Letter to the editor: Glen Canyon renovation issues

By Stephen Labovsky

Each and every day, scores of dog owners, nature lovers, and parents escorting their kids  to Silver Tree pre-school, walk down Alms Road, a road that dates back to the 1870’s. Now unless something happens in the next couple of days, parts of historic Alms Road, and many of the 150 year-old eucalyptus trees that give it its character, are going to be bulldozed to make way for new tennis courts— tennis courts nobody asked for or want.

 

Now if this news comes as a surprise to you, Rec & Park will insist you shouldn’t be, because you approved it.  Yep, go to their website and you’ll see that Rec & Park boasts that at a dozen community meetings, folks were given the opportunity to decide what Glen Canyon Park should look like in the future.

 

The trouble with Rec & Park’s claim is, it’s a lie.

 

If you actually take time to read the minutes of those meeting that appear in the public record, I believe you’ll come away with a very different impression. (http://sfrecpark.org/glenparkproject.aspx)

 

 

You’ll discover that not a single person in this community voted to spend $5.8 million dollars to destroy Alms Road and create some grand, Glen Canyon Park entrance-way, and new tennis courts.  Instead Rec & Park employed a process they call  ‘workshops’ where groups of individuals are asked to use red, yellow, or green dots to indicate their preferences.  Afterwards, Rec. & Park claim they connect all these dots, and come up with what they say is what the people really want.  The whole process is insane, like reading tea leaves, except it’s done in secret and no one is allowed to challenge the conclusions.

 

 

Now I attended a fair number of those ‘workshops’ and I can tell you that there was lots of dissent, but all of that dissent has been purged from RPD’s public record. In fact, my impression was that most people wanted the $5.8 million dollars spent on repairs to the Rec. Center.  In my opinion the entire process and their conclusions are a fraud!

 

Now reader of this blog and its sister publication, the Glen Park News will be forgiven for believing that the current appeal to stop the Glen Canyon Park Improvement Plan, an appeal to be heard on Nov. 14th, is a frivolous one, and intended only to obstruct the will of the good folks in the community.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

If you attended the last Glen Park Association meeting on October 6th, you know that there were lots of people there who voiced their strong objections to the Glen Park Improvement Plan, and wanted it stopped.  At that meeting, Scott Wiener and Michael Rice pledged they would hold a special summit meeting, and have Rec & Park answer our questions and objections, many of which you’ve read here.  Despite this promise, Michael Rice has refused to honor his pledge. Of course Michael would do that, wouldn’t he?

 

Never the less, RPD and some member of our community continue to insist, ad nauseam, that the process was democratic.  Now my idea of democracy is when people get together, exchange views, debate, and then vote.  In the Rec & Park version of democracy, people get together and watch RPD power-point presentations, break into groups, then place red, yellow, and green dots on a scoreboard.  Then big brother (read RPD) goes away for awhile, then come back and tell you what you’ve decided.

If Alms Road does disappear, very likely there will come a day when more and more trees will disappear in addition to the 57 currently slated for RPD’s chainsaws.   Soon familiar trails you’ve walked along for years will be off limits.  Then one day, your dog will wonder into a restricted area, one reserved for ‘endangered’ native species, and someone will write you a hefty ticket.  When you go to court to pay fine, I hope you’ll remember way back when, in November 2012, and recall how it all got started.

 

In closing, I’ll leave you with the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s song, “Big Yellow Taxi.”

 

“Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what’s you’ve got til it’s gone,

They paved paradise,

Put up a parking lot.”

 

 

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Letter to the editor: Glen Canyon renovation issues

  1. Million Trees

    Thank you for publishing this dissenting view of the Glen Canyon project and the flawed process that was used to ram it through. My opinion of your blog is now vastly improved by your willingness to publish this.

    I didn’t attend these particular meetings, but I have attended many others in parks in my neighborhood what were held by the Rec & Park Dept and the experience was very similar. I will never forget a noisy meeting in 2005 in the Trocodero House in Stern Grove that was attended by a standing-room-only crowd of well over 100. The neighbors of that park were furious about the plans of the Natural Areas Program to destroy that park and the neighbors in Golden Gate Heights were equally furious about the removal of the non-native vegetation that stabilizes the sand which inundates their properties.

    But all that furious public participation was of no interest to the Rec & Park Dept. They were simply going through the motions. Their only obligation seemed to be to listen to us, but they had no obligation to actually give the public what it wants. These are not public servants. These are public self-servants.

  2. ericwhittington

    Too bad this wasn’t published prior to the Nov. 14 appeals meeting Stephen refers to.  Had I read it then, I might just have found sufficient food for thought to make me attend the meeting and might well have come down on the side of leaving the trees stand.  I talked to both Michael Rice and Stephen Labovsky briefly in passing in the week or two before that meeting, and was reluctant to take sides in an issue I hadn’t been attending to, but my gut tells me that I favor leaving the more rustic things alone until they really do fall down of their own accord.  Kinda like the bookstore… And though I myself find Stephen to be a bit of a curmudgeon, frankly I’m kinda partial to those who don’t readily accept the bland reasoning of the folks who run the show… Thanks. Eric

    ________________________________

  3. Stephen Labovsky

    The readers of this blog should be aware that Elizabeth Weise had agreed to publish this opinion piece prior to the Nov 14th SF Board of Appeals hearing. It came as no surprise to me at least, that in the end she chose to suppress it.

    So why now, two weeks later, has Ms. Weise decided to publish my piece, and as a “letter to the editor?” This question had me scratching my head until a possible answer was brought to my attention. Just yesterday, Anastasia Glikshtern petitioned the SF Board of Appeals to rehear her case, citing, among other things, an extreme bias on the part of this blog. If you’ll recall, just prior to the Appeals board hearing, readers were directed by this blog to send their emails to the Board of Appeals requesting that Ms. Glikshtern’s petition be denied.

    It is not unreasonable to expect the Glen Park News and this blog to be a forum where all sides of an issue can have a place to be heard. But I’m afraid that this will never be possible as long as these editors appear to only publish their own personal opinions, while denying their neighbors their right to be heard.

    Stephen Labovsky
    (Glen Park’s Resident Curmudgeon)

  4. elizabethweise

    I didn’t surpress the letter. I just got tired of reading all the haranguing emails I was getting about this and began skimming, and thereby missed was was clearly an important one–an omission for which I take full responsibility. I am sorry about that. When Stephen emailed me the letter a second time, yesterday, I posted it. I should have explained what happened.
    I will say that as a parent whose children do lots of activities at the park, the reconfigured entrance is a huge plus for me, because it will be so much safer as a drop off space. I said so at multiple community meetings. So it’s incorrect to say that ‘no one’ wants it. I certainly do, and I expect others do as well.
    I would encourage those who have strong feelings about this matter to take it up on the Glen Park Bulletin email list, as it’s got a lot more readers than the blog and is where you’re going to get a true sense of what folks in the neighborhood feel. And parents of course should discuss on the Glen Park Parents list, which has 1,600 members. The blog is typically read by about 200 people a day, so it’s perhaps not a monolithic as folks presume it is.
    Beth

    • Ted Edwards, Glen Park

      Give us a break, Beth.

      If you’re tired of reading emails then relinquish your role as editor. Or have an editorial assistant help out. There are plenty of people who comment on this page who would be willing to lend a hand because most view this as the community newspaper/blog in Glen Park, run by a nonprofit with dues-paying members, and supported by local businesses who advertise. You may disagree, but there is an expected responsibility for you to give voice to the members if not the larger community.

      Why are officers of the Glen Park Association given free reign to post their viewpoints but other voices, mostly in dissent, are directed to the Glen Parents list? It’s time for an examination of the how the Glen Park Association/Glen Park News operates. Can you possibly claim that there has been fair and representative coverage of the Natural Areas Program?

      Let’s not kid ourselves – that is the catalyst of these controversial issues. Every other week you run a glowing story about the wonderful Natural Areas Program. Hey, I’m all for recreational gardening and support people pulling out Cape Ivy by hand. But that is not the heavy work being undertaken in Glen Canyon. Since you are clearly not writing about those aspects, would you be open to a contributed story about the vast amount of toxic pesticides that are sprayed every month in the Canyon? Or the routine chain saws that clear out underbrush where animals seek shelter?

      Looking forward to your response, and feel free to harangue me.

      Ted

  5. Stephen Labovsky

    So there you have it folks, from the pen of the editor of the GPN blog:

    ‘Don’t blame me, it’s all the fault of those darn folks who harangue me with their troublesome emails.’

    As to the matter of the new playground, Beth obviously never attended the two parents’ workshops held by RPD on January 12 & 19th, 2011. Because the official minutes of those meetings reflect that parents said they were happy with the existing playground— all be it with some updating and improvements. But what parents really wanted most was that the money go towards improving the Rec Center so they might have a functioning place for their children to participate in all the “toddler programs” offered by RPD! This is not my personal opinion, it’s there in black and white for all to read, if only Beth would allowed us to read it.

    No one is arguing against having a new drop-off spot for parents, or updated playground equipment. But tearing down our two perfectly good tennis courts, only to build two brand new ones, smack on top of 125 year-old Alms Road, and destroying those grand old eucalyptus trees in the bargain, is a travesty, and a waste of millions of dollars that could otherwise be spent on useful facilities Beth’s kids and hundreds of others kids would be able to enjoy for years to come.

    I think it’s clear from Ms. Weise’s closing comments that if you want your opinions heard, you need not apply here at this blog. This blog is reserved only for official Rec & Park spin. Others should address their concerns and harangues to the Glen Park Bulletin email list. WOW!

  6. Steven is indeed, as a former advertising copy writer, a spinner of tales and just plain old spin. He can pick out this detail or that but the reality of the whole process was that those of us that did attend it all, was that the majority were in favor of what was proposed. At some meetings there were a few dissenters as there will always be but they never made their case. And importantly, their case was not made before the Board of Appeals on November 14th. At that hearing, the people that were against the stoppage of the project were mostly parents of young children. They wanted the new playground to be there for them. The decision to reject the stoppage was 4 to nothing.

    A stoppage now would mean that the whole process pretty much starts over with a re-juggling of all the components. AND when that new process nears completion, again just one dissenting petition stops it. Again

    The fixation this time is a few Eucalyptus trees at the beginning of Alms road. Out of how many of them in the park? Hundreds? Tens of hundreds? (There is in fact a debate about other trees in the park but this is not about that. This is another issue.) What will be the fixation be on a new go-around?

    For some I think, the whole point IS the argument. And for them, the longer it or any argument for that matter goes on, the better. That’s why I hesitated
    to get into this one and I don’t think I’ll continue any more with it.

    • Stephen Labovsky

      First I want to disclose that the Waldsteins are dear friends of mine.

      But as many folks who live in Glen Park know, Michael is a longtime, and talented photographer for the Beth’s blog, and his lovely wife Bonnee wrote all of the positive Glen Park News articles endorsing Rec & Park’s Improvement Plan .

      Though in his heart of hearts, Michael might have wanted to support my position, in the interest of domestic tranquility I suspect he had few if any other options.

      Anyway, you’re still my pal Michael, so call me next time you’re heading over to Costco.

  7. dolan eargle

    Amen, and anytime there is something to attend or to send in protest. Let me know, I’ll be there. dolan eargle

    ________________________________

  8. elizabethweise

    We have very few contributors and certainly welcome more reporters covering the neighborhood. Dolan wrote many lovely articles for me for the print newspapers.

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