In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Monday, August 22, 2011


1.   Central Subway - ask the mayoral candidates
2.   Kezar Gardens opens in GGP; grand opening celebration Saturday 27
3.   SF Chronicle article asks questions re America's Cup vis-a-vis the waterfront
4.    Largest day of amphibian education and conservation in planet's history
5.   Introduction to San Bruno Mtn Ecology by Joe Cannon, Sat 27 August
6.   Potpourri:  Ninja loans, liar's loans/we don't do austerity/
7.   Help two meritorious organizations:  Friends of 5 Creeks/
8.   Ted Kipping potluck/slide show: Exploring Burma Tues 23
9.   SciAm: Organic cuts poultry farms Superbug/myth of joyful parenthood

10. America's new poet laureate, poet of drudgery
11.  Feedback:  Hetch Hetchy/promote restoring the Valley at SFDOE
12.  Resilient nature shows how at 9th & Market
13.  ...about the stillness in moving things, in running water...
14.  Billy Collins:  Directions

1.  The truly serious Mayoral Candidates need issues that differentiate themselves, and demonstrate independent critical thinking.  Please contact Mayoral Candidates that you know and ask them to take on the flawed Central Subway Project.
Regards, Howard Wong,


The Central Subway LRT Project is a flawed transit project, created by politics and data falsifications.  Wasteful expenditures, of $1.58 billion for a short 1.7 mile subway, should be reallocated to beneficial projects, to create jobs more quickly.

S.F. CHRONICLE:  “S.F. must stop Central Subway from being built”

“Central Subway---Too Much Money for Too Little Benefit.”


With its own reports, the Central Subway shows a net decrease in existing and future transit levels of service.   If objectively evaluated, the Central Subway can NOT meet criteria for FTA New Starts Projects and CMAQ Federal Funding;  State Prop 1B-MTA, Prop 1B-MTC, RIP, Prop 1A and TCRP funds;  and San Francisco Prop K and operating/ parking revenues.   The short 1.7 mile subway will cost $1.58 billion---benefiting few riders, adding little new ridership and disconnecting San Francisco’s Muni from the Market Street transit spine. See .


The Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) has changed its project justifications in mid-stream---invalidating its initial funding applications.
From 2007 to 2010, the Central Subway’s purported savings in operational costs has changed from {-$23.8 million} per year by 2030--- to an added cost of +$6.9 million.
The MTA’s earlier claim, that the subway would attract 18,400 new riders a day, has dropped to only 5,000 new riders a day by 2030 (Source FTA’s 2010 Ratings Report).
Despite claims of benefits to underserved Chinatown, only 8,000 (10.5%) of the 76,000 riders/ day on today’s surface buses will pass through the Chinatown Subway Station.
Although initial projections of decreased surface buses has changed from {-76,400 bus hours/year} to {-36,000 bus hours/year}, riders north of the Chinatown Station will have much less transit.
The Central Subway disconnects the existing T-Line LRT from the Market Street Corridor, going instead to a Union Square Station that is separated from the Powell Street BART/ Metro Station---increasing trip times, traffic congestion, air pollution and regional connectivity.
The Central Subway disconnects the existing T-Line LRT from the Transbay Terminal, creating a net decrease in High Speed Rail connectivity.
The Central Subway does not improve already vibrant development---but does threaten low-income, affordable and historic neighborhoods that are major tourist magnets.

On Aug 20, 2011, at 4:53 PM, Vern Waight wrote:
Hi Jake: First I congratulate ex-Supervisor McGoldrick on his comprehensive critique of what I call the Rose Pak Memorial Subway.
While opposition is building, work is continuing and soon a point will be reached "when we have to finish it!"  I am still waiting to hear from BART who you may recall complained that the new subway' work under their subway near the Powell Station would disturb and possible damage their facilities.  When is the opposition going to oppose more aggressively and to the extent that work will be stopped?
Vern:  My personal assessment all along is that this subway will fall of its own weight.  It is a monstrosity of a project; I hate to repeat a cliche, but it really is a boondoggle, the only word that really expresses it.  Why don't they stop it now, rather than pour more money down the rathole?  Because that's just not the way these things work:  egos--and BIG ones--are involved, and they are not used to backing down--they will fight to the bitter end, after more money has been wasted.** 

We have not reached the point of no return; only a fraction of the total cost has been spent or will be soon.  It's painful to think of the amount of money that will go down the rathole before facts are faced.  How many desperate people could it help but won't get it?

**Almost every politician who has run for office has promised to clean out City Hall and stop waste, fraud, and abuse--good old WFA.  No one seems able to stop this type of thing.  You said it--Rose Pak, and she's only one.


2.  Kezar Gardens Opens in Golden Gate Park

HANC Builds Community Garden for the Recreation and Parks Department – City Saves $250,000

The Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) Recycling and Native Plant Nursery is officially transitioning the half-acre site at 780 Frederick Street to Kezar Gardens. The  transition will be celebrated at an event on August 27th at the site. HANC has already begun implementing community garden facilities congruent with the conceptual plan approved by the RPD Commission in December 2010. 

RPD staff has suggested that the project would require an estimated $250,000 simply for implementation of a “phase 1.”  HANC has built the community gardens at no cost to the city to meet the needs of the local neighborhood and RPD's goals. 

HANC is in the process transitioning its recycling activities off the site to other locations in the area to enable San Francisco to continue to be compliant with State of California Law (AB 2020) by offering convenient recycling facilities. 

A grand opening event and celebration is scheduled for Saturday August 27th from 11:00am to 3:00pm. 

HANC has been a long-time supporter of community gardening, local habitat stewardship and creative reuse in San Francisco, evidenced by its fiscal sponsorship of the Garden for the Environment, operation of the Native Plant Nursery facility, sponsorship of greening of right-of-way space, and donations of materials for urban agriculture projects including Hayes Valley Farm and Little City Gardens.   Through HANC’s extensive network of allies and supporters in the urban agriculture, reuse and recycling community in San Francisco, it is able to source the materials and labor needed to design, construct and implement a world class community garden facility at no cost to the city.

Operation, membership and programming of the garden is planned to be compliant with the 2006 RPD guidelines and policies outlining governance and maintenance of community gardens in San Francisco by partnering with RPD and the citizen-led advisory council that has been meeting to help facilitate the transition of the site at 780 Frederick Street to its new use. 


3.  America's Cup's yacht plan threatens our wide-open bay views

"...It's embarrassing that city negotiators left such a large loophole in an agreement focused on other sections of the waterfront. The environmental
review offers the chance to reverse course and remind event organizers that the Embarcadero isn't theirs to do with as they will - especially since even short-term use of either basin requires the blessing of the BCDC, which has final say over changes to the perimeter of the bay..."

John King in San Francisco Chronicle August 22, 2011


Save The Frogs Day 2011 Photos Now Online!
SAVE THE FROGS! supporters held 143 events in 21 countries on the 3rd Annual Save The Frogs Day (April 29th, 2011), which was the largest day of amphibian education and conservation action in the planet's history. We've posted over 190 event photos on the Save The Frogs Day 2011 page! Please go have a look at all the fabulous events our supporters held worldwide!
View Hundreds of Save The Frogs Day Photos Here!


5.  San Bruno Mountain Watch Presents...
An Introduction to San Bruno Mountain Ecology    
A presentation by Joe Cannon,
Instructor of Restoration Ecology at City College, and Stewardship Director for  San Bruno Mountain Watch.
When:  Saturday, August 27, 2011, 2 pm
Where: The new Visitacion Valley Library
             201 Leland Avenue, San Francisco
         at the corner of Leland Avenue and Rutland Street 


6.  Potpourri from Guardian Weekly 19.08.11

...According to the US economist James Galbraith, increased complexity was the cover for blatant wrongdoing.  Looking back at the sub-prime mortgage scandal, Galbraith says there has been a complete breakdown in trust that impairs hopes of recovery.

"...There was a private vocabulary, well known in the industry, covering these loans and related financial products:  liars' loans, Ninja loans (the borrowers had no income, no job or assets), neutron loans (loans that would explode, destroying the people but leading the buildings intact)."

(Excerpt from 'Why the system's ready to blow' by Larry Elliott)

Two LTEs

Ros Coward has stumbled right into a minefield of shibboleths even suggesting austerity for Americans.  After all, this is the Promised Land, the Land of Milk and Honey, the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet etc, with our old-time religion of capitalism.  Meet a Pentecostal, and he will joyfully inform you that "Jesus wants me to drive a Cadillac!"  Consumo, ergo sum.

Alas, her word "austerity" is not American parlance (metaphorically or literally).  All the synonyms that come to mind are pejorative: stingy, shabby, tightwad, cheap-skate, skin-fllint, dirt-poor.  There's thrifty, but that connotes the "thrift store", where they sell dead people's clothes.  I can't see consumer credit culture ending unless the Tea Party and gold bugs return us to indentured servitude or debtor's prisons, as no doubt they would.
RM Fransson, Lakewood, Colorado US

...The writer was attending a church service in rural Ireland and just about fell out of the pew when the elderly priest reminded the congregation that "they had to be careful always to keep on that narrow path between right and wrong".
Dennis Roddy, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada


7.  Two meritorious organizations

Susan Schwartz and Friends of 5 Creeks are up for a $5000 award.  Candidates all have video profiles that were broadcast on the news and are up online here:  There’s a bit of coverage from Albany shoreline work (F5C has been eliminating BAEDN-prioritized occurrences of harmful new weeds).

SaveNature.Org was named a finalist in Tom’s of Maine’s 50 States for Good program!  And, we have a chance to win $50,000.

The favor is to ask you to vote at once every day,  until September 13th (really, every day)  Just scroll down the page to find SaveNature.Org! j
Bookmark this page and vote when you open your email in the morning.

Also, in order for us to win,  please send this link in an email to all y our friends as well as to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

We need this to go viral, help us make that happen. Vote and vote often.


8.  Ted Kipping pot luck/slide shows
4th Tuesday of the month at 7 pm (slide show at 8 pm) at the San Francisco County Fair Bldg, 9th Av & Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park
Served by Muni bus lines #6, 43, 44, 66, 71, and the N-Judah Metro
Aug 23        Richard Wigen:  Exploring Burma
Sept 27        Brian Kemble:  Botanizing Northern Baja
*Please bring a dish and beverage to serve 8 people


9.  Scientific American

OBSERVATIONS: Going Organic Cuts Poultry Farms' "Superbug" Bacteria in Single Generation
The prevalence of bacteria that is resistant to common drugs is on the rise on animal farms, which is where the bulk of U.S. antibiotics get used

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND: The Myth of Joyful Parenthood
The more kids cost, the more we idealize raising them

Quoting from this article:  "...Such rationalization is a common response to cognitive dissonance, the state of having two conflicting ideas in mind, according to psychological theory. In this scenario, the choice the parents made to have children conflicts with the fact that kids are such a financial burden, so the parents conclude that the emotional benefits must be so great they outweigh the material cost."

New science reveals why cities become more productive and efficient as they grow

(Hmm.  I just read an article (in The Economist, I think) stating just the opposite.  It sounded like Sao Paolo, eg, was Exhibit A for decreasing efficiency.)


10.  America's new poet laureate

Philip Levine, poet of drudgery

Aug 16th 2011, by More Intelligent Life, from The Economist online

FAME, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote, is the sum of misapprehensions that accrue around a name. No sooner had the announcement been made that Philip Levine was America’s next poet laureate than the misapprehensions started rolling in.

“Best known for his big-hearted, Whitmanesque poems about working-class Detroit,” proclaimed the New York Times. “His poetry taps into memories of his time on an assembly line, a sort of transcript of a life spent hard at work,” amiably reported the Washington Post. The AP described him as having “for decades chronicled, celebrated and worried about blue collar life.” Even the man who anointed Levine America’s national poet, James Billington of the Library of Congress, seemed to share in this general misperception. Levine’s astringent poems of men and women doomed to manual labour, Billington said, were “about the hard work we do to make sense of our lives.”

It’s true that in recent years, as the 83-year-old Levine has aged, his poems have become gentler and more elegiac. But the essence of Levine’s poetry, the quality that makes his work original and unforgettable, is the very antithesis of big-hearted and Whitmanesque. His early poems are cutting, despairing accounts of the type of futile, life-draining work that lacks dignity and purpose. Attending night school at Michigan’s Wayne State University while working in an automobile factory during the day, Levine lived out America’s promise and its bitterness at the same time. He turned the intimate, confessional style of Robert Lowell and especially John Berryman—with whom he had studied at Wayne State—into a kind of colloquial, prophetic harshness.


11.  Feedback

On Aug 20, 2011, at 4:53 PM, Vern Waight wrote:
But to my second point in writing: in spite of efforts to control weeds on our expensive Heavenly Green front lawn, weeds have sprouted in the middle of the lawn due to seeds carried by the wind and by birds.  My elder age (92) and lack of stability prevents me from doing much work on the lawn aside from raking the weeds off of it.  So I am considering having a gardener apply the herbicide Roundup to control weeds in both the middle and the edges of the lawn. In a recent newsletter of yours the problems with Roundup was discussed and the article did not point a very pleasant picture of Roundup.  I would appreciate you inquiring from your readers what an environmentally safe, green solution to my problem is.
As to your lawn, yes I've noticed the weeds moving in on the margins.  Roundup is perfectly safe to us.  I was afraid that the article I printed about problems with Roundup would be misinterpreted.  Its mega-mega use in industrial agriculture was responsible for the problems, and it was predictable.  Nature refuses to be treated as an object; she puts up with an awful lot from us but eventually kicks back.  Occasional use by home gardeners and wildland managers is not a problem, so feel comfortable treating your lawn.

I pass by your house almost daily on my walks and who knows--I might stop a pull a few weeds.  But I won't promise.  If you're missing a few, that's me.

Anna-Marie Bratton:
Hi Jake,
I decided a long time ago that I would not argue with you on the Hetch Hetchy issue, but I must say one more thing about the idea of restoring Hetch Hetchy:  Back in John Muir's day I would have been right behind him in the fight to save the valley, however now  I believe that the idea of tearing down the dam to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley is wrong-headed.  It's not the storage of water that concerns me, it's the clean energy provided to the city of San Francisco.  Hydropower from the Moccasin Power Plan provides clean energy to much of San Francisco's public structures including Muni.  In this time when we should all be thinking about reducing
the carbon footprint it is irresponsible to consider tearing down a source of clean power.  It is also true that the delivery of water from Hetch Hetchy to the various customers of SF water department is done  without the use of pumping - the entire system is gravity fed and requires little if any energy input. It seems to me that the only reason for tearing down the dam is one of aesthetics - a worthy cause, Hetch Hetchy Valley was beautiful, but there are times when practicality is more important and in my opinion this is one of those times.
(From a later email)
I've pasted the URL to the article about Hetch Hetchy written by someone on the same trip as the person who wrote the Sac. Bee story.   It's interesting that two people on the same fact finding trip can have a different view. Certainly Rebecca Bowe of SFBG sees more than one side and can report on both.

I'm not always a fan of the SFBG, but this article is excellent.
Anna-Marie, I will grant you those powerful arguments about clean power** and the beauty of the gravity-fed delivery to the Bay Area--plus other arguments that are made in defense of the status quo.  I have not always been an ardent proponent of the reservoir's undoing, in large part because of the power of these facts.  I struggled for a long time before coming to my present position, which to my surprise grows more intense as time goes on and as I hear facts from the other side.  Restore Hetch Hetchy is doing an excellent job of marshaling arguments for this drastic and expensive move, and if you will keep an open mind and dig deeper (and dig deeper into your purse to support Restore Hetch Hetchy) you may be persuaded to reconsider.  I can mention only a few random points here--and not necessarily in order of importance.

1.  There is a lot of power coming from the turbines at Moccasin.  But if you look at our "needs" and our gargantuan power consumption on frivolous, wasteful purposes (Las Vegas comes immediately to my mind, but you can see plenty right here in San Francisco or anywhere).  I think "we're drowning Hetchy for this?"  In the total of our consumption--just taking California--Hetchy power is minuscule, almost like looking for a needle in a haystack, figuratively speaking.  The grandeur took eons to create; it took us overnight to drown it and seal it off from we, the people, who desperately need it in these tawdry, shallow times.

2.  The purpose of the reservoir is to store water.  The Valley's restoration would mean storing the same water, but somewhere else, not in a national park.  And wherever those storage sites are they will still be generating power.  Mind you, this IS a national park, and what is one city, San Francisco, doing using it for storing its water?  How do you think the other 300 million people feel about this?

3.  "The only reason for tearing down the dam is one of aesthetics."  Anna-Marie, I hope you wrote that in a hurry and that this doesn't represent what you really think.  When I look at Yosemite Valley or the Sierra grand sculptures, with its forests, meadows, streams, waterfalls--aesthetics is not what comes to mind.  I won't try to articulate my feelings and thoughts because I don't have the eloquence that Muir could effortlessly summon, but it goes far beyond aesthetics.  Read Muir.  Read him often. 

4.  Humans have somehow managed to de-humanize us and to turn to dross nature's priceless gifts.  Use the grand Hetch Hetchy Valley to store water for San Francisco?  The very thought appalls.

5.  We are good at manipulation, and we know how to use language to persuade.  Keep an eye out for SFPUC's use of language.  For example, they tell you it's Hetch Hetchy water that comes from our taps.  No, PUC, it's Tuolumne River water.  Subtle, but important.  And they have the bully pulpit in their bimonthly water bills.

**At risk of making this overly long, I paste here a short article regarding the cleanness of hydropower (I lost the date and source on it.  JS)

Why Hetch Hetchy Power is Not Green, by Victoria Smith

President Obama just signed a $787 billion stimulus package, $60 billion of which will go towards clean energy, environmental projects, and scientific research.  None of this money will go to large hydropower projects such as Hetch Hetchy.  Once touted as clean and renewable, years of study now show the negative impacts of big hydro projects.  Hydroelectricity does not get the Obama administration’s “green” stamp of approval, nor does it qualify as renewable under the standards of the California Energy Commission.

The environmental impacts of large-scale hydroelectric projects include changes in the flow, nutrient levels, salinity, temperature and water levels in rivers downstream of dams.  When the natural flow of a river is blocked, oxygen levels downstream of the dam drop, which has a negative effect on river vegetation and wildlife.  Dam-created reservoirs displace many animals, birds and fish, including some at-risk species.  Even with fish ladders, many species are still unable to complete their migratory journey, and are being pushed towards extinction.

Then there is the effect dams have on our oceans.  The two may at first seem unrelated until you hear what aquatic ecologist Irwin Haydock and oceanographer and hydrologist Michael Rozengurt have to say.  They outlined the link between the decline of the earth’s oceans and dams in a letter to Bill Clinton.  In it they explain, “The watersheds and their coastal zones form a single complex ecosystem; damage to one reach is eventually seen in the other.  Decades of careful study and experience has shown us that oceanic decline stems primarily from the cumulative effects of dam building and subsequent freshwater diversions to serve human needs.  For too long we have failed to understand the nature of this link.  We have been looking in the wrong place for the cause of the ocean’s decline!  It is time to focus on the critical link between watersheds and seas.”

This letter was written to President Clinton in 1998.  Since then large-scale hydropower project development has continued unabated.  The drive for more hydropower comes at a time when many freshwater ecosystems are already in crisis.  According to the United Nations, 60% of the world’s 227 largest rivers are already severely fragmented by dams, diversions and canals, leading to the degradation of ecosystems.  It is time to move away from environmentally destructive hydro projects, and focus on other truly “green” forms of energy.

Each hydropower project is unique and some are far more destructive than others.  Although the Hetch Hetchy reservoir does not release methane gas there is no question it is profoundly destructive to animal and plant life in Yosemite National Park.  And there is no question of the debilitating effect the O’Shaughnessy Dam has on the Tuolumne River long after it leaves the boundaries of the park.  Just because energy is not carbon-producing does not automatically mean it is “green”.  Nor should one believe that, since the dam was built 100 years ago the damage is already done—the damage to the ecosystem of the Tuolumne River from its watershed to the San Francisco Bay repeats itself every day the reservoir remains in existence.

Hetch Hetchy is a grand landscape garden, one of nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples. As in Yosemite, the sublime rocks of its walls seem to glow with life . . . while birds, bees, and butterflies help the river and waterfalls to stir all the air into music. . . . These temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and, instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar. . . . Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.
                                         John Muir

The San Francisco Department of the Environment has set up a website designed to assist the staff with determining the environmental priorities of City residents.  Please click here and take a moment to vote to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.

After voting, please email your friends and/or post a link on Facebook inviting others to vote as well. 

Let's send a message to San Francisco policy makers that it is time to restore Hetch Hetchy!


12.  From Philip Gerrie about the lot on 9th Street between Market and Mission

Hi Jake, I’ve sent along some photos of what I’ve discovered while working on the mural on the north wall of the Meeting House. The lot is fenced off so it was a rare opportunity to explore it. I first noticed hundreds of native solitary bees flying around frantically digging holes and mating in the sandy lot. They were id’d by John Hafernik, who visited the site,  as Bembix sand wasps. My question is how did so many sand wasps find this location? It was a parking lot since at least the mid 70's up until four years ago. That would make it over 30 years it has been covered over.  I also noticed several lupine plants as well as Juncus balticus/lesueurii (a rush) growing. The Juncus grows in tidal estuaries which this area once was. The lot is almost an acre in size. A few months ago, I had planned to establish a community garden as had been done at Hayes Valley but it has been sold and looks to be built upon soon. One last observation of nature in the city is a resident red-tailed hawk that perches on nearby buildings and hunts the many pigeons that forage there. I found four dead dismembered pigeons the other morning.