Miraloma Life Online – November 2008

  • Annual Holiday Party
  • Geology Tour and  lide Presentation a Big Hit!
  • Mt. Davidson Hike
  • Miraloma Park Residential Guidelines
  • Disaster Meeting Place
  • What’s Wrong With In-Law Apartments?
  • Legal Ease
  • 6th Annual Miraloma School PTA Rummage Sale
  • Bringing History to Life, Life to History
  • Design Matters
  • District 7 Proposition Night at the MPIC—A Feisty Time Had by All
  • Gardening Party and Request for Native Plant Garden Support
  • Shapeshifter of the Diamond

Annual Holiday Party

by Kathy Rawlins

Once again it is time to fire-up the oven and get out your favorite recipe to prepare for the MPIC Holiday Party and Cook-Off. The event will take place at the MPIC clubhouse on Sunday, December 7 from 5pm to 8pm.  This has always been the highlight of the year, as neighbors join together to share the warmth of the fire, the tastes of many wonderful dishes, and the merriment of the entertainment.

Music will be provided by the very talented Laura Lee Brown and Company.  An encore appearance was requested after they performed so well at last year’s party. Also, to the delight of young and old, Boswick Turnstyle, Jr., clown extraordinaire and veteran of Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus, will perform his holiday magic from 6 to 7 PM.

The banquet will be hosted by the MPIC, who will provide roast turkey, ham, and a variety of hot and cold beverages including our famous champagne punch. Everyone attending is encouraged to bring a dish to share. Please bring enough for at least twelve people.   Remember, the more you bring, the more people can sample, and the more votes you’ll have and a better chance to win one of the spectacular prizes.  The Holiday Pot Luck has had an international flavor in past years with such favorites as Taco Mix, Brandied Sweet Potatoes, Moroccan Pasta, Chicken Mogul and a host of other treats.  Categories include Appetizers and Salads, Main Dishes, Side Dishes and Desserts.

Winners of the each category, will choose from among gift certificates and gift items from our local merchants. Past donors have included Tower Market, Round Table Pizza, Bird and Beckett Book & Music Store, Creighton’s, Miraloma Cleaners, Tower Burger, Chenery Park Restaurant and many others.

Those not able to bring a dish to share will be asked for a small donation or to volunteer for set-up or clean-up duties.  If you have questions, please call 281-0892 and leave a  message.


Geology Tour and  lide Presentation a Big Hit!

by Dan Liberthson

In one of the MPIC’s most successful events, Geologist Neil Fahy led more than 40 participants from around the City on a tour of the striking rock formations of Glen Park Canyon, many of whom then attended his fascinating slide presentation on the geology of the City.

Thanks to Neil’s bountiful knowledge and humorous presentation, by the end of the day we had learned more than we had ever expected to know about serpentine, basalt, faults, and the wanderings of tectonic plates. Speaking of which, the learning process was aided by a liberal infusion of plates of chocolate cookies, which, as the fossil record amply demonstrates, have been used by humans since ancient times to stimulate the mind and tune the body.

Many thanks to Phil Laird for helping to publicize the events, other MPIC Board members who helped out, and Pam Dickey for the loan of her projector. Although the event was the merest blip in terms of geologic time, it was the highpoint of the day (and maybe even the week) for the transitory humans fortunate enough to attend.


Mt. Davidson Hike

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, Nov. 15, 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.


Miraloma Park Residential Guidelines

The Miraloma Park Residential Guidelines were adopted in 1999 by the City Planning Commission to promote preservation of neighborhood character by encouraging residential design compatible with neighborhood setting.  Residential Design Guidelines can facilitate the complex and often frustrating process of permit application and design review and can prevent costly and time-consuming Discretionary Review proceedings. Guidelines at www.miralomapark.org.


Disaster Meeting Place

When disaster strikes, go to the NERT Incident Command Center at Miraloma Playground (Omar Way & Sequoia Way).   Rescue services, securing resources like food, water, shelter and medical services will be provided by trained volunteers.



What’s Wrong With In-Law Apartments?

In San Francisco, renting out “in-law apartments” in the home is illegal. In-law apartments (also called illegal secondary units) are generally defined as those that are equipped to be used as a separate dwelling place from the main house, and thus include kitchens, stoves, separate entrances, and/or other components necessary for use as a separate unit. Miraloma Park is zoned RH-1, which means that it is a single-family-home district, and in such an area, secondary units are not only illegal but also completely at odds with the zoning.
Over 86% of Miraloma Park homes are owner occupied. This high level of owner occupancy, and the neighborhood’s single-family occupancy zoning, contribute to the fact that Miraloma Park is such a clean, uncongested, and safe neighborhood, where parking is typically much easier than most parts of San Francisco.

While in-law apartments are commonplace in many parts of San Francisco, neighborhoods with such units become more and more congested as extra cars are brought in by the tenants. There is more trash on the streets in these areas, and often more noise from younger tenants playing loud music in their apartment or in their vehicles. In addition, there is more traffic on the streets, some of which are narrow and difficult to navigate.
Because Miraloma Park is zoned for single-family homes, there are fewer in-law apartments than in neighborhoods zoned for occupancy of a home by more than one family. Nonetheless, there are some illegal in-law units in Miraloma Park, and the MPIC has received complaints by homeowners living near illegal in-law apartments whose tenants are noisy, leave trash on the street, and make parking more difficult due to the additional cars they bring.

In Miraloma Park and in other parts of SF, homeowners have concreted their front yards in order to provide more parking for themselves and tenants, which not only violates City Code requiring green space in the front area but also decreases property values by detracting from the pleasant appearance of a home that might otherwise have a nice front garden.
Thus, your property values and your quality of life are both at stake when in-law apartments are tolerated.  Certainly, there are some quiet and considerate tenants living in in-law apartments, but one has only to travel to the neighborhoods where in-law apartments are more common to see how the neighborhood deteriorates and property values decline or do not increase as much as they do in other neighborhoods.
When a property is sold in California, it is required that seller and the seller’s realtor disclose to the buyer any known defects and certain other information, including, in San Francisco, the presence of an in-law apartment, using language similar to the following:

Buyer understands that the in-law apartment is not a legal unit, it may have been built without a building permit, and a certificate of final completion and occupancy may not have been issued. Buyer acknowledges that if the City [of San Francisco] becomes aware of the illegal unit(s), it may require Buyer to bring the unit(s) into compliance with building codes, or to remove any bathroom, kitchen or other facilities in violation of building codes, at Buyer’s expense. A substantial fine of up to 9 times the amount of the permit fee, in addition to the permit cost, may be imposed, and the Buyer may be prevented from renting the illegal unit(s).
In-law apartments in Miraloma Park have been reported to the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) and closed down. It is important that all property owners in Miraloma Park understand the implications and potential consequences of having an illegal unit (in-law apartment), including the possibility of having to abate (modify or eliminate) the unit, and understand the disclosure requirements.
Please keep Miraloma Park an exceptional neighborhood by not renting illegal units, and in this way helping to preserve our zoning, and thus our quality of life, for everyone here. Some homeowners in Miraloma Park may have in-law apartments with wonderful tenants who have no cars and provide extra income to the homeowner.  But taking into account the broader picture of the negative impact that in-law apartments has had on other neighborhoods, and that a proliferation of such apartments could have on Miraloma Park, the MPIC feels that it is important to avoid them in our neighborhood. They are illegal here in Miraloma Park, after all, for a reason: so that we can enjoy the benefits of a single-family zoned neighborhood, for which we all paid a premium when we bought our homes, and which the City has promised us by zoning Miraloma Park RH-1.


Legal Ease

by Mary Catherine Wiederhold, Esq.

This final column in this series will discuss what to do when the judge rules in your favor at the small claims court and what happens if you appeal the judgment. 

The court will usually mail the winning party a judgment form called the ‘Notice of Entry of Judgment.’  The next action would be to collect the judgment if you have been awarded money.  As the judgment creditor, you will need to take steps to collect your money.  The first step is to find out the address and telephone number of the debtor and to write to her requesting the money.  It is also helpful to find out, if possible, where she is employed, which bank she has a checking or savings account and whether she owns any real estate or personal property such as a car.  If she owns a house, you could file an ‘Abstract of Judgment’ which puts a lien on any land, house or other building that she owns in the county where it is recorded.  If the property is sold with title insurance, then you will be paid out of the proceeds.  You could also conduct a judgment debtor’s examination where the person who owes you the debt is ordered to appear in court to answer your questions about her real estate, banks, sources of income and other detained questions about her assets, even about how much money she has in her wallet.  Before doing any of the above, it might be helpful to consult with the small claims advisor. 

If you lose and want to appeal the judgment, you need to file a ‘notice of appeal’ at the Superior Court within thirty days of the decision.  Only the losing party can appeal and the appeal is heard before a different judge at the superior court.  The second judge will consider the case and the evidence as if they were being presented for the first time.  The testimony evidence offered at the first  hearing is not considered by the second judge.  The judge who hears the appeal conducts the rehearing in the same informal manner that cases are heard in small claims court.  The only difference is that an attorney may represent a party on appeal.  At the close of the hearing, the judge issues a new judgment and a new Notice of Entry of Judgment is mailed to the parties.  If the judge awards costs to the prevailing party, the costs awarded include those incurred by the winning party in both the small claims court and on appeal. 

If you are the losing party, think about your case before you file an appeal.  Do not file an appeal unless you have a good faith belief in the actual merits of your case.  If you are the appealing party and the judge finds that your appeal was not based on substantial merit or good faith, and was filed to harass the other party, then the judge could award the other party a judgment against you for up to $1,000 for attorney’s fees and up to $1,000 for transportation and lodging. 



6th Annual Miraloma School PTA Rummage Sale

 Saturday, November 15th

You are invited to Miraloma Elementary School PTA’s rummage and bake sale, Saturday, November 15.  Free admission from 9 am to 1 pm.  Early admission at 8:30 ($10).  All proceeds benefit programs for our wonderful neighborhood school.

Neighborhood donations are welcome and are tax deductible.  We are seeking gently used items, such as:  Adult and Children clothing (clean and folded in bags), complete toys, sporting goods, baby Items (see exceptions below), household items, small appliances, books and media, kitchen and housewares. 

Sorry, but we cannot accept items that are broken or in need of repair, any electronics, cribs, strollers or high chairs, auto parts, large appliances, magazines, hazardous materials, or anything alive!

Donations are tax deductible and can be dropped off at the entrance to the gymnasium on Omar Way, Friday Nov. 14, from 9 am to 7 pm.  Miraloma Elementary is located at 175 Omar Way. 


Bringing History to Life, Life to History

by Phil Liard 

Aberdeen is a small town on the Pacific coast of Washington. Before the decline of the logging industry it was a prosperous sawmill port, but today travelers passing through on Highway 101 have little reason to stop unless it is to pay homage to grunge rocker Kurt Cobain, who grew up there. Those who do stop might visit the town armory, home to a history museum displaying local ephemera and newspaper clippings dating from the 1880s. But this history museum has something not found in most county museums:  it sponsors an oral history project to record and preserve the recollections of its seniors. There is even a walk-in research center where volunteers help people locate information from the past.
The bookstore sells copies of bound transcripts of some of the oral histories. Like a fool I allowed myself to look through one, the memoirs of a ninety-year-old woman, wife of a former sawmill employee. When I remembered to look up again, nearly forty minutes had vanished from my day.

Oral history is the systematic collection of memories and stories about the past from those who lived it. Typically someone records a relative on tape or video, asking just enough questions to encourage the person to talk about their memories. Many people are reluctant to talk about themselves because they assume that their lives have been too ordinary to be of any interest. Convincing them otherwise can take some effort. “Systematic” oral history goes beyond mere interviewing. To start, the interviewer needs the background information to allow him or her to prepare a suitable list of topics and to help the interviewee to expound upon the most significant experiences. After the interview the work goes on because human memory is imperfect: facts must be verified and information correlated with that from other sources. Finally the results must be edited and presented in an accessible format, usually as a bound volume or an edited video, and stored in archival form for posterity.

I wish I had thought to record my parents’ experiences. My father was born in 1904 in a small farm town in Virginia. As a child he went to school in a horse-drawn wagon; by the time he died in 1992 men had walked on the moon and were living in space. He survived the Spanish Flu, spent the depression years in Germany studying medicine, marched through Italy with Gen. Mark Clark, struggled with racial conflicts among the medical staff while Chief of Surgery at a metropolitan hospital, and endured the ups and downs of raising four rather independent-minded children in the fifties and sixties. My mother grew up in a Victorian household and went from being a flapper and bon vivant socialite to an inspiring mother, a community mediator, the fundraiser for numerous causes, and a terrible accordionist.

My partner’s Uncle Bennie is 87 years old. A lifelong bachelor, Bennie moved this year into assisted living from the house in Chinatown where he has lived almost his entire life. Six months ago five of his nephews and nieces (and their partners) decided to record his oral history. Fortunately one of the nephews is a filmmaker who brings his videography experience, an HDV camera,

and a professional sound engineer to the project. Our group spent several months learning about Bennie’s life, going through his photographs and other artifacts, and planning with him a series of interview topics. Filming is now underway—and what a wealth of history there is.

Bennie is modest and self-deprecating; he speaks so softly that you can barely hear him. But he was a professional photographer who first learned his craft as a child and honed it during World War II shooting film instead of bullets from a B26. Thanks to the G.I. Bill he attended the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) and studied with Ansel Adams, Minor White, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Ruth Bernhard, Richard Diebenkorn, and other well-known artists. He lived in Paris as an expatriate student before returning to San Francisco to head the Army’s photography labs at the Presidio for thirty years. He maintained close friendships over the years with his teachers and his classmates. In the late nineties the public began to appreciate the extraordinary photography he and his colleagues had created in the 1940s and 1950s. Galleries now exhibit and sell his photographs of Chinatown and Paris.

By now the events of Bennie’s professional life have been recorded in several publications; our oral history focuses on his personal experiences. Why does he spell his name “Benjamen”? The odd spelling was a transcription error when he went from elementary school to junior high school, and he never bothered to correct it. He was one of eleven surviving children who were raised in a small two-story house in Chinatown. Both parents were Chinese immigrants; his father and mother spoke different dialects, so the kids had to learn two dialects of Cantonese. The Chinese were subject to the Exclusion Laws and could not own property, so the title to the house was in the name of his oldest brother. His father was a prosperous merchant with fingers in a number of businesses, including food imports, Chinese opera, and gambling. Like most wives in Chinatown, his mother rarely left the house. School was a dynamic mélange of Italian and Chinese kids. The depression, the War, untimely deaths in the family, life in Chinatown through the turbulent sixties, the I-Hotel controversy, the Golden Phoenix, Loma Prieta: these provide the backdrop for Bennie’s comparatively placid life as a civil servant by day, artist and mentor by night. Bennie’s oral history may never be shown on the History Channel, but as a window into the world of a Chinese-American it is invaluable.

In school I hated history. History was my worst subject. Teachers drained the life from the past by forcing us to memorize kings and queens, wars and battles, and the umpteen causes of this event or that. School, as they say, interfered with getting an education. My interest in history came after I moved out west: so much history here is recent, and many who lived it are still living. My partner and I seldom bypass any town with a history museum—hence our visit to the one in Aberdeen.

I can’t help thinking that participating in an oral history project in school could have brought the subject to life for me. Might it not also for today’s students?

No longer young, I may soon be a candidate for an oral history. I wasn’t part of the Suez Crisis, the Korean War, or the Berlin Airlift. I didn’t demonstrate for civil rights, circle Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or fight in Vietnam. But I experienced all these and more together with my family and friends. History with a capital H may be made by the generals and presidents, but history with a small h is what we live, you and I.



Design Matters

Peter A. Zepponi, AIA – Architect

This is a monthly column addressing 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. www.zepponi-architects.com

Q: What is Urban Farming and how do I get started?

A:  It is small scale farming and you can do it at home.

There is a current emerging trend in urban design to quite literally start greening urban environments.  One of the major thrusts of this movement is in school yards across the country. On September 18, the No Child Left Inside legislation passed the House of Representatives.   The program is to increase environmental education and awareness in the school systems. One of the ways this is occurring in schools is to replace asphalt with school gardening programs and urban agriculture.   Studies show that environmental education can help boost student achievement, build students’ critical thinking and social skills, improve student behavior, and can enhance teaching.  Other suggestions have been made that some students that suffer from ADHD are actually suffering from ‘nature-deficit disorder’.   These are kids that need to be outside. They are calmed and in balance when allowed to interact with a natural setting.  I recently heard a lecture by Richard Louv, bestselling author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from Nature-Deficit Disorder”.  He was the keynote speaker for the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance, ‘Growing Greener School Grounds’ Conference.  Last year my firm master planned a school yard expansion for a local private school and proposed several green school yard concepts.  Since beginning this project and proposing concepts we architecturally and ideologically felt were the appropriate solution, we have discovered several grass roots organizations across the City and Greater Bay Area.   These small organizations are becoming unified in a larger mission, and with the advent of the new school legislation, I expect to see the movement continue to grow.

So how does this apply to you?  This harkens back to the post WWII period of “Victory Gardens” where it has been estimated that up to 40% of the City’s food supply was grown locally within the city limits.  Those of us fortunate enough to live in a house with a yard have the opportunity to incorporate a food producing garden into our landscaping.  Each individual yard is a micro-farm, but when viewed collectively city wide, including school yards, parks, and wetlands it becomes an ecosystem. 

Another main theme of urban agriculture and environmentalism is not to focus on individual parks and green spaces as isolated entities, but rather as a collective ecosystem whose overall health is dependant upon individual parts.  This is a difficult concept for residents of a dense urban environment to recognize because open spaces seem so disconnected. But when viewed on a map such as SF Park and Rec’s, ‘Nature in the City’, green space becomes a patchwork quilt laid across the City.

The following is a short list of local resources:
California Native Plant Society: www.cnps-yerbabuena.org/plantsale  Nov. 6th plant sale @ 9th & Lincoln
Nature In The City:  www.natureinthecity.org
Garden For the Environment: www.gardenfortheenvironment.org
Ecology Center of San Francisco: www.eco-sf.org
San Francisco Recreation and Parks: www.parks.sfgov.org
Occidental Arts and Ecology Center: training courses and plant sales: www.oaec.org
Gardening with Kids; catalogue; National Gardening Association:  www.KidsGardeningStore.com
SF Environment; SF City and County Dept of the Environment: www.sfenvironment.org
The Urban Farmer Store, 2833 Vicente at 40th:  www.urbanfarmerstore.com
The Watershed Project; hands-on training: www.theWatershedProject.org
Big Blue Bucket: Residential Rainwater Harvesting: www.bigbluebucket.org
SF Neighborhood Parks Council: www.sfnpc.org
Golden Gate Audubon Society: www.goldengateaudubon.org

* This column and its content are intended to be a source of general information. Applicability to your specific project should be verified.

Peter A. Zepponi, AIA – Architects, is an architectural firm in San Francisco specializing in residential and commercial architecture. 



District 7 Proposition Night at the MPIC—A Feisty Time Had by All

 by Dan Liberthson

On October 18, the MPIC sponsored a debate on selected propositions from the November ballot. Dr. Eric Isaacs, an Emergency Department physician from SF General, argued in support of the largest bond issue in SF History, which appears on the ballot as Proposition A, intended to bring SF General Hospital up to Federal requirements. The plan, which involves constructing a new building alongside the old brick ones, will permit SF General to continue to offer 24-hour trauma care while expanding the number of suites available. George Wooding, Vice President of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council, argued against the bond measure, objecting the huge cost, the failure of the bond to address retrofitting the existing brick buildings, and the fact that these not-up-to-code masonry structures will be within 40 feet of the new, largely glass structure. Mr. Wooding noted that although it is evident that SF needs the services the General Hospital provides, the bond measure is flawed for the above reasons, and because cost overruns are likely to occur, as they did with the Laguna Honda Hospital Bond measure, requiring either trimming the plan (as happened with Laguna Honda) or further appropriations. Mr. Wooding argued that another means should be found to fund the upgrade. Dr. Isaacs countered that cost overruns like those at Laguna Honda are unlikely because the plan for the General is in place and construction can start immediately, whereas planning for and initiation of the Laguna Honda upgrade took 5 years after bond approval, during which time the cost of concrete soared.

Proposition B, which would earmark escalating portions of the SF budget for “affordable housing,” took criticism from Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who in the absence of a speaker to present the “pro” standpoint good-humoredly did so himself at the Moderator’s request, even though he opposes the measure. While the Supervisor sees the need for affordable housing, he believes that Prop B is flawed in that by earmarking it will further reduce discretionary funds in the budget, which even at present comprise only about one-third of the budget, the other two-thirds having already been assigned to specific needs. Prop B, the Supervisor argued, would further hamper the government in managing overall funding, and it would not meet the greatest need for affordable housing, which is for the middle class, since most middle class families in San Francisco would make to much to qualify (but not enough to afford a home at market rate). 

Supervisor Elsbernd also supported Proposition O, without which fire and safety services would lose $80 million in funding, and opposes Proposition H, which would alter the City Charter to make it allowable for the City own power generating facilities and mandate a study of public power, opening the way to putting SF “in the retail power business.” The Supervisor did not object to the study itself, but rather to the idea of changing the city charter, which he believes is a risk, and is not necessary to conduct the study.

The MPIC has not taken a position on the above measures, but was pleased to provide a forum for their discussion. Many thanks to Jim O’Donnell for arranging the event.


Gardening Party and Request for Native Plant Garden Support

 by Dan Liberthson

The MPIC will be expanding the native plant garden in front of the Clubhouse (350 O’Shaughnessy at Del Vale) with a planting on Saturday, November 8 starting at noon. Volunteer gardeners are welcome! Drinks and snacks will be provided. Bring gardening gloves and spades/tools for hard soil—we’ll provide the fresh air and plants.

The MPIC is financing this planting, but we would also like to ask for donations earmarked for the garden to address the cost of expansion and maintenance as we go forward. We want our native plant garden, which specifically represent Glen Park Canyon species, to extend across the entire frontage of the Clubhouse. This will make it one of the largest native plant gardens in the City, and a valuable community resource.

Contributions of any amount will be helpful—simply send contributions to MPIC, 350 O’Shaughnessy, SF 94127 and indicate on your check or by cover note that the donation is for the garden.



Shapeshifter of the Diamond

Center fielder, cock of the walk,
your glove is an agile beak, still now
but ready to snatch baseballs from the sky
as casually as breadrolls from a table.

I watch you glide across the field, half-bird,
touching ground briefly only from concern
some mortal might realize between plays
you are not one of us, alien ballherd.

Gravity is gravy to you, just fuel to burn
running up walls, as Chinese martial artists,
gifted with catapult legs, duel in midair,
above rooftops never rattled by baseballs.

I’ve seen you reach a talon past the wall
and snatch your team’s life back,
as when a medic re-ignites a blown-out heart,
coaxing it back from past the final fence.

You catch the ricochet barehanded,
cut down the runner sliding into second
with a peg as quick and targeted as a knife-
thrower’s sure fling at a lovely spinning lady.

Coursing from the green bend of deep center
you slide under a pop fly
like a seal beneath a beach ball, then
spring to your feet in the same motion,

and briefly doff your cap in afterthought,
as if to say, I can’t help it, it’s what I am.
How does it feel to be a miracle, flying man¾
is there anything, lucky one, you cannot do?

©2008, Dan Liberthson, from “The Pitch is on the Way: Poems About Baseball and Life” (for more, visit “Liberthson.com” or look in the book section at Tower Market)