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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…

You Don’t Know The Sunset…

This is fog.I haven’t been getting out as much as I’d like lately, but that will be changing soon. Because I haven’t been getting out that much I’ve been pretty much restricted to the Sunset District where I live. It’s one of the largest districts in San Francisco that also includes the Parkside, but no one really knows or cares where the barriers are. It’s easy figuring out where the Sunset stops and Richmond starts because you’ve got this big divider called Golden Gate Park in between. Something I’ve notice recently in reading about how other people describe the Sunset district is that they don’t really know anything about it. I’m here to change that.

Apparently people who like to tell other people what the Sunset district is like tend not to be from the Sunset district or have usually only lived here for around 6 months [usually November to May]. Because of this they don’t get a good understanding of this part of San Francisco and it’s a shame because more people would love it if it wasn’t just a place they drove through on a hot day to go to the beach.

  • You want sun? We got sun and it's by the beach too!It’s always foggy here. Well, we do have fog. Hell I’m almost certain that the twitter account @KarlTheFog was started here. The Sunset district has been known for it’s fog for years. The thing is that we have lots of fog compared to downtown, the Mission, Potrero Hill. It’s kind of like a friend who was here from San Diego on a foggy night and said, oh crap it’s raining. No, that’s called fog. That’s the way fog is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be thick and wet. People who say it’s foggy when they have to look up and see clouds in the sky don’t know what fog is. It’s also not like that all year round. Usually it starts in the mornings when you leave the house to go to work. Once you’ve gotten on the bus and are on your way up past 25th avenue then @KarlTheFog decides to take a nap and it clears up.
    We actually have some sunny days out here as well. Actually we have a lot more since that whole global warming/climate change happened. June-August is when you run into the most fog, but it’s usually more overcast than fog. Wife and I took our daughter out to the zoo this morning and it was actually pretty sunny. I actually had to wear a hat and sunglasses. Summertime for the Sunset district and the rest of the city starts in late August where you’ve got sun almost every day and believe it or not it’s warm which leads me to…
  • It’s always cold in the Sunset district. Not true. November to February is the worst and we might get a couple of mornings where the temperature is in the 30’s, but it’s usually in the upper 40’s during that time. Now that we’re into June and it’s warming up our lows are in the 50’s and we’ve been getting quite a few days where the highs are in the 70’s. Later on in the year during our summer you’ll definitely get weather in the 80’s & 90’s and if you’re invited over to someone’s house here who has a deck in back you’ll find in the afternoon that the concrete backing radiates the heat onto the deck and you’ll be experiencing quite a few days with heat that breaks 100°. The nice part is because we get the fog [real fog] people enjoy the sun more. Like I mentioned earlier on hot days people come out to the beach. Why would they come out to the beach if the weather is always in the 50’s like they say?
  • Riptide Chilled GreezeWe’re boring and uncool. This usually comes from people who aren’t from here. The them boring is a lack of a thriving night life or as I like to call it, gunfire and crime. San Francisco isn’t a place you go to and expect to live it up 24/7. As many people say we roll up the streets at 10pm, but that’s also because we tend to be more morning types out here because once the early morning fog burns off when we get it it’s actually a very nice place to walk around. We’re uncool because we don’t have hipsters. That’s fine with me if what you’re referring to are Mission St. Hipsters, but we’ve got lots of people in retro clothes sitting behind laptops at just about any coffee shop you walk by. One of the distinctive things people use to describe hipsters is the sort of retro shabby chic look which if you really want to find you need to come to the Sunset district. We’ve got places to shop here that have been here since WWII.
  • There’s no cool places to eat. What? Do you mean eat or sit around and sip overpriced coffee and nosh on overpriced tidbits? We’ve got better burrito and taco shops than the Mission, better pizza than, well SF isn’t really known for pizza, but you’ll find a couple of the best plaOuterlandsces out here if you know where to look and the prices are less than most other parts of town. As you get out towards the beach on Judah, Noriega, Sloat and parts of Taraval you’ll find a thriving food scene that’s building up speed. We have all the fancy coffee you can drink in several places and you haven’t lived to be a real San Franciscan until you’ve done a proper pub crawl of dive bars out here that are hipper than the hipster dive bars [personal pick is the Riptide and Blackthorn]. If that’s not edgy enough for you how about a mobile BBQ joint that operates on a bicycle that you tweet for your food?

I could go on and on, but let me just say that if I was stuck here for six months I would be able to live comfortably without having to drive more than five minutes to find what I’m looking for. Oh yeah you can drive out here and even park. If more startups knew about how nice it was to be out here I’d only have to walk five minutes to work or could bike to work without having to worry about being run over by drivers.

Katy Tang In The Polarized Sunset

Katy TangDistrict Four has a new Supervisor — Katy Tang and it is my belief that she has a hard road ahead of her. As I’ve been reading the neighborhood newspapers recently I’ve noticed something about the Sunset District that while I’ve known it, I’ve never really thought much about it. It seems like this is something that needs to be talked about.

The Sunset has a very hard delineation between the Chinese populace and the non-Chinese populace [what other people call white, but in reality is just  more homogenized American in that people don’t notice skin color and everyone speaks English.] The cut off lines are 19th Avenue and Sunset Blvd. In between these two streets you will find a large section of the Sunset District that is predominantly Chinese [I would be politically correct and say Asian, but when even the Japanese restaurants are run by Chinese you have to face facts.]

Above and below this are the other people. Yes, there are Chinese that live above and below the section, but they speak Cantonese and Mandarin much less so than in the Central Sunset. There has been a lot in the papers about her being a safe choice to be in charge of the predominantly Chinese neighborhood, but that isn’t really true of the Sunset. The Sunset over all is a place where it is going to be difficult to please everyone. The Central Sunset is very densely packed and Chinese, but there is a large number of non-Chinese who live in the Inner and Outer Sunset. This is something that can’t be ignored.

You’ll notice this the most if you go down to the beach areas around Noriega and Judah. To use the often used misnomer it’s a lot more white [meaning Americanized]. There is a group of people who want to beautify the end of Judah Street to make it an even cooler place to hang out. The people running this group according to the newspaper are two caucasians and two hispanics. You don’t see a single Chinese name included which seemed odd to me. This particular part of the Sunset is beginning to look a lot like Haight Street in that everyone has tattoos and piercings and loves wearing black. When John Avalos was running for Mayor he had a get together at the foot of Noriega and the group of people who showed up were locals of many different colors, but the Chinese contingent was rather slim.

It seems strange that there is such a hard split in the Sunset District and that is something that I believe Katy Tang will have to deal with as Supervisor of District Four. I do think her first move [which is safe, but also necessary] is trying to stop the switchbacks of the N Judah and L Taraval streetcars. I’ve been kind of lucky in that I rarely have to ride them since the 48 Quintara stops near my house, but it seems like whenever I have had to hop on a streetcar out in the Sunset I always have gotten thrown off before I get to my scheduled destination. I know nothing about Katy Tang and I think that will work for her out here as there are no preconceived ideas about who she is or what she should be. I wish her the best of luck and hopefully I’ll see her on the street one day. Oh and last thing Katy, if you get a twitter account be sure to use it to get things done. Carmen Chu would always answer within a couple of days.

The Mission Is The Hot New District? Seriously?

Mission DistrictI don’t like to put down areas of the city and in this case it’s kind of a half hearted commentary, but I just read that the Mission District is the new hot place to buy in San Francisco. I’m not so sure it’s hot to buy or hot to sell. The reality is whether or not you’ll drop a million dollars on a fixer upper.

Yes, you read that right, there is a home that the owners are asking $1,000,000 and it’s a fixer upper expected to sell for more money. This house was one of the original houses and my guess from looking at the outside is that not too much has been done on the inside. I can see asking a price like that on some of the more updated homes, but a lot of the original homes were built in the 20’s and 30’s and there are possible problems that will cost you even more in the long run.

Granted, it was 20 years ago, but I lived in a 2 bedroom house in the Mission. It was my first time I had moved out of my parents house and had sort of a house of my own. This house was built in 1924. It had a living room, dining room and kitchen on one floor and a large bedroom, small bedroom and sunroom on the top floor along with the bathrooms. It was a good sturdy house, but there were also parts downstairs that no one ever walked into. There was a door next to the garage door that you couldn’t see for all the spider webs. The door out to our backyard that was overgrown with weeds and blackberry brambles was sealed shut with spiderwebs. To get into the garage you had to have a tiny car because the street was so narrow you couldn’t really get enough angle to get into the garage with a regular sized car.

I got used to parking 2-4 blocks away from the house because the house was on a private street that dead ended and you had to back up to get down the street because there wasn’t enough room to turn around. You couldn’t park on the street on my side and on the other side people would park halfway on the curb. Because I was parking 2-4 blocks away my tires were always in good shape usually because I had to replace them every 6 months because someone would slash them. I got to fall asleep to the lulling sounds of gun fire that was going on between the local gangs. I never really walked the streets unless I was going to work because there wasn’t anything to walk to really other than my car. I would have to drive to get to most places because walking wasn’t really that safe.

Let’s fast forward to today and see how it is. When you look at the paper you still see stories of people getting shot or car chases ending in crashes. There are a lot of new restaurants catering to hipsters that have had cars crash into them or people shot during dinner service. Fires caused by substandard old wiring. This is not a positive reason to live in a place. The Mission attracted hipsters because it was a cheap place to live at first. Hell, our rent on the house I was in was $800/month split between 2 [sometimes 3] of us. When we moved out the house had sold for $209k. Now the prices can be 5x that.

It’s not cheap to live there anymore, but there is still a mix of the old Mission and the new Mission which is having problems. You’ve got six figure income people living next door to welfare recipients. The crime level is still much higher than in other parts of the city. A lot of the hipsters living there are at the lower end of the income spectrum because they’re new to San Francisco and don’t understand that it takes a lot of money or luck to live here comfortably. They are the ones that will come and go that will make the Mission’s old beat up properties slide by the way side quickly.

I’m not too sure because I don’t have many homeowners to talk to, but the idea of buying a house and flipping it for a profit in a couple of years seems to yield a lesser return than it did 10-15 years ago. Owning a home is a long term thing and takes commitment. You’re tied to it for 30 years if you’re serious and a lot changes in 30 years. Oddly enough there are better places [and by better I mean less expensive, lower crime rate, better schools, etc] outside the Mission that change more slowly that are better for a long term commitment. These are parts of the city a lot of the new comers call boring. Excitement for me in owning a house isn’t asking myself when I step out the door, am I going to get shot at or just have my car broken into. In the long term, these areas have more value as they keep moving up in value just slowly. Note that the house I used to live in in the Mission could be sold today for $735k and rent for $3300 a month.  While that’s quite an increase since I was there my old next door neighbor has seen the house value rise and fall radically over the years.

Overall, I don’t mind my couple of times a year visit to the Mission, but the idea of living there now would be a step down for me.

On Behalf Of John The Waving Guy

Readers, I would like to thank you on behalf of John the Waving Guy. Many of you have made his life happier. Some of you are actually stopping and talking to him and Winston Churchill his dog. This is a great thing to me. You’ve shared my article almost 300 times so far. That makes it the most shared article I’ve written and I can’t think of a better man to have written about.

I even received a comment today that one of the people who waves to him stopped to talk to him and he proudly showed her the article that he had printed out. His sister even wrote to me and told me that before the stroke he was in a Softball league for seniors and was pretty good. I rarely feel like I’m able to do a lot of good, but I think this time I did do something good. I look for him all the time now when I drive past. I saw him working in his front yard yesterday, which for someone who has had a major stroke can be difficult. He just keeps on going and I’m glad some of you have helped make his life a little happier. Now maybe the Chronicle or Examiner will pick this up as a human interest story.

I think it would be a wise move.

That Waving Guy

If you’ve ever driven by 33rd and Vicente on the weekends [sometimes during the week] you’ll see a guy sitting in a wheelchair with a little white dog in his lap. He waves to every car that drives by hoping they’ll wave back. We always do and he always smiles at us. I happened to catch him yesterday and decided to stop and talk to him.

He’s an interesting guy. His name is John and his dog is named Winston Churchill. He told me he’s been sitting out and waving for the past five years when he and his wife Pat were in Mexico and he [like I] suffered a stroke. He can’t do much, so sitting and waving at people is pretty good entertainment for him. His seemed to be a lot worse than mine though as he pointed to his right side when he told me and used his left hand to shake mine. He had a bit of trouble speaking which I remember having as well, but as I said, mine was minor.

I didn’t get to ask him too many questions because he was telling me all about his and Pat’s trip to Mexico and how it was always warm and beautiful and he kept going on about the posole that it was the best in the world. Which I’m sure isn’t hard to deny considering posole in Scotland would probably be awful.

So I finally got to meet him and John is a nice guy. He doesn’t stay out there very long, but I did learn that I’m a good guy which he told me after Winston started trying to climb on me. John’s a happy guy all things considered and Winston knows people. I told him that I was going to write about him and I always hold my promises. Here’s to you John!

Birria de Chivo

Since I’ve been talking about burritos it seems only fitting to continue on with Mexican food for another day and I thought what better to talk about than a sorely missed restaurant in Mission La Rondalla and their specialty dish, Birria de Chivo.

For those who don’t speak Spanish, Birria de Chivo is goat stew [sometimes complete with goat head]. Me being allergic to lamb I decided it would be fitting for me to give it a go one day. I had never eaten goat before so this would be a new experience. I didn’t realize how popular a dish this was until the day after when I was talking with some of my Mexican friends at work who laughed at me for just ordering it and not adding in, lean and clean.

When my bowl arrived it had an over powering smell of well, goat. The other Hispanics at the restaurant looked at me with a bit of surprise. I guess they didn’t expect a white person to ever order it. On my first bite I tasted a bit of the peppers and well, goat. Everything about this dish was goat. I felt like I was in a barnyard, but it had a very hearty rustic feel down to the bones in the stew. The part that caught me off guard was the fat and gristle in the stew. After eating about half the dish and having the rest boxed up to take home and after talking to my friend José the next day I learned what lean and clean meant. No bones, no fat, no gristle. I never thought while eating this where do they buy goat meat in San Francisco? I’ve been to many of the Mexican carnecerias in the city and I’ve never seen Chivo in the meat cases. Sometimes it’s better not to ask questions.

Sadly, La Rondalla went out of business sometime ago and for that I’m sad because it was the first place after a long night out partying that I had my first vegetarian burrito thanks to the girl I was dating at the time. I don’t know of any other places in the city that sell Birria de Chivo, but at least I know that if I find one an order it again I’ll remember to add lean and clean to the order. I was glad I stepped a little outside my comfort zone for a day.