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Educating George
OK, Cothran, you want to call land economists "pointy-headed," huh ("Assholes on the March," Cothran, Jan. 6)? Well, you're nothing but a blinkered, biased, agenda-pushing hack, so nyah, nyah, nyah.

Er, wait, I'm thinking of that other weekly's writers ....
Anyway, although I have to agree that many of the lofts now being built in this city have about as much charm as the Reichstag, it's clear to anyone who has seriously studied the issue (sorry, George) that these residential units, poor design and all, are still a net benefit to the citizens of San Francisco.

First, the construction of new housing necessarily removes some of the inflationary pressure that's been causing home prices and rents to skyrocket, and that has also been leading the upwardly mobile to purchase existing homes in such affordable neighborhoods as the Mission and Bernal Heights, sometimes displacing lower-income tenants in the process. Second, "trickledown" does indeed occur in the housing market, although, granted, it's awfully slow. Third, given their prices, these new units are assuredly generating more in city taxes than their occupants consume in municipal services. Fourth, consider the lessened environmental impacts of residents in live-work spaces who commute only 20 feet rather than, say, 20 miles. Fifth, when built well, lofts can be darn attractive spaces in which to live (check out, for example, the units in the Clocktower on Second Street), thereby improving what may be a blighted locale. And sixth, of all forms of housing, lofts best suit the industrial character of the areas in which they're typically placed.

Construction of lofts can even create, or at least intensify, a sense of community. This has happened where I live (in a circa-1911 rental flat), in what, prior to the construction of 60-plus loft units, was a shabby, occasionally dangerous part of SOMA. The new residents -- nearly all of whom are loft owners -- have been instrumental in creating an active, results-oriented neighborhood organization. They've impressed me. The same may happen at the north end of Tennessee Street.

Sure, lofts have their negatives. They at times displace affordable commercial space, or are out of scale with nearby homes, or conflict with neighboring businesses, or are so cheaply finished and butt-ugly that one has to wonder if they're nothing more than slums in the making. But these are issues that should be addressed in the development approval process. That they often aren't points more to the incompetence, even malfeasance, of San Francisco's planning staff and commissioners, than to some innate flaw in the loft concept.

Richard Anderson
Via Internet

Thanking George
Thanks for George Cothran's article on live-works ("Assholes on the March," Cothran). The disease isn't as rampant in Berkeley as in San Francisco -- but it's here, and we're a much smaller town. New "live-works" will soon join other concepts in the shuck-and-jive pantheon like "guns and butter," "separate but equal," and "a thinking man's filter/smoking man's taste." What they really are is "A Thousand Points of Blight."

Bob Howard
Via Internet

What's Wrong With This Picture?
You know, the longer I look at that picture on the cover, the more it bothers me ("Panic or Attack," Jan. 13). I just have to shake my head and say "No straight 17-year-old in their right mind would pose like that for a magazine that catered to gay men." And why on earth would a straight 17-year-old "find his way to the Castro"? There's something that doesn't make sense here.

Chris Decker
Via Internet

Bleat, Bleat, Bleat
Your feature story "Demonstrating Exploitation" (Jan. 6) adds another victim to an already long list of progressive forces smeared by your paper. You bemoan the "militant" tactics of activist students, and portray their mentor, Gabriel Hernandez, as an exploiter of young people. Since when is teaching students to be aggressive activists exploitation? Sounds like he's empowering young people to me.

But then your paper has been advancing unfair and negative portrayals of progressive constituencies for some time now. Labor unions were attacked in your recent Muni series ("Rewarding Failure," Dec. 2 and Dec. 9). Headwaters activists were portrayed as woolly-headed morons for not accepting the Headwaters rescue plan -- a plan that is considered totally inadequate by a variety of environmental scientists ("Up a Tree. Still?" Nov. 11). Gays were smeared by your very negative portrayal of relationships in your "Trophy Boys" article (Nov. 18). Now you are smearing one of the few organizations that has managed to overcome student apathy in the '90s.

There are enough reactionary forces working to undermine anything resembling a progressive popular movement in this country. Why are you spending so much of your institutional energy aiding the right wing by attacking progressives?

John Pache
Via Internet

Editor's note: Still can't get past those handy labels, eh John? We have no particular hankering to "aid the right wing." We just find self-absorbed, intellectually dishonest, whiny "progressives" every bit as noxious as self-absorbed, intellectually dishonest, whiny "reactionaries."

Dog Bites Blushes
I just want you to know what a kick I get out of Dog Bites. You rule. Thanks so much for bringing your wit to our overly earnest political and social landscape. And since I work in the overly earnest medium of public radio, I'll have to live vicariously through you until I get my own column.

Brian Zumhagen
Via Internet

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