Mitch Bull on West Portal

You need a scorecard… storefronts continue to evolve on West Portal Ave. After a long time, Squat and Gobble has reopened following the devastating fire at 1 West Portal Avenue. Work is continuing on the other portions of the building that were affected, but it’s a step in the right direction. Across the way, Le Boulange at West Portal is continuing the finishing touches of construction and should be open within a few weeks. We hear that the corner parcel at 2 West Portal may also have someone showing some interest. Let’s hope so as it’s a prime location and a great spot just outside the tunnel. In other changes, a new burrito establishment has opened at the tunnel entrance, and further down the street, the lovely photography studio/gallery has shuttered its doors; soon to be replaced by a sewing, dressmaking club/collective. Add the new bank (Sterling), yoga studio (Thriveability), leather good store (S.Marco) and the changes of Joxer Daly’s to Mc McCarthy’s and Tuttimelon to Quickly/Bento and the street just keeps evolving. It’s a great sign of the faith that merchants have in the neighborhood. I hope it keeps going.West Portal Sunrise

A close shave… my wife recently surprised me with an appointment to the 1512 Barbershop, located at 1512 Pine Street (at Polk), for my first experience with a straight razor shave. Barber (note-“not stylist”) Sal Cimino has been shaving clients and giving haircuts for 25 years, continuing the craft that his father and grandfather passed down to him. Sal Cimino, MasterbarberBTW, Sal’s father has been haircutting and shaving customers for 64 years, and still plies his craft several days a week in his Potrero Hill shop. While straight razor cuts are now back in vogue, it’s not something that can be learned in a weekend, according to Cimino. From a customer perspective, you can feel each pass of the very sharp razor, and every pull around all of the hard to shave areas. It’s not for the speedy either; it takes about an hour for the service. With the different creams, the several applications of hot towels, the jazz in the background, and not wanting to sneeze or twitch during the shave, you are very much in the moment. It was also a great learning experience; I didn’t know that using those “traditional” brushes for shaving cream have been outlawed in commercial shops since the 1890’s, due to the fact that the brushes are impossible to sterilize. Barber Sal also uses a straight razor with disposable blades, again for health reasons, although he has a cabinet of razors that he sharpens with whetstones and the leather strop. I loved the experience and recommend it highly, although I couldn’t imagine doing it every morning on the way to work… Visit the website at www.1512barbershop.com, or call Sal at 415.286.4371. Haircuts take about 30 minutes and are $35; shaves take an hour and are $50. Appointments are mandatory and it takes two to three weeks in advance to schedule appointment. No cuts, no nicks…a nice way to feel like you’re a part of history.

We really deserve better… the trappings of power seem to be everywhere and the length that people will do to keep the power seems to have no end. “American Hustle” came to our local doorstep with the criminal charges being filed against State Senator Leland Yee this past week. Somewhere (old time Mayor) Abe Ruef is smiling; it seems that patronage, bribery and campaign funding continue to go hand in hand. The allegations against the Senator and the others are unfathomable. Supposedly desperate to pay off the debt for the Mayoral run, while raising in excess of $800,000 for the upcoming Secretary of State election, the lure of staying in power appears to have been too much. Personally, I tire of every Supervisor, Assessor, Mayor and Dog Catcher looking forward to the next elected position. (How about getting a non-governmental job in something they trained for?) Of course, we have a Mayor who wasn’t going to run, and then changed his mind. While I think he is doing a good job, again the power of the office seems to trump everything else. Where does it stop? Leland Yee rally

Better days for Leland Yee: A standing room-only crowd fills the
Sunset Recreation Center at a 2010 rally for Senator Yee

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

April 2014

The Art of Spin (must read this)… Sheila Hyman from Pacifica sent this to me. It doesn't matter what side of the aisle you're on, it's hilarious…

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher in southern California, was doing some personal work on her own family tree and discovered that Senator Harry Reid's great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Both Judy and Senator Reid share this common ancestor.

The only known photograph of Remus Reid shows him standing on the gallows in Montana territory. On the back of the photo that Judy obtained during her research is this inscription: "Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1883, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889."

Judy then e-mailed Senator Reid for information about their great-great uncle and believe it or not, the Senator's staff sent back the following biographical sketch for her genealogy research:

"Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883 he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887 he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889 Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

How's that for poetic license…

The passing of the BUSHMAN?… it was reported this week that the man known as the "Bushman" has passed away. Now we know that the original Bushman, David Johnson—apparently there were two—still keeps the tourists on their toes. A colorful character of the "only in San Francisco" type, he uses branches and leaves as a sort of camouflage and lunges out at unsuspecting people walking on the sidewalks around Fisherman's Wharf. It was quite unnerving to be walking along, not paying much attention, then have a "tree" suddenly move into your path and lunge at you. He got me once about two years ago, and just about scared the wits out of me. Once I regained my composure it was sort of funny in a Candid-Camera sort of way to see how people reacted to this "sudden shrub." Each time thereafter when I was down at the Wharf I was on the lookout for him, most recently seeing him about a month ago. Like the late "Human Juke Box" before him, he adds a bit of fun and fanciful flavor to the City.

19th Avenue Study… The 19th Avenue Transit Study Final Report is now available from the CTA and can be downloaded from the SFCTA website. Several public meetings will take place in March in the process to consider and approve the project. March 18th at 10:30 AM – City Hall, Room 263 (Transportation Authority Plans and Programs Committee), March 25th at 11:00 AM- City Hall, Room 250 (Transportation Agency Board).

So you Think You Can Dance?... Beginning March 20th, Ballroom dance classes for couples will be offered on Thursday evenings at the Forest Hill Christian Church, Fellowship Hall, 250 Laguna Honda Blvd. The cost is $70 per couple for all six lessons. For information please call 415.661.2746.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

March2014

 

water at Sharp Park
Photo: Courtesy of Wild Equity Institute

Waste Water (or Wasted Water)…it has been brought to my attention that as the water situation worsens and Sacramento calls for a drought emergency, our friends over at Park and Rec have a situation that needs further investigation. It seems that a wastewater system to use "grey" reclaimed water for irrigation in Pacifica and at the SF Owned Sharp Park Golf Course is not being used by the Park and Rec department to irrigate the golf course, even though the City of SF picked up approximately 72% of the cost of the system. So while the City of Pacifica is using the completed system to use reclaimed wastewater to irrigate public lands and recreation fields, the City of SF is still using potable Hetch Hetchy water to irrigate the Sharp Park Golf Course, even though they paid for the system to use reclaimed water from Pacifica's Calera Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Rest assured, we will be looking into this, and trying to find out what is going on over at Rec and Parks and at the SF PUC. In a "water emergency" someone blineAbovedottedLineSeparation">Post Holiday "Hangover"…Here we are in February and it seems like we just got through Thanksgiving and Christmas and we're already looking at Valentine's Day, Easter and the arrival of Spring. Time just seems to fly by. Of course time never stops in the world of news and deadlines keep popping up seemingly faster and faster.

Of course our outlook would be a little brighter if the 49ers had figured out a way to hold on and defeat Seattle for the right to go to the Super Bowl, speaking of which, have you seen the weather back East and in NY? We could have 3 feet of snow for the game in NYC in February. (Boy those $10,000 seats will really feel good…blankets are not included….)

With the jet stream running North and our mild weather (and drought) continuing, it's hard not to feel guilty about the wonderful weather we have been having in the city, but since there is not a lot we can do to change it (other than the big anti-global warming things we do) we should enjoy the sunny days and mild temperatures. We recently went into downtown and "played tourist," visiting places that we don't usually get around to. A real find is the Cable Car Museum and Powerhouse. It's a great self guided tour through the history and mechanical workings of the cable carcable car museum photo system, from the visionary engineer Andrew Halladie's building of the first line, to the citizens who rose up to save the system when the city tried to scrap them in 1947. A fascinating way to spend several hours and it's free to the public. We also strolled around Nob Hill (visited the Tonga Room), Union Square and took in a play at the A.C.T. We met lots of "out of towners" and enjoyed the sights and sounds of San Francisco that are so easily missed when doing our daily chores.

Stradivari anyone??? Cypress QuartetHave you always wanted to hear a world-class violinist play an actual Stradivarius? Now's your chance. The Cypress String Quartet will be performing at Mission Blue Center in Brisbane on February 15th as part of the long-running Live at Mission Blue series, and will feature one of the most famous violins in existence. Visitthe website for more details.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

December 2013

Thanksgiving Turkeys and Holiday lights…it is hard to believe that we are in the midst of the holiday season and the end of the year is again staring us down. Weren't the Giants just playing baseball? It seems that some people had their holiday lights up even before the candy corn had become stale. Plus Thanksgiving was late this year and now it's December and there's so much to do…

Holiday spirit on West PortalLet's keep it local…with the ease of online retailing and the crushing number of catalogs that we receive during this time of year, it's important to not forget the amazing "brick and mortar" stores that line our shopping districts and make us a neighborhood. From BookShop West Portal and The Music Store, to Ambassador Toys, FULL MOON Fashions and the Art of Style, to Harmony A/V and Music, we have a terrific number of places to fulfill our holiday gift lists. And how about a pampering at Dimitra's, or a yoga class at Relativity, topped with a great dinner at one of our amazing local restaurants! From Paradise Pizza and Pasta at one end of West Portal, to the Bullshead at the other end, there is no end to the number of different restaurants and cuisines that can excite our taste buds. And that's just West Portal – add in Stonestown Galleria, the Marketplace on Sloat, and Westlake across the border in Daly City, and you can find something for everyone on your holiday list without using much fuel to get there. While online shopping is quick, it really doesn't do much to put me in the holiday spirit. Getting out in the cool breeze, seeing children looking in the windows, hearing the Salvation Army bell ringers, and (even) scurrying for parking helps to bring out the holiday spirit.

Kudos for "Batkid" and SF!!!....I would be remiss without mentioning the recent community outpouring of love and support in San Francisco for "Batkid" (Miles Scott), the 5 year old boy who has battled leukemia since the age of 18 months and realized his dream of being a super hero through the help of the Make A Wish Foundation, the City and County of San Francisco, and the thousands of people who got involved through the magic of the social media network. It generated a tremendous amount of good will throughout the world for San Francisco and our region, and (for a change) gave the television news programs and the periodicals something seriously heartwarming to report. Anyone who wasn't moved to being teary while watching "Batkid" save SF should check their pulse. Thank you to Mayor Lee, Police Chief Suhr, the folks at the Make a Wish Foundation and everyone else who worked to make this happen. It is a perfect way to start the holiday season and remind us of the things that are truly important. Check it out on YouTube or Netflix, and keep a handkerchief or two handy…

364 days of Healthy Eating… a local Bay Area resident has completed an amazing culinary ecookbook for those who wish to rid their meals of processed ingredients, gluten, sugar, etc. Karen Cunningham has produced this ebook entitled 364 Days of Healthy Eating, by designing menus, cooking the dishes, recording the recipes and photographing them in color all in Cunningham's kitchen in Brisbane. Sections highlight appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and even desserts that are brought to life with the accompanying photos. The recipes look to be pretty easy to prepare and the variety of dishes are extensive. The book is available through the iTunes program or the website 36 Days of Healthy Eating

Say it Ain't So…Joe's… we just learned that one of the best places to eat in the Bay Area, Joe's of Westlake has been sold by the family and will be closing on January 26th. A mainstay for a great bar, the open-kitchen style of cooking, good food, and wonderful staff members, Joe's has been keeping diners happy since 1956. The rumor is that it is being purchased by the folks at Original Joe's and will undergo an almost yearlong renovation and remodel, opening again in 2015. Truly the end of an era.


Winter's tasty fruits and vegetables are bountiful at the Farmers Market at Stonestown and freely sampled

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact, or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.






December 2013

November 2013

By the time you read this, we will have survived another Spooktacular Halloween, Dia de los Muertes, the end of the baseball season and the turning back of clocks to signal the end of daylight savings time…just in time for Election Day, where Propositions of all shapes and sizes are hailed or vilified, depending on where you sit. (Here, we sit mainly on the fence, offering observations and tidbits of information to those hearty enough to undertake the reading of this column…)

Speaking of Election Day, did you know that polling places in SF are normally consolidated for local elections, like this years' Municipal Election. The Department of Elections sent out a release explaining the different methods that voters can find their neighborhood polling places. The release explained that even without consolidation many polling places change locations every election, and cautioned voters to check the address of their polling station prior to Election Day. I understand the concept of having fewer polling locations during a local (non-statewide, or national) election, but the concept of polling places changing locations in a neighborhood for every election seems a bit confusing. Is it really necessary to change "many" of them for each election? Just wondering.

Interested in the Lake Merced? Keep this date…November 6th. The PUC will be holding an update meeting on current and future projects at the Lake Merced Boathouse from 5:30 – 7:30pm on the aforementioned date. (For those of you who refuse to set your clocks back, the meeting will be from 6:30 – 8:30pm…)

I mentioned the new yoga center, Thriveability, located at 300-B West Portal in an earlier column. Owners Seth and Rachel Augustine are conducting a "Stretch and Sketch" workshop on Saturday, November 9th from 2-4pm. Participants will be able to work on yoga poses and work on their figure drawing skills drawing a model who will be demonstrating various poses. Open to adults and teens, beginners and those more experienced, the cost is $40 on the day of the event. Pre-registration is $30. Participants are asked to bring a sketchpad or drawing paper (9 x 12 or 11 x 14), pencils, erasers and other materials such as colored pencils, markers, or pens. (Note: Please do not bring chalk or charcoal). Also bring a matt—or rent one for $2. Interested? Call Thriveability at 415.566.0888, or the website at http://thriveabilitysf.com/workshops/

It's easy to forget about the great neighborhood resources we have in our local libraries. I was reminded of this recently by an email from the Merced Branch Library detailing the programs they are presenting during the month of November for adults and children. Sessions focusing on topics from "Earthquake Preparedness" to "Claude Monet" to "Paper Airplanes and Flight Science" are covered this month. The library is located at 155 Winston Drive @ 19th Avenue. The best part…all programs at the library are free! For more information of what is happening in the libraries, check the website at sfpl.org.

Live Music – a great gift for the holidays…the Live at Mission Blue Concert Series is commemorating its 10th anniversary this year with a season premiere on Saturday, January 11th at 8:00 PM, with a gala reception to follow. Artists appearing in this wonderful classical music series are: Clerestory, the Cypress String Quartet, Jarring Sounds and Corde a Vida. At each of the four presentations a pre-concert talk will be conducted by Bruce Lamott, Professor of Music History at the SF Conservatory of Music. The Mission Blue Center is located atop San Bruno Mountain in Brisbane, our neighbors to the South. The location has free parking and is easily reached. Single tickets are priced at $20 General Admission / $15 Students & Seniors. A subscription for the entire season can be obtained at the low cost of $60 General Admission / $40 Students & Seniors. A great and very affordable holiday gift for the classical music lover in your life. For more go to: www.liveatmissionblue.com

Our landmark architectural attraction - Bernard Maybeck's Forest Hills Clubhouse has completed the renovation process and looks as good as new. It's open for meetings and the general round of gawking that the gorgeous, but modestly proportioned building has engendered since it was constructed in 1919 (around the time Maybeck was working on the Palace of Fine Arts). It's tucked away at 381 Magellan Avenue.Forest Hill Clubhouse

The Clubhouse is one of the finest examples of the Arts and Crafts style architecture, boasting a Great Room with a soaring beamed ceiling, a charming mezzanine, beautifully detailed original woodwork, original light fixtures with mica shades, and some original furniture. After closing for almost a year for extensive renovations, the Clubhouse shines again in its original glory – but outfitted with modern-day amenities including a brand new state-of-the-art catering kitchen and ADA accessible restrooms.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

November 2013

October

Autumn has arrived and the nights are clear and crisp. As the seasons have changed, so too have many of the storefronts on West Portal Avenue. If you haven't been there in a while you may have some adjusting to do as things are changing by the week. Here's a quick recap:

Marin Frames has opened at 29 West Portal Avenue; West Portal Antiques has moved from 199 West Portal Avenue across the street to 254; Longevity Yoga Studio has opened at 300B West Portal Avenue; Curiosities, a new shop, has opened at 207 (formerly The Desk Set); S.Marco Leather (beautiful handbags and more) has opened at 201 West Portal Avenue (next to West Portal Optical) and a proposed "Urgent Care" type of Medical Clinic is under review and consideration at 199 (formerly West Portal Antiques).

Other recent retail openings: The Art of Style (fashion boutique) at 258 West Portal Avenue; Sterling Bank at 113 West portal Avenue; pacifica Rims Optometry at 107 West portal Avenue: Tuttimelon morphs into a Quickly at 44 West portal and Joxer Daly's Irish pub is reborn as McCarthy's at 46 West portal Avenue.

Throw in the relatively new restaurants, Orexi (243 West portal Avenue), Trattoria Da Vittorio (150 West portal Avenue) and Goat Hill pizza (170 West portal Avenue) and someone who had not been on the avenue for a year or so would be totally confused. And of course the planned opening of Le Boulange, and the rebuilding of Squat and Gobble, Vin Debut and Dr. Warren's orthodontic office in the first block of West portal the neighborhood continues to be vibrant and ever changing. The long-established shops and restaurants on the avenue continue to provide terrific dining, fashion, and services making West portal one of the best places to visit and shop in the city.

West portal Avenue and Blue Jasmine….my wife and I recently viewed the latest film from Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine. A portion of the film was shot at dentist offices at the corner of Claremont and Ulloa and features scenes with stars Cate Blanchett and Michael Stuhlbarg (of HBO's drama Boardwalk Empire). The film is very well done, and really highlights some of the neighborhoods in SF such as the Mission, which are not usually seen in SF cinema (more real to life and not high-end). Well worth seeing the film as Ms. Blanchett's performance is terrific.

Local plant policy gone terribly wrong? It was reported at the most recent West of Twin peaks Central Council meeting about an eminent domain action being undertaken by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to take 3.2 acres from homeowners for the reforestation of the (formerly thought to be extinct in the wild) plant known as Franciscan Manzanita. A specimen of the plant "in the wild" was found when work was recently being conducted on the Doyle Drive project. It seems that even though the plant is available for sale at local nurseries, these homeowners have to "willingly" give up their land so that the plant can be reestablished in the wilds of San Francisco. How about some space in Golden Gate park?

Local jazz superstar Kim Nalley performed in an outdoor afternoon concert benefit to highlight the issue of suicide and its prevention, sponsored by the SF Suicide prevention hotline. The internationally recognized vocalist lost her brother to suicide, and supported the effort by singing four songs with two of her long time associates, keyboardist Tammy Hall and bassist Marcus Shelby.

JAzz%20Vocalist%20Kim%20Nalley%20and%20her%20trio.tif Eve Meyer, Executive Director of San Francisco Suicide prevention told me that more than twice the number of people die each year of suicides than of homicides, and that intervention and the use of services such as the hotline can be very effective in helping people to overcome the inner pain that leads them to consider death as a solution. For more information the Suicide prevention office can be reached at 415.288.7103, or online at www.sfsuicide.org. They always welcome donations and volunteers. The Crisis Number is 415.781.0500.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

October 2013

Schools are back in session, Labor Day has come and gone, and autumn has officially arrived. We're back in the swing after our August hiatus, and as the city never sleeps, here's a look at what's happening "around the town"…

Pigskin Preview '13… hats off to the 49ers as they are undefeated so far… I know the season starts this weekend…good luck to the red and gold as they start their quest for the Super Bowl in the last season at "the Stick." Cal welcomes new coach Sonny Dykes to the Pac 1, and Stanford starts by being ranked in the top 5 nationally…the Raiders, well, it may be a long season.

Summer Swoon … July and August came and went and the Giants never broke from their funk, as the hitters never got things going. Let's celebrate the two World Series titles in 3 years and forget about this year.

A "bang up" start… Owner and chef Vittorio D'Urzo passes on his thanks to everyone in the neighborhood as there have been people waiting in line virtually everyday since he opened his namesake trattoria. The opening of the restaurant has been more than he expected and he is grateful for the response.

Racing on the Bay… The racing season for the America's Cup is finally here and the finals should help to make up for the non-competitive challenger rounds. The boats go over 50 mph and are extremely difficult to control in the shifting winds and currents of the SF Bay. With the crowds being as light as the sea-foam, try to see the action in person, or if not, catch it on TV. The ship-mounted cameras give a great view of the action.

firefighters picFirefighters take a well deserved rest break from fighting the Rim Fire in Yosemite... The Twain Harte Chamber of Commerce held a spaghetti feed for firefighters and rescue personnel on Saturday evening in conjunction with the finale of their "Concerts in the Pines" event. More than 300 emergency personnel were treated to dinner and as groups left the area, back to the firelines, they sounded the horns on the rescue equipment as people in the crowd cheered, waved and gave the "thumbs up". Signs thanking the firefighters for helping to save Twain Harte and the surrounding Tuolumne County communities are visible everywhere.
With over 8000 firefighters and support personnel, 50+ helicopters and airplanes to drop water and retardant, the fire is now 80% contained but is expected to burn for 2-3 more weeks. The highway 120 corridor will look vastly different once it is reopened, but it is a testament to the thousands of personnel from all parts of California that prevented damage from being much greater and stopping the fire before it could burn Groveland, Camp Mather and the Hetch Hetchy area. (Photo by Alice Bull)

Assessed Property Value Appeals deadline … On Monday, September 16, 2013, the City and County of San Francisco will close the filing period for a formal appeal of the 2013/2014 assessed property value. In order to appeal, property owners must complete the Application for Changed Assessment form (accessible by visiting www.sfgov.org/aab) together with a non-refundable $60 administrative processing fee and submit it no later than 9/16/2013 to the Assessment Appeals Board (AAB) at 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, City Hall, Room 405, San Francisco, CA 94102.

bikeshare picGet rolling... A new twist on getting around town rolled out on August 29th with the launch of Bike Share. 350 brand new shiny bikes await you at approximately 35 stations centered around the waterfront, Market Street and Caltrain. You can't just hop on a bike and ride until you get tired though. You have to purchase an Annual Membership at bayareabikeshare.com or get a 24-Hour ($9) or 3-Day Membership from any station using your credit or debit card. Annual Members receive a unique key in the mail. Use your key or the code the machine spits out to unlock your bike, take a spin, then return it to any dock on the map. Bike Share programs have been wildly successful in cities like Washington, D.C., New York City, and Minneapolis. Still no plans to install a dock on the Westside though.

Finally… I want to thank owner Marco Petri and the team at Alfred's (on Merchant) for assisting my family during a truly scary moment. My wife, my mother and I were at Alfred's having a special dinner when suddenly, my wife was having great difficulty breathing as something was caught in her throat. Sensing the emergency, I quickly moved to get her out of the booth. As I assisted her out of the booth seating, a quick thinking staff person, Francisco, came up from behind, put his arms around my wife and lifted her up, basically accomplishing the Heimlich technique and clearing her windpipe. Once everyone realized that she was OK, we completed our delicious dinner. Although I have been trained in CPR and "choking rescue" and was ready to do it, the quick thinking of Francisco averted what could have been a tragedy. It truly was a scary few minutes.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think. And please check out our website: westsideobserver.com

September 2013

Summer arrived last week, not with a bang, but with tapping, the sounds of raindrops on rooftops…who would have predicted "January-type" rain in June? Anyway, there's a lot going on in our fair city – get out and enjoy!

June Swoon '13– welcome to July…July cannot get here too soon as far as the SF Giants are concerned. The past 3 weeks have brought back memories of the many "June Swoons" of the past. Hopefully, they will turn it around soon.

Racing on the Bay…The racing season for the America's Cup is finally here and it should be quite a spectacle. The 72 foot ultra-modern catamarans are a sight to see, with masts that stand over 125 feet tall. Try to see the action in person, or if not, catch it on TV. The ship-mounted cameras give a great view of the action.

It's all about the trees(part 1)… Vandals have severely damaged hundreds of trees in Golden Gate Park. The San Francisco Forest Alliance has written to the SF Rec and Park Department to pledge $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the park tree vandals and have called on other environmental groups to match its offer. Our city already has one of the smallest urban forest canopies in the country, and we support initiatives that would expand this, especially in this time of climate change. As it is, our trees are under threat from native plant supporters who wish to fell thousands of trees because they're not native. A lot of trees have actually been killed. On Mount Davidson and elsewhere in the city, trees have been girdled and left to die for this very reason. You can contact them at: SFForest.net.

Save Sutro Forest(Trees – part 2)… I am usually fairly level-headed and try to be open to both sides of the story, but I cannot comprehend the logic of the proposal by UCSF to better "manage" their section of the Sutro forest. While I believe in taking care of trees to protect public safety, (e.g. the Stern Grove debacle) the plan discussed at the WOTPCC meeting seems to be extreme. Unlike, say Yellowstone Park, (or even the East Bay – Oakland Hills), central San Francisco is not prone to large wildfires that would require the removal of up to 30,000 trees and the underlying brush. It seems to me that the removal would create more of a carbon footprint and strip the City of acres of greenery at a time when we are becoming denser with construction and population. I think everyone can agree that "protecting our neighbors, our buildings, and preventing a wildfire" is responsible, but can't we strike an acceptable balance? There seems to be distinctly opposite opinions about the health of the forest and I would like to see a truly independent opinion mediated that both sides can accept. If these were redwoods, would they be doing it? I doubt it. Eucalyptus may not be native to SF, but the "management" of a century old "cloud forest" in an urban setting is something that should be greatly investigated and debated before anything rash is done. I've seen the results of "native plant" experiments and it is not pretty. If the forest is "managed" to a result that creates a windy, slide prone hillside, it's too late to go back. Let the UC Regents and our elected officials know about their responsibility to do what's acceptable for everyone. The UCSF draft EIR elicited over 200 comments. I hope they listen.

Finally…I want to thank the readers, contributors, advertisers and staff as this issue marks the end of the 5th year of my stewardship of the Observer. When taking the reins in mid 2008, the economy was in shambles, and we all know that "Print is dead." Thanks to everyone who makes it possible for us to continue this most-local form of journalism. I am humbled. It's also the 25th anniversary of the San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association, the loose confederation of all of the free district monthlies. May we continue on for 25 more years.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.comand share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

July-August 2013

 

How about Dad?... The weather is continuing to get warmer and as spring inches forward it’s time to do something special for “Dad” as Father’s Day is on June 16. Booking a brunch at one of our many neighborhood restaurants, surprising him with flowers from our florists on West Portal Avenue, or pampering him with a spa day at Dimitra’s are just some of the ways in which we can honor the Dads in our lives.

Memorial Day. In our minds and hearts.. with the Memorial Day weekend upon us it’s a good time to pause and thank everyone who has served our country, both present and past. We owe so much to those who fought for our freedoms and, in many cases, paid the ultimate price. I make it a point to visit the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno sometime during the weekend to pay respects to those who have served. It is a wonderful lesson in history as markers harken back in remembrance of those who served in the Spanish-American War of 1898 through to the present day.

Weekend Excitement… quite a few fantastic finishes over the long weekend. First, the Giants won an exciting game with a 2-run inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 10th on Saturday afternoon, then anyone who watched the Indianapolis 500 race on Sunday saw 38 year old Tony Kanaan win the race with a daring passing move on the final 3 laps in a race that saw the lead change over 60 times. Only tenths of seconds separated the top five cars at speeds of over 220 miles per hour. It was Kanaan’s first victory at Indy despite having leads in 9 of the last 12 years. Perseverance, a little luck and terrific driving skills all contributed to his accomplishment.

Our local “Speedway”… At the WOTPCC meeting, local resident Bill Chionsini spoke about the difficulty that the local neighborhood groups are having in getting information and cooperation from the DPW and Caltrans on the ongoing project to make Sloat Blvd. safer for pedestrians and drivers. It seems that the local groups that were instrumental in getting the grant for the highway improvements are not being kept in the loop as the project moves forward. Supervisors Norman Yee and Katy Tang were in attendance, so let’s hope that they can assist the governmental agencies in being more cooperative.

Be aware… (Also from the WOTPCC meeting). Avrum Shepard noted that there have been several reports of people having their cell phones and other electronics stolen while riding on MUNI, and while walking throughout the city. It’s usually a quick “grab and run” type of theft, but in several cases people have been injured. It’s a good reminder to be aware of your surroundings and to especially have information stored on your devices backed up for retrieval.

Summer arrives… with the passing of the Memorial Day weekend, and the unofficial beginning of summer it’s time to get out into our local venues and enjoy the music festivals, the beaches, and outdoor dining. Of course, while San Francisco’s summer season is best in September, take advantage of the good weather days to explore the great areas all around us.

For some great places to visit right under our noses note our new feature column, Hidden Gems of San Francisco. Each month a different tour guide reveals one of their best kept secret places. This month it’s the Hippodrome, the only building left with a hint of Barbary Coast character. (Page 7)

Remember to save the date – Neighborhood Night Out (Miraloma Park/ Ingleside Police Station)… Neighborhood Night Out is a community police-awareness festival held on the first Tuesday of August throughout the U.S. and Canada. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, August 6th, at the Miraloma Park Improvement Club clubhouse. Starting at 5PM, the officers from the Ingleside Station will preside over a barbeque. Other entertainment will include information booths, games, party favors, photos and comradeship. The equine members of the SFPD may also make an appearance (that’s horses you know.)

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

June 2013

How about Mom?...The weather is continuing to get warmer and as spring inches forward, it’s time to do something special for “Mom” as Mother’s Day is on May 12. Booking a brunch at one of our many neighborhood restaurants, surprising her with flowers from our florists on West Portal Avenue, or pampering her with a spa day at Dimitra’s are just some of the ways in which we can honor the Moms in our lives.

The season for “Warriors”… “Warriors” are on the mind as our local basketball team is currently making only their 2nd playoff appearance in the past 19 years, and playing very well against the Denver Nuggets.

Over at the Asian Art Museum, crowds are being enthralled by another group of warriors, the Terracotta Warriors from Xian, China. We recently visited the exhibit and it is spectacular, a must see this spring.

Save the date – Neighborhood Night Out (Miraloma Park/ Ingleside Police Station)… Neighborhood Night Out is a community police-awareness festival held on the first Tuesday of August throughout the U.S. and Canada. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, August 6th, at the Miraloma Park Improvement Club clubhouse. Starting at 5PM, the officers from the Ingleside Station will preside over a barbeque. Other entertainment will include information booths, games, party favors, photos and comradeship. The equine members of the SFPD may also make an appearance (that’s horses you know...).

Sunnyside Membership Drive… The SNA wants you!! The Sunnyside Neighborhood Association is undertaking a membership outreach to everyone in the neighborhood to bolster membership in the association. Its quarterly membership meeting is on May 4 at the St. Finn Barr Church Hall, located on Edna St. @ Flood.

Birthday wishes…A “shout out” to the founder and former publisher of this periodical, Phyllis Sherman, to wish her a very happy birthday. We helped her celebrate her event at Alfred’s Steakhouse on Merchant St. and the evening was most enjoyable. The food was great, the service wonderful and we had lively conversation. If you haven’t been to Alfred’s (or it’s been a while) make the trip; the ambiance is “pure San Francisco.”

Racing on the Bay… the newest America’s Cup racer for the Oracle (U.S.) team was unveiled last week on the Bay, with the customary cracking of the champagne bottle across the bow, which was heavily protected. The challengers for the Cup race in their series from July 4 to August 30, with the Cup finals starting on September 7 and continuing through the 21st. These large sailboats, 72 feet in length, will actually rise out of the water when racing to ride the waves on foils, increasing their speed and making for difficult and exhilarating sailing. It should be a great show.

A note for the Mayor… I was in attendance at the Public Health Commission meeting where the work of Dr. Derek Kerr and Dr. Maria Rivero was publicly acknowledged as part of the settlement of the whistleblower lawsuit. Over 70 people were in attendance and many spoke out on the good work performed over 20 years by the doctors, and also about the poor management by the CEO of the hospital, which resulted in the lawsuit and settlement. Although I am sure it was stinging for the commissioners to sit and hear each speaker discuss the failings of the board, it was extremely galling to watch a commissioner (appointed by the Mayor) texting on her smart phone while seemingly tuning out the speakers. You would think the commissioners should at least pretend to care about what they were hearing. I would be surprised if any further action was taken. Nevertheless, with the television media in attendance this shameful performance by the commission will be on the internet in perpetuity.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

May 2013

April 2013

Trattoria Da VittorioComings and goings dept…the former Café for All Seasons spot is primed to open later this month as Trattoria Da Vittorio. Completely remodeled, the workers are putting the finishing touches on the exterior while work is almost completed on the interior. It is really looking good and owner Vittorio D’Urzo feels that he should be able to have everything ready to go by the end of April. Best wishes and much success to the chef and his staff.

The West Portal Merchants Association held a meeting last week to see a presentation from the team at La Boulange, who are working through the conditional use and permit process to open a new location at 16 West Portal Avenue. The architectural drawings and renderings look very good, and several merchants and citizens spoke in favor of the bakery/café citing the wonderful food and ambiance which the company exhibits at their other SF locations. Concerns were raised about increased traffic and parking, as well as the fact that the operation was recently purchased by Starbucks and that West Portal is against chains moving in and driving up rents. It was explained that Starbucks did indeed purchase La Boulange as an investment to improve the food within Starbucks locations, and to expand the SF based company to other locations throughout the country. The founding executives are still running the operation, which now numbers 13 locations in the city. Everyone seemed to agree that the concept is attractive, but it is a shame to lose a food market, and the risk is of more chains type stores (known as “formula retail”) coming in, with the result being jacked up rents that will price the small boutique retailers out of the market. It is a risk, as many of the landlords are not realistic about building rental values and are willing to keep empty storefronts rather than rent the spaces at a reasonable rate.

The boutique nature of “neighborhood” shopping districts is what is charming in districts like Noe Valley, the Castro, the Mission and in West Portal. For shopping in a cluster of larger retail brands there is always Stonestown Galleria. Of course, the avenue has formula retail in banking, Noah’s Bagels, Radio Shack and the ubiquitous Starbucks and occasional Peet’s. It really comes down to landlord leasing reality. Unfortunately so many of the buildings have been passed down from generation to generation and it is not uncommon for owners to have a skewed (or no) concept of how retail market leasing works. Stay tuned for more on this in the future…

Pawnshop alert…it seems that the new proposed tenant in the former “Just Because” card store on West Portal is another “gold broker / pawnshop” type of operation. Given that the neighborhood has an existing one the question begs to be asked “Do we really need another one?” If you feel strongly about this you should let Supervisor Yee know, as well as the folks at the Planning Department.

Mayor Ed Lee at Village GrillMayoral “summit”Mayor Ed Lee drew a large crowd to the Village Grill recently as he invited members of the public to meet with him in small numbers at a booth in the back. His aides handled the flow pretty well, allowing people to speak with his honor, while allowing the breakfast patrons room within the restaurant. Kudos to the Mayor for having these types of events. (It must also be noted that Supervisor Yee also was on the avenue later that morning having a neighborhood chat with folks at the Greenhaus Café.)

SFSU students and Arbor Day ActionArbor Day action… while driving on Junipero Serra Blvd. you may have noticed groups of people working in the median strips. It turns out that the Department of Public Works and students from San Francisco State teamed up to plant new trees to beautify the median areas and to celebrate Arbor Day. It’s always beneficial to have more trees to beautify the city, as well as to “soak” up more CO2 from the atmosphere, converting it to oxygen. I spoke with several of the people and they seemed to be having fun while performing a good civic service.

Bengal Alley Update: It’s between Miraloma and Lansdale, the main link for many Mt. Davidson and Sherwood Forest residents where the 43 bus stops right at its gate on Miraloma Drive. Without notice a cyclone fence showed up blocking the way on Miraloma. Now, 5 years later, Bengal Alley is ready to open. The permits are signed off — with no ceremony, then there was some confusion about who had installed the chainlink fence — so who should remove it — then that got resolved. The Alley is now open to the public, again with no ceremony. Kay and Fred Curry say they will be “putting together a party soon, and other activities.” At press time they reported that the fence is down. The public walkway is once again open to the public.

Wild Turkey at 150 Lansdale

Kay observed this visitor at Bengal Alley and Lansdale --her neighbor took a couple of pictures of what appears to be a wild turkey in one of the backyard trees. A brief google search didn’t turn up any reports of wild turkey sightings in San Francisco.

Any one else seen him/her? Or any wild turkeys in San Francisco? Report it here.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

April 2013

A very informative meeting took place last week at the West of Twin Peaks Central Council. Several speakers spoke to the group, which consists of representatives from each of the local neighborhood organizations and groups. If you don’t know what the WOTPCC is about you should, as they have been representing homeowners and neighborhoods since 1939. It’s a great place to find out what’s going on in the back offices of the city’s departments. Supervisor Mark Farrell

This was the first of the meetings — while the Forest Hill Clubhouse is being renovated ­— in their new location at the Miraloma Park Clubhouse, located at 350 O’Shaughnessy Blvd. It is held on the last Monday of the month at 7:30pm.

Photo:
Mark Farrell addressed the Council

Several representatives of Café La Boulange were on hand to give a presentation about the proposed new café and bakery at 16 West Portal Avenue, to occupy the space most recently held by the St. Francis Market. The drawings and plans show a very well thought out operation that should fit in nicely in the neighborhood, possibly opening in the October-November timeframe. It really needs to be understood that the café did not push the market out; that was the doing of the landlord, who refused to extend the market’s month-to-month lease. You would think there is space on the street for a vibrant market; maybe we could spare one less nail salon. Unfortunately in commercial space it’s a “market rate” world.

Wet Wednesday… did you hear helicopters and sirens last Wednesday? car on flooded streetWork crews descended on 15th Avenue and Wawona to see the damage and flooding caused by a ruptured water main at 3AM Wednesday morning. The 16-inch pipe burst under the street and unleashed tens of thousands of gallons of water and mud into the houses, yards and cars located downhill from the break. A large sinkhole blocked a driveway on 15th Avenue. San Francisco Water Department officials said that the pipe was over 60 years old. The flooding is estimated to have damaged 23 homes and a dozen cars. Some houses were damaged and under two to three feet of water. News reports state that six buildings were yellow-tagged, but the residents will be allowed to stay in their homes while the cleanup and repairs progress. At this point there is no estimate when crews will be done with their cleanup or when repairs will be completed.

Supervisor Katy TangSupervisor Tang… At midday last Wednesday, Mayor Ed Lee appointed Katy Tang to the position of Supervisor for District 4, which includes the Parkside and Sunset neighborhoods. Ms. Tang replaces Supervisor Carmen Chu, whom Lee appointed to replace Phil Ting, as the SF Assessor-Recorder. Ting was elected to the state Assembly in November. Ms. Tang has served for five years as Chu’s legislative aide and is a long-term resident of the Sunset District, having lived there since the age of one. She will face an election in November to try and retain the seat.

Eating Crow (or Raven)… well, our 49ers couldn’t quite pull out the Super Bowl last month, so I took the ribbing from my siblings in Maryland and NY. Maybe next year… but changes are afoot as the team announced they have traded former starting quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs. I wish him well in his new environment. A recent report on “charitable foundations” run by both athletes and non-athletes do not always measure up with their levels of donations compared to contributions. In many cases the charities give less than 60%, using the balance for administrative costs and overhead. Alex Smith’s foundation was highlighted as an excellent example, by distributing 91% of donated funds to the recipients. That’s what more charities should aspire to. Thanks Alex.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

March 2013

Red and Gold fever…All is right in the football world with the 49ers again going to the “Big Dance.” By the time you read this we will either be whoopin and hollerin, or crying in our beer…oh that’s right, all of us 49er fans are routinely characterized as wine sippers… tell that to the patrons at Portals, the Dubliner or the Philosophers Club… I beg to differ.

As a native Baltimorean (or Baltimoron) I will be rooting for the 49ers as I have been in the Bay Area longer than I was in Maryland, and really, MY team was the Baltimore Colts, the team of Johnny U., Ray Berry, USF grad Gino Marchetti, and Lenny Moore. A disgrace that they were allowed to slink out of town in the middle of the night to where?…Indianapolis.

But I digress. My “Ravens-rooting” siblings have made a wager with me and I hope to be enjoying some Maryland Crab Cakes in the very near future. Go Niners!7 Mile House

Local Historic Place to Check out… Congratulations to Vanessa Villacarlos and her team at the Historic 7 Mile House, located at the corner of Geneva Avenue and Bayshore Blvd. The restaurant/bar is celebrating their 160th anniversary. No, that’s not a typo…160 years open for business in the same location. It is the only “Mile House” in the Bay Area that is still operating in its original building and location. Originally a stage coach stop exactly 7 miles from the ferry building it opened on February 6, 1853, just 4 years after the California Gold Rush. The team will be having a big anniversary celebration on Wednesday, with free adobo, live music and other festivities starting at 12 noon. The food and atmosphere is great and it’s fun to be standing in a place where gunslingers, miners, bootleggers, gamblers and others (politicians?) once downed some local suds…Cafe for All Seasons

Ode to “Café”…We have an article in this issue by Keith Burbank on the new Italian restaurant that will be opening soon in the location that was formerly Café For All Seasons. While its recent operators kept the name intact, the magic of the Café was gone, never as great as when long-time owners Donna and Frank Katzl owned the place. It was a must for brunch on the weekend and lines were routinely out the door. The cuisine was terrific, so much so that once I dined there for lunch and dinner because there were too many great specials to choose from. Annually listed in the SF Chronicle’s Best Restaurants in SF it is a place that has been missed by its fans for years.

Sharing “Sharon”…A note to our readers…this months’ Observer features a “Sharon the Health” column from writer Sharon Caren. It will be her last as she has decided to take a hiatus from writing a column and concentrate on her various business ventures. We thank her for her contributions over the years and wish her well.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

February 2013

December 2012

The rain has arrived and here in San Francisco it can only mean one thing…it’s the holiday season!!

A perfect West Portal evening…my wife and I attended the holiday open house at Dimitra’s MediSpa last Thursday evening and had a wonderful time. Between 5-minute chair massages, a rejuvenating facial, appetizers and Dimitra’s famous homemade baklava it could not have been better. Even in the rainy evening over 40 people braved the elements to help celebrate the holidays with Dimitra, Elliot and staff.…with perfect ravioli… at Paradise Pizza and Pasta, where Sal’s house made beef ravioli is the best ravioli I have ever had outside of Rome. You have to try it to believe it.

These are just two of the many wonderful stores that make up the special place known as “West Portal.” Think of them for the holidays and shop local if you can. It’s a great way to spread the holiday cheer.

Fire aftermath - assistance for employees… With the devastating building fire at number 1 West Portal Ave., the West Portal Merchants Association has set up a fund for those who wish to donate to assist the more than 60 employees of the businesses that are affected by the temporary closure of the businesses. You can walk into any Bank of America and ask to deposit into the “West Portal Fire” account. ALL of the money received will be distributed to the displaced employees. The West Portal Merchants Association is covering all of the overhead fees. Please be generous to help those affected by the fire.

Sloat Blvd Update …The Lakeshore Acres Improvement Club has been working principally with San Francisco’s Department of Public Works and the MTA to improve pedestrian safety on Sloat Boulevard. DPW and MTA put together an application for a federal grant in the amount of $1,000,200, to fund pedestrian safety improvements on the busy thoroughfare. The Lakeshore Acres Improvement Club strongly supported San Francisco’s action and wrote a letter in support of the application. The application for Highway Safety Improvement Program funding was approved. The award is for the requested amount, a total project cost of $1,000,200, with $797,000 in federal funds plus local matching funds. Community meetings to discuss the plans will be held in Summer 2013. (Thanks to Bill and Barbara Chionsini for the information and their efforts on this project.)

Just like it Ever was…Have you ever been to Westlake Joe’s? While most long-time locals would laugh at this, there’s a whole new generation finding out about this neo-classic spot. At the corner of Lake Merced Blvd. and John Daly Blvd., “Joe’s” has been serving well-priced meals since 1956. Listen to the King Hutch band and you expect to see Frank, Dino, and Sammy walking around the corner with their food to go… The best seat in the house is at the counter watching the continual “cooking show.” Jeff, Lucio and Mario will take care of you with great service and Neftali is the best at knowing when your steak is perfectly cooked on the grill. Kudos to Gus, who handles the crowds and helps to make it all happen. Founded by Bruno Scatena, it is still proudly run by his daughter Melinda, her husband Hal and a terrific staff. A fun bar, great banter with the employees, excellent food, and well worth the drive over to Westlake.

As we close our 26th year, I just want to say “Thank You” to our readers, our advertisers and all of my colleagues for helping us to keep local journalism alive. Our goal is to enrich the community through hyper-local news, events and opinions and have fun in the process. It’s been another fun year. I hope you have enjoyed letting us in to share our views of our little piece of San Francisco. Happy Holidays, we’ll see you in February.

sunset rec centerAlmost forgot—be sure to check out the newly renovated Sunset Recreation Center at 29th and Lawton—sometimes they do get things right! The old WPA (1937) building, 18,000 square-feet gym and clubhouse with seismic upgrade, etc. are top notch. Kids love the foam rubber “floor” beneath the childrens playground. sunset recreation centerThe tennis and basketball courts and athletic fields, replacement of restrooms, doors, windows, roof and all mechanical and electrical systems add up to a real improvement for the neighborhood.





Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

December 2012

November 2012

What a baseball season... the “never say die” Giants are now in the midst of their second World Series in three years, and only their fifth in the past 55 years. It’s the “new” golden age of Giants baseball, and to see the excitement in the stands and in the community it is hard to believe that the team was on the verge of moving to Florida not that many years ago. Even though we don’t wear fedoras anymore “Hat’s off” to the current ownership group; to Bob Lurie who suffered through lots of losses, and to Horace Stoneham, who brought the team from NY for the 1958 season. May they tame the Tigers and win it all again. It is apropos that the World Series ends on or about Halloween and that the Giants wear black and orange. (Panda Pops and Candy “Cain” anyone…)

As an aside –kudos to Major League Baseball and MasterCard for helping to publicize and raise money for the Stand up to Cancer campaign. At game 1 of the World Series, MasterCard presented a check for 4 million dollars to the organization. The visual of people holding placards with family ties to cancer was moving and demonstrated how it affects almost all of us.

Fire aftermath - assistance for employees… With the devastating building fire at number 1 West Portal Avenue the West Portal Merchants Association has set up a fund for those who wish to donate to assist the more than 60 employees of the businesses that are affected by the (temporary) closure of the businesses. You can walk into any Bank Of America and ask to deposit into the “West Portal Fire” account. ALL of the money received will be distributed to the displaced employees. The West Portal Merchants Association is covering all of the overhead fees. Please be generous to help those affected by the fire.

Food trucks…after a lively debate at the West Portal Merchants meeting the “Off the Grid” organization is delaying the permit process for the food truck event until spring. With the Holiday season upon us, with the parking issues that confront shoppers, it is a good-faith action by the promoters.

Election rhetoric, debates and the Hetch Hetchy redux…Good luck to all of the candidates running for all of he elective offices. It takes a great deal of energy, contributions and support to run a campaign, no matter how big the position. As for the Measures and Propositions, well, the rhetoric is overflowing and most seem to be bankrolled by large-scale interests trying to secure influence. Although we do not make it a practice of endorsing candidates or propositions, we have columnists and writers who try to inform our readers on the issues. I will say that (in my opinion) Measure A to help City College is worthwhile to support. On the other side, I personally believe that Measure F; to “restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley” is one of the most misguided and ridiculous pieces of legislation I have ever encountered. I love the wilderness, have rafted the Tuolumne River and believe we should value our resources, but to believe that we can destroy the reservoir that supplies much of the Bay Area water at billions of dollars in cost and not affect our standard of living and the economy of the region is misguided.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

November 2012

October 2011

What a weekend. First, the West of Twin Peaks Central Council organized a very well-attended District 7 Supervisor Candidate’s Forum, then our SF Giants clinched the Western Division title (over the dreaded Dodgers), then to cap it off, the 49ers came out flat in Minneapolis…and the Raiders upset the Steelers. It proves that you never can tell what is going to happen. Saying that, it will be interesting to see what happens on the national and local levels as we start to come to the end of the 2012 election season. From the Presidency to our local Supervisor, the seats are up for grabs and there’s no telling what the voters will do.

Thank you to everyone who called and commented about the candidate profile in last month’s issue of the Observer. In this issue there is additional coverage and commentary from our local political pundits. Whether you physically go to the polling station, or vote by mail, just remember to exercise your right to vote. Make it a priority to get out and make your choices known.

It’s a small world… I recently watched a PBS special on Marilyn Monroe, as this year marks 50 years since her passing, and in the Observer mailbox I received a note from local hairdresser and celebrity Marc Troy describing his sessions with the Hollywood star…

“I was always ‘Hello Mr. Troy’ to Marilyn Monroe. Yes, she was everything that hundreds of writers wrote and said about her, maybe more or even less, but at the end of the day, when alone she was simply Marilyn. Weekly visits to the St. Moritz at 323 Geary Street (the tens of thousands of cable car riders who passed below would never have imagined that Hollywood’s most talked about and glorified star was having her hair done above their heads)….which extended through the months she visited the salon as Mrs. Joe DiMaggio.” Thank you to Marc for sharing this amazing experience with us.

Visit the “Villa”…My wife and I had the pleasure of having dinner the other evening at the classic SF restaurant, Villa D’Este on Ocean Avenue in Lakeside Village. Owner Ramon Orapeza has an extensive and delicious menu that carries on the traditional Italian dinner that we’ve lost, as places such as The Granada Café, Caesars and the Gold Spike are no longer with us. The food is great, the décor is classic and the prices are very reasonable. THE Classic San Francisco experience.

Congratulations to the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association on joining the West Of Twin Peaks Central Council organization. The WOTPCC has been representing the Westside neighborhoods since 1937 and now has 20 neighborhood member organizations.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop us a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com Check out www.WestsideObserver.com, or on Twitter @ Twitter!@WestS_Observer and Facebook. and share your ideas or just let us know what you think.

October 2012

September 2012

Labor Day has come and gone and the autumn season is nigh upon us. We have two new restaurants that are in varying stages of opening on West Portal Avenue. Potrero Hill’s own Goat Hill Pizza has opened at the site formerly occupied by the West Portal Bakery. Sad to see, but their windows were damaged by a graffiti attack not even a week after opening. We wish them a long and prosperous tenure on the avenue. Across the street, a new restaurant serving Greek cuisine, Orexi, is in the final stages of construction and will be opening soon, as the owners have completely gutted and remade the former Round Table Pizza location.

“Hollywood” came to the neighborhood last week as Director Woody Allen chose the corner of Claremont and Ulloa as a locale for a scene in his “yet to be named” film currently being filmed in San Francisco. Scenes were shot in and around the corner building on August 27th and 28th and all in all it looked to be pretty seamless, as the streets remained open, albeit with lots of trucks loaded with equipment parked up and down Ulloa. The security guys were all local San Franciscans and were nice enough, although I couldn’t wrangle my way inside for a photo. I did catch a glimpse of actresses Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins during my time at the location. (No, I didn’t get recruited as an extra…)

I did run into District 7 Supervisor candidate F.X. Crowley outside his campaign HQ. He mentioned that he was involved in coordinating the union contracts for the film crew for the movie shoot in his former role as the Business Manager for Local 16 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E.). He too was headed over to the set to take a look.

Local author and historian Woody LaBounty, founder of the Western Neighborhoods Project (www.outsidelands.org), has a new book out entitled Ingleside Terraces – San Francisco Racetrack to Residence Park. It’s a wonderful look back at the racetrack, the progressive era, and eventually a new neighborhood. Much like his first book, Carville-by-the-Sea: San Francisco’s Streetcar Suburb, the book is detailed with great photographs and narratives of our local history. The book is available at BookShop West Portal, Ocean Avenue Cyclery, and Franciscan Hobbies. You can also pick it up online at inglesidebook.com.

Looking ahead, the fall promises to be an exciting time with the upcoming District 7 Candidates Forum coordinated by the West of Twin Peaks Central Council, the election of several new Supervisors in the City, as well as a multitude of California Propositions and the contest to see who wins the White House.

Note: There was no WOTPCC meeting in August. The next scheduled meeting is Monday, September 24th at 7:30 at the Forest Hills Clubhouse.

Do you have an event, a neighborhood fact or just an observation to share? Drop me a line at mitch@westsideobserver.com and share your thoughts. Check out www.WestsideObserver.com, or on Twitter @ Twitter!@WestS_Observer and Facebook.

September 2012

July-August 2012

Summer is here, and not a bit too soon. Our local “boys of summer,” aka the SF Giants, completed a three game sweep of the dreaded Dodgers this week, winning each game in a shutout. It was historic as it was the first time in the Giants SF history that the team had pitched shut outs for three games in a row against the Dodgers. Now tied for first, we shall see how the last three months of the season unfold.

The 75th season of the Stern Grove Music Festival is being celebrated this year with a great selection of music! One of the world’s best music venues for enjoying a great afternoon.

A new Greek restaurant is slated to open at the site formerly occupied by Round Table Pizza on West Portal Avenue. The construction is nearing completion and it’s good to see a new retailer opening. Unfortunately, WPA lost two tenants with the announcements that Fruition Spa and Lite for Life are both closing their operations. Although the recession is easing, somewhat glacially, business is still “a touch and go” for many of our favorites. A good reminder to “Shop Local;” explore West Portal and Portola Avenues and spread the word.

The San Francisco Chronicle featured the Avenue in their “Food” section of their April 22nd issue. The piece highlighted such neighborhood spots as the Submarine Center, the Bullshead, Shaw’s Candies, Fresca and Market & Rye, the new restaurant from celebrity chef Ryan Scott. A nice feature complete with a map, for those readers who have no idea where West Portal is. (I suspect there are many.)

Speaking of daily newspapers, did you know the San Francisco Examiner, recently purchased by a Canadian group, has in turn bought the “lion of the left”, i.e. the SF Bay Guardian. Rumors are swirling that the group is looking for other acquisitions. Could SF Weekly be next? Time will tell.

Bits and Pieces… a welcome to our newest Observer “staff member” Luke Griffin Casson. He’s not doing layout yet, having just been born on June 15. Parents Julie and Ronnie are doing well and his grandparents (Alice and I) are thrilled. I’m sure he will be typing in no time…

Congratulations…. To everyone associated with Mollie Stone’s Markets. This locally-based (Mill Valley) specialty grocery store was recently named the outstanding specialty retailer by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, one of only five U.S. companies honored for 2012.

Have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you’d like to get in the paper? Just drop it to us in the mail, or email: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Check out www.WestsideObserver.com, or on Twitter @ Twitter!@WestS_Observer and Facebook.

July-Aug 2012

June 2012

It’s hard to believe, but it is already June 1st and with that a California Primary Election. Due to the timing of the California Primary, many pundits feel that the primary election means little in the scope of the “national political scene.” On the local level, each vote could be very important as this election could have a big effect on the Bay Area and California. The voters will be making history on several fronts. With the passage of the “open primary” concept, the “top 2” finishers (regardless of political party affiliation) in primary elections will face off in the November General Election for the first time.

Combined with the realignment of Assembly and State Senate Districts, passed previously as Proposition 11, this election could very well impact our legislative representatives for the next 12 years. As many as one-half of the seats in the 80-member California Assembly could change hands due to existing term limits and the aforementioned redistricting. Several of our local elected officials are at the ends of their terms and are running in “new” districts for other offices. In all, voters in SF will have the choice of candidates in two Congressional Districts, a US Senate Race, a State Senate District, three State Assembly Districts, and of course the Presidential Primary.

Changes to term limits in California is on the ballot (Proposition 28) enabling an elected official to serve 12 years in the Assembly, instead of the current six year ceiling. Senators are still limited to eight years. Prop 28 applies to officials elected for the first time this year. Officials previously elected would have their “year count” start anew. A much publicized additional tax on cigarettes for Cancer Research (Proposition 29) is also on the ballot.

San Franciscans also are voting on two Measures, the first, Measure A would change the way that Garbage and Recycling is handled within the city; the second, Measure B proposes to limit use of the dollars gained by the concessionaires at Coit Tower to the maintenance and restoration of the landmark, not for other city projects. It should be interesting to see how the voters respond, but however you feel, please make the effort to vote as we do have the power to affect change and make our voice heard.

Bits and Pieces….on a sad note, we lost two friends last week. Bill Kruse, an avid golfer and family friend, and Dante Santora, who both passed away last week at the age of 96. I had the pleasure of Bill’s company for years, and whatever the season he always asked how I thought the 49ers were going to do this year. Dante was a former catcher in the SF semi-pro leagues and a retired longshoreman. He loved the game of baseball and was a long-time fixture in the SF baseball community as he still followed the game and was always seen in his SF Giants World Champion jacket. Both men were in (relatively) good health until recently and enjoyed their friends and families. They will be missed and remembered.

Congratulations…. To everyone associated with the West of Twin Peaks Central Council, which will celebrate its 75th Anniversary of representing the citizens on the Westside. There will be a celebration party at their next meeting, Monday, June 25th at 7:30 PM at the Forest Hills Clubhouse.

Do you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you’d like to get in the paper? Just drop it to us in the mail, or email me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Check out www.WestsideObserver.com, or on Twitter @ Twitter!@WestS_Observer and Facebook.

June 2012

May 2012

The business of running the city never ceases to amaze me. Between the Board of Supervisors, city staff members, and members of the myriad commissions, task forces and panels, it seems that almost everyone you meet is involved in some facet of contributing to the greater good for the citizens of the City and County of San Francisco. I mention this to highlight the work of some of these citizen-volunteers. The City Redistricting Task Force recently wrapped up their project to “balance” the districts so that each district will have approximately the same number of citizens. This process is revisited every ten years to ensure that as population growth evolves, the districts are realigned to stay on a (more or less) equal footage from a base number of residents. The task force heard thousands of comments and other input from the voters before making any decision. For District 7 the changes were relatively minor, with both sides of Ocean Avenue being included in D7, as well as the entire Sunnyside neighborhood being included in D7, whereas it had been split in the past. This is good for these neighborhoods and we welcome the “newcomers” to district 7. The whole redistricting challenge has been completed through the hard work and dedication of the task force volunteers. We owe them a big “Thank You” for their efforts. Another “thank you” goes out to all of the concerned citizens that took the time out of their busy schedules to speak with the task force and stand up for the concerns of the citizens and neighborhood that make up District 7.

SFMTA is still considering revising parking planning for the city and is looking at ways to raise revenue, including extending meter times during the evening and adding meter times on Sundays. The merchants in the retail districts (such as West Portal Avenue) are split on the Sunday proposal. Having meters operate on Sunday will make it more expensive to go to the movies, dinner, etc., but will possibly free up parking as some people just park on the avenue on Sunday and leave their cars all day while they jump on MUNI and go downtown. I can see the benefits of both sides of the debate. What about you? Make sure the MTA knows how you feel.

Speaking of MUNI, much has been written on the program to allow everyone under the age of 17 to ride free on MUNI. The commission voted to explore just applying the program to low-income children. How do you administer this? Or afford it? The City (and MUNI) are not flush with money, but continue to act as though they can just give away benefits with no real plan on paying for it (other than more taxes or bond measures, or taking it from another line item budget). It’s a nice idea, but why exclude low income seniors, the disabled, those who have been recently laid off, etc. With other articles written on the number of fare-cheats that ride the system, shouldn’t we be looking at ways to make sure that people pay for MUNI? Electronic scan cards for students, etc. I am all for discounting for those in need, but giving away the benefit just seems foolhardy in this time of budget constraints. Of course if children were assigned to their neighborhood schools maybe they wouldn’t be required to ride for hours on MUNI each day, but that’s another topic for another day.

Do you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you’d like to get in the paper? Just drop it to us in the mail, or email me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.

May 2012

April 2012

Parking in SF… seems to be on everyone’s agenda. Merchants are torn over the proposed extension of meters to times after 6PM and on Sundays. There are valid points to be made, but the bottom line is that MUNI needs the money, so anything to bring in more revenue will probably be approved.

Earlier this month I had a visit from one of my brothers and his family. On a rainy day we decided to go to the Academy of Science and the deYoung Museum. Driving the group into the city we got to the (underground) garage in the park and were greeted with a sign at the entrance that said “Garage FULL.” Not an uncommon occurrence when many people are looking for a place to go on a (very) rainy day. But there is a hitch…

Seeing cars exiting the garage, we decided to take a chance and see if a slot was open for us. Taking our ticket we motored down the ramp and through the North garage. To our amazement, not only was a slot available, there were at least 100 slots open. We couldn’t believe it. Walking through the “South” garage, we were treated to the same sight.

So, the question begs: We live in an area where we are renowned for our technology acumen, yet we cannot install a system that shows us electronically how many open slots there are in a garage that is extensively used. I have seen this technology in other garages, so I know it exists. In this wireless age, it couldn’t be too expensive to install a real time system. Certainly the loss of revenue for the people that left when they saw the “Garage Full” sign would help to make up for the cost of the system, or at least lessen the gap in the City’s finances. Maybe someone in the city could explain it to me. (My address is still in the staff box at the front of the paper.)

Parking aside, the deYoung and the Academy of Sciences are both terrific facilities with lots of things to do and see for kids and adults. Friendly docents are there to explain anything that you have questions about and the quality of the exhibits is top notch. Well worth your time on a rainy, or a sunny day.

A plug or two – Check out the new restaurant on West Portal, MARKET AND RYE. Early reviewers are gushing about the lunch entrees and the salads. Right up the street, THE MUSIC STORE will be having a special “Record Store Day” on April 23rd, celebrating the art of music. Limited Edition Vinyl will be featured and big discounts (25% on all USED music and movies on the 1st floor; and 50% off of ALL records on the 2nd floor AND FREE gifts to the first 100 customers). But wait there’s more…no, not steak knives, but LIVE Music and cheap drinks and snacks. Check it out!

Finally, the Golden Gate Men’s Chorus will be presenting “Pure Imagination” at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church on Saturday, April 29th at 3 PM and Tuesday, May 1st at 8PM. Tkts are $20. Visit their website: www.ggmc.org for the details.

Do you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you’d like to get in the paper? Just drop it to us in the mail, or email me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.

March 2012

All hail the Balboa Theatre, which is in the process of celebrating the 86th anniversary of its opening in 1926. In this age of 20 and 25 screen venues showing first run selections on multiple screens, the “Bal” continues to show first-run and indie fare for interested SF movie goers. Long run by former Landmark theatres executive Gary Meyer, who is also the Director of the Telluride Film Festival, the theatre operation was recently ceded to a new group who is dedicated to keeping the venerable two-screen Cineplex open for the foreseeable future. It’s a great place to see a movie, have dinner and a nightcap across the street at Hockey Haven or one of the other establishments. With the buzz around the annual Academy Awards, it’s great to keep our local pieces of movie magic alive with visits to our neighborhood theatres that are still operating such as the Vogue, the Bridge, the Clay, the Empire, the Roxie, the Lumiere and the Balboa. Don’t forget the fabulous Castro while you’re at it. Parking may be difficult, but their film programming is superb.

District 7 native son F.X.Crowley hosted a fundraising get-together at his home last week to kick off his entry into what looks to be an ever-growing field for the contest to replace termed-out Supervisor Sean Elsbernd. Over 130 attendees squeezed into his Lakeshore home to rub elbows with the candidate and hear what he had to say to the assembled audience. Citing the need to create jobs, strengthen the city infrastructure, preserve neighborhood character and keep SF safe—all well-received by the partisan crowd. Crowley becomes the fourth declared candidate to join the race.

Other declared candidates vying for the seat include Joel Engardio, Michael Garcia and Norman Yee. Engardio and Yee have the early lead in fundraising as reported by the Ethics Commission. With the election taking place on November 6th it is expected that the field will become a bit more crowded as other hopefuls enter the race.

Hetch-Hechy redux…a showdown is looming over the future of the Hetch-Hechy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park between the SF Public Utilities Commission and its opponents, who wish to drain the valley to “restore” it to the time prior to the building of the dam. Questions abound, such as: where is all of the water currently sitting in the reservoir going to go, be collected and held; are the other reservoirs equipped to handle the storage needs; and can the proponents of the restoration ensure that the City, as well as most of the Peninsula (as clients of the SFPUC) will have the water resources this very important region needs to function? An important issue that we will face. Of course, we will cover this and other election issues as Election Day moves closer.

Do you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you’d like to get in the paper? Just drop it to us in the mail, or email me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.

March 2012

 

February 2012

A San Francisco culinary institution is reborn, as “Original Joe’s” has reopened on Washington Square in the location that was formerly operated as DiMaggio’s, and for eons before that, Fior D’Italia. Congratulations to the Duggan family for keeping the tradition alive following the demise (by fire) of the old site on Mason.

The City is amazing in the number restaurants available for all of us, as well as the regeneration of the spaces. No sooner than one closes, a sign goes up extolling the “grand opening” of another. The regeneration of restaurant spaces seems to be never-ending, yet with few exceptions when a landmark closes, the name joins the ledger of the places we used to go to… The Gold Spike, Granada Café, Ernie’s, Paoli’s, the Chuck Wagon, the Blue Fox, Moose’s, Washington Square Bar and Grill, and Old Krakow are now just places in history, joining the Red Chimney, Clown Alley, Doggie Diner and the Carousel. How about Julius’ Castle? I saw the familiar façade staring down from high in the hills, wondering if it will ever reopen?

SF has a rich and varied history of culinary delights and with Valentine’s Day approaching and we look for that “special place” for a romantic dinner, we invariably remember the “ledger” of places that used to be while trying to decide on one that has reservations available for February 14th. Fortunately, we have many on the Westside from which to pick. Staying “local” helps our merchants, and helps to ensure that more of our favorites don’t become new names on that infamous “ledger.”

In this issue if the Observer, we devote a good amount of space to the subject of redistricting. Reformulated every 10 years to correspond with the census, the process works to balance out the number of residents in each of the city political districts. As the South of Market area has witnessed a dramatic increase in residents over the past 10 years, the result is that other District lines have to be redrawn to balance out the number of inhabitants.

Districts 4, 7 and 11 could be changed dramatically, with the possibility of neighborhoods being shifted from one district into another. The SF Redistricting Committee is soliciting feedback and input through scheduled meetings and presentations. All of the neighborhood groups and improvement associations should encourage their members to attend the meetings and make their preferences known to the committee members.

With new bond measures being prepared by the Park and Recreation department targeting local neighborhood park renovations, it is more important than ever to give them feedback and input so the decisions that are made accurately represent the views of a majority of the citizens in the neighborhoods affected.

Every voice counts when selecting which parks to renovate and the Park and Recreation folks cannot work in a vacuum. Attend a planning session and make your priorities known on where you want the bond money to be spent. Now is a great time to volunteer and get involved

Do you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you’d like to get in the paper? Just drop it to us in the mail, or email me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online at www.WestsideObserver.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.

February 2012

 

December 2011

Hail to the Chief…with all of the angst being written about Ranked Choice Voting, and how it would play out with the mayoral candidates the election turned into a big yawn, as Ed Lee put away the competition. Entering the race with a base of about 30% of the voters, he finished with 31%, with John Avalos and Dennis Herrera pulling in 19% and 11% respectively. None of the other candidates could muster more than 9%. Congrats to Mayor Lee on winning a full term.

With all of the money raised and matched with public financing do you think the citizens got their moneys worth with many candidates only receiving 5% or less of the vote? The concept is altruistic, but with this many candidates could the money have been better spent. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd is working to revamp the public financing process.

Voter turnout was only 40%, much weaker than in 2003 when Gavin Newsom and Matt Gonzalez locked horns in a very tight race. It was better than in 2007 when Newsom ran against a very weak field of challengers, dropping the turnout to 34%.

One election down—yet another is looming as six districts will have elections next year for supervisor. Voters in Districts, 1,3,5,7,9 and 11 will go to the polls. Here in District 7, there seems to be no front-runner to replace Elsbernd, but several potential candidate names are being mentioned. Antonini, Crowley, Garcia and (N) Yee being among them, with others sure to join. It should be an interesting summer and fall leading up to the next election in November 2012.

Don't you know SOTF? It's the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, which is becoming the first line of defense for civic-minded activists watching out for governmental abuse and incompetence. We are featuring two stories this month. Whether it's hidden records at Rec and Park (see the George Wooding piece), or meeting rules that are broken, as Hope Johnson, the Chair of the Task Force documents in her report concerning Parkmerced, there seems to be no shortage of important stories to bring out into the open. The SOTF is a valuable resource for the citizens of San Francisco, but one that most people don't know about. Read the pieces and you will see why their work is important.

I cannot believe it's the last issue of the year, but my calendar says December at the top. All of us at the Observe wish everyone a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season! Support our West Portal, Lakeside and Sunset and merchants and look for us in the New Year.

Do you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you'd like to get in the paper? Just drop it to us in the mail, or email me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online at www.WestsideObserver.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.

December 2011

 

November 2011

Election day is upon us and we are being reminded by email, telemarketers, newspapers and television ads about the candidates and the initiatives. Like the first snowflakes in winter, it's finally feeling like an electoral contest as some of the campaigns are dropping the "we all get along well" gloves and ratcheting up the hyperbole and rhetoric.

Allegations of voter fraud, not "really" supporting marriage equality, questionable donors and other "newly-discovered facts" seem to be popping up each day as the campaign "machines" try to discredit their closest perceived opponents. Who is to know what is true? The District Attorney's office is looking into some of the actions, but how long will that take and will it make any difference to the voters? Could an investigation cloud the results of an already murky process known as ranked choice voting?

Especially troubling are the various videos, which clearly show volunteers with "Ed Lee" shirts on "helping" people to mark ballots, even to the point of using stencils to ensure the correct box is filled in. The interim-Mayor states that these people are independent and not on his campaign. The clamor for investigations is rising as his challengers are rightfully asking for a thorough investigation into these issues. Lee claims not to know the group behind this, or the group that produced the book about his life, one that his wife Anita was signing for supporters. It truly sheds a bad light on Lee and the campaign. "Officially" these "volunteers" may not be working for Lee's campaign but conducting voter fraud in an unofficial capacity is just as troubling. This campaign has already had to answer questions about the "behind the scenes" impact of Rose Pak and (former Mayor) Willie Brown, and to see people in "Ed Lee" shirts breaking the law undermines the credibility of his campaign, and smacks of "Chicago-style" electioneering. I don't know the truth, but the videos bring up very troubling questions that need to be investigated.

As we go to press, the choice of who to elect is in the hands of the voters and as such it is imperative for the Department of Elections to ensure that the ballot results are correctly tabulated with audits and cross checks done to ensure that the process is as true and uncorrupted as possible. No one wins when hints and allegations of voting irregularities occur. The District Attorney's office has to be forthright on the investigations into the ballot tampering that is evident on the videos.

We should be truly proud to live in an area where our office holders and citizens are so passionate about public service and making a difference. There is much work to be done in San Francisco, and regardless of the final outcome to select the next Mayor, District Attorney, and Sheriff, it is going to require the office holders to partner with all of the stakeholders. Each will need to focus on inclusion, listening to staff and citizens, to craft workable solutions to the challenges that face San Francisco. Governmental honesty, ethical responsibility for actions taken, and true transparency should serve as the cornerstones of our local elected and appointed public servants. As voters we should demand no less, however difficult it is to implement and audit these values.

Our duty, as citizens, is to exercise our right to vote, and to make our choices known. Democracy is not a spectator sport. It is one that requires participation from the citizens, and protection by the officials charged with ensuring that the elections results are not tarnished by fraud. We deserve the truth about what is going on here.

Do you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you'd like to get in the paper? Just drop it to us in the mail, or email me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.

November 2011

 

October 2011

The election season is heating up, and there is barely more than a month to go. Candidates are making proclamations, ads are appearing on TV and in the papers, and local offices are cropping up all over. And, of course, the accusations of "hypocrisy" are springing forth from all different directions.

This month we cover issues relating to the election; the opening of Interim-Mayor Ed Lee's campaign office on West Portal Avenue; a solid piece on "Ranked Choice Voting" by George Wooding, on what the candidates and political pundits think of the process.

One of our ads, from the Department of Elections does a good job in spelling out the process of filling out the Ranked Choice Ballot. Be sure to take a look at it so there is no confusion when the time comes to make your choices and vote.

It has always been my contention that newspaper publishers should not make candidate endorsements as "the fourth estate" should be as fair and open as possible and try to provide relevant information on both sides of issues.

As we went to press, we had the opportunity to get a close-up and personal look at the major candidates at the West of Twin Peaks Central Council Candidates Forum. The forum, held on October 1st at the St. Stephen's Parish Hall, was organized by the WOTPCC, which represents the neighborhood associations within the West of Twin Peaks area and was attended by over 400 citizens, and candidate supporters. A recap is slated to appear covering the major questions and responses.

It has been a long time since the major offices in SF have had this number of qualified candidates running. Aside from the Mayoral election, close races are being run for the offices of District Attorney and Sheriff. Well-qualified candidates are also on those ballots, so the voters will have a multitude of prospects and choices to make.

While I commend everyone in the races, I am concerned by some candidates seemingly unrealistic concept that we can continue to put more fees and taxes on SF businesses and residents to solve the many political and societal issues that face the city.

For example, most of the candidates state that MUNI is broken, but increasing parking fees hurt our neighborhood businesses and just throw more money down the MUNI/MTA hole. A tax on cars may relieve congestion, but our neighbors and businesses in Marin and on the Peninsula will reap the benefits, not the merchants on West Portal and at Stonestown Center. To the city department heads, Board of Supervisors and Mayor (whoever it will be): How about getting your fiscal books in line and fixing the out of control spending?

One candidate stated that the city budget is 3x what it was when Frank Jordan was Mayor. Has the city population increased…No, however we get less money from Sacramento (and Washington) and inflation has driven the cost of everything up. But a three-fold increase? An interesting question would be the amount of city employees from then to now.

Another candidate, a Supervisor, spoke of passing legislation that was only deliberated for 30-40 seconds before being passed unanimously regarding making changes in building glass to protect birds. Hey, we all like birds, right? I do. But, what is the cost impact of the legislation on landlords, building owners, tenants and businesses? Could they have possibly cared, if only 30-40 seconds was spent on this? Sounds like a "throw away – politically correct" vote that no one will remember, but may have big costs to those who build and rent city offices, apartments and other civic buildings. If this law was considered for 30 seconds or so, and the ramifications not considered or debated, then it is poor legislation that borders on arrogance of the highest order. I do not claim to have the answers, but then again, I am not an elected official. For those of you that are, quit trying to make everyone happy, protect everything and everyone from themselves, and take a look at making some sound, fiscally responsible decisions, not perpetuating the failed policies of the past. The people put their trust in you. You owe them real transparency, up front discussions from all stakeholders, and the consideration of the cost of what you legislate into law.

WWQD?? (What Will Quentin Do) - Check out what Quentin thinks about the candidates and the propositions in the upcoming election as he gives us his opinion on who and what he supports.

Be sure to come to West Portal Avenue on Saturday and Sunday, October 15 and 16 to check out performance art where dance meets MUNI in "Trolley Dances". Performances will occur at several locations on the MUNI line through West Portal from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. It's sure to be a unique and fun experience.

Do you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you'd like to get in the paper? Just drop it to us in the mail, or email me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.

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October 2011

September 2011

It's gonna be a fun election season…Now that the declaration period is over, we finally can see the field for the running of the SF Mayor's derby. Front-runners, dark horses and long shots abound with a candidate or two to fit every voter's profile. The next two months will be a blur with the candidates trying to get their messages out any way they can.

The good news is that the field is stocked with an overflow of political talent. Of the plethora of candidates vying for the Mayors' office, at least 11 look like they could do a very credible job as SF's chief exec. Leland Yee, Tony Hall, Dennis Herrera, Michela Alioto-Pier, Bevan Dufty, David Chiu, John Avalos, Joanna Rees, Phil Ting and yes, Ed Lee and Jeff Adachi give the voters an unusually deep field of quality candidates that have knowledge and experience about working in and running the SF city government. I wish them all well as it takes a tremendous amount of time, energy, family support, and funding to run any campaign to be elected to public office With "ranked choice" voting, where each voter is asked to provide a ranking of their top three candidates, I believe votes will be very spread out with a whole host of recalculations and tabulations at the end to bring us (eventually) a winner.

Speaking of "ranked choice," former District 7 Supervisor Tony Hall garnered the top endorsement this week from the SF Log Cabin Republicans, who also named Michela Alioto-Pier and Ed Lee as second and third respectively, as their recommendations for the ranked choice ballot in the November election for Mayor. The gay Republican group cited Hall as the most fiscally conservative candidate. While not a huge voting bloc in the city, nevertheless it is a good starting point for the "straight talking" former supe.

We will get a close-up and personal look at the major candidates at the West of Twin Peaks Central Council Candidates Forum. The forum, to be held on October 1st at the St. Stephen's Parish Hall, has been organized by the WOTPCC, which represents the neighborhood associations within the West of Twin Peaks area. For more information go to their website, www.WestofTwinPeaks.org.

We also have elections for District Attorney and Sheriff. Six candidates (including incumbent DA and former police chief George Gascon) are in the DA's race, while five candidates (including Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi) are vying for the silver sheriff's badge. A full list of candidates can be downloaded off of the SF Government website (sfgov.org).

With the advent of ranked choice voting, where each voter can select up to 3 choices (in order of preference), it will be more important than ever to do research in order to make the most informed choice. We are fortunate to have such a choice of candidates; it's truly democracy in action.

Music has been at the forefront in the city with the annual Stern Grove (free) concerts, the very successful OutsideLands Festival and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass fest. In addition we have great local venues such as The Music Store on West Portal, Café DuNord on Market Street (just over and down the hill), and the Independent (on Divisadero).

If the spoken word calls to you, check out the events at BookShop West Portal. This local gem brings authors from very diverse genres together for events and readings during each month. It's a great literary resource for the neighborhood.

If you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you'd like to get in the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online at www.WestsideObserver.com.

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September 2011

July-August 2011

Summer is upon us and that means music in the Stern Grove on Sundays, the Outer Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park, and many other local musical events. Check out our calendar for listings and dates.

I recently attended a retirement party for one of "San Francisco's Finest." SFPD Motorcycle Officer Tom Vellone has put away his riding gloves and helmet after a distinguished career. Tom served in a variety of venues, operating out of Mission Station, Tenderloin Station and the Hall of Justice. 200+ people attended the event, put together by his wife Susan. Photos and video snippets traced his early life, his hobbies (scuba diving), and photos of the years spent protecting the citizens of SF in many different ways. Best wishes in retirement and a "thank you " for a dangerous job well done.


Help promote live music in West Portal!—The Board of Supervisors is considering approval of an ordinance that would allow small merchants to have music in their venues. Live musicians such as a guitarist, small jazz trio, etc. could help the restaurants and shops to attract customers and provide for a "Parisian" type of ambiance on the Avenue. Currently West Portal is not included in the proposal. Email or call your local supervisors to put a plug in for this worthwhile endeavor.


Will he or won't he? This was the question posed to Mayor Ed Lee at the West OfMayor Ed Lee swears in officers at the West of Twin Peaks Central Council Twin Peaks Central Council meeting on Monday, June27th. His honor, being on hand to conduct the swearing in of the new WOTPCC officers, sidestepped the question somewhat be saying that he doesn't want to be distracted from the job at hand by having to campaign, and that we doesn't see himself as a "politician." With people downtown wearing "Run Ed Run" shirts, and Paul Conroy asking the Mayor if he would endorse a "write in" campaign, will the lure be too much to resist? The audience at the event also included candidates, (Former District 7 Supe) Tony Hall, Joanna Rees, and City Attorney Dennis Herrera.


Our readers filled the "mail bag" this month with observations in the neighborhood old photoand a historic description of the "historic" photo from last month. Reader Hobie MacQuarrie, who claims to live in a computer free zone, penned a response, informing us that our photo was a nice picture of Miraloma Park in the mid-fifties, with O'Shaunessey Blvd. in the foreground. His letter describes the purchase of the house in 1960 for..$19,500 ($2000 down), and that the house is still in the family, with his son and daughter-in-law living there. While there the family witnessed the transformation of the golf driving range into McAteer High School (Now School of the Arts), and the development of Diamond Heights. The letter even closed with a telephone number; DELAWARE (DE)4-XXXX. How many remember when the prefixes were words. I used to love the sound that the rotary telephones made…Thank you to the Mac Quarrie's for sharing with us.


Unfortunately, a young driver with extremely poor judgment crashed his car into the fountain at St. Francis Circle on June 26th at about 4 AM, causing an extreme amount of damage. Rumor has it he was trying to "jump" over the structure with his car. Fortunately the driver was not seriously injured, but he was arrested. I hope he has better insurance than he has common sense.damage to fountain

Historic Landmark Damaged—St. Francis Wood Circle fountain, San Francisco, circa 1912 by John Galen Howard, 1864-1931, Architect. Teenagers used to pour dishwashing liquid into it and watch bubbles overtake the neighborhood back in the 1960s. Lately it has been a quiet reminder of the World War I era in a peaceful, tree-lined setting.


 

 

Finally (from local "celeb" Marc Troy) – Hello to Bella, who has opened "Simply Bella" a ladies boutique in the second block of West Portal; and a farewell to Maris Jewelers who are having a "retirement" sale and saying goodbye after 37 years on the Avenue.

As most of you know, this is a combined July-August issue of the Observer, as we do not publish an August issue to give our staff and families a bit of a break. September marks my 3rd year as the Publisher of the paper, and I want to say thank you to our writers, contributors, advertisers and readers who make this journey so worthwhile. Have a great summer, and see you in the fall.


If you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you'd like to get in the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online at www.WestsideObserver.com.

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July-August 2011

May 2011

Several of us monthly newspaper publishers had the opportunity to sit and chat with Mayor Ed Lee last week about things around the town and it was quite a pleasurable experience. The Mayor, who told us he is definitely NOT running for the job on a permanent basis, was very forthcoming with his views and comments and quite a fan of the local, small businesses that make up the neighborhoods in San Francisco.

He emphasized his plans to continue working to ensure that San Francisco is SAFE (through Public Safety, as well as keeping essential social programs); SOLVENT (fixing the budget to ensure ongoing fiscal management) and SUCCESSFUL (focusing on what brings people to town, both as tourists, residents, and businesses). All in all I think he has vastly improved the communication between the Mayor’s office and the current Board of Supervisors, and as he is not seeking re-election he can focus on how to confront and solve the myriad of issues that the city faces.



Speaking of small businesses, there is a new business over at the Lakeshore Plaza Shopping Center, on Sloat Boulevard. “True Sound” is a new business that specializes in all things hearing-related. During the interview for June’s “Business Corner.” I was struck by how impactful hearing loss can be for a people and their families. Most people are embarrassed to admit hearing loss and reluctant to do something about it, affecting their enjoyment of everyday living – on average they wait 7 years. Check out the new store if you or someone you are close to has hearing loss or can benefit from dong a self-evaluation. It is well worth your time as it is comfortable and non-threatening with a very helpful group of employees. We will feature a more in depth look at “True Sound” next month.


I am in the process of reading a book of short stories by local West Portal-based writer, Ethel Rohan. Cut Through the Bone is an innovative and emotionally jarring collection that makes us ask questions and draw assumptions about most of the emotions we face in everyday life. The individual stories are short (3-4 pages each) and so well written that you cannot help but be hooked into the emotional fabric of each vignette. You have to check out the video trailer where Rohan reads pieces of the prose. Not being familiar with the book or the author, once I saw the video I had to have the book as soon as possible. The link is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5B0y5ydm-v4 . We will be doing an interview with the author in the very near future.


A life well lived…Elsewhere in this issue we say farewell to columnist Hank Basayne, who passed away on April 11th. I cannot say that I knew him for many years, having met him only three years ago, but he had a remarkable way about him and shared himself with us each month with his “On the Plus Side” columns, often writing about aging and the fears and realizations that one sees upon the journey.


He also officiated at Bay Area weddings for over 30 years and assisted many couples as they started their married lives together. To me, he was great to talk with, truly kind, and an inspiration to be a better person. We are better for having known him (and his musings). Our condolences go out to his family and his many friends. We will miss him.


If you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you’d like to get in the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

May 2011

April 2011

Important issues are all around us here on the Westside: changes to the SF Housing Element document (affecting what is and is not acceptable to be built in existing neighborhoods); projects planned for Golden Gate Park; the ongoing planning and discussions related to the 30-year planned revamping of Parkmerced, including the revised 19th Avenue Transportation Corridor planning; the race to be the next Mayor of San Francisco; the budget impasse in Sacramento and how it will affect all of us; the continuing public discussions on the direction of MUNI, Recreation and Parks Dept.; public pension reform; street repairs; the list goes on and on.

It's never too late to get involved. True change comes from interested citizens getting involved and asking tough (and fair) questions of our elected and appointed officials. We are fortunate to have dedicated people within our neighborhoods that care about the fabric of the neighborhoods and are not afraid to do research and speak up when they have concerns on how things are going. Each month I attend several community meetings and am amazed with the in-depth research and knowledge that people have within the community groups.

Last month we ran a piece on the front page on the proposed CVS store on Portola and the neighborhood concerns and opposition to the proposed sale of alcohol and the operating hours of the store. It was reported at the WOTPCC meeting that the Miraloma Park Neighborhood group and CVS had negotiated a successful agreement. CVS has agreed not to offer alcohol beverages for sale and the operating hours were modified into a compromise that everyone agreed to – without a battery of lawyers in court. Congratulations to all of the parties in the negotiations.

Join the "Relay for Life" – each year the American Cancer Society conducts the "Relay for Life" event throughout the country. The Relay is all about celebrating cancer survivors within our community, remembering those we have lost, and continuing the fight so that cancer can be defeated. As a community-based, volunteer driven event, everyone has a place at the events. Teams of 8-15 people commit to raise $100 per person, and take turns walking in the Relay. On April 16th there will be a Relay in the Sunset. For more information visit www.relayforlife.org/sanfranciscosunsetca – a most worthy event. For information on other Relay events visit the website for the American Cancer Society.

Small Business Newsflash…congratulations to everyone at Georgette's of Westlake. The salon just celebrated its 50th anniversary in business!! It is a true testament to value and customer service, as many small businesses don't survive for 5 years, much less 50. A great accomplishment, especially in a field as competitive as hairstyling.

"Great Eats" dept…we recently visited the Parkside Tavern on Taraval Street for a meal and the food is terrific. The owners have created a truly beautiful venue with good food, very reasonable prices and a comfortable atmosphere. Bring the family for breakfast, lunch or dinner; or stop in for a beer and watch a game or match. Even though the name says "tavern" it is family-friendly and well worth visiting. Two thumbs up – check it out.

What about you? If you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you'd like to get in the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

April 2011

March 2011

Hunkered down under piles of blankets and layers of clothing, many were disappointed when snow did not happen. Many news outlets had been predicting. Snow is a rare sight in San Francisco with the last memorable snowfall occurring in 1976. City officials and planners were preparing trucks ready to spread sand on the icy slopes. As a transplanted Easterner, but being here almost 30 years, I cannot recall any city where freezing temperatures and icy roads could be more hazardous. (OK maybe Pittsburgh.) Heck, even our driveways are steeper than most hills in many parts of the country. At least we did get to have a colder version of our "normal" winter weather with ice forming on windshields, and wind chill temperatures below freezing. Were you scraping your windshield with a credit card too?

The race for Mayor is heating up with former District 7 Supervisor Tony Hall, and former District 2 Supervisor Michaela Alioto-Pier joining the race, as well as current City Attorney Dennis Herrera. It will be a crowded field as Board President David Chiu, Assessor Phil Ting, former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, State Senator Leland Yee, and venture capitalist Joanna Rees also launching their campaigns to succeed interim Mayor Ed Lee. I'm sure the number of candidates will continue to rise, as we get closer to spring. We look forward to many positive ideas and workable solutions from the candidates to continue to make San Francisco the great city that we all cherish. Publisher's note: With Tony Hall's entry into the race, he will be taking an extended hiatus as an Observer columnist until the Mayoral results are in.

"Great Eats" dept…for a brunch or dinner change of pace, guide your car (or Muni) down Upper Market to Tangerine Restaurant. Located at the corner of 16th and Sanchez it is an Asian-fusion restaurant with an extensive menu for brunch or dinner. I was there last weekend for brunch, and the food is terrific. My "blue crab" omelet was the best I've had outside of my ancestral Maryland haunts. No reservations are accepted for brunch, so get there early. For a most romantic dinner that will take you back in time (with Frank or Dean on the jukebox) take a drive down Skyline Blvd., just South of hwy 92 to the Bella Vista. It's a great "old-school" type of restaurant with great food, desserts like soufflés made to order, a very romantic destination. A bit of a drive, but one of the great hideaways from the past that is still delivering great food, service and ambiance.

B of A Newsflash….The Bank Of America on West Portal Avenue was robbed at gunpoint on Saturday, February 26 at about 3:00 PM. If you have any information or insight that will help the police get in touch with the SFPD's Taraval Station.

What about you? If you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you'd like to get in the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

March 2011

 

February 2011

We’re back in the swing of things and have shaken off the post-holiday overload. The sun is out and the rainy weather has ceased (for now). New supervisors, a new Mayor and a new District Attorney (the former Police Chief) have taken office, as well as an interim Police Chief. And that’s only in San Francisco. California has a new Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General all who should smile favorably on the City.

Fiscal honesty dept.…(ouch): The wrangling has started about the proposed budget that Governor Brown has forwarded, cutting 12.5 Billion dollars out of the spending plan, and trying to end redevelopment agencies and extend some taxes. How many of the cuts can be made without a 2/3 majority vote, and how much fiscal pain are we really prepared to bear? Sacramento wants to balance their budget by pushing more responsibility onto the cities and counties. What will that do to local projects, school budgets, and life in the City as a whole? On top of all of this the “pension costs” are still looming out there. At least people are talking about the issue and not just trying to sweep it under the carpet and “kick the can down the road” for a few more years. Hopefully a workable budget plan can be implemented that allows the state to function, yet gets the long-term debt load under control. We’ll see how much all of the stakeholders really want to address the issues at hand and what impact their actions will have on local SF needs such as transit; water projects and other local programs. We’re all in this together as we vote for programs (via the initiative process); but we don’t love paying for them. “Oh, we’ll just float a bond measure to make it happen…” Now the hard work comes about.

Blogs and “local news” Eric Kauschen is a local blogger (and devotee of the late Herb Caen) who blogs under the name “Baghdad” on his “baghdadbythebay” blog, which covers a multitude of topics in San Francisco. Recently he put in a great plug for the local papers on the Westside by highlighting the Sunset Beacon, West Portal Monthly, Richmond Review and yes, the Westside Observer as examples of “really local news” that “talks about what’s really happening in your neighborhood.” It was great to see and really pushes the point home that information never really stops and is available in many different ways. Print, blogs, tweets and video all serve to inform and educate. Journalism is alive and well, and in the hands of more people than ever before; just different than it used to be. Good stories still need to be told, and people really want to know what’s happening where they live. Check out Eric’s blog at baghdadbythebaysf.com. Lots of really good stuff.

What about you? If you have an interesting story, idea, or some insights you’d like to get in the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

February 2011

December 2010

It’s hard to believe that this issue closes out another year of the Observer. There was much to cover and report on in 2010 with the excitement of elections and baseball dominating the headlines in recent weeks.

 


On a more local level, the neighborhoods around West Portal survived the MUNI rebuild, and the merchants are looking to rebound as the general economy improves at a glacial pace (although the crowds on “Black Friday” could dispute this) and we hope that 2011 is a little brighter and more on the road to recovery.

This New Year will bring San Francisco a new (interim) Mayor, and quite possibly a new District Attorney as well. Several new members of the Board of Supervisors will be sworn in and will be faced with the task of working within the severe budget constraints that face San Francisco. I hope that the new officials will pledge to work together to represent and help the citizenry en masse, including the business community without which there are many less jobs and tax income.

 


Whatever happens, we will be continuing to observe and report the events and interesting facts about the western side of this wonderful city. My continuing thanks and appreciation goes out to the cadre of writers, columnists and staff members that work to keep this periodical in the boxes and on your doorstep. And, of course, the merchants and advertisers who enable us to buy the paper, ink and services through their support.

I believe that community based journalism is an important part of the fabric of the city and all of us from the editors, writers and readers are participants. The 16 monthly newspapers in San Francisco give a clear and detailed snapshot of each of the locales they cover and together bring the largest amount of local news to the readers. In attending neighborhood meetings and events I often hear from readers how the local papers have much more local content than the larger papers.

While gratifying to hear, it’s a sad fact that the once great dailies can no longer cover all sections of the neighborhood with the depth of writing that they once had, and that trend is probably irreversible as news and journalism continues to evolve. Email, blogs and “twitter” inform people in ways that were unimaginable even 5 years ago.

On the other hand, the neighborhood monthlies are in tune with the micro-local issues that you are interested in and exist to keep you informed. The “Westside” of San Francisco is fortunate to have four monthlies covering events and news. In addition to the Observer, the West Portal Monthly, the Sunset Beacon, and Richmond Review all strive to meet the needs of the neighborhoods. Relying on “volunteer” journalists, local columnists and reader inquiries these publications paint a hopeful picture of local news that will continue to evolve.

 


What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, idea, or some insights just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

Thanks for reading us. Have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

December 2010

November 2010Old West Portal Poster

Baseball in November…in SF? For only the fourth time in 52 years, the Giants are going to be playing baseball in November as they take on the Texas Rangers in the World Series. It seems fitting that the ‘orange and black” will be hosting the series during Halloween week. Let’s hope that the Texas Rangers play more like the Washington Senators they used to be prior to moving to Texas in 1972.

It’s great to see the fans excited about this team, and it seems to me that during this year it’s been more fun to follow the Giants than in years past when they were expected to win. Let’s hope for a little more “torture” that brings four more victories and the first World Series title in San Francisco Giants baseball history.


Local West Portal favorite Manor Coffee Shop was recently filmed for the Channel 9 (KQED) show “Check Please, Bay Area.” In the show three people recommend a local favorite, and then take turns visiting each other’s picks and offering a review on the air. By the time you read this, the show will have run on Channel 9 but will be featured on their website. The Manor features hearty breakfasts, great turkey lunches and pies to die for. Get your counter seat now as the line may soon be out the door…


Congratulations to Healthy Pets Veterinary Hospital located at 373 West Portal Avenue on their recent opening. They offer full service pet care with an emphasis on nutrition and pet wellness as well as medical and surgical services for your pet. Dr. Adam Piaseczny and his staff have created a friendly and open environment, with a bit of fun as they recently hosted a Halloween pet costume party and open house. They can be reached at sfhealthypets.com, or at 415-742-5961.


Good news – the financial picture for Parkmerced has improved as Fortress Investment Group has acquired control of the property through an equity investment. New stores have recently opened in the Park Plaza shopping center and the future of Parkmerced again looks promising.


Bad news - graffiti thugs have again made their presence known as several buildings were tagged on 14th Avenue. As a reminder, if you see someone vandalizing property, call 311 as soon as you can.

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

November 2010

Halloween, Elections, and other scary stuff…

Autumn is here, and with the weather it seems that we just by-passed summer completely. I know that a summer in SF is more a state of mind than an actual weather pattern lasting more than 3 days, but this “summer” was really cool and uninspiring from a weather standpoint. At least the SF Giantsmade the season one of the most exciting in memory.

It’s hard to believe that Halloween and Election Day are right around the corner, but the calendar says that it is so. The election has some very important Propositions that will affect pensions, MUNI, pot clubs, the ability to sit/lie on the sidewalk, as well as the normal phalanx of propositions that we are asked to support and reject. Throw in that we actually have some interesting candidates to vote for or reject, and this election sizes up as one that will impact California and San Francisco for years to come. Although I do not believe in newspapers endorsing candidates (I think the voters should be able to do their homework and make the most informed choice) it is clear that one of our biggest hurdles is getting people to vote at all.

The advent of the absentee ballot and early voting is changing the way that campaigns are run and dollars spent. Absentee/early balloting may account for 15-20% of vote totals in some areas of the state. This is a large rise from years past when only the “snowbirds” or vacationers would bother to use the absentee method of voting. If you register early, it makes for an easy way to have your vote counted and frees your schedule from having to be in town on November 2. Although we may disagree on issues and candidates, there is no disputing that the ability to vote is one of the greatest gifts that we have. So, please vote and make your choices known. Check out “Quentin’s Column” as he takes on the Propositions quite nicely.

Halloween will be fun and festive as the storefronts and windows on West Portal Avenue will become 20 by 24 inch “works of art” …

Halloween will be fun and festive as the storefronts and windows on West Portal Avenue will become 20 by 24 inch “works of art” in a contest where children will paint and decorate the merchant windows in a window painting and decoration contest. Sponsored by the West Portal Merchants Association and the local Rotary Club, students from the first grade to the 10th grade will be working in teams to create their works of art, and to bring a festive and “scary” feel to West Portal Avenue.

The artwork is expected to be completed by October 24th and will be on display for judging through Halloween, with an awards ceremony in early November to celebrate and acknowledge the artists.

I’ve heard that over 40 merchants have signed on for the event so it should be a fun time and bring a spark of color to the Avenue. To sign on or to get other information you can contact either Elliot Wagner at 415.731.8080 (Dimitra’s), or Bob Scully at 415.239.4562 with the SF –West Rotary Club. It should be a fun and festive event.

Are we there yet? - Last month I asked this questions in reference to the West Portal Avenue/St. Francis Circle project that seemed to be taking forever. As soon as we hit the press, the cones disappeared and the boulevard was again “Open for Business.” The new MUNI equipment, the pedestrian crossings, the sparkle of new concrete and asphalt and having WPA open again is a joy to us drivers, and no doubt to the merchants who had to persevere through the construction. A big “Thank you” to the Merchants and to MUNI and the construction crews who kept things moving during the large and disruptive process. Please keep them in mind when you are shopping as the economy is still not humming along, and our small merchants and businesses are highly dependant on residents/shoppers within 1-2 miles of West Portal Avenue.

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

October 2010

farmers MarketQue Syrah Wine Bar just celebrated their 4th anniversary of pouring and selling delicious wine at 230 West Portal Avenue. Owners Stephanie and Keith Mc Cardell feature many wines that you can’t find in lots of places, and these treasures make for a great visit. They have a Neighborhood Happy Hour every Tuesday night from 6-8 PM and are featuring tapas on Thursdays as well. They just started a “Yappy Hour” for doggies and their owners on Sunday, August 29th. In September they’re having a “Barbeque and Big Reds Event” on September 18th from 5-8 PM. Check it out.

What was with the hot weather last week??? 98 degrees in San Francisco…I know, I know…earthquake weather. People all around the town were happy when the fog started to roll back in.

Good luck to Tsing Tao #3, Healthy Pets, and The Pawber Shop, which recently had their grand openings. It’s great to see storefronts starting to re-fill on the Avenue.

Have you checked out the Farmer’s Market held each Sunday at Stonestown? Since it started the crowds have built steadily and in recent weeks, it’s been very well attended with lots of people checking out the large variety of fruits, vegetables and baked goods. Get there early or get in line. The market has been so successful that the neighboring Parkmerced farmer’s market has closed its operation. The Stonestown market is located in the rear parking lot at the Stonestown Galleria, towards the Buckingham Way end of the lot.

Are we there yet? Work has been continuing on the St. Francis Circle, West Portal Avenue project, and you can see progress amid the swirl of cement mixers, detour signs and orange cones. So far the merchants have tolerated things as best as they can, although they say that business has been much slower. No wonder. At any given time you never know if the eastern end of West Portal Avenue will be open, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to which days it’s open. When closed you have to make the drive up Portola and curl back around. Let’s hope that this MUNI project gets finished SOON so we get back to normal. (Like complaining about the lack of parking, etc.)

I’d like to take a moment to thank the readers and contributors for helping all of us make the Observer a success. We are now in our third year of publishing the Observer, which celebrates 23 years of bringing local news to the West Of Twin Peaks area. Along with the West Portal Monthly the local beat is well documented thanks to publishers who care and lots of local writers, columnists, photographers and advertisers (who help all of us in the newspaper sector). The neighborhood is fortunate to have so many caring citizens and a vibrant setting. Twenty-three years, and there are still lots of new things to observe and report on.

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

Sept 2010

From the Publisher’s Desk…Turkey with "Eat Ham" sign

Thanksgiving; The start of the Holiday Season; and the end of another year…

The Thanksgiving holiday is one I always look forward to. Many of us get a few days off, we share cooking with family and friends, there is football on TV, and we don’t yet have to concern ourselves with gift buying or mountains of cards to be delivered. These tasks can be forgotten until at least the Friday after Thanksgiving or better yet, a week or so later.

After the turkey, we have been working on putting together the final issue of the Observer for 2009. With the first issue in 2010 (February), the Observer will be marking its’ 22nd year covering the people and places that make San Francisco, and the Westside, so special.

2009 was my first full year as the Owner and Publisher of this publication and I am very proud, and humbled, not only by the effort that everyone puts forth to make each issue informative and relevant but also by the comments that I receive from the readers and people who have visited our website. For this I thank everyone involved with making the paper a valued asset to the neighborhood, and something that is still relevant in this electronic age.

During this difficult economic year, I have tried to highlight our local merchants and shops. They do a great job of presenting unique goods and services and I believe they are also a critical component of the fabric that makes a neighborhood special. Please think of them when you are out on your holiday shopping rounds.

This year has been tough on almost everyone, and especially difficult for those who are on the cusp of poverty and homelessness. During this season don’t forget to support programs such as the Second Harvest Food Bank, St. Anthony’s Dining Room, The Glide Foundation, The Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, or your favorite charity. The need is great and a small donation can go a long way to help those in need.

Thanks for your support for our writers and the paper. All of us at the Westside Observer hope each of you have a Happy Holiday season and a very Happy New Year!

Want to communicate with us? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other information you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check us out online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

December 2009

From the Publisher’s Desk…

Parking, Police changes and more … the issue of parking is still a hot topic. At the WOTPCC meeting on Monday, 10/26 the proposed meter extensions were discussed. It looks like the MTA is planning to extend West Portal Avenue until 9 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 11-6 on Sunday. They’re saying it’s about the need to have more rotation of the available parking spaces, and making the meters run longer will do that. It seems to this desk, that revenue has a whole lot to do with it.

I am trying to understand both sides of the topic. My concern is that Stonestown comes out ahead (with free parking) and Merchant Districts like West Portal continue to suffer. If you have a feeling about it, contact the Mayors office and the SF MTA. The MTA commissioners are appointed by the Mayor, not by the Board of Supes.

I met the new Police Chief, George Gascon, at the WOTPCC meeting and at first blush he seems to have a handle on what is going on. He is supporting the concept of “community policing,” and is getting the detectives out into the district police stations. Sounds like a good start.

Sad note: It is still not determined if the Granada Café (on Mission) will reopen after their fire. I heard that the patriarch of the business, Giovanni, passed away three weeks ago, and that the plans to reopen are in limbo. Here’s hoping for a revived Granada.

Lots of road construction coming in 2010…the major intersection of St. Francis Circle will be reworked and under construction from May – September in 2010. Prior to that project, the PUC and MTA will be closing the left land of Junipero Serra for several months to excavate and replace the main piping system that supplies water from Hetch Hetchy to the Peninsula. (start your breathing exercises for patience while driving now.)

I wrote last month about a new book about the community of houses built from old cable cars, horse drawn cars, etc. It’s called “Carville-By-The-Sea”- San Francisco’s Streetcar Suburb, and is written by Woody La Bounty of Outside Lands Media, and the Western Neighborhoods Project. The book is a delightful and interesting history of an artistic bohemian community living in cable cars in the sand dunes East of Ocean Beach. Check out the website at www.carville-book.com.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the Chinese Immersion Education Project, which started at West Portal Elementary School 25 years ago and became the model across the country. There were several celebrations in October honoring the program and the people associated with starting it and keeping it alive over these 25 years. Congratulations.

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

November 2009

From the Publisher’s Desk…parking meter

Parking, parking and more expensive parking… the issue of parking was the hot topic at the quarterly meeting of the San Francisco Council of District Merchants Associations, held on the 21st of September at Clay Oven. Over 40 merchants from across the city attended the meeting to hear Supervisor Sean Elsbernd give an update on an MTA (Municipal Transit Authority) plan to extend the hours for parking meters.

Several plans are being floated for different areas of the city, but all have a central component; the hours that we will have to pay the meters will be greatly extended. There are proposals to extend the hours from 9-9 PM on Monday through Thursday, and until midnight on Saturday. Sundays will also be targeted for metering from 11-6.

It doesn’t take a Berkeley scientist to figure out that people will go shop where there is free parking…the local malls; or just stay home and order over the internet. This will further reduce the business in our local neighborhood shopping districts and reduce the amount of permits and taxes that the city will receive. I am not sure how this will help “balance” the city budget. As for being “Transit First” I am sure that Serramonte Mall and Stonestown will be thrilled with the MTA “solution.”

Of course City employees get to park for free…is this in the budget???

The City of Oakland also tried to balance the budget on the back of the local merchants with the extension of meter hours and increased rates. A merchant outcry was heard and the topic was revisited. This past week, the City Council in Oakland voted to uphold the fees, stating that balancing the budget was the most important issue…more important than any worries that the merchants have about staying in business. Way to go Oakland…send more business to Walmart.com.

San Francisco MTA reps…are you listening?

I have been reading a new book about the community of houses built from old cable cars, horse drawn cars, etc. It’s called “Carville-By-The-Sea”- San Francisco’s Streetcar Suburb, and is written by Woody La Bounty of Outside Lands Media, and the Western Neighborhoods Project. The book is a delightful and interesting history of an artistic bohemian community living in cable cars in the sand dunes East of Ocean Beach. It is scheduled for a publication release on November 1. Check out the website at www.carville-book.com.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the Chinese Immersion Education Project, which started at West Portal Elementary School 25 years ago and became the model across the country. There will be an anniversary celebration on Saturday, October 17th at 5PM at the West Portal Elementary School.

There’s some question if the annual Taraval Street Fair will be held this year. The permit fees and associated costs have skyrocketed. Stay tuned for more information.

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

How did it get to be September so quickly? It seems like the summer has just flown by, and here we are in the fall of 2009.

With 2010 on the horizon it is amazing to me to think that it’s been 40 years since Apollo 11 made the first moon landing with Neil Armstrong descending the ladder with “One small step for man…” on July 20, 1969. I was a teenager sitting in Baltimore watching on TV and never imagining that I would be living and working in San Francisco.

Oddly enough, a local store also opened in 1969. Located at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Fairfield Way, this small store, selling records, tapes and blue jeans was originally named, “Pants and Discs”, but the owners soon changed the name, and retail history was made when The Gap was launched.

The company became an important part in my life when I “fell into The Gap”, joining the company after college and eventually relocating to their SF offices. While there I met my future bride, and my one-year “trial period” at headquarters turned into a 13-year career. Although I left the company many years ago, I‘m grateful for the opportunity to move to San Francisco those many years ago, and work with many talented people. To Don and Doris Fisher – Happy 40th anniversary on founding the company. That small store on Ocean Avenue changed the world …and my life.

Speaking of time moving so rapidly, this is the 1-year anniversary of our becoming the publishers of the Westside Observer. We have learned volumes over the past 12 months and have been helped by so many supportive people. The other publishers within the SFNNA (San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association) have been terrific, as have the great writers, columnists and advertisers. Of course, Editor Doug Comstock, “Sales guru” Catha Hall, the guys at MarinSun Printing, and founding publisher Phyllis Sherman have all played an important part in my “rookie” year, as has Julie and her “Open Late” series of comics. I also want to thank you, the readers, for giving us an audience, for sharing your ideas and concerns, and really letting us know what you think. Your passion for San Francisco and the neighborhoods makes it fun and rewarding. Finally, a big “thank you” to my wife, Alice, the best Associate Editor and partner I could have.

Now…about the neighborhood:

The sights and sounds of Indian music filled the Western end of West Portal Avenue on Saturday, August 1 as the streets’ newest arrival, Clay Oven, celebrated their grand opening. Musicians delighted the crowd as they performed on the tabla and sitar. The crowd assembled on the sidewalk sampled some of the delicious food, and were treated to dancing as well. The Clay Oven has an extensive menu featuring entrees such as Punjabi Lamb Curry, Prawn Vindaloo, and many other dishes. If filled tables are any indication, the restaurant has gotten off to a rousing start as the crowds during the first several weeks have looked to be very strong. The restaurant is located at 385 West Portal Avenue in the location formerly occupied by Old Krakow.

While we were on the street we popped in next door to the Paradise Italian Restaurant, for a quick bite prior to seeing the newest Harry Potter film. Sal, the proprietor, convinced us that the pasta would be quick as we had a limited amount of time. My wife and I could only sum it up in one word, “magnifico!” We agreed that the house-made ravioli and fettuccine dishes we had for dinner were the best since we were in Rome several years ago.

For those of you that have sent e-mails asking about the Little Fish Boutique, they are planning to open later in September at their new address, 616 Irving Street on or about the 18th of September. Their telephone number will be the same, 415-681-7242. “Best of luck” to Tori in her new location.

The best golfers in the world (yes, Tiger will be there) will meet at Harding Park to vie for The President’s Cup, from October 8-11. It’s usually a sold out affair, so try to get your tickets early.

There’s some question if the annual Taraval Street Fair will be held this year. The permit fees and associated costs have skyrocketed. Stay tuned for more information.

You won’t find the West of Twin Peaks Central Council follow up in this issue, as they don’t meet in August. We’ll see everyone in the next issue.

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@WestsideObserver.com. Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

September 2009

Do you know the way to San Jose…Or West Portal Avenue?

Apparently some people don’t. Ursula, owner of the White Rose Boutique on West Portal Ave. reports that several people have visited her store and asked her “How long have you been open?” and are amazed when she replies “Twenty Years.” She asks if they are in the neighborhood, and they acknowledge that they are.

West Portal Avenue is a great street, but can be hard to find for the “newbe,” or someone who hasn’t been there before. One end has the Muni tunnel, and the other an intersection that “may have been designed by Rube Goldberg” – who was famous for his convoluted mechanical solutions to simple problems.

Unfortunately, the avenue doesn’t get the “drive through” traffic that benefits the merchants. Once you find it, it’s a quaint street with great restaurants, interesting retailers, a few watering holes, and a lot of businesses with “spa” or “salon” in their name …and challenging parking.

I write this with sadness that two merchants have announced closures: Little Fish Boutique and Old Krakow Restaurant. The high cost of rent, and the downturn in the economy just proved to be too much in their current locations. I wish them well, and hope to see them possibly resurface in the future as they were great establishments.

The future of the small retailer/merchant is in the balance, as even the big guy’s are suffering (Circuit City / Good Guy’s, Comp USA / Mervyns, etc.). When you are looking to go out to dinner, have a facial, buy a bottle (or glass) of wine, get eyeglasses, a new stereo or TV, make travel plans, or buy a new top or outfit check out the customer oriented shops on the Avenue. The owners are local, they know their merchandise, and give great advice and customer service.

I attended a seminar last month about the state of things in California, entitled, “The Golden State is Tarnished—What can we do about it?” It centered around a panel discussion with several speakers trying to make sense of the terrible fiscal condition that our state is in. Much of the blame can be put on the passage of Prop 13 all those years ago, where tax relief was achieved but the results were far reaching and some of the (unknown) ramifications have helped to put the state in the current situation.

Some ideas can be found at the website of the group “California Forward.” The more I read about the problems and see inaction in Sacramento, maybe it’s time for the voters to move towards a constitutional convention to make some meaningful changes, (like not having the budget held hostage by a handful on “no new taxes” radicals in the Central Valley and Southern California). We also cannot continue to pass well-intended propositions without figuring out where the money is coming from to pay for them. We can’t continue to crave parks, highways, social services, and other amenities without looking at the earmarked funds within the government, and the lack of revenue that California is bringing in.

It’s important to fix (or dismantle) Sacramento, as money and services should be focused on the local cities and towns where we have a better local feel for governance. As it is today, “ol’ Sacto” will be siphoning off more of the local taxes to fund their insatiable demand for larger government.

Best Wishes…

A quick “Get Well Soon” to my niece, Lindsay Bull, who lives in Maryland. She is recovering from a tonsillectomy and we wish her a quick and speedy recovery. Use this column to hit your dad up for an ice cream to soothe that throat.

And a quick note of congratulations to Supervisor Sean Elsbernd and his wife on the birth of their first child. Best wishes to the family.

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: mitch@westsideobserver.com Be sure to check out the Observer online @ www.WestsideObserver.com.

July/August 2009

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