Noe Valley Voice May 1998

Letters to the Editor

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Would "Sunny Jim" Smile on the Bernal Cut?


I must confess my favorite section of the Noe Valley Voice has always been the historical glimpses in Florence Holub's Family Album. Last month's column about Mayor "Sunny Jim" Rolph (or "Mission Jim" as he was also known) made me think about how nice it must have been for Noe Valley and the Mission to have a homegrown mayor living in this part of town. We have traditions here that often are forgotten, while efforts to save the older, more prestigious sections of San Francisco fill the newspapers.

I began to look at one of Sunny Jim's achievements in this part of town -- nothing on the order of City Hall or the Panama Pacific International Exposition, but nonetheless a neglected jewel, fading and in disrepair. I refer to the southeast side of the Bernal Cut, through which San Jose Avenue travels to the I-280 freeway.

As described in the December 1928 Municipal Employee ("Dirt Flies in Bernal Cut"), Mayor Rolph operated a steam shovel to take out the first load of dirt from College Hill to make the Bernal Cut. A small cut had been made years earlier for the railroad to San Jose, but in 1906, after the fire, people began to envision a road for "teaming, hauling, and auto trucks." Still, the cut would "be transformed into a traffic lane of beauty."

In the ensuing 70 years, the Bernal Cut has completely lost its former elegance, and nobody seems to care. Gradually over time -- even though there was no vote to make it that way -- the Cut has become a six-lane freeway with a J-car track down the middle. The combination of the noise from the speeding cars and the new Metro cars creates a deafening roar. Some people try to stroll along the upper walkways, but the lower sidewalks and stairways are deserted. Only the occasional jogger or cyclist, terrified of the speeding cars, will use the lower sidewalks.

Would Sunny Jim, who liked structures with class, approve of what has happened to the Cut? Or would Mayor Rolph be part of the groups of residents along San Jose Avenue (Northwest Bernal, Southwest Mission, Fair Oaks Neighbors, and others) who want to put the human element back into the street? Neighbors say that since the 1989 earthquake, traffic through the Cut and down San Jose, Guerrero, and Dolores streets has become intolerable.

It seems that Mission Jim was enthralled by technological progress. He used a steam shovel, not a golden shovel, to turn the first bit of dirt. His remarks on the Cut's groundbreaking day didn't mention the beautiful boulevard in the making. He said, "This is one more example of San Francisco's unstoppable progress..."

That sounds as if he'd be mighty proud to see the Cut turned into a freeway.

Something about the ring of the phrase "unstoppable progress" makes me think Sunny Jim might not be on the side of those who try to go back to the more tranquil times that he lived in, or even the times before Loma Prieta. You can't stop freeways. They're just unstoppable.

Paul Nixon

Fair Oaks Street

The Scientific Dumbing Down of Noe Valley


Isn't it curious that bigotry, the obstinate or intolerant devotion to an idea despite evidence to the contrary, is frowned upon in social contexts, yet many who are unschooled in science wear anti-science bigotry like a badge of honor?

Irresponsible media are the prime purveyors of scientific illiteracy. For example, there is no scientific support for at least three ideas that have appeared in past issues of the Noe Valley Voice.

First, vitamin supplements: there is no evidence that these products do much for people with normal diets. Second, psychics: all of the dowsers, prognosticators, and tea leaf readers who have tested their so-called powers under laboratory conditions have failed miserably. Third, cellular telephone antennas: there is overwhelming scientific evidence that they do not pose health risks.

The saddest part of scientific illiteracy is its cost. All of us pay for health fraud, of which vitamin hucksters are a part, through higher medical and insurance bills. We pay the social costs of psychic charlatans who misdirect some and flat out swindle others. And we pay higher telephone bills, thanks to cellular scare mongers.

While I don't want to damn the whole paper for numbering itself among the scientifically illiterate majority, I do want to hold it accountable for its contributions to the fleecing of our neighbors, undermining a valuable community service organization like the Noe Valley Ministry, and the scientific dumbing down of our little corner of America.

Joseph C. Fusco

Chattanooga Street

Editor's Reply: The Noe Valley Voice is not now, nor has ever been an apologist for vitamin purveyors, psychic healers, or anti-antenna crusaders. But we do have a couple of old Vitamin E capsules in the medicine cabinet.

Which Was It -- the $12.5 Million Fixer-Upper or 'Smell-Check'?


Congratulations on your April Fool's issue. Every year I forget about it until I get about halfway through some article and realize that I fell for it once again. Please don't stop poking fun at yourselves, and please continue those great creative articles and advertisements.

Rhan Wilson

Noe Valley musician and artist

Via e-mail

Proposition E No Joke


Great April Fool's joke -- an article about the softening rental market in Noe Valley. What a howler! To run a story labeled "A Glimmer of Hope for Noe Valley Renters" in the midst of San Francisco's worst housing crisis -- and at a time when Proposition E seeks to dismantle rent control -- took guts, but your clever parodyist pulled it off. Posing as a naive airhead, the writer, "Ms. Ima Renta," tickled our funnybones by suggesting that Noe Valley was stocked with affordable, available apartments.

As we all know, the rental vacancy rate in the city is under 1 percent, and rents for vacant apartments have soared nearly 40 percent in the last year alone. The average two-bedroom apartment rents for $1,700 -- which means a family would have to earn $60,000 to afford it.

Your hilarious spoof would have been even more outrageously over the top if "Ms. Renta" had advocated for passage of Proposition E, which seeks to eliminate rent control protection overnight for owner-occupied buildings with two to four units. Backed by wealthy real estate agents and landlords, Prop. E would leave renters in 50,000 apartments in the city vulnerable to huge, immediate rent increases, and would allow landlords to evict these tenants for any reason or for no reason at all. Prop. E would create an even greater housing crisis as tens of thousands of residents are evicted or forced to move. Unless residents vote No on Prop. E on June 2, San Francisco will become a city only for the super rich.

Hats off to you and "Ms. Renta" for highlighting the desperate nature of San Francisco's housing crisis with your humorous and ridiculous article. It deserves a place on my shelf next to Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal."

Susan Beck

Duncan Street

Renters Have Power -- So Use It


Ima Renta's article in the April Voice, "A Glimmer of Hope for Noe Valley Renters," coupled humor with the cold, hard facts of the current rental market: highly inflated rents, a low vacancy rate, and often substandard conditions.

Going back 20 years, as a single mother in Noe Valley with a nursery-school-age son, we were able to rent a charming four-room flat with a yard for $300 a month. The rent for that unit has since increased 400 percent, and today's salaries do not reflect the same rate of increase. Had I known then that renters have rights under rent control, and that in exchange for the rent I paid, I was also entitled to heat and exterminator services, I might not have become so despondent when I got a rent increase. If I knew there was recourse available, I might have stayed and protested it.

Renters outnumber property owners in San Francisco and are currently afforded protection under the rent control ordinance. If each renter votes No on Prop. E on June 2, it will preserve rent control, prevent rents from rising out of control, and prevent up to 100,000 people from being evicted from their rental units and the current complexion of the city's neighborhoods from being altered.

Renters have awesome power. If we organize to use it, we can effect change in the legislature and put the brakes on runaway rents. Renters should stand up for our rights and preserve rent control in owner-occupied, two- to four-unit buildings. If we do, it will be a victory, and things will not be allowed to progress from bad to worse to horrendous for renters in San Francisco.

Anastasia Yovanopoulos

Member, Noe Tenants

24th Street

Cat Got Your Tongue, Doug?


Two words of advice for Douglas A. Konecky, the author of the March front-page story "Rain," whose cat wouldn't go outside to relieve herself because of all the rain, but instead kept going inside on the floor: litter box. I hope I am not the first to make this suggestion.

Kim Cladas

Cesar Chavez Street

Douglas A. Konecky responds:

Thanks for the useful information about the litter box. But all writers are well acquainted with litter boxes. That is why we are called "litterati."

Real Food Company Explains Cashier Roulette


In response to your April Rumors column -- in which the author, Mazook, griped that we had abandoned our "'one line, next available cashier' system in favor of three separate lines, causing [customers] to become queue surfers," we would like to inform the community of the rationale behind the ongoing changes to the floor plan at the Real Food Company on 24th Street.

Since our remodeling of the front part of the store in February, many shoppers have complained that we now look like Safeway, and like Mr. Mazook, they lament the passing of the one-line system.

The main reason for the changes we have made is to assure the safety of our employees and customers. The old-style counter, though quaint, was ergonomically unsafe in both height and design. We solicited input from occupational safety experts at Davies Medical Center in designing a setup that is user-friendly for all.

Now our customers can play a new game: Cashier Roulette, with the added benefit of being able to bag their own groceries. Our produce department is easier to shop without the congestion of the line. There are still lots of great organic fruit samples to try. And best of all, we no longer have potential customers coming to the door and turning around and walking out when they see the formidable line.

We will continue to make improvements to our business. Currently we are working on a new tile design for the floor, and we'll be adding adjustable shelving in order to increase our selection of groceries and vitamins.

Some will continue to lament that we are or are not like Safeway or Rainbow. But we will endeavor to be the best at what we do: provide healthy choices to our neighbors.

Beth Saunders, Store Manager

The Real Food Company

3939 24th St.

A Plum from Our Resident Horticulturists


Apple and plum seeds require exposure to cool, moist conditions before they can germinate. Gardeners can accomplish this by the process called stratification.

Apple and plum seeds can be stratified by placing the seeds in a moist 50­50 mixture of sand and peat moss. Suitable containers include coffee cans or cottage cheese containers. Punch holes in the lid of the container to provide air. Place the container in the refrigerator for 90 days. Remove the container from the refrigerator after the 90-day period.

Sow the apple seeds 1/2 inch deep in good potting soil. The plum seeds should be planted 1 inch deep. Keep the potting soil moist. The germination temperature should be 707F. The apple and the plum seeds should germinate in a few weeks.

Fruit trees grown from seed will require 10 or more years to bear fruit. The quality of the fruit cannot be predicted. Fruit trees grown from seed will be genetically different from their parents.

For excellent free information about propagation, please contact the Cooperative Extension Office, 300 Piedmont Ave., Bldg. C, Room 305A, San Bruno, CA 94066. Phone: 650-871-7559. They will answer any questions you may have.

Mr. and Mrs. Dy

Dolores Street