Towse: views from the hill

November 16, 2007

San Francisco Food Bank’s 2007 holiday cards

Filed under: causes,design,San Francisco — Towse @ 2:21 am

San Francisco Food Bank’s 2007 holiday cards are available for purchase over the Web. Three designs are available. The Christmas ornament card drawn by Paul Madonna is my fave.

Go there.

Purchase holiday cards.

Support San Francisco Food Bank

November 15, 2007

The cypress grove on Telegraph Hill before, during, after.

As promised, befores and afters.

BEFORE: (18 Jul 2004)
[note: added another before: Dec 2003]

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I rummaged through my photo bins to find photos of the trees as they were. These two show the north and south ends of the cypress grove on 18Jul2004. Imagine, if you will, a large clump of green between what these two photographs show.

I obviously didn’t take a lot of shots of the trees standing alone.

DURING: (October 2004)

Later that year, in October, a large chunk of tree came down.

In October 2005, another tree was taken out before Mark threw himself between the trees and the tree cutters and successfully halted the project.

We all know the result: a Landmark Tree ordinance. After much negotiation, in February 2007 the City agreed to indemnify the remaining trees’ owner from any liability arising from the fact he wasn’t allowed to take the “rotten” (his description) trees down.

The City also agreed “to hire a special arborist who has the skill to delicately prune the trees and preserve them for at least three years — long enough for new ones to grow to shelter the parrots. The two trees are all that remain from what was once a larger grove.” [n.b. Three years to grow trees this tall? Really?]

The Northeast San Francisco Conservancy (president: Nancy Shanahan) pledged $5,000 to the City to cover the cost of pruning and care.

BEFORE: (December 2003)

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AFTER: (15 Nov 2007)


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What can we see that’s different? (Gee, this is like those picture puzzles: find six ways this picture is different from the ones above.)

In 2004, the cypress grove obstructed the view of most of the green building you can now see to the northeast of the trees. We can now see the tennis courts on top of the Bay Club.

The trees in 2004 were considerably taller than the trees that remain. We have an uninterrupted view of Treasure Island instead of having trees obstructing our views of the northernmost third of the island. We can also see more of Teatro Zinzanni — those tents down at Pier 29 — and twice as much of the rooftop of the condo building to the north of the green building.


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I’d taken this shot to show the tidal bore on a very boring day, but it also shows what our view of Treasure Island was in May 2004. That’s a whole lot o’ tree that’s been taken down in the last three years.

I have mixed feelings about all this. I love trees. I miss the green stuff — I much prefer green stuff to views of the neighbors’ roofs — but I think there was far more agitation over the poor parrots and this privately-owned cypress grove than there needed to be. I think the City spent more time and effort — when they don’t seem to have time to worry about some critical problems — than the situation warranted. I know Mark loves the parrots and I know he made them famous with his book. If someone had said we should spare the trees, if at all possible, because they’re right outside Mark’s door and he wants to have the parrots right there, well, I could understand that, but that’s not how all the agitation and public spin came down before the City set about changing rules, trimming trees and indemnifying the owner.

“The parrots are fine,” I tell worried friends who have read the tales of woe and crisis and parrots. This bit of greenery is not what it was, but the parrots still flock to trees on Telegraph Hill. We still hear them yackyackyack yackyackyack yackyackyackyacking. They still amuse the tourists and scare the cat.

May the flock prosper and increase.

November 13, 2007

Tree trimming … and it isn’t even Christmas!

Filed under: causes,life,politics — Tags: , , , — Towse @ 10:14 pm


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Talk about a job I wouldn’t want! I can’t even stand at the edge of the roof without getting shaky knees.

Tree trimmers are trimming the trees down the hill from us, trees which caused such political uproar a year ago or so and resulted in new rules regarding tree cutting on private property. Siblings of the trees were taken out three years ago. These remaining trees are supposed to remain in place and be taken care of until they can’t be maintained. The City’s indemnified the owner from any lawsuits that might arise should the trees topple over or break a limb.

The guy up in the tree checks his knots frequently. He has an ally on the roof of the building just east of the trees and an ally on the ground, who is cutting the fallen branches with a chain saw. The guy in the tree has done most of his work with a tree saw on a long pole but just now switched to a chain saw.

Earlier today, the neighborhood e-mail list flashed with a “someone’s cutting the cypresses” note, followed by a note from Mark Bittner that the cutting was all in order.

The neighbors are watching. The parrots are sitting on someone’s railing to get a better view of what’s going on because their usual tree perch doesn’t have a good line of sight for the trees being trimmed.

When allz done, I’ll post before and afters.

Update: Gone for the day. Ropes still in trees.

October 24, 2007

Garbage, waste, trash, oh my!

Filed under: causes,environment,photographs — Tags: , , — Towse @ 12:39 am

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This morning we spent two [stenchy] hours getting a tour of The Dump


I mean …

“Norcal Waste System, Inc’s Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Center” at the border of San Francisco and Brisbane, San Francisco County and San Mateo County (which causes problems, you betcha)

with our buds from

I hadn’t been on an educational field trip to the dump since the younger younger one was in Tiger Cubs.

Twenty years later … Different dump. Still as fascinating. More, maybe.

Field trip report to follow.

Update: As promised, a field trip report about my morning at the dump. Caution: long.

October 21, 2007

When the lights go down in the City*

Filed under: causes,environmentalism,life,photographs,San Francisco — Towse @ 7:36 pm

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Watching the lights go off on the Bay Bridge last night.

That blaze of lights on the other side of the Bay is the Port of Oakland, destination of most of the shipping traffic that we see from our perch.

Lights Out SF was a feel-good event that got people involved who hadn’t been involved. I’m not sure whether anyone said to themselves, dang, I can make-do with only one lamp burning at night, not the seventy-seven I turned out for an hour on Friday.

I swopped out three incandescent light bulbs with three CFLs. Consuming less energy bit by bit, but nowheres near being a cragger.

For those who can (those who have individually metered electric and have been living in their place since at least last October and who, unlike us, don’t have solar and a meter running backwards and so don’t have any way of knowing how much energy we used last October or this), you have until Wednesday to sign up for the San Francisco Climate Challenge. Challenge kicks off Thursday.

[* Journey. LIGHTS]

October 20, 2007

Google joins Lights Out SF

Filed under: causes,environmentalism,San Francisco — Towse @ 7:08 pm


Turn those lights off tonight from 8-9p and replace (at least) one incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb

Lights Out SF

Update: Pictures to follow.

Needless to say, not all the lights in SF went out.

Our neighbors downhill, the ones we thought were the most green, the most tree hugging, the ones… who were the most logical ones to turn out their lights didn’t.

Aaron, our guy, our supervisor, our Chair of the Board of Supervisors, had no lights on at his place. Was he home? I don’t know. But (luckily for him, with all the neighbors watching) he didn’t have a peep of light shining out of his windows.

We didn’t turn ours out until :10 after because … well, because we were on the other side of the bay and the meeting went on and on and on and…

We got home … whipped up a quick dinner. Turned our lights out at :05 or, maybe, :10 after.

And kept them off for over an hour.

Are we forgiven?

The Bay Bridge lights took =forever= to be turned off. We watched the crew with their blink-blink-blinky lights on their vehicle stop and turn off lights, stop and turn off lights, stop…

Obviously, the system had =not= been set up to turn off all the lights on the Bay Bridge rigging at once.



We =did= discovered that we had all sorts of earthquake-what-if lighting available but we had =no= (and I mean =NO=) candles here, at this address.

So, no romantic dinner by candlelight. We managed with other illumination.

I =will= be moving some candles here.

September 27, 2007

Fall into autumn

Filed under: causes,San Francisco — Towse @ 11:31 pm

Yesterday was Garden Feast, a benefit gala luncheon on the grass at the Strybing Arboretum. Benefiting the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Honoring Richard Goldman. Speaker: Julie Packard.

A dinner tonight marks the twentieth anniversary of the San Francisco Food Bank.

Saturday is the Waves-to-Wine bike tour to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Sunday is the Bridge-to-Bridge run benefiting Special Olympics Northern California.

Sunday is also the CUESA fundraiser @ Ferry Plaza Building to benefit CUESA and sustainable agriculture education.

I’m not going to all of those. I can’t go to all of those. And I stopped listing all the things I could go to because the list is LOOOOOOOOONG.

Yes, we have fallen into autumn and the benefit luncheons, dinners, runs, bike rides, sails, swims and fashion shows have kicked into high gear here, now that most everyone’s home from their wanderings.

You can also just stay home and read a good book. The non-profits who benefit from all this gaiety and extroversion will happily take your check and wish you a peaceful evening.

July 19, 2007

The City of San Francisco STREETS LITTER AUDIT 2007

Filed under: causes,environmentalism,politics,San Francisco — Towse @ 7:18 pm

The City of San Francisco STREETS LITTER AUDIT 2007 [PDF]

The first ever audit of the City’s litter problems. Released a couple weeks ago. Some interesting findings.

Note: “large” litter — items over 4 sq in. “small litter” — items under 4 sq in. Litter was categorized into eight-four sub-categories.

105 sites were audited in April. Average of thirty-six “large” litter items per site. “Small” litter clocked in at an average 23 items/site.

“Non-branded paper napkins and paper towels” were 13% of total litter. Of “branded” printed material litter, MUNI tickets and transfers were a significant factor.

Miscellaneous plastic litter accounted for 9% of total litter and 20% of “large” litter items.

The study compares San Francisco’s litter to litter audits for other cities dated 2002-2006. On average, 27% of San Francisco ‘s litter is printed & fiber material (paper, cardboard, books, &c.) while the average in other large cities over the past five years hovers around 19%. Why?

On a positive note, San Francisco has less “small” litter than other large cities and is about on par with Toronto which has been focusing on litter for several years. “Small” litter clocked in at an average 23 items/site and included bottle caps, straws, gum, busted sporks, cigarette butts, &c.

When they broke down the type of small litter (wouldn’t you have loved to have been one of the auditors?), they found that chewing gum was 39.5% of the small litter, small glass was 29.7% and cigarette butts were 5.6%. Comparing this to Toronto’s audit last year, Toronto had 21 “small” items per site of which 30.9% was chewing gum, 15.4% small glass, and 14.8% cigarette butts.

Maybe we just don’t smoke as much …

I found an interesting note on page 33/Bag Litter Summary. Bag litter (paper and plastic, retail and non-retail) accounted for 4.45% of total litter. Retail plastic bags account for 0.6% of total litter. Now, plastic bags are not good for the garbage equipment and they’re not good for the gulls and they aren’t good for the environment in the long run but why cantcha just say that that is why you want to ban them from this fair city? Why all the nonsense about what a litter menace they are?

I don’t know what Gav plans to do with the study. Gav has pledged to reduce litter by 50% over the next five years and it’s interesting to have a notch marked so that we can see whether efforts to combat litter are working.

I’d like to encourage everyone whether they live in this fair ville or in a bucolic ville in Iowa to pick up at least one piece of orphaned trash a day and dispose of it properly.

We were out to dinner with neighbors a couple Fridays back. On the way to the restaurant, T. started picking up papers that were blowing on the sidewalk. Hot jam, I thought. Someone else picks up litter. We walked down the hill to Nua, collecting papers along the way, which we then tossed into a City trash bin before reaching the restaurant. (And remembered to wash our hands before dinner!)

On a similar if-it-bugs-you-do-something-about-it, we bumped into Aaron Peskin, our fearless President of the Board of Supervisors, on the steps last Saturday as we headed out to dinner. He was scrubbing (with an earth-friendly cleanser), removing graffiti that some yog-for-brain had tagged on the wall of 1360 Montgomery as you head down the Filbert Steps.

“Bless you,” I said. “That really bothered me but I hadn’t got my act together enough to come out here and scrub.”

“Bothered me too,” he said. “Tagging begets more tagging, so it had to go.”

Make the Earth a cleaner place.

June 2, 2007

The Center for Justice and Accountability

Filed under: causes,San Francisco — Towse @ 6:19 pm

Had dinner with friends last night.

Asked one, “So how long have you been at the new job?”

“A year and a half, almost two years.”

“So what is it again that your nonprofit does?”

She answered with an impassioned explanation of what they do and who they do it for and what they accomplish. Check out the Web site. Good cause: The Center for Justice and Accountability

The Center realized it could use the Alien Tort Statute (1789) to accomplish its goals. Who knew?

The Alien Tort Statute (ATS), adopted in 1789, gives survivors of egregious human rights abuses, wherever committed, the right to sue persons responsible for the abuses in U.S. federal court. Since 1980, the law has been used successfully in cases involving torture (including rape), extrajudicial killing, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and arbitrary detention. The Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), passed in 1991 and signed into law by President Bush in 1992, gives similar rights to U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike to bring claims for torture and extrajudicial killing committed in foreign countries. The perpetrator generally must be served with the lawsuit while they are present in the United States in order for the court to have jurisdiction.

May 1, 2007

May is National Foster Care Month

Filed under: causes,life — Towse @ 5:47 pm

This eye-opening article from the Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families takes a look at some of foster children and their circumstances and asks why.

The San Francisco Chronicle has an on-going campaign for foster children, both those in California and nationwide. Latest addition: an editorial 22Apr2007. The editorials/articles listed go back to September 2005.

California has 80K children in foster care. Their stories are damning for a nation that claims dedication to family values. What are children, if not family. If they have no family, aren’t they ours?

There is some encouraging news, however.

For more information on National Foster Care Month:

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