EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Eric Kauschen | Baghdad By The Bay

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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.

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.

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.

Kids And Uber/Lyft

Hi everyone. Remember me? I know it’s been a while and I’ve been busy since my tech job ended which is a whole different story that I don’t plan to get into here, but I’m back and I’ve found a few things I feel I should talk about.

As you might remember I have been driving for various ridesharing companies and I recently came across something that’s a bit disturbing that no one seems to be talking about and that’s regarding kids, specifically minors, people under the age of 18 who use Uber unaccompanied by an adult.

It’s happening more and more frequently lately where parents will either:

  1. Call an Uber/Lyft to get their kids home from school.
  2. Load the app and set up their accounts on their kids phone
  3. Set up their kids with an account

These are all very terrible ideas and let me tell you why. It’s illegal. Yes, that’s right. In the San Francisco Bay Area in the rules that rideshare companies agreed to with the CPUC they are not to give rides to unaccompanied minors. 

Why aren’t any of these companies doing anything about it? My guess is because they’re making money so they don’t check the accounts of people who are willing to give them money. They don’t point this out to the drivers and definitely don’t tell the customers this because it would hurt their already failing bottom line.

OK, so it’s illegal, but it’s more convenient and will help teach my kid to take care of themselves so where’s the harm? The harm is in the terms of service agreement. That thing that nobody ever reads, but everyone is accountable for. Because it mentions that rides to unaccompanied minors are not allowed per their agreement with the CPUC if you send your kid to or from school in a rideshare vehicle and said car is involved in a crash these companies will tell you, I’m sorry, but you’ve committed a violation of our terms of service agreement so we are not liable. 

I can’t really blame the companies for having this in place as unfortunately in today’s society with all the child kidnappings that pop up it’s probably good for them to err on the side of caution in case one of the background checks on a driver misses something, but it also helps save their butt once again in case of an accident, but it won’t help protect your child.

I usually start my afternoon run between 4-5pm and I live a few blocks from a local Catholic school that is almost always my first request. What started me looking into this was a ride I gave to a couple of kids who had me drive them from San Francisco to Corte Madera to drop off one kid then drive back to the city and drop the other kid off in Tiburon. It was a bit of a long trip so I was talking to the kids on the way. They were both 16 and the Dad of the kid who ordered the ride set him up with an account so Dad didn’t have to take him to and from school. Oddly enough just as I dropped the kid who’s account it was off in Tiburon [the Corte Madera kid was just a friend of his he was doing a favor for] he said to me:

You were a really cool driver. I doubt you’re going to get anyone back from here so why don’t you just leave the ride open and close it when you get back to the city.

Uhm, why thank you sir. That is very generous of you my kind sir.

Turns out the entire trip ran about $60. I’m wondering if his Dad was very happy about that, but considering he lived in Tiburon on the hill in a house that looked more like something out of Beverly Hills I’m guessing Dad wasn’t hurting for money. Something seems so wrong with this whole thing of a kid being able to blow that kind of money just to get home from school that I had to look into it.

So please. If you’re a parent, don’t give your kids your rideshare account or set one up for them. While I’ve never been in an accident in all the time I’ve been driving for a rideshare company that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen and many of the drivers out there don’t have specific rideshare car insurance so their insurance won’t cover any damages either if an accident happens.

There were a couple of rideshare services aimed specifically at kids, but unfortunately those companies ran out of steam and have closed up shop. 

Last time, please, keep your kids safe and find another way to get them where their going regardless of where it is. At least Muni insurance will cover your kids.

Brother Buzz And Anton LaVey

Brother Buzz I was reminded of a TV show I used to watch as a kid by my good friend Don Webb called Brother Buzz. It was an odd little show for kids produced by the Latham Foundation for Human Education and was started by a man named Ralph Cheesé, I’m not sure if the accent was just an eccentricity, or if he was really French, but the show consisted of stories using marionettes.

The Wonderful World of Brother Buzz produced under the sponsorship of the Latham Foundation for the promotion of Humane Education became the longest sustaining children’s program in the history of San Francisco television, lasting from 1952 to 1969. It rivaled Howdy Doody for longevity with a run on the air of 17 years whereas Howdy had only a 13 year run. It was the first Children’s Television puppet program to deal with environmental issues and to explore the realm of animals by promoting Humane Education. It ran on three stations in San Francisco KPIX, KTVU and ended up on the ABC affiliate station KGO- Channel 7 where it was syndicated and distributed by Westinghouse and the Cox Broadcasting systems. 

Brother Buzz PinFor kids TV shows of the 60’s when I was watching it, the show was pretty rudimentary. Nothing as sophisticated as the Hanna Barbara cartoons I used to watch after school or on Saturday mornings, but the purpose of the show seemed to be to teach kids about things they wouldn’t learn about in school. I liked it so much I even joined the Brother Buzz Club and got the little badge I used to wear all the time. I couldn’t find mine, but I did find a picture. These little buttons were pretty cool when I was a kid and every company made them to sell kids on their product early.

My friend Don found a rather amusing segment on YouTube where he showed a little short of Anton LaVey and his pet Lion Togare at home and going out shopping at the Lucky’s Supermarket located on 32nd and Clement Street in San Francisco, not too far away from LaVey’s 6114 California house. Now it’s a CVS Pharmacy and Fresh & Easy Market. LaVey still had his hair as it was 1965 and the Church of Satan wasn’t founded until April 30th, 1966. It’s kind of funny to take a look back into some of ye olde history of the Avenues part of San Francisco. Thanks for bringing up the memory Don!

 

William H. Dent

William H. DentToday is my Grandfather’s birthday. He was born in 1887 in a small town of gold seekers in the Sierra Nevada foothills called Fiddletown, CA [nee Oleta].

My Grandmother was born in Jackson, CA and somehow they met and got married. They wanted to move to the big city so they came to San Francisco, CA sometime in the 20’s if I remember correction. They’re the whole reason I’m here today and if it weren’t for them, this blog probably wouldn’t exist.

Now I don’t remember much about the old coot other than what my parents told me. The only memory I have of him was when I was about 3 and walked into the bathroom when he was shaving. I just stared at him stropping that straight razor of his and examining it carefully before he brought it up to his throat. I watched him move that razor so carefully like it was a religious ritual, not realizing that you could easily cut your throat with a straight razor. After all, I was only three and my Mom wouldn’t let me play with sharp things. [thank you Mommy Dearest]

Growing up and working in the Sierras my Grandfather was a real mountain man. He was generally a handy man without a real career so he always went where the money was. In the Sierras he had a winter job where he would have to ski to all the Ranger stations in the heavy snow that they’d get on skis he had to carve himself and dig out the Ranger stations before the Rangers would come man them. He had to carry everything on him so he didn’t carry food, but he carried a gun and a knife and he’d hunt for his food because he’d be gone up there for weeks. Considering how harsh a life like that was it’s no wonder he wanted out to move to the big city. He was around 39 when he got married which was pretty old for back then.

After my Mom died my wife found a letter from my Great Aunt to my Grandmother not to marry that Indian. Huh? No one ever told me about that part of the story. It turns out my Mom told the story to my Wife so I guess that was just a women’s gossip thing. Apparently somewhere back a generation or two or three or however many one of his relatives had married a woman from a local Paiute tribe of Native Americans living in the area. I guess that explains my Mother’s interest in her collecting Indian Baskets and going to all the Native American get togethers when we’d go up to Jackson in the Summer.

When my Grandparents moved to San Francisco in the 20’s they lived in North Beach for about a year and then decided to move because it was too crowded for them and they wanted to start a family. They moved to the suburbs of North Beach at the time…The Marina, which was heavily Italian at the time and since there were lots of Italians in the Sierras my Grandfather seemed to get along with them in the Marina just fine.

He did lots of handyman work at first, but it looked like he landed a few regular carpentry jobs and even got work through the local carpenter’s union to help him make a little more money. I wasn’t alive during any of that time as he was 75 when I was born. He died four years later, but he left his mark on the house I’m living in now. He built a full bathroom downstairs to replace the half bath that came with the house and according to my Mom she said that when they bought the house he looked at the cabinets and thought they were garbage and ripped them out and replaced them after they moved in. Those cabinets are still there today more than 60 years after they were built and they’re holding up just fine.

I kind of wished he had lived a little longer so I could have gotten to know him better, but doing something my Mom liked to always do that I never understood, He’s be 129 today. OK, sure Mom. If people lived that long. Grandpa, I never got to know you enough to say I miss you, but I just wish you could have stayed around a little longer so I could. Cheers to you!

The “Amazon Effect” In San Francisco

AmazonI like Amazon.com. I like it a lot, but there’s problems with that which I noticed the other day when I was driving around in San Francisco. I saw quite a few street merchants who had closed up shop here. No sign that they had moved. They just emptied out the place and left.

I remembered the places that were there and have come to call this The Amazon Effect. It’s not really all Amazon’s fault, but they do what they do very well, probably better than most other online retailers. Buying online today is easy. The tech company [which I am now a previous employee of] would buy everything through Amazon and Amazon Prime Now. I had a bad headache one day and I can’t take aspirin so I asked the girl who handles purchasing if there was any Tylenol around. She told me, If I don’t find you within an hour check back with me and I’ll have some Tylenol for you.

She didn’t tell me to walk up to the local drug store which I could have done. I didn’t even think about where it was coming from, but I happened to be upstairs and in walks a guy from Amazon Prime Now and delivered a bottle of 250 Tylenol which she handed over to me.

How pray tell, does a local store that I could have easily walked to and got what I need deal with that when someone can just pulled their smartphone and with a couple of taps get it delivered right to them within an hour? They can’t. This is what I am calling [again] The Amazon Effect. Technology has made it so easy to order and return merchandise no matter how big or how small that there’s no point to have to leave your house. Amazon is the biggest culprit in my mind, but there are also brick and mortar retailers with a large online presence that are undercutting local merchants such as Walmart, Target and Costco. They will deliver items purchased online free or at a very modest delivery fee if they have local drivers.

This is creating a problem with local merchants in San Francisco. It’s probably happening all over the place, but in San Francisco where rent to live is already high, it’s high for business owners as well. If you have to be rich to live in San Francisco, rich people will still need to buy things and that’s what stores are for. If there’s no stores then people will have to turn to their computers instead of going out shopping anymore.

I’ve noticed that there seem to be lots of people, in particular millennials who have no problem buying their groceries online instead of going to the store. For me, I personally want to be the one who looks at my meat and produce and decide if I want this apple or that apple. I don’t want a worker who’s paid minimum wage in a city that’s too expensive to live in and probably doesn’t care too much other than filling the orders quickly to pick my food for me.

Big chain stores can easily survive this because sometimes you just want a pair of socks, not a pair of socks knitted by a fair trade paid Guatemalan single mother struggling. But chain stores has special rules in San Francisco so you have to have a car to get to most of them because they’re outside the City. It’s a noble idea, but I can’t spend $20 on a pair of socks. Smaller family owned businesses like your corner stores that you can run to when you forgot something are hit the most. They can’t compete on price unless they’re selling booze or cigarettes and even on those products their markup is pretty small.

Restaurants are hit as well, but San Francisco has the most restaurants in the nation and with a limited amount of food ideas there’s only so many ways you can serve a burger, burrito or Asian food. Restaurants aren’t as affected by Amazon because tech has allowed them to cook and deliver food through all of the food delivery tech companies so they don’t need drivers, but if you’ve got a ton of the same type of restaurants too close to each other then they all are kind of screwed.

I unfortunately don’t have an answer for this problem unless the City can offer incentives to these smaller businesses like they are to the big tech companies. Sometimes it seems that those who think San Francisco isn’t what it used to be are blaming the people coming here without thinking the fact that San Francisco is changing because of the businesses we’re losing.

Oh well, I guess I’ll go get a Starbuck’s Latte.