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Week of August 29 - September 4, 2007 


Hyper Extension

Twilight rezoning: As mayor, Art Agnos made strong appointments to the Landmarks Board. We can also thank him for championing the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway, which reunited the city with its waterfront and resulted in the creation of the country's largest national historic district. Good preservation planning promotes adaptive reuse.

However, your story ["The End of Our Progress," Matt Smith, Aug. 22] failed to mention that Art is a member of the advisory board of openhouse, a well-regarded nonprofit LGBT senior housing developer that has partnered with A.F. Evans Development to construct the proposed 55 Laguna Mixed Use Project at the UC Berkeley Extension Campus.

Regarding 55 Laguna St., A.F. Evans project manager Ruthy Bennett said, "It's work-force housing. It's rental, it's market-rate ($2,000-$4,000/mo.), it's 20 percent affordable. This is everything A.F. Evans believes in, wrapped up in one development." As a former City of Berkeley planner who worked on their affordable Rental Housing Acquisition Program, I'd be inclined to support the project as described if it were on private land and were not needlessly demolishing National Register-eligible structures. The 55 Laguna St. project has its merits, but they do not justify the rezoning of 5.8 acres of land in the heart of Hayes Valley that has been in public use for more than 150 years.

I also served as a UC Berkeley campus planner and I can assure you the citizens of Berkeley would not stand for the university making a unilateral decision to virtually dispose of two city blocks in the center of town without conducting a focused community planning process involving residents and other stakeholders to determine the best use of the site. San Franciscans should demand a public planning process rather than the Community Needs Inventory that is being prepared by SFSU's Recreation and Leisure Studies Department to assist A.F. Evans in programming the proposed community center.

Finally, I am proud to have assisted New College pro bono in developing a proposal that would retain all five historic buildings, as well as the historic educational use and public zoning, for analysis in the UC/A.F. Evans/openhouse 55 Laguna Mixed Use Project EIR. When Fort Mason was decommissioned, we explored options that best served the community — there's no reason we can't do it again.

I think SF Weekly readers would appreciate your spending more time researching your stories than contemplating the end of San Francisco's history.

Cynthia Servetnick, AICP, Co-Chair
Save the UCBE Laguna Street Campus
San Francisco

Suspicious preservationists: I live in the Lower Haight. For 15 years, I have had to live with the dilapidated, vacant UC [Berkeley] Extension Campus. I am also a housing attorney who has spent nearly the same amount of time fighting for renters and fighting to bring ownership opportunities to said. When A.F. Evans came along and offered to build 500 units, my neighbors and I were ecstatic. Then, "preservationists" came along and tried to sabotage the project. Now, we are discovering that said [preservationists] may have been working for New College. New College is famous for paying "consultants." Did NC pay these "preservationists" as "consultants" to sabotage the project? If so, that fact should have been disclosed during the process.

During the Board of Supervisors hearing, Supervisor [Aaron] Peskin made similar observations. Peskin's perception of the challenges [we] neighborhood activists faced was spot on! SF Weekly was the only paper to accurately report the struggle. I applaud both of you.

Philip Steven Horne, Esq.
San Francisco

Burning Regret

Nothing says "sorry we burned your dad" like a form letter: I am writing in response to your article "Burning Brew" [Matt Smith, Aug. 1]. The safety and comfort of our customers and partners (employees) is a top priority at Starbucks. This is why we share your concern that the customer referenced in your article had an unpleasant experience. We continue to work with the customer to find a resolution to his unfortunate experience, as we have from the first time we were made aware of the incident by the store's manager. It is difficult to provide specific details on how we respond to incidents, as each situation is unique and our response is tailored accordingly. However, I can assure you that in any situation that involves injury, our partners are trained to first offer to call for outside medical assistance and, if a more immediate response is necessary, use on-site first-aid supplies to assist the customer. Our partners are also trained to request contact information from the customer so that we can follow up and provide any additional after-care the customer may need. Again, we take customer and partner safety very seriously. We strive to offer the best in customer service that our guests have come to expect each time they visit our stores.

Chris Dage
Regional Director

Starbucks Coffee Company


Commence meta-review: Robocop is far from being Paul Verhoeven's first film, as the most cursory glance at would illustrate. This is only one of the many nitwit errors that reviewer Jordan Harper commits to page on a regular basis. Surely it isn't too much to ask that a DVD/film reviewer actually be familiar with [his] subject?

Mark Monday
San Francisco


Last week's short review of Resurrecting the Champ implied that writer J.R. Moehringer got the Los Angeles Times story upon which this movie is based wrong. That is not the case and we regret the error.


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