Happy New Year in 2011!

Right now, looking from Twin Peaks, downtown is a lovely blaze of lights. The dome of City Hall, only recently lit in orange for the Giants, morphed to green with red stripes below (perhaps for Christmas?), and then to red with green stripes below, maybe for New Year?

Question of the moment: will remain clear for the fireworks on the Embarcadero? It’s looking good so far. And whatever the weather, where ever you’re reading this, here’s wishing everyone a very happy 2011!

[Edited to Add: It started raining just around midnight… the fireworks went on anyway. I could hear them but didn’t go to watch.]

This is a Picture. Really.

Years ago, I saw a reproduction of a painting: The Kanchenjunga Hidden By Mist. It was a piece of truly minimalist art, a pure pearly-white canvas with not even a hint of the iconic mountain visible through it. Readers of this article may think I’m emulating that painting, only in black, not white, and as a photograph not a painting.

I hope I’m doing better than that, if only marginally. In case you miss them, I’d like to point out the red dots at the bottom left, and the white crescent at the top right.

What this is (really!), is the lunar eclipse over Sutro Tower. It was taken at 11.23 p.m. on Dec 20, 2010.

Peekaboo with the Lunar Eclipse

No one expected the lunar eclipse to be visible, even though it was an important one. It was a total lunar eclipse on the night of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. The forecast was for clouds and rain.

Miraculously at 9.30 or so the clouds broke. The portents were good as the full moon shone through the eucalyptus onto Forest Knolls.

Full moon, December 21 2010

11.24 p.m

So we waited… maybe this would be an eclipse we actually could see! (I missed the last one, a partial, because San Francisco was fogged in.) By 11.30 p.m., the eclipse was well under way, and it was still clear. It was exciting. I kept switching between my camera and my binoculars. Of course  I knew full well the camera doesn’t have what it takes for good moon photographs, but I couldn’t resist documenting the moment. And the binocs are like a mini-telescope — I could see the lunar craters, I could see the shadow on its surface.

And then the clouds came back. By the time of the totality, our place was blanketed. We could see nothing of the moon.

I waited a while, then grew impatient. We jumped in the car, and drove in the direction of the clearest sky. I thought perhaps we’d have some luck near the ocean.

By the time we got to the bottom of Clarendon Avenue, the moon was clearly visible, just past the totality. A white rim shone over a duller yellow disk.

21st December, 1.29 a.m.

Photographing it was a problem. A thin drizzle kept blotching my lens with rainwater, since I was pointing my camera straight up.  I tried from inside the car, which gave a somewhat better result, but multiple images (perhaps from the glass through which I was shooting, perhaps from a movement of the camera).

Back in Forest Knolls, I found a good spot to moon-watch for a while, and took a bunch of photos anyway. It was nearly 2 a.m. when I called it a night. The clouds were taking over again. Still, it was a gift: The Unanticipated Eclipse.

Signal Boost: Free Safety Classes

This was in the Park Station Police newsletter, and was looking for a signal boost. It’s of interest to all of us, living as we do in earthquake country. The SF Fire Department is offering classes in January through early March 2011. Most of them are six-session evening courses; but they also offer a couple of intensive weekend options. The classes are held all over the city. The one closest to our neighborhood is probably in the Sunset, at 5th and Irving. According to the newsletter, more classes will be added later on.

# # #


Subject: Free NERT preparedness and response training by the San Francisco Fire Department

My name is Erica and I am the current program coordinator for NERT, the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team.  This program provides instructor-lead classroom training with hands-on components included to prepare San Franciscans for a disaster no matter how big or small.

Earthquake? Power Outage? Flooding on Shotwell Street?  This all hazards approach begins with caring for oneself and family and includes training to become a volunteer emergency responder in your neighborhood.

I am writing to request your assistance to get the word out about this free training opportunity.  We do not have an advertising budget and rely on word of mouth to spread this important information.  We are now celebrating over 20 years of consistent emergency response team training and I still often meet people who are not aware of this opportunity.

New NERT classes are coming up and people should take the training that best fits their schedule.  People can join their neighborhood team upon completion of the training.  Participants should plan to attend all sessions of the training to gain the full scope and benefit.  New students may begin no later than the 2nd week of a six week class and must begin on the 1st day of a two-day intensive class.

There is also a three hour introductory workshop that focuses on personal preparedness.

Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide in telling people about NERT training.

Lt. Erica Arteseros, NERT Program Coordinator
San Francisco Fire Department
2310 Folsom Street
San Francisco, CA  94110
phone (415) 970-2022
fax (415) 970-2020

Seven new classes are beginning in the new year. More will be added through the spring.  Check back to the website if the scheduling does not fit your needs. Click the link or type in the following URL: http://www.sf-fire.org/index.aspx?page=859


Inner Richmond: Zion Church and School,  495 9th Ave @ Anza

Wednesdays 6:30pm-9:30pm

  • Class session 1: January 5
  • Class session 2: January 12
  • Class session 3: January 19
  • Class session 4: January 26
  • Class session 5: February 2
  • Class session 6: February 9

Bayview:  Bayview Police Station Community Rm
201 Williams @ Newhall

Two Day Intensive!
Saturdays 8:30am-5:30pm

  • Class sessions 1, 2, 3: January 8
  • Class session 4, 5, 6: January 22

Sunset: St. John of God Church Hall
1290 5th Ave @ Irving

Thursday evenings, 6:30pm-9:30pm

  • Class session 1: January 13
  • Class session 2: January 20
  • Class session 3: January 27
  • Class session 4: February 3
  • Class session 5: February 10
  • Class session 6: February 17

Civic Center/South of Market: San Francisco Federal Building
90 7th Street @ Market

Wednesdays 9am-4pm

  • Class sessions 1 and 2: January 26
  • Class sessions 3 and 4: February 2
  • Class sessions 5 and 6: February 9

South Beach/Mission Bay: SFFD Headquarters
698 – 2nd Street, Commission Room

Tuesdays, 6:30pm-9:30pm

  • Class session 1: February 1
  • Class session 2: February 8
  • Class session 3: February 15
  • Class session 4: February 22
  • Class session 5: March 1
  • Class session 6: March 8

North of Panhandle/Lone Mountain: USF Campus, use main entrance on Golden Gate Ave
McLaren Conference Center, room 250

Two Day Intensive!
Saturdays 8:30am-5:30pm

  • Class sessions 1, 2, and 3: February 12
  • Class sessions 4, 5, and 6: February 26

Fisherman’s Wharf: Radisson Hotel Fisherman’s Wharf
250 Beach Street

Two Day Intensive!
Fridays 8:30am-5:30pm

  • Class sessions 1, 2, and 3: February 25
  • Class sessions 4, 5, and 6: March 4

Resilient Community Workshop
SFFD NERT and SF SAFE  (sfsafe.org) want you to have skills to be  prepared for emergencies big or small, and know your neighbors to maximize resiliency after disaster.

  • Risk Awareness
  • Disaster Supplies
  • Personal/Family Disaster Plan
  • Utilities Overview
  • NERT Overview
  • Community, block by block

San Francisco Jewish Community Center (JCC) 3200 California @ Parnassus
(Paid parking is available in JCC lot)
Tuesday February 4, 7pm-9pm

Bookshop West Portal & Simon Winchester

Bookshop West Portal (which I’ve written about in my earlier article on West Portal) often arranges author readings. This Friday evening, it was Simon Winchester talking to a standing-room only audience.

The best-selling author, Simon Winchester. In our little neighborhood independent bookstore.

Simon Winchester

Not only does Winchester write fascinating, well-researched non-fiction, he’s an entertaining speaker and raconteur. He was promoting his new book,  Atlantic. Instead of reading from his book, as authors commonly do, he told us stories: The story of how he came to write the book; the story of how he decided to structure it (it’s based on Shakespeare’s  ‘Seven Ages of Man‘); and then several stories from his book research, from places as far-flung as the Faeroe Islands, Tristan da Cunha (where he’s not allowed to land), and the Skeleton Coast. In between, he recounted how acetone was linked (via World War I, Chaim Weizmann and the Balfour Declaration ) to the founding of Israel.

Afterward, he autographed books for people. It was a great evening.

Bookshop West Portal also made an announcement about its knitting classes (and Simon Winchester has a funny story about knitting, too). The instructor’s holding some special classes for those who want to knit gifts such as scarves and fingerless gloves.

If you want to be kept informed about all the interesting authors and activities at a store only 2 miles from us — get on their email list. I’ve found this a pretty useful and painless way of staying in touch.

A Season of Spiders and Pumpkins

The theme this Halloween seems to be spiders and pumpkins.

The pumpkins are a perennial favorite, of course, but the spiders? That’s new this year. Around our neighborhood, there were some bats and  ghoulies and ghosties.  And lots of giant spiders…







I’m hoping we have some kids coming round… those years I celebrate, I always end up with excess candy. (Except the year that the last callers were three teenage ghosts at 9.30, who kindly took most of the remnants. I didn’t feel guilty. At that age, they can handle it!)


Viewing the Blue Angels

One of the neat things about our neighborhood is that it’s so close to Tank Hill and to Twin Peaks, both excellent viewing platforms for anything happening on the Bay – flying exhibitions, firework displays, or fog flow.

On Saturday, armed with binoculars and pocket-camera, I went up to Tank Hill for the Blue Angels. The place was quite crowded, though some people, misled by the warm day, were driven off by the strong wind before the show ended. I’d worn a windcheater, so I was fine; it was the t-shirt crowd that were cold.

It was great. Not only could we see all the way over to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay, we could see the planes come by our own Sutro Forest.

On Sunday afternoon, I actually went into the forest, even though very little of the airshow is visible from there. But a couple of times, the planes come blasting past the forest, behind the eucalyptus. There’s something surreal about it – the contrast between the very sylvan forest and the power and thunder of the most artificial thing – a jet aircraft. I got a couple of poor-resolution photographs, but a spectacular experience.

Report on West of Twin Peaks Central Council Meeting

Following a heads-up from the neighbors working to preserve the Laguna Honda Reservoir, I attended a meeting of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council (WTPCC).  The WTPCC is a council of councils; its members are the neighborhood organizations from all over San Francisco’s west side. We met in the quaint Maybeck clubhouse in Forest Hill. Nestled under tall redwoods, the place has a charming, almost medieval atmosphere.

After thanking two members of the Council who were retiring (to the tune of “Jolly Good Fellow”!), the chairman George Wooding rapidly got through several agenda items. Some that are relevant to our neighborhood:

  • Regarding the gravel yard at Laguna Honda Reservoir, he had attended the June 6th meeting with the PUC.  He said the PUC had a moratorium in place until July 15th at least. The Home Owners’ Association of The Woods, a residential community adjacent to the reservoir,  is joining the WTPCC.
  • About Sutro Forest, he mentioned that UCSF was having a community meeting on June 30th.
  • The current owners of Park Merced discussed what was happening there. They are under financial pressure with loans coming due, but hope to negotiate with their lenders for a better payment terms. Meanwhile, they are planning to build new housing and slowly phase out the older buildings. They assured us that existing tenants under rent control would be given comparable-but-new homes at the rent-controlled rate.
  • The evening’s main issue was the misuse of the Gift Fund of Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH). Apparently, a gift fund  described as being specifically for the welfare and happiness of the residents/ patients/ inmates of the hospital, has been utilized for the benefit of the hospital staff. The fund, which had reached around $2 million, has been run down to about $700 thousand. Its oversight structures have been disbanded, so now money can be taken out more easily. Several sub-accounts have been set up under the Gift Fund to utilize the monies for the nurses, doctors, and administrators of the hospital while cutting back on excursions for the residents.

George described WTPCC’s futile efforts to get inputs or explanations from LHH representatives, from various oversight institutions, and from the district supervisor. WTPCC passed a resolution to recommend an independent audit of the funds, restoring any misspent monies, and reinstating oversight structures.

Edited to Add: Regarding Laguna Honda Hospital, the Dec 2010/ January edition of the Westside Observer (links to a PDF file of the paper) notes that the City Controller has returned $350, ooo  to the Patient Gift Fund.

Laguna Honda Lake: PUC promises broken?

The comment below (on May 13, 2010) was the first we knew of what was happening by Laguna Honda Lake, just off the bottom of Clarendon Avenue.

“Do any members here have photos of the Laguna Honda Reservoir from a few years ago? Specifically, photos that capture the area along Clarendon Ave, to the East of the reservoir?

“The PUC just installed a large (8′high x 6′ wide) circuit breaker at sidewalk level, just inside the gate on Clarendon. They will build a 20 x 20 office on the site, unless we act NOW! In addition, they just informed us that the site will be used as a permanent distribution center for gravel and dirt for City repairs! (See the piles of gravel there today – the PUC wants to keep them).

“Four large, healthy trees were removed to install the circuit breaker and a large patch of flowers and bushes was paved over to make room for the gravel piles. With all of the other existing buildings and paved areas in The City today, it makes no sense for the PUC to destroy green and open space in a residential area.

“Please post any photos of the area you may have to help us illustrate the beauty the PUC has just destroyed.

“Join us in apposing this move by contacting your Supervisor and the PUC (Maureen Barry mbarry@sfwater.org, Suzanne Gautier sgautier@sfwater.org, Ed Harrington eharrington@sfwater.org)”

Driving by there, we feared it was already too late, until we saw an item in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

They noted that the PUC had taken 2500 square yards for use as a staging area for work on nearby pump stations. At the time, the PUC promised to return the area to its original green state.

That was then. Meanwhile, the PUC’s diver team, based at Treasure Island, lost their lease. Now the PUC, without much reference to the community, has decided to base the dive team at the reservoir site, while also still using it as a place to store gravel, sand and stuff. They plan to add a utility shed, a 20X40 trailer, and power lines. The Chronicle article concluded with, “The bottom line, though, is that it’s PUC property and that their plans are the ones that count.

PUC held a meeting in April, attended by about 30 unhappy neighbors. Another meeting was this evening at the Clarendon School. We couldn’t go, since we were at the UCSF Sutro Forest Agenda Planning Meeting, but we hope to hear from people who attended, including the President of the Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization.

The opposing neighbors have a website and a Facebook page.

[ETA1: One of the neighbors, Anthony Roy, wrote an article for the Westside Observer, summing up the issues.]

[ETA 2: It appears that the neighbors discovered that Laguna Honda Reservoir is zoned as Open Space… this may preclude the gravel yard.]


The PUC does indeed appear to have a rather cavalier attitude to greenery.

When they rebuilt the pump station at Forest Knolls, they selected a new site where they would have to fell trees, rather than rebuilding on the site of the old pump station. Still, it didn’t look too bad in the pictures in their circular or the billboard outside the project site. It would be a low building nestled under the existing mature trees…

Pump Station on poster

Is that what we got? Not so much.

Here’s the new pump station soon after completion. All the tall trees and dense greenery that screened Forest Knolls from the Aldea Student Housing are gone, and there’s no space to plant more. The huge gap in the trees looks to be permanent, though the brown areas in front of the Pump Station are greening out.

New Pump Station in reality

Updates: Elections, UCSF Community Center, Crestmont

In the past few days, several items arrived in my in-box that probably should be shared:

1. The elections are on June 8th. For people who were accustomed to the polling station in the garage on Oak Park – it’s changed. Precinct 2708, most of Forest Knolls and Galewood Circle will vote at the Clarendon Elementary School on Clarendon. But it’s a good idea to check before June 8th!

ETA (Thanks, LC): Precinct 2707 (on the Devonshire Way side of Forest Knolls) will still vote at the Lobby of Avalon Towers Inc, on 6 Locksley Avenue. There’s a 0.1% slope,  accessible to people with disabilities.

2. Dr. Sobol sent a message that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Crestmont project should be done by October or November.

“The time for action is obviously approaching: as soon as the EIR is published, our community will have the opportunity to formally respond and we will, as in 2006, mobilize a write-in campaign to challenge any deficiencies in the report and express the entire neighborhood’s opposition to this misguided and inappropriate project. A subsequent public hearing will almost certainly follow and we must plan to attend in large numbers to give voice to our opposition directly to the Planning Commissioners.

“In the meantime, new “STOP CRESTMONT HILLS” posters are going up throughout Forest Knolls and it is important to make our opposition visible to the politicians by placing them in our windows and on our fences. If you don’t have a poster or need to replace one that’s become frayed and faded (after all, this battle has been going on for six years!)
please notify us at the number below and we’ll be happy to provide one – or several.

Email: info@crestmontpreservation.org
Phone: 415-640-3869
Website: http://www.crestmontpreservation.org/

Picture of UCSF's Aldea Center
UCSF's planned Aldea Center

3. UCSF is building a new community center on Johnstone Drive within the Aldea Student Housing area, scheduled for completion in Spring 2011. (It’s near the entrance to Medical Center Way.) They had to cut down nine trees, none of which was a eucalyptus or a redwood… ” a total of nine trees will need to be removed from the project area. These will include two acacias, one hawthorne and six victorian box trees.” This picture (taken from UCSF’s message) and the diagram accompanying it does not indicate the orientation of the building.

It’s not clear to what extent the Community Center will be available for rental to surrounding communities, but if it is, and it’s not too expensive, it may be a good addition to the amenities of this neighborhood.

Feedback on Street Fair?

I received this email from the organizers of the Irving and 10th street fair:

“On behalf of the Inner Sunset Street Fair (SFF) organizing committee, I want to send a heartfelt to all of you who joined us at the first ever Inner Sunset Street Fair, last Saturday May 15th. Opening up Irving Street and 10th Avenue to the neighborhood was everything we dreamed of and more. Circus entertainers, all-day massage, local arts and crafts, a packed music schedule, outdoors yoga and Tai Chi, and neighbors doing the Lindy hop together… all of that, mixed with neighbors coming together, children smiling, and connections being created, made this a unique occasion.

“Underlying the street fair’s design was our collective belief in the importance of public space for community-building, not just for vehicles; in the value of people as citizens, not just consumers; and in the need to celebrate the many wonderful people, projects, and organizations that make the Inner Sunset. We think opening up the streets to all of this was a big success and we hope you will join us to making it happen more often.

“As this was our first street fair, we learned a lot and we expect next year’s street fair (you heard it – there will be another!) to be even better. However, only with your feedback on this year’s event can we make next year’s occasion really shine. Your input is crucial! To that end, we would be grateful if you would fill out this short anonymous survey:  Thank you in advance.

“Lastly, thank you to the wonderful ISSF team – Chris (co-chair), Wendy, Randy, Jason, Tanya, Trina, Walter, Jim, Ellen, Tracy, Jamie, and Blas – for their wonderful work. Without their amazing dedication, this event would not have been possible. Thank you also to the many other supporters and sponsors – from individuals to local businesses and organizations – who also made this possible.

“We will see you next year – and surely long before then. All the best, Adam, Chris, and the ISSF team

“ps. Here’s my (Adam) personal thoughts on the day, encapsulated in this blog.  I also recommend checking out the great photos on the ISSF website.”


Separately, someone gave us a heads-up about a Census of Farmer’s Markets:



Each year the USDA does a census of farmers markets. It yields critical information about where and when farmers markets are operating, as well as what federal nutrition assistance programs are accepted at which farmers markets.

When you see statistics – in the press, quoted by politicians, or used as a way to chart the local food movement and prove its reach — they come from this census.

The results turn around quickly: this year’s numbers will be released in August.

West Portal Street Fair, May 2010

Hard on the heels of its Arts Festival, and on the same day as the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors street fair comes West Portal’s annual Sell and Tell.

All its marvelous merchants will set up stalls on the sidewalk. Here’s what the newsletter from West Portal Books says:

This Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Come check out the West Portal Merchants’ Annual Sidewalk “Sell & Tell.” Stroll the avenue, chat with the merchants, and “Get Smart.” There will be brief demos, prizes and more!

Street Fair, Irving at 10th

This website is a good place to let people know about nearby events and activities that might interest people in Forest Knolls. In that spirit, we bring you another Street Fair announcement. This one’s at Irving and 10th. It’s put on by the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors.

Here’s what the notice says:

“Enjoy the music, art, crafts, dance, and food of our neighbors.  The California Academy of Science, Circus Center, Sunset Academy of Music, San Francisco Massage Collective, Sutro Stewards, UCSF and many more neighborhood groups will be sharing their skills and talents.

“In conjunction with the San Francisco’s Small Business Week, local merchants will be holding sidewalk sales throughout the neighborhood along with 40 booths displaying local artists and services.  Of course the Inner Sunset has over 75 food and beverage establishments to choose a meal from, just a few steps away from the fair.

“Borrowing from Ciclovia of Bogota Colunbia, the fair will start with yoga and tai chi lessons at 10 and 11am. Then at noon the Pearse Connolly Fife Drum Band will kick off an afternoon of live music on the Irving Street stage featuring folk to jazz to blues.  At 6pm, “Lindy in the Park” will teach everyone a few new steps and from 6:30 to 8:30 the Sunset’s own Dianne Nola and the 7 against 8 Swing Band will fill the street with song and dance.”

The co-chairs are Adam Greenfield (415-786-2143) and Chris Duderstadt (415-517-2754)

If you want more details including a detailed program and a list of entertainment; or you want to sign-up, volunteer, or sponsor something – they have a website. (Or click on the picture above.)

West Portal Festival (Apr 10-11, 2010)

Someone called to tell me about a great little art festival at West Portal this weekend.  “There are stalls all the way down on both sides,” he said, “You should check it out.”

I did, of course, intending to browse for a bit.   It was not so little – there were something like seventy stalls. There were ceramics. Art glass (including one artist whose work reminded me of Dale Chihuly’s). Handcrafted jewelry of fused glass or silver or beautiful stones. Handmade clothing, dramatic and unique. Furniture. Inlaid wood mirrors. Artistic switchplates. Books made into boxes.  And wonderful art, from oil paintings to beautiful photographs to prints and hand-drawn pictures and water-colors.  Kaleidoscopes. Handmade dolls’ clothing to fit “American Girl” dolls. Wooden toys. Handmade dolls and animals, including a few monsters.

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I got a few photographs for this website which I’ve set up as a slide-show above. (See if it works for you, this is the first time I’ve tried one. You should be able to either click through, or let the pictures change automatically.) Not everyone wanted their stalls photographed. (Some have had their designs stolen by people who photograph and reproduce them.)

The mood was mellow and friendly, with artists all willing to talk about their work.  Some of the regular West Portal merchants had taken advantage of the activity to put out their own outside displays. It’s on tomorrow and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s a nice place to pick up one-of-a-kind gifts for your friends, your home,yourself. I hadn’t planned to buy anything, but I did anyway. I’ll probably go back tomorrow.