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Photos: Check out these beastly fish being pulled out of Mountain Lake

Photo by Jonathan Young

The Presidio Trust has spent millions to remediate Mountain Lake, removing contaminated sediment from the lake bottom and restoring the native species and plants to the areas around the lake.

A big part of that effort has been removing non-native species from the lake itself, in anticipation of returning native species to it like three-spined stickleback fish and Pacific chorus frogs.

One Presidio Trust intern is still on the hunt for non-native fish, and this week he shared some unsettlingly monstrous photos of what he’s been fishing out of the lake with baynature.org.

Jonathan Young is a San Francisco State graduate student in biology and ecological restoration intern at the Presidio Trust. He’s armed with fishing equipment and a small inflatable boat/raft and sent out into the lake to catch what he can.

The results are pretty surprising and include giant carp and oversized sturgeon fish. Not what you’d expect to come from a neighborhood lake in San Francisco.

Carp, bass, and mosquitofish are the main offenders, and Young has already fished 20 large carp out of the lake. One carp can lay two million eggs in a season, so imagine how many more are swimming around in there.

So where did these non-native fish come from? From nearby residents who dumped their aquarium fish or intentional releases back when fishing was allowed on the lake.

“It makes me freaked out every time I step in there in waders by myself, like something’s going to suck me down,” Young said. Jeez, no kidding!

And before you start lamenting for the demise of these scaly beasts, there’s no need. They are lovingly relocated to small ponds in the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma to live out their lives.

See more pics and get the full story at baynature.org

God bless interns.

Sarah B.

Photo by Jonathan Young

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 2:35 pm | Posted under Parks | 12 comments

Police Blotter – March 20, 2014

[Reprinted from The Richmond Police Station Newsletter of March 20, 2014. To be added to the station's mailing list, email sfpd.richmond.station@sfgov.org.]

Each week we write about crime trends and include examples of recent crimes hoping that this will help people to understand and lessen their risk of becoming a crime victim. One of the problems with publishing a newsletter that talks about crime all the time is that it can create the impression that the crime rate is rising. In fact, overall crime is actually down year to date. I’m unwilling to tolerate any level of crime. One crime is one crime too many, but I can at least report that crime rates are headed in the right direction.

Overall crime rates have decreased in the first part of 2014 when compared to the first part of 2013. This decrease is true citywide and is slightly greater for the Richmond District than for the City as a whole. Total violent crime is down 21% in the Richmond (17% citywide) while property crime is down 11% in the Richmond (6% citywide). Bearing that in mind, here is this week’s crime recap.

Our next Community meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 6pm. It will be in the Community Room, here at Richmond Station, 461 6th Ave.

On 03/15/14 at 1:30pm, officers responded to a call of a male breaking into a Zip Car on the 300 block of 7th Ave. The caller stated that he saw the male take items from the vehicle and provided a description of the suspect. While officers were searching for the suspect, another male came running up to an officer yelling that a male had just broken into his vehicle that was parked on Clement near 6th Ave. This male pointed out the suspect who was standing across the street who also matched the suspect from 7th Ave. The suspect saw the patrol vehicle and took off running east on Clement to 5th Ave. When the officer turned the corner, the suspect went back north on 5th and ducked into a market. Numerous citizens pointed out the suspect’s whereabouts and when the officer came back to the corner, the suspect fled the market and ran west on Clement to north on 6th Ave, where he was detained by the officers. The male that had his car parked on Clement near 6th told the officer that he was sitting in his vehicle when the indicator light came on that his rear lift gate was open. When he went around to the back of his car, he saw the suspect standing there removing items from the back. That is when he began to chase the suspect and saw the officer. The suspect, a 39yr old male, was charged with the theft and possession of stolen property.

On 03/16/14 at 6:10pm, at 34th and Fulton, officers stopped to talk to a bicyclist that had committed a moving violation. The bicyclist took off at a high rate of speed and entered Golden Gate Park on a dirt pathway. One officer pursued on foot as the suspect headed towards Spreckels Lake while the other drove into the park. The officer in the vehicle saw the bicyclist now on the access road near the dog park where he dumped the bike and headed into the dense brush. Several other officers arrived and they located the male burrowed underneath some dense foliage. The male was detained and it was determined that he had a warrant out for his arrest. The 44yr old male was charged with the warrant.

On 03/16/14 at 8:30pm, officers were called to 2nd and Balboa on a report of citizens detaining two auto burglary suspects. When officers arrived, they took custody of the two males and where told the following. The upstairs neighbor was on the back steps and could see that his neighbor’s vehicle had its parking lights flashing. He ran downstairs to alert his neighbor and when they looked outside they could see two males in the vehicle. They both ran outside and detained the two, one of whom was still inside the car. When the officers arrived on scene the upstairs neighbor looked at some of the property that was now lying on the back-seat of his neighbor’s car and realized that some of the items had come from his vehicle. He then went to his cars and saw that both of them had been broken into. The two suspects, one who was 18, the other 15, where charged with the auto burglary, possession of stolen property and possession of burglary tools.

On 03/20/14 at 5:20am, officers responded to a call of a male trying to break into a garage on the 2000 block of Post St. The caller provided a description of the suspect and officers located the male on Sutter St. When the male was approached by the officer he said, “I was just trying to get into the garage to get my car.” The male however said that he did not live there and was also holding onto a wrench and chisel when stopped by the officer. The suspect was also in possession of a fraudulent credit card that had the name of a woman who had been a victim of a theft. The 31yr old male was charged with attempted burglary, possession of burglary tools and a fraudulent card.

On 03/14/14 between 8:15pm and 8:40pm on the 300 block of Walnut, a resident forgot to close their garage door and two bikes were taken.

Between 03/15/14, 8pm and 03/16/14, 6:25am on the 600 block of Arguello, a suspect attempted to enter the main door to an apartment building by using a tool, possibly a wrench. There was damage to the door and door lock, but entry was not made.

Between 03/15/14, 11:30pm and 03/16/14, 10:15am on the 100 block of Balboa, a suspect attempted to enter the main door to an apartment building by using a tool, possibly a wrench. There was damage to the door and door lock, but entry was not made.

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 2:23 pm | Posted under Crime | Add comments

How Water Shaped Development of the Outside Lands

We’re pleased to share a new article from Richmond District historian John Freeman, who wrote this timely, drought-relevant article for the Western Neighborhoods Project. Enjoy!

Sarah B.


How Water Shaped Development of the Outside Lands

by John Freeman

San Francisco has unique geography. Over millennia of faulting, folding, uplifting and subsiding, the land surface at this end of the peninsula has a mixture of high peaks and low depressions, with a rock base and more than a third of it covered with dune sand. Beneath our western waters is sand from other geological developments south of us. The uplifting of the Sierra created rivers that moved millions of tons of glaciated sand westward across an inland sea, to exit the Coast Range at the Golden Gate, and deposit additional sand at our western edge. The sand bank shown on maps actually stretches under water all the way to the Farallon Islands. Tides, wind, and erosion contributed to the buildup of the sand throughout the north end of the San Francisco peninsula.

The shifting sand of this desert was the major deterrent to travel and homesteading, but the pioneers learned to cope in various ways. Large portions of the emerging city’s sand was moved into low spots or dumped into the tidal margins to create “made” land. The hills of San Francisco are a vital part of the development of the city. In earlier times, most of the steeper hills were impractical to build on because of the difficulty of access by horse and wagon, but also because there was no reliable water source atop the hills. As the city developed and pumping became feasible, many of the hills were used to create reservoirs for water from other sources to be stored for domestic use or fire protection.

Sand is a porous substance, allowing rainwater, even fog, to seep through it to the bedrock basin or aquifer. Before there was a reliable water system in San Francisco, wells were dug near the drainage of the hills to access that water. The topography of the Richmond and Sunset Districts is different, and these differences greatly affected their development. The Richmond District has a series of hills draining into it from three sides. The Sunset has primarily one hill system on its eastern flank, draining west toward the ocean and south toward Pine Lake and Lake Merced.

To best understand the original drainage system of the western portions of San Francisco where pioneers settled–the Richmond District, Golden Gate Park, and Sunset-Parkside areas today–we need to consult the major topographical map done by the United States Coast Survey of 1869. (See below.) This map was created before the street grid extended beyond the cemeteries or Golden Gate Park boundaries were drawn, but there are landmarks we can still reference today.
1869 United States Coast Survey Map with notes added – Courtesy of John Freeman

The 1869 map shows four major high points of land on the east of the southern side of the Great Sand Bank. The hill with an elevation 673 would be Grand View Park in Golden Gate Heights. South of that hill, marked 783, is the original elevation of Larsen Peak. Hill 733 is the original elevation of West Portal’s Edgehill Mountain, and lastly, hill 938, the highest elevation in San Francisco, is Mt. Davidson. Early development in the Sunset could be found at the base of these hills where water was available and near Pine Lake and Lake Merced. Water could be found fairly close to the surface back from Ocean Beach as well, but only near Golden Gate Park. A well in the middle of the current Sunset District would have to be drilled down through 400 feet of sand to reach the aquifer.

The topographical map reveals additional information about the drainage of these Sunset high-points. While they drain west and south, they also drain north through a narrow gorge, marked on the map as “Spring Valley Reservoir,” which was fed by the Sunset hills noted earlier, and the drainage of the west side of Twin Peaks (identified on the map as Las Papas and showing the south peak at 925 feet). Today this same reservoir site is at the intersection of Laguna Honda Boulevard and Clarendon Avenue. North of the reservoir can be seen a seasonal lake stretching to about Seventh Avenue and Moraga today. The map shows no surface river, but if you follow the contours north, another body of water appears, which is the low point of the botanical garden in Golden Gate Park, just north of Funston and Lincoln Way, where originally a lake and later pumping station used the water from that source to irrigate the park. The drainage continued through the park and into the Richmond District, terminating at Mountain Lake and Lobos Creek. Water from Lobos Creek was the city’s first domestic source, dating from 1858, when a redwood flume was built from the creek, before it reached the ocean at Baker Beach, around and through the Presidio to a pumping station at the foot of Van Ness Avenue. The water was then pumped up the north side of Russian Hill to two reservoirs, then to be piped to the city’s center…

Read the full article at outsidelands.org

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 5:01 am | Posted under History | Add comments

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.

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 5:04 am | Posted under Events, Golden Gate Park, Museums | 1 comment

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.

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 5:04 am | Posted under Events, History | 5 comments

Police Blotter – March 14, 2014

[Reprinted from The Richmond Police Station Newsletter of March 14, 2014. To be added to the station's mailing list, email sfpd.richmond.station@sfgov.org.]

Richmond Station periodically gets requests for us to install stop signs, signal lights, speed bumps and other traffic control measures. The process of deciding whether and where to install traffic control devices is actually the responsibility of the SF Municipal Transportation Agency. So if you would like to request traffic control measures for a specific area, please go to SFMTA.com and click the link for services.

Our next Community meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 6pm. It will be in the Community Room, here at Richmond Station, 461 6th Ave.

On 03/08/14 at 11am, neighbors reported a possible theft from a garage on the 3000 block of Washington St. A garage door was open and the neighbor saw a suspicious male with a cart in front of the garage with property that looked like it had been stolen. The suspect had walked away and was being followed by another party who was on the phone with 911, updating the location. Officers detained the male on Sacramento and Divisadero. The caller told officers that he had observed the male with items in his cart that the suspect began to discard as he was walking away. One was a blue folding camping chair. As the officers continued their investigation they were approached by a woman who lives on the 2100 block of Baker St. She told the officers that she was in her home and heard knocking coming from inside her garage. She opened an interior door that lead to the garage and saw that the garage door was now open. She saw no one inside and shut the door. A short time later she left and saw the commotion and the police officers. She saw that her blue camping chair was out on the sidewalk and informed the officers that the chair should be in her garage. The suspect was also in possession of a tennis racket that had been taken from her as well. Although there was no evidence that the suspect entered the garage on the 3000 block of Washington, he was in possession of numerous items that may have been taken from elsewhere. The 55yr old male was charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools and stolen property.

On 03/09/14 at 4:50pm, officers responded to a call of a road rage incident where the victim was following the suspect’s vehicle. Officers caught up to the suspect and 23rd and Geary and detained him. The victim told the officers that the incident originated on Pine near Scott St and ended up with the suspect throwing an object at the victim’s vehicle. The officers with the suspect’s consent searched his vehicle and found a billy club, BB gun, a crossbow, a taser, pepper spray and an axe. The 54 year old male was charged with weapon violations.

On 03/10/14 at 6:30pm, the victim was on a westbound 38 Geary MUNI bus. When it came to a stop at Geary and Divisadero, the suspect grabbed the victim’s phone from her hand and fled. The victim gave chase, screaming as she ran after the suspect. A passerby called 911 and provided a description and direction of the two. When they got to the area of Broderick and Garden the suspect suddenly stopped and said he had a gun on him and he would hurt her if she caused a scene. The victim begged for her phone and the suspect told her she had to give him money to get her phone back. As she had no cash, they walked to a nearby ATM machine where she withdrew money and gave it to the suspect. Police arrived on scene and the male told the officers that this was a “domestic dispute.” The victim told the officers that in fact she did not know the male and he had robbed her on the bus. The 19yr old was charged with robbery and extortion.

On 03/11/14 at 4:26am, officers conducted a traffic stop at Washington and Divisadero. The driver had a suspended license and was on probation. Officer located in his possession 11 different credit and debit cards belonging to other people. Officers were able to contact some of the victims who had been victims of thefts, auto burglary and a robbery. These dated back to 2012. The 44 year old male was charged with possession of stolen property, an outstanding warrant and a probation violation.

On 03/07/14 at 4:50am, officers were called to the 3100 block of Sacramento St on a report of a burglary in progress. A neighbor called stating he was hearing noises from the house next door which was under construction. The caller also reported that there was a strange white van parked in front of the house. Officers arrived and set up a perimeter and conducted a walkthrough of the home. They located a small flashlight which was illuminate in the backyard however the suspect had fled the scene on foot. The contractor arrived and found that many tools had been taken from a box and placed on the ground. The front door appeared to have been pried open. In the van parked out in front were numerous power tools and copper wiring. The registered owner of the van was contacted and he stated he sold the van six months ago. The van was towed pending further investigation.

On 03/07/14 between 7:30am and 8pm on the 1600 block of Pierce St, a suspect entered an apartment through an unlocked front door. The loss was a suitcase, laptop and stereo speaker.

On 03/07/14 between 12pm and 5pm on the 500 block of 12th Ave, a suspect entered a home by prying open the front door. The suspect took two laptops and an iPod.

On 03/07/14 at 1:40pm, the 88 year old victim was home on the 200 block of 8th Ave when his doorbell rang. He opened the front door and saw a male at the bottom of the steps, behind the locked gate. The male said he was working on the plumbing next door and needed to check the backyard for leaks. The male was insistent and the victim finally let him in. He brought the male to the rear door which leads to the yard and then had to sit as he was feeling winded. The suspect had gone into the yard but quickly came back in, opened the front door and let in the second suspect. The first male said he now needed to go check upstairs for leaks and as the victim tried to stop him; the second male stood in his way and began to distract him by talking about a photo displayed in the victim’s home. The victim became tired and sat down in a chair on the front porch, leaving the suspects alone in the house for about a half hour. When they finally came back down stairs and passed him in the porch, the victim noticed one of the suspects was carrying a pillow case that appeared to be half full. The victim tried to grab the pillow case but was unsuccessful and the suspects fled. They entered a black newer model Toyota mini-van. The victim then called his daughter who came home. They discovered there was a loss of jewelry and cash. The suspects were described as Hispanic or Middle Eastern males, both wearing blue shirts and blue jeans.

On 03/08/14 at 1:15am on the unit block of 6th Ave, a resident of a home heard the garage door open. The residents went downstairs and found the door partially open and the victim’s bike was gone. When they looked outside they saw a silver hatchback driving down the street, but could not see who was driving.

On 03/08/14 at 1:55am, the two victims were walking west on Cabrillo at 35th Ave when they noticed they were being followed by 5-7 Hispanic males. When the suspects approached the two, one of them asked for a dollar. They told the suspects that they had no money. At that point one of the victims was pushed against the wall and a suspect brandished a knife and demanded his property. A second suspect reached in and took his phone from his pocket. The suspect with the knife grabbed the second victim and demanded his property but he had none. The suspects then fled north on 35th Ave. There were all between 18-25yrs and the suspect with the knife was wearing bandana and a dark colored hooded sweatshirt.

Between 03/09/14, 6pm and 03/10/14, 6am on the 200 block of Willard North, a suspect was able to get into a garage through a locked gate. The suspect took a laptop and a bike.

Between 03/09/14, 9pm and 03/10/14, 1am on the 2500 block of Sutter, a suspect entered an apartment and took jewelry, 3 laptops, a desktop computer, 2 TV’s and game consoles. One of the victim’s had lost their keys a few days prior and there was no sign of forced entry.

On 03/10/14 at 1:12pm, a caller reported a male and female in a fight on the 400 block of Clement St. The caller also reported that the male had a gun and shot into the air. The area was searched as well as two addresses on 5th Ave that the suspect may have fled to but no one in those residences matched the description. The suspect was described as an Asian male, 30-35yrs wearing all dark clothing.

On 03/10/14 at 1:37am, the victim was walking south on 11th Ave towards Clement. Prior to reaching Clement the suspect ran up to him with a gun in his hand and said “Where’s your car, give me your keys now.” The victim said the suspect then fired two shots into the air. The victim told the suspect he did not have a car and then ran from the area to get away from the suspect. The suspect fled west on Clement St and was described as an Asian male, 16-25yrs with short hair, wearing a black shirt and dark jeans. This incident is not related to the one from the 400 block of Clement St.

On 03/10/14 between 6:30pm and 9:30pm on the 700 block of 6th Ave, a suspect entered a home by using a spare key that was kept under the mat. The suspect took two laptops, two tablets and a camera.

On 03/11/14, between 1:30pm and 2pm on the 3000 block of California, a suspect entered a residence while the victim was in the shower. The suspect took a wallet containing cash and credit cards. There were no signs of forced entry and when the victim contacted her bank to report the theft, one of her credit cards had already been used at a gas station.

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 9:51 am | Posted under Crime | 5 comments

Local links: Spring break options, Alexandria for sale?, RV parking bans & more

Ocean Beach, March 11, 2014

Here are some local links to get you through your Wednesday:

  • The venerable Green Apple Books has been named one of five finalists for Publishers Weekly’s Bookstore of the Year Award. We’ll have to wait until May when the winner will be announced at BookExpo America. Good luck Green Apple!
  • The Mountain Lake remediation project is winding down, but landscaping work is still going on including an effort to return part of the park to a wetland thanks to some goats and volunteers. “We’re returning the lake’s arm into the haven it once was for generations of wildlife going back long before the 1800s,” said Terri Thomas, the Presidio’s conservation director. Read the full article on SFGate
  • We’ve heard a rumor that the Alexandria Theater property is once again up for sale (anyone find a lising? We have not). That’s nothing really new but it signals that the current owners are not interested in developing the property as it’s been proposed. They want someone to take it off their hands. We’d be ok with that since they’ve done a piss poor job of managing it in the last 10 years.
  • Additional locations for the ban on overnight RV/oversized vehicle parking were approved by the SFMTA last week. That includes stretches of Clement Street along Lincoln Park and the Park Presidio greenbelt streets including Funston Avenue (west side) and 14th Avenue (east side).
  • Want your kid to skate(board) through Spring Break? Rec & Park is offering Shred N Butter skateboard camp at 25th Avenue’s Rochambeau Playground from March 31 through April 4. Camp runs daily from 9am to 3pm, and is designed for ages 7 – 14. Cost is $257 for residents, $370 for non-residents. Sign up here and enter code 34594 to find the listing.

    Alternatively, Shred N Butter also offers Saturday drop-in classes starting March 22 at the Richmond Rec Center on 18th Avenue for ages 5-13; fee is $32. Sign up here and enter code 34595 to find the listing.
  • In other Spring Break news, the RDNC is offering a free Spring Family Staycation outing of hiking and biking in San Rafael on Saturday, April 5th. Space is limited to 25 and spots will fill up fast so contact sarah@rvbeacon.org or 415-750-8554 to register before March 21st.
  • Remember the creepy guy in the Elmo suit that arrived here from NY and made a noisy appearance at Rossi Park in 2012? This time he’s turned up at Fisherman’s Wharf after finishing a stint in jail. “People are being told lies about me,” said Sandler, who is 50 and homeless. “I’m really sick of it. I’m just trying to make a living.”
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 12:17 pm | Posted under Kids, Parks, Traffic | 19 comments

Safeway responds to effect of chain’s sale to Cerberus on La Playa remodel

Rendering of the new Safeway entrance at La Playa and Fulton

In case you haven’t heard the news, grocery chain Safeway is in the process of selling itself to Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm, for $9.4 billion. The deal is currently pending.

We’ve had inquiries from some readers about what this might mean for the upcoming remodel of the La Playa Safeway location.

The remodel, which will expand the store’s footprint from its current 40,000 square feet to nearly 59,000, has been in planning for several years. The project is currently in its environmental review phase, and expects to be in front of the Planning Commission for final approval by the end of 2014.

In addition to a completely new store, the remodel will also include 40-45 residential units on the north end of the property along Cabrillo and La Playa.

On Monday, Safeway Real Estate Manager Natalie Mattei sent out an email to project followers about the potential impact that the Cerebrus sale may have on the planned remodel:

Safeway is continuing with its Northern California projects on a business as usual basis. We remain very committed to San Francisco. Before proceeding with any construction, we always check budgets and evaluate return on investment. New investors in Safeway would become involved in this process, but we are confident that they will continue to consider San Francisco an important place for Safeway to invest.

Translation: We don’t really know yet.

The La Playa Safeway location presents an interesting opportunity for Cerebrus when it comes time to evaluate. That’s because Safeway owns the entire square block of land that the store sits on, which in the current San Francisco real estate market, is a very valuable piece of property that is highly attractive to developers.

Of the roughly 1,300 stores that Safeway operates, mostly on the West coast, they own about 48 percent of those locations and lease the rest, according to its annual filings [SFGate].

For a private equity firm like Cerebrus, whose primary goal is to make money for its investors within five years or so, selling a valuable parcel of SF real estate to a developer may make more sense than remodeling the aging store.

However, the La Playa Safeway also occupies a unique position in the outer Richmond and even outer Sunset as one of the largest grocery stores in the area with plenty of parking.

And with the planned remodel to include selling off the north end of the property to a developer for condominium construction, it may prove to still be an attractive investment to Cerebrus. After all, Safeway is already one of the nation’s top performing supermarket chains. Remodel the store to drive long term profits, and in the meantime, see a short term gain by selling off some valuable SF real estate on the north end.

With the Safeway sale to Cerebrus still pending, it’s a little early for the company to definitively say what will happen to the La Playa location. But given all the work and community input that has gone into the project already, here’s hoping it stays on track and brings a much needed revitalization to an important retailer in the outer Richmond.

Sarah B.

More reading: With Cerberus, Safeway may get revitalized, or lose assets [SFGate]

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 5:03 am | Posted under Business, Real Estate | 8 comments