Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.
Can an app save you from tickets?
You might recall Sweetch, the 2014-era app that let users pay each other for vacated San Francisco parking spaces and was subsequently the object of vocal derision and, eventually, a cease and desist letter from the City Attorney. The app went “on hiatus” and eventually offered up the app’s code “for any developer looking to solve the Bay Area's public parking issue,” CEO and founder Hamza Ouazzani Chahdi told Business Insider in 2014.
Around that same time, Chahdi, a Mission District resident, launched VC-funded company “Vatler,” an on-demand valet service that provided “a way for you to order a valet through a mobile app, enabling you to drop your car off in front of your office and then request it whenever you’re ready to leave,” TechCrunch reported at the time.
That, too, tanked about a year later, after deciding instead to focus on nighttime parking for restaurants.
In a Medium post, Chahdi explained what went wrong:
[...] We received a phone call from the city explaining that traditional parking companies were not happy with the way we were poaching business from them and that we had to slow down our growth. We ignored this warning. Ten days later, we received a phone call from the police department telling us that our permits had not been granted and they gave us a warning because we were operating illegally in most of our locations.
We were paying thousands of dollars in taxes to the city each month and were complying with all of their requests. We wanted to understand why the city officials changed their minds and tried reaching out to the decision makers find a way to comply with their potential new requirements. No one wanted to meet with us.
It was impossible for us to grow and add more restaurant partners. New restaurants knew we didn’t have permits and did not want to switch providers. We also had to inform our restaurant partners about the situation and some of them decided to stop our relationship.
In 2 weeks, we lost major accounts and 30% of our revenue streams without any perspective of growth. We tried to make some restaurants pay but it was just not working. Our model was no longer valid and were forced to cease operations in the city.
Now Chahdi is back with yet another parking solution (“solution”), this time called SpotAngels. Telling Mission Local that the app is the “modified” version of Sweetch (guess those “developers all over the world“ who allegedly wanted to take it over didn’t pan out?), Chahdi says via Medium that “there is no comprehensive information available when it comes to parking” in San Francisco, so two years ago he started building the new app “after getting our car towed in San Francisco and had to pay $569 to get it back.”
So how will SpotAngels prevent towing trauma? According to Chahdi, “It sends you a reminder before street cleaning, alternate side parking or any other parking restriction” and “knows all the parking rules and saves your parking location by connecting to your car’s bluetooth speakers.”
This time around, the app is free as they think they will be able to sell the app’s parking data to corporate clients, Mission Local reports.
Will the third time be Chahdi parking solution charm? You can download the app, the latest version of which rolled out this week, for Android or iOS and decide for yourself. Let us know what you think!
SF State’s Frogger problem
Located between two streets known by city officials as “high-injury corridors,” the area near San Francisco State University sees more than its fair share of pedestrian collisions. The completion of the schools Mashouf Wellness Center, which is scheduled to open later this year, will bring even more foot traffic to one of those dangerous streets: Lake Merced Boulevard, the Font Street intersection of which was the site of a crash that killed an elderly female pedestrian just last month.
Though that intersection has clearly-marked crosswalks and traffic lights, that was apparently not enough to protect the deceased pedestrian from harm, and the Golden Gate Xpress reports that the school is preparing to add more safety measures.
Director of Campus Planning Wendy Bloom tells the paper that “The increased level of activity generated by the Mashouf Wellness Center—more people on the street, which no longer will be an easy cut-through—will change the character of the street and serve to calm traffic.”
Bloom glances off an important point here, the “easy cut-through” bit. That stretch of Lake Merced is known by many as the main--and fastest—artery to 280 from the west side of the city (honestly, only amateurs take 19th all the way down).
Will the mere presence of more people magically slow down drivers who for decades have used Lake Merced as a glorified freeway ramp? It’s hard not to think that it’ll take more than a character change to rewire years of motorist behavior.
Walk and get paid
It was announced in February that Nicole Ferrara, the executive director of pedestrian advocacy group Walk SF, would be leaving the organization to be Oakland’s “Vision Zero Manager.” Ferrara started her new East Bay gig this month, leaving Walk SF seeking a new leader. Could it be you?
According to their job listing, qualified candidates will be “results-driven, collaborative, experienced” and “will work with staff, board members, community partners, government agencies, and our members to update the organization’s strategic plan.”
So, it sounds like an ability to endure endless meetings is a plus. It’s a full-time, salaried gig with “generous vacation time, pre-tax transportation benefits, full health care coverage, retirement benefits, and dental/wellness benefits.” And, of course, they note that their office is “easy to reach on foot from public transportation.”
Applicants are asked to “a resume and thoughtful cover letter, outlining how your skills and experience meet the qualifications of the position and stating how you heard about this opportunity, both in Word format, addressed to Marselle Alexander-Ozinskas” here.
Flea control scratches the SF Bay
The ingredient in a popular flea medication is reportedly damaging the San Francisco Bay, news that becomes even more upsetting when some vets say the preventative isn’t even of use in the city.
Rumors of a “super flea” that’s beset urban areas have been circulating for a while, with CBS 5 reporting in 2015 that “many Bay Area vets...are telling pet owners the anti-flea solution produced by companies like Frontline and Advantage that they are buying isn’t working” and that the topical cures no longer kill off the fleas found on local cats and dogs.
“You can imagine when we’re applying a flea product that’s designed to kill a flea and those fleas have random mutations the genes that are resulting and are allowing the fleas to survive are going to win,” one veterinarian told CBS 5 at the time.
Fast forward to the present, and new arguments against some of those medications have popped up. According to ABC 7, the experts have been seeing an increase in levels of the pesticide Fipronil in SF Bay waters, and flea meds might be to blame.
San Francisco Estuary Institute spokesperson Rebecca Sutton tells ABC 7 that the topical flea medications “get on our hands when we pet our pets, get on our clothing and the pet bedding, so when we wash our hands or wash our clothes, this all goes down the drain."
According to a California Department of Pesticide Regulation report, "Pesticides wash off animals during just routine bathing at concentrations that are high enough to be significant for overall wastewater loading,.” Tests performed by the SFEI at eight wastewater facilities showed that the facilities’ “treatment, even at our most advanced facilities, was not removing significant levels of these pesticides,” say Sutton, leading to concentrations higher than would be “above the Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for freshwater creeks and streams.”
So what’s the solution? Oral flea preventatives might be the answer, both for the Bay and for the alleged Super Fleas.
And consider this: If you’re worried about the (still, relatively small) concentration of chemicals your pet might be causing in the Bay, think about the far higher concentration of chemicals you’re exposing yourself to when you drip that nasty-smelling stuff on their neck then let them continue to lounge around the house. Yuck, right? Might be time to head to the vet to see if she has any thoughts on the best way to keep the toxicity flea-specific.