EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Baghdad by the Bay

UPS Shooting In San Francisco

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.

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Is The Party Over In San Francisco?

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.

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The Future of Rideshare in San Francisco

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.

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Baghdad By The Bay v2.0

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.





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Is San Francisco Traffic That Bad?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.




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Sunset District vs. Medical Marijuana

San Francisco is a haven for cannabis dispensaries. There’s at least one sometimes more in every neighborhood of San Francisco, except of course for the Sunset District. The Sunset District is the largest, most suburban district in the City, so big that it actually needs two supervisors. Katy Tang does the heavy work for the majority of the district, but the Inner Sunset is covered by Norman Yee who also handles the Lake Merced area which while technically isn’t a part of the Sunset District most of the people still sort of add it on as a part of the Sunset. Yet there isn’t as I mentioned a single cannabis dispensary in this area.

That was until recently. The people who run The Apothecarium in the Castro District have teamed up with Dr. Floyd Huen, husband of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan to open up a dispensary in the Sunset District at 32nd and Noriega. This hasn’t been sitting well with a few of the neighbors who have been egged on by the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative, religious rights defender [as long as of course you’re talking only Christian rights] as well as being anti-LGBTQ [which sort of goes along with their religious freedom which of course trumps sexual freedom in their book] and also has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

The Apothecarium is very well run dispensary that tests all of its products quite rigorously and runs their business very much above board following all the necessary laws and rules. They have won awards from various groups for being the best cannabis dispensary in the United States so they’re a pretty top notch business. Dr. Huen is a well respected doctor of internal medicine who teamed up with the people from the Apothecarium with an eye towards additionally serving the Chinese community [as well as anyone else with a proper medical marijuana letter from one of the registered doctors].

Apparently the PJI found out about this and started contacting neighbors and feeding them false information about just want medical marijuana is and does. In the video footage below you’ll see what a good job the PJI did with their fear mongering to rile up a bunch of presumably locals — though that has been called into question — who wouldn’t look much different if they had torches and pitchforks in their hands. The meeting was shut down because Dr. Huen and the people from the Apothecarium never got a chance to speak because they were shouted down immediately as soon as they opened their mouths.

Well, a second chance is coming around. Tomorrow, May 3rd at 6:30pm at the Ortega Branch Library in the Sunset District there will be another general meeting to discuss the proposed location and I urge you to attend whether you’re in favor or against it. Please be respectful and not like the mob louts in the video below.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to say that I do not consume marijuana in any form, yet I think the Sunset District could use a dispensary or two. Sure, there are plenty who deliver, but then again why bother going to the local grocery store when they deliver to? Why even leaving your house when anything you can pretty much hold in your hand could be delivered? I don’t buy that line of thinking. Just like with groceries, people still like to see what they’re going to get before they get it.

The Apothecarium is a very upscale place if you google pictures of it [or see the above picture I posted]. Ace Pharmacy that used to be at the location was a very busy well used pharmacy that I don’t think anything had changed in the store since I can remember. They filled prescriptions and filled a lot of prescriptions. Jerry who was the last of the three original owners retired because he was just too tired to do the job anymore. His partners Sal and Joan [I believe I remembered their names correctly] where smart and got out early. Nothing had changed in the store and it was a bit of a dump to go inside, but it was a clean dump even though there were missing tiles of linoleum on the floor and their copy machine never worked, but they still left it there because they were too busy filling prescriptions to get rid of it.

While some might love the throw gentrification out there because there’s a business going in that will take care of the place instead of letting it rot I think it will help encourage others to do a few upgrades on their storefronts. Carmen Chu encouraged the businesses in that area and even got some funding to have the rotting awning replaced on many of the stores and while it was a small step, it still made a noticeable difference.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are not a place where anyone can walk in and buy drugs as some people have been led to believe. They actually usually look like private clubs in that there’s a doorman who checks to see if you’re on the list and if you’re not you don’t get in. Because of this there won’t be any selling drugs to kids or kids hanging out trying to get adults to buy up for them. The kids will be stuck hanging out near liquor stores to get their fix of Mad Dog 20/20. The risk is too high for them to sell to minors. It’s even worse than selling alcohol to minors.

There is no increase in crime because of the guards out in front which is another line that comes up frequently. Cannabis dispensaries always have very high tech, expensive crime deterrent gear installed because they’re selling a product that’s rather expensive. Pharmacies don’t even have that good equipment and they stock drugs that people could easily overdose on. Although that’s not entirely true since there has been a lot of graffiti spray painted on the place from people who don’t like the idea. I haven’t seen any lately so I guess their can of paint ran out.

I do think the location is a bit odd though. Noriega Street between 30th Avenue and 33rd Avenue has become a very heavy Chinese shopping area. It’s like Chinatown in that area with few exceptions. Heck even the Middle Eastern owner of a cigarette shop up the block speaks to his Chinese customers in Cantonese. If I was going to put in a dispensary I’d probably be looking at the new La Playa micro-hood out by the beach on Judah. Cool waves and a cool buzz, it kind of makes sense in a Jeff Spicolli kind of way, but that being one of the hot new areas of the City the rent is probably going to be much higher.

So at this point my thoughts are to give it a chance. I’ve written to Katy Tang and given her my thoughts as well as forwarding this article to her.




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15 Year Old Killed in Sunset District Shooting

Just to preface this before I start: I don’t normally do this kind of thing. I hate sounding like an old curmudgeon shaking his fist about These kids today [i.e. like my Father], but I feel it’s kind of necessary considering a lot of the fuss that it’s raised in the Sunset District and beyond in San Francisco.

If you haven’t heard by now a 15 year old boy was driving his car on Sunset Blvd and was shot and killed near Kirkham street. A shooting in San Francisco while not unheard is definitely unheard of in the Sunset District. As people love to say about the Sunset, it’s boring out there. I like that people think that because it keeps them away.

We don’t know much so far other than he wasn’t from San Francisco and it appears that there isn’t someone in the Sunset randomly shooting people. There are a few clues from what happened that I’m going to deduce [and this is why I said I normally don’t like doing this] what exactly happened. 

First off the shots were all on the driver side and the passenger wasn’t hurt. This would mean that the shooter had to be standing on the median or across the street. My guess here is that the shooter was in another car driving along side the car that was shot. I’ll also guess that the driver of the car who was shot had a beef with the shooter in the other car and was then shot and killed. The incident happened around noon on the Northbound lane of Sunset which I could deduce from the angle of the sunlight. 

I’ll also guess that this was probably a gang related incident. We don’t really have any gangs in the Sunset District and Sunset Blvd is one good way to enter the city [especially if you’re going to the beach on a hot day] from down on the peninsula. From the way the car was shot it does look very similar to gang related shootings I’ve seen pictures of before.

While there has been a recent uptick in crime in the Sunset that usually has involved car break-ins and never have guns been fired let alone drawn [I could be wrong on that last one, but to my knowledge guns in the Sunset except kids making zip guns in Junior High when I went there was a pretty rare thing.]

I follow a lot of the social media sites that have a focus on the Sunset since I live here and I like it here, so I’ve seen a lot of people thinking we’re all going to hell in a hand basket out here.

Please note this is all speculation on my part and I’m just putting it out there to calm a few of the louder people down. We’ll know more over the next couple of days, but that’s my thoughts for the moment.




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