Redistricting, SF Overlook, and Coit Tower: West of Twin Peaks Central Council Meeting, Jan 2012

Another day, another visit to a lovely building. This time, it was the Forest Hill clubhouse to attend a meeting of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council (WTPCC). This is a group of some twenty neighborhood organizations, including Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization, The Woods, and Mt Sutro Woods Home Owners Association.

Here’s my take on it  — and things you might want to act on.


San Francisco Rec and Parks  had a bond issue back in 2008 and want to come back for more. Though Dawn Kamalanathan made an excellent presentation, with pictures of kids and playgrounds, I got a sense of skepticism from the room.

The first set of questions related to the funding: If SFRPD borrows $185 mn from the public, it will have to pay interest and then pay it back… with taxpayer funds. Where, people wanted to know, are the repayments coming from?

The second issue was that SFRPD has spent money on extensive capital improvements, but it doesn’t have the operating budget to maintain them – or indeed, anything else. One example was JP Murphy Playground, where they renovated and improved the clubhouse, and then laid off the director and closed it down. Someone else quoted a park in her area, where improvements were made and all the gardeners laid off or retired and weren’t replaced.

A third set of concerns – where I also spoke – was about the Natural Areas Program and how funding it is leading to tree felling, habitat destruction and a growing use of Tier I and Tier II pesticides. Is this a good idea to fund?

Later, someone pessimistically told me that bond measures always pass because they’re paid for by home-owners but voted for by renters – and renters are the majority in San Francisco. I dunno.  I was a little puzzled at the tone of the whole thing. It was not exactly, We really need to do these specific things, and so we need the money. It was more like, We really want to raise some money, and so you tell us how you want us to spend it. Odd.


The steep hillside above the planned development

As readers of this site will know, the old Crestmont project slated for the dead end steep slope on Crestmont Drive has been revived in a new guise: San Francisco Overlook. (My article on the original project is here.) An Environmental Impact Report has been submitted to City Hall, and it’s under review.

The WTPCC wrote a letter in support of the Mount Sutro Woods Homeowners Association, which is spearheading the resistance to this dangerous project. (The picture here is the steep slope just above the planned development.)


Jon Golinger made a presentation explaining that though the San Francisco Rec and Parks Dept (SFRPD) is making maybe $500 thousand a year from Coit Tower, it’s not maintaining the place at all. Lights are broken, signs are outdated and warped, and worst of all, there’s water damage on the historic murals. Meanwhile, SFRPD wants to change the concessionaire and rent out the space for private events.

The group is trying to get enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot to force SFRPD to spend some of the money it makes off Coit Tower in maintaining and improving it. If anyone would like to collect signatures for them before Feb 4th, please email me at, I have a signature sheet. Their website is at


Every ten years, San Francisco’s districts are redrawn, based on population. This year, the growth in population in District 6, because of all the new building there, means all the lines have to be redrawn. Here’s the preliminary draft of the proposed new districts.

According the the tentative plan proposed by the Redistricting committee, Forest Knolls, Miraloma Park, Mount Sutro Woods, and Galewood Circle,  The Woods and Twin Peaks Improvement Association would all move to District 8.

The concern for WTPCC is that such an arrangement would mean that the concerns of the homeowners of the current District 7 would be over-ridden by the quite different concerns of the voters on the other side of Twin Peaks. They have made a different proposal. In the map below, everything within the blue boundary would be D7. (The colors denote the various Neighborhood Organizations.)

I think it’s a pretty good option, but I’m concerned that Mount Sutro goes into an entirely different district. Rising as it does above our neighborhood, everything that happens there (at least on this side) affects us. If the trees are felled and there are landslides when their roots die, our neighborhood is where they’ll land. If they start using pesticides as the Natural Areas Program does regularly on Twin Peaks, it’s our area it’ll wash into. If the tree-felling destroys the windbreak, guess which neighborhood gets the wind?

West of Twin Peaks Council Meeting

Last evening, I attended the West of Twin Peaks Central Council meeting. The WTPCC is an umbrella organization; its members are neighborhood associations, including the Crestmont/ Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization. Kristine Zaback attended for Forest Knolls. Judy Clarke represented The Woods, a home-owners’ association of townhomes next to Laguna Honda reservoir on Clarendon Avenue, which was inducted into the Council at this meeting.

WTPCC meets in the romantic Maybeck clubhouse in Forest Hills. It’s a lovely old building, though a bit dim — mainly because the brick and wood walls absorb light. Still, the lighting was bright enough on the head table and the speakers.


Though the 2+ hour meeting covered a good deal of ground, the focus was on three main issues:

  • In-law (secondary) units.

Should San Francisco add housing by letting owners convert a single family home into a multi-family home? Many neighborhoods oppose it, primarily because of population density issues. More households will mean, for example, more cars; it would impact the character of the neighborhood. Neighbors were concerned that the City wants to push for increased housing density on the Westside, primarily to raise property tax yields.

Apparently, some language in the Housing Element (which is sort of like the overall plan for San Francisco housing) was changed after the Environmental Impact Report was finalized (in “Draft III” — this link is to the “red-lined” PDF file showing the changes). Instead of “Density limits should be maintained” it now reads, “Height and bulk limits…”

[From the document: Within a community supported based planning process, the City may consider using the building envelope, as established by height, bulk, set back, parking and other Code requirements, to regulate the maximum residential square footage, rather than density controls that are not consistent with existing patterns. In setting allowable residential densities in established neighborhoods, consideration should be given to the prevailing building type in the surrounding area so that new development does not detract from existing character. In some areas, such as RH-1 and RH-2, density limits should be maintained to prevailing height and bulk limits should be maintained to protect neighborhood character.]

They were also concerned about a change in the language that takes power away from the neighborhoods and places it in “the community” — a vague and general term that includes everyone with an interest in the matter.

(From Draft III: Ensure neighborhood-supported community based planning processes are used to generate changes to land use controls.)

Planning Commissioner Antonini, who voted to approve Draft III despite disagreeing with those particular changes, was at the meeting; he suggested the best way for neighborhoods to protect themselves was through Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that were actually known to San Francisco’s Planning Commission. He also suggested neighborhood organizations or Homeowner Associations should charge enough to make a difference. There was some question as to whether the city could over-ride a CC&R.

  • High speed rail.

 Judge Quentin Kopp, introduced by Denise La Pointe of Twin Peaks Improvement Association, spoke about the High Speed Rail project. The idea is to have a high-speed rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and ultimately San Diego. The first section is planned to be built from somewhere near Fresno down to Bakersfield, an area where they can test the trains at full speed (about 220 mph). It’ll be funded by a mix of stimulus funds and bond money. It’s projected to be open for ridership around 2018.

  • Park Merced redevelopment.

 The whole area of Park Merced is gradually to be redeveloped, increasing housing density. The main issue seems to be whether tenants in currently rent-controlled apartments will get comparable housing at the same price later on. Though the owners say yes, there seems to be no bomb-proof legal format to assure it. The Development Agreement wouldn’t necessarily survive a legal challenge. The Environment Impact Report will be voted on today, March 29. District 7 Supervisor, Sean Elsbernd came to the meeting to take feedback and comments before the vote.


Dennis Herrera, currently City Attorney, is running for mayor. He described his four main thrusts as City Attorney: Code enforcement (building codes etc); Public safety (mainly by injunctions against known gang members — some of whom weren’t even residents of the city), and also by curbing illegal dumping by roofing companies; Fiscal responsibility (dealing with construction cost over-runs and scams targeting school districts); Protecting small businesses that do work for the Department of Public Works by co-ordinating with DPW to make their requirements more definitive and transparent. He offered his vision: “Make San Francisco a city that works.”


1. Miraloma Park had some issues with a CVS Pharmacy planned to open there: It was going to sell liquor and stay open until 11 p.m. After discussions with neighbors, it will not sell liquor and will close be 10 p.m.

2. There are some ongoing issues at Laguna Honda Hospital, which may need to be addressed at another meeting.

3. The National Parks Service new plan for a 75% reduction in off-leash areas for dogs will likely lead to overcrowding: When the tsunami threat closed Ocean Beach, other areas saw a surge in dog visitors. (Comments to the plan will be accepted at the website here or by mail — no emails or faxes.)

4. Phil Ginsburg of Rec & Parks Dept is committed to public/private partnerships in many areas.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some… if anyone has anything to add, email me at fk94131 at — or leave a comment. (Comments are moderated against spam, so they won’t appear right away, but they will show up.)

[ETA: Here’s a link to the Westside Observer report on the meeting.]