A man of the Richmond

If you walk by the sidewalk of the Shermsonia Laundromat on 20th and Geary in San Francisco’s often foggy Richmond neighborhood, you may catch a sentence of the conversation the manager has started with a neighbor.

“One of the things I like about this job is you get to meet your neighbors. You get to meet them, talk to them,” says Sherman D’Silva. “When I’m locking up and a news story comes on TV, 3 or 4 people will be there and talk about it. Where do you get that?”

Sherman D’Silva is as good a representative of the neighborhood as the Richmond has. He has lived there his entire life, he manages a small business part-owned by his mother, and has an endless knowledge of local affairs.

As he looks out his store window smiling, he points to the next block, “Over there I can see the theatre. I remember as a kid I saw ‘Follow That Bird’ over there. It was a two-movie special with ‘The Man With One Red Shoe,’ it was a Tom Hanks movie. Going to places in the neighborhood with my friends, to me that’s the fondest memory of San Francisco. Seeing the neighborhood grow and expand and get better and get worse. That’s the fondest memory, I don’t know if there’s one particular one. It’s just those everyday things that you do.”

D’Silva has ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors District One office three times. He was first inspired to run by his frustrations with the neighborhood’s infrastructure after seeing a pedestrian be hit by a car while he was doing a laundry delivery at an intersection without a stoplight further east down Geary.

“We didn’t win but we had an impact,” says D’Silva, who received just less than 2 percent of the vote in the most recent election cycle. “I think if we didn’t run, a lot of the issues would not even be discussed.”

When he says “we”, he is referring to his group of best friends from high school, “The friends I grew up with, they’re the ones who help me on the campaign. They want these things taken care of too.

He and his group of friends, all of whom are all lifelong Richmond residents, try to get together a couple times a month. “We go to different restaurants or go for a hike, stuff like that. Just around the area,” says D’Silva.

The son of two Indian immigrants who moved to San Francisco from Kenya in the late 1960s while both countries were under British occupation, he identifies his heritage as one common with his friends, “For me and my friends, we define heritage as kind of your experience. Not necessarily whether a person looks like you. When we talk about something, we know what we’re talking about because that’s our experience.”

He opens, closes, and makes deliveries for the laundromat around the schedule he has with his daughter, who goes to Alamo Elementary School a few blocks away. He will help out in her teacher’s classroom when there are things to be done. When home, they enjoy playing dancing video games on their Xbox 360.

Sherman met his wife, who was raised in China, while they both attended San Francisco State University. At San Francisco State, he got degrees in both business & accounting and Asian American studies. When asked if he did both degrees in four years, he laughs, “Nooo, that was more like 15 years actually. I had to scale back because I was working and taking care of my parents.”

He appreciates both degrees differently. He says of his Asian American studies degree, “For me as a person, I think that degree was more valuable. In business you learn the nuts and bolts for how the world works.”

His two very different pursuits in school perfectly represent the fairness and open-mindedness with which he presents every political issue in the Richmond. “Given a certain set of facts most people will agree. You get divisions when you give people only certain information,” says D’Silva. “A lot of people miss the middle ground. You see it in Washington right now. People are in one extreme and can’t move to the middle.”

Before leaving to deliver a load of laundry, Sherman D’Silva goes on a quick and tediously balanced political tangent about the arguments surrounding minimum wage. He presents both sides of the argument in a way that maybe only a man in small business who also happens to be the son of two immigrants could.

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Richmond overview

“We know adults in the neighborhood who we met as children with their parents,” said Shlomit Heller, who has owned The Beauty Network in San Francisco’s Richmond District for 30 years.

The Richmond District is perhaps most recognizable for its immigrant populations and for being one of San Francisco’s most family-oriented neighborhoods. “It’s very community based, there are a lot of Russians and Asians. It’s cool to see how they intermingle,” said Gabe Lee, an employee at Mint, a streetwear boutique on Geary. The Richmond is made up of 36% percent family households, 4 percent more than the rest of the city. “My first impression was that it was a family neighborhood, and it is more so than other San Francisco neighborhoods,” said Kimberly Johnson, who works at John Campbell’s Irish Bakery. The area’s relationships between locals and the small businesses along major streets like Geary and Balboa create a small-town feel, only a few minutes outside of downtown San Francisco.

The Richmond also has a few bigger landmark businesses. For instance, the Balboa and 4-Star Theatres, two famous independent movie theatres. On the very edge of the neighborhood is a Mel’s Drive-In, an icon of the city and a throwback to 1950s drive-ins. The Cliff House is a famous upscale restaurant with a view over the Pacific Ocean.

Unlike most other San Francisco neighborhoods that at some undetermined point bleed into the next district, the Richmond has very clear natural borders on three sides of its rectangular shape. Fulton Street serves as a Southern border for the neighborhood, and runs parallel to the historic Golden Gate Park. The Richmond runs west until it hits Ocean Beach on the Pacific, where some of the neighborhoods most popular landmarks are. The appropriately named Land’s End Lookout sits high above the ocean, allowing visitors to see many of the attractions in and around the neighborhood. One can look down on the remaining ruins of the Sutro Baths, a popular old bathhouse that burned down in the 1960s. The weather plays a role in what is visible from the coast. On a clear day, the Marin Headlands are visible on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, part of a wide view of the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay. On a foggy day—there are many—the ocean and Marin are harder to see, but the marshy areas where the tide comes in around the bathhouse ruins can be beautiful and mysterious. A

The north end of the Richmond begins at the meeting of Land’s End, and becomes Baker Beach, and later on the Park Presidio. The Legion of Honor is a museum of Ancient Art at the bend of Land’s End. Baker Beach is a cliffy beach with a fairly close-up view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is also known to be a nude beach. The Park Presidio is a massive green area that had been a military fort for over 200 years until the 1990s. It is divided up the middle by Park Presidio Boulevard, which runs north until it becomes the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Eastern end of the Richmond is the one border that is less defined. “The further you go towards Park Presidio Boulevard, it gets busier,” said Lee. After crossing the boulevard, the “Inner-Richmond” district looks less and less like the small-community and at some point begins to blend into the big city feel of Downtown San Francisco.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors votes to apply for UASI

Alameda County may be given funding to continue to run its controversial Urban Shield program in 2017. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 on Tuesday afternoon to apply for emergency preparedness funding on behalf of 12 Bay Area counties through the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative. The decision comes two weeks after the board decided to postpone its vote in order to do its due diligence.

If granted the $23 million from the initiative, $1.5 million would go to Alameda County’s Urban Shield program. The program has been criticized as promoting the militarization of police. According to the Stop Urban Shield Coalition, the annual event teaches law enforcement “to better repress, criminalize, and militarize our communities.”

This is a concern that was also held by members of the board, even those who chose to apply for the funding based on the other programs it would fund. “In voting for this I think that I am also very conflicted… We should work against the militarization of the San Francisco Police Department and all police departments,” said District Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who voted in favor of the application.

District Supervisor Norman Yee, the only member of the board who voted against the application, was met with applause from the audience after his closing comments, “I just have to go on my moral compass on this decision, and I won’t be supporting it,” said Supervisor Yee.

Alameda County Sherriff Gregory Ahern, the creator of Urban Shield, wrote in an open letter to the board of supervisors that “Urban Shield has been recognized by emergency managers across the nation and world as the finest first responder training exercise…we owe it to the communities we protect that our first responders receive the best training in the world.”

The board’s decision seemed to upset many private citizens in the room who quickly left after the vote was cast. The Stop Urban Shield Coalition had posted plans on their website to pack the meeting in order to send a critical message.

Both Supervisors Yee and Malia Cohen mentioned during the board’s discussion that there would “trailing legislation” led by Yee to minimalize San Francisco’s involvement in this year’s Urban Shield program.

Arrest made in attempted kidnapping

A 26-year-old San Francisco man was arrested Thursday in connection with the attempted kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl.

Lee Mason Eigl has been charged with kidnapping and assault with intent to commit rape on a person under 18 years old, according to a statement by the San Francisco Police Department.

According to the statement, Eigl grabbed the girl and pushed her into his car around 5 p.m. on Thursday, while making threats to her. Two witnesses heard the girl’s screams and were able to free her from the vehicle. The witnesses were also able to give the police a description of Eigl’s vehicle.

San Francisco Assistant Police Chief Toney Chaplin described the help of the witnesses as “heroic efforts by two bystanders.”

Eigl’s mother and statements made by the San Francisco Police Department give two different stories of the arrest.

According to police, Eigl’s vehicle was identified by two Taraval station officers at around 10:30 p.m. who arrested him upon leaving a nearby residence without incident.

Eigl’s mother, Gail Eigl, an employee of the San Francisco Unified School District, however, said that Eigl was arrested while on his way to speak with police at the Taraval station.

She said that she was notified by police that they wanted to speak to her son, and that she called him at 12:30 a.m. and he agreed to drive to meet them at the police station, but was arrested on the way.

“He was driving in to Taraval station, his friend said—his friend was with him, when they pulled him over,” said Gail Eigl to a reporter while standing outside of her home during a police search.

She also claims that despite asking about a lawyer when she was notified that her son was wanted, “he was not given a lawyer at any time.”

According to Chaplin, Eigl is currently being held without bond and is in police control.

Thousands gather for Presidio Picnic

The 2017 Presidio Picnic season kicked off on Sunday morning under gray skies on the park’s Main Parade Ground.

Today’s was the first weekly picnic of the season, which will run until the end of October. This is the fifth year that that the Presidio is hosting the weekly picnic program.

Roughly three thousand people attended today’s picnic, according to the Presidio Visitors Center.

Among the people were families with small children, groups of friends, and those who passed by the event while walking through the Presidio.

Families and groups with small children played Frisbee and football on the open lawn, or danced around the DJ booth in the middle of the grounds. Many children ran around delightedly blowing bubbles.

There were many groups of adult friends who were often sitting on the field enjoying snacks or playing camping games like cornhole.

Dog owners walked their dogs and played with them throughout the day. Dogs ran off their leashes and chased each other and the toys their owners brought for them.

“My dog loves it here,” said Landon Skinner, a Presidio resident who walked over with his golden retriever, Ava, to join the picnic for the second year in a row.
A highlight of the event was the many food trucks and vendors that came to sell specialty items. Most of the vendors had lines of more than ten people throughout the day. In walking by, one could smell the smoky flavor of woodstove pizza, pork being fried, or entire chickens being cooked by a San Francisco restaurant called The Whole Beast, that specializes in cooking animals whole to avoid waste.

“I just wish it would be a sunnier day,” said Rene Erazo, who worked as a staff member at the information tent.

Despite not being very sunny, the weather complied pretty well for the duration of the event. Some very light sprinkling came down around 2 p.m. but did not live up to the looming threat that the gray skies had presented all day. The sun even came out and shone pretty brightly for the final hour of the official program before closing at 4 o’clock. Most importantly though, the temperatures were warm enough that one could be comfortable in a long-sleeved shirt, especially with some light exercise or hot food.

Though the party began to die down substantially after the food trucks and music shut down, quite a few people stuck around for a while after and continued to hang out and play on the field grounds.