Picaresque San Francisco

If you’ve recently been walking along the sidewalks or strolling the scenic byways of San Francisco, you may have been nearly run over by one. If you’ve recently been driving on the streets of San Francisco, you may have nearly run one over. Two-wheel scooters are the latest thing. Remember the kind with a handlebar you powered with one foot and the other foot balanced on the skinny rail between the tiny wheels? This new generation of scooter has an electric motor so you can even climb a minor grade without any physical exertion.

You can rent one in San Francisco, paying with a credit card via your smartphone. Just find one – they’re scattered all over – pay and go. If you’re like many, you’ll ride while playing with your phone, while weaving in and out of traffic – foot and automobile. You could be the first to be maimed or killed on one; better hurry, though, the inevitable may happen soon. When you’re finished with it, just leave it – in the middle of the sidewalk, as many do – for the next rider.

Not everyone thinks they’re so cute. The city has received so many complaints, the Public Works department seized sixty-some of the two-wheelers it said were blocking sidewalks and fined the companies that own them. “The public has the right to use the sidewalks,” said Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. The three scooter-rental companies said if they’d only been told, they would have dispatched their “Operations Teams.”

Video and more pictures from SFGate.

Picturesque San Francisco

Aquatic Park, near San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf is a favorite of hardy swimmers. They can be seen most any time of day, in any weather. The cove, formed by two curved piers, is usually placid. Strolling along the Aquatic Park Pier, you’ll have panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and The City. (Locals insist it’s capital “T” and capital “C”) Warning signs tell you, though that the pier may not hold up under your weight. You could be a sea lion’s tasty snack.

Amazon Effect – Part 1

The city of San Francisco is about to put into effect a 14% increase in garbage-collection fees. The reason: the Internet. Well, not exactly the Internet itself, but on-line shopping and its attendant packaging.

As so-called brick-and-mortar stores lose business to Internet merchants, the increase in the waste & recycle stream is increasing proportionately. Cardboard, cellophane, polystyrene, clamshell containers, plastic shipping pillows are overwhelming recycling centers. San Francisco has banned plastic bags and foam trays, but the prohibitions don’t affect merchandise shipped from outside the city. (“The City” if you’re a SF resident.) The high-tech pedometer encased in its own packaging on the store shelf, is put inside more packaging to be shipped to you.

Recology, the company contracted to handle San Francisco’s waste – 625 tons of recycling per day – says it needs the increase to keep up with the volume and complexity of materials to be recycled. That reverse-osmosis-purified drinking water comes with three types of plastic: one for the bottle, another for the cap, and yes, a third for the label.

Summer of Love

If you’re going to San Francisco, put some flowers in your hair and head over to the de Young Museum for their “Summer of Love” exhibition.

The Summer of Love began on sunny January 14, 1967 in San Francisco. Thirty thousand, mostly young, people gathered in Golden Gate Park for the first Human Be-In.” With a far-off war raging and anti-Vietnam War protests escalating, the baby boomer generation was going to show the rest of the nation the way to peace and love: sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service provided the music. LSD was handed out and Hell’s Angels provided security. (The wisdom of hiring a motorcycle gang for security was demonstrated thirty months and sixty miles later at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival when they beat to death an over-exuberant fan in front of the stage where the Rolling Stones were performing.)

The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood became the perceived center of the groovy lifestyle. Thousands of young people flocked there for a summer of love. The Monterey Pop Festival, brainchild of record company executives and producers, with private security and trained volunteers, in the minds of many somehow epitomized this new way of living.

Fifty years later, hipsters have replaced the hippies; young people line the sidewalks, playing with smartphones while waiting for free buses to their high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley. Airbnb will help you find a place to stay in Haight-Ashbury.

The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll runs through August 20 at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.

Peace, Love and the Who

He Was No Dirty Harry

San Francisco detective Frank Bullitt got crossways with ambitious politician Walter Chalmers over the murder of a crucial organized-crime witness under the detective’s protection. Oh, okay, this didn’t really happen. It was a 1968 movie, “Bullitt,” with Steve McQueen in the title role. Lone eagle Bullitt refused to be part of Chalmers’s (Robert Vaughn) machinations. The movie also featured what many aficionados consider the greatest car chase ever filmed.

Steve McQueen himself drove the fastback Mustang, chasing bad guys in a Dodge Charger to their fiery end. (No stunt driver for McQueen. He also gave us the greatest movie motorcycle chase.) The iconic Mustang disappeared shortly after filming ended. McQueen reportedly wanted to buy it, but it could not be found. The car recently turned up in a Mexican junkyard. No one knows where it has been for the last forty-nine years or why it was in Mexico. Experts claim the VIN confirms it is the authentic car. Estimates are that the car, when restoration is finished, could have a value in excess of a million dollars.


Have That Sinking Feeling?

Millennium TowerThe Millennium Tower rises 645 feet above San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood. Umm, make that 643 feet 8 inches. Since the building opened in 2009, it has sunk sixteen inches. Oh, and it’s tilting two inches at its base – fifteen inches at the top… so far. Anchoring it to compressed sand eighty feet below ground instead of bedrock a hundred feet deeper may not have been such a good idea. Owners of the 400 luxury condominiums – local hero Joe Montana is one – have filed a class-action suit against the developers. Of course the developers point the cause of the problem somewhere else: excavation for the adjacent Transbay Transit Center.

San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence
San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence

Along with the building itself, values of the residences are sinking: the asking price of a one-bedroom unit was recently slashed from $3.8 million to $3.6 million. So far there are no takers.