I added these to the Looks Tab and thought I’d just post them here as well for kicks. This was my project to inject progressive values into the SF Mayor’s Race.
I attended my first City of Oakland public meeting Monday, February 6th, to hear appeals by proprietors and regulars of The Kingfish Pub and Cafe seeking Landmark status before the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board.
In what can only be described as rare for an Oakland story about a dive, The San Francisco Chronicle actually did a cover piece on the place and this attempt to achieve Landmark status back in October (Which was amended by a piece on C-1 of The Chron, by same author, February 12).
This discussion yields an opportunity to address local art, architecture and gentrification, and historical and archival significance of the culture of North Oakland.
We are a decade deep into the digital generation and there are new, complicated reasons to carefully consider how we archive the past. Things have long begun to look more the same and with less character. Huge mega stores and strip malls replace local businesses, and much of what has existed has been erased and destroyed casually because of a lack of concern for the vernacular value of place.
The Landmarks Board has little power in the face of the Planning Commission or the City Council, which are dominated by lobbyists, mostly for vested developers’ interests, but the Landmarks Board exists for a reason and it is imperative we sharply define exactly how much power regular people have to protest rampant development solely for personal profit.
There are serious questions as to whether our City government is sophisticated enough to appreciate and protect what constitutes a Landmark in a specific neighborhood. Though, in fairness, this cannot be said of Valerie Garry, Vice-Chair of the Landmarks Board, who is a preservationist and showed architectural, artistic and cultural sensitivity to the petitioners’ request.
The Board as a whole heard the petitioners, were thoughtful faced by so many in the gallery, and yielded time for public comment, asking relevant questions.
Board Members Daniel Schulman and John Goines III were particularly vocal, and both voted against the upgrade of the validation request. Indeed both seemed moved, but cynical.
Goines was like a reluctant father trying to help supporters of the pub to get over losing it. Schulman declared he had been to the pub over the years, and recently as well, but argued huffily that a stronger case could be made for The White Horse in the neighborhood – the voice of political reason breaking the hearts of pub regulars. This led to a discussion about the matter and many great, old Oakland bars were brought up.
Staff reminded Schulman that The White Horse, Geo Kayes and others mentioned are storefronts in a building of another purpose, and not a free-standing, crazy-gorgeous, little wooden building built over decades.
It was inarguable that The Kingfish was in the company of all of the very old bars the Board discussed, but that among them all, the Kingfish, as a structure, is wholly unique.
Listening to these two gentlemen try to let folks down easy was one of the things that makes this discussion interesting to me: the suggestion that the petitioners are idealists asking for the moon from a Landmark Board Member who knows political reality.
I don’t know any of the Board Members, but I’ve thought deeply about the matter and inspected the Kingfish’s structure. I have interviewed regulars, owners and new customers and interacted with its extremely diverse clientele. A broad age and race demographic frequents the establishment – many of whom I know to be local residents.
In response to a direct request from the Chair of the Landmarks Board, Anna Naruta, for more oral histories on the Kingfish, I am beginning with this blog entry.
Many new residents of North Oakland are younger, wealthier and work in San Francisco. Some new homeowners are the product of the very last and most successful of the “house-flippers”.
These new owners join a flood of new renters from San Francisco and elsewhere. Rents are astronomically high. It’s hard to get a reasonable rent and dozens of high-rent apartments built during the fantasy boom stand empty, unrented. Greed has governed decision-making far more than culture.
Condos on the spot are economically and culturally unnecessary in this neighborhood and far more so if it requires removing the Kingfish, which is a remarkable structure filled with collage art and made from materials culturally syncretic to vernacular building in the area in the early 1900’s.
The first thing I told the Landmarks Board was that I am not a regular of the Kingfish Pub and Cafe , nor a friend of the owner/management petitioners. I stood before them as a local resident and urged the board to vote unanimously on behalf of the petitioners for Landmark eligibility status, because The Kingfish is a totally unique structure and a living collage of materials.
Management and regulars related that the Kingfish was begun as a bait shop in the early 1920’s, when it was built by a single individual from vernacular materials contemporary to its era, mostly wood planks.
Its location is excellent for fisherfolk because of very easy access to roads leading to many different parts of the Delta from Telegraph and Claremont. But also, for decades the Temescal Creek ran through here – until it was aquaducted so it now runs under here – and people fished it, too. The Kingfish Bait Shop must’ve been the hub for fisherfolk here.
It became popular and grew into a pub and restaurant in the 1930’s, and by the 1950’s had at least two generations of fathers, sons, mothers and daughters that had spent time buying bait, and then eventually sandwiches and beer, in what had grown into the ramshackle form it still takes.
My son and I fish. It’s clear we can get to many different fishing spots in the Bay easily from here. We notice less parents fishing these days. As computer games, digital culture and home entertainment dominate our society, less parents and children learn to fish and about the management of water-dwelling life. Less families spend time near the water.
The Kingfish is attached to a long vernacular history of people who cherish fishing here, leading up to ourselves. As a pub, because of this history, the ‘Fish attracts contemporary fisherfolk who maintain vernacular knowledge of climate, tides and environmental quality. It collects locals of a fading culture.
In the 1950’s and on into the 1970’s a second unique clientele began enjoying the ‘Fish. The pub lay just beyond the one-mile dry radius from the University of California. The Kingfish and many other local pubs became a hangout for college-aged students and, in the Kingfish Pub’s case, particularly for student athletes.
Cal players, coaches and managers as well as those from professional teams in the area, like the A’s, have long made the Kingfish a center of sports talk and culture. Its low-key, egalitarian atmosphere allows the most well-known or empowered athlete or manager to be able to co-mingle with younger athletes and students without the formalism of civic space.
The walls speak to years of this kind of activity, as sports memorabilia applied throughout the establishment exhibit the significance of The Kingfish as a Sportsperson’s Place. It’s clear that as with local fishing lore, a second, vernacular history is collected and archived by regulars of the ‘Fish, that of local sports.
The materials used and indeed the very “look” of the place are what attract me to this argument about its status as a Landmark of North Oakland. Many features of the Kingfish conjoin to demand consideration as cultural artifact of the region it inhabits, with powerful archival elements, protected solely by the managers and regulars of the pub – the petitioners.
The uniqueness of the application of the sports memorabilia is that while they are affixed in a seemingly uncurated and random manner, each comes with a story, and often regulars relate stories of how they came to be where they are on the walls. In fact, while some are quite valuable I am sure, no one would ever remove or move any of them.
Secondly, the Kingfish lets in very little light and has a low wooden ceiling. These are almost perfect conditions for archiving the materials in question! Through an oddity of its vernacular design, the culturally sensitive material affixed to the walls cannot be removed and are perfectly preserved over decades. Philosophically, from an arts and architecture standpoint, there is much to be considered here.
Representatives of the owner/developer are objecting to Landmark status and have claimed a vested interest and state-driven right to develop the land; that they had plans to do so and had those plans approved in 2007. Thus, in reality, what the Landmarks Board would have to do to support the petitioners would be relatively extreme.
The fact is, the developer’s plan was made in another universe – exactly at the peak of speculation in 2007. The immense and global crash that has occurred since 2008 still dominates the economic environment. No numbers generated for projects then could possibly make sense now.
The Kingfish has a diverse clientele in age and cultural background, attracting new generation residents like myself and 30- and 40-year customers. It feels welcoming while being historically connected – which in my experience is unique.
I told the Board my investigations made me realize lots of local parents and their children go and have gone to the Kingfish over decades, and lead me to approve of my son dropping in to the Kingfish when he turns 21, if the bar still stands in what would be its 99th year.
As an artist living in North Oakland electing not to own a car, and traveling weekly by bicycle and on foot between Peralta Elementary (with history to the late 1800’s) where my son has been a student, and the rock ridge for which the neighborhood is named, my son and I observe and photograph changes to public space and discuss them with others.
In these past five years we have documented:
— seismic retrofit of BART
— revivification of Frog Park and the creek pathway
— removal of the eucalyptus trees at the DMV by external interests
— repaving of Claremont to the freeway entrance (likely on behalf of Safeway’s expansion)
— closing of Long’s/CVS, and many older businesses
and the arrival of dozens of new businesses, salons, cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs between 2007 and 2012, including the closure and re-opening of the Kingfish.
The re-opening of the Kingfish by current management was met with enthusiasm locally in this time of revival here. The current petition to maintain the place via Landmark status is an extraordinary result of the most contemporary incarnation of the pub merging with intense cultural connection with its past.
First off, if you like comics, hovering over each of the links in the blogroll is good fun.
But the best way to read this site is to use the tabs at the top to read campaign promises and faq’s and then check out campaign videos before using the archive list to the right to go to the actual blog entries, of which there were many during the campaign.
From Twitter Giveaway to Treasure Island Boondoggle to the 100th running of the Bay to Breakers and the fiasco that allowed Ed Lee to run, it flows better chronologically.
Hardly anyone has voted.
That remains the story. Can a city official even be considered elected if a minority of the voting age population participates in the election? How is this democracy? We should pass a mandatory voting law for the City.
We must also protect Instant Runoff Voting, which did in fact force greater coalition building and less rancor amongst candidates. It did.
The need to be chosen as someone’s Number Two or Three kept these candidates honest and the results reflect it. Ed Lee’s silent treatment worked beautifully, and everybody who didn’t have a second or third choice in mind selected the Interim Mayor by default.
What a way to back into the job. Sound familiar? It’s what they accused Jean Quan of in Oakland. But guess what? it isn’t RCV, it’s voter turnout that’s the problem.
I am most disappointed in Melissa Griffin and her unfounded assault on Instant Runoff Voting or Ranked Choice Voting. This new system is good for democracy and proves useful at the aforementioned coalition-building and in encouraging more candidates (like myself, Joanna Rees, Green Terry Baum and many others) to participate. Ed Lee supporters should vociferously defend Instant Runoff, or Ranked Choice Voting.
Here’s a repost of my IRV PSA from several months back.
That said, everything has happened exactly as I expected since the Ethics Commission agreed Ed Lee could run – the main reason I dropped out.
This was a statistical inevitability. It’s a confirmation election – made from negotiations between Gavin Newsom’s crowd, Willie Brown’s and Rose Pak’s – to ensure that Ed Lee, the beloved Chief Administrator and Interim Mayor has no blemish on his record on the road to being the first Asian-American Mayor of San Francisco.
I am very happy for both the Chinese-American community and the Asian-American community at large, for the “breakthrough” that will be attributed here. But, the decision-making was done far away from most regular people, again, by power brokers who know we won’t bother to turnout, to look things up, to seek better representation.
I hope that instead of being threatened by what I am saying, Ed Lee supporters and the Mayor himself understand that my issue is with the Ethics Commission’s decision to allow Mr. Lee to run, not with him as a Mayor. He was a competent Chief Administrator and will be capable.
My issues on policy with Ed Lee are opposition to his Twitter Giveaway, the Treasure Island Boondoggle, the Park Merced “housing scheme that divides,” and his absurd idea for five-year budgets – given the huge number of interests to which he seems beholden. He lacks a progressiveness that I associate with our city. You can read specifics throughout this blog. I would have had him be allowed to run in 2015, against a real coalition-built Mayor.
I wish I could have been more active in this year’s election, but expected everything we are seeing today, months ago.
The promising numbers for John Avalos are a pleasant surprise from the standpoint of measuring the election against the power of the media to motivate. He was a non-entity before it began, Chris Daly stayed out of the way, and his absence helped Tim Redmond make Avalos run.
So Redmond pushed with his staid, old method and the numbers today are bigger. Pointless, but bigger. Redmond created the candidate and got him votes. Then had the SFBG report on the pretense of a Progressive Movement. Wow.
John Avalos’ numbers are largely due to the clip-and-vote effect observed for decades now, a method by which the Bay Guardian has become a shepherd for apathetic progressives-in-name, many very recent transplants here, who can’t be bothered to look into it, haven’t better resources or a competitive view of scale. These voters consider matters only in the last week of the cycle and do as Tim Redmond and the Bay Guardian tell them to do on election day by ripping out the page and following through.
This has been sustained because of a lack of competition for the Bay Guardian. But I restate my problem with Tim Redmond in this election: he wakes up everyday with all that power, and in recent years has seriously decayed in terms of courage or creativity. More often than not, he whines, laments and defines progressive space with his opinion of what is progressive. There is little or no collectivity and Redmond takes the centrist road nowadays leaving him as cliquish as the mainstream candidates.
That‘s the problem: the cliques at the Chron, SFBG and City Hall are the problem. That, and money … oh and the fact that nobody even cares to vote … (sigh)
The system needs a severe overhaul and I’d like to be a candidate again, but only if called upon. It isn’t real democracy – these aren’t real elections. It’s a sad decaying of SF political history.
The rulers are really stooges for the 1%, and the 1% themselves. They are out of touch and callous as so many of us suffer this terrible economy. They lack creative solutions, fear socialist ones and govern to protect themselves, their property and their right to party hard in our beautiful city.
Please stay in touch with comments. Hoping for a Sheriff Mirkarimi, I will be writing up an analysis of this election after the fact and posting it here. Thanks for your support and kind words.
Recent traffic to this site as the election cycle comes to a close inspires me to write a brief entry for new visitors to this campaign.
I ran for Mayor from November 18, 2010 until July 3rd, 2011, when it became clear that Interim Mayor Ed Lee would be allowed to run for Mayor in this election.
This was my concluding statement and will direct you to a chronology of the campaign.
I believe it is illegal for Ed Lee to run in this election, having promised not to run in order to be appointed to succeed Gavin Newsom, and because it has given Interim Mayor Lee’s campaign tremendous advantages of pseudo-incumbency. He has gained traction illegally throughout. In fact, despotic interests of the past thirty years have joined together – in fear of Instant Runoff Voting – to ensure the “safe” choice for them, a person they can move easily, will become Mayor.
For Rose Pak and the Chinese community it represents that the first Chinese Mayor, our current Interim Mayor, is never seen in the future as having failed at the job. If anything, this election, with Ed Lee allowed to run, represents a confirmation election. It’s a fake election to confirm that we all like Ed Lee. But it isn’t good democracy. It’s factions finding each other.
Leaving Ed Lee out of your three choices for Mayor is the only real way to ensure an ethical result from the succession process, and ensure a democratic outcome. Please do not include Interim Mayor Lee among your three choices for Mayor.
I am not endorsing any candidate for Mayor because I feel strongly that I am a better choice for Mayor than any of them. My policy ideas (Campaign Promises) are unique, and the best for our City right now. I am truly sorry my name is not on the ballot.
I encourage and welcome the use of write-in to include my name in the final tally.
Thanks to all of you who were so supportive.
I’ve grown to know and love the unique and special character of our city’s quiet pockets – what’s best defies definition, it’s called our spirit.
I pledge to stand with our neighborhoods and communities to retain their culture; to seek out input from communities into which predominantly private external interests attempt to intervene; to create jobs for people already living here, rather than imaginary future employees or residents.
We have plenty of people here who could use our support to create lives for themselves in neighborhood microeconomies. These would be of obvious service to our many residents and those who are soon to arrive.
3. To resist Manhattanization and HongKongification of San Francisco, in favor of saner development
Why does SF have to grow to a city of a million before we address the transit and infrastructural issues?
Why do we have to urgently build more residences for people who do not live here yet when so many who already do live here are suffering homelessness, job loss and an inability to keep up with the cost of living in San Francisco?
Why do we have to build housing for people who do not yet live here before working on cleaning up the Bay, preserving our heritage, adding better, smarter transportation and sustainable energy resources?
Why do we have to appease the nouveau-riche of our times: twenty- and thirty-something-year-olds from elsewhere who want to live and work in our beautiful city for companies that make money for investors who live elsewhere which – thanks to the board and the Twitter Giveaway – will contribute little to our economy?
In reality, we don’t.