Thursday, April 30, 2015

Homeless Center on Caltrans Land, Techie Gopman Disliked?

You know the drill by now. A public records request to Mayor Ed Lee about his homeless Navigation Center on Mission near 16th Street produced hundreds of emails, including one about where to move the center after the pilot program ends and the property must be vacated.

San Francisco homeless czar Bevan Dufty in March wrote to a Caltrans official, suggesting one of the properties should be considered as the new location for the center:

"One possibility could be Caltrans property given that this [homeless issue] will always be a challenger around your properties. Can we identify someone who could work with John [Updike, head of the SF Real Estate Department] to explore possible locations?"

The response from Caltrans must have been verbally communicated because there was no email in the responsive public records released from the state agency.

Also in the records was a curious string of emails from Greg Gopman, a controversial young local tech dude who last year wildly demonized the homeless folks on the streets and government policies, and recently put on a town hall meeting at the Nourse Theater to discuss homeless matter.

As a side note, there were practically no currently or formerly homeless San Francisco people on the panels or in the audience of Gopman's meeting, according to people who were present.

Gopman emails Sam Dodge, an aide in Dufty's homeless coordinator office, asking for a phone chat and Dodge shares the request and his deep dislike of Gopman with Rebecca Foster in the Mayor's Office. Nice to see how public officials discuss their true thoughts about members of the public!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sup. Breed Ceases Keeping a Written City Hall Calendar

The Sunshine Ordinance Task Force's complaint committee last week affirmed that the president of the Board of Supervisors, London Breed, is required to provide me and any member of the public with her work calendar. I lodged a complaint with the SOTF because of the various hurdles and delays Breed employed before turning over thirteen-months of monthly calendars.

My request last week to Breed for her February through April 15th calendar brought forth this email from her staffer Conor Johnston:

"Because of the voluminous nature of the documents that we will need to search to respond to your request, and because of the need to consult with another interested department, we are in invoking an extension under Administrative Code section 67.25(b). You will have a response by April 26."

But yesterday, I received this curious reply from her new aide Christine Keener, who until recently was an aide in Bevan Dufty homeless coordinator's office:

"Good Afternoon Mr. Petrelis, Supervisor Breed has not maintained a calendar since February 1st, 2015. Per, the charter rules, Supervisor Breed is not required to keep a calendar."

So, the aides had to examine voluminous records, when they don't exist, and then they discover boss Breed stopped keeping a written calendar the day the last date on the calendar of my previous public records request?

Accepting the ludicrous statement in the email from yesterday at face value, it's shocking the POBOS, President of the Board of Supervisors, it's disturbing that Breed has apparently ceased maintaining a calendar simply because this member of the public wanted it made transparent. What does that tell you about the POBOS's commitment to City Hall transparency?

I've lodged a new complaint with the SOTF about this matter and look forward to hearing members of that body question the POBOS and her aides.

San Francisco taxpayers deserve to know how Breed spends her legislative day and who she meets with. I can't believe a very busy supervisor is not keeping a written calendar.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Housing Rights Cmte's Sunshine Push & SF Housing Authority?

Painful as it was, back in October I had to acknowledge that a political adversary, Ken Cleaveland of the conservative Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club and govt affairs rep for the Business Owners and Managers' Association, had advocated for airing San Francisco Fire Commission meetings on SFGovTV at his first meeting in July as a member of the body.

The public record of the minutes from the July 10 commission meeting show he advocated for expanded govt sunshine questioning how to get hearing televised for taxpayers.

I recently began advocating with the San Francisco Housing Authority to get their meetings aired and received this note from Sara Shortt, the executive director of the Housing Rights Committee, about my project:

"We have been pushing for this for quite some time now, but have not been making much of an issue lately. Love that your picking it up as an issue. Any way we can help, we would be glad to. I feel very strongly about the need for this."

My reply to Sara:

"It would greatly help me to learn exactly where and when you or HRCSF advocated for TV airings, so I can cite the info, as I did with the fire commission when I learned commissioner Ken Cleaveland had started the push for them to get on TV at the July 10 SFFD meeting. Can your group roundup a few folks with cameras to be at the April meetings and put them or snippets on the web, please? Also, just sending a public letter to the SFHA building an email trail."

I didn't hear back from her. All too frequently, progressives in San Francisco especially working on housing and anti-gentrification issues in the Mission are not interested or willing to engage in ongoing debates with folks who have questions with or disagree about their agendas. Disappointed to see Shortt in this crowd.

Days after that exchange, I filed a public records request with the housing authority for emails from Shortt's group to the agency, the request was shared with her and she replied:

"I do not understand why you are requesting these. We email back and forth with the SFHA many times on a daily basis regarding client cases. You will be creating an enormous amount of work for people that we need to be doing their jobs, so that their tenants don't lose their housing. If they comply, you will be supplied with volumes of email correspondence about individual cases.

"How would that serve you? If you are trying to get documentation on a specific topic, you should at least narrow your request to be for emails pertaining to that topic. If you are trying to be helpful and work towards the same goals we are of getting taped commission meetings, than it seems strange that you wouldn't discuss this strategy with us first.

"My other concern is that a request such as this will increase paranoia among SFHA staff, who will in turn be far less forthcoming in email correspondence to us about cases, and thus make it much more difficult for us to resolve client issues. It is hard enough already to get SFHA cooperation and communication, believe me."

This was my response to Shortt:

"Not sure why you wanna be the buffer between a sunshine advocate and a public agency. Also quite surprised you would think any agency would not redact clients' info from responsive records. If SFHA is sharing deets on individual cases to sunshine advocates, complain to the agency about that violation of several laws.

"Not interested in your fears about creating paranoia at the agency and sense you are grasping at many straws to undermine my request or maintain a gatekeeper role for yourself. Who are you to advise me about transparency? I'm sunshining this City agency on several matters and I suspect as I move forward there's going to be resistance from you since you likely see the SFHA as your turf and who the hell am I to invade your domain.

"Regardless of motives or what you think is helpful regarding my advocacy, I asked you for evidence of when you or HRC/SF advocated in writing with SFHA about televising meetings. If you've been advocating on airings, where is the public record or sent written requests or expressed verbally at SFHA meetings, where the minutes should show the advocacy?

"I think there's a ton of bad progressive and housing advocacy that has directly contributed to the crises in the Mission and Citywide. You're seen as a go-to person for the press and some community 'organizers' and questions need to be raised about your leadership and others in professional capacities."

If the Housing Rights Committee has a public track records of pushing for expanding transparency at the housing authority, let's see it, please.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cruz's NYC Gay Hotelier Pals Gave How Much to Giuliani?

There's a lot of controversy swirling back East about Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass, the lont-term gay business partners who own the Out Hotel in Manhattan and property on Fire Island, because of their friendly fireside chat earlier this week with super-conservative and viciously anti-LGBT Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. He needs all the assistance he can get to appeal to voters beyond the GOP base, as he runs for the 2015 presidential presidential nomination.

Gay and AIDS leader Tom Viola, a man with a spine and a huge heart who's executive director of Broadway Cares, announced this news today in response to Reisner and Weiderpass's chumminess with Cruz:

"It is with regret that we have decided to cancel this year’s edition of the Broadway Bares Solo Strips fundraiser, which was scheduled for May 10 at the NYC club 42West. We cannot in good conscience hold an event at a venue whose owners have alienated our community, as reflected in an April 23 New York Times story and an April 24 follow-up post. [...] This is not about partisan politics or punishment. This is about doing what’s right to ultimately ensure that our commitment to the men, women and children we serve cannot be questioned."

I checked the FEC records for Reisner and Weiderpass, and they have been quite generous with their checks to Democrats and the national party. However, Reisner in 2007 gave $2,300 to rotten Rudy Giuliani's campaign for president while Weiderpass donated $500 in 2008 to Giuliani.

Make of this info what you will. Mike and I endorse the boycott against all hotel properties owned by Reisner and Weirderpass. You should do the same.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Campos' Housing Moratorium Ballot Prop Language Released

My public records request to Sup. David Campos for documents related to his idea of a moratorium on market rate housing in the Mission District was filed yesterday, and today his office has provided me with lots of files which I'm still looking over.

What stands out so far is Campos' draft language for a comprehensive housing ballot initiative for this November that would be submitted to City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is up for reelection and as proof of just how Sovietized democracy in San Francisco is, right now he faces no challenger.

Campos has also released a confidential five-page memo about the draft language for a potential ballot measure in the fall and I'll be sharing that later today. Till then, have a glance at the draft language we may all be voting on:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Valencia Street's Crime Wave Includes Armed Robbery

This message from James, one of the owners of the Stuff Vintage Modern store one-block away from our apartment, was posted to the Yahoo group for the McCoppin Hub Plaza area, which is in District 6. There's been a wave of crimes in our neighborhood, of which I had no clue till reading this note.

After Stuff was broken into and ransacked early one morning last week, I stopped in and introduced myself to the owners and expressed sympathy over their recent loss. I also mentioned the home invasion burglary we suffered last year.

We spoke, of course, about the myriad problems with the plaza and recent cosmetic changes by the City, including erecting a fence that is now down after no visible work performed by the Department of Public Works. Here are excerpts from James' email:

Subject: Wishing to Speak at meeting
RE: Sup Kim's Western SoMa Neighborhood Coalition Mtg
THIS THURSDAY, April 23rd @ 6:00pm
Location: Red Cross Building Community Room, 1667 Market Street @ Gough Street
(former Cafe Trieste)

To Supervisor Jane Kim and others attending the upcoming meeting, I really wish I was able to attend the [Mission station police] captain's community meeting last Wednesday night however I was the victim of the latest smash and grab from a gang of thieves. This brazen crime was shocking to the community and our neighborhood as seen all over the news. This occurred Thursday morning on Valencia street.

I was even more shocked to learn I beat the police to my store by 30 minutes - even after seeing several police drive right by my store. Then I was even more shocked to learn that Thursday morning the entire southern station only had 2 officers on duty during the crime that victimized me and the small businesses I support within my store - that is why they were so late in arriving.

[After cleaning up the robbery mess] just before I was ready to leave Thursday evening right in front of my store just as a father walked by with his small child around 10:30pm my neighboring restaurant's employees were robbed at gun point as they walked on the sidewalk home by two thugs. That same day another business near by store was robbed of there cash from there store.

This all happens just after a month when I emailed everyone about the horrible situation at McCoppin Park nearby where the homeless took over and made such a mess of the park it was closed up and fenced in since the damage was so bad.

I had emailed about the park shortly after the warning by a city official regarding a hatchet wielding man and then a death in the park. I learned during all of this that the city in significantly understaffed for Police. The city is supposed to have 2000 officers and only has 1600. What is being done about this rampant crime? What is being done about the shortage of Police, obviously they can't even solve all these crimes?

As of today I haven't heard from anyone from the city or Police in response to my inquires about my business being the victim of a string of smash and grabs.

The city should be flush with cash with all this incredible robust economy and property taxes from all the new record breaking home sales and new construction and businesses opening up in San Francisco.

I will be at this upcoming meeting to speak. I hope to hear some answers to these questions before city officials start to leave. I have copied many people so they are aware of the dire situation and so those attending the meeting will demand this be near the top of the agenda at the upcoming meeting. 
Italian Media: Dump Cordileone Ad in SF Chron = "Flop Survey" 

Curious as to whether either Vatican or Italian media reported on the full-page ad in last week's San Francisco Chronicle, calling on the Pope to dump Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, I googled for any coverage in Italy.

Here's a rough, broken English translation of what appeared in Il Foglio today:

"The flop of the survey to hunt Msgr. Cordileone: 88 percent say no
Faithful against crème de la crème in San Francisco
by Matthew Matzuzzi
22 Aprile 2015

"The Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone One hundred representatives of the intelligentsia of Catholic San Francisco have decided to buy a full page in the newspaper San Francisco Chronicle to beg the Pope to remove the bishop from his chair. The San Francisco Gate accompanies the initiative even with a survey, but 88 percent of respondents said that Cordileone is untouchable."

That was not a scientific poll. It was a click-bait tool to attract eyeballs to the Chronicle's web site.

On Sunday, April 19, the magazine L'Espresso ran a long article about the controversial archbishop, the issues that motivated the Catholic leaders to take out the ad and the response of readers at the Chronicle's web site. Nothing about the anti-Cordileone ad was found at the Vatican's news site.

I'm not sure the ad's message reached the Pope, the Vatican's curia or Catholics in Italy. Perhaps to achieve that attention in Rome, the San Francisco folks who placed the Chronicle ad should run it in an Italian newspaper.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

SOTF: Petrelis vs Supes. Breed & Campos, Clerk of the Board 

As always happens with my complaints to this important City body, I never know if the task force will find the public officials in violation of local open government laws. Win or lose, just having the task force hear from both sides has often led to better sunshine performances by members of the Board of Supervisors or City departments. Here's the notice about my four complaints that will be considered this afternoon:

You are receiving this notice because you are named as a Complainant or Respondent in one of the following complaints scheduled before the Complaint Committee of the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force,

1) to issue a determination of jurisdiction;
2) to review the merits of the complaint to focus the complaint or otherwise assist the parties to the complaint; and/or
3) to issue a report and/or recommendation to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.

Date: April 21, 2015
Location: City Hall, Room 408
Time: 5:00 p.m.


File No. 15029: Complaint filed by Michael Petrelis against Angela Calvillo, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, London Breed, President, and David Campos, Member, Board of Supervisors, for allegedly violating Administrative Code (Sunshine Ordinance), Sections 67.21 and 67.25, for failure to respond to a request for public records in a timely and/or complete manner.

File No. 15022: Complaint filed by Michael Petrelis against London Breed, President, Board of Supervisors, for allegedly violating Administrative Code (Sunshine Ordinance), Section 67.21(l), for failure to make records available in any form requested which is easily generated.

File No. 15021: Complaint filed by Michael Petrelis against Supervisor David Campos, Board of Supervisors, for allegedly violating Administrative Code (Sunshine Ordinance), Section 67.25, for failure to respond to an Immediate Disclosure Request in a timely and/or complete manner.

File No. 15033: Complaint filed by Michael Petrelis against Supervisor David Campos, Board of Supervisors, for allegedly violating Administrative Code (Sunshine Ordinance), Section 67.25, for failure to respond to an Immediate Disclosure Request in a timely and/or complete manner.

Monday, April 20, 2015

How Many Folks Are Clients at Mayor Lee's Homeless Center?

A public records request to the Mayor's Office for census figures on the number of people who've accessed Mayor Ed Lee's homeless Navigation Center, located on Mission near 16th Street, produced the responsive documents here.

Last week, I obtained the homeless emergency declaration issued in January by the Department of Public Works in order to cut through City Hall red tape and allow construction work to start on the center, and the decree stated there are at least 6,000 chronically homeless people on the streets of San Francisco.

These charts and data come from the City's Controller's Office and show that a total of 31 individuals have been clients of the Navigation Center since it opened in mid March. While the number is relatively low, considering the 6,000 homeless folks on the streets and under freeway ramps, it's a start.
NYT's Friedman-Endowed Israel Fellowships Issued at Stanford

How many current opinion columnists for any American newspaper have created and endowed a fellowship, other than controversial Tom Friedman who occupies precious real estate on the New York Times's Op-Ed page? None, that I'm aware of and if you know of any, please share their names with me.

(Friedman, 2013 fellow Maya Kornberg, Shultz.)

A story last week in the Stanford Daily by Qitong Cao shed light on a fellowship that began with funding from Friedman and his wife Ann Friedman, and is actively supported by former Republican secretary of state Henry Kissinger:

"Winners of the 2015 George and Charlotte Shultz Fellowship for Modern Israel Studies were announced Wednesday morning during a breakfast reception at Hillel. George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, both former U.S. Secretaries of State, attended the reception, emphasizing the significance of conducting field study in Israel. [...]

The Hillel at Stanford web site shares this info about how the fellowship began:

"Thanks to the generosity of Stanford alumna Ann Friedman and her husband, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Hillel at Stanford is pleased to establish the George and Charlotte Shultz Fellowship in Modern Israel Studies to support student research on issues relevant to modern Israel and the betterment of Israeli-Arab relations. Each year, Hillel at Stanford will award a $5,000 fellowship to a Stanford student to conduct research pertaining to modern Israeli politics, culture, society, and economy, and/or the betterment of Israeli-Arab relations (including Israeli-Palestinian relations). [...] Upon completion of the projects, research reports will be sent to both Tom Friedman and George Shultz."

Among those on the fellowship's review committee is another former Republican secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, making it very clear this endeavor has conservative political leanings.

Since this fellowship began with funding from the Friedmans, and may still be receiving donations from the New York Times columnist and his wife, and research from fellows is shared with Friedman as part of the program, I believe it would be more accurate and honest to call this the Shultz and Friedman Fellowship.

So, is Friedman's involvement with Stanford and the fellowship kosher according the the New York Times' ethical guidelines? I think yes, even if it might be a gray area since Friedman is not a body making decisions. Here's what the NYT ethical journalism guide says:

"Normally the restriction on joining trustee boards or advisory committees will not apply to organizations that are highly unlikely to generate news of interest to The Times and that do not generally seek to shape public policy. These typically include houses of worship, community charities, local libraries, fine arts groups, hobby groups, youth athletic leagues, country clubs and alumni groups. Within reason staff members may help such groups with relatively modest fundraising. They should not play a leading role or ever lead a donor to expect a favor in return. [...] Staff members should think carefully about their own contributions to various causes, bearing in mind the need for neutrality on divisive issues."

An argument can be made that the fellowship is about shaping public policy and on a number of highly divisive issues, but since Friedman isn't in charge of who gets a research grant or how the students' finding will be used, Friedman's editors approved his participation in the fellowship.

What are your thoughts about this? Do you think Friedman has violated either the Times' or general ethical journalism rules?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Audrey Joseph Wins Audrey Joseph Award from SF Pride

Two years ago, the board of the San Francisco Pride nonprofit found themselves at the center of a huge controversy about the rescinding of a grand marshal honor to WikiLeaks heroine Chelsea Manning. Out of that mess came a slate of alleged reformers running for seats on the board and in September 2013, many of those folks were elected to the board.

I put in a good deal of time attending SF Pride meetings and functions. Last fall after being rebuffed in trying to bring transparency to the amounts paid by corporations to have marketing floats in the Pride Parade, opening the process of determining the contingent line-up so that law enforcement officials and elected officials aren't always in the front of the Parade and allowing members to run the monthly members' meetings, I disengaged with the group.

Sure, the reformers rectified the mess over Manning and she was a grand marshal in absentia last year, and military recruiters have been booted out of the Pride Celebration in Civic Center, and other cosmetic changes made, but the basic corporate-pleasing and politician-dominated way of doing business, and make no mistake SF Pride and related activities in June are big business, still prevails.

No need for me to waste time at SF Pride meetings where the board controls the agenda, only to see further corporatization of the LGBT agenda, last year the board accepted a $100,000 donation from Airbnb as they were facing massive criticism over contributing to our affordable housing crisis, police officers and members of the district attorney's office among the first 20 parade contingents, and members treated as nuisances or only to be used in volunteer capacities and no genuine influence over the nonprofit's agenda.

Minutes of members' meetings show board dominance, window dressing discussions about grand marshals and merchandising of SF Pride, and a lot of talk about board concerns, and a handful of members in attendance. Contents of the April membership minutes show about 98% of comments were from board members and I believe, hard to tell since this is no attendees' list of members present, that only one member, Rick Gerharter, spoke at the meeting.

This week, the board announced this year's grand marshals and it's 17 or so individuals and nonprofits and as if there aren't enough honorees to dilute the impact and meaning of being a grand marshal, a new category has been created.

It's the Audrey Joseph Entertainment Award given to an outstanding community leader who has used artistic expression to advance the LGBT agenda, and the recipient of it is none other than Audrey Joseph. She's been the producer of the main stage at the Pride Celebration hoopla in Civic Center for year and most folks agree she done an admirable job, even if she's not addressed the homogeneity, volume and loud bass-driven electronic dance music complaints.

I'm so pleased not have squandered any of my time as the board deliberated the grand marshal matters at membership meetings, just to see another award, yawn, created to stroke an ego or two.

This year, as in so many, Mike and I will mark our queer pride in personal and meaningful ways of value to us. We don't need nor want to be told about pride from corporations looking to expand profits and elected officials climbing the political ladder.

While the board members responsible for the Manning mess are long gone and new directors have come and gone, SF Pride is still an organization in need of deeper, authentic membership driven forces having real influence over the nonprofit. Otherwise, it's the same old same old, but different board members. That not progress in my queer rule book.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

300-500 New SRO Units for SF Homeless People?

Here's another public record from Mayor Ed Lee's office related to his Potemkin Village of a homeless Navigation Center, located on Mission Street near 16th, that raises a number of questions about where exactly the City plans to transition clients of the center who want housing.

The mayor's homeless czar, Bevan Dufty, disclosed in January to a contact at the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection that he and the mayor were "aiming to ramp up the leasing of 300-500 SRO units on a scattered site basis. We will be looking in Mission, North Beach and Chinatown to expand leasing in areas we haven't had a strong presence."

Some questions for the mayor and Dufty. Why have you waited until an election year to ramp up this leasing? How exactly do you plan to lease hundreds of SRO units, when they're all full of folks, some just off the streets themselves? What is the number of current SRO residents who have or will lose their residency to attain this ramping up? Is it true the City hasn't penetrated into those three neighborhoods for SRO housing?

I'd also like to know when Lee and Dufty will release figures on number of clients sleeping nightly at the Navigation Center, those transitioning out to a shelter or SRO housing or taking advantage of the Homeward Bound program and leaving San Francisco, and stats for folks returning to the streets.

My belief is that the City should share this data regularly with taxpayers and it shouldn't take a public records request to obtain the data. Do you agree?

White SF Cops Question Black Male Driver On Market Street

As I was riding my bike on Market Street near Mason yesterday around 5 pm, I came upon two white male San Francisco Police Department officers on the sidewalk questioning a black male driver and his black female passenger.

Just a few moments after I began videotaping the scene, one of the cops noticed me and came over to order me out of the street.

The black man became aware of me and my camera and raised both arms and I believe he said, "Don't worry. I can breathe." Then the tall, thin police officer, whose gun and handcuffs and walkie-talkie were quite noticeable on his belt, put his hands up in the air.

Another passerby with an iPhone came from behind me and asked if he should also tape what was happening. I said yes because you never know what could happen in this kind of situation. We're all pleased no one was harmed or killed, and black couple were soon back in their car driving down Market Street.

There can never be enough monitoring of police officers and law enforcement authorities.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Union Square BID Giving $ to Sup. Christensen's Election?

Thanks to a public records request to Mayor Ed Lee's office, I've obtained the minutes from the Union Square Business Improvement District's Feb. 10th advocacy committee. The BID is quasi-government entity and aligns closely with businesses, and is supposed to be non-partisan and apolitical. However, the minutes that from committee meeting reveal otherwise.

In January, Lee appointed Julie Christensen to replace David Chiu on the Board of Supervisors after he was sworn in as a state assemblyman. She is up before the voters this November and is being challenged by former supervisor Aaron Peskin.

Here's what was reported in the comments and discussion in general section. The Union Square BID does not post minutes to their meetings page:

"Supervisor Christensen is up for re-election in the Fall of 2016 (sic). What can the BID do to support her? It was suggested that perhaps the BID can join with Fisherman's Wharf to contribute to the campaign. What can she do to have good P.R.? Suggestion: Make Hallidie [Plaza] a priority. Another opportunity for good P.R. is the upcoming US Conference of Mayors taking place this June in San Francisco. We can revisit with Supervisor Christensen to give a short list of BID priorities."

For what it's worth, her legislation aide, Gary McCoy, was the director of Scott Wiener's reelection campaign last year. Christensen may face a tough road ahead in keeping her seat on the board, as many supporters of Peskin will tell you. 

Since the minutes contain only vague brainstorming ideas and we don't know who made the suggestions, and the ideas may have been rejected since the February meeting, I don't think there any actionable course to consider against the BID as a nonprofit and supposed apolitical organization.

Still, it's important to hold the Union Square business interests and Christensen accountable and just shedding light on the comments is important to me. It would be good for this BID to post all of their minutes online and let the public scrutinize them. 
CHP Emails: Anti-Terrorism Cops Track #BlackLivesMatter Folk

The California Highway Patrol took its sweet old time finding and releasing hundreds of documents responsive to my public records request in December, for emails sent or received by key patrol communication officials.

Since I lacked the time and resources to engage with the CHP, I turned to Darwin BondGraham of the East Bay Express and asked him to followup and obtain the records responsive to my request. He's pored over lots of emails and has written a terrific story that you should read.

My message to anyone upset over what the CHP and East Bay law enforcement agencies were doing tracking #BlackLivesMatter activists on the streets and online, or interested in obtaining other emails and records, please file a public records request today. We need much more sunshine of law enforcement agencies.

(Armed undercover CHP officers patrolling an East Bay protest late 2014 over #BlackLivesMatter. Credit: Michael Short.)

Excerpts from BondGraham's piece in the East Bay Express:

On December 9, 2014, at 4:48 p.m., an internal email with the subject line, "Reminder for Tonight and this week: Do Not Advise Protesters That We Are Following Them on Social Media," circulated among dozens of California Highway Patrol commanders. The message read: "A quick reminder ... as you know, our TLO [Terrorism Liaison Officers] officers are actively following multiple leads over social media." The note continued, "this morning, we found posts detailing protesters' interaction with individual officers last night.

In the posts, protesters are stating that we (CHP) were claiming to follow them on social media. Please have your personnel refrain from such comments; we want to continue tracking the protesters as much as possible. If they believe we are tracking them, they will go silent." In recent years, police agencies throughout the United States have scoured social media as part of criminal investigations. But the police are also watching social media to spy on political protesters, especially those they suspect will engage in acts of civil disobedience. During the recent Black Lives Matter protests, local and state police agents monitored protesters on social media and activist websites. Several hundred CHP emails obtained by the Express show that social media is now a key source of intel for the police when monitoring political protests.

But the emails raise serious questions, say civil libertarians and some of the activists whose posts were harvested as intel. How do police monitor social media? Do they store data or track particular people? Are agencies over-reacting and wasting resources? And why are counter-terrorism police involved? [...]

The emails obtained by the Express from CHP were originally part of a Public Records Act request made by San Francisco resident Michael Petrelis. Petrelis said he asked for the records because he was concerned about CHP's use of less-than-lethal weapons and armed undercover agents.

Petrelis also said he is not surprised to see the extensive monitoring of social media by the police. "I come out of Act Up in NYC," said Petrelis. "The cops came to our meetings and they picked up all the lit. My experience in organizing is that cops are watching you," he continued. "In the Tech Age, you have to always think the cops are reading this."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Homeless Emergency Declared for Mission Navigation Center

Ok, who knew about this declaration of a homeless emergency by Department of Public Works boss Mohammed Nuru on Jan. 26th, so construction work could begin on the Mission and 16th Street Navigation Center? News to me.

A recent public records request to the Mayor's Office for documents out of his homeless czar's HOPE Office at City Hall related to the center, which I very much very as a PR stunt during an election year, produced the two-page emergency declaration you see here.

Here are the key sections of the declaration:

"An emergency exists in San Francisco due to the inadequacy of facilities to link over 6,000 chronically homeless individuals with needed services. Street homelessness is found to have profound health impacts on the individuals experiencing homelessness such as exacerbating disease, undermining addiction recovery, increasing vulnerability to violence and generally shortening life expectancies. [...]

"The need to provide [the Navigation Center] immediately constitutes an emergency involving the health, safety and property of the citizens of the City and County of San Francisco. [...]

"In order to move forward with the work on the Navigation Center at 1950 Mission Street, an emergency is declared to exist under the provision of Section 6.60 of the San Francisco Administrative Code."

This creative use of an emergency declaration to move City bureaucracy should be studied by homeless and affordable housing advocates to move their agendas forward.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pacific Film Archive's Packed 'In the Mood for Love' Screening

My cinematic bucket list nicked off the 48th movie on Sight & Sound's 50 top greatest films of all time list. Proud to say I've seen each of those forty-eight movies in a theater and not on DVD or a monitor. Only two more flicks on Sight & Sound's list for me to see.

Last Wednesday, April 9, I caught Wong Kar-wai's lushly photographed and extremely pleasurable "In the Mood for Love" with dozens of regular costume changes for ultra-glam Maggie Cheung.

The newly-struck 35mm print I saw at the Pacific Film Archive seemed on the big screen to have just come from the processing lab, it was so fresh and luminous. The house was packed, with a decent number of under-30s in the audience.

Another hope-for-cinema episode at our cherished PFA, with an excellent choice unspooling on the silver screen and an appreciative audience watching Kar-wai make his movie-magic.

Don't let the fact that "In the Mood for Love" is on this important film-lovers list or hails from Hong Kong with subtitles deter you from seeing it. A fine, humorous and humane thwarted love tale, with terrific acting and an intriguing awaits you. See it!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Homeless Center Boss's Pay; Number of Clients; SRO Evictions

Mayor Ed Lee has created the Navigation Center (NC) on Mission Street near 16th to offer homeless people various services including a warm place to sleep at night and a secure location to store their belongings, and bring pets.

This pilot program is managed by Bevan Dufty, the homeless czar, and his HOPE office at City Hall, was funded by an anonymous $3 million donation, as the mayor's reelection campaign gears up for November, and I believe the NC is an election year Potemkin Village allowing him to point to the facility as evidence he's addressing homelessness.

Thanks to a public records request, Mayor Lee has released several informative responsive documents shedding light on the NC's operations thus far.

The newly-hired director of the NC is Julie Ledbetter, who previously worked for Mission Neighborhood Resource Center and the Mission Housing Development Corporation, and her annual pay is $113,000.

Dufty received an email about the March 12th NC coordinating meeting from a staffer at the Human Services Agency (HSA) regarding number of homeless people reached, 60 total, who expressed interest in the center. Figures were also given about baggage info. I wonder how much of those 60 folks have made their way to the NC.

Via a tweet, Dufty informed me today that 16 clients accessed the NC in its first week and the number jumped to 31 a week later.

A March 12th email from HSA complained about the Hospitality House homeless shelter nonprofit displeased they had to evict their clients from two SRO hotels, in order to make units available to Dufty and Ledbetter at the NC.

On March 18th, the director of housing and homeless programs at HSA, Joyce Crum, wrote to Dufty explaining the pre-trial diversion office of municipal court needs shelter beds to offer homeless defendants not taken into custody at hearings.

Crum writes that HSA is "not carving out any additional shelter slots or housing slots because they are all going to the Navigation Center."

So, a few formerly homeless people who were being housing in an SRO were "moved out" to make their units available to the NC and HSA admits no new shelter or housing units are being created. This plays into my scenario that Mayor Lee isn't actually creating lasting or genuine solutions to the homeless problem, and the Mission and 16th Street Navigation Center is little more than Potemkin Village gloss.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Seniors Act Up at SF Housing Authority Hearing

The obstacles blocking full transparency for the San Francisco Housing Authority are Mayor Ed Lee and every member of the Board of Supervisors. For all their talk about how wonderful the tech explosion is for the City and accountability to taxpayers, neither the mayor nor the supervisors have endeavored to wire every hearing room at City Hall.

Leaders at the SFHA and the San Francisco Fire Commission very much want their meetings made available for viewing by the public via all the media platforms available through SFGovTV.

But because our elected officials have not budgeted City funds nor asked for tech assistance from business leaders to install video cameras in hearing rooms at the People's Building, and hire enough staffing (perhaps graduates of City College's excellent new media courses) necessary to operate them, there's a waiting list for commissions to be assigned a wired room.

At the April 9 meeting of the SFHA, I was reminded by agency leaders that they'd be pleased to have their meetings on SFGovTV and I requested that they lobby Mayor Lee to upgrade all meeting rooms. During public comment, I pushed for TV transparency and suggested the agency's web site get a serious overhaul and made more user-friendly.

Right now, there is no page on the SFHA site just about elevators in public housing projects. Much time was taken up on April 9 about the status of elevators, which are broken and under repair, and efforts to modernize them, and the horrors of residents getting stuck in malfunctioning elevators.

I was shocked to learn SFHA depends on third-party mechanics to deal with stuck elevators, and they malfunction outside of weekday business hours, and the repair folks don't live in the City. When they're called in to get residents free from broken elevators, especially on weekends and holidays, their long travel time adds to the agony of those in the elevators.

Here's my video from the meeting. Glad I was there to see a few seniors acting up at the mic, speaking truth to power, and demanding better services from SFHA.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Today's Housing Authority Meeting Won't be Televised

The battles and crises over all the complex housing issues of San Francisco are of deep concern to many, yet a City agency with tremendous power and a lot of real estate, the Housing Authority, is not fully transparent. This must change.

Today's SFHA meeting is at 4:00 pm in Room 408 at City Hall and the agenda for it is posted here. Unfortunately, it won't be televised on SFGovTV and part of the reason for this lack of transparency is the meeting room is not wired for TV.

As I know from my successful campaign persuading the SF Fire Commission to move to City Hall and hold their meetings in a room properly wired, this commission and the SFHA may desire airing, streaming and archiving for vid-on-demand viewing via SFGovTV but not enough rooms at City Hall are wired.

Stop and let this sink in. In the midst of a tech boom, with dozens of super-wealthy tech titans pushing their agendas with pals at City Hall, and TV wiring costs amounting to mere peanuts to the City budget and billionaires, The City That Knows How doesn't know how to camera-equip every hearing room at the People's Building and have _every_ commission and agency holding meetings there and on TV and the web.

How can San Francisco have a robust and fully effective public discussion about housing matters, especially for the poor and low income populations, if the public Housing Authority isn't broadcasting their hearings where they set public policy?

I plan to attend today's hearing and raise these issues, and will report back possibly with video footage.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Pit Stop Toilet Coming to BART's 16th Street Plaza

Before leaving the house recently to catch a BART train to Berkeley to catch a movie at the Pacific Film Archive, I emptied my bladder. Due to a new drug in my cocktail that occasionally requires more than usual peeing, I need to relieve myself when I got to the 16th Street and Mission BART station. Since there are no public toilets at the station and the kiosk restroom was out of order, I had to wait until arriving in the East Bay to pee.

This week, I got in touch with the public information offices of BART and the San Francisco Department of Public Works to request porta-potties at this plaza. Needless to say, when both agencies informed me that the Pit Stop program was in the works.

In January, I blogged about the need for a Pit Stop in the Castro. Pit Stops are not only places to pee and poop but also provide wash-up materials, are locations for dropping off used syringes and dog waste, and provide trash and recycling containers. We need more of them around San Francisco.

Here's the good news today from Alicia Trost of BART:

"[My colleague] asked that I provide you with details regarding Pit Stop bathrooms near 16th BART. The City (Public Works) is leading it with a funding match from BART.

"The Pit Stop will be located on City property near the BART station and will not be on the BART plaza.

"Here are the details I have: Pit Stop · BART and City partnering on pilot for staffed portable restroom facility.

"· $50K for 6 months ($25K from each party).
"· Includes needle disposal, waste receptacles.
"· Aiming for 2015 implementation."

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Weekend Woof #99: Pizza Boy, Mohawk Man, Grass Skirt Queen

It's been a good week for capturing colorful dudes on the streets of San Francisco. My latest video in this continuing series is now up for your viewing pleasure.

The young fella at the Oz Pizza Shop on Castro Street really made my week, when he talked about "The Wizard of Oz" movie and practiced a bit of gay religion - Judyism!

I hope you have as much fun watching the videos as I do filming the guys and editing the footage. As always, a note of thanks to the dudes for gracing the lens of my camera. How was your week for male eye-candy?

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Write-In Petrelis 4 Mayor Business Cards Are Here

There are more folks preparing runs for San Francisco mayoral election this fall and my philosophy about the race is simple: the more the merrier.

Let's give Mayor Ed Lee a run for his money (which will equal buckets of cash from his developer and tech industry pals), and also use the democratic process to organizer better at the grassroots level.

I've slightly reworked my graphics from last year's campaign for District 8 supervisor. Here's the new business card that arrived this week.

My goal is a write-in campaign for Room 200 at City Hall, the mayor's office, and won't be paying the $5,000 or gathering signatures to get on the ballot.

Check out my Facebook campaign site. Let the campaigning begin!
McCoppin Plaza Closed Over Damage by Homeless & A Stabbing

Opened in late summer of 2014 as part of a package of urban redesigns in the McCoppin, Valencia, Market and Duboce intersections of Western SoMa, the McCoppin Hub Plaza has been an encampment for the homeless and scene of many troubles, day and night.

The nearby residents have documented numerous problems at the plaza located at where McCoppin dead-ends at Valencia Streets, and keep pressuring City officials to deal with the dangerous elements of the area. From defecating and urinating, drinking and drugging and loud music and arguments, barking dogs, blocking the bike lanes with sharp debris or passed out people, to a recent stabbing, complaints have mounted to the point that the Department of Public Works has taken action.

Here's there statement: "San Francisco Public Works has temporarily fenced McCoppin Hub Plaza in order to perform needed short-term construction upgrades, primarily to repair vandalism-damaged concrete and irrigation and electrical systems. During the closure, other maintenance issues also will be addressed and McCoppin Hub will get a deep cleaning. The work is expected to last no more than three weeks. Thank you for your understanding and patience."

These are excerpts from the note Supervisor Jane Kim sent to a constituent this morning. FYI, the hub area falls into both District 6 and District 8:

"I was not invited to today's meeting with Supervisor Wiener but I am glad that our residents are meeting with him as well. I have been hosting meetings with many of our neighborhood associations and residents in West SOMA over the last year and have been working with the McCoppin Valencia Neighborhood Watch. In fact, I lived in the neighborhood when I came into office-- I only moved mid-way through my term because my landlord sold the unit my roommate and I lived in.

"The Southern Station Police Captain and I have been actively engaged with this neighborhood and I believe we had been making great strides up until the Skateboard Park and McCoppin Hub opened.

"I do support hours and rules for the Hub and a gate to close this park at night.I appreciate your feedback and agree that the City has a lot of work to do after we create new parks to ensure they are successful and safe." 

Check out my video shot this afternoon of the now-closed park:

Thursday, April 02, 2015

High Above San Francisco in POPOS: What's That?

Our beautiful City is blessed with spectacular views from an elevated location and I've discovered two new sites to enjoy some of the scenery.

The San Francisco Chronicle's urban design critic John King has long called for much-appreciated attention to POPOS, which stands for privately owned public open spaces, and folks visiting the spaces. 

POPOS were created by downtown developers as part of the City's incentives to construct more public spaces in congested areas. Accessing some of the locations is now easier since large signs are now posted outside the buildings with a POPOS inside.

The executives at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research group, SPUR, have a terrific guide to most of the POPOS available as a PDF for printing or an app, to better assist people who want to visit the semi-public spaces. Check out their "Secrets of San Francisco" guide and map here.

While these public spaces with great views are breathtaking and relaxing oases in the urban jungle, and well worth a visit, don't overlook all the street level POPOS sites. Videos of those locations coming soon.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Sup. Campos to Hold Market Rate Housing Moratorium Meeting

[UPDATE: Happy April Fool's! Hope you had a few laffs reading this prank post. Sure was fun to write!]

Thanks to a public records request, I have obtained this important information from the office of Supervisor David Campos and trust it is of interest to you and many others across San Francisco.

-----Original Message-----
Campos, David (BOS)
To: Allbee, Nate (BOS) Goossen, Carolyn (BOS) Ronen, Hillary (BOS) ;
Sent: Wed, Apr 1, 2015 8:01 AM
Subject: Mission Moratorium Meeting

Staff: Post to our social media this afternoon.


It's with utmost pride that I today am announcing another step on the road toward enacting a market rate housing moratorium in the Mission District.

My office has arranged a town hall meeting to be held on April 15th, Tax Day, in close collaboration with community-based stakeholder nonprofits and grassroots activist groups.

Draft language for new legislation I will introduce at the May 1st Board of Supervisors meeting at City Hall of the Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee, will be presented at the town hall.

The forum will be at the Brava Theater, and the sole topic is our proposal to limit certain high-density housing construction in the Mission for an 18-month period.

Brief remarks will be made by Tom Ammiano, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Tim Redmond and Tom Temprano about dismantling political echo chambers and engaging folks outside of our base of support, in order to cool off the heated luxury condo construction boom. Steven T. Jones will moderate the forum.

The legacy of my City Hall career will rest on retaining the proud Latino elements and heritage of District 9. I stand on the shoulders of giants - MEDA SF, the sorely-missed Bay Guardian, PODER, Causa Justa, the Harvey Milk LGBT and San Francisco Latino Democratic Clubs, and countless individuals - who invest their trust in me. A market rate housing moratorium is but one ingredient of my legacy.

I have to give the people hope, and remind them that when a handful of people understand the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice for all, then they are ready to climb every mountain, ford every stream, and follow every rainbow till we find our dream.

Come join us on April 15th at the Brava Theater!