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#PublicPressLive: San Francisco for Democracy Talks Gentrification, Mission Fires

This year, the Public Press is visiting San Francisco neighborhood and community groups to talk about civic issues that are overlooked in the press.

Executive Director Michael Stoll spoke with members of San Francisco for Democracy on June 29.

Members discussed gentrification, the spate of fires in the Mission District, lost law enforcement weapons and the role of community groups in San Francisco. Member Jeff Whittington wondered about the number of empty investment properties in the city. 

"How many are just things that are being built for people who will never live there, but want to put their money into housing in San Francisco?" 

Hear more from San Francisco for Democracy members below. 

Photography and videography by Hye-Jin Kim. Video edited by Hyunha Kim. 

#PublicPressLive: SF Green Party Talks Candidate Debates, Privatizing the Post Office

This year, the Public Press is visiting San Francisco neighborhood and community groups to talk about civic issues that are overlooked in the press.

Executive Director Michael Stoll spoke with members of the San Francisco Green Party on May 25.

Member Barry Hermanson — a Green Party candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives — talked about the lack of candidate debates in the 12th congressional district. He says there have been no candidate debates or forums since 1987, when Rep. Nancy Pelosi was first elected.

“By God, this is San Francisco!” Hermanson said. “And there’s been no discussion of national or international issues in this congressional district in all of that time? Is there another congressional district in the entire country where people could say the same thing?”

Hear more from Green Party members below. 

Photography and videography by Hyunha Kim. 

#PublicPressLive: San Francisco’s FDR Democratic Club Talks Disability Issues

This year, the Public Press is visiting San Francisco neighborhood and community groups to talk about San Francisco civic issues that are overlooked in the press.

Publisher Lila LaHood visited the FDR Democratic Club on June 1.

Members discussed how data-driven policy-making impacts people with disabilities, who sometimes are not reflected in official recordkeeping. They also spoke about the death of Thu Phan, a disability rights advocate who used a wheelchair. Phan was killed in a traffic accident on Market Street in February. 

Member John Alex Lowell said he believed there was a flaw in how the city’s Vision Zero program counted traffic fatalities.

“Their definiton is only those people who died under 30 days,” Lowell said. 

Hear more thoughts from FDR Democratic Club members below.

Video edited by Hyunha Kim. 

The Public Press Is Going on the Road — Where Should We Go?

"San Francisco, Downtown," by Flickr user Davide D'Amico. Used under CC license.

Earlier this year, the Public Press received an INNovation Fund grant from Institute for Nonprofit News and the Knight Foundation to forge new relationships with community groups.

Building on the success of our past outreach programs, which focused on in-person conversation on the street, this spring we hope to connect with neighborhood leaders where they already are.

In short presentations to at least 40 neighborhood, professional, religious and political groups, we plan to host discussions about San Francisco civic issues that are often overlooked in the press and on broadcast news.

Our goal is to share our experiences doing issue-based investigative reporting and solicit ideas for future reports.

We have a robust list of San Francisco organizations, but we want to hear from you: What groups should we reach out to?

San Francisco Public Press Investigations Win Regional Honors

Two San Francisco Public Press investigations received 2015 Excellence in Journalism Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter.

Creative Solutions to San Francisco’s Housing Crisis,” the Public Press's summer 2014 cover story exploring nine answers to the city's housing woes, received the Explanatory Journalism Award in the print/text small division. Judges praised the investigation's "exceptional effort" in researching potential solutions, noting the Public Press's crowdsourcing summit — "Hack the Housing Crisis" — inspired many of the report's ideas.

Winter 2015 cover story "Choice is Resegregating Public Schools" received the Investigative Journalism Award in the print/text small division. The sweeping, data-driven inquiry into the increasing racial segregation in San Francisco public schools sparked broad media and civic discussion.

Public Press Reporting on School Segregation Inspires Broad Media Coverage

Editor’s note: Over the past several months, we have been gathering reporting that follows up on our coverage of segregation in San Francisco’s public schools. The latest pickup was a three-part series in the San Francisco Chronicle starting Sunday. Read more about it here.
 

San Francisco Public Press’ reporting package on school re-segregation has sparked conversation about race and education.

A March 27 article in the Washington Post’s Wonkblog draws heavily from the Public Press to discuss the national implications of school choice. “In San Francisco, it looks as though giving parents some measure of choice in where their children go to school…in the long term can only result in gross educational inequities,” writes the Post’s Max Ehrenfreund.

Data-crunching firm Priceonomics crafted an impressive set of visualizations based on Public Press reporter Jeremy Adam Smith’s “eye-opening” data.

San Francisco youth demographics chart from Priceonomics.com

The San Francisco Chronicle’s own data dive into school diversity cites the Public Press’ demographic analysis. It follows Smith’s March 17 op-ed in the Chronicle calling out the city’s “profound identity crisis” in light of growing racial and income inequities. This month, the Chronicle published this report. The Society Pages and Education News also link to the Public Press’ investigation.

In other local media, San Francisco Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez wrote that the package revealed “a shameful truth about our city.” The Bold Italic had high praise for the “devastating” report: “If you’re thinking of sending your kids to SFUSD (or even if you’re considering having kids at all, really), it’s worth a thorough read.” KALW Radio’s “Your Call” devoted an hourlong program to discussing school segregation with Smith and other guests, and KALW’s “Crosscurrents"  interviewed Smith for a segment on the investigation.

eremy Adam Smith prepares for an interview at KALW's studios in 2014. // Public Press - See more at: http://sfpublicpress.org/blog/2015-03/public-press-report-leads-to-discussions-on-segregation#sthash.1YDG1shh.dpuf
Jeremy Adam Smith prepares for an interview at KALW's studios in 2014. // Public Press

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group that advocates for school integration, tweeted the story to its 45,000 followers. SF Dads, Education Cities and The New York Times Magazine’s race reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones also shared the story on Twitter.

The Institute for Nonprofit News’ Senior Director of Product and Technology Adam Schweigert tweeted that the reporting left him “genuinely much more informed about that issue.”

“That’s huge,” Schweigert wrote. “And sadly, rare.”

In April the Public Press received two awards for its investigation into the enormous disparity in parent fundraising across city elementary schools: The Society of Professional Journalists’ 2014 Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting and the California Teachers Association’s 2014 John Swett Award for Media Excellence.

Sea Level Rise Shapes Future of Bay Area Waterfront Development

Sea level rise threatens tens of billions of dollars worth of new waterfront development in the Bay Area — but there may be time to adapt.

That was the message at Tuesday’s panel on sea level rise hosted by the San Francisco Public Press at the Impact Hub, a co-working space. Panelists included UC Berkeley professor Kristina Hill, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Climate Program Director David Behar and Public Press reporter Kevin Stark.

Stark is one of two lead reporters of the Public Press’ new edition on sea level rise, due to hit newsstands later this month. The front-page investigation, a six-month collaboration of 10 journalists, scientists and cartographers, has so far uncovered dozens of commercial and residential projects planned for areas below 8 feet in elevation. Eight feet represents an unlikely but possible sea level rise scenario for the year 2100, combining maximum sea level rise predictions with a major storm swell.

What does an 8-foot increase look like? Someone standing at the edge of a pier near the Ferry Building would be waist-high in waves, Stark said.

Some of those upcoming projects include new developments in Mission Bay and residential towers planned for Treasure Island.

It is a daunting figure for a region bounded by water. “Are you going to convince me to sell my home in Alameda tonight?” one audience member teased.

But Behar cautioned that an 8-foot rise would be extreme. He was tasked by the city with interpreting competing sea level rise data in 2013, and said most studies expected only 3 feet of rise by 2100.

By and large, state and local governments do not have explicit sea level rise regulations on the books. Environmentalists and the building industry have tussled over whether sea level rise needs to be included in the state’s environmental review process. But Behar said the days of murky rules will soon be over: “We know regulation is coming.”

Will it come fast enough? Hill, a professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley, said long-range planning needs to happen soon. She reminded the audience that sea level rise is exponential: The levels will climb slowly, then all at once.

“We are living in the last two stable decades of sea level rise," Hill said. "Around 2045, 2050, or 2060, it’s going to get faster.”

In the meantime, Stark said, many developers are forging ahead with little heed for the advancing water line. One developer, he said, “told me ‘The barbarians aren’t at the gate yet.’ There’s a compartmentalization of understanding of sea level rise and climate change. The knowledge that it’s happening on one hand, and the need for space and houses on the other.”

The two are not necessarily in competition, Hill said. She gave the example of a housing development in Hamburg, Germany with “floodable architecture.” Its plaza welcomes the water in instead of holding it back.

Another plan from Dutch engineers widened a beach to expand the buffer between city and sea. Hill said a similar approach could work in the Bay Area, joking that some are calling the method “shallowing” to avoid its more controversial name: bayfill.

“In 1965, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission was founded to stop the filling of the bay,” Behar added. “Today they’re studying how filling the bay could be a really good idea.”

For more on the data and thinkers behind Bay Area sea rise, look for the Public Press’ new edition on newsstands at the end of May.

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