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New parklet opens outside Simple Pleasures on outer Balboa

The Richmond District’s second parklet opened on Saturday in front of Simple Pleasures Cafe at 3434 Balboa near 35th Avenue. The budget for the parklet was $26,000, one of the most expensive in the city to date.

Unlike most city parklets, this one is spacious. Because the parking on that block of Balboa is slanted, the parklet is much deeper than a typical one. It took over 3 parking spaces in total.

Designed by San Francisco’s Step 3 Studio, the parklet is well constructed with heavy, stained wood benches and planters, and tile flooring.

The parklet was paid for by Simple Pleasures Cafe but the space is considered public, and open to anyone to use at anytime. Parklets are part of the San Francisco Planning Department’s Pavement to Parks initiative, designed to “temporarily reclaim unused swathes of land and quickly and inexpensively turn them into new public spaces”.

Next up is a parklet outside Cinderella Bakery on Balboa near 6th Avenue. No word yet on when though.

Sarah B.

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 5:02 am | Posted under Business, Parks | 24 comments

Photos: Earthscape artist Andres Amador at work on Ocean Beach

Artist Andres Amador was at Ocean Beach on Saturday morning, working on a new piece while dozens watched from the cliffs above. We hear he was being filmed for a documentary.

Sarah B.

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 6:03 pm | Posted under Art, Ocean Beach | 5 comments

Looking back at the 1906 earthquake in the Richmond District

A crumbling house at 11th Avenue and California in 1906. Courtesy Bancroft Library

It was 108 years ago today at 5:12am when a massive earthquake struck San Francisco, killing an estimated 3,000 people and destroying nearly 80% of the city. Between 227,000 and 300,000 people were left homeless out of a population of about 410,000. [Wikipedia]

Here in the Richmond District, there was only a small population. People had just started moving to the “Outside Lands” in the 1880s, and much of the neighborhood was still covered in sand dunes.

The unpopulated landscape of the Richmond District proved to be ideal for refugee camps. Camp 25, dotted with hundreds of what would become known as “earthquake shacks”, spanned what is now Park Presidio Boulevard.

Golden Gate Park was the setting for many refugee camps where displaced residents lived in canvas tents. Many of the camps were still in existence long after the quake, with the final one closing in June 1908.

Every year on April 18th, San Francisco commemorates the 1906 earthquake with a ceremony at Lotta’s Fountain, located at the intersection of Market Street, where Geary and Kearny Streets connect. The cast iron fountain served as a meeting point during the earthquake and fire aftermath.

Another commemoration will take place at 20th and Church Streets at 5:40am when a hydrant, that was crucial to fighting the fires in 1906, is re-painted gold.

City celebrations are usually attended by remaining survivors from the 1906 quake, but there are only two left.

One of them, Bill de Monte, celebrated his 108th birthday in January. He won’t be at the ceremony this morning, but he did tape a video message that will be shown.

Sarah B.

Most of the photos in this post are from the Bancroft Library’s stellar online collection of photos of San Francisco post-earthquake. The site includes an interactive map that lets you explore the archives by neighborhood.

Camp 25 located along what is now Park Presidio Boulevard. Courtesy Bancroft Library.

Kids in Camp 25, one year after the earthquake. 2,400 shacks still remained. Courtesy Bancroft Library.

A crumbling depot building at Geary and Arguello. Today it is OfficeMax. Courtesy Bancroft Library.

The north tower gate of Sutro Heights Park. Courtesy Bancroft Library.

The Martha Kip orphanage at 520 Lake near 7th Avenue. Courtesy Bancroft Library.

One of the refugee encampments in Golden Gate Park. Courtesy Bancroft Library.

Refugees line up for food or supplies in a Golden Gate Park camp. Courtesy Bancroft Library.

The Sweeny Observatory atop Strawberry Hill lay in ruins after the quake. Courtesy Bancroft Library.

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 5:12 am | Posted under Golden Gate Park, History | 8 comments

Police Blotter – April 17, 2014

[Reprinted from The Richmond Police Station Newsletter of April 17, 2014. To be added to the station's mailing list, email sfpd.richmond.station@sfgov.org.]

Pedestrian traffic safety is a priority for the SFPD, so I want to share some tips to help you keep safe. These tips are taken from the SF SAFE website:

– Make yourself visible to drivers. Consider a friendly wave to catch their attention.
– Keep your eyes on the traffic, not on your phone or electronic device.
– Don’t step out from behind a parked vehicle suddenly. Make sure that drivers can see you in time to stop.
– Crossing at marked crosswalks and at places where there are stop lights and stop signs is safest.
– Do not cross an intersection diagonally.
– Look both ways at least TWICE before crossing, don’t immediately walk as soon as the light turns green.
– Do not cross against a red signal.
– Do not step off the curb once the pedestrian red hand signal starts flashing. The numbers that you see counting down are an estimate of how many seconds until the signal light for cars crossing your path turns green. The countdown is telling you to go immediately to safety at a median or even the curb that you started from if you can’t make it across.
– If you are crossing in front of a car that is signaling for a right turn, take care that the driver sees you.
– Many drivers will be looking left at oncoming traffic and not at the pedestrian in their path.
– Hold hands with small children and teach children how to cross safely.
– Wear bright and or reflective clothing and carry a light, especially at night or in bad weather.

Pedestrians generally have the right of way, but don’t assume that drivers will yield to you. Anticipate that drivers may do unpredictable, unsafe and illegal things so take action to keep yourself safe.

Our next Community meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 6pm. It will be in the Community Room, here at Richmond Station, 461 6th Ave.

On 04/12/14 at 7:55pm, officers responded to a call of a male walking in and out of traffic, and hitting people on the street. One caller reported seeing the suspect hit one male walking out of a business on the 5300 block of Geary and then the suspect grabbed the caller as well. Officers located the male standing in front of the caller’s vehicle screaming profanities. The suspect was detained and officers determined that the suspect had an outstanding warrant. He was also in possession of a meth pipe. The 45yr old male was charged on the warrant and pipe as well as battery.

On 04/14/14 at 12:30am, officers were called to the area of Lyon and Jackson Sts on a report of a male looking into vehicles with a flashlight. A description and direction were given and they located the male walking west on Jackson St. He originally gave the officers a false name; however they were able to establish his true identity and saw that he had two warrants for his arrest, one four burglary, the other narcotic violations. In his possession were credit cards with the different names on them. Each of the cards were reported stolen by their owners and were taken in auto burglaries. The 30 year old male was booked on the warrants and charged with possession of burglary tools, possession of stolen property and a probation violation.

On 04/17/14 at 12:45am, officers responded to 700 block of 7th Ave on a report of intoxicated persons stealing liquor from the store. When they arrived on scene an employee pointed to a group of four that were on the corner of 7th and Cabrillo. He told the officers that they had being stumbling around the store and were trying to steal bottles of vodka. As the officer went towards the group he could see one of the males was lying on the ground and a second male was trying to help him up. When the group saw the officers, one tried to hide behind a car and the others walked away. As the first officer approached the one behind the car he immediately became confrontational and yelled at the officer “What am I being charged with?” The officer explained the call and the male continued to yell and clench his fists. A second officer arrived and was dealing with the three that were trying to walk away and recovered a bottle of alcohol with the security seal still on top. The first male began to fight with the officer and as the second officer went to assist, one of the other three grabbed the bottle and fled. The first suspect continued to struggle and was finally detained by the officers. The first suspect, a 21yr old male who was intoxicated, was charged with resisting an officer and being drunk in public. A 21yr old female was also charged with being drunk in public.

On 04/11/14 at 5:30pm, the victim got on a 38L Geary bus at 25th and Geary and took a seat. Two or three stops after the suspect got on and sat next to her. The suspect got off at O’Farrell and Market Sts and at that time another passenger alerted the victim that the suspect had removed her wallet from her purse. The suspect was a black male, 35yrs, 6’, 250lbs, wearing an oversized cream colored sweatshirt.

On 04/13/14 at 11:30pm the victim was walking on the 2400 block of Pine St. The suspect jumped out from some bushes and punched her in the face. He then grabbed her buttocks and when the victim screamed he fled south on Steiner St. The suspect was described as black male, 35-40yrs, with a skinny build, wearing a black baseball cap and black hooded sweatshirt. The suspect also “smelled bad.”

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 9:02 pm | Posted under Crime | 4 comments

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.

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 5:02 am | Posted under Events | 79 comments

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:

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 5:02 am | Posted under Events, Golden Gate Park | 3 comments

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.

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

Green Apple breathes new life into Sunset District’s Le Video; will be co-tenant

Photo by Le Video

If you think bookstores have been feeling the squeeze from the digital publishing world, imagine the challenges that a video store faces in today’s culture of on-demand movies and television shows. While some boomers fondly remember the days of browsing rows of VHS tapes and DVDs for movie night, it’s an activity that is hard to relive in San Francisco – there’s only a handful left.

Despite this, the Sunset District’s Le Video has managed to stay in business, attracting about 120 customers on a weekday. But that’s not enough to keep it afloat, and Le Video founder Catherine Tchen was facing an imminent closure earlier this year after spending nearly $1 million of her own funds in the last four years to keep the doors open at the 34 year old video store.

After posting a Facebook message in March about her financial predicament and impending closure, Tchen received a lifeline from another longtime, neighborhood business – Green Apple Books.

Beginning August 1, Green Apple will open its second location in the ground floor of Le Video, located on 9th Avenue between Lincoln and Irving in the inner Sunset District. Le Video will move its inventory of 100,000 video titles to the second floor.

In addition to Green Apple taking over some of the rent payment, Le Video should benefit from the increased traffic from book shoppers. Green Apple attracts roughly 500 customers daily to its Clement Street location; its second location on 9th Avenue will be roughly one third the size.

Le Video’s not completely out of the red yet. Tchen anticipates that she will need to raise an additional $30,000 to $60,000 simply to prep the new space and make the move. To help, an indiegogo campaign underway.

Green Apple was recently named Bookstore of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly, and now they can add small business savior to their list of accolades. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy to see Green Apple expand across the park, and help another business at the same time.

Sarah B.

[via SFGate]

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 5:02 am | Posted under Business | 10 comments