Hello everyone. It’s been a long time hasn’t it? Sorry for the delays, but if you remember my article on the Purge of 2016 it has continued in high gear in 2017 so I’ve been a little busy. So without further ado, here’s an article that’s been on my mind for awhile.
I’ve seen people talking about San Francisco’s need for affordable housing to be built so that, well, people can afford to live here. I agree that affordable housing in necessary and thought I’d share a bit of history about the Sunset District where I live.
My Grandparents and Mother bought the house I’m living in back in 1954. They chose the Sunset District because there were seven or eight contractor families that were building houses like crazy out here that were — affordable. Between the 40’s & 50’s post WWII during the Golden Years as people refer to them the US was living large after the war. The Sunset District was mostly sand dunes and nothing else so the city figured building houses would be a good way to get more residents and make them look more prosperous by being able to own a home. The houses in the Sunset were built so that working class families could afford a home and then become a part of middle class America.
Typical Sunset District Backyard
I remember my Mom telling me that back then they looked at houses they could have bought for $9000, but they were pretty quickly assembled and didn’t look like they’d hold up over the years. The house they chose was asking $23k and they managed to talk the builder down to the ridiculously low price of $18k for a four bedroom with a full backyard. For 1954, that was a lot of money, but not unaffordable like houses in San Francisco have become today. My Dad used to tell me that when he and my Mom were first married that he used to toss her dog over the three foot back fence and let him run in the sand dunes that stretched out to the beach until more houses were built behind ours. The backyards when the houses were built were pretty much a joke. It was a fence holding in sand and nothing else. You can still find a couple of houses like that out here if you look real hard from above with Google maps.
I occasionally meet someone who can beat my price story. I met a guy who had just sold his Grandmother’s house that his grandparents had purchased in the 40’s for…$6000. It was a simple two bedroom with nothing special about it and it had the short [keylot] backyard. The selling price…$1.2 million.
Back then San Francisco had 100,000 less residents than it does today and room to grow. It was easy back then to quickly build houses that people could afford. Today, not so much. There’s no room to grow anymore unless they build in Hunter’s Point which I’ve mentioned previously, but all of the open space has been taken up so if they can’t build out they can only build up. I won’t go any further on this part because that would be another article entirely.
I remember being a kid and hearing my Mom tell my Dad in the 70’s, Did you know the house up the street just sold for $50,000? Who would pay $50,000 for a house…HERE!If my Mom were alive today and knew how much houses go for she’d probably have another heart attack and die a second time. There has been talk about the housing bubble bursting for years. Not just since 2000, but well before that and sometimes it does, but it always comes back with a vengeance. The Sunset District now is seeing many more houses selling for closer to $2,000,000 well up from the $800k median when the prices fell in 2011.
The newspapers and hip websites never pay attention to the Sunset District either because they don’t want people to know about it or because they think it’s an uncool urban suburbia. I think that might be part of the reason the real estate is getting so hot out here. You’re in the city, but not and no one knows you live here. Oh, and Karl the Fog is always your next door neighbor. Next time you make a wrong turn and end up in the Sunset District take a look at the houses and just think for a second about this article and how much you wish you had been here in the 40’s or 50’s.
This is a bit of an odd subject to talk about, but I feel it should be said because even though it is well known and no one is going to say that tobacco is good for you there are some problems with the new law that was passed in San Francisco banning all flavored tobacco products.
Supervisor Malia Cohen pushed through legislation in 60 days with very little fanfare to ban flavored tobacco products. Not tobacco, only flavored tobacco products specifically pointing out menthol cigarettes. While flavored cigarettes other than menthol were banned in 2009, menthol was given a stay of execution for some reason. I suppose because to a lot of people at the time menthol was seen as normal for cigarettes. It could also have been that because 80% of the people who smoke menthol cigarettes are African-American. This was a big part of her target in the passing of this law — to specifically target African-Americans.
For tobacco this means that menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars and cigarillos [like the grape and cherry Swishers], shisha hookah tobacco and flavored smokeless tobacco. The problem I see with this is that it was aimed at only African-Americans in it’s passage [she may not be aware of this, but Asians typically in San Francisco tend towards menthol as well]. Shisha is used by mostly a Middle-Eastern minority of people though you might occasionally see a person of non-Middle-Eastern decent partake at a restaurant that has hookah nights [there are a few in the city]. Tobacco causes lung cancer and other health problems for all people so I’m just thinking she should have passed a law banning all tobacco sales in San Francisco. The worst part of this is that it doesn’t ban the ownership or use of said products, only the sale so the law is a bit of feel good sophistry to help politicians look good, but won’t really cure the problem only make people who want the product to work a little bit harder. Now I’m sure there were be cigarette stores popping up in Daly City with signs saying Menthol Cigarettes Sold Here!The idea that if you stop selling menthol cigarettes in San Francisco people will stop smoking them is a fallacious argument [See Sophistry].
While this is bad in that it looks like they’re trying to bring about change, but not there is another product covered under this ruling that has the potential to actually cause more smoking related diseases for people and that is the ban on flavored e-juice used in vaporizers.
The State of California classified e-juice as a tobacco product so that they could receive tax money from it since many people were using vaporizers to move away from cigarettes. While long term affects of vaporizers are not fully known yet, doctors agree that vaporizing is much better than smoking cigarettes. No one is saying it’s healthy, but it has much lower risks than smoking cigarettes. The State government was able to classify e-juice as a tobacco product due to the fact that currently nicotine [the addictive component] is chemically extracted from tobacco leaves. There is no tobacco present in the nicotine as it is all lab grade and pure, but it was an easy enough loophole to use to classify the product as tobacco so they could tax it.
The law that Malia Cohen presented and had passed was filled with the standard think of the children angle that is frequently used saying that because the e-juice has candy flavorings that it is being marketed towards children. She missed the paper from Center For Disease Control that stated since 2015 the number of minors smoking or using vaporizers has dropped significantly. There was also mention of a string of harmful chemicals found in e-juice which upon further research showed that they were found in shipments coming in from outside the US and mostly from China. She also missed the abstract from the FDA that showed minimal effect on the body from the use of e-cigarettes, yet that they were a good aid in getting people off the far more dangerous tobacco. Currently, the majority of e-juice that is available in the US is made in the US from vegetable glycerin [a thickener used in foods], propylene glycol [another sweetener used in foods], food grade flavorings and nicotine in that order. Four items three of which are food grade vs. the 4000+ noxious chemicals in a cigarette. UCSF is even running a smoking cessation program using vaporizers because they feel that they are better alternative to smoking cessation.
While not a scientific study I have seen a rise in people using vaporizers around the City when I’m out and about. I haven’t seen anyone I could tell was a minor, but I rarely have seen many people who look that young using vaporizers. Many people who use e-cigarettes and vaporizers to stop smoking want to get away from tobacco to the point that they even want to get away from the taste of tobacco. That is why there are flavored e-liquids out there. The smell from e-liquids doesn’t linger as long as cigarettes and it is far more difficult to offend someone with the smell of blueberry cheesecake than tobacco [my opinion of course].
Again though, like with menthol cigarettes the ownership and use isn’t illegal, only the sale. While there are a handful of vape shops in San Francisco most of them started as head shops that also sell bongs, water pipes and other drug related supplies. It is very easy to purchase e-liquids from online suppliers. Actually after you’ve created an account and proved you’re over 21 it’s actually much easier to purchase online because the selection is usually higher than what your local shop will carry, so again, the law has no teeth.
There are a handful of vape shops in San Francisco, maybe no more than 1o and I believe this is way. Most are head shops that have added vaping products, but there’s only a couple that sell only vaping products and they have said they will have to close up when the law goes into effect next year. Some of the other stores have said they will have to close as well especially in the Sunset District saying that the menthol cigarettes is what gets people into the store, given the higher Asian population, and that their sales will plummet when the law goes into effect. We’ll see if that’s true.
To sum it all up, yes, I whole heartedly agree that tobacco is bad for you, but I think this law is rather flawed as it really doesn’t cause much of an effect on the public using tobacco or tobacco related products. It will definitely make menthol smokers work a little harder, but I’m doubting that it will make them quit. Likewise, the ban on vaping e-juice will leave only the disposal e-cigarettes that are produced and marketed by big tobacco companies as the only choice for those wanting to start to quit smoking, and most of those disposable e-cigarettes are made in China, unlike the safer US made e-juice.
BTW: If you want to see a video that people should have been saying, but think of the children!You might want to watch this one.
Just thought I should write something about this because yesterday morning I had just dropped a rider off at 16th & Kansas and continued down to go around the block to reverse my direction. Then it happened. I was on 17th St and hear what I thought were firecrackers that maybe one of the guys in the tent city was playing around with and then I saw UPS guys running yelling SHOOTER! SHOOTER!My heart started racing and my first thought was to yell over to them to get in the car, but because of morning traffic they were running faster than I could drive.
Then I thought of me as I watched the UPS workers running past me. I couldn’t go faster or turn left or right. I didn’t even know which way was safe other than it seemed kind of obvious to get away from UPS if all the people running I saw had UPS uniforms on.
I ducked down with just my eyes up high enough to see over the dash stupidly thinking a stray bullet wouldn’t go through the car door like everyone thinks, but I didn’t know what else to do. Luckily while the traffic was moving slowly it was at least moving. By the time I got a block away there were already police cars and an ambulance on the way. How they were able to get there so fast is beyond me, but at least they were able to.
I saw the police car and my heart slowed down a bit. I lifted my head up because the police drove by so they’ll protect me and just kept driving on. I decided it was a good time to quit for the morning since I was shaking a bit still from the whole thing.
The whole thing was just crazy and the three drivers who were killed were all well known and loved by the people they delivered to. Big Mike, Benson Louie and Wayne Chan have been identified as the victims. While we never got many UPS deliveries when I saw Benson’s picture I knew it was our guy. I didn’t really know like a lot of other people did out here that I’ve been reading about, but he was a nice guy just like Big Mike and Wayne.
The shooter on the other hand, Jimmy Lam was a bit of a hot head and had been busted twice for DUI’s. I can’t say for sure, but the news made it sound like they were associated with his UPS driving. I don’t know what to say about that other than maybe he should have been let go, but that might have just made this happen sooner. This is an unfortunate part of living in a big city like San Francisco and when you’re that close to it when it happens I think I’m going to be a little on edge for the next couple of days. Hopefully I won’t have to keep looking over my shoulder. I’m just glad that police response was so quick.
As I travel around San Francisco every day I’ve been noticing changes that aren’t looking very good anymore and I’m beginning to believe the party is over.
People aren’t smiling anymore. People aren’t going out as much anymore. People talk more about how tough it is to live here than how great it is to live here. These are signs that there is a shift in San Francisco happening. I do run into people that aren’t like this, but they tend to be older and in more traditional careers that treat their employees like, well, employees. These are usually older people in their mid 40’s at least who have a job that isn’t usually tied to the tech industry and and have lived here for a long time so they’ve got themselves a good set up. Maybe they were able to buy a house when a person could actually buy a house who wasn’t a millionaire. 20 years ago when my wife and I got married we could have bought a house for $200,000. It would have been small, but it still would have been better than some of the apartments that people are living in now that a little more than oversized porta-potties.
Jobs now in the city are paying less at a time when money is worth less unless you’re a programmer which then makes you salaried with little time off to enjoy the things in the City. Even back in 2010 I was being offered jobs at almost twice what the same jobs are going for today. There are a proliferation of contractor positions, but those jobs treat you more like an employee without the benefits and contractor jobs used to pay better than employee positions because they could drop you at any time. Now contractor positions pay less and give you set hours to work and if you take a sick day then be careful because they’ll probably drop you for not doing your job. That’s not the way contractor positions are supposed to work, but very few people are making enough money to take these companies to court since lawyers aren’t very cheap.
The people I’ve noticed who aren’t suffering as much are construction workers, school bus and muni drivers, firemen, police. These are jobs that are more traditional in that you’re paid reasonably with benefits, time off, paid overtime. Personally I’d give up the free lunch and snacks for an extra couple of bucks an hour because I can bring my lunch or buy it cheaper and it’s usually better tasting and better for me. I met a guy worked for our local garbage collectors. He’s making $27/hour and told me the garbage truck drivers make $47/hour. OK, you have to deal with rats and garbage, but that’s a better living than a graphic designer with a Master’s degree being offer a job for $17/hour by a startup as a contractor [ok, not all are like that, but there’s quite a few out there]. Of course there are the doctors and lawyers which there are a lot of in San Francisco as well as health care workers who also make decent salaries. These are the people who smile now. These are the ones that go out to dinner on the weekends and sometimes even during the week. They have the money and time on their hands to really appreciate the City.
I laughingly remember five years ago when I’d pick up kids fresh out of college who would say things like, My Dad got me an apartment and gave me his credit card and is giving me a year to make it in San Fran. Oh joy, Daddy just paid for a year long spring break and my right hand twitched in a smacking motion because they said San Fran [side note: I would even accept Frisco over San Fran]. These people were always going out to a bar or some nightclub every night of the week and they were always asking for a bottle of water in the mornings because they were so hung over from the night before. These people are gone now. I called them long term tourists because I knew they were going to go back home eventually.
Things like that have to happen in order to keep San Francisco what it is, so while even I am struggling to get by right now I know for me it will eventually get better because I was born and raised here and have been through this before. I can handle it. I know where to get a burrito for less than $15 or not spend $4 or more for toast. I don’t take Uber or Lyft to work everyday or order gourmet artisanal food delivered from one of the new food delivery startups that pops up every other week.
San Francisco will never return to the old days and by old days that depends on your age. My Mom isn’t around anymore to remind me she used to pay 5¢ for a candy bar. I find myself starting to say things like that, but it’s more like I remember going out to a bar with $20 for the evening and coming home with change…and I used to drink a lot.
Change is good, but change can also be painful. Let’s hope this leads to something better in the end.
I’ve wanted to say something and bit my tongue several times, but I have to get this out there. This is an example of tech gone bad and I feel the need to say something about this because while the news writes articles about it they don’t contact someone like me or my Facebook buddy Michael Gumora [the first rideshare driver] to get our input.
Ridesharing/Ride hailing/Uber/Lyft whatever you want to call it is a money pit that’s losing. It’s become something that everyone needs and wants, but it is simply not sustainable because the companies are going after markets that aren’t sustainable to begin with.
Currently, Uber and Lyft are attacking the public transportation system. The problem with that is in every city in the United States, if not the world public transport is government subsidized. It never turns a profit. Going after a market that doesn’t make money to begin with is a stupid idea and especially when you can’t figure out a way to make money at doing it.
Let me give you an example. Currently in San Francisco, the home town of Uber and Lyft there’s a major fare war between the two. To be honest in every city there’s a major fare war even if Uber, the most widely distributed rideshare company is the only business in town. They want to pull in riders and give them an awesome price so they’ll buy in and give up their cars.
In San Francisco, giving up your car isn’t too hard to do even if you live on the edges of the city because our SFMTA, as bad as everyone says it is still will pick you up and bring you where ever you need to go. If you need to leave the city it’s pretty easy to get a hook up between MUNI and BART or AC Transit or SamTrans. You can even get a Clipper Card that will work on all of these if you’ve got the money to spare.
Here’s a problem. As I mentioned previously, none of these turn a profit. Uber and Lyft are trying to pull people away from government subsidized transport systems without having a way for themselves to make money. Sure, there’s UberPOOL and Lyftline where you can stack riders together, but that still doesn’t turn a profit for either company.
Neither Lyft nor Uber has made a dime in profit since they started yet they are still getting investors to keep them afloat. Uber even admitted to losing $1,000,000/week just on UberPOOL in San Francisco in order to try and get ahead. The long shot game these companies are pushing towards is driverless cars. OK, I worked for one of the companies testing driverless cars and they’re coming along pretty good to be honest, but currently I’ve only seen a high speed hour and a half video of a car in driverless mode. Cool, it’s very cool, but what happens if there’s a problem with the car at an hour and thirty one minutes? What will be the acceptable failure rate of a driverless car? Once every week? Month? Year? Government will the the one to decide and it’s not going to go well for the companies building the cars. In California the DMV has specified that any company working with driverless cars must hit 4.5 million miles in driverless mode before they can even think of removing the driver, but again, you hit the mark, but how often will a problem pop up?
I asked once and was told that they were thinking of putting a big red button in the back that the passenger could hit if there was a problem. Here’s the problems with that:
Have you ever watched cartoons? Big Red Button. Someone will push it…especially if it says do not push unless there is an emergency.
People riding in a driverless car will tend to trust the car and not pay attention to what the car is doing. If you’re one of those who won’t trust it you won’t book a ride, but if you do you’re not going to pay attention to what’s going on and just sit there with your glass of champagne and laughing about what the poor people are doing. Seriously, check out this video of what people think driverless cars of the future will be like.
Perhaps I’ve moved forward a bit too fast. We don’t have driverless cars yet even though that’s the future. Let’s step back and take a look at today. Uber and Lyft just aren’t sustainable. Let me explain why. I did a little math today. I went out this morning and drove during morning rush. Two hours and pulled in about $60. For a driver, $30/hour isn’t bad, but throughout the rest of the day it doesn’t stack up like that. During those two hours I gave four rides and Uber lost $32.67 because they now tell the driver what the rider pays and gives a complete break down and they subsidize rides through surge guarantees in certain areas. Lyft does the same thing, but it’s a lot more convoluted in such a way that they can find a way to not pay you the guarantee.
Uber has a flat rate program that it offers some riders that if you google uber flat rate san francisco you might get a sign up page if Uber hasn’t sent you an email offering you the deal. For $40/month all your UberPOOL rides are $2.99 and UberX rides are $6.99 up to a ride that is normally $20. If you take a ride that say costs $25 you’d pay $5 + your $2.99 Pool/$6.99 UberX price. Drivers on the other hand are paid per mile and per minute so it doesn’t affect them and if a driver tells you it does then report them immediately. Because of this Uber loses money. Lyft is competing with them so they lower their prices and also are losing money.
As I mentioned before, neither company has turned a profit. Now here’s where it gets interesting. General Motors has invested half a billion dollars in Lyft and has a spot on their Board of Directors. GM even made an offer to buy Lyft as the news previously reported, but Lyft rejected the offer. GM also purchased Cruise Automation last year that is working on driverless cars. Now Google’s driverless car company, Waymo has partnered with Lyft to provide cars. Google and General Motors have a few extra bucks that Uber doesn’t have and I can just assume that Travis Kalanick is sweating a bit these days. News reports have said that Uber lost $2 Billion in 2015 and between $2.8-$3.8 Billion in 2016. Current reports have suggested that Uber is hemorrhaging $1 billion every three months this year with Uber only sitting on $11.8 billion in actual capital.
The future does not look bright for Uber. I am guessing that Google who likes to toss money around will eventually purchase Lyft and it will be a game over man for Uber. Uber has had too much bad press lately and pulling in riders by subsidizing rides at a loss is no way to stay in business. I personally want to get out of the game because when I started drivers were getting paid $3.50/mile and today it’s $1.15 [or $1.10 for UberPOOL]. Even though Uber is still losing money, the 45,000 drivers who come to San Francisco every day to participate in the rideshare fiasco are starting to turn away, hopefully this blogging thing I’ve been doing for years will finally start to make me some money.
If you’re a reporter working for a news agency please contact me. I’d be happy to talk to you and I can even hook you up with other drivers who’ve been involved in this for a long time.
Well, I’ve been thinking of doing this for awhile and now I was able to pull together everything I needed to pull it off. As you might have noticed I’ve been grabbing more video to put with my words because if a picture is worth a thousand words then a moving picture might be worth a million or so.
I also have been getting lots of emails from readers who have an interesting idea of what I’m like. To some I’m a pinko, commie liberal and to others I a rich, elitist conservative. Neither of these are true by any means, although I wouldn’t mind being rich. Trust me, rich is always better than poor. So now I’m going to be adding in a video with everything I write. If I’m able to get a man on the street video from a news company that relates to what I’m writing about great, but there will also be other things I write about that aren’t just my take on a news story, but my personal experience as a third generation native San Franciscan that hopefully will add a great deal to my writing.
So with all that said and done, here’s my first video from my newly assembled studio. I expect to see it expand and get better over time and as always you are free to donate through SquareCash or Patreon to help me make that happen faster.
Yes. Let’s get that out of the way first. San Francisco traffic in the last few years has gotten a bit horrible and it might be getting worse. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when you wonder why the traffic is so bad:
Taxis: OK, this isn’t really so much of a problem because San Francisco has had 2500 taxi medallions for years now. The biggest problem from the beginning is that taxi drivers love to stay only in the FiDi/SoMA/Wharf areas where all the money is which caused a problem with people who needed transportation in other areas.
Lyft/Uber: The answer to getting a non-SFMTA ride in areas where taxi drivers would tell you, Going off shift now. There are currently 45,000 Lyft/Uber drivers driving in San Francisco every day. Many of these are people from outside the City who come in because they work 40-70 hour weeks since that’s their only source of income and living outside San Francisco is the only place they can live when they drive for Lyft/Uber.
Tech Buses: While they’re universally hated by many in San Francisco they piss people off more than contribute much to the traffic jams we see in San Francisco.
Chariot and other bus like systems: These come and go every month with someone who’s managed to get enough investment to give them a shot in the arm to disrupt the travel industry. Oh dear. They tend to drive worse than Lyft/Uber drivers from my experience and they appear to disrupt traffic quite a bit considering they only are out during rush hours.
Commuters: I didn’t think there would be that many of them, but in the mornings there are tons coming into the City and in the evenings there are tons leaving the City. Not to point fingers, but I see BMW’s, Mercedes, Audis and Lexus’ [Lexi?] as the majority of these cars.
Bikes: C’mon, I have to add them in. They frequently drive downtown like they own the street and shoot in and out of cars with a total disregard for the welfare of pedestrians or people driving a vehicle that is more than capable of turning them into hamburger if they can’t move out of the way fast enough.
It is really getting bad to say the least. Even out in the Suburbs of San Francisco, or the Sunset District we’re starting to see more traffic as more people like to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, but don’t have a car so they come out here to visit or even move out here because it’s more peaceful.
A few years ago traffic was bad, but not as bad as it is today and the problem I’ve seen is that it’s only going to get worse more likely. I say that because now that the big news is all about how driverless cars are going to disrupt the rideshare industry which of course the rideshare industry was built to disrupt the taxi industry there’s a few things people who know nothing about this industry haven’t noticed.
Driverless car technology is the new Kool-Aid styled drink for techies because, well, it’s a tech thing. I have to admit that I did work for a company as a test driver for these cars and they have come a long way since I started, but they aren’t reading much of the data from what goes on in the rideshare industry.
One company, Cruise Automation posted a recent video of a night time drive with one of their driverless cars that lasts almost an hour and a half. I have to admit that I was pretty impressed with the video, but there are a few things that aren’t mentioned because it’s showing a car driving around downtown San Francisco simulating stops that rideshare drivers do. The problem is in the high speed they show only four stops in the almost hour and a half video in downtown San Francisco. These four stops equal 2 pick ups on 2 drop offs. To do this within an hour and a half isn’t workable in San Francisco. On a bad night in downtown SF you could do 3 pick ups and drop offs downtown within an hour and on a good night you could do 4-5 of the same within an hour. 2 pickups and drop offs within an hour and half would drive the riders crazy.
Currently, according to the California DMV, driverless cars can move at a speed of no more than 25mph. This is fine since that is the general speed limit in San Francisco, but, how often do cars really obey the speed limit? The cars can’t travel on freeways which are frequently used by all of the above mentioned traffic contributors to shave time off trips, so currently the driverless cars are at a disadvantage.
I also have yet to see a driverless car [any driverless car, I don’t want to seem like I’m picking on Cruise] properly pull over to pick someone up. After seeing the progress that has been made I suspect they will find a way to do this in the future, but right now that’s still a sticking point and especially in parts of San Francisco where there simply is no place to pull over you’ll be stuck with slow cars double parking to pick up or drop off passengers and then who will the police officer write a ticket to?
San Francisco is growing like a balloon that is overfilled and one day soon it will likely pop due to any number of things. It’s very hard to get around in the City anymore even for someone like me who’s been driving around here for the past 30+ years. I can’t remember the last time my wife and I have gone somewhere outside the Sunset District in San Francisco other than our monthly trip to take our daughter to a play day in the Mission which we drop her off in the morning before everyone’s awake on the weekend.
I honestly wish I had an answer to this problem, but other than regulation which limits the number of cars or an increase in better public transportation [which is always a loss to the city that provides it] I don’t see an answer. I do think that some people need to see the problems inherent in the direction some people are trying to push things right now.