remotest tropics), while Jean Arthur’s dogged pursuit of a seemingly disinterested Cary Grant posited women as an infrequently worthy adversary-companion on rare occasions invited into the boys’ club. (In the screwball comedies, however, berserk woman often simply torments man into submission.)

Allergic to mush stuff, Hawks liked slim, sporty, husky-voiced women — ones an ever-decreasing fraction of his age as time passed, both on and off screen. (Though Gentlemen made her, he professed zero understanding of bodacious Marilyn Monroe’s appeal.) Yet as with his three marriages, he seldom stuck with one for long, almost never casting leading ladies twice while working recurrently with Grant, Wayne, Gary Cooper, and numerous behind-the-camera personnel.

After a long, nearly unbroken string of hits, his touch began slipping in the mid-1950s; like many old-school Hollywood greats, he seemed quite out of synch with the times a decade later. By then Hollywood was probably relieved to be rid of a filmmaker who’d always used his success as leverage in getting maximum paydays (though as a compulsive gambler he was forever in debt), as well as against studio interference. He avoided long-term contracts whenever possible, acting like an independent agent long before seismic industry changes essentially dismantled the contract system for everyone. His politics were conservative, but seldom flexed — he had little use for politicking unless it helped him get more freedom (and money).

Hawks could be arrogant personally, yet was nothing if not unpretentious about his art, at one late point insisting “I never made a ‘statement.’ Our job is to make entertainment.” An unproduced screenplay from his twilight years describes central characters in terms one imagines he’d readily apply to himself: “Tough, resourceful, cheerfully ruthless but always within limits, deeply loyal to a friend but never sentimental, equally needing women, adventure, and a spice of danger to make life worth living.”

“HOWARD HAWKS: THE MEASURE OF MAN”

Jan. 13-April 17, $5.50-$9.50

Pacific Film Archive

2757 Bancroft, Berk.

(510) 642-5249

bampfa.berkeley.edu

Bike lane runway

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WINTER LOOKS I spend a lot of time convincing my friends that we should ride our bikes places, and the main pushback I get is due to the fact that they don’t want to look like they just got off a bike.

It’s faulty reasoning. Leaving aside how attractive environmental awareness is, anyone who has ever checked out the Vélo Vogue style blog or the global family of Copenhagen Chic websites knows that a bike can make an already-stylish outfit look sexy in a precarious, fly-by-night way. Think about watching someone run gracefully in heels.

Honestly, I don’t think you need a special wardrobe to be bangin’ on a bike. A tip that I do tend to pay mind to: high-waisted pants are your friends. A man once stopped me when my thong had risen above my denim horizon to ask me if I had no modesty. A cretin, yes — but his brand of stick-up-assery is easily mitigated by a kicky pair of retro mom jeans. Also, fear not the high heel, but rather the boot or flat with little heel-arch delineation — unless you have toe cages, in which case you can wear nearly any footwear you like as long as the cages are tight enough, even flip-flops.

Of course, if you are wearing flip-flops in San Francisco you have larger style issues, ones that may not be resolved by reading about bike brands that are crafting clothes that are at once sturdy enough to brave the biting winds and occasional damp of winter months, yet are still exciting and stylish. For the rest of us, such is the list that follows. 

RAPHA CYCLE COMPANY

This Italian bike brand’s Marina café-store could be the perfect spot to begin your quest for cold weather gear. First of all: coffee. Four Barrel percolates in a cafe tucked away in the corner of the sales floor — which is mainly occupied by a long communal table where riders mingle on their way out to the foggy Marin hills or the grocery store. Clothing-wise, the selection isn’t huge, but Rapha’s urban wear is well-made and classy. Straight-leg men’s jeans are made with a blend of nylon, cotton, and elastane yarn, with a waist cut higher in the back, and shiny stuff inside for when you roll up them cuffs.

2198 Filbert, SF. (415) 896-4671, www.rapha.cc

IVA JEAN

I’ve yet to see a more versatile option for biking in the rain than this Seattle brand’s silver-gray cape. There’s a front pouch to keep your keys in, and ample ruching options to allow onlookers a glimpse at what you’ve got going on underneath. It’s like a blanket, a sexy, functional, water-repellant blanket.

www.ivajean.com

MASH TRANSIT

Perhaps you’ll stop by this bike shop nook in Duboce Triangle for a special edition Unicanitor-Barry McGee saddle — just don’t forget to check out what’s on offer that’ll make your morning commute drier. Histogram arm warmers promise extra sleeve coverage, there’s henleys and rain trenches for the taking, and Bay Area-made Inside Line Equipment water-proof backpacks will set you apart from the omnipresent Chrome crowd.

733 14th St., SF. (415) 448-6611, www.mashsf.com

OUTLIER

This label from Brooklyn makes subdued designs functional enough that “they” won’t blink an eye if you have to follow that polished dismount with a day at work, and then with a night tramping around town. I’m a particular fan of the women’s daily riding pant, made of doubleweave twill. The fabric is smooth enough to shred the city streets, and comes in fetching blues and gray that’ll last you through spring.

www.outlier.cc

B.SPOKE TAILOR

But perhaps none of these items are quite what you are looking for. Sweets, if that’s the case — and if you’re the type to buy signature pieces that last you for years, cuz these pricetags are no joke — you should go to Oakland’s Nan Eastep. Her B.Spoke Tailor line births custom-made biking raincoats with extra-long sleeves that don’t make coat-backs pull across shoulderblades. Or try her capes. Why not, you now qualify as a fashion superhero.

(510) 435-3890, www.bspoketailor.com

 

Create and destroy

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WINTER LOOKS You might have spotted Collin Weber running through the Mission on the way to the Knockout, frantic, with a bag full of satin bows to complete a trio of Sailor Moon costumes. Or perhaps you’ve seen his handy-work elsewhere, in the colorful capes and pointed hats Shannon and the Clams wear in their video for “Sleep Talk” or the sixties striped shifts the Dirty Cupcakes sport in “I Want It (Your Love).”

Weber, a library aid by day and seamster by night, has been creating costumed frocks for an incestuous batch of Bay Area garage rockers for the past two years — Dirty Cupcakes, Shannon and the Clams, Hunx and His Punx, Human Waste — and is open to taking on more acts. ” I think there’s a lot more payoff when you do something and it’s up on stage and out on tour and tons of people see it, and it’s in a music video,” he says leaning against an rack of cloth at Fabric Outlet, “not that I wouldn’t just want to make thing for people to wear. But the costumes are the fun project for me.”

Some of those projects include dinosaur hats, American flag bell-bottoms, gold fake snakeskin skirt and vest combos, and once, for Human Waste, he created full face-masking bodysuits. “The theme they gave me was prisoners on the moon in the future,” Weber laughs. “There’s a whole story behind it, but that’s what I had to go on.”

He created flesh-covering suits, with shiny knee pads and strips of mesh across the mouth and eyes. (Mesh so the band could still see its instruments.) “It’s pretty creepy. The first time I tried it on I was a little scared of my own reflection in the mirror. I think that was a sign that it was going in the right direction.”

I ask if he has his own signature design fixture, something that’s uniquely Weber, and he explains that it can be difficult because he’s often catering to bands’ specific visions, keeping with their imagined themes. Though he says, “one thing that shows up though — and I’ve always been kind of obsessed with — is futuristic, but circa 1960. Special effects, when people tried to guess what people would be wearing in 2012. Shiny, still really mod, but futuristic.” He smiles sheepishly, Queen’s “We Are The Champions” comes pumping through Fabric Outlet’s speakers.

Weber’s style is also influenced by David Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust era, and the designer of those costumes, Kansai Yamamoto. He drops references to the broader glam and loud statement pieces, along with interesting menswear, specifically Comme des Garçons which he describes as “crazy stuff for men that’s just barely wearable.”

His interest in sewing came from a bout of post-college, pre-work boredom while living in Milwaukee. While roommates with Dirty Cupcakes drummer Laura Gravander in the Midwest he learned how to use her sewing machine and begin deconstructing thrifted clothes, doing alterations, and eventually creating his own pieces. He’s all self-taught, and learned through both trial-and-error and diligent YouTube viewing.

Now living in San Francisco (though he moved first with Gravander from Milwaukee to the East Bay), he works shelving books at two library jobs, an aid at the Central Library in Berkeley and a page at the Main Library at Civic Center in SF. He awaits an open librarian position and has kept up the sewing and costume-making as a creative outlet.

Weber mentions that he likes making costumes for bands specifically because there’s a definite deadline: the night of the show. Do or die. He may have been known to run down the street trailing thread, or sew up a piece as the band is about to step on stage, but he also understands the great responsibility of outfitting hard rocking musicians — certain areas must be reinforced, seams must be sturdy because of fierce movement.

And with that comes the punk fate of it all, in sewing costumes for bands, he’s essentially creating what will likely be destroyed. “When you put a lot of work into something, it’s sad to see it get trashed, or blood on it,” says Weber, “but it’s just something you have to take into consideration, whether something just looks nice or whether it’s going to last through rock ‘n’ roll.”

Volume 46 Number 15 Flip-through Edition

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Capitalizing on the Auld Mug

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news@sfbg.com

The latest America’s Cup controversy arose with a complaint filed in state court in New York City on Dec. 12, alleging that the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), defender of the coveted sailing trophy and orchestrator of the prestigious international regatta in San Francisco, unfairly rejected an African American sailing team’s bid to compete as a defender candidate.

In a move that piqued the interest of close observers in the sailing world, the suit also takes things a step farther by challenging the legitimacy of including lucrative waterfront development deals into GGYC’s December 2010 agreement to host the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco.

The suit invokes a 159-year-old document, the America’s Cup Deed of Gift, drafted after the schooner America won the treasured Cup — affectionately known as the Auld Mug — in a match off the coast of England in 1851. Executed under the laws of New York since the schooner sailed under the New York Yacht Club, the deed establishes the America’s Cup trust, and sets out guidelines that every recipient of the cup must abide by. The suit holds that accepting the cup made GGYC a trustee under the deed, and “each club holds the Cup as ‘trustee for the benefit of all potential challengers.'”

Because GGYC set up its own America’s Cup Event Authority, which stands to profit from San Francisco real-estate development deals without sharing surplus revenue among competitors, the lawsuit charges that the yacht club violated its fiduciary duties as trustee.

“It is clear that GGYC is strictly forbidden from using its possession of the Cup and its attendant duties as trustee … in a manner that directly benefits itself, any of its members, or any third party,” asserts the complaint, filed by Madison Avenue law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP. “The law strictly prohibits self-dealing by a trustee.”

 

BLACK SAILING CREW

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of African Dispora Maritime (ADM), a North Carolina nonprofit organization founded by sea captain Charles Kithcart, who developed his skills as a mariner under former America’s Cup sailors and continues to pursue an ambitious dream.

Kithcart says he’s convened a sailing team to compete in the America’s Cup that includes African American Olympian sailors, and held discussions with a prominent Rhode Island yacht designer, David Pedrick, about constructing a qualifying vessel for his team. Pedrick, who’s designed America’s Cup racing yachts before, confirmed to the Guardian that he was willing to work with ADM.

GGYC accepted and later refunded ADM’s $25,000 application fee, but rejected the nonprofit’s proposal to enter the race, saying it wasn’t satisfied Kithcart’s team would have the necessary resources to compete. Kithcart claims to have a fundraising strategy for his America’s Cup bid ready to go, but his anticipated support appears to hinge upon being accepted as an America’s Cup competitor.

“You create a groundswell with the public,” he said. “This is the essence of our organization: It’s going to excite people’s imagination. Money can be generated, and there are people who will fund things.”

Kithcart’s vision extends beyond just racing in the elitist tournament, since that alone “doesn’t fulfill any of the social needs that are not only apparent, but glaring.”

ADM’s mission, he explained, is to train African American youth as competitive sailors, cultivate youth interest in math and science as it applies to nautical skills, and make a splash on the world stage by breaking into a predominantly white sport with a black-led team, á la the Jamaican bobsledders from the film Cool Runnings.

“We can really create inspired minds,” Kithcart said, enthusiastically describing field trips through church youth groups or Boys & Girls Clubs that would educate kids about the history of black mariners and offer the empowering experience of learning to helm a ship. “Our future is the youth.” Moreover, a yacht-building team would be a job-creation engine in tough economic times, he asserted.

The once-debt-plagued GGYC — which rocketed to sailing stardom after billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison joined up, installed his crew members on the board, and clinched the 33rd America’s Cup with his Team Oracle Racing off the coast of Valencia, Spain in 2010 — has approved competitors from France, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, China, and Korea for the 34th America’s Cup. The main event, a one-on-one match following all preliminary rounds, is to be held in San Francisco in the summer of 2013.

The foreign teams are known as challengers, but ADM applied to sail as a defender candidate — a U.S. team that would race against Team Oracle in a Defender Series in a bid to represent the U.S. in the 34th America’s Cup.

Under the race protocol drafted by the winners of the 33rd America’s Cup and an Italian team that has since withdrawn as the challenger of record, GGYC stated that it would consider applications from defender candidates. However, it would only accept “those it is satisfied have the necessary resources … and experience to have a reasonable chance of winning the America’s Cup Defender Series.”

Had GGYC accepted ADM’s application to compete, Kithcart’s African American led team would have sailed against Ellison’s Team Oracle crew — a spectacle Kithcart imagines would make fine fodder for national television broadcasts. He remains optimistic that it can happen. “We’re definitely going to get into the America’s Cup,” he told the Guardian in a recent telephone conversation.

That same confidence is conveyed in ADM’s lawsuit. “Indeed, ADM’s application showed that its proposed team quite obviously could beat Team Oracle Racing,” the complaint claims, “and certainly stood a ‘reasonable chance’ of doing so.”

The lawsuit alleges that GGYC ignored Kithcart’s repeated requests to be considered for entry into the competition almost until the deadline last spring, then rejected ADM on an arbitrary and unequal basis compared with its treatment of other competitors.

Three other teams that were accepted as competitors — including Club Nautico di Roma, the challenger of record — have since withdrawn, citing financial problems. The suit suggests these economically troubled teams were accepted as competitors without question even while ADM was rejected, and charges that GGYC made no attempt to determine the status of ADM’s team or fundraising plan.

What it all adds up to, according to ADM’s claim, is breach of contract and a failure to deal in good faith as a trustee. Nor is ADM shy about making demands. The lawsuit asks the court to compel GGYC to accept ADM’s application, reschedule all the planned races in order to hold a Defender Series, cancel the development rights afforded to the Event Authority, and pay ADM in excess of $1 million to compensate for the delay in building its yacht.

 

SO MUCH MONEY

John Rousmaniere, an America’s Cup historian who has authored several books about the sailing competition, regarded ADM’s case with skepticism. He seemed doubtful that GGYC could be forced to accept an application from a U.S. team.

“Golden Gate could invite other U.S. yacht clubs to compete for the right to defend, but it has chosen not to do that. Instead, it’s developing its own boat and crew. This is their right under the Deed of Gift,” he said. “The Deed of Gift is very clear — there is no obligation for another American boat to sail.”

He’s also dubious of the charge that GGYC breached its fiduciary duties as trustee by engaging in self-dealing, an argument that could have far greater consequences for Ellison in the long run. A similar dispute arose when the sailing tournament was held in New Zealand about a decade ago, he said, and the exact meaning of “trust” in the Deed of Gift has been debated before in similar arguments. “I don’t think it’s ever been resolved,” he added.

The lawsuit argues that the cup is held in trust for the benefit of all competitors, and that GGYC violated its duties as a trustee when it set up a real-estate deal benefiting its own interests without sharing the wealth. Under the terms of the Host City Agreement, the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) has the potential to lock in leases and long-term development rights for up to nine piers along the city’s waterfront for 66 years, with properties ranging from as far south as Pier 80 at Islais Creek to as far north as Pier 29, home of the popular dinner theater Teatro ZinZanni.

The Event Authority is a California LLC, whose agent for service of process is listed as ACEA board chairman Richard Worth of Lawrence Investments LLC — a technology and biotechnology private equity investment firm controlled by Ellison.

Under the protocol and in keeping with America’s Cup tradition, competitors will share in any “net surplus revenue” earned by the America’s Cup trust. However, this excludes the commercial and real estate rights granted to ACEA, the private entity controlled by Ellison, which is separate from the America’s Cup trust.

“For the first time in America’s Cup history, it appears that valuable rights generated by a trustee as a result of holding the America’s Cup are being explicitly excluded from the Cup’s net surplus revenue and … being held elsewhere, to the detriment of the competitors,” ADM’s suit alleges.

Rousmaniere says this isn’t the first time a legal argument invoking the Deed of Gift has found its way into court amid an America’s Cup power struggle, and that the issue remains a point of debate. Part from the problem, he believes, stems from the fact that a 21st Century event is governed by a rather vague 18th century document.

“The defender really runs the thing,” he said, referring to GGYC and by extension, the powerful Ellison. The question is, “How much authority is he going to give the challengers?”

“These people have a lot of lawyers working for them,” Rousmaniere observed, referring to GGYC and Ellison’s Team Oracle Racing, which are closely related. “People are taking a big risk here, and they want to be protected. The stakes are so high because there’s so much money involved.”

America’s Cup spokesperson Stephanie Martin referred Guardian inquiries to Tom Ehman, Vice Commodore of GGYC, who communicated with Kithcart about ADM’s application to compete. Ehman, who was taking a holiday in Spain, did not return an email request for comment and could not be reached by phone. However, a statement attributed to GGYC appeared on the blog Sailing Anarchy, which published a report about ADM’s suit.

“GGYC was served today with a complaint filed in the Supreme Court, County of New York, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, among other baseless claims,” the statement noted. “We believe the lawsuit is utterly without merit and that GGYC will prevail.”

Kithcart, meanwhile, is keeping his eye on the prize. “We need to excite our youth and then stand back and get out of the way and see what they create,” he said. “I’m betting they’ll make a movie about this. I’m betting there’ll be books about this. I’m betting this is history. We’re going to be a story.”

Redrawing the map

43

tredmond@sfbg.com, steve@sfbg.com

The most important political change of 2012 may not be the appointment of a new District 5 supervisor or the inauguration of a new mayor and sheriff. A process moving slowly through a little-known city task force could wind up profoundly shifting the makeup, and balance of power, on the Board of Supervisors — and hardly anyone is paying attention, yet.

The Redistricting Task Force is in the process of drawing new lines for the supervisorial districts, as mandated every 10 years when new census data is available. The nine-member body is made up of three appointees each by the board, the mayor and the Elections Commission. While mandated to draw equal-sized districts that maintain “communities of interest,” the board has almost unchecked authority to decide which voters are in which districts.

While it’s difficult to draw 11 bad districts in San Francisco, it’s entirely possible to shift the lines to make it more difficult to elect progressives — something many groups out there are anxious to do.

VIEW THE CURRENT WORKING DRAFT MAP HERE

 

CONSOLIDATING THE LEFT

Downtown and pro-landlord groups are circulating their own draft maps, attempting to influence the outcome. Their goal is hardly a secret: If progressive voters can be concentrated in a small number of districts — say, districts 5, 6, and 9 — it’s more likely that a majority of the board will be moderates and conservatives.

The task force has looked at 10 “visualizations” prepared by a consultant, and each of them had some alarming aspects. For example, the visualizations mostly pushed such conservative areas as Seacliff and Presidio Heights into District 1, which is represented by progressive Sup. Eric Mar.

On Jan. 4, those drafts were replaced by a single working draft map, which is now on the task force’s hard-to-find website (www.sfgov2.org/index.aspx?page=2622) — and it’s not as bad as the earlier versions. The working draft keeps Seacliff and Presidio Terrace in District 2 — which share similar demographics.

“The working families in the Richmond don’t belong in the same community of interest as the millionaires with homes overlooking the ocean,” Mar told us.

But there are other changes that some may find alarming. The more conservative Portola neighborhood, which is now in District 9, would be included in District 11, while D9 would pick up the more liberal north Mission. That would make D9 an even safer progressive district — but make D11 harder for a progressive like the incumbent, John Avalos, to win.

The task force has been holding hearings on each of the districts — but there’s been little discussion about how the new lines will affect the makeup of the board, and the politics and policy of the city, as a whole.

 

POPULATION CHANGES

The driving force behind the changes in the districts is the rather dramatic population shift on the east side of the city. Most of the districts, census data show, have been relatively stable. But since 2000, 24,591 more people have moved into D6 — a nearly 30 percent increase — while 5,465 have moved into D10 (a 7.5 percent increase) and 5,414 into D11 (8.7 percent). D9 saw the biggest population decrease, losing 7,530 voters or 10.3 percent.

The huge growth in D6 has been the result of a boom in new high-end condos in the Rincon Hill and SoMa neighborhoods, and it’s changed the demographics of that district and forced the city to rethink how all of the surrounding districts are drawn.

No matter what scenario you look at, D6 has to become geographically smaller. Most of the maps circulating around suggest that the north Mission be shifted into D9 and parts of the Tenderloin move into districts 3 and 5. But those moves will make D6 less progressive, and create a challenge: The residents of the Tenderloin don’t have a lot in common with the millionaires in their high-rise condos.

As progressive political consultant David Looman noted, “The question is, how do you accommodate both the interests and concerns of San Francisco’s oldest and poorest population and San Francisco’s youngest, hippest, and very prosperous population?”

The working map is far from final. By law, the population of every district has to be within 1 percent of the median district population, or up to 5 percent if needed to prevent dividing or diluting the voting power of minority groups and/or keeping established neighborhoods together.

Under the current draft, eight of the 11 districts are out of compliance with the 1 percent standard, and District 7 has 5.35 percent more residents than the mean, so it will need to change. But task force Chair Eric McDonnell told the Guardian that he expects the current map to be adopted with only slight modifications following a series of public meetings over the next couple months.

“The tweaks will be about how we satisfy the population equalization, while trying to satisfy communities of interest,” McDonnell said, noting that this balancing act won’t be easy. “I anticipate everyone will be disappointed at some level.”

 

OUTSIDE INFLUENCES?

Some progressives have been concerned that downtown groups have been trying to influence the final map, noting that the San Francisco Board of Realtors, downtown-oriented political consultants David Latterman and Chris Bowman, and others have all created and submitted their own maps to the task force.

McDonnell said the task force considered solutions proposed by the various maps, but he said, “We won’t adopt wholesale anyone’s maps, but we think about what problem they were trying to solve.”

For example, some progressive analysts told us that many of the proposals from downtown make D9 more progressive, even though it is already a solidly progressive seat, while making D8 more conservative, whereas now it is still a contestable district even though moderates have held it for the last decade.

“It would be nice to see the Mission in one district, but it makes D8 considerably more conservative, so it’s a balancing act,” said Tom Radulovich, a progressive activist who ran for D8 supervisor in 2002.

Latterman told us he has a hard time believing the final map will be substantially similar to the current draft. “Once that gets circulated to the neighborhoods, I find that hard to believe it won’t change,” he said. “A lot of the deviations are big and they will have to change.”

He said that he approached the process of making a map as a statistician trying to solve a puzzle, and that begins with figuring out what to do with D6. “I fall back on my technician skills more than the political,” Latterman, who teaches political science at the University of San Francisco, said. “It’s a big puzzle.”

Latterman also disputed concerns that he or others have tried to diminish progressive voting power, saying that’s difficult to do without a drastic remaking of the map, something that few people are advocating.

“It’s hard to make major political changes with the other constraints we have to meet,” he said. “Unless you’re willing to scrap everything we have, it’ll be hard to make major political changes.”

Once the task force approves a final map in April, there’s little that can be done to change it. The map will go to both the Elections Commission and the Board of Supervisors, but neither can alter the boundaries.

“We are the final say,” McDonnell said. That is, unless it is challenged with a lawsuit, which is entirely possible given the stakes.

Easy honors

0

virginia@sfbg.com

APPETITE It’s true: the East Bay cocktail scene is growing by leaps and bounds lately, with a slew of new bars (many opened by San Francisco bar stars) popping up from Albany to Alameda. Two comfortable new hangouts just debuted Jan. 3, serving cocktails for the geek and casual imbiber alike. Both claim noteworthy bartenders covering various shifts. I spent an evening tasting through their menus. Here’s an early peek at cocktail stand-outs at these two. For more exciting drink destinations in the East Bay, click here

 

HONOR BAR

Situated in its own building — with parking lot — not far from Emeryville’s shopping center madness (and E-ville’s other shining bar beacon, Prizefighter, www.prizefighterbar.com, which opened at the end of 2011), Honor Bar serves gourmet pub food in a room glowing with vintage signs, a Creature from the Black Lagoon pinball machine, and granite red bar at the center of it all. After passing through an entrance lined with cigar signs, records, even a stuffed owl, grab a beer from a tub of ice. It’s all on the honor system, so ask a bartender to add it to your tab. (No surprise: this is already garnering early buzz).

Cocktail menu quality was pretty much guaranteed under bar manager Alex Smith who came from SF’s Gitane. I’ve written about his exquisite drinks at Gitane few times, and was unsurprised to find his offerings at Honor Bar more casual but nonetheless sophisticated, easily exhibiting promise at this early date to be among the best cocktails in the East Bay.

While slurping oysters with St. Germain herb mignonette or dipping Kennebec fries ($3.50) in salt and vinegar aioli or Serrano ham jelly, select from cocktails (all $10) grouped under “stirred” (spirituous) or “shaken” (mixed with other ingredients). I was immediately won over by gently smoky, spicy, bright layers of the Porfiriato. Tequila, guajillo pepper-infused mezcal, Cocchi di Torino, Licor 43, and cinnamon bitters meld in a complex yet drinkable whole.

The spirit of tiki hovers over but does not overwhelm the bourbon-based Bleeding Monarch. Passion fruit lends a tropical air, orgeat adds texture, balsamico amaro and Campari finish with deliciously bitter undertones. Black Sabbath is as badass as it sounds: Laphroiag Scotch dominates with a rough and tumble, smoky presence, given nuance by Averna, absinthe, and orange bitters.

Smith’s established skill with sherry shows in Jenkins’ Ear, highlighting oloroso sherry with aged rum, Angostura bitters and cardamom-spice properties of Hum liqueur — no element out of balance. Dessert with a savory essence can be had in a Winter Flip. Whole egg softens brandy and tawny port, while Smith’s housemade Indian pudding is a cream base (rather than a thick pudding) for layers of spice.

1411 Powell, Emeryville, (510) 653-8667, www.honorbar.com

 

THE NEW EASY

In Oakland’s Grand Lake district, Easy Lounge closed, transforming into the New Easy. Big Easy inspiration is evident in upcoming Nola Sundays with BBQ, punch bowls (proceeds go to charities), and New Orleans tunes. The space is funky, eclectic, charming, with boozy quotes etched into one wall, stars painted on another, white lights draped over individual picnic tables. The small back patio is warmed by heat lamps and a skeleton gazing over cactus plants.

The welcoming neighborhood joint focuses on farmers market ingredients. Each Saturday a new menu of cocktails is created using ingredients from the big Grand Lake Farmers Market a block away.

Summer-Jane Bell not only created the menu but was hands-on with space design elements, painting stars as she crafted the menu. Her winning bartender team includes Yael Amyra (Circolo, Burritt Room), Ian Adams (15 Romolo, Orson), David Ruiz (Mr. Smith), and Morgan Schick (Nopa, Michael Mina).

Bell’s menu is decidedly playful, reminiscent of American childhood… but with booze. The festive theme starts as you receive Chinese take-out boxes of fresh-popped popcorn, while bites of mini sliders and grilled cheese sandwiches are passed around. I had the most fun with Mad Hatter ($10). Sailor Jerry rum and a spicy ginger soda are obvious mates, but the bright orange, creamy drink surprises with golden raisin puree and carrot juice. Bright and healthy, spice and sweetness (but not too much) make it a delightful alternative to an orange creamsicle.

Gift Horse ($9) was probably the most balanced, making fine use of Hayman’s Old Tom gin, which I haven’t seen much on cocktail menus in awhile. Dolin Blanc vermouth and Bell’s winter bitters made with a tequila base, unfold in floral, dry layers with notes of cranberry and fennel from the bitters.

Winter Sideshow ($11) offers the most spectacle, even if I prefer the former two drinks. The drink will change with the seasons, a base of Beefeater gin and Pür Spiced Blood Orange liqueur the backdrop for Angostura-flambeed kumquats, lit before you.

3255 Lakeshore Ave., Oakl., 510-338-4911, www.easy510.com 

Subscribe to Virgina’s twice-monthly newsletter, The Perfect Spot, www.theperfectspotsf.com

 

Brighter Days

0

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS Kayday, she doesn’t so much like it in Seattle, and this comes as no surprise to me. Or her. Or you, probably, if you’ve ever been there. If not, just go to weather.com and sample a 10-day forecast, any 10 days, this time of year. That’ll give you some idea what she’s up against. It’s a beautiful city with good coffee and, traditionally, strong music, but that doesn’t make it any kind of long-term livable for a sunny-dispositioned nature such as Kayday’s.

This bodes well for the eventual re-existence of our band, which (to be fair) has been not only Seattled but New Orleansed into a pretty perpetual state of discontinuation.

We’ll have our day.

Meanwhile, Kayday keeps coming down for the weekend. One time it was Thanksgiving. Just a day or two beforehand we were talking or texting and I said, not meaning much by it, "What are you doing for the holiday?"

"Oh, I don’t know," she said. "You?"

"Smoking a big fat turkey," I said. "In Berkeley." Then, though it seemed like a long shot: "Wanna come down and eat with us?"

She did! Which impressed me, considering how hard it is to get city-side folks to cross the bridge for dinner.

Kayday came back again just a few weeks after, in the meat of December, by which time the planet was so dang tilted folks up there had mold in their ears. Many had forgotten what daylight even looks like.

It’s dark when she goes to work in the morning, Kayday said, and dark again by the time she comes home.

"That sounds downright Germanic," I said. "What are you doing by way of anti-depressant?"

"Plotting to move back to San Francisco," she said.

When she’s here, she goes for long runs in Golden Gate Park, which is known to fog over, too — but apparently it’s a different, more cheerful quality of fog.

I believe it. Anyway, we went to LCX for dinner: me, her, and Hedgehog. LCX stands for Le Cheval um … used to be. I guess.

Because that’s the situation here. What used to be Le Cheval in downtown Oakland is now Le Cheval a.k.a. LCX in downtown Oakland. Only a block away from where it was.

What happened: about a year ago, after fifteen years at Clay and (I think) 10th, Le Cheval got evicted. Boo. Hiss.

But, in the spirit of showmustgoonmanpersonship — hooray — they opened LCX, which is run by the old owner’s son. There are still Le Chevals in Berkeley and Walnut Creek, but the downtown Oakland one is now this: this … wine bar. With food.

I can’t tell if it’s the same, because I hadn’t been to the old Le Cheval in a long time, before they closed, but my sense is no.

Yes.

Maybe.

Well, the only thing I recognized on our table was fried calamari, which was every bit as tender and delicious as I remembered from the old place. It came with a little bowl of salty peppery lemony dipping juice, which it didn’t really even need. Just a little.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I also ordered bo luc lac, chunks of grilled tenderloin steak with green beans. And that came with the same salt-pepper-lemon dip. With or without which, the dish was fantastic: the meat was tender, rare, and garlicky, and the beans had real snap to them.

Alas, my buds were not so lucky in their ordering. Kayday was OK with her beef with vegetables, but Hedgehog did not like her lemon grass beef. And I agree it was lame — neither lemony nor grassy. I blame her misfortune on Lotus Garden, in the Mission, for making such an event out of their lemon grass chicken. Remember? It was so good that Hedgehog can’t stop ordering lemon grass this and that, even when she’s not at Lotus Garden.

I know how that is.

LCX

Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Sun. 4p.m.-9 p.m.

1019 Clay, Oakl.

(510) 763-8495

AE,D,MC,V

Full bar

Look sharp!

0

Yes yes, we know it’s been unseasonably balmy of late in our city by the bay. But mark our words, fashionistas — winter, it comes. And the mark of an impeccably-styled gent or lady is their preparedness for any situation; cloudy, sunny, rainy — or more likely when speaking of San Francisco, anything in between. To that end: our Winter Looks issue. It’s chockful of everything you need to look luxe in low temps, from magnificent menswear, to bike outfits you can pedal and preen in. We even enlisted the help of some of the Bay’s most fashionable folks to show off what they wear in cold and rainy climes. Best of all: most of it can be found right here in the Bay Area. Shopping bags away! 

>>WINTER LOOKS: A stylist, a blogger, and a boutique show us their hot haute

>>BIKE LANE RUNWAY: Higher-in-the-back waistlines, water-resistant capes — bike shops and labels that’ll help you dodge puddles while looking delish

>>FIX UP, LOOK SHARP: Update your menswear at seven hip new shops from around the city

>>CREATE AND DESTROY: A profile of Collin Weber, designer to the (garage rock) stars

So long, farewell

0

arts@sfbg.com

FILM When Ingrid Eggers announced that 2012 would mark her last German Gems film festival, the news came as a bittersweet reminder that nothing lasts forever.

Perhaps not coincidentally, this theme is perfectly summed up by the quintet of films that comprise German Gems’ final line-up. From the scandal-inducing, incestuous love affair (and its slow-burning aftermath) between artistic siblings Georg and Margarethe Trackl in Christoph Stark’s Taboo: The Soul is a Stranger on Earth, to the rejection of childhood dreams portrayed in Robert Thalheim’s Westwind, this year’s festival deals overwhelmingly with the impacts and lingering reverberations of loss. Whether Eggers planned it this way — to help us work through our grief at losing her curatorial prowess — isn’t clear, but in any event, the selection does prepare the viewer emotionally to accept her graceful auf Wiedersehen.

An understated portrait of Germany’s relationship with nuclear power, Under Control is a quietly compelling observational documentary. Crafted simply from footage taken inside nuclear power plants across Germany and Austria, along with interviews with various plant operators and nuclear energy experts regarding each particular plant’s focus and future, Under Control offers an intriguing look at a side of nuclear power we’re not normally privy to: the somewhat banal day-to-day operations which go into its generation.

These glimpses include stark imagery of long, sterile white corridors; retro-futuristic control rooms filled with panels and flashing monitors; plant employees being scanned for radiation; steam curling above bucolic countryside from the giant mouths of cooling towers; a subterranean bunker where contaminated washrags go to be buried; and a tense emergency-preparedness training session during which a reactor shutdown is simulated.

By the film’s end an unexpected realization becomes apparent: the almost foregone conclusion that Germany’s nuclear age is drawing to an end. As filmmakers Volker Sattel and Stefan Stefanescu are given a tour of the remains of what was once the Kalkar nuclear facility, completed in 1985 but never taken "online," their guide mourns the loss of jobs, and more importantly, of the billions of Deutschmarks used to fund the construction of a doomed power plant.

"Chernobyl broke our backs," he asserts almost wistfully, while astonishing footage of a modern-day carnival ride built inside the shell of the old cooling tower spirals onscreen.

A film dealing more directly with loss of the utterly human variety, Jan Schomburg’s Above Us Only Sky follows Martha (Sandra Hüller), a soft-spoken schoolteacher married to PhD student Paul (Felix Schmidt-Knopp), with whom she plans to move to Marseilles after he accepts a job offer at a hospital there. Or so she thinks. In a series of brief, clipped scenes, she discovers that the man she has been living with for years has been leading a secret life she’s known nothing about.

Struggling to regain her bearings, she meets Alexander (Georg Friedrich), a charismatic, tattooed professor at Paul’s former university, and in a series of awkwardly-engineered moments, initiates a relationship with him. As their attachment grows, their pairing begins to resemble Martha’s previous relationship — right down to a discussion about moving to Marseilles. The main attraction of this film is Hüller’s nuanced performance, and her disarming veneer of almost girlish delicacy and neurotic sexuality concealing an iron will. Her previous tragedy informing her actions, she keeps her motivations to herself, revealing as little as possible for as long as possible, a stubborn survivalist strategy which finally unravels just enough for Alexander to be able to reveal his own hidden past.

A first feature for Schomburg, the deceptively simple Above Us Only Sky doesn’t waste a frame while tracing the subtle contours of a paradise lost, and one regained.


GERMAN GEMS

Sat/14, $8-$10

Castro Theatre

429 Market, SF

Sun/15, $8-$10

Arena Theatre

214 Main, Point Arena
www.germangems.com

Thriller

0

emilysavage@sfbg.com

MUSIC There are so many extravagant things you could say about the late King of Pop, our holy father of stage theatrics and sequined gloves, Michael Jackson. The moon-walking man, the storied myth, the embattled legend.

If you want to get at the core of his power, the lifelong devotion of his millions of followers, try to envision a scenario that took place decades ago; look back at a then-12-year-old choreographer named Laurie Sposit, mimicking dance moves in her bedroom plastered with Michael Jackson posters. “I also wanted the red [Thriller] jacket but my dad wouldn’t get it for me, I was traumatized,” says Sposit from a brief stop in Phoenix, Ariz.

Now grown, Sposit has toured the world with the likes of Madonna, Beyonce, and Janet Jackson, but never had the chance to dance on stage with Michael. As of October, she’s been traveling as dance master for Cirque Du Soleil’s newest grand-scale production Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour. Says Sposit, “it feels like it came full-circle for me.”

A vibrant, eye-popping mixture of remixed videos, pyrotechnics, elaborate costumery, pulsating live music, breakdancers, high-flying acrobats, and a wealth of that classic Michael choreography (including one routine that appears to be performed in a pair of human-sized black loafers and white socks), The Immortal World Tour reflects, expands, and magnifies the classic Michael Jackson live show — with the expected Cirque flair.

Cirque produced something similarly spectacular with the Beatles catalogue (Love), but this one seems to lend itself even more to the format given the sheer drama of Michael-the-star. Written and directed by Jamie King, the production kicked off Oct. 2 in Montreal and is in the midst of a massive tour, with an eventual, inevitable home in Las Vegas. It incorporates the grand span of Michael’s career; there’s even an accompanying remix album which has been charting since its release in November. It’s all there in the production: Jackson 5 hits, “Billie Jean,” “Black or White,” “Dangerous,” “Thriller” — even “Scream,” the hit duet with Janet. The nearly three hour, approximately $60 million production includes more than 60 performers each night.

One of the production’s youngest performers is 20-year-old Holland-based breakdancer Pom Arnold. In the show, Arnold performs in 10 different numbers and after shows, he says, the dancers often keep moving. They go back to their hotels, order pizza, and dance in their rooms together. “Like breathing for you, is dancing for us,” he says.

A breakdancer since age 10, this is Arnold’s first international production — and by the far the biggest. “I think for many of the dancers this has been one of the biggest productions. It’s Michael. You can’t go bigger, I think, unless you’re working with the man himself.”

The intensity of that comes through in his performance. When Arnold was rehearsing the routine for “Smooth Criminal” with the backing band for the first time, surrounded by other dancers, he was unprepared for the sudden wave of emotion rushing through him. “I got goosebumps on the stage. And that never happened to me before, dancing and getting goosebumps,” he says in a phone call from tour.

Sposit too has felt the connection. As dance master, her responsibilities include overseeing the choreography to help maintain the integrity of the production. During the first two months of the tour, she cried every time the curtain went up, just as she did when she caught Michael’s tour as a tween. It’s a visceral response to seeing the music enlivened once more. “And I also watch the audience,” Sposit says of her nightly routine, “I’ve seen many people cry. It kind of takes them on an emotional journey.” *

MICHAEL JACKSON: THE IMMORTAL WORLD TOUR

Fri/13-Sat/14, 8 p.m.; Sun/15, 4 p.m., $50–<\d>$250

HP Pavilion

525 West Santa Clara, San Jose

Jan. 17-18, 8 p.m., $50–<\d>$250

Oracle Arena

7000 Coliseum Way, Oakl.

www.cirquedusoleil.com/MichaelJackson

Sanitized insanity

0

TRASH The term “Hollywood” has become a many-splendored pejorative, applicable to anything trite, vulgar, politically liberal, morally lax, and so on and so forth. Yet as much as they might like to think they’re so-not That, what red-corpuscled Americans with an electrical socket in their dwelling — or simply senses to absorb stray bits of popular culture when they venture outside — aren’t influenced by if not downright addicted to some facets of the entertainment industry?

It takes enormous effort to approach purity in this regard: a combination of home-schooling, mainstream-society-shunning, self-sustaining, off-grid living that pretty much requires the clock be turned back to pioneer days, before oughty-mobiles and other fancy products of modernity. Certain radical polygamist sects of recent notoriety might be the closest anyone in the Lower 48 gets these days to unhooking more than one stubborn individual or three off the infinitely tentacled monster of pop media.

Of course those people are weirdos whom mainstream Mormons prefer not to be associated with, especially when they’re running for President. To be a regular LDS Church member means having a looser, somewhat disapproving yet tolerant attitude toward Hollywood products. It means, for instance, deeming MTV too racy for basic cable. (Think of the children!) It means wanting your cake, but eating it with less decadent icing. However, many a chef chafes at a consumer scraping the offending spices, toppings, and toplessnesses from his or her labored-over creations just because said consumer is on some special diet. From the consumer’s POV, of course, the issue is different: they paid for the item; why shouldn’t they doctor it as stomach and conscience decrees?

That debate, acted out in the heart of Mormonlandia, is at the crux of Andrew James and Joshua Ligari’s documentary Cleanflix. Its eventually very twisty tale starts out with the simple arrival of a supply to meet a demand — in this case, “cleaned up” versions of Hollywood movies offered for rental or purchase in a handful of Utah stores starting around the turn of the millennium.

Handily removing “sex, nudity, profanity, and gory violence” — pretty much in precisely that descending order of importance — from commercial movies for home viewing, Ray Lines’ original CleanFlicks identified a community need and filled it. This success did not pass unnoticed. In fact even as CleanFlicks sold its stores and moved into online distribution, competitors were multiplying like plygs (children of polygamous families), each one howling as the next invaded their territory.

There are many things you can’t do, or at least are strongly discouraged from doing, in the Mormon-dominated state of Utah. But practicing cutthroat capitalism is not one of them — quite the opposite. Money corrupts just like power, however, and Cleanflix veers in unexpected directions as one of its principal characters, a seemingly affable and earnest man of faith, turns out to be a purported fornicating stoner pornmonger whose only spirituality was spelled with a $. The heat gets such that he has to flee the state, briefly landing in Gomorrah itself, Hollywood.

Even as it stumbles upon such lurid human interest, Cleanflix keeps an eye on the bigger picture, notably the question: who has the right to alter a copyrighted work? Some “clean” video shops clung to the notion that since they purchased and tweaked each and every DVD themselves, they were free to do what they wanted with them. Besides, don’t the big studios often create censored versions of their own films for airplane screenings and such?

The industry begged to differ, eventually winning court victories that shut down most (if not all) of the independent “content filtering” businesses. We hear from directors like Steven Soderbergh and Neil LaBute (the latter an ex Mormon), who bristle at the hubris behind “changing something that doesn’t belong to you,” saying that it’s naive at best to think in taking a few bricks out of an artistic house you won’t cause the whole structure to collapse. Then of course there’s the worry that such tampering “cultivates a tolerance for censorship” and uses legitimizes “a shamefulness toward sexuality,” no matter what the artist’s original intention might have been.

Ye olden American hypocrisy in matters of sex vs. violence — so opposite the attitudes flaunted by our socialistic European brethren — is glimpsed in “cleansed” movies like 1996’s Fargo that many patrons find permissible with all its extreme bloodletting intact (remember that wood chipper?), but one mention of the word “penis” tastefully excised. The mind reels at some successfully censored cinema noted here, like 1999’s The Matrix with all its umpteen non-graphic killings removed, or even sacrosanct Schindler’s List (1993) minus any concentration camp details unsuitable for the entire family.

Some movies, however, resist all taming. Ray Lines admits there was no point trying to scrub up 1990’s seemingly harmless Pretty Woman (whose Cinderella is a streetwalker). As for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, well … “We didn’t do that one on principle,” a CleanFlicks editor says. Just as the monkey at the typewriter will sooner or later write Hamlet, so in the infinite diversity of human experience, once in a great while homophobia is going to be good news for homosexuals.

 

CLEANFLIX

Sun/15-Tues/17, 7 and 9 p.m. (also Sun/15, 2 p.m.)

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St., SF

(415) 863-1087

www.roxie.com

Winter looks

0

Once upon a time, it was not 2012 and global warming had not amped up its breakneck pace towards tsunami apocalypse, earth crust melt, and vacuum-suck hurtling into the skies. (See ya, fundamentalists!)

In remembrance of these times, and recognizing that we are a long way yet from Indian summer, we asked a stylist (Leah Perloff, who also drops and pops on the decks for glitter-glued dance-down Stay Gold), a blogger (Erin Hagstrom, creator of the quietly ravishing and eminently resourceful Calivintage), and a boutique (urban-Western flannel-wrangler hotspot Welcome Stranger, represented by store manager Justin Hagar) to put together looks you can work in whipping winds and/or gentle, dewy showers.

The resulting outfits — which ace photog Matthew Reamer captured in his Mission District studio — utilized pieces from local boutiques like Mira Mira and Mission Statement. That means you can cop a lot of it for yourself. Which you should, because the thing about the end of the world is that no one’s going to care about your credit score anymore.

We hope.

>>LEAH PERLOFF: Lush layers

>>ERIN HAGSTROM: Stylin’ in the rain

>>WELCOME STRANGER: Warm, warm on the range

From prison bars to classroom stars

2

culture@sfbg.com

CAREERS AND EDUCATION Wearing a neatly-pressed army uniform in his office at City College of San Francisco Charles Moore, tells a Guardian reporter that he is a warrior for education.

Moore is the recruiter and outreach developer for the college’s Extended Opportunity Program and Services (EOPS) ex-offender counseling program, Second Chance. His team struggles with the fate of underserved refugees from an expanding state prison population (at last count, comprised of 132,887 adults) and the budget cuts that have dug deep into universities and community colleges across California.

Their battle? On a minuscule budget of $150,000 program staff must find a way to help ex-offenders break the incarceration cycle and get a college degree.

And by most counts, they’re winning. Second Chance is fueled by a surprising mix of personal experience, stretched resources, and a steadfast dedication to an underserved student population. It is one of very few such endeavors in the nation.

Moore says one of the recurring problems that ex-offenders face in the school system are Rip Van Winkel moments, inevitable occurrences after years of incarceration. The most minute-seeming technological changes in the world — an automatic-flush toilet for instance, or unfamiliar crosswalk signage — have shaken advisees, sometimes enough to prompt drop-outs.

This kind of culture shock is precisely what Second Chance works to combat, in addition to more traditional academic concerns. Staff wear a number of hats, answering students’ questions about financial aid and programs of study. Peer counselors are also crucial to the program, students who have themselves matriculated with the help of Second Chance and are available to assist those with questions.

“This is a community college,” says Moore. “And we need to be in touch with our community.”

“Second Chance and EOPS really set up a model for similar programs throughout the state and the country,” says Juanita Gray, the program secretary. She has worked from its beginnings as Project Scorpio to the program’s 1981 refashioning under EOPS’ then-director Bill Chin.

Gray remembers the days when inmates would file off the Sheriff Department’s bus and into EOPS, get their handcuffs unlocked, and complete student applications. Nowadays Second Chance, which boasted 120 students last year, sees ex-offenders arrive of their own accord, having already received essential information about the program in prison.

Moore works within Bay Area neighborhoods to spread the word, but more often than not, prospective students seek him out.

“The majority of our referrals come from word of mouth, from within the state’s prison system. People move to the Bay Area for Second Chance,” he says.

Many of the program’s small staff have made it through both a prison sentence and a degree at City College. As Second Chance students they, like their current advisees, received book vouchers, Muni passes, a basic meal plan, priority registration, and advisory support on their journey towards a college degree.

Moore is one of these graduates.

“Those who work in the program are often ‘been there, done that,’ — we understand the struggle of stepping onto a college campus after 25 years in prison,” says Moore.

Like several of his colleagues, Moore passed through California’s penal system multiple times. After one stint, he remembers, “I began to take a serious look at myself. I always had to start over again with nothing once I was released. Things had not changed in my environment.”

But then he found Second Chance. Moore sees the program in stark terms: “education as an alternative to incarceration.”

The program’s staff and tutors say adjusting to a school environment is a major obstacle for ex-offender-students. Jeffrey Masko, who volunteers with eight Second Chance participants each week, tutoring them in English and math, describes the basic challenges for students who are coming from prison time.

“[Second Chance students] sometimes only have one shot, an hour at a library computer, to do their work,” says Masko. “For a lot of these students, there is no ‘later’ — they have to do the work before they get on the bus home, or [maybe if] they have an hour before class [they can do it then].”

If the program’s longevity alone is not enough to prove its effectiveness, statistics help. In the fall 2010 semester, more than 80 percent of students in Second Chance were in good academic standing, according to a 2011 article by program director Ray Fong. Also in that year, students bent on further study transferred to San Francisco State University, University of California at Berkeley, and Mills College.

Second Chancers have gone on to work as drug counselors, social workers, and activists.

“There’s definitely a strange phenomenon [within the Second Chance student body] of giving back,” explains Masko. “Even though they may have spent 10 years in the penitentiary, they look for fields that they can make a contribution within.”

Alumnus Jason Bell heads San Francisco State’s Project Rebound, a similar program geared towards helping the ex-incarcerated towards college degrees. Rudy Corpuz Jr., another graduate, founded United Playaz in 1994 to combat youth violence.

In 2010, students earned certificates in violence intervention, emergency medicine, administration of justice, trauma prevention, and case management skills.

“I haven’t had one person in my office say they didn’t want to give back,” says Moore, “They say it each and every time. And I’m coming up on 15 years.”

Free to be you and me

0

caitlin@sfbg.com

FREE UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO

Like many progressive organization, this year-old network of unpaid teachers and unpaying students has found new energy in Occupy’s protests. Unlike many, it’s not stumbling when it comes to the next step in the movement. FUSF has teamed with Occupiers to develop its upcoming round of five-week classes, which will start in February. At press time, courses included “Introduction to Political Economy,” a class on subversive writers, and Chuck Sperry’s “Occupy Art” guide to bringing down the system with propaganda design.

Spring term: Feb. 5-March 4. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Viracocha, 998 Valencia, SF. www.freeuniversitysf.org

IMPACT BAY AREA

Some education strengthens your mind — some education strengthens your soul. Into the latter category falls self defense non-profit Impact Bay Area’s free-to-the-public “Introduction to Personal Safety” classes. Open to ages 12 and up at Sports Basements across the Bay Area, the course teaches you how to keep your eyes open when walking the neighborhoods, with the end goal of living life with less fear and more fun.

Next class: Feb. 8, 6-8 p.m. Register at www.eventbrite.com/event/2704831223. Sports Basement, 1590 Bryant, SF. www.impactbayarea.org

EAST BAY FREE SKOOL

Not to state the obvious, but we live in the Bay Area. Henceforth, we can stop looking at learning the Spanish language as an extracurricular activity, and more as something that we can do to bring our community closer together. That’s exactly the motivation behind the East Bay Free Skool’s Spanish-English Collective, an educational meet-up which unites bilingual teachers and students for some real pragmatic, communication-based learning. Free Skool is big on knowledge that brings the 99 percent together — check its website for other amazing free classes, from anti-gentrification workshops to herbal medicine primers.

Various venues, Bay Area. tiny.cc/ebfreeskool

CITY COLLEGE OF SAN FRANCISCO

At many of CCSF’s 10-plus campuses across the city, you can take courses absolutely free of charge — and sign up for them at any point in the semester. What can you learn? GED prep, introductory construction skills, economics, US contemporary writers, and tai chi, to name but a few of the offerings. How has this vast resource network escaped the chopping block in California’s beleaguered public school system? We almost don’t want to press the issues — let’s just sign up while these courses still exist.

Various campuses, SF. www.ccsf.edu

CW ANALYTICAL

You’ve planted your own garden, gotten your card, and are committed to heightening endocannabinoid levels in your medical marijuana patient family and friends — but do you really know what you’re doing making weed edibles? This marijuana laboratory offers intermittent classes for the cannabis food newbie or vet that teach about quality control, presentation, and applicable regulations.

Next class: “Labeling Your Medical Edible,” Jan. 19, noon. RSVP to reserve class space and to emily@cwanalytical.com. (510) 545-6984, www.cwanalytical.com

 

Looks good off paper

0

culture@sfbg.com

CAREERS AND EDUCATION According to the Princeton Review, that bicep-straining tome of college rankings responsible for many a young adult’s breakdown, most of the perennially popular majors (psychology, economics, communications, political science) are still alive and kicking. But plenty of alternative, even radical fields of study are blossoming that meld academic inquiry with tangible work towards change. From crafting tables for an Oakland school library to restoring native California plants, many students around the Bay are getting academic credit for innovative contributions towards a sustainable future. 

CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT WITH A CONCENTRATION IN YOUTH WORK AND OUT OF SCHOOL TIME

Ah, to be young… kind of. The adolescent years are rarely anyone’s favorites, which makes SFSU’s Youth Work and Out of School Time concentration in its child and adolescent development bachelor’s degree all the more important. Its students learn to directly address the needs of young people in trouble. Internship-heavy and based on first-hand experience, the program trains students to work with youth in after school programs, the justice system, social services, and beyond.

San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway, SF. (415) 338-1111, www.sfsu.edu

NUTRITIONAL SCIENCE AND TOXICOLOGY

The Bay Area is not only a gourmand’s nirvana, it’s also at the forefront of food-based activism. Cal’s nutrition-oriented bachelor’s program offers three degrees (physiology and metabolism, dietetics, and molecular toxicology) in addition to courses in “pesticide chemistry and toxicology,” “nutrition in the community,” and “human food practices.” We hope the studies will enable the next generation of food scholars to make a tangibly tasty difference.

UC Berkeley, 103 Sproul Hall, Berk. (510) 624-3175, www.berkeley.edu

AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE

A degree in ASL is perfect for those gunning for a career as an interpreter for the hearing-impaired, and this associate’s degree or certificate from Berkeley City College is a great place to get started. Classes provide both practical and theory-based knowledge opportunities for intrepid future signers. Courses in the history and culture of deaf people in the United States augment the study of the language itself.

Berkeley City College, 2050 Center St., Berk. (510) 981-2800, www.berkeleycitycollege.edu

WOMEN’S STUDIES

One of the first such programs in the county, City College’s Women’s Studies department has been feminist-ing since 1971. It schools students in sexual violence prevention, HIV and STI outreach, and the complexities and politics of domestic relationships. Students can study for an associate’s degree, but the sexual health educator certificate programs also a notable thing to walk away with.

San Francisco City College, Ocean Campus, 50 Phelan, SF. (415) 239-3000, www.ccsf.edu

COMMUNITY ARTS

Calling all activist-artists, California College of the Arts’ community arts program is comprised of classes that study and build upon the relationships that creative types forge with their community. Students work aggressively for social change through community interaction. Past projects have revolved around designing furniture for an Oakland school and crafting nesting modules for roosting coastal birds.

California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth St., SF. (415) 703-9523, www.cca.edu

POLITICAL, LEGAL, AND ECONOMIC ANALYSIS

Fittingly, considering that Mills College is home to less than 1,000 undergrads (all female), students in this popular bachelor’s program can rely on lots of individual attention. Students can choose to concentrate on a political, international, or economic focus, prepping themselves, for instance, for future work in public policy or crusading against the death penalty.

Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakl. (510) 430-2255, www.mills.edu

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Crikey. De Anza’s restoration-geared associate’s degree program trains future stewards in wildlife tracking, ecological management, and conservation work. Less alligator wrestling as much as bird-tagging (in Bay Area, anyway), this major arms eco-warriors with courses with names like “Blueprint for Sustainability” and “Community-Based Coalitions and Stakeholders,” and pushes students to spend quality time out in the field.

De Anza College, 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino. (408) 864-5400, www.deanza.edu

Bikes and sailboats

8

OPINION I’m not much of a sailor. In fact, I’ve been known to turn more than a little green when venturing out on the bay under sail. So it may seem a little odd that I am excited about the America’s Cup regatta coming to San Francisco. This high-profile international yacht race has the potential to accomplish even more impressive feats on land than on water, ultimately leaving a legacy of safer streets and more accessible neighborhoods.

An anticipated five million spectators will put the city’s transportation infrastructure to the test. It starts this summer with the qualifying races, then ramps up in summer, 2013, when upward of a half million people are expected to travel to the waterfront on peak race days.

There’s no possible way to move all of these people around this tightly packed city in cars. For proof, talk to anyone who’s been near the waterfront during Fleet Week, a traffic nightmare at a fraction of the size of the America’s Cup.

The Mayor’s Office plan for the America’s Cup wisely puts bicycle transportation front and center. Event planners and politicians know that traffic and parking constraints will preclude many from driving, and transit capacity can be stretched only so far so fast.

Event organizers propose investing in a robust bike share program, park-and-ride lots where visitors can ditch their cars on the edge of the city and pedal the last few miles, and plenty of secure valet bike parking lots.

The most important component is ensuring that the city also invests in safe, comfortable routes welcoming the wide diversity of people who will be trying out two wheels — people who are likely to continue biking long after the events if they have a good experience.

A top priority must be the Embarcadero. Already an enormously popular — and overcrowded — bike route for locals and visitors, the Embarcadero should be made more welcoming to the huge numbers of people who will be drawn there on bikes and by foot.

On big event days, the plan calls for temporarily designating an existing travel lane as bicycle-only space and freeing up the pathway for walking — a more comfortable set-up for everyone.

I urge city leaders to take advantage of this opportunity to pilot a permanent, dedicated bikeway on the waterside of the roadway — the EmBIKEadero. It’s a low-cost, easy way to reconnect people with the waterfront and offer an unparalleled biking experience.

Imagine riding on a mini-version of Sunday Streets on the Embarcadero any day of the week. Imagine a New York City-style high line for S.F.’s waterfront, from Mission Bay to the Golden Gate Bridge. Imagine a way to connect diverse neighborhoods and draw people to local businesses…long after the yachts have left the bay.

The city should also use the momentum behind the America’s Cup to test other opportunities for safe, more welcoming streets, including Polk Street, a major connector to the northern waterfront and already an important route for the growing number of people biking in San Francisco.

Market Street should continue to be a site for innovation. Recent pilot programs prioritizing biking, walking, and transit are already proving to save bus riders time and the Muni system big dollars.

The America’s Cup is our opportunity not only to stage a world-class event, but to build toward a world-class bicycling city.

Leah Shahum is executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. To learn more about the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s vision for the EmBIKEadero, see connectingthecity.org

Editor’s notes

0

tredmond@sfbg.com

It’s hard for California cities to raise taxes. Almost anything that amounts to a tax hike has to go before the voters, and most of the time, it requires a two-thirds vote.

But in a year when the local legislators are also up for election — and six of the supervisorial districts are up this fall — the voters can pass taxes with a simple majority.

That’s one reason that 2012 is a perfect year for tax reform in San Francisco. The other is the spirit of Occupy.

The tent-city protests changed the political dynamics all over the country, putting the message of economic injustice on the agenda and on the front pages. That’s even more true in this city, which was one of the epicenters of the national movement.

Mayor Ed Lee announced in his inauguration speech that he’s going to be the mayor “of the 100 percent,” an effort to preach the message that we’re all good pals and we all love each other here in this great city of ours, but the truth is we aren’t, and we don’t. The very rich in San Francisco not only have little in common with the rest of us; for the most part, they like it that way. The biggest corporations and wealthiest individuals have an interest in preserving economic injustice, and they’ve shown repeatedly that they will go to great lengths to prevent progressive change.

San Francisco needs to change the way it raises revenue, and one of the key elements of that is the local business tax. Right now it’s a flat tax on payroll, and a lot of people (including me) don’t like it. So there’s movement for a new type of tax, maybe on gross receipts.

That’s fine — but it has to be more than a shift in how taxes are determined. San Francisco desperately needs more money — probably at least $250 million a year — to balance the budget without further cuts and to make up for what the state and federal government have taken away. And a new business tax needs to be progressive — to hit the biggest and the richest harder than the small and struggling.

I fear the mayor is not going to be pushing that kind of agenda, so someone on the board has to do it. This is the year that a “tax the one percent” measure can win. But we need to get started now.