The Public Press is meeting with neighborhood groups in San Francisco. Can we talk to you?

City tries lottery system for homeless shelter beds

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Apr 8 2011 - 3:34pm

One of San Francisco’s principal shelters is gambling on a new lottery system, operational as of today, that it says will more effectively allocate available beds for homeless people. The plan by Multi-Service Center-South, a 300-bed shelter at Fifth and Bryant streets, is aimed at ending competition among shelter seekers, who line up daily during the early morning hours in the hopes of obtaining one of 60 single-night bed reservations available across the city.

The race is on for the killer health app at UCSF

Siri Markula, SF Public Press — Apr 5 2011 - 11:44am

In the future, you might not need to go to a doctor for follow up visits even if you suffer from a chronic disease. You can connect devices like blood pressure or glucose meters to your phone or enter in data from them, as well as tell your device how you are feeling. The phone (or the application, to be exact) will tell you if you need to adjust your habits, diet or medication – or if you should visit your doctor. Mobile technology is expected to give patients better access to care at lower costs while empowering them to take care of their health.  At the University of California, San Francisco, Jeff Jorgenson and his mHealth development team are building next-generation patient apps.

Sex, drugs and filth plague city-sponsored public restrooms

Nina Frazier, SF Public Press — Apr 4 2011 - 10:16am

Second of two articles about hygiene options for San Francisco’s homeless

San Francisco’s 25 freestanding, so-called “self-cleaning” public restrooms scattered across the city are magnets for prostitution and drug use. They are so filthy that even after automatic cleanings, they require one to five manual scrub-downs a day. The Department of Public Works, which contracted with JCDecaux more than a decade ago to install and maintain the units, blames the company. The company blames the police. And the police say they don’t have time to babysit city toilets 24 hours a day. The homeless are often shut out of the facilities, which constitute the only public restrooms where they are welcome. Meanwhile, San Francisco takes a cut of the company’s profits from billboards that envelope the toilets.

Book examines life along Octavia Boulevard

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Mar 28 2011 - 3:19pm
For San Francisco writer Yvonne Daley, the birth of the city’s Octavia Boulevard signified more than a swanky refurbishment of the streets to replace the neighborhood's dilapidated Central Freeway. The thoroughfare that was created following the ruin of the freeway in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and its impact on the people who resided there, serves as the backdrop for her latest book. The book, “Octavia Boulevard,” is designed as a memoir, and Daley moves between stories of her life and the people she befriends in the neighborhood, and intertwines snippets about some of the economic and political issues in the city at large — homelessness, drug abuse, housing woes, same-sex marriage — as it relates to those people.

PG&E proposes charging customers to opt out of Smart Meter program

Alison Hawkes, Way Out West News — Mar 25 2011 - 4:13pm
PG&E has proposed charging residential customers to opt out of having wireless transmission of electric meters turned off at their homes. The proposal announced Thursday would allow the utility to recoup the expenses it says are associated with running an opt-out program by charging participating customers. The utility has come up with a rate program with one-time charges of either $135 or $270, plus either monthly fixed charges or a surcharge on hourly rates for gas and electric.

City College students struggle to break into biotech firms

Siri Markula, SF Public Press — Mar 24 2011 - 10:57am
City College of San Francisco is helping students without a science background gain laboratory experience to work in the biotech industry, one of the Bay Area’s most promising employment sectors. The idea is to meet the demand in the industry for lab technicians who don't necessarily have four-year degrees in science. While some big companies have been hesitant to take on two-year college graduates from the Bridge to Biotech program, smaller companies are more willing to take a risk on them. How much education do you need to get a laboratory job? “Science always seemed to me like something for the intellectual elite,” said Kiel Copeland, whose internship led to a job at a San Francisco startup developing drugs to fight HIV and other viruses. “I never saw myself as that.”

Are food service providers really to blame for human waste in the Tenderloin’s streets?

Nina Frazier, SF Public Press — Mar 23 2011 - 1:04pm

First of two articles about hygiene options for San Francisco’s homeless

This much is clear: the lack of public restroom facilities in the Tenderloin is causing a stench. Fecal matter covers the streets, making it nearly impossible to walk without looking down to dodge the droppings. But what is less clear is who’s to blame. At the end of February, SF Weekly, The Examiner and SF Gate each ran stories accusing food service providers of not offering adequate bathroom facilities to accompany their operations – effectively saying that they were stuffing people with food, then giving them no place to go afterwards. However, an investigation by the Public Press showed that the largest non-profit kitchens, which serve food more than three days a week to thousands of hungry people in the Tenderloin, also provide restroom facilities.

New Muni crash comes as agency defends safety record

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Mar 21 2011 - 5:22pm
A Muni light-rail vehicle was struck by a big rig Monday morning, injuring six people, according to San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Lieutenant Mindy Talmadge, in an incident that highlights the rancorous debate happening right now at the state level concerning the city’s transport safety. The California Public Utilities Commission is weighing a decision to penalize San Francisco's Metropolitan Transit Agency for alleged violations of key safety regulations on its light-rail system, including defective tracks and a malfunctioning automatic train control system. A failure to communicate more regularly, and transparently, with the state was another charge leveled at the agency in a recent report issued by the commission, which oversees safety guidelines for all rail systems in the state..

Computer system shutdown hurts homeless at city shelters

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Mar 21 2011 - 3:24pm
A computer failure forced San Francisco homeless shelter residents to wait hours in the cold to gain admittance as staffers turned to pen and paper to register those who needed assistance. The system, known as Coordinated Homeless Assistance through Guidance and Effective Services went offline on March 12 as the city's Human Services Agency underwent seismic upgrades at its building on Otis Street.

California officials say radiation ‘plume’ from Japan won’t increase state’s levels above normal

Alison Hawkes, Way Out West — Mar 17 2011 - 5:58pm
California health and emergency officials said a “plume” of radiation coming from the Japanese nuclear crisis that’s expected to hit the West Coast as early as tomorrow will bring radiation levels to no higher than normal background levels.

California utilities commission to allow customers to opt-out of smart meters

Alison Hawkes, Way Out West News — Mar 14 2011 - 5:24pm
The California Public Utilities Commission has decided to allow PG&E customers to opt-out of having Smart Meters installed in their homes in Northern California. PG&E is expected to present a proposal back to the commission within two weeks to allow the opt-out "at a reasonable customer cost," according to utilities commission President Michael Peevey. Foes of the Smart Meters were pushing for a moratorium on further installation of the devices.

Not just fun and games, America’s Cup races have environmental toll

Alison Hawkes, Way Out West News — Mar 1 2011 - 12:58pm
The America’s Cup, still two years away from its arrival in San Francisco, is already a topic of concern among environmental groups and regulators. Officials have launched an accelerated environmental review of the plans, and the event organizer are promising to raise tens of millions of dollars to mitigate the effects of the world’s premier sailing event. Part of the concern is boat traffic. Also on the agenda: the pollution from cleaning and repairing the boats.

University of San Francisco aims to move transmitter quickly following KUSF sale

Mineko Brand, SF Public Press — Feb 16 2011 - 7:43pm
Even as supporters of the University of San Francisco’s radio station race to file a petition with federal regulators to block the sale of its frequency, the school and a nonprofit group called Classical Public Radio Network are moving quickly to relocate the station’s transmitter off campus. Dismissing critics of the recent dismantling of the student- and community-run radio station, USF and the radio network filed their own petition Monday to move the transmitter to Sausalito, requesting speedy approval.

Proposal to ban shark fins in California heats up

Jerold Chinn and T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Feb 14 2011 - 6:54pm

Assemblymen Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) have proposed legislation to ban all sales and distribution of shark fins in the state. Both assemblymen say the shark population has decreased dramatically due to the popular rise of a Chinese delicacy of shark fin soup served at many Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area.
Opponents of the legislation like State Sen. Leland Yee says this is an attack on the Chinese culture and heritage.

San Franciscans work to reduce shark slaughter

Erica Gies, Crosscurrents on KALW Public Radio — Feb 14 2011 - 6:48pm
The movie “Jaws” created the notion of sharks as powerful eating machines who stalk humans. Yet ironically, in the 35 years since that movie debuted, it’s sharks that have been driven nearly extinct by humans. Around the world, about 10 people are killed by sharks annually. But every year humans kill up to 73 million sharks. These numbers are unsustainable, and as a result, shark populations have been decimated — many dropping 90 to 99 percent over the last few decades. It’s largely because of a status symbol dish popular in Asia: shark fin soup. As Asian economies have boomed, particularly China’s, demand for shark fin soup has exploded. The San Francisco Bay Area has one of the largest Chinese populations outside of Asia, so activists here are trying to stop the excesses of the shark fin fishery.

City takes aim at reducing fats, oils and grease clogging sewers

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Feb 4 2011 - 1:58pm

The city says it spends $3.5 million annually on unclogging sewers from fats, oils and grease from food service establishments. A new ordinance that received a unanimous vote by the Board of Supervisors this week requires all restaurants to have a grease capturing device. The devices will be inspected by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to make sure they are working properly and are well-maintained.

Burning Man organizers eye move to redeveloped mid-Market Street arts district

Hank Drew, SF Public Press — Jan 28 2011 - 9:03am
In much the same way as they annually transform a desolate stretch of the Nevada desert into a week-long countercultural art festival, the organizers of Burning Man are now hoping to transform a desolate stretch of San Francisco’s Market Street.

Free pot for the needy

Stefan Jora and Monica Jensen, SF Public Press — Jan 24 2011 - 1:54pm

SoMa cannabis dispensary serious about philanthropy

How do you define compassion? In the tight-knit medical marijuana community, the word has become a euphemism for small, periodic donations of cannabis-based medicine to patients who cannot afford to buy it at the going rate — now about $10 to $25 a gram.

Upscale medical cannabis club aims to change image of industry

Hank Drew, SF Public Press — Jan 24 2011 - 1:03pm
The San Francisco Patient and Resource Center in the South of Market area resembles an art gallery where customers in sports coats and skirts suck THC vapors from plastic balloons and feast on cannabis-laced caramels. The medical cannabis dispensary at 1256 Mission St. was designed by Larissa Sand of Sand Studios in the South Park neighborhood with the intention of luring new customers in this evolving area, which includes the new Federal Building just two blocks away.

With few restrictions and bundles of cash, cannabis ads help sagging media profits

Anna Rendall, SF Public Press — Jan 17 2011 - 3:18pm

Commercial broadcast stations still reluctant to take pot club advertisements

Medical marijuana advertising is taking off, propping up the fortunes of ailing media companies that have seen income from other business sectors plummet in the recession. Advertisements offering free edibles for new patients and products such as “super silver haze” are helping to keep the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly and East Bay Express in business. Similar ads have even started cropping up — tentatively — in more staid publications, such as the San Francisco Chronicle. Ads for pot are growing so fast in part because they face fewer regulations and restrictions than marketing materials for cigarettes and alcohol. The only real regulation is one requiring the ads to warn customers that they need a doctor’s recommendation.