Worst avoided as storms trickle to an end

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023
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KGO-TV's Drew Tuma, left, joined colleague Jobina Fortson, MX3 co-owner Dave Karraker, and KGO-TV's Reggie Aqui at the Lululemon pop-up January 13. Photo: Courtesy Dave Karraker
KGO-TV's Drew Tuma, left, joined colleague Jobina Fortson, MX3 co-owner Dave Karraker, and KGO-TV's Reggie Aqui at the Lululemon pop-up January 13. Photo: Courtesy Dave Karraker

A series of destructive atmospheric rivers may have ended earlier this week, but the Golden State is still reeling from one of the wettest periods ever recorded here.

Warnings that storms over the weekend may leave the Monterey Peninsula an island without access to the rest of the state proved unfounded.

"It wasn't that close," Monterey County Public Information Officer Karen Smith told the Bay Area Reporter on Tuesday. "The rivers never reached a point where they needed to close the roads."

The National Weather Service provided some perspective on how rare such a soaker is, however. KRON-TV reported that downtown San Francisco has received 18.09 inches of rain since the day after Christmas, making the period between then and Tuesday the wettest 22-day period since 1862.

Thankfully many of the establishments that saw flooding at the start of the year did not see a repeat even as the rain barreled down during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

For example, Rainbow Grocery, a worker-owned co-op in the Mission district adjacent to the Central Freeway, has not seen flooding again since its reopening January 3, a spokesperson told the B.A.R.

Susie Idzik, the executive director of Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, the LGBTQ reform synagogue near Mission Dolores Park, told the B.A.R. that it has been holding in-person services again. Shabbat services had been virtual-only, the B.A.R. reported last week.

"Our office has been open and we have been holding services for the past two weeks but our lobby remains closed," Idzik stated. "We are still without heat because our boiler room experienced flooding and we haven't yet been able to get our boiler and gas up and working yet."

The LGBTQ New Conservatory Theatre Center, located in the basement at 25 Van Ness Avenue downtown, reported flooding over New Year's. Its website states that its next show, "Getting There," will be opening January 20.

Dave Karraker, a gay man who co-owns MX3 Fitness in the Castro, told the B.A.R. last week his decision to step down as co-president of the Castro Merchants Association was due to the extensive flooding there. Luckily, competitor Core MVMT Pilates set up a GoFundMe campaign, which has raised $13,377 of a $20,000 goal as of press time.

Apparel company Lululemon, which has several San Francisco locations, helped raise nearly $5,000, Karraker told the B.A.R.

"Our hearts are full from the unbelievable support we have received from the community following the flooding of our gym," Karraker stated. "We really owe so much to Lisa Thomure, owner of Core MVMT, who started a GoFundMe as soon as she heard the news. Miraculously, someone from Lululemon heard about Lisa's efforts and that led to a Lululemon charity pop-up in front of our gym last Friday that raised nearly $5,000. This has really reinforced our belief that the Castro is one of the most caring, giving, close-knit neighborhoods in the entire city. When another small business is down, the Castro community rises up to support them and that's what makes our little neighborhood so incredibly special."

The Lululemon SF Giving Cart held the fundraiser for MX3 in front of the gym's Castro location, featuring sweatshirts designed by local queer artist Simón Malvaez. Malvaez is perhaps best known in the community for his work on the "Queeroes" mural on the LGBT Community Center and the Young Hearts party at the Eagle.

Malvaez said that the partnership with Lululemon began with a local collection for Pride festivities in 2021, which grew into designing the company's first global Pride collection the following year.

"When they approached me with the idea for using the artwork for their giving cart, I was excited by the impact behind it and community support as all sales have been donated directly to local organizations," Malvaez told the B.A.R. "Last weekend, the merch and cart popped up in support of SF LGBT Center, a group I work closely with and currently have a mural at. With MX3 being a queer-owned gym, this opportunity is close to my heart."

Lululemon San Francisco's Tommy Tran stated, "Last Friday we chose MX3 because we value how they create access to wellbeing for the community."

Terrance Allen, who is now the sole president of the merchants group, told the B.A.R. that Karraker "was a spectacular co-president, and he will be dearly missed."

"He spearheaded so many initiatives that his shoes will be hard to fill," Allen stated. "He spearheaded the rallying of merchants to pressure the city to do something about the unhoused living and dying on the streets, always using his excellent communication skills. We understand that being on the Castro Merchants board, especially in a leadership position, takes time and energy that can be scarce for us small business owners. We respect Dave's decision to focus on rebuilding his business after the flood, support him in any way we can, and will look to the horizon for his return."

Allen was referring to a letter the merchants group sent to city leaders last summer demanding action on a number of issues business leaders experienced, including homeless encampments and people struggling with apparent mental health issues, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

What generated the most buzz, however, was a statement — not part of the letter — that threatened civil disobedience by businesses withholding fees they pay to the city. In December, a group calling itself the Tenderloin Business Coalition also contacted city officials with similar concerns in that part of the city. They are demanding a refund of taxes and fees to help them cover the costs of trying to sustain businesses amid the crime and drug dealing on the neighborhood's streets, as the B.A.R. reported.

Sonoma County

Up in Guerneville, Ben Tacla of the Rainbow Cattle Company said that he's thankful that "at no point did the banks of the Russian River overflow," in spite of fears.

"The flooding we got was where it's supposed to flood, where it normally floods," Tacla, a gay man, said. "It seems to be the consensus that we can't call this a flood because it never really, truly flooded. ... The business is doing great. The locals gathered at the bar — it was fun. The bar is open again and tourists are back in town. It really hasn't been that detrimental when it comes to business."

President Joe Biden is expected to be on the Central Coast on Thursday to visit the ravaged communities there; as of press time the specific cities of the visit have not been confirmed. Biden already had signed off on both a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration and a Presidential Emergency Declaration to help the state and local communities recover from the storms, which have resulted in at least 20 fatalities and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

On Monday Governor Gavin Newsom signed his own executive order to further bolster the state's emergency response to the severe winter storms. He has also traveled to impacted communities across the state, including in Santa Cruz County.

"California is moving with the urgency this moment demands, rapidly bringing support to Californians recovering from the devastating impact of the recent storms," Newsom stated. "Business owners across the state can now access much-needed assistance to help accelerate their recovery efforts, including relief from interest and penalties."

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated areas can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362 or 1-800-462-7585 TTY. Resources are also available here.

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