Noe Valley Voice March 2013

Letters to the Editor and Staff


THE VOICE welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, P.O. Box 460249, S.F., CA 94146. Or e­mail 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. Thanks for your understanding.


Town Honors Square: At a City Hall ceremony on Jan. 29, Supervisor Scott Wiener (left) commended Residents for Noe Valley Town Square, including Todd David, Leslie Crawford, Peter Gabel, Nisha Pillai, Chris Keene, and Kate Sherwood, for their efforts to bring a patch of green to 24th Street through a community fundraising drive. Photo by Adam Taylor

Definition of an S.F. Moderate


In the February 2013 Voice article “Demo Club Has a Growth Spurt,” Rafael Mandelman, described by the Voice as “an avowed progressive,” equates “moderate” Noe Valley Democratic residents to “conservatives.” 

In my experience, Noe Valley and San Francisco moderates are all left of the political center. In any other location in the United States, San Francisco “moderates” would be referred to as “liberals.” Only in the strongly left-tilting world of San Francisco politics would someone mislabel an S.F. “moderate” as a “conservative.” Every San Francisco moderate I know is a Democrat who is:

—Pro choice

—Pro marriage equality

—Pro more funding for public education

—Pro infrastructure investments

—Pro rent control

—And pro creating a business climate where companies will want to bring jobs to San Francisco.

How Rafael Mandelman labels people who hold these positions “conservative” is beyond me.

Demonizing another point of view simply denigrates and dissuades public engagement. And it seems to me that Rafael Mandelman was attempting to demonize S.F.’s moderates by calling them “conservatives.”

I hope all Democrats (moderates and progressives alike) join the Noe Valley Democratic Club and express their opinions. Public dialogue, debate, and disagreement are the bedrock of a healthy community and a healthy Democracy.

Todd David

Eureka Street


Club Welcomes All Democrats


Many thanks to the Voice for publishing not one but two pieces on the Noe Valley Democratic Club (“Demo Club Has a Growth Spurt” and “Analyze This” in the Rumors Behind the News column) in the February edition. As Oscar Wilde noted, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

I write to clarify two items that appeared in the “Demo Club Has a Growth Spurt” article. First, there is a method by which members of the NVDC may rescind the endorsement of a candidate. This process, as well as the endorsement process and other actions of the club are specified in its bylaws, which are posted on the Noe Valley Democratic Club website at

Second, there was no irony in the recruitment of new members. The NVDC leadership reached out to several Noe Valley leaders in search of new members. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our community and we welcome all registered Democrats residing in the greater Noe Valley area who are interested in participating in the NVDC.

The NVDC focuses on connecting people to the political process by registering people to vote, educating the community on relevant local topics, and hosting candidate forums and debates on current political issues. The club also regularly hosts District 8 supervisor Scott Wiener as well as other supervisors, school board members, and state legislators. In addition to hosting Noe Valley resident David Binder in January, the club recently hosted well-known political strategist Eric Jaye (also a Noe Valley resident) and political analyst and University of San Francisco professor Corey Cook.

But the meetings are not dominated by San Francisco politics. We have hosted programs on timely issues in Noe Valley, from the opening of Whole Foods to the proposed closure of a portion of Noe Street to the development of the Noe Valley Town Square.

So we invite all interested Democrats to join the Noe Valley Democratic Club. We look forward to seeing you at our March 13 meeting at St. Philip’s Church, 725 Diamond, at 7:30 p.m.

Hunter Stern


Noe Valley Democratic Club


Are We Being Under-Served?


I hope the Noe Valley Town Square project succeeds (“Town Square Progress Slow But Steady,” February Voice) as fervently as the next Noe Valley resident, and I laud the people working on it. Thanks to them, and to you for your coverage of this issue. But, or and, there was a quote, and the line of reasoning behind it, that I think are disingenuous, and I think undercut serious discussion.

In arguing for city money through the Recreation and Park Department, one of the organizers is quoted as saying, “Noe Valley is one of the most under-served communities in terms of open space in the city.” Huh? Okay, I know we want money for our project in our neighborhood, and I know the government is a good source of funds for projects like this, but I am embarrassed that we would seriously argue we are under-served for open space given the reality of our neighborhood.

I guess under the city’s planning policy, which defines an area as deficient in open space if there is no playground or park within a half-mile radius, the Noe Valley Town Square site qualifies. But that would only be because it is uniquely located in the middle of the following amazing playgrounds and open spaces: Upper Noe Rec Center, Billy Goat Hill, Walter Haas Playground, Upper Douglass, Douglass Playground, Noe Courts, Kite Hill, and Dolores Park (what did I miss?). Apparently, each is at least one-half to three-quarters of a mile away from “downtown” 24th Street.

And that is not even counting Twin Peaks and Glen Canyon, two of the largest open spaces in the entire city, which Noe Valley adjoins and enjoys. I would imagine the city definition is intended to make playgrounds walking distance for people with small kids, a laudable goal, but come on, most of us can drive or take the 24 or 48 bus or J train even with a stroller (as I did when my daughter was younger).

Almost every study I have heard cites the Tenderloin as the largest concentration of city children in the densest quarters, and the Mission likely second. Even if the Planning Department definition may not find them “under-served” for open spaces, I think we can agree they are.

Again, I hope we succeed in this project, and I hope we get government funding of all sorts. But I also hope we don’t argue, or ask our elected representatives to argue, that Noe Valley is “under-served.” It risks making us look spoiled and our arguments taken less seriously, in a city where there are other neighborhoods with needs for government support of all kinds—while we have increasing numbers of (not exclusively I know) wealthy residents and multi-million-dollar single-family homes.

I wish us the best of luck on this laudable project, and I’ll sign up to help, but not because we are under-served in this city.

Charles Spiegel

Elizabeth Street


The Voice received the following email exchange between Noe Valley resident Eric Anschutz and Supervisor Scott Wiener and thought it important to share with our readers. —Ed.


No Forced Seismic Upgrades

Dear Supervisor Scott Wiener:

On behalf of several other longstanding and recent Noe Valley homeowners and renters who have been consulted on the issue, I want to thank you for taking the time to hear our concerns about your proposed requirement to force seismic upgrades in San Francisco.

In short, many of us feel your legislation represents a dramatic overreach of government and one that supersedes its reasonable authority over citizens in San Francisco. We also feel your legislation fails to address the city’s most urgent needs and instead places undue burdens on its least able citizens.

Forcing mandatory seismic upgrades on homes that have stood solidly for decades or even centuries will have a number of directly negative effects. It will displace renters of all types citywide, it will displace lower- and middle-income homeowners citywide, and it will forever change the composition of San Francisco such that only rich homeowners with upgraded houses can afford to remain. These directly negative effects are virtually guaranteed given your proposed seismic upgrade legislation moving forward.

Again, we thank you for considering this issue with the utmost seriousness that it deserves, and for taking reasonable steps to protect the health, safety, and economic well-being of all San Francisco residents. Your legislation, however, fails to do this in equitable or even substantial ways, instead forcing a number of negative and presumably unintended consequences on the people who can least afford them.

If you truly want to increase public well-being in San Francisco, focus on health and wellness instead of seismic upgrades. According to Health Matters in San Francisco, accidents and deaths related to seismic failings do not register among the top 20 historical causes of death in San Francisco. Cancers, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS do, along with substance abuse and violence-related causes. There were precisely zero seismic-related deaths in San Francisco from 2000 to 2007, the most recent period data is available for. There were, however, 49,000 deaths related to health and wellness in that same period.

Please step back from your proposed legislation and rethink the consequences of what you are doing. It seems probable that you could do a lot more good and a lot less bad by taking an entirely different approach to public well-being.

Eric Anschutz

Noe Valley resident


Retrofitting Long Overdue

Reply to Eric Anschutz:

I’m very sensitive to the need to ensure that renters are able to remain in their units. This legislation will result in extraordinarily little displacement of renters, given that the work is performed on the ground floor, in garages and storefronts. Any displacement that occurs will be very brief. Soft-story retrofit work doesn’t typically need to be performed above ground level. And if there are ground-level residential units, the building is probably not a soft-story building. As with any capital improvement work, even if a tenant is temporarily displaced (very unlikely here), the tenant has a right to return. Capital pass-throughs are also quite limited, and I’m told that the typical pass-through here is unlikely to be higher than $20 or $30 a month for the significant majority of impacted renters.

I agree with you that it’s critical to avoid displacement of renters, and that’s a key purpose of this legislation. In a major earthquake, many soft-story buildings—and thousands of rent-controlled units—are at risk. If a building with rent-controlled units collapses, the tenants in that building will be displaced. And if the collapsed building is then replaced with new construction, the building will no longer be under rent control. It’s in everyone’s interest—renters, owners, and the general population—for our housing stock to hold up in an earthquake.

We’ve delayed this task for decades, and it’s time to move forward. This program does impose hardships, both on owners who have to pay for it and renters who will have to deal with the capital work and see a small pass-through. But these hardships pale in comparison to having buildings collapse and thus losing the housing entirely.

In terms of the relative risk of dying in an earthquake vs. other causes of death, the statistics you cite don’t paint a full picture. You’re correct that there were no earthquake fatalities between 2000 and 2007, but that’s because there were no significant earthquakes here during that time period. Compare that to Loma Prieta, where there were soft-story collapses and deaths. Experts predict that we will have an earthquake significantly larger than Loma Prieta. In addition to people dying when buildings collapse, the survivors won’t have housing. We need to prevent that from happening.

This isn’t an either/or thing. One-third of our city budget is devoted to health and human services, including helping those with HIV live longer and better lives. We invest significantly in the health of our populace. We also need to ensure that our housing stock is strong and stable. This long-overdue legislation moves us in that direction.

Scott Wiener

Supervisor, District 8





Transform the Sidewalk into an Urban Garden


Do you want to beautify the front of your home? Are you looking for space to put in flowers, plants, and trees? Do you want to help divert rainwater out of the sewers? Do you want to attract more birds to your neighborhood? Does your front sidewalk need repair?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then the San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) sidewalk landscaping Grey2Green program is for you!

San Francisco is well-known for beautiful parks, such as Golden Gate Park, and open areas, such as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, yet much of the city was paved over during the residential development boom between the 1930s and the 1950s. Paved streets and sidewalks now comprise more than 25 percent of San Francisco’s land area, more than all its parks combined.

Transforming portions of San Francisco’s hardscape into greenscape improves the city’s livability; creates opportunities for increasing both native and beneficial nonnative species and habitat; helps to decrease carbon monoxide levels, especially by adding trees; and increases the amount of permeable area, thereby decreasing runoff to an often overloaded sewer system.

DPW’s Grey2Green program invites residents to transform their sidewalk into a green oasis. San Francisco now offers a low-cost permit that allows property owners to convert sidewalk into green garden space. The more property owners who participate, the cheaper the permit—so get your neighbors involved!

Sidewalk landscaping not only increases property values, but also contributes to a more pedestrian-friendly environment, provides habitat for birds and butterflies, connects ecological corridors, and creates better growing conditions for urban trees. These are just some of the many positive benefits sidewalk landscapes can provide to the city and the homeowner.

Stormwater management is a huge challenge in San Francisco because of our combined sewer system that processes both waste water and storm water. These gardens can play a role in helping to reduce stormwater runoff, which helps ensure that the sewer does not overload and spill into the ocean or bay.

In addition, these gardens help create a sense of community and encourage neighbors to get to know one another. They can activate the space, and give an opportunity for people who might not have any other greenspace to garden in our highly built urban environment.

Some property owners receive notices from the city to fix their sidewalks. This is a perfect opportunity to remove some of the concrete permanently and install a garden. Permits are required to ensure that the public right-of-way remains accessible to all users and to help protect the city and the property owner.

DPW has many helpful tools on our website, including plant palettes, lists of drought-tolerant recommended plants, a resident’s guide, permit information and application, and templates for designing a sidewalk garden. We even have how-to videos posted on our YouTube channel.

For more information on DPW’s Grey2Green sidewalk landscaping program, and transform your sidewalk into an urban garden!

Carla Short, Urban Forester

Department of Public Works




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


Olivia Boler, Other Voices Editor

Corrie M. Anders, Associate Editor

Heather World, Associate Editor

Heidi Anderson, Owen Baker-Flynn, Karol Barske, Helen Colgan, Jan Goben, Kate Haug, Liz Highleyman, Rebecca Huval, Laura McHale Holland, Florence Holub, Tim Innes, Jeff Kaliss, Doug Konecky, Rhiana Maidenberg, George Nelson, Roger Rubin, Shayna Rubin, Karen Topakian


Pamela Gerard, Photo Editor

Beverly Tharp, Senior Photographer

Najib Joe Hakim, Senior Photographer


Jennifer O. Viereck


Jack Tipple, André Thélémaque


Jack Tipple, Misha Yagudin


Jon Elkin, Elliot Poger


Pat Rose, Jack Tipple


Contents Copyright 2013 The Noe Valley Voice