January 31, 2013

Town Square Team Recognized And An Unexpected Update

Congrats to the Residents for Noe Valley Town Square on being recognized as a "model for community groups" at this week's meeting of the Board Of Supervisors.

The Certificate of Honor reads:
In recognition of your efforts to create a permanent open space for the community to gather in the heart of Noe Valley, the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco extends its highest commendation to you. Your organizational and fundraising efforts are a model for community groups throughout San Francisco.
You can see video of the presentation with remarks from Scott Wiener and Todd David by opening the link for the 1/29/13 Board of Supervisors meeting on the BOS archive page and then skipping forward to minute 34. (Or you can go directly to the video.)

In related news, there was an interesting morsel from CookieTime yesterday. Yes...she sold the truck to her mother. But check out the buried lede: "The ownership of the Noe Valley parking lot has changed, so we can no longer park the truck there." Huh?

Conversations with Todd David and Scott Wiener's office confirm that the Noe Valley Ministry and the City are in negotiations, but that no deal has been finalized. The process continues, but is still heavily contingent on fund-raising. Meanwhile, Rec & Park has filed paperwork to convert the parking lot to public space in the event everything works out.

Details from Todd, who emphasizes that the timeline is fluid and largely in the control of the City:
I know that Rec and Parks staff is taking the appropriate steps to make that a possibility. The next steps are for Residents for Noe Valley Town Square to present to the Rec and Park Commission. And I am working with Rec and Park staff weekly to prepare for that presentation.

If approved by the Rec and Park Commission, Supervisor Wiener will sponsor legislation at the Board of Supervisors to access $x.x million from the Open Space Fund to purchase the lot. The hope is that the community fundraising plus the Open Space Fund will pay for the purchase of the parking lot. And then the State's Prop 84 Urban Greening Grant would help pay for a majority of the development of the "Town Square."
We're waiting to hear back from Marina (Cookie Time) about what she heard and will update when we do.

[NVSF: All Town Square posts]
[Photo: Office of Supervisor Scott Wiener; From left to right: Scott Wiener, Todd David, Leslie Crawford, Peter Gabel, Nisha Pillai, Christopher Keene, and Kate Sherwood]

Crime Beat: Armed Robbery

Information is from Mission and Ingleside District San Francisco Police Station newsletters.
January 26

Robbery w/ Gun
-- 6:20pm, 29th /Noe St. Officer Lockett was on patrol when he was dispatched to investigate a robbery incident. When the officer arrived he interviewed the victim who told him that that she was sitting at the bus stop alone at 29th and Noe when she was approached by two suspects. One of the suspects held a handgun and pointed at the victim, the victim was in fear for her life. The suspects demanded to give them everything she has or else they would harm her. The victim gave her purse to the suspects and she was told by the suspects to walk away southbound on Noe St. The suspects then fled on foot eastbound on 29th. Officers searched the area and detained a suspect who had similar description. This turned out not to be the suspect and was later released. Officer checked the area for video surveillance with negative results.
[Photo: Google Street View]

January 30, 2013

Crime Beat: Scott Wiener Holds Community Meeting In The Castro

Scott Wiener hosted a community meeting on Monday to "discuss recent crime trends in the area." Scott links to a SF Weekly summary, but this (barely edited) entry on Nextdoor by Mariva A. gives a lot more information.
January 28, 2013
Eureka Valley Recreation Center

  • District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener
  • SFPD Captain Robert Moser (Mission Station precinct)
  • SFPD Captain Gregory Corrales (Park Station precinct)
  • The new SFPD captain from the Northern Station
  • Bevan Dufty (former District 8 Supervisor & current director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships & Engagement)
  • an attorney from the D.A.'s office A representative from SF SAFE
  • A representative from Castro Community on Patrol
  • A Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, who was facilitating the meeting and representing the "Stop the Violence" community victim assistance program
  • About 100-200 community residents
  • A Bay Area Reporter journalist
  • A news photographer
  • At least one victim/survivor of a recent violent robbery and assault

QUALITY OF LIFE issues involving bars, late-night parties and noise, alcohol- and drug-related problems, unsanitary conditions involving bodily fluids, etc.: These are generally low priorities for the police, especially noise complaints, and especially around 2 to 3 AM, which is the busiest time for the police department. If you live near a bar, the bar manager is responsible for hiring competent security to clear patrons away from the premises immediately after the bar closes. If this does not happen, contact the bar management to request improved security methods during and after closing time. If the situation still does not improve, contact Supervisor Scott Wiener.

STREET HARASSMENT: There are ongoing complaints of harassment and disturbances in Harvey Milk and/or Jane Warner Plazas. The police can get involved if someone is threatening someone else or themselves or are unable to care for themselves. Bevan Dufty, in his new position at HOPE, sends HOTs (homeless outreach teams) to offer assistance and services to homeless or near-homeless people. Unfortunately, the HOTs are weary of going to Milk and Warner Plazas because the problematic people there continually refuse their services. Supervisor Wiener advises local residents not to confuse problematic people with homeless people: harassment often comes from people who do, in fact, live indoors but have mental health issues, whereas many homeless people are essentially invisible, keep a low profile, and never bother anyone at all.

BAR FIGHTS: There is a perception among local residents that street crime is increasing. According to SFPD Captain Robert Moser (Mission Station precinct), the past two months of data in his precinct indicate that most incidents involving violence are bar-related. Some of the attendees found the discrepancy -- (between the perception of increasing street crime and the actual reports of bar-related incidents) -- confusing. Maybe broader statistics are needed to understand the general trends.

VIOLENT ASSAULTS: There have been disturbing reports of violent crimes -- typically muggings that have turned violent -- including an abduction and a "pistol whipping" that resulted in hospitalization due to skull fractures. This occurred on Corbett at Ord, which is a short block north of Market Street in the Castro district. A very serious stabbing occurred at 14th & Noe at 6 PM on a weekday evening. Police are working with local residents to develop and distribute composite sketches to find the suspect(s). The victim/survivor of the pistol whipping was in attendance and was visibly upset. "Someone's gonna get killed!" he emphasized. He insisted that this was a mugging that had turned violent -- as opposed to a "gay bashing" hate crime -- and he demanded more police patrols of both main streets as well as side streets. Captain Moser said that they do patrol both the main and the side streets, but there's a shortage of police officers, and, even if there weren't, they can't be everywhere all at once. The police request that residents take it upon themselves to organize and join neighborhood watch programs.

(Note that one topic not discussed during this meeting was the horrific sexual assaults that have occurred in the Mission district and the eastern section of Noe Valley [Ed.-- here and here]. Because this meeting took place in the Castro, the focus and the tone of the meeting was mostly on protecting members of the LGBT community and residents in surrounding areas.)

COMPUTER & SMART PHONE THEFTS/ROBBERIES have been on the rise, particularly in cafes and on public transit. In cafes, according to surveillance footage, the perpetrators look "ordinary" and "average" -- so make sure not to profile or stereotype anyone. Instead, carefully guard your devices and don't leave them unattended. Be aware of your surroundings and question others who are taking things that may not belong to them. On public transit, it's best not to display your devices. Stay alert; perpetrators target "easy" victims who are not paying attention to their surroundings. An easy target is someone buried in his/her smart phone and has earphones on. These thefts are part of crime syndicate rings; stolen computers and devices are collected and then sold online and/or to other countries. Some arrests have been made.

AUTOMOBILE THEFTS and break-ins: SFPD Captain Gregory Corrales (Park Station precinct) said that officers in his precinct caught "two fellas in ski masks" with air guns and spark plug tools who were probably responsible for auto thefts. Auto thefts have always been a problem in the city. According to a service rep at SF Honda, install and enable an anti-theft security system that disables the car engine upon unauthorized entry.

BUILDING BREAK-INS: There were destructive intrusions into several glass-door buildings in a row on Roosevelt Way. The police captain said that burglars target homes and buildings that have obscured or dark entry ways with no iron gates. There were other break-ins into apartment buildings in the east-of-Twin-Peaks area, and Captain Moser said that they do send patrols around the area, a mix of regular police cars and unmarked vehicles. They have adjusted work shifts for more nighttime patrol coverage. Captain Corrales said that the patrols look for people in quiet neighborhoods who look as if "they don't belong there" -- suspicious-looking lurkers who generally target cars for theft and easily (or more easily) accessible buildings for intrusions and burglaries. They have arrested a few suspects due to outstanding warrants. The larger problem, however, is a game of "whack-a-mole"; when crime is under control in one area, the criminals move into another, a less patrolled one. Right now the Lower Haight is being hit hard by street crime.

ROOT CAUSE: There are simply not enough police officers at this time. This is due to the defunding of the Police Academy in San Francisco. SFPD officers are being hired laterally through other departments, agencies, or other city police departments. It would be better overall for new police officers to be trained here in San Francisco. It's up to the residents of San Francisco to lobby the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors to reinstate funding to the San Francisco Police Academy and, in the meantime, to allocate funds to hire more police officers from wherever possible.

PROTECT YOURSELF and your community:
  • Start or join neighborhood watch programs (contact SF SAFE), online networks (Nextdoor.com, Facebook groups, Twitter alerts, etc.), community patrols, and the "Stop the Violence" program.
  • Carry a whistle and blow it if you feel unsafe.
  • Take self-defense training and practice it.
  • Keep in mind that your smart phone or computer won't be worth much in a few years -- but your body, your emotional well-being, and your life are always paramount -- so if someone is physically threatening you for your device, you're probably better off just giving it to them. (Make sure to passcode-protect your devices, encrypt the drive, consistently back up your data, and turn on "Find My iPhone." Sometimes devices can be traced through embedded GPS.)
  • Call the police after every incident -- as soon as possible! Don't wait; the quicker the phone call, the more likely the police will be able to find the suspect. If it's not an emergency, use the non-emergency line: 415-553-0123. You can also contact the SFPD via sf-police.org.
  • If you have been a victim of a crime, don't be embarrassed to report it. Reporting it will help others.
  • Always get a CAD (dispatch) number after placing a phone call to the police, as well as a police report number, for follow-ups inquiries.
[Photo: mariva8]

January 14, 2013

Update: Town Square Meeting Cancelled And Other News

There hasn't been an update in nearly three months and we haven't seen any boosters at the Farmer's Market for the Noe Valley Town Square - so it was with some hesitation that we included a reminder about this week's meeting in our weekly roundup. Emails to Todd David weren't returned, but Nisha (another principal on the TS team) got back to us on Friday with "We are on for the 16th. We have other news to announce as well (nope, not losing steam :))."

And yet, we weren't surprised to learn today that this Wednesday's community update is off. The Town Square team says it remains committed to "behind the scenes work" and "staying in touch with all of you" now that the election season and the holidays are behind us and fund-raising deadlines are approaching. Because, you know, this is important to the community.

Here's today's update:
Hello everyone, we hope your New Year is off to a good start. With the elections in full swing and then the holidays, the past two months have been relatively quiet. However, we do have progress - and good news - to report.

As you know, our goal is now to raise all the funds needed for the project by Dec 2013. We are pursuing three major avenues of funding:
  1. City of SF: We are still aiming for a significant amount of funds from the city's Open Space Fund. The first step in getting this funding occurred when the Town Square was "officially" added to the Rec and Park acquisition roster at the Jan 8, 2013 PROSAC (Park and Rec Open Space Advisory Committee) meeting! The next major milestone on this front will be getting approval from the SF Rec & Park commission, which should happen by March. And then on to the Board of Supervisors (hopefully by April).
  2. Grants: We are applying for Prop 84 Urban Greening funding from the State of California. On November 13, we attended a half-day technical workshop with the team that administers the grant. The feedback we received on our project and our application was very positive. Our formal grant application will be submitted shortly. The next major milestone will be in Spring, when the short list is published and we find out if we made it to the next round in the grant process. All indications are positive so far.
  3. Community i.e., YOU: We are now at $470K in pledges. If you have been thinking about making a pledge, please do so as soon as possible! For the City of SF as well as Prop 84 grants, every additional pledge will count as another community "vote" in support of the project. Also keep in mind that we need to raise approximately $1M (depending on other funding) from the community to make this project happen.
How you can help:
  • Make a pledge! If you have made a pledge, display a poster at a visible location in your home or business.
  • Did you know Noe Valley lacks open space? Spread the word. Encourage your friends and neighbors to make a pledge towards this project.
  • If you or someone you know can make a substantial pledge to support this project, let us know! We are looking for major donors to make the Town Square a reality.
January Community Meeting Cancelled: In view of the brisk activity happening on the funding front, and the packed Noe Valley community calendar, we are cancelling the meeting that was targeted for this week (Jan 16th). If you would like to speak with us in person, we will be at our table at the Farmer's Market. You can also reach us, as always, through our website and via email.

What's Next: We will continue extensive behind-the-scenes work to secure funding for the Town Square. This means working with Rec & Parks to draft an operating agreement for the Town Square, staying in touch with (and nudging along) the approval process for Open Space funding, dotting the is and crossing the ts on our Prop 84 grant application, and of course, staying in touch with all of you. We look forward to hearing from you, and see you at the Farmer's Market.

-- The Town Square Team.
(Todd, Chris, Leslie, Nisha & Kate)

SFPD Releases Sketch Of Sexual Assault Suspect

The San Francisco Police Department released a sketch this afternoon of the suspected 23rd and Guerrero sexual assault attacker. He's described as a Hispanic man, roughly 25 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, about 160 pounds and was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt the night of the attack (click the image for a larger view).

If you have any info that might help the police in this investigation, call the SFPD's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444.

January 8, 2013

Crime Beat: Woman Narrowly Escapes Violent Attack

This scary story is lighting up the local email lists:
Hello -

If you're getting this email its because you are a female friend in my circles, live in my neighborhood-ish, or have a large circle of women friends. I wanted to spread the word of what happened to me so hopefully you and your circles can be more aware, street smart and vigilant about your personal safety.

On Saturday evening I was walking home from a friends potluck through the mission when I was attacked - an attempted rape. I was actually being quite conscious of those around me due to the fact that I'm heading to Nairobi in several weeks and personal safety has been on my mind. As I turned up 23rd street, I noticed a man walking to me that 'zero-ed' in on my presence, locking eyes on me. There was no side street to turn down, and I didn't want to turn around, exposing my back to him, so I kept walking. As we neared each other, I tried to walk around a tree quite close to the curb, before I could do so he lunged at me.

He knew what he was doing and how to attack someone. He went first for my eye socket with his thumb and put his other hand in my mouth to stifle my screams and slammed me down to the ground. He was using the hand in my mouth and on my jaw to try and slam my head on the concrete, presumably to knock me out. Once I was down on the ground he straddled me pinning down my arms. After about 15s of struggling just to avoid him knocking me out, I was able to use all my strength to surge up on my right side to unpin that arm. Since I'm a climber, I'm strong, and I don't think he was expecting this and was unprepared for that maneuver. Luckily through this move and some biting, I was also able to get his hand out of my mouth and started screaming - first just yelling and then screaming for help. I struggled with him while screaming and trying to avoid him knocking me out for another 30s until a couple in a house several houses down the street threw open their window and turned on lights. This scared him away.

The cops came and while we drove around looking for him for awhile, we were unable to find him. This means that someone who clearly knows how to attack swiftly and effectively is still out there in our neighborhoods. This happened at 23rd between Guerrero and San [Jose] - the fringe of the mission and noe.

I'm incredibly lucky that I had the strength to keep him from delivering a knock out blow and to fight for so long until someone came to help. I'm incredibly lucky that those in the houses around me didn't fall prey to crowd think and assume someone else was going to help. I'm walking away from this with a bruised eye, scratches on my face, road rash on my shoulder and sore/bruised back, shoulders, jaw and ribs. It could have been significantly worse.

I wanted to spread this around not to try and get attention or your sympathy, but to hopefully make you aware of the fact that attacks, and 'bad things' can also happen to people in your circle. We live in a big city and the best thing you can do is be incredibly conscious of your surroundings at all time. Please - walk in groups, or with a male friend, take taxis and dial up those street smarts...

Feel free to send this around to other females that could benefit from a dose of reality.
Details are still emerging, and no description has been given of the suspect. We'll update as more info is available. Be safe. And if you hear screaming out your window do something. This woman is lucky.

Update (1/9): Mission Local confirmed with SFPD that this attack happened at approximately 2:40am and posted a description of the suspect:
Authorities described the suspect as an 5’8-tall Asian man who weighs approximately 160 pounds, between the ages of 20 and 30. He has a buzzcut and a slight beard and was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark pants. 
 SFPD is investigating this as an attempted rape.

Also: a rally has been organized for this Friday from 4-6pm to promote solidarity among/with women and to  increase awareness and vigilance so these attacks don't continue.

Update (1/14): The SFPD has released a sketch of the suspect.

January 6, 2013

Deja Vu: The Mystery Restaurant at 1298 Church Street

Seems like we've written this post before -- the never-ending restaurant project at 1298 Church St is making progress but there's still no end in sight. This weekend, the paper finally came off the windows and there are lights, tables and chairs on premises. Readers want to know what's up.

Some history: In 2008, the former barbershop was granted the second of three new restaurant permits available in Noe Valley and  has been under construction ever since. [Contigo was the first, Noe Soup never opened; the restaurant limit has since been lifted.] The original permit was filed by Charles Stern and it is registered to the owners of Regent Thai at 1700 Church St.

What we don't know is what exactly it will be - and when. The employees at Regent Thai on outer Church confirm the restaurant is in the works and related, but still aren't saying if/when the restaurant will actually open. Nor do they know if it will be Thai or Vietnamese (as the various contractors over the years believed it might be), or something else altogether. There's also no sign on the building, no ABC permit and the DBI permits are still incomplete. But there is a new ADA accessible ramp out front.

What does it all mean? It means that 5 years into this project we're still waiting. Here's hoping Church and 25th Streets will gain a new restaurant this year.

Bonus feature: Double-paned windows make for some cool photos: here and here.

Update 1/7: The windows are covered in paper once again.

[NVSF: Update: Never-Ending Project at 1298 Church St]