Dog Bites

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

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.

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