- February 2015-MiralomaLife (pdf version)
- Beating the Boa Constrictor at Bird and Beckett
- Not a Victimless Crime
- Living Well with Skunks
- Summary of MPIC Board Meeting of January 8, 2015
- What’s Growing in Our Backyards?
- Be Vigilant!
- The Origins of Miraloma Park
Beating the Boa Constrictor at Bird and Beckett
by Jim O’Donnell
Boa constrictors are dangerous predatory snakes in the tropical areas of the world, especially the Amazon. And that is what Amazon.com has become for the bookstore owners of America, squeezing the life out of a time-proven tradition of walk-in, read-in shops where you can have a personal relationship with the staff.
One bookstore that has not been squeezed out of business is Bird and Beckett Books and Records, on Chenery St. in Glen Park. The store, originally located on Diamond near Chenery, has been around since 1995. Eric Whittington took over as owner and manager in 1999, and in 2006 moved to the old SF Library location on Chenery, after the library had moved to a new building on Diamond. The old store had readings and events for kids and adults alike. Eric has expanded the offerings to include a thrice weekly, live music program featuring jazz. The name of the shop reflects this expansion: “Bird” was the nickname of Charlie Parker, the great jazz saxophone player, and “Beckett” represents Samuel Beckett, avant garde playwright and novelist. His most famous play, “Waiting for Godot,” Eric Whittington, who has extensive experience working in bookstores, including Green Apple on Clement Street, says the Glen Park store is anything but finished. With three coffee houses and one coffee shop, what would Glen Park do without a store in which to pick up a book and then have a coffee drink as the author helps you transcend space and time? The store boasts new and used books and even some rare editions. A monthly literary talk by Walker Brents III features investigations into literary, mythological, and other topics, in the past ranging from William Blake to Bob Dylan, Shakespeare, the Shanameh, the Kalevala, and the story of Layla and Majnun. A book club and discussion group meet regularly at the store. Add live jazz and a fine variety of vinyl, and you have a unique place not just for Glen Park, but all nearby neighborhoods as well.
Journalist Carl Nolte in his Chronicle article in 2010 called Bird and Beckett the “spiritual heart” of Glen Park. Eric has set up a non-profit called Bird and Beckett Cultural Legacy Project to support the activities, especially the music. All the gigs, musician bios, and much more are presented on the website at birdbeckett.com. Click on the support button to read more about the Cultural Legacy Project, contributions to which are taxdeductible. There are also book reviews authored by Bird and Beckett staff at amerarcana.wordpress.com.
Besides prose and music, poetry is on the radar screen as well. Just last year local resident Franklin Zawacki won the 2014 Robert Frost Award, one of the most prestigious national awards for poetry. He will be featured along with his poetry at the store in early March, so look to the website for the date and time. Monthly calendars of events are available at the bookstore website as well. More on Franklin’s award is available at frostfoundation.org/frost-notes-may2014.html.
More aptly described as a “cultural” than a “spiritual” center, Bird and Beckett Books and Records is a unique mecca for those who enjoy the “neighborhood feel” of a small shop that affords easy and instructive relations with staff and those who live and work nearby.
See you there soon!
Not a Victimless Crime
by the MPIC Safety Committee
In the November 2014 Walnut Creek hashoil lab explosion pictured here, one housing unit was destroyed, a number of others were heavily damaged, and approximately 50 people were forced out of their homes and into a shelter, as much of the building collapsed. (For more information, visit sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Walnut-Creek-apartmentexplosion-1-person-5861307.php and abc7news.com/news/walnut-creek-explosion-caused-by-illegal-druglab/375008).
Marijuana grow houses typically involve bypassing electricity meters, which leads to a serious fire hazard aggravated by the presence of chemicals used in the manufacture of hashish oil. In addition, utilities theft is a crime under Section 498 of the California Penal Code, as follows:
“(c) In any prosecution under this section, the presence of any of the following objects, circumstances, or conditions on premises controlled by the customer or by the person using or receiving the direct benefit of all or a portion of utility services obtained in violation of this section shall permit an inference that the customer or person intended to and did violate this section:
(1) Any instrument, apparatus, or device primarily designed to be used to obtain utility services without paying the full lawful charge therefor.
(2) Any meter that has been altered, tamperedwith, or bypassed so as to cause no measurement or inaccurate measurement of utility services. (leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=484-502.9)”
The MPIC Safety Committee asked the SF District Attorney’s Office whether utilities theft charges had been filed for the December 2013 and August 2014 electricity bypasses discovered by police at 124 Molimo. We learned that no complaint or charges had been filed as a result of the December 2013 raid. Why not?
The SF Police Department (SFPD) report states that when the officers arrived at 124 Molimo in December 2013, they found a large marijuana cultivation operation with an electricity meter bypass. The officers notified PG&E (SFPD standard practice when discovering an electricity bypass), and PG&E disconnected electricity to the property. When the officers searched the home, they found no evidence of habitation: “There were no beds, no clothing in the home and no obvious signs of anyone living in the house.” Because no one was arrested at the scene, no suspects were charged with utilities theft. Electricity was subsequently restored to the property, but without benefit of a Department of Building Inspection (DBI) permit.
In August 2014, SFPD discovered, again, a large marijuana cultivation and hashish manufacturing operation with, again, an electricity bypass. Power was discontinued.
The MPIC learned that the owner of 124 Molimo now has applied for an electrical permit, and this a positive development. We await word from the District Attorney’s Office about the current status of the August 2014 defendants’ cases and whether or not utilities theft charges will be filed.
The DA’s failure to prosecute utilities theft cases will amount to acquiescence in the exposure of entire city blocks to the risk of conflagration, and of residents to loss of property, injury, and death.
Living Well with Skunks
Wildcare, located in downtown San Rafael, California, is an urban wildlife hospital that also provides advice for communities about how to coexist with the wildlife around and among us. The following information, excerpted from the Wildcare website at wildcare.org, may help Miraloma Park humans to live more amicably with one of our most common wildlife neighbors, the ubiquitous, malodorous skunk. “The smell of skunk was in the air, and the caller to WildCare’s “Living with Wildlife” hotline was extremely agitated. She had smelled the undeniable scent of skunk wafting across her back yard, and was convinced the animal was lying in wait to spray her and her dog when they left the house.
“There’s no question that skunk spray is something to be avoided. But did you know that the skunk only uses his spray as a last resort? “Apparently, skunk mating season is starting early this year. WildCare’s 24-hour Living with Wildlife Hotline, 415-456-SAVE (7283) and our WildCare Solutions service are already answering 5 to 10 calls a day about skunks and providing professional assistance to humanely and non-lethally evict them from living under structures. Usually these calls don’t start until mid to late January!
Watch the Signs
“A skunk will typically give a lot of warning before spraying. He will raise his tail and shake it warningly. He will stamp his feet and turn his head and rear end toward you, putting his body in a ‘U’ shape. Unless taken completely by surprise, he will give these warnings and wait until the last possible second before deploying the ‘nuclear option’ of spraying. A skunk generally prefers to exit the scene with no spraying involved. BEFORE stepping into your yard, especially at night, let skunks know you’re coming! If you give a skunk some notice that you want to use your yard, he will almost always vacate it ahead of you.
“Skunks have poor eyesight, they’re not fast and they can’t climb. With few defenses (other than that spray) they don’t want to interact with you any more than you do with them! Flip on the porch light. Make noise opening the door. Clap your hands. Whistle. This little bit of warning will alert any skunks passing through that you’re coming out, and give them time to exit your yard or hide. This alert is especially important before releasing releasing dogs into the yard. Most domestic dogs don’t read the warning signs skunks give and will rush right up to a skunk, even if he has his tail raised. This is why dogs so often get sprayed—the skunk feels he has no other options. Especially at night, be sure to provide an alert and give skunks (and all wildlife!) a few minutes to hide before letting dogs into the yard.
Meet Your Neighborhood Skunks
“Skunks are beneficial predators that provide excellent control of garden pests like slugs and snails. They are omnivores, so they’ll also eat insects and help clean up fallen fruit in your yard. Skunks also consume rodents, so they help keep your yard free of rats and mice and other small rodents. If you are a gardener, a skunk is a great asset! But be sure not to use slug/snail bait or any poisons, as skunks can and do die from exposure to these pesticides. Also, because of their diet, skunks are particularly harmed by the use of rodenticides. Elevated levels of rodenticide were found in 93% of the skunks Wild-Care has tested.
Skunks dig holes in lawns looking for grubs and insects, as do several other species of animal. Digging done by skunks normally appears as small, 3- to 4-inch coneshaped holes or patches of upturned earth. Long claw marks may be visible. Skunks become a “nuisance” when their burrowing and feeding habits conflict with humans. They may burrow under porches or buildings for shelter or for a place to have their young. When you are absolutely certain that no adults or babies will be closed in, you can prevent skunks from denning under buildings by sealing off all foundation openings. February is the LAST month it will be safe to seal holes in the foundation without risking closing in newborn babies. Even in February, great care must be taken to ensure no animals are inadvertently trapped. (WildCare Solutions service provides helpful advice at 415-453-1000, x23). Properly dispose of garbage and enclose and skunk-proof your compost pile! Easily-accessible food sources will attract skunks. Debris such as lumber, fence posts, and junk cars provides shelter. Skunks are often attracted to rodents, so poison-free (!) rodent control may be the first step to solving a skunk problem.
“There are no registered repellents specifically for skunks, but lights and sounds may provide temporary relief from skunk activity. Most mammals, including skunks, can sometimes be discouraged from entering enclosed areas with ammonia-soaked cloths, but remember never to place ammonia or other chemicals in an enclosed space—the fumes can be fatal to animals. However, repellents are only a temporary measure. Permanent solutions require exclusion. Eliminating attractants and excluding wildlife from getting into or underneath structures are the only long-term solutions that work. Trapping and relocation of wildlife is inhumane and is illegal in California. (Using innovative ‘human exclusion techniques, WildCare Solutions provides a humane, nonlethal and effective alternative to trappers.)
Editor’s Note: If, despite following the above advice, you find yourself and/or your dog and home skunked, I have found the following recipe for “de-skunking” solution to be effective (though many other concoctions, some commercially available, have been recommended). Ingredients: 1 quart hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda, 2 tablespoons dish soap. Preparation and Use: Mix ingredients until baking soda is completely dissolved. Saturate dog with solution, let soak in for 30 to 45 minutes, then rinse. Optionally, apply your usual dog shampoo after rinsing. Objects like clothing or dog collars should be soaked in the solution for up to 1 hour. If the skunk has sprayed your deck or yard, rinse the affected area thoroughly with the solution to keep the dog from picking up skunk odor again from its surroundings.
Summary of MPIC Board Meeting of January 8, 2015
by Carl Schick and Dan Liberthson
Speaker: Get paid for earthquake reinforcing your home! Patrick Otellini, Chief Resiliency Officer for San Francisco, described the “Earthquake Brace and Bolt Program” to help homeowners lessen the potential for damage to their homes during an earthquake. Earthquake retrofits typically cost $2,000 to $10,000. With this program, homeowners in designated zip codes would be eligible to receive an incentive payment of up to $3,000 to help cover retrofit costs. The 94127 zip code in Miraloma Park is one of the designated zip codes. Interested homeowners must register between January 15 and February 15 and fill out a pre-qualification form posted on the program’s web site. Once registration closes, homeowners will be selected in a random drawing. For more information, visit earthquakebracebolt.com.
Treasurer’s Report (T Sauvain): 2014 brought the MPIC 20% more rental income, but also significant increases in Clubhouse appliance replacement costs (stove, furnace, fireplace) and a doubling of our event expenses with the start of the Resiliency events. The Clubhouse reserve account is almost depleted: even with the yearly transfer of $2600, it has only $1,018. Our final 2014 net worth of $21,429 was down $3,234 from 2013.
Committees: Membership (B Kan)—There were 485 MPIC members on Dec 31, down from 490 in November. Clubhouse Maintenance (K Rawlins)—Clubhouse porch and railings were repainted by Jimmy Carlton, a Miraloma Park resident working towards his Eagle Scout badge. Motion to spend up to $500 to cover supply costs for this project (approved). C Mettling-Davis will provide a list of what’s needed and a rough estimate of costs to bring the Clubhouse up to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility standards. Safety (Committee)—New Deputy City Attorney, Victoria Weatherford, assigned to the Ingleside District. Two illegal camps on Mt. Davidson have been cleaned up, thanks to Natural Areas Program (NAP) workers and Recreation and Park Department (RPD) Park Rangers. Illegal activity abated at 124 Molimo and the owners have applied for an electrical permit, required in order to restore the electrical service necessary in order to rent the property (see article in this issue). Streets and transportation (K Breslin)—Committee meeting in December discussed getting more stop signs on Teresita to further calm traffic. D Homsey and R Gee to contact police, Sup. Yee, PTA, SFMTA, and DPW for information and follow-up. Planning (K Breslin for T Armour)—An unpermitted renovation project at 451 Molimo will be investigated. Resiliency (D Homsey)—Resilient Miraloma Park Working Group will meet at the Clubhouse on Jan 14.
What’s Growing in Our Backyards?
by Denise Louie
What about starting 2015 with a resolution to improve quality of life for species that were here before us? One goal of the MPIC is to promote community involvement in preservation of gardens and parklands, including Glen Park and Mt. Davidson Park (40 acres mostly in Miraloma Park). To help preserve the green character of our neighborhood, how about becoming active in expanding and restoring habitat for local native plants? Learn how by joining the Natural Areas Program (NAP) on the
first Saturday of every month at the #36 Muni bus turnaround, Myra Way at Dalewood. The group walks into the park and off-trail at 10 am, so it’s best to be prompt and walk in with them. Habitat restoration activities end before 12:30, in time for refreshments. Or, join the group in Glen Canyon, which meets on the third Saturday of each month, 9 am to noon. For more information, visit sfnaturalareas.org or contact David Burnett, at 871-0203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City is becoming greener, and we can all take part in this exciting movement by replacing old habits with better ones. Lawns are cause for environmental concern. Irrigating a small, 1,000 sq ft (30 x 30 ft) lawn can use well over 35,000 gallons of water a year. Lawns require frequent maintenance and typically use synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. These materials are expensive to produce, rely on fossil fuels, and are destructive to our ecosystem. Since water is a precious resource in California, consider replacing your lawn with native plants (From the SF Public Utilities Commission).
The Department of the Environment Toxics Reduction Program strives to protect the health of San Franciscans and the environment. In fact, SF is the first city to adopt the Precautionary Principle, which authorizes the City to take action by way of outreach and programs when an activity threatens human health or the environment, even if cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. To apply this principle, we should avoid potentially harmful actions because risks outweigh perceived benefits, so it is good to remove lawns and their need for synthetic chemicals.
If you like grass, consider our local native species, including purple needlegrass (our state grass), California brome, California fescue, red fescue, blue wild rye, Pacific reedgrass, and others. Their roots go several feet deep and they sequester enough carbon to rival trees. I water my California fescue once a month during non-rainy periods and it stays green. I let the purple needlegrass go dry to add golden color to the garden; I know it’ll green up again during our rainy season. I love the gracefulness of both the California fescue and purple needlegrass, and my favorite habitat is grassland because wildflowers grow here. To get answers to questions about growing native plants, ask experts from the email group GardeningWithNatives-YB@yahoogroups.com. “YB” stands for Yerba Buena, SF’s old name.
Lately I’ve removed some pampas grass along O’Shaughnessy Blvd. Pampas grass (Cortaderia jubata) and jubata grass (Cortaderia selloana) are large grasses often used in landscaping that have become pests in our open spaces. Their showy plumes emerge in August and September and produce up to 100,000 seeds. While some like the look of this grass in their yards, pampas and jubata grass disrupt ecosystems by creating monocultures. When other plants aren’t able to grow, habitat for a variety of birds, mammals, and other animals is lost. Crews spend hundreds of hours removing these grass species in and near San Francisco. How can you help control them? Remove the entire plant, or if you can’t, simply remove the flower stalks, wearing gloves to protect yourself from their sharp leaf edges (From the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy).
Recently, I discovered two volunteer coast live oak trees within a block of my home off O’Shaughnessy, one apparent only after French broom removal. No doubt, scrub jays planted the acorns from which the trees sprouted. Coast live oaks are a local native tree, can host many different organisms—up to 400 species—and provide shade. I’ll make sure these saplings get extra water, especially if they don’t get enough rain.
Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare) is sought after for its cascading, spreading form and dusty-looking leaves. If licorice plant would stay put in one’s garden it wouldn’t be a problem, but its wind-borne seeds enter intact native habitat and out-compete other plants. Like the jubata and pampas grass, licorice plant creates a monoculture. Unlike the grasses, though, the best way to control this plant pest is to remove it completely and find a new non-pest plant for your garden (From the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy). You’ll know it’s licorice by its smell. Also, when unable to remove its roots, I’ve gotten rid of it by constantly cutting back any green growth, which exhausts its resources.
We are lucky to have open spaces where natural assemblies of native plants still survive. But these spaces are under constant threat of habitat conversion by invasive plants on private and public land. We can do our part by removing invasive plants in our backyards to green bins. Besides pampas grass, jubata grass, and licorice, please also remove ivy, oxalis, French broom, cotoneaster, Jupiter’s beard, smaller non-native grasses, and other invasive plants. Since these plants easily escape a backyard, and since we don’t want weeds from our neighbors’ yards in our own, we should also encourage our neighbors to remove invasive plants. If you’re unsure whether you have a native or a non-native plant, ask an expert. Plant native plants with a local heritage (grown from seed collected in San Francisco) to hold the soil and to avoid muddying the unique genetic pool of our local natives. As I learn more, my concept of and appreciation for “my own backyard” continue to grow wider and deeper.
From the Ingleside Station Report
“Incident date January 4, 2015 11:58 pm Vista Verde/ Stillings Attempted Robbery
“A woman screaming for help out on the street prompted a neighbor to call the police. … The victim said she … got off the bus [and] proceeded to walk home when someone surprised her from behind and began tugging at her backpack. A nearby neighbor heard the screams and opened up his garage. This caused the suspect to let go of the backpack and flee the area with his accomplice empty handed. Report number: 150011444.”
Dear Residents—Please be aware of your surroundings. Miraloma Park is relatively safe, but no neighborhood is immune from crime. Always be aware of your surroundings, watch for individuals approaching from the rear, and avoid using cell phones in public, especially in deserted areas, which are best avoided altogether.—Ed.
The Origins of Miraloma Park
from the Miraloma Park Residential Design Guidelines (Link for Guidelines on website)
At the start of this century, a revolution in city planning was taking place—the City Beautiful movement. The idea was that citizens would benefit mentally, physically, and spiritually from well-planned cities with broad, landscaped boulevards radiating from the center, commercial and other use districts carefully placed in “correct relative positions” to one another, new parks, and new residential neighborhoods modeled after English garden cities. Unlike the old grid pattern of streets and uncontrolled building, this approach was meant to open up cities and bring “sunlight, health and pleasantness” to the cities. Restrictions and controls to keep individual buildings in conformity with the overall design concept would be enforced by a dedicated Commission or neighborhood associations. In 1905, Mayor James D. Phelan of San Francisco, with the agreement of the Board of Supervisors, planned to rebuild the city according such a design, but the uncontrolled rebuilding following the Earthquake ended these plans.
The surviving legacy of the City Beautiful movement is now found not in the downtown area but in residential areas designed according to the Movement’s principles. These hillside developments featured curvilinear streets and terraced hills to preserve the views and sunlight afforded by hillside settings, and included abundant foliage. The City Beautiful tenets of “privacy combined with free access to sun and air,” lots planned “on contours [so] that neighborly building interference is readily avoided,” and “an atmosphere of quiet peace and beauty” were proposed in a brochure advertising Forest Hills. These design concepts and restrictions are relevant to Miraloma Park and the other planned neighborhoods as well.
Neighborhoods designed according to the City Beautiful principles are: Forest Hill, Ingleside Terraces, Miraloma Park, St. Francis Wood, Westwood Park, and the West Portal area.
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.