May, 2009


What should you say to somebody who tells you that he is planning a trip to San Francisco and would like your advice? If I know that someone is going to be staying at a hotel in downtown San Francisco, I usually advise against renting a car. I tell people:

  • You can get to most places within San Francisco from the major hotels faster by cab, streetcar, or subway than by driving. Rent a car only if you are going to travel outside the city.
  • It is sometimes completely impossible to find a place to park in San Francisco at popular tourist destinations like Chinatown or Fisherman's Wharf.
  • Guest parking at downtown San Francisco hotels is surprisingly expensive! In most cities, major hotels let guests park their cars for free or at a discounted rate. Not San Francisco. It costs $50 to $60 a day to self-park a small car at the San Francisco Hilton, the Saint Francis, the Palace, the Marriott, or the Regency. If you have an SUV or other large vehicle, you'll pay $60 to $80 a day. (I'll bet you wouldn't have guessed it's that high!) Valet parking costs around $100 a day including tips. By comparison, the Hilton and the Sheraton in Emeryville charge $80 a night for a room with a bay view, and guest parking is free. Think about it - It costs just slightly more to stay at the Emeryville Hilton, which has free parking, than it costs to park a car at the San Francisco Hilton, 8 miles away.

    The Tenderloin. The San Francisco Hilton is located in the middle of The Tenderloin, a small, seedy neighborhood known for its large homeless population, prostitutes, drug addicts, strip clubs, street crime, and more than 60 liquor stores. San Francisco's biggest free soup kitchen is located directly across the street from the Hilton. I have never understood why Hilton chose this location for their San Francisco hotel. The Hilton is located only a few blocks from popular tourist destinations like Union Square, but nevertheless, I wouldn't recommend walking around the Hilton at night.

    Aunt Bessie vs. The Tenderloin. About 30 years ago, my Aunt Bessie stayed at the San Francisco Hilton. One night, while she was walking outside the hotel, Aunt Bessie was attacked by 3 young muggers. One of them grabbed Bessie's handbag, but she pulled it back from him. Although she was over 70 years old at the time, Aunt Bessie fought the muggers, hitting them repeatedly with her handbag until they ran away. Then Aunt Bessie chased the muggers down the street while continuing to hit them with her handbag as they fled, but they ran faster than she could and got away. Later, when I told Aunt Bessie's daughters what had happened, neither of them seemed surprised that their mother had handled this situation this way. Bessie was not a big woman. She was only 5 feet tall, but she was tough. Nobody bullied my Aunt Bessie!


    I get asked this question quite often at this time of year, just before the U.C. Berkeley school year comes to an end in May.

    Leases vs. Month to Month Agreements. If you have a Lease, the expiration date is stated in the Lease itself. Under California law, if you have a Month to Month Rental Agreement, then your obligation to pay rent ends 30 days after you give your landlord proper written notice that you are leaving. It does not matter what day of the month the rent is due. For example, if you have a Month to Month Agreement, and you give your landlord notice that you are moving out on May 10, then your obligation to pay rent rent ends on June 10. The fact that your rent is due on the first of the month is irrelevant. In this example, on June 1, you only have to give your landlord 10 days rent, not 30.

    Proper Notice. Your notice must be in writing. You have not given your landlord proper notice by telling him verbally that you are moving out or by leaving a message on his telephone answering machine. Your notice must be dated; it must state the address being rented, it must include a specific date by which your apartment will be vacant; and your notice must be signed. Also, your notice must be definite. I sometimes get notices like this: "I am moving out on July 1, unless I can't find another place to rent by then." This is not a valid notice because it is not clear when, or even if, the tenant is leaving. You should deliver your notice to your landlord or the property manager in person, if that is practical. If you mail a notice to your landlord, you should confirm that he received it.

    Moving Out. Regardless of what it says in the move-out notice you gave your landlord, you have not actually moved out until you have returned possession of the property back to him. As long as people, pets, or your personal property is still on the premises; you have not moved out, and you continue to be liable for the payment of rent.

    Security Deposit Refunds. There are legal reasons why landlords will not return security deposits until all of the tenant's personal property is off the premises. Last year, a tenant renting a house from me gave me a 30-day written notice that he was leaving. On the move-out date, all of his stuff was out of the house, just as he promised. The same day, the guy left town for a vacation. A few days later, I was shocked to discover that all of this guy's stuff was still on the premises. He had put all of his personal possessions in the crawl space under the house. The guy had a lot of stuff too. He had over 200 books in the crawl space, plus furniture, electronics, and clothing, and a lot of other things. In his mind, he had moved out, but that wasn't the way I saw it, and I did not return his security deposit until he returned and removed all his property from the premises..

    CALLER I.D. SPOOFING. An increasingly common identity theft scam.

    The word "spoof" usually refers to a kind of harmless joke or a lighthearted parody, but Caller I.D. spoofing is neither funny nor harmless. Imagine this situation - Your telephone rings. Your Caller I.D. identifies the caller as "Bank of America." The caller says: "Hi. My name is Matilda Yakabofski. I'm calling from Bank of America's security department. There has been some suspicious activity in your account. We would like to make sure that these are transactions are legitimate. Would you please confirm your account number and password?" This phone call is a Caller I.D. spoof from someone trying to steal your identity.

    Caller I.D. spoofing is a technological trick that allows callers to change the name and phone number that appear on your Caller I.D. display. It used to require some technological expertise to spoof a name and phone number on a Caller I.D. screen, but now, commercial spoofing services have made this technology available to everyone. For $10 an hour, you can hire a spoofing service that gives you the ability to change the name and the telephone number that you appear to be calling from. Congress to been considering banning Caller I.D. spoofing for years, but for the time being, what these spoofing companies are doing is legal; mainly, enabling people to steal your identity. Every year, millions of Americans fall victim to Caller I.D. and e-mail spoofing scams, (also known as "phishing"), and the number is growing. Here is how to protect yourself from Caller I.D. spoofing:

  • Never give financial information over the phone unless you initiated the call yourself, and you know for certain who you are speaking to.
  • Banks, credit card companies, and government agencies do not call people to "confirm" or "update" personal information, such as social security or driver's license numbers, PIN numbers, credit card security codes, etc.
  • Your bank knows your account number. Your bank will never call you and ask what your account number is.
  • Don't call the phone numbers of companies in e-mail messages or click on the hyperlinks. To call a company where you have an account, use the phone number on the last statement you received from them.
  • If you think you may have already been scammed by a Caller I.D. spoof, contact the real company right away and tell them what happened.
  • Get a free credit report on yourself at least twice a year at Annual Credit Report and look for suspicious activity. Do not go to See the May, 2008 Tarses Tenant Newsletter for an article about this.


    The United States is in the midst of an obesity epidemic; however, chocolate is not the reason. There is no correlation between chocolate consumption and obesity rates. See how much chocolate people consume per year in industrialized countries:

    Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, & United Kingdom - 22 pounds.
    Austria - 21
    Ireland, Denmark, & Norway - 19
    France, Finland, & Sweden - 15
    United States - 11.5
    Canada - 8.5 (I wonder why Canadians eat so little chocolate.)

    Nevertheless, the United States has the highest obesity rate of any country on this list.


    The main cause of America's obesity and diabetes epidemics is the overconsumption of sugar. In 1910, the average American consumed 50 pounds of sugar a year. In 1960, it was 100 pounds a year. Today the average American consumes 200 pounds of sugar a year (including 60 pounds of corn sweetener). However, candy isn't the culprit. Per capita candy consumption in the U.S. has not changed significantly in over a century. Almost all of the increase in sugar consumption comes from soft drinks. Since World War II, soft drink consumption in the U.S. has skyrocketed. In 1950, the average American consumed 11 gallons of soft drinks a year. It is now 46 gallons a year.

    Portion sizes. A big part of the problem is exploding portion sizes. You can see a good example of this on the Cal campus. U.C. Berkeley has had an exclusive contract with Coca Cola for a long time. Back in the 1950s, soft drink vending machines on the Berkeley campus sold 6.5 ounce bottles of Coke. In the 1960s, those machines were replaced with new ones that sold 12 ounces cans of Coke. Today, all soft drink vending machines on the Berkeley campus and in the dorms off campus sell 20 ounce bottles of Coke. Breakfast. When I was a kid, nobody I knew drank Coca Cola at breakfast. Today, soft drinks are an accepted breakfast food. 15% of Americans consume soft drinks at breakfast. At McDonalds and Burger King, 30% of all customers order soft drinks with breakfast, and at most locations, refills are free.

    King Tsin. I frequently go to banquets at King Tsin restaurant in Berkeley. When I do, I always bring chocolate for after dinner. Sadly, some of the parents at these banquets won't let their kids eat my chocolate because they say: "it will make them fat" - even though each of these kids drank 1 or 2 cans of soda with dinner and probably had another 1 or 2 cans earlier in the day. One can of Coke contains twice as much sugar and 4 times as much caffeine as a standard size Hershey bar. (P.S. - The Dim Sum at King Tsin is the best in Berkeley and is served all day.)

    Why Don't People See the Connection? I believe that there is a natural tendency for people to psychologically associate eating fat with body fat. Haven't you ever heard somebody say "that's going straight to my thighs" when eating some high-fat food like whipped cream? Of course, human biology doesn't actually work that way. A lot of people try losing weight by simply cutting fat out of their diet, and nothing else. That doesn't works. Chocolate contains fat (cocoa butter), but soft drinks contain no fat, so its easier to mentally connect chocolate with fat rather than soft drinks. I have no evidence to prove my theory, but I think I'm right.


    It Was Police Brutality! I used to own a house on Canning Street in Oakland. The last time it was up for rent, I got a phone call from a man who said: "I saw your listing. It says you'll allow a dog." I said: "Yes. That's right." He said: "What about 2 dogs?" I said: "No. I'm only allowing 1 dog." He said: "OK" and hung up. A few days later, this same guy called back and said: "Is the house on Canning Street still available?" I said: "Yes, it is still available, but didn't you call me a few days ago, and didn't you tell me that you have 2 dogs? I'm only allowing 1 dog." He said: "Yeah, we did speak a few days ago, and I had 2 dogs then, but I've only got 1 dog now." I was suspicious. I said: "What happened to the other dog?" He said: "An Oakland cop shot him." I said: "A policeman shot your dog? Why?" He said: "It was police brutality. It was so sad. He was the gentlest dog I ever had." I said: "Tell me what happened." He said: "My dog was playing with the mailman, and the neighbors called the cops. Then the cops came out and shot my dog. It was police brutality." I didn't like the sound of that explanation. His story raised several questions in my mind:

    1. What does this guy mean by "playing with the mailman?" That sounds scary to me.
    2. If the mailman and this dog were really just playing, why did the neighbors call the police? People don't call the police just because they see somebody playing with a dog, and the police won't come out if that's all that's going on.
    3. If this was the gentlest dog this guy ever owned, what is his other dog like? Yipes!

    When I was in college, I had a summer job delivering mail for the post office. There was a can of pepper spray attached to my mailbag to deal with dogs like this. I decided to rent the place to someone else.

    Mark Tarses

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