Mission District’s Taco Wars

SAN FRANCISCO—Head meat, intestines, mashed cow brains, and fish—that’s what keeps Taquería San Jose afloat in the mad river of taquerías, pupuserías, and fast food joints that compete for customers around the 24th Street BART station. “We have the best selection of fillings,” says owner David Velle. “Plus our salsas are good and our tortillas the highest quality.” Continue reading

Surge of Burmese refugees come to Oakland, looking for community and hope

Ba SharSAN FRANCISCO–Ba Shar seems adrift on a sea of his imagination, oblivious to the scenery that surrounds him. He is standing on the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time in his life, looking out at the San Francisco skyline. The bridge’s red cables loom over his head and a thin mist covers the silver water below. A slow smile spreads across his face as he seems to come to, waking up to his new reality.

“Being here is like a dream,” he says. He pauses, and then chuckles. “I would never expect this would happen to me in my life.”

Continue reading

Big Changes Needed in Berkeley to Meet Carbon Emission Reduction Target – Many Citizens Angered

The one-year anniversary of Berkeley’s momentous step toward reducing its greenhouse gas emissions has come and gone without much fanfare. But inside small city offices, tucked away in remote university laboratories, and even in the living rooms of community activists, ground-breaking actions are being taken —but not everyone is at ease with them.

Continue reading

Bay Area Burmese youth give voices to people of Myanmar

SAN FRANCISCO – Under a grey sky, standing beside the Chinese consulate, 19-year-old Kyaw Naing held a microphone to his lips as he led 200 protesters in repeated cries of “Free Burma” on a recent Friday afternoon. As he does at all such gatherings, the Burmese student wore a red sash wound around his head, in memory of the blood shed by protesters in his home country. Continue reading

Alameda School’s New Program Boosts Reading

ALAMEDA — Inside one classroom at Chipman Middle School, eighth-graders look for word clues and make plot predictions as the teacher reads a novel aloud. Just a few classroom doors away, another group of students chant vocabulary words — bite, bit, spark, and wait.

“Next row, what word?” says literacy coach Katherine Crawford as she snaps her fingers to keep the class in rhythm.

In yet another classroom, seventh-graders are working on a project about the culture of Chipman, an ethnically and economically diverse school of about 600 students.
Continue reading

Bayview Residents Say San Francisco Violating Its Own Environmental Laws

If it seems that “redevelopment” has been on the tip of the tongue of many of San Francisco’s political, community, and policy leaders for ages now, it’s because it has. In 1969, the Redevelopment Agency was brought in to help the city reinvigorate a portion of it’s struggling Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, and nearly 40 years later is still engaged in an arduous process with city officials and community members to bring the vision to fruition.

Continue reading

Supply Kit Distribution Shows Disparity Among Berkeley Neighborhoods

BERKELEY – When it comes to disaster preparedness in Berkeley, the haves get a definite edge over the have-nots.

City officials warn residents to expect to be without government help for at least five days after a major disaster. They expect neighborhood preparedness groups to take care of basic supplies and minor casualties while police and fire departments deal with acute emergencies. So the city gives emergency supply kits to neighborhood groups that have done the most training.

As a result, the bulk of emergency supplies and trained residents are in the most affluent parts of Berkeley, while the denser, lower income neighborhoods have been left with fewer resources. The four districts that represent North Berkeley and the hills areas have 23 supply kits, while the other four, in the flatlands, only have 11. South Berkeley’s District 3, which has a high number of rental and public housing units, still only has one kit, while the northeast hills’ District 6, which is largely single-family homes on narrow roads, has eight.
Continue reading

Despite Misdiagnosis and Disability, Berkeley Man Thrives

BERKELEY – Every morning, the first thing 60-year-old Mark Sandler thinks when he gets up is “do something.”

“You can’t stay in bed all day,” Sandler tells himself.

Easier said than done. Sandler, a retired mail clerk, has multiple system atrophy, a rare, often misdiagnosed condition that stoops his thin shoulders, slurs his speech, warps his hands and gives him an awkward, shuffling gait. He lives in Berkeley with his brother, who cooks his meals – his favorite is grilled chicken- and does his laundry.

Sandler’s symptoms have not progressed as much as most with his condition, but he still finds it difficult to walk quickly or make himself understood. Never really loquacious, Sandler has dealt with his disability over the years by speaking less and less. Now, it’s hard to get him to answer a question in more than one or two words because, for longer sentences, he often has to repeat himself.

“It’s frustrating,” he said.
Continue reading

Tree Sitters Celebrate First Birthday

Berkeley — A circus of protestors, men dressed up as clowns and bears holding signs, even the famous activist clown Wavy Gravy with his signature red ball on his nose, wished the U.C. tree sitters happy birthday on their one-year anniversary yesterday.

Less than a month after his landslide loss in the 2006 Berkeley mayoral elections, Zachary Running Wolf decided to take a different kind of action and joined a growing protest against the university’s proposal to cut down temorial Oak Grove, to build a new sports complex. He chose a different kind of protest from those already underway—he climbed into one of the trees. Continue reading

SF Plan for Biodiesel-Powered Vehicles Praised

SAN FRANCISCO — Many passengers on San Francisco’s diesel-burning 38L bus Wednesday had not heard that the city intends to replace 20 percent of diesel fuel in its vehicles with biodiesel. Still informed and uninformed passengers alike were positive about the plan.

“Anything that’s good for the environment,” said Brazilian transplant Jander Lecerda, who had read about the switch and hoped –- incorrectly -– that the change would also reduce noise pollution. Continue reading

Competition and Optimism for Sari Shop Owners

BERKELEY–On a sunny and crisp fall afternoon, Sam Azam sprayed glass cleaner on the doors and windows of a shop on University Avenue in Berkeley. His wife, Perveen, organized glittering pink, red, and turquoise saris and bangle bracelets on metal racks and white wooden shelves. The couple that moved from Mumbai, India to Marin City in 2002, were preparing for the grand opening of their store Faiz International. Continue reading

The Handlery Hotel

SAN FRANCISCO — Every morning, Jon Handlery puts on a deep blue suit and floral tie. After kissing his wife and just before leaving his San Mateo house, he pins a gold rectangle reading “General Manager” to his left lapel. Usually, he’s not late to work, but “you know, the first rain of the season,” he says, which means that the traffic on his drive to San Francisco on a recent Friday resembled that of a normal city during a Hurricane evacuation. Continue reading

An International Marketplace

BERKELEY — For Shahid Salimi, living the American dream has its trade-offs.

The halal market his father started when “there was no goat meat around” in 1979 has been a success. Indus Valley now has a restaurant, distribution company, a flat-screen TV playing Sufi music videos, and a market with 30 who work there. Customers come from as far as Reno to buy its meat. Continue reading

Officials, Advocates Meet to Help Minority Youth

summitphoto.jpgOakland – The “Men and Boys of Color in Crisis” summit drew Bay Area and national advocacy group leaders to East Oakland last week to discuss the sharp challenges facing the country’s minority males.

“What we are talking about today is the unfinished business of America,” said Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums at the opening of a conference attended by about 200 people, including Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, and Assembly members Loni Hancock and Sandre Swanson. “The plight of young men of color is the outward manifestation, perhaps one of the most dramatic evidences, of that lack of commitment and interest,” Dellums said. Continue reading

Fireplaces Could Stay Dark This Winter

smoke1.jpgOAKLAND – Bay Area residents may have to resist stoking the embers of crackling firewood during cold winter nights if a draft regulation promoted by air quality regulators bans burning wood to reduce harmful smoke emissions.

Aiming to comply with the EPA’s requirement to reduce particulate matter by half, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is proposing to limit wood burning indoors and outdoors on an estimated 20-30 winter nights when the air is stagnant and pollution exceeds federal standards. Continue reading

Pulitzer Prize-winning Author Denounces War

SAN FRANCISCO—As a musical based on her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Color Purple” continued its run blocks away, Alice Walker told a group of women Wednesday that the United States’ military presence in Iraq is morally wrong, and to ensure the country’s next generation understands her views, she’s written an anti-war children’s book. Continue reading