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Sally Smith and Jack Tipple, Editors and Co-Publishers
Vote Was 70 to 5 for Dogs Off-Leash
I would like to make a couple of points about Georgia Schuttish's attack on Noe Valley dog owners in the Letters section of the October 1999 Voice. Her approach to the issue of off-leash dog use at Upper Noe Recreation Center on Day Street is to irresponsibly pit dog owners against children, and neighbor against neighbor.
Yes, a "moribund organization [Upper Noe Neighbors] was revived by a surge in membership of dog owners." And yes, dog owners exercised their right to vote and adopted a policy supporting off-leash dog use in the park (by a vote of 70 to 5). But this is much more than the "appearance of a majority," as Schuttish so coyly puts it. And to date, more than 500 signatures have been collected in favor of off-leash dog use at the field.
Schuttish suggests that dog owners "expend their efforts on getting the city to give them off-leash space elsewhere in the neighborhood." This is throwing a bone -- a bogus suggestion -- for as Schuttish knows, there really isn't any appropriate space in the neighborhood.
Schuttish needs to be reminded that the field at Upper Noe is for everyone, including dog owners and children. The compromise offered by dog owners was responsible and neighborly.
Rain, Not Rover, Wrecked Field
You knew you'd get an avalanche of letters in reply to Ms. Schuttish's October letter about dogs. Well, here's mine.
About her remark that dogs destroyed the field two years ago: In case anyone missed it, we had torrential rains two winters ago. Many dog owners weren't even taking their dogs to Upper Noe, the field was such a mess. The dogs did not cause the damage, the rains did. Everyone familiar with the park knows the drainage is bad. The standing water created lakes that lasted well into spring. Last winter wasn't much better. But now that we've had our dry season, the field looks pretty good to me, even though the dogs have been playing there all summer.
As for kids being chased by dogs, not to say it's never happened, but I've personally never seen it at Upper Noe. What I have seen are children who come to the park and want to play with the dogs. The dog owners usually make a point of introducing their dog to the child properly, so that neither the child nor dog is frightened. Some children are just naturally afraid of dogs. But many who are afraid are taught to be that way by parents who yank them away, saying "Danger, danger!" That's a shame because the kids who play with the dogs really have a great time. Kids and dogs do mix!
Ms. Shuttish writes, "It's the law," to keep the dogs on leash. But no law is going to deter people who lack respect for persons or property. Even if dogs are banned at Upper Noe, there will likely be someone who sneaks their dog in to poop on the field. Just like there will always be some lamebrain on the adult baseball team who drinks beer, smashes bottles, and urinates behind the backstop. But no one is proposing that all adult ballplayers be banned.
The dog owners I come in contact with on a daily basis are a very conscientious lot and want to be able to enjoy the park without being yelled at.
This is a public park paid for by all of us via our taxes. We should have as much right as anyone to use the park. We have gone out of our way to use the field respectfully. We clean up after our own dogs as well as pick up the "orphan poops." We've agreed not to use the park during games. We have restricted our dog playing time to 6 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 9 p.m.
However, if this park is going to be made available to only certain segments of the neighborhood, then it should become privatized and the people who are "allowed" to use it should pay for its upkeep.
Finally, it's a shame that a few have chosen to go about this by dividing our community, creating animosity and ill will, and insisting that the neighborhood comply with their narrow view. We're all damaged by this hostility, dog owners and non dog owners alike. May I suggest that some of this ferocious campaigning be diverted to homelessness, poor schools, AIDS, the environment, and world peace.
Dogs Gentler Than Soccer Teams
At the June Upper Noe Neighbors' meeting, dog owners were asked to bring a proposal to the July meeting so that the association could vote on a position that would reflect the neighborhood. Dog owners met and agreed on a proposal to time-share the park. Dogs would be allowed off-leash play between 6 and 9 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to closing. They would not be allowed during times of organized athletic activities, and a "poop patrol" was formed to ensure the field was kept cleaned.
Dog owners had a special interest in the dog topic and thus joined the organization in order to vote on an issue that directly related to their lives. Those who were unhappy about the large turnout and the outcome of the vote failed to mention that they had had the same amount of time to organize an opposing position. The truth is few residents in our neighborhood are adamantly opposed to sharing the park with dog owners.
Furthermore, this is not a children vs. dogs issue. That is a calculated tactic to polarize people. In fact, many of the dog owners who use the park have children. In addition, many parents and nannies bring their children to watch the dogs play. It is fun and joyful!
With regard to the field being in a poor state two years ago, do you remember el Niño? The field was a swamp, as were many people's basements. The field has had continuous drainage problems, and that problem should not be blamed on dogs. If you want evidence that dogs are softer on sod than soccer teams, take a look at Dolores Park. The dog area is fine, but the athletic field is a mess.
Finally, I would like to add that dog owners are working in the spirit of inclusiveness -- we believe that all residents should have access to their neighborhood park. Bringing the dogs to the park is not just about the dogs but about the owners, who have developed a sense of community with other residents who use the park. We meet daily and catch up with neighbors while our dogs have play time with other dogs.
As taxpayers and residents of Upper Noe, we should have the right to use Day Street Park. We have proposed hours that do not interfere with children's activities on the field. We have agreed not to use the field when the adult leagues are playing. In addition, we have formed an organized commitee to keep the field clean. Frankly, I fail to comprehend what the problem is.
Why Won't They Let Us Play?
Why won't they let me play with my dogs at the park? I pick up after my dogs. My dogs do not dig in the park. My dogs do not chase other people's balls. My dogs do not chase children. As a matter of fact, my dogs love kids, and kids love them. Yet, a small minority wishes to deny me and my dogs the opportunity to use the field at Upper Noe Rec Center.
I pay my taxes, some of which undoubtedly goes to support the center. I try to be a good neighbor, and the park offers me a chance to socialize with other neighbors while playing with my dogs. I like the exercise I get while walking to the rec center. Exercise means healthier and happier neighbors and dogs in Noe Valley.
At a meeting of the Upper Noe Neighbors, which I attended, a vote was taken on this very issue. The members -- parents and non-parents, dog owners and non dog owners -- voted overwhelmingly to share the park by allowing dogs off leash at certain hours.
Yet, as was evidenced by the letter from Georgia Schuttish in the October Voice, a divisive minority is ignoring the attempts by the Upper Noe community to resolve this issue fairly and peaceably.
Ms. Schuttish repeatedly tries to make this a parent vs. dog owner issue, yet she is the only person I've heard at these public meetings who has expressed strong concerns on the matter. This isn't a dog issue, it is a people issue, and it is blatantly unfair to deny the majority the use of our public facilities because of an inconsiderate minority. Why won't they let me play with my dogs at the park?
Canines and Kids Do Mix
This is in response to Georgia Schuttish's letter in your October 1999 issue. I am a dog owner, parent of a 9-year-old boy, and live around the corner from the Upper Noe Rec Center. I was at the July 22 meeting of the Upper Noe Neighbors.
My family uses the Upper Noe field twice daily to walk our dog. My husband uses the tennis courts weekly, and my son frequently uses the facilities to play basketball, baseball, ping-pong, etc. We have a vested interest in working out a reasonable solution to the "dogs off-leash" issue.
I take issue with Ms. Schuttish's implication that there are "winners and losers" in the debate over dogs using the field. This is not a war between dog owners and parents, and it is counterproductive to view it that way. The problems Ms. Schuttish describes in her letter (stepping in dog feces, kids can't use the field for athletic activities, etc.) are not wholly the result of dogs using the field.
First of all, dog feces on the field are there because a few irresponsible dog owners do not pick up after their pets. While we as dog owners can't completely control others' irresponsible behavior, those of us who use the park during the hours of 6 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. have become vigilant about asking other dog owners to pick up their dogs' mess. We also provide extra bags and make sure we leave the field as clean as possible.
Second, the field has been torn up and will be re-sodded because of drainage problems, not because of the dogs. This is what we have been told by officials from Rec & Park.
Third, the option of a fenced-in dog run was tangentially raised at the July 22 meeting, but there was no meaningful discussion because no one had seriously looked into its viability. Therefore, it is not accurate to state that the dog owners were against it. The first consideration would be finding the space to accommodate the number of dogs that use the field daily. There is a fenced-in dog run up at Buena Vista Park which works well, but that space is much larger than what we have to work with at Upper Noe.
Those of us who live in San Francisco are here because we love what our city has to offer. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in Noe Valley know that we have the best neighborhood of all. Unfortunately, what we don't have is the kind of unlimited open space that the suburbs offer. We were told at the July 22 meeting that Noe Valley had more dogs per capita than other neighborhoods. This naturally results in more dogs at our park.
The bottom line is that dogs and athletic fields do mix if there is a commitment and willingness to make the mix work. I know there are many dog owners who use Upper Noe -- myself included -- who are willing to work toward a solution that satisfies everyone's needs.
'Poop Patrol' Slacks Off at Noe Courts
Ever since my 14-month-old son was born, I have brought him to Noe Courts [off 24th Street], specifically to see the dogs, and of course to play at a very pleasant neighborhood park. I was concerned that he might learn to fear dogs if he didn't have proper exposure to them. For the past year we have had an exceptionally good time meeting lots of wonderful people and their dogs. Every dog owner has been really nice and kind enough to spend time introducing their dogs to him and he has thoroughly enjoyed it.
I have wholeheartedly supported the mixed-use aspect of the park, and think it is an asset to Noe Valley to have a place where kids and dogs can enjoy themselves together.
Now that he can walk/run, he covers lots of territory, and he has managed lately to step in dog poop every time we go on the lawn at Noe Courts. He certainly doesn't go looking for it. In fact, he doesn't pay much attention to where his feet go, as is typical for small kids. He has been walking since before 10 months and never before has there been any problem with poop left on the lawn. Lately, it seems to be everywhere.
I now feel forced to go to Douglass Park, where I don't have to worry about doggie-doo everywhere. This is unfortunate since Noe Courts has a nicer atmosphere, especially in the late afternoon when many people bring their dogs.
I had thought that it was possible for dogs and kids to get along if everyone was responsible and aware of the potential problems. I am not so sure anymore.
I realize that accidents happen and that dog owners sometimes aren't aware that their dog has left a land mine, but I certainly am not going to spend my time picking up after dog owners.
Although all of the dog owners I have seen are diligent about cleaning up after their dogs, and I commend and thank them, some others apparently aren't. Since there is an abundance of dog poop, it seems someone isn't being a good neighbor. Given the turbulent history of trying to make Noe Courts a mixed-use park, it troubles me to see it being soiled so much lately.
I hope this letter will remind all the pleasant people of Noe Valley to remember to think of others.
Frank Jordan, Closet Liberal?
In your article about the mayor's race ["Grumbles and Groans Greet Mayor's Race," October 1999], one of your interviewees is quoted as saying that "Jordan is a closet Republican." Is he joking?
Frank Jordan was the first police chief in the nation to aggressively recruit gay and lesbian police officers. He was also the only police chief to call upon the National Association of Police Chiefs to include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policy. Is that closet Republicanism?
When Jordan was mayor, he declared a state of emergency to allow for needle exchange, appointed more gay and lesbian people than any mayor before him, and brought San Francisco's foster care program from a national disgrace to a national model. He refused to cut the monthly General Assistance amount, and supported medical marijuana.
As a candidate, he supports the living wage concept, the ban on ATM fees, and the Sunshine Ordinance. Jordan is not even endorsed by the local Republican Party, but Willie Brown had the Rev. Eugene Lumpkin on stage in 1995 when he announced his candidacy. Rev. Lumpkin calls "homosexuality an abomination against God."
If we liberals want a kind, progressive government, then we must examine the facts instead of accepting the mud that is slung by one's political enemies.
Don't Overlook Lucrecia
There are more than three candidates running for mayor of San Francisco! You write that your readers are not inspired by the three candidates receiving almost all the media coverage. But your readers will want to know about this campaign.
Lucrecia Bermúdez, a resident of Ber-nal Heights, is the only woman, Latina, and lesbian running for mayor. In addition, she has been endorsed by the S.F. Tenants Union, Green Alternatives, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Immigrant Rights Movement, Vietnamese Residents' Association, Labor Militant, S.F. Frontlines newspaper, and many others.
Bermúdez obtained over 24,000 votes in her run for supervisor in the last election (12 percent of all those who cast votes for supervisors citywide). In neighborhoods like the Mission, the Excelsior, and the Western Addition, her share of the vote represented from 20 to 25 percent.
Her electoral history combined with her endorsements and the strong show of volunteers going door-to-door, leafleting, postering, and getting the message out, should certainly qualify her as a major candidate for mayor.
If you'd like to find out more, please call her campaign at 415-452-9992 or check out her web site at www.lucrecia formayor.com.
Tish Off to New York
Before I embark on my new life in Ithaca, New York, I wanted to offer my heartfelt thanks to the many wonderful folks who have wandered through the doors of the Good News magazine shop these past three years and shared a little of their lives with me.
Ups and downs notwithstanding, my life has been truly enriched by meeting and sharing stories with so many of you. Thank you, one and all. I won't forget. In fact, I might even write a play.
All the best.
Tish A. Pearlman
Staff, Good News
3920 24th St.
P.S. I want to extend a very special thank-you to Sam Salameh for being such a wonderful human being as well as a wonderful man to work for.
High Praise for PastaGina
This is an unsolicited testimonial (I promise you) written to those who may be unaware of PastaGina, an outstanding takeout food shop at Diamond and 24th streets.
Joan and Gene are the delightful couple who have owned this very special gourmet shop for several years. Because of their love for the business, and due to the fine quality of their food, they have continued to be successful -- and customers even come from outside Noe Valley. (I take two buses about once a week to get to PastaGina, and I always leave with two heavy bags. Their plastic bags are special too -- a beautiful turquoise color with no advertising or writing on the bag. Just simple and elegant to carry!)
You will drool when you see their showcases of food. Joan has an eye for beauty, and the displays resemble fine paintings with great color. They have a vast selection of salads, pasta, freshly cooked vegetables, olives, breads, and desserts. In the freezer are homemade soups, meatballs, and other goodies.
The shop is sparkling clean. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. Go in and take a look. I'm sure you will buy something. And I know you will return again and again.
R. B. Fischler
Free Weaving and Quilting Classes
As I know Noe Valley readers are interested in arts and crafts, I want them to be aware of the great deal being offered by City College of San Francisco at the John Adams Campus (formerly Lowell High). Textile classes, which include hand weaving on floor looms, tapestry making, and quilting, are being offered free, and new students, of any age, are welcome anytime. The strange thing is that these classes are begging for students due to lack of advertisement.
From personal experience, I know these courses are great and reflect the diversity of cultures which made our American heritage unique. Classes are held Tuesday through Saturday at John Adams at 1860 Hayes St. The campus is easily accessible by Muni.
Catalogs are available at all city public library branches or through the CCSF Bookstore (50 Phelan Ave., S.F., CA 94112). You can also call 415-239-3000, or log on to www.ccsf.cc.ca.us.
Tackiness the Price of Freedom
Do you know what happened to those super-duper newsstands that were on the sidewalk in front of Bell Market until a couple of months ago? I thought they looked really nice. They had a clean look.
The individual boxes there now look junky.
Editor's Note: The spiffy-looking pedestal newsstands were set up last year on a trial basis only. Though residents liked their looks, many independent news outlets complained that having a finite number of cubbyholes could limit free speech. Now the old stands are back, while the city and newspapers such as the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the Independent thrash it out in court.