Dog Bites

Life and Limb
The city's trees, like so many holiday noshers, might need New Year's resolutions to buff up. Dozens of the 1,000 or more trees that snapped and buckled in the recent windstorms, Recreation and Park officials say, got into trouble because they weren't "wind firm." Or because their firmness extended mostly to winds of a certain direction. The trees have been trained over the years, officials say, to strengthen against winds from the northwest, the typical direction for vicious gusts. The recent storm winds pulled a sucker punch by arriving -- at up to 100 mph -- from the southeast. That, and the fact that many Golden Gate Park and Presidio trees were planted some 100 years ago, shattered hundreds of limbs too old to handle the boughing and scraping.

Many younger limbs didn't have enough firmness, either, officials say. Strong tree stands, like strong families, include trees of all ages. Which makes for not only firmness, but a lot more limbs around to baby-sit.

Muni Cabs?
At 3 a.m. in early November, a reader and her friend were waiting for a bus at Market and Van Ness when an L bus pulled up displaying a "Nowhere in Particular" plate in the destination box. Confused, they asked the driver if he was going to Burnett Street. "Sure," he said. They boarded, paid, and were dropped at Burnett.

Is this a new Muni program? A harbinger of to-your-door service under Willie Brown? Muni spokesman Alan Siegel clarifies, saying that the "Nightlines" bus service, which runs on some routes between 8:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., stops wherever patrons hail a bus and leaves them at any safe intersection.

What about the "Nowhere in Particular" plate? Siegel explains that about five or six years ago, when new plates were printed up for some motor coaches, the extra card got the whimsical banner. He adds that drivers aren't supposed to use it.

Evictees
Renters facing eviction will have one less place to turn for help in 1996. The Tenderloin Housing Clinic's (THC) eviction defense office, which serves 250 clients per month, will reduce services Jan. 1, cutting staff from two $45,000-a-year attorneys and a dozen law students to one paralegal and a handful of volunteers.

"There's simply no money," says THC Executive Director Randy Shaw. "Some people can't accept fiscal reality, want to look for villains, or think there's some policy issue here."

Funded primarily with client donations and grants from the Mayor's Office, the nonprofit was stung by the defection of the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation (SFNLAF) and Hastings law school from the program. SFNLAF provided THC free rent for five years, and is withdrawing support. Hastings donated $10,000 in yearly stipends and legal interns; it, too, is backing out. Volunteer tenant counselor Richard Hurlburt blames THC's Shaw for fiscal troubles.

"I think [Shaw] used SFNLAF to his advantage," Hurlburt says of the clinic's downsizing, noting a payroll reduction of $70,000. "[He's] cutting his client load in half, and his only added expense is rent. If you add up the numbers, he's profiteering by cutting services to the very people he claims to serve."

Counselor Beth Kohn says that Shaw "could have made up that deficit by lifting one finger." Bea Moulton of Hastings adds that if not for the downsizing, the school would have provided THC with three or four students next semester. "We didn't have enough enrollment to sustain the civil-practice training, but we also can't place students in an office where there's no lawyer."

By Amy Linn, Jack Shafer, Colin Berry

 
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