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Letters to the Editor
Show Me the Books
I find it odd that your writer, Alison Pence, thought that the Cover to Cover web page was worth mentioning as an interesting site to visit ["A Noe Mom Ventures Into Cyberspace," March 2000]. I'd have to disagree.
I believe in shopping at independent booksellers, and so I eagerly went to this web page. While it does have a "nice neighborly feel," I don't visit a merchant's web site to find out about its staff or the neighbors or the neighbors' kids or dogs. I want to find out what they have in stock and what is in their inventory. For this the web site is useless.
I'm reluctant to go to a bookstore, especially one where parking is limited, without first knowing if they'll have what I'm after. Borders and Barnes & Noble may be soulless booksellers, but they certainly know what information to provide to enable a shopper to browse for a book online, and then order it effortlessly. For that matter, there are independent booksellers -- A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books, Green Apple, and others -- who also provide similar information for browsing and buying.
Moreover, if I thought anyone at Cover to Cover wanted to have a web site that was more informative, I'd share my thoughts with them. It's plain to me that this is what they've chosen: to be a quaint, community-based store, and to forego shrewd merchandising.
Editor's Note: Since Ms. McMichael's criticism was primarily directed at Cover to Cover, we thought we'd give the 24th Street bookstore a chance to respond:
Live Human Beings Our Specialty
First of all, we at Cover to Cover want to thank Alison Pence for her kind words regarding our web site, appreciated all the more for their being unsolicited.
Obviously, it is not the purpose of covertocoversf.com to sell books online. It is to let people know who we are, where we are, and whether ours is the type of bookstore in which they might feel comfortable browsing. We want them to know that they are welcome, with their children, with their dogs, and with their questions. Yes, we are a community-based store with deep roots here in Noe Valley. If that somehow makes us quaint, well, okay.
As for effortless ordering, while some use email, most of our customers just punch in seven digits on their touch-tone phones and ask us if we've got what they're looking for. If necessary, we can order it, we will hold it for pickup or ship it out, and we'll even gift-wrap it with a nice card if that's what they want. If the need is immediate, we often suggest alternate stores to call. These are the differences that people make.
Yes, a searchable database is lovely. It's also prohibitively expensive for us right now. Consider: we have over 50,000 titles in our database, with roughly 15,000 to 20,000 on hand at any given time. With new titles being added and old ones being deleted every day, the setup and maintenance of such a site would be fiscally and physically debilitating.
The American Booksellers Association is currently developing a site called booksense.com that will be a national database for independents. It's an electronic manifestation of the cooperation that independents have enjoyed for years. The logistics are staggering, the time frame is fluid, but we remain hopeful.
Other cities have some outstanding independents, but none so many as San Francisco. Ms. McMichael mentions a couple of excellent ones with "more informative" web sites. True, but we thrive on our differences, and none of us would consider it "shrewd merchandising" to try to be like any of the others.
Co-owner, Cover to Cover
3812 24th Street
Sodden Sod Saddens All
In your article on the status of the athletic field at Upper Noe Rec Center ["Deluge Delays Upper Noe Field's Sod Plan," March 2000], it would have been nice to hear from the other users of the field. The community of moms, dads, kids, and on-leash dogs miss the field, too.
Right now there's no place to run or play catch or sit down. No baseball practices. No games. We can't wait for the field to open either.
Please remind your readers and all good neighbors that until issues are resolved, Upper Noe is and always has been an on-leash park (no dogs at all on the tennis court, in the rec center buildings, or in the sandbox play area). Thanks.
Car-free Is Carefree in Golden Gate Park
As our city becomes more congested with cars, families and children are hard-pressed to find a safe place to go where kids can play and enjoy the great outdoors without the danger and noise presented by automobiles.
One hundred years ago, John McLaren created Golden Gate Park to be a "sylvan refuge" from the pressures of urban living. Today, more than ever, San Franciscans, as well as visitors to our city, need a safe, car-free place to take their kids; to bike, skate, or walk; or just to sit in the sun and enjoy the sights and sounds of the country's most beautiful urban park.
By placing an initiative on the November ballot, the Advocates for a Safe Golden Gate Park wishes to open the 1.5-mile stretch of JFK Drive in the park to recreational park users on Saturdays, just like it has been on Sundays since 1967. This is a major step in returning the park to the urban refuge that it was originally intended to be. San Franciscans and their children deserve no less.
Upper Noe Neighbors Feels 'Invaded'
Editor's Note: Upper Noe Neighbors, a residents' group focused on issues along outer Church Street, asked that we publish this letter to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, dated Feb. 4, 2000.
This letter is being sent in response to activities that occurred at a meeting of Upper Noe Neighbors on Jan. 27. At that meeting, Upper Noe Neighbors (UNN) was "invaded" by a large number of nearby residents determined to voice their displeasure with our position on the emergency shelter approved for the Metropolitan Community Church in Noe Valley. The gist of their concern was that in spite of UNN officers being afforded the right to speak for the group according to our bylaws, we had not taken a vote of our membership on the shelter issue. Because we had not done that, and because many neighbors were opposed to the shelter and dismayed by our disagreement on this issue, they were determined to push for a vote (even though the decision had already been made by the Board).
I regret having to belabor this shelter issue with you. However, I promised to relay the results of our Jan. 27 meeting, so here goes. UNN has approximately 100 voting members. Only about 20 to 30 of those members attended our last meeting, most of whom were part of the anti-shelter brigade and had become new
=0D members because of this issue. We were forced to take a vote on the shelter, and the result of those voting members who were still present at this part of the meeting was 12 against the shelter and 8 for it. There you have it.
This vote in no way changes UNN's commitment to work toward the success of the shelter, nor does it alter the fact that none of our other 85-plus members have voiced any concern to the officers because we backed the shelter. We will, however, be adjusting our bylaws so that people cannot just join our group and be able to immediately vote on an issue. We had reviewed the bylaws with our membership one year ago and did not, at that time, recognize this as a potential problem.
Thank you for the support Upper Noe Neighbors has gotten from both the Board and the Mayor's Office. We hope that, ultimately, this shelter controversy will make both our group and our neighborhood stronger and more able to work together on the issues that affect us all.
Upper Noe Neighbors
Is Homeless Shelter Worth the Price?
In none of the articles about the gay youth homeless shelter on Church Street have I seen the cost to the city -- $54,000 for three months -- debated. Are we getting the most bang for the buck? Using simple arithmetic, it seems that we are paying $1,800 per month per young adult to sleep 10 to a room and to eat two squares a day after being chauffeured 14 blocks to and from a location easily accessible by public transportation.
This is easily three or four times the amount many people on G.A., SSI, or Social Security live on. Perhaps these youth should be channeled into a longer-lasting situation such as the military, community college, or a supervised work situation to get their lives together. A few weeks in a shelter just doesn't cut it!
Where's the Organic Beef?
In your March 2000 story about dot-com deliveries, you wrote:
"Tom Maravilla of MikeyTom Market on Church Street ... admits frustration when he sees the Webvan truck pull up to a neighbor's house half a block from his store. 'I mean, they can just call me and tell me what they need, and I'll bring it right over!' he laughs."
This comment omits one crucial point and the reason that my family uses Webvan: there is nowhere in Noe Valley to buy good, organic meat.
Yes, I regularly walk up to Real Foods for the produce. But red meat, poultry, fish? Whole Foods is a long way across the city for us Noeans. Show me a Noe supplier of hormone-free beef and antibiotic-free chicken, and Webvan will lose a faithful customer tomorrow.
The Bracamonte family