Truth about the eastern neighborhoods


EDITORIAL The next battle for San Francisco’s future will be fought in significant part in what the Planning Department calls the eastern neighborhoods — South of Market, the central waterfront, the Mission District, Potrero Hill, and Showplace Square. That’s where planners want to see some 29,000 new housing units built, along with offices and laboratories for the emerging biotech industry that’s projected to grow on the outskirts of the UCSF Mission Bay campus.

On March 28 the Planning Department released the final draft of a socioeconomic impact study of the area, which, with 1,500 acres of potentially developable land, is one of San Francisco’s last frontiers.

For a $50,000 report, the study doesn’t really say much. It puts an overall rosy glow on a zoning plan that will lead to widespread displacement of blue-collar jobs and dramatically increased gentrification. And it fails to answer what ought to be the fundamental questions of anything calling itself a socioeconomic study.

But within the 197-page document are some stunning facts that ought to give neighborhood activists (and the San Francisco supervisors) reason to doubt the entire rezoning package.

On one level it’s hard to blame Linda Hausrath, the Oakland economist who did the study: the premise was flawed from the start. The study considers only two possibilities — either the eastern neighborhoods will be left with no new zoning at all or the Planning Department’s zoning proposal will be implemented. Her conclusion, not surprisingly, is that the official city plan offers a lot of benefits. That’s hard to argue: the current zoning for the area is a mess, and much of the most desirable land is wide open for all sorts of undesirable uses.

But there are many, many ways to look at the future of the eastern neighborhoods beyond what the Planning Department has offered. Neighborhood activists in Potrero Hill have their own alternatives; so do the folks in the Mission and South of Market. There are a lot of ways to conceive of this giant piece of urban land — and many of them start and end with different priorities than those of the Planning Department.

Two key issues dominate the report — housing and employment in what’s known as production, distribution, and repair, or PDR, facilities. PDR jobs are among the final remaining types of employment in San Francisco that pay a decent wage and don’t require a college degree. The city had 95,000 of these as of 2000 (the most recent data that the study looks at), and 32,000 of them were in the eastern neighborhoods.

Almost everyone agrees that PDR jobs are a crucial part of the city’s economic mix and that without them a significant segment of the city’s population will be displaced. "There are two ways to drive people out of San Francisco," housing activist Calvin Welch says. "You can eliminate their housing or eliminate their jobs."

The city’s rezoning plan seeks to protect some PDR uses in a few parts of the eastern neighborhoods. But many of the areas where the warehouses, light industrial outfits, and similar businesses operate will be zoned to allow market-rate housing — and that will be the end of the blue-collar jobs.

When you build market-rate housing in industrial areas, the industry is forced out. That’s already been proved in San Francisco; just remember what happened in South of Market during the dot-com and live-work boom. When wealthy people move into homes near PDR businesses, they immediately start to complain: those businesses are often loud; trucks arrive at all hours of the day and night. City officials get pestered by angry new homeowners — and at the same time, the price of real estate goes up. The PDR businesses are shut down or bought out — and replaced with more luxury condos.

Thousands of PDR jobs have disappeared since the 2000 census, the result of the dot-com boom. And even the Hausrath report acknowledges that 4,000 more PDR jobs will be lost from the eastern neighborhoods under the city’s plan. That’s more than would be lost without any rezoning at all.

The vast majority — more than 70 percent, the report shows — of people who work in PDR jobs in San Francisco also live in San Francisco. Many are immigrants and people of color. A significant percentage live in Bayview–Hunters Point, where the unemployment rate among African Americans is a civic disgrace. What will happen to those workers? What will happen to their families? Where will they go when the jobs disappear? There’s nothing in the report that addresses these questions — although they reflect one of the most important socioeconomic impacts of the looming changes in the region.

Then there’s affordable housing.

According to the city’s reports and projections, two-thirds of all the new housing that is built in the city ought to be available below the market rate. That’s because none of the people who are now being driven from San Francisco by high housing costs — families, small-business people working-class renters, people on fixed incomes — can possibly afford market-rate units. In fact, as we reported last week ("The Big Housing Lie," 3/28/07), the new housing that’s being built in San Francisco does very little to help current residents, which is why more than 65 percent of the people who are buying those units are coming here from out of town.

San Francisco is one of the world’s great cities, but it isn’t very big — 49 square miles — and most of the land is already developed. The 1,500 developable acres in the eastern neighborhoods are among the last bits of land that can be used for affordable housing. And in fact, that’s where 60 percent of the below-market housing built in the city in the past few years has been located.

But every market-rate project that’s built — and there are a lot of them on the drawing board — takes away a potential affordable housing site and thus makes it less possible for the city to come close to meeting its goals. The Hausrath report completely ignores that fact.

Overall, the report — which reflects the sensibilities of the Planning Department — accepts the premise that the best use of much of the eastern neighborhoods is for high-end condos. Building that housing, the report notes, "would provide a relief valve" to offset pressures on the market for existing housing.

But that’s directly at odds with the available facts. The San Francisco housing market has never fit in with a traditional supply-and-demand model, and today it’s totally out of whack. Market-rate housing in this city has come to resemble freeways and prisons: the more you build, the more demand it creates — and the construction boom does nothing to alleviate the original problem.

The new condos in San Francisco are being snapped up by real estate speculators, wealthy empty nesters, very rich people (and companies) who want local pieds-à-terre, and highly paid tech workers who have jobs on the Peninsula. Meanwhile, families are fleeing the city in droves. The African American community is being decimated. Artists, writers, musicians, unconventional thinkers — the people who are the heart of San Francisco life and culture — can’t stay in a town that offers no place for them to live. Is this really how we want to use the 1,500 precious acres of the eastern neighborhoods?

The Hausrath study was largely a waste of money, which is too bad, because the issue facing the planning commissioners, the mayor, and the supervisors is profound. The city planners need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a rezoning plan that makes affordable housing and the retention of PDR jobs a priority, gives million-dollar condos a very limited role, and prevents the power of a truly perverse market from further destroying some of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. *

Blood money


› a&

Most Americans are fairly sure they are being screwed where it hurts most: in the wallet. But if they think they know why, it’s usually a red herring, while the actual primary causes of shrinking financial stability remain obscured by propaganda, media inattention, and institutional stonewalling. By timely coincidence, three worthwhile documentaries opening this week shine some light on the matter. One profiles a longtime champion of consumer protection, while the others examine two realms in which lack of regulation is letting our dollars dance off a cliff of corporate profiteering and dubious ethics.

An Unreasonable Man is Henriette Mantel and Stephen Skrovan’s admiring yet critical portrait of Ralph Nader. The previous century’s most famous consumer advocate racked up a roster of triumphs that protected citizens against corporations — that is, until Ronald Reagan commenced ongoing deregulation trends. Famously starting with auto design safety in the early ’60s, then encompassing pollution, food and drug guidelines, nuclear power, the insurance industry, and workplace risk-protection, Nader did enough public good during his career — with worldwide legislative ripple effects — to merit secular sainthood. Then he decided to run for president, in 2000, as a Green. He won just enough votes for many Democrats to blame him for the catastrophic ascent of George W. Bush. Needless to say, the latter is no friend of Nader’s consumerist lobbying, which suffered a defection of support from nearly all quarters.

Lengthy but engrossing, An Unreasonable Man wants to reclaim Nader’s legacy, even as it admits that his black-or-white morality can be both admirable and mulishly exasperating. After all, in the end he didn’t rob Al Gore of the Oval Office: with familial help from the Sunshine State, Bush stole it.

If the current climate had allowed Nader’s Raiders as much clout as they had under the Jimmy Carter administration, could Americans possibly have been led into the shithole examined by Maxed Out? James Scurlock’s survey of the out-of-control credit and debt industry begins by informing viewers that this year "more Americans will go bankrupt than will divorce, graduate college, or get cancer."

Of course, thanks to our current president, they won’t be able to declare bankruptcy anymore — the lazy sods! Instead they can enjoy a lifetime of astronomical interest rates, threats, and continued solicitations to sign up for yet more loans and plastic.

Maxed Out includes personal stories of housewives driven to suicide, longtime homeowners tricked into foreclosure, and even underpaid soldiers targeted for exploitation by creditors after Iraq tours. The movie’s institutional focus spotlights the deliberate holding of customer checks until late fees can be charged (an executive from one company guilty of such tactics was Bush’s pick for financial-industries czar), spinelessness on the part of government investigative committees, and flat-out collusion by many politicos. Meanwhile, the national debt goes up and up, in good part owing to Iraq, making it unlikely that Social Security or basic social services will be around in the future.

Speaking of Iraq and bottomless money pits, for the first time in any major conflict, a great share of US military expenditure now goes to private security contractors. In less linguistically evasive times we called them mercenaries, or soldiers of fortune. Who are these people, and who are they accountable to? Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque’s Shadow Company is a well-crafted grasp at answers, though that latter question is a hard one. Some of the people interviewed in the movie sound conscientious enough, and as some grisly footage attests, the risks they run are no joke. More private contractees have been killed in Iraq than all non-US military personnel put together. But the booming $1 billion-a-year industry of private military companies (PMCs) doesn’t operate under any strict guidelines.

We’ve already outsourced the running of many prisons and schools to private concerns. When war itself is a for-hire endeavor — and a hot job market, since PMC employees’ salaries dwarf those of actual soldiers — is there any doubt left that we’re fighting for venture capitalism, not democracy? *




All three films open Fri/9 at Bay Area theaters

Valentine’s Day events



"Amor del Mar" Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39, Embarcadero at Bay; 623-5323, Wed/14, 7pm, $125 single, $200 couple. Support the nonprofit Aquarium of the Bay Foundation during this romantic evening featuring cocktails, culinary delights, and a live salsa band.

"Cupid Stunt — Club Neon’s Third Annual Valentine’s Day Underwear Party" Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell; 861-2011, Wed/14, 9pm, $10. A chance to dance with no pants, featuring DJs, a lingerie fashion show and trunk sale by designer Danielle Rodriguez, and Valentine’s visuals by Chris Golden.

"Isn’t It Romantic: New Connections Valentine’s Day Benefit Concert" Castro Theatre, 429 Castro; Wed/14, 7:30pm, $20. Local chanteuse Nancy Gilliland sings love songs from the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s to benefit New Connections’ HIV/AIDS healthcare services. Tickets available via

"Love Your Way to Abolition: Party with Saint Valentine" El Rio, 3158 Mission; Thurs/15, 6pm, $5-50. This benefit for Justice Now, an organization that works with incarcerated women and local communities to build a safe, compassionate world without prisons, will feature speakers and live music.

"Pink’s Valentine’s Party: Cupid’s Back" 296 Liberty; Sat/10, 8pm, $25. This party will raise funds to support the GLBT Historical Society’s world-class archives of queer history. Romance tips given by Clint Griess, life coach on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and an open bar provided by Bulldog Gin and Peroni Beer. Space is limited.

"Randall Museum Presents a Valentine’s Day Sex Tour" Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way; 554-9600, Thurs/15, 7:30pm, free, donations encouraged. Guest speaker Jane Tollini of the San Francisco Zoo leads an entertaining and educational romp through the wild kingdom, featuring fairly explicit photos and her own blend of knowledge and humor.

"Sea of Love Scavenger Hunt" California Academy of Sciences, 875 Howard; 321-8000, Sat/10-Thurs/15, 10am-5pm, free with museum admission. Embark on a self-guided scavenger hunt to find the museum’s most amorous creatures and earn fun prizes. G-rated tours available for children.

"The Sweet Cheat Gone — a Free Public Street Game" Meet at corner of Steuart and Market; Sat/10, 7pm, free. Participants take sides in the prosecution of a defendant accused of committing a crime. Teams will travel by foot, bike, or Muni (no cars or taxis) to various San Francisco locations, competing with each other to collect or destroy evidence and prove their case.

"Valentines, Fashion, and You" Nordstrom San Francisco Center, 865 Market; 243-8500, ext 1240. Sat/10, 12pm, free. Event features live models, the hottest fashions in lingerie, refreshments, and prize drawings. Space is limited to the first 100 who RSVP to the number listed above.

"The Vampire Tour of San Francisco" Meet at corner of California and Taylor; (650) 279-1840 (reservations), Wed/14, 8pm, $15-20. Spend Valentine’s Day in the company of a vampire, and take an amorous walk through beautiful Nob Hill. A few special guests are dying to meet you.

"Woo at the Zoo" San Francisco Zoo; Sloat Blvd at 47th St; 753-7263, Sun/11, 12pm, Tues/13-Wed/14, 6pm, $70. This new and dynamic multimedia event provides an entertaining approach to the erotic life of animals, including how they choose their mates and raise their families. The 90-minute tour features up-close animal encounters and romantic refreshments. Admission includes presentation, refreshments, parking, and zoo admission.


"Have a Heart" MOCHA — Museum of Children’s Art, 528 Ninth St, Oakl; 510-465-8770, Sat/10-Sun/11, 1pm-4pm, $5 per child. Make a papier-mâché heart sculpture or a lacy wire heart mobile and design unique cards for your loved ones.

"Nils Peterson’s Valentine’s Day Poetry Reading" Le Petit Trianon Theatre, 72 N Fifth St, San Jose; Wed/14, 5:30pm, $10 includes glass of wine. The Poetry Center San Jose presents Nils Peterson, whose long literary career includes a 30-year tenure teaching creative writing at San Jose State University. Also featuring Sally Ashton.

"Saint Valentine’s Day Poetry Reading" Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru, Alameda; (510) 523-6957, Wed/14, 7pm, free. Alameda’s poet laureate Mary Ridge and others will read about people they have loved and welcomed.

"Week of Valentines at Habitot Children’s Museum" Habitot Children’s Museum, 2065 Kittredge, Berk; (510) 647-1111, Wed/7-Wed/14, $6 per child and $5 for accompanying adult. Add your unique artistic touch to a large heart sculpture and create handmade Valentine cards for your family and loved ones using recycled materials at this award-winning discovery museum for young adults.


"BATS Improv Special Valentine’s Day Performance" Bayfront Theater, Fort Mason Center, bldg B, Marina at Laguna; 474-8935, Wed/14, 8pm, $10 advance, $15 at the door. In the first half of the show, audience suggestions will spark scenes and improv games that illustrate the humor in romance. In the second half, the audience will supply a title and a theme for an improvised story that will be created on the spot by BATS’s improv troupe.

"Club Chuckles Presents: Soft Rock vs. Smooth Jazz Valentine’s Day Bash" Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk; 923-0923, Wed/14, 9pm, $5. A battle of the bands that pits the forces of soft rock against smooth jazz, as played by bands Cool Nites and the Sound Painters, respectively. Moderated by comedy duo Carole Murphy and Mitzi Fitzsimmons, who will also dispense advice to the lovelorn and romantically challenged.

"Love Bites the Hand That Feeds It" Theatre Rhinoceros, 2940 16th St; 861-5079, Fri/9-Sat/10, 8pm, $15-$30. The Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco presents its annual anti-Valentine’s Day cabaret. Both evenings feature a variety of solo, duet, and group performances and will include a fifty-fifty raffle. The Feb. 10 event features a live auction.

"The Love Show by the Un-Scripted Theater Company" Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason; Wed/14, 8pm, $15-40. "The Love Show" will feature songs, scenes, and love-themed fun, all completely improvised. Couples and singles are encouraged to come. (There will even be a "quirky alone" seating section.)

"Mortified: Doomed Valentine’s Show" Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St; Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm, $12. Frequently featured on This American Life, Mortified is a comic excavation of teen angst artifacts (journals, poems, letters, lyrics, and home movies), as shared by their original authors. More information at

"Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad" Red Devil Lounge, 1695 Polk; Wed/14, 9pm, $12. Featuring comedy, music, spoken word, and burlesque from performers seen on Comedy Central, HBO, and MTV. These girls thrill everyone but their mothers.

"Valentine’s Day Film Program: Labor of Love" Exploratorium, McBean Theater, 3601 Lyon; Sat/10, 2pm, free with museum admission. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, the Exploratorium presents a program of short, expressive films about people who love what they do.


"Comedy Night in Novato" Pacheco Playhouse, 484 Ignacio Blvd, Novato; 883-4498, Wed/14, 6:30pm and 8:30pm, $15. Local comics bring levity to this most romantic of nights. A champagne celebration will close the evening.

"Valentine’s Day Comedy with Johnny Steele and Pals" Village Theater, 223 Front, Danville; (925) 314-3400;; Wed/14, 8pm, $18. Winner of the San Francisco International Comedy Competition, Johnny Steele has been plying his trade for nearly 20 years. A cavalcade of comics joins him for the third annual event.



"All Heart" Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby, Berk; (510) 644-4930, Fri/10, 6pm, free. A collaborative art show with Children’s Hospital Oakland and Art for Life Foundation. The show runs through March 9. Presenting the work of patients participating in Art for Life programs as part of their care and rehabilitation. *

Josh Wolf, petition denied, to remain in jail until July


By Sarah Phelan
It looks like Josh Wolf, the jailed freelance videographer and blogger, will be stuck inside Dublin Federal Correctional Institute until July 2007.
That at least is the word from Wolf’s lead attorney Martin Garbus today, following news that the 9th Circuit has denied Wolf’s petition for a rehearing in USA v Josh Wolf.
Wolf’s legal team asked for a rehearing on the basis that the 9th Circuit court, which previously ruled that Wolf does not the right to withhold video outtakes of a July 8, 2005 anarchist protest turned violent, had however granted that privilege in the Jaffee case, when a police officer didn’t want the family of a fatal shooting victim to access notes from a series of counseling sessions that the officer in question underwent following the shooting.
Evidently, the 9th Circuit didn’t agree. Not only did it deny the petition and rule that the motion to reinstate bail is moot, it also wrote that “no further filings shall be accepted in this case.”
Sounds like Wolf will be playing lots of Scrabble and reading lots of books until next summer.
Meanwhile, Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wade have yet to serve any jail time for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury that’s investigating who leaked them secret testimony of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and others in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative scandal.
What’s ironic about this discrepancy between how the BALCO reporters and Wolf are being treated is that the feds could at least argue a connection to the BALCO case, whereas the protest that Wolf covered and which subsequently sparked their interest took place in San Francisco and should, by all rights, have been investigated locally.
Could it be that these differences are purely a case of the corporate media getting preferential treatment over freelancers? Perhaps. But questions as to whether reporters are shielded from revealing their sources date back to 1972, when US Supreme Court Justice Byron White ruled, in Branzburg v. Hayes, that reporters must answer relevant questions that are asked in a valid grand jury investigation.
Since then, judges largely ignored Branzburg, believing that it’s important to balance the First Amendment rights of journalists against the public right’s to know. But then came Bush, 9/11 and the “war on terror,” at which point First Amendment freedoms began to take a back seat.
Consider that in 2003, a federal appeals court, citing Branzburg, ordered Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune reporters to divulge recordings of interviews of a witness in a terrorism case. The same case was made in the federal investigation as to who leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame, and New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail in 2005 for refusing to testify in that case, which resulted perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Vice President Dick Cheney’s top aide, Lewis I. “Scooter” Libby. And this year, the US Justice Department has been investigating whether classified information was illegally leaked to the Washington Post about the secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, as well as who told the New York Times about President Bush’s secret plan to eavesdrop on Americans. All of which could be seen as an effort to suppress leaks to journalists.
To add to the confusion, accusations have been made in the BALCO case that it was the federal government which leaked the testimony to the Chronicle reporters. While those accusations have not been proven to date, the truth is that the feds certainly have benefited from the Chron’s revelations, given that Major League Baseball have subsequently adopted stricter steroid rules and the feds have been able to push through harsher penalties for steroid dealers.
What’s striking about the path to Josh Wolf’s incarceration is how he became the target of a federal investigation although his case had no obvious connection to the feds. So far, the feds have trotted out disturbingly vague arguments about how they should be involved because of alleged arson to a squad car that may or may not have been purchased with federal funds. But the truth is that arson was never proven and all the SFPD reports mention is a broken rear taillight, which Wolf’s mother has repeatedly offered to pay for, if that would get her son out of jail.
In fact, court filings show that the police’s real interest is finding out who attacked and seriously hurt an SFPD officer in the course of the protest—a valid concern and one that SF District Attorney Kamala Harris’ office should be handling. Instead, the feds were called in, triggering justifiable fears in Josh Wolf, who the FBI has questioned about his anarchist tendencies, that the real reason that he’s sitting in jail, is that the feds want him to release his video outtakes and identify the anarchists, who lifted up their ski masks and spoke directly into Josh’s camera, before the violence went down. And then there’s the fact that the portion of Wolf’s tape that he posted online at his blog and got picked up by several TV stations does not paint a flattering portrait of the police.
Interestingly, while Wolf has argued that journalists should not be forced into becoming investigative tools of the government, both the SFPD and the US Attorney General’s Office have voiced doubts to the Guardian as to whether Wolf is a “real” journalist, citing his direct involvement with the anarchist cause as well as the fact that he is not employed by a media outlet. These arguments should sound the alarm bells of freelancers nationwide.
Meanwhile, Wolf sits in jail, where he is only allowed 15-minute phone interviews with the media, thereby preventing live visual images and recordings of his voice to be aired across the nation, effectively blacking him out of the consciousness of all those who don’t get their news from the print media. And when the federal grand jury expires in July, there’s a chance that a new grand jury might demand that Wolf release his outtakes and testify or rot in jail for another year.
It’s a sad day for journalists, corporate and freelance, and the First Amendment.

Life after Julie, continued


Reincarnation is a sketchy proposition, even if you’re a restaurant. True, you won’t come back as a rabbit or a mosquito — a couple of the less juicy possibilities human beings have to worry about in anticipating their next go-round in life — but you will certainly be stuck with a past that, even if punctuated with interludes of glory, has to have culminated in some sort of gloomy closure for you to be available for reincarnation at all. The truth is that the names of successful restaurants don’t recycle easily. Two vividly local examples: Stars and Trader Vic’s.
For years I would pass by Julie’s Supper Club, on Folsom, and I would mean to go there even as I was on my way to someplace else, to many someplace elses. The supper club (opened by Julie Ring in 1987) was a SoMa stalwart in the early 1990s, when the neighbors included Appam, the Acorn, and, just a few blocks west, Hamburger Mary’s. All those places had closed by the turn of the millennium, but Julie’s soldiered on, though without Julie herself: she’d sold her interest in 1998 and moved along to other ventures. When the end finally came for Julie’s Supper Club, about a year and a half ago, it was as if the last veteran of the Civil War had died.
So much for Julie’s Supper Club, I thought, RIP. Rumor told of some new loungey deal, with a new name, to open in the space, and rumor, as we all well know, is always true, except when it isn’t. The recently opened successor to Julie’s Supper Club is … Julie’s Supper Club and Lounge II. I am not sure about the Roman numeral, which makes me think of Super Bowls or people who wear monocles. It seems weighty in a way the new proprietors might not necessarily intend. But it also suggests continuity, a fusing of western SoMa’s seedy-glamorous yesterdays with a lively tomorrow.
Since I never saw the inside of the original Julie’s, I cannot say whether much has been changed, though I suspect not. The look is very hip-loungey, with a series of warped-L ceiling supports (whose holes of various sizes give one the sense that they’re made of colored Swiss cheese) and a long bar backed by a mirror and a battery of pink neon lights that look like they’ve been salvaged from the starship Enterprise (so often wrecked and reincarnated, like a stock-car racer). The oak floors are simply magnificent; they are a rich coffee color and are immaculately glossy, as if they belong in the ballroom of some posh town house on the Upper East Side.
The biggest change is probably chef Shane Suemori’s food. Under the old regime the vittles used to be a mélange of Californian and American influences; now, according to the menu card’s terrifying proclamation, it is “fusion cuisine, where east truly meets west.” There is also a quesadilla ($9), but pass on that: it consists of a pair of semi-stale tortillas enclosing an undistinguished filling of melted white cheese, diced yellow bell peppers, and chopped chicken. This is the kind of food famished travelers have to eat, at the kind of price they have to pay, while held captive at those prisons called airports. Marginally better (but still airportworthy) is a Japanese chicken curry ($7), which consists of chicken chunks, bits of carrot, and potato quarters in a golden sauce that reminded me of similar sauces I used to make from those soaplike bars of curry paste.
At its best, the cooking is quite innovative. I’d never had anything remotely like the lemon ponzu somen salad ($6), which was like a pasta sushi, with four little nests of cooked somen noodles arranged around a dipping dish of ponzu. And the asparagus cheese tease ($7) turned out to be a kind of vegetarian version of pigs in a blanket, with the asparagus stalks swaddled in phyllo leaves and baked with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. The ends of the stalks could have used trimming; they were inedibly tough, but then it is not really asparagus season.
The crab cakes ($16 for two) were slightly larger than golf balls and were simply terrific, particularly with the spicy creole sauce, but the presentation was otherwise about as minimalist as it gets, with the pair of spheres sitting naked on the plate like … like … I can’t say it, but you see what I mean. A little more generous was the oven-roasted chicken breast ($14) stuffed with cheese, cut into quarters, and set atop a mound of cheese mashed potatoes and a mix of sautéed eggplant, zucchini, and tabs of carrot. The sole dessert, meanwhile, bananas flambé ($6) presented in a martini glass, was positively luxurious. The lengths of fruit were swimming in a warm custard beneath whose bubbly surface lurked large chunks of chocolate. There was even an ornamental sprig of mint on the plate beneath the glass!
The reincarnated Julie’s prices don’t look too high as printed, but when you see what you actually get, you start to wonder. Of course, we live in the age of the $40 main dish, as the New York Times reported recently. Still, should a glass of no-name cabernet sauvignon cost $10? (We were given no wine list, just offered a few banal choices.) Should a doll-size snifter of Rémy Martin cognac — good though hardly regal — cost $8? I might have minded less if plate after plate hadn’t seemed quite so abstemiously composed and if I’d never laid eyes on the airport quesadilla. SFBG
Lunch: Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Supper: nightly, 5–10 p.m.
1123 Folsom, SF
(415) 864-1222
Full bar
Wheelchair accessible

East Bay races and measures


Editor’s note: The following story has been altered from the original to correct an error. We had originally identified Courtney Ruby as running for Alameda County Auditor; the office is actually Oakland City Auditor.

Oakland City Auditor
Incumbent Roland Smith has to go. He’s been accused of harassing and verbally abusing his staff and using audits as a political weapon against his enemies. The county supervisors have had to reassign his staff to keep him from making further trouble. And yet somehow he survived the primary with 32 percent of the vote, putting him in a November runoff against Courtney Ruby, who led the field with 37 percent. Ruby, an experienced financial analyst, would bring some credibility back to the office.
Peralta Community College Board, District 7
Challenger Abel Guillen has extensive knowledge of public school financing and a proven commitment to consensus building and government accountability. In the last six years Guillen, who was raised in a working-class community and was the first in his family to go to college, has raised $2.2 billion in bond money to construct and repair facilities in school districts and at community colleges. Incumbent Alona Clifton has been accused of not being responsive to teachers’ concerns about the board’s spending priorities and openness.
Berkeley mayor
This race has progressives tearing at each other’s throats, particularly since they spent a ton of cash last time around to oust former mayor Shirley Dean and replace her with Tom Bates, who used to be known as a reliable progressive voice.
Bates’s reputation has shifted since he became mayor, and his record is a mixed bag. This time around, he stands accused of setting up a shadow government (via task forces that duplicate existing commissions but don’t include enough community representatives), of giving developers too many special favors instead of fighting for more community benefits, and of increasingly siding with conservative and pro-landlord city council member Gordon Wozniak.
The problem is that none of Bates’s opponents look like they would be effective as mayor. So lacking any credible alternative, we’ll go with Bates.
Berkeley City Council, District 1
Incumbent Linda Maio’s voting record has been wimpy at times, but she is a strong proponent of affordable housing, and her sole challenger, Merrilie Mitchell, isn’t a terribly serious candidate. Vote for Maio.
Berkeley City Council, District 2
A valiant champion of every progressive cause, incumbent Dona Spring is one of the unsung heroes of Berkeley. Using a wheelchair, she puts in the energy equivalent of two or three council members and always remains on the visionary cutting edge. If that weren’t enough, her sole challenger, Latino businessman and zoning commissioner Raudel Wilson, has the endorsement of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. Vote for Spring.
Berkeley City Council, District 7
Incumbent Kriss Worthington is an undisputed champion of progressive causes and a courageous voice who isn’t afraid to take criticism in an age of duck and run, including the fallout he’s been experiencing following the closure of Cody’s on Telegraph Avenue, something conservatives have tried to link to his support for the homeless. His sole challenger is the evidently deep-pocketed George Beier, who describes himself as a community volunteer but has the support of landlords and the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and has managed to blanket District 7 with signage and literature, possibly making his one of the most tree-unfriendly campaigns in Berkeley’s electoral history. Keep Berkeley progressive and vote for Worthington.
Berkeley City Council, District 8
Incumbent Gordon Wozniak postures as if he is going to be mayor one day, and he’s definitely the most conservative member of the council. During his tenure, Wozniak has come up with seven different ways to raise rents on tenants in Berkeley, and he didn’t even vote against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election last year. Challenger Jason Overman may be only 20 years old, but he’s already a seasoned political veteran, having been elected to the Rent Stabilization Board two years ago. Vote for Overman.
Berkeley city auditor
Ann-Marie Hogan is running unopposed for this nonpartisan post, which is hardly surprising since she’s done a great job so far and has widespread support.
Berkeley school director
With five candidates in the running and only three seats open, some are suggesting progressives cast only one vote — for Karen Hemphill — to ensure she becomes board president in two years, since the job goes to the person with the most votes in the previous election.
Hemphill has done a great job and has the support of Latino and African American parent groups, so a vote for her is a no-brainer.
So is any vote that helps make sure that incumbents Shirley Issel and David Baggins don’t get reelected.
Nancy Riddle isn’t a hardcore liberal, but she’s a certified public accountant, so she has number-crunching skills in her favor. Our third pick is Norma Harrison, although her superradical talk about capitalism being horrible and schools being like prisons needs to be matched with some concrete and doable suggestions.
Rent Stabilization Board
If it weren’t for the nine-member elected Rent Stabilization Board, Berkeley would have long since been taken over by the landlords and the wealthy. This powerful agency has been controlled by progressives most of the time, and this year there are five strong progressives running unopposed for five seats on the board. We recommend voting for all of them.
Oakland City Council
When we endorsed Aimee Allison in the primary in June, we pointed out that this was a crucial race: incumbent Patrician Kernighan has been a staunch ally of outgoing mayor Jerry Brown and Councilmember Ignacio de La Fuente — and now that Ron Dellums is taking over the Mayor’s Office and a new political era could be dawning in Oakland, it’s crucial that the old prodevelopment types don’t control the council.
Kernighan’s vision of Oakland has always included extensive new commercial and luxury housing development, and like De La Fuente, she’s shown little concern for gentrification and displacement. Allison, a Green Party member, is the kind of progressive who could make a huge difference in Oakland, and she’s our clear and unequivocal choice for this seat.
From crime to city finance, Allison is well-informed and has cogent, practical proposals. She favors community policing and programs to help the 10,000 parolees in Oakland. She wants the city to collect an annual fee from the port, which brings in huge amounts of money and puts very little into the General Fund. She wants to promote environmentally sound development, eviction protections, and a stronger sunshine ordinance. Vote for Allison.
East Bay Municipal Utility District director, Ward 4
Environmental planner Andy Katz is running unopposed. Despite his relative youth, he’s been an energetic and committed board member and deserves another term.
AC Transit director at large
Incumbent Rebecca Kaplan is a fixture on the East Bay progressive political scene and has been a strong advocate of free bus-pass programs and environmentally sound policies over the years. A former public interest lawyer, Kaplan’s only challenger is paralegal James K. Muhammad.
Berkeley measures
Measure A
This measure takes two existing taxes and combines them into one but without increasing existing rates. Since 30 percent of local teachers will get paid out of the revenue from this measure, a no vote could devastate the quality of education in the city. Vote yes.
Measure E
Measure E seeks to eliminate the need to have a citywide special election every time a vacancy occurs on the Rent Stabilization Board, a process that currently costs about $400,000 and consumes huge amounts of time and energy. The proposal would require that vacancies be filled at November general elections instead, since that ballot attracts a wider and more representative group of voters. In the interim, the board would fill its own vacancies.
Measure F
Measure F follows the council’s October 2005 adoption of amendments that establish the proper use for public and commercial recreation sports facilities, thereby allowing development of the proposed Gilman Street fields. Vote yes.
Measure G
Measure G is a nice, feel-good advisory measure that expresses Berkeley’s opinion about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions to the global climate and advises the mayor to work with the community to come up with a plan that would significantly reduce such emissions, with a target of an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Vote yes.
Measure H
In left-leaning Berkeley this is probably the least controversial measure on the ballot. Do we really need to spell out all over again the many reasons why you should vote yes on this issue?
If this measure passes, both Berkeley and San Francisco will have taken public stands in favor of impeachment, which won’t by itself do much to force Congress to act but will start the national ball rolling. Vote yes.
Measure I
Measure I is a really bad idea, one that links the creation of home ownership opportunities to the eviction of families from their homes. It was clearly cooked up by landlord groups that are unhappy with Berkeley’s current condo conversion ordinance, which allows for 100 conversions a year. Measure I proposes increasing that limit to 500 conversions a year, which could translate into more than 1,000 people facing evictions. Those evictions will hit hardest on the most financially vulnerable — seniors, the disabled, low- and moderate-income families, and children. With less than 15 percent of current Berkeley tenants earning enough to purchase their units, this measure decreases the overall supply of rentals, eliminates requirements to disclose seismic conditions to prospective buyers, and violates the city’s stated commitment to fairness, compassion, and economic diversity. Vote no.
Measure J
A well-meaning measure that’s opposed by developers, Measure J earns a lukewarm yes. It establishes a nine-member Landmarks Preservation Commission; designates landmarks, structures of merit, and historic districts; and may approve or deny alteration of such historic resources but may not deny their demolition. It’s worth noting that if Proposition 90 passes, the city could face liability for damages if Measure J is found to result in substantial economic loss to property — all of which gives us yet another reason to say “vote no” on the horribly flawed Prop. 90 while you’re voting yes on Measure J.
Oakland Measures
Measure M
Measure M would amend the City Charter to allow the board that oversees the Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) slightly more leeway in making investment decisions. The board claims that its current requirements — which bar investment in stocks that don’t pay dividends — are hampering returns. That’s an issue: between July 2002 and July 2005, the unfunded liability of the PFRS grew from $200 million to $268 million — a liability for which the city of Oakland is responsible. We’re always nervous about giving investment managers the ability to use public money without close oversight, but the new rules would be the same as ones currently in place in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Measure N
Oakland wants to improve and expand all library branch facilities, construct a new main library at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, and buy land for and construct two new library facilities in the Laurel and 81st Avenue communities. The upgrades and construction plans come in response to residents’ insistence that they need more space for studying and meeting, increased library programs and services, tutoring and homework assistance for children, increased literacy programs, and greater access to current technology and locations that offer wi-fi.
This $148 million bond would cost only $40 a year for every $100,000 of assessed property. Vote yes.
Measure O
Ranked-choice voting, or instant runoff voting, is a great concept. The city of Oakland is using it to elect officials in the November election without holding a prior June election. There’s only one problem: so far, Alameda County hasn’t invested in voting equipment that could make implementing this measure possible. Voting yes is a first step in forcing the county’s hand in the right direction. SFBG

Death by satire


TECHSPLOITATION In honor of George W. Bush’s efforts to stop torture by setting up secret CIA prisons and promote freedom by expanding government surveillance powers, I think we should spend a few days contemputf8g another great thing this administration has done for the world: it has reinvigorated political satire.
What was The Daily Show before the USA PATRIOT Act? And where would international pranksters the Yes Men be today without this administration’s asshattish policies?
Thanks to the Internet, satire can be instant and lethal. Certainly it’s not always pretty, but it’s more effective as social criticism than it was in an era before jesters could respond within hours to current events and broadcast their pranks globally.
I’m still a big fan of the widely condemned fake execution video made by three San Francisco multimedia geeks in 2004. Benjamin Vanderford, who plays experimental music in several bands, decided to make the video in response to the media hysteria around the Nick Berg execution video. He’s said that the video wasn’t a partisan protest of the war itself, but instead a wake-up call to the media, which he criticized on his Web site ( for doing “no fact-finding” and being so “centralized” that they’ll reprint anything from Reuters or the Associated Press without verifying it.
With the help of Laurie Kirchner and Robert Martin, Vanderford filmed himself tied up in a dingy room as if he’d been kidnapped in Iraq. He stated his real name and address and urged the United States to get out of Iraq. Islamic chants played in the background, and every few seconds a picture of a grisly execution appeared. “We need to leave this country alone or all of us will die like this,” Vanderford said before the video cut to a grainy image of somebody sawing his head off with a butcher knife.
He and his buddies made the video available on their hard drives to anyone using the P2P networks Kazaa and Soulseek. Because the Berg execution video was all over the news, thousands of people were scouring P2P networks for anything with the word “execution” in the title. The video soon turned up on an Islamic Web site, which is how the US media got wind of it. AP and several papers published stories about the video without ever bothering to look up Vanderford, verify his existence, or check the address he used in the video (which was his real home address).
Sure, the message was ugly and the video is actually quite disturbing to watch. But it was the very best kind of social satire — it proved Vanderford’s point that the media were so eager to lap up any news that could feed the terrorism frenzy that they weren’t bothering to do even the most rudimentary fact-checking. Of course, the news outlets whose shoddy practices had been unmasked by this prank were quick to condemn Vanderford and cover their asses. Fox ran a bogus segment featuring a “legal adviser” who said Vanderford had broken the law (he hadn’t), and AP deputy editor Tom Kent claimed that his organization did eventually check the veracity of the tape by “banging” on Vanderford’s door at 4 a.m. and filming him in his underwear answering questions about the hoax (you can see clips of this seminaked interview online).
Possibly the stupidest responses to the hoax came from people who claimed that it hurt people and therefore Vanderford and pals should be punished. Stanford professor of communications Ted Glasser told the San Jose Mercury News that releasing the video was “like bombing a building to see if security measures are in place.” Despite the foolishness of this comment, it reveals how strongly people are affected by well-aimed satire.
I’d rather watch a dozen fake execution videos if it would make the media more careful about buying into government and corporate propaganda. I live for the day when satire is like bombing a building — because nobody actually bombs anyone anymore.
See, that’s the beauty of satire — it hurts, but only in your conscience. SFBG
Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who can’t wait to watch videos of the Yes Men masquerading as HUD officials in New Orleans.

{Empty title}


Bad social failures eventually come back to haunt you. That’s what’s happening in the California prison system, where decades of lock-’em-up legislation, stupid drug laws, and governors who are terrified of the political consequences of paroling inmates have filled the jails with aging prisoners who require extensive medical care. Tens of thousands of people will die in state prisons in the next few years, not of murder or abuse but because they’re serving life sentences — and it’s going to cost a fortune to take care of them in their declining years. The state may have to set up special geriatric cell blocks and hospital wards for inmates who did something pretty bad a long, long time ago and never got another chance at life.
And so it is, apparently, with San Francisco’s homeless population.
According to a new study by the University of California, San Francisco, the median age of the city’s homeless people has gone from 37 in 1990 to about 50 today. The thousands of people who live on the streets are getting older and older — and their health is failing. Many of them, it seems, have been there at least off and on since the 1980s, when the federal government under Ronald Reagan stopped spending money to help cities provide low-cost housing.
If the study, reported in the Chronicle on Aug. 4, is accurate, there are some important policy conclusions that we need to be looking at. For starters, it suggests that many of the homeless people in San Francisco are not arriving here because of friendly programs and attitudes; we are not a “magnet” for the homeless. In fact, the people living on the streets are … San Franciscans. Some have been living here as long as I have. They are part of our community, part of our city. They just don’t have a roof over their heads or a place to go and shut out the world.
Then there’s the fact that harsh cutbacks in spending on low-income populations only create more, and more intractable, problems. The aging homeless are going to need a lot more expensive medical care over the next few years, and the only way they’re going to get it is at taxpayer expense. By the time the baby boomer generation of homeless people has died, I bet San Francisco will have spent so much money on caring for them in their later years that it would have been cheaper to just give them all a decent welfare payment, health insurance, and a decent place to live.
Building housing is expensive. Building so-called supportive housing — residential units with social services on-site — is more expensive. Treating people in hospitals who are literally dying of homelessness is even more expensive than that.
You want to be a cold-eyed conservative? The cheapest solution is to radically raise the general assistance payment to the point where homeless people can afford an apartment. That also happens to be the most humane.
Once upon a time, what a lot of homeless people needed was cash, not care. Cash, not care. Now they need care — and the people who elected Gavin Newsom and who complain about the homeless are going to be paying for that care. SFBG

Sunny side of the scream


The Greek deities might throw lightning bolts and issue stormy protests, but when I first saw Erase Errata in November 2001, they seemed less a fledgling local all-girl band than scruffy goddesses sprung full grown from the temple of … Mark E. Smith. The year-and-a-half-old foursome opened for the newly reenergized, near-surfabilly Fall and they were staggering — seeming grrrlish prodigies who picked up the sharp, jagged tools discarded by Smith with a confidence that seemed Olympian (as in Washington State and Zeus’s heavenly homestead). On their way to All Tomorrow’s Parties in LA, vocalist–trumpet player Jenny Hoyston, guitarist Sara Jaffe, bassist Ellie Erickson, and drummer Bianca Sparta were poised to speak in primal feminist riddles while constructing their own dissonant wing to the Fall’s aural complex, one comprising driving, weirdo time signatures; raw, textural guitar; and atonal washes.
It was not the type of performance you might expect from Hoyston, 32, who grew up stranded in a singular God’s country in the “dry,” extremely Christian, and very un–rock ’n’ roll town of Freeport, Texas, where she was once more likely to be Bible thumping instead of guitar thrumming. “I was a born-again Christian, Republican. I was engaged,” says Hoyston today, gazing out on the concrete beer garden of el Rio where she regularly does sound and books shows. “I thought my life had to be this one way.”
So what turned her toward the path of big-daddy demon rock?
“Uh, LSD,” she says drily.
Actually it was the empty feeling that engulfed her despite all the church-related activities she threw herself into — that and the life-changing spectacle of SF dyke punk unit Tribe 8 playing her college town of Lansing, Mich. “I was just really impressed by how free those crazy people seemed. It just seemed really beautiful,” she explains. “And I didn’t necessarily come out here to meet them and hang out with them. Straight-up punk is not really my kind of music. But I think they are just so powerful. They came to town and made all the queers feel like they were going to go to this place, maybe even with their boyfriend and hold their hands and not get beat up. I wanted to get that empowered.”
There are still more than a few remnants of that sweet, shy Texas back-roads girl that Hoyston once was: She speaks gently and looks completely nondescript in her black T-shirt and specs, padding around el Rio as the petal-soft air of an SF summer afternoon burns into the deep velvet pelt of night. Some might mistake her watchful awkwardness for holier- or hipper-than-thou aloofness. But here at her dive, waiting for Tank Attack and Fox Pause to materialize for the first Wednesday show she books, she’s in her element, playing Bee Gees tracks and disco hits between the bands, running the PA, and busying herself by distributing flyers for an upcoming Pam Grier movie night.
“I’m excited about tonight’s show because it’s not a big heavy-drinking crowd,” Hoyston offers sincerely.
Erase Errata’s vocalist and now guitarist is far from an archetypal star, even as her band has become more than a little well-known in indie, underground, and experimental music circles. The seniors in a small smart class of all-female groups in the Bay Area — including conceptual metal-noise supergroup T.I.T.S. and experimental noise Midwestern transplants 16 Bitch Pileup — they share with those bands an embrace of threatening, cacophonous sonics and edge-rockin’, artful yet intuitive tendencies that inevitably meet the approval of those persnickety noise boys, an approach Hoyston is now fully conscious of.
“I think had our music been slightly less confrontational, we would have been dismissed a lot quicker,” she says. “I think people thought we had cred because we were being hard, y’know.”
Weasel Walter — who first lived in Hoyston’s former Club Hott warehouse in Oakland upon moving from Chicago — can validate that perspective. His band, Flying Luttenbachers, played nightly with Erase Errata, Lightning Bolt, Locust, and Arab on Radar as part of the Oops! Tour in 2002. “Every night I got to watch them play intense, energetic versions of songs from their entire catalog and also began to understand what a complex organism the band was, musically and personally,” he e-mails. “Bianca and Ellie are a fantastic rhythm section, and Jenny is an LSD poetess and standup comedienne without peer!”
Erase Errata’s new, third album, Nightlife (Kill Rock Stars), is the latest sign of untrammeled spirit and uncontainable life in the band — and in the all-woman band form. Hoyston may personally favor a more low-key version of nightlife — not so with her art and lyrics.
Now a threesome after the departure of Jaffe in 2004 for grad school and a temporary stint by A Tension’s Archie McKay on token-male vocals, the band has become both more directly melodic and more pointedly politicized. The echoing, droning, rotating police copter blades of the title track demonstrate that they are far from detached from their boundary-testing inclinations, but otherwise — while other bands of their turn-of-the-century generation have quieted down, folked up, or simply folded — Erase Errata wind up for an energizing, wake-up kick in the ball sac with Nightlife, aimed at those who claim that the underground has been far too escapist, evasive, or simply mute when it comes to polemics and art punk.
Borrowing American Indian powwow rhythms (“Take You”) and sandblasted rockabilly beats (“Rider”), along with their more archetypal ragged textures (“Dust”), the band skates between the urgency of midperiod Sleater-Kinney and the honking dissonance of DNA, as Hoyston coos, “While you’re too broke to not commit a crime/ Your federal government knows that this is true/ More prisons/ More people have to die” on “Another Genius Idea from Our Government.” The group lets its anger and outrage drive the songs — allowing a Gang of Four–style frenetic punk funk to propel “Tax Dollar” (“American bastard, murderous bitch/ Traitor to humans/ So rebel! Get on the run”) — but not consume them. They stop to study the world around them — be it the well-armed paranoid desert rats of “Rider” (which finds Hoyston turning the phrase “Where everybody has a gun/ Everybody has a knife” into a wildly western horror show of a hook) or the street-level violence that bleeds into the gender wars on “He Wants What’s Mine” (“Hey Beautiful!/ Take it into the night, I’ll walk beside you and steal/ Your life like a carving knife”).
Hoyston attributes the tone of the album to her move from Oakland to San Francisco. “In general, I started to notice things around my city that kind of woke me up to national situations, when I think I’d been a little bit dormant on that front as well. So I got really inspired,” she says. “I think At Crystal Palace [Troubleman, 2003] isn’t as political a record as Other Animals [2001] was. I think it was more us being artistic and more me lyrically just existing in a purely artistic realm and not really thinking about, well, yeah, I am political. I have feelings and I can express them in art and they can actually reach a wide audience. I think I just rerealized the power of the tool of having a voice.”
The band never had any intention of making their music a career: In fact, Erase Errata began as an outright joke played on Hoyston’s Club Hott housemate Luis Illades of Pansy Division. Hoyston moved to the Bay Area in the late ’90s, where she began working in the Guardian’s accounting department; formed California Lightning with her best friend, Bianca Sparta; and met Ellie Erickson (who was in Nebraska all-girl teen band XY and also later worked at the Guardian) and through her, Sara Jaffe.
“When Sara and I met each other, it was, like, ‘OK, are we going to go out or are we going to start a band together? Why don’t we do something more long-term and start a band together?’” recalls Hoyston. “You know when you meet somebody and you have so much in common with them and they’re actually queer? It’s a really powerful thing.”
Even now, the once painfully timid Hoyston marvels, “I seriously can’t believe I’m a front person for a band. It was seriously a joke that I was going to sing for this band because I considered myself an accomplished guitar player — not a front person, by any means. I think front people are really pretty or cute or sexy and all the kind of things that I don’t see myself as. We were just making up songs and people would hear and say, ‘Omigod, what was that? Will you guys play with us?’”
That dirty word for this noncareerist group — momentum — came into play, and Erase Errata discovered themselves on tour with Sonic Youth and Numbers, as, Hoyston says, she challenged herself “with, like, can I get in front of all these people and act like a fool and try to sing weird and sing good and get confident and maybe even feel aggressive, the way my bandmates were challenging each other with instruments? It’s something that eventually kind of came easier and easier over time. And now I can sit down and talk to you.”
The key to Nightlife’s success lies, perhaps, in the fact that the band is still pushing itself, musically and artistically. “I think it’s women’s music,” ponders Hoyston. “There’s still something odd about some of the music we’re making. It’s still atonal at times, some parts might be a little awkward, some parts might go on too long. Here and there, things are like that intentionally. We still try to keep things a little bit difficult for ourselves to pull off live. So I think it’s made for people who might appreciate an interesting take on pop punk, maybe.”
Pop punk! Nightlife is still not exactly Vans Warped Tour material, though one punk godfather might approve. Sort of, according to Hoyston, who conjures her most memorable encounter with Fall guy Mark E. Smith: “I was a smoker back then, and Mark E. Smith walked right up to me and took my cigarette right out of my hand as I was putting it up to my lips and smoked it all the way down to the filter and then flicked it at me and said, ‘See ya, kid.’ In a really mean, mean, mean way! Then he went out onstage and did the encore. And I was just, like, ‘He stole my cigarette! That’s great!’ Because he’s like an … icon to me.
“I don’t like him necessarily. I don’t think he’s a nice person…. He’s a real jerk in general. But I love the Fall.”
The gods can be merciless — and forgiving — though Hoyston would be the first to debunk any of that vaporous junk. Amid Erase Errata’s achievements and her own multiple solo incarnations such as Paradise Island, it’s clear she’s no goddess. She’s simply very human and just trying to stay active. “I’m just really into demystifying things for myself,” she says. “I mean, if I wanted to be mystified, I’d still be in church.” SFBG
Guardian Best of the Bay party
Aug. 2, 9 p.m.
Club Six
60 Sixth St., SF
(415) 863-1221
CD release party with T.I.T.S.
Aug. 4, 7 p.m.
El Rio
3158 Mission, SF
(415) 282-3325

{Empty title}


I was in upstate New York last weekend, flying low over farmlands and old industrial cities in one of those bumpy little "commuter" planes, then driving through small towns in areas that, I’ll say politely, have seen better economic days. And yet, everywhere I went, a landmark stood out: From the air and from the ground, the public schools seemed universally spacious and well maintained. They had nice baseball and football fields, all-weather tracks, and new playground equipment. I didn’t go inside, but I can tell you nonetheless that the schools in most of New York are way better than the schools in most of California.

And there’s a good reason for that.

My brother owns a house in Putnam Valley, a small town about two hours north of New York City. He bought it 15 years ago, for about $105,000, and while it has increased in value, it’s still assessed at way less than half of what I paid for my house in San Francisco. And yet he pays more property taxes than I do.

He’s a contractor, a small-business person, subject to the volatile whims of the home-building industry, and he’s trying to support two kids and save money for their college fund. He pays $5,000 a year in school taxes alone, and it’s a real burden.

But for that money, he gets to send his kids to public schools that are better than most $25,000-a-year private schools. He considers it a bargain.

In New York they spend about twice as much per student as we do in California. That money has to come from somewhere, and a lot of it comes from property taxes. This isn’t rocket science even people educated in California should be able to figure it out: You want good schools, you have to pay for them.

Then I came back and met with Steve Westly, the state controller and the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor. Westly loves to talk about education but he’s not even willing to commit to seeking changes in Proposition 13 that would allow for higher property taxes on commercial buildings to pay for the schools.

It’s this air of unreality we have in California. For 28 years, since the "tax revolt" movement was born in this state, politicians have pandered to the selfish among the voters (and that’s most of them, it seems) by saying they can have it all for free. We’ve been promised a beautiful state with lots of parkland, top-rate public schools and colleges, massive spending on cops and prisons, stable union jobs for public employees, abundant water for thriving agriculture, extensive resources to meet urban problems … and low taxes for all.

Let’s party.

Westly’s Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides, is at least honest: He promises the same sorts of things Westly does, but he admits that somebody will have to pay for them. He’s focusing on the wealthy, which is the right idea this is a rich state, and the millionaires have done quite well the past few years. But the rest of us will get hit a bit too, and I hate to say it, but we should.

Because the teachers don’t have to be underpaid, the roads don’t have to be crumbling, the parks don’t have to be overcrowded, the hospitals don’t need to be teetering on the edge of collapse. We can have high-speed rail to LA.

Taxes are a small sacrifice for the public good. My parents’ generation seemed to get that. California’s baby boomers apparently don’t. SFBG

Pombo on the issues


To say that Richard Pombo is an environmental skeptic is putting it mildly. When asked if Pombo accepted the worldwide scientific consensus that global warming is a fact, his spokesperson, Wayne Johnson, shilly-shallied. "What I have heard him say is the jury is still out," Johnson cautiously ventured. "For those absolutely convinced, I would not put him in that category."

Pombo entered Congress determined to "reform" the Endangered Species Act and other tree-hugging depredations on the rights of private property owners. Before arriving in Washington, he cowrote a book titled This Land Is Our Land: How to End the War on Private Property, in which he declared that he’d become politically active after a skirmish with the East Bay Regional Park District about the creation of a public right-of-way through his property. He later switched his story to say that his family’s property values had been hurt when their land was designated a San Joaquin kit fox critical habitat.

Both claims were entirely without merit. But Pombo is not one to let the facts get in the way.

Pombo says the ESA, which is widely regarded as one of the more successful pieces of environmental legislation ever, is a failure. Pombo’s “reforms,” however, recently ran into a brick wall in the Senate. If passed, the reforms would have removed the concept of critical habitat from the ESA, which means that a threatened species would have been protected, but its home territory would not have received such protection.

Pombo has hit numerous other environmental high points. Among them was his idea to allow ham radio operators to erect antennae on the Farallones Islands. He proposed selling 15 sites within the national parks as a way of raising money for energy development. He was one of the original sponsors of the legislation to allow drilling on Alaska’s north slope.

And the 11th Congressional District representative has taken interesting stands on all sorts of other issues, from civil rights to drugs to gun control to gay rights. Because he has such a wide range of conservative interests, a short list of his Congressional voting record will suffice.

Pombo has opposed stem cell research, supports banning “partial birth” abortion, and has a 0 percent rating from NARAL, the pro-choice group. He voted for the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and against allowing gay adoption in Washington, DC.

He has voted in favor of making the PATRIOT Act permanent and supports a constitutional amendment to oppose flag burning and desecration. He supports more prisons, the death penalty, and more cops. He voted to prohibit medical marijuana and HIV-prevention needle exchange, in Washington, DC.

Pombo has a 97 percent approval rating from the US Chamber of Commerce. He opposes gun control and product-misuse lawsuits against gun manufacturers. He got an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association.

For a more in-depth appreciation of Richard Pombo’s politics, go to, which gives him a 70 percent hard-right conservative rating. (Tim Kingston)

Research assistance by Erica Holt

Pombo on the issues


To say that Richard Pombo is an environmental skeptic is putting it mildly. Asked if Pombo accepted the worldwide scientific consensus that global warming is a fact, his spokesperson, Wayne Johnson, shilly-shallied. “What I have heard him say is the jury is still out,” Johnson cautiously ventured. “For those absolutely convinced, I would not put him in that category.”
Pombo entered Congress determined to “reform” the Engendered Species Act and other tree-hugging depredations on the rights of private property owners, and while he concentrated on that law, he has put his stamp on a host of other issues, from gay rights to gun control.  

Before he ran for Congress, Pombo co-wrote a book entitled This Land is Our Land: How to End the War on Private Property. Part of his book declared that he become active politically after a skirmish with the East Bay Regional Park district about the creation of a public right of way through his property. He later switched his story to say his family’s property values were hurt when family land was designated a San Joaquin Kit Fox critical habitat. Both claims were without merit.

Pombo says the ESA, which is widely regarded as one of the more successful pieces of environmental legislation ever, is a failure. Pombo’s “reforms,” however, recently ran into a brick wall in the Senate. If passed, they would have removed the concept of critical habitat from the ESA – meaning a species would be protected, but its home territory would not. The legislation called for a two-year recovery plan, but the recovery plan would have been voluntary rather than mandatory.

While this approach has resonated with many voters in the 11th district who agree that the ESA goes too far, it has local and national environmentalists screaming. It’s also upset his opponent, Pete McCloskey, who was involved in writing the original law.

Pombo has hit a number of other environmental high points during his tenure. Among them was his idea to allow ham radio operators to erect antennas on the Farallones Islands. He wants to lift the ban on off shore oil drilling. He has read a pro-whaling resolution into the Congressional Record. He has proposed selling off 15 sites within the national parks as a way of raising money for energy development (a proposal that advances Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s Presidio privatization to a new level). He was one of the original sponsors of the legislation to allow drilling on Alaska’s north slope. And last but not least, wants to put a freeway over Mt. Hamilton in San Joaquin County.

Pombo also voted twice to protect MTBE manufacturers from being sued for environmental damage. MTBE helps engines burn cleaner, but has also been found to contaminate water supplies in California, necessitating huge clean-up costs. Why would Pombo vote to indemnify such manufacturers? Well, several of the companies are based on Tom Delay’s district in Texas.

But the 11th district representative has taken interesting stands on all sort of other issues, from civil rights to drugs to gun control to gay rights. Because there are so many, a short list of his congressional voting record will suffice.

Pombo has opposed stem-cell research, supports banning “partial birth” abortion, and has a 0% rating from NARAL the pro-choice group. He voted for the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and against allowing gay adoption in Washington D.C.

He has voted in favor making the PATRIOT Act permanent, and supports a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning and desecration. He supports more prisons, the death penalty and more cops. Pombo wants to prohibit medical marijuana and HIV-prevention needle exchange. He sponsored legislation that would require universities to allow military recruiters on campus, but he opposed a bill that would have boosted veteran-affairs spending by $53 million. He opposes gun control and opposes product-misuse lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

In 2003 Pombo got a 97 percent approval rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He also got an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association and a 92 percent rating from the Christian Coalition in 2003.
For a more in depth appreciation of Richard Pombo’s politics, check out On The Issues at www., which gives him a 70% hard right conservative rating.

Research Assistance by Erica Holt

March of the ants


MEXICO CITY (March 7th) — Civil War in Iraq! Riots across the Islamic World! Coups and killer mudslides! The Bush administration sinking daily in the quicksand of corruption and lies!

When played against the backdrop of incipient cataclysm that darkens the globe from east to west and south to north, “the Other Campaign” of the largely Mayan rebel Zapatista Army of National Liberation seems more like a march of ants across the Mexican landscape than breaking news.

The Other Campaign is, indeed, a campaign of ants.

This March 1, La Otra Campana marked the start of its third month on the road since the Zapatistas’ charismatic mouthpiece, Subcomandante Marcos, now doing business as “Delegate Zero,” roared out of a jungle camp in the EZLN’s Chiapas sanctuary zone on a silver and black motorcycle January 1, the 12th anniversary of the Zapatistas’ 1994 rebellion. In the past 60 days, Delegate Zero has traveled thousands of miles through ten states, a third of the Mexican union. The jaunt now constitutes the longest road trip the rebels have taken in their 12 years on public display.

The ski-masked spokesperson plans to visit all 31 states in the Mexican union (he will be on the U.S. border in June) and the federal district (where he will take part in the May 1 International Workers Day march) before Election Day July 2, when Mexico selects a new president and congress. The Other Campaign is staunchly anti-electoral, arguing that the political parties and the electoral system are hopelessly corrupt and unrepresentative.

La Otra Campana contrasts sharply with the opulent campaigns of Mexico’s three major political parties — the right-wing National Action (PAN) Party of President Vicente Fox, the once-ruling (71 years) Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and the leftish Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and its front-running candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO.)

Traveling close to the ground in a muddy white van, Marcos whistle stops a Mexico rarely visited by the “presidenciales,” huddling with the most pissed-off and marginalized Mexicans in down-and-out rural communities and ragged “popular colonies” in provincial cities, “the ones no one else is listening to.” The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, which gave birth to the Other Campaign, instructs the Zapatistas to “walk and question” rather than deliver the answers.

The idea of the Other Campaign is to build a new Mexican left from the bottom, an anti-capitalist, anti-electoral alliance that does not depend upon the political parties to bring about social change. “I am not a candidate — I am an anti-candidate,” Marcos tells audiences after hearing out their frustrations. “I cannot change these things, but we can do this together, because together we have the power.”

Nonetheless, the anti-candidate seems to be working twice as hard as the candidates — the PAN’s Felipe Calderon, the PRI’s Roberto Madrazo, and AMLO — in getting the word out. In stump speech after stump speech, Delegate Zero lambastes the political parties and their candidates, with particular emphasis on Lopez Obrador, who seems destined to become Mexico’s first president from the left since Lazaro Cardenas, and Latin America’s latest leftist head of state come July 2. The Other Campaign is, after all, a battle for the hearts and minds of the Mexican Left.

Delegate Zero’s withering attack on AMLO has led to charges by the PRD that he is fomenting absenteeism and handing the election to the right. The Other Campaign ran into angry PRDistas during a recent pit stop in Juchitan Oaxaca, once a stronghold of EZLN sympathy. Scuffling during a visit to teachers’ union offices in Oaxaca City was also a sign of PRD resentment at the Zapatista spokesperson’s pronouncements.

Delegate Zero adamantly refutes allegations that he is telling constituents not to vote in July — “each person must make his own decision.” Marcos is an inviting target of PRD fury because AMLO’s campaign has not yet ignited much interest. Aside from a 100,000-plus drummed out in Mexico City, where he was a wildly popular mayor, Lopez Obrador, as well as the PRI’s Madrazo and the PAN’s Calderon, have thus far not generated much buzz. The registration of only 57,000 Mexicans living in the United States out of a potential expatriate electorate of 3.4 million is an ominous signal that the 2006 presidenciales have not triggered much enthusiasm amongst a citizenry that voted for change in 2000 and was bitterly disappointed by six years of Vicente Fox’s empty promises.

But the butt of Delegate Zero’s on-running rap is not always AMLO: The Subcommandante expends equal dollops of time roasting Mexico’s last three neo-liberal presidents, Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, and Fox, often calling for their imprisonment. In this sense, the Other Campaign is a significant test of free speech in Mexico. Thus far, Delegate Zero has not been clapped in jail for attacking the powerful and preaching class war, although he has been allowed to enter prisons twice so far to visit political prisoners in Tabasco and on the Tehuantepec isthmus of Oaxaca.

Although the Fox government professes that it’s not listening to the Other Campaign, its plainclothes intelligence agents monitor every meeting. The events are often patrolled by machine-gun toting police, and local organizers have been harassed and jailed for such crimes as posting notice of the rebels’ arrival in town.

The Other Campaign moves cautiously in convoy on the road, cognizant of possible assassination attempts or “accidents” — in 1994, the Zapatistas’ candidate for Chiapas governor, the late Amado Avandano, was nearly killed in a highly suspicious head-on crash with a license-less 18 wheeler on a lonely coastal highway. Earlier that same year, the PRI presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, was gunned down in Tijuana.

Marcos’s audiences are the “simple and humble” people that the Other Campaign seeks to recruit — “those who have never held a microphone in their hand,” writes John Gibler who is accompanying the odyssey for the San Francisco-based NGO Global Exchange. At such meetings, Delegate Zero takes copious notes as he listens intently to the outrage of the locals, always counseling the attendees that they themselves, in alliance with other “simple and humble” Mexicans, have the power to alter the equation between rich and poor, justice and injustice. The EZLN is proposing the writing of a new Mexican constitution to achieve this end.

This was the message Delegate Zero brought to a pink-doored Casa de Citas (house of prostitution) in the tiny Tlaxcala town of Apaxio. After three hours of conversing with the sexoservidoras (sex workers), the Sub called for the formation of a national union of sex workers (“not prostitutes — the prostitutes are the politicians who sell themselves to the highest bidder.”)

Other Other Campaign venues have found the quixotic rebel spokesperson tilting at windmills in La Ventosa Oaxaca, the site of a transnational wind farm that impacts local Zapotec Indians; in Oaxaca’s Juarez Sierra, talking the evils of transgenic corn with campesinos; speaking to a few thousand protestors at a new airport site in Hidalgo; hobnobbing with transvestites in Orizaba Veracruz; straddling a tricycle (poor peoples’ transportation in southern Mexico) with the Union of Triciclistas in Merida Yucatan; promising a thousand ex-braceros who have been cheated out of moneys due them by both the U.S. and Mexican governments that he will march with them May 1st; and encouraging Mayan artisans barred from selling their wares at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza to take matters into their own hands.

Humor is a Zapatista weapon, and Marcos has armed the Other Campaign with a satiric edge. He is accompanied on the tour by his pet beetle Don Durito of the Lacandon (representing “the autonomous municipality of Charlie Parker”) and in Merida, the Sup actually removed his mask to the gasp of hundreds of admirers. Of course, he had his summer mask on underneath.

The steady grind of the Other Campaign is gaining “traction” in the eyes of Narconews founder Al Giodorno, who has been accompanying the adventure as it wends its way through Mexico. Narconews is just one of dozens of alternative media that file daily reports on the Other Campaign. The EZLN has extended preference to alternative rather than corporate media — only two national newspapers, La Jornada and Milenio, cover the Otra, and international attention has been short-lived (although Al Jazeera headlined the campaign’s first days.)

In mid-February, hundreds of alternative journalists and writers from all over Mexico convened in Tlaxcala to pledge allegiance to “the other journalism,” which focuses on reporting social change from the bottom up.

The traction that Giodorno senses the Other Campaign is gaining comes at the expense of the PAN, PRI, and PRD. As their presidential candidates fail to stimulate enthusiasm and the opulence of their campaigns elicits the dismay of the nation’s 70 million poor, the Other Campaign wins adherents.

On a continent that has elected the left to high office in important numbers and where the citizenry has been frequently disenchanted by government’s failure to improve daily lives, the Zapatistas campaign to build change from down below is bound to have an echo.

Invited to attend new Bolivian president Evo Morales’s all-star inauguration January 22, in La Paz, the EZLN responded “it is not our way to meet with the great leaders.” Addressing a few hundred indigenous farmers in rural Campeche state, Delegate Zero explained “we have come instead to listen to you because no one ever does.”

Bolivia’s new president heard the Zapatistas’ message loud and clear, pledging to mandar obedeciendo — to serve by obeying the will of the Bolivian people, the EZLN’s leadership ethos.

John Ross is sleepless in Seattle. These dispatches will continue at 10-day intervals until he returns to Mexico in mid-March. His latest opus, Making Another World Possible — Zapatista Chronicles 2000-2006, will be published this fall by Nationbooks (if he ever finishes it.)





San Francisco Bay Guardian, 1998-10-07, v33-n01 – 01alerts

Save Ward Valley!

Wednesday, Oct. 7, the Colorado River Native Nations Alliance and the Ward Valley Coalition sponsor a protest march to save Ward Valley, sacred Indian land, endangered species, and the Colorado River from a planned nuclear waste dump. Noon, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 75 Hawthorne, S.F. To volunteer, call Greenaction (415) 566-3475, BAN Waste (415) 752-8678, or the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe/Colorado River Native Nations Alliance (760) 629-4591.

‘Critical Video’

Thursday, Oct. 8, The Bay Area Video Activist Network sponsors “Critical Video,” an evening of videos about the rapid growth of the prison-industrial complex and how people are resisting. The feature presentation will be Lockdown USA, a production of Deep Dish Television. 8:30 p.m., Artists’ Television Access, 992 Valencia, S.F. $5 requested donation but no one turned away. (415) 824-3890.

School board
candidates forum

Thursday, Oct. 8, Parent Advocates for Youth sponsor a Board of Education forum to find out where candidates stand on issues like fiscal oversight, school safety, and privatization. All 13 candidates have been invited to participate. 7 p.m., California State Building, 505 Van Ness, S.F. (415) 641-4362.

Clinton exposed

Friday, Oct. 9, Compañeros del Barrio and Socialist Action present “10 Real Reasons to Oppose the Clinton Presidency.” 7:30 p.m., 3425 Cesar Chavez, S.F. $3 donation; $1.50 for students, unemployed people, and retirees. (415) 821-0458.

‘The Last Front’

Friday, Oct. 9–Sunday, Oct. 11, students, educators, and activists gather at S.F. State to learn about and organize against the privatization of public institutions, including the police, welfare, housing, government, public education, and prisons. The program begins on Friday with “tours of the privatizing campus” and continues all weekend with panels, workshops, and exhibits. San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway, S.F. To register, call (415) 826-2850, e-mail, or visit

Protest privatization

Friday, Oct. 9, in conjunction with “The Last Front” conference, a protest of the corporatization of public education is being held outside the Marriot, where Steve Forbes, Pete Wilson, and Milton Friedman will be among legislators and business executives meeting to discuss corporate America’s agenda. 5:30 p.m., Marriott Hotel, 55 Fourth St., S.F. (415) 826-2450.

Fundraiser for Prop. G

Saturday, Oct. 10, the Queer Tenants Union, in conjunction with Housing for All, hosts a benefit for Proposition G, featuring Karlin Lotney, a.k.a. Fairy Butch, Joan Jett-Blakk, Joel Tan, author of Queer Papi Porn, and Reginald Lamar, singer and performance artist. 7:30 p.m., Metropolitan Community Church, 150 Eureka, S.F. (415) 552-6031.

Bad Business

Saturday, Oct. 10, Economic Justice Now!, POCLAD, and the Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community host a conversation with Richard Grossman, codirector of the Program on Corporations, on “Reckoning with the Corporate Insurgency Against Democracy.” 7 p.m., Unitarian Universalist Center, 1187 Franklin, S.F. $812 sliding scale, no one turned away. (510) 601-5512. 

Mail Alerts to the Bay Guardian, 520 Hampshire, S.F., CA 94110; fax to (415) 255-8762; or e-mail Please include a contact telephone number. Items must be received at least one week prior to publication date. Call (415) 255-3100, ext. 552, for more information. For more events, see the Benefits listings in the Calendar section or visit the Bay Guardian Action Network on the Web at