Sunset Spotlight

Captain: Staffing down, trouble at Lowell High School
Capt. Keith Sanford, the commanding officer at the Taraval Police Station, gave a brief overview of some of the issues affecting the district at an April 25 meeting sponsored by the Sunset Heights Association of Responsible People (SHARP).

Sanford said the station currently has about 75 officers, down from the 85 he had when he took command four years ago. A plan is in the works with Police Chief Heather Fong to up that number to 105.

The SF Police Department is down about 400 officers overall, he said, and a major effort is being undertaken to hire more police.

A pedestrian, approximately 80 years old, was killed at Lincoln Way and 30th Avenue in April. A vehicle traveling eastbound on Lincoln in the left lane stopped for the pedestrian, but another motorist driving in the right lane did not see the victim until it was too late.

Sanford also reported that there have been some troubles at Lowell High School, between Asian and African-Americans, mostly over the theft of iPods. He said it appears some of the troublemakers are not students but are coming to the campus to facilitate trouble.

Because the Taraval Station has not had a school resource officer working at Lowell for the past two years, other officers are monitoring the situation.

- Paul Kozakiewicz

Homicide Suspected after Car Crashes into House
In what is being ruled a homicide by SF Police Department investigators, a man driving a four-door sedan near 29th Avenue and Santiago Street was shot during the evening of Wednesday, April 11.

Shortly after the shots were fired, the man's car sideswiped a parked minivan, drove up onto the curb, and then crashed into a two-car garage at a corner house.

Once a small fire that consequently ignited had been extinguished, the driver was pronounced dead at the scene, but detectives are still investigating whether he died from a gunshot wound or as a result of the fire.

The victim had apparently been using his vehicle as an illegal taxicab.

As of presstime, detectives had no description of a suspect or suspects.

Sunset Resident Creates New Guide to Sierra Nevada
Like many people, John Laws struggled with dyslexia in school. Despite this obstacle, he used sketches to note his knowledge - original artwork from which he has devised a user-friendly field guide to the Sierra Nevada that scientific professionals consider innovative.

"It is incredibly helpful and fills a real need for an inclusive guide that is user-friendly," said Margaret Burke at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Burke, who serves as director of education at the academy, had lots of praise for Laws' work, which took him six years and many revisions to get just right.

"I am very pleased and really excited," Burke said.

Compact and lightweight, the field guide is a concise reference to more than 17,000 species of plants, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals. Burke noted that as Laws presented the trail and field guide in sections to various scientists, such as botanists and ornithologists (those who study plants and birds) at the academy, there was "a great buzz going around."

Laws, a Sunset District resident, worked with many experts in the various scientific disciplines to make sure the book was accurate. It was an experience that the UC Berkeley graduate of natural sciences found "absolutely fabulous."

He said it was "an excuse to run-around full-time through mountain ranges, meadows and many stunning places." Yet, Laws' main objective was to comprise a guide that would appeal to the average person walking along a nature trail.

From childhood on, Laws learned much about nature from his parents, who were avid about plants and bird-watching while taking walks.

"My idea was to have everything a person is likely to encounter; not just plants, birds and insects but animal tracks, plankton and fungi," Laws said.

"I wanted to make my field guide as easy and accessible to use, taking a lot of the technical difficulty out of it so that everyday people can enjoy a hike on the trail," Laws said.

According to Laws, with almost no color illustrations, the average field guide was too technical and uses terminology that average people don't know. With full color, hand-drawn illustrations, color-coded tabs and subject lines, Laws' guidebook helps people understand what they are seeing, on the ground, in the water or in the air. "I have also included a simple astrological chart so if people are out at night, they can observe constellations seen by the human eye," Laws said.

- Jonathan Farrell

Sunset Man Named One of 10 Most Inspirational Israelis
Meir Schneider, Ph.D., L.M.T., was recently named one of the 10 most inspirational Israelis in the world by a CBS special called "The Best Ten."

As documented by the television program, his remarkable saga of overcoming congenital blindness has served as an inspiration for the entire world.

Schneider is an author, educator, pioneer therapist and founder of San Francisco's non-profit School for Self-Healing, located at 2218 48th Ave. in the Sunset District, which applies the principles of a therapeutic health care system that combines movement, massage, breathing, visualization and vision exercises.

His publications include "Movement for Self-Healing," "The Handbook of Self-Healing," and most recently, "The Natural Vision Improvement Kit."

For more information, visit the Web site at www.self-healing.org.

Kudos for Local Community Leader
Public safety is one of the most challenging issues that is facing San Francisco and no matter what neighborhood a city resident lives in, feeling safe is fundamental to their leading a healthy, productive life.

The Safety Network acknowledges and honors the efforts of these individuals and groups at the Community Leadership Awards, which will be held on Wednesday, May 9, at 6 p.m., at the State Building Auditorium at 455 Golden Gate Ave.

Ronald Pang, the principal of Abraham Lincoln High School (ALHS) will receive the award in the Sunset for his exemplary leadership at ALHS and the larger community.

"Mr. Pang is a terrific leader. He is respectful of all Mustangs, faculty/staff, students, parents, alumni and community," said Lincoln student Alexandra Mogannam.

Under his leadership, ALHS received the Distinguished School award from the state in 2000-2001. Pang has encouraged faculty and teachers, the Wellness Center and community-based agencies to all work together to improve the lives of students. These community, mental health and health resources are essential components of the general well-being and mental health of the students, and this contributes significantly to youth crime reduction, and the improved safety of the school and the larger community, he said.

"Student success is one of the greatest achievements. As an educator, I challenge myself everyday to not only recognize each student by name, but to see his or her strengths and use them toward success," Pang said.

Pang, the principal at Lincoln for the past nine years, is also a recipient of the School Master Award in 2007.

For more information about the event, contact Carol Mo, Taraval District community organizer, at carol@safetynetwork.org or 759-3690.

Lowell Students Sing for Victims
Twenty-five students from the Lowell High School Chamber Orchestra performed at Union Square April 28 to raise money for the victims of violent crimes. The performance was sponsored by the SF District Attorney's Office.