Non-profit Círculo de Vida loses lease

In case you missed it, Capp Street Crap did a great writeup today on Mission-based non-profit Círculo de Vida losing their lease as tech company Double Dutch expands into their space in the Bay View/US Bank building.

Círculo, which serves primarily low-income immigrants who lack health insurance, provides a wide range of services – from support groups for people with cancer and their children to wigs and prostheses, case management, and in-home support for the terminally ill. Founded in 1992, it has spent the last 11 years at 2601 Mission. Now, it must leave by March 31.

Carmen Ortiz, Círculo’s founder and executive director, said that another non-profit on her floor had to leave after its lease wasn’t renewed last year and that DoubleDutch is now in that space. Even so, Ortiz said she was still surprised to receive a notice from her landlord, knowing the kind of work Círculo does.

Double Dutch claims that they didn’t know their growth was at the expense of Círculo de Vida’s displacement. Nevertheless, it’s a bad sign for our future when we lose a resource for low income Latino families dealing with cancer, so that a tech tool that helps with marketing and events can grow larger. There’s nothing wrong with Double Dutch, or the service it provides, as far as I know (and I didn’t know about them before today), but this city is becoming increasingly unable to take care of the citizens that need its help the most. I have worked for a San Francisco non-profit for almost eleven years and we have had to do a lot of restructuring over and over to be able to stay alive and effective. Even with our efforts, we would not be where we are without the grace of a landlord that truly understands what it means to invest in this city. Unfortunately, Círculo de Vida does not have such a landlord. SF real estate tycoons Vera and Robert Cort have long been targets of community & housing activists, for destroying historic murals, threatening and harassing tenants into leaving, and, in DotCom1, kicking out non-profits to bring in tech companies (number 14, under “Small-Time Scum”). Read on for the larger story on Capp Street Crap.

[pic from Círculo de Vida's Facebook page, via Capp Street Capp]

UPDATE: CSC has a response from Vera Cort.

From One Day in SF

On April 26th over a hundred local filmmakers took their cameras to the streets to document life in San Francisco over a 24 hour period. It was part of a new doc series from the people who made the feature length documentary One Day on Earth. One Day in SF was produced by local filmmaker Winnie Wong, and on the same day filmmakers in ten other cities around the US were participating simultaneously. I was out there with the BAYCAT crew, interviewing people in front of the Roxie and at The Secret Alley. The One Day on Earth team is putting all the pieces together for a 3-part documentary series that we’ll be hearing more about later in the year. You can see the locations of everyone’s videos and watch them on the interactive map, and I’ve included some selections below, mostly Mission-based.

Riding along with an ambulance for the night. Great night shots, and nice profiles of the EMTs:

Kind of has a perfect opening line:


Drama Talk & Drinks: 36 Stories by Sam Shepard

Fun DT&D fact: Katie, Brittany and I work together at BAYCAT, and one of the most famous shots in cinema history, the hallway shot from The Right Stuff, was shot in the hallway right outside our door. Legend goes that Walter Murch (personal hero of mine) was editing right here in the Dogpatch’s Northern AIC building, and they needed a pick up shot of the astronauts walking in slo-mo to really capture the gravitas. I did a little comparison as “proof” back in 2006, with myself as a piss poor stand in for the mightiest of hero shots.

Anyway, Sam Shepard was nominated for an Oscar® for his role in that film, as Chuck Yeager, the first human to break the sound barrier. Last week Katie & Brittany saw the Magic’s newest take on Shepard’s works. Here’s their report:

Sam Shepard, playwright, actor, director and Patti-Smith-ex, is turning 70. As part of Magic Theatre’s “Sheparding America” festival (Shepard was a playwright in residence at the Magic Theatre in the 70’s), Bay Area theaters are producing a series of shows that celebrate this great American playwright. While other productions are honoring Shepard by performing his plays, Word for Word member Amy Kossow decided to do something a little different. Taking a year to sift through five of Mr. Shepard’s collections of short stories, Kossow created 36 Stories by Sam Shepard, which weaves together Sam Shepard’s shorts about America’s desert highways into a single piece about a writer’s struggle as he searches for inspiration.

Word for Word’s production of 36 Stories by Sam Shepard, at Z Below 5/21/14 through 6/22/14. L to R: Carl Lumbly, Rod Gnapp. Photo by Mark Leialoha

The Writer (Rod Gnapp) has a philosophical discussion with the spirit of the severed head (Carl Lumbly).

Brittany: It was artsy, so I liked it. But, I thought the way the piece was constructed was a bit problematic. It was essentially a play about about a writers’ struggle, but I didn’t care as much about the writer’s struggle, as I cared about the stories he was telling. All the actors were great, and I thought the piece as a whole was really well done. Rod Gnapp did an amazing job with a character I didn’t think was compelling. But it was a little hard to stay fully engaged when the stories kept switching. That being said, I thought it was a really good production, and some of the actors’ individual performances were really remarkable, especially getting to see their range as they played different roles.

Katie: The actors were great but that didn’t help me to care about what was happening. It just didn’t work for me. I don’t know Brittany….I guess I just don’t get it because I just don’t understand how this is entertaining…maybe I just don’t know Sam Shepard enough. The set and the staging were good though. The actor who played guitar was really good and really cute. They should have just turned Sam Shepard’s short stories into songs and he could of just been on stage the whole time singing. I’d be into that shit.

B: I would say if you are interested in seeing a very well acted series of stories, you should go.

K: I would say skip this one.

The Verdict: If you enjoy poetic language and are interested in seeing it very well acted out in a series of stories, this is the show for you. If you know, and like, Sam Shepard’s writing, this is the show for you. If neither of those things apply, this is not the show for you.

The Drama Talk: This is a Bay Area all-star cast. It was well staged, and well performed. Word for Word does plays word-for-word, this means reading stage directions as well, so be prepared for that. Although Shepard’s stories themselves are intriguing, the piece which is used to tie them together is not as strong as its parts.

The Drinks: Everything Sam Shepard writes is a little dark, so after an evening of All-American ennui, we decided to go in for some All-American fun and check out Urban Putt. Brittany got the Seasonal Shandy and Katie got a Calimocho (red wine and Coke, classy), and we watched the many revelers (who waited in line for over an hour on a Wednesday to play putt-putt) take in a Bay Area fantasyland.

36 Stories by Sam Shepard runs through 6/22 at the Z Below, and tickets can be purchased through their website. Ticket prices vary from $30-$55 depending on how close you are to the stage, but it’s a small theater so any seat is good. There are also ½ price tickets available on Goldstar.

Our digital city

The fine folks at BAYCAT, who spend their days teaching and empowering Bayview-Hunters Point youth, are in the midst of a 7-week fundraiser that involves Instagram and hashtags! Each week, there’s a theme (such as last week’s: “our digital city”). Anyone can post photos that illustrate the theme, and each week a judge judges the best ones. And for every photo submitted, BAYCAT gets $1. And at some point down the road, the best overall photo wins some prizes.

This week, I’m the judge, and I picked the above photo. The below photo is runner up.

The next theme is “unexpected art.” Submit your entries via Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, using the hashtag #BAYCATbyYou

Other neighborhoods

When the Vice Magazine article about social work in the Tenderloin came out last week I had a strong desire to write my own rebuttal. My main problem being the hopelessly negative view of a neighborhood with a lot of uphill battles that sits in the middle of a city of extreme wealth. The Tenderloin needs all the help it can get, and I don’t think this article helps. It’s fun to talk and write about all the cool things that other neighborhoods have going for them, as writers on this blog often do, but when the only thing we hear about the communities that aren’t booming is a tired old story like the Vice article it just seems lame.

Before I had the chance to write about it I saw the interview with Brian Brophy on Uptown Almanac, which I thought presented some great counter points and an overall reality check back to Vice, as well as a surprisingly thoughtful comment thread. I also saw the powerful response by Dregs One, which really highlighted the Vice interviewee’s lack of awareness about her own privilege and unhelpful dearth of empathy. I say unhelpful, because I think for people working with a community like the one she works with you need to have empathy not to feel sorry for your clients, but to understand how they’ve come to be in this situation so that you can help them move toward a healthier life. Maybe this person does have that awareness, something gets her out of bed and to this work every day, but it wasn’t present in the article.

Though I don’t read Vice, I understand that the writers are probably going for a tone that is “honest” in that it sounds like two friends talking with each other like they would if nobody was listening. But people are listening. Maybe the social worker in this article needed to vent after day after day of dealing with intense situations. Fine. But now that venting is a widely read article that defines this community in a lot of people’s minds. In a time when San Francisco is changing very fast and some of us are working really hard to make sure that certain communities don’t get shut out and left behind, again, this is not helpful. I know all too well that talking about blood and human waste and edgy stuff gets a lot more attention than stories of hope and triumph, at least in the demographic and mediums that this blog and Vice have in common. I’ve blogged about poop before and I’ll do it again. Even so, I’m going to take up a little internet real estate every once and a while to share other kinds of stories that I see going on in this city that I feel need to be shared. I don’t do enough to bring them to light, but here I am trying.

Summer Program - Graphic Arts 02
[picture of Jayraj by Ariel Dovas for BAYCAT]

Contrary to what the social worker says in the Vice article, the Tenderloin is not “one of the two predominately black neighborhoods left in SF”. However, the Bayview Hunters Point population in 2010 was made up of 33.7% African Americans, the largest ethnic group in that neighborhood. As I’ve mentioned a number of times before, I’ve spent almost 9 years working with people from this community at BAYCAT, Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts & Technology. Recently, one of our former students and a current intern, high school student Jayraj Govender, created a short video for his school that deals with the the choices that a teenager faces. I think it shows a real maturity and artistic curiosity and I’m excited to see what he does next.

[Link on Vimeo]

For the last thing, in 2012 Jayraj teamed up with three other former BAYCAT students turned young adult interns from Bayview Hunters Point, Iman Rodney, Teak Stephanchild and Tiffany Jones, to create a short documentary bringing the neighborhood’s health issues to light from a young adult’s perspective, called Endangered. The project was funded by Metta Fund and produced with mentorship from Melinda James. Tiffany created all the animation for the piece.

[Link on Vimeo]

Two new local music videos

Back once again with some new music videos from the BAYCAT (Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts and Tech) youth media producers. As I must mention, I happen to work at this organization, but also highly enjoy the work that these kids are producing, and since their neighborhood doesn’t have a blog like this I like to share it here.

First up is a music video made with youth from City of Dreams, a non-profit based out of the Oakdale neighborhood in Hunters Point. The video was organized by BAYCAT, produced by Zara Ahmed and Katie Cruz and was directed by the youth for a new song by Trackademicks featuring Lyrics Born. Yep, Lyrics Born. I was out when the video was shot and I’m still bummed about it.

Next up, “Looking For”, was produced by the Music Production class with Evan Adams. The youth wrote the lyrics and produced the beats, and the filmmaking class shot the video in Potrero Hill, again with Zara Ahmed and Katie Cruz. The song and video are part of the 25th episode of their show, Zoom In. This one is about the 2012 Election. You may notice the personas they chose for themselves in the video: the goth, the nerd, the hipster and the student.

Sin Padre

Local filmmaker Jay Francisco Lopez recently completed his first feature, Sin Padre, which premieres this Friday at the opening night of the San Francisco Latino Film Festival.

I first met Jay on the set of Peter and Benjamin Bratt’s 2009 film, La Mission. He was a background actor and I was doing the behind-the-scenes. Since then he starred in a short feature that I co-wrote at BAYCAT, The Invisible City, about a group of friends in Hunters Point. After that he raised funds himself to write, produce and direct his own feature film about a Honduran teenager getting by in the Mission, where Jay himself was born to Honduran immigrants.

Jay’s film screens at The Victoria Theater (on 16th at Capp) on 9/14. The show is sold out, but according to Sin Padre’s Facebook page:

Due to popular demand and the high ticket sales Just added a 2nd screening of SIN PADRE this Sunday Sept 16 5:15pm at the Opera Plaza Cinema Theater 601 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, CA 94102 you can buy tickets at

Before Sunday screening there well be a meet and greet with the director and the cast from 2pm to 4pm at the Verizon Wireless store [at] 2654 Mission St.

Jay’s film looks good, check it out when you can.

P.S. I also have a film in the SF Latino Film Festival, Miles Away, a short I co-directed with Jose Alfaro, will be screening at the Opera Plaza Theater this Saturday at 1:00pm.

San Francisco Love

Check out this music video that the youth media producers at BAYCAT (where I work) made this summer, shot in Dolores Park. These native San Franciscan producers (10-13 years old) wrote and produced the song with amazing Bay Area producer Trackademicks and shot the video with DP Laura Valladao. The video is part of the 24th installment of their youth-produced show, Zoom In. The theme for this one is “Only in SF”.

You might have heard that they had all of their laptops stolen a couple weeks ago, along with a lot of their work. We have an Indigogo campaign going to replace their equipment, and have been really touched with the support. They came back together and re-did the lost work, look for more of it rolling out over the net few weeks on the BAYCAT YouTube channel.

Monster Parade across the Golden Gate Bridge

Tim Harrington, the Art Director and Animation Instructor at BAYCAT (where I’ve spent my 9-5 for the last 8 years) did an offsite animation workshop at his wife Ali’s 4th grade class at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School last Friday. The result was too good not to share. Gotta love San Francisco’s diversity.

Jerkin documentary

Check out this short doc made by San Francisco teen/CEO of Jerkin crew Space Cadetsz, Tyre Brown. Jerkin is a new-ish dance style that’s quickly gaining popularity in the Bay Area. Tyre’s piece highlights his crew, as well as the Lady Cadetsz (their female counterparts) and M.C.S. (the younger group).

The movie was funded by PBS’s POV – Project VoiceScape and BAYCAT. I helped out on the editing and Troy Holden took the great stills that appear in the opening and closing credits. Vote for the movie on the PBS website and help Tyre win the 2011 Project VoiceScape Audience Award!