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Archive for January 8th, 2018|Daily archive page

SMOKE—AND POWER—GETS IN YOUR EYES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 8, 2018 at 8:01 pm

Many people comfortably believe that government agencies exist to resolve problems.

Unfortunately, this is all-too-often not the case.

Meraki Market opened in October at 927 Post Street, directly across from the San Francisco apartment building where Valerie (not her real name) lives.

The main feature of this store—which offers expensive, deli-style food to local residents—is a wood-burning stove. Its fuel is almond and mesquite wood. Mesquite emits an aroma similar to that found in Texas barbecue restaurants.

Since this store opened, Valerie’s apartment—and other apartments on Post, Geary and O’Farrell Streets—has been swathed in thick, foul-smelling smoke that makes eyes water and throats constrict. It clings to clothes and furnishings.

And it poses a threat to tenants’ health.

An article published by the American Lung Association on February 8, 2016, warned: “Wood Burning Stoves Could Be Harming Your Health.”  For example:

“…The reality is that smoke from residential wood heaters can be harmful to the health of those in your home and also in your community. This is especially true for people with lung conditions, as well as children, older adults, people with cardiovascular disease and diabetics….

“Smoke from wood-burning stoves can have both short-term and long-term effects. It can trigger coughing, wheezing, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and lead to lung cancer and premature death, among other health effects.

“This is because wood smoke contains fine particle pollution, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, black carbon and air toxics such as benzene. The wood smoke can increase particle pollution to levels that pose serious health concerns both indoors and outdoors. In fact, fine particle pollution (PM2.5) is so tiny that it can get deep into the lungs, harming the lungs, blood vessels and heart.” 

The San Francisco Chronicle’s online edition reported: “An inspector with the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) paid Meraki a visit…and found everything in order.”

But this is not as reassuring as it might seem.

The city’s Department of Building Inspection also handed out premature building permits to the notorious  Millennium Tower—a luxury residential high-rise in the South of Market district of downtown San Francisco.

Image result for Images of Department of Building Inspection

The result: Since its completion in 2008, the Tower has sunk 17 inches and tilted 14 inches.

The reason: The Millennium Partners did not build on bedrock.

As a result, this 58-story, 645-foot-tall apartment complex is now known as “the leaning tower of San Francisco.”

Meanwhile, Stanlee Gatti, the owner of the market, is one of the best-known event planners in the country. In 1999, he was described by a columnist as one of the three most powerful people in San Francisco.

Gatti’s enormous power as a friend of the city’s top politicians raises the question: “Is he the beneficiary of special consideration?”

The opening of Meraki Market came shortly after the extinguishing of the catastrophic fires in Napa and Sonoma.

Starting in October, Valerie assumed these fires were still going on because the smell of burning wood was overwhelming the neighborhood. It was only in early November that she learned the source of the pollution was the market across the street.

While there’s a health concern by those residents forced to live near the pollution-spewing market, it’s not shared by those city officials who don’t live near it.

On January 1, she emailed her local supervisor, Aaron Peskin.  That same day, Peskin replied: “I’m looping in the Department of Public Health to follow up.”

On January 2, Valerie received a second email from Peskin, which contained a notation from Barbara Garcia, an official with the local Department of Public Health: “I’ve added our Environmental Health management for response.”

On January 4, Valerie received that response from the Health Department:

“While we share the concerns for air quality and particulate pollution the outdoor air is primarily regulated by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).

“The Department of Public Health’s Environmental Health Branch regulates the safe handling and preparation of the food sold at the market but the outdoor smoke issue is regulated by the BAAQMD.

Image result for Images of Department of Building Inspection

“So in response to the complaints we received (November 2017) regarding the smoke from this location we directed the owner of Meraki Market to not use or operate the wood burning stove on the BAAQMD designated ‘No Burn Days.'”

Wow!  Local residents will be spared breathing polluted air on whatever days BAAQMD deigns to declare as “No Burn Days”!

For those days not so designated—tough luck.

Valerie had already contacted BAAQMD—and found they didn’t have jurisdiction over pollution caused by restaurants.  Moreover, one of its inspectors must actually come out and smell or see the pollution while it is occurring.

This is akin to a police department’s refusing to investigate reports of a murder unless one of its detectives actually saw it committed.

Valerie quickly drafted a reply to the Health Department: “Your email offers a textbook example why so many people have given up on government at any level.

“I [expected] the San Francisco Department of Public Health [to show] some interest in addressing the health concerns of a public that’s being daily exposed to toxic air. Obviously, that was a mistake on my part.”

She sent similar emails to Peskin and BAAQMD.

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