Miraloma Life Online – December 2010

  • Fostering Quality Residential Design and Preserving Neighborhood Character Through Design Review
  • Update on 701 Portola and the New CVS Drugstore
  • From the Safety Committee
  • Convenient to Miraloma Park: CCSF Veterans Resource Center
  • What Is That? Coming Your Way: Cellular Transmission Equipment On Private Property Without Owner Approval
  • Please Stop the Recreation and Park Department’s Privatization Of JP Murphy Park and Other City Parks
  • Adopt an Animal Friend at SF Animal Care & Control
  • From the Legal Files: An Arbitration Clause in a Home Purchase and Sale Agreement
  • Summary of Minutes of MPIC Board Meeting of November 4, 2010

Fostering Quality Residential Design and Preserving Neighborhood Character Through Design Review

by Cassandra Mettling-Davis

In 1986, SF voters passed the Downtown Initiative, Proposition M, the purpose of which was to confine high-rise development to areas north of Market Street and to preserve the unique character of the City’s residential neighborhoods. High-rise development has now spread beyond this vision. Preservation of the character of the City’s beautiful residential areas has fared better. As a result of passage of Prop M, the Planning Code was modified to include mandatory design review of residential building projects using a new document, the Residential Design Guidelines (RDG), which set forth objective criteria—such as mass, volume, scale, and façade elements—for determining the compatibility of residential building projects with their built environments. Drawings accompany each section to illustrate building designs both compatible and incompatible with their surroundings. With encouragement from the Planning Department and Commission, some neighborhood organizations developed neighborhood-specific RDG, including the Miraloma Park RDG (MPRDG, available on-line at www.miralomapark.org/about/design-guidelines), written by Miraloma Park Improvement Club (MPIC) Directors under supervision of the Department’s head plan checker.  The MPRDG were adopted by the Commission in 1999 to promote effective design review in Miraloma Park by focusing on the architectural features of the neighborhood’s homes. Projects conforming to zoning specifications might not meet design review criteria: “While the planning code provides limits on the general development of lots, the application of these limits may conflict with neighborhood character…renovations should respect and improve on the character of the neighborhood and the predominant features of the block face as well as the amenities of adjacent homes.” [MPRDG, P.6]

The MPIC Zoning and Planning Committee (ZAP) has responsibility for ensuring that the MPRDG are consistently applied in our neighborhood. The Planning Department notifies the Committee of all building projects qualifying for 311 notification—projects outside the existing building envelope, such as decks or horizontal additions—and the Committee reviews all such plans with reference to the MPRDG. In most cases, architects have done their homework, and no Committee intervention is needed. But when a project is not consistent with the Guidelines, the Committee writes to the assigned planner referencing the relevant section of the Guidelines and suggests that the project design be modified to ensure compatibility with neighborhood character as defined in the document. The Planning Department Pre-Application process allows design modifications to be made at the start of the planning process so that neighbors may discuss concerns about potential developments early on and project sponsors may modify designs to address these concerns before filing for permits. (See “The Pre-Application Requirement for Proposed Developments” in the November Miraloma Life.)

The MPIC Board does not take sides in neighbor versus neighbor disputes. Rather, our efforts are directed towards optimizing design review in the neighborhood, promoting quality home renovation, and educating residents about the City Planning process.

Update on 701 Portola and the New CVS Drugstore

by Gary Noguera

As mentioned in last month’s Miraloma Life and on the Miralomapark.org website,  the giant chain CVS Drugs is proposing a store in our neighborhood. They are taking over the plans that Walgreens had submitted to develop 701 Portola, the current site of Nad’s Miraloma Gas Station. On Tuesday, November 9, a team of CVS representatives came to the MPIC Clubhouse to present an updated status of the project. There were about 25 Miraloma Park residents in attendance.  Following are some points that came up:

•    CVS will use the existing Walgreen’s permits, which are close to approval.
•    Construction will start in the February 2011 timeframe, depending on final approval of permits.
•    The design of the building will be exactly the same as that submitted by Walgreens.
•    The building will be in art deco style, modeled on Tower Market.
•    The store will occupy the entire footprint of the lot and will be approx 7100 sq ft.
•    There will be no off-street parking, but about 5 on-street spaces will be added.
•    The proposed store hours are 7:00 AM to 11 PM. (Note: MPIC will actively advocate for a 10:00 PM or earlier closing time.)
•    CVS promised graffiti abatement within 24 hours after tagging. The MPIC Graffiti Abatement Committee will monitor the situation closely for compliance.
•    The store will employ 20-25 people, local residents preferred.
•    The store will also sell wine and beer (The MPIC Board has made it clear to CVS reps that we will advocate strongly for no liquor sales, as the Portola strip already has 4 liquor outlets).
•    The large CVS supply truck will make deliveries once a week.
•    Deliveries will be made on the Portola side of the store.
•    Nearby residents were concerned about potential dust from the construction. The CVS reps said they would comply with all requirements for safeguarding residents during construction.
•    The MPIC Board will follow the project closely, and will attend Planning Department meetings relevant to the CVS application.

If you have any concerns, please leave a message for the MPIC Board at 415-281-0892. Watch for updates in the forthcoming issues of
Miraloma Life and at Miralomapark.org.

From the Safety Committee

Here is a summary of reported crimes in Miraloma Park over the last year. Please report all crimes in Miraloma Park to the SFPD (Police Department), as doing so increases patrols in our area (call 553-0123 to report crimes that have occurred or, for crimes in progress, call 911). Reports can be made online at www.sf-police.org. Also, please notify MPIC (miralomapark@gmail.com or 281-0892) if you are the victim of a crime. The Safety Committee makes every effort to follow up on serious crimes with the SFPD, promote neighborhood awareness of crimes, and encourage witnesses to contact the police.

The most common crimes were auto related. Please report to police any cars seen cruising slowly, sometimes accompanied by a pedestrian, especially late at night or in the small hours of the morning, because these may be scouting the streets for target cars to rob. And if you don’t want an item stolen, don’t leave it in your car!

Security Report

Convenient to Miraloma Park: CCSF Veterans Resource Center

…where veterans will know that they are not abandoned, where veterans will be honored, accepted, and understood.

by Karen Wood

We know that returning military men and women face serious challenges. They may have experienced trauma, injury, loss, and once
home, often alone, they must deal with physical and mental health needs, employment and education planning, government bureaucracies, and basic subsistence issues.

City College of San Francisco is the prime destination for many veterans seeking higher education, and the new CCSF Veterans Resource Center has been carefully developed to help veterans to move forward with their lives. Offering centralized services specifically tailored to the needs of veterans, the Center provides academic and psychological counseling, GI Bill certification, workshops on topics ranging from career pathways to stress management, and consultations with VA representatives and other agencies serving US military veterans. There is a community room with refreshments where veterans can get together to relax, support each other, share ideas and experiences, study, and build community. Computers are available with internet access. In 2009, CCSF served 150 veterans; in 2010, the number has risen to over 500, and this number is expected to continue to increase.

The story of the Veterans Resource Center is amazing. Resources were put in place to open the Center within about 2 months after it was proposed thanks to the dedicated efforts of one individual, WWII veteran Walter Newman, and to the support and involvement of CCSF Chancellor Don Q. Griffin and Head Coach George Rush; local trade unions who donated their labor; some generous individual, corporate and foundation donors; and local merchants. Many of those who contributed their time, talent, and financial support are themselves military veterans who have been happy to help.

For information about the CCSF Veterans Resource Center, or to make a gift, visit http://www.ccsf.edu/News/VeteransResourceCenter.htm.

What Is That? Coming Your Way: Cellular Transmission Equipment On Private Property Without Owner Approval

by Christine A. Olson, Balboa Terrace Homes Association

Note: At the October meeting of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council, Balboa Terrace homeowners brought this problem to the
attention of the delegates. Homeowners all over San Francisco—including those in Miraloma Park—are vulnerable to the problem faced by the Balboa Terrace contributor of this article. MPIC will continue to monitor public policy regarding cellular transmission installations and to advocate for appropriate public policy development.

Chances are you’ve seen cell phone transmission installations on light posts or utility polls around town. One installation can include a number of large rectangular equipment cabinets, a meter, a cut off switch, lots of wires and cables, and other harder to identify components. Near the top is an antenna. These installations are radio frequency transmitters. Companies like NextG Networks are racing to install as many as they can before the City is able to pass legislation to institute new guidelines  specifying, among other things, which areas are appropriate sites and which are not. NextG refers to their installations as antennas and microcells, although there is nothing “micro” about them.

I became more aware of these installations recently. One afternoon, a couple of months ago, NextG sent some workers out to measure the utility pole in my yard. Subsequently, a large, white, unmarked truck arrived. When questioned, the truck driver said that they were doing a wi-fi antenna test for NextG Networks. Calling NextG, I explained that the pole was on private property and I did not want a cellular antenna placed there. The response was that they would be putting it up within a year.

According to the City and County of San Francisco’s Wireless Telecommunications Services Facilities Siting Guidelines, residential neighborhoods are the least desirable locations for cellular antenna installations. They affect the quality of life for residents who live nearby in many ways. First, the installations are esthetically unpleasant, causing visual clutter and blocking views and sight-lines.  My neighborhood is Balboa Terrace, a neighborhood like so many in the City that is architecturally significant and has beautiful views.  Besides creating visual pollution, these cellular installations may contribute to noise pollution, as they can create a humming noise inherently, or when a fan is activated, constantly. Clearly, these conditions degrade quality of life. The City and County of San Francisco has a stated policy favoring undergrounding of utilities. The installation of cellular antennas undermines that policy and potentially precludes it from ever being implemented.

Overloaded utility poles are dangerous, especially in high winds and earthquakes. They can cause fires.  Utility pole fires pose a danger to pedestrians, adjacent properties, and first responders. These fires may result in explosions and toxic emissions from backup batteries. Additionally, cellular installations can emit significant amounts of RF radiation. Dangers to health include increased cancer risk, especially from the combined effects of multiple sources. Though the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not accept possible health risks as a reason to prohibit cellular installations, recent studies in the US and overseas show direct links between exposure to radio frequency emissions and cancer, in particular related to cumulative effects over time and combined effects from multiple sources. The studies quoted by the FCC, as well as by providers of cellular communications, do not take into account cumulative or combined effects.

All of these negative effects of cell phone transmission installation contribute to lowering property values and erosion of quality of life. Preserving property valuation in residential neighborhoods helps to maintain the City’s tax base, critical for providing essential services, especially in these difficult economic times.

Because NextG took the initial approach of refusing to directly answer questions, refusing to acknowledge that the utility pole is located on private property, and insisting that they were going to install facilities in my yard regardless of my wishes, I began to search for information and help. I explained my situation to Pacific Gas and Electric, the Department of Public Works, the City Planning Department, Supervisors’ offices, the City Attorney’s office, the Public Utilities Commission,  and every other agency, company, or organization I thought might be helpful.

To date, our neighborhood homeowner’s association has provided the greatest assistance.  The Vice- President of Balboa Terrace Homes Association (BTHA) wrote a resolution opposing the installation that was passed unanimously by the BTHA Board. This resolution will be taken to the West of Twin Peaks Central Council on November 22 with a request for support from that organization. I have written this article because I feel strongly that I must talk to my neighbors in the community about this situation, answering questions and requesting support.

Please Stop the Recreation and Park Department’s Privatization Of JP Murphy Park and Other City Parks

by George Wooding, President, West of Twin Peaks Central Council

As you may know, in 2008 the Citizens of San Francisco spent $3,849,933 of the Proposition A, Parks Project Bond to renovate the JP Murphy Playground and Clubhouse at 1960 9th Avenue at Ortega. Effective August 15, 2010, the Recreation and Parks Department (RPD) also fired or relocated all of its Directors. The RPD is now about to lease out our newly renovated JP Murphy Park, euphemistically calling this new leasing-for- profit scheme “park revitalization.”

An RPD representative, Lev Kushner, the Assistant Director for Strategic Planning, has been holding meetings throughout San Francisco in an effort to rent out neighborhood clubhouses, parks and facilities. The RPD is trying to lease at least 24 of the 48 park clubhouses in San Francisco. Usually, the RPD’s notification of citizens has been very lax, and few people realize that their local Park is going to be leased for a minimum 5-year period.

The problem is not whether the groups that lease the parks are good or bad, but rather that these private commercial groups will take over large portions of the park at specific times, and neighbors will not be allowed to use the leased portions. The groups that would lease City parks often have nothing to do with recreation and already have an existing commercial location. The RPD lease clearly states that  “the tenant shall have the right to shared access of all playground and garden space in areas surrounding the premises” and “the City shall use it’s best efforts to avoid interfering with the tenant’s quiet and exclusive use of enjoyment of the premises.”

Whatever happened to the neighborhoods’ right to “the use and enjoyment of premises” of our own parks, supported by our own taxes? The RPD claims that this is the best way to generate revenue for now “underutilized” facilities. However, with usually only one potential tenant, the parks are leased for ridiculously low amounts of money. The RPD started leasing parks throughout the City in July, usually charging from $1.31to $1.51 per sq ft per month and allowing full use of the other park facilities. It is doubtful that the JP Murphy clubhouse would be leased for more than $1,500 per month.

The RPD’s quest for money has made them predatory. On July 15 the Rec & Park Commission voted to let an expensive private preschool displace a free, 38-year-old City College parenting class at the Laurel Hill Clubhouse. The clubhouse was leased to Language in Action (LIA), a preschool offering 9-month terms immersing 2-5 year olds in Spanish and Mandarin. The LIA tuition ranges from $1,000 for 2 hours per day, 2 days per week to $14,000 for full day, 5-day per week instruction. The RPD leased the Laurel Hills playground to LIA for only $1,427.00 per month.

“On the face of it, the RPD wanted to lease this property and they didn’t really care what the public thought,” stated City College Board of Trustee President, John Rizzo. “The RPD cared so little about the public that it was too late once they were notified.” JP Murphy Park is our park, located in our neighborhoods and is used recreationally by the people in our neighborhoods. We don’t accept the premise that the RPC can have one meeting with the neighborhoods and then lease out our park for five years. We want to use our parks the way we want to use them. The RPD has not even talked with the neighborhoods about how we might want to use our own facilities. Without citizen protest the new RPD tenant will probably move into the park within a couple of months.

If the money that neighborhoods and voters are spending on public parks is being converted to support and subsidize commercial businesses and privatize public parks, voters will have to think long and hard as to why we would want to support the RPD’s proposed 2011 parcel tax or any other future bonds supporting the RPD. If you value your neighborhood parks, attend any and all RPD meetings related to their privatization, and make your protest heard.

Adopt an Animal Friend at SF Animal Care & Control

by Kate Edwards

Looking for a cat to cuddle, a hamster to giggle with, or a doggie to make your family complete? Then jump into your car and head over to your municipal animal shelter, San Francisco Animal Care & Control (SFACC). You’ll find a wide variety of animals waiting to be your new best buddy. SFACC is home to adoptable cats and dogs, but also rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, many different types of birds, fish, rats, and reptiles, and the occasional chicken or two! Check out the adoptions page on the SFACC website (sfgov2.org) for photos and descriptions of available animals.

Often confused with the nonprofit SF SPCA (who care for and adopt out only dogs and cats), SFACC is your city shelter, and it is the only open-door shelter in SF, taking in and caring for any animal, domestic or wild, of any age and in any medical or behavioral condition. Over the years, they’ve housed abandoned backyard goats, lost roosters, and a domestic pot-bellied pig released in Golden Gate Park. (Many domestic animals, like rabbits, are released in the Park by owners who erroneously think the animals can fend for themselves in the wild, where most perish.)

Most animals up for adoption at SFACC either have been surrendered by their owners or were strays found wandering the city streets. So when you adopt from SFACC, you’ll feel good, knowing that you have helped a needy animal find a good home. Most animals (definitely dogs and cats) you adopt from the shelter are spayed or neutered, microchipped with your name and address, and come with one free veterinary visit.

Can’t adopt right now but would like some animal love? You can volunteer at the shelter walking dogs (great for the waistline) or socializing cats, rabbits, birds, or guinea pigs—there’s always lots of do. Call 415-554-9414 to find out about the monthly volunteer orientations.

You also can help improve the quality of life of the SFACC shelter animals by donating clean towels and blankets, recycled plastic bags, or old newspapers. Every little bit helps! Just drop your donation off at the shelter. If you’d like to donate to the nonprofit Friends of SFACC, who provide the shelter animals with toys, treats, comfy bedding, and more, visit their website at helpacc.org.

The SFACC is open 7 days a week, from noon to 6 pm. On Wednesdays, they are open until 7 pm, so you can pop over after work. Look for the big orange building, at 1200 15th Street at Harrison.

From the Legal Files: An Arbitration Clause in a Home Purchase and Sale Agreement

by Mary Catherine Wiederhold, Esq.

Mr. and Mrs. Gravillis entered into a Residential Purchase Agreement to buy a home in Los Angeles.  The Agreement had a arbitration clause that governed disputes.  The clause specifically stated: “NOTICE: BY INITIALING IN THE SPACE BELOW YOU ARE . . . GIVING UP ANY RIGHTS YOU MIGHT POSSESS TO HAVE THE DISPUTE LITIGATED IN A COURT OR BY JURY TRIAL.”  All parties initialed the clause.  Mr. and Mrs. Gravillis relied on their broker’s recommendation of home inspectors.  Their home was inspected and they were told there were no problems.

After the purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Gravillis had another inspector examine their home, who found extensive damage.  They then sued their broker, alleging, among other causes of action, that the house had a termite infestation, earthquake damage, and water-intrusion damage, and that repairs hid the structural damage.  They alleged if they had known about the damage they never would have bought the house.

The brokers then filed a motion to compel arbitration.  Over the course of 6 days a retired judge found in favor of Mr. and Mrs. Gravillis and awarded them $347,671 in damages and $47,076.35 in arbitration costs.  The arbitrator found that the inspection report and the termite report were both faxed to Mr. and Mrs. Gravillis.  Both reports revealed damage.  However, the broker did not then follow up with Mr. and  Mrs. Gravillis and inquire whether the Granvillis’s wanted to buy the property or consult with the experts about their reports. The arbitrator said that the broker should have connected the dots for Mr. and Mrs. Gravillis.

The broker then filed suit to have the award set aside, claiming that the arbitrator had committed several errors of law. After the Superior Court denied the broker’s request, the broker appealed, claiming that California law should have governed the arbitrator’s decision.  The court of appeal found that “arbitrators . . . may base their decision upon broad principles of justice and equity, and in doing so may expressly or impliedly reject a claim that a party might successfully have asserted in a judicial action.  . . .  It is a general rule that, with narrow exceptions, an arbitrator’s decision cannot be reviewed for errors of fact or law.”  In other words, the arbitrator’s final decision, even it is not based on the law, will not be overturned by the courts.

When buying or selling a home, you may be confronted with an arbitration clause in the Purchase and Sale agreement.  You are giving up important legal rights when you sign an arbitration clause.  You should consult with a real estate attorney in order to decide whether you should give up these rights.

Summary of Minutes of MPIC Board Meeting of November 4, 2010

by Joanne Whitney and Dan Liberthson

K. Breslin, President, called the meeting to order with a quorum present. The October minutes were approved with corrections and the Treasurer’s report accepted. Clarification: Board approval is not needed if $50 or less is required for routinely needed supplies; receipts are required for reimbursement.

Correspondence (Liberthson): Notice of meetings on the recycled water facility at west end of Golden Gate Park. Board opposes further above-ground building in Golden Gate Park because Master Plan for park does not allow above ground additions. Notices of projects needing Zoning & Planning Committee review. Chronicle reporter interested in wind turbine application. Application to change cell phone sending units at Portola and Woodside.

Committees: Zoning and Planning (Mettling-Davis)—Committee members met at 203 Marietta and examined the area of proposed decks. Will contact and visit neighbors at 207 to hear their objections. Vacant Miraloma Church property if sold and razed could yield space for seven residences. Mettling-Davis to contact Church re not over-developing. Membership: 580 members; 50% return on letters sent to members with lapsed memberships. Graffiti (Liberthson)—Liberthson pointed out that small tags have appeared on the Portola strip and asked if members could walk area on a schedule; not possible but all will watch for tags and contact appropriate people. Transportation (Noguera)—Largest PGE transmission lines are on Alemany; no 20-inch lines in Miraloma Park. Events (Rawlins)—Band, clown set for Holiday Party. Volunteers needed for set-up, take-down, and requesting gifts from merchants. Rawlins motion for up to $1800 for expenses for party approved. Low turnout for Oct. political event, perhaps due to politicking, competing sporting events.

Community Organizations: Coalition for SF Neighborhoods (CSFN) (Noguera)—Wood motion that a gift be given to consultant for his input on wind turbine problem approved. West of Twin Peaks Central Council (Breslin): Council passed motion supporting MPIC vs wind turbine at 400 Teresita. Ingleside Community Advisory Board to Police (Whitney)—Professional designer working on flyers pro bono, to be ready by year end. Other groups to contribute to any distribution costs. Videos on safety may be made by SF State. District 7 Conveners’ Meeting (Whitney)—SF State will revive Conveners’ group for District 7 and asked Whitney to serve; MPIC Board agreed Whitney to join as MPIC rep.

Clubhouse: Management (Issacson)—Pacific Bay Group agreed to postpone their meeting so CVS outreach meeting could take place. Pacific Bay given a free meeting as thanks. Discussion how funds for continuing repairs should be requested and to whom checks for membership, rentals, etc, should be given. Motion (Issacson) passed for up to $250 for piano tuning.

Guests: David Jensen, CVS rep, John Kevlon of Reuben & Junius, attys for CVS project. CVS will keep the same architecture as was proposed for Walgreens. Will apply for beer-wine license and considering 24-h opening. Open house planned for all neighbors. Board opposed selling of liquor (2 high schools and Juvenile Hall near, easy access to freeway if trouble, 4 other venues on Portola strip sell liquor); firmly opposed 24-h opening, suggesting 8 am opening and 7 pm closing; and requested limited delivery times and rapid removal of graffiti.

New Business: Roof decks to be discussed next meeting; to be handled until then case by case.

Note: Jim Ilardo has moved out of San Francisco and resigned from the Board. We thank him for his service,especially on the Membership Committee, and wish him well.