Miraloma Life Online – November 2010

  • Mt. Davidson Bench Removed: Towards a Balanced Plan for Park Management
  • 19th Annual Holiday Party and Neighborhood Bake-Off!
  • The Glen Park Community Plan
  • The Pre-Application Requirement for Proposed Developments
  • Notes from the MPIC Safety Committee
  • Graffiti Removal and other methods to keep our property values up
  • Why the Miraloma Community Church Stands Empty
  • PG&E GAS TRANSMISSION LINES
  • Summary of the Minutes of the MPIC Board Meeting of October 7, 2010
  • A Plan for Industrial Uses in Golden Gate Park

Mt. Davidson Bench Removed: Towards a Balanced Plan for Park Management

by Jacquie Proctor, Author of San Francisco’s West of Twin Peaks

Lists of the best views in the City often include Mt. Davidson’s northern shoulder – where you could once sit on a pleasantly situated bench and enjoy the stunning view of the Marin Headlands, Downtown, Mt. Diablo, and beyond. A few months ago, the Natural Areas Program staff of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department removed the bench because they decided that it was attracting people with off-leash dogs which were damaging the surrounding native plants. While signs have been posted at the entrance to the Park indicating it is now part of the Natural Areas Program and off leash dogs are prohibited, paid dog walkers and pet owners commonly bring dogs to the Park unleashed. Instead of enforcing the rules, the City staff has decided to remove one of the few recreational amenities in the Park.

Mt_D_Bench_now-gone

Our Mt. Davidson Park, created in 1929 after a three-year campaign to stop development of the hill, quietly perseveres despite having few – but exceptional (and sometimes controversial)—public amenities: the Depression-era cross, the historic forest planted by Mayor Adolph Sutro to celebrate California’s first Arbor Day, trails built during the Great Depression, and the serene oasis of open space for residents in the middle of the second densest city in the U.S. Over a decade ago, the cross was the subject of a lawsuit regarding the separation of church and state. Although at that time the City planned to sell six acres of the Park to settle the lawsuit, a petition drive led by the Friends of Mt. Davidson Conservancy successfully reduced the Park area to be sold to 1/3 acre with an open space conservation easement attached to the deed. Most recently the Friends obtained replacement of the historic plaque honoring the Park’s founder, Madie D. Brown.In 1995, the City transferred responsibility for maintenance of Mt. Davidson Park to the Natural Areas Program Division of the Recreation and Park Department. Protection and restoration of native plants is now the first priority of the staff assigned, rather than public recreation, aesthetics, or forest maintenance. A Draft EIR in 2009 determined that the Natural Areas Program Plan could have a significant impact on the environment. It proposes that 1600 trees be removed from Mt. Davidson because they are not native plants. In May 2009, the Miraloma Park Improvement Club wrote a letter to the City asking that the Final EIR recommend preservation of the forest as an historic, natural, recreational, and aesthetic resource. It not only provides a noise and visual buffer to urban activity, but it also helps protect the neighborhood from prevailing westerly winds and fog. Tree removal has promoted the growth of poison oak and there is concern that further tree cutting could lead to erosion problems. The historic forest also provides a critical habitat for birds and animals. (See the plan and where to comment about the plans for Mt. Davidson Park at http://www.miralomapark.org/www.sfplanning.org and http://www.miralomapark.org/www.sfnap.org). As co-founder of the Friends of Mt. Davidson Conservancy, I have expressed concern that removal of the bench was inconsistent with the Natural Areas Program Plan statement that native plant protection would not degrade the public’s recreational enjoyment of the Park. Department of Recreation and Park staff have recently agreed to relocate the bench at the view area above the water tank, which is deemed to have less sensitive native vegetation. To promote a balanced plan for Mt. Davidson Park management, the MPIC Board will send a letter to the Parks Department asking that an MPIC representative be included in any future decisions concerning maintenance and alterations to Mt. Davidson Park, either by the City or by the Council of Armenian Organizations (owners of the cross area). The MPIC Board is also awaiting the completion of the Final EIR for the Park to see how the concerns expressed in the Initial Study process will be addressed. In the meantime you can learn more by joining me for a free City Guide-sponsored tour of Mt. Davidson Park. It starts at the 36-bus stop shelter (intersection of Myra/Lansdale/Dalewood) on third Saturdays at 1:30 P.M.

19th Annual Holiday Party and Neighborhood Bake-Off!

You are cordially invited!
Come to the Miraloma Park Improvement Club

Date: Sunday, December 5, 2010
Time: 5:00 – 8:00 PM
Place: MPIC Clubhouse, 350 O’Shaughnessy Boulevard

Entertainment by Laura Lee Brown and Company and Boswick Turnstyle Jr., Clown Extraordinaire

Bring a favorite Appetizer, Salad/Soup, Entrée, or Dessert to share and win a prize donated by local merchants. MPIC will also provide turkey, ham, and drinks for all to enjoy by the fireside with your neighbors.

Admission free to those bearing a dish to share (at least 12 servings, please). For all others: $10.

The Glen Park Community Plan

by Gary Noquera, MPIC Vice President

Did you know that the Planning Department is in the process of working with the community, to make alterations to the Glen Park “downtown” or as they call it, the, “village”?

To quote the planner, “this is not a redevelopment plan or a plan proposing major change. Instead, it concentrates on a few key issues and provides strategies to preserve and enhance the unique character of Glen Park.”

There are eleven objectives in the plan, namely:

•    Protect and strengthen the qualities that make downtown GP special.
•    Ensure the compatibility of new development with the form and character of GP.
•    Recognize the contribution of historic buildings to neighborhood identify.
•    Establish GP’s streets as comfortable and attractive for walking and public life.
•    Improve access for bicyclists to GP and the BART station.
•    Sustain GP’s role as an important intermodal transit center for the city and region.
•    Improve access to public transit in GP.
•    Seek improvements that relieve traffic congestion while minimizing impacts on other transportation.
•    Restore the local importance of streets in the area.
•    Optimize use of existing on-street parking spaces in GP.
•    Maintain and improve the area’s mix of public open spaces.

Why should the Glen Park Community Plan matter to residents of Miraloma Park?

Many of us patronize the shops, restaurants, and ATMs on a regular basis. We already find parking difficult, and the new plan may have further negative parking impacts. For example, on-street parking spaces may be removed or regulated via smart parking meters. This
would allow the City to charge higher parking rates during selected time periods, intended to discourage parking. The removal of any parking spaces for “other public uses” will only exacerbate the already tight parking situation. In the plan this objective is summarized as, “consider reclaiming some street space in the commercial core for use as open space.” The proposed plan also calls for “traffic calming” which would further discourage driving to the area. It also would prohibit new “curb cuts” on selected streets, which are needed to install garages.

Elimination of existing BART parking lot and possible re-zoning

In a related move, the BART Board of Directors is considering a plan to completely eliminate the existing parking lot, converting it to housing and or retail space. Since the space is located in a transit hub, the ratio between the number of units and the number of parking spaces will likely be extremely low further adding to parking woes. In fact, one of the sub-objectives [1.2] of the Plan calls for potential rezoning to facilitate more transit oriented housing. In my opinion, this is just a stealth way of enabling BART to proceed with their building project. Note that this is in the very early stages of planning, and is not a direct part of the Community Plan.

To view the entire GP Community Plan go to: http://www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=1666.

To leave comments and feedback on the GP Community Plan, please contact the planner, Jon Swae at http://www.miralomapark.org/jon.swae@sfgov.org or 415-575-9069

To proactively protest the potential conversion of the BART Parking Lot to housing/retail, contact the BART Board of Directors. When sending your email, note that you want your message to go to the entire 9 members of the Board. Mail to: BoardofDirectors@bart.gov .

Remember that plans are in the earliest of stages.

Holistic planning needed

For the many Miraloma Park residents—and those of other neighborhoods, including seniors and persons with disabilities—who use the BART parking lot, elimination of the lot to make room for housing could pose serious problems and could lead to residents returning to reliance on their cars to commute to work—a consequence in direct opposition to the goals of the Plan. Accordingly, the MPIC Board of Directors has taken a position opposing any measures that will eliminate street parking or make it more costly/difficult. Additionally, we have contacted the BART Board of Directors, opposing any potential development of the existing BART parking lot. Planning that promotes increased population density within the City’s residential neighborhoods and neighborhood commercial areas must be performed in tandem with infrastructure service increases—notably Muni service increases—to accommodate population increases. Decreased parking capacity while increasing population density is simply poor planning.
— Ed

The Pre-Application Requirement for Proposed Developments

by Cassandra Mettling-Davis, MPIC Zoning and Planning Committee

Homeowners wishing to expand their homes are now required to conduct a “pre-application” meeting with their immediate neighbors
and neighborhood representatives prior to submitting for building permits. This procedure, which has been in effect for a little over two
years, has several purposes. It allows neighbors to discuss concerns about potential developments early on and allows the project sponsors to modify designs to address these concerns prior to filing for permits. It is also intended to reduce the number of discretionary reviews, which are costly and time-consuming for the affected neighbors, the project sponsors, and planning staff.  Members of the Zoning and Planning (ZAP) Committee of the Miraloma Park Improvement Club participated in the development of this new procedure, and it has proven to be beneficial for all parties.

What is the “Pre-Application” procedure?
When a homeowner and his/her design professional have developed a proposal for a building expansion or addition, floor plans and elevations are prepared for submittal for building permit. Before submitting, the applicant invites the immediate neighbors and neighborhood representative to a meeting to review the plans. At this meeting, neighbors have an opportunity to discuss any concerns and document them in a sign-up sheet that is later submitted to the Planning Department. This is the best opportunity for neighbors to weigh in with any questions or concerns and give the building owners and design professional a chance to address these concerns prior to the application process.

When are “Pre-application” meetings required?
These meetings are required for all new buildings, vertical additions that add 7 or more feet to a building, horizontal additions that add more than 10 feet of building depth at any height, decks that are subject to the 311/312 notification, and new formula retail uses.

What do I do if I receive a “Pre-application” notice?
You should attend the scheduled meeting to make sure that your property will not be detrimentally impacted. If you cannot attend the meeting, you should contact the project sponsor and ask if he/she can show you the plans at another time. As good neighbors, project sponsors should accommodate any neighbors who request to see the plans.

What about the “311 notice and reduced plans” that I sometimes receive?
Projects subject to “pre-application” meetings are also subject to the 311 notice. Whereas only immediate neighbors are notified of the pre-application meeting, all neighbors in the 150’ radius of a proposed project are sent 311 notices and reduced plans. This notice informs these neighbors that to address any concerns, they can contact the planner and MPIC. In Miraloma Park, the members of the ZAP Committee are available to listen to your concerns. (Contact http://www.miralomapark.org/miralomapark@gmail.org.)

If my neighbor wants to expand his/her home, how can I make sure that my property won’t be negatively affected?
If you receive a pre-application notice, you should attend the meeting and find out all you can. If you receive a 311 notice, read the plans and project description and make sure you understand what is being proposed. You may also contact members of the Miraloma Park ZAP committee for assistance. The planner in charge of a project is noted on the 311 notice and can meet with residents to show you full-size plans and listen to any concerns you may have. You can also review the Miraloma Park Residential Design Guidelines (available online at http://www.miralomapark.org/www.miralomapark.org) to see if the proposal utilizes recommended design  principles. This document was adopted by the Planning Commission in 1999 and is one of our best tools to retain our neighborhood character. The MPIC ZAP Committee reviews all plans for home modification within Miraloma Park. Comments are forwarded as appropriate to the assigned planner.

As a homeowner, if I want to expand my home, what can I do to streamline the approval process?
Select an architect or design professional who is familiar with San Francisco’s special requirements, and who is sensitive toward minimizing impacts on adjacent properties. The homeowner and architect should also utilize the Miraloma Park Residential Design Guidelines, which discuss the sensible design principles specific for our neighborhood. (available online at http://www.miralomapark.org/www.miralomapark.org).

Notes from the MPIC Safety Committee

On October 8, a residential burglary occurred on Agua Way in Miraloma Park, according to the SFPD, “roughly between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM,” with entry made by forcing a sliding glass door at the rear of the house. Witnesses observed that suspects drove a white van, but because the men were dressed as painters or repairmen, they did not arouse suspicion.

Here is some excellent pro-active safety advice from the SFPD via a resident:
When observing an unfamiliar car or van on your street, take a moment and snap a photo of it, just in case police need to identify it later. Also, share cell phone numbers with your neighbors and call to confirm if they are indeed having work done on the house. If you aren’t able to reach your neighbor, call police to check out the suspicious vehicle. And if you are having work done on your home, let your neighbors know.

It can’t hurt to take precautions!

Graffiti Removal and other methods to keep our property values up

by Sue Kirkham, MPIC Graffiti Abatement Chair

At least a decade ago I observed graffiti in Glen Park, on Portola Drive, and Monterey Blvd, and it was moving into Miraloma Park from those commercial areas and thoroughfares. Knowing that graffiti devalues the neighborhood, and is often related to gang activity, I felt a call to action to abate the problem.

For 6 months or so, on my own, I worked on abating the graffiti. During that time I found resources for paint and graffiti remover and the action necessary to control the problem. Once my system was established, I formed the Miraloma Park Improvement Club Graffiti Abatement Committee.

In those days I had to travel to the Toxic Recycling center to collect recycled paint to use for abatement and to DPW to collect graffiti remover. These days you can

1.    call 311 to report graffiti.
2.    e-mail http://sfgov.org/311service.
3.    join the City Graffiti Watch volunteer program (http://www.sfdpw.org/index.aspx?page=342); as a Graffiti Watch volunteer you will be taught how to deal with different types of graffiti and will  be provided with supplies.

Things have come a long way since I began my Graffiti Busters mission! Join the Miraloma Park Graffiti volunteers by contacting me at
http://www.miralomapark.org/info@SueKirkham.com (please put “Graffiti” in the subject line of your email) or by phoning me at 415-333-9840.

If you call 311 to report graffiti on a private residence or business, the owner is given 30 days to remove the graffiti. If the graffiti is on public property, it can take DPW up to 30 days to remove it. The Miraloma Park Graffiti Volunteers know that immediate removal is the key to keeping our neighborhood graffiti free, so we endeavor to deal with the problem as soon as possible.

Volunteers are supplied with graffiti remover and/or water based paint. The volunteers are self-starters who endeavor to eliminate any graffiti they see as soon as possible. Some volunteers cover much of Miraloma Park. Others take care of the bus stop or mailbox on their block, others the Cross on Mt. Davidson, the commercial areas etc. The majority of Miraloma Park volunteers have very demanding work, family, and volunteer demands, yet make time to preserve the quality of life here in Miraloma Park. Our efforts have paid off exceedingly well, but it is an ongoing job, which needs many residents of Miraloma Park participating to keep the program successful.

PROPERTY VALUES  You have probably observed that the real estate market is not as robust as it was in previous years. It is more critical than ever to keep Miraloma Park looking clean and well groomed. Trash in the gutter or in front of your house, weeds, peeling paint and unkempt shrubbery not only depreciate the value of your home, but the value of your neighbors homes as well. It only takes a short time to pull or cut down the weeds and to pick up any trash you see on the street. Buyers look not only at the house they are thinking of buying, but at the adjacent homes, the street, and the neighborhood in general. Chip in and help to keep Miraloma Park property values high!

Why the Miraloma Community Church Stands Empty

by Mary Catherine Wiederhold, Esq.

I have seen notices in this newsletter that Grace Community Church, an interdenominational church in the Reform tradition, meets every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. in the Clubhouse of the Miraloma Park Improvement Club. I have also seen that the Miraloma Community Church building and grounds appear not to be as immaculately maintained as they once were. After investigation, I found the California
Court of Appeal decided that the church building belonged to the Reformed Church in America, not to its parishioners—the people of Miraloma Park who actually worshiped in the church.

Miraloma Community Church is a branch of the Reformed Church in America which is a Calvinist denomination. Miraloma Community Church was founded as Grace Community Church in 1942. In the mid-1950’s the current building was constructed, and the name was changed.

In January 2007, the Board of Directors for Miraloma Community Church was notified that the church administration was being taken over due to a decline in the number of parishioners. This action allowed the Reformed Church in America’s governing body of pastors and elders to make the decision to close Miraloma Community Church.

After discussions with the church administration, the Board of Directors of the Miraloma Community Church made the decision to leave the Reformed Church in America in March 2007. At a special meeting the Board of Directors voted to amend its articles of incorporation and to become an independent church. In response, the governing body of pastors and elders sued the Board of Directors in March 2007 in San Francisco Superior Court. The Board of Directors and others filed a cross-complaint, alleging that the Miraloma Community Church “had a corporate existence separate and distinct from” the Reform Church. They sued for quiet title to the church property. The court entered a judgment in favor of the Reformed Church in America.

The Board of Directors appealed to the Court of Appeal. The appellate court determined that the appeal was about who had the right to control Miraloma Church “not who owns the church property.” The court decided that the church administration had the right to make
decisions about the church and about the building. Therefore, the Board of Directors vote to withdraw from the Reformed Church was
ineffective. The California Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

The Miraloma Community Church parishioners held their last service in the church in December 2009. The building was then closed. During the lawsuit, church members asked if they could rent the building but their request was denied. Now the parishioners meet at the Miraloma Park Improvement Club Clubhouse. The current secretary of the Board of Directors for Grace Community Church, Dorothy Calvin, said that the current church is “stronger and more vibrant for having gone through this” process.

PG&E GAS TRANSMISSION LINES

In response to MPIC’s inquiry, PG&E’s representative has confirmed that there are no large gas transmission lines running through Miraloma Park. According to PG&E, the nearest transmission line runs under Alemany Blvd. If you have further concerns or questions, please call PG&E’s customer service line at 800-743-5000.

Summary of the Minutes of the MPIC Board Meeting of October 7, 2010

Zoning and Planning (ZAP) Committee:
1) Los Palmos subdivision: Karen Breslin reported that the Board of Supervisors turned down the appeal of Foerster/Los Palmos residents re: the Los Palmas development project (4 homes on a lot previously with only one home). Supervisors voted 10 to 0 with Supervisor Elsbernd recusing himself because he lives near a property which might also be subject to subdivision development in the future (Miraloma Community Church). MPIC to explore obtaining tenants for the Church property that would retain the current character of the area, such as a pre-school).

2) Molimo/Los Palmos mid-block open space development: Large
mid-block open space up for sale again; ZAP will meet to discuss how to keep this area as open space and avoid crowded development and safety hazard resulting from inadequate access to lot by emergency vehicles.
Reservoir Committee:
Committee to advocate with SFPUC for plantings to mitigate the 3 unattractive concreted areas on the Rockdale side of the Stanford Heights Reservoir.

Safety Committee:
1) Miraloma School-related traffic and parking congestion: greatly improved, but Principal to be asked to continue educating parents about the need to park in legal spaces only. At MPIC’s request, SFMTA has painted Sequoia Way sidewalk bulb-outs red to emphasize that parking on or along bulb-outs is illegal and subject to citation.

2) Code compliance: an illegal secondary unit is under investigation.

3) Committee to address reports of increased rodent activity along Myra Way entrance to School. (See SF Public Works Code SEC. 170. – GARBAGE RECEPTACLES. (a) Garbage Receptacles Prohibited on Sidewalk, Street, or Any Public Right-of-Way… no person, firm or corporation occupying or having charge or control of any premises shall place or cause to be placed, or suffer to remain, upon the sidewalk, street or any other dedicated public right-of-way, any can, container or receptacle used for the collection of garbage, refuse, ashes, cinder, sludge, offal, broken glass, crockery, tins, boxes, animal or vegetable matter, rubbish or other like matter, recycling, or green waste, except on the day the contents of said receptacle are to be collected by the licensed collector thereof or after the hour of 6:00 p.m. of the day immediately prior to the day of said collection.)

Membership Committee:
personalized renewal letters have been delivered to approximately 180 Miraloma Park households. (Note: MPIC Membership: 506.)

Events:
Election Forum will be held on October 17 from 2-5 at the Clubhouse. Posters were made and are being put up around the community. Jim O’Donnell has a wide range of excellent speakers to cover controversial propositions.

Clubhouse Management Committee:
Gary Isaacson will schedule meeting with MPIC President Breslin, Treasurer  Sauvain, and Auditing Committee Chair Gee to assess and refine Clubhouse management internal fiscal controls.

Newsletter:
Karen Wood is acting newsletter editor for the November issue.

Old Business:
Gary Noguera has still not heard from regional manager of CVS re: whether they plan to build pharmacy on Fowler/Portola gas station site using Walgreens architectural plans. MPIC to monitor. Noguera also reported that PG&E advised him in response to his inquiry that no transmission lines 20 inches or more in diameter (such as caused the San Bruno disaster) are located in Miraloma Park. Gary Noguera will contact Fire Chief Hays-White for additional information.

Partner Community Organizations, September activities:
Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods (http://www.miralomapark.org/www.csfn.net) resolved not to join legal action demanding an EIR before Planning begins study of waterfront management. MPIC also resolved not to join the lawsuit.
MPIC hosted the September CSFN meeting, and Karen Breslin presented information re: MPIC’s activities.

The West of Twin Peaks Central Council (http://www.miralomapark.org/www.westoftwinpeaks.org/) discussed Props M and L. Also discussed was a proposed SF plan to drill for water in the west section of Golden Gate Park. MPIC will follow issues.

Ingleside Community Advisory Board:
Joanne Whitney reported that a professional designer will help with CAB safety flyers which will be distributed throughout the Ingleside District. MPIC resolved to contribute $200 to the flyer project on the condition that CAB organizations contribute according to their ability.

A Plan for Industrial Uses in Golden Gate Park

“Destroy a public building and it can be rebuilt in a year; destroy a city woodland park and all the people living at the time will have passed away before its restoration can be effected.”

–William Hammond Hall, First Superintendent of Golden Gate Park

Prompted by the projected increased San Francisco need for drinking water, the Planning Department is considering a proposal to build a water treatment plant in Golden Gate Park.

This project will place new buildings, new roads, parking, and lighting in the western part of Golden Gate Park. According to the Golden Gate Park Master Plan, this area is to be used for recreation and parkland. The Master Plan also states that if a treatment plant is installed here, it must be placed underground. But the plans show buildings above ground, at a height of 30 feet in some places. Why are the provisions of the Master Plan being violated? The EIR (Environmental Impact Review) process has begun.

EIRs can be powerful tools for determining the impact of projects on the environment, but their effectiveness depends upon the factors that are planned for consideration in the review. Some questions that need to be addressed:  1) Why site this project within Golden Gate Park? 2) What other locations were considered, and why were they rejected? 4) How will the project impact the overall design and landscape of Golden Gate Park?

Your opinions are important! Share them with your District Supervisor, Sean.Ellsbernd@sfgov.org and with the Department of City Planning by emailing http://www.miralomapark.org/carrie.dovzak@sfgov.org. To learn more about the project, visit the Golden Gate Park Preservation Society website (http://www.miralomapark.org/www.ggppa@earthlink.net).