your Miraloma Life … online – January 2007

  • Don’t Miss MPIC Winter Creative Literary Festival
  • Holiday Party
  • Community Safety: Involved Residents
  • Legal Ease
  • Design Matters
  • From the President
  • Hear, O Israel
  • A New Year’s Resolution
  • The Fire and the Bloom Are One: Succession at Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve
  • School of the Arts
     

    Don’t Miss MPIC Winter Creative Literary Festival

    All creative writers and poets, as well as those who love to read and listen to literature, are invited to a reading on Sunday, January 14, 2007 from 3 to 5 pm at the MPIC Clubhouse . Light refreshments will be provided by the MPIC.

    Leading off the reading will be Dan Liberthson, a well-published Miraloma Park poet whose work has appeared in the Miraloma Life and elsewhere. Dan will read  from  A Family Album, his new book.   A Family Album will be available for purchase and includes CDs of the poet reading the work.

    For Dan, poetry is story-telling, a way to bring the past to life—in this book, his childhood and family history. Reviewers have commented that Dan’s writing, with its “quiet tone, spare language, and compelling imagery . . . confirms the mysterious capacity of poetry to push us toward the kind of clarity that can move our lives forward,” and that its “story of the struggle to survive and mature out of the cauldron of nuclear family tension will appeal to anyone who has suffered and surmounted a difficult early family life.”

    Following a break for conversation and refreshment, the second half of the program will consist of an open reading in which all writers are

    welcome to read their work, and, if it is in book or other saleable form, to offer it for purchase.   Please join us for what promises to be a memorable MPIC event.

    Holiday Party

    Once again a great success.  Bostwick the Clown, Laura Lee Brown & Co. Good food and great neighbors. 

    The Miraloma Park Improvement Club gratefully thanks these local merchants and friends for their generous support of the 2006 Holiday Party:

    Ken & Kathy Hoegger

    GLEN PARK
    Glen Park Hardware; La Corneta
    Glen Park Nails; Clean ‘n Save
    Cheese Boutique; Bird & Beckett Books & Records
    Critter Fritters; Destination Baking Company
    Canyon Market; Rabbithole Beading & Design

    PORTOLA DRIVE
    Mollie Stone’s Tower Market

    WEST PORTAL
    Fruition Day Spa; BookShop West Portal
    Paradise Pizza & Pasta; Papenhausen Hardware
    Shaw’s Candies

      

    Community Safety: Involved Residents

    The Miraloma Park Improvement Club thanks all Miraloma Park residents who provided police and MPIC with information regarding the recent rash of car boostings. We also thank Captain Paul Chignell and the other dedicated officers of Ingleside Station who have been consistently available to share information and to strategize with MPIC’s Board Safety Committee members.

    Two to three boostings per month in Miraloma has been the norm over the years. But during December, 2006, our neighborhood experienced a significantly higher than usual number of these crimes with some cars being boosted twice or more within a two week period, while other cars on their respective blocks were untouched.

    Captain Chignell has ordered constant passing calls in Miraloma Park with two police cars from evening until dawn in an effort to apprehend the perpetrators of these crimes. Captain Chignell is personally patrolling Miraloma, as well.

    A tip:
    Between 4:00 and 4:20 AM on the morning of December 20, residents of the 100 block of Teresita observed a graffitied white van with no plates accompanied by individuals wearing headlamps and looking into cars. 
     
    Will you help?
    Community participation is absolutely necessary in achieving and maintaining a safe community.

    1) Keep an eye on the street. By the way, several of the reported boostings occurred between 4:00 – 4:30 AM.

    2) Report all suspicious activity to 553-0123.  Report—and urge neighbors to report—all car break-ins (and other crimes) whether or not anything was taken. No exceptions, please! Reports of suspicious activity and actual crimes help police both to deploy patrols where needed and to establish a pattern of criminal activity which could result in arrests.

    Have you had problems with dispatchers? Captain Chignell advises the following: when you make your report to the dispatcher, obtain and write down the CAD (Computer Assisted Dispatch) number for that call. The CAD number enables Ingleside Station—the Captain and supervising officers—to trace response to your call, track officer accountability, and address problems, if any, in police response. Then, follow up with the Captain at Ingleside Station (404-4000) or via email at Paul.Chignell@sfgov.org.

    Tell the dispatcher that Captain Chignell has urged residents to report suspicious activity. Also, if you are not satisfied with dispatchers’ response, ask to speak with a supervisor, and report problems to District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd (sean.elsbernd@sfgov.org).

    Trust your instincts: if something looks wrong, report it—don’t waste an opportunity to prevent someone being victimized. Think of diligent reporting of suspicious occurrences and crimes as a volunteer activity that contributes to the well-being of everyone in the community. In a perfect world, this additional effort would not be necessary. But we are stuck with the world we have.

    3) Leave a front window or porch light on overnight. A proactive Gaviota Way resident shares her experience: “We used to have regular thefts from autos on our block…back in the late ’80s-early’90s. I think it happened to us 4 or 5 times in the first few years we lived here.

    Around 1992 or 1993, those incidents peaked when our neighbor’s car was torched in the wee hours (a gas can was emptied into it). Our dog woke me up barking at the flaming car, so I was the first to spot it and noted that every window on the street was pitch dark — it looked like a safe place to commit a crime. Ever since then we have kept a light on in a front window of the house all night, and we have NEVER had a theft or vandalism incident with our cars in front of our house since. I’ve never heard that as a safety tip, but it seems to have worked.”

    Note: Because Miraloma Life is a monthly publication, we do not report specific crimes. For a daily emailed report of crimes in the Ingleside District, email Captain Paul Chignell at the above address and ask to receive his report.
    —Karen Wood, MPIC Board Safety Committee

     

    Legal Ease

    By Steven Solomon

    Q: I read that California has a strong identity theft law. What’s it all about?

    A: The law protects identity theft victims from unwarranted debt collection & credit reporting by creditors, lenders, etc. THE most important step any identity theft victim must take is to file a police report once you learn that either fraudulent accounts were opened in your name, or that existing accounts were hijacked by identity thieves. Be sure NOT TO PAY ANYTHING for charges, services, etc. that YOU did not receive. Typically, a creditor or lender will have you complete a fraud affidavit & ask for a copy of your police report. In most cases, that information is sufficient to clear up your name, stop debt collection & correct any credit reporting. Next month, I will explain the remedies if a creditor or lender REFUSES to stop harassing you.

    IT’S ALMOST A NEW YEAR – & guess what? A new year brings new laws – here’s a sampling for 2007: it will be an infraction for a driver to allow someone to ride in the trunk of your car. As of July 1, 2008, drivers CANNOT operate a hand-held cell phone while driving – if caught, the first-time fine is $20, the second fine $50. And in ‘07, pharmacists can dispense drugs by prescription order of a nurse practitioner.

    Happy Holidays & New Year!
    Steve Solomon is an 18 year resident of Miraloma Park.  His law office is located on West Portal where he continutes to represent consumers and business groups in a variety of legal issues.

     

    Design Matters

    Peter A. Zepponi, AIA – Architect
     
    Q: I have to park on the street. How can I improve my car’s safety?

    A: Add a security camera, outside lights, meet your neighbors.

    Several cars in our neighborhood have recently been broken into and it is a bit of the talk of our street.  Many of us in Miraloma Park only have a single car garage and are forced to park a vehicle on the street because we have two vehicles or because the garage makes a great place to store all of our extraneous stuff. Garage organization systems are another topic, so what can you do to help protect your car parked on the street?

    The first and easiest thing is to leave your porch light on.  You can install a bright high efficiency fluorescent bulb so it doesn’t cost as much to leave on all night.  The next thing you can consider is landscape lighting or lanterns to either side of your garage door.  These will add light and minimize dark places for anyone to hide and possibly deter suspicious activity.  It will also give any witnesses a better opportunity to see the perpetrator at night.  Another benefit of landscape lighting is that when properly done it can really enhance the façade of your home by accenting certain design elements, plants and trees.  The last lighting technique I’d recommend for security is a motion-sensor flood light.  This is a bright flood light you don’t want to leave on all night for your neighbors sake, and because it wastes energy.  But the motion sensor will turn on the light for a short period of time, and perhaps be enough of a deterrent.
       
    The next level of security that I know several neighbors are considering or installing is video surveillance.   This may deter crime if someone knows there is video surveillance, but then I’d make sure you can’t reach or easily see the camera so they can’t disable it or hide from it.  The extra landscape lighting will help give you better video images.  You can spend a lot on very sophisticated systems or a moderate amount on a simple system similar to a webcam.  Audio/video and security systems are not my area of expertise, so I regularly work with a consultant as part of my design team.   I’d recommend talking to someone who specializes in audio/video and/or security systems.   The technology changes too quickly for most architects to keep up with the latest products so it’s best to talk to a specialist.  Explain what you’d like to achieve and your budget and they can recommend the specific components to meet your needs.

    There are security surveillance systems that will monitor your home 24/7 or you can turn them on or off with manual controls or pre-sets.  Some systems can be linked to your motion sensors so they are activated when someone is on or near your property. Others can be connected to your doorbell so anyone who rings your bell is videotaped.  All of this of course can be connected into a full home automation and security system that allows remote monitoring and control via the internet.  You can control your thermostat, and turn on and off lights, music, TV, sprinklers, and much more at preset or variable times.   The level of technology you can install in your home is really amazing and is becoming quite standard in custom home design.

    Lastly and most importantly is to meet and get to know your neighbors.  More eyes on the street create safer neighborhoods.  Get to know who owns which cars and who belongs in the neighborhood.  If you see something suspicious call the police and try to remember some details.  The Police contact numbers are listed on the back of this newsletter.   Call and report if you see something suspicious. It’s better to be safe than sorry and you may not be the first caller.  We can all take an active roll in making our neighborhood a safer place (especially if you can provide the police with a videotape!)

    Resources:
    High Definition Home: http://www.highdefinitionhome.com/
    This company handles design, supply and installation of all aspects of home automation and is a good source of information to start understanding what your possibilities are.
     
    * This column and its content are intended to be a source of general information. Applicability to your specific project should be verified. If you have a question or topic you’d like considered for a future article please send an email to: pazdesignmatters@aol.com or call 415.334.2868. www.zepponi-architects.com

    Peter A. Zepponi, AIA – Architects, is an architectural firm in San Francisco specializing in residential and commercial architecture. 

     

    From the President

    Does your block have a neighbor that everyone agrees is a pain in the neck? The one with five cars parked everywhere except in their garage, and often in front of your driveway. The one who calls the city constantly to complain about your trees, your sidewalk, your fence, your contractor, your roof…but refuses to talk to you. And, of course, the one with the dog in the back yard day and night that never stops barking. Or the one that lets their house and yard deteriorate into an eyesore. “The Neighbor From Hell” (TNFH) is a predictable feature of city life.  So what are the rest of us (the Neigbors from Heaven) to do about TNFH?

    Neighbor-to-neighbor conflicts can be frustrating, disturbing, or even dangerous. They can range all the way from hostility and bad feelings to confrontations with the police, legal disputes, or violence. Regardless of the level of disagreement, conflicts between neighbors just make life miserable, misery that is there every day. In most cases we just live with TNFH and do what we can to avoid a scene and still efend our rights. But when disputes start escalating—shouting matches, signs going up, cameras in the windows, vandalism—something needs to be done to prevent a possible tragedy.

    I’ve lived many places over the years, and each one had its own TNFH. Common though the problem is, have I rarely have seen any resolution of bad-neighbor disagreements, or even much of an attempt at resolution. Instead the ill feelings fester, and people endure the situation until someone moves away.

    One situation that did work out well happened one summer during my childhood. Some kids from a nearby neighborhood were getting into fights with kids from my neighborhood. Soon the parents were becoming involved in defending their kids.  Angry phone calls were exchanged, and people were saying that someone was going to get hurt if nothing was done soon. But no one seemed willing to step in. The person who finally did step in was my mother, a housewife without  political or legal experience of any kind but with a personality that somehow could get people to trust her. She called all the kids to a meeting in our house, gave everyone soft drinks and cookies, let them play with our dogs, kept them from feeding sweets to the dogs—and turned the kids from enemies into friends. I remember, too, just how she did it. She quickly identified the leaders from the two groups, asked them about school and sports and other things, and found common interests between them. Then she got the other kids to join in. Always positive, never lecturing, she got the kids to meet each other as kids. She organized a baseball game for the next day and made sure that both teams consisted of kids from both neighborhoods. The friendships from that day persisted throughout the summer. I don’t know if she ever contacted the parents, but I suspect not.

    Why did this work out? The fact that my mother was dealing with kids probably had something to do with it. As a teacher, I know that there is very little difference between kids and adults in an angry situation, but not being a kid made her a neutral third party, someone everyone wanted to trust. Also, she acted before the anger became irreversible (something our leaders missed out on in Iraq). But most of all, she got the kids to see each other, not as adversaries, but as people with similar ideas and objectives despite their different backgrounds.   Regrettably my mother is no longer around to offer advice on dealing with TNFH, but can we learn from her approach? “Conciliation,” “Mediation,” and “Arbitration” are terms brought up in such situations, of which we need to understand the distinctions.

    Conciliation is the process of reducing the anger level so that the parties can work things out rationally. My mother served as the conciliator in that neighborhood dispute. Mediation involves a neutral third party, usually one with mediation training and experience, to help people reach a mutual resolution that they implement and maintain themselves. Arbitration, however, binds people to a decision rendered by a neutral arbitrator and enforced by law.  Of the three, conciliation requires the most skill. Stepping into a neighbor-to-neighbor problem is very risky. Few people are willing to take the risk, and fewer still have the personality to succeed.

    In San Francisco, an organization, Community Boards (communityboards.org) offers low-cost dispute resolution services and training for volunteers to become mediators. California Community Dispute Services (CaCDS.org) takes referrals mainly from the courts, the police, the D.A., and the community at large and provides a lower-cost alternative to the courts with both mediation and arbitration services.

    Still, for the most part we just have to endure TNFH. Perhaps we could all learn by sharing our experiences dealing successfully with problem neighbors: the MPIC web site is a great place for sharing. We now have a new category topic called “Recipes”. Visit http://www.miralomapark.org/, register and click on the “Message Boards” link.

     

    Hear, O Israel

    Out in the fog, voices
    too soft to comprehend
    argue mildly; feelings too mixed
    to untangle fly crisscross
    like toy arrows.
    Car doors slam, the hoarse bark
    of a starter motor becomes more shrill
    until its parent engine roars
    to life and carries this configuration
    out of sound and sight.

    Alone again in my study,
    myself and the mist to listen to,
    I long to be in that car and hear
    all that rode away:
    who did wrong, who right,
    what squabble lost or won,
    who rewarded, who punished—
    all those sodden dramas
    that make up family life,
    sour as old sweat,
    snug as a bedbug.

    That was a time when loneliness
    always had company and boredom
    was brightened by the next scheme.
    No need to find meaning then,
    to make a life of my own,
    for we were tied together as one
    and that was our meaning thus far:
    to be carried by the family car
    in the labyrinth of family roads
    as long as needed to keep us there.

    Copyright © 2006, by Dan Liberthson

     

    A New Year’s Resolution

    by Joanne Whitney

    One of the easiest New Year’s Resolutions to keep is to clean out your medicine cabinet in the first week of January every year.  If you are like most of us,  your medicine cabinet contains unfinished vials of antibiotics and over the counter drugs, old band-aids, dirty gauze, some never-to-be-used again makeup, empty lipsticks, congealed deodorants, rusty nail clippers, ancient toothbrushes and an endless variety of half-empty tubes and bottles with no labels.

    Check the expiration date of all products in your cabinet including herbal, vitamin and homeopathic preparations.  When you find expired products, throw out these useless items since they will not be effective and will get in the way of your finding something you really need.  Moreover, some prescription medications like tetracycline antibiotics can form dangerous derivatives after prolonged storage.  Taking such expired products can make you very sick.

    Also consider that the hot, humid and easily accessible bathroom cabinet is not a good place to store medicine. Bathroom conditions hasten the degradation of most medicines. A better place would be somewhere cool, dark and dry where children cannot get to them. 
    A locked closet is an excellent alternative.

     

    The Fire and the Bloom Are One: Succession at Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve

    In secret corners of this earth, the source of the longest river meets the voice of the hidden waterfall.  Leave your car in the parking lot on Skyline Blvd. in the Oakland Hills and step through the unknown, remembered gate onto the huckleberry path. Inhale the aroma of rain on the wind, a perfume mixed with the bouquet of a mature bay forest. Sheer rocky knolls punctuate the canyon, its story a potboiler of earthquakes and eruptions. Mist drapes maverick oaks and madrones in fleeting gossamer gowns, and paints the tops of trees on the ridge across the valley.

    You have entered the Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, a living time capsule. For the next few hours, try to fit your calendar and your clock into the big picture. Forget about your spouse’s birthday next week, your kid’s piano recital next month, and that quest for a promotion next year. Quit wondering what to nickname the current decade, and get over the gravitas of the 21st century. Millennia are still too small – stop looking at the whale through a microscope. Take a moment and adjust your units.

    The geology here is shale and radiolarian chert, the petrified shells of microscopic sea creatures who lived half a trillion years ago. By comparison, this formation’s existence as a mountain ridge is still a puppy, upthrust from the ocean floor a mere 12 million years ago. Much of the present native plant community has grown here for 5 million years in a relict association found nowhere else in the east bay, but only in areas along the California coast like the Channel Islands, Point Conception, and Montara Mountain.

    At the trailhead for the huckleberry path, a wooden bin holds informational fliers and a printed key for a self-guided tour: 17 numbered stations along the 2-mile trail identifying plants and communities described in the key. To watch history evolve in the proper direction, follow the self-guided tour backwards: take a right where the sign for the Huckleberry Path points left, and walk the trail counter-clockwise.

    The character of this flora is marked by succession, that natural sequence of changes by which certain groups of plants are replaced by others. The laws are dictated by the chert, a harsh and nutrient-poor soil that limits the varieties of plants that can live here; yet succor arrives with moisture blowing in from the Golden Gate, sustaining any species that take hold. Hot summers and frequent wildfires write an agenda driven by flame.

    In the first stage of succession after a fire, manzanita (genus Arctostaphylos) dominates the field. The trail between stations 17-10 passes through large communities of A. crustacea, a mid-size shrub, and the rare and endangered A. pallida, a small (between 6-16 feet) highly architectural tree that occurs only here in the northern Diablo range. These hardy colonizers of the chaparral  thrive in bleak edaphic conditions, and reproduce through fire: A. pallida seeds will germinate most readily in charred landscapes, while A. crustacea grows a thick fire-resistant burl at its base that sprouts with vigor after a burn. The “manzanita barrens” at stations 10 and 6 show the elfin-forest quality of these communities at an early stage, before the arrival of competitors – and right now they’re in magnificent bloom, lasting through March.

    Over time, birds introduce new plants via their droppings, which contain the seeds of berries they’ve eaten in neighboring regions. Now mixed with the manzanita are huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), minor giant chinquapin (Chrysolepsis chrysophylla var. minor), and coast silk tassel (Garrya elliptica), the harbingers of the middle
    stage of succession.

    Huckleberry is the dominant shrub here, a fast-growing evergreen that produces delicious edible berries in the fall. Chinquapin has boat-shaped leaves with a gold fuzz on the underside (its name is Greek for “golden scale”) and summer fruit encased in nutlets that birds adore. Garrya, easily confused with a 10- to 25-foot oak tree during spring, summer and fall, becomes unmistakable every new year. Come January, the trees send out numerous 7- to 12-inch catkins – hundreds of them dangle from above in a tinsel effect, with each white flower cluster like the delicate fringe on a graduate’s cap. Garrya has separate male and female trees: the females reach only 10-15 feet tall and grow shorter, less-attractive catkins, while the males are taller with the long, showy blooms prized by horticulture.  Interested gardeners should ask about choice cultivars like ‘James Roof’ and ‘Eve.’

    These “second generation” plants eventually form a tall, dense canopy that shades out and kills the manzanita. In turn, the faster-growing huckleberry will overwhelm and kill the chinquapin. Leaf duff accumulates over the ages, rendering the soil more organic and fertile, opening the door for a wider and larger variety of plants to compete with the huckleberry. Seeds arrive on the wind, or with animals. The slow hand of time flips the calendar, 10,000 years per page.

    Halfway along our reverse-journey on the huckleberry path, the trail curves back on itself and veers downhill into bay forest, the ultimate tage of succession. The deepening shadows swallow the day, and the river’s murmur grows more clear.  Canyon live oak (Quercus chrysolepsis) and madroño (Arbutus menziesii) reach up between the 75-foot California bay trees (Umbellularia californica), a canopy that shades out most competitors in the hushed, fragrant understory.

    Bays often grow in multiple trunks curving outward from the center, like the stems of a giant bouquet.  As each trunk grows longer and heavier, it bows back toward the earth until its mass exceeds the angle of repose and collapses; the lateral branches will die on the bottom and sides of the now-horizontal limb, but the upward-pointing branches will continue to grow, capable in time of reaching the height and girth of the original tree.  Where does it all lead?  The base of the plant, where stem meets root, provides a clue.  The manzanita, chinquapin, Garrya, madrone, oak, and bay all form basal burls, thickened knots of wood at the surface of the soil, the better to regenerate through fire. If a blaze torches the deadwood and old growth, the burl will sprout prolific healthy shoots, regenerating the community. Huckleberry crown-sprouts after a burn, the analogous adaptation. Exposed sites and decrepit populations may be devastated completely by a fire, setting the stage for manzanita. We find the last of earth left to discover is that which was the beginning, where the tongues of flame are folded into the crowned hitch of fire, and the fire and the bloom are one..

    Geoffrey Coffey sends apologies to T.S. Eliot and wishes a happy new year to all in Miraloma Park. Find more online at http://www.geoffreycoffey.com/.

     

    School of the Arts

    by Caroline Grannan

    SOTA offers top arts events this month

    Miraloma Park residents are invited to an array of performances and events at San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA), Portola and O’Shaughnessy, in January 2007.

    SOTA is a prestigious public high school that admits by audition. Students study their specific arts discipline several hours a day, along with their academic curriculum.

    These high-quality student events in January are open to the public:

    Friday, Jan. 12, 7:30 p.m.: Poetry Cafe.
    Saturday, Jan. 13, 7:30 p.m.: Jazz concert.
    Thursday, Jan. 18, and Friday, Jan. 19, both at 7:30 pm.: Media night (student film and video).
    Saturday, Jan. 27, 7:30 p.m.: Shakespeare 2007.

    And get ready for SOTA’s big musical production of the year, the legendary “Fiddler on the Roof.” The show will run Feb.22-March 10. In addition, on Feb. 2 and 3, SOTA will host top student musicians from around Northern California in a two-day jazz marathon in the California Music Educators Association jazz competition.  All performances are on the SOTA theatre’s main stage, 555 Portola at O’Shaughnessy, with free parking. For tickets and more information, go to http://www.sfsota-ptsa.org/ or call 415/695-5720.