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Wednesday, Sep 17 1997
Trapped in the Car Craze
San Francisco's heroic defense of the cause of motoring reached a new zenith last week: Police charged Bay Bridge-riding cyclists with felony traffic obstruction.

But as happens in any healthy romance, it's the endearing little details that make the love affair between San Francisco and motorists a true one. Last Thursday's police crackdown on trailer- and van-dwellers on Fourth Street in China Basin was one such loving touch.

A troop of police officers and city cleanup workers spent Thursday morning hauling away trailers and vans, and sweeping up possessions belonging to the down-and-outers who used to sleep in vehicles parked south of Mission Creek. It seems an office-working motorist had complained of being aggressively panhandled as she walked from the China Basin Landing building to her car, parked on Fourth Street.

"I've been receiving complaints from businesses," says S.F. Police Capt. Sylvia Harper, who oversaw last Thursday morning's trailer removal. "Workers were being accosted by people living in the vehicles."

Fourth Street denizens say it wasn't trailer residents who harassed the motorist, but a thuggish passer-by -- one whom several say they'd just as soon see arrested and jailed. The vehicle-dwellers made the area safer, they argue, by keeping a wary eye out for criminals just like any neighbors would.

"It's been a nice little community out here. People get together and help each other out," says Sheryl Jamison-Abrams, 43, who moved into a white and gray Nomad trailer with her husband six months ago as an alternative to San Francisco's crack-den hotels.

"I have to be here, where I feel safe. Those hotels don't feel safe at all," continues Jamison-Abrams, who says she took to trailer living after she was raped in her hotel. "Here, that doesn't go on. You don't have people paying a $5 visitors fee to co-opt a restroom and indulge in prostitution and drug use."

Whether or not vehicle-dwellers actually harassed a motorist, they were certainly guilty of something just as egregious in happy-motoring San Francisco -- they took up free-of-charge dirt parking spaces. As more homeless pulled their trailers onto Fourth Street, more motorists were forced to pay the $5 a day collected by the AMPCO System parking lot at Berry and Fourth streets.

By Friday, the trailers were towed and impounded, and all was well. Jetta station wagons and Mazda Miatas replaced 1970s Gillig school buses and rusty Ford Econoline vans. Anne Taylor business skirts swished hurriedly where greasy, homeless sweat pants once loitered.

-- Matt Smith

Mizrahi on Doughnuts
When fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi visited the Academy of Art College last Tuesday evening, he kicked over his plastic cup of ice water, stripped off his jacket, and lit up a cigarette. But he didn't mean to be a fashion bad boy -- not that kind, anyway. The ice water spill was an accident; and he asked permission before lighting his cigarette.

"Does this offend anyone?" he asked the throng of admirers, as he held his cigarette aloft. "I hope so," he answered, and lit up.

Fashion is a silly business. Mizrahi, who was shown in the 1995 documentary Unzipped horsing around with supermodels and basing an entire line on Nanook of the North, does silly well. With AAC fashion department head Gladys Perint Palmer as moderator, Mizrahi was in fine form as the fashion students, department store reps, members of the press, and city swells in attendance picked Mizrahi's brain. The bons mots and aphorisms went whizzing:

On the '90s woman: "She's terse, sweating, gorgeous, freaked out, and on the go."

On the Mizrahi woman: "She's not dumb, but she's not afraid to look dumb."
On what we're going to do about the paparazzi: "I don't think we're going to do anything about the paparazzi."

On art students: "You know how I can tell it's a fashion school? There's more than one belt on each person."

Student: "What's the meanest thing said to you when you were a student [at Parsons]?"

Mizrahi: "What's the meanest thing anyone could ever say to you? You're fat."

On the future of designers: "People will be strange combinations of things. Someone will design clothes and also make wonderful doughnuts.

About The Authors

Matt Smith


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