Tim Redmond

Is there hope for California?


Nothing cheers up an old tax-and-spend liberal than word that two major new sources of state revenue — enough to begin closing the gap in education funding — are at least on the table in Sacramento.

At the state Democratic Convention April 13, delegates approved a resolution calling for a split-roll property-tax system, removing commercial property from the protection of Prop. 13. There’s a group called Evolve working on this statewide, and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has a bill that would end a loophole that allows corporations to buy and sell property without reassessment.

And now there’s also a campaign gearing up to establish an oil severance tax — something that every other oil-producing state already has. As oil and gas companies try to create a new oil rush in California, fracking their way to billions, the public ought to get a little something. After all, the oil below the ground belongs, in a sense, to all of us, not just to the companies that can stick a pipe into it.

Meanwhile, organized labor is attacking the Enterprise Zone Tax Credit, which is basically a corporate giveaway.

Not all of this is going to happen this year. Even with the overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses, tax reform is tough; there are armies of lobbyists who will fight it all the way. And any ballot measure would need serious deep-pocket funding, since the California Chamber of Commerce, the real-estate industry and Big Oil would pour tens of millions in to defeating it.

Still: You have to start somewhere, and five years ago, none of this would have even been under discussion. So maybe there’s hope for California after all.







The Chron gets the condo deal wrong


It’s kind of a surprise that the Chron actually likes the (possible) condo conversion deal. That paper typically opposes anything that is good for tenants and supports anything that the landlords like. But it’s annoying that the editorial writers made it sound as if Sups. Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell engineered this whole thing. You need to get beyond the silly paywall to read the full editorial, so I’ll reproduce the key part here:

This week a deal may be struck to end the stalemate. A plan by Supervisors Mark Farrell and Scott Wiener will give owners of tenancies in common the chance to convert under a one-time deal. The yearly lottery will be suspended, the apartment owners will pay from $4,000 to $20,000 each into a subsidized housing fund, and those in the conversion pipeline can go forward. It’s essentially a one-time offer with the lottery system swinging back in place in 10 years.

Actually, Farrell and Wiener weren’t the ones who came up with the proposal that might make this legislation possible. That work was done by tenant and housing advocates — Sarah Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee, Ted Gullkicksen of the Tenants Union, Peter Cohen from the Council of Community Housing Organizations, Gen Fujioka of CCDC — and Sups. Norman Yee, Jane Kim, and David Chiu. The landlord group Plan C didn’t make any effort to negotiate anything in good faith, so the tenant and housing people went and put this together on their own.

It was never included in the Wiener/Farrell bill; if anything, it was prepared as a hostile amendment. Realizing that, with Yee on the side of the tenants, there wouldn’t be six votes for their original plan, Wiener and Farrell had no choice but to accept the tenant alternative.

A lot of hard work, and a lot of give-and-take was involved — but the credit for that goes first and foremost to the activists who fought the original Wiener-Farrell proposal. Let’s be fair here.

CEQA change moves faster in SF than Sacto


So the Guv says he doesn’t think he’s going to be able to gut CEQA this year. I think he’s right: The party he supposedly leads (but doesn’t tend to follow him) won’t go for it, any more than the party Obama leads will got for cuts to Social Security.

It’s partly that both are hard-fought pieces of progressive history. The late 1960s and early 1970s were a good time for the environmental movement — Congress passed both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and Nixon signed both. The California Legislature passed CEQA in 1970, and Gov. Reagan signed it. Back then, even Republicans thought it was a good thing to be on the side of protecting the planet.

But there’s more — and it’s interesting that the state Leg, typically not known as a bastion of progressive thought, is better on this issue than San Francisco, where some sort of changes to CEQA are almost inevitable.

Some background:

What NEPA and CEQA did, first and foremost, was eliminate the problem of “standing” that had plagued environmental lawyers for years. If I couldn’t prove that a horrible development project on the San Francisco waterfront would personally injure me (which would typically mean I had to own adjacent property), I had no right to go to court to oppose it. CEQA mandates a valid, complete environmental review of any major project, which gives anyone the right to sue; I may not be able to describe specific financial damages from a project, but as a citizen, I have a legal right to an adequate Environmental Impact Report.

Likewise, anyone can appeal a development in San Francisco to the Board of Supervisors on the grounds that the EIR was inadequate.

CEQA review slows down projects and costs money. If you “streamline” the process, you make life easier for developers. But there’s a hefty price to pay — because while Sup. Scott Wiener talks about homeowners fixing rotting handrails, very few CEQA suits or appeals are ever filed over that kind of thing. Yeah, there are exceptions; year, one lone bike-hater slowed down the city’s bicycle plan. Yeah, NIMBYs will sometimes slow down affordable housing projects.

But most major CEQA lawsuits and appeals are over big projects, ones that, in San Francisco, tend to slide through the official approval process no matter how horrible they are. Mayors of this city for most of the past half-century have liked developers; mayors appoint the majority of the Planning Commission, and they appoint commissioners who like developers. There’s big money in San Francisco real-estate development, and the savvy builders spread enough of it around that they typically get their way.

CEQA gives the rest of us a way to fight back. Most of the time, it doesn’t work: A CEQA appeal, for example, didn’t stop the atrocious 8 Washington project. CEQA hasn’t stopped developers from building about 50 million square feet of office space in the city since the 1970s. CEQA didn’t stop that hideous Rincon Hill tower. Oh, and it hasn’t stopped a single affordable housing project.

In a city where developers rule and bad decisions are made all the time, for all the wrong reasons, you have to look at tradeoffs. Is it worth accepting a delay in the bike plan and the Dolores Park plan because lone nuts are using CEQA — if that means we can force big commerical projects to mitigate some of the damage their doing? CEQA isn’t perfect, but “reforming” it to make appeals harder is, on balance, a bad idea.

Have at me, trolls. I am a backward-thinking luddite who hates success and never wants anything in the city to change. I am an old curmudgeon. I am whatever you come up with next.

Or maybe I’ve just lived here long enough to see that much of what passes for “progress” in this town does more damage than good.


Boston, a day later


It’s hard to know what to say about the Boston Marathon bombings. Except that I don’t believe the guy on the roof did it, and I don’t believe the government did it to get its hand down our pants, and nobody has any idea if some organized domestic or foreign terrorist group was responsible or if it was a lone nut. Whoever it was, the person doesn’t seem to have been overly sophisticated in the making of explosive devices; this one was pretty crude. Or maybe the bombmaker knew exactly what he (could be she, but there aren’t many female mad bombers) was doing, and wanted to look like an amateur.

We do know this wasn’t a suicide bomber. The perp wanted to get away.

I suspect we will find him soon enough. There are so many agencies and people looking for the bomber; unless this was the work of someone who remotely triggered the bombs by cell phone from somewhere far, far away, there’s not going to be anywhere to hide. Also: So many cameras everywhere these days. The bomber — or the person who placed the bombs — is on film in downtown Boston. Almost certainly.

As we did after 9/11, we will probably over-react. New invasive rules on transport systems, more spying, more surveillance …. all things that wouldn’t have prevented a single angry bomber from carrying out the attacks. People who are opposed to gun control will say: See! Gun-control laws won’t stop pressure-cooker bombs!

There will be increased security at public sports events. I don’t know how they’re going to deal with Bay to Breakers, which not only winds through the city, past lots of places where bombs could be hidden, but also involves thousands of trash cans and porta-potties. You can’t get rid of those; the people who live along the course would be livid when their front yards and driveways became trash heaps and pissoirs. Searches will be more serious at AT&T park, which means lines will be longer. We can live with that. 

If you want some perspective on what it feels like to be terrorized, check out my old friend Don Ray’s blog on “the sitting duck syndrome.” He notes:

The bombs that exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon have created the same response in people across the United States. The repeated blasts (repeated and repeated and repeated on television) have communicated with the primitive, “I have to survive” reptilian brains of millions of people. It has put them on notice that, “It could happen here. Today. Tomorrow. Even right now.” Welcome to the world of terrorism. It’s very effective. People in other parts of the world already know about this. So in the coming weeks and months, some of us will feel the need to carry weapons or to avoid crowds completely. Others of us will look at the violence that’s happening in distant parts of the world and maybe begin to become a little bit empathic. Maybe — just maybe — some of us will equate U.S. drones and missiles and bombs with the sitting duck, unexpected violence that is the intended byproduct of terrorists.

Not to get all foreign-policy preachy here, but that’s something to think about.

An art benefit — for the artists


All sorts of political campaigns and causes raise money by asking artists to donate work that can be auctioned off. It’s not often that the artists themselves get the benefits.

So Matt Gonzalez — former supervisor, longtime criminal defense lawyer, and big fan of local arts — is putting together a different type of fund-raiser. It’s an art auction — to benefit the artists.

“This is a kind of thank you to the artists who have donated works in the past,” Gonzalez told me. “All the sale proceeds, every cent, goes directly to the artists. “As a result most artists are starting the bidding on their pieces at 1/3 or 1/2 of the retail price (since there’s no gallery cut to worry about).”

Gonzalez, along with co-sponsors Peter Kirkeby and Aimee Friberg, have paid to rent out Incline Gallery. Beer and wine will be served, cheap. A long list of artists are participating: Adam Feibelman, Alicia Escott, Andrew Schoultz, Anthony Torres, Ben Venom, Bill McRight, Brian Lucas, Christa Assad, Claire Colette, Clare Judith, David Molesky, Ezra Eismont, Felix Macnee, Gianluca Franzese, Gina Borg, Guy Colwell, Harley Lafarrah Eaves, Hilary Pecis, Jean Oppermann, Jet Martinez, Jeff Petersen, Jenny Sharaf, Jonathan Steinberg, Kara Maria, Kathryn Kain, Kelly Ording, Kevin Taylor, Kim Frohsin, Kottie Paloma, Kristen van Diggelen, Kyle Ranson, Lauren Douglas, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Mark Battinger, Mark Van Proyen, Megan Gorham, Megan Seiter, Michael Krause, Michael Rauner, Nellie King Solomon, Paz de la Calzada, Ryan Coffey, Ryan Shaffer, Tahiti Pehrson, Tom Schultz, and Yuri Psinakis.

It’s Friday, April 19, from 6pm – 9pm. Incline Gallery, 766 Valencia.

Faux cabs: A tourism industry perspective


I got a fascinating letter from a person who’s worked in the tourism business in San Francisco for many years, and he’s very worried about the impact of the faux cabs on the city’s biggest industry. Here’s his note:

I’m a concerned representative of the tourism industry who read your article, “The cost of fake cabs,” with great alarm.  In fact, I think you should have mentioned more on how it could affect tourism beyond that just “inexperienced drivers aren’t good for the city’s reputation.”  I’ve been the Chief Concierge of a major Union Square-area hotel for the last 11 years, and if even half of what you say is true, then I fear there could be even greater damage than what your article portends.

According to the last statistic I read from the SFCVB, San Francisco welcomed 16.5 million visitors to the city in 2012, and although many of them may be “tech savvy,”  they often do not bring their smart and cell phones with them because it cost to much to use outside their own countries.  Therefore, they are just as dependent on our taxis as those seniors and disabled San Franciscans you wrote would be disenfranchised.  if, as your article infers, companies like Lyft and Sidecar (Et Al) continue their dominating trajectory over our traditional taxi industry, I worry how the millions of visitors who come to the city will be affected.

Unlike the aforementioned vulnerable San Franciscans who at least are somewhat familiar with the city, many of these visitors often have never been here before, so they have no knowledge of alternative ways of getting around and know only a taxi as a means of transportation.

Again if, as your article infers, this trend means a “race to the bottom” of qualified drivers, I fear the detrimental affect would greatly damage our city’s number on industry – tourism.  I know first had how sites like TripAdvisor can enhance or diminish a hotel’s reputation, imagine what would happen if that were expanded tenfold and millions of visitors who could have negative taxi experiences damage the image of the city on line.  It’s not beyond the realm of reason to imagine if one of these under-regulated and under-taxed companies didn’t like tourist A or tourist B for some reason, and then disseminates that information to the other companies; essentially blackballing said tourist completely.

As much concern as I have for those of our most vulnerable citizens who are already suffering the deleterious effects as these companies proliferate, I fear that our city’s greatest industry would be harmed in ways not yet imagined.  We really have no idea yet what the future is, and I fear those who can can do something about it are doubling down on an untested concept with possible disastrous effects.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my observations.

Peter Nasatir

Treasure Island: Is this the end?


So Mayor Lee goes to China with plans to celebrate the signing of a deal that would bring $1.7 billion in Chinese investment into the lagging Treasure Island redevelopment project, and instead the whole thing falls apart. Not good for the cross-Bay rivalry: Gov. Brown, a former mayor of Oakland, landed $1.8 billion in Chinese money for his city’s big project, while Lee lost out.

But there’s a bigger problem. It’s hard to see how anyone would want to invest in Treasure Island right now, when:

The island is sinking,

The Bay is rising,

There’s only one way on or off the island, and it’s already so crowded that a modest event like the Treasure Island Flea Market ties up traffic in both directions for hours, and

The place is radioactive.

Matt Smith and Katherine Mieszkowski of the Bay Citizen did what the Navy and the city of San Francisco refused to do. They went out with a couple of red buckets, dug up some soil and had it tested for Cesium-137. Bingo: The place suffers from far worse contamination that anyone was letting on. And there might be even more:

Until the early 1990s, the Navy operated atomic warfare training academies on Treasure Island, using instruction materials and devices that included radioactive plutonium, cesium, tritium, cadmium, strontium, krypton and cobalt. These supplies were stored at various locations around the former base, including supply depots, classrooms and vaults, and in and around a mocked-up atomic warfare training ship – the USS Pandemonium. CIR’s samples were taken from under a palm tree 50 feet from a classroom building where cesium-137 was kept, according to military archives. A 1974 radiation safety audit identified cesium samples used and stored there with radioactivity several times the amount necessary to injure or kill someone who mishandled them. In 1993, shipping manifests from the same building showed even greater amounts of cesium-137 taken away from the same site that year.

Now some experts say that development plans need to be put on hold while the entire place is checked out more carefully:

“The fact that there is a level above standards is a clear mandate for further study and assessment of the extent of contamination and its origin,” Beyea wrote in an email, adding that more systematic testing is particularly important given that public play areas are planned nearby. “Building a playfield is not an appropriate plan at this time,” he wrote, “given the tendency for little children to put things in their mouths.”

Would you loan a couple billion dollars for a development project on that site?

In theory, of course, the Navy is responsible for the cleanup. In practice? Good luck with that. The Pentagon is blaming the sequester for forced budget cuts in everything including the Blue Angels; you think anyone’s going to write a very big check any time soon for a very complex environmental clean-up job on an artificial island that will soon be underwater?

I used to think the best thing to do with Treasure Island was to leave as much open space as possible for soccer and baseball fields, then slowly let it sink back into the Bay. Now apparently it’s a bad idea even to have kids playing there.

And what about the people who already have moved into housing at TI? Anyone going to test their soil?

Anyone want to take bets on whether anything much is ever going to be built there?

When conservatives love Leno


State Sen. Mark Leno is used to facing opposition. His efforts to regulate chemicals, end gender discrimination in insurance, and force cell-phone makers to come clean about radiation levels put him up against some of the most powerful interest groups in the state. He’s fought with Republicans over state spending and taxes.

He’s not used to getting support from right-wing media.

Yet that’s what’s happening now: In an odd political reversal, Leno’s (eminently reasonable) bill to allow cities to explore extending drinking hours is getting flak from progressive groups like Alcohol Justice — and support from the Orange County Register and Fox News.

The Register, which hates all forms of regulation, ran an editorial endorsing Leno’s bill on the grounds that it makes perfect sense for a world where people no longer always work 9-5. (Oh, and it makes sense because there are two many damn laws anyway and we should let people drink when they want.)

Neil Cavuto of Fox News interviewed Leno recently, and his only complaint about the bill was that the procedure for actually getting a late-hours license would be so complicated that even hearing about it was driving him to drink.

That’s the thing: Leno’s bill doesn’t force anyone to do anything. It just sets up a long, complicated process that might, in the end, after extensive public input on the state and local level, allow a couple of bars in a few limited areas (in cities that want to pursue this) to stay open until 4am, as bars in many civilized states already do.

So while Bruce Livingston, who is a decent guy and usually works on good issues, is running around the state trying to get progressives to oppose the Leno bill, the conservatives who usually vote against everything Leno does might wind up on board.

And wouldn’t that be an odd way to get a good bill passed?



Ron Lanza, queer impressario, dies at 78


Ron Lanza, a pioneer in San Francisco’s gay rights movement and an impressario who promoted queer arts through the worst of the AIDS crisis, has died after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 78.

Lanza, a Brooklyn native, was one of the leaders of Bay Area Gay Liberation in the 1970s, and, along with Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and the late activists Hank Wilson and Howard Wallace, was instrumental in building the LGBT movement in San Francisco.

He was the owner and operator of the Valencia Rose Café and later Josie’s Cabaret and Juice Joint, two groundbreaking queer performance venues that helpled launch the careers of  Whoopie Goldberg, Marga Gomez, and Margaret Cho.

“His vision came from looking at people and saying, ‘you have talent, you ought to try this,’ ” Ammiano, who performed as a comedian at Valencia Rose, told me.

“He was a giant in this city,” Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a performer and housing activist and the author of a book on the history of gay liberation, noted. “He created the foundation for what we now know as queer arts in San Francisco. He was really one of a kind.”

Lanza with Dennis Peron and Tom Ammiano

Marke B., our managing editor and a longtime follower of queer culture, put it this way:

“He dedicated his life to promoting theater and arts in San Francisco — even if it sometimes meant playing hardball, but always with that super-charming, goofball smile. Every single drag queen, performance artist, comedian, and actor in the city owes Ron a memorial smoothie — the Valencia Rose and Josie’s Cabaret kept performing arts alive in this town through the worst years of AIDS and political artphobia.”

Lanza, a Navy veteran, arrived in San Francisco in the 1970s, and worked for a while as a teacher in Walnut Creek. “When he came out, he risked being fired, so he quite before they could fire him,” Ammiano said.

With Wilson, Lanza took over the Ambassador Hotel, a Tenderloin SRO with a large number of gay and transgender tenants. In the 1980s, the two helped create what would become the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center.

Lanza never liked the headlines; while his compatriots entered politics, ran for office, and organized on the streets, he stayed in the background, providing the cultural, moral, and financial support.

When Ammiano challenged then-Mayor Willie Brown in a legendary 1999 write-in campaign, Josie’s Cabaret and Juice Joint became the campaign headquarters. “He was so supportive,” Ammiano said. “He was a real San Francisco lefty. He only cared about money if he had to pay the bills.”

Gabriel Haaland, who helped run the Ammiano write-in, told me that “San Francisco is dimished. It’s such a heavy loss. There are people who are just magical, bright lights in the world, and he was one of them.”

Lanza was diagnosed with colon cancer in his 40s, but survived — in part, probably, thanks to adopting a healthy lifestyle. “He didn’t smoke, he was a vegetarian, and back then we teased him about it,” Ammiano said.

But the cancer came back in his later years, and he quietly underwent a series of operations. “He called me a few weeks ago and said he was dying,” Ammiano said. “He wanted to have a good-bye dinner.”

A huge dog-lover, Lanza could often be seen running down Dolores Street with two or three rescue animals. One of his last wishes was for a trip East to leave the dogs with a relative. He’d been driving a limo for income, and one of his wealthy clients paid for the ticket.

“He was always handsome, always loyal,” Ammiano recalled. “There were times you wanted to kill him, but the love was always there.”

A memorial is pending.

Dealing with the faux cabs


Lots of comments on my article outlining the problems with the fake cabs that are riding around town without medallions or proper screening. The main complaint the trolls have appears to be their dislike of cab drivers and the difficulty of getting a cab in some places and at certain times. I’ve never had a bad experience with an SF cab driver in 30 years of living here and taking cabs, but I’m sure there are others who have; no industry is perfect.

My main concern is that the cab interlopers are lying and cheating — insisting that they don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else. Somebody in one of the comments said that there’s nothing wrong with “ride shares,” and it’s true that everyone from Craigslist to Caltrans has some verison of a ride board, and it’s not uncommon for casual carpools to share gas costs.

But that’s not what Lyft and Uber etc. are doing. They’re private businesses, set up with venture capital backers, with the aim of making a profit by ferrying passengers around cities. That’s the definition of a taxicab business. If these were just casual shared rides, there would be no business model and they wouldn’t have investors.

I’ll tell you how we can settle the issue quickly. How about all of us who need a ride around town contact Lyft, get a lift, and then voluntarily pay nothing. Or just offer the price of gas — $4.50 a gallon, most of these cars get 25 miles to the gallon, most rides around town are five miles or less, so that would be 90 cents.

Passengers get profiles on the system, just like drivers. Anyone who does that will quickly find it impossible to get rides. Which will demonstrate that this isn’t ride-sharing, it’s commerce. And while I’m all in favor of competition, everyone should play by the same rules.


What cabs really do



EDITORS NOTES There are two ways to look at the taxicab industry in San Francisco: Either it’s purely a business, out to serve customers with the products that are most profitable — or it’s part of the city’s public transportation infrastructure, and thus subject to regulations that ensure all parts of the city are properly served.

If you take the first approach, then you’re like the entrepreneurs who founded Lyft, Uber, Sidecar, and Tickengo. They offer a product that the market clearly wants — rides that can be summoned with a smart phone and tracked by geolocation (no more “when the hell is that cab going to get here?”), with both drivers and passengers rated on a Yelp-like system.

The newcomers have no interest in the city’s old-fashioned regulations, which really do, in some ways, date back to the days when cabs were buggies pulled by horses. They’ve got a business model, and they’re going to follow it.

The problem here is that cabs are not just a business. (Housing isn’t just a business, either; that’s why we have, for example, rent control, eviction protections, and code enforcement.) Taxis are an essential part of the transit system in San Francisco. They backfill where buses and trains can’t or don’t go. They provide a lifeline for disabled people and seniors who need a ride, for example, to and from health-care appointments or supermarkets.

They are absolutely essential to the tourist economy, which is the city’s biggest and most lucrative industry (tech is still far behind).

There are problems with this part of the transportation system, as there are problems with Muni and BART and airport shuttles. There need to be more cabs on the streets, particularly at busier times. The existing drivers and operators need better technology and a better dispatch system.

But taxi drivers — the old, traditional type — are required to pick up anyone and drive anywhere; they can’t cherry pick the most attractive rides. They have to go through screening and training that ensures the public is safe.

They are, like many other utilities, almost a part of the public sector. There’s a good reason for that. And it’s what the city and the state regulators should be looking at.

Where the wild dogs are


San Francisco has more dogs than children, which might be a comment on the price of housing — even the largest canine companion doesn’t need a bedroom. But with all of those furry beasts seeking exercise in a dense urban area, the city’s made a point of finding places for dogs to run, romp, and play — with some success, and some … well, not such great success.

We’ve taken on the task of finding some of the best dog parks, and offer this opinionated guide. Remember, not all dog parks are created equal. Some are great if you just want open space to toss a ball; others are better for the dog that likes to wander around and explore. Some are perfect for the social animal that loves lots of canine company; some serve the more solitary types.

Our ratings reflect the level of cleanliness (will I be constantly stepping over, or in, poo?), friendliness (are the park-goers, human and canine, nice to be around and welcoming, or is there a cliquishness or conflicts between different types of users?) and dog-fun terrain (Just dirt? Lots of trees and bushes? Gophers to chase? Water to drink — and play in?)

Results below.


Legal status: City park, off-leash allowed

Cleanliness: 2 paws

Friendliness: 4 paws

Terrain: 3 paws

Lots of room on this often-windy hilltop. Hiking trails offer spectacular city views; paved roads are nice for jogging. Amazing rock formations surround a couple of open flat areas for romping and ball-chasing. Dog and human water fountains. Very friendly; everyone who uses the place is used to off-leash dogs. Sadly, some take the vegetation and rocky hillsides as an excuse not to clean up; if you’re off trail, watch where you step. Entrances at the top of Bernal Heights Boulevard and at Folsom and Ripley.


Legal status: City park, on-leash rules are not tightly enforced

Cleanliness: 3 paws

Friendliness: 3 paws

Terrain: 4 paws

You can walk a few hundred yards into Glen Canyon and feel miles away from the city. The canyon floor, with a creek (mud! exciting!) running through it, is cool and shady with trees, thickets, and blackberries. The hillsides are grassy, steep, and sometimes attract rock climbers. Most days, there are off-leash dogs walking and playing — but there are also picnic areas, ball fields, and a (fenced) kids’ playground where it’s best not to allow dogs to roam freely, and sensitive habitat restoration areas where off-leash dogs can wreak havoc. Sometimes users complain about off-leash dogs; if you keep poochie on leash, it’s still a great hiking area. Absolutely do not let your dog wander off in the deeper parts of the canyon, where coyotes have made a home; it’s best for all parties if they are undisturbed.

The south side of the park is undergoing renovations right now, but you can enter at Diamond Heights and Sussex (watch the traffic, there’s no crosswalk) or at the end of Bosworth.


Legal status: City park, off-leash areas

Cleanliness: 3 paws

Friendliness: 3 paws

Terrain: 3 paws

The second-largest park in the city is often overlooked, but it’s got some nice wooded trails — and the only pond in the city where dogs are actually allowed to go swimming. It’s not a nasty, slimy-covered puddle, either; the water’s clear and there’s a (concrete) doggie beach where your canine can ease into a dip. It’s shallow enough near shore for those with short legs and deep enough and long enough for the big dogs to have a nice refreshing swim or practice their water-retrieval skills. There’s some misinformation on the web about how to find the dog-swim area. You don’t want McNabb Lake, on the east side of the park; that’s a playground and picnic area with a nice duck pond where dogs are not terribly welcome. The parking lot for the dog area is off the westernmost part of the John F. Shelley loop, near the big blue water tower. You can see the pond from the road, and it’s a very short walk down. Bring a towel and be prepared to get wet; humans can’t swim there, but the beach is small and wet doggies love to shake.

John F. Shelley Drive.


Legal status: City park, off-leash area

cleanliness: 2 paws

Friendliness: 2 paws

Terrain: 2 paws

This popular spot used to be called “dog shit park.” It’s the place where Harvey Milk famously announced his legislation mandating that people pick up their canine companions’ stinky piles. It’s a lot better now — in fact, this is a rare place where the interaction between dogs and children is well-managed and everyone seems happy. The kids are fenced off in the upper area, the dogs run free in the lower area, and people just out for some sun sit in between. Still: watch where you walk. The ghost of Harvey’s soiled shoe remains.

The dogs here tend to be a bit rambunctious, perhaps because of the limited space, so don’t be surprised if a few more aggressive ones bound up to you as you enter, which can intimidate the more skittish of both species. The (human) regulars tend to know each other. McKinley School’s Dog Fest turns the place into a grand celebration of the canine spirit every spring.

Duboce Avenue and Noe.


Legal status: National park, off-leash areas (for now)

Cleanliness: 3 paws

Friendliness: 3 paws

Terrain: 4 paws

The walkable trails — surrounded by lush trees, non-native plants, and flora — that lead down to sandy dunes, cliffs, and Ocean Beach itself make up Fort Funston, a former military base, and current highly traveled dog park. In fact, it’s one of the Bay Area’s most popular mixed-use canine-friendly sites, usually sweeping the Bay Woof’s Beast of the Bay awards, this year winning “Best Hiking Trail” and a runner-up for best overall dog park. There are multiple pathways to explore, great views, and a few doggie amenities along the way. On the rare warm weekend (always with a breeze), there might be dozens of pups lapping up the cooling dribble of water from one of the small water fountains. It gets crowded (some dog owners say it’s too crowded) on the weekends, but is less congested during the week. The off-leash factor is also currently up for review, so those in charge caution owners to pick up after and keep a close eye on their pets. It’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is operated under the authority of the National Park Service.

Park in the lot off Skyline Boulevard.


Legal status: City park, west half is off-leash.

Cleanliness: 4 paws

Friendliness: 3 paws

Terrain: 2 paws

The dogs atop the sloping west side of Alamo Square Park like to play — and they do so in the rather small dirt-and-grass area allotted for off-leash fun. It’s typically a hyper bunch of small pups, chasing, fetching, leaping after frisbees, and entwining regulars in the old twisted leash dance on the vertical pull up the hill. Thankfully, the typically business and/or tech-veering dog owners in Alamo Square are usually quite friendly, pick up after their pets, and won’t give you side-eye if your darling drools on another’s chew toy. There’s also a water fountain for thirsty pups and a give one/take one plastic doo-doo bag stand at the base of the hill. But be forewarned, the other side of that hill is the one with the classic SF view of the Painted Ladies, so it’s where tour buses dump the masses for photos ops. Fido is less than welcome there without a leash, and it can get scary for less sociable pups. Plus, just below, the park dips directly into the busy intersection.

Hayes and Scott.


Legal status: National park, off-leash areas (excluding the Crissy Field Tidal Marsh and Lagoon)

Cleanliness: 3 paws

Friendliness: 4 paws

Terrain: 4 paws

With boardwalk walkways, grassy play areas, a bombshell view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and long stretches of California coast, Crissy Field, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is a frisky pup’s beachy playland. There are even small outdoor showers, specifically for washing the sand off paws, not human feet. The regulars know where to avoid walking without a leash, and will kindly tell you so on arrival. And there’s plenty of room for running, fetching, and playing (canine) or catching up (human). Plus, check out interesting wave formations due to sand bars, and the marshy areas of the former Army airfield, first opened to the public in 2001. There’s also enough sanded open space to keep a distance from other pets, if you’re dog’s the less-than-cordial type.

Beach and Mason, in the Presidio.


Legal status: City park, off-leash

Cleanliness: 2 paws

Friendliness: 2 paws

Terrain: 1 paws

This relatively diminutive fenced enclosure is more typical of suburban neighborhoods — a very pre-planned park feel. Connected to the Noe Valley Recreation Center, it’s helpful that this dog run is in the heart of the city, fully gated, and easy for humans to access, for a quick game of fetch or poop jaunt. The entirely fenced in park is great for new dog owners and those with easily spooked puppies. Weirdly, this kind of enclosure seems a rarity in the city. But other than convenience and safety (both considerably important in the pup playtime world) it offers little amenities to the average pup or companion. Also, there is sometimes a slight urine odor, likely due to the closed in nature, and while friendly, the crowd often seems more focused on getting in and out, quickly.

299 Day.

Paying for the mayor’s China trip


You’d think the mayor would know better by now. After all the allegations of cronyism and undue influence, you’d think that he’d make sure everyone involved in his trip to China was playing by the rules. You’d think the last thing he would want is this.

Now: So far this is just a complaint, and noting has been proven. But still: It sure looks bad. And it’s entirely unnecessary.

If the mayor really belives that he needs to go to China to do the city’s business, why doesn’t he go on the city’s tab? Seriously: I would much rather that my tax dollars went for this trip than have the mayor inundated and unduly influenced by corrupt actors who want his ear. If he was going for fun and sightseeing, he could pay his own way; if he’s there, as his office says, on official business, then why is he taking private money?

When Dennis Herrera went to Washington DC for the Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage, the city paid his way. That’s appropriate: He’s directly involved in the case, as are some of his staffers. They were meeting with co-counsel, doing practice runs … working. He stayed at a midrange hotel at the government rate ($200 a night) and was allowed to spend a set per-diem on meals. That’s the same rules any city employee follows on official travel.

If you think he shouldn’t have gone (as Michael Petrelis clearly thinks), then that’s a political discussion. It’s appropriate to ask about it, to point out how much money was spent on the trip, to analyze his expenses, and to challenge him about it when he’s next running for office. But it’s not a corruption probe — and frankly, I’m happy that some corporate bond-counsel firm that wants the city’s legal business didn’t pay for the trip and send a lobbyist to hang out with Herrera the whole time.

The city sends people on trips. It’s fair to ask if they are an appropriate use of taxpayer money. But if the trip is worth taking, then the mayor should justify the expense — and not take corporate and lobbyist money instead.

Class divisions in SF (sorta)


Richard Florida, who got famous creating the “creative class,” has a new series of maps out charting class structure in American cities — not on the basis of income or wealth but on the type of work people do. Sfist has a nice copy of the San Francisco version here. It shows, on the surface, that this city has virtually no “working class,” some “service class” and lots of “creative class.”

Overall, it’s a picture of a city in the late stages of terminal gentrification — but it’s also a bit misleading.

San Francisco long ago lost much of it’s traditional blue-collar work — manufacturing, production, distribution, and repair — although there’s still some left. What we don’t have is a lot of unionized blue-collar jobs (like the Port of Oakland offers). That’s pretty clear.

But unionized jobs that don’t require advanced degrees still exist in San Francisco — they’re just in the public sector. I suppose Muni drivers get defined as “service class” by Florida, but that’s really not accurate.

Nor is the notion that “creative class” people all make a lot of money. I suppose there are artists and musicians who are getting rich in San Francisco, but I don’t know any of them.

If anything, Florida’s approach just underscores the changes in the American economy in the past few decades. It doesn’t do much to help understand how the actual demographics of the city have changed, how wealth has become more concentrated and poverty more dire. So I don’t really get the point.

The Willits tree-sit fallout


I just spoke with state Sen. Noreen Evans, who represents the Willits area, about the forcible eviction of five tree-sitters — and by forcible, I mean firing projectiles (first reported as rubber bullets, later as bean bags) at a protester holding onto tree limbs 70 feet in the air. She’s not happy.

The Willits Weekly has been reporting in depth on this whole mess, and quotes an Evan statement:

I am shocked and dismayed at what seems to be an excessive use of force on unarmed protestors. Thus far, I feel Caltrans and CHP have been slow to respond to my questions and quick to act regarding the Bypass Project.

By the time we talked, she’d calmed down a bit and wasn’t ready to second-guess the CHP tactics. “I’m not in law-enforcement,” she said. “It could have been much worse.”

But she did say she was still furious about the timing of the raid. “The mayor of Willits has been trying to get information out of Caltrans, and has been having trouble, so I asked for a meeting. I wanted to know, is there some way they could handle this protest peacefully?

“I learned about the events half an hour before the Caltrans director was supposed to be in my office. I was not happy.”

Evans told me that Caltrans blamed the CHP — but the CHP wasn’t having it. “I called the commissioner of the CHP, who told me the order was given by Caltrans,” she said.

So the bulldozing continues — but this isn’t going away.


WTF, Chuck: Repeal the bottle bill?


Now, I thought we were all going to have to pay money to read the wisdom of C.W. Nevius, but here it is, for free, right on sfgate: Nevius is calling on California to repeal the “bottle bill,” the measure that requires a (modest) deposit on cans and bottles and that has been widely credited for making this one of the leading places in the world for recycling.

His argument: People are stealing recyclable material and selling it. This leads to drugs. (Seriously, this leads to drugs: “It hurts everybody,” says Adam Alberti, a spokesman for Recology, the city’s garbage collection firm. “We have heard reports of (scavengers) being paid in drugs instead of cash.”)

And, of course, criminal syndicates that underpay desperate people. The old Haight Asbury Recycling Center, which Chuck hated so much, demonstrated how the syndicate racket doesn’t have to work, since small-time individual bottle-pickers could get there without a truck and keep all the money. Oh, but that was also leading to drugs. So now it’s gone. Amazing, Chuck, the law of unintended consequences.

Anyway: Criminal syndicates aren’t a good thing. Wall Street, for example. Certain landlords and businesses that prey on the weak and don’t pay their taxes. Or the people who cheat their low-wage trash-diving workers.

But on the scale of all the things wrong in the world, and the city, this has to be pretty small-time. Because the bottom line for me is this:

The stuff is getting recycled.

That’s what we want, right? We don’t want bottles and cans in a landfill. From a strictly environmental viewpoint, it makes no difference if Recology picks the stuff up and makes money off it, or if a poor person picks up the stuff and makes money (except not in the Haight any more) or if some explotive syndicate hires people to pick the stuff up. It gets to the same place.

Again: Not supporting the criminal syndicates. Their workers should get fair pay, like all workers. Still, repealing the bottle bill seems like a pretty crazy way to address this modest problem.



Norquist exposes tax avoiders


I’m not a big fan of Grover Norquist, who will be in town April 4 and who is so against taxes that he apparently would have refused to pay his share of the cost of World War II (back when the government actually asked taxpayers to pay for wars as they were being fought, instead of pretending they were free and borrowing money that future generations will have to repay). Michael Krasny, the host of Forum, had Norquist on April 2 and didn’t ask the guy if he would have cut the taxes used to fight the Axis Powers (there was even an “excess profits tax” on corporations during the war years).

But they did have some interesting back and forth about taxes, and Norquist made an interesting observation, one that I actually agree with. (Yes, trolls — I have found myself agreeing with Grover Norquist.)

Krasny asked him about the pledge that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett made to give away half of their wealth before they did. Krasny seemed to think this was a great thing. Norquist was fine with it, too, but he put it in context:

What the great philanthropists are actually doing is avoiding the estate tax.

By giving away their money to causes they choose, Gates and Buffett will prevent the US government from collecting taxes on that money when they die — meaning, in effect, that the very rich who go along with this plan are saying they would rather they choose the beneficiaries of their largesse than allow the elected officials who represent the public to have a hand in redistributing the wealth.

That’s the thing about philanthrophy — it’s a fine, of course, but it’s also a way for the very rich to decide what they want to fund — and in many cases we’re talking about museums and universities, not homeless shelters and indigent mental-health programs.

If we taxed Gates and Buffett at a reasonable level (and even Buffett says his taxes are way too low), then we might not be looking at cuts to in-home support services and other life-saving programs that the government “just can’t afford” these days. (Of course, if we hadn’t spent $2 trillion and counting on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — or if we’d raised taxes to the level needed to pay for those wars, which would have meant an end to them, we wouldn’t be in such a deep fix anyway.)


Dirty war over clean power



It was supposed to be part of Ed Harrington’s legacy, and the chief of the city’s Public Utilities Commission delayed his retirement to make sure it happened.

But six months after the Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to move forward with CleanPowerSF, the plan is under attack from all sides. Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s house union is spending big chunks of money to shoot it down. The press is loaded with accounts of how expensive it’s going to be for customers. Advocates on the left are blasting it as too limited.

Critics say Harrington’s replacement, Harlan Kelly, is far less interested in making a program work that clearly lacks the support of a PG&E-friendly mayor.

That’s left Sup. David Campos, City Hall’s chief proponent for CleanPowerSF, trying to move forward with a program that, for all its flaws, is the city’s best chance to put a crack in PG&E’s monopoly.

CleanPowerSF will offer San Franciscans a greener alternative to PG&E power, most of which comes from nonrenewable sources. The city will buy renewable power in bulk, through Shell Energy, and distribute it to customers along PG&E’s lines.

A similar system is working well in Marin County, and communities all over the state are looking to see if a city the size of San Francisco — where PG&E has kept out any hint of competition for a century — can pull it off.

Clean power is more expensive right now, and that’s one sticking point: City officials recognize that not all San Franciscans will be willing to pay a premium (of perhaps $10 to $20 a month) for the option. An SFPUC survey released March 25 showed that about 45 percent of the city’s customers would pay extra for clean power and stick with the new program. Earlier studies suggested that 90,000 customers will remain with CleanPowerSF — enough to make the system financially viable.

(Interestingly, the areas most likely to pay extra to avoid fossil fuels are not the wealthiest parts of town. Most of the customers would be on the Eastside, in communities like the Mission, Potrero Hill, the Haight, and Noe Valley.)

The bigger problem with the current debate is that advocates and city officials can’t agree how much money the city ought to spend, on what schedule, to build its own renewable generation system, which would eventually replace much of the power purchased by Shell.

“In the past we would have figures and claims from all sides, and Ed Harrington would look at the numbers and figure it all out, and everybody trusted him,” Campos said. “But we don’t have Ed any more, and Kelly doesn’t seem to be as strongly behind this.”

Building a green-power infrastructure was always a critical part of the CleanPowerSF plan. And once the city has a system up and running, it can use the revenue stream to float bonds to pay for building solar, wind, and cogeneration facilities.

Over time, the locally generated power would be far cheaper than what anyone can offer today, meaning rates would come down.

“We agreed to move the sales agreement forward to get the system started, then keep working on the build-out,” Campos explained.

But a campaign by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, which represents PG&E employees and is historically allied with the company’s political goals, is trying to scare customers away with claims of high rates. And in fact, the first rate proposals were above what Campos and others were hoping for.

So the Local Agency Formation Commission, which oversees CleanPowerSF for the supervisors, and the SFPUC, have send staff back to try to find ways to cut rates.

Meanwhile, Kelly wants to de-couple the public build-out from the Shell agreement, in essence launching the program with the most expensive elements in place — and potentially undermining the future of a publicly owned energy infrastructure.

That has some clean-energy advocates furious — and they’ve threatened to withdraw their support for the program.

“Ever since Harlan Kelly took over, the PUC staff has been less supportive of a robust build-out,” Eric Brooks, who works with Our City has been a longtime supporter of CleanPowerSF, told us. “We’re not saying the city should stop moving forward with the Shell deal, but the city has to continue the planning work for the build-out. It can’t be a piecemeal thing.”

The SFPUC hired a Marin-based outfit called Local Power, led by longtime clean-energy advocate Paul Fenn, to do some preliminary work on how a build-out could proceed. Fenn’s conclusion: The city could create 1,500 to 3,000 jobs and build enough renewable energy to power much of the city, over a seven-year period — at a cost of about $1 billion.

That’s a huge tab — and almost certainly more ambitious than this SFPUC and Board of Supervisors could accept.

Fenn told us that his economic analysis, presented to the SFPUC’s Rate Fairness Board Feb. 18, indicates that the city’s cash flow from CleanPowerSF with a renewable build-out would more than cover the payments on the bonds. But he also agreed that he’s suggesting the best possible alternative — and he expects the city would go for a much smaller piece.

“The Board of Supervisors hasn’t made the decision to spend that kind of money,” he said.

Fenn’s contract expired April 1, and the SFPUC hasn’t renewed it. Instead, another consultant will review Local Power’s work, Campos said.

Part of the political challenge is that Local Power has proposed that much of the build-out include what’s known as “distributed generation” — small-scale solar, wind, and cogen projects on private houses and buildings.

Those installations would be “behind the meter” — that is, they would allow households and businesses to generate their own power without buying it through PG&E’s distribution system.

The build-out proposals that the SFPUC staff have discussed are primarily larger solar arrays, some on land the city owns in the East Bay.

“That’s the most expensive way to do this, and it allows PG&E to still control the transmission and distribution,” Brooks said.

[TK-SFPUC comment Monday.]

Meanwhile, PG&E is preparing to roll out its own competing “green energy” plan — while IBEW ramps up it assault on CleanPowerSF.

The IBEW campaign includes robo-calls, mailers, and advertising, all aimed at convincing customers to opt out of the city program.

And now, with advocates from the Sierra Club to Our City criticizing the program on the left, and IBEW trying to undermine it before it gets going, there’s a real chance that a plan more than 10 years in the making could be in trouble.

That concerns Campos. “All I’m hearing from the advocates is negative,” he said. “I want more build-out, too, but unless we move forward with the program, we won’t be able to do that.”

In fact, he said, “you could wind up killing it and have nothing to show for it at all.”

That, of course, would be PG&E’s preferred alternative.

Tree-sitter shot, 70 feet up, by CHP rubber bullet


Tree-sitting is nothing new. It’s happened all over California, going back decades. It’s a dangerous, but often effective protest tool that stops logging in its tracks.

Nobody with any official sanction is going to cut down a tree while there’s a human perched in it — and it’s been notoriously difficult for the authorities to remove people from platforms high above the forest.

And now, in Mendocino County, police response has entered a new phase.

California Highway Patrol officers April 2 began forcibly removing and arresting tree sitters trying to block Caltrans from clear-cutting an old-growth forest for the Willits Bypass. The tactics involved shooting at least one protester with a rubber bullet while he was 70 feet in the air.

The police used large-scale charry picker trucks to reach and “extract” the activists. Three have been removed so far; another two remain.

“We have reports of between three and nine bullets being fired,” Naomi Wagner, who is supporting the tree sitters, told me.

Matt Callaghan, who was on the scene when the arrests were made, said the man hit by the bullet, who goes by the name of Celsius, was “conscious and seemed okay when they got him down. He shouted that he was being taken to the hospital.”

Callaghan said that “there were also fists flying around up there. We were very concerned for the safety of everyone involved.”

No shit.

Why, exactly, would a rubber bullet be helpful in getting someone out of a tree? Isn’t there a pretty good chance the projectile could knock him to the ground (and his death)? Was this really necessary to build a road that fewer and fewer people in Willits seem to want?

I couldn’t reach anyone at the CHP, but Caltrans spokesperson Phil Frisbie confirmed to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that “some less lethal means” were used on one of the tree sitters.

I’ll keep you posted as this develops. Seems like a lot of overkill for a simple trespass violation.



Scholarship fund for poor college reject


The Bay Guardian Family Foundation has announced a special scholarship fundraising program to help Suzy Lee Weiss attend the college of her dreams.

Weiss, who slacked off four four years in High School watching The Real Housewives, revealed her plight in the Wall Street Journal, announcing that the elite schools of the US lied to her.

Colleges tell you, “Just be yourself.” That is great advice, as long as yourself has nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports, killer SAT scores and two moms. Then by all means, be yourself! If you work at a local pizza shop and are the slowest person on the cross-country team, consider taking your business elsewhere.

The remarkable young woman, who in the course of fewer than 700 words manages to be homophobic, racist, and mean to her parents, has a Wall Street Journal career waiting for her — if she can just find a way to slide through a good college. Generations of American leaders have done it — and all they had that she lacks is a famous family and money.

We can’t fix her horrible family problems — her lack of a Tiger Mom, her parents falling asleep before she got home from whatever killer parties she was going to why her peers were studying late in the library and practicing classical piano — but somebody needs to give the kid some money.

Actually, there isn’t a Guardian Family Foundation, now that I think of it. Anyone want to help?

Wiener to star in porn flick


Supervisor Scott Wiener has signed a contract to star in a new porn film satirizing the city’s ban on nudity.

Variety reports that Wiener accepted a deal “in the mid three figures” to play the fictitious Supervisor Scott Cox in “Cover Up,” a film by the legendary Naked Sword productions.

Wiener replaces porn star Dale Cooper, who has left the film “to pursue other interests.”

The film, shot on location in the Castro, would violate the ban on public nudity that Wiener sponsored – but since the producers obatined permits, Wiener said, wieners are permitted.

“Besides,” he told us, “penises and anuses and perineums are good for business. And what’s good for business is good for San Francisco.”

Wiener, who is exceptionally tall and shuns the dating scene, said he expects his appearing in the film to jump-start his sex life. “A six-foot-six naked guy is, well, a six-foot-six naked guy, if you know what I mean,” Wiener told us. “And I think you do,” he added with a giggle.

Outtakes will soon be available at sfgov.org/nakedsupervisorwiener.

Archbishop announces nuptials


San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone announced today that he would wed his longtime lover, Lupe, a tennis pro at the Bay Club.

“It will be a simple ceremony, as befits two humble servants in the eyes of our Lord,” George Wesolek, spokesman for the Archdiocese of  San Francisco, told us.

The marriage will take place in Connecticut, because same-sex nuptials are not at this point legal in California, Wesolek said. “Jesus casts a wide net, and we are happy to be able to include the Nutmeg State as part of our sister congregation — not that we are really sisters, which might suggest some sort of incest, which would be a sin,” he noted.

Cordileone has been an outspoken foe of same-sex marriage and has repeatedly argued that sex should only occur as part of  a procreative plan.  But Wesolek said the Catholic Church, which once sold tickets to free souls from purgatory and collaborated with the Nazis in World War II, has a history of moral flexibility.

“Plus, Lupe has a really cute ass,” he said.

 The couple plans to honeymoon in Argentina.

Lyft to take on Muni routes


In an announcement that could transform transportation policy in San Francisco, the startup company Lyft is prepared to take over some of the most crowded and dysfunctional Muni routes in San Francisco.

Mayor Ed Lee and the Municipal Transportation Agency have approved a plan that would turn the 38 Geary, 30 Stockton, and 14 Mission over to the tech startup, City Hall sources told us. The plan is still tentative and the Mayor’s Office is trying to keep it tightly under wraps until the financial details are complete.

However, documents provided to the Guardian show that Lyft would buy at least 68 buses, including 12 articulated vehicles, at a price still to be negotiated. In exchange, the city would give the company – known for its pink mustaches on illegal taxi cabs – exclusive rights to operate on the heavily-used lines.

Lyft is developing an  app that would allow customers not only to view approaching buses but to book specific seats for an additional  price. Sensors in the bus seats will emit an electronic buzz to alert passengers that their seats had been purchased by someone else, warning them to vacate by the next stop. If the passengers remain, they will feel a sharp electric shock.

Lee’s office said the plan is similar to the market-based parking-meter program that raises the price of a space in times of heavy demand.

“The free market solves so many problems,” Christine Falvey, spokesperson for Lee, told us. “And it’s pretty clear that too many people who don’t really need to sit down or who are perfectly capable of waiting for a later conveyance are taking up space on the most crowded buses.”

Ron Conway, the venture capitalist who is Lee’s closest ally in the business community, will invest as much as $40 million in the new venture, Silicon Valley sources say.  If the trial public-private partnership works, he’s prepared to raise money to buy out Muni and turn the city’s bus system into a private operation.

“You’ve got a captive market, and demand-based pricing is what’s happening these days,” Falvey said.  “It’s just the next step.”