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Proposal to ban shark fins in California heats up

Jerold Chinn and T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Feb 14 2011 - 5:54pm

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 - 5:48pm
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 - 12:58pm

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 - 8:03am
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 - 12:54pm

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 - 12:03pm
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 - 2:18pm

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.

Tracking of medical pot data, key aim of state program, varies greatly by county

Hank Drew, SF Public Press — Jan 17 2011 - 1:13pm

San Francisco hands back applications to cannabis card users

San Francisco is among the most active cities in California in easing access to medical marijuana, having issued more than one-third of the 47,828 cannabis cards in the state. But unlike surrounding counties, San Francisco has a long-standing practice of handing back the paper applications for cards and not recording the names of patients or the doctors who give them the required recommendations.

Book recalls immigrants who passed through Angel Island

Monica Jensen, SF Public Press — Jan 12 2011 - 11:24am
To commemorate the centennial of the Angel Island Immigration Station, authors Erika Lee and Judy Yung shed light on the thousands of immigrants who passed through the “Guardian of the Western Gate” in their recently released book “Angel Island: Gateway to America.” While more than 70 percent of detainees were from China, others came from Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Mexico and more than 70 other countries, a finding they discovered while examining hundreds of documents that were made public in the National Archives’ collection in San Bruno in the 1990s.

Superfund site in San Francisco proves toxic for Navy, neighbors

Monica Jensen, SF Public Press/Newsdesk.org — Jan 10 2011 - 1:52pm

A Toxic Tour reporting project

A year after the dissolution of the Restoration Advisory Board for Hunters Point Shipyard, the Navy says it will introduce a new community involvement plan that it says emphasizes diversity. The announcement follows the White House’s reconvened interagency effort on environmental justice, which held its first meeting under the Obama administration in September. The group is creating a four-year road map to develop “stronger community relationships” and targets “overburdened communities.” The next meeting is set for April.

Supervisors choose City Administrator Edwin Lee for interim mayor

T.J. Johnston and Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Jan 7 2011 - 8:10pm

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 on Friday for City Administrator Edwin Lee to fulfill the remaining term for outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom. Lee will become the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco when the vote is ratified at next week’s board meeting on Tuesday. Sheriff Michael Hennesey, who was also considered for the position, was rejected by the board 9-2.

Board struggles to choose an interim mayor

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Jan 5 2011 - 4:10pm
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors spent eight hours debating who to select as interim mayor to finish Gavin Newsom's term and ended up delaying any decision until Friday. Angry lame-duck Supervisor Chris Daly blamed Board President David Chiu for a potential deal to install City Administrator Ed Lee in the post, vowing to "politically haunt you for the biggest fumble in the history of San Francisco politics." He then added: "It's on, like Donkey Kong."

Illegal dumping costing city millions of dollars

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Jan 5 2011 - 1:32pm

The Department of Public Works wants residents to stop dumping unwanted items such as furniture and mattresses on city streets through a campaign launched last month and by the threat of fines of up to $1,000.

The department says illegal dumping is costing the city millions of dollars to clean up the mess left behind by residents and contractors. The city is encouraging residents to take advantage of free services offered by Recology Sunset Scavenger and Golden Gate.

The San Francisco Police Department and the City Attorney's Office are also working to find those responsible for dumping construction materials in the Bayview-Hunter Point area.

Steering city’s homeless focus from sin to sickness

Teresa Gowan, Special to SF Public Press — Jan 3 2011 - 9:21am
In her new book on homelessness in San Francisco, “Hobos, Hustlers and Backsliders,” Teresa Gowan describes how former Mayor Frank Jordan’s framing of the issue in terms of crime and sin evolved into Willie Brown’s conflicted policies, finally emerging as Gavin Newsom’s version of “authoritarian medicalization” policies, most controversially the policy idea that got him elected in 2003, Care Not Cash. This essay condenses some of the discussion of the book (University of Minnesota Press, 2010). San Francisco, a historical stronghold of the labor movement, civil rights activism and other social movement activity, embodies the tension between valuable public space and progressive politics to a high degree, an important reason for the central position of the “homelessness problem” in the city’s electoral politics over the last 25 years.

Homeless advocates say federal government has key to ending problem

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Jan 3 2011 - 9:18am
San Francisco is not alone in its public housing woes and a homeless activist group’s report said it is up to the federal government to lay groundwork for housing to end homelessness. Recent attempts by policymakers to create and preserve housing are just the first steps to housing reform, the Western Regional Advocacy Project wrote in an update of its 2006 report, "Without Housing: Decades of Federal Housing Cutbacks, Massive Homelessness and Policy Failures." The update was released in July.

A farm blossoms in Hayes Valley where a freeway once cast a dominating shadow

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Dec 27 2010 - 11:24am

Neighborhood rallies to site of collapsed freeway two decades after Loma Prieta earthquake

In 1990, Madeline Behrens-Brigham and Russell Pritchard opened art boutiques in a crime-ridden section of Hayes Valley. They called their part of the neighborhood, from Laguna Street to Market Street, the “Tenderloin of the ’90s.” “It was only 20 years ago that you’d drive down Octavia Boulevard and on all corners it was prostitutes everywhere, like the Tenderloin is now,” Pritchard said. The self-proclaimed neighborhood activists were barely making rent. They began attending meetings between Caltrans and city officials, petitioning to get the Central Freeway taken down. The double-deck structure had crumbled in the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and laid fallow for two years.

Former women prisoners face longer odds staying out after aid programs slashed

Mineko Brand, SF Public Press — Dec 24 2010 - 4:36pm

Rehabilitation taking backseat to punishment

By the time Sunshine Schmidt was 19, her rebellious streak led her to prison in Wisconsin for violating probation on a forgery charge. But it was just the beginning of her troubled young adulthood. As she tells it, the uncaring reaction from a criminal justice system on autopilot put her back in prison for minor violations, only driving her further into the life of small-time crime as she racked up drug and theft-related charges. “Every time, I was released back into homelessness or an abusive partner,” she said. “I didn’t have the resources or tools to get back on my feet.” It was only three years ago, after leaving a California prison at age 27, that Schmidt was able to pursue legitimate jobs and an education. After living in transitional housing, she became a client of Way-Pass, a City College of San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that helps female ex-prison inmates adjust to everyday life.

Fund to boost Mid-Market Street cultural district has money but few takers

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Dec 22 2010 - 9:54am

Small arts groups can’t come up with capital to lease property

An $11 million city fund to create a mid-Market Street cultural district so far has yielded one government loan—to a restaurant—while dozens of small performing arts groups cannot take advantage of the program because of their limited financial resources. Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the Central Market Cultural District Loan Fund in January as a way to support and concentrate arts groups to bring life back to the city’s long-depressed central corridor. Mid-Market stretches from Fifth to 10th streets on Market Street and from Mason to Larkin streets and up to O’Farrell Street in the Tenderloin, according to the city loan guidelines.

New ‘Distress Index’ shows San Francisco’s economic pain is getting worse

Nina Martin, New America Media — Dec 20 2010 - 10:00am

New tool finds that recession started earlier in Bay Area

Some economists and business groups say the Great Recession is over, but how do communities really know whether they're moving out of the recession or falling behind?

A ground-breaking new tool that measures the real-world impact of the recession is providing answers. It shows that in San Francisco, at least, the worst downturn in 70 years isn’t just continuing — it may be getting worse.

The new San Francisco Distress Index, which assembles 11 types of monthly economic indicators such as foreclosure rates and food pantry visits, has risen 11 percent since June 2009 — the month when, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the U.S. recession supposedly bottomed out.

Bike sharing technologies on display in San Francisco

Jerold Chinn, Shareable.net/SF Public Press — Dec 17 2010 - 4:18pm

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency sponsored demonstrations Friday at Civic Center Plaza to promote a new high-tech way of renting and sharing bikes in the city. The bike sharing pilot program is expected to launch in the of spring 2012 with 500 bikes deployed around the city.