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Rumors Behind the News: Strange Birds
A FLOCK OF PARROTS flourishing in the trees at the top of Vicksburg near 22nd Street is the source of some very noisy chatter around the neighborhood these days.
The green and yellow birds are canary-wing parrots, says Dr. Luis Baptista, director of the Mammology and Ornithology Department at the California Academy of Sciences. They normally live in much warmer climates.
"There have been flocks of these South American parrots in San Francisco for a number of years, ever since a small flock escaped captivity in the Bay Area," marvels Baptista. "I was a little worried they might not survive the very cold winters we had here in the years around 1990, but they adapted quite well.
"They like to breed in the palm trees on Dolores Street," he adds. "When nesting, the male and the female will sing in duets."
Baptista says that for several years there have been reports of canary-wing flocks near 14th and Dolores, as well as conure parrots on Russian Hill. But this is the first he's heard of the birds in this neck of the woods.
Carl Friedman, chief of the city's Animal Care and Control, says he received inquiries about the noise made by the canary-wings a couple of years ago, when they were in the trees near Dolores Park.
Friedman, who has lived in Noe Valley for 30 years, says he has gotten many reports over the past 10 years about flocks of noisy parrots visiting the city. "Recently I saw parrots flying over my house that seemed to be coming from Glen Canyon and going downtown. We're also getting reports from downtown all the time -- the noise can be remarkable."
Friedman's says it's best to leave the parrots alone, even if they're making a racket. And don't feed them. They might get to like Noe Valley a bit too much, like those sea lions down at Pier 39.
My suggestion is to teach them to speak English, so they can tell us "what's goin' on" in their minds. Before I go, remind me to tell you what Baptista says the frogs of the world are telling us right now.
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THE TALK of Uptown Noe Valley is the pending transformation of Stellings Market, on the southwest corner of Church and 29th. The grocery/liquor store is supposed to become a Thai restaurant. The new proprietors have already applied for a beer and wine permit.
Meanwhile, Stellings will move its video, snacks, and beverage business to Drewes Meat Market, the butcher shop a few doors up the block. The merchandise will go along the north wall, the one on your right as you walk into Drewes.
Re the Thai restaurant: I'm sure there will be more to report next month as the buzz gets louder. My olfactory sources tell me that smell will be an issue.
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CHURCH STREET MERCHANTS and the Upper Noe Neighbors have weathered the storm created in July when they got wind of the Department of Parking and Traffic's plan to make the streetcar lane on Church Street "Muni-only," with all other vehicles confined to the right lane.
More than 30 people showed up at a Neighbors meeting to draft a letter of opposition. The missive was sent to the mayor, the Board of Supervisors, Muni's head honcho Emilio Cruz, and Parking and Traffic boss Bill Maher.
When I last checked with Upper Noe Neighbors president Janice Gendreau, she was pleased to report that the city had backed down from the lane closure idea.
Tom Maravilla of MikeyTom Market had more good news. He said the city had agreed to a four-way stop at the intersection of Day and Church streets, where the new wheelchair ramps are.
"This has always been a dangerous intersection, but it's been really unsafe since they painted the crosswalk," says Tom. If we're lucky, stop signs should go in on Church Street by November.
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DEVELOPMENTALLY SPEAKING, it looks like both sides are claiming victory in regard to the compromise reached on the hillside project bounded by 25th, Clipper, Homestead, and Hoffman.
The neighbors and Friends of Noe Valley are happy because they persuaded the city's Board of Supes to downsize four of the six buildings. The builder is happy because he finally gets to build.
No sooner had the ink dried on that project, however, than the owners of the adjoining property gave notice to the neighbors that they were going to build a "three-story-plus" duplex after demolishing the existing structure.
Neighbors again went to Friends of Noe Valley and hired Noe Valley attorney Claire Pilcher. Pilcher reportedly worked out an amicable settlement with the builder, Ed Dunn, who reduced the height by one story. It's a Dunn deal.
Up on Battle Mountain (the four-house project at Sanchez and 21st streets), it looks like neighbors and developer Seamus McGee are again doing battle before the Board of Supervisors. I got this news the day I was turning in this column, so stay tuned for further developments.
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SUMMER FAMILY REUNIONS are great, but for Noe Valleons Margaret and Jim Daley this summer was super-special. They welcomed daughter Julie Davis into their home for the very first time.
"At the time of Julie's birth, 20-plus years ago," explains Margaret, "Jim and I were high school students back in Ohio, and definitely not prepared for the responsibilities of parenthood. Luckily, we defied the odds and have been together since high school," says Margaret. "Most biological parents of children born in high school don't remain together."
Julie was adopted and raised by a "wonderful family in Ohio," where Julie still resides, these days with her husband and new baby.
Jim, a private investigator, tracked Julie down last year. "I became a mother and a grandmother almost at the same time," Margaret says wistfully.
Many of you parents might know Margaret from the old Kidstuff on Castro, where she worked 16 years ago. She also worked at Small Frys from 1990 to 1994. Then she turned artist/muralist fulltime.
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CONGRATS ALSO to Noe Valley resident Laura Culberson, who has joined the architectural firm of Cary & Co. as a building conservator. Laura's expertise is in historic building restoration. She's currently working on restoration of the old Pacific Building at Fourth and Market, and the ground-floor ceiling in the old I. Magnin building on Union Square.
Happy birthday to Just for Fun. Ten years ago this gift emporium opened in the 900 square feet that used to be the Noe Valley Post Office, on 24th near Castro. Now located down the street at 3982 24th between Noe and Sanchez, Just for Fun occupies four times its original space.
All you Muni patrons will be glad to know that Fast Passes are now available in the Thrifty Jr. on 24th Street. You may or may not know that Thrifty has been sold and now belongs to Rite-Aid.
Sorry to hear that Ruth Villatore of Homestead Street died recently at the age of 93. Ruth was the oldest member of the East & West of Castro Improvement Club. She joined the group in 1949 and served as its treasurer for many years.
Also sorry to learn that Lady Sybil will be closing her "closet" -- her lace and linen shop -- on Sept. 30, after more than a decade at the corner of Church and 27th. "Our rent has increased 150 percent. So we're leaving after 14 years in Noe Valley," she says. She adds that all stock at Lady Sybil's Closet will be 40 percent off till the end of September.
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TOP OF THE POPS at Streetlight Records is Cafe du Nord, a CD compilation of artists who have played at that popular club just over the hill on Market Street. There are some great cuts by Mingus Amongus, Lavay Smith, and Jill Tracy.
Down at Aquarius Records, the number-one seller is a tie between the quiet rock group ineloquently called Fuck, and their CD titled Pardon My French, and the eclectic electronic group Lesser, and their CD, Gigolo Cop.
Eric the night man at Video Wave reports that the most requested movie is Sling Blade starring Billy Bob Thornton. "It's a slasher flick with a smilin' face," says Eric.
At West Coast Video, everyone wants the documentary about Mohammed Ali: When We Were Kings.
Herb Lilly at Noe Valley Sports Cards says that the football card most in demand these days is the rookie-year issue of Jerry Rice, the great (now injured) wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers.
For those of you who still read books, Cover to Cover says the fictional best seller for the summer has been Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. This is the story of a Confederate soldier returning home after the Civil War.
On the nonfiction side, everyone seems to be reading about a very cold mountain, Everest, and the ill-fated 1996 climb. The author is Jon Krakauer, who was on the expedition, and the book is Into Thin Air.
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SPEAKING OF THIN AIR: I'll now reveal what Professor Baptista said the frogs are trying to tell us humans. "The frogs of the world are dying at alarming rates these days," he warned, "because the loss of our ozone layer in the earth's atmosphere is allowing ultraviolet rays to reach the frogs' eggs and young."
We are depleting our ozone because of chlorofluorocarbons released into thin air from our factories and gas escaping from improperly disposed-of refrigerators.
That's 30. Here's wishing you a better tomorrow, and hopefully the frogs will be saved by the next issue of the Voice.