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Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Apr-17-2014

After 25 years, steep permit fees shut down Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic in GGP

“When we first started, we were a couple of grease-balls, a car and a sandwich,” Jimmy O’Keefe said when he described the first ever “Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic” that he organized in Golden Gate Park in 1988. It was just him and a few friends, parked on the road next to Lindley Meadow.

Jimmy was a SF Rec & Park gardener at the time, and in his own words, said his “drug of choice was junk cars”. So he and a few friends celebrated his 41st birthday by celebrating their vintage cars.

That was the beginning of an October tradition of Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic in Golden Gate Park’s Speedway Meadow. Every year, hundreds of vintage car owners would gather to show off their gleaming rides, share car stories, and make friends.

Datsuns would be next to Ford Model A’s, and souped up, hot rods would park alongside ’56 Chevy Bel-Airs. CEO’s parked next to tradesmen. It was a melting pot of old cars, and people. And it was very San Francisco.

Since it’s inception in 1988, the picnic raised tens of thousands of dollars from car owner’s exhibit fees to benefit developmentally disabled children at city organizations like The Janet Pomeroy Center and The Potrero Hill Neighborhood House.

The picnic was such a cherished tradition that the Board of Supervisors presented Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic with a Certificate of Honor in 2006 in celebration of their 18th year.


At center, picnic founder Jimmy O’Keefe

But just recently, O’Keefe announced on the event website that 2013 was the last year for the picnic. “We have decided to retire,” the website says.

We were saddened to hear the news of this longstanding tradition closing down, but weren’t surprised. The picnic’s organizers – including Jimmy’s daughter Jamie and a team of lawyers – have been fighting a 5 year battle with SF Rec & Park over skyrocketing permit fees that in the end, forced the event to shut down altogether.

When the picnic first started in 1988, Jimmy says permit fees to use Speedway Meadow for the day were reasonable; by 2008 it was at $1,650. The permit fee had increased slightly over the years but the event still managed to raise around $10,000 annually for developmentally disabled children, thanks in large part to a 20 year long sponsorship by Thrasher Magazine and one of its founders, Fausto Vitello.

But by 2009, the tides had shifted. New leadership was at the helm of SF Rec & Park and there was a renewed thirst for revenue to keep the department afloat and in the black. Contracts and vendors were re-evaluated, and events like Outside Lands were introduced to Golden Gate Park as a way to drive revenue, as much as $1 million per year.

Suddenly, an event like Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic looked like an old relic that didn’t fit in with the new SF Rec & Park mandate to drive revenue.

To make their point, Rec & Park raised the permit fee for Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic to $8,300 in 2009, a 500% increase from the year before. Still, the picnic took place on Speedway Meadow even though the proceeds for charity were significantly reduced.

Despite Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic complying with the new permit fees, the relationship between the picnic and Rec & Park continued to deteriorate.

In 2010, Rec & Park denied the picnic’s event permit, citing concerns over damage that Speedway Meadow would sustain from the event’s cars being parked on it for the day.

This was a puzzling new concern at the time, especially since Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic had already been going on for 21 years.

Jimmy had also just retired in 2007 from his job as a Rec & Park gardener in Golden Gate Park. Supporters argued he was more than qualified to take precautions with the Speedway Meadow lawn at the event. And when compared to the abuse Speedway Meadow had taken since Outside Lands began in 2008, it was a little ironic that Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic was being singled out for causing undue wear and tear on the park.

Jimmy, his family, and a team of pro-bono lawyers fought the permit denial in 2010. At the Rec & Park Commission hearing that February, nearly 50 supporters came to speak on behalf of the picnic, calling for its continuation.

“Jimmy’s is a San Franciso institution like the cable cars. God bless Jimmy!” one supporter testified.

After some heel dragging, Rec & Park issued the 2010 permit and the picnic went on as planned. But their permit fee was raised once again – to $9,000. At that rate, the picnic was barely breaking even and the proceeds for charity were down to a few hundred dollars. What used to cost each car owner $10 to exhibit was now up to $40.

The bleeding didn’t stop there. In 2011, the permit fees were jacked up 62% to $14,646. Then to $15,114 in 2012, and finally to just over $17,000 in 2013. Between 2008 and 2013, the total increase was just over 1000%.

“We got beat up,” Jimmy said when asked about the negotiations with Rec & Park.

But what hurt Jimmy the most during the battle was the city’s claim, stated in letters to the picnic and its organizers, that the picnic did not “provide cultural and recreational benefits to the city and its residents.”

‘We’re losing the identity of San Francisco,” Jimmy said when we talked to him about the picnic’s demise. “It was one of the few blue collar, working class family events left in San Francisco.”

Jimmy would know. He’s a 4th generation San Franciscan whose lineage goes back to the 1870s. After attending Lincoln High School, he served in the Navy in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968. After returning home, he studied horticulture at City College and began his career as a city gardener.

Jimmy’s three children all live and work in the city. Daughter Jamie, who took over organizing the picnic in recent years, is a museum professional and budding San Francisco historian. His other daughter Candace is a teacher and his son Kohl is a police officer.


Jimmy’s daughter, Jamie at a past picnic

“The picnic was never about me, it was about the kids in wheelchairs and a relaxed place where people could enjoy their cars and each other,” Jimmy said. “It was their picnic.”

Jimmy says others have encouraged him to find an alternate location to keep the tradition going, but he says it just wouldn’t be as fun, and that without the lawn and park setting, it would lose that picnic feel.

“I am really sad about it ending,” Jimmy said. “But I’m letting it go.” When he turns 67 this October, it will be bittersweet to celebrate without the picnic.

“We want to thank everyone who has been a part of the Picnic over the years, those who have helped make it happen, who helped save it, our sponsors and donors, and those who attended. Thank you for years of incredible cars, excellent food, and fantastic times with friends and family,” the website said.

We’re sad to see this San Francisco tradition come to an end. Thanks to Jimmy, his family, and all of the organizers throughout the years who brought this fun, unique event to Golden Gate Park that was enjoyed by many San Franciscans from all walks of life. We will miss it.

Sarah B.

5:02 am | Posted under Events | 40 comments
Apr-16-2014

Celebrate Easter at Eggstravaganza in Golden Gate Park, Saturday


Photo courtesy of SF Rec & Park

This Saturday is the annual Eggstravaganza in Golden Gate Park, sponsored by the SF Recreations & Parks department.

The festival runs from 11am until 3pm at Sharon Meadow and features egg hunts, carnival rides, games, live entertainment, kids activities and a barbecue competition between Rec and Park, SFPD and SFFD.

Admission is $8 per person, and bike valet parking will be available.

Happy Easter!

Sarah B.

This is from 2012, but it gives you a good idea of the fun stuff at Eggstravaganza:

5:02 am | Posted under Events, Golden Gate Park | 3 comments
Apr-15-2014

Local links: Sand art, McCoppin grant, SFBG plant sale, 911 bravery & more


Inside the art studio of Jay Mercado at 10th & California. Photo by Jay Mercado

Lots of links to catch up on – enjoy! – Sarah B.

  • This Wednesday night is the general membership meeting for the Planning Association for the Richmond, also open to the public. Agenda items include a SFPUC Presentation about a proposed 4-year increase to water and sewer rates, and discussion of the recently released Urban Forest Plan for San Francisco. 7pm-9pm at the Richmond Recreation Center, 251 18th Avenue.
  • Sand art will abound on Saturday morning at Ocean Beach when artist Andres Amador returns to create his masterpieces on the shore. He’s being filmed for a documentary from 7:30am to 9am, so grab a spot on the Cliff House overlook and watch him at work. And if you want to learn his sand art technique, Amador has a workshop class on May 5.
  • Speaking of the Cliff House… The Chronicle took a look back at the “rollicking tale of the first Cliff House – a clapboard structure built by real estate tycoon Charles Butler in 1863.” One of the early visitors was author Mark Twain, who wrote, “The wind was cold and benumbing. It came straight from the ocean, and I think there are icebergs out there somewhere. True, there was not much dust, because the wind blew it all to Oregon in two minutes.”
  • Local art lovers, mark your calendars. The next Cabrillo Art Cave will take place on May 10 & 11 from 11am to 4pm at 925 Cabrillo. The cave is a community art space (read: someone’s garage) that opens occasionally for shows featuring a collective of local artists. Find out whose work will be showcased at cabrilloart.com
  • A new study shows that the median rent in San Francisco in the first quarter of 2014 was $3,200, approximately 8% higher than this time last year. In the Richmond District, we’re below the median at $2,695, but that’s still 14.6% higher than Q1 2013.
  • Frank McCoppin Elementary School (651 6th Avenue) learned in March that they’ll be receiving a $425,000 Kellogg Foundation grant, which is awarded to schools to optimize child development. The money will be used to implement a Balanced Literacy Program for the school, which has 265 students, about half of whom speak Cantonese as their first language.
  • Dirty Trix Saloon at 408 Clement shut down but has already reopened as Side Bar, “a remodeled drinking hole with more of a lounge feel than its previous incarnation. Multiple flat-screen TVs and a revamped sound system are part of the improvements,” says EaterSF.
  • Want to start growing vegetables in your backyard? Attend the free “Growing Vegetables from Seeds” class at the Richmond Branch Library (351 9th Avenue) on Saturday, May 3 from 2:30 to 4pm. Master Gardener Michael Klein will guide attendees through soil and bed preparation, propagation, planting techniques and plant maintenance.
  • In other gardening news, the SF Botanical Garden will have its 47th annual plant sale on Saturday, May 3 from 10am until 2pm, featuring over 20,000 plants. This year’s theme is drought tolerance hundreds of beautiful natives, succulents, and plants perfect for SF’s many micro-climates are for sale. If you’ve got a green thumb, don’t miss it!
  • 10 year old Dante Parker was honored by the city for his bravery while making a 911 call from his Richmond District home earlier this year, when his mother was experiencing severe abdominal pain. His mother made a full recovery from her stomach virus, and Dante said he was just “glad I helped. If I hadn’t helped, who would take care of me?” Aww. You can listen to it below.

11:32 am | Posted under Art, Business, Classes, Events, Green, Ocean Beach, Real Estate, Schools | 1 comment
Apr-8-2014

Kanye West, Tom Petty, Killers to headline Outside Lands 2014


The 2014 lineup for Outside Lands features L to R: Kanye West, Tom Petty and the Killers.

This morning, Another Planet Entertainment finally announced the much-anticipated lineup for the 2014 Outside Lands Music Festival in Golden Gate Park, which takes place August 8-10.

Rumors had been circulating about possible headliners like Bruce Springsteen (new album out! he needs west coast dates!), D’Angelo (who had to cancel last year’s appearance), the Avett Brothers (who last played OSL in 2008) and even hat-wearing Pharell. But alas, none of them are in the final lineup, though this year’s list is nothing to sneeze at and contains the usual assortment of rock, electronic, funk and indie artists.

Headlining the 2014 festival is hip-hop artist Mr. Kim Kardashian aka Yeezus Kanye West, rock legends Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Las Vegas rockers The Killers.

Secondary headliners include thrift-shop specialists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Arctic Monkeys, EDM favorite Tiesto, Death Cab for Cutie and Flaming Lips.

70 bands in all will perform during the 3-day festival, which takes place in several areas of Golden Gate Park including the Polo Fields, Hellman Hollow and Lindley Meadow. Last year’s festival drew 65,000 concertgoers per day.

Organizers have not released the festival schedule yet, so we don’t know who plays on which day yet. But that’s intentional as they’re trying to sell 3-day passes.

Outside Lands 2014 3-day passes go on sale this Thursday at 10am via Ticketmaster. Prices are $255 – $275 for regular passes, $595 for VIP which includes exclusive access to viewing areas, access to the Polo Lounge, special restroom facilities and other goodies.

Single day tickets will go on sale at a later date.

Who’s in?!

Sarah B.

6:46 pm | Posted under Events, Golden Gate Park, Live Music | 11 comments
Mar-27-2014

Local links: Pho closing, Saturday events, Farmer’s Market extended & more


Even the dogs can’t help smiling at Lands End. Photo by Jonathan Fleming

While you’re trying to fathom the litany of charges in State Senator Yee’s indictment, take a moment to check out these less threatening local links:

  • No mo’ pho: Reader Chet informed us that Pho Garden (2109 Clement), home of the infamous (and nausea inducing) Pho challenge, has closed. A call to their business phone number ends in a disconnected message.
  • Looks like Clement Street’s Barley Cafe has met the same fate. Eater SF reports that after only six months, Barley (343 Clement) has called it quits. The cafe has been locked up for the past couple of weeks and a phone call goes straight to voicemail.
  • Good news for fans of the Clement Street Farmer’s Market – The market’s life has been extended for another year until June 2015. The market will also add another block beginning April 6th, so it will run from Arguello Street to 4th Avenue every Sunday from 9am until 2pm.
  • Want to help your neighbors and community in a time of crisis? Enroll in a free NERT (SFFD Neighborhood Emergency Response Team) course on Wednesday June 11, 2014 from 6:30pm-8:30pm at the Richmond Branch Library. Learn skills to be prepared for emergencies big or small, and get to know your neighbors on your block to maximize resiliency after a disaster. Register online – it’s free!
  • A skateboard park at Ocean Beach? Radical, dude. It could happen if the San Francisco Skateboarding Association‘s vision comes to live. They were behind the successful Balboa Skate Park and have set their sights on Ocean Beach. Rec & Park is into it. Might not be Playland but sounds like a fun idea! [CurbedSF]
  • Fredy’s Deli near Ocean Beach has a new owner and a new lease on life. The Ocean Bulletin profiled new owners David “Kawika” Nottage and his wife, Joanne who are “trying to keep the best parts of what made Fredy’s Ocean Beach Deli a neighborhood favorite, while introducing some additions such as gluten-free menu items and an expanded selection of wine.”

FREE EVENTS THIS SATURDAY, MARCH 29

  • Got veggies? Master Gardener Jonathan Propp will be at the Richmond District Branch Library this Saturday from 2-3:30pm to lead a free course on how to grow vegetables in your SF backyard. His presentation will cover selection of climate-appropriate varieties, soil and bed preparation, propagation and planting techniques, and plant maintenance.
  • Walk among the flowers: Wildflowers have started to bloom all over our parks including Lands End. The Parks Conservancy leads free walks every Saturday from noon until 1pm through May 31, including a special Mother’s Day walk on May 10. Info & registration here
  • This Saturday, Supervisor Eric Mar is sponsoring a Richmond District Housing Rights Town Hall from 2 to 4pm at the Richmond Recreation Center (251 18th Avenue). Learn about your rights and obligations as San Francisco tenants and landlords, hear from experts and get your questions answered.
9:25 am | Posted under Classes, Eric Mar, Events, Food, Ocean Beach, Parks, Volunteer | 28 comments
Mar-18-2014

Stop and smell the flowers at the 30th annual Bouquets to Arts at the de Young

Monday night was the opening gala for the 30th annual Bouquets to Arts exhibition at the de Young Musuem, in which floral designers from the Bay Area create their own interpretations of works in the de Young’s permanent collection.

The annual exhibition is celebrating its 30th year, and every time we go, we’re reminded how beautiful the flowers are, and also how remarkable the de Young’s collection is.

The exhibition is open daily through Sunday from 9:30am until 5:15pm, but the earlier in the week you can get there, the fresher the flowers. ;) Bonus: Museum members have extended viewing hours on Wednesday and Thursday nights from 6pm to 8pm.

Sarah B.

5:04 am | Posted under Events, Golden Gate Park, Museums | 1 comment
Mar-17-2014

New book “Sutro’s Glass Palace” brings yesterday’s ruins back to life


John Martini, author of a new book entitled “Sutro’s Glass Palace”. Photo by Paul Chinn

One of the things I enjoy most about our neighborhood is its history, especially diving into the stories and photos of former entertainment meccas like Playland and Sutro Baths. In the last several years, we’ve had a trio of documentaries about the Cliff House, Playland and Sutro Baths, along with books about the landmarks.

Recently, I added a new book to my collection – Sutro’s Glass Palace by John Martini. Martini is a retired National Park Service Ranger, author and local historian, highly regarded for his knowledge of western San Francisco, most notably Lands End and Sutro Baths. If you ever go on a tour of those areas, be sure Martini is leading it.

Sutro’s Glass Palace is a well-researched, highly readable look back on the history of Adolph Sutro’s grand vision for the ultimate recreation destination in San Francisco. Built over 2 acres, Sutro Baths was as much of an engineering marvel as it was a place to have fun, and Martini’s book does a good job as both a guide to the how and why behind Sutro Baths, and its place as a cultural and social icon in San Francisco history.

Adolph Sutro’s original idea was to leverage the natural wave action of the Point Lobos cove to open a saltwater aquarium at the base of the cliffs. The aquarium was designed to bring in sea life from the waves that hit the shore, and trap it in a pool area where spectators could look upon it, ala a tide pool. Sutro debuted the aquarium in late 1887 but already in press interviews was hinting towards a grander vision for the shore area that would include baths.

Fast forward to May 1894, when the first visitors were allowed into Sutro’s Glass Palace, which included a museum, restaurants, and 6 swimming pools complete with 517 private changing rooms. In an interview with the Chronicle, Sutro told a reporter “A small place would not satisfy me. I must have it large, pretentious, in keeping with the heights and the grand ocean itself”.

At an estimated cost of half a million dollars and spread out over 2 acres, it’s safe to say Sutro outdid even the grandest of Roman baths. Admission to Sutro Baths was 10 cents, and another 15 cents got you entry into the pools, plus a swimsuit, towel, and private changing room.

One of my favorite aspects of Martini’s book is the “Tour of Sutro Baths” section, which includes rendered drawings that show what Sutro Baths would have looked like in its heyday. You get a clear sense of the grandeur of the multi-level palace and its layout. Combined with the entertaining photos from the turn of the century, you will find yourself quickly wishing the book came with a time machine.

Martini’s book also touches on the many challenges that such a huge enterprise presented. Between the pounding waves that broke glass periodically, maintenance of the concrete pools and a completely separate boiler and laundry house, engineers had their hands full.

If Sutro Baths existed today, it would be a lawyer’s dream. A brief section in the book entitled “Sutro in the News” compiles press clippings that detail accidents involving broken legs, slide collisions and divers hitting bottom, lawsuits brought against Sutro for negligence, and even a couple of deaths.

The baths were even a source of controversy around civil rights, when a young African-American man named John Harris tried twice to go swimming with his white friends in 1897, but was refused entry.

At the time, Sutro Baths Superintendent A.O. Harrison defended their actions to a local paper, saying “It would ruin our baths here because the white people would refuse to use them if the negroes were allowed equal privileges in that way. No one could in equity expect us to make such a sacrifice. I do not think such a case would ever be won against us.” Turns out Harrison was wrong. Harris sued and won his case at trial.

Adolph Sutro died not long after the baths opened, and its management was handed off to his eldest daughter, Dr. Emma Sutro Merritt. She tried in vain to sell the establishment. Revenues were low as the baths struggled to attract patrons; it rarely broke even.

Finally in 1952, George Whitney, owner of Playland, bought Sutro Baths and made some changes including closing the baths for good, adding an ill-conceived Skytram ride, and restocking the museum with his own collection.

Sutro Baths closed for good in 1966, after 72 years in operation and shortly after, went down in a fiery blaze that fire officials attributed to arson. Plans for a condo development never came to fruition, and finally in 1980, the National Park Service bought the land for $5.5 million, ensuring its protection as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Sutro’s Glass Palace is a great read, full of interesting, rarely seen photos and visuals, along with a field guide that will make a great companion during your next trip to the ruins. The book is available at the Western Neighborhoods Project ($22.95), the Cliff House gift shop and at Green Apple Books ($22.95).

Sarah B.



5:04 am | Posted under Events, History | 5 comments
Feb-27-2014

Watch the Oscars on the big screen at the Balboa Theater, Sunday

UPDATE 1:47pm 3/1/14: This event is sold out.

This Sunday, the Balboa Theater will host its annual Oscars party. Red Carpet coverage begins at 2:30pm, and the festivities continue on through the evening. The official ceremony starts at 4pm.

Once again, this year’s event will be emceed by Reed Kirk Rahlmann (Howard the Duck, Nash Bridges), who has this to say about the year’s lineup of movies:

Once again it is time for the Balboa Theater Oscar party! And once again I have the honor of hosting. I have opinions about the nominees (Gravity? Best Picture? Really?) and I’m sure you do too. And I want to hear them! I also want to hear about your Tenuous Oscar Connections. Do you work with someone who saw Judy Dench at Starbucks? Know someone who was Joaquin Phoenix’s orthodontist? Tell the story—there’s a prize in it for you. Do you have a favorite film that no one else has heard of? Share it with the audience. And costumes are always encouraged. So don’t sit home and watch. Come share the experience of the movies as they should be experienced—at a theater filled with Oscar fans. Hope to see you there.

This event does sell out so be sure to get your tickets online in advance – $10 for adults, $7.50 for kids and seniors.

Before Sunday, check out this year’s Oscar nominees and be sure to print out the 2014 Oscars ballot so you can play along.

And while you’re here, vote for who you think should win Best Picture:

5:58 pm | Posted under Events, Movies | Add comments
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