Plan to shrink minimum S.F. apartment size hits political snag

Chase Niesner, SF Public Press — Aug 6 2012 - 3:32pm

A developer-backed proposal to shrink the minimum living space of a San Francisco apartment to 150 square feet faces a delay of at least a month, while the supervisor who floated the plan scrambles to shore up support from wary colleagues. Supervisor Scott Wiener last week delayed a vote on the legislation until at least September. Supporters of the plan say they are scrambling to line up the necessary votes on the Board of Supervisors. Wiener’s proposal first appeared before the board in June. It would redefine “efficiency” apartments, reducing the minimum allowable living space to 150 square feet from the current 220 square feet, not including the kitchen, bathroom and closet.

At stake if City College closes: a career, job security, a U.S. visa, family pride

Ruth Tam, SF Public Press — Aug 1 2012 - 5:56pm

After a harsh accreditation review detailing financial and administrative failures last month, City College of San Francisco has been given a year to prove itself worthy of accreditation or face the risk of closure. In the struggle to keep the school’s doors open, the possible loss of accreditation would affect more than 120,000 City College students, faculty and staff. Here, in their own words, are some of their stories.

Oakland Zoo removes Ten Commandments monument before atheist group protest

Ruth Tam, SF Public Press — Jul 27 2012 - 2:33pm

After hearing complaints about the Ten Commandments monument in the publicly owned Oakland Zoo, the president of the zoo, Joel Parrot, denied ownership of the monument and had it removed Wednesday. Though a bit delayed — Atheist Advocates of San Francisco dated the first complaint to 2008 — the zoo’s action came just before a scheduled protest on Sunday by a group of Bay Area atheist organizations.

Geary bus rapid transit project poses design challenges for city transportation planners

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Jul 25 2012 - 3:12pm

Bus rapid transit, which is meant as a cheaper substitute to light rail by using special buses in dedicated traffic lanes, is set to debut on Van Ness Avenue in 2016. However, design challenges and funding are slowing down plans for the Geary route.

S.F. civil grand jury slams restaurant health care surcharges

Barbara Grady, SF Public Press — Jul 19 2012 - 5:49pm

San Francisco’s civil grand jury on Thursday chastised many of the city’s restaurants for profiting from surcharges they add to customers’ bills under the name of paying for health care and recommended that the city ban the practice.

Faces of City College

Ruth Tam, SF Public Press — Jul 19 2012 - 11:13am

After a harsh accreditation review detailing financial and administrative failures, City College of San Francisco has been given a year to prove itself worthy of accreditation or face the risk of closure. Though the school's community has promised to fight the criticisms with change, it could be an uphill battle for all those involved. In the struggle to keep the school’s doors open, it’s been frequently reported that the possible loss of accreditation would affect over 120,000 City College students, faculty and staff.  Here, in their own words, are some of their stories.

S.F. controller’s audit finds meter maids need more ongoing training

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Jul 18 2012 - 5:50pm

Audit also finds that transit agency should seek reimbursement for city events

A city audit released Tuesday said the Municipal Transportation Agency needs to do a better job training parking control officers. The audit, conducted by the city controller’s office, looked at whether parking control officers are adequately trained, how officers are deployed throughout the city and if staffing levels are sufficent.

Ranked-choice voting survives in San Francisco after supervisors’ decision

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Jul 18 2012 - 4:35pm

Ranked-choice voting in San Francisco will continue in its original format and any attempts to change it will have to wait until after the November election. By agreeing to send three proposed alternatives back to the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee on Tuesday, the board assured that all three potential ballot questions posed by supervisors Christina Olague, Mark Farrell and David Chiu wouldn’t make their July 27 deadline for the November ballot.

Most Haight merchants say nothing changed on street after ‘sit-lie’ prohibition

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Jul 16 2012 - 11:36am

A majority of retailers surveyed last November in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood said the enactment of San Francisco’s sit-lie law hasn’t worked as expected: Homeless people still hang out in front of their businesses.  An independent research report commissioned by the city found that 58 percent of the merchants in the district — the focus of a political battle that led to voter approval of the ban in 2010 — say the same number of people or more continue to park themselves on sidewalks. Sixty-one percent said they encountered sidewalk sitters at least three times per week.

Krugman: California represents the worst of current U.S. economic crisis

Shawn Gaynor, SF Public Press — Jul 13 2012 - 12:37pm

The budget pain facing California this year is not California’s fault, said Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who has been among the most outspoken writers critiquing the government’s response to what he calls an economic “depression.” “Gov. Brown faces political constraints that, if anything, are even worse than those faced by President Obama, because of the craziness of California’s constitutional setup,” Krugman said at a recent appearance at the Commonwealth Club of California. He said Proposition 13, the state’s requirement of a legislative supermajority to pass tax increases, was the main culprit.

S.F. mayor says police need $30 million more after years of stalled hiring

Christopher Peak, SF Public Press — Jul 12 2012 - 12:30pm

The San Francisco Police Department appeared to save money over the last three years by paying veteran officers extra to delay their retirement and freezing hiring of new recruits. But the bill for those changes is now coming due. Much of those savings have been wiped out since 2008, after a flood of officers took advantage of the Deferred Retirement Option Program to dip into their pensions early while still earning a salary.

Comic: Obedience is the best weapon

Dan Archer, SF Public Press — Jul 11 2012 - 11:28am

One woman’s true tale of human trafficking and rescue

Human trafficking is largely seen as a problem overseas, but its rise in the U.S. has gone largely underreported. For its Spring 2012 edition, the San Francisco Public Press published a special report on human trafficking in the Bay Area. The report examined the financial and political challenges facing agencies that aid trafficking victims and prosecute perpetrators. As a follow-up to this report, renowned cartoon artist Dan Archer illustrated one woman’s story with a full-page cartoon in the Summer 2012 edition.

City postpones vote to allow apartments with only 150 square feet of living space

Chase Niesner, SF Public Press — Jul 10 2012 - 6:15pm

The idea of allowing smaller apartments in San Francisco — as little as 150 square feet of living space for an “efficiency” — is still under consideration after the Board of Supervisors Tuesday pushed back a decision on whether to amend the city’s building code. Supervisor Wiener and developers are pushing the approval of what they call “affordable by design” apartments, intended for newly constructed high-rises. Activists are calling these tiny apartments “shoeboxes.”

The foggy future of City College

Ruth Tam, SF Public Press — Jul 10 2012 - 4:11pm

After receiving a negative review from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, City College of San Francisco faces possible de-accreditation, leaving its future unclear. Here, the San Francisco Public Press has compiled a growing narrative of the fight to keep the college open.

City plans to write more parking tickets, but says raising money isn’t the only reason

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Jul 9 2012 - 12:39pm

San Francisco transportation officials need to do a better job managing parking and if  they make extra money to balance its books in the process, all the better. That’s what the head of the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency is telling city supervisors as he tries to close an expected $17 million budget gap over the next two fiscal years.

Visualizing smart growth through photo art

Steve Price, SF Public Press — Jul 9 2012 - 11:47am

People need realistic pictures to understand development options. Using photo-editing and 3-D modeling software, we create seamless photo simulations that realistically show how revitalized urban and suburban places might look.

Developers seek to legalize tiny apartments in San Francisco, citing soaring rents

Chase Niesner, SF Public Press — Jul 6 2012 - 3:23pm

Plan would shrink smallest living spaces by one-third, but opponents fear crowding

San Francisco of the near future could be a place where thousands of young high-tech workers pack into 12-by-12-foot boxes in high-rises, each equipped with a combination desk/kitchen table, a single bed and the overall feel of a compact cruise ship cabin. A developers’ group is pushing the idea that tiny apartments could be the answer to rising rental prices, and has convinced the Board of Supervisors to put the proposal up for a vote next Tuesday. The plan is to reduce the minimum living space in apartments from the current 220 square feet to just 150 — a little larger than a standard San Francisco parking space.

Despite political nature, Mirkarimi case in San Francisco brings spotlight to domestic violence

Christopher Peak, SF Public Press — Jul 3 2012 - 3:16pm

In a hearing room in City Hall last week, reporters scrambled to get play-by-play reaction from followers of suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, sporting blue-and-white “Stand With Ross” stickers, and organized opponents, with purple signs saying, “There’s no excuse for domestic violence.” The complex game of personality, politics and procedure has for the most part eclipsed larger policy questions about the city’s approach to handling thousands of cases of domestic violence each year. But as the city’s Ethics Commission continues to debate whether Mirkarimi is fit to hold his elected position, advocates for victims say the hearings are helping generate awareness about the wider problem of domestic violence, and the needed response from social service agencies and law enforcement.

Rising gas prices exacerbated foreclosure crisis, researchers find

Dhyana Levey, SF Public Press — Jul 3 2012 - 12:32pm

Spiking gas prices in recent years were likely a contributing factor to foreclosures in newly built outlying housing developments in the Bay Area, researchers say, suggesting that sprawl may be bad for the region’s economic stability. Two recent studies found links between gas prices and foreclosure rates across California and other parts of the nation. The highest concentrations of Bay Area foreclosures were in eastern Contra Costa and parts of Solano and Sonoma counties. The areas with the lowest foreclosure rates were in the urban corridors of Oakland, San Francisco and parts of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties — areas most accessible by public transit.

Marin cities rebel against regional planning

Kelly O'Mara, SF Public Press — Jul 2 2012 - 12:02pm

Corte Madera, population 9,300, kicked off a fierce debate in Marin over housing mandates earlier this year when the town council voted to become the first member to secede from the Association of Bay Area Governments. At the time, the nine-county planning agency (until then, made up of representatives of every Bay Area city) was launching a big regional housing-growth initiative called Plan Bay Area. Now, several local groups across the Bay Area are questioning the value of the regional plan, saying it will sacrifice local control.