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Ashamed of the Neighborhood
I almost bought a tee shirt that said, "I live in Noe Valley and am proud of it." I'm glad I didn't buy it, since I am now ashamed to be part of the neighborhood. In December and January, Noe Valley's nouveau riche mobilized merchants and neighbors to prevent a temporary shelter caring for homeless gay youth.
At Trinity Episcopal at Bush and Gough, where I am rector, we have provided food and shelter for 75 homeless men for one month a year for the last nine years. It is part of the San Francisco Interfaith Shelter Program. I had one complaint from a neighbor who said his Wall Street Journal was missing while the homeless were in the neighborhood. I sent him a check for his loss.
I hope the supervisors vote to finance the project of the Metropolitan Community Church. [The supervisors did, by a vote of 9 to 2, on Tuesday, Jan. 18. -- Ed.]
We landlords and homeowners have made a bundle in real estate. We forced the rents sky-high and thus are part of creating homeless youth. I welcome the homeless gay youth to our neighborhood.
Robert Warren Cromey
Noe Valley resident
A YIMBY (Yes in My Back Yard)
The moral correctness of providing shelter to homeless young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning youth was not the question at the Dec. 5 meeting about the temporary shelter at Golden Gate Metropolitan Community Church (GGMCC). The question posed by many a NIMBY was, "Why here?"
Opponents painted prospective tenants at the shelter as violent criminals and drug users. In reality, these youth are just scared and lonely. The majority of gay homeless youth are not homeless by choice. Some have been pushed from their homes by their parents simply because they are "different."
The young people in question are asking for a safe place to sleep, free of drugs, pimps, and rapists. It is our moral obligation to show them compassion and offer them an overnight bed now, rather than a prison, hospital, or morgue bed later.
Whereas the GGMCC committed errors in the community process, the church listened to the neighbors and dropped the number of beds from 20 to 10, to ensure our safety. The rules are strict enough (no in/out privileges; arrival and departure by van; no smoking, alcohol, or drugs) that as a female who often arrives in my neighborhood late at night, I am not more fearful for my safety because of the homeless shelter.
If the church is successful, I challenge GGMCC to be more open to the community and welcome us into your process. I also challenge my neighbors to help open the doors of the GGMCC to our neighboring youth who are asking for help.
Noe Valley resident
(half a block from Golden Gate Metropolitan Community Church)
Why Gay Youth Shelter Is Needed
In early December, Noe Valley neighbors gathered at the Golden Gate Metropolitan Community Church to learn more about a proposal to establish an emergency shelter for young adults. Not having notice of past meetings and of the facts surrounding the proposal made for a very contentious two-hour meeting.
As a proponent of the shelter, I was very disappointed with the manner in which those supporting the creation of the shelter presented their case. Poll after poll shows that homelessness in San Francisco is the number one issue among citizens of the city. Still, many preconceived ideas exist around homelessness. The majority of the nearly 150 attending the meeting grabbed onto the most harmful and deplorable ideas about the proposed shelter because they were not properly informed, before or during the meeting.
This shelter is geared to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer, and questioning young adults, ages 18 to 23. Most of the young adults who will be coming to the shelter cannot just "get a job," get a paycheck, and then find a place to rent. Violence at home, societal pressure, and the lack of a support system led many of these young adults to homelessness.
A gay man and survivor of eight years of sexual abuse and horrifying emotional turmoil, I survived. But I was lucky to have a support system that allowed me to overcome. These young adults want what I had: a safe space to eat, shower, and sleep. In the middle of a firestorm, one cannot see clearly enough to make proper decisions. This shelter will provide that opportunity.
At the meeting, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers all spoke of fearing for their children's safety. Potential property damage by "people like that" was also raised as a concern. These safety concerns are valid, and the residents near the Eureka Valley Recreation Center (last winter's emergency shelter) should have been consulted about whether these young adults represent any danger.
But in my view, these youth are not thugs. As for children's safety, in a neighborhood where kids run along the sidewalks and a day-care center is just a block away, there is probably nothing to fear but the fear adults put into their children.
There are many concrete facts that could have been presented in response to the questions and fears shared at the meeting. Noe Valley is not unlike any other neighborhood in San Francisco, in that we care, we want to help, and if we understand what we as a community can do to support those who are not as fortunate as we are, we will do so. Telling us we have no choice in the matter is not the way to involve a community to do something that everyone in the room, pro and con, agreed was good.
Can I Have a Word with Your Birds?
I write a monthly column on Telegraph Hill's parrots. Right now I am researching the canary-winged parrots of Noe Valley and the Mission. If you or your readers have any information as to their roosting sites, or the birds' favorite feeding areas, daily routes, and history, could you please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone 392-4081. Thank you.
The Swiss Army Ashtray
Hi! I'm writing you from Switzerland. I found very interesting your web page article on the cigarette butts problem in your community ["Shops See Ashtray Law as a Pain in the Butt," September 1999 Voice]. There might be a solution: distributing portable ashtrays to smokers living or visiting your community.
A smoker myself, I have designed a portable ashtray. My ashtray has encountered quite a success. Even the Swiss Army recently decided to try some, to provide them to their smoking soldiers!
Anyway, SwissTray is a round box, closed by a revolutionary lid. Simply press on the top and it's open. Press on the sides and it's closed. The ashtray can contain up to 20 cigarette butts. A unique asphyxiation hole built in the receptacle will cause your cigarette to be extinguished within 10 seconds, without smoke or odor.
Its dimensions are 7,2 by 3,5 cm. Thus, it can fit in any pocket (even in the tightest jean pocket).
The distribution could be financed by the community or by sponsors (the lid's surface is big enough to have any message or logo imprinted on it), or the ashtray could be sold in grocery stores, tobacco shops, or at your visitors bureau. SwissTray is available in white and priced at US$2, plus shipping costs. For details, see www./home.worldcom.ch/pgisiger.
Maybe this simple device could solve the problem to everyone's satisfaction?
Slow Down to 25 -- It's the Speed Limit
When I moved here in 1984, children were rarely seen on 24th Street or in the surrounding neighborhood. Now there are children everywhere, as well as lots of dogs, cats, birds, and other pets. Nevertheless, drivers treat some of the streets in this residential neighborhood as if they were freeways. I know that children and dogs and cats should stay out of the street, but sometimes impulse wins over reason (in the case of children), or over training (in the case of dogs).
We live on 23rd, just west of Sanchez. My 7-year-old has three friends living directly across the street, and it is downright scary to watch cars speeding at 35 to 40 mph across the small space that separates her from her friends. That is because cars traveling at 35 mph are going too fast to stop, should an errant dog, cat, child, or adult stray into their path.
Since Noe Valley is a small place geographically, the amount of increased travel time if drivers were to abide by the speed limit of 25 mph on the streets of the neighborhood (or, better still, maintain a maximum speed of 20 mph) would be statistically insignificant. The benefit, however, would be immense. It would improve our quality of life in this place where the car is not yet king and where people still use the sidewalks.
Love That 24th Street
Having just returned from a wonderful trip to San Francisco and staying with my daughter who is fortunate enough to live on 24th Street, I would like to tell you how much I love that street and the whole area of Noe Valley.
We love the shops, the diners, the coffee shops, wine shops, cheese shops. I could go on. My particular favorite place to dine is the wonderful Firefly restaurant. Each time I visit the city, that is the one place I take my daughter for our one-on-one dining experience.
Also, we trek the whole street and manage a stop at almost every place. The walk up the hill is a bit strenuous for a senior citizen, but I did it several times. I guess I have fallen in love with 24th Street!
P.S. Can you just use my first name? I don't want my daughter deluged with calls.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?
Can you stand one more response to Georgia Schuttish's anti-dog editorials in the October and December 1999 letters in the Voice?
I have lived a half a block from Upper Noe Recreation Center (or Day Street Park, as I call it) for 15 years, and have watched the park evolve. I have a dog. I love dogs. But I've never much taken mine down there. He is a "scavenger," and he spends his time trying to eat all the garbage left by people.
For many years the park was barely used by anyone. Gangs and drug dealers were a serious problem. Then the city shooed them out of the park, and usage increased, but not by a heck of a lot. No one seemed too interested in the park until it became a sort of de facto dog play park. Now we have this huge debate over who has a right to be there.
There are two sides to this, and both have merit. I don't know what the answer is. But I do believe that a lot of conscientious, thoughtful dog owners are being punished for the actions of a small minority of owners who have no respect for others. These irresponsible jerks will continue to sneak their dogs into the park and fail to clean up their mess. They'll use any available open space, no matter what the "rules" are. They just don't care.
Still, local residents should acknowledge that park safety increased dramatically when people with dogs started using the park. Unfortunately, I suspect that too many people began exercising their pooches at the same time, and that those bigger numbers made our not-so-in-love-with-dogs neighbors nervous and upset. This I understand. My sister is shy around dogs, and I know what she suffers when forced to confront them. I believe dogs should always be under control -- and even leashed, if someone sharing your space asks you to do so.
So let's stay realistic and try to accommodate both sides as best we can. Above all, let's continue to be good neighbors.
Support for Upper Noe Dog Run
We are writing this letter regarding the issue of the proposed dog run at Upper Noe Valley Playground. The separation of dogs and the athletic field is an excellent idea. We have many children participating in various sports at the playground, whether it be in a parish-organized practice or a playground-organized activity.
Many complaints have been voiced by parents, about their children leaving the field with dog feces on their clothes and shoes. If dogs are to use the field, they should have an area separate from the children. If the dog people need a larger area, they can go to many nearby places. Athletic fields and dogs do not mix!
St. Paul's Parish Athletic Board
A Howl from Grattan Park
I am writing in response to the letters from dog owners regarding Upper Noe Park in the November issue of the Noe Valley Voice.
I am a co-founder of Friends of Grattan Park and have lived in Cole Valley for the past 21 years. I am amazed at how similar the current Grattan Park struggles are to what is happening at Upper Noe.
Grattan Park has been a cherished community meeting place for dog owners (and non-) for at least 10 years. In the last year, Cole Valley dog owners have participated extensively in the Board of Supervisors' Off-Leash Task Force and have contributed valuable ideas for sharing Grattan among all user groups. Yet amazingly, the wishes of a very small group of people who want no dogs at the park and who have no interest in compromise have managed to prevail. Gates that were funded by the dog owners now bear large foreboding "No Dogs Allowed" signs.
As it has at Upper Noe, degradation of the field at Grattan has been blamed on the dogs. Apart from all the rain in recent years, there has been a marked lack of maintenance at the park, and we presented photo-documented evidence of this at Task Force -- things that can't possibly be blamed on dogs, such as ripped nets and rusted backboards on the courts, jagged pieces of protruding fencing, fetid puddles clearly caused by poor irrigation, etc. Yet the "dogs have torn up the field" mantra persisted.
And similar to Upper Noe, there are those who have tried to make the struggle into a kids-versus-dogs issue, which is an outrage, since there are many neighborhood kids and families with dogs who are now banned from the only safe park in their neighborhood, in favor of kids who are brought in from other areas for soccer practice a few hours a day, resulting in increased parking problems in an already congested area and leaving the field virtually unused for all other hours of the day.
The worst part of this story is that this blatantly exclusionary policy was instituted in spite of input from a clear majority of the community -- 300-plus signed faxes, 235 signatures on petitions, countless additional letters, postcards, faxes, and phone calls -- in favor of inclusion of all user groups at Grattan.
Yes, the occasional dog owner is negligent about pickup, just as the occasional kid does graffiti or vandalism (which costs the city thousands of dollars to repair), yet no one would ban all kids because of it. Friends of Grattan Park members (who number 50) are all in the habit of cleaning up everything they see, whether their dog left it in the park or not and whether it's dog trash or human trash (and we find much more of the latter).
I think this trend toward discriminating against dog-owning community members is very disturbing. As taxpaying citizens, we are all paying for our parks, including the $40,000 price tag for the recent renovation of Grattan field, which now excludes the single largest user group of the park. This is an outrage.
Dog owners, please consider joining SFDOG to network with others who are facing similar struggles. The web site is www.sfdog.org.