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R. K. Oytauer Blog

Mr. Oytauer dropped his first blog installment on our doorstep after the April 17, 2013 meeting with SFMTA, and we expect he will continue to write these heartfelt notes to the folks of North Beach.


April 5, 2014: Oh, Rats!

Oh, Rats!

What did I say in one of my several "rants" 11 or 12 months ago about rats flooding out from beneath the Pagoda Palace and into Washington Square (and into the nearby restaurants, businesses and homes)???

Am I clairvoyant? Or were the Central Subway Developers and John Funghi and David Chiu just deliberately ignoring the obvious truth?

I hate to say I told them so. But I do. And in return a year ago I was called a NIMBY. (Ironically, by one guy who purports to have a blog about "news" in North Beach and lives right near the church. Now he has rats in his own front yard!)

So which is worse: Not In My Back Yard Rats? Or: Not in My Front Yard Rats?

Rat feces in restaurants and the children's playground should be a clear violation of public safety laws. It's also vile and disgusting. Thanks John Funghi! And thank you David Chiu! Guardians of our community "leading the way to Progress" or self-interested opportunists with no regard to public sanitation and safety?

This is a horrific example of "Privatizing the Profits — but Socializing the Risks."

Central Subway Developers to North Beach Residents:
We're gonna do what ever makes US money. We don't care if YOU have to use your Tax dollars to deal with the problems we create by exploiting the infrastructure that was put their at public expense generations ago. We don't care if you and your children are sickened by diseases (formally known only in the third world), not as long as the profits pile up in our bank accounts!

Eat Rat Feces, North Beach! And if you don't like it then bloody move somewhere else!

And in the meantime the spokeswoman for the Subway Corporation denies that the scourge of rats (driven out of their dens beneath the Pagoda Palace and from other construction sites associated with the "Central Subway" construction) is even happening. And if it is, then it's not our fault. (So there!)

And the Public Health department "deals" with the problem with flat denial and clearly ineffectual "solutions."

They don't live here. So who cares about the "complainers"?

Hell, the peasants complained about rats just before the Bubonic Plague wiped out half of Europe ( ... due to mass rat infestations and the fleas and diseases they carried). What a bunch of belly-aching whiners!

Get ready North Beach. It looks like it's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

When you make your bed you lie in it. (With many thanks out-of-town, big bucks developers, John Funghi and the ever truthful David Chiu — see their remarks and "promises" at the April, 2013 North Beach Meeting where they both repeated: "We do not foresee any problems with this" again and again in response to citizens' demands for clear and truthful answers.)

The results of their pathetic lack of foresight is now menacingly scurrying across the sidewalks bordering Washington Square not 20 paces from the front door of Original Joe's restaurant and other nearby elegant establishments.

These rats are not your normal, cautious, little pet shop rats. Some are the size of house cats and they are desperate (having lost their warrens beneath the Pagoda and other Subway Site construction nightmares) and they are emboldened by the massive piles of pizza boxes and other consumer trash piled high to overflowing at the two or three (yep, only 2 or 3!) puny trash bins that, due to "budget cuts," are seldom emptied in time to prevent these aggressive vermin from swarming around them (and the many parked cars around Washington Square).

Remember that next time you park here at night. Be sure to wear high boots as if you were hiking in rattlesnake country. Rat bites can be just as harmful. Welcome to the new Third World North Beach. This is not your own "Private Idaho." It's your own private Holiday in Cambodia. Like the song says "Right Guard will not help you here!" (Actually, Mace or a long, sharp stick might be more useful.)

And remember that next time you vote — as if voting even matters now, with the latest Supreme Court decision that "Any millionaire can donate all he wants to any politician willing to take his money for any cause, even if it's not in the public interest." In fact, especially if it's in the private, corporate interest. If anyone ever doubted it before, the United States has now officially reverted to a plutocratic monarchy.

My most sincere sympathies to North Beach. And my deepest condolences for your disappearing neighborhood and your trashed community culture. A clean, safe, graceful, charming neighborhood has deliberately been turned into a sleazy, plastic, shopping-mall Coney Island, with a huge helping of flea-bitten, mangy and aggressive rats.

Looks like Orwell was right in 1984. Just 30 years (exactly) off on the date: Washington Square is the new "Room 101."

(Rats story in the SF Chronicle, video at NBC News.)

June 3, 2013: What we need is a North Beach Spring

I have before me a professionally produced and very effective Mailer sent to my house supporting the "Waterfront Referendum" ( endorsed by former Mayor Art Agnos as well as former City Atty. Louise Renne and (of all people) Board President and North Beach's Supervisor David Chiu.

This issue is very similar to the issue we face in North Beach. But it happens to be stepping on the toes of much more influential people and the aggressiveness of their plan far outstrips any imaginary benefits the developers claim.

I listened to the "Debate" about this on KQED a couple weeks ago with Mayor Agnos defending the City against the Developers who sounded like carbon copies of [Muni's] Mr. Funghi (that is, ineffectual non-statements and irrelevant, repetitive catch phrases and buzz words.) I wonder sometimes why they don't at least bother to enroll theses guys in a one-week Drama Workshop at the local YMCA just to give them some tips on how to come across as pretending to be even vaguely sincere.

I'm astonished that Chiu's remark in support of rejecting the Developers' Waterfront Plan is: "Building luxury high-rise condos and destroying precious recreational space is the wrong precedent for our waterfront. Please vote NO."

He seems to take a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" attitude when it comes to the destruction of historical landmark buildings and "precious recreational space" when it comes as high-ticket Waterfront Real Estate, as opposed to a Washington Square full of happy kids having fun in the playgrounds and local residents enjoying the charming park and income-producing tourists relaxing at open-air cafés and restaurants around the Square.

The zillion-square-foot Shopping Mall-Basketball Stadium-Luxury Condo mega-plex was and is way over the top and has more immediate recognizable negatory implications right off the bat than does the totally useless plan of destroying an historic building in Washington Square under the vague but deliberate ruse of promising the local residents a Subway Stop --- which is not at all being planned (---tell that to the guy who plans to build his 4,000-square-foot restaurant/luxury condo/parking garages where the yuppies foolishly await their "Subway!" opening in the Never-Never).

So the Developers of the North Beach Scheme for replacing the current building height limits with 700-foot-high "luxury high-rise condos" (in David Chiu's own words) have a much easier time of it since the results of their actions take place under the guise of the "Central Subway" works, a less obvious subterfuge.

Is there any way Aaron Peskin could be asked to approach former Mayor Agnos and the former City Attorney Louise Renne (SHE must know how we could file for a restraining order against these rapacious snoods!!) and persuade them to join us in defending our neighborhood from the very same people that are trying to force this monstrous Waterfront Take-over down the City's throat?

The top contributors for the NO Wall on the Northeast Waterfront movement are: Richard and Barbara Stewart. I don't know who they are but I imagine they have a lovely view from their own luxury condo right now and don't want it destroyed by a massive shopping mall/stadium complex directly across the street.

Can we get THEM to lend us their support?

We need some Big Guns and some heavy hitters, people with some position and prestige that will cause the opposition to sit up and take notice. Cranks and artists are always dismissed as politically irrelevant, the same people who tried hard to prevent the City from ever building that ugly freeway ringing the Embarcadero in the first place (years ago my friends chained themselves to the steps of the Ferry Building and got blasted with water cannons for their pains {and I DO mean PAIN}. And it did no good at all.)

Then, years later, the very same developers who promoted that freeway in the first place were suddenly the ones lobbying hard to have it demolished so they could now clean up on the "view" property whose value they'd obliterated by insisting on the ugly freeway to begin with. Buy low, sell high. (The trick being to deliberately reduce the value of the site by degrading its appearance and accessibility and then, after its value has sunk to zero, you buy it up and start changing your tune to deliberately enhance its value as suddenly being a desirable place to own. Nice trick. And the City pays all your expenses. "OPM" --- Other People's Money.)

As Baron Rothschild said: "Buy when blood is running in the streets".

Just now there is a battle going on in Istanbul, Turkey where the city is planning to put a shopping mall in a local city park (one of the last open spaces left with trees and free space) is being fought with hired armed guards and police assaulting peaceful protesters with tear gas and water cannons. The protest is spreading all over the country but the repressive government is going ahead with the real estate developers' plans regardless of the will of the People. Sound familiar?

It seems that, depending on your position, it would definitely be to your advantage to create the conditions that would somehow arrange for "blood to be running in the streets" and then have some really fantastic investment opportunities. Right now someone is buying up lots of real estate and stocks while blood is running in the streets of Istanbul. What an interesting coincidence that the civil unrest is happening right where they happen to own the area all the developers have their eyes on. Who'da thunk?

They have to cut down lots of trees in order to build the shopping mall. For some silly reason folks there are fond of those trees (obviously eco-nazi/ tree-hugger/no-growth/anti-progress/anti-free enterprise pinkos).

In our case the same real estate development interests have to demolish a 106-year-old historic landmark (risking contaminated pollution for there local residents and their children in the process) and they will also have to cut down several trees in order to get their backhoes and dump trucks in and out of the site on a regular basis for the next 15 months.

The contrast between the reaction of people in Istanbul against this greedy scheme (outrage, determination, standing up to threats to their neighborhood) the the people here in North Beach (dis-involvement, disinterest and a general "Not-my-Problem" or "What's-in-it-for-me?" apathy) is pretty astonishing. Maybe we should send the people of Turkey our Bill of Rights. After all, we're no using it.

One group of people risk their all for the principles of democracy and the other group couldn't care less as long as it doesn't interfere with their web-surfing, Pandora-shuffling, Nintendo-craving disengagement from any civic responsibility (and the soon-to-be disappointed illusion that they will actually "get a Subway they can ride" ---as if riding an over-packed subway {because local surface bus lines have been cut back} is somehow an exciting treat or might shave ten minutes off their commute to their tech job for some start-up or giant corporation).

Perhaps what we need here in our neighborhood is a North Beach Spring. We should find out who those audacious and impudent Turks are who had the guts to stand up to the same outrage and environmental insults we seem to blithely take lying down and invite them to give us a lesson or two in how to actually give a damn about our local community and the exercise of basic rights. Before they completely wither from neglect and disuse.

Rights! Use 'em or lose 'em!

June 1, 2013: ruth's words

I just spoke to my old friend Ruth Weiss (one of the last remaining original Beatnik girls, old pal of Ferlinghetti and all the Beat cats of the old days. Ruth got out of Nazi Germany just in time when she was a kid. She's probably pushing 85 these days but still belting out great poetry. And as you can see below, her poems are still as relevant now as they were back in 1958).

I was telling her about the situation with the Pagoda and the Real Estate Developers and she read me a poem she wrote back in 1957 about the very same thing:

One More Step West is the Sea
ruth weiss, 1957

Silly City! The Webbed Monster is clawing you.
He will devour you when he has ceased playing.
The Tower of Babel will not be built again.
But there are other symbols
that must first become concrete.
City, how close you are to Water, Earth & Tree.
And I love you for it.
It is your saving.
It will be your Doom,
because you cannot quite accept yourself as you are.
You have invited the Webbed Monster to connect you.
He has a cement and steel-greedy eye.
They're tearing another house down
and someone is salvaging ancient door knobs.
The ghosts must go somewhere.
The house is all windowed hallowness,
lawned, window, door carved to infinite beauty,
carved with love.
Infinite love.
Infinity must go
it is the coin-again-coin
gold is out
silver is out
diamonds are a ...
Only paper is king

[For more on the background of ruth's words see The Freeway Revolt]

Sounds like things haven't changed much since the old days. The "Termite People" who are determined to eat away at the City till it's just one big ant farm will never go away.

So it is our responsibility to fight back to preserve what's here. Ruth hit the nail right on the head over 55 years ago. Her words could've been written yesterday.

May 24, 2013: San Francisco only for the wealthy?

Check out the Front Page of the SF Bay Guardian:

Thousands Lose Homes as Money and Greed transform San Francisco
(Articles at SF Bay Guardian article May 21: Urbicide and SF Bay Guardian article May 21: Vanishing City).

See the Editor's remarks on Page 12. It's all about the developers' plans to make San Francisco a city where only well salaried professionals and executives can dwell and how the plan is going neighborhood by neighborhood and is planned over the next two decades.

The plan, of course, is to ultimately make places like North Beach look like Cupertino. Only it will be much more lucrative, with semi-high-rise 6-story million-dollar condos with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay. (Cupertino doesn't have that!)

Think: Cupertino, and Nob Hill views, but with Dubai rents.

It is almost guaranteed that there will be no opposition since the Subway Scammers' modus operandi up till now seems to be working very effectively, that is, to not even acknowledge that there are any plans to do anything anywhere at any time, keeping the public in ignorance and under the false illusion that what ever heavy construction that is happening is obviously so they can have a subway stop here in Washington Square, etc.

In a debate I believe No Dig folks would have the field to themselves. If they (three Muni bosses and David Chiu) made any claims at all they could easily be refuted by showing the gaping holes in their lame rationales for going through with the Pagoda Demolition and the 40 foot Shaft to Nowhere. When they were confronted at the North Beach meeting on 17 April they looked pathetic in their futile attempts to obfuscate and prevaricate.

If the Pagoda dig does happen and there is indeed toxic contamination in whatever form or if there is a fire that endangers nearby structures (a common risk in all construction jobs) just watch those same four corporate shills claim, "We did not envision…" or "We will have inspectors to monitor the situation…" while they seek to shift blame to anyone else but themselves and their developer friends.

If it can be pointed out what a "Job Crater" this is (as opposed to a Job Creator) and how it will harm nearby business AND cause untold pollution for the neighborhood, including the two children's playgrounds directly across the street and the nearby residents and their families (lead, asbestos or just plain 100 year-old contaminated soil and building debris) then this might be a wakeup call for the community.

Ideas like these may be our only hope to save Washington Square and prevent the developers from taking our livable, authentic neighborhood and turning it into just another up-scale strip mall cookie-cutter Cupertino in which only the super-rich can afford the top floors (and every floor below them), just like most of the "residents" who own View Property in that lovely "Ionizer Building" next to the Bay Bridge.

So, that's my humble opinion on how to reach the public with this alarming news and stir up some opposition to the developers' plans (aka "Central Subway" ---yeah, right).

After all, the opposition to the powerful forces that have repeatedly tried to cover the Embarcadaro with a mega-complex including billionaire condos, shopping malls and a sports stadium for the Warriors, has once again prevailed and saved the waterfront for everyone to enjoy, not just the über-wealthy.

So there is hope to save Washington Square and North Beach. But only if we act now and get some Big Guns on our side to oppose this. Where's Melvin Belli when we need him? Same with Herb Caen. If they were around this would have been stopped before it began.

May 4, 2013: Hiding in plain sight

To: Editor, North Beach News

Thanks for your good advice and for reading my Pagoda rant. Publicizing the website is much more important than my long rants about what Muni has planned for us.

A short but vivid summary of this atrocity might possibly help interest people into clicking on that website and getting the straight, cold, hard facts. The depressing reality of the "Phantom Subway Stop" (the "Subway to Nowhere") is much better spelled out at the website than I could ever describe.

Actually, when all of the 120 people were speaking to the assembled corporate and government representatives meeting on 17 April Muni repeatedly assured everyone that there will be NO subway stop for North Beach.

That, in and of itself, should be a newsworthy item.

And therein lies the irony. In fact, it is amazing that you said:

"To my mind, it is first and foremost that we endure all of this
destruction and construction and we don't get a stop. That seems crazy."

Those are the identical words of most of the people who were assembled at the Telegraph Hill community meeting on 17 April. Too bad you missed it. It was a masterpiece of political theater and gave true meaning to the word "sham."

Everyone who was there said: "This is crazy!" And, "Why are you doing this??"

The Subway scammers simply evaded the questions and blew off anyone who caught them in a lie (which happened repeatedly, by the way --- there is a tape of the entire proceeding so I ain't making it up).

And those are the words ("That seems crazy") of most of the people who are even vaguely aware that any subway is being built in San Francisco.

It's actually the opposite sentiment from Not In My Backyard. It's more like: What's In It for ME?

Imagine the surprise and shock when they found out (straight from the horse's mouth) that, no, there will BE no subway station in North Beach. Maybe in the year 2021 or 2028. But probably not in this decade or the next, as we were repeatedly assured.

You made some good points in your note to me, especially when you wrote:

"If they build the subway here, we should get a stop. I'm in favor of a subway that I can use."

Yeah, you'd think, huh?

But actually: No.

When some people at the meeting demanded to know why we were going to be put through all this and wind up with not even getting a damn subway stop the gentlemen with the microphone said that was absolutely "not an option." End of discussion. When people repeatedly asked the same obvious question they simply mouthed buzz words like "option" and "we do not envision any problems" and "that is a conversation we can have at some point," etc. It was a truly stunning display of ignorance and arrogance. (Always a toxic and disastrous combination).

The 120 well-dressed, educated and polite citizens at the meeting were on the very edge of erupting into an angry, furious mob. The Muni guys were trembling but unrepentant. They behaved like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar but stubbornly refusing to confess the truth.

So --- not only will there not be a subway that you can use, they also assured us that: yes indeed, the surface Muni buses will be eliminated and service throughout our neighborhood will "undergo cuts." Cool. What's not to love?

There is a Muni PR agent who's been paid over half a million dollars to obfuscate this tiny detail in order to effectively neutralize any public opposition. It looks like he earned his salary. But now the cat's out of the bag.

And now that it is dawning on them that people are waking up they want to start the dig before their opposition can get organized. Muni gets paid to be organized. Local citizens, on the other hand, have day jobs and kids and don't have the leisure time to organize an opposition against billion-dollar industries and real estate interests.

Letting the "cat out of the bag" is probably not the best metaphor for this. It's much more like opening Pandora's Box.

So yep, even though their plan "seems crazy" you will get your neighborhood ravaged and it will cost you between $70 to $100 million of tax money that should otherwise go to keep Muni running --- and you'll have about 5,000 tons of debris particulate going into your lungs (and your families' and their children's). But --- you won't get a subway stop. (As if that would actually be worth it).

So for anyone who thinks they'll get a subway --- well, the joke's on them.

Our Supervisor also confirmed the fact that once the subway dig is begun Muni intends to cut the existing bus lines. Ever try to take the 30 Stockton to Union Square or Market and 4th? Now there's a long, totally out-of-the-way detour that finally drops you several blocks away if you don't get off in time and start trucking. (And for those with kids or burdens to haul it's a real drag. Especially if it's raining.) They're all gone, the buses that ran that way. And they probably won't be back. Why should they? Now we'll have the subway(!). But, uh, we won't get a subway. Not here. We'll just get the shaft. Literally.

So that is one more reason to oppose this foolhardy (but very profitable) subway scam. But the other reasons are much more important and much harder to detect but will have lasting impact on our community.

These include the fact that they have been trying very hard for many years (since 1957 when I was but a lad) to build a parking garage under Washington Square. This new subway project is a trojan horse to change the building and zoning laws for this neighborhood in order to allow real estate interests to increase the height of buildings here from 3 stories to 6 stories. Twice the rentable space --- and with "million-dollar views" of the bay to sell as multi-million dollar condos. They will need that parking garage in order to comply with density rules. One can't be done without the other. And this fifty foot by fifty foot by forty foot shaft will be the first step to "get the camel's nose under the tent," as they say.

When I first came to San Francisco there was a gas station on the corner of Filbert and Columbus. It's been gone for years like so many service stations in the City, but it wasn't till years later that they had to go back and remove the gas tanks buried just a little way under the surface. When they did so they discovered the underground stream that's about halfway down from the 50 foot grave they intend to dig there. (A century before there were public baths in that area. It tapped into that underground stream for its water. Ancient history now. But the stream is still there whether or not we can see it. It's like an underground void before it becomes a sink hole: just because it's not visible doesn't mean it isn't there. What you don't know can hurt you).

There are underground streams all over San Francisco. There is one beneath upper Grant Avenue. While retrofitting a building it runs under, it caused enough damage that the theater that was there was forced to close after more than ten years at that location. A lawsuit ensued and was won by the aggrieved party. But the theater was ruined.

So in our case with the destruction of Washington Square via the demolition of the Pagoda Theater and the fifty foot shaft dug ostensibly to remove the Tunnel Boring Machines (which is pure BS and they were called on it several times at the meeting) it is a fabricated excuse to keep the contractor in business at the expense of the local businesses and all the jobs they provide for the community.

It's a case of "The operation was a success but the patient died." With 85% to 90% of all tunnel and subway digs all over the world the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) are left in the ground, entombed at the end of each project. Each TBM is constructed for specific soil and terrain requirements and cannot be re-used (as they falsely claimed at this meeting). The machines' salvage value is about 5 million dollars. But it'll cost nearly 10 million dollars to extract them. Do the math.

They can be left in Chinatown where a real subway station is planned (as opposed to the fake, imaginary subway station which they hope people living in North Beach will mistakenly imagine is going to be placed here --- and after the $70 to $100 million dollars is given away to the corporate contractors who came up with this scam to loot our city treasury).

E-Z. A real subway station in Chinatown at Stockton & Washington Streets. Or: an imaginary subway station in Washington Square. If the differences between the two are too complex for even a "reasonable" person to grasp then heaven help the future of the human race. It's probably a godsend to the Muni PR guys that are manipulating this scam that both of the locations under discussion are named "Washington." That really helps to keep the feeble-minded in a state of confusion.

And the buildings adjacent to the pagoda will suffer even greater damage to their foundations and (if the laws of physics still apply to Powell Street and Columbus Avenue) will also seriously undermine those structures. Many people living in buildings adjacent to the Pagoda site are of course against this. But even those who live 5 or 10 blocks away aren't in favor of this corrupt scam. It's as ludicrous as if we heard they were digging to expand the subway in Rome but doing so could threaten the foundation of the Colosseum and might cause it to collapse.

Dig under the Colosseum? That's actually what IS happening right now in Rome. It will take till after the year 2020 and cost billions of dollars (not lira) and all for a 150-foot tunnel. Even if it didn't threaten the 2000 year-old Colosseum, that is magnificent corruption and ignorance in itself. Even for Rome. And though Rome almost single-handedly invented governmental corruption it appears that no one has the copyright on Ignorance. The Muni Subway Scam people are counting on that.

But it's not my problem. I want to be able to get around and see the sights when I'm in Rome. Who cares if the most famous of those sights is gone. We still have picture postcards. As Ronald Reagan said when he was governor in support of corporate clear cuts of the 1000-year-old redwoods, "If you've seen one redwood you've seen them all." And even if you can prove that it was a mistake to cut down a centuries-old redwood tree after it's been savagely cut to a stump that doesn't help. You can't put that redwood tree back up. Not even with a construction crane. And all they will do later is say, "Oh, you were so right. Our bad."

When Pagoda Palace Theater is demolished and the excavation for the fifty-foot extraction shaft is dug the owner of the Parking Garage on Filbert will get to clean up twice. He can't change the building due to it's historic listing so this way the City will pay the insurance (with your money) for any damages and he'll be able to sell the property so that the charming view you have looking down Filbert Street will eventually look like a shopping mall in Milpitas.

But, actually, I didn't send you those two rant letters to have you print them as much as I was hoping that the totally unemotional, no wise-crack, non-ranty, cold, hard facts at the web site ( could be publicized so that people who mistakenly think that we'll be enduring this destruction (it will hardly be any construction, just mostly de-struction) for the sake of having a two-car subway stop will actually have a way to find out the truth about what is being planned right under their noses (and behind their backs).

The other minor detail that's not being discussed or admitted to is that once this 50 ft shaft is dug the Muni (SFMTA) can utilize it indefinitely to service the subway station 2100 feet away in Chinatown for years and years to come. This shaft that will be scraped out below the Pagoda (right next door to Pellegrini and Bottle Cap restaurants) will effectively be the subway's hind-quarters. It will be where all the waste materials from the real subway station in Chinatown and beyond will come out. Not a pretty mental image but that's the reality.

As in the anatomy of Man, every city must have its hind-quarters. In our case it'll be in Washington Square at Columbus and Powell, a few feet down from Filbert. What a great landmark to show off to our visitors.

I really only sent you the letters because, as I said, I didn't know where to begin. As you can tell, I'm not a writer. That's why I'm an artist. A picture's with a thousand words, as they say. But there aren't too many pictures that can show the results of what a full-scale fracking operation fifty feet below the surface of Columbus Avenue will look like.

You'll just wake up one day and the charming sound of the parrots of Telegraph Hill and the pleasant breeze ventilating your home will have been replaced with 8 to 12 hours of drilling, scraping, digging, loading and 24 hours of congested atmosphere and foul-smelling, diesel air (not to mention the congested traffic necessary to haul out a zillion giant truckloads down Columbus and Powell to deal with the thousands of tons of debris they plan to remove.)

The party starts on Monday, the 13th of May (or within a few weeks if they keep changing their story). Every day. Beginning at 7 am. Hope you're not a light sleeper.

There will be a subway dig but you won't have a subway stop in North Beach. At least not before the next ice age. Or not until the magnetic poles reverse and the sun goes nova. So my advice to anyone who's been misinformed about the "Phantom Subway Stop" in North Beach is: don't hold your breath. (You'll be struggling to do just that throughout the next 9 to 15 months of "construction" destruction.)

So, I actually doubt if anyone would be interested or convinced by my passionate rants, but believe me, if you had been to the meeting on the 17th of April you would have thought I was a quiet wallflower compared to the impassioned demands for answers coming from our assembled 120 furious neighbors. (There were actually a good many more in attendance but there was simply no more room. The place was filled to over capacity. It was standing room only and people were flowing out into the halls).

You asked: What's the obvious argument that will sway any reasonable person?

Well, if having your neighborhood destroyed, enduring years of pollution and root-canal-like noise, getting our respiratory systems reamed with a bottle brush and throwing away up to a hundred million dollars --- and all for the result of having no subway station --- then the person who'd be swayed or not swayed is obviously dumb as a box of rocks. Reasonableness seems like a lost cause for such a person since plain and logical mental reasoning is clearly not one of their skills.

But if there are reporters at the North Beach News who can report about this scam --- aka the "Pagoda Option" (read: Pagoda Scam), that is; lots of debris, noise, possible air, water and sewer contamination, inevitable foundation weakening, totally certain loss of jobs and a disaster for local businesses and the households who depend on those jobs and a complete traffic SNAFU (8 to 10 hours a day for 9 to 15 months) --- but, NO subway station, then I'm hoping at least the website (as plain and un-sexy as it is) can be given some journalistic attention to persuade the general public that all they need to do is go to the website and learn the facts for themselves.

And I totally agree with you that what I've written probably won't change anyone's opinion.

But the problem is that most people have no opinion on this subject --- simply because they have been deliberately kept uniformed of the project. That Muni PR guy sure knows his business. But the facts are there for anyone to judge for themselves. They're all there, hiding in plain sight.

It doesn't matter what I think. It only matters that this is going to happen. And as a result there will BE no subway stop.

And for anyone who really craves a subway stop, I would ask them to go to the 16th and Mission BART station or the MacArthur BART station and check out the 'hood. In case we don't have enough drugs, crime and congestion in North Beach right now just wait around a while till we catch up.

And for anyone who's ever ridden the underground Muni Metro they may have noticed that, unlike in LA or New York or London where the terrain is as flat as a pancake, due to the particularly short blocks in San Francisco most subway trains are mostly limited to two cars. This will hardly provide mass transport or relieve congestion. But it will be $70 Million to a $100 Million in the pockets of the contractor corporations (for the TBMs built with slave labor in Red China) and the real estate interests, whose names I need not mention here. That's why they're doing this. To obliterate the traditional character of North Beach so they can replace it with 5 and 6-story featureless condos that they'll sell for $1.5 to $3 million each (by the score). It's not a mystery. The Subway Illusion is just that. An illusion in order to justify changing the zoning laws and overhauling the landscape for their business interests. As a local artist put it in one of his famous postcards: "Travelers destroy what they seek." In this case, plunderers destroy what they seek.

As I said in my first letter to the web site: It's like taking candy from a baby. Only in this case, after they steal the candy from the baby they eat the baby. All the babies.

So once the subway finally exists and the surface Muni buses have been cut (due to "budget cuts", etc.) and once the contractors for this scam are safely back in LA and New York, the rider traffic will only increase exponentially to leave people back where we are now, only with our faces pushed up against the glass like in Tokyo and Rome and with a doubled or tripled fare that will make a two-dollar bus ride look like a nostalgic fantasy legend.

But most of all, the devastation to the environment and the quality of life people are fortunate enough to enjoy here in North Beach will be lost. Forever.

You'll never miss the water till the well runs dry. I already miss the tranquilly and peacefulness that's been replaced in the last ten to fifteen years by the dot-com crowd that moved in and quadrupled all the rents and rendered North Beach into a Party Hearty Mardi Gras slam dance carnival Midway. Maybe I came here too long ago (1962, for the first time) and maybe I've seen it change for the worse but I don't think we should let these scam artists blind people to what is going to happen.

So, after all this, maybe just mentioning the website and the fact that the Dig will begin in about one week (13 May or immediately thereafter) and that there will be a Muni Board meeting on the 7th of May at 1 pm (Room 400, City Hall --- it's all at the website under ALERT) where people can voice their opinions for all of 120 seconds. No kidding --- that's all you get to save your neighborhood: 2 minutes.

If enough people come and speak up, even for 2 minutes, then maybe the scam artists attempting this swindle will leave the TBMs (Tunnel Boring Machines) in the ground at the Chinatown Stop at Stockton & Washington Streets and not grind another quarter mile down the road to destroy Washington Square.

That's an awfully hopeful wish coming from a cynical old guy like myself. And I doubt if it will work. But I hope I'm wrong.

All further hard evidence and information (not my wild, half-baked opinions) are available at the web site:

So there's no need to print my long rants in the North Beach News but it would be great if some short synopsis of the "Subway to Nowhere" scam is mentioned and the website where people can get all the information that's so far been carefully hidden from them. The Phantom Subway Stop is just that; a phantom. It's an illusion that's worked really well so far.

Maybe in between watching high definition, laugh-track sitcoms and slamming back brewskies at the trendy pre-fab SOMA bars I'm hoping somebody will care enough to not want this irreplaceable neighborhood to be ravaged and replaced with a shopping mall condo complex (but at least there will be a subway station ... NOT!)

Since you're an editor I do hope you're a speed-reader. Sorry for the long letter. (You'd think I was getting paid by the word).

By the way, I noticed the image of the words of the street poet Elvis Christ on the North Beach News web page. It was he who wrote:

"While the best men struggle with immense complexities the worst yearn for power and prominence."

In this case the men of power and prominence seek to give simple and misleading answers (or no answers at all) to a stunningly complex issue. We will live with the results of their tampering.

May 2, 2013: Mario's

I just spoke to Alvie who runs Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store and they work their tails off 7 days a week and he said this dig will probably put them out of business.

Mario's is one of the oldest and most charming cafés in North Beach, with a beautiful view of the park and the trees and the church. It will probably be replaced with a 7-11 (which would put Coit Liquors out of business ... again).

May 1, 2013: Men of power and prominence gone awry

To: Ernest Beyl of the Marina Times, who did a short profile on North Beach in its latest issue: May 2013 (Vol. 29, Issue 5).

Hi Ernest,

Thanks for the great article about my friend and neighbor Fook Fook the Cat. Yes, he is indeed a formidable feline and a right fine guardian of the S & S Grocery where he's been "Employee of the Month" now for many years.

But among your profiles of Fook Fook and other notable north beach cats you missed the BIGGEST story in North Beach:

The "Central Subway's" scheme to demolish the 100 year-old Pagoda Palace, about 30 paces from the Children's Playground in Washington Square, right next door to the venerable Washington Square Bar & Grill (much beloved by Herb Cain, now rechristened "Bottle Cap") and in the very heart of North Beach.

This vile plan has been snuck through the back door and kept very hush-hush through obfuscation, misdirection (If not outright lies). The SFMTA and their cohorts have caused people here in North Beach to believe that someday, after years of destruction and noise and contamination, they will actually have a subway stop (which very few want), but in reality there is not going to be a subway stop for North Beach, just a 50 foot square by 40+ foot deep shaft.

We don't get a subway station. But we do get the SHAFT!

This sounds like the plot of a bad superman comic. There are "evil villains" with insane plans for profitable but needless destruction. Only in this case there is no Superman.

With the demolition of the historic Pagoda Palace Theatre at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Powell Streets not only will the children's playground (as well as the school playground for the church across the street at Saints Peter and Paul) but the entire neighborhood will be exposed to contamination from the debris (possible high levels of lead, asbestos and other soil debris), not to mention ground water contamination and soil contamination. The slow-motion bomb they want to explode in Washington Square will be the environmental equivalent of an act of terrorism.

How dare they expose our children to these carcinogenic and corrosive dangers??

The irony is that there is a sign in Washington Square that says: No Smoking. (How could second hand smoke be more dangerous for anyone than 100,000 tons of century old contaminated brick, timber, soil and debris??)

Even though it will take 9 months to 15 months (or more) it will have the same effect on our neighborhood and its children and residents as if a terrorist had planted a bomb under the Pagoda Theatre and just gleefully sat back to watch the heartbreak and destruction. (Only in this case they get to collect over $70,000,000 for their despicable act). Such a deal!

And it will have an even more immediate and devastating effect on our local businesses such as the fine restaurants next door and directly across the street: Bottle Cap, Pellegrini, Sushi Hunter, Da Flora, Victoria Pastry, Melt, Rogue Brewery, CineCittá, Coit Liquors, Mario's on the corner of Columbus and Union, Original Joe's and the Park Tavern that used to be Moose's across the Square.

That equals hundreds of jobs supporting hard working people and their families. Those people pay taxes and feed their income back into other local services. But they won't be able to do this after the City drops this bomb on Washington Square, right in the heart of North Beach.

Bye-bye jobs, bye-bye local economy, so-long North Beach. Enjoy it while you can. They begin the Big Dig in about two weeks.

When questions were asked of these prominent and powerful people at this sham meeting on April 17th they had NO answers. All they could do was to look at their feet and repeat again and again "We do not envision any problem with the ground water (there is an underground stream directly below the Pagoda---all proven to exist from past excavations, as well as sewage lines and contaminated debris from the 1906 earthquake and the old Russian Orthodox church that once stood there as well as the fact that the pagoda was a theatre for 100 years with lots of asbestos and lead paint, etc., etc., etc,)

The "We do not envision any problem" remark was repeated numerous times as was the weasel-word "Conversation" (as in "Well, these are valid concerns and this is a conversation we can have at some point" or "we have experts and regulators that will be looking into this" etc. but they are STILL going to start the dig on the 1st of June (or much earlier if past corporate strategy to avoid interference is any guide).

And the devastation to the local restaurants and cafés does not even include the devastation in store for the many other local businesses that stand to lose thousands of dollars a day from lost business from tourists and locals.

And all for what? For Nothing. We will get Nothing from this plan, except that we foot the bill and we let these people poison our atmosphere and water by digging this huge shaft for the benefit of the construction firm and the ill-conceived (but highly profitable) contracts they made behind our backs.

The MTA's and our local supervisor falsely claim that the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) need to be extracted after they get to their planned destination in Chinatown at Washington Street. They can be very easily left in place at the end of the line in Chinatown where they will save the City over $70 million of taxpayer dollars. More dollars left to improve the MUNI that's falling apart from "budget cuts" and rampant mismanagement.

E-Z. No fuss, no muss. $70 million left in the project's treasury, instead of going into the bank accounts of these ineffectual and incompetent managers who came up with this scheme to defraud us out of our money and our precious community here in North Beach.

But these feckless managers claimed at the meeting that they had a legal obligation to the Contractor (not to the local citizens??) to remove the TBMs, or they'd be liable for a "breach of contract". Well, Boo Hoo! Maybe they shouldn't have made such a bad contract. Bad for us but very profitable for them.

So this is a blatant lie. It was pointed out by scores of concerned citizens at the April 17 meeting at the Telegraph Hill Center that 85% to 90% of ALL TBMs used for tunnels and subways all over planet earth are routinely left in the ground --- on site. They are NOT dismantled or extracted. This is because each machine is constructed especially for the particular soil and density conditions for each separate project.

This fact was pointed out by several experienced engineers present at the meeting but those representing the Subway Scam and the Supervisor who's helping them all kept changing the subject and several times changed their story when confronted.

As one observer pointed out: "It was as if they'd all taken a blood oath" not to answer any of the valid questions from the local citizens in whose back yard they're planning this destruction.

Here in North Beach Washington Square is our back yard! So folks, If you dig North Beach you won't dig this!

They are going to BOMB Washington Square (with a slow-motion $70 million dollar "improvised explosive device") and the result will have the same devastating effects for businesses and residents and their children.

And all of this is costing us $70,000,000 (yep, 70 million dollars), actually it's a great deal more due to the inevitable "cost over-runs" built in to their system. And with this very major disruption (the bumping of Washington Square) the joke's on North Beach: we won't even get a subway station our of the deal. Again: Such a deal!

This is a scam to enrich the contractors and those in the City that arranged for this contract. But it is also a first step (Phase One) to changing the zoning laws in North Beach so new buildings ordinances will allow not just three stories as is allowed for now, but SIX stories. That will double the income of the real estate interests who are behind this and destroy the original North Beach to be replaced with the flat-faced slabs one can see anywhere south of Market.

This is Phase Two. These will be marketed as luxury condos for millionaires. "View Property" as they call it.

And Phase Three will be the utter obliteration of what was once the most classic and charming neighborhood in San Francisco: Gone will be the quaint, old-fashioned Victorian North Beach we all know and love. To be replaced by ugly featureless boxes and the people who can afford to live in them. Gone will be a community of families and a neighborhood with playgrounds and schools and locally-owned businesses. Gone will be the irreplaceable heart of North Beach. Tony Bennett himself would be in tears.

I was glad to see your article in the Marina Times but the most pertinent part was your mention of the "Sidewalk Poet", for his words rang out loud and clear. It was particularly inspiring to see a line of one of his poems that read: "While the best men struggle with the immense complexities the worst yearn for power and prominence."

To keep these men of "Power and Prominence" from succeeding in their vicious plan to bomb and destroy our community learn all the facts before it's too late at:

April 20, 2013: Our unique corner of this unique city

To: Webmaster

My friends and I (and about a hundred others) came to the meeting at the Telegraph Hill Center the other night (Wednesday, 17 April, 2013) for the pathetic session of lies and obfuscations which were delivered to us regarding the City's plan to demolish the Pagoda Palace and bring out the Boring Machines for the "Central Subway."

I reckon you were there so I don't have to tell you how it went. I actually woke up at 5 am this morning from a nightmare of hearing those twits repeating over and over "We do not envision…" and "That's a conversation we can have at some point" and "We will have regulations and inspectors to monitor the phases" and "That is not an option we are considering at this time" and "Thank you for sharing." etc., etc., etc. Aaagghh!!

Those four gentlemen at the meeting were the true "Boring Machines". It seemed their plan was to bore us with lame, red herring excuses instead of real answers.

I am unalterably opposed to this plan which will be a disaster, not just for my wife and I and our household, but for everyone in North Beach (and not just those near Washington Square).

From what I understood they plan to begin this project within the next week to two weeks. With the thundering demolition racket starting each day at 7 a.m (as they said "to get the job done all the faster!") and continuing at least 9 months, (but probably more like 15 to 22 months).

I've already been subjected to almost two years of scraping and drilling from the last time the Pagoda Palace was destroyed (back at the turn of the century). The constant brain-shatering noise penetrates the entire house and drills straight into the skull. This promises to be a 9 to 18 month-long root canal. And all for nothing. Except the fulfillment of a corrupt deal they made with the contractors who got the bid for these foreign made machines (Was this a no-bid deal? They never would answer that question).

They clearly said that that was the only real reason they are continuing the Subway dig for another 2100 feet, so they won't be "liable" for a breach of contract. A contract they had no right to make in the first place. It adds new meaning to the expression "sold down the river." Especially considering that there is an underground stream directly below the venerable old Pagoda Palace.

Unfortunately I have to go out of town till Tuesday but I am hoping to make contact now just to throw whatever support I can behind the opposition.

Also (unfortunately), we're more than a little broke so I cannot contribute to monetarily. But I'm an artist and perhaps I can donate some artwork to the cause. And I'm sure there are others who can contribute in their own way. These people are very organized and cunning. They are counting on us not being organized. That's how it works.

Though it looks like these deceitful people have managed to keep the locals ignorant of their plans up to the point that now it's almost too late to make any serious objection. So we need to seriously get organized. (This, coming from probably the most personally disorganized individual living here in North Beach…)

But I am hoping that some of the very well informed and educated and articulate people who spoke up at the meeting last Wednesday night feel as passionately as I do about this issue and I hope that among all those people there must be someone who knows an attorney or has some idea how to mount a legal challenge to stop these people.

Once the City begins they will be able to not back out. It is like being "just a little bit pregnant."

I know that there are ways judges can order a stay of action (or a court injunction) for more time to get an Environmental Impact Report to expose this Fraud for what it really is (a Real Estate Scam and corporate swindle) and the myriad illogical excuses and preposterous bits of BS those corrupt fools hoped would masquerade as "facts" and "answers"), and I am just hoping that someone among those present can look into this.

Personally, I have no political or legalistic connections but it appeared that there were people there who did, such as Aaron Peskin and the gentleman from Nob Hill who was an experienced engineer (who exposed the deception that these machines must be removed from this place and this place only, etc.) I am just hoping that some one among us may have some idea how to tackle this problem.

I know that lawyers are expensive but it will be more expensive to lose our homes and our local culture and the quality of life that used to be here in North Beach (now rapidly dwindling from yuppies and drunken frat boys and disco bars and the shopping mall stores that have replaced most of the genuine articles in the neighborhood).

People raised many relevant issues that night which could fall under the heading of E.I.R., such as the fact that they cannot prove that there is no issue with asbestos (since the Pagoda Palace was a theater for over a hundred years) even though that one ineffectual twink (Mr. Funghi) tried to claim that "all the asbestos was probably removed ten years ago" (when they tried to turn it into a supper club just as the Dot Com Bubble burst and everyone ran out of money). But the Asbestos is in the bricks and in the rafters and in the soil and they cannot prove that it isn't.

And if they CAN, then let them prove it. Before one inch of the place is touched. That, and that alone (a court injunction to postpone demolition till these matters are adequately addressed, etc.), may give us enough time to alert the community to this very real threat to our neighborhood and force them to do the only logical thing and leave those damn machines at the Chinatown subway station, just as the engineer from Nob Hill told them they could do (saving 70 to 80 to 100 million dollars---$100,000,000 which that contractor corporation wouldn't get from us ----which they claimed they couldn't back out of due to the "liability issue", etc, etc.)

Also, the fact that after all this disruption, destruction, construction and hazardous waste --- it will not even result in North Beach actually having a subway stop. Ha! The joke's on us! All this crap and we won't even get a subway stop out of it. We'll just foot the bill with increased health risks for us and our neighbors and their children and untold millions of dollars in lost revenue that the neighborhood restaurants and cafés and business will suffer (just as they have each time Columbus Avenue was torn up for roadwork, recently and in the past).

And it was disgraceful that they kept saying, "Hey, it's OK. It's not local money, it's Federal money!" And this, at a time when mass unemployment and children's health benefits across the nation are being majorly "budget-cut".

The only comic relief of the evening was to see that the 100 plus crowd gathered there openly laughed at their transparent and often incoherent lies. They were trembling at the amount of outrage their plan has finally met with. That was really very encouraging.

And in regard to the potential for contamination (asbestos or otherwise): There is a children's park directly across the street in Washington Square---- Directly across the street, as is a playground for the Catholic Church (at 666 Filbert), as well as a Chinese church on Union Street that has kids classes all the time, etc. And there are kids all over this neighborhood who don't deserve to be exposed to this danger, not for nine months or even less.

There is also the matter of all the dust and seriously harmful crap in the walls, rafters, tin roof, smokestack (which no one can see from the street --so they pretended it wasn't there…) and the fact that the underground stream will surely damage the adjacent buildings, weakening their foundation, etc.

Personally I think that is deliberate in order to have the adjacent buildings condemned and the tenants (namely ourselves, our neighbors, the church next door and the old parking garage and the corner restaurants ---Pellegrini, Flora's, Melt, Victoria Pastry, Cinecittá, Mario's, Original Joe's and the WashBaG aka Bottle Cap) so they can replace them with 5 or 6-story flat-faced, blockhouse, million-dollar SOMA condos with "breathtaking views" of San Francisco Bay that will command a fortune from those fortunate enough to be able to rent or buy.

I've lived here for nearly 40 years, almost 20 years in my present location (and on Telegraph Hill before that) and I've seen this happen all over the City since the mid 1970s. It's a developers scam and it seems to work every time.

It was brought up after the meeting that this old "eyesore" (the Pagoda Palace) houses a multi-generational multitude of Rats. When their warrens are disturbed and demolished they will literally flood into all the adjacent buildings, homes, restaurants and businesses like "rats deserting a sinking ship."

This is a Public Health Nightmare (seems like that alone would be an item to consider under an EIR) and these incompetent frauds who are pushing this agenda are committing a Crime.

If they get away with beginning and carrying out the demolition of the Pagoda Palace it will be the environmental equivalent of an Act of Terrorism. It will have the same effect on our community as someone setting off a bomb on the edge of Washington Square.

Just because they are perpetrating a "controlled demolition" they still cannot control the constellation of disastrous effects that will follow it no matter how arrogant their myopic hubris is.

They are either very stupid or they think WE are stupid. I think that a couple of them are Harvard graduates, so it must be that they think we are as dumb as a box of rocks. It is a remarkable coincidence that the Subway guy is named Funghi. (That's Italian for Mushrooms.) After all, that's how most politicians refer to the public; They call us Mushrooms. Because the way you take care of mushrooms is: You keep them in the dark and feed them BS.

And it looks like (from the results of the meeting on the 17th of April) they are absolutely correct.

I think we should change that.

It is as if they are pointing a pistol to our heads and saying: "Don't be concerned. We're going to pull the trigger very slowly. So the bullet will exit the barrel so slowly you won't even notice." Yep. But the final effect will be the same.

So--- I wish I didn't have to leave tomorrow for a few days, but I hope you can pass my thoughts on to anyone else who was at this meeting and hopefully someone will know a lawyer or a plausible legal tactic to delay this catastrophe-in-the-making. I wish that all those who came to the meeting could be on one mailing list. That would be a good start in organizing a resistance movement to these plundering parasites.

It's too bad we can't get some actual coverage of this issue and some publicity in the SF Bay Guardian or the SF Weekly. (It seems like the Chronicle is all for it). Being totally computer illiterate, I don't know how to work Twitter or anything else on the internet/web, but I hope someone does.

Environmental activists do it all the time, those who are trying to prevent the destruction of old growth redwood, for example. A Court Injunction. I don't know the procedure but I'm sure that someone at that meeting must have an idea.

I'm as serious a a heart attack about this issue. I realize people get brushed off who take the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) position. And even people who live blocks away will feel the adverse effects of this terrible plan if they don't stand up. Washington Square is everyone's back yard in North Beach.

Washington Square is the last real park left in the middle of the city. And since 1957 there have been constant attempts to build a parking garage under Washington Square, always deflected by a well-informed public. They seemed to have finally achieved an uninformed public. Maybe everyone's too busy doing twitter or surfing cable TV or just asleep at the wheel. Leonardo da Vinci said, "Nothing gives more power to Authority than Silence."

The developers want to turn Washington Square into the true eyesore that is now Union Square. And once they have their Boring Machines in place, just watch! The same people will propose that "since the machines are already here, hell, let's not pass up this opportunity to build a parking garage at long last!" will seize their chance. Perfect for the parking requirements of the new condos that will replace the parking garage on Filbert and the Pagoda Palace, etc. ---all in keeping with the new six story building codes. A developer's dream.

It's like taking candy from a baby. Only in this case, after they steal the candy they eat the baby.

All the babies.

It is a preposterous position into which they've cornered us. These people are self-interested leeches who will stop at nothing to get what they want. They don't live or work in this neighborhood and they will not have to live with or deal with the results of their very profitable actions. If we don't stand up we don't stand a chance. And we may well lose, but I think we shouldn't go down without a fight.

Please let me know what I can do to help. Thanks so much for printing up the flyer and for your, so that way we might all be able to put our heads together and communicate and come up with a way to save our neighborhood and to preserve our community and our unique corner of this unique city.

Web site updated September 7, 2014;