San Francisco And The Drought

It's not easy being dry...I’m not dead yet, I’ve only been taking some time away to get things in order. That being said…

Governor Brown has announced drought situations for the people of California and I realized that lots of the people in San Francisco weren’t here for the last one in the 70’s so I thought I’d tell you a little about it so you’ll know what to do.

Before I get into that though I think you’ll all need to realize that a drought in California doesn’t just affect the state, but the entire nation in many ways. We’re home to a lot of the agriculture that supplies the nation with food. The central valley is where a lot of crops are grown that you won’t find being grown anywhere else. Strawberries, almonds, olives, honey and more come from California alone so if we get hit, the nation gets hit. The red state politicians don’t like to think about this, but that’s just the way it is.

Because we need lots of water for our agriculture we have to cut back in other places. Back in the 70’s things were different. If you went into the bathroom to grab some tissue to blow your nose, you didn’t throw the tissue in the garbage, you flushed it down the toilet. People would shower or bathe sometimes two times a day. Your lawn wasn’t properly watered unless you had a river running down the street. Things like this needed to change.

In San Francisco, especially in the Sunset and Richmond Districts you might notice that there aren’t lawns in front of every house. This changed in the 70’s. Originally it was law that a certain percentage of the front of your house needed to be green. Some people didn’t like being forced to water their weeds as it were because they weren’t into keeping up the lawn so they pulled the lawn and tossed in rocks. Usually those sparkly white dolomite rocks that you’ll see. A few people paved over their lawns, but then painted the concrete green to keep the idea that there was green in front of the house.

Bathing became rather interesting as people were told not to bathe as frequently. Some people would only bathe once a week which you realized rather quickly. Other people would just wet a wash cloth and drag it across their underarms and naught bits. Not much help really. Other people got inventive. There were the bath blocks that make your bath tub smaller so less water was needed to fill it up, but you were of course cramped in a smaller space. There there was the buckets in the shower to catch water that would run down the drain so you could water your plants or wash dishes with it.

This of course also led to the rule of the toilet of, if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down. Some people went a little bit farther than that much to the disgust of their company that was invited over.

Some were much easier to do. When you brush your teeth or shave you don’t need to let the water run unless you’re using it. People realized that they didn’t need to wash their cars every weekend and that gave way to lots of waterless car cleaning products as well.

All of these changes led to a new way of life for people in San Francisco [the water from here that went down to LA was happily sprayed daily on the nice green lawns back then.] So now if you’re new to the City here are a few tips if you didn’t know.

  1. You don’t need to run the water constantly when you brush your teeth or shave: Previously stated, but the water will stay warm even after you’ve turned it off. You really only need to wet your brush or razor a couple of times. Shaving and brushing in the shower doesn’t save water as it is running the whole time you’re doing it.
  2. Low flow shower heads: If you’re renting an apartment you’ve probably got one already. The old ones used to push out 10 gallons per minute. Great you want to feel like your standing under Niagra Falls, but not really that necessary. 2.5 gallons per minute is fine and you can find 1.5 gallon per minute shower heads, but you might feel like you have to run around to get wet.
  3. Spend less time in the shower: You don’t really need to take a shower for a half hour to 45 minutes. Most people can be in and out in under 5 and are just happy about it. If you do this you can help yourself avoid…
  4. Military Showers: Not fun at all, but lots of showers have little switches to turn the water off while keeping it warm. The problem is that unless your bathroom is warm and humid going from being drenched in warm water to nothing while you lather up isn’t pleasant. Let’s all hope it doesn’t come to this.
  5. Low water appliances: Again, most renters if they have washing machines or dish washers probably have low flow versions that do the job with less water. We realized we didn’t need a big dishwasher anymore and got an 18″ free standing one that can wash a full weeks of dishes with 2.5 gallons of water. Many washing machines are also low flow now so you probably don’t have to worry about that unless you’ve got one that’s 25 years old or more.
  6. The toilet: People are mixed on this one. Pretty much all rentals are required to have low flow toilets, but some people feel they don’t need to flush them as often to save water. That’s fine as long as you have enough flow to get rid of what you have sitting there. Try it and see, but some people just don’t want other people to know that they pee.

So all of this being said I’m not exactly sure how much more we can save since there are already lots of changes that have been put in place since the 70’s. It would be good though if you start to take a look at where you’re using the most water and see if you can cut back there.


Stay Away From The Beach…For Now

Great HighwayI wrote about the makeover Great Highway was going to get a few months ago and I’m glad, in a way that it’s finally started. That being said, the beach is not the best place to go right now.

My wife [hear after known as wife because she doesn’t like public attention like I do] and I like to shop at the beach Safeway because it’s bigger and the lines are smaller. We took our once a week trip out there as opposed to our trips to the worst Safeway in San Francisco, but we were in for a rude awakening this day.

Construction workers were everywhere. The road was torn up all over the place and our usual trip of driving out Lincoln Way and making a right had to be re-routed due to the construction. On the upside, there are a lot of construction workers there so that means that the job will usually be quick. The down side is that it’s not a pleasant place to be right now which is a bit of a shame with the warm weather starting to grace our coastline and giving us sunnier days [side note: wife hates sunnier days. I think she was given up for adoption by a young Viking girl because the foggier and more unpleasant it is the happier she is.]

Go to the beach he said. You'll love it he said....

Right now if you need to cross the park down by the beach do it at 45th and Lincoln Way and drive through to 43rd and Fulton. It will be a much easier drive for you than having to go all the way to the end and then having to snake around the west end until you can find the exit at 47th and Fulton.  Just give the workers some time to finish off the job they’ve started and I’m hoping it’ll become a nicer place.

All this being said, I am hoping that this makeover will bring back a little of the beach area we once had. You have to be a very stalwart type of person to love Ocean Beach, but there was no reason for it to be left as a Russian industrial park looking place. I would like to see some food trucks out here on weekends and it would be nice if there was a way to have some craftspeople to set up shop on the large walkway on the sunny days that we do get out here. The first thing that needs to happen is a good marketing game played by the city to make people want to come out here. It’s a great place to relax and watch the surfers if you’re not going to surf yourself.

Where Have All The Fish Geeks Gone?

Home AquariumI was looking back in time yesterday when I turned on the lights of my old sturdy 55 gallon fish tank. The fish had finally all died off after close to 15 years and there were just plants in the tank that didn’t need too much light so I had left the light off to save a bit of money [note, even if I left the lights on it would only cost 11¢/day] and I started to wonder where all the aquarium people had gone to?

Granted, I’ll have to take a step back in time to the 80’s and 90’s when I was involved with the San Francisco Aquarium Society. I wasn’t just involved, but I was the President for four years and on the Board of Directors for eight. The original story is linked above. Back then when I got involved with the SFAS, it when from a casual 50 members which we might get 20 to show up to over 500 members and we would be able to pack the old auditorium at the Academy of Sciences. I became known for being a fish geek. I would get calls from newspapers and local stations would have me be on a show to talk about the popularity of aquariums. I was on a trip in the 90’s to London and while walking around the London Aquarium I asked one of the workers about one of the tank set ups and after a couple of minutes was recognized and got the full behind the scenes tour of the aquarium [it’s good to be the fish geek].

Back then there were loads of aquarium stores around the city some small some huge [R.I.P. Nippon Aquarium] and you could find fish from all over the world available to you. The aquarium clubs had all the interesting fish that you’d never see anywhere else. In addition to the SFAS, there was also the Pacific Coast Cichlid Association, the Bay Area Killifish Association and the just started Bay Area Aquatic Plant Association. They’re all still around, but they aren’t as big a pull as they used to be.

Needs a little work don't it?Back then we had the true fish geeks who would have home setups that would rival some public aquariums. They would breed fish, sometimes producing strains that you hadn’t seen in the hobby. Many of these people were breeding fish that had come from collections years ago of fish that were endangered [I’ve seen more Devil’s Hole Pupfish bred in home tanks than there are in the Death Valley]. Those of us who bred fish back then could bring some into the meetings and easily leave with $100 in our pocket to spend over the weekend. My goal back then was when I retired I would breed fish and sell them at the club meetings to supplement my income. I had a friend who was importing plants and selling them to the stores around the Bay Area while he was living out of his car for awhile. He built a nice nest egg for himself and I thought I would too.

Now, that’s not so much the case. Fish I could have gotten $20-$30 for a pair are now selling for $5 for three pairs at some club meetings. The public shows such as the SFAS show at Tanforan every year is gone. It seems that people don’t think about home aquariums as much anymore. They’re easier to take care of than cats and dogs. True, they won’t curl up on your lap [unless you keep eels in a tank next to your bed. True story], but they do have personalities and a nice lush tank has been shown to lower blood pressure and give people well, warm fuzzy feelings. You can get into it as much as you want. You can start with a small 10 gallon tank and then move up to home installation if you get really into it.  The SFAS Home Shows were where people got to show off what they did with their tanks and gave the rest of us ideas to build on. There were a few people who always tried to out do everyone else. One friend who passed on had a 250 gallon coffee table with small sharks swimming around [no lasers on the sharks though].

I strongly recommend people try out aquariums at least once to see if they like them. The aquarium fish trade could use a boost and it would be great to bring it back in San Francisco.

San Francisco Rain

“Here comes the rain again, falling on my head and it’s drizzly, falling on my head, but it’s not an ocean.” —with apologies to Annie Lennox.

Yes, we have some rain for the first time since the end of January. This contrary to what many people are thinking is not a bad thing. It used to be that San Francisco was a city with two kinds of weather, raining and gonna rain. I never remember it quite like that as there was a fair amount of heavy fog mixed in that my friends from Los Angeles who didn’t know better thought was rain. No that’s not rain, for you guys it’s rain when water from the sky stings your eyes and rusts out your cars.

San Francisco rain is different. It’s usually pretty mild and we have less stormy days with heavy rains than we do sunny days. Thank you global warming. I can’t even remember the last time I needed an umbrella when I went out in the rain, but I usually only had a short distance to walk to get to my car so that isn’t so bad. Here’s a few things that I like about San Francisco rain:

  1. I don’t have to water my garden: My father always disagreed with me on this. He was always out there every day rain or shine watering the lawn and the garden in the back. I have found this caused him to grow more weeds that he had to get out there on nice days to pull. Now while our lawn is a little patchy at the moment, but that’s from the gophers we had, we don’t have to run the sprinkler system from December to April cutting our water bill by tons.
  2. I don’t have to wash the car: Everyone’s car looks wet in the rain. When it’s dry out you have to think about how to make your car gleam and shine if you’re into trying to bag ultra sexy women who will drain your bank account, but I’m happily married and have no need to drain my already drained bank accounts for a piece of eye candy on my arm.
  3. It helps clean the dirt off the streets: Well, maybe not as much as a power sprayer, but you’d be surprised at how much dirt there is out there on your house and trees and cars. Previous to the rain of Monday morning my car was beginning to look like something from King Tut’s tomb when it was first opened now it looks brand new. San Francisco tends to have rather loose soil that is easily moved around by our rather breezy wind conditions so the rain helps this out somewhat, but it leads to another condition as well…

Pollen run off. This should have been number four, but it’s so big right now that it deserves its own section. When you’re walking down the streets you might see puddles with yellowy streaks running through them, kind of like the picture to the left, but not so much. I was reading about the upcoming storms and someone commented that they were happy because it would wash away the pollen and her allergies would go away for awhile.

I hadn’t really thought of that until we made our trip out to the local Trader Joe’s to try and find some produce that wasn’t already past it sale date. In the puddles as we were walking towards the doors to the shop you could see these yellow streaked puddles everywhere. I was wondering if it was really pollen or not and dropped pollen run off into google and found the picture to the left.

Yep, it is definitely pollen run off you’re seeing in the streets. The storms are supposed to be strongest Tuesday night through Wednesday so hopefully we will get all of this washed away and be left with a much cleaner city in the end. Somewhere along in my life I realized I had developed allergies to pollen and I have no idea why. I suppose I was having too much of a good time and the gods said, “This should fix that.” I’ve notice that I haven’t had as much need to blow my nose as much so I like the rain. It makes the plants grow for free and keeps our city clean. Now maybe if we could have it be a warm rain for a couple of days we could make it OK for the homeless to go naked and get a free shower and wash their clothes.