Miraloma Life Online – November 2011

  • MPIC Holiday Party and Pot-Luck Cook-Off on December 4!
  • MPIC Clubhouse Rental Liability Coverage Policy
  • City Ordinance Requires ‘Hidden’ Disposal Bins
  • Summary of Minutes of Board Meeting of October 6
  • From the Legal Files: How Much is Your Neighbor’s Nuisance Worth?
  • Yards to Gardens, a Project of Earth Island Institute
  • Fog Rise
  • Miraloma Park Residential Design Guidelines (MPRDG)

MPIC Holiday Party and Pot-Luck Cook-Off on December 4!

by Dan Liberthson

It’s time to fire up the oven and get out your favorite recipe to prepare for the MPIC Holiday Party and Cook-Off. This has always been the highlight of the year, as neighbors join together to share the warmth of the fire, the tastes of many wonderful dishes, the merriment and entertainment, and the festive atmosphere and decorations in our newly renovated Clubhouse. This is a great way for those new to the neighborhood to meet their neighbors, and for those who have lived here for years to renew old acquaintance, all the while sampling culinary delights and fine Holiday entertainment.

This is one event you do not want to miss! All Miraloma Park residents and business owners are invited to the premiere event of the MPIC calendar. Please put the date on your calendar now, as the next newsletter will come out too late to provide notice.

Date: Sunday, December 4
Time: Eat, drink, make merry: 5 pm to 8 pm; Boswick the Clown appears from 6 to 7
Ambience: Music provided by Laura Lee Brown and Company will comprise a medley of Holiday favorites. Boswick the Clown will provide a zany interlude for the delight of kids and the amusement of their parents.

Feast: The MPIC will provide meats (usually ham, turkey and/or chicken, and roast beef) and drinks (wine, softdrinks, coffee/tea, and the locally famous Champagne Punch). But the real stars of the show will be the potluck specials brought by you, our neighbors and guests. Because the centerpiece of all the fun and the object of the Pot-Luck Cook-off Contest is to taste each other’s fine creations, admission will be free to those who bring a dish to share that will feed at least 6 people. One family can bring one dish, but if you are a large family please bring correspondingly more. The more you bring, the more people can sample your dish, and the better your chances to win one of the excellent prizes donated by our local merchants. The Holiday Pot Luck has had an international flavor in past years, with such favorites as Taco Mix, Stilton Cheese, Moroccan Pasta, Chicken Mogul, and a host of other treats. Categories include Appetizers/soups/salads, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and Desserts.

Guests who do not bring a dish to feed at least six people will be asked to pay $10 for each person in their party over age 7 to help defray costs. If you have any questions, please phone 281-0892 and leave a message. Please come, show off your best culinary skills, and share this celebration of the Holiday season with your friends and neighbors. And be sure to bring the kids, who will love Boswick the Clown (formerly of Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey circus) and his fantastic and funny acts and balloon creations.

MPIC Clubhouse Rental Liability Coverage Policy

Because of recent questions, we want to explain our policy of requiring insurance coverage for renters’ private events at our facility.

To protect the MPIC’s Clubhouse liability insurance policy from cancellation in the event of a claim made as the result of an incident occurring at a private (as opposed to community) event, we require MPIC Clubhouse renters to purchase insurance coverage specific to the event and with the MPIC as an additional named insured.

The MPIC maintains general liability coverage on the Clubhouse for MPIC-sponsored events, but we are at risk of losing that coverage should we file a claim on this policy resulting from an incident at a private event, and replacement coverage would be difficult and/or very expensive to obtain, given our not-for-profit status. Thus, the requirement that renters obtain event-specific primary coverage during their private events protects the MPIC’s general liability coverage, and is considered a “best practice” community-wide by rental space managers. Were the MPIC to provide this insurance for renters, we would need to increase our rental rates significantly to purchase additional coverage for each private rental.

Insurance options for renters include: (1) Most homeowner’s insurance providers will offer coverage extensions (or “riders”), often free of charge, on a renter’s homeowner policy, to include the MPIC as an additional named insured for the duration of the rental event. The MPIC collects a certificate of insurance (which can be faxed or emailed in scanned form) as proof of this “rider” in advance of the event. (2) If the renter’s own provider does not offer this extended event-specific coverage, it can be purchased from most insurance providers. The MPIC’s own insurance agent, Larry DiGiacomo (415-661-3880), can help prospective renters to purchase insurance for events. (3) If a renter feels strongly that his or her event is for the good of the community, the MPIC will consider assuming the risk if the renter cannot obtain insurance for a reasonable price, depending on the type of event to be held.

In our experience, renters have had no difficulty obtaining event-specific private coverage.  If you have further questions about this policy, please contact Steve Davis, our rental agent, via the MPIC voicemail at 415-281-0892) or by e-mail at miralomapark@gmail.com.

City Ordinance Requires ‘Hidden’ Disposal Bins

by Stephanie Gee

While it is one of the most liberal cities on the West Coast, with protests and people expressing themselves daily, San Francisco does have regulations to keep the city clean and orderly. One of these happens to be the “trash can law,” which states that residents must either hide or conceal their disposal bins from public view. Now, this article is not like one of those Stanley Roberts reports on his television segment “People Behaving Badly,” but just a friendly reminder to fellow neighbors to please store their disposal bins out of view.

With the world preoccupied by global warming, a major recession, and political debates in which people try to tear each other apart, you might ask why I am stressing compliance with a seemingly trivial law that the police are unlikely to enforce. My answer is, it’s a vanity issue concerning our neighborhood’s appearance that also has a practical side. According to the Department of Public Works (DPW), keeping your disposal bins out of sight reduces litter, theft, and vandalism in our city, especially graffiti. And if you are still not convinced, some economists argue that not having big disposal bins in front of houses improves everyone’s property values.

While the City relies on the moral sense of San Franciscans for compliance with the law, DPW can impose a fine to back up the legislature. If you do not conceal your disposal bins and the police happen by, you could receive a citation of up to $500. In essence, this new “trash can law” can be compared with parking laws: it’s better to make the small investment of putting money in the meter or removing your disposal bins from sight than to take a chance on a hefty fine.

That “we all need to make the world a better place, one step at a time” may sound like a cliché, but the small step of hiding our trash cans when they are not at curbside awaiting collection will give our Miraloma neighborhood a face lift. Many neighbors insist they do not have enough space for three large disposal bins in their homes or garages. Yet however inconvenient this requirement might be, we should all find a way to obey this law as a public service that helps keep Miraloma Park pleasant, uncluttered, free of vandalism, and with robust property values.

Of course, there are details as to how the city defines a ‘hidden’ disposal bin, including:

• Garbage and recycle bins cannot be placed on the sidewalk or street before 6 pm on the day immediately prior to collection.
• Property owners are required to remove bins within 24 hours after collection.
• Businesses are required to remove bins immediately, on the following business day, when the business opens.
• Property owners are responsible for the upkeep of enclosures for bins, including cleaning the enclosure and removing any graffiti that may occur.

Those neighbors who hide their disposal bins will help create a chain effect so that all neighbors start to conceal their bins, helping to beautify Miraloma Park. So if you are not already, please be among the first to build the chain. And, as the airline videos always say before take-off, “Thank you for your cooperation!” For more information, please visit http://www.sfdpw.org/index.aspx?page=1378

Summary of Minutes of Board Meeting of October 6

by Dan Liberthson and Carl Schick

E-Mail Motions: R Gee moved to authorize $400 to file an application with the SF Entertainment Commission for a permit to allow for amplified music outside the Clubhouse at the Fall Fiesta; the motion failed. S Chu moved that the MPIC write a letter advocating for maintenance of the basketball backboards at Miraloma Park; the motion passed unanimously. Follow-up: The Recreation and Parks person responsible for our area was contacted and submitted a work order for the maintenance.

Treasurer’s Report: MPIC income for September increased slightly. The very successful Fall Fiesta cost just over $1100. Clubhouse rental income decreased in September to $660, the lowest in several years. As our current prohibition on amplified music may in part be the cause of the decline in rentals, the Board will need to revisit that policy.

Committees: Mt. Davidson Park (ad hoc)—Jacquie Proctor, MPIC’s liaison regarding the Natural Areas Plan, drafted a letter to the Plan’s Environmental Review Officer (in response to request for comment on the draft environmental impact review document) questioning plans to cut down 1600 or more trees on Mt. Davidson and other concerns about the DEIR. Jacquie and other Board Members expressed serious concerns about the potential negative impacts of the plan on recreational use of Mt.

Davidson Park. K Wood moved to accept the premise of Jacquie’s letter and send it under MPIC letterhead as modified by D Liberthson; the motion passed unanimously. Membership (R Gee)—Recent direct mail outreach to lapsed and potential new members has raised overall membership to 660; seven new members joined at the Fall Fiesta. Clubhouse Maintenance (C Mettling-Davis): R Gee submitted a motion for the MPIC to purchase a clock for the clubhouse interior for $39. He has asked for a clubhouse committee meeting in a few weeks to discuss what can go into the MPIC reserve account. Future rental bookings are up and include a new permanent renter, the Botanical Drawing Group. Safety (Robert Gee, Mike Naughton, Brian Stone, Joanne Whitney, Karen Wood): (1) The Safety Committee is exploring formation of a Google Group to be used in sending safety alerts. (2) The Committee discussed developing a process for addressing blighted homes in Miraloma Park, using as a guide the SF Anti-Blight ordinance. (3) Danger for pedestrians crossing O’Shaughnessy at the Del Vale Muni #44 stop was discussed. Possible future actions include requesting Muni to move the stop and/or to increase #36 service during peak hours (possibly in the form of partial runs), thus allowing Del Vale and other residents to use the Teresita/Marietta stop. (4) A hoax message posted to the MPIC Crime Message Board on 9/28/2011 and removed the same day resulted in a waste of police time researching non-existent suspicious events. The MPIC Webmaster monitors the Miralomapark.org site daily, removes problem postings, and bans problem users; he has added to the site a Safety Committee message advising against false postings. (5) A Gaviota Way resident contacted MPIC about cars speeding on Gaviota at school drop-off time. In response, G Noguera requested a traffic assessment of the block, a traffic engineer has been assigned to the case, the SFPD will provide occasional enforcement via radar or lidar, and R Gee will ask Miraloma Elementary Principal Machado to remind parents not to speed in the neighborhood.

Old Business: The Miraloma gas station has officially closed. K Breslin spoke with Olga Reynolds in the mayor’s office about our desire to speak to the Mayor about the Planning Commissions rejection of the Art Deco design for the façade of the new CVS in favor of a “modern” design that we believe is inconsistent with Miraloma Park architectural heritage. The Mayor’s Office said they would contact the Director of Planning to follow up on our letter.

From the Legal Files: How Much is Your Neighbor’s Nuisance Worth?

by Mary Catherine Wiederhold, Esq.

Miraloma Park has many lovely trees and lovely views. What happens when your neighbor’s tree obstructs your view? What is the value of the “nuisance” of your obstructed view? An appellate court found that the value of nuisance is not the same as the reduced value of a home.

In 2002, a Court of Appeal decision held, for the first time, that a row of trees grown over 10 feet high specifically to obstruct a neighbor’s view could be a “spite fence.” Before this decision, a spite fence had to be literally a fence. Recently, the court of appeal held that one neighbor who sued another over an obstructed view had to prove the value of their nuisance with regard to their obstructed view in the trial court before they could be awarded damages. Legally, “nuisance” is defined as injury to the comfort and enjoyment of a homeowner’s property by the obstructed view. 

The case involved two neighbors in Carlsbad. The Vanderpols, whose property was upslope, paid tree trimmers to cut their downslope neighbor’s trees so their view would not be obstructed. This arrangement worked for a couple years. One day, the downslope neighbors, the Starrs, decided the Vanderpols could not trim their trees as much as they were formerly allowed to. The neighbors argued. Then, the Starrs planted 85 new trees along the common border between the properties. Three years later, after the trees obstructed the Vanderpols’ view, their attorney wrote to the Starrs and asked them to trim their trees. The Starrs refused. The Vanderpols sued them for, among other things, nuisance.

The jury found that the Starrs had indeed planted and grown their trees to a height exceeding 10 feet for the specific purpose of annoying the Vanderpols. An appraisal expert testified the Vanderpols’ damages based on the obstruction of their view at $57,000. However, because there was no testimony regarding the value of nuisance damages to the Vanderpols because of their obstructed view, the Court of Appeal reversed the damage award to the Vanderpols and sent the case back to the Superior Court for a new trial.

I receive inquiries from homeowners asking about, among other issues, trees, broken fences, neighbors trespassing to retrieve balls, barking dogs, and the like. I usually advise homeowners to work it out with their neighbors or to mediate their issue at a community board. Litigation for homeowners is stressful and expensive. Even when the law appears to be on your side, you might not receive in court what you expect. The Vanderpols and Starrs will probably never talk with each other again without their lawyers present.

Yards to Gardens, a Project of Earth Island Institute

by Zach Bogoshian (contact: zach@y2g.org)

Yards to Gardens (website y2g.org) is a non-profit organization focused on creating community connections around gardening. In the urban setting, gardening space is at a premium, however it does exist: in the yards of your loving, caring neighbors! We want to empower neighborhoods to become more healthy, connected, and beautiful by creating new localized food systems out of their yards. A free website, y2g.org allows you to find or post yard space, willing gardeners, extra tools, or organic matter.

Yards to Gardens has been a great success in Minneapolis, MN, and we recently brought it to the San Francisco Bay Area! So, If you or someone you know needs a space to garden, has extra yard to share, or some tools sitting around collecting dust, then Y2G is for you. So tell your friends, and put up a listing today! It takes 5 minutes tops!

Please check out http://y2k.org, use it, post on it, share it, write about it, or shoot us some tips on how to make it better (compliments welcome too) by using the feedback tab or emailing zach@y2g.org.

Fog Rise

Fog bursts over the hill,
slaps the insolent blue sky,
then sinks, rests, regathers
and rises again to press up the eaves
until the roof drifts away.

Soothing, soaked in gray,
to stop struggling for distinction
and let Fog do its work—
unglue and gently
float apart everything
with unthinking persistence
like a dinosaur munching swamp greens.

Clear astringent air that dries the glue
sticking everything together,
leave now! Let liquid Fog
loosen the webs and all fall down.

Sight and fret seep away
as the wind slows to a sigh.
Fog stretches, curls,
scratches its belly on the treetops.

by Dan Liberthson
(see liberthson.com for more)

Miraloma Park Residential Design Guidelines (MPRDG)

To make Miraloma Park home-owners more aware of our MPRDG, we plan to reprint most of the document in the Miraloma Life as space permits. The complete MPRDG appear at www.miralomapark.org. They were adopted into the San Francisco Planning Code in 1999.


The original development of Miraloma Park followed on the access to the “outside lands” (away from Downtown) afforded by the completion of the Twin Peaks tunnel in 1917. According to Mae Silver in her book Rancho San Miguel, the tunnel “for the outside lands meant the creation of residential communities into park-like settings, housing tracts, and neighborhoods” (Silver, 44). As she explains:

The developers wrote into the deeds of these areas rules regarding ‘nuisances’. . . The new residents created homeowners and neighborhood associations to master the zoning and the building regulations of their area. Later, these groups transformed these original concerns into political muscle dedicated to preserving the integrity of their neighborhoods. (Silver, p 44)

These were urban residential parks conceived with distinctive character and persona still intact today (Silver, 46). The developers created housing tracts as parks incorporating details of refinement, beauty and harmony in the total design. These parks conveyed orderliness and separateness. Inside . . . was an oasis, a refuge, a respite from the rough, brisk business of the city outside. Homes were often similar in structure and style surrounded by sculptured lawns, tree lined streets, vistas and visions of fountains, playgrounds, boulevards and woodlands. Homeowners’ associations maintained and governed these residential parks. (Silver, pp 47-8)

Miraloma Park was built over a period beginning in 1926 and ending in the 1950s. The houses in Miraloma Park were predominantly designed as one story over garage.  A small percentage of homes built after World War II (and located higher up on Mt. Davidson) were designed as two story over garage, but in all Miraloma Park no homes are higher than two-story over garage excepting three later structures on Foerster. Because the homes were adjoined, generous open space behind the homes was provided to allow a green belt between the streets. Advertisements and articles about Miraloma Park emphasize the planned nature of the community.

A Meyer Brothers flier showed a photo of a Miraloma Park street, commenting that “wide green lawns, trees and shrubs flank Miraloma Park’s curving streets,” and emphasizing “the charming results of Controlled Development, careful sub-division and individualized exterior designs. Surroundings such as these safeguard the future value of Miraloma Park homes,” the brochure continued, and it concluded that “years touch lightly on homes that are individually designed and well built, and upon the home district that is carefully planned . . . .”

One owner in the original subdivision said:

“I can now appreciate [the] Meyer Brothers [the developers’] contention that Miraloma Park homes offer city comforts in a suburban setting. The homes themselves are charmingly individual. . . . Miraloma Park is far more quiet and restful than I had imagined anything so close to San Francisco could be. The wooded slopes of Mt. Davidson add a great deal to the beauty of the rural setting.” (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/22/26)

The idea of Miraloma Park as a “suburb within the City” and a planned community was maintained throughout later development. In 1941, when half of the planned 1600 homes had been completed, G. H. Winter, the Meyer Brothers” secretary, said that Miraloma Park was intended as. . . a home center planned as a community development where homes could be sold at moderate cost. . . . The master plan of development outlined in detail specifications for what the firm believed to be the essentials of a suburban home center. The entire tract, for example, was to be developed in units with improvements going into each unit just in advance of building. Streets were to be wide and curved to take full advantage of the contours of the property. Basements were planned along the rear of each home so there would be no unsightly power poles on the streets. (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/20/41, p 10).

Early advertisements present Miraloma Park as a place where the owner exclaims “So this is what they meant by quiet!” and strolls the rolling hills, “knee deep in grass and flowers,” a neighborhood of “backyard farmers,” a place where for a modest price a family can have open space, peace, quiet, and tranquility, “a new kind of living” (Chronicle 4/20/41 p 10). The idea of a planned community was so important to the builders that they completed a Clubhouse for the Miraloma Park Improvement Club (which they donated to the Club in 1936) and built an elementary school in the late 1930s.

The dedication of residents to preserving the parklike surroundings of Miraloma Park was exemplified by the efforts of the Parent-Teachers Association of Commodore Sloat School, in conjunction with the State Parks Commissioner. They fought off plans to build roads and a reservoir at the top of Mt. Davidson and saved the forest cresting the mountain as undeveloped space that was to became a city park of 39.4 acres (Silver, pp 51-2).

Today’s trails circling Mt. Davidson traverse a native plant ecosystem similar to the plant environment known by Jose Noe and even George Vancouver. The value of such a remarkable experience when hiking Mt. Davidson’s trails is impossible to explain with words. One is aware one has walked back into time. Then there is the exhilarating panoramic view from the top of Rancho San Miguel that is spectacular. (Silver, p 52)

The struggle to preserve the mountain-top park that is the source and emblem of the woods-like character of so much of Miraloma Park provided for a strong sense of community among the 2200 households within the neighborhood.


Ultimately, the concern to preserve neighborhood character extends beyond individual neighborhoods to the well-being of the City as a whole. As the San Francisco Residential Design Guidelines point out,

“ . . . to a large degree the character of San Francisco is defined by the visual quality of its neighborhoods. A single building out of context with its surroundings can have a remarkably disruptive effect on the visual character of a place. It affects nearby buildings, the streetscape, and if repeated often enough, the image of the City as a whole.

Concern for the visual quality of the neighborhoods gave rise, in part, to the November 1986 voter initiative known as Proposition M, which . . . established as a priority policy, that existing neighborhood character be conserved and protected.”

With respect to specific neighborhoods, the San Francisco Residential Design Guidelines define particular criteria and guidelines that will be described and made specific to Miraloma Park in this and the next section. Neighborhood character is first defined, as follows.

“What is the Neighborhood?”

“In assessing whether the visual appearance of a new building or expansion of an existing one conserves the existing neighborhood character, neighborhood is considered at two levels:

• The immediate context. Here the concern is how the building relates to its adjacent buildings (or, in the case of an enlargement, how the addition relates to the existing structure) and how the form of the new or enlarged building impacts the adjacent buildings.

• The broader context. Here the concern is how the building relates to the visual character and scale created by the collection of other buildings in the general vicinity. The buildings on both sides of the street in which the project is located are particularly relevant.”

“What is the Blockface?”

“The blockface is defined as ‘the row of front facades, facing the street, for one length of the


“In certain neighborhoods, the visual character will be so clearly defined that there is relatively little flexibility to deviate from established patterns. However, in the majority of cases there will be greater leeway in design options.

Building patterns and rhythms which help define the visual character should be respected. A street may have a pattern and a rhythm which unify the rows of buildings on either side. A sudden change in this pattern, an over-sized bay window or a blank facade among more detailed ones, for example, can appear disruptive and visually jarring.

In many areas, architectural styles are mixed or significant demolition and redevelopment have already occurred. Other neighborhoods show little visual character and seem to be awaiting better definitions. Here, design should go beyond compatibility with the existing context; it should take the opportunity to help define a desired future visual character for a place.