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…and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas, to all who celebrate it!  And Happy New Year, everyone.

Today I received a charming message, anchored by a fractured candy-cane: The kids from the Japanese Bi-lingual Bi-cultural Program at Clarendon Elementary thanking their neighbors and giving them greetings of the season.

Over the last few days, I took some photographs of some of the decorated houses around our neighborhood. Here’s a selection.

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Happy Holidays!

For some reason, Midtown Terrace always seems to have more holiday lights than Forest Knolls. It’s always worth a drive-through, maybe even a walk-around.

And there’s this.

Just off Dellbrook, in a cul-de-sac called Greenview, the residents co-operate each year to set up an exuberantly decorated space. This year is no different. A string of colored lights across the road defines the area, and a sign says “Santa’s Court.”

Almost every house is decorated with lights, but each one’s different.

At the end of the road, there’s the north pole, Santa, reindeer, a menorah, and a sign saying Happy Holidays!

holiday decorations

These photographs don’t do it justice… if anyone wants to send better ones, we’d be glad to publish them here.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE!

[EDITED TO ADD: People have been writing in to us to convey greetings and gratitude. So: if anyone from Greenview is reading this – thanks for the wonderful lights from your neighbors across Clarendon!]

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EDITED TO ADD (DECEMBER 2010)

It’s back again this year, still as wonderful!

And – all the figures look like they’re handpainted, not commercially available cutouts.

 

Broken Water Main

SF Water Department Workers

What we first noticed was muddy water flowing in the gutter. We followed it up to a truck at the dead end of Woodhaven. It was the SF Water Department, and a water main was broken.

They had a powerful pump, attached to a hose, to suck water out of the hole they had dug in the road. It looked like it was having a hard time keeping up with the water-flow, and Woodhaven looked a bit like a stream…

pumping the water out

But they got the level down, and used a jack-hammer to expand the hole enough to reach the pipe.

It was dark by the time they found the break, but they had a powerful light to illuminate the problem. The next step would be to turn off the water and fix the leak.

One of the men explained the situation.

“See that copper pipe down there?” [You can see it in the last picture, behind the hose.] “That leads to the houses, and it’s flexible. But the mains are cast iron. They’re old. What breaks them is the cold.” Cast iron is notoriously brittle.

“The Water Department is gradually replacing them with ductile iron pipes,” he said. “It’s a good thing this happened before the rains started. If it had been raining, people would have assumed it was water from a spring, and not caught the leak.”

They continued working in the cold and drizzle.

Lost cat notice [Still missing, seen 22 Feb]

Edited to Add 1: Sebastien is still missing, but was apparently seen on Warren Drive on 22 Feb 2010. He doesn’t come when called, but is docile when captured. If you see him “please try to grab or trap him” and call the owners.

(New notices have been put up. Scroll down for a picture… not a very good one, as they seem to have gotten wet.)

Edited to Add 2:  Note from a neighbor: “The cat seen on Warren probably was not Sebastian. There is a feral cat that has, for a long time, been hanging around Warren. He is being fed by a neighbor. I do wish it was Sebastian.”

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There are “Lost Cat” signs on lamp-posts all along our street. The black cat, Sebastien, seems to have gone missing from Galewood, down below the school on Clarendon on Nov 5, 09.

If you find him, phone (415) 297 8926. (You could, if you wish, copy this number onto your cellphone so if you spot him, you can call them.)

If you know he’s been found, leave a comment here and I’ll update this post.

Edited to Add: Someone said he’d seen a cat like that last Thursday at Dellbrook x Panorama, and requested me to pass on the information, which I did. Sebastien has not been found yet (25 Nov 09).

Here’s what the ad on Craigslist says:
“Sebastien is a small BLACK 4 year old male CAT with a shy yet loving disposition. He has individual white hairs speckled all throughout his body, and his tail is long and thin and has a BENT TIP (from birth). He has large, pointed ears, light green eyes and a black nose, and was last seen wearing an aqua green soft collar with a blue bell, which he may have lost by now.

“He does not come when called so he’s really hard to find. He’s docile and gives up if cornered, so if you are able to TRAP or GRAB him (he won’t fight back), please do, and I will come and pick him up ASAP!

“If you have any information, please call me at any time of day or night at (415) 297-8926.”

March 2010 sign

Mosquitoes, storm drains, paint, and Bt

drainIt all started with a question on the Forest Knolls Yahoo Group about the brightly-colored paint-spots above the drain covers in our neighborhood. What were they?

Donna Chong responded. “Ever since the threat of West Nile Virus, San Francisco has been putting something in the sewers to keep the mosquitos from multiplying. The program has been going on for about 2 years. The paint indicates that these sewers have been treated and a new color spray is applied after each treatment. I am not sure how often they are treated but it is pretty frequent.”

Later, she added: “I personally am very glad they have the program. Our house borders a long drain and several catch basins that were a breeding ground for mosquitos. There were so many that we slept every night with a mosquito net!”

Someone else expressed a concern about dragonflies, wondering if they might be affected as well as the mosquitoes.

There was a sign on the pumphouse, she said, that indicated the treatment they were using, and we promised to check it out. Here it is:

Notice about Mosquito Treatment

They use Bt (a bacillus that kills mosquitoes) and liquid soap, up to once a week. (Another source said once a month, from late spring through fall, but that was in 2005 and they may have changed the regime.)

Bt dunks are what pond-owners are advised to put in their ponds to prevent mozzies from breeding there. As pesticides go, it’s pretty mild because it’s a bacillus and not a chemical. It’s more eco-friendly than the larvicides that some other cities use.

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Can it affect dragonflies? We’re guessing that unlike mosquitoes, dragonflies don’t breed in the catch basins. They’re supposed to like lakes with vegetation, even garden ponds (some kinds prefer streams). One site we checked specifically recommended Bt Mosquito Dunks in garden ponds because it doesn’t harm dragonflies. So they may not be directly affected.

On the other hand, dragonflies eat mozzies, and if there aren’t any, they might not be doing as well. Also, there’s a possibility that some kind of herbicide or pesticide is getting in the places they do breed. Maybe Laguna Honda lake? It’s a possible site near our neighborhood.

Midtown Terrace Playground

New Picnic Table
New Picnic Table

Edited to Add: “DW” e-mailed to say the playground is now open and “they did a nice job.” ( 6 Nov 09)

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The playground still isn’t open (3 Nov 09) even though it was supposed to be. It looks like it’s ready, though.

There’s a new picnic table, and a basketball court where the “big swings” used to be. The newlaid grass is neatly mowed, and the play structure seems to be installed.

The Recreation Center has a new (or at least, repaired) roof. (ETA: The Director told me the roof had actually been repaired some years ago. The inside is much the same, but she said they had new improved bathrooms.)

Midtown Terrace Playground
The New Play Structure

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Basketball Court at Midtown Terrace Playground

Public Transport

[This has been edited and updated on Dec 06, 2009.]

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The closest Muni station is the Forest Hill station, (where you can get the K,L, M and T lines), opposite Laguna Honda Hospital. The closest BART station is at Glen Park, where, ironically, there is no parking.

Forest Knolls is served by one bus-route, the 36 Teresita, which operates between Forest Hill Station, Forest Knolls, and Midtown Terrace. (Following a recent route-change on that stretch, the other leg of the route goes from Forest Hill Station out to Glen Park BART station and on to St Luke’s Hospital at Cesar Chavez & Valencia – see below).

Here’s the new route of the 36 Teresita (dark pink). The dotted black lines show a discontinued route.

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Starting 5 December, 2009, the 36 Teresita was re-routed to go to Glen Park BART station and St. Luke’s Hospital (part of the 26 route) instead of Balboa Park.

  • The section between Forest Hill Muni station and Forest Knolls was not affected.
  • The service now stops at 11 p.m. (last bus at 11 p.m. at Forest Hill Station and 11.10 from St Luke’s Hospital)
  • The rush-hour frequency was formerly 20 minutes, but is now 30 minutes. (It was 20 minutes on weekdays 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m., 30 minutes at other times).

Details on all Muni route changes are here.

The the MTA website still shows the old routes, but they’re fixing it. When it’s done, it will have route information and a time-table.

The former route is shown below.

Route map for 36 Teresita (not to scale)
Route map for 36 Teresita (not to scale)

Nearby Shops

Though Forest Knolls is exclusively residential, it is close (by car) to some pleasant shopping areas.

West Portal has a drugstore, a hardware store, antiques, a bookstore, a number of coffee-shops, a movie theater, a number of dentists, hair salons and spas, groceries, pet supplies, and restaurants with all kinds of cuisines – and a major Muni station. It still has the charm of a neighborhood shopping street.

Just over the hill in Miraloma Park is a small group of shops: Molly Stones, a grocery and butchers with an abundant deli section; two coffee shops, a pizza place, a drugstore, and several cleaners.

There are also the shops and restaurants on Taraval and further down in the Sunset, at Diamond Heights (including the Post Office that serves the neighborhood), and in Cole Valley (charming, but where parking is rather problematic).

Two Safeway stores are within easy reach: One at Diamond Heights (open until 2 a.m.) and another on Taraval (which I think closes at 10 p.m.) There’s a Lucky on Sloat Boulevard, where there’s also a Fedex Kinkos, a Blockbuster, and a Ross Dress For Less store. Also a pet store.

We’re also close to shops and restaurants of the Inner Sunset — and there are some delightful ones. Arizmendi bakery. Pacific Catch restaurant. Park Chow. That’s just the beginning. Irving and 9th is a good place to start.

Current Issues

This area is to discuss and report on issues the neighborhood is facing.

1. The Crestmont Development. A builder wanted to add an apartment block at the end of Crestmont, a narrow winding road just below Mt Sutro. Most neighbors opposed it on the grounds of safety (landslides, fire access), neighborhood character (no apartment blocks in Forest Knolls); and infrastructure issues. [Edited to Add 1: Apparently stopped for now.] [Feb 2010 Edited to Add 2: Have heard that it may have been restarted.]

2. The 36 Teresita route. In 2009, the City planned to curtail the service of the 36 Teresita, the only bus serving Forest Knolls, on the ground of inadequate ridership. Neighbors pointed out that it was not so much a matter of numbers as a matter of access; there were people without cars who relied on the bus. For the present, the service continues, but no one is sure if the plan may yet be implemented. [Edited to Add: It appears that the feedback has been accepted, and the route changes –  implemented from 5 Dec 09 – will not affect Forest Knolls. However, the frequency falls to 30 minutes (instead of 20 during weekday rush-hours); and the last bus leaves Forest Hill at 11 p.m.]

3. Sutro Cloud Forest. In May 2009, UCSF, which owns the land on Mt Sutro just above Forest Knolls, planned to cut down thousands of trees on a quarter of the forest, including an area just above the neighborhood ostensibly in the name of fire mitigation. Opponents believe this is a ruse for a native plant conversion of the forest, and the fire threat is an excuse to get FEMA funding for a landscaping plan. They consider it dangerous because of increased fire hazard from a more open and dryer forest; greater landslide risk; concern about toxic chemicals (Roundup and Garlon) being used; and worries about the area being artificially reclassified as a High Fire Risk with impacts on disclosure requirements and insurance rates. (At present, Cal Fire notes there are no areas of Very High Fire Hazard in San Francisco.)

[Edited to Add 1: SaveSutro kept a daily Fog Log for September/ October/ November. The longest period the forest was without fog or rain was 7 days. The forest remained green and damp throughout. ]

[Feb 2010, Edited to Add 2: UCSF has withdrawn its applications from FEMA. It is looking for a different way forward. Details on the SaveSutro website.]

4. Extended parking meter hours in San Francisco. Despite Oakland’s unfortunate experience with extended hours on its parking meters (a revenue measure), San Francisco’s MTA still has such a plan under consideration. This does not directly affect the neighborhood, which does not have meters; but it affects the residents who shop or work in surrounding areas like West Portal or Miraloma. [Edited to Add: There’s a good discussion of this in the November ’09 issue of the Westside Observer. The article (on page 2) is by George Wooding, president of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council.]

5. Another issue that affects Forest Knolls indirectly is SF PUC’s plan to build a gravel distribution center on Clarendon Avenue, on the eastern edge of the Laguna Honda Lake. This area was apparently presented as a temporary staging post, but now is being made permanent. Neighbors are protesting.

History of Forest Knolls

Forest Knolls was built in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Some of the residents are the first owners of the homes that were built then. According the website of realtors Ahlheim and Kearney: “The detached homes and townhomes, many with similar floor plans, are well constructed and spacious. Winding streets, hilly terrain and ever changing weather add to Forest Knolls’ character and privacy. The original homes were built between 1959 and 1963. Crestmont Drive’s two unit buildings were built between 1962 and 1979. Galewood Circle’s townhomes were constructed in 1978-79. Newer homes on Warren and Oak Park Drives were built in the 80’s and early 90’s.

The area where Forest Knolls was built was part of an 1100-acre forest planted by former mayor Adolph Sutro, one of San Francisco’s most colorful characters. Sutro Forest and the forest on Mt Davidson are among the last remnants of these woods. This map, from 1927, shows Sutro Forest before. Trees were cleared to build first Midtown Terrace, then Forest Knolls.

san francisco 1927 sutro forest 1000 px

Before that, it was all part of Rancho San Miguel, a ranch with 2,000 cattle and 200 horses. Before Sutro bought the land, it was owned by Jose Jesus Noe (whose name is memorialized in Noe Valley).

For a historic picture of Forest Knolls, and a link to more pictures, go HERE.

Forest Knolls site in 1958
Forest Knolls site in 1958 (marked DEVELOPMENT)
Aerial view – around 2006 (?)

CLICK HERE for a lovely description of a walk down rural Clarendon Avenue in 1896.

Photos for the album

If anyone would like to contribute photographs for the photo album page, we’d be happy to include them, with a photo-credit. Just leave a comment here and we’ll e-mail you. We’re particularly interested in historical pictures related to Forest Knolls, or anything showing the beauty of our neighborhood, or neighborhood gatherings. (Or anything else that you’d like to see there.)

A New Website and Blog

We’re starting a new website and blog for the neighborhood. We’re hoping to provide a presence on the web, and collect information that is of interest to all of us. Once it’s established, it may be a good place for public announcements and comments.

Look forward to hearing from other Forest Knollers.