We Get Letters

Great Highway Protest

Thank you for your articles about the Great Highway Closure ! !


I was wondering why it was still closed.

I am outraged that:

Individuals in our local governments (starting with Berkeley, and now San Francisco) take it upon themselves to make motorists "the enemies of the people"

I KNOW about Global Warming, I DO believe it is real, but it is NOT the fault of people driving cars alone. ALL OF US DRIVE/RIDE CARS ! ! Blaming people driving on our roads is NOT the solution !  

I am SICK & TIRED of bicycle "activists" blocking traffic illegally to score "moral points" or "political points." I am all in favor of more bicycle lanes, and greater, RESPONSIBLE riding of bicycles ! !

But this tyranny by a minority of the cities' bicycle riders MUST STOP ! ! 

Thank you for reading this message.

Gil Zilberstein, Parkmerced

January 2022

Homeless street scene

Tenderloin "Clean-Up"

An Open Letter to Supervisor Ronen

Dear Supervisor Ronen:

In tidal waves of rhetoric, much of it about people who care about those in the Tenderloin suffering from being unhoused, whether from poverty or addiction, or both, it was good to hear you PROMISE that you’d ensure public disclosure and discussion of results of enactment of the 
Emergency Order on December 23, 2021.  

I’m a veteran of city service in the Planning Department, some of it related to housing opportunities and neighborhood livability.  I’m also a past union leader who knew well the problems of staffing for caseworkers, corrupt work-arounds from City purchasing standards, and behind the scenes political and data deviations from zoning and land use regulations.

So, when in late March or early April you and other Supervisors have a public hearing to evaluate results, please consider the following questions:

1.     How did efforts to recruit an additional 100 caseworkers outside the civil service process succeed? Did you have to go to contracting out for these services? How did addition of contracted employees affect the efficiency and morale of existing overloaded city employees? 

2.     How were contracts for the needed linkage and sobering center and the safe injection site awarded without competitive bidding? To whom were these contracts awarded and what were their relationships to the Mayor? Were the costs for these leases in line with current market values for similar properties?  

3.     Were the sites chosen consistent or in conflict with existing zoning? How did adjacent residents and businesses respond to lack of usually required public notice and review? Who actually chose the sites and what were the criteria for their selection?  

The intersection of the separate but often interrelated problems of homelessness and addiction are very challenging for us all. Honest evaluation of well-meaning efforts, as you have advocated, can improve our chances for success in quality of life for those on the streets and those impacted by those who by default exist in public view. I also commend the use of the  State mandated Housing Element of the General Plan, originally intended to require local jurisdictions to meet local housing needs in a equitable and efficient manner, as an appropriate place and process to frame a comprehensive, well thought out, and publicly vetted approach to these issues, along with many city departments and stakeholders involved. 

Lois H. Scott

January 2022

Kahve Koffee Truck

Stop the Great Highway Closure!

 As Outer Sunset/Parkside residents for 20+ years, we feel it is incumbent upon us to share our concerns about the current Great Highway policies and closures.  

  We are in favor of opening the Great Highway to motor vehicles 24/7, and here's why:

1)  Having the GH open reduces traffic and pollution on residential streets.  It increases safety and reduces the strain of excess traffic on Sunset Blvd. and 19th Ave. 

2)  We are avid walkers and over the years have hiked and biked throughout the area regularly.  What we have observed is that the number of pedestrians and cyclists is miniscule compared to the number of motorists who need to use this route.  Recreational users already have the upper and lower promenades, plus the whole of Ocean Beach for their use.  Also, the GH has bike lanes.

3)  A small but vocal number of cyclists are pushing for closure of the GH except for recreational use by cyclists and pedestrians.  One of our main objections is that all but a very few of these cyclists do not obey traffic signals or yield the right of way to pedestrians.  Crossing the GH by foot can be a game of wait and dodge.  Got kids or a pet in tow?  Even worse.

We've seen or experienced plenty of close calls.  This has not been the case with motorists on the GH.  

4)  A new and disturbing development we've seen since Thanksgiving is the appearance of a coffee vendor truck on the GH at Taraval, complete with a loud generator, a line of customers and, more recently, tables and chairs for lounging beside a parked car. Photo attached.  This commercialization of public space mars the beauty of the natural setting and is particularly offensive.  What's next? Food trucks and parklets?

  Why not hold a referendum on the questions of closure and usage of the GH by the districts affected?  That would be more fair than the autocratic decisions of the head of the Dept. of Park and Rec, Phil Ginsburg and the influence of small special interest groups that we're dealing with now.  

Chris Gray and Susan Chen 44th and Ulloa

December 2021

Parking Ticket

Given that I am poking at top city officials, I am writing this anonymously.

Parking Perks at SFPUC

As someone who drives frequently around our City, I was particularly struck at the mention of 70% parking discounts for a handful of SFPUC employees in Dr. Kerr's, “Lavish Dining on the Public Dime.”

For the wealthiest SFPUC employees to only pay $91 for a month's worth of unlimited parking - across the street from City Hall - is jaw-dropping. A few points. Firstly, the equity issue is real: this discount benefits the top 1% of wage earners at the PUC - who appear to be all white. Next, there are likely no safeguards to check the use of these spots off-hours; and the Civic Center garage is very close to so much of what SF has to offer - the symphony, the opera, Herbst theater and more.

City employee benefits are almost always governed by union agreements and this “benefit” is not listed in the MEA union contract which covers the top city leaders. Instead, SFPUC execs appear to have created a Community Benefits situation for parking: the benefit isn't subject to any known contract, and how it's obtained is opaque. We do not know if there is a quid-pro-quo. Lastly, the administrative code linked in the article is  a bit longer than what the internal PUC file, the “Parking Packet,” appears to acknowledge. The full Admin code states, “Where the City provides parking to City employees or to City tenants at facilities under the City’s management or control, the City may charge the following monthly fee for parking to those employees or tenants: The price of a Municipal Railway monthly pass plus $10.00, or the existing amount being charged as of May 31, 2004, whichever is higher.” 

It is for journalists and investigators to determine who failed the taxpayers by leaving out “whichever is higher” when they wrote the internal guidance. The curiously selective quote must have been done with intent - perhaps to the personal gain of the very people who authored it. And - yes - please determine whether the City Attorney reviewed and approved.

Please also consider publishing the names of the executive employees benefiting from this obviously unethical arrangement. Any employee taking part in this arrangement must know it lacks equity and ethics - and, as a result, they themselves should now be found lacking, and left off the city payroll for good.


November 2021

JFK Drive

Re-Open JFK Drive in GG Park

Bring Back the Compromise!

Thank you for the investigative excellence of the Westside Observer over the decades.

Since 1967 JFK Drive has been closed to cars on Sundays and holidays 6 am - 5 pm.
In April of 2007 a negotiated Compromise Agreement went into effect that added closing JFK Drive on Saturdays from Tea Garden Drive to the Transverse, beginning in April through September. It has been in effect since then. JFK was never closed at night. 

It allowed for everyone to have access all of the amenities along JFK Drive. There are protected bike lanes in both directions, wide elevated sidewalks for joggers and pedestrians in both directions, and parking for cars in both directions.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 shut down Mayor Breed, via an email, ordered JFK Drive closed 24/7, with the promise that it would be reopened when the City reopened. The City has reopened but JFK remains closed to cars.

Closing JFK Drive 24/7 is totally inhumane to those of us who need a car to get to our destinations. We can no longer access all the many gardens along the drive and are completely excluded from enjoying any of the winter night activities in Golden Gate Park, such as the much-celebrated Entwined Lights installation and the light show inside the Conservatory of Flowers that we used to enjoy, parked on JFK Drive at night.

If the excuse for closing it was for children to learn to ride bicycles, why is it closed at night? Do people teach their children to ride bicycles in the dark?

It is unfathomable, cruel, and outrageous that the needs of the elderly and the disabled and the multi-generational families from outlying neighborhoods are being dismissed.  We are human beings and should be treated equally as the able-bodied are treated. JFK Drive should be reopened immediately, and the Compromise Agreement from 2007 should be permanently restored. 

We hope that people who agree will let the Mayor and Board of Supervisors know.

Tomasita Medál


West Portal Reawakens

People on the street

As inside dining and browsing are available, customers are, once again, on sidewalks ... Read it


Remember When?

People on the street

Hundreds of old photos—how the Westside was ...Take a look!

Money Bait

Re: Corruption at City Hall

Ethics Commission is Ineffective

 Thanks for Dr. Kerr's recent article "Can the Ethics Commission Fix the City's Pay-to play Culture?" explaining some of the details of corruption in City Hall, and why the so-called Ethics Commission is so ineffective.

 It is my impression that our elected officials have essentially insulated themselves by writing laws in such a way that provides them loop holes and cover to claim that their actions are in fact legal. I coined a term for this about thirty years ago = “soft corruption” defined as anything morally or ethically wrong, even when legally allowed. 

It would appear that if enough people are paid off to a level that hooks them on those payments, they will be willing to clam-up and even lie to protect anyone else who is indicted.

The more people are willing to lie and hide the truth, the more difficult it will be for any law agency to put together a winning case. I also think the DA, AG, FBI and DOJ take way too long to make their cases. 

Tony Verreos

Artificial Turf

OPEN LETTER TO: The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission

Rec & Park Commission’s Artificial Turf Binge

Considering the high level of intelligence among San Francisco”s population, the advanced degrees, the superb professionalism, we may assume that your Commission is staffed by people of that caliber.

So, we may also assume that the negative aspects of artificial turf have been noted, brought to the attention of the Commission, and seriously discussed. How could they not be discussed when they are so serious?

Not only does plastic grass and rubber-tire infill offer zero shelter to birds and insects and anything else that breathes, it also fails completely as a carbon sink, a function increasingly essential everywhere as we confront the specter of global warming.

Commissioners must have been alerted that the plastic grass and, even more the rubber-tire infill, is so toxic and particularly dangerous to children, that ten or so years ago the government of the City of New York outlawed its use.

The Commissioners must also know that unlike natural grass that can be maintained indefinitely, artificial turf has a relatively short life-span. In approximately ten years, it must be torn up and replaced at significant expense, the worn-out material relegated to land-fill, since it is not recyclable.

Then why, we wonder, all things considered, though the residents in the District of Esprit Park object to the installation of artificial turf in the proposed project, your Department evidently insists on it?

Dan Richman, SF Resident

Photo courtesy of The Conversation

Chesa Boudin

Boudin Deserves Our Support

Chesa Boudin is a man of the people and he deserves our support. Since before he took office, the Republicans and the San Francisco old guard have been lined up against Boudin, telling lies about him and trying to undermine his good work. Some people just don't like change, even if it's for the better. The San Francisco Chronicle has published more than one hit piece and KGO TV (ABC7) was actually called out in a Washington Post Op-Ed and later had to back-pedal on some of its assertions. Boudin hadn't even been in office for a year before they started pushing for a recall. Give the guy a chance. We need reform; business as usual is not going to help us move forward.

One writer, in an unrelenting attack published in the Westside Observer pushes the phrase, "Boudin’s Corpses, More Than a Serial Killer." This inflammatory and irresponsible language has to go; it's Trump talk and has no place in San Francisco politics. Let me ask the author, since you're equating Chesa Boudin with a serial killer, are you also calling for him to go to prison? That's what we do with serial killers. Perhaps you think he should get the death penalty, since he's even worse than a serial killer, a veritable mass murderer with corpses piling up. The only thing I see piling up is the BS put out by Boudin's opponents. 

David Romano, San Francisco

Dennis Herrera

Do not appoint Dennis Herrera

To Sean Elsbernd, Assistant to Mayor London Breed • May 2021

As Harry S. Truman said, the buck stops here.  The legal buck (civil) in San Francisco stops with the City Attorney.

I am opposed to appointing D. Herrera as GM of the SFPUC.  On his watch as City Attorney, my negative personal experiences as a member of the Revenue Bond Oversight Committee are many, including but not limited to
1) Nullification of the RBOC (hijacked),
2) Trampling of my rights as a member of the RBOC and citizen,
3) Signing of the 2009 Agreement-allocations with BAWSCA that has no basis in historical sales and could truly hurt SF,
4) Failure to uphold Proposition 218 (California Constitution).
5) Committee holdovers,
6) Allowing the UCLA-UCB contract to be deliberately "disappeared" (on signing date – and without explanation), and
7) the RBOC signing MOUs with the Controller's CSA, thus abdicating its independent contracting mandate as stipulated in 2002 Proposition P. A proposition which you coauthored.

I could not get one RBOC-colleague to second my motion to hire legal counsel to check the legality of the Controller-RBOC MOU. The City Attorney's representative remained silent. The Controller has a seat on the RBOC. Is this is a conflict of interest? Was this MOU created to avoid the RBOC hiring truly independent consultants?  The UCB-UCLA contract was to ask, "Can they do the WSIP on time and budget." It was multidisciplinary and incredibly well presented. The RBOC spent months interfacing with these academics. Then it disappeared. Were some folks worried about the results?

The SFPUC receives 82.5 percent of its water for the RWS from the Tuolumne River. The combined uplifts of the two irrigation districts and the SFPUC amount to about 50 percent of the Tuolumne River flow. This percentage will likely increase with climate change. I think that all uplifts from the Tuolumne River should carry a user charge. I am perplexed at Herrara's support for limiting free flows.

The demand for RWS water (wholesale and retail) is down. It is no coincidence that this decrease in quantity demanded has occurred in a period of incredible and persisting rate hikes. What exactly are we getting for all these rate hikes?

Before accepting SFPUC's estimates of WSIP completion levels, the Mayor should insist on seeing all vendor completion receipts. Why has this not been done? Recall that the SFPUC in 2002 said they would complete 50 percent of the WSIP by 2010 and 100 percent of the WSIP in 2015. 2002 Proposition E states if the SFPUC goes belly-up, the SFPUC cannot seek a bailout from CCSF. The SFPUC does need a fully qualified GM. I do not see Dennis Herrera filling that description.

 Please ask the Mayor to withdraw Herrera's name. Initiate a proper search for an experienced and truly qualified GM for the third-largest multi-utility in California.

Brian Browne


Dennis Herrera

Re: Open JFK Drive

I'm writing to express my strong support for Ted Loewenberg's article calling for the immediate opening of John F. Kennedy Drive. As a 43-year resident of San Francisco who has a lifelong mobility disability, and a former longtime resident of West Portal, I'm not at all ready to give up my access to all the primary attractions in Golden Gate Park that are placed along JFK Drive! 

I can no longer take Muni independently, and must rely on being driven to the museums, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Rhododendron Dell and Stow Lake, all of which are along JFK Drive.

Because I can no longer walk the distance from a faraway parking place, opening JFK Drive to vehicles and providing nearby parking are both essential for me, as they are for most disabled people, seniors, and families with children who must travel longer distances to reach the Park. 

Golden Gate Park is not solely the private backyard garden of those who live nearby and/or have the physical stamina to bike to all the Park's attractions. It is not the private preserve of the affluent and fit! Golden Gate Park belongs to ALL of us. Open JFK Drive now!

Victoria Bruckner


Teenage Lifer

Teen-age "Lifers"

As a member of the Huckleberry Youth Programs Board of Directors, I am saddened by the Supreme Court’s recent 6-3 decision to reject limits on life terms for youth.

This decision marks the first time in almost two decades the high court has deviated from rules establishing more leniency for juvenile offenders, even those convicted of murder. The U.S. is the only nation that sentences people to life without parole for crimes committed before turning 18.

Research shows a child’s brain does not fully develop until age 25. Adolescence is a difficult time for youth, particularly low-income youth of color, who face systemic barriers making these years more challenging.

Also, youth of color are disproportionately sentenced to life without parole. Nationally, Black youth are sentenced at a rate 10 times greater than White youth, and are 22.5 times more likely to receive a life without parole in California. Biology and social justice demand that California prohibit life without parole for youths under 18, especially when there is a better solution available.

Huckleberry’s CARC is a San Francisco program for youth, ages 11-17, who are arrested for misdemeanors or certain felonies. CARC provides positive youth development and access to mental health services. It helps youth avoid detention and a future life of crime. Thirty percent of all arrested youth in San Francisco are served by CARC and 72% of those young people are not rearrested within one year of the program. Seventy percent of CARC’s clients are youth of color, 67% are boys.

California is in the process of closing its juvenile detention centers and preparing counties to take on young people convicted of crimes in a way that protects the community while preparing youth for life outside of prison. Huckleberry’s CARC is a model for other jurisdictions to follow, and a superior alternative to the costs of life in prison without parole.

Shelley W. Gottlieb Forest Hill Extension

City College Protest

RE: City College

As a teacher in the SFUSD, (1965-2002) I found administrators to be one of the biggest blocks to teaching. There were some good ones but few and far in-between. In the 70’s some teachers came up with a plan—a teacher's council-type set up. Every year teacher’s would vote for a teacher to do what ever administrative work necessary (a coordinator) and they would be given time off to do it. “We, the teachers  met once every two weeks to assess the situation.  Most of the paper work is done by a secretary anyway. The plan was a success but the downtown administrators put the kibosh on it. It’s a long story but they sabotaged it and eventually promoted one of the elected teachers as permanent. She became as bad as the previous administrators.

I would suggest that city college be run by a council of teachers.

I taught at four different high schools (Woodrow Wilson, Balboa, Opportunity and Lowell, and earned the respect of my students.

I retired in 2002 and one of the first students that entered my classroom took me to get my Covid shot. In 2015 a student edited and published a collection of stories about teaching in a book called “It Couldn’t Have been the Pay”. The book received good reviews and may still be available in electronic form on Amazon. This isn't intended to push the book, Amazon pays nothing to either the writer or editor.

Please consider the suggestion, it is made in good faith. 

Irving Rothstein

May 2021

Newsom Cartoon

I Will Not Vote to Recall Newsom

Re: Tony Hall's Article (March 2021) "If anybody can give me just one example of any one policy that Newsom has backed wherein the public has benefited and Gavin was not rewarded with either money or exposure, I will not vote to recall him."

Dear Mr. Hall:

I read your opinion piece about Newsom. I disagree with you in a few areas and provide you with areas where the public has benefited.Your statement, "His exploitation of the gay marriage issue," My friends who were able to get married ... they did NOT feel exploited. They felt seen, heard, accepted, respected and valued.  "Brown and Newsom are “the two most committed governors to LGBTQ equality,”  said Rick Zbur, executive director of LGBT-advocacy organization Equality California." He actually took action as Mayor in what the majority of Californians believe in - 62% support gay marriage.

As far as COVID, no other Governor of California in the last 100 years has had to face a pandemic such as the current one we are experiencing. Within this horrible health, economic and emotional crisis the leadership from the federal government was, to be generous, completely absent, (and I am being extremely kind with my choice of words). California has had 56,580 deaths from COVID, NY 48,500, but we have twice the population! Maybe his oversight to get deaths of Californians under control paid off and saved the lives of 50,000 Californians. I understand the economic hardship, yet, this also happened across the county, not just California.

Not only was Governor Newsom handling twice the population of NY dealing with a pandemic, within the same timeframe there were 9,639 wildfires burning over 4 MILLION acres of our state, destroying over 10,000 buildings and killing at least 31 people. “There’s almost no statistic or dimension of this fire season 2020 in California that wasn’t astonishing or horrifying,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. I was amazed how the Governor could get up to the mic each day, day in, day out and give updates regarding COVID and the fires. Literally, our state was ON FIRE! The air had ash, toxins, and due to COVID it made fighting the fires that much more challenging to keep fire fighters safe. He got us the resources we needed for the state.

You and I weren't in his shoes. If he truly believed that keeping businesses open, schools open, etc, would have helped him politically, you would think he would have done that since you claim he isn't a leader, but just a politician.

But... he didn't, he was looking at the health and safety of Californians, not his political life.

If you want to blame someone, blame Trump. If he would have been clear about masks, social distancing, hand washing, SIP, etc, things would never, I repeat never, have gotten this out of control across the whole country, not just California. States didn’t have directives from the very beginning, or any sort of support, to implement strategies to fight the pandemic early. Hell, Trump made states fight over N95 masks! Instead of addressing the crisis at hand we were told it was nothing and would be fine and he convinced people to distrust the media — no focus on managing/trying to get ahead of a pandemic. When he left office there were nearly 500,000 dead Americans. Yes Americans - from states governed by Democrats and rrepublicans. Newsom did his best under these horrific circumstances.

So, maybe you think you could have done it better than Newsom, maybe, but maybe not ... 

Sandy W. San Francisco

March 2021

Drug Race

Re: Dr. Derek Kerr’s Advocacy for Legalization of Drugs

He floats the idea that legalization would lead to less crime and overdose deaths in the City.

Dr. Kerr, San Francisco has already tried that. The lack of enforcement of laws against drug dealing and drug use has led to a de facto legalization for several years. That, combined with the distribution of millions of free needles with no requirement to return used ones has resulted in the spike in overdose deaths this year.

Rampant drug use leads to more crimes, not less. City policy of allowing all the addicts to camp out on our sidewalks magnifies the problem tenfold. Building more subsidized, low-cost housing will not get these people off our streets. They cannot afford even minimal rent, all their money goes for drugs. Even if you supplied them with drugs for free, which I’m sure some are advocating, they will never have a job, they will still be living on the street if we continue to allow it. These people come here to live on the street and do drugs. They should be sent home. San Francisco does not owe these people a free place to live.

Dennis Holl

March 2021

Ferris Wheel

I Will No Longer Visit the de Young Museum (Until the Wheel Is Gone) 

As a member of the Fine Arts Museums (FAM) for decades, and a (formerly) frequent visitor, I was surprised to hear FAM CAO Susan McConkey make a public comment to the Historic Preservation Committee in support of a four-year extension for the SkyStar Wheel. The Observation Wheel will hinder, rather than help, members getting to the Museum because of the additional traffic from those coming to ride the Wheel. Also, there is no basis for assuming the Wheel will bring visitors to the de Young who would not otherwise be going there. 

The Wheel is of little or no benefit to the de Young and I am disappointed to hear that staff are spending time calling in support of SkyStar, a private, for-profit vendor based in St. Louis, MO, with no transparency, and SF Parks Alliance, a private non-profit. In the words of Connie Chan, Richmond District Supervisor, "... the revenue generated by the Wheel has been going to a non-profit that has been under, and part of, an on-going public corruption investigation."

For every $18 ticket sold, $17 goes to SkyStar and $1 goes to SF Parks Alliance; zero goes to the City. SkyStar pays nothing in rent for its prime location on the Music Concourse. This is not a good deal for the City and a four-year extension should not have been approved. The one-year extension proposed by Supervisors Peskin and Chan was a good compromise and should have been supported by the Fine Arts Museums. The Wheel is intrusive, out of place, out of character for the Music Concourse, an environmental hazard and five years is not temporary. The Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and a roster of environmental groups and activists all oppose it. The Wheel, by itself, will not revive the local economy or create jobs, as its promoters claim; there is no evidence for that. We don't need a Ferris Wheel to attract visitors to Golden Gate Park. The de Young should not be encouraging the commercialization and environmental degradation of our Park.

Until the SkyStar Wheel is removed from the Park, I pledge not to shop at the de Young store or visit the de Young Museum and I will urge my friends and family to do likewise. I will not support the Fine Arts Museums being used to further the interests of a private business and a private non-profit to the detriment of our park environment.

David Romano, San Francisco CA

March 2021

Thank You Quentin Kopp

In your December edition there was a thoughtful letter from a Mr. Henning in which he commended Judge Quentin Kopp for his contributions to the public good of our City. Having been born in San Francisco, I am more than aware of the report cards on many of its elected officials.  I must state that reader Henning’s observation of Judge Kopp’s service to our City is spot-on.

We have no one  in local elective government close to Judge Kopp’s intellect or integrity.  He has been the poster-boy of telling it like it is.  

Since the exit from public office of the late John Barbagelata and the retirement of Judge Kopp, the City has seen a total void of responsible leadership with the exception of the one term of westside Sup Tony Hall.   We are left with an elected bunch of sheep of liberal wool and an electorate willing to merely follow.  SF continues to wallow in corruption, homelessness, unabated drug use and street sales, an ineffective and leaderless Board of Supervisors,  and electing a DA who was a career public defender and more interested in indicting police officers than prosecuting epidemic-level car break-in suspects or drug dealers using our streets for their illicit trade.

This City wouldn’t be upside down politically/morally if we had the likes of Quentin Kopp leading us.  Judge Kopp was a gem when he served us for 30 years in public office.  We are fortunate to continue to have his wise and eloquent words to read in the Westside Observer.

Peter J. Fatooh
San Francisco 

Measure RR

The proponents of Measure RR are again misleading the public. Caltrain is not an essential part of our transportation network, public transportation is changing, working from home is the new norm, and autonomous vehicles are our future. It does not make economic sense to invest in an obsolete and dying system. Caltrain ridership will never be what it was.

Again, they want to raise our taxes —they never operate within their means — with their steadily increasing salaries and fully paid pensions, they now again, they want more.

You and I do not use Caltrain. The majority of Caltrain riders are the highest wage earners on the peninsula, making 6 figure salaries.

But they want “us” to subsidize their commute cost!

Caltrain needs to manage within their existing budget — with a CEO ‘s salary two times larger than our Governor — where is their moral compass? Their focus should be on the future transportation needs —not trying to save a dinosaur — and certainly — not burdening us with more taxes.

JUST SAY NO to more regressive taxes that only harm the average wage earner and our children.

Let those high-end riders — FAT CATS, pay their own commute costs — if they want this old dilapidated system.

We should focus on preparing for the future. Please join us in voting NO on Measure RR

Do not be railroaded!

Jim Lawrence

San Francisco Politicians Need A History Lesson

Vandalism of President Grant Monument

Fredrick Douglas, former slave, reformer, abolitionist and one of the greatest African -Americans of the 19th century said of Ulysses S. Grant: “the vigilant, the firm, impartial and wise protector of my race.” As President, he worked to crush the KKK. Along with Lincoln he is the American most responsible for ending slavery.

A generic square placeholder image with rounded corners in a figure.
Photo: Joe Rivano Barros.

He should have been celebrated on Juneteenth. Yet in San Francisco his monument was torn down last night  in Golden Gate Park during  its 150th Anniversary year by vandals with no sense of history hiding behind the fake camouflage of a protest against police abuse. The Park Police Station is across the street but was directed to stand down. Why is Mayor Breed MIA as our law-abiding tax-paying residents continue to suffer at the hands of ignorant anarchists? Where is the leadership?

I wrote this letter to the Mayor’s Chief of Staff and my District 7 Supervisor. 

Paul Simpson, San Francisco

June 22, 2020

homeless camp Richmond
Homeless Encampments at the Beach Photo: Richmond Review

Homeless on La Playa

On our block of La Playa Street, we see homeless people everyday.  This sad situation has been going on for years and it's not getting any better.  Homelessness appears to be an intractable problem.  Year after year we fund more services, spend more on research and build more shelters but the number of homeless only grows. The homeless crisis is front page news every week but nobody knows what to do except do more of the same.  For years I have read articles and editorials about homelessness and one thing is clear: local and state solutions appear woefully inadequate to the scale of the situation. And, there is no plan for actually preventing homelessness. 


...local and state solutions appear woefully inadequate to the scale of the situation. And, there is no plan for actually preventing homelessness.”

Build Our Way Out? The idea of planning for the future seems an afterthought for the politicians, developers and non-profits who want to build their way out of the “homeless crisis.” To say, “we need more housing and services for the homeless,” is no substitute for saying, “we need to take care of people so that they don't become homeless in the first place.”  Preventing homelessness would require a commitment on the federal level to actually spend our tax revenues for the well being of our citizens.  Does that seem like a radical idea?

Taxes Tax money that could have been used to create infrastructure, jobs and housing, fund education and prepare for a pandemic went instead to the military-industrial complex.  Hundreds of billions of dollars that should have gone to meet the needs of the American people went to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq   In 2016, 57% of the federal budget was spent on the Department of Defense, on wars and on weapons programs, according to the American Friends Service Committee; 6% was spent on education. The military spending hasn't slowed; the Friends Committee on National Legislation estimates the US spends about $750 billion annually on weapons and war. For comparison, Housing and Urban Development will get $57 billion in 2020. 

War A federal report from 2011 shows $60 billion (that's billions, not millions) lost to war zone contractor waste and fraud alone. Disabled and traumatized veterans return home to their families and they can't get the support and treatment they need. Homelessness and opioid addiction are the result.  “About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans. Roughly 45% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively,” - National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.  "U.S. spending on the Afghanistan nation-building project over the last dozen years now exceeds $104 billion," (U.S. aid to Afghanistan exceeds Marshall Plan in costs, San Francisco Chronicle, August 2014). Imagine if $104 billion had been invested in preschools, education, job training, healthcare and housing in the US?  .

Helping individual homeless people is important, but if we really want to change people's lives for the better, we need to invest at home before we think of nation-building abroad.  Everyone would benefit. "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." - Dwight D. Eisenhower.

David Romano lives in the La Playa area of San Francisco

June 22, 2020

But Who Will Watch the Watchdog?

The recent federal charges against former San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru raise serious questions about an ongoing culture of corruption at City Hall. City Attorney Dennis Herrera has now announced that he is issuing subpoenas related to that scandal. The irony here is palpable. On the very day the City Attorney made his announcement, the California Court of Appeal affirmed a $5 million jury verdict against the City Attorney’s Office for firing its chief trial deputy after she blew the whistle on fraudulent practices in the City Attorney’s Office itself.

This raises a very troubling question: who will watch the official who is supposed to be the watchdog at City Hall?


The City Attorney’s Office would have you believe … a few million dollars is no big deal, and that what goes on in the Claims Unit is just fine, and now you should trust it to conduct an impartial and thorough investigation into the allegations that led to the arrest of Mr. Nuru”

I am the former chief trial deputy Dennis Herrera fired for blowing the whistle. I was fired because I discovered and reported that the City Attorney’s Office Claims Unit was paying contractors to “fix” privately-owned sewers that weren’t broken, a scheme that cost taxpayers millions. In March 2017, a unanimous San Francisco jury found that the City Attorney had illegally retaliated against me.

When this paper reported last week that the Court of Appeal had affirmed the jury’s verdict, the City Attorney’s spokesperson claimed that the lawsuit was simply “an employment dispute” and tried to sweep the ruling under the rug.

It’s been seven years since I first reported on the fraud in my former office. I spoke up in 2012 to protect the City I love, and as a result, I lost the career I loved. I had hoped that a multi-million dollar unanimous jury verdict would have triggered questions and an independent review of the Claims Unit. I was wrong.

The City Attorney’s Office would have you believe that “there is no there there,” that a few million dollars is no big deal, and that what goes on in the Claims Unit is just fine, and now you should trust it to conduct an impartial and thorough investigation into the allegations that led to the arrest of Mr. Nuru.

I urge San Franciscans to insist that the City Attorney’s Office get its own house in order before entrusting it to investigate other City departments and officials. Look beyond the glib denials and take a close look at the evidence I presented at trial – all of which is a matter of public record and summarized in the Court’s decision.

If you look, you will see evidence that a Claims Unit employee initiated and paid claims to a company owned by a close friend who employed his son. The claims are illegal because the company falsely pretended to be a homeowner whose property supposedly was damaged by the City. But more important, California law specifically prohibits a City employee from steering public money to a relative. (In a sadly unsurprising turn of events, the employee’s son was later hired by Mr. Nuru.) The same Claims Unit employee also engaged in a complicated scheme apparently intended to disguise double payments of public money to another close personal friend. There’s much more. And the attorney who personally approved these fraudulent claims and many others is still in charge of the Claims Unit.

I was fired before I could complete my investigation. The City Attorney hoped that would be the end of it. It’s long past time for an independent agency to conduct a thorough review of the City Attorney’s Claims Unit, look into other “pay to play” practices which have gone on for years at City Hall, suggest reforms and make referrals for criminal prosecution if appropriate.

If the City Attorney’s Office truly believes it has nothing to hide, it should welcome an independent review. San Franciscans deserve to know the full story of what went on in the Claims Unit, and under Mr. Nuru’s watch in the Department of Public Works. More importantly, San Franciscans deserve to be able to trust that anything the City Attorney’s Office does in response to recent headlines will be thorough and impartial. They must be able to trust the watchdog.

Joanne Hoeper is the former Chief Trial Deputy at the City Attorney’s Office

February 2020

Re: SFPD and the FBI article in Westside Observer

I have been away from the city for over seven weeks and so I did not have a chance to read Dr. Kerr’s informative front page article in the December 2019/January 2020 of the Westside Observer until today.

First, thank you for publishing your article in a paper where I have access as I normally don’t read The Mission Local or The Intercept. But I do read the Westside Observer where I find Dr. Kerr’s articles and the articles of other local writers worth reading.

Next, since I’ve been away, I also didn’t know about the hearing with Supervisor Mar on this matter. Do I contact him about the status of the investigation of the Joint Terrorism Task Force? And what about the ACLU lawyer? I would guess they both need to hear support from the community or in my case, Supervisor Mar is my district supe.

Next, are you planning to write a follow up article?

Finally, thank you for all that you have done to keep residents informed!

Herbert F. Mintz II

February 2020

DA's Race

In response to the commentary (Quentin Kopp July/August ‘19) about the candidates in the District Attorney’s race and to correct the record on multiple counts. Distorting Suzy Loftus’s 15-year career in public service as an Assistant District Attorney for San Francisco, Special Assistant Attorney General, President of the San Francisco Police Commission, and Deputy Legal Counsel of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department is disrespectful and disappointing.

Suzy Loftus put forward her proposal to change the way survivors are treated and how cases of sexual assault and rape are handled. Her work is informed by survivors of sexual assault, current and former prosecutors, community advocates, and policy experts.

There is more to justice than prosecution. Survivors deserve to have their needs prioritized. That includes expanding access to trauma-informed social services, mental health care, support groups, and victim advocacy.

Suzy is a proven and trusted advocate for women and survivors of violence:

As President, Suzy championed Police Commission Resolution 16-28, about the processing of sexual assault kits and notification to the survivors of the assaults about the results.

Suzy worked with the Police Commission to establish requirements for survivors to be notified of the status and progress of their case and set reporting requirements so the department would not end up with a backlog of cases.

Suzy’s landmark reforms became the gold standard that was later adopted by the California legislature and made into state law.

Additionally, the SF Police Officers Association’s has not made any endorsements in the race.

I hope that readers of the Westside Observer will look beyond misleading opinions and examine actual facts before voting in this election.

Tami Carter is a marketing and communications professional living in the Outer Sunset.

September 2019

Freedom of Information Award

I’d like to add my congratulations to the Westside Observer for winning the Society of Professional Journalists–NorCal Chapter’s 2019 James Madison Freedom of Information Award in the Community News Category.

Just as the African proverb has it that it takes an entire village to raise a child, so too with neighborhood-based community newspapers: It takes an entire team of publishers, editors, feature writers, and human-interest contributors to crank out a monthly newspaper of interest to readers.

From Westside Observer publisher Mitch Bull and its editor Doug Comstock, to Barbara M. the proofreader, to feature writers, and to the many additional supporting contributors, this team makes a great “village” that — month after month — publishes the best damn neighborhood newspaper in all of San Francisco!

The James Madison FOI Awards recognize organizations and individuals who make significant contributions to advancing freedom of information and/or expression in the spirit of James Madison, the force behind our First Amendment. The awards are presented near Madison’s birthday and the National FOI Week.

SPJ–NorCal noted the Observer stands out among SF’s neighborhood newspapers for fostering citizen journalism based on public records disclosures. For 11 years, Mitch Bull and Doug Comstock have assembled a team of columnists who inform and give voice to Westside neighborhoods on matters of public concern.

Primary contributors such as George Wooding, John and Johnathan Farrell, Dr. Derek Kerr and Dr. Maria Rivero, Lou Barberini, Steve Lawrence, Brian Browne, Kathy Howard, and Nancy Weurfel — among many contributors — have each done a great job across the years writing feature stories focusing on First Amendment and open government Sunshine issues that the Examiner and Chronicle and few other community-based neighborhood newspapers ever publish as “local” news.

Regular contributors like Will Durst, Quentin Kopp, Brandon Miller, Carol Kocivar, Mitch Bull (Around the Town), and others, along with the Taraval Station Crime Reports, Sergio Nibbi’s witty travel observations, Julie Casson’s spot-on comics and Anise Matteson’s critically needed health reports as well as the monthly events calendar listings, round out the Observer, making it a truly neighborhood-interest focused newspaper.

My deepest respect to all of the contributors, and especially the feature article contributors, for having contributed to earning this community award.

Hopefully, this well-deserved award will go a long way toward attracting advertisers in this era of sadly shrinking newsprint. It is my hope that the Observer will continue to be in print journalism for a long time to come.

Congratulations to everyone in the Observer’s village! Onward …

Patrick Monette-Shaw

February 2019

City's Desperate Need For Skilled Nursing Beds

Thank you for your coverage of CPMC's decision to stop providing subacute skilled nursing services for San Francisco's most frail and vulnerable patients in Subacute Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs). It's been an eventful week for the patients, and I wanted to update you.

Subacute SNF patients from St. Luke's will displace the SNF Post Acute NH patients at Davies Medical Center. Rooms have been modified for the subacute patients but are very small compared to St. Luke's rooms and the activity room is small and not always available to the subacute patients (at St. Luke's this was the mobile one's "living room"). These beds will be subacute SNF beds only for as long as these patients live, per CPMC.

(However Title 22 requires that subacute SNF beds be separate and distinct from post acute SNF beds, have separate staff and distinct site, and "swing beds" between subacute SNF and SNF are illegal).

Families /patients met with CPMC last week, and 10 have decided not to consent to transfer, asking for a hearing.

If those individuals who refuse the transfer (likely due to lack of mitigation of transfer trauma or lack of communication about individualized care and/or appropriately trained staff) ask for a hearing (from the Office of Administrative and Hearing Appeals) those individuals cannot be transferred while the hearing is in process according to the attorney from CANHR, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, it takes 2-3 weeks to schedule a hearing and a week to get the results.

Originally there were 39 SNF beds and 40 SNF Subacute beds at St. Luke's. St. Luke's can modify its plan for the medical office building to include these units. And I believe St. Luke's can find an interim place for these 39 SNF beds and 40 SNF Subacute Beds but they just want outta the business—not enough profit. Public Health Dept. estimates a citywide need for 70 Subacute SNF beds—so even if CPMC re-opens its 40 licensed subacute SNF beds at St. Luke's, there will still be a deficit.

That means spending taxpayers' money to replace beds closed by CPMC, which is subsidized by San Francisco on the basis of being non-profit.

Dr. Teresa Palmer

July 2018

No on A in June

P.T. Barnum, the great American circus entrepreneur said "you can fool some of the people, some of the time, but not all of the people, all of the time." Guess what? The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) believes you can fool all of the people, all of the time.

They have Proposition A on the June 2018 ballot asking you to cede your remaining rights to approve SFPUC's unconstrained borrowing and near under-supervised spending.

There is more bad news. The SFPUC has identified the failed Revenue Bond Oversight Committee (RBOC) as the watchdog as to how these new funds will be spent. I was hoping they would have at least gone upscale and suggested, from my perspective, more viable oversight-alternatives, such as Bernie Madoff, Bonnie and Clyde, Ned Kelly, Machine Gun Kelly, John Dillinger, or Al Capone.

In 2002 the voters conceded to the board the right to issue revenue bonds for water and wastewater. Now the SFPUC wants the whole 9 yards. Water, wastewater, and to complete the triad, power. The SFPUC has revenue bond debt of $5.3 billion (water and wastewater) costing ratepayers approximately 4 percent per annum. Twenty percent of this is in a non-productive slush fund earning less than 1 percent. Ratepayers pay for this lack of planning.

This fund is overseen in degree by the (RBOC) those who engineered the derailing of the lofty ideals of the 2002 Proposition P. Prop P purportedly created an independent ratepayer organization known as the RBOC to audit the way public bond money was spent. Today the the RBOC is basically an automatic rubber stamp for poorly-supervised debt-issuance and spending. Vote No on A.

Brian Browne

May 2018

SF 827 is Unwise

SB 827 is Sen Scott Wiener 's poorly conceived initiative to force High Density Housing near public transit by waiving-off the progress of a half century of wise urban planning and development in the cause of a housing jihad. The legislation waives local government's General Plan, mandatory Housing and Transportation elements, and their zoning, density, design, parking and other restrictions on high density housing close to transit.

That's why the West of Twin Peaks Central Council, representing our residential neighborhoods, and the League of California Cities representing over 300 cities voted to oppose this misguided effort.

That is why the generalization above that, "higher density development near transit is the greenest most progressive thing we can do in the US today" is so sweeping as to be delusional.

I'm not opposed to housing, and have a long history of personal and professional involvement in housing, as well as local/state civil service in promoting affordable housing — from writing one the earliest state-mandated housing elements to steering — sometimes negotiating — public private partnerships to construct affordable housing and agreements that funded non-profit housing for the homeless. If I have any bias regarding housing it is a healthy skepticism that the "housing crisis"— is not, that preserving the unique historical and architectural character and quality of our residential neighborhoods is every bit as valid as Mr. Wiener's "housing jihad," and that SB 827 is not the "silver bullet." If passed, I doubt it would add more than 1% of the new housing stock we see in the next decade.

For over three decades the mantra of rational and accountable urban development has been summarized in three words: "Jobs/Housing balance!" But Mr. Wiener's bill offers no "balance" to the mistakes of the past. It circumvents local design standards and guts the minimum parking requirements that contribute to the unique character and quality of our neighborhoods where — public transit or not — automobiles remain a reality. Finally SB 827 circumvents resident participation in the local decisions and self determination by Cities, counties, and neighborhoods, with a proposal that will compromise so many other values we hold dear.

Mr. Wiener and his tech allies now seek to use State legislation to compensate for years of ignoring the "jobs/housing balance" as they sought the benefit of the pro-tech public support while he served on the SF Board of Supervisors.

Bob Switzer lives on the Westside

April 2018

SFPUC Invests in Vital Services #AlwaysOn

We at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) know that San Franciscans expect high-quality tap water, as well as safe disposal of treated sewage to protect our public health and the health of the Bay and ocean. It's our job to worry about those things so you won't have to. But the bottom line is that we need additional support from our ratepayers to make critical upgrades necessary to serve San Francisco—today, tomorrow, and decades down the road.

The services we provide you are funded 100% by your monthly water and sewer bill. Your payments help maintain and upgrade an extensive array of infrastructure that we depend on to collect, treat and deliver clean, reliable water, and safely collect and treat wastewater before returning it to the Bay and ocean. And, just as your car needs regular maintenance and upgrades to keep it in good working order, so do your water and sewer systems. Here are the imminent priorities:

The Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant is the frontline protector of basic public health for a majority of the City. It treats both sewage and stormwater runoff for 80% of the City, and key facilities are in need of an upgrade. Built in 1952, some components still use 1940s technology. Many of its facilities have not been retrofitted to withstand the next major earthquake. We are making major upgrades to this plant and the system that serves it as part of Phase 1 of the $2.9 billion dollar Sewer System Improvement Program (SSIP).

On the water side, our $4.8 billion Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) to repair, replace, and seismically upgrade the water system is now 95% complete. We must complete this program and continue to upgrade key pipelines and other critical components of the system to ensure high-quality 24/7 services to you.

We also maintain over 1,000 miles of water transmission pipelines and are responsible for almost 2,000 miles of sewer lines within the city of San Francisco alone. And—just as for a well-maintained car—planned system repairs over time are far easier and less expensive than emergency fixes after a break.

Water and sewer rate increases are necessary to pay for these vital system upgrades. We are planning an approximate annual rate increase of 8% for water and sewer rates over the next four years. For the average single-family residential household that pays $108 on its current monthly bill this increase translates to about an additional $10 per month each year, with more than 80% of that amount funding critical upgrades and investments.

As responsible stewards of ratepayer money, we do not take these proposed rates increases lightly. By law, we can only charge you the cost for providing services to you, nothing more, and nothing less. Now these pending and critical upgrades require an additional investment.

Setting rates is a public process that involves several oversight bodies and independent analysis. The Rate Fairness Board (RFB), composed of SFPUC customers and other appointees, is currently reviewing proposed rate plans, holding public meetings and providing recommendations to ensure affordability, stability, and fairness.

We invite you to be part of this public process and attend the March 30, 2018 meeting held at 525 Golden Gate Ave. to share your feedback. To learn more about this process and your rates, please visit sfwater.org/rates.

March 2018

Fire System Impressive

After reading Plan to Protect Neighborhoods from Fire Abandoned, in the November Westside Observer, I was alarmed. Fearing the worst, I asked for an interview with the Public Utility Commision (SFPUC) and the Fire Department (SFFD). Generously, on January 31, both agencies provided the most recent update on fire protection in San Francisco. Instead of the SFPUC and the SFFD being at odds with each other, I found just the opposite, after speaking to the Assistant Deputy Chief Anthony Rivera and John Scarpulla from the SFPUC. Improvements of the system include:

• A robust hydraulic model system to provide reliable information about what damage can occur in a 7.8 earthquake. After a designed 7.8 earthquake, the existing system was realized to be 47% reliable and many improvements were needed.

• Provide enough water to put out fires. The three existing reservoirs were repaired so they did not leak. Repairing these leaks saved 150 million gallons a year.

The existing system had 11.5 million gallons, to which the Sunset reservoir will be added to provide another 11.5 million gallons. Then, the University Mound Reservoir will be added providing another 70 million gallons of water. Lastly, the water from Lake Merced will add another 1 billion gallons of water to the system. Now, there is enough water to fight fires!

• In addition, there are 3 fire boats instead of one. These boats can pump water to pipe along numerous locations beside the Embarcadero, adding salt water to an AWSS system beside the Bay.

*After inspecting the Flexible Water Service System (FWSS) the pipe was found to be too heavy and this system abandoned. Each segment of pipe weighed 350 pounds and was actually designed for oil well producers.

• Today, fire hose is not limited to 150 feet for each fire engine but instead can be as long as one mile or 5,280 feet with pressure being added to the hose making it even more useful.

• The AWSS pipe proposed for the new system is called Kabota pipe. This pipe has movable joints on sliders and did not fail in Japan with a 9.0 earthquake.

• A date for he installation of the Kabota pipe in the Sunset/Richmond district is set for 2019. This pipe will be part a loop system that can be separated with valves, so that should one portion of the pipe be broken, pressure can be maintained elsewhere to fight fire.

• The new fire fighting system must be flexible so that new technologies can be added to the new system in the future.

Needless to say, after hearing these improvement planned for our new fire fighting system, I was very impressed.

Glenn Rogers is a Landscape Architect working on the west side of San Francisco.

February 2018

Ocean Beach Master Plan

I just read your piece in theWestside Observer and while I appreciate and understand your views and skepticism of the Ocean Beach Master Plan (OBMP), I must point out that there were some serious inaccuracies in your article.

The reason for using managed retreat for the south of Sloat erosion area is to clean up and restore the beach. I don't know if you enjoy visiting or walking along the south Ocean Beach shoreline, but those who do are aware that the beach from Sloat to Funston looks like a bombed out city with construction debris and rock boulders. This material may be effective at protecting the wastewater infrastructure, but it also blocks public access to/from and along the beach, is unsightly, and is dangerous to traverse. Due to sea level rise, what little remains of the sandy shoreline down there is due to be submerged underneath the water for good in the coming years. We think this stretch of Ocean Beach is worth saving.

Unfortunately, you also missed the fact that the OBMP design does provide for protection of the wastewater infrastructure. The method of choice is the Taraval seawall design. City engineers are busy designing that plan right now. As you know, the Taraval seawall has effectively protected the Great Highway from wave attack and erosion ever since it was built in the 1940's. It also allows for a beach and dune to exist in its midst, unlike the rip-rap system we now have south of Sloat.

Finally, there is no environmental group calling for the Wastewater Plant to be removed before the end of its life. We are not extremists here. What we are trying to do is work toward a protection system that is much more friendly to our beach.

Bill McLaughlin, Surfrider Foundation, SF Chapter,

Reply: I am glad to hear that protecting the city infrastructure is priority for environmentalists, and that they will accept a seawall. If funds can be found, the rubble can be removed, and strong protection built.

Steve Lawrence

December 2017

Hundreds of millions to remove the existing rocks at Great Highway

The Planning Commission voted to approve the Giants Seawall Project at McCovey Cove with a huge list of speakers including former mayor Art Agnos declaring that this was the best project ever in San Francisco. It is indeed a well planned project except for one unfortunate detail, it will be submerged by rising seas within 100 years. A spokesman for the Port stated that they are prepared to spend billions of dollars on seawalls and levees to protect trillions of dollars in assessed value. At the same meeting the Commissioners voted 7 to 0 to approve the Ocean Beach Master Plan which will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to remove existing protection for the Great Highway and the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant. One of the commissioners remarked that she was surprised that there weren't more public comments for such an important item. This item had been continued 3 times since April and moved back to end of the agenda, but the main reason no one was there to comment is that very few people are aware of this plan.

The OBMP was written by SPUR to deal with erosion at Ocean Beach, unfortunately the people they assembled to write the plan are all advocates of managed retreat, a strategy that allows the ocean to erode the land unimpeded. They say that we should all accept managed retreat because the shoreline was supposedly pushed 200 feet seaward back in the 1800s. This preposterous lie is stated as a fact even though physical evidence is present to this day at Ocean Beach that proves it did not happen. The Plan further states that replacing the Great Highway from Sloat to Skyline with a walking path will provide improved access to South Ocean Beach. The Plan says that the Great Highway, Skyline Boulevard, and Sloat Boulevard are all "under utilized" roadways, but westside residents know better. The Plan states that there has been extensive outreach to the community and that all the stakeholders support the plan, yet no one knows about it. Some people believe that removing the existing rock revetments and rubble, letting the ocean erode the bluff, and then placing cobblestones right next to the Pollution Control Plant will provide a wider beach for a longer time but the ocean waves will scour out all the sand right up to the new rock barrier every winter. More importantly, this plan will subject the Oceanside Plant to the full fury of the waves because it says right in the OBMP that cobblestones are not a complete barrier to wave erosion.

When this happens they will reevaluate the situation and possibly install a new barrier to protect the Plant. So after spending hundreds of millions of dollars to remove the Great Highway and the existing rocks, we will end up with the exact same beach we have now minus the road and the parking lots. If the new barrier doesn't work because it is too close to the Plant then we will be forced to build a new treatment plant somewhere else. That's ok because Plan supporters refer to the Oceanside Plant as "improperly located infrastructure".

It is not too late to stop this foolish plan because the Board of Supervisors still must approve it. Westside residents should stand up to SPUR and the Planning Department and demand that our natural land and our infrastructure should be defended just as vigorously as all the filled in baylands on the east side of town.

Dennis Holl

Development at Stonestown

I noted with some concern the recent article on the proposal for development at Stonestown.

Not due to the issue of growth and development, but the lacking "vision" on what Stonestown could and should become for a real retail and urban hub of the future for SF's western edge.

Focus on small box planning (theaters) and the lacking view of housing, transit and amenities (aka Open Space) is what drove malls to interior focused lacking big-box mentalities.

The prior historic photos of Stonestown (available at the SFPL) show an outdoor mall with sculptures and water features such as those at Stanford Mall, and prior Hillsdale Mall and even Walnut Creek mall, that made walking and shopping a pleasurable experience.

The need to think bigger, and denser alongside solutions on transit will need to take more of a fore-front in the discussion on the future of Stonestown.

With the 19th Ave Transit solution still lacking in connectivity (Example L-Taraval back up Sloat to West Portal, or a serious proposal for connection to Daly City BART via an air-tram or other direct secondary solution, possibly not part of muni to get it built sooner and quicker, traffic and transportation should be a key component of the design and solutions)

The connection between dead zones on site, with improved "walk-ways" either at grade or above (via a sky-line or pedestrian connecting walking green-way) could connect the future west-side station design, with denser urban buildings, plaza's, office space, and housing/retail components.

The problem is if you "box" yourself in too soon with a movie theater, and/or adaptive re-use of the Macy's building without thinking outside the box in the solutions.

The need for housing and density on the westside is linked to the issues and project proposals of SFSU-CSU and Parkmerced. GGP Stonestown's proposal can be a win-win project IF they spend enough time and effort in the planning for transit, walkability, and connectivity to the future other communities being developed and planned.

I did not have time to sketch anything beyond a basic sketch, but it shows that more can be thought out prior by connecting the concept of a urban plaza on the east side of Macy's with a direct link to or through the mall to the west side apartment and denser housing above retail or office spaces. This is by no means a proper architectural sketch taken to a real design level, but it begs you to look more at the land the value of the developments that can be built there, and the need for housing that is so exacerbated in SF that many developers and housing affordability groups would gladly work on the areas designs and concepts, to obtain locations to build essential housing for many neighborhoods currently seeing changes, without the essential affordable rental component.

SFSU-CSU and Parkmerced's future housing development will not serve the working class lost housing at Stonestown Apartments, and Parkmerced due to displacement and gentrification, but if we plan and make enough future housing in that neighborhood served by major transit linked sufficiently and serviced accordingly, we could flip the coin on the problems of traffic and lacking zoned areas for development.

The YMCA Annex, Medical Office Building and current Pet-co may also see changes (especially the YMCA and Petco and Annex Buildings, with a newly planned facility adjacent to the shown Muni connector that would run on the existing ramp up to 19th from 20th ave. (Tunneled down along Sloat and providing access to Stern Grove, while lessening 19th Ave construction for the SFMTA on 19th Ave. and Ocean Ave. and going to grade or above at the ramp and platform design integrated with a new plaza at the eastern side of stonestown)

If we are to think more comprehensively on Mall Designs and their development Housing and Transit must be part of the cost and benefit ratio's discussed, alongside urging the development of a more comprehensive solution to the neighborhood and existing dead-parking lot spaces that exist. A movie theater is great, but we have three in the district (West Portal, Stonestown UA, and Daly City) and entertainment is not the only needed item in the district. The Target and Trader Joe's already create a back-up and poorly designed pedestrian and auto crossing areas, strife with near-misses, and collisions daily as people hurry in to shop and pick up.

A bolder solution was a suggestion prior for a public library on the Winston Drive across from the existing smaller on 19th, for a new larger facility for public needs due to larger growth. That coupled with SFSU-CSU's proposal for density and a hotel on the SE portion of Stonestown's site, would have created a greater connectivity and benefit for a walk-way linking the more northern and southern portions of the mall with 19th Ave and denser taller buildings adjacent to 19th filling the gap currently occupied by parking lots and connecting directly with platform and Muni designed (or future BART conceptual connectivity north south) on 19th.

Its only 1000 feet approx. between the eastern edge alongside 19th across from Mercy HS to the UA Stonestown theater. Adding direct connection via walkway and or pedestrian direct link to transit will make a VERY busy pedestrian district and possible acceleration of housing options and density changes. Looking at the parking zones currently that often are overflowing during high season, their is a distinct need to look at a secondary or below grade garage with other options for accessing the mall off of 19th. Ave. especially if more features are placed there.

Please do think about the solutions more robustly and with the housing and transit components. The SF Planning Department and Commission, I believe alongwith the neighborhood would welcome more density if thought out appropriately with features and open-space amenities that attract rather than repel the people in the district from visiting. The existing images shown in the article of marble finished interiors, although slick and clean (could be vegas, or any other mall) To make a destination place requires an outside the "box" solution, that links spaces, provides public benefits, thinks through the transit predicament, and links housing, to jobs, to office space, and to retail and scaled changes visually that both invite and excite the eye to visit. Currently the view of a movie theater can be much more with a few more "envisioning" steps....

The modern design of the mall, was an open space element, and the prior sleek and esplanade walkways into Macy's actually served a purpose with lush planters, and broad sidewalk spaces. The simple concept of a Mercado, or open space area adjacent to Muni's platform designed 19th Ave station, should be a starting point for access, and connection to the medical office building and facilities at Stonestown, along with walking connections to housing and the features around the site. By providing a better solution overall there could be (2) entry areas to stonestown that are both well thought out and a super catalyst for changes on the site alongside the SFSU-CSU developments on their adjacent Stonestown Apartment Parcels.

Once again excuse the pencil sketch today, but I thought it critical to suggest a bigger view, vs. another retail box....

Aaron Goodman

September 2017

Re: Eucalyptus Trees at Center of Controversy

Glen Rogers hails the certification of the biased, inadequate, and inaccurate Environmental Impact Report for Natural Resource Management Plan and adoption of that Plan as "a victory for conservation." (Love 'Em Or Hate 'Em, Eucalyptus Trees Still Remain At Center Of Controversy, Westside Observer, February 2017)

In fact, the Plan is to cut down 18,500 trees (plus uncounted smaller ones) at the cost of $5.4 million a year for 20 years (SF Legislative Analyst, 2007), most of them on steep slopes, many in windy areas, some near freeways - to convert "forested areas to native scrub and grass habitat..."

The plan is to treat the stumps of killed trees with most toxic herbicides - so the herbicide use would drastically increase. Some people have the nerve to call this "conservation."

Mr. Rogers states that in Sharp Park "the non-native grass of the golf course requires pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers which are affecting wildlife and tainting nearby water, causing genetic mutations....There have been numerous incidents of endangered wildlife being killed by mowing the lawn or gopher control."

In fact, no pesticides or herbicides have been used in Sharp Park since August 2010. The five fertilizers used there are OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) Listed. In response to a Sunshine Records Request, I learned that there are "no records of deaths of red-legged frogs or garter snakes, or their juvenile equivalents, or their eggs or egg-masses, as a result of the operations and maintenance of Sharp Park" in last 10 years.

Mr. Rogers writes that alleopathy is "the agent that poisons the ground" and "inhibits other plants from growing under eucalyptus."

In fact, alleopathy is a biological phenomenon by which an organism produces one or more biochemicals that influence the germination, growth, survival, and reproduction of other organisms. These biochemicals can have beneficial or detrimental effects on the target organisms.

As an illustration of "native" vegetation under eucalyptus I'm attaching a photo of "native" toyon under "non-native" eucalyptus (Albany Hill).

There are five little (although they are already 10 years old) oak trees growing next to the 36 bus stop at Myra Way / Dalewood Way intersection. Most likely they are doing so well in this area because of protection provided by big eucalyptus trees under which they grow.

Mr. Rogers blames (spectacular) lack of success in "the reintroduction of native plants" on eucalyptus trees. He ignores the Pacific reed grass - a species that the Natural Resources Program wants to protect - that is indeed growing under eucalyptus, and which is frequently associated with these trees because of the moisture they provide.

In fact, the same lack of success in reintroducing native plants can be observed on the grassy part of Mt. Davidson and in other "natural" areas. It is most likely due to the changes in the environment since the time (about 250 years ago) when the "desirable" (by Natural Resource Division) vegetation had allegedly grown here.

(I'm attaching a photo of French Broom on a trail in East Bay after 10 years of eradication effort.)

Mr. Rogers cites a study stating that 85% of the 18,500 trees slated for elimination are in poor health - and therefore might burn down within the next 100 years.

In fact, that (questionable) study looked at a very small number of trees on the edges of Mt. Davidson. The sweeping conclusions are erroneous, and there are experts' statements to the contrary. Moreover, the 2015 presentation by SFFD stressed that vegetation fires are 12-13 times more likely to occur in grass and brush (to which many of our forested areas are to be converted, according to the plan) than in forests, and the real fire danger in San Francisco is from structure fires because of closely placed wooden houses.

Mr. Rogers asks readers to remember eucalyptus trees that fueled the fire in Oakland.

The readers might also remember that the Oakland fire started in dry grass, that there were many reasons why it became so destructive, or that the wildfires in California are fueled by "native" trees.

While Mr. Rogers' main concern on Mt. Davidson is the "prevalence of non-native species," for many Mt. Davidson neighbors the main concerns in connection with pending implementation of the plan are very different:

• the threat of the mudslides on newly deforested part of the mountain (the mudslides have been happening on the grassy part during the rainy seasons);

• the threat of flooding;

• increased wind and noise;

• drastically increased use of the most toxic herbicides (particularly in view of the groundwater blending into our tap water;)

• destruction of wildlife habitat.

One third of the currently forested area on Mt. Davidson is destined to be converted to grass and scrub.

Anastasia Glikshtern lives near Mt. Davidson

July/August 2017

Wrong Date?

Gold Mine HillPlease be advised that you have the wrong date on your Gold Mine Hill photo. You have it, "View from Twin Peaks. Date 1924 Mar. 26" when, in fact, the date was most likely 1953 due to the fact that the homes at the time on Midcrest Way were not built until around 1953. Also, those homes pictured in the distance on Glenview Drive and Dawnview Way were built in 1951. (I know because we moved into our new home on Dawnview Way in 1951 right after it was built.)

Marc Paulsen, La Honda, California

Editor's Note: Thank you Marc, I have corrected the website.

Re: Environmental Review: Reversing Mount Davidson's Long Decline

I'm appalled that you describe the author of this article as "an unabashed tree-hugger". Mr. Sigg — a person with agenda — is a tireless advocate for destruction of 18,500 trees and unceasing use of most toxic herbicides. It is an insult to people who care about trees. The description isn't accurate: a fact not difficult to check.

The picture of goats removing weeds in environmentally friendly way attached to the article is also puzzling. No goats are used on Mt. Davidson. A LOT of herbicides are used on Mt. Davidson.

The last application was on November 2nd. The signs announced Imazapyr used on blackberries. A RPD employee (Christopher Campbell) told me they are targeting blackberries and cotoneaster. I saw another employee in hazmat suit cutting down a pretty tall eucalyptus (re-sprouted from a stump of a tree destroyed earlier) and applying a herbicide to the stump.

I'm attaching these pictures (taken during my Mt. Davidson walk on that day) - which are much more appropriate to accompany Mr. Sigg's article.

I hope you would do the necessary corrections and would never again call the tree-killing advocate a tree-hugger.

Anastasia Glikshtern

February 2017

Homelessness is a serious problem in San Francisco. We as fortunate homeowners in Forest Hills Extension welcome low income seniors to our neighborhood and commend Christian Catholic Homes and the City of San Francisco for their efforts to build apartments at 250 Laguna Honda Blvd.

We find the extreme language and conspiratorial NIMBY perspective in John Farrell's article disturbing and a reflection on him and not of our neighborhood. We hope that the Observer starts to seek out and publish more factual and less sensational material.

We look forward to seeing all perspectives from our community posted on the Westside observer website.

Daniel Coleman & Eileen Kahaner

Forrest Hill Extension

Editor's Note: John responds below:

Thank you for your letter. I agree with you that homelessness is a serious issue in San Francisco and we are fortunate; however as my article mentioned, the issue is NOT against low income housing in our neighborhood. The article was based on facts that there are major concerns regarding the proposed 150 unit senior housing project at 250 Laguna Honda Blvd. These concerns included the oversize of the project, the integrity of the hill that would be excavated and has had landslides in the past, the closing of a church and preschool that provides important services to the community — especially children — in the surrounding neighborhoods, and the lack of transparency of the developer with the neighborhood about the nature and scope of its plans. I am a concerned Forest Hill neighbor and believe I speak on behalf of the majority of Forest Hill neighbors, whose association unanimously approved a resolution written by the neighbors to reject the project as proposed, since the development is too large. I have attended all of the neighborhood meetings regarding the project and meet with Forest Hill neighbors on a weekly-basis who are concerned with the size and scope of the project as proposed and look forward to working with the developer to address these issues. Please do not hesitate to contact me to further discuss.

John Farrell

February 2017

Always enjoy your “free to us “neighborhood paper” about all the issues that affect us west of Twin Peaks. However, as a long time resident of Forest Hill, it should be noted that Forest Hill does consist of one hill and always has. Its common to add “s” to Hill, but it is just Forest Hill. Thank you — Keep the paper coming.

Linda Kent

December 2016 / January 2017

The lead article in the November 2016 issue of the Westside Observer was “Midtown Terrace Rezoned to RH-1(D)” by George Wooding, whose bio line at the end of the article reads “George Wooding; Midtown Terrace Home Owners Association; contact wooding@westsideobserver.com”.

I am writing as President of the Midtown Terrace Home Owners Association (MTHOA) and at the direction of its Board to request that you print this letter to make clear that the George’s article and, in particular, his comments about Supervisor Scott Weiner, were not approved by the board of MTHOA and should not be taken to represent the position of the Association or its board of directors.

George is a longtime, highly respected former officer of the MTHOA Board of Directors and continues to serve the association as an active member of the Board. How a community like ours was able to educate itself about the importance of its unfortunately erroneous zoning and to work with our Supervisor and various levels of city government to achieve what was ultimately unanimous approval of the zoning correction is an important story. However, the Board was not informed that the article would also contain George’s personal views about the role of Supervisor Weiner in the process. While George has every right to express his views, the MTHOA and its board have not taken any position on those views and does not necessarily agree with those opinions, and it is unfortunate that the bio line implied that he was writing as a representative of the Board. The Board has now unanimously adopted a resolution that board members submitting opinion pieces for publication must, if they identify themselves as board members, make clear whether they are writing on behalf of the board or are expressing their own personal opinions.

Rick Johnson Midtown Terrace Home Owners Assn.

December 2016 / January 2017

Re: (Sept. '16) Prop C - A Lot of Bang for the Bucks by George Wooding and Peter Cohen

San Francisco has the opportunity to make an innovative investment in the future safety of our existing housing stock without imposing new taxes on property owners. For the past 25 years, city officials have been pondering how to free $261million in unissued but already approved bond monies for city priorities.

I have identified a pathway forward – without raising taxes.

With the unanimous support of my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, as well as Mayor Lee, I have placed Proposition C on the November 8th ballot for the voters' consideration. Prop C expands the eligible uses of the voter-approved 1992 seismic safety bond to also include fire safety, electrical and habitability and code upgrades for the city's most vulnerable housing stock.

It protects neighborhoods by increasing the safety of these older buildings while preserving the neighborhood character that is unique to each corner of the city. It provides stronger oversight provisions than the original 1992 bond, including greater taxpayer accountability and monitoring.

Most importantly, it would be a valuable investment in our city's Small Site Acquisition & Rehabilitation program, which is sorely underfunded and has been a proven asset in keeping families in San Francisco.

We are proud to have the support of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein who said:

"After Loma Prieta, voters passed a bond to seismically retrofit buildings at risk in an earthquake. Today, we can expand that 24 year-old program to save more at-risk buildings. Save housing, without new taxes, by voting Yes on C."

Senator Feinstein is joined by State Senator Mark Leno, former Mayor Art Agnos, Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma and SFFD Chief Joanne Hayes-White in saying: YES on C. With earthquake and fire safety on everyone's mind, it's a smart investment in the City's future.

—Supervisor Aaron Peskin

Remember When

St. Francis WoodHellwig House

This picture was taken from San Fernando Way toward San Leandro Way between St Francis Blvd. and Portola Dr. The date has to be in the 20's. The house on San Leandro Way in the center of the photo with the second story balcony was built by my grandparents Herbert & Hazel Hellwig.

My mother, Ruth, was the first female child born in St Francis Wood on Oct 20th, 1918. The house was probably built around 1916 and first sold around 1942. (Remember When, Apr. '14)

—Dick Hammond

September 2016

Remember When

old photo on Ingleside
Farragut Grammer School in Remember When feature
of 1911 photo of the future site of Ingleside Terraces

I am writing about the picture of Ingleside Terraces Homes published in the Westside Observer Apr. 2012. By the slope of the land, the donkey engine looks to be located a little east of the present intersection of Urbano and Moncada.

I believe the large building just left of center would be the Farragut Grammar School, so this picture would have been taken near the present intersection of Cerritos and Moncada, looking East-South-East. The outcrop of rock on the hill is still there at the top of Ashton/Orizaba.

Diebenkorn paintingPerhaps an interesting question for your consideration would be the location for the inspiration of Richard Diebenkorn's Ingleside II. Art historians place it at Moncada, looking south toward Cedro. But could it be Entrada at Borica looking South-East?

Jim Service

Judicial Bias

When Donald Trump made comments about the federal judge overseeing his case it received a lot of media attention because he is a candidate for the office of the United States President. A judge's lenient sentencing of the defendant in the Sanford sexual assault case received a lot of media attention. The issue of judicial bias is very serious and can compromise our rights enumerated in both the United States and California Constitutions.

When you are not wealthy or a student at a prestigious university there is almost no coverage of judicial bias in your case. There is a saying about the mainstream media "if it bleeds, it leads." If your story does not fit into this category there will be little or no media coverage at all.

Judges can recuse themselves from a case but, it is seldom done. There are newspaper articles written about judges not recusing themselves from cases involving financial institutions they have investments in, even though they are supposed to do so. See the articles "Law Breaking Judges Took Cases That Could Make Them Even Richer" in The Daily Beast, April 28, 2014; 245 AM ET and "Ethics Lapses by Federal Judges Persist, Review Finds" in the Washington Post, April 08, 2006.

Judicial bias does exist and there are procedures to address this issue. These procedures involve a lot of tedious paperwork. If you are facing judicial bias make sure you: know that it is judicial bias, how to find evidence of judicial bias and what remedies are available to address the issue. Legal matters involve a lot of research before you enter the courtroom. It will benefit you to thoroughly research all parties involved in your case. I presently struggle with judicial bias. I am exercising every legal remedy available to me.

You can sue a judge and there is case law showing how it has been done. The United States Supreme Court has also ruled on the issue of suing the government, and sided with the plaintiff who brought their case before the Court.

History has proven that the truth cannot be buried forever. The rights of my family is what I am advocating for under the United States Constitution. Whatever your experience, I would suggest you consult with a good lawyer who can assist you as soon as possible.

Lynn Gavin

July 2016

City College

I wish to comment on a statement in Marco Siler-Gonzales' article "City College Strike Underscores Troubles." The author says, "April 27's faculty-led strike marked the first ever in City College's 80 years of existence." This is not correct. I was a Humanities and English instructor at City College of San Francisco from 1966 to 1999. During my tenure there were several faculty-led strikes. April 27's strike was the first one in many years, but not the first ever. John Caris

June 2016


I read the article in the April edition of the Westside Observer. Frankly, I was very disappointed with the condescending tone, especially the following language: “We cannot expect our desire for pleasant and leash-free strolls to overcome the needs of local animal populations. To the coyotes, we humans are just gentrifiers who have been here far too long. We must take responsibility for our actions and learn how we can live together with our fellow local inhabitants.”

“Gentrifiers?” “Fellow local inhabitants?” Is the author being serious? San Francisco is a city, not a wildlife refuge. We have chosen to live here, in an urban environment, not in rural area or a national forest. We are now being asked to put up with yet another threat to our personal safety. Recently, I found the remains of a dead cat on my lawn; a friend of mine is worried sick because her cat has been missing for weeks; and I have elderly neighbors with small pets who would have great difficulty in “hazing” a coyote. Last month a coyote was seen in broad daylight on the playground at Commodore Sloat School.

The West of Twin Peaks Central Council has not yet taken a position on this issue. The views expressed herein are mine. At the same time, they do reflect what I have heard from my neighbors in Balboa Terrace. I realize some may disagree with me. However, whatever our views on this issue, we all share a common goal, which is to preserve the peaceful enjoyment of our neighborhoods for ourselves, our children, and yes, our pets.

Roger Ritter, President, West of Twin Peaks Central Council, Past-President Balboa Terrace Homes Association


(Re: Oxalis Uber Alles, April Westside Observer) Mr. Sigg is a supporter of the Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan (SNRAMP) which proposes to cut down 18,500 “invasive” trees.

Isn’t it strange to call a tree-killing proponent “an unabashed tree-hugger?”

Mr. Sigg calls for defense of “nature” from a killer-plant via application of herbicides.

The herbicide regularly used against oxalis in our parks (for many-many years) is called Garlon (triclopyr.)

It is classified as Toxicity Category I (most toxic). It kills many things besides oxalis.

Here is a list of Garlon benefits from a 2010 study by Marin Municipal Water Department:

Garlon “causes severe birth defects in rats at relatively low levels of exposure.” Baby rats were born with brains outside their skulls, or no eyelids. Exposed adult females rats also had more failed pregnancies.

Rat and dog studies showed damage to the kidneys, the liver, and the blood.

About 1-2% of Garlon falling on human skin is absorbed within a day. For rodents, its absorbed twelve times as fast. It’s unclear what happens to predators such as hawks that eat the affected rodents.

Dogs may be particularly vulnerable; their kidneys may not be able to handle Garlon as well as rats or humans.

It very probably alters soil biology. “Garlon 4 can inhibit growth in the mycorrhizal fungi…” ( soil funguses that help plant nutrition.)

It’s particularly dangerous to aquatic creatures: fish (particularly salmon); invertebrates; and aquatic plants.

Garlon can persist in dead vegetation for up to two years.

It’s against the interests of the public to use it anywhere on earth.

Anastasia Glikshtern

Just once, we would like to read an article about the management of the Natural Areas Program (NAP) that was not centered around the use of poisonous herbicides! Unfortunately Jake Sigg’s article “Oaxalis Uber Alles” in the April issue again insists on the need for chemical treatments. Sigg stated that “the only current technology we have for killing the bulb [of the yellow Oxalis pes caprae plant] is herbicide.” That is not true.

First, it is widely known that herbicides do not kill the underground bulbs, just the top vegetation, so regrowth from the bulbs must be treated year after year after year. Only the most toxic chemicals will work. How did this constant application of dangerous herbicides in areas of our parks where people, pets and wildlife walk ever become acceptable?

Second, a simple check of the UC Davis Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources website shows there are safe, non-toxic alternative ways to effectively reduce oxalis. The problem is that the safe methods are labor intensive and require diligence when applying them. Sadly, that’s the reason NAP doesn’t use them.

NAP has taken over way more acres of our parklands than they can manage with their staff and volunteers. They have bitten off more than they can chew, so to speak. So, they try to cover their management problems by using toxic herbicides, even when those chemicals don’t really work.

It is not just the yellow oxalis that is out of control. There’s also the arrogance of NAP staff that think they can control the evolution of local ecosystems the way they want to – if they just use enough herbicides. Even if all the oxalis magically disappeared, there are many other plants that NAP wants to eradicate using the same toxic herbicides.

There’s nothing particularly “natural” about NAP’s chemical-drenched “natural areas.”

Nancy Wuerfel and Sally Stephens

May 2016

Old Photo Identified

left house today
House on the left
right house today
House on the right

I believe I have identified the location in this photo from your site page: westsideobserver.com/remember.html Photo with the caption "Ingleside Terraces." This is from South side of Urbano St looking North up Victoria toward Ocean Ave.

old photo

Christian Mancinetti

April 2016

Wrongdoing at Laguna Honda

I have been appreciating your local publication for the past few years as it has been one of the only newspapers that has reported on the wrongdoing and betrayal of trust by the administration at Laguna Honda Hospital.

I have been an employee of Laguna Honda Hospital and have seen firsthand the corruption that exists there. It is not just a sensationalized story. This is the same place that Mr. Llewellyn oversaw, and exploited to provide sweetheart deals to his girlfriend, and her painting company. This is the same place that fired Drs Kerr, and Rivero for whistleblowing regarding misappropriation from the patient gift fund, and contracting kick backs. Despite all of the publicity that you have provided, they are still up to their old tricks. CEO Mivic Hirose and most of her administration are still in place.

I have witnessed fraud on State surveys, Managers using accounts as their personal shopping sprees, employees being paid for work which they do not perform. A select group of people have each others’ backs on the wrongdoings, and share the “fringe benefits.” Everyone else is either complicit or scared to speak out, in fear of losing their job, or losing favor with the in-crowd. This is how incidents like the infamous Treasure Island Electrical department happen, or the idle Golden Gate Bridge painters happen. All on the taxpayers dime.

I assure you that you have silent supporters and followers at Laguna Honda Hospital and that your articles when released are present on break room tables. Continue shining the light so that everyone can see what kind of dirt we have, and make a change.

Name Withheld (Fear of Retribution)

March 2016


In the November 2015 issue, Jake Sigg (“Evolving Eucalyptus Wrangle Escalates”) disagreed with statements we made in our article in the October issue. Rather than address all his points, we would like to focus on two issues he raised.

1) Sigg claimed that there are no plans in the Natural Areas Program (NAP) to convert existing habitat, including forests, to native plants. He claimed that NAP manages only “surviving … pieces of original landscape (those that have never been plowed, bladed or built on).” Indeed, the idea of preserving existing remnants is how NAP has been sold to the public. But it’s not true.

The proposed NAP Management Plan has an Appendix F for forestry (available online at: http://tinyurl.com/o5omhr2) that documents NAP’s intentions to remove over 18,000 trees in nine parks, and says (p. F-1): “In the short-term, the removal of some trees will allow for re-vegetation with native understory vegetation; the first step in the gradual conversion of some areas from forest to scrub or grassland” [emphasis added]. This land conversion is the long term and self-proclaimed goal of NAP.

It should be noted that NAP is not “the City’s program.” NAP is just a branch of the Recreation and Park Department. The program has never been authorized as the official program for all of San Francisco.

2) Sigg referred to the trees on Mount Davidson as a “plantation” not a “forest” because trees were intentionally planted, not naturally occurring. However, the word “plantation” doesn’t appear anywhere in the NAP Management Plan, and the Plan consistently refers to the Mount Davidson trees as a “forest.” Sigg’s “plantation” appears to be used as an intentionally derogatory word to make people less sympathetic to the trees that will be cut down. A “forest” is real; a “plantation” is not. A “forest” should be cared for and preserved; a “plantation” not so much.

The reality is that all trees in San Francisco are important, especially as we try to reduce the impacts of climate change. We need to preserve all healthy trees in the City, including non-natives.

Nancy Wuerfel and Sally Stephens

Squatting Google Buses

Thank you for the above article in the November 2015 Westside Observer. As a driver, I have been increasingly vexed with what I assume are tech shuttles in the public bus stops. Specifically, the bus stop at 19th and Wawona, northbound. I drive home from my daughter’s preschool everyday, times can vary between 4:30 and 6 pm, and the majority of the time there is a tech shuttle stopped ahead of me at the 19th & Wawona stop. The problem is twofold. One: Every single shuttle I’ve encountered takes up part of the lane next to the stop, as well as the stop itself. Two: the shuttles take much longer to unload than a bus, even though often just one or two people are getting off. Therefore, traffic is often backed up in the right lane past the Sloat intersection. Some frustrated drivers then make dangerous maneuvers to swerve around the bus/move into the middle lane. I am amazed at how many buses must be using this stop if I see one nearly every day and not at the same time of day. There seems to be no recognition by the drivers that they are adversely affecting traffic and driving safety. This translates to entitlement and disregard for others and infuriates me. Your article made me take a broader look at the impact of these shuttles — on Muni riders, the roads, housing costs, etc. I was also unaware of the questionable legality of their use; I took it for granted that they had permission and were not violating any laws in using the bus stops. Thank you Mr. Monet-Shaw for your reporting on this issue and to those working to solve the problem.

Kim Wynkoop, Parkside Resident

West Portal Playground Caution

Thanks for the item about the West Portal playground but a note of caution - the proposed design includes using the tire crumb rubber fill - they call it a safety surface. I appreciate your paper specifically for giving a voice to those who (rightly) opposed the beach chalet soccer fields in the past, and would encourage you to ask a reporter to take this issue on. This would be the time to halt them installing yet another toxic playground.

The state government, and now the US government have funded studies to look closer at the possible health threats of crumb rubber and artificial turf. Now, there are some serious lobby dollars behind that, so watch for some very well placed dis-info to come out soon — but that’s simply because they’re trying to hide the danger of their product.

I wanted to tip you off to the fact that they are making progress on funding —and that it would be wise if they not use the crumb rubber, but they’re only going to change their minds if there is some serious public pressure.

Thanks for your great paper - I appreciate it - especially the local coverage and the pictures of SF from way back when.

Ross Braden, West Portal

December 2015

Religious articles and opinion pieces

I was dismayed to see you published Tony Hall’s article “Catholicism Anyone.” His comments are not related to the Westside, nor should they have been published under the byline “Former Supervisor.” He was writing in response to a paid ad in the San Francisco Chronicle and as such should have paid for an ad (in the Chronicle) to respond, not been given (or paid?) for space in your newspaper.

Mr. Hall may be unhappy with his fellow Catholics, but his is a religious issue, not a civic one. His role as supervisor was secular as is your newspaper. You owe your readers an apology and should take care to refrain from publishing religious articles and opinion pieces in the future.

Shelley W. Gottlieb

July/August 2015

Land at Laguna Honda

I love my Westside Observer paper — but, a subject you seem reluctant to carry is why all the vacant land on the Laguna Honda Campus is not being discussed as available for moderate income housing? You seem very focused on the Balboa Reservoir site with your coverage – is that because it is located in a lower income area where the residents have less political clout – I surely hope not as the Laguna Honda site is located at a Transit Hub and would make an excellent multi-family housing site. Please investigate why that site hasn’t been put forward by the City as potentially available for high density housing.

Bill Pomeranz, Managing Director, Cain Brothers & Co.

Not Cafeteria Catholics

Mr. Hall needs to realize that Roman Catholics are no longer the descendants of Druids from Gallia Celtica blindly following St. Padraig. He’d be wise familiarize himself with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Most specifically with respect to conscience and the requirement to follow one’s conscience. (Catholicism Anyone? Westside Observer May 2015)

Fr. McGuire’s Baltimore Catechism is insufficient for educated Catholics. I am a practicing Roman Catholic (I go to church, read contemporary Catholic Books, practice my faith — not in fear of going to hell but to thank my God for what I have) and they of the open letter do represent me.

Suggesting we, who do not agree with him should work from within the theocracy, makes little sense. You can only work from within if both parties will dialogue honestly. They were flat wrong on Galileo. They may be flatly incorrect about other teachings / interpretations. Many are rules not founded in the teachings - Old or New. They represent interpretations for simplicity in speaking to uneducated converts. Many are for economic necessity and have long been quietly set aside without informing the body of the church e.g., unmarried Priests, living wages that could support a family, women Priests (women were considered chattel - men were making the rules), cremation (the church had land to sell / fill up), being a member of the Masonic Order. The leaders have been disingenuous with the people.

Mr. Hall’s guidance to “find other churches that already exist that might better suit their needs,” only supports his naivete about Catholicism. We are not Cafeteria Catholics. The PEOPLE are the church.

Jack E. D’Angelo, San Francisco 94132

June 2015

Re: Mayor’s Housing Scam, (Apr. 2015).

The City needs units which will house people who work in a variety of professions in both the public and private a sector. We need housing which is affordable to those who will never have stock options or IPO money.

I believe that San Franciscans would whole-heartily support new housing if the housing were rented at prices which reflect wages of workers in the private and public sector across the professional spectrum. For instance, if a development in which all the units were for rent to households with gross incomes of $30,000-$200,000 per year, I think people would not only approve the projects but cheer them on.


It would be amazing if one of the City’s 20 billionaires pitched in toward housing or if Apple, Facebook, or Google paid something to help fight off the displacement their workforce is causing…”

We are in an unprecedented period of income inequality and will need creative and thoughtful solutions to solve our housing crisis. If we want to preserve San Francisco’s middle class and its professional diversity, we need to think about housing as an extension of our public resources. For developers, housing is a money making endeavor. For the City, housing is a public resource.

The City should use its bond money to leverage more financing for housing. I would like to see different scenarios of how the bond money could be used as a “down payment” to secure financing for City owned and developed rental units for households with gross incomes between $30,000-$200,000 per year. Perhaps the City could work out financing with private investors and take advantage of our historically low interest rates; the City could use the 250 million dollar bond to raise an additional 750 million dollars which would be a billion dollars toward the building of middle class rental units.

City developed units could incorporate public amenities such as indoor and outdoor recreational areas, day-care centers, offices for non-profits, and possibly schools, as our schools already seem to be at capacity.

The City could work with some of the large and highly profitable companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook to develop housing that would not only house some of their work force but also other working professionals who do not have the same access to high salaries as their workers. These companies are all highly profitable and cash flush. Their work force lives in San Francisco and has been displacing lower-wage workers. These companies have not worked with the City to establish a plan to house their work force and to create an inventive civic partnership.

These companies could easily finance these developments and the City could pay them back through rents received from middle class workers. The City would own their units and the companies would own their units. If these companies ran a loss because the payments made by the City were low, they would receive a tax benefit from the loss. Currently, Apple has billions of dollars off-shore because they do not want to pay taxes. Perhaps, there is a way to have them bring the money into San Francisco to build housing for the City?

It would be amazing if one of the City’s 20 billionaires pitched in toward housing or if Apple, Facebook, or Google paid something to help fight off the displacement their workforce is causing in San Francisco. Right now these corporations don’t pay any payroll tax in San Francisco, their companies are housed outside of the City, and they are running their own private shuttle systems on the streets. I think Google has some offices in San Francisco which is great and I would encourage more corporations to bring their campuses to San Francisco and pay payroll and other City taxes.

One last idea would be for the City to purchase buildings with protected tenants and collect the rent on these buildings. The City could work with organizations like the San Community Land Trust to help fund and facilitate these types of purchases. http://www.sfclt.org

I believe people want to halt development because the housing which is being built is only affordable to a very elite, global market; it does not provide housing for a majority of people who work in San Francisco. Thanks for your work on this very complex, ever-changing, and vital City issue.

Kate Haug, a public art maker interested in economic issues. www.publicpost.us

May 2015

Artificial Turf and Cancer

I’m writing in regards to Props H & I. Both have to do with artificial turf in our public parks. There is some evidence that artificial turf causes cancer. In light of this new research, I ask you to let voters know that there is a potential health hazard in using artificial turf.

Forbes reported (10/20/14) “A New Jersey city has halted its plans to install an artificial turf field following an NBC News investigation that raised potential safety concerns, city officials said. Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian decided to keep the natural grass football field at Carey Stadium until more research is done. …

“On October 8, NBC News aired the first in a series of on-air reports about crumb rubber turf. A Seattle area soccer coach and some former players have asked the federal government to conduct studies about any possible health risks from the turf, which is made of recycled tires and used on thousands of fields nationwide. The coach has compiled a list of dozens of former soccer players, many of them former goalies, who have developed cancer, but no study has shown any link between the surface and any health risk.

“Earlier this week, Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington, scrapped its plan to use crumb rubber turf in its new football field after seeing the NBC News reports. According to Principal Mike Prato, the school will instead use a Nike infill made up of recycled tennis shoe soles.

“A Democratic congressman from New Jersey, Frank Pallone, has called for a federal study on any health risks associated with crumb rubber on the thousands of sports fields across the country.

“The issue of concern with the more than 5,000 rubber-crumb synthetic turf fields in the United States is that the recycled tires, which fill up space between the artificial grass blades, contain, as one syndicated environmental column puts it:

“…arsenic, benzene, cadmium and nickel … deemed carcinogens by the International Agency for Cancer Research. Others have been linked to skin, eye and respiratory irritation, kidney and liver problems, allergic reactions, nervous systems disorders and developmental delays.

“In the original NBC News report, University of Washington associate head women’s soccer coach Amy Griffin noted two of her former goalkeepers contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and further investigation found other goalies who had gotten cancer. Goalies, or anyone else who hits the ground a lot, would in theory be most vulnerable because they would be most likely to dislodge the fake black dirt off the turf into their mouths or noses.

Maybe it is too early to tell if artificial turf is the best choice for our parks. Before we spend tax payer money to install artificial turf, we should wait and get the results from this on-going research.

Kate Haug, San Francisco Resident

Editors note: Sorry Kate, we could not let the voters know in time for the election, but we will trust in the collective wisdom of the electorate until proven wrong again.

November 2014

Lake Merced Boathouse

As a long-suffering volunteer trying to make Lake Merced less of an embarrassment to San Francisco, I have a couple of discouraging comments on recent developments.
First, Rec & Park recently announced that it is starting a program of fishing lessons. The only catch is that for about 3 hours of lessons you have to pay $25. Yet, Rec & Park has admitted that they can’t find a fishing concessionaire to replace the excellent concessionaire who left in disgust back in 1999. Apparently the fishing lessons will be given by Rec & Park personnel. For the most part people don’t need or want fishing lessons given by amateurs; they want to be able to rent a boat, buy some tackle and bait, and maybe buy themselves a snack or soft drink. You can’t do any of those, but you can pay Rec & Park $25 for 3 hours of “lessons.”

The recent Boathouse renovation came in at $3.2 million despite an original estimate of $2 million. We can’t get an explanation of the outrageous overrun. Maybe the Observer can get an answer from Rec & Park or SFPUC, or whoever is really in charge.

You can’t get food service at renovated Boathouse;if you want to rent the community room you have to bring your own tables and chairs. Just what did the public get for $3.2 million? Meanwhile in Marin County a local non-profit group has built a state of the art boathouse for its rowers and has just installed a solar system for its energy. The boathouse for rowers in SF is the dark and dank basement of the recently refurbished boathouse building. It is inadequate in size for the needs of the high school and adult rowers who row at Lake Merced. Having spent over $3 million of someone’s money on the Boathouse, there is not an additional square inch for badly needed boat storage.

Some things never change and it is very sad.

Jerry Cadagan, Committee to Save Lake Merced


John Farrell's column regarding the inefficiencies of the Assessors Office was well taken, but the upshot appeared to be a sniveling hit piece on Assessor Chu. Whether she finds the Assessors office a bureaucratic sham, as did her predecessors, does not appear to me as an indictment against her as a clueless "politician" - which there are many. I voted for her because she does have a fiscal background and has demonstrated that skill as a Supervisor. Mr. Farrell's arguements are valid, but painting Assessor Chu as just another polititian warming the Assessors chair is a bit disengenous.

Matt Mitguard

John Farrell responds:

Thank you for your comments. It is a fact that all the prior four Assessor's since the two term limit passed in 1990 were just politicians warming the chair, three of which were former Supervisors. I hope for the City's sake that it isn't the case this time since hundreds of millions in property tax revenue are being lost annually. The current one Carmen Chu was being termed out as Supervisor and needed a place to go and was appointed by Mayor Lee. The past three Assessors, including Assessor Chu, have directly or indirectly blamed their predecessors for the dysfunctional office, excessive backlogs and antiquated systems resulting in hundreds of millions lost per year. Just like a broken record. I noted that Assessor Chu now has the opportunity to rectify the situation which Ting and Teng failed to do. Only time will tell.

October 2014

(No Plan for Climate Change)

I was struck by the front page of the July-August issue, with two articles right next to each other:

City has "No Plan" for Climate Change and SF's War on Motorists

These articles show a real lack of consciousness, and are ludicrous, if taken together.

I consider the climate crisis to be the biggest challenge facing our people and our planet. I believe that we must take all possible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It's very clear to me that San Francisco's transportation policies are headed in the right direction. The overuse of private vehicles is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, San Francisco has a very good plan: support walking, bicycling and transit. Make private auto use less convenient, and charge drivers for the full cost of the convenience of driving their cars.

I am a West Portal mother of two, with a very nice car in my garage. Some people would immediately place me in the demographic to support Tony Hall's article. I could not disagree with him more. If we want to address the climate crisis, and have a more livable, safe city, we MUST limit private auto use. We must prioritize spending and enforcement of laws to make walking, bicycling and using transit much more enjoyable and safe.

I hope that the Westside Observer will, in the future, present a more intelligent perspective on the challenges facing our city. This would have been a more appropriate heading for the two articles:

Motorists' War on the Climate.

Peggy da Silva

(Re: SF's War on Motorists) I read your short column in the latest issue of the Westside Observer, and I take issue with what you said. First of all, the so-called "Transit and Bicycle only" policy by the SFMTA does not exist. I don't know where you first read that, but last time I checked, the SFMTA implements the Transit First policy according to complete streets principles. A complete street, by definition, supports all modes of transportation equally, not favoring one over the other. And so, those modes include automobiles, transit, bicycles, and pedestrians. From your column, it sounds like you don't like bicyclists. Well, if you want to remove bicycle infrastructure from the streets, where are bicyclists going to ride? Sidewalks?

Also, from what sources are you getting your information? Have stores (on Polk street for example) been openly expressing dissatisfaction that people are not patronizing them because of the fact that parking is being replaced with bike lanes? I'm sure bicyclists would very much take offense at what you said about them going to "unknown destinations to the north". Everyone who's traveling has somewhere to be, right? And don't even get me started on the environmental, logistical, and social aspects of driving versus alternate modes of transportation. An automobile-dominated lifestyle in a dense city like San Francisco just is not realistic.

You may have gathered from all of this that I am biased towards the side of alternate transportation, which is true; however, I would encourage you to get your facts and data straight, if only to be informed personally.

David E. Leong, California Polytechnic State University Alumni, College of Architecture and Environmental Design, City & Regional Planning Department

Re: Fate of Parkmerced Awaits Court of Appeals Decision

Thanks very much for a very good article about Parkmerced.

I would add one comment. I believe Proposition B is far more enforceable because its central principle, a limit on building height limits not to exceed existing zoning without specific voter approval, is legally clear. Existing zoning on our Bay shores is clearly defined in zoning codes and maps. The problem with Proposition M is that there is no court precedent nor enforceable legal definition for neighborhood character. I don't believe Mr. Flashman cited any court precedent nor firm legal definition for what exactly is meant by neighbor character, therefore how could any court enforce it or limit a development based on such prior findings?

Nick Pasquariello Producer "The Future of Parkmerced" (a work-in-progress)

(Re: Prop F) Our city needs to address its neighborhood housing challenges with more common sense and respect. Westside neighborhoods were not interested in legalizing in-law units and we oppose short-term rentals and infill development. We believe in single-family home ownership as an important contributor to the diversity of housing and demographic make up of our city. When a neighborhood wants something, and goes out of its way to advocate for it as Potrero Hill and Dogpatch residents are doing in support of Proposition F to develop a long abandoned Pier 70, we need to respect their wishes.

This type of development makes sense. Instead of building density in our backyards, we should first look at the swaths of underutilized and abandoned land like Pier 70. Once before, I voted on a major development project at the Hunter’s Point Shipyard for similar reasons. It makes sense, given the trends are leaning clearly on tremendous pressure on San Francisco’s long-term financial health and well being that we’ll have to keep on building. San Francisco’s population is growing, public safety spending is up, and infrastructure improvements and maintenance are lagging.

Potrero Hill and Dogpatch neighbors want to see Pier 70 developed and need the rest of the city to vote yes on Proposition F to see that happen. I’ll get my chance as a voter to mark the box in favor of Proposition F to add needed dollars to our tax rolls by building up to 2,000 units of housing on the 28 acre parcel on Pier 70 - based on the trends, we sure could use the revenue!

The Pier 70 project achieves a balance with the neighborhood and city government to accommodate development and manage it in a way that maintains order, efficiency and unity. This proposal equitably distributes the costs and benefits of development adding millions to our future tax rolls and giving middle-class families a shot at home ownership in San Francisco. It’s a straightforward, community led effort to revitalize an abandoned section of our southern waterfront. Most importantly it’s supported by the surrounding neighborhoods — Prop F is a yes vote for local, neighborhood preference and choice and we should all support it.

Denise LaPointe, President, Twin Peaks Improvement Association, Former President, West of Twin Peaks Central Council

September 2014

Question Regarding Photo

old photo

This image was posted to the website in March 2013 I’ve been researching a project nearby and found the house in the foreground on Google Earth! The address of that house with the steep roof is 559 Ortega Street, and this is a view east from the lot above, probably from 880 Pacheco or one of its neighbors. If you tilt your view in Google Maps then almost the same view of the west side of Mount Sutro becomes quite apparent. That property was built in 1928 and the lot to its left was built up in 1950, so the photo is between those dates, but I’d say much closer to 1928 than 1950. Hope that helps a bit!

Alena Klompus, Page & Turnbull

Gold on West Portal

Gold may still be found on the streets of West Portal as dropped and lost jewelry, but it seems that the gold rush is over. Two West Portal jewelry stores have closed shop this year. However West Portal still has one remaining jewelry store, and gold jewelry can be purchased at the Gold Store, the Antique store, Curiosity , Good Will, Walgreens and several dress stores.

Gold may have been formed in a collision between a giant star and a neutron star, come up to the surface of Earth via erupting volcanos, and found as placer gold in California rivers, however half of all gold that has been found worldwide, over 84,200 tons, is now found today in jewelry. The top ten countries control 24,248.3 tons; over one third of that is controlled by the United States. Recently, China and India are the largest purchasers of gold, but are not in the top 10 countries that control the most gold.

Because of the weight and softness of pure gold, most of the Egyptian burial masks, etc , were made of wood, and gilded with gold. Much of gold jewelry is made with sterling silver and electroplated , due the high cost of gold. Gold jewelry does not require polishing since it does not corrode like silver.

Frank Norton, West Portal District.

May 2014

Re : Fukushima Plume: "No Evidence: of West Coast Threat Officials Say

Mike Hudson, President, Small Boat and Commercial Salmon Fishermen's Association says "Our fish are safe. There is no Fukushima radiation in our fish or on the coast", in spite of the radiation found in the tuna and water in Monterey bay by an eastern university research team two years ago.

Then there are the vast amounts of Sea Stars "melting" off the coast of North America; Killer whales dying off the coast of British Columbia; an epidemic of Sea Lion deaths due to starvation along the California Coastline ; Polar bears , seals and walruses along the Alaska coastline are loosing their fur and experiencing open sores ; Fish along the West Coast of Canada are bleeding from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.

High levels of cesium 137 has been found in plankton in waters of the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and the West Coast effecting the food chain in a process called "biomagnification". And regarding the potassium 40 found in bananas, the container cargo ships entering San Francisco bay can no longer be monitored for ratio active bomb material due to the bananas setting the radiation alarms off, and thus other means of protection are required.

Frank Norton, West Portal District

March 2014

Support the Mountain Tunnel

Our City's Hetch Hetchy Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) is poised to celebrate its ten year anniversary in March. In the 1990s, a group of concerned residents formed Citizens Against Water & Sewer Rates Abuse, an ordinance I wrote to advocate for change in how the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) used our rate fees…in essence the legislation froze the rates until such time that the PUC changed policy. You, the electorate, passed the law with over 68% support. At that time millions were being transferred to other departments inappropriately.

In late 1990 it became evident that there was a great need for maintenance and major infrastructure improvement to our water system. Our rates were at that time being directed properly into the water system. In 1998 after many meetings and discussion with the Mayor's office I was appointed by then Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. to the SFPUC Infrastructure Task Force (2000-2003) as Chairman. Sixteen citizens and experts were appointed to the Task force. As the Infrastructure Task Force completed its basic purpose we can be proud to say we, the citizens, have fundamentally transformed how the SFPUC approaches and pays for infrastructure projects.

My early work has helped launch the SFPUC's historic WSIP – a $4.6 billion endeavor and one of the nation's largest water infrastructure improvement programs. Today, WSIP is not only 80% complete; it's miraculously within 1.5% of its original budget. Not perfect, but you would be hard pressed to find a program of this magnitude even close to being this efficient.

More importantly it has significantly increased the seismic and supply reliability of a system that traverses 3 major seismic faults before delivering water to 2.6 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area. And while this system is more resilient than ever, challenges still remain.

One of those challenges is Mountain Tunnel. The tunnel is one of the most critical components of our water system and it must be repaired after 89 years of continuous service.

The SF Examiner reports a doomsday scenario that reads like a bad graphic novel. However, I want to assure the public that the SFPUC is in capable hands with their new General Manager Harlan Kelly. As one of the chief architects of WSIP, I know Harlan and his seasoned staff are well equipped to tackle the repair of Mountain Tunnel and the multi-year Sewer System Improvement Program with the same patience, transparency and expertise that they afforded to WSIP.

It doesn't mean that we the public shouldn't continue ask the tough questions, but the reality is that we can now confidently invest in the Hetch Hetchy water system infrastructure. Thanks to the past ten years, and good citizens' work, I believe that path forward is clear. We must support the needed upgrades at the Mountain Tunnel.

Let us all support the work of the SFPUC that will keep our tap water flowing, streets lit, and our toilets flushing. Our future depends on it.

Richard Bodisco, Westside resident, Author – Water Rate Freeze, Term Limits for SF Supervisors

February 2014


I so appreciate your articles concerning the oncoming loss of our real grass at the soccer fields by the Beach Chalet. I have voted and voted, and alas, we are going to receive artificial turf and eye jarring lighting and new parking. Where will the birds go? What will be the impact on our environment with lighting such as proposed? Realizing that exercise is very necessary for our children and adults alike, I remain stunned at the amount of money backing this project to put artificial turf where grass has been since the 1930's.

Suzanne Sandidge

Thanks for your great article on Golden Gate Park's soccer fields! It's great to see so many people care as much as I do about our precious meadows.

Cheryl Richard, Noe Valley

70 Crestline

We are happy to report that the Board of Appeals upheld our appeal to prevent construction at 70 Crestline. Thank you for covering our appeal in your publications.

One of the Board's primary reasons for overturning the permit issued 5/15/13 was the fact that the proposed project would create an unwanted precedent for future development of the 13 other open green spaces in Vista Francisco.

There were 13 members of the public (including 12 TPENA members) who presented testimony at the hearing in support of our appeal.

Patricia Campe-Aguilar and Donald Bateman, Co-Chairs, Twin Peaks Eastside Neighborhood Alliance (TPENA)

September 2013

High Costs of City Attorney’s Advice

Re: Patrick Monette-Shaw’s article I really enjoyed your article. Thank you for your excellent reporting.

Grace Koch, Miraloma Park Resident

Remembering Whenold photo

The aerial photo in the May 2013 issue is looking generally NW. Kezar Stadium is at the top. The widest street running bottom left toward top right is Judah/Parnassus. The area in the middle is now UCSF. Right?

I don’t actually remember the way it was, I’m a pretty recent transplant to San Francisco, having moved here from the Kansas City area a year ago. I like history and solving puzzles. A few minutes with Google Maps did the trick.

Jeff Ramsey

June 2013

Remember WhenIngleside Terrace

The photo was shot from the SE corner of Victoria and Urbano. In the middle distance is the intersection of Victoria and Ocean Avenue, with the Ingleside Terraces rock gates.

The photo was probably taken from what is now the site of 806 Urbano. The house on the right is 710 Victoria, and has been beautifully restored. The three houses on the left are also still there, at 727, 739, and 755 Victoria. I’m sure the History Center could research when the houses were built to get an idea on the date of the picture.

Thanks for publishing this very interesting photo. We live on the other side of Ocean,in what was the forest!

Warren McCausland

Wild Turkey in San Francisco

wild turkey

Thank you for publishing the photograph of the wild turkey recently cited in the vicinity of Mt. Davidson Park. My husband and I were surprised to see it walk across on the north slope trail the Saturday before Easter. It flew off before we could take a picture of it and wondered if it was something we just imagined - if not for the picture captured and printed in your paper. It is exciting to see such a large and unusual bird for San Francisco in our neighborhood park.

Jacquie and Ron Proctor

May 2013

Starless Nights

I read Kathy Howard’s letter about the misfortune of not being able to see many stars in our cities. Luckily, we have some dark skies on the western edge of San Francisco which allows us to enjoy the night skies. Unfortunately, the proposed Beach Chalet Soccer Fields project with stadium lighting will destroy this situation. Let’s not let Rec and Park take star gazing away from us. It is a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life in a city.

Kathleen Stern

Thank you Ms. Howard for a great article. I would like to add to your information on light pollution on the disastrous effects on the wildlife and birds that live in Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach. Many of the animals in the park come out in the dark to live their lives. They are a very important part to the cycle of life. We, our children and future generations of the City of St. Francis deserve to keep what little part of nature we have.

Shawna McGrew

Remembering When

Sutro Forest photo

Yes, I remember when. When I was a kid my brothers and I would play in the open hillside, located on the left side middle of the photo. There was a dirt road from 6th Ave. above Kirkham St. that we had access to the area. This was before the Mt. Sutro Terrace Apartments were built. The year was 1950.

Also check out my home movies of Playland At The Beach 1960 (Original Film) and the

Sutro Cliff House Tram Ride 1960. on online YouTube.

Ron Biagini

SFTA Replys

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority is grateful for your coverage of our recent outreach to neighbors as a part of the 19th Avenue Transit Study (“Nervous 19th Avenue Neighbors Eye Agency’s Changes to Metro M-Line”). Unfortunately, your article included an anonymous quote with inaccurate information – that the City proposes “using eminent domain to benefit the Parkmerced expansion.” It is this statement that I would like to take the opportunity to correct.

The Study’s purpose is to identify feasible options for bringing the M-Ocean View to the west-side of 19th Avenue by making two crossings above or below the street – near Eucalyptus Drive and near Junipero Serra Boulevard. This idea reflects a community transportation priority that was identified during both the SF State Campus Master Plan and Parkmerced planning processes. This change would improve transit travel speeds and reliability, improve pedestrian safety, address motorist congestion and delay, and promote sustainable transportation choices for the growing neighborhood.

At the community meeting on February 13, we sought input on several conceptual alternatives. Our presentation included one option that would have possible direct impacts on residential properties. Community discussion from this meeting made it clear that this alternative needs to be rejected, and that is exactly how we are proceeding. In keeping with our evaluation framework, which includes community support as a key criterion, we have dropped this option (Option S3) from further study. The Transportation Authority is currently evaluating and refining the other options and will share the results during a second round of outreach expected in late Summer.

We look forward to our continued partnership with the community on this important Study. For more information, please visit www.sfcta.org/19thave

Chester Fung, Project Manager, San Francisco Transportation Authority

April 2013

Farewell Fleishacker Pool

Somehow I missed this (opportunity to respond to your request for input-ed.). It’s an opportunity lost. Please know that I didn’t ignore you on purpose. I certainly would have responded.

Bottom line is that no one today cares enough to save it or to do anything with it.  That should have been done years ago when the pool closed.  It was a great building and would have provided historic space for anything from a restaurant to a museum or even just shops.  The city wasted a great resource.

I’ve been trying to sequester myself as much as possible to get San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach: The Golden Years finished.  Unfortunately, my day job has been in overtime for almost two years now.  I’m targeting the end of this month to send it to my publisher.  I’m really excited about this book.

James R. Smith, Author: Playland at the Beach: The Early Years, Nov 2010

March 2013

Fact Checker for Supervisor Hall?

I read Tony Hall’s December column with interest but found his recollection of the 2000 campaign to be highly inaccurate.

Tony writes that: “On election night of November 7, 2000, I became the projected winner of that seat by a margin of some 1,200 to 1,300 votes.”

In fact, in the November, 2000 election Tony lagged behind Mabel Teng 13,269 to 6,706 but, as Mabel failed to achieve 50% of the 33,867 votes cast, a December run-off occurred. It was in the December run-off that Tony Hall secured his victory (9,333-9,294).

Tony delves deep into the 2000 campaign but fails to get essential details correct.What does this say about the value of his column?

Christmas time gift suggestion: a fact-checker for Tony.

David Hooper

(Tony Hall responds from Ireland)

David Hooper makes a valid observation as I should have clarified that the election night I was referring to in my column was the December run off. His numbers are correct regarding the November election date but I was the projected winner in the December run-off by some 1200-1300 on that night. Only after 3 re-counts and re-canvassings was the final tally arrived at, that being 9,333-9,294. One of the points that I try to illustrate in my column is about how votes are stolen, even through the re-count process. Apparantly David does not want to acknowledge that such voter fraud tactics exist.

Tony Hall

While essential oils are often used as natural remedies, it is important to realize they may be just as harmful to our bodies. Plant extracts, while seemingly natural, can be just as fatal if used incorrectly or can possibly alter the effects of prescription medications.

There are various sources of herbal remedies today, including local pharmacies and grocery stores. With the increasing use of prescription medicines, it is important for patients to tell their pharmacists about the essential oils or other herbal supplements they may be using. Pharmacists not only have access to informational resources for various herbal remedies, but they can provide general drug information and ensure there are no harmful interactions with the prescription medications patients take. Community pharmacists are not only doctors whom are accessible to the public, but they can also play a vital role in optimizing patient therapy when natural remedies and prescription medications are being used simultaneously.

Michelle Yee, Student Pharmacist UCSF School of Pharmacy Class of 2014

February 2013

Food Trucks

I was very disappointed that OfftheGrid is reconsidering West Portal as a venue. Being a 33 year resident of Westwood Highlands I was hoping to show off our West Portal neighborhood as friendly and accepting. OfftheGrid will bring in walking traffic which relates to more money to the merchants. I for one won’t mind less parking as it is a temporary situation. Let’s show OfftheGrid that we can live in harmony and make this homeowner proud of our neighborhood and its merchants.

Mary Hackbarth

Phantom Votes

There were a few strange things that happened during the counting of the votes from the November 6, 2012 election at City Hall.

At least two suspicious incidents surrounded City Hall. First there was the mysterious power outage at City Hall; however, there was no storm that could have caused the outage. Second there was a smell of smoke that must have set off the fire alarm and an evacuation ensued. Usually where there is smoke, there is fire, but there was no fire in this case. I am curious as to how the ballots were protected while the two emergencies occurred simultaneously within 24 hours of each other. Did these two emergencies have an impact on the winners?

Norman Yee won the election due to the votes from the residents of Parkmerced. This is intriguing because less than ten people attended his visit when he announced his candidacy at Parkmerced. When the District 7 candidates were interviewed by the San Francisco Examiner, Norman Yee said that he supported the demolition of the garden apartments at Parkmerced. Thus I am perplexed as to why so many people would vote for someone who supports their home being demolished and not paying them adequate compensation. Parkmerced is a vital part of District 7 with 3,022 apartments. Due to the pending redevelopment plan there are a lot of vacancies at Parkmerced. Could it be that phantom votes were cast?

As a former candidate in the District 7 November 6, 2012 election, I have some concerns about the ballots, and if there was any tampering with the ballots. I am considering contesting the votes. I think that it is important that every vote cast by someone was legal.

It appears that perhaps this rank choice voting is more confusing than we anticipated. This confusion, if left unchallenged, is a threat to the democratic process by which we govern ourselves.

Lynn Gavin

December-January 2013

A Good Thing: New Soccer Field

I’m very grateful for being a lifetime resident of San Francisco and it is my opinion that the world would be a better place if everyone adopted those controversial ‘San Francisco Values’. Unfortunately I feel like this city, its politicians and many of its residents are living more in the fantasy of San Francisco than the reality of San Francisco.

A few years back I had the same reaction about Crocker Amazon as the author’s reaction about the west end of Golden Gate Park. The community had the same opposition to that project as to this. The response was almost identical in scope and numbers. The project involved replacing half of the grass area with next generation artificial turf. A huge chunk of open grass space was being replaced with soccer fields. Soccer is a sport I neither care to watch let alone participate in.

We can see Crocker Amazon from our back window and I’m happy to report that the soccer fields in that park are in constant use. Each week easily hundreds of people are exercising and playing soccer from sun up to sun down. And when I say till sun down I mean it, they play until the lights are turned off at 10:15PM. And from what I know there has been little if any trouble at the park.

And the surrounding area, driving and walking by the park, no longer feels unsafe. The ripple effect of having ongoing healthy activity makes the entire area feel ‘family friendly’. Before the renovation the area could be considered somewhat suspect, especially after dark.

To address your article in particular, I challenge the notion that this is the beginning of the end. First lets start with the idea that GGP is one of San Francisco’s crown jewels. I agree that it’s SUPPOSED to be one of our jewels but in its current, neglected condition it is not. It can be a lot better. There is the constant drug dealing and numerous homeless encampments. You can find dirty needles and used condoms with frightening regularity, and the bathrooms are in indescribably filthy conditions. The web is littered with ‘letters to the editor’ from tourists who were tremendously disappointed by the condition of GGP. The park has its bright spots and conditions continue to improve with each new project, but having spent several summers in the park as part of my church’s youth day camp program I can tell you the park today is not the park I grew up in.

I suggest this project has the potential to become another bright spot in the continuing evolution of GGP.

I’m not going to debate the ‘political’ process that took place to get this project approved, any City project can have its process debated to death (which I would suggest is exactly the strategy minority voices use to hold the rest of us hostage). What I will say is, and with all due respect to Mr. Miller, he starts his article with scathing assessments of both the SF Planning Commission and Recreation and Park Commission, pointing out how they literally ignored 1000 emails from concerned citizens, many of who opposed the project. He then concludes his editorial stating this project excludes the 790,000 people who don’t or can’t play soccer. If this project were to impact 790,000 people I would expect you’d get more than just 1000 emails. And of those 790,000 people, how many of them even considered visiting the west end of GGP in the last year? The last 5 years? This just feels like another “just because I never use it doesn’t mean you can take it away from me” stance.

I will be the first one to admit that one of the reasons I resisted the change to Crocker Amazon was the idea of the soccer fields. If I may be politically incorrect for a moment, my feeling was soccer is not a traditional American sport and the idea that ‘American tax dollars’ were going to support an activity I didn’t grow up with kind of bothered me. But in the spirit of ‘San Francisco Values’, where the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, seeing just how many people are using those fields absolutely validates the spending of the money to renovate that park. And for context, there are still two natural grass baseball diamonds sitting right next to those 5 soccer fields, and guess how often they’re used? Almost never.

And with response to Mr. Miller’s suggestion that city government completely ignored or dismissed errors in the submitted environmental impact report, I would submit that tirelessly debating EIRs is another tool for a minority voice to hold the rest of us hostage. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect project’, there will always be positives and negatives to everything. The idea is to see if the positive outweigh the negative. In this case, if the same thing happens to the west end of GGP that happened to Crocker Amazon, I would submit for your consideration that the environmental impact is hugely positive. If there are hundreds of people using those fields all day long, getting exercise while actually USING the park, brining with them a halo effect that cleans up undesirable activities in the nearby area, then how can one call this the ‘beginning of the end’?

San Francisco has always been a city where we do things for the right reasons even if it means some self sacrifice. We take chances because our conscience tells us its the right thing to do. We do these things with the faith that the benefits will be there even if we can’t absolutely see them in advance. And when we’re wrong we make it right. We don’t say ‘no’, we say ‘let try and see what happens’. Mr. Miller and members of SF Ocean Edge, come out the the south side of the city - go out to Crocker Amazon on a sunny Saturday afternoon and take a look at your possible future. Then ask yourself what’s better for our community as a whole.

Dean K. – 45 year NATIVE San Franciscan

Not So Much…

I’m Kathleen McCowin, a soccer mom for over ten years. My daughter plays in Viking Soccer, and this spring enjoyed playing on the Beach Chalet soccer fields, currently natural grass.

Many Viking parents support the hybrid alternative for the Beach Chalet soccer fields’ renovation - that is, grass in Golden Gate Park, with plastic turf fields and 60’ stadium lights reserved for more urban settings. We Viking parents believe real grass in Golden Gate Park is better for our children, the environment, and our City.

Viking Soccer Management writes “…we represent all of San Francisco” in its aggressive and very public lobbying for plastic turf replacement of the Beach Chalet soccer fields, now seven acres of Golden Gate Park grass meadow at Ocean Beach, between the windmills. 60’ stadium lights will be installed, staying on until 10:00 P.M. This plan was approved May 24th by the SF Planning and Park & Rec Commissions.

However, Viking Management never asked us Viking parents what we think. I represent Viking Soccer parents and players who have not yet been heard.

Viking Management showcased dozens of child players at the approval hearing. Some of these children were taken to the hearing without their parents’ knowledge or permission. These parents, who support natural grass renovation, thought their uniformed children were being taken to their usual soccer practice. Children were promised pizza and games to attend the hearing. 

At a recent rally, I made a short public statement that we Viking parents were never asked our opinion by Viking Management on the Chalet Fields renovation. Immediately afterwards, I was personally confronted by the President of Viking Soccer, obviously very angry that I expressed my views publicly.

Facing this kind of response from the highest official in the Viking League, you will understand why parents feel they don’t have a real say in this Viking policy, and are afraid to come forward with their names if they support real grass fields. I have been asked by the many Viking Soccer parents who have contacted me to withhold their names, since their children are still in the Viking league. My youngest child, 16, is leaving Vikings this fall, so I am able to speak openly.

Many Viking players want to play on real grass. Children have no more injuries on properly maintained grass fields than on plastic turf. Our kids complain that plastic turf gives them skin abrasions they don’t get on grass. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery studies have confirmed soccer players suffer 3X as many skin abrasions on plastic turf.

A Norwegian study of 60,000 teen soccer players found more back and spine injuries with plastic turf. European soccer leagues have banned its use. And the jury is still out on long-term health effects on our children of inhaling finely ground tire dust.

Remaining as natural grass, these fields could be renovated for $1M. Even with the $5M grant from City Fields Foundation, the plastic turf renovation with some other amenities will cost San Francisco $7.5M. We soccer parents think that is irresponsible in these tough economic times.

Worse, the plastic turf and fill must be replaced every eight years, at a cost only 50% less than a full installation. If the City doesn’t pay these costs, the result will be fields that are unsafe and unsightly. We, as soccer parents, don’t want that for our kids.

Viking Soccer Parents Want Real Grass Fields in Golden Gate Park.

Thank you for your support of Viking kids and their parents. If you want grass in Golden Gate Park, please write e-mails to the Mayor and City Supervisors. And please email me if you are a Viking or other soccer parent who would like to be added to our members list. kmccowin@berkeley.edu

Kathleen McCowin, San Francisco

July-Aug 2012

Did anyone find the article (Help for Seniors to Pay for Long Term Health Care/Feb ‘12) that Sharon Caren, the health writer for the Westside Observer, of interest?

This is a topic that the public most definitely should be aware of that specifically targets the senior community. It was picked up by the Mercury News.

Diane Reynolds

Mr Lawrence, in criticizing the RBOC (Mar ‘12), lumps every member of the RBOC into one cohesive group. He clearly has not been reading the articles by Brian Browne in your paper. Brian is a coauthor of Proposition P and was a member of the RBOC 2003-2012. He single handed tried to right many of the wrongs to which Mr. Lawrence attributes collective guilt. This is improper and inaccurate.

Any citizen, daring to attend a RBOC meeting at 930AM on a Monday morning would see Brian Browne bushwhacked and gang-tackled by the chair and his/her court on a continual basis. He never quit. Brian Browne, a neighbor and fellow activist, laments he did not achieve the high-goals intended by the framers of 2002 Proposition P, but as many of us say; he did shine a very bright flashlight in dark and dim corners of government especially the SFPUC. I hope Mr. Lawrence is more forthright and balanced in his general condemnation of the entire RBOC.

Brian, as president of the Golden Gateway Tenants Association, along with many of us at the Golden Gateway Center, assereted our First Amendment Rights and initialized a court case that went to the California Supreme Court. So often in San Francisco, activits don’t get the credit for their actions. I along with neighbors saved the most pristine park in San Francisco from commercial development. We wanted it named “Ferry Park.” The politicians stepped in and named it “Sue Bierman Park.” Sue was a fine person but had nothing to do with the creation of this beautiful park for the citizens of San Francisco.

Credit where credit is due, please.

Ernestine Weiss

April 2012

The article, "Two Tough Little Dogs Survive Attack Of Two Hungry Coyotes", in the November 2011 issue of your Westside Observer, was high on sensationalism and inaccurate in its use of words. 

This seems to be the usual fare in anything written about coyotes. But we all need to fine-tune what we see and what we report. For example, there is a big difference between "attack" and "encounter". And using the phrase "hungry coyotes", in this report, is just plain irresponsible — why would any writer use these words here except as a sensationalist scare tactic? We all need to develop an understanding of language nuance: "aggressive" does not mean "curious" or "inquisitive" or "playful" or even "mischievous".

One important fact left out of the article is that these very small and active dogs were not leashed, in an area where the owner knew coyotes have been seen. Several weeks before, I had met the owner there with her small dogs, unleashed then too, and I had let her know about the situation — she had told me that she already knew all about it and that her dogs were fine, back then. I'm all for off-leash dog walking generally — I walked my own dogs off-leash all the time. But the circumstances are different in a coyote area. 

Everyone needs to understand that dogs raise the anxiety of coyotes because of territoriality — coyotes are tied to the land they use as much as we are to our own homes. Active small dogs, in particular, raise the anxiety of coyotes: I'm not sure why, perhaps it is because of the skittish and high-energy behaviors of such dogs. And coyotes raise the anxiety of dogs. This is why it is important to keep them apart — peaceful coexistence entails keeping them apart.

I have seen many "surprise" encounters between dogs and coyotes. I've seen even the smaller dogs, such as Jack Russells, actually go after coyotes, and then run for cover to their owner. Dogs seem to have a need to chase coyotes either in play or as a warning. Most of the time the coyote will flee, but sometimes the coyote will stand up for itself by chasing back.

And although, yes, I have seen coyotes approach dogs, this is not frequent, whereas many dogs have chased after coyotes. If a coyote approaches a dog, it could be for various reasons, from friendly curiosity, to messaging a warning, to testing and teasing — these don't constitute "attacks." Coyotes have followed some dogs, but this, too, does not constitute an "attack." Coyotes are easy to shoo off if the dogs are kept close using a leash.

The coyotes in our parks certainly are not "hungry" — I see them catch gophers and voles all day long, they are some of the healthiest-looking coyotes ever. 

As to the incident reported in this article, I did not see the initial encounter, but I have seen many dog-coyote encounters, and I can pretty accurately describe what might have happened based on those many other observations. The incident could have been initiated by a surprise encounter, or by the active little dogs getting too close to where the coyotes were, or even by either the coyotes or dogs approaching the other to investigate or in a test of "one-up-manship" — but it really doesn't matter who initiated this particular incident. The result was that both parties became excited. If the dogs had been leashed, that would have been the end of it. 

Instead, the little dogs ran off — and running always is seen as an invitation for another to chase, be it dog or coyote. So the owner ran in one direction to retrieve one of her dogs. Meanwhile, the other small dog headed in the other direction.

What drew my attention was the furious barking at the top of a hill. I looked up to see the little dog barking and running after a coyote. As far as I have seen, dogs only bark when they are chasing — not when they are being chased. Then the owner began yelling frantically for her dog, which would not come.

Within seconds the coyote had turned around and was now chasing back — and the little dog stopped barking. The silence did scare us for what it might mean. The three of us who were there all ran up the hill to retrieve the dog, but it was nowhere to be found.

One dog was found later that day. But even though several people, including me, spent many hours combing the park and streets for the other, it was three days before that one finally was found — found far away from the park.

The entire incident could have been prevented if that dog owner had put thought into protecting her little dogs in the first place.

Coyotes do not want to interact with humans, which is why leashing dogs and keeping them next to you is the best defense against an encounter getting out of hand. And keeping your dogs calm reduces the possibility of alarming coyotes in the first place.

I have written a couple of articles which might be useful. One is on coyote and dog coexistence: www.marinatimes.com/dec10/pets_petpages.html. The other is about coyotes generally: people need to know more about coyotes in order to understand them and deal with them — www.wildcarebayarea.org/site/PageServer?pagename=eNews_February2011_landingpage#coyote.

Janet Kessler

The San Francisco Health Code prohibits the presence of coyotes in our parks, along with bears, wolves, and other dangerous predators. San Francisco taxpayers pay for the parks, and have a right to visit those parks without fear for their children or companion animals.

The city has been remiss in enforcement because of bleeding-heart "naturalists" who believe our city should be reclaimed by the predator species and indigenous weeds and scrub that once covered sand dunes before people arrived. These reactionaries now threaten our safety.

City Hall needs to step up and do its job before an injury or death claim is filed.

Two weeks ago, CBS Sunday Morning ran this update piece about an abused, now retired circus elephant that had an unusual friendship with a stray dog. www.cbsnews.com/2300-18563_162-10010114.html?tag=mncol;lst;1 After years of dedication, the poor elephant's heart was broken because a couple of coyotes attacked and killed the dog.

Coyotes are killing house cats and attacking dogs from the Presidio to the Panhandle. City Hall needs to start doing its job before a child becomes the next victim.
Barbara Meskunas

I can really respect a man such as Quentin Kopp who has a sense of humor and uses a phrase such as "intellectually dishonest" in journalism. Both have lot's of uses. A few retorts.

The Central Subway is a waste if it costs more than the cost of its riders using cars. I'm pretty sure it doesn't. It also depends on how much you value good service. How much do we value the people's time being chronically wasted or the cost of lost time at work? How much is the health cost of auto pollution? Part of the investment will last over 50 years, another part will last more than 100 years. I am not ready to believe the off-street rail in Brooklyn, built 90 years ago and still serving the public, was a waste of money.

Visits to Montreal and Vancouver, cities with similar density and size, convince me we don't get good service because of the inter-action of transit with cars. They have invested in systems that are all off-street rail and so the trains are really moving. Let's recognize what we experience every time we take Muni. Isn't it usually 10-20 stops because of traffic lights and signs? Then, slow downs because of traffic, many turns because of our street plan, and then of course hills. It's the randomness of traffic that causes bunching then all lines converge on one short section of track.

Muni is getting some funding for infrastructure which will make efficiencies. Let's fund more and get as close as we can to all off-street rail. Next time you are at Sloat and West Portal imagine the train going underground to skip that intersection.

As for the street bond, I think the City is doing what it must to keep the system working in spite of the people who think taxation is the worst thing that can happen.

We under-fund, under-invest in the public service and then complain about it.

Todd LeFurge, Twin Peaks

December 2011

Proposition F

As a journalist, I mostly avoid political involvement, for professional-ethics reasons.

The exception I make is on issues related to the First Amendment and freedom of information. The people have the right to freedom of speech, press and peaceful assembly, and to transparency and accountability in government and in the political process.

That is why I have joined five former Ethics Commission members and a number of my Sunshine Ordinance Task Force colleagues in opposing Proposition F, a "reform" measure that would take away the right of us voters to decide what the rules of conduct are for campaign consultants, giving that authority to the commission and the Board of Supervisors.

Proposition F is an insidious, power-grab measure that deserves your NO vote.

Additional information is available at www.facebook.com/FriendsofEthics.

Rick Knee, former Chair, SF Sunshine Ordinance Task Force

November 2011

Lake Merced

There are new and discouraging developments in the mismanagement at Lake Merced by SFPUC and SF Recreation & Park. The two agencies have refused to follow the direction of the Board of Supervisors and revise the management responsibilities to shift primary management responsibility back to SFPUC. That refusal was met with disappointment by the 45 or so people who attended a July 19 meeting hosted by the two agencies.

Since that time SFPUC has released a six-page document dated July 27, 2011 entitled Lake Merced Boathouse Renovation. On the surface the document seems innocuous, but see the vague language at the end of page 6: "These improvements will update the exterior restrooms, give the upper level a cleaner and more pleasant appearance, and be ready for a new tenant to take over the project and pursue any improvements to suit their needs. In the future, if a tenant is not identified and additional funding is available, the Boathouse can be converted into a concessions area and meeting rooms, in full compliance with all codes, and available for immediate occupancy."

When recently asked whether that meant that after the $940,000 was spent the building would not be in adequate condition for public use, a senior SFPUC staff member acknowledged that such was the case!

Why is SFPUC planning to spend close to a million dollars to make renovations to a building that will be unusable following the renovations? SFPUC spent about 4 years preparing a 187 page Lake Merced Watershed Report that was to guide future efforts at the lake. The Watershed Report was completed in early 2010. It can be found at sfwater.org/index.aspx?page=197

On page 24, in describing the condition of the Boathouse, the Report says, "…it may be better to completely rebuild and expand the facility rather than renovate." At page 158 the Report suggests three possible scenarios for the Boathouse that "require further exploration of their feasibility and consistency with watershed goals".

The Committee to Save Lake Merced did a SF Sunshine Act records request to determine how much SFPUC's ratepayers paid to four consultants for the Watershed Report. The original contract amount was $350,000. After change orders, add on and the like the total paid was a whopping $588,434.87. And the SFPUC staff has yet to take the $588,434 Watershed Report to its 5 Commissioners for their review and consideration.

This kind of scandalous mismanagement cries out for a bright light to be shone upon it by San Francisco's media. The Lake, the residents in the area, and the SFPUC ratepayers deserve much better treatment.

Jerry Cadagan socialchr@aol.com

Laguna Honda's Physician Responds

Back in September of 2009, 20 of 22 Laguna Honda Attending Physicians signed a Resolution criticizing a recommendation "...that higher salaried physicians be replaced by registered nursing staff, social workers and psychologists" in an edited report issued by Davis Ja, PhD & Associates.

We considered this recommendation to be invalid due to flawed methodology and professional bias.

The Ja Report was so troubling, that Dr. Maria Rivero and I decided to examine how this contract between Davis Ja and CBHS was awarded.

We found that Davis Ja, PhD and Deborah Sherwood, PhD - the CBHS Director of Research, Evaluation & Quality Management had a domestic and business relationship. This was the basis of a Whistleblower Complaint we filed on 9/18/2009

Two months before we filed our complaint, the City decided to award another contract to Davis Ja & Associates - for $1.9 million, to assess CBHS Substance Abuse Treatment Services. Our potential conflict of interests complaint applied to this contract as well.

It took 2 years - and public pressure, but today City Controller Ben Rosenfield told me that the second contract has been revoked, and that the remaining $600,000 will not be paid to Davis Ja & Associates because of the conflict of interests we identified. The remainder of the work will be completed "in-house". Mr. Rosenfield also informed the Whistleblower Program oversight committee (CGOBOC) that there will be some "personnel action". However, former CBHS Director Dr. Robert Cabaj resigned in May 2011.

I am grateful to my former LHH and UAPD colleagues who took a stand on this issue. Derek Kerr, MD

Thank you Dr. Kerr, and please see Patrick Monette-Shaw's full report on p. 5 -Editor.

September 2011

Garbage, a response to Quentin Kopp

Solid waste collection services now being provided by either Sunset Scavenger Company and/or Golden Gate Disposal Company to all the residents of San Francisco, have provided uninterrupted waste collection services since 1906, well over 100 years.

Can any city in the world equal that record? Not likely, and I ponder why anyone would ever question that extraordinary record, especially with the expanded and comprehensive waste diversion programs, the most advanced and comprehensive solid waste management program in the world.

I am the former President of Sunset Scavenger and a "Scavenger" who 'worked on the trucks' prior, to becoming its president in 1965, right in the middle of the controversial issue of "filling the bay" with anything; least of all "garbage."

Quentin and I first met more than 50 years ago, when he was a young attorney, just arrived from New York and we became friends, he a promising attorney and me a garbage collector. He became an elected Supervisor and I became the President of the garbage company, in the middle of the "Save the Bay Movement".

Point being, if we had no place dump the refuse/garbage collected, we, the (scavengers) could not "collect" it, which could have surely happened, if we were unsuccessful in the development of the new landfill at Sierra Point in Brisbane. He, I, City Staff, and his colleagues helped to create a productive and working relationship between the waste collection companies and the City of San Francisco.

Out of this one single controversial event, (as noted) was the preamble, (50 years past) and because of this crisis, we the Scavengers, the elected officials and bureaucrats of San Francisco, worked together to create the most cost effective, comprehensive solid waste management programs in the world.

Ironically, who helped make that possible? My friend Quentin Kopp, who fully supported the plan that was the foundation of the program in existence today. It was really surprising and disappointing to me that he can now criticize and question a service that he supported and helped to create, one that overcame substantial bureaucratic, regulatory authority and incomprehensible environmental issues. As a result, we created what, in my humble, but experienced opinion (with some 57 years in this business). No one has a better comprehension and respect for the extraordinary, cost-effective services that the residents and business receive and enjoy to this day.

Leonard D. Stefanelli, San Francisco, CA.

July-August 2011

1953 photo of the West Portal Midgets Baseball teamPhoto Response

This is in response to the photo published on the back page of your February 2011.

Today was the pre 50th Reunion of my graduating class at Abraham Lincoln High School. We were given an organized tour of the School. At the School Tour, one of my Classmates, Arthur Elvin of Pacheco Street (Forest Hill), brought the clipping to me and asked if it was me. Answer "Yes".

My Uniform was sponsored by Siskin's Thrifty Drug, located next to Angelo's Restaurant, just across from the Tunnel Entrance. The Coach on the right rear is John Pearce, and his son, John Pearce, Jr. is in the back row, (Big Smile) third from left. I am the little guy, middle row, far right. Next to Mr. Pearce is Gil "Buddy" Haskell, now prominent in the NFL as a coach. I remember some of the other names, but I couldn't tell you who was who.

Even the name of Walt Lunny rings a bell, but I'm not sure which one is him. I still have a copy of this actual photo. I wish I would have written down the names.

Where are they now? Here I am. Mark D. Zimmerman, Emeryville; age 67 +. Semi-retired Real Estate Broker.

Before the School Tour today, Three of us had lunch at El Toreador, 50 West Portal Ave., and it was excellent. I didn't know then that I would be getting the photo from your Westside Observer, so it is funny, in a way, that I made conversation about our West Portal Merchants Midget Baseball Team. Truly a great neighborhood memory.

By the way, I think that the Photo is not '53, but more like '54, or '55.

Mark Zimmerman

Arboretum Charges

Old Sunset Photo

The Westside Observer is the best paper in San Francisco. Where else would I find out about the privatization of our Parks and Recreation Centers. I had no idea what has been going on if it were not for the Westside Observer. I am now going to become actively involved in fighting this good fight.

My family, with my children born in the ‘50s and ‘60s would have missed so much activity and recreational opportunities if it were not for the Park Directors and their programs starting with the Tiny Tots programs. At almost 80 years of age I still have those wonderful pictures of the children in their graduation caps from Tiny Tots graduation ceremonies..We all must put a stop to this terrible privatization of the parks in San Francisco.

I can’t believe there is a charge for admission to the Arboretum. It is bad enough now to be charged to enter the Japanese Tea Garden where the children loved walking through the beautiful , blooming, Spring garden and having tea in the teahouse. With four children and their cousins we could just about afford the cost of tea and cookies let alone now having to pay to enter the gardens.

Also, thank you for the listing of community meetings which I now will begin attending to let my voice be heard as a San Francisco citizen who raised her children in this wonderful city that I am sad to say is really deteriorating.

Valerie Klung, Westside San Franciscan

May 2011

Remember When Photo

In your March 2011 issue, you have a photo of the sunset district. It was taken from Moraga street between 15th and 16th avenues looking southwest. The date I would guess to be in the early 1930's. In the background the north basin of the Sunset reservoir is under construction and that might give a clue as to the year. The sandy area with the impressive looking quarry pit (for the reservoir work?) was the site of the Market Street Railway sand mine - about 21st and Ortega. The MSR #17 line ran along 20th avenue in this area. The antique - looking gas station just above the center of the photo was at 19th ave. and Noriega street.

The billboards were along the line of 19th avenue and that street does not appear to have been widened yet.

John Rossi, Sunset District

(See a larger photo)

I think the picture is from above 17th Ave near Moraga, looking south. I grew up at 1723 - 18th Ave., it looks like the picture of the new houses being built were the east side of 17th Ave between Moraga and Noriega. I believe the three barrel front houses at the right standing all on their own are on 18th ave, (my house would be the one on the right). Then 19th Ave farther up the picture (undeveloped).
Peggy Nevin, West Portal

An office mate brought this in to me as a SF native (Mission District & Eureka Valley). There is no question of the location: the houses under construction are on the east side of 17th Avenue between Noriega and Moraga – the 4 fronts just to the right of the vacant lot in the center can easily be seen on Google Maps Street View.

Noriega and 20th is the very clear intersection just above right center - the 2 story building on the sw corner is the United Commercial Bank building. (note several bill boards and tiny gas station on 19th Avenue). My guess is this was late 20's early 30's. The boom in the outer dunes did not occur until the war (this is really a guess).
Terry Strain, SF

CVS Pharmacy

I just finished reading the CVS plans to build a drugstore at 701 Portola Dr. (March Issue) and it interested me so much, that I went over to the SF Planning Dept to see what other information I could find. I could not find any information at all on this project. Is this really going to happen, or is CVS just researching this as a possible new location?

J Slattery, Miraloma Park

(Editor's Note) I am disappointed that the Department could not find any information on their project. I am not shocked. If I were you I would file a Sunshine Complaint for failing to inform the public. The hearing was a Special Hearing on Feb. 29th at 2:30 pm at 1650 Mission St. Room 431. The notice is online: www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=1541

April 2011

Too Conservative

Re: Quentin Kopp’s Degraded, Disrespected and Disregarded I find the article too conservative. The author seems to hide the reason why does the Government exist. Aren’t we a big country that needs a powerful and big Government? Does the author not know what just had happened in the end of 2008? The biggest financial meltdown ever due to an anemic Government that has no funds? Or the oil spill, Katrina, etc. We rather should call upon a powerful, well financed Government, since we live in a dangerously earthquake prone area. Does Mr. Kopp think Mexico will come to help us like they did during Katrina?

The General fund should go first of all to Public Transit and why not? We pretend to be a green city, so why not reward those who do not jam our streets with cars? Somewhere in the article Mr. Kopp insinuates that money generated from gasoline tax goes to Public Transit, as if it were a gift! Concerning the leitmotif of “Special Interest”, I am amazed that Mr. Kopp seems to aim at UNIONS and those who serve the people. I always believed that if there is any intrenched special interest is that of Business. They always win, doesn’t he know that? In fine, I would say that we have to tax the citizens to have a great country.

Nafiss Griffis, Outer Sunset

No on B!

Mr. Adachi’s suspiciously funded Prop. B deserves a NO vote because it is a mean spirited attack on San Francisco City workers as if they were the cause of the City’s fiscal problems.  In his “Prop. B Deserves Support” he never mentions the causal effects of the greedy and dishonest big operators from here to Wall Street.

How unfortunate that he compares the City’s employee medical insurance benefits to the “only 60% of SF businesses that offer health care benefits for employees” (or the 40% that don’t).  San Francisco seeks a higher standard in many areas including medical coverage for its employees and their dependents.  Why compare her to employers that don’t?

Adachi argues that SF is extravagant in her coverage of her worker’s dependents.  According to the Kaiser Foundation the average employer covers 73% of family health premium costs; SF covers 74%.  San Franciscans are proud that their city is above average in many ways.  We should not regress!  Vote NO on B.

Anthony C. Bazan, City Worker, 94131

Remember When /Ocean Avenue

A belated response on the picture in July/August issue. According to acute observer Lee Harrington, this is at 1400 Ocean Avenue at Grenada. There has been some remodeling to the building, front door moved left, and side door removed.

Warren McCausland

No on B!

It is unfortunate that Mr. Adachi, who makes $200k/year, sees nothing wrong with spewing selective, dated and incomplete analysis in an attempt to further his misguided political ambition on the backs of working class Americans. Proposition B would double the cost even the lowest paid city workers have to contribute to their health care, further burdening workers who, unlike Mr. Adachi, actually contribute to their own retirement. Most workers contribute at least 7.5% to their retirement. Mr. Adachi currently contributes nothing. The assertion that this poorly written proposition would actually save the City money has been disputed by the City Controller, as well as the Health Services System, which noted that Prop B would actually cost the City money. Prop B does nothing to ensure that supposed savings would go to other City services. Poorly written propositions like this, sponsored by wealthy businessmen and their local political stooges, have made California ungovernable.

Obi Nzewi, Oakland

No on B!

Mr. Adachi, in his recent editorial about Proposition B, attempted to focus on facts: however; like all lawyers, Mr. Adachi twisted his words to provide a false picture of Prop B. I want to share with your readers how Prop B will hurt our citizens:

1) Prop B will unfairly impact workers making the least amount of money (gardeners, nursing assistance, and custodians).
2) Prop B will dramatically increase the cost of health care (as much as $500/mo.) and force working families to make tough choices between providing medical insurance for their children and putting food on the table.
3) City employees have taken voluntary pay cuts of over $250 Million over the past few years to help balance the budget.
4) The Controller has refuted Adachi’s claim of how much Prop B will save: the Health Service System stated clearly that Prop B will cost the city money.
5) Prop B says nothing about money going to other city services.

Proposition B is Bad Medicine for San Francisco. It doesn’t fix problems; it punishes city workers for a situation they did not create, and it will dramatically increase health care costs for children.

Please join me in voting “No on B”.

Garry Bieringer, Staples Ave.

October 2010

Remember When

I always enjoy the “remember when?” photo you print in your paper. I pick the paper up from my driveway each time with anticipation of what the old photo will be. So thank you for printing them. This month I was intrigued by the request for information. My first thought was that it reminded me of Ocean Avenue. As I happen to have a collection of old city directories, I thought I would look up the business and see if it was listed. Of course that would be too simple. So this information may be entirely wrong for your picture. There was nothing in the 1918 directory, and I don’t have 1919, but in 1920 there appears “Westwood Pharmacy” at 1526 Ocean Avenue. The proprietor was E.L. Nelson. That pharmacy was there for quite a few years. In 1933 there appears a Westwood Grocery at 560 Monterey, the proprietor Irma Baumgartener. That was only listed that one year, and the geography doesn’t fit the picture. The only other listed possibility was a Westwood Market, at 1708 Ocean Avenue. It too was only listed for only one year, 1934. My City Directory collection only runs through 1935. Perhaps this is information that you already accessed and which proved not correct. If so, forgive me for taking up your time. I just had a lot of fun puzzling it. Thank you.

Linda Edwards

I was just reading the Westside Observer online — and saw the photo of Westside Park Grocery -- sorry to say don’t know the answer to your question.

However—and you guys may know this trick—if you go to http://sflib1.sfpl.org:82/ and enter just <westside park> you get 94 photos of Westside Park, all dated “not before 1917” and many of them by Gabriel Moulin. One photo shows two women knitting on the front porch of a WP house. The notation on the back says “no 96”, perhaps the house number/street number.

Since there are streetcar tracks in front of the grocery, I assume this is Ocean Avenue.

Tom Mayer

Sept. 2010

Thanks Quentin!

I’d like to thank Quentin Kopp for his article, “Jig is Up for Justice.” I especially appreciated his comment on the newly appointed Superior Court Judge the Honorable Richard Ulmer - and the fact that his opponents in the up-coming election are weakly credentialed in comparison. I’ve come to admire Quentin Kopp’s judgment over the years, and because of his comments I plan to vote for Judge Ulmer. I only wish more information was provided every time there is an election that includes judges. I don’t know what other source there is for a person to inform themselves about the qualifications of judges running for office.

Virginia Hayes, Sunset District

June 2010

EIR Needed

A full Environmental Impact Report for the proposed soccer fields needs to be conducted. Golden Gate Park is a cultural, environmental and historical landmark for the city of San Francisco; the proposed GGP/Beach Chalet Soccer Fields significantly and seriously threatens its integrity.

I live and work at Ocean Beach, one block south of the park. I walk at least two hours of each day, seven days a week, in the park. At night I go outside to view the stars. I have lived my entire life in San Francisco (41 years); growing up near the Piers I never knew the sky could be what it is here at Lands End.

I’ve been living in the Sunset for nearly 10 years and have already been very negatively affected by the use of the park to generate funds to meet budget deficits. The Team In Training groups, the sundry Marathons, and the Outside Lands Concerts have only meant fecal matter and urine on my doorstep, excess trash in the neighborhood, physical pushing and shoving on the paths and in the park, and obnoxious drivers blocking my driveway or nearly running me over while I am walking.

When I heard they were planning a sports center I was, and am, horrified.

Supervisor Chu has expressed the idea that this proposed sports center will answer a budget need. I find that short sighted and negligent.

I am desperately concerned for the wildlife that live in the park. On my daily walks I have come to know the birds especially. The proposed lighting alone is of great concern. What is this light pollution going to do the nocturnal creatures and their habitat? And what about the unique place the western edge of the city holds for night skies? The fog, for which my neighborhood is notorious, will only amplify the light pollution. We need to foster habitats not destroy them.

I am also incensed that the city could even be considering artificial turf which has been shown to raise ground level temperatures an average of 20 degrees. This goes against its goal to reduce environmental destruction caused by urban life.

As I understand it, there isn’t even a plan for what to do with the turf once it ages and becomes unattractive for further play; given the rough estimate of its ten-year life span, I find this unbelievable. Nor is there any plan for disinfecting this turf, a fact the GGP gardeners, have expressed concern about. The rains will wash this into our ground waters and Ocean.

Golden Gate Park is a park. The Master Plan (1998) stated the need to keep the western edge pastoral. The district just gave a grant to Surfrider to increase permeable surface and promote the land stewardship; this proposed soccer field project, while it may increase city funds, and alcohol sales at the Park and Beach Chalet, will also bring more cars and destruction to park vegetation. It makes no sense.

With an EIR other options, such as maintaining the trees, plant life and grass fields for play, can be explored.

Dr. Reid Gómez, Sunset District Resident

Unnatural Destruction—GG Park

Thank you for your article Paving Over Golden Gate Park in the February issue.

I am a business owner and resident of the Sunset. I live one block away from the Murphy Windmill that is currently under renovation, and I use the park for several hours each day.

I am incensed and alarmed about the city plan to install artificial turf and 60 foot sports lights in the park without even performing an Environmental Impact Report; considering the destruction to wildlife habitats, vegetation and the known elevation in ground temperatures (an average of 20 degrees) that will result, this is negligent at best.

Artificial turf is not sustainable. There is no plan for how to clean (disinfect) or dispose of the turf once it is installed. The soccer community admits they have a high percentage of staph infection. What about the animals, the GGP staff, and local residents who live and work in the park? What is going to be done with the turf when it has outlived its life? What about San Francisco’s proposed goal of decreasing garbage, increasing permeable surfaces, and the Secretary of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places (2004) support for keeping the western end of GGP as a “natural woodland?”

The proposed lights will generate pollution. I am concerned about their affect on park wildlife. I use the park to walk and to watch and study the birds and twilight creatures. These lights will alter their habitat, and result in their destruction. What trees will be displaced for their construction? What will the light pollution do to the night skies and neighborhoods?

The proposed soccer fields will likely draw players from outside the area. In my experience with the sports events already generating income for the city and held at the western edge, this means more cars and more illegal parkers. They see the park and beach as a playground, not a home, and they leave trash and urine in their wake. And they certainly don’t ride MUNI.

My primary concern is for the soil. We must protect our topsoil. The dunes are a fragile ecosphere. The proposed artificial turf is not permeable. Trees will likely be uprooted and further weaken an already delicate soil environment. Damage to plant life is guaranteed.

People come to the western edge to see the sea, to see the windmills and tulip gardens. As I understand this age, and the city, we have made a declaration to foster care for the natural world, and to curb our role in the environmental destruction that results from city construction. At the least a full EIR should be conducted and legitimate alternatives should be introduced and pursued before any forward movement with this artificial non-permeable surface and light pollution project.

Niki Lee

May 2010

Soccer Field

This is the wrong project, wrong reasons, wrong place and time. Keep western GGPark serene, peaceful, and for day use only.

Dave Ferguson

Don’t Sign Muni Reform Petitions!

Don’t be misguided into backing Supervisor Sean Elsbernd’s proposed Muni Reform ballot initiative for November’s election. Elsbernd failed to convince his Board colleagues to place this initiative on the ballot and now needs signatures to qualify his initiative. Here’s why readers shouldn’t sign Elsbernd’s signature petitions.

Transit operators — Muni drivers — represented by TWU-250A already negotiate their salaries under collective bargaining, so Elsbernd’s claim that the ballot initiative will introduce something new is completely false. TWU’s current seven-year, 102-page contract with the City runs from 2004 through 2011; it contains an extensive section already permitting Muni to hire part-time employees, dispelling the nonsense that Elsbernd’s “reforms” will suddenly allow Muni to hire part-time employees.

Of the 2,350 transit operators on the City payroll as of December 15, 2009, 1,038 part-time drivers (44.2%) earned less than the $58,073 base salary of full-time drivers. Almost 700 (nearly one-third) of the drivers earned less than $50,000, and 487 (20.7%) earned less than $40,000, in base wages as part-time drivers.

Worse, Muni drivers have not had pay raises in two to three years. Wooding’s assertion that granting a 5.4% raise to Muni drivers will cost an increase of $8 million is wrong; City Controller payroll data for end-of-year 2009 shows a 5.4% raise would cost just $6.3 million in increased base pay. Personal income dropped by 2.5% in California last year for the first time since 1938. Inflation eating away at driver’s incomes during the past three years, without any raises, is just pushing more middle-class residents into moving out of the City, probably costing the City millions in lost sales taxes from drivers who shop in other jurisdictions.

An assertion that drivers don’t have to work 40 hours in a week to earn overtime might be germane, if the police officers contract didn’t also have the same stipulation that working more than eight hours in one day may result in overtime. Also lamenting that Muni drivers have automatic annual salary guarantees (ignoring that driver’s have not had annual raises for several years), but Elsbernd “forgets” that the police earn almost-guaranteed semi-annual pay raises every six months.

While Elsbernd bemoans the $6.3 million increase to bus driver pay in the face of the Mayor Gavin Newsom’s anticipated $522 million deficit, he neglects to consider that raises for police employees — only police officers, lieutenant’s, sergeant’s, and inspector’s — climbed by $4.8 million (2%) in January 2010, is scheduled to climb another $9.9 million (a 4% bump) in July 2010, and will climb another $5 million (another 2% raise) in January 2011. This 8% totals $19.7 million, before including yet another “thank-you” bump in July 2011 of up to 5%, estimated at $11.1 million, bringing their total 13% raises to $30 million between January 2010 and July 2011, just for the 2,450 employees in these four police job classifications.

This doesn’t include another 15% across five raises these police classifications already received between July 2007 and July 2009 in a five-year contract granting 28% in total raises.

Base pay for these four police classifications ranges from $102,648 for a Police Officer I, to $139,840 for a Lieutenant III. Sixteen lieutenant’s earned over $140,000 in base pay in 2009; one lieutenant earned $149,963 in base pay and $23,166 in overtime, which combined with “other pay” drove his total pay to $177,845!

While Elsbernd laments the salary comparison across jurisdictions for transit operators, he ignores that the police contract performs salary comparisons across 11 jurisdictions to arrive at a formula for setting police salaries in San Francisco. This is nothing more than a pyramid scheme that causes salary increases in one jurisdiction to then boomerang, causing police salaries in other jurisdictions to spiral upwards.

Jim Lazarus’s claim that City “employees have to realize they cannot keep getting paid the same when less money is coming in.” Tell this to police officers, Mr. Lazarus. After all, much of Mayor Newsom’s perennial budget deficits are caused by police who believe they not only should be paid the same with less money coming in, they feel entitled to their 28% in total raises, even in the face of a $522 million City deficit and 17,000 pink slips handed to City employees, pink slips designed to find revenue to keep giving raises to police employees.

It wasn’t bus driver salaries that caused the City of Vallejo to declare bankruptcy, it was police salaries. Elsbernd should focus on police salary reform, before police salaries bankrupt San Francisco.

Don’t sign Elbernd’s Muni “reform” petitions. If he was unable to convince the other ten Supervisors to place it on the ballot, we shouldn’t do it for him.

Elsbernd’s hypocrisy is breathtaking: In 2007, he not only voted as a sitting Supervisor to place the “Proposition A “ Muni reform on the ballot, he signed a rebuttal to the opponent’s argument, claiming Prop A would “bring Muni employees back to the bargaining table to create more efficient work rules.” Has Elsbernd explained his new flip-flop to Jim Lazarus?

Amanda Runcible, Twin Peaks

April 2010

Paving Over Golden Gate Park

In reading George Wooding’s article in the February edition of the Westside Observer, (Paving Over Golden Gate Park), I was amazed that someone so involved with the community could be so misinformed. If not misinformed, the only other possibility is a tremendous bias against the athletes who have used the western edge (better known as Beach Chalet) soccer fields in Golden Gate Park for more than 50 years.

Mr. Wooding implies that the area should remain “pastoral” with meadows (ne: the current 3 soccer fields) and surrounded by groves of trees. Ask any parent who has delivered their child to the Beach Chalet fields if they are comfortable with the knowledge that the “groves of trees” obscure the lurking men looking for whatever. The best thing that could happen would be to reduce those groves to a minimal border so as to discourage the “lurkers”.

Regarding the footprint the new fields would create: There are already 3 full grass fields and a restroom and fences around them. At most, there would be no more than a 20% increase in the open space. Most of the increased space would come from eliminating some of the groves.

Mr. Wooding portrays the inclusion of field lights and a clubhouse as a bad thing. Many of our baseball/softball fields have lights and absolutely every one of our golf courses has a clubhouse. Why would this be a bad thing?

The permits, exemptions, and other bureaucratic obstacles indicated by Mr. Wooding are no different than those encountered anytime anyone wants to do anything to change the status quo. They can be worked out without a big hassle or a lot of vitriolic.

Probably the most misdirected comments by Mr. Wooding have to do with the projected cost comparisons. I do not take issues with the costs he places on installation, repairs or maintenance. If one were to use his numbers, regarding costs only, over a 20-year amortization period, the artificial turf fields will cost about $10,000 per year less than grass on average. Beyond 20 years, the turf fields would be almost $80,000 less expensive per year.

These comparisons are for cost only: they do not take into account the revenue generated by the rental of the fields. One only needs to visit the new Crocker Amazon turf fields to realize the potential. They can be used almost constantly with no downtime for rainouts, reseeding or irrigation replacement.

Assuming the Rec & Park rescind their silly decision to triple field fees, the Premier divisions of SF Soccer and the Golden Gate Women’s Soccer League will return to SF to play on the turf fields. They will come back not just because of a fee reduction but because they will be able to rely on a “rain or shine” schedule. This can happen with turf fields. Not only will the city recover the lost income of approximately $100,000 but will eliminate he grass field maintenance of $42,000/year and replace that cost with about $6,000/year if turf field maintenance.

The Beach Chalet fields will not be converted to a picnic meadow even if turf is not installed. Adding a fourth field (turf or not) would go a long way in alleviating the incredible backlog of field demand by our youth teams. Turf would further enhance the outcome.

I would suggest a letter and/or a petition to your supervisor AND to Mr. Wooding supporting the new turfing proposal at the western edge of Golden Gate Park.

Richard Cross, 50 year SF Resident

Woodland Meadow

After reading Mr. Wooding’s article on the “Paving of Golden Gate Park,” I was appalled to learn that a section of our nationally recognized historic park might be transformed from a woodland meadow with children’s soccer into a full-sized super-sports complex. This development apparently introduces structures where none were intended according to the park’s master plan.

The drawing in the article shows the present four fields to be expanded and adding two more. The park generously accommodates these grass soccer fields because they exist without conflict with the natural setting. But I gather that this concession is not enough in the eyes of those who view the park as just raw land to be developed.

It seems as if this new plan was drawn with no understanding of WHERE the complex is to be constructed. Golden Gate Park is not a vacant lot just waiting for someone with money to fix it up. It is already “fixed” with neat stuff like trees and grass and birds and bees, ready for people to enjoy. The Beach Chalet site currently serves multiple purposes from athletics to concerts with its flexible open pasture.

Golden Gate Park is special, very special. It is a gift of open space to the residents of a crowded city, both human and animal. It is a gift from the past to future generations to have something of value, far beyond the man-made structures that the early urban planners knew would fill up the city one day. It is the gift of nature to remind us of what is real and where we came from.

Thank you Mr. Wooding for bringing this poorly vetted proposal to our awareness. We did not know about this well kept secret. You mention that “there are many other parks and high schools where synthetic turf soccer fields could be built.” Let the Recreation and Park Department pursue these other sites for installing soccer complexes, and leave the western end our most unique and wonderful park as it was intended to be - undeveloped.

Anna Gordon, Sunset Heights

March 2010

Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Serafin’s November letter

Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Serafin’s November letter about Laguna Honda contained a number of inaccurate statements.

If nursing homes are pursuing efforts to reduce costs, why is LHH keeping its marketing and public relations staff at a cost of nearly $400,000 in annual salary while eliminating doctors? Why is a marketing department necessary for a captive audience of public health Medi-Cal patients other facilities won’t admit?

Serafin claims there “are no studies in any literature … that states reducing the number of physicians and replacing them with nurses … will worsen patient care.” Serafin should have reviewed the March 2009 Annals of Internal Medicine article by Paul Katz, MD that I referenced in October; Katz’s article noted marginalizing physicians in nursing homes threatens the overall quality of care to patients with medically complex illnesses, and noted that having a dedicated medical staff improves patient care. If in-house physicians improve patient care, then not having physicians will worsen care.

Serafin is wrong about “travelling doctors.” Patients in nursing homes without on-staff physicians do wait weeks to receive medical care, because travelling doctors rely on observational skills of nursing staff. When overworked nurses miss observing patient conditions, patients do wait weeks to see an MD.

Cutting expenses is one thing. But why is fox-guarding-the-RN-hen-house Serafin okay with cutting “extra expenses” of MD’s who provide direct care, when LHH has a bloated Nursing Administration Department that doesn’t provide direct patient care, including 16 Nursing Supervisors, 20 Nurse Managers, and 7 Clinical Nurse Specialists paid a combined total of $6 million in 2008 (seven earned over $200,000; 27 earned over $150,000). Private-sector nursing homes rarely have clinical nurse specialists, multiple nursing directors, and the number of nurse managers and nursing supervisors LHH employs, which “extra expenses” Nurse Serafin ignores.

Had Serafin actually read the Ja report, she’d know it recommends LHH’s certified nursing assistants (CNAs) take on more skilled-care work, by being trained to assume management of behavioral and substance abuse problem patients, which is outside their typical practice area — after CNAs just had their salaries cut 20.5 percent! Ja’s flawed methodology may have inflated his claim 46 percent of LHH residents have “behavioral diagnoses.” Ja, and Serafin, fail to note 100 percent have medical diagnoses; cutting doctors providing medical care to both groups isn’t simple cost-cutting.

If Serafin were really concerned about cost-cutting as a necessary part of life, cutting physicians and CNAs would be considered last (not first), since LHH pays its skilled-nursing registered nurses (RNs) the same pay rate ($61.05 hourly) the City pays its acute-care RNs. The web site www.indeed.com reports RN salaries in San Francisco residential nursing homes average $52,000 annually; the City’s web site shows that effective December 2009 LHH RNs are paid $126,984 after ten years of service, 2.4 times more than San Francisco’s average nursing home RN salary. For instance, LHH RNs are thought to be paid almost $20 more hourly than RNs at the Jewish Home for the Aged. Does Serafin know why LHH CNA salaries were slashed, but LHH RN salaries weren’t?

Instead of eliminating doctors entirely, and slashing the pay of CNAs 20.5 percent, how about starting first paying LHH RNs skilled-nursing, rather than acute-nursing, salaries? That alone would save tens of millions annually!

The City pays its Nurse Practitioners $81.50 hourly (who were paid $300,000 in overtime in 2008), and its Physician Specialists $81.78 hourly (who earned no overtime), so there is no savings to be realized from replacing MD’s with Nurse Practitioners.

If Serafin’s main shtick is “cost cutting,” she should start with cleaning up Nursing’s back yard. Eliminating MD’s is a negative move when it causes medical neglect.

Patrick Monette-Shaw www.stopLHHdownsize.com

Has anyone noticed?

Has anyone noticed that anyone who has run for Supervisor in District 7 over the past several elections ends up in controversy? The hotly-contested race between Mabel Teng and Tony Hall enabled neighborhood residents to focus on politics and issues, but... how many of us can remember discussing the details of that race?

Next came the infamous “triple play” manuever involving Annemarie Conroy, Tony Hall, and Sean Elsbernd. How many of the local residents have an opinion about the pros and cons of that “agreement”?

In the November, 2008, election, a written complaint was filed with the Department of Elections and the Ethics Commission questioning the residency of Supervisor Elsbernd (as in did he live in district seven during this campaign?). As of now, there has been no written statement from anyone, including Mayor Newsom and the City Attorney’s office. In fact, the current controversy is still undisclosed by city hall leaders.

I believe that District 7 residents deserve a written, detailed explanation, with facts and findings as it’s one year later. C’mon City Hall, let us know the truth on this and clear this up once and for all.

Douglas Yep – Longtime District 7 resident

December 2009

Laguna Honda’s Unkindest Cut

I would just like to comment on the article “Laguna Honda’s Unkindest Cut”, by Patrick Manette-Shaw, published in the October 2009 issue.  I have worked for over 10 years as a Nurse Practitioner in another Long Term Care facility in San Francisco, and I would like to clarify some of the comments made in the article.  First, there is effort underway in all nursing homes to reduce costs, so Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH) is no exception.  During this economic downturn, most hospitals and nursing homes are slashing staff positions to cut costs.  However, the author feels that these cuts would be detrimental for the types of patients that LHH contains.  He mentions the “Ja Report” is an incomplete analysis, and feels that their data is flawed.  First, there are no studies in any literature that I have read that states that reducing the number of physicians and replacing them with nurses, social workers, and psychologists will worsen patient care, especially in regards to substance abuse treatment. 

Secondly, the article voices concerns that losing staff physicians and using “traveling” physicians instead will cause patients to have to “wait weeks for medical care”.  Let me assure the public that this absolutely not the case.  While it is true that federally mandated visits (every 60 days) are required if the patient is stable, if a patient becomes medically ill or needs more medical attention, then more frequent visits are warranted, and can be provided by physicians and other health care professionals that come in to the nursing home.  In fact, this is how the great majority of nursing homes across the country operate.  Most nursing homes do not have staff physicians; all medical care is provided by outside doctors.  The reason for this is that most physicians bill Medicare/Medicaid directly for their services, and most nursing homes cannot support a large medical group as LHH can.  Therefore, LHH is lucky to have this kind of set-up, as it is expensive, so this is why there is talk of cutting this extra expense out.

 I would also like to clear up the concerns the author has about the CNAs in LHH.  First off, CNAs are not considered “skilled-care” providers.  Most CNAs train for just a few months to be able to provide care to patients. In fact, the care they provide is the basics, like feeding and bathing, not management of behavioral or substance abuse problems.  On the other hand, nurses, social workers, and psychologists are all positions which require more skill and training, which should improve the quality of care for most patients with behavioral health problems.

With our current health care system, unfortunately cost cutting is a necessary part of life.  However, I do not agree with the author’s comments that losing physicians and CNAs while replacing them with nurses and other health care professionals would be a negative move.

Jennifer Serafin RN, GNP

I just found the October issue of Westside Observer.

The Remember When? photo shows a view looking north from the top of Merced Heights, probably Shields or Grafton Streets. The left side of the photo shows the Homewood Terrace Orphanage, on Ocean Ave between Faxon and Ashton Avenues. That’s Mt. Davidson at the rear.

At the right front corner of the photo is what looks like the old Farragut Grammar School--since turned into condos. It probably dates to the late 1930’s. I’ll be checking to see if I am right this time!

Thanks for your great publication.

Carole Issel - San Francisco

November 2009

Jed Lane’s response to Tony Hall's letter

I’m glad you were amused Mr. Hall, I’m actually one of your ex-supporters and we’ve met at least five times, I guess you’ve forgotten. I have no need to “stalk” you, you’re a recognizable man and you live on the street where I grew up. I pass by the intersection that’s the entrance to your street many times a day. If you don’t own the Harley I’ve seen you on - my mistake.

I’m far too old to be considered one of “those self-appointed whiz kids” having graduated from St Brendan’s long before you moved into the parish. Nor am I a “holier than thou San Francisco liberal”, since I actually fall on the conservative side of SF politics. Sorry I don’t fit your description of the bad bogeymen “other” that your straw-man argument needs to have any credence.

Let’s put all of that aside - who you think you are or who you wish I am - the state IS passing laws that will affect us all, even you. My goal was to bring the attention of my neighbors to the use of punitive parking fees to reduce vehicle travel. Raising fees to get people out of cars is happening in many cities around the world. Zurich, London, Stockholm, San Francisco to mention just a few. Muni service is so terrible in our hilly neighborhoods that we can’t rely on it so we don’t ride it. We don’t have the ridership so MUNI cuts the line out completely. If we don’t advocate we will all be left stranded like our neighbors in Forest Knolls will be as soon as the 36 stops running on Warren Drive.

While you and your compadres rail against the fees that are being charged, painting them as another unjust revenue source from an administration that you disagree with. Your neighbors will be left high and dry because their “leaders” stopped being involved and devolved into curmudgeons, ranting and tilting against windmills instead of getting off their donkeys, paying attention to what is going on and making an effort to shape the future. Our kids, Mr. Hall are why I’m involved in neighborhood planning, disaster resiliency and public safety issues. So think about it Mr. Hall what good do you do now? I don’t see you at NERT events. I don’t see you working on the CAPSS project or advocating for Forest Hill Extension at the Planning Commission. I don’t see you working on the Open Space, Housing or Community Safety Elements of the General Plan. I do see you at SPUR’s grand opening where nothing is getting done other than food, drinks and smooze time. Why don’t I see you at any of the SPUR seminars where you might actually get informed about new laws and be part of discussions about the future of San Francisco? I’m there, learning and advocating, why aren’t you.

Nope, I have to assume that you’d rather spend your time sitting on your donkey tilting at windmills.

Jed Lane

October 2009

Previous letters (Nov 08 - Aug 09)