SF finds revenue under every rock

From the mundane to the taboo to the absurd, city leaders hike any fee they can think of to balance city budget

The cost of living and doing business in San Francisco increased this year in hundreds of little ways.

Though they didn’t garner as much attention as the city’s massive budget cuts, a series of new and increased fees emerged from the Board of Supervisors from late May to early July. The goal was to generate revenue beyond taxes, reducing city departments’ reliance on an anemic general fund.

The following list was compiled from records from the board. It includes all new and increased fees introduced with the 2010-11 fiscal year. The supervisors enacted more than 400 fee hikes, some for rare activities with small constituencies, such as hosting a masked ball or shooting off a cannon. (Seriously.)


New Rules on Phone Competition Could Affect Prices for Poor

Basic service would no longer include unlimited local calls
A proposal by state utilities regulators to deregulate basic phone service could open competition to companies using newer technologies, but critics say it could sharply increase costs for more than 2 million low-income Californians who rely on discounted landline service.

All landline rates could rise under the proposed rules, which would increase the companies’ leeway in new charges for services, whose prices are now fixed. Phone rates have been under California Public Utilities Commission oversight since the dawn of phone service in 1915.

The commission, which regulates the state’s telecommunication, energy, water and transportation industries, has proposed ending a requirement that basic phone service include free incoming calls and unlimited local calling for a flat rate.


San Francisco’s clean-power program meets economic reality

CleanPowerSF, which aims to provide a cleaner energy alternative to PG&E, is struggling to find a way to keep rates low and supply San Francisco residents with green power. Contract negotiations with the company chosen to implement the city’s clean-energy system have collapsed, and the city is changing the requirements for any new bidders. The goal of 51 percent renewable energy by 2017 seems unlikely, unless the city buys some form of energy credits.

Brakes put on indigent transportation program

The homeless and disabled are facing proposed cuts to a program that provides them with transportation to pick up prescriptions and obtain medical treatment. Mobile Assistance Patrol is facing a $300,000 reduction in funds for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which means that the transportation service will operate for shelter clients only at night.

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Performer plays on the edge of reality

Maria Watanabe takes the stage in Japantown’s Peace Plaza to sing and dance as the anime character Sailor Moon every Saturday — despite her fear of crowds. She believes her shows are worth the trouble because anime is such an important part of Japanese culture. Watanabe is part of a growing number of otaku (anime fanatics) in the Bay Area and the United States. Over the past few decades, attendance at anime (animated movies) and manga (comic books) conventions has skyrocketed. San Jose’s FanimeCon alone grew from 200 attendees in 1994 to about 15,000 in 2009.