Archive for February, 2010

San Francisco’s Official Budget Focus Group: A Postcard Invitation Town Hall Meeting

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Well this was different. Seems that participants at today’s San Francisco’s Budget Town Hall in Golden Gate Park were invited by postcard to spend a few hours voicing their opinions about the city budget for 2010-2011. See?

And by voicing their opinions, I really mean they were clicking on Reply Mini remote control voting devices as if they were in a focus group.

An invitee. Perhaps the free California Academy of Sciences tickets given out to participants adjusted his attitude:

The mise-en-scene today, complete with City Department heads.

Here’s the spiel from Mayor Gavin Newsom. (Don’t be surprised to see some shots from the photographers today being used in the Lt. Governor’s race down the road.) Anyway, it seems “some” of the “150 people” who “run San Francisco” by speaking out at “every” public meeting are “paid to be there” – that’s the news of the day. And nobody showed up in a chicken suit.

Are today’s participants San Francisco’s version of Nixon’s Great Silent Majority? You Make The Call.

San Francisco Doesn’t Need a New York Judge or Anyone Else to Shut Down Critical Mass

Friday, February 26th, 2010

What makes San Francisco’s monthly Critical Mass an illegal bicycle parade is the fact that nobody gets permits. ‘Cause getting a permit is hard – it would entail doing stuff that costs a lot of money and it would make you a magnet for lawsuits, so who needs that, right?

The thing is that corking intersections and running red lights as a group (hallmarks of Critical Mass going back to the mid-1990’s), those things are obviously illegal, so the SFPD could start issuing citations whenever it wants, of course. And that’s true no matter how they roll in the Empire State. (Actually, I question how the New York decision affects us here in San Francisco at all, but oh well.)

I’ll tell you, the biggest shock that drivers have when they get stuck at an intersection is that they get no sympathy from the cops. Drivers without criminal records tend to stay by their cars and watch the parade of bikes.

OTOH, drivers with criminal records, well, Critical Mass is a test of their ability to maintain. Some fail.

Do I think San Francisco has the will to kill Critical Mass? No. But do I think Police Chief George Gascon is planning on shaking things up, in the coming months, you know, when rain no longer threatens* and the number of cyclists is bigger? Yes.

Hey, man, we don’t have any “leaders,” man. The City can’t do nothing to us, nobody’s in charge of CM, man.” Yes, roger that. I don’t think anybody’s going to stick you with a bill for $35,000 or anything, but changes are a coming…

Collateral damage from Critical Mass – MUNI vehicles stretching to the horizon in both directions. (Is that on the DO list or the DON’T list?) This kind of thing is one of the reasons you don’t see CM listed at the SFBC website calendar anymore.

Where’s Waldo, Cagney and Lacey on a recent Critical Mass ride:

The wonder of encountering an unexpected Critical Mass for the first time. Out-of-towners Rachel and Monica were delighted:

To Be Continued…

*Actually, tonight looks to be clear as a bell, Mel. But the forecast was for rain so tonight’s should be a smaller ride.

Jerry Brown Throws Down: Owners of Recalled Toyotas and Lexuses Get Loaner Cars

Friday, February 26th, 2010

California Attorney General Jerry Brown can’t abide you fretting over your recalled Toyota or Lexus – so he just struck a deal with Toyota USA so that you’ll be taken care of when getting service.

It’s all going to be on a case-by-case basis, so if you’re totally freaked out and you just don’t want to drive your car no mo, then maybe your dealership can send somebody to come around your place to pick up your car, fix it and return it as good as new. Or you can get a loaner if your repairs go into extra innings.

Read the news, below.

Jerry Brown, automático para la gente:

Brown Forges Deal with Toyota to Help Consumers While Recalled Vehicles are Repaired

Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that his office has reached an agreement with Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc. to provide California Toyota owners with at-home pickup and vehicle return and cost-free alternative transportation while their recalled vehicles are being repaired.

“This agreement goes a long way towards easing the burden caused by Toyota’s massive recall,” Brown said. “It will now be much easier for Toyota owners to get to work and take their kids to school while critical safety repairs are made on their cars.”

Under the terms of today’s agreement, Toyota will provide owners of recalled vehicles the following services:

– Pick-up and return of vehicles by the dealership;
– Transportation to the dealership and/or to the owner’s place of work;
– Alternative transportation, such as a rental car, loaner vehicle or taxi reimbursement for a reasonable period that the customer is unable or unwilling to use his or her car; and
– Expedited scheduling for repair services.

These services will be provided by Toyota through the dealers at no cost to either the owners or the dealer.

The following Toyota vehicle recalls are covered by today’s agreement:
– September 29, 2009 for floormat entrapment;
– January 21, 2010 for sticking accelerator pedals;
– February 8, 2010 for anti-lock brake system issues; and
– February 12, 2010 for drive-shaft failure.

The following vehicles are involved in the recent Toyota and Lexus vehicle recalls: 2005-2010 Avalon, 2007-2010 Camry, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2007-2010 ES 350, 2008-2010 Highlander, 2006-2010 IS 250 and IS350, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2004-2009 Prius, 2010 Prius, 2009-2010 RAV4, 2008-2010 Sequoia, 2005-2010 Tacoma, 2007-2010 Tundra, 2009-2010 VENZA, and 2010 HS 250h.

More information on the specific vehicles affected by the recalls can be found at and

Californians are encouraged to contact their local Toyota and Lexus dealers if they believe they are eligible for these accommodations. Consumers can also contact Toyota’s customer service center at 1-800-331-4331 or Lexus at 1-800-255-3987.

This agreement will remain in place until all Toyota vehicles subject to the recall have been repaired. If additional safety recalls arise, an extension of this agreement or other appropriate provisions will be pursued.

Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc. is based in Torrance, CA.

Laser-Equipped Giant Walrus Destroys San Francisco in this Mural at 232 Haight in the Lower Haight

Friday, February 26th, 2010

[Andrew Dalton, That Aggressive Panhandler, has all the deets of the somewhat similar laser kittehs mural going up on Divisadero at the Harding Theatre, our Brokedown Palace.]

A laser beam-enabled giant walrus is depicted on this mural in a large arched window at 232 Fillmore near Laussat just up from Waller in the Lower Haight.


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San Francisco’s Virgin America Airlines Gets Its Own Reality Show March 24th: Fly Girls

Friday, February 26th, 2010

San Francisco-based Virgin America Airlines has its own “docu-series” starting up on March 24th at 9:30 PM on the CW – it’s called Fly Girls (and it’s not to be confused with the In Living Color/Jennifer Lopez kind of Fly Girls from the 90’s).

Take a look. Meet Mandalay, a local “girl” who’s a Virgin America flight attendant based out of SFO in real life. Listen to her go on about the “romance of aviation” and the benefits of choosing Virgin America, the only California-based airline left by the way.

Barbie, Skipper, and the “ethnic girlfriends of Barbie” (or, more politely, a “mini- United Nations of races and ethnicities“) are coming soon to KBCW-TV channel 44 / 45 and all the CW stations across America. Oh yes, their “real” names (or “reel” names) are Tasha, Louise, Mandy (or Mandi), Nikole and Farrah:

Doesn’t this promo shot from the CW Network of former beauty queen Nikole look just like a Virgin America ad?

This show is going to be something like eight half-hour Virgin America infomercials complete with 30-second commercials for shampoo and cosmetics. Nevertheless, it’s going to be better than NBC’s high-budget San Francisco-based Trauma serial, that’s a given from the get-go. (Wonder if cheeky Virgin Airlines founder Sir Richard Branson will make an appearance or two…)

Just discovered that my aging Trinitron (that could be older than you) actually receives channel 44 so I’ll be sure to tune in to check out the debut.

Excelsior, Ever Upward.

Now, meet the Fly Girls and get more deets after the jump.

Farrah Williams

Hometown Airport: LAX
Must Have Travel Accessories: Lip balm and a camera
Travel Tips: “Be nice to fellow travelers and flight attendants. It makes for a more pleasant experience all the way around.”
Security Checkpoint Tips: “Don’t make eye contact. Strip down quick so you’re not holding up the line.”
Years with Virgin America: 2 ½

Louise Nguyen

Hometown Airport: LAX (currently SFO)
Must Have Travel Accessories: Moisturizer and lip balm
Travel Tips: “While on the plane, always wear your shoes in the restroom!”
Security Checkpoint Tips: “Get in line behind someone who has already taken their shoes off, and who is not juggling a ton of things in their hands, and then do the same.”
Years with Virgin America: 2

Mandy Roberts

Hometown Airport: PHX (currently SFO)
Must Have Travel Accessory: A big, soft pashmina that can be used as a pillow or blanket.
Travel Tips: “Drink an endless amount of water.”
Security Checkpoint Tips: “Wear slip-on shoes with socks, if possible. It’s yucky to wait in line with bare feet on the dirty floor.”
Years with Virgin America: 2

Nikole Rubyn

Hometown Airport: SMF (Sacramento)
Must Have Travel Accessory: Visine
Travel Tips: “Always wear or bring socks with you to walk through security!”
Security Checkpoint Tips: “Don’t wear all of your jewelry to the airport, keep it in small bags and put it on after you get through security.”
Years with Virgin America: 2

Tasha Dunnigan

Hometown Airport: SMF (Sacramento)
Must Have Travel Accessory: Cell phone
Travel Tips: “Don’t forget your common sense at home.”
Security Checkpoint Tips: “Have all of your things in order and pay attention.”
Years with Virgin America: 2

“Fly Girls” is from Collins Avenue Productions, with executive producers Jeff Collins (“Bridezilla 3, 4 & 5,” “The Exterminators”) and Colin Nash (“The Hills,” “The City”) and co-executive producers Larry Bond and Porter Gale.


The Revived Plan to Charge $7 at Strybing – Antietam at the Arboretum II

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

The civil war between those who call our Strybing Arboretum (home to orange hummingbirds, violet blue jayspurple flowers, red foxes, blue herons, pink berries and yellow poppies) “Strybing Arboretum” and those who call it “San Francisco Botanical Garden” is hotting up again in 2010. Now, leave us travel all the way back to ought-nine, when the trial balloon of charging $7 admission to those residing outside of San Francsico County got shot down with extreme prejudice

Well, maybe not prejudice extreme enough, ’cause the plan is back. There might be some differences, like having volunteers staffing the entrances to charge admission instead of hiring an expensive crew per last year’s proposal, but they’re similar ideas. 

Check it out for yourself at this San Francisco Botanical Garden Society webpage, where you can also “sign” a petition to support the idea of charging yourself money to get in. They have a FAQ as well.  

The next big meeting will be at City Hall on March 4th, 2010, and there’s also Mayor Gavin Newsom’s “in-person” town hall meeting at the County Fair Building near Ninth and Lincoln Saturday morning – the Charge $7 to Auslanders at Strybing crowd will be there starting at 8:30 AM to promote their cause.

I’ll tell you, the average person that goes to Strybing doesn’t care if it’s a “world class” facility or not so if a gardener or two or three or four were laid off, they wouldn’t really care. It’ll be interesting to see how this one works out.  

Let’s ask a Strybing hummingbird what s/he thinks of the new proposal:

O.K., fair enough.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer Realistic About NUMMI Commission, Report Due March 3rd

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Our State Treasurer certainly seems realistic about the chances of getting Toyota to take over the Toyota/GM NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA, so that’s a good thing. Bill just wants to do all that he can before giving up.

Bill Lockyer introducing commission members at the initial meeting in the CPUC Building on Van Ness yesterday:

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Here are some new deets, below. Let’s wait and see what they come up with…

“Toyota’s Proposed Plant Shutdown to Be Scrutinized by Panel of California Leaders

Blue Ribbon Commission holds public hearing, will issue findings next Wednesday on economic, social, environmental costs of automaker’s proposal to close award-winning NUMMI plant in Fremont

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 24 — A 10-member panel of California leaders convened by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer held a public hearing in San Francisco today to gather facts and take testimony from a broad range of experts on the expected impact of Toyota’s planned shutdown of New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. – or NUMMI – auto plant in Fremont. The plant has consistently won top ratings from J.D. Powers and is widely regarded as a model for the auto industry.

A shutdown of NUMMI would be the largest mass layoff in the current recession, and the prospect of having to endure the loss of potentially tens of thousands more jobs in the plant itself and related industries has spurred broad concern throughout the state. The Blue Ribbon Commission has been charged with both collecting the facts on the impact of closing NUMMI and examining alternatives for keeping the plant in operation.

Lockyer explained, “Californians are deeply concerned about how the loss of this plant might affect their economy, their state and their lives, and it is the job of this Commission to help find the answers to those questions. It is a testament to the quality of leaders on this panel that they have been more than willing to take up this challenge. I have asked the panel, and they have agreed, to gather and assess the facts and to have a report on my desk by next Wednesday morning so that I can share it with the public at noon.”

Acclaimed actor Danny Glover, who serves on the Commission, echoed those sentiments when he said, “California leaders – religious, civic, labor, and business – have come together on this Commission to determine for ourselves if the closing of Toyota’s California plant is necessary, to assess the severity of the impact that would follow such a closing, and, if possible, to explore strategies that might make it possible to avoid a shutdown. It is an honor to have been asked to serve my state in this serious and important matter.”

Some economic experts have projected that Toyota’s impending NUMMI shutdown could cost the state – already one of the hardest-hit by unemployment during this recession – as many as 50,000 more jobs. That figure includes the more than 5,000 now employed at the plant itself and an estimated 50,000 more in related industries up and down the state. In anticipation of the closure, some companies that supply the plant with parts and material have already announced layoff plans.

Concerns about the impact of the shutdown do not end with its economic consequences, however. The membership of the Commission reflects the breadth of issues that have fueled the growing alarm over Toyota’s plan to abandon auto manufacturing in California. The members of the Commission are:

 —  Professor Harley Shaiken, UC Berkeley
 —  Bob Wasserman, Mayor of Fremont
 —  Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Presbyterian Church USA
 —  Victor Uno, Chairman, Port of Oakland
 —  Richard Holober, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of California
 —  Bruce Kern, Executive Director, East Bay Economic Development Alliance
 —  Carl Pope, President, Sierra Club
 —  Nina Moore, Fremont Chamber of Commerce
 —  Art Pulaski, Chief Officer, California Labor Federation
 —  Danny Glover, Actor.

Another Commission member, the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, who is the head of the Presbyterian Church USA and of a San Francisco Bay area congregation, said, “This Commission has a moral duty to serve our community and state to sort out the facts, to assess the implications of those facts, and to search for solutions that will best serve the needs of Californians and their families.”

Source: California Labor Federation”

Has the Stow Lake Boat House Been Overcharging for Rentals the Past Couple Years?

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Here’s something I couldn’t figure. People on Yelp talk about paying $19 and $24 per hour to rent row and paddle boats at Stow Lake, and yet I’ve been informed that the current charges are just $14 and $19, respectfully. (It’s not like the prices are posted all over the place or anything or on a website somewhere.)

Could it be that the prices are supposed to be $14 and $19 under the agreement with the City but yet people were actually being charged $19 and $24? Don’t know. It sure seems odd though, that the Yelpers would make a mistake on how much they paid for the service they’re Yelping about.

Take a look for yourself, if you’d like. It’s hard to determine what all’s going on, given the history.

One might think that how much to charge for services in Golden Gate Park would be specified by contract.

One might think…

The Hanging Gardens of Sutter Street Sacrificed for Volvo Parking

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Remember back in the day when you could see the Hanging Gardens of Sutter Street on Sutter Street? Here they were:

No longer. The front yard of this place had recently been converted into a “private drive.” Not saying that this is illegal or anything – don’t know what all the rules are.

But check it, as the place looks today:

“Oh yes, we’d love for you to pop on over. Just park on our private drive!”

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Of course anybody parking in this private spot needs to pull in at an angle to keep the back end of the Volvo wagon from hanging out over the sidewalk. The problem with the current setup is that, even with diagonal parking, the back end of the Volvo wagon hangs out over the sidewalk. Oh well. Maybe if they got a Smart Car, they’d have an easier time.

Now you’d think the trees would have slowed them down, but no, the trees are still there on the sidewalk.

And the ridiculous sign isn’t to prevent anybody from parking on the former front yard of the house, cause who on Earth would try to park there, right? No, the sign is to prevent people from parking on the street and inadvertently blocking the driveway’s owners from parking on their lawn, so to speak.

Call it the World’s Shortest Private Drive, if you want.

Welcome to San Francisco.

The Endless Job of Ticketing Cars in the Pink No-Parking Zones of Golden Gate Park

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

This San Francisco Park Ranger had his hands full the other day handing out $88 red zone parking tickets in Golden Gate Park right in front of the Conservatory of Flowers.

Would our tourists all park here if they knew they weren’t supposed to? Probably not. Do the markings on the pavement make sense really? No.

Is the current Bicycle Plan injunction a good excuse for the ridiculous way JFK Drive is marked for traffic and parking these days? Don’t know, You Make The Call.

A target-rich environment on Saturdays, that’s for sure.

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Oh well