Saturday, July 18, 2009

281: UC Berkeley in 2001 releases study showing AIDS prevention efforts falling short


Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, July 13, 2001, “Research Shows AIDS Prevention Efforts Fall Short”. This story, coming from information sent to us through a UC Berkeley Haas School of Business press release, discussed HIV prevention campaigns, how they were no longer reaching the target populations.

In other words, when AIDS first began to spread in the Bay area in the 1980s, it was affecting gay men. We remember actor Rock Hudson and Queen’s lead singer Freddie Mercury. Thus, ads were written for gay populations. Sure, you had others getting AIDS, but the epidemic had not yet taken a distinctive demographic shape.

By July of 2001, we were seeing heterosexual or bisexual drug addicts spreading the virus. In California’s cities, many of the new carriers of HIV were black men who used dirty needles to inject heroin. Middle class empathy/sympathy was vanishing at this point.

282: "Would you like a San Francisco Bay View or a College Education for Billy?" The otherworldly economics of housing in 1987 El Cerrito, CA


Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, April 16, 1987, “Houses to rise on Madera despite concerned view loss”. This was a routine story about residential development, but points to what is a recurring issue in San Francisco East Bay development and redevelopment: views.

All one needs to do is pick up any month’s issue of Architectural Digest to see how dramatically views add or subtract to the price and status of a home or commercial building. The price of a home with a sweeping view of Malibu, California’s coast is going to fetch a very high price in 2008 or any other year. That same building, but instead facing a home across a suburban street in, say, Stockton, California, will be advertised for far, far less. In this 1987 case, you had a view of the San Francisco Bay to protect, probably, so the discussion of the proposed height of new developments was an slightly serious one. City council members are voted in and out of power because of issues just like this one.

283: El Cerrito's revenue whale on San Pablo, 1987


Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, April 30, 1987, “Plaza Developers Receive Extension To Find Key Development Tenants”. This was about redevelopment of the unroofed El Cerrito Plaza, viewed as commercially outdated by 1987.

The city’s redevelopment agency viewed the shopping plaza as El Cerrito’s revenue leech on San Pablo Avenue. It was not producing adequate tax revenue, but required the same city services that any other major commercial property would require.

San Pablo is the city’s main drag. The plot of land was a story in itself. It was a dog racing track from 1932-1939. It was a trailer park housing defense workers during World War II. Then, a drive-in movie theater between 1948 and 1957.

When it became a shopping center in 1958, it was an important change of tone in a city more known in decades past for its casinos, bars and dog racing tracks. It could now attract reliable commerce.

After all, the guy who staggers into town with a few hundred dollars in 1938 is there for only one reason: to lose it at the casino, saloon or races. He’s not there to blow it on fine home furnishings.

So, the town’s redevelopment staff in 1987 was trying to make the city more appealing for the modern shopper. Let’s face it: dog tracks don’t attract middle-class crowds with kids on Saturday nights.

284: Same old fog and dance....2001


Published weather forecasts by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, 2001. I held on to about twenty of them for no reason. They’re all short and predictable, written mainly for radio broadcasters. I would write one and quickly send it out in the dead of night or in early morning.

In San Francisco, the forecasts exist to confirm life is the same as it was last week.

I’m no meteorologist, though. I was only circulating forecasts from the professional forecasters at the NWS Monterey/Santa Cruz bureau.

The forecasts’ serious followers were those in certain jobs, like maybe the crews in the region’s different ferry terminals. Some cab drivers might eagerly listen to forecasts hoping for word of an approaching rainstorm, which can turn the city’s walkers to near-beggars at 4:30 p.m. I presume it increases business instantly. But other professional drivers might hate rain because of the confusion and misery it brings to other drivers. The point is, there are reasons to listen to weather reports you might not consider at first. Outside this, writing weather is pretty boring.

No. 285: The wealth and vigor of Silicon Valley of 2001 run alongside East Palo Alto


Published news advisory by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, August 11, 2001, “Two Shot in East Palo Alto Saturday Morning”. Three paragraphs reporting two drivers shot after midnight by suspects on street. There were fewer of these small crime advisories by mid-2001 when we reported it.

East Palo Alto has/had it all if you want to read the history of race relations in the San Francisco Bay Area – extremely high crime, low-income minorities, discrimination in real estate and finance, municipal unincorporation, poorly-performing schools, and, by 2000, slow gentrification, commercial redevelopment and demographic change.

When I refer to low-income minority communities, I am discussing African-Americans, Hispanics or Pacific Islanders. Greater numbers in the latter two groups lived in East Palo Alto by the 1990s, and it’s still largely true in 2008, if the statistics I read are accurate.

Gentrification/commercial redevelopment was triggered by the rise of Silicon Valley in Santa Clara County, or, more specifically, the Dot-Com Revolution. That is, the increasing economic influence and residence of highly-educated, prosperous groups. Gentrification is too often misunderstood for meaning an increasing number of white Americans in an urban area, but in reality, that definition is off in Silicon Valley.

The Silicon Valley today is an area that has a considerable number of smart, rich, and cosmopolitan computer geeks from Asia. They probably do not, or may not, automatically, emotionally relate to the battles for black civil rights of 1962.

No. 286: Summer of 2001. Fires, fatal crashes, stabbings, pipe bombs from San Francisco newsroom....


Twenty-to-thirty brief news items by Lurene Helzer, summer of 2001, for San Francisco-based Bay City News during the night shift reporting fires, alleged domestic violence incidents, fatal motorcycle crashes, stabbings, alleged murders, unidentified dead bodies found at shore, pipe bombs, vehicle collisions with utility poles; transportation interruptions; shootings; drag races; power outages; hit-and-run accidents, fierce dog attacks, robberies, and a variety of assaults.

I do not include them in this library except with this reference, but I keep them on hand with my collection. A grievously high percentage of the murder victims in San Francisco or Oakland are defined by police as unidentified black males with these first reports. The idea that black men are overwhelmingly defeated by racism is not even close to the real story because you’re not considering the nightly, relentless murders of black, American men by other black, American men.

The other things you report over and over in the graveyard shift are fire calls. Nearly all late-night fires in San Francisco are put out quickly by its fire department because they must be; the houses stand just inches apart.