I’ve been reading a lot lately of the war between taxi drivers and those who drive for TNC’s [that's the new name for ride sharing companies such as Sidecar, Uber & Lyft]. Actually, it’s not so much a war between the two as it is taxi drivers voicing their anger to just about anyone in the media who will listen. This is were is starts to get interesting.
The reality of the situation is that the cabbies should be looking at the system they’re operating in and quite a few have started. Approximately one third of all taxi drivers have stopped leasing cabs and started using their own cars with TNC’s, mostly Uber, because they are well known and offer the chance for them to make more money through Uber’s surge pricing. It’s not the TNC’s that are a problem, it’s the cab companies that have to charge the drivers so much in order for them to drive the cabs.
One taxi company owner was quoted asking the question, what’s to keep me from buying a bunch of cars and running my own ride share company? Well, to be honest, nothing. There are actually several that are doing so right now. The owner wouldn’t have to purchase the exorbitant taxi medallions [$250k/car], and they wouldn’t have to provide comprehensive insurance to the drivers as they do now, but they could rent the cars out to drivers who don’t own a car and collect on what they make paying a small percentage to the driver. Cab company owners like this idea.
For the drivers, they wouldn’t have to sit down and take a 7 hour class and test [yes, it's not a very comprehensive test and they are allowed to consult notes] and they can get started quicker with no outlay of cash from their pocket. To get serious for a moment, what cabbies are taught in the training school is minimal at best and they usually take the test right after the class so what they do after they’ve passed don’t necessarily apply to what they just learned. The cab company owners don’t like that idea.
So in the end you’ve got the cab company owners pushing the drivers telling them how bad all the TNC’s are, when in reality it’s the system that the cab drivers have to work under that is the problem. When the TNC’s started as Ride Share companies there was a lot of anger at these new drivers, but now that many cabbies are moving over to the TNC’s they might be yelling at a fellow driver that’s just decided to switch teams in an effort to make more money.
I haven’t had a cabbie yell at me in months lately and a few have actually talked to me about how they could get into the business. One thing that sets apart cabbies from TNC drivers that I think a lot of cabbies learn quickly is that they’re driving their own car and they can’t treat it like a car they’re renting for a shift. Everything is now on them to keep the car looking nice and they have to make sure the brakes are working and the shocks are in good shape, not the company owners. That’s a new way of thinking for a lot of cabbies, but if it makes them more careful drivers when they’re out on the road then everyone wins in the end.
I’m not dead yet, I’ve only been taking some time away to get things in order. That being said…
Governor Brown has announced drought situations for the people of California and I realized that lots of the people in San Francisco weren’t here for the last one in the 70′s so I thought I’d tell you a little about it so you’ll know what to do.
Before I get into that though I think you’ll all need to realize that a drought in California doesn’t just affect the state, but the entire nation in many ways. We’re home to a lot of the agriculture that supplies the nation with food. The central valley is where a lot of crops are grown that you won’t find being grown anywhere else. Strawberries, almonds, olives, honey and more come from California alone so if we get hit, the nation gets hit. The red state politicians don’t like to think about this, but that’s just the way it is.
Because we need lots of water for our agriculture we have to cut back in other places. Back in the 70′s things were different. If you went into the bathroom to grab some tissue to blow your nose, you didn’t throw the tissue in the garbage, you flushed it down the toilet. People would shower or bathe sometimes two times a day. Your lawn wasn’t properly watered unless you had a river running down the street. Things like this needed to change.
In San Francisco, especially in the Sunset and Richmond Districts you might notice that there aren’t lawns in front of every house. This changed in the 70′s. Originally it was law that a certain percentage of the front of your house needed to be green. Some people didn’t like being forced to water their weeds as it were because they weren’t into keeping up the lawn so they pulled the lawn and tossed in rocks. Usually those sparkly white dolomite rocks that you’ll see. A few people paved over their lawns, but then painted the concrete green to keep the idea that there was green in front of the house.
Bathing became rather interesting as people were told not to bathe as frequently. Some people would only bathe once a week which you realized rather quickly. Other people would just wet a wash cloth and drag it across their underarms and naught bits. Not much help really. Other people got inventive. There were the bath blocks that make your bath tub smaller so less water was needed to fill it up, but you were of course cramped in a smaller space. There there was the buckets in the shower to catch water that would run down the drain so you could water your plants or wash dishes with it.
This of course also led to the rule of the toilet of, if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down. Some people went a little bit farther than that much to the disgust of their company that was invited over.
Some were much easier to do. When you brush your teeth or shave you don’t need to let the water run unless you’re using it. People realized that they didn’t need to wash their cars every weekend and that gave way to lots of waterless car cleaning products as well.
All of these changes led to a new way of life for people in San Francisco [the water from here that went down to LA was happily sprayed daily on the nice green lawns back then.] So now if you’re new to the City here are a few tips if you didn’t know.
- You don’t need to run the water constantly when you brush your teeth or shave: Previously stated, but the water will stay warm even after you’ve turned it off. You really only need to wet your brush or razor a couple of times. Shaving and brushing in the shower doesn’t save water as it is running the whole time you’re doing it.
- Low flow shower heads: If you’re renting an apartment you’ve probably got one already. The old ones used to push out 10 gallons per minute. Great you want to feel like your standing under Niagra Falls, but not really that necessary. 2.5 gallons per minute is fine and you can find 1.5 gallon per minute shower heads, but you might feel like you have to run around to get wet.
- Spend less time in the shower: You don’t really need to take a shower for a half hour to 45 minutes. Most people can be in and out in under 5 and are just happy about it. If you do this you can help yourself avoid…
- Military Showers: Not fun at all, but lots of showers have little switches to turn the water off while keeping it warm. The problem is that unless your bathroom is warm and humid going from being drenched in warm water to nothing while you lather up isn’t pleasant. Let’s all hope it doesn’t come to this.
- Low water appliances: Again, most renters if they have washing machines or dish washers probably have low flow versions that do the job with less water. We realized we didn’t need a big dishwasher anymore and got an 18″ free standing one that can wash a full weeks of dishes with 2.5 gallons of water. Many washing machines are also low flow now so you probably don’t have to worry about that unless you’ve got one that’s 25 years old or more.
- The toilet: People are mixed on this one. Pretty much all rentals are required to have low flow toilets, but some people feel they don’t need to flush them as often to save water. That’s fine as long as you have enough flow to get rid of what you have sitting there. Try it and see, but some people just don’t want other people to know that they pee.
So all of this being said I’m not exactly sure how much more we can save since there are already lots of changes that have been put in place since the 70′s. It would be good though if you start to take a look at where you’re using the most water and see if you can cut back there.
The Mission was a place I called home about 25 years ago and back then it was nothing like it is today. Back then there was hardly anything to do except get a burrito or go to the El Rio bar because it wasn’t really a spot for nightlife for the non-Hispanic community.
Today, the Mission has changed and the people who have moved there have ended up turning the place into something that almost doesn’t belong as a part of San Francisco anymore and let me explain. The people of the Mission today, stay in the Mission. They really don’t know about anything outside the Mission other than if they have to make a trip downtown to go to a work related meeting. Nothing else exists for them.
For New Mission residents today they don’t seem to understand that you don’t have to wait in line for over an hour to get an ice cream cone or that you can get a slice of pizza for under $10. Most of the time when I’m driving through the Mission to give people a ride you can tell the people who live there. It’s never more than an $8 ride because that’s pretty much how much it costs to go from one end of the Mission to the other even though most of them stay within the area of 16th Street and 24th Street and usually between Dolores and maybe Bryant.
These aren’t the residents from 10-15 years ago or even the residents for 20-30 years ago, but the new techies that everyone complains about because it’s their fault that the rents are going up. I might be wrong here, but last time I checked I never heard a renter who said, no that’s really far to little for me to pay every month to live here, let me give you more. I sincerely believe that it is the landlords who are raising the prices on the real estate here more than the techies. Most who I meet are living with 3-5 other roommates when renting a house or at least more people than there are naturally occurring bedrooms. They have to cram themselves in to be able to afford the rents out there that they didn’t set in the first place.
Because of this it gets pretty crowded. Weekends can be extremely ridiculous because you have not only the Mission street residents, but also people from all over San Francisco that now have a reason to go there on a weekend evening other than to buy drugs. [Remember I lived there 25 years ago. It was way easy to buy drugs without having to walk more than a block.]
Buying a burrito will take you a long time now even though there are many taquerias there because there’s even more people drawn there. On a weekend night the crowds from the restaurants and bars are spilling over into the streets on Valencia and it is not a street to try and drive down. My old roommate and I used to split a two bedroom house with a full living room, dining room [which would be two other bedrooms now] and kitchen for $800 a month. We had the chance to buy the house for $209,000 and thought it was too much in 1995. Guess what…it sold for less and would now sell for around a million dollars. That’s a pretty good increase in value and yes, I’m still kicking myself about that today.
Something I learned about the area that I hadn’t noticed at first is that there are a lot of homes and apartments that have been gutted and rebuilt. Because they have done this and it is after 1979 these places aren’t linked to rent control so anyone renting them doesn’t have any protection. In my book this is wrong. Even the places that aren’t being rebuilt have been pulled off the market so that they could come back at a vastly increased price.
The techies moving into the Mission aren’t millionaires. The largest bracket for income is in the $35k-75k range pretty much like every other area in San Francisco [except for SoMA in the 94105 zip code which is the richest]. There really isn’t much reason to raise the prices so high that someone has to spend $30k/year just on their portion of the rent, but seriously, these new residents don’t know any better. The insiders say things like, well I don’t stand in line for ice cream at the Bi-Rite. I go across the street and buy a pint. OK, buy you’re spending $6-$8 for a pint of ice cream. Wife and I happened to be in the area during the week when everyone was gone and there was no line. We stopped in at the Bi-Rite and I have to say we loved the ice cream. It was worth the $3 cone…no everyday, but once in awhile and it certainly wouldn’t have been worth it if he had to wait an hour and half for it. To be fair, Mitchell’s ice cream is just as good, but the same rules apply. Just go when no one is in line or buy some at a grocery store that carries it. We also stopped in at a taqueria and there was no line during the week. The prices were pretty fair, but if we had to wait in line we would have fixed something to eat at home that would have been close enough for about a fifth of the cost.
Seriously though, if anyone from the Mission who’s a new resident reads this can I suggest you check out the ice cream from a couple of friends of mine called Ben & Jerry. It’s a little cheaper and you can get it at pretty much any grocery store in the City. Hell, liquor stores even have it. There’s also some things called tortillas and Mexican cheese you can get at those same stores and toss in a pan for an instant quesadilla. I won’t tell everyone that you like to put Sriracha sauce on your quesadillas though. No really I won’t.
The first thing I saw this morning when I got up was sad news. Not the best way to get up, but sometimes it has to happen. Randy Sapp, the owner of the Sword & the Rose occult shop in Cole Valley died on Christmas Evening.
Randy and his shop were know around the world. It was a tiny place that if more than five people were inside it would feel crowded, but it was the magical feeling of this place that made it special as well as adding to San Francisco a little bit of weirdness. Randy was a master of incense and oils starting as an apprentice at the old Mystic Eye occult shop on Broadway where he spent ten years just sitting in the back focused on making incense. Randy looked a bit like a dark version of David Bowie
Randy’s incense was not the hippy, heavy floral stuff that you’d find on Haight street to cover up the smell of pot [well that's why they burned it according to my Mother.] Randy’s incense would actually transform you by its smell. Depending on which one you burned it would fill the room with the elegance of a cathedral, but it would also reach inside you and change you. His blends had names such as Anubis, Xepera, Horus, Isis, Holy Grail, Shekinah. He would make the incense when he felt like it. That’s the kind of guy he was. I guess you have to be in a certain state of mind when creating an incense to invoke Anubis.
His shop was just like a movie set when you’d walk inside. There were curtains hanging everywhere. It was dark with an old pot bellied stove to warm the small shop which you could never see from the street. You would have to walk through an alcove and to the back through a very ornate garden to the small ivy covered door. San Francisco has had many occult shops over the years, but that name just doesn’t seem to fit for the Sword and the Rose. This was not a buy my magical trinkets kind of place, but a place where people who seriously needed something different would come. Sure, he’d welcome the curious who might spend a few dollars or just want to talk, but he supplied people from around the world with his incense many of whom would make a special trip to his store when they were in San Francisco on vacation.
His partner of 29 years, Patrick managed to survive and will continue on with the Sword and the Rose once he recovers. Randy will be sadly missed. Was like the David Bowie or the magic world. Not the David Copperfield.
Yes, I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like to lately, but I’m hoping to be here more often in 2014. 2013 was a nice comeback year for me as a micro-preneur and it’s working out pretty darn good so far.
Now that i’ve gotten my act back together I’ll be finishing up my travels around San Francisco set of articles in the New Year and I might even have a few stories to tell about tonight even.
Just a notice to anyone who’s out tonight that I have heard that Sidecar will be charging demand pricing like the other services, but to help the riders out and to get and keep more drivers out there they’re giving all riders a $50 credit to use between 8pm and 4am tonight. Sidecar wants you to get home and to your destinations safely and they’re putting their money where their mouth is.
Expect my next article in a couple of days and I hope that 2014 is the best you’ve ever had so far!
South or Market or South of the Slot as it used to be known is an interesting part of San Francisco historically. It was the first area of major development in San Francisco which the 1906 earthquake pretty much flattened leaving South Park as the only remaining houses to this day.
What was quickly replaced with industrial warehousing after the quake now has been converted largely to condos in the area North of 4th street with the condos starting to change more to newer apartments to the south. This part of San Francisco is where a lot of the people older San Franciscans consider techies live, yes they are in Mission to a large degree, but the big money techies live here.
You have to have big money to afford the condos here. The condos here are all very new, very pretty and there’s no rent control because pretty much everything was built after 1979 if you’re living here. The condos are also very small, but are made up for by the amenities each complex offers. Most of the people I’ve met who live here are different techies than those who live in the Mission. They aren’t sharing the condos with four to five other roommates and in many cases they aren’t renting, but have bought the condos. As you move farther South in SoMA that starts to change as you get less condos and more housing. Many of these condos come with private, enclosed parking, shared grills, tennis courts in some cases as concierge services as well. It kind of feels like Manhattan a little bit without being quite so tall.
Many of the people who live here chose the areas because they love the views and the short trip to work. The price is pretty high for these spots and as I said, they’re also pretty small, but most of the people here are new to the City and haven’t much of an idea as to what things really cost in the City. I picked up a couple of guys here once who kept talking about how much they spent on the previous Saturday night going out and apparently around $500 is where it started to hurt. I suppose if blowing $400 on a Saturday night wouldn’t sting that’s a good indication that they’re making a lot more money than I am. Since these are relatively new places to live they aren’t pushing anyone out so the gentrification everyone talks about in San Francisco is really just moving out a lot of barely used industrial space. My personal experience has been that many of the people here thought really don’t know that they could get the same thing cheaper in other parts of the City so they’re creating a bit of a wave of upscale that’s spreading out through the City.
I used to work down in this area and always found it surprisingly quiet in the mornings. I might see the odd person jogging, but they usually stuck to the Embarcadero area for that, which I would too if I actually decided to jog anywhere. South Park is the last hip spot in the whole area that’s a little oval spot that feels like a part of the Mission was picked up and plopped down here. Note if you’re here around lunch time there’s a huge line outside Mexico Au Parc which lends a bit of hipster cred to the area along with the lines. It feels just like the Mission, except that while it’s noted as $ on most review sites I can get a burrito just as big and better for about half the price elsewhere in the City. I have yet to see anyone who lives in the houses in South Park, but I do know that at least a few of them have been converted to hipster workplaces which is really kind of out of place for the whole neighborhood. Calling it a neighborhood is kind of a stretch really since there is still lots of building and re-building going on and it’s very rare to find someone that’s lived here for more than five years.
Walking around in the area you can find little parks stuck in any space that there wasn’t enough room to build a workspace with South Park really being the largest area. For me it was always a pleasant, but odd space to walk around because when you find greenery it is often surrounded by lots of noise from the traffic that is constantly afoot. It’s a nice place to visit for a short time, but aside from eating at one of the expensive places usually located on 2nd Street there isn’t much else to do. Once you pass 6th Street the condos mix in with newer apartment buildings and things become smaller and cramped. Food also gets a little bit cheaper but I think that’s in part to the area starting to mix in with the expanding Mission District which I’ll be writing about next.
Since I’ve been traveling about the City more I’ve gotten a more accurate view of what has been going on in San Francisco. Granted it has been biased by the fact that most of the people have the money and interest in using Sidecar, which I drive for, but it still seems to match up well with what other people are talking about.
Even though San Francisco is roughly 7×7 I’m going to have to break it up into sections defined by the people who live there so for today…Let’s start with the Marina/Pacific Heights/Western Addition/Nob Hill/Civic Center/Tenderloin/North Beach/Chinatown since people who live there tend to call this collection of areas Pac Heights or North Beach.
This is the lair of the bros. The fraternity types that apparently were never here before, unless you count the 80′s which no one remembers when they were called Preppies. You won’t find many festivals here because, well, I’m not sure why but every day is pretty much the same. It’s kind of like the GTL of the Jersey Shore, except here it’s more WBL or Work, Bar, Laundry, not necessarily in that order. People here tend to be going to or come from a bar. I have yet to hear about anyone talk about the restaurants, but the Blue Light and Brickyard bars come up regularly. If you get a chance to meet one they are curious in that every other word out of their mouth seems to be bro, hence their name. I once drove a bro out to the beach and in that half hour he called me bro more than once per minute. I actually lost count after about 40.
While I’m not sure it seems like the bros on Union Street don’t mix with the bros on Chestnut Street as I have yet to bar hop a group of people between the two. Union Street seems to be the more popular as thats where most of the people seem to gravitate to unless they actually live in the Marina then it’s Chestnut street. If they’re one of the people who love living in Pac Heights and they just walked out of a door next to garage meaning that they’re living in an add on room off the garage then it’s Union Street. Oh yes, beer is the drink of choice here. No focus on artisanal microbrews, but more a question of, will it get me drunk?
If you move down to the Western Addition it’s still a very nice place to live, but the real estate people like to call it lower Pac Heights so that they can charge more. It’s got a few sketchy parts as you get closer to Market Street, but for the most part it’s still got lots of bars and restaurants. Because there’s a chance that you might one day walk past someone who’s maybe hasn’t bathed in a few weeks or months and talks to themselves this area is considered edgy. If you want real edge you have to move over to the Civic Center/Tenderloin area which is alternatively called Lower Nob Hill or the Tender Nob. You can run across all types here, usually looking very under fed, but usually over meth’d in this area. People here take stop lights as a mere suggestion rather than a rule. If you moved to San Francisco and got a place here then someone wasn’t telling you the whole truth about the area. Sure, it’s close to Twitter and Square, but you might enjoy life a few blocks North a little more.
When you start to move East from the Pac Heights/Marina area you start to see a change. The bros have built up a tolerance for beer and have moved on to stronger cocktails or straight up booze. Nob Hill & North Beach are where the professional drinkers go. Friday’s and Saturday nights you’ll see people stumbling along from bar to bar and there are tons of them once you get to North Beach. You won’t find many bars with $2 beer signs in the window here, but if you need a good stiff drink and your liver thinks beer is for when the sun is out you move to North Beach.
The bros seem to occupy North Beach on the weekends mostly and many of the people I’ve met who actually live there are techies who like to walk to grab some food and a good stiff drink. These aren’t usually the techies everyone complains about in San Francisco who are raising the rents and pushing poor people out [poor people in North Beach?] These are the leftovers from the early days of the first dot com explosion who didn’t work for pets.com. The only bros and neo-techies you might find in this area are west of Columbus Avenue. That’s where you get into Chinatown, but they still call it North Beach. These are the new comers who everyone has a problem with. Some are true bros who have some money of their own. Lots have Daddy’s credit card to make a name for themselves in San Francisco. Seriously, I have been told that on numerous occasions. Most though are in their mid 30′s and a little older and wiser than those in the Marina & Pacific Heights, but the long time families of Pacific Heights tend to scowl at them so they move to
Chinatown, er North Beach.
The only other thing I can say about this area is that Pac Heights for people with kids is the place to go on Halloween. It was just swarming with kids all over the place. People were even sitting out on their front steps meeting the kids to hand out candy. The whole area has a lot of people who’ve been in San Francisco for under a year even though there are still some families who have been here for a few generations, but they’re giving way to the newbs.
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