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Board of Supervisors’ Meeting

Residents of San Francisco will no longer have to worry about their background information appearing on federal databases, as the Board of Supervisors pass the ordinance on a vote of 11-0, on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at San Francisco City Hall.

“Colleagues, can we take the amendment without objection?” Supervisor London Breed said. “Without objection the amendment passes.”

Supervisor Breed was quick to pass the legislation that would affect many residents if it were not brought up to the Board of Supervisors’ attention. Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Malia Cohen first introduced the legislation on Jan. 24, 2017 and was then approved on the first reading at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

“It is to reject any attempt from the federal government to force the city and county of San Francisco to participate in the creation of a registry or a database for people based on their religious beliefs, national origin, or ethnicity,” Supervisor Cohen said. “Including a call to action clause for anyone whose information is shared with the federal government for registry is an unprecedented step that I do not take lightly.”

The Board of Supervisors are sending a message that says they will be protecting and fighting for their residents no matter their background. Many people are affected by the changes that have been occurring ever since a new president took office. Supervisor Hillary Ronen spoke about some of the comments she heard while at a committee.

“I sat in committee and a community member came up talking about the daily fear that they are living with in San Francisco since Trump has been adopted into office,” Supervisor Ronen said.

A lot of fear has been created over the past couple of months, San Francisco residents are worried that something might happen to them because of who they are. Supervisor Ahsha Safai is also someone who worries, should any database be created.  He is the son of a Muslim father and a Christian mother and he knows his name will be inserted into the database.

“This is particularly personal to me,” Supervisor Safai said. “I’m probably one of the only people on this board that will end up on this registry if it ever happened.”

After the ordinance was passed, concerned citizens who attended the meeting applauded even though they were asked to stay quiet during the meeting and show their support by waving their fingers in the air instead.

Should any database happen, the people of San Francisco will feel safe and protected not having to question their place in the city.

“We need to be on the offensive and anticipate what could be a disaster,” Supervisor Ronen said.

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It’s a Woman’s Right

Jobs in the Bay Area had less women than usual in the workplace on Wednesday, March 8 as a few hundred women gathered together to support ‘International Women’s Day,’ which began at 11 a.m. in front of San Francisco City Hall.

Protestors in the crowd came wearing pink hats including the color red in support of the event while carrying picket signs demanding for equality and respect. The Board of Supervisors’ President London N. Breed rallied up the crowd as she gave her speech wearing all red in front of the podium.

“I’d like to tell you something,” Supervisor Breed said. “What’s so amazing about San Francisco, what’s so amazing about you all being here today, is you are saying to the whole world we are together. We stand strong, we stand proud, we will protect a woman’s right to choose, we will protect reproductive health and everything that we stand for.”

People in the crowd were passing out flyers and pins in support of a “no Trump president,” as well as some flowers that represent the day. Hallie Young who was with her friends at the rally had Acacia flowers also known as Mimosas in Italy that were being passed out as an Italian tradition for ‘International Women’s Day.’

“In Italy it’s a tradition to hand out these flowers on ‘International Women’s Day,’” Young said. “I think it’s great that, well, good and bad that in other countries they celebrate ‘International Women’s Day’ like every other holiday and here we don’t.”

The people in the crowd were asking for equality and rooting for what was said on the podium. Though not much was heard in the outer crowd due to limited stereo speakers, Supervisor Breed spoke loud and strong when addressing the women in the crowd.

“We know when we want it done, we gotta roll up our sleeves, and so today is just a time to honor each and everyone of you, all the incredible organizations, all the incredible advocacy,” Supervisor Breed said. “All the people, when they tell you to sit down, you stand up. All the people, when they tell you to be quiet, you get louder.”

Joanne M. Hayes-White who is the chief of the fire fighter department in San Francisco also gave a speech in front of city hall. She talked about how being a woman and chief in the fire department has been a great deal for her and those around her.

“What would this world be like without women in our workplace,” Chief Hayes-White said. “I’m the fire chief but my biggest role of all is to be a mom to my three boys and people say what a great role model I am for women; I’m a better role model for me.”

As the rally came to an end around noon, people from the crowd where informed about other events that were happening around the Bay Area for ‘International Women’s Day,’ such as the one in Oakland and San Jose, and were headed in that direction.

“If it wasn’t for us, how would men even get to this world,” Supervisor Breed said.

What is Considered Indecent Exposure?

There are about 7,000 homeless people currently living in the streets of San Francisco, according to defense attorney Kathleen Natividad, who told the Jury on April 19, 2017 as she was defending one during the closing argument of a trial for indecent exposure.

Defendant Michael Matthews likes to sleep outside of the Marina Public Library in between bushes and a large glass window that looks into the library. He is one of other homeless men who choose to sleep in that area, because it is considered a safe place to protect yourself from others during the night. Matthews is allowed to sleep there by the library’s librarians who only expect him to be there during closed hours, and gone before they open to the public.

Matthews sat facing Judge Edward Torpoco at the Supreme Court of California while District Attorney An Dang and attorney Natividad argued whether the defendant was guilty of indecent exposure for masturbating outside of the library before opening hours. Two librarians noticed Matthews masturbating outside of the window and tried getting his attention to stop, but he kept on masturbating with his eyes “half-way shut,” according to attorney Dang.

“Librarian Chieko knocked loudly on the glass several times to get defendant’s attention,” Dang said. “She bangs on glass loud and he still continues to masturbate. That’s how we know he intends to offend these people to direct attention to himself.”

While Dang argues over Matthews guilt, Natividad argues that he is overcharged for the crime that he committed.

“We are describing criminalized conduct, but it is not what is charged here,” Natividad said. “Mr. Matthews was doing what all of us do at our own home if we are lucky to have them.”

Defense attorney Natividad went on to tell the jury that defendant Matthews chose to masturbate at the library on purpose because it is a location where he feels safe and considers a home.

“This was his home, this was his house, this was where he cleaned himself because he does not have a roof over his head,” Natividad said. “Indecent exposure isn’t about whether someone is masturbating. Indecent exposure is when someone intentionally pulls out their genitals and display them to offend someone for sexual gratification.”

In consideration that the Marina Public Library is a place that Matthews calls home, District Attorney Dang states that he could have gone elsewhere like a public bathroom if the defendant wanted to be private. She reminds the jury to follow the law and to follow the evidence that points to Mr. Matthews being guilty of his crime.

“It’s a shame that the defendant is homeless, but it does not give him the license to continue to masturbate when he is told to stop,” Dang said.

Natividad’s argument was that defendant Matthews did not know what was going on because he did not pay any attention to the bystanders while he was masturbating. He never made direct eye contact to anyone, and had no reaction every time something was done to get his attention to stop. Since he had no idea, Natividad argues that it is not indecent exposure that the defendant should be charged with.

“Mr. Matthews pleads not guilty to these charges because he is not a sex offender,” Natividad said. “He pleads not guilty to these charges because he is innocent. Mr. Matthews and I trust that you will make the right decision here, because this is the most important moment of his life.”

Artist by Nature

As a young man, Nathan Byrne, also known as Nate, wrote short stories and poetry, involving himself with creative people such as musicians and artists.

Now Nate, 41, is in his last semester at San Francisco State University and has entered the Artisit in Residence Program at Recology San Francisco for this Spring 2017.

The Recology San Francisco is located in Visitacion Valley, San Francisco, and it is a garbage collection service. The Artist in Residence Program provides Bay Area artists with access to discarded material so they can make something of it and showcase it at the end of the program.

“I’ve been working with found and salvage materials since I’ve started making artwork, dating back to 2002,” Nate said. “I made a promise to myself that I would pursue the program when I had a chance, and here I am my last semester, and I got accepted.”

The program’s manager, Deborah Munk, wrote about what the program is about on their website, and hopes that by doing this program it will encourage others to take care of natural resources.

“Our program’s mission is to encourage the reuse of materials and to support Bay Area artists, by providing access to the wealth of materials available at the public dump,” Munk wrote. Also, “to prompt children and adults to think about their own consumption practices, and to teach the public how to recycle and compost in San Francisco through classroom lessons that explain the city’s three-cart (recycling, compost, trash) system.”

The program is Nate’s first residency and he is hoping to expand after the program so that he can gain more experience for graduate school. The type of art that he does relates to those that are close to him, but are no longer with him.

“I’m looking to apply to grad school within the next year or two, and I’m beginning to apply to other residencies and fellowships, and things that are just vital for someone trying to do graduate level,” Nate said. “A lot of my work has been tributes to some of the people that are no longer here, or some people that I’m just thinking about. I’ll use materials that’ll relate to them in some way.”

The exhibition for the artwork that is created by the artists will be held on Friday, May 19, Saturday, May 20 and Tuesday, May 23.

“With this recology show, I want to do a piece that has more of a universal theme, so it’s more of a piece that everyone can relate to,” Nate said. “All of the pieces that are going to be up in the front room are going to be for sale, they are going to have a price. Out of those works, recology gets one of their choosing. That is just part of the agreement so that they can have it on hand for future shows.”

The Recology Artist in Residence Program has been going on for a long time, there is a second edition, 122-page book that was published in 2015 called “Art at the Dump: The Artist in Residence Program and Environmental Learning Center at Recology,” and the first edition was published in 2010.

“Since 1990, over 120 professional artists and 30 student artists have completed residencies with us, making art from discarded materials,” Munk wrote. “During their residencies, artists have scavenging privileges and 24-hour access to the company’s well-equipped art studio. Artists speak to elementary school classes and adult tour groups about the experience of working with recycled materials.”

Once Nate was accepted into the program he said it felt like home from the very beginning. He has won a number of student awards and sold a couple of his pieces to De Anza College in Cupertino, California, and has even done small shows with his artwork such as the Art Ark Gallery in San Jose.

“Part of the reason I use salvage material is because I am trying to save money as a student,” Nate said. “We are all struggling, and I don’t have huge budgets for my projects so I try to budget things reasonably. Salvaged and recycled materials are ideal for me at this point.”

Part of Nate’s struggle during his career with art has to do with his comfort zone. He had trouble with expanding his artwork so that it would contain the context and change that art has over time. Now, he says that he tries to make his work relevant and exciting for the change that occur yearly such as political upheaval, fear, and things that are kind of plaguing communities.

“I work at a bookstore, and I am constantly seeking out book inspiration materials that can fuel my research,” Nate said. “The further you get with art, the more writing you actually have to do. You have to learn how to write about your work and understand the context of it.”

Once Nate graduates from San Francisco State University and graduate school, he hopes to teach others about art, but if teaching does not work out for him, he hopes to work as an artist in some manner.

“A lot of reasons I create work is to work through what I’m feeling, and it’s actually a healing process for me,” Nate said. “When I’m doing an artwork about someone who is not here any longer, it’s a way of remembering and working through the grief and sadness of their loss, or by paying tribute to their beauty.”

The Love for Cats

Two Visitacion Valley residents noticed a golden-furred cat lured into a suspicious vehicle in their neighborhood on the night of March 20, 2017, when they were on their weekly walk.

Local residents, Blanca Chavez and Ana Amer were enjoying their weekly routine walking around their neighborhood when they noticed two people in a vehicle calling out to a cat.

“At first I thought they were trying to get the cat’s attention just so they could pet it,” Chavez said. “There was someone in the driver’s seat of the car, and what got my attention even more, was when I saw the girl walking backwards to the car with food as the cat walked towards her slowly.”

Chavez and Amer have been living in Visitacion Valley for almost a year. They moved out last summer and are now living together with one of Chavez’s aunts, and say they have not witnessed anything like that before.

“We were on our way home walking down Brussels Street when we noticed it,” Amer said. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure if they were stealing the cat or if the cat was already theirs, and they were just trying to get it back. All I know is that it was weird the way it looked.”

Since it was late and dark, Chavez and Amer did not want to confront the two people in the vehicle. Having no idea who the people are or what they are capable of doing, Chavez and Amer decided together not to get involved for their own safety.

It is difficult to say if the golden cat belonged to the people in the vehicle. Both Chavez and Amer hope the kitty is safe and in a better environment with a family who will take good care of it.

“I really hope the cat is okay and happy,” Amer said. “Even if the cat was really stolen I hope that they are feeding it and are taking good care of it, because otherwise Blanca and I will feel terrible knowing that we did nothing, when we had the chance to do something.”

Becoming a “Waste Zero” in San Francisco

Recology is a garbage collection service that began in 1920 in San Francisco. One of its locations in Visitacion Valley has its mind set on becoming a “waste zero” environment, but are having trouble reaching that goal due to the lack of knowledge that the residents of San Francisco have on recycling.

Recology has been moving forward for a waste zero environment for some time. Their goal is to become an environment that does not send waste into the landfill by 2020, but it does not look like it will be happening because of the lack of help from the residents in the area.

The operations manager, Kenneth Stewart, has been working for Recology for 35 years and thinks that the goal will be made between the years of 2020 and 2025, because of the technologies created to help them become a healthier environment.

“Twenty years ago, you had 35 hundred tons a day going into landfill,” Stewart said. “Currently today you have 13 hundred tons going into the landfill.”

The year for their goal approaches and many Recology members think the goal will be accomplished if the residents did their part by recycling properly.

The operations supervisor, Henry Aparicio, has been working for Recology for nine years and thinks the problem right now is what goes in the garbage carts.

“I still think a lot of the customers are not recycling properly the way they should be,” Aparicio said. “We are still finding a lot of glass bottles, and juice bottles in the garbage waste bin.”

Many residents that Recology in Visitacion Valley cover are not correctly disposing their waste and are causing harm in the process of becoming a waste zero environment.

“Lets say the black bin is full; then they’re putting their garbage in the blue and green bin,” Stewart said. “At that point it presents a contamination problem for our company, which is something that we struggle with everyday. It messes up the compost, it affects the ways that we send the material overseas, and we have to go through it.”

The waste zero goal does not seem to be meeting its 2020 target, but it will be close. Stewart says that Recology is working with all of their communities and customers by informing them on the waste zero goal.

“When I first came, all we did was take care of the customer by making sure that we picked up that garbage can on a weekly basis, and they were happy,” Stewart said. “Since that time, we are relying on the customers to do diligence on their part and in order for us to do that, they have to be educated.”

The lack of knowledge that most residents have with recycling is figuring out what goes where. Without the knowledge, trash and recyclables are put together which causes contamination for what could’ve been reused again.

“I think the whole education part is important for them, because there are a lot of older people in this city, and they don’t know what goes in the blue cans or green cans,” Aparicio said. “They just throw everything in the same garbage can, because they don’t know.”

More often than not, many residents are illegally dumping their garbage on the streets, or even on the side of the Recology building to avoid having to pay extra fees.

Recology employee since 2006, Ernesto Garcia, works separating materials such as concrete, metal and wood. He has noticed the illegal dumping and says that the residents are getting smart about it.

“Many people don’t want to pay extra for their garbage,” Garcia said. “They will pull up on the side of the lot and throw it off the truck. It looks bad for us, so we go and pick it up anyways.”

Recology in Visitacion Valley has a hazardous waste department for the residents and businesses of San Francisco.

Employee, Gus Muñoz, has been working at Recology for 29 years and helps by separating the hazardous materials from the garbage. He says that people are not putting their waste materials in the right location when they are done, which then becomes a problem.

“We are taking all of the hazardous waste materials out of the garbage,” Muñoz said. “This is just what they bring in, there are still people that are irresponsible, and they are still throwing it out.”

When it comes to separating materials, and disposing them where they belong is still a problem for most residents. Recology has made an effort to educate their customers and the residents of San Francisco by creating programs and tours that will inform them about the benefits of recycling.

Recology employee, Tom Mazzola, has been working in the business for 30 years, and also believes that they would reach their goal with the help of residents.

“If the residents will help out more by putting things in the right bins, it would help our goals,” Mazzola said. “If everything is separated, it makes it a lot easier when it gets here for us.”

The controversial issue that is placed between Recology and its goal are the requirements that are needed to be able to accomplish it. Residents need to recycle properly to be able to reach the waste zero goal. It makes it easier to separate when it is taken to Recology so that the material can be used again.

“I had to teach my parents to recycle, and now they recycle,” Aparicio said.

Aparicio does not think the goal will be made by 2020, but says that goals are good to set because then you keep on striving until you reach it.

“There’s plenty of information out there saying that in this world, if you look at how many people there are, landfills are not the way to go,” Stewart said. “Recycling is the way to do it. Reuse and recycle, that is where we all want to go.”

When it comes to making sure that the customers are doing their job right and are recycling properly, Recology members will sometimes look into the customer’s bins and make sure that the right things are in there.

“If you walk down the streets on trash day and you open up people’s carts, you can actually see who is doing a good job and who is not,” Stewart said. “For us, we will open up a cart, and if it has contamination in it, then we will knock on that door and ask the customer if they want us to retrain them. There is no penalty if the customer says they don’t want to do it; we cannot oppose a penalty on them.”

Recology member Juan Garcia separates what is in the black bags at Recology. Little is known about what is inside a black garbage bag, because it is not see through. Recology members have to rip open the bags and separate what’s inside if it is not already all waste materials.

“Some of the problems is with the black bags,” Garcia said. “Sometimes there are bottles in the black bags and they don’t belong there.”

Apart from having trouble with the residents recycling properly, Recology has worked hard to maintain that gap by separating all materials. When residents in Visitacion Valley and all of San Francisco begin to recycle properly, then the waste zero goal will approach us faster, and it will become easier to figure out better ways to avoid having to dump in the landfill.

“I think San Francisco is one of the best cities there is with people that care,” Stewart said. “The residents of the city and county of San Francisco do care very much, and we can tell by what they do. They do a very good job compared to other cities, but there is always work to be done with outreach and training.”

Businesses in the Valley Strive to Make a Living

Two new businesses have opened in Visitacion Valley throughout the past year, and have joined local stores who’ve been changing over time and trying to maintain themselves to keep up to date with the rest of San Francisco. While housing projects are planned for the valley like the abandoned building near the Bayshore neighborhood, some businesses have closed leaving a passageway for new ones to emerge.

Leland Avenue is a local strip marketing a variety of businesses with expectations of making a name for themselves. The new stores that have moved to the valley are very different from the rest, but have the same mindset of making good business. Ism Boutique is said to be the only retail on the strip of Leland Avenue, and SF Dog Parlour is the only pet grooming on the block as well.

Ism Boutique, the new retail store in the valley, opened on Dec. 23. With Wendell Coleman as the store’s manager, the boutique is looking to expand its product and business as time goes on. When asked why he chose this location, he said that it was more in the budget than his first choice on Geneva Avenue.

“I expect the customers to feel enjoyment out of the clothes,” Coleman said, “to love the clothes, being one with the clothes, and express themselves through the clothing brand.”

Coleman said that a friend of his who is in prison created the logo for the clothing brand while Coleman and his business partner invested their money on the stores. His first boutique, located in Vallejo, is managed by his business partner who decided to stay in that area while Coleman expanded to San Francisco.

“Our price range is affordable, and everything we do is affordable,” Coleman said. “We have pop-up shops, vendor booth events where we can set up. We get invited to events and go to car shows. This neighborhood is a nice place for business, it’s a nice community, and there is no other retail store on the block.”

Ism Boutique also hosts events and fashion shows with special quests, and will have a fashion show on March 4.

Just like Ism Boutique, SF Dog Parlour is a fairly new addition to the neighborhood. Co-owners Lisa Russell and Ofelia Gomez are professional dog groomers who rented out a building on Leland Avenue in April 2016 and have been experiencing a great time ever since.

“I have been living in Visitacion Valley for 25 years,” Russell said. “It’s a very good idea that we came here because of the amount of dogs.”

When coming to the valley, Gomez was worried at first because she thought that the pet grooming business was not going to succeed, but she decided to wait it out and see how things turned out.

“We are doing really good, better than expected because I was scared at first,” Gomez said. “It is pretty much the same people around the neighborhood, even the homeless people are harmless and it’s a mutual respect between one another.”

As Leland Avenue continues to be the place of business for residents, there are also businesses that hope to do better in terms of gaining more customers, and keeping their business up.

Andrea Echeverria’s family owns a taqueria on the strip called Taqueria El Buen Sabor. The restaurant opened last year and the owners are concerned about finding new customers.

“I feel like people don’t know about this place,” Echeverria said.  “It is the same customers, which is nice, but it could do much better.”

Echeverria mentioned another taqueria on Valencia Street that is doing fairly well due to the amount of foot traffic in the area.

“There are new apartments on Leland, and a pet grooming just opened,” Echeverria said. “Down to Basics has been closed for a while and the people who lived upstairs just moved out so now it is for sale.”

Another business in the area is Visitacion Valley Dental Office. Jennifer Wu, who works at the front desk, said the office gets customers from all different types of ethnic backgrounds.

“The majority of our patients are African American and we also have some Asian, Hispanic, and white— a very good combination,” Wu said. “We have been open for 26 years and it is a very safe diversity, it is a good neighborhood to live in.”

Aside from stores closing, businesses such as Ism Boutique and SF Dog Parlour hope to achieve their goals, and market themselves on Leland Avenue.

“There are no concerns, it’s a cool neighborhood and there is nothing out of the ordinary, no raised eyebrows at the moment,” Coleman said.