Dog Bites

Legoland Solves All Your Problems

Timing is indeed everything, and there's nothing like being able to take credit, late in October, for a massive new housing/ office/retail development. Especially when you're up for re-election in early November. So we're sure Willie Brown is pleased that his former legal client Catellus Development Corp. chose to conduct the groundbreaking ceremony for UCSF's new Mission Bay campus this Monday. It was a perfect day for it, too: Above the city Sutro Tower stalked knee-deep through the fog, while down in sunny SOMA a team of white-jacketed valet parkers rushed to look after the vehicles of university dignitaries and other assorted visitors.

Now, Dog Bites has, we admit, developed an unhealthy obsession with the project, often dropping into Catellus' Mission Bay Visitors' Center on our lunch hours to moon over the tabletop scale model of the proposed development. Maybe if we hadn't spent so much time constructing rec-room utopias with our younger brother's Legos this wouldn't have happened, but as it is we frequently find ourselves gazing down, deity-like, upon the balsa wood buildings, imagining the lives of their inhabitants as they go about their business under the tiny, dusty-green cotton wool trees, perhaps pausing to gaze out across the cerulean blue water, carefully stained slightly darker farther out into the wood-veneer bay.

There's the new ballpark, where, unfortunately, a careless visitor has broken the delicate supports for the model stadium's banks of lights, so that they lie toppled across the grandstands and the infield, suggesting the tragic, multicasualty aftermath of some catastrophic quake. A few of the buildings marching up the slopes of Lower Potrero have also come off their foundations and tumbled down into Dogpatch, which makes us worry over the fates of our imaginary Tiny Town dwellers. Surely a tremor of that intensity would also have liquefied much of the fill -- rubble from the earthquake of 1906 -- upon which Mission Bay is to be constructed? "Everything here will be on pilings," we are assured by Bruce Hart, senior vice president of Catellus' Mixed Use Group.

Over there is our building, China Basin Landing -- owned by the Blackstone Group, co-investors with Willie Brown in a housing development outside Sacramento, and aptly represented by a featureless block of wood. Across the street is the lovingly modeled office/residential complex that's scheduled to replace our unstriped, badly managed, increasingly chaotic parking lot, where, even though you often can't find a space, the cost of a parking pass has just gone up from $130 to $150 a month, not that we're outraged at all. According to Hart, Catellus will break ground on this project in early 2000.

Ah, 2000! Wandering through the visitors' center, admiring the beautiful maps and wall charts, we're transported back to a time when we believed in the power of those three zeros to manifest as some sort of redemption for humanity, or at least cool-looking electric cars and homes with fully automated temperature and lighting controls. But now that we're two months away from the new century, our dreams have come down to imagining that we can afford a mortgage and some IKEA end tables for an as-yet-unbuilt loft. Maybe one right about there,just past the corner of Rincon Street and Terry Francois Boulevard .... Or maybe there, just off the Mission Bay Commons, with its lively sidewalk cafe scene, a mere two-minute walk from the Third Street Light Rail.

"By the end of 2002 they hope to be collecting fares on that light rail line," Hart told a group of visitors assembled at the official groundbreaking ceremony for UCSF's new Mission Bay campus. High-profile police presence out front, hours before Brown and members of the Board of Supervisors were scheduled to arrive, had UCSF staff talking. "Do they think a bunch of the animal rights people are going to show up?" wondered one woman.

It was a little disconcerting for Dog Bites to have this many people descend upon our private sanctuary; the heat and glare of television lights destroyed the usual dim calm of the visitors' center, and there was something somehow profane about the swells bellying up to sandwich tables where the placards about Mission Bay's transit plan usually are. We comforted ourselves by focusing on the fact that when it's built, our loft, like most of the other buildings in the vast development, will feature a red brick and glass facade and a street-level entrance, "to create the fine-grained, pedestrian-oriented streets that are characteristic of San Francisco neighborhoods," according to one explanatory chart.

We just hope they can find someone to design our building -- recently, a lunch date told us of an architect of his acquaintance who moved to Portland because the only work she could get in San Francisco was designing live-work lofts, and she just couldn't take it anymore. Apparently, she's not the only one to have fled our city for that reason.

Whoo! Crockett! Whoo!
We were concerned to see that the scale model inexplicably does not include MoMo's. Where is the Tiny Town counterpart to Don Johnson supposed to eat, we'd like to know?

Luckily, at least one reader -- in fact, El Monte, designer of the Dog Bites Ad Campaign -- is just as interested in Don's fate as we are:

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