The signs at the end of Bush Street in San Francisco were changed to read “Begin Obama” instead of “End Bush.”  San Franciscans held a party there earlier today to celebrate the inaugural. Wow, another reason to really love this city.

There were record highs in the Bay Area today with 69F degrees in San Francisco.

An East Bay family went mushroom hunting on Mount Tam and were poisoned and nearly killed after they ate them.  They ended up hospitalized at UCSF for 8 full days, 4 of them in intensive care.  The moral of the story: don’t be a cheap ass and buy your mushrooms in a store.

Adam Jackson

Last week, the paper did a story about a website called, which broadcast images from two webcams pointed at a Tenderloin street corner.  The site appealed to the voyeuristic tendencies of many and became very popular locally and around the world.  The owner of the site, Adam Jackson, was trying to make the neighborhood safer by setting up the webcams.

Neighborhood groups took notice and started watching the cameras live feeds because they realized they could report crimes happening on the street to the police in real time. The site was an undeniable hit.  Adam had decided to use the site’s popularity to raise some money for the Glide Memorial Church, a Tenderloin community institution.

Well, what a difference a week makes.

Since then, Adam has been targeted by cyberbullies, has received death threats, has been followed by men in hoodies, has had rocks thrown at his apartment windows, and had someone call his employer to accuse him of being a pedophile.  In short, thugs from the neighborhood have tried to ruin his life.  Adam was a bit naive and disclosed his physical and email addresses, as well as his phone number.  This made it particularly easy for thugs to find him and harass him.  He took down the site and is now looking to move.

But this is not over.  An unnamed party has already setup a camera at a different Tenderloin street corner and at least three other sites have sprung up independently.  There is now talk about linking all of them together through a site called  Adam claims that having 24-hour webcams all over the city was his idea all along.  And if that happens, street thugs will not be able to take them all down.

Thanks to global warming, the winters in San Francisco have been fairly mild in the last few years.  Still, all San Franciscans seem shocked the first day that it drops into the 40’s overnight and it doesn’t reach 60 the following day.  This morning it was 48 degrees when I was walking to work and you can tell that the “walking commuters” were not amused.

The problem is that most of people in this city don’t have “real” winter coats unless they moved here from the Midwest or the East Coast.  Most San Franciscans have mid-weight coats and supplement with sweaters and scarves (layers) as needed.  This method works as long as you read the forecast before leaving the house in the morning.  But if you don’t, you are screwed.

Still, I heard that in Boston it was 13 degrees today with a wind chill of 0 degrees so we shouldn’t complain.

Gavin Newsom is putting his State of the City address on YouTube, all 7 1/2 hours of it.  Yeah, that’s not a typo.  Our mayor tends to be a little long winded at times what can I say.  The address will be divided into 45 minute chunks covering a myriad of topics, such as healthcare, education, and the environment. These were the first three parts released over the weekend with more to come throughout the week.

It’s easy, just go to the mayor’s YouTube channel.  Once there they can listen to the mayor for 5 minutes or 5 hours. This is a pretty good idea because the mayor can clearly talk as much as he wants, but people can listen to the topics that they are interested in and skip those which they are not.  The mayor does like to spit the statistics, so you better be interested in the topic before you start the video.  Trust me.  Check them out when you get a chance.

Getty Home Interior

The week before the election, Mama and I had the opportunity to go to a political fundraiser at the Getty mansion in San Francisco’s Billionaire’s Row. It is the same place where Obama held a fundraiser earlier this year. Our friend, Owen O’Donnell was running for the District 5 seat in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He lost to the incumbent, Ross Mirkarimi, but not before having a fund raising event at the home of Gordon and Ann Getty.

It was a surreal experience to say the least. It is actually two lots side-by-side with one huge home on both lots. The place looked like a museum inside and decorated in crazy-rich-people décor, a lot like Hearst Castle. Mostly antiques. As you enter, there is a very long hallway with a large atrium on the left flanked by tall columns. The atrium accommodated almost 100 people within it, as our friend spoke to the crowd using the natural acoustics of the room. Yes, it is all indoors.

Beyond the atrium was a parlor setup with multiple chairs, like a living room. Unlike most living rooms, there were four separate seating areas where guests could partake in four separate discussions. The parlor was large enough to accommodate four groups of 8-10 people. Yes, a couple of the chairs in that room cost more than my condo. And that is not even taking into account the art on the walls, all originals. Crazy.

The three rooms in the house that I saw had priceless antiques, art that museum curators would kill for, hand-painted panels, and antique rugs. Keep in mind that this is the part of the main house that is used for entertaining, not where they live. So, in a sense, we got a good idea of how billionaires entertain, but not how billionaires live, since the living area was closed off to guests.

By the way, I didn’t take any photos during the event. I don’t know if it was allowed.  All I know is that nobody was taking them and I forgot my camera.  The photo above is from the Ann Getty House website. Ann Getty sells her furniture and interior design by photographing them in the entertainment area of her home. I do not know that I will ever get a chance to attend an event there, but it certainly felt like a once in a lifetime experience.

I want to congratulate Owen O’Donnell for running a good campaign and wish him the best of luck should he decide to run again in 2012.

I worked this guy, Gary Ross, that was convicted a few months ago of attempting to persuade a minor to engage in sexual activity (see FBI press release).  Thankfully, he was no longer employed by our firm at the time of his arrest.  However, according to the press release, he was caught by an undercover officer just like in Dateline’s "To Catch a Predator" series but without the cameras.

Even more shocking is that he was found with a "Plan B" file on his computer that detailed his plan to flee the United States and assume a fake identity.  I can attest that this guy seemed completely "normal."  He definitely didn’t look like an online predator.  After hearing about the case I searched the court database online and have to say that the evidence against him was overwhelming.  He definitely deserved to go down.

He will be sentenced on October 21st to a minimum of 5 years in prison.  It just goes to show that you never really know some people even though you see them at work almost every day.  Sick bastard.

Storied San Francisco law firm, Heller Ehrman White and McAuliffe LLP, voted to dissolve their partnership earlier today after 118 years in business.  The firm had 650 attorneys and professionals working in 35 practices across 14 offices around the world.  Yeah, the fundamentals of our economy are *not* strong.  Wow.  Morrison & Foerster LLP, another venerable San Francisco law firm is almost twice the size as Heller Ehrman, with 1130 attorneys. Those mofos are probably suffering too in this business climate.

Tonight at the House of Shields, the crappy bar across the street from the Sheraton Palace Hotel on New Montgomery, there will be a tech pitch competition.  You cannot use a powerpoint: it’s just you, a microphone, a sharpie, and a blank flip pad.  The absolute worst pitch will win $50 and the plastic Calcanis Trophy.  It definitely should be good for a laugh.

What would you think if I told you that there are condos in SoMa being sold for $279,000?  Well, it’s true.  They are right next to Whole Foods and just a block away from Moscone too.  The only problem is that they are 250 square feet in size.  The company that is marketing these is claiming that they appeal to first-time buyers that want to get into the market.  At first glance these seem like a good deal, except of course they are not.

These mini condos are selling at $1,116 per square foot while regular sized condos in the area sell for about $500 to $600 per square foot.  They are twice as expensive as a 1200 square foot condo selling for $650,000, or roughly $540 per square foot.  While I agree that coming up with $650,000 is a lot harder than coming up with $279,000, it certainly does not make these condos cheap.

The developers are essentially selling this space at twice the market price.  They are just hoping there will be enough fools to make their little scheme worthwhile.  Who knows?  These mini condos may even raise the prices for the regular sized condos and lofts around them.  Stay tuned.

This is a Star Wars mockumentary fan film of Imperial Fleet Week in San Francisco titled “Death Star over San Francisco.”  If you have seen the real San Francisco Naval Fleet Week you will appreciate this short film.

According to the California Association of Realtors (CAR), twice as many people can afford an entry-level home in the state of California.  They claim that 48 percent of the state’s households can now afford an entry-level home, defined as a price that is 85 percent of a median home.  The reasons why the public should take all of this with a grain of salt is that 1) the information comes from realtors, 2) apparently realtors are not very good at math, and 3) the information comes from realtors.

Realtors claim that the minimum income required to buy a Bay Area entry-level home, estimated at $582,130, is only $111,210.  How the hell is that even possible? Let’s try and breakdown the math to see if this is on the up and up.  Let’s assume that this fictional household is a family of four, with two working adults, and pays cumulative federal and state income taxes of about 30 percent (but can be as high as 35 percent).  Which means that the family takes home $77,847 in any best case scenario, or $6,487 per month.

Now, let’s say that the family puts 10 percent down on that entry-level home, which means that they would finance $523,917.  Now, let’s say they get a really good 30-year fixed rate for their jumbo loan of 7.25 percent.  It’s likely even higher this week but let’s assume 7.25 percent just for fun.  That’s a monthly payment of $3,574!  This is more than half of the family’s income and they still haven’t eaten, clothed themselves, saved any money, or god forbid, paid for car maintenance or *gas* to get to their freakin’ jobs! And we know they have to drive into the city to work, because they paid $582,130 for their home and that won’t even buy a couple of parking spaces downtown right now!  They are driving at least 30 miles one-way based on the price of their home.

Now go ahead, try and run this fictional household with the remaining $2,913 per month.  That is all of the money you have for food, utilities, property taxes, insurance, home maintenance, clothing, child care, car maintenance, gas, and other miscellaneous expenses.  Keep in mind that this household likely lives in the boonies with two cars!  I guarantee you will run out of money and realize that the figures that the realtors are dreaming up are fantasy, pure and simple.

So, while it may be true that more people can afford homes in our state now over a year ago, I seriously doubt that 48 percent of the state is willing or even able to really do so outside of the imagination of the average realtor.  I guess at this point realtors are willing to say almost anything to sell you a house.  Oh wait, they *always* do that.  Nevermind.

I have to admit that I was scooped by Phil Bronstein regarding Edward Jackson being back in the city.  I guess getting scooped by the Editor at Large of the Chronicle is okay.  Damn those full-time journalists!  Bronstein wrote an in-depth blog entry about Edward Jackson returning to the city on Thursday last week that even included video of Ed being harassed by cops (see video below).  I did not know that the cops had been giving Ed a hard time since his return to the city.  Also at the end of Bronstein’s blog entry is another video of Ed tap dancing at the cable car turnaround. Big ups to Bronstein for getting this footage.

Edward Jackson

About a year and a half ago, Edward Jackson left San Francisco to seek his fortunes tap dancing in Australia.  So I was very surprised to see Edward today standing around the cable car turnaround holding court with a few admirers.  He told me that he had been back about a week and is living somewhere on Sixth Street.  When I asked him if he would be staying, he said that he would be staying in the city for the foreseeable future.

"I need the community and the community needs me," he said as he packed his belongings.  Apparently I had missed his performance by only a couple of minutes.  It is good to see him, since I think the city needs more artists and street performers.  However, seeing him means that he did not do well financially in Sydney, Australia over the last year and a half.  I certainly hope that he prospers being back in the city.  I for one will do my part by giving a couple of bucks each time I see him.  If you like his dancing you should do the same.

Very few people that live in their SoMa live-work lofts actually "work" in their lofts.  Most people just use their lofts as housing, rather than the art work spaces that were envisioned by the city when the lofts were approved to be built between 1998 and 2000.  Supervisor Sophie Maxwell is proposing charging loft owners that do not use their space to run a business to pay a penalty fee.

Some of the proposed penalty fees for individuals not using their lofts for "work" could be as high as $150 per square foot.  This would be a $195,000 fee assessment for a 1300 sq. ft. unit.  Wow, that almost sounds like a mob shakedown.  Somehow, I doubt that the city wants to shakedown 3,000 well-heeled loft owners in SoMa that could organize themselves into a class-action against the city. 

Let’s see how this plays out, but I doubt that the city is organized enough or has enough moxie to try this type of shakedown.  Trust me, I know a lot of lawyers that live in SoMa lofts and they are likely salivating at the thought of a class-action against the city to see who ultimately shakes down who.

SF 94107 June 2008 Home Prices Despite plummeting values across the nation, 62 percent of homeowners believe their property’s worth has actually climbed or stayed the same during the past year, myself included.

Until I saw this graphic I thought that the home prices in my zip code were flat when in fact they have dropped 12.5% in the last year. Now keep in mind that my zip code is huge and I can still argue that the location of my home within 2 blocks of the convention center in SoMa has not dropped as much as the rest of the zip code, but it has likely dropped slightly and not remained flat.

Here is the link to the SFGate database where you could search the home price statistics for all Bay Area zip codes.

SFGate just ran a story about the working homeless in San Francisco.  These are people that make as much as $3,000 a month own a car, but cannot afford an apartment in the city.  The story profiled a man that is a software developer, gets paid via Paypal, has a laptop, has an iPod, and works extremely hard. He says that he sleeps in tents in Golden Gate Park in order to save money.

It is completely crazy to me that someone that makes as much as $36,000 a year can’t afford a place somewhere in the city.  I am sure that if he looked hard enough he could rent a room in someone’s house or a garage room deep in the Avenues for about $800 a month.  But then he wouldn’t be saving any money.  This guy’s goal is to save up $10,000 to "get out of this."

But don’t call this guy homeless, he prefers "urban outdoorsman." Admitedly, this guy’s situation is a bit special because he is a software developer with a laptop, but he can’t be the only employed homeless person sleeping in Golden Gate Park.  I bet there are day laborers, painters, and other employed unskilled laborers that make nearly as much that cannot afford a place in the city, but want to be as close to the city as possible.  As the economy worsens the number of people sleeping in the park will only continue to rise, employed or otherwise.

Ah, yes, I am talking about Rice-a-Roni.  Everyone knows that it is the San Francisco treat, but I doubt that many know the history of Rice-a-Roni and it’s roots in San Francisco’s Mission District.  The San Francisco-based producers of NPR’s Hidden Kitchens series, known as the Kitchen Sisters, are working on a radio piece that will air on July 31st on NPR’s Morning Edition.  In their own words: "In this story, the worlds of a young Canadian immigrant, an Italian pasta-making family, and an old Armenian woman converge to create the ‘San Francisco Treat.’"

Be sure to listen to NPR’s Morning Edition on July 31st.

San Francisco was recently ranked as the most walkable city in the United States by  The company evaluated the 40 largest U.S. cities based on residents’ proximity to grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, movie theaters and other amenities. I know what everyone out there is thinking, but the steep hills of San Francisco or any other cities were not taken into account in the rankings, just distance and concentration of the amenities.

In fact, that is one of the reasons why we love living here.  Unless I have to travel to visit one of my clients I walk to my office six blocks away.  I love that I get exercise and can walk to the grocery store every day if need be to pick up fresh produce, since Whole Foods is only a block and a half away.  I walk so much that my car just yesterday crossed the 10,000 mile threshold after 18 months!  Try doing that living anywhere in Los Angeles county.   Walking definitely enhances your quality of life.

In light of the recent wildfire on San Bruno mountain, I thought it would be cool to post the new Smokey the Bear ads that were just created.  Smokey is not animated anymore, he’s totally CGI and lifelike.  He’s so lifelike it’s almost creepy, but his message is the same: only you can prevent wildfires.  Join the new campaign and "get your Smokey on." 

I did *not* make up "get your Smokey on," that’s the name of the new Smokey the Bear campaign.  Cheesy, but still a good message.  Pay attention and don’t start wildfires people!

It is 89F degrees in downtown San Francisco with a cool breeze right now.  I am heading off to Yerba Buena Gardens to chill out in the sun for a bit before heading home.  It’s just awesome weather right now.

History was made yesterday as same-sex couples legally married.  They should be careful what they wish for.  Because sadly, the first same-sex divorce is going to happen in a few weeks.  That is what happens when people marry, some will inevitably divorce.  But I am sure the first same-sex divorce will not be nearly as publicized.  Either way, yesterday was a happy day for many.  Big ups.

A new iPhone was introduced by Steve Jobs yesterday at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC).  The new version of the phone will feature faster 3G speeds, built-in GPS, and half the price of the current version ($199).  Wow, how bummed are the peeps that paid $399 less than a year ago!?  Very bummed.  Luckily, Apple and AT&T decided to give everyone who "bought their iPhone in a AT&T store" the chance to return it to for 90 percent of its value: 100 percent less 10 percent restocking fee.  It is still not clear if this deal is available for those that purchased their iPhone from a website or direcly from apple.

Most importantly though, is that the new iPhone will feature push email technology and a built in Exchange client called ActiveSync.  It is unclear from press reports what additional software corporations would have to purchase to make this work.  Most corporations run either GoodLink server (for Palm Treos) or BlackBerry Enterprise Server (for BlackBerry).  Some, like my company, actually run both of these for their integration with Microsoft Exchange.  Many large companies are leery of installing another set of servers to support iPhone users.

It can’t possibly be that difficult to code a GoodLink or BES client for the iPhone can it?  I don’t know the answer to that question, but it seems one that could be easily answered at the WWDC.  Still, nobody seems willing to talk to the media about the possibility of a GoodLink or BES option.  It may not matter though, because at $199 the iPhone just became affordable for corporate users and those users may demand iPhones by any means necessary, servers be damned.  Only time will tell if this new iPhone gets the corporate adoption that Apple is looking for.  Stay tuned.

Are you one of those people that can’t wait for the San Francisco International Film Festival every year?  Well wait no longer.  Do you wish there was a way to see films from previous festivals again?  Well your wish has come true.  The San Francisco Film Society will start showing weekly films from its film programs year round at a screen at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.  The first screening will be a film that was shown at the 2007 Film Festival titled Times and Winds (Bes vakit, Turkey 2006) starting on Friday, June 13th.  Check out the SFFS Events page for information on future weekly screenings.

There will be broken hearts all over San Francisco.  I just saw the story that Gavin Newsom and Jennifer Siebel are planning on getting married this July at the Siebel family ranch in Montana.  Wow, his self-professed girlfriend is gonna be pissed!  The fact that she hasn’t posted an entry about the planned wedding is proof that she doesn’t know yet.  Poor , poor Beth!  But come on!  We all knew that Gavin was likely going to get married before he ran for Governor.  You know, family values and all that.  Gavin knows that a bachelor is never going to be elected into the governor’s mansion.  Well played Newsom, well played.

The Bay to Breakers this year turned into a drunken mess with people crapping and pissing all over the entire race route and Golden Gate Park.  Don’t they know we have the homeless for that!?  Kids in their early 20s were being blamed for the mess and many in the Richmond and Sunset districts complained of drunk kids terrorizing residents while waiting for the N-train and buses back to downtown.

A friend of mine that ran the race agreed that it was crazy this year with more booze and public drunkenness than ever.  I for one am glad that we live near the start of the race and people have not had time to eat and drink enough to be a problem in SoMa.  Residents of the Sunset and Richmond are pissed.  Let’s see what if anything changes for the race next year.

This weekend was perfect!  The weather was a sunny and warm 75F degrees with a soft cool breeze on Saturday and slightly cooler on Sunday, but still sunny.  A stark contrast to the three days of 90F degree plus temperatures we had during the week last week.  Anything past 85F degrees in San Francisco is oppressive because nobody has air conditioning here!

Newsom Hearing About Gay Marriage Ruling

Gavin Newsom reacting to news of the
ruling from his office earlier today.

The State of California Supreme Court ruled that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry in California earlier today.  What started with Mayor Gavin Newsom performing same-sex marriages in the San Francisco courthouse in February 2004 culminated with today’s ruling.  The ruling is likely to flood county courthouses with applications from couples newly eligible to marry when the decision takes effect in 30 days.

San Francisco is a madhouse right now with celebrations going on in the Castro and downtown at the Civic Center. You can feel the same excitement in the air as when the marriages started happening at the San Francisco courthouse in 2004.  This is a historic event that would not have been possible without the dedicated activists and supporters from the city of San Francisco.

The earthquake that struck China was the same magnitude as the earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1906.  That earthquake and the ensuing fire destroyed the city of San Francisco.  The Chinese earthquake’s epicenter was at least 900 miles from the large urban center of Beijing in an area that can best be described as suburban.  Still, the Chinese earthquake’s death toll is currently 10,000 people with tens of thousands of people injured.

Can you imagine if an earthquake this big happened again in San Francisco?  Is our infrastructure advanced enough to withstand the next earthquake?  In San Francisco, it is not a matter of "if" but "when" the next quake will happen.  Scientists all agree a "big one" will occur in the Bay Area sometime in the next 30 years, with a 50 percent chance that it will be larger than a 7.5 magnitude.  Those reports plus the images now coming from China are enough to scare the bejeesus out of San Franciscans.

Several people I have spoken to today mentioned the Chinese earthquake and made parallels to our own geographic area with fear and concern.  Some even went as far as calling their insurance companies inquiring about earthquake insurance, which is insanely expensive.  It typically doubles most homeowner’s premiums and adds a 10 to 15 percent deductible.  Also, if the insurance company does not do the math right, you may never get paid on your claim if the insurance company folds after the earthquake.

The fact that people here are considering the insurance after seeing the devastation in China says a lot about the human condition.  I would be interested to know how many new earthquake riders are sold due to the Chinese disaster.  Whether you have insurance for the next earthquake or not, I am sure the "big one" is somewhere in the back of your mind.

Well, not really.  But a state measure is on the ballot that would end rent control as we know it in cities like Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco.  The measure has renters groups crying foul even though the passing of the measure would not affect current leases.  Renters argue that a lack of rent control would lead to thousands of evictions in the city.

Proponents of the measure say rent control subsidizes units, not people, in that rich tenants get the same benefits as poor tenants.  I for one know a managing director at a large firm that makes about $400k and lives in a rent controlled 4bd/3ba flat in Pacific Heights that says he has no incentive to ever buy a place in the city.  His rent is $2,000 per month, while the market rate is about $8,000 per month.  Keep in mind that this guy could easily afford the higher price without hardship.  That’s just nuts to me.

Read the entire Chronicle article to get deeper perspectives on both sides of this issue.  It is a fascinating read that I think fairly represents the differing views.

Oh! I didn’t know there would be goodies! Nugget and I MUNI’d over to the Castro Theatre at 7pm for what we thought was just going to be an really good movie (the title of tonight’s film is extremely intriguing, no?), and maybe a little bit of exuberance from the witty and charming film festival director, Graham Leggat, who has waited ALL YEAR for this night. But finding a giveaway bag on our seat (and on every other seat in the house) suddenly changes the way one feels about such things. Well, it did for me, being a person who does not receive such goodie bags on a regular basis. Instantly, my feeling changed from, “Hey, it’s great we’re out of the house and doing something cultural” to ” WOW! Opening night is a BIG DEAL!” I’m a cheap whore for gifts, what can I say.

On every seat in the house of the Castro Theatre lay a lovely turquoise reusable shopping bag (you know, that nylon square shaped bag, like the kind you buy at Whole Foods), filled with “stuff.” What kind of stuff? Who cares?! It’s a gift bag! OK, here’s the basic contents: little packages of locally made biscotti cookies, a notepad from DHL, a souvenir item from Cathay Pacific (the evening’s sponsor – Nugget got a Hot Wheels’ sized miniature airplane; I got a few magnets with corporate logos on them), a pen from a local insurance company, a few pieces of literature about something or other that immediately went into the recycling bin. The excitement about the gift bag almost was enough of an evening for me. I could have walked out without seeing the movie, and maybe would have been happy. (This girl likes the gifts, what can I say?)

Read more

A chronicle reporter, Debra Saunders, was chastised by San Franciscans after she called people that earn between $200,000 and $250,000 a year "rich."  One lawyer said that "salary cannot make one rich because a ‘rich’ person does not need to work. Like Bruce Wayne."  I think this was an attempt by this lawyer to argue that the word "rich" pertains to a person’s wealth and not their income.  I mean really.  How spoiled are these people that contacted the reporter to complain!?

If you make $200,000 or more you may not be wealthy now, but you certainly have the means to amass a decent level of wealth over 20 years of earning that much money.  Over $4 million over 20 years to be exact.  Add to that several shrewd investments and compound interest and those $4 million in earnings could conservatively double.  That’s not a bad deal.  San Franciscans and the top income earners in the state just need to concentrate on what they have, rather than what they don’t have.

The reporter points out that people in that $200,000 or more earn more than 93 percent of the people in San Francisco and more than 97 percent of the people in the entire country!  She concedes that the top 5 percent of income earners pay 60 percent of the nation’s taxes.  These San Franciscans can argue that they pay too much in taxes, but they shouldn’t cry poor because "it looks bad to the other 97 percent."  I agree, be grateful for what you have and invest you spoiled babies!

Foreclosures in the Bay Area are up 300% for the quarter compared to a year ago. The bleeding will likely continue in the months ahead too.  Mortgage defaults, the first step to foreclosure, are also up about 150% for the quarter compared to a year ago.  Granted, things are not that bad in San Francisco county where only 124 homes were foreclosed out of the 6,579 homes foreclosed in the entire nine-county Bay Area region.

This was the question being asked by everyone along the planned Olympic Torch route by fans and protesters alike.  Where was the torch!?  Nowhere near the original route (see map below) because the route was changed at the very last minute.  Even members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors didn’t know about the route change ahead of time.  There were people that came from all over the Bay Area to see the end of the torch run at Justin Herman Plaza who were denied because the torch never got there.  I was bummed that I couldn’t leave work to go see the historic run, but I would have been really pissed if I got to the Embarcadero and there was no torch.  I guess it was a pretty good call not to go.  In all fairness, Newsom warned everyone that this might happen, but it still sucks.  It’s interesting to see the national news coverage from CNN, not nearly as much detail as what you get from SFGate on a local event.

Torch Relay Route Map

Please notice the extra special fuckery of starting at the planned start
of the original route only to almost immediately drive away.  Surprise bitches!

After the craziness in Paris and on the bridge, Mayor Gavin Newsom said the planned 6-mile torch route along the central waterfront and around Fisherman’s Wharf could change up to and even during the relay.  I guess they are going to try and keep the fans and the protesters guessing as to the route until the very last minute.  I predict chaos and hope to be able to get away from work to see it first hand on Wednesday afternoon.

Tibet Bridge Protesters

Three pro-Tibet protesters climbed the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge, reached a height of 150 feet above the roadway, and unfurled pro-Tibet banners earlier today.  One banner read “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 08,” and the second one read simply “Free Tibet.” The stunt was filmed and photographed from every possible direction (the photo above was taken by a Chronicle reporter) and is sure to garner a lot of national attention.  This protest by Students for a Free Tibet comes just two days before the arrival of the Olympic Torch on Wednesday.

Protesters in Paris were so rowdy that officials extinguished the Olympic Torch and rushed it onto buses at least five times during the parade route.  The Olympic flame itself, lit from the birthplace of the ancient games in Olympia, Greece and used to light the torch, continued to burn in a small lantern inside the bus.  Things got so ugly that the last part of the torch relay was cancelled.  The torch was was to head into a sports stadium in south of Paris at the end of the relay.

Please keep in mind that the protests in London and Paris were in places where there isn’t a large Asian population.  San Francisco will likely have many Chinese and Tibetan people organizing to support and protest the torch relay respectively. And it seems that nobody is on the wrong side of this issue, which makes it complicated. With charged emotions on both sides, expect there to be a brouhaha during the torch route on Wednesday.

The Olympic Torch relay in San Francisco will start at AT&T Park and will make its way up the Embarcadero to Aquatic Park.  It will then return through Fisherman’s Wharf and down the Embarcadero to end its journey at Justin Herman Plaza across from the Ferry Building.  This short 6-mile route will be run from 1:00pm to 3:30pm on Wednesday afternoon.  Let’s get ready to rumble!

The Last Mistress

Asia Argento as The Last Mistress

We have finally made our film selections for this year’s festival.  As always, we will try and bring you a special report about the opening night excitement.

The opening night film this year will be The Last Mistress (France 2007), directed by Catherine Breillat.  The film is based on a controversial novel by 19th century author Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly.  The story centers on a Frenchman on the verge of marrying an innocent aristocratic young French socialite.  But before doing so, he confesses to an affair with a Spanish mistress to the bride’s grandmother. A surprisingly open-minded old woman, the grandmother seems to delight in every sordid detail of the young man’s relationship with his mistress.

The other films that we will be watching during this year’s festival are as follows:

Just Like Home (Denmark, 2007)
Black Belt (Japan, 2007)
Mataharis (Spain, 2007)
Water Lilies (France 2007)
Solitary Fragments (Spain 2007)
Shadows in the Palace (South Korea 2007)
Big Man Japan (Japan 2007)
Under the Bombs (France/Lebanon/England/Belgium 2007)
Secrecy (United States 2007)
Timecrimes (Spain 2007)
The 51st Annual San Francisco International Film Festival starts on Thursday, April 24th and runs through Thursday, May 8th.  Tickets are available on the film festival website or you may also order by phone by calling (925) 866-9559.  We look forward to seeing you all there!

We walked over to Union Square yesterday not to participate in the Human Rights Torch protest, but to check out the size of the crowd.  Surprisingly, there were only a couple of hundred people there.  There were a bunch of cameras and news crews, so the event was well publicized.  But the attendance was expected to be a couple of thousand.  The guy on the microphone was not very charismatic and couldn’t seem to get the whole crowd excited about the cause.  It seems to me that  the whole protest was a big bust.

Today, the Chronicle ran a story saying that most Asians in San Francisco are fretting at the disrespect being shown to the Olympic Torch by these protests.  Many believe that the Olympic Torch relay should be a celebration of the strong cultural, historic and economic ties between San Francisco and shouldn’t be disrupted by political demonstrations.  Maybe this explains the low turnout yesterday in Union Square which is only a few blocks from Chinatown.

Asians in the city are also not at all pleased about a resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors that called for Gavin Newsom to receive the Olympic Torch with "alarm and protest."  A local attorney and community leader said the following:

"We understand your rights of free speech, by all means, but be a gracious host, be sensitive to the fact that in San Francisco one-third of your inhabitants are Asians…Many of us, Chinese Americans, in the city, we may not be supporting the Chinese government, but to politicize this game and to use this torch relay as a platform to bash China to me is unacceptable."

Since the Olympic Torch is only visiting San Francisco in North America, if public demonstrations or public officials do something to insult the Olympics it will only further sully the image of San Francisco in the eyes of the rest of the country, and the image of America in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Human Rights Torch

Woman holding the
Human Rights Torch.

Three separate torches will be running through San Francisco this week.  First, the Human Rights Torch will be making its way through downtown today, starting at 11:00am in Union Square.  On Tuesday, the Tibetan Freedom Torch will make its way through The City.  And finally on Wednesday, the Olympic Torch will make its way through The City on its only North American leg.

Many of the people attending the rallies and events are expected to protest the Olympic Torch when it is here on Wednesday.  The protesters just need a couple of days to practice yelling at some torches before the real one arrives on Wednesday.

Hopefully, the only thing burning will be the torches and the protests will remain peaceful.  A bunch of angry protesters with their own torches certainly wouldn’t be a good idea.  You should consider coming out to Union Square today to see what the controversy surrounding the Olympic Torch is all about.

According to Matier & Ross (see third story in the following link), the Gettys will be hosting a $2,300 per plate fundraiser for Barack Obama in their Pacific Heights mansion this weekend where 400 people are expected to attend.  This makes the event the “hottest ticket in town.”  Amazingly, the story claims that Mayor Gavin Newsom will not be attending because he supports Hillary Clinton.

What!?  The Mayor is basically biting the hand that fed him for years and helped make him a multi-millionaire and a political force.  It it wasn’t for the Gettys, Gavin would be successful, but he would not be nearly as wealthy as he is now, let alone be Mayor of The City.  I wonder what the Clintons did for Gavin that makes him feel he owes them his loyal support in Hillary’s campaign.  It must have been something pretty good.  Oh if only walls could talk.

Home prices in the Bay Are dropped 13.2% year-over-year, with a median price of $706,880.  The Bay Area is defined as San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Solano counties; it excludes Napa and Sonoma counties.  The interesting thing is that studying recent San Francisco home sales, it seems that prices are flat compared to prices last year.  It would be interesting to see official figures for San Francisco alone.

Intercontinental Hotel

The big blue ugly eyesore in the same frame
as our beautiful and revered City Hall.

The Chronicle Urban Design Writer has developed a fondness for the new Intercontinental Hotel on the corner of Howard and Fifth Streets.  Still, we think the thing is hideous and completely out of place in the current SoMa landscape.  The writer even calls it for what it is: an off-strip Vegas wannabe casino.  Sad.

The writer says that the hotel has assurance and confidence.  Yeah, like a forty-five-year-old bucktoothed Vegas hooker with a new face lift.  It’s both sad *and* ugly.  The writer says that it could be worse, but we, and by we I mean the SoMa residents that walk past it almost every day, don’t see how.  What do you think?

Homeless Stare

Does this guy know
quantum physics? Totally!

Mama and I were walking past a couple of homeless guys today and they approached us excitedly and asked us to clarify a debate they were having.  Since this was a welcome change to being harassed for money, we both agreed.  They surprisingly had an American history question: Which country burned down the White House during the War of 1812?  One homeless guy debated that it was the British, the other that it was the French.

Mama and I both didn’t know the answer off the top of our heads, but we suspected it was the Britsh since the French were busy with the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, not in the U.S.  In order to settle the debate definitively, I busted out my BlackBerry to get the answer from the Internets.  Sure enough, a quick Google search found that it was the British that burned down many public buildings in Washington, DC, including the White House, near the end of the War of 1812.

The homeless exclaimed, "God bless the Internet!"  Indeed.  All in all, the interaction was quite refreshing and informative for all involved.  I really had no idea that the homeless were interested in these types of academic pursuits.  So I have to ask, do the homeless in other cities debate politics, science and quantum mechanics?  I wonder.

A toll hike for the Golden Gate Bridge was approved that will increase the regular toll from $5 to $6. That is crazy! Only about 6 years ago, in 2002, the bridge toll was only $3. The toll will now have essentially doubled in only 6 to 7 years!  That just doesn’t seem right to me.  Could the cost of bridge operations and maintenance really have doubled during the same time period?  I doubt it, but that’s not why they are raising the toll.

The reason for the hike is to generate funds for the replacement of Doyle Drive, the raised freeway leading up to the span that extends from the Marina District through the Presidio and finally onto the bridge.  The bridge is itself is fine, it’s the infrastructure around it that is starting to deteriorate and need replacement.  I can only imagine how much it would cost to rebuild the entire bridge!

The actual cost of the bridge was only $35 million and construction was completed in 1937.  That is only $568.3 million in today’s dollars (inflation-adjusted).  But if building the new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge today is a $6.2 billion proposition, then rebuilding the Golden Gate would cost about $10 billion today due to the higher level of difficulty in building across the mouth of the bay.  Let’s hope that with maintenance full replacement of the Golden Gate Bridge will never be necessary, because they may raise the tolls to about $50.

Matt Gonzalez, former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and mayoral candidate, was tapped by Ralph Nader to be a vice-presidential running mate. It’s good to see Mattie G getting back into politics! I know that many of his supporters were heartbroken when he lost the Mayor’s race to Gavin Newsom back in 2003. So much so that, as of this writing, his website is still displaying the loss to Newsom.

The 51st San Francisco International Film Festival, which will be held from April 24, 2008 to May 8, 2008, will open at the Castro Theatre this year with The Last Mistress (France), the latest film from acclaimed director Catherine Breillat. The Last Mistress will screen at 7:00 pm with Catherine Breillat in attendance, followed by the gala Opening Night party at 9:30 pm in the scenic settings of City View at Metreon, located on the penthouse level of 101 Fourth Street at Mission.

Admission for the Opening Night film and party is $85 for general public/$70 for San Francisco Film Society members; VIP tickets are $135. Tickets should be going on sale at the SF Film Society website soon.

It’s 6:15pm and 42F degrees in San Francisco. That’s wrong. You know it’s cold because people on the street are wearing gloves, including me! There is a bright side, at least it’s not raining right now.

It’s not so much the water as it is the wind that is making this storm so miserable. There are currently 55 mph onshore winds battering the city and 150 mph winds are expected in the High Sierras. Luckily, we have not lost power like a lot of other people in the Bay Area. Expect more mayhem between now an Monday, since this is only the first of three storms that will be hitting us back to back.