Volume 47 Number 32

Crazy sexy cruel

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FILM Long before VHS demon Sadako glared one eye through a tent of tangled black hair in 1998’s Ring (American viewers may switch that to “Samara” and “2002”), another angry, swampy-coiffed dame was doing her best to scare the bejesus out of ticket buyers. The year was 1825, and the kabuki play was called Yotsuya Kaidan. Ghost Story of Yotsuya, the 1959 version of that oft-filmed tale — which contains visual motifs made famous by J-horror — kicks off the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ titillatingly-titled “Girls! Guns! Ghosts! The Sensational Films of Shintoho” series (Thu/9-May 26).

Exploitation specialist Shintoho is often described as “the Japanese American International Pictures,” with output likened to Roger Corman’s oeuvre. The comparison is apt, what with the overlapping timelines (Shintoho was active from 1949-1961) and shared love of low-budget productions chockablock with daring, sleazy, violent, racy, and otherwise beyond-the-mainstream themes. Most of the films in “Girls!” are under 90 minutes, and a good portion of them are even shorter. Ghost Story of Yotsuya, directed by prolific Shintoho hand Nobuo Nakagawa, clocks in at a pulse-pounding 76 minutes.

It opens on a kabuki stage, with a macabre song hinting at what’s to come: “the greatest horror there is,” we’re warned, is “the fury of a woman maddened.” Though it takes nearly an hour to get to payback o’ clock, that allows plenty of time to pile up just cause: sleazy samurai Iemon woos pretty, naive Iwa (played, respectively, by studio faves Shigeru Amachi and Katsuko Wakasugi) after killing her suspicious father and shoving her sister’s beau over a waterfall. Unsurprisingly, he makes for a cruel, manipulative husband, using his wife for gambling collateral and feeding her “medicine for your circulation” once a younger, richer girl captures his attentions. The poison does a Phantom of the Opera-style number on Iwa’s face before hastening her death. “I will visit my hatred upon you,” Iwa’s pissed-off ghost declares, and boy, does she — no VCR required.

More cranky spirits populate Ghost Cat of Otama Pond (1960), which leans heavily on (blood) red and (supernatural) green lighting effects to weave its tale of, again, revenge from beyond the grave. This time, it’s revenge so patient it waits generations to cause havoc, cursing a contemporary woman who stumbles into an abandoned house when she and her fiancé keep tracing the same route through the woods in a Twilight Zone-ish frame story. (Pro-tip: maybe don’t declare, “I hate cats!” when you encounter one with witchy powers.) A flashback to centuries prior explores a feud between two families that encompasses forced marriages, haunted hairpins, horrific fires, bodies tossed in the titular pond, and a monster that takes on an oddly feline form.

Of course, not all of Shintoho’s films were period-pic screamers. A trio of black-and-white “Girls!” selections embrace pulpy, seedy, noirish characters and situations. Nakagawa’s Death Row Woman (1960) begins, ominously, as a posh family goes duck hunting. (“You could kill a person!” someone remarks of another character’s shooting skill.) Rebel daughter Kyoko (Miyuki Takakura) doesn’t want to marry the man her father has picked out for her — but her stepmother and stepsister are none too pleased with Kyoko’s own choice, for different reasons. When Daddy Dearest suddenly croaks, it’s a death sentence for Kyoko — who is actually guilty only of being shrill pain in the ass. Lightly lascivious woman-in-prison scenes (this isn’t 1983’s Chained Heat or anything) are followed by a daring, Fugitive-style escape, though ain’t nobody getting justice without suffering through a vat full of melodrama first.

Even more entertaining are the two films in “Girls!” directed by Teruo Ishii: 1958’s Flesh Pier and 1960’s Yellow Line. Both make great use of back-alley characters, with fedoras and fishnets to spare. Flesh Pier‘s action is set in Ginza, as an undercover cop who’s in love with a burlesque dancer investigates the city’s “trade in flesh;” also undercover is a female reporter hoping to get a big scoop on same. (This film contains a fashion-show scene in which nightie-clad models smoke cigarettes on the runway.) Meanwhile, Yellow Line follows a moody hitman (Amachi again) who kidnaps a dancer (a sassy Yoko Mihara) and drags her to Kobe’s red-light “Casbah” district, with her newspaper-reporter boyfriend in hot pursuit. (This film contains a hooker named “the Moor,” played by a white actress in blackface.)

Not available for preview, but likely as mind-blowing as any and all of the above: Michiyoshi Doi’s The Horizon Glitters (1960), described as a “black comedy about a prison break gone wrong;” Toshio Shimura’s 1956 Revenge of the Pearl Queen, about a bodacious, ass-kicking female pearl diver played by Michiko Maeda (a.k.a. “the first Japanese actress to appear in a nude scene in a mainstream film” … this film); and Kyotaro Namiki’s Vampire Bride (1960), in which a scarred young dancer transforms into a horrific, hairy beast. If a picture says a thousand words, the widely circulated still from this film positively shrieks them. 

 

“GIRLS! GUNS! GHOSTS! THE SENSATIONAL FILMS OF SHINTOHO”

May 9-26, $8-10

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

www.ybca.org

Nice builds

5

marke@sfbg.com

STREETS ISSUE “Oh, we’re doing pretty well right now,” a hunky contractor with Cahill Construction said with a wink at a chic party a couple weeks ago. He was referring to the building boom that’s hitting SF, its slender cranes teetering across our skyline like a stilettoed bacherorette party drinking its way down Polk Street. In terms of new build, 2010s SF is the new 1990s Berlin (somebody wrap our Reichstag, already). And while some of the design is surprisingly gorgeous, and we thankfully haven’t fallen yet for too much trendy starchitect stuff, a lot of it is a bit perfunctory to say the least. For a region that produced visionary architects from A.G Rizzoli to Ant Farm (and the often gorgeous infrastructure of your personal computer), you’d think we could push beyond stacked glass boxes lined in travertine and looming USB-like forms a tad more.

Practicality intrudes, of course, and while we wait for this, one of the richest and most creative places on earth, to develop a contemporary street vernacular to replace those awful ’90s SoMa live/work lofts, there’s a lot of loveliness hitting our streets, This year’s American Institute of Architecture SF Awards, which took place April 25, were abuzz with great, recently completed projects that focused on ground-up design that was practical, sustainable, inventive, and just plain neato. Here are a few winners that caught my eye, mostly because I had seen them in action on my weekly walks through the city and beyond. Their worth a closer look on your own jaunts. (See more winners at www.aiasf.org.)

RICHARDSON APARTMENTS

Designed by David Baker + Partners (snappy sage of green design Baker is SF’s closest thing to a starchitect) and run by Community Housing Partnership, this Hayes Valley supportive housing complex is named for Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson, who started Marcus Books in the Fillmore, the country’s oldest black book store. It houses 120 formerly homeless tenants as well as several businesses, and its swoop of natural materials and neighborhood-brightening color “seek to repair the site of a collapsed freeway with homes.”

 

OAKLAND MUSEUM ENTRY PLAZA

You usually go to a museum to see (worship?) others’ creativity: Oakland Museum’s interactive entry plaza and event space, designed by Jensen Architects, allows you to express your own. Usable white garden furniture hangs from a giant blackboard — make a space to chill, and write out your thoughts. Simple and stunning.

 

OURCADIA

The parklet movement began in San Francisco in 2010 and has now spread throughout the world, decommissioning parking spaces for more humanely amenable uses. (Maybe parklets are our new native architectural vernacular? Hope so.) Now some of the sharper ones are being institutionally recognized, like this nifty zag outside farm:table restaurant in the Tenderloin, designed by Ogrydziak/Prillinger Architects and Reynolds-Sebastiani landscape architects. Funding by, duh, Kickstarter.

 

HAYES VALLEY PLAYGROUND

Hayes Valley has gotten so congested at this point, its need for some space to breathe is critical — and with patricia’s Green being pretty much overrun and Hayes Valley Farm about to disappear under a cloud of construction, it’s only getting worse. This groovy clubhouse and playground design by WRNS Studio (in association with the Trust for Public Land) updates the 1958 Parks and Rec space with some bright color, fun contraptions, and spacious feel, creating a safe space for kids to “foster an appreciation of nature and social gathering.”

 

LAND’S END LOOKOUT

Perched above Sutro Baths, on a cliff exploding right now with colorful blooms, this exceedingly graceful 4,050 sq. ft. National Park Service visitor center is one of my new favorite places in the world. It contains a smart little cafe, oodles of info on the natural surroundings and nearby historical hot spots, and a superfriendly staff. But the design itself, by EHDD, fits so perfectly into its Point Lobos surroundings (and puts further to shame the industrial barn-like Cliff House next door) that you may find yourself lingering beyond a cappuccino to enjoy the light and light-filled space, waves frothing on the rocks far below.

 

ONE KEARNY LOBBY

A walk through the Financial District at night is a journey into Mad Men nostalgia — further back, even, as elaborately sculpted Neo-Gothic lintels from the early 1900s beckon over entranceways, lit dramatically by the spacious lobbies within. Contemporary takes are worth searching out as well. Redeveloped century-old beauty One Kearny’s tiny new lobby, designed by IwamotoScott Architecture and entitled Lightfold (because we brand our lobbies now), is a wee swooner of luminescent stalactites, a.k.a. “an array of digitally-fabricated wood veneer lanterns” and bright, odd angles. Like all good entryways, it draws you fully in.

 

SFO T2

The glistening, organic-futuristic San Francisco International Airport Terminal Two “elevates the passenger experience with design strategies that reduce traveler stress, promote progressive sustainability measures and highlight the airport’s art installations.” It also kind of makes me not want to leave.

C who we R

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arts@sfbg.com

DANCE When Charles Anderson returned from a performing and choreographing career in New York 11 years ago to start a chamber-size contemporary ballet company, it seemed fair to wonder whether the Bay Area really needed another one. In the intervening years he certainly, and justifiably, has put his Company C Contemporary Ballet on the map. He assiduously assembles contemporary choreography that, at the very least, has a tenuous relationship to ballet. If there are missteps, and there are some in almost in every program, he nonetheless manages to offer a generous and broad spectrum of perspectives. You walk away glad that you came.

In the most recent program — which was performed in San Francisco May 2-4 and travels to Walnut Creek this week — his dancers dove into a smorgasbord of world and company premieres with gusto. Only Anderson’s own 2007 Boléro, choreographed to you-know-what, has been previously danced by this well-trained troupe.

What Anderson has not yet found is a good (and affordable) San Francisco venue to showcase his fine company. This season he tried out Z Space, an inviting theater, albeit one that could benefit from updating its lighting system. And for ballet dancers, who often have flying exits, Z Space’s lack of wing space is a problem. Momentum needs to be truncated to avoid crashing into the brick walls.

Company dancer David Van Ligon’s world premiere, Natoma, in particular needs to be seen on a more suitable stage. Set to an odd assemblage of scores by iconoclast composer Zoe Keating, Natoma runs out of steam about halfway through. Yet this is an honest attempt to deal with traditional structures seen through contemporary eyes. Laura Hazlett’s simple costumes (black bathing suits for the women, tights and white top for the men) nicely highlighted the dancers’ lines.

Van Ligon bowed to convention with a central pas de deux (for gorgeous Edilisa Armendariz and Connolly Strombeck), and three couples and a female duo (Laura Dunlop and Kristin Lindsay) that also framed the pas de deux. Yet he reconfigured this set-up into a number of ever-changing variations that gave Natoma a satisfying sense of elasticity. Wisely, perhaps influenced by Keating’s stab at minimalism, he pared down his vocabulary to basic steps and unisons in conjunction with flowing arms. Still, at times one wanted more richly textured choreography. Pleasing was the design’s clarity, though it put in relief both the dancers’ strengths and their weaknesses.

The appropriately-named A Modest Proposal, from John Bohannon (concept and text) and Carl Flink (direction and choreography), was a fresh, clever, and amusing smashing of verbosity against the succinctness of art, entertained without a whiff of Swiftian sarcasm. Trying to explain complex scientific facts with more and more words, and worse, with PowerPoint, is useless, narrator Ryan Drummond. Do it through dance. When the ensemble, having swirled around Drummond, stepped out of their overalls and into Hazlett’s diaphanous white for an airy, fluid finale, you could almost believe him.

Dennis Nahat’s 1970 Ontogeny — named for the process of life forms’ individuation, in case you slept through biology class — received a stunning interpretation. Using Karel Husa’s densely-layered, Pulitzer-winning String Quartet No. 3, Nahat excellently drew on the resources of modern dance and ballet to suggest eroticism and struggle as a biological necessity. With a powerful and nuanced Jacqueline McConnell and a vulnerable and athletic Tian Tan in the leads, Nahat’s angular yet expansive choreography looked as vibrant and edgy as it must been over 40 years ago.

A surprise addition was Anderson For Your Eyes Only, a splendid duet, originally performed for a hearing-impaired audience. Chantelle Pianetta and Bobby Briscoe, he a head taller than she, sensitively explored the give and take of an on/off relationship. Performed in silence, you heard their footfalls, the exertion of their breath, even the swish of their pants.

Anderson’s Boléro closed the program. It’s a good enough Spanish-flavored work for an over-used score. But perhaps it’s one that choreographers just have to get out of their systems.

COMPANY C CONTEMPORARY BALLET

Thu/9-Sat/11, 8pm; Sun/12, 1pm, $23-$45

Lesher Center for the Arts

1601 Civic, Walnut Creek

www.companycballet.org

 

The zero-sum future

74

tredmond@sfbg.com

It’s going to take longer, sometimes, to get from here to there. Acres of urban space are going to have to change form. Grocery shopping will be different. Streets may have to be torn up and redirected. The rules for the development of as many as 100,000 new housing units in San Francisco will have to be rewritten.

That’s the only way this city — and cities across the country — can meet the climate-change goals that just about everyone agrees are necessary.

Jason Henderson, a geography professor at San Francisco State University, lays out that case in a new book. He argues, persuasively, that the era of easy “automobility” — a time when people could just assume the ease and convenience of owning and using a private car as a primary means of transportation — has come to an end.

Henderson isn’t suggesting that all private vehicles go away; there are places where cars and trucks will remain the only way to move people and supplies around. But in the urban and suburban areas where most Americans live, the automobile as the default option simply has to end.

“In 10 years, there will be less automobility,” he told me in a recent interview. “It’s a simple limit to resources.”

And the sooner San Francisco starts preparing for that, the better off the city and its residents are going to be.

 

BIG NUMBERS

Henderson’s book, Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco, focuses largely on the Bay Area. But as he points out, the lessons apply all over. The numbers are daunting: Cities, Henderson reports, “use 75 percent of the world’s energy and produce 78 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.” He adds: “Transportation is the fastest growing sector of energy use and [greenhouse gas] emissions, and this fact is in great measure owing to the expansion of automobility.”

And the United States is the biggest culprit. This nation has 4 percent of the world’s population — and 21 percent of the world’s cars.

To turn around the devastating impacts of climate change, “America will need not only to provide leadership, but also to decrease its appetite for excessive, on demand, high-speed automobility.”

And buying a lot of Priuses, or even electric cars, isn’t going to do the job. “Americans must undertake a considerable restructuring of how they organize cities, and that must include the rethinking of mobility and the allocation of street space.”

The Bay Area is about to enter into a long-term planning cycle that, according to groups like the Association of Bay Area Governments, will involve increased urban density. ABAG, according to its most recent projections, would like to see some 90,000 new housing units in San Francisco.

That’s got plenty of problems — particularly the likelihood of the displacement of existing residents. Henderson agrees that more density is going to be needed in the Bay Area — but he’s surprisingly bullish on the much-denigrated suburb.

“It’s actually quick and easy to retrofit suburbia,” he told me.

And like so much of what he discusses in his book, the primary solution is the old, venerable, human-powered contraption known as the bicycle.

“Existing communities like Walnut Creek are eminently bikeable,” Henderson told me. He suggests expanding development in three-mile circles around BART stations — after getting rid of all the parking. “We could easily get 20 to 30 percent of the trips by bike,” he noted.

In fact, he argues, it’s easier to put bicycle lanes and paths in the suburbs than in San Francisco. The streets tend to be wider, there’s more room in general — and it’s fairly simple to provide barriers from cars that make biking safe for everyone.

In fact, a lot of European cities are less dense than San Francisco — and have far fewer drivers. Even in California, the city of Davis is famous for its bike culture; “In Davis,” Henderson said, “There are all these children riding their bikes to school.”

 

ACRES OF PARKING

One of the most profound changes San Francisco is going to have to make involves coming to terms with the immense amount of scarce space that’s devoted to cars. Parking spaces may not seem that big — but when you combine the 300-square-foot typical space (larger than many bedrooms and offices) with the space needed for getting into and out of that space, it adds up.

“Parking for 130 cars amounts to about an acre, and the aggregate of all non-residential off-street parking is estimated to be equal in area to several New England states.”

Cars need more than a home parking space — they need someplace to park when they’re used. So in a city like San Francisco that has more than 350,000 cars, a vast amount of urban land must be devoted to parking. In fact, Henderson estimates that parking space in San Francisco amounts to about 79.4 million square feet — or about 79,400 two-bedroom apartments. Off-street parking alone takes up space that could house 67,000 two-bedroom units.

And it’s hella expensive. Building parking adds as much as 20 percent to the cost of a housing unit. He cites studies showing that 20 percent more San Franciscans could afford to buy a condo unit if it didn’t include parking.

But the city still mandates off-street parking for all new residential construction — and while activists have managed to get the amount reduced from a minimum of one parking space per unit to a maximum of around eight spaces per 10 units, that’s still a whole lot of parking.

And if San Francisco is expected to absorb 90,000 more housing units, under current rules that’s 72,000 more cars — which means a demand for 72,000 more parking spaces near offices, shopping districts, and parks. Crazy.

So how do you get Americans, even San Franciscans, to give up what Henderson calls the “sense of entitlement that we can speed across town in a private car?” Some of it requires the classic planning measures of discouraging or banning parking in new development (AT&T Park works quite well as a facility that is primarily accessed by foot and transit). Some of it means putting in the resources to improve public transit.

And a lot of it involves shifting transportation modes to walking and bicycles.

San Francisco has had significant success increasing the use of bikes in the past few years. But there are limits to what you can do by tinkering around the edges, with a few more bike lanes here and there.

There are, for example, the hills. And there’s grocery shopping for a family. Those things need bigger shifts in the use of urban space.

San Francisco’s street grid, for example, sends travelers straight up some nearly impossible inclines. Young, healthy people in great physical condition can ride bikes up those hills, but children and older people simply can’t.

Henderson suggests that the city could install lifts in some areas, but there’s another, more radical (but less energy-intensive) solution: Reroute the grid.

If city streets wound around the sides of hills, instead of heading straight up, walking and biking would be far easier. That would involve major changes, particularly since there’s housing in the way of any real route changes — but in the long term, that sort of concept should, at least, be on the table.

Bikes with cargo trailers make a lot of sense for shopping, Henderson told me — and once big supermarkets get rid of all that parking, the price of food will come down.

 

THE POLITICS OF NEO-LIBERALS

The biggest challenge, though — and the heart of Henderson’s book — is political. Transportation, he argues, is inherently ideological: “It matters how you get from here to there.” And he notes that progressives, who are willing to think about social responsibility, not just individual rights, see the choices very differently than the neo-liberals, who in this city are often called “moderates.” If the neo-libs have their way, he says, the changes will be too little, too late, and mostly ineffective.

Because Americans are facing a series of choices — and there are no solutions that preserve the old way of life without sacrificing the future of the planet. It’s entirely a zero-sum game: We can slow global climate change, or we can keep driving cars. (Oh, and electric cars — which still require large amounts of power, mostly from fossil-fuel plants — aren’t going to solve the problem any time soon.)

We can shift to bicycles and transit as our primary ways to get around, or we can leave our kids an ecological disaster of unprecedented scope. We can overhaul the entire way we think about urban planning — to make streets friendly to bikes and buses — or we can go down a deadly path of no return.

We can accept the fact that moving around cities may be a little slower, particularly while we adapt. Or we can join the climate-change deniers. “There are a lot of neo-liberals out there who say we can’t start controlling automobility until we have a gold-plated transit system,” Henderson told me. “But this is not a chicken and egg problem. First you have to create the urban space. Then you can build a better system.”

Man up

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM While frequently spiced by dames alluring and sometimes deadly, film noir has always been intrinsically a manly-man’s world. Elliot Lavine’s latest Roxie noir retrospective, offering 30 features over two weeks, seems particularly heavy on vintage male charisma. Whether showcasing the seldom-noted comic chops of Humphrey Bogart, the seldom-appreciated star swagger of Victor Mature, or Cliff Robertson having an unusually credible (for the era) mental breakdown, the range of familiar and ultra-rare titles in “I Wake Up Dreaming 2013” offers a compendium of variably tough guys in tougher situations.

If you’re wondering where the series’ title comes from, the answer kicks things off: 1941’s I Wake Up Screaming is a most enjoyable murder mystery in which Manhattan sports promoter and all-around hustler Frankie Christopher (Mature) decides on a whim to play Pygmalion and make a pretty but coarse waitress (Carole Landis) his Galatea. Once she’s successfully launched as a “glamour girl,” however, she proves quite the little ingrate — “Why should I go on slinging hash when I can sling other things?” she leers, preparing to bolt for Hollywood. There’s no lack of suspects (including reliable sleazeballs Elisha Cook, Jr. and Laird Cregar) once she’s found knocked off.

The publicity at the time focused on 20th Century Fox’s big wartime pin-up and musical star Betty Grable making her dramatic debut as Landis’ “sourpuss sister” (meaning she’s a nice girl who disapproves of her trampy sib). But the movie belongs to Mature, a big strapping lunk who became a punch line about looks-but-no-brains Hollywood he-men. (Later career highlights include playing opposite Hedy Lamarr in Cecil B. DeMille’s vapid 1949 megahit Samson and Delilah, then getting mocked two decades later in the Monkees’ 1968 Head.) But he’s charming, confident, and surprisingly nuanced here. Oddly, Screaming‘s orchestral score heavily features unaccredited lifts from “Over the Rainbow” — a standard now, but then just a song from a two-year-old movie that everybody had already forgotten.

Similarly playing a semi-respectable Big Apple man-about-town, Bogart gives a master course in magnetizing viewer attention while seeming to do very little in the next year’s All Through the Night. “Gloves” Donahue is a gambler — surrounded by memorable flunkies including Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, and William Demerest — reluctantly sucked by his busybody mom (Jane Darwell from 1940’s The Grapes of Wrath) into investigating the death of her beloved local immigrant baker-neighbor. This being 1942, the path leads directly to Nazis — Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt, and Judith “Mrs. Danvers” Anderson chief among them. Packed with priceless snappy patter, this comedy action hybrid may lack the “classic” cache of the star’s other ’40s vehicles. But it’s enormous fun, even if it goes off the rails a bit toward the end.

Another revelation in the program is Screaming‘s co-feature Blues in the Night, a strikingly ambitious sort of jazz musical melodrama written by Robert Rossen (director and co-writer of 1961’s The Hustler) and directed by another intriguing, now-neglected talent, Anatole Litvak. Following the very rocky road traveled by a combo of white musicians seriously dedicated to “real low-down New Orleans blues,” this starless effort is one of those rare B movies that packs an incredible amount of incident and depth into a relatively short runtime without ever feeling cluttered.

Some of “Screaming”‘s bills are themed by director or performer. May 19 brings a double dose of 1950s Joan Crawford, with her eerie resemblance at the time to Mrs. Potatohead. Female on the Beach (1955) is a fun thriller in which she’s a widow seduced and possibly menaced by Jeff Chandler, one of the era’s several leading blond pin-up boys. But Robert Aldrich’s 1956 Autumn Leaves is something else: a May-December romance that turns into a serious treatment of mental illness, as much-younger suitor Robertson turns out to be unstable in ways less conventionally scary than credibly pathetic. Unusually vulnerable — her nervously babbling curtain speech might be the finest acting she ever did — Crawford knew this was one of her best movies, and later paid due credit to Robertson’s “stupendous” performance.

Another evening pays tribute to the fascinatingly odd oeuvre of longtime industry fringe-dweller Arch Obeler, who famously made the first 3D feature (1952’s Bwana Devil), but is found in more intriguing form here with two earlier black and white cheapies. Bewitched (1945) is an offbeat thriller from the POV of a pretty schizophrenic (Phyllis Thaxter), though that term is never used. Its primitive psychoanalysis is bettered by the post-apocalyptic psychodrama of 1951’s Five, whose titular quartet — including a pregnant woman, a kind African American war veteran, and a fascistic white supremacist — mysteriously survive nuclear disaster but may not survive each other’s personalities. Politically progressive if sometimes dramaturgically simple, it’s a fascinating obscurity.

Other highlights include quintessential cult object The Monster and The Girl (1941), in which a giant gorilla takes out various corrupt underworld types whilst “Skipper the Terrier” follows its trail; ultra-low-budget 1957 Mickey Spillane adaptation My Gun is Quick, with Robert Bray as a marginally less cretinous Mike Hammer than usual; the very cool 1961 British drama All Night Long, which transposes Othello into a jazzbo context (complete with Brubeck and Mingus); and last but possibly least, a double bill devoted to short-lived blonde bombshell Beverly Michaels. A hammer-voiced minor challenge to Monroe, Mansfield, and Van Doren, she was invariably cast as destructive man bait. But like Victor Mature, her performances in Pickup (1951) and Wicked Woman (1953) suggest a more alert, modern intelligence than she was given credit for.

I WAKE UP DREAMING 2013

May 10-23, $10

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St, SF

www.roxie.com

 

Catch up!

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SUPER EGO Happy 45th birthday to Specs, my favorite bar in the city. The Capitan cocktail at La Mar is drink of the year so far. I think I finally get Daft Punk. There will probably soon be a “high-end” “gay” “strip” club called the Randy Rooster in the Castro, but you can’t make it rain — tips are donated at entry to a favorite charity, the dancers only strip to g-strings, and there’ll be upscale food. (It sounds positively Mormon.)

The winner of How Weird Street Faire was homegrown genius Larry Gonnello Jr.’s Boombox Affair, the back alley stage with the wired-together boomboxes, this killer six-hour set, and a perfect respite from the overflow of looky-loos this year. And that proposal by Mark Leno for bars in Cali to stay open until 4am? It died in committee, much like Roxxxy Andrews’ hair (I don’t even know who that is) — mostly due to the twisted machinations of the California Police Chiefs Association, who said it would mean more drunks on the road. Absolutely untrue! And this is why we can’t ever have nice things. My goddess, even the bars in Anchorage, Alaska can stay open longer than ours. Guess I’ll just have to keep my Scooby Doo flask polished and at the ready in my tubesock.

 

BOO WILLIAMS

I am so very excited for this. A Chicago house legend and true sweetie who knows soul biz like nobody — except maybe his Strictly Jazz Unit partner in crime Glenn Underground. The Housepitality weekly does it again.

Wed/8, 9pm, $10. f8, 1192 Folsom, SF. www.housepitalitysf.com

 

AFROLICIOUS 6-YEAR

Six years of this awesome Latin funk and Afro jazz collective’s dance floor vibes. As always, groovy brothers Pleasuremaker and Senor Oz preside over the festivities, full of live goodies and sweaty hotties, so good it’s taking over two nights.

Thu/9 and Fri/10, $8–$15 per night. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com

 

DERRICK MAY

Oh hi, Detroit originator of techno.

Fri/10, $20. 9:30pm-3:30am. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com

 

KITSUNE CLUB NIGHT

Poof! It’s the return of that special-smart French hyperdisco feeling, as beloved label Kitsune spreads its pixie dust around with Fred Falke, Chrome Sparks, and our own Aaron Axelsen.

Fri/10, 9pm, $17. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com

 

ODYSSEY

The best and most freakish roving house party is at it again, this time bringing in the energetic and gorgeous W. Jeremy and Christy Love of NYC’s House of Stank and Get Up Recordings.

Fri/10, $10, 9:30pm-3:30am. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com

 

PUSH THE FEELING

“An all locals, disco-heavy night of music,” too-cute promoter Kevin Meenan promises, somewhat surprisingly, for this installation of his monthly boundary pushing night, with Beat Broker on decks and plaza performing live.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUsxpZ_xKyg

Fri/10, 9pm, $5. UndergroundSF. 424 Haight, SF.

 

TORMENTA TROPICAL

Everyone’s favorite 808cumbia, electro-salsa, and tech-bachata monthly celebrates a bangin’ new release on its Bersa Discos label from Mexican DJ Quality, with DJ Quality! Sat/11, $5–$10, 10pm. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com

 

WOLF + LAMB, SOUL CLAP

The two greatest bromances of the retro-rebuild decade, these male duos melted minds when they Frankensteined tunes from the 1950s-2000s (emphasis on the ’90s) into exotic-sounding hybrids of moody funk and deep house. Now everyone’s taken their cues — what will they pull off next?

Sat/11, 9pm, $20. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com

 

KIM ANN FOXMAN

She has the tightest style — sound + vision — of anyone going right now, melting late ’80s and early ’90s sonic signifiers into a sophisticated semiotic code that packs the dance floor every time. Funky Mother’s Day!

Sun/12, 10pm, $10. Holy Cow, 1535 Folsom, SF. www.honeysoundsystem.com

 

Kronnerburger

1

culture@sfbg.com

DINING “Never judge a book by its cover” — if ever there was a place that warranted that old saw, it’s KronnerBurger. Standing across from the Mission burger joint’s ramshackle facade, its name spelled out on the marquee atop a grungy window display, beneath an unlit “Tonight” neon sign, it was hard to believe this was the same place I’ve been practically begging my friends to attend with me. As we inched closer to the entrance, we noticed a little old-fashioned TV in the window displaying the restaurant’s logo on a background of static. My friend and I looked at each other warily and stepped inside chef Chris Kronner’s joint.

Even around 8pm on a rather sunny evening, light inside Kronnerburger was practically nonexistent. Besides the wooden, almost -’70s inspired light fixtures at the bar in the corner of the restaurant, sources of illumination are few and far between, with only a couple of other lights scattered throughout the dining area and a Mexican-style devotional candle at every table. It took my eyes a while to adjust but once I did, I was pleased to see walls of exposed brick and ample seating. Before long, the hostess emerged from the darkness and, despite the absence of a member of our party, seated us at a table anyway.

Once our party was complete, we ordered drinks. I must say that half of the reason I wanted to eat at Kronnerburger was to try its Carbonated Motherfucking Margarita ($10, $54 pitcher). But after looking over the paper menu — which included curiosity-spikers like scotchocolate milk and sasparilla Old Fashioned — I was torn between my original choice and the mysterious Stranger Juice ($9, $50 pitcher). A friend went for the Stranger, so I was able to get a taste of both.

As for food, both of my friends decided to get the eponymous KronnerBurger burger with a single patty ($11, $18 double), one with a $4 side of bone marrow, and the other with the addition of bacon ($3). I decided on getting a crispy Crabburger ($14, also available grilled). For sides, we got some onion rings ($6) and fries ($4).

Naturally, our drinks came out first and while both the margarita and Stranger Juice were perfect choices on an unusally hot day in the city, if I had the option to reconsider, I would have ordered the Stranger Juice for myself. Loaded with gin, Aperol and I’m guessing (they’re secretive) sweet vermouth, the Stranger Juice was surprisingly fresh, light, and floral. The Carbonated Motherfucking Margarita was tasty and bubbly, but a little bit too sour for me.

While waiting, my tablemates and I peered through the darkness to see what the other guests were ordering. We saw the burgers we couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into and a delicious plate full of marrow and fries — a twist on French Canadian poutine, also with cheese curds and beef cheek gravy.

Once it came out (not long) it took a while to dig in, because it really was too dark to get a good look at what was on our plate. As we waved our Jesus candles over our food, everything looked small but tasty. Small but decadent-looking patties on our burgers, a small but crispy portion of fries. We were, however, given an absolutely huge portion of onion rings. A little bit too much for the humble amount of delicious dipping sauce that accompanied it, alas. As for the taste, what can I say? The burger was moist and solid — and isn’t that everything a burger should be?

For dessert, we got the only item on the menu: strawberry bread pudding. Topped with chocolate ice cream, the warm dish was so gooey and flavorful that even though we had three people sharing the small portion, we couldn’t finish it.

After throwing in the towel on the dessert, we ordered a round of beers, talked some shop, and then asked for the check. When we stepped out of the restaurant around 10pm, the night was nice and warm. And while the “Tonight” sign still hadn’t been lit, we wondered if it would be when we returned.

2379 Mission, SF. (415) 656-9871, www.kronnerburger.com

Not from around here

0

arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC It was a case of the French pop love that dared not speak its name, as earlier this month rumors roiled about a Coachella coupling — mon dieu, deux! — to truly rave about: headliner Phoenix along with possibly, just maybe, hush-hush special guest Daft Punk, returning to stage de triomphe that it dominated seven years ago. The Phoenix guest that materialized, R. Kelly, wasn’t exactly the faceless freak the audience had imagined springing from the closet, and instead the mob had to cool its jets and content itself with an old-school LP ad from Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo.

The abbreviated 102-second spot saw the duo in glittery soft focus performing new single “Get Lucky” alongside Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers — the kind of clip you’d uncover on late-night TV during Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert — and announcing Daft Punk’s own special guest stars, including Giorgio Moroder, Panda Bear, past Daft Punk collaborator Todd Edwards, Paul Williams (who must have had Phantom of Paradise-tinged flashbacks), and Pharrell Williams. Just a taste, but enough to stir the pot in the lead up to the May 21 release of Daft Punk’s fourth studio full-length, Random Access Memories, on Columbia.

Is it so strange that Daft Punk and Phoenix should find their fortunes so intertwined out in the Cali desert, so far from Old World Paris and Versailles? After all, the two share a past — and a future: Phoenix guitarist Laurent Brancowitz, Bangalter, and de Homem-Christo all started out in a Beach Boys-inspired combo called Darlin’. And much like fellow French native Anthony Gonzalez’s M83, the two groups are managing to find creative juices to grease their wheels out west, in the fantasy industrial complex of LA — with Daft Punk stressing the importance of a West Coast feel à la Fleetwood Mac to Memories guest Edwards, and Phoenix telling MTV that its new CD, Bankrupt!, was inspired by its work on Thomas Mars spouse Sofia Coppola’s 2010 movie Somewhere.

Not to mention the fact that Bankrupt! and Memories are two of the most buzz-ridden releases of the year, particularly judging from the homemade “Get Lucky” remixes and videos already proliferating online. Long gone are the old rockist daze — the same that slurred “Disco sucks” — when French rock was derided as just another thing an entire country does wrong, like loving Jerry Lewis. Thoughts surely far from the minds of Daft Punk obsessives, though from the start the duo’s vocoder-obscured vocals and helmeted visages proudly proclaimed, “We’re alien, a.k.a. not from around here.” That tease is the name of Daft Punk’s space-rockin’ game this time around, taking control with a carefully orchestrated marketing campaign after a humbling day job scoring a sorry Tron sequel.

Working with its biggest crowd of collaborators yet, Daft Punk appears to be bursting the mythic bubble of an enigmatic twosome working solo behind the decks, letting others into the party, circling back to its clubland origins, and reaffirming that, as “Get Lucky” goes, its “ends were beginnings.”

And though indie seems leached of meaning, Phoenix sounds far deprived when it came to ideas for Bankrupt! Nate Chinen of the New York Times may quibble with Mars’s Dadaist “word salad” — why not attack a fellow for singing with an accent? — but then Phoenix isn’t the first band to privilege the sound of lyrics over content. Bankrupt! isn’t as “experimental” as promised early on, but it’s by no means as polished and predictable as your average Killers or Imagine Dragons product.

Starting with title and extending to the cover symbolism of a lucky peach, and the busy little rickshaw of an orientalist motif on opener “Entertainment,” Phoenix sounds as if it’s grappling with a Daft Punky notion of alien-ness, too — and the global economics of pop success, having hit it big at the height of an economic downtown with 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The distorted, bristling synths grinding beneath songs like “The Real Thing,” in fact, make Bankrupt! one of the noisier mainstream rock albums of recent years. Scope out the lonely cries of the entitled asking to have their names put on lists on “SOS in Bel Air,” the fluty synths opening the languorous “Trying to Be Cool,” and hear the sound of a band conveying the seduction — and anxiety — of too many bright lights, big cities, and marathon tours and responding by mainly turning up on the volume.

So why French pop and why now? In fits and starts, leaps and stumbles, Daft Punk and Phoenix are creating less a pop language of diplomacy than a kind of lingua franca between classic sunny pop hooks, Beach Boys style, and the all-mighty often-electronic groove, be it analog or digital, IDM or EDM, boyish or girlish, human or alien.

LPs like Memories hark to another time, while satisfying on the primal level of da funk. As Pharrell Williams has said of “Get Lucky,” “The only click track they had was the human heartbeat, which makes it really interesting because these are robots.” So how does the sunlit, smoggy terroir of the west touch two French aliens and a band of Versailles refugees? Perhaps we’ll know when Daft Punk unveils Memories even further out West: May 17, at the the 79th Wee Waa Regional Show in Wee Waa, Australia.

Let it all out

0

VISUAL ART Dottie Guy had a difficult time in 2006. In addition to the death of her grandfather, she was recovering from surgery for an injury to her ankle and foot that she had sustained on duty in Iraq. She started taking pictures as motivation to walk around and to reclaim a sense of purpose.

This year, Guy is one of the artists participating in a one-night art exhibition presented by Shout!, an initiative to support female veterans in the Bay Area. Primary organizer Star Lara asked Guy to submit a photo to an event that, in its fifth year, will include several different media — photography, painting, sculpture, drawing, writing, and music — made by 22 vets. As a result of Lara’s outreach efforts, this year’s event has grown so much that she had to turn artists away.

Lara is the Women Veterans Coordinator at Swords to Plowshares, a nonprofit that helps veterans transition back to civilian life. Leaving the military in 2007 after serving on active duty for 12 years, she knows the hardships of adapting, particularly those that affect women. As more women enlist, she explains, the gender-specific problems become increasingly defined. Female veterans now represent the fastest growing homeless population, yet they seek help through Veteran Affairs at far lower rates than men do.

Issues also stem from public perception. People understand what it means when they see a man with a military pin, but Lara often hears the question, “Is your dad in the military?” Society resists the idea of a female veteran.

And when civilians do know about a woman’s military service, another problem arises: the tendency to reduce all aspects of her persona to her veteran identity. For Guy, the exhibition provides an opportunity to showcase another side of herself. Though her life revolves around veterans — she works at the VA — she is also a photographer, and her photography does not directly address military service.

Guy snapped her Shout! photo at Bay to Breakers a couple of years ago when she stumbled across a woman in a top hat and fake moustache shouting into a bullhorn next to a man wearing a polar bear mask. It is a quirky image one could find in few places besides San Francisco. “I embrace the ridiculous stuff,” says Guy. “Being in the military, there’s not much room to celebrate that. You’d never see somebody walking around in a mask like that, unless it meant trouble.”

Another Shout! artist, JoAnn Martinez, has only recently begun to experiment with military subjects. For her second year in the show, she has submitted comics derived from dialogues she has heard within the female veteran community. By undertaking this new comedic mode of art, she hopes she can not only share a creation she’s proud of besides her family and work (she started the nonprofit Women Veterans Connect), but also communicate a digestible message to the non-veteran community. “Instead of complaining, let’s laugh about it,” she says.

Not only do Martinez’s comics convey a therapeutic levity, but they also contain an expressive subtext; they are printed on homemade paper created in response to the Combat Paper Project, in which workshops instruct veterans how to create paper pulp from their shredded military uniforms.

Extending the practice beyond Shout!, Martinez is seeking female veterans to submit stories about their uniforms for a Shotwell Paper Mill limited-edition book created using the same fabric-turned-paper method. So far, the stories range in tone, some reflecting a similar lightness to Martinez’s comics; one woman tells how after she painted her toenails, the Iraqi heat melted the polish and she had trouble removing her socks.

Lara has also participated in the project, an experience she found restorative in part because it involved breaking down and reclaiming an object laden with intense experiences, but primarily because of the work’s collectivity. After talking with fellow female veterans while their hands were busy cutting, she says, “It was no longer about the trauma that brought you to the table — it was about what you took from the table.” (The Combat Paper Project also inspired Lara’s contribution to this year’s Shout!, a piece that involved her “painting the shit out of” her last uniform.)

Though Lara does not consider herself a fine artist, Shout! presents an opportunity to share the voice of her small group within a greater context. In the Women’s Building, a hub of action in the Mission, the event will enact her idea that women veterans comprise a subset of larger existing communities and should be reached as such.

Lara says that without focusing on trauma, without involving policy, services, or outreach, Shout! offers a chance for artists like Guy and Martinez to declare, “I am a woman and a veteran, and here’s how I express myself.”

SHOUT!: ART BY WOMEN VETERANS

Wed/8, 6-9pm, free

San Francisco Women’s Building

3543 18th St, SF

swords-to-plowshares.org/shout

 

Volume 47 Number 32 Flip-through Edition

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Yuh look good

0

STREETS Only our deep-seated disinclination against street harassment prevented us from hollering at these sterling examples of the Bay’s blazing style sense. We respectfully snapped their pics instead: the trio of gents in town for their 50th high school reunion sporting pencil mustaches and monochrome, Agathe Guttuhaugen’s surreal ombre locks and coordinated cap brim, Amber Asaly’s midriff. All good excuses to take to the sidewalk this season in search of fashion stimulation.

 

Alex Pingis. Photo by Cortney Clift

Amber Asaly. Photo by Stephanie Sesin

Brian McGrath, Jeffrey Tucker, and Donald Owen. Photo by Cortney Clift

Elena Miska. Photo by Jessica Wolfrom

Virgil Gabaldon. Photo by Jessica Wolfrom

Agathe Guttuhaugen. Photo by Cortney Clift

Unidentified filthy objects

0

caitlin@sfbg.com

SEX In an email interview in advance of her Fri/10 appearance at the Center for Sex and Culture, Suzie Silver told me that her interest in alien sex was spawned by a mix of her childhood fascination with Star Trek: The Original Series, NASA’s launch of the Kepler space observatory in 2009, and Isabella Rossellini’s “Green Porno” short film series on the sensual activities of insects and marine animals. Silver recently co-edited (along with Christopher Kardambikis and Jasdeep Khaira) Strange Attractors, a book-DVD project (www.extraterrestialsexuality.org) that explores the notions of extraterrestrial sexuality held by 70 artists, writers, and filmmakers. If that doesn’t inspire you to read the rest of this article, I give up on you.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Please explain your fascination with extraterrestrial sexuality.

Suzie Silver Strange Attractors  asks the participants and audience to try to imagine otherworldly and unknowable life-forms and sexualities. We are imagining sexual possibilities beyond gender, beyond genitalia. In my short story “Donkey Show,” one of the things I describe is a live sex show made up of shape shifting platonic solids that can create pleasurable and climactic responses from all audience members. I’m attempting to envision universal ecstasy and orgasm!

SFBG Have you noticed commonalities related in true-life alien sex experiences? 

SB I have read some accounts, mostly online. For the most part I find them rather unimaginative and not very interesting. The focus is usually on penetration. It all seems rather BDSM, which has its appeal, otherwise how to explain the success of all those 50 Shades books? Strange Attractors attempts a polymorphous perversity: sex outside of reproduction, for pleasure, communication, joy, connection, fun, more complicated power dynamics than dominance and submission. We imagine erogenous zones in, on, and outside of every part of the body and mind.

SFBG Which contributions to  Strange Attractors did you find particularly compelling?

SB I find all of the works truly amazing. Works that I’m particularly compelled by include Vanessa Roveto’s extraterrestrial dating profile where the being’s desirable qualities include “a body comprised mostly of healthy scrotal tissue, the ability to mimic my selves, an oral tolerance for liquid hand sanitizer, a traumatic childhood that will work in your erotic favor, and minimal bloating.” In Michael Mallis and Mikey McParlane’s “Love Puddles:” “In the golden fringe of a far off galaxy, an alien planet teems with exotic life. Twiggy creatures rush to an ominous volcano and rub their bodies against its glittering surface, enticing the volcano to awaken and spray its gooey chaos across the furry world.”

Strange Attractors video screening Fri/10, 7-10pm, $5-10 sliding scale. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. www.sexandculture.org

 

THIS WEEK’S SEXY EVENTS

Tricks and Chickenhawks reading Wed/8, 7:30pm, free. Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF. www.booksmith.com. Sex worker literati — Madison Young, Kitty Stryker, Carol Queen, more — gather to read from a new anthology of sex worker and john experiences.

“How to Create an Effective Online Profile” Tue/14, 7-10pm, $20. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. www.sexandculture.org. Hear back from that babe on Scruff, FetLife, or Tinder after taking this one-off seminar.

 

Parking breaks

9

steve@sfbg.com

This was the moment these indignant motorists had been waiting for. The elected supervisors were finally going to get the unelected bureaucrats at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to back off of plans to manage street parking and install new parking meters in their Western SoMa, northeast Mission, Potrero Hill, and Dogpatch neighborhoods.

Anger and frustration over the parking program has been building for more than a year (see "Pay to park," 1/24/12), and when Sup. Mark Farrell called a May 2 hearing before the Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee, SFMTA’s critics put out the call and dozens showed up to voice their displeasure.

Farrell opened the hearing with a clear statement about where he stands on the issue: "I am very much against expanding parking meters into our residential neighborhoods." He also expressed opposition to the SFMTA’s extension of meter hours to evenings and Sundays and said that would be the subject of another upcoming hearing.

"I think we’re frankly on the wrong track," said Sup. Malia Cohen, who isn’t on the committee but showed up just to voice the frustrations of her District 10 constituents and to help grill SFMTA head Ed Reiskin. She repeated the populist criticisms of the SFMTA, calling its goals "unattainable" and its critics "reasonable," and accusing the agency of not having a comprehensive parking management plan.

"I look forward to you saying, ‘I quit, you win, no more parking meters,’" Cohen said to Reiskin, throwing red meat to the seething crowd, which erupted into loud, raucous, sustained applause and shouts of appreciation at the comment.

Those comments frame a defining problem in San Francisco: The city can’t get to its sustainability and climate-change goals without reducing car use (see "Zero-sum future, p. 12) — but even mild attempts to reduce parking create populist furor.

When Reiskin took the podium to deliver his presentation, he struck an even, diplomatic tone, saying that he understands people’s concerns about the issue. "Parking is a challenging, sensitive, and difficult issue. Parking matters to people," he said.

But then he went on to explain that voters and previous supervisors charged the SFMTA with managing the city’s entire transportation system — Muni, cars, bikes, cabs, pedestrians, and parking — in accordance with the city’s Transit-First policy, which calls for active promotion of alternatives to private automobile use in this dense and growing city.

Then he responded directly to Cohen’s challenge: "I would have to respectfully decline the suggestion that we don’t manage parking. We have an obligation under the Charter to do so."

BALANCING ACT


Reiskin rejects the frequent accusation that SFMTA is anti-car — and the suggestion that the agency should focus on improving Muni before it can realistically expect people to rely less on private automobiles. The reality, he said, is that the city can’t make Muni or bicycling more attractive without regulating automobiles in general and parking in particular.

He said drivers who circle the blocks looking for parking spots constitute 20-30 percent of traffic in this highly congested city, and they are the worst sorts of drivers to have on the roads. They clog traffic by stopping frequently or double-parking, they drive in bike lanes, they do dangerous U-turns, and they are often inattentive and distracted, presenting a danger to pedestrians and cyclists.

The agency’s SF Park program tries to alleviate some of that problem by using market-based pricing at meters and garages to promote turnover in high-demand areas and to ensure the availability of parking spots. But in Potrero Hill and the few other parts of the city that still have unregulated street parking, other issues arise, such as out-of-town commuters parking for free all day and limiting availability in a region slated for lots of new development in the coming years.

"Parking management matters," Reiskin said, adding that without it, "we won’t be able to achieve our goals of having an efficient transit system."

He cited policies in the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan that the supervisors approved that call for parking management and noted growth projections that could draw another 100,000 people into San Francisco in the next 20 years.

"The competition we feel today in the public right-of-way will only grow more intense," Reiskin said.

Farrell argued that families and many individuals need cars to get around: "The use of a car is simply necessary." Reiskin acknowledged that cars are still the top transportation choice in San Francisco and they will remain so for the foreseeable future. But he said that each person who opts to use a bike, Muni, or to walk is an important gain in the efficiency of the overall transportation system, given how much space cars take up, so eliminating free parking is an important incentive.

"There is a clear relationship between transportation choices and costs," Reiskin said. "If there is free parking, a lot more people will choose to drive."

Farrell then repeated the other big criticism that gets aimed at the SFMTA over its parking management program, that it’s simply a "revenue grab" that uses meter and parking citation revenue to make Muni and cycling improvements. But Reiskin said the $200 million in revenues from parking have been fairly consistent, with increases in meter revenue being offset by declining revenue from citations (which he attributed to longer meter hours and new payment options) and lowering the rates in city parking garages to make them more competitive with street parking.

"We’re lowering your rates as much as we’re raising them," Reiskin said after noting that, "We’d much rather get the revenue through the meter than through citations."

Finally, Farrell got down to the crux of the criticism from car owners: why can’t everything else wait until the SFMTA makes Muni more efficient and attractive? This is a car-dominant culture, and people won’t take the bus until it’s easy and reliable. Bike advocates make a similar argument, saying completion of a safe system of bike lanes is the only way to substantially increase cycling in the city. But Reiskin said the SFMTA has to do everything at once lest traffic congestion slow the entire system.

"I know it’s a challenge for you, but it’s a challenge for us with how to respond to it as well," Reiskin replied to Farrell. "I don’t think we have the luxury of putting one part on hold while we make up for decades of underinvestment in public transit."

Sup. David Campos said he understands the frustrations of his northeast Mission constituents and he thought the SFMTA was right to delay the implementation of parking management programs there (the revised plan comes out this summer). But he noted that many of his constituents can’t afford to own a car and they need SFMTA to actively promote other transportation options: "We do need to find a way to do everything and balance this out."

FRUSTRATION WITH SFMTA


No neighborhood epitomizes the tricky balancing act on parking polices more than the northeast Mission, with its tight mix of residential and production, distribution, and repair businesses in a neighborhood where growing parking demand will be exacerbated by plans to convert the parking lot at 17th and Folsom streets into a park.

That was where the anger at the SFMTA’s approach to parking reached a fever pitch last year, spawning opposition groups such as the Northeast Mission Coalition. Angela Sinicropi, who heads that group, is calling for new preferential parking permits for local residents and the PDR businesses in the area.

"It’s not a preference or a choice. Vehicles are a necessary part of these businesses," said Sinicropi, who owns a photography business called Syntax Studio. "We need long-term, all-day parking."

She said her members appreciate SFMTA staff working with residents, but they’re still frustrated by the agency’s reliance on parking meters as the main parking management tool. Others simply slammed the SFMTA — which was set up as an independent agency that would be somewhat immune from political pressures — as out-of-control.

"The problem with the MTA is their lack of transparency and accountability," Rob Francis said.

"MTA has lost its way. They shouldn’t be focused on parking. They should focus on transit," said Potrero Hill resident Jim Wilkins. "As taxpayers, we pay for the streets. We pay to maintain those streets. So we should be given priority on those streets."

"Keep things as they are and be respectful of taxpayers," said Walter Bass, a Potrero Hill property owner, blaming the "bike people" for skewing the agency’s priorities. "SFMTA has lost the privilege to manage parking in San Francisco."

Reiskin sat in the front row listening to angry tirades against him and his agency for more than an hour, yet he stuck by his position that managing parking is far from a privilege — it is a difficult duty and one he doesn’t intend to shirk, even as he tries to heed the public’s concerns.

In the end, the supervisors didn’t really chasten the SFMTA, as its critics had hoped for.

Farrell seemed content to declare, "There are no other plans to expand parking meters throughout San Francisco," after Reiskin said he’s not planning to go beyond the five parking management areas now being created.

"I hope MTA was listening to the public comments and concerns," Cohen offered, hoping the hearing will somehow alleviate the shitstorm from some of her car-driving constituents.

And Campos closed with perhaps the only real conclusion that could be drawn from this hearing: "This won’t be the last time we’ll be talking about this issue."

Behind the attacks on City College

17

OPINION Last year the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges harshly sanctioned City College of San Francisco and gave us just nine months to shape up or face the consequences. This was pushed on the community even though the quality of education provided at City College was never in question.

Since then, CCSF has changed student assessment metrics and addressed the governance, institutional planning, and enrollment management issues cited. We have done so even as we have also documented disquieting information about the ACCJC’s damaging role at CCSF and at community colleges throughout California.

Our research into ACCJC found that the commission failed to respect the law and public policy of the state and violated federal common-law due process and California common-law fair procedure. Further, at CCSF and in districts around the state, the ACCJC often acts arbitrarily, capriciously, unfairly, and inconsistently in evaluating colleges, thereby harming the schools and their communities.

San Francisco has shown valiant support for City College despite the drumbeat of negative publicity around our accreditation status.

Recently, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in support of preserving the quality and diversity of education at City College of San Francisco, of tackling the achievement gap and ensuring equitable opportunities for students, and of utilizing Proposition A funds as intended.

In the age of the 24-7 corporate news cycle, educators and unions are too often portrayed as the opposition in attempts to push austerity, undermine the public sector, and efface the important educational work we do for students. We will not apologize for resisting the downsizing of our students’ educations, for saving jobs, and for protecting educational programs that benefit our students—particularly our most vulnerable students. We will not apologize for attempting to sustain employees’ health, working conditions, and well-being.

When San Franciscans passed Proposition A overwhelmingly last November, it was a ray of light for those of us who have devoted our lives to City College and its students. Providing $15.2 million, the tax was designed to reverse the cuts to classes and employees in our starved public educational system, helping sustain our college for San Franciscans. Now the administration is diverting millions of these dollars and pumping additional money into consultants, lawyers, computers, and maintenance. Under the administration plan, next year less than a third of that money will go toward the educational purposes voters were promised.

Meanwhile, the race to downsize continues. At the negotiating table and in the press, the administration uses the need to retain the college’s accreditation—something all of us agree is crucial—as reason, excuse, and threat. It has shirked its duties at the bargaining table, imposing pay cuts and implementing premature and damaging layoffs of staff and faculty.

We face a host of other dramatic changes that cut into our ability to serve student needs, including a reorganization that pushes faculty expertise and voices further into the background and a shocking lack of substantive dialogue or transparent processes. Our trustees now preside over meetings that squelch public speech, restricting access to a too-small meeting room with the windows literally papered over so that no one can see in or out.

Thankfully, we are not alone in this fight. In Chicago, in Seattle, and in communities around the country afflicted with disingenuous “reforms” and diminished access, we are gathering strength and allies and standing up for the principles that inform our work as educators, responsible for defending and improving quality, accessible public education for the public good.

To join the fight to save our City College, email aft@aft2121.org

Alisa Messer is an English instructor at City College of San Francisco and president of AFT Local 2121, which represents instructors, counselors, and librarians at the college.

 

Editor’s notes

1

EDITORS NOTES It’s a good thing the Giants were at home Friday night, or I might have tried to drive across the Bay Bridge. Always a bad idea after work, always a worse idea on a Friday, when the backup starts somewhere around SF General Hospital. I spent almost two hours getting past Berkeley one Friday when I thought we could leave at 3:30 and beat the traffic. When the Giants are in town, it’s impossible.

It’s so crowded nobody drives there any more. Or something like that. I didn’t.

Instead, I got on my bike and rode to BART, took the Richmond train to North Berkeley, and rode a few blocks to a birthday party on University Avenue. Cost $7.70, I think, for the round trip. Took less than an hour each way, including biking home up Bernal Hill. The late train back was party central, with the bridge and tunnel crowd all decked out in club finery and a woman singing full-volume along with her phone.

“How was I?” she asked me. “Ready for American Idol,” I said.

I could have been stuck in traffic.

This is how life is going to have to be in the future, and it’s not a bad picture. One of the main reasons I like riding my bike in San Francisco, and I hate driving, is that I know exactly how long it’s going to take me to get somewhere on two wheels. On four, it could be 15 minutes, or it could be an hour.

The thing is, we’re so used to the idea that cars are the fastest way to get around — and in some places, sometimes they are. If we fixed up the city the way we should (which would mean changing not only the lane patterns but the directions of some streets) cars would almost always be the worst and slowest way to go most places.

Either way, in this Bike to Work Day issue, were explore the idea that speeding around town at 30 miles an hour in your personal can isn’t a natural right of all people. In fact, Jason Henderson, a professor at San Francisco state who I interviewed argues that the most environmentally sound thing we can do in urban areas might be to … slow down.

Hard to imagine, that. This city runs on speed: Tech speed, work speed, party speed, frenetic speed … I can’t imagine not being in a serious rush for a large part of my day. It’s nice, sometimes, to think about the alternative.

Bike hot spots

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steve@sfbg.com

When a four-year-long court injunction against new bicycling improvement projects in San Francisco was finally lifted in 2010, there was great hope in the cycling community that the city would rapidly move forward on completing its long-planned network of bike lanes.

Feeding that optimism, Mayor Ed Lee, Board President David Chiu, and other top officials set ambitious goals to increase cycling, even though they did little to provide funding that was up to the task or overcome political opposition that inevitably arises to projects that take space from cars (see “20 percent by 2020,” 5/8/12).

San Francisco is still a long way from emerging into even double-digits in terms of the percentage of vehicle trips taken by bike, and a big part of that is many people don’t feel safe or comfortable fighting with cars for space on the roads. They want bike lanes throughout the city, ideally more of the physically separated cycletracks that debuted a few years ago on Market Street.

So, on Bike to Work Week 2013, we’re taking a look some of the cycling hot spots in the city, places where the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and other advocates have been pushing for pivotal bike safety improvements, the opposition they’ve encountered, and the status on those improvements.

Polk Street: This has become the hottest of hot spots in recent weeks, with an SFMTA plan for cycletracks shot down by local residents and businesses who complained about the loss of parking spaces on this narrow and increasingly congested corridor. SFBC is organizing to restore the bike lanes, starting with a May 14 event at its office.

Masonic Boulevard: Cars turning left from Fell onto Masonic, which bisects the bike-friendly Panhandle, used to be one of the most dangerous spots in the city, a problem that was largely solved with a special bike-signal light. Next, the SFMTA is proposing to take a lane from cars on that fast-moving thoroughfare and install bikes lanes all the way to Geary, with important funding decisions on that project coming up this summer.

Fell and Oak Streets: There’s finally been some recent progress to this short but important east-west connection after years of delays and broken promises. Cycletracks on each busy street to connect the Wiggle to the Panhandle were approved in October, with an appeal denied the next month as Fell got new striping. But it was only in the last week that Oak finally got two blocks of temporary bike lanes, with parking spaces still standing in the way of the final block.

Second Street: After years of political haggling and community meetings, the SFMTA is finally on the verge of approving bicycle and pedestrian improvements on this dangerous car-clogged artery. The latest plans call for one-way cycletracks running next to the sidewalks on both sides of the street separated by a raised median with street trees separating riders from rows of parked and moving cars. Look for community meetings on the project in June.

Caesar Chavez Boulevard: This busy street got some much needed improvements earlier this year, with good bike lanes on the eastern portion, clearer signage for automobiles approaching the confusing maze as Chavez crosses I-280, and pedestrian safety improvements. Now the city just needs to continue what it started and complete the bike-lane link all the way to Valencia.

Market Street: Cyclist demand is causing mini Critical Masses everyday during the morning and evening commutes on mid-Market Street. Yet despite the fact that the last two mayors long ago called for private cars to be removed from this showplace thoroughfare, Market is a traffic mess and will probably remain so for awhile without fresh political will. The Better Market Street project has delayed improvements to 2017, and its planners this year offered the daffy idea of banning bikes from Market and forcing them over to Mission.

Mansell Street: Improving people’s ability to safely ride bikes to and through McLaren Park, the SFMTA has designed and approved a road diet along Mansell that includes a two-way cycletrack and pedestrian path from Brazil to University, after a series of multilingual community meetings.

Embarcadero: To help improve access to and views of the waterfront during this year’s America’s Cup, the SFBC is aggressively pushing for a pilot project with a two-way cycletrack along the bay side of the roadway. Meanwhile, the SFMTA is now doing a long-term transportation study that will inform approval of the Warriors Arena and the Giants/Anchor Stream development at Pier 48, which will hopefully fund the Blue-Greenway bike path along the waterfront.