I read a screed the other day from a resident of the Sunset District who was decrying the Starbucksization of the Inner Sunset District and how expensive restaurants were going in all over and places that should be free to the public now making me show my ID or I have to pay a fee, how can we stop all this gentrification!
Wow. The Sunset District is getting gentrified? Does that mean that the crime will go down and instead of bar fights people will slam their drink down and proclaim I am miffed! I suppose they don’t like that the housing prices are increasing. Maybe they should go back to the old prices that were .02% of what they were when my middle class family bought one back in 1954. Rent and housing prices have been a problem since the Gold Rush era.
The Sunset District like many other areas of San Francisco has been a middle class neighborhood for years. It was even referred to as the suburbs of San Francisco when it was first built because you got to be in San Francisco, but, well, not in San Francisco. Many of the chains that have moved in were San Francisco based companies that just learned how to do it right and got popular and opened more stores. You can even find some such as the San Francisco Soup Company at local malls yet other local chains such at La Boulange are OK to many people because they don’t look so much like a chain.
Then you have…those other chains. Starbucks [started by three USF students who learned the trade from Berkeley based Peet’s Coffee founder] is the banner child to hold up when people like to decry gentrification around here, yet studies have shown that when a Starbucks goes in all the other coffee houses actually do better because people who didn’t have an interest in coffee suddenly do. While friends aren’t supposed to let friends do Starbucks, I disagree. I would rather spend my money at Starbucks and know that I’m going to get a good cup of coffee as opposed to a local coffee shop that the coffee tastes like hot water in cardboard for the same price. Starbucks has just purchased local company La Boulange which I think is a good thing because that means that food from a local company will be sold there. Starbucks also does something local businesses can’t afford to do — offer health insurance to it’s part time employees.
Granted San Franciscans who’ve been here for more than 10 years tend to hate the new people moving in yet forget that they were hated by those that moved in 10 years before them. Since I’ve been here for five decades I’ve had lots of time to hate people, but I’m a little more relaxed now. If you look through out the history of San Francisco you’ll see that people were saying the same thing about change in San Francisco over a hundred years ago. I’m sure the horse and buggy types shook their fists many a time at the new fangled motor cars.
There are no poor people in the Sunset being pushed out which is also the case in many other parts of San Francisco. We have rent control so if you’re already renting a place you’re set. Wife and I were renting when the Web 1.0 boom hit and apartments around us started going for $2500. We simply smiled and continued to pay our $1300/month for our two bedroom house which we did until we decided to move out in 2003. You couldn’t have gotten a place for that kind of rent then just as you certainly can’t now. If you happened to have been like my parents and purchased a house years ago your mortgage payments aren’t going up and if you’ve already paid off the house neither is your property tax because you’re a golden child in San Francisco terms because of California’s Proposition 13.
I am not rich by any means and there are many days where I feel like I never will even get close, but because I’m one of the few left that is lucky enough to not have to earn $50k/year just to cover rent since I’ve stayed in one place for so long and my parents thought ahead, I don’t have to worry as much.
It is sad that people have to have a high income to move here and that businesses have to pay high wages so that people can afford to live here, but that’s part of the problem with a 7×7 peninsula that has no room to grow. I don’t mind that smaller businesses are being replaced by businesses that realize we don’t want to spend $5 on a roll of toilet paper or they have a very narrow demographic of people they’ll attract. I don’t mind that businesses with a sound business plan are moving in and offering up higher paying jobs in places you wouldn’t find those jobs before and offering benefits. I don’t mind one bit that the crime rate is going down around town although I would like to have a talk with the person who imported all the frat boys to the Marina. That’s a form of gentrification I could do without.
Now I’m off to Starbucks and then show my ID card to prove I live here so that I can walk around the Arboretum for free. I might take a free ride up the Harmon Tower at the DeYoung and enjoy the view afterwards. I’m a cheap date. You can have me for less than $5.
I had realized that I got screwed yesterday. It turns out when you get a bill from a company you need to check it carefully and not just pay it off and forget about it. I paid my phone bill which was an astronomical $396 dollars and then started thinking. Why is it so high? I started looking at the numbers and realized a few things that I was paying that I didn’t need to pay.
1. I received a text message from a company called ClickGen that I ignored, but after contacting my phone company found out that the FCC actually allows this company to send text messages that if you don’t respond with OUT you get charged $9.99 a month. Lucky for me they reversed the charges.
2. We’re on the Universal Lifeline service because we don’t make money in the 1%’er range, yet we’re still charged tax for the people who receive Universal Lifeline service. That was fixed with the call.
3. The bill said I hadn’t paid last month’s bill so that was added in, but upon checking I had and I mentioned that I had proof that I had paid the previous bill. Upon hearing that they credited me $156.09 dollars which means my next bill will probably have to be paid in August.
Lots of us get bills and just pay them. Its a good time to look over every aspect of your bills because these companies while I won’t say a re totally unscrupulous don’t exactly have their act together because they let their computers do their thinking for them. Because of this they sometimes make mistakes, but they won’t admit that as long as you keep paying your bills.
Keep a good eye on the bills you receive. I get emails from GoDaddy almost monthly telling me that my domain is about to expire yet I’ve never registered a domain with GoDaddy. These are tactics that companies use to get you to hand over money to them that you don’t need to and if you complain they’ll just say it was a computer error to try and avoid admittance of fault on their behalf.
If you keep your eye on your bills you might find that you have more money in your pocket at the end of the month so do what I have done so you don’t get taken.
I have tried to post regularly, but now with a crazy work schedule and creeping overtime I have had to pull back a little. Once I get adjusted and settled in this should change. Now onto the article.
When I first heard that Phil Ting was running for Mayor of San Francisco I decided to keep an eye on him. He was the county assessor, so he knew about real estate, finance and taxes. He started off with a great title for his campaign, Reset San Francisco. I kind of liked that idea. He also talked about Muni reform, score again. It wasn’t until I attended my first Mayoral debate that a few questions started to rise.
He stated that while he has been in office that the city has come in under budget every year. OK, then why is our city in the red? Is someone budgeting more funds than we can afford to pay for? In my mind I don’t care whether or not San Francisco comes in under or over it’s budget, but whether or not San Francisco comes in at the end of the day in the black.
His statement that Muni needs to change is something everyone is talking about. When I worked downtown I didn’t have too much problem with Muni. The buses and streetcars I usually get from my house take me downtown in about 40 minutes without much walking. I have other friends such as Greg Dewar [@njudah] who would beg to differ with me, but he doesn’t use the same Muni route as I do so I won’t argue with him on that. Apparently the N-Judah has lots of problems that need to be fixed since it is the busiest muni route in San Francisco.
Where Phil Ting really got me was on his repeal of Prop 13 so that people of San Francisco would be paying the real property taxes they owe. I took offense at this because the comment was targeted at me, even though not only is everyone in California benefitting from Prop 13 and that it is a state law that a Mayor cannot overturn his comment was aimed at those people who purchased a house before the first dot.com boom and have lived in them ever since. It takes about 10-15 years after purchasing a house to notice a difference in your property taxes. That is, if your home value continues to increase. Currently we’re in a down swing so it might take closer to 30 years now.
Phil used this as the excuse for why we are so low in state school ratings for achievement. I suppose he forgot that when the California State Lottery went into effect that a major portion of the profit was to go towards school funding. It was originally specified that it could not be used for teacher pay raises, but that’s where it went at first because the teachers were so underpaid that not too many people wanted to be teachers.
But let me move back to Proposition 13. Currently the taxes on your house can be raised only 1.1% per year. People are saying that is the reason that San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities to live in. I did a check of the top 10 most expensive cities in the US to live in and yes, San Francisco was listed as number five, but out of the 10 cities only two were in California and those were San Francisco and Los Angeles [which according to the report is even more expensive to live in that San Francisco], so can Prop 13 be blamed for the failing of our schools and how expensive it is to live in California? No. New York City, Honolulu, and Miami are the top three. All in states without a Prop 13, but much higher taxes. I have a friend who I am sorry to say that his mother died recently and he received his mother’s house in upstate New York along with her rent controlled apartment in downtown Manhattan. The rental property is a deal since his mother has lived there for many years and due to rent control he doesn’t even pay $1000/month for his gorgeous almost penthouse like view of Manhattan. The two bedroom house on the other hand he has to pay $12,000 per year in property tax as well as $4,000 per year in school tax. His parents have owned the house upstate for many years longer than when my parents purchased our house in the Sunset District back in 1954. My friend has also been unemployed for longer than myself and he has to pay $10 for a pack of cigarettes in downtown Manhattan. This is not a cheap place to live and even though they have no equivalent of Prop 13, it is still the most expensive city to live in. Two bedroom condo’s sell for close to $2,000,000 there not including the HOA monthly fees. My friend has about enough cash to last him a year and half and then he’s in big trouble if he can’t find a job.
So let’s say we repeal Prop 13 like Phil Ting wants to do and say property taxes increased to 5% each year with a reassessment to bring homes benefitting more it being brought up to modern day reality. I could possibly live with that even though it would triple my yearly property tax, but from what I understand, if you home goes down in value the tax doesn’t really, it just doesn’t increase. The idea behind prop 13 was to help residents remain in their homes by not having to pay more in taxes as they got older and on a limited income. This was hijacked by businesses who got added in and they don’t want to sell their spaces they own because they can rent them out for more [rental control doesn’t apply to businesses] and gain more on their investment. Since we have a much higher turnover rate in businesses who are renting their locations in California, not just San Francisco this means that business property owners gain more than homeowners.
Therefore, I think Phil should start by speaking more directly about his plans for prop 13 by trying to amend it to include only homeowners and not businesses. That way some of the businesses that were cheap in say the SoMA area when they were purchased that now charge a fortune to rent out would be paying more into funds of the state so that which would trickle down to San Francisco and San Francisco wouldn’t have to tax businesses to be here like most cities in the US. This would help San Francisco more than a total repeal of a state law that an SF Mayor can’t do, but Phil Ting could work toward that. If prop 13 were removed completely people would start to leave San Francisco, but not by a lot so property prices might drop a bit because of the tax increase. It could also theoretically drop California from it’s current ranking as the 8th largest global economy. Phil, keep this in mind.
Monday, I will announce my official endorsement for the Mayor of San Francisco and my reason why.
I found a couple of sites that I won’t mention who pay you to put ads on your Facebook and tweet feeds. I thought I might be able to make a few extra bucks on this, but it turns out that in the past month I haven’t earned even a dollar from both combined.
So just to let you all know that I’ve stopped the ads on my Facebook and Twitter feeds so when you read something it will be from me and me only and not from someone who’s giving me a couple of cents per post.
My apologies. I will only be accepting sponsorships/advertising from San Francisco local businesses that I wish to promote and not from people who will be trying to sell you crap. I will continue with the AdBrite adds at the end of each post until someone can suggest a better way to make money since as we all should know by now that Google is evil and their AdSense is a scam.
Yesterday I started my CalWorks program to find out what my best skill set was to assist me in finding a job. I went in for what was supposed to be a four week 9-5 program to help me out. This of course would cut into my time I could use looking for a job, but as I was told prior, We are required to say that by law.
OK, that should have tipped me off right there and I’ll know better int he future. So I go down to their offices at 3120 Mission Street and prepare for my day with a chip on my shoulder. We all get called into a room and the first thing out of the guy in charge’s mouth is, we won’t be here until 5pm, not 4pm, not 3pm. We’ll be out of here today by 12:30-12:45. OK, good I can look for work again.
Then they moved us into the testing room. First test is reading and math. Easy enough, except that for the math part they give you a piece of paper and a pencil, no calculators allowed. It was during this time that I realized that I had to remember how to do multiplication [easy] and division [that part took me awhile]. Who has to do math by hand anymore? 15 minute break. We go back and then go through a list of small tests that we’re supposed to do quickly without even thinking. I couldn’t help but think that if they’re telling me to go through tests without using my mind that they might suggest a mindless job for me. The tests were actually kind of interesting, because after having to match up circles and squares it moved on to complex shapes arranged in different position and then to deconstructed 3D shapes that we had to build in our mind like a sort of visual origami.
I finished first and was out of there and on my way home a little before noon. I did have to come back for a performance review at 2:40pm so that was no sweat. I head home, relax and eat lunch and come back for the interview. The guy I have to meet with is looking for my test results and can’t find them. He tells me to wait a minute and goes off to a back room. When he comes back I hear him say, Oh, right, you’re that guy. Uh oh, what does that mean? He shows me my results and tells me that I was off the charts in artistic, scientific and leadership skills, but what most amazed him was that I had scored the highest he could remember in spatial geometry [that was the visual origami part I talked about earlier]. He asked me about my past work experience after which he told me that I essentially had such a good skill set that there was nothing they could do to help me. He even asked me, why are you even here? To which I replied because I was told I was required by law to be there. Now I am required for the next four weeks to get up in the morning and come down and spend from 9am-10am at which point I get to go home. I have no idea what I’m going to be doing during this time, but at least it will get me ready for getting up every morning to go to work which I haven’t had to do in nine months.
Strange times do we live in, but at least I’m awesome. If anyone needs an evil scientist to lead them give me a call. I think I’ve got that covered according to the State of California.
Many of you are not aware of today’s festival so I will share it with you. The night before May Day was the evening of a sacred festival often portrayed as coming from the old country which usually means the under civilized parts of eastern Europe long ago, but is usually to celebrate the darkness before the light of spring.
Walt Disney took it upon himself to create a bit of a spin by associating Walpurgisnacht [also known as Hexennacht] with halloween to create a night where Satan runs amok and parties with those above ground in his symphonic masterpiece Fantasia. Walt even put a soundtrack to this evening by using Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Moussorsky to help emotionally build upon the notion of how evil tonight is supposed to be. Walt is to Walpurgisnacht as Cecil B. DeMille is to the Old Testament. More people know the story of Moses as Cecil made it than who have read about it in the bible. Of course Walt had to end it with Ave Maria so keep from turning all the kids watching into evil incarnate, but I digress. Another fun fact was that Moussorsky wrote Night on Bald Mountain originally as a celebration of the Summer Solstice.
While I don’t have definitive proof I’m fairly certain Anton LaVey was influenced by the last segment of Fantasia and it’s imagery to claim today as the starting date for his Church of Satan in 1965. So maybe even old Anton was more influenced by Walt Disney than the true folk festival that tonight is where the locals would celebrate until sun up for the first day of May so they could work off their hangovers by participating in fertility rites that they probably had done the night before, where I doubt Satan was in attendance.
The festival was accompanied by night time bonfires. If you’d like to participate I suggest you light a few torches after dark [I personally recommend Home Depot’s] and look out into the night sky and realize that tomorrow is the awakening of spring and better days are ahead.
Or if you don’t you can watch Walt’s version below 🙂
Today is a day to delve deep into the darkness of San Francisco. While at times I’d like to feel that I’m the qualified source for this topic, I’m not. I wanted to write a piece about Anton Szandor LaVey, a man who in the mid 60’s stepped out into the media spotlight with a look not unlike Vladimir Lenin which, was not the best looks to have during the cold war, yet he was a beloved member of San Francisco’s infamous crowd that helped put San Francisco a little more present in the societies of the strange that helped make us what we are today. Anton is no longer with us and the Church of Satan has now moved from a creepy black house in the Richmond district to a small aluminum post office box in Grand Central Station, NY.
America is not a young land: It is old and dirty and evil before the settlers, before the Indians. The evil is there waiting. – William Burroughs, Naked Lunch
I am convinced that the 1906 earthquake not only flattened most of San Francisco and set the rest of it on fire, it knocked the city permanently off the Ley Line that kept it responsible and respectable. Ever since then, everything it’s tried to do has come out … well, as Mayor Willie Brown remarked on one of his official appearances in 1997, “This sure is a fucked-up city!”
So when New York decided to do evil, it got Boss Tweed. When Chicago decided to do evil, it got Al Capone. When New Orleans decided to do evil, it got the pirate Lafitte. When Los Angeles decided to do evil, it got the Black Dahlia killer and the Night Stalker. But when San Francisco tried to do evil, what it came up with was Anton LaVey. In short, it blew it again.
Because Anton, while he certainly started a Church of Satan and wrote a Satanic Bible to go along with it, and generally held himself out as the double-scoop-ice-cream-cone of Evil personified, turned out to be a very nice guy. Whenever he glowered, he just couldn’t get rid of the twinkle, and everyone in San Francisco agreed that he fit right in with our Mayor’s perceptive pronouncement as yet another of our beloved, if bizarre cultural icons. [The only time the city ever officially spanked him was when his pet lion kept the neighbors awake at night with its roaring.]
Anton was born in 1930 and at age 8 joined the Cub Scouts; it didn’t quite take. He checked out shortly after Mayor Willie’s 1997 declaration, presumably concluding that he’d done his bit for it. Since then San Francisco just hasn’t been able to do evil with class, artistry, and flair anymore. And after, you know, lions and nude altars and scary organ music and such, you can’t just dumb down to the rest of the country and be happy.
6114 California Street, where his tour-bus-gawk Black House once crouched like a crazed Universal Studios horror-film prop, now consists of a cookie-cutter condo. But at night, when the fog rolls in, if you listen carefully, you can still hear the chanting, the howling, and the diabolical laughter fading into the crash of the waves against Land’s End. Burroughs was right.