| July 2011
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THE VOICE welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, P.O. Box460249, S.F., CA 94146. Or e-mail email@example.com. Please include your name and contact information. (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.
Your Antenna May Have Expired
A while back, the Noe Valley Voice wrote about the spread of cell phone antennas in Noe Valley [“Residents Call Out T-Mobile for Surprise Antennas,” December 2009].
I have been struggling with my own wireless antenna issue for the past six months. One day, I came home from work to find myself face to face with an antenna, not to mention all the supporting equipment, which is large, unsightly, and maintains a constant buzz that can be heard from our living room. I struggled to find answers about what it was, who installed it, and why I was not informed. I later discovered that a company called NextG Networks had pulled a permit on our address. I received no notification.
While we all agree that cell phone reception is important, the rollout of this technology needs to be done in a more responsible manner. Last year, there were 152 permits approved in San Francisco for antennas to be put in the public right-of-way (on streetlights and utility poles). No effort was made to engage with the community and no notice was provided to neighbors. In addition, the city required no inspections.
As I started looking into this issue, I continually came across residents who were upset and caught by surprise. Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors passed a new ordinance that would require companies like NextG to provide public notice. This ordinance also provides some incremental protections for residents and homeowners. However, in communities like Noe Valley, the ordinance is a little late. To see a map of the 342 wireless antenna permits approved in the city since May 2008, go to http://www.batchgeo.com/map/569ba07186373cf94ee548ddcb22a0c0.
Through my ongoing research, I have identified a number of violations perpetrated by NextG, which is responsible for more than 250 of these antennas. In addition to the violations, I have identified 32 permit approvals that NextG has allowed to lapse; 18 of these permits are in the 94114 zip code. Technically, and according to San Francisco law, these permits are no longer valid. However, NextG continues to maintain fully operational antennas at these locations.
I have fought the antenna in front of my home, and due to many mistakes made by the city and NextG Networks, I won my appeal. The residents of Noe should know that there are similar options available to them. I have a lot of information on this matter and would be happy to pass it along to interested parties in Noe Valley.
Sidewalk Law Cracked
Nothing frustrates city residents more than being cited for a blocked-sidewalk violation [See Rumors, June 2011 Voice]. Living in Noe Valley, I too have been cited for this “infraction,” but what I discovered while fighting it was eye-opening. I want to share what I found with my fellow residents, and hope they will contact Supervisor Scott Wiener, as I have, for his help in addressing the problem.
The description within the California Vehicle Code, Section 22500, states where a sidewalk begins (at the curb), but not where it ends. San Francisco adds its own code to the state law, which states that a sidewalk ends at the property line. For streets such as Dolores, which have at least 20 feet of space between the curb and the property line, the city’s added wording to the VC becomes problematic. On Dolores Street, it’s ridiculous to think that a car with its bumper past the property line, and leaving say 15 feet of sidewalk behind it, could be cited for a blocked sidewalk.
After a discussion with (then) Supervisor Bevan Dufty regarding the numerous new building allowances that encroach and block sidewalk space—driveway ramps and railings, trees, restaurant tables and chairs—he put me in touch with the city’s Building Department regarding the double standard with regard to cars.
The guidelines the Building Department uses are set in place by the numerous ADA lawsuits the city has endured. With the ADA’s acceptance, the city has a policy of following a strict rule of having four feet of usable sidewalk space from the curb or from the driveway slope to the property line. Usually, two sidewalk “blocks” equal four feet. So, if this is allowed by the Building Department, why then couldn’t a vehicle parked in its driveway, leaving a minimum of four feet of usable, flat, sidewalk space behind it, be allowed to park there uncited?
In my opinion, the Building Department cannot approve permanent structural additions to driveways and homes that encroach and shrink sidewalk space identical to, or in most cases worse than, what a parked car would do, while at the same time the DPT cites the car for the identical offense.
Supervisor Wiener should be able to address the San Francisco code and have it rewritten so that a sidewalk is defined as four feet of flat space from the curb (or a tree cutout) inward to the property line. Many of us who have a driveway would then be able to legally park our vehicle in the space without fear of a citation.
Lastly, as a homeowner, I tire of the back and forth when it comes to sidewalk responsibility. For instance, if I park my car on what the city considers public sidewalk, I am cited for blocking that sidewalk. However, if this same area is damaged, I suddenly now “own” that sidewalk and I’m financially responsible for repairing it. So, it begs the question, just who does “own” the sidewalk? When it generates money for the city (blocked sidewalk), then the city owns it. But when it costs money for the city (damaged sidewalk in need of repair), then suddenly the homeowner owns it. Very convenient for the city, but I’m not sure how they define the legality of each situation.
Cars vs. Pedestrians
Several years ago, I wrote a letter begging pedestrians to interact with cars on 24th Street. I argued that pedestrians hold the power to ease the danger on the street, especially on Saturdays, by allowing cars to go across, so drivers won't feel so desperate. I am now writing to the drivers (which I realize is all of us, including me).
Normally, walking is de-stressing. The pace is a more relaxing one than the rest of the activities in my day. But over the past six months, I've begun to be very nervous out walking in the neighborhood. The stress comes at the intersections. It seems that there is a new practice of not only allowing one’s car to roll towards me (the pedestrian in the crosswalk) while I'm still in front of the car, but also of accelerating while I’m still crossing. I’m sure everyone can understand that this engages one’s fight-or-flight response and creates a lot of needless tension.
I clocked it. It takes five seconds for me to clear the area in front of a car. Legally, a driver is required to wait until I’m totally off the street; but at least count a slow five or a fast 10 seconds before taking your foot off the brake pedal, please.
Two of my customers were nearly run down right in front of me at 24th and Castro a few weeks ago. A lot of pedestrians are hit in this town. It’s not worth the risk. Five seconds.
Pedigree in Doubt
This is in response to Jen Maxwell’s letter “Chew on This” in the June 2011 issue. Perhaps her parents should have had a dog instead of her.
(Last name withheld by request)
THE NOE VALLEY VOICE
P.O. Box 460249
San Francisco, CA 94146
The Noe Valley Voice is an independent newspaper published monthly except in January and August. It is distributed free in Noe Valley and vicinity, on or before the first Friday of the month. Subscriptions are available at $30 per year ($25 for seniors) by writing to the above address.
The Voice welcomes your letters, photos, and stories, particularly on topics relating to Noe Valley. All items should include your name, address, and phone number, and may be edited for brevity or clarity. (Unsigned letters will not be considered for publication.) Unsolicited contributions will be returned only if accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
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Sally Smith, Jack Tipple
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS AND EDITORS
Olivia Boler, Other Voices Editor
Corrie M. Anders, Associate Editor
Heather World, Associate Editor
Heidi Anderson, Karol Barske, Helen Colgan, Chrissy Elgersma, Jan Goben, Liz Highleyman, Laura McHale Holland, Florence Holub, Tim Innes, Jeff Kaliss, Doug Konecky, Erica Reder, Pat Rose, Roger Rubin, Shayna Rubin,
Karen Topakian, Nicole Wong
Pamela Gerard, Photo Editor
Beverly Tharp, Senior Photographer
Najib Joe Hakim, Senior Photographer
Sally Smith, André Thélémaque, Jack Tipple
Jack Tipple, Misha Yagudin
Jon Elkin, Elliot Poger
Steve Steinberg, Advertising Manager
Contents ©2011 The Noe Valley Voice
Write the Noe Valley Voice, P.O. Box 460249, S.F., CA 94146. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and contact information. (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.