Monthly Archives: March 2005

Capt. Keith Sanford: Traffic Safety Enforcement

Last year, Taraval Station officers issued 6,389 citations to motorists in the Sunset and Parkside districts who violated traffic laws. These statistics do not include the number of citations issued by our SFPD Traffic Company’s solo motorcycle officers who patrol our district additionally under the management of Capt. Greg Corrales.

My attendance at community meetings throughout the district has brought to my attention a number of complaints from motorists and pedestrians, which include drivers who speed and fail to stop at stop signs and red lights and pedestrians who violate right-of-way laws.

During 2003, there were 10 traffic fatalities (five pedestrian and five vehicular) in the Sunset and Parkside districts. Because of those fatalities, we targeted specific corridors in the district that were problematic, resulting in the reduction of traffic fatalities during 2004 to a single pedestrian death.

During 2004, San Francisco supervisors Fiona Ma and Sean Elsbernd, former supervisor Tony Hall, and Assemblyman Leland Yee worked with the SF Department of Parking and Traffic and the mayor’s office to formulate a traffic-calming plan which has reduced vehicle and pedestrian collisions.

Representatives from the various city agencies involved in the effort have prepared a media presentation for safety awareness, education and enforcement in our district. It is expected to be shown in mid-March.

In 2005, we’re again working on our efforts to make motorists and pedestrians aware of the laws; instituting traffic calming measures, such as count down crosswalk lights at major intersections; new reflective signs and the brighter painting of crosswalks; and speed trailers being stationed in high-traffic areas.

Because of concerns from the community, we have had enforcement operations on Brotherhood Way, Lake Merced Boulevard, 19th Avenue, Sunset Boulevard, Lincoln Way and several other locations.

San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong, Deputy Chief Greg Suhr and Commander D. Shinn have implemented a new traffic enforcement plan that assigns two motorcycle officers to each of the city’s 10 district police stations. On March 12, Officer Regina Berrigan will be the first motorcycle officer assigned to the Taraval Police Station. Our second motorcycle officer is to be assigned upon the completion of training.

Berrigan will have the responsibility of issuing citations to violators in specific targeted areas and to respond to vehicle accidents in the Sunset. She is the first female officer to be assigned to the traffic company, making this is a historic event, not only for the Taraval District but also for the SF Police Department. We look forward to having Regina as part of the Taraval Police Station’s traffic enforcement team.

Currently, we staff two traffic cars on the day watch and one traffic car on the night watch to enforce the traffic laws. As well, we have sector cars issuing citations during their daily assignments, which are supplemented with officers from the traffic division.

Susan Suval, of the Sunset District Neighborhood Coalition, is currently working with Taraval Police Station on a pedestrian safety program for the Sunset and Parkside districts. Suval is looking forward to having members of the community participate in her program to make pedestrians and motorists aware of the need to be safe while walking or operating a vehicle on our streets.

This month our guest speakers at the Police Community Relations Forum will discuss Traffic Safety Measures and Awareness, as well as participation, with a representative from the P.U.C., on March 15, at 7 p.m., at Taraval Police Station (2345 24th Ave.)

Capt. Keith Sanford is the commanding officer at the Taraval Police Station.

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Supervisor Fiona Ma: Care for Our Four-footed Friends

As officials elected to represent the interests and concerns of the residents of San Francisco, we find that our responsibilities do not stop with the human residents living in the City. In addition to recent legislation passed by Supervisor Bevan Dufty setting standards of care for dogs, the board has addressed issues and policies regarding pigeons, cows, bison and elephants, just to name a few.

One of the key departments at the heart of all these issues is Animal Care and Control (ACC).

In a nutshell, ACC is responsible for San Francisco’s stray, injured, abandoned, neglected and mistreated animals and for the enforcement of all state and local animal control and welfare laws. The group provides animal shelter services and care, including neutering, spaying, microchip implanting, screenings and vaccinations, for approximately 14,000 animals every year. It accepts stray, surrendered or abandoned animals, both domestic and wild. And of course, they have various animals, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, birds, fish and reptiles, available for adoption.

If you have a dog, you have definitely been to ACC to get your mandatory dog license. If you have a cat, you can participate in the ACC’s voluntary cat registration. Either way, you may need their services if you have lost your animal or found one in your neighborhood.

For those of us who do not have companions of the furred, feathered or scaled variety, you may find that you need the help of ACC to rescue an animal in distress, to report animal abuse, to pick up ill or injured stray animals or to remove dead stray animals.

If you are interested in adopting an animal through ACC, you must be 18 years of age or older, have valid, verifiable identification and live where a pet is permitted. If you are interested in volunteering with the ACC, they always need help walking dogs, assisting with animal adoptions, providing lost and found assistance, fostering animals and promoting the ACC at community events.

I have included more information for all these services and for emergency animal help. I hope you make time to take a look and utilize all the great services offered by ACC.

Animal Care and Control
1200 15th St., at Harrison Street

Phone numbers:
General information: 554-6364
Animal emergencies: 554-9400 Lost Pet: 567-8738
Barking/noise complaints: 553-0123
Volunteer information: 554-9414 Website: http://www.animalshelter.sfgov.org
Hours: Shelter is open noon to 6 p.m., Monday through Sunday, and until 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Emergency services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Fees for adoptions: Dogs: $100; Cats: $100; Rabbits: $45 male and $55 female; birds and reptiles vary according to species; Other small animals (rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs): $10
Seniors receive a $5 discount on all adoption fees.
Dog licenses: Unaltered dogs: $24/year; altered dogs: $12/year.

Fiona Ma is a San Francisco supervisor representing District 4.

Landmark Status Sought for Music Concourse

By George McConnell

The SF Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board voted Feb. 16 to continue discussions about granting landmark status to Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse and the surrounding grid of trees.

Present at the landmarks meeting, held at City Hall, were the SF Planning Department, SF Recreation and Park Department and the neighborhood advocacy groups Friends of the Music Concourse and SPEAK (Sunset Parkside Education Action Committee). At issue in the landmark’s application are the number, size, shape and care of the trees at the Music Concourse and the architectural integrity of the concourse’s bandshell, pathways, benches and fountains.

“We’ll do our best to pull together all the elements during this time,” said Katherine Howard, co-chair of Friends of the Music Concourse.

The landmarking proposal was first presented to the board Jan. 5. The board agreed at the meeting that the concourse should be landmarked and a discussion ensued about the best conditions for preserving the concourse’s grid of trees.

Granting landmark status for a landscape is rare. Washington Square Park in North Beach is the only park to receive landmark status in San Francisco.

When a building is landmarked, any proposed changes must first be reviewed by the Planning Department. Landscapes, however, are not afforded this protection. To guarantee protection, a supplement to the landmark application, termed Attachment G, must be filed.

Landmarking the area would mean that anything that changes the look or feel of the site must go through the Landmark Preservation Board. As part of its landmark application, a list of any future changes that require board overview must be decided on, Howard said.

Friends of the Music Concourse support a modification to the concourse’s landmark application to protect the grid of trees. Some of the additions to the application include: ensuring the size of any replacement trees; making sure the trees match and are kept pruned to match; and requiring a public process whenever a tree is to be removed.  If a tree is removed, a suitable replacement must be planted within a reasonable amount of time.

If landmark status is granted as expected, any future changes will require a permit, or Certificate of Appropriateness, from the advisory board based on public input.

According to Howard, the Recreation and Park Department is ultimately responsible for the area’s maintenance and objects to the codification of maintenance and upkeep procedures.

“We will be meeting with the Recreation and Park Department to arrive at solutions,” she said.

Howard and co-chair Margaret Mori formed Friends of the Music Concourse last summer in response to changes being proposed as part of the concourse renovation project.

Both are landscape architects and members of the American Society of Landscape Architects Historic Preservation Interest Group. The group is comprised of more than 100 volunteers.

Some of the early proposals for the area included removing part or even the entire tree grid and turning the area into a meadow.

Other groups and individuals supporting landmarking the area and the proposed attachment modifications include: Friends of the Urban Forest, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, San Francisco Tree Council and supervisors Tom Ammiano, Bevan Dufty and Chris Daly.

San Francisco business magnate, Claus Spreckels, donated the Temple of Music, popularly known as the bandshell, to the City in 1900. When the surrounding concourse area was built, hundreds of trees were planted in a grid pattern for the purpose of providing shade for concertgoers.

The concourse area is an example of a French formal garden design, according to Howard, a lecturer in Historic Garden Design at UC Berkeley.

The concourse’s grid of sycamore and elm trees now contains approximately 200 trees that range from 70 to 100 years old. Over the years, trees have been lost due to lack of funding, vehicular damage and other reasons. The Friends of the Music Concourse advocates replacing missing trees to ensure a full grid.

Improvements to the Music Concourse are part of the Park Revitalization Act, known as Proposition J, passed by San Francisco voters in 1998.  Some of the renovation projects from that proposition include adding an 800-space underground parking garage, replacing the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum and the SF Academy of Sciences buildings, and repairing the paved pathways, tunnels and fountains in the area. Renovations to the concourse area are scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2005.

The next meeting of the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board is scheduled for March 2 in Room 400 at City Hall. For more information, call (415) 710-2402 or visit the website at http://www.musicconcourse.org.

New Warning System at Ocean Beach

Plain-speech information to be broadcast in several languages

By Daniel Porras

On an unseasonably warm afternoon at Ocean Beach, surfers ride the waves while kite flyers, lovers and families enjoy the sun and breeze. To some city officials and regional scientists, Ocean Beach is not just San Francisco’s popular sand and surf retreat, but a potential disaster zone – ground zero for the next big tsunami to hit the West Coast.

Ocean Beach is the focal point of a new tsunami preparedness plan sponsored by the SF Office of Emergency Services (OES). The plan was under development before recent tsunamis struck Southeast Asia, causing massive destruction. Emergency Services is hoping the new warning sirens will move people to higher ground at a moment’s notice, a measure that could save thousands of lives.

According to Annemarie Conroy, the executive director at OES, the new system is “capable of sounding a warning siren and also acts as a multi-language public address system.”

At ethnically diverse Ocean Beach, residents and beach-goers would hear a message in their native tongue telling them to rush to higher ground or instructing them where to catch a Muni bus for evacuation.

The new warning system, due to be fully operational in March, is a step-up from San Francisco’s antiquated system, a network of 50 air raid sirens installed during World War II, of which only 18 are still functioning. The new plan replaces the old sirens – which emit a whine that alerts people to nothing in particular – with an advanced public address system consisting of 65 strategically-located sirens.

While the sirens can be used to warn citizens of all manners of impending doom, the OES is particularly interested in earthquakes and tsunamis. Afterall, geologists say faults off the West coast, like the Cascadia subduction zone, are ominously similar to the one that recently hit Asia.

“The (tsunami) we are prepared for is twice the size of the one that hit Southeast Asia,” says Darcy Brown, OES’ chief of administration.

After securing a $2.1 million federal Homeland Security Grant, OES prepared a plan to cope with a 50-foot-tall tsunami, an earthquake-generated wave that could easily rush three or four blocks into the neighborhoods around Ocean Beach. But, Brown adds, a tsunami that size “is a long shot.”

Nonetheless, OES has an extensive tsunami plan that requires the cooperation of the SF Department of Telecommunications and Information Services, the SF Recreation and Park Department, SF Department of Public Works and the SF Unified School District. In addition to the new public address system and various evacuation plans, OES launched a new website, 72hours.org, named for the advice that all families should have at least 72 hours worth of emergency supplies on-hand in case of disaster, including batteries, flashlights, food and water.

Tsunamis, from the Japanese “tsu,” meaning harbor, and “nami,” meaning wave, are often mistakenly referred to as tidal waves. The giant waves have nothing to do with incoming or outgoing tides. Tsunamis can be triggered by either seismic or non-seismic events and can originate locally or thousands of miles away, according to Elena Suleimani, a tsunami modeler at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska. Non-seismic events include landslides, nuclear explosions and meteor impacts.

At Ocean Beach, a tsunami scenario could unfold like this: Geologists in Alaska would detect a large seismic event in the Pacific Ocean and would call the state of California’s Office of Emergency Services, which would then notify San Francisco. San Francisco’s OES would then activate the new public address system, which would give residents information and instructions on how to evacuate.

The chain of events could give residents as much as an hour – or as little as 10 minutes – to clear out of danger’s way.

Daniel Porras wrote this article for the Neighborhood Environmental Newswire.

John M. Lee: Real Estate Bubble Revisited

Once again, the topic of a possible real estate bubble has resurfaced in the news. With the median price of a home going up by an average of 20 percent this past year, the major press has been buzzing with the possibility of a bursting real estate bubble.

Recently, there was a front-page article on this topic in the San Francisco Chronicle and local CBS television station had a segment interviewing several people on the topic.

Some sellers said they felt there was a bubble and were now selling their property and a real estate agent who was interviewed said prices are too high and that they will fall.

On the flip side, Paul Erdman, an internationally known and respected economist, does not feel there is a bubble and another leading economist, Professor Edward Leamer from UCLA’s Anderson School of Business, recently reversed his position from being bearish on real estate to stating that there is not a real estate bubble.

So who do you believe and how can you determine if there is a real estate bubble?

First, let’s define what a real estate bubble is. When prices increase rapidly due to speculation or unsound economic principles, it can create a bubble, which can pop, causing prices to fall precipitously, if market conditions change in a negative manner.

This happened in the stock market a few years ago when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) declined about 30 percent and the NASDAQ decreased 70 percent from its peak in March of 2000. Because investors were caught up with the Internet frenzy, they paid high prices for stocks without any proven track record and no earnings.

A bursting bubble could, of course, happen in our real estate market, but I do not see that happening.

We discussed the bubble theory in this column in October, 2002, and June, 2003. I felt that at the end of 2002 the chance for a bubble was slight due to economic uncertainty and the possibility of going to war in early 2003. In June of 2003, I felt that the danger of a bubble was over and that there was no bubble on the horizon.

Now, it is two years later and prices have gone up substantially.

The economy is stronger. The war has been fought and (I think) won – the only uncertainty is when we will be pulling out of Iraq. The interest rate has been increased slightly by the Federal Reserve Bank, with little affect on the long-term mortgage rate. Inflation is in check and the dollar is weak against other foreign currencies, meaning more exports and foreign investments in our assets. All these are positive signs to sustain our market.

We had a banner year in 2004; prices appreciated about 15 to 20 percent with good activity. This year, though, our volume of listings as compared to the same period last year is down about 20 percent, meaning less sales and more competition for the same listings. We still have a great amount of buyer demand – with limited supply and constant demand, simple economic theory indicates that prices will go up.

We will see how the market develops this year as time goes by. But all indications thus far lead me to believe that there will be no real estate bubble in San Francisco. There are just not enough available properties to satisfy the demand.

On the other hand, we cannot expect double digit appreciation each and every year because prices would increase faster than what buyers could afford to pay for the properties on the market.

So, the local forecast for this year is for moderate appreciation, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 percent to 8 percent, with no bubble in sight.

John M. Lee was recently honored at the Pacific Union conference in San Diego for selling the most properties in San Francisco. If you have any questions regarding real estate, call him at (415) 447-6231 or e-mail at johnlee@isellsf.com.

Open “Mike” Performances Highlight Sunset District Talent

By Alistair Bland

“This,” says Mike Fleming as he looks around at the spacious interior of The Canvas Cafe, “is where you’ll find the heart and soul of American music.”

The Canvas, located on Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way, is already a coffee shop and art gallery where patrons can mingle amid large sculptures while they view paintings which adorn tall walls. But, every Wednesday evening for the past two years, Fleming, a resident of the Outer Sunset, has turned the place into a concert hall. He sets up amplifiers, speakers, microphones, cables, lights and a mixing panel before stepping aside and giving the stage to a four-hour rotation of musicians, poets and comedians.

The artists are not selected or recruited by mainstream media or marketing scientists; they come in at 7 p.m. and sign up on a clipboard of their own volition.

“It’s amazing what sort of talent we get in here,” says the long-haired, jeans-and-T-shirt wearing Fleming, who is a seasoned rock musician himself. “It goes to show what a great music scene we have in San Francisco. A lot of it is stuff that just doesn’t get recognition elsewhere.”

But the 51-year-old entrepreneur recognizes the talent that graces his namesake production – Open “Mike” Wednesdays at The Canvas – and Fleming recognizes, too, that good music is being written all across the nation.

“Portland, Nashville, Boston, New York, New Orleans, Seattle, Los Angeles: They all have amazing songwriters,” said Fleming, who is currently planning to make a nationwide tour in search of talent. But his plan is not just to hear the music; he and his crew of audio-video techies intend to record it, select the best of the best and portray the artists in a 13-part public television series called “Open Mic Showcase.”

But that is just season-one. Fleming is confident that such a television show could be successful and never falter in quality so long as people continue to write and enjoy music.

“There’s star material out there that has no outlet in mainstream culture. What I want to do is offer a chance for them to be heard,” says Fleming, who notes that the program will offer a scattering of comedy, spoken words and poetry. “We’re hoping to get a NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) grant and get it on the air this summer. The plan is for a half-hour show each week featuring four or five artists.”

Until then, lovers of good music will just have to go out and see it live. The Canvas charges no cover fee for the Wednesday night show and the scene is a lively one. About 200 spectators circulate through the large cafe from 7:30 p.m. until midnight. Seating is tight and many must stand, but food, drinks and coffee sustain the audience. A smattering of laptop computers mark the patrons who have come to The Canvas to hook into its wireless network, but most people come for the music.

“He’s so dreamy!” exclaimed a giddy 23-year-old Jesse Gordon, of a performer she saw the previous week. She scanned the bustling crowd in search of the singer before adding, “I hope he’s here again tonight.”

As many as 25 artists and groups play two songs each at the Open “Mike” Wednesday, though Fleming allots a 30-minute set at about 9:30 p.m. to the featured artist-of-the-week. The performances vary widely in style. Story-teller Guy Jackson comes in most Wednesday nights to spin a swaggering yarn or two backed by a moody bass-line. Tech artist Brad Rob manages a keyboard, several foot pedals, electronic backbeats, a harmonica and a pair of on-again-off-again sunglasses while singing and playing guitar. And the Larson Sisters hypnotize the crowd with acoustic guitar, banjo and vocal harmonies.

Fleming has already done some video-recording at The Canvas for a demo DVD, but local artists still have a chance at national exposure.

“We hope to have this series on the air for years,” says Fleming, “and that will require an on-going production. I don’t think we yet have a seamless system to take on the road and with San Francisco as our base, we’ll continue to film at The Canvas.”

The Canvas is located at 1200 Ninth Ave. The Open “Mike” Wednesday begins at 7:30 p.m., with sign-ups at 7 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.thecanvasgallery.com or call (415) 504-0060.

Oakes Children’s Center Plans to Expand at Historic Firehouse

By Jonathan Farrell

The historic firehouse on 10th Avenue in the Sunset District has served as a school for developmentally disabled youth at The Oakes Children’s Center for more than 20 years. Plans to restore the 106-year-old landmark and build a new facility next door have been set in motion.

The SF Planning Commission  certified the center’s design plans  as “appropriate” Jan. 20. The children’s center can now proceed with its plans, which were initially started in 2001.

The center’s  plans were placed on hold while city officials, including the Planning Department and Landmarks Commission, reviewed them. They also looked at the impact an addition to the school would have on the historic landmark.

A three-story, wood-framed structure built in 1898, the old firehouse was home to Fire Engine 22 for 60 years. The building received landmark status in 1970.

The SF Historical Society has determined in its evaluation that any renovations or plans for expansion should not alter the original building in any way.

The “Certificate of Appropriateness” from the planning department is to ensure that the historical integrity of the old firehouse will be maintained.

Richard Geimer, who is the executive director at the children’s center, has been patient over the past four years with all the delays.

“We have worked closely with the planning commission, the Landmark Commission and others to ensure that the new building does not conflict in any way with the unique appearance of the firehouse,” he said.

Serving as legal representation for the children’s center is attorney David Cincotta. He specializes in law regarding land use, zoning and environmental issues

“Rick and the staff at the center are remarkable. They have been good stewards of a historical building while caring for special children,” Cincotta said.

The most difficult part of the process, Cincotta said, was working out disagreements with the planning department.

“Plans went back to the drawing board at least five times,” he said.

According to city Planner Dan DiBartolo, the reason for the delays was to ensure that all proposed plans were approved and met the various regulations and guidelines set forth by the agencies involved with the project.

Some of the guidelines set for the proposed work are simple while others are more complex and provide a challenge for the plan to integrate the old firehouse with the new structure.

Once the lot is cleared, a new building will be constructed. The two buildings would be connected on three levels.

“The new building will not detract from the old firehouse, nor will the new building try to mimic (or replicate) the old firehouse,” Cincotta said.

Geimer was pleased the remodeling of the old firehouse , which is located at 1348 10th Ave., would result in a safer, more durable landmark.

“Our work with Dan and the planning department actually went very well – they were very helpful in working with us on the final design,” said Geimer.

Geimer’s main concern at this point is raising the necessary funding to move forward with the approved plans.

“Raising more than $3 million is a very formidable task for a very small non-profit agency, such as the Oakes Children’s Center,” Geimer said.