Help the Public Press grow — make your year-end donation today!

City steps in where state fails to regulate toxic manis and pedis

Kyung Jin Lee, SF Public Press — May 23 2011 - 2:56pm

WORKING CONDITIONS: San Francisco program pushes nail salons to use safer chemicals

Heidi Hoang was pregnant when she first started working at Nails by Linda in San Francisco’s Sunset District. “There’s a lot of people who say, ‘You have to be careful with this kind of job. Maybe, no more baby,’” Hoang, now the salon manager, said. “I was so nervous.” Nail salon workers, many of whom are Vietnamese immigrants and refugees with limited English skills, have long endured toxic chemicals that emanate from products they use to beautify their clientele. The chemicals not only produce noxious fumes, but workers often complain of itchy skin, rashes and headaches after prolonged exposure to the substances. In an effort to combat the problem, San Francisco is developing guidelines to encourage nail salons to go green. In the absence of federal or state regulations protecting salon workers from toxic exposure at work, the city is working to educate salon owners about healthier alternatives.

Half of Bay Area newspaper jobs gone in last decade

Jeremy Adam Smith and Michael Stoll, SF Public Press — May 23 2011 - 10:32am

MEDIA CENSUS: Newspapers hardest hit, losing nearly 4,000 workers

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

State and federal labor statistics show that employment among Bay Area media workers fell 43 percent since 2001, a result of massive restructuring at local news outlets whose financial losses measured in the billions of dollars. Newspapers were hit the hardest, shedding upwards of 4,000 employees. As dozens of papers merged in an effort to cut costs, reporters who used to compete for scoops found their jobs redundant. While employment appears to have risen in the television and radio sector over all, journalists among them did not fare so well, state employment data suggest.

Apocalyptic beliefs hasten the end of the world

Jason Mark, Earth Island Journal — May 20 2011 - 3:26pm

Commentary: Americans’ Judgment Day visions make it harder to gain traction on climate action

Billboards and bus stop ads, plastered in cities from Florida to California, announce that this coming Saturday, May 21, will be Judgment Day. This “guarantee” actually comes from an 89-year-old Christian fundamentalist, radio host, and co-founder of the Oakland-based Family Radio network, whose outfit has paid for 5,500 billboards worldwide (including many in the Bay Area). That thousands of people around the world are convinced that tomorrow a massive global earthquake is a sign — but not of the biblical sort. Fringe religious rhetoric confuses the very real and urgent issues of environmental degradation and climate change.

 

In new film, Tenderloin finds uplift in participatory public artwork

Erica Reder, SF Public Press — May 19 2011 - 5:41pm
Last Friday’s screening of “A Brush With the Tenderloin,” a film by Paige Bierma, revisits the making of an important new neighborhood landmark — a mural that captures the residents who frequent one downtrodden corner. The artist, Mona Caron, worked on the painting for a year. The project became a focal point for the community and a vision for how it might improve its own self-image. 
 

 

Don’t build neighborhood on SF Bay salt flats, Redwood City voters say in new poll

Maureen Nandini Mitra, SF Public Press — May 18 2011 - 4:49pm

A new poll by a regional environmental group, Save the Bay, puts a new spin on the controversy in Redwood City over plans to build a massive development on unused salt ponds on the edge of San Francisco Bay. Fifty-seven percent of voters polled said they opposed Arizona developer DMB Associates’ proposal to build a mini-city by partially paving over 1,436 acres of low-lying salt ponds on the eastern edge of Redwood City. Only 28 percent of those polled supported the plan while the remaining 15 percent were neutral. Save the Bay says the poll should be a warning sign to politicians inclined to approve the plan. But developers called the poll itself flawed.

Local biotech companies help low-performing schools teach science

Siri Markula, SF Public Press — May 18 2011 - 1:45pm

An under-performing school in East Palo Alto is working on a new initiative started by a Northern California science education network to boost students’ science comprehension and, optimistically, make scientists out of them. The Bio-Community.org network enables Bay Area biotechnology companies to send visiting scientists to schools, giving kids an up-close interaction with science. Local biotech companies are working with students from middle school to community college to increase the labor pool of workers in research and lab work. The companies want students not only to learn science but also to make it a career option. In the process, the schools and volunteers there hope this focus will increase students overall performance and improve graduation rates.

Bay Area directors explore post-9/11 FBI entrapment in ‘Better This World’

Michael Levitin, SF Public Press — May 16 2011 - 2:56pm

Winner of the best documentary feature award at the San Francisco International Film Festival earlier this month, “Better This World,” a film by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway, looks at what happened to two young Texas activists imprisoned for allegedly plotting terrorist acts at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, and the dubious role that one charismatic activist played in their downfall. The co-directors spoke with the Public Press about domestic security problems, what drove them to make the film, and why the rest of us should care.

10 years on, a daily Chronicle 60% lighter; Mercury News shed 66%

Erica Reder and Justin Morrison, SF Public Press — May 13 2011 - 7:19am

Shrinking newspapers: Both papers lost sections, pages and advertisers

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

 In early May, when the official industry rankings came out, the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News touted slight gains in Sunday circulation after years of declines, suggesting that the local newspaper industry just might be coming back. But the number of papers thrown on Bay Area doorsteps tells only part of the story. Even the most optimistic interpretation of readership statistics can’t hide the publications’ anemic page counts. Both papers have shrunk dramatically in the past 10 years. 

5,000 new media startups — can one save local news?

David Weir, SF Public Press — May 12 2011 - 7:10am

RISE OF THE NEWS MACHINES: The future has arrived and it’s called the Age of Data

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories.

San Francisco sits at the epicenter of a brand new tech boom revolving around several thousand variously funded startup companies. The organizer of the premier mixer for entrepreneurs in the city, Christian Perry of SF Beta, estimates that there are between 4,000 and 6,000 such outfits in the city. (His current mailing approaches 5,000.) Many other ventures can be found in the Valley or in tech-focused business strips all over the East Bay and Marin.At the same time that all this feverish activity is taking place — and some would say because of it — there have been massive dislocations among the people who traditionally dug up the news. So how might these new ventures impact the future of journalism?

 

One million missing stories

Jeremy Adam Smith, SF Public Press — May 11 2011 - 12:52pm

POST PINK SLIPS: Displaced journalists see opportunities to cover community on their own

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

Since 2000, metro newspapers across the country have laid off an estimated 14,000 (out of 56,400) editors and reporters — a number that does not include journalists working for wire services, weekly newspapers or other media, all of which have suffered their own losses — according to blogger Ken Doctor, who writes the influential Newsonomics blog for the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. There are simply fewer trained eyes on city halls, police departments, schools and corporate boardrooms. As Doctor writes on his blog, “That news-gathering ... is what’s key to community information and understanding, fairly prerequisite in our struggling little democracy.”

As ad revenues and staffs shrink, TV news turns to technology

Mineko Brand, SF Public Press — May 11 2011 - 10:13am

BROADCASTING: Multi-person news teams turn into solo 'VJs'

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

Local TV stations, the No.1 news source for people in the Bay Area, are scrambling to adapt their news formats and slash budgets to fend off the triple threat of diminishing ad revenue, growing Internet adoption and cable news. To do so, they are using technology to turn multi-person news teams into solo "VJs." News directors say it is the best use of dwindling resources and gains in technology. But critics say the cost to local viewers is less information about substantial topics and more crime and weather coverage.

 

2010 ‘sit-lie’ law could cost city thousands to jail repeat offenders

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Apr 26 2011 - 3:42pm

It took two cops to nab Charles Donovan outside Coffee to the People on the corner of Haight and Masonic streets. Dressed in camouflage and carrying a sign that read, “Need food,” Donovan was whisked away, ordered to remove his sunglasses and duly patted down. The officers told him he was being detained. A barista saw the scene and ran outside to intervene.  Donovan, eventually, was let go with a warning as the cops wrote down his name in their notebooks. His offense? Reclining on a large backpack against a tree outside the coffee house, an activity that stands in violation of San Francisco’s newly enacted “sit-lie” ordinance. Dozens of others haven’t gotten off as easily as Donovan since the city started enforcing the law in February. None, yet, have gone to jail for a repeat offense; but that could soon change in the coming months, eventually costing the city nearly $4,000 per arrest after the third offense.

Growing pot should be treated the same as growing grapes: Q&A with lawyer David Owen

Hank Drew, SF Public Press — Apr 19 2011 - 12:26pm

David Owen was a freshly minted lawyer when he decided to open up a marijuana-focused land-use law firm in San Francisco. The former legislative aide to then-Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin had been involved in the early days of the city's cannabis regulation development. Since opening his firm, Owen has represented SPARC, a high-end medical pot dispensary, and helps local pot cultivators navigate conflicted legal waters. In light of regulation problems in Southern California and San Jose, Owen talked about the challenges of being a medical marijuana attorney as San Francisco’s once forward-thinking regulations have become "stagnated" over the past six years.

San Francisco poised to revive ‘sanctuary city’ after feds deport more than 100 non-criminals

Jason Winshell, SF Public Press — Apr 15 2011 - 12:37pm
UPDATE 5/2/11: Sherriff Michael Hennessey wrote an op-ed piece in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle explaining his position on Secure Communities.
 More than two decades ago, San Francisco took a stand against what it saw as an attack on undocumented immigrants. It imposed a “sanctuary city” policy, shielding people without papers who had been arrested on minor crimes and without criminal histories from federal immigration officials. Last June, however, the federal government introduced a database that began to vacuum up identifications of everyone arrested, looking for immigration violations. But now city officials are planning to again shield some immigrants in the San Francisco jail from possible deportation by refusing to hand them over. Sheriff Michael Hennesey says he believes this is permissible under federal law.

 

Goldman Prize ceremony: A kick in the pants

Erica Gies, Special to SF Public Press — Apr 13 2011 - 2:47pm

COMMENTARY: It’s like the Oscars for the Patagonia set. Every April, just before Earth Day, San Francisco’s environmental community comes together at the city’s Opera House to laud six grassroots activists from around the globe, whose stories enrage and inspire. The Goldman Environmental Prize offers recipients $150,000 to use as they see fit and international recognition that confers respect on their endeavors, pressures their local governments to act, and even protects their personal safety.

City tries lottery system for homeless shelter beds

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Apr 8 2011 - 2:34pm

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 - 10:44am

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 - 9:16am

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 - 2:19pm
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 - 3:13pm
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.