Miraloma Life Online – February 2011

  • SF-DPW’s Graffiti Advisory Board
  • Sunday Farmers’ Market Proposed for Glen Park BART Parking Lot
  • Miraloma Park Improvement Club (MPIC) Activities and Achievements
  • Monthly Crime Chart – (December 2010)
  • MPIC Appeals Exemption from Environmental Review for Proposed Los Palmos Development
  • From The Legal Files: Your Neighbor’s Trees
  • Summary of Minutes of MPIC Board Meeting of January 6, 2011

SF-DPW’s Graffiti Advisory Board

by Dan Liberthson

The Department of Public Works (DPW) supports a volunteer Graffiti Advisory Board that has had a powerful positive effect in San Francisco’s ongoing effort to clean up and eliminate graffiti. Members of this Board are appointed by the Mayor and the Supervisors (one appointee per district) to review and evaluate the services and programs in place to respond to graffiti prevention, abatement and enforcement. Also included are representatives of the SF Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, Muni, and other organizations involved in the battle to curb graffiti. Chaired by DPW Head Mohammed Nuru, this Board meets at DPW’s offices (30 Van Ness Avenue, Fifth Floor) on the second Thursday of every month at from 3 to 5 pm (with the first half hour dedicated to separate committees tackling enforcement, prevention, or education). The Board does not meet in July and December. For the last 18 months, I have been District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd’s appointed delegate to the Graffiti Advisory Board, but as my term ends on April 10, Supervisor Elsbernd and I are seeking a replacement to continue our district’s liaison with this important Board.

I have found participating in the Graffiti Advisory Board to be very interesting because of the variety of organizations and districts involved, each offering a different perspective on the problems that must be addressed, and the effective programs that have been developed and implemented. A major focus of the enforcement effort, for example, has been to educate judges to take graffiti vandalism seriously and impose the legally mandated sentences appropriate for this crime. The Board invites SF residents to write to their judges and request strict penalties, rather than token consequences, for violators, in particular major and repeat offenders. Such vandalism requiring $400 or more for repair is defined as a felony, and should be sentenced appropriately, and even misdemeanor offenses should be taken seriously, with the maximal allowed community service time and fines appropriately administered. The damage from graffiti vandals costs the City and its residents and business owners many millions of dollars annually, and this drain on our resources and our quality of life should not be taken lightly by SF’s judiciary. The Board has also made progress in requiring building owners, including the City, to quickly clean up tags on buildings.

Perhaps most heartening in the work of the Graffiti Advisory Board has been its focus on educating youth early on that tagging is a crime that harms others, that taggers should not to be respected or emulated, and that the key word that distinguishes criminal graffiti from artistic efforts is permission from property owners. Other efforts include collaboration with San Francisco Arts Commission sponsored “Free Wall” events (sanctioned graffiti on a designated wall) and a program in which muralists are matched with building owners to create artworks on public wa lls by permission. Such murals are generally respected by taggers who refrain from marking them, and thus are an effective means of deterring random tagging. A by-product of this approach has been the creation of a veritable free-access museum of murals in some of our neighborhoods—an attraction for residents and tourists alike.  A program offering free re-painting of tagged trucks has been developed and there are plans to expand it. Also under consideration is a national conference on graffiti to be held in SF, which by virtue of the Board’s work has become a leader in anti-graffiti programs.

The DPW offers 2-hour training classes in graffiti clean-up, and graduates of these programs receive free equipment, graffiti remover, and paint to match most surfaces. Thousands of SF residents have signed the Zero Graffiti Pledge, a commitment by signatories to report graffiti when they see it, support anti-graffiti legislation that strengthens law enforcement activities, and remove graffiti from their property within 48 hours. All of these possibilities can be explored on the DPW website (http://www.sfdpw.org/).

Graffiti Advisory Board strategic objectives for 2011 include:
• promoting the Zero Graffiti Pledge
• partnering with the community to launch a letter writing campaign requesting local judges not to reduce felony vandalism cases to misdemeanors and to enforce the maximal penalties for misdemeanor graffiti vandalism cases
• supporting the SF Board of Supervisors in drafting and passing legislation to prohibit tagged trucks and motor vehicles from parking in residential neighborhoods and require owners to clean their trucks
• continuing to cultivate connections with the artist/muralist community by supporting DPW/San Francisco Arts Commission collaborations
• launching a partnership with the Municipal Transportation Authority (MTA) to help fight graffiti vandalism on Muni
• adopting a new Mission Statement for the Board
• coordinating a national graffiti conference in SF.

Please help to keep SF a great City in the forefront of graffiti limitation and eventual elimination by volunteering to serve as District 7 representative to the Graffiti Advisory Board: contact Sean Elsbernd to let him know that you are available. Whether or not you can serve on the Board, please help in any way you can: join the Zero Graffiti Pledge, take the free graffiti removal class and volunteer some time to spruce up your neighborhood, and report graffiti whenever you see them (call 3-1-1 or report on line at http://sf311.org/index.aspx?page=118).

Sunday Farmers’ Market Proposed for Glen Park BART Parking Lot

The Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association is working to organize an outdoor farmers market in the Glen Park BART parking lot. The proposal requires approval by the BART Board of Directors. The review process as yet has no definite timeline. The market would be held on Sundays between 10 am and 2 pm, with two additional hours proposed for set-up and one hour for cleanup. The plan is for local growers to offer vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains— organic as well as conventional—with approximately 28 stalls. If BART denies use of its parking lot, Wilder Street could be a backup location. For current status of the market, map, and proposed details visit http://glenparkfarmersmarket. com. This site also lists Glen Park merchants in favor of the market. Contact support@glenparkfarmersmarket.com to sign up for status updates.

Farmers Market

Miraloma Park Improvement Club (MPIC) Activities and Achievements

by the MPIC Membership Committee

In the course of recruiting members for the MPIC, we are sometimes asked what the Club does. Following is a partial summary of the activities of the MPIC (founded in 1935 and incorporated in 1940).

Zoning and Planning
The Zoning and Planning (ZAP) Subcommittee, in conjunction with the Board and the community at large, by attending City government hearings and submitting verbal and written testimony and documentation, has worked to, and plans to continue working to:

• Preserve Miraloma Park’s RH-1 (single-family occupancy) zoning by active liaison with relevant City departments, including City Planning and Building Inspection.
• Promote consistent, quality architectural design and materials in new and revised buildings. To preserve quality of life in and to beautify the neighborhood, we wrote neighborhood-specific Design Guidelines that were adopted by the SF Planning Commission in 1998.
• Report to and interact with the City Building Inspection Department regarding violations of the Building Code, including illegal secondary housing units that violate our R1 zoning.
• Support historical and landmark preservation, playing a key role in preservation of the historic Mt. Davidson Cross (built in 1937), threatened with destruction by a lawsuit (1995-2005).
• Provide public input (consistent with preserving our zoning, neighborhood architectural character, and cohesiveness) in the process of developing City legislation, including the Housing Element of the Master Plan. Address and advocate with respect to proposed citywide residential zoning changes.
• Provide public input in the City’s process of revising its general Discretionary Review (DR) procedures for challenges to proposed residential and commercial projects; and provide assessment, input, and public testimony on specific requests for DR. Monitor applications for new construction and alterations. Work with the City to shape development of the pre-application process and to promote neighbors’ awareness of and opportunity to comment on permit applications.
• Preserve Miraloma Park’s neighborhood commercial district zoning on Portola Drive (NC-1, for small and varied retail character emphasizing neighborhood-serving businesses) by organizing petition drives and testimony against oversized chain stores. Met with Walgreens architects and staff to ensure, for their proposed new store, a design consistent with other NC-1 zoning and commercial and residential architecture.
• Prevent blight to maintain the health of the community by monitoring and reporting to the Public Health Department or Building Department, as appropriate, decrepit buildings or uncared for yards and public areas.

Neighborhood Beautification Via Preservation of Natural Areas
• Advocate for maintenance and staffing of playgrounds, parks, and public spaces by Recreation and Parks and other responsible City departments.
• Funded (via grant applications and the Club general fund) and facilitated (by volunteer labor of Directors and community volunteers) installation and maintenance on Club property of a native plant garden (established 1994).
• Support other volunteer-established and maintained neighborhood gardens with advice and advocacy.
• Coordinate with Friends of the Urban Forest to implement tree planting projects in the neighborhood.
• Work with the Recreation and Parks Department for natural area preservation in Mount Davidson Park (a 40-acre City park most of which is in Miraloma Park).
• Organize plant, flower, geological, historical, and wildlife tours of private and public neighborhood gardens and parklands in Mt. Davidson and Glen Park in order to promote community involvement in and preservation of these areas.
• Played a leading role in preserving O’Shaughnessy Hollow in Glen Park Canyon, an area adjacent to Miraloma Park, acquired as open space by the City of San Francisco in 1990, as a biologically significant natural area.

Community Safety
• Advocate for fire prevention in Mount Davidson Park (e.g.: police monitoring against fireworks on July 4) and abatement of all illegal encampments in the Park, which are fire hazards, foster criminal activity, and present health risks because of lack of sanitation and discarded syringes.
• Maintain a close relationship with Police Department: advocate for and promote community policing, participate in monthly police-community meetings and Police Commission hearings.
• Distribute and post flyers notifying the community of criminal activity and soliciting cooperation with police investigations.
• Promote Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) activities and training.
• Contact and work with the City Attorney and the Police Department to abate drug houses (homes at which drugs are produced or sold).
• Advocate with City government for full staffing of police officers and optimal patrol coverage in the neighborhood.
• Follow up with the Police Department on serious crimes and keep the neighborhood informed.
• Promote safety awareness among neighbors: how to avoid burglary, home invasion, robbery, assault, etc.
• Educate neighbors about personal safety: how to avoid household and everyday hazards.
• Insist on zero tolerance of graffiti and urban blight: Abate graffiti by organizing and training a team of neighborhood volunteers to remove graffiti and work with the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Police Department on enforcement of anti-graffiti laws and prosecution of perpetrators. Counsel merchants and homeowners to remove graffiti from their buildings. Educate the neighborhood about graffiti and empower the community to remove and report them.
• Work with the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) and the Police Department to improve pedestrian safety via installation of appropriate crosswalks, traffic signals, stop signs, and “traffic calming” devices (e.g., bulb-outs, bumps, islands, MPH signs and read-outs) to mitigate speeding and improve monitoring, compliance with, and enforcement of traffic safety laws. Educate the community on the importance of pedestrian-friendly driving.  Advocate for targeted police enforcement with respect to traffic issues and violations.
• Advocate for traffic engineering improvements to promote community safety and organize community meetings with City officials to discuss proposed traffic calming solutions.

Transportation
• Preserved the bus route that serves the upper portion of the neighborhood, which was proposed for discontinuation in a recent transit-reform program, by organizing community resistance, petition drives, and letters of protest, and by lobbying relevant City departments not to curtail the route (36-Teresita) in the interest of seniors and disabled persons who would be adversely affected.
• Advocate with the Municipal Transit Association (MTA) with respect to any public transportation issues impacting the neighborhood.
• Participate in, and advocate with respect to, the neighborhood-specific effects on traffic flow and safety of bicycle plan legislation proposing traffic lane modifications, recently designed and reviewed and soon to be implemented in San Francisco. Provide input into the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process for this project.

Clubhouse
• Preserve, maintain, and operate the MPIC Clubhouse (a rental hall with a capacity of 85 persons owned and operated by the MPIC) and its grounds for the benefit of the community and to fund other MPIC activities:
• Rent the Clubhouse to neighborhood residents, businesses, and others for both private and public events and events of a charitable and educational nature. Rental rates are reduced or waived for some nonprofit, charitable, or other events that directly benefit the community.
• To provide a center for promoting community spirit and hosting community service events, such as candidate forums to discuss local election issues, safety education and training (NERT, SAFE), kitchen and garden tours, holiday celebration events, and more.

Stanford Heights Reservoir Retrofit
• Coordinated with a representative of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to mitigate potential harmful effects of this major retrofit (2-year construction period) of a facility in the neighborhood and immediately affecting residents of Rockdale Drive and Agua Way, including control of litter, noise, and parking congestion due to construction.
• Ensured notification of impacted neighbors about construction plans.
• Ensured appropriate contractor procurement to prevent hiring of undesirable contractors.
• Advocated successfully for modification of the proposed design of the reservoir pump station to conform to the Miraloma Park Residential Design Guidelines (RDG) with respect to architectural design and appearance.

Communication and Community Outreach
• Publish the free, 12-page, newsletter Miraloma Life, and deliver it monthly, 10 months per year, to 2,200 homes and selected local businesses. The main purposes of the newsletter are to promote neighborhood identity and raise community awareness of relevant issues and activities; to make available articles about the City’s governmental and political processes and plans and promote individual participation in the development and implementation of these plans; to disseminate information about safety and community preservation and public resources; to provide information about local events; and to make available articles of general interest. Revenue from paid advertisements provides partial funding for newsletter production and helps promote local businesses.
• Maintain a website (http://www.miralomapark.org) on which the monthly newsletter is posted and a comment and discussion forum is hosted. In addition, the Miraloma Park RDG (described above) are available on the website, as are a description of the Clubhouse and its availability for rentals, notices about important community-related events, and links to important community resources. The website thus not only serves all of the purposes of the Miraloma Life newsletter, but also facilitates rapid communication and exchange of information and comment with the community and, via its message board, provides a forum for issues that concern the community.
• Host and organize debates on propositions and between candidates for governmental office, in order to educate community on relevant issues.
• Facilitate involvement in City-wide issues that affect Miraloma Park by maintaining membership in and sending delegates to the relevant “umbrella” organizations of SF neighborhoods: the West of Twin Peaks Central Council and the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods. Advocate via these umbrella groups and individuals on city-wide issues such as zoning, transportation, police, and the Housing Element (a required 10-year plan for housing construction; part of the Master Plan). Testify at Board of Supervisor meetings, City commissions, and various hearings with respect to the many issues that impac  our neighborhood and the City at large.
• The Membership Subcommittee organizes mailings and reminders on the website and in the newsletter to encourage eligible individuals to join the MPIC or to renew their membership and pay their dues. Increased membership facilitates MPIC’s effectiveness as a community advocacy organization benefiting the neighborhood in negotiations with the City government and other organizations whose actions may impact neighborhood well-being.

Monthly Crime Chart – (December 2010)

Crime Chart - Click to Enlarge

MPIC Appeals Exemption from Environmental Review for Proposed Los Palmos Development

Because a proposed four-lot subdivision allowing three new homes to be built on Los Palmos at Foerster is in a State-designated land-slide area, the MPIC Board believes that the Planning Department’s exemption of Environmental Review for the project was improper and we have appealed this exemption. The letter of appeal states that “the project cannot qualify for a categorical exemption and exclusion from all environmental review because of the history of the site, because it is located in a known hazard zone, and because the categorical exemption is being awarded to the project based on agreed mitigations in order to address the hazardous conditions at the site.” According to CEQA section 15300.2, Class 3, the subject project must be excluded from a categorical exemption since it is located in a mapped and recognized historic slide zone. Thus, in accordance with CEQA and, we believe, in the interest of the safety of persons and adjacent properties in the area of the proposed development, the MPIC Board has requested that the Board of Supervisors set aside the categorical exemption and require environmental review of this proposed project. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 15.

From The Legal Files: Your Neighbor’s Trees

by Mary Catherine Wiederhold, Esq.

Your neighbor’s tree branches are hanging over your property. What legal recourse is available?
Under California law, if the trunk of a tree stands on the land of one landowner, then that landowner owns the tree. This is true regardless of whether the roots, foliage or branches have extended onto the property of another. However, if the tree trunk stands partially on the land of two adjoining landowners, then both neighbors own the tree.

California law considers any shrubbery, foliage and branches that encroach onto the land of another landowner a potential nuisance, trespass, or even taking part of the neighbor’s property. The neighbor may end the nuisance by trimming the overhanging foliage or branches. However, the neighbor must act reasonably. The neighbor cannot trim or prune branches in a manner that seriously injures or kills the tree. If the person trims or prunes branches without permission on a tree that is not encroaching onto his or her property, then that person is liable to the adjoining landlord for up to triple the amount of damage caused by the wrongful cutting. But if the action in the other’s property is accidental or based on a mistaken belief, any damages may be limited, at the court’s discretion, to only double the value of the wrongful cutting. The amount of any damages would be decided in a lawsuit filed in the superior court.

Tree roots that encroach onto your property are better protected by the law. You have a right to sever the roots but only if the roots are in fact causing damage. The severing must be done reasonably so as not to injure the tree, so this should probably be done by a professional arborist. If you negligently sever tree roots and this seriously injures or kills the tree, the owner of the tree has the right to sue you for the value of the tree.

In 1994, a landowner sued his neighbor, claiming that his neighbor negligently cut the roots of his tree. The cutting caused the tree to die, and the landowner had to remove the tree. The neighbor claimed that he had an absolute right to cut the tree roots any way he wanted even when he cut roots three feet deep. The neighbor claimed the roots were buckling his paved driveway. Formerly, a homeowner had “the absolute right to severe any roots that enter an adjoining landowner’s property.” The Court of Appeal held, however, that the neighbor had a duty to act reasonably in removing the tree roots, noting that “neither party considered what would be the neighborly thing to do to resolve this problem.”

In other words, no absolute property rights apply to trees. Even if you have a right to “damages,” the value of a tree or any plant can be minimal. The law rationally expects neighbors to act reasonably toward each other. If your neighbor’s tree or shrub is bothering you, try discussing it with your neighbor.

Summary of Minutes of MPIC Board Meeting of January 6, 2011

by Joanne Whitney and Dan Liberthson

A quorum was present, with President Karen Breslin presiding. Miraloma Park resident Dan Brown was an observing guest. Recent approved e-mail motions to pay postage for mailing of Miraloma Life and to give the Clubhouse rental agent a holiday bonus were recorded. The minutes of the December Board meeting were approved.

Treasurer: Fiscal/calendar year 2010 ended in the black due to increased rentals revenues. It was agreed that the Treasurer will deal with financial issues related to Clubhouse rentals, working directly with the rental agent. A motion to increase and make consistent the montly rental fees for multiple short-session renters was approved unanimously.

Safety: The possible luring of young girl at 25 Marietta was reported. Methods of making events such as this known were discussed. Safety Committee goals for the year are to revive NERT in neighborhood, getting existing members re-trained, and to lobby for full staffing for Ingleside Station.

Membership: Membership form/President’s message inserts will be in January newsletter. Those not renewing in response to this form will be contacted personally. Membership goal for 2011 is 700 total.

Zoning and Planning (ZAP): A motion was made and approved that the MPIC apply for a California California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) required environmental impact study (EIS) on planned development on Los Palmos near Foerster. The site is on a designated slide area and by CEQA such developments cannot be exempt from an EIS. Payment of the refundable $500 application fee was approved. The role of the ZAP and the MPIC in disputed applications was discussed, with agreement that 2 ZAP members would attend the pre-application meeting, assess the proposal with respect to the Miraloma Park RDG, and write to the Planner and the neighbors regarding any areas of concern, but that ZAP would not mediate or arbitrate between disputing neighbors.

Clubhouse: K. Rawlins and C. Mettling-Davis investigated new linoleum for kitchen and new sink and garbage disposal. Found good floor covering and sink. Motions for up to $1200 to buy flooring and sink and $900 for labor passed unanimously. Clubhouse committee will be G. Issacson as Chair, Mettling-Davis, K. Breslin, K. Rawlins as needed, P. Renteria (not a Board member) when possible, with T. Sauvain handling the financials of the rental side. Gary Issacson will investigate means to slip-proof the outside steps. Robert Gee has tried out Google voice as substitute for the current Clubhouse voicemail system and has found it satisfactory, but adopting it was put off until 415 area code numbers become available.

New Business: JoAnn Eastep resigned from Board. She was Treasurer for 7 years and led kitchen and garden tours. The Board thanks her for her contributions.