Friday, December 1, 2006

I've often speculated about the De Avila Elementary school on Haight street. It has a striking facade, vibrant and colorful, but it seemed to sit empty, abandoned. Turns out the elementary school was axed by the Board of Education after the 2004 - 2005 school year, in an effort to close the $22 million dollar budget deficit. The campus was designed to hold 500 students, but only had 150 enrolled in '04 - '05. Last academic year, Aim High Academy, a school for underprivileged, homeless and “at-risk” sixth graders , occupied the DeAvila building, but has since moved to another location.

The facility will soon fill with students again, but of a different age-group. According to the Haight Ashbury Beat, "As early as January 2007, a portion of City College’s soon-to-be-renovated John Adams campus will move, temporarily, to the De Avila school building at 1351 Haight St."

I wonder how how long 'temporarily' will be. I've written before about my desire to see a centralizing locale for theatre and performance art. The De Avila School, centered squarely in one of San Francisco's most artistically vibrant neighborhoods and easily accessible by MUNI, is the perfect candidate.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Too Much to Do

There is never enough time to do all there is to do in this city. Here are just a few of the recent events that have moved across my line of vision:

365 Plays/365 Days
Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Suzan Lori-Parks wrote a play a day for one year. The plays are now being presented in a year-long nation-wide festival, which had it's kick-off in San Francisco last night, November 16. Suzan Lori-Parks attended the event at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, and spoke to the audience afterward.

One: An Earth Installation
Stanlee Gatti, a lauded local artist, designer, and event planner, has created an exhibit at the Conservatory of Flowers that 'reflects on the interconnectedness of all living things.' The exhibit runs until April 15th, however the opening was last night, November 16th. Incredible amounts of food and wine assisted the V.I.P. attendees in finding their reflective nature. Among the attendees were Yomi Agunbiade, General Manager of the Recreation and Park Department; Willie Brown, former Mayor of San Francisco; and Leah Garchik, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Embarcadero Center Lighting Ceremony
Tonight, Friday, November 17, the city turns on its holiday spirit. The skyline brightens during an event that will include a performance by SF Jazz All Star High School Ensemble, an ice show, a special guest performance and a 'spectacular' pyrotechnic show. San Francisco loves its pyrotechnics.

San Francisco Hip Hop Dance Festival
This is going to be awesome.

Mafia Made Trunk Show
Bay Area crafters and do-it-yourself artists show and sell their wares at this Russian Hill Craft Mafia event. Drool over colorful little items that are so cute you wish they were edible, and get a head start on your holiday shopping.

And then, of course, there are a million local bands to see (Minipop play The Bottom of the Hill on Saturday the 18th), and a ton of theatre (anyone seen "Edward Scissorhands" yet? Is it any good?).

In addition to some of the things listed above, I am going to eat some Brazilian food at Canto do Brasil, and see The Science of Sleep.

Friday, November 3, 2006

"San Francisco Values"

During the Gold Rush, San Francisco was known as a place of debauchery: greed, gambling, brothels and crime. An early Las Vegas, if you will. Today, San Francisco is known as a place of peace and love: cultural diversity, social acceptance, progressive ideals, and urban environmentalism. The most European of American cities, many call it.

The Republican right-wing would like to take us back 150 years, to the glory days. We're soon to hear a vintage tune from the top of Capitol Hill, with the words "San Francisco Values" used as a disparaging term - you know, the 'values' of those 'tree-huggers', 'gays' and 'sinners'.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported today that the Republican Spin Machine has already begun cycling the phrase into it's talking points and daily jabber, in expectation that Nancy Pelosi is soon to be Speaker of the House. "Watch Out," they warn. "She's bringing with her her 'San Francisco Values', and you know what that means." This is my favorite quote from the article, from the editorial pages of the Augusta Chronicle:

"Pelosi will be speaker and her far-left San Francisco values -- gay marriage, cutting and running from Iraq, coddling terrorists, raising taxes, amnesty for illegals -- will become the House agenda."

Coddling terrorists? Oh, dear.

Clairblogience has an interesting take on this new slur. Read: "Hollywood Liberal Elite" Vs. "San Francisco Values"

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Making Art a Priority

Arts Forum exists to lift arts and culture into the forefront of public policy. Recently, Arts Forum developed a survey for all San Francisco supervisors up for re-election, to gauge their commitment to the arts. Read the results here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Scrub Down

At a Community Leadership Alliance on Friday, October 13th, Ahsha Safai of the Department of Public Works presented the Community Corridor Partnership. The pilot is a 9 month, $1.7 million program, putting 20 'block sweepers' - city employees armed with a 44 gallon bucket, broom, mop and other cleaning tools - on 100 city blocks. They will clean for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week and have direct contact to DPW and 28-Clean.

A major goal of the program will be to encourage property owners to take ownership of their own neighborhood by creating Community Benefit Districts.  Existing San Francisco CBDs include:

Union Square
Castro/Upper Market
Noe Valley
Tenderloin/North Market
Mission Miracle Mile
Fisherman's Wharf

Shanghai currently employs 28,000 street sweepers.

New York City currently has over 600 B.I.D.'s: Business Improvement Districts.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Something San Francisco Needs

I've had some conversations recently about what the San Francisco live art scene lacks. There are many local theatre companies, and several theatre houses. But there is no central hub. For avant-garde theatre lovers, New York City is the place to be. One doesn't need to do much wandering around to get an understanding of what the city's theatre scene has to offer. There are more than one centralizing hub of the community. On any given night, a New Yorker can go to P.S. 122 and choose from a number of shows by a number of different theatre companies. Or they can go to HERE, and do the same thing. In those two spaces alone, one will be able to learn what there is to know about New York theatre, and what other performance spaces exist in the city.

San Francisco has a lively theatre scene. There are many performance spaces, and more companies than can fill them. But there is no centralizing hub for the community. There is no single place where one can go to sit in a cafe and have a coffee or a beer before wandering around the art gallery, and finally stopping at the bulletin board of city-wide show announcements and the table of flyers, before filing in to one of the several theatre spaces to see their chosen show.

The closest to this kind of experience in San Francisco is Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.  The community element isn't there, though.  It's uninviting, too big, too squeaky clean, to mall-ish.  When I want to immerse myself in the local experimental theatre community, I don't say to myself, "I'll just head down to Yerba Buena, grab a coffee and see what's going on."

I like to daydream about what could be, and where.  Laughing Squid posted this notice today:

----/ The Tentacle List /-----------------------------

"NEW" Historic Chinatown Theater Available

SAN FRANCISCO-- The historic Great Star Theater, the last of SF
Chinatown's major houses, will be holding tours for prospective
renters/ partners on FRIDAY 10/20 and SATURDAY 10/21 at 3pm and by
special appointment. We invite you to give feedback on future
upgrades (or just book the theater!).

RSVP to Jon Lowe -- -- for exact address.
Please forward to film/ video/ theater/ dance/ etc people who may be

The Great Star Theater was built in 1925 as a Cantonese opera house.
Film screenings were added in 1940. The main floor holds 574 seats,
with 125 more in the balcony. There is a working fly system, full
crossover space, and dressing rooms below the stage. Lighting is
rudimentary. There is no sound system. The film projectors have not
been touched since 1999. The projection screen is still in place,
upstage of the linesets used for live performances.

Some office space is available for rent to long-term partners.

Theater rental will be on a sliding scale, tbd. Our goal is to make
the theater accessible to the greater community.

Online images coming soon...

----/ Contact Info /----------------------------------------------------

Jon Lowe


Monday, October 2, 2006

Police Foot Patrols

Board of Supervisor's Hearing today:

City Hall, Room 263
Monday, October 2, 2006

10:00 AM
Regular Meeting

Police Foot Patrols
Ordinance adopting Section 10A.1 of the San Francisco Administrative Code to establish a one-year pilot program requiring foot patrols in crime-impacted areas within the boundaries of Northern Park, Tenderloin, Mission and Ingelside Police District Stations, and require reporting and review on the effectiveness of the foot patrols.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Folsom Street Fair

When the city's sidewalks are heavily traversed by men and women clad in head-to-toe black leather, or sometimes just the head, or just the toe, or just the torso criss-crossed by bondage gear, it can only be for one reason: The Folsom Street Fair.

No, it isn't a quaint farmer's market, as the lilt of the name might imply to those who don't know what Folsom Street is. It is, rather, a meat market, a sex and s&m market. A celebration of San Francisco's kinky underground. A throw-back to the Barbary Coast era, when drinking and debauchery ruled.

Here is a comprehensive history of the Folsom Street Fair, a thoroughly San Franciscan phenomenon: The Power of Broken Hearts.

I didn't go to the fair, but I was out and about this weekend, and couldn't help but see the hordes of attendees, in their head-turning garb. How I wish I'd had my camera when I saw the man with the colorfully tattoed ass, framed by his assless chaps.

Friday, September 22, 2006

PARK(ing) Day

PARK(ing) Day

Curbed SF posted a great list of links and photos of PARK(ing) Day. As it was a beautiful day here in San Francisco, the actual parks were brimming with activity. But for those parts of town lacking in open space - the financial district, SOMA, the Tenderloin - a few new open spaces added a welcome sense of serenity, or at least made an interesting statement. Please, less cars, more parks.

Is it a coincidence that Rebar scheduled this PARK(ing) Day on the last day of summer? It was a great day to be outside - sunny with temperatures in the mid to high 70's. Today is the start of autumn, and it's nearly 80 degrees. Thus begins San Francisco's indian summer.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Tenderloin

I've heard The Tenderloin of San Francisco described in many ways. Perhaps 'excused' is a better word. Many San Francisco residents accept it as an unchangeable part of the city's terrain. It is what it is, and if you don't like it, stay away. This attitude is so prevalent that it can be found even within the police department.

Early in his term, Mayor Newsom made a habit of jogging through the Tenderloin. He didn't like what he saw. Police union boss Gary Delagnes had this response:

"With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, we could put a cop on every corner, and the drug dealers would just deal in between them,'' Delagnes said. "But if you are really tired of seeing drug dealers, there is one solution I could suggest."

"What's that?'' the mayor asked.

"Try jogging somewhere else."

The Tenderloin is known for its street display of homelessness, overt drug deals and drug doing, prostitution, mental illness, and any imaginable unsightly act associated with the above. It is also home to a large portion of the city's immigrants, as well as many low-income families, seniors, and disabled.

It sits squarely in the very center of the city, bordered on the North by Post Street, on the East by Taylor and 6th Streets, on the South by Mission Street and on the West by Van Ness and 9th Streets. The area contains some of the most historic structures in San Francisco. According to Wikipedia, the Tenderloin was born out of the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake, when hotels were erected in the area to house the displaced. Those that could moved on a few decades later. Those that couldn't afford to go anywhere else stayed, and the near empty hotels were converted into low-income housing. This led to an extreme concentration of impoverished in the area, which led to causes typical of extreme poverty - crime and other illicit activities. The concentration of homeless residents increased as, over the next several decades, business and retail operations abandoned the area, and building owners began renting those spaces out to various social agencies that served the homeless community.

Due to the large population of children and families, there are several parks and recreation centers in The Tenderloin. Not surprisingly, they are neglected and in great need of care. Last week I went to a community meeting at Boeddeker Park and Recreation Center on Eddy and Jones streets. Many nearby residents are passionate about the future of the park, and want to see it become a clean, safe, and beautiful place for the community. As it is now, the entrance on Ellis Street remains locked, and the stretch of fence has become a backdrop to a sort of Skid Row of cardboard shelters. The main entry on the corner of Eddy and Jones is open for most of the day. During my walk-through, I saw a number of homeless men, and male drug-dealers. There were no women, and no children.

The park is mainly brick, with planted landscaping on brick platforms. There is a green lawn in the children's play area, in which adults without children are not allowed. The play structure is in extreme disrepair and looks dangerous. There are large patches of dirt, lacking plants or landscaping of any kind. The recreation center is just as bleak. At a recent clean-up day, a volunteer found rat droppings in the kitchen. During the community meeting, there was a group of adults gambling real money at a nearby table.

Making Boeddeker Park a safe place for children and seniors is a real conundrum, and there are no simple answers. I see it as a symbol of the large problems in the Tenderloin. If anyone reading this is familiar with the park, and has any ideas for it, please share them here. Please also share any knowledge you have of the history of the Tenderloin and local politics regarding the area.

Boedekker Park