Tag Archives: Thomas K. Pendergast

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.

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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.

Cars Sideswiped on 19th Avenue

By Thomas K. Pendergast

Eight months after lines were painted along the outer edges of traffic lanes on 19th Avenue to designate street parking, city officials are proclaiming the program a success. But, since the change and a crackdown on vehicles parking on a portion of the sidewalk, residents along the busy avenue have been getting their vehicles sideswiped.

This past May and June, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) painted edge lines all along 19th Avenue, in both directions, from Lincoln Way to Wawona Street, to designate legal parking areas along the busy thoroughfare.

Before then, many people parked their cars with a portion on the street and a portion on the sidewalk, to avoid getting their vehicles clipped by traffic on the busy avenue.

After the lines were painted, enforcement of the parking laws against blocking sidewalks began.

Sunset District Supervisor Carmen Chu indicated that although she’s sympathetic to the parking issues that residents face on 19th Avenue, there are others to consider, like disabled people. When she kicked off a publicity campaign to raise awareness about this issue about a year ago, she was joined by representatives from the Rose Resnick Lighthouse for the Blind, Independent Living Resource Center and Senior Action Network, all of whom were concerned that the cars on the sidewalk were blocking and impeding disabled and elderly people.

“All these things have been part of the greater conversation. It’s long been the practice to park on the sidewalk,” Chu said. “I completely understand that 19th Avenue is very narrow and sometimes people can get their side mirrors swiped off. The Department of Transportation (DPT) said there needs to be demarcation before they start to enforce the parking rules there, so that people would know where they could legally park. So, number one, it’s a safety issue and number two, we need to make sure that people with disabilities are able to use the sidewalk.”

Phillip Cory, a resident on the 1400 block of 19th Avenue, agrees that it’s a safety issue but not that the edge lines make anyone safer.

“I think it’s not safe because when you open your (driver’s side) door you step out into a really busy thoroughfare,” Cory said. “My car got totaled. It got rear ended a few months ago by a hit-and-run driver. We used to park with our tires on the sidewalk and we weren’t stepping out of our cars into traffic.”

Some people have suggested there is another motivation, however, that might have played a role in the crackdown. Money collected by DPT from parking tickets all goes to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), which runs the bus system. To keep itself afloat financially, recently Muni cut service, redesigning routes and increasing parking meter hours. The transit agency keeps parking money revenue for its operations.

Judson True, a spokesperson for the SFMTA, denied that the crackdown had anything to do with making more money to run the bus system, and said that there are no quotas for tickets. To his knowledge, he said, no one is keeping track of how many tickets have been written for parking on the sidewalk on 19th Avenue or how much money the SFMTA has made from those tickets since the stepped-up enforcement began in June.

He noted that it’s never been legal to park half on the sidewalk, but before the edge lines were painted it also was not clear where cars should be parking. He estimated that before the crackdown, about two-thirds of the cars parked along the avenue were parked illegally on the sidewalk. He now estimates those cars at less than 10 percent.

So, although immediately after the edge lines were painted there was a sharp increase in ticketing for parking on the sidewalk, it’s probably not as much now.

“The purpose is changing the behavior and that’s been successful, as far as we’re concerned, and that’s the bottom line,” True said. “We don’t really need the level of enforcement that we did because essentially it’s a problem that’s been solved.”

Jason Jiang, a resident of the 1500 block of 19th Avenue, indicated that to him it was more a case of a solution looking for a problem.

“I think the situation beforehand wasn’t too bad. People parked on the sidewalk but it didn’t really block anyone and I don’t think it was a big issue because it was the vehicles of the owners who lived here,” Jiang said. “I don’t think it was blocked so much that a wheelchair can’t come by here.”

Jiang admitted that flyers were on cars up and down the avenue warning of the crackdown, but he added: “If your vehicle wasn’t parked on the street on that day, you didn’t receive the warning. We were all a bit surprised when they started giving out tickets because it was pretty sudden and a lot of people were very displeased about the policy, that they suddenly decide to draw a line and not have people park their vehicles safely.”

Anne Marie Nixon said she’s lived on the 2000 block of 19th Avenue for seven years.

“As far as I could see on my block the sidewalk’s always wide enough for anyone to go down them,” she said.

Nixon said so far she’s managed to avoid getting a ticket or getting her car clipped, but her housemate wasn’t so lucky about three months ago.

“His truck got crashed into. I guess in the middle of the night somebody sideswiped it and drove off. He was parked within that white line, legally. It was a pickup truck so he had to replace its bed because the whole side of it was ripped open.”

Patrick Keelan, who lives on 19th Avenue near Taraval Street, said he had no warning about the crackdown. Instead, he found out about it when he got a ticket. He also thinks his upstairs neighbors got their car sideswiped a couple of months ago.

“One day I heard a loud crash and I could hear the guys upstairs running around and cussing.”

Later, he noticed their car had been damaged on 19th Avenue, on the side nearest to traffic.