DECEMBER  2014

 

Light It Up

 

On Monday night, December 1, the Castro community gathered at the corner of 18th and Castro streets for the annual Castro Tree Lighting Ceremony, sponsored by the Castro Merchants. This year the event benefited from the spacious new street and sidewalk, along with soft lighting wrapped around 31 trees, courtesy of individual merchants. Evidently Santa had arrived somewhat ahead of schedule. The program included the voices of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Freedom Band. Under the practiced hand of the Castro’s very own moderator, Donna Sachet (pictured with microphone), speakers included Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Scott Wiener. They were followed by the senior citizen from the north, the gentleman who sported an unruly beard before it became hip-tastic, Mr. Santa Claus himself.

 

Photo: Titus West

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Castro Cares Unites Area Groups

Anti-poverty project new for District 8Daniel Bergerac, president of the Castro Merchant’s Association, has been working on this program for 16 months 

 

 

 

Everyone knows that the holidays are a time for families, a time for happiness (or Scroogery), and a time for giving. While many are most used to giving nieces patent-leather dress shoes or sweaters to crazy uncles who never buy new clothes, it is also an important time to remember those in the community who do not receive such gifts — those who do not even have the family member to whom they can say “it’s the thought that counts.”

 

Although it may not be pleasant, some of these individuals are living right here in the Castro.

 

The neighborhood is one of particular interest when it comes to dealing with homeless and at-risk residents. This region of the city comes out of the Market Street corridor, a veritable resting ground for homeless individuals. This community becomes more populated with transients and runaways when you get closer to the heart of the Castro. Much like teens would (and still do) flock to the Haight-Ashbury searching for hippie ideals, so too do teens and adults alike leave everything to live in the country’s Gay Wonderland. But sometimes, the streets are not paved with gold, grass, or rainbows.

 

Of San Francisco’s homeless population, especially that of homeless youth, 40 percent is comprised of LGBTQ individuals, many of whom were driven out of their homes for their sexual orientations and identifications. But in the Castro, violence and gender discrimination continue to be a factor that expresses itself daily in the lives of the those on the street.

 

As a call to action against this disturbing truth, Supervisor Scott Wiener has helped to acquire start-up funding from the city to create a new budget to provide 95 hours per week of enforcement and outreach services. The need for this is due to the simple fact that the city, like any other city, has not provided enough support for such persons.

 

To counter that, this program, dubbed Castro Cares, is the first time that community groups like the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, Castro Community on Patrol, Castro Merchants, Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, Hartford Street Neighbors, and many more have collaborated to provide a service to the region for which each of these organizations cares so much. The services provided by Castro Cares will include: hotel rooms for the mentally and physically disabled homeless, additional police presence as well as a dedicated outreach crew who will patrol the streets starting out at 20 hours per week.

 

The streets that will be most heavily targeted will mostly be the Castro area of Market Street itself as well as a one-block buffer zone around Market — specifically from Castro to Valencia streets.

 

The program is based in an idea of compassionate outreach, one that veers away from violence, arrests and misunderstanding to seek a solution that treats the homeless with dignity — maybe someone a few steps wackier than that uncle of yours, but someone like any other human being who still needs care.

 

This program stands in stark contrast to the previous criminalization of homelessness that was spearheaded by Wiener himself. Since 2011, under Wiener’s watch, camping, cooking, sleeping, creating shelter, using shopping carts, and selling merchandise without a permit have all become illegal. These rules, which are really stances against homelessness, work to protect the neighborhood’s residents against unwanted, unwarranted, and frankly, unpleasant intruders to their way of life. While removing homelessness in such a way might create a district that looks more like the cheery world of a Hollywood musical, these rules can prevent these at-risk individuals from scraping by within a modicum of legality. With this new Castro Cares program, the hope is that these wounds can be healed.

 

Daniel Bergerac, president of the Castro Merchant’s Association, has been working on this program for 16 months, and boasts an unabashedly optimistic opinion on the project. He said he believes that the program will collectively benefit the at-risk members of the community as well as the area’s residents and merchants.

 

Bergarac says that he truly feels that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

 

By raising the level of care in the Castro, the goal is that a dent can be made in the city’s grander problem of at-risk individuals, those without homes and those with unfulfilled needs.

 

And while your boat may be lifted by the rising tide of the quality of life in the area, a little philanthropy never hurt anyone either.

 

The program needs supporters, namely from both residents and merchants of the area. Although Wiener procured a simple starting fee, it is now up to those in the community of the Castro to show how much they care about those that flock in the neighborhood who are looking for a sanctuary to replace cold streets and cold hearts during the winter.

 

Be on the lookout for upcoming advertising campaigns on BART and MUNI throughout the holiday season.

 

Together we can improve our community by sharing and giving back, making it the sanctuary that we all hope it can be.

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

 

Supervisor Urges City To Fund Its Urban Forest

 

 

 

The Castro and its surrounding neighborhoods that make up District 8 are home to 13,000 of the 105,000 street trees in San Francisco. Since 2012, the Department of Public Works has been transferring the responsibility of these trees to property owners due to the lack of sufficient funds to properly care for them. With its current resources, the DPW could only get to each tree once every 10 to 12 years. But since the trees should be pruned every three to five years, they have passed that duty on to homeowners as a “Band-Aid” solution.

 

According to DPW Urban Forest Manager Carla Short, the majority of the trees in District 8 are located on Guerrero, Dolores, Market and San Jose streets. However, only 3,500 of these 13,000 trees in the district are actually maintained by the city. Over the past two years, the DPW has given 137 citations throughout District 8 alone for excessive pruning or illegal removal of trees by property owners that did not comply with the city regulations. Short confirmed that all of these cases were indeed extreme, and that no unwarranted citations have been issued.

 

“None of the citations were given for ‘borderline’ conditions,” Short said. “The citations were given to people that had used measures for maintenance that left the trees in really bad shape — meaning that they were more vulnerable to disease and pests.”

 

Short expressed that the DPW is concerned for the quality of care property owners give to the street trees. And for the 137 District 8 residents that have been negatively affected by tree maintenance fines, being punished for not taking “good enough” care of the trees in front of their homes can be frustrating and down right embarrassing.

 

Yet even when property owners do the right thing when it comes to maintaining the urban forest near their homes, they still get slapped with hefty fees. Michael Tschann and two of his neighbors on Castro Street recently paid a large sum of money after an unruly tree uprooted between 50-80 percent of the sidewalk in front of their homes. Tschann and his neighbors offered to pay for the sidewalk repairs out of pocket. However, it doesn’t seem fair that the city paid to replace an equally damaged sidewalk in front of four other properties on the same block as Tschann’s simply because it was closer to a bus stop. The city’s uneven responses to these two similar incidents go to show that there is no set protocol to handle the effects of the urban forest.

 

The question at hand is this: should property owners really be held accountable for street trees that the city planted outside of their homes?

 

Supervisor Scott Wiener doesn’t think so.

 

Wiener is aiming to get the city to take back responsibility for the maintenance of the urban forest. Last month Wiener announced that he is drafting an initiative he calls the Urban Forestry Fund to come up with a permanent source of funding to take care of the city’s trees, in lieu of the current policy that holds property owners accountable for their maintenance. After the November 13th incident where a street tree nearly left a man with life-threatening injuries in the Mission, Wiener stated that the issue is urgent. He thinks a permanent solution is the best option to avoid future incidents.

 

“We know we have a huge problem with a really deteriorating urban forest, we have systematically dis-invested, made cut after cut after cut, so these trees are literally falling apart,” he said.

 

With the help of the group Friends of the Urban Forest, Wiener is trying to figure out the best way to allocate the $20 million per year needed to take care of the City’s trees. One idea as to how to raise the money is to set a minor parcel tax of $45-$85 per year on property owners. Another idea is to develop a charter that sets aside money for the trees from the city’s general fund. Both of these ideas may be on the ballot in 2015 or 2016.

 

 

 

Alan Beach-Nelson, president of the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, gave three reasons why he thinks the city should be responsible for the public trees on our streets: to ensure they get the appropriate care; to ensure they get uniform care (esthetically pleasing); to ensure the future of the trees in the city. If the residents remain responsible it will hinder the possibility of expanding the number of trees in SF. Beach-Nelson doesn’t think that too many people will be asking the city to plant more trees in front of their homes if they know that they will essentially have to pay for them in the long run.

 

Most people seem to agree that the government is the one that should be responsible for the trees that line streets, just like they are for the parks used by the public.

 

“Public trees on public streets are public property,” one resident said. “The recession’s over and there’s no excuse of delaying maintenance — it’s time the city takes back responsibility.”

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

SantaCon Madness Comes A-Callin’

 

Like it or not, here come the Santas.

 

Get ready for SantaCon 2014. It’s that time of year when hundreds of thousands of “Santa’s” crowd the streets worldwide to celebrate the holiday. The event was started in San Francisco in 1994, with the first Santa-Con was sponsored by the San Francisco Cacophony Society with inspiration from a Mother Jones article about a Danish political group that dressed in Santa costumes and mobbed a Copenhagen department store.

 

The event has become a phenomenon worldwide. The website SantaCon.info has an updated list of every SantaCon event around the world, and as of December 4 the tally stands at events in 334 cities in 46 countries. The dates vary by city and this year, SantaCon SF will be held on Saturday, December 13. Santa’s cavort all across the globe, from North America to Europe and Asia; From San Francisco to Montreal to New York City, SantaCon crosses the Atlantic to hit London, Paris and Hamburg, before continuing on to Beijing, Tokyo and Sydney.

 

The Guinness Book of World Records lists the official record for Santa’s at 13,000, at an event in Ireland in 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

 

City Aids Water-Saving with Free Advice, Devices

 

 

 

Dogs groomed at Mudpuppy’s on Castro Street are getting a dose of environmental consciousness with their head-to-tail scrubs and blueberry facials. The staff has been carefully trained in how much water to use when rinsing and sudsing, said owner Daniel Bergerac, president of the Castro Merchants. The faucets are also outfitted with the water saving devices.

 

“This drought is no joke,” said Bergerac, “When we designed this place we had already worked water conservation into our plans. We are constantly after the staff about the amount of water they use and we carefully monitor the water bill. It’s designed into how we do business.”

 

With California in one of the most severe droughts on record, even eco-aware neighborhoods like the Castro have to step up. With this in mind, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is making that easier through its Water-Wise Evaluation Program.

 

Completely free of charge, a water-efficiency specialist will visit your business or residence and evaluate the property for potential water-savings measures. The specialist will review the history of the water bill, check for water leaks, and most importantly, provide water-efficient showerheads, faucet aerators, and some standard toilet repair parts.

 

“Installing one faucet aerator and one efficient showerhead can result in an average of 9,000 gallons per year in savings,” according to the SFPUC website.

 

It is not necessary to schedule a visit in order to receive the free devices, however. Customers may also visit a SFPUC service center, bringing a copy of their water bill as proof of residency. While free, devices are rationed based on household size or whether being used for a commercial property.

 

“The program has actually been in effect for several years,” said Kevin Galvin, a water conservation administrator for SFPUC. “But we are promoting it more heavily because of the drought through our device distribution program.”

 

Stats show that even utilizing one product can make a big difference. “Our showerhead is a 1.5 per minute showerhead while the standard is 2.5 per minute,” Galvin said. “So, you are saving a gallon per minute.”

 

The showerhead Galvin is referring to is a water-efficient low-flow device. Another free product is called the “flapper,” found inside the toilet tank. Replacing it can stop a toilet from leaking. Other products yet to be mentioned are the toilet fill valve (available only during an evaluation), toilet tank dye tablets, the “Practical Plumbing Handbook,” garden spray nozzle with an automatic shut-off (also available only during an evaluation), and the “Water-Wise Gardening for San Francisco” guidebook.

 

“San Francisco has by far the lowest water usage per capita in the state,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose office is already outfitted with reduced flow faucets and low-flow toilets. “We are already very environmentally conscious here, but we can always do better.”

 

Another water saving measure that a business can undertake is not serving water to customers unless they request it. The SFPUC has signs that establishments can pick-up that state “Water Upon Request” at no charge to restaurants. And, if a business prefers not to water its lawn, the SFPUC also has pre-made signs that read “Brown is the New Green.”

 

Businesses may contact SFPUC Customer Service at (415) 551-4730 to schedule an appointment or visit 525 Golden Gate Ave. to pick up the devices. Call ahead to ensure supplies are in stock.

 

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Carlos Santana Shares Autobiography at Castro Theatre

 

Carlos Santana, who grew up in the city’s Mission District, radiated nothing but positivity in his interview with SFSU alumnus and rock music journalist BenFong-Torres.

 

Watching Carlos and Ben talk about Universal Tone was like living through Carlos’s life in first-person perspective, and it was fascinating. Carlos Santana is as smooth as his most-requested song.

 

— Amy Stephenson, The Booksmth

 

The prolific Haight-Ashbury bookstore produced the stellar event at the Castro Theatre on December 3rd, featuring Carlos Santana and Ben Fong-Torres. It truly was a magical night as Santana lent his enigmatic and upbeat presence to the Castro stage in celebration of his new book, “The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light.” Santana’s autobiography became available in stores on November 4th, including of course, at The Booksmith. I spoke with Amy Stephenson just prior to the event.

 

Wendy:

 

It’s just great that you were able to bring your interview with Carlos Santana to the Castro. How did that all come about?

 

Amy:

 

We’re really excited about it. He wrote a memoir and he’s on a book tour. What’s so cool about doing more high profile people like Carlos is that we can get these awesome guests to do in conversations, so [he’s] gonna be in conversation with Ben Fong-Torres, who’s a legend in his own right. It’s this really cool multi-media interactive [event], like he’s got music cues that are gonna be a part of the conversation. It’s been really fun to plan.

 

Wendy:

 

And both Carlos Santana and Ben Fong-Torres have a history with the Bay Area. Carlos Santana went to school here; he attended Mission High I believe.

 

Amy:

 

He did. He grew up here; he lived here for a while, and he was a part of the music, counter culture movement, and I think that still resonates really strongly here.

 

Wendy:

 

Absolutely. Aside from which he brought a whole different flavor to mainstream rock and roll, and we always have been a city that appreciates diversity. And Ben Fong-Torres lives here as well, yes?

 

Amy:

 

Yeah, he lives here; we do events with him a lot. We always get him to do these really cool in conversations and he just does such an amazing job, really integrating the story about the music, the story about the culture, the story about the person’s life, altogether into this narrative that gives it so much more context. We love working with Ben.

 

Wendy:

 

He’s worked with you before, but not at the Castro.

 

Amy:

 

Not at the Castro. We haven’t done a tremendous amount of events at the Castro. As we do bigger events at Booksmith we’re looking at bigger venues to house people. We’ve partnered with other people to work at the Castro before, but this is our first time flying solo. They’ve been great. It’s such a beautiful space, and to talk of the bigger picture in context of the culture, it feels like a good spot for this kind of thing.

 

Wendy:

 

So those types of events will be happening more in the future?

 

Amy:

 

Yeah. We’ve done some big ones in the past. We have these two sides; we do the regular authors, really literary kind of people which is great, and then we have this arm that’s the more cultural figures. We’ve done Ozzy Osbourne; we’ve done They Might be Giants; we’re doing Patton Oswalt in January. It’s just sort of a different realm of book publishing, these celebrity memoirs, and that’s the kind of thing that we’re gonna be using the Castro for more and more.

 

Wendy:

 

I don’t know whether these artists have been in-store or at larger venues, but I know you’ve hosted Patti Smith, Grace Slick, Neil Young, on the musical end of things, and also Annie Leibovitz, as well as cultural icons like Alan Ginsberg and Hunter S. Thompson. Did any of these major guests come to your store on Haight Street?

 

Amy:

 

Most of the ones you mentioned in the past were done at the store. Off-site venues are a newer thing for us. We can actually fit about 300 people in there. We had the first ever Welcome to Night Vale live show, which is a podcast, at the store. We had more than 300 people; we did two shows in one night. It’s cool. I think we get some cred because of where we’re located and how long we’ve been here.

 

Wendy:

 

1976, right?

 

Amy:

 

Yeah. So we’re associated with the neighborhood and all the crazy things that happen here, which is wonderful and we love it, so tend to get these more offbeat, counter culture people.

 

Wendy:

 

It’s so important for the community to have places like your store, and I hate to add this but, still. Booksmith, and also Amoeba Records are two definite reasons to go to Haight Street.

 

Amy:

 

Sometimes it does feel like Booksmith and Amoeba are clinging to that community gathering place ethos; it’s nice to feel a little bit more connected to the roots of the neighborhood than maybe some other places that are currently here. We do about 300 events a year; it’s a ton of events. There are weeks where we do seven a week, including off-sites, in-stores and everything. We also have a Berkeley arm. A lot of them, we call them an authorless marquee in the biz, which means nobody’s on book tour; we just open up the store. Sometimes we sell tickets; other times we don’t; we just want people in the bookstore. We want to give them a reason to come out and enjoy our space, meet each other, maybe not at a bar, but at a bookstore that sometimes may have alcohol. Things like that.

 

Wendy:

 

You spearhead a couple of those events.

 

Amy:

 

I do. I’m one of the events coordinators. We have a current event team of three management types like me and a whole bunch of people who do the heavy lifting for us. I’m primarily responsible for the more social events, where we turn the bookstore into a bar, for lack of better word. We do Shipwreck, which is our erotic fan fiction competition; we do book swaps; we just had Mallory Ortberg from [The] Toast as our special guest. We had 50 people come in and bring books and swap, and talk, and we served dinner, things like that. It’s fun! I get to throw the good parties!

 

Wendy:

 

And Shipwreck is a competition? How does it play out?

 

Amy:

 

It is a fan fiction competition, so every month we pick a book, usually something that’s well known or in the zeitgeist currently. We invite six writers to write fan fiction about that book. We assign each of them a character. It is raunchy and hilarious. All are read anonymously and the crowd gets to vote for their favorite. If you win you get to come back to defend your title. It’s definitely the rowdiest, most ridiculous - we have on average over 100 people come every month. Last month we did Daniel Handler; he was the reader so he got to read a whole bunch of erotic fan fiction based on his own children’s series. We had everybody write about Count Olaf, so it was hilarious.

 

So that’s the kind of stuff we do. It’s really light hearted. We like to be sort of lowbrow sometimes, ‘cause I feel like literature has a reputation for being kind of snobbish. It’s really important to me that the bookstore feels like a safe place for people who aren’t necessarily as highbrow literary, but can come and appreciate and have a good time. Shipwreck is a ton of fun. It’s the first Thursday of every month, 10 bucks, comes with an open bar. [December 4th] we’re doing “[The] Gift of the Magi.” We have some great writers. We have Whitney Miller; she’s gonna be fantastic; Sarah Farizan, she’s amazing; Kelly Anneken, she’s a Bay Area comedian who apparently did a one woman play called “The Revenge of the Magi,” so it’s gonna be rad!

 

Wendy:

 

You mentioned that you’ll be hosting Patton Oswalt as well. That’s in January, on the 27th.

 

Amy:

 

Right. That’s gonna be at The Roxie in the Mission, which is cool; we get to work at a cool old theater. We’ve done some other stuff with the Roxie before; we did Amy Sedaris there two years ago. He’s actually gonna be in conversation with me which is really exciting ‘cause I’ve never done an in conversation before, so they’re throwing me to the wolves. I’ve heard he’s lovely. I can’t wait; I’m so excited. His memoir is about moving to LA and becoming addicted to films. It’s just so funny and charming and wonderful.

 

Wendy:

 

How did you come to work with The Booksmith?

 

Amy:

 

I love my job first of all. It is the best place I’ve ever worked, hands down. I moved to San Francisco in 2009. I had a history of working in Borders and Barnes & Nobles. My husband was in the army at the time and we had been moving around, so I never got a chance to finish my degree. I moved in just up the street, two blocks away, and went to USF to finish my Psych degree, and was working part time at The Booksmith ‘cause that’s where I had experience. I literally just beat the door down until they said, “Fine, you can have a job!” In 2011 I graduated and they scooped me up and had me full time and said, “Here, why don’t you make events for us?”, so I started writing their events program and I do all the social media for the store. We have over 10,000 followers on Twitter, so it’s insane. I do their HR work; we kind of wear a lot of hats over there. We’re a really small team; there [are about]12 of us. I’m living the dream. I get to hang out with authors and Carlos Santana and read books. It’s a good life.

 

 

Photo: Gabrielle Gomez

© Castro Courier 2014 No part of this website or artwork portrayed may be redistributed or republished without the express permission of the Castro Courier. Opinions expressed are strictly those of the writers and do not reflect the opinions of the publisher or staff.

 

 

DECEMBER  2014

 

Light It Up

 

On Monday night, December 1, the Castro community gathered at the corner of 18th and Castro streets for the annual Castro Tree Lighting Ceremony, sponsored by the Castro Merchants. This year the event benefited from the spacious new street and sidewalk, along with soft lighting wrapped around 31 trees, courtesy of individual merchants. Evidently Santa had arrived somewhat ahead of schedule. The program included the voices of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Freedom Band. Under the practiced hand of the Castro’s very own moderator, Donna Sachet (pictured with microphone), speakers included Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Scott Wiener. They were followed by the senior citizen from the north, the gentleman who sported an unruly beard before it became hip-tastic, Mr. Santa Claus himself.

 

Photo: Titus West

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Castro Cares Unites Area Groups

Anti-poverty project new for District 8Daniel Bergerac, president of the Castro Merchant’s Association, has been working on this program for 16 months 

 

 

 

Everyone knows that the holidays are a time for families, a time for happiness (or Scroogery), and a time for giving. While many are most used to giving nieces patent-leather dress shoes or sweaters to crazy uncles who never buy new clothes, it is also an important time to remember those in the community who do not receive such gifts — those who do not even have the family member to whom they can say “it’s the thought that counts.”

 

Although it may not be pleasant, some of these individuals are living right here in the Castro.

 

The neighborhood is one of particular interest when it comes to dealing with homeless and at-risk residents. This region of the city comes out of the Market Street corridor, a veritable resting ground for homeless individuals. This community becomes more populated with transients and runaways when you get closer to the heart of the Castro. Much like teens would (and still do) flock to the Haight-Ashbury searching for hippie ideals, so too do teens and adults alike leave everything to live in the country’s Gay Wonderland. But sometimes, the streets are not paved with gold, grass, or rainbows.

 

Of San Francisco’s homeless population, especially that of homeless youth, 40 percent is comprised of LGBTQ individuals, many of whom were driven out of their homes for their sexual orientations and identifications. But in the Castro, violence and gender discrimination continue to be a factor that expresses itself daily in the lives of the those on the street.

 

As a call to action against this disturbing truth, Supervisor Scott Wiener has helped to acquire start-up funding from the city to create a new budget to provide 95 hours per week of enforcement and outreach services. The need for this is due to the simple fact that the city, like any other city, has not provided enough support for such persons.

 

To counter that, this program, dubbed Castro Cares, is the first time that community groups like the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, Castro Community on Patrol, Castro Merchants, Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, Hartford Street Neighbors, and many more have collaborated to provide a service to the region for which each of these organizations cares so much. The services provided by Castro Cares will include: hotel rooms for the mentally and physically disabled homeless, additional police presence as well as a dedicated outreach crew who will patrol the streets starting out at 20 hours per week.

 

The streets that will be most heavily targeted will mostly be the Castro area of Market Street itself as well as a one-block buffer zone around Market — specifically from Castro to Valencia streets.

 

The program is based in an idea of compassionate outreach, one that veers away from violence, arrests and misunderstanding to seek a solution that treats the homeless with dignity — maybe someone a few steps wackier than that uncle of yours, but someone like any other human being who still needs care.

 

This program stands in stark contrast to the previous criminalization of homelessness that was spearheaded by Wiener himself. Since 2011, under Wiener’s watch, camping, cooking, sleeping, creating shelter, using shopping carts, and selling merchandise without a permit have all become illegal. These rules, which are really stances against homelessness, work to protect the neighborhood’s residents against unwanted, unwarranted, and frankly, unpleasant intruders to their way of life. While removing homelessness in such a way might create a district that looks more like the cheery world of a Hollywood musical, these rules can prevent these at-risk individuals from scraping by within a modicum of legality. With this new Castro Cares program, the hope is that these wounds can be healed.

 

Daniel Bergerac, president of the Castro Merchant’s Association, has been working on this program for 16 months, and boasts an unabashedly optimistic opinion on the project. He said he believes that the program will collectively benefit the at-risk members of the community as well as the area’s residents and merchants.

 

Bergarac says that he truly feels that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

 

By raising the level of care in the Castro, the goal is that a dent can be made in the city’s grander problem of at-risk individuals, those without homes and those with unfulfilled needs.

 

And while your boat may be lifted by the rising tide of the quality of life in the area, a little philanthropy never hurt anyone either.

 

The program needs supporters, namely from both residents and merchants of the area. Although Wiener procured a simple starting fee, it is now up to those in the community of the Castro to show how much they care about those that flock in the neighborhood who are looking for a sanctuary to replace cold streets and cold hearts during the winter.

 

Be on the lookout for upcoming advertising campaigns on BART and MUNI throughout the holiday season.

 

Together we can improve our community by sharing and giving back, making it the sanctuary that we all hope it can be.

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

 

Supervisor Urges City To Fund Its Urban Forest

 

 

 

The Castro and its surrounding neighborhoods that make up District 8 are home to 13,000 of the 105,000 street trees in San Francisco. Since 2012, the Department of Public Works has been transferring the responsibility of these trees to property owners due to the lack of sufficient funds to properly care for them. With its current resources, the DPW could only get to each tree once every 10 to 12 years. But since the trees should be pruned every three to five years, they have passed that duty on to homeowners as a “Band-Aid” solution.

 

According to DPW Urban Forest Manager Carla Short, the majority of the trees in District 8 are located on Guerrero, Dolores, Market and San Jose streets. However, only 3,500 of these 13,000 trees in the district are actually maintained by the city. Over the past two years, the DPW has given 137 citations throughout District 8 alone for excessive pruning or illegal removal of trees by property owners that did not comply with the city regulations. Short confirmed that all of these cases were indeed extreme, and that no unwarranted citations have been issued.

 

“None of the citations were given for ‘borderline’ conditions,” Short said. “The citations were given to people that had used measures for maintenance that left the trees in really bad shape — meaning that they were more vulnerable to disease and pests.”

 

Short expressed that the DPW is concerned for the quality of care property owners give to the street trees. And for the 137 District 8 residents that have been negatively affected by tree maintenance fines, being punished for not taking “good enough” care of the trees in front of their homes can be frustrating and down right embarrassing.

 

Yet even when property owners do the right thing when it comes to maintaining the urban forest near their homes, they still get slapped with hefty fees. Michael Tschann and two of his neighbors on Castro Street recently paid a large sum of money after an unruly tree uprooted between 50-80 percent of the sidewalk in front of their homes. Tschann and his neighbors offered to pay for the sidewalk repairs out of pocket. However, it doesn’t seem fair that the city paid to replace an equally damaged sidewalk in front of four other properties on the same block as Tschann’s simply because it was closer to a bus stop. The city’s uneven responses to these two similar incidents go to show that there is no set protocol to handle the effects of the urban forest.

 

The question at hand is this: should property owners really be held accountable for street trees that the city planted outside of their homes?

 

Supervisor Scott Wiener doesn’t think so.

 

Wiener is aiming to get the city to take back responsibility for the maintenance of the urban forest. Last month Wiener announced that he is drafting an initiative he calls the Urban Forestry Fund to come up with a permanent source of funding to take care of the city’s trees, in lieu of the current policy that holds property owners accountable for their maintenance. After the November 13th incident where a street tree nearly left a man with life-threatening injuries in the Mission, Wiener stated that the issue is urgent. He thinks a permanent solution is the best option to avoid future incidents.

 

“We know we have a huge problem with a really deteriorating urban forest, we have systematically dis-invested, made cut after cut after cut, so these trees are literally falling apart,” he said.

 

With the help of the group Friends of the Urban Forest, Wiener is trying to figure out the best way to allocate the $20 million per year needed to take care of the City’s trees. One idea as to how to raise the money is to set a minor parcel tax of $45-$85 per year on property owners. Another idea is to develop a charter that sets aside money for the trees from the city’s general fund. Both of these ideas may be on the ballot in 2015 or 2016.

 

 

 

Alan Beach-Nelson, president of the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, gave three reasons why he thinks the city should be responsible for the public trees on our streets: to ensure they get the appropriate care; to ensure they get uniform care (esthetically pleasing); to ensure the future of the trees in the city. If the residents remain responsible it will hinder the possibility of expanding the number of trees in SF. Beach-Nelson doesn’t think that too many people will be asking the city to plant more trees in front of their homes if they know that they will essentially have to pay for them in the long run.

 

Most people seem to agree that the government is the one that should be responsible for the trees that line streets, just like they are for the parks used by the public.

 

“Public trees on public streets are public property,” one resident said. “The recession’s over and there’s no excuse of delaying maintenance — it’s time the city takes back responsibility.”

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

SantaCon Madness Comes A-Callin’

 

Like it or not, here come the Santas.

 

Get ready for SantaCon 2014. It’s that time of year when hundreds of thousands of “Santa’s” crowd the streets worldwide to celebrate the holiday. The event was started in San Francisco in 1994, with the first Santa-Con was sponsored by the San Francisco Cacophony Society with inspiration from a Mother Jones article about a Danish political group that dressed in Santa costumes and mobbed a Copenhagen department store.

 

The event has become a phenomenon worldwide. The website SantaCon.info has an updated list of every SantaCon event around the world, and as of December 4 the tally stands at events in 334 cities in 46 countries. The dates vary by city and this year, SantaCon SF will be held on Saturday, December 13. Santa’s cavort all across the globe, from North America to Europe and Asia; From San Francisco to Montreal to New York City, SantaCon crosses the Atlantic to hit London, Paris and Hamburg, before continuing on to Beijing, Tokyo and Sydney.

 

The Guinness Book of World Records lists the official record for Santa’s at 13,000, at an event in Ireland in 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

 

City Aids Water-Saving with Free Advice, Devices

 

 

 

Dogs groomed at Mudpuppy’s on Castro Street are getting a dose of environmental consciousness with their head-to-tail scrubs and blueberry facials. The staff has been carefully trained in how much water to use when rinsing and sudsing, said owner Daniel Bergerac, president of the Castro Merchants. The faucets are also outfitted with the water saving devices.

 

“This drought is no joke,” said Bergerac, “When we designed this place we had already worked water conservation into our plans. We are constantly after the staff about the amount of water they use and we carefully monitor the water bill. It’s designed into how we do business.”

 

With California in one of the most severe droughts on record, even eco-aware neighborhoods like the Castro have to step up. With this in mind, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is making that easier through its Water-Wise Evaluation Program.

 

Completely free of charge, a water-efficiency specialist will visit your business or residence and evaluate the property for potential water-savings measures. The specialist will review the history of the water bill, check for water leaks, and most importantly, provide water-efficient showerheads, faucet aerators, and some standard toilet repair parts.

 

“Installing one faucet aerator and one efficient showerhead can result in an average of 9,000 gallons per year in savings,” according to the SFPUC website.

 

It is not necessary to schedule a visit in order to receive the free devices, however. Customers may also visit a SFPUC service center, bringing a copy of their water bill as proof of residency. While free, devices are rationed based on household size or whether being used for a commercial property.

 

“The program has actually been in effect for several years,” said Kevin Galvin, a water conservation administrator for SFPUC. “But we are promoting it more heavily because of the drought through our device distribution program.”

 

Stats show that even utilizing one product can make a big difference. “Our showerhead is a 1.5 per minute showerhead while the standard is 2.5 per minute,” Galvin said. “So, you are saving a gallon per minute.”

 

The showerhead Galvin is referring to is a water-efficient low-flow device. Another free product is called the “flapper,” found inside the toilet tank. Replacing it can stop a toilet from leaking. Other products yet to be mentioned are the toilet fill valve (available only during an evaluation), toilet tank dye tablets, the “Practical Plumbing Handbook,” garden spray nozzle with an automatic shut-off (also available only during an evaluation), and the “Water-Wise Gardening for San Francisco” guidebook.

 

“San Francisco has by far the lowest water usage per capita in the state,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose office is already outfitted with reduced flow faucets and low-flow toilets. “We are already very environmentally conscious here, but we can always do better.”

 

Another water saving measure that a business can undertake is not serving water to customers unless they request it. The SFPUC has signs that establishments can pick-up that state “Water Upon Request” at no charge to restaurants. And, if a business prefers not to water its lawn, the SFPUC also has pre-made signs that read “Brown is the New Green.”

 

Businesses may contact SFPUC Customer Service at (415) 551-4730 to schedule an appointment or visit 525 Golden Gate Ave. to pick up the devices. Call ahead to ensure supplies are in stock.

 

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Carlos Santana Shares Autobiography at Castro Theatre

 

Carlos Santana, who grew up in the city’s Mission District, radiated nothing but positivity in his interview with SFSU alumnus and rock music journalist BenFong-Torres.

 

Watching Carlos and Ben talk about Universal Tone was like living through Carlos’s life in first-person perspective, and it was fascinating. Carlos Santana is as smooth as his most-requested song.

 

— Amy Stephenson, The Booksmth

 

The prolific Haight-Ashbury bookstore produced the stellar event at the Castro Theatre on December 3rd, featuring Carlos Santana and Ben Fong-Torres. It truly was a magical night as Santana lent his enigmatic and upbeat presence to the Castro stage in celebration of his new book, “The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light.” Santana’s autobiography became available in stores on November 4th, including of course, at The Booksmith. I spoke with Amy Stephenson just prior to the event.

 

Wendy:

 

It’s just great that you were able to bring your interview with Carlos Santana to the Castro. How did that all come about?

 

Amy:

 

We’re really excited about it. He wrote a memoir and he’s on a book tour. What’s so cool about doing more high profile people like Carlos is that we can get these awesome guests to do in conversations, so [he’s] gonna be in conversation with Ben Fong-Torres, who’s a legend in his own right. It’s this really cool multi-media interactive [event], like he’s got music cues that are gonna be a part of the conversation. It’s been really fun to plan.

 

Wendy:

 

And both Carlos Santana and Ben Fong-Torres have a history with the Bay Area. Carlos Santana went to school here; he attended Mission High I believe.

 

Amy:

 

He did. He grew up here; he lived here for a while, and he was a part of the music, counter culture movement, and I think that still resonates really strongly here.

 

Wendy:

 

Absolutely. Aside from which he brought a whole different flavor to mainstream rock and roll, and we always have been a city that appreciates diversity. And Ben Fong-Torres lives here as well, yes?

 

Amy:

 

Yeah, he lives here; we do events with him a lot. We always get him to do these really cool in conversations and he just does such an amazing job, really integrating the story about the music, the story about the culture, the story about the person’s life, altogether into this narrative that gives it so much more context. We love working with Ben.

 

Wendy:

 

He’s worked with you before, but not at the Castro.

 

Amy:

 

Not at the Castro. We haven’t done a tremendous amount of events at the Castro. As we do bigger events at Booksmith we’re looking at bigger venues to house people. We’ve partnered with other people to work at the Castro before, but this is our first time flying solo. They’ve been great. It’s such a beautiful space, and to talk of the bigger picture in context of the culture, it feels like a good spot for this kind of thing.

 

Wendy:

 

So those types of events will be happening more in the future?

 

Amy:

 

Yeah. We’ve done some big ones in the past. We have these two sides; we do the regular authors, really literary kind of people which is great, and then we have this arm that’s the more cultural figures. We’ve done Ozzy Osbourne; we’ve done They Might be Giants; we’re doing Patton Oswalt in January. It’s just sort of a different realm of book publishing, these celebrity memoirs, and that’s the kind of thing that we’re gonna be using the Castro for more and more.

 

Wendy:

 

I don’t know whether these artists have been in-store or at larger venues, but I know you’ve hosted Patti Smith, Grace Slick, Neil Young, on the musical end of things, and also Annie Leibovitz, as well as cultural icons like Alan Ginsberg and Hunter S. Thompson. Did any of these major guests come to your store on Haight Street?

 

Amy:

 

Most of the ones you mentioned in the past were done at the store. Off-site venues are a newer thing for us. We can actually fit about 300 people in there. We had the first ever Welcome to Night Vale live show, which is a podcast, at the store. We had more than 300 people; we did two shows in one night. It’s cool. I think we get some cred because of where we’re located and how long we’ve been here.

 

Wendy:

 

1976, right?

 

Amy:

 

Yeah. So we’re associated with the neighborhood and all the crazy things that happen here, which is wonderful and we love it, so tend to get these more offbeat, counter culture people.

 

Wendy:

 

It’s so important for the community to have places like your store, and I hate to add this but, still. Booksmith, and also Amoeba Records are two definite reasons to go to Haight Street.

 

Amy:

 

Sometimes it does feel like Booksmith and Amoeba are clinging to that community gathering place ethos; it’s nice to feel a little bit more connected to the roots of the neighborhood than maybe some other places that are currently here. We do about 300 events a year; it’s a ton of events. There are weeks where we do seven a week, including off-sites, in-stores and everything. We also have a Berkeley arm. A lot of them, we call them an authorless marquee in the biz, which means nobody’s on book tour; we just open up the store. Sometimes we sell tickets; other times we don’t; we just want people in the bookstore. We want to give them a reason to come out and enjoy our space, meet each other, maybe not at a bar, but at a bookstore that sometimes may have alcohol. Things like that.

 

Wendy:

 

You spearhead a couple of those events.

 

Amy:

 

I do. I’m one of the events coordinators. We have a current event team of three management types like me and a whole bunch of people who do the heavy lifting for us. I’m primarily responsible for the more social events, where we turn the bookstore into a bar, for lack of better word. We do Shipwreck, which is our erotic fan fiction competition; we do book swaps; we just had Mallory Ortberg from [The] Toast as our special guest. We had 50 people come in and bring books and swap, and talk, and we served dinner, things like that. It’s fun! I get to throw the good parties!

 

Wendy:

 

And Shipwreck is a competition? How does it play out?

 

Amy:

 

It is a fan fiction competition, so every month we pick a book, usually something that’s well known or in the zeitgeist currently. We invite six writers to write fan fiction about that book. We assign each of them a character. It is raunchy and hilarious. All are read anonymously and the crowd gets to vote for their favorite. If you win you get to come back to defend your title. It’s definitely the rowdiest, most ridiculous - we have on average over 100 people come every month. Last month we did Daniel Handler; he was the reader so he got to read a whole bunch of erotic fan fiction based on his own children’s series. We had everybody write about Count Olaf, so it was hilarious.

 

So that’s the kind of stuff we do. It’s really light hearted. We like to be sort of lowbrow sometimes, ‘cause I feel like literature has a reputation for being kind of snobbish. It’s really important to me that the bookstore feels like a safe place for people who aren’t necessarily as highbrow literary, but can come and appreciate and have a good time. Shipwreck is a ton of fun. It’s the first Thursday of every month, 10 bucks, comes with an open bar. [December 4th] we’re doing “[The] Gift of the Magi.” We have some great writers. We have Whitney Miller; she’s gonna be fantastic; Sarah Farizan, she’s amazing; Kelly Anneken, she’s a Bay Area comedian who apparently did a one woman play called “The Revenge of the Magi,” so it’s gonna be rad!

 

Wendy:

 

You mentioned that you’ll be hosting Patton Oswalt as well. That’s in January, on the 27th.

 

Amy:

 

Right. That’s gonna be at The Roxie in the Mission, which is cool; we get to work at a cool old theater. We’ve done some other stuff with the Roxie before; we did Amy Sedaris there two years ago. He’s actually gonna be in conversation with me which is really exciting ‘cause I’ve never done an in conversation before, so they’re throwing me to the wolves. I’ve heard he’s lovely. I can’t wait; I’m so excited. His memoir is about moving to LA and becoming addicted to films. It’s just so funny and charming and wonderful.

 

Wendy:

 

How did you come to work with The Booksmith?

 

Amy:

 

I love my job first of all. It is the best place I’ve ever worked, hands down. I moved to San Francisco in 2009. I had a history of working in Borders and Barnes & Nobles. My husband was in the army at the time and we had been moving around, so I never got a chance to finish my degree. I moved in just up the street, two blocks away, and went to USF to finish my Psych degree, and was working part time at The Booksmith ‘cause that’s where I had experience. I literally just beat the door down until they said, “Fine, you can have a job!” In 2011 I graduated and they scooped me up and had me full time and said, “Here, why don’t you make events for us?”, so I started writing their events program and I do all the social media for the store. We have over 10,000 followers on Twitter, so it’s insane. I do their HR work; we kind of wear a lot of hats over there. We’re a really small team; there [are about]12 of us. I’m living the dream. I get to hang out with authors and Carlos Santana and read books. It’s a good life.

 

 

Photo: Gabrielle Gomez

SantaCon Madness Comes A-Callin’

Carlos Santana, who grew up in the city’s Mission District, radiated nothing but positivity in his interview with SFSU alumnus and rock music journalist BenFong-Torres.

© Castro Courier 2014

Anti-poverty project new for District 8Daniel Bergerac, president of the Castro Merchant’s Association, has been working on this program for 16 months 

Content is not available in this view. Try turning your device to landscape or view on a mainframe.