Monday, August 25, 2008

Report to Council and Ratepayers on San Francisco Sister City Visit June 25 – July 3 2008

  • Background:
    2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the sister City relationship between the City of San Francisco and the City of Sydney. The Mayor of City and County of San Francisco Mr Gavin Newsom invited the Lord Mayor to participate in the 38th Annual San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration on June 28 and 29, 2008. The invitation proposed a series of events linking Sydney and San Francisco, including celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Sister City relationship and a special exhibition on the historical ties between the Sydney and San Francisco GLBT communities. The invitation reciprocated the City’s reception of a delegation from San Francisco. The Lord Mayor was not able to personally participate on this occasion and Council resolved on 12th May 2008 to send Councillors Phillip Black and myself to represent the City of Sydney.

    By way of background, Sister Cities International is a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network creating and strengthening partnerships between international communities in an effort to increase global cooperation at the municipal level, to promote cultural understanding and to stimulate economic development. Sister Cities International leads the movement for local community development and volunteer action by motivating and empowering private citizens, municipal officials and business leaders to conduct long-term programs of mutual benefit.

    To encourage sharing of cultural, trade and tourist links, Sydney City Council maintains sister city relations with the following cities:

    San Francisco, California, USA established in 1968
    Nagoya, Japan established in 1980
    Wellington, New Zealand established in 1982
    Portsmouth, United Kingdom established in 1984
    Guangzhou, China established in 1985
    Florence, Italy established in 1986

    The Sister City Program began as an initiative of the Eisenhower Government in the United States in 1952 as a way to bring cities and their people together after the devastation of World War 2.

    City Hall San Francisco with AIDS memorial quilt panels on display

    Program of Meetings

    To gain the maximum benefit from the short visit a series of formal and informal meetings were arranged with the valued assistance of the Protocol Department in the City of Sydney and the Mayor’s Office in San Francisco. The period of the visit coincided with the celebrations of the 38th GLBT Pride parade (equivalent to Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade) and included several ceremonies and welcome events at which we participated and were acknowledged warmly. I was accompanied by my partner Mr Jesper Hansen who traveled at his own expense.

    Mr Dan Shifrin – Vice President of Zipcar.
    This meeting was to examine the highly successful car share programs in San Francisco.

    Car Share and Green Hybrid Taxi’s in San Francisco

    Zipcar is the private sector provider of ‘car share’ services in San Francisco and has 700 cars and 20,000 members. Zipcar operates under a private profit model and is owned by Benchmark Capital who also own eBay and other innovative businesses. Zipcar moved into the generally not for profit car share business space offering a different service to the existing not for profit providers. Zipcar offers a seamless car share service to members across the United States which gives it an advantage for business travelers and a mobile work force. They target corporations and have an aggressive program to replace existing corporate fleets that sit largely dormant with their car share vehicles located in basements of corporate buildings for business usage.

    Zipcar marketing includes targeting the largest corporations and encouraging Zipcar services as part of employment packages and working closely with corporate travel and sustainability managers. Zipcar do not charge a general membership fee (up to $500 for NFP CarShare) and charge vehicle usage on a per kilometer basis. Sourcing accessible parking spaces for their fleet is the biggest issue with the City not providing on street parking spaces. Their policy is to have a Zipcar within 5 blocks of a customer. As such Zipcars can be seen across San Francisco in leased car spaces within service stations, private car parks and even McDonalds outlets.

    Summary: The private for profit sector Zipcar competitor to the NFP CarShare demonstrates an evolution and maturing of the car share concept. COS should be prepared for the challenges of equal access to parking and resources that entry of private sector competition will inevitably bring to Sydney. Competition in this market may bring down costs to consumers, improve marketing and demand, provide more access to services across the Australian east coast and reduce private vehicle dependency and related environmental, traffic and parking challenges for the City of Sydney. The City should encourage more competition in the car share markets.

    City of San Francisco Chinese New Year Organisers
    Mr Edwin Lee – City Administrator
    Mr Arnold Chin – Parade Director Chinese Chamber of Commerce

    CNY meeting at City Hall

    This meeting was to discuss SF Chinese New Year parade and possible future exchanges of key personnel and organisers and to explore similarities and differences in the sister City approaches to CNY.

    Similar to Sydney, San Francisco has a large Chinese and Asian heritage community. Their CNY celebrations and parade are a major tourist and economic benefit to the City. The budget for CNY is US$1.6 million most of which is self funded through events and sponsorship. The City provides only approximately US$50,000 directly but does not account for the ‘in kind’ services estimated to be several hundred thousand dollars in areas such as cleansing, barricades, road closures, venue hires, policing and security etc. Unlike COS this area is not market priced and packaged as part of any sponsorship deal. The CNY brings over one million visitors to SF and the evening parade is televised on special language channels resulting in huge exposure for the City.
    Potential exchanges of personnel were discussed but the difficulty will always be that CNY is at the same time globally and all Chinese community members are either involved in the celebrations or returning to their families.

    Summary: Similar to Sydney the San Francisco CNY celebrations are organized in partnership with Chinese community leaders and a Chinese community committee with leadership from the community. San Francisco’s CNY appears more established than Sydney’s and if possible COS should seek exchanges of senior event staff to strengthen our CNY celebrations and maximize tourism and economic opportunities for Sydney.

    PRIDE Flag Raising Ceremony

    Annual Flag Raising ceremony & 30th Anniversary of PRIDE Flag. This ceremony took place on the internal City Hall steps area and was followed by a reception and ceremonial flag raising on the Mayor’s Balcony. Mayor Gavin Newsom spoke of the strong and proud history of GLBT community in San Francisco of course referring to the slain GLBT campaigner Supervisor (Councillor) Harvey Milk whose bust overlooks the ceremony. The Councillors from COS were also formally acknowledged and welcomed. The PRIDE festivities were heightened by the community celebrations surrounding the recent State Supreme Court decision that validated same sex marriages conducted in San Francisco City Hall. During our visit we witnessed a huge outpouring of genuine emotions over this decision and strong affection for Mayor Newsom fro his courageous decision to legalise gay marriages at City Hall. The ceremonial unfurling and flying of the PRIDE flag off the Mayor’s balcony over the front steps of City Hall was a much anticipated and emotional event.

    Summary: The Mayor’s Balcony ceremony prompted consideration whether the COS Town Hall Balcony over the George Street portico could be better utilised for similar ceremonial events with a Lord Mayor’s special flag pole installed and ceremonies conducted with various community leaders to mark special community occasions such as PRIDE /Mardi Gras, NAIDOC week, Chinese New Year, ANZAC Day etc.
Shayne & Mayor Gavin Newsom

Positive Resource Centre (AIDS Research)
Brett Andrews – Executive Director Positive Resource Center
Mike Smith – Executive Director AIDS Emergency Fund
Steve Tierny – Ed D Professor, California Institute of Integral Studies, Health Commissioner
Alex Randolph – Liaison to District 8 LGBTQ Community, Mayor’s Office
Lance Toma - Executive Director Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Centre

Another Charity event

At this extensive meeting over several hours we were joined by famed celebrity community leader and fundraiser Donna Sachet (self described on her business card as ‘Singer, emcee, fund-raiser, hostess extraordinaire’).

This extensive meeting was a consultation with HIV and GLBT community health leaders to discuss how San Francisco was responding to the changing nature of HIV infections, delivering health care to an aging demographic and preventing new infections.

As an overview of the HIV situation in San Francisco and the rest of USA we were told that 92% of HIV infections in USA were gay men whilst only 74% of funding is directed towards them. It is thought that more than one million people are living with HIV in the USA and that more than half a million have died after developing AIDS.

Lance Toma informed us that African Americans and South Pacific men are experiencing a spike in infection rates but this may be a result of better screening and testing procedures in their communities. In San Francisco there are 20 different language groups requiring specialised and well developed communications tools and engagement. Multicultural minorities in San Francisco GLBT community experience racial discriminations similar to those reported in Sydney and result on lower self esteem and possible higher infection rates. Interest was expressed in gaining a better understanding of HIV awareness issues and programs that may operate for Australian ATSI community.

San Francisco has not followed the national trend with increasing HIV rates. This was attributed to a well developed community self care model as evident from this meeting (similar to Sydney’s) and the opening of ‘Magnet’ which is a drop in centre one stop shop for young GLBT people to seek advice, testing etc from community providers. This centre subsequently visited is located in the heart of the Castro district (ie Oxford Street) amongst the popular night clubs, restaurants and bars.

With the advent of antiviral drugs and the shift of HIV from a terminal illness to a chronic heath condition, have come the challenges of an aging HIV positive population. Professor Tierny provided great insight to the challenges of providing quality health care services to long term HIV sufferers. HIV heath services have adapted to providing integrated geriatric health care services for this growing community.

Mike Smith of AIDS Emergency Fund focused on the legal services they provide to clients. In particular in the areas of immigration, tenancy rights, public housing, minor legal issues and employment rights where HIV discrimination is a major problem. San Francisco is viewed as a ‘sanctuary city’ in the USA and therefore a lot of people find themselves their seeking refuge from legal and other persecutions and seek out their services.

Donna Sachet talked about the fundraising challenges after 30 years with the onset of ‘giving fatigue’ - something Sydney experiences as well when so many organisations seek community funds for their work. Whilst in SF several appeals were underway at the one time including a walkathon for HIV and the sidewalk sale during PRIDE.

Shayne visited the National AIDS Memorial Grove dedicated
by Congress as a National Memorial Site.

SFMTA Municipal Transport Agency
Oliver J Gajda – Bicycle Program Manager
Nick E Carr – Bicycle Saftey Education and Outreach MTA Planning
Bridget Bjorna Smith Senior Engineer MTA Planning

This meeting commenced by joining an induction lecture for MTA interns. This gave an overview of San Francisco’s bicycle planning. Sadly the sister City’s share similar inadequate facilities and low levels of cycling. In 2006 a resident took the SF bike plan to court seeking an injunction claiming it was not fully assessed in areas of environment and economic impacts in the long term. The court upheld the complaint and granted an injunction preventing the City implementing any of its bike plan until 2009 by which time comprehensive research and assessment were needed to be in place. A disappointed Mayor Newsom released a statement that summarises the bike plan and way forward:

San Francisco, CA – Mayor Newsom today reaffirmed his support for significant improvement to bicycling conditions in San Francisco, following a Superior Court ruling that sends the City’s 2005 Bicycle Plan back to the environmental review process and slows the implementation of the city’s goal to create a citywide bicycle network.

“I am disappointed by the court’s ruling on the city’s Bicycle Plan, but I am in no way discouraged from my commitment to making San Francisco a world class city for bicycling,” said Mayor Newsom. “Better, safer bicycling is good for San Franciscans and good for our environment – I remain committed to realizing our goal of a citywide bicycle network, that unites the current patchwork of bike lanes into a unified, comprehensive system. San Francisco has set an ambitious goal to make 10% of all commute trips in the City bicycle trips within the next 3 and a half years.”

In this context the meeting was held with department experts and enthusiasts who rather than seeing the injunction as a set back have embraced it as an opportunity to ‘get it all right’. When the injunction is lifted in 2009 they plan to roll out the new bike plan across the City. One benefit of the injunction has been the ‘mainstreaming’ of the bicycle planning within MTA. Prior to the court decision the bicycle planners were fully funded through state and federal grants. Being unable to meet the grant requirements under the injunction San Francisco took bicycles ‘in house’ to the mainstream budget. Today nine planners work along side pedestrian, parking and traffic planners in the department.

Key observations:
Target 10% commuter trips by bicycle by 2010
State requires each city to have a bike plan and the State funds bike plans
Issues of state and national laws preventing some international measures eg painted lanes in higher stress zones. There is a chance SF can trial these measures and if proven successful they may be approved for elsewhere in USA. This is how pedestrian crossing counters were introduced in SF and USA.
SF has developed the ‘sharrow’ which is two arrows in shared traffic lanes where cyclists can ride knowing they are outside the ‘car door zone’ of parked cars which is still the highest area of accidents and injuries.
It is noted that wearing helmet whilst riding is not compulsory for adults in SF though highly recommended by SF authorities.
Currently 2000 bike racks are grouped and installed across the city – where space is not available on street car parking space is utilised.
Bike plan has conducted road audits and identified roads built with over capacity and allow for bike lanes to be implemented
San Francisco is favouring painted bicycle lanes on wide streets.
Parks and key links through green space are shared corridors for cyclists
‘Coexist’ education program involves building behviour change and positive relationships between motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians

The two hour visit ended with a two hour bicycle ride throughout key San Francisco routes and paths guided by the department’s dedicated staff. This was undertaken during afternoon peek and was a similar experience to commuter riding in Sydney.

Summary: San Francisco transport planners have embraced cycling as a sustainable transport mode that offers real benefits to the City and its people. Similar to Sydney San Francisco is starting from a low base with little cultural history supporting cycling and faces the same challenges Sydney faces in implementing a comprehensive bike plan, coherent bicycle networks, safer infrastructure and greater understanding from all parties (including cyclists) using the cities roads. It would seem beneficial for COS to exchange senior bicycle planning staff some time after 2010 to share knowledge and experience in implementing their respective bike plans.

Dedication of Pink Triangle

Shayne addressed the ceremony along with Councillor Phillip Black

This annual ceremony takes place on Twin Peaks high above San Francisco with views to the across the City to the famous bay, bridges and out to the Pacific Ocean. On our visit it was a cold and misty morning but this did not take away from the community enthusiasm for this ceremony which is a sombre occasion reminding us of the history of oppression for GLBT community symbolised by the pink triangle that homosexuals were forced to wear in the NAZI concentration camps. Speeches were delivered by community and political leaders including the San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Assemblyman Mark Leno, Senator Carole Migden, Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and Treasurer José Cisneros. German Consul General Rolf Schütte made a brief speech as did Councillor Black and myself. Councillor Black referred to the permanent pink triangle memorial we have established in Green Park whilst I spoke about our sister city relationship and my support for gay marriage reforms.

The central speaker was Arsham Parsi, who has been called the "first Iranian gay activist". “Even though the hatred that existed in Germany 70 years ago that
led to the creation of the pink triangle no longer exists there, such hatred certainly exists in other places - such as Iran. According to Iranian human rights campaigners, over 4000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979. "Consensual gay sex in any form is punishable by death in the Islamic Republic of Iran" (source for more information and images of the day).

The ceremony was a memorable part of the visit and a sombre reminder of the leadership of the community and the continued suffering of others in the world today. It provided an appropriate contrast to the other celebrations throughout the City.

Pride Parade

The City of Sydney VIP car for parade

The highlight and focus of the Sister City exchange was to represent the City of Sydney in the annual Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender PRIDE Parade. During the visit we were often asked ‘which is better? San Francisco Pride or Sydney’s Mardi Gras?’ and with appropriate political sensitivity the answer was that they are both different and unique and in so many ways not comparable. The San Francisco parade goes through the heart of the City district in a sense traversing what would be the equivalent George Street and ending outside their City Hall in a large public square. It is a day time parade watched by hundreds of thousands and with several hundred community, government and commercial floats.

The City of Sydney Councillors were provided with a convertible and appropriate signage and we were very warmly welcomed by the crowd. It was evident that many watching the parade had a great affection for Sydney and Australia and appreciated our participation. A strong focus of the parade was celebration of the new gay marriage rights and a growing campaign to stop Proposition 8, a citizen initiated ballot to eliminate the right of same sex couples to marry. The COS float proudly carried ‘No to the Gay Marriage Ban’ signs.

Campaigning to oppose Proposition 8 ballot to ban gay marriages

The parade ended in a huge daytime festival outside City Hall with speeches by Gavin Newsom and other community and civic leaders. Finding City Hall and the large forecourt open space and parkland a great focus for the community celebrations reminded me of the potential of the planned Town Hall Square where the Woolworth’s building stands today and the opportunity for a great city square for such community festivities uniting the Town Hall with so many of the events we support.

The sister city relationship with San Francisco is appropriate at so many different levels. The two cities united for 40 years share so much in common including their great waterways and iconic bridges. But most importantly they share a strong bond of tolerance, acceptance and celebration of the diversity within their communities. At so many different levels the two cities can benefit from the exchange of knowledge, experience and ideas going forward for both our great cities. I recommend examination of opportunities to sponsor exchanges of community leaders and staff in areas of Community HIV responses, Chinese New Year and the Bicycle strategy work.

I want to place on the record my appreciation of the Council in approving this visit with Councillor Phillip Black and the vital professional support of our COS staff lead by Rod Kirkman. I also acknowledge the tremendous organisational support from Mayor Newsom’s office and the San Francisco PRIDE committee.

Shayne Mallard

Pictures available on Face Book

Full set of pictures covering the Sister City visit are posted on Shayne Mallard’s face book page for the public to view:

Public Link:

1 comment:

Chino Blanco said...

Just a heads up: Mike Huckabee recently gave an interview in which he holds Mitt Romney responsible for implementing gay marriage in Massachusetts.


Welcome to the coalition.

I wish that more rank and file members of the LDS (Mormon) church would realize: the anti-gay coalition they've joined in California is one that includes folks who - given the chance - would vote their church out of existence.

Folks like Mike Huckabee and his Evangelical buddies.