Tag Archives: San Francisco

San Francisco's Dolores Park (photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

Should San Francisco Spend Millions on Dolores Park Renovation?

If you have visited Dolores Park in the past two weeks, you will have noticed the substantial overcrowding due to half of the park being officially closed for renovations starting March 12. The popular Mission District park is in the first phase of a two-part, $13.2 million makeover that is scheduled to finish by spring 2015. Continue reading

Krazy for Kuhsterd

In 2010, a man named Jason Angeles was laid off from his corporate IT job and decided to take a big leap into the food truck industry. San Francisco’s food truck scene is not easy to jump into, as there are plenty of food trucks roaming around the city looking to satisfy your hunger. Regardless, Jason decided to take the plunge, took a custard class, and created the Frozen Kuhsterd Truck; and I, as well as many others, are very thankful that he did.

Frozen Kuhsterd is not your run-of-the-mill ice cream or frozen yogurt style food truck. Frozen custard is actually a much denser and creamier frozen treat, and in my personal opinion, beats ice cream in every way. Frozen Kuhsterd began at the Underground Market in 2011, which is a venue for beginning food vendors, and after its success there, it became the first frozen custard truck in California in 2012. They have since became the highest rated food truck on Yelp with over 170 reviews and 4.5 out of 5 stars rating. They have also partnered with local, well-known bakeries Mission Minis Cupcakes (season 7 winner of the Food Network’s show “Cupcake Wars”) and Dynamo Donut and Coffee.

Frozen Kuhsterd offers a variety of sweet frozen treats that are incomparable to any other dessert you will taste. Their flavors, sundaes, and sandwiches are inspired by the ethnic backgrounds and global eating experiences of the Frozen Kuhsterd team. The fifty flavors their offer vary day-to-day.

I visited the truck last Tuesday when it was parked in front Gleeson Library, and the flavors offered were Thai iced tea, cookies and cream, vanilla bean, and Four Barrel Coffee. Not only do they offer regular scoops of their decadent custard, but they have a variety of sundaes and sandwiches to try. They offer a Mission Style Dynamo Donut Kuhsterd sandwich, which includes a maple-bacon donut from Dynamo, cut in half and stuffed with Four Barrel Coffee custard, topped with sauteed apples and bacon. For $7, it is a mouthful of flavor and delicious frozen custard. My personal favorite sundae is the Napa Style Sundae, which is a single scoop of the classic vanilla bean custard that sits on top of a burnt caramel bottom, topped with olive oil and sea salt. The sweet custard flavor mixed with a salted caramel style topping is the perfect combination of salty and sweet and for $6, is the perfect indulgence.

The ultimate splurge that the Kuhsterd Truck introduced in November of last year is the FK Your Diet Sundae. If you complete the entire sundae alone, they award you with a Kuhsterd Truck T-Shirt. The FK Your Diet Sundae consists of a scoop of the 4 flavors they are offering that day, every topping they have on the truck, a Dynamo Donut and a Mission Minis Cupcake. It would truly be a feat to finish this monstrous sundae, and the boys working the truck are always weary when people try to order it.

Overall, the Kuhsterd Truck is an alternative for the usual ice cream or frozen yogurt dessert. They have parked themselves at USF three times in the last few weeks and I will definitely be anticipating the next time they’re around.

Respect the Tech

A quick look at real estate listings in San Francisco is enough to send most people running for the hills (or away from them in this case, and often to the increasingly gentrified East Bay). An average rent of $1,463/month is considered pricey to most, unbearable to many, and is in fact the highest average of any city in the nation.

Faron Stalker is freshman and an English Literature major.

Faron Stalker is freshman and an English Literature major.

The influx of the tech industry to San Francisco bears a lot of responsibility for the rapid and dramatic rent increases that have evicted many low-income individuals and infuriated countless San Francisco natives. The divide between housing activists and tech workers has deepened in recent weeks when attempts to work together — including meetups at Mission District bars between housing activists and members of the tech community —  have turned into heated debate infused with accusation.

At one such meeting, activist Alicia Garza stated that those responsible for the “flavor” in San Francisco are “the folks who were living here before.” Another woman recently interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle said that all of the tenants of an apartment complex ignored their new neighbor, a tech worker, after she moved into the apartment that had belonged to an elderly woman before she was evicted.

And so should we evict the tech? No. TIME published an article entitled “8 Solutions to the Housing Problem in San Francisco” and not a single suggestion proposed kicking out the tech industry that has recently branched into the city from its roots in Silicon Valley. Just a few of the solutions proposed by TIME and currently in the works with San Francisco government officials include building the promised 30,000 new units (1/3 “permanently affordable”) by 2020, legitimizing the tens of thousands of in-law suites in the city as housing stock, and eliminating the buy-out program currently in place that allows developers to pay a fee to opt out of the city’s requirement that 12% of units new builds with 10+ units must be priced below market rate.

And are the tech critics and housing activists just ignoring all of the headlines boasting the large and charitable donations these tech companies are giving to our beloved San Francisco? Twitter recently promised $388,000 to Tenderloin schools and charities, the founder of Salesforce.com donated $100 million to children’s hospitals, while Google coughed up $6.8 million to provide MUNI passes for low and middle-income youths ages 5-17 for two years.

That is just the beginning of Google’s philanthropic efforts in the city. There was the transformation of the formerly afflicted 6-block Mid-Market corridor that had suffered for years and finally saw improvements as tech giants like Twitter moved in and started investing in the area.

In the city famous for welcoming those scorned elsewhere, our focus should not be on forcing these newcomers out, but collaborating with them and with lawmakers to assure that housing costs are brought down so that San Francisco’s Golden Gate can continue to welcome and provide safe haven for members of the LGBTQ community, hippies, activists, and tech workers alike.

I’m Giving Up on San Francisco

Conor_Crockford

Conor Crockford

I am leaving San Francisco when I graduate in 2014; by doing so, I acknowledge that I am giving up. I am giving up on a city mutated into a playground for the privileged and frankly boring, with no room for the weird or the sidewalk chess tables. No room for the poor either, considering that according to Al Jazeera, housing prices increased 26 percent in 2013 and the average rent is now over $1900 per month.

I am no longer comfortable here, as I am uncomfortable with luxury gourmet, “artisanal” organic consumer pap (give me dirty basements and ratty clothes; there is honesty in them). And I am not comfortable with a city government that is desperate for the handshakes of the wealthy and affluent and has no connection to its people (not that government ever has much of one), that is desperately trying to sweep its poor, its homeless, its oddities under the rug in favor of luxury merchant shops (“small business!”), techie capitalists, and Whole Foods.

Mayor Ed Lee claimed in a Time Magazine interview that people have got to go “beyond the blame game” in dealing with gentrification. This is because Lee is a sweating politician who does not care much about the residents of the city he supposedly serves save the tech company executives who have slightly bigger wallets than everybody else. The man continues to spew his devotion to the people of the city even after sending riot cops to trash their tents in Justin Herman Plaza in 2012 over and over and over.

The worst aspect of it is that the startup employees (some of whom I have personally met) are not evil monsters, but are often naïve about their impact on others and deeply sheltered (not coincidentally, the vast majority of tech workers and venture capitalists are white and male, according to recent New Yorker statistics) and have no concept of why their residency would be negative; the city has changed so massively that it has become a bubble of hip, decadent consumerism, built specifically for their pleasures – no wonder the CEO of AngelFire rants about the homeless. How can one even see people with dirty fingers, inside the clean windowless convenience of the Google Bus?

Google is moving into the Mission. Mark Zuckerberg has a home there. The sidewalk chess boards on Market Street by the Warfield have left. So will the punks, so will the anarchists, so will the writers and artists – they will decamp to Oakland (already undergoing gentrification in and of itself) and to the East Bay or, following former San Francisco musicians Ty Segall and John Dwyer, to Los Angeles. Personally, I head back to New England, feeling like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, exhausted by excess and the search for a good time. And either San Francisco will continue to be overrun with Dolores Park hollow men while bohemians hide in the Excelsior for the next decade or so, or the dot-com boom will bust, just as it did in the 1990s, and the new structures built by the city will seem curiously abandoned, a ghost town of Trader Joe’s and thrift stores.

I hope to find somewhere like the San Francisco promised to USF students. A place diverse and eclectic, a city on a hill where bohemia was possible. Where I saw chess boards on the sidewalk and felt routine pleasures in their lack of regulation. A city for exiled people, a city for anyone. A city that was free. This is not that city anymore —“free enterprise” made sure of that. And it will make San Francisco into a warning, not a promise, for anyone looking for something beyond bland, terrifying comfort.

USF Student Missing, Family and Friends Hope for Safe Return

 

Missing USF student Bradley Bennett (Courtesy of Bennett Family)

Missing USF student Bradley Bennett (Courtesy of Bennett Family)

Nothing seemed too out of the ordinary when Bradley Bennett’s family last heard from him on January 4th — a little bit of uncertainty perhaps on what his next move was, but his father never suspected he would be filing a missing person’s report for his son just weeks later.

Bennett, a 32-year-old USF student, was reported missing after his friends and family couldn’t get ahold of him for weeks. He was spotted once in Fresno on Jan. 8 and once in Bear Valley on Jan. 13, but by the times those reports were made to the police, Bennett had already disappeared, according to his father Steve Bennett.

“The greatest fear is the fear of the unknown,” said Steve Bennett in regards to his son’s disappearance. As a pastor, he’s counseled parents who have lost a child to death, but “I think there’s closure with death, and this… this is a little different,” said his father.

Neither Bennett’s father or his friend Seva Mouler, a computer science graduate, suspect he was taken away against his will. “He was definitely one to go on adventures,” said Mouler. But this time is a little different, he thinks, because no one can get ahold of him. “I’ve called him a lot of times. [His phone] connects, rings a couple times, and then has an error,” said Mouler.

Bennett’s father thinks he might be on some kind of spiritual journey. “Brad is a Christian, and he thinks on the basis of that, he thinks about theology a lot,” he said.

His friend Mouler said he hopes that if that is the case, “he will come back a better person and figure everything out that he wants to figure out,” he said. Mouler was worried about his friend after finding out he was evicted from his Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, a result of the discontinuation of money he was receiving from the navy.

Bennett is a veteran, as he spent five years in the navy. After he returned, he lived in Jamestown, Ky., and spent a year living in Minnesota with his a friend he met while serving, but he was always drawn to California. His father thinks some of his uncertainty may have had to do with him missing his friends back home, and that he was having some trouble discovering himself.

As far as Bennett’s relationship with the family, Steve Bennett said they were all very close. “We’ve had a good relationship, not to say relationships aren’t strained from time to time,” he said.

Both his father and his friend spoke about his character. Mouler said he always had other people’s best interest in mind, saying he was so nice to others that it sometimes was detrimental to him. Steve Bennett explained that he was drawn to homeless people in San Francisco, Mouler thinks this is due to his desire to help people.

As far as his spirit, Steve Bennett said, “this is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. “There’s still a little numbness, sometimes it’s a little hard to process everything,” said Bennett, trailing off.

Bradley Bennett is enrolled as a fine arts major at USF. He is an artist and loves drawing and painting. Mouler said Bennett loved all his classes and his teachers, and “he had no reason to leave USF.”

Steve Bennett explained, “one of the things I have learned from this is often we do not realize how our actions and our decisions can greatly affect other people.” He asks that the USF community acts as the eyes and ears for Bennett and his family, “because we’re not there. Any information leading to Bradley’s whereabouts is greatly appreciated.”

Bradley Bennett is 175 pounds and 6 feet tall. If anyone has information leading to Bennett, the San Francisco Police Department can be contacted at (415) 558-5508.

Ellis Act Marginalizes San Francisco Residents

On November 14th San Francisco City Hall heard testimonies from dozens of San Franciscans who were evicted from their homes during a hearing on the Ellis Act. Since the implementation of the the Ellis Act over twenty years ago, more than four thousand people have faced evictions. My friend received news in September that he had to vacate his studio apartment, he is one of many renters along the Market and 6th Street corridor evicted on the premise of the Ellis Act. His building on Market is one of the last remaining remnants of affordable housing in the city, particularly for low-income residents. Unfortunately, for many San Franciscans this story is becoming less uncommon. So what exactly is the Ellis Act, and why has it been so controversial?

The Ellis Act essentially undermines rent control and condominium laws in California by allowing property owners a loophole in evicting renters. The state act was created to supersede a 1984 California Supreme Court decision called Nash v. City of Santa Monica. The decision made it illegal for property owners to evict tenants on the basis of retirement without a permit by the city. The decision stated that permits would only be given if the property owner could not, “make a reasonable return on his or her investment.” The Ellis Act grants landlords the unconditional right to “go out of business” with only minor provisions. In San Francisco, the property owner is required to give an average renter a minimum of $5,105 dollars in relocation benefits and a maximum of $15,315 (this is the highest relocation fee in the state). In addition, the property owner must provide all renters proper notice and cannot lease out the property again for an extended amount of time. However, in a city where the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $3,800 a month and renters are expected to pay first and last month rent along with a deposit, $5,000 is not a fair trade-off for most low-income residents.

Instead of retiring altogether, some landlords are simply enacting the Ellis Act to kick out their current tenants and rent to individuals willing to pay a higher rate, or turn their buildings into tenancies-in-common (TIC) to make a quick profit. The San Francisco Tenants Right Union, even warns of some property owners sending “advisories” notices to tenants of a possible Ellis Eviction to bluff tenants into moving out– or simply buying them out. Such abuses of the Ellis Act have occurred, resulting in less affordable housing and the exodus of low-income residents in favor of wealthier ones. The two areas that have been affected the most by Ellis Acts evictions are the Mission and Castro district, where many are long-term elderly residents. During the November City Hall meeting, budget and legislative analyst Fred Brousseau presented a study that showed a nearly 145% increase in Ellis Act evictions in the last twelve months alone.

Currently, two policies in the works aim to restrict the surge in Ellis Act evictions. One, set forth by Ed Lee’s office, makes evictions more expensive in order to encourage landlords from pursuing them. Lee plans to raise the costs of permits and limit the sale and resale of buildings after an Ellis Act eviction. The second proposal by Supervisor David Campos would bar property owners from raising rent post-eviction and a moratorium on evictions. Campos also suggested an increase in the relocation fees for current tenants and tracking buyouts along with formal Ellis evictions. Campos’ idea is particularly compelling as it addresses the rising costs for renters in San Francisco.

While both city proposals have the potential for change, all past modifications to the enactment have failed. Proponents of the Ellis Act say it allows property owners an option to remove tenants who have lived in the same unit long-term and have now become an economic burden. However, the Nash v. City of Santa Monica decision already protected property owners’ investments. The idea that property owners can evict long-term renters to make a greater profit is problematic, and a renter should not be at fault for remaining in a unit. Property owners enter into a contract willingly with the renter when they move in, and new owners know they are legally responsible for renters upon sale. It is important for us to not only know our rights as renters but also protect long-term residents of the city, by supporting legislation that will create more inclusive housing for San Francisco citizens.

Bryce Chiodo is a senior international studies major.