Miraloma Life Online – October 2009

  • Summary of the November 3 Ballot
  • Beware of Scams!
  • Get Involved in Your Neighborhood
  • The San Francisco Bicycle Plan and Miraloma Park
  • Enlightened
  • NERT News
  • Sunnyside Park and Conservatory Being Readied for Community Use
  • Highlights: MPIC Board Meeting of September 3, 2009
  • Miraloma Park Residential Design

Summary of the November 3 Ballot

by Phil Laird

Tuesday, November 3 is the next opportunity for voters to tweak the City government. Races for Treasurer and City Attorney are races in name only since the candidates for both offices are unopposed. Just five measures—two charter amendments and three ordinances—will compete for voter approval, surprisingly few given the fiscal challenges faced by City, State, and national governments. Absent are the threatened measures to raise revenues through new taxes and property assessments: that these would fail quickly became apparent.

Also absent is a proposal for a $368 million dollar bond measure to pay for street repairs and improvements, withdrawn in part because of criticism that funds for such maintenance expenses should come from the General Fund. Still determined to spend the General Fund for other priorities, the City is now looking to Federal stimulus money to help pay for long-deferred maintenance of its streets and roads.

None of the five ballot measures are “burning issues,” so expect light voter turnout in November. Still, the propositions are not without consequence and are worthy of diligent voter scrutiny.

Measure A (Charter amendment) attempts to improve the budgeting process by initiating a “rolling” two-year budget cycle and a five-year financial plan. The idea is to maintain at least a two-year horizon for balancing revenues and expenses, even if the actual budget is revised each year. In addition, the measure requires that bargaining agreements with unions be concluded by May 15 in order to become effective in the fiscal year beginning in July. If such agreements are reached after May 15, they become effective only in the following fiscal year, thereby reducing the impact of these agreements on budget planning. While this measure can’t “fix” the City’s quixotic budget system, it will hopefully incorporate some so-called “best practices” of public finance.

Measure B (Charter amendment) removes language in the Charter specifying that each Supervisor shall have two staff members. Obviously this means that those Supervisors who need more than two staff members will be able to hire them, and that those Supervisors who don’t need more than two will be able to hire them anyway. In view of the enormous work load that Supervisors are asked to manage, an arbitrary limit of two staff members borders on the cruel and unusual. But to remove all limits is, to some observers, an invitation to return to the patronage abuses of the past.

Measure C (Ordinance) authorizes the Department of Recreation and Parks (R & P) to sell the naming rights to Candlestick Park and to use the proceeds to fund directors at recreation centers throughout the city. The popular after-school programs at Miraloma Playground are among those at risk of elimination as a result of cuts to the R & P budget, so the prospect of a reliable revenue source to pay for these positions is alluring. But if the Forty-Niners football team relocates to Santa Clara, how much value will derive from the naming rights to a vacant ballpark?

Measure D (Ordinance) creates a special sign district on Market Street between 5th and 7th Streets in the Tenderloin “that reflect[s] the arts and entertainment character of the district.” For years the City and business owners along Market Street have been trying to reinvigorate this blighted area east of UN Plaza. In more gilded times the theater district of San Francisco spanned the Orpheum on 8th Street, the Golden Gate and Warfield Theaters at 6th, and the Curran Theater on Geary, as well as movie palaces along Market Street. As part of the Mid-Market Redevelopment Plan, planners hope to link the downtown theater district and the Civic Center performing arts venues by a mid-market arts and entertainment area.

The proponents believe that the current planning code impedes that effort because of its strict limits on the quantity and type of advertising signage. The measure changes the code to create a Mid-Market Arts Revitalization and Tourism Special Sign District with new standards for signs and advertising consistent with the redevelopment objectives. Revenues from signage permits would, or could, be used to support arts and education programs for youth in the Tenderloin and South of Market areas. Proponents of the measure include David Addington, owner of the Warfield Theater, and Carolyn Diamond, Executive Director of the Market Street Association. Opponents, including San Francisco Beautiful (see below), warn of a proliferation of large billboards, neon signs, and other eyesores along Market Street.

Measure E (Ordinance), in contrast to the previous measure to loosen advertising rules, would tighten them. If approved, it would join earlier anti-advertising measures, mainly Proposition K from 2007, a planning resolution to prevent any increase in advertising in the City, including on City-owned buildings. Passage of Measure E would result in a prohibition of any new advertising on City buildings, and would further prohibit new general advertising on “street furniture” (i.e., benches, kiosks, news racks, and transit shelters) beyond what was contractually permitted in January 2008. The main proponent of this measure is San Francisco Beautiful, an organization whose mission is to rid the City of garish billboards, signs, and other advertising, and to preserve the character of our streets and neighborhoods for residents and tourists. Opponents argue that ads on kiosks, transit shelters, and other street facilities are minimally offensive and that the revenues are badly needed in these difficult economic times.


Beware of Scams!

by SFPD Ingleside District Captain Lazar and Lt. Louie Cassanego, in Captain Lazar’s Daily E-mail Message

Most street level con men prey on retirees and senior citizens, because most retirees have the time to be led into along winded scam and they have funds to steal. Dillinger was asked why he robbed banks. He answered, “Because that’s where the money is.” The same is true as to why con men target retirees. I suggest you contact your parents, neighbors and anyone who fits into this “target category” and warn them about these scams. As the fall season begins, we think of the new school year, football, Halloween, and early rainfall. This is the time of year when scam artists portraying themselves as independent roofers solicit work. Commonly, the suspects target senior citizens tending to their front yard or sweeping their sidewalk. They will drive up in a pick-up truck, and sometimes they will even have a tar kettle in tow. The suspect will offer a free inspection of the roof. During the inspection the suspect will walk around the roof and stomp his foot in a specific area. When the suspect climbs down the ladder, he informs the homeowner that the roof needs a little patchwork and the work would only take an hour. If the homeowner seems a little skittish, the suspect floats a cash deal with a “senior discount.” The suspect returns to the roof with brooms, mops and a bucket of tar. After a lot of noise and dust, the homeowner pays the suspect (usually between two and eight hundred dollars).It is discovered later that no work was done, except that some gravel was moved around.

If you are approached by an independent roofer, check for identification and see if he is licensed and bonded. You should note the license plate of the truck. You should also call a friend for advice. And above all, don’t allow him in your home. If you see a neighbor interact with an independent roofer, you should try to get the license plate and description of the truck first. If you wish, you can walk over and introduce yourself and offer to call your neighbor’s son or daughter for advice. In either case, if you feel the roofer is dishonest or you feel uncomfortable, call the police.

In a scam called a Jamaican Switch or Pigeon Drop, the criminals play on the victim’s vision of making a large amount of money in just an hour. There are usually two perpetrators. They can be men or women. One plays the role of an incidental “Good Samaritan.” Here is how it plays out:

The victim is walking to the supermarket, department store, or through a business district or coming from a bank. One suspect approaches the victim with the bait. The bait could be the lure of a large amount of cash, a winning lottery ticket or even gold bullion.

The suspect tells the victim, “I am new to the area, and I have fifty thousand dollars in my bag. I don’t trust the banks or anyone, but you look honest. I’ll pay you if you help me. What should I do?” The suspect opens the bag and shows the victim a large amount of cash. While the victim tries to offer advice, the second suspect walks up to the victim and the first suspect and says, “I happened to overhear your conversation. I think I have a solution to your problem.” The second suspect explains that he and the victim can put up good faith money to show that they are honest and wealthy enough not to cheat him. Once the good faith money is shown, the victim can deposit the fifty thousand dollars in his bank. They all agree.

The victim then goes to his bank, withdraws five thousand dollars, and proudly shows his good faith cash. The suspects do a quick slight-of-hand and then give the victim the bag of “cash.” The suspects excuse themselves and the victim makes a bee-line to his bank. Usually at this time, the victim begins to feel uneasy and thinks this was too good to be true. The victim looks into the bag and finds cut up newspaper. He turns around, but the suspects are gone with his five thousand dollars. The victims literally “left holding the bag.”

Bank tellers are trained about this scam. If the teller has a customer who withdraws a large amount of cash, especially when the customer rarely deals in cash, the teller will ask what the money is for or if he has been talking to strangers. Some victims actually respond by saying they’re going to Lake Tahoe for the weekend. Some suspects are so smooth that they get the victim to drive them to the bank and even to the victim’s own home. These suspects tend to hit an area two or three times then disappear. The best defense for this scam is to be informed and immediately call the police when propositioned.

Criminals are becoming creative in this age of technology. They are able to access a great deal of information through internet search engines if they can get a little critical information from the victim. They will use a simple phone call to get that information by posing as a bank manager, lottery official, or salesman.

For example, a victim receives a call from a person posing as a bank manager. The suspect states that he has been monitoring suspicious activity in the victim’s account and asks to confirm the victim’s name, account number, and social security number. The victim, in an attempt to be helpful, provides that information. The suspect thanks the victim for his or her help and says he will call again if there is a problem. The suspect then uses the information to withdraw funds from that account or charge purchases to that account, or opens a different account to leverage funds for purchases or for other fraud.

In another scam, a person poses as a lottery official or salesman. The caller tells the victim that he or she has won a large lottery prize or a free vacation. All the victim needs to do is to pay a processing fee. The fee ranges from one to five hundred dollars. The mailing address tends to be in the state of Florida, Canada, Great Britain, or Nigeria. The victim mails his or her check and waits for the winnings, but nothing ever arrives.

These calls usually arrive after your bank is closed, which is another clue that something fraudulent is going on, because the perpetrator is counting on your not being able to check the validity of his claims. Do not fall for this. Don’t give out any information over the phone. If you get a similar call from someone who claims to represent your bank, you should hang up and call your bank directly, even if you need to wait until the bank re-opens.

An elderly woman received a phone call from a person claiming to be her grandson. The caller somehow knew she had a grandson and knew his name. He told her that her grandson was in Canada and that the Canadian Police had found drugs in his vehicle. During the conversation, a person got on the phone claiming to be an officer and asked her to wire $2,950.86 to him for the bail. Over the next couple of days, the victim received additional calls from the “officer,” who asked for $2927 to get the car out of impound, $15,000 for a lost passport, and $2874 for lawyers fees. The elderly woman wired all the money to the suspect over a period of a couple of days after a couple of phone calls. I share this with you so that you may inform your family and friends to be aware of these scams. They happen every day.

You can aid in the capture of robbery suspects simply by being vigilant in your neighborhood. In most street robberies in the Ingleside District, a get-away car is involved. The victim hardly sees the car, because it is waiting around the corner from where the robbery occurred. So, if you happen to see one or two suspects run around the corner and quickly jump into a waiting car that then speeds away, you may have witnessed the tail end of a street robbery. Try to remember the license plate, make, model, number of doors and the color of the car. I know that’s a lot to ask, but the license plate is probably the most important item on the list. The description of the suspects is also helpful. You’ll know something is amiss when you see police cars suddenly saturating the area. You can call the police non-emergency number,553-0123, with your information, or if you wish to be anonymous, call our “tip line” at 587-8984.To receive Capt. Lazar’s daily e-mail message, which has crime reports, safety tips, public events, and other useful information, e-mail david.lazar@sfgov.org and request sign-up.


Get Involved in Your Neighborhood

by Robert Gee

You may have begun 2009 with a list of New Year’s resolutions—perhaps exercising more, eating healthy, saving money, or even finding a job. But did your resolutions include getting more involved in your neighborhood? Individuals like you are a major resource in our neighborhood of 2,200 homes. Many in our community give some of their time and energy to improve it. Perhaps you have a particular skill or knowledge to make tangible community improvements that can benefit the neighborhood, such as skills to change government policies for the betterment of our neighborhood. A terrific neighborhood plays a very important role in shaping and affecting our lives on a daily basis, and a neighborhood becomes and remains great because of a deep and wide sense of community. The more members in our community get involved in improving our neighborhood, the better. It pays to get involved, and just as important, to stay informed, because your neighborhood will be only as good as you make it. Often, people complain about a problem but do nothing to address it when it really is possible to offer input and have a significant and positive impact. Get active and involved and you will see the impact of your efforts on troublesome problems like crime, blight, graffiti, rundown properties, traffic, public transportation, lack of funds for parks in disrepair, code violations, etc. One of the best and easiest ways to get involved on the ground level is through the activities of the Miraloma Park Improvement Club (MPIC), through which you too can help improve Miraloma Park. Through collaboration with thumped, you can help our neighborhood speak with one voice and thus become even more effective in forming City policy and obtaining services.

You don’t have to be a great debater; an expert on public policy, zoning rules and city codes; or someone with friends in high public places. All you need is a passion to make your neighborhood better, and a willingness to dedicate a small portion of your time to achieving this. And there can be huge personal benefits: getting involved helps combat isolation, powerlessness, fear, and anger. Getting involved is the process of connecting with others, confronting real life challenges, striving for justice and giving something back to the community. For we are all members of the community, and when we give to improve it, we get back not only companionship and a sense of empowerment, but also the concrete improvements we bring out and the appreciation of our neighbors. Getting involved means making your voice heard. Diverse comments and positions on issues make for a strong community. Good citizenship is about more than voting or paying taxes. Embrace the idea that a community depends on an active and vibrant citizenry. Every neighborhood can always use a fresh face and ideas. Miraloma Park has 2,200 homes whose residents have potentially many great ideas, and the MPIC wants to hear from all of you. Are thinking of getting involved but not sure how to? We’re all so busy in our lives that you may think getting involved in your community could take a substantial amount of time. It really doesn’t. Some activities could take only a few hours every three months!

Getting involved in your neighborhood starts with getting to know your neighbors. Take a bit of time to say hello to your immediate neighbors, and start giving them a smile or a wave when you meet. Soon, you and your neighbors will begin talking and watching out for each other’s homes. These contacts are the basic building blocks for community feeling. Just looking out for one another will create a safer community. Then, start talking to those you pass by. Be out-going and step out of your box. This may be uncomfortable at first, but soon you will find yourselves surrounded by friends and involved in new activities. Then you can get to know your neighbors even better and build relationships. And you can find out what problems people see in the neighborhood and how you can help work on them.

For instance, a central neighborhood activity should be clean-up and beautification. This doesn’t mean having immaculate homes, yards, and streets, but making sure our neighborhood looks well cared for, which sends a clear message to those who might be looking for a place to do criminal activities.

If you see a neighbor who needs a little help, make it your family’s priority to offer assistance. Actions as simple as lending a tool, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or picking up packages or mail when someone is on vacation, go a long way toward establishing relationships with others and sprucing up the neighborhood. If you don’t have time to participate in a big project, think about the 1 to 2 hour cleanup or a beautification project at the playground, or removing graffiti for an hour or two a week, or get interested and involved in legislation that might improve our quality of life.

By getting involved and helping to plan events, you will have a say, a part in the decision making process, and your voice will be heard. That’s the payback for giving back. Our community will thrive when people are willing to commit their time, energy and skills and talents to make things happen. As we take pride in our homes and community, our good reputation as a neighborhood, and thus our property values, will increase.

The Broken Window Theory
Continued presence of blight will eventually bring crime to a neighborhood. If evidence of neglect, such as accumulated trash, broken windows, and deteriorated building exteriors, remain in the neighborhood for a reasonably long time, people who live and work in the area feel more vulnerable and begin to withdraw. They become less willing to intervene to maintain public order (for example, to attempt to break up groups of rowdy teens loitering on street corners) or to fix deterioration. Sensing this, possible offenders become bolder and intensify their harassment and vandalism. Residents become yet more fearful and withdraw further from community involvement and upkeep. This atmosphere then attracts offenders from outside the area, who sense that the neighborhood has become vulnerable and a less risky area in which to commit crime. In brief, if you allow a neighborhood to look like no one cares about it, then criminals and other people who don’t care about their neighborhood will believe it, and move right in. So join in to help make your neighborhood better. Your participation will make a difference.


The San Francisco Bicycle Plan and Miraloma Park

By Jed Lane

The Zoning and Planning Committee of the MPIC Board has been watching the Bike Plan as it’s gone through the process, looking at its impact on our neighborhood. The proposals affecting us are for bike lanes on Portola Drive. Two options were proposed for these lanes. We wrote to the SF Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) stating our preference for Option 2, which called for a “sharrows” to be painted from Miraloma to O’Shaughnessy. A sharrows is a bike/rider and arrow emblem painted on the street surface to show that the lane is shared. (Share & Arrow = Sharrows).

Just before the Environment Impact Report (EIR) was accepted by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors we noticed that the SFMTA had come up with a “Revised Option 2,” in which bikes would have a designated lane on Portola from O’Shaughnessy to Sydney. Sydney is the street across Portola from Fowler. To provide the designated bike lane, they plan to remove one of the left turn lanes from Portola to Fowler. This, we believe, will cause many problems.

Now, the two lanes divide left-turning vehicles into two lines: one to go left into the parking lot and the other to go straight on Fowler or right into the parking lot. Although their traffic study supposedly showed no significant impact on the level of service (LOS) of the intersection if there were only one lane, those of us who make the turn daily know that the two most common situations causing back-ups is when cars entering the parking lot on either side must wait for a car to pull out of a space in the lot or when the 36-Teresita is making a turn.

Thus, we believe that reducing the left turn to one lane will cause back-ups onto Portola. The time allotted for a left turn on each green arrow will not be sufficient to empty the lane so we will have to wait to turn left through multiple cycles of the traffic light. Drivers will go around vehicles going into the lot and approach the crosswalk with reduced visibility, increasing danger for pedestrians, especially high-schoolers, as they cross in the crosswalk. This was the situation before the DPT decided years ago, for reasons of safety, to divide the formerly single left turn lane into two lanes.

In all the years I’ve lived in Miraloma Park, growing upon Rockaway by the church, I have never have ridden bike on that block, and few bicyclists use the block now. But setting that aside, I’ve noticed that the church, the PG&E substation, and the new apartment building on Portola’s west side all have a sidewalk that is wider than usual and is used by very little pedestrian traffic. If, as the Bike Plan maintains, a sharrows is “too dangerous” for bikes in this block, then the reasonable solution would be to move the curb back and narrow the sidewalk in order to get the additional space needed for a designated bike lane, rather than to reduce the Fowler-to-Teresita turn lanes from two to one and compromise vehicular and pedestrian safety.

We residents will need to speak up and let be sure that MTA sees what we need them to see. If you have opinions on this issue and would like to weigh in, please do so on the streets and traffic area of the MPIC discussion board on the web at MiralomaPark.org, or e-mail the author at Jed@BVNIA.org.



Sitting on a platform
round and plump
Rinpoche smiles
above the crowd
as the moon rises
above the trees

©2009, Dan Liberthson



by Jed Lane, Mt. Davidson/Miraloma Park NERT Co-coordinator

I’ve been writing this column for a few years now and many new neighbors have taken Neighborhood Emergency Response Training (NERT) since I succeeded Phil Laird as Co-coordinator, working with my fellow MPIC board member Gary Isaacson. Gary has moved on and for the past few years I’ve been working with Bill Jeong.

Over the years I’ve learned that there is much more to being prepared, surviving and coming back from a natural or man-made disaster than the skills learned as a NERT. I am going to be changing the focus of this column to reflect the additional information I gathered. I will keep you informed of the upcoming NERT activities and share other information that I gather as a civically engaged Realtor.

Since 2009 is the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta and Northridge earthquakes, Loma Prieta being the event that launched the Marina Neighborhood Watch group to organize NERT with the SFFD, many remembrances are scheduled for the week leading up to October 17. The Bay Area is working on the “Big Rumble” for October17 and the State is working on the “The Great California Shakeout.” The Shakeout is scheduled for October 15 at 10:15 am. More information is available on the internet about how you can participate in either event. In my neck of the neighborhood, the Bella Vista corridor, we are having a street party on October 17. This will be part of the Bay Area’s Big Rumble event. We will close to through traffic on Bella Vista Ave from Teresita to Gaviota, set up a jump-house for kids, and bring out some BBQs, chairs and tables for the potluck food and beverages. This is our second block party in this section of Miraloma Park and everyone is welcome to join us. We started this annual event as a way to meet our neighbors, and this is a continuation of that tradition. We will also have information on how we can each “Prepare –Protect – Recover” when we are hit with the next large earthquake.

In coming issues this column I will discuss work the MPIC Safety Committee is doing to ensure that Miraloma Park is prepared to deal with a disaster and able to protect ourselves and the neighborhood and prepare for a speedy recovery. As always, questions and comments are welcome. Send them to Jed@JedLane.com or call me (415) 425-9810.


Sunnyside Park and Conservatory Being Readied for Community Use

by Andrea O’Leary

Completion of construction at the Sunnyside Conservatory has been delayed, so the historic structure is now expected to be open for public enjoyment around Thanksgiving. Therefore, the annual Pumpkin Carving event will not occur and a date for the re-opening celebration cannot yet be announced. The Friends of Sunnyside Conservatory (FSC) website at www.sunnysideconservatory.org will post further updates. The octagon building is taking on more and more character as paint and window details are put in place. The rooftop copper finial should be installed in early September and the interior chandelier will be glowing by early October. Appearance of the main entrance staircase, with fencing to follow, will indicate that completion is approaching.

Sunnyside Park Clubhouse renovation is substantially completed. After the Punch List time period for detail adjustments, the contractor will turn the site over to the Department of Recreation and Parks (Rec & Park). Sunnyside Park Families and Neighbors (SPFN) is proposing a simple but fun reopening event for the clubhouse in early October. When dates and activities are confirmed, SPFN will post notices and release the Park News. To receive it, sign up at SPFamilies@aol.com. Rec & Park is still planning a children’s Tiny Tot program in the Clubhouse. Because it will start after the official opening date for their fall programming cycle, it will be free of charge. The full fee will be reinstated for the winter session. SPFN and the FSC are planning a community meeting on the first available Monday after the Clubhouse is accessible to residents. The discussion will focus on the next steps to develop a 2007 collection of ideas from neighbors about programming and events at the two sites. Also discussed will be Phase III capital budget second surplus improvements to rekindle, prior to construction, stewardship for the two neighborhood gems, and the practicality of vying for funds from the five-million dollar 2008 park improvement bond measure “Community Opportunity Fund.”

Rec and Park, other City agencies, Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Bevan Dufty, and local neighborhood associations are being invited to fully participate in the meeting and examine how partnership opportunities can be nurtured toward the goal of making both park sites an integral and active part of community life.


Highlights: MPIC Board Meeting of September 3, 2009

Correspondence: Someone has been leaving notice of address-painting on curbs for a fee. This is illegal. Any resident finding such notice should report it to the police.

Membership: Efforts continue to reach out to neighbors who have never joined MPIC. Programs: Naturalists or historians would be good speakers for Thursday evening events this winter. Committee formed to plan a safety meeting with members of Police, Fire, & NERT, combined with a spring barbeque. Need events for children; ideas welcome. Miraloma School parents are applying for a grant to continue planting native and non-invasive plants around the school. Plans would include educational projects and sales by outside vendors. A letter supporting their application will be sent. Clubhouse Maintenance: Discussion about how to handle gophers on Clubhouse grounds. Traps will not be used; a motion passed to purchase owl houses to deal with gopher problem. Zoning and Planning: Zoning and Planning Committee walked through Miraloma Park with John Rahaim, Planning Director. He was impressed with the general beauty of our community and suggested planting trees in asphalt rather than on raised concrete areas to deter speeding. Planned new homes at Foerster and Los Palmos are still contentious for neighbors because lot sizes will be smaller than prevailing lot size in that area. Other: Met with police & principal of Miraloma School to discuss cars that speed and park in driveways when picking up students and drive the wrong way; police have promised ZERO tolerance. Discussed Bicycle Plan to return to one left-turn lane from Portola onto Fowler. Plans on how to oppose this modification are being formulated.


Miraloma Park Residential Design

Adopted in 1999 by the SF Planning Commission to promote preservation of neighborhood character by encouraging residential design compatible with neighborhood setting, these Guidelines facilitate the complex process of permit application and design review and can prevent costly, time-consuming Discretionary Review proceedings. The Guidelines are at www.miralomapark.org.