Thursday, September 17, 2009

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

Just for a refreshing change, I decided to post a picture of another San Francisco icon--the Transamerica Pyramid. It's clearly the most recognizable skyscraper in town. Until 1974, it was the tallest American building west of Chicago. It was intended to be a symbol of a great insurance company to last the ages, like the pyramids of Egypt. It worked for awhile, until the company was bought out by a Dutch insurance company in 1999.

Interestingly enough, their former headquarters across the street was also a pyramid-shaped building, which now houses the Church of Scientology. The "wings" are actually functional. One houses the elevator shafts for the building, while the other is a combination stairwell and smokestack in case of fire. Most San Franciscans hated the building when it was going up, but have come to love it. It was originally designed to be somewhat shorter, but a decision was made that it should stand higher than the Bank of America building. That meant it had to be considerably taller since the BofA building was located several blocks up Nob Hill and the Pyramid was built right on the waterfront. The Bank of America building never developed the love of the citizens the way the Pyramid has, and when BofA commissioned a huge amorphous structure for its plaza, locals came to call the whole thing "The Black Heart of Bank of America." Neither Transamerica nor Bank of America currently own the buildings named after them.

Note: "Doc Gurley," the resident Chronicle medical writer, has announced that there is proof positive that the vast majority of doctors (75%, more or less) actually heartily support the public option proposed by President Obama (whatever that might be). As proof, she cites the "study" conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine. As we all know, statistics can be manipulated, and questions can be asked which could get a multitude of different answers depending on the form of the question. The question that was asked was if doctors believed that the government somehow needed to intervene in the current health care mess. Well, folks, I would answer "yes" to that question. "Public" option includes everything from full government-control of everything to government providing assistance of some kind to close the gap for those who cannot afford to purchase private insurance as the system presently stands.

Doctors should not pass off their personal opinions of surveys as being fact, but that doesn't stop Doc Gurley. And to bolster her argument, she says that the public wants the "public option" in even greater numbers than the doctors. Well, the doctor may be very competent as an internist at UC Medical Center (in other words, she is paid from public funds), as well as the free clinic that she generously volunteers to serve at. But that doesn't mean she should be opining on polls as if her opinion were fact. I would take about 99.9 percent of what the New England Journal of Medicine tells me about disease as fact, but a poll on doctors' opinions is another thing entirely.

And of course, journalist Doc Gurley is completely neutral on the issue. Just reporting the facts. This is demonstrated by her paragraph which says: "Knowing doctors nationwide are prescribing the public option might make it easier for us all to take the time to call (toll-free) 1-877-264-4226 to be directed to Senator Feinstein and/or Senator Boxer and let your voice be known." Now I don't claim to be an expert on the New England Journal of Medicine, but I know the American Bar Association journal intimately. I'm guessing they're not that different. Tell me about the current cases and developments in the law, and I have reason to believe it. Tell me about your opinion of the cases and what the vast majority of attorneys who subscribe to the Journal think of them, and I'll tell you to take a hike.

Note: Speaking of tall buildings, the latest flap in San Francisco is about all the high-rise apartments going up all over town, but mostly on the waterfront in a designated high-density zone. Although plans have been on the boards since the relaxation of height standards in the late 1990s for buildings even taller than the Sears Tower, none have ever actually coalesced. But the number of high-rises for residential buildings has increased exponentially. The One Rincon Hill South Tower at 60 floors is currently the tallest residential tower, but others even taller will soon go up.

The building has slowed considerably since the crash, but many will proceed. So what's the complaint? San Francisco is a tiny city, strapped for space for living spaces. OK, we've run out of horizontal space. And that means the high-rises being built will be for people with incomes over $100,000 a year. Well, doesn't that mean we won't have affordable housing? Oh, phooey. It means if you don't already live here, and you can't afford a $1,000,000 condo or a $6,000 a month apartment, maybe you shouldn't move here. And as much as I dislike overpaid yuppies, that means income for a city that is in desperate financial shape right now.

The boom will stop quickly enough, however, if the City does what it has done in the past--require a minimum number of "affordable" units in the new buildings. "Affordable" means way below market. That makes it infeasible in hard times for a contractor to build a building which won't pay for itself for years, if ever. So we lose all that tax income. How about this, Supes? Get rid of rent control. Make it economically sensible for developers to build low and medium rise buildings getting reasonable rents and maintaining their buildings properly. I'm a perfect example. I was flush in the early 90s, so I rented a very nice apartment with a view and paid the medium-high rent of $885.00 per month. Seventeen years later, I pay in the neighborhood of $1,200.00 in a building that is no longer properly maintained (although at least my landlord keeps the building up to safety codes). The landlord cleans up and does some remodeling on apartments as they come vacant, and now smaller apartments facing the noisy street on the first floor with no view are paying nearly $3,000 per month. Mine would be closer to $4,000. He finally filled the holes and painted the common area walls for the first time since I've lived here. The carpet in the common areas was installed in 1968. But someone has to pay unjustifiably high rent to make up for my lower-than market rent. And it leaves no incentive to fix the building up.

All things considered, I would love to see more housing for low and middle incomes. Maybe it just isn't in the cards. Maybe yuppies will inherit the city. So what? On the other hand, maybe they'll stimulate the miserable city economy, and encourage developers to produce more mixed housing. The market "happens," and every time the City attempts to manipulate the market for social engineering purposes, it just makes things worse.

Note: And speaking of expensive housing, Bay Area darling Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day is selling his little house in the Berkeley/Oakland hills for $4.85 million dollars. The modest 7,000 square foot cottage comes complete with swimming pool, pool house and fully tricked out recording studio. We're all assuming that the grungy, mascaraed, foul-mouthed musician's getaway home will sell quickly, and that Armstrong will donate all the proceeds to peace and homeless organizations.

Says one slightly-disoriented commenter on the article, who was unsure exactly who and what he was annoyed with: "Good, I hope Billie Joe moves to the L.A. area, we'll appreciate him more than you morons! You idiots don't even realize what a talented entertainer he is, instead you want to pout and whine that he's not living in a squat somewhere on Gilman Street [the truly down and out part of Berkeley where Green Day got its start]. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say all the idiots who are so appaled by the fact that the article referred to Green Day as Punk that they simply must post a comment are likely republican arsholes who are still licking there wounds from Green Day's admonishment of their idiot president and last years election." I'm incapable of adding anything to that.

Note: I'm really getting worried. Either Mark Morford has gone sane, or I'm starting to lose it. For the second week in a row, his article was almost not crazy. If you read my diary last week, I found it strange that the Chronicle considered a report on the suicide statistics on the Golden Gate Bridge to be "breaking news." He was a little slow on the uptake, but Morford apparently caught it as well. He was downright funny describing how the typical jumper profile seemed to fit him. Middle-aged, white male. But then he redeems himself with his more consistent pride in weirdnes and alienation from normal people.

So he at least gave us one of his anti-middle class rants. "Maybe you feel, in short, that you've failed. You do not have 2.4 children. You do not have the pretty and sexless and vaguely unhappy wife. You do not have the insanely overpaid job or the giant tacky McMansion or the gluttonous level of glittery undeserved accomplishment for which your demographic is so famous--and famously resented. This way manic depression lies." That's better, Mark. Every middle-age white male fits that profile perfectly. You might want to contact Maureen Dowd over at the New York Times to see if the automatic white racism also plays a part in the suicide rate.


Writer X said...

Thanks for the Mark Morford rant. It stopped my shakes. I feel better now.

AndrewPrice said...

75% of doctors support this health care plan? Really? Funny how all the doctors I know are vehemently opposed.

Anonymous said...

Green Day fans must not know LawhawkSF is the only Republican left in San Francisco.

Unknown said...

WriterX: I was getting worried about the poor guy. He seemed to be losing his viciousness. But he seems to be recovering. I'm sure he won't let us down in the future.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I'm with you. I don't doubt that some of the doctors who graduated from Tierra del Fuego medical school who work in the general hospitals and couldn't diagnose a hangnail are for the government-run option, but the doctors I know range from mildly-opposed to frothing-at-the-mouth opposed. Must have been an interesting polling sample, even with the loaded question.

Anonymous: Not true. I know of two others. LOL

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--I think you should send a copy of your diary to Nancy Pelosi. The top Congressional Democrat as late as last night didn't know about the Senate vote on ACORN. She reacted to a reporter's question about what the House would do by asking: "I haven't heard about that, what did they do? Did they de-fund ACORN?" She must have been isolated in a 24-hour botox session at the time.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: Actually, I think she was busy conducting the New England Journal of Medicine poll that found that 75% of all doctors support Obamacare. Why join the real world when their fantasy world is so much more fun?

Unknown said...

GANG: Here is the relevant portion of the New England Journal of Medicine poll that Doc Gurley said "proved" the vast majority of doctors support the public option and Obamacare in general:

"As Table 2 shows, a large majority of respondents (78%) agreed that physicians have a professional obligation to address societal health policy issues. Majorities also agreed that every physician is professionally obligated to care for the uninsured or underinsured (73%), and most were willing to accept limits on reimbursement for expensive drugs and procedures for the sake of expanding access to basic health care (67%). By contrast, physicians were divided almost equally about cost-effectiveness analysis; just over half (54%) reported having a moral objection to using such data “to determine which treatments will be offered to patients."

Does that in any way sound to you like that indicates "support" for the Obama National Health Service? Asked the same question, I suspect about the same percentage of conservatives would answer the question the same way the doctors did.

This is the same trick the lefties have pulled on Global Warming. "90% of scientists agree that global warming is a problem. It's a settled issue." Well, yeah. But a large percentage (quite possibly a majority) of scientists also say that man-made global warming is nonsense, and an even larger number say that we can realistically do next-to-nothing to affect climate change. Yet cap and tax is built almost exclusively on the phony 90% "poll consensus."

Unknown said...

And then there's this:

"A new Investor’s Business Daily poll of more than 1,300 physicians finds that nearly two-thirds (65%) don’t back ObamaCare, more than 70% say the government cannot provide insurance coverage for 47 million additional people and save money without harming quality, and 45% of doctors say they “would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement” if the liberal health care plan passes."

StanH said...

Great diary Lawhawk. They do the same thing in Atlanta when they develop a condo, or townhouses, etc. A certain amount of the dwellings must be set aside for the less fortunate, no matter the cost of the homes. It never works and invariably leads to the development failing or morphing into something that the developer never intended. They never learn.

I was at a doctors office today with my Dad. This guy is a subdued Nephrologist. So I brought up the Barry, and this guy became animated, so in my unofficial poll of one a definite “thumbs down.”

Lawhawk did you see your representative on TV, Madame Speaker (I wanted to say that in light of the ACORN prostitution rings) …Pelosi? She became weepy talking about all the vitriol in the healthcare discussion, and how this kind of tenor in the public discourse leads to violence. I thought protesting was the highest form of patriotism?

Unknown said...

StanH: It's all so ridiculous. The last round was development of property on the waterfront (which even I objected to because all that space south of Market that doesn't block any views and used to be old, empty warehouses was available). The enviro-freaks were out in force. The development got approved when some genius decided that instead of "lower-income units," they would require the developer to set aside large portions of the buildings for, are you ready, low pay-level city employees who couldn't otherwise afford to live in San Francisco. The liberal logic was it would be an economic plus to have the municipal employees living and working in the City. The project was approved, the city employees moved in, and within a year got "rent and mortgage pay increases." Result, the city employees took more out of the city than they put in, and the rents and mortgages in the building hit the level they would have hit in the original plan, except that non-productive city employees got the units instead of productive private business workers. A huge net loss for the city.

As for Pelosi's crying jag, didn't their own Harry Truman say "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen?"

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