Deerhoof tracks…Harry Smith


This morning, I went to the press conference for the San Francisco International Film Festival (April 20-May 4) — wunderbar to hear the appreciation for the “avant-pop” Deerhoof, who have been enlisted to score beat filmmaker Harry Smith’s Heaven and Earth Magic for the fest, live, one time only (though that Yo La Tengo score a few years back took on a life of its own, didn’t it?).


You can hem and haw, huff and puff, kvetch and moan about how this fest isn’t up to that fest or how women, Latinos, Africans, and African Americans aren’t represented — and you can be satisfied that those concerns were definitely the focus of the questions at the press conference — but this Deerhoof event is guaranteed awesome. Innovative filmmaking — a band at the top of their freakin’ game. The SF-Oakland Runners Four are supposedly trying to utilize Castro Theatre’s impressive pipe organ, too. I’d get your tickets now for the April 27 performance. Visit or call (925) 866-9559. You’ve been warned.

Further music-related coolness at the fest: Brothers of the Head, Favela Rising, Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, “Not so Quiet Silents with Alloy Orchestra” — not counting outright musicals like psych-noir-film legend Seijun Suzuki’s Princess Raccoon and actor John Turturro’s Centerpiece.


Guardian film intern Jonathan Knapp wants to wax positive about Noise Pop’s film program this year. Here’s what he wrote:

Bookended by a pair of docs about American musical icons both thriving (Flaming Lips-trailing The Fearless Freaks ) and enduring (Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley), the Noise Pop Film Festival, like the festival itself, spans the indie rock landscape. Of particular historical significance are Borderline: The Heavenly States and The M-80 Project.

The former finds local power-poppers the Heavenly States documenting their 2005 tour of Libya, the first by any Western band since Qadaffi came to power 35 years earlier. Long discussed in the sort of anxious whisper reserved for artifacts considered lost, the footage comprising The M-80 Project captures new wave culture before it became a marketable sound, fashion, and eventual retro touchstone. Minneapolis, 1979: future MTV darlings Devo meet no wave upstarts the Contortions and Judy Nylon and other post-punk experimentalists at a local art center. They play music, young Midwestern lives are changed, and, years later, the legendary video resurfaces.

For doc deets, visit

Noise: The Guardian’s new music blog


March 24, 2006

Tapes ‘N Horses ‘N Ladyhawks ‘N more

Weekend’s here and I’m hoping to keep it hail-free this time around. There are some heated hip-hop shows this weekend: Ghostface with M1 from Dead Prez at Mezzanine tonight and that massive Andre Nickatina and Equipto at Studio Z Saturday. Arab Strap are strapping the groovy boys on tonight and tomorrow at Cafe du Nord — with much excitement about His Name Is Alive. I’m psyched to see Islands with Metric at the Fillmore (along with the Strokes and Eagles of Death Metal at the Concourse) — and that’s all tonight. My ears are already starting to smart.

BoH_Roof5 sml.jpg
Whoa, it’s Band of Horses.
Credit: Robin Laananen

And Sub Pop breakout beasts Band of Horses are playing with Earlimart tonight at the Independent (and if you miss them, the Horseys also play a free show at Amoeba Music in SF on — fooled ya — April 1, 2 p.m.). Remember these guys from onetime Bay Area indie rock band Carissa’s Wierd? Very wierd how what comes around goes around — and gets reincarnated as equine musicmakers. Nice beards, dudes. Couldn’t bother to shave, could you? S’OK — I didn’t either!

And then it’s open season on Noise Pop starting Monday. Yeehaw.

114_1497 tapes sml.jpg
Whoa, it’s Tapes ‘N Tapes at Cafe du Nord

Last night I went to du Nord to see Minneapolis band Tapes ‘N Tapes play their hearts out and praise SF (and diss LA, complaining about the dreary cold down south — we got lucky, I think). They rocked, all over the place — still forming their sound, no doubt. Twas a strong one.


Your pals at Jagjaguwar ( e-mailed, ever so personally, to say they signed Vancouver band Ladyhawk, who are touring with Magnolia Electric Co. Wasn’t that also the title of a cheesy Mists of Avon Ladies-style fantasy flick in the ’80s? Anyway, said band’s self-titled CD/LP debut is due June 6.

The label writes that the band’s album is "a stomping and sweaty ride through the Vancouver streets that they all know well, as viewed from the seats of a bruised and doorless Astro Van. In this ride, you can’t help but feel that you will fall out and you will fall down, and your joints will all be sore at the end of the trip. Ladyhawk’s core is bracing rock. Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night is the hailstorm on the hood of the Replacement’s Let It Be, while distorted guitars invoke the thread and swerve of Silkworm and Dinosaur Jr."

I write that the ’90s are back and there’s nothing you can about it. Except to bury your combat boots in a small hole in the backyard and then pile dog manure gathered from Dolores Park trash cans all over it. It — the ’90s, that is — will probably still come back — but at least you tried.

If you embrace the grunge revivalism, listen to the MP3 for "The Dugout" from Ladyhawk’s debut at

March 23, 2006

NOISE: SXSW, fantasy softball, part 3

OK, I swear, this is it. Enough SXSW, already. We gotta move on. So let’s get it out of our system, down on blog, and tricycle out to greener, sunnier pastures.

First off, the homo-happenin’ Ark may not have as good a name as their fellow Malmo, Sweden, rockers Quit Your Dayjob, but they managed to evoke the gods of candy-colored pop-rock good times not witnessed since Andrew WK headlined Bottom of the Hill. These guys work hard for their money. So hard for it, honey.

114_1452 ark 2 sml.JPG

Manic vocalist Salo was shaking that sheckel-maker, telling the SXSW sloggers they embodied his song title, "Rock City Wankers," and leading the crowd in a chant of "Tonight, one of us is gonna die young." Someday the sassy singer is gonna be a "Father of a Son," indeed — as long as those white hot pants don’t cramp his style. "It’s Saturday and no one wants to hear any more music!" he yelled, echoing the thoughts of so many wandering Austin like zombies with a blood hangover. This superfun Emo’s IV day showcase with the Gossip, Wooden Wand, and the Giraffes was one of my faves at SXSW.

114_1450 ark 3 sml.JPG

114_1458 ark sml 1.JPG

Most sighted celebrity, according to Akimbo (who I bunked down with in the Alternative Tentacles flophouse, a.k.a. George Chen’s Super 8 motel room): J. Mascis. "He was everywhere."

113_1397 dance pants sml.JPG
Not J. Mascis’s ass

Oh look, wait, that’s Andy Gill in the middle, doing a crotch-block dance move, with fellow Gang of Four member Dave Allen and Peaches. This party happened earlier in the week at a smoke-filled, Camel-sponsored V2/Dim Mak thing. Weirdest moment: Peaches shakes a Dos Equis and hands it to Gill to spray on the audience, and he, looking befuddled, opens the can and pours it all over her CDs.

114_1406 peach dave andy sml.JPG

114_1417 peach dance sml.JPG

I didn’t get to catch nearly as many SXSW panels as I wanted to, but the ones I did were incisive and low on bull dookie.

Best quips from the conference panel “Rolling Down the River: Revenue Streams Artists Should Know About”: International Artist Agency’s Stephen Brush on album sales: “Fuck the record. It helps. But at the end of the day, you’re building the audience one day at a time.” JSR Merchandising’s Brad Hudson on merch: “In the 26 years I’ve been doing this, the black T-shirt has been the staple. A lot of artists come up with great ideas but you’ll find the majority of the revenue coming from that T-shirt. Three T-shirts and a hoodie.”

Most Guardian-friendly soundbyte from Damian Kulash of OK Go at the surprisingly well-attended “Ten Things You Can Do to Change the World” panel: “It’s easy to say ‘Everyone vote!’ onstage. It’s hard to say, ‘There’s a media consolidation problem in this country, especially if you’re trying to get your single on Clear Channel station.”

114_1440 change world sml.JPG
Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla, Steve Earle, and Jenny Toomey at the "Ten Things You Can Do to Change the World" panel. Earle: "How many Republicans are here?"

Word had it that the city of Austin was cracking down on singer-songwriter and former Kurt Cobain squeeze (and focus of mad Courtney jealousy) Mary Lou Lord, according to Austinist. She called them to say that the cops shut her down for busking in the street "citing a new law banning "amplification."

Yeesh, this after attending and playing on Sixth Street during SXSW for 11 fucking years. Anyway, she managed to hold this spot next to a late-night convenience store, across the posh, supposedly haunted Driscoll Hotel. Her pal Jason and his gorgeous falsetto deserve to be snapped up by some lucky label.

114_1425 mary lord sml.JPG

SF’s Boyskout got the rock out at a Lava Lounge Patio show with IMA, Faceless Werewolves, Knife Skills, Happy Flowers, Skullening, and Die! Die! Die! Tight.

114_1462 boyskout sml.JPG

The lady — namely Lady Sovereign — looks scary. Here she is at La Zona Rosa. (After losing my way to the Anti- Hoot with Billy Bragg and Jolie Holland, I managed to catch her, as well as Bauhaus-soundalikes She Wants Revenge and the snarksome We Are Scientists down the street at Fox and Hound.) LS’s beats were harsh, and the vibe was, yes, brattay. (She likes to throw down…that microphone.)

114_1466 lady sov sml.JPG

Ghostface made a Wu-Tang face right after the Lady — very fun. GK commanded the stage, the crowd went nuts over the Wu tunes, and I appreciated the sound of gunfire that gently segued between the songs. Whoo.

114_1478 ghost sml.JPG

The official SXSW-closer softball game/barbecue was called for rain. But hadn’t we had enough white bread by then?

114_1441 rainout sml.JPG

March 22, 2006

Noise: SXSW, too many bands

Dennis Cabuco of the Guardian and Harold Ray Live in Concert!, signing in for a final SXSW posting. I had a blast during the final days of SXSW, so here’s a quick account of my wanderings through Austin, Texas:

Friday afternoon

The North Loop Block Party took place in North Austin with three stages set up in parking lots between vintage shops, a record store, and a kink boutique. I had a few beers with friends and saw the following bands:

The Time Flys — I see these guys often, but they definitely have tightened up since the time we all got drunk for a Cereal Factory show together.

The Cuts — I also see these guys often. Gotta say, they still remind me a lot of the Cars. Yeah, I could see these guys and the Time Flys in SF, but there were a lot of other good bands (whose names I didn’t get) at the block party as well, and with three stages, there was no wait between bands. The audience was composed of nice, well-dressed people. I took some time out to check out all the cool shops and relax from the frantic urgency of seeing bands downtown.

The Nice Boys — I didn’t know they were from Portland, and I didn’t know that one of the guys was in the Exploding Hearts either.

Dazzling King Solomon — This band has a couple of members from the Nervous Exits. Awesome ’60s rock. Crunchy.

I had lunch at Stubbs where I saw We Are Scientists, a threepiece that sounds a lot like the Killers.

Friday night

Ponderosa Stomp — I went to the Continental Club, which was packed, to see Barbara Lynn tearing it up on guitar, playing a leftie strat. She is amazing player, and sings with a soul-stirring voice. I was very moved by her performance. Afterward, I saw Eddie Bo. I say again, Eddie Bo! No, he didn’t do “Check Your Bucket” or “the Thang”, perhaps because they didn’t have the original band to do it, but it was cool to hear him backed bt Little Band of Gold anyway. Archie Bell came up to school us on how to do the “Tighten Up”, which I never know how to do.

OK Go — I watched most of their set on the big screen from outside of the Dirty Dog. It was at capacity, and they weren’t letting anyone else in. If only the industry dorks drinking by the window would leave so the fans could get in. They were oblivious to the amazing show taking place right behind them. I got in just before the last song and the “encore,” the "Million Ways" dance. If you wanna know what that is, you can watch the video on the OK Go website.

On my way up to the Fox and Hound to see Animal Collective, I took Fourth Street, which was blocked off for a St. Patty’s spring-break meat-market hoedown — a block party packed with homogenous, drunken college folks. The good that came of that jaunt: I found out Brandi Carlile was playing at Cedar St. Courtyard, an outdoor patio with good sound. I’ll get back to that.

I made it to the Fox and Hound, which had a long line for Animal Collective. I was still in line when they started their set. The first number lasted about 10 minutes and went nowhere. It was the kind of music I’d hear at a club — a beat, some record scratching, and no discernable melody. I just couldn’t get into it, so I took off in the middle of their second song, out to seek something with melody and harmony.

I fought the St. Patty’s revelers once more to get to the patio where Carlile was playing. She was getting a lot of praise from a pop music station in Austin, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. With a new album just out, she kicks off her first major tour with SXSW in Austin, and if the crowd was any indication of the response she’ll get on tour, it will be a success. It took a while to get the sound worked out as the crowd grew anxious, but we were rewarded with a professional show, and the sound was the best anywhere that evening. She did a couple of songs with a cello player. The bass and guitar players are twins. Brandi is a natural on stage and sings with a sweet sincerity that you can’t help but love. Her songs have universal themes with broad appeal, and it’s a pleasure to watch her perform.

When I left the Courtyard at about 2:00 a.m., the college crew had disappeared, leaving only the canopies, bad leprechaun decorations, and plastic cups littering the street. I walked along Sixth Street to find that the spring-breakers had spilled out to mix with the SXSW crowd, and it was mayhem. People were yelling into their cell phones looking for parties. I witnessed some groping, some drama, and a girl sporting red flashing LEDs on her nips, highlighting her 38D bustline. She should meet up with the guy who had a scrolling LED belt buckle.

Saturday afternoon

I went to Cream Vintage for a show in their back parking lot. The fans were undaunted by the rain as petite blonde Annie Kramer played her set. She was joined by A FirJu Well, who backed her up for a few songs. We sang along to “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” as the PA cut out because of the rain. If the Grateful Dead kept playing ’60s stuff throughout their career, they might’ve sounded like this. These guys obviously hang out and play music all the time — they were so comfortable backing others and improvising through technical difficulties.

Saturday night

I got to Zona Rosa to see Morningwood midset, and they were excellent. See them live if you get a chance. I was convinced to stay and see the Stills by a fan named Rene. She gave me a quick rundown on the band’s background and their songs as they played. They had great energy, keyboards, harmonies, and danceable songs. I couldn’t tell what was old or new, but I liked it all. Emily from Metric made an appearance to do a new song with them, which she had just learned in their tour bus on the way fom Canada.

I took a cab over to the Continental Club to see Andre Williams. It was nice to see him, but most of the good tunes, like "Rib Tips," are practically instumentals. For this, the band makes all the difference. The Continental Club was packed, and it had a party atmosphere, but the music was nothing like what I heard on the recordings. I know Williams is also a good keyboardist, so I was disappointed that he didn’t strut his stuff on organ. I left after about five songs and took a cab back to Red River Road.

I ran into my new friend Rene while at at Emo’s Annex to see a fun indie band called I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness. One song, “Your Worst Is the Best” reminded me a bit of Death Cab for Cutie. I went to the Velvet Spade for a drink and to say hi to the Nervous Exits (whom I had missed at 10 p.m.). I went upstairs to see the stage where my band played our first SXSW two years ago. They had a tent around the outdoor patio this time. I heard some good R&B and looked up to see a guy who looked like he should be in a ’70s rock band singing and shaking his head while hammering a Hammond XB2 and a Fender Rhodes. John and the drummer Van make up the Black Diamond Heavies from Nashville belting out some heavy blues rock with no guitarist!

I left on my way to Stubbs to see the Pretenders, but was distracted by some good music coming from Club DeVille. The doorperson told me it was the Cribs. I walked up to the stage and ended up staying for their whole set, riveted by their performance. Hailing from England, this threepiece reminds me of the Jam and early Green Day. It’s refreshing to see a young band so into their music. They were also tight and well-rehearsed. The guitarist knocked over his Orange amp during their final song, the drummer knocked over his set, and the bassist left his amp oin to feedback as they exited the stage. I missed the Pretenders, but heard it was a great show.

My last hoorah was the super-exclusive, invite only, no-getting-in-without-a-special-pass, Vice Magazine Party, attended by hundreds. I arrived at the Blue Genie in East Austin just in time to see Wolfmother, who were amazing. Where do they get all that energy after playing (at least) four shows at SXSW? I stood right in front of the keyboard player to watch him use all his effects, which were duct-taped to the top of his XB-2, which of course had to be duct-taped to the stand for all that dancing around. This show was way loud, and they ended with the keyboard player leaving his rig sideways, effects looping with his amp on.

Probably the coolest people I met there were Sara Liss from Now magazine
and her friend Melanie. We compared notes of our SXSW experiences while we sipped mixed drinks made with Phillips vanilla whiskey. Wierd! Yummy though.

My last, last hoorah was Fuzz club for a pcyched out 60’s night at Beerland on Sunday night where the Mojo Filters played a tight set.

Sunday evening, I saw a much more subdued Austin, catching its breath from the biggest party of the year. Besides SXSW, there were also roller derbies and a rodeo. This is the most hectic week Austin experiences, and I’m sure a lot of the natives are glad it’s over. It was raining as a thunderstorm pulled in, but still relatively warm. I will miss Austin and will likely come back next year.

With an overwhelming number of bands playing at the same time, it was inevitable that I would not get to see everyone I wanted to see, so here’s a partial list of other bands I wish I saw:

The Noisettes
Mates of State
Of Montreal
Film School
Allen Toussaint
Rock and Roll Soldiers
Persephone’s Bees
Seventeen Evergreen
The Nervous Exits
Gris Gris
Drunk Horse
the Pretenders
the Charlatans

Thanks, Amy for being such a gracious host, and for taking me to the best Mexican restaurant in Austin.

NOISE: SXSW, the final fantasy, part 2

SXSW — oh, that old thing? That was sooo…last Saturday. Before it fades from memory, only to be replaced by the latest whiskey bar, here are a few more toasts.

On Friday, we swung by the Band of Gold (featuring Archie Bell, DJ Fontana, and Barbara Lynn) but drove on by Club De Ville, daunted by the early line-formations. We saw the chalk outlines of a very long wait and checked in on Bettye LaVette at La Zona Rosa to see she cancelled. Oh well, Fatcat Records, Pawtracks, Bubblecore, and hosted an avant-art-hippie-core hoedown right down the street at Fox and Hound, featuring the Mutts, Tom Brosseau, and headliners Animal Collective. That brought out the girls with dyed black hair in tiered skirts and, natch, the boys with beards. I was wondering where they all were. Great merch table, by the way — a righteous free CD with every purchase.

113_1387 ice sml.JPG

The lady-centric First Nation disappointed with their low energy musicmaking, but man, Storsveit Nix Noltes from Reykjavik, Iceland, worked those accordions, trumpets, cellos with lovely Eastern European folksong abandon. "Dance, dance!" yelped the cellist leader. We hear and try to obey — but the beards are screwed on too tightly. I hate when that happens.

Earlier Friday eve, I stepped into Yard Dogs, near Club De Ville, to glimpse the finale of the Bloodshot Records party. Nice music-related folk art inside, including Mekon Jon Langford’s faux-weathered works in tribute to Hank Williams and other country and American idols and icons (he was throwing down an opening the next night), and Jad Fair’s whimsical, colorful ink and paint pieces. "Folk" art here means art by music folk or about music folk — got it? Get it. The best buy had to be Rev. Howard Finster’s wood cutouts of musical legends (I know I was tempted by a Merle Haggard piece with very defined teeth).

113_1385 yard dogs bldsht sml.JPG

Stepped into Ba Da Bing/Leaf’s showcase at Blender Balcony at the Ritz (just had to fight the lines for Brakes, the Kooks, Editors, KT Tunstall, and the Feeling for the Blender Bar space at street level). Early on, Utrillo Kushner of Comets on Fire played songs in the key of "solo project" alongside Garrett Goddard of the Cuts on drums. Dig the ironic Magnum PI shirt!

113_1391 col yes crop.jpg

The Ba Da Bing showcase closed with a rare show by London’s Th’ Faith Healers, one of my pre-grunge post-punk faves from back in the early ’90s day. Thrilling. Regained faith. Was healed. Went home and fondled the flannel.

114_1420 faith heal sml.JPG

Another awesome, somewhat unappreciated aspect of the SXSW music conference (which Guardian contributor Kurt Wolff had to remind me about): Flatstock Poster Convention, usually held simultaneously on the groundfloor of the Austin Convention Center. The denizens of one booth silkscreened T-shirts as you waited, and most artists also designed a poster for the exhibit. Drool over the splashy graphics. Be pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices. Reach for your wallet. Shield your precious new piece of art from the rain.

114_1433 flatstck 1 sml btr.JPG

Philadelphia’s Pushmepullyou Design boss lady Eleanor Grosch;

114_1428 flatstk 5 sml.JPG

Boss Construction from Nashville, TN;

114_1431 flatstck 2 sml.JPG

Matt Daly of the Bird Machine, Inc., Chicago;

114_1430 flatstk 3 sml.JPG

The Decoder Ring Design Concern, Austin, TX;

NOISE: Go Bats

Who drunkenly referred to New Zealand band the Bats as the "Hobbit’s Go-Betweens?" Were they cracked out on ethereal pop?

Judge for yourself when the Bats attempt to cement last year’s comeback long-player, At the National Grid, in your consciousness — with, of course, a tour. They stop at Amoeba Music, SF today at 6 p.m. for a free show, then wing over to Rickshaw Stop at 8 p.m. (then on to the Starry Plough March 23). Essential for NZ popsters — you know who you are. You love the guano.

BATSwToys sml.JPG

March 20, 2006

NOISE: SXSW, the final days, part 1

So much has happened and so little blogging has gotten done. Could there be a connection? Yep. So here’s a little more on SXSW, the final days, revolving around what photos I could take before my camera died a horrible death –like all the other electronic devices around me.

The Nice Boys from Portland, Ore., tapped a fun Cheap Trick/Faces vein of pure ’70s-era gold. Rawk at the Birdman Records Showcase.

113_1344 nice sml.JPG

Power rock with extreme volume and lots of melody — all from a lil’ ole threepiece called the Evangelicals. Very fun — and worth checking into when not studying Bay Area DJ Mike Relm’s DVD scratch technique next door at the Blind Pig.

113_1399 evan sml.JPG

Shows at houses, record stores, boutiques, garages — one thing you gotta love about SXSW is the way the entire city seems filled with music. Music is oozing out of every corner of its mouth, dripping sloppily all over its chin and into its crotch. And it doesn’t care! (Though of course it does care, deeply, about music) These shows were strictly for locals on South First Street — I came to see Palaxy Tracks.

113_1354 palaxy sml.JPG

Ran into John Vanderslice, who only wanted to talk about how much he wanted to get back to SF after touring Europe with Death Cab for Cuties (where they were treated, if not like kings, then well-regarded "court jesters," he chuckled). He performed with Matt from Nada Surf and Rocky Votolato, fellow Barsuk artists, at End of the Ear, a cool vinyl store on South First.

113_1377 jv sml.JPG

Palaxy Track’s guitar player’s other project, Octopus Project, headlined in the backyard of Bella Blue boutique nearby. Boys in tights and hot pants played basketball in the driveway.

113_1381 oct proj sml.JPG

113_1375 bella blue sml.JPG

The music just couldn’t stop — it didn’t matter if you couldn’t play an instrument and just wanted to play 7-inches on your battery-powered turntables. "Sit and spin" takes on yet another meaning.

113_1390 turn sml.JPG

March 18, 2006

NOISE: SXSW’s Peach-y keen naked ladies

Stealth "special" appearances by Jane’s Addiction/Perry Farrell, Norah Jones, and Flaming Lips? Those SXSW events were one-upped by a spontaneous session of the itty bitty titty club (and prominent potbelly chapter) when Peaches teamed with Dave Allen of Gang of Four for a DJ set at Friday night’s V2/Dim Mak party, charmingly titled "Clusterfuck." That was sort of the vibe as Peaches and Allen spun Suicide-like beats, hard-edge dance numbers, and the Rezillos — the most screwy aspect was all the endless Camel advertising/product placement going on. (And what was with all the cigarette giveaways at this year’s fest?)

In any case, I confess I like Mistress P’s style: She basically yelled at the crowd, ordered them to dance, and then jumped into the audience and moshed into me. It was like bouncing into a big, fluffy cinnamon bun — Peaches smells just fine! And that’s enough to make anyone dance.

114_1405 peach dave sml.JPG

Later a slew of burlesque dancers got onstage and shook it like a Polaroid land camera. Entertaining — too bad it seemed to drive half the crowd away. Maybe Suicide Girl-style go-go schtick’s moment has passed. Or perhaps the culture vultures would have stuck around if the ladies stripped and threw Camels… Now that would be a sight to see.

114_1413 pch burl smller.JPG

NOISE: SXSW, fantasy softball, part 3


OK, I swear, this is it. Enough SXSW, already. We gotta move on. So let’s get it out of our system, down on blog, and tricycle out to greener, sunnier pastures.

First off, the homo-happenin’ Ark may not have as good a name as their fellow Malmo, Sweden, rockers Quit Your Dayjob, but they managed to evoke the gods of candy-colored pop-rock good times not witnessed since Andrew WK headlined Bottom of the Hill. These guys work hard for their money. So hard for it, honey.

114_1452 ark 2 sml.JPG

Manic vocalist Salo was shaking that sheckel-maker, telling the SXSW sloggers they embodied his song title, “Rock City Wankers,” and leading the crowd in a chant of “Tonight, one of us is gonna die young.” Someday the sassy singer is gonna be a “Father of a Son,” indeed — as long as those white hot pants don’t cramp his style. “It’s Saturday and no one wants to hear any more music!” he yelled, echoing the thoughts of so many wandering Austin like zombies with a blood hangover. This superfun Emo’s IV day showcase with the Gossip, Wooden Wand, and the Giraffes was one of my faves at SXSW.

114_1450 ark 3 sml.JPG

114_1458 ark sml 1.JPG

Most sighted celebrity, according to Akimbo (who I bunked down with in the Alternative Tentacles flophouse, a.k.a. George Chen’s Super 8 motel room): J. Mascis. “He was everywhere.”

113_1397 dance pants sml.JPG
Not J. Mascis’s ass

Oh look, wait, that’s Andy Gill in the middle, doing a crotch-block dance move, with fellow Gang of Four member Dave Allen and Peaches. This party happened earlier in the week at a smoke-filled, Camel-sponsored V2/Dim Mak thing. Weirdest moment: Peaches shakes a Dos Equis and hands it to Gill to spray on the audience, and he, looking befuddled, opens the can and pours it all over her CDs.

114_1406 peach dave andy sml.JPG

114_1417 peach dance sml.JPG

I didn’t get to catch nearly as many SXSW panels as I wanted to, but the ones I did were incisive and low on bull dookie.

Best quips from the conference panel “Rolling Down the River: Revenue Streams Artists Should Know About”: International Artist Agency’s Stephen Brush on album sales: “Fuck the record. It helps. But at the end of the day, you’re building the audience one day at a time.” JSR Merchandising’s Brad Hudson on merch: “In the 26 years I’ve been doing this, the black T-shirt has been the staple. A lot of artists come up with great ideas but you’ll find the majority of the revenue coming from that T-shirt. Three T-shirts and a hoodie.”

Most Guardian-friendly soundbyte from Damian Kulash of OK Go at the surprisingly well-attended “Ten Things You Can Do to Change the World” panel: “It’s easy to say ‘Everyone vote!’ onstage. It’s hard to say, ‘There’s a media consolidation problem in this country, especially if you’re trying to get your single on Clear Channel station.”

114_1440 change world sml.JPG
Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla, Steve Earle, and Jenny Toomey at the “Ten Things You Can Do to Change the World” panel. Earle: “How many Republicans are here?”

Word had it that the city of Austin was cracking down on singer-songwriter and former Kurt Cobain squeeze (and focus of mad Courtney jealousy) Mary Lou Lord, according to Austinist. She called them to say that the cops shut her down for busking in the street “citing a new law banning “amplification.”

Yeesh, this after attending and playing on Sixth Street during SXSW for 11 fucking years. Anyway, she managed to hold this spot next to a late-night convenience store, across the posh, supposedly haunted Driscoll Hotel. Her pal Jason and his gorgeous falsetto deserve to be snapped up by some lucky label.

114_1425 mary lord sml.JPG

SF’s Boyskout got the rock out at a Lava Lounge Patio show with IMA, Faceless Werewolves, Knife Skills, Happy Flowers, Skullening, and Die! Die! Die! Tight.

114_1462 boyskout sml.JPG

The lady — namely Lady Sovereign — looks scary. Here she is at La Zona Rosa. (After losing my way to the Anti- Hoot with Billy Bragg and Jolie Holland, I managed to catch her, as well as Bauhaus-soundalikes She Wants Revenge and the snarksome We Are Scientists down the street at Fox and Hound.) LS’s beats were harsh, and the vibe was, yes, brattay. (She likes to throw down…that microphone.)

114_1466 lady sov sml.JPG

Ghostface made a Wu-Tang face right after the Lady — very fun. GK commanded the stage, the crowd went nuts over the Wu tunes, and I appreciated the sound of gunfire that gently segued between the songs. Whoo.

114_1478 ghost sml.JPG

The official SXSW-closer softball game/barbecue was called for rain. But hadn’t we had enough white bread by then?

114_1441 rainout sml.JPG

{Empty title}


Fake terrorism

Watch a documentary and consider how far our government will go to scare us. In 9/11: The Road to Tyranny, filmmaker Alex Jones traces the formation of a police state in response to the events of 9/11.

7:30 p.m.

Humanist Hall

390 27th St., Oakl.

$5 donation

Freedom in Jerusalem

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israeli Religious Action Center, lectures on public and legal advocacy and the rights of the disenfranchised in Israel.

7:30 p.m.

Temple Emanu-El

2 Lake, SF


(415) 751-2535

Dilemmas of the UN

Peninsula Peace and Justice hosts Hans von Sponeck, former United Nations humanitarian coordinator, who resigned in protest of international policy toward Iraq. He’ll be speaking about the humanitarian failures of the UN in Iraq.

7:30 p.m.

Unitarian Universalist Church

505 E. Charleston, Palo Alto


Bolivia’s ballot-box revolution


 The timid rays of the sun receded from the Bolivian tropical savannas, bathing the valleys and disappearing behind the Andean mountains, on the afternoon of Dec. 18. They seemed to foretell that the Bolivian schizophrenic "political culture" was dying. And it happened.

On that day, indigenous Bolivia came out of political anonymity. In a move unprecedented in Bolivian and Latin American democratic history, the great indigenous majority, previously excluded and subordinated, elected one of our own, using the power of responsible and conscientious votes.

An indigenous man, Evo Morales Ayma, is our president! Yes, the llama herder from the forgotten Orinoca village. The man who as a child survived by following sheep and llamas and eating the dried orange peels the truck drivers threw out on the roadside, who as a ragged boy "celebrated" his "joy of living" once in awhile with a dishful of hank’akipa (cornmeal soup); a Bolivian who was born on his mother’s skirts (not in a hospital) under the dim light of a homemade oil lamp; a man who, like many others, dreamed of one day attending a university and becoming a professional but learned that, because of the exclusionary political culture and abject poverty, those dreams were unattainable.

Evo learned the lessons of political leadership in the school of life while working with the unions in Chapare (the tropical province of Cochabamba where he emigrated with his parents because of dire poverty in the highlands). He was deeply moved and outraged when he learned one of the coca growers’ leaders had been burned alive by the military. Later on, the union would open his eyes, mind, and heart to understand the causes of poverty of the Bolivian people.

The Bolivian neoliberal elite, promoted by the United States, tried very hard to avoid and stop the democratic revolution of the indigenous people, but it was too late. The contained anger and outrage on the face of so much corruption and betrayal by the shameless traditional politicians had reached the limits. Now was the time. Indigenous movements, laborers, farmworkers, social organizations, professionals, intellectuals, students, women, day laborers and theunemployed got together, armed with voting ballots and voting booths, to start a democratic revolution.

Before today the Bolivian social movements were labeled as communist and anarchic, or as drug dealers and disrupters of order by the official national and international media. By now the world knows by the results that we Bolivians are not terrorists or drug dealers. We are only people who want to live, people capable of solving our own historic problems using the democratic tools of the game.

The sun shone bright on the morning of Dec. 19. It washed away 180 years of exclusionary darkness and subordination of the indigenous people of Bolivia.

Never again against us! Never again without us! All of us together make Bolivia! Our destiny calls us to work in unity on the multicolored fabric of our national identity!

 Jubenal Quispe

Quispe is a Bolivian lawyer and activist who accompanied a San Francisco Presbyterian Church delegation known as Joining Hands Against Hunger on a recent tour of Bolivia. Translated from the spanish by Nancy Gruel.

For more information see "Evo Presidente!"

Making a splash


"One, two, three, four – squeeze your butt, Paul! – seven, eight," coach Suzanne Baker says into the microphone, pacing the poolside deck and counting the beats to a techno remix of "Another One Bites the Dust."

The members of Tsunami Tsynchro are in the water doing leg splits in the air. The first time they try it, legs bash into heads. "OK, OK, I can fix this," says Baker. She has them add more space by pushing off each other’s shoulders with their feet. They practice the new move repeatedly. "Again. Under. Again. Under," Baker commands.

Tsunami Tsynchro is the country’s first – and right now, only – male synchronized swimming team. It grew out of the Tsunami Swim Team, a gay and lesbian masters team, started two years ago as a synchro team for gay men (though it now includes several women).

They practice twice a week, today holding their underwater positions with the help of empty milk containers. "The bottles force you to find your body mass," Baker explains as they work to mobilize their bodies. The team is preparing its technical routine, a 90-second display of its most difficult moves that will be performed at this summer’s Gay Games in Chicago, where Tsunami Tsynchro will compete for the first time, alongside all-women’s teams.

It will be a big summer for the team, but it could’ve been bigger. In August the XI Fédération Internationale de Natation World Masters Championships are coming to the United States for the second time ever, but the Tsunami team isn’t allowed to compete. When the Bay Area hosts the FINA Championships at the Stanford Aquatic Center, the nation’s first male synchro team will be just a Caltrain ride away from the bleachers, but a lot farther from being permitted into the pool.
Image problems

Synchronized swimming combines rigorous physical exertion with the demands of polished performance. During routines, swimmers can’t touch the pool’s walls or bottom at any time. They spend a good portion of each routine with their heads underwater and bodies vertical, being judged on how high their legs reach. Coach Baker compares performing a synchro routine to "having to race a 400 individual medley in swimming, holding your breath every third lap, and smiling the entire time."

Stephen Houghton comes to the team with a history of Iron Man competitions and a seven-day stage race across the Sahara desert. He says synchro is tougher, and credits his one advantage not to his years of endurance sports but rather to his ballet training as a kid. "It gave me flexibility, and the ability to count to eight. You’d be surprised how many men can’t count to eight."

Underwater, the swimmers have to do more than count and hold their breath; they also have to control their heart rate. "If you’re pumped up and excited, you burn up all your oxygen," says Stuart Hills, a brown belt in tae kwon do and a former competitive swimmer. "You have to get into a relaxation state."

Pool time can be perilous too. Complicated lifts can lead to injury – bloody and broken noses, for example, and one bad incident involving a knee splintering a set of goggles. But during the routines, the difficulty of the sport has to melt away from the performance. "It’s tough," Hills says, "but you’re supposed to make it look easy."

Image is key to synchro – in a couple of ways. On the one hand, swimmers are judged by the attitude they project during routines; on the other, they must fight the image problem that has hindered their sport’s mainstream acceptance.

Synchronized swimming is a sport almost defined by the mockeries made of it, including the classic Saturday Night Live skits involving a pair of male synchronized swimmers, one wearing floaties. You’re more likely to find synchro on Comedy Central – in movies ranging from Austin Powers to Mel Brooks’s History of the World: Part I – than on ESPN. That’s made Tsunami Tsynchro’s quest for acceptance all the more difficult.

"This is really the last area men haven’t been able to compete [in]," says Bob Wheeler, one of the team’s founding members. Unlike female-dominated sports such as figure skating and gymnastics, synchronized swimming has no male or mixed category. "You don’t have many young boys doing synchro," Baker notes, "so they don’t see a need to make a category yet."

Beyond gender bias, there are other barriers to creating male synchro teams. In general, new synchro teams are not started very often because it’s an expensive sport. The underwater speaker system cost the Tsunami team $3,000. Synchro teams also have fewer swimmers than most swim teams, yet they need more attention and more pool time to hone their routines, so each member must pay more in coaching and pool fees. And in order to develop and practice routines, all the team members must be present.

"This is in no way an individual sport," says Baker.

If new synchro teams are rare, new male synchro teams are even more elusive, the white tiger of aquatic sports. It’s not a sport in which men find it easy to participate. When Wheeler created his profile, he debated whether or not to put down synchronized swimming as one of his hobbies. As it turned out, Wheeler began dating Kurt Kleespies, a longtime swimmer, who’s now the newest member of the team.

Officially, men aren’t welcome under the sport’s highest guidelines. Though they are allowed to compete domestically under US Synchro rules, FINA, the worldwide governing body of aquatic sports, doesn’t allow men to compete at an international level.

"In theory," Baker admits, "women shouldn’t compete directly with men." At the Olympic level, she says, the rule makes sense since men have the capacity for greater strength. But at the masters level, she argues, the genders are much more evenly matched. Most women competing at the masters level have been longtime synchro swimmers. The men are almost all beginners. And when they’re starting out, she says, men face several significant barriers: "Women tend to be more flexible. Men are denser and therefore less buoyant. These guys are all trained swimmers…. They were sinkers from the get-go."
No men allowed

More than 8,000 international masters athletes will hit the Bay Area in August for the FINA championships in swimming, diving, water polo, and – for women only – synchronized swimming.

Because of the FINA rule, the World Masters Championships can’t allow men to compete. "We are all for people competing in whatever sport they want to compete," says Anne Cribbs, chair of the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee and executive director of the FINA championships. She supports male participation in the sport if approved by FINA, but can’t permit it in international competition until it’s officially accepted.

Not so long ago, the rule seemed poised for change. "In 2000 I thought it might happen," says Don Kane, competition director for synchronized swimming at the World Masters. Five years ago a proposal was brought before the FINA General Conference to allow men to compete. It was passed by the FINA Congress, but then overruled by FINA president Mustapha Larfaoui, from Algeria, and FINA executive director Cornell Marculescu, from Romania, who cited a lack of male teams. Or, as Kane suggests, concerns by "male-dominated cultures."

The prospects for men competing internationally are not bright in the immediate future, Kane surmises. At the Athens Olympics, Larfaoui had the FINA rules changed so he could run for office again, and Kane doesn’t foresee the synchro rules changing under his command.

As for the Tsunamis, "we thought about registering as a female team and trying to pass as women," coach Baker jokes. She turns serious, though, saying, "These guys are doing a lot of hard work. They should be allowed to compete."

The team is hoping to put on an exhibition routine, though they’ll need FINA permission even for that. But Tsunami board member Brad Hise is optimistic about their chances, saying, "This is the Bay Area; men do things here that people don’t typically associate with us."

Synchro is a sport of physical challenge, artistic movement, jazzy music, gender conflict, and international cultural clashes. And one more thing, says Stevens: It’s also a sport of total surprise. "People disappear underwater, and you think, what will they do when they come up?"

Poster child


Biz News

Poster child

Artist Favianna Rodriguez makes history with her politically conscious graphics company.
By Momo Chang

IF YOU WENT to college in the Bay Area during the mid-to-late-’90s, chances are you’ve seen Favianna Rodriguez’s work. She’s the woman behind many of the ubiquitous peace and protest posters displayed on college campuses and in storefront windows, championing such issues as “No on Prop. 209” (the anti-affirmative action initiative) and demanding ethnic studies education.

She projects her radical messages onto high-contrast, boldly outlined figures, but she’s not just someone who rants and raves in a fist-in-the-air kind of way. The 27-year-old is clearheaded and visionary about her art. Though she follows in the traditions of Chicano poster-makers of the ’60s and ’70s, like Malaqu??as Montoya of Sacramento and the artists at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts’ Mission Grafica (2868 Mission, SF. 415-821-1155), she came of age in the digital era, when hundreds of posters can be designed and printed overnight.

Digital designing allows her company, Tumi’s Designs (3028 International, Oakl. 510-532-8267,, to have a fast turnaround, which is important in these politically turbulent times. Rodriguez

Street fairs and fall festivals


IF YOU’VE been wondering where all the headline acts and theater companies go in that long gloomy stretch before the fall season, take a look at some of the entertainment featured in the following fairs and harvest festivals. Not only do Bay Area late-summer and autumn celebrations provide space for artists, craftpeople and nonprofit organizations to peddle their wares, many feature performers like Maxine Howard, Modern Jazz Quartet, the Asian American Dance Collective and many, many more. In part two of our third annual guide to Bay Area street fairs, we’ve listed TK celebrations from the beginning of August through October. Unless otherwise noted, the fairs — and the entertainment — are free. For more information, or in case you’d like to participate, call the telephone number listed at the end of each festival description.

August 1-2

Nihonmachi Street Fair The streets of Japantown come to life with live entertainment, food booths, arts and crafts and games. Headliners on Saturday include the top-40 group Desire, while Sunday features jazz recording artist Deems Tsutakawa. On both days, Spirit of Polynesia, the Asian American Dance Collective and the Chinatown Lion Dance Collective perform ethnic dances. The event also features Children’s World, with activities and arts and crafts designed especially for two-to 12-year-olds. 11 am-5 pm in Japantown, Post and Buchanan, SF. 922-8700.

Aug 7-???


August 7-9

ACC Craft Fair From custom-made saddles and porcelain lamps to cedarwood desks and ornamental jewelry, this fair highlights the distinctive work of 300 artists from across the nation, including 75 from Northern California. All of the artists are chosen on the basis of integrity of design and excellence of execution, and the show’s organizers say they hope to elevate crafts into a major industry and an important art form. Adults, $4; children under 12 free. Fri., 11 am-8 pm; Sat., 11 am-6 pm; Sun., 11 am-5 pm. Fort Mason Center, Piers 2 and 3, Bay and Laguna, SF. 526-5073.

August 15

Reggae Explosion, ’87 Presented in the style and tradition of Jamaica’s famous annual Sun Splash concert, this event features Haitian art, Caribbean crafts and Jamaican cuisine, as well as dance, poetry, raffles and prizes. Musical artists include the internationally known Don Carlos and his Freedom Fighters Band, Strictly Roots and the sweet steel drums of Val Serrant. $8 in advance; $10 at the door. 1-11 pm, Fort Mason Center, Pier 3. Sponsored by the Western Addition Cultural Center. 921-7976.

August 22-23

Palo Alto Celebrates the Arts Festival Wine tasting and dancing in the streets will bring even more sunshine to Palo Alto’s University Avenue. Wares include high-quality ceramics and pottery ranging from dinnerware and stoneware as well as paintings, prints and one-of-a-kind furniture to decorate and distinguish the home. 10 am-6 pm, University Ave., Palo Alto. Sponsored by the Downtown Palo Alto Arts Fair Committee. 346-4446.

August 22-September 27

The Renaissance Pleasure Fairs A large grove of live oaks provides the setting for spirited pageants and merry parades that attempt to recreate a 16th-century Elizabethan country village. The Northern California Renaissance Fair is an autumn harvest festival, with music and dancing, hearty foods and rare hand-made crafts. Queen Elizabeth and her court are among the more than 1,000 costumed entertainers. Visitors are encouraged to arrive in period dress and join the fun. Adults, $10.50; seniors, $8.50; children under 12 free. Weekends and Labor Day, 10 am-6 pm. Located at the Blackpoint Forest in Novato, Hwy 37 to the Blackpoint exit. Sponsored by the Living History Center. 620-0433.

August 27-30

San Francisco Fair and International Exposition This year’s fair has an international flavor with its theme “San Francisco: Gateway to the Pacific.” San Francisco’s sister cities of Manila, Osaka, Shanghai, Sydney, Taipei and Hong Kong each have their own pavilion, to exhibit the individuality and heritage of each city and country, and highlight San Francisco’s thriving relationship with her sister cities. The fair also features a wine pavilion, a San Francisco history exhibit and, of course, the famous contest program, featuring such past favorites as the “Financial District Strut,” the “Impossible Parking Space Race,” the winners of the Bay Guardian Cartoon Contest and new additions including the “SF Safe Sex Button,” and “Freeways to Nowhere.” Adults, $5; seniors, $3; youth aged 5-15, $2; children under 5, free. Aug. 27th is “Youth Day” (all youth 15 and under admitted free); Aug. 28th is “Senior Day” (seniors admitted for $1.50). 11 am-9 pm, Civic Auditorium, Brooks Hall, Civic Center Plaza, SF. 557-8758.

September 4-6

122nd Annual Scottish Gathering and Games Come join 40,000 Scots for three days of music, dancing, food and contests. Highlights include the Highland Dancing Championships and the Caber Tossing Championship (a caber is a log the size of a telephone pole tossed end-over-end for accuracy). More than 50 clans are expected to set up tents and display their family tartans and coats of arms. Tickets for the Friday night Musical Pageant and Twilight Tattoo are $5 grandstand; $6 box seat, 8 pm, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Sat. and Sun., adults, $11 one day, $16 both days; youth 11-16, $6 each day; seniors, $5 each day; children under 11, free. Sponsored by the Caledonian Club of San Francisco. 897-4442.

September 5-6

A la Carte, a la Park Here’s your chance to picnic with more than 60 top Bay Area restaurants — De Paula’s, Firehouse Bar-B-Q, Vanessi’s Nob Hill and Hunan, among others — presenting their specialties at special prices to benefit the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s Free-Shakespeare-In-The-Park program. Sample the great cuisines of the world while enjoying a series of classical and jazz performances and samplings from the drama of William Shakespeare. $2.50 voluntary donations encouraged. 11 am-6 pm, in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow on JFK Drive across from McClaren Lodge, SF. 441-4422.

September 5-7

Concord Fall Fest This fourth annual Labor Day weekend festival, held in Todos Santos Park, features grape stomps, chili cook-offs and a 10K run. Less energetic fairgoers can enjoy an open-air marketplace of arts and crafts, food booths and live music. 10 am-6 pm, Concord (take Willow Pass Road exit from 689). Sponsored by the Concord Chamber of Commerce. 346-4446.

September 5-7

Sausalito Art Festival One of Northern California’s largest outdoor fine arts exhibitions, the 35th annual art festival is held along the beautiful Sausalito waterfront. More than 100 artists and craftsmen from around the world exhibit a total of 4,000 works of art. A variety of non-stop entertainment will be provided, along with 26 international food booths. Festivities begin Friday night, Sept. 4th, with fireworks and a black-tie party. The Breakers to Bay run begins along the Pacific at Fort Cronkhite in Marin at 8:30 am (register by August 18th). Adults, $3; children 6-12, $2; under 6, free. 10 am-6 pm, Bridgeway and Litho, Sausalito. Sponsored by the Sausalito Chamber of Commerce. 332-0505.

September 7

Arts Explosion This Labor Day festival celebrates the end of summer with a bang (fireworks) and launches the fall arts season. Complementing the showcase of outstanding Bay Area musicians and dance companies will be original performance works; “art by the yard” and a sculpture “glue booth” for children of all ages; an “Arts Row” with a variety of opportunities to interact with local arts organizations. Children under 12 free; adults, $1. 11 am-9 pm, Estuary Park on Embarcadero West, Oakl. Sponsored by the Oakland Festival of the Arts. 444-5588.

September 12-13

Russian River Jazz Festival Bring your suntan lotion, beach chairs, blankets and swimsuits, and swing to the sounds of the legendary Nancy Wilson, Maynard Ferguson and High Voltage, the Wayne Shorter Quintet and a host of others. This year, the festival features two stages set at the river’s edge, with a spectacular backdrop of redwood-covered mountains. Food and crafts will also be available. $23 single day; $42 for both days. Located at Midway Beach near Guerneville. (707) 887-1502.

September 12-13

15th Annual San Francisco Blues Festival The oldest ongoing blues festival in the U.S. offers two days of performances by blues greats from around the country, an unmatched view of the Bay and a superb array of New Orleans and Louisiana cuisine. Saturday’s music lineup includes Johnny Winter, Lonnie Brooks and Oakland’s own Maxine Howard, and on Sunday Roomful of Blues, Albert Collins and Memphis Slim play. $10 in advance; $12 at the door; $16 for a special two-day ticket available in advance only. Noon-6 pm at the Great Meadow, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF. 826-6837.

September 13

24th Street Merchants’ Cultural Festival The 24th Street Fair celebrates Latin American Independence as well as creating a community gathering for artists, residents and merchants. Visitors can enjoy Latin American food and arts and crafts with a Latin theme. A plethora of information booths provides literature on community activities and five stages continuous entertainment by local groups. 11 am-6 pm, 24th St. from South Van Ness to Potrero, SF. Sponsored by the Mission Economic and Cultural Association. 826-1401.

September 18-20

30th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival Monterey Jazz Festival swings again, this year featuring more than 25 superstars, including Ray Charles, The Modern Jazz Quartet, B.B. King, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Etta James and Bobby McFerrin. The event also features food and merchandise booths, and the sponsor, MCI Communications, offers visitors the opportunity to call anywhere in the U.S. free of charge. Although the main stage events are sold out, grounds admissions tickets are still available and allow the bearer access to the outdoor Garden Stage and the indoor Nightclub, which host many of the headliners. $15 a day. Fri., 5 pm-midnight; Sat., noon-midnight; Sun., noon-10 pm. 775-2021.

September 19-20

Mill Valley Festival More than 100 artists, selected by a jury, exhibit their wares at this arts-and-crafts fair set in a beautiful redwood grove. Food, continuous on-stage entertainment and activities for children make this one of the premiere fine arts festivals in the country. Voluntary donations requested. 10 am-6 pm, Old Mill Park, Throckmorton and Old Mill, Mill Valley. 381-0525.

September 19-20

Pan-Pacific Exposition Art and Wine Festival This city-wide festival is held on the site of the 1915 World’s Fair. Horse-drawn carriages and vintage cars transport visitors to the glories of bygone days as the festival celebrates the highlights of San Francisco history. Enjoy ragtime music, a historic fashion show and pennyfarthing bicycle races. Several wine gardens offer premium wines from select California vineyards. 10 am-6 pm, Marina Green, Lyon and Marina, across from the Palace of Fine Arts, SF. Sponsored by the San Francisco Council of District Merchants. 346-4446.

September 20

Folsom: Dimension IV! Now in its fourth year, this fair has established itself as the “End of Summer” celebration. Staged on the equinox of 1987, the fair again features the mascot “Megahood,” who breathes fire and smoke over the crowds. Entertainment includes the Folsom All Stars, the Zasu Pitts Memorial Orchestra and Viola Wills. Expect high-energy performances and technological innovations and one of the most diverse display of local artistry and crafts. The fair is a benefit for the San Francisco Aids Emergency fund and the South of Market Community Association. 11 am-7 pm, Folsom between 7th and 12th St., SF. Sponsored by Budweiser Corporation. 863-8579.

September 26-27

The Pacific Coast Fog Fest Visitors to the Pacific coastline are treated to historical and humorous displays at the Fog Fest. Diners may feast on seafood and of course fogcutters are the featured cocktails. Vintage cars, arts, crafts, continuous entertainment and fog-calling contests make this a welcome new Bay Area event. 10 am-6 pm. Located on Palmetto Ave., between Shoreview and Santa Rosa in Pacifica, Hwy 1 to Paloma exit. Sponsored by the City of Pacifica. 346-4446.

October 2-4

Fiesta Italiana A weekend family event, this year’s fair promises to be the “Besta Festa.” The celebration of Italian-American culture features Italian cooking demonstrations, wine tasting and grape stomping. Mayor Dianne Feinstein is scheduled to cut the pasta ribbon to open the ceremonies, Sergio Franchi will headline with two shows a day and the Italian design Ford Concept Car is on display. Fireworks are scheduled for the end of each day. Adults $8; children $1.50; Seniors and disabled $5 (free from noon-6 pm on the 2nd). Noon-midnight, noon-10 pm on Sun. Pier 45, Fisherman’s Wharf, Shed A and C, SF. Sponsors include Pepsi, Ford Motor Co., Budweiser, Sony, Lucky Stores, EFS Savings and the Port of San Francisco. 673-3782.

October 4th

Castro Street Fair Started in the back room of Harvey Milk’s camera store in 1974, this neighborhood fair has become a city-wide event. Musicians, bellydancers and jugglers appear with prom queens, urban cowboys, visitors from outer space and the Gay Freedom Day Marching Band and Twirling Corps. A variety of music, comedy acts and more than 200 arts and crafts displays are also scheduled. Castro between Market and 19th, SF. Sponsored by the Castro Street Fair. 346-2640.

October 9-25

Harvest Festival For three weekends, the nation’s largest touring festival of handmade crafts, fine art, music, theater and cooking transforms Brooks Hall into a colorful 19th-century village. The event features bluegrass and country bands, continuous stage entertainment, jugglers, acrobats and wandering minstrels, as well as the hundreds of unique shops that line the walkways. Center Stage headliners include Riders in the Sky, and the famed musical comedians the Brass Band, winners of the top prize at the Edinburgh, Scotland Performing Arts Festival. Adults $5; children 6-11, $2.50; children under 6, free. Fri., noon-10 pm; Sat., 10 am-10 pm; Sun., 10 am-7 pm, Brooks Hall, Civic Center. 974-4000.

October 10-11

Art and All That Jazz on Fillmore A second-year revival in remembrance of Fillmore Street’s heyday of music, known in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s for its hot jazz and blues clubs. Two days to celebrate San Francisco’s jazz roots with fine arts, fine food and fine wine in outdoor cafes. 10 am-6 pm, Fillmore between Post and Clay, SF. Sponsored by the Fillmore Street Merchants’ Association, the Pacific Heights Homeowners’ and Merchants’ Association. 346-4446.

October 11

Montclair Village Fair The winding streets of Montclair Village provide a charming locale for this neighborhood fair, where 50 artisans sell crafts and local schools, business and nonprofit organizations sell food. This year’s fair has a circus theme, with strolling flutists and meandering mimes helping to create a carefree atmosphere. A pancake breakfast kicks things off and is followed by hayrides in Montclair park. 11 am-5 pm, LaSalle at Mountain, Oakl. Sponsored by the Montclair Business Association. 339-1000.

October 17-18

Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival Artists and craftspeople from across the United States display wares in more than 250 booths and all-day entertainment features blue grass to rock-and-roll at this “something for everyone” festival. As you might expect, pumpkin goodies abound and the fair kicks off with two pie-eating contests. Other events include a Pumpkin Festival Run and a pumpkin-carving contest. 10 am-5 pm, Main Street in Downtown Half Moon Bay. Sponsored by the Coastside Chamber of Commerce. 726-5202. *

The I-Hotel interviews


Many lives ago, I remember standing in the back hallway of the International Hotel trying to fathom why it was that this funny, run-down place with these very sad, old, alone men had become the focal point of an enormous array of the concerted power of the state, city and business interests from across the world. And it was not easy then, and it is not easy now, because we were looking at the problem of progress, in some strange sense, and the sadness of one generation, the evils of one generation, seeking redress in another generation. Most of the residents of the I-Hotel were Filipino men who had come to work in the fields of the Central Valley, and had been refused the opportunity to bring over wives or sweethearts, had stayed perhaps too long and had lost their families, lost their wives, lost their sweethearts, lost anything except their companionship with each other, and their attachment to this funny place that they called home, that was not much of a home, but it was all that they had. And so the landowners that owned that prime piece of real estate in downtown San Francisco were being chided for taking away a precious place, which they looked upon as a rundown flophouse, from people who had been cheated of their lives by other landowners, hundreds of miles away. And if there’s any lessons to be learned, it’s the lesson that we are all connected, each to the other, and that everything we do has consequences, not only for ourselves and our immediate family and friends, the people who live in our immediate neighborhood or our city or our state, but across the world, across the century.

Richard Hongisto
Member, San Francisco Board of Supervisor; former San Francisco sheriff

I think that a larger population of voters in San Francisco have begun to see — in part from the I-Hotel — that we can’t continue to Manhattanize the city without destroying our quality of life. And I think that is in part responsible for the passing of Proposition M and other efforts to control density in our city.

We just have to keep pursuing the legislative remedies to prevent the destruction of existing housing stock and replacing it with higher-density construction, and to prevent the conversion of existing low-cost housing into high-profit commercial space and so on. We’ve done some of that already, but I think we can continue to do more. One of the things we need to do is get the right person in the mayor’s office, to get the right Planning Commission in there, which is one reason I’m supporting Art Agnos, because he’s the only person in the race who supported Proposition M.

I wouldn’t let my photograph be taken knocking down a door [if I had to do it over again], because the photograph was completely misunderstood. I was knocking the door panels out of the doors, so the minimum amount of damage was done to the doors, because we were hoping we could get the tenants back in. When we started to do the eviction, the deputies from my department started to smash in the whole door and the door frame, and ruin it. And what I did was I took the sledgehammer and said no, do it like this — just knock out one door panel, and that way if the tenants can get back in, they can take one little piece of plywood and screw or nail it in over the missing door panel. So I showed them how to do it and I got photographed in the act. The photograph has been attributed that I was running around smashing down the doors in hot pursuit of the tenants, when in fact the opposite was the truth.

I think that as a result of the fact that I refused to do the eviction immediately, and then getting sent to jail and sued — I had to spend about $40,000 in 1978 out of my own pocket to defend the suit — I think we made a real effort to forestall the eviction and give the city a chance to take it over by eminent domain and save the building for the tenants. It did not work out in the end, but I’m glad that we gave it the best shot.

Brad Paul
Executive director, North of Markert Planning Association

Well, let me just start by saying that I was there the night that it happened. It was pretty horrifying to watch people, basically, that I was paying — because I’m a taxpayer and they were police officers, paid by the city — to beat people up around me, and I saw people right in front of me have their skulls split open at taxpayers’ expense, so that this crazy person from Thailand, Supasit Mahaguna, could throw all these people out of their homes.

In retrospect, we’ve learned about the important role that nonprofit corporations can play in owning houses and there was a thing called a buy-back plan, which people thought was a scam. Today, you would think of something like a buy-back plan as just a normal way of buying residential property protection. I can’t think of any residential development ten years ago owned or operated by a nonprofit corporation. Today there are lots.

The eviction — I think people paid a very dear price for that. A number of those people are dead now, and I’m sure that the threat of that eviction didn’t help. A more recent case is 1000 Montgomery. The eviction of those people, I think, led to the death of one of the older tenants there. I think that’s one of the sad losses of things like the I-Hotel and 1000 Montgomery and all of them. I don’t think government officials pay enough attention to that when they make decisions on whether or not to let somebody do these things.

But for myself, I’d have to say that there were a number of things that I was involved in ten and 12 years ago that made me decide to do the kind of work I’m doing now. And I’d say one of the single things that had the biggest effect on me was being there that night and watching that, and saying we shouldn’t allow this to happen — that we need to all see that it never comes to this again.

Quentin Kopp
State senator, third district; former member, San Francisco Board of Supervisors

To me it was an unusual episode, and I’m not sure that it was a lesson of any kind. I don’t think it’s been repeated, has it? You know, I’m a believer in property rights, so it’s a difficult issue. On the other hand, I became convinced that there was genuine justification for maintaining the hotel for those who lived there and had an attachment to it. It was a collision of property rights versus feeling sorry for people who would lose their lodgings, lodgings to which they had become accustomed and attached. If I were the property owner, I would be indignant about the way the city treated me …

the tactics that were used, and the litigation — the litigation was horrendous.

Now, the broader social issue I would characterize as preservation, obviously, of low-income housing for a minority group, the Filipinos. [But] if the city had such a robust concern, sincere concern, then the proper act for the city was to condemn the property — to take it and preserve it …

for the people who lived there. But the city was not forthright, the city did not set out to do that — the city tried to strangulate the owner into doing that, by reason of, it’s what I consider a bit cutesy a legislative move — a political move.

So what have we learned? Well, I don’t think that anything has been learned, and not simply because this is sui generis (which is the Latin term for one of a kind that lawyers often employ), but because the city doesn’t have a consistent policy for preserving this kind of living space.

Richard Cerbatos
Former member, San Francisco School Board, San Francisco Board of Permit Appeals

Speaking as a Filipino American, I saw an attempt to destroy a cultural link within the Filipino-American community. It was clear there was an established community living there. The use of the hotel in that general community formed a network and a lifestyle that was identifiable for older Filipino men. The access to the cheaper restaurants in Chinatown, the ability to hang out and speak their language in pool halls — this was all proposed to be destroyed in one big demolition permit. They were in a community where some of their cultural values were intact, and the only thing that kept them intact was the fact that they were close to one another.

I think those sensitivities now are clearer to the general community. I still think there are areas of Chinatown where they’re still going to have to fight this battle….

We’re seeing this: That we can’t allow people to be displaced purely in the name of bigger and better developments, and namely, bigger and better profits. With Prop. M, we’re seeing some attempts at this, and I think the first evolution of this was the I-Hotel.

As far as my sensitivites go, my thing is, through just having lived through it, this was the first time that anyone took on the developers the way they did. There have been later battles, but that was the first one that became known to everyone city-wide. If we are going to put some control on growth, we can use these lessons.

Ed Illumin
Member, I-Hotel Tenants Association

The first eviction notice was posted in December of 1968, so we’re talking about an almost 19-year battle, here. Actually, a 19-year war, because there were little battles in between. But it comes down to the city and various segments of the Chinatown community and the developer, Four Seas, arriving at an agreement on the development for that lot that would include some replacement housing — affordable, low-income replacement housing. I mean really affordable and priority for those apartments going to former tenants of the I-Hotel, and those elderly and disabled. A number of [tenants] have died since that time, so really we’re talking about maybe a dozen or 16 people who are still around to taste the benefits of this long, long war. Some justice, even though it’s late, has arrived and I would say that we finally won the war. It was a long struggle, 19 years, but people will get a chance, if they live long enough, to move in on the 20th year, which is 1988, when the construction should be completed.

It certainly wasn’t positive for the Filipino neighborhood. There are remnants of Manilatown, but to a large extent that neighborhood was destroyed. There was a lot going on there, and the I-Hotel was the heart of the community in that area. The positive thing about it was that it kept the Financial District from encroaching into Chinatown. The Filipinos and the Chinese have had a long history of living together, co-existing, and I think it was pretty much a sacrifice of the Filipino community there to make sure that Chinatown was preserved.

Chester Hartman
Fellow in urban planning, Institute for Policy Studies; lawyer for I-Hotel Tenants Association

In a sense, I think the International Hotel, the tremendous interest and support that the eviction attempt generated over so many years, was a kind of a coalescing and symbolizing of resistance to changes in San Francisco — changes being obviously the downtown corporate world taking over the neighborhoods. I think the fact that so many people came to the aid of the hotel residents, even though they weren’t successful in preventing the eviction, was pretty much a strong building block in developing what has become an extremely strong housing movement in San Francisco, one that really has become very effective in influencing candidates and people in public office, and in getting some laws passed.

So that’s one important lesson — that sometimes victories take a while, and take different forms, but all these struggles are connected. Another, I guess, is really how long it takes to get any results — the absurdity of having a totally vacant lot there for ten years, at a time when people need housing so badly. The fact that a private developer like Four Seas is able in essence to hold on and do nothing with its land when there’s so much need for housing in the Chinatown-Manilatown area says a great deal about … the relationship of city government to private developers.

Curtis Choy
Producer, “The Fall of the I-Hotel”

About the eviction night itself — and I just have a dim recollection now — I remember being very numb, and the fact that I was hiding behind a camera made it easier, because I had something between me and the event. I think I’ve spent a lot of time getting it behind me and if I haven’t seen my own film for, say, half a year it scares the hell out of me to look at the eviction again. I feel hairs standing up on the back of my neck.

What can I say about lessons? It was almost, I shouldn’t say, it was almost worth that eviction, but I mean, that’s the only thing you can get out of something like that — I mean, basically, they killed half those guys by throwing them out.

The potential for revolution in the country was still in the back of our minds in the early ’70s. And here we were trying to use the system, trying to play ball with the system, and it sort of set us up for yuppiedom. It was sort of our last hope to get something together, and we had invested 12 years or so in the struggle. There was kind of a little mass depression that stuck, and that same kind of high energy has never come back.

Sue Hestor
Attorney, San Franciscans for Reasonable Growth

In retrospect, one of the issues that we should have raised and litigated was the lack of an adequate environmental review of the project. We’ve learned a lot since then, and I don’t want to say that people that were involved at that point made a wrong decision, but in 1987 that would be one of the first issues that would be raised.

Secondarily, I think what we learned is how the physical destruction of a building makes it very hard to keep the issue alive — after a while, the hole in the ground becomes something that has to be filled, and the focus of attention drifts away. It’s really striking how when you lose the building, it’s more than just a symbol — it’s the motivating factor in people’s lives.

Allison Brennan
Organizer, San Francisco Tenants Union

They [the city] could’ve taken the building by eminent domain and they didn’t do that — they didn’t want to do that. I mean, the issue is not so much what they could do to prevent it, but why they didn’t prevent it in the first place. And that is basically because San Francisco has very little interest in preserving low-income housing. Its interest, and the interest of most of the people from San Francisco, are in getting rid of low-income housing, “cleaning up” poor neighborhoods, and turning them into nice middle-class neighborhoods, and that’s the stated goal of most city legislation — poor people aren’t what we want.

I think that probably the most important thing that came out of [the I-Hotel struggle] was that, while we don’t have a real good situation for tenants in San Francisco, I think consciousness was raised, among at least a lot of tenants about the situation which tenants are in. And I think that to a certain extent, on a national level, the elderly are getting somewhat better consideration than they did previously.

Gordon Chin
Director, Chinatown Neighborhood Improvement Resource Center

I guess the lessons of the I-Hotel have to go back to 15 and 20 years, to the genesis of the issue. I personally think the I-Hotel symbolized a lot of very key development issues — housing issues, tenant empowerment issues — that gained a national reputation back starting in the 1960s. In some respects, it highlighted many of the particular facets of the housing problem very early on: the need to maintain and preserve existing housing; the threat of commercial and downtown developments; the encroachment into the neighborhoods; the issue of foreign investment and the role that can play in development encroachment; the critical importance of tenant organizing and tenant organization with a support base in the larger community; the need for diverse ethnic, racial, sexual, lifestyle communities to work together on an issue of mutual concern — in this case, Chinese, Filipino, white, all different kinds of people supporting the I-Hotel tenants and getting involved in the issues as they evolved over the last 15 years.The I-Hotel experience has had a positive effect on these issues in San Francisco, and probably across the country. ….

It was a very critical time for the city, and this is going back to the early ’60s, with the previous United Filipino Association, the International Tenants’ Association, the whole bit. You had a lot of environmental movement activity….

I think that’s the I-Hotel’s importance, not just what happened back then. It was the whole evolution of the issue, even after the demolition, when the focus then became — well, we’ve lost the building, but the fight must continue in terms of making sure whatever is built on the site becomes new, affordable housing — not just housing but affordable housing. And it’s culminated in the most recent development plan for the project, which has gained pretty wide-spread support. I guess part of the whole recollection, reflecting back on the ’60s in general, [is that] the I-Hotel was very symbolic of the whole movement — Vietnam, everything.*

Interviews for this story were conducted by: Nicholas Anderson, Heather Bloch, Eileen Ecklund, Mark Hedin, Craig McLaughlin, Tim Redmond and Erica Spaberg.

Curchack returns to the roost


For nine years experimental performance artist Fred Curchack lived in Sebastapol and toiled away just above the obscurity line. As a part-time drama instructor at Sonoma State University he was known for creating daringly original student productions. Bay Area reviewers celebrated him as a theatrical sorcerer whose solo shows — Kathakali Hamlet, Invocation, Stuff as Dreams Are Made On — were magical hybrids of Shakespeare and South Indian dance, Balinese shadowplay and vaudeville ventriloquism, puppetry and poetics. And local audiences could catch him his act at fringy venues like San Francisco’s Intersection and Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theatre — though he was never what you’d call boffo at the box office.

During the last year, however, the 39-year-old Curchack has hit it big on the international festival circuit, and accepted an out-of-town job offer he couldn’t refuse. As a tenured professor of Art and New Performance at the University of Texas in Dallas, he now has a measure of financial security and plenty of off-time to tour his work throughout the U.S. and Europe. Ironically, his new status has allowed him to return to San Francisco this summer for a Victoria Theatre run of The Inquest for Freddy Chickan, a recent piece described by Curchack as a “sci-fi/horror/romance mystery/musical comedy.”

Though he was doing his innovative thing here for years, the increased interest in Curchack has a lot to do with the enthusiastic reception he has received in New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Berlin, Germany. Curchack’s break-through show was Stuff as Dreams Are Made On, a spectacular one-man interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which he premiered here in 1984 and has been touring extensively ever since. In Dreams he plays all the major characters from The Tempest while creating dazzling low-budget effects with masks, a flashlight and a cigarette lighter, among other items. And he frequently breaks away from the text to talk candidly to the audience about the perilous, schizoid nature of the actor’s art, a feat one reviewer likened to “a show-down between Shakespeare and Artaud.”

Freddy Chickan is a departure from Curchack’s usual mode of “deconstructing” existing texts by Shakespeare, William Blake, Eugene O’Neill and other writers. His original script probes the darker corners of pop-culture by investigating the sinister disappearance of a comedian named Freddy Chickan. In a further attempt to narrow the gap between viewer and actor, Curchack addresses his audience as if they were the murder suspects. The show was inspired, in part, by a scientific analogy. “I was reading The Black Hole: The End of the Universe, a very rhapsodic theoretical physics book that postulates what would happen if we were all sucked into a black hole,” Curchack told the Bay Guardian in a recent conversation. “One of the descriptions of a black hole is that it’s a star that has burned out and used up all its material. It collapses inward at the speed of light, sucking up everything in sight. For me this has something to do with the way a performer sucks up all the attention of the audience.”

With a technique he calls “multiphasic ventriloquism,” Curchack again transforms himself into numerous characters: a slow-witted detective, a Hollywood producer, a female German-Japanese performance artist, a pushy agent and the elusive Freddy. He also pours on the special effects: “light stunts, shadow projections, masks — my usual banquet of theatrical shenanigans.”

But Freddy also poses some exciting new acting challenges for Curchack. For one thing, it marks the first time he has impersonated a woman onstage. “There’s a big taboo there and I had never gotten down with it,” he says. “It’s an incredibly liberating experience to play a woman. I resisted it at first, but now I want to do it more.”

He also involves the audience more intimately than before by urging them to answer some tough philosophical questions. He asked Dallas viewers whether they felt powerless or powerful at the prospect of nuclear obliteration. When someone yelled, “Powerful!” he responded, “Oh, Dallas! I love you! What a can-do city!”

For Curchack, such exchanges are high points. “I’ve always talked to the audience, but it’s a very tenuous and dangerous thing to ask them to talk back. They’ve paid their money and they want to sit and listen. I don’t confront them for sensational purposes at all, or to attract attention to myself. It’s done in the tradition of the jester, the buffoon, in order to get beyond acceptable, civilized limits and awaken a kind of questioning of who we really are. Artistically, politically and perhaps spiritually our culture is at a moment of crisis. If individuals don’t take tremendous responsibility we face the end of the world, just for starters.”

The confrontational style of Freddy has alienated some viewers. Curchack recalls that when he performed the piece at the Theatre of Nations Festival in Baltimore last year several fellow actors found it “so dark and demonic that they walked out.” A German critic who saw it at the National Academy of Art in Berlin also admitted to mixed feelings: “He told me that during the first half he was wondering how the guy who made Stuff as Dreams Are Made On could do anything so shitty. By the end he thought it was the most exciting piece he’d seen that year.”

With all his onstage soul-baring, it’s no surprise to Curchack when people call his work self-indulgent. “I am self-indulgent, to the max!” he crows with pleasure. “I give my self license to indulge in every aspect of myself. I don’t need a defense as long as such cosmic narcissism can be of value to all the other wonderful narcissists sitting in the auditorium. I want to reach into those places which are really frightening in their luminous and dark aspects.”

Curchack is eager to find out how Bay Area theatergoers will respond to Freddy. “In other places even little children have been howling at it,” he contends. “Though it has a very serious and dense level of inquiry it’s actually intended to be quite accessible.”

After the three-week Victoria Theatre run, Curchack heads back to Dallas to a schedule crammed with intruiging projects. In the fall he’ll embark on a month-long performance tour of Norway, Poland and Bulgaria. Next year he’ll be directing an experimental production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the big-budget Dallas Theatre Center. He’s excited about teaching in the new multi-disciplinary arts graduate program at the University of Texas, and talks about bringing in “some outrageous San Francisco theater people like John O’Keefe to infiltrate academia.”

The fact that he has become a lot better paid and better known since leaving the Bay Area bemuses Curchack, but he seems to take the paradox in stride. “This is still home,” he declares. “That’s what my wife and I said when we pulled into town: “We’re home.’ It’s funny that there’s ten times as much interest in my work here now than when I actually lived here. But maybe that’s just the way things go. If you want a place to become home maybe you should move away.”*

SF’s economic future


Sometime early this spring, while most of Washington, D.C. was watching the cherry trees bloom and thinking about the impending Iran-contra hearings, a few senior administration officials began discussing a plan to help domestic steel companies shut down underutilized plants by subsidizing some of the huge costs of pension plans for the workers who would be laid off.

The officials, mostly from the Departments of Labor and Commerce, saw the plan as a pragmatic approach to a pressing economic problem. With the steel industry in serious trouble, they argued, plant closures are inevitable — and since the federal government guarantees private pension plans, some companies will simply declare bankruptcy and dump the full liability on the taxpayers. Subsidies, they argued, would be a far cheaper alternative.

But the plan elicited sharp opposition from members of the Council of Economic Advisors, who acknowledged the extent of the problem but said the proposal was inconsistent with the Reagan economic philosophy. The problem, The New York Times reported, was that “such a plan would be tantamount to an industrial policy, an approach the president has long opposed.”

For aspiring conservative politicians, the incident contained a clear message, one that may well affect the terms of the 1988 Republican presidential debate. To the right-wing thinkers who control the party’s economic agenda, the concept of a national industrial policy is still officially off-limits. In San Francisco, the ground rules are very different. All four major mayoral candidates agree that the city needs to plan for its economic future and play a firm, even aggressive role in guiding the local economy. The incumbent, Dianne Feinstein, has established a clear, highly visible — and often controversial — industrial development policy, against which the contenders could easily compare and contrast their own programs.

The mayoral race is taking place at a time when the city is undergoing tremendous economic upheaval. The giant corporations that once anchored the local economy are curtailing expansion plans, moving to the suburbs and in many cases cutting thousands of jobs from the payroll. The once-healthy municipal budget surplus is gone. The infrastructure is crumbling and city services are stressed to the breaking point.

By all rights, the people who seek to lead the city into the 1990s should present San Francisco voters with a detailed vision for the city’s economic future, and a well-developed set of policy alternatives to carry that vision out.

But with the election just three months away, that simply isn’t happening. Generally speaking, for all the serious talk of economic policy we’ve seen thus far, most of the candidates — and nearly all the reporters who cover them — might as well be sniffing cherry blossoms in Ronald Reagan’s Washington.

“San Francisco’s major challenge during the next 15 years will be to regain its stature as a national and international headquarters city. This is crucial to the city because much of its economy is tied to large and medium-sized corporations….The major source of San Francisco’s economic strength is visible in its dramatic skyline of highrise office buildings.”

—San Francisco: Its economic future

Wells Fargo Bank, June 1987

“In San Francisco, you have the phenomenon of a city losing its big-business base and its international pretensions — and getting rich in the process.”

—Joel Kotkin, Inc. Magazine, April 1987



IN MUCH OF San Francisco’s news media and political and business establishment these days, the debate — or more often, lament — starts with this premise: San Francisco is in a bitter competition with Los Angeles. At stake is the title of financial and cultural headquarters for the Western United States, the right to be called the Gateway to the Pacific Rim. And San Francisco is losing.

The premise is hard to deny. If, indeed, the two cities are fighting for that prize, San Francisco has very nearly been knocked out of the ring. Just a few short years ago, San Francisco’s Bank of America was the largest banking institution in the nation. Now, it’s third — and faltering. Last year, First Interstate — a firm from L.A. — very nearly seized control of the the company that occupies the tallest building in San Francisco. The same problems have, to a greater or lesser extent, beset the city’s other leading financial institutions. A decade ago, San Francisco was the undisputed financial center of the West Coast; today, Los Angeles banks control twice the assets of banks in San Francisco.

It doesn’t stop there. Los Angeles has a world-class modern art museum; San Francisco’s is stumbling along. The Port of San Francisco used to control almost all of the Northern California shipping trade; now it’s not even number one in the Bay Area (Oakland is). Looking for the top-rated theater and dance community west of the Rockies? San Francisco doesn’t have it; try Seattle.

Even the federal government is following the trend. A new federal building is planned for the Bay Area, but not for San Francisco. The building — and hundreds of government jobs — are going to Oakland.

In terms of a civic metaphor, consider what happened to the rock-and-roll museum. San Francisco, the birthplace of much of the country’s best and most important rock music, made a serious pitch for the museum. It went to Cleveland.

For almost 40 years — since the end of World War II — San Francisco’s political and business leaders have been hell-bent on building the Manhattan Island of the West on 49 square miles of land on the tip of the Peninsula. Downtown San Francisco was to be Wall Street of the Pacific Rim. San Mateo, Marin and the East Bay would be the suburbs, the bedroom communities for the executives and support workers who would work in tall buildings from nine to five, then head home for the evening on the bridges, freeways and an electric rail system.

If the idea was to make a few business executives, developers and real estate speculators very rich, the scheme worked well. If the idea was to build a sound, firm and lasting economic base for the city of San Francisco, one could certainly argue that it has failed.



NOT EVERYONE, however, accepts that argument. Wells Fargo’s chief economist, Joseph Wahed, freely admits he is “a die-hard optimist.” San Francisco, he agrees, has taken its share of punches. But the city’s economy is still very much on its feet, Wahed says; he’s not by any means ready to throw in the towel.

Wahed, who authored the bank’s recent report on the city’s economic future, points to some important — and undeniable — signs of vitality:

* San Francisco’s economic growth has been well above both the national and state average during the 1980s — a healthy 3.67 a year.

* Per-capita income in San Francisco is $21,000 a year, the highest of any of the nation’s 50 largest cities.

* New business starts in the city outpaced business failures by a ratio of 5-1, far better than the rest of the nation. * Unemployment in San Francisco, at 5.57, remains below national and statewide levels (see charts).

San Francisco, Wahed predicts, has a rosy economic future — as long as the city doesn’t throw up any more “obstacles to growth” — like Proposition M, the 1986 ballot measure that limits office development in the city to 475,000 square feet a year.

John Jacobs, the executive director of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, came to the same conclusion. In the Chamber’s annual report, issued in January, 1987, Jacobs wrote: “The year 1986 has been an amusing one, with both national and local journalists attempting to compare the incomparable — San Francisco and Los Angeles — and suggesting that somehow San Francisco is losing out in this artificially manufactured competition. Search as one might, no facts can be found to justify that assertion.”

Wahed and Jacobs have more in common than their optimism. Both seem to accept as more or less given the concept of San Francisco as the West Coast Manhattan.

Since the day Mayor Dianne Feinstein took office, she has run the city using essentially the policies and approach championed by Wahed and Jacobs. Before San Franciscans rush to elect a new mayor, they should examine those strategies to see if they make any sense. After nearly a decade under Feinstein’s leadership, is San Francisco a healthy city holding its own through a minor downturn or an economic disaster area? Are San Francisco’s economic problems purely the result of national and international factors, or has the Pacific Rim/West Coast Wall Street strategy failed? Is the economy weathering the storm because of the mayor’s policies, or despite them? And perhaps more important, will Feinstein’s policies guide the city to new and greater prosperity in the changing economy of the next decade? Or is a significant change long overdue?

The questions are clear and obvious. The answers take a bit more work.



SAN FRANCISCO’S economy is an immensely complex creature, and no single study or analysis can capture the full range of its problems and potential. But after considerable research, we’ve come to a very different conclusion than the leading sages of the city’s business community. Yes, San Francisco can have a rosy economic future — if we stop pursuing the failed policies of the past, cut our losses now and begin developing a new economic development program, one based on reality, not images — and one that will benefit a broad range of San Franciscans, not just a handful of big corporations and investors.

Our analysis of San Francisco’s economy starts at the bottom. Wells Fargo, PG&E and the Chamber see the city first and foremost as a place to do business, a market for goods and a source of labor. We see it as a community, a place where people live and work, eat and drink, shop and play.

The distinction is far more than academic. When you look at San Francisco the way Wells Fargo does, you see a booming market: 745,000 people who will spend roughly $19.1 billion on goods and services this year, up from $15.4 billion in 1980. By the year 2000, Wahed projects, that market could reach $229 billion as the population climbs to 800,000 and per-capita income hits $30,000 (in 1986 dollars), up from $18,811 in 1980. Employment has grown from 563,000 in 1980 to 569,000 in 1986. When you look at San Francisco as a place to live, you see a very different story. Perhaps more people are working in San Francisco — but fewer and fewer of them are San Franciscans. In 1970, 57.47 of the jobs in San Francisco were held by city residents, City Planning Department figures show. By 1980, that number had dropped to 50.77. Although more recent figures aren’t available, it’s almost certainly below 507 today.

Taken from a slightly different perspective, in 1970, 89.17 of the working people in San Francisco worked in the city. Ten years later, only 857 worked in the city; the rest had found jobs elsewhere.

Without question, an increase in per capita income signifies that the city is a better market. It also suggests, however, that thousands of low-income San Franciscans — those who have neither the skills nor the training for high-paying jobs — have been forced to leave the city. It comes as no surprise, for example that San Francisco is the only major city in the country to post a net loss in black residents over the past 15 years.

The displacement of lower-income residents highlights a key area in which San Francisco’s economy is badly deficient: housing. San Francisco’s housing stock simply has not kept pace with the population growth of the past five years. Between 1980 and 1984, while nearly 40,000 more people took up residence in the city, only 3,000 additional housing units were built.

Some of the new residents were immigrants who, lacking resources and glad to be in the country on any terms, crowded in large numbers into tiny apartments. Some were young, single adults, who took over apartments, homes and flats, bringing five of six people into places that once held families of three or four.

But overall, the impact of the population increase has been to place enormous pressure on the limited housing stock. Prices, not surprisingly, have soared. According to a 1985 study prepared for San Franciscans for Reasonable Growth by Sedway Cooke and Associates, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in 1985 was $700 a month. The residential vacancy rate was less than 17.

Housing is more than a social issue. A report released this spring by the Association of Bay Area Governments warns the entire Bay Area may face a severe housing crisis within the next two decades — and the lack of affordable housing may discourage new businesses from opening and drive existing ones away. When housing becomes too expensive, the report states, the wages employers have to pay to offset housing and transportation costs make the area an undesirable place to do business.



WAHED’S WELLS FARGO report shows a modest net employment gain in San Francisco between 1980 and 1986, from 563,000 jobs to 569,000. What the study doesn’t show is that the positive job growth statistic reflects the choice of the study period more than it reflects current trends. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, San Francisco experienced considerable job growth. By 1981, that trend was beginning to reverse.

According to a study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher David Birch, San Francisco actually lost some 6,000 jobs between 1981 and 1985. The study, commissioned by the Bay Guardian, showed that the decline occurred overwhelmingly to large downtown corporations — the firms upon which the Pacific Rim strategy was and is centered. Since 1981, those firms have cost the city thousands of jobs. (See The Monsters that Ate 10,000 jobs, Bay Guardian DATE TKTKTK).

Some of the firms — B of A, for example — were victims of poor management. Some, like Southern Pacific, were caught in the merger mania of the Reagan years. Others, however, simply moved out of town. And no new giants moved in to take their places.

What drove these large employers away? Not, it would appear, a lack of office space or other regulatory “obstacles” to growth: Between 1980 and 1985, San Francisco underwent the largest building boom in its history, with more than 10 million square feet of new office space coming on line. In fact, the city now has abundant vacant space; by some estimates, the vacancy rate for downtown office buildings is between 157 and 207.

The decision to move a business into or out of a city is often very complicated. However, Birch, who has done considerable research into the issue, suggests in the April 1987 issue of Inc. magazine that the most crucial concerns are what he calls “quality of life” factors. Quality-of-life factors include things like affordable family housing for employees; easy, inexpensive transit options and good-quality recreation facilities and schools — and good-quality local government. In many cases, researchers are finding, companies that need a large supply of “back office” labor — that is, workers who do not command executive salaries — are moving to the suburbs, where people who are paid less than executive salaries can actually afford to live.

“Today the small companies, not the large corporations, are the engines of economic growth,” Birch wrote. “And more often than not, small companies are growing in places that pay attention to the public realm, even if higher taxes are needed to pay for it.”

For the past 20 years, San Francisco has allowed, even encouraged, massive new highrise office development, geared to attracting new headquarters companies and helping existing ones expand. In the process, some basic city services and public amenities — the things that make for a good quality of life — have suffered.

The most obvious example is the city’s infrastructure — the roads, sewers, bridges, transit systems and other physical facilities that literally hold a modern urban society together. A 1985 report by then-Chief Administrative Officer Roger Boas suggested that the city needed to spend more than $1 billion just to repair and replace aging and over-used infrastructure facilities. Wells Fargo’s report conceeds that that city may be spending $50 million a year too little on infrastructure maintenance.

Some of that problem, as Boas points out in his report, is due to the fact that many city facilities were built 50 or more years ago, and are simply wearing out. But wear and tear has been greatly increased by the huge growth in downtown office space — and thus daytime workplace population — that took place over the previous two decades.

To take just one example: Between 1980 and 1984, City Planning Department figures show, the number of people traveling into the financial district every day increased by more than 10,000. Nearly 2,000 of those people drove cars. In the meantime, of course, the number of riders on the city’s Municipal Railway also increased dramatically. City figures show more than 2,000 new Muni riders took buses and light rail vehicles into the financial district between 1981 and 1984. Again, city officials resist putting a specific cost figure on that increase — however, during that same period, the Muni budget increased by one-third, from $149 million to $201 million. And the amount of General Fund money the city has had to put into the Muni system to make up for operating deficits rose by some 737 — from $59 million to $102 million.

The new buildings, of course, have meant new tax revenues — between 1981 and 1986, the total assessed value of San Francisco property — the city’s tax base — increased 767, from $20.3 billion to $35.8 billion. But the cost of servicing those buildings and their occupants also increased 437, from $1.3 billion to to $1.9 billion. In 1982, San Francisco had a healthy municipal budget surplus of $153 million; by this year, it was down to virtually nothing.

The city’s general obligation bond debt — the money borrowed to pay for capital improvements — has steadily declined over the past five years, largely because the 1978 Jarvis-Gann tax initiative effectively prevented cities from selling general obligation bonds. In 1982, the city owed $220 million; as of July 1st, 1987, the debt was down to $151 million.

However, under a recent change in the Jarvis-Gann law, the city can sell general obligation bonds with the approval of two-thirds of the voters. The first such bond sale — $31 million — was approved in June, and the bonds were sold this month, raising the city’s debt to $182 million. And this November, voters will be asked to approve another $95 million in bonds, bringing the total debt to $277 million, the highest level in five years.

The city’s financial health is still fairly sound; Standard and Poor’s gives San Francisco municipal bonds a AA rating, among the best of any city in the nation. And even with the new bonds, the ratio of general obligation debt to total assessed value — considered a key indicator of health, much as a debt-to-equity ratio is for a business — is improving.

But the city’s fiscal report card is decidedly mixed. For most residents, signs of the city’s declining financial health show up not in numbers on a ledger but in declining services. Buses are more crowded and run less often. Potholes aren’t fixed. On rainy days, raw sewage still empties into the Bay. High housing costs force more people onto the streets — and the overburdened Department of Social Services can’t afford to take care of all of them.

What those signs suggest is that, in its pell-mell rush to become the Manhattan of the West, San Francisco may have poisoned its quality of life — and thus damaged the very economic climate it was ostensibly trying to create.

MAYOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN’S prescription for San Francisco’s economic problems and her blueprint for its future can be summed up in four words: More of the same. Feinstein, like Wells Fargo, PG&E and the Chamber of Commerce, is looking to create jobs and generate city revenues from the top of the economy down. Her program flies in the face of modern economic reality and virtually ignores the changes that have taken place in the city in the past five years.

Feinstein’s most visible economic development priorities have taken her east, to Washington D.C., and west, to Japan and China. In Washington, Feinstein has lobbied hard to convince the Navy to base the battleship USS Missouri in San Francisco. That, she says, will bring millions of federal dollars to the city and create thousands of new jobs.

In Asia, Feinstein has sought to entice major investors and industries to look favorably on San Francisco. She has expressed hope that she will be able to attract several major Japanese companies to set up manufacturing facilities here, thus rebuilding the city’s manufacturing base and creating jobs for blue-collar workers.

Neither, of course, involves building new downtown highrises. But both are entirely consistent with the Pacific Rim strategy — and both will probably do the city a lot more harm than good.

Feinstein’s programs represent an economic theory which has dominated San Francisco policy-making since the end of World War II. In those days, the nation’s economy was based on manufacturing — iron ore from the ground became steel, which became cars, lawn mowers and refrigerators. Raw materials were plentiful and energy was cheap.

By the early 1970s, it was clear that era was coming to a close. Energy was suddenly scarce. Resources were becoming expensive. The economy began to shift gears, looking for ways to make products that used less materials and less energy yet provided the same service to the consumer.

Today, almost everyone has heard of the “information age” — in fact, the term gets used so often that it’s begun to lose its meaning. But it describes a very real phenomenon; Paul Hawken, the author of The Next Economy, calls it “ephemeralization.” What is means is that the U.S. economy is rapidly changing from one based manufacturing goods to one based on processing information and providing services. In the years ahead, the most important raw materials will be ideas; the goal of businesses will be to provide people with useful tools that require the least possible resources to make and the least possible energy to use.

In the information age, large companies will have no need to locate in a central downtown area. The source of new jobs will not be in manufacturing — giant industrial factories will become increasingly automated, or increasingly obsolete. The highways of the nation’s commerce will be telephone lines and microwave satellite communications, not railroads and waterways.

IF SAN FRANCISCO is going to be prepared for the staggering changes the next economy will bring, we might do well to take a lesson from history — to look at how cities have survived major economic changes in the past. Jane Jacobs, the urban economist and historian, suggests some basic criteria.

Cities that have survived and prospered, Jacobs writes, have built economies from the bottom up. They have relied on a large number of small, diverse enterprises, not a few gigantic ones. And they have encouraged business activities that use local resources to replace imports, instead of looking to the outside for capital investment.

A policy that would tie the city’s economic future to the Pentagon and Japanese manufacturing companies is not only out of synch with the future of the city’s economy — it’s out of touch with the present.

In San Francisco today, the only major economic good news comes from the small business sector — from locally owned independent companies with fewer than 20 employees. All of the net new jobs in the city since 1980 have come from such businesses.

Yet, the city’s policy makers — especially the mayor — have consistently denied that fact. As recently as 1985, Feinstein announced that the only reason the city’s economy was “lively and vibrant” was that major downtown corporations were creating 10,000 new jobs a year.

Almost nothing the city has done in the past ten years has been in the interest of small business. In fact, most small business leaders seem to agree that their astounding growth has come largely despite the city’s economic policy, not because of it. That situation shows no signs of changing under the Feinstein administration; the battleship Missouri alone would force the eviction of some 190 thriving small businesses from the Hunters Point shipyard.

San Francisco’s economic problems have not all been the result of city policies. The financial health of the city’s public and private sector is affected by state and federal policies and by national and international economic trends.

Bank of America, for example, is reeling from the inability of Third World countries to repay outstanding loans. Southern Pacific and Crocker National Bank both were victims of takeovers stemming from relaxed federal merger and antitrust policies. In fact, according to Wells Fargo, 21 San Francisco corporations have been bought or merged since 1975. Meanwhile, deep cutbacks in federal and state spending have crippled the city’s ability to repair its infrastructure, improve transit services, build low cost housing and provide other essential services.

To a great extent, those are factors outside the city’s control. They are unpredictable at best — and over the next ten or 20 years, as the nation enters farther into the Information Age, the economic changes with which the city will have to cope will be massive in scale and virtually impossible to predict accurately.

Again, the experiences of the past contain a lesson for the future. On of San Francisco’s main economic weaknesses over the past five years has been its excess reliance on a small number of large corporations in a limited industrial sector — largely finance, insurance and real estate. When those industries took a beating, the shock waves staggered San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the economic good news has come from a different type of business — businesses that were small able to adapt quickly to changes in the economy and numerous and diverse enough that a blow to one industry would not demolish a huge employment base.

But instead of using city policy to encourage that sector of the city’s economy, Feinstein is proposing to bring in more of the type of business that make the city heavily vulnerable to the inevitable economic shocks that will come with the changes of the next 20 years.

THE CANDIDATES who seek to lead the city into the next decade and the next economy will need thoughtful, innovative programs to keep San Francisco from suffering serious economic problems. Those programs should start with a good hard dose of economic reality — a willingness to understand where the city’s strengths and weaknesses are — mixed with a vision for where the city ought to be ten and 20 years down the road.

Thus far, both are largely missing form the mayoral debate.

For years, San Francisco activists and small business leaders have been complaining about the lack of reliable, up-to-date information on the city’s economy and demographics. The environmental impact report on the Downtown Plan — a program adopted in 1985 — was based largely on data collected in 1980. That same data is still used in EIRs prepared by the City Planning Department, and it’s now more than seven years out of date.

In many areas, even seven-year-old data is simply unavailable. Until the Bay Guardian commissioned the Birch studies in 1985 and 1986, the city had no idea where jobs were being created. Until SFRG commissioned the Sedway-Cooke report in 1985, no accurate data existed on the city’s labor pool and the job needs of San Franciscans.

Today, a researcher who wants to know how much of the city’s business tax revenue comes from small business would face a nearly impossible task. That’s just not available. Neither are figures on how much of the city’s residential or commercial property is owned by absentee landlords who live outside the city. If San Francisco were a country, what would its balance of trade be? Do we import more than we export? Without a huge research staff and six months of work, there is no way to answer those questions.

Bruce Lilienthal, chairman of the Mayor’s Small Business Advisory Commission, argues that the city needs to spend whatever money it takes to create a centralized computerized data base — fully accessable to the public — with which such information can be processed and analyzed.

A sound economic policy would combine that sort of information with a clear vision of what sort of city San Francisco could and should become.

What would a progressive, realistic economic development platform look like? We’ve put together a few suggestions that could serve as the outline for candidates who agree with our perspective — and as an agenda for debate for candidates who don’t.

* ADEQUATE AFFORDABLE HOUSING is essential to a healthy city economy, and in the Reagan Era, cities can’t count on federal subsidies to build publicly financed developments. Progressive housing experts around the country agree that, in a city under such intense pressure as San Francisco, building new housing to keep pace with demand will not solve the crisis alone; the city needs to take action to ensure that existing housing is not driven out of the affordable range.

Economist Derek Shearer, a professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles and a former Santa Monica planning commissioner, suggests that municipalities should treat housing as a scarce public resource, and regulate it as a public utility. Rents should be controlled to allow property owners an adequate return on their investment but prevent speculative price-gouging.

Ideally, new housing — and whenever possible, existing housing — should be taken out of the private sector altogether. Traditional government housing projects have had a poor record; a better alternative is to put housing in what is commonly called a land trust.

A land trust is a private, nonprofit corporation that owns property, but allows that property to be used under certain terms and conditions. A housing trust, for example, might allow an individual or family to occupy a home or apartment at a set monthly rate, and to exercise all rights normally vested in a homeowner — except the right to sell for profit. When the occupant voluntarily vacated the property, it would revert back to the trust, and be given to another occupant. The monthly fee would be set so as to retire the cost of building the property over it’s expected life — say, 50 years. Each new occupant would thus not have to pay the interest costs on a new mortgage. That alone, experts say, could cut as much as 707 off the cost of a home or apartment.

* DEVELOPMENT DECISIONS should be made on the basis of community needs. A developer who promises to provide jobs for San Franciscans should first be required to demonstrate that the jobs offered by project will meet the needs of unemployed residents of the city. Development fees and taxes should fully and accurately reflect the additional costs the project places on city services and infrastructure.

Land use and development decisions should also be geared toward meeting the needs of small, locally owned businesses — encouraging new start-ups and aiding the expansion of existing small firms.

* ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT programs should encourage local firms to use local resources in developing products and services that bring revenue and wealth into the city instead of sending it to outside absentee owners and that encourage economic self-sufficiency.

Cities have a wide variety of options in pursuing this sort of goal. City contracts, for example, should whenever possible favor locally owned firms and firms that employ local residents and use local resources. Instead of just encouraging sculptured towers and flagpoles on buildings, city planning policies should encourage solar panels that decrease energy imports, rooftop gardens that cut down on food imports and utilize recycled materials that otherwise would become part of the city’s garbage problem. (Using recycled materials is by no means a trivial option; if all of the aluminum thrown away each year in San Francisco were recycled, it would produce more usable aluminum than a small-to-medium sized bauxite mine.)

Other cities have found numerous ways to use creative city policies to encourage local enterprise. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, for example an economic development agency asked the U.S. Patent Office for a list of all the patents issued in the past ten years to people with addresses in the Twin Cities area. The agency contacted those people — there were about 20 — and found that all but one had never made commercial use of the patents, largely for lack of resources. With the agency as a limited partner providing venture capital, more than half the patent owners started businesses that were still growing and expanding five years later. Some of those firms had actually outgrown their urban locations and moved to larger facilities out of town — but since the Twin Cities public development agency had provided the venture capital, it remained a limited partner and the public treasury continued to reap benefits from the profits of the businesses that had left town.

* CITY RESOURCES should be used to maximize budget revenues. For example, San Francisco currently owns a major hydroelectric power generating facility at Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park. A federal law still on the books requires San Francisco to use that facility to generate low-cost public power for its citizens; that law, the Raker Act, has been honored only in the breach. That means every year PG&E takes millions of dollars in profits out of San Francisco (the company is based here, but very few of its major stockholders are San Franciscans). The last time we checked, San Francisco was losing $150 million (CHECK) in city revenue by failing to enforce the Raker Act and municipalize its electric utility system.

Meanwhile, PG&E continues to use city streets and public right-of-ways for its transmission cables at a bargain-basement franchise fee passes in 1932 and never seriously challenged. Other highly profitable private entities, like Viacom cable television, use public property for private purposes and pay highly favorable rates for the right.

Those ideas should be the a starting point, not a conclusion for mayoral debates. But thus far, we’ve seen precious little consideration of the issues, much less concrete solutions, from any of the candidates.

The mayor’s race, however, is still very much open, and the candidates are sensitive to public opinion. If the voters let the candidates know that we want to hear their visions of the city’s economic future — and their plans for carrying those visions out — we may see some productive and useful discussions yet.*

Learn how to solve the Rubik’s Cube with the easiest method, learning only six algorithms.