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Letters to the Editor 

Lovable Luke; Who Knew Rent Control Was So Controversial?; Festival Facts; Correction

Shocked, repulsed, and sickened -- in our profession, we call that the hat trick: As a career women's studies teacher, I am shocked and repulsed by your article about Luke Brugnara ("Luke Brugnara Makes His Point," Jan. 30). The writer says all these horrible and criminal things about him in his well-researched article. The author writes about Brugnara's temper and his shady dealings, yet somehow a picture is painted of a kind of charming and quirky guy. We hear about his never-ending rage and his abuse of people I respect. Every sentence is about a man who rages and swaggers and mistreats public officials, and yet he comes off like John Wayne, a gruff and lovable guy. I am nauseous from reading the article about him. Yuck. What is going on, SF Weekly, have you lost your minds?

What do I care if he wants to own a casino in Las Vegas? And I hate how you handled the "mistress" section. We hear about how much this man enjoys his nature reserve and his $200 million, but his former "mistress" (with her child) is cast aside. Somehow you even manage to suggest the baby might not be his. That's sexist and absurd.

I can only picture the reporter driving all the way to Gilroy in Brugnara's big blue Mercedes. They are laughing and giggling and doing some nice male bonding while inspecting Brugnara's 200-acre nature reserve. I do hope they got to stop at a nice restaurant for lunch.

Alicia Williams
West Portal

The lunches at nice restaurants helped: The guy is a nut case! I applaud your courage in being able to interview him without running away in terror!

Megan Jervis

The only $100K Club we belong to is the one for credit card debt: Thank you for Matt Smith's report on the findings in the recently released study of San Francisco housing ("Legends in Our Own Minds," Jan. 30). It confirms what we've all known (or at least suspected) for some time: a) Many people who need a housing subsidy aren't getting one; b) many people who don't need a subsidy are getting one anyway; and c) the burden of providing those subsidies is not spread equitably among S.F. citizens.

It's high time we overhauled the city's housing laws so that everyone who needs housing assistance gets it, and that all the rest of us pitch in our fair share to make this possible. As it is, poverty-level families with children are forced to pay huge proportions of their income in rent, while members of the $100K+ Club enjoy sweet deals on their low-cost digs thanks to regulations that are not based on need. It just ain't right.

Robert Rosenbaum
Lower Haight

We're intellectually impaired and mathematically inept. So what do we think?: You have certainly exposed rent control for what it is, subsidy to some tenants and guarantee of stable returns to some landlords. Most non-intellectually impaired landlords and tenants will welcome your view (which is based on a nonbiased report); however, mathematically astute landlords and tenants alike will not. If rent control is eliminated, prices will drop and drop fast. Landlords won't be happy, and in the near future low-rent-paying tenants will have to pay more, [so] they won't be happy either.

Berele Matz

A shill of his former self: Matt Smith seems so determined to dismantle rent control in San Francisco that it's beginning to sound like he is a shill for the realty and development industries. Once again he simplifies the issue by falling back on his unwavering belief in the "market" to solve all social problems and by setting up rent control to be the culprit for all the city's housing woes. And once again he mixes apples with oranges with bananas by concluding simplistic cause-and-effect relationships between rent control, housing construction, dot-coms, live-work, and NIMBYs.

The one thing Matt makes a good point about is the problem with NIMBY resistance to housing development and increased housing density. This indeed exacerbates the supply shortage. However, after that one observation Matt's reasoning quickly begins to deconstruct. Somehow he concludes that rent control is an "entitlement for the rich" because a quarter of rent-control households have $100K incomes and a third of the city's seniors don't live in rent-controlled units. Well, Matt, that means 75 percent of rent-control households are not "rich" and 65 percent of seniors are living under rent control. That's exactly why rent control is effective, otherwise many of those folks would be out on their heads given current market rents.

The housing "crisis" is a complicated issue, one deserving of thorough investigation and analysis, not quick and simple answers. But Matt Smith seems to care more about ending rent control than he does about providing any useful insights into solving the city's complex housing needs.

Peter Cohen
Hayes Valley

Step right up, folks! See the landlord with a conscience. Only 25 cents!: I read your article on rent control, and I have to admit I was surprised about your perspective given what I assumed was a fairly liberal paper. As an apartment owner in S.F. for 10 years, with a social conscience, I believe your article is right on the mark. All too often the debate over rent control has been taken away from facts and sound economic theory.

I have benefited as an apartment owner by the restricted availability of housing due to the built-in incentive for people to keep below-market units off the market. Two years ago I had 40 people offer to rent one of my units in one hour of showing, two of whom offered to prepay me $28,000 in rent.

I am also angry at the built-in prejudice of our current rental laws that make it an unwise decision for me to rent to someone elderly or whom I may suspect has a debilitating illness, the "protected tenants."

I truly believe that if San Francisco wants affordable housing for its citizens, it needs to scrap its rent-control laws in favor of laws that allow apartment owners and tenants to operate in a more "normal" market-based system, but I am doubtful that our special interests would be willing to give up their current power.

David Kirk
Cow Hollow

The revised edition: Karen Silver's piece on the lack of a San Francisco book festival ("Read and Gone," Books, Jan. 30) did a nice job in capturing the challenges and politics involved in producing and maintaining a successful festival. I wanted to correct two points in the article -- first, in describing the early history of the S.F. Book Festival, she says that the "Northern California Independent Booksellers Association pulled out, launching its own fair, Books by the Bay, in 1996."

While it's true that the NCIBA did start Books by the Bay then, we did not withdraw our support of the Book Festival. Quite the opposite -- we actually stepped up our support, becoming major sponsors to the tune of $5,000 per year for the next four years, while maintaining prominent booth presence at all the festivals.

Also, this year's Books by the Bay is Saturday, July 20, not the July 21 date referenced in the article.

Hut Landon
Executive Director, NCIBA

The Jan. 30 cover story, "Luke Brugnara Makes His Point," erroneously stated that a child-support claim filed by Luke Brugnara's former mistress had been dismissed. The case is ongoing. SF Weekly regrets the error.


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