Saturday, October 22, 2011
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I also learned that I still have a ways to go before I actually can go out in the world and do this completely on my own but that it’s still okay because the more I try to grasp the strengths I have and let go of my weaknesses, then the better I really do get. I am still grappling with if I can pull reporting off but I am confidant then I will get the true gist of it soon, with a little bit more practice. I did like how challenging and engaging this course was and how I had to really push myself to do the assignments in a way that I can actually be proud to have written them. I do wish that the awkwardness of interviewing strangers will dispel with some time and practice, too. My favorite part of the course, no doubt, was definitely the more creative aspect of reporting where you can submerge yourself with details and descriptions and I hope to continue to do that in my future stories.
I learned many things about my neighborhood this semester. It was especially interesting for me because I was reporting on two different neighborhoods all semester, which was the Fillmore and Pacific Heights. I did have some trouble because I tried really hard to not seem more inclined to report on one but not enough the other. However, it was extremely interesting to see the infinite differences between the two neighborhood and how economically, socially, and racially, these two neighborhoods have so much division and exclusion from each other.
Despite the difficulties, it was amazing for me to see and hear about how rich these two neighborhoods are. The Fillmore being so rich in culture while Pacific Heights being so rich in money. I thoroughly enjoyed both of the neighborhoods and felt that even though things there don’t always seem so great, especially with each other, it is undeniable what alluring aspects both neighborhoods have on me and others. They both are definite enclaves of San Francisco and will continue to be that. It will be exciting and interesting too see how time will change these neighborhoods from what they were, to how they are, to what they will be.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Crowds of people stand huddled together listening to the holiday tunes coming from the portable stage set up at Patricia’s Green for the 6th Annual Hayes Valley Block Part. The crowds bundled up in multiple layers of clothing hold hot beverages to keep themselves warm in the piercing cold Friday night.
As Hayes Valley residents watch the main stage the shows producer Joseph Jody stands off stage in his red sequenced Santa hat, Dalmatian spotted jacket, and a feather boa wrapped around his neck. His two dachshunds, Guido and Vinnie, sit in a red Little Red Flyer next to him. Jody looks at the dogs then his clipboard for the next act.
“Where’s the choir?” Jody asks frantically with a slight New York accent.
Jody, a resident of Hayes Valley for 15 years, witnessed the neighborhoods transformation from the seedy side of town to a thriving neighborhood.
“It was depressing,” Jody said, “there were no stores and a lot of buildings were boarded up.”
In 1959 San Francisco used federal money to renovate the cities highways and built the Central Freeway. The freeway cast a shadow over Hayes Valley. The streets were littered with the homeless and prostitutes would prowl around the neighborhood looking for their next customer.
In 1989 the Loma Prieta earthquake severally damaged the Central Freeway overpass in Hayes Valley, which led to its demolition and the creation of Octavia Boulevard in 2005.
The Mayor of Hayes Valley, David Cook, stands against a mailbox guitar strapped to his back. His glazed eyes fixed upon the stage.
“Five years ago you would’ve been robbed on this street,” said Cook.
The 400 block of Hayes Street has been home to Cook for over 14 years. He can be found sitting against the same chain link fence on the same blue milk crate with the same makeshift fishing pole with a cup reading “Gone Fishing” as the hook.
Although Cook has stayed in the same place the area around him has morphed from empty storefronts to chique clothing boutiques and restaurants.
Groups of people patrol up and down Hayes Street with drinks ranging from Pabst Blue Ribbon to hot chocolate in hand. Waves of residents and visitors flow in and out of the many clothing and shoe stores during the 6th annual block party.
“I’m still surprised to walk pass all the stores,” said Mary Baird lifetime San Francisco resident.
At nine the stores start to close, and the crowded streets start to open. The block party is over, but the over 21-crowd move into the couch filled bar, Place Pigalle. Former resident Nico Deliveyne aims his pool stick carefully, and shoots at one of the many solids left on the table. He misses.
“Everybody within a two-block radius you can consider your family,” says Deliveyne’s girlfriend Laura Pucci as she aims for the only striped ball left on the table. “It’s the best secret spot you can stumble into.”
Many Hayes Valley residents agree that since Caltrans tore down the overpass the neighborhood flourished and became a thriving community.
To further develop the neighborhood a proposed interim community garden will fill an empty lot between Oak St., Fell St., Laguna St., and Octavia Blvd. One of the main goals of the project is to serve as a model and resource center for urban agriculture education and green job training, according to the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association.
Over the next few years the empty lots left from the old overpass will be filled with new multi-unit housing complexes. One planned complex will be affordable housing for disabled individuals and their families. The ground floor of the proposed 15-unit complex would contain space for businesses including a firm for the Nor Cal Vocational Inc. NCVI specializes in providing developmental disabled adults with the opportunity to use art as a vehicle for developing skills. Construction is dated to start next fall, according to Curbed SF.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Once Prop 8 passed in the November 2008 election, it seemed that the issue of marriage equality dropped off the political radar. Just because the bill was passed, however, does not mean the fight was over. Groups such as One Struggle, One Fight, and the International Socialist Organization have been doing their part to help raise awareness and support for equality, which recently has taken place in the Castro.
Proposition 8 is cited as the “California Marriage Protection Act”, stating that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid in California. San Francisco issued marriage licenses to same sex couples on Feb. 12, 2004, and, almost 4,000 marriages later, ceased on Mar. 12, 2004 after the California Supreme Court ordered San Francisco officials to stop producing marriage licenses to same sex couples. On Jun. 2, 2008, Proposition 8 qualified for the November 2008 election ballot.
“We stood in line in two and a half, three days in the rain,” Frank Capley-Alfano said. Before he went on Capley-Alfano chimed in smiling, “it was the best three days ever.” The two got married back in 2004 during the Winter of Love when Gavin Newsom allowed gay marriage in San Francisco. “That kind of love was erupting through the city,” Capley-Alfano said. They married at 3:34 in the afternoon on Feb. 17, 2004. Once the California Supreme Court lifted the ban on gay marriage in 2008, the two were one of the first couples to set a date. Both being big on tradition, they got married in the exact spot where they said their “I do’s” back in 2004.
After their marriage, Joe and Frank Capley- Alfano became very active in their community, as well as the state, in rallying up support against Prop 8 by telling their story. It was at this point in time when the two met with the people of One Struggle, One Fight.
Capley- Alfano attended a meeting in San Francisco about grassroots organizing that people were working on to fight against the newly passed Prop 8. “I remember a lot of blame going on and lots of finger pointing and also lots of grand standing,” Capley-Alfano said. During the meeting he noticed Kip Williams. “[Kip] was talking about moving forward and intersections in the communities and building allies outside the LGBT community all these sort of ideas that really were refreshing,” Capley-Alfano said. Capley-Alfano especially liked the idea of direct action and taking the movement back to the streets and the effectiveness of grassroots organizing. They exchanged numbers and started organizing the six day march to Sacramento.
Along with Williams, Flik Huang was one of the founders of the group One Struggle, One Fight. Huang explained that OSOF “work[s] with many different organizations, on a local, state-wide and national level. We have close ties with the labor community, a bond which goes back in the LGBT community as far as Harvey Milk's time. We strive to build coalitions with as many different and progressive groups as possible, for we believe that our struggles are fights for human and civil rights, rather than separate issues [labor, LGBT, immigration, health care]. Hence our name, which comes from an LGBT rights chant from the 70's: "gay, straight, black, white: one struggle, one fight."
Huang remembered how she felt when she heard that Prop 8 Passed. “The next day I cried for a long time. I'd never believed it could pass; who on earth votes to revoke other people's rights? How is that even remotely legal? And felt blindsided and horrified that this had been allowed to take place. I could feel very deeply my friend's - and the LGBT community's - pain and anger, and I had to do something,” she said.
Although a fairly new group, OSOF has become a force with organizing for marriage equality as well as other human rights causes. “In under a year we became one of the most active and recognized grassroots groups in [Northern California], and within the LGBT grassroots community we have a lot of supporters nationally. It's been an arduous, breakneck, often painful and excruciatingly difficult journey, but worth it in so many ways for all we've accomplished and everyone our work [has] had an effect on,” Huang said.
Both the OSOF and International Socialist Organization have done events in the Castro. “Although we often are criticized for ‘preaching to the choir,’ it must be pointed out that many of those who live in and frequent the Castro district, though supportive of our goals, are complacent or indifferent to actually participating in even the most basic ways. We are hoping that our presence in the Castro can help to motivate and mobilize members of our very own community who at the moment are often not even aware that their rights are threatened or what they can do about it,” Huang said.
Recently OSOF, with the help of the ISO and Equality California, held a rally on Nov. 4 at Harvey Milk Plaza noting the one year anniversary of the passing of Prop 8. The night started out with various speakers from each organization, as well as members from the public, talking about how Prop 8 has affected their lives.
“All of us working on the event thought the Castro and specifically Harvey Milk Plaza would be the best place for it. It has significance for the LGBT community and we wanted to draw folks in from off the street who would have common cause,” ISO member Ashley Simmons said about the Nov. 4 rally. “I don't think the Castro is by any means the only place to be having LGBT rallies,” adding, “I think for the political moment it was the appropriate place although OSOF has planned, with many ISO comrades taking part, many actions in the Castro.”
“Whenever we get attacked, we meet at Harvey Milk Plaza,” Capley-Alfano said. Frank Capley-Alfano added, “Historically it has always been a place for community.” He continued to explain that it’s a great common spot to meet and organize, but, depending on the situation, it would be very beneficial to move the protests elsewhere to draw attention to instead of just staying in the Castro.
Capley-Alfano suggested that a creative way to do this is through flash-mobs. The idea of the flash-mob originated on the internet but basically it’s setting a time and event online and on a certain day and people come together for whatever cause it may be- even silly ones like no pants days. Capley-Alfano mentioned that a good example of this would be something called Guerilla Queer Bars; it’s when a group of LGBT members would go to relatively straight bars at a certain time and interact with them showing the patrons that gay people aren’t very different than they are.
Now, this is not to say that the efforts in the Castro have been in vain. “It’s hard to engage people who have politically been beaten down so many times… that they just want to have fun,” Capley-Alfano said, and added that “in terms of engaging our community we need to start being creative.”
Another supporter of marriage equality who has been documenting the various movements is photographer Geoff King. Since the passing of Proposition 8, King has documented various events and rallies in the Bay Area that have taken place since then. He plans on bringing the various images and stories together in a book called “Such a Bittersweet Day”.
King has grown up in the Bay Area. His parents met in San Francisco in the 70s and told him about San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk at an early age. He grew up with the understanding of San Francisco’s colorful past that got him interested in documenting the aftermath of Prop 8. He has been photographing various protests and other human rights events since the Iraq War started.
While attending a candle lit vigil on November 5, the day after the election, King overheard someone say it was “such a bittersweet day”, a black man was voted president but gay people were denied the right to marry. “I have to document this going forward,” King said. To him, it was an important civil rights matter; although he wasn’t affected directly by Prop 8, his friends were. He said that it seemed irrational and foreign and wanted to explore the topic more.
A year later, King’s book, “Such a Bittersweet Day”, is a compilation of black and white photos of the demonstrations that have taken place in the past year with captions of an oral history of the movement by journalist Sunny Angulo. All proceeds from the book go to Transgender Law Center and Health Legal Services.
Desiree Aubry spoke at a rally that was put on by OSOF that King photographed in the Castro. She didn’t go up with a speech in hand, like the ones before had. Instead, she stood in front of the crowd and bared her soul for all to hear; it was one of the more emotional speeches of the night. “Hate cannot defeat love,” she said. “No matter how much it [hurts] our hearts… we are going to be strong.”
Aubry joined OSOF because she wanted to help. “It baffles me to this day how people can be so full of hatred and ignorance and how they can justify taking away our rights, taking away our happiness, demeaning us, telling us our lives and our love aren't worth a damn because it's different,” Aubry said when she heard about Prop 8’s passing.
Although Joe and Frank Capley-Alfano were part of the lucky group who got married, and more importantly got to keep their marriage, they had a long battle ahead of them; the couple still faced many financial hardships and discrimination. For five years they have been fighting to get Capley-Alfano put under his husband’s healthcare. Frank Capley-Alfano’s work could deny the joint health care because the federal law does not recognize the two as a couple. “As domestic partners we called the union to see if they could put [Joe] under healthcare as a domestic partner. Of course they said no,” Frank Capley-Alfano said. He works for the International Union of Elevator Constructors, who went with the notion that federal law supersedes state law and therefore did not need to offer domestic partner benefits; the union even sent out a letter defining what they saw as a married couple and what they considered a spouse.
After five years of back and forth with the union and various government officials and appeals, the two finally achieved the equality they worked so hard for. Their excitement was very apparent and contagious when speaking to them. It was a victory well worth celebrating, but it showed that there is still so much more to fight for. “Prop 8 took away and affected a lot more than people who wanted to get married. It opened the door for discrimination of all types in California… all communities to be attacked,” Capley-Alfano said. He then went on to say that “it’s not about marriage equality. It’s about civil equality and about equality for everyone.”
Many No on 8 organizations and supporters have been working hard on campaigning for the next general election in 2010. One Struggle, One fight is currently working on strategizing for their part in the effort to make a change with the California voters come November.
As for the future of LGBT equality, Aubry said she hopes “for full federal equality. I hope that the rest of the world not just the nation can accept us for who we are and who we love. I hope that when we get full equality, we don't forget the past and that we don't become complacent. Complacency is dangerous. If we become complacent we'll forget to fight for the rest of our rights… I want us to be able to be happy and free and truly live our lives, and be considered equal to others. My hope is that our hearts heal from all the breaks we've experienced, and that the anger dissipates. I hope the hate, more than anything disappears and that we can just celebrate love as it is.”
A few trees, some patches of grass and dirt, and a “SERVICE VEHICLES ONLY” sign are most of what sits in the lot on the corner of San Jose and Ocean avenues. Next year, this tucked-away corner of Balboa Park will be the location for San Francisco’s fourth skate park.
For months, dozens of residents have been discussing plans for the future of the park at meetings with the Trust For Public Land, a national nonprofit organization that deals with improving parks and preserving green space within them.
“Skate parks bring skaters out of the streets and into the park,” said Yohan Mangsy, a student at San Francisco City College, located across the freeway from Balboa Park. Mangsy, who has been skateboarding for 7 years, says less property damage to walls and ledges are reduced as a direct effect of having skate parks. Less security guards are beat up by skaters and vice versa, he said.
One concerned resident, Pat Ward, said that a skate park might bring more crime into the area and serve as a hub for drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.
A skatepark brings skaters young and old alike, where in some cases “little kids grow up too fast,” said Mangsy.
“Have you seen the skate park at 25th and Portrero,” asked Christopher Campbell, who rode his skateboard to the TPL meeting, defending the positive aspects of having a skate park. “It turned that neighborhood around,” and gave the kids something to do, he said.
However, Mangsy said that sometimes Norteños pick apples from the apple tree next to the Portrero skate park and throw them at the skaters. The mess of apples also makes the ground dangerously slippery, he said.
Having the highest density of children in San Francisco, Excelsior residents pushed for safe entrances leading into the park. They agreed that entrances should be built as far away from the intersection as possible and a fence keeps skaters from rolling into and out of the park from the crosswalks. The skate park is being built on the corner of one of the area’s busiest intersections, according to an SFMTA pedestrian and bike traffic study.
It will cost between $250,000 and $400,000 to build the skate park.
Companies including PG&E, Levi’s and GAP have matched the $1 million that TPL has raised and will match $4 million if they can raise it. However, the fund has hardly passed the $2.5 million mark.
These Balboa Park Improvements meetings allow the community to have input in deciding how this money will be spent.
Other funding comes from a $75,000 Community Challenge grand that goes towards park development only if ADA accessible pathways are constructed at the entrances.
Mike Neumann, principal of Neumann Construction Management, said that drawing plans would occur in the winter and bidding in March. Construction would begin three months after the lowest bidder is chosen, and residents can expect six to eight months before the project is complete, he said.
However, the city, not the community, will chose which companies to contract for everything between concrete and labor, said Jacob Gilchrist, a TPL landscape director.
Other plans for the Balboa Park’s renovation include a new play area, including 14-foot-tall swings, new play and picnic areas, and lighting improvement.
The fund will be distributed according to what the community prioritizes, said Gilchrist.
Some pictures of the old pavement tell a different story: a long crack in the asphalt with grass growing in it showed that the ground beneath the pavement had been sinking for some time previous to the break (pictures here soon). Given the intersection's location along the old creekbed, it seems more ikely that the heavy rains undermined the massive old pipes, causing them to shift and burst.
I wanted to go there Saturday night when I found the story online, but I was fighting off the flu, besides, I would have needed a rubber raft to get near the place. But I could really picture the whole scene and imagined what might happen if things got out of hand. I pictured the old creek coming to life again and the deep magic washing the whole Mission Bay neighborhood into the sea, just like when Narnia awoke in the famous book and all the bridges fell and the animals started talking again.
But back to reality:
When I took the China Basin beat this semester, I honestly wasn't sure what part of town it was, but I vaguely recalled from long ago that it was a gritty, dangerous area. What I found out about the Basin involved numerous and long-standing factors that combine to contribute to the area's hazardous character. The Basin is a waterfront area taken from the natives and created out of tideland marshes by speculators and industrialists in the Gold Rush era. Mission Creek was, and still is to some extent, polluted both by raw human sewage and offal from creekside slaughterhouses. One houseboat resident told me the Channel was a de facto military base during WWII when navy vessels docked there.
I learned that in essence, although the view is nice from the north side of the channel, the southern landfill side is essentially a demilitarised zone and a hotly disputed conversation piece for a myriad of local agencies and planning commissions lobbying for their projects and plans regarding the area. Even Francisco Da Costa, a local environmental expert whom I've often quoted as an impartial source, has recently been accused of making racist remarks (1); he also promotes the creation of a self-sufficient black community in the area. Da Costa is Chief Executive Officer of the South East Sector Community Development Corporation, whose website states: "SESCDC seeks bring about a shift of consciousness from dependency to self-sufficiency among the people of depressed African-American communities and other similar minority communities" (2). As noble a goal as this may be, it addresses long-standing social disparities between the area neighborhoods, and it seems that one of the main functions of the China Basin industrial area is to exist as a sort of buffer zone between SOMA and Bayview residents, whether intentionally or not.
Heather Knight - SF Chronicle, March 19, 2008
Francisco Da Costa Gets The Outster From Chris Daly in SF