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UFO sightings, ice plant salvation, relaxing AT&T’s box regulations, and more

Four things to know today

Photo by Wendell

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

Consider the ice plant

If we think about ice plants at all, we likely think of them as the beach-growing flora that’s a real pain to pluck dog poop out of. According to a press release sent by the University of Nevada, Reno, they might also be the key to our survival in a rapidly warming planet. By mapping the ice plant’s genes, biochemist and molecular biologist John Cushman suspects we can find a way to “allow bioenergy feedstocks to better tolerate salinity and drought.”

Ice plants, researchers say, have a unique “water-conserving photosynthetic pathway that helps plants survive in seasonally arid climates or those with intermittent water supply.” If we can figure out how ice plants manage in challenging environments, Cushman says “we can take those genes and reengineer them back to a C3 photosynthesis plant like wheat or rice, or a woody bioenergy feedstock like poplar, and we hope to make those more water-use efficient." So think about that the next time you’re fishing Fido’s leavings from an ice plant’s growth: the humble plant we see today at every SF beach might hold the secrets to our survival tomorrow.

Glen Park gets rec ready

The renovated auditorium and climbing wall at the Glen Canyon Recreation Center.
Photo: SF Rec and Parks

Following a $14.115 million renovation, the iconic Glen Canyon Recreation Center is nearly ready to reopen. Located on the 67-acre grounds Glen Canyon Park, its site has a fascinating history—according to the SF Parks Alliance, it was once “a mini-amusement park with an aviary, a mini-zoo–bears, elephants and monkeys, a bowling alley, and, for extra thrills, hot-air balloon rides, and an intrepid tight-rope walker who performed on a wire stretched across the canyon.” And after the 1906 earthquake, it was a shelter for those left homeless in its destructive wake.

The area was purchased by San Francisco in 1922, and in 1937 the Works Progress Administration constructed the rec center we’re talking about today. (You can take a deeper dive into Glen Park history over here at the Glen Park Neighborhoods Project.) Since then, it had fallen into a state of disrepair, which is why, the Glen Park Association reported earlier this month, renovators had to take the interior down to the studs. A document detailing the project’s progress was released Tuesday, listing the extensive repairs made to the facility. The Glen Park Asc. also clears up some outstanding questions on the renovated facility, including where the pet drinking fountains will be (in the plaza by the building entrance) and where new picnic tables might be added. The facility is on track to open on June 5. “I can’t wait for people to come in and see the interior,” says Project Manager Brett Desmarais.It’s really stunning.”

Boxing match

Photo: Planning Asc For The Richmond

What a difference a few years makes! Back in 2008, AT&T attempted to install a bunch of utility boxes on SF’s streets in an effort to upgrade their internet service. Opposition inevitably ensued (here’s a brief history of early arguments against), with years of lawsuits between SF Beautiful, SF, and AT&T, even as the boxes continued to be installed.

By mid-2014 the Board of Supes had agreed that AT&T needed to better engage the community regarding the boxes’ placements and make an effort to beautify the boxes via mural art from local artists. The beautification thing hasn’t worked out too well, though, as last month city officials again went after the telecom company, this time for a failure to clean up the tags and graffiti that their boxes attract. According to the SF Examiner, in March the DPW sent a letter to AT&T saying the company is “not meeting its legal responsibilities to remove graffiti.” And don’t even get the DPW started on the mural thing, as they say that “After 30 months zero murals have been approved. AT&T has fought every mural application with a conclusory statement from a consulting engineer stating that their communications equipment housed in [Surface Mounted Facility] boxes won’t work right if the SMF is painted a different color.”

But even though the Mayor and Board of Supes were ccd on this nastygram, there’s one Supe who’s bullish on boxes: despite the history of broken promises from AT&T, Malia Cohen introduced legislation to relax the few regulations that remain on the boxes. Per the Examiner, Cohen wants tolift altogether the landscaping requirement and the accompanying $7,500 fee in-lieu of actual landscaping, as well as lift a requirement to work with local artists to paint murals on the boxes as a graffiti deterrent and for aesthetics.” SF Beautiful, we await your reply.

SF’s low on UFOs

For all the unkind things people say about San Francisco’s goofiness, we definitely chart poorly on the X-Files tip. There’s no Bigfoot in Golden Gate Park, no chupacabras in McLaren, and our UFO sighting count is on the decidedly low side.

This is according to Cheryl Costa, co-author of the recently-released UFO Sightings Desk Reference: United States of America 2001-2015. According to Costa, who spoke with CBS 5, while California is America’s #1 state for UFO reports (16,000 since 2001), Northern California is lagging.

Based on data from the Mutual UFO Network and the National UFO Reporting Network Santa Clara County is reportedly NorCal’s number one in reports, with 569. Alameda County comes in second with 518. San Francisco is a distant third, at only 327.

Costa says that CA’s overall ascendance is due to our warm weather, which means more folks outside year-round “and thus in position to spot possible UFOs.” So what’s SF’s excuse--the fog? Competition from the bright lights of the city? Or is it just that all the UFOs headed for our city have already landed, and their inhabitants walk among us?