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Can't Find My Way Home, Nancy Drew in The Case of the Screaming Stadium!, Last Week for Golden Handshake Reader Poll!

Wednesday, Feb 9 2000
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Can't Find My Way Home
Now that senior citizens in Palo Alto have taken to knocking over banks to meet their rents, Dog Bites is really wondering how much longer the madness can continue. And sometimes at night, when the whine of the feverish economy keeps us awake, we comfort ourselves with the thought that there is one unmistakable sign the boom is almost at an end: It's on the verge of benefiting Oakland.

Nevertheless, we felt a twinge of horror on receiving the news that, under the Ellis Act, an elderly couple had recently been evicted from a house at Oak and Masonic where they'd lived since 1975.

By the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Archdiocesan spokesman Maurice Healy said the couple, who had lived in the house with their grown son, had been moved to a senior care facility in Fremont.

"By all accounts it was handled very well, and they went gracefully," said Healy. "They were given $4,500. The pastor and the priest were concerned for the elderly couple and helped arrange for them to move to the facility."

But just to be on the safe side, the church also retained infamous Ellis Act eviction specialist Andrew Zacks, a lawyer who charges $350 an hour to boot renters out into the street -- hey, it's specialized work, OK? -- as its designated old-folks wrangler.

How "gracefully" the couple went is possibly a matter of opinion; according to the San Francisco Tenants Union's Ted Gullicksen, the husband and wife sought help fighting the eviction. Gullicksen confirmed they'd come in for counseling, but said the Tenants Union had been unable to help them, as is usually the case with evictions under the Ellis Act, which lets landlords take property off the rental market permanently. We asked if he could help us get in touch with the couple, but Gullicksen didn't have a forwarding address. The phone number he had on file didn't work either, so Dog Bites tried calling nursing homes in Fremont, but was unsuccessful in this effort to locate the former San Franciscans.

Healy said the residence will now accommodate Jesuit priests who serve the Haight's "struggling" parish; previously, the priests had lived "at other Jesuit places in the city. This way, the priests will be in direct contact with the community they serve."

That seems reasonable enough, but Dog Bites would have thought the Archdiocese -- which, according to 1993 estimates, stood to make $43 million selling the land under the nine churches it has since closed -- and remember, this was in 1993, when $43 million was a lot of money! -- might have been able to do a little more for the aged couple than, well, $4,500. After all, in the full rolling boil that is the San Francisco real estate market, $4,500 is maybe two months' rent on your average two-bedroom apartment, and we're betting nursing homes cost some money, too. Admittedly, Christian charity isn't really Dog Bites' area of expertise, but that just doesn't seem like a whole lot of cash after 25 years.

And given the real estate market, there's every possibility the church may end up doing a whole lot better on its land than previously projected. Look at St. Edward the Confessor -- or at least, look at the construction site where it used to be. The developer of the 29-unit luxury condo project at California and Walnut paid the Archdiocese $4.1 million for the church in November 1998. Boy, if the diocese had put the proceeds of the sale into Cisco back then, it'd be loaded by now.

The Oak Street building is now undergoing extensive renovations; Healy said St. Agnes' pastor, Father Roide, told him some of the carpets had been urinated upon and that locks on some of the downstairs doors suggested the elderly couple's son might have been subletting rooms in the house. The couple, says the church, is being well taken care of.

"Father Roide believes they're in a better place," said Healy.

Nancy Drew in The Case of the Screaming Stadium!
On Thursday, Dog Bites, morosely drinking tea with Coffee-mate in it and staring out the window at the first stage of the Mission Bay development -- which at the moment consists of a lot of bulldozers going back and forth, back and forth, all day long -- was startled to see a huge dust cloud rise over the bleak tundra beyond Fourth Street, like something out of an Arthur Rothstein photo of Oklahoma.

Ah, early spring in the Northlands! A squall was moving in from the southwest, and sudden gusts of wind ruffled the water in Mission Creek as construction workers headed into their portable offices and sheets of newspaper -- hopefully not ours -- flew past the Lefty O'Doul Bridge and on out into the bay.

And the aural backdrop to this scene was a sort of ... high-pitched wailing.

After a few minutes of the eerie noise, we pulled on a jacket and, with a couple of co-workers who wanted a smoke anyway, went outside, determined to trace the wail to its source. The banshee howl got louder and louder as we walked east, until we realized it was coming from the new Pacific Bell Park.

"Well, that's an interesting design flaw," we thought. Of course, it's not like the stadium is exactly a thing of beauty anyway. From a few blocks away, if you kind of squint, it does resemble the venerable red-brick ballparks it's meant to imitate. But then you get up close and see the tacky prefab walls and realize the place has about as much soul as the Stonestown Galleria -- not that Dog Bites is one of those people who go on and on about the soul of baseball, or whatever -- but still. And naturally, the obligatory palm trees have been freighted into the plaza outside, just to reinforce the television audience's delusions that San Francisco is actually part of California. It's all so calculated, so offensively inoffensive, like the creepy guy who pretends to share all your tastes because he thinks you'll like him more that way.

So, reflecting for several seconds, we decided we like the howl, because whatever else anyone might say about it, it's obviously unplanned. And since it had started to rain, we went back inside and called Pac Bell Park spokesperson Shana Daum to ask where the noise might have originated. "The way the stadium is built -- I mean, I have no idea why it howled," she said. "The building serves as a natural block to the wind. It was designed that way."

Which is lucky, Dog Bites thought: After all, our building -- China Basin Landing -- is designed to funnel wind at the stadium.

Daum, who sounded as though she answers a lot of questions about wind conditions, said she'd look into the Howl Issue and get back to us. When we called her later she told us no one at the stadium site recalled hearing anything out of the ordinary, then changed the subject by giving us an exclusive on the latest fun Pac Bell feature: diving, home-run-retrieving dogs. Wow; we can't wait until the animal rights people get hold of this one. And won't there have to be some environmental impact studies, or something?

So, bottom line on the Screaming Stadium? "It was probably the light standards," said Daum.

Boy, we hope so.

Last Week for Golden Handshake Reader Poll!
Since the Hearst purchase of the Chronicle is supposed to be finalized Feb. 15, and since we have a short attention span anyway, Dog Bites has capriciously decided this will be the last week in which readers can choose the columnists whose services they think the new, super-newspaper will retain. Exciting polling developments in the past week included a small jump in the number of votes for Stephanie Salter and a certain amount of bile directed at the Ex's Lord Martine -- like this note from Tony, who writes, "Are you sure that Lord Martine's percentage wasn't a bit higher? We like to call his 'column' Tiring Out the Town. Someone please give her a pillow, because she is T-I-R-E-D." Dog Bites has to agree; on an Amusement Value Scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being Jon Carroll and 10 being the Pets.com sock puppet ("Open it, iguana! Open it!"), we would have to rate Martine as, um, let's see. One?

Meanwhile, an Ex insider claims, "Lord Sardine is a pet of 'cute editor' (not!) Phil Bronstein, who [likes] his wacky wardrobe and per-son-ality. We might be stuck with him even after the shakedown."

But Dog Bites would like to remind everyone that, in voting, we must consider the larger picture, and, for instance, balance Martine's irritating posing against the weird episode last week in which Ken Garcia seemed to be attempting satire. We hope Garcia's getting physiotherapy now; doubtless he pulled something in the process of suggesting the city outfit "a select group of city workers and volunteers in sturdy steel-belted rubberized suits -- sort of urban Michelin Men -- and hav[e] them walk across well-traveled intersections known to be hazardous to our health."

Wow -- you wince even reading it. Garcia went on to make what were, we're sure, further witty comments at the expense of the city's bad drivers, but we had to put the paper down.

Pick the columnist you think will be the first to receive the Golden Handshake:
He or she will get canned on:

My e-mail address is:

Finally, reader Jim Musselman asks a question that has been preying on many San Franciscans' minds for a while now: "If Ted Fang buys the Ex, does that mean I'll have even more worthless, unsolicited, 'free' newspapers littering my front yard each week?"

Now, Jim. Fang's paper isn't worthless. Why, once, when Dog Bites was having some bookshelves delivered, we asked Bill (proprietor of the eponymous Bill's Basic Bookshelves) if he needed us to come downstairs and hold the apartment door open. "No thanks!" he answered cheerfully. "That's why God made the Independent."

Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail dogbites@sfweekly.com.

About The Author

Laurel Wellman

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