Miraloma Life Online – March 2009

  • A MPIC Special Presentation: THE SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE OF 1906 – Lessons in Leadership
  • Miraloma Life Editor Retires – Volunteers Requested
  • Water Department Projects Progressing Toward Completion
  • “Graffti Watch” Program Trains Miraloma Park Volunteers
  • Neighborhood Parks Have More to Celebrate
  • Mt. Davidson Hike March 21st
  • Special Event: Parks & Open Space Discussion
  • NERT News
  • New Feature Announcement
  • Design Matters
  • For Everyone’s Sake, Back Up Your Files!
  • Clarification of the MPIC Tax-Exempt Status

A MPIC Special Presentation: THE SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE OF 1906 – Lessons in Leadership

Neil Fahy, who presented a marvelous lecture and tour on SF geology last Fall, is back with a first-class slide show about the Great Earthquake.
Neil’s interest in the 1906 quake is two-fold. First, as a professional geologist, he is fascinated by how this major earth-shaking event developed. But just as much, as a native San Franciscan brought up with family stories of the quake, he is intrigued by how people behaved during and reacted to this critical event. The Fahy family came to the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sierra Nevada in the 1860s in search of the riches of California. In 1906 Neil’s father lived at Dolores and 29th Streets and his mother was on a truck farm at the present site of the Daly City Bart Station.

Neil’s presentation is focused largely on the people involved, particularly the leaders who got the City through the turmoil and on the road to recovery.  How did the major players react in that time of crisis and what were their roles? Neil will tell the story of the most influential individuals, including Mayor Schmidt, political boss Abe Ruff, newspaper owners Fremont Older and M. H. de Young, Fire Chief Dennis Sullivan, General Frederick Funston, and young banker A. P. Giannini. But he will also paint a picture of how “regular folks” (like his parents) dealt with the situation.

The anniversary of the Great Quake is April 18 and the oldest survivor of the event, Herbert Heimie Hamrol, died recently. Please join us on April 6 for a vivid glimpse of this bygone era and the triumphs and failures of its people and leaders. Light refreshments will be served.

Date: Monday, April 6
Time: Gather, 7:45 pm; start, 8 pm.
The lecture will be about 45 minutes long and will be followed by a question-and-answer period.
Place: Miraloma Park Improvement Club,
350 O’Shaughnessy Blvd at Del Vale.

For more information, visit miralomapark.org
or phone (415) 281-0892.


Miraloma Life Editor Retires – Volunteers Requested

Joanne Whitney, Editor of the Miraloma Life for many years, is retiring.  We thank Joanne for helping to make the Miraloma Life one of the best neighborhood newsletters in San Francisco. For now, Dan Liberthson has taken on the role of Acting Editor and Phil Laird will take care of layout and publishing. Both are MPIC Board members.

We are looking for volunteers interested in filling these positions on an ongoing basis or to serve as back-ups. Those interested in editing should have some background therein, and those interested in doing the layout/publication should have experience with Adobe software. As you know, the newsletter is a 12-page publication that comes out in the first week of every month except July and August. Experience as its Editor or Layout Artist/Publisher would do credit to anyone looking for ways to supplement his or her resume.


Water Department Projects Progressing Toward Completion

by Amy Sinclair, SFPUC Public Relations Officer

Water system improvement projects in and around Miraloma Park are making progress!

The seismic retrofit of the Stanford Heights Reservoir, located at Teresita Boulevard between Agua Way and Rockdale, is more than half-way complete.  The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) began the project in 2007 to prepare the drinking-water reservoir to withstand the next major earthquake.  In addition to seismic upgrades within the reservoir structure, improvements to the exterior will include a new security fence and drought-tolerant native plants, grasses, and wildflowers around the perimeter.

The new water pumping station on Agua Way at La Bica is currently under construction and is expected to be complete by the end of the year. The building will house energy-efficient water pumps and an emergency generator that will help ensure delivery of water after emergencies such as an earthquake or a major storm.  The SFPUC collaborated with the Miraloma Park Improvement Club Board, drawing on the neighborhood’s Residential Design Guidelines, to create a design within the context of the architectural character of the homes on Agua Way.

Visitors to Mt. Davidson will notice new surfaces on several popular trails and construction work taking place on the water storage tank at the top of the mountain near the cross. New water pipeline installation is complete and the tank is undergoing a major renovation to improve water pressure, fire protection, and stability during an earthquake.

The SFPUC would like to thank residents for their patience as we rebuild your water system. 

Stay informed and comment on water, sewer and municipal power improvement projects throughout District 7 by joining the SFPUC’s new community blog: http://sfwaterdistrict7.blogspot.com/


“Graffti Watch” Program Trains Miraloma Park Volunteers

by Sue Kirkham

Graffiti are a persistent menace that reduces property values and degrades the quality of life for everyone. Located at the intersection of two major thoroughfares, Miraloma Park sits in the crosshairs of graffiti vandals. That our neighborhood is comparatively free of graffiti is due to the work of our Anti-Graffiti Team that has been abating graffiti in and around our neighborhood for well over a decade.

Still, there is an arms race of sorts between the taggers and those fighting their destructive maneuvers. New types of tags appear, only to be countered by tag-resistant signs and new, eco-friendly products to remove them. The most effective weapon, however, remains the shoe leather and elbow grease of volunteers who remove graffiti as soon as we see them.

Recently three members of Miraloma Park’s Anti-Graffiti Team joined other volunteers from neighborhoods around to city to be trained and equipped for graffiti abatement on public property. Sue Kirkham, Peter Renteria, and Phil Laird spent a Saturday morning with Merle Goldstone from the Department of Public Works (DPW) and regular members of the San Francisco Graffiti Watch Anti-Graffiti Program to learn how to remove graffiti safetly and effectively from signs, mailboxes, poles, signal boxes and other public property.  We also came away with some new equipment that will make the task a little easier and with bright fluorescent yellow vests identifying us as part of the Graffiti Watch program.

The Miraloma Park Graffiti Abatement team is made up of Board Members and other concerned residents of Miraloma Park.  Some work in teams of two to abate graffiti; others go solo. Some volunteers take care of their block; others go farther afield.  Long ago we learned that it is especially important to keep free of graffiti property along the throughfares boarding Miraloma Park: Portola, Monterey and O’Shaughnessy.  Graffiti typically hit the commercial areas and thoroughfares first. If left in these locations it gives license to the offenders to begin penetrating the residential neighborhood.

Graffiti Watch is a city-wide program of DPW that trains, supplies, and supports volunteers working to abate graffiti in their neighborhoods. Anyone can sign up for the free two-hour training session, after which they can obtain supplies from the city. The website for the program can be visited at www.sfgov.org/site/sfdpw_page.asp?id=33011, or you can call Merle Goldstone, Public Information Officer for Graffiti Abatement, at 415-760-1943.

The graffiti scourge erodes property values and, left unabated, leads to an increase in crime.  Please join us in keeping Miraloma Park a Park a graffiti-free zone.  Sign up for the San Francisco Graffiti Watch program, or contact Sue Kirkham to learn more and see how you can participate in preserving your quality of life in Miraloma Park.  Phone 415-333-9840, or email info@suekirkham.com.


Neighborhood Parks Have More to Celebrate

by Andrea O’Leary

Recreation and Parks Department Acting General Manager Jared Blumenfeld is touring all SF park sites to assess them and talk to staff and residents. Jared is very open to public input and will visit Glen Park, Sunnyside Park, and Sunnyside Conservatory on Wed., Mar. 4. His visit schedule and blog are at http://www.sfgov.org/site/recpark_index.asp?id=92180.

Two surpluses achieved in the Sunnyside Playground & Park renovation completed in 2007 will fund a rehab of the rec. center “clubhouse” (starting Mar.) and fulfillment of another item or two from the community’s Wish List. The clubhouse has been opened up to permit larger gatherings, will meet all ADA requirements, and will have  new kitchens and bathrooms. Sunnyside Park Families & Neighbors (SPFN ) will celebrate with the community the great results achieved when neighbors come together and persist.. SPFN will work with new Rec. & Park Neighborhood Service Area 5 Manager Eric Andersen (Eric.Andersen@sfgov.org) to sponsor another community meeting to discuss desired programming and public access to the Park and Sunnyside Conservatory. To contribute and participate, e-mail SPFamilies@aol.com.

A collaboration of neighborhood advocates (SPFN, Friends of Miraloma Playground, Southern Miraloma Activity Club, Bella Vista Neighbors in Action, and Friends of Sunnyside Conservatory) has won a $2,000 grant from the Neighborhoods West of Twin Peaks Convener Group (DCYF) to produce a “Make Some Music” event in Sunnyside Park in June. Live bands will perform and help visitors make music together. Families will compose, perform, and win prizes for songs about keeping our neighborhood clean and green.

Construction proceeds at the Sunnyside Conservatory, with renovation of this historic Landmark to be complete in October. The octagon-shaped building was once a horse and buggy turn-around. Restoration includes retaining the old-growth redwood, enclosing the building and the west wing, and adding lighting, heating, and bathrooms. The grounds will retain the famous palms plus new landscaping and hardscapes and a delightful art element. Friends of Sunnyside Conservatory have followed this project closely and plan a reopening celebration suitable to the site’s splendor. Send comments/suggestions  to SunnysideConservatory@gmail.com.


Mt. Davidson Hike March 21st

You are invited to join Miraloma Park neighbor Jacquie Proctor, author of San Francisco’s West of Twin Peaks, on a guided tour of Mt. Davidson on Saturday, March 21, at 1:30 PM. Explore the inspired history of San Francisco’s highest hill on this hike through our 38-acre nature preserve to the amazing view and gigantic monument at its summit. The walk is free and sponsored by San Francisco City Guides (www.sfcityguides.org). Trails can be windy and muddy. Wear a jacket and sturdy shoes. Meet at the 36 Muni line bus shelter at Dalewood and Myra Way.


Special Event

The Miraloma Park Improvement Club is hosting a
 Parks & Open Space Discussion
March 4, 2009
6:00 to 8:00 PM
At the MPIC Clubhouse
350 O’Shaughnessy Blvd. at Del Vale

The purpose of this event is to gather public input to develop the Parks and Open Space Element of the San Francisco General Plan.  If you

have ideas, concerns or general feedback, join us and be heard.
For information specific to this event, email:

For general information or comments, email:

For information on the outreach effort, email:

For information on the meeting’s purpose, see:



by Jed Lane, Miraloma Park/Mount Davison NERT Coordinator

Two recently published articles explore preparing the City for a major earthquake so that we will be able to shelter in place and recover our lives in a short period of time. San Francisco Planning & Urban Research (SPUR) has released Part 1 of a multiyear, three-part paper, “The Resilient City Initiative,” which attempts to create a “comprehensive approach to disaster planning” (see SPUR’s Urbanist Issue 479 “The Resilient City,” at http://www.spur.org/documents/020109_article_01.shtm). The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) has published the “Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety,” or CAPSS (see http://www.sfcapss.org/index.html).

Both organizations detail the actions needed to prepare for what they term “the expected quake” that is likely to occur within the 50-year lifecycle of a building. An expected quake could be as strong as the 1989 Loma Prieta quake but closer to us, not centered far away in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and thus even more damaging. Both groups argue that “soft-story” buildings are most urgently in need of attention. The first floors of such buildings are large open spaces with no interior walls to brace against a twisting action. The City’s effort will focus on soft-story buildings of three stories or more with five or more housing units. Five buildings of this type collapsed in the Marina in the 1989 quake. Actions are planned for these multi-family, wood framed, soft-story buildings throughout the City.

A soft-story building is defined as any building with an abundance of wall openings in the first story or, more precisely, with openings that occupy 80% or more of  any one wall or more than 50% of any two walls. Note that this definition applies to nearly every home in Miraloma Park! There are tens of thousands of homes like ours in the City, all vulnerable in a strong quake: wood-framed, two or three stories over garage, and with the garage and front entrance in the same wall. On our typical 25-foot wide lots, the reports state that seismic remediation can be done fairly inexpensively. For more information on how to prepare your home to emerge from a quake in good shape,  and a list of resources, go to http://www.abag.ca.gov/bayarea/eqmaps/fixit/resources.html.

After a damaging quake, how long will it take to the City as a whole to return to its pre-quake functionality? SPUR sets goals and timelines answering this question if the quake happened now and if it happened after appropriate preparation. Disturbingly, they report, current building codes are based only on the requirement that new buildings not collapse, not that they be usable or repairable after the damage. Thus, as things are now, it would take 3 years to get 85% of people back in their homes and  even longer to re-house 100%. The overall goal should be to have 95% back in their houses within 24 hours.  SPUR also looked at water, gas, electricity, transportation, and medical services, and noted that preparing for the preservation and restoration of these “lifelines” will require regional cooperation.

The Building Department’s CAPSS sets a goal of minimizing damage from an expected quake by revising building codes to attain more resilient buildings that can be more quickly repaired and rebuilt. Their study shows an expected loss of one-quarter of the existing housing stock (8,600 to 100,000 units) in a major quake.

Those of us who think about the eventual big quake and work in and on neighborhood issues often look to the experience of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. The neighborhoods that were rebuilt after that devastation had organizations with experience in taking positions before civic leaders. Areas without such organizations may never come back. In Miraloma Park, we are fortunate to live in a neighborhood with a structured organization to represent us. Since our neighborhood was built (in the 1920s and 1930s), the Miraloma Park Improvement Club (MPIC) has been working on issues that impact Miraloma Park and the City as a whole. The work continues, and we would welcome your involvement. Be safe—Be prepared—Get NERT Trained.


New Feature Announcement

Miraloma Life plans to publish a calendar of events in our neighborhood.If you have a Tai Chi class in the park, a model airplane club, a parenting group, a home-brew club, or a neighborhood watch group, please let us know when and where you are meeting and we will publish this information in the Miraloma Life, which comes out the first weekend of every month except July and August.

We want to increase awareness of the many groups active in our neighborhood and to support your efforts.To submit your event, use the submission guidelines for articles described on the back page of this publication. Be sure to supply your contact information.

Nothing unlawful or commercial will be published. Comments or questions? Call Jed Lane 415-425-9810.


Design Matters

by Peter A. Zepponi, AIA — Architect

This monthly column addresses basic residential design and home improvement topics of interest to Miraloma Park residents. If you have a question or topic you’d like considered for a future article, please send an email to pazdesignmatters@aol.com or call 415-334-2868 (website: www.zepponi-architects.com).

Q: How can I take advantage of the current economy?

A:  Leverage the market with a negotiated fixed fee based on detailed plans and specifications.

You have 30% equity in your home, a good job, good credit, you don’t want to move, and you’ve been putting off a remodel for years because it’s been too expensive.  If this describes you, then you have an ideal opportunity as a qualified homeowner wanting to remodel. 

If you intend to do some remodeling, now would be a good time to start planning it. Market pressures are making construction pricing very competitive and I expect that trend to continue over the next few months.  I have several new clients who are taking advantage of the historically low interest rates and favorable construction costs, and you might also benefit by timing your project to derive advantage from current market conditions.  I believe there will be a market low around May/June, corresponding with high unemployment rates and low interest rates. A funded project that is permitted and ready to bid by the end of April will have perfect timing in your favor.  By May, however, most contractors will have taken a job to make sure to have work through the summer months, so bidding might not be as competitive as it currently is. 

If you miss the current window, your next best tactic will be to negotiate with contractors who want to ensure they have another project in the pipeline behind the one they are currently working on.  You can favorably negotiate that situation as well, but not as hard-line as with a contractor who still needs to land a job to get through the dry summer months.  The next window for good pricing will be in September/October, when contractors have finished up summer work and are looking for something to carry them through the winter.  You would be in a good situation then if most of your work is indoors and feasible during the rainy winter months, because outdoor projects could not start until good weather.  Therefore, you will have a larger pool of available contractors vying for your project, which should result in more competitive bidding.

When you are ready to bid your project and hire a contractor, you should negotiate a fixed fee. Now is a terrible time to hire someone on an hourly time-and-material (T&M) basis, as attractive as they may make this seem.   Instead, hire an architect or other professional to prepare a detailed set of bid documents.  Most such professionals should be able to earn their fee by the value they bring to the project in negotiating, bidding, and minimizing “unforeseen” conditions that can drive up costs.   Many large construction projects have slowed down or stopped, which means that some contractors have no jobs to put their crews on. Therefore, they will put workers on your project if you are paying T&M, but without other projects in line, the contractor and the workers will have no incentive to finish quickly, and may drag out the work to continue getting income.  This worst-case scenario does not apply to all contractors, but why run the risk that you will be taken advantage of? 

Rather, give contractors clear drawings and specifications so they can provide you with an itemized bid that you can review and compare against other bids.  Any good contractor should know what a job will cost within +/- 10%.   Good plans protect both owner and contractor by minimizing misunderstandings and disputes.  Hire the contractor who gives you a fixed fee based on a thorough itemized bid.  This will not necessarily be the lowest bidder, but the contractor you are confident will do the job for the quoted price and, very importantly, the contractor with whom you have the best rapport.
This column and its content are intended to be a source of general information. Please verify applicability to your specific project.
Peter A. Zepponi, AIA—Architects, is an architectural firm in San Francisco specializing in residential and commercial architecture. 


For Everyone’s Sake, Back Up Your Files!

by Phil Laird

Sorry to break it to you, but your computer—the one you use for just about everything—just took its last byte and expired in a glorious puff of smoke. Yup: everything on it is gone. Toast. RIP. Of course, you have it all backed up in a safe place, right?  RIGHT??  All the bookkeeping files and tax records for the garden club?  The list of donors to be invited to the annual awards dinner?  Five years of emails, contacts, and bookmarks?  Gone? Please don’t say that. Wake me up when this nightmare is over.

Backing up your computer files doesn’t require any fancy software or complex procedures. The main idea is simplicity itself: there should never be just one copy of any file you can’t afford to lose. It isn’t necessary to back up your entire hard drive: just the data. Sure, you have gigabytes of stuff on your drive, but most of it is the operating system and the programs you use to work with the data. For most people, the crucial data themselves are much snaller, maybe a few hundreds of megabytes in selected files. All you need to do is copy these files somewhere else. Copy them NOW—as soon as you finish editing them—and get in the habit of copying your files as you close them. Otherwise do so at the end of a day’s work; but you still may lose that day’s work if your machine fails before you back it up.

The “somewhere else” where you back up your files could be a thumb-drive you plug into your USB port. It could be an external hard drive you dedicate for backups: they’ve come way down in price, and they can be connected immediately to another computer. It could be a CD or DVD that you burn on your computer. It could even be on the Internet, using one of the net storage services (from which you can download the files to another computer). But, sorry, copying from your C drive to your D drive on the same machine isn’t good enough. (That puff of smoke? That was your D drive.) 

What about backup software? Quality software can simplify and automate the process as well as compress files to save space. But using backup software requires some care. For example, I run Windows Vista on my desktop, but I have a laptop with XP that I take with me to work. Vista has a nice backup program built in. Trouble is I can’t restore it with my laptop.

Which points to the second main principle: backing up is only half the story; you need to be able to restore from the backup. If you are copying your files “as is” to another location, no problem.  But if you are using software that compresses or encodes the files, you need to test out your restore process. Pick some file that you’ve backed up, choose a temporary space on your computer, and retrieve the file from the backup to that location. If you encounter any problems, you should either change your backup procedure or write a note to remind yourself how to resolve the problem next time.
Which brings us to the third main principle: remember that you may not be the only one who needs to retrieve the backup data. You may change jobs or move to another city and hand the files off to whoever takes over. Or you may be out of town when your partner calls to say the computer has died and he or she has to print last year’s annual report. Will these people be able to retrieve the data from your backup?

The popularity of digital media presents a challenge for backing up. Digital files—photos, videos, podcasts—are big files. Moreover, they don’t compress much because they are already in a compressed format. So copying them to another location means that location has to be big, too. My partner is a photographer and faces this problem constantly, like anyone who works with digital media. A favorite mantra of photographers is that the difference between a mediocre photographer and a good one is that the good photographer has a much larger wastebasket. While unfair, this maxim reminds us that not all digital files are worth saving. The wedding pictures, sure.  Your kid’s concert recital, of course.  But of the six hundred shots of Yosemite, I’ll bet that about ten are real keepers. Back those up and leave the rest to their fate.

So do it yourself – and everyone who depends on you – a huge favor and take the time to back up your data. Now. I’ll wait here ‘til you’re done. No pressure. Really.


Clarification of the MPIC Tax-Exempt Status

The membership renewal forms in the December and January issues of Miraloma Life incorrectly stated that the annual dues are tax deductible.  The MPIC is registered as a 501(c)4 non-profit community organization. As such, we are exempt from paying taxes on donations to the Club. However, under the 501(c)4 rules, donations made to the Club, including annual dues, are not tax-deductible to the donor. 

We are in the process of converting the MPIC to full tax-exempt status as a 501(c)3 organization; this will allow all donations to the Club, including dues, to be taken as a tax deduction.  We apologize for this error.

 – MPIC Board of Directors