January 14, 2013 3:53 PM

Sit in public art while awaiting Muni

One of the nine bronze chairs by artist Primitivo Suarez-Wolfe that the San Francisco Arts Commission has installed at Duboce Avenue and Church Street.

One of the nine bronze chairs by artist Primitivo Suarez-Wolfe that the San Francisco Arts Commission has installed at Duboce Avenue and Church Street. Photo: Andrew Ross, The Chronicle

Photo: Andrew Ross, The Chronicle

One of the nine bronze chairs by artist Primitivo Suarez-Wolfe that the San Francisco Arts Commission has installed at Duboce Avenue and Church Street.

If you’re waiting for Muni, chances are you’ll have to sit a spell – so why not on a comfy chair that looks like something out of your grandmother’s den?

If your grandma is a metalworker, that is, and if she could afford $9,100 for the chair.

That seems to be the idea behind the nine cast bronze chairs just installed at three spots at Church Street and Duboce Avenue, a busy stop for Muni Metro.

The $82,000 permanent art installation – titled “Domestic Seating” – is part of a makeover of the intersection that includes new bike lanes, crosswalks and streetcar boarding islands.

California artist Primitivo Suarez-Wolfe came up with the chair concept in response to the community’s request for more seating in the area, said city Arts Commission spokeswoman Kate Patterson.

The sculpture chairs are drawing mixed reviews – and questions about whether they’re really the solution to the Muni-stop seating shortage.

“I love them – they’re fantastic,” Barbara Sain said as she waited for a Metro train Tuesday. “They’re a nice public art project, and the artist had in mind passers-by who need to sit.”

“I think they’re gross,” countered David Herron, a neighborhood local who was walking by. “It’s mostly homeless people sitting on them, and they look cheap – like they’ve been spray-painted gold.”

We did, in fact, come across three homeless men seated in the chairs while sharing lunch.

Don’t blame the Arts Commission, Patterson says.

“What don’t the homeless use?” she asked.

Up and running: Oakland Mayor Jean Quan‘s new, $140,000-a-year deputy mayor has been on the job less than a month, and he’s already running for the state Senate.

Sandré Swanson, who was just termed out of his state Assembly seat, sent out an Evite to East Bay political insiders for a combo birthday party and holiday fundraiser this Saturday.

The suggested contribution: $500 to $2,500.

Swanson said Quan was well aware when she hired him that he would be running for Sen. Loni Hancock‘s seat in 2016, when Hancock will be termed out.

To which Quan adds, “Sandré is one of the best-liked and best-respected people in all of Bay Area politics. If we get him another four years, we’ll be lucky to have him.”

As for any conflict of interest?

“It’s never been my practice in the past to mix campaigning with the job I do,” Swanson said.

And they said Don Perata had a political machine.

New stories unveiled: Those Port of Oakland executives on their way out the door over a $4,500 bill from a Houston strip club are putting out new versions of how the scandal came about.

Omar Benjamin, who is already gone as the port’s executive director, and soon-to-be-former maritime operations director James Kwon racked up the tab in 2008, at what Kwon indicated was a meal with executives of the BNSF Railway. The visit only recently came to light, and was Exhibit A in just-released audits of port executives’ expense-account habits.

Both men have now admitted to auditors that there were no shipping execs at the strip-club lunch – though Benjamin and Kwon gave conflicting accounts of how the tab got so big.

Kwon says he sat alone at the bar and smoked outside for an hour and a half, while Benjamin bought “adult entertainment dances” in the club’s “champagne lounge.”

Benjamin says he and Kwon drank together at the bar for the entire visit. Benjamin also says he didn’t realize the bill was getting so high and that they were “victims of a billing scam,” not uncommon to credit card users in strip clubs.

Records show that in September 2009, a year after the Houston lunch, the two men spent $925 at the Sheik’s Palace Royale strip club in Minneapolis.

Once again, there was no port business conducted – and once again Kwon denied he had hung out with Benjamin, saying he spent most of the time talking with a security guard while the boss was in the “private area.”

Awkward timing: Talk about clutching a victory from the jaws of defeat – no sooner did the Alameda County Transportation Authority concede the razor-narrow defeat of its $7.8 billion sales tax measure than its board rewarded its executive director, Art Dao, with a $10,000 raise.

The raise, which is retroactive to Sept. 1, brings Dao’s annual salary to $215,000.

“The timing is horrible – I agree,” Dao told us. But he says his raise wasn’t dependent on the success of the 1-cent sales tax plan on the Nov. 6 ballot, which fell about 730 votes shy of the two-thirds approval required.

Instead, he says, it was based on his many other successes since taking over in 2010, including consolidating the work of two agencies and expediting spending from the county’s last transportation tax measure. He also declined a pay raise last year.

Authority spokeswoman Tess Lengyel says Dao’s salary is still less than what his counterparts make in San Francisco and Contra Costa County.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/Sit-in-public-art-while-awaiting-Muni-4111116.php#ixzz2Hzs0ZVZJ

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