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Best of San Francisco 2009: Villain, Bum Fight, and New Thing

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We've had our decade's top 10, now it's time to hand out awards for the year's brightest stars, friend or foe. Or both!

Best Villain

CitiApartments, aka Lembi Group aka Skyline Realty aka First Apartments: a supervillain with as many monikers as MOs, the family op was long vilified by many of its tenants for what you might call its pushy, if not outright shady, practices trying to coax people out of their rent-controlled apartments. This year, the shit really hit the fan for the Lembi family, as they bled properties all over the city, stopped returning deposits, and got publicly flogged by the media. What's a villain good for if not a good old-fashioned tar and feathering?

Runner-up: Gus Murad, owner of Medjool. How has Gus played the part of villain? Slyly, or not at all. It's all innuendo, you see, like uh... Lex Luthor or something. He's just a businessman, OK? Murad, previously on the city's Small Business Commission, got lucky with a "typo" that allowed his proposed condo building in the Mission to be 20 feet taller. Then more alleged administrative goofups came to light: the rooftop bar at douche-magnet Medjool wasn't permitted, and his Elements hostel was also either inappropriately renting out SRO rooms to backpackers, or just not documenting it right. It's a head scratcher... or not.

Best Bum Fight

American Apparel vs. Mission Hipsters: when the lechy cool kids chain declared its intention to move into a spot on Valencia, the reaction was nearly unanimous in the hipster hood. "Thanks, but we'd rather bus it to the Haight than ruin our vision of a chainfree neighborhood." But first! All hell broke loose on the blogs, Chicken John resurfaced, and a nice girl named Bree taught us how to love again.

Runner-up: Transbay Joint Powers Authority et al vs. California High Speed Rail Authority. This one's not over yet, folks, but let it be known there's already been plenty of angry letters written. Why won't the rail people just send California's first bullet trains into the Transbay Transit Center like everyone else in the universe wants? Who knows: engineering issues, political backbiting, or maybe it's just the smart thing to do. In any case, people are pissed.

Best New Thing

They say it's healthy to do a little experimenting once in a while. Public space tinkering has hit the big time this year, with "temporary" spaces littering the city. Exhibit A: the Pavement to Parks projects, turning largely unused chunks of concrete into plazas for coffee sipping and breeze shooting. Exhibit B: the "trial" restricting eastbound cars on Market Street. Just goes to show you can actually get things done in San Francisco, as long as you trick everyone into thinking it's all temporary. Kudos.

Runner-up: It's kind of the same thing, but Art in Storefronts is also its own thing. It's like murals on empty walls taken to a whole new level, and it's part of a larger awareness that empty spaces breed sad faces. Plus, if we can't have businesses or buildings, the next best thing is an art installation, surely.