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Letters to the Editor
Thanks, Real Food, for Canning Kozmo
On behalf of our six employees at Video Wave, we would like to publicly thank Dave Kloski, the manager at Real Food Company, for removing the drop-off box for Kozmo.com from the 24th Street store. We especially want to thank the employees at Real Food who were so vocal about their dislike of the box and its effect on neighborhood business.
It's really painful and dehumanizing when local businesses support the potential demise of their neighbors. Has anyone stopped to think that for these new companies, Noe Valley is nothing more than a site on a map projected to draw certain revenues? These companies will take the life force from the community and give nothing back. They will never know or care to know your name, your children's names, nor whether you exist or not, except in terms of market demographics. Their owners will not be shopping in our local stores nor adding to the overall ambiance of the community.
These companies want more than just to be prosperous. Corporate giants like Blockbuster Video seek to wipe out smaller businesses. Sadly, they are succeeding in many locations. Starbucks has signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Kozmo, and so has Amazon.com.
These megastores also secure "sweetheart deals" from the movie studios to obtain videos at a rate denied the independents, making it impossible for the smaller shops to compete. They also dangle a carrot in front of the public through big-bucks advertising, hoping you will jump and bring your dollars with you. This is all operating on the assumption that the consumer will not bother to calculate that they can order their DVDs at a cheaper price at Video Wave or that they can get their books cheaper at a local bookstore than at Amazon. It's like someone who goes to the circus but doesn't want to know how the elephants are really being treated.
We are fortunate that our customers are intelligent and have enough vision to realize that their dollar, more than ever, carries a political as well as a philosophical voice. We are shaping our own future, our community's future, and our children's future now.
And to reiterate what was so eloquently expressed by Mark Ezarik of Cover to Cover in his response to an April letter to the editor, it's not that small businesses are somehow inferior or lagging behind or frightened of competition, it's that we are making conscious choices about how to run our businesses and we are not willing to sacrifice humanity in the name of "progress." If anything, this cold, money-grabbing trend is a regression and an insult to the dignity of life and human relationships.
It may be videos and books today, but whose future will be hanging in the balance tomorrow?
Gardenia and Alexander Gardener
Owners, Video Wave
More Art for Art's Sake
In your very nice tribute to Art Schembri (April 2000), you said he was in his late 70s when he passed away in February. In fact, he was 83.
It should also be noted that he won a Bronze Star as a Marine in the South Pacific during World War II.
Where's the Organic Beef?
In your March 2000 story about dot-com deliveries, you wrote:
"Tom Maravilla of MikeyTom Market on Church Street ... admits frustration when he sees the Webvan truck pull up to a neighbor's house half a block from his store. 'I mean, they can just call me and tell me what they need, and I'll bring it right over!' he laughs."
This comment omits one crucial point and the reason that my family uses Webvan: there is nowhere in Noe Valley to buy good, organic meat.
Yes, I regularly walk up to Real Food for the produce. But red meat, poultry, fish? Whole Foods is a long way across the city for us Noeans. Show me a Noe supplier of hormone-free beef and antibiotic-free chicken, and Webvan will lose a faithful customer tomorrow.
The Bracamonte family
Neighborhood Monster Sightings
I just read Jeannene Przblyski's article, titled "'Monster' Homes Creeping Into Noe," in the April issue of the Voice. As a resident of Noe Valley since 1993, I have observed the recent influx of new residential development and applaud Ms. Przyblyski's accurate reporting of this discouraging reality.
My own failed attempt to gain information from the city's Planning Department regarding a 'monster' in my own neighborhood leads me to believe that the city's building frenzy has taken precedence over solid legislation to facilitate more reasonable residential development.
The Planning Department is in dire need of reform; the city workers employed by this department are in need of education surrounding the department's policies so that they may better serve the public.
Support for Moratorium
I think Jeannene Przyblyski brought up a very good point about creating some sort of moratorium on these monster houses in Noe Valley. The exact same thing happened to us on Vicksburg Street, and we have been fighting it for two years. We have presented our case to both the Planning Commission (Design Review) and the Board of Permit Appeals. We won on both occasions, but the developer is still going ahead with a smaller version of his grand scheme.
We need legislation to make sure these monsters conform to the existing neighborhood scale and to give the neighborhood some voice in these matters. In other words, enforce Proposition M.
It's All There in Prop. M
No more monster homes! We need to be sure that the Planning Department is made aware of Prop. M's restrictions on buildings that do not comply with community standards. The guidelines are set out in this long-fought-for planning tool.
Shelter Funds Better Spent Elsewhere
I recently heard that the city was not only funding the gay homeless shelter in Noe Valley at the rate of $20,000 a month (this would be $2,000 per month per person for a place to sleep and a small amount of food and counseling -- if the shelter were full), but had also agreed to provide a van free of charge.
This shelter is already funded for 11 staff for 10 clients (and most nights there are far fewer than 10 clients). Not even daycare centers have that proportion of staff to children.
The poverty level for a single person, as calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau, was $8,667 in 1999 -- this includes full-time shelter, food, etc. The Church Street shelter, if it were full, is being funded at the rate of $24,000 per person per year without even providing full room and board. However, the shelter is far from full, possibly because these young adults are being bused from the neighborhood they wish to be in to Noe Valley.
This funding is being disbursed at a time when there is insufficient funding for San Francisco General Hospital and for city mental health programs, and while families with children are waiting six to eight weeks for shelter, and while the sick elderly are still out on the street. The $60,000 total cost of this program could provide anti-viral therapy for four persons with AIDS for a year, keeping them alive.
How can our supervisors justify this incredible expenditure going to the Metropolitan Community Church program? Is it just that they provide special favors for special friends? We need to remind them that they were elected to represent all the people and to show proper regard for the distribution of our taxes.
The people who were against this proposal were labeled "uncaring" or worse. Smear tactics are an easy, undemocratic way to quiet the voice of reason and allow discrimination to flourish.
What Would Mother Teresa Do?
The Noe Valley homeless shelter is a good, kind act and should be supported and celebrated, not condemned to petty legal actions.
Perhaps my grandfather was wrong when he said help your neighbors. I don't think he meant help your neighbors keep out other neighbors -- which is the consequence of the recent legal threats toward the homeless shelter on Church Street.
I believe that it is every community's responsibility to support our neighbors -- even when they pose a less desirable aesthetic to our eyes or ears.
In short, young homeless people need our (Noe Valley community) help, and government -- at any level -- cannot solve the problem alone. We must take the lead and sacrifice our pathetic ideals of a utopian community, which ignore real problems of homelessness and misfortune. The Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) mentality is our enemy. We as individual members of the Noe Valley community must open the "doors" of our neighborhood to the less fortunate. Instead, our recent actions, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legal threats against the homeless shelter planned by a Noe Valley "association," reveal our true nature to conspire and plan methods of exclusivity. Personally, I want no association with such obvious acts of intolerance. For relevant examples, please see history lesson 1: German Aryan society, 1930s to 1940s, and history lesson 2: American racism.
One final thought. Imagine you are having iced tea at Martha's coffee shop on Church Street with Mother Teresa (yes, I know she has passed on). You mention that there is a homeless shelter across the street that helps young people. You also say that you would like her opinion on whether to keep the shelter open, and that as far as you can ascertain, the main problem is that the city allowed the shelter to open before it had installed a ramp for the disabled. To be fair, you tell Mother Teresa that the ramp construction could now cause inconveniences for the businesses nearby.
I can't imagine that Mother Teresa would say, "Close it down."
The ultimate irony is this: The ADA codes are there to give access to those in our community who are less fortunate. And yet these codes are being used to complete the opposite mission. This smacks of hypocrisy.
I would hope that each of us is willing to help our neighbors in need -- even when it is inconvenient.
Long Wait for Angel Island Cabins
Your article on Angel Island ["Your Own Private Island," Are We There Yet? April 2000 Voice] was all well and good, but you need to tell people they will have to book seven or more months in advance to camp on Angel Island on the weekend. It's disappointing to spend a few hours trying to arrange a trip and to come up with nothing until the end of the year.