Miraloma Life: April 2007

  • MPIC Spring  –  Musical Social Event
  • Residential Parking Stickers
  • From the President…
  • Legal Ease
  • Tree Planting Event Being Planned For Miraloma
  • Winter on Molimo Drive
  • Sunnyside Park Program/Reopening Plan
  • Tenth Annual Glen Park Festival
  • Design Matters
  • Better Streets Plan
  • Miraloma Park Improvement Club Clubhouse
  • Justifying College Costs
  • To the Presidio and Back
  • 3-1-1 At Your Service

MPIC Spring  –  Musical Social Event

by Jim O’Donnell

As mentioned in the March issue of Miraloma Life, we are having something new at our spring social/mixer/event on Sunday May 20 between 3 and 5 PM. We will be featuring young musicians from the Conservatory of Music, which has recently moved to a new location in the City Civic Center at 50 Oak Street.

The first part of the event shall be a mixer with drinks and snacks while we are treated to background music by a string ensemble. These  talented young people will be performing a variety of selections for your enjoyment. After we have all gathered, we will offer all ears to further string and vocal presentations, which will be opera-style pieces from Mozart and other classical composers.

Mark your calendars now for this first-time in Miraloma Park event on Sunday, May 20, 3-5PM. You will have the chance to meet your neighbors, share some refreshment, and listen to the finest young musicians in San Francisco.

Of course, the event is without charge.

 See you there.



Residential Parking Stickers

by JoAnn Eastep
Each day brings a new challenge trying to park your car near your own home.  We have become competitors of the employees of the stores in the Portola shopping area.  A majority of the parking spaces are being occupied often from very early in the morning until late at night by the workers from the Portola strip.  Many others are taken up by people from the Youth Guidance Center, the School for the Arts as well as those enterprising drivers who park their car for the day and ride the Muni downtown. 

Those neighbors who live on the streets most affected are residents of 0-99 Chaves, 0-199 Evelyn, 0-199 Juanita and 0-299 Teresita.  As a solution to the parking problem, the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) has suggested the possibility of residential sticker parking with a two hour limit for all non-residents.
On Sunday April 15 from 2 to 4:30pm, there will be a meeting at the Miraloma Park Clubhouse to learn your views on this issue.  Representatives from MTA have been invited and will be able to answer your questions regarding this process and about the pros and cons of parking stickers. 

Even if you do not live in the streets named in this article, you may want to attend the meeting as there is always the possibility that such sticker parking could have an impact upon parking in your area.
The Miraloma Park Improvement Club neither endorses nor opposes this effort.  The Clubhouse is being used as a convenient meeting place for interested parties.


From the President…

by Phil Laird
In the past this newsletter has published occasional articles about the Disaster Registry Program (DRP). Here is an update. Established by the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) Emergency Medical Services Section, the program offers an opportunity for seniors and persons with disabilities—those who might be vulnerable during a crisis and need special response efforts—to register information about their special circumstances with the department. The literature for the program points particularly to persons living in isolated, independent living situations who may be more vulnerable than those living in assisted-living conditions. Noting that emergency services may not be able to respond to the needs of all these people, the DRP envisions first-responder teams (mainly NERT volunteers) obtaining the names and addresses of registrants in their neighborhoods and checking on their status after a disaster.

The DPH updates the registry monthly and maintains the list securely and confidentially. Lists are placed at each of the designated firehouses that will serve as response centers during emergency operations. Those wishing to register can obtain a form from the DPH by phone at (415)355-2632 or from the website http://www.sanfranciscoems.org/ (clicking on the “Disaster Registry Program” link). Eligibility is open to persons 60 years of age or older, people with disabilities, and people who employ or house eligible persons.

That’s the plan. So what can a person who registers expect to happen following an earthquake or other disaster?

When the program was first implemented in 1998, the designers recognized the challenge of supporting a large number of registrants located throughout the city. So an exercise was scheduled in 1999 to test the system in a limited area covering Glen Park, Inner Richmond, and Haight-Ashbury. What was the result of that exercise? How well did it work? I haven’t been able to find out or to locate anyone who knows. 1998 was a long time ago.

Meanwhile DRP continues to register people. A few years ago our local NERT team decided to visit the fire station at Ocean and Phelan and determine where the registry was kept. Our main question was whether we could efficiently get the list of just the Mt. Davidson/Miraloma registrants from the full list covering all neighborhoods served by that firehouse.

We found that we could not: the list was not sorted by neighborhood, and with just one copy in the lockbox, we would need to write out the data by hand. Perhaps in response to our concerns, DPH now stores multiple copies of the list, hopefully one for each NERT group.

San Francisco’s disaster registry concept has been recognized and replicated around the nation, in surrounding counties but also in such places as Anchorage, Alaska, Michigan, Wisconsin, and New Mexico. These communities all recognize the logistic problems, so most of them specify that each responsible entity should establish a “special-needs registry” and train volunteers with healthcare experience to respond appropriately. The San Francisco model of a centrally managed registry and response plan has not been widely adopted.

In September of 2004 the Department again decided to evaluate the DRP system, using the outer Sunset neighborhood as the guinea pig. The organizer, Ann Stangby, spent months planning the exercise and recruiting volunteers to participate. NERTs and other qualified volunteers came from all over the city and for the better part of a day called on DRP registrants (who had been notified by mail that they might be visited). The volunteers reported back their results to a central location, including challenges they encountered with transportation and communication. The result? Shortly after the exercise, Ms. Stangby changed positions, and as far as I know the evaluation of the exercise never occurred.

In an effort to find out the current status of the program, I did my best to contact several people, including Joe Hickey, currently the person in the Emergency Medical Services Section responsible for the DRP. What I learned is that the DRP is still registering eligible people and maintaining the list; that the list is said to be held at the EMS offices on 12th Street; and that “the disaster registry cannot guarantee a specific response, but it will inform responding agencies of your wish to be contacted after a disaster.”  There are no guarantees of any emergency services following a disaster, but for someone who will probably need assistance to survive, the DRP disclaimer is 
not reassuring.

Seniors constitute a significant proportion of Miraloma Park residents. Doubtless some of these as well as others with disabilities will need help to survive the “72 Hours” when we are told we may be on our own. Until the DPH can demonstrate that it has the capability to plan and manage a disaster registry program as currently designed, we need to find other ways to provide for these people. With good reason many people are reluctant to give out their name, address, and specific vulnerabilities to strangers for fear of being victimized. The best way I know of to care for those at greatest risk is to meet them, know them, and stay in touch with them. Do you have a neighbor who might need help in a disaster? A short conversation, and exchange of phone numbers, or an agreement to check on each other periodically is all that is needed.

Before signing off (this column will be on sabbatical for the next couple months), I wish to mention a couple of items. First, we are pleased to welcome Karen Breslin to the Board of Directors of the Miraloma Park Improvement Club. A resident of Miraloma Park since 1966, Karen has worked for the City and County of San Francisco for over 25 years. She is a commissioner on the SF Health Service Board and a member of the San Francisco League of Women Voters and other organizations. “I am concerned about quality of life issues and maintaining the character of our neighborhood,” she notes, “and have actively opposed projects  that would negatively affect our neighborhood.”

Also, some neighbors recently noticed that water was coming up through the street near Teresita and Marietta. After a couple of calls to the city, the streets department investigated, determined that a 24-inch water main was leaking, and quickly repaired the problem. Had the neighborhood not been diligent in reporting this leak, the street could have collapsed, with significant disruptions and possible injuries and. A minor incident like this serves as a reminder that we as a neighborhood all have a stake in recognizing problems and ensuring that that they are addressed, even if dealing with city government is frustrating. Happily in this case it was not.



Legal Ease

 by Steven Solomon
Q: I just received a summons for jury service. This is my first time called as a juror. What can I expect?

A: Let’s start with who’s eligible for jury service: you must be at least 18 yrs. old, able to understand English (don’t suddenly become a native speaker of Finnish after getting your jury summons!), no felony conviction, & you must live in the county. You are eligible for jury service once every year. Peace officers & those under a conservatorship are excluded. Your employer cannot harass or fire you for taking time off for jury service. California instituted a “one day one trial” policy where you are eligible for jury service only one day, though in San Francisco you are eligible by phone for 5 days. As a juror, you earn $15/day (after the second day) & 34 cents/mile for a one-way trip to the courthouse. Jury service is a civic responsibility where your vote really does count. For more info. go to www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jury.

Did you know dept. The critically acclaimed movie “Maxed Out”
will be available through Netflix in June, 2007.
Steve Solomon is an 18 year resident of Miraloma Park.  His law office is located on West Portal where he continutes to represent consumers and business groups in a variety of legal issues.



Tree Planting Event Being Planned For Miraloma

It has been several years since Miraloma Park has had a tree planting event, and I am happy to announce that we are organizing another one. We will be working with the Friends of the Urban Forest, a non profit agency which was organized in 1981 to promote tree planting in San Francisco. FUF is a non-profit committed to the belief that trees are a critical element of a livable urban environment. Since 1981, they have offered financial, technical, and practical assistance to individuals and neighborhood groups who want to plant and care for trees.

We would like to invite our neighbors to join us in this project. To date, we have 10 homes signed up, but will need commitments for at least 30 trees by planting day.  FUF subsidizes the cost of the trees, obtains planting permits, will have the utilities mark your sidewalks, will cut the sidewalks and assist in tree selection and planting. Trees can no longer go in sidewalks with less than 6 feet clearance from the curb. However, FUF, will now plant a tree on private property, if its the front yard. If you did this on your own, it would be over $300, but for this planting it will be $150. This includes a follow up visit by an arborist after 18 months. The target date for planting will be about 9 months from now.  Four weeks prior to planting there would be a group meeting to discuss what will happen, collect forms and money, and start tree selection.  No one pays unless they WILL get a tree. Trees benefit our neighborhood by improving air quality, increasing privacy, cutting down on traffic noise, enhancing property values, providing habitats for birds and squirrels, and enhancing the streets. Contrary to popular belief, with a little bit of care, there is no reason that your sidewalks should be damaged.

Won’t you join us? If you wish to see some samples there are a few trees planted on Los Palmos at 298, 300, and 304. Please feel free to call me, your organizer, if you are interested in signing up, or have questions. George Fouras 415-337-7900


Winter on Molimo Drive

for Joe Bui                                                   

 Our steep curved street,
sweeping up a mountain
wooded with fragrant eucalyptus
hummingbird havens
and hawk-hosting cypress leaning
to catch ocean-born fog
that climbs from the coastal plain
to battle a cold blue sky,
was named, intentionally or not,
after a ceremony performed
by Mbuti Pygmies in another moist
forest on the world’s warm side,
a ritual named for a horn blown
and sung through to redress crises
like bad hunting, storm, or death,
a horn stored in a treetop,
brought down as needed,
and paraded through the village,
a horn that sounds, no doubt, like
Mo-li-mo. Mo-li-mo.

Now it is January on Molimo.
Two small red roses
grace our kitchen windowsill,
so frostburned they barely open
even in southerly light,
yet still alive, offering
from withered petals
a scent faint but abiding.
All that is left, this chill season,
of Margaret Bui’s proud rosebush.
Small woman with high cheekbones,
broad Chinese nose and face,
straight black hair long turned gray
and a few sprawling freckles,
she was reticent, easy to miss
because she didn’t clamor.
Bent and in fear of falling,
she watched the ground like an enemy.
Yet if you took the trouble
to see her, then catch her attention,
she’d look up
and begin to open, shy with surprise,
then widen with greeting—
a smile big as her face,
bouquet held out to you.

This I first see fully now
and, sadly, feel in retrospect:
because she was so unassuming
it happened beneath my knowing,
and goes on happening,
as if I am gently rocked
by ripples still spreading from that smile,
as if her absence
fails to erase her presence, only fortifies.

She could not abide lostness,
hated anyone to be alone,
adopted two orphan children
and later that ancient wreck Oli,
a man drifting, then run aground
like a rusty tramp steamer,
hull breached and leaking vapors
dangerous near flame,
tall, dense-boned, paranoid,
garrulous in drink but otherwise
brooding, who swayed at our gate
beseeching attention, rough body
warped around a wounded soul.
Somehow she got him to stop drinking,
perhaps because she believed he could
(as she believed, without fail, in Jesus)
or because, a feeling man at core,
he couldn’t stand the hurt he caused her
and took himself in hand.
Then he wandered the neighborhood
in sweat-yellowed undershirt,
pee-spattered pants with busted fly,
and later a white neckbrace and peacoat,
like a mendicant sea turtle
forced upright, reluctantly bipedal,
still tender but impenetrable in rigid shell,
an ancient mariner with no tale to tell.
He died two days after her,
followed as though there were
no home save where she was.
I doubt he minds remembrance
in this, her poem, for
she took him in living
and likely has again.
She’d have taken in the world
if it had come to her.
I don’t mean to say she was soft.
If she knew or thought
injustice was done to her or anyone
she stood up and sharpened,
as when she fought the neighbors
whose plan to make their home a castle
would have blocked her garden’s light.
Misled by her mildness,
they thought she’d be docile
but Margaret steeled against them
until they blustered out and went away.
And toward the last, she steeled herself
as she walked lopsided on our hill,
back tilted across the slope,
heart swollen to failing
but still refusing transport,
hauling groceries freehand
like an ancient Sherpa.

I would greet her in passing,
another being toiling on the path.
Recognition took her a moment,
half deaf and blind from cataracts
she would not get mended,
but then she’d murmur “oh, its you,”
and break into that offering smile,
embarrassed not to have known
but so pleased to be known.


That was her last summer.
The front rose bush was lush,
and she liked to watch me
bury my snout in it,
perfume myself giddy,
for she was happier
at another’s pleasure than her own.
We will not see that giving soul again.
Bring down the sorrow horn
and sing to thank the past
for the gift of her presence:
let’s wind through the village
chanting Mar-ga-ret as we go.

Molimo street is poorer now
and we
so much more alone.

by Dan Liberthson
©2007, Dan Liberthson, all rights reserved



Sunnyside Park Program/Reopening Plan

by Andrea O’Leary

This is a critical time for neighbors to give input about programming for children and seniors related to the renovation of the Sunnyside Playground and Park.. The Rec. & Park Dept. (RPD) is currently considering placement of recreational and sports directors in park facilities whose expertise and talents best suit the kinds of activities residents want in their neighborhood parks. The competition for facility placement is high.

Sunnyside Park Families & Neighbors (SPFN) invite all interested residents to attend a Community Meeting on Tuesday, April 10, 7:00 PM at the Miraloma Rec. Center (Sequoia/Omar Ways – behind Miraloma Elem. School) where ideas will be collected by RPD and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd to then use as a gauge for providing our greater neighborhood the best possible recreational services.

It is not too early to start planning for a unique and fun reopening celebration. SPFN seeks the many long-time residents who remember the early days of the Park and whose children played there. Old newspaper articles tell a story of mothers and toddlers staging sit-ins at City Hall demanding an appropriate playground. Grand children and great-grand children of these families can now and finally enjoy state-of-the-art play equipment.

Please contact SPFN with your stories, pictures and to be a special part of the celebration (SPFamilies@aol.com, 334-3601).


Tenth Annual Glen Park Festival

by Michele Bulen

Glen Park will be hosting it’s Tenth Annual Glen Park Festival on Diamond Street between Chenery and Bosworth on Sunday April 29 from 10 – 4:30. The Festival features food, music, arts and craft
booths, as well as neighborhood school information booths. There will also be a raffle with many wonderful prizes donated by our merchants and beyond. Admission is FREE and families are welcome! More information can be found on our website at www.glenparkfestival.com


Design Matters

Peter A. Zepponi, AIA – Architect

This is a monthly column addressing basic residential design and home improvement topics of interest to Miraloma Park residents. If you have a question or topic you’d like considered for a future article please send an email to: pazdesignmatters@aol.com or call 415.334.2868. www.zepponi-architects.com

Q: What are the current kitchen trends?
A: ‘Green’ Eco-friendly materials and design, Pro-Grade Appliances, and Universal Design.

In case you haven’t noticed the hot topic throughout the design world is ‘Green’ design.  Everything is going ‘green’. The Bay Area is one of the major epicenters of the green movement.  It’s everywhere.  Just yesterday we were picking our car up at the shop and there was a film crew taking photos of one of those custom modified plug-in Toyota Prius cars.  They put in twice as many batteries, modify the computer programming, and it gets 100-120 mpg instead of the 50mpg for the factory version Hybrid….and the big car companies said it couldn’t be done! …but we were talking about kitchens right?  There are more decisions and choices to make in a kitchen than in any other room in your home, and homeowners are requesting and looking for eco-friendly products and materials.  More ‘green’ products are hitting the market all the time.  I receive several emails a week announcing some new ‘green’ product or material, so with so many options available it’s a good idea to consider them. 

‘Green’ design is more than installing bamboo flooring; it involves a whole philosophy about how and where we live. Two very notable books are ‘The Not So Big House”, (1998) by Sarah Susanka, and “Cradle to Cradle” (2002) by William McDonough & Michael Braungart.   The first book discusses reducing the size of the homes we live in and instead focusing on the design and quality of those smaller spaces.  This is an ideal concept for San Francisco where most homes have a very finite amount of space to work with.  It is only through thoughtful planning and design that you can maximize the comfort and efficiency of your homes.  Cradle to Cradle is a manifesto calling for the transformation of architecture and industry through ecologically intelligent design so that they emulate the ecosystems found in the natural world.  These books present two very big concepts to apply to our relatively tiny kitchens and homes.
One place to start thinking ‘green’ in your kitchen is with your appliances.  New appliances dramatically reduce energy and water usage.   According to the US Department of Energy, refrigerators use 14 % of your home’s electricity, and some of the most efficient models use almost half as much electricity as the 1993 models.  A new dishwasher may use half the water and a quarter of the electricity as a 10 year old model.  Other areas to think ‘green’ are lighting, air quality, plumbing, cabinets, countertops, flooring, and all the building materials that can be used in a project.  Lastly consider the maintenance, use, life cycle and ability to recycle if worn out or  replaced. 

Another industry trend in kitchen design is the use of Professional Grade and convenience appliances.    According to the National Association of Homebuilders, upgraded features continue to be key selling points.  Having double ovens, two dishwashers and/or dishdrawers, refrigerator or freezer drawers, warming drawers, built-in coffee centers, wine refrigerators and even a cooktop with a separate range is fairly commonplace in upscale kitchens.

How many appliances that can be installed in a kitchen is only limited by the size of the space, with every inch maximized for optimum function.  The last trend is in Universal Design, which is an extension of the Americans with Disabilities Act, to the private home and kitchen.  Many of the accessible standards mandated for public, commercial and multi-family spaces may be applied to your own home.  Some of the major design considerations include: electrical, space layout, appliance choices, countertops, and storage.  In the private home you can tailor your space to meet your needs and more companies are designing and manufacturing products to meet those needs.

“Cars that make hybrids look like gas guzzlers”
San Francisco Chronicle, by Sherry Boschert, Sunday, March 4, 2007 www.sfgate.com
 This column and its content are intended to be a source of general information. Applicability to your specific project should be verified.
Peter A. Zepponi, AIA – Architects, is an architectural firm in San Francisco specializing in residential and commercial architecture. 


Better Streets Plan

People throughout San Francisco will have the opportunity to help shape a new approach to street and sidewalk design. As part of Mayor Newsom’s Livable City Initiative, the Better Streets Plan will involve an extensive ommunity process that allows residents to share their ideas and priorities for improving the design of San Francisco’s streets. The Better Streets Plan will guide both short-term improvements and the way streets are designed and managed over the long-term to make them safer and more accessible, attractive and environmentally sustainable. With the community, city staff will develop streetscape design recommendations that could be applied to different types of streets; this will include lights, furniture, landscaping, bulb outs, crosswalks, audible pedestrian signals, more landscaping, and other features. 

The public is invited to attend an April 5 kickoff workshop, starting at 5:30 in the San Francisco City Hall Light Court. In addition, neighborhood focused events will be held throughout the City over the next six months.  For our surrounding area there will be a meeting  on April 16, 6 – 8 pm at West Portal Playground Clubhouse, 139 Lenox Way.   For more information on the Better Streets Plan and upcoming activities, visit www.sfbetterstreets.org or call 558-6405. 


Miraloma Park Improvement Club Clubhouse

The beautiful original wood has been refurbished. There is a clean gas burning fireplace to add that extra bit of cheer to your special event. New colorful curtains grace the stage. There are modern, lightweight tables and new really omfortable chairs.   Free parking is in the adjacent parking lot. Members get a discount. Trash and recycling available. Call 415-281-0892 for rates/availability.



Justifying College Costs

by Amporn Leininger

Many families have received College Acceptance and Financial Aid Award letters.  To evaluate which college provides you with the best financial aid package, you should calculate the least-out-of-pocket cost from each. The more grants and scholarships (money you don’t have to pay back), the least out-of pocket cost  Financial Aid packages consists of grants, scholarships, loan and work study.  You do not want your son or daughter to incur too much debt after graduating from college.

Many children want to go to a college that would present signifi-cant financial  hardship to the family.  You should evaluate the costs and benefits of the student’s choices. Certain situations such as a unique curriculum or being part of a prestigious department, or renowned university may warrant a financial burden.  However, does it make sense for a student or family to generate an additional fifty or a hundred thousand dollars of loans over four years if the student is entering as a liberal arts major or is undeclared? Will an elementary education major have more job opportunities graduating from a private college than a state university? Will the pay differential justify the  ncrease in college costs? How relevant is class size? It is not uncommon for universities to have certain core courses in a large class format, but what percentage of the student’s classes over four years will be in a lecture hall? Is the student going to get lost in a huge university ? Does it ma ke sense to contain the undergraduate debt and spend a year at a prestigious university pursuing a Masters degree?  In certain cases, additional expense and financial sacrifice are well justified. It does make sense however, to ask some of these questions  to arrive at an informed decision.

Keep in mind that more than half of the CEOs of the 50 biggest U.S. companies by revenue have a bachelor degree from public colleges. The list includes Warren Buffet -CEO, Berkshire Hathaway (University of Nebraska), Kenneth Lewis – CEO, Bank of America (Georgia State), Alan Mulally – CFO, Ford Motor (University of Kansas) and H Lee Scott -CFO, Wal-Mart Stores (Pittsburg State, Kansas).

Amporn Leininger, a long-time resident of Miraloma Park, is a Financial and Investment Advisor. 


To the Presidio and Back

I suppose it was bound to happen—our ingenious friend apparently ran out of ideas for attention-grabbing modes of delivery and returned to his usual habits. Perhaps the dear fellow was simply worn out with all his traveling in the service of the community; the Presidio, after all, is a pretty large spread. Or perhaps he got the message that our household cat was not particularly thrilled with the chimney route, whatever the Holiday tradition. In any case, one fine recent morning (my, but this interval of mild weather before the summer fog takes over is a blessing!), I found the following communication scrawled on a piece of Molly Stone’s grocery bag corkscrewed into the handle of my garbage can lid. — Ed

My Dear Editor, 

Rumors have lately reached my ears that I actually exist! I am simply too thrilled, as I have doubted it off and on since I left my mother’ den. In fact, one of your estimable members, one Karen H., reported seeing me sauntering without a care up the staircase off Juanita and into the Park. It is so very reassuring to know that I am not fictive, and neither am I furtive, but a bold and brassy canid standing up proud for my species. I’d never have suspected, but now we have an eyewitness account, proof positive you might say that I am what I am. Go figure. How about that!

In the mean time, as promised, an account of my sojourn in the Presidio at the invitation of my close cousin and following the suggestion of our friendly local Red tails.  I spent several weeks picking up what snatches of debate I could between two very odd subspecies of homo sapiens: one, homo planta indigena (native plant man) and the other homo accipiter primum (hawks first man). The former abhors a eucalyptus tree and would, in his or her dreams, see it replaced by native flora whenever can be. The latter adores a eucalyptus tree because it is often the favored habitat for perching and searching of none other than Red tail (and other species of) hawk. These two creatures were having a real rough-and-tumble tumble, let me tell you, to the point where I, your humble interlocutor assigned to mediate, was reduced to plaintively howling, why can’t we all just get along? No possibility of that, apparently: according to these particular feuding parties, either no eucalyptus must come down at risk of unroosting a hawk or every eucalyptus is a malefactor, nonnative that it is, and must be reduced to rubble. Think of a compromise, good persons, perhaps leaving the most healthy and prominently perched trees and thinning the dying and the unused? If not the noble art of human beings, negotiation is certainly the most prized quality in coyote kind. My cousin and I managed to divide up our rodent dinners quite equably, no one the loser, even the creatures we dined on, as we kept them from overpopulating and so sustaining a slower and more miserable fate.

But now, at last, I’ve returned to my home ground, our dear and foggy Mt. Davidson, where I intend to remain, aking care of business, for the duration of the summer. It’s so very good to be back!

Your faithful servant—

W. Coyote, Esq.


3-1-1 At Your Service

by Jim O’Donnell

San Francisco now has the all-encompassing telephone connection that has already been implemented in 27 other cities. The service was inaugurated on March 29. 3-1-1 is a toll free, non-emergency number that the public can call to access information about SFgovernment services.  Citizens, tourists and businesses can reach a live customer service representative 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  The 311 Customer Service Center is available through wired and wireless phones with a San Francisco 415 area code. Callers from outside the San Francisco 415 area code will be able to reach the San Francisco 311 Customer Service Center by calling 415-701-2311.  Visitors can now check with the City to help solidify planning as well as enhance their experience here once they arrive.

City Hall had previously provided over 2,300 telephone numbers to the public to access local government services.  Anyone who has actually attempted to connect with city employees to address service requests knows the voicemail jail and lack of accountability that has  permeated the previous system.  In contrast, 3-1-1 streamlines access to city services and reduces duplicate and non-functional telephone numbers.  The Mayor’s goal is to have only two main numbers for the public to access city government services: 911 for emergencies and 311 for non-emergencies.  Under the leadership of Acting Director Heidi Sieck, the city is now endeavoring to achieve the highest standard of customer service, one that is culturally competent in 145 languages.

The 311 Customer Service Center was initiated by then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom while visiting Chicago in 1999.  Always impressed with Richard Daly’s city operation, Mayor Newsom saw no reason that San Francisco should be in the “bush leagues” of customer service for city tax payers. “Those most in need of city services, such as the elderly, those living at or below the poverty line, and new arrivals to San Francisco, are least likely to find their way through this confusing bureaucratic maze.” Gavin Newsom

Upon his return from Chicago, Gavin Newsom commissioned the Emergency Communications Department (ECD) and the Department of Telecommunication and Information Services (DTIS) to initiate a study to determine the feasibility of implementing a 311 call center in San Francisco.  The study was completed in March 2002 followed by public hearings in February 2003 and unanimous approval by the Board of Supervisors in October 2003.  Start up funding of $4.2 million was appropriated by the Board of Supervisors in June 2005 with construction of the call center finally completed in September of 2006.  Training of the call center staff was completed in March, 2007. 

Don’t get stuck in voicemail jail again! Give 3-1-1 a shot and let’s see if San Francisco can join other cities with real customer service for taxpayers.

Last Updated
November 15, 2017
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