School board approves safety agreement / Ferris wheel plot thickens

It's Wednesday, February 24th.

Good evening, San Francisco. 

Six and a half hours into its meeting on Tuesday, the San Francisco school board began discussing the safety conditions needed for in-person learning to resume. By 10 pm, the group unanimously approved the plan set forth by the district and teachers’ union, which says that teachers can return to the classroom when San Francisco enters the “red tier” and vaccines are available to them. 

The good news? Mayor Breed said today that the city could move into the “red tier” by next Wednesday. Also, starting today, the city’s educators and school staff members are eligible to receive the vaccine. 

So, we should expect public schools to start reopening next week, right? Not so fast. 

As we covered yesterday, the district and teachers’ union still need to agree on what the actual schedule will look like when students return. And those negotiations (over how many days and hours of instruction will be in-person versus online) appear to be at a standstill. On Tuesday, Union president Susan Solomon called for a “trusted mediator to intervene” after five straight days of discussions, saying that her group had “lost confidence in the Superintendent to manage this process.” 

Still, some progress has been made. And hopefully, more to come. 

And now, onto some other news…

The plot thickens for the Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park. On Tuesday, two city supervisors called for an investigation into the nonprofit group, The San Francisco Parks Alliance, which is set to receive up to $200,000 of ticket sale revenue from the ride. One red flag for Supervisors Connie Chan and Aaron Peskin—although no one from the group has been criminally charged, the Parks Alliance was caught up in the city’s corruption scandal last year

“Instead of going directly to our City’s general fund, the revenue generated from Skystar is going to a non-profit that is still under FBI and public corruption investigations,” Supervisor Chan said in a statement on Tuesday. “It raises the question of whether... such practices contribute to the ‘pay-to-play’ culture among City agencies.”

The Recreation and Parks Commission voted last week to keep the Ferris wheel for four more years, but a nod from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission is still needed. That group is scheduled to revisit the issue on March 3rd. 

Quick bits: 

  • 💉 Staff members at San Francisco-based One Medical are concerned that their clinics are vaccinating people who are not yet eligible. "I've had a few patients straight up tell me that once they realized there was no screening that they would be telling their friends," one person said. (NPR)

  • 📹 Bay Area electronics retailer Fry’s is permanently closing all 30 of its stores, the company announced on Wednesday. (SF Gate

  • 🎤 San Francisco has already lost music venues (like Slims) to the pandemic, but a $1.5 million relief bill passed by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday hopes to save other entertainment venues in the city. (SF Gate

  • 🚓 As part of its police reform efforts approved on Tuesday, the Berkeley Police Department will deprioritize traffic stops for “low level” offenses like not wearing a seat belt or having expired registration tags. (Berkeleyside

  • ⚾ In a sign that fans may be allowed back in stadiums soon, the Oakland A’s are selling ticket vouchers for the upcoming season that can be redeemed for “any available game.” (Chronicle

  • 😔 The father of the missing 14-year-old girl from San Francisco says that her savings account was emptied days after her disappearance from a withdrawal in West Sacramento. (SF Gate

And finally… Chronicle reporter Heather Knight documents the death of Dustin Walker, a homeless man in San Francisco who laid lifeless in a center median for more than 12 hours before an ambulance arrived. 

One resident said they waited to call for help, thinking Walker was sleeping. But after hours passed and he hadn’t moved, the person grew more concerned and called 911. What’s especially tragic, as Knight writes, is that “hundreds — maybe thousands — of other people had seen him too” and no one did anything about it. 

“We’ve become so desensitized to all of this,” the person who called 911 said. “You find a dead person on the side of the road, and it’s just another day here in the city.”

The next day, the person placed a bouquet in the center median with a cardboard sign that read: “Guy lay dead here & no one noticed.” 

Before you go… Earlier today I interviewed Ray Ocon, CEO of Chasing Unicorns, which offers 10-week courses to people trying to land entry-level recruiting, support, and sales jobs at tech companies. Ocon talked about why San Francisco is still a top place to start a company. He also got into why he thinks four-year universities have increasingly become a “luxury.” 

You can listen to our talk on our “SF Talks” page here

Also, a bit random, but I wanted to give a shoutout to my mechanic Myron at Fell Street Auto. We’ve been taking our car to Fell Street for awhile now, and this week, we had to get our timing belt replaced (which, if you’re not aware, can be a pretty big expense!). 

I hope I don’t jinx this, but Myron always does awesome work. And he’s so nice! When’s the last time you felt good about spending a bunch of money on your car? Anyway, if you’re new to the city or still searching for a good mechanic, go say hi to Myron at Fell Street Auto. 😊

Alright, that’s all for today. Have a good night everyone and we’ll see you tomorrow! - Nick B. 

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