Noe Valley Voice July-August 1997

Rumors Behind the News: Still No Donut

By Mazook

HAPPY DONUTS is officially very unhappy. That's because at a May hearing, a police permit board denied the shop's application for a "cabaret license." This license is something they now need to stay open 24 hours, even though they've been running 'round the clock -- offering Noe Valley's only late-night snack spot -- for more than 20 years. Without the permit, the place has been forced to close its doors between 2 and 6 a.m., which is prime time for a donut shop. (They also sell sandwiches and hot dogs.)

This whole mess started at the first of the year, when Mission Station permit officer Jim Ludlow found that none of the four 24-hour donut shops in the Mission had the required permit. At the end of February, the police told each of the businesses to cease operating in the wee hours until they'd obtained their permits.

One donut shop closed, and another didn't apply. Hunts Donuts on 20th and Mission hired a lawyer and was able to get the police permit. Happy Donuts applied, but then was left to twist slowly in the wind.

After three months and no donut, owner T.Y. Chhan (I've misspelled this in the past, sorry) and Noe Valley night owls were in a near panic. Even so, they were constantly reassured by the shop's main fans, the police.

Sure enough, at the hearing, the police recommended granting the permit. However, the Planning Department objected, citing a sprinkling of zoning irregularities. In the face of City Planning's objection, the police board said it had no choice but to deny Happy Donuts' application.

A sheepish Officer Ludlow says he is now receiving calls from fellow police officers from all over the Mission and Ingleside districts, expressing their unhappiness over the 2 a.m. closure.

"We love the place," sighs Ludlow. "I even heard that a police commander was upset when he was out on patrol late one night in Noe Valley and couldn't go to Happy Donuts. He wound up having to go across town."

The police are now telling T.Y. Chhan that she should go to City Planning, deal with their objections, and come back and reapply. Ludlow guesses that process could take three months (at least).

Meanwhile, Chhan says she is getting a petition together for her customers to sign. "My customers are willing to help me," she says, "and I am going to go to Planning. But how can they stop me from doing something that's been here for 20 years, especially when only one person protested [other than the Planning Department]?"

My suggestion -- and I think I can safely speak for the police, fire, and paramedic personnel working the graveyard shift, as well as most Noe Valley insomniacs, inebriates, and middle-of-the-night munchers -- is to have Mayor Willie Brown declare a state of emergency and order Happy Donuts open 24 hours a day. Are you ready to march on City Hall?

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WRAP WORKS is almost a wrap. The tortilla takeout -- it's connected to the Chevy's chain -- is aiming for a July 9 grand opening in Cybelle's old spot on 24th Street near Noe Valley Auto Works. Remember, Cybelle's Pizza moved down to Church and 24th a couple of months ago.

Wrap Works manager Julie Andrews says many of the "wrappers" will be fellow Noe Valleons. "I'm really excited because almost everyone I've hired is local."

Andrews adds that she's been going around and introducing herself to people in Downtown Noe Valley, and that most are stoked about the new Tex-Mex-Thai burrito parlor. "We hope to have a delivery service on 24th Street, where we bring food to the stores and bars." Good idea! Can they do it between 2 and 6 a.m.?

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ARE WE FULL YET? Owner Colleen Bedrosian says she is pulling out all the stops at a 25th anniversary party at Haystack Pizza (24th near Sanchez) on Thursday, Aug. 28. There'll be free cake and champagne, accompanied by music from the Larry Vuckovich jazz combo with singer Jackie Ryan. "The band starts playing around dinnertime," says Colleen.

Across the street, "Noe Valley's favorite Irish bar" -- the Dubliner -- will celebrate its 10th anniversary this summer with a free buffet on Saturday, Aug. 2. Look for the spread at 5 p.m.

J.P. Gillen, owner of Little Italy at Castro and 24th, is celebrating an anniversary of sorts this summer, too. He and longtime girlfriend Melanie Kenney are getting married in North Carolina on July 21. They're planning a bash for their Noe Valley friends at the restaurant in September.

In other food news, Terry and Theresa O'Rourke, the former managers of Lovejoy's Tea Room at Church and 24th, have moved to Florence -- Oregon, that is -- where they will take over as managers of Lovejoy's Fish and Chips Restaurant and Tea Room. Replacing them in Noe Valley is Clint Johnston, who until last month was manager of Lovejoy's Oregon outpost.

Is there room for fish and chips on our menu?

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IF MAN CAN SURVIVE ON BREAD alone, we need look no further than the Noe Valley Bakery and Bread Company. According to a feature (not a puff piece) on National Public Radio last month, the 24th Street bakery ranks along with Chez Panisse as one of the leaders in the country's fresh bread making renaissance.

Meanwhile, the hemp renaissance is being led by Frankel Bros. Hemp Outfitters, the new clothing store behind the Planters Nursery on 24th west of Church. The Brothers Frankel, Dave and Bob, got a real boost on June 28, when actor/activist Woody Harrelson showed up to lead a yoga class and Q&A on hemp and eco-politics. (This column was put to bed, but the Voice grabbed a picture for posterity.)

There's a rebirth in kids' storytelling going on in the neighborhood, led by 9-year-old Alexa Rogers. Alexa won third prize in a March writing competition sponsored by Cricket magazine. Alexa's story, titled "101 Fuzzballs of Trouble," appeared in the June 1997 issue of the award-winning kids' mag.

The story is about a girl named Jane who wished her pregnant cat would have more than the two or three kittens her mother expected. When Jane woke up one morning and saw 101 kittens, she was happy at first. "But soon there was a lot of trouble.... There was Lucky, who tried to eat the goldfish, and then there was Annie, who fell in the toilet. And then there were the triplets, Champ, Gatsby, and Spike. They tried to swim in the bathtub and almost drowned, and one even tried to eat Jane's homework!"

Congratulations, Alexa. Now be sure to get the movie rights.

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NOE VOTER TURNOUT in the June 3 special election was an abysmal 47.5 percent. Only 8,037 voted out of 16,895 registered voters. Diamond Heights did a bit better (55%), but the citywide vote was even worse (43%).

Like the rest of the city, Noe Valley voted in favor of education bonds (5,636 for, 1,959 against). We also sided with the zoo (5,527 to 2,286). But when it came to the 49ers stadium (Props. D & F), we gave it a thumbs-down, voting no 4,309 to 3,433.

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FINALLY, here are the answers to last month's Noe Valley history quiz. These little tidbits may prove useful when friends visit from Back East and want a guided tour of our "quaint" little neighborhood (that's what the Wall Street Journal called it in a June 26 story about plastic owls vs. pigeons).

1. The oldest house in Noe Valley, constructed in 1869, is now located at 3780 23rd St. The house was originally erected on Church Street, where 1081, 1085, and 1091 are today, but was moved a short distance down the hill in 1900, when Church Street was graded.

2. The longest-running business in Noe Valley is Drewes Market, located at 1706 Church at 29th. The butcher shop opened in 1888 as Fairmont Meats, but changed its name to Drewes in 1889. For the first 96 years of its existence, it had but two owners. Then, in 1984, current owner Dave McCarroll took over the tradition.

3. Herb's Fine Foods is the 24th Street eatery that was opened in 1943 by Cyril Saunders and then bought in 1945 by Herbert Gaines. Gaines continued to operate it until 1974, when he sold it to Sam Kawas, who is head chef to this day.

What was the place called from 1943 to 1953? The answer is "X the Noe." That's because the soda fountain was directly across from the Noe Theater (see no. 4 below). Saunders had another soda shop over in Eureka Valley called -- you guessed it -- "X the Castro."

Gaines changed the name to Herb's in 1953, when theater customers started staying home to watch TV.

4. What stands now on the site of the Noe, the Palmer, and the Princess, the neighborhood's old movie palaces? And where was Willopi Hall?

Well, as you could see from last month's Voice (front page photo), the Noe Theater was situated where Just for Fun and Ritz Camera are today. The Palmer was also on 24th Street, between Noe and Castro, about where Thrifty Jr. is now.

The Princess Theater was on Church Street at the corner of 28th, in the building that currently houses Holiness Temple in Christ. Willopi Hall was where Downtown Noe Valley's only public parking lot is, on 24th Street between Radio Shack and Hopwell's.

5. Joseph Comerford was one of Noe Valley's first developers. He built many single-family dwellings in Horner's Addition in the 1880s and '90s. The 285-foot alley named after him runs from Church to Sanchez between 27th and Duncan.

6. Alvarado Street was named after Juan B. Alvarado, governor of California from 1836 to 1842.

7. Mike Skoufas is the Noe Valley barber who has moved around more than there are stripes on a pole (yeah, I know). He started at Martin's Barber Shop, which used to be where Matsuya is now on 24th near Vicksburg, in 1953, then opened up his own shop on the corner of 24th and Diamond in 1958. Then in 1972 he moved his shop down to what is now the back dining area of Panos' Restaurant, where he stayed until Panos' expanded in 1988. At that time he moved to a storefront on Church near 24th (where Do Dah Days is now), which he closed in 1994. Then he moved down the street to J&S Barber Shop on Church at 25th. Everybody has lived next door to Mike Skoufas!

8. What are the boundaries of Noe Valley? This was kind of a trick question since we all know that Noe Valley is a state of mind.

Well, San Francisco archivist Gladys Hansen in her 1975 San Francisco Almanac listed Noe Valley's boundaries as follows: "Clipper & Douglass to Dolores and over Dolores to 25th Street. Down to Mission, out Mission to San Jose, south on San Jose to Miguel, west on Miguel to Laidley Street, over Laidley to 30th Street to Castro, over Castro to Valley, Valley to Diamond and back to Clipper Street."

Huh? I think she's missing about half the neighborhood, including 24th Street.

To most locals, Noe Valley (including upper Noe Valley) is basically Grand View south to 30th Street, then east to Dolores, then north on Dolores (or San Jose, if you want) to 21st Street, and west to Grand View. Don't you agree?

9. The name of the mom and pop store that John and Lena Aleo (parents of Harry Aleo, proprietor of Twin Peak Properties on 24th near Castro) opened in 1923 was J. Aleo Grocery. Until about 1955, it thrived at 820 Diamond St. near 24th. In the 1960s, the market became Len's.

10. When did this Rumors column first appear in the Noe Valley Voice? It was the March 1981 issue. The Mazook byline appeared in the May '81 issue. That makes 16 years on the beat.

That's all, you all. Have a great summer vacation. We'll be back.