Old SF

The folks at Bernalwood have likened it to time travel, and it is just about that cool. What am I talking about?

Why, Old SF, of course! It’s an awesome site that allows you to see old photographs of San Francisco from the location where they were taken. It’s an amazing tool for taking really interesting information (old photos) and putting them in a context that makes sense (your mental map of what the location looks like today).

It’s an incredible labor of love, built entirely as a volunteer project by @danvdk and designed by @ravejk. They took a huge portion of images from the San Francisco Public Library historical image collection and geocoded them so that they could be displayed on a google map. How many images did they geo-code? About 13,000, which is more than half of the images with an identifiable location.

I spent some time on the site over the weekend, and it is amazing how much time I spent looking at old photos of San Francisco. People always ask me about the history of the home they are buying, and this site offers an amazing way to check out a neighborhood without having to spend hours digging through files at the public library.

Take a moment (or two, or three) and check it out. I think you’ll be as amazed as I am. If you are technically inclined, there are some ways that you can help keep the site developing.  What other historical resources and websites do you really like for learning about the history of a San Francisco home or neighborhood?

Garbage: Easy. Graffiti: Hard

If you haven’t heard of the Blockboard App, I’d encourage you to go check it out. They are a local startup, and they describe the app as:

Blockboard is the app for your neighborhood! It uses your iPhone to connect you with your neighbors, keep you up-to-date on what’s happening nearby, and help you make your neighborhood a better place. Blockboard is currently available for neighborhoods in San Francisco.

The folks over at sf.govfresh published a case study using data from the Blockboard app, in particular looking at city response times to various complaints. But before I get to that, if you haven’t heard of govfresh, you could think of them as a Gov 2.0 movement, and they describe themselves as:

GovFresh works to inspire government-citizen collaboration and build a more engaged democracy. We feature public servant innovators, civic entrepreneurs and the ideas and technology that are changing how government works.


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Shake, rattle, and be ready

This week we got to learn what happens when an earthquake shakes up the east coast, when a 5.8 magnitude quake hit Virginia and was felt around the world. Well, not really on that last part, but based on the reactions on Facebook, Twitter, the blogosphere, and the regular old media sites, you would be excused for thinking so.

Not to be outdone by some cold, old east coast fault lines, the Bay Area responded with a little shaker of its own — a mere 3.6 — a few hours later. And now, back across the country, Hurricane Irene is about to kick some serious coastal butt as it goes up the eastern seaboard.

Which leads me to my “be prepared” soapbox.

Do you have your disaster kit prepared? The city of San Francisco has a website — 72hours.org — that tells you what you’ll need in case of a major disaster, which in San Francisco is likely to be an earthquake (or the cancellation of The Real Housewives of Orange County).

Here’s what you need:

  • Water â€” one gallon per person per day
  • Food â€” ready to eat or requiring minimal water
  • Manual can opener and other cooking supplies
  • Plates, utensils and other feeding supplies
  • First Aid kit & instructions
  • A copy of important documents & phone numbers
  • Warm clothes and rain gear for each family member.
  • Heavy work gloves
  • Disposable camera
  • Unscented liquid household bleach and an eyedropper for water purification
  • Personal hygiene items including toilet paper, feminine supplies, hand sanitizer and soap
  • Plastic sheeting, duct tape and utility knife for covering broken windows
  • Tools such as a crowbar, hammer & nails, staple gun, adjustable wrench and bungee cords.
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Large heavy duty plastic bags and a plastic bucket for waste and sanitation
  • Any special-needs items for children, seniors or people with disabilities. Don’t forget water and supplies for your pets.
If you’ve got pets, don’t forget to prepare for them, too.
I must admit, I’m not quite sure why an earthquake kit should include a disposable camera, but the rest of this makes sense to me. Now go shopping, and be prepared.

From CW Nevius in today’s paper comes the unfortunate story of Potrero Hill resident Linda Votaw:

Linda Votaw moved into her house on Potrero Hill in 1998. There was a tree in front, which she liked, except that the roots were cracking the sidewalk. So she fixed the sidewalk. Ten years later the roots were back, cracking the sidewalk.

“It’s a ficus,” said Doug Wildman, program director of the Friends of the Urban Forest, which planted the tree in 1984. “Wonderful tree, lovely,” he said, but they ruined sidewalks.

In fact, the Urban Forest folks quit planting them. Sure enough, contractors told Votaw the tree had outgrown the planting area and would keep breaking up the concrete.

Votaw says she wrote and called the Department of Public Works for advice and never got a response. DPW spokeswoman Gloria Chan said, “We have no records of a resident calling our urban forestry division for information.”By January the sidewalk had buckled and the roots had invaded the sewer line. Suddenly, DPW was interested, marking the sidewalk and driveway, and demanding that repairs be made. So Votaw hired a contractor, who trimmed the roots and fixed the concrete.

In two days a notice from the city appeared, demanding the tree be removed in 24 hours.

So they cut the tree down.

“Within 10 days we received a letter requiring us to pay a nearly $1,700 fine for excessive root pruning and a $300 permit fee to remove the tree we had been ordered to remove,” she said.

Votaw appealed the fines and was told a hearing would be set soon. That was in March. She’s heard nothing.

“Honestly,” she says, “I don’t know what else I could have done.”

Maybe moved to a different city?

How about you – what kind of run ins have you had with the SF bureaucracy?


RIP, Emily Dunn

San Franciscans deserve a better muni. In particular, I’d say we deserve a muni that doesn’t run over, crush, or otherwise kill/injure/maim pedestrians on a much too-frequent basis. Muni’s latest victim was a young woman, Emily Dunn, who was just 23 years old and had recently moved to San Francisco from Atlanta.

Memorial at 18th and Hartford Streets in the Castro

I didn’t know Emily, but I’ve walked or driven through the intersection where she was killed too many times to count. It’s just an average neighborhood intersection, it doesn’t have a reputation for being dangerous or particularly tricky. But for whatever reason, navigating it without causing a death was too great a challenge for a muni driver last week. So a young woman, full of hope and excitement for her new life in a new city was mowed down. It’s absolutely appalling and ridiculous…

But I don’t want this post to turn into a rant about how awful and irresponsible SF muni service is. Instead I guess I’d like to focus back on the fragility of life, the senseless tragedy of it all, and a reminder to be vigilant when you are a pedestrian (which would be all of us, sooner or later).

Be careful out there, and to Emily Dunn’s family and loved ones, my heart goes out to you for your tragic loss. I’m so sorry.