A Neighbor’s Beautiful Farewell to Forest Knolls

copyright erika burke - fog in forest knolls

Neighbor Erika Burke is a copywriter, editor and website designer,  and loves to write for herself and her clients. Here’s her website: scribe415.com

And she’s moving. Not far, happily, just across Clarendon Avenue – but away from Forest Knolls neighborhood. In farewell,  she wrote a poem and sent some photographs.  (All photographs in this page are hers, and used with permission.)

erika burke 1

The glittering lights sparkle like myriad lives lived in the distance spackling the hillsides from my perch high atop San Francisco’s Wuthering Heights.
After the sun has split the sky into breathtaking colors that only imagination can conjure.
The sea so far in the distance is mine in its perfect horizon.
I bid it farewell this view that makes whole my inside with natures varying perfection.
Sweeping, fortuitous, the dear fog, the swooping birds, the implacable hills, the bitty boxes, the impossible clouds, the silence.
It has been mine, in my sight.
I am expanded forever.

Farewell, Erika and enjoy your new place!

erika burke sunset 2

Nearly Halloween…

Here’s a reminder and a new announcement.
First: Laura Bloch is organizing a trick-or-treat loop in Forest Knolls (details HERE). Please email her at LJBloch@aol.com if you want to participate, and you’ll get a free mini-pumpkin and a sign for your house. You can participate even if you’re not on the loop – but I suggest making your sign and lights very prominent!  Participants agree to be home from 5.30-8 p.m. (and of course, have candy!)

pumpkin vultures

And Barbara Oleksiw invites all pre-teens to a Halloween celebration at 6th and Irving – here are the details.

Pre-Teen Halloween, Friday, Oct. 31, 7p, NW corner of Sixth & Irving
Join us for our annual Pumpkin Promenade of more than 60 hand-carved pumpkins, hot cider, mulled wine, cotton-candy, “treats” for the kids, and any other mischief we can arrange. Bring a dessert to share, if you’re so inclined.Barbara: 415/

UCSF’s 15-Minute Public Hearing – Sept 2014

UCSF held a meeting for public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on its Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) on Sept 22, 2014. About 15-20 neighbors showed up. No one (including me) had any comments ready. The meeting started at 7p.m. and adjourned at 7.15 p.m.


I picked up a copy of the DEIR; it’s roughly 2 inches thick. The electronic version on UCSF’s website is HERE.

UCSF are accepting written comments until October 14th.

It was surprising that no one commented. It was such a contrast with a similar meeting last year for DEIR comments about cutting down trees in Sutro Forest. There, 250 people showed up, 50 spoke (with over 70% opposed), and it ran to 9.15 p.m.


This EIR was for the Long Range Development Plan, which is mainly about construction and changes in usage in Parnassus as well as UCSF’s other campuses. They have said that Sutro Forest is specifically excluded, since it will have its own Plan and will presumably have another EIR.

(As of now, we understand that UCSF has a new plan for Sutro Forest that focuses on fire hazard and commits to not using herbicides. We actually think the plan will increase, not decrease, the fire hazard by drying out the forest and making it windier. Anyway, the only information we have about the plan came from a Powerpoint presentation. There’s no EIR yet, but UCSF has said the new plan would need a new EIR when they can devote resources to it.)

Meanwhile, what UCSF has been doing is cutting down trees first for “fire safety” and then for “hazard reduction. More trees are expected to be felled before year end. This is considered routine maintenance and doesn’t require an EIR.

As far as we can gauge right now, the LRDP still affects the Forest in three ways:

  • A new trail is to be built from the Inner Sunset side, which is good; but it is likely to cost trees, which is bad.
  • They are removing Aldea Student Housing from the space ceiling, with the immediate effect of preserving some buildings scheduled to be knocked down, and a long term impact of – who knows?
  • They plan to knock down two small office buildings in the forest – just off the parking lots. It’s a Space Ceiling issue.


We will possibly be impacted by UCSF removing Aldea Student Housing from the Space Ceiling. The immediate effect is that they will keep three buildings they had planned to knock down.

In the longer term, it could mean expansion at Aldea, which would of course impact our neighborhood, since the only thing between the student housing area and Forest Knolls is a strip of trees – which was thinned last August, so the housing is now clearly visible from Christopher.

At present, UCSF has said the LRDP includes no plans to expand in Aldea.

If I figure out any other impacts, I’ll post about it here.


This warning comes from the excellent Bernalwood neighborhood blog … but as more people are parking outside, I thought it’s something our neighborhood should also be aware of. I’m reblogging it here with permission from Bernalwood. (Thanks!)



Hypothetical scenario: You park your car on a Bernal Heights street with a shiny set of your house keys tucked beneath the visor or stashed in the glovebox.

Sound insane? Completely daft? Does that hypothetical scenario generate a visceral sense of foreboding and anxiety?

Good! It should! Because it’s totally nuts! After all, we all know that if someone broke into your car, they would also get your house keys. And once they have your your house keys, they can also rob your house. Obviously.

Yet that’s also why it’s a very bad idea to leave a remote garage door opener in your parked car. Neighbor Miranda writes:

I just want to have the people of Bernal know that my home on Gates and Powhattan was almost robbed this week.  The would-be thieves pried my roommates back window of his truck open and stole the garage door opener.  That is…

View original post 238 more words

Crestmont Preservation, New Dates

The steep hillside above the planned development

There are new dates for the Draft Environmental Impact Report on the San Francisco Overlook Project (formerly the Crestmont Project).

If a project needs an Environmental Impact Review — as this one does —  they have to publish a Draft Report and then open it for public comments. That’s what is about to happen for the “SF Overlook” project to insert multiple housing units at the end of the longest cul-de-sac in the city, and on a slope so steep that the houses above are on stilts.

[GO HERE  for the background on this project – and the continuing objections.]

This is from Dr Sobol:


Update, 4-13-12 We have been notified by the Planning Department that the Draft Environmental Impact Report  (DEIR) for the proposed SF Overlook development is now expected to be published either on Wednesday, April 25, or Wednesday, May 2.

The public comment period begins at that time and the public hearing before the Planning commission will be scheduled either on Thursday, June 7, or Thursday, June 14, depending on the actual date of the DEIR publication.

Please pencil in these dates in your calendar! We will alert you to the final publication and hearing dates as soon as they are confirmed. Once published, we plan to mobilize all our resources to make our neighborhood’s voice heard.

STOP SF OVERLOOK t-shirts can be ordered here: http://www.zazzle.com/preservecrestmont
We have also posted a link on http://crestmontpreservation.org.

Please display the poster in your window and urge your neighbors to also display the poster! If you need a poster, please call 415-640-3869 or email info@crestmontpreservation.org.

Letter from Clarendon School

At the request of Walter Caplan, we’re posting this letter from the Principal of the Clarendon School. (Click twice on it for a clearer copy if this looks a bit blurry.)


A Blue Spark on Clarendon

So there I was, working away at my computer, when my room suddenly lit up with a bright blue light. It was gone before I turned to the window. Then there was another, and another, and this time I saw it. Trees or branches from the hillside above Clarendon Avenue, destabilized by an earlier fall there last year  and the ongoing rain — and perhaps by the maintenance work that’s been happening along the avenue — had fallen onto the power line. A thin column of smoke rose from where the spark had been, and I wondered if there would be a fire. Nope.

I called 911 anyway. The power lines looked scrunched. There’s a fire truck parked across the street from them now. Wonder what they’ll do next.

Okay, PG&E is on the scene with red flares to block off the road for a bit. Men in bright yellow jackets are talking on the phone. Guess the next step is to cut the branches off.

ETA: Things have settled down. PG&E is still on the scene, but now the rain’s abated and the guys are in standard orange vests. I’m putting up a better picture now that I don’t have to photograph through rain and mist.

ETA2: Follow-up story here.

Laguna Honda Reservoir: 9 Feb 2011 meeting with PUC

I posted about the Laguna Honda Reservoir a few  times (here, here, and here and here). The SF PUC wants to put in a gravel yard and a Dive Team office in a space they had said they would restore into a green area.

The neighbors are meeting with the SF PUC on 9 February 2011  from 6.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m, at the Woods Social Center, 600 Clarendon Avenue, San Francisco  CA. It’s a public meeting, open to everyone. If you’re interested in the reservoir, it may be helpful.

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.]

West Portal Mystery

We went to West Portal last evening with a couple of simple errands that would take us to St Francis Market or Eezy Freezy and Walgreens. When we got there, we found several fire-trucks, lights flashing, on the first block near the Chase Bank branch.

There was no sign of fire or smoke, but there were half a dozen emergency response vehicles out there, and fire-crew. Someone came out of the Chase branch, talked to them, went back in.

It looked quite normal. Soon, he came out accompanied by another person, probably another bank employee. Meanwhile, the crew had placed a ladder against the other side of the building, between Bookshop West Portal and the Chase building.

I asked the bank person what happened. “Someone smelled something,” he said. “Something burning. We called 911 just to be careful. They have it all under control now.”

We left to do our errands, with a small detour via the Bookshop. (It’s difficult to avoid small detours via bookstores.) I headed for St Francis Market.

That’s when the lights went out. The whole of the first block went dark.

“It’s like the beginning of a mystery story,” my companion said. “When the lights come back on, there’s a corpse.”

“There’s an author who writes West Portal mysteries,” I said. “Maybe she could use this.”

It looked like the rest of the street had lights, so we went on to Walgreens, in the middle of the second block. Despite the fact that stores on either side had power, Walgreens was dark. Curiouser and curiouser.

Over coffee (and a gingerbread man) at West Portal Bakery, we decided to go to the Safeway at Taraval. It turned out that several blocks of homes were also powerless. But from about 14th avenue and Taraval, the lights returned.

Except, Safeway was also dark. Curiouser and curiouser and curiouser yet.

We couldn’t figure out whether the power loss was incidental to whatever brought the firetrucks, or if it was part of the same problem. We couldn’t understand the pattern of power failure, either: Why Walgreens and Safeway, both standing amid buildings that apparently had normal power?

If it were a novel, this would be the Coincidence that was Not a Coincidence.

In the event, nothing happened. A couple of hours later, we drove through again. The lights were back on. I presume there was no corpse.


Edited to Add: The story has an interesting coda. Since Bookshop West Portal was in darkness after our failed errand, we went to Borders at Stonestown. We bought one or two books (or it might have been three or four), then went home.

This morning, my email in-box had a message from Bruce Black (not someone I know) headed “Your wallet.” Someone had turned in my wallet that I’d apparently dropped or abandoned at Borders.

They tracked me down by my Borders membership card.  I got my wallet back intact, and they wouldn’t accept a reward.

Thanks, Bruce (and whoever turned it in). You’re terrific.

Season’s Greetings!

Here is a selection of decorations from around our neighborhood. They’re delightful, (even if not as ubiquitous as those at Midtown Terrace especially the wonderful Santa’s Court). Happy Holidays, everyone!

West Portal Has Christmas Windows

Everyone knows about Union Square and the decorations there. Macys has puppies and kittens in its windows. Tiffany has a fairy-tale in paper-sculpture. But our own local shopping village, West Portal, has Christmas windows too.

(“You keep writing about West Portal,” a friend said.  It’s true. I go there nearly every day. It’s an easy place to run almost any errand, once you figure out the parking.  The meters accept parking cards, and there’s street parking on the streets around. And it still feels sort of small-town… quite different than going to a mall.)

So, the windows.

Shaws, the confectioner’s, has giant nutcrackers turning their heads, and a funny reindeer.

West Portal Antiques has a lovely traditional tree and doll’s house, as well as toys on a sled and a silver candelabra.

Citipets has Christmas in one window, and Chanukah in the other.

But the one I thought was the most amusing was the Zombie Outbreak in the window of the hardware store Papenhausen. Santa Zombie Claus!

I only took pictures of a few – and if anyone wants to add their favorites, I’d be happy to do it.

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

Emerald Forest and Manor Cafe

I’m generally late putting up a Christmas tree. We use the real trees, and I’m always afraid that if I put it up too soon, it’ll dry out — especially since it’s usually January 2nd week before I take it down again.

This year’s no exception. Everywhere I go, windows are full of brilliant trees. The city’s live tree in Golden Gate Park is already lit. We got round to tree shopping only last night.

I always buy my tree at the same place: Emerald Forest, at Sloat and 19th. Clancy’s at 7th and Warren is closer, and I’m sure they’re pretty good. But where I go is Emerald Forest.

I usually go in the afternoon or evening. Parking isn’t a problem then, though they have only a few spaces just outside their lot, off of Sloat. The bright lights and flags and illuminated Santa and wreaths hanging by the gate all celebrate the season.

Inside, it does feel like a forest. The aisles of trees are sweet-scented with pine and fir. The ground’s always a little damp and covered in pine needles and mulch. Most of the trees tower over my head (which is admittedly not difficult to achieve). I know exactly where to look for our tree: In the aisle near the back, on the right.

And I know what I’m seeking: A tree that’s about 5 feet tall, springy and fresh, bushy and symmetrical. (The symmetry always seems important initially; by the time it’s covered with ornaments, it will matter far less. But each year, we forget that; each year we seek the perfect tree.)

I told the lady running the tree lot I’d blog about them. Were they a family-run business?

“Oh yes! And we’ve been here for twenty years,” she told me.

Was there anything they’d like to say? I inquired.

“Oh, I don’t know… maybe that we sell Silver Tips? Not many places have those. People come all the way from Marin and San Jose for them.” (They had a selection of Douglas Fir, Nobles, and Silvertips. We always get a Noble, ourselves.)

She attended to the purchase of our tree, and filled out the paperwork while in the background, some helpers put it on a vibrating platform to shake off the excess needles.

“And I guess we do flocking. Not many people do that any more.” I don’t want flocking on my tree, but I could see into the flocking tent, where they had trees in red, white and blue.

But I don’t go to Emerald Forest for flocking or Silvertips.  My reason’s much simpler: They deliver.

Not only do they deliver, they bring the tree right into my living room, and set it up for me in the tree-stand I’ve had for years.

And they remember my name, even though I only see them once a year. Quite a feat, that. I don’t think I could match it.

# # #

This afternoon we stopped at the Manor Cafe at West Portal. It was all lights, garland, and festive display. A carousel turned, a Santa climbed a ladder, a toy box held moving miniature skaters. (“It’s a lot of work,” they said when I complimented them on the decorations.) If you like Christmas kitsch — as I do — it was worth it!

With coffee, I ordered the mango pudding. I was glad I did. It had an authentic mango flavor, and was drizzled with raspberry sauce and circled with berries.

All in all, an instant mood lift.