Francisco Alvarado

New historical hipster photos showcase big-wheeled bikes from San Francisco to Oakland circa 1880


Hipsters and bikes are as close as Instagram posts of five dollar cups of organic, free trade, Japanese drip coffee. Historical photos recently posted to the California Historical Society’s Flickr page show cycling clubs of the late 19th-century riding around the Bay Area. Yes this includes Oakland, more than a century before Oakland was cool (just kidding, Oakland was always cool).

The photos show the famous (and very dangerous) bikes known as “High Wheelers,” “Penny Farthings,” and “Bone Shakers,” at the height of early bike craze. These are the bikes with the tall leading wheel and a tiny rear wheel. Since these bikes were limited to direct-drives, the bigger leading wheels meant the rider could fly faster.

But falling off an old-timey five foot bike led to quite the kerfuffle (especially since it wasn’t customary to wear helmets). “Safety bicycles” became the norm, the missing link between Penny Farthings and modern bicycles. Safety bicycles had gears, a technological innovation replacing the need of the five foot wheel to achieve respectable speeds.

Also included in the gallery are scans of pages of cycling catalogs, showcasing attire every respectable cyclist from the 1880s could need — include a four dollar “extra-heavy jacket” and a “extra heavy stockings.” (Because riding atop a five foot bike with no brakes isn’t quite dangerous enough, you should also wear trendy, movement restricting, heavy wool apparel while doing it!)

If anything, these beautiful and historic pictures show that everything old is new and ironic today. That silly and incoherent trends have their time in the limelight but ultimately die off. Except for mustaches. Mustaches are awesome.

Thanks to Slate for the original find.

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Undated photograph showing a high wheel bicyclist at Lake Merritt, Oakland, California.

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Tights and men on bikes are a historical match. Undated.

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O.G. Mission cyclists. Photo shot by George R. Butler on June 1, 1890. Taken at 21st and Capp streets, looking toward Mission Street.

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A group of gentleman after a long ride from Oakland to Mission San Jose.

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The gentlemen of the San Francisco Bicycle club on San Leandro Road near Milpitas. Note the abundant mustaches (and lack of helmets).

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Page 55 from the J. J. Pfister Knitting Co., San Francisco. Dated 1882.

bike pamphlet

Find the full photo gallery here.

SEIU-backed initiatives seek to cap healthcare costs and executive pay


Health care costs are skyrocketing across the country, but two proposed ballot initiatives in California are aiming to rein in health care spending, which the Centers for Disease Control estimates at $2.6 trillion annually nationwide. Both measures are currently gathering signatures to be placed on the November ballot.  

Service Employees International Union authored the Charitable Hospital Compensation Act (CHCA) and the Fair Healthcare Pricing Act (FHPA), which are designed to directly deal with the high costs at nonprofit hospitals. CHCA seeks to cap the salary for executives at  nonprofit hospitals at $450,000 a year, the same salary as the President of the United States. FHPA would limit the amount charged for services to 25 percent above the estimated costs of providing care.

“Health care costs have been out of control for years. These initiatives are two modest things we can do to rein that in. We can make sure that hospitals don’t take ridiculous profits on the materials and services they provide and we can hold pay for executives to a reasonable level” says Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who endorsed both initiatives, “When so many people are struggling to pay for health care, it’s the least we can do.”

Executive pay at nonprofit hospitals is out of control. Former CEO of San Francisco-based Blue Shield of America Bruce Bodaken earned $4.6 million in 2010. Former CEO of Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente George Halvorso  earned $6.7 million in the same year.

“Compensation” is strictly defined by the measure, including compensation in the form of bonuses, forgiven loans, and even access to a company car.  

“There is some symbolic value to that… people say that running a hospital is like running a hospital is like running a city,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW. “You will not find a mayor in America that makes anywhere close to $450,000 a year, let alone $1.5 million. In fact, the person in charge of leading America makes $450,000 a year. We think that [executive] compensation has gotten out of whack.”

The actual costs for services in US hospitals is also out of whack. According to the World Bank, the US spends 17.9 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on healthcare, the most of any country on earth. But, according to the World Health Organization, the US ranks a dismal 37th in quality of healthcare.

US hospitals have grown infamous for overcharging for services and things like aspirin and ibuprofen. On average in California, charging from 325-800 percent above the actual cost for those services and supplies. FHPA is aimed to help  the US residents pay less for health care. Its goal is to lower the costs of services at non-profit hospitals by capping the amount charged for services to 25 percent above the estimated costs of providing care.

“Cost includes the salary of doctors, nurses and other caregiver… supplies, all of that… You take those costs and add 25 percent. That seems to us, a very healthy and large operating margin,” Regan said. “This will prevent the worst abuses by the most aggressive hospital providers in the state. Everyone knows hospital care costs too much, nobody knows what they’re going to get charged before they see bills… We believe this [FHPA] will reduce what patients are paying… and the hospital industry will be perfectly healthy.”

Both initiatives are also designed to increase transparency by forcing nonprofit hospitals to disclose their 10 highest paid executives and five ex-executives with the highest paid severance package, along with a detailed breakdown of the compensation or severance package, on a yearly bases.

They also have  teeth. Penalties for violating any of conditions set forth in the initiatives can trigger fines of up to $100,000. Even with these blaring facts, the hospital industry is expected to fight the health care measures to the bitter end.  SEIU has already fired shot by releasing an ad. But the hospital industry is predicted to dump millions into this battle to keep the status quo.

Both the California Hospital Association and the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California declined to comment on the initiatives. But a public relations officer from CHA  told the Guardian that the hospital industry and SEIU are looking for a “non-initiative solution.”

However, critics of the initiatives have banded together to fight the pair of healthcare reforms. A CHA-funded group call itself Californians Against Initiative Abuse released an ad accusing the initiatives of being a ploy to increase SEIU’s power . Calling the initiates, “deceptive, dangerous and dishonest.”

Literature on the group’s website spells out healthcare domesday if the initiatives are approved in November, including layoffs, reduced services, and hospital closures — and a decrease of hundreds of millions of dollars in Medi-Cal funding, handing back what it claims is $1 billion in funds to the federal government.

Whatever the outcome of the November ballot, the consequences of keeping the current trend of health care costs are catastrophic.

“Without reasonable health care reform, there are estimates that the health care costs can reach 30 percent of GDP in the future.” California Sen. Mark Leno told the Guardian, “This is not sustainable.  We have to get a handle on this.”

Both Kaiser and Blue Shield declined to comment.


Immigration reform protest snarls downtown SF, 23 arrested


Today [Fri/4] at 11am, the SF Bay Coalition for Immigrant Justice held a protest and rally to urge President Obama to halt all deportations and keep his promise of comprehensive immigration reform.The protest included a group of 23 people, some of which are undocumented immigrants, which took part in a peaceful act of civil disobedience.

All 23 protesters — 15 women and eight men — were arrested; cited for failure to diperse, failure to obey a traffic officer, and blocking an intersection; and booked at the police substation in the Tenderloin before being release, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

More than 30 SFPD officers flanked the march after activists, clergy, and community organizers gathered at One Post St. and made the short but spirited walk to 120 Montgomery St., a building that houses the San Francisco Immigration Court.

Video of two of the arrests. 

Rev. Debra Lee, a United Church of Christ pastor working with Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said, “We are here… because everyday we see people in our congregations who come to us because their family has been thrown into crisis by the federal government.”

Other clergy members who were arrested include Rev. Richard Smith of St. John Evangelist Episcopal Church, and Rabbi Mike Rothbaum, of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. “We work with with people of other faiths because part of the power of the coalition [is that] although we have different faiths, we come together around a common belief  that the migrant should be treated with dignity.” Lee told the Guardian.


The protesters march downtown. Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez.

Rothbaum delivered a powerful address standing atop a parked pickup truck. Rothbaum held up a black-and-white photo of members of his family being sworn in as US citizens. In the image was his aunt, a Polish Jew.  “I would like to remind President Obama that his father was a wandering man from Kenya,” he said. “That my aunt and his father are no different from the people being held in this building.”

All three clergy members were arrested for taking part in the act of civil disobedience. Others arrested include Akiko Aspillaga, a native born Filipina who came to the US at the age of 10 with a visa. But because of a mix of complications with the employment of her mother and misinformation, Aspillaga and her parents lost their visas. Nevertheless, Aspillaga is now a graduate student at San Francisco State University’s school of nursing. However, because she is undocumented, she cannot receive federal grants or loans and depends on scholarships, and her mother to pay for tuition.

Another was Reyna Maldonado, a City College of San Francisco student born in Mexico. “We are here to demand President Obama to stop deportations. There has already been 2 million deportations.” Maldonado had a picture of Alex Aldana, who is currently being held in a San Diego ICE detention center: “He is one of the people we are fighting for [in addition] to stopping separations of families.”

Even if both women are undocumented, face arrest, and a risk of being turned over to US immigration authorities, they felt the risks were worth it. “I feel like the moral imperative right now, with families being torn apart and all the pain our community… Everything is worth it,” Akiko told the Guardian, “There is a possibility of me being deported but we’re standing up for something we believe in.”

After all the speakers addressed the crowd of about 300 people, the group of 23 sat in a tight circle on a banner that read, “Deporter in Chief.” And parodied President Obama’s “Hope” campaign poster with a pair of handcuffed hands replacing the president’s picture.

Once the group of 23 blocked traffic on the intersection of Sutter and Montgomery, SFPD officers began moving people off the street and onto the sidewalks. Then, one by one, each member of the group had their hands zip-tied behind their back and loaded into one of three SFPD vans.

This protest was part of a national day of action in favor of immigration, and it precedes an even bigger mobilization tomorrow in San Jose. 


Photo Gallery








Youth immigration activists cross the border to protest deportations

Last November, the Guardian profiled Alex Aldana, a queer immigration activist who was born in Mexico but came to Pomona, California with his mother and sister on a visa at the age of 16.

Yesterday [Tue/18], Aldana joined a group of undocumented immigrants in a protest at the U.S. border crossing at Otay Mesa in San Diego.

Chanting together as a group, they marched over the border and presented themselves to U.S. Immigration and Customs and Border protection agents, whom they asked for asylum.

Among the immigrants who surrendered to immigration agents were women, children, and teens. Some are separated from their husbands, children, and families in the US and, like my own mother, wish to be reunited.

The youth protesters were brought to the U.S. earlier in childhood, but deported to Mexico after being taken into custody and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Some would have qualified for the Dream Act, but were forced to leave the country before it was signed into law.

The protesters marched toward the turnstiles that separate Mexico and the U.S., chanting “Yes we can,” and “No human is illegal.”

A few feet from the gates, the group paused to listen to a final pep talk from Aldana.

The action was captured and recorded in real time on U-Stream. About 16 minutes into the video, he can be seen addressing the crowd, fist raised. “We have nothing to lose but our chains,” Aldana told the group. Then, in Spanish, he said, “Without papers [documents],” to which his fellow protesters responded, “without fear.”

They made their way to the turnstiles and one by one they walked through, straight into custody of U.S. border protection agents. As they crossed the border, they told a cameraperson where they hoped to go. They named cities, such as Phoenix and Tucson, and states, such as Alabama, Oregon, and North Carolina. But each one said, in English or Spanish, “we’re going home.”

It was part of a series of organized border crossings, organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, to highlight the experiences of young people who lived for years in the United States but were deported due to their immigration status.

In Aldana’s case, he traveled to Mexico voluntarily, due to a family emergency.

“After ten years in California, Alex traveled to Mexico three months ago to care for his ill grandmother,” notes an online petition addressed to President Barack Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, circulated by the Dream Activist network in support of allowing Aldana to return.

The Gay-Straight Alliance network has also voiced support, saying LGBT deportees are in especially precarious situations because they are more likely to be targeted with violence.

“Over these past few months, [Aldana] has been shocked to discover how crime and corruption make life particularly difficult for the LGBTQ community in Mexico,” the Dream Activist petition notes. “In Guadalajara alone, 128 gay and lesbian people have been killed, and none were reported as hate crimes. Now he wants to return to La Quinta because his mother and siblings need him.”

Activist Yordy Cancino Mendez, who also participated in an organized border crossing, become a target of violence in Mexico due to his sexual orientation. “He has been followed from the metro to his house trying to be kidnapped. He fears daily for his life,” according to the petition written in his support.

Here’s a video of him speaking about what life has been like in Mexico, uploaded by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance.

As a teenager in the U.S., Aldana and his family faced severe domestic violence at home at the hands of their father, who harassed him for being gay and tried to stop him from going to school. For a time, he lived in shelters to escape that abusive situation.

Now Aldana wishes to return to the U.S., to continue his education and support his sister, who qualifies for the California Dream Act. As an activist, he’s widely admired as a “courageous and visionary leader in both the LGBT and immigrant rights communities,” said Jon Rodney of the California Immigrant Policy Center.

A birds’ eye view of the Otay Detention Facility, from Google maps.

Media representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security could not be reached for comment. Officials at the Otay Detention Facility, where Aldana was reportedly being held as of Tue/18, declined to comment.  

They deported my mom


Eight months ago, I kissed my mother goodnight and walked down the hall to my bedroom. Eight months ago, I was a few weeks away from attending Seattle University. Eight months ago was the last time I saw my mom.

In the early morning, my sister barged into my room. Phone in hand and tears in her eyes, she said, “They got her again.” Sitting up in my bed, still half-asleep, it took me awhile to process what was going on. “Huh?” I replied. “Mom, she’s getting deported,” my sister sobbed. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested her on the way to work. They had watched us until they knew my mom’s routine.

My sister left and I had a minute to think. From then on, I knew everything had changed. I wasn’t going to Seattle. How was I supposed to pay for it now? And my mom was getting deported. Again.

My mother came to the US in 1992. Her plan was to work for a few years and send money back to Mexico to support her parents. She also wanted to save money so she could return to Mexico and finish nursing school. But she met my father, a law school dropout who came to the US to work and save money for law school. Long story short, I was born and they decided to settle down here in the States. They knew that we had better opportunities in the US.



Later, my parents decided that it was time to “become legal.” They sought the legal services of attorney Walter Pineda. He told my parents, and countless others, that if they had been in the country for longer than 10 years, had no criminal record, and had kids that were born in the US, he’d get them a green card in 12 months. Oh, and he wanted $10,000 per person. My parents couldn’t pay $20,000 at once for the both of them so they decided that my mom should be the first one to get a green card.

The thing is, Pineda wasn’t telling the truth. There was no such law that stated, “If you have been in the country for 10 years or longer, have no criminal record, and have kids who are US born, Uncle Sam will mail you a green card.” But Pineda took the money and filed an asylum claim for my mother. Since my mom wasn’t seeking asylum, the claim was denied. (It also didn’t help that Pineda never actually went to court, leaving that to his assistants). My mother was handed an order of deportation instead of a green card.

Pineda, a native San Franciscan and a graduate from San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco, was later investigated by the State Bar of California and was accused by the bar of a “despicable and far-reaching pattern of misconduct.” He later resigned from the State Bar when he faced charges of legal malpractice in 41 cases he handled. Records indicate Pineda left the area, and our efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

After those legal avenues were shut down, our family ran. We moved from house to house. My parents lived in the shadows, like escaped felons. They got nervous each time they signed any paperwork for fear that it would alert ICE. We would gather around the TV every night and watch the news, hoping to hear that immigration reform was on its way. But all we ever saw was members of Congress shaking their heads and saying, “Not this year,” year after year.

I remember learning about what the plaque at the foot of the Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” I thought about what a lie that was. My parents, and everyone like them, aren’t welcomed here. They’re “illegal aliens.” Me, and those like me, we’re “anchor babies.”

We moved some more. Years passed. We all forgot about the order of deportation. We bought a car, a dog, and a few years after that, we were thinking about buying a house. The American dream, my mom’s dream, was almost within her reach.



I was in the seventh grade; my sister was in third. I kissed my mom goodnight and went to sleep. At 3am, I heard a knock on the door and “police.” I opened it and there were two immigration agents. They were there to inform me that they were taking my mom and then left. 

As it turns out, they had been watching us for at least a few days because they knew that my mother leaves the house at 4:30am to go to her job as a sous-chef at a catering company. They knew my name.

A few months later, my mom was back. Yes, she returned illegally. But when your options are paying a guide $2,000 and walking a few hours or paying a lot more than $2,000 for a lawyer to file papers and then wait years with no guarantee that you’ll be let into the US, the choice for my mom was easy. Cross the border and come back to her kids.

More years passed, we moved some more. We forgot. Once again, ICE had been watching us. It knew where she worked. Her route. The license plate number on her car. Everything. Then, my mom was picked up on her way to her job at a fast food restaurant.

We called lawyers. “There’s nothing I can do,” was all they said. There was no hearing; no judge; no day in court; 24-hours later, my mom called me from a phone booth in Tijuana. That was eight months ago. My mother is still in Tijuana, unable to enter the US, legally or otherwise.



I will not deny that my mother has broken laws. I won’t deny the fact that the 11 million undocumented residents who are currently in the US have also broken laws.

But my mother, and others like her, were victims of predatory system. They were lured by a country that offers opportunities here and pursues policies that shut them down elsewhere. They turn to attorneys who, out of greed or spite, waste the time and money of many immigrants whose only intentions are to become “legal.” They live amid a citizenry that values the products of their cheap labor but denies their basic humanity.

Many others are victims of predatory employers, who have no second thoughts about forcing immigrants to work long hours in hazardous conditions, and even rape some employees, because they know that their worst nightmare is being deported, and separated from their loved one, rather than enduring the indignities of individual predators.

All of them are victims of a broken immigration system.

Many who face deportation, and who have been deported, were and are upstanding members of society. They have families, hopes, and dreams. Many, like my mother, have no criminal record, not even a speeding ticket to their names.

They pay taxes and support the Social Security system, knowing they will never be able to collect those retirement benefits or anything of the sort. Their only crime, my mother’s only crime, was that they, like so many millions before them, crossed an imaginary line to seek a better life.

SF votes to ban plastic water bottles on city property


San Francisco continues to lead the way in the nation’s environmental policy, with the Board of Supervisors today [Tues/4] voting unanimously to bar the city from buying plastic water bottles and to ban distribution of plastic water bottles smaller than 21 ounces on city property starting Oct. 1. The ban excludes city marathons and other sporting events.

“We all know with climate change, and the importance of combating climate change, San Francisco has been leading the way to fight for our environment,” Board President David Chiu, who authored the legislation, said at the hearing. “That’s why I ask you to support this ordinance to reduce and discourage single-use, single-serving plastic water bottles in San Francisco.”

Chiu held up a water bottle at the board meeting, a quarter of the way full with oil, to illustrate how much oil is used in the production and transport of plastic water bottles. He also reminded San Franciscans that the current fad of buying bottled water only started in the 1990s when the bottled water industry mounted a huge ad campaign that got Americans buying bottled water.

Somehow, Chiu noted, “for centuries, everybody managed to stay hydrated.”  

Proponents say they hope the ban will put a dent in the nearly 60 million water bottles Americans use daily and decrease the amount of plastics that take up room in the oceans and landfills.

“We applaud Supervisor Chiu and San Francisco’s leadership in the movement to think outside the bottle,” said Katherine Sawyer, Campaign Organizer of Think Outside the Bottle at Corporate Accountability International, which took part in a taste test event comparing SF tap water to bottled water before the hearing. “By taking this step, San Francisco continues to be a pioneer, paving the way for cities, states, and national parks across the country to follow suit and buck the bottle. Not only does this measure eliminate wasteful spending on such an eco-unfriendly product, but it also opens doors to increased investment in the most essential of municipal services—water.”

The ban will return to the board next week for a final vote, after which it will head to Mayor Ed Lee for his signature.