Category Archives: Essays

Features and essays—The Mothership


The first thing you see is the manifesto

Reprint from August 2014

They don’t make money and there’s no IPO, but is booming. The neighborhood social media company’s headquarters are in San Francisco and ESP visited them on Thursday.

Angel investors helped launch the start up and the young crew is busy working to join neighbors together.

The operation covers a whole floor of a historic building on Market Street and is tricked out like most Silicon job sites. Employees have a pingpong table, conversation cubbies, free food and drinks and a light-filled, airy, flexible workplace. Office design includes workrooms named after some of the original neighborhoods to join the network.

There is no East Sac room, yet

There is no East Sac room, yet

The hive

The hive

During my tour people waved, smiled and  yoo-hooed, but quickly returned to work. There was a high level of serious concentration in the cube-less work area.

I only have one complaint. There were no grey hairs walking around This is the nature of social media, but many neighborhood group members and activists are 40+. (Often it’s when the kids are grown that neighbors have more time to volunteer.) Involving experienced (a-hem) older folks in the leadership team would be a positive move.

Nextdoor is working on many design and content changes. They soon will include neighborhood organizations, and they are fine tuning their layout and pages. One of the biggest challenges they face is making money. They won’t be selling any information, but they are considering offering local “groupon” type promotions and other user-choice money makers.

You can learn the full history and scope of the network on the website.

Ellen Cochrane

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Let’s Keep the Bluebird of Happiness

Cavity-nesting birds in East Portal Park

The drought has killed several trees in East Portal Park and I now see that many of them have been marked with an orange ring, presumably so that they can be taken down. While I recognize the need to remove any which pose a safety risk, it is also important for the city to consider the wildlife value of these very trees.

Unknown Unknown-1 Unknown-2 Unknown-3 CWH Sign_DeborahHefner_275x190

Our city is home to a wide variety of bird species, many of which breed right in town. Among those birds, some nest only in cavities in trees. For the most part the trees, which provide the best cavities for these birds, are ones which are dead or dying. I walk East Portal Park nearly every morning and have noted that at least three bird species have nested each year in cavities in trees in this park: Nuttall’s Woodpecker (a woodpecker found only along the west coast in California and Oregon), Western Bluebird, and Oak Titmouse. In particular, all three species are using cavities in some of the marked trees. (Zelkova species, I believe.) I am hopeful that the city will consider saving at least one or two of these trees.

I also understand that, besides safety issues, there is an aesthetic reason for taking down dead or dying trees. Few people actually understand that, from a wildlife perspective, these are often the most valuable trees in a forests (urban OR native forests). Many other communities have recognized this and have implemented programs to try to save some of these trees, marking them with “Wildlife Tree” signage so that the public understands why they have been saved. One example is a program in place in Orange County ( An example of the type of signage used is shown below.

I have included a few photos showing cavities which have been used by nesting birds in recent years in East Portal Park. One tree in particular has been very productive and I am hopeful that this tree, at least, can be retained. It is along M Street, just where 51st intersects.

Contributed by Ed Pandolfino, Ph.D. (former president of Western Field Ornithologists, co-author of Birds of the Sierra Nevada)


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