Field Trip – San Francisco Bay

The Cañada College Organismal Biology class took a field trip out into the waters of the San Francisco Bay on the Marine Science Institute’s research vessel. Here are three short video clips I took of the afternoon out on the bay!

Clip 1 – Shot from the port side of the bow, while heading south from Redwood City to the Dumbarton Bridge. The East Bay is visible at the beginning of the video, followed by the Dumbarton:

Clip 2 – Shot from the stern, facing north, while traveling south from Redwood City to the Dumbarton Bridge. The San Mateo Bridge becomes visible at 0:06.

Clip 3 – Shot from the stern as instructors pull a net with trawled specimens aboard.

A Private Ferry Service at Public Expense

The following is a letter I sent to the Board of Commissioners for the San Mateo County Harbor District after their October 7, 2015 meeting. The only edits made to the letter are minor ones in the name of clarity and editing out typos.


Good evening to the Board,

At last night’s Harbor District meeting I went into a bit of detail about the WETA On-Board Passenger Survey included in Item 13 of your agenda packet (cf. page 308 of the full agenda packet, or page 9 of Item 13).

I did not have the time to fully explain why I was giving you the numbers I was giving to you, so here is a clearer explanation for your benefit. All of the following information is pulled from the WETA survey.

Table 1 of the WETA Survey shows the number of rides on the ferry system for the month of October 2014. “Rides” are defined as individual trips for a single person.

According to Table 1, the number of rides between the South San Francisco terminal and all other terminals (Alameda, Oakland, and Pier 41 in SF) add up to 9,909 rides.

Figure 5 of the survey shows that for those taking the South San Francisco ferry line, 100% of riders are commuters.

Based on these figures, we can assume that the 9,909 ferry trips involving the South San Francisco terminal at Oyster Point Marina all fell on “commute” days, i.e. weekdays.

There were 23 weekdays in the month of October, 2014. Knowing that some people probably take Fridays off and Columbus Day off, I will be generous and assume that there were only 20 working days in the month of October 2014.

9,909 trips divided by 20 days of ferry service is 496 individual trips taken per day. Because we know from the survey that everyone using the South San Francisco ferry line are commuters, we can safely assume that people are taking round trips between their home and their workplace.

496 divided by 2 is 248 round trips.

In other words, under generous assumptions, only 248 people are regular users of the ferry terminal at Oyster Point Marina. The overwhelming majority of these regular ferry users are Genentech employees.

Additionally, we also know from Figures 1, 3, and 4 of the WETA survey that the demographic breakdown of those 248 people show them to be substantially richer, younger, and whiter than the average person from San Mateo County, and especially the average person from South San Francisco. The three Figures show that

  • two out of three riders utilizing the South San Francisco line have a household income of $100,000 or greater;
  • over half the riders are under 35 years old; and
  • every single rider speaks English well or very well.

While I am a proponent of public transport, what we essentially have here is a ferry terminal serving, at best, only 248 commuters who are overwhelmingly not San Mateo County residents. Essentially, the ferry terminal at Oyster Point Marina is a private transport service for one private company in South San Francisco. It is a public transport option that excludes, either by accident or design, minorities, middle-income people, and low income people, a fact that would be egregious under any circumstances but even more so considering the demographics of the folks who live at Oyster Point Marina, or close to it.

In light of the concerns LAFCo raised about an alleged “absence of nexus” between the Harbor District’s property tax base and the people who are served by the district, it is more important than ever that the Harbor District make sure that the public resources under its purview are serving residents countywide, from all backgrounds. Analysis of the WETA survey shows that the ferry terminal is yet one more aspect of Oyster Point Marina that is not of benefit to all countywide taxpayers, in stark contrast to Pillar Point Harbor, which is a center of commercial fishing, recreational boating, and a tourist destination known internationally.

It may be wise for the Harbor District to dissolve the JPA with South San Francisco and hand back control of Oyster Point Marina to the City.

I ask the board to keep this information in mind in advance of the upcoming special meeting and site visit regarding Oyster Point Marina and the JPA.

Thank you,

James Lee Han

Photos from the 1 October 2015 Renters’ Rights Rally in Redwood City

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Redwood City residents who are struggling to pay their rent, who are struggling to retain employees as they take off for places with far less ridiculous costs of living, and who are under threat of eviction are coming together to rally for their homes, for their lives, and for their livelihoods every Thursday afternoon in downtown Redwood City (5:30pm at the Jefferson Avenue and El Camino Real intersection). Many supporters are joining them, mostly from the faith community through the San Francisco Organizing Project and Peninsula Interfaith Action (SFOP/PIA).

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One of the key organizers of these rallies is Diana Reddy, a Redwood City resident who kicked off the city’s Housing and Human Concerns Committee (HHCC) by the city council, despite her commitment to fair housing issues and renters’ rights.

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From Redwood City’s own website, these are the stated Areas of Responsibilities for members of the HHCC, all of which Diana adhered to far more visibly than any other member of the HHCC:

  • Monitor changing social needs within the community and make recommendations for improved, changed and/or new services.
  • Promote community awareness of social problems existing within Redwood City.
  • Coordinate human service activities within the community.
  • Promote adequate housing for all persons.
  • Advocate housing selection by location, type, price, and tenure, and a free choice of housing for all citizens.
  • Monitor and recommend changes, when necessary, in the housing element and the human services element of the General Plan.
  • Develop and recommend community development block grant programs and strategies. Serve as the citizen participation vehicle for the Community Development Block Grant Program Application Process and Human Services Financial Assistance Funds Consolidated Plan to assure citizen input in the determination of use of those funds.

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What is the commitment of the city council to fair housing and renters’ concerns if one of the most visible advocates on those issues is removed from her position for simply doing her job?

Redwood City for Renters’ Rights rallies every Thursday at 5:30pm, in downtown Redwood City at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and El Camino Real.

Talk to Me of Mendocino

Most people my age or younger have likely heard of singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright some time in the last fifteen years, perhaps even heard his music. Fewer probably know he is the child of critically acclaimed singer-songwriters Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle (of the sisters Kate and Anna McGarrigle, who wrote the Linda Ronstadt hit “Heart Like a Wheel” among other lovely songs).

Out of that group, likely fewer still have actually heard his parents’ work. I personally tend to stay away from Loudon’s music, mainly because I don’t connect with his subject matter in any substantial way, and to a small but significant extent because by all accounts he was terrible to Kate (they were divorced long before Kate died), to Rufus in large part due to Rufus being gay, and to Rufus’s sister Martha—all of which makes it hard to really care when Loudon sings about his personal manpain. Of course there are times when one can separate an artist’s work from their personal life, but probably not when that artist’s personal life is the content of their art. Even now that Loudon is quite old and Kate dead for a few years, it’s clear he’s not fully comfortable with his gay son, which is extremely disappointing.

Kate and Anna on the other hand produced deeply emotional, beautiful music, and when Kate died relatively young a few years ago, it was a huge loss to Anna, Rufus, and Martha.

“Talk to Me of Mendocino” was a song written by Kate about yearning for a place, a home, an escape. The specific place here happens to be the gorgeous vistas of the Northern California coast, which appeals to me greatly for many personal reasons, but “Mendocino” could be about any place, or any person you are longing for.

The two videos below complement each other: The first is a performance of “Mendocino” from the 1980s or 1990s, with Kate on the piano and Anna providing harmony with Karen Matheson. The second video, recorded about a year or two after Kate’s death, features Anna on the piano. She doesn’t sing one note: Rufus and Martha provide the vocals.

I’ve watched these videos separately before, but recently I watched them back to back and had tears in my eyes for pretty much the entire duration of the second video. Everything is gut-wrenching, from how much more fragile Anna looks at the piano, her slower and mournful piano playing, the shocking white of her hair; the obvious sadness in Rufus and Martha’s voices, the way they rock their heads between phrases similar to how Anna does when she sings, the way they both look so much like both their parents when they were young (I used to think Martha looked more like Loudon, but now I’m not so sure); and the way their voices have the signatures of their parents, both the nasal, grainy warmth of Kate’s voice and Loudon’s piercing, sharp tones.

The first video gives the song a more hopeful feel, with the sunnier, sparkling tones provided by the guitar and bass and Kate’s faster piano playing; the slower speed and starker/cleaner tones of the second gives you more space for introspection and catharsis. Both are lovely.

Enjoy. 🙂