Happy Birthday, San Francisco / Supes want to waive Muni fees this summer

It's Thursday, April 15th.

Hey there, San Francisco. 

It’s April 15th or 4.15 or… our area code. 

It’s also our city’s birthday! Well, according to some folks. San Francisco was incorporated on April 15, 1850, hence the idea of 415 Day. 

Others consider June 29, 1776, to be San Francisco’s birthday when Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza established the first military base near the Golden Gate. Or, 740 CE—the earliest date that archeologists can say that the Ohlone people lived in the area. 

But it’s safe to say that the modern city of San Francisco was born 171 years ago today. 

As for whether our area code has anything to do with this incorporation date, it’s a little unclear to me. California had three original area codes starting in 1947 (916, 213, and 415). The 415 area code stretched from the middle of California to the Oregon border, so it’s possible that those digits were a nod to San Francisco, but my internet sleuthing only got me so far. 

If there’s an area code expert out there, I’d love to hear from you! 

In the meantime, I liked that Supervisor Matt Haney used the occasion on Twitter to ask what people loved most about San Francisco. I said the small businesses (coffee shops, restaurants, retail stores) and the parks. How lucky we are to have such beautiful parks?!  

How about you? What do you love most about this place? 

For now, onto some news… 

On Tuesday, Supervisors Dean Preston and Matt Haney announced their plan to introduce legislation that would make Muni free for all riders for three months this summer. The pilot, which would start July 1 if approved, is expected to cost the city between $9.3 million and $10 million. 

Preston said waiving Muni fees would help put money back in people’s pockets and restore ridership lost during the pandemic. He also said the pilot could give the city data to help it better understand the feasibility of a permanent free Muni program, something Preston has long supported. 

But as the Chronicle noted, agency officials don’t seem too excited by the idea. “We are unclear about the study objectives for the proposed pilot,” a Muni spokesperson said. 

Perhaps the reason for the head-scratching: Transit fees are one of the four key revenue sources for the SFMTA and already, the department is up against a structural deficit that could reach $36 billion over the next 30 years, according to the Examiner

Quick bits: 

  • ♻️ Last month, the City Attorney’s Office revealed that Recology had overcharged San Francisco customers $95 million since 2017. On Thursday, the feds charged a second Recology executive for allegedly bribing former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru to approve the rate increases. (Mission Local

  • 👀 In the Chronicle’s “most detailed map ever of confirmed coronavirus cases in San Francisco,” it found a major disparity between two nearby neighborhoods. Namely, 18% of residents in a part of the Bayview have tested positive for Covid-19, compared to just 1.6% of residents in a section of Noe Valley. (Chronicle

  • 💉 Mayor Breed tweeted on Thursday that 60% of San Franciscans had received at least their first dose of the Covid vaccine, which is 12% higher than the national average

  • 🚈 Alas! You can now add your Clipper card to your Apple Wallet, so you can pay fares using your iPhone or Apple Watch. (Clipper

  • 😔 Back in 2019, 85-year-old Joe Shami biked up Mount Diablo for the 600th straight week, earning himself the title, “The Legend of Mount Diablo.” On Tuesday, tragedy struck when an SUV hit and killed Shami on a road in Lafayette. (East Bay Times

  • 👩‍🔬 A Mission High School physics teacher held an optional “outdoor learning session” in Golden Gate Park back in March, and now the district’s human resources department is investigating the event. The teacher, Andrew Libson, says that he could face a suspension. “We did more in an hour and a half than we could do in two weeks online,” Libson said. “It was a wonderful experience, revitalizing.” (Mission Local

And finally… The business side of running this newsletter for the past few months has been really interesting. So far, I’ve only made (a little bit of) money by selling ad space. I went with ads because local news was a new “beat” for me and I had no idea if people would find any value in what I was trying to do. 

So far, the response has been really positive. And I think my initial hypothesis was right—people in San Francisco want a quick and easy way to stay on top of local news. 

There’s still an open and looming question for me, though. Will people pay to read The SF Minute? 

This question comes up even more for me today as Substack (the platform I’m using here) announced that it is going to spend $1 million to help fund around 30 local news publications. The idea is that Substack will offer writers a cash advance (say, $50,000) to give them a one-year runway to grow their newsletters. Having that kind of money (to pay the bills, hire freelancers, etc.) would be extremely helpful, and I think The SF Minute could be a great fit for the program. 

But there’s a catch. If I were lucky enough to be selected, I would likely need to move to some sort of subscription model. 

So, since a lot of you have been avid readers here from the start, I wanted to hear what you think. Would you pay for The SF Minute as it is today? 

Here’s a quick survey if you had 20 seconds

Thanks for checking it out and for hearing me out! Your feedback really is incredibly helpful as I consider what’s next. 

That’s all for today! Remember, tomorrow morning at 8 am at the corner of Pierce and Oak Street (near the Frederick Douglass Plaza sign), we’ll be hosting our first trash clean-up. It’ll be low-key and hopefully, just a good reason to get moving/out of the house. If you’re planning on coming, send me a note, just so I have an idea how many people are going to be there (nick@thesfminute.com). I have plenty of bags and gloves for everyone. 

And if you can’t make it this time, no worries at all! We’ll be doing more and more of these meet-ups soon, especially when we’re all vaccinated. 

Talk soon! - Nick B. 

Thanks so much to Kuppy for sponsoring today’s newsletter.

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