A farm blossoms in Hayes Valley where a freeway once cast a dominating shadow

Neighborhood rallies to site of collapsed freeway two decades after Loma Prieta earthquake

In 1990, Madeline Behrens-Brigham and Russell Pritchard opened art boutiques in a crime-ridden section of Hayes Valley. They called their part of the neighborhood, from Laguna Street to Market Street, the “Tenderloin of the ’90s.”

“It was only 20 years ago that you’d drive down Octavia Boulevard and on all corners it was prostitutes everywhere, like the Tenderloin is now,” Pritchard said.

The self-proclaimed neighborhood activists were barely making rent. They began attending meetings between Caltrans and city officials, petitioning to get the Central Freeway taken down. The double-deck structure had crumbled in the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and laid fallow for two years.


Iraq veteran’s new battle: defeating ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Back in war zone as contractor, decorated sergeant yearns for return to military life

Anthony Loverde joined the military at 22 because he needed money for school, and because he felt a deep love for country. But the real reason, he said, was to gain discipline — to “fight being gay.”

Starting as an Air Force radio technician, he climbed quickly to the rank of staff sergeant, and then served as a cargo loader flying missions in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. His close crew of six did everything together — ate, slept, fought a war.

While the team built camaraderie, Loverde had to lie about his personal life constantly. One summer day in 2008, a battle buddy asked what was wrong. Loverde had to let his secret out: he was gay. Military procedure required his friend to tell their commander. After seven years of service, Loverde was discharged under the military’s long-standing “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.


Muni planners say speed to come from untangling messy streetscape

Transit planner calls the city’s streets and tunnels ‘a nightmare’

San Francisco transit planners say a recipe of small fixes could amount to big changes in the nation’s fifth-largest urban transit system. But without new sources of money, many of these ideas, some of which would change the way the city’s streets are configured, will remain on the drawing board.

The system is chronically slow and crowded in part because its diverse fleet of bus and rail lines operates on a rollercoaster terrain in a fully built-out urban grid. Street fairs and demonstrations, ball games and construction routinely clog major arteries, making schedules seem academic.

The Municipal Transportation Agency launched its Transit Effectiveness Project in 2006, to reconfigure the city’s streets and tunnels — where physical constraints notoriously slow basic public transit to what one Muni planner called “a nightmare.”


Ban on gays in military heading to key Senate vote

A recent ruling by a federal court in Southern California — that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding the right of gays to serve in the military — is unconstitutional. The move could pave the way to lifting the ban entirely. Now, nearly five months after the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee voted in favor of repealing the ban on gays in the military, the Senate could be headed for a final vote.


Run down? Pay up — a list of San Francisco blighted properties

More than half a year after the Department of Building Inspection launched an ambitious effort to catalog unused and blighted properties in the city — a process that ultimately could bring in millions of dollars in property and transfer taxes and developer fees — the effort has been hobbled by layoffs in the department.

The Board of Supervisors passed an anti-blight law unanimously in November 2009. It requires property owners whose buildings are vacant or abandoned to register them with the city and fix up their dilapidated exteriors. The law is intended to reduce crime, clean up neighborhood blight and stimulate economic and social activity.


In crackdown, SF abandoned building fee hiked ninefold

In a shift that suggests a new zero-tolerance stance on blight, San Francisco officials said Friday they would raise the annual fee to “register” more than 200 abandoned buildings to $6,885 each, the maximum allowable under a recent city ordinance. “We’re going for the full amount,” said William Strawn, a spokesman for the Department of Building Inspection. “We have to make people aware that this is a new law and we’re going to enforce it.”


Lawyer leads fight to save species on city-owned golf course

Environmental lawyer Brent Plater has single-handedly brought the fight to close the Sharp Park Golf Course to the attention of San Francisco city leaders, who are on the verge of making the city-owned course in Pacifica a high-profile example of local leadership to save endangered species on public lands.

A leader in several groups such as Wild Equity and the Sierra Club, Plater also is the mastermind behind the Big Year contest to discover more rare plants and animals on public land as a way of saving and expanding sensitive endangered species’ habitats.


New transit center to displace SoMa neighbors

South of Market business owners and residents are conflicted over plans for an ambitious new transit-center redevelopment. They say that while the project may be good for the city and the Bay Area, it’s bad for their livelihoods. Among those being pressured to relocate are 26 businesses, at least 24 live-work lofts and eight parking lots operators.