In the News in San Francisco: 2008

"An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

                                                                                                                          - Thomas Jefferson


Miniature City Within the City

All aboard The Golden Gate Express for a San Francisco holiday experience like no other! This winter, Golden Gate Park's Conservatory of Flowers premieres its first garden railway exhibition. It's a celebration of the city of San Francisco as model trains wend their way through a lush landscape of dwarf plants and steam past mini versions of the city's landmark buildings. The Golden Gate Express will be on view November 20, 2008 through April 19, 2009.


Couple Marches 450 Miles to Bring Awareness and Help Overturn Propostion 8

After marching 450 miles from Los Angeles to urge the state Supreme Court to repeal Proposition 8, married couple Valerie Paget and Tracie Jones were cheered on the steps of San Francisco City Hall Friday, December 19.

Since Prop 8 passed November 4, amending the state's constitution to eliminate same-sex couples' right to marry, many have stressed the importance of having one-on-one conversations.

As the couple stood a block away from the state Supreme Court, Paget noted, "We live in a democracy that's governed by a constitution – our constitution." She urged the Supreme Court justices to "go the extra mile," and "do the right thing."

The couple, who began their journey November 18, met in 1998 and were married in Vancouver, Canada 10 years later.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown offered up a different argument in his brief that urged the court to toss out the measure. Brown argued that voters in California do not have the right to take away fundamental rights from their fellow citizens "without a compelling justification," and the court has already ruled there is no reason to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

The couple's blog is at

Read full story from the Bay Area Reporter, 25 December 2008


Harding Theater
SF Planning Commission Agrees that an EIR is Needed Before Developers Radically Transform the Harding Theater Building

At the San Francisco Planning Commission hearing on November 13, the Commission voted 7-0 to uphold the Friends’ of 1800 appeal to require an EIR in an effort to save the Harding Theater and preserve the prospects for a community theater for the Divisadero Street community Supporting organizations included the Brava Theater, the Lorraine Hansberry Theater, Theater Bay Area, the Garage, the Magic Theater, Metro Theater Foundation, and the Independent.


The Exploratorium Addresses Human Origins

A Case for Human Origins

In this case study on human origins, the Exploratorium explores how scientific evidence is being used to shape our current understanding of ourselves: What makes us human—and how did we get this way?


The Tenderloin Touts its History

The federal government is on the verge of crowning this neighborhood a place of national historic significance. Each of the area's 410 historic buildings — flophouses, parking garages, delis and theaters — now awaits a gold-colored placard, proudly stating its vintage and history. This month the neighborhood's bid for historic district status will be submitted to the National Park Service, following state approval of the designation in July.

The Tenderloin will join some 80,000 listings already on the National Register of Historic Places, a roster of locales throughout the country worthy of preservation because of their significance in American history, architecture and culture. During the Gold Rush, the district was a stretch of sand dunes dotted with scraggly coastal grasses. A building boom began in the region after the 1906 earthquake and by the end of World War I, the blocks were crammed with single room occupancy hotels renting rooms to merchant seamen, young professionals, musicians and migrant laborers.


Original Story from the Associated Press, 18 October 2008 no longer available on the web.



Justice Prevails - State Supreme Court says Same-Sex Couples Have the Right to Marry

The California Supreme Court struck a historic blow for gay rights Thursday, overturning a state law that allowed only opposite-sex couples to marry. In a 4-3 ruling the court said the right to marry in California extends equally to all, gay and straight alike.

The state Constitution's guarantees of personal privacy and autonomy protect "the right of an individual to establish a legally recognized family with the person of one's choice," said Chief Justice Ronald George, who wrote the 121-page majority opinion. He said the Constitution "properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples."

This ruling touched off celebrations at San Francisco City Hall - the scene of nearly 4,000 same-sex weddings four years ago that were invalidated months later.

See full story from San Francisco Chronicle, 15 May 2008


  Restrictions on Chain Stores to Preserve the Character of the Mission District


San Francisco is a city that values homegrown companies and neighborhood character. Supervisor Tom Ammiano is working on legislation to ban all chain stores from some stretches of Mission, Valencia and 24th streets in the Mission District and Cortland Avenue in Bernal Heights.

Two smaller areas - in Hayes Valley and North Beach - already have outright bans on chain stores.   The city's restrictions on new chain stores have become increasingly tough over the past few years.

In 2003, the Board of Supervisors approved a law requiring proposed coffeehouses and pharmacies to provide notice of their intent to open. That made it easier for opponents to request Planning Commission hearings and to argue against the stores.   In 2006, voters passed Proposition G, obligating the Planning Commission to hold public hearings on any proposed chain store and to decide whether it is appropriate based on the stores already in the area, architectural compatibility and other considerations.   Businesses fall under that law if they are retail sales establishments with 11 or more U.S. stores that maintain two or more standardized features, including decor, facade, color scheme, uniforms, signage or trademark.

Last month, the commission indicated it would stop a Ralph Lauren store from replacing a closed Smith and Hawken store on Fillmore Street. Both businesses are upscale retail stores. The commission approved the permit only after Ralph Lauren agreed to provide many community programs and services.

Kathrin Moore, a commissioner who has been outspoken against chain stores, said they hurt local merchants and often are more harmful to the environment because their goods must be transported from outside the city. "San Francisco is in the unique position of being able to encourage entrepreneurial retail to stand up to (chain stores), putting us ahead of the game in terms of sustainability," Moore said.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano said he proposed broader legislation to ban chain stores because he was seeing a trend toward "homogenization," noting the high number of Walgreens stores in the Mission as well as a handful of pending applications from other chains.


See full story from San Francisco Chronicle, 6 May 2008


  Can-Stomping to Inspire Recycling

About a hundred kids and their parents turned out for can crushing at the John Muir Elementary School playground for a recycling promotion sponsored by the California Department of Conservation. They were joined by actor and recycling devotee Ed Begley Jr., a parent dressed as John Muir, and a giant blue dinosaur named Recycle Rex.

"I hate waste," said Begley, who mostly cheered the enthusiastic can-crushers from the safety of the sidelines. "It's so easy to recycle now. There's no excuse to throw anything away."

The state plans to hold can-crushing events at schools throughout the state to encourage kids, and by extension their parents, to recycle aluminum, glass and plastic.

Last year, Californians recycled only 59 percent of the 22 billion cans and bottles they purchased, he said. In the mid-1990s, more than 80 percent were recycled.

The main reason is that people are gulping far more bottled water, energy drinks and canned coffee than they used to, and they're gulping on the go. It's easy to recycle at home, but few offices or sidewalks are equipped with recycle bins. So the empty cans and bottles usually end up in the trash, he said.

Recycling cans uses 95 percent less energy than creating new cans by mining for ore, he said.

Most cities offer curbside recycling, but residents can also haul their cans and bottles to a recycling center to receive 5 cents for each offering.

Students at John Muir have been collecting cans and bottles as a fundraiser, saving their nickels for a field trip at the end of the year. Principal Alene Wheaton tallies the kids' contributions on a colorful poster in the hallway. Community groups have offered to match whatever the kids raise through recycling.



See full story from San Francisco Chronicle, 9 March 2008



Public School Gets New Bee Garden

A San Francisco school will acquire the city's first bee garden on a public school campus when fourth- through eighth-graders come together this morning to help create the garden.

Beginning at 9 a .m., the Willie Brown Jr. Academy students will help build the garden, along with the school's program director, Miriam Feiner, and Karen Peteros, a honeybee educator for the SF Beekeepers Association.

The school, located at 2055 Silver Ave., is one of 36 with green schoolyards, according to the San Francisco Unified School District. The district said 45 new gardens are planned over the next four years.

Today's event will allow students to help plant bee-attracting plants, observe bees under microscopes and pet a live bee is a non-stinging native male bee can be captured. An environmental educator will demonstrate beekeeping.


See full story from Local ABC News, 8 March 2008


 Meraki to Tackle City-wide Wi-Fi for

San Francisco

solar wi-fi

City-wide Wi-Fi might not be a pipe dream for San Francisco residents after all. After successfully rolling out mesh networks in 6 San Francisco neighborhoods, Meraki Inc. has announced its plans to blanket the entire city with coverage by the end of 2008.

Google and Earthlink hatched a similar plan for a municipal Wi-Fi project last year that ultimately fizzled. However, Meraki believes that by bypassing coverage for the public safety sector, relying on volunteers, and installing dozens of wireless gateways on rooftops it can rapidly roll out coverage.

"This groundbreaking network in San Francisco will show the world that with Meraki's unique approach to building networks, we can quickly bring broadband Internet access to every city in the world," said Meraki CEO, Sanjit Biswas.

See full story from WIRED Blog Network, January, 2008


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