A big-box waste of time 

You might think that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors would learn to not place unnecessary restrictions on the types of businesses that might come to The City, especially during an economic funk.

You would be wrong.

It appears the board is about to consider interim zoning rules that would require big-box retailers to secure a conditional-use permit before opening a store. It’s a pointless legislative exercise for the following reasons:

Currently, there are no big-box retailers in San Francisco.

There’s only one slated to come to The City — a Lowe’s home improvement store that residents in the Bayview-Hunters Point area begged to get approved so that it would bring jobs to the southeast corridor.

The Lowe’s project only got the green light because a Home Depot planned for the same site was grounded when the retailer nixed the project because of the economy. And the fight about the Home Depot lasted nine years.

So I think it’s fair to say that we won’t be seeing an application from Wal-Mart anytime soon and our friends at Target seem pretty happy to have swallowed up the shopping dollars in the mall-rich Colma area.

This all goes to say that if you’re part of a big-box retail family, why would you even bother trying to come to San Francisco, since you’d spend years being beaten by political batons with nothing to show for it?

Additional restrictions aren’t really necessary. The economy is doing a fine job of keeping business away by itself.


Final call for Benny Legere

If you spent any measure of time on a baseball diamond or in a gymnasium in San Francisco, say in the past half-century or so, chances are one of the following things happened:

Benny Legere called you out. Benny Legere called you safe. Benny Legere called you for walking. Benny Legere eventually called you by name.

As youth sports legends go, Benny Legere walked alone — without doubt the best-known, hardest-working, longest-lasting referee or umpire in San Francisco history. He made so many calls and was called so many things that he assumed cultlike status in Rec and Park and youth sports league annals.

And now he’s had his last call — dead at the age of 77, with a lifetime of happy memories being surrounded by kids, beloved to several generations of San Francisco families.

No one knows that actual count, but it’s estimated that Legere oversaw more than 26,000 baseball, basketball, softball and volleyball games during his 50-plus year tenure. He was probably a referee at 100 games during my youth, which by his standard would make me a rookie.

Did I fail to mention that he was a great and quirky guy? You’d have to be to ref 14 games a weekend.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who grew up in the same circles as I, said a few years back he was playing an adult-league softball game when he came chugging home and barely beat a tag at the plate. It was a close play, so close that Legere paused for many moments, before finally looking at Elsbernd.

“Sean, were you safe or out?’’ Legere asked him.

“I was safe,” Elsbernd said.

“I know that no St. Cecilia’s kid would lie,” Legere said, before barking out “safe” — prompting outrage from the opposing team.

Legere, a graduate of Lowell High School and UC Berkeley, paid for his college education by umpiring, and he turned his love for youth sports into an avocation bordering on a ministerial calling. He was a fixture at CYO games, officiated high school leagues in several sports, but never climbed the ladder to college or professional sports.

“So many people try to make a name for themselves as officials and move on to the next level,” comedian Bob Sarlatte told me. “Not Benny.”

They say Benny had no family survivors when he died. I think that’s one call they got wrong.


Starbucks’ gun policy draws fire from group

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is heading a move against Starbucks because the coffee giant allows customers to carry guns but not its employees.

I think they call this counterintuitive.

“These two policies seem to be in conflict,” said Paul Helmke, head of the campaign, which is asking people to send a message to Starbucks to bar firearms in its outlets. “If employees having guns is dangerous, why isn’t it equally dangerous for customers to have guns?”

I believe the answer is that Starbucks doesn’t set state gun laws, though it packs a mean latte.

Still, it does point out that gun advocates and gun opponents probably are never going to agree — no matter who offers the next cup of mocha java.

Personally, I’m glad that Starbucks doesn’t allow its employees to carry handguns. With all that caffeine on hand, things could get jittery quick.


Drop everything — it’s March Madness!

I’ve never seen a study on the subject, but something tells me that when March Madness rolls around, worker productivity suffers. Or maybe it’s just your hand that isn’t cramping from filling out all those office pool brackets.

Last year, Microsoft did a survey and found that 45 percent of adult Americans participate in tournament pools, which would mean that about 60 million people are betting on their Final Four teams. (And by the way, the NCAA’s official line on the subject is that all those brackets should not be used for “gambling activities” — wink, wink.)

No gambling, huh? Anyone spend time in Las Vegas during March? The FBI has said in the past that it believes more than $2 billion is bet “illegally.” I wonder if that includes the FBI’s own regional pools?

The madness has seeped into mass culture — just look at how many computer screens and TVs in the office are filled with “bracketology” updates. The interest is so all-consuming that one of my former editors, who attended the University of Kansas, scheduled his vacation during the tournament so he could follow the progress of the Jayhawks.

Two of the first games went into overtime — I’m exhausted.

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Michael Daboll

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