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Stinson Beach seawall scuffle, SF’s water worries, new transit advocate, and more

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Four things to know today

Stinson Beach home against the wall. Photo via Sotheby’s

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

Who owns the sea (wall)?

Residents of Marshall and Stinson Beaches are all wet over a newly-proposed state bill that would require a more rigorous permitting process for coastal property owners who seek to construct seawalls. The Point Reyes Light reports on Assembly Bill 1129, which was introduced by Monterey Bay Assemblyman Mark Stone with the backing of groups like the Nature Conservancy and the California Coastal Commission. It would require seawalls built by owners of homes constructed after January 1, 1977 to seek permits—permits that may or may not be granted, as factors including the wall’s potential to cause erosion or prevent beach access will be considered.

That latter point might be what’s bothering some Stinson residents. Speaking with CBS 5, Peter Sandmann, general counsel for Stinson Beach’s Seadrift Association, says that the proposed legislation means that “People have bought and built things along the beach and now the coastal commission wants to come in and retroactively say they can’t be protected.”

Of course, when a representative of the exceedingly tony gated community of Seadrift talks about “protection,” it’s reasonable to wonder if he’s talking about incursions by the ocean or man. After all, Seadrift gained a lot of local attention a decade ago, after a private security guard kicked Mill Valley architect off the beach in 2006 because, Sandmann argued at the time, Rigg was above the high-water mark and was therefore “on private property."

After a couple years in court, Sandmann ended up settling that one, and non-residents can now “sit or lie on the beach up to within 60 feet of the top of the”—wait for it—“rock seawall.” But without the freedom to construct seawalls as they will, how will Seadrifters keep strangers at a safe distance? You see the conundrum.

Riotous oils

In the maelstrom of photos, allegations, videos, and threats from Saturday’s civil unrest in Berkeley, you might have missed the above image of a painter capturing the scene from half a block or so away. It turns out the painter is named John Paul Marcelo, who made “a sudden choice to reject modern technological mediums, paint exclusively en plein air, and migrate to the majestic California coastline.”

In an interview with Digital Journal from 2013, Marcelo says he prefers painting over photography because “I want to put it on canvas. So, I would be documenting life - scenes from real life by painting them...I don't work from photographs." On his website, Marcelo says that while he’s on the streets working, “people will watch me paint and request a commission of their residence or place of business.”

You can see a gallery of his work, much of it locally-focused, here. The painting he’s calling “Pro/Anti Trump Street Fair” is available for $400, he says in comments to his Instagram post of the work. But if someone beats you to it, don’t worry, as Marcelo says, “I foresee other similar events in the future.”

Tap trouble

“Here in San Francisco, our delicious tap water comes from pristine snowmelt in Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park,” begins the “Drink Tap” page on the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission website. But that’s not precisely true anymore, as the PUC announced that as of March, that “pristine snowmelt” would be mixed with San Francisco groundwater, a fun thing to consider as you watch your neighbor dump their bleachy mop water in their yard or mull the countless number of animals relieving themselves in Golden Gate Park.

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle last February, as much as 15 percent of SF tap water could eventually be that groundwater, with three percent being added this year from six wells “between Lake Merced and Golden Gate Park, which will tap a large aquifer 400 feet below. The well water then will be pumped through about five miles of pipeline to the Sunset Reservoir, and in some cases the Sutro Reservoir, where it will be blended with the surface supplies.” The cocktail will go to some, but not all, of SF, as “mostly the west side but also parts of Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, Glen Park and Bernal Heights” will get the blend.

That location-specificity appears to be one of the things troubling SF Supervisor Norman Yee, who announced via a press release sent late Tuesday that he has “heard grave concerns from my constituents about the safety of the drinking water, the testing standards, and the need for the project.” He’s calling for a hearing to “provide the SF Public Utilities Commission another opportunity to address the public and hopefully resolve some of the outlying questions that have arisen since the proposal was made.” The date of the hearing is still TBD, but if the uproar over the new blend I’ve seen on Nextdoor is any indication, it’s gonna be a hot one.

From transit boss to transit gadfly

It’s been interesting watching the San Francisco Transit Riders Union grow up. Launched in 2010 at the urging of Dave Snyder, a name familiar to those who follow the work of SPUR or the San Francisco Bike Coalition, the loose assembly of the Muni-frustrated gained attention in 2012 with their push for all-door bus boarding, which after a year of lobbying was a success. Then there was the 22-Day Muni Challenge, which urged SF’s supes and mayor to ride Muni for, you guessed it, 22 days in a row. That was less of a success (unless you count the selfies), with few elected officials actually participating, likely because they actually had to get places on time.

After seven years as an all-volunteer org, the SFTRU has now hired—with money!—its first Executive Director. Her name is Rachel Hyden, and based on her LinkedIn profile it looks like she’s a relatively recent arrival to the Bay Area who last worked at the SFMTA as “the brand manager, communications strategist and overall voice for the Muni Forward campaign,” the program that (per the SFMTA) seeks to improve transit reliability via “service changes and transit priority projects.”

Now she’ll be on what’s arguably the “other side,” advocating for citizens who, in many cases, oppose those same service changes. In a lengthy interview with Streetsblog SF published Tuesday, Hyden appears up for the challenge, saying, “I’m ready to organize riders, to bring them out, to make sure their voices are heard and to make sure we can deliver the best, most complete projects possible.”

Read more of her goals for SF transit advocacy here.