In the News in San Francisco: 2009

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

                                                                                                                          - Thomas Jefferson


Historic Stow Lake Boathouse Quietly Threatened  

The City and County of San Francisco quietly put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Stow Lake Boathouse last spring for a new leaseholder to open an indoor / outdoor café / restaurant at the Boathouse. On December 7th, 2009 a Request for Quotation (RFQ) was issued that requests a conceptual plan for capital improvements and operation of the concessions.

Park users concerned that the historical usage of the boathouse and character of the Boathouse be preserved, as the City searches for ways to increase its revenues, the Save Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition was formed. The Coalition is collecting signatures on petitions both online and at Stow Lake .  

The historic preservation and repurposing of the Beach Chalet with restaurants and a museum, is a magnificent example of how the City can maintain its heritage and increase revenues. The Beach Chalet was abandoned, falling into decay and attracted crime. The Stow Lake Boathouse is not abandoned, it does not attract crime and the only decay of the facility is caused directly or indirectly by City mismanagement.  

Now, the Boathouse needs paint and capital improvements including structural engineering and foundation work as water is seeping in from Stow Lake . The City says it has no funds for these repairs. The Save the Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition proposes that the City work with the current lease holder to be sure all needed repairs are done, first and foremost by extending the current lease at least 10 years to make necessary repairs possible so that the character and architectural exterior of the boathouse remain the same and to keep running the "old fashioned" snack bar & boat rentals.  

The current tenant has never had a boating accident and has many long-standing, excellent relationships with customers. The current tenant has employees that have worked there for over ten years and those jobs should not be endangered. The current tenant has added healthy food options to the snack bar menu and is interested in adding additional items to increase revenue and wants to repair and improve the facility once a longer term lease is in place and the City should provide support to this dedicated tenant to make these necessary repairs.  

Do we need another restaurant in Golden Gate Park when there are already 3 food concessions immediately adjacent: 1 in the de Young, and 2 in the Academy of Sciences . With the multitude of 9th Avenue restaurants nearby… does this really make sense… and where else can you row a boat in the middle of the City and enjoy pink popcorn? Let’s preserve it for all generations to come.

To sign the Save Stow Lake Boathouse petition go to:



Read full story from the Beyond the Chronicle, 17 December 2009


1772 Vallejo Street                                   Photo by Jenifer Salyers

This city landmark was featured at the SFgate on November 11, 2009.

View 23 pictures.


Congratulations to UCSF Nobel winner Blackburn

Three American scientists, including one from UCSF, have won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Their prize is richly deserved: They discovered telomerase, an enzyme that plays an important role in cell function, aging and cancers. Their research has led to whole new fields of inquiry about how to treat age-related diseases and how external factors like stress contribute to disease and aging.

It's also worth noting that two of the scientists are women: UCSF's own Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins University . Not to take anything away from their co-winner, Jack Szostak of Harvard Medical School , but we're particularly gratified to see the academy honor two women in what has been an overwhelmingly male category. (Only eight women have previously won the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology.)

As for UCSF, Blackburn is the renowned university's fourth Nobel Prize winner in medicine or physiology. Congratulations to her and the school.


                                      Read full story from the San Francisco Chronicle, 6 October 2009


Golden Gate Park’s Horseshoe Pits are Being Resurrected

Golden Gate Park ’s horseshoe pits are being resurrected from their old syringe and glass-laden state — with a horseshoe tournament to celebrate their return.

San Francisco resident Jamie Sutton said he was driving through the park near Fulton and Stanyan streets when he read a small sign for Golden Gate Park ’s fuchsia garden and horseshoe pits. He said it took him about a half an hour to find the pits, as they were covered with broken bottles and other rubbish, along with homeless people sleeping in the area, he said.

“I had no idea it was even there, behind all these trees,” said Sutton, who is the president of the Guardsmen, a group of Bay Area volunteers. “I wanted to expose it, restore it and help citizens retake this really wonderful place.”

Beyond basic gardening, the Recreation and Park Department has had no documented cleanup efforts for the area in recent decades, according to Rec and Park spokeswoman Lisa Seitz-Gruwell.

Sutton said he called a friend and fellow Guardsman, Ted Bartlett, and they set a date to clean up the horseshoe pits. Along with about 25 other Guardsmen, the men have worked to restore the recreational area and prepare it for a horseshoe tournament planned for Sept. 12.

Bartlett said they plan to spend from $5,000 to $20,000 to restore the horseshoe pits to a recreation area for the entire community.

“The idea is to clean it up and make it workable, to make it actually OK for horseshoes again.” he said.


Read full story from the SF Examiner, 24 July 2009



San Francisco Passes the First Mandatory Composting Law in the U.S.


Where are you tossing your egg shells, coffee grounds and vegetable peelings? Composting, advocates say, reduces the amount of household garbage generated and can also benefit your garden as a soil additive and mulching agent.

San Francisco isn't waiting for people to make a "resposible" choice to compost. Mayor Gavin Newsom today signed the nation's first mandatory composting policy into law. All residences and businesses are required to compost their organic waste.

The mayor's office had completed an analysis of the city's waste-stream and discovered that "about two-thirds of the garbage people throw away, approximately 500,000 tons annually, could have been recycled or turned to compost. San Francisco already converts over 400 tons of food scraps and other compostable discards into high-grade organic compost every day,"

The San Francisco compost is reportedly so nutrient-rich that it's jet-black in colour — and in high demand by area farms and vineyards.  

While there's time to "adjust" to the legislation and get your composting receptacles in order, city officials say eventually they'll start levying fines of up to $1,000 for waste infractions.

San Francisco banned plastic grocery bags two years ago and is still the only major U.S. city to take the plunge, so we'll see how fast this toughened composting legislation is adopted around the country.

Read full story from the National Post, 24 June 2009



San Francisco  Photographer Benjamen Chin Dies at 87


   Read full story from: LA Times, 25 May 2009

Benjamen Chinn, one of the few Chinese American photographers to live and artfully document street scenes in San Francisco 's Chinatown, has died. He was 87.

Often photographing from the doorway of his home in Chinatown , Chinn began training his camera on his neighborhood in the late 1930s, but his most productive years were from 1947-1949 while he was studying at what is now the San Francisco Art Institute.

According to Dennis J. Reed, dean of Fine, Performing and Media Arts at L.A. Valley College , "Chinn's photographs artfully explore the dignity of Chinatown 's residents, the differences between the generations of old and new Chinese, and the coexistence of interweaving of Chinese and American cultures."

Chinn took a job with the U.S. 6th Army Photo Lab in the Presidio of San Francisco where he had a 31-year career, rising to the post of chief of photographic services and, later, chief of training aids and services division.

For such an accomplished photographer, the work of the quiet and self-effacing Chinn had comparatively little public exposure during his lifetime. Minor White, a great photographer in his own right, included some of it in an exhibition called "Perceptions" at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1954. It was not until 2003 that Chinn received a major solo exhibition at the Chinese Historical Society of San Francisco.

Chinn was born on Commercial Street in San Francisco 's Chinatown on April 30, 1921 . During World War II, he used his photography skills while serving as an aerial, ground and public relations photographer in the Army Air Forces while stationed in Hawaii .  

After the war, he returned home and, using the GI Bill, enrolled in a photography course at the California School of Fine Arts, one of the first colleges to include photography in its art curriculum. His first teacher was Ansel Adams, who founded the school's photography program, but Chinn also studied with White, who became his artistic light as a teacher.  

The school offered an impressive atmosphere for budding students. Lecturers included such noted photographers as Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange and Lisette Model.

In addition to photography, Chinn also studied with the painters Richard Diebenkorn and Dorr Bothwell. Chinn would credit them with helping him shape his sense of spatial organization in his photographs.

While working for the Army after his return from Paris , Chinn taught printing techniques to Paul Caponigro, then an enlisted man who became a substantial landscape art photographer.

Chinn lived in Chinatown until February 2008, when his failing health necessitated a move to an assisted-living facility outside the district.


The Sharp Park Debate - Natural Habitat vs. Golf Couse

Sharp Park Golf Course, which is located in Pacifica on wetlands, would be restored as a habitat for the threatened California Red-legged frog and the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake under legislation introduced by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. In addition to directing the city to develop a plan, schedule and budget for restoration by the end of June, the proposed ordinance would order city officials to either transfer the property to the National Park Service or develop a joint operating agreement with the federal agency.

The proposal comes just months after a city task force charged with considering the future of San Francisco 's five public golf courses ended with no real recommendations or consensus.

Environmentalists, including Mirkarimi, argue that the city's ownership of the biologically sensitive land at Sharp Park has opened it up to huge liabilities - one group has already threatened to sue - and say the city shouldn't be wasting its resources on a course outside its limits, especially when the Recreation and Park Department is facing huge budget challenges.

Located just north of Mori Point, a 110-acre stretch of headlands where the National Park Service is already working to save both species, the flood-prone course has been a headache for city officials for years. In 2005, federal authorities chastised the city for pumping water off the golf course during winter flooding, a move that left frog eggs and tadpoles out to dry. The warning from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service means that the city must leave portions of the course underwater for weeks or months each year; it also led to the creation of a restoration plan that is still being developed by the park department.

Read full story from the San Francisco Chronicle, 8 April 2009


Organizations in support of restoring Sharp Park as a wetland for native species:

The Center for Biological Diversity



The New Deal Revisited Via the Living New Deal Project

President Barack Obama is working on a plan to pull the United States out of a stifled economy. This is reminiscent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. The New Deal legacy lives on in innumerable tangible projects and landmarks around the country including the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge , murals at Coit Tower and Rincon Annex in San Francisco and many neighborhood libraries and fire departments here in San Francisco.

California ’s Living New Deal Project is a collaborative venture documenting and interpreting the impact of New Deal programs on the State. They invite you to join the California Historical Society, the California Studies Center , and U.C. Berkeley's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment Library in identifying and discussing these indispensable public buildings and sites. Through this rediscovery, we will explore the history of the New Deal and consider timeless questions of civics in a living democracy.  

Using the Internet, publications, public events, and other programs, the California’s Living New Deal Project enlists the aid of teachers, students, librarians, historians, elders, and others throughout the State to share this vital history, and to serve as a model for a national inventory.



  Rare Killer   Whale Pod Seen in Gulf of the Farallones Sanctuary

A group of killer whales was spotted in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary on March 7, 2009 .

Approximately 40 orcas were seen by a Sausalito whale watching expedition on Saturday, about 19 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge , sanctuary spokeswoman Mary Jane Schramm said.

The whales seen Saturday are believed to be a resident pod native to Puget Sound in Washington State and southern British Columbia , and are distinct from groups of so-called "transient" killer whales that have a larger range in areas from Mexico to Alaska and are occasionally spotted in the Farallones sanctuary area and off Monterey .

Scientists believe the resident pod may have moved south because of a scarcity of salmon, their main food source, in their normal territory.

                                      Read full story from the KTVU News, 13 March 2009


 Let the Mayor &/or the San Francisco Supervisors know how you feel about these issues.

CLICK HERE  for their contact information.