Noe Valley Voice September 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: Letters may be edited for brevity or clarity.

Memorial for Sylvia Weinstein


Sylvia Weinstein, a longtime resident of Noe Valley who was once featured in the pages of the Noe Valley Voice [October 1989], passed away on Aug. 14, 2001. She will be deeply missed not only by her husband, children, and grandchildren, many of whom live in Noe Valley, but also by her many activist friends throughout the Bay Area, who knew her as a tireless organizer and fiery speaker at political rallies.

Sylvia was a lifelong socialist and feminist who organized for child care, the Equal Rights Amendment, and abortion rights, as well as a host of other causes to further the lives of working people in this country and beyond. She spent many an afternoon handing out political literature on 24th Street. She was also a journalist who wrote a popular monthly column in the newspaper of the Socialist Workers Organization. Whether writing or speaking, her trademark incisiveness and spunky edge made people realize that we have the power to change the world.

Friends and neighbors of this remarkable woman are invited to a memorial on Sunday, Sept. 9. Call 920-9323 for place and time.

Kathy Setian

Sanchez Street

Facts vs. Fantasy


In your July/August 2001 issue, you published a letter from Mr. McDonald titled, "Snubbed by City Planning." In his letter Mr. McDonald claims that his adjacent neighbor (me) is planning an addition to their home which upon completion will be four stories, 42 feet high, and 4,000-plus square feet.

The facts are that upon completion, our house, in total, will be less than 4,000 square feet (3,102 of living space), will be three stories with a small mezzanine, and will be less than 40 feet high. Our licensed architect, the Planning Department, and the city planner, who personally came out to inspect both properties, all agreed that our plans are within current guidelines and are below the 40-foot height limit.

Mr. McDonald stopped our project by requesting a discretionary review (DR), and he had over four months to find an expert to dispute our plans; none appeared at the DR. Mr. McDonald made other unsubstantiated claims at the DR, including the claim that one neighbor wanted to build a four-unit apartment in place of their single-family home. After listening to the testimony from both sides, all four commissioners voted to approve our plans.

My wife and I have lived at our current address for 18 years. We are adding space to our home for my wife's 91-year-old mother. The addition has been delayed for over four months due to these unsubstantiated claims. Imagine if this happened to your family.

Ed Bell

Clipper Street

No Racial Redlining Here


What if some of the other local San Francisco newspapers printed the following headlines: "The Sunset is still as yellow as bananas" or "Bayview is still black as the night"?

You would be aghast because they are racist statements...but so is your headline ["Census Shows Noe Valley Still White As Snow," July/August 2001].

This is a wonderful city because its diversity is as great as any city in the world. But it's not homogeneously diverse. Some neighborhoods are more black than anything else. Some are more Asian. And some are more white. That's okay.

This was a primarily white city that has seen much of the white population (and some of the black population) move out and be replaced primarily by Asians. There are many neighborhoods in San Francisco that are just as Asian as Noe is white. Is that bad? Are those neighborhoods ethnically non-diverse?

The implication of your article is that something is wrong in Noe Valley because more whites did not leave the area to be replaced by...well...anybody else. It would only be wrong if someone were keeping other races out of Noe Valley. That's not happening. There is no racial redlining going on in San Francisco.

You owe everyone who is white in Noe Valley an apology for making us feel unwelcome. There is no problem here. Everyone is welcome.

Neil Chernoff

Via e-mail

Spoiled Colonials


Anyone who has spent more than a few days in Noe Valley doesn't need a census to tell them that it is snow white.

Most of the minorities I see here seem to be either hired help or trying hard to look white. There's nothing wrong with working for white folk, and there's nothing wrong with imitating Michael Jackson. But it is wrong for the young white professionals in this neighborhood to sit around at outdoor cafes like spoiled colonials while the dark-skinned underclasses take care of their children and remodel their houses.

Robert Castellano

Via e-mail

Resurgence of Popularity


Although I appreciated the interesting article about local census data by Corrie Anders in the July issue, I was offended by the statement credited to Vicki Rosen that we don't have many school-age children in Noe Valley "because the public schools are so bad."

The article should have pointed out that although the perception that the neighborhood schools are "bad" may be held by some families (mainly families who have never enrolled a child in any of these schools), the reality is quite different.

Many of us in the neighborhood have had wonderful experiences at Alvarado, Fairmount, and James Lick. In fact, the real story is the resurgence in popularity of these neighborhood schools compared to even five years ago. This has led to a greater feeling of "community" among both Noe Valley parents and children. Your article may have had the unfortunate outcome of perpetuating the myth that neighborhood public schools aren't worth trying and aren't worth caring about.

Laurel Turner

Collingwood Street

A Get-Well Gift for Shawn Jones


During two weeks in the month of July, we, along with our friends, neighbors, and customers at Noe Valley Video, raised $512 for Shawn Jones, the 10-year-old Oakland boy viciously mauled by three pit bulls while riding his bicycle.

We would like to thank each and every person who generously donated money toward this worthy cause. Many children even donated their weekly allowance to help Shawn!

We are pleased to report that Shawn is recovering and is no longer in critical condition. However, he still faces years of surgery and rehabilitation. Once again, thank you all so very much for your kindness and generosity.

Brian and Marlene Dunleavy

Noe Valley Video, 3936 24th Street

The Two Faces of Mark Leno


Your recent article "Mark Leno Vying for Another Job" [July/August 2001] was an interesting piece, but I can't recognize the Mark Leno we know in it. Who actually wrote that article? Mark Leno?

Many of us in District 8 would welcome his move to Sacramento -- as a resident, not a politician -- and he's definitely for sale. We agree it's probably time for him to move on.

Let me share just one example of a tale we've titled "The Two Faces of Mark Leno." Last fall, concealing his true anti-TIC [tenancies-in-common] feelings, Candidate Leno stomped Eileen Hansen for her anti-TIC views (then Proposition N on the ballot). In that effort, he campaigned for TICs, accepted money, time, and volunteers working the precincts, during the November election and the runoff, as though he favored TICs as a way to provide home ownership to persons with modest incomes. Candidate Leno also accepted money, time, and work from the Small Property Owners of San Francisco (SPOSF), who favor TICs as entry-level housing.

After the election, Board President Tom Ammiano and his Seven Dwarves drafted and redrafted resolutions designed to defeat the will of San Francisco voters, including those in District 8. [Prop. N was defeated at the polls.]

During that time, Supervisor Leno continued to conceal his true feelings from those who'd donated money to help him dump Eileen Hansen (whose major fault, apparently, was her honesty; obviously not a failing of Mark Leno).

Does that sound like a man who is "our Jim Jeffords. He is not for sale"? (Did someone actually say that?)

As your article reports, Leno's facility with polit-speak is awesome. The most positive aspect of your story lay in the final paragraphs, which identified just a few of the other campaign promises he has not kept. Now, if we can get him to do his job here and to stop betraying his constituents and the voters for his own ends, the city will be better served.

James Duggins

Laidley Street

Looking for a Friend


I came across your publication when I was online trying to locate a friend of mine, Paul Herder. I had put the key words "Paul Herder" and "philosophy" into, and up came your calendar of events.

[Our June 1999 Calendar reported that Bay Area pianist/composer and former philosophy teacher Paul Herder was to perform a June 4 "philosophical jazz" concert at the Noe Valley Ministry.]

Do you think your readers might be able to locate this piano-playing philosophy teacher for me? I lost contact with him when he moved from England.

If you could pass on my e-mail address, I would be most grateful. It is: gpanadero I'm based in Spain, where I met Paul, but have also changed addresses and numbers a couple of times.

Wishing you all the best.

Giles A. Baker

Vigo, Spain

That Doesn't Sound Like Alvarado


What an unfortunate headline and letter in your July/August 2001 issue ["Neighborhood Schools a Disaster"]. The writer, S. Kundig, may be correct in his/her assessment of some public school somewhere, but it does not sound as if s/he has firsthand knowledge of our local schools.

I live in Noe Valley, and in August my daughter will start her fifth year at our neighborhood school, Alvarado, an absolutely terrific place. It is one neighborhood school that is not a disaster. In fact, it is a great success story.

Perhaps S. Kundig is the parent of a soon-to-be kindergartener. As someone who was in that position five years ago, I would like to share something I learned. The anti-public school sentiment I heard from friends (and I heard plenty) was based on old news. In other words, these parents seem to have information about what the schools were like four or five years prior to the time they passed their information along. I know from personal experience that Alvarado has been improving steadily every year my daughter has been in attendance. The only way to assess a school is to go there, sit in the classroom, walk the halls, and watch the kids and the teachers at work.

Alvarado is a warm, supportive place, beautifully decorated with the artwork of the children and enlivened as well by their numerous performances in concerts, skits, and other creative activities. It is a place where friendships among children thrive and where parents and other adult volunteers are active and present every day. The quality of the teaching staff is outstanding. My child has had topnotch teachers during each of her four years there. I can honestly say that the education my child has received at our neighborhood school is superior to the one I received during the 1950s in Westchester County, New York.

S. Kundig is simply wrong when s/he states that "the parents of Noe Valley have given up on the concept of an adequate neighborhood school."

Our school has a great deal of support in Noe Valley. S. Kundig should come and see Alvarado and other neighborhood schools as well, before passing judgment. S/he might be pleasantly surprised.

Sue Ochs

23rd Street

Go Ahead, Rush to the Suburbs


If more middle-class, educated, claim-to-be-liberal, think-they-are-compassionate parents sent their kids to public school and put as much money into supporting public schools as they do into private schools, then we would have better public schools.

With fourth-grade reading scores serving as projection figures for how many prison cells we'll need, our nation is already well on its way to giving up on public education for all. Go ahead and rush to the suburbs. Leave urban communities with little or no resources to support public education. See what kind of life that's going to provide for your children when they grow up.

Maybe they will be able to build enough prisons for all the poor, uneducated angry urbanites. I doubt, though, that they will grow up to be middle-class, educated, claim-to-be-liberal, think-they-are-compassionate parents. Having had your great example of how to scapegoat the ones without any power will teach them to be something quite different.

Connie Hendrix

James Lick Middle School

Lots of Positives About Fairmount


[Addressed to both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Noe Valley Voice]:

Slime, sludge, and chaos sell newspapers. I've read enough bad press on the S.F. public schools to last a lifetime....

Fairmount Elementary School is one of the Noe Valley schools your articles imply was a poor neighborhood school. Fairmount is rich in student diversity, and the parents there are very active. Have any of you ever seen the beautiful butterfly garden at the corner of Randall and Chenery? If you'd talk to the folks in the neighborhood, they'd happily tell you how the area was a weedy section, full of dog shit, two years ago!

Parents I talk to want to hear about the good in the schools. And there is lots of it. You writers need to put your pencils down, stop listening to the crud and lies, and get out there and talk to parents of public school children. There are many more good schools than the highly touted Lakeshore, Clarendon, and Rooftop. Did you know there are other schools with language programs?

There is so much more to a school than test scores. A lot of parents "get" this.

Julie Hagelshaw

Fairmount School parent

Waiting Lists at Local Schools


In response to S. Kundig's mistaken belief that "neighborhood parents have given up on the concept of an adequate neighborhood school" [Letters, July/August 2001], I let the facts speak for themselves: There are still waiting lists for each public elementary school in Noe Valley, and according to the numbers, our neighborhood schools are attracting more and more families from the neighborhood and indeed from all over the city.

Contrary to Kundig's insinuations, many Noe families who could afford private school choose our local public schools not to save money, but because we value the excellent education our children are getting in our community.

I experienced (from some of my peers) the elitism and ignorance displayed in Kundig's letter when I was looking for a school for my daughter who is now in second grade at Alvarado. It was one of the reasons I helped to start a local chapter of Parents for Public Schools. Of course, there are problems with some of our public schools, but we can either bad-mouth the schools or work together to improve them for all children, not just our own.

If you want to become part of the solution and join us, go to or call us at 642-6260. For helpful information on the schools go to and

Sandra Halladey

Castro Street

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 my block of 27th Street.

I am now writing to say that after 15 years of living on this block, I was disappointed to find that a few of my neighbors expressed fear, suspicion, even outright resentment, at my knocking on their door.

I've participated in enough community efforts over the years to expect some callous nonresponsiveness. I understand we are all busy, and I too cherish my privacy and time at home with my family and friends. I also admit I'm rarely thrilled when a solicitor rings our doorbell just as our new baby's diaper needs changing.

Still, my experience in gathering signatures on our city's pre-printed petition form, during daylight hours, dressed in a business suit, alerted me to the disastrous impact that cold refusals could have on a proposal that will affect all of us 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, and I will call the police if you don't go away!"

Since I've lived previously in both Chicago and Los Angeles, I was not offended by that reaction. However, I remain concerned that this refusal to even let me communicate that my inquiry had to do with the proposed permit zone was counted as a "no" vote on our block.

I suspect that some of the very people who refused to hear my say 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 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 thing that most of us seem to believe would relieve the parking jam.

Harvey Elam

27th Street