Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Social Media, Sustainability and Empowerment in San Francisco

Transamerica building & early skycraper
This time I headed to the Bay area in northern California to take area of some business clients (yes, I like to do the extra mile, about 380 miles in this case), and this short trip was full of surprises and nice events. The good thing about having all of my clients spread all over 3 neighboring states is the fact that I happen to visit them quite often when required and that is an advantage when traveling while conducting business.
The weather in Los Angeles (near the ocean) was about 73 degrees, so we expected it to be about the same these days, and a friend of mine told me the weather would be around 50 and 70, much cooler than Los Angeles. So, after we arrived in the Bay area and left all our cargo in the hotel, we drove to St Helena, to the CIA “Culinary Institute of America”. Robert took four years of culinary arts while in high school and he wanted to visit this amazing place. And while driving throughout the Napa County, we noticed how well kept and green is this whole area.
In general the whole Bay Area has its unique personality, that always draws me to it, with all its green areas, their weather, their well kept landscaping, their recycling bins everywhere (like most of California near the ocean cities), and their people.
Santa Rosa town - 1919 building
While driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, I could not resist but to stop in one of the visit areas, the first one was unusually full so I was forced to make the other end, not after paying the $5 toll. The ocean breeze was colt, my car marked 57 degrees outside and I was wearing shorts thinking like any common individual this is California, and California has its weather, well I was wrong this time.
After making a few stops, we drove north to the Napa County, yes where the California wine comes from, I was excited, we passed vineyard after vineyard, this whole area seem like the perfect place to have the wine tasting, olives and cheese, or maybe to take a class on wine and become a wine expert. The wine sampling did not sound too appealing to me since I was driving and I still had a lot to do in this trip.
More stops, then we passed by this Santa Rosa town, it was so green, so well kept, the weather was just perfect, not too hot, not too cold, and the environment was just delicious. I saw houses from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, these buildings were so well kept and somehow they were recycled into residences and commercial buildings. This place reminded me a lot of Palo Alto which I visited last year in 2011, it was just like it to me but much smaller.
While driving we were trying to figure out how the life of a student at this culinary arts school would be, this place is definitely isolated, and we did not see many apartment complexes around but hotels and vineyards, we figure probably they are must have some sort of dorms or living around the site.

Vine warehouse into reception room

We passed after some breath taking views at this area, picture this, a hill full of green vineyards and flowers around and a Victorian house on top of the hill, we saw this picture several  times while driving, and these place happened to be wine makers, this place was so beautiful and it was not that far from San Francisco, just  one hour away driving.
So we finely arrived to the CIA Greystone, I was glad that it was not crowded like most of California main attractions, the weather was at 85 degrees by now, just perfect!
The view of the main building from the entrance is just amazing, I had the impression of watching a European castle, and the stone building is impressive with all their landscaping around this place is worth the trip.
We started by visiting the museum and look at the original cornerstone of Greystone, where the founder of this place buried some bottles of wine in the concrete foundation of this place. Now they have this stone on display in a crystal box.
We were told by one of their staff members that our guess was right, the students stay on dorms while attending to this school. What surprised me the most was the fact that they not only teach the culinary arts but they also have their own vineyards and they teach all about wines, they also have their own restaurant, their own gift shop, and they have their old wine warehouse (full of those huge wooden wine containers) that was transformed in to a beautiful  room that can host gatherings like weddings, parties, etc.
Speaking about sustainability, green building, recycling buildings and new uses.
Greystone culinary arts school
This is a place that I will definitely recommend to visit while you’re in northern California, while you can buy some good quality wine for really cheap in this area.
After visiting wine country we came back to the San Francisco area, this time he headed to the Fisherman wharf, which is just a few yards away from Port Mason which is near the ocean (I stayed at this place the first time I ever visited northern California a gazillion years ago). This place has all kind of businesses all over the place, many people and tourist from all over the world too. We walk from the free public parking to the wharf and while walking I noticed the Ghirardelli’s brick building (yes, the famous chocolate factory) which is an icon in this city. This building was constructed in the late 1800’s. I remember back the first time I came to this area I wanted to see this place but I did not have the chance. This place was designed to be walked, they have this beautiful  park right next to the beach, a marina museum, and the shops in the near streets.
From this point you can really see Alcatraz which you can access by ferry.
This place is also walking distance from the original San Francisco Port, where ships from all over the world used to connect this city. Nowadays,  they have one of those old ships at the port that you can visit and walk around too.
I spotted the Ghirardelli building just like half block away so we decided to pay a visit. This place is a perfect example of green design, sustainability and green construction. They fused the old brick building with a modern terrace and metal structures that added to the building use. I’ve noticed this lot in this city.  We walked in to the Ghirardelli’s shop where they staff greets everybody with free chocolate samples, we were in heaven!
Fisherman Wharf - San Francisco
They have the famous Ghirardelli plaza right next to the shop where you can relax and rest when you are walking in this city.
This plaza is full of shops of all kinds, and right next to the plaza they have some of the old machines in display, what impressed me the most is the metal and stone mortar that was used to break in to liquid the cocoa beans.  The plaque read that Chocolate is originally from ancient Mexico and the Aztec king used to offer this drink called “chocolatl” in the ceremonies to their gods.
This day was becoming colder and colder and we headed to the last stop before heading to the hotel.
While walking around this city, I could not but admire the beauty of this city, their green gardens everywhere, their Victorian houses, and the new buildings that resemble Victorian houses, their streets that run up and down the hills, its weather, and its people.
It was cold and breeze when we arrived to the hotel. But that did not stop us from reaching our last destination from the day.
Ghirardelli factory - built on 1898
It happened to be a coincidence that my good friend Lira Luis, an architect from Chicago was in the city working in a summit about Social Media in the AEC industry. The last time I met Lira was in Las Vegas in May, you can read more at our May blog article, and you can see our Las Vegas conversation too.
By the time we both met, we were tired after a long working day, tired but happy to reunite. We held a friendly conversation about Social Media and Sustainability with some vine, olives and cheese, and being in San Francisco, the place of green building then decided to record our conversation like we did in Las Vegas for everybody to enjoy.
Since our accounting company learned the basics on Social Media, and we confirmed that having those statistics services work, we decided to create OREM Domains, which is a company that helps you to create a domain name, to build a website, to host your website and to keep track of your traffic with the website analytics service.
Celebrating the reunion - San Francisco
Could you believe that by just adjusting some words on your website, blog or video description you can reach thousands of viewers? This later can translate in revenue.
Filming this conversation on Social Media and Sustainability was fun and very educative for me. For instance I did not know that one of the countries that is the most green is Costa Rica.
I also did not know that by just doing your part while taking care of yourself you can be green and sustainable too, simple things like separating paper and plastic, using less water, using your bicycle for short commutes, not wasting resources and recycling as much as possible. By doing this you are making a big difference for future generations.
The next day we decided to take a tour together in this fascinating city, so we all went to diverse places in the Bay Area in my SUV.
First stop was the Palace of Fine Arts, this place is an amazing place surrounded by neat gardens, walk ways, and the neighborhood is full of Victorian houses style, and other styles that go from conservative to ultra modern. This place has also an artificial lagoon with water fountains. If you visit the Bay area you definitely have to visit this place.
Ghirardelli's new modern addition
Our next destination was Lombard St, which is the crookedness street in the America, this street has traffic in one direction only (down) and it is located in a hill, funny fact is that after we parked, we had to literally climb out and later climb back in to the car because the car was parked sideways in a hill
There were lots of people at this street (tourist mainly) all looking for the perfect moment to take their pictures.
Next stop was Coit Tower, which is located at the end of Lombard St in a hill, this place was beautiful , historic and has one of the best views in the Bay Area, and it was full of people. Too bad they charge to be able to go on top of the tower, so I didn’t go. Parking was also challenging at this limited parking space.
One of our final destinations was downtown San Francisco, this city is so beautiful and well kept that I would like someday to own property at this place. This city is much pricey than Los Angeles, I can tell.
Driving throughout these streets I saw the Transamerica Pyramid building. I was surprised to learn that this building was one of the pioneers in green building back in the late 1960’s the Transamerica building was commissioned by Transamerica CEO John Beckett, with the claim that he wished to allow natural light and fresh air to filter down to the street below. This building has 850 ft and contains 48 floors of retail and office space. Although the tower no longer serves as the Transamerica Corporation headquarters, it still strongly associated with the company and is depicted in the company’s logo. The building was designed by architect William Pereira.

Golden Gate Bridge on windy day
Driving down the street I spotted the early skyscrapers in town. I saw some of the historic buildings but not that many. Later I recall that most of the historic buildings were destroyed by the fire of early 1900’s. At 5:12 Am. of April 18, 1906 an earthquake estimated between 7.8 and 8.3 that lasted for about 45 seconds on the Ritcher scale, which wasn’t invented until 1935. The earthquake broke gas pipelines, water supply and waste lines which later ignited several fires in the city. The early fire fighters even used ocean water pumped to several locations, but the efforts were not enough to contain the fire that lasted for 72 hours. In the aftermath most of the buildings were severely damaged and they were required to be demolished and replaced.
Then we went for a late lunch or early dinner (lunner?) and we headed to Chinatown San Francisco. What surprises me is the fact that all the major old cities (that I’ve visited) with Chinese migration have these common early Chinese settlements. For instance, the ones in Lima-Peru, Los Angeles-California, or San Francisco-California have distinctive common characteristics. The one in South America in Lima city has a blend of the local culture and food, and the ones in California (north and south) have a more authentic characteristic.
Palace of Fine Arts - San Francisco
Our final destination was the Castro Area, this is the place where all the Gay right movement started. I’ve been a few times in this city but I never found the place where Harvey Milk started it all. I believe things happen for a reason, we were just driving around Castro street looking for a place to park, (parking was a bit challenging here too) when all of the sudden I found a space who somebody seemed to be holding for me (he left just until I approached) immediately after getting out of the car, I recognized the front store where we just parked (yes, I watched the movie Milk, the story of Harvey B. Milk), this was the place that Harvey Milk rented back in the early 1970’s as his Camera shop and where people always seemed to gather to discuss the latest new, problems and concerns. Its front windows turned into a community bulletin board, covered with announcements of upcoming civil rights demonstrations, protests, meetings, and events. Harvey became “the major of Castro Street”. Nowadays it serves as the Human Rights Campaign, an Action Center & Store. If you don’t know his story, I recommend the movie.
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 (after 3 failed attempts). This is the spirit that I always embrace when I encourage people to pursue their dreams and push them to go in to their own business, no matter how many times you fail, all you need is to make some adjustments and try again.
Lombard St. Crookedest St in America
We walked around Castro Street, interacting with this place, looking into the shops, the stores, the bars, I’m based in Los Angeles so I was pretty curious about the possible similarities with West Hollywood (the Los Angeles Gay center), and I found that they’re none, its place has its own unique character. Then we walked to the wine-cheese-coffee shop store where we sampled some wine, cheese and crackers, I would be happy living nears this place!
The sunset just start, and it was getting dark, and after dropping my friend at the San Francisco airport we headed to Los Angeles. It was cold and dark outside, its time to go home and I can just wonder when I will be back to this wonderful city.
Chinese lamp at Chinatown San Francisco
Transamerica building in downtown San Francisco

Castro Street
Castro area

Castro area
Human Rights Campain Store

Special thanks to Lira Luis, Merwin VideƱa, Robert Ziemlak for making this article blog possible.