Monthly Archives: July 2011

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.

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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 http://www.sunsetbeacon.com.

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 www.outandaround.com.

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 http://www.sundaystreetssf.com.

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

Giant Visits Sick Youth

Former SF Giant Barry Bonds made a surprise visit to the University of California, San Francisco’s Benioff Children’s Hospital to cheer up staff, patients and the families of children receiving treatment.

Bonds, the all-time home run leader in Major League Baseball, visited the Barry Bonds Family Foundation Playroom on June 23 before heading to the hospital to cheer up sick children.

“UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital is thrilled to have the ongoing support of Barry Bonds and the Barry Bonds Family Foundation,” said Kimberly Scurr, interim executive director of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. “Through Barry’s generosity, our playroom has been completely renovated and is one of the most popular spaces in the hospital. A frequent visitor to the hospital, Barry has developed close ties with our kids, families and staff over the years, and has put smiles on the faces of many young patients.”

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital tries to create an environment where children and their families find compassionate care at the forefront of scientific discovery, with more than 150 experts in 50 medical specialties serving patients throughout Northern California. The hospital admits about 5,000 children each year, including 2,000 babies born in the hospital. For more information, visit the website at http://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org.