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Dog Bites 

IKEA, Party of Five, heavenly coffee, and bumpin' Bernal Heights bus shelters

Wednesday, Feb 16 2000
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Light Reading
Why do we even bother trying to print news in this space? All half our readers actually care about is how they can qualify to get a free Poäng armchair when the new IKEA opens in Emeryville. Well, brace yourselves -- it won't be easy. "We had people sleeping in the parking lot when the Chicago store opened in November," IKEA Emeryville manager Mike O'Rourke told us. Besides free chairs, opening celebrations on April 12 will include speeches by various IKEA dignitaries, though O'Rourke noted the company's CEO, Anders Dahlvig, won't be there due to a scheduling conflict: IKEA Moscow is opening the same day.

Those of us who become very nearly overwrought at the prospect of a $49.95 knockoff Noguchi floor lamp are excited already. But of course, there are always a few skeptics in the crowd -- like Darryl, who e-mails, "Any truth to the rumor going around Usenet that IKEA is Swedish for 'sucker'? I thought if anybody would know, it'd be you."

No, there is no truth to that rumor, but the one about the genetically engineered "chickens" at KFC? That's true.

Fifty-six shopping days to IKEA! Meanwhile, there's always Party of Five. A fan of the San Francisco-set series on the Weekly's staff excitedly pointed out that the paper had been mentioned on two of the two most recent episodes. (His exact words, we think, were, "They did it again! They did it again!") Unfortunately, Dog Bites, whose television viewing schedule favors half-hour comedies that can be absorbed from the perspective of a cross-trainer -- RESUME WORKOUT IN OPPOSITE DIRECTION -- with the sound off, has never really kept up with the show, apart from the plot points we can glean from those little trailers between commercials on the Fox 2 news: "Is Bailey's drinking problem out of control? This week, on an all-new Party of Five."

Nevertheless, we're always eager to do some investigative work, so we called Party of Five's production offices in Culver City, which is somewhere in or around Los Angeles, though it's probably best not to inquire too closely, and ended up questioning a writer about the show's use of our paper as a reference point. "We do it a lot, actually," Allan Heinberg told us. "I've written it in myself at least eight times. All the writers here are about the same ages as the characters, and that's what we would read, so we assume the Salingers [the drama's fictional family] would read it too. It's basically our characters' lifeline to cultural San Francisco."

Well! After this glowing endorsement and a few more awkward pleasantries, Dog Bites felt guiltily compelled to confess that, um, the reason we didn't have any more real questions to ask was that we don't actually watch Party of Five ourselves. "Don't feel bad," said Heinberg. "This is the last season for us anyway. Our ratings suggest nobody's watching."

The Word of God! Plus, the Muffins of God! The Espresso of God! And of Course, the Greeting Cards of God!
When Dog Bites heard the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco had used the Ellis Act -- and Ellis Act specialist lawyer Andrew Zacks -- to evict an elderly couple living in a house on one of its properties, we were pretty horrified ["Can't Find My Way Home," Feb. 9]. But then Archdiocesan spokesperson Maurice Healey kind of smoothed everything over, telling us the church needed the building to house Jesuits attached to the parish. Sure, it still seemed as though the eviction might have been a bit tough on the old folks, but after all, the Society of Jesus, which runs the church for the Archdiocese, needs to house its priests, too.

But according to confidential church documents that somehow ended up on our desk, the church has been hoping to use the house not as a Jesuit residence, but as a "Young Adult Spiritual Life Center," complete with a coffeehouse equipped with "an espresso machine for different coffees, an assortment of teas and soft drinks, muffins, pastries, cookies, etc." and a bookstore carrying, among other things, "tapes and CDs of the best of inspirational music, Gregorian chant, music for meditation, etc., Christian greeting cards for all occasions, religious articles, prayer books, devotional gifts, etc."

An Oct. 8 memo from parish pastor Russell Roide even appears to instruct St. Agnes staff to, well, lie (and it's been awhile since Dog Bites went to Sunday School, but wasn't there some sort of a commandment about that?) about the project if asked. "[U]se the words Jesuit residence, library and not coffee house, bookstore, etc." the directive says. "Keep it nebulous in case anyone calls or asks during the process. I will let you know when we get the permit and how it is progressing. It won't be long! An architect will be hired soon to draw simple plans and then proceed for the renovation. The permit for the renovation will be received this next week."

As a matter of fact, the only permit on file with the city -- though who knows what a, um, higher authority may have told the church it can do -- says workers can remove plaster ceilings and install sheetrock inside the two-story, four-bedroom house. This renovation work has thus far necessitated covering the outside of the house with scaffolding -- but then, Dog Bites isn't an expert on building inspections or anything and has no idea whether city officials have been by to check on the project at 1611 Oak St.

Tom Burke, another spokesperson for the Diocese, denied the church documents -- which specify a project completion date of summer 2000 -- were anything more than a "vision statement. The building is going to be exactly what I told you it's going to be -- a Jesuit residence."

Um, so what about money raised from corporate donors intended for the Spiritual Life Center? Burke said it will be used for "the good of the community, for the young adults in the community."

Gimme ... Shelter?
Dog Bites has always wanted to live in Bernal Heights -- it's mostly just a vibe, though we also like the narrow, winding streets, the ramshackle little houses, and the proximity to Moki's Sushi -- but man! In a city full of self-appointed neighborhood committees drunk with power, we are newly intimidated by the Northwest Bernal Alliance, whose organized opposition has prevented Muni from putting new bus shelters on Mission Street south of Cesar Chavez -- because people have sex in them.

Now, Dog Bites likes to think we get around San Francisco quite a bit, but we have to admit we have never seen anyone doing anything even remotely sexual in a bus shelter. In fact, up until now, we had believed there was just something about Muni -- maybe the unflattering lighting, maybe the cockroaches, maybe the crushing sense of the individual's helplessness in the chilly grip of an indifferent bureaucracy -- that killed all libidinous impulses, with, of course, the exception of those of frotteurs.

So we have to ask again -- bus shelters? "They're in the middle of the street, on bus bulbs!" spluttered Lew Lillian of Infinity Outdoor, the company that installs and maintains them. "I've never heard anything like it. This small militant group thinks they speak for 30,000 people, for the whole Outer Mission, Excelsior, and Bernal Heights. And they don't."

Of the NWBA's other objections to the shelters -- that they invite graffiti, are used for advertising, and harbor drug dealers -- Lillian claims his company had already agreed that the Bernal shelters wouldn't carry advertising and would be cleaned three times a week, rather than twice, as is standard.

The small militant group itself isn't particularly interested in talking; the NWBA's Miki Saxon told us, "There are four blocks of Mission that are our responsibility. When the block club really got going in '88 there were murders and muggings, and we don't have that now. We've worked really closely with Ingleside [police station] on that. Our section of Mission is really turning around. We've got some great new clubs. It's really becoming a lot more like Valencia."

She angrily refused to answer any questions at all about the bus shelters, and speculated that Dog Bites was out to get her anyway. "I suppose the worst that can happen is I'm going to have to go around telling everyone you twisted what I said," she said. "You can print that too -- I suppose you will."

Saxon said the only way we'd get any more information on the bus shelter brouhaha was to attend a meeting of her group. Except that the issue, as far as the NWBA is concerned, is settled -- no bus shelters, period -- and therefore isn't on the agenda. So to reopen the question, we'd first have to attend the group's planning meeting, two weeks prior to its regular meeting, and move that the bus shelter discussion be placed on the agenda.

Huh.

Last time a neighborhood resident did this, nobody was very happy -- Bevan Dufty, director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services, attended the NWBA meeting at which a senior citizen who wants bus shelters in the area had gone through the process to have the group revisit the issue. "It was a scorcher," said Dufty. "I'm usually the target of people's rage, but this time around they started pulling the bricks off the building and throwing them at each other. It was a slugfest!"

Despite what the NWBA has decreed, Dufty has asked Muni's bus shelter czar to look into the question. "It does seem to me that in a city like this, where it's cold and it rains a fair amount of the time, that having a protected place to wait for the bus can be a good thing," he said, then sighed. "Yeah, I'm probably getting in a hornet's nest right here."

And the Winner Is ...
With the Hearst Corp.'s purchase of the Chronicle and its subsequent closure of the Examiner nearly a done deal, we've decided it's time to wrap up the Golden Handshake Reader Poll, the online vote in which we asked our readers which of the two papers' columnists will keep their gigs after the merger. After all, there are about 35 of them, which seems to us a few more than one paper needs; obviously some will be reassigned, or given healthy contract buyouts.

Naturally, many of our readers interpreted our poll to mean they should vent their spleens at the columnists they really hate. And really, who are we to say this is wrong? So without further ado, the top pick for termination is ... Ken Garcia, with readers choosing, on average, sometime in March for the date of his final column.

The Golden Handshake Reader Poll --

Top 10 Results

Ken Garcia -- 32 percent

Lord Martine -- 18 percent

Jon Carroll -- 11 percent

Stephanie Salter -- 9 percent

Scott Ostler -- 5 percent

Joan Ryan -- 5 percent

Rob Morse -- 3 percent

Ray Ratto -- 3 percent

Matier & Ross -- 3 percent

Adair Lara -- 2 percent

But don't be downcast, Ken: After all, you've got better name recognition than anyone else, which, we're pretty sure, means your job is safe.

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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