Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Moving Notice

I'm moving over to a new Web page, The new site is sleeker, simpler, and coordinates better with Twitter and mobile devices. Please change your bookmarks accordingly and I'll look forward to seeing you on the new page.

Take me out to the ballpark

I have to admit, McCovey Cove by the SF Giants' downtown ballpark is one bit of all-right urban renewal.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Time lens, Market Street, today

Old and new San Francisco, hole in the fence, Market Street between Seventh and Eighth:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Civic engagement for Yammer: will the company state its local issue positions publicly?

So I'm not gonna be all neighborhoody indignation all the time, but I did want to post a followup to the Yammer blog post that offended me into paying attention this past week: [Addendum 7/29/17: an archived version of the Yammer post is here.]

The SF Chron notes this morning re: yesterday's Yammer public service day that it's not voluntarism, it's service required under a tax break agreement. The article is a little irritating with Stanley-and-Livingstone stuff -- "Are they going deep into the Tenderloin or are they just getting to the edge?"-- but there are some telling facts and quotes.

Yesterday's less than voluntary soup-serving and trash removal efforts probably did do good, mainly in the enrichment of tech employees' valuable souls but also in the tidying of local pavements and such. Reminds me of the lawyer in "The Bicycle Thief" who, for his soul, serves as barber to a man who could really use some access to justice -- but, eh, public service is a chance to make human connections across barriers. Never know what lasting benefit might result.

The Chron finds a heartening sign of connection already in 23-year-old account executive Phil McKennan. He's described as volunteering with local kids over the past six months -- a commitment that is surely surplus to requirements, so it's likely largely without pay:
"We get our food at the office, so we don't really need to leave, but we all go to happy hour in the neighborhood," said McKennan, who lives in the Marina. "You have to give back to the community, and this area definitely needs our help."
He sounds like a nice guy. Maybe he needs and gets help from "this area" too in his way. A step out of the Marina's post-collegiate containment zone? A break from the tiring job of selling? What isn't to like?

Now, though, let's get back to the "civic engagement" mentioned by Controller and Director of Community Outreach Jason Rodrigues in his post last week. Direct service labor isn't civic activity in the old-fashioned sense of active participation in self-government. On the other hand, it would be appropriate and neighborly civic participation for Rodrigues and his counterparts to make public statements of their positions on major issues affecting all of us together as neighbors and as presumptive equals before the law.

A good sample issue is the current debate between Supervisors Scott Wiener and Jane Kim over conflicting proposed revisions to our municipal CEQA environmental review ordinance. A few days ago Rodrigues retweeted a comment in which Weiner noted the Examiner newspaper's endorsement of his CEQA proposal. Rodrigues hasn't answered my questions, via Twitter and his weblog, about whether his retweet means Yammer supports the generally business-backed Wiener proposal. This one does matter: the Sierra Club is organizing a petition against it and suggests that, if passed, Wiener's plan could help developers to shove past environmental review stages of projects before local opposition has a proper chance to form. More info on the Wiener proposal is here and here (second link is a legislative analysis PDF). More from the Sierra Club is here. Jane Kim's alternative seems to be numbered as 13-248, summarized at its introduction here.

If Yammer will state its position on the CEQA issue in public we can take it as a start toward demonstrating interest in substantive civic engagement.

I think a refusal to answer will indicate that civic engagement doesn't interest Yammer as much as gratitude.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"A neighborhood just like our Mid-Market"

A company called Yammer moved into offices on Market Street near Ninth. Recently they decided to "engage" our neighborhoods -- vaguely, South of Market, Civic Center and the Tenderloin. They called these neighborhoods "Mid-Market". They called their effort "Mid-Market Matters." As if we needed to be told so. They decided to "engage" us by serving soup to us, teaching computers to kids, and performing other smiling acts of charity for deserving objects of charity.

[Addendum 7/29/17: The blog post linked above is now off the company site. Here is an archived version. It used photos by downtown SRO chronicler Mark Ellinger without payment or communication to him. As he noted in a resulting Twitter exchange, his work is posted under a Creative Commons license, so they could do that. But in the course of stating an intention to uplift the neighborhood, they might have considered paying a local low-income artist for his work]

In the course of which, they made a charming suggestion, likely not meant for local consumption:
"No matter where you are, you probably have a neighborhood just like our Mid-Market. So we encourage you to follow our lead — get up, get out, and get involved in making your Mid-Market better for everyone!"
So, call me a Little Old Lady In Tennis Shoes if you like, but I just had to write them a letter:

[Update: Yammer's Jason Rodrigues had the good sportsmanship to let my comment appear on his company blog below the post that I've linked above. His response is here.]

Dear Yammer Community Engagement Folks:

Western downtown San Francisco is not “just like” anywhere else in this world. We know that our home “matters.” We don’t need Yammer to convince us of that. We are not some anomic impoverished rabble waiting for rich newcomers to save us. We are neighbors living in existing established neighborhoods that we value both for what they are and for what they can become.

We are varied people. Our respective backgrounds, incomes and identities diverge in ways that may surprise you. You can’t presume who we are from the statistical medians for our respective census tracts.

 You can’t win our friendship by ladling soup at us. An “engagement” program of one-way top-down charitable service is better than complete aloofness but it doesn’t necessarily “engage” your neighbors. Some may find it patronizing. Many won’t notice it.

On the other hand, if you ask around you’ll find local activists, historians and geezers who can help you adopt an informed, neighborly and respectful role as new arrivals in this established community. For example, you could contact Jim Meko of the SoMaLeadership Council. Jim doesn’t always speak for everyone — nobody could — but he’s an example of a local leadership figure who you won’t “engage” by ladling soup. Or take a history tour with ChrisCarlsson of and . Or get in touch with neighbors at the Langton and Howard community garden. Or introduce yourselves at the community-wise Green Arcade bookstore.

Since you’ve borrowed (or rather, I hope, rented) some of the above photos from photographer and writer Mark Ellinger of you’ve sampled his huge knowledge about the Sixth Street area. His site is full of stories that aren’t “just like” anything nor anywhere else. That’s a start for you right there in seeing your new home as a place already worth liking.

Further about our neighborhood and, lately, yours:

- Market Street around Seventh has swallowtail butterflies in its sycamore trees.
- Species seen in Civic Center and South of Market include raccoons, finches, Anna’s hummingbirds, red-winged blackbirds, Cooper’s hawks, and the Ninth Street redtail hawk nest. “Bluoz” has been photographing hawks on the Federal Building.
- Filipino San Francisco has strong connections South of Market and in South Park.
- South of Market at the latitude of Howard and Folsom Streets is a legendary gay district — a fact that used to be well known, that has sunk from view surprisingly fast in business journalists’ accounts of our area. Pictures and stories about gay SoMa, often lively and some NSFW, are included at
- “Mid-Market” isn’t a neighborhood, it’s a developers’ label. That’s why it doesn’t have a foundsf index.
- FoundSF has a lot to say about the Tenderloin. So did Tenderloin Geographic Society. Unfortunately the creator of the Geographic Society site and column recently left town, citing economic pressures and creeping big-moneysoullessness. While soup is a fine thing, I don’t think soup would have helped her stay.
- The current effort to improve South of Market is not the first. All such efforts are eventually moderated and half-tamed by skeptical neighbors.
- If you are looking for a neighborly gesture to show us more respect than the soup thing, you could throw some support behind Jane Kim’s alternative to Scott Weiner’s CEQA legislation. That would express support for the integrity of our neighborhood.

- Walk slower around here. Get out of your Uber cars. Appreciate where you are before you decide what’s good for it.