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Letters to the Editor 

Power Point;The Chronicle Chronicles;Outlawing Landlords and Other Amusements


Power Point

Besides that, how'd you like the story?: Jeremy Mullman's July 4 piece "Gray Skies," about the Potrero power plant project, presents a distorted and incomplete picture of the state's efforts to bring renewable power online and about the Energy Commission's power plant siting process.

First, Mr. Mullman is flat-out wrong that the state is ignoring renewable energy. The California Energy Commission has always supported renewable energy. By the end of 2003, 1,000 megawatts generated by 72 new renewable power plants will be online. California gets more of its electricity from renewable sources than any other state by far.

Mullman also errs in saying no environmental justice analysis has taken place [for the Potrero power plant]. Section 4.9 of the preliminary staff assessment discusses the plant's impact on employment, housing, schools, minority or low-income populations, and other projects. The analysis recommends conditions of certification intended to mitigate environmental justice impacts on the surrounding community.

Mullman also wrongly charges that the commission appears to be well on the way to approving unnecessarily large plants, and that the state lacks an energy plan. There is a significant supply shortage throughout the region. There is nothing unnecessary about adding new generation to California's supply, regardless of the facility size.

As for the state's energy plan, power generation is just one-third of Gov. Davis' aggressive three-part strategy to resolve California's energy situation. The other key elements are market stabilization and energy conservation. We have made great strides in these areas. Wholesale power prices have dropped even as Californians conserved a remarkable 12 percent of electricity used in June, compared to the same period last year.

Mullman errs in saying that the commission has never rejected a power plant application. Had he checked, he would have found a number of power plant applications were withdrawn, predicated by the commission's indication of denial.

Mullman is also flat wrong in charging that the peaker plants under construction burn highly polluting oil. None of the 11 "peakers" approved by the commission burns oil. All are natural gas-fired facilities.

Preliminary staff assessments are just that, preliminary. They are not final reports. Public input is a key part of the licensing process. The issues raised at the workshops will become part of the final staff assessment. In the meantime, new environmental justice workshops are planned to better address the concerns that were raised.

Steve Larson
Executive Director
California Energy Commission

Jeremy Mullman responds: Steve Larson raises one valid point: I did incorrectly describe peaker plants as oil-burning. The newer peakers do not burn oil, and I apologize for the error.

Larson says I am "flat-out wrong" in saying that the state is largely ignoring renewable energy. Don't take my word for it: The San Diego Union-Tribune reported July 4 that only four of the state's 38 recently signed long-term power contracts involve green energy.

Larson says an environmental justice analysis was done for the Potrero plant, pointing to a section of the preliminary staff assessment of the project dealing with socioeconomics. That section was co-written by the Energy Commission employee, Amanda Stennick, who told a public hearing that the commission's plant-building process was "fractured" and that, rather than evaluate whether there were disproportionate impacts on minority communities in southeast San Francisco, she had merely developed a "screening tool" to evaluate whether southeast San Francisco constituted an "environmental justice population." Stennick also said the commission "hasn't figured out what to do about environmental justice yet."

The Chronicle Chronicles

Medium hot under the collar: It's to be expected that SF Weekly would dislike an article that has some positive things to say about the San Francisco Chronicle. But it's disappointing that Jeremy Mullman, in his eagerness to attack my Columbia Journalism Review piece ("How Legends Are Born," Dog Bites, July 18), would distort what I wrote. He ignores the evidence I gave for my conclusion that the Chronicle has improved over the past six months, such as its enterprising energy coverage, a penetrating series on Mayor Brown, a critique of United Airlines.

Nor does Mullman take note of my article's balancing criticisms of the Chronicle for such things as serious oversights in local coverage, inadequate business coverage, and a weak Sunday magazine. To do so would have made it impossible for him to make his tired assertion that I'd bought the company line.

Any serious journalistic observer can see that the Chronicle has become better, but when Mullman says he's "not sure how that translates into greatness" he's trying to demolish a claim that my article doesn't make. The paper has improved, not achieved greatness. Whether it will remains to be seen.

Finally, he concluded from our telephone conversation that my praise was "lukewarm." Actually, it's more like "medium hot," but those of us who grew up in the Midwest tend to speak carefully and laconically, without the overstatement that columnists like Mullman prefer.

James Risser
Twin Peaks

Giving the Chron the bird: I liked your story on the "new" Chronicle. I thought I was the only one who noticed the emperor was naked. I actually tried the Chronicle for a month -- a free trial subscription -- but decided that my bird's sanitary needs weren't sufficient to justify all that wasted paper.

Daniel J. Leer
Pleasant Hill

Outlawing Landlords and Other Amusements

Tenants Union -- where the laughs never stop: Matt Smith's account of the Board of Supervisors' decision was wrong. The supervisors did not "[outlaw] a method of buying apartments known as tenancy in common" ("Now, the Emphatic Colonic News," July 18). They simply upheld an annual limit on the number of buildings that can be converted to tenancies in common.

And does Smith honestly believe the San Francisco Tenants Union would present serious legislation to the Board of Supervisors or the S.F. voters [Keep Out Obnoxious Landlords, which would ban owning more than two apartments] that includes the term "KOOL" (with a K!) in its title? Did it occur to Smith that [SFTU's Ted] Gullicksen may have found his inquiry so silly that he may not have given Smith a straight answer? In this "expanding quagmire of newly minted, screw-The-Man laws," the SFTU may be engaging in the most radical practice yet: maintaining our sense of humor. Come on in, Matt; the water's fine.

Samantha Zutler
San Francisco Tenants Union

Political sitcom: Thanks to Matt Smith for his insightful column. I especially enjoy his exposure of the ironies of living in San Francisco today. Of particular comic value is his quote from Ted Gullicksen, to wit: "Well, banning landlords would certainly mean real home ownership for tenants, though it's probably undoable in increasingly-conservative and rich SF where profiteering off of housing means big bucks." Does Gullicksen's definition of profiteering include his income, which has come solely from housing "activism"?

Of equal entertainment value is the time Sophie Maxwell, Mark Leno, Jake McGoldrick, and Matt Gonzalez have devoted to "leave potheads alone" resolutions. Given the district attorney's user-friendly attitude toward dope dealers, I loved the comment, "the sanctuary measure would have no immediate, practical significance." Even though that quartet are on our payroll, "no immediate, practical significance" seems to be an apt description of their work.

Get back to work, folks, and do something of immediate, practical significance.

James Duggins
Glen Park


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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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