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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.

If I Were The Supervisor of District 4

Write me in for Supervisor of District 4I apparently found out today quite by accident that Supervisor Katy Tang is up for re-election for Supervisor of District 4 just after she was appointed to the position. Those who wish to run against her have until June 11th to come up with the $500 to enter the race.

There is one person who entered to run against her, but he’s 64 and has only been here for three years. That kind of thing doesn’t work out for the Sunset District. If you’re going to run to be Supervisor of this district you’ve got to have been born and raised here. This got me thinking because several of the locals out here have asked me over the years, why don’t YOU run for Supervisor.

I thought about that today and it actually isn’t that bad an idea since I was born and raised in the Sunset District 50 years ago and except for a short six year stint living in the Mission District [pre-Hipster] I’ve been in the Sunset District the whole time. I’m a home owner. I frequent many of the local businesses and I know the area from 19th Avenue down to the beach probably better than anyone else who has lived here. I don’t really have the $500 to spare at the moment either, but unlike Matt Gonzalez, I’ve got a suit [three to be exact.]

I have been here long enough to see the changes in the area which have been for good and bad. When my parents purchased the house in 1954 from the McKuen Contractors this was a part of the Parkside District. Pretty much anything in the 94116 area code was the Parkside with Ortega being the Northern Boundary. While the boundries have changed and the Inner Sunset is now lumped in with the Parkside for areas under the charge of Norman Yee, what the City now calls the Sunset has been my home for more years that most people.

It would be tough for me because there is a very strong Asian population and I don’t really speak enough Mandarin or Cantonese without getting my face slapped so I may not go over so well with them. I do realize though that the Sunset has been getting a large influx of Russian and Irish immigrants that are finding their own niches to hang out at. Actually I remember when the Sunset District had a mostly Irish population in the first wave during the 50’s and 60’s. I went to school with most of their kids because my family having strong Italian roots [don’t let the Germanic last name fool you] moved from the Marina along with other Italians from North Beach to San Francisco’s suburbs or the Sunset District.

I’ve seen lots of changes over the years with the outer lands near the beach starting to pick up and creating the new Westside Hipsters™ as I coined the term which are techie based people who like hanging out at cafes and coffee shops without the hipster attitude. I like that. The Sunset District needs to be brought into the 21st century like the rest of the city not just in small places here and there, but more like what the Inner Sunset has developed into over the years while maintaining households instead of apartments.

So what would I do if I was elected Supervisor of District 4? Here’s what I’d do:

  1. Work on the roads. Yes, there has been work on the roads, but it really is more of a small scale of look what we’re doing. It doesn’t affect the entire Sunset District only small parts. The street that I live on had a section in front of my house torn up to work on a sewer pipe over 30 years years ago. You can still see scar on the street today because it hasn’t been repaved in that long. While the Sunset District doesn’t get real seasons other than foggy and not-foggy our roads still need work. We don’t have lots of traffic compared to other parts of the city and because we’re built in an easy to navigate rectangular way it’s easy to drive around the block if a street is being worked on. With the new machines that basically eat the old road in the front and lay down the new road in the back having your street worked on should be able to be held to a minimum.
  2. Crack down on double parking. In the commercial areas of the Sunset we do have a parking problem sometimes which leads people to double park and leave their cars so that if you are parked you have to sit there honking your horn to get the owner to come out and move [which usually doesn’t happen because there are several cars double parked and then never know who their honking at.] If you double park and leave your car, automatic ticket. If you are in your car with the engine off, automatic ticket. If you’ve got the car running you’ll be moved along to circle the block until the person you’re waiting for is ready to get back in the car like we used to.
  3. Stop Muni Switchbacks. While I haven’t needed to take Muni lately I have to say that every time I have, I have not been able to get to where I’m going. Even when it’s the middle of the day during the week they have switchbacks and even though we’re one of the most populace districts in the city the L-Taraval, N-Judah and 29-Sunset should complete their routes.
  4. Ditch the 66-Quintara. This bus line used to have a purpose, but it doesn’t really anymore. There are plenty of ways to get downtown faster now and the 66 hasn’t gone that far in years. It runs from 30th and Vicente to 8th and Judah and that only really services people who want to shop in the Inner Sunset who could use the 71-Noriega and N-Judah to get there directly or the L-Taraval, 48-Quintara and 29-Sunset with a single transfer. If you’re attending UCSF you probably live close by. I would have the 48-Quintara switched to full time instead of only rush hour to serve a neglected part of the Sunset District.
  5. A guaranteed physical and electronic presence. Because I live and do business in the Sunset District you’ll see me around here frequently outside of Supervisor related roles. I will also have a very nice electronic presence to keep everyone in the Sunset District updated as to what is going on here and what I am doing in the Sunset District. I have a large network of people I interact with out here and access to all the tools necessary to building a great community. I can easily guarantee my website will look more attractive than the supervisor pages on sfgov.org.
  6. Acknowledge that more than 50% of the voting population isn’t Asian. Everyone seems to focus on the fact that nearly 50% of the voting population of the Sunset District is Asian, but they don’t realize that means that more than 50% of the population isn’t Asian as well. I honestly don’t like focusing on people in this way because it makes them out to be a singular entity like the Borg on Star Trek or like the 800 pound gorilla in the room metaphor. When I was growing up in the Sunset and attending Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary, Lawton Elementary and A.P. Giannini Junior High School [that shows you how long I’ve been here] there was more ethnic diversity then than now [note of full disclosure: While I have spent the majority of my life in the Sunset District, I did attend George Washington High School in the Richmond District through an out of district permit because they offered Marine Biology and Japanese that were not offered locally at Abraham Lincoln]. Sure there was a much larger population under the category White back then, but it also included people of Hispanic, Middle-Eastern and East Indian descent which have now been separated out. We also had lots more European immigrants back then who were not as Americanized as they are today so when you opened a can of Spaghetti-O’s you were having ethnic food. I am all in favor of bringing your cultural heritage to the table, but I think we all have to remember that we are American and San Franciscan first.
  7. Keep my word and think about what I do. This has been a problem for a long time in the Sunset District. Fiona Ma who was once the Supervisor of District 4 rallied everyone around the idea that she was going to get rid of the overhead power lines in the Sunset. My street was supposed to have them removed by 2010. They’re still here along with almost everywhere else in the Sunset. Carmen Chu replanted part of the median on Sunset Boulevard with grass…golf course putting green grass that has been ignored now and is dying or beginning to look like thick weeds. In the Sunset District why not rip that up and plant a more drought tolerant row of succulents that hardly ever need watering or upkeep? It would save thousands of dollars. Ed Jew, well I don’t think I need to say more there. I want to research or have someone under me research properly anything I want to have done for the Sunset District so that I don’t promise something and am not able to come through or come through badly. I am not a glad handler who likes to show off and go back and sit at my desk. I have to shop and walk around the Sunset District every day. I don’t want to have to face someone that I’ve failed on a promise to.

Thank you and I will now take your questions…

The Worst Safeway in San Francisco

Noriega & 30thApparently people like to complain about the service and stock at the Safeway groceries stores. I understand that, but I noticed something about a Safeway close to me that adds a new twist to the equation. What happens when former employees start complaining about the store?

My wife and I used to shop regularly at the Noriega and 30th Safeway, but since we have a car we’ve started to go to the beach Safeway in the Richmond District or the Daly City Safeway in Westlake and we’ve discovered something in our trips. All over the city in just about every Safeway we’ve been to we see a former employee of the Noriega and 30th place. When asked they all say the same thing, that was the worst place to work.

Now it’s one thing when people who shop there say that because well, people like to complain. I get that, but when the employees are moving to other Safeway’s because they don’t like it that’s a whole different story. I have to say that my experience has been seeing only cashiers that have moved to other locations and I can see why. They don’t like being associated with that store. They’re pretty good at what they do, but to be associated with all the other bumbling people who work there is something they don’t like so they move on.

So what exactly is the problem with this Safeway that puts it above the rest to be called the worst Safeway in San Francisco? Take a look at my personal list of favorites:

  1. Produce isn’t fresh. That can be kind sometimes. It’s usually starting to rot and they don’t have much of selection of rotting produce either.
  2. They run out of staples like milk and eggs and what is left has usually been beaten to death.
  3. No matter when you go they never have enough cashiers working.
  4. Dont ask, where is ____ because hardly anyone speaks English. Even the people who you think would don’t. Seriously. I asked where the bisquick is and was replied with, beesqueek? After explaining the whole process of using it to make homemade beeskits at home I was brought over to the Pillsbury pop-n-fresh pre-made beesskits.
  5. They painted the parking lot upstairs with marine enamel which gets slippery in the rain. My wife slipped and fell once and I let the manager know and he took our information and said he would call us and he never did.
  6. The people running the recycling out in front make too much noise and aren’t very neat in keeping their recycling in one place. They spill broken glass all over the parking spots and the place is so dirty that I’ve seen cleaner bus station bathrooms.
  7. Management just doesn’t care [most heard from former employees]. See 5. above also.
  8. Rats, rats, rats. The bread and beans are all chewed up and every door you walk into has at least two rat traps on either side. I’ve seen people bring up rat eaten bread and beans and they’ve received the response of, OK, thanks.
  9. The Starbucks creates spill over that leads to people blocking the aisles standing around talking with a cup of coffee. If you want to sit and talk, go to a real coffee shop, not a grocery store. It’s a grocery store, not a place to loiter.

Is that enough? I actually applied for a job at Safeway once and when going through the 4 hour training at the Noriega branch I learned something. They send people out to check and make sure that they’re following company policy and they listed a number of things they looked for. I guess they didn’t check this store prior to telling us that because they were in violation of every one of the rules that a Safeway isn’t supposed to break.

This is all very sad to me because I like to go out grocery shopping and I don’t like to feel like it is or should be an ordeal. I’m lucky in that I don’t have a problem driving to other Safeway’s, but I feel that the one closest to me should hold up its own and do the job it is supposed to do. There’s only a few cashiers left who know what they’re doing and once you learn who they are you pick them out right away and stand in their line even though you know it’ll be a longer wait.

OK, time to run off to Lucky’s…

Low Sodium Diet and What I Now Can’t Eat

Well, I’ve been put on a low sodium diet of 2000mg/day. That’s not too bad since the average person should have 2300mg/day, but I started looking at the amount of sodium in foods and discovered that I’ll have to be crossing Chinese food off my list and by that I mean American Chinese food. I’ve never been to China, but from what I’ve read they’re more into the spices than dumping tons of soy sauce on the food.

I was amazed and horrified when I found this website. I love Chinese food and grew up on it at least once a week usually having the left overs if there were any for lunch the next day. My wife and I love General Tso’s Chicken and we found a place that said it had the best in the city so we went and had an odd experience after eating it and going home. Little did we know that we have consumed 11g of saturated fat, but 3200mg of sodium. We don’t normally eat that much fat or salt and we were taking turns running in and out of the single bathroom we had in the house.

Now this is restaurant food, If you want to get worse take a trip down to Costco where everyone there has to buy a case of Top Ramen or Cup of Noodles. Those have over 1000mg per serving and aren’t as large as General Tso’s Chicken. I worked for a printer that had mostly Asian employees and most of them have at least one of the aformentioned for lunch every day. I would see my boss lady eat two cup of noodles daily and if I did that it would put me over my limit leaving me with water to drink the rest of the day.

I also have a bit of high blood pressure that was getting worse years ago and my doctor told me to get a small wrist cuff that I could check my BP on an hourly basis. A could of the guys I worked with were Asian and they wanted to try it out like everyone else. Their BP came in at 160/120. I told them they need to see a doctor, but they kept saying they felt fine. Both had strokes within three months.

Now I can’t just knock Chinese Food because there are tons of fast food and other restaurant dishes that are awful. It just turns out that Chinese food comes out on top. You can check here to see some of the horrors you’ve probably eaten. Italian and Mexican food may not have as much sodium, but it’s got lots more saturated fat which isn’t good for you either. I will once in awhile have a slice of cheese pizza, but I’m holding off on burritos for now [my other beloved food].

Just watch what you eat because you don’t want to wind up in a hospital eating hospital food.

Why I Dislike Muni

I have to admit that I haven’t had to take Muni on a regular basis in almost three years and now that it’s back in my life because of work I don’t like what I see. While for me it’s rather efficient, it’s the way it takes you from one place to another is what bothers me.

I have to take the 48 Quintara to whatever metro will get me to Civic Center and then board the 19 Polk towards Hunters Point to get me out to the Potrero Hill area. It’s takes about 45 minutes which is good considering, but there are a few things that I encounter along the way that I don’t like.

  1. People need to bathe more often. The stench on Muni now is unbelievable. People seem to me like they bathe maybe once a week if that and you’re lucky if they shave once a month.
  2. Why do y’alls have to be so loud. If you’re talking to a person next to you there’s no reason to exceed 100 db even if the bus or metro is loud.
  3. Driving apparently is no longer a required skill to navigate a bus. There is this kind of fascinating experience when you get stuck standing or are not sitting in a front facing position I can only call the air hump. It’s the constant gas to brake ratio that literally makes you look like you’re having sex with the air. It is an annoying feeling to have to spend 45 minutes humping the air in front of you and is especially creepy if it’s a crowded bus.
  4. People who ride Muni now are rude. I was yelled at a week ago by a girl because in trying to see if I could get 3G access on the Metro [you can’t except for Castro station or BART] I held up my phone in a somewhat vertical manner and she yelled at me to not take a picture of her. I really didn’t have an interest in taking a picture of her and if I really did I would have used a decent line and asked her so she’d remember me. So now I am a dirty old man for holding up my phone on the Metro. Also most people on Muni have a frown on their face.
  5. The buses and Metro generally need work on them. This is something that’s been mentioned in numerous articles before, but part of the bad driving by people is because the buses are older and need work. I’m sure this would help with the air humping action as well as the frowns on everyone’s face.
  6. The Clipper Card is still a mystery. When I have it filled and tap it, it sometimes beeps once or sometimes twice. I have no idea what either one means and there was one time when I got on and tapped it and it turned out it wasn’t loaded, but no one seemed to care until I tried to transfer and they were checking the cards. I will continue to claim that I didn’t know if they check my card on any bus trip and I figure that should go over well because they need a machine to tell whether or not your card is valid and there’s nothing that tells you whether it’s valid or not.

If my family had two cars this wouldn’t be a problem as parking where I work is easy. Hell, it’s even free for me, but I can’t leave my wife without a car for the better part of day because she starts to get cabin fever after a couple of days. What would be the best for me was if I could just spend all my time in the Sunset and only have to run out of the house for little trips around the neighborhood, but you know, like all of you, we need jobs to work and there ain’t no one looking for web designers and code monkeys in the Sunset…yet. If you are, contact me immediately.

My Day In Court

So I had to go to traffic court today for a rather odd ticket I received several months ago. First the cop told me that I was going 32mph in a 25mph zone. Driving downhill on Taraval that’s pretty easy to do, but then every Muni driver would have a ticket for that. He sited me for not coming to a full stop at two stop signs which I know the first one he wasn’t behind to witness and the police station is at 24th where he sited me for the second non full stop. I know well enough to know that running a stop sign next to a police station is a stupid idea so I doubt I did that one either, but everyone has their own interpretation of things.

I thought I knew how to work the system, but apparently the system has changed in San Francisco. You used to wait and see if you name was called. If it was you were handed a written statement by the police officer who ticketed you that you could either fight in court or take traffic school. If your name wasn’t called, your ticket was dismissed. Well apparently things have changed and they don’t have to write up a report anymore so your only option is take traffic school, fight it or pay the fine. It turns out people used to opt for the fight when had done traffic school in the last 18 months because the officers usually didn’t show and it would be dismissed. Now they charge the police officer $250 if he/she doesn’t show. That option is now off the table.

So my final charges for having to go to traffic school are the reduced rate of $114 for the ticket plus $55 for traffic school. At least now you can do your traffic school online in San Francisco, but I’m still a bit irked by the douchebag cop who gave me the ticket signing his name with a line and called me a drunk or hungover because I happen to have a slight problem of tremors CAUSED BY A STROKE I HAD 13 YEARS AGO! If he thought I was drunk why didn’t he test me? I don’t mind being read the riot act when I really did something stupid. I was pulled over about 20 years ago for doing close to 60mph down Mission Street at 4am. THAT would have deserved a ticket, but I just had to sit there and be yelled at for 15 minutes by an Irish cop [accent at no extra charge] who let me go because I was only a couple of blocks from the house I was living in at the time.

I have friends who are cops and they are nothing like this douchebag. Most of the time when I’ve been pulled over the few times I have the officers have been rather cordial about it. Usually I just get a warning or a stern talking too and they let me go. Just beware if you’re driving around the Sunset of an overweight cop driving an off-road police motorcycle. They’re kind of hard to spot because they’re new, but this guy will get you. I won’t mention anything else about him so more of you will drive safer.

Muni Needs WiFi

For a short period of time I had to take the 48 Quintara down to the Mission on a daily basis. I found it actually a relaxing and interesting trip that I wrote about previously as I could sit there with my iPhone and read my email and get constant updates on what was going on along with all the other riders because of the 3G access we all had, but if you like the other thousands of riders who have to take the metro downtown you’re out of luck.

There’s no signal in the tunnels at all. Granted, traveling from West Portal to Embarcadero can be rather quick, but it leaves you with unproductive downtime where if there was an emergency at home I couldn’t even get a phone call in most cases for 45 minutes. On the other hand, BART when I got on one day politely asked me if I’d like to connect to their free wifi service. Hell even going through the bay tunnel I could make cell phone calls. Why isn’t San Francisco looking into this?

There was a time a couple of years ago where I saw buses in San Francisco touting free wifi service they were testing out. You don’t see those today. In a city that says it’s so tech friendly I would expect wifi to be everywhere and available. Well, it is pretty much everywhere, but not always available.  There was a plan at one time to make wifi available throughout San Francisco, but it never took hold. Couldn’t we at least find a way to first make wifi available in the metro tunnel running downtown and then making it available on the buses? It would make the need for 3g/4g data plans almost superfluous and give everyone with a smartphone/tablet computer access to the internet while they have to sit during their commute. Most people complain about how slow Muni is, but if you had something to do during the time you were waiting you wouldn’t notice it so much.

Hell, if I could watch Indiana Jones while I was stuck in the tunnels for two hours I wouldn’t mind the wait as much.

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