Dog Bites

Delay of Game
For decades, tenants of San Francisco's projects have complained about everything from broken ceilings, bad plumbing, and rotten wiring to the shootings and rapes the Housing Authority has refused to police. After the authority stopped hearing those gripes, tenants' rights advocates last year went to court -- in a case called Le vs. San Francisco Housing Authority -- to compel the authority to streamline its tenant grievance procedures.

After terms were hammered out in October, the Le case settlement was to be concluded Dec. 12, in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston. But it wasn't, because the authority attorneys imitated their dilatory clients and failed to show up for the hearing.

Housing Authority attorney Kevin Clarke was pretty persuasive when he told the court (via speakerphone from his office) that he and partner Gary Lafayette had mistook the hearing time for 2 p.m., instead of 3:30.

But Clarke had a harder time explaining why the authority had failed to notify tenants of their right to object to the settlement -- the most important procedural step in settling a class action.

Don't hold your breath, but Clarke promises he will get back to the court with an explanation. Meanwhile, the settlement hearing has been rescheduled for Jan. 17.

Bailing Out Defendants
Diversion is Carrie Hunter's business -- she owns Balloon Express, a toy store on Powell Street in North Beach. But after watching two alleged robbers bloody her partner, it's pretrial diversion that makes her want to blow something up.

Hunter, 32, says she was working late Oct. 2 when two young white men entered the store, started throwing merchandise, and pocketed some puppets. She called police. "Bitch, I'm going to kill you," she recalls one of the men saying. When George Campbell, 44, tried to help, the men beat and kicked him, leaving him "covered in blood," Hunter says. Campbell was treated at a hospital and released; police arrested both suspects at the scene.

A municipal court judge released the men, sans bail, with the stipulation that they report to a supervisor via the city's Pretrial Diversion Project (a program sparked by overcrowded jails). When Hunter complained -- vociferously -- the suspects were rearrested. And re-released -- this time, without any stipulations.

"It's straight out of The Twilight Zone," says the p.o.'d Hunter, who has started a petition drive and a "make bail or stay in jail" campaign -- and also bought a Rottweiler. A hearing for the two suspects was slated for this week. Said a Pretrial Diversion official, meanwhile: "The courts do not generally release violent offenders."

Art Attack
It was the biggest art heist in the history of Fort Mason Center. Late Nov. 19, a thief (or thieves) slipped off with 27 pieces from "Kaleidoscope," a competitive exhibition at the Bayfront Gallery featuring the works of 60 Bay Area artists. The exhibitors retaliated by hanging color Xerox images of the pilfered pieces and displaying reproductions on the Web (www.hia.com/hia/bayfront).

Isabel Samaras, one of the painters whose work was pilfered, is critical of the gallery for its poor security, saying, "Those kinds of spaces are really important to artists who want to show their work to people who aren't cruising galleries." (The gallery is a long hallway that leads to the Cowell Theater in Fort Mason. Theater General Manager Bob Martin notes that adequate security would be prohibitively expensive. He's now emphasizing that sobering fact to the participants in upcoming shows.)

There is one consolation: The Somar Gallery will mount a show of work by the ripped-off artists in 1996.

By Jorge Aquino, Amy Linn, John Sullivan

 
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