We recently answered a senior citizen’s question about how to go about painting her studio apartment in San Francisco. It seems the landlord would not paint the place and our reader was looking for an efficient alternative. We offered several suggestions, addressing the specific questions posed by the reader.

As occasionally happens, another reader took issue with our response, suggesting we "missed the boat." Often the critic points out another alternative that we didn’t mention. If the suggestions are valuable, we pass the information along.

Such is the case with the e-mail we received from Sue Weaver, a self-proclaimed "SF renter x 22 years," and by the tone of her letter, a tenant and elder activist. She writes:

"I’d like to say, with all due respect, your column missed the boat. There was no suggestion that a long-term, elder tenant could at least negotiate with the property owner to have some of the costs covered. At a minimum, the landlord should pay for the materials being used to improve his property.

"If the unit has not been painted in a very long time (implied in the writer’s letter), like 10 or 15 years, there can be a habitability issue, and it is reasonable to expect the owner to pay at least part of the cost. At worst, he would decline the request. If he does, the tenant should document that, and keep records of his expenses.

"Also, my experience with painters is that they do not need everything packed and moved — they only need the items moved away from the walls toward the center of the room, and then covered with plastic sheeting. As long as the bookcases, desk, filing cabinets, et cetera, are not too heavy to be moved 4 feet away from the wall, she may be able to avoid emptying them.

"Finally, I wish you had let this reader know where to get free moving boxes, as she had inquired. A Yahoo Internet user group, San Francisco Freecycle Network (at www.groups.yahoo.com/group/SFFN), is one of many Freecycle chapters aimed at reducing landfill by providing an online forum for people offering and requesting used but usable items.

"Freecycle Network serves the immediate Bay Area, but there also are many other chapters around the country. I can verify that moving boxes are frequently offered and requested items. In fact, paint also is offered fairly frequently. Go to http://www.freecycle.org.

"This forum also would provide the writer a great opportunity to reduce some of the clutter she refers to. If she is outgrowing her space, she may want to use this painting opportunity to sort through the books and other items she has accumulated and offer some of them on Freecycle.

"Freecycle can be easier than donating to charity because recipients come to the donor (or a nearby safe public place) for pickup — no need to haul everything to a thrift shop. Freecycle members will take items — such as a hodgepodge box of office supplies or partial containers of cleaning supplies — that are not suitable for Salvation Army or Goodwill pickup.

"I do enjoy the column, hope you do not find this too critical."

To the contrary — we do not find your suggestions critical at all, but chock full of useful information. Thanks for letting us know about Freecycle. We found these words on the San Francisco chapter’s Web page: "The goal of the San Francisco Freecycle Network is to reduce waste by connecting individuals who are throwing away goods with others who are seeking them." That’s a goal we couldn’t support more.


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