Kevin Warnock

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SFJAZZ Center opening evening, San Francisco, California USA, January 21, 2013

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SFJAZZ High School All-Stars at opening night for SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco, California, January 21, 2013. Photograph by Kevin Warnock. Left to right: Tracy Fitzsimmons, Jill Ryan, Aneesa Al-Musawwir, Elena Pinderhughes, Matt Wong and Malachi Whitson.

SFJAZZ High School All-Stars at opening night for SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco, California, January 21, 2013. Photograph by Kevin Warnock. Left to right: Tracy Fitzsimmons, Jill Ryan, Aneesa Al-Musawwir, Elena Pinderhughes, Matt Wong and Malachi Whitson.

This evening, January 21, 2013, I had the great pleasure to tour the brand new SFJAZZ Center, at 201 Franklin Street in San Francisco, California USA.

SFJAZZ Center exterior photographed on opening night, January 21, 2013, San Francisco, California USA. Photograph by Kevin Warnock.

SFJAZZ Center exterior photographed on opening night, January 21, 2013, San Francisco, California USA. Photograph by Kevin Warnock.

The SFJAZZ Center is an ambitious center to advance jazz music.

SFJAZZ Center Robert M. Miner Auditorium on opening night, under theatrical lighting, January 21, 2013, San Francisco, California USA. Photograph by Kevin Warnock.

SFJAZZ Center Robert N. Miner Auditorium on opening night, under theatrical lighting, January 21, 2013, San Francisco, California USA. Photograph by Kevin Warnock.

I think the corner of Franklin Street and Fell Street is an outstanding location for the Center — it’s in the trendy and safe Hayes Valley neighborhood, and it’s just two blocks from the Van Ness MUNI station and Market Street.

There was a ribbon cutting ceremony in the morning, which I missed.

SFJAZZ Center second floor reception area on opening night, January 21, 2013. Photograph by Kevin Warnock.

SFJAZZ Center second floor reception area on opening night, January 21, 2013. Photograph by Kevin Warnock.

I went to one of the official tours, in the evening. Attendees got to roam around the facility and admire the building, constructed in 2011 and 2012 to be the new dedicated home for SFJAZZ.

The formal part of the evening featured prepared remarks by Randall Kline, the Executive Artistic Director and Founder of SFJAZZ.

Rebeca Mauleón, the Director of Education, also spoke.

The SFJAZZ High School All-Stars performed in the large music hall, named the Robert N. Miner Auditorium, which features steeply set seats designed to allow the musicians to see the faces of the audience members. This Auditorium also features a glass wall that looks out onto the busy street, which will drum up interest in the performances because passersby will be able to catch a glimpse for free as they walk or drive past. I’ve always thought it is good marketing for martial arts studios and dance studios to have large glass windows at street level. SFJAZZ Center is taking a page out of their public relations book, and I predict good things will happen as a result of doing so.

I was exceptionally impressed with the High School All-Stars. I introduced myself to the members and invited them to read my blog.

SFJAZZ Center, ground floor reception area, on opening night, January 21, 2013. Photographer and blogger Kevin Warnock is standing by the donor names on the wall.

SFJAZZ Center, ground floor reception area, on opening night, January 21, 2013. Photographer and blogger Kevin Warnock is standing by the donor names on the wall.

I was given a lushly produced magazine/program for SFJAZZ during the tour this evening. SFJAZZ Founder Randall Kline had this to say, on page 7:

Welcome to the first season

After 30 years of presenting music in a variety of rented venues throughout the Bay, it is with great joy we begin our first season in our new home, the SFJAZZ Center. It is the first freestanding building for jazz in the country — designed, from concept to concert hall, to create an enhanced setting for experiencing what the esteemed jazz write Whitney Balliett calls “the sound of surprise.”

The SFJAZZ Center is home for all that we do: concerts, education programs for adults and youth, our award-winning SFJAZZ High School All-Star Ensembles, the world-renowned SFJAZZ Collective, and the new SFJAZZ Monday Night Community Band.

Over our three decades, SFJAZZ has grown to become a vital part of the cultural fabric of San Francisco. And in the broader context of the jazz, we have been recognized as one of the top presenters in the world — helping to place San Francisco, with its rich jazz history, among the vanguard of cities where this American-born art form can be best heard.

Kline continued his remarks — I have not typed all of them here — and concluded with:

Jazz has a home in San Francisco. The first season begins. See you at the Center!

Sincerely,

Randall Kline
Executive Artistic Director and Founder

The new Center shows a lot of promise. I am intrigued, so I plan to return soon to the Center to see a show.

I took the pictures that accompany this post with my Canon 5D Mark II camera. I uploaded these images at full resolution of 21 megapixels. Click on them to see the full size versions.

SFJAZZ Center Robert N. Miner Auditorium in neutral, bright light on opening night, January 21, 2013. Photograph by Kevin Warnock.

SFJAZZ Center Robert N. Miner Auditorium in neutral, bright light on opening night, January 21, 2013. Photograph by Kevin Warnock.

Today was a busy day in the United States of America.

Outstanding.

[Edit on January 23, 2013 -- I added two names to the caption of the group photo of the All-Stars, above, once I got the correct spellings.]

13th Annual UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition results

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For posterity, here’s the email that University of California at Berkeley sent out notifying recipients about the winners of the 2011 Berkeley Business Plan Competition.

The finals were held at the Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum today, April 28, 2011.

Since the online version of the email probably won’t stay online forever, I made a screen capture of the email, below.

13th Berkeley Business Plan Competition

13th Berkeley Business Plan Competition

Written by Kevin Warnock

April 28th, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Time to move Berkeley’s Pacific Steel to suitable industrial space

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Pacific Steel of Berkeley, California is apparently the 3rd largest steel foundry in the United States. Pacific Steel’s unionized employees are currently on strike and the company must be losing a fortune each day.

I have mixed feelings about this company. My company Silveroffice, Inc., the makers of gOffice, in 2005 used to be housed on 10th Street in Berkeley, about 8 blocks from Pacific Steel. Our tenancy at that location lasted just a couple of weeks because one of our employees got sick and started to miss work due, he claimed, to the noxious and poisonous fumes emitted daily by Pacific Steel.

Hadfields Works steel casting, 1925

Hadfields Works steel casting, 1925

The smell resembled a pot with a plastic handle left empty on a burning stove.

I smelled this smell as we were moving in, but didn’t think it was an ongoing condition. But after a few days, a neighbor dropped in to introduce herself and left us with a flyer advising the cause of the odor was Pacific Steel. I attended public meetings organized by the neighbors, and learned the plant emitted all sorts of carcinogens.

The plant moved into Berkeley in 1934. Apparently, back then, there were no homes, schools or offices anywhere near the plant. That was smart thinking, as I don’t see how a foundry can be odor free, given what they do inside, which is pour molten steel into molds to make truck and other parts. Even soldering an electrical connection on my desk makes a nasty smell, and I’m only melting a tiny amount of metal.

I think that Berkeley itself may be the party to blame here. They should have never allowed houses and nursery schools to be built walking distance to this huge factory, which fills more than a city block of land. Berkeley should have paid Pacific Steel to relocate if needed before they let a nursery school be opened across the street.

I suspect that Berkeley collects a LOT of tax revenue from Pacific Steel and ‘needs’ them to pay the bills. But I bet it can be shown people die earlier if they live for a long time near this plant. The current leadership of Berkeley didn’t cause the current mess, I’m sure, and from what I know, the leaders of Berkeley are kind and conscientious leaders. I’ve met Tom Bates, Berkeley’s mayor, and I’ve heard him speak. I was impressed with what I heard, but of course, he was not speaking about Pacific Steel.

Within days of discovering the health threat, I moved my company out of the vicinity of Pacific Steel. We moved back to our Berkeley Entrepreneurship Laboratory space for a few weeks to give me time to find new office space, which I did. We moved to downtown San Francisco into the Mills Building at 220 Montgomery Street in early 2006.

According to the article I link to here, Pacific Steel is losing money and thus it has asked its employees to pay for their health care insurance coverage. My guess is this coverage costs a fortune, because the air must really stink inside these ancient factory walls. The article says some of these employees have been working there for 30 years! The health consequences must be horrific, though I am just guessing, and perhaps there are air scrubbers inside that make the air as fresh as crisp ocean air. Has anyone reading this been on the factory floor while the plant is in operation? If so, please leave a comment telling us what the air smells like.

I think the solution is to simply shut the factory, take the modern equipment to a truly industrially zoned city area, perhaps far from Berkeley, and set up business operations there. Scrap the ancient equipment, perhaps by melting it down into truck parts as a final tribute to the company’s long and no doubt colorful history. Offer jobs to the best employees and don’t fight unemployment compensation for the rest of them. Yes, it’s sad some longtime employees will lose their jobs. But they are nearly certainly being slowly killed by working there, and given time, they will realize I predict that this wrenching change is in their best interests.

Remember, my office was about 8 blocks from the factory, and I found the smell unbearable once I learned it was carcinogenic. It was quite unpleasant before I found out the smell was carcinogenic.

In 2005, there was reportedly a nursery school right across the street from this old factory! Those poor children! Those poor teachers!

I have read Pacific Steel has spent millions on new equipment in recent years. They can take these goodies with them to the new factory. There probably is a closed factory out there that they can just buy for pennies on the dollar, like Tesla Motors just did with the Toyota/General Motors plant in Fremont, California. It must be so stressful for the Pacific Steel owners to be doing constant battle with its neighbors, so I would think they would welcome a chance to start over in an area that would welcome them, not shun them.

I’ve never written such a harsh post before, and I hope I don’t upset the workers or the executives too much by what I write here. I think Pacific Steel was harmed by Berkeley decades ago, and it’s probably too late to seek redress. So what needs to happen now is to make the best of a bad situation. Even if Pacific Steel has to reduce its size so it’s the 10th or 20th largest foundry in the US, it still makes sense to adopt my plan. Once they stop bleeding money on fines, lawyers and public relations, they can grow a number 10 or number 20 firm back to the number 3 firm, probably in only 10 years. Clearly the family has exceptional drive and tenacity to survive this long under such trying circumstances. When they can stop fighting and really work on their business, I predict great things will happen, and the health benefits to the whole community will allow that section of Berkeley to thrive.

I invite comments, even harsh and critical comments. I don’t know all the details, and I am open to writing follow up posts to correct or amplify points I make above. I’ll even meet with representatives of either side if they like to make certain I ultimately write a fair and balanced analysis. I’m a new journalist with no training, so please be patient with me as I tackle controversial, even explosive subjects.

PS – Moving away from Pacific Steel hurt my relationship with Priya Haji, who founded World of Good, Inc. gOffice was renting space from World Of Good on 10th Street, which is how gOffice came to locate near Pacific Steel. I had been quite close with Priya up until that point, and we would talk everyday, each advising the other on our repsective ventures. Once I left in a rush, we never talked like we used to, which makes me sad, as Priya is one of the most fascinating people I know. You could say our relationship was a casualty of Pacific Steel’s presence in the neighborhood, which should give you some background on why I felt compelled to sound off on my blog about such a controversial story.

 

Written by Kevin Warnock

March 21st, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Opinion

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