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Letters to the Editor 

Letters from August 30, 2000

Comments
No Sympathy for the Devils

As if they don't feel bad enough already: Another story about a bunch of greedy people who got screwed by an unscrupulous friend ("ValleyBoy.Scam," Aug. 16). Waaahhhhhh. It's the American way, isn't it? You hoped for a huge payoff with no work and got burned. As for the parasites Chris Seguy and Kenn Sugiyama: Quit whining. You got a free ride, free drugs, and all you had to do was bend over once in a while for some guy you weren't attracted to. Get over it. Plenty of other prostitutes do the same thing for a lot less. The image of you two huddled in front of the fireplace made me laugh. The rats who stayed with the ship after it sank. No place to go? That's your own fault, not Kevin Yaeger's.

The funniest thing is that you let SF Weekly photograph and interview you. Now the entire Bay Area knows your business. Maybe you hope another sugar daddy will see you and snap you up. Hopefully this time you'll learn some skills so you have a fallback position when your looks go, or if you choose the wrong one again. Good luck.

Name Withheld
Via Internet

Actually, Cabdrivers Are More Like Cats

They never come when you call: With regard to Matt Smith's article "Death and Taxis" (Aug. 16), the difficulty in getting taxicab service into the neighborhoods is no mystery at all.

Visualize a football stadium and let that represent the city of San Francisco. Put a food dish out there in the middle of the field and let that represent the downtown area. Put another food dish out there somewhere near the edge of the field and let that represent the airport.

Now, turn loose 2,000 puppy dogs. And let those 2,000 puppy dogs represent 2,000 independent taxi drivers, each free to do as he wishes. Where will they congregate? Around the food dishes, of course.

So long as the independent contractor environment continues, more taxis will just mean more taxis around the food dishes. In the eyes of an independent taxi driver, the downtown and airport areas are where the money is. The leasing environment is actually a disincentive for them to serve the neighborhoods.

Proposition M will serve no other purpose than to put more taxis out there on the streets, all into the areas of the food dishes. The neighborhoods cannot possibly be better served.

Terry Smythe
TAXI-L Founder and Moderator
Winnipeg, Canada

And taxi commissioners are like sloths: Matt Smith's article was the most colorful writing I have seen in some time. There are taxi commissioners who genuinely are trying to improve service, improve working conditions for drivers, and provide opportunity. But taken as a whole, this commission has done almost nothing to improve service. Of the 100 permits they authorized last fall, only 20 have been issued. There have been no improvements in the dispatch systems. The bitter division between taxi companies and drivers that existed before the Taxi Task Force has resurfaced.

This Proposition M that the taxi companies are now pushing is the "most obscure, confusing, and inconclusive measure on the November ballot." Barbara Kaufman, one of the supervisors who endorsed the proposal, gave this recommendation: "Is this going to solve the problem? I don't know." What's up with that?

I did object to the unnecessary knocks about taxi drivers. This idea that "by taxi-driver design, there are almost never enough taxis on the street to meet demand" is ludicrous. As a union organizer, I really do wish that cabbies had that kind of political influence. Our proposals for adding peak-time permits and citywide dispatch have been ignored. There has been no action improving working conditions or driver safety. Mr. Smith was closer to the mark when he stated that "political patronage, cronyism, and piles upon piles of campaign cash" had a role in taxi industry regulation.

Ron Wolter
Board Member, United Taxicab Workers
San Francisco

Note to Bill: The New Yorker Is $44.95 a Year

Food for thought: Please give restaurant critic Greg Hugunin time off to complete the novel he so obviously wants us to know he'd rather be writing. (Note to Greg: If I wanted to be subjected to self-indulgent prose by someone desperate to write the Restaurant Review That Really Makes You Think, I'd read The New Yorker).

Bill Medley
Sunset

The Last Word on Rent Control

Living in the real world: Peter Byrne puts together what seems to be a coherent, logical argument by quoting theories and history and ignoring what is happening in the world around us, in San Francisco, in the year 2000 ("The Case for Ending Rent Control," Aug. 9).

All arguments against rent control ignore the fact that we already have a very clear real-world example of what would happen without rent control. There is no rent control on commercial properties, but we are still losing our nonprofits, our arts foundations, and our small businesses at a very great rate, driven out by rents tripling, quadrupling, and quintupling. Rent control is the only thing protecting us from residential landlords being able to do to private individuals what the commercial landlords are doing to our small businesses.

According to Mr. Byrne's theories, with no rent control on commercial properties, this should not be happening. I would be interested in his response to this.

Michael Kupietz
Hayes Valley

Peter Byrne replies: There is a supply limitation on commercial property called Proposition M.

Business partners. That's a good one: I very much enjoyed reading your article on rent control. I agree that rent control needs to be need-based, not across the board. As a person with residential and commercial real estate holdings, I view my tenants as my business partners and treat them as such. The radical element with the rent control industry will attack you as a capitalist or, worse, pro-landlord. However, I hope you will continue to educate the populace about the truth of rent control.

Emanuel Jolish
Financial District

No easy fix: Thank you for publishing such a refreshingly honest view of rent control. As demonstrated by Mr. Byrne's article, price controls in the San Francisco rental market have reduced supply: Tenants in rent-controlled units rarely move, owners take units off the market, buyers displace tenants via tenancies-in-common, and the dreaded Ellis Act increasingly becomes the tool of last resort. Coupled with red-hot increases in demand due to unprecedented prosperity, we have witnessed dramatic housing price increases. This burden falls most heavily on the poor.

We have all heard horror stories on both sides of the landlord-tenant debate. An easy fix, there is not. But to cut through the politics and look at what is really happening in our great city is the first step toward a solution.

Terry Campbell
Mission

Two-headed alien's message from beyond!: What a hot new style SF Weekly has nowadays! When you can manage to muster a relevant story, it's gotta be shocking, dangerous, full-on tabloid. Unfortunately, the Weekly is like the National Missile Defense: a lot of fire and smoke, but you still can't hit the broad side of a barn.

Matt "Wall Street" Smith ("It's an Ugly Day in the Neighborhood," Aug. 9) and Peter "Raise My Rent" Byrne need to be reminded of the No. 1 rule of journalism: Do your research! But that might interfere with their prefabricated conclusion: It's all the fault of us citizens. Damn pesky neighborhoods and tenants, getting in the way of progress, development, free enterprise, truth, justice, and the American Way.

You see, Matt and Pete, we have all the tools we need to build lots of housing right now. There are plenty of laws and incentives, and even public money! We don't have to raise appeals fees or tell NIMBYs and lefties to go to hell, we just have to educate them. And we don't have to repeal rent control, because if we educate opponents, stop corruption, and thereby enable more housing to be built, supply will increase and prices will drop! Wow!

Gary Moody
Dogpatch

Zoned out: Peter Byrne's article explained quite well the nature and disadvantages of San Francisco's rent control. However, he fell short in elaborating on zoning regulations' impact on rental availabilities. San Francisco's unduly strict zoning makes it quite difficult to build and modify new housing in the city.

How complicated are the city's zoning rules? I spent a half-day at the city planning office reading their brochures and talking to civil servants. My question was simply [about] where I could legally establish a new business in San Francisco.

I found filling out federal income tax forms easier to understand. Of course, more levels of zoning bureaucracy also create more city jobs and more revenue from zoning violation fines.

To solve San Francisco's housing problems, among other measures we need to relax the zoning laws.

Michael Menaster
San Francisco

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