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Campaign Trail: Leno blasts Breed’s housing record

Mark Leno stands near a homeless encampment to criticize Sup. London Breed

Mark Leno kicked the mayor’s race into another gear this week when he released an ad and held a press conference directly challenging Sup. London Breed on her housing policy and saying that she represents the “failed status quo.”

Mark Leno stands near a homeless encampment to criticize Sup. London Breed

Standing in front of the house on Page Street where Iris Canada was evicted, Leno said that “it’s time to be very clear where the candidates stand.” He asked voters to get “beyond the rhetoric, and look at the record. Everyone wants to say they are a protector of tenants right before Election Day. London Breed has not voted for, advocated for, stood by, and certainly has not fought for the homes or the livelihoods or working families, the elderly, the disabled, those who are depending on rent-controlled units.”

Deepa Varma, executive director of the Tenants Union, talked about the eviction of the 100-year-old Canada by people who wanted to convert her unit into a condo, and said that “one of the first votes London Breed took was to lift the lid on condo conversions.

Ending Street Homelessness by 2020

The status quo has failed us. That's why I wrote a plan to end street homelessness by 2020. It starts with moving 1,000 people off the streets and into housing, establishing a Mental Health Justice Center, enhancing tenant protections, and completing a top-to-bottom audit to stop waste.If you're happy with the way things are, vote for London Breed. But if you want to see change, look at my plan here: http://www.markleno.com/issues#homelessnessNo more excuses. Let's get it done.

Posted by Mark Leno on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

“From the beginning, London Breed has not been with us,” Varma said. “When it came to buyouts, increasing relocation benefits, she voted against us. On regulating Airbnb and eviction protections, she voted with the real-estate industry.”

Varma noted that on the anti-speculation tax, Prop. G, “Leno helped us get the Democratic Party endorsements. Breed didn’t.”

The Tenants Union has put out “20 reasons you should not vote for London Breed.”

In his ad, Leno, standing in front of a homeless encampment, says that “the status quo has failed us.

“If you are happy with the way things are, vote for London Breed.”

It’s the first time any of the major candidate has directly taken on the positions of Breed, although an independent expenditure committee backing Breed has attacked Leno.

I talked to Leno this afternoon, and he told me that, with absentee ballots set to arrive in about two weeks and the election not much more than a month away, it’s important to clarify the differences between the candidates.

So far – to the frustration of both Leno and Jane Kim – a lot of the news media has suggested that the candidates aren’t that different on the issues. Leno’s attempting to change that narrative.

UPDATE: Breed’s communications director, Tara Moriarty, got back to me with this statement:

“Mark Leno took thousands of dollars from real estate interests as a legislator in Sacramento, and also consistently failed at his job to pass Ellis Act Reform to protect tenants. Since taking office in 2012, London Breed has consistently worked to protect tenants. As a tenant herself, unlike Mark Leno, she understands firsthand the challenges renters face. Her strong tenant protection record includes:
  • Wrote legislation prioritizing neighborhood residents for the affordable units in their community.

  • Is streamlining the process to build rent-controlled accessory dwelling/in-law units to expand our rent-controlled housing stock.

  • Wrote Right to Civil Counsel legislation to provide tenants with legal assistance to fight evictions and keep people in their homes.

  • Saved 104 affordable units at Frederick Douglas Haynes Gardens.

  • Working to pass the Housing for All Ballot measure which will generate $1 billion for housing, including funds to purchase rent-controlled buildings, and build homes for our families, seniors, teachers, and firefighters.

  • Committed to building at least 5,000 homes per year to ease our housing shortage.

  • Driving the effort to build affordable housing on underutilized sites around the City, such as at the former McDonald’s site on Haight and Stanyan streets.

  • Supports reforming San Francisco’s archaic approval processes for code compliant new housing and streamline 100% affordable housing projects.

She did not challenge any of the statements made by Leno or by the Tenants Union, which has a record of more than half a century of representing renters rights.

This latest salvo makes it even more clear that this race is close, that three candidates (Leno, Breed, and Sup. Jane Kim) are in contention, and that there are still voters who haven’t figured out what the candidates really stand for and who to support.

It’s going to be a wild six weeks.

Tenant Troubles: Can my landlord spy on me?

Editors note: Tenant lawyer Dave Crow is here every Wednesday to answer your questions. Email [email protected]

I’m a 14-year rent controlled tenant in the TenderNob. Two years ago, my landlord surreptitiously trained a surveillance camera well-disguised as a smoke detector at my unit door—and only at my unit door. In fact, it’s the only camera in the entire building, a building with a long history of mail package thefts in its lobby.

The camera was ostensibly placed in front of my door in anticipation of an eviction filing to come the following calendar year, to collect evidence for said filing in other words. The rather flimsy nuisance eviction attempt never came close to trial, though exactly one deposition was taken and the stress of the whole thing totally dominated my 2017. But the camera, for the most part, flopped as an evidence collection tool, on this occasion at least.

But now the camera-cloaked-as-faux-smoke-detector remains fixed in place directly aimed at my unit door and the landlord has refused to move it after multiple requests every few months. I am not allowed to access the camera, or understand how it works, or how the footage of me and all my guests is collected or stored. The hidden camera isn’t going anywhere. But this feels like such a long-term invasion and completely makes toxic my relationship with my landlord as long as it records all my comings and goings and those of all of my guests.

To be clear, the camera is placed on the common hallways ceiling (8.5-9’ high) and is about eight feet in front of my unit door. Based on the still frames that were discovered in last year’s aborted eviction, the camera only captures my door, no others, and only records individuals who enter and exit my unit. And the camera can see inside my unit, but only just about 4-5 feet into my entryway/hallway area. The camera ostensibly never stops recording my unit door and has been doing so since summer 2016.

The party line among the various legal counsel to whom I have spoken about this, is that such tactics are per se legal, even under our comparatively tenant-friendly SF Rent Ordinance, because landlords can always place cameras in their common areas and that litigating such tactics would be a total waste of time for any tenant in my position.

After almost two full years of non-stop, targeted surveillance, these security camera bromides are getting harder and harder for me to swallow. Don’t such targeted surveillance cameras violate at least the spirit and intent of our Rent Ordinance by applying undue pressure on specific tenants like me to give up their longstanding, well-below-market rental units with the apparent intent of tenant turnover and increasing the yearly value of such a unit two or threefold?

Is there really nothing that can be done under the Rent Ordinance or at the Rent Board to challenge such heavy-handed landlord tactics? Doesn’t the now long-term nature of the surveillance targeted at me at least make it more egregious and potentially more actionable? What if this lasts for another 15 years? When, if ever, does targeted 24/7 unit surveillance cross over the line into landlord harassment? Please examine this from all the angles, as I know I am not alone and this problem is sure to only get worse as such technology becomes more mainstream and affordable.

The “bromides” to which you refer reflect a common apathy about the use of surveillance cameras everywhere—the slowly boiling frog approach to an “inevitable” societal slide into a police state. As long as we accept, without question, a surveillance state, the short answer to your question is: no, there isn’t much that can be done.

The rationale for the use of surveillance cameras.

Any policy adopted to diminish the right to privacy, finally recognized as a constitutional guarantee in Griswald v, Connecticut(1965) 381 U.S. 479, will be based upon an urgent need that trumps that right, e.g. national security, crime prevention, etc. Landlords often justify a decision to install surveillance cameras outside and in the common areas of a building as bid to provide a safe, secure residential environment. Landlords will point out that they have a duty to their tenants to do so.

The landlord’s duty

I read several California cases that define a landlord’s duty to provide security for tenants:

“Out of the generic obligations owed by landowners to maintain property in a reasonably safe condition, the law of negligence in the landlord-tenant context has evolved to impose a duty of reasonable care on the owner of an apartment building to protect its tenants from foreseeable third-party criminal assaults. Thus, the question of a landlord’s duty is not whether a duty exists at all, but rather what is the scope of the landlord’s duty given the particular facts of the case?” —Vasquez v. Residential Investments (2004)118 Cal.App.4th 269

“The scope of a landowner’s duty to provide protection from foreseeable third-party criminal acts is determined in part by balancing the foreseeability of the harm against the burden of the duty to be imposed. In cases where the burden of preventing future harm is great, a high degree of foreseeability may be required. On the other hand, in cases where there are strong policy reasons for preventing the harm, or the harm can be prevented by simple means, a lesser degree of foreseeability may be required. Duty in such circumstances is determined by a balancing of ‘foreseeability’ of the criminal acts against the ‘burdensomeness, vagueness, and efficacy’ of the proposed security measures.” —Yu Fang Tan v. Arnel Management(2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 1087.

Generally, intervening criminal acts will negate a landlord’s duty to a tenant if the criminal act was unforeseeable. For example, if a tenant is mugged outside of his or her building by an unknown assailant, usually the landlord will not be held liable. The law can impose landlord liability for criminal acts when the building is located in a high crime area and/or the landlord is informed of a specific threat and does nothing to prevent it. California cases have found a landlord liable for refusing to repair security gates, ignoring repeated requests by tenants for the repairs, when a subsequent rape occurred in the building. A landlord breached his duty when he received prior written notice that a tenant in the building had brandished a shotgun at another tenant and a visitor in an angry and threatening manner. A landlord had duty to replace missing glass on apartment door murderer used to obtain entry.

Foreseeability is a crucial factor in determining the existence of duty. A duty to take affirmative action to control the wrongful acts of a third party will be imposed only where such conduct can be reasonably anticipated. Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center(1999) 6 Cal.4th 666.

All of the cases I read imposed liability upon a landlord who failed to act given the specific foreseeability of the given act. None of the cases imposed a duty to provide security guards in in a building because the court assessed that providing such guard would impose an undue burden upon the landlord despite foreseeability. I could not find any cases that established a landlord’s duty provide camera surveillance in a building.

Your landlord may justify the installation of the camera for safety and security of the building, but as far as I can tell, he does not have the duty to provide it, nor would he be able to prove its efficacy to provide safety or security, nor would he be liable for unforeseen criminal liability, despite the surveillance.

Surveillance does not prevent crime

After the Boston Marathon bombing, a great deal of attention and praise was lavished on surveillance systems, public and private, aiding in the apprehension of the bombers — but the surveillance did not prevent the bombing.

“An increasing number of American cities and towns are currently investing millions of taxpayer dollars in surveillance camera systems. But few are closely examining the costs and benefits of those investments, or creating mechanisms for measuring those costs and benefits over time. There is extensive academic literature on the subject—studies carried out over many years—and that research strongly indicates that video surveillance has no statistically significant effect on crime rates.” —ACLU Expert Findings on Surveillance Cameras.

The ACLU report cites serval studies done in Great Britain and the United States.

There may be some small impact on property crime. Think the TV commercials that show the would-be thief about ready to grab your Christmas gifts from the front porch when he notices the camera and decides to pick another house.

Cameras installed in an LA housing project may have played a role in preventing a substantial escalation of crime relative to surrounding areas, since the housing project was the site of a gang war during the period of the study. Yet, “meta-analyses from the UK, along with preliminary findings from the US, indicate strongly that video surveillance has little to no positive impact on crime.”

The true aim of surveillance—compiling dossiers and exerting control

“We are not safer from terrorism with security cameras in our cities. Particularly terrorists who are willing to die, security cameras do not control their behavior. They would not stop them from planning to pull off an attack. Cameras don’t just watch criminals, but they watch everybody. Someone visits their psychiatrist every Monday at two in the afternoon, traveling through public spaces. Where they’re going is known to nobody, but a network of cameras could pull that out of obscurity. That info is known to government officials.” —Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.

I suspect that ubiquitous surveillance in this country will be used to more and more to compile dossiers and to eventually disrupt (or worse) dissidents, troublemakers who would wrest control from the privileged few, like landlords.

In my experience landlords only spy on a specific tenant for two reasons: 1) to determine if a tenant principally resides in his or her rent controlled unit, and 2) to make a tenant uncomfortable in his or her home. Despite the fact that the landlord tried to evict you for an alleged nuisance does not justify the surveillance and, as you pointed out, the surveillance evidence flopped and was likely inadmissible at trial. But the cameras keep rolling and you’re not ready for your close-up.

Your landlord has gone full Dick Cheney on you and his continued surveillance demonstrates my earlier point that he is compiling whatever evidence he can and, yes, harassing you in the process.

Can you call the cops for this type of landlord surveillance?

The disguised camera is only pointing at your doorway, which indicates that the landlord has singled you out, but California law only punishes those who attempt to procure confidential communications or who want to snoop for more salacious purposes.

California Penal Code § 632(a)  provides: “A person who, intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication, uses an electronic amplifying or recording device to eavesdrop upon or record the confidential communication, whether the communication is carried on among the parties in the presence of one another or by means of a telegraph, telephone, or other device, except a radio, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) per violation, or imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

The case law interpreting Penal Code § 632(a) construes the statute rather narrowly. It’s unlikely you could prove that the landlord, by installing the camera intended to eavesdrop in this manner…maybe yes, maybe no.

California Penal Code § 647(j)(3)(A)states: “A person who uses a concealed camcorder, motion picture camera, or photographic camera of any type, to secretly videotape, film, photograph, or record by electronic means, another, identifiable person who may be in a state of full or partial undress, for the purpose of viewing the body of, or the undergarments worn by, that other person, without the consent or knowledge of that other person, in the interior of a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, fitting room, dressing room, or tanning booth, or the interior of any other area in which that other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade the privacy of that other person…”

On the other hand, it would also be difficult to prove that the landlord is a peeping Tom. So, calling the cops probably isn’t the answer.

Finally, Rent Ordinance § 37.10B(a)(13), does provide: “No landlord, and no agent, contractor, subcontractor or employee of the landlord shall do any of the following in bad faith: Interfere with a tenant’s right to privacy.” While it seems like you might be able to prove a case for harassment under the Rent Ordinance, without direct reference to surveillance like you have described in the Ordinance, a court would likely apply the more restrictive California law. Winning a case based upon your particular facts would be very difficult.

Here’s my bromide: If it looks like harassment, feels like harassment and smells like harassment, but it’s not explicitly defined as harassment, surveillance will not be considered to be harassment to tenants or anyone else until the lackadaisical public attitude changes toward widespread surveillance.

How to help Dave help you

Dear Readers:

Every once and awhile I will have to guess at a detail or two when I attempt to answer your questions. For example, I will often assume that a building was built before 1979, given the context of a question. When I make that assumption, it’s highly likely that I will assume that you live in a rent-controlled unit and answer your question using the standard of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance. That could be a problem for two reasons. If your building was built after 1979, it is not covered by the Rent Ordinance. Worse, what if you don’t live in San Francisco?

So, I thought it might be a good idea to give you a short list of details to consider and/or include when you write me.

When was your building constructed?

If you don’t know, you can find out by using the SF Assessor-Recorder’s website to find out. If that site is being funky (not unusual) ask around. Finally, take a look at your building. Victorian? That’s easy. The difficult ones are buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s, the big square ugly boxes reminiscent of the shit they’re building these days.

How many units are in your building?

That seems like a no-brainer. But it’s not so easy if you live in a single-family dwelling in which the landlord rents rooms. The Rent Board might consider each room as a unit depending on the facts. The other common scenario is the single-family house with an illegal in-law. Rent controlled? (By that I mean, subject to annual allowable increases?) Yes. This is a two-unit building because Illegal units are covered by the Rent Ordinance.

Do you live in a house?

If the house was built before 1979, it is subject only to the just cause eviction provisions of the Rent Ordinance and the landlord can increase the rent as much as he likes…within reason. However, if your tenancy started before 1996, the house is subject to the price control provisions of the ordinance.

Do you live in a condominium?

This can be difficult to ascertain if you live in a converted building. Ask the landlord or check the Assessor-Recorder site above. Condos are legal single-family dwellings, usually only subject to the just cause eviction provisions of the Ordinance. There is an exception, see Tenant Troubles: Are The Buyout Terms My Landlord’s Offering Acceptable?

How old are you? Are you disabled?

This may be applicable if you are a protected tenant under the Rent Ordinance.

How long have you lived in your unit?

This could be important to determine if you have a protected status or, as in the example above, if your tenancy in a house or condo is subject to price control.

How much is your rent?

Often this is the most important detail because it usually points to the underlying motive of the landlord for taking whatever action he is taking–he thinks you’re not paying enough rent.

What does your lease say about it?

The lease controls the terms of your tenancy. It is always helpful to me to understand how to apply the law to your problem when I know if there is an applicable term in your lease. For example, if you are having a problem adding a new roommate, I need to know if the lease absolutely prohibits subleasing or if subleasing is subject to the landlord’s written consent. The ordinance is different for each scenario.

Details, details, details.

If the landlord is harassing you, I want to know how. Does the landlord like to watch you sleep? It’s important to understand if your lease has a clause prohibiting pets and you just adopted a baby gorilla. It’s also important to know about the gorilla because other laws may apply. Sometimes little details can shed light on an issue you may not know you have.

Obviously, this format has its limits. If you know your unit is rent controlled you can just say so. I want the gory details that make your case unique. They help make this column more interesting and fun.

Oh yeah, if you live in Oakland, I need to know that, because they have a different Rent Ordinance. If you live in Daly City, I also need to know that, because they don’t have jack to protect tenants except feudal (California) law.

I’m at 48 Hills to answer your landlord-tenant questions every Wednesday, so send them to me at [email protected]

The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not constitute legal advice. The information provided is general in nature. Seek the advice of a tenant attorney for any specific problem or issue. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or Crow & Rose, Attorneys at Law unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

Party Radar: Are you ready for the Cleveland techno invasion?

Adab from the Heaven is in You party and In Training's Kiernan Laveaux and Father of Two are driving across America to Mixed Forms, Sat/20.

PARTY RADAR The greater Midwest is central to the story of electronic music in the United States, but it gets short shrift these days: Sure, Detroit and Chicago are still shining stars in the underground firmament, but what about cities where people are really kicking against the conservative pricks, like Cleveland? 

Welp, Cleveland has its own exciting, coalescing underground scene worth investigating, and it’s queer as fuck, huzzah. You won’t even have to spring for a ticket to Ohio, as the Mixed Forms party is offering a Cleveland queer underground sampler platter, Sat/21. That’s when representatives of two of Cleveland’s vibrant underground parties, In Training and Heaven Is In You, come to the Stud. (Full disclosure: I am part of the Stud Collective, and have partied with In Training in the Appalachian forest). There’s definitely some good ol’ DIY community aesthetic going on. I had a wee email exchange with DJs Kiernan Laveaux and Father of Two from In Training and ADAB from Heaven is in You, as they traveled across the country to visit San Francisco for the first time. 

48H When I checked i with In Training last year, it felt like a queer underground scene was finally taking root in Cleveland. How you have seen the Cleveland scene change through your parties? 

FATHER OF TWO I participate very little in the wider Cleveland ‘scene’ outside of the three parties my friends and I organize together, so it’s hard for me to answer. Our events continue to be rewarding and expanding, and the wider queer music community seems to be responding well to what we do here.

ADAB It’s always been a place with a queer and creative presence, but I feel like our parties have bolstered spaces for those energies to congregate and mesh with one another.

KIERNAN LAVEAUX Having been an attendee at shows in Cleveland for the last five years of my life, I would definitely say there’s been a slight increase of peoples’ awareness in their words and actions towards queer people in the timeframe that our events have been around. While it’s nowhere near perfect, I believe it has to do in tandem with an increase of general social awareness and maybe people being more exposed to what we do. ADAB nailed it in that the queers and energy has always been there, but needed a space to meet and interact with one another and share ideas.

48H You all come at the scene from different directions. How did you get started throwing parties and DJng?

FATHER OF TWO I started throwing parties and DJing with In Training, which was conceived the night Mx Silkman (the third member of In Training) and I first met almost four years ago. I’ve been learning it all on the job!

ADAB I started DJing around 2010, in college, after my best friend/sibling sent me a Numark Traktor LE while on tour with the USMC in Afghanistan. Developing out of that came a genuine desire to learn more about the gift I was given. As far as party organizing, aside from random house parties, I hadn’t considered doing any type of official party until me and my Heaven Is In You cofounder Eric met Kiernan, Father of Two, and Mx Silkman as a result of the small pool of the Cleveland electronic underground.

KIERNAN LAVEAUX I started DJing about three years ago as a result of Father of Two and Mx Silkman starting In Training and me wanting to get on board and help out with it. It seemed like the best way possible for me to meet other transgender people, because at the time I had very few trans friends and was going through a lot of isolation and confusion. Seeing ADAB play one of our early parties was also the first time I saw one of my friends and peers really command a room and make people dance, and it struck a chord in me to want to take this as far as I could with people I was forming close bonds with. I joined on as an official member of In Training about four months into it’s existence.

48H How would you characterize the music you play, and can you give me a couple of tracks you love right now?

FATHER OF TWO There is so much interesting music coming out at the moment that I have a blast showcasing and attempting to put into a more queer context. I particularly enjoy lots of music coming out of the UK that takes influence from soundsystem culture and IDM; labels like Timedance, Livity Sound, Version, Tobago Tracks, Conga Burn, Central Processing Unit, Le Chatroom, Circular Jaw, and many more have all been releasing tons of heat that I’ve enjoyed messing around with, just to name a few. I also have a rather large soft spot for UK Garage and think it’s a sound that is inexplicably rather underrepresented in the US queer underground. Three tracks I love right now are “Yak” by Zephyr (Le Chatroom), “PEEV” by Delia (Intramuros Records), and “Love Delicious (Sully Remix)” by Girls Of The Internet [Ramp Recordings]

ADAB I try my hardest most times to shift between techno, house, breaks, electro, minimal, and their various combinations. The common thread of the sound I try to carry through them is intentionally centered around dense percussion elements. Three tracks I love right now are: Underground Resistance’s “Radioactive Rhythms,” Fred P’s “6am” and Ubik’s “1991”

KIERNAN LAVEAUX I also take a lot of influence from “broken” rhythms associated with the sounds of the UK as well as dense percussion and a variety of styles put through a blender in my mind. I like to have a huge tidal wave of sounds coming at people, but also play a lot with space and dynamics. I’m inspired by my interpretation of the spirit of Midwestern electronic music, the strange and experimental nature of the music that came out of its heyday, and all music that has been influenced by it since. Percussion is the universal language of humanity and the driving force behind almost all tracks I love to play, as well as anything that sounds strange and alien, yet beautiful and enticing. Three tracks I love right now are: Ken Ishii’s “Twist of Space,” Anthony Shakir’s “Systemic Advancing,” and Seefeel’s “Charlotte’s Mouth”


THU 19-SUN/21 DISCRETE FIGURES: RHIZOMATIKS X ELEVENPLAY This eye-popping technology-dance hybrid comes to Gray Area for its 10th Anniversary. “Inspired by Alan Turing, their newest performance marries choreography for five dancers with machine learning technology and a stage designed for interactivity between performers, drones, virtual dancers and other objects.” More info here

THU/19 CHIC Nobody works harder than Nile Rodgers to make a party happen — that’s why his outfit Chic still remains relevant and incredible. Dance to the classics with a crowd of all types. 7pm, $55. Fox Theatre, Oakland. More info here

FRI/20 HIGHER AND HIGHER: A ROOFTOP 4/20 PARTY Head up to Oasis’s roof and celebrate 4/20! With DJs Brown Amy and Sindri, entertainers Dulche de Leche and LOL McFiercen, and more. There will be munchies. 8pm-12am, $7. Oasis, SF. More info here.  

FRI/20 JOE CLAUSELL, PEGGY GOU, AXEL BOMAN, NONCOMPLIANT The As You Like It party (with co-promoter Technoclam) pulls off its usual wonderful stunt of gathering together some of the best DJs in the world, of wildly different styles. It’s an unmissable smorgasbord! 9:30-4:30, $20. Public Works, SF. More info here

FRI/20 DERRICK CARTER The Chicago boogaloo house master returns to slay SF, and we adore him. 9:30pm-3am, $10-$20. Monarch, SF. More info here

FRI/20 CREATURE XV: ALLOY Craziness always ensues at this ultimate gender fluid party, this time celebrating all the metals of the universe with DJs Juanita More, Jordee, Scorpion Warrior, and more. 10pm-4am, $10. the Stud, SF. More info here

SAT/21 MAGIC TOUCH The Los Angeleno touches down with his gossamer house style at the ever-splendid Push the Feeling party. 9pm-2am, $7. Underground SF. More info here

SAT/21 NON STOP BHANGRA Our favorite bhangra party ever brings in the UK’s PBN to light the dancefloor on fire. 9pm-2am, $15. Public Works, SF. More info here

SAT/21 FRINGE Indie dance bliss with DJs Blondie K & subOctave + special guests Mario Muse. Too cute. 9pm-2am, $5. Madrone, SF. More info here

SAT/21 D.A.D. The Dudes And Disco party is too cute for words, but they’re getting serious about sweat with guests Gay Marvine and Bus Station John. Disco for all, hon. 9pm-2am, $7-$10. Driftwood, SF. More info here.     

SAT/21 DÂM FUNK + PEANUT BUTTER WOLF Two great, funky tastes from LA that sound great together. DÂM always wows with his Prince-feel sets, while Wolf (the founder of Stones Throw Records) is a classic in the turntablist mode. 9pm, $22. Midway, SF. More info here

SAT/21 SATURDAY NIGHT SOUL PARTY DJ Guillermo of the classic Sweater Funk crew makes your backbone slip (with 45s!) at the Elbo Room. 10pm-2am, $8. Elbo Room, SF. More info here

SUN/22 SUNSET + HONEY SOUNDSYSTEM BOAT PARTY The Honey boys have hopped on this party traditions, as the Sunset Crew continues sailing into the summer. Special Guest Antenes from L.I.E.S. Records. All aboardy!  5pm-11pm, $60. More info here

SCREEN GRABS: The Rider, Women Animators, School of Chairs

'The Rider'

SCREEN GRABS Apparently much of the local film world was holding its breath until the San Francisco International Film Festival ended—because now that it has, the floodgates have opened to a ton of new arthouse releases and other notable events. 

Probably the most acclaimed of the fresh arrivals—and justly so—is Chloe Zhao’s Cannes prize-winning The Rider. Like her prior  Songs My Brothers Taught Me, which took place on a Lakota reservation, the China-born director’s second feature is a low-key drama set in hard-scrabble rural South Dakota. Actual former bull-riding star Brady Jandreau plays a fictionalized version of himself as a young man who has a difficult time adjusting to his forced new reality after an accident leaves him with a head injury and a steel plate in his skull. He slowly gets back to the work of training horses (in some fascinating scenes involving no stunt personnel), but even that outlet—let alone going back to rodeo competition—may be closed to him if his condition worsens. Jandreau’s real-life, somewhat ne’er-do-well father and mentally disabled sister also play variations on themselves, as do various of his roping and wrangling cowboy peers.

Whether any of them could—or even should—go on to professional acting careers is anyone’s guess. But the performances Zhao has gotten from her non-professional cast members are remarkable, and The Rider is one of those films that feels utterly, urself-consciously true to a reality not terribly close to the usual mythology of movie westerns. As quietly intense as its leading figure, this is a terse, poetical, moving drama that could well end up one of the year’s best.  

Among the films we did not have time to preview are Little Pink House, with Catherine Keener in a fact-based David-and-Goliath tale of average citizen vs. big development that should resonate with local viewers; Ismael’s Ghosts, a triangle drama with Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg from Arnaud Desplechin, the talented French director of A Christmas Tale and My Golden Days; I Feel Pretty, an Amy Schumer comedy with the promising conceit that her hitherto-insecure-wallflower character experiences drastic life changes after a head trauma convinces her she’s a fabulously successful knockout; Claire’s Camera, a second playful collaboration between South Korean director Sang-Too Hong and French superstar Isabelle Huppert; and Kodachrome, a road-trip seriocomedy with Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen and Ed Harris. 

If you’re looking for something free and fun, nothing could be better than the Proxy Spring Series’ Friday night screening of The Road Movie—a hair-raising and hilarious compilation of Russian dash-cam footage—outdoors in Hayes Valley. BYO blanket; beer and food-truck eats will be available for purchase. (More info here.)


Two special events this week celebrate the work of women animators, local and otherwise. SF’s own Kara Herold will host a reception and screening next Thursday at YBCA to support her work-in-progress: 39 1/2, a feature continuing the playful self-analysis of her 2009 Bachelorette, 34 in which she uses elements of documentary, live action, animation and more to ponder the single life (and parental push-back) on the brink of 40. Short works by Lynn Peril, Emily Hubley, Kelly Gallagher and more complete the program. This Saturday, Other Cinema at ATA presents a “veritable mothership of animators” including Gallagher, Ellie Vanderlip, Mary Ellen Bute, Sally Cruikshank and more. A highlight will Martha Colburn’s new Western Wilds, a semi-autobiographical piece that’s also a meditation on the legacy of late Western pulp writer Karl May, German’s answer to Zane Grey.

Kara Herold: An Evening of Films & Storytelling by Women: Thurs/19, YBCA. More info here

X-Peri-Mental Animation: Sat/21, ATA. More info here. 

This quiet but striking new B&W drama by Hungarian director Ferenc Torok is set in the immediate aftermath of WW2. A small village is ruffled by the mysterious arrival of two black-clad strangers in the railway station. What do they want? Conspicuously, they are Jews—and that stirs worry, because this country hamlet (and many like it) had passively turned its Jewish citizens over to the Nazi-aligned authorities and claimed their “abandoned” property for its Gentile populace. Have these men come to reclaim? Accuse? Refusing to hit us on the head with its message, 1945 instead subtly reveals the complicity of “good” people are capable of when outside forces target their neighbors. Opens Friday, Landmark Theaters. More info here.

Those who prefer their fantasy/sci-fi cinema heavy on intriguing ideas rather than CGI effects will be delighted with this third feature by the brainy genre duo of scenarist Justin Benson and co-director Aaron Moorhead. They also star as brothers who fled a rural commune years earlier, the elder believing it was a “UFO death cult” headed toward Jonestown-like disaster. But they’ve floundered in the outside world, and the younger sibling still misses the “home” he has only fond memories of. Begging a return visit for “closure,” they arrive to discover that decade later, the residents haven’t aged a day—among other peculiarities.

This supernatural mystery recalls the likes of Inception or Looper for its toying with time as an “infinite loop” in increasingly hallucinogenic ways, albeit on a tiny fraction of those films’ budgets. Which is all to the good: What The Endless lacks in spectacle (though it does have some FX) it more than makes up in character detail and narrative invention. Some may find there are too many questions left dangling at the end, but getting there is a fascinating journey. Opens Friday, Alamo Drafthouse. More info here

You call yourself a cult movie aficionado? Be prepared to turn over your badge in shame if you have never seen either of these demented Asian genre classics, both of which get a showing at the Alamo this week. 1975’s Infra-Man, from legendary Hong Kong producers the Shaw Brothers, is the nuttiest super-hero movie ever—a fever-pitched mix of Godzilla-type monster mash and proto-Power Rangers cartoonish chop-socky. Take the kids and fry their brains! No less delirious is Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 Hausu aka House, in which a group of schoolgirls visiting an aunt’s country home find it chock-a-block with supernatural perils that come off like an LSD trip on amphetamines. 

Infra-Man: Sun/22, Alamo Drafthouse. More info here

Hausu: Tues/24, Alamo Drafthouse. More info here.

In conjunction with the same-named group exhibition showing at 500 Capp St. through June 9, this SF Cinematheque program pulls together an assortment of film and video shorts that explore the “secret life of objects.” Do we own our possessions, or do they own us? The relationship between identity, home and decor is explored in works by Ken Kobland, Julia Dogra-Brasell, Karissa Hahn, Jean-Paul Kelly, Bettina Hoffman, Coral Short, and Dana Berman Duff. Admission to this special on-site screening includes access to the ongoing exhibit at late visual artist David Ireland’s home, which he modified so uniquely and extensively it’s considered a permanent art installation in itself. Thurs/19, David Ireland House. More info here

Considered one of the most distinctive and original Latin American filmmakers of the 21st century to date, Argentina’s Martel made a splash with her 2001 debut La Cienaga, and has continued to do with each of three features since. Visiting the Bay Area to promote her latest, Zama (which opens commercially April 27), Martel will appear at two Bay Area venues this weekend. She’ll discuss both Zama and 2018’s acclaimed The Headless Woman at the onset of a complete Pacific Film Archive retrospective that runs through May 10. She’ll also present Zama—an experimental take on 18th-century Spanish colonialism—in person at SF’s Center for the Arts this coming Monday.

Fri/20-Thurs/10, PFA. More info here. 

Mon/23 YBCA. More info here.

Though it may no longer command the international attention it did in the 1960s, when Czechoslovakia was the jewel in the crown of a fantastic Eastern European filmmaking renaissance, the Czech Republic continues to carry on a rich cinematic tradition. The sixth edition of this traveling showcase for new work runs a gamut from the nation’s Oscar submission feature Ice Mother, a contemporary romantic tragicomedy, to WW2 drama Barefoot and sci-fi Accumulator 1. Fri/20-Sun/22, Roxie. More info here.

A very talented director trapped in a subgenre he remained forever ambivalent about, the recently deceased Romero made some of his best movies outside it, like offbeat vampire variation Martin and the Arthurian motorcycle saga Knightriders. Still, to the end he was largely stuck with the thing that launched his career: Zombies. There’s no questioning the greatness of his original Night of the Living Dead or its immediate sequel Dawn of the Dead. But admirably, this three-day Roxie tribute sidesteps all six of his undead features to throw a spotlight on a trio of Romero’s least-seen films. 

1973’s The Crazies, about a small town whose residents (accidentally poisoned by a military biological weapon) go homicidally nuts, suffered from poor distribution at the time but eventually became enough of a cult classic to merit a 2010 remake. More uneven if sporadically striking was the prior year’s equally unlucky Season of the Witch aka Hungry Wives, in which suburban Pittsburgh women unwisely get involved with witchcraft. But surely the most obscure of all Romero films is 1971’s There’s Always Vanilla, an aggressively groovy yet essentially sour “romantic comedy” about cynical modern relationships—an annoying movie, but a real time capsule of the Sexual Revolution’s jaded downside. Roxie, Sat/21-Mon/23. http://www.roxie.com/calendar/

It’s hard to convey to people who weren’t alive or cognizant at the time what a cultural phenomenon The Exorcist was: Beyond being by far the most commercially successful horror film to date, it sparked some serious religious debate and no small about of paranormal paranoia. The Roxie pairs the “extended director’s cut” (longer than the original release by ten minutes) of that 1973 mega-hit with director William Friedkin’s latest feature. 

His first-ever documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth is a rather pulpy inquiry into not just The Exorcist’s history, but also the ongoing reality of exorcisms in the Catholic Church. He brings his camera to Italy, where we’re told a somewhat hard-to-belief half-million citizens are exorcised each year, and where he gets permission to film a woman getting her 9th such attempted spiritual cleansing. It plays rather like tabloid TV (and is the woman’s “possessed” voice been digitally altered, as it sounds?)—but it’s a interesting footnote/prelude to a 45-year-old film that remains mightily impressive.Tues/24, Roxie. More info here

Sean Dorsey Dance’s ‘Boys in Trouble’ unpacks toxic masculinity

Sean Dorsey Dance's "Boys in Trouble." Photo by Lydia Daniller.

DANCE  Alt-right, #metoo, the Trump administration: Toxic masculinity and its effects are all the rage. We live in a culture that only allows (and rewards) men to feel anger, aggressiveness, competitiveness, and other narrowly defined traits. And we’re just waking up to the harm that this has caused. Even the trans and queer communities are affected from within by society’s corrosive standards of what it means to be “a real man.”

Essential local dance company Sean Dorsey Dance continues to address hot button topics from a place of diversity and passion, queering our view of binary constructs while presenting forceful and moving works. Its latest, Boys in Trouble (Fri/19-Sun/21 at Z Space), takes on toxic masculinity in all its insidious forms. 

The piece was developed after Dorsey traveled the country for two years, hosting community forums, teaching free movement workshops for and recording interviews with transgender, gender-non-conforming, cisgender, gay, bi, and queer people on the masculine spectrum. But it’s hardly a grim essay on the state of gender in the US. Instead, it plays against such expectations to make a statement about vulnerability and celebrate resilience, with humor and healing.

“The show is a fusion of full-throttle dancing (and I do mean full-throttle: We soak through 12 costume changes!), bold theater, intimate storytelling, and gorgeous partnering,” Dorsey told me over email. “How often do we get to see masculine bodies touching each other with tenderness and care? The dancing is pretty spectacular—we’re proud of the work. The storytelling comes from the performers, as well as from the communities we worked with. And I guarantee audiences will both laugh out loud (a lot) and will definitely tear up.”

I conversed with Dorsey over email about masculinity, vulnerability, and the expansive possibilities of being “proud, sassy, loud, and fierce.” 

48 HILLS The process for creating Boys in Trouble was incredibly involved—and involving. You traveled around the country for two years hosting forums on masculinity and teaching movement classes to queer and trans people all along the masculinity spectrum. What was the genesis of that, and can you share a couple of anecdotes from the road? 

SEAN DORSEY As a choreographer, I’m passionate about creating dances that are deeply human, widely accessible, moving and super relatable for my audiences. Modern dance has a reputation for being cryptic, inaccessible and irrelevant. That’s not what I do. I choose themes that will speak to people on a deep level, and I also choose make my work in community: I talk with people, listen to people, host workshops that give people creative skills and a voice.

So to create Boys in Trouble, I had the amazing opportunity to work with people in several cities across the US (from Maui to San Francisco to small-town Maine). Two things really stood out to me from that process: the first, that people living within the constraints of masculinity—whether in small towns or big cities—are profoundly harmed by the structures, demands, expectations and violence of toxic masculinity. The second thing was how extraordinarily resilient, smart, loving, warm, strong, brave, and creative queer and trans communities are. I was so inspired again and again!

I’m really excited that Boys in Trouble will be touring to 20 cities across the US after our San Francisco premiere; and in each city, we hold a week-long residency with free community forums, trans-supportive dance workshops, and more.

48H What perspective did you gain in your travels on these phenomena, and what of that coming through in the dances you’ve created? I’m especially fascinated by how you’re seeing this through a trans and queer lens. 

SD Our culture constantly tells trans people that we are “less than,” incomplete, and flawed. Boys in Trouble asserts that in fact, trans people are whole, deeply conscious, insightful, strong people who have a TON of insight to offer to the broader culture around gender, well-being and healing. Trans people have to work so fucking hard to stay alive and thrive in a world that hates us and harms our bodies; we’ve navigated multiple genders and gender expression… so we have a lot to teach, share and provide leadership and insight around. 

In this work, we explore white fragility, masculine rage and fragility and violence, expectations of trans masculinity. But we also explore the glorious, creative, brilliant, expansive possibilities of queer and trans gender-fluid and masculine gender expression. We’re proud, sassy, loud, and fierce… and then we also get super vulnerable, allow our own masks to come off to reveal our own sources of shame and trauma.

Sean Dorsey Dance in “Boys in Trouble.” Photo by Lydia Daniller

48H You mention vulnerability. What was your experience of that in the communities you visited, and how does that come through in the dances? 

SD Here’s the thing: the gender binary is (literally) man-made, and it’s harmful to everyone: cisgender, trans, hetero, queer, nonbinary… We inflict violence on ourselves and each other as we constantly scramble to “measure up.” That applies to masculinity, femininity … and it also applies to the pressure of being “queer” enough, or being “trans” enough or the “acceptable/passable” kind of transgender. We have one super sassy section that asks, Is THIS butch enough for you?

What’s underneath all of this—for everyone—is shame. We learn shame as we learn how to “do” our gender correctly. And shame lives in the body, so unpacking that shame through dance is visceral, powerful and healing.

48H The diversity of your company always awes me, can you tell me a little about collaborating and working with the dancers for this project? 

SD I love my company, we’re truly like family. There are five of us, and we are trans (me) and cisgender; white and Black; queer, gay, and bi; and our ages span three generations. Boys in Trouble is performed by myself, Brian Fisher, ArVejon Jones, Nol Simonse and Will Woodward.

I’m not interested in dance companies that feature under-fed binary-gendered all-cisgender dancers who are directed to put on blank stares, perform only-hetero partnering and narratives, and emotionally remove themselves from the work. I’m interested in real human experience; I’m interested in deeply, deeply moving my audiences and transforming them; I’m passionate about cracking open our wounded hearts to heal; I’m passionate about connecting queer and trans audiences to joy and beauty, and lifting up ourselves as strong and beautiful.

Z Space, SF.
Tickets and more info here. 

Campaign trail: Kim ad attacks Wiener bill

Jane Kim's ad talks about how Scot Wiener's bill would impact the city's neighborhoods

On the eve of the first hearing on SB 827, Sup. Jane Kim released an ad directly taking on the billand linking her campaign even more directly to an issue that is stirring up considerable anger in the neighborhoods.

The ad indicates that Kim and her advisors believe the Wiener bill is deeply unpopular in places like the Richmond, the Sunset, the Excelsior, and West Portal, which she mentions in the ad.

Jane Kim’s ad talks about how Scot Wiener’s bill would impact the city’s neighborhoods

She says that the bill will allow “unlimited luxury condos,” which “are not the answer to our housing crisis” and argues that “we can build more housing without destroying our neighborhoods.”

The ad is also part of Kim’s effort to make it clear that there are key distinctions between the candidates (and that the Chron was wrong in January when it saidthe main candidates “don’t have a lot of policy differences.”) Sup. London Breed is a supporter of SB 827. While Kim doesn’t mention Breed, don’t be surprised if she starts pointing that out more directly in the weeks to come.

When we met with Alioto last week, she complained that the news media wasn’t paying enough attention to the race. “If I had gotten the police union endorsement in 2003 (the last time she ran for mayor) it would have been on the front pages,” she said.

I agree – the race that will define the city’s direction perhaps for a decade or more is getting less play than it deserves. And the fact that the San Francisco Police Officers Association endorsed Alioto probably should be front-page news.

Because it pretty much guarantees that she won’t get any of the progressive support she’s had in the past.

Alioto always ran as part of the city’s past and future. She courted voters who remembered her (pretty conservative, pro-development) dad, Mayor Joe Alioto, fondly – along with voters who liked her stand on public power, LGBT rights, and homelessness. Her compassion is real, and she has run in the past as “the heart of San Francisco.”

But there are very, very few voters who label themselves as liberal or progressive in this town who find the POA anything but toxic. This is an organization that supports brutal, corrupt, cops, that wants to overturn the entire concept of civilian oversight to force unregulated Tasers on a city (and police chief) that want controls on the stun guns, and that is the single biggest obstacle to reform in the department.

I do think the POA endorsement is front-page news. But in political terms, I’m not sure why Alioto wants it.

Kim and Leno will appear together Wednesday/18, with the Chinese Progressive Association, to get the group’s joint endorsement. That will cement the ranked-choice voting strategy of the two campaigns: Kim endorsed Leno as her second choice early in the campaign, and Leno has now endorsed Kim.

Breed so far hasn’t shown much of an RCV strategy at all; in fact, her allies made the worst mistake you can make in this sort of race by attacking Leno (potentially turning off a significant number of voters – the Scott Wiener backers — who might have gone Leno-Breed. Maybe some still will.)

So let’s look at how the RCV calculus is going to play out.

I am going to assume that the most recent polls are relatively accurate. That may be wrong, but we have no other data. What we can expect to see, based on these polls, is Breed, Leno, and Kim finishing at the top, within a few percentage points of each other, in an order we can’t predict.

At that point, the second-place votes get redistributed, starting from the bottom.

There are a few minor candidates who won’t get many votes. Then Amy Farah Weiss, who might get 5 percent, will be eliminated. Most of her seconds probably go to Kim – but there won’t be enough votes to put anyone over the top.

Then Alioto gets eliminated – and if anyone knows where those second-place votes go, you’re way smarter than me. The old progressives who fondly remember her (pre-POA) positions may tend to Kim or Leno; the old conservatives who fondly remember her dad may go to Breed (or not list a second-place vote at all). Either way, it’s not going to leave any of the top candidates with 50 percent plus one.

So the second-place votes of the person in third will decide the next mayor of San Francisco. Think about that: The second-place votes of the third-place candidate will determine the direction of this city for a decade.

If Breed is in third, her second-place votes will put either Leno or Kim over the top. If Leno is in third, his second-place votes will elect either Kim or Breed. If Kim is in third, her second-place votes will make either Leno or Breed mayor.

The bottom line: There is every reason in this election to list a second choice, because if your candidate doesn’t come in first, that’s the vote that will count. Consider it a runoff, and imagine what you would do if your first choice isn’t in the final round. Which of the remaining candidates to you prefer? That’s your Number Two.

You get to vote for three. I don’t think the third-place votes will even come into play – but it does no first-choice candidate any hard to add a third choice if you want to.

Oh, and there’s a very good chance that we won’t know who are next mayor is until a week or more after the election. If it’s close, election-day absentees will make a difference, and it takes a few days to count them all.

The superPAC supporting London Breed got another $18,000 this week, but so far, the really big money — the hundreds of thousands of dollars that could change the outcome of the race — hasn’t shown up. That means one of two things: The big donors are waiting until the very end to pour in money, so we won’t know who paid for the last-minute ads until after the election … or there’s not a lot of big money coming into this PAC. We will keep you posted.


Wiener’s real estate bill gets first Senate hearing

State Sen. Scott Wiener’s real-estate bill that would increase height limits across 96 percent of San Francisco faces its first hearing in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Tuesday/17.

A coalition of neighborhood groups, tenants, and small businesses rallied recently against SB 827

It is not a progressive panel, and doesn’t include many representatives of the cities that will be hit hardest by this measure. If Wiener has trouble here, he will have trouble everywhere.

Wiener has amended the bill to reduce mandatory heightson transit corridors from eight stories to five, but opposition remains. From TODCO:

Here’s How To Fix It:

  1. Exempt from it all lower-income Central City communities now facing gentrification and displacement – the MTC/ABAG- identified “Communities of Concern” in the Bay Area and comaprable neighborhoods throughout the State.

  2. Do not allow piling the State Housing Density Bonus on top of its upzoning.

  3. Do not limit local inclusionary housing requirements being increased where it applies.

  4. Permanently forbid any Ellis Act property from using it.

Meanwhile, we continue to hear the line that the opponents of this bill just want to preserve or increase their property values:

Cities believe developers must contribute a public benefit in exchange for the right to build housing—which many see as a public good. In contrast, homeowners who prevent housing in their neighborhoods make huge profits by artificially restricting supply—and cities require them to provide no public benefits at all … Single family home prices in San Francisco went up 24% in the past year alone. The median single family home price is now $ 1.6 million. The average sales price of a Noe Valley single family home sold this February was $3.5 million. Noe Valley residents are particularly militant in stopping new housing—and they have reaped the profits to show it.

The argument (in this case, from Randy Shaw) assumes that greater density will bring down prices. That may be true in some parts of the state (Cupertino and Mountainview homeowners clearly believe it). But there’s no evidence that it’s true in San Francisco; in fact, I think it’s the opposite.

Let’s take a small bungalow in Noe Valley. Sure, it’s worth $3 million today. But if you can build up to eight stories on that site, it’s worth a whole lot more – either a really rich person will buy it, do a “substantial renovation” that amounts to a tear down, and build a mansion, or (if the city allows it) the single-family home can be replaced with, say, five apartments worth $2 million each.

The real winners aren’t homeowners but the owners of low-rise neighborhood commercial buildings, which will instantly be targeted for demolition and replacement as tall apartment complexes. I was thinking about the building on Cortland Street that houses the Good Life Grocery; it’s about 6,500 square feet, and last sold for $2 million. It’s worth a lot more than that now – but under SB 827, it would be worth a fortune. That site could be turned into what, 40 apartments? At today’s prices, that’s at least $40 million.

I wouldn’t mind seeing housing on top of the store – but someone would have to pay for the increased Muni service Cortland would need to accommodate the growth. And under SB 827, the owner of that lot would share none of that profit with the city.

(As it turns out, that building is owned by the people who own the Good Life, and I don’t think they are interested in being real-estate developers, but it’s still an example of the transfer of wealth this amounts to).

So SB 827 – more density – is going to make property owners, including homeowners, richer. If building more luxury housing, which is all that developers build now, was going to bring down housing prices, maybe Shaw would have an argument – but that’s never happened in San Francisco.

And nobody pushing this line – the rich entitled homeowners who don’t want more density because it will hurt the property values – is looking at the demand side of the equation. Did the Twitter tax break, which Shaw supported, not have a role in this housing crisis?

Yes, there are people in San Francisco who want to preserve their single-family neighborhoods. But it’s not because of property values; SB 827 would make them even richer.

The Board of Supes is moving quickly to crack down on the latest tech-economy idea – motorized scooters that are just strewn all over the sidewalks and streets.

The Land Use and Transportation Committee will hear a measure by Sup. Aaron Peskin Monday/16 to ban unauthorized scooters and establish a system of fines and citations. That will go to the full board on Tuesday/17.

So will a measure by Sup. Norman Yee to establish a working group in the City Administrator’s Office to try to figure out these “emerging technologies” and start to get ahead of them with regulations before they devastate our housing stock, clog our streets, and create a dangerous mess on the sidewalks.

Supporters of the Justice for Luis Gongora Pat movement will be outside the office of District Attorney George Gascon at 8:30 am Monday/16 – and every morning for the next week – demanding that the DA file charges against the officers who shot and killed the homeless man.

Gascon has promised advocates that he will decide by April 25 whether to file charges against the officers.

This DA has never filed charges any cop who shot and killed someone.

The Board of Supes gave Gascon $1.5 million in 2016 to investigate criminal police misconduct – but, as Adriana Camarena notes, nothing has come of it: Gascon’s office “has dismissed the backlog of SFPD killing cases since 2011, without charges.”

March against US bombing Syria this Sat/14 and Sun/15

Welp, it’s happening again. Rally and march against all US wars on Sunday, April 15, starting at 11am in Oakland. We’ll post here as we hear of SF actions as well. 

UPDATE: Just heard there will be a protest gathering in SF tomorrow, Saturday, at 5pm at Powell and Market.


Trump, Tokyo, and the Korean crisis

Trump and Kim Jong Un are both unpredictable, Japanese experts say

TOKYO — My reporting from Japan indicates President Donald Trump has managed to piss off both the political right and left.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spent many hours kissing butt with Trump, stroking his ego and stressing the similarity of their conservative political views. Then Trump waived aluminum and steel tariffs for Canada, Australia, and the EU — but not Japan.

Trump and Kim Jong Un are both unpredictable, Japanese experts say

Then Trump agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, catching Japanese leaders by surprise. Japanese of different political persuasions don’t trust Trump and doubt the talks will bear results.

“They are both unpredictable characters,” Koichi Nakano told me. “But Kim has a method to his madness. Trump is driven by ego.” Nakano is a left-leaning professor of political science and dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Tokyo’s Sophia University.

Sue Kim, a reporter with the right-wing South Korean daily Chosun Ilbonewspaper, told me South Koreans and Japanese are worried about Trump’s call for a pre-emptive military attack on Pyongyang. “Trump is sending out confusing messages,” she told me. “That’s the scary part for us. What is the end goal?”

President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) is scheduled to meet with Kim Jong Un on April 27. Then Trump and Kim are supposed to meet in May or June. Nakano credited President Moon for lessening tensions in the region. Moon was worried that Trump’s aggressive rhetoric might start a war. So Moon invited athletes from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to participate in the Winter Olympics and started a campaign to lower tensions.

“Moon acted boldly, “said Prof. Nakano. “It was quite a diplomatic feat.”

But such diplomatic prowess must continue if Trump and Kim are to actually meet let alone reach an agreement. The United States has sabotaged previous accords, and that was before the DPRK had nuclear weapons.

Back in 1994, the United States signed an agreement that allowed the DPRK to develop nuclear power but not atomic weapons. President Bill Clinton and then President Kim Jong Il, father of the current DPRK leader, made a historic breakthrough that aimed to establish normal diplomatic relations after years of hot and cold war.

The DPRK agreed to stop its nuclear weapons program while western powers agreed to help North Korea construct two light-water nuclear reactors, whose spent fuel couldn’t be used to develop bombs. While waiting for the reactors to be built, the west would provide heavy fuel oil to power the country’s electric grid. The United States pledged to eliminate sanctions and remove the DPRK from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Then both sides would establish diplomatic relations.

The DPRK lived up to its end of the bargain. But hawkish Republicans and Democrats didn’t like what became known as the “Agreed Framework,” claiming it would allow North Korea to develop nuclear weapons. Congress refused to approve the full cost of fuel oil, thus undercutting the agreement and eliminating the possibility of testing DPRK intentions.

The western allies never built the promised reactors, the Clinton administration only lifted some sanctions, and didn’t take North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. By the time George W. Bush was elected in 2000, Washington was ready to scuttle the agreement entirely, blaming North Korea for the failure, of course.

In 2002 Bush came up with his cockamamie campaign against the “Axis of Evil,” which included Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and North Korea. An orthodox Marxist-Leninist state, a nationalist dictatorship and a theocratic Islamic regime were somehow in cahoots to destroy the United States. The Agreed Framework was buried.

Had Washington carried out the signed agreement, the current U.S.-Korea crisis could have been avoided. Instead, in 2006 the DPRK tested its first nuclear bomb, claiming it had the right to defend itself from outside attack. The United States still has 28,500 troops stationed in the Republic of Korea, and navy vessels carrying nuclear missiles cruise nearby.

North Korea’s dictatorial regime has angered ordinary Japanese in a variety of ways. In the 1970s and 1980s, DPRK soldiers kidnapped Japanese citizens and forced them to become language instructors and spies. For years DPRK officials denied the kidnappings. Now they say all the victims have been returned to Japan or have died. Conservative Japanese politicians say some are still missing and use the issue to stir up tensions.

Similarly, last year The DPRK test fired conventional ballistic missiles over Japan that landed in the Pacific Ocean. While the missiles weren’t aimed at Japan, they nonetheless scared people. Prime Minister Abe won the 2017 parliamentary elections, in part, by playing on fears of a North Korean attack. Abe and other conservatives use concerns about a Korean attack to justify expansion of Japan’s military.

Leftist opponents of Abe say Japan doesn’t need an offensive military. The DPRK threat is exaggerated, according to Nakano. “North Korea is not going to launch a missile attack on Japan,” he said.

The United States faces a similar debate. The Trump administration claims North Korea poses an immediate threat because its missiles may reach the U.S. mainland. In reality DPRK has a limited arsenal of nuclear weapons and is highly unlikely to launch an offensive attack. Any first strike by the DPRK would bring a devastating response by the United States and South Korea, wiping out Pyongyang.

“North Korea is not going to launch a missile and end its regime,” said Nakano. “It sees the missiles as defense against the United States.”

The DPRK leadership sees what happened in other countries, according to Nakano. “If Iraq or Libya had nuclear weapons,” he said, “the United States wouldn’t have attacked.”

Conservative reporter Kim strongly opposes the DPRK regime, but doesn’t think it will act irrationally. “I used to think Kim was a crazy maniac,” she said. “He is controlling, but rational. Above all Kim wants his regime to survive.”

The Trump administration faces some stark choices. The DPRK will not likely give up its nuclear weapons. The best outcome of negotiations would halt expansion of the nuclear program in return for economic aid and normalization of relations with the west. At worst, the talks could fall apart in mutual recriminations and heighten the possibility of war.

The choice is up to Washington.


Reese Erlich’s syndicated column, Foreign Correspondent, appears every two weeks. The revised and updated edition of his book The Iran Agenda: the Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis will be published in September. Follow him on Twitter, @ReeseErlich; friend him on Facebook, Reese Erlich Foreign Correspondent; and visit his webpage.





Media outlets sue over death penalty secrets

Attorneys for 48hills, the Los Angeles Times, and KQED filed suit in federal court today to demand that the entire process of the state’s future implementation of the death penalty be open to the news media.

The suit seeks to shed light on a process that would, under current regulations, take place in part behind closed doors. The press, as a surrogate for the public, has the right to see every stage of an execution, the suit argues.

The death chamber at San Quentin allows observers to see the inmate—but not the executioners who are hidden in another room.

California’s last execution was in 2006, and the state has been scrambling to find a new protocol for lethal injections. The last protocol involved three drugs, which have become increasingly difficult to find. The new rules, adopted March 1, call for the warden at San Quentin, which hosts the death chamber, to choose one of two drugs, thiopental or pentobarbital; a dose sufficient to kill the prisoner is set to be administered by prison technicians.

There’s a problem with the plan: Thiopental is not sold in the US, and by law can’t be imported into the country, the lawsuit states. FDA approved manufacturers of pentobarbital won’t sell it for use in executions.

The rules state that three hours before an execution, a team of prison officials are supposed to meet behind closed doors in the “Infusion Room” next to the execution chamber and prepare three doses of the lethal injection (nine syringes for pentobarbital, 15 for thiopental).

Under the protocol, there is no way for the public to know which chemical is being used, where it came from—or even if that actual chemical is in the syringes.

In the past, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has sought to buy execution drugs from Pakistan because no US company would sell them.

The condemned inmate is to be strapped into a gurney in a room with a window, where witnesses can observe the execution. A technician will stick a needle in his vein, and connect it to a tube that leads to the Infusion Room. But there are not witnesses allowed in the Infusion Room.

The executioners are instructed to deliver, from the secret chamber, one dose of the deadly chemical. If the prisoner is still alive, they can deliver two more doses.

If three doses still don’t kill the prisoner, the warden is supposed to “stop the execution” and “summon medical assistance” for the inmate. At that point, though, the curtains in the execution chamber will be closed – so nobody will know what “medical assistance” is rendered.

In other words: Key parts of this process will happen without any public oversight.

That means we will never know if the prisoner is subjected to terrible pain and suffering because of improperly prepared or black-market drugs.

We will never know if an inmate who survived three doses of the chemicals actually gets medical assistance from a trained clinician, or if he is left to die in pain.

An execution represents about the most expansive power that the state can wield – and the idea that critical parts of that process are going to be hidden from public view is offensive, and scary.

The complaint seeks an injunction preventing the CDCR from carrying out an execution without full access for the press to every step of the process. We will keep you posted as this moves forward.

The San Francisco Progressive Media Center, which publishes 48hills, is represented by Alan Schlosser and Linda Lye at the ACLU and Ajay Krishnan at Keker, Van Nest, and Peters.

Thomas Burke at David, Wright Tremaine represents KQED and the LA Times.