War on Fun

Bay to Breakers will have video surveillance, license plate scans, and secret “FBI assets”


Police video surveillance was in the spotlight during yesterday’s City Hall hearing on security measures at large events, as supervisors voiced a desire to strike the right balance between security and civil liberties. And while they got some reassurance and small signs of restraint from the SFPD, they also learned about secretive new security measures that go beyond what the public was aware of.

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr clarified misleading media reports (a Chronicle story then picked up by Associated Press) that he’s seeking real time video surveillance along Market Street. Right now, Suhr said he just wants an inventory of existing video cameras along Market and downtown that he can request footage from after a crime is committed and that he would make his case to the board if he ever wanted to go beyond that.

“Right now, we only look at footage in retrospect,” Suhr told the Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee hearing, adding that he has no objections to seeking a court warrant to obtain that footage because “we do want it to be admissible.”

Yet Suhr and Deputy Chief James Loftus also revealed that SFPD will be deploying an undisclosed number of temporary real-time video surveillance cameras atop long poles at the Bay to Breakers footrace on May 19, as it did last fall during the World Series and the big parade down Market Street celebrating the Giants victory.

“We always want more video,” Suhr told the Guardian, although he said that he also understands the civil liberties sensitivities of San Franciscans, which is why he isn’t now seeking a permanent increase in SFPD’s real time video surveillance capabilities. “I’m from San Francisco, I get it.”

Other security tools that the SFPD will be employing at Bay to Breakers and other large events are technology that uses video cameras on police cars to capture license plate numbers and run them through a DMV database, what Loftus vaguely described as “specialized resources from surrounding jurisdictions” (watch out for the drones, y’all), and unspecified “FBI assets [that] will be present and assisting in event security.”

When Sup. Eric Mar, who called the hearing, asked about those last two items, Loftus said he wouldn’t discuss them publicly, but “I could talk to you about it offline if you’d like.”

Sup. David Campos said that he doesn’t want San Francisco to be reactionary after incidents like the Boston Marathon bombing and that we should be a model city for balancing security with civil liberties: “I think that’s a very difficult balance to strike, but it anyone can strike that balance, I think San Francisco can.” He also expressed concerns about plans to ban backpacks at Bay to Breakers: “I don’t know if that’s going to address the problem.”

Loftus said the ban only applied to large backpacks (larger than 8.5x11x14 inches) and that runners and spectators will still be allowed to use small backpacks to hold water and changes of clothing. Yet for those concerned about the creeping police state, including several people who spoke during the public comment period, there was little consolation offered in the presentations, and the supervisors said this would be an important ongoing discussion.

“This is a discussion that goes beyond San Francisco,” Campos said. “We as a country need to have this discussion.”

Hearing on event security as SFPD pushes police state


Just a few weeks ago, Sup. Scott Wiener, civil libertarians, and I were raising concerns here about the SFPD unilaterally expanding its video surveillance reach. Then came the bombings at the Boston Marathon, which the SFPD used to seriously up the ante in the police state pot, asking for real time video surveillance up and down Market Street and banning backpacks at Bay to Breakers.

Now, I’m not one to stand in the way of reasonable security precautions. But we shouldn’t just defer to the SFPD on whatever it says it wants because then we’ll have cameras on every corner, spy drones overhead, stop-and-frisk, and an ever-greater portion of our tax dollars going to expand the police state. Because the cops will always want more tools to police us, tools they will always say they need to protect us – it’s just in their nature. But it’s up to the rest of us to strike the right balance and not lose our heads every time some whack-job resorts to violence.

That’s why it’s good to see that Sup. Eric Mar has called a Neighborhood Service and Safety Committee hearing for this Thursday at 2pm on security measures for large events, to which he’s invited the SFPD, Planning Department, Recreation and Parks Department, and Entertainment Commission. Let’s talk about this before acting too rashly.

For example, is it really reasonable to ban backpacks at Bay to Breakers just because the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly carried their homemade bombs in backpacks? Is it possible for police to ensure that nobody in or around an event that draws more than 100,000 people has a backpack? Is it even legal to prevent me from riding my bike near a race that bisects San Francisco if I happen to be wearing a backpack?

I’m always amazed at Americans’ capacity for fear and overreaction. One nut decides to put a crude explosive in his shoe and suddenly we all have to remove our shoes every time we board an airplane (a silly measure most other countries don’t require). Even as horrible as the 9-11 attacks were, the 2,977 people they killed that day is a small fraction of the death toll that we inflicted in response (6,693 US troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at least hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis killed), and I don’t think anyone can credibly claim that we’re any safer today as a result.

Fearful people will accept anything police say will make them safer, and that’s how the slide into police states throughout history always begin, pushed by tyrants of all ideological stripes. But isn’t that just giving in to terrorism? After all, we’re all far more likely to be killed by a distracted motorist than we are a terrorist, but I’m not hearing calls for big crackdowns on drivers, even in the face of good evidence this would keep us safer than banning backpacks.

Our country was founded by people who were more wary of soldiers and cops than they were random kooks, and I think we’d do well to remember what people like Benjamin Franklin had to say about irrational fears: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Sneaky surveillance



After public outrage stopped the San Francisco Police Department from instituting controversial — and unconstitutional, say civil libertarians — new video surveillance requirements in bars and clubs more than two years ago, the department quietly began inserting that same requirement into new liquor licenses, a move met with concern at City Hall last week.

In late 2010, the SFPD proposed a draconian set of new security requirements for drinking establishments in the city, including requirements that they do video surveillance and take an image of all patrons’ identification cards and make them available to police upon request, without a warrant or any other controls (see “Going to a club — or boarding an airplane?,” 12/7/10).

That proposal ran into a wall of opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union, California Music and Culture Association, progressives on the Board of Supervisors, and others, who said such a blanket policy violates privacy protections in the California Constitution. The Entertainment Commission held a hearing on the proposal in April of 2011 and voted unanimously to reject the proposals.

At that point, they seemed to just disappear, but they didn’t. Instead, SFPD internally decided at that time to begin asking the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to insert a video surveillance requirement in most new liquor licenses in San Francisco, which escaped public notice until Sup. Scott Wiener raised the issue at the April 2 Board of Supervisors meeting.

“If you have an establishment that perhaps has a track record of bad things happening, that’s one thing. But absent that, I don’t believe that this is justified,” Wiener said as he voted against the requirement in a pair of new liquor licenses. Although Wiener was alone in opposing those applications, Sup. David Campos said he shared Wiener’s concern and the pair called an upcoming hearing on the new policy.

Two days later, at the board’s Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee meeting, Wiener again raised the issue and sought to have the new requirement removed from a pair of proposed liquor licenses: Cesar’s Ballroom on 26th and 3rd streets, the latest project of veteran local club owner Cesar Ascarrunz, and Nosa Ria, a market in Hayes Valley that will import gourmet food and wine from Spain.

“It’s the exact opposite of some kind of rowdy bar or nightclub where people are going in and getting drunk and really bad things are happening,” Wiener said of Nosa Ria, for which he persuaded fellow Sups. Eric Mar and Norman Yee to vote to remove the video surveillance condition before approving the application.

That condition stated: “The petitioner shall utilize electronic surveillance and recording equipment that is able to view the outside of the premises, including all entrances and exits, and that is actively monitored and recorded. The electronic surveillance shall be utilized during operating hours. Said electronic recording shall be kept at least 30 days and shall be made available to the Department or Police Department upon demand.”

Mar said he agreed with Wiener that “a broad discussion of electronic surveillance requirements would be important for this committee,” but Mar then voted against removing that condition from the Cesar’s Ballroom application, saying, “I think we need surveillance in certain spots on a case-by-case basis, and I think this is an area that needs surveillance.”


When SFPD first sought new video surveillance tools — back in 2005, when the department asked for 71 video cameras at high-crime intersections around the city — it was rigorously debated in public hearings for months. And when they were finally approved by the Board of Supervisors, they included an extensive set of controls on when SFPD could request footage — the department wasn’t even allowed to control the cameras directly — how it could be used and when it must be erased.

The legislation also required a follow-up study of their effectiveness in deterring and prosecuting crimes. Conducted by the University of California’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) in 2008, the report found the cameras had no impact on violent crime rates but a small deterrent impact on property crimes in the filmed areas.

As a tool for prosecuting crimes after the fact, “There has been limited success with the cameras acting as a ‘silent witness,’ with footage standing in for witness testimony; some anecdotal evidence suggests that the existence of CSC program footage can actually deter witnesses from cooperating under the assumption that the cameras have caught all necessary evidence,” the report said, also noting that twice in the 120 police requests made by 2008, footage resulted in charges being dropped or downgraded.

But today, SFPD apparently believes that times have changed, and that the rigorous oversight and evaluation of video surveillance tactics and their implications on people’s privacy rights — or even the need to notify the public that SFPD is seeking new ways to watch citizens — are no longer necessary.

“Over the last few years, we’ve increased the number of recommendations for video surveillance, for a few reasons,” SFPD spokesperson Gordon Shyy told the Guardian, citing how cheap and ubiquitous the technology has become and the role that video footage can play in solving crimes.

Yet attorney Michael Rischer with the ACLU of Northern California, who actively opposed the SFPD’s proposal in 2011 and was dismayed to hear the department secretly and unilaterally expanded its video surveillance reach after its proposal was rejected, said that reasoning is exactly why there are legal controls on the expanding police state.

“Both of those justifications are exceedingly troubling and they demonstrate why the San Francisco Police Department should not be doing this in some room sealed off from the public,” Rischer said. “The police have this totally backward. The ease and cost of doing this is a reason why these protections are in place.”


Unlike under federal law, Californians have an explicit constitutional privacy guarantee and a body of case law defining that right in great detail. But the SFPD doesn’t seem to be aware of the nuances of that case law, such as the distinction it makes between people’s expectation of privacy on public streets versus in private businesses.

“When you enter a bar or restaurant, you don’t have an expectation of privacy,” Shyy told us.

But Rischer said that just isn’t true under the law. He noted that people do indeed have a reasonable expectation that they can enter a gay bar without being outed, for example, or that police won’t be able to demand video from a gathering in a bar where subversive political ideas are being discussed. And those concerns are exacerbated by SFPD’s policy that bar owners must simply turn over footage “upon demand.”

“The notion that the government is requiring a business to conduct surveillance of its patrons and to turn it over to the Police Department without any judicial oversight or even rules is deeply troubling and probably unconstitutional,” Rischer said.

Shyy said SFPD will “only request them when a crime has been committed,” but he also admitted that the conditions it is requesting on liquor licenses don’t set that limit and the policy hasn’t been reviewed by the Police Commission or other local oversight bodies.

ABC spokesperson John Carr told us his department doesn’t have a position on video surveillance and hasn’t tracked whether other jurisdictions are seeking the condition. As for whether it routinely includes SFPD’s recommended conditions, he said, “ABC reviews each application on a case by case basis.”

There are indications that SFPD sometimes resorts to bullying bar owners into turning over video surveillance without legal authority to do so. Jamie Zawinski with DNA Lounge last month blogged about Officer Simon Chan telling the club that it was required to keep video footage and turn it over upon request, which club operators informed the SFPD wasn’t true. “It’s just another sneaky, backdoor regulation that ABC and SFPD have been foisting on everyone without any kind of judicial oversight, in flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment,” Zawinski wrote.

Regarding that incident, Shyy would only confirm that most bars aren’t yet required to keep and turn over video footage. And he said SFPD will cooperate with the hearing Campos and Wiener have called. “At this point, we don’t believe we’re violating people’s constitutional rights, but we’re willing to have that discussion,” Shyy said.

Wiener said that on April 3, he discussed the issue with Police Chief Greg Suhr, who indicated a willingness to cooperate with public hearings on the policy. But Wiener said he’s bothered by the fact that SFPD seems to have put this new policy in place right after being unsuccessful in doing this through a public process in 2011.

“I and others expressed opposition to this and I and others thought the Police Department had backed away from it,” Wiener said at the April 4 hearing, noting that “I’m not philosophically opposed to surveillance,” only with how SFPD instituted it. “I have an issue with the Police Department deciding to insert this on its own without a broader policy discussion.”

Wiener’s dance mix: more DJs mixed with fines for “bad actors”


DJs could proliferate in San Francisco’s bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and plazas under legislation that Sup. Scott Wiener introduced today to include DJs under the city’s limited live music permits, but the legislation also includes new enforcement powers to crackdown on underground parties and other unpermitted events.

Limited live music permits – which are far cheaper and easier to obtain than the city’s full-blown Place of Entertainment permits ($385 compared to around $2,000 for the POE permits) – were created in 2011 by legislation sponsored by then-Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, allowing amplified performances until a 10pm curfew. But DJs were left out, despite their prevalence in San Francisco, something Wiener is now trying to correct.

“Entertainment and nightlife are an essential part of San Francisco’s cultural and economic vibrancy,” Wiener said today in a press release announcing the proposal. “This legislation fosters live entertainment while also heightening our ability to monitor and regulate bad actors.”

It’s that last part that doesn’t sit well with everyone, particularly given San Francisco’s pervasive culture of throwing underground parties, which are key fundraising tools for grassroots efforts such as Burning Man camps but which are the targets of periodic crackdowns by the SFPD and other agencies. It seems that when it comes to nightlife, we always have to take some medicine whenever City Hall offers a spoonful of sugar.

The legislation would give the Entertainment Commission the authority to levy $100 fines to those involved with unpermitted parties, either in established clubs or underground warehouses, whereas now the commission only has the authority to punish those who have permits for violating them.

“Punishing a DJ playing at a party in which the promoter didn’t get the proper permits (perhaps unbeknownst to the DJ), would be unfair and inappropriate, in my opinion,” was how DJ/Promoter Syd Gris from Opel Productions and Opulent Temple reacted to the legislation.

But Entertainment Commission Executive Director Jocelyn Kane told us she doesn’t expect to fine an DJs. While she asked Wiener for those enforcement powers, they are simply a way of encouraging promoters and business owners to get permits. “We’re not into punishment, we’re into compliance,” she said, adding that this is simply seeking authority to do administratively what the SFPD and California Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration can now to criminally and civilly.

Tom Temprano, president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and a DJ/promoter at the popular Hard French parties, told us “where I really want clarification is on the new enforcement powers for the commission,” although he agreed with Kane that the commission generally works cooperatively with the nightlife community, far more than either the SFPD or ABC.

“All in all, it’s a really good step in the right direction,” Temprano said of the Wiener legislation. “It seems really positive. As a DJ, allowing DJs to be used for limited live performances is just common sense.”

Kane said the legislation will allow music to flourish in the city, from outdoor plazas to small venues, many of which have used DJs illegally. “We’ll be able to legalize that and bring them into the fold,” she said. “There always have been places that use a DJ like a jukebox.”

In addition to the relatively cheap application cost compared to POE permits, limited live music perhaps are quick and easy to obtain and don’t necessarily require city inspections paid for by the applicant.

In his press release, Wiener praised the importance of nightlife to the city economy and cited a city study he commissioned last year which found that nightlife has a $4.2 billion impact on San Francisco, employing 48,000 people and furnishing the City with $55 million in tax revenue annually.

“We need to encourage a flourishing nightlife that not only marks San Francisco as a cultural capital, but also creates jobs and brings in revenue for essential City services,” Wiener said. “These amendments are part of that broader strategy.”

Western SoMa Plan changed to lessen development impacts to nightlife and Muni


The Western SoMa Community Plan had its first hearing before the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee today, with dozens of speakers praising the eight-year citizen-based planning effort that developed it but with much of the testimony criticizing the plan’s emphasis on facilitating housing development to the exclusion of other goals.

As we’ve reported, the nightlife community has in recent months been pushing for changes to the plan that would better protect nightclubs from complaints and pressure from nearby residents, particularly along 11th Street. Area Sup. Jane Kim has supported that effort and those concerns were echoed by Sup. Scott Wiener, the committee chair and a strong nightlife advocate.

“I have had significant concerns about this plan…and I’m hoping we can address them over the course of this hearing,” Wiener said.

Wiener also opened another front of attack on the plan by noting that it doesn’t adequately pay for the impact that thousands of new housing units would have on Muni and other aspects of the transportation system. In particular, he criticized a policy in the plan that would let 13 large properties get increased density in exchange for higher affordable housing fees that would be offset by lower transit and other impact fees paid to the city.

“What are we doing to make sure our transportation system keeps pace?” Wiener asked of Planning Department staff, later asking again, “Where would we get the money to improve transit for these increased residents?” Wiener didn’t get back any answers that seemed to satisfy him, so he asked for a more detailed report when the plan returns next week for a second hearing. That concern was echoed by the third committee member, Board President David Chiu, who said, “Building housing without money for transit will lead to long-term problems.”

The concern seemed to revive a losing fight that Wiener led in December over expanding who pays the city’s Transit Impact Development Fee, which pitted transportation advocates against affordable housing activists. Fernando Marti of the Council of Community Housing Organizing rued the revival of that conflict. “We’ve been here before, pitting [transportation against affordable housing needs] as if it were a zero sum game,” Marti told the committee, noting the importance of policies to balance out market rate housing and calling it a “plan for stability in a neighborhood facing large-scale gentrification.”

Marti’s COCHO colleague Peter Cohen, who was closely involved with the plan’s creation, also urged the committee not to tweak the housing policies or the revenues it creates for affordable housing. “This is a major upzoning,” Cohen said. “In 20 years, perhaps all the market rate stock [of housing in the plan area] will be gentrified.”

But the issue raised most often during more than two hours of public testimony involved nightlife and the need to strike a better balance between housing development and entertainment, much of the input stirred up by the California Music and Culture Association, a industry-backed trade group that formed largely in response to crackdowns on clubs in SoMa.

“It’s often said San Francisco can plan more for fun, and this is a great opportunity to do that,” said Guy Carson, a CMAC founder who owns Cafe du Nord. Longtime nightlife advocate Terrence Alan took part in the Western SoMa Task Force for four years before resigning in frustration, and he told the committee, “We are bringing up issues we felt marginalized in bringing up earlier.”

But several people involved with the task force, as well as speakers representing development interests, urged supervisors to pass the place without significant modifications. “There are dozens or hundreds of compromises in this plan,” Cohen said, urging supervisors not to upset that careful balance.

Task Force Chair Jim Meko – whose leadership was widely praised in the testimony – detailed the extensive outreach and detailed work that went into the plan, and offered a simple plea to the committee: “Please pass this plan so we can get on with our lives.”

The committee unanimously voted to support the change made to the plan by the Planning Commission to ban new residential development on the raucous 300-block of 11th Street, but to reverse the commission’s decision to grandfather in one final 24-home residential project on that block, in the so-called “purple building” at 340 11th Street. A number of other small changes to the plan were also unanimously approved.

But Kim objected to Wiener’s motion to eliminate the plan provision that would reduce the transit and open space fees and raise the affordable housing fees that developers of those 13 large parcels would pay. “I don’t think it’s good policy to reduce transit impact fees when we’re increasing population,” Wiener said.

“This has gone through an extensive community process,” Kim countered, adding that, “I hate that we’re always having this discussion about transit versus affordable housing.”

But Chiu sided with Wiener and the amendment was approved on a 2-1 vote with Kim in dissent. Yet Chiu held open the possibility of changing his mind next week when the plan returns to committee for a final vote – the delay prompted by the other revisions in the plan – when Planning staff will provide more information on the fee structure and its impacts.

If the committee gives final approval to the plan next Monday, it could be before the full board for approval the next day.

Supervisors consider Western SoMa Plan, lots of new condos, and “the purple building”


The fate of the “purple building” – which has become caught up in the clash between nightlife and residential interests on the clubgoer-saturated 300-block of 11th Street – remains undecided as the Western SoMa Community Plan heads into its first hearing before the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee on Monday.

As we reported in this week’s paper, a unique citizen-based task force has spent the last eight years developing the plan, which will allow thousands of units of new housing – most of it along Folsom Street – to move forward once the plan gets final approval from the board. But the California Music & Culture Association and other nightlife advocates successfully amended the plan to ban new housing on that 11th Street block as the Planning Commission approved it in December.

Yet the commission also decided to grandfather in a 24-home project at 340 11th Street, the so-called purple building, which nightlife advocates say would put those new residents on a collision course with Slim’s, DNA Lounge, and other big nightclubs on that busy block. As we went to press, both sides and District 6 Sup. Jane Kim were all hopeful that a compromise was imminent, likely involving switching from residential to office.

But with just days to go before that hearing, building owner Tony Lo still hasn’t decided whether to make the change or fight it out in front of the supervisors. His architect John Goldman – whose residential design for the site was placed on hold by the city since shortly after he submitted it in 2005 – had hoped to hear by now but he’s still waiting for Lo to make the call.

“Based on my analysis, it looks feasible to change to offices if you want to do it, and I mean feasible financially and architecturally and planning-wise,” Goldman today told the Guardian, referring to what he told Lo.

Meanwhile, Western SoMa Task Force Chair Jim Meko – who has not been supportive of tweaking the plan after all the work he oversaw – yesterday sent out an email blast to stakeholders and supporters urging them to attend Monday’s hearing and show support for the plan.

“You don’t often get a chance to participate in making decisions about your own neighborhood from start to finish. Some special interest groups are expected to come out of the woodwork to take pot shots at the Plan so the hundreds of participants in this process need to make their voices heard. Your testimony at the hearing next week will make all the difference,” Meko wrote.

The hearing starts at 10am in board chambers in City Hall. This item might have been heard later in the day considering the agenda opens with a continuation of the controversial condo lottery bypass legislation, on which Board President David Chiu and others have been trying to forge a compromise between tenant advocates and homeowner groups. But committee Chair Scott Wiener just told us that item “will be continued. No compromise yet.”

Clubs vs. condos



The Western South of Market area is ground zero for the city’s War on Fun, a place where nightlife often comes into conflict with residential expectations, particularly on the raucous 300 block of 11th Street and, to a lesser degree, Folsom Street’s old “miracle mile” of predominantly gay bars.

As the city’s Planning Department and its development community looks to accommodate another 4,000 homes for 10,000 new residents on less than 300 acres of Western SoMa — most of it along Folsom Street between 7th and 13th streets — that potential for conflict could grow in the coming years as funky old buildings give way to shiny new stacks of expensive condos.

And efforts to sort it out may hinge on the future of a 105-year old purple building.

After nearly eight years of work by a unique citizen-led task force, the Western SoMa Community Plan is now before the Board of Supervisors, with the Land Use Committee set to hold its first hearing on Feb. 25. Despite dozens of task force meetings seeking to strike the right balance between residential and entertainment interests, the plan is still being tweaked.

When the Planning Commission approved the plan and some related projects on Dec. 6, it followed King Solomon’s approach of cutting the 11th Street baby in half. The commission heeded the recent recommendation of the nightlife community and District 6 Sup. Jane Kim to modify the plan to prohibit new residential development on the 11th Street block where tipsy visitors to Slim’s, DNA Lounge, and other big clubs clog the sidewalks every weekend. But it also voted to grandfather in a 24-unit residential project at 340 11th Street, which everyone now involved in closed-door negotiations simply calls “the purple building,” a two-story masonry structure built in 1907 that is awaiting demolition.

The building houses light industrial businesses and is the former home of Universal Electric, whose owner, Tony Lo, wants to develop the property. Along with architect John Goldman, Lo submitted a residential project application in 2005, only to have it placed on hold pending adoption of the Western SoMa Community Plan.

“It was well along when the Planning Department put the project on hold,” Goldman told us.

City officials and even many of the nightlife advocates say they sympathize with the long wait that Lo and Goldman have endured, even if many oppose housing on the site and have been urging Lo to find another use for the site, such as an office building.

“They would have no idea what they’re getting into until that first Saturday night,” nightlife advocate Terrance Alan said of the would-be residents of the building, envisioning a young couple who had only visited during daytime hours trying push a baby stroller past the throngs of club-goers. Alan took part in recent meetings Kim facilitated with Lo and Goldman, and Alan told us, “There was, for the first time, a very frank discussion about the problems that owners would experience and the pressure they would put on clubs in the area.”

For example, just one neighbor of Slim’s — a popular live music venue on the block owned by singer Boz Scaggs — has waged a relentless campaign that has forced temporary shutdowns and cost the club more than $750,000 in mediation costs, Alan said, despite the club’s sound buffering and general compliance with local codes.

Alan said that it’s simply unthinkable to add more than two dozen new homeowners to that busy block in a condominium building that only allows access on 11th Street. Alan is hopeful for a negotiated compromise with Lo, something that Kim told us she also thinks is likely.

“I’m hoping we can come to a consensus of the property owners and business owners on 11th street, including the purple building,” Kim said, echoing Alan’s point that, “Just one resident can really shut down a business and hurt its financing.”

Goldman said he understands the concern and “my client is considering alternatives to housing.” While he was a little frustrated that it wasn’t until November that they first heard about a proposal to ban residential projects on the block, “We’ve definitely heard the concerns of the nightlife entertainment folks…No decision has been made yet, but it’s the goal of my client to decide fairly soon.”

A ban on housing is just one of the changes that Alan and other members of the California Music And Culture Association (CMAC) are pushing the supervisors to make to the plan, provisions he was unable to get into the plan as a member of the Western SoMa Task Force for four years before resigning in frustration.

“The task force was made up of people primarily interested in residential development,” Alan told us. “The plan is pretty much about protecting residential.”

That perspective irritates task force chair Jim Meko, who said he held about 60 meetings on entertainment and nightlife issues and bent over backward to accommodate that community. “Overall, the Western SoMa Plan is very friendly to the entertainment industry,” Meko said, noting that the plan grandfathers in all existing nightclubs, even after a building is demolished, and requires new residential construction to buffer against street noise. “They’re never satisfied.”

But Meko does concede that accommodating existing residents and new residential development was central to the task force’s work, as it was charged with doing by the Planning Department. “The most important thing was to do no harm to anyone,” Meko said was the guiding philosophy behind the task force’s approach. “We’re the real test case for a mixed use community in the city.”

While Folsom Street has more bars that 11th street, and those bars will be protected under the plan, Meko said the idea was to keep them limited in scale and prevent the proliferation of large clubs that operate into the wee hours.

“Folsom Street is where the residential growth will go,” Meko said. “That’s the area where we want to add the most residential growth and it seems dumb to add more nightclubs there.”

But he also doesn’t think it makes economic sense for many clubs to open there anyway. With allowable height limits in that corridor being increased from 50 feet now up to 65 feet, and with the plan’s approval allowing development projects to move forward, many of what he called the “old junky buildings” where clubs could find cheap rent will likely be demolished.

“With the height increases, those buildings are going to be history in five years,” Meko said.

Kim said she is supportive of both nightlife and the plan’s facilitation of residential development.

“It’s transit-first and a good place to be able to handle the density that’s close to downtown,” Kim said, noting that she’s supportive of even the massive residential project proposed for 801 Brannan Street, mostly because it includes units with up to two and three bedrooms and an elegant design by architect David Baker.

That project would have 432 housing units with a total of 606 bedrooms, 22,124 square feet of retail, and a 422-car parking garage on a site of just over four acres. In many ways, it is typical of the housing density that will begin to crowd into Western SoMa.

Meko was critical of how the entertainment community was able to make changes to the plan after all the hard work of the task force, and he told us, “It was a choice Jane Kim had to make, and she will have to answer to her constituents in the future.”

But Kim said the change on 11th Street made sense and that it’s important to strike a balance. “Entertainment is clearly an important part of Western SoMa and 11th Street is unique in showcasing that community,” Kim said.

Alan and Glendon Hyde — an LGBT activist who, like Meko, ran against Kim for D6 supervisor two years ago — are also pushing for other changes in the rules governing nightlife in SoMa, including who can get the limited live music permits that the city issues and extending the 10pm curfew in those permits.

“I think small businesses throughout the district should be able to use the limited live music permits, and they’re available only on Folsom Street under the plan,” Hyde told us, noting that otherwise he thinks nightlife fares well until the plan, particularly after Kim’s intervention on 11th Street.

Kim said that she in reluctant to start tweaking too many provisions of the plan, which she characterized as a separate discussion that doesn’t have to happen now: “I’m open to further discussions after we get the plan passed.”

The Western SoMa Plan was broken off from the larger Eastern Neighborhoods Plan by then-Sup. Chris Daly in 2005 to let a citizen-based effort tackle this area’s unique challenges, and Kim said the plan is a testament to the diligent efforts of Meko and a diverse set of members.

“I think it was a really good process with lots of stakeholders involved,” Kim said. “I like the balance. I’m happy.”


Is the War on Fun over, or do we still need to fight for our right to party?


On Monday, the Entertainment Commission brings together a slew of City folk and party people at its fourth annual Nightlife Industry Summit. The three-hour affair includes speeches from Police Chief Greg Suhr, Sup. Scott Weiner, and perhaps Mayor Ed Lee, as well as a panel of speakers, and break-out sessions where club owners, security officers, and outdoor event planners can respectively brainstorm, said commission director Jocelyn Kane.

Past summits have resulted in legislation and policy changes, Kane said, pointing to loitering laws and Sup. David Chiu’s parking lot security legislation last year. This year, Kane thinks there aren’t any pressing problems to address or big controversies that have roiled the commission in past years.

“There’s very little violence and our security staff is much more professionalized than they’ve ever been,” she said. “For me, it’s a year when we can raise the bar in terms of programming inside venues and diversifying the patron experience.”

Club owners and event producers will have some free time to swap tips when the structured portion of the day ends. Kane thinks all neighborhoods should attempt to mimic the Mission, where the wide variety of venues allows a partyer to buy a “big fat martini at Blondies, roll down and eat a burritto, and catch some music at the Elbo Room” as opposed to those who spend the evening on Broadway, where “everyone’s offering the same thing.”

Though Kane couldn’t identify any negative issues on the Summit’s agenda, Opel event producer Syd Gris has plenty of grievances he plans to address on Monday. Gris, who will be speaking on the panel for the first time, said what the Guardian coined as the “War on Fun” in 2006 wages on in 2012.

Gris plans to bring up June’s Opulent Temple Massive on Treasure Island, which was designed to be for visitor aged 18 and over, but the San Francisco Police Department captain that oversaw the event insisted it only allow in those of drinking age, “despite ample precedence of events in the city being 18 and over.”

“For them to deny us the ability to do something that happens all the time in the city just because one captain didn’t like it was unfair and had a huge economic impact,” Gris said. “It’s a great example of what’s wrong with how certain things work in the city. Arbitrary decisions that are inconsistent, unfair, and have a deleterious impact on an event producer can be made by small groups of people.”

His was not a stand alone experience, but part of a broader, Gris said. The mellow Fillmore Jazz Festival had to have beer gardens for the first time this year, Power to the Peaceful was cancelled last September, as was LovEvolution this year after the SFPD places onerous restrictions on it.

“I am certainly glad that the conversation is happening with people that need to be hearing about it,” Gris said of the Summit. “Will a real change come out of it? I’m not optimistic but I certainly hope so.”

The event — held in the Main Library’s Koret Auditorium — is free and open to the public, so come fight for your right to party 1-4pm. 

Our Weekly Picks: June 20-26



SF Symphony Presents: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

This’ll be dark and delicious. Young British filmmaker Nick Hillel’s innovative, sculptural projections have appeared in videos for the Beastie Boys, Baaba Maal, Cirque du Soleil, and Matthew Herbert. He’s set to direct and design the SF Symphony’s semi-staged performance of composer Bela Bartok’s wickedly gorgeous 1911 mini-opera setting of the Bluebeard legend: a young bride wanders through her older husband’s nightmarish castle, discovering seven rooms that include a torture chamber, a gleaming treasure, a lake of tears, and, finally, her own horrible fate. Somehow this is not a downer! Probably because the music’s so entrancing — here voiced by mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung and bass-baritone Alan Held — and the tale so engrossing. Plus you get awesome pianist Jeremy Denk performing Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto #1 and a clubby afterparty on Fri/22 with John Vanderslice and Magik*Magik Orchestra. No lake of tears here. (Marke B.)

Thu/21-Sat/23, 8pm, $35–$145

Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness, SF




“David Shrigley: Brain Activity”

Glasgow-based artist David Shrigley’s signature cartoons are hilariously deadpan: crude drawings and doodles; short stories filled with crossed-out corrections; a “Lost Pet” poster, taped to a tree, seeing a certain pigeon (“Normal size. A bit mangy looking.”) He’s also an animator, spoken-word performer, photographer, music-video director, occasional DJ, and taxidermist — witness the “I’m Dead” image, featuring a stiffly obedient Jack Russell, being used to promote “Brain Activity” at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (“Is this the sickest art show ever?” tut-tutted the Daily Mail). This is the only stateside stop for “Brain Activity,” so don’t miss the chance to witness, and chuckle at, the work of this offbeat art star. (Cheryl Eddy)

Through Sept. 23

Opening tonight with performance by Blasted Canyons, 8-10pm, $12–$15

Artist lecture Sat/23, 2pm, free with gallery admission ($8–$10)

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF



“Mission in the Mix”

Talk to anybody who has ever sat through an evening of hip-hop, you are likely to hear: “It was so much fun.” Talk to somebody dancing in a hip-hop group, same thing: “so much fun.” In some ways the yearly “Mission in the Mix” is a kind of preview of the big hip-hop fiesta in November, to which dancers fly in from who knows where. But, Micaya, the soul force behind that event, has always stressed her love for the local dancers who might not necessarily be ready yet for the big tent. So this is her chance to make them shine in a more intimate but no less rollicking environment. (Rita Felciano)

Through June 30; Fri-Sat, 8pm, Sun, 7pm, $17

Dance Mission Theater

3316 24th St. SF

(415) 826-4441



Royal Headache

Musical debates can give you a…total migraine. With the US release of the self-titled album from Australia’s Royal Headache earlier this year, finding out about the band now is like coming into an argument halfway. Having built up a reputation through its live performances, the band — whose members are named Law, Joe, Shorty, and Shogun — is at the center of Sydney’s burgeoning garage rock scene, combining additional powerpop and R&B. The key element, though, is the naturally soulful voice of singer Shogun, alternately hailed as either a rock’n’roll messiah or the unwelcome return of Rod Stewart. (Ryan Prendiville)

With Yi, Synthetic ID

7pm, $8

1-2-3-4 GO! Records

423 40th St., Oakl.



Death to All

Seven members of the pioneering death metal band Death are uniting to embark on a seven-stop tour beginning in San Francisco. The band’s first album Scream Bloody Gore, released 25 years ago, is widely considered to be the first true death metal album. This tour comes 11 years after the death of founding member Chuck Schuldiner due to brain cancer, and is intended to celebrate his life as well as to raise awareness and money for Sweet Relief, a nonprofit organization that helps foot medical bills for musicians. Never before has shredding, head-banging brutality been so morally sound. (Haley Zaremba)

With Gorguts

9pm, $32

Regency Ballroom

1300 Van Ness, SF

(415) 673-5716



Horse Meat Disco

Honey Soundsystem has good reason to be proud. Its parties — focused more on quality music than marketing to a stereotype — have been an energizing force for and beyond the SF gay community. Now Honey is starting off a packed Pride weekend by bringing out London’s Horse Meat Disco. Boldly called “without a doubt the most important disco club night in the world” the collective shares Honey’s expansive take on the genre, releasing borderless mixes as likely to feature edits of Talking Heads and Mungolian Jetset as Sylvester. The night also features the return of DIY synth wiz Gavin Russom, not in a DJ set, but with his live ensemble, the Crystal Ark.(Prendiville)

With Poolside (live), Honey Soundsystem DJs

9pm Doors, $17 Advance


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880



Bicycle Music Festival

Though LovEvolution may have be out-Darwined by the War on Fun, we (gosh darn) still have Bicycle Music Festival providing ambulatory audio in our city streets. The fest, split between two free outdoor locations, is completely pedal-powered — attendees morph into volunteers when they grab saddles and lend their quad muscles to the generator cause. This year, festival co-founder Shake Your Peace! makes its triumphal return, attendance may hit 1,000, and Birds & Batteries, Rupa and the April Fishes, and Major Powers and the Lo-Fi Symphony will be among those taking the stage. Catch the thrilling cross-city processional at 5pm to see members of Jazz Mafia roll through intersections without missing a beat. (Caitlin Donohue)

Noon-11pm, free

Noon-5pm: Log Cabin Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF

6-11pm: Showplace Triangle, Irwin and 8th St., SF



Mark Gardener

A mainstay of Britain’s legendary early-’90s shoegaze scene, Ride embraced the Beatles-on-drugs songbook, turned its guitars up to 11, and filtered the result through a viscous, Phil Spectorian cloud of pink noise. Now, 15 years after Ride’s disbandment, the band’s vocalist and guitarist Mark Gardener is coming stateside to honor the 20th anniversary of its sophomore effort, Going Blank Again: an album equally indebted to the Stone Roses’ jangly pop, and Kevin Shields’ shapeshifting production dynamics. Those of you jonesing for another My Bloody Valentine reunion appearance, take note: this is the show of the weekend to seize upon. (Taylor Kaplan)

With Sky Parade, Silent Pictures, DJ Dennis the Menace

9:30pm, $15

Cafe du Nord

2170 Market, SF

(415) 861-5016




Friends will be friends. But only the best of them will house your ass after a bedbug infestation — or so the story of Bushwick, Brooklyn’s dynamo five-piece, Friends, goes. Frontperson Samantha Urbani opened her home to future bandmates Lesley Hann (bassist) and Oliver Duncan (drummer) after the two were hit with a bout of the six-legged bloodsuckers, and jamming ensued. Tapping Matthew Molnar and Nikki Shapiro to round out the lineup, Urbani and friends instantly honed in on a funky, tropical, soul-tinged, and totally danceable kind of pop music. Friends — formerly known as Perpetual Crush — hit the ground flying in 2011, releasing much buzzed about singles “Friend Crush” and “I’m His Girl.” Debut full-length album Manifest! is out now — just in time to have a summah. (Julia B. Chan)

With Splash!, Young Digerati

9pm, $12

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th, SF

(415) 621-4455



“Jurassic Live: Dino Action Show”

The T.rex is coming! The velociraptors are here! All the way from Austin, Tex., Old Murder House Theatre — producers of Aliens on Ice … I highly recommend YouTubing it — brings its latest blockbuster homage to the Children’s Fairyland Theatre. This venue usually excludes grown-ups without kids in tow, but this interpretation of 1993’s Jurassic Park is “intended for mature audiences,” which I hope means plenty of stage blood during the “clever girl” scene. Also in store: cardboard-and-duct-tape reptiles, DIY contraband-toting devices disguised as shaving-cream cans, a bewigged dude playing Laura Dern, and more. Eat your heart out, Spielberg! (Eddy)

8:30pm, $20

Children’s Fairyland Theatre

699 Bellevue, Oakl.



The Hundred in the Hands

This glammed-out electro duo from Brooklyn produces dreamy pop songs with a shimmery disco tinge. Vocalist Eleanore Everdell is classically trained, her background in opera leading not to overpowering vibrato but instead to lush vocal stylings that add a warm depth to their dance-friendly tracks. Keyboardist and programmer Jason Friedman brings his art school education to the band’s online publication THITH ZINE, which highlights their favorite music, art, and design. The zine’s DIY foundation compliments the raw feel of the duo’s catchy homemade beats. Named after the Lakota Nation term for a battle resulting in the slaying of 100 members of the opposing army, the Hundred in the Hands promise to deliver a powerful, take-no-prisoners performance. (Zaremba)

With Silver Swans, Teenage Sweater

8pm, $12

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011




Often associated with the “hypnagogic pop” movement that’s put the blogosphere into overdrive (think chillwave, but artier/weirder/more “washed out”) SF’s own KWJAZ has taken the cassette-fetishist subculture by storm. Churning out a gloriously hazy brand of jam-based pop, mastermind Peter Berends specializes in a more drawn-out approach than most of his peers; KWJAZ’s self-titled debut, released this year on the hipper-than-thou Not Not Fun Records, consists solely of two extended tracks, jazzily oozing from one murky, spliffed-out groove to the next. Pink Floyd for Hype Williams fans? Ariel Pink for the Soft Machine crowd? Bear witness, and decide for yourself. (Kaplan)

With Aloonaluna, Aja

9pm, $5


1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923


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Mayor Lee praises the importance of nightlife to SF


Addressing a gathering of nightlife advocates at a California Music and Culture Association event last night, Mayor Ed Lee praised the economic and cultural role that the entertainment industry plays in San Francisco, announced plans to add a “nightlife unit” in the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and even hinted that Halloween in the Castro might be returning after being shut down during the city’s so-called “war on fun.”

“If I’m going to be about jobs,” he said, referring to his near-constant emphasis on economic development, “it should be both for the day and for the night…I do recognize this as a business, as a serious contributor to the economic engine of city.”

Lee referenced the new Controller’s Office report that was requested by Sup. Scott Wiener, which concludes that the nightlife industry generates about $4.2 billion in annual economic activity in the city (that report will be the subject of a rally and hearing on Monday at City Hall starting on the steps at noon). And he said that the benefits of a vibrant nightlife scene also help make San Francisco an appealing city for other businesses, an indirect economic benefit.

“You’re all part of a great part of the city that keeps everyone refreshed,” Lee said, later adding, “I think we can do more at night. The young people who work gobs of hours need to have an entertaining evening.”

As he announced plans to add a nightlife unit to OEWD, the office that works with private companies looking to locate or expand here, he said, “We, as government, need to fast-track things that are successful.” Yet he also said that public safety is still a challenge and called for the industry to work closely with police to keep everyone safe.

Yet Lee spoke positively about Halloween in the Castro, a once-popular event that was canceled because Mayor Gavin Newsom and then-Sup. Bevan Dufty (who Lee recently hired as his new homeless czar) feared the city couldn’t control it, and Lee alluded to plans being developed to revive it in some form. “I hate to see any event that brought so many people to the city gone,” he said.

The event was held at The Grand, a club owned by CMAC board member and new Entertainment Commissioner Steven Lee. CMAC was formed two years ago in response to crackdowns on SF nightlife by city and state officials.

The war is over. Fun won.



>>Read Sup. Scott Weiner’s op-ed on SF nightlife here

Two years ago, the war on fun that the Bay Guardian had been chronicling and decrying since 2006 — involving overzealous cops, NIMBY neighbors complaining about noise, escalating fees on outdoor events, and politicians scapegoating nightclubs for urban violence –- seemed to be reaching a peak of official intolerance.

The San Francisco Police Department and California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control were running amok, with an especially troublesome pair of enforcers harassing disfavored club owners and guests, getting rough with patrons at private parties, and seizing laptop computers from DJs and cameras from those who documented the abuses (see “The new War on Fun,” 3/23/10). Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom and then-Police Chief Heather Fong and their underlings only fed the conflict with brash statements and by refusing to support the nightlife industry.

But today, all involved say the situation has turned completely around, with the nightlife industry asserting its importance to San Francisco’s culture and economy and getting key support from a new generation of political leaders. It may be too early to say the war on fun is over, but everyone is certainly enjoying a welcome cease-fire.

Police Chief Greg Suhr has longstanding relationships with many leaders in the nightlife community -– and he’s someone who says that he goes out regularly and has a son who plays drums for a local band.

“I consider many of the people in the entertainment community to be personal friends,” Suhr told us. “And if there’s a problem, I don’t think anyone has been shy about approaching me personally.”

At the same time, the industry has taken on a higher political profile in town since forming the California Music and Culture Association two years ago during the height of the conflicts with the city and the ABC. The group now has monthly meetings with a nightlife liaison that Suhr has assigned to work through issues.

“The lines of communication are open. Despite some differences in opinion, there is a growing sense of trust and respect that is developing in these meetings,” CMAC co-chair Alix Rosenthal told us.

Rather than bashing the nightclubs as a source of trouble, political officials have been openly courting CMAC, which holds regular public events and forums on nightlife issues, including an “Industry Cocktail Hour with Mayor Ed Lee” on the evening Feb. 29 from 5-7 p.m. at The Grand, a club owned by the newest Entertainment Commission member, Steven Lee.

Sup. Scott Wiener has also been a strong advocate for nightlife issues, and has commissioned a city study on the economic benefits of the nightlife industry, which he discusses in this week’s Guardian Op-ed and which will be the subject of March 5 rally and hearing at City Hall.

Preliminary results in the study, with was conducted by City Economist Ted Egan, show that the nightlife industry generates $4.2 billion in annual spending, $55 million in taxes, and employs 48,000 people. And those figures don’t include outdoor events such as street fairs or the Outside Lands Festival, which another recent study by concert organizers found generated $60.6 million in San Francisco and $6.6 million in surrounding communities last year.

“People coming into the city to enjoy themselves is our number one industry,” Suhr said, noting how important it is to balance public safety concerns with support for the city’s cultural and entertainment offerings.

Rosenthal said CMAC was happy that Wiener commissioned the study. “This study is going to be helpful,” she said. “We’ll have hard data to show how much the entertainment economy contributes to San Francisco’s entire economy.”

Nightlife: Fun plus jobs


By Supervisor Scott Weiner

OPINION We all know the cultural benefits of nightlife. It’s fun. We get to meet people — friends, lovers, and all the rest. We build community. We hear great music. We dance. We spend time outside on our streets. For LGBT people, we meet other LGBTs and keep our community strong. The list goes on: Without a strong entertainment scene, including bars, clubs, live music venues, arts venues, night-time restaurants, and street fairs, our city would be a less interesting and less diverse place.

But the undisputed cultural importance of nightlife isn’t the whole story. Nightlife is a significant economic contributor to San Francisco. It creates jobs, particularly for working-class and young people. It generates tax revenue that helps fund Muni, health clinics, and parks. It allows creative entrepreneurs to start businesses. It generates tourism. It draws foot traffic into neighborhoods to the benefit of other neighborhood businesses.

This is all pretty intuitive. Yet, as a city, we’ve never actually measured the economic impact of our nightlife scene. One of my first acts a member of the Board of Supervisors was to request the city economist to conduct an economic impact study doing just that.

The study is almost done, and we already have a few preliminary results. Nightlife in San Francisco generates $4.2 billion a year in spending, with $1 billion of that amount coming from bars, clubs, performance venues, and art spaces. Some 48,000 people are employed in nightlife businesses, and these businesses contribute $55 million a year in local taxes. On March 5, we’ll announce the full results of the study at a hearing of the Land Use and Economic Development Committee.

This data will help us make smart public policy around nightlife. In the past, those decisions frequently have been driven by anecdote and over-reaction to isolated events. Trouble near a small number of nightclubs? The city responds by making it difficult for all nightclubs to operate, even those with excellent safety records and despite the dramatic improvement in the Entertainment Commission’s oversight. Or, the city goes even further and proposes requiring all clubs, even small ones, to scan ID cards of everyone who enters. (That proposal, thankfully, was roundly rejected.)

When we make these decisions, we should do so with a full understanding not just of the downsides of nightlife but of the positives, including cultural and economic benefits.

Entertainment is under pressure in San Francisco. There are neighborhoods with significant friction between housing and nightlife. Some of that friction results from a small number of problem venues. Other times, a good venue is jeopardized for simply conducting its business within the limits of San Francisco law — for example, a single neighbor got Slim’s shut down for a few weeks for noise, despite the club’s compliance with our noise ordinance.

We also continue to have bizarre Planning Code restrictions that undermine entertainment, such as the Mission Alcohol Special Use District, which makes it difficult or impossible to start creative new businesses in the Mission if alcohol is involved. This provision almost prevented a new bowling alley from locating at 17th and South Van Ness. Similarly, some are concerned that the Western SoMa Plan, as currently written, will undermine nightlife on 11th Street by surrounding clubs with new housing and by reducing the number of venues.

A thriving nightlife scene is key to our city’s cultural identity and economic future. Now that we have the data on its benefits, we can take a more balanced and thoughtful approach.

Supervisor Scott Wiener represents District 8 on the Board of Supervisors. The March 5 hearing will start with a noon rally on the steps of City Hall followed by the hearing at 1 p.m. in City Hall Room 263.


Future Twin


The two females in Future Twin (www.futuretwin.com) — Jean Yaste and Stephanie Rose — met one another in a moped gang called the Lockits, another member of the band was in a moped crew called Treats of the Loin; I’m not sure if you can concoct a greater back-story than that but I’d be hard-pressed to find one. And the San Francisco fivesome, which formed in December 2010 originally as a trio, makes the equivalent of moped rock on its debut EP cassette, Situation (which is also available for download, for those without a tape player). Released Jan. 31, Situation revs up with roaring guitar, and incorporates field recordings of gunshots and small engines such as lawnmowers and of course, mopeds, but veers from blunt roughness, instead leaning towards powerful girl group-style vocals and multi-part harmonies.

While the first release is a small one, the Mission-based band has chops, brains, and a clear bond. Though perhaps not tight enough to get all its members to a photoshoot — while the drummer Antonio “Tones” Roman-Alcala with strep throat made it, another Future Twin simply texted, “yo, just didn’t feel like going.” No matter, Future Twin celebrates the release of Situation at the Hemlock this Thu/2 (9 p.m., $6. 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com).

Description of sound: Psychedelic farmageddon grandma rock.

What do you like most about the Bay Area music scene: The things we liked most was the Clarion Alley block party until the damn breeders built their precious condos next door and started their war on fun. These people need to be taken out and the “scene” will heal itself.

What piece of music means the most to you and why: Rap News Occupy 2012. Why? No reason.

Favorite local eatery and dish: Secret Spot has delicious bagels, fresh squeezed juice, and homegrown greens.

Who would you most like to tour with: Bill Murray (as a zombie) and Kool Keith (as himself).






CMAC mayoral forum

San Francisco Police crackdowns on nightclubs and private parties, with the tactic and sometimes overt support by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, led to the creation of the California Music and Culture Association to advocate for the city’s nightlife (see “The new War on Fun,” 3/23/10). Now, CMAC is hosting a mayoral candidate forum to gauge how the next potential inhabitants of Room 200 feel about issues relevant to party-goers and -throwers. The event will be moderated by Priya David Clemens and will feature remarks by Lyrics Born and Sup. Scott Wiener and musical performances by Bob Mould and Zoe Keating.

6-9 p.m., free

The Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF

rsvp to sfmayoralcandidateforum.eventbrite.com


The state of labor

Wilma Liebman, former chair of the National Labor Relations Board, gives a talk entitled “The Battle for a Fair and Realistic National Labor Policy.” Liebman stepped down as chair last month — after 14 years serving on the board, the third longest serving member in its history — during one of the most turbulent years in the body’s history. The event, sponsored by SF State’s Labor and Employment Studies Program, is the first Gerald McKay Memorial Lecture.

6-8 p.m., free

SF State’s Downtown Campus

885 Market, 5th Floor, SF


rsvp to jlogan@sfsu.edu



New Coffee Party

The Coffee Party, a consensus-seeking political group formed in reaction to the reactionary Tea Party, is in transition. The leaders of the former SF Coffee Party Group have now dubbed themselves The Bay Area Circle and they’ll meet to decide on a new name and direction for a group that seeks to bring together people of various views around a common agenda.

6:30-8 p.m., free

Cafe La Boheme

3318 24th St., SF




Organizing in radical times

Authors Amy Sonnie and James Tracy will discuss their new book, Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times (Melville House Publishing, 2011), in conversation with Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz. The books shows how the protest movements of the New Left in the ’60s spawned future organizing efforts that have been challenging right-wing networks over a range of important issues vital to the direction of the country. Afterward the talk, attendees will cross the street to the Buck Tavern for a beer bash benefiting the SF Community Land Trust and Jobs with Justice SF.

7 p.m., free

Green Arcade Books

1680 Market, SF


5 Things: August 25, 2011


>>COMIC ZEN We just want to breathe deeply and slow our caffiene mainline (ironically) when we read Paul Madonna’s All Over Coffee comic strip (is it a strip when it’s a single panel? More research is needed here). Shit is peaceful. Perhaps that’s why the Zen Center is tapping Madonna for this talk on creative theory, highlighted by a slideshow of his luminous scenes from our city’s vertiginous hills and boring flat parts.

>>PINTXO US, WE’RE DREAMING Next week, our restaurant reviewer Paul Reidinger writes about Txoco, a newish Basque restaurant in North Beach (RIP the similar Iluna Basque, whose Top Chef contestant chef, Mattin Noblia, now helms Rendezvous Tapas Lounge. We’ll leave the overall verdict to Paul, but we simply adore the pintxos — basically an hors-d’oeuvre-sized version of tapas. We had some stellar pintxos in Basque country earlier this year, and these little bites (technically each individual pintxo should last exactly two bites) whisked us back. Do not miss the boquerones (anchovies in olive oil, this version served with quail egg, manchego cheese, thyme, avocado, and aioli). Three dollars for two bites might cause some to balk, but each of those bites is a meal unto itself.  Basque in the glory!     

Vegan Filipino snaxx going mobile. Photo via No Worries

>>SOME WORRIES Before we even had a chance to visit, Oakland’s vegan Filipino restaurant No Worries is transitioning from a brick-and-mortar space to a food truck. “We’re minimizing our waste and we’re using less resources. We’re also more accessible to the community,” says owner Jay Ar-Pugao in this very positive video. September 1 No Worries goes mobile — which will, come to think about it, probably up our chances of every actually eating its food. [via Vegansaurus]

>>NUT YOUR AVERAGE DIVIS DIVE In an attempt to fashion itself into a one-stop shop, tiny KK Cafe on Divisadero began quietly began serving huge burritos last month. The cafe, owned by neighborhood legends Jack and Margaret Chang, already serves a fairly baffling mix of burgers (huge, juicy, and cheap), Chinese hot plate meals, and croissantwiches. But its most well-known product is the peanut milk, a concoction said to have healing powers. The Changs added beef and chicken burritos to their menu at the request of the rabid customers who stop off daily for another jug of Signs and Wonders peanut milk.

>>NO FUNCTION JUNCTION Oh dear, L.A. friends and fans, it looks like this year’s huge annual outdoor Sunset Junction festival in Silver Lake — featuring bands as varied as Butthole Surfers, Hanson(!), and Ozomatli — has been cancelled. War on Fun alert down south! (Well, it would be one, except corporate giant Live Nation was basically bankrolling the thing, until it wasn’t.) Luckily, some lovely DIY souls are trying to save the day with a guerrilla No Function Junction spur-of-the-moment festival of their own in multiple venues near the same spot. If you’d planned to head to head to Silver Lake this weekend, there’s still plenty to go for. Nothing, however, will be able to equal the drama of this absolutely amazing moment with Deneice Williams at Sunset Junction 2007  — she fell right off the stage, but before the ambulances came, she sang her heart out. Now THAT’s rock ‘n roll.




He’s back!



It’s been more than a year since relations between San Francisco’s nightlife community and the San Francisco Police Department bottomed-out following a nasty crackdown and pattern of harassment led by plain-clothes Officer Larry Bertrand and Michelle Ott, an agent with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The pair’s antics included repeatedly shutting down clubs, aggressively raiding private parties, seizing laptop computers and other property, making arrests for minor infractions, roughing up and threatening those who objected to the harsh treatment, dumping out dozens of bottles of alcohol, and, according to one lawsuit, retaliating against those who filed complaints.

There were at least four lawsuits against the city related to the crusade, including one that the city is in the process of settling for $50,000 (involving promoter Arash Ghanadan, who had repeated run-ins with Bertrand) and another federal lawsuit alleging that Bertrand’s harassment of legal businesses amounted to a criminal racketeering enterprise. The federal case is headed for trial later this year.

After cover stories in the Guardian (see “The new War on Fun,” 3/23/10) and SF Weekly exposed the abuses, and the nightlife community formed the California Music and Culture Association to counter the assault, Bertrand and Ott were pulled off the nightlife beat and things slowly got better.

So when Bertrand appeared back on the beat on a recent Friday night, June 17 — targeting two of the same clubs he allegedly harassed before, Mist and Sloan, and shutting Sloan down for the night on a technical violation — many in the nightlife community freaked out, fearing that their improved relationship with SFPD was over and the bad old days were back.

“My phone was blowing up with texts and photos of his raid on Sloan nightclub. People are livid,” attorney Mark Rennie, who works with clubs on permitting and compliance issues, wrote to a group of nightlife advocates in an e-mail titled “Officer Larry Bertrand back on the Streets last night and up to his old tricks.”

Complaints were made to new Police Chief Greg Suhr and others in the command staff. The SFPD initially refused a Guardian request for comment on whether Bertrand would remain back on the beat, citing the ongoing lawsuits. But police spokesperson Sgt. Mike Andraychak eventually admitted it was a mistake to have Bertrand busting clubs and said he won’t be back on that beat anytime soon.

Andraychak said the new commander of Southern Station, Capt. Charlie Orkes, assigned Bertrand to police the clubs for the night and “he wasn’t aware of the history of lawsuits, and so that’s why Officer Bertrand was out there that night doing permit inspections … He won’t have Officer Bertrand in that role again, in the interests of good community relations.”

Those relations have become much better and more cooperative in the last year, according to Suhr, Rennie, and Entertainment Commission Executive Director Jocelyn Kane. “We’re happy with our relationship with the Police Department right now,” Kane told us. “That’s why [the reappearance of Bertrand] was of concern to people.”

During an interview with the Guardian on the morning of June 17, Suhr said he was supportive of nightlife. “I’m pro entertainment and I want the clubs to succeed. It think it draws people to the city and allows us to do a lot of things,” Suhr said, emphasizing the importance of clear communications and good relations between clubs and the SFPD. “If we’re being fair, consistent, and objective in how we treat situations, the clubs will know how it works.”

To many in the nightlife community, Bertrand represents the antithesis of that approach. Mist owner Mike Quan, a plaintiff in the ongoing federal lawsuit alleging Bertrand repeatedly harassed him and his customers, said he was shocked to hear Bertrand showed up at his club and was abrasive with his employees again. “My attorney sent [SFPD] a letter the next day saying this is not acceptable,” Quan told us. “Hopefully they got the message.”

Mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty, who is close to the nightlife community, helped reach out to Suhr after the incident and said he believes it was an aberration. “This is something that is a concern and the leadership needs to be sure that we’re not falling back,” Dufty told us.

Appeals also went out to the City Attorney’s Office, headed by another mayoral candidate, Dennis Herrera, who said he was happy to hear this was an isolated incident. But he said it illustrates something he’s been saying in meetings with clubs and cops — that SFPD’s nightlife enforcement policies need to be clear and consistent.

“We need to get it above the ad hoc way we’ve done it, so that it’s above the captain level and coming from the command staff,” Herrera told us.

Suhr, who has better relations with the nightlife community than any of his recent predecessors, also emphasized the need to lay out clear expectations. But he stopped short of saying there wouldn’t be anymore undercover raids of clubs and parties, telling us, “I think it’s important that people think that’s a possibility.”

The Performant: The fast and the furious


FURY Factory turns four

Summertime is festival time in the city, and the streets will stay lively from now to Halloween, barring acts of god/s or unforeseen War on Fun skirmishes. But considering the typical bluster of an average summer day in San Francisco, it’s a relief that a few of our festivals can be enjoyed indoors. 

One example: FURY Factory, a three-week celebration of ensemble theatre hosted by San Francisco’s own foolsFURY Theater that provides the perfect excuse to avoid the elements, located in the comparable warmth of Project Artaud’s four theatre spaces. An eclectic lineup of 31 ensemble companies from around the country, FURY Factory includes talkbacks, workshops, and a forum for discussing excellence in theatre. 

But for most oddiences, the play’s the thing, and there is indeed a plethora of performances to choose from, some of which are even being streamed live on “New Play TV.”

On Saturday afternoon a cluster of kids and young-at-hearts gathered in The Jewish Theatre to watch a light-hearted collaborative effort between two San Francisco-based ensembles — Sweet Can Productions and Coventry and Kaluza – called “Chef Mulchini’s Kitchen”. A buoyant public service announcement regarding the four “R’s” (reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot) as presented by a quartet of capable clowns, “Kitchen” is a visually appealing romp which includes an appearance by a rapping green trash bin, puppet produce, and acrobatics. 

A nerd (Ross Travis, who also plays a brash pentathlete), a robot (Natasha Kaluza), a flirtatious neighbor (Kerri Kresinski), and that mustachioed punster, Chef Mulchini himself (Jamie Coventry), approach the topic of waste reduction with the wide-eyed earnestness of a Sesame Street sketch. You’re more likely to catch the next Mulchini performance at a public grade school than in a private theatre, but the performers themselves can be found in grown-up shows throughout the year, and are well worth watching on any stage.

One of the most buzzed-about events in the festival by far has been the West Coast premiere of Pig Iron’s Obie-winning “Chekov Lizardbrain,” which played for a single sold-out weekend at Z Space. An uncomfortably wry prologue narrated by an ostensibly imaginary occupant of protagonist Dmitri’s mind (both played by James Sugg) opens the show. 

The narrator “Chekov Lizardbrain” wears an ostentatious top hat and tailcoat, but his reptilian gestures and labored mumble undermine the graciousness such attire is meant to convey. His host body, Dmitri, is not much better off. An Aspergian botanist, he is socially awkward to the point of painful, and his interactions with three brothers whose house he is buying take a surreal turn as he recasts their conversations in the context of a Chekovian melodrama. 

The brothers, played by Dito van Reigersberg, Geoff Sobelle, and Quinn Bauriedel, first appear onstage in formal top hats, suit vests, and turn-of-the-century long underwear, underscoring their fantasy-based roles. Peeks behind the stylish red curtain provide glimpses of the murky swamp of Dmitri’s brain, where an initially light-hearted game of “lost and alone” leaves him stranded, inside and out. Though the “rules” of Chekov presented earlier in the show specify that tragedy should happen “offstage,” the melancholy finale in which Dmitri succumbs entirely to his “lizard brain” is not a particularly uplifting one. But the neocortex can sense the humanity in it.


FURY Factory 2011

Through June 26

Project Artuad

499 Alabama, SF

(415) 685-3665




Heroes and hoedowns



FRAMELINE This year’s Bay Area-centric Frameline features run a thematic and identification gamut appropriate to the festival’s ever-inclusive programming. Several are celebrations of local LGBT heroines and heroines, some recently deceased and some still-with-us.

Scott Gracheff’s With You commemorates the life and legacy of late local resident Mark Bingham, who famously died on United Airlines Flight 93 and is strongly suspected of being among the passengers who stormed the cockpit and prevented that hijacked Newark-to-SFO flight from reaching its presumed governmental target in Washington, D.C., on 9/11.

As his activist mother Alice Hoagland and everyone else here says, it’s the sort of thing he would do — Bingham was, among other things, an avid rugby player, metalhead, daredevil, UC Berkeley frat president, world-class partier, several-time arrestee (for reckless hijinks rather than criminal menace), bear chaser, global traveler, dot-com-wave surfer, and “human labrador retriever” (as a long-term boyfriend calls him). He lived a very full life and doubtlessly would have continued living it to the limit if this encounter with terrorism hadn’t cut his time short at 31.

A life that remained eventful for nearly three times that length was that of Del Martin, who along with surviving partner Phyllis Lyon founded SF’s Daughters of Bilitis — the nation’s first lesbian political and social organization — in the highly conservative climate of 1955. They remained highly active in feminist, gay, senior, and other progressive causes over the decades. Martin’s death in 2008 at age 87 occasioned a tribute in the City Hall rotunda that is captured by veteran local filmmaker Debra Chasnoff’s Celebrating the Life of Del Martin. This hour-long document demonstrates the breadth of Martin’s influence as prominent politicians, musicians, authors, progressive and religious leaders, et al. pay homage.

How exactly to honor our dead is the question at the heart of Andy Abrahams Wilson’s very polished The Grove, which charts the creation of the National AIDS Memorial Grove — an idea brought to fruition by the surviving partner of local landscape gardener Stephen Marcus — as well as some struggles over its visibility (even most visitors to Golden Gate Park don’t seem to know it’s there) and purpose.

When a recent contest was held for an installation to be added to the site, two women designers won with a striking sculptural concept intended to make a potent statement à la D.C.’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial about the disease’s devastation. But the grove’s current board shot it down, preferring to maintain the space’s leafy, meditative feel — even if that might also maintain its relative public invisibility. Should the memorial comfort those who directly suffered loss, or metaphorically convey that loss in vivid terms for future generations?

Very much living with HIV — emphasis on the living part — is the subject of Dain Percifield’s Running in Heels: The Glendon “Anna Conda” Hyde Story. Glendon Hyde a.k.a. Anna Conda fled a horrific Bible Belt background to become one of SF’s premier drag personalities, running the Cinch’s popular Friday night Charlie Horse revue for five years until a new condo’s complaining tenants shut that down. Enraged by the city’s “war on fun,” hostility toward the homeless, and other issues to boot, he joined 13 other candidates running for District 6 (Tenderloin) supervisor last year. He didn’t win, but this doc will make you hope he tries again.

Last but far from least is this year’s sole Bay Area narrative feature, shot largely in Fruitvale even if it is set in Texas. A big leap from writer director David Lewis’ prior features, Longhorns is a delightful romantic comedy about several 1982 Lone Star state frat boys dealing with sexual impulses and related emotions that might — oh lawd no — mean they’s quar, not just “messing around.” With some soundtracked songs by H.P. Mendoza (2006’s Colma: The Musical), this total charmer is (as one character puts it) “hotter’n a billy goat in a pepper patch.”


June 16–26, most films $9–$15

Various venues


Mayor derails hearing on nightclub crackdown


Will entering a large nightclub in San Francisco be akin to a TSA pat down? We won’t know for a while, as the proposal for heightened security measures by San Francisco Police has caught the interest of Mayor Ed Lee and further discussion has been stalled pending his analysis.

A hearing last night (Tues/12) at the Entertainment Commission proved to be a disappointment for the dozens of people who attended in hopes of getting closure on the hotly contested proposal, which has drawn criticism for its infringement on freedom and privacy and burdensome cost to club owners, as well as being the latest battle in San Francisco’s War on Fun.

“We need to protect our events,” said Liam Shy of the organization Save the Rave, a coalition of people dedicated to keeping electronic dance parties alive. “They are in a state of crisis right now, and this would make it much worse.”

Shy and fellow Save the Rave member Matt Kaftor saw the mayor’s interest in the issue was a good indication that community dissent has been heard.

“I would be truly shocked if this passed,” said Kaftor. “If it does, we will be protesting constantly.”

The proposal would require all venues with an occupancy of 100 or more people to record the faces of all patrons and employees and scan their IDs for storage in a database, which would be available to law enforcement on request for at least two weeks. Metal detectors, security cameras and brighter lights in the venues would also be required. The proposal was created in response to recent violence in and around nightclubs, most notably the shooting outside Suede in Fisherman’s Wharf last year that resulted in the closing of the club.

However, critics say this is an overreaction that unfairly targets events as sources of violence.

“What I keep getting from measures like this is that police work is hard,” said SF resident Jonathan Duggan. “But instead of doing their hard work, they are just creating another avenue for privacy invasion that shifts the responsibility to everyone else.”

Although the main target is nightclubs, many events in San Francisco would be affected. Events with strong cultural, ideological, and political components are frequently held at venues that would be affected by these rules.

Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation showed up last night prepared to give the commission a piece of her mind. She shared a letter with us outlining her concerns, which listed the support of many other civil liberty and privacy protection groups such as the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

“The city of San Francisco has a long history of political activism and cultural diversity which would be profoundly threatened by this proposed rule,” Galperin wrote. “Scanning the IDs of all attendees at an anti-war rally, a gay night club, or a fundraiser for a civil liberties organization would result in a deeply chilling effect on speech…This would transform the politically and culturally tolerant environment for which San Francisco is famous into a police state.”

District 8 Supervisor Scott Weiner, who has been instrumental in the effort to keep events in San Francisco alive, told us that he does not support the proposal. His resolution to protect events passed the Board of Supervisors on March 29 and focuses on collaboration between city agencies and nightclub owners to combat violence rather than simply cracking down on entertainment venues.

 “It’s one thing for a large club with a history of problems to receive those kinds of exceptional security measures, but for the majority of clubs, it strikes me as overkill as well as invasion of privacy,” Weiner told us.

Jocelyn Kane, executive director of the Entertainment Commission, could not give any indication as to when another hearing would be or what prompted the mayor’s decision.  Neither she nor the mayor’s office could elaborate on whether the mayor has problems with the proposal or is simply responding to the public outrage.

The Guardian endorses: Jello Biafra for Mayor!

On every level, the San Francisco mayor’s race is critical. San Franciscans will decide whether a fiscally conservative candidate backed by downtown interests will continue Gavin Newsom’s legacy of gutting critical services while refusing to raise taxes, or if a progressive will lead the city into a new era.

San Francisco needs a mayor who is motivated not by campaign donations from corporate fat cats, but by true San Francisco values. The city needs some one who is ready to fight the war on fun, by boldly having more fun than the warmongers can possibly stand.

What San Francisco needs is Jello Biafra. In a rare early endorsement, the Guardian has thrown its support behind Biafra for mayor. Formerly the lead singer of legendary punk rock group the Dead Kennedys, he is now the front man of Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. In 1979, Biafra ran for mayor against former Mayor Dianne Feinstein and former state Sen. Quentin Kopp. His campaign motto was There’s Always Room for Jello.

“I am honored,” Biafra said when he was notified that he had received the Guardian’s endorsement for mayor. “After all, how could I be any worse than the last elected mayor, who turned out to be a horrible Frankenstein of Dianne Feinstein, Gray Davis and Tom Cruise?”

Biafra went on to talk about his campaign platform. “I would immediately reverse all [Newsom’s] mean-spirited, bigoted, anti-homeless laws, and instead hire all the panhandlers to work for the city on a 50 percent commission to help balance the budget,” he said.

Biafra said San Francisco could take a cue from Austin, Texas for another revenue-generating measure. “I would … declare the outlying strip on 11th and Folsom to be a music district, like they did on Sixth Street in Austin Texas, instead of having the police harass them and shut them down. This has brought in a huge amount of tax revenue for Austin, by the way.”

As part of this plan, the city could “use the revenue to buy back KUSF for the people of the city,” he added.

Biafra has a refreshing approach to ending police misconduct and promoting reform within the San Francisco Police Department. “Police officers should be an elected position,” he told the Guardian. “Every four years, you run for election, voted on by the district you patrol. You couldn’t just run off and hide in Novato after beating and shooting people anymore.”

An honest mayoral candidate, Biafra doesn’t pull any punches – not even when it comes to criticizing the Guardian, which has been the only publication to endorse his campaign so far. “I think the Guardian blew it when they came out against the initiative to rename our sewage plant after George W. Bush,” he said. “I think that would be a great idea. I’ll bring that one back, too.”
Rather than minimum wage, Biafra would like to implement a maximum wage, which has been proposed by the California Green Party.

“What should the wage be? Let’s be generous: Two hundred grand, and then you’re done,” Biafra decided. “You can live really well on that kind of money. Everything else goes back to the public purse, and you’ve got schools, you’ve got health care for everybody, transportation for everybody, people can even go to law school on the public’s dime – and why not? I mean, what about just giving some of that money back to people who didn’t make the $200,000 and guarantee people income, instead of talking about welfare cheats?”

When he ran for mayor in 1979, Biafra generated a great deal of attention with his proposal to require businessmen to wear clown suits between the hours of nine and five. But he said this required some explanation: “This is only in downtown,” he noted, “because this is a response to Feinstein’s campaign to clean up Market Street. She meant the Tenderloin, I meant downtown where Chevron and Bechtel and Bank of America and the other looters hold court.”


Biafra said he also planned to bring back another proposal from his first mayoral bid: “Create a board of bribery, to set fair standards and public rates for liquor licenses, building code exemptions, police protection, and most importantly, protection from the police,” he explained.

As for the re-naming of Candlestick Park, Biafra had a flash of inspiration during his endorsement interview. “Isn’t there those little bags of junk food under the brand Emperor Norton for, you know, dried bread chips and stuff? How about, if they’re going to sell off the name Candlestick Park — or for that matter, finally name our baseball stadium after something other than a phone company — how about Emperor Norton Park?” Biafra suggested.

Vote for Jello Biafra for Mayor of San Francisco. After all, as he told us, “I would definitely be better than the last elected mayor. Then again, so would a cockroach.”

Vote early, vote often, and vote like your city depended on it!

P.S.: If Jello Biafra doesn’t win, we’ll kill ourselves.

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine will launch their latest album, Enhanced Methods of Questioning, at Slim’s on June 4.

April Fool’s. Kinda.