The Worst Pandemic Is Yet To Come
Card image cap

For thousands of years, homo sapiens have developed a resistance to the viruses and bacteria present in our domestic livestock i.e., cows, chickens, pigs and sheep. There is no resistance the new viruses apparently coming from bats, the novel coronavirus which results in the disease COVID-19.

COVID-19 has a genetic code that allows epidemiologists to discover where the virus came from, which is helpful in tracking the spread of the disease. Previously, in 2003, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) also came from a corona virus. However, this disease come and gone. Some say SARS came from bats, others say the illness came from civets (a relative of the mongoose).

quote marks

For thousands of years, homo sapiens have developed a resistance to the viruses and bacteria present in our domestic livestock i.e., cows, chickens, pigs and sheep. There is no resistance the new viruses ...

Today, SARS is transmitted primarily by laboratory accident by those studying the disease. MERS is an illness that originated in Jordan or Saudi Arabia in 2012 and spread. MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) comes from a corona virus with a mortality rate of 3-4 deaths out of 10 people infected.

Civet

Picture of civet left. Picture from animalia.bio. This animal is also a possible carrier of coronavirus.

THE SPREAD OF THE DISEASE

The disease was first noticed in a fish market in Wuhan, China. At first the Chinese denied the importance of COVID-19, however, eventually they were very effective in inhibiting the spread by completely shutting down. In addition, 42,000 doctors flooded the city to take control of the sick, while each victim had 5 epidemiologists to trace the origin of the disease and to locate and treat others involved. The question is will America be able to provide this many doctors and epidemiologists to any given place and will Americans be able to shelter in place for 2-1/2 months?  No, is the correct answer to this question. In America we are not even able to provide enough test kits, gloves and masks, ventilators or hospital beds for our doctors. 

Italy does not have the same resources as China.  Also, the Italian culture encourages closeness and before the disease was known to be prevalent, kissing friends and family on both sides of the cheek hastened the spread of COVID-19.  Moreover, numerous religious shrines in Iran are kissed or touched, in defiance of the COVID-19 outbreak, causing the spread of the illness in Iran, despite health warnings to the public.   In Moscow, Russia, religious followers kiss and touch religious artifacts also, fortunately, today the churches are now closed.  Today in Saudi Arabia, they have cancelled flights for pilgrims of the Hajj, the religious pilgrimage.

 

Kaaba Images

The Kaaba (picture above) Photo by Getty Images/Business Insider

The disease is spread by droplets of air containing coronavirus when those infected cough, sneeze or even breath. These droplets can also be picked up by the hand, then when the face is touched, the virus can enter the body. The reason a 6’ distance is requested between individuals is because it is hoped that the droplets are more likely to fall to the ground in that distance. This initial information, provided by health officials is overly simplistic and inaccurate. In truth, the virus can easily be aerosolized or remain in the air for hours after a sneeze or cough and the illness can spread even in a choir practice. There seems to be proof this disease spreads more by air than we originally thought. Most problematic for transmission of the virus is elevator buttons. Soap and water is considered a better deterrent than hand sanitizer. Some researches indicate the illness will be less communicative in the summer in the Northern hemisphere. However, in Africa and India, COVID-19 is growing quickly, therefore, summer weather may have little effect.

Once someone has COVID-19, there is no conclusive evidence they can be reinfected again. However, with SARS, immunity lasted for only a year or two. In Wuhan China, four people who became sick, were believed to be cured and tested negative for the disease. Then later, these four tested positive and were returned back to isolation. Elderly individuals with pre-existing conditions i.e., hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cardiopulmonary disease become more seriously ill with COVID-19.

The discussion of lowering the curve is not a plan to cure the disease but it is an opportunity for the health industry to catch up with adequate tests, masks, gloves, gowns and ventilators. In California, Governor Newsom said that 56% of all of California’s 22 million people here may become infected. Some of those will show no signs of illness.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a test to reveal the coronavirus, whether people are symptomatic or not. However, government regulations do not allow outside sources of testing, even in a pandemic. When test kits were provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they proved to be flawed and another test kit needed to be made, wasting valuable time. President Trump claimed the WHO underreported the significance of the COVID-19 pandemic and has threatened to cut funding. Yet recently, reports inform us that the President was told of the danger of COVID-19 in mid-January 2020 but he ignored it. Today, Abbot Laboratories has a test that can provide a diagnosis in five minutes after the sample is taken, and their laboratory is producing 50,000 test kits a day. The CDC tests were possibly 30-60% accurate, subjecting patients to as many as 6 tests, with differing results and more time spent in isolation. Additionally, the CDC tests have been less effective for individuals with no symptoms.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

The President’s response has been weak, allowing each state to compete for increasingly diminishing supplies, creating shortages and higher than necessary prices for protective gear and equipment. To make matters worse, reports indicate that the federal government is raiding hospitals, taking masks, gloves, thermometers and other medical supplies. No transparency is available that would explain where the supplies are going. In contrast, in the Ebola outbreak of 2014, President Obama instituted a federal program to coordinate the fight against the Ebola disease. Early in the Trump administration, the White House dismantled the pandemic preparedness team, however, they have not admitted their role in the spread of the disease. Only after the pandemic was finally realized, did President Trump appoint Robert Redfield, MD, Director of the CDC, on February 18, 2020. Critics warned that a virus outbreak, like the Spanish Flue of 1918, could kill as many as 50 million people, but their warnings were ignored with no reply. Fast forward, when COVID-19 was a recognized pandemic, the first cruise ship containing passengers and crew with COVID-19 returned to the port of San Francisco, those that were ill were sent to hospitals and those with no symptoms were brought to the Travis Air Force Base. During the transport of the passengers, some equipment was missing, especially devices to cover the back of the head and eyes. Because of this, COVID-19 was brought into the civilian community by ill-equipped and untrained nursing staff. Even more recently, nursing staff at the Travis Air Force Base reportedly told passengers from cruise ships who were in isolation, not to take the COVID-19 test if they wanted to return home early. Would that mean that anyone sick at the base would be allowed to travel home, spreading the disease even further? Responses from the federal government show poor judgment and expose a lack of proper control by experts at the top of the federal government. Early on the President Trump called the COVID-19 illness a “hoax” which delayed the response rate to the virus. How significant that delay was, history will tell us. In the opinion of many doctors, the delay was catastrophic.

On Wednesday, March 26, 2020, the President approved the Defense Production Act (PDA) requiring General Motors to make ventilators in a wartime effort. Yet, as of April 4, 2020, masks, gowns, eye protection, test kits and swabs have not been authorized by the PDA. Currently, the plan is to shelter in place until May 1, 2020. Although Dr. Anthony Fauci, has requested a federal stay-at-home order from the President, he has declined to do so for the eight remaining states that have no such orders. For the 17 million Americans who have lost their jobs and their healthcare, President Trump has denied expanding the enrollment period for Obamacare, apparently for political reasons. Although America had been prepared to handle a pandemic, because of the administration’s slow response rate, more people will die in America than any other country. The rate of death in the USA is likely to be 70,000 to 240,000 people. Yet, President Trump has received a bump in popularity, which is quickly fading. His current approval rating according to a CNN pole, is 44%. When President Trump fired Glenn Fine, chairman of the federal panel Congress created to oversee the $2.2 trillion stimulus, it is further evidence that he will ignore any special inspector general, or Congress’ mandate to oversee the stimulus funds, making them vulnerable to misappropriation.

President Trump was no plans to delay or limit the Republican Convention at this point, however, Democrats are planning a virtual convention. Nor has he any plans to encourage Americans to vote-by-mail in order to hinder the spread of the COVID-19. Fearing an expanded vote-by-mail program, he said, "They had things—levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again.” Making voting difficult has always been the strategy of the Republican Party—that is why voting is allowed only on Tuesday, rather than weekends. Lastly, Attorney General William Barr, has asked for emergency powers, whereby judges would could detain people that have been arrested, with no time limit and with no recommendation on when a trial would be held. All in the name of this pandemic.

CURES ARE ON THE WAY

There are said to be 4-5 cures in production. Moderna, a Cambridge biotech company, after only 63 days is testing a vaccine on humans — ignoring the policy of testing on animals first.  The speed at which this vaccine was produced is notable, and is in itself a miracle. The vaccine contains a sliver of the genetic material of the virus, the RNA.  The plan is to have this RNA injected into the body, prompting our own immune systems to provide a cure.  Should this vaccine work, it is said it will take 12-18 months for the vaccine to be finalized, then additional time for production, shipping and setting up a program for injecting people with the vaccine.  Johnson & Johnson claims to have a vaccine candidate they want to have tested in September with millions of emergency use dosages available by the end of 2021.

NEW BEHAVIOR

If there is a bright side to this pandemic, it could also bring about some positive change. Washing our hands before every meal is now commonplace. Who knows how many illnesses will be avoided following this simple guideline. Should working at home become permanent, it will save fuel and provide an opportunity to improve the climate and perhaps the environment. Working at home will likely become more commonplace in the future. With all those employees working from home, plans to increase the density in urban areas, like San Francisco, may become unnecessary, as workers remain at home in the suburbs or move to less expensive rural areas. When the 80% economy returns, due to layoffs of people never to be rehired, maybe MUNI could redesign buses and trains with safer distance. Americans might even have family dinners at home again. We have not done that since before the invention of the TV. In order to hasten the return to the regular economy, one doctor has recommended daily testing for every worker, with badges indicating workers are safe to interact with others.

Maybe it will take this pandemic for Americans to realize that our healthcare system is broken and a system that works is necessary for public safety. Remember, COVID-19 is said to be transferred by droplets, the more serious pandemic will be transferred only by air. Let’s hope we will have a more robust healthcare system when the next pandemic arrives.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information on COVID-19 , see the website provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which is updated daily with the most accurate and current information: cdc.gov

Glenn Rogers, RLA, VP, CSFN
Landscape Architect, License 3223
web site: alderlandscapearchitecture.com

More by Glenn Rogers

A New Oceanview Library Presents New Problems

Current location of the Oceanview Library on Randolph Street

It has been decided that the present Oceanview Library on Randolph Street is too small and a new 20,000 square foot library should be built to replace it. Presently, the location the City favors is at the Brotherhood Way Greenbelt. Originally, the Greenbelt got its designation because there was historically a stream here, with organic soils and an earthquake fault. Today, the caution of building on a problem site has been dismissed.

Transportation Problems

In addition, the new Oceanview Library will be adjacent Orizaba Avenue, an extremely narrow street. To provide a public building here, would increase a traffic load to a street already overburdened. The neighbors in front of the new library would likely permanently loose parking in front of their homes. Safe to say, the more this library is successful, the more difficult traffic will be to overcome.

quotes

…the City is ignoring a large available site at 137 Broad Street. This site is 9,350 sq. ft. and includes a shuttered building and a large vacant side yard beside it. This site could easily provide the necessary space for the new library.”

Why Build In The Greenbelt?

One of the reasons the site was chosen is that the land is owned by the City, therefore, the purchase of land is not necessary. The land is described as “free”. However, numerous site problems will need to be addressed to build here. I believe the building of a library here would be the first step in further development of the Greenbelt for other City needs— e.g., Affordable Housing. Marc Christiansen, Vice President of METNA, has asked for a statement from the City, that no further development would occur on the Greenbelt in the future, if a new library is built here.

Proposed location in the Greenbelt

The Greenbelt Construction Difficulties

• A signal light would need to be installed on Sagamore/Orizaba to slow down the pace of commuters and to channel vehicles into Orizaba Avenue at a manageable pace.

• The curb on the west side of Orizaba Avenue would need to be widened to allow easier access. (Eventually, houses will not allow any widening of Orizaba Avenue to correct traffic difficulties)

• A telephone pole on the side of the new library, would need to be removed.

• To build on organic soils with an earthquake fault, concrete piers would need to be part of the library’s foundation.

• Approximately 12 trees, with 24” diameters, would need to be removed with their root system.

• Since no building here is present, new gas, water, sewer and electricity will need to be installed.

• A lengthy EIR is required.

• The library would cast shadow on neighboring properties.

• A library at the Greenbelt provides no economic synergy with other businesses.

• Original zoning inhibiting building on the Greenbelt is being ignored.

Therefore, although the land is “free”, site conditions here make this site expensive to build on. Traffic solutions for the library will need to be polled by neighbors and may or may not be approved. The new library is 1-1/2 blocks away from the M streetcar, on a difficult grade for seniors or the disabled to walk to. Younger people that would walk to this site, will need to walk past the Oceanview Supermarket, where questionable people are present selling their wares. To walk to the new library at night, through the Greenbelt, could be like walking through Central Park in New York, where assaults regularly occur.

SFMTA: Engineering the Library’s Success?

For the library to be located at the Greenbelt on Orizaba Avenue, a traffic solution is required by the SFMTA. However, the SFMTA has shown itself to be clumsy in solving traffic problems. For example, the 54-bus travels up St. Charles St., which is very narrow, to go to Daly City BART. Last week, I saw 3 buses trapped there and unable to deliver their passengers because the congestion was so bad. A simple fix would be to have the 54-bus travel to BART by using John Daly Blvd, but this solution is ignored. SFMTA has designed numerous failed designs for the M streetcar along 19th Avenue over the years. One solution was to travel underground through the business district along West Portal Avenue. This would mean commuters could not see the local businesses —more pain for this business district. Another SFMTA plan was to skip the business district at the Lakeside Village. Then, to have an underground station at Mercy High School, creating a traffic jam of biblical proportions, as this station was being built. The point is, if this new Oceanview Library is dependent on a satisfactory solution from the SFMTA, that solution may not happen.

Ignoring a Better Site on Broad St.

Alternate site on Broad Street

Choosing this site in the Greenbelt for the library, the City is ignoring a large available site at 137 Broad Street. This site is 9,350 sq. ft. and includes a shuttered building and a large vacant side yard beside it. This site could easily provide the necessary space for the new library. Already two existing barbershops, two family grocery stores and two churches would benefit from a library here with the increased foot traffic. Ironically, if the Oceanview Library returned to Broad and Plymouth Street, it would be returning close to the original location of the old library which was at Ana’s Market, a nearby grocery store.

Advantages of Broad Street Site

• No traffic gridlock is created with the library here.

• This location is beside a M streetcar stop.

• Walking to the library from the M streetcar stop is on flat ground.

• Demolition to prepare the site for construction would be easy.

• Sewer, water, gas and electricity are readily available.

• This site is closer to the Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center.

• The Sheridan Elementary School is closer to this location.

• A library here would remove the blight of an abandoned building.

• This site would benefit a nascent business district with more foot traffic as the original library did at Ana’s Market.

• No EIR is required because a library was previously near here, in the not so distant past.

• Most importantly, a library on Broad street preserves the Brotherhood Greenbelt and preserves the original zoning given the site.

How Lame Are These Excuses?

Numerous poor excuses to not build on Broad St. are offered, and all the justifications for the less desirable site are made with misstatements and fiction.

One misstatement was the site was too small being only 5,000 sq. ft. in total. This information immediately dismissed this site as an alternative. However, this information was false. The Senior Architect, Andrew Sohn, visited the site and confirmed the site was 9,350 sq. ft.

The next excuse was that the land is zoned residential, not commercial. A stroke of the pen can change this designation. If zoning is a concern, the fact that the Greenbelt has been zoned off limits to development for over a century, should be an impediment.

Next excuse? The site should remain zoned residential because the City needs more residential housing. However, Oceanview district needs a more robust business district also. More residential housing could be gained by rebuilding at numerous shuttered businesses in the district, converting them into housing.

Another argument is that there is no parking at 137 Broad Street, but neither site has parking, and, the Greenbelt site has the intrinsic traffic problem of too narrow a street.

Recently, objections have been raised that the site is a single-story neighborhood presently and a two story library would not be allowed. Is the fact that nearly every house on this block is two stories irrelevant?

The last excuse was that 137 Broad Street was next to a previous crime scene where shootings had occurred. However, simply by the addition of a camera, shootings here have stopped. Sociologists believe eyes and foot traffic discourage crime. With the presence of a library here, and a greater police presence this can be mitigated.

The property on Broad St. would probably cost less than the cost of the improvements to the site on the Greenbelt, since it would include earthquake proofing, MTA changes on Sagamore, demolition of 12 trees and their root system, a telephone pole replacement, a lengthy EIR process, as well as running sewer, gas, electric and water lines to the new library. All of these improvements are expensive and not necessary on the Broad St. library site.

Another excuse is that the Broad St. location is not at the corner of the block. “All libraries are at the corner of the block,” we were told. However, the original library at Ana’s Market was not at the corner of the block. In this part of the OMI district, superblocks are very common, which reduces the opportunity to have intersections, as streets are as long six regular blocks. In a neighborhood with so few intersections, having a library at the corner is desired but difficult to provide. One neighbor explained, if 137 Broad was discovered to be the site of the new library, they would increase the price of the property, making this solution too expensive. Well, the City has had no hesitation in purchasing property in the Fillmore district, for half the true value of the real estate, during the restoration of the Fillmore. In the negotiations of real estate, the City can be very forceful, which could also include obtaining property by imminent domain.

CALL TO ACTION

The City continues to be in favor the site at Brotherhood Way Greenbelt. Oceanview residents and all San Franciscans need to contact and voice your disapproval:

ahsha.safai@sfgov.org

mayorlondonbreed@sfgov.org

Also. please ask sue.Blackman@sfpl.org at the Library Commission when the next outreach meetings will occur so you can be present and voice your opinion in person.

Glenn Rogers,RLA is a landscape architect living on the westside. See his website at alderlandscarearchitecture.com

December 2019

CAN PG&E DO THIS PROPERLY?

PG&E has a plan to reduce wildfire danger on windy days by turning off the power along lines where fire is likely. Experts claim this could last as long as 5 days. The question many are asking is, can PG&E be trusted to execute this plan accurately and with minimum disruption to the public? After all, PG&E has been convicted of 6 federal offenses, one of them obstruction or lying to investigators. Also, PG&E has violated its probation.¹ Therefore, some argue that power should be allowed to be turned off by PG&E only with the help of a public agency, to make sure Californians are not unnecessarily inconvenienced.

quotes

Worst case scenario—we can expect our cell phones to fail. If an accident occurs, how are we to contact help? How dependent on electricity are the police and fire department to do their work and answer calls?

CONSEQUENCES OF ELECTRICAL OUTAGE?

Those having medical treatment at home will be affected disproportionately, as will those with stair lifts. Typically, stair lifts for the disabled have a reserve of 25 extra rides after a power failure. After that, disabled persons must be carried up or down stairs. Hospitals may generate their own electricity, but healthcare centers, where patients go for dialysis, will likely do without.

Street lights and traffic signals may be out during outages, a serious problem after dark. Worst case scenario—we can expect our cell phones to fail. If an accident occurs, how are we to contact help? How dependent on electricity are the police and fire department to do their work and answer calls? Burglar alarms will likely not be working. Doorbells will not work, since computers will also be out of service. Your automatic garage openers will be dysfunctional. Know how to open the garage door manually? Few will be able to do that.

Food will be spoiling at home, at restaurants, and at grocery stores. Having a meal at a restaurant will be difficult even if food is fresh. Lights and dishwashers will not be available to staff. How long will our sewer system be able to store untreated sewage before it needs to discharge it untreated? Will pumps be able to move sewage at all?

Gas stations are dependent on pumps —out of service. So will the charging stations for electric cars. Uber or Lyft will be unreachable by phone or app. BART will be closed since they get their power from PG&E. Caltrain will be using sustainable electrical power as soon as this year or 2019 and will not be effected. MUNI gets its power from the Hetch Hetchy Dam, which is a separate electrical system also.

Will parents that work in private industry be able to go to work in offices without computers or light? Elevators will not work in tall buildings. How many people will be able to climb stairwells? Fortunately, City employees working in City government buildings get their power from Hetch Hetchy Dam and may be allowed to work.

WHEN WILL WILDFIRES HAPPEN?

There will be major setbacks to an area should the electricity be turned off. This will likely occur when the east Diablo or Santa Ana winds are blowing hard with little humidity. Then, after the power has been turned off, the power lines will need to be inspected to see if they are safe again. Therefore, the solution of turning off the electrical grid on windy days, to save us from wildfire, must be considered long and hard, before it is implemented.

September 2019

Endnote

  1. www.abc10.com/article/news/investigations/the-history-of-pges-problems/103-b7badd6e-8eea-4ae3-a935-8628ba98b87e

    Glenn Rogers, PLA is a landscape architect working and living on the west side.

PG&E’s Wildfires

A slope like this can allow wildfire to spread even faster than normal. Photo: petaluma360.com

PG&E has a service area of 70,000 square miles from Eureka to Bakersfield, servicing 16 million people. PG&E controls more than 125,000 miles of power lines and nearly 50,000 miles of gas lines.

Most recently, it has been determined that a tower built in 1919 was responsible for the Camp Fire. Asked if this tower had been inspected recently, there was no immediate reply by PG&E. It seems this tower was built and left untended for nearly a century.

quotes

...fire can move as fast as one football field a second. With fire damage occurring this fast, it is said the PG&E could be responsible for as much as $80 billion in liability.”

Besides neglect being responsible for forest fires, other causes have been an unwillingness by city, county and state officials to change fire codes. The Hanly fire in 1964, which covered roughly the same land burned in the Tubbs fire of 2017, seemingly provided no new fire code legislation. Today, areas in Sonoma County are being built exactly the same way they were before the Hanly and Tubbs fires.

Wildfires are different today than from the past. Historically, wildfires would move 6.7 mph through a dense forests. It is worth mentioning, that a fast walk is 3 mph. With 147 million dead trees in the wild lands of California, it is easy to catch these trees on fire. Today, wildfires move on top of the canopy of the forest fueled by “Santa Ana” or “Diablo” wind. These winds can move as fast as 40 mph. When a 10 degree slope is present, fire can grow even faster than on flat land. In this way, fire can move as fast as one football field a second. With fire damage occurring this fast, it is said the PG&E could be responsible for as much as $80 billion in liability.

HOW WILL PG&E PAY FOR ITS LIABILITY

To pay for these expenses, some believe ratepayers could be paying as much as double what they pay today. Therefore, with the cost of liability so high, PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 29, 2019. In this way, they can dodge some of their liability burden.

HOW DO WE FIX PG&E

PG&E told a Commission on February 13, 2019 that shareholders, with a profit motive, allow the company to provide the service to improve the company and “make investments that improve safety or quality of service.” But the California Municipal Utilities Association has objected to this logic, stating on February 28, 2019, that PG&E “does not need a profit incentive to promote safety, providing, reliable, affordable and sustainable electric service…”

Another way to fix PG&E has been suggested to have it divided up. A benefit of this would be, the private interest in profit, would be removed from the “public interest of reducing carbon emissions and meeting the statewide goal of carbon neutrality by 2045” the Sierra Club believes.

It has been suggested PG&E could reduce forest fires by shutting down power at critical times of the year and with fire danger high. Oakland and San Francisco could be affected and could be without power for up to 1 to 5 days. Those that need machines at home, with serious health issues, could be required to go to the hospital for care. The next question is, who will pay for these fire-related medical visits to the hospital and would PG&E pass the charge onto the ratepayer? In the past, PG&E could pay for food damaged by power outages. Will PG&E continue this practice in the future?

Of the proposals to stop wildfire, undergrounding the main transmissions lines would seem to be the best solution. However, of the money that was available for this purpose, almost half of it has been diverted. “They can divert it to corporate bonuses, to more shareholders’ dividends, anywhere they want,” writes Candace Nguyen, KTVU news on July 24, 2018.3 Undergrounding transmission lines can cost about $2.3 million per mile.⁴

Glenn Rogers, RLA is a landscape architect living on the westside. See his website at alderlandscapearchitecture.com

 

3. ktvu.com/news/money-slated-to-put-pg-e-power-lines-underground-was-diverted-for-years-2-investigates

4. sfchronicle.com/business/article/Wine-Country-fires-PG-E-often-diverts-money-for-12742239.php?psid=6dauR

JUNE 2019

The Collapse of Insects

Today, it is estimated that 2-1/2% of our insect population is dying or suffering from extinction every year. This would mean in a century, insects could all vanish. Most importantly, it is the flying insects that are affected most. The explanation is said to be “death by a thousand cuts” or more specifically, no one reason is said to provide the total explanation.

THE CAUSES

For many insects, their demise has said to have been caused by a reduction in habitat, e.g., this year 25 states have been flooded. Obviously, land underwater provides little habitat. Industrial farming, another form of loss of habitat results where acres and acres of crops of the same type are planted in monocultures. “Global Warming” or the temperature of the earth is getting hotter which can affect insects. Light pollution, another factor which attracts insects, seduces them into flying around and around, until they become weak and unable to find food. Lastly, pesticides must be improved to stop the killing of our beneficial insects.

MICROPLASTICS

Microplastics are found in the air we breathe—this is just recently discovered. Typically, plastic the size of 5 millimeters is considered microplastic but plastic can break down to even smaller particles the size of 10 nanometers (or 0.00001 millimeter). Since plastics are non-biodegradable, it is believed that microplastic can break down to increasingly smaller sizes with no limit. Scientists are looking at the effect of particles of plastic so small that they can pass through the lining of the intestine. Other concerns of scientists are what will happen when the smallest of microplastics migrate into the cell structure, passing through the cell wall. Will there be disruption of some kind? What impact does microplastic have on the breathing of insects?

THE IMPORTANCE OF INSECTS

The problem of insect collapse is very serious since 1/3 of our food supply is pollinated by insects. Insects are necessary for the removal of carcasses, so they do not linger in the open air rotting. With the extinction of insects, numerous birds, reptiles and amphibians will become extinct. Today, insects represent a biomass 17 times greater than that of humanity.

COSTA RICA IS DIFFERENT

In Costa Rica there is a national park named La Selva. This park is protected from insecticides and other causes of insect collapse elsewhere. Here, there is only one factor responsible for the decline of insects: temperature rise. In the tropics the temperature has been remarkably constant for eons. Today, the tropical temperatures are 4 degrees warmer than it was previously. Unfortunately, tropical insects are unable to control their internal body heat and die. In Costa Rica, the collapse of insects, could cause the rainforest to perish for all trees and shrubs that require pollination. Rainforests are critical to providing oxygen to the planet. Should our rainforests collapse, this would be another environmental catastrophe.

Source of Chart: Biological Conservation 232

THE SOLUTION

What can we do to stop the collapse of insects? We must transform our present chemically intense form of agriculture to a form of ecological farming which protects the soil and water, and promotes biodiversity. To that end, we must ban all insecticides that are harmful to bees and other pollinators. We need to support San Francisco’s plan to charge 25 cent for the cost of plastic bags which would reduce the amount plastic in the environment. We need to replace turf with California native plants which provide sustenance to our local insects. Today, neighborhood gardens, i.e. Sisterhood Garden, in the Oceanview district, provides habitat for insects with native plants and a pollinator garden. Turning off unnecessary outdoor lighting, can reduce insect loss, also. Lastly, we need a good government policy to eliminate Global Warming.

Glenn Rogers, RLA is a landscape architect living on the Westside. See his website at: alderlandscapearchitecture.com

MAY 2019

Monarch Overwintering in Pacific Grove

Many numerous natural disasters have happened simultaneous throughout the United States and in Mexico causing the Monarch Butterfly to be in serious decline and near extinction. Presently, 20,000 butterflies have been counted in the western migration route, an 86% decline in the population since last year.

Monarch Butterflies on Milkweed Plant

The cause of their demise is said to be “affected by shared threats: a reduced abundance of milkweed plants caused by an increase in genetically modified herbicide-resistant crops, a loss of nectar resources from flower plants, and degraded overwintering forest habitats due to deforestation.” Monarchs lay their eggs on Milkweed and the larvae feed on the same plant. Beside a lack of food caused by storms, the cold and harsh winds can have a harmful effect on the Monarch. During one serious winter storm, as many as 500 million Monarch butterflies were said to have perished.

THE IMPORTANCE OF MILKWEED Milkweed used to be abundant along the side of roads and was frequently found growing along crops grown for food. With the spraying of the land with Roundup, and the use of pesticide-resistant produce, Milkweed, so important to the existence of the Monarch Butterfly, has diminished. It is believed that 97% of the Milkweed has been eradicated.

quotes

Milkweed used to be abundant along the side of roads and was frequently found growing along crops grown for food. With the spraying of the land with Roundup, and the use of pesticide-resistant produce, Milkweed, so important to the existence of the Monarch Butterfly, has diminished.

FIRE Another factor reducing the population of Monarch butterflies has been fire. The Western Migration of butterflies needed to travel in fire-ravaged California with the air filled with fumes from burning houses, forests, household cleaners, pesticides or herbicides, plastic and other noxious chemicals present in the air. Fire too is said to be a product of global warming, as storms travel more slowly through the landscape, dropping more rain than normal. Warmer air is able to hold more humidity, therefore, storms can be more intense because they carry more water. The additional rain provides more water for grass to flourish that can eventually burn. The antiquated policy of fire suppression, for decades, has not helped diminish wildfires.

BARK BEATLE INFESTATION AND OUR FOREST It is believed that 129 million Pine trees are dead from Bark Beatle infestation and the drought. Historically, Bark Beatle would parish as winter temperatures froze the Bark Beatle. Today, the temperature is never cold enough to kill Bark Beetle. Unfortunately, this has led to the Bark Beatles being able to feed year round, hastening the demise of our Pine forest.

The central migration flock of Monarch butterflies would nest in the forests of Mexico. These forests are being affected by encroachment of the forest by farmers wishing to increase their crop by clear-cutting forests. These forests are also ravaged by Bark Beetle.

A PLAN TO INCREASE THE POPULATION OF MONARCHS Two conflicting plans are being developed to save the Monarch Butterfly. One plan by the Environmental Defense Fund is purchasing land along migration routes and providing the land with milkweed habitat. The land purchased has been as large as 36 acres along the flyway. Farmers willing to allow milkweed to grow in their crops have also been targeted, and have been providing habitat for the Monarch butterflies, also.

A second plan that is well meaning but could be counter-productive is provided by the Fish and Wildlife agency. “The Fish and Wildlife agency has decided to cultivate the milkweed plant in refuges and several other areas under its control to develop a natural habitat in 2,00,000 acres of land and 35 corridor Interstate, from Texas till the state of Minnesota, which is believed to be the main area where above 50% of Monarch butterflies migrate." Also, this agency is offering to sell to the general public milkweed that can be planted along roadsides, forests, parks and in house backyards. If they plant non-native Milkweed, the Monarch butterflies could become disoriented and confused. Instead of continuing their migration, they could stay where they are and become infected with parasites.

SIXTH EXTINCTION The problem of extinction is not particular to Monarch Butterflies. It is said that yearly 10,000 species perish from extinction. This would make 50% of all species extinct by the year 2100. Unfortunately, insects are especially vulnerable. Insects are often food for larger creatures. With the reduction of insects, we can expect other creatures to go extinct as well.

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE Today, the cost of renewable energy is decreasing 10% every year, despite the fact that the fossil fuel industry is being subsidized at a rate 40 times greater than the renewable energy sector. Eventually, this will allow all nations to be able to have the same renewable energy output as Germany did one day in the recent past. That day, Germany provided 81% of its total energy requirement from renewable sources!

Glenn Rogers, RLA is a registered landscape architect living on the Westside.

April 2019

Floating Hotels and Random Considerations for a Future City

In the past, along the San Francisco Bay, numerous boats have been used as either bars, hotels, dance halls, museums or residences. Might we capture this romantic past again to accommodate visitors? Boats would rise and fall with the tide, not being damaged by water. Some boats, like paddle boats from the Mississippi, could be brought here. Long Beach has the Queen Mary. A similar ship would be ideal in the San Francisco Bay as both a tourist attraction and a hotel. Barges could also be purchased and retrofitted with hotel trappings.

Housing for the Homeless?

Art Agnos suggested a retired cruise ship could provide some relief to the City’s homeless problem. With the average cruise ship capacity of 5,412, which includes double occupancy, this would go a long way to house San Francisco’s homeless population, which is, today, around 7,000 people.

Refuge from Climate Change?

Even if Climate Change were universally accepted and people ditched their cars, planes, ate only vegetables, etc., there would still be enough residual carbon in the atmosphere to last for another 40 years. Therefore, when the climate is undeniably bad and mankind admits they are the cause, we will have to wait another 40 years for any improvement to manifest. Plans for the Bay and the Historical Port of San Francisco will need to be extensive in anticipation of coastal conditions, conditions we may not be able to imagine today. Would boats, used as hotel and housing alternatives, ease many of the future problems caused by Climate Change?

Note date and Carbon Flux. Safe to say, when we are at the top of the graph, all ice will be melted.

Planning for the Future:

Today, transportation is much different than anyone would have predicted in the past. Ride sharing platforms like Uber and Lyft, are replacing taxis in a way few of us would have predicted. Also, bicycles are becoming more common as a form of transportation and the renting of bicycles is becoming “turn key,” they can be picked up, used, and left at the nearest bicycle station. Our continued use of buses and cars may take on a drastic transformation as well.

Some planners believe that drones could become the preferred transportation system of the future. These drones could be used for both personal transportation as well as commercial transport. Should this be the case, considerable infrastructure that we use for cars and trucks will need to be repurposed.

Hopefully, attractive elevated pathways, with parks, alleys of trees and more, could become part of our Historical Port District in the future. With these lovely park like walkways, tourists will be able to walk comfortably to North Beach, China Town or other favorite San Francisco locations from a floating hotel.

Sea level rise is going to become more common in the future. During King Tides, Miami floods every month. Fish are seen swimming in the street regularly. Far off in the future, might we expect San Francisco to be similarly affected?

New Construction:

New construction in the City should be built like public buildings. Our City Hall, with its steps that take you to another level, 10 feet above the ground plane, should become commonplace for new construction. We need do this soon, otherwise, we will be throwing away money, as our infrastructure becomes obsolete and no longer habitable.

Solar Energy:

solar panel

Increasingly, San Franciscans are interested in doing their part to protect the environment. Many are installing solar panels on our homes and businesses. A possible incentive could be that PG&E, which previously paid customers for electricity from their solar panels at 3 cents per kilowatt hour. Today, CleanPowerSF pays customers 9 cents per kilowatt hour. This is a 300% increase.

Illustration: Eddie Guy for Spectrum IEEE

Photovoltaic windows on skyscrapers, though they are considered 50% less efficient than solar panels, could provide significant energy production, because they have a greater surface area on the west and south side of a skyscraper than the limited space available on the roof. After the disaster at Fukushima, Japan has required all new public buildings to be zero energy by 2020. San Francisco should do this too. Additionally, solar windows, as they produce solar energy, darken, providing less intense light in buildings, making these buildings more livable.

While these ideas may seem far-fetched today, I have a feeling the sooner we anticipate a new tomorrow the better off we will be.

Glenn Rogers is a landscape architect who lives in the Westside.

February 2019

Student Housing, Homelessness and Student Debts Overwhelm Plans

While student housing costs around $1,800, often including 5-7 meals per week, as many as four students might sleep in a one room dormitory. Many of these students fear the cost of housing could increase by up to 34% in the next 4-5 years because of the lack of tenant controls.

Recently, students and staff complained that the University deceives new tenants, failing to tell them their rents are not "rent controlled", and that City "rules and regulations" do not apply to College State University (CSU) housing. Tenants learn too late, for example, that they are not allowed to smoke, drink or have pets. They frequently do not avail themselves of tenant protections mandated by local law.

Further complicating the picture, the 19th Avenue Traffic Study with its promise of improved transportation along 19 Avenue has never materialized. Yet the University continues its plan to increase the student population, (presently 30,000). How is it possible for more housing to balloon in an area where congestion is already unacceptable?

STUDENT DEMOGRAPHICS:

SF State University is expected to provide education for the following counties: San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Solano, Napa and Sonoma counties. Approximately 50% of the student body is represented in this group with another 50% coming from other parts of California. The focus has moved from educating local students in our own counties, to an emphasis on educating students from elsewhere. These students will pay the same tuition if they live in California but are more likely to pay for expensive housing, at least for the first year of their education. In order to do this, student loans are often necessary. Today, student loan rates are as low as 3.76%. Historically, student loans rates were as high as 10% —with no opportunity to declare bankruptcy. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's officer in charge of student loans, Seth Frotman, in his resignation letter to the Trump administration, dated August 27, 2018 charged "the Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting. Instead, you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America." It would seem these same predatory student loan practices are repeating. Student loan debt is a hardship for students and should be reduced or minimized as much as possible. We hope the University will focus on the enrollment of its local students. In this way, student debt overall could be reduced, as local students are closer to their family safety net.

The Economist, June, 2014 reported, "U.S. student loan debt exceeded $1.2 trillion with over 7 million debtors in default. In 2014, there was approximately $1.3 trillion of outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. that affected 44 million borrowers who had an average outstanding loan balance of $37,172." This should be a national emergency. Not included in the above statistics is the number of college students that are experiencing housing instability. A recent study shows one in nine students are without a home and either sleep on a friend's couch, sleep in the library or live in their cars.

NO SOLUTION IN SIGHT

There are plans to build a hotel along Holloway Avenue to provide housing for alumni who wish to watch their alma mater play their favorite sport. If guest teams are visiting, they too need a place to stay. Additionally, since SFSU provides a hospitality major, students could use the hotel as a working laboratory for study. Up to 400 beds are planned to be provided by the hotel. But this good idea needs to be postponed until public transportation is improved.

While the University has courteously presented concept drawings to the Planning Department for review and comment, we can only hope this cooperation continues. It is folly for universities to forgo local planning, following guidelines designed with the same universal building codes and regulations by the State of California for all universities in every city.

Additionally, in San Francisco, the University should not buy parts of Parkmerced willy-nilly, every time Parkmerced management is in trouble and is in need of money. Parkmerced could become a patchwork for competing uses, loosing its unique character and historical status as it becomes a hodgepodge of different segmented housing.

Most importantly, the University must provide affordable housing to their students as much as possible, but not at the expense of the elderly, the disabled and the "working class" families that have lived in Parkmerced for decades under "rent control." Such displacement to provide "market rate" housing for students, staff and teachers, should be avoided. University housing must be affordable, to all students, local and elsewhere, as much as possible.

Glenn Rogers is a landscape architect who lives in the Westside.

Sept 2018

Is the Uber and Lyft Business Model in Jeopardy?

On April 30, 2018 the California Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s judgment, changing existing law determining how an independent contractor can be identified. The case, Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, may completely redefine what is and what is not an independent contractor.

Dynamex, which is a same day pick-up and delivery company, treated all their workers as employees before 2004. However, as a cost saving measure, they changed the status of their workers to independent contractors after that date. In January 2005, Charles Lee — the sole named plaintiff in the original complaint entered into a written independent contractor agreement with Dynamex to provide delivery services. He filed this class action as the sole class representative challenging the legitimacy of Dynamex’s relationship with its independent contractor drivers.

quotes

Now that Uber and Lyft have outcompeted taxis, their next goal is to outcompete with mass transit, which is suffering a diminished ridership from Uber and Lyft daily.”

 

According to Dynamex, Lee performed on-demand delivery services for Dynamex for a total of 15 days and never performed delivery service for any company other than Dynamex. On April 15, 2005, three months after leaving his work at Dynamex, Lee filed a Complaint on his own behalf and on behalf of similarly situated Dynamex drivers. Lee alleged that, since December 2004, Dynamex drivers have performed essentially the same tasks in the same manner as when its drivers were classified as employees, but Dynamex has improperly failed to comply with the requirements imposed by the Labor Code and wage orders for employees with respect to such drivers. Lee’s complaint alleged five causes of action arising from Dynamex’s alleged misclassification of employees as independent contractors: two counts of unfair and unlawful business practices in violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200, and three counts of Labor Code violations based on Dynamex’s failure to pay overtime compensation, to properly provide itemized wage statements, and to compensate the drivers for business expenses. The trial court ruled in favor of Dynamex, and Lee filed an appeal. Lee contended that the trial court erred in its denial of the motion for “class certification,” which would have allowed the drivers to compel Dynamex to make restitution to the drivers. And, he contended that the trial court erred in denying an earlier motion to compel “discovery,” a ruling that prevented him from gathering the names and identities of other drivers—adequate information to support his motion for class certification. Eventually, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the trial court as an abuse of discretion on both counts, turning the definition of a private contractor “upside down.” Despite Dynamex’ petition to the Supreme Court of California to review the Court of Appeal’s ruling, Lee prevailed, leaving Uber and Lyft legal teams scrambling.

EXACTLY WHAT IS A PRIVATE CONTRACTOR?

chart

There are three requirements for a business to become a private contractor.

1. The company that is hiring the worker does not control or direct their behavior.

2. That the workers are performing a task exclusive of the every day work of the employer.

3. Lastly, that the worker has made a decision to go into business for themselves, perhaps by starting a corporation or a Limited Liability Company LLC.

THE “GIG” DEFENSE:

Uber and Lyft have argued that they are not a taxi service but are instead a technology ”platform” which connects riders and drivers together. As such, they should be exempt from the infrastructure that is necessary for other businesses. They believe that their business model represents a new 21st century economy which allows their workers to have more freedom, gives them flexibility to work when they choose, and to be their own “boss.” Both companies warn that American workers will be less competitive if this new ‘Gig’ economy is denied.

THE JUSTIFICATION FOR THE NEW RULING:

chart

The drivers who defend the Supreme Court ruling explain that their income has plummeted since 2014 and that they are barely able to make a living. And a new study by Business Insider confirms driver’s claims that they are only making between $3.37 to $10 an hour — far less than minimum wage.2 Underpaid workers are in danger of becoming dependent on government assistance, fully or partially supported by the public, either in their prime working years or during retirement. The “freedom” that is asserted as a justification for relinquishing employee status is not a benefit, the drivers argue. They complain that to be profitable, drivers must work during prime commuting hours. The “freedom” bandied about as a justification for the giving up over time pay, paid rest breaks, Health Care and Social Security benefits, is a ruse masking the greed and avarice of their employers. It is said that Uber and Lyft are dodging 25-45% in infrastructure cost with their “Gig” business model. When the “Gig” economies avoid paying their fair share of the public safety net, the public is missing out on millions of dollars in taxes that would be paid by these businesses. Today, nearly 33% of the work force is part of this new ‘Gig’ economy.3

UNFAIR COMPETITION:

Those who fear jobs will be lost by the new ‘Gig’ economy are ignoring the fact that taxi companies have been competing with the unfair practices of Uber and Lyft all along. Avoiding Worker’s Compensation for example, is a huge advantage the “Gig” economy has over taxis. Now that Uber and Lyft have outcompeted taxis, their next goal is to outcompete with mass transit, which is suffering a diminished ridership from Uber and Lyft daily. Experts believe that individual States will eventually decide whether they support or oppose the ‘Gig’ model. This decision is likely to be determined along party lines.

TRAFFIC CONGESTION MANAGEMENT:

Today, taxi drivers as a group, pay $250,000 annually for medallions or permits. Of course, Uber and Lyft drivers pay no such fees. Although Uber and Lyft claim they are taking vehicles off the road, some people claim 45,000 cars have been added as drivers look for fares.4 Historically, taxi management has limited the number of taxis deployed on the streets, in an attempt to ameliorate impacts on traffic. Today, there are 1,800 taxis driving on the streets of the City.5 Uber and Lyft do not practice such constraint, and do not hesitate to add more drivers regularly. Maybe, when all the taxis are out of business, concern for traffic congestion could become an important consideration for Uber and Lyft at some time in the future.

Glenn Rogers is a landscape architect who lives in the Westside.

July 2018

 

1. http://scocal.stanford.edu/opinion/dynamex-operations-west-inc-v-superior-court-345842

2. www.businessinsider.com/uber-lyft-drivers-making-less-than-4-per-hour-2018-3

3. http://jobble.com/45-eye-popping-stats-about-the-gig-economy/

4. sfgate.com/business/article/SF-goes-after-Uber-Lyft-for-data-on-city-trips-11196961.php

5. sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/11/07/number-of-uber-lyft-drivers-dwarfs-san-franciscos-taxi-fleet/

Map of Lake Merced, circa 1868
An artist's birds eye view of Lake Merced in 1868 shows the lake draining into the ocean. George H. Goddard, Library of Congress

THE MYSTERIOUS HISTORY OF LAKE MERCED

Lake Merced was first noticed by the Spanish in 1775 by Captain Don Bruno de Hecta who named the lake Laguna de Nuestra Señora de la Merced. Originally, Lake Merced was intended to provide a water supply to the growing city of San Francisco. The Spring Valley Water Company (SVWC), which was formed by a collection of powerful capitalists, purchased Lake Merced for $150,000 in 1868 and developed a monopoly on San Francisco's water. For the next 30 years, the City of San Francisco sued SVWC over the cost of water, leading San Francisco to look elsewhere for a reliable water source. When water was secured from Yosemite Valley and the Hetch-Hetchy Dam was built, the aspiration of San Francisco having its own water source was realized. Then, Lake Merced and the surrounding land became less valuable and portions of the property were sold off to numerous golf courses, the San Francisco Zoo, Stern Grove, San Francisco State University, and what later became known as Fort Funston.

quotes

Eventually, water would flow into the Pacific Ocean from Lake Merced as winter waters became too much for the lake to hold. There is an eye witness account on November 22,1852 of a loud crack. Then, a fissure appeared 1/2 mile wide and 300 yards long which allowed the water of Lake Merced to flow into the Pacific Ocean.”

In the 1950's the state Public Utility Commission transferred the surface water over to the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department on several conditions. Unfortunately, due to development around the lake and over pumping of the Westside Aquifer by numerous golf courses, cemeteries, and municipalities, the water level of Lake Merced dropped. When this occurred, the fish stocking of the lake which exceeded 250,000 at one time, diminished.

Eventually, water would flow into the Pacific Ocean from Lake Merced as winter waters became too much for the lake to hold. There is an eye witness account on November 22,1852 of a loud crack. Then, a fissure appeared 1/2 mile wide and 300 yards long which allowed the water of Lake Merced to flow into the Pacific Ocean. The next day the water was noted to have dropped 30 feet. A subsequent map of the lake showed the fissure remained 29 years later.

THE WATERSHED:

Looking at the above artist's map of 1868, we can see the watershed that provided Lake Merced its water was extensive. Water flowed from the Olympic Club west. To the north, water would flow from a portion of the Richmond district. From the east, water would flow from TPC Harding Park, Parkmerced, the San Francisco Golf Club, most of the Ocean View district and from the "Top of the Hill Daly City." Most of this water would flow into a seasonal or permanent stream where Brotherhood Way is today. However, the most notable watershed comes from the south, or from the Westlake district. From the map above, we can see that all of the Westlake Shopping Center would be underwater. Lastly, water flows into Lake Merced also from an underground spring. Some believe Lake Merced could be a surface feature of the Westside Basin Aquifer underneath.

LIQUIFACTION DANGERS:

The stream traveling down the earthquake fault where Brotherhood Way is today, feeding Lake Merced, after millennia of flowing water, is covered with soils that are organic in nature, and subject to liquefaction. A study of the 1906 Earthquake explained just how vulnerable to earthquakes the Lake Merced region is. During the 1906 earthquake, a bridge was damaged beside Lake Merced. "The bridge was broken in two places … At one break the west piece was shoved 12 or 14 feet past the other section. The west end of the intermediate piece failed to join the section at the west bank by 6 or 7 feet. The west section that remained with the bank was 4 to 6 feet lower vertically than the intermediate piece." This drastic movement of the land in this location makes the new development in Parkmerced especially vulnerable, not to mention the existing Parkmerced towers present there today.

Photo: SFDPW, courtesy C.R. collection Skyline Blvd. north at Great Highway. Lake Merced at the right, March 15, 1937.

CONSEQUENCE OF HISTORY IGNORED:

The completion of the road around Lake Merced in 1937 terminated the opportunity for water to flow into the Pacific Ocean. Now, we are faced with erosion beside the Great Highway, where water once flowed into the Pacific Ocean from Lake Merced. Today, the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant is in danger because of the combination of ocean armoring and fragile soils where once a stream flowed into the ocean. (4) San Francisco needs to do better in planning its communities. A modicum of research, by a curious engineer, could have avoided this unfortunate location for a sewer plant.

SPORTS FISHING:

There was a time when only a green golf course was desired, therefore, the more fertilizer the better. but now golf courses are using nitrogen fertilizers more judiciously, Today, there are more factors of concern. The over-use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are a major problem since they become part of the ground water runoff. I heard one golf course manager complain that the use of ground water would make the grass grow too fast. Evidently, it was the nitrogen in the ground water he was complaining about. With the increased control of nitrogen laden runoff water from golf courses, the improvement of the lake for sports fishing increases. However, any set back in the control of nitrogen entering the lake can cause mass die offs of recreational trout. When this happens, the recreational trout fishing program needs to restock the lake. The nitrogen laden water would generate algae blooms contaminating the water by eliminating oxygen in the lake. This nitrogen laden water would be so toxic that even Stickleback, which are considered extremely hardy, would perish in large numbers.

sticklebackThe Threespine Stickleback gained access to Lake Merced when there was access to the lake through the Pacific Ocean. With this access, several other species of fish, tolerant of brackish water, gained access to the lake as well. Some of these fish are still found in Lake Merced today. Indigenous fish species, often outcompeted with the recreational trout. Therefore, these "rough fish" were eliminated or greatly reduced by poisoning the lake with rotenone, affecting the wildlife but not plant life. Despite the numerous times the lake was poisoned, the Threespine Stickleback and other brackish fish are still present. What is most amazing is that the original species of fish, the Sacramento Perch and the Sacramento Blackfish, present when the Spanish originally discovered the lake are still present today.

LAKE MERCED IMPROVING:

Lake Merced is believed to be improving since the year 1990. One of the most important reasons is that the water in the lake is rising. But when the Blended Water Program starts in earnest, using 15% of our ground water to dilute with our pristine Hetch Hetchy water, this may cause the lake to recede again.

The good news is that the Pacific Rod and Gun Club (PRGC) is gone and with it the noise pollution of shotguns. Replacing the PRGC was a 10 acre cleanup/remediation project which included the removal of 58,600 cubic yards of contaminated soil. After the soil was removed, it was replaced with clean soil and planted with 2" to 3" high grass. The clean-up at the gun club site cost $22 million. However, missing in that cleanup was the lead buckshot that lodged in Lake Merced. One of the justification to avoid the more extensive lead clean-up was, that "ducks no longer land on the water," however, when I visited the lake, there were a dozen ducks on the water. As years pass and young ducks, unfamiliar with the firing range, are likely to return and dive for food in the sediment below, the health hazard to these animals is problematic. Another problem is that all the buildings used by the Pacific Rod and Gun Club remain. If the PRGC is to have a new use, it would seem these buildings should be removed. The remediation of PRGC began in May 2015 and ended in April 2016. Now, the San Francisco Police Department Pistol Range, north of the PRGC, uses iron or bismuth munitions instead of lead. This is a big improvement.

Glenn Rogers, PLA is a Landscape Architect working on the westside of San Francisco.

May 2018

Emergency Fire Preparedness

Recently, in the November issue of the Westside Observer, there was an article, Plan to Protect Neighborhoods from Fire Abandoned, describing San Francisco as unprepared for another earthquake and fire. The source of the information was a former official who retired 10 years ago. That report did not take into account numerous improvements in technology and planning. The public should be aware of these advances. Graciously, on January 31, 2018, the SF Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and the SF Fire Department (SFFD), both agreed to discuss the article. At the meeting was the Assistant Deputy Chief Anthony Rivera. and John Scarpulla from the SFPUC. Fortunately, a great deal of progress has occurred in the last ten years.

CONGENIALITY: SFFD AND SFPUC:

Instead of these two agencies being at odds with each other, I found just the opposite. They explained that the SFPUC has countless water engineers and plumbers, while the SFFD does not. Furthermore, the SFPUC explained that they listen carefully to any request from the SFFD, since the SFPUC never fought a fire. This congeniality was sincere and heartfelt as these two agencies worked together to describe a plan they developed to fight fire in San Francisco.

This is one proposed layout of the Kubota pipe in the Richmond/Sunset district. From this basic loop formation of the pipe, other locations can be covered by extending pipe in one direction. i.e. in the far northern part of the diagram, a pipe is heading for the Letterman Army Medical Center for fire protection.

INDEPENDENT EXPERT:

Adding to the expertise of these two agencies was an independent fire authority, Charles Scawthorn, who would provide additional advice as these agencies developed a plan to fight fire. Included in the fire plan is a robust hydraulic model to provide reliable information about what damage can occur in a 7.8 earthquake. After a designed 7.8 earthquake, the existing system was estimated to be 47% reliable and many upgrades were required.

WATER SHORTAGE:

The Auxiliary Water Supply System (AWSS, though often referred to on manhole covers and hydrants as HPFS for High Pressure Fire System) is a high pressure water supply network built for the city in response to the failure of the existing emergency water system during the 1906 earthquake. The necessity for more water was a paramount concern. Therefore, three existing reservoirs needed to be repaired due to leaking. Leaks can also reduce water pressure. Repairing these leaks saved 150 million gallons of water a year. This existing system has 11.5 million gallons of water. When the Sunset reservoir is added to the Ancillary Water Supply System (AWSS), an additional 11.5 million gallons of water will be available. Then, the University Mound Reservoir will be added to provide another 70 million gallons of water to the AWSS. Lastly, water from Lake Merced could add another 1 billion gallons of water to the system. Then there would be enough water to fight fire.

FIRE BOATS:

During the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, fire hydrants were damaged in the Marina. However, one fire boat was crucial in putting out the fire there. Realizing the importance of fire boats today, two additional fire boats have been added. These fire boats can pump water into an AWSS along the piers beside the Embarcadero. The Bayview district could also benefit from an extension of the AWSS along the Bay pier leading south.

NEW PIPE TECHNOLOGY:

Japan has numerous earthquakes, the last one being 9.0. This earthquake was considered to be the 5th largest earthquake ever recorded and the worst in Japan. The pipe designed and used in Japan to fight fire is called Kubota pipe. This pipe has movable joints and did not fail after the Fukushima earthquake. A date for the installation of the Kubota pipe in the Sunset/Richmond district is set for 2019. This pipe will be part a loop system that can be separated with valves, so that should one section of the pipe fail, pressure can be maintained elsewhere. In combination with the loop system, firefighting hose advancements now allow fire hose to extend over a mile from a fire engine, with supplemental water pressure. Flow meters can detect leaks during practice runs and during an emergency use of the AWSS.The Kubota pipe is hard enough that it can be hammered under intersections without excavation. The fact the pipe is metallic allows it to be located in the future, unlike ceramic pipe. Each coupling is capable of bending 5-8 degrees and can be fasten with stainless steel bolts. Kubota pipe removed after twenty years of use was found to be completely intact and capable of far longer service.(2)

LIQUEFACTION AT LAKE MERCED:

A study of the 1906 earthquake explained just how vulnerable Lake Merced is to earthquakes. After the 1906 earthquake "a bridge was broken in two places … At one break the west piece was shoved 12 or 14 feet past the other section. The west end of the intermediate piece failed to join the section at the west bank by 6 or 7 feet. The west section that remained with the bank was 4 to 6 feet lower vertically than the intermediate piece."(1)Piping here and nearby Lake Merced must be especially robust with numerous fail-safe protections.

FLEXIBLE WATER SUPPLY SYSTEM:

The previous article mentioned a Flexible Water Service System (FWSS) that was suggested as a substitute for the more expensive AWSS. However, Chief Anthony Rivera inspected an existing FWSS system in Berkeley. He discovered that the FWSS pipe was too heavy to be useful in fighting fire in Berkeley and was abandoned. Each segment of the FWSS pipe weighs 350 pounds and needed to be installed with expensive equipment. This system could not be installed by a Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) during a fire as was suggested. The Chief explained this FWSS pipe was actually designed for oil well producers.

SUMMARY:

Lastly, the new firefighting system designed for San Francisco must be flexible and adaptable so that when new technologies develop, they can be added to the new system easily. After this meeting with the SFFD and the SFPUC, with the hope of more improvements later, I felt optimistic about our fire protection plan and strategy.

Footnote:

1. The CA Earthquake of April 18, 1906: Report of the State Earthquake ... -

2. www.youtube.com/watch?v=VM0FnwNVVF

Glenn Rogers is a landscape architect who lives in the Westside.

March 2018

Click here for older columns by Glenn Rogers (Please view on desktop computer for best experience while we convert our older files to mobile).