Saturday, February 1, 2014

Notes from Corbett Heights Meeting

Corbett Heights Meeting Notes - January 23, 2014

First, I'd like to thank all of the people who distributed the fliers: Nancy Peoples, Ted Teipel, Cindy Valdes, Rick Johnson, Kevin Dunn, Kazumi Matsuyama, Barbara Presta, Tom Murphy, Phil Byland and Leslie and John Koelsch. Greatly appreciated!!

And a huge thanks to Barbara Presta for taking minutes!

Membership Dues: If you haven't paid for a while or would like to join, annual membership is $15 per year per household. Besides being used for flier printing and snacks for garden workdays, the money is used to purchase plants, any garden equipment and irrigation supplies we may need to take care of our various mini-parks. The easiest way to join is to go to our website: and at the bottom of the page type in your name and address and click "subscribe".

New Corbett Heights Board: A slate of Officers was offered for approval to members. They are:

President: Gary Weiss (Mars)

Secretary: Bill Prince (Corbett Av.)

Treasurer: Rick Johnson (Corbett Av.)

Officers: Kevin Dunn (Corbett Av.)

Mark Ryser (Ord St.)

Barbara Presta (Clayton St.)

Leslie Koelsch (Corbett Av.)

The slate was approved!

Newly named "Corbett Ord Triangle": Leslie Koelsch and I recently came up with a proposed new name for the park bordered by 17th Street, Corbett and Ord. It was previously known as Ord Triangle Park which also is one of the names of the park across Market Street. If you have another suggestion please let me know.

In December about 12 neighbors as well as 12 DPW volunteers showed up to weed, prune, clean up trash and spread mulch at the park. In addition, they reconnected and fixed the irrigation system. If we ever get some rain we can plan another work day to start planting. At least it now looks clean and cared for. Many thanks to everyone who helped!

Former Mayor Art Agnos and Mother Teresa:

Since we usually start a few minutes late to allow for latecomers, or parking difficulties, Mayor Agnos, who arrived promptly at 7 decided to tell a story - completely unrelated to the topic he was there to discuss. (This, I must admit, was the best part of the meeting!)

During his time as mayor, when he and his wife, Sherry, were living on Twin Peaks, he was always accompanied by bodyguards. One Sunday evening around 8:30PM, Mr. Agnos went out to the corner store, and when he returned his wife greeted him at the door and said: "Mother Teresa is upstairs!!!" He of course thought she was joking, but when he got to the living room there was Mother Teresa and 3 nuns waiting for him to return. He asked to what he owed the honor and she told him that he needed to get the city to give a particular building to her Missionaries of Charity as a homeless shelter. It was a brick building on the corner of Fillmore and Turk, it was owned by the city and it was vacant.

She would only be in SF until the next morning, so they needed to go then - at 8:30 on Sunday night - to check out the building.

He called for his bodyguards since Sherry wanted to go along and help.

When they arrived at the building there were no markings or obvious points of entry so they walked around to the back of the building. Since the neighborhood was pretty sketchy back then, and it was nighttime, they were a bit concerned when they came upon 8 or 9 homeless African American guys standing around a fire they made to keep warm. When they cautioned Mother Teresa about the potential danger she said: "Don't worry, God will protect us".

As they approached the men instantly recognized Mother Teresa. She gave them each a medal and blessed them. Mayor Agnos told them they were hoping to set up a homeless shelter there.

Since the building was in great disrepair they ended up converting another building nearby.

When they arrived back at the car and were saying goodbyes, the Mayor asked Mother Teresa: "Do you often go to other mayors' homes at 8:30 on a Sunday night and ask for a city building for a homeless shelter?" Mother Teresa responded: "The last mayor was Mayor Koch of NYC. He has a much nicer house than you do!" (The NYC mayor traditionally lives in Gracie Mansion, the huge estate built in 1799.)

Mayor Agnos then told her: "you know, Mother, I don't do these things for free - I need a favor back. My wife Sherry is working on a project with mothers who are addicted to crack cocaine - trying to get them off crack. Now it's 10PM. I called the hospital to let them know I'll be arriving soon with Mother Teresa to see the new born babies. She blessed the babies and then proceeded to the AIDS ward. By this time everyone in the hospital knew that the mayor was in the hospital with Mother Teresa. They were so excited to see her, that a crowd of about 100 formed around them. Mother Teresa told them all: "When you all die and go to heaven, God will be there waiting for you". Of course, with a majority of the people who work at the hospital being Catholic, this had quite an impact.

She left for Latin America the following morning, but continued to visit once or twice a year.

Mayor Agnos/Warriors Stadium Project:

(For those of you who have lived in SF anytime between 1958 and 1990, you will remember the Embarcadero Freeway which completely separated SF from our waterfront and blocked the Ferry Building from view. There was apparently such an uproar that the Board of Supervisors at the time vowed to never allow another freeway like that to be constructed in SF ever again. It took the 1989 earthquake and a mayor who saw the opportunity to remove the damaged freeway to revitalize that part of our city.)

Mayor Agnos began by saying that he is not paid to do these presentations, does not live in the area that would be affected, and is NOT running for mayor or for any other office.

He is very supportive of the Warriors' coming to SF, but just not where it is currently being considered. The waterfront is vastly different from what it once was - the container business has moved to LA and the cruiseship business is kept at "bay" by an old law that favors American-owned ship lines, of which there are few.

Once the freeway was torn down (approved by a 6-5 vote!!) we could once again appreciate our wonderful waterfront. You could walk for miles - uninterrupted - between China Basin and Fisherman's Wharf with wonderful vistas of the bay, the bridge and the East Bay hills.

Due to the economic downturn we were in a quiet period for 15 years. The last 3 1/2 years has seen a specatcular burst of energy throughout the city. The arena/hotel/shopping center project would be on public land. The demand to build luxury high-rise condos on public land has never been greater.

One thing that makes virtually no sense is - why build an arena with no windows in an area with such spectacular views? The former mayor feels that the answer is that it is not about the basketball stadium, although the stadium would be the centerpiece. It's actually a real estate development. Besides the stadium which would be around 12 stories high and seat up to 18,000 people, the project calls for a 500 car garage next to the stadium, for exlusive use by the warriors - not the public. Adjacent to that would be a 92,000 square foot shopping center. (Just for comparison, the Ferry Building is 62,000 square feet.)

Across the street, also on city-owned land and part of the same development would be a 175 foot tall (18 stories) condo tower on 2.3 acres. In addition would be 2 more 10 story tall towers of a luxury hotel (200 - 250 rooms), as well as 22,000 square feet of additional shopping center. And - a 300 space parking garage.

To prepare the aging piers for the development on the water, it would take almost $200 million. Tons of concrete would be poured 60 - 70 feet down into the bedrock. Columns would go into the concrete to support a 13.2 acre platform - 5 times the size of Union Square.

As opposed to the Giants who pay $2 million per year in rent, the Warriors would pay nothing. This is because the city would need to pay $120 million of the cost of the pier rebuilding. Since the project is supposedly planned without public financing, the Warriors would "lend" SF the money and as part of the payback would not pay rent during its 60 year lease period. The city would also hand over (as part of the payback for the $120 million "loan") the land across the street for the condo/hotel/shopping center/garage development based on the 2010 appraisal of $30.4 million. In the last few years the value of land in SF has increased - just a bit.

This is a mega real estate development hiding behind a basketball arena.

Also to consider is the additional cost to the city for police, cleaning and safety. If there is an overlap - a Giants game the same night as a Warriors game there would be a traffic nightmare. No additional infrastructure is part of the plan.

Mayor Agnos suggested other potential sites: Candlestick, SOMA and below Bill Graham Auditorium in the Civic Center.

Lucas Cultural Arts Museum - presented by David Perry:

The Presidio Trust is currently deciding among 3 proposals to occupy the area adjacent to Crissy Field currently occupied by the Sports Basement. George Lucas who already pays $10 million rent per year for his Letterman campus in the Presidio, would be the only one whose proposal includes paying the $300 million cost up front, including several million in rent per year and an endowment to cover future operating costs.

If approved, they could break ground at the end of this year, and finish by 2017.

The Palace of Fine Arts has been mentioned as an alternative location. The reason this site is an impossibility is that it is a San Francisco landmark and cannot be altered.

Friends of the Urban Forest - by Executive Director Dan Flanagan:

In terms of canopy cover (tree cover) of all major cities in the US, San Francisco ranks 17th.

Any time there is a budget crisis the first cost to be cut is always parks and trees. It's difficult to impossible to suggest cutting from schools, health services, fire and police, social services for homeless, etc. Currently the 40,000 trees in SF are being cared for by 5 arborists.

Supervisor Scott Wiener is discussing with his colleagues the possibility of a parcel tax. In order to increase funding for our trees it could cost each homeowner between $50 - $80 per year. Buildings with greater street frontage would pay more proportionately.

Castro Street Sidewalk Widening:

The project should begin within a couple of weeks. They will start with the 400 block of Castro, between 17th and 18th Streets. this section will be completed before Pride which is the last weekend of June. The 500 block, between 18th and 19th Streets will be done next, with completion scheduled by the time of the Castro Street Fair - first Sunday in October. For more information and updates:

In-law Legislations:

Supervisor Wiener has proposed in law legislation that would allow owners of buildings in Eureka Valley (from Hill to 14th, and from Church to Upper Mkt) to add one in law unit to buildings of 10 units or fewer, and 2 if the building has over 10. These new units could eash be betw 220 - 750 square feet. They would need to stay within the existing building envelope. The new unit can be created from a garage or storage space. The unit could not be created by dividing existing units - they must come from space not currently being used for habitation. If the building is rent controlled the new unit would be as well. The new unit cannot be made or made larger by expandng into the backyard.

Supervisor David Chiu is introducing legislation to offer amnesty for existing in-law units - maximum one per lot - throughout SF. There are possibly as many as 40,000 illegal in-law units currently. The legislation will be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors in March.

These in-law legislation proposals are two of several ways the city is trying to address the dire shortage of affordable rentals in SF. In-laws in general are more affordable than traditional units.

AT&T Giant Box Saga:

At this point, CHN is the only neighborhood in SF other than designated historic districts or buildings that cannot and will not receive the ATT boxes - at least for two years. On 10/1/15 they will be allowed to restart their market outreach. They cannot even apply for permits until after that date. If at that time they are still using this antiquated technology and we are still allowing them to install their giant boxes on our sidewalks, then we deserve them.

But the number of neighborhoods and neighborhood leaders who have joined the fight has increased tremendously. There have been over 2000 complaints from individual residents about the boxes themselves but also about the noticing and installation processes. People all over the city have complained about coming home from work and finding one of the new huge boxes on their corner – never having received notice.

Because of all of the anger directed at AT&T, and at DPW for not being on top of the permitting/noticing process, Scott Wiener, chair of the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee called a hearing that was held a couple of weeks ago to discuss the shortcomings: notices are printed only in English; hearing officer has no authority to reject an application.....

There were literally hundreds of people who showed up to talk - an overflow crowd. Speakers continued for almost five hours. All but 2 were opposed to AT&T's and DPW's process, as well as to the boxes themselves.

History Project: The Corbett Heights historical context statement (History Project) was completed several weeks ago. There are about 150 pages of information, and dozens of wonderful old photos and maps. We are currently in the process of reviewing it and trying to determine how we will publish it.

Corbett Slope: The new retaining wall that was approved for the Market Street side of the Slope was moved from November to December to January and now to February. I imagine that if a more pressing project comes along for DPW's engineers it will continue to take precedence. I met with others from DPW and the Park's Alliance about the possibility of removing the chain link fence along Corbett and putting a smaller, friendlier one inside the park, allowing limited access. The response was positive. I'll keep you informed.

17th Street Traffic Calming:

Many of the neighbors - but definitely not all - are going along with MTA's plan to install a "traffic pillow" at the intersection of 17th and Temple. It should happen sometime during the next 6 months, awaiting funding.

3198 Market St:

This is the address of the landlocked property behind the big retaining wall with the mural, on Market Street. We've already met with 2 potential buyer/developers last year. Apparently the seller has accepted yet another offer but it hasn't closed escrow yet. Stay tuned....

3066 Market:

This is the yellowish 1880s cottage just east of where Merritt Street starts. It was purchased for $525,000 in 2003, refied in 2007 with a $700,000 loan, then sold short in 2011 for $485,000. The owners got permits to convert the 1 bedroom cottage into a 4 bedroom house, adding a 3rd floor and garage. Building commenced in late 2011. Another loan for $675,000 to finance the project was secured in early 2012 and another for $231,000 was added in January 2013. Within 3 months of getting that 2nd mortgage, the first went into foreclosure. It's been sitting idle for a year. A couple of weeks ago it sold for $951,000 cash.

Market Street Projects:

376 Castro (RC Station): Still up in the air at this time.

CVS - 2280 Market St. (formerly Tower Records): Work has begun replacing the facade with something slightly less horrific. Elevators will be moved forward to property line, eliminating the awkward recess. CVS will occupy the entire ground floor except for the Radio Shack space.

2175 Market (76 Station): 88 units. 100% rental. Half complete. Plan includes a "Market Square" food court type arrangement on the ground floor.

2200 Market St (Leticia's/Thai House/Happy Boy): 22 units. 3000 square foot Mexican restaurant called Bandidos - not being run by Leticia - will be operated by the owners of High Tops sports bar.

8 Octavia Blvd.(at Market): 8 stories/49 units/ground floor retail.

Cafe du Nord/Swedish American Hall:

The owners of Woodhouse Fish Co. now own the master lease for the whole building. They will completely renovate the basement and it will continue to be used as an entertainment venue. The first floor will become a restaurant and the upper floors will be used for a variety of shows and performances.

2198 Market (Shell Station/Xmas tree lot):

If approved this development will be 87 rental units and be 7+ stories tall. There would also be 4000 square feet of ground floor retail space.

There had been two sticking points to getting neighborhood approval: one was to have on-site affordable housing. (They had wanted those units to be off-site.) And the other has to do with the property management company - Greystar - not having a company-wide non-descrimination policy. They manage 200,000 units in 700 properties across the US. In San Francisco this policy is required of all companies that do business here. Greystar only complies where required. We - mostly Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Ass'n. - worked to convince them to change the company's policy nationwide. At this point they've tentatively agreed to both requests.

Thanks for your interest in our neighborhood!

- Gary