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Editor's Note: To avoid repetition of similar arguments, we shortened or omitted several letters from the print version of the March Noe Valley Voice. Here are the letters in their entirety, with minimal editing.
The First Activist Award
I barely know Peter Gabel but have admired him from afar for many years. So, I was rather surprised by Doug Lockyer's personal attack on Mr. Gabel and the Noe Valley Voice (Letters to the Editor, February 2006).
I don't think that Gabel or the Voice asked Real Food Company to shut down for the last two and a half years. This has been a real burden on the local merchants, whom Mr. Lockyer supposedly champions. It takes two to have a dialogue, and Nutraceutical Corporation seems to be missing in action. If the Voice's coverage seems one-sided, it's because the other side refuses to interact with our community. Also, union-busting is not a good thing, and there are laws against it. If Nutraceutical is proven guilty, then we should reprimand the business, not "facilitate" its reopening on 24th Street.
Peter Gabel's work for Noe Valley has been inspirational. From his work at New College to helping save Cover to Cover to establishing the Noe Valley Farmers' Market to the fight to save Real Food Company, Mr. Gabel has worked selflessly to make Noe Valley a better place for all of us. As the top one percent of our country gets fabulously rich and most of the rest of us get screwed, people like Mr. Gabel are exploring alternatives to business as usual.
I would like to propose an award to be given to an outstanding community activist. The recent Noe Valley Voice featured a story about local activist/hero Ruth Brinker. We have many like-minded people here who have given so much to make this a better place. Most of their work benefits us all, but they are often unknown and unsung. I propose that the first annual Noe Valley Neighborhood Activist Award be given to Peter Gabel.
Who Is Doug Lockyer?
Regarding Doug Lockyer's letter to the editor ("Who Is Peter Gabel?" February 2005 Voice): Some of us know Peter Gabel as a law professor and President Emeritus of New College of California. Locals like me know him as the neighbor who successfully led efforts to bring a farmers' market to Noe Valley and help keep Cover to Cover booksore in business.
Certainly your staff knows who Mr. Gabel is, so why print Mr. Lockyer's slanderous letter in its entirety?
I have my doubts about Mr. Lockyer. He calls himself a "local" and claims he has "local friends." Really? Are we to think that neither Lockyer nor any of his "local friends" has access to a computer with Internet access? Otherwise, Lockyer would have known better than to call Gabel a "trust fund baby" or someone who "lives in a tent in someone's back yard." But Lockyer isn't happy insulting Gabel alone. He also belittles the staff of the Voice as being "mongering," "without balance," and "lazy."
While I applaud you for having a thick skin, I'd like to know this: Who is Doug Locker? And who does he think he is, insulting Mr. Gabel, the Voice, and the residents of Noe Valley?
Lockyer does not speak for me or the business community, nor anyone else in Noe Valley that I know of.
A Model of Citizenship
"Who is Peter Gabel?" asks Doug Lockyer. Peter is one of the concerned citizens in Noe Valley who has actually acted on his beliefs and done something positive to improve his community. He was instrumental in saving Cover to Cover Booksellers and one of the organizers of the Noe Valley Farmers' Market. Most Saturdays he can be found volunteering his time at the Farmers' Market.
Like many of Peter's "comrades," I don't always agree with his ideas. However, Peter puts his time, sweat, and money where his mouth is. His ideas, energy, dedication to the Noe Valley community, and willingness to work for its improvement are a role model of American citizenship.
Basking in Ignorance
I would like to ask a few questions and make a few points regarding the letter from Doug Lockyer that was recently printed in the Voice (February 2006). First of all, I know I am not the only local wondering about the relationship between Mr. Lockyer, his alleged friends, and Nutraceutical Corporation. Who is Doug Lockyer? Why is he so eager to come to the defense of a corporation that obviously has no interest in what is best for the business community here, much less any regard for its former customers, the law, or the 30 employees it illegally sacked in order to stop a union campaign?
Local friends and I have a running bet as to whether Lockyer is (a) pals with Nutraceutical's attorney Steve Hirschfeld, (b) a trust fund baby, or (c) a fictional entity invented by somebody on Nutraceutical's PR staff. It is obvious that Mr. Lockyer--provided that he even exists--doesn't feel sufficiently committed to his pro-Nutraceutical rhetoric to present his views at the various Real Food's-related meetings that have been taking place openly in the neighborhood over the course of the past two and a half years. (As far as I can tell, Lockyer has not been elected to anything; perhaps this explains his lack of civic engagement, seeing that Lockyer seems to view civic engagement as the unique province of elected officials and merchants.)
Let me be clear on this, Lockyer does not represent a majority of the people who live in this neighborhood, and he sure as heck doesn't represent me. Expressing himself with all the finesse of a 14-year-old neighborhood bully, he makes no good case as to why anybody should want to facilitate the efforts of Nutraceutical to reopen on 24th Street, when there are other responsible grocers interested in setting up shop here. If Lockyer cares to inform himself about the situation, rather than bask in his self-satisfied ignorance and paranoia, then he might consider attending the next meeting at St. Philip's.
Noe Valley resident
Gabel Should Run for Office
It is unfortunate that Doug Lockyer felt a need to turn his disagreement about neighborhood issues into a personal attack on Peter Gabel. His sentiments sound like sour grapes or jealousy to me. But since he has made his attack, I feel compelled to relay my differing impressions to him and other Noe Valley Voice readers.
Thank goodness people like Peter Gabel exist. Thank goodness Mr. Gabel is willing to take the time to articulate and fight for the points of view that many of us hold, and to spend hours in meetings and often futile correspondence. I don't know Peter Gabel, but from my observations at a couple of the public meetings about the closure of Real Food, he is someone to be trusted: he has more sense of true democratic process and decency among people than I have observed in any of my elected representatives. No, he is not an elected official. But I can tell you that if he ran for public office, I'd vote for him!
A Neighborhood Hero
I am happy to tell you who Peter Gabel is. Peter Gabel is my neighborhood hero. He single-handedly saved Noe Valley's independent bookstore, Cover to Cover, from being a sad memory. This great store wouldn't be alive today, were it not for Peter Gabel's vision and courage. Peter Gabel is a genius. He created a concept to help Cover to Cover to stay financially viable, in a resourceful, community-building way.
When all hope seemed abandoned and no sunlight was shining in Noe Valley, Peter Gabel saved my neighborhood bookstore, where I have been in a mother/daughter book group for eight years. I am a proud native of this fair city and a Noe Valley resident for 26 years. Peter Gabel re-energized my desire to remain in a city that has become very good at pushing working families out. Peter Gabel's creative vision made me feel proud to stay and raise my family in the greatest neighborhood of this marvelous city.
I also have a running bet with my local comrades as to whether Doug Lockyer is: (a) on the Nutraceutical board of directors, or (b) a Nutraceutical stockholder, or (c) a corporate puppet.
Actually, Mr. Lockyer, Peter Gabel cares deeply about the economic recovery of 24th Street businesses. It is Nutraceutical that has left the Real Food store empty for the last two and a half years, causing the economic downturn and blight on that section of our street.
Martha Werthimer Curtis
Saddened and Puzzled
I got to know Peter Gabel when he finessed me into helping create the Noe Valley Farmers' Market. Before that, I'd heard about his accomplishments as a law professor, philosopher, and writer; as the guy who rallied neighbors to save Cover to Cover bookstore; as the soft-spoken, articulate man I'd listened to on the radio talking about spirituality; and as the visionary who started New College--good heavens, who starts an accredited college? I thought the guy must be 10 feet tall with a head the size of a Macy's Thanksgiving Parade balloon!
But the truth is, despite all his honors and accomplishments, Peter's head is normal-sized. His heart, however, is limitless. He is one of the kindest, community-minded, and intelligent people I've ever known. Doug Lockyer's frustration and anger is obviously about Doug Lockyer and not Peter Gabel.
To accuse Peter and the Voice's Liz Highleyman of acting unethically, to claim Peter has "no interest in what is best for the business community," or to suggest an educational institution like New College is not a "business entity" is ridiculous.
I am saddened and puzzled by what motivates someone to publicly malign a neighbor he's never taken the time to know. Ironically, Peter is neither hurt nor angered by Mr. Lockyer's insults. In fact, had Peter not been the subject of abuse, he probably would have been the first person to reach out to Mr. Lockyer, offering to help him in his obvious unhappiness.
Noe Valley resident
Getting to Know Him
How amusing it must be for Mr. Lockyer and his friends to pass the time making bets on who Peter Gabel is. But instead of devoting so much energy to assailing him in the Voice, Lockyer would do well to take a more direct approach. Here then, are a few tips.
The truth is that getting to know Peter Gabel couldn't be easier. You might start by walking out your front door and heading for the Noe Valley Farmers' Market on a Saturday morning, where you'll most likely find him greeting neighbors and cleaning up at closing time. Gabel was the person who organized the group of neighborhood volunteers to create the market, giving Noe Valley a healthy and just alternative to the closing of Real Food Company.
After a neighborly, friendly hello, you could start by asking why Gabel feels it's so important to be an active member of the community. You could ask, for example, about the time he approached Cover to Cover Bookstore a few years ago, when it was on the brink of bankruptcy, and selflessly launched a campaign to save the store. Within a few months, he successfully organized a group of 40 "fabulous" neighbors, who invested $200,000 and helped gather signatures from a thousand customers pledging to buy a book a month to return the store to success.
You could also ask what inspired him to join forces with a group of neighbors who were dumbfounded by what appeared to be Nutraceutical's blatant violation of workers' rights to organize at Real Food. Or what happened after he and several other Noe Valley residents came together to call several town hall meetings, some attended by over 150 people. Ask, too, how these people decided what we as a community should say to Nutraceutical executives and to the Allens, former Real Food landlords--concluding that proposing an open, human dialogue was best, even though our invitation was met for the most part with silence.
Or you could ask how you could become involved in his latest project to help raise much needed cash for the Noe Valley Ministry's renovation. Or how you could become involved in his newfound organization, Noe Valleyans for Community and Social Justice--a group dedicated to, yet again, improving our neighborhood.
I offer you my recommendations because only a few years ago I didn't know who Peter Gabel was either. But after witnessing how a beloved bookstore could be saved by a group of neighbors, he inspired me to step out of the comfort of my own living room and become more community-minded. Like Gabel, I am not a trust fund baby (I am a working mother of two), but have discovered the satisfaction in being part of something larger than my own insular life. Like Gabel, I don't presume to speak for the entire community, but I sincerely believe in volunteering at least a few hours a week if it means Noe Valley and the city can benefit.
In joining my community, I got to know not just Gabel, but other remarkable people equally committed to improving our neighborhood: Noe Valleyans like Debra Niemann and Richard May of Friends of Noe Valley, Carol Yenne of the Noe Valley Merchants Association, and Vicki Rosen of Upper Noe Neighbors. All these people selflessly volunteer their time and energy, attending city meetings, writing letters, and making calls to local politicians--all for a greater good.
Or, then again, you could spend your days making snickering wagers with buddies about a person you never took the time to know. A losing and sad proposition if I ever heard one.
New Life for a Small Bookstore
I would like to make a few points regarding the unconscionable and vitriolic personal attack levied by Doug Lockyer against Peter Gabel "and his comrades" in the February Voice.
Since the letter's author has gotten about as much wrong as is possible in the limited space provided, I find myself wondering if his name is even Doug Lockyer. Oh, heck, let's just say he got that right.
So, Doug, if Peter Gabel does not represent you (and there's certainly nothing wrong with your position in this regard), then who does? As far as I know, you've not once weighed in on the Real FoodNutraceutical issue. The Voice can't print your side if you're just standing in the wings making snide comments about the people who are actually involved. Peter speaks and acts publicly, as good social activists are wont to do, and that's why his voice is heard. If you'd like to be heard, try saying something without spewing venom.
As for your "running bet" with your friends, what would it matter if Peter turned out to be all three things that you mentioned: a union-organizing trust fund baby living in a tent in someone's back yard? I know you intended those words to be insulting, but beyond that, where is the relevance?
Now I'd like to look at your first declaration: "It is obvious [Gabel] does not work for a business entity..." Peter served for 15 years as president of New College, has been a professor at New College School of Law since 1975, and has been an associate editor of the magazine Tikkun. New College and Tikkun are both business entities, and both have not only survived, but thrived, in spite of Peter's "moral/political scrutiny" and "purity of thought and purpose." And why do you consider those attributes to be antithetical to good business?
Next, you take exception to Gabel's referring to the Allens as "absentee landlords." C'mon, Doug. They live in a different county. They define absentee landlords. That's not Peter's opinion. It's a fact.
You imply that Peter is angling (with his buddies, that sinister shadow group again) to wrest control of the Nutraceutical property. Have you any reason for writing such foolishness, or is that yet another base and baseless accusation? I'll put my money on the latter.
Where do you get off saying Peter Gabel does not represent a majority of Noe Valley residents? If he doesn't represent you, that's fine: I'm sure Peter would agree completely. But don't presume to speak for anyone else in this neighborhood.
It's in the last two paragraphs of your letter that your ignorance truly takes wing. Twice you mention that the Noe Valley merchants and Bevan Dufty should ask Nutraceutical how we can facilitate their reopening of the store. Doug, let's get this straight. Nutraceutical never opened their store on 24th Street. They closed it. That's been the whole point of the "two-year-old comedic saga." I thought you were paying attention. I'm glad you find it comedic, but I suspect that all the people employed by Real Food who were let go illegally (according to the National Labor Relations Board), and without warning, probably would not share that chuckle with you.
Lastly, another declaration you state as "obvious" is, well, wrong. Again. You say, "It is obvious he has absolutely no interest in what is best for the business community..." Maybe you think that a huge empty building in the middle of Noe Valley is sound business sense, though I honestly doubt you would think that, but it's not Peter Gabel who's kept the space unoccupied. As to why there has been no appreciable progress in the last two years, you might want to check in with the Allens. Careful, though, I'm not sure but that might be a toll call.
See, Doug, the reason your letter got me so incensed is that I am a small business owner. That I can still make that claim is a tribute to Peter Gabel. When Cover to Cover had fallen prey to skyrocketing rents and a downward-spiraling city economy (9-11 hit this tourist town like a Mike Tyson one-two combination), Peter cared enough to step up and garner the support of Noe Valley residents to breathe new life into a bookstore that my partners and I had thought was a dead dream.
His energy was boundless, his efforts herculean, his passion and concern were both humbling and contagious. He didn't do it because we were such good buddies. He hardly knew me. He did it because he truly believes that compassion and morality can fuel a social movement and effect social change. It's about belonging to a neighborhood, a community where we can work together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. I don't know that I even understand it well enough to explain it to someone else, but Peter's vision and efforts have allowed me to point out to my children that one person can indeed make a difference.
Maybe Peter Gabel doesn't speak for you, Doug, and maybe he hasn't been elected to anything, but he comes closer to articulating my feelings than you do, and if he should ever decide to run for some elected office, he can count on my vote. Anytime.
Co-owner, Cover to Cover Books
1307 Castro Street
Helipad Bad for Your Health
San Francisco General Hospital is planning a rooftop helipad at its 23rd Street and Potrero Avenue campus, which is located 1.2 miles from the heart of Noe Valley. That is half the distance to Pac Bell Park, which hosted a Rolling Stones concert that brought complaints from as far as 30th and Church streets.
Any addition to the hospital's services sounds good; we all want the best trauma emergency facilities available for our families and ourselves. However, this proposal for a helicopter-landing facility at S.F. General is not a good idea.
Not only are helicopters loud and dangerous, they would place a further strain on an already overburdened emergency hospital. UCSF studies show that overcrowding forces S.F. General to turn away an average of 35 percent of ambulances. These negative impacts should be viewed in light of recent studies that have shown medical helicopters are overused and often unnecessary.
This proposed 24-hour helicopter transportation hub is not intended primarily to serve the citizens of San Francisco. The hospital's goal is to compete with other helipad hospitals, such as Stanford Hospital, which is eight minutes by air from the city, for out-of-area patients.
To stop the helipad and for further information, visit StopHelipad.org or call Too-Loud-110 (866-568-3110).
THE VOICE welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. Or e-mail editor@noevalley voice.com. Please include your name, street, and phone number. (Anonymous letters will not be considered for publication.) Be aware that letters may be edited for brevity or clarity. We look forward to hearing from you.