Monthly Archives: October 2013

Todd David Only Asks for the Best

Todd David is sort of a hero. He’s the community activist demanding better lives for families and children. He’s also the guy around the neighborhood people wave at and show their baby photos to.

David,  44, a New Jersey native has his plate full. He is the co-founder of the San Francisco Parent Political Action Committee, the founder of the non-profit edMatch and the president of the Residents for Noe Valley Town Square, not to mention a father of two.

The Wall Street worker of a previous life has switched gears towards bettering all-things education.

It all started when he sent his kids to the local public school. While being a part of the Alvarado PTA, David got the urge to understand why some schools had less resources than others and saw a future in improving San Francisco public schools.

“I had to understand why,” said David. With San Francisco being more like a big town, David believed he could easily make a change. “I’m actually one person removed from a decision-maker. [In San Francisco] you can see the results of the work that you do.”

In his efforts to make changes, David took on the responsibility to make sure the right people were put in charge. Through SF Parent PAC and edMatch, David “[Supports] policy to help make San Francisco more family friendly.”

He also made it a point to meet with each person running for the District 8 Supervisor position in 2012. “If youre asking for my vote, then youre gonna come sit at my house for two hours and I’m going to grill you on education,” said David. “And the funny part is they did.”

David who has remained focused on improving public school policy in San Francisco has now become one of the leading figures in transforming a Noe Valley parking lot into the neighborhood’s own town square.

David thought transforming the lot into a public space just needed some attention.

“I think if we show broad neighborhood support for this, we’ll get the politicians attention,” said David. “So I set up a table every Saturday.”

Through his grassroots fundraising techniques, David quickly gathered $600,000 in pledges. As of today, David, with the help of other community members Bill Jackson and Chris Keene, has raised $550,00 in actual donations.

David has been supporting the transformation of the lot because he simply believes every neighborhood needs a gathering place. He believes such a place will create community.

“[The town square] is going to be a great gathering place. Where in Noe Valley do toddlers, teenagers, parents, the elderly, have a place to hang out together?” said David.

The importance of community emanates from David’s passion. He has been in the game of supporting his community for some time now and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, David only speaks with excitement. The issues he tackles, now and in the past, can seem quite daunting to an outsider, but David approaches them fearlessly.

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Board of Supervisors Meeting Review

photo 1 (2)San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed legislation this month requiring employers to consider their workers’ requests for flexible work hours to support those who work and take care of children.

President David Chiu’s legislation will allow busy parents to balance work and family time. In 2011, 36 percent of Noe Valley households are families with children, about 4.5 percent above the number of San Francisco households with children. In a neighborhood with high numbers of children, working parents will have more support from the City.

Though the legislation received opposition from some businesses, they hope it will both benefit employers as much as it benefits working parents.

Chiu presented how other countries, such as Australia, have adopted the measure and have seen an increase in productivity. Chiu hopes this legislation will take steps towards changing the workplace culture and promote more positivity for parents who need to have flexible work hours.

“This is an excellent first step towards supporting working parents,” said Supervisor Eric Mar.

Noe Valley’s district supervisors Scott Wiener is also co-sponsoring one of Supervisor David Campos’ request for analysts to create an economic impact report on San Francisco’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender festivals and events.

photo 2 (1)

The report would analyze the impact of events including PRIDE, Trans March, Dyke March, Dorey Alley Street Fair, Castro Street Fair and Pink Friday.

Wiener, who actively participates in issues surround San Francisco’s LGBT community, later said in an email that, “We need increased city support for our community’s events. Showing the economic impact of the events will help us make a stronger case.”

Wiener also proposed the “Regulating the Width of Sidewalks” ordinance which passed with an unanimous vote. The ordinance will eliminate the official sidewalk width on a portion of Elk Street, between Chenery and Sussex Street to make way for the renovation of Glen Canyon Park.

A Special Tax Financing Law that Wiener sponsored with the Mayor and Supervisor Katy Tang also unanimously passed. The ordinance will authorize financing by special tax districts of work deemed necessary to bring commercial and private properties into compliance with seismic safety standards or regulations.

Jewish preschool has nine months to prove safety comes first

A Jewish preschool in Noe Valley is working to prove it’s not a safety hazard after neighbors appealed it’s proposed expansion.

Gan Noe Valley, one of the only Jewish preschools in central San Francisco, has nine months to demonstrate that an expansion won’t compromise safety and to meet requirements of a conditional use permit. If they fail to do so, the preschool will not be allowed to double its enrollment numbers in order to  reach more kids.

In July 2013, preschool owners Rabbi Gedalia Potash and Leah Potash began their attempt to double enrollment numbers from 22 to 42 students. A month later residents of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Street received a notice from the City about the plan.

“[Rabbi Potash] didn’t reach out to any of the neighbors about his plan,” said Rich Rochman, the neighbor who initiated the appeal on August 19, 2013. “It was extraordinarily surprising.”

The neighbors successfully appealed the expansion leading to the implementation of the nine-month conditional use permit. They are concerned about the additional congestion that will be a result of more parents dropping off children in unmarked loading zones, possibly leading to an unsafe environment for students.

“Should Jewish children be entitled to less safety? We say no,” argued Rochman. ” Every child is entitled to a safe environment.”

The group of neighbors, led by Rochman, submitted documents supporting the appeal which states that “the 3700 block of Cesar Chavez Street is already unusually dangerous” due to the heavy flow of traffic. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Association reported that this block of Cesar Chavez Street has nineteen times as many traffic collisions than other blocks where child-care facilities are permitted. The block also expects more traffic when the City stripes new bike lanes by 2014.

However, some parents view the appeal as an excuse to combat the inconvenience on traffic.

Gan Noe supporter, Peter Altman, a Dolores Street resident, and his partner sent their 4-year-old son to the Potash’s preschool previously located in the Richmond District. Altman thinks this situation represents how San Francisco is not a child-friendly city and isn’t doing enough to be more accommodating.

“A lot of people don’t have kids and the neighbors don’t understand,” said Altman. There has got to be room for families with kids in San Francisco.”

“Each side has their own view of what is going on,” said Bill Sommer, a neighbor of the preschool who lives adjacent to the property and is in favor of Rochman’s appeal.  “And they’re both slanted. From the parents point of view, they want their day-care.”

Altman believes the preschool provides an ideal environment for not only Jewish children, but children from other religious or non-religious backgrounds.

“[The preschool] has crossed cultural boundaries,” said Altman. “It’s really an exceptional resource.”

“Gan Noe has truly helped us build a sense of community,” said Stephanie Kurek, whose daughter has participated in Gan Noe classes. “It is a wonderful resource, especially when most of organized Judaism is not on this side of town.”

Though supporters of Gan Noe’s expansion seem to think the appeal is questioning the necessity of the preschool, those supporting the appeal sympathize with the needs of the Jewish community.

“I sat through hours of their testimonies in front of the Planning Commission,” said Sommer. “I agree with everything they have to say. I understand it.”

“The appeal never challenged Gan Noe to exist as it does now. We never questioned their ability to exist,” said Rochman.

If no pattern of violations, such as safety issues or safety-related incidents occur, the expansion of the school may be permitted in June 2014.

“If they behave well they can expand to 42 children,” said Rochman. “They needed to walk before they can run.”

Rabbi Potash and Mrs. Potash declined several requests for comment on the situation as they said in an email that they are currently “focusing [their] time and energy on moving forward.”

Profile: District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener (CC Image courtesy of NtugiGroup on Flickr)

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener (CC Image courtesy of NtugiGroup on Flickr)

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener has been called all sorts of names. A prude, a political machine and a giant. Ringing in at 6-foot, 7-inches, Wiener is not easy to miss. He’s immediately noticeable during City Council meetings, even when he’s sitting down.

The 42-year-old New Jersey native has managed to quickly make his way into headlines of San Francisco newspapers and has captured the attention of the city. Wiener was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2010 and has already brought about a few changes.

Wiener represents the Castro, Eureka Valley, Upper Market, Noe Valley, Duboce Triangle, Diamond Heights, Glen Park, Corona Heights, Buena Vista, Twin Peaks, Mission-Dolores, and some of the Inner Mission. Wiener is overseeing a lot of land, people and the issues concerning them meaning he is literally, physically, all over the city. The issues he address are also on all parts of the spectrum.

Only in this past year Wiener has tackled hard questions. Regardless of his seemingly shy demeanor, Wiener didn’t stay quiet when he addressed Russia’s anti-LGBT legislation to the humane treatment of animals in shelters, MUNI and public nudity being the more sensitive items on his agenda.

Wiener has mastered the balancing act. Sure, he might leave some upset or in disagreement but he’s working towards more of an open communication between himself and the people.

Noe Valley in particular is a politically active neighborhood that consistently has numerous groups asking for public engagement along 24th Street. The residents are now wealthier, younger and more tech-savvy. Surprisingly, Wiener has found a specific way to successfully connect with them.

“I do think that he’s really smart to get involved [with] the community on social media.  This is certainly the right crowd for that approach. I was really impressed to see that he was on Nextdoor.com and actively engaging in conversations,” said Sara Strickler, 26, a 24th Street resident.

On the popular issue of MUNI, Joe Ricioppo, 31, another 24th Street resident said, “I think improving MUNI is a noble cause, and probably something safe to focus on.”

Though Wiener has created dialogue, the issue of public nudity in San Francisco has drawn the line for some.

“This is probably the one thing that really colors my opinion of Wiener. I totally support it,” said Strickler who shares a common opinion with others in such an open and embracing city.

“Naked people don’t hurt me, or really affect my life experience in any way, so I have no issue with it, and am proud to live in a city that’s so quirky and comfortable in its skin,” added Strickler.

This single issue, which aims to change a deeply-rooted tradition of not only the Castro but of San Francisco seems to be focus point from where citizens are drawing their opinion of Wiener. People have become slightly defensive which could be the reasoning behind Wiener’s label as being a goody-goody.

“Also, his name is Wiener. How can you oppose naked people when your name is Wiener?” said Ricioppo.