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Ashtray vigilantes, horseback tour of McLaren Park, West Nile worries, and more

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Four things to know today

Woman on horse. Photo courtesy of Golden Gate Park

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

Tour McLaren Park on horseback

You have, of course, heard about the current horse riding pilot program in Golden Gate Park, in which riders pay between $60-$80 to tour the Park atop a majestic steed. It’s been less touted that a similar pilot is running at McLaren Park, which makes sense because Golden Gate Park is fancy and famous, and even longtime locals like author Paul Madonna say stuff like “I had been to McLaren Park once in 20 years of living in San Francisco. I would feel more embarrassed saying that, but pretty much everyone I meet has never been to McLaren Park.”

So here’s an excuse not to be one of those non-McLarenites! Until May 20, you can hop on one of the ten horses at the Louis Sutter Police Stables and take them on a McLaren Park trail ride guided by professional wranglers. Rides at McLaren are cheaper, too, ranging from $35 for a 30-minute ride to $75 for 90 minutes (SF residents with valid ID get a 25 percent discount). Rides are offered seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can get more details here and here.

Picasso mural wherein the famed artist is smoking a cigarette. Photo by Torbak Hopper

Da butt(s)

In the last decade, San Francisco’s relationship with cigarette butts has become a fraught one—in 2009, the city’s Department of Public Works launched a campaign to convince smokers not to toss their butts in the street with “three types of public ashtray canisters,” the SF Examiner reported at the time, and a snicker-worthy slogan: “Don’t be an ash, put your butts in the trash.” (I am not making this up, look for yourself.)

The next year, the city did an about-face. A law banning smoking on outdoor patios or within 15 feet of any open window or doorway also required any ashtrays in those zones be removed as to leave them would enable people to break the law, SF officials said. In a 2012 Examiner report, North Beach business owners said the ashtray ban meant “employees must now sweep the curb and gutter due to the volume of discarded cigarettes.”

Shockingly (ha ha) things haven’t improved much since. According to a DPW report from 2015, tobacco-related litter made up 53 percent of the trash on city streets, and costs for clearing up smokers’ trash increased from $3.7 million in fiscal year 2012-13 to $21.4 million in 2014-15. In response, SF added a per-pack surcharge to defray costs, a fee that hit 60 cents per pack this year.

And now we come full-circle on ashtrays, as the Richmond District Blog reports Thursday that the Surfrider Foundation and the Richmond District Neighborhood Center have placed ashtrays “on several poles along Balboa between 34th and 38th Avenues,” outside venues like popular dive bar Hockey Haven, the Balboa Theater, and multiple restaurants. The ashtrays were a response to a March cleanup of the area that netted volunteers 6000+ cigarette butts (which does make one wonder how often DPW actually bothers to pick tobacco-related trash up). Will the new ashtrays, which are used to eventually recycle the butts, survive the city’s recent history of opposition to the receptacles? Will I ever get this song out of my head? It’s too soon to tell.

Tourists with umbrellas take a glimpse of San Francisco in the rain from the viewpoint at the Lone Sailors Memorial. Photo by Tony Prince/Shutterstock

Rain = big fruit, disease

California’s record-setting rains produced more than just exhausting, cliched variations of “I know we need rain, but enough already.” The strawberries hitting NorCal markets this week are “extra-large and flavorful” due to the soaking local farms got in recent months. And they’ll only get better, as a California Strawberry Commission spokesperson tells CBS 5 that though the area’s “second batch of berries won’t be as large...the second pick is always sweeter.”

Less sweet is the news that the heavy rains could also cause local outbreaks of Zika and West Nile Disease. Standing water left by the rains is where mosquitos get busy, with female mosquitoes producing 150-200 eggs every time she sucks some blood. That’s “500,000 surviving mosquitoes from four generations of offspring,” Santa Clara County vector control district spokesperson Russ Parman tells ABC 7.

The mosquitos then spread those diseases when they bite their human victims. Parman is attempting to combat the bugs by placing fish bred to eat mosquito larvae in area pools and ponds, but he can’t be everywhere at once. Here’s the CDC’s recommendation on how to avoid mosquito bites at home and while on the road.

Don’t mess with craigslist

The name “RadPad” is likely familiar to Curbed readers, as they’re one of those apartment search companies who regularly releases study results detailing the challenges SF renters face, study results you then see here.

Make that “saw.” Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster gleefully reblogged a National Law Review report from this week on a $60.5 million judgment they won against RadPad “on various claims relating to harvesting content from craigslist’s site and sending unsolicited commercial emails to craigslist users.”

“Craigslist alleged that RadPad used sophisticated techniques to evade detection and scrape thousands of user postings and thereafter harvested users’ contact information to send spam in an effort to entice users to switch to RadPad’s services,” NLL reports.

It’s unlikely that craigslist will see a dime of that judgement, as “during the course of the litigation, RadPad became insolvent and its attorney withdrew from representation, essentially allowing craigslist to obtain what amounts to a default judgment.” But that didn’t stop Buckmaster from gloating, “Who says nice guys have to finish last?”