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Monday, April 14, 2008

SF Government InAction: Police foot patrols clash with Light Brown Apple Moths under undead movie house marquees!

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 10:25 AM


By Benjamin Wachs

There is so much government happening this week that you’ll want to pace yourself. Take it slowly. Breathe deeply. Proper hydration is crucial: if you start to feel light headed, go get a drink of water. The government will be there when you get back. Probably passing a motion to eliminate drinking fountains.

Monday, April 14, 1 p.m. – Land Use & Economic Development Committee

Never say that the Land Use & Economic Development Committee doesn’t have an artistic side. They LOVE art – they just want it to be properly zoned. Is that so much to ask?

There’s going to be a lot of culture clash today. Perhaps not understanding that if there’s one group of people in the world not fully capable of grasping zoning laws it’s artists, the meeting starts off with a bang and a mime as the Supes designate “street artist winter holiday spaces.”

They will likely reauthorize the “temporary” spaces the Supes have allotted to artists for the last 12 years, which is fine. But there’s definitly a whiff of tragedy surrounding this resolution:

“A survey by the Arts commission found that in recent years more street artist spaces in the Downtown area have been eliminated due to construction, curb zone changes, newsracks, planter boxes, etc..;”

I can not imagine the scene: “Sorry sir,” the police officer tells the electric violinist, or the mime dressed as a robot, or the elderly guy doing the James Brown imitation, “you can’t perform here: we need this space for a news rack. Also, we’re installing a planter box over there, so, move along.”

It brings a tear to my eye.

The resolution doesn’t say anything about how many street artist spaces have been lost to Scientology, vegan activists, or people bussed in by the Chinese Consolate to say that everything’s fine – but I bet that number’s huge.

Meanwhile a proposal by Ross Mirkarimi would allow historic movie theatres to restore their marquee signs. “What?” you ask. “They can’t do that already?” Ah, no. It seems that in 2004 the Supes decided that historic movie houses are so important that any alterations to them must go through a set of very tight zoning requirements. So tight, in fact, that the theatres can no longer repair their historic marquees.

That’s right: they can’t even REPAIR them. I’m glad the Supes like our historic movie houses, but there’s something a little necrophiliac about this kind of appreciation:

“Many of these existing signs and marquees now require extensive rehabilitation. Most have reached or are nearing the end of their expected lifetimes and may become a health or safety hazard to the public.”

Other signs and marquees were in such a bad state that – unable to be repaired – they had to be removed. But in a classic catch 22 they could not be replaced because the signs constituted “noncomplying structures” – which are a big no-no.

So, to review: we love our movie houses so much we’re going to prevent them from being repaired, ever, until they start to crumble into dust, at which point they can’t be rebuilt because we hate new building.

San Francisco has proven once and for all that you don’t have to burn the village to save it – you can just zone it to death.

Since nothing washes down art like a big bunch of pot, the Supes will conclude their meeting by voting on new zoning laws for medical cannabis dispensaries. If this motion passes the full board, all pot clubs that opened prior to 2005 will have to undergo a California Environmental Quality Act review.

Having accidentally killed movie theatres, I’m guessing the Supes are going to inadvertently ruin grass, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2 p.m. – Full Board of Supervisors

Government proposals in San Francisco tend to get so dusty that the Asthma Task Force considers them a hazard. But not even San Francisco can keep an item on the agenda forever – sooner or later someone’s going to want it voted on and done with. It looks like, fingers crossed, this week something big is actually going to pass the Board of Supervisors. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, but, hey, one problem at a time.

This week they appear set to decide that:

• The Excelsior will have an “alcohol restricted use district” - including a ban on new booze shops; and

• Eliminating dwelling units in a building is going to be extra, extra, hard. Even if everything you’re doing is legal, they’re now going to have the power to veto it if they think it doesn’t help preserve affordable housing in SF.

Beyond that, they’ll be talking about (and probably passing) the 10 year capital plan, which I’ve written about here, and how hard of a line they should try and draw with the state about aerial spraying of the Light Brown Apple Moth (that’s LBAM, if you’re “cool”), which I’ve written about here.

To review: Mirkarimi and Ammiano want to flat out oppose the spraying, while Dufty, the Mayor, and … um … also Ammiano … want to “urge” the state to make sure the spraying is safe before they do it.

Spraying is scheduled to start in August: it’s anybody’s guess whether the Supes will have made up their minds by then.

Before we move on, I’d just like to point out that Ross Mirkarimi’s bill to require every government meeting which can be recorded and broadcast to actually be recorded and broadcast is still languishing. Come on now, is this REALLY controversial?

Wednesday, April 16

11 a.m. – Budget and Finance committee

Geez, you know, I would have summarized this incredibly detailed budget meeting for you… except that my cat was doing something really funny. Just hilarious.

Come on GavinNewsom (my cat’s name is GavinNewsom. She gets distracted by brightly colored objects and has no head for details), do it again!

6 p.m. – Public Safety Committee (with special guests “Police Commission”)

I love the public safety committee: they keep such straightforward agendas. Today, they’ll be discussing the evaluation of San Francisco’s foot patrol initiative (which I’ve written about here), and that’s it.

Thank you for keeping it simple.

I'm going to get a drink of water.

Thursday, April 17

10 a.m. – Rules Committee

This week the rules committee will appoint people to stuff (the Sweatfree Procurement Advisory Group; the In-Home Supportive Services public authority; the Bicycle Advisory Committee; the Commission on the Aging Advisory Council; the Animal Safety Advisory Board; the Planning Commission; and the Police Commission. Just for fun, I made one of those groups up. Can you tell which?)

It will also vote on whether to settle six different lawsuits. I wish I had juicy details for you but they don’t like to talk about it and … seriously … chasing down information on every lawsuit filed against the city would be the kind of full time job that makes you wake up in a cold sweat. And kick puppies. (My puppy's name is ChrisDaly. He chews the furniture)

Finally, it will hold a hearing on the Laguna Honda Hospital early census reduction and closure of Clarendon Hall. I’m guessing more than one person cares about this, so it might be a committee to watch.

1 p.m. – city Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee

An awful lot of agenda items involve accepting and spending grant money. Just today this committee will vote to accept and spend state money for emergency preparedness and HIV tests (not in the same grant) and foundation money for HIV prevention projects and nutritional services.

If, in the wake the Department of Justice requiring that the District Attorney return grant money they say her office wasn’t entitled to, any other departments in SF are wondering: “How well do we handle all this money people keep accepting for us?” there’s no sign. At least publicly, nobody’s talking.

What is getting talked about is a plan to add climate change and gas emission goals to the city’s environmental code. That’s much sexier than fiscal discipline. Also, the environment is never going to ask for its oxygen back.

3:30 p.m. – City and School District Select Committee

Three words: Asthma Task Force.

We’re done here. Have a great week.

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Benjamin Wachs


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