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Wednesday, Sep 4 1996
Halfway House Party
It's deja vu all over again for Potrero Hill neighborhood activists who want to keep the population at a local halfway house from nearly doubling.

The facilty at 1234 Indiana St. was intended to house 96 nonviolent criminals when it was designed in 1989. But Lower Potrero Hill residents raised a ruckus when they learned about the work furlough center. After a contentious Planning Commission meeting, the capacity was reduced to 50. A Citizens Advisory Board was established to handle neighborhood concerns.

Cornell Corrections Inc., which bought the facility in 1994 and has a contract with the California Department of Corrections (CDC), filed to modify its conditional use permit in April and raise the number of beds to 96. Once again, local residents are angry. Janet Carpinelli and Ahna Dominski, who sit on the board and live near the facility, complain that neither Cornell nor the CDC has ever proved the program works because they do a poor job of tracking inmates. They worry that a larger facility will attract out-of-county criminals and increase crime.

No hearing has been scheduled with the Planning Commission, but it's likely to spark some fireworks when it happens. Stay tuned.

Gordon Young

Moptop Mania
Before last Wednesday night's Giants game, fans were treated to a concert by the Moptops, billed as the country's "premier Beatles tribute band." Meant to commemorate the Beatles' last concert at Candlestick on Aug. 29, 1966, the Moptops didn't exactly send the sparse crowd into a hair-pulling frenzy, despite referring to each other onstage by their Beatle names. Midway through "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Ringo" 's hat was blown off by the legendary Candlestick wind, revealing a top whose mop had long since thinned. But the oatmeal-thick Liverpudlian accents of the prefab-Four weren't bad, and the vocals -- often off-mike and out of tune -- chillingly mirrored the Beatles' own sloppy live performances. For one magic moment, if you closed your eyes and covered your ears, it was 1966 all over again. The concert proved to be a fitting warm-up to the game, during which Triple A players dressed as Giants gave a passable imitation of major-leaguers, defeating the Phillies 7-6.

Tom McNichol

Dirty Money Cleans the Soul
With more aggressive dispersal of the 10,000 toilet tokens minted for S.F.'s approximately 12,000 homeless people, it shouldn't be surprising that JCDecaux's clean, well-lighted spaces are being visited more often by street sleepers. Token usage has tripled in the four months from the end of March to the end of July, according to company logs. More than 75,000 of the nearly 200,000 pit stops in that period were financed with tokens.

Access to something as basic as a toilet is bound to lift the spirits. But the token system has conferred other intangible benefits, too:

One summer evening near Justin Herman Plaza, a family is on its way to catch a ferry home to the East Bay after an early dinner in Chinatown. The visitors spot one of the famed French toilets and decide to give it a try.

Father puts in a quarter, which the machine swallows: nothing. Mother tries with her quarter. Same reaction. No more quarters. A raggedy man approaches. "Here, take one of these," he says. The coin, a brassy-looking, lightweight disc, passes from the poor man to the middle-class family. If he was playing out a scam, the second act never happened. Instead, he had a chance for once to have the handout pass the other way.

Phyllis Orrick


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