Miraloma Life Online – January 2008

  • MPIC Holiday Party Best Ever!
  • Graffiti Patrol on the Mountain
  • Legal Ease
  • NERT News
  • Poems – Taoist Tomb Tile
  • Old Oaks for the New Year
  • Looking for a Few Good Backyards
  • Miraloma Park Tree Planting: Project Update
  • Subscribe to Ingleside Station’s Newsletter
  • From the President…

MPIC Holiday Party Best Ever!

by Dan Liberthson

This year’s Holiday Party and Potluck was a smash hit in all respects. Scrumptious food brought by those attending competed with the turkey, roast beef, and ham supplied by the MPIC to fill the stomachs of about 90 people—the largest turn-out in recent years. Boswick the Clown was in great form, kept both kids and adults giggling throughout his performance, and stayed long after it was over to supply anyone who wanted an outrageous balloon hat with the craziest shapes imaginable. The band, Laura Lee Brown and company, wowed the crowd with a generous selection of Holiday songs and other golden tunes. Best of all, dozens of folks we’ve never seen before, many of whom I suspect were new neighbors, turned out to join their community in celebration and merriment at the start of this Holiday Season.

We thank the many fine merchants in our area who donated the prizes awarded to those whose dishes won the most votes from the eager diners in attendance. These merchants included: from the Portola area—Mollie Stones Tower Market; from the Glen Park area—Bird and Beckett Books and Records, Canyon Market, Cheese Boutique, Clean ‘n’ Save Dry Cleaners, Critter Fritters, Destination Baking, Glen Park Hardware, Glen Park Nails, Izabella’s Salon, and Le P’tit Laurant Restaurant; from the West Portal area—Copperfield Stationery, Fruition Day Spa, Papenhausen Hardware, and Shaws Candy and Ice Cream; and from other local venues—Park Merced, Rabbit Hole Beading and Design (rabbitholebeads.com).

Also, our heartfelt thanks to the neighbors who brought their favorite dishes for us to share, making the festivities extra special. I ate something of everything, and thought they were all winners. The official prizewinners, listed in order starting with first place for each category, were: for appetizer—Carl Schick for Gringo Guacamole, Scott Ludeke for Sorba’s Balls, Kathy Rawlins for Crab Mold; for main course—Don Bering for Meatballs and Spaghetti, Yvonne Johnson for Macaroni and Cheese, Beverly Low for Bev’s Asian Wrap, Joanne Whitney for Sausage Risotto, and Amy Vasisht for Chicken Dalhousie; for side dish—Joanne Eastep for Brandied Sweet Potatoes, Joyce Hendrickson for French Apple Onion Brussel, Sathya Seigel for Persimmon Salad, and Shannon Chu for Taco Salad; and for dessert—Ron Proctor for Ron’s Pumpkin Pie, Shannon Chu for Scotch-aroons, Pauline Kilkelly for Irish Whiskey Cake, and Gundela Schmidt-John for Chambord Brownies.

The MPIC invites everyone to come back in 2008 for another splendid Holiday bash—and bring a friend or a new neighbor on your block. Meanwhile, Happy New Year to one and all! Selected pictures from the party can be seen on page 4 but even more pictures (209 to be exact) are available on the MPIC website at www.miralomapark.org. Log on to see yourself and your family.

Graffiti Patrol on the Mountain

by Jim Carlton

Several weeks ago, vandals covered the Mt. Davidson Cross, a park bench and nearby water storage structures with so much graffiti some of it was clearly visible all the way from the Miraloma School. Thanks to Cub Scout Pack 351, that graffiti has been relegated to just a bad memory. As a resident who lives across the street from Miraloma Park, I have spent years painting over the graffiti that invariably is left on park walls, benches, even the sidewalks. Nothing serves as a better deterrent than removing the graffiti immediately, so the “vandal” can’t enjoy his handiwork. Just before Thanksgiving, though, I and other neighbors noticed fluorescent-painted neon from one of the water structures atop Mt. Davidson. I hiked up to check it out and found graffiti damage everywhere, some of the worst I have seen since moving to this neighborhood in 1991.

What to do? As it happened, my sons’ Cub Scout pack had a night hike planned for November 26, just after Thanksgiving. As a den leader, I have led the hike the past three years, and it’s always a wonderful, fun time for kids and their parents alike. Our pack, which is based at St. Brendan Catholic Church, likes to do community service projects, and for last year’s hike we planted a tree. So this year, I suggested our pack do a full graffiti clean-up atop the mountain.

Being low on graffiti paint, I put out a request via Karen Wood for help in getting paint and other supplies in time for the hike. Sue Kirkham, among other good volunteers, answered the call and arranged for me to pick up a huge quantity of paint, along with extra brushes. So I loaded up the paint and supplies, and brought along paper towels and paper bags so we wouldn’t leave our own mess on the mountain. Approximately 30 children turned out – including some girls who came along because we invited all siblings —, and we trooped up the mountain from the Dalewood bus stop with excitement and anticipation in the clear night air.

As always, the city lights sprawled out below was an intoxicating sight for all. But we had a job to do, so after some star-gazing and sightseeing, we organized ourselves into paint brigades. Anne Alvarez, one of the moms, kept charge of dispensing the paint, while Mike Hoelsken – a Tiger cub leader and San Francisco Fire paramedic —, helped shed light on the situation with a powerful flashlight. There were many other volunteers, but the most work was done by the Scouts and their siblings themselves. My sons Jimmy, a Webelo, and Christopher, a Tiger, worked alongside their pals to paint over all the graffiti on the mountain in less than a half hour.Afterwards, we congratulated ourselves on a job well done, took a group photo, and hiked back down the mountain. Several of the kids told me afterwards how proud they were of our little graffiti project. It’s an experience I hope they remember for a lifetime.

Legal Ease

by Steven Solomon

WITH THE HOLIDAYS JUST PASSED, our thoughts turn to the LAW, of course, and what’s new in 2008! Well, the Legislature didn’t disappoint with its annual sampling of hundreds of new laws to fill the law books to bursting. Let’s see what we can, & cannot do in ‘08: we can be fined as an infraction up to $100 if we smoke in a moving vehicle with a minor passenger present; residential landlords cannot ask about the immigration or citizenship status of tenants; starting on July 1, 2008, no minor under 18 yrs. old can use a cell phone in a vehicle, even if it’s a hands-free device; it will be a nuisance justifying eviction for a residential tenant to possess illegal weapons or ammunition; a real estate seller must disclose any private transfer fees; & anyone making eight or more loans to the public during a calendar year, by using their own funds, must be licensed as a real estate broker.

CHANGES FOR 2008 – Beginning next year, yours truly will be partnering with Miraloma resident and real estate lawyer Mary Catherine Wiederhold, who will contribute legal pearls of wisdom from her perspective working in real estate and development.


NEW!: Ham Cram: Amateur Radio Study Session & Test Sponsored by NERT! January 12, 2008, 8:00 a.m. to 4 p.m., Dianne Feinstein Elementary School, 2550 – 25th Ave., San Francisco, CA. The Bay Area Amateur Radio Educational Society is offering this “ham cram” to those interested in getting their FCC amateur radio Technician’s license, or in upgrading to General or Extra. The cost of this study session and test is $30. Cash and checks will be accepted. You must bring two forms of ID (one with picture). Please register in advance for this class, as we expect it to be full. To register, go to http://baears.com/signup.php and fill out the form. For more information about the class, e-mail Ross Peterson at wb6zbu@rcn.com. NERT Leaders Meeting, Wednesday, January 23, 6:30 p.m., SFFD Division of Training, 2310 Folsom @ 19th Street. Join us for the first Leaders Meeting of the year. Among other items on the agenda, we will discuss preparing to involve spontaneous (untrained) volunteers in NERT neighborhood team disaster response.


In a rainbarrel in the alley
two houses down lived
three crawfish crawling
quite content in their utter
strangeness until a child came
and could not bear such difference.
He had to interfere.

The crawfish with their stalk eyes
and gray too-many legs likely
never saw the baseball bat descending
calm and curious through their water
until it chose one of them to test
and pressed lightly as it could
but nonetheless too hard to bear
and not express a dark murk
that might have been camouflage
or ruptured innards.

The child never learned which.
He jumped back, ran away,
and ever after
shied from strangeness.

Copyright©Dan Liberthson, 2004

Taoist Tomb Tile

Radiant Queen Mother Goddess of the West
sails her dragon-tiger boat with gracious retinue:
Sir Nine-Tailed Fox assists her with all cares,
whisks them far away on ninefold winds,
Pharmacist Hare, with great intelligent ears
holds his three-tiered curving retort high,
and ushers to her lips whichever potions ease,
while grand Milord Frog, Ambassador to the Moon
strides potbellied forth, brandishing his scroll¾
with jaunty knees and smile stretched over cheeks
to ensure the Moon is fully pleased.
Four-legged Raven and bearded Guard with pike
stand ready to defend, but no threat comes.
The Tao is come: yin and yang are one.
Such harmony, such balance in the world¾
how can anyone be worried or disturbed?

Copyright©Dan Liberthson, 2004

Old Oaks for the New Year

by Geoffrey Coffey

Native plant enthusiast Pete Veilleux invited me to visit a secret corner of the wild hidden deep in the urban jungle. Not far from his house in teeming Oakland (where oaks no longer grow), steep mountains cleave the landscape and bulwark an ancient, fragrant forest of oak, bay, and madrone. So we climbed the ridge between Cull Canyon and the Upper San Leandro watershed, near Dinosaur Peak so-called for rocky outcrops like the spiky plates of a stegosaurus, to seek out native plants and to plumb the hidden connections lurking in the everyday.

No trail marked our route; we parked on a friend’s private property and walked for a spell up an old fire road, then plunged into the underbrush. Directions? We just headed due west and uphill. Veilleux waxed rhapsodic on the bay trees around us: those manifold shapes of trunk, that cool aroma on the breeze, and the lush color of the leaves when they catch the sun. “I think Umbellularia californica is the most versatile and under-used California native plant in the landscaping trade,” he said. “Not in my yard,” I replied. The mature bay reaches heights of 120 feet, and as wide. He allowed that regular pruning for size might be necessary. Mixed among the bays all around us, oaks and madrones quivered in the wind, as if in awe of the bay’s position as the climax forest community, ultimate dispatcher of other trees in the ecosystem’s lifecycle.
“Look,” said Veilleux, pointing. “It’s a coffee fern! What a gorgeous Pellaea!” I often see my own name written in native plants, but rarely so explicitly. Coffee fern (Pellaea andromedifolia) grows triangular fronds of delicate oval segments in a warm shade of green brushed with purple; we found them emerging from a vertical crevice in sheared-away rock like a spray of crystallized water. This plant also enjoys one of the most lovely and appropriate botanical names: the genus is Greek for “dusky,” from the bluish-grey hue of the fronds, while the species name honors Andromeda, mythical beauty and princess of Ethiopia, the royal daughter chained to a cliff in sacrifice to a sea monster to appease angry gods. This long-creeping rhizome can act out a better Fay Wray than you’ll find in the cinema, and can be used to great effect in the garden, e.g. between stones in a north-facing wall.

Suddenly, a thicket of poison oak blocked our way. At this time of year, the branches are bare of leaves, but Toxicodendron diversilobia still packs a wallop in its wood. This particular patch grew clear across the face we were crossing, with no way around it.
“We just need to reach that ridge,” said Veilleux. “It’s not very far.” Dubious at best, I thought. But he rolled down his sleeves, put on his gloves, and forged ahead.I circled back downhill to look for a better approach, but there was none. No way to the top but through the toxic tangle. I did find a spot where the thicket looked thinner, but the passage would still be severe. I like to explore off-trail and to plumb the unknown; I do not like to become an itching ball of fire. Somewhere on the slope above me, I heard Veilleux thrashing through the poisonous branches and shouting “Almost there! Almost there!” Unable to throw my dermatology so casually to the wolves without good metaphoric support, I reminded myself that true character is built through adversity, true vision afforded only those who dare to transcend. And so I put away my notebook and pen, pulled on my gloves, looked for a very long minute – then leaped.I parted the thicket of menacing red branches and pushed through to the other side within a minute or two, feeling OK despite my inadequate armor. Then we made for the top, where the tall trees gave way to a 10-foot micro-forest of coyote brush holding the perimeter of a mesa (recently cleared by bulldozers) with a commanding view of the East Bay hills sprawled before us like an odalisque.

We found what looked like an old Indian grinding stone beneath a gnarled, hoary oak on the side of the clearing, and stopped there for lunch. Absolute silence surrounded us, but for the cry of a hawk – and looking out over so much Earth, I felt my comparative youth beside these trees of several centuries old, in a landscape whose lifespan will be measured in millennia. Old oaks are good that way – they expand my units of thinking about time.

And yet mankind too has shaped this place: the Indians renewed tired grasslands and oak woodlands by burning, ranchers cleared brush for cattle, developers chopped up parcels to house a growing population, and public utilities like EBMUD have managed and maintained much of the Upper San Leandro watershed (in which we sat). The counties of Contra Costa and Alameda, in particular, should be commended for the importance they have placed on the preservation of open space in this area.

We descended along one of the stegosaurus plates toward the crease at Redwood Road, our destination. At some point we must have crossed the Chabot-to-Garin regional trail, which runs north and south along that ridge, but we never noticed it, nor met another soul. Instead we drank in the sculpted cappuccino trunks of madrone and the myriad twisted shapes of coast live oak. Several specimens of coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica), that hardy evergreen shrub, gave me a wink from the edges of the chaparral. Various clearings showed signs of passing deer or cattle, and the stamp of the hand of man: we encountered a young bay pruned into an 8-foot Christmas tree, and another topiaried into a 20-foot mushroom. Swooping down a final series of lightly wooded slopes, we reached the road and my car parked in the Chabot staging area near a tree farm doing a brisk business in yultide conifers.

Who can say where nature ends and civilization begins? We might as easily seek the source of the longest river and the voice of the hidden waterfall. Deep connections are found at the intersections, where urban gives on to wild with all the subtle gradient of the old year passing into the new. Safeguard these connections wherever you can find them – we protect our roots even as we reach for the sunlight, our future.
Geoffrey Coffey wrote this article from a bath of calamine lotion. He is the founder of Madroño landscape design studio (www.madrono.org ) and a principal of Bay Natives nursery (www.baynatives.com ).

Looking for a Few Good Backyards

by JoAnn Eastep

The Miraloma Park Improvement Club (MPIC) is planning a 2008 Backyard and Garden Tour as a fund raising event. If you are a resident of Miraloma Park and have enhanced your backyard, sideyard or frontyard and would be willing to share your ideas with your neighbors please call the clubhouse at 281-0892 and leave a message for JoAnn. We are seeking interesting plantings, fabulous decks, innovative fish ponds and whatever else your imagination has created. The tour will take place on Sunday, May 18, 2008 in the afternoon. We have already received three offers and know that their are further wonderful backyards in our neighborhood. Please share your treasure with us. It is a wonderful way to show off your yard as well as to help others who would like to improve their own garden space.

The income derived from the tour will be used to help make improvements and maintain the clubhouse and to fund the many events MPIC offers throughout the year.

Miraloma Park Tree Planting: Project Update

by George Fouras

It has been nearly a year since my last article on our project to bring more trees to the neighborhood. For those of you who have just moved into Miraloma Park, welcome! We are trying to organize a tree planting for our neighborhood that is co-sponsored with the Friends of the Urban Forest, a non-profit organization that has just celebrated 25 years. In order for us to get a firm planting date, we need to have a minimum of 25 residencies. Each residence may have as many trees as desired, based on space limitations. So far we have 17 homes signed up! We are almost there! Trees benefit our neighborhood by improving property values, adding to the beauty of our neighborhood, benefiting the environment as well as providing shelter for birds that help control the insect population.

A common concern among property owners is that a tree will “burst the plumbing”. The roots themselves will not usually damage intact pipes or plumbing. However, if there is a crack in the pipe or plumbing, the roots will find it! Like any living thing, they will be attracted to water. That is also why deep watering encourages roots to go DOWN. Superficial watering is what encourages roots to travel under the surfaces of roads or sidewalks, damaging them in the process.

Another concern is often the amount of “care” a tree requires. Most trees need little if any pruning. During the first year, when roots are being established, a deep watering should happen on a weekly basis. That’s it!

The biggest requirement for getting a tree is that the ADA requires 4’ of space for access. Most homes in Miraloma Park do not have wide enough sidewalks, but you may be able to plant the tree on your private
property in the front of the house. The cost of each tree is subsidized by the Friends of the Urban Forest. For $150, you will be able to have a tree. This is far cheaper than if you were to do it on your own. The FUF website has a large list of trees, with pictures and requirements to help the homeowner make a selection. A meeting will be held about 4 weeks prior to planting to orient participants, help with tree selection and collect fees. The Friends of the Urban Forest will then arrange to have the utility companies take a look at your proposed site, obtain needed permits, cut the sidewalk, take away debris, provide the tree, and help with the planting. In addition, an arborist will come by after 18 months for a check up.

All that is needed are 2 forms, the permit application and homeowner’s agreement. Both can be found at the FUF website at www.fuf.net. You will NOT be charged unless you are certain to get a tree! Won’t you consider joining us? Call if you have any questions, 415-337-7900.

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From the President…

by Phil Laird

Even as I write this, the results of the city ballot conducted on November 6 have not been certified. Meanwhile critical nationwide elections in Venezuela and Russia have come and gone. The good news is that voting machines have been approved for San Francisco in the February primary. Nor is there any truth to the rumor that these machines are on order from Venezuela. What should voters be thinking about before February 5? On the ballot will be the most significant (indeed, the only significant) California presidential primary race in memory. Also on the ballot will be a number of city and state propositions relevant to Miraloma Park residents.

Measure A asks the residents of San Francisco to vote $185 million for improvements to parks, including Glen Canyon Park. This will be a general obligation bond, so a two-thirds majority vote is required for approval. If approved, property taxes and rents will increase. The measure, endorsed by both the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, claims that “the estimated cost of such proposed project is and will be too great to be paid out of the ordinary income of the City and County….” Opponents ask why, with a $6B city budget, we are asked to pay extra for maintenance of city property that ought to come out of the taxes we pay into the general fund. Supporters claim that voter-approved set-asides for libraries, schools, affordable housing, and so on have made it impossible for the city to make capital improvements; hence a bond issuance is necessary. And a lot of us are asking why voters are continually asked to decide solitary budgetary issues like this, when well-paid supervisors and their staffs, who have the complete picture of the city’s planning and finances, ought to be spending time negotiating and less time competing with ballot measures.

Measure B addresses the serious shortage of qualified police officers. Currently the charter does not allow working police officers to continue working for the city while collecting retirement benefits. If this charter change is approved, such officers would be allowed to defer their retirement benefits for a period of time—three years for officers, less time for sergeants, inspectors, lieutenants, and captains—and continue to serve while their retirement funds accrue in a tax-deferred account. San Francisco would benefit by retaining experienced police officers while new recruits are hired and trained. The program is temporary and would have to be renewed every three years.

Measure C is a declaration of policy to “explore and facilitate” returning Alcatraz to the City and County of San Francisco from the current jurisdiction of the National Parks Service. Alcatraz (the most visited tourist site in the city) would then become a “global peace center”.

On the statewide ballot, two propositions have implications for San Francisco and our neighborhood. Proposition 91 would eliminate the state’s current ability to suspend the transfer of gasoline sales taxes into the Transportation Investment Fund, the fund that pays for transportation projects (roads, highways, and transit systems). The proposition also limits the use of transportation money to remedy cash-flow problems in the state budget.

Ironically the proponents of Prop 91 (the heavy construction industry) now oppose it, because an earlier proposition (Prop 1A in November) effectively stopped the raiding of gasoline taxes for general expenses. So there is no official support for this proposition. One can wonder whether California is the only state where voters get to vote for something that (almost) no one supports.

More important is Proposition 92. It formalizes the community college system as a statewide institution separate from K-12 education and provides a minimum level of financial support in the state constitution. Furthermore it fixes fees permanently at $15 per credit unit per semester (currently at $20 per credit unit at City College and as high as $26 elsewhere). Estimates are that this would cost the state an additional $300 million per year through the year 2010—at a time when the state faces a $14B deficit.

Supporters note the importance of community colleges (funded by state and local money) as gateways to the middle class for retraining the workforce in a changing economy. Opponents decry lack of any provision to fund the increased costs mandated by the legislation.

The subtext behind Proposition 93 is as relevant as the measure. The proposition reduces term limits for state legislators from a total of 14 years to 12 years but allows a person to serve a total of 12 years in the assembly, the senate, or a combination. Currently the limits are six years in the assembly and eight years in the senate. If the measure passes, then during the “transition period” current members may serve 12 consecutive years in the house in which they are currently serving, regardless of prior service. Here’s the subtext: it provides 42 incumbent legislators more time in office instead of being “termed out” in the next few years. Beneficiaries include assembly speaker Nunez and senate president Perata. Proponents herald the additional time afforded experienced legislators to make the legislature more effective. Opponents say it is just another ploy for current politicians to remain in office.

The ongoing controversy, of course, is whether term limits drive elected officials from office just as they are becoming effective or whether they break the deadlock caused by entrenched politicians with no need to accomplish anything. And briefly, propositions 94 through 97 ask voters to approve Gov. Schwarzenegger’s agreement with Indian casinos to allow more slots in return for increased state payments.