Fire alarm call boxes collect dust / Muralist spreads public health messages

It's Tuesday, July 13.

Hey there, San Francisco. 

If you’ve been freezing lately, you’re not imagining things. According to the National Weather Service, Monday tied for the coldest July 12th on record with a max temp of just 57 degrees. 

I hate to rag on our summer weather, but man, it’s been cold. And it doesn’t look like we’ll break into the 70s any time soon. But hey, that’s what September and October are for. Right?

And with that...onto some news… 


There are over 2,000 (mostly operable) fire alarm call boxes across San Francisco that, according to a 2018 report, cost the city around $1.2 million per year to maintain. But as one public information officer for the San Francisco Fire Department told the SF Gate on Tuesday, “We cannot find a single incident that has been reported from any of them in the last three years.” Also, the employee said in the 22-years he’s worked for the department, he only remembered one fire being initially reported on the antiquated call boxes. 

Cities like Oakland and Sacramento “retired” their boxes back in 2005, the SF Gate said. Proponents of the call boxes, which debuted in San Francisco back in 1865 (!), say their upkeep is still important for residents without cell phones and in emergencies, like an earthquake. “If everything goes down, that’s what we have to rely on,” one retired firefighter said. (SF Gate


Quick bits: 

  • 🙌 JUST IN: The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday night to keep the Shared Spaces program alive, meaning parklets for outdoor dining and drinks are here to stay. More details to come. (Twitter, London Breed

  • 🍸 Martuni's, which the SF Gate called “San Francisco's only true piano bar,” has reopened. (SF Gate

  • 🍖 In the former Dobbs Ferry space in Hayes Valley, a new, 90s-inspired spot called Afterwork Bar opened last week. Besides a $1 buffalo wing happy hour, they’re also serving Super Duper burgers and fried chicken sandwiches from the Bird. (Chronicle

  • 🚎 As a reminder, Muni will be free for anyone 18 years or younger starting on August 15 as part of a one-year, $2 million program. “It goes a little to show the system is listening to youth,” said one member of the SFMTA’s youth advisory board. “It’s a more equitable way of aiding those who cannot pay for the fare and increasing familiarity with youth with the system.” (Examiner


And finally… 

On Tuesday, I spoke with San Francisco painter Serge Gay Jr., who recently completed two murals in the city as a part of a state-backed art campaign meant to encourage Californians to get vaccinated. Gay was one of 20 artists selected for the statewide effort, which was given the name, “Your Actions Save Lives.” 

His first mural, on the corner of Market and Castro Street, includes a series of vintage postcards and posters that promote Covid safety and also, the vibrancy of the local LGBTQ community. In one section, for instance, Gay painted a trans woman posing like Rosie the Riveter above the message: “Train your front-line immune system today.” 

“The concept of what’s going on in the neighborhood, I try to make sure I’m focused on that,” said Gay, who lives in the Twin Peak area himself. “I don’t want to come in and just put in my own thing. I really make sure it reflects the neighborhood.” 

His second, located in the Tenderloin at 989 Post Street, depicts an African American woman breaking free from a golden mask and setting a flock of local parakeets free (hence the mural’s title, “Get Vaccinated & Break Free”). Interestingly, Gay said while he was working on the painting, a group of red-headed parrots would visit him and sit perched on a nearby balcony almost every day. 

“It was a good coincidence. I thought of the Telegraph Hill parrots as these kind of free-spirited birds, these tropical birds that are migrating into the city,” Gay said. “It’s kind of like we're in the same situation: Get vaccinated and we can all break free into our lives and be free birds and wander around again.” 


That’s all for today! As a programming alert, I’m going out of town (and not writing) this upcoming Thursday, Friday, and following Monday. I hope you’ll excuse my absence! 

Also, I wanted to plug another local Substacker, C.W. Nevius, who writes a once-a-week newsletter about our city’s most pressing issues. C.W. wrote for the Chronicle for over 35 years, and I appreciate the experience he brings to his writing. 

His newsletter today about why our city often doesn’t detain multiple offenders was a good example of why I read C.W. He offers takes (some you may not always agree with), but it’s helpful, I think, to hear from someone who’s reported in San Francisco for over three decades. 

So if you’re interested in adding another local newsletter to your list (one that’s not as frequent and offers a bit more commentary than The Minute), I’d suggest checking out C.W.’s work. Also, it’s free! 

Have a great night y’all. And see you back here tomorrow! - Nick B.


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