Sara Eisenberg deputy city attorney

City Attorney to SF School District: Show Us Reopening Plan Details

After more than a year of online learning, certain groups of students and staff at some San Francisco schools began meeting in person in mid-April. For tens of thousands of students, distance learning continues. The school board and district intend to give every student the option of coming back full time in the fall. But the lawsuit that City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed against the district and board in February to compel them to reopen schools promptly is ongoing even as more students return to campuses. Sara Eisenberg, a deputy city attorney and chief of strategic advocacy in the city attorney’s office, said on “Civic” that the city attorney’s office is continuing the case to ensure that the district actually follows through on its promise.

Edward Armstrong smiles after petting his Pitbull dogs, which live in his recreational vehicle on Carroll Avenue in the Bayview neighborhood.

SF Resumes Parking Enforcement, Towing for Vehicle Dwellers

Edward Armstrong lives on a dead-end street to avoid visits from parking enforcement — and for him, it is the road to stability.

The lifelong Bayview resident sweeps the sidewalk around the RV he lives in, acts as an overnight security guard for a cannabis company and looks out for his neighbors in other vehicles. » Read more

Joe Eskenazi, managing editor at Mission Local

Journalist Uncovers Potential Fire Danger in Earthquake Safety Retrofits

In an effort to keep certain buildings from collapsing during an earthquake, thousands have received city-mandated seismic retrofits. But as Joe Eskenazi, managing editor at Mission Local, revealed in a recent special report, some of these upgrades left gas lines encased in concrete, which raises concerns about post-quake fires or explosions. 

“The real problem is if it breaks and the gas leaks out inside the building, where it’s leaking out quote-unquote under slab,” meaning under the concrete foundation. “Then all you need is some manner of spark, and then you have an explosion,” Eskenazi told “Civic.” 

It’s unclear how many of the 4,000 retrofits completed in the city have potentially problematic encased gas lines, which makes it difficult to measure exactly how catastrophic the aftermath of an earthquake could be. “If even just a small percentage of the retrofits have a problem like this in an earthquake situation, that could be a significant number of fire risks throughout the city,” Eskenazi said. “Even a small portion of these having this risk could lead to a terrible situation following an earthquake, because all the emergency services are going to have enough to do after an earthquake.”

In a second special report, he surfaced complaints that engineers have been making for years about shoddy construction work on such retrofits, which they allege were brushed off by the building inspection department.

Signs at a side entrance to Mission High School outline coronavirus safety guidelines for students.

SF School District Charts Paths to Reopening

Some students in the San Francisco Unified School District are back in classrooms — as of April 26, a district statement indicated more than 19,000 children had returned to campuses. But there are tens of thousands more students in the district. The Board of Education has resolved to give all students the option to return to in-person instruction in the fall. Gentle Blythe, deputy superintendent of strategic partnerships and communications with the district, discussed with “Civic”  the impacts of distance learning and next steps for reopening schools. One factor is whether requirements for distance between students in the classroom remain in place, which Blythe said is the biggest limiting factor for classroom capacity. 

“We’re planning for a few different scenarios.

Courtesy of Free Burma Action Committee.

S.F. Organizer Sees Repetition of Brutal History in Myanmar Military Coup

When Ko Ko Lay has managed to speak to his 86-year-old mother living in Myanmar under a military regime, she has told him she cannot sleep through the night. Like many civilians, she fears armed nighttime raids. “They are so worried about one day some security forces will come and will break through their door, and and they’re going to torture, and they’re going to kill,” Lay said. 

On Feb. 1, after a democratic election, Myanmar military forces seized control of the government and declared a year-long state of emergency. Civilians have been protesting that takeover, and the military has responded with deadly use of force, killing hundreds, including at least 40 children.

Installation at Yerba Buena Center Examines Mourning in a Time of Isolation

An installation at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts called “Mourning is an Act of Love” uses non-traditional forms of documentary film as well as poetry and photography, which visitors can view from the outside of the building, to explore concepts like memorials, grief and public space. Documentary filmmaker Susannah Smith, who curated the exhibit, and filmmaker and cinematographer Melinda James talked with “Civic” about mourning and connecting at a time when people are isolated by pandemic restrictions. Smith said there have been several deaths among her family and friends in recent years. “The main way that I dealt with it, that felt constructive, was really sharing stories and being with people and that kind of collective process,” she said. 

But the pandemic hindered mourners’ ability to gather. “The pandemic has shifted the ways that we are able to mourn the ways that we come together, collectively and as a community,” James said.

In Two Shootings a Decade Apart, Police Claim Taser Confusion

In 2009, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant, later claiming he had meant to use his Taser and not his gun. In April 2021, Brooklyn Center, Minn. police officer Kim Potter shot and killed Daunte Wright. Police say this, too, was due to confusion between the less-lethal weapon and the gun. » Read more

Paul Ocampo and Dax Valdes. Courtesy photos.

Training Offers Bystanders Tools to De-escalate Conflict

Bystanders to harassment, conflicts and even violent attacks sometimes find themselves at a loss for what to do, and refrain from getting involved. For victims, that can add insult to injury. In response to a wave of attacks against Asian Americans, two organizations have partnered to offer a bystander intervention training, which has been in very high demand. » Read more

Protesters hold a sign listing demands, in English and Spanish, regarding San Francisco's rent assistance program.

Nonprofit Obstructing Rent Aid for Thousands of San Franciscans

A group that worked with San Francisco on a public program to allocate rental relief funds is keeping a list of thousands of applicants from city staff, an official confirmed Friday. That has made it impossible for city officials to follow up with the applicants and give them additional help. » Read more