Thursday, February 18, 2010

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

We're having a break in the weather, but that doesn't necessarily mean a change for the better. It's still bitter cold, but not as bad as it was for awhile. And unlike poor Southern California, we're not getting torrential rains and landslides. But one thing I love--the fog is back. The fog San Francisco has long been known for has been very spotty over the past fifteen to twenty years. Must be global warming/cooling/climate change.

NOTE: Speaking of things related to the climate, "Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy," but in the way of San Francisco, there are groups who want to decide how much sunlight is good for you, where it should be shining, and who's in charge of the sun patrol. Under the city government aegis, a group has been formed to decide on the proper ratio of sunlight to shade in San Francisco's public parks. And you thought sunshine and shade just sort of happened, didn't you? Not in San Francisco--we must form an action group, spend taxpayers' money, and decide that man proposes, but the Board of Supervisors disposes.

Most cities just check the trees out occasionally to see if they're healthy, but San Francisco is among the few who apply the careful scientific study of feng shui. Now understand, this event is not a new taxpayer waste. Awhile back, Supervisor David Chiu prepared an ordinance for the June ballot which was entitled: Park Sunlight Protection Ordinance. He had the support of four other supervisors, with the mayor in mild opposition. The ordinance tightened shadow restrictions already in place for downtown parks by taking away the discretion of city commissions to allow buildings that might cast a bit of extra shadow but provide other, better benefits that would offset the small loss of sunlight.

Taking away the powers of San Francisco's multiple conflicting and mostly useless commissions is serious business. If it weren't for the commissions, who would stop reasonable growth citywide and impose idiotic green restrictions on the developers? Answer: The Board of Supervisors. This is a big deal, everybody says. So aides to Chiu and Newsom are working with the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association with the catchy acronym SPUR. They all plan to work very hard, they say, and get these issues so vital to San Francisco resolved by early summer. Now you have those in favor of reasonable development, the Greens, the supervisors, the eco-freaks and opponents of tall buildings and tall trees all fighting with each other to prepare an ordinance in time for submission to the voters at the November election.

The Sunshine Patrol is essentially saying that the protection and regulation of sunlight is more important than any other issue that might shape how San Francisco grows and evolves. The United Nations Plaza had been a disaster and home for drug dealers and bums for many years. The ordinance would stop any plans to revitalize that area, along with the desperate need to revitalize the entire Market Street area from civic center to Sixth Street. It would also interfere with buildings and plans that have already gone through extensive public review. The attacks, which purport to regulate trees, have actually centered on the newly-finished One Rincon tower, and the San Francisco Federal Building, with nearly no discussion of the "shadows," just their height.

As one San Francisco writer has said, "Downtown open spaces aren't just sylvan retreats. Their urban setting can help make them thrive." In a vertical downtown like San Francisco's, the sunshine ordinance would simply bring all development to a halt. San Francisco needs to preserve its regional sustainability (this ain't a giant pasture), and the objections to tall buildings simply ignore the reality of developments like the Yerba Buena Center, which has plenty of tall buildings combined with well-maintained plazas and parks. Oh, and plenty of sunshine.

NOTE: This past Sunday, billionaire Larry Ellison won the America's Cup race with his high-tech state of the art yacht. It brings the Cup back to America for the first time since 1995, and it will reside here in the Bay Area. The winner of the Cup gets to pick the venue for the next race. Ellison wants to hold the race on San Francisco Bay. If you haven't ever seen the Bay, you may not realize how huge it is. The race would fit into the confines of the Bay with absolutely no problem at all. Sailboaters and yachtsmen sail the Bay almost every day of the week and some never venture beyond the Golden Gate and out to sea.

This creates two problems. Ellison has already spent millions just on the development and building of his winning Yacht, the USA-17. It's a trimaran, by the way. Ellison's largest opponent, and former winner is Swiss billionaire and rival yachtsman Enesto Bertarelli. It would now take millions for development of proper racing yacht facilities already available in Valencia, Spain (the site of the most recent race) and Auckland, New Zealand (the site of earlier races).

Bertarelli can match Ellison dollar for dollar if that's what it takes to build facilities. So Bertarelli has raised the second problem. The rules of the America's Cup Races in the original Deed of Gift says that the race must take place on "ocean courses, free from headlands." The only way to get around that would be by unanimous agreement of all the participants, an unlikely outcome. And it also turns out that Ellison has made the initial proposal without consulting The City of San Francisco, the other Bay cities, or the Port Authority.

If Ellison is determined to hold the event with an American port as the anchor, Newport, Rhode Island hosted the event from 1851 on, the original race being around the Isle of Wight. The schooner "America" beat a fleet of British vessels in the race, and thus the Cup became known as the America's Cup. So far, since the year 2000, Ellison has spent over $400 million on his venture. His local contact is the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which is where this trophy will be displayed pending the winner of the next race.

As much as I would love to see the race come to San Francisco Bay (I could actually see major portions of the race from my north facing windows), I just don't think it's in the cards. Oh, well, I'll just have to watch the regular sailboats on the Bay to relax.

NOTE: Harry Reid is coming to town. You better watch out, you better not pout, oh, forget it. Anyway, San Francisco is noted for its riotous demonstrations, and this was no different. But since conservatives don't riot, that leaves the field to the left. California's lefty climate suits Democratic politics just right, and San Francisco is not just the Golden Gate City, it's the Golden Goose City for Democrats--usually. Not so with Reid. He has earned particular enmity from San Francisco liberals who refuse to blame Obama or Pelosi for the failure of nearly every Democratic initiative in the past year. On Tuesday morning Reid arrived in town with empty moneybags waiting to be filled. He got some of that, but he also got a few unpleasant surprises.

One protest sign that was popular was a picture of two testicles, and the demand "Grow some." Also, there was "shape up or ship out--backbone needed." An expansion of the latter theme was "If you pass health care reform, you will be able to afford a spine transplant!" "You have a majority--Act like it." "At least Palin quit her job when it became too tough." "Health Care, not Wealth Care." And the inevitable, "Be more like Nancy." I think the one that said "Welcome to San Francisco" may have been insincere. LOL I don't remember that there were any window-smashings or bomb-threats, but otherwise it was the same kind of reception normally reserved for Republicans.

NOTE: Former San Diego Mayor and California Senator Pete Wilson has been made the chairman of the Team Whitman senatorial campaign, and he came out swinging. He said that he (not personally, of course) would match the $40 million dollars that former Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown (currently California Attorney General) has set aside for dirty tricks against Meg Whitman. As Wilson said, "Game on!" He also said that "Jerry Brown and his allies are beginning the General Election today. We must respond." Brown has been playing reluctant virgin about an official announcement of his candidacy, and to the best of my knowledge, he hasn't yet officially declared. But since he has absolutely no serious rivals within the Democratic Party, maybe he just forgot, or I missed the anticlimactic announcement.

I'm not sure that Wilson's public declaration of a dirty war is the smartest thing to do. Particularly since he has criticized Brown's tactics by saying "They will use any means possible, including this multi-million dollar negative assault, to try to stop Meg's message of reform." If you're going to play dirty pool like the enemy, it's usually a good idea at least to pretend you won't, at least until you have the campaign funds in your hands.

NOTE: The San Francisco Chronicle poll has listed the ten most vulnerable U.S Senate seats. According to their poll, nine of them include North Dakota (Byron Dorgon, the Democratic incumbent is retiring); Delaware (Ted Kaufman, the interim Democrat Senator, is retiring); Indiana (Democrat incumbent Evan Bayh has just announced his retirement); Arkansas (Blanche Lincoln, Democrat, is to the left of the citizens of Arkansas, and is facing a conservative/Republican surge); Nevada (Democrat majority leader Harry Reid is simply intensely disliked in his home state); Colorado (Democrat incumbent Michael Bennet was appointed by an unpopular lame-duck governor, is facing a tough primary, and will face Lt. Gov. Jane Norton in the general election, who has great name recognition in Colorado); Pennsylvania (former Republican, now Democrat Snarlin' Arlen Specter, has made enemies in just about every camp); New York (incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand replaced Hillary Clinton, and seems to suffer from perpetual foot-in-mouth disease); and Ohio (The only Republican incumbent on the Chron's list, announced his retirement). Ohio is a hard one to call since the major recession brought Democrats statewide into office, but the ongoing fiscal crisis has brought Republicans and conservatives back into favor).

That's an interesting list. The Chronicle is an ultra-liberal newspaper, and tends to skew all polls toward Democrats. And yet nine of the ten "in-play" states have Democratic incumbents or Democratic leanings.

So who's the lucky dog who holds the tenth seat that the Chron thinks is in serious trouble? The winner is--California. Even the Chronicle has figured out that Barbara Boxer is an acid-tongued witch, with no real accomplishment, who is now facing some serious Republican opposition in a year where even Californians are fed up with liberal nostrums, by-the-numbers statism, and institutional fiscal disaster. This is going to be an anti-incumbent election that will toss Democrats out if they don't have a record of accomplishment and a certain personal appeal. Boxer has neither. California could just be the next "miracle state." More on Babs in my post tomorrow.

NOTE: Well, here's a new wrinkle. San Francisco's mercurial mayor has now decided that he might just like to run for Lieutenant Governor. This man needs to sit down, take a deep breath, and just decide what he wants to be when he grows up. He made just about every mistake that could be made before he decided to abandon his run for governor (largely in anticipation of a landslide loss to equally mercurial former Governor Moonbeam Jerry Brown. So now what? Does he think that Brown's likely victory in the governor's race (if he ever decides he's actually going to run) will make a victory for him easier? California has a long history of electing governors from one party and lieutenant governors from the other party. Only recently did that change, and right now the political climate for second-echelon Democratic candidates doesn't look good. Brown himself was scared to leave the state for political junkets and governor's conferences because his Republican lieutenant governor, Mike Curb, would quickly put things into effect that Brown opposed. When the governor is out of the state, the lieutenant governor under California law becomes the acting governor with the full plenary powers of the governor in issuing executive orders.


StanH said...

It sounds like your Board of Supervisors, like all statist, trying justify their worthless existence. Don’t you know the most important thing on peoples minds what’s the proper amount of sun and shade…sheesh!

Yeah, we had our local billionaire, leftist lunatic Ted Turner a while back, the America’s cup was his obsession. He made the comment once in an answer to his finances, “you’ll know I’m in trouble when I start selling sail boats.” …he had eighteen of these schooners at over a million a piece, in ‘80s money. Oh…to be rich and evil!

Aren’t you so honored Lawhawk, to have Harry Reid in your fair city…barf!

Wasn’t Pete Wilson also Governor?

You know there’s trouble in Muddville, when SF Chronicle, foresees terrible trouble, coming at the leftist political cabal. Good news!

AndrewPrice said...

California has a long history of electing governors of one party and lt. governors from another party? So the elect RINOs and DINOs? Or is the other party in California the communist party. . . along with the RINOs?

Unknown said...

StanH: I kept wondering if they were also considering trimming the trees in the shape of famous Marxist figures to allow the sunlight through the leaves in just the right places.

You know our California politicians. Pete Wilson was mayor of San Diego, then Senator, then Governor of California. I'm covering this tomorrow, but Wilson left the Senate to run for Governor, leaving the Senate seat with a lttle over a year to go. The sitting Governor appointed a nobody to the interim seat, and in the next election, he was defeated and replaced by (ugh) Barbara Boxer.

Unknown said...

Andrew: California does have a strange political history. It was part of the "progressive" movement. Until very recently (past twenty years or so), Democrats tended to be very liberal and Republicans tended to be very conservative. Jerry Brown (a monkish, left-wing loon) was the Democrat (who succeeded Ronald Reagan), but Republican Mike Curb (a record producer and arch-conservative) was his Lieutenant Governor. The leftish tilt in both parties seemed to begin around the time of Pete Wilson's second term as governor, and continued apace.

To give you an idea how the progressive movement assisted in California's craziness, one of its goals was to eliminate "party politics." It never succeeded in doing that per se, but it created what we call "cross-filing." We don't allow that anymore, but when I was still a kid, three governors in California had been elected by cross-filing with both parties, and winning the nomination of each. Earl Warren was one of them.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I forgot to mention that there is still a large minority Republican Party in California, mostly in the Central Valley and some of the Gold Counties. Quite traditionally conservative. The urban centers just keep out-voting them, but I'm not so sure that's going to happen this year (except for the governorship). It's San Francisco that has two clear parties--the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--Does San Francisco have a Commission to determine how many pieces of toilet paper your citizens are using at each "sitting?"

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: LOL Not yet, but (butt?) I'm sure they're working on it. They were too busy creating the Commission to determine exactly how many different color trash cans you must have for how many different types of trash that can go into each for recycling.

Unknown said...

The Central Valley is conservative Republican, and quickly becoming more conservative during the farm and financial crisis. The illegal immigrant populations heavily centered in Bakersfield and Fresno are slowly returning to the homeland, and the Democrats are in real trouble throughout all the agricultural areas.

I'm guessing that the Republican candidate for governor will do very well, and the Republican candidate for Senate (particularly if it's Campbell or DeVore) will win the Valley by a large margin. Harry Reid didn't bother visiting the Valley.

Unknown said...

CalFed: Sorry to hear that Reid didn't visit your part of the state. His visit wasn't exactly successful here. I haven't heard how much money he may have raised for the Democratic Socialists, but they sent the usual number of police for crowd-control, then sent about half of them back for other duty. No crowds--no crowd-control needed.

Writer X said...

Crusty Harry Reid is becoming like that guy at a party who shows up but who was never really invited. And that Board of Supervisors sounds like something from a SIMPSONS episode. Trying to regulate sunshine? Are you kidding me? They couldn't find constructive things to do with their time (and taxpayers money) if their lives depended on it!

Unknown said...

WriterX: The whole Reid thing is hilariously funny. He got a few bucks at the private parties in Pacific Heights (tickets up to $2700 a piece), but the public efforts largely flopped. The average Democrat who showed up wasn't about to spend any money on a guy who they think has blown the socialist agenda. So they picketed him instead. You'd have thought he was a Republican paying us a visit.

The Simpsons is apt, but so is South Park--particularly the "Smug" episode where the giant "smug" cloud from San Francisco was threatening South Park. LOL

Writer X said...

LawHawk, SOUTH PARK? I could definitely see it. Speaking of fog, I thought maybe Al Gore was in town with a fog machine. His whereabouts, lately, have been sketchy. I think he might be in the witness protection program or something to get out of all the shoveling in D.C., chicken that he is.

Unknown said...

WriterX: I confess. I'm a South Park Republican (conservative, leaning liberatarian, with a potty mouth). Still, I've always been confused by the expression: "He wouldn't say s--t if he had a mouthful." I don't see how he could. Hmmmm.

I've also wondered about Gore. How does something that big hide? The fog is a natural air-cleansing agent that doesn't cost anyone a dime, so I'm sure Gore had nothing to do with it.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--Are you sure it's fog? Since your fine arts center is called SOMA, maybe it IS Al Gore, and he's spreading his own soma over the town so they'll dream sweet dreams of happy polar bears and large polar icecaps. WriterX may have been partially right.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: Nice try. It's called SOMA because it's SouthOfMArket Street. But truly excellent conflation of Brave New World and Al Gore's dream world.

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