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Friday, March 26, 2010

Renewal of San Francisco Cable Car

Passengers will be redirected from San Francisco cable cars to buses starting in January as the cable system is upgraded. Cable cars, the picture postcard element of the city tourism industry carry riders to and from fisherman's wharf up and down steep hills and to pier where boats depart for Alcatraz Island. $24 million is spent by San Francisco municipal transportation agency on car's underground infrastructure and electrical systems. The municipal transportation agency expects that the upgrade will come to end by month of June.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Barcelona to play Chivas in San Francisco

NEW YORK (AP) — European champion Barcelona will play Mexico's Chivas Guadalajara in San Francisco on Aug. 8 in the final game of the Spanish team's three-match U.S. preseason tour.

The game at Candlestick Park is part of a doubleheader that opens with a Major League Soccer game between San Jose and Columbus.

Barcelona also plays the Los Angeles Galaxy on Aug. 1 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and is at the Seattle Sounders on Aug. 5.

Barcelona and Chivas have met twice before in recent U.S. friendlies; 1-1 in 2006 at Los Angeles, and Barcelona won 5-2 last year in Chicago.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

San Francisco Juneteenth Festival

June 20th and 21st, 2009 marks the 59th Annual San Francisco Juneteenth Festival, the largest gathering of African-Americans in northern California. It is the most respected brand name among the more than 440,000 black households in the Bay Area because of the historical significance of the observance and the traditions that have been developed locally.


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San Francisco International Airport to Receive Stimulus Money

The San Francisco International Airport is slated to receive $15 million dollars in federal stimulus money for a new baggage handling system. The new system will lessen the time passengers wait to check-in their luggage while improving security. The plans for a new baggage handling system was announced Thursday along with the announcement that SFO would receive the federal dollars to fund the project.

The funds are part of the American recovery and Investment Act which was passed by Congress earlier this year. This new system will allow passengers to not only bypass the Transportation Administration Security screening station but will also reduce repeat bag scans and physical searches and use a state of the art explosive detection device. This new system is great news for San Francisco tourists and will aid in decreasing their travel time and increasing their time spent touring the city, wine country and sightseeing.


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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Handmade Products Abound at Summer 2009 San Francisco Show

More than 100 exhibitors featuring handcrafted products will showcase their work at the upcoming summer edition of the San Francisco International Gift Fair, which runs August 8-11 at the Moscone Convention Center.

"Handcrafted resources can be found in each of the six neighborhoods of the show," says Aubin Wilson, show director. "This summer's market features accomplished makers and artisans from the United States and abroad. We will present a collection of individual and production craft in all media and across a myriad of product categories including tabletop, ceramics, textiles, home decor, jewelry, apparel, stationery and more."

Exhibitors offering handcrafted goods include: Kat Soto (handcrafted dolls); or tables and lamps made from reclaimed wood by Bitters of Seattle (tables and lamps made from reclaimed wood): Household decorations from Cody Foster (household decorations); Gather Studios (glass pendants, "quoteable quotes" stones or hand-painted salt & pepper shakers): Dahlias & Pears (elegant stationery and cards); and Libra Knits (hand knitted hats for babies.

"This is very much a show where artists have center stage," Wilson explains. "There are artisans from around the world who will be participating in the show, including The Pacific Indie Craft Collective, a group of artists from Portland, Oregon and along with many first time exhibitors such as UP ‘N ATOM, a handcrafted soap maker from San Francisco and The Martinez family from Oaxaca, Mexico who will present their line of Zapotec rugs."


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GreenRoad Wins San Francisco Business Times' Green Business Award

REDWOOD SHORES, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- GreenRoad, a global pioneer in improving driving behavior, announced that it has been named the winner in the San Francisco Business Times' Green Business Awards, in the transportation category. The company received the award at an awards reception held at the Hilton San Francisco, June 11.

"We are honored to accept this award and acknowledgement of our hard work toward improving driving behavior and reducing vehicle emissions," said Dan Steere, CEO of GreenRoad. "We appreciate being able to contribute to San Francisco's leadership in green innovation, and already are working with other great cities and states who are following suit."

"GreenRoad was one of 15 exceptional companies who received the Green Business Award out of a pool of more than 200 nominations," said Mary Huss, publisher, San Francisco Business Times. "GreenRoad sets the bar high for green innovation, providing solutions that not only can save the environment, but also save companies money and save lives. Companies like GreenRoad are the engine for economic growth."

GreenRoad's service combines patented in-vehicle technology with integrated Web-based applications that continuously rate driving skills and behavior, provide drivers feedback as they drive and sustain behavior improvements through constant reinforcement. Sensors analyze up to 120 separate types of driving events. Drivers receive in-vehicle feedback in the form of a red-yellow-green LED display.

The San Francisco Business Times' Green Business Awards are designed to honor the leaders and entrepreneurs in green business, clean technology, energy conservation and alternative energy, as well as innovators and champions of green and sustainable business. Winners were announced in 15 categories, selected from 29 finalists.


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S.F. to impose fines for tossing food scraps

Mandatory composting part of city's plan to eliminate landfill waste by 2020

SAN FRANCISCO - Trash collectors in San Francisco will soon be doing more than just gathering garbage: They'll be keeping an eye out for people who toss food scraps out with their rubbish.

San Francisco this week passed a mandatory composting law that is believed to be the strictest such ordinance in the nation. Residents will be required to have three color-coded trash bins, including one for recycling, one for trash and a new one for compost — everything from banana peels to coffee grounds.

The law makes San Francisco the leader yet again in environmentally friendly measures, following up on other green initiatives such as banning plastic bags at supermarkets.

Food scraps sent to a landfill decompose fast and turn into methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas. Under the new system, collected scraps will be turned into compost that helps area farms and vineyards flourish. The city eventually wants to eliminate waste at landfills by 2020.

Chris Peck, the state's Integrated Waste Management Board spokesman, said he wasn't aware of an ordinance as tough as San Francisco's. Many cities, including Pittsburgh and San Diego, require residents to recycle yard waste but not food scraps. Seattle requires households to put scraps in the compost bin or have a composting system, but those who don't comply aren't fined.

"The city has been progressive, and they've been leaders and it appears that they're stepping out of the pack again," he said.

Fines to be enforced in 2010
San Francisco officials said they aren't looking to punish violators harshly.

Waste collectors will not pick through anyone's garbage, said Robert Reed, a spokesman for Sunset Scavenger Co., which handles the city's recyclables. If the wrong kind of materials are noticed while a bin is being emptied, workers will leave what Reed called "a love note," to let customers know they are not with the program.

"We're not going to lock you up in jail if you don't compost," said Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom who proposed the measure that passed Tuesday. "We're going to make it as easy as possible for San Franciscans to learn how to compost."

A moratorium on imposing fines will end in 2010, after which repeat offenders like individuals and small businesses generating less than a cubic yard of refuse a week face fines of up to $100.

Businesses that don't provide the proper containers face a $500 fine.

Proponents: Others will follow SF's lead

Sean Elsbernd, one of the two supervisors who opposed the proposition that passed 9-2, said the measure was "over-the-top" and that calls to his office Wednesday were critical of the new law.

"This is just going to aggravate and aggrieve homeowners who are doing their best," said Elsbernd.

But proponents say it is important to get people's attention about the importance of keeping those biodegradable materials out of landfills.

Ballard predicted that recycling food scraps eventually will seem as ho-hum as saving aluminum cans and newspapers.

"That used to seem like such a chore," he said. "Now we do it every day."

Newsom was expected to sign the measure if the board passes it in a final vote next week.


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Monday, June 15, 2009

San Francisco Approves Nation's Toughest Recycling Law

Intent on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, San Francisco officials this week approved an aggressive expansion of the city's recycling program, requiring all residents and businesses to separate recyclable materials and food waste from garbage that winds up in landfills. Every home and commercial operation will now be required to sort its refuse into three different bins-blue for recycling, green for compost, and black for trash-or else face fines by the city. Residents could be hit with $100 penalties, and businesses up to $500, for not placing refuse in the correct bin. City officials insist the fines will only come as a last resort after numerous warnings are issued first.

City leaders hope the program will reduce by two-thirds the 600,000 tons of garbage San Francisco dumps annually into landfills, by redirecting plastic bottles, cans, and food waste to reusable operations. A study conducted of the city's garbage found 36% of San Francisco's waste can be used as compost, and another 31% is recyclable. Food waste in particular is a problem in landfills, because as it decomposes it produces methane, one of the heaviest gases helping to exacerbate global warming.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said the ultimate goal of the city's recycling program is to completely stop sending refuse to landfills or incinerators by 2020.


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San Francisco airport to get new $15M for baggage system

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco International Airport is getting $15 million in federal stimulus money for a new baggage handling system that officials say will speed up the check-in process and improve security.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the funding for a new inline baggage handling system Thursday during a tour of the airport. The money is coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed by Congress earlier this year.

Officials say the new baggage system will eliminate the need for passengers to walk their checked luggage to a Transportation Security Administration screening station. It also has enhanced explosive detection technology and is expected to reduce repeat bag scans and physical searches.


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San Francisco Zoo opens up lion and tiger house, but won't show off feedings

The San Francisco Zoo has reopened its Lion House to the public for the first time in about two years, zoo officials announced today.

The Lion House, home to Siberian and Sumatran tigers, African lions and snow leopards, opened Thursday afternoon and will remain open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for public viewing, according to the zoo.

Zoo Executive Director Tanya Peterson said the opening was to commemorate the zoo's 80th anniversary this year, and because of its popularity with visitors.

"The Zoo's mission is to connect people with wildlife, and the Lion House provides visitors with that personal connection with these majestic animals," Peterson said.

Public big cat feedings will remain closed to the public and will be done in the morning before the zoo opens "to provide them a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere," the zoo said.

The zoo's big cat feedings were first discontinued after a December 2006 incident in which a female zookeeper was bitten and clawed, then reopened briefly in September 2007, and discontinued again after the Dec. 25, 2007, fatal mauling of a zoo visitor by an escaped tiger.


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Carnaval San Francisco 2009

Faviola Medina wore an ornate costume as part of the Xiuhcoatl danza azteca group. The annual Carnaval parade down 24th Street and Mission Streets drew thousands of spectators despite the cold temperatures Sunday morning May 24, 2009.


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Friday, June 12, 2009

The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee

This Tony® award-winning hit musical recently closed on Broadway after nearly 1,200 performances. The hilarious comedy celebrates the mania of competition as the funniest and sardonically nerdy contestants compete for the Spelling Bee title. Six wacky misfits strive to define themselves apart from their crazy families as they confront the pitfalls of puberty. The quirky youngsters discover themselves as they vie for selection in this witty and wise Broadway hit about coming of age on stage!


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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

San Francisco Bachata International Festival July 16-19, 2009

This upcoming weekend will feature bachateros from all over the world in the greatest city in the world - San Francisco! S.F. Bachata Festival is a 4-day dance festival focusing on Bachata and various art forms such as Tango, Merengue, cha cha cha, Salsa, Martial Arts, Lap Dancing, Fitness and Kizomba.


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Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Sidewalks of San Francisco

Coming off a weekend in which New York City gave one of the most famous stretches of street in the world to pedestrians, we're going to San Francisco to take a walk with Streetsblog Network member Pedestrianist. They've got a post on the inadequacy of that city's sidewalks -- and a few very simple suggestions for improvements:

While some neighborhoods in this city have held onto luxuriously wide sidewalks, they are almost all dissected by arterial roads. That is, streets that were re-engineered after the rise of auto-centrism to serve as expressways for large volumes of car traffic. Since these streets tend to be not much wider than average, the extra road space devoted to cars usually comes at the expense of pedestrians.

The intersection of Potrero Avenue and 16th Street is one of the worst. This is a major transfer point for several Muni lines (37,572 people ride the 9, 22, 33, and 53 lines every day). As people dash between buses, McDonalds and the Potrero shopping center, they jostle for limited space with each other and with speeding traffic.

The layout of the intersection hampers pedestrian flow and lowers the quality of this space. This broad square enjoys lots of sunshine and great views of downtown and Twin Peaks. This is a historic spot, where Joe DiMaggio played with the San Francisco Seals. But it's a miserable place, to be avoided even by those who pass through out of necessity; and it doesn't have to be that way.

Pedestrianist goes on the submit a humble proposal for change that includes bus stop and corner bulbouts -- a relatively cheap and easy solution that would provide significant relief.


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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Crown Memorial State Beach and Shoreline Trail

On the southern shore of Alameda is Crown Memorial State Beach, whose long shoreline looks across the bay to San Francisco and San Bruno Mountain. At the western end is horseshoe-shaped Crab Cove, a perfect spot for exploring tide pools and watching shorebirds. From there, you can walk 2.5 miles along the Shoreline Trail to the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary, a salt marsh at the eastern end. Long a popular Bay Area destination for its inviting water and warm sands, this beach has been the setting for amusement parks, carnivals, balloon rides and prize fights. The park is named after its champion, state Assemblyman Robert W. Crown.
Crab Cove

Start your outing at the Crab Cove Visitor Center (1252 McKay Ave.). This warm and friendly wooden building, often filled with schoolchildren, offers an 800-gallon aquarium filled with marine creatures, hands-on exhibits and a well-stocked bookstore.

Walk down to the Crab Cove Marine Reserve. During low tide, a special wheelchair-accessible ramp and viewing path leads you right down to the water, where you can almost touch the barnacles. This is a protected area; collecting or disturbing marine life is not allowed.

Depending upon the tide and the season, you may see brown pelicans, grebes, mallards, buffleheads and shorebirds such as sandpipers, dowitchers, willets and egrets.
Crown Beach

As you walk east along the shore (water on your right) to start along the Shoreline Trail, you enter an area filled with picnic benches, barbecue pits and freshwater lagoons. Canada geese and ground squirrels are everywhere. The main entrance to the beach (off Otis Drive and Eighth Street) offers wheelchair-accessible changing rooms and restrooms. Enjoy the views of San Francisco across the bay, especially from the City View picnic area.

Continuing on, Shoreline Trail may look like an ordinary sidewalk, but it's a multiuse path: You'll see cyclists too. To your left, across Shoreline Drive, are homes and apartments; to your right are dunes covered with native plants, such as California poppies and salvia, as well as the invasive ice plant, wild radish and dandelion. Frequent boardwalks lead across the dunes to the sandy beach: You can choose between the paved trail and the sand.
Getting hungry?

Past Willow Street on your left is South Shore Shopping Center, where you can stock up on lunch supplies for a picnic or stop for a bite at a cafe.
Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary

At Park Street, the beach ends as you come to the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary, a marsh area that is home to many birds, including the endangered California clapper rail. Shortly before Broadway, a wheelchair-accessible overlook lets you gaze across the marshes. If you brought a picnic, this is a great spot for it.

The bright dense cordgrass that you see (Spartina alterniflora) is a fiercely invasive species that is marching through salt marshes around much of San Francisco Bay. A major eradication effort is currently under way. Past Broadway, the trail ends, but you can continue your walk on the mostly dirt path that continues along the marshland all the way to the Bay Farm Island Bridge.
Things to Know

The Crab Cove Visitor Center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The parking fee in the Crab Cove lot is $5 from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Dogs on leash are permitted on the grassy areas and on the Shoreline Trail but not on the beach.

Fishing from the shore is permitted. Persons 16 and older must have a California state fishing license.


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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Loving San Francisco Botanical Garden to death

Butterflies are free, but it takes considerable funds to support the plants pollinated by these beauties at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. In fact, it takes $1 million a year to maintain the 23 gardens covering 55 acres that constitute one of the undisputed treasures of Golden Gate Park.

The city of San Francisco helps support the garden, as does the nonprofit San Francisco Botanical Garden Society; however, as in every other area of our civic life, funds available to help maintain the garden have shrunk substantially.

Those who resist any charge claim they love the garden and want unlimited access to it for everyone, including out-of-towners who would not blink at paying a much lower admission charge than the one, for example, that gains entry into the nearby California Academy of Sciences. Virtually all other major botanical gardens in the United States are supported by admission fees.

Without some revenue, special features of the garden will be compromised if not eliminated. This includes care of rare and endangered species. It also includes outreach to more than 10,000 San Francisco schoolchildren who visit the garden each year.

Because of San Francisco's unique topography and location, the garden is able to nurture plant assemblages adapted to a remarkable range of climate conditions. In the Ancient Plant Garden, the pathway through greenery both glorious and strange is laid out according to major epochs of earth history: a walk through this garden is a walk through evolution. The garden is also great for bird-watching. The 11 city gardeners who keep things watered, weeded, and thriving in the garden provide other vital services. The garden is a de facto laboratory for integrated pest management strategies - that is, chemical-free ways to minimize bug and fungus damage - solutions found here are adopted in open spaces by the city. Nobody wants to have to pay for something previously gotten for free. But a $7 charge to tourists and other visitors is minimal for the vital services, as well as aesthetic pleasures, the garden provides. There are plenty of other beautiful green spaces to wander through in Golden Gate Park; these unique collections need special care. We all love the garden. Let's not love it to death.


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Hosts 23rd Annual Young at Art Festival

The Visual and Performing Arts Office of the San Francisco Unified School District unveils Young at Art; a nine-day celebration of student creativity in visual, literary, media, and performing arts hosted by the de Young through May 24. For the past twenty-three years, this unique San Francisco event (formerly San Francisco Youth Arts Festival) has been a point of destination for families, teachers, artists, and community members in the Bay Area. The San Francisco Unified School District's groundbreaking Arts Education Master Plan, which originated from the programming of Young at Art, promotes the equity and access of the arts in education for all students K–12.

Over 9,000 children from 250 schools throughout San Francisco actively participate in Young at Art 2009. Of these participants, 2,000 youth are showcased through the visual art exhibition, live performances on stage, and through literary and media arts. Over 150 volunteers help organize Young at Art events and approximately 15,000 people are expected to attend the festival over the course of the nine days. All students in San Francisco’s public, private, independent, and parochial schools are eligible to participate in Young at Art and all activities are free for the public.


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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

31st Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival

World Arts West presents the 31st Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, an annual multi-cultural event featuring performances from talented and top ethnic dance companies accompanied by world-class musicians. Be inspired by the beauty of different cultures from various countries.

Kariktan and Parangal dance companies are the two Filipino groups that will be performing at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco. Both companies' main goal is to promote, preserve and present the Filipino culture through its dances and music.

Kariktan Dance Company will be performing on weekend 2, June 13 & 14 presenting three pieces. First is portraying the historic immigration to the Philippines via outriggers with colorful sails. Second, a pre-nuptial dance with complex footwork and gestures imitating that of a fish, and third, a dance from the island of Mindanao featuring a princess wooed by her prince.

Watch Parangal Dance Company on weekend 4, June 27 & 28 as they present different dances performed during tribal gatherings of the Lumad (natives) of Mindanao. The piece is inspired by the movement of real and mythical birds and is ccompanied by live kulintang ensembles. It is also Parangal Dance Company's first festival appearance.

Where : Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, San Francisco

Time : Saturdays at 2 & 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.

When : June 6 & 7; 13 & 14; 20 & 21; 27 & 28, 2009

Ticket price : $22 - $44


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Friday, May 15, 2009

San Francisco really is the Golden City that has it all

Are you ready to leave your heart in San Francisco? When Tony Bennett recorded his signature hit almost 50 years ago, San Francisco was quickly emerging as one of the world's great cities.

The city had been slightly overshadowed by the Hollywood glitz of Los Angeles for a number of years, but the 1960s saw San Francisco begin to grow in stature.

Whether it was the huge success of the wines of Napa Valley, the computer revolution ushered in by Silicon Valley or establishing a home for West Coast hippie counterculture in Haight Ashbury and Berkeley, San Francisco has scarcely been out of the limelight ever since.

More recently the city has led the way in cuisine, theatre and fashion (it is the home of Levi's jeans).

But what makes San Francisco so appealing to visitors is that everything is extremely accessible. This is a place waiting to be discovered on foot, by bike, boat, bus - or, of course, by cable car (can there ever have been a more joyous form of public transport?).

The city may be famously hilly - look out for the stunning views over the bay towards Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge - but it is surprisingly compact.

Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square - all on the waterfront - are among the best known tourist sites. Here you will find an intriguing mix of good places to eat, tourist shops and street performers. From here you can stroll off and discover the rest of this fascinating city.

Better still, take a cable car and cling on as you are pulled up the steep streets lined with exquisite 19th-century townhouses. Around Union Square, for example, you can find fabulous shopping - Market Street has the excellent San Francisco Center shopping mall.

For a real touch of the exotic, head for Chinatown and find a restaurant for an unforgettable meal (and see what the future holds with your after-meal fortune cookie).

Hire a car or take a tour and head out of the city to discover fabulous places within an easy drive. Napa Valley is a favourite destination - also worth a look is nearby Sonoma.

Unmissable San Francisco

Golden Gate bridge: a stroll or bike ride across this iconic bridge is one of the must-dos when you visit San Francisco: there are few vistas on earth that can compete with the view from here.

Alcatraz: people used to be desperate to escape from this notorious former prison - now they queue for an excellent tour.

Golden Gate Park: be sure to spend some time here, and, in particular, see the amazing new academy of sciences and De Young museum.


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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Five Signs that it's Spring in San Francisco

Spring has sprung, and unlike most of the country, San Francisco's weather isn't the best indicator of the fairest season's arrival. Instead, we have to look a little closer to find differences between now and a 70 degree day in January.

1. It's Crazy Costume Season!
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Easter Celebration in Dolores Park marked the beginning of what I like to call "costume season." Other signs of this most colorful time of year include the How Weird Street Faire, the Cinco de Mayo festival, and, of course, Bay to Breakers.

2. Increasingly Crowded Beaches
The weather is more or less the same as it was a few months ago, but for some reason the word "Spring" tends to send people scurrying off to the beach, only to find that it's freezing and windy once they get there. And yes, I'm planning a beach day next week.

3. Tourists Venturing Into Your Neighborhood
A slightly warmer clime means tourists galore. Most of them can be found in the usual spots: Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, etc. But the growing mass of tourists means that some of them will inevitably get lost or overly adventurous and end up at, say, the corner of 24th and Mission looking utterly bewildered. Not to worry; once they see the mass of hipsters and Mexicans, most of them will retreat back to their hotels.

4. A Funny, Slightly Suffocating Smell
Sure, the fires are only in Santa Barbara now, but it's only a matter of time before they spread over to our neck of the woods. And once they do, expect that familiar burning smell. And running up some of our city's larger hills without wheezing? Forget it.

5. A Mass Influx of Houseguests
That's right--it's not just random tourists cramming into our city right now. Your mom, dad, sister, and best friend are all angling to get some space on the couch now that it's stopped raining. Get ready to play tour guide for the next few weeks.


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Sunday, May 10, 2009

"Snow" wins award at San Francisco filmfest

"Snow" is a joint production of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, France, and Iran, and has already won the Cannes Critics' Week Grand Prix, the International Critics' Week of the film festival in 2008.

The story is set in the small isolated village of Slavno four years after the war in Bosnia. A government delegation comes to Slavno, offering the villagers money to leave the village. But the villagers, mostly women, find it hard to abandon their homes and decide to fight for their freedom and the survival of Slavno.

In addition, Babak Amini's "Angels Die in the Soil" received the award at the Short Narrative section of the festival. Amini had already worked as assistant director for Bahman Qobadi in his productions "A Time for Drunken Horses" and "Turtles Can Fly."

The Founder's Directing Award of this year was presented to Francis Ford Coppola. Robert Redford was also this year's recipient of the Peter J. Owens (1936-91) award, which honors an actor whose work exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity.


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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Umpqua opens international division in San Francisco

Umpqua Bank opened an international banking division based in San Francisco to help its customers involved with international trade.

The office will serve the needs of bank customers at all Umpqua Bank branches.

Umpqua has 150 branches in Washington, Oregon and Northern California, with 21 branches in the counties of El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo.

"Many businesses choose to bank with a local bank that is invested in the community, yet also have a need for international banking services. By establishing an international banking division, our customers now have access to financial resources with global reach," said Ray Davis, president of Umpqua Bank. "We are pleased to welcome Anthony Oriti to Umpqua and are confident that his wealth of expertise in international trade services will set Umpqua apart from the field in this exciting move to connect our community based services to the global community."

Oriti is an international trade veteran with more than 30 years experience. Before coming to Umpqua, Oriti was a senior manager of international divisions for several banks, including Bank of America.


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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Historic preservation is about San Francisco's future

Until this year, San Francisco was one of the few cities in the nation without a Historic Preservation Commission. A clear majority of San Franciscans voted to establish a new Historic Preservation Commission this past November.

So let's take a deep breath and let the new commission do its work. Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius' April 30 column, "Historic preservation may hamstring S.F.'s future," might have benefited by conversations with few more folk. Historic preservation is a useful planning tool that every city uses to enhance livability and to sustain and adaptively reuse underutilized buildings and places such as San Francisco's Ferry Building and Plaza, now transformed into an international tourist destination and Farmers Market.

The regulations and restrictions in place with the new commission are really not much different than with the former and outdated Landmarks Advisory Board. The legislation does not "make it easier to declare a neighborhood a historic district." It offers different avenues to start the nomination process (allowing citizens to get signatures on a petition, for example). All nominations must be vetted as before: approved by the new commission, then go to the Board of Supervisors.

Previously, they had to be approved by the Planning Commission and then go to the Board of Supervisors. The level of review and analysis is no less. Additionally, historic districts are not "declared" if the majority of property owners in the proposed district do not agree with it.

It is absolutely incorrect that contributing buildings to historic districts will be "nearly impossible to change, tear down or renovate." They will have to get approval from the Historical Preservation Commission instead of the Planning Commission. Property owners will not have to visit both commissions, and applications for permits to alter contributing buildings will not automatically be rejected.

The Historic Preservation Commission's decisions are based on nationally accepted Standards for Rehabilitation as outlined by the National Park Service.

As in every other town and city in the United States, historic districts are based upon professionally compiled surveys, done both by the planning department and expert historians. Contributing buildings are not determined solely by date, but are analyzed in terms of context.

Oftentimes, the very buildings preservationists aim to save are ones important to broad cultural communities (history, locations where turning-point events took place in minority history, places of worship or community centers important to cultural groups, neighborhoods with a long history as a densely populated area for a specific culture or ethnicity). To imply that preservationists aim to preserve structures and places only important to a white middle class is offensive and narrow-minded.


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Sunday, May 03, 2009

San Francisco Cinco de Mayo Festival: For kids

If you would like to celebrate Cinco de Mayo without the risk of your kids getting splashed by overflowing margaritas and beer, look no further than San Francisco's Dolores Park this Saturday.

The Mission Neighborhood Centers, a community service organization that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, presents the Cinco de Mayo Festival, which is free, kid-friendly and alcohol-free. You'll find plenty of activities to keep your kids entertained, including arts and crafts, a soccer skills camp and tours of nearby Mission Dolores. Mascot Scooby Doo will be on hand for high fives and picture taking. (Who knew he was Latino?) And three lucha libre wrestlers - Vaquero Fantasma, El Amante and Golden Lion - will pose for pictures and sign autographs. "They're really popular," said event coordinator Coco Corona.

The main stage will feature Aztec and Mayan dance troupes in the morning, Ensambles Ballet Folklorico de San Francisco and mariachi bands between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., plus a magician. In the late afternoon, things will start to sizzle with salsa band Futuro Picante, featuring Jose Leon, the Latin pop of Alfa-Omega-Añez, mariachi soloist Berta Olivia and, capping the day, Zhono, Los Angeles rockers of Mexican descent who sing in Spanish.

In addition to offering fun and entertainment, festival organizers have an agenda: to promote health. So this year there will be Health, Education and Going Green sections in addition to the regular vendors and food booths. The American Society of Hypertension is hosting a Health Care Pavilion and will offer free health screenings, including blood pressure, BMI (body mass index, calculated from a person's weight and height), glucose and cholesterol testing with on-site results and referrals. They'll be giving away free pedometers (to encourage exercise) as long as supplies last. And all health instructions will be available in both English and Spanish.

For the record, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the day in 1862 when Mexican soldiers and citizens of the city of Puebla halted an invasion by the French army. Last year the Cinco de Mayo Festival welcomed about 4,000 invaders to Dolores Park. Organizers expect an even bigger turnout this year, especially because Oakland is not holding its festival.


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Friday, May 01, 2009

Lost World finds sound in San Francisco

Every year, the San Francisco International Film Festival screens a silent movie as part of their showcase of new and innovative cinema. This year - during the Festival's 52nd annual event - tradition holds.

On Tuesday, May 5th, the SFIFF will screen The Lost World (1925). This early sci-fi film, based on the 1912 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel of the same name, concerns an expedition to an isolated plateau in South America where prehistoric animals, including dinosaurs, still live! (Arthur Conan Doyle is, of course, best known for creating Sherlock Holmes, though he also wrote a handful of worthwhile science fiction stories including The Lost World.)

Directed by Harry O. Hoyt, this 100 minute film stars Wallace Beery (as Professor Challenger), Bessie Love and Lewis Stone. Doyle's novel has been adapted to film many times - including versions in 1960, 1992, and 1998. This version - the first adaption -has been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Today, The Lost World is Hoyt's best known film. It was popular in its day, and was hailed for its stop-motion animation. That animation was created by Willis O'Brien, a pioneer in the field who would go on to special effects immortality for his work on King Kong (1933). Within the annals of film history, it's been suggested that The Lost World was a practice run for the many techniques which shine in King Kong and later works.

In some ways, the dinosaurs are the stars of The Lost World. The film features some amazing stop-motion sequences. And the scenes near the end of the film, when a captured dinosaur roams through modern day London, are impressive.

This San Francisco International Film Festival presentation will take place at the historic Castro Theater. Accompanying the film will be Los Angeles-based musical group Dengue Fever, who will perform an original score. According to the SFIFF program, "Dengue Fever's score will playfully and lovingly evoke worlds both known and unknown and elevate the The Lost World’s offbeat humor and singular beauty."

Dengue Fever's unusual style has been described as a Cambodian / American musical hybrid. However, psychedelic rock, Bollywood glitz, spaghetti Western twang, ska, klezmer, funk and Ethiopian jazz all contribute to the band's unique sound. Ch'hom Nimol's powerful singing voice, in Khmer and more recently in English, is a luminous vibrato that adds exotic ornamentations to her vocal lines –while complementing the band's driving sound. That exotic sound should meld beautifully with the exotic story told in The Lost World.


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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ballet polishes up Balanchine's 'Jewels'

Amazing how rapidly George Balanchine's 1967 "Jewels" has become a global ballet experience.

Until 15 years ago, New York City Ballet was the only company to dance the first full-evening "plotless" ballet; just 10 years ago, "Jewels" had never been seen on the West Coast. Today keepers of the Balanchine faith travel the world tending to the spirit of "Jewels" - Miami City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, the Kirov, the list goes on.

Fresh from coaching their "Emeralds" roles at Seattle's Pacific Northwest Ballet, Balanchine ballerinas Violette Verdy and Mimi Paul have migrated south and lent their wisdom to the San Francisco Ballet production of "Jewels" that opened Saturday. To say "Emeralds" sparkles thanks to their coaching would make a deeply soul-enriching ballet sound merely pretty.

"Emeralds" is the most poetic of the three sections that make up "Jewels," because of the metaphorical suggestiveness Balanchine drew from his selections of Fauré music. When Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith took a step on each quarter-note in the "walking" duet Saturday, their movements seemed dictated by the tragic march of time, an idea reinforced when a pause in arabesque brings ticking-clockwork arms and legs (and a brisk andante tempo from conductor Martin West). In the opening pas de deux, the corps de ballet was not just a backdrop of 10 beautiful women, but a force of fate pushing Lorena Feijoo and Seth Orza (on loan from Pacific Northwest Ballet) apart.

Earlier San Francisco Ballet performances in 2002 and 2003 were not devoid of that poetry, but Saturday's interpretation brought new insights in the female solos. Each became a richly imaginative reverie; Tan and Feijoo seemed to be doing the steps not for the audience, but for attendees at a party only they could see swirling around them. Feijoo's smile over a raised shoulder looked like a reaction to compliments from an invisible admirer. Yet none of this appeared at odds with Balanchine's scorn for affectation. Clearly his famous directive, "Don't think, dear, just do," oversimplified his desires.

The other two panels of "Jewels" had more verve and crispness than ever, thanks to a constellation of perfect casting. I have never seen Vanessa Zahorian be naughty, but devilish Pascal Molat brought it out in her in "Rubies," where their interplay seemed a spontaneous response to Stravinsky's teasing Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. The even more surprising breakthrough was for Elana Altman. A stately but often inward dancer, she relished her power in the "tall girl" role, all swaying hips and knowing smile.

In "Diamonds," to the last three movements of Tchaikovsky's "Polish" symphony, Sofiane Sylve underlined the ballerina's nearly untouchable self-sufficiency, a quality very much embedded in the choreography, with Pierre-François Vilanoba privileged to follow after, waiting for any opportunity to lend his hand.

My only serious complaint is that San Francisco Ballet has adopted Tony Walton's astral backdrops - a scattering of stars crystallizing into chandelier formation has a particularly Liberace-like effect in "Diamonds." But the distraction is minimal with so many fine dancers in the corps glinting to catch your eye (and the powerfully fleet soloist Frances Chung dancing like a born principal in "Emeralds"). These dancers reveal why "Jewels" is now seen the world over - and why it should be seen again and again.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Emirates adds to San Francisco service

Amid a recession that is hitting air travel hard, Emirates Airlines said Tuesday it is expanding its service from San Francisco.

The high-end airline said it will begin daily non-stop service on routes between Dubai to San Francisco and Los Angeles starting May 1. The Dubai-based carrier already offers three weekly flights linking San Francisco and Los Angeles to the United Arab Emirates.

Emirates said it is able to expand service because it has additional planes delivered by Boeing Co.

“We have been very successful with our new West Coast routes in the past four to six months,” said Emirates senior vice president Nigel Page.

Global air travel is on the decline. Passenger traffic has declined 10.1 percent globally between February 2009 and February 2008.

Emirates flies to more than 100 cities around the world.


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Monday, April 20, 2009

Disney museum to open in San Francisco

For years, some of Walt Disney's most precious belongings have been locked away in a former Army storage building in San Francisco's Presidio.

Now, after nearly a decade of efforts by his eldest daughter, and help from the company that bears his name, Disney is getting his own museum, the first to focus solely on the life and work of the father of animated film.

Don't expect Disneyland north when the Walt Disney Family Museum opens in October in the historic Presidio. Instead what designers, Disney historians and family members, led by Diane Disney Miller, are planning is a $110 million museum filled with technology and artifacts chronicling the ups (and a few downs) of Disney's already much examined life.

The Disney showcase will help cement the Bay Area's reputation as the center of animation, said John Lasseter, a friend of Miller and chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. The Oscar-winning Lasseter began his animation career at Disney.

"Walt Disney has become synonymous with the Disney Company, and I think the museum will educate people and remind people it was the vision of one man," Lasseter said. "The Bay Area is so associated with technological innovation and it's applied here in so many different fields. Having the museum here will really celebrate not only his artistic achievements but his technological ones as well."

The Walt Disney Family Museum will have the unmistakable mark of his family foundation, the project's sponsor, which selected the location and in recent years has been on a mission to separate the public's image of the man from the company that he spawned.


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Friday, April 17, 2009

San Francisco International Film Festival

If there's one thing we've learned about the San Francisco International Film Festival over the past 52 years, it's that it isn't about to have any kind of midlife or identity crisis.

The reason is simple: So long as there are movies being made and people to watch them, folks in San Francisco will find a way to celebrate them, which ought to stretch far beyond the next 52 years.

First things first: This year's festival features 170 films from 62 countries playing Thursday through May 7.


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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Inside Green Day's Secret Show in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO — In its second guerrilla-style gig of the week, the rock band Green Day unveiled songs from its new album, "21st Century Breakdown," due in May. The band, which is from the Bay Area, booked the DNA Lounge, a 500-capacity club here, just 24 hours in advance and alerted fans six hours before the 10 p.m. start time. Tickets sold out in 20 minutes. The intimate space let the band - which routinely plays stadiums — get personal, with the members grabbing outstretched hands, taking requests and crowd surfing.

Billie Joe Armstrong, the singer and guitarist, vowed to play its new punk opera "from front to back"; the often melancholy songs chronicle the lives of a young couple living in the first, tumultuous years of this century. The second half of the show included songs from 2004's "American Idiot" and older hits, and the audience seemed grateful for the chance to sing along. At one point Mr. Armstrong seemed to forget some lyrics and brought a stunned female fan on stage to sing in his place. Mr. Armstrong, the drummer Tré Cool and the bassist Mike Dirnt occasionally seemed weary of playing their 1990s mega hits. After "Basket Case," Mr. Armstrong made his fingers into the shape of a gun and put them in his mouth.

Long after midnight the crowd filtered out into the street. Jonathan Pirro, 24, a student with a blue mohawk, clutched a drumstick tossed into the crowd by Tré Cool. "That had a wonderful feel of spontaneity," said Mr. Pirro, pumped up on seeing big stars in a small club. “The new album has this big, huge, sweeping feel and it just sounds like they're having more fun."

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