Thursday, September 03, 2015

SF Weakly: Secret Firehouse Public Toilets for Homeless Folks

It's a good thing I don't depend on Chris Roberts and the SF Weakly for all the facts about the fire department's change of rules regarding homeless and public access to taxpayer-funded toilets at firehouses, a change that came about because I began demanding it back in February. At the end of May, my single-voice campaign persuaded the SFFD to enact a policy allowing expanded toilet access.


Roberts and the Weakly have ignored those developments but on September 2, they ran a story that never explained how and why the fire department did the right thing. Roberts reported:

 "SF Weekly was alerted to the situation only by the vigilance of Michael Petrelis, a controversial Castro District blogger and activist (who was once served a restraining order for photographing a politician in a City Hall public restroom). And Petrelis was only made aware of the [expanded toilet access] policy after he received a July 30 SFFD memo via the Fire Commission, where he'd been raising a stink about increasing public access to meetings."

No, Mister Roberts, I was well aware of the policy I changed well before July 30 and since you raise the issues I've raised at fire commission meetings, you should know it was at those meetings where I raised my voice without anyone from the Homeless Inc assisting me.

Oh, and I also persuaded the commission to air its meetings on SFGovTV and move them to City Hall, to expand access, there's that phrase again, for the public to keep tabs on the commission and department's brass. Haven't read about that expansion of government sunshine and accountability in the Weakly.

On the positive side, Roberts gives these facts:

"But it turns out there are as many as 45 under-utilized public bathrooms in San Francisco — at each of the city's fire stations. Ground-floor restrooms at fire stations are public restrooms, available between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. (unless there's a fire, in which case the bathroom is closed, no matter how dire the other emergency). One would think this could help stem the tide of urine that's drowning us (and caused one corroded light pole to collapse). The problem is that nobody seems aware the bathrooms are available.

"'Nobody on our staff had heard about it,' says Jennifer Friedenbach, the Coalition on Homelessness's Executive Director. 'The city should put the word out that they're available.'"

I must point out that the Coalition on Homelessness's staff should have read the emails I sent them about my demands on and eventual success with the fire department. Progressives working in Homeless Inc might learn a lot if they listened to advocates such as myself who are outside their tight circle of associates and those who hold opinions contrary to Homeless Inc thinking.

My final kvetch, at least contained here, is that the Weakly should treat SFFD toilet access as the story is it deserving of greater length to bring in the Mayor's Office and City Hall officials who've done nothing much to educate everyone about being able to pee and poop at firehouses.

Take the time to use our public firehouse toilets the next time you need to relieve yourself!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

List of City-Owned Toilets & Availability for Public Peeing?

John Updike is head of the San Francisco Department of Real Estate and a few months back, after I persuaded the fire department to make their taxpayer-funded toilets open for public use, I requested a list of all City-owned property likely to have functioning toilets or showers.

My request to Updike was for property in the Mission, Tenderloin, Civic Center and South of Market areas. Within days, he sent back eight-pages of responsive public records with these comments:

"Thanks for your patience. This is the best level of detail we’re going to be able to provide you, Michael, and I hope it is helpful. These are assets we either know, or suspect, have square footage of improvements. I do not have data set that can confirm existence of restrooms. [...] The info we have is only as good as the info provided by the departments in control of each asset – and as you can see, the departments are not very diligent in providing us with detailed information. [...] All would have restrooms of some sort, but not sure any will have showers. Our overall data doesn't drill down to that level."


I believe there are hundreds of San Francisco taxpayer-funded toilets, maybe a few dozen showers too, that should be evaluated for daily use by the homeless population, tourists and anyone else who needs to pee and poop.

It's incumbent upon Mayor Ed Lee and the Department of Public Health, not to mention the mayor's homeless advisers Bevan Dufty and Samuel Dodge, to methodically visit and assess which City-owned buildings could be part of an expanded toilet program.

To nudge the City officials to shake off their complacency about finding more restrooms and also showers for the homeless to take advantage of, improving public health for everyone, I've posted the eight-pages Updike shared with me on my Google Docs page here.

Btw, I had no idea the City owned so many parking lots, did you?

Monday, August 31, 2015

FitnessSF Shuts Grove & Market Street Gym Over High Rent

[CORRECTION: I got the name wrong. It's Fitness Evolution, not FitnessSF.]

On my way to the Grove Street entrance to the main branch of the San Francisco public library this afternoon, I passed what used to be the very busy FitnessSF gym. It also had a window and door on Market Street between 8th and 9th Streets.

Noticing the empty space on both levels of the workout facility and lack of folks exercising, I walked in to what use to be the front desk area. That's were a sign was posted with this info:


"Attention Members and Guest, due to the high real estate rents in the San Francisco market Fitness Evolution has decided to close this location effective August 25th, 2015. ... We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this has caused and appreciate your business. If you should have any questions or concerns, please contact management. Thank you for understanding and we look forward to making this a positive experience."


Contact info for management was nowhere to be found but maybe members will enjoy working out at the other location.

I'm not so sure the real estate market is the cause of the FitnessSF closure in a very dicey and foul-smelling area of Civic Center. The Turkish restaurant and bodega store on Grove Street are doing just fine, according to the owners whom I spoke with today.

Frankly, seems quite odd another FitnessSF facility is just three blocks away and maybe the area just couldn't sustain two venues.

Let's see if and when another business takes over the lease.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Univision PAC: $489,000 to Dems; $75,000 to GOP

I was quite pleased to see Univision's long-serving and widely-respected news anchor, Jorge Ramos, doggedly question GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump, at a news conference earlier this week.

While there are no records indicating Ramos has made donations to federal politicians or PACs, his company, Univision Communications, has a PAC and files at OpenSecrets.org reveal a Democratic Party bias.

Since 2008, when Univision Communications PAC first began doling out dollars, it had donated $489,000 to Democrats and $75,500 to GOP candidates, in U.S. House and U.S. Senate races.

Journalistic independence and presentation of the news without bias is a stretch for Univision, in my book, considering how much money its PAC has contributed to Democrats and I hope the TV news station is upfront about where it spends its political dollars.

Nothing wrong with advocacy journalism, as long as an outlet discloses their favorite politicians and who receives donations from their political action committee.


These numbers for the Univision Communications PAC come from OpenSecrets.org:

2008

Democrats:
Senate: $18,000
House: $106,000
Subtotal: $124,000

GOP:
Senate: $2,000
House: $10,000
Subtotal: $12,000

2010

Democrats:
Senate: $13,000
House: $105,000
Subtotal: $118,000

GOP:
Senate: $0
House: $15,500
Subtotal: $15,500

2012

Democrats:
Senate: $6,000
House: $98,000

GOP:
Senate: $0
House: $15,000
Subtotal: $15,000

2014

Democrats:
Senate: $14,000
House: $102,500
Subtotal: $116,500

GOP:
Senate: $3,500
House: $21,000
Subtotal: $24,500

2016

Democrats:
Senate: $2,500
House: $30,000
Subtotal: $32,500

GOP:
Senate: $0
House: $8,500
Subtotal: $8,500

Last Picture Show at the Pacific Film Archive's Cal Theater

It's impossible for me to calculate the many happy and gratifying hours spent over the years watching a vast array of cinematic offerings and discussions with filmmakers and programmers at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.

Highlights include catching the Bela Tarr retrospective and seeing his 7-hour-plus masterpiece "Satantango" several times, Marx Brothers comedies, French New Wave classics by Agnes Varda, the residency of Pedro Costa from Portugal, the restored and uncut "Ludwig" from Luchino Visconti, many films introduced by former director Edith Kramer, Hollywood melodramas and epics, programmer Kathy Geritz's series devoted to Lithuania's Sarunas Barta, and this year current director Susan Oxtoby's monumental look at Georgian cinema.

I asked communications director Peter Cavagnaro for details on how long the "temporary" theater was in operation on the Cal campus and an approximate number of flicks shown:

"We started showing film at the 2575 Bancroft Way PFA Theater location in September 1999. We were the first official tenants of that structure. We show anywhere from 380-420 screenings/year. I'd estimate we have hosted around 6,000 or so screenings in the space. The new theater will be awesome. Trust me. No one will be disappointed."

Like many Bay Area cineastes, I anticipate spending a lot of time at the new facility after it opens in January 2016. I will miss seeing longtime house manager Becky Mertens running the box office and coordinating the work-study students. She's been let go and my video is dedicated to her. Becky made the PFA theater a welcoming environment and a warm home for movie buffs to spend an afternoon or evening.

Here's my video of some of the events that took place on Saturday, August 1st, of the final weekend on campus. It was a blast to be there with fellow movie-lovers, the fabulous PFA crew, and to hear Victor Erice discuss his Spanish classic "The Spirit of the Beehive" and then see a beautiful print of it.

See you at the new PFA theater in 2016!



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Drunks Barred From Peeing at SF Firehouses - Signage Needed

My successful campaign persuading the San Francisco Fire Department to allow the homeless and general public have access to taxpayer-funded toilets isn't over yet.

I recently stopped by the firehouse on Sanchez Street, right off Market in the Castro, in need of relieving myself. The firefighters on duty were totally unaware of the new toilet access policy but were happy to allow me to use their restroom.


Last week, the fire commission secretary, Maureen Conefrey, shared with me a memo from Mark Gonzalez, deputy chief of operations, stating:

"If the member of the public requesting to use the facility is inebriated or altered in any way, they shall not be allowed to use the restroom facility."

Given the high number of homeless and housed folks in this City on a substance or two, this restriction sure could prevent many people from accessing the firehouse toilets when they really, really need to pee. Let's hope the firefighters don't adhere too strictly to the memo's rules.

Separate from the rules, we need Chief Joanne Hayes-White and Mayor Lee's homeless coordinator Bevan Dufty holding a few highly-publicized events at firehouse, raising much-needed awareness about the toilet access expansion.

I recommend the City spend a few bucks on metal signage to be installed at every firehouse, detailing the days and times when toilets are available for public usage. What benefit to the public health is there if only a handful of folks are aware of toilet access via SFFD facilities?


Currently, all facilities advertise they're safe surrender sites for unwanted infants. I'm not sure how many mothers drop off their babies at firehouses, but such signage is a good example of what toilet access signs should look like.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ileus is What Ails Me & September Surgery Set

My recent major health challenges stem from a new ailment known as ileus, which is when the digestive mechanism moving stool isn't functioning. 

One of my three medical appointments yesterday was with my long-term gasto-intestinal specialist, Dr. Robert Elsen. He explained that I'm to stick with a diet higher in fiber, which has long included large fiber intake, daily stool softeners and a new tasteless laxative drink, plenty of prunes and yogurt, and a whole lotta rest.

All these elements equaled several bowel movements in the past 48-hours, the first in two-weeks, and no cramps. Every step to wellness leads to another.

Asking for a step-by-step recount of the colonoscopy and removal of clogged stool causing the bloating, Elsen told me my rectum was numbed, a tube inserted and the stool was vacuumed. He and the assistant watched my stomach deflate and lose the painful, knotted tension.

Great to know this, but sure wish I had been awake for the fun anal activity and able to enjoy the stimulation of it all!

At my bariatric clinic consultation, I was informed that the gastric by-pass surgery long-scheduled for September 8th was proceeding. This mean I begin a two-week liquid diet, heavy on soluble fiber, starting this Tuesday to reduce my fatty liver as much as possible making the operation and healing afterward easier all around.


Mike is the best caregiver and today we cooked up a huge pot of beets together, and reveled with each other at all the excellent news and wellness developments for both of us ageing gay men living with AIDS. I've not felt ready to remove my hospital wrist band, I say because the blue matches my skin so well. Go figure.

A hearty thank you to everyone who's communicated with us in recent days, and wish us well, and also shared details about your own health needs and conditions. Your reaching out keeps us connected to our social support circles and is one additional way of taking care of ourselves.

Hope you are well and enjoying the weekend.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chron's Saunders & I Blocked on DA's Govt-Funded Twitter Acct

There is not a whole lot that I have in common with the SF Chronicle's resident conservative columnist Debra J. Saunder, but today I learned we're both on DA George Gascon's blocked list on his taxpayer-funded Twitter account. He's such an ambitious Latino, Democratic, law-and-order political animal clawing his way up the food chain and also possesses a very thin skin. Not a man to trust.


Today, a San Jose based open govt advocate named Angela Greben contacted me with this info:

"I'm posting results to public records requests on my blog. I'm asking public officials and agencies (so far just in CA) about who is on their Twitter block/mute list. George Gascon's office responded to my request yesterday and I'm going to publish it soon.

"What I noticed is that the majority of people on his block list have only ever made one comment to him and they got blocked as a result. Their comments were simple criticisms of him or his office.

"However, you were the one exception to the rule. I've noticed you've posted numerous tweets, some of which would have gotten other's blocked, but have managed to stay unblocked (no one is on his mute list)."

Check out Gerben's blog post on Gascon using his govt-funded Twitter account to stifle the arrival of criticism directed at his eyeballs. Blocking by electeds on their official accounts is equal to telling the postal service not to deliver snail mail letters, while also preventing this and other taxpayers from viewing his tweets.
4 ER Visits & 4 Days in Hospital & Still No Answers

I've had quite a few major health challenges in the past two weeks. Here's the background and latest info.

1. On August 10th, the attending physician at Davies ER diagnosed my cough as either early pneumonia or bronchitis, prescribed a regimen of bactrim and discharged me. My bowel movements grew less frequent, odd, given that bactrim can cause diarrhea. By August 14, I was back at the same ER with a more pronounced hacking. Had to fight for a new x-ray and the doc said it was certainly pneumonia, gave me prescriptions for levaquin and cough suppressant with codeine.

2. The doctors and nurses started to blend together, making it harder to remember all the details they tell me. Various x-rays and scans and tests are not showing any blockage in my colon. On August 15, symptoms are worse and I'm back at at the ER with stomach pain. Doc prescribes norco 5, which causes constipation but alleviates my pain. Finally, on August 16, with Mike at my side, the ER folks finally admit me into the hospital.

3. My hospital stay starts with an IV to deal with the dehydration. Staff is unsure how to solve my stomach blockage but to keep me pain-free, I'm kept on the norco 5. If I'm awake and not spaced out, I can't find a comfortable position sitting in a chair or lying in bed. My roommate is a handsome young gay Portuguese-American. When he has energy, he's on the phone speaking in Portuguese and it's the most musical sound bringing me significant calm and comfort.

4. Thank goodness over the years I've received a lot of care at Sutter Health's Davies Campus's ER. This means my main doc in hospital, a mature Romanian with an Old World comportment and temperament, has scads of data to look over, trying to help me. His prognosis that the lung troubles are not pneumonia but stem from the blocked bowels gets me off bactrim and levaquin. 

5. On August 18, Dr. Robert Elsen, a gastro-intestinal expert I've seen over the years, performs a colonoscopy and while the results show no blockage, good news, we have no answers behind the problem or how to return me to wellness. While under knocked-out, my bowels are finally moved and my stomach no longer knotted in pain when I wake up. So many doctor and nurses and tests and drugs and questions and still no clue what's causing the obstruction.

6. Yesterday, August, 19, I was discharged and given two new prescriptions and can't recall what they're for. At my request the hospital provided me with a thick stack of papers about the ER visits and hospital stay, doctors' notes, lab results. Mike and I took a taxi home and it was so great to be back in our apartment. I followed doctor's orders, ate a small even meal including a dozen prunes, drank a robust amount of psyllium, took two stool softeners, and went to bed. 

7. Sure wish that my seventh note was good news but had night sweats so badly I had to change my tee shirt and underwear twice last night, and there's been no bowel movement this morning. Well, actually, I do have good news, of a sort. Tomorrow, I have an appointment at my UCSF positive clinic in the late morning and then a late afternoon appointment with Dr. Elsen. Let's hope for some solutions!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

SF Ex's Writer's Mailbag Plagiarizes My Toilet Access Post

Stuart Schuffman, alias Broke Ass Stuart, is running for mayor of San Francisco I've lately laughed at how he's also a lazy ass when it comes to addressing a reader of his plagiarizing from my blog. Some history is needed.

The SF Examiner gives Stuart space every Wednesday for him to opine on various subjects and recently he developed an interest in expanding toilet access. You may recall, I successfully lobbied the Department of Public Health, the SF Fire Department and the mayor's homeless czar Bevan Dufty over four-months to open and publicize the availability of restrooms at firehouses.

(Click to enlarge!)

At his blog on August 7, in response to his two Examiner columns about public toilets, a reader wrote in and totally plagiarized from my May 30 blog post regarding the City expanding toilet access at firehouses.

Over last weekend, I tweeted and emailed Stuart and didn't hear from him until Monday. Here's our exchange:

Stuart: "Sorry, I was at Outside Lands all weekend. Would you like me to go in and link to your article on the post?"

MP: "Yes, that would be a good start and I hope you'll give some context to my months of work on expanding toilet access in SF at taxpayer-funded buildings."

Stuart: "Cool! Please send me what you want included and I will make the edit."

MP: "Huh? After two days of ignoring my tweets and emails about your reader's plagiarism, and using the lame ass excuse of being at the concerts, which didn't stop you from tweeting, you're asking me to address the plagiarism? You have a few folks keeping your site going and an election team, so I think you should call on them if you're too lazy or busy to address this matter. Also, you might say a word of thanks for my efforts to expand toilet access at the fire houses."

Why he couldn't write his own explanation about the plagiarism of a reader, link to my original post and do what the City officials did, thank me for my advocacy increasing the public's access to toilet is something Stuart may want to address. His page with the plagiarism, which I copied, omits a note from him about all this.

This is Stuart's reply to his reader:

"Thanks so much for the footwork on this one and for passing it on to us. It ultimately seems like the destiny of one’s bladder or colon may lie in whomever is on duty at the time, but this is definitely a resource I can guarantee most people have no idea exists, least of all people who lack housing, much less the ability to receive inter-office memorandums from Chief Hayes-White."

Damn, if only Stuart would use his weekly Examiner column to publicize the toilet access at firehouses and call on the City to greatly promote this change by the fire department, I would be inclined to no longer call him Lazy Ass Stuart.