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Dog Bites 

Wednesday, Jul 14 1999
Not in My Parking Lot
Dog Bites wouldn't normally get worked into a froth over Willie Brown's developer friends' latest schemes, but this time, they've gone too far: They're threatening our parking space.

Here at the swanky China Basin Landing office complex, right in the heart of the soon-to-be-redeveloped Mission Bay waterfront, we park in a lot that -- when it's not partially flooded -- provides 600 spaces for the building's tenants. We knew that the building's former owners had been required to supply parking in order to get the zoning variance that allowed them to convert the China Basin building from a warehouse to office space, so we weren't especially concerned when the state Department of Transportation admitted that SOMA would lose 10,000 parking spaces over the next few years as new developments fill formerly empty lots, and freeway retrofitting closes others.

We had our space; we have the little tag hanging from the rearview mirror to prove it.

But holy Toyota! Now we hear that in a couple of months, the parking lot -- our parking lot -- will be redeveloped by Catellus (ever so coincidentally, a former legal client of Willie L. Himself) as a shopping center-slash-office-slash-apartment complex. Of course, Dog Bites is torn. On the one hand, we're thinking Noah's, Jamba Juice, Walgreens, a little counter-service noodle restaurant with, like, lacquered tabletops -- all those unmistakable signs of urban progress we normally adore. But on the other -- our parking space!

At the same time, the Blackstone Group, current owner of China Basin (and, ever so coincidentally, investors, along with Willie L. Himself, in a housing development in the greater Sacramento area, provided that isn't a contradiction in terms), plans to add an additional three stories to the complex's streetside building, more than doubling its height to 85 feet.

We would have thought this would mean Blackstone would have to provide more parking -- but we would have been wrong. Back in 1993, the city's Planning Department suggested that the China Basin building be required to construct a minimum number of parking spaces -- 885, in fact -- in its basement. "The building as approved would have provided parking on-site within the structure, but subsequently this was determined to be infeasible," noted the Planning Department (italics ours).

In other words, it was a whole lot less expensive to make tenants park in the crumbling lot across the street -- in which, we note, a torn garbage bag full of petrified dog shit has been languishing for weeks now -- than to add parking to the permanent infrastructure of the area.

In fact, the building's then-owners whined unashamedly to the city until the parking requirement was reduced to 600 spaces, which only have to exist somewhere within a half-mile of the complex. Still, in the end, nearly everyone who couldn't get a space in the lot found parking spots on the weedy, graveled shoulders of Third and Fourth streets, and life went on.

But now that the Giants' new stadium -- 42,000 seats and only 5,000 parking spaces -- is going up across Third Street, Sony's monstrous, and 100 percent parking-free, Metreon complex has opened, and work on the huge Moscone West expansion is set to begin in February, Dog Bites isn't quite so sanguine. The parking problem is beginning to hit home, and we don't like it one bit. After Catellus breaks ground on its office-shopping-residential complex in our current parking lot, we'll be shuffled across Fourth Street to a vacant lot, which, it must be said, looks like the kind of place in which our bland lease-mobile will get extremely dusty. And even that spot will be lost the following year, when Catellus goes on to construct a new entertainment center with a 12-screen movie theater.

Now, much as the city is in dire need of another multiplex with inadequate parking facilities, we have to wonder how anyone is going to get to any of these many stellar attractions. It's not just our parking lot; it seems the entire Mission Bay project is being approved on the blithe assumption that hey, people can walk, can't they? (Well, other people can, anyway.)

Dog Bites may be just a girl, but it seems to us that when people have a hard time getting somewhere, they find somewhere else to get to. Of course, we're not experts, or anything.

Never Mind the Y2K Countdown Here's the Nexus Kitchen
Of course, while development is a bad thing when it happens here, it's a good thing when it happens somewhere else, as long as that somewhere else is within driving distance and includes a vast surrounding acreage of blacktop, has convenient evening shopping hours, and is a purveyor of armchairs called Flen.

Naturally, we're talking about the new IKEA store in Emeryville.
The project's opening date has been moving back and back and back ever since we first heard rumor of the Impossible Furniture Store from Sweden's impending arrival, but a huge sign on I-80 now claims (as does the IKEA Web site) that the housewares emporium will really, for sure, definitely this time, open in spring 2000.

Dog Bites, whose apartment is furnished in a style that might best be described as "involuntary minimalism," is counting down the hours until store launch day -- oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy! -- and, though we haven't yet spoken to an IKEA representative to confirm this, is working from an assumed opening date ("ETI," or Estimated Time of IKEA) of April 6, 2000.

Which gives us 268 days, or 6,432 hours, before we can spend afternoons gazing, mothlike and dazed, up at the Kalcium pendant lamps, or flipping through the Marimekko knockoff sheets, or touring the kitchen vignettes (beechwood laminate or frosted glass?) -- until we can bear it no more and have to buy a pastry brush and some of those paper napkins they always have by the cash registers, just so we don't go home empty-handed, feeling like complete losers.

We can't wait.

In last week's item about the Chronicle's new extra-ultra-double-plus-tippy-top-secret weekly section -- which, an employee says angrily, is "not in the least bit intended" to be alternative -- we mistakenly identified architecture critic Zahid Sardar as an employee of the Chron.

A friendly employee of the Examiner e-mailed us to point out our error and suggest that we were, perhaps, retaliating against the paper after its cartoonist, Don Asmussen, suggested that we were male. Had that been the case, of course, it would have been tough to know who got the worst of the dust-up: Would it be more dreadful to be male, or a Chron employee?

Meanwhile, Suck Special Guest Editor Tim Cavanaugh, possibly feeling a little touchy, banged out the following e-mail:

Joke's on you, Laurel. [Excuse us; have we been properly introduced?] Making sport of Suck's yesterdaysnewsness is wack; even Modern Maturity realizes Suck is yesterday's news. In fact, by this point we're about due for a retro bounce, so the Chron would actually be ahead of the scoopology curve with this article, and get mad props for having such a tight post-ironic game.

Wow, "retro bounce" already? It seems like just yesterday that HotWired had over 175 employees, most of whom were only slightly more unfamiliar with the term "accelerated vesting" than they were with footwear that didn't involve Velcro. Suddenly, Dog Bites is feeling a little old and tired, and maybe even tearily nostalgic for all the things that have just ... slipped away. Why, it's been months since we've bought a decaf soy latte at Caffe Centro.

Finally, we understand the Chron's new section will not be running a story on "hot new author" Po Bronson. As sporadic correspondent Strange de Jim notes, the correct signifier in this case is "hunky Po Bronson." Dog Bites regrets the error.

As told to Laurel Wellman

Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail

About The Author

Laurel Wellman


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