Friday, August 31, 2007


Some Bay View Hunters Point residents are concerned that Lennar’s redevelopment project will produce more rather than less toxicity in their neighborhoods.

In most cases, victims of environmental pollution experience some sort of “slow death.” BVHP residents are told that their asthma couldn’t be caused by asbestos dust—asbestos takes twenty or thirty years to kill you.

Residents of two Orlando, Florida, Lennar development have more immediate health concerns—sudden death.

According to this Orlando Sentinel story:

The two neighborhoods -- about 450 homes in all -- are part of the 950-acre Vista Lakes community built atop the western fringe of a forgotten Army bombing range.

The Army Corps of Engineers said in July that at least two live, unexploded bombs dropped there in the 1940s were found on some cattle land about 1,500 feet behind nearby Odyssey Middle School. No one was injured by the recent find, but in the late 1940s, three boys playing with what they thought was metal junk were maimed in an explosion.
Lennar has promised a thorough search of the area for unexploded ordnance.

A private company specializing in such things will be performing the search. It’s unclear if this effort will allow Lennar to advertise the homes as “certified bomb-free.”

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007


It looks like Tim Gaskin’s gone. Looks like Ruby, too, is now part of the bad old days at Benefit Magazine.

According to the mag’s Executive Director, Paul Corso:

"Benefit Magazine is on the verge of releasing a vastly improved editorial product in terms of depth and quality of coverage and of aesthetic design. We have come a long way in the past year. We are now responding to the stream of constructive feedback we have received from our board of advisors and our audience."

A “stream of constructive feedback”?

“Vastly improved…aesthetic design”?

If that ain’t disrespect, what is? Tim and Ruby poured their life’s passion into Benefit Magazine. Mayor Gavin Newsom himself graced the first cover.

How could anyone "vastly improve" this "aesthetic design"?

To celebrate the re-launch, Benefit Magazine has found some support from a San Francisco leading Interior Design firm, SophiSticate Interiors, which has underwritten the cost of a complete remodel at the Benefit Magazine headquarters in the historical James Flood Building in downtown San Francisco.

This, from a press release issued by SophiSticate, posted on Extra Realty blog.

Poor Ruby! Out in the cold. Maybe she really should write that book.

No word yet on the re-launch date.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007


I used to think that the ugly tower of the new de Young Museum represented the arthritic middle finger of San Francisco’s dowager class.

It’s an extravagantly ugly gesture, one only the rich can afford.

I was wrong again. The de Young’s design is functional and purposeful. It reflects the one clear lesson learned in Vietnam—the need for adequate helipads.

The U.S. embassy in Saigon apparently had only one place for a helicopter to land and pick up ugly Americans and their Vietnamese collaborators. Forget the hundreds of thousands of deaths—people die in wars —but this scene was plain undignified.

Never again.

The de Young is designed like a goddamn helicopter carrier.

The tower is the superstructure, the roof is an enormous flight deck.

So, when the homeless rabble of Golden Gate Park, demanding canapĂ©s and good champagne, surround the de Young during an after-hours charity party for the rich (it’s a party venue, not an art museum), the socialites can call in multiple helicopters, all at once, to swiftly rescue them.

Despair, park rabble, you have been out-thunk.

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Monday, August 20, 2007


Through my work I became aware of a funky marketing strategy called “Secondary Positioning.”

A familiar example of secondary positioning is the Avis rent-a-car campaign, “We’re number 2, we try harder.”

Hertz' primary position in its market was unassailable. While all car rental companies might wish to be number 1, Avis saw the value of seizing the second position.

It’s like a word-association game.

Q. Name a rental car company.
A. Hertz.

Q. Name another rental car company.
A. Avis.
Here’s a website celebrating the 40th anniversary of the We Try Harder slogan, which is still in use today.

The idea is that if for some reason Hertz is not available, or if someone is looking for a change, or if someone has a bad Hertz experience, Avis is there for you, and they WILL try harder.

Another easy example was the 7-Up “Un-cola” campaign. The position 7-Up was seeking was THE Un-Cola. When you get tired of cola beverages...

In San Francisco’s current mayor’s race, Tony Hall has undisputed (by this blog) possession of the secondary position.

Q. Name the next mayor of San Francisco.
A. Gavin Newsom.

Q. Name another candidate.
A. Tony Hall.
If this were a horse race there would be only three entrants to bet on: Newsom, Hall, and the field.

Newsom has a commanding lead over Hall. More importantly for this analysis, Hall has a commanding lead over the field.

This is relevant only because it’s impossible to predict the future.

Short of some major unforeseen event, Newsom will be re-elected. But what happens in the event of an unforeseen event?

What if Newsom gets struck by lightening and dies two weeks before the election? I’d say, “Mayor Tony Hall.”

Or gets hit by a bus.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007


The map below shows the major museums of San Francisco. Boxes 1 through 5 designate existing museums. Box 6 designates the approximate location of the proposed new Fisher museum of modern art.

1. DeYoung Museum
2. Academy of Science (natural history museum)
3. Legion of Honor
4. Exploratorium
5. Museum of Modern Art
6. (Proposed) Fisher Museum

Note that the proposed site of the Fisher Museum (#6) is just south of the Golden Gate Bridge, which makes it closer to Marin County than to the southeast corner of San Francisco. The neighborhoods that surround the proposed site are, like Marin County, almost all white and affluent.

The proposed site is as far away from the poor, mostly non-white, high crime neighborhood called Bay View Hunters Point (BVHP), near the arrow-tip.

Recently there has been much discussion of “environmental racism” in BVHP, both past and present. Currently Lennar Corporation is the general contractor of a massive redevelopment effort in the BVHP.

Some BVHP residents have complained about health problems caused by unmitigated dust from the construction. There is also generalized distrust of the Lennar effort, since to many in San Francisco “redevelopment” has meant “negro removal.”

It would go some way toward demonstrating good will if City Powers could locate the new museum, with its jobs and educational opportunities, in the BVHP redevelopment area.

To place yet another museum in the white, affluent part of San Francisco, insinuates that black, poor people don’t or can’t appreciate art or other museum fare. Why can't there be even one museum in the southern half of the city?

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Friday, August 10, 2007


David Patrick McIntosh, my boyfriend at the time (1970-72), founded the first Gay group in Nebraska, actually two groups:

Lincoln Gay Action Group (LinGAG)

University of Nebraska Gay Action Group (UNGAG).

I’m proud of the important role I played but the driving force was David. He was my first love. We were both Jesuit-trained poets, as evidenced by the catchy acronyms for the two groups.

I’m reminiscing because of the Democratic presidential candidates forum last night that was sponsored by a gay group and addressed gay issues (according to reports, I didn’t watch it.)

I’m having a how-far-we’ve-come experience.

It had to be the summer of 1972, pre-convention, George McGovern was gaining inevitability as the demcand, and he was swinging through Nebraska and there was a townhall thingie in Lincoln that David attended.

David came home that night excited. During the Q&A he was able to get to the microphone and he asked George McGovern this elegant question:

“What is your position on Gay Rights?”

David said that McGovern sputtered, and sputtered some more, and embarrassingly sputtered some more before coming up with some sort of general platitude.

According to David it was abundantly clear that McGovern didn’t have a position on Gay Rights—never thought about it.

So, I would surmise that my boyfriend, David Patrick McIntosh, was the first person ever to ask this question of a presidential candidate. In those days what David did took guts.

The Jesuits should be proud.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Lennar Urban announced this afternoon the appointment of a new Director of Community Relations for the Bay Area. Lennar press release here.

Cheryl M. Smith, a BVHP native, will be tasked with taming vocal community residents who can’t believe that Lennar and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency have their best interests at heart.

Last week’s tumultuous Supervisors meeting, in which the Lennar redevelopment project came within one vote of a shut-down recommendation, could be just a skirmish in a battle that amounts to the San Francisco African-American community’s “Last Stand.”

At the very least the close vote showed Lennar that they needed to improve their community relations.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007


In last week’s emotional, sometimes clamorous Bd of Supes meeting on stopping (temporarily) the Lennar redevelopment project, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell in whose district the project is taking place got beaten up pretty good by many of the public commenters.

The measure, sponsored by resurgent supervisor Chris Daly, was defeated 6-5 after a marathon hearing.

Now Daly continues to embrace the issue of environmental racism regarding the Lennar development, even visiting her district to personally inspect the site. To supervisor Maxwell this must feel like poaching.

Now it looks like Daly could run for Mayor after all.

In today’s meeting of the Board, Supervisor Maxwell proposes an ordinance to punish the meddlers by imposing dust standards (and additional red tape) on all construction projects in the city. To me it seems like a touchĂ© thingie.

Her final comment—is that what they used to call “snarky”?

It’s four minutes long but there’s hardly a dull moment.

Protecting poor, disadvantaged neighborhoods from being redeveloped out of existence is a classic leftist organizing cause. I guess it’s kind of old fashioned.

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Monday, August 06, 2007


The comedy called Newsom-Tourk-Tourk (as Robert Solis terms it) included some shtick involving an entity called “Benefit Magazine.”

Benefit Magazine first appeared as an out-placement program for Mayor Newsom’s office/bedroom staff. It was definitely some sort of nexus, even a nest of nexes.

So when the Ruby-shopping-a-book rumor came around last week I again checked the Magazine’s website to see if the May-June issue had finally appeared. (The site was down, under construction.)

Further googling got me to a nice post called power begets power powerlessness beget… zilch nada nothing oblivion.

This was on a blog called SF Bay Area, authored apparently by Robert Solis. I looked at a bunch of his posts and he has a POV I find simpatico. He is hot on the Tourk trail.

I’m putting a link to his blog, SF Bay Area, in the right column.

It looks like Benefit Magazine has changed hands. That hotshot Gaskin appears to have departee’d. I’ll be looking to SF Bay Area for insight on this.

I’m hoping Mr Solis will also explore Aware Magazine (publisher Christopher Caen) for us.

Oh the humanity! Oh the clay paper!

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Armed with information from public citizen Kimo Crossman along with the ACLU and the folks at SNAFU, the Board of Supervisors resisted Mayor Newsom’s pressure to quickly approve a citywide WiFi franchise agreement with Earthlink.

Instead, the Board, led by president Aaron Peskin, started to negotiate for more favorable terms. Apparently Newsom had accepted Earthlink's first offer.

Anyway, during the delay Earthlink announced they are reexamining their approach to such deals in general. The original agreement as “negotiated” by Newsom appeared dead.

Someone came up with a face saving ploy. Instead of announcing that the deal was lousy from the start, and that the whole thing was a waste of time, and that we need to go back to the drawing board, Peskin and Newsom put a non-binding policy resolution on the November ballot urging city officials to provide free WiFi to SF’s populace.

As Glenn Fleishman at wifinetnews suggests, we might as well add free ice cream and free ponies to the wishlist.

So, good for Kimo and his allies.

Here’s a previously posted clip of Kimo testifying before the supes.

Remarkable about this story is that citizen participation was essential to stopping the crappy contract, and, that the citizen participation was non-political.

The opposition to the Earthlink deal was technical—we’re not getting enough bang for our bucks—as opposed to being pro-Newsom or anti-Newsom. I think even self-identified progressives split on this issue.

Kids whose families don’t have phone service will still need to access the internet at school or at their public library branches. The Earthlink deal was touted as a way for kids in violent neighborhoods to access the internet without having to walk to their local libraries.

If the kids in BVHP can’t go to the library because the streets are unsafe, it’s time to make the streets safe.

They called out the National Guard to escort kids to school in Little Rock. If need be, we should have the National Guard escort kids to their local branch libraries in BVHP.

The inability of Mayor Newsom and Chief Fong to provide safe passage for school kids who want to go to the library is a failure of government so monumental that we hardly notice it. It’s a disgrace.

Of course we won’t have a “safe streets” ballot measure—why bother! WiFi is more “doable.”
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Friday, August 03, 2007


Residents of Bay View Hunters Point are told that the Lennar development in their neighborhood is environmentally safe. This, despite numerous asbestos exceedences and the outright failure to monitor asbestos dispersal for the first months of the project.

The residents, mostly poor and/or people of color, are told that everything’s safe and not to worry.

The 8/13/07 issue of BusinessWeek has an article titled You Call This a Home?, about a nationwide increase of angry, litigious homebuyers.

I wonder if these quotes from the article will reassure the concerned BVHP residents.

Lennar Corp. (LEN ), another large builder, has drawn scrutiny in South Carolina. Residents of its new Pebble Creek development in North Charleston, such as Bill and Holly Hurley, say they have suffered from light-headedness, lethargy, and depression. Home inspections they commissioned showed unsafe levels of methane gas, which the Hurleys and others fear may be linked to possible soil contamination by a previous land owner.

Miami-based Lennar says in a written statement that it "hired a consulting firm before the land was developed and found no evidence of recognized environmental conditions" at that time. Playing down health concerns, Lennar acknowledges that methane has seeped out of "broken sewer pipes and improperly seated toilets," which it says it has now repaired. The ultimate source of the gas hasn't been determined, however. The company has bought back one house as a result of the controversy.

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According to the latest Fog City Journal article on his preliminary hearing, Ed Jew, appears to be in trouble. Nine felony counts, stemming from lies about his official residence, is a lot of felony counts.

Maintaining one lie (or residence) is a significant burden.

The dispute had been whether District 4 Supervisor Jew lived in his San Francisco district as required by law, or in Burlingame, a few freeway miles away.

Now prosecutors have presented an under-penalty-of-perjury loan application on which Ed swore he lives in Chandler, Arizona, and that he lived in Burlingame the previous six years, a time period in which he registered to vote in San Francisco.

As the Teletubbies would say, “Uh-oh!”

In the FCJ story the prosecutor breaks it down for us:

Ackiron said that if Jew was truthful in the loan application, he could not have been truthful when he registered to vote in San Francisco in 2003.

"If the reverse is true, this document is false and Mr. Jew has committed a federal crime," the prosecutor said.

Jew’s best defense is that truthfulness is a higher standard to which no other San Francisco public officials are held.

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