Monthly Archives: August 2007

Supervisor Ed Jew: City Hall, Sunset District Update

District 4 Open House
Our July Open House took place at Irving Pizza on July 19. Many thanks to those of you who took the time on a busy weekday to bring neighborhood problems to my attention, and a special thank you to Irving Pizza owner Awadalla Awadalla for hosting our monthly district get together.

ABC Bakery & Restaurant, 2500 Noriega St., will host our August Open House on Thursday, Aug. 16, from 2 – 5 p.m.

Quintara Street Reconstruction 
Quintara Street is being reconstructed from 27th Avenue to the Great Highway. The work began in July, between 31st and 37th avenues, and is progressing west toward the Great Highway. Crews will return to complete the section between 27th and 31st avenues.

Work is expected to take about four months to complete. Crews will install curb-ramps and concrete gutters at the sidewalk corners from 27th Avenue to 48th Avenue. Sections of the roadway will need to be saw-cut in order to enable crews to replace any broken concrete road foundation. Then, the existing asphalt surface will be stripped away with grinders and resurfaced.

Street parking will be prohibited during construction. Work is permitted for this project every day, including weekends. Questions should be directed to Alex Murillo at the SF Department of Public Works at 437-7009 or via e-mail at alex.m.murillo@sfdpw.org.

Fines for Garbage/Recycling Containers 
If you’re not already in the habit, remember to put your garbage and recycling containers away on your collection day, or don’t take them out before 6 p.m. on the day before.

The City is aggressively citing violations of Municipal Public Works Code SEC.170 (a) that mandates these restrictions, and may result in fines ranging from $80 to $300 if you leave containers on the sidewalk, street, or anywhere visible to the public.

Coyotes
I am angry about the recent coyote attack in Golden Gate Park because I believe it could have been avoided.

As reported in the Sunset Beacon some months ago, my office began receiving calls about aggressive coyote behavior associated with a number of sightings as early as last December. I met with the general manager of the SF Recreation and Park Department in February to express my concerns and was told there was no cause for alarm because the coyotes were not a threat to dogs or people. Obviously, that is not the case.

The Health Code prohibits coyotes. No new laws are needed – all we need is the political will and competence to enforce existing laws. I heard from many people the last time around who honestly think coyotes can peacefully co-exist with people in a dense urban environment like ours – I respectfully disagree.

I think we must always err on the side of public safety, and common sense tells us that a large wild carnivore belongs in the wild, not in our city parks. I am very sorry that two coyotes had to be shot and killed, but I am also very sorry that some misguided people were found to have been feeding the coyotes prior to the attack on the on-leash dogs, and probably believe they have the right to continue to do so.

Newspaper accounts tell us that they have been breeding, (as evidenced by the pup being killed by a car in late July), and are therefore looking for new territories. I have called for a hearing on the coyote issue and look forward to it being scheduled before the end of summer. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to report any encounters to Animal Care & Care or the SF Police Department.

District Merchants 
The SF Examiner and Urban Solutions is seeking nominations for the 2007 San Francisco Neighborhood Business Awards – deadline for submissions is Monday, Aug. 27.

If you like to shop at a particular neighborhood business and would like to see it recognized, take the time to fill out an application at http://www.urbansolutionssf.org/nominate, or call my office for assistance at 554-7460. In 200 words or less, tell us why you think your favorite business deserves this year’s award. Winners will be recognized at an awards dinner Oct. 17.

City Budget
The largest budget in San Francisco’s history was recently passed by the Board of Supervisors and signed by Mayor Gavin Newsom. While it could have been much worse in terms of spending priorities, I also think that the one missing ingredient in our budget deliberations was the legacy of debt we are leaving for our children to pay.

We have an unfunded city worker retirement benefits liability of $5 billion – more than $6,000 for everyone living in San Francisco. Yet we only managed to set aside $500,000 from a $6 billion budget to start funding this massive debt. Add to this the list of new bond measures being proposed for property owners to compensate for poor fiscal management and long-term capital planning, and the anticipated debt we are handing off to future generations is staggering.

I think we can do better.

Ed Jew is a San Francisco supervisor representing District 4.

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Stern Grove for ‘Music, Dramatics and Pageantry’

By Judith Kahn

In June, the Sigmund Stern Grove Midsummer Music Festival once again kicked off, this time with a musical performance by “Huey Lewis and the News.”

The annual festival takes place at Stern Grove and will continue through Aug. 19. It is now entering its 70th year.

According to a review in the SF Chronicle, the programs are “the only ones given hereabouts that can smell as good as they sound, thanks to the action of sunlight on wet eucalyptus.”

This concert series has also been referred to “as one of the great traditions and blessings of San Francisco.” The natural amphitheater setting is a unique space for both its beauty and superior acoustics.

Alfred Frankelstein, a music critic, described the secret glen as “nature’s own music box.”

Most of Stern Grove is located in the bottom of a ravine, with hillsides dense with eucalyptus trees, some of which are estimated to be 200 feet in height. The trees are estimated to be some of the oldest eucalyptus trees in California. They effectively block the noise from the surrounding city as well as providing shade.

The music venues at the festival has always been diverse. Over the years many accomplished musicians have performed here, including Columbian vocalist Toto La Mormposina, afro-pop group Yerba Buena and Hawaiian vocalist Keali Reichel. Other performers have been better known – Pete Seeger, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Russian ballet and the San Francisco Opera are a few.

Dough Goldman, chairman of the Stern Grove Board of Directors, said acts that are booked include the traditional and the innovative.

“San Francisco and the Bay Area is a melting pot of peoples from all cultures,” Goldman said. “We want to introduce styles of international music for people who already know it and, at the same time, expose others that might not otherwise have the opportunity. I’ve certainly been broadening my own horizons.”

At any given performance, attendance can range from 1,000 to 8,000, with most shows getting in the upper range.

In 1931, Rosalie Meyer Stern bought Stern Grove for $50,000 as a memorial to her husband Sigmund Stern, who was a distinguished civic and business leader during the first two decades of the 1900s. Stern stipulated that the land be used solely for recreation, including “music, dramatics and pageantry” … under the jurisdiction and control of the Playground Commission of San Francisco.

Stern enlisted architects Gardiner Dailey and Bernard Maybeck to design the landscape and restore the Trocadero hotel.

John McLaren, the influential superintendent at Golden Gate Park, had urged Stern to purchase the property from George Greene. Greene, whose family came from Maine, had homesteaded at the spot since 1847. There were a plentiful number of rabbits and coyotes, and a spring-fed lake, which extended into the heart of the property.

Also at Stern Grove the famous elegant Victorian hotel Trocadero was located. The hotel, built by Green in 1892, was frequented by San Francisco’s carriage trade.

At its height, such noted San Franciscans as the millionaire lumberman C. A Hooper, sugar magnate Adolph Spreckles, and man-about-town Hiram Cook sought refuge here from the hectic city. It was a hideout for the elite. Cabins were built around the hotel and they were rented out to those who came to spend weekends. Many Spanish barbecues and famous gun battles took place here.

One of the most famous of grove gun battles was the capture of political boss Abe Ruef after the Ruef-Schmidt political machine was smashed.

The Trocadero had a park, beer garden, open air dancing pavilion, a lake for rowing and the finest trout farm in California.

Greene closed the hotel during Prohibition.

“I closed because of prohibition due to the fact that I did not want a bootlegging situation here,” Greene said.

Today, the building is owned by the SF Recreation and Park Department, which rents it out to the public. It is mostly used for weddings and meetings.

The entire Stern Grove area, which includes Pine Lake, is composed of 63 acres. It is bounded by Sloat Boulevard, Wawona Street, 19th Avenue and 34th Avenue. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was enlisted to grade the roadway down to the amphitheater, build walkways and erect retaining walls during the Depression.

The main entrance to Stern Grove is at 19th Ave. and Sloat Blvd. There is a pedestrian entrance off Wawona, near Escolta Way, at the western tip of the park. Since there is no parking available at the site, the public is encouraged to take public transportation, especially when attending a concert.

For more information about Stern Grove’s Midsummer Festival, call (415) 252-6252 or go to the Web site at http://www.sterngrove .org.

John M. Lee: Buying a Property ‘As Is’

In today’s real estate market, most sellers are still able to sell their properties “as is.” What exactly does that mean? What are the ramifications to both the buyers and sellers? Is it a good idea?

Even with the slight slowdown in the summer real estate market, there are still multiple bids on many properties, and some buyers are tempted to submit “as is” offers to sellers so they can have an advantage over other buyers.

When a property is sold “as is,” it usually means the seller will not warranty the condition of the property. The buyer buys the property in its current condition, and takes responsibilities for correcting any and all defects. Some properties are sold “as is” because the seller acquired the property through adverse conditions, such as a probate or foreclosure.

In this case, the seller might not have any knowledge about the condition of the property, and thus cannot disclose much, so the property is sold in “as is” condition.

In the past, buying an “as is” property meant purchasing it without the benefit of any inspections. Even as recently as 15 years ago, many houses were purchased without inspections.

However, a contractor and a pest control inspection are commonplace in today’s real estate transactions. As a real estate professional, I would never recommend buying a property without inspections unless the buyer is very sophisticated or intends to tear down the whole building. Instead, if the buyer is willing to purchase the property in its present condition, I would recommend buying it, but subject to inspections. I have seen many hidden defects in homes that looked perfectly fine. Getting an inspection and paying for it is what I call cheap insurance for such a large investment.

I would advise the buyer that if the seller rejects his offer because someone else is willing to buy it without the benefits of inspections, so be it because there is always a bigger fool out there, and it would not be in the buyer’s best interest to purchase in this manner.

Alternatively, on a probate or foreclosure sale, where offers must be “as is” with no inspection contingencies, I would recommend that the buyers obtain their inspections up front before the offer is prepared. Even though it will cost them several hundred dollars, the expense involved is miniscule compared with the investment.

From a seller’s standpoint, I would also advise allowing full inspections for potential buyers. If a seller does not allow inspections, and problems are discovered after the close of escrow, the buyer can always come back and sue the seller for non-disclosure and not allowing the buyer to do his or her own inspections, especially if the seller allowed the buyer to obtain inspections, these defects would have been discovered and would have materially affected the value of the property.

Also, by allowing inspections, the seller has shifted some liability to the buyer.

In today’s real estate environment, many times sellers will spend the money to hire a termite inspector and a contractor to inspect the property prior to putting it on the market. I believe this is a prudent move as all the defects will be disclosed up front and the buyers may then make an intelligent decision on what the property is worth and if they are willing to tackle the work after the close of escrow.

Also, this will eliminate a second round of negotiation that inevitably occurs if the inspections are performed after the offers are accepted and damages are found. In this litigious society, both buyers and sellers cannot be too careful and should take every precaution possible to minimize any surprises that can occur after the close of escrow.

Buying properties “as is” without the benefits of any professional inspections can increase the possibility of problems for both buyers and sellers.

If you have any questions regarding real estate, you can reach John M. Lee at (415) 447-6231 or e-mail him at johnlee@isellsf.com.

Invasive Plants Pulled from Pine Lake, Restoration Continues

By Ryder W. Miller

Visitors to Pine Lake Park at Stern Grove will be able to see it’s waters again now that the invasive ludwegia plants that once covered it’s surface have been removed.

But it will take some time for the full benefits of the restoration to be apparent and some replanting may be necessary. The lake has not been cleared of its surface vegetation for almost 10 years. Unfortunately, some native plants were removed with the invasive ludwegia, and the shoreline is bare in places.

“Restoration areas take a long time to achieve their maximum habitat value,” said Dan Murphy, Sunset resident and former president of the local chapter of the Audubon Society. “We’ll be watching Pine Lake and hoping for the best.”

Mallards, which like open waters, are again abundant at Pine Lake, but the Pied-Billed Grebes that like the tangle of ludwegia are gone. The Bulrushes, which were removed, have not recovered so there are presently no Red-Winged Blackbirds, and they may not return until the Bulrushes grow back.

Most of the land-birds that use the area are still present, said Murphy. He said it may take five to 10 years for Pine Lake to fully achieve the result intended by the restoration.

The concerts at Stern Grove are not an issue for Pine Lake, but renowned birder Murphy had some concerns.

“There isn’t much that’s necessary for anyone to do to reduce impacts on birds from the Stern Grove summer concerts. The area is heavily impacted by people and dogs on a daily basis throughout the year,” Murphy said. “The concerts themselves are probably of little impact. The number of people who attend may be more of a disturbance, but I suspect even that is of little impact that late in the nesting season. I’m sure that when one of those baby birds fledge they get out of there.”

Parts of Pine Lake are presently fenced off, but the birds are always welcome.

“The impact of the concerts on the western part of the park can’t be assessed, but it is pretty minimal. I don’t think the concerts are an issue,” wrote Murphy.

As of presstime, the SF Recreation and Park Department could not be reached for comment.

“It is nice to see the lake,” said a passerby observing a Great Blue Heron on Pine Lake.

Restoration efforts in other parts of the city have shown mixed results.

Murphy said positive results have been seen at the Mesa at Lake Merced, which has been under a slow restoration effort for the past 10 years. White-Crowned Sparrows should be the indicator species there, he said.

Spat Over Outer Sunset Autumn Moon Festival

By Paul Kozakiewicz

An event that was intended to bring the Sunset community together is now entangled in a major rift between the Sunset Residents Association (SRA) and a new non-profit organization.

The Autumn Moon Festival, which takes place on Irving Street between 23rd and 25th avenues, features cultural entertainment, booths for non-profits and other neighborhood groups and a play “jumpie” for the children. It was started two years ago by the Sunset Residents Association to promote a sense of community in the neighborhood.

According to Jane Kwong, a member of SRA, the conflict occurred because the association wanted to donate the profits and excess money from the festival to local schools and community groups.

A new committee, Sunset Autumn Moon Festival Committee (SAMFC) was created because the Sunset Residents Association was not forthcoming with financial records, including how much money was made and what the balances for the previous two events were, according to state Sen. Leland Yee, a member of SAMFC.

Yee said the donating of money to outside organizations was unacceptable to members of SAMFC, which wanted all of the money raised to be used exclusively for the festival. He also said the SRA did not adequately report financial information from the first two festivals.

The festival has a large number of corporate sponsors, including Safeway, Bank of the Orient, Chevron, PG&E, and a large number of Chinese media sponsors, including Sing Tao Daily, SF Chinese Radio and several television stations.

“When you ask people for money, you need to be accountable,” Yee said.

He said the budget for the festival is in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, a relatively low amount because volunteers cover a lot of the work, including cleanup.

The SRA filed an application with ISSCOT, an umbrella group composed of various city departments, including the SF Department of Parking and Traffic, for a permit for Saturday, Sept. 22.

The newly-formed Sunset Autumn Moon Festival Committee submitted another permit application for a week earlier, for Saturday, Sept. 15.

A mediation attempt to bring the two sides together, brokered by Taraval Police Station Capt. Keith Sanford, failed.

At the July 26 ISSCOT hearing, a permit was granted to SAMFC. Part of the reason for the decision is the fact that the main Autumn Moon Festival is occurring in Chinatown Sept. 22. The city bureaucrats felt it would be less of a strain on city resources by having the two events on different days.

But Kwong says the permit was swung in Yee’s favor, despite the support of District 4 Supervisor Ed Jew, because of Yee’s influence at the state level.

Yee was present at the ISSCOT hearing, but did not testify.

The Autumn Moon Festival has been celebrated in China for more than 1,000 years. It is a tribute to the summer harvest and the immortal moon goddess Chang O, who lives in the moon. The “Chinese Thanksgiving” brings family together and is symbolized by the moon cake, pastries often filled with bean or lotus-seed paste and topped with a duck egg.