Urban Surveillance
Is BIG DOORBELL Watching Us?

Motion Sensing Floodlight Cameras-Security, Surveillance and High Tech Stalking

Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai
Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai

Ring cameras are turning neighborhoods into surveillance networks —Glenn Harvey NBC News

The new frontier of privacy war is being waged around the complex legal and regulatory issues stemming from the “terrifically addictive and widely engaging hodgepodge of voyeurism, suspicion and unease” generated by the rising use of motion activated floodlight cameras and neighborhood security apps. Amazon touts its $1.2 billion dollar investment in Ring camera technology as the “Evolution of Outdoor Security.”

Surveillance Camera
Ring Floodlight Camera Motion - Activated
HD Security Cam Two-Way Talk and
Siren Alarm, Black, Works with Alexa

     The ultra-bright LED floodlights are activated by motion detected within customizable zones with a 270-degree field of view allowing the user to detect motion around corners and in blind spots. The high-resolution camera can be coupled with a siren alarm and two-way audio allowing the user to speak with anyone…from anywhere!

     Combined with the Ring app, the user can flash lights, sound the alarm and zoom-in to focus on areas under surveillance. Additionally, the floodlight cam sends instant alerts to a smartphone or computer. The system costs up to $350.00 and is difficult to install. The Ring disclaimer identifies the device as a security… not a surveillance camera.

    "Neighbors" is the Ring app that allows users to share video feeds and receive dynamic updates from connected neighborhood watch apps like Citizen that operates in San Francisco receiving updates from 911 calls.

Surveillance Camera

Max Read describes the “hyper-awareness” he experienced after installing a Ring security camera as “terrifically addictive, a wildly engaging hodgepodge of voyeurism, suspicion and unease.”

        A recently divorced man moved into a town home next door to mine during the Spring 2020 COVID 19 shutdown and, over the next six months, exhibited conduct that escalated to include trespassing, stalking and harassment.


By October of 2020, I had been swept into a whirlpool of controversy and aggravation after the “nuisance neighbor” installed a motion sensing floodlight cam directed towards my patio door to facilitate his 21st century high tech stalking.

Camera in the backyard

      I get it! Sociological research on interpersonal attraction has determined propinquity - or nearness - to be a driving force in the formation of relationships between people. The propinquity effect describes the simple fact that nearness - in an office, organization or neighborhood - fuels the tendency for people to form friendships or romantic relationships with people they encounter most.

      Despite having accrued an archive of documentation submitted to the landlord and SFPD, during the dark winter months of 2020, the “nuisance neighbor” installed a Ring Motion Sensing floodlight camera on property - he is not the owner of - to monitor my early morning  activities. The high beam floodlight activated within six feet of my patio door fulfilling legal criteria for “light trespassing” and privacy violations as captured by the following Youtube videos: VideoOne, Video Two.


Some would argue a professional woman in her sixties should be flattered by 24 hours of unrelenting attention from a man half her age, but this intolerable situation has been scheduled for Arbitration by the San Francisco Residential Rent Board.


...the “nuisance neighbor” installed a Ring Motion Sensing floodlight camera on property - he is not the owner of - to monitor my early morning  activities. The high beam floodlight activated within six feet of my patio door fulfilling legal criteria for “light trespassing” and privacy violations ...”

     Having researched the legality of a neighbor spying on me, I have a better understanding of issues the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) calls “A Perfect Storm of Privacy Threats.” Ring security cameras and neighborhood watch apps have the capacity to turn a quiet neighborhood into a digital network of anxiety, fear and paranoia.

Crime chart

      According to FBI annual crime statistics, violent crime and property crime have steadily declined since 2017. San Francisco crime data showed a steep decline in most crime categories in 2020 except vehicle thefts, burglary and arson.

     Vendors of high-tech home security use marketing schemes that rely on convincing homeowners their property is threatened by crime and that Ring cameras prevent it. Ring cameras send notifications to the users phone each time the doorbell rings or motion is detected, transforming the delivery man, an urban raccoon or low flying pigeon into a potential criminal. Additionally, they facilitate the reporting of “suspicious behavior” and the promulgation of high-tech racial profiling.

      Recent evidence suggests Ring security cameras distort how much actual crime is taking place in a neighborhood and may not help police solve major crimes at all. An NBC investigation found that since 2018, Ring has “partnered” with 800 law enforcement agencies offering them access to video footage recorded by millions of customers. Interviews with 40 law enforcement agencies in eight states that partnered with Ring found no hard evidence supporting Ring’s claim it’s cameras make neighborhoods safer by deterring and solving crime. Indeed, in 13 of 40 jurisdictions no arrests were made as a result of Ring footage.

Ring Camera
Image:Trisha Krauss - Are My Neighbors Spying on Me? New York Times 11/08/19

According to the Washington Post, Ring partnered with law enforcement agencies to create the Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal. This portal allows local police
to map the approximate location of all Ring cameras in a neighborhood and request footage from camera owners. Police do not need a warrant to access footage. On March 17, 2016, Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff emailed a company-wide declaration of war on “Dirtbag Criminals.” “We are going to war with anyone who wants to harm a neighborhood.”

     Sam Biddle writes in The Intercept, “Ring’s internal documents and video demonstrate why this marriage of private tech corporations with public law enforcement has troubling privacy implications.” The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project is a nonprofit that fights excessive local and state level surveillance. It finds a “deafening lack of evidence any city has been made safer” by the use of Ring camera networks.


The lack of evidence that Ring cameras deter or solve crime amplifies “Big Brother” privacy concerns generated by Ring’s plan to incorporate facial recognition and biometric analysis into its camera lines to identify “suspicious” faces.

    In a February 1, 2021 press release, EFF obtained emails that show LAPD sent requests to Amazon for Ring camera video of Black Lives Matter protesters and refused to disclose what crime was being investigated and how many hours of footage had been requested.


 Ronda Kaysan writes in the New York Times about “grainy footage” from her neighbors security cameras uploaded in 30 second loops to the Ring Neighbors app and explains you don’t even have to own a Ring camera to join Neighbors and click on a video map within a five mile radius of your home for “fish-eye” views of feral cats, skateboarders and maintenance workers.

     As long as security cams don’t infringe on personal privacy and the footage is used for lawful purposes such as prevention of package theft or vandalism, it is legal for a private property owner to install security cams in plain view and visible from the street.

path of light

      The Connecticut Office of Legislative Research issued a Report on the Use of Surveillance Cameras in Residential Areas. The Connecticut statue CGS&53a-189a, best defines voyeurism as "a person is guilty of voyeurism who, with malice, knowingly photographs, films, videotapes or otherwise records the image of another person without that person’s consent, while that person is not in plain view and has a reasonable expectation of privacy. California lags behind on these basic privacy matters.


  The use of motion sensing floodlight cameras in apartment units, condominiums and congregate living settings is clearly unlawful when installed by a tenant for  the surveillance of another tenant! Landlords cannot use cameras to track a tenant’s personal life. Pointing cameras at a tenant’s private space can be a breach of a tenants quiet enjoyment, or harassment.

     Landlords can justify placing cameras in common areas out of duty to provide a safe environment. Everything you need to know about Apartment Security Camera Laws highlights the fundamental security camera issues as placement and location. In most states it is illegal to install surveillance cameras anywhere people have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Tenants should obtain permission to install security cameras from the landlord codified into residential lease agreements.

 Neighborhood security apps can trigger “wild paranoia” about perceived crimes and threats but the measurable security they provide is negligible. A Hermosa Beach woman called the police begging for help after checking her Ring camera that appeared to detect a “stranger” walking through her front door. The police dispatcher asked her to check the timestamp on the video. It revealed the intruder had entered her home an hour earlier. The “stranger” in the security footage was HER and she had called the police on HERSELF!     

     What I have been able to glean from existing research about the legality of the growing use of home security devices like the Ring motion sensing floodlight camera, is that they are legally permitted for outdoor use by private property owners on their private property.     

     SpyGuy.com asks the question, is it legal for neighbors to point security cameras toward your property to spy on you? “The short answer is yes … if your neighbor is the property owner. Both of you are entitled to protect your private property with security cameras to thwart and deter burglars, vandals and package thieves.

     Security cameras can be placed by a property owner facing public areas including your yard, driveway or front door because you have no reasonable expectation of privacy there. Security cameras facing your bedroom, bathroom or lounge where you may be captured undressing or engaged in intimate acts are illegal.

     Jamming, disrupting or damaging a neighbor’s surveillance camera is fraught with risk and may legally constitute malicious destruction of property. SpyGuy.com recommends communicating with the owner of a surveillance camera you believe may be invading your personal privacy.

     Should that fail, seek third party mediators and contact police and a privacy law attorney. In San Francisco resources include the local BAR association referral line, the Residential Rent Board, the San Francisco Tenants Union and Legal Assistance for the Elderly.

Shrubs and trees may protect your privacy

       A simple, elegant and ecological solution is to block the view of a surveillance camera you believe is invading your privacy with beautiful trees and shrubs. Tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy and it is illegal to install surveillance cameras inside apartment complexes. Ring video surveillance systems include two-way audio and under Federal wiretapping laws it is illegal to record someone without their consent.

     Washington Post Technology columnist Geoffrey Fowler concludes in The Doorbells Have Eyes: The privacy battle brewing over home security cameras

“We should recognize this pattern: Tech that seems like an obvious good can develop darker dimensions as capabilities improve and data shifts into new hands. A terms-of-service upgrade or a hack could turn your doorbell into a privacy invasion you did not see coming. “

Ahimsa Sumchai Porter, MD, West Portal, Medical Director Golden State MD Health & Wellness is a longtime neighborhood and environmental activist

March 2021

One man band

One-man Lawsuit Stalls 2019 Affordable Housing Bond

Mr. Denny has single-handedly held the 2019 Bond hostage with his futile lawsuit to overturn passage despite the will of 143,055 San Franciscans ...

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Push back

Could the Controller’s Office be tainted by a conflict of interests?

Slow-walking the SFPUC Audit

Although the Supervisors requested this audit back in July 2019, bureaucratic shuffling and delays almost turned it into a spectral fantasy.

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Police lights

Is Weak Prosecution Triggering Vigilantism?

Exactly one week and 20 minutes later as Aidan slept, a single hot prowl burglar ... made off with $3,500 worth of his electrician’s tools.

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Secret records

Sunshine Dims in California

... access to records enables the public and press to uncover “corruption, incompetence, inefficiency, prejudice and favoritism.” The “pay to play” scandal unfolding in San Francisco makes clear the extent of corruption in government...

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drought graphic

Let's Plan for OUR Future Water Needs

Why did the SFPUC sign a contract with its peninsula agency (BAWSCA) ... so that BAWSCA customers would always have their taps filled while San Francisco would not — about 46% of the time?

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Don't Mess With Lowell!

Lowell Student Body

What happened at Lowell is not an isolated attack. ... it is happening because of our increased awareness of  inequitable opportunities for many black and brown children. But let’s not jump to a solution without properly analyzing the problem.

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Hunters Point Navy Shipyard 1941.
Hunters Point Shipyard 1941 - Photo US Navy
City's Toxic Shipyard Development Is Killing Us

Westside...Looking Eastward

Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai
Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai

In 1962 my grandparents quietly integrated a Mount Davidson neighborhood. “Mamma Roberta” was a petite model and fashion coordinator for a major downtown department store. My grandfather, George, gained a solid financial foothold by wisely investing his hard-earned salary as an ILWU walking boss, into residential real estate. Their three-story home on Teresita Boulevard was as impeccable as a museum and, during a period of adolescent turmoil, I went to live with them. I became beneficiary to quality education at San Francisco State and on the “shiny hill” of the UCSF School of Medicine Parnassus campus.

Those familiar with my twenty-seven-year advocacy for environmental health and justice in Bayview Hunters Point are surprised to learn that, while I grew up in public housing on the City’s east side, I am a “child of privilege” of San Francisco’s westside neighborhoods and institutes of higher learning. In the words of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair…it’s had tacks in it, and splinters, and places with no carpets on the floor - bare.”

quote marks

As early as 1946, the Atomic Energy Commission allowed NRDL researchers of the post-World War II era to pour radioactive waste into laboratory drains at the shipyard, dump radiation contaminated materials and animal carcasses into the industrial landfill on the shipyards shoreline and burn radioactive fuel into the air from Operations Crossroads ships hauled back following atomic explosions conducted in the South Pacific in shipyard power plants.”

I was a Stanford Fellowship trained Board Certified emergency physician on staff with the San Francisco Department of Public Health and San Francisco Giants MLB, on the morning of February 19, 1992 when I discovered my father, George Donald Porter, in bed at the family home — dead at age 58. My Dad retired early due to medical disability following a proud and lucrative career as an ILWU shipping clerk and walking boss. Like many African American men of the 1950’s era, he was assigned to the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

Porter family photo
“Mamma Roberta” and the Porter Family. February 1992

As physician of record on his death certificate, I requested my fathers’ medical record and was amazed to discover his chest X-ray findings of pulmonary asbestosis. A wrongful death class action civil suit quickly settled that benefitted other exposed shipyard workers.

In January of 2019, the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program launched as the nations first human biomonitoring program dedicated to providing easy, low cost, reliable urinary toxicology screenings to residents and workers at a federal Superfund site. I serve as Medical Director and Principal Investigator for “HP Biomonitoring” and, from a westside/eastside bicoastal perspective I appeal to you now.

Biomonitoring measures pollution in people using state of the art biomedical technology capable of detecting 35 toxic and nutrient “ biomarkers ” using mass spectrometry.

Funded by the Packard Foundation and licensed by the Medical Board of California, HP Biomonitoring is detecting chemical and radioactive “biomarkers” of toxic environmental exposure. The elements detected correspond exactly with those documented to be present in shipyard soils and landfills.

George Carter and George Donald Porter
George Carter (L) and George Donald Porter (R)
Shipyard Walking Boss gathering at Tonys Bayview Circa 1965

By combining the findings of urinary screenings with EPA approved geospatial mappings, HP Biomonitoring has identified a cluster of screenings in which multiple radioactive biomarkers are detected in toxic concentrations in residents living along the shipyard’s historic main entry on 3rd and Palou traveling southeast along the radiation contaminated shoreline — site of the United States Naval Radiological Defense Laboratories (NRDL) from 1946 to 1969. The HP Biomonitoring “ROC” cluster includes 15 UCSF workers who occupy Building 830 at 75 Crisp Avenue on the radiation contaminated shoreline and a shipyard artist. Elements detected include uranium, cesium, thallium, strontium, vanadium, gadolinium, rubidium and the gamma emitter manganese. Manganese has a 100% detection frequency in shipyard soils and has been detected in 100% of urinary screenings conducted on residents and workers within the shipyards one-mile perimeter. The California Biomonitoring Program has detected manganese in only 19% of its urinary screenings.

Biomonitoring Progeram
Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program geospatial mapping of radioactive biomarkers detected in residents and workers within one mile perimeter of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Note distribution of radioactive elements detected on urinary screening along shipyard's historic main entry on Palou traveling east toward Crisp Road and the radiation contaminated Parcel E shoreline and industrial landfill - a federal Superfund site.

HP Biomonitoring is the first human biomonitoring program to detect an “aggregate” of multiple radioactive elements in multiple screenings and, on January 27, 2021, will receivethe coveted KPIX/CBS Jefferson Award.

Toxic Map at Hunters Point
Map from Navy document - Parcel F Feasibility Study Report
documents the extent of radiation contamination of the shipyards southern shoreline.

But how does it get in their urine you ask? As early as 1946, the Atomic Energy Commission allowed NRDL researchers of the post-World War II era to pour radioactive waste into laboratory drains at the shipyard, dump radiation contaminated materials and animal carcasses into the industrial landfill on the shipyards shoreline and burn radioactive fuel into the air from Operations Crossroads ships hauled back following atomic explosions conducted in the South Pacific in shipyard power plants.

Toxic Pathways Graphic
Pathways of toxic environmental exposure. The findings of the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program point to airborne transmission of multiple toxins.

“A federal Superfund site is, by definition, a property where the EPA used a Hazard Ranking System to calculate a score based on actual or potential release of hazardous substances curing harm to human health. On a scale of 1 to 100, a score of 28.5 or more places a property on the National Priorities List. The Hunters Point Shipyard has a Hazard Ranking Score of 80 overall and 100 for groundwater migration, corresponding to an 80 to 100% risk the “toxic stew” documented to be present at the shipyard will contact sensitive receptors via airborne, dermal, waterborne or ingestible routes. Thus, by legal definition and government classification, the Hunters Point Shipyard is a harmful property and negative health effects seen in residents and workers on and adjacent to it, under the Precautionary Principle, must be presumed causal.” Source

The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is the second most contaminated property on the National Priorities List. The shipyard is so contaminated it has spawned EPA designation of three federal Superfund sites including the 600-acre naval base, the Parcel E-2 industrial landfill and nearby Yosemite Slough. It is a federal Superfund System!

urinary screening
Urinary screening released for publication by Hunters Point resident and former elected member of the Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board. She has lived within quarter of a mile of the shipyards main entry and walks her dog along a route towards the southeastern shoreline. She has undergone surgery for breast cancer and multiple brain tumors.

“Hunters Point is unfolding into the biggest case of eco-fraud in U.S. History.” Jeff Ruch - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility 04/09/2018

Whistle blower complaints and the damaging findings of Tetra Techs’ own internal investigation of 2,500 anomalous soil samples fueled the EPA investigation conclusion that up to 97% of radioactive soil samples collected throughout the base had been improperly processed or falsified. Navy computers, which first detected the contractor fraud, determined there was a four year window of opportunity between 2008 and 2012 for resident and worker exposure to falsely cleared radiation contaminated shipyard soils. A letter sent by Tomas Aragon, MD - San Francisco’s Chief Health Officer, to Mayor London Breed in March of 2019 documented a 31% increase in lung cancer in men living in the 94124 zip code — weakly attributed to smoking!

EPA Assignment
The original EPA assignment of the Hunters Point Annex to the National Priorities List on November 21, 1989 documents it to be the second most contaminated federal Superfund site in the United States of America. Note also, Treasure Island Naval Station and Hunters Point Annex are jointly designated.

The Hunters Point Shipyard covers an area of over 600 acres in Southeast San Francisco. It sits on a bed of serpentinite rock rich in asbestos and heavy metals that match what the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program is detecting, along with radioactive elements, in urinary toxicology screens conducted on residents and workers within its one-mile perimeter. Between 2006 and 2007, over 2 million tons of serpentinite rock was graded from the Hunters Point hilltop for an ambitious mixed use housing development project that created Lennar Corporations neighborhood on Parcel A-1. In 2006, BAAQMD fined Lennar $587,000 for failing to monitor toxic dust emissions following multiple notices of violation issued during the grading of the Parcel A-1 hilltop. Asbestos concentrations as high as 138,000 fibers per cubic centimeter were detected in 2008.

On May 27, 2020, a Resolution in Support of the Community Harmed by Toxic Substances and Radiation was adopted by the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee. Introduced by D10 resident Gloria Berry, the resolution was sponsored by Chair David Campos and 12 elected members. It was adopted that “The San Francisco DCCC urges the City of San Francisco, the State of California, the US Navy and the federal Government to halt all construction and further resolves that reparations be paid to the residents of Bayview Hunters Point in the form of healthcare to include toxic testing and personal injury compensation in order to begin repairing the damage caused by years of exposure to radioactive waste and environmental injustice.”

In June of 2020, by executive order of Mayor London Breed, earthmoving and excavation began at the fence line separating Hunters Point hilltop residents, schools and recreational centers from Parcel A-2 at the boundary with the most radiation contaminated regions of the base, despite “clear and present dangers” posed by the trifecta of a raging pandemic and high ambient air pollution amplified by the worst wildfire season in California history! A BAAQMD dust complaint with video evidence was  filed by hilltop resid ents. A Proposition 65 violation was filed with Attorney General Xavier Becerra by Attorneys representing the nine thousand plaintiff Hunters Point Community Lawsuit.

Sign at cleanup site
A picture is worth a thousand words! The Hunters Point Shipyard Redevelopment Project is the largest redevelopment initiative taken in San Francisco since the 1906 earthquake. It is the brainchild of former Mayor Willie Brown who remains a principal driving its development.

The Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program believes the finding of multiple chemical and radioactive soil elements in multiple screenings conducted on Hunters Point residents and workers is best explained by airborne transmission of toxic dust generated by corrupt on-going development activities on a contaminated property that is the site of extensive soil fraud.

On January 7, 2021 The Bay Area Air Quality Management District requested opportunity to review the findings of the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program that include screenings that include multiple radioactive elements detected in a Hunters Point resident who has lived a quarter of a mile from the shipyard’s main entry and has undergone surgery for breast cancer and multiple brain tumors — the editor of the Bayview newspaper — who publicly revealed she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and has elevated levels of cesium, thallium and strontium in her urinary screening. A professional woman who grew up in and near the shipyard, she underwent radiation therapy for a brainstem glioma known to be induced by exposure to heavy metals. Urinary screening detected multiple heavy metals. 15 UCSF workers in Building 830 — located within feet of the shipyard’s radiation contaminated shoreline and industrial landfill — were voluntarily screened.  Arsenic was detected in concentrations five times higher than toxic and uranium was detected in concentrations 17 times higher than allowable levels.

Excavating rock formations
Millions of tons of serpentinite rock were graded from the Hunters Point hilltop beginning in 2006 to make way for residential development of Parcel A-1. In June of 2020, during a global pandemic, in a fence line community with the cities second highest Covid-19 case rate and the worst particle pollution in the state of California amplified by the worst wildfire season in California history, by Executive Order of Mayor London Breed, excavations began on the Hunters Point hilltop adjacent to a dense residential neighborhood, schools and two community centers. Photo Courtesy of the Chronicle / Paul Chinn

The Biden/Harris administrations’ appointment of Michael Regan to lead the EPA and proposal to create a division in the Department of Justice with a mandate to pursue environmental justice violations brings sunlight and fresh air to communities like Bayview Hunters Point. The new administration updated Executive Order 12898 on Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. Https://www.archives.gov/files/federal-register/executive- orders/pdf/12898.pdf

Backhoe excavating.
Photo taken by Hunters Point hilltop resident of a backhoe excavator conducting deep soil excavations at the Fence line separating a residential neighborhood from the most radiation contaminated regions of the base at the southern boundary of Parcel A-2 and the Parcel E shoreline- site of the NRDL laboratory campus.

While elected officials at the highest levels of government have been incriminated in the political bulldozer driving the shipyards redevelopment despite mounting medical legal evidence of “collateral damage” to the Hunters Point fence line community, the “Elephant in the Room” at the Hunters Point Shipyard remains former Mayor Willie Brown!

I walk my dogs along Lake Merced and operate medical, fitness and nutrition practices from West Portal Avenue.


S.F. shipyard developer brings in government consultant team featuring Willie Brown San Francisco Busness Journal

Chairman Willie: Willie Brown's Not-So-Secret Connection to the Hunters Point Project SF Weekly

Firm tied to Willie Brown gets political boost for Hunters Point Reveal News

Valencia Developer Recruits Willie Brown to Push San Francisco ProjectsSCTV News

Ahimsa Sumchai Porter, MD, West Portal, Medical Director Golden State MD Health & Wellness is a longtime neighborhood and environmental activist

January 2021

Dangerous Crossroads: 19th and Sloat

A Master Environmental Impact Report Must be Conducted for 19th Avenue Development Projects

Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai
Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai

San Francisco is a small densely populated seaport city located on the tip of a Peninsula surrounded on three sides by water. It’s day time population of 1.1 million people is packed into a city that is 7 feet square in area. Automobile congestion, high density residential development projects and a suboptimal public transit system have contributed to a growing incidence of pedestrian fatalities citywide. One of the cities busiest and most dangerous corridors is 19th Avenue - a state highway.

Photo: 19th Ave at Sloat

19th Avenue connects with the Golden Gate Bridge via Doyle Drive and the $1.1 billion reconstruction of the approach to the bridge will influence traffic congestion along its entire route. The intersection of 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard has been the scene of several horrific accidents and has been designated one of the city’s “deadliest” intersections. Traffic speeds may exceed 45 miles per hour.

In March, upgrades and improvements began at ten intersections along 19th Avenue designed to improve public safety including pedestrian countdown signals, curb ramps, and coordinated traffic signals to avoid red light runners. Enforcement of speed limits on 19th Avenue has always been controversial because the California Highway Patrol and the Taraval Police have shared jurisdiction over the region. Ideas for calming 19th Avenue traffic flow include a proposal to route traffic westward around the less congested Lake Merced Sunset Boulevard corridor.

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The private developers of Park Merced have proposed increasing their residential units by 6000 in a development surge that will increase automobile traffic along the southern tip of 19th at the intersection with southbound 280 and 101. ”

The California Environmental Quality Act requires that development projects with the potential for resulting in physical change to the environment or requiring discretionary decisions by the City must undergo environmental review. CEQA environmental review for all departments and agencies of the City is conducted by the Major Environmental Analysis division of the Planning Department.

Special studies for environmental review include a consultant prepared Transportation Study when adverse impacts to existing traffic conditions can be anticipated or when the project generates new traffic impacts by increasing residential units, changes off street parking, bus stops or loading spaces, sites new driveways or pedestrian and vehicular access routes to the project site.

Additionally, CEQA Guidelines Section 21090 identifies that a master environmental impact report should be prepared when components of large development projects in the same region produce cumulative impacts that may be found insignificant if each development project is analyzed separately.

CEQA prohibits the “piecemealing” of environmental reviews for large development initiatives which, when considered as a whole in a master environmental impact report, may have significant cumulative unmitigated impacts.

The myriad of commercial and residential development projects that have been proposed along the 19th Avenue corridor is a clear example of the need for a master environmental impact report particularly with regard to the cumulative traffic impacts on pedestrian safety, schools, air quality and natural habitats.

Private developers, Republic Urban Properties, are working independently in preparation of a project design for the Arden Wood project, located at Wawona and 19th Avenue that includes an entry and exit to the development at 19th Avenue. Approval for development projects with entry and exits along 19th Avenue must be granted by the state transportation agency, CalTrans.

The private developers of Park Merced have proposed increasing their residential units by 6000 in a development surge that will increase automobile traffic along the southern tip of 19th at the intersection with southbound 280 and 101.

The SF State University Master Plan for development proposes a highrise at 19th avenue at the Stonestown shopping mall that will increase both pedestrian and automobile traffic.

Another private mixed use residential and commercial development project located at 47th avenue across from the Zoo and Ocean Beach is moving through the Planning Department.

The cumulative impact effects at the study intersections of the various projects proposed along 19th Avenue will only be seen with a master environmental impact report that includes a master analyis of traffic flow, circulation, public transporation level of service and pedestrian safety.

A master environmental impact report for the deadly intersection with Sloat Boulevard should be conducted as a matter of life and death.

Ahimsa Sumchai Porter, MD, West Portal is an environmental activist

April 2008


SF General Hospital: Rebuild vs. Retrofit
Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai


The Environmental Review for SF General Hospital Seismic Compliance Hospital Replacement is slated for release to the public in March of 2008.

San Francisco General Hospital is a 130 year old institution. It is the only Level 1 Trauma center serving San Francisco and Northern San Mateo county. The hospital operates 282 acute medical and surgical beds that are filled to capacity 97% of the time. Ambulances are forced to divert to other hospitals in San Francisco over 20% of the time because of this critical shortage in bed capacity. The hospital is one of two located within the cities southeast sector, providing primary and emergency services to predominantly low income communities of color. St. Lukes Hospital is currently threatened with closure including its emergency services.

In 2004 a Blue Ribbon Committee recommended that a new acute care hospital be constructed on the West Lawn of the SFGH Medical Center campus facing Potrero Avenue. Other options were explored including the co-location of a new acute care hospital to the Mission Bay campus where UCSF is also planning to construct a new hospital that will be operational by 2014. The proposed new ÒGeneral HospitalÓ will increase its acute care bed capacity by one bed! The hospital will increase four times in area.The existing main hospital, like over 500 hospitals in the state of California, does not meet the seismic safety standards mandated by Senate Bill 1953. This legislation followed the collapse of a hospital in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. It requires all California acute care hospitals to remain intact and fully operational in the aftermath of a major earthquake.

SB 1953 does not require that SF General Hospital be rebuilt. It mandates that any hospital not retrofitted by this year that poses a risk of collapse or loss of life cannot be used for acute care until it has been stabilized. Because public funding does not exist to upgrade the stateÕs hospitals, many facilities have applied for a five year extension.

On November 4, 2008 SF voters will be asked to pass an $800 million dollar bond measure to fund the SFGH rebuild. Consider the following facts:
1. The expansion of bed capacity by one bed represents a serious overall reduction in services. The May 2006 report of the Civil Grand Jury on Disaster Medical Preparedness identified the need for up to 600 surge capacity beds in the setting of a major disaster or public health emergency. Additionally, an independent consultant retained by the Controllers Office, reported that half of SFÕs hospitals are operating at an 85% occupancy level and the city faces a 533 acute care bed shortage over the coming years.

2. The EIR for the SFGH rebuild may not adequately analyze the significant noise and safety impacts of the simultaneous construction of the new hospital on the West Lawn, while the existing hospital in Building 5 remains fully operational. The EIR proposes the relocation of a rooftop helipad from Building 5 to the new main hospital without an adequate analysis of noise, safety and flight arrival and departure routes. The EIR for the proposed rooftop helipad on Building 5 has yet to be released to the public. There is concern that the delay in release of the SFGH Helipad EIR is deliberate and intentional given the organized opposition to the citing of helipad at the hospital that has existed for over 20 years. Aeromedical helicopter crash rates have increased according to a USA Today data base. The noise, rotor wash and potential aviation disaster posed by a helipad cited in a dense, unaccepting urban neighborhood adjacent to freeways and within one mile of downtown San Francisco cannot be ignored.

3. The EIR for the SFGH rebuild may not adequately analyze the seismic retrofit alternative for the existing hospital given evidence that it may be more cost effective and less time intensive. Given the $227 million dollar budget shortfall and the $25 million dollars from the General Fund that will be encumbered by the Rebuild project in FY 2007-8, alternatives should be considered. These alternatives must also include a co-location of the planned UCSF acute care hospital and the SFGH acute care hospitals to the Mission Bay Campus.
Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, M.D. West Portal

March 2008

April-May 2020