Iris Tablas-Mejia

Superlist: Step up!



It’s a fact: when your sneakers are fresh, random people from the street will ask you where you got ’em. So for all the bus drivers and friends of friends who have asked, here is a list of Bay Area shops where you too can score an exclusive pair of kicks.

Female sneakerheads are usually at a disadvantage when trying to find limited-edition athletic footwear in their size, but Bows & Arrows (2513 Telegraph, Berk.; 510-649-6683, owner Jerry Harris acknowledges the demand for smaller shoes and orders small men’s sizes whenever he can. Definitely a stop to make for all genders who are looking for Quickstrikes on the other side of the Bay Bridge.

Virtually invisible from the denser streets of North Beach, the remodeled shop formerly known as Recon/NORT, now called the Darkside Initiative (1827 Powell, SF; 415-837-1909), is too easy to miss but a pleasure to find. The downstairs sneaker heaven is closed off now, but you can still find Quickstrikes and other limited-edition styles on the main floor, such as the bright, primary-colored Nike Tier Zero "Be True" Dunks.

Along with Nike SBs and the occasional Quickstrikes, DLX (1831 Market, SF; 415-626-5588, also carries Vans Syndicates, which are exclusive to skate shops. Drino Man may have ranted that Vans aren’t real sneakers in his song "Fuck Vans," but the Syndicates collabo with Japanese brand W)Tap would be a nice addition to any sneakerphile’s collection.

The security glass cases at First Step (948 Market, SF; 415-693-9720, display unworn, retro, upper-tier Nikes and Jordans that can be purchased in their original boxes. With an average price of $500 a pair, these shoes end up in the hands of true collectors or those endowed with deep pockets. Also check out their Sneaker Art display — Air Force 1s and other favorites that have met with local artists’ paintbrushes.

While most skate shops shied away from adopting Nike’s first foray into manufacturing skateboarding shoes, 510 (2500 Telegraph, Berk.; 510-849-8600, was one of only three shops in the Bay Area to carry Nike SBs when the line debuted in 2001. Its early interest in Nike SBs is the reason that the store has a premium account with Nike. Good news, ladies: 510 orders men’s sizes as small as 4, so now you can be as fresh as the fellas.

In 2006, two companies each designed a pair of shoes specifically for FTC (1632 Haight, SF; 415-626-0663, in honor of its 20th anniversary. And because the store has been around for 21 years, a lot of brands send it color combos that aren’t otherwise available in the United States. FTC’s obviously got clout in the footwear game, and female clients can’t complain: they’ve carried some styles in a men’s size 3.5.

It’s like stepping into a 1980s stockroom — Harput’s (1527 Fillmore, SF; 415-922-9644, has been collecting Adidas shoes for the last 20 years. That vintage pair on display that just caught your eye? They’ve been marinating in storage for decades and are no longer available anywhere else but here. To get the most out of your visit, ask Bootsy Harput about the true origin of sneaker culture.

You can’t be a self-proclaimed sneaker fiend if you’ve never been to Huf (808 Sutter, SF; 415-614-9414, The Sutter location has top accounts with all the popular brands — Nike, Air Jordan, Adidas, and Vans — and it’s the only authorized dealer in northern California for Japanese brand Vizvim and quirky Ice Cream lace-ups. The store’s resemblance to an art gallery shows off its shoe selection nicely, and the signature lime-green bag with the Etch A Sketch city skyline is as official as your new kicks.

Only 80 pairs of the Yo! MTV Raps Pumas were made worldwide, and Shoe Biz II (1553 Haight, SF; 415-861-3933, was one of the few stores deemed worthy of carrying a few pairs when they debuted this past fall. Online manager Levi Beutler invites sneakerheads to check out this Upper Haight location for limited-edition steps in various brands ranging from Asics to Pumas, and of course Nikes.

Car trouble



A lawsuit alleging that seven major rental car companies have been illegally colluding to fix prices has become a campaign issue in the State Senate race between incumbent Carole Migden and Assemblymember Mark Leno.

The suit was filed by the University of San Diego School of Law’s Center for Public Interest Law and alleges that Hertz, Avis, Dollar, National, Thrifty, Alamo, and Enterprise took advantage of Assembly Bill 2592, sponsored by Leno, to charge consumers more and essentially blame the increase on the state.

The bill was created in the final days of the 2006 legislative session at the request of the rental car companies and the California Travel and Tourism Commission. It allowed the companies to list for consumers the 9 percent concession fee paid to airports (which they had been required to bundle into their listed rates) in exchange for paying $24 million annually, or about 2.5 percent of revenues, to the commission, replacing the state’s $6.7 million contribution to the organization that promotes tourism to the state.

But the lawsuit alleges the companies simply increased their rates by that 11.5 percent, pocketing the profits while indicating to customers that the money was going to the commission and to the airports. And the fact that they all did so is, the lawsuit charges, evidence of illegal collusion.

So this month Migden offered her own legislation to undo the change, highlighting the lawsuit and Leno’s legislation in the process. Senate Bill 1057 would also require rental car companies to provide a certified audit specifying how much extra money consumers were charged since AB 2592 went into effect.

"This law needs to be fixed before more consumers lose their hard-earned money to overcharging by unethical car rental firms," Migden said in a press release.

For his part, Leno notes that Migden and most legislators supported his bill, which he vetted through the Consumers Union, a group that was ultimately neutral on it. He said the bill provides greater transparency to consumers, so much so that it makes the apparent collusion obvious. "If [rental car companies] want to collude, they should do it without the 2592 on them," Leno said, adding, "If there’s any funny business going on, let’s crack the whip."

As for Midgen’s role in cleaning up the situation, Leno said, "If I weren’t running for the senate, this would be of no interest to her whatsoever. This is pure politics."

Leno concedes that it was representatives of some of the rental car companies, along with someone from the commission, who brought him the legislation, which he inserted into another bill at the end of the legislative session. According to Cal-Access, an online resource that documents campaign finances, Hertz Corp. contributed $3,000 each to Leno’s 2004 and 2006 campaigns. The Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group also made a contribution of $3,300 to Leno’s 2006 campaign.

But Leno said of his legislation, "It enhances the information that consumers receive when they rent a car…. I thought this was a win-win situation that would not have consumer opposition, that would generate $50 million [a figure that includes the ripple effect of tourism] to promote California and create hundreds of thousands of jobs."

In addition to helping boost tourism in the state, the Leno legislation requires rental car companies to disclose their total out-the-door prices on the phone or the Internet and requires all components of the total charge to be clearly itemized for consumers.

Robert Fellmeth, executive director of the Center for Public Interest Law, told us the alleged price fixing wasn’t surprising, given that the seven companies dominate the market and share a lobbyist and a trade association. But he said, "The more serious charge is that they went to a legislator and agreed to horizontal price colluding."

None of the companies returned Guardian calls or offered comments.

Megan Ma contributed to this report.

Guards hit streets



More than 100 security guards from more than 20 buildings in the Financial District, including the Transamerica Building, participated in a three-day unfair-labor-practices strike before returning to work Sept. 27 as contract talks resumed.

After three months of working without a contract, security guards are seeking higher wages and access to affordable health care to be able to support their families, as well as proper training for the safety of buildings and their occupants.

Service Employees International Union Local 24/7 representatives were mostly pleased with the job action, although the union had to defend three guards who were locked out as the strike ended. Universal Protection Services had planned to permanently replace security officers Robert Ravare, Kevin Coleman, and Jesusa Villena, but the issue has since been resolved, and the three employees returned to work on the morning of Sept. 28.

Abbas Emady, a security guard for Universal, told the Guardian he resents security companies for not providing adequate training for their employees, which devalues the important role guards are likely to play in a disaster. And low wages and poor benefits exacerbate the problem by creating high turnover rates for guards.

"If there’s a terrorist attack or a fire, we’re the first to go," said Bobby Randall, who works for Securitas as a security guard at the 50 Fremont high-rise. Without sufficient training, security guards may have difficulty assisting police and firefighters in an emergency, a point the local police and firefighters unions reinforced with votes of support for the strike.

Security guards risk their lives to protect multibillion-dollar properties, yet they don’t receive the same wages or health coverage as janitors, window washers, parking attendants, or operating engineers who work in the same buildings. In fact, a security guard with two and half years of experience only makes $11.85 an hour, while a janitor with the same experience makes $17.05 an hour, according to the SEIU. A union-run "Justice for Janitors" organizing campaign a few years ago helped that group make progress.

"It’s an unacceptable double standard," SEIU Local 24/7 spokesperson Gina Bowers said.

Armando Yepez, who participated in the strike, told us he works two full-time jobs as a security guard, at a downtown high-rise and at a construction site, in order to pay for housing and other expenses. Yepez commutes between his home in Richmond and his job locations in San Francisco five times a week, leaving him with less than five hours of sleep each night.

Security officers often find themselves paying for medical expenses out of their own pockets because their health insurance does not cover all of their needs and does not provide family benefits.

On Jan. 1 security guards were offered a free but severely limited health plan with Aetna, which has a cap of $4,000 for outpatients. For Sue Trayling, a security guard working for Securitas, all it took was one night in the emergency room and a couple of doctor’s appointments to max out her Aetna plan. Trayling clocks in 421/2 hours a week yet still had to dish out $2,400 in cash to pay for additional medical expenses.

According to Trayling, security guards were offered health care plans with Kaiser Permanente for $26 per month before Jan. 1. Since then, however, premiums have gone up to about $140 per month, and the copayment has doubled from $20 to $40 per visit.

The first strike among private security officers in San Francisco found some official support — the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution Sept. 25 in favor of the security guards. Sup. Tom Ammiano stood before a small crowd of workers clad in purple T-shirts on the steps of City Hall and expressed the city’s support for higher wages, affordable health insurance, and proper training.

Mayor Gavin Newsom also issued a statement saying, "I urge the involved parties to work more diligently towards a fair and reasonable settlement — one that recognizes the economic concerns of the workers while at the same time respect[ing] the employers’ need for operating flexibility within the wide range of facilities in which they provide security services."

Newsom also asked commercial-building owners and managers to involve themselves in the negotiation process with the security companies in order to set new industry standards. The Building Owners and Managers Association did not return our call seeking comment on the strike and related issues.