Is a rocky road ahead for Ocean Beach?

January 26, 2010

Opponents of plans to dump boulders along a badly eroded portion of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach could gain a week’s reprieve to propose alternative methods of protecting a threatened roadway and a major wastewater pipeline from erosion due to high surf and winter storms.

Although the city’s Department of Public works suggests installing a wall of rocks as an emergency measure to protect the Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard and the pipeline that carries the treated sewage of western San Francisco out to sea, Supervisor Rossi Mirkarimi – also a member of the powerful California Coastal Commission – said “armoring and revetment are not a good idea.”

Opponents of the rock revetment plan are concerned that it would adversely affect both the environment and the suitability of the area for surfing, but at great expense and without providing a long-term solution to erosion and rising sea levels.

Mirkarimi also indicated he was willing to consider putting off a Board of Supervisors vote on an emergency declaration that would clear the way for swift work on installing the rocks, which some beach users fear will only create erosion on other parts of Ocean Beach.

“I’m OK with it being held off a week,” although he understands DPW’s sense of urgency in seeking to protect the pipeline, Mirkarimi said.

Mirkarimi’s statement went over well at a packed house of more than 100 surfers and neighbors Monday night at the Park Chalet restaurant.

What isn’t clear at this point is how many of Mirkarimi’s colleagues also would support delaying the vote to confirm the emergency declaration. In any case, the wastewater pipeline is such an important piece of city infrastructure that concerns about losing it will weigh heavily with the members of the Board of Supervisors.

Winter storms and high surf have chewed away at Ocean Beach south of Sloat Boulevard, destroying as much as 75 feet of the coastal bluff adjacent to the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant. The San Francisco Department of Public Works has declared an emergency because of the erosion, and on Tuesday the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on confirming the declaration.

Ocean Beach spans four San Francisco local electoral districts: Supervisor Eric Mar’s District 1, Supervisor Carmen Chu’s District 4 and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd’s District 7. In addition, District 5’s Mirkarimi is a regional representative on the Coastal Commission, which has wide-ranging jurisdiction over development on the California coast.

Beach Chalet owner Lara Truppelli offered to collect opinions on the fate of the southern part of Ocean Beach and pass them on to the appropriate governmental authorities. She is collecting input at

To directly contact Mirkarimi and the San Francisco supervisors whose districts include parts of Ocean Beach:

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi: (415) 554-7630,

Supervisor Eric Mar: (415) 554-7410,

Supervisor Carmen Chu: (415) 554-7460,

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd: (415) 554-6516,

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Park Chalet to host meeting on Ocean Beach erosion

January 22, 2010

Following the closure of a portion of San Francisco’s Great Highway due to ocean erosion, users of Ocean Beach and neighborhood residents will have an opportunity to talk about the city’s plans to shore up the beach and protect the street and a nearby water-treatment system.

Ocean Beach erosion

A portion of San Francisco's Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard was closed to traffic in January after rainstorms and the Pacific Ocean ate away at an already eroded portion of Ocean Beach. Photo by Crescent Calimpong via Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco chapter.

A meeting is planned for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25 at Park Chalet, behind the Beach Chalet at 1000 Great Highway. The meeting will cover the erosion, potential methods to address it, and an official emergency declaration that could speed and simplify the process for implementng erosion-control measures.

According to the San Francisco chapter of the Surfrider Foundation:

The DPW Project Manager, Frank Filice will be there to discuss the emergency declaration, the short-term strategy, and a process for a long-term solution.

Everyone who has an interest in the preservation and the future of Ocean Beach is encouraged to attend. The emergency declaration will go before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for ratification the following day, Tuesday, January 26th. For questions or more information, please email the meeting organizer and Chair of the San Francisco Ocean Beach Vision Council: Lara Truppelli at

The Surfrider Foundation has established a blog dedicated to tracking news and information about erosion on Ocean Beach.

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Residents want alternatives studied in San Francisco aquifer plan

January 21, 2010

About 30 people braved the cold and rain Wednesday night to tell the San Francisco Planning Department what it should cover in an environmental study of a plan to pump millions of gallons of water per day from under the west side of the city.

The most common requests from speakers were for a clear explanation of alternatives to the Groundwater Supply Project, and for the city to lay out where an equivalent water supply would come from if the planned extraction of groundwater had to be interrupted or abandoned for any reason.

Joan Girardot asked planners to include clear alternatives to the GSP in the environmental study, including alternatives that would include not building the system at all. Girardot also asked for an assessment of the current state of the Westside Basin Aquifer, to act as a baseline reference against which to compare future impacts on the underground reservoir. In addition, she asked for the study to explain what measures the city would take to mitigate the inconvenience that neighborhood residents might experience during construction.

Dan Murphy of the Golden Gate Audubon Society asked planners to provide an “adaptive management plan” in case the pumping proved to have a negative effect on wildlife or the health of lakes connected to the aquifer.

The Planning Department will continue to collect written comments until Jan. 30.

More information about the Groundwater System Plan is available from the Planning Department (PDF).

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City plans new network of wells on west side of San Francisco

January 20, 2010

San Francisco is planning a groundwater well system that would draw millions of gallons a day from new and enlarged wells on the west side of the city, mixing the water with existing supplies for residents of western San Francisco to drink.

The proposed project is part of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s efforts to improve the safety and reliability of local water supplies.


Proposed Groundwater System Project

Six wells are planned as part of the project, from Lake Merced in the south to the northern edge of Golden Gate Park. Some new wells would be dug, while others would be modified to boost their pumping capacity. In addition, pipelines would be laid under neighborhood streets to get water from the wells to the recently renovated Sunset Reservoir at Ortega Street and 24th Avenue.

Neighborhood residents and businesses can weigh in on what kinds of environmental impacts the city should study before it launches the well project, starting tonight at a meeting in Golden Gate Park.

The Planning Department will hold a “scoping meeting” on the San Francisco Groundwater Supply Project at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Golden Gate Park Senior Center, 6101 Fulton St. at 37th Avenue. People will be able to tell the city what subjects it should study in its environmental-impact report on the project and how deep its analysis should be.

The department also will accept comments from the public in writing at the meeting or via mail, fax or email through Jan. 30.

More information about the San Francisco Groundwater Supply Project is available from the Planning Department (PDF).

Written comments should be sent to by mail to the San Francisco Planning Department, Attn: Bill Wycko, Environmental Review Officer, San Francisco Groundwater Supply Project Scoping Comments, 1650 Mission St., Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94103; by fax to (415) 558-6409; or by e-mail to

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Disclosure: My work with the Wild Equity Institute

January 19, 2010

I’ve been helping a San Francisco nonprofit organization establish itself on Twitter, and in the spirit of full disclosure I want to explain my relationship with the group.

The nonprofit I’m working with is called the Wild Equity Institute. You can find WildEquity’s Twitter account at Wild Equity’s mission is to build “a healthy and sustainable global community for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.” Wild Equity Institute logo

My work with Wild Equity has been done completely pro bono. That is, I received no compensation for it and I have no economic relationship with WEI. I think Wild Equity deserves the opportunity to be on Twitter and part of the reason I chose to help the group is that I previously knew its executive director, but the fact that I helped it get started on Twitter shouldn’t be construed as a blanket endorsement of everything the Wild Equity Institute does.

If you would like to know more about my work with the Wild Equity Institute, or if you are connected with a nonprofit organization that would like to know more about how to get into Twitter without a big investment of funds and staff time, please call me at 415-685-3428.

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Grading the Palin-Biden vice presidential debate

October 3, 2008

U.S. vice-presidential hopefuls Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden met Thursday for their only debate of the 2008 race. Who won the Palin-Biden debate? Did the candidates accomplish what their campaigns needed them to do?

Overall grades on the Palin-Biden debate itself

Sarah Palin B-minus

Joseph Biden B

I think it’s fair to say that Sarah Palin exceeded expectations by a long shot on Thursday. I wouldn’t say she aggressively attacked Joe Biden in the way that Politico reported she would, but she couched her early responses in emotional language that did a great job of reflecting the fears and frustrations that grip so many Americans now.

However, Palin seemed lost in parts of the latter half of the debate, which only strengthened my initial impressions about her. She did passably well on most of the policy questions — which, when combined with a strong performance in the first half of the debate, enabled her to come away with a B-minus. For someone who has had an awful two weeks in the media, including attacks from the right, this amounts to a very good grade.

Biden did well, too. His performance didn’t rate an “A,” but striving for that grade would have involved a significant risk of failure that just wouldn’t pencil out for a vice-presidential debate, particularly with Obama doing better than McCain in many polls.

Biden was brief — brief enough, anyway — and specific in his answers, and he treated Palin respectfully without appearing patronizing. He also scored some emotional points, showing that he can do as well in that regard as Palin can do on policy. However, sometimes he got too specific, and used jargon — not good for a TV audience of the general public. Overall, his grade reflects that he did the kind of job any experienced senator would do.

Grades on the success of the Palin-Biden debate in the broader context of the campaign

Sarah Palin B

Joseph Biden B-plus

Many people were expecting absurdity from Sarah Palin, but she didn’t give it to them. A really poor performance from the Republican vice-presidential nominee would have been a serious blow for John McCain, but Palin didn’t seem to do anything that would drive more voters away. On the other hand, she didn’t do any better than to allow the McCain campaign to hold its ground, and I don’t think she came across as someone who would make a credible president of the United States.

Joe Biden did a great job of hitting John McCain instead of Sarah Palin, particularly when he said that while McCain had been a maverick on some issues, they weren’t the “kitchen table” issues that touched the lives of most Americans. He also presented himself as a regular Joe done good — a guy whose son is going to Iraq and who knows just how lucky he is to have a good job and live in a nice house. But perhaps best for the Obama campaign, and in contrast to Palin, he showed that he could step in and be president of the United States if necessary.

Other views

As I did with the first McCain-Obama debate, I’ll turn to communications guru Bert Decker for a dissenting opinion. Decker believes Palin won the debate itself and helped the top of her ticket more than Biden did.

By the way, even though I disagree with parts of his analysis, Decker’s post on the debate is an example of what I consider a great blog entry. It comes from a source with expertise in the subject matter, it reads well, it provides unique opinion — and it’s brief enough to read quickly while providing enough information to make it worth passing on to other people.

Parting shots

CNN’s Approve-O-Meter looked better this time around. Trimming the graph to two lines (uncommitted male voters and uncommitted female voters) made it easier to read.  It looked like they zoomed in closer to the zero line, too, which helped — though the unfortunate side effect was that the approval lines sometimes reached the limits of the graph, which meant that it was impossible to tell just how big the approval ratings were.

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Read a complete Palin-Biden vice-presidential debate transcript here.

Will telecommuting kill the office tower?

September 24, 2008

Could the high-rise office buildings that dominate the skylines of many cities around the world be replaced with mixed-use structures utilizing solar power and offering green spaces and high-speed wireless connections?

Office high-rises such as these in San Francisco could be on their way out, according to a new report from the U.K.

Office high-rises such as these in San Francisco could be on their way out, according to a new report from the U.K.

According to the United Kingdom’s Sky News, that’s the prediction of a recent report on the future of urban Britain. The report suggests that mobile technologies, coupled with a desire among more workers to work from home and gain some free time during the day — plus a willingness among employers to encourage them to do it — could change the face of cities.

According the report, 13 percent of Londoners already work away from the office two days a week and 44 percent said their employers have allowed them to work from home.

Microsoft researcher James McCarthy put it this way, according to Sky News: “The UK’s landscape is being significantly redrawn. … Old-fashioned spaces will be replaced with green WiFi spots, and new multipurpose spaces will be erected which will combine apartments, offices, shops and cafes, making our cities a much more inspiring landscape to work in.” (Punctuation corrected by PretePress)

Office Towerblocks Will Vanish From City Skylines As Home Working Takes Over, Researchers Predict | Business | Sky News

Photo by m.john16 / Michael Larson, reproduced under Creative Commons license Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic.