Noe Valley Voice July-August 2001

Letters to the Editor

The Voice welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. Or send e-mail to Please include your name, address, and phone number. (Anonymous letters will not be considered for publication.) Note that letters may be edited for brevity or clarity.

LETTERS July/August 01:

The Rover's Redux


I am one of the owners of Bliss Bar, the bar that replaced the Rover's Inn. I read Anne Devine's letter in the March issue of the Voice with some regret. In that letter, Ms. Devine takes me to task for taking "cheap shots" at the previous owner. I would like to set the record straight.

I have nothing but respect for Vince Hogan, the former owner of the Rover's Inn (and who still owns the Dubliner). In all my dealings with Vince, I have found him to be a straight shooter and decent human being. I hope that our bar can carry on the tradition of the community involvement set by Vince at the Rover's. I am sorry that my comments relating to my sense of design ethics were construed as a "cheap shot" at Vince. I should have been more careful with my words.

My partner Jim Kopp and I created Bliss Bar specifically for Noe Valley, one of San Francisco's great neighborhoods. We deliberately retained some of the pieces of the Rover's (for example, the hand-blown glass windows, the bar rail) to tie our bar in with the history of the former bars at our location. Noe already had a great selection of bars, but it didn't really have a cocktail lounge for people in the "lounge" mood. I hope that we have provided something that Noe-ites can enjoy for years to come.

John Ferguson

Owner, Bliss Bar

Snubbed by City Planning


My wife Susan and I have lived in our Noe Valley home in the 100 block of Clipper Street for 31 years. It is 106 years old, modest, sunny, and secure -- one story over garage, 925 feet of living space.

Our adjacent neighbors are planning to rebuild. With the proposed addition, their house will be four stories high, 42 feet tall, and 4,000-plus square feet. Many new large windows will look into our home.

The neighbors filed for their permit. The Planning Department mailed notices that misstated the height, size, and impact of the project. We went before the city Planning Commission in June to appeal for modifications and plan corrections.

During our hearing, not a single commissioner asked a question to clear up confusion or to understand the impact of this gigantic addition. With four commissioners present, and after no discussion, the building was approved.

It is a disaster for us. We will continue to fight to stop this monster addition. We never saw it coming. Imagine if this happened to you as it happened to us.

Jerry McDonald

Clipper Street

Neighborhood Schools a Disaster


The May 2001 story about Edison Charter Academy should receive a failing grade for its glaring omissions. First, Marybeth Wallace is quoted as if she has a relevant opinion because of her involvement with Coleman Advocates for Youth and Children. Why didn't the article mention where she sends her own child to school? It certainly isn't Fairmount, the neighborhood public school.

In addition, Dave Monks' statement that "I have friends whose kids go to Fairmount, and they rave about the school" is meaningless. Why weren't the "friends" named or interviewed? Why weren't those "friends" asked whether they would send their children to private school if they could afford it?

Mr. Monks also doesn't understand simple economic facts -- every organization needs money to survive. This is whether it is a public bureaucracy, a nonprofit corporation, or a for-profit corporation. While a sound bite accusing a corporation of greed may be facially appealing to some, it discloses a failure to fully analyze organizational structures. For example, teacher unions can be more interested in seniority and retention than what is best for the children. In addition, public servants want to do what is necessary to retain their jobs. That is no different than private-sector employees. Our future, and the future of our children, should not rest on slogans.

Moreover, Mr. Monks doesn't have any evident expertise in the area of child development. As a parent in Noe Valley, I can unequivocally state that under no circumstances is my child going to attend Fairmount. I will not use my child, and I don't think it is appropriate to use the children of poor people, people of color, or those of limited English language ability, as subjects in a social experiment.

It seems to me that the parents in Noe Valley have given up the concept of an adequate neighborhood school. They either get their children into an alternative school, pay for private school, or leave the area. Perhaps it's time to recognize that while there may have been laudable intentions behind the current system, it has had disastrous results. It's time to rethink the destruction of neighborhood schools.

S. Kundig

Duncan Street

Editor's Note: In late March, the Voice received the following letter, unsigned and with no return address. We don't normally print anonymous letters, but thought the history was so interesting that it should be shared. Also, we'd like to use this opportunity to ask the author (or the new homeowner) to send us a note with a phone number or address. Write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, S.F., CA 94114. Or e-mail

When Dairy Farms Dotted the Hills


In your October 1989 issue, you ran a large article, "Two Paiges in History," about Ed and Al Paige and their grandfather's dairy farm at 848 Clipper Terrace. Ed and Al Paige died in 1998 within one month of each other. The family has recently sold the property at 844­848 Clipper Terrace, and its fate is unclear.

The property was purchased by Aurelio Barsotti in 1888 for $10 in gold coin. The house at 848 Clipper was existing at that time (and had been for many years before). Aurelio Barsotti was born in Lucca, Italy, in 1849. He married Ellen Mulroney, from Ireland, in San Francisco in 1878.

During the late 1800s, he owned a bar at 26th and Castro, at the end of the Castro Street cablecar line (he had thought the business district would be there; instead, it turned out to be on 24th Street). At one time, he owned all of Grand View between Clipper and 25th streets. He also owned, at various times, a 200-acre ranch by Fort Ross which produced tan bark for leather tanning, a large ranch in Sonoma, and a dairy ranch in Milpitas.

Aurelio Barsotti's son Jim ran the dairy farm on Clipper Street in his early years. His daughter Ellen married into the Reilly and Co. funeral home family. His daughter Amelia married the owner of the Mission Iron Works, at Van Ness and Mission, which produced much of the iron work for San Francisco. Amelia's last son, Harold, recently passed away at 95.

Aurelio Barsotti's daughter Mary and her husband, Ed Paige Sr., built the cottage at 844 Clipper. They had four children--Ed Jr., Alfred, Dorothy, and Eleanor -- and Mary lived there until her death in 1949.

The house at 848 Clipper may be the oldest farmhouse in San Francisco, and one of the most historical structures in Noe Valley.

An interested neighbor

Dino's Gone


Noe Valley's Dean Cooke II, also known as Dino, died on June 7, 2001, after a four-month battle with bladder cancer. A beagle, he was born April 17, 1995, in Vacaville, Calif. He is survived by his pack members, Tom Mills and Ron Stall, now of Atlanta.

During Dino's five years in San Francisco, he was instrumental in motivating his alpha, Tom, to organize the Noe Courts Coalition, a not-for-profit corporation advocating for the mixed use (by dog owners and others) of Noe Courts Park on 24th Street. He also was important in getting Tom to serve on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' Dogs Off-Leash Task Force (both as a member and as the author of the task force's report) and to put in a brief stint on the city's Animal Control and Welfare Commission prior to the pack's moving to Atlanta.

Dino is also remembered as "the fetching beagle" and/or "the dancing beagle" around Noe Courts, Collingwood Park, and 24th Street. During his puppyhood, he was occasionally known as "Spawn of Satan" due to his rambunctious nature; this also raised the question of which of Dino's senior pack members was Satan, a question never fully resolved.

Dino loved nothing more than taking long walks with his pack, punctuated with games of fetch and catch, both of which he excelled at and enjoyed until the very end of his life. His favorite walks were at Fort Funston, at Crissy Field, and around Noe Valley and the Castro (and through the four parks in the Ansley Park neighborhood after his move to Atlanta).

Dino's departure has left an enormous hole in the hearts of the rest of his pack. In lieu of flowers or donations, Dino's pack members request that you contact your member of Congress in regards to maintaining off-leash recreation at Fort Funston and Crissy Field, both parts of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area; your California assemblyperson and senator in regards to your support of SB712, to open up more off-leash areas in California state parks; and the members of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission, asking them to consider the recommendations of the Dogs Off-Leash Task Force.

Tom Mills

Via e-mail

Trouble with a Capital "T"


I am late in commenting on the placement of the Walter Farmer piece in your May issue. In my view (underline "my view," which may not be others', because others may not have a socially sensitive eye), your article and picture of Walter Farmer was inappropriate -- especially on the front page with a photo!

Walter Farmer, as one of several homeless people in Noe Valley, is an economic outcome of your paper's (along with all media) focus on "being pleasant" and painting a picture of "homeyness" that supports the lie that everything is okay here in River City. The obit on Farmer was an incredible "emperor is wearing no clothes" boo-boo. I was shuddering all the way out of the library when I saw it.

I know you can't focus on reality, because your income depends on supporting the "ain't it nice" myth. So I am not blaming you for the upbeat nature of your paper. I am only saying, "Ugh, ugh, ugh," what a boo-boo.


Via e-mail

General Hospital in Critical Condition


Please cross the street safely, because San Francisco General Hospital is on the edge of collapse.

San Francisco General Hospital, our regional trauma center, is stretched to the fiscal limit and will become irrevocably damaged by the budget cuts currently proposed by the city. I left prestigious private hospitals, including Johns Hopkins Hospital, to practice and teach medicine at San Francisco General Hospital in1994 because, at the time, it was the best public hospital in the nation. I donate three full months each year and at least two full days each week for the privilege of caring for my patients, providing HIV counseling and testing, maintaining a safe environment so that patients do not suffer from infections acquired in the hospital, and teaching medical students at no cost to the city of San Francisco.

Up until three to four years ago, if a critically ill family member were delivered by ambulance to San Francisco General Hospital, I would say they were receiving the best care in the nation. Today, if a critically ill family member were delivered by ambulance to San Francisco General Hospital, I would worry whether they would have to wait on a gurney in the emergency room for several days. That's how long it might take for a hospital bed to open up, since nursing floors have been mothballed to cut costs. Nonetheless, I would still take comfort today that my family member was receiving the best medical, surgical, and nursing care available from my very dedicated, talented, and trusted colleagues, even if under difficult and, at times, dangerous conditions.

However, if budget cuts are enacted and the hospital staff can stretch no further, I will worry whether any of the physicians, surgeons, and nurses whom I trust will still be there to care for my family member. In this worst-case scenario, I would sadly plead with the paramedics to go to some other hospital.

It need not be this way, however. I am asking you, as my neighbors, to call on Supervisor Mark Leno not only to support, but to take a leadership role in sustaining rather than dismantling San Francisco General Hospital. With his leadership, I believe it is possible to rebuild San Francisco General to the point where we all could feel confident that we would receive the best care available, if we, our children, or our neighbors should be gravely and unexpectedly injured while driving, bicycling, or walking the streets tomorrow.

David Bangsberg, MD, MPH

Director of the HIV Assessment
and Prevention Service

Hospital Epidemiologist and
Co-Director of Infection Control

San Francisco General Hospital

The Don't-Bother-Me Attitude


I am one of several residents who recently gathered signatures in favor of a parking permit zone in Noe Valley ["No More Free Ride: Parking Stickers Arrive in Noe Valley," June 2001 Voice]. In order to qualify for the proposed "Area Z," we had to collect 50 percent of residents' signatures on the 200 block of 27th Street.

I am now writing to say that after 15 years of living on this block, I was a bit disappointed to find that a few of my neighbors expressed fear, suspicion, even outright resentment, at any unexpected knocking on their doors, regardless of the manner of introduction.

I've participated in enough community efforts over the years to expect some callous nonresponsiveness. I wasn't elected or appointed by anybody, and I understand we are all busy. I too cherish my privacy and time alone at home with my family and friends. I also admit I'm rarely thrilled when yet another pushy solicitor rings our doorbell just as our new baby's diaper suddenly needs changing.

Still, my recent experience in gathering signatures on our city's pre-printed, self-explanatory petition form, during daylight hours, dressed in a business suit, alerted me to the disastrous impact that cold refusals could have on a neighborhood proposal that will affect all of us right where it counts most, on the street where we live.

At the worst extreme, one person essentially shouted through an intercom, "Leave me alone. I don't know you, so I don't want to open my door, or even hear through my intercom anything you might have to say, and I especially won't even consider signing anything at all, even if you assure me it might benefit me directly, and I will call the police if you don't go away immediately!"

Since I've lived previously in both downtown Chicago and the near southwest side of Los Angeles, I was not offended by that reaction. However, I remain concerned that this refusal to even let me get as far as communicating that my inquiry had to do with the Residential Parking Permit Proposal was effectively counted as a "no" vote on our block.

I suspect that some of the very people who refused to hear anything at all about plans to change how we park our cars in front of our homes will be among the loudest to assert that their rights have been disregarded when the proposal comes up for a vote before the Board of Supervisors. Worse yet, they may never raise their voices until they have received the notice in the mail that it's time to pay their relatively modest permit placard fee.

In summary, our growing reluctance to open our doors, listen to our choices, and then sign our names, for or against anyone or anything at all, impedes the wheels of democracy from turning out the very approval that most of us seem to believe would relieve the parking jam. Meanwhile, we all complain daily, "The city should do something!"

Harvey Elam

27th Street