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Letters to the Editor 

Week of October 23, 2002

Bark of Darkness

Another happy resident in Matt Smith's bright world: Besides disliking dogs, Matt Smith seems to suffer from a loathing of democracy. The result is another dog-bashing, supervisor-slamming diatribe ["The Horror," Oct. 2] that paints all things un-Smithian as Heart of Darkness conspiracies by sinister dog owners and overstepping legislators.

Clearly, Smith would prefer that San Franciscans shut up and go along with the program of the mayor and his Park and Planning Department bureaucrats. Recently, in a similar Weekly article, Smith claimed that the widespread criticism of Rec/Park's Natural Areas Program was just a dog owners'/supervisors' plot against nature: "Dog owners, compliant pols viciously distort a reasonable attempt to preserve our environmental legacy" ("The Nature of Politics," July 24).

Stanford ecologist Joan Roughgarden debunked that rant last month in a letter to the Rec/Park Department exposing the Natural Areas Management Plan as "not viable ecologically, economically, or culturally." Perhaps she had Matt Smith in mind when Professor Roughgarden also wrote, "With public attention and opposition building to the Natural Areas Program, a circle-the-wagons atmosphere has formed, with any criticism of the plan seen as the onslaught of barbarians."

This month, Smith's crass misrepresentation of the Rec/Park Dog Policy again reveals his hunger to swallow bureaucratic propaganda without critical thought and without actually reading anything. Smith claims that the Rec/Park (anti) Dog Policy would only require dogs to be on leash "in about half of the city's vast parklands." In fact, the policy would immediately require dogs to be on leash in more than 99 percent of parklands -- everywhere except the current 18 slum sites provided by RPD for San Francisco's 120,000 dogs and their owners.

Supervisor Yee's proposed ordinance would not "allow dogs to roam unfettered everywhere" as Smith claims. It maintains the status quo, pending gradual change based on community input. Yee's ordinance prohibits dogs from children's play areas and many other facilities, while requiring off-leash dogs to be under their guardians' control at all times. Further, it provides increased fines for violations. Most importantly, it takes a management approach to off-leash recreation in the parks rather than Rec/Park's preference for punitive solutions to community concerns.

We are fortunate in San Francisco to have supervisors who are willing to take on difficult issues and to intervene when departments are unresponsive to the public. In Matt Smith's bright world, we wouldn't need a legislative branch of government -- just Willie Brown and his appointed bureaucrats, with no other recourse. The Horror!

Steve Cockrell
President, Citydogs
Potrero Hill

Living Large

Thanks, but we prefer beer: Prop. R is so weak beneath its initial surface appeal that its proponents are scrambling for arguments to bolster it. The Weekly's "tour" of homes owned by Prop. R opponents ["You Don't Own Me," Matt Smith, Oct. 16] is a sign of how desperate they've become.

"Homeowners who oppose homeownership" assumes that if one opposes Prop. R he or she opposes all homeownership programs. Wrong! There are many homeownership programs that have been proposed and implemented by those very people you attempt to revile. Prop. R is opposed not because it's a homeownership program, but because it's extreme (3,400 conversions per year), with tenuous tenant protections, and has been previously tried and failed (both in San Francisco and Santa Monica).

Your attempt to adapt the Prop. R "logic" to other propositions could lead to equally absurd conclusions. How about a tour of "Water drinkers against water" to revile those opposing Prop. A?

J. Scott Weaver
Noe Valley

The Salient Minority: Thanks to Matt Smith for revealing a few of the many reasons Prop. R should be soundly rejected by San Francisco voters. In addition to repealing rent control on 3,400 units per year, Prop. R allows 25 percent of tenants in a building to eliminate such protections over the objections of the 75 percent majority. Rent control is eliminated even if none of the tenants comprising the 25 percent minority purchase their units. This bizarre concept of democracy befits a campaign funded not by tenants but by large downtown interests.

Randy Shaw
Director, Housing America/Tenderloin Housing Clinic

Newsprint's not that precious: Matt Smith squanders precious newsprint in order to inform us how evil it is that those who support Prop. R (the so-called "HOPE" initiative, formerly "HOT") have been able to buy their own homes. I can't see how this interferes with their judgment on this initiative. As a renter, I totally agree with them. The facts prove they are right.

Although the results would have clashed with Matt's anti-tenant journalistic bias, his time and effort would have been better spent investigating those behind this blatant scam. For example, he might want to start with the founding force behind this proposal, Pacific Investment Properties CEO Sarosh Kumana. Sarosh will benefit personally from HOPE's passage. His company owns over a hundred of these properties. Sarosh predicts that 10,000 units would be converted annually. The "lifetime-lease units" would be transformed into condos as soon the remaining tenants, who did not wish to purchase units, moved. And, as everyone knows, that would not be long. The result? Higher rental prices for everyone in the decades to come as the rental supply contracts. Only a fool or a realtor would support this ballot initiative.

Harry S. Pariser
Inner Sunset

SOUL Sister

Advice from a nonprofit veteran: The brief reference to me in this article ["SOUL Trainers," Oct. 16] distorts the point I made over and over in my conversation with Peter Byrne: my great admiration for and trust in the young activists of this generation. In discussing the fiscal casualness of many of us in the '60s movements, I was not endorsing that behavior. Most importantly, I did NOT say that I talk to SOUL people all the time -- sounds as if I'm a sort of adviser -- rather that I talk to young activists in general about the hazards of nonprofit funding, a reality already very clear to the savvy SOUL organizers.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Potrero Hill

Dreaming in Stereo

We'll have what he's having: Finally somebody gets it about the Apples in Stereo [Reviews, Oct. 2]. I've lived in Denver for decades (home to Pet Sounds' clubhouse until the band finally moved half a year ago), and if it ain't about the frickin' Apples, it's about JonBenet, Columbine, or those stupid polar bears. Yeah, the Apples are great ... and Carrot Top is the next Buster Keaton.

But dig this, SF Weekly: Once I had a dream that I chauffeured my precious minstrels to the Grammy Awards in a magic stretch limo with lollipop wheels and candy-pipe organs. Grooviness ensued as our little darlings swept every category and lipsank [sic] themselves flawlessly. Afterwards we all went to Raffi's mansion with George Martin and Brian Wilson and oh, how we partied! Much la-la-la-ing. There was a piñata too: a baby harp seal with fangs! (That was kind of scary; Brian Wilson cried.) Robert Schneider was then blindfolded, swinging a long stick wildly, until candy rained down in colorful sheets of fluffy surprise (food from the gods of music, I think). Then we all jumped fully clothed into the pool, were happy and shiny, and Raffi rocked till dawn. True story.

When I awoke in a cold sweat, I realized that I'd been listening to the Apples in mono all of these years. What a difference it makes otherwise!

John La Briola
Denver, Colo.


The photographs for Peter Byrne's story "SOUL Trainers" in last week's issue were credited incorrectly. They were shot by Donald R. Winslow. SF Weekly regrets the error.


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