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OPINION: Save the soul of San Francisco

How do you shelter at home, when you don’t have a home?

As our city leaders have moved rapidly and wisely to minimize the risks of the COVID pandemic, one important segment of our community has been left behind – the most vulnerable segment: our un-housed neighbors.  They tend to be older, often have high risk health conditions, and are unable to practice the sanitary and social distancing guidelines needed to save lives.

Now, more than ever, it is clear that we are only as strong as the most vulnerable among us. It is imperative that city leaders act swiftly to house our neighbors currently living on the streets and in crowded shelters or SROs. As faith leaders, we are calling on Mayor Breed and the Board of Supervisors to quickly implement the current proposal, already adopted in New Orleans, to make use of the vacant hotel rooms in our city to safely shelter our un-housed community members.

Before the crisis hit, our City of St. Francis was home to at least 8,000 people living on the streets, plus many more thousands packed into crowded shelters or in SRO rooms with shared kitchens and bathrooms. This situation is the result of a socio-economic system that has abandoned the most vulnerable among us. It now exacerbates a dangerous public health crisis where group living facilities put people at extreme risk.

The city has reached out to some of our congregations to host additional shelters. While we are always ready to contribute, we feel it is irresponsible to create new living facilities that would endanger residents and staff. At the same time, there are approximately 30,000 empty hotel rooms in San Francisco that could easily house all in need of shelter. It is madness to leave them empty while the epidemic rages–and in fact is being fueled by the lack of safe spaces.

Our faith traditions have much to say about our moral obligation to care for the vulnerable and the need for societal change. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that religious observance without social justice is meaningless:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly.”

As faith leaders, we urge our city’s leaders not only to keep everyone safe during this crisis, but also to ensure that we don’t go back to business as usual. Let this crisis be a turning point for the good. We know that an economic system that allows for people to be discarded on the streets will be the death of everyone. We must turn toward a new world that is founded on the understanding that we are only as strong as the most vulnerable people among us. We must start immediately by housing our fellow San Franciscans living on the streets and in crowded SROs in the vacant hotel rooms in our city.

Every day this situation goes unaddressed, more of us will die. Please heed the words of the Torah: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

The Rev. John Kirkley and the Rev. Joanna Lawrence Shenk are Faith in Action Bay Area Clergy leaders

For taxi drivers, COVID is a brutal dilemma

Hansu Kim, the head of Flywheel taxi, says most of his fleet is parked.

“I can’t even afford to go to work,” said taxi driver Colin Marcoux, who has been driving a cab for over two decades.

COVID has caused a sharp decline in taxi ridership, as people comply with the city’s shelter-in-place order, which was extended until May 3. Because of the lack of customers, many taxi drivers have parked their cabs rather than continue working. Kelly Dessaint, a cab driver and SF Examiner columnist, told me why many drivers are deciding to stop driving.

Hansu Kim, the head of Flywheel taxi, says most of his fleet is parked.

“People are making ten bucks a day… I bet the [Yellow Cab parking] lot is a sea of yellow…when I was working it was all personal cars,” said Dessaint.

Hansu Kim, owner of Flywheel Taxi, estimates that only about one-third of the 1,410 cabs in San Francisco are still currently active. Muwaffaq Mustafa, the operations manager of Flywheel Taxi, told me that Flywheel and its partnering cab companies have 550 taxis in their fleet, and currently only 125 are on the road. Calls for cabs have dropped 85 percent since shelter in place, according to Mustafa.

“Every day that goes by there’s less and less business,” said Mustafa.

I reached out to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates the taxi industry in San Francisco, and was told that they do not record taxi dispatch data. Kim also confirmed this to be true.

Even before the coronavirus, the taxi industry had faced tough competition from Uber and Lyft. Now, with ridership extremely low due to the pandemic, drivers are worried that this will be the final nail in the coffin. Kim is worried that Flywheel Taxi may fail because of the pandemic.

“With this shutdown, it’s about our business surviving. Two thirds of of my cabs are parked,” said Kim.

What makes this a problem is the essential role that taxis play in the paratransit services in San Francisco.

Since the passage of Proposition E in 1999, the SFMTA has regulated cab companies in San Francisco, and since then has incorporated taxis into its fleet of paratransit vehicles, which offer discounted rides for seniors and disabled people.

During the COVID pandemic, taxis have been essential in helping the elderly and disabled people go to the hospital and other essential travel.

“I spend half my day taking elderly and disabled people to the grocery store,”said Marcoux.

The SFMTA has also stated that taxis are essential to SF’s paratransit system. A statement from the SFMTA’s spokesperson, Erica Kato said “taxis have been an integral part of Paratransit since the early 1980s and San Francisco has had wheelchair accessible ramp taxi service since the early 1990s. We are proud that taxis continue to deliver these critical services to our most vulnerable citizens during these challenging times.”

While taxi drivers have the option to park their cabs, many feel that they cannot given their imperative role in the paratransit system.

“The guy I’m driving around is in his seventies. What am I supposed to do, just let him die?” said Sutter. His passenger chimed in as well, “We’re panicking,” he said.

Sutter and other taxi drivers, he explained, are dedicated to helping the elderly, and given how often their passengers are elderly and disabled, many feel that if they don’t work, they will leave these vulnerable people behind, a prospect made especially dangerous by the coronavirus.

Although many cab drivers are dedicated to helping vulnerable populations during the pandemic, many are concerned for the health of themselves and their households, as their job requires them to be in close proximity to strangers. Several of the drivers I spoke to mentioned that they are not provided personal protective equipment.

“The city should provide all frontline workers with PPE,” said Brent Johnson, another taxi driver. “I have a friend who is a firefighter and we compare notes every day. We’re alarmed that not every frontline person has PPE.”

Taxi drivers, who want to continue serving those who need paratransit services for essential travel, also feel conflicted because their lack of protection makes them possible vectors for the coronavirus, infecting the very population they are trying to serve.

“I had a flag the other day around Post and Fillmore, it was an 82-year-old woman who was getting groceries, and I was terrified for her. I was glad she was in my cab because I wipe things down good,” said Johnson.

In anticipation of this risk many cab companies, including Yellow Cab, are advertising their cabs as “sanitized,” meaning that the taxi is regularly cleaned and frequently-touched areas of the cars, such as door handles, are cleaned with sanitizing wipes.

But paratransit rides alone are not enough to sustain cab drivers right now. To try and make ends meet, many taxi drivers are now doing food delivery for apps like Caviar and Doordash, although it’s still not enough.

“It’s the only way that I am making any money. I’m delivering for Caviar and Doordash, and barely making enough to survive,” said Sutter. Johnson told me that because food delivery apps like Caviar are only busy between 4 and 9pm, there just isn’t enough work to make the amount of money they need.

Cab drivers will be relying on federal assistance to get by, but there are some concerns around how they will file for unemployment. The CARE Act,a $2.2 trillion relief measure which was passed on March 23 by Congress, extends unemployment insurance to sole proprietors and independent contractors, but when I reached out to the Employment Development Department of the State of California, they replied saying that California has yet to amend their code around unemployment insurance to comply with the measure. As a result, independent contractors and sole proprietors are still largely exempt from receiving coverage, including the additional $600 on top of regular unemployment benefits and the 13 week extension of benefits paid for by the federal government when someone exhausts their regular UI claim:

The EDD has reviewed the federal CARES Act and is working on programing needed to implement the new provisions for the unemployed but, like all other states, we are still awaiting further guidance from US Department of Labor (DOL) to complete that programming… EDD is working quickly with state partners to serve unemployed Californians who don’t usually qualify for regular state unemployment benefits, including the self-employed.

The EDD is also uncertain about how they will accept income reports from independent contractors who are not issued W2 forms and are largely paid in cash, which includes taxi drivers.

When taxi drivers, who are technically self-employed, do apply for unemployment insurance, they can put their own name as their former employer and immediate supervisor in their claim.

One available option for taxi drivers to receive financial relief, according to with Matthew Daus, partner and chair of the Windels Marx Transportation Practice Group at New York-based law firm Windels, Marx, Lane & Mittendorf, is to file for a small business loan under the Payroll Protection Program established by the CARE Act. The principal on the loan can be forgiven if used for business operating costs and will be the equivalent of roughly two and a half months of the business’ income, with interest rates fixed at 0.5 percent. Eligible costs would include car payments like gas, tires, other maintenance, and the interest on medallion loans, according to Jeannie Occhiogrosso, an attorney at Windels, Marx, Lane & Mittendorf.

When filing your application, you will need to provide proof of income, either in the form of bank statements or tax documents, according toOcchiogrosso. Whether you’ll need to bring a bank statement or tax documents will depend on your bank or credit union wants, so you’ll need to call them to find out. Occhiogrosso assured me that lenders will likely be flexible in terms of what income statements they will accept when qualifying borrowers.

“The lenders won’t be crazy,” said Occhiogrosso.

Occhiogrosso encourages those seeking a small business loan to apply as soon as possible, because the CARE Act caps the amount of money available for loans at $349 billion.

“There might not be enough money left to get two and a half months’ income if you applied in May,” said Occhiogrosso.

You can fill out the application here. If you’re a borrower, and what more information on the PPP forgivable loan program, you read more about it here. Contact your bank or credit union to find out more about what documentation they will need to determine your eligibility for a covered loan.

Banks and credit unions interested in becoming a federally authorized lender of PPP loans can determine their eligibility and learn more here.

Arts Forecast: Help save bookstores, drag queens, Frameline, more

VivvyAnne Forevermore hosts Drag Alive! for the Stud, Sat/4 at 6:30pm at www.twitch.tv/dragalive. Photo by Cabure A Bonugli/Shot in the City

Let’s start with something positive! And then some more things positive! We deserve it. Except those of you joggers still cutting me off on the sidewalk. (For general arts resources and to help individual artists and workers, please see our article here.)

WE LOVE BOOKSTORES is a community effort to help save Bay Area indie bookstores, which are suffering mightily during the shutdown, even as people are longing for more to read (and Amazon is screwing its workers, as usual). The site lists ways you can help individual bookstores, from Adobe to Wolfman, and promotes online local author events that raise funds and awareness—including an April 8 reading with Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman to benefit Pegasus Books and an April 15 one with Carl Zimmer and Apoorva Mandavilli benefiting Green Apple.

Find out more at www.welovebookstores.org, don’t forget to get great reading recommendations from Indiebound, and, if you’re looking for an alternative to lining Jeff Bezos’ deep pockets, check out the new online book ordering service Bookshop, which works with local bookstores to get you under the covers.


DRAG QUEENS have always been larger than life—that’s the schtick—but can they swallow the internet? Aside from streaming DJ sets and impromptu karaoke numbers from my friends, it’s been drag queens who have been filling all my windows lately, both virtually and IRL. It’s given new life to a club scene that disappeared overnight. The Stud launches an online version of weekly drag show Drag Alive! Sat/4, 6:30pm at www.twitch.tv/dragalive ($10 donation suggested) featuring bigwigs Peaches Christ Christeene, Honey Mahogany, VivvyAnne ForeverMore, and more. (Don’t miss a trio of absolute genius weirdos close to my heart, Toxic Waste Face, as they bring their arty antics just beforehand with a short film at 5:30pm here).

Local behemoth of drag Heklina is “coming at you live from her Palm Springs quarantine” with her new online TV show “Live From the Apocalypse“—don’t miss her croaking out some tunes! She’ll be performing Mon/6 as part of the sprawling Digital Drag FestOasis is putting up its raucous “Three’s Company,” “Golden Girls,” and other parodies on Youtube for a limited time (more info here.) And The Monster Show, launched by beloved late queen Cookie Dough, is still going strong, now online Sun/5 with a cavalcade of gender clowns at www.twitch.tv/monstershowsf.

Time for our 7th installment of Katya’s Quaran -Tuni, so poor yourself a drink and join me…If you feel like tipping, feel free to do so, anything given will go back out into the arts and our community. Below are a few other places you might want to help out a little, just remember We are all in this together!me:Venmo: @Joseph-Frank-7SF queer night life fund:Sfqueernightlifedund.orgNCTC: Venmo: use my Venmo and enter Nctc

Posted by Katya Smirnoff-Skyy on Thursday, April 2, 2020

I’ve been loving the Facebook live performances of crooning contessa Katya Smirnoff-Skye, who regales us regularly on Facebook Live with tales of her royal Russian upbringing and wonderfully sung piano tunes (with her own fabulous spin, of course.) Watch her accent disappear and then reappear! Click here to peruse. But for sheer drag art brilliance that should surely win an Oscarina, check out Scarlett Letters‘ awesome tribute to diva dramas—both enduring and endurance based—as she waits for almost an hour for her man to come home and enjoy the dinner she prepared. It’s Chantal Ackerman meets John Cassavetes in a wig and heels.


LITQUAKE is in the midst of broadcasting a virtual series of author readings and Q&As, every night through April 10. Tons of great writers involved—it is Litquake—and also me, interviewing Alia Volz Sat/4, 7:30pm, about her forthcoming book Home Baked (her parents ran Sticky Fingers Brownies, an underground bakery that delivered more than 10,000 marijuana edibles each month in San Francisco through the ’70s and ’80s.) You can check out the lineup and how to watch here!

FRAMELINE FILM FEST, the oldest LGBTQ film fest in the world, has announced that is is postponing its giant June event until fall. (Can Pride be far behind?) It’s launched a Frameline2020 fund to help staff weather the shutdown, and will still be streaming some programming and special events, so stay tuned.

GOLDEN GATE PARK’S 150TH ANNIVERSARY party this Saturday has obviously been postponed in real life. (I want to ride the giant Ferris Wheel!) But “the celebration is coming to you with a digital concert series, hidden treasures, unknown stories and more”—including a big virtual event Sat/4 that will celebrate music. Visit www.goldengatepark150.com for info.

FRESH MEAT Productions, the fantastic local arts company, is putting on “an evening of trans/nonbinary POC music and storytelling” Sat/4, 6pm, free (donations accepted). The event will be broadcast on Facebook Live and Zoom, more info here.

OAKLAND MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA has posted an online visual arts treat—a treasure trove of work in their collection by women artists, since Women’s History Month celebrations were interrupted. From Dorothea Lange and Mine Okubo to absolutely wonderful photographer photographer Joanne Leonard, “who documented everyday life in one of California’s oldest African American neighborhoods in the 1960s.” View more details about exploring the collection here.

RAWDANCE will bring a little motion into your self-isolated life: The company is posting “digital gifts,” aka short videos, of performances, rehearsals, workouts, and, my favorite, moments of dancing on furniture, on its social media accounts. Quite cool snippets and more!

CAL SHAKES had to cancel its season—booooo—but they are rising a-bard it all (sorry, I am going bonkers cooped up here lol) by pointing you in the direction of all sorts of streaming goodies. Check out Hamlet, Gloria, Slava’s Snow Show, and more via its site.

UHAUL SF has been one of SF’s hottest lesbian clubs forever. And despite the name, it’s moving anywhere, bringing oodles of DJ talent online to support awesome bar Jolene’s. Fri/3, 9pm-midnight, UHAUL will be broadcasting live on Instagram, featuring DJs Von Kiss, Val G, 5000 Watts and more—plus go-go girls! Check out the UHAUL Instagram here, and Jolene’s Support Fund here.

SAN FRANCISCO CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC has launched a Tiny Dorm Concert series on Youtube through April 11, full of neat performances from students and alumni. Here’s the deal: “A new 90-minute live stream will begin each evening at 5pm, featuring three expertly curated 25-minute sets hosted by a rotating cast of emcees. Audiences tuning in will enjoy live performances by pre-college and conservatory stars, top-tier faculty from the San Francisco Symphony, Ballet, Opera, and SFJAZZ Collective, and alumni fresh from the world’s biggest stages.” Check them out here.

Finally, hare’s a way to take some daily inspiration in these weird, dark times. The BRAVE SIS project has been launched by local arts mover-and-shaker Rozella Kennedy to “promote inner wellness and more authentic relationship with oneself, as well as among women collectively, through reflection and learning.The keystone is a journey-journal, launching in 2021, that acts as an inspirational daily planner, focusing on wisdom of Black foremothers (and even JLo). You can get a taste of the work with the free Brave Weeks Together sample edition that Kennedy released for April—it’s really neat. Check it out here!

First COVID case in homeless shelter; supes demand hotel rooms

The first resident of a local homeless shelter tested positive for COVID today, and five supervisors upped their demand that the city move immediately to put unhoused residents in vacant hotel rooms.

“We have the hotel rooms, we have the money, and we have the staffing,” Sup. Hillary Ronen said. “Why aren’t we doing this?”

Jennifer Freidenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, says people on the streets think the city is going to leave the to die.

Ronen said that the Breed Administration has given “every reason in the world why it can’t happen. … why aren’t we doing what makes public health and common sense?”

Joined at a press conference by Sups. Matt Haney, Shamann Walton, and Aaron Peskin, Ronen vowed to introduce emergency legislation mandating that all unhoused people who are capable to taking care of themselves be given a private room where they can shelter in place.

Peskin pointed out that the city has 35,000 empty hotel rooms. Because of pressure from the supes, he said, the mayor has agreed to move out of the Division Circle Navigation Center, where the first case was found, anyone who had close contact with that person and anyone at high risk for health problems.

But that, the supervisors agreed, is nowhere near enough.

Sups. Hillary Ronen, Matt Haney, Shamann Walton and Aaron Peskin demanded immediate action to get the unhoused into private rooms.

“We’re here to express the disgust we have with the Human Services Agency and the Department of Public Health,” Walton said. “We have been trying to work behind the scenes for four weeks to get people out of congregate settings.”

Peskin said that “history will judge us on how we deal with this population in this period.

Haney said that it’s “very sad” the first case has been reported in a shelter, “but this was preventable. We should not have hundreds of people in congregate environments. … the mayor could do this right now.”

Jennifer Freidenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said that “people on the streets feel like the city is leaving them here to die. We are really afraid.”

In medical terms, she said, people who live on the streets present as 25 years older than their chronological age. That means vast numbers of unhoused people are at high risk.

“For weeks those hotel rooms have been unoccupied,” she said.

And yet, the Breed Administration has maintained that this was not a priority.

As Peskin noted, the virus is circulating and will circulate fast in the homeless community – and the city is running out of time.

With Black community hard-hit by COVID, Bayview groups demand aid

Gloria Berry of Beds 4 Bayview

As tragic stories about COVID cluster deaths in Black communities begin to emerge from New York and Detroit to Georgia and beyond, many are pointing out the dangers of ignoring racial disparities when it comes to healthcare, economic opportunity, and government support.

Now, the Bay View newspaper, Beds 4 Bayview, and several community groups and activists are calling on the city to provide emergency aid for essential community institutions such as Mother Brown’s Dining Room, which provides “food, fellowship and a place to rest are elderly, disabled or have chronic health problems, making them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.”

“We, the community of Bayview Hunters Point, demand a robust emergency response from our local government to ensure that our basic needs are being met,” reads an open letter to Mayor London Breed and District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, published in the newspaper March 30.

The letter also called for correcting the homeless services disparity facing the district, which contains the second-highest number of homeless people (1500) in the city. “Yet there are very few homeless services, compared to neighborhoods like SoMa and the Tenderloin that also have many people in need,” says the letter.

The letter also demands more contact with the community about COVID risks and aid, as well as a demand that unsheltered people in the district, who tend to be elderly, disabled, and suffer from underlying health conditions, be housed in empty hotel rooms as part of that effort. As Beds 4 Bayview activist Gloria Berry says in a video accompanying the letter, while steps like opening the Moscone Center to unhoused people are laudable, very little COVID-aid attention has been directed to the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood.

Read the full letter published in the Bay View below. 

Emergency COVID-19 aid needed in Bayview-Hunters Point

Open letter to San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton

While the City of San Francisco has taken dramatic steps in the face of the COVID-19 crisis – declaring a state of emergency, ordering shelter-in-place and opening the Moscone Center as an emergency shelter – very little of the response has been directed towards the Bayview. This is part of a longstanding pattern of ignoring the Bayview unless there are condos to build or a sewage treatment plant to locate.

We, the community of Bayview Hunters Point, demand a robust emergency response from our local government to ensure that our basic needs are being met.

Our present crisis is stressing service providers who are already overburdened. District 10, which contains Bayview Hunters Point, has the second highest unsheltered homeless population in the City with over 1,500 going without shelter. Yet there are very few homeless services, compared to neighborhoods like SoMa and the Tenderloin that also have many people in need.

The USDA considers Bayview-Hunters Point to be an “urban food desert,” which means community kitchens like Mother Brown’s, which cooks hundreds of meals a day, have to work overtime to meet the needs of food insecure residents even in normal times. With the economic downturn, closures of businesses and suspension of some community meals and pantries, it has become even harder for poor and homeless Bayview residents to find a meal.

The City should be working closely with and providing emergency aid to Mother Brown’s and other community resources during this time, not turning its back.

We demand emergency funding be made available so that Mother Brown’s and other organizations can hire adequate staff to cook additional meals, safely provide additional showers and hygiene services, and deliver meals to seniors and disabled members of the community. Alternatively, the City could directly provide staff to aid in these life-sustaining activities.

In addition, with no way to shelter in place, the large unsheltered population in the Bayview and surrounding neighborhoods is at severe risk of contracting coronavirus. Since these individuals are disproportionately elderly, disabled and with health conditions that put them at increased risk of severe symptoms if infected, we demand that they be housed as part of the City’s emergency efforts to secure hotel rooms.

Since there are no hotels in the neighborhood, the City must make an effort to locate temporary housing options in the Bayview and surrounding neighborhoods, so that people who are temporarily housed don’t lose contact with their support networks.

Lastly, we demand that representatives from the Mayor’s office, HSH (Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing), DEM (Department of Emergency Management) and HSA (Human Services Agency) be in regular contact with service providers like Mother Brown’s and with other community leaders in the Bayview so that its unique needs can be taken into account and so the neighborhood is not forgotten in the implementation of emergency measures.


San Francisco Bay View newspaper

Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates

Beds 4 Bayview Coalition

Gloria Berry, Delegate for Assembly District 17

Ralph Hall Jr., Homeless Bayview Resident, Expecting a Child

Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, MD, Principal Investigator, Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program

Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco

Democratic Socialists of America, San Francisco Chapter Homelessness Working Group

New Music: Isaac Aesili’s ‘Hidden Truths’ brings elegant electronic grooves

Isaac Aesili

Released just a couple of weeks after the spring equinox, Issac Aesiliʻs sophomore release unfurls before a turbulent planet with the elegant poise of jejune lilies budding for the first time.

Hidden Truths (Bastard Jazz) was recorded with New Zealand’s top-tier groove masters, including in-demand feature vocalists Ladi6 and Rachel Fraser. Aesili, Lord Echo bandmember and world-renowned musician on both trumpet and percussion, takes us through a good-good-feeling digital soul journey, that squiggles its way through jazz, funk, R&B, and house music with self-assured aplomb.

Donʻt count on me to tell you his production aesthetic fuses Afro and Latin styles with hip-hop and electronic music. Let your ears do the heaving lifting. “Realms”—a killer dance floor lil-bit-o-everything slab five songs in, is the first real sign that weʻve got a stand-out project on our hands. As with the work of New Zealand contemporary Julien Dyne (Teal from 2018 still bumps), we get 808 programming and live drumming fused into one cohesive entity. A champion sound with the majestic swing. Itʻs lined up with keen execution merging techno, house, and low slung bass tones, converting this five-minute number into a must repeat choon fer days. And that breakdown in the middle? Filthy.

Over the course of the past three years Aesili, Māori producer and creative force behind acts Funkommunity, Sorceress, and Karlmarx, designed a record that fits squarely between the commute to the club and the fine in-home listening we’ll all be doing for a while. Backyard-ready for the social distancing dance party (everybody hold tight to your own red cup, please) this album never gives a sense of overreaching while traversing through various feels. From the wintry J Dilla swing on the instrumental opener “Mirror,” things go click and bump over tinny loops setting the terrain for antiquated trumpet calls, smoothing things out.

“Steps,” a 7-minute workout, the climax of the record, is yet another blueprint displaying the shrewdness Aesilli has in designing grand dance tunes that never feel “too extra.” It starts out economical with voice, hand-drumming, and Rhodes organ colors and by the end we are rolling, awash in plush synths, expanded bass-lines and soaring vocal enhancements. There is a sensation of a simplified Fred P-type of arrangement at work here, that allows so many varying access points for the uninitiated. Hidden Truths further indicates New Zealand remains a fertile region making electronic compositions that hit fresh and emote clearly.

Screen Grabs: How about a little levity?

'OSS 117 Lost in Rio'

One slender plus in all this corona-crisis-ing has been the extent to which friends and strangers alike have gone to amuse each other long-distance, whether in creating videos or simply trading digital quips. But there’s always room for more levity, so below we have part one of a highly subjective recommendation list of movie comedies that should be pretty easy to find via the usual free or paid streaming sources.

While these are all back-catalog picks, needless to say the entertainment industry is continuing to crank out new funny films, some of which had intended to open in theaters before fate intervened. Among them is writer-director Tyler Cornack’s unappetizingly named Butt Boy, in which he plays a listlessly unexciting husband, father, and corporate IT guy who nonetheless discovers a terribly exciting, compulsive, dangerous… er, hobby? As local disappearances mount, he starts being suspected of involvement by the hardboiled police dick (Tyler Rice) he’s assigned to as an AA sponsor.

Shot and scored like a poker-faced thriller, Butt Boy is an impressive stunt that manages to sustain a one-joke premise by taking the most deadpan possible approach to the most juvenile concept imaginable. Available on VOD April 14 (and on DVD/BluRay at month’s end), it’s an improbably smart execution of a willfully stoopid idea—and hence may well tickle the funnybone of those whose automatic response might be “That sounds like the worst Adam Sandler movie ever.”

But let’s look backward at some celluloid classics, and a few movies that might one day qualify as such:

My Man Godfrey
Everyone has their favorite screwball comedy—the 1930s form that officially kicked off with 1934’s It Happened One Night, which itself holds up very well. Mine is definitely this 1936 gem from director Gregory La Cava, a drinking buddy of W.C. Fields’ and an inspired talent of the era whose career barely outlasted it.

The peerless Carole Lombard plays a Manhattan debutante who cheerfully picks up a “forgotten man” (i.e. unemployed victim of the Great Depression) at a homeless encampment as part of a society-ball scavenger hunt, then hires him as butler. Once ensconced in her mansion, Godfrey (William Powell) is amused and appalled to discover that everyone in Irene’s wealthy family is as crazy and oblivious as she is. Its social commentary still bitingly relevant today, this perfect bauble of art deco absurdism remains a joy.

OSS 117: Lost in Rio
Before they created an Oscar upset with 2011’s nouvelle silent film The Artist, director-writer Michel Hazanavicius and star Jean Dujardin made two spoofs of the innumerable 1960s European spy-intrigue knockoffs that tried to steal some of 007’s thunder. (There actually was an original series of B-grade OSS 117 films from that era, which like the James Bonds were adapted from a pulp novel franchise.)

Both are hilarious, but we slightly prefer this 2009 sequel over 2006’s OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies for its greater retro-swinging-’60s extravagance—and for possibly the funniest orgy sequence in cinematic history. Dujardin again plays the debonair yet thick-witted French secret agent whose caveman mentality is forever coughing up furballs of whopping misogyny and racism. In bed or in peril (or both), the joke is forever on him, and it’s a great joke whose humor aims several notches higher than the not-dissimilar Austin Powers movies.

Finders Keepers
“Stranger than fiction” doesn’t begin to cover the jaw-dropping impact of this 2015 documentary about a notorious case you may have once heard something about—but believe me, the details are more spectacular than you could imagine. In 2004, the dissolute son of a wealthy North Carolina family lost his leg (and his father) in a small plane crash.

Outfitted with a prosthetic replacement, he somehow lost track of the original limb—which wound up, in mummified form, in the hands of a local low-rent hustler and would-be reality TV star eager to use this grisly find to promote his own “brand.” The resulting grotesque legal tussle made incredulous headlines worldwide. With its over-the-top characters and parade of shameless behaviors, this is a real-life trainwreck of true hilarity that (like the current streaming favorite Tiger King) does not lack a certain tragic pathos.

The Kid Brother
For decades no silent comic was held in higher regard than Charlie Chaplin; nowadays we tend to prefer the less sentimental, more deadpan antics of Buster Keaton. But of the top three 1920s celluloid comedians, probably no one delivered more laughs than Harold Lloyd, whose more workmanlike features still hold up very well today. Probably his most famous remains 1925’s campus romp The Freshman, while his signature sequence is the perilous stunt hanging from a clocktower in 1923’s Safety Last! 

But you could make a case for this 1927 comedy western as his finest hour. He plays a milquetoast in hick town (literally named Hickoryville) who’s forever being shamed by the burly masculinity of his sheriff father and siblings. But once some actual bad hombres come to town, naturally Harold gets a chance to prove himself. More than just a series of gags, this is a beautifully engineered piece that both parodies the western genre and sweetly milks its stock pleasures.

In part a hymn to the slapstick masters of yesteryear, partly a political critique—whether of Communism or capitalism, you decide—Vera Chytilova’s 1966 Czech New Wave classic is an anarchic delight. Two young women (Jitka Cerhova, Ivana Karbanova) of no visible employment or other means drift through life in a restless yet indolent daze. These manic pixies are like a perverse living embodiment of the “to create, you must destroy” principle, gluttonously devouring everything (from food to fun) in sight, creating an outrageous spectacle while doing so.

The director abets their antic Dionysian frenzy with great cinematic invention that encompasses op-art image manipulation, collage, animation, and so forth. Originally well-received at home, Daisies was just a year later proclaimed decadent (for “depicting the wanton”) and banned by ever-fickle government minders after 1967’s Soviet clampdown on the liberations of Prague Spring. But that did nothing to slow down its development as a worldwide, proto-riot-grrl cult fave.

Phil the Alien and Evil Aliens
If you prefer your humor to be of the interplanetary rather than international kind, these two overlooked indie comedies are worth a look. Rob Stefaniuk’s 2004 Canadian feature Phil the Alien has him as a sort of dimwit humanoid E.T. who lands in the Great White North and tries to fit in—by drinking a lot of beer, saying “ay,” joining a Christian rock band, talking to beavers, and so forth. Either you’ll get the joke or you won’t (Canadian humor is definitely its own specialized realm), but this amiably ridiculous low-budget goof is endearing in its self-deprecating, laid-back, non-rat’s-ass-giving way.

The next year’s U.K. Evil Aliens, on the other hand, goes out of its way to be as rambunctiously rude as possible. A jaded film crew traipses off to a remote Welsh farmstead to investigate a probably-bogus UFO sighting for their trashy tabloid TV show. Unfortunately for them, the invasion turns out to be quite real. Cheerful, tasteless and fast-paced, this splatstick comedy does not exactly appeal to one’s more sophisticated viewing instincts, but it is funny. When it premiered at SF’s own Another Hole in the Head festival, extra screenings had to be added—and many of the attendees were already repeat viewers.

Never Again
Occupying narrative terra more firma is writer-director Eric Schaeffer’s 2001 romantic comedy starring San Francisco-born “Transparent” star Jeffrey Tambor and the late, great Jill Clayburgh. They’re pushing-60 Manhattan singles who’ve separately sworn they’ll never brave the relationship waters again, until…well, you know. Uneven but extremely well-acted, and sometimes startlingly frank about its characters’ less-than-flawless humanity, this is a movie about love in later life that has some big laughs, but also real depth. One friend of mine was so impressed he actually gave a DVD copy to his ex-wife.

She Done Him Wrong
Sexual insecurity had no place in the universe of Mae West, an infamous success of outrageous stage innuendo who was almost too hot for the movies. In fact, the outcry at her “lewdness” was such that many considered her chiefly to blame for the censorious Production Code which made Hollywood product much tamer after mid-1934. For a brief moment, however, she was allowed relatively free rein. After a support turn that stole the show in 1932’s Night After Night, she got her first starring vehicle in this 1933 classic, which barely runs past an hour but is packed thick with risque content.

Mae plays Lady Lou, a nightclub singer—or, er, something—who’s the living illustration of her motto “When women go wrong, men go right after ‘em.” In a pinch, she might be willing to turn “respectable” for the sake of temperance-league official Cary Grant. But if so, she makes perfectly clear, it’ll be on her own terms. Set in the “Gay Nineties” (if only because its fashions suited West’s hourglass figure—she was literally sewn into her costumes), this cheeky underworld melodrama is entirely dominated by the wit and will of a woman whose swaggering sexual self-determinacy remains awe-inspiring.

Mayor, supervisors at odds over hotel rooms for homeless

Sup. Peskin is pushing for $50 million to start replacing PG&E

UPDATE: The first case of COVID in a homeless shelter has been reported

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday to place sheltered and unsheltered homeless San Franciscans into individual housing units during the COVID-19 crisis. The resolution urged the Health Officer to use an executive order to mandate such action for those sheltered, unsheltered, and released from incarceration.

“It is unacceptable to have thousands living on the streets and in shelters unable to distance themselves,” said Supervisor Matt Haney, a sponsoring supervisor of the resolution along with Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Shamman Walton, Aaron Peskin, and Dean Preston. “This could not be more urgent. Every hour that goes by becomes more dangerous for the people who are on the street.”

Peskin says the mayor’s efforts to acquire hotel rooms are “very disappointing.”

The board is at odds with the mayor and her department leaders, who are intent on focusing on those homeless individuals who have tested positive, are awaiting test results or show COVID-19 symptoms, or who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive.

To date, the city has yet to place a single homeless person into a hotel before contracting the virus. In other words, San Francisco is waiting for homeless people to fall ill before housing them.

The city has leased 400 hotel rooms with a plan to get up to 1000 by the end of the week, said Sophia Kittler, Mayor’s Liaison to the Board of Supervisors, at yesterday’s meeting.

“These are very disappointing numbers,” Peskin said. Peskin is acting as the Supervisors’ representative of the city’s Emergency Operations Center to address COVID. “If we do not acquire thousands of hotel rooms by Wednesday we are going to be part of the problem.”

More than 31 hotels have offered over 8,500 hotel rooms after the city’s call for rooms, but the Human Services Agency Director Trent Rhorer, whose department is in charge of securing rooms for those who are unable to self-quarantine, estimated that only 4,500 would be needed in total in a press conference last week.

“We need to stop talking about what we need more of,” Mayor Breed said at that same press conference. “The city will only communicate what we are able to deliver on.”

Advocates say the number of hotel rooms needed is much higher than 4,500 and are calling on the mayor to use her emergency powers to commandeer 9,000 hotel rooms and other vacant units specifically for homeless San Franciscans.

“This is a matter of life and death. We need to get homeless people inside hotel rooms immediately who have no way to shelter-in-place and protect themselves from the virus,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness.  “It is well within the mayor’s powers to commandeer vacant hotel rooms — and she has a moral responsibility to prevent the deaths of hundreds of our most vulnerable San Franciscans.”

Under San Francisco’s administrative charter and administrative code, Breed has the ability to procure the resources needed, including property, to respond in emergency situations. And the city can’t be price gouged by the hotel industry in the process — these must be offered at a “fair value,” according to the Administrative Code.

Advocates say there is still time to move homeless people into hotel rooms before mass outbreaks of the virus occur, as they have in shelters across the country and most significantly in New York City, where the number of infected COVID shelter residents shot up nearly more than tenfold in the past week.

“We still have a small window of time where we can prevent mass outbreaks from occurring in our shelters and that can happen by moving homeless people into hotels now,” said Chris Herring, researcher and an incoming assistant professor of sociology at UCLA.

However, the tides may be turning.In a tweet sent out after the Board meeting,  Walton wrote, “Today we spoke with representatives from the mayor’s office and city department heads. They committed to moving unhoused seniors and people with underlying health conditions (that make them vulnerable to COVID), to a hotel room over the next few days.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a press conference Monday that more than 5,000 hotel rooms are available on the county level, though it is unclear if any of those will be made available to San Francisco county. Oakland’s homeless residents have already moved into some of those units last week.

There were several other housing and homelessness legislative moves that made it to the board meeting as well:

Led by Supervisors Haney and Ronen, the Board passed a resolution calling on the state and federal officials to impose an immediate moratorium on rent and mortgage payments during the public health crisis. While Breed issued an executive order placing a moratorium on evictions, there has yet to be any move towards suspending rental payments.

Supervisors Fewer and Peskin also introduced an emergency ordinance to freeze rent increases on rent-controlled housing for the duration of the COVID pandemic, while Haney introduced a resolution to increase public restrooms and handwashing stations for homeless residents. Although there are currently 24 PIT-stop restrooms that are available to homeless people, only three are open at night for use from more than 5,000 unsheltered homeless residents. Both the ordinance and resolution will be voted on at a future board meeting.

Density, neoliberalism, and COVID

The One Oak project

“There is a density level in NYC that is destructive. It has to stop and it has to stop now. NYC must develop an immediate plan to reduce density.” @NYGovCuomo8:36 AM · Mar 22, 2020·

The COVID pandemic seems to offer one surprise after another, as state and local governments scramble to fill the void created by President Trump’s daily narcissistic meanderings in cobbling together rational and effective programs to address the new reality confronting them. This is especially true in major urban areas all of which, across the world, have embraced neo-liberal policies that resulted in dramatic increases in density that clearly out-stripped the fragile urban infrastructure (including health care) needed to deal with massive viral infections now literally plaguing them.

SF is happy to let developers build more and denser buildings, but the city doesn’t charge them for the infrastructure costs of density.

Cuomo’s tweet was followed up by a New York Times piece by metro reporter Brian Rosenthal with the catchy title “Density Is New York City’s Big ‘Enemy’ in the Coronavirus Fight,” a point of view not often seen in the “new-urbanism” besotted Grey Lady. Rosenthal cited  New York’s “cheek-by-jowl density” as a “distinct obstacle in trying to stem new cases.” He went on to write that “public health experts said that density was likely the biggest reason for why the virus has torn through New York City and not yet hit to the same degree elsewhere. They urged other cities and towns around the country to pay attention.”

Much like Trump’s fact-free flights into optimism about the end of the crisis, the Times published an attempted corrective by Emily Badger, an urban policy reporter, titled “Density is Normally Good for Us. That Will Be True After Coronavirus, Too.” Badger’s argument is that density “enables the kind of redundancies that make communities more resilient during disasters” while failing to list them. Instead Badger lists the “urban perks” brought to us by density: “diverse restaurants, rich cultural institutions, new business ideas” which she admits “we can’t enjoy right now” [!].

Badger goes on to assert “…even more…density, in the right conditions…protects against other kind of calamities” again listing none. She concludes with what can only be called the “wish list” of new urbanism rarely if ever actually achieved and often, as here, simply factually incorrect:

Density makes mass transit possible. It allows for more affordable housing. It creates environments where people can walk and where children can find playgrounds. It enables is to pool our risks. It supports big public hospitals and stronger safety nets. It allows us to curb climate emissions, which present a public health problem of an entirely different kind.

This essentially faith-based assertion of the benefits of urban density is factually incorrect in all of the specifics cited.

Urban density did not make transit possible in New York or San Francisco. It was the other way around. Public investment in transit made dense development profitable. Today, ride-hailing services meet the transit needs of wealthy highrise dwellers, pulling them off public transit and thus weakening it. (This, it turns out, was Uber’s plan all along.)

In San Francisco, after decades of dense development, there’s a $23 billion shortfall in the capital budget of Muni and no proposed funding source even being actively considered. New York’s subway is about to collapse due to overuse, under-maintenance and chronic under-funding. Indeed, the poster boy for high-density development, Sen. Scott Wiener, pointedly refused to require funding of public transit as a requirement for getting density bonuses in his SB50, thus assuring a reduction in transit service if his measure, thankfully defeated, had passed.

Open space development has not kept pace with dense urban development, not in Soma, the Mission, or Bayview, and playgrounds are increasingly handed over to “public-private partnerships” in both New York and San Francisco.

Safety-net services were reduced dramatically after 2008 and never re-funded and high-density residential developers in both New York and San Francisco make no specific payments to build or strengthen them. As far as public hospitals are concerned, at least in San Francisco, they are financed with bonds that are paid off with primarily property taxes that rely on  existing mid-density property. In California, Proposition 13 caps property tax on both residential and commercial property making certain that density is completely removed from infrastructure financing though bonds.

And perhaps the biggest howler in Badgers list is how high-density development REDUCES “climate emissions.” Assuming that means greenhouse gas emissions , Badger is wrong again. Significant greenhouse gases produced in the construction but also the operation of highrise luxury residential towers and office buildings. But the obvious preference for residents and occupants of both for ride-hailing cars actually increases greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, ozone levels, even in “air conditioned” San Francisco with its prevailing offshore winds and resultant healthy air, rose during the current density boom – it didn’t decline as Badger implies. What made emission levels drop was the current “shelter-in-place” orders— which indicates that the best way to reduce climate emissions is not through increased density but having dramatically fewer people driving cars AND taking public transit.

Ignored in the new urbanists’ pro-density promotion is the relationship between urban density and income inequality.

It isn’t that density itself produces income inequality, but that the two occur in the same place. The new urban dwellers have higher incomes than existing residents. Displacement is associated with high density residential development as newer, wealthier people move back to central city neighborhoods. They are the “market” that determines new housing production.

It’s very  profitable for developers to build high-density developments that can be sold, at top dollar, to new, higher income buyers This market-rate high density development pushes out not only lower density housing, displacing its residents, but also businesses that employ and serve lower wage residents.

The end result is that cities like San Francisco and New York end up with a large number of new wealthy people and a large but decreasing population of lower income remaining residents, with huge gaps in income between the two broad groups.

Again, it’s not that density itself creates the income disparity — but that both high-density market rate development AND increasing income disparity occur in the same physical space. It is this place-based reality that is denied by density boosters but creates an urban reality that in times of stress, like now, create serious.

Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, not to mention China itself, countries far more dense than either San Francisco or New York, did well so far in containing and treating the pandemic.

But all are far more authoritarian governments than either New York or California or anywhere else in the US. In Singapore, social distancing is enforced with a $7,000 fine. Wuhan has only recently been opened for travel. Hong Kong stopped all travel weeks ago and still has not opened up. Taiwan undertakes a level of personal surveillance that the ACLU would (properly) take to court in the US.

Only the good old USA wants density and no regulation on private property and personal freedom — which turns out to be a potentially deadly combination in the current crisis. Chances are the COVID 19 virus will infect and kill more here than anywhere in the world. We will be Number One.

The faith-based and factually challenged assertions of the benefits or urban density has at its core a belief that un-regulated markets should be allowed to define every aspect of urban life. The primary task of all government, neo-liberals argue, is to facilitate the development of the un-hindered market by reducing “red-tape” and cutting government regulations in every sphere of life.

Chartered schools, public-private partnerships, automatically approved development permits and free density bonuses, business improvement districts, unregulated ride hailing services, short term residential rentals, acceptance of “disruptive new technologies,” direct and indirect public subsidies to for-profit enterprises are all the hall marks of neo-liberal urban policy and now dominate American urban life.

Neo-liberalism is closely embraced, of course, by the masters of the tech sector. But far more importantly it  is the dominate governing philosophy of both national political parties. New York and San Francisco have neo-liberal mayors and New York and California have neo-liberal governors. One can be “progressive,” pro tech  and neo-liberal all at the same time — which makes it political catnip for coastal  moderate Democrats.  All four are now seriously challenged by the COVID outbreak. In an essential way the pandemic may well define the future of neo-liberalism.

The market simply cannot address this crisis, rendering the neo-liberal play book irrelevant. And the dense populations and thin urban infrastructure created by both national and local neo-liberal urban policies have brought cities to a profound crisis.

Climate change, another place based reality that neo-liberal policies also ignore, has created the very real possibility that over the next three or four months, as hurricane season approaches New York and fire season approaches San Francisco, both could be hit in a double whammy. Maxing out cities with dense development and its attendant populations and then  failing to address and fund the necessary urban infrastructure needed to make it all work has brought the nations urban life to a critical juncture. Cutting regulations, shrinking the public sector and handing more critical urban functions over to market based “disruptive innovators” got us into more trouble than such policies can get us out of.

Heather Knight, the Chronicle’s urban gadfly,  recently produced a breathtaking example of neo-liberal “analysis.” In a piece, amazingly  titled “How S.F. stayed ahead of coronavirus curve: slashing red tape, shedding bureaucracy,” the bold argument is advanced that San Francisco is “better positioned to weather this misery than any other city in the country” Why is this the case: “In large part …because Mayor London Breed’s declaration of an emergency Feb. 25 allowed city government to toss much of its red tape and mind-numbing dumb rules and actually get things done,” Such as Knight reporting on  Breed “asking the state and federal government for 5,000 more hospital beds.” Oh, good thing we got rid of those  “dumb rules” barring the city from asking for aid from other governments!

An  example of “shedding bureaucracy” featured by Knight is the Health Department creating “an emergency operations center at the Department of Emergency Management headquarters on Turk Street.” That is, two bureaucracies working together. as assumed in the city bureaucratically produced disaster plan.

In short, what Knight described was not the shedding of bureaucracy but the rather smooth functioning of the public sector in a public emergency — something that the Chronicle headline writers simply could not bring themselves to admit.  Thus a neo-liberal paper, pumping a neo-liberal mayor it endorsed for simply allowing the public sector to do what is can do better than any private sector actor.

But Knight did report on an issue that has yet to fully play itself out and that may well prove her rather bold assertion of San Francisco’s actions are “better positioned to weather this misery than any city in the country” tragically false.

Like this sign, the city numbers on housing vulnerable San Franciscans at-risk of COVID-19 simply don’t add up (If the diagonal distance between the four figures is 6 feet then the distance between the figures in only 4 feet.)

Knight  spends a good deal of space on the opening, a full month after the declaration of an emergency (which she fails to point out), of a portion of the vacant Moscone Convention center complex (Moscone West)  for “six hundred homeless people…with medical care for drug addiction, mental health issues and physical health issues any day now[ emphasis added]“. Knight implies that this effort is an impressive example of meeting the needs of homeless San Franciscans. But that not what Mayor Breed says about Moscone West.

The mayor’s press release states that Moscone West will provide space to “relocate some people who are currently in shelters and navigation centers where they will continue to have access to meals, showers and hygiene products and case management…” No mention is made by the mayor to the number 600 or medical care for drug treatment, mental or physical health issues as quoted by Knight. One wonders just what facility she was talking about.

What is clear is that Knight missed the “larger effort”  that was the subject of the press release: “Opening Moscone West …is part of a larger effort underway …to provide temporary housing for health care workers, first responders … vulnerable populations … residents who are under a medical directive to self-quarantine … includ[ing] people in congregate settings such as single room occupancy hotels, supportive housing with shared kitchens and bathrooms and shelters and Navigation Centers” That is a huge population, that is a huge story and Knight missed it all.

But notice who was not mentioned in the mayor’s statement. There is no mention of any city efforts to get vacant hotel rooms to house the 5,000 or so un-housed homeless San Franciscans. So let’s do the numbers that the mayor has laid out and that Knight missed.

First, there are about 3,000 cops and firefighters;  about 3,000 folks in shelters and Nav centers; there are 19,000 SRO rooms and assuming one person per room that’s 19,000 folks  (a low estimate as many residential hotel room house entire families). There are about 8,000 supportive housing units with an unknown number having shared kitchens and bathrooms. These total about 33,000 folks, as a very conservative estimate.

It’s the number of health-care workers that  is truly staggering. It’s a little acknowledged fact that the health-care sector, both private and public, is the single largest employer in the city, dwarfing hospitality and tech.  According to the Hospital Council, in a 2014 report, there were a total of 120,000 jobs in health care in San Francisco. Not all, of course, are in direct patient care.  Some 40,000 workers work in private hospitals, nursing, and residential care and home health care services. UCSF has another 10,000 or so employees. SF General has some 5,000, including 1,500 from UCSF. That’s about 60,000 workers — again not all in direct contact with patients.

The 2018 American Community Survey of the Census Bureau reported that there are 190,000 San Franciscans over 60 years old. In 2015, according to the department of Aging, 27,000 seniors were receiving public assistance.

So we are talking about a universe of some 280,000 in total for which Mayor Breed says the city is seeking temporary shelter.  Of course, not all will present with COVID, but it is a fair guess that many if not most of the 3,000 folks that have been in shelters or Nav centers for the last month have been exposed and will need isolation after treatment that will require moving them from the shelters. It is equally reasonable to assume that at least the 27,000 seniors getting public assistance will also need temporary housing. Add to that the unknown number, but given the size of that population no In any case we are talking about a huge potential number

And then there is the population the mayor did not mention — homeless folks on the street. The 2019 Point -in-Time count put that at about 5,000. They have been on the street, unable to shelter in place, for the simple reason they have no place to go during the entire course of this crisis. It is reasonable to assume that a significant number may have the virus and the city has, as of this date, no plans for them.

In other words, it is reasonable to assume that a large portion  of homeless San Franciscans will come down with the virus and that the city has few if any plans up and running to house them some 31 days after declaring an emergency.

That’s 8,000 folks exposed to the virus with no ability to either “shelter in place” to minimize infection or “self-isolate” after treatment. In short, the city’s failure to address the poorest of the poor undermines public health.

For the Mayor to lease only 3,300 hotel rooms falls far short of the need.

There are 33,000 hotel rooms in San Francisco, with the vast majority now vacant. The mayor announced in her March 27 press release plans to lease 3,300 of them by “next week” The Hotel Council has offered 11,000. Even if all were used for this purpose it still falls far short. A significant portion, if not all, of the 33,000 need to be on the table.

Both the Charter and Administrative Code give the mayor direct power, once an emergency is declared and the supervisors approve it, as was done last month, to “do whatever else the Mayor may deem necessary” including “commandeer …for public use …properties …needed for the protection of life…” ( see Section 3.100 (14) of the Charter and Section 7.6 (b) (2) of the Administrative Code here).

Mayor Breed needs to be complemented on her focus and early mobilization on this issue. But far more must be done, now. She needs to act now do take as many hotel rooms as is necessary to provide homeless San Franciscans the ability to “shelter-in-place” like any other San Franciscan. For the Knight and the Chronicle to continue to throw shade on New York over this crisis is a bit premature because it appears that we haven’t seen nothing yet.

Puff: Crazy times deserve good weed, and good care


Like many of you, I’m stuck at home watching Netflix and still putting off household chores as the coronavirus makes its way across the country. The one thing I can certainly say already is if it wasn’t for cannabis, I would be batshit crazy by now.

I lucked out and purchased two nice bags just before we were all self-isolated in our homes. Once it started setting in that I was going to be here for a while I decided I needed variety and stronger stuff. My first thought was concentrates! I don’t have a dab rig, but I do enjoy sprinkling a little something on top of the bowl though. Don’t we all when stuck inside for days on end!?

Then I got news that all the dispensaries in San Francisco were closing for the time being in three hours. I made a cartoon Road Runner cloud and shot out of my apartment in a flash and ended up at Grassroots, my nearest dispensary, in mere minutes! I picked up some lovely Strawberry Banana Live Resin Sugar from Flavor at $45 for a gram. Not only does it smell fantastic, it contains 94.19% cannabinoids including CBD and comes nice and granulated so it is easy to sprinkle on my bowl.

Luckily, all the dispensaries reopened in a day or so—our legacy of classifying cannabis as medicine helped deem them essential—with new procedures in place. Vapor Room, Grassroots, Mission Cannabis Club, Barbary Coast, The Green Door and probably all the other dispensaries in the area are mostly dealing in pre-ordered pick-ups. Go to their websites and order off the menu. You don’t necessarily need to pay for it online, but I know when I was at Grassroots, they would not let anyone in who couldn’t show them their online order text. 

Most dispensaries are open shorter hours, so make sure and check online first about that, too. I have found lots of stuff in stock, good deals, and usually FREE delivery options. Let’s hope it stays that way.

After almost two weeks of captivity, I decided I needed a change of pace which lead to another excursion out to Grassroots. Of course Fuzzies saved the day! I have smoked many infused prerolls in my day, and nothing beats a Fuzzie. They are infused with extract and rolled in kief. It was three shorty joints for $30. I bought the Indica ones, and they knocked me the fuck out. Yay! Mission accomplished. 

I also bought a two pack of Creme Brulee joints from Best Bargain Joints for $8 as well. For that prize they were fantastic. 

I didn’t really get into buying edibles because, for me, they tend to make me paranoid, something I really do not want to feel in this particular time. I’m scared enough as it is. On that note, try to buy all your cannabis products with at least a little CBD in them. CBD should help keep you from feeling anxiety from cannabis. If you are going for more of a pain killing cannabis vibe, get as much CBD as you can find.

Also, do not forget the many delivery services available including a couple of my favorites, Sava, the only LGBTQ owned and operated service, and Eaze. 

Now some basic home preparedness tips for the Stoner. 

Clean out your bong! I usually buy Formula 420 from my local head shop, but these being trying times, I can make do with warm water, coarse salt and isopropyl alcohol. Put salt and alcohol in the bong, clog holes with fingers and palm (you can wear gloves) and shake vigorously. Slush and shake all over. Pour and rinse with warm water. Smaller bong pieces or pipes can be soaked with the alcohol and salt in a resealable sandwich bag. Sometimes they need a good soak to loosen everything.

On a weekly basis you should wipe down your pipes and bongs with alcohol. For extra security you can pour and shake some alcohol inside your pieces to make sure some germs and viruses are not hanging on. Clean more often if you want. I know I have the time.

If there is more than one person using the pipes and bongs in your home, buy some alcohol wipes. Be polite and wipe after yourself every time!

Don’t keep delivery containers and paper bags after delivery or getting home with your new weed. Open your bag. Quickly wash your hands in warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Take out your new weed and knock your bag into the recycling with your elbow. It’s a move we have all mastered in one way or another by now.

Now it is time to light up one of those Fuzzies!

Keep safe and stay stoned.