Mayoral Candidates Take On Park Issues

By Thomas K. Pendergast

In front of a standing-room-only crowd at a recent community meeting, most of the San Francisco mayoral candidates talked about two controversial proposals for the western end of Golden Gate Park that city government is advocating for.

There is a project by the SF Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), which wants to build a $152 million water treatment plant, in which partially-treated water from the Oceanside plant near the SF Zoo would be subjected to additional treatment before being distributed for non-potable irrigation uses in the park. The water would be used at the Golden Gate Park Golf Course and the California Academy of Sciences.

As well, the plan calls for the pumping of water from an underground aquifer to augment water the City gets from its Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

Then there’s a proposal from the SF Recreation and Park Commission to install artificial turf and 60-foot-tall lights at the soccer fields near the Beach Chalet restaurant.

Both the water treatment and turf replacement projects are currently under environmental review.

“I would oppose the water plant,” SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi told the forum crowd. “It’s 40,000 square feet. It’s got 30-foot-tall walls. It’s got lights and it’s going to be owned by Homeland Security. That’s not exactly why we come to the park. In terms of the artificial turf and the soccer fields, I don’t think that it’s a good idea to have seven acres of Astroturf; I think that it should be grass.”

Many in the audience burst into applause at this and shouted their approval, although at least one person booed.

“I don’t favor having all these bright lights out there. This is Golden Gate Park. It’s not just a parking lot somewhere.”

Another candidate, Cesar Ascarrunz, said he used to play professional soccer.

“I hate artificial turf. You can kill yourself on it,” he said. “The 60-foot lights, it’s not very proper for Golden Gate Park. San Francisco is a tourist town. Tourists come because San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the world. Millions of people come to see Golden Gate Park. Artificial turf in the Golden Park, I don’t think so. It’s not healthy.”

San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos also expressed a dislike for the proposed artificial turf and lights.

“I’d feel like I was right smack dab in the middle of civilization. We certainly are a civilization, but we would lose a lot by having a park with lights on at night. That could cause a lot of glare for people who live in the area,” Avalos said. “I also don’t really think it’s a good idea to put an industrial use, the water treatment plant, within Golden Gate Park. I think we’d be losing a lot in terms of what the park has to offer.”

Terry Baum, the Green Party candidate, said the water treatment plant went against the goals of those who created the park and she also did not think the artificial turf was healthy for people.

“I have a report here that was done that summarizes the toxic effects of the artificial turf, potentially,” Baum said. “Some of it’s been proven, some of it’s not: severe irritation of the respiratory system, systemic effects on the liver and kidneys, irritation of the eye/skin, cancers, developmental affects. We need these kids to be playing on real grass.”

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu was approaching both issues with an open mind.

“I have a very healthy skepticism of both of these projects,” Chiu said. “With regards to the water treatment plant … I have serious questions about whether we want to put such a heavy-duty industrial use in our park. I’m going to be looking at the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) when it comes to us, through that lens.

“With regards to the soccer fields, I got to tell you, when I was a kid in elementary school I did play soccer as well. I was not a professional soccer player like my fellow candidate but I got to play on real grass. If we can find a real alternative, which is what an EIR is supposed to do, we should look at that very seriously.”

Former SF Supervisor Bevan Dufty did not directly answer the water treatment question but he supports the concept of artificial turf and said a parcel tax would be a good idea to pay for Rec. and Park needs.

“We passed park bonds to renovate our facilities but we don’t have staff at them,” Dufty said. “Now, I’m willing to have an honest conversation, and there’s not a lot of that when you run for office in this town, that we need to talk about a parcel tax dedicated for our Recreation and Park system. … I think we have a responsibility to either pony up and stand up and say you’ll support a parcel tax for the parks or step aside and let’s have fields that kids and young adults can play on because they need something positive.”

Former SF Supervisor Tony Hall, who is running as an independent candidate, joined the majority of the candidates in opposition to both proposals.

“I’ve got seven children. Five of them have gone through college on athletic scholarships. I was very careful as a parent to watch the surfaces they were playing on,” he said. “Cesar’s right. You can’t cut when playing soccer. You can’t curve. Your knees go out on you. And those growing ligaments, it’s so important to play on natural ground. In Golden Gate Park, artificial turf, are you crazy?

Hall would not pump water from the underground aquifer in the park. As a member of the Board of Supervisors Hall helped create a plan for raising the water levels at Lake Merced.

“I know all about water treatment plants. They do not have to pull water from the underground aquifer. In fact, the way we replenished Lake Merced was stopping the extraction of water from the underground aquifer.”

Entrepreneur and candidate Joanna Rees said she’s been canvassing the city in her election campaign.

“What I’ve heard loud and clear from all the neighbors is: ‘We don’t want big bright lights and we don’t want Astroturf.’ And these are the people we should be listening to and supporting,” she said.

“So much of this is due to how we budget because we don’t do bottom-up budgeting in San Francisco, where we go department by department to figure out what’s the investment we have to absolutely make, because we have to support critical services for the community, and what are some things that we’re funding that are no longer meeting their intended purpose and we should not continue to fund,” Rees said.

“There’s no reason in a budget of $6.8 billion, granted we’re a city and a county, for a city of 800,000 people, that we can’t afford to keep our parks and make great open spaces for all in our community,” Rees said.

Other candidates attending the forum, which was held at the Richmond Recreation Center on Sept. 19, included SF Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, state Sen. Leland Yee, SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera, SF Supervisor John Avalos, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, Paul Currier, and Wilma Pang.

Two candidates, Michela Alioto-Pier and SF Mayor Ed Lee, were invited to the forum but did not attend, citing previous commitments.

New Book about Playland at the Beach Covers Early Years

By Jonathan Farrell

Memories of Playland at Ocean Beach were alive and well as people gathered Aug. 30 to listen to historian and author James R. Smith talk about his new book, “San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach – The Early Years.”

The downstairs auditorium of St. Phillips Church on Diamond Street was filled almost to capacity as people from all parts of the City attended Smith’s presentation, sponsored by the SF History Association. Displaying old photographs of Playland from his book on a projector screen he pointed out the attractions, like “The Big Dipper,” “Ship of Joy,” “Dogem,” “The Chutes,” “Midway,”  “Topsy’s  Roost” and “The Fun House,” with old “Laughing Sal.”

“Trying to gathering information was not too difficult because everyone has so many memories of Playland,” Smith said.

When he was a kid, Playland was so much fun because it was a place for youth to roam and families could afford to go there with no worries financially because of the low cost of admission.

Smith explained that in the early years, before Playland became that special place to San Franciscans, it was simply referred to as “the concessions.” Concessions emerged in the 1880s as a series of beer stands and other attractions to draw people out to the beach on the weekends. The Cliff House and Sutro Baths were popular so the concessions were a welcome addition that grew and evolved over time.

The Great Earthquake of 1906 delayed the arrival of a carousel build by Loof & Sons. When Loof had a falling out with the owners of an amusement park in Seattle because they served alcohol, so he decided to remove their installation and replant it in San Francisco. By 1915, when the Panama-Pacific Exposition was celebrated, a full amusement park with a special carousel – “The Hippodrome” – was constructed.

San Franciscans were enjoying updated incarnations of The Chutes and other rides and in 1922 when “The Big Dipper” roller coaster was introduced with more than 3,000 feet of track. Eventually Loof and partner John Friedle let the amusement park be taken over by an enterprising concessionaire from the Midwest by the name of George K. Whitney.

Loof and Friedle remained in the background, with Friedle making regular appearances at events. Some rumors claim that Friedle had been swindled as there are no records of a sale. Yet, Smith mentions in the book that Friedle was upset by lawsuits because many accidents did happen back then. It is surmised that because of this fear of lawsuits, Friedle sought the help of Whitney and others. As the Great Depression hit, Whitney and his brother Leo purchased most of the land in the amusement park as individual concessions folded or were struggling.

By 1930, the amusement park had nearly 100 concessions and rides and was officially known as Whitney’s at The Beach. Yet it was advertised as “Playland at the Beach.”

People at the lecture had dozens of questions, all of which Smith was happy to answer, including: “Was there more than one “Laughing Sal? What happened to her?” Actually spelled as “Laffing Sal,” Smith said she had lots of sisters and even a few brothers, named Sam, all spelled with the name “laffing.”

Some in the audience were a bit disappointed because the book looks at the early years, not the later ones.

“This book is more about Playland before any of us here knew it,” said John Freeman. “We all remember the Playland from the 1940s until it closed in 1972.”

Many in the audience live or had lived in the Sunset and Richmond districts and have happy memories of the amusement park.

“While I have some good memories of Playland, I was strong-arm mugged for pocket change there when I was 12,” said former Richmond resident John Martini.

Playland’s glory days were gone by the 1960s. Larger venues, such as “theme parks” like Disneyland, lured people away from the local attractions and Playland fell into decay.

“The park was sold to a developer. At that time, the City didn’t care much about preserving its history,” Smith said.

Smith is preparing a follow-up book entitled “San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach: The Golden Years,” which is the Playland that most Baby Boomers remember.

For more information or to obtain a copy of “San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach – The Early Years,” go to the website at

Sunset, GG Park Haunted by Rash of Unsolved Murders

By Thomas K. Pendergast

Sometime during the last few years, Jason De La Cruz, Derek Butch, Brandon Lee Evans, Robert Mathis, Xiao “Ben” Luo and Hung Pham all became murder victims in either the Sunset District or Golden Gate Park.

Yet, they have something else in common: Homicide inspectors have not found a killer for any of them.

Since 2005, there have been at least 11 homicides in the district or park, resulting in arrests in five of those cases.

On the evening of March 29, 2008, Jason De La Cruz, 31, of Daly City, was a manager at a Verizon Wireless store at the Westlake Shopping Center. That night he was celebrating a month of good sales with his crew outside Irving Pizza, located near the intersection of 19th Avenue and Irving Street, along with a few employees, including 23-year-old Derek Butch.

De La Cruz was buying pizzas for “team J.D.,” witnesses recalled, when an unknown customer demanded a free pizza for himself as well. According to a report in the SF Chronicle, an argument ensued but seemed to cool off after the unknown customer’s friend told De La Cruz his friend was drunk and to ignore him.

Yet, moments later a man believed to be associated with the drunk man and his friend got out of a parked car and shot De La Cruz and Butch, killing them both.

Charges were later filed but then dropped against two people in the crowd that night because of conflicting witness testimony, according to media reports.

Police say they are now seeking Eric Siu, 22, of San Francisco as a “person of interest” in the double-homicide, after a cashier at the pizza parlor identified him as the shooter in a photo lineup.

Siu reportedly disappeared the morning of the shooting and has not been seen since.

Hung Pham, 46, of Daly City, was found dead late in the evening of Oct. 13, 2008, at the intersection of 17th Avenue and Noriega Street. Police say they found Pham’s body in the driver’s seat of a black Mercedes SUV with numerous gunshot wounds. He appeared to have been shot through the car window and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Brandon Lee Evans was 20 years old and had moved to the City from San Diego only three weeks before he was shot to death in Golden Gate Park, near the horseshoe pits, on Nov. 29, 2008.

Friends he was with that night said Evans left them at the horseshoe pits about 10:30 p.m. to get his cell phone from his car, but he never made it back.

Moments after he left, they heard shots.

Media reports say police found no weapon and there were no eyewitnesses but numerous bullet casings were found near a footpath close by.

A black sweatshirt he was wearing was missing, his car was unlocked, and his wallet was inside, untouched. So far, there is no evidence that a fight, a gang connection or drug sales were involved.

There are also no suspects at this time.

The body of Robert Mathis, 31, of San Francisco was found on June 17, 2009. He had been stabbed to death in the parking lot of Kezar Stadium, located just yards away from the Park Police Station. There have been no arrests in the case.

On Jan. 27, 2010, Xiao “Ben” Xiong Luo, 44, was gunned down in his home at 2432 Moraga St. just before 6 p.m. Luo was shot once in the chest during what police believe was a home-invasion robbery.

Nine people in the house were found tied up, with only Luo being killed.

Security cameras mounted outside the house show two men entering the place. Surviving witnesses inside the house described the two men as being “Latino,” although images from the security camera makes it difficult to be certain of their race.

The SFPD has confirmed that all of the aforementioned killings are open homicide cases actively being investigated, that no arrests have been made and because of that they will not release further information about any of them.

Police have made arrests, however, in five cases, at least two of which resulted in convictions.

On March 1, 2005, Christine Chan, 22, of Daly City was shot to death “execution style” during what appeared to be a marijuana sale but was in reality a set-up for a robbery.

Her boyfriend, George Tang, 22 at the time, of Daly City was seriously wounded.

According to media reports of court testimony, Tang intended to sell two pounds of marijuana to Chad Dias, 23, of San Francisco, at the intersection of 18th Avenue and Ortega Street.

Dias, however, intended to rob Tang of the marijuana so he pulled out a gun.

A jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, after testimony that he killed Chan because she was a witness.

On Dec. 12, 2008, Dias was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison.

In November 2005, Taff Michel, 27, was shot to death while trying to warn someone else about an armed robber. Witnesses said two men, one with a pistol, approached a woman from behind who was walking along Kezar Drive in Golden Gate Park. They turned out to be brothers from Redmond, Washington, and they were found by police officers later that evening hiding in the bushes of Golden Gate Park.

The triggerman, Travis Tackett, 22 at the time, eventually pled guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in state prison. His brother, William Tackett, then 24, got a two-year sentence.

On April 28, 2008, Anton Bajjalieh, 53 at the time, was arrested for stabbing his 48-year-old brother Isam Bajjalieh to death during an argument in a house on the 1600 block of 26th Avenue.

Bajjalieh has pled not guilty and is awaiting trial.

On Feb. 17, 2010, Cuong Lu, 35, of San Francisco was shot to death outside the Pho Huynh Hiep 2 noodle restaurant on Irving Street, between 19th and 20th avenues.

Witnesses said Lu got into an argument with Bao Luu, 39 at the time, while inside the restaurant. Eventually, the argument spilled outside.

Two SFPD patrol officers coming up the street happened to witness the slaying and allegedly saw Luu holding a semi-automatic handgun. He was disarmed and placed under arrest.

Luu has pled not guilty and is awaiting trial.

On Independence Day, July 4, 2010, Adam Noyes, 25, of Vermont, was stabbed to death in Golden Gate Park. Police say the suspect, Richard Ray, 65, of San Francisco flagged officers down near the Conservatory of Flowers at about 9:40 p.m. and told them about stabbing Noyes. Ray claimed he stabbed Noyes in self-defense. Media reports say a knife was found on Noyes’ body but he also had defensive wounds, as did Ray. Ray has pled not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Knitters Know about Social Networking

By Judith Kahn

Any Tuesday, walk into the Inner Sunset’s Tart to Tart, located at 641 Irving St., at 7 p.m. and you will see knitters happily chatting away while knitting a scarf, stocking or shawl.
This group is called Purl Jam, and it started about five years ago with two women. It has since expanded to 12 regulars, with occasionally as many as 20 members. Purl Jam is linked to a national knitting group (website: Not exclusively for women, men are welcome to join the group and some have.
From time to time, Purl Jam hosts fun workshops where members teach one another specific skills, such as dying yarn or felting. In fact, one member individualized a pattern and the group tested it to see how it worked. The woman then perfected the pattern and sold it online through the national site.
Erica Schultz is a founder of Purl Jam. She came to San Francisco from Washington D.C. in 2005 and began knitting with a friend. From there, the group grew. Schultz describes it as a fun group of knitters and crocheters from all walks of life, ranging mostly in the 20 – 40 age range. With one exception, all members live in San Francisco.
“We chat and catch up with each other’s lives and support people in the group when they run into an unexpected crisis or problem that occurs in their daily lives,” Schultz said.
Purl Jam offers newcomers to the area an opportunity to learn more about the events inside and outside of their neighborhood and a chance to meet new people.
“It is a great place to network,” says Schultz.
Another member, Janice Tauscher, adds: “We don’t only share a love of knitting, but other diverse interests too, like food, the great outdoors, architecture, photography and more. We have fun not just at knit night, but doing other group activities and charity knitting. I like the fact there are skilled knitters in the group; that I am constantly challenged to improve my skills and explore other types of knitting. I love Tuesday night. I can bring in projects for advice and admiration.”
Purl Jam gives back to the community by donating knitted scarves to the St. Anthony Holiday Drive, knitting bears for the Mother Bear Project, collecting knitted garments, such as hats and scarves, for local teen shelters through an organization called Compassion Knit, and collecting yarn for afghans. (For more information about donating yarn, go to the website at
The group gave hand-knitted hats to Tart to Tart employees as a thank you for letting them use the shop.
One of the biggest events of the year for the group is the Bay Area Ravelry Meet–up. In this event, the Ravelry community meets at the Women’s Building in the Mission District and spends the afternoon knitting, crocheting and demonstrating their skills.
To learn more about Purl Jam, contact Schultz at or go to the blog at or the website at


Critics Not Happy About Lake Merced Plan

By Thomas K. Pendergast

A proposed Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department drew fire from critics recently when it went public. The document caused some local community organizers to call it more of the same reason why Lake Merced has deteriorated so much over the years.
Docks are rotting below the water line of the 272-acre freshwater lake and fish stocks are low; the old boathouse is falling apart and there has not been a bait and tackle supply store there in years.
The five-page draft MOU gives overall management of the area to the PUC, with the specific task of maintaining water quality. Managing recreation activities, gardening and maintaining the building facilities, including dealing with concession leases, will continue to be done by Rec. and Park, with some money for those tasks coming from the PUC.
When Steven R. Ritchie of the PUC presented the draft MOU to an audience of about 40 people in the clubhouse at the Harding Park Golf Course on July 19, he addressed concerns that budget cuts to Rec. and Park would leave them without enough money to properly staff Lake Merced or ensure good maintenance, causing its deterioration to continue.
“The responsibility of the PUC is to make sure that the lake is managed properly and manages it,” said Ritchie. “Does that mean managing all of the individual pieces for recreational purposes? Not necessarily. I think that’s something we need to count on Rec. and Park to do, but we need to hold them accountable for the management of those. I think that is something that we are continuing to do much more of than we’ve ever done before.”
Dick Morten, a local citizen, questioned Ritchie on whether Rec. and Park had the resources to fix up the lake and keep up with maintenance.
“I don’t see them, with their budget constraints, with all the operational problems that they have, being able to devote any resources,” said Morten. “I just don’t have the confidence in them.”
Jerry Cadagan, a member of the Committee to Save Lake Merced, emphasized the issue of accountability and expressed doubt about the draft MOUs approach to holding the department responsible.
“We want accountability and what this MOU describes is status quo,” said Cadagan. “When people have a question about ‘why isn’t there a fishing concession?’ or ‘why is somebody pushing nutrients into the lake?’ who do you ask? Who do you talk to? We want a single point of accountability.”
After the meeting, Ritchie gave specifics on how the PUC will enforce accountability for Rec. and Park.
“Our Natural Resources and Land Management Division, they’re the folks who manage our watersheds outside of San Francisco and they’ll get responsibility here,” he said. “They’re used to that characteristic of having to enforce rules and regulations for land use. They would hold Rec. and Park accountable if they’re not holding up their end of the bargain.”
One of the more expensive problems is the dilapidated state of the boathouse. Some in the audience thought it was too far gone to save and it would be better to tear it down and build a new one. Ritchie, however, said the money for that is not there so the plan at this point is for the PUC to fix up the building to the point where it is habitable.
During the meeting, Ritchie confirmed that it would take between $2 million and $3 million to completely renovate the building and bring a restaurant into the boathouse.
“We don’t have that much money available,” he said. “We’re bringing it up to a blank slate with operable bathrooms and something that then is presentable so that you can actually look at for further fix-up to make it truly useful.”
Ritchie said the PUC has about $1.1 million set aside for making the boathouse operable.
A representative of Rec. and Park said the activities that will be offered are essentially the same as now, including rowing, kayaking, sailing and fishing.
Morten asked who is going to manage all these activities?
Lev Kushner, Rec. and Park’s assistant director of strategic partnerships, said the Rec. and Park Department is going to run waterfront recreational activities.
“With who?” Morten responded. “Where are you going to get the staff when you can’t keep open existing facilities?”
“That’s what you’re hearing me say – we have staff,” Kushner explained. “We have a new waterfront recreational director.”
Connie Chan, director of public affairs for Rec. and Park, elaborated on the department’s staffing at Lake Merced.
“We currently have three people coordinating Rec and Park’s waterfront recreational activities citywide,” she said. “Our fall programming will include activities at Lake Merced and the rest of the City. Recreation staff will be assigned at Lake Merced to provide water sports programming during specific time slots. Under our new recreation model, our recreation staffs are assigned to many locations based on their recreational expertise.”
Suzanne Gautier, a spokesperson for the PUC, confirmed that under the draft MOU, her agency continues to provide about $300,000 annually to Rec. and Park for operating and maintaining restrooms, paths, benches, picnic areas, security structures and providing trash collection and custodial services.
“There’s a lot of frustration that people would like to see improvements take place and they haven’t happened nearly as fast as anyone would like,” Ritchie said after the meeting.


Picasso Exhibit Covers Some 70 Years of Artist’s Career

By Ryder W. Miller

For those interested in learning about painting, they will not need to visit Paris this summer, as others have traditionally done in the past, since many of the paintings of one of the greatest painters of the 20th century have been brought here to the City by the Bay.

On display at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum through Oct. 9 is “Picasso, Masterpieces from the Muse’e National Picasso, Paris,” which provides a retrospective of one of the most famous and influential painters of last century. The French museum is currently closed for renovation so many of its exhibits hit the road.

Many of Picasso’s creations are available to the public, who can see his contribution and influence in this 70-year retrospective is evident.

As noted in the de Young show, Picasso did not keep a regular written diary. Instead, he painted it. He was the biggest collector of his own works, but eventually donated 3,600 paintings to the French government.

Picasso (1881-1973), originally from Spain, is an inspiring figure because he initially did not succeed as a painter in Paris. But, after a few tries he found success, and later fame and fortune.

Like others of his time, Picasso traveled to France to learn how to paint. Once there, he helped create the beginning of the Modern Art movement.

He also worked in a variety of forms as shown in the display. There are some of his famous paintings, but not the blockbuster paintings “Guernica” or “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” There are, however, studies for some of those famous paintings.

On the local scene, the public can see a tribute to “Guernica” at the bicycle store on the corner of Stanyan and Frederick streets, at the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park.

It is difficult to follow the entirety of Picasso’s life in one exhibit, expecially since Picasso produced so much art during his long career. He started painting realistic figures before he got caught up in the desire to capture representational abstractions.

Picasso was a child prodigy whose father taught painting.

Gertrude Stein wrote that Picasso was the first to really see and understand the 20th century. This was a time in which almost everything was destroyed.

Although Picasso is the man who is credited with helping create Cubism, he did get some help, including from artist Georges Braque.

Included in the de Young exhibit are a couple of self portraits, including “The Artist before his Canvas” (1938) and “Self Portrait in Straw Hat” (1938).

The odd eyes, noses and figures in motion begin here in 1907. The odd eyes bring attention to the way we and others see each other and the world.

Some women may have been bothered by the way they were represented in Picasso’s paintings, but the strange representations were an abrupt change in the way portraitures and traditional nudes were perceived.

According to John Berger, Picasso could “see himself only when reflected in a woman.” He had many mistresses and models over the length of his life and the public is left with his unusual “diary,” some entries of which were about women fighting over him. His early paintings included attractive nubile forms having fun at the shore.

Over the years, Picasso excelled in all sorts of painterly forms as well as collage and sculpture.
Art novices may not recognize many of the works on display, but together they paint a portrait of an innovative thinker who could represent his ideas in a visual medium.

As the exhibit states, Picasso “dissolved barriers” and “transformed art.” He was an explorer and a bit of a stranger, being a painter among writers early in his career, and a Spaniard living amongst the French. Ultimately, he created a place for himself in the history of art.

Paul Kozakiewicz: Happy Birthday Beacon

Wow, has it already been 20 years?

When Chris Rivers and I started the Sunset Beacon in July 1991, we hoped the newspaper would continue to serve the Sunset for many years to come. Our dreams came true.

When we first hit the streets, Chris was out hustling ads and pulling in good stories. The newspaper was regularly 28 to 32 pages at that time and we were working hard just to keep the quality up. After an ill-fated attempt to publish a citywide newspaper from 1995 to 1997, Chris and I decided to part ways so I purchased Chris’ half of the paper.

Since then, a loyal group of talented writers and photographers have been plugging away, working to create the best newspaper possible to serve the needs of the Sunset and to create a sense of community among its diverse residents. We cover the Zoo, Sunset and Golden Gate parks, community organizations, land use decisions, politics, Ocean Beach, mass transit issues, law enforcement and much more.

The current crop of reporters, columnists and photographers are listed in the staff box of every issue, and I thank them profusely for the hard work they do.

Other writers over the years who have made outstanding contributions to the newspaper are Alan Saracevic, Carol Dimmick, Eric Louie, Dana Perrigan, Tom Prete, Eric Tyson, Laura Jacoby-Chatham, Meg Dixit, and Woody LaBounty.

A special thanks, too, to Greg Gaar, the historian who supplies us with vintage photographs of our neighborhood; Peter Tangermann, who takes care of the door-to-door distribution; Philip Liborio Gangi, our photo editor since day one; and Glenn Gulmes, publisher of the West Portal Monthly for his help editing.

Concerning columnists, we are fortunate to get monthly reports from our local police captain, district supervisor and other elected officials, like state Sen. Leland Yee and Assemblywoman Fiona Ma. We also get guest columns from many sources, including the SF Department of the Environment.

Another big “thank you” has to go out to the merchants who support the newspaper. Without them, there would be no newspaper.

Some, like Dr. Thomas Thickett, real estate agents Pat Sun, John M. Lee, Diana Matson Smith and Billie Soward, Peg Wallace at Elevation Pilates, Dan Hountalas at the Cliff House and the proprietors at Oceanview Dental and Kiki Japanese Restaurant, deserve a special thanks because they have supported us for most of the 20 years we’ve been in business. Many others have come and gone during that time, but their continual support contributes to the ongoing success of the paper. One such example is the University of California, San Francisco, whose departments use us to communicate with Sunset residents about numerous topics and concerns.

Please tell our advertisers how much you value their support for the local scribes.

On a final note, I would like to thank all of the community leaders and residents of the Sunset who continually tell me about important stories and events and noteworthy people living amongst us. Without your help, it would be impossible to write the first draft of the Sunset District’s history.

Thank you.

Paul Kozakiewicz is the publisher of the Sunset Beacon. Back issues of the newspaper, back to 2001, are available on the website at

By Thomas K. Pendergast

Jennifer Chang and Lisa Dazols left their home in the Sunset District to embark on a year-long journey around the globe that will take them to three continents and two subcontinents, and through at least 17 countries and 24 cities, to find what they call “supergays.”

“Anyone who is gay and is out is taking a stand, whether or not they want to be, is an activist, in a way, because they’re doing something pretty radical,” said Dazols. “But, we would define supergay as someone who is doing something pretty extraordinary for the community, whether it be in the arts, in business and community organizing or non-profit work.”

For the next 12 months the couple will be traveling through Australia, Asia, India, Africa and South America, blogging on their website Out and Around about their adventures and the supergays they meet. Chang expects their experiences will change that definition to some extent.

“We realize that as we go abroad our definition of what a supergay might look like will change and be very different and what being “out” means in these countries can be very different than what it means in, say San Francisco,” Chang said. “So, I think our understanding and our definition of that will evolve as we travel.”

Dazols explained that they’re seeking role models for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

“We know that we have some role models but we still lack everyday people that our youth can look up to,” she said. “We also want to help decrease homophobia, so by telling peoples’ stories, by telling our own stories, we hope to familiarize people with everyday gay life. And we’d also like to raise issues about things that are going on in the developing world that we’re not too familiar with here in the U.S.

Chang said they plan to visit a lot of developing countries in the southern hemisphere.

“These are places that being gay you can face a lot of potential consequences and so we wanted to highlight issues in those countries,” she explained.

Dazols was a social worker in HIV counseling for the past decade and last worked in San Francisco General Hospital. Chang has taken a leave of absence from her job at EBay to go on the year-long journey.

“I think that we wanted to contribute in a bigger way,” said Dazols. “I know in my job I was doing a lot of band-aid work in terms of counseling and helping and I wanted to do something where a message of hope could get out on a bigger scale. That’s why I wanted to step out and try something new like this.”

Chang agrees.

“There’s a lot of depressing stories out there, especially with regard to the LGBT community, between suicides and bullying and all that,” Chang said. “We really want to focus on the positive stuff, you know, people who are living thriving and happy lives, people who are really pushing for change.”

They both acknowledge that they are hitting the road at a time when much seems to be changing in the LGBT community throughout the world, though they did not intentionally time their trip for that reason. It just worked out that way.

“In terms of timing, it just seems like every day, whether it’s New York passing same-sex marriage or the United Nations standing for human rights in terms of protecting gays and lesbians abroad, we feel like there’s so much to write about, so much to research and look into that we’re very fortunate,” Dazols said. “We’re very hopeful that in a short time we’ll be able to get married in California and life will be very different for our kids.”

Travel expenses are coming out of the couple’s savings but they plan to produce video interviews along the way for a short documentary film, which is only about half funded.

“We want to use this documentary after we come back, to speak about global gay issues,” said Chang.

The public can follow the adventures of the couple or make a donation toward their project by going to the website at

John M. Lee: Mid-year Real Estate Update

As I write this column, the first half of 2011 is just about over. We have had a volatile stock market, rising the first quarter and suffering through a six-week decline of late, bringing the indexes right back to where they were at the beginning of the year. But what about the real estate market? Let us look at some data and really decide for ourselves where the market is at currently and try to figure out where it will be going.

I examined the single-family home markets in the Richmond and Sunset districts because these two markets generally track very closely together and compared them against the data in San Francisco as a whole.

For the first six months in 2011, 89 single-family homes sold in the Richmond versus 79 in 2010, an increase of 12.7 percent. The median price went from $1,020,000 in 2010 to $1,000,000 in 2011, a decrease of 2 percent. The average days on the market decreased by one day, from 64 days to 63 days. Thus, sales activity picked up somewhat this year with prices staying about the same.

The Sunset, however, showed a different trend. There were 176 homes sold during the first six months in 2010 versus 193 in 2011, an increase of 9.7 percent. The median price, however, decreased from $736,500 in 2010 to $660,000 in 2011, a decline of 10.4 percent. The average days on the market went from 56 to 67 days in 2011, a 16 percent increase in marketing time. So, in the Sunset sales activity picked up but the median price decreased, primarily due to more lower-priced homes on the market and a longer time needed to sell a home.

As a comparison, in San Francisco as a whole, the number of single-family home sales decreased by 1.6 percent and the median price decreased by 6.8 percent over the first six months of this year compared to last year. I interpret that to mean as compared to the City as a whole, the west side of town is more active in terms of sales activity, with fluctuating prices.

All numbers show that our market bottomed out in 2009, and that we are up from that point, though our prices have flattened out.

Nationally, the numbers are also mixed, a similar trend we are detecting in San Francisco. Some of it is due to the expiration of the tax credits that ended the first half of last year. Another factor that is affecting the market is the continual high unemployment rate. Though we are off from the peak, unemployment is still in the 9 percent range.

The recent financial crisis in Greece and the decline in our stock market also wiped out part of the funds that would have been used as downpayments for properties. Foreclosures have decreased partly because the government has been pressuring lenders to modify loans and approve short sales instead of letting homes go to foreclosure. However, that strategy might only push foreclosure sales back to a later time.

So, my advice is that if you are thinking about buying and staying in the property for the next five years or more, this is a great time to purchase as prices are good and interest rates are down, resulting in higher affordability. If you are thinking about trading up, it is a great time to do it because though you are selling at slightly lower prices than a few years ago, you are also purchasing at a much lower price, and you will come out ahead on the trade. If you are thinking of a straight sale, you will be getting a slightly higher price than what you would have received the last couple of years.

As always, I strongly recommend you consult with a Realtor, accountant and perhaps an attorney prior to making any real estate decisions.

John M. Lee is a top-selling broker at Pacific Union. For questions regarding real estate, call him at (415) 447-6231.

Supervisor Carmen Chu: Budget Update, Ped Safety

Time to Adopt City Budget
July marks the month when the SF Board of Supervisors adopts the City’s spending plan for the new fiscal year. As the chair of the Budget Committee, I spent the months leading up to July meeting with many community members and organizations, and listened to their concerns as we worked to close a $306 million budget deficit. As each year in recent times has proven true, balancing the city’s budget is no easy endeavor as we strive to preserve important services for our residents while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

As budget chair, I have made it a priority to foster a fair and transparent budget process and to produce a budget that will ensure financial viability for our City in future years. I would like to thank everyone who provided their feedback during this process, whether it was through attending a budget Town Hall Meeting in the neighborhood, contacting our office directly, or by speaking in front of the Budget Committee at City Hall.

Pedestrian Safety Improvements
Those of you who frequent our local Java Beach Cafe or live near La Playa and Judah Street may have noticed a few changes to the intersection recently. The intersection is a unique one in our City, where a two-car Muni light rail vehicle (LRV) is often parked in the middle of the street. This situation has contributed to safety hazards for pedestrians, bikers and drivers. I worked with neighbors through a series of community meetings to discuss ideas for improving safety at the intersection, and we explored alternatives such as relocating the rest area for the N-Judah train and installing crosswalks with flashing lights when pedestrians are in the intersection. What resulted were ideas for initial improvements we could make, given limits in resources and feasible ideas.

Thanks to the generosity of two companies who decided to contribute during these tough economic times and the SF Department of Public Works, we were able to make two improvements to the intersection. Flint Trading and Chrisp Company donated supplies and labor to create a high-visibility pedestrian crosswalk in front of the cafe. The in-laid brick pattern within the reflective crosswalk provides drivers a more clear delineation of a pedestrian’s path of travel. Additionally, next to the median area by the newly-created La Playa Park (southwest corner of intersection), the Department of Public Works installed two large planter boxes to prevent vehicles from squeezing by and making dangerous maneuvers when an N-Judah train is parked in the intersection. We hope to build upon these changes over time to improve safety for everyone.

Throughout the years, our office has pursued many pedestrian safety improvements for our district. These have included the installation of median gardens at Yorba Street and 35th and 36th avenues, speed radar signs, newly-striped crosswalks by schools, and traffic medians along Noriega Street.

Coming soon, there will be a change in the driving speed limit around all schools in the City. A new policy was passed by the SF County Transportation Authority, which requires the driving speed to be 15 m.p.h. around all schools in San Francisco. Signs will be installed around schools in two phases in July and March.

Sunday Streets Returns to the Great Highway
Get ready for Sunday Streets on July 10! Our office will be out on the Great Highway, and we hope to see you there, too. Sunday Streets is a great activity for friends and family, and free bicycle rentals will be available. The car-free route runs from Crossover Drive in Golden Gate Park all the way to the San Francisco Zoo. For more information about Sunday Streets, visit the website at

Supervisor Carmen Chu is the District 4 supervisor, and can be reached at (415) 554-7460 or