Ilan Moskowitz



A whopping 8 percent of the population is colorblind. This not only means that approximately 26 million people in the United States have never seen the subtle color variation of a sunset, but that many of the motorists on our roadways are following traffic signs based on memorization of light placement.

So far, options to offset color vision deficiency, or CVD, have been limited. Most work-arounds use single filters of solid red or purple hues to provide a contrast. That allows those with CVD to detect differences in color, but not without a heavy red or purple saturation over everything they see.

EnChroma, a small, Berkeley-based company, has now created a product that allows wearers with CVD to see full, untinted colors — and it all happened quite accidentally during an Ultimate Frisbee tournament.

EnChroma Vice President Dr. Don McPherson, an avid Frisbee fan, first came up with the idea for CVD-offsetting glasses while creating safety eyewear for laser surgeries. The glasses being provided surgeons at the time were, as McPherson puts it, “terrible. They distorted the vision so much that surgeons would learn to adapt [during operations] based on the morphology,” much like CVD-afflicted drivers with the shape of stop signs. That’s not the most reassuring thought.

So McPherson and Bay Glass Research, his company at the time, created a thousand-dollar pair of protective glasses with filters designed for the exact formula of the laser wavelengths. This gave the wearer what he calls “true color” and “heightened confidence” during surgeries.

“But [the surgeons] kept stealing the eyewear and using them as sunglasses,” explained McPhereson. “So I started wearing them [outside the lab].”

McPhereson noticed his color vision improve in the sunshine with the laser surgery eyewear. But he didn’t realize their full potential until, while warming up with a color blind friend before an Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Santa Cruz, his friend exclaimed that with the glasses he could see the field’s orange cones so brightly they looked “fluorescent.”

An inspired McPherson wrangled a National Institute of Health grant and recruited mathematician Andrew Schmeder to create one of the most comprehensive mappings of the human ocular system in the world using the computer modeling program Mathmatica.

After countless clinical tests held at their Berkeley laboratory, McPhereson and Schmeder created the Super Color Enhancing (SCE) lenses used in their CVD glasses. The lenses have a microns-thick layer of more than 100 different filters laid atop each other in what’s called a dielectric stack. This allows for precise wavelengths of light, determined to the decimal by the computerized model, to be filtered through to the wearer.

“You might not see anything right away if you have really strong color vision deficiency,” Schmeder noted. In clinical trials, those who worked in graphic design fields or anywhere that required one with CVD to overcome absent colors, it took up to days of wearing the SCE lenses before noticing color.

“Most people with color blindness have learned to deal with it in such a way that they question what we can bring to them,” said EnChroma Marketing head Kat Dykes.

But the SCE sunglasses, which retail for $600, offer much more than just color vision to wearers on sunny days. The glasses can actually retrain your brain over time to see color more intricately.

“It’s like if you’re a chef and you go to culinary school, your senses of taste and smell get better” explained McPherson, who says he has “super color vision” after wearing the Enchroma lenses for the last 10 years.

Additionally, the SCE lenses have allowed CVD wearers to now “think” with a full color palate like a multi-linguist dreaming in a foreign tongue. “When I think of an apple, I see something red in my brain,” a patient told McPherson. “He’d never seen red before and now he’s thinking with it.”

By the end of the year, EnChroma will release pediatric lenses made of durable trivex, not glass as they’ve been producing so far. This will present an opportunity to examine color correction in the human eye from a young age as well as expand the rather skeletal collection of eyewear produced by the Berkeley company.

Right now EnChroma has their two types of adult SCE glasses (for the most prominent conditions of colorblindness), SCE glasses for those with normal vision (no one on staff at EnChroma is actually colorblind), and extreme solar protection glasses which not only enhance colors, but keep ultraviolet and blue light from damaging the eyeballs.

Adam Ant glams up the Regency Ballroom, guitar in hand


Adam Ant isn’t just a stage name, it’s a mission statement. When Malcolm Mclaren of Sex Pistols fame swiped Adam’s band in the early 1980s to form Bow Wow Wow, it could have been a quick death for the ambitions of Stuart Leslie Goddard. But, as legend goes, a steadfast decision was made by Goddard in a North London mental hospital in the late 1970s. Dubbing himself Adam Ant, Goddard would do nothing less than become the biggest new wave sensation possible. He showed that determination, yet again, at his Regency Ballroom appearance this Thursday.

So when his Ant’s first band was stolen, way back when, he teamed up with guitarist Marco Pirroni and for the next decade produced worldwide hits like “Ant Music” and “Goody Two Shoes.” Then the 1990s hit and left the new romantic pioneer unemployed and only surfacing for tabloid pieces on mental health.

But even two decades off hasn’t slowed down Adam Ant. In 2010 he released Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar in Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter without any of his previous writing partners and on his own label. He has been touring to promote the record ever since.

Though his new band, the Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse, doesn’t have any of the horns or synthesizers of Ant’s ‘80s singles (a dramatic pause in “Desperate but not Serious” was added where previously a horn solo had been), the syncopated trading of beats between two drumsets was very much the center of attention at his SF show.

Unfortunately, the auxiliary drummer with the skin-tight dress and almost detrimental Peggy Bundy wig had her drumset mics practically muted. Her showmanship and knack for standing up to play big hits on songs like “Physical (You’re So)” was all that gave the crowd notice she was playing. Closer inspection showed the flurry of tribal counter-rhythms her sticks were weaving between the lead drummer’s rhythms, but one could only glean this visually, the sound never left the stage.

Without the synthesized new wave frills of his recorded singles, the Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse turned decades-old glam hits into raw, almost New York Dolls-y rockers. Adam, traditionally a bassist and certainly more of a performer than a stage musician, had a guitar at hand for just about every song. He had the guitar on him for more of the set than his makeup or costume. In fact, more of his crowd was wearing the traditional new romantic makeup than his band members, who looked like Ant’s manager scraped them off the wall of a Motorhead show and gave them instruments.

While this comeback might never produce any singles, truly, seeing Adam Ant in 2013 was a perfect glimpse at a zenith of the former, pre-Internet, recording industry surviving on his own in a world where such concepts no longer exist.

Bomb the Music Industry!’s Jeff Rosenstock: Poster boy for manic depression in DIY rock’n’roll


To get a feel for why Jeff Rosenstock plays the way he does, you have to go back almost a decade to the sweaty, now-defunct scene in New Jersey and Long Island that caught the tail-end of the big ska-punk boom and the beginning of the emo explosion.

In the late ‘90s-early 2000s, word-of-mouth was still king in that local music scene. Many bands, like Rosenstock’s pre-Bomb the Music Industry! group, the Arrogant Sons of Bitches, entertained consistently at all-age, low-budget shows. It got to a point where kids in nearly every skank pit in the area knew the band’s songs by heart. They had no real radio play, and were seen mostly on shaky handheld video camera footage from Bloomfield Ave Cafe or the like, but still were on tour forever, had discernable sing-along singles, and (almost) released a split in Japan.

Personally, I remember coming home from their shows realizing I knew all the words to a song that wasn’t on any of the albums I owned. They had a frenetic, punkish wall-of-sound that required so many members that climbing on stage for a dive almost guaranteed you a chance to snag a microphone. Hell, they encouraged it.

As Rosenstock recalls, the end of Arrogant Sons of Bitches was not easy. “We all just really wanted different things from life but were really steadfast on keeping this band together. It all ended in a big band fight. I just shouted ‘I don’t even want to press records! I’m sick of t-shirts and shit, I hate this!’ and [other band members] were like ‘but that’s what we should do because we’re a band!’”

So when ASOB did finally break up in 2005, Jeff immediately formed Bomb the Music Industry! Instead of pressing merch, he’d bring a printer to shows and encourage fans to attend with blank shirts. And he opened up Quote Unquote records to release his music for free online and host the music of his friends on a donation-based Paypal system.

The uncertainty surrounding his own abilities to breakthrough with this new collective — after 10 years in ASOB — enveloped the first few bedroom EPs that Rosenstock released as BTMI! These were snotty songs about losing a band and trying to self-righteously save one’s foothold in a music scene while battling depression. Many of the tracks had to do with still drunkenly chasing the dream of rock stardom over day jobs while his friends were either succeeding at their musical ends or working their own dead-end jobs.

Rosenstock took the manic, convoluted ska-punk sound of ASOB and flipped it new wave with intricately synthesized backing tracks layered thick over his guitar, horns, and vocals. Check out “It Ceases To Be ‘Whining’ If You Stop ‘Shitting Blood’” on 2006’s Album Without Band. According to the diary-like song explanations, which used to accompany Rosenstock’s releases, this one was “about all the pressures of being in a band that is about to break and feeling like if you DON’T break, you’re personally responsible for all of it. It’s also about the machine that a band creates when it decided to buy a van, sell merch, put out records, et cetera.”

The year 2005 also saw the beginning of BTMI! as a live band.

“I called up a few friends to see if they wanted to play [shows],” Rosenstock says. “ASOB, at some point, had 12 to 15 people in it —  we all grew up playing music together. It would have been pretty hard [not to play with] anybody from that band. Then everybody couldn’t go on tour for a while, that’s when I had those one-man tours. Anyone who showed up would go ‘oh, it’s just you and an iPod.’ I didn’t want to bum anyone out.”

But bumming people out, especially through verbose confessions of desolation and broken friendships, is a core tenant of Rosenstock’s music.

The album Scrambles (2009) found Rosenstock in New York City, up to his eyeballs in debt and living in a van after grabbing an assortment of musicians and moving to Athens, Ga. to write a concept album chronicling the experience. The resulting album, Get Warmer, was the first BTMI! album recorded with a live band — not just Rosenstock on his computer.

Scrambles hits a high note with the piano-driven, almost Andrew WK-esque rocker “Fresh Attitude, Young Body.” With his voice cracking amid what sounds too resigned to be a full-on panic attack, Rosenstock shouts “You’re alone and you’re wet in a hospital bed and your family and friends will inherit your debt as you breathe from machines/Yeah, I know it sounds mean but you’re probably gonna die alone.”

BTMI!’s music is the nagging voice in the back of your head that just won’t allow you to forget your hangups and have a good time. People relate to Rosenstock and there is a slew of YouTube fan videos from around the world to prove it.

“I’m just like ‘holy shit, I can return the favor!’” Rosenstock tells me. “Because growing up, if I didn’t have Operation Ivy records, I would have gone completely insane. At the same time, it’s interesting because the songs I write go into a lot of stuff in my life but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m good at talking about it. When people come up to me at shows I’m just like ‘okay, uh, cool!’”

His albums are like an ongoing journal, which chronicles his journey from teenage singer in a regionally successful ska-punk band to doing dishes in a car during New York winters, and taunting slumlords. “I ain’t giving you shit, I ain’t paying my rent til I got hot water and my toilet’s fixed. I don’t care. Try to kick me out if you want to” he says in a track off 2010’s Adults!!!: Smart!!! Shithammered!!! and Excited By Nothing!!!!!!!

“Maybe I’m just not that good at writing about other people. Maybe I’m just too self-centered to figure that out, I don’t know” he says. “I get stressed out about just about everything, [writing songs] is a way to help me vent about all the little minutiae that gets to you in your day.”

He adds, “I end up writing songs about really specific stuff. [But right now] I have my home situation on lock. It took a while. I wouldn’t happily go back to living out of a van with my girlfriend and staying at people’s houses every night, getting dressed in a van and trying to somehow work up the courage to go into a job interview when you look like shit, feel like shit, and smell terrible.”

When I ask about the recent breakup of Bomb the Music Industry!, Jeff says that what started as a collective gained enough momentum and support that members became irreplaceable. “Bomb has always taken up all my energy and all my focus. So to have that be a once a year kind of thing [to accommodate irreplaceable members moving out-of-country] didn’t really feel right.”

Jeff Rosenstock
With Sean Bonnette (Andrew Jackson Jihad), Dog Party, Hard Girls
Aug. 13, 9pm, $10
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th Street SF

Milo grows up


MUSIC The Descendents have been around since the early 1980s, writing fast, coffee-driven punk music with lyrics about trashy, tongue-in-cheek rebellion in songs like “My Dad Sucks” and “I’m Not a Loser.” The group has undergone various lineup changes, losing drummer Bill Stevenson to Black Flag for a while, and periodically losing lead singer Milo Aukerman to his pursuit of higher education and biochemistry (which the band named its most popular record after).

Brad Nowell of Sublime and Jason Thirsk of Pennywise died within months of each other in the summer of 1996, right around the time when the Descendents regrouped to record the landmark album Everything Sucks. How is this all connected? These three groups (well, Sublime with Rome now) will play the America’s Cup Pavillion together on Sun/4. The Descendents on-again/off-again frontperson, Dr. Aukerman, spoke with me recently about the upcoming show, his dual-life as a biochemist and band leader, and his influence on rockers who didn’t make it out of the ’90s.

SFBG First of all, happy 50th birthday! Do you think that your famous massive coffee intake has helped your longevity in any way?

Milo Aukerman Probably not. I think coffee can be good for you in moderation; it has antioxidant properties, for example. But like anything else you put into your body, it’s not good to overdo it. I am a caffeine abuser, for sure. But I like it, and it helps me rock out. At least I’m not strung out on something harder.

SFBG So when Milo [went] to College after releasing the record of the same name, you split briefly from the band and got a Ph.D. in biochemistry. Why the decision?

MA Actually, first I left to get my undergraduate degree (1982-1986), played again with the band (1985-1987), and then left for my Ph.D. (1987-1992). I’ve always said I would be a scientist, and that music was just a hobby for me. It’s a very intense hobby, and one that makes me some extra cash, but I never considered music as a career, and I still don’t. My career is in science, as I always wanted.

SFBG How do you decide to divide up your time?

MA In 1996 I was really burned out on science; I didn’t have a permanent position, so it was pretty easy to walk away from for a while. Once I got a permanent position, I couldn’t realistically take a break from science. Now, my decision to stay connected with music has been primarily based on wanting to have that creative outlet. While science is creative in its own way, I find that music keeps me feeling alive and young in ways that science cannot. So now, although I cannot really “walk away” from science, I take little vacations from it whenever the band gets together to play or record.

SFBG Do you have a quiet, “clone” of a “Suburban Home” in Delaware when you’re back to being Dr. Aukerman?

MA I do have a suburban home! The irony is that Tony Lombardo wrote “Suburban Home” as a way to poke fun at himself, because when he wrote it, he already owned a house. Let’s face it, we all grew up and took on more adult responsibilities and possessions, but we still have to look in the mirror and laugh at ourselves. Many of our songs are self-critical, some in a more humorous way than others.

SFBG You’re opening for Sublime with Rome at the America’s Cup Pavillion. They covered your song “Hope” on 40oz. to Freedom, did you ever meet or play with Brad Nowell while he was alive?

MA They also covered “Myage,” “Sour Grapes,” and “I’m Not a Loser” — I only learned after Nowell’s death how much they liked the Descendents. We never played with Sublime, nor did I ever meet Brad. I looked at their Wiki page, which lists their “Years Active” as 1988 to 1996…that’s the exact same time frame as our hiatus before Everything Sucks, so, there you go. But I’m really looking forward to seeing [Sublime with Rome] play; there will always be the naysayers saying “you can’t fill Brad’s shoes,” but if a band’s good, I don’t care about that shit. Eric shreds on bass, Rome has a good voice and I like their new stuff, so it’s all good.

SFBG Do you write songs like “I Like Food” as fast you play them?

MA Those type of songs usually start out in your head as a jumble of lines, and usually induced by too much caffeine. You may repeat them over and over, and say them to your friends for a laugh. So by the time you actually write them on paper, it’s pretty quick to finish them. Bill’s the master at these; he wrote “Weinerschnitzel,” then realizing it wasn’t short enough, wrote “ALL.”


With Pennywise, Sublime with Rome

Sun/4, 5:30pm, $39.50

America’s Cup Pavilion

27-29 San Francisco Pier 33

(415) 371-5500


Burning Bacon


Bacon has its own buzz these days, infused with an almost cult-like enthusiasm that’s hard to explain. But the uptick in business that my employer, the Bacon Bacon Food Truck, has recently experienced can hardly be explained by the pork product’s faddish popularity.

Bacon Bacon is in demand more than ever, and it’s all because a small group of neighbors who raised a stink inadvertently set off a national media craze, thereby inspiring bacon-loving supporters to come out in droves and place their orders.

When Jim Angelus opened a neighborhood breakfast sandwich shop five blocks from where he lives with his wife and daughters in the Haight, he never imagined he’d set off a media feeding frenzy about bacon. But that’s what happened.

Jim is my boss. I am a news intern at the Bay Guardian and a recent hire at the Bacon Bacon Food Truck as a line cook. Our menu is crammed full of items like bacon-wrapped fried chicken, a bacon-filled parody of the It’s-It ice cream sandwich called the “That’s-That,” and in quintessential San Francisco fashion, a BLT with goat cheese called “THE L.G.B.T.”

We’re open at Brick and Mortar, on Mission and Duboce streets in San Francisco, for lunch service. We recently reclaimed our original Frederick Street location, pending installation of a costly ventilation system replacement to be OK’d by the Planning Commission as a result of a dustup stemming from neighborhood complaints.

Just a typical San Francisco small business, right?

But ever since a group of neighbors in proximity to our location in the Haight filed complaints with the San Francisco Planning Department about the smell of bacon, sparking a media firestorm, things have gotten a bit surreal.

A Wall Street Journal reporter recently interviewed us for what would become a front-page article. Bacon Bacon even made Saturday Night Live in May, with Amy Poehler informing the nation that a “San Francisco bacon restaurant” was closed for its bacon smell.

Bloggers blogged, tweeters tweeted, and Bacon Bacon was thrown into the spotlight when ABC’s Good Morning America aired a segment titled, “big bacon battle sizzling.”

That media spectacle started to smell like business. Random San Franciscans, many of whom had only heard of us through recent headlines, began to walk up to the truck, stop by the new location and espouse gestures of solidarity to a crew of cooks bewildered by their sudden celebrity status. Many of these supporters had never even eaten the food.

It all started with a series of short San Francisco Examiner articles by Andrea Koskey, with catchy headlines like “Bacon Bacon Aroma Set To End,” which went viral in May. “One of the things I’ve taken away from all of this,” says Angelus, “is how few people called me [as the story was going viral] and asked questions.”

Maybe because it was about bacon, the media attention was largely sensational. “The Haight-Ashbury district was all about peace and love until bacon entered the picture,” Vauhini Vara’s Wall St. Journal story began on July 11, the day Bacon Bacon’s Planning Commission hearing was scheduled. When I asked Vauhini why she was doing the piece, said she just wanted to do more “fun” articles.

“Plus,” she added, as if to explain everything, “it’s bacon!”



Angelus started the Bacon Bacon food truck two years ago, moving away from the late nights and weekends of the restaurant business to do a lunch-only truck so he could have more time with his family.

But, as he said the day before the hearing as a recently hired personal assistant scrolled through journalists’ emails, “a lot of this has been a huge distraction in running a business.”

The Wong Family, which owns Ashbury Market, offered Jim a lease on the deli portion of their building to operate as a commissary for the Bacon Bacon Food Truck (which then had four employees, Angelus included), and they started making bacon. The Planning Department stipulated that Angelus needed a “limited use restaurant” permit to operate. That’s when the trouble started.

Shortly after Angelus opened his doors in January of 2012, a handful of neighbors complained about the smell of bacon and the influx of bacon lovers to the new restaurant in their residential neighborhood. Contrary to SNL-fueled legend, none of the neighbors “complained to the cops that [they] smelled bacon.” Instead, they filed a discretionary review application, a process in which anyone can urge the Planning Department to take action if it’s found that the case demonstrates an exceptional and extraordinary circumstance. The Health Department allowed the restaurant to operate in the interim, as long as issues with the Planning Department were ultimately resolved.

But when the issue still wasn’t resolved more than a year later, the Health Department imposed a 75-day deadline by which the planning permits must be secured. Once that deadline passed in May, Bacon Bacon was shut down. This prompted the media frenzy, which continued through July 11 — when the Planning Commission unanimously ruled that it could reopen as long as an air filtration system was installed.

Four major-network television crews filmed the three-hour hearing, periodically running out of the hearing room to grab more videotape. Phylis Johnson-Silk lives around the corner from Bacon Bacon, on Downey St. “If they put in a nail salon,” she said during the commission meeting, “[these neighbors] would complain about that. Put in a bakery, then it’d be the smell of yeast!”

“I know [the neighbors] call FedEx when the truck is double parked for deliveries on their block,” said Mike Shell, who showed up to defend Bacon Bacon independently of the company in a pork-pink tie.

In an email to members of the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, HAIA president Ted Lowenberg urged opponents to attend the Planning Commission hearing. “We have to get as many voices as possible to attend to say the Commission must take discretionary review,” he wrote. “The owner has committed a number of cardinal sins vis-a-vis the normal process of getting a business started, and to simply let this slide through creates havoc with the planning code and process. It would like legalizing Al Capone’s liquor sales because he’s been doing it for a while, whilst getting away with murder. Now is the time to scream, ‘STOP THIS!!!'”

Neighbor David Nevins described for the commission the physical “clouds” of bacon smell that wafted down the block, “almost toxic smelling.”

His wife, Inge, visibly teared up after her turn to speak. “This should not be a popularity contest,” she said. “This should be about proper placement of a restaurant … There are people on our sidewalks eating this stuff!”

In Bacon Bacon opponent David Nevins’ plea to the Planning Commission, he cited the Wall Street Journal’s interview with the head of Iowa State University’s Sensory Evaluation Unit as evidence that the bacon smell was a nuisance, while complaining the media overexposure had turned the proceedings into a “joke.”

“I have no problem with what the health department did,” Angelus said. “They waited a year and a half for us to sort all this out and it wasn’t working. The Planning Department was really banking on us resolving the issue with the neighbors.”

“This is a residential neighborhood, not a commercial neighborhood,” David Nevins said, “The commercial activity that’s existed is ‘limited commercial use,’ which means that it respects the integrity of the neighborhood that it’s in.”

If it weren’t for the Bacon Bacon buzzwords involved, it’s likely that none of us would have heard about any of this. The neighbors, who spent a lot of money obtaining top-level legal representation and footing the bill for all sorts of tests to check the credibility of Bacon Bacon’s operations, might have gained more traction if it weren’t for the public scrutiny.

But at the same time, it’s a prime example of the kind of story which gains national media attention simply because the topic is trendy.

Instead of reading about world affairs in the morning papers this week, many Americans will be reading about their breakfasts.

In tech-dominated Mid-Market, arts center beats the odds

Is there a place for community theaters and nonprofit arts and education programs in pricey San Francisco? The 950 Center for Art and Education, a project that will be housed on the corner of Market and Turk streets in San Francisco, has gained a foothold against the odds.

Two years in the making, the center will provide permanently affordable performance facilities for the Lorraine Hansberry and Magic theaters, and create affordable space for art education organizations including Youth Speaks, the American Conservatory Theater and All Stars Project. Other groups, such as Lines Ballet, the Tenderloin Boys and Girls Club and others previously unsure whether they could continue to rent in the Tenderloin/SoMa area will get the chance to expand their performance and programming capabilities at the center.

Because the neighborhood is in such high demand in the wake of recent tax breaks and incentives designed to bring tech businesses to SF, it took the Tenderloin Economic Development Project, a part of the North of Market Neighborhood Improvement Corporation, at least two years to secure the property for the arts and education complex. Until very recently, the project’s fate was hanging in the balance, with many groups uncertain whether they would be able to remain in the city.

Three-quarters of the project space that TEDP had long set its sites on is located at 970 Market, and was initially owned by Lone Star, a Texas-based hedge fund. The remaining project space, at 950 Market, was under the ownership of the Thatcher family, known for philanthropy.

Initially, TEDP “had a deal with the hedge fund,” says TEDP director Elvin Padilla, but after property values rose, “they basically walked away from the negotiating table. The crisis moment was, who’s going to control the land – and will they collaborate with us?”

Padilla credits Gladys Thatcher, founder of the San Francisco Education Fund, as “the reason we decided to make the attempt [to acquire these spaces for the 950 Center] in the first place.” 

When TEDP first pitched the idea to her several years ago, “she gave us her blessing we decided to make a go of it,” he explained.

Thatcher is trustee and former board member of the San Francisco Foundation, which worked alongside TEDP and the Rainin Foundation to secure the lion’s share of the land needed for the 950 Center, by facilitating a purchase of the 970 Market Parcel from Lone Star.

On June 7, the property was transferred from Lone Star to Group I, a San Francisco-based real estate development firm that Thatcher is friendly with. Now that the sale has gone through, the space will be devoted to the arts and education programming that TEDP had long envisioned. The San Francisco Foundation plans to facilitate development of the center through the creation of a new sponsoring organization that will be housed at Community Initiatives, a nonprofit. 

While he is grateful for the community support, Padilla likened their quest to gain 970 Market to a climb up Mt. Everest.

A 2011 payroll tax exclusion zone introduced by Mayor Ed Lee vastly increased the property value in the mid-Market area. Although Lee had a soft spot for the 950 Arts and Education Center and even organized events to support bringing that use to mid-Market, his new policy left the project facing an uncertain future in a suddenly pricey strip along Market Street. “He doesn’t have any real authority over private sector transactions,” Padilla says, so all the Mayor could do was stipulate the city’s interest in using this land for “arts and education.”

The city doesn’t offer public funding for projects like 950 Center for Arts and Education. To “subsidize on the front end,” as Padilla puts it, the center will have to rely on the backing of individual investors, philanthropic groups and new market tax credits to reduce and eliminate the debt entirely, so the organizations that will be housed at the center don’t have to carry a mortgage.

In the end, it was only through the efforts of wealthy and connected individuals that plans for the center were nailed down rather than extinguished. “Mid-Market is going through a very rapid transformation,” says Dr. Sandra R. Hernández, Chief Executive Officer of the San Francisco Foundation. “We’re just lucky that Group I, the developer, shares this vision with us for an arts center.”

Looking back on the years of effort it took to piece the plan together, Padilla noted, “When we started this, it was before the tech boom. Now, the pressure on the real estate is many times what it was when we conceptualized the 950 project.” 

That uncertainty finally came to an end for Padilla’s organization when Group I closed the deal with Lone Star on June 7. “That really [did] start the project officially,” Hernández says. “We’re now working with a number of the organizations that have expressed interest in having permanent space or accessible space for their programming or rehearsals for their theater production.”

BART workers authorize strike

Note: This post has been updated from an earlier version.

Bay Area Rapid Transit workers, whose contract expires June 30, have authorized a strike if negotiations with the transit agency do not result in renewed contract terms that are acceptable to both sides.

“They just announced it. Both unions overwhelmingly supported a strike vote,” Leah Berlanga, chief negotiating officer for Service Employees International Union 1021, told the Guardian in a phone call this morning. Votes were cast yesterday, and the results have just come in.

SEIU represents about 1,400 BART inspectors and maintenance workers. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which has also voted to authorize a strike, represents BART drivers.

For now, Berlanga said, SEIU and ATU remain at the negotiating table, and “we’re just focusing on reaching an agreement.” The contract is valid throughout June 30, so the earliest the transit workers could go out on strike would be Monday morning.

Contentious issues in the contract negotiations include workers’ request for raises, which haven’t been granted in years despite an uptick in ridership, and the agency’s insistence that employees pick up a share of their pension contributions.

Union representatives have emphasized that their primary concern is worker safety. Last week, SEIU filed an unfair practices labor lawsuit alleging that BART was not negotiating in good faith, pointing to worker safety as a central concern. “We’ve been talking about health and safety for the last four years. By law, health and safety is a mandatory subject of bargaining. Management has rejected every proposal we’ve put forward that addresses safety, and they are not bargaining in good faith,” Berlanga said. On June 25, unionized workers and supporters held a press conference outside the 24th Street BART station, nearby where an employee was struck and killed by a train in 2001. SEIU representatives have said this death was preventable, blaming it on poor lighting inside BART tunnels.

Antonette Bryant, president of ATU 1555, also emphasized safety issues. “We’ve had over 1,000 passengers assaulted and 99 workers assaulted,” she told the Guardian. “That’s something that we take very seriously. We want our work environment and riding environment on the BART to be safe.”

The agency is also trying to make changes to workers’ compensation programs, Bryant added, an issue that goes hand in hand with safety concerns. “They just give [compensation] to people that are hurt, they don’t make efforts to rehabilitate and bring these people back to work,” Bryant said. “We are trying to start a new program for this and they just don’t want to deal with it.”

Reached by phone, BART spokesperson Rick Rice told the Guardian, “We’re still confident there’s a deal to be had at the negotiating table. As far as I know, they are back at the table” after taking a break from negotiations yesterday, he said.

As of the morning of June 26, “We’ve gotten no notice from them” about when a strike could start, but “they’ve said publicly they’ll give 72 hours warning, and we would hope they would, for the sake of the riders.”

With regard to safety concerns, Rice said BART management meets weekly with union leaders on these issues and that the agency is planning to spend $4.5 million to replace lighting in train tunnels and had budgeted for “hundreds of new security cameras.” He said BART is asking employees to make higher contributions to their health care, and pay into their pension plans. He added that workers are requesting the equivalent of a 23.2 percent wage increase over the duration of the new contract. Rice did not have information about how this requested wage increase compares with the expected rise in the cost of living in the Bay Area, but said this was almost certainly a part of the conversation at the negotiating table.

Asked about the unfair labor practices suit, Rice declined to comment specifically on the allegations raised but stated, “We’re definitely at the table negotiating in good faith.”

Q&A: Vela Eyes on passing out in the studio, taping merch to the car hood, and becoming ‘a real band’


Vela Eyes is a relatively new indie-pop act right out of San Francisco that combines a huge, spaciously synthesized sound with the personality and camaraderie one can only find in decades-old friends. It’s a perfect fusion of the rawness of punk influences with the technical proficiency and sampling-song mapping of a DJ set.

The group has been playing packed shows throughout the Bay since its inception mere months ago, most recently an album release party for its first EP, The Pleasure Sunrise, last week at the Elbo Room. Get to know Vela Eyes before the band’s next local gig (you’ve got ‘till July 26):

SFBG So you guys don’t have a van and had to come up with a crazy wacky maneuver to get your gear back from your record release show?

Julia Johari We had to make three trips to get all of our stuff there. But at the end of the night we realized we didn’t want to make multiple trips to get our stuff back. So I just remember Nate being like “I’m going to tape the merch to the hood of my car!”

Ian Zazueta Luckily I brought that big roll of red duct tape. I knew it would come in handy.

SFBG Tell me about playing the Elbo Room for the record release show.

Jef Pauly I actually had the place in mind after playing there a few times. It’s got a very intimate atmosphere and packs a crowd close together.

Nate Higley That’s a P.C. answer. Truth is we knew we couldn’t sell out Mezzanine.

JJ We knew we would be able to pack Elbo Room.

Florie Maschmeyer And the sound was really important, we’ve always felt we sounded really good in the Elbo Room.

IZ It’s kind of a give and take. You want a location that’s a good fit for you, but you don’t want to sacrifice a good on-stage sound or the sound that’s directed at the audience.

SFBG Where does your sound start?

FM We kind of conceptually write. For example, I would call and be like “I just had the weirdest dream, you want to hear me out?”

IZ And I would honestly take notes and stuff while she was talking and start coming up with some things. Then Florie would add some more and we’d build a song around it. Then Nate brings in a lot of creativity and musical contrast and intelligence to it. We’re finally starting to develop our style.

NH Yeah, it doesn’t take like a year to write a song anymore! [Laughs]

JP We’re basically hitting phase two now that we’re a “real band.”

IZ Oh, you mean since you joined the band! [Everyone laughs]

JP Well, did you have any drummer before me?

IZ Yeah we did, it was called Logic Pro and it wouldn’t talk back. [Everyone laughs]

SFBG So Jef, as a drummer, you always play to a click track?

JP Every practice, every show.

IZ For me, who creates a lot of our sequences and samples, having someone who can be able to do that adds so much more to our creativity and allows so much more potential for pushing our product. A lot of people would see playing to a click as being more rigid, but once we establish the right tempo to the song, in terms of manifesting a product, it gives us so much more freedom.

SFBG So any time I see you guys play live anywhere it will have the exact same tempo?

IZ Yep.

FM Especially because we have trigger sequences that happen all throughout the track.

SFBG The trigger sequences are something you’ve designed ahead of time to drop at a specific point with the metronome in the course of the song without physically having to push a button to turn whatever sound on?

FM Yeah, it’s in the song already. So Jef gets the count-in and then the song starts.

JP There really is no room for messing up. There’s just a count-off at the beginning and if I miss the start, it’s all over.

SFBG On multiple occasions I’ve heard you refer to your music as “the product,” what does this mean?

FM We refer to it as product because it takes our music and makes it a sellable package. That’s what you have to do if you want to be in the music industry, you need to have a product, which means your image, your music, your presence. In the end that’s what we pay for, that’s what we record and what we sell. It’s always important that we think of the product as a whole because we’ve got so many different songwriters in this. Egos can battle, but we always agree on what’s good for the project. The music is a separate entity who’s not one individual person. At different points anyone in the band might be leading the song, but it always comes down to what’s right for the product, the band as the whole is separate from us individually at this point.

SFBG What, in one sentence, is the selling point for me to come to your next show?

FM It’ll be a sexy kick in the teeth. I think you’ll love it.

SFBG So let’s close this out with another awesome rock and roll story, shall we?

FM Remember when we got all hammered and passed out in the music studio, sleeping on the floor, spooning? Then I pissed my pants.

IZ No, the funny thing is that she tried to blame me. Like, after she peed all over me. Florie’s like “how do you know it wasn’t you?”

SFBG Were you playing a show beforehand or something?

NH No, this was just a typical Thursday night.

Vela Eyes plays next July 26 at Bottom of the Hill, with the Orange Peels and the Corner Laughers.