Miraloma Life: December 2013

  • PDF Version – December Miraloma Life
  • See You at the MPIC Holiday Party and Pot-Luck Cook-Off!
  • The San Francisco Coalition to Underground Utilities (SFCUU)
  • Reduce Your Risk of Vehicle Break-ins
  • Excerpted Letter of Support of 11/10/13 from the MPIC to Anne Brubaker, SFCUU Chair
  • Summary of MPIC Board Meeting of November 7, 2013
  • Excerpted Letter of 10/21/13 from the MPIC to Mayor Lee Re Manzanita Preservation Designation
  • What’s Growing in Our Backyards?
  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
  • How to be a Responsible Neighbor
  • Events Notice: History of San Francisco Progressive Politics and More at OLLI
  • Coyotes As Neighbors – Video

See You at the MPIC Holiday Party and Pot-Luck Cook-Off!

Date: Sunday, December 8

Time: Eat, drink, make merry: 5 pm to 8 pm; Boswick the Clown appears from 6 to 7 pm

Ambience: Holiday music provided by Lauralee Brown & Company; Boswick the Clown
(formerly of Ringling Bros.) will entertain both kids and parents with gags, tricks, and balloon
making. See the November Miraloma Life for full details.

All residents of Miraloma Park and Myra Glen are invited to enjoy a Holiday feast and entertainment with your neighbors. For the Pot-Luck Cook-off Contest and free admission, we ask each family to bring a dish to share that will feed at least six people—more if you are a large family. The more you bring, the more people can sample your dish, and the better your chances to win a prize donated by our local merchants. Guests not bringing a dish to feed at least six will be asked to pay $10 for each person in their party over age 7 to help defray costs. If you have any questions, please phone 281-0892 and leave a message.

The San Francisco Coalition to Underground Utilities (SFCUU)

by the SFCUU

The SFCUU was founded in February of 2012 by a small group of Russian Hill residents passionate in their desire to improve the quality of the infrastructure for everyone. Despite decades of effort to remove overhead utilities from public air space, the job has been abandoned half-done. Utility poles—with their ever-growing accumulation of sagging, tangled, looped, frayed cables and massive, dangerous equipment—mar the cityscape of half our streets and many back alleys. San Francisco has prohibited or relocated overhead utilities from 480 miles, almost half the 990 miles of public streets. The latest city undergrounding program was abandoned due to cost overruns and the debt incurred is now being paid by every utility user in the city.

The Supervisors appointed a Utility Undergrounding Task Force which submitted a cogent analysis in 2007. Its recommendations aimed at restoring a viable citywide undergrounding program, but none have been acted on. The Task Force report contains several scenarios for funding the balance of the undergrounding program, including an undergrounding surcharge which PG&E can pass on to its ratepayers. San Franciscans will accept reasonable utility surcharges: in the Task Force survey, included in the 2007 report, 92% of owners and 78% of renters would support the city in its undergrounding efforts by contributing a small additional fee per month on their utility bills.

Every Supervisor needs to be educated, and frequently reminded, about the importance of undergrounding to his or her constituents. We urge the Board of Supervisors to adopt and implement a viable citywide policy in line with its own Utility Undergrounding Task Force Report of 2007. A citywide program will achieve cost savings, set rational priorities and fairly allocate the costs.

The SFCUU continues its grassroots mission through neighborhood and professional organization outreach. We have begun working with several of our Supervisors to find solutions for this issue. Its current endorsements, documents (including the TASK FORCE REPORT) and news updates can be found at eww.sfundergrounding.org. Interested residents who want to help bring the Coalition’s goal to their neighborhood and the city at large should contact the SFCUU at info@sfundergrounding.org

Reduce Your Risk of Vehicle Break-ins

from the MPIC Safety Committee

During November, vehicle break-ins occurred on Rockdale Drive and on the 500 block of Myra Way. This type of crime, according to the SFPD, usually occurs in the pre-dawn hours. But we can reduce the risk of these crimes’ occurring in the following ways:

1. Make a formal police report when your vehicle is tampered with, burglarized, or vandalized. Reports of vehicle tampering, burglary, or vandalism can be made online at http://www.sf-police.org/index.aspx?page=778#vtamper.

Police have told the MPIC on many occasions that patrols are allocated on the basis of documented—i.e., reported—need. Therefore, Miraloma Park residents can best assist the MPIC Safety Committee in its advocacy for consistent police presence in our neighborhood by reporting each and every crime to the SFPD.

2. Don’t leave items in vehicles! CDs are among the items most commonly stolen from cars because of their resale value.

3. Service vehicles—trucks and vans—are frequently targeted because of the likelihood that tools and other re-saleable items are within. Drivers of these vehicles should, if at all possible, park them off the street.

Thank you for your help in keeping Miraloma Park’s crime rate low.

Editor’s Opinion: No neighborhood, even one as safe as Miraloma Park, is immune from car break-ins. Cell phones, loose change, briefcases, or any other possession of any value that can be seen in your car will attract thieves. Holiday times are coming, and thieves will be on the alert for purchases left in cars. Don’t let them have the gifts you intend to go to your family and friends! The bottom line for car break-in prevention is leave nothing in your car at all, or if you must leave items, leave nothing visible. Put anything you absolutely have to leave either in your trunk or otherwise completely out of sight.

Excerpted Letter of Support of 11/10/13 from the MPIC to Anne Brubaker, SFCUU Chair

Dear Anne Brubaker:

“Recognizing the visual blight caused by the many overhead utility wires that mar the beauty and views of the City of San Francisco, we are writing this letter to offer the support of the Miraloma Park Improvement Club for the efforts of the SFCUU to have our above ground utilities undergrounded. We join the SFCUU to advocate the immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Utility Undergrounding Task Force of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors dated 1/26/2007. We also endorse the SFCUU Position Paper dated 3/21/13.

“Undergrounding will improve the beauty and enjoyment of our neighborhood and city for residents and visitors. It will improve our environment by providing many more opportunities for desirable street trees and it will decrease the potential danger for downed wires resulting from accidents, storms, or earthquakes.”

Very truly yours, Robert Gee, President, MPIC

Summary of MPIC Board Meeting of November 7, 2013

by Dan Liberthson and Carl Schick

Presentations: David Kimberling, Clubhouse Gardener, talked about his efforts on the grounds, which include weeding the native plant garden, planting native wildflowers around the Clubhouse, seasonal pruning and trimming of hedges, and adding woodchips to suppress weeds along the walkway. Anne Brubaker and Tina Moylan, SF Coalition to Underground Utilities (SFCUU), which started as a grass-roots organization 2 years ago, described their mission to finish the half-completed job of utility-undergrounding in SF. Currently 52% of the city’s utility wires have been moved underground.

The SFCUU is advocating that the Board of Supervisors adopt and implement a viable citywide policy in line with its own Utility Undergrounding Task. Several neighborhood groups, including the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, the Cow Hollow Association, Russian Hill Neighbors, and the neighborhoods of Glen Park and Noe Valley have endorsed SFCUU’s efforts. K. Wood moved to endorse the SFCUU and their efforts (motion passed unanimously).

Treasurer’s Report (T Sauvain): From Sept to Oct, the MPIC’s net worth decreased by $2318, to $27049. Rental income increased from $2340 in Sept to $3890 in Oct, compared with $3167 in Oct 2012 and $1708 in Oct 2011. We received $855 in newsletter advertising income in Oct and $200 in retained deposits. Expenses included $3494 to refinish the floors, $569 for supplies, and $148 donated for food for a Coalition for SF Neighborhoods (CSFN) event. The current reserve total is $11,847.84.

Committees: Membership (R Gee)—Membership was 514 on 9/30 and 506 on10/30. Reminder letters are being prepared for delivery. Membership remit envelopes reordered. Events (K Wood for S Chu)—Holiday Party scheduled for Sunday, 12/8; a sign-up task sheet for Board Members is circulating. Clubhouse Maintenance (C Mettling-Davis and T Sauvain for K Rawlins)—Light fixtures in both bathrooms replaced due to an electrical problem. Installation is proceeding of a projector above the stage; the church group is donating the projector and the installation for their own use and that of others. The refinished wood floors look gorgeous. Traffic and Transportation (K Breslin)—Discussion about whether we need more stop signs on Teresita to help calm traffic in the neighborhood. T Armour volunteered to contact Supervisor Yee to discuss better enforcement at existing stop signs.

Community Organizations: West of Twin Peaks Central Council (WOTPCC, K Breslin)— Discussion whether MPIC should help fund proposed flower baskets to be installed on utility poles along West Portal Ave. General interest expressed but more information needed on cost and planned maintenance (KB to follow up with WOTPCC). Coalition for SF Neighborhoods (CSFN, 9/17, K Breslin)—Push to urge SFMTA to discount residential parking permits for seniors and disabled.

Old Business: R Gee distributed a letter to Mayor Lee expressing concern about lack of transparency and communication with residents potentially impacted by SF Recreation and Parks (RPD) Department’s unilateral recommendation to the federal government that 3.2 acres of private property below Marietta Drive be designated critical habitat for endangered manzanita (see excerpts from this letter below). Moved and unanimously passed that the MPIC write a letter to Mayor Lee requesting that some forested areas on Mt. Davidson be removed from the Natural Areas Program and returned to regular City park recreational and maintenance status under RPD forestry division supervision, as was originally intended in the Park’s creation. MPIC would not object to nonforested areas of Mt. Davidson Park remaining in the Natural Areas Program.

New Business: R Gee accepted an invitation by Supervisor Yee’s staff to serve on the District 7 Neighborhood Council.

Excerpted Letter of 10/21/13 from the MPIC to Mayor Lee Re Manzanita Preservation Designation

Dear Mayor Lee:

“[The MPIC is] writing to express our disappointment at the lack of communication by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (SFRPD) with our neighborhood and the residents along Marietta Drive, whose properties may be impacted by the SFRPD action described below.

On September 5, 2012, the US Fish and Wildlife Agency issued their proposed designation of areas in San Francisco for critical habitat for the endangered Manzanita plant. That proposed designation would include part of Mt. Davidson. The MPIC [replied] stating that we were concerned that setting aside portions of Mt. Davidson for this purpose should be undertaken with the understanding and recognition that the park is a recreational resource for all who regularly hike and walk dogs on trails and enjoy its vistas. Up to 30 percent of Mt. Davidson’s 40 acres could be set aside for the Manzanita plant. The Club [submitted] that setting aside any more than 1-2 acres of the park for this purpose would seriously impact recreational use.

On June 28, 2013 the US Fish and Wildlife issued [a] revised designation of critical habitat, which expands the proposed endangered area for the Manzanita plant to include the area along Marietta Drive facing O’Shaughnessy Hollow all the way along O’Shaughnessy Boulevard, and to include all of the open space known as Reservoir Lands at Glen Park, which has trails currently accessible from Marietta Drive.

What is of most concern to us is that apparently 3.2 acres of private property, … comprising the back yards of several residences, has been proposed as critical habitat. Our review … indicates that at least 22 houses, between numbers 199 through 321 on Marietta Drive in Miraloma Park, would be impacted. This additional 3.2 acres of private property (139,000 square feet) was identified by SFRPD for the US Fish and Wildlife proposed designation.

The MPIC is not aware that the SFRPD ever notified or asked for public comment from our potentially impacted neighbors on Marietta Drive regarding this proposal to designate their private property as critical habitat. The only notice of the revised designation was in the Federal Register by US Fish and Wildlife. Even if Federal law only requires publication in the Federal Register, open and honest government by local city officials would mandate reaching out to the community first for comment. However, the comment period for the proposal closed on July 28, 2013 without such notice. The MPIC Board is very concerned that our Marietta Drive neighbors weren’t notified by SFRPD that part of their private property is being considered for designation as critical habitat for the endangered Manzanita.

This property is protected by constitutionally established private property rights. This is especially important when the taking of private property in some degree is subject to Executive Order 12630 (… Federal Register, page 38906), which states that “the takings implications assessment concludes that this proposed designation of critical habitat does not pose significant takings implications for lands within or affected by the designation.”

… The MPIC understands the value of restoring and maintaining a population of an endangered plant species, but we strongly advocate open and honest communications with the neighborhoods impacted, especially when taking or asserting limitations upon private property is involved.

Sincerely, Dan Liberthson, Corresponding Secretary

cc: Senator Dianne Feinstein, House Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi, Supervisor Norman Yee,
Phil Ginsburg, SFRPD

What’s Growing in Our Backyards?

by Denise Louie

This column focuses on invasive and native plants.

What’s growing in our yards is important because of Miraloma Park’s proximity to Significant Natural Resource Areas on Mt. Davidson and in Glen Canyon. San Francisco is blessed to have very special native plants and wildlife. There is a growing understanding of the importance of native plants and the wildlife that co-evolved with them.

Invasive plants are harmful because they take over habitat of native plants, which wildlife may depend on for their existence. Beware of plants being sold in retail stores and nurseries, because they are still selling invasive and otherwise harmful plants. Stores may sell “sterile” hybrids of invasive plants like French broom, but even first-year biology students know that sterile plants can become productive. The law in California is upsidedown; it says we may not regulate plants in the horticultural trade. Lowe’s has begun voluntarily to remove invasive plants from their California stores; this is a work in progress. Even landscapers, who should know better, will still use invasive plants like ice plant, pampas grass, and capeweed. Just say “NO” to stores and landscapers when it comes to invasive plants. See www.plantright.org for suggested alternatives to some invasive plants.

“Sustainability” is a buzzword. To many of us, it means conserving resources, not creating too much garbage, not driving when we can take the bus and especially not on Spare the Air days. But how many of us have thought about sustainable landscaping? Can you ask your friends and relatives, school, church or workplace to engage in sustainable landscaping to conserve water, to avoid chemicals including fertilizers, and to bring back local native plants and wildlife? “Biodiversity” is a newer buzzword, meaning biological diversity. The San Francisco Department of the Environment, aka SF Environment, recently kicked off its biodiversity campaign. We should expect more of the City to get on board with creating habitat for local native plants and wildlife. Imagine whole neighborhoods full of these habitats as extensions of our city’s 33 Significant Natural Resource Areas!

Learn more about environmentally appropriate plants for Miraloma Park by volunteering with the Natural Areas Program (visit sfrecpark.org/parks-open-spaces/naturalareas- program). Or join the California Native Plant Society’s (CNPS’s) Yerba Buena Chapter (SF was originally named Yerba Buena) and attend its interesting events (visit cnps-yerbabuena.org).

Along with our winter rains come weeds, including nonnative grasses and oxalis. Non-native grasses are invasive and harmful. Rip-gut brome derives its name from its effect on animals that happen to eat it. In general, non-native grasses out-compete native ones because their seed heads are much larger and their seeds germinate earlier and longer into late spring. Chances are the grasses you have in your yard and in the cracks of your sidewalk are non-native if you didn’t plant them. Common grasses are erhardta (one of our City’s six worst weeds), wild oat, and rip-gut brome, to name a few. If you want to identify one by taking it to a nursery or expert, first tape the seed head to paper and bag it, so as not to unwittingly spread weed seed. Remove non-native grasses to your green bin before they go to seed, and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. Let’s give a special thanks to neighbors for removing grass/weeds from the cracks in their sidewalks!

Now is the time to put plants into the ground. Native plants have been waiting for the rainy season to put out new growth. Gardeners will have the best chance of success by planting now. Native bunchgrasses are quite beautiful, and they do hold the soil. Try using California fescue or purple needlegrass (our state grass) as the structure of your garden. Then decorate with wildflowers. At the Oakland Museum of California’s new Gallery of Natural Sciences, you can see how grass roots may extend 20 feet deep. By the way, brown is a California summer color; many of our plants go dormant in the summer because this is their adaptation to dry, hot months. How amazing is it that a bunchgrass that goes brown in the summer may live 200 years!

For sustainable landscaping and biodiversity, you can obtain native plants from Ellen Edelson of CNPS at 415-531-2140. Buy a few local native plants to put in the ground now (prices start as low as $5).

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

by Jake Sigg

Autumn is a good time to take note of a sight we see every day, but take little notice of. I am happy that the ginkgo is comfortable in the Bay Area. On a worldwide basis it must be the most frequently planted urban tree. That is fitting, as it needs to be a survivor to grow in modern cities—and a survivor it is.

I begin with its beauty and visual interest. Start with its leaves. Oh, those leaves—yes, they do bring attention to themselves, don’t they? They are fan-like, with a notch in the middle. Closer inspection reveals not a network of veins like most hardwoods—whose venation resembles rivers fed by tributaries, in turn fed by smaller streams—but dozens or hundreds of fine parallel lines flowing two large nerves in the petiole; the nerves each feed half of the leaf, which consists of two lobes, suggesting the specific epithet in the scientific name. A casual passerby may not notice, but often senses the subtle character of its leaves. (The leaf shape does resemble that of the maidenhair fern, and ginkgo has in the past been called the maidenhair tree; however, it now seems to be universally called simply ginkgo.)

Leaves are only the beginning of its fascination. If you noticed there was something slightly unusual about the tree’s shape and branching pattern, go to the head of the class. Ginkgo doesn’t follow the growing patterns of most trees. New growth shoots can be about a foot long on a healthy tree, and the leaves are attached singly on these long shoots. However, most of the leaves can be found in clusters on short, stubby shoots, which are located on branches that are at least a year old. These short shoots bear the flowers and fruits. They are mere nubbins; the leaves are tightly arranged as a rosette around this spur, which grows probably less than a millimeter a year. On a century-old tree the short shoots may be only an inch or so long, and they produce annual growth rings, just as the trunk does. These features help to give the tree a distinct, though not obvious, silhouette.

Trees more than several decades old develop knobby excrescences on the trunk. Some of them, lignotubers called chi chi, elongate over many years and if they touch the ground can root, thus thickening the trunk, even sometimes establishing a separate tree.

I mentioned hardwoods. Hardwoods are flowering plants or angiosperms, such as maples, oaks, sycamores, and magnolias. Flowering plants were not invented until much later. You know gymnosperms, which include cycads and conifers: pines, firs, spruces, redwoods. Ginkgo has been included in this group, but modern treatments separate it from the gymnosperms. Ginkgo was ancient by the time flowering plants came along. It has come to us essentially unchanged since the beginning of the Jurassic, more than 200 million years ago, and its lineage extends into the Triassic and Permian. A survivor it is, in more than one way. Not only is it able to endure the hazards and insults inherent in living in concentrations of us Homo sapiens—including tolerating our air pollution—it has come through everything that nature has thrown at it: climate change, tectonic shifts, asteroid collisions that took out the dinosaurs, you name it. Its lineage is ancient: it is the only species in the genus, the only genus in the family, the only family in the order, the only order in the class, the only class in the division.

You have to go all the way up to the division level to find relatives, which are the Gymnosperms. No other tree has such an ancient lineage. This ancient lineage seems to be sensed by many, as the tree has been treated with great respect in Asia for millennia millennia, and cosseting by humans is a probable reason for its survival during recent millennia. There are several wild populations in at least three separate areas of China; however, it has heretofore not been possible to tell whether these are progeny from planted trees. Chinese scientists are now doing molecular studies in an attempt to determine this. It may be that it no longer serves an ecological function in nature, and had been pushed to the margins of existence by flowering plants. Ecological studies to determine its interactions with other plants and animals are needed along with the molecular studies before any decision can be made whether ginkgo can
survive without human cosseting.

Surviving until today by the skin of its teeth, ginkgos for around 200 million years had a worldwide distribution. The only places where even today it cannot grow are in the tropics and at extremely high latitudes where the growing season is too short. (It can grow in northern Florida, but not southern Florida.) It grows in Minnesota, and at my alma mater, the University of Montana in Missoula. While a student, I had a forestry major friend who was enamored of this tree and its lengthy past and was frustrated by my continual failure to notice the ginkgo growing smack in the center of the campus, which I passed several times every day. His first words when we met were “well, did you see it? Then, exasperated, he would shout “You dumb cluck, why can’t you even take the time to even look at it?” I now wish I had noticed, but I didn’t start noticing trees until I became a gardener in the mid-1950s, after which I became a tree fanatic. I wonder if the Missoula tree is still there. Missoula is not far from the Canadian border, and is a few thousand feet above sea level.

Ginkgos are shedding leaves now in San Francisco. Hardwoods usually shed leaves over a period of days or weeks; ginkgo tends to shed them all at once. Wake up one morning and the whole tree is golden yellow; a few days later they are making a warm golden carpet on the ground. What a picture. All winter you can see the beauty of the very pale brown bark and the tree’s distinct structure. They are common on our streets and on the streets of all cities in the temperate zone.

There are no old trees in the Bay Area, although some can be over a century old. The largest I know is (or at least was; I haven’t been there for over 20 years) on the UC Berkeley campus beside a bridge on Strawberry Creek at the Center Street entrance. Its trunk is gnarled with chi chi, and should be a proud feature of the campus. The campus is a de facto arboretum, but unfortunately the University has not in recent decades shown pride in its wonderful collection of trees. Ginkgos need sun; this one has become obscured and heavily shaded by many large trees growing around it, preventing passersby from seeing it and the tree from getting the sun it wants. If you want to see it you must approach it from the lawn side. If it lacks endearing qualities it’s because it hasn’t been allowed to express itself. Two nearby ginkgos, at the western edge of the Eucalyptus Grove, were planted in 1922; both have a single terminal leader and columnar shape, and are more likely to survive neglect than the older one by the creek. Male trees are the only ones planted now, because of the malodorous pulpy fruits of the female. There is, or at least was, a female outside Hertz Hall; it is the northernmost of the two trees here.

I have only scratched the surface of this subject, and intend to pursue some other time.

How to be a Responsible Neighbor*

The Los Palmos Garden, created by enterprising neighbors in the area in a formerly neglected alleyway, is one of the loveliest spots in Miraloma Park. At Melrose and Detroit is another wonderful garden created by neighborhood volunteers on what was a vacant, garbage-strewn weedy lot. It’s incredible what a group of dedicated neighborhood volunteers can accomplish to beautify our lives. Many thanks to those who have participated in these efforts.

On a smaller scale, by tending to our individual yards and gardens and making them attractive, particularly the front yards open to public view we can contribute to everyone’s enjoyment of life in
Miraloma Park. In beautifying your front yard you will get exercise that may mean a longer, healthier life, and the satisfaction of an accomplishment that will be appreciated by your neighbors. And there is another benefit if we all tend to our yards: a neglected yard negatively affects property values in its area, while a well maintained green space increases property values for everyone around.

*These suggestions were contributed by Miraloma Park residents. We welcome additional submissions from readers for this ongoing column.

Events Notice: History of San Francisco Progressive Politics and More at OLLI

Tim Redmond, former editor of the Bay Guardian, will survey the politics and political history in San Francisco from pre-World War II to the present, in one of ten new 6-week classes being offered in the next session of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). Also offered beginning in January are the History of Baseball from its origins in 1847 though the triumph of the SF Giants in the 2012 World Series, led by Mark Sigmon, The Art of Silent Film, and America through the Eyes of Georgia O’Keefe. Learn more and meet all of the instructors on Thursday, 12/5, 3-4:30 pm, at 835 Market St (at Powell), 6th floor. Also visit olli.sfsu.edu or phone 415-817-4243 for more information.

Coyotes As Neighbors

Direct link to “Coyotes As Neighbors” on YouTube:

Last Updated
November 15, 2017
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Miraloma Park is a community of 2,200 homes on Mount Davidson in San Francisco.