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Letters to the Editor 

Published May 3, 2000

Comments
We Ignored the Drummer? Well Damn Us All to Hell.
I was very disappointed to read Silke Tudor's review of Persephone's Bees (The House of Tudor, April 26), which negligently and rudely excludes any mention (even the standard noncommittal "backbone" comment) of arguably the hardest-working person on a Persephone's Bees stage -- the drummer, Paul Bertolino. Paul is a very equal and important part of a four-way chemistry which is VERY hard to find with any band.

Jimmy Chast
Berkeley

Ode to Angelina
I just want to say "thanks" for a review so complimentary, intelligent, and entertaining (The House of Tudor)! I am Angelina's [Moysov, of Persephone's Bees] biggest fan (I'm getting mushy) and am so influenced by her drive and abilities. Your review reflects an appreciation, the same that fuels my collaboration with her and again, thanks for putting in the time to write such a stellar review!

Tom Ayres
Oakland

AGAIN With the Drummer
This is in response to the recent music reviews of two of the great bands in current existence -- the Bellyachers and Persephone's Bees (The House of Tudor). Thanks for possessing and expressing your musical good taste and also pointing out some of the finer points of what makes these bands so unique. The Bellyachers dare to be "Country when country isn't cool" (an old Barbara Mandrell song, I think). Songwriting of this quality makes any music -- even country -- cool. Thank you for pointing out the incredible use of vocabulary in their songs.

Re: the PBs, I love the way you drew references to Nina Hagen, etc., and lullabies. You noticed that what makes these songs so great are the ARRANGEMENTS, which take care to showcase the virtuosity of the musicians. WHAT ABOUT THE DRUMMER? Sadly, there wasn't any mention of him. In most bands I've seen I tend to forget the drummer is there -- what with the all-too-common patterns portrayed. WITH THE BEES this isn't the case. I wish you had mentioned the fact that this guy rocks AND rolls, and MOVES. His drums shift the parts of the song around like a bulldozer with an ungodly gift for finesse. Great drummers are hard to find and keep. I hope this guy marries the band so he'll stay forever.

Thanks for your time. FYI some other bands you might want to check out if you haven't already ... Bart Davenport's solo events, the Servants (brand-new group with screamin' '60s Animals-style singing -- they rock!), and watch for Paul Bertolino's (Bees drummer) new band (as yet unnamed).

Diana Manzanilla
Oakland

A Fair Appraisal
You are to be commended for the investigative research in the April 19 article by Mike Moore on the ground rent dispute between the San Francisco School District and our partnership, S.F. Associates, regarding the land under the San Francisco Shopping Centre at Fifth and Market ("Market Economics," Postscript). I would like to add a few points.

It is typical in long-term ground leases that rent increases are tied to performance of the retail leases that the developer enters into with his tenants, and that was what the parties agreed to when the district negotiated the ground lease with the original developer of the Centre in 1983. The "as is" appraisal instructions were approved by the Superior Court settlement judge to make doubly certain the appraisers followed the intent of the original ground lease.

Despite those instructions, the district produced a ground rent appraisal based on the land sales for the projects with totally different economics and zoning restrictions than the Centre. Using these irrelevant points of comparison the district's appraiser arrived at a 1995 ground rent opinion of $2,250,000 per year. The district's appraiser disregarded the actual retail leases at the Centre, and essentially ignored the real world economics of the Centre as well as the "as is" appraisal instructions which specifically required him to consider the encumbrances (leases to the retailers).

S.F. Associates retained a respected local appraiser and retail expert, who followed the settlement judge's instructions, considered the economics of the Centre, including the leases in place, and concluded that the 1995 Fair Rental Value was $1.2 million.

We assumed the arbitrator would agree with our expert in the baseball-style arbitration process where the arbitrator has to pick one opinion or the other. We were wrong. Your article refers indirectly to the fact that there have been two appraisals, the first of which was set aside by mutual agreement of the parties when it turned out that the neutral appraiser -- who was to choose between the school district's appraiser and ours -- had done considerable work for the city. Rather than try to defend that conflict of interest in court, the district agreed to start the process over again. We have now completed the second appraisal process, and the decision reflects a serious departure from the agreement we reached with the district. The district may feel otherwise, but it will now be up to the courts to decide the case unless the parties can reach a reasonable, businesslike resolution.

Your article points out that rents and property values have risen dramatically, but two points should be kept in mind. First, almost all of that increase has occurred in the past two years. The ground rent at issue in our case was to be set with reference to mid-1995 values, a point in time well prior to the recent pressure on rents in the city. Second, the ground rent was not to be set according to a specific definition of rental value, and it was to be tied to the unique physical and economic attributes of this Centre. It is precisely because the district, in our view, ignored that requirement that we are now back in court.

While San Francisco housing prices, and apartment and office rents, have been skyrocketing over the last few years, this had not been the case at the San Francisco Shopping Centre. Our retail rents have increased less than 3 percent a year since 1995, and the retail sales at the Centre were less in 1999 than they were in 1996. The district's claim for back rent is $1 million more than the total increase in rents we have received from the Centre since 1995.

In 1995, we experienced a net loss of $2,436,000 at the same time the district was attempting to hike the ground rent from $1.3 million to $2.25 million, a 70 percent increase. Any apartment dweller, and any commercial tenant who had built his business in reliance on an agreement to tie the ground rent to the economics of that business, would find such an increase in his or her rent nothing short of outrageous. The facts are that we offered long ago -- before the litigation commenced in 1995 -- to settle with the district at a substantial increase; the district insisted on an unreasonable and unrealistic figure. We wish to be reasonable, but there are limits.

Your reporter has made a very fair analysis of the strengths of the S.F. Associates legal position. We have always been confident of our case, but we would much prefer to resolve this matter than to litigate it endlessly. We take a pragmatic view that litigation is uncertain, expensive, and takes forever. We have been frustrated by the decision-making process at the district, which seems to preclude any reasonable compromise.

At the end of the day, our case will prevail and the school district will have lost its chance for a compromise. We are now five years into this quagmire with no end in sight for establishing the 1995 ground rent, and the appraisal process to fix the 2000 rent has not even begun. I hope that good and reasonable business sense may soon prevail, and that we will be able to reach a fair and equitable settlement in everyone's best interest.

We appreciate SF Weekly's exposing this complex matter to public view, and we hope that your article will be helpful in resolving it.

Okla Basil "Dickie" Meade Jr.
S.F. Associates

Sound Journalist
SF Weekly is looking for a music editor to plan and edit the music section, manage freelance writers, and -- most important -- write columns and feature articles that define the local music scene. Send a cover letter, résumé, and your five best writing samples to:

John Mecklin
Editor
SF Weekly
185 Berry, Suite 3800
San Francisco, CA 94107

Or e-mail to: john.mecklin@sfweekly.com

Please -- please -- no phone calls.

Edit the Best
SF Weekly is looking for an associate editor who has a fine touch with copy, a firm grasp of the magazine style, and the autodidactic erudition needed to work comfortably with a staff full of writers who routinely win major national journalism awards. The ideal candidate for this position will have at least five years of experience at major newspapers and/or magazines, the demonstrated ability to deal with lengthy news and feature articles, and the desire to edit and write to the highest standards. Applicants should send a short, arresting cover letter, a one-page résumé, and a representative set of writing and editing clips to:

John Mecklin
Editor
SF Weekly
185 Berry, Suite 3800
San Francisco, CA 94107

Please, no phone calls.

The Best News
SF Weekly dominated the news reporting awards in this year's Peninsula Press Club competition, besting the Bay Area's daily and weekly newspapers in general news reporting.

In judging categories open to all daily and non-daily newspapers in the 11-county Bay Area, Weekly writers and editors won six awards.

Staff writers Joel P. Engardio and Lisa Davis won first place for general news story by a team for "Rage Against the Machine," in which they followed the insurgent mayoral campaign of Tom Ammiano.

An honorable mention in the team general news category went to Weekly Editor John Mecklin and staff writer Peter Byrne for their investigative reports on Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr.'s finances.

Davis also won first place in individual general news reporting for her story "Lab Rats," which examined controversies at the research laboratory of UCSF Nobel Laureate Stanley Prusiner.

Former Weekly staff writer Jack Boulware captured second place in technology reporting among all newspapers for his story "Online Pirates of the Caribbean," which traced the saga of three former San Francisco businessmen who faced federal indictments after establishing one of the most successful offshore gambling Web sites.

The Weekly also won the first and second place awards for headline writing. First place went to a headline by Mark Athitakis ("Jamba Liar," for a story about a Cajun chef who is now a federal fugitive) and second place to a headline by David Pasztor ("Science of the Lambs," for a story on a local company's dominance in cloning technology).

The Weekly also won two awards in categories for non-daily newspapers.

Engardio won first place for general news reporting in the non-daily category for his story "A Chance for Respect," which examined the Hearst Corp.'s plans to buy the San Francisco Chronicle.

Greg Hugunin, a regular Weekly contributor, received an honorable mention in the non-daily feature category for "Pleasantville," a look at the impending eviction of homeless squatters on the Albany Landfill.

The winners, selected from nearly 500 entries of work published in 1999, were announced at the Peninsula Press Club's annual dinner on April 28.

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