Part of a special report on homelessness and mental health in San Francisco, in the fall 2014 print edition. Stories rolling out online throughout the fall.
San Francisco has struggled for more than 10 years to solve the problem of chronicl homelessness. While the current consensus endorses the principle of “housing first” — stabilizing people by getting them off the streets and into basic housing — there is little agreement about the optimal policies to pursue. We asked eight civic leaders for their ideas about how to improve the living situations of the thousands of people currently living on the streets and in shelters.
10 years ago, San Francisco’s politicians pledged to end chronic homelessness, getting the neediest people off the street through a “housing first” policy. Today that outcome is nowhere in sight. Few people are lucky enough to leave the streets through the city’s subsidized housing placement system, where some wait perpetually to receive a home. Part of a special report on homelessness and mental health in San Francisco, in the fall 2014 print edition. Stories rolling out online throughout the fall.
Government shutdown temporarily aside, effective Jan. 1, 2014, most people need to carry health insurance or pay a fine. It’s called the “individual mandate.” If you’re signed up with Healthy San Francisco, there’s one very important thing you need to know: Healthy San Francisco is not health insurance. So, it’s not going to get you off the hook for that individual mandate.
Inscrutable “per capita” and “business as usual” comparisons hide rise in total greenhouse gases
Essentially, it’s a math trick: The per capita figure hides a predicted regional population growth of 28 percent. That means total passenger vehicle emissions regionwide would actually rise by 9.1 percent — an indication that regional planning is not helping California’s efforts to become a model in combating climate change.
This story is part of a special report on climate change in the Summer print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.
Sprawl is commonplace in the Bay Area — from places like Antioch and Brentwood on the outskirts of Contra Costa County to parts of Santa Clara and Sonoma counties. The pattern emerges from an all-too-familiar suburban formula that for decades earned developers high profits: perfectly manicured lawns, streets that meander around small neighborhood parks and cul-de-sacs at the end of nearly every block. Mixed use is forbidden — businesses are clustered into shopping malls a car trip away. Though the Bay Area started out on a European-style city grid in the era of the horse and buggy, the neighborhoods developed after World War II, after the rise of the automobile industry and interstate highway system, became the American dream.
A high-profile effort to focus new Bay Area housing into energy-efficient transit villages is seen as unworkable even as it makes its public debut this summer, say urban planners, because regional government lacks the authority to make cities build dense urban neighborhoods. The three-decade Plan Bay Area, unveiled in May, is the product of more than two years of research on the region’s demographics, economy, transportation and architecture. Proponents say “smart growth” could be the future of the Bay Area — if regional agencies had either the legal tools to enforce the grand vision or enough money to make it worthwhile for cities to participate.
Local, state officials must develop new models for care by 2014
This story appeared in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.
San Francisco’s experiment in universal health care, which grew over the last five years to cover an estimated 85 percent of the city’s uninsured, may need to partly return to its origin as a network of safety net clinics and hospitals for the poor as national reforms syphon off middle-class patients. Healthy San Francisco provides medical services to more than 50,000 city residents. But the program could take a financial blow within the next two years as cities and counties adapt to national health reform.
Clinics scramble for money to switch to electronic health records
The San Francisco Department of Public Health says it is ahead of the curve in rolling out databases that keep tabs on tens of thousands of patients across a citywide network of clinics and hospitals. The rollout is needed not just to make a local form of “universal health care” work, but also to meet a 2014 deadline under national health reform. And the city says it spent just $3.4 million on new patient-tracking technology. Not bad for an unprecedented charity care initiative whose total budget has grown to $177 million just this past year. But while clinics and hospitals across the city are now linked up to a common intake tool that eliminates overbilling and duplicated medical appointments, that is only the first step in making the Healthy San Francisco program successful, directors of local health centers and technology experts say. A separate and much more complex piece of technology — electronic health records — is proving difficult and expensive.
UPDATE 8/19/11: Hear reporter Angela Hart discuss her story with KQED News, a Public Press reporting partner (fast-forward to second item)
San Francisco could have saved at least $33.5 million over the last two years’ budgets if departments, commissions and contractors had acted on advice from regular audits pointing out government waste and inefficiencies. The savings, much of it coming out of transit and police employee overtime, could have reduced the need to cut some vital services this summer as local government agencies faced $380 million in projected deficits over the next year.
Some of the audits produced by a unit of the controller’s office have been implemented swiftly. Yet as many as 40 audit reports out of 70 performed since 2009 linger officially unresolved. The problem is, there’s no recourse if departments choose to ignore auditors. And after two years, the office is not required to follow up on the reports, which could explain why 14 additional audits highlighting potential savings of $700,000 were not indicated on a list produced by the controller’s office.
BYGONE BUREAUS: 8 of 9 local offices of the San Francisco Chronicle shuttered in last decade
This story appeared in the spring print edition as part of the Public Press’ media package of stories.
The days of the major daily newspapers in the Bay Area battling on each others’ home turf for domination is over, as consolidation and staff reductions forced them to slash bureaus and zoned editions. The San Francisco Chronicle, which a decade ago had nine news bureaus scattered across the entire Bay Area, now just has one, in Oakland. And in San Mateo County, where the pressroom used to be packed with reporters from radio, TV and newspapers, most days there is only a single reporter from a regional wire service.