Miraloma Life Online – May 2009

  • Goodbye, Again: Against SFPD District Captain Rotation
  • Neighborhood Social with Supervisor Elsbernd for June MPIC Election
  • Water and Sewer Rates Are Rising Why and How
  • Tales of the Great Quake Enchant Once Again
  • So Long to Nathan Rutherford and Lou Johnson
  • The Los Palmos Neighborhood Community Garden
  • What’s Happening with NERT?
  • Fifty Years Ago in Miraloma Park:: Highlights from the May 1959 issue of Miraloma Life
  • Important Notice About the Housing Element
  • Table Tennis In Glen Park?
  • In Memoriam: John Lockley, Former President of the MPIC
  • Woodblock Color Print (1924)

Goodbye, Again: Against SFPD District Captain Rotation

by Karen Wood

As the founding member of the MPIC Board Safety Committee, I’ve worked closely with Ingleside Police Station since 2000, participated in the Efficiency Plan focus group process and in the Fair and Impartial Policing Citizen Advisory Committee, and have spent many hours each week working with Ingleside Station on community safety challenges.

My experience has taught me that the routine rotation of district captains without cause is absolutely and irredeemably counter-productive to community policing, which requires solid working relationships between captains and community members. These relationships develop over time: it takes several years for a captain to develop meaningful knowledge about his or her district and to gain the trust of residents. I have worked with four captains since 2000.

Now, once again, we undergo the process of orienting and getting to know a new captain who, for his part, must begin the complex process of learning about the Ingleside communities. This is a steep learning curve: intensive knowledge of neighborhoods and their residents requires several years of application, and intensive, rather than superficial, knowledge is what we who work with our officers have come to expect.

I first learned of the concept of community policing during the Efficiency Plan process. During those meetings and at so many community meetings that I’ve attended over the years, the consensus of opinion has been that community policing requires consistency both in staffing and in communication, two components of good policing that are inseparable. I am truly at a loss to understand the practice of transferring commanding officers who are doing a fine job in their districts and who have forged solid relationships with residents.

The explanation commonly offered for this practice is that frequent rotation of district commanding officers prevents the formation of  “fiefdoms,” meaning, one supposes, that long tenure at a district station leads to insubordination in a commanding officer. This concern reflects poorly and without justification on the quality of command staff supervision.

But for the community as a whole, the routine transfer of captains without cause hinders the smooth and well-functioning collaboration of community and Department. It prevents all concerned—captains, residents, and officers, as well—from achieving optimal results from our efforts and enforces on all a relentless cycle of orientation and re-education, again and again. This process presents a disincentive for community volunteers, like me, to continue our efforts when they are repeatedly frustrated.

Substantial public financial and personnel resources have been dedicated to fund consultants and studies aimed at improving the effectiveness of our police force. But this simple measure— allowing captains to remain in their districts as long as their performance is strong—will do more to promote good relationship building and communication than all the studies we taxpayers have funded.


Neighborhood Social with Supervisor Elsbernd for June MPIC Election

The Miraloma Park Improvement Club will hold its annual election for Directors and Officers on Thursday, June 18, 2009 from 7 to 8 pm, at the MPIC Clubhouse. The election will be part of an open-house social event with wine and tasty treats, which our District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd will attend. The theme will be “How Can the MPIC Better Serve Miraloma Park.” Please come, make your suggestions to the Board, and bring your neighborhood and city-wide questions and concerns to Supervisor Elsbernd. All members in good standing with dues paid by Monday, May 18, 2009 may vote in the MPIC Board election. Nominations from members in good standing will be accepted at the MPIC Clubhouse from 7 to 8 pm on Thursday, May 21 after which nominations will be closed.

As of May 1, on the ballot for re-election as Director are current Directors Karen Breslin, Sue Kirkham, Dan Liberthson, Gary Noguera, and Kathy Rawlins. Nominated to the ballot to stand for election for the first time is Daniel Homsey. Dan Liberthson is standing for a repeat term as Corresponding Secretary. The position of Recording Secretary will be vacant, as Kathy Rawlins has tendered her resignation from that office as of the end of June, 2009. Nominations for the position of Recording Secretary from members in good standing are welcome.


Water and Sewer Rates Are Rising Why and How

by Steve Lawrence (Forest Hill)


Water is supplied to San Franciscans by a City department called the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), which is separate and unrelated to the State Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Water rates have been rising, and between today and 2018 need to rise, if all goes as planned, at just under 10% per year. Rarely does all go as planned; construction costs often overrun.

What construction? SFPUC is in the middle of a $4,400,000,000 Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) to protect the water system from earthquake, to prepare it to survive drought, and to make it capable of being properly maintained.

Nearly two-thirds of the water system’s water goes to wholesale customers, which are cities and water agencies between SF and San Jose, and eastward. San Franciscans must pay less than half the bill for WSIP, about $2300 for every San Franciscan. Water bills must rise to cover the cost of WSIP. Nearly half the expected duration of WSIP has passed. So far, projected costs have risen about 20% from original estimates. To date, a bit under 20% of the WSIP funding has been spent and 20% of the work accomplished. During the next 6 years, 80% of the work remains to be done.

In that work there are a few very large projects costing over $200 million. These include building a new water line under the Bay (Bay Tunnel and Bay Division Pipeline No. 5, east and west sides), a new dam at Calaveras reservoir in the Sunol Valley, and a second tunnel between Sunol Valley and Fremont, called the New Irvington Tunnel. There are many smaller projects, about 80 in all. Water lines will be seismically upgraded so that the movement caused by an earthquake, unless very large, should not break the lines. Many other improvements must be made to a water system that is now 75 years old.

At the conclusion of WSIP, San Franciscans will need to use less water than now. Average use today is about 89 million gallons per day (mgd); in 2018, we must use no more than 79 million mgd from the regional water system. WSIP will build a recycled water plant, and in San Francisco will develop more ground water, which will be blended in with our naturally pure mountain water. In all, we should have 85 mgd available. San Franciscans will use less water per person per day because toilets and other fixtures will be more water efficient, appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines will use less water per load, and landscaping will be less thirsty.

How goes WSIP? This author, who has watched since inception in 2002, notes many delays to date. The very large projects mentioned above have suffered delays of more than 3 years. If no earthquake strikes before completion, this may work to the city’s advantage, because construction costs have recently plummeted.

The goal of WSIP is to avoid a situation like that after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Some day an earthquake will strike. Then the question will be: Are we prepared enough to avoid a mass exodus of citizens and business, from which it will be hard to recover? If drinking water is lost for a long time, that question could have a negative answer. Water rates are rising in an effort to head off that catastrophe.

In addition to paying for interest and financing costs of the bond indebtedness authorized by the voters in 2002 to fund the above physical improvements, costs of delivering water are rising because of other expenses. These include programs for conservation, raising Lake Merced and groundwater levels, use of recycled water, increased street sweeping (now under SFPUC’s budget), a new headquarters building, and more.


Rates charged for water and wastewater service are going up. Although these rates have risen 15% per year for the past 5 years, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), which provides these services, now says that water rates need to rise more beginning July 1. According to SFPUC, both water and wastewater (sewer) service rates will rise about 10% for the typical customer.

Some believe that water rates are actually rising more than SFPUC claims. For the median customer, who uses 7 units of water, one calculation found that the water bill would rise 17.5% per the proposed rates to start July 1. A unit of water is 748 gallons, enough for the typical San Franciscan for 12 days.

Rates will be decided by the Commission of SFPUC at a public meeting on May 5. After the Commission decides on rates, the Board of Supervisors has the power to reject them.
So far, little opposition to the rate hikes has surfaced. At a recent meeting of the Rate Fairness Board, which advises the Commission concerning rates and how to structure charges, only two members of the public testified. In the past, many dozens have spoken.

Rates are rising faster than inflation because the SFPUC is in the middle of a program to improve reliability of the water system, especially after earthquake and during drought, and to better permit maintenance. The Water System Improvement Program is expected to cost $4.5 billion, and is to be completed by 2015. Also, at the end of that program San Francisco is expected to use less water. Because less water will be sold, more must be charged for each unit delivered. On the wastewater side, SFPUC is nearing completion of its 5-year program to address critical problems with its wastewater system, including flooding. Later on, it expects to issue a master plan outlining longer term improvements, at a cost of $3.2 billion according to recent estimates.

While capital improvements are perhaps the main source of future rate increases, the cost of providing water and sewer service have also risen because programs tangentially related have been picked up by SFPUC. A greater proportion of street sweeping costs are now paid through wastewater rates than in the past. Lake Merced, once cared for by the Department of Public Works (DPW), is now SFPUC’s responsibility. Greening programs, Department of Environment, and Mayor’s office employees are all paid for by SFPUC. Some believe these programs are picked up by water and wastewater rates because the city’s general fund is short.

On May 5, not only rates but also the rate structure is up for decision by SFPUC’s commissioners. SFPUC staff have proposed that there be two tiers of rates for all residential customers, a low tier applying to the first 3 units of water used per month, and a higher (more expensive) tier for water and wastewater thereafter. SFPUC believes this encourages conservation.

Critics, however, say that despite years of tiers there is no proof that conservation is in fact promoted. Tiers penalize those living in larger groups, even when each member of a family or household uses small amounts of water. Because SFPUC does not determine how many people there are living in each household, it cannot distinguish between the water waster and the larger household, and under tiers it charges a greater average price to both. Critics call this “the family tax,” and suggest that the SFPUC needs to address the inequities this rate structure would create.

The May 5 SFPUC meeting will take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in San Francisco City Hall Room 421. There is an opportunity for public input, and those concerned about the proposed rate and rate structure changes are urged to attend and speak their piece. There will also be opportunities for public input when SFPUC’s recommendations are taken up by the Board of Supervisors.


Tales of the Great Quake Enchant Once Again

by Dan Liberthson
On April 6, an enthralled gathering at the MPIC Clubhouse listened to Neil Fahy, geologist and professional lecturer, talk about lessons in leadership to be learned from the great SF quake of 1906. Using remarkable slides culled from various archival collections, Neil brought to life the story of what happened during the quake, with particular attention to the strengths, weaknesses, and conflicts among the key leaders at the time. We learned about Fire Chief Dennis Sullivan, who, after planning for the response to the quake for many years, had the misfortune to be killed beneath a falling chimney during the actual event.

Young immigrant banker A.P. Giannini kept his Bank of Italy open when all other banks closed during the disastrous quake and the ensuing fire, and lent money on no security to all comers—a trust in his community that was rewarded by long-term loyalty and the stellar growth of what became the Bank of America. One of the leading scoundrels of the time, kick-back king and dirty-money man Abe Ruff, was cut out of the action when Mayor Schmidt, considered a lightweight by General Frederick Funston of the Presidio and many others, rose to the occasion and instead appointed honorable and efficient citizens like Freemont Older and M. H. de Young to the committee overseeing the response and rebuilding. Shoot-to-kill orders from the Mayor helped deter looting, while attempts to block the fires by dynamiting buildings in their path did more damage in many areas, partly because of inept use of the explosives, than the quake itself.

All the while the “regular folks” muddled through, helping and supporting one another as best they could, whether living in temporary tent shelters in Golden Gate Park or in the remaining habitable lodging. Neil’s grandparents on their ranch in the south-east part of the City took in several families who had lost their homes, feeding them with crops grown on the premises and recompensed for costs by the government. What a thrill it was to imagine, as vividly recreated by our able presenter, ranch and farm life in the midst of San Francisco, in a bygone time before the seemingly inevitable concreting over!

Look for Neil to return in the Fall with a presentation about the making of Golden Gate Park—another memorable tale spun by a fine story-teller of our City’s history.

Tales of Great Quake



So Long to Nathan Rutherford and Lou Johnson

by Kathy Rawlins

The Miraloma Life newsletter has often eulogized past Miraloma Park Improvement Club Board members. I would like to take this opportunity to remember two neighborhood residents who, although they were not Board members, were nonetheless quite outstanding in their own ways and contributed to the betterment of the neighborhood through their efforts of environmental beautification.

Lou Johnson, as has been noted in a previous MLL article, was a kind and gentle soul who provided neighborhood support for many causes. One of these, which lives on in his memory, is the Melrose-Detroit Garden. He and his wife, Yvonne, helped establish this place of beauty and peace where there had been trash and weeds. They received many plant contributions to the garden and volunteers helped in its upkeep.

Nathan Rutherford, another valued member of the community, was a friendly face to those on the 300 block of Molimo Drive. He always gave a smile and a wave to anyone passing by. Nathan could be seen during holiday times creating beautiful floral arrangements in his garage and then loading them up to give to friends and acquaintances. In his later years, he took it upon himself to improve his garden in both the front and back yards, which his landlord supported wholeheartedly. Many neighbors complimented him on his industry, and many received starter plants from him to spread the beauty. Not only is his garden flourishing, but since it is entirely drought tolerant plants, it is an example of good ecology for all to admire and imitate.

I suspect that many of us, in our hurried daily lives, drive the hills of our neighborhood without taking enough time to admire the efforts of residents to make their homes and gardens attractive. At this lovely time of year, I would invite everyone to make time to walk the streets and take pleasure in the gardens we usually drive past with a glance. Let your neighbors know you appreciate their efforts to beautify our community by a smile or a compliment. This will give them that ‘pat on the back’, the recognition all unsung heroes appreciate from time to time, and it will lift your spirits as well as theirs.

In closing, I would like to say again “Thank you, Lou and Nathan–the world is a more beautiful place because you were here.”




The Los Palmos Neighborhood Community Garden

by Gundula Schmidt-John

Fragrant frisias, bold anemones, colorful plants, and lush green scrubs will welcome you at the Los Palmos Neighborhood Community Garden (LPG), a neighborhood oasis that Friends of the LPG invite our Miraloma neighbors to visit.

The LPG is located at the intersection of Foerster and Los Palmos Drive, just east of 195 Los Palmos Drive. Once filled with weeds, this plot has now been transformed by the loving hands of the Friends of LPG and other neighbors. The Friends work weekly on landscaping and organize biannual Community Work Parties to help to bring the neighbors together.

Come and stroll down the easily accessible paths to view the Garden at many levels, or sit on one of the benches and admire a stunning landscape abundant with colors and flowers. In addition to many plants, the Garden has mature flowering plum trees, our own fruiting apple tree, an herb patch, and a vegetable farm. Our colorful sweet peas and towering watsonia were the highlight of last year’s MPIC Garden Tour. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and other small birds abound, and the garden provides a site for monitoring bee migration.

Financial aid for the Garden comes from a monthly collection of recyclables that are dropped off by the neighbors. Other contributions are welcome: please contact Gundula at 195 Los Palmos Drive, phone 586-4871. The Friends of the LPG hope you will enjoy your visit, especially now that the Garden is in full bloom. We thank you for all your support. As always, the Watsonia bulbs contributed by neighbors have grown into the highlight of our Spring Garden.



What’s Happening with NERT?

by Phil Laird

Recently I spoke with Lt. Erica Arteseros, Program Coordinator for the Fire Department’s Neighborhood Emergency Response Program (NERT) to get an update on the status of the program. Following are some of the topics we discussed.

By the time you read this article the annual NERT citywide drill will have come and gone. If you, like me, glanced at your NERT badge and realized that it had expired, you may wonder how to renew it and whether it is worth the trouble. We can renew our NERT certifications only by attending one of the Class #6 sessions (the last of the six training classes). This class reviews the “take-home exam” questions on basic preparedness from the NERT manual and then conducts a hands-on drill for basic skills such as triage and search and rescue. You will probably be surprised at how easily these skills fade and how quickly knowledge evaporates over time. To recertify, pick a Class #6 to attend and email or phone NERT to signal your intention to go, so that they can prepare a new badge for you. Classes are on the web site, www.sfgov. org/sffdnert (click on “training schedule”). Send the email to sffdnert@sfgov.org with the word “RECERT” as the subject. Or phone (415) 970-2022.

So, is it worth it? What does NERT “certification” mean? There is no evaluation of NERT volunteers to test whether they have mastered any specific skills. A NERT badge certifies only attendance at the NERT training classes. I find this seriously concerning: I don’t want someone to attempt to pull me from a collapsed building or to attend to my injuries just on the basis of having sat through 20 hours of training classes. I asked Lt. Arteseros about this, and she acknowledged that, unlike First Responder and EMT training, NERT does not have the resources to manage a large-scale assessment and certification program. Still, I think that the use of the term “certification” implies a level of competence that most NERTs do not have.

NERT is, however, developing specialized training programs that go beyond the basic six classes and do entail some certification. The San Francisco Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is part of a nationwide program to establish local teams of medical, health and other volunteers to strengthen the public health infrastructure and improve emergency preparedness. Required training includes FEMA IS-700 training, Incident Command System training, and First Aid/CPR. A series of optional, specialized classes can follow, depending on the type of support the NERT may be interested in. Note that you do not need to have any prior medical training to participate.

The “Rescue Drill” program offers training in specialized skills for aiding fire fighters at the scene of a disaster in their neighborhood—loading and unloading hoses, advanced cribbing, securing victims in Stokes stretchers, and such.

Recently the Battalion Chief managing this program retired, and until a new Chief is assigned, participation is limited. The training calls for more physical activity than other NERT functions. If interested, contact your neighborhood coordinator (Jed Lane for Mt. Davidson/Miraloma Park).

Other advanced programs that have been in place for a while include Ham Radio Communications (HCT), Incident Command (ICS), and Leadership Teams/Block Captains. In my opinion the greatest potential for the NERT program is to help organize neighborhoods quickly following a disaster so that immediate local services can be provided, needs assessed, and those needs communicated to City responders. Those neighborhoods that coordinate quickly and effectively will be the ones that recover first, and Incident Command training provides most of the necessary knowledge and skills. Attending NERT drills also helps reinforce teamwork skills because the activities are conducted in neighborhood-based groups.

I asked Lt. Arteseros about the status of the NERT budget in the face of the current financial problems. NERT did suffer a mid-year cut to the budget, and its future funding is tied to that of the San Francisco Fire Department. But training classes are underway and will hopefully continue throughout the year. Asked about her biggest concerns, she said she is frustrated by the number of people who still don’t know about the NERT program, despite the well-publicized “72hours.org” campaign this past year. NERT is launching a new Family Preparedness program to increase personal preparedness in San Francisco. An attractive alternative for those of us too busy to attend 20 hours of classes, it consists of a one-time workshop to inform individuals and families about how to prepare for major emergencies. The program is conducted in conjunction with neighborhood organizations such as SF Safe. Fire department officials will visit with the neighborhood group to offer a package of risk awareness and disaster planning tips, an overview of NERT training, and support for neighbor-to-neighbor pre-planning.

NERT was created in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake, when hundreds of volunteers came to help fight fires and rescue victims, but their potential could not be realized because of their lack of training. This situation recurred after the Cosco Busan oil spill, when again hundreds of people wanted to help with the cleanup but could not be used for lack of training in hazmat situations. Whether the training consists of basic preparedness for families or advanced First Responder Certification, having a population with the knowledge and skills to respond to a disaster will determine how well we fare in the next big quake or other major incident.


Fifty Years Ago in Miraloma Park:: Highlights from the May 1959 issue of Miraloma Life

compiled by Phil Laird

MPIC President Cecil Hickman writes: “We here in Miraloma Park have been promised a mechanical signal at Fowler and Portola. Let us see that this promise is carried out. This is election year! Nuff sed.”

Miraloma Church News: “What’s in a name? We have decided that as well as being identified with the community we should also be identified with our denomination. The word ‘community’ adds little, so the congregation voted to change our church name to ‘Miraloma Reformed Church.’”

Reginald Glazbrook writes: “I had the honor of serving as President of the Miraloma Park Improvement Club for the year 1957. The Club was very active that year, mostly due to various issues that came up pertaining to the keeping of our area as a first-class residential zone. This involved many special meetings of the Board of Directors and committees.

“Individually and in a body we made many appearances at the City Hall before the Planning Commission, the Board of Permit Appeals and the Board of Supervisors. Fortunately, nearly all of our fights were victorious. This was mainly due to the efforts and hard work performed by my efficient committee members.

“During my tenure of office…I originated and had made the plaque with the past presidents’ names and dates engraved thereon which proudly decorates our clubhouse.”

[Note: The plaque still decorates the north wall.]


Important Notice About the Housing Element

The City of San Francisco is holding public hearings about the 2009 Hoiusing Element of the General Plan, which will govern, among other matters, how much and what sort of housing will be built over the next decade, and what rules and zoning will apply to that housing. City residents are encouraged to educate themselves about the Housing Element, and to make their voices heard at these meetings. As the Planning Department puts it, “We want to hear directly from residents about their issues and needs related to housing, so that the 2009 update really does reflect the diversity of our City’s viewpoints and incorporates policy ideas that address these issues and needs.”

Conveniently for Miraloma Park residents, one such meeting will be held at the Miraloma Park Improvement Clubhouse (350 O’Shaughnessy Blvd at Del Vale) on Wednesday, May 6th, 2009, from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. Please come to learn about and contribute to this vital aspect of SF planning.


Table Tennis In Glen Park?

by Charlotte White

Who’s up for exercise that’s far from deadly boring?

Come to Drop-In Table Tennis on Wednesday evenings, 6:30 – 9:00 PM, at the Glen Park Recreation Center (Elk at O’Shaughnessy/Bosworth). It’s free! All skill levels are welcome. Just bring paddle, ball, peelable clothes, tennies, and a hang-loose attitude, and head for the joyous hollering. Believe me—I go most weeks. For details, call 337-4705, and ask about Drop-In Badminton, too.


In Memoriam: John Lockley, Former President of the MPIC

John Lockley, a Teresita resident and attorney who died on March 6 at age 96, was one of the most dynamic presidents in the history of the Miraloma Park Improvement Club. During his tenure (1956-7), he ensured the preservation of Glen Canyon as an open space, helping to stop a large development planned for the area. He was instrumental, together with others, in integrating Miraloma Park by insisting on an end to the practice of including racial restrictions in the covenants in property deeds, which had been determined to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Over the course of a long career, Mr. Lockley served as a federal tax prosecutor and Assistant United States attorney and handled one of the most important defining cases in the area of water rights and land law, Miller v Lux. After retirement at age 80, he continued to teach the law well into his 90s, and was an arbitrator until his death. He provided pro bono law services for diverse churches and temples, as well as a number of farmers and non-profit organizations.

Mr. Lockley’s surviving family, including Miraloma Park resident Jo Lynne Lockley, request that donations in his memory be made to the Little Sisters of the Poor at 300 Lake St., SF, CA 94118. “He loved the law,” said Jo Lynne. “He believed in order, fairness and justice.”


Woodblock Color Print (1924)

Matsue Izumo sees a crescent moon

orange sunset rippling in wavy water

a lit window

—Dan Liberthson, ©2009