September IssueJul

D8 Supervisor makes homelessness top priority

Mandelman with San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Pick Up Crew in the Castro collecting and disposing of used needles. (Photo Courtesy: Rafael Mandelman)


It’s been two months since I was sworn in as your District 8 Supervisor, and I wanted to update you on what we’ve been working on since taking office.




My office has been keeping track of every call, every email, and every visit from our constituents. Of the over 250 contacts we’ve received so far, the issue that comes up most often is homelessness. With thousands of people sleeping in parks, doorways and sidewalks every night the homelessness crisis impacts all of us, especially here in the Castro. That’s why I’ve made it my top priority.


On a search for solutions, our office has spent the past six weeks trying to gain a better understanding of what the City is currently doing to address homelessness, what works, and what needs to change. We’ve conducted over 20 site visits, tours, and meetings with homeless service providers, behavioral health workers, shelters, and city agencies. I joined the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s new Pick Up Crew in the Castro to collect and dispose of used needles. We found a handful on our walk, a tiny fraction of the 4120 syringes found by the Crew citywide over the span of a week. On our outreach walk with the Coalition on Homelessness, we learned that many people living on the streets face enormous difficulty navigating government assistance programs that would provide an income to help pay rent or buy groceries. At the 24-hour medical respite center in SoMa, we learned that 90 percent of clients there suffer from triple diagnoses of medical health, mental health, and substance abuse issues. At every stop on our route, the challenges were daunting but the success stories left me with hope. If there’s any city with the resources, talent, and compassion to make serious progress on getting people off the streets and into care, it’s San Francisco.


The Castro, in particular, needs to see clear progress around homelessness, so earlier this month my office convened a meeting with representatives from neighborhood community organizations including the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, Castro CBD and Castro Merchants, as well as the leaders of the SFPD, Department of Public Works, Department of Public Health and Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. The assembled departments will be working with our office and neighborhood leaders to produce a plan to resolve recurring homeless encampments and deal with the mentally ill and drug addicted individuals we see on the streets of the Castro.


Retail Vacancy


As I walk up Church Street and along Market Street past dozens of closed and boarded up storefronts, it is clear that Upper Market retail is suffering. Prior to taking office I worked with Castro and Duboce Triangle community leaders to organize a meeting with Veritas regarding the vacancies in their properties near Church and Market, and since getting elected I have remained focused on the issue of retail vacancies. Talking with neighbors, business owners, and property owners I hear numerous reasons for these vacancies including high rents, impractical commercial space layouts, the “Amazon effect” and a never-ending city permitting process.


To address these issues I will be convening a series of meetings with stakeholder groups including small business owners, landlords and city departments to see what each of these groups need and can do to help fill our storefronts. I’m kicking this off in early September with a meeting of City agencies responsible for small business permitting to explore what we can do at the City level to remove unnecessary hurdles to opening a small business in the neighborhood.


Traffic Safety


I’m honored to serve as Chair of the Board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee. At my first committee meeting, a public hearing on traffic safety yielded a disturbing statistic: there are only 37 active traffic enforcement officers in San Francisco, down from 48 in 2017 and double that number back when the company was fully staffed. That means, on any given day, there may be fewer than 10 traffic enforcement officers deployed citywide.


Many Castro neighbors have emailed and called my office to share their concerns about safely navigating dangerous intersections like Market & 16th Street. Knowing how few officers are actually on the streets enforcing our traffic laws makes the situation feel all the more dire, particularly as rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft add thousands of cars to our already congested streets. That’s why I’m working with Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer and our police department to figure out how we can increase the number of traffic officers and make our streets safer.


Keep In Touch


We want to hear from you! If you have a question or concern, I encourage you to drop by my office at City Hall (Room 284), give us a call at 415-554-6968, or send an email to


Also in the September Issue

It’s a small world after all - at least when it comes to trash

Join over 1000 coastal and inland clean-up groups on California Coastal Clean-up Day — Saturday, September 15th.


In the April Castro Courier, we talked with John Rizzo about the problem of plastics in our oceans and briefly mentioned World Clean-Up Day.  I promised to tell you more about it -- and therein lies a great story. . .

We shift our scene to the small but indomitable country of Estonia, a Baltic country that has been over-run repeatedly as greater powers tried to absorb it into their empires.  But Estonia has emerged independent and is once again its own country.  And the Estonians, on their own, have started a world-wide environmental movement, called World Clean-Up Day.

It all started back in 2007 when Rainer Nõlvak, a tech entrepreneur, returned home to Estonia after spending time abroad.  He visited the island of Hiiumaa, a green sanctuary for him in the past.  Except that it was no longer the wilderness he had known.  It had been used as a giant trash heap -- complete with bedframes, tires, carpets and old chairs.

Estonia, like many other countries, had succumbed to something called “trash blindness,” where people get used to seeing garbage strewn about and accept it as normal.

Nõlvak was upset.  He wanted to clean up the island, but he also realized that cleaning it up permanently involved not only picking up the garbage now but also raising awareness that dumping trash on the land was not a great idea - ever.  To both clean the country and to raise awareness, his inspiration was to clean the entire country all at once -- in one day!

Nõlvak gathered together other like-minded  local tech, business entrepreneurs and nature enthusiasts to plan a national cleanup campaign.   They recruited specialists to develop a GPS mapping software app.  Hundreds of volunteers fanned out across the country, recording and submitting data about major trash sites.

You may ask, how many sites could there be in this small country of approximately 16,000 square miles (129th largest in the world, according to Wikipedia)? Over 10,000 major sites were identified!  The team then recruited local garbage companies to pick up the trash once it was collected and move it to recycling and trash collection areas.

One month before the planned date for this ambitious project, Nõlvak and friends were concerned that not enough people had signed up.  They estimated that it would take tens of thousands of people to do the entire country in one day, but only 10,000 people had signed up.  They then mounted a major media campaign and, as a result, on May 3rd, 2008, over 50,000 people turned out! That was 4% of Estonia’s population.  The volunteers collected over 10,000 tons of trash in 5 hours.

From that beginning, a movement started. It spread through Eastern Europe to Western Europe and then the rest of the world.  It now involves millions of people from over 185 countries. Enthusiastically titled World Clean-up Day, it is held yearly on a weekend in September and overlaps with the various international coastal and other clean-up days on that weekend.

Rizzo became involved when members of the group were visiting San Francisco.  He was introduced to them by Adriel Hampton, an organizer at Nation Builder. (In addition to volunteering for the Sierra Club,  Rizzo writes books about software and has links to many in the tech community.)

The World Clean-up Day team needed help to develop a citizen science database that could be used to record trash all over the world, not only to help identify trouble spots and get them cleaned up, but also with the awareness that to solve a problem first we need to define it carefully.

Rizzo helped them to set up the non-profit structure they needed to get assistance from companies such as IBM and others.

World Clean-Up Day’s goal is to create a database that can be used not only by the citizen scientists who participate in World Clean-up Day but also to combine that information with the data that organizations such as NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Ocean Conservancy, the Marine Debris Tracker, and American Rivers are now collecting.   This will enable them to achieve a world-wide picture of the extent of the trash problem, so that it can be addressed effectively and, hopefully, solved.

As the proverb says, from small beginnings come great things.

What you can do:

To learn more about World Clean-up Day, their organization, mapping tools, world-wide trash database, and clean-up guidelines, go to

World Clean-up Day does not have a group in California right now, but don’t worry - our coastline and creeks are covered!   Join over 1,000 coastal and inland clean-up groups on California Coastal Clean-up Day, September 15th, 2018.


Imagine if 4% of San Francisco’s 900,000 people came out - that would be 36,000 people!


Katherine Howard is a member of the Executive Committee of the SF Group of the Sierra Club.


Also in the September Issue

Outside Lands  Festival proves the power of inclusion


Janet Jackson performs a medley of hits during her Sunday night performance All photos courtesy: Outside Lands / Grandstand Medi

While San Francisco’s biggest music festival has always offered a solid cross-section of music genres, for the first time, 2018’s Outside Lands marked a forward leap into diverse representation and inclusion.

With countless festivals popping up around the world every year, it’s increasingly important for a festival to have its own identity. Outside Lands promoters Another Planet, Superfly Presents, and Starr Hill have been certain to include attractions and distractions that go beyond music, including local wineries, breweries, and world-class cuisine to keep festival goers satiated while shuffling between stages. The comedy lineups and art installations are adventures unto themselves, and the introduction of Grass Lands was a high priority for cannabis enthusiasts.

The multidimensional milieu of this years’ lineup felt so right for San Francisco, accurately representing what we are so proud about in the Bay: freedom of expression. And free to express their femininity, the festival’s historic first-female-headliners Florence + The Machine and Janet Jackson both proved to be a grand success.


Florence + The Machine is the first female headliner in the festival’s 11 year history.


A record number of festival attendees were onsite for Florence’s Saturday night Golden Gate Park takeover. Transfixed, thousands watched the enchantress rule the stage, full of passion and magic. Encouraging everyone to pocket their phones and “share the experience,” the 32-year-old songstress’ orchestral lyrics of “Shake It Out” (“it’s always darkest before the dawn”) was a blanket of comfort during these dark American times.

Janet Jackson was every bit the diva during her closing set Sunday night. Breaking out one hit after another and dancing her way through them all, “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty” covered four decades of music in 90 minutes. Adding to the festival’s diversity, Jackson’s dance crew represented a range of body types and ethnic identities.

The LGBTQ+ community came out in support of queer artists including Janelle Monáe, Perfume Genius, The Internet, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise. A new name on the festival circuit, Rainbow Kitten Surprise released a video last spring about life as a drag queen to accompany their single “Hide.”

25-year-old Bay Area rapper Caleborate had the crowd jumping at Panhandle Stage during his Friday night set. The Berkeley native, also known as Caleb Parker, has a way of inspiring people to listen and understand his message, even if it isn’t about the sunny side of life.

“When I think of my experience at Outside Lands I often run out of words,” Caleborate told Castro Courier. “It was fantastic. I felt the energy from the crowd as they were heading to the stage even before my set. We rocked out through the whole show and the love just kept flowing; I had a blast. I left energized and looking forward to returning again and taking everything up to a new level.”

Caleborate continued, “I had been looking forward to that show all year and I’m glad it was as special as I expected it to be. I think my favorite part about the festival in its entirety was the crowd that came out. Outside Lands really did a great job of making sure all different genres were represented and it felt nice to mesh my musical interest with so many other concert goers that were eager to be introduced to great new music. I am really glad I got to be a part of it, both as a performer and as an attendee.”

Also appearing on the Panhandle Stage, and also from the Bay, Hot Flash Heat Wave echoed many of Caleborate’s sentiments about the festival. The band’s guitarist and vocalist Adam Abildgaard said playing Outside Lands was “a dream come true.”

“We have all been to the festival before to see some great bands perform so it was exciting and surreal to be standing on stage this time around,” Abildgaard said. “It was truly a magical experience to look out into the crowd and see so many people filling up the meadow in Golden Gate Park hearing our music. There were times during the set I would look at one of the boys and just start cracking up because it didn’t seem real.”

Beck’s stellar Friday night set hit on most musical genres in and of itself, making it one of Courier’s weekend highlights. Beck’s audience felt like one big group of friends. Oversized balloon formations were released over the crowd creating shadows that felt like UFOs hovering overhead; the crowd swaying and singing in unison.

Japan’s psychedelic rock group Kikagaku Moyo and a free iced coffee samples from a nearby Peet’s Coffee truck set the tone for a sunny Saturday afternoon.

“In the sunshine we felt warm, able to see the sky and the trees around,” Kikagaku Moyo told the Courier. “It felt like we were playing jam to not only the audience, but also to nature.”

Fortunately, as Kikagaku Moyo release their LP “Masana Temples” on October 5th, the band will play Oakland’s Starline Social Club on October 10th.


26-year-old BØRNS takes over the Lands End stage


One genre that seemed especially prevalent was EDM, from ODESZA to DJ Snake to Jamie xx to all of the DJs at The House by Heineken, electronic dance music was abundant. The energy of Jamie xx, whose crowd felt like a satellite of Burning Man, made it difficult to pull away for Florence + The Machine’s set.

Salt-N-Pepa, a late addition at The House by Heineken, was amazing. The lawn of the Polo Field around them was completely packed, fans of the 80s female hip-hop trio jumping up and down in unison to “Push It,” “Shoop,” and “I’ll Take Your Man.” Salt, Pepa, and Spinderella were all there, with a knock-out dance team to back them up.

For the second year, Outside Lands has offered stages to artists from Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts. Berklee’s program, which is based out of their Berklee Popular Music Institute, offers seven of their artists the opportunity to perform at one of seven festival stages, including the Panhandle Stage at Outside Lands.

AJNA, who was chosen out of 300 applicants, raved about the experience.

“It’s been the first time on the West Coast for me, and it was an incredibly effective learning experience since I got to face a new culture and new landscapes I never encountered before,” AJNA told the Courier.


“If I’m not full of myself, who am I supposed to be full of?” asks body-positive singer Lizzo during her set.


“Outside Lands just hit me and it felt way different from anything we’ve been used to so far; playing such a huge stage and being this far from our Boston base has been a great chance for us to challenge ourselves outside of our comfort zone,” said AJNA bassist Carlo DeBiaggio.

“Our experience at Berklee has been extremely useful. We got to play a lot of clubs and house shows, where many times no stage was involved and the crowd would just enjoy the set without having to look up. So, San Francisco has been such a positive challenge for us because it showed us how big stages require a different sort of energy and different ways to deal with the audience on a larger scale,” DeBiaggio added.

Aaron Kennedy, synthesizer and programmer of AJNA, added, “Outside Lands was incredible, it was the first time for a lot of things for all of us and I think the experience informed us of what we’re capable of as a band and new avenues to explore.”

Giving artists a chance to pursue their dreams doesn’t stop at the festival, as this year, Outside Lands launched Outside Lands Works, a charitable fund that fosters creativity via grants and educational programs.

Beneficiaries of this year’s Outside Lands Works included Bay Area Girls That Rock Camp, Creativity Explored, Richmond District Neighborhood Center, San Francisco Community Music Center, Women’s Audio Mission, Youth Arts Exchange, and Jared Kurtin Music Therapy Program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland.


Outside Lands 2019 will take place August 9 – 11 in Golden Gate Park.

Additional reporting by Tony Taylor


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