District 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.
I read an article on SFgate today that the Tosca Cafe may be closing. While I wasn’t a frequent visitor, I’ve been there enough times that it feels like home when you walk in the door. It has quite a history that the SFgate article doesn’t cover so I’m going to give you the details today.
It turns out that Tosca opened in 1919 and it was the first place in the United States to serve espresso and cappuccino. Started by three Italians who came to San Francisco after World War I, they wanted to create a bar like they used to frequent in Italy. This made Tosca a keystone of North Beach. Their drinks that they were known for were their cappuccino [which unlike Starbucks has brandy] and the White Nun [steamed milk, brandy and kahlua]. Tosca is also known for it’s Irish Coffee which many people say is better than the Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe where it was started.
Carol Doda was known to be seen sitting in the front window sipping White Nun’s in between her acts at the Condor club. Many other celebrities from around the world have been known to stop in at Tosca’s. Jerry Brown is a regular customer as is Willie Brown. It’s the place to go in San Francisco to find celebrities and it’s a same that the strip club owner landlord wants to shut down a piece of San Francisco history.
I was watching the Daily Show with John Stewart the other night and he had a guest who mentioned something that sounded kind of shocking: The majority of people receiving food stamps [EBT or CalFresh as they’re called now] are White. If you’re White and horrified by what you just read don’t be. We can be poor without having to be White trash.
Sure all of us have run into hard times before, but to run into hard times where you have to ask the government for a hand out is not something Caucasians ever really think about. Nowadays, it’s doesn’t matter what color you are, po’ folk is po’ folk. Sometimes you need a little help and you have to ask for it.
My family it currently on the San Francisco Health Plan because we can’t afford nor do I qualify for insurance because of pre-existing conditions [I could get us on the HIPAA plans, but that would cost us $2500/month]. I’m glad that it’s an available option for San Franciscans and if you don’t have insurance you should look into it.
Putting food on the table when you aren’t making any or enough money is another story. I’ve looked into this and a family of three can get up to $526/month to feed themselves. Sure you can include the food banks if you’re heavy eaters, but there are things you can buy that go a long way that are cheaper.
CalWorks is San Francisco’s version of welfare and while it helps out it doesn’t very much. I did a little research and again, for a family of three you can get $695/month, but that cuts into your CalFresh money and cuts it down to $377/month. So if you are able to collect unemployment you can get a little over $1000/month to feed and house a family of three. I went to a meeting just to check it out and CalWorks has a program called Welfare to Work where at least one of the members of the family has to attend a 40 hour a week job training service for a month. If you haven’t found a job by then, then you have to do it again.
If you’re someone like me who has a college degree and a high level of skills this program won’t work for you. The jobs they are offering are low paying and short term. Even more so it doesn’t work because you have to spend time learning how to get a job which you already know when you could be spending time doing freelance work. Even when you get a job, if it’s a contract position they don’t count that as a job so they tell you that they’ll cut your benefits if you don’t show up for the job training which you don’t need. In short the system is broken. They don’t know how to deal with middle class people who have a college degree and more skills than the person who is your job counselor who doesn’t speak English very well.
As I heard one of the people working there say, you don’t want to be on welfare because it only leaves you pissed off and poor. I seriously think they need to work on adding additional resources for helping skilled people find work instead of offering temporary part time minimum wage jobs just so they can check you off the list. That doesn’t solve the unemployment problem it just regenerates it.
When Muni started the 48 Quintara bus line some where back in the 80’s I was happy because I could be a lazy guy and just walk down to the corner to catch a bus. I like many never stayed on past West Portal station, but now I’ve been given a reason to and it’s an interesting trip that shows the social and cultural stratification of the people along the route.
I hop on in the central Sunset and most of the people that are on or getting on are of Asian decent. Most of elderly or at least in the 60+ category [60 is young nowadays]. As you continue on the route the people who get on are mostly Asian again until you hit West Portal. Then the bus empties out. There might be 5 people left at most. Then as you continue on the drive up Portola into Diamond heights the crowd changes. Once you make the turn off of Clipper onto Grandview the crowd gets decidedly hip and Caucasian. I see younger people with iPhones and iPad looking at no one else except their screens. As the bus turns off of Douglas onto 24th street you now start to see the age go down. early 40’s on Grandview to 30’s on 24th and Douglas and then it drops down to the 20’s around Castro and 24th street.
As the bus reaches Valencia street all the young hipsters vacate the bus probably stopping at a cafe before going to work or the Mission campus of City College to help them develop their mad skills in graphic design or computer programing. The next stop is Mission street where the last stragglers get off to hop onto BART, which as I have noted is a nice ride. This is also the part where all the Hispanic people jump on the bus.
I find it interesting that San Francisco as a city has worked to integrate everyone together over the years making it so people of all races can live together, but when you get on the bus you see the real picture. While we don’t mind people of other races, we still like to live amongst our kind.