Tag Archives: city hall

Ed Lee’s Legacy of Grievances

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“San Francisco is a white-collar crime,” the woman in the back of my taxi says, in a machine gun-like monologue. “And Ed Lee is — was — one of the main culprits. It was Ed Lee who sold us out to the tech companies, turning The City into a playground for the rich.”

It seems like the only notable conversations I have in my cab anymore that aren’t long winded jeremiads are the ones that don’t involve politics. Or millennials. Or tech. Or San Francisco.

“Don’t get me wrong though … I didn’t want Ed Lee dead. Just out of office. Or in jail. He should have gone down after the Shrimp Boy case …”

When I pull up to the woman’s building at Bush and Jones, she hands me a $20 bill.

“So yeah … you won’t see me wearing a black armband anytime soon,” she says, as if there’s a moral obligation to mourn the untimely death of the mayor.

Granted, over the past few weeks, there have been countless public memorials, but the majority of the people I talk to in my cab haven’t changed their tunes.

Despite Willie Brown’s observation in his column for the Chronicle last week:

Everyone on all sides of the political spectrum has something nice to say about the guy. Everyone, that is, except the taxi drivers. They still blame Ed for the flood of Uber and Lyft cars that are killing their livelihoods.

Turns out, taxi drivers aren’t the only San Francisco not mourning the death of Lee …

From Bush and Jones, I meander through the Tenderloin and end up at the scene of the crime.

Inside City Hall, several hundred Google developers are having their corporate holiday party. A typical frock-and-jock event, the guys wear the usual business casual, and the women are decked out in festive evening gowns. Slowly, in their high heels, they cascade down the steps, past the assemblage of bouquets and wreaths laid out in remembrance of Lee.

Outside, on the Polk Street side, an ad hoc cabstand is forming.

While the partygoers gather and wait with their phones out like Geiger counters, a bunch of Hackers gather outside our cabs to kvetch about how slow business has been this holiday season.

“Every year, it just gets worse …”

“I just don’t know what I’m going to do, man,” Icarus says. “I have to get out from under this debt. It’s killing me!”

Saddled with a $250,000 loan for a worthless medallion, Icarus works five days a week just to make the monthly payments.

“Am I supposed to declare bankruptcy over this and run my credit until I’m 60 years old?”

Things aren’t any better for Hester.

“I’d be doing so much better as a gate-and-gas driver.”

“Ed Lee ruined my life.”

“Maybe the Credit Union will step in and take these medallions back.”

Just days after Lee’s passing, KPIX ran a story about the San Francisco Credit Union suing The City over defaulted medallion loans because the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency did nothing to stop the illegal taxis that flooded the streets. And since The City is in the business of selling taxi medallions for $250,000, maintaining the value of those medallions would seem like a no-brainer.

Not so in Lee’s San Francisco, where, by his proclamation, every July 13 is Lyft Day.

It’s actions like these that helped feed the rumor, mostly spread among taxi drivers, that Lee’s daughter is an investor in Lyft, or works at Lyft or has some connection to the company. Whether or not that rumor is true doesn’t matter. The damage has been done. And there’s no going back now …

Read the full column here.

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Waiting for the Orpheum to break…

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Last week I get a text from Colin: “Wholly shit; I’m doing homework for the first time in a decade, putting Open World, Dreamforce, Castro Street Fair in schedule.”

Holy shit, times sure have changed. Back when I always made sure to know what convention was at Moscone, what shows were at the theaters and who was playing at the concert venues, Colin would snicker and call me “cute” for “being such a good rookie.”

Now that he’s embraced the new way of taxi driving, Colin isn’t just queuing outside hotels, Davies Hall and the War Memorial, he’s preparing for what to expect.

Of course, there are times when it pays to do your homework. Like last Thursday, when a bunch of clueless cab drivers were staging outside the Masonic and complaining about not getting any fares – they might not have wasted their time at the Nob Hill concert hall if they knew about the night’s headliner, Harry Styles. People who pay to see a former boy band singer are not as likely to take a taxi after the show as those who go to the opera, where about thirty people waited desperately for a ride home.

I heard the whistles on Franklin before even turning onto Grove.

After taking my fare from the War Memorial to the St. Francis, I head to the Orpheum, where “An American in Paris” is about to break, and line up on Hyde Street.

A few minutes later, the side doors open and the audience pours out into the night. I wave a man and a woman forward. He opens the door and she gets in first. Tells me their destination:

“The Ritz.”

I hit the meter and maneuver through the surge of vehicles quickly descending on the area.

As I turn right onto Larkin, the man comments on City Hall, awash in multicolored lights.

“What are the colors for? The flag?”

“I think it’s to commemorate the Folsom Street Fair this weekend,” I suggest, even though the colors aren’t exactly the same as the rainbow colors usually associated with the LGBT community.

“What street fair?” he asks.

“Folsom. It’s a celebration of…” I hesitate, unsure how to explain the festival to mixed company.

The woman beats me to it. “Folsom Street Fair is a leather and bondage event,” she explains.

“Oh,” the man replies.

“Yeah. They’re expecting over 200,000 attendees. I haven’t looked forward to seeing a bunch of hot, sweaty half-naked dudes this much since I used to watch WWF wrestling religiously.”

After trying to take a selfie with City Hall is the background, the couple asks how my night has been going. There’s not much to report.

“So, is driving a cab your only job in The City?” the woman asks.

“I also, uh… write.”

“Oh, what do you write?” the man wants to know.

“Besides other things, I write a weekly column for the Examiner about driving a taxi.”

“You want a story?” the man asks with a chuckle. “I could tell you my name.”

“Let’s not do that!” the woman chides him.

I glance in the rearview but it’s too dark to make out his face clearly. “What’s your name?”

He laughs again.

“Come on,” she insists. “We’re almost to the hotel.”

Read the rest here.

Weathering the Long, Cold Winter Ahead

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If it’s raining in San Francisco, the world must be coming to an end. Which isn’t much of an exaggeration. Not only is Donald Trump our new president, but this has also been an absolutely brutal winter. Hardly a day above 60 degrees. Nighttime temps in the low 40s. And no end in sight.

I usually enjoy inclement weather, but enough is enough. I haven’t experienced a winter this unpleasant since the winter of ’99, when I was holed up in a roach-infested apartment in Birmingham, Alabama. And it wasn’t even very cold that year …

Last week, my shift at Baby Co. was covered for a few days, so I took the opportunity to go to work. After all, diapers aren’t cheap.

On Wednesday afternoon, in the pouring rain, Colin and I carpool into The City. The high winds on the Bay Bridge blow water sideways. We crack the windows to release our cigarette smoke, but we’re immediately pelted with errant raindrops.

“We be Trumpin’,” Colin quips.

Read the rest here.

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A San Francisco taxi tribute to Prince

One of the cool features of the Ford Fusion is the floorboard and cup holder lights, which come in a rainbow of options. Tonight, in 1434, I went with purple in memory of Prince.

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City Hall was radiant.

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Pics from Van Ness…

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and Portola…

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…where the purple just blasted through the night, outshining all the other lights of the city.

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