Noe Valley Voice June 1998

Rumors Behind the News: Market Quotes

By Mazook

NOE VALLEY REAL ESTATE PRICES are the talk of our little village. Everyone has a story about the half-million bucks their neighbor sold his house for, or the outrageous rent somebody is paying for a studio apartment with no garage (and don't even mention the word "dog").

According to a blurb from Zephyr Real Estate, the average price of a one- to two-bedroom single-family home in Noe Valley is now $457,000 (as of April 30), "which would buy a four-bedroom, three-bath home with three-car garage and swimming pool in Walnut Creek -- or perhaps a small chateau in France."

This same house cost $351,000 a year ago -- which means there's been about a 30% jump. (In San Francisco, the average increase since April '97 was 21%.)

Noe Valley condos, with one or two bedrooms, have shot up too in the past year, going from $251,000 to $303,000.

Says Zephyr agent Rob Rogers, "The dramatic fall in interest rates to the lowest levels in 30 years suddenly flooded the market with buyers at a time when inventory was at its lowest [during the winter]. The result was a crazy imbalance of supply and demand."

Rob adds that the market was fueled by "twenty- or thirty-something cash-rich first-time buyers [who were] able to snap up homes" without shopping for loans. "It was a matter of get in, buy up, and then get a mortgage after you had outbid all the other buyers."

But watch out. Prices could go higher. "Noe Valley is still hot," says Zephyr's Randall Kostick. "[There are] a surprising number of buyers still able to afford the neighborhood's high housing costs."

The pickings are pretty slim, though. "Glen Park and Bernal Heights have already benefited from the spill-over demand and continue to be a hot market," Randall says. "Next to benefit will probably be Mission Terrace, where prices are still surprisingly reasonable." Maybe not after you read this.

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WELCOME TO NEO VALLEY: Everybody is telling me that Downtown Noe Valley developer Joe Cassidy -- creator of the spiffy yellow building next to Bell -- has bought the Planters Nursery building (a.k.a. the hemp store) at 24th and Church.They also say he is tearing down the old Victorian to put up a new edifice.

The demolition notices went out last month, so I know that that part of this news is true. But I'm not sure what Joe is building -- maybe some residential units over a storefront?

Joe hasn't returned my calls to confirm this, but my sources are reliable.

By the way, the last time I looked, the storefronts in his building next to Bell, going for $4 a square foot, were still empty. But the rental units, ranging from $1,850 (one-bedroom with loft) to $3,500 a month (two-bedroom, two-bath, with view) were filling up with furnishings.

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CH-CH-CH-CHANGES in Downtown Noe Valley have evidently been toot unsweet for Bakers of Paris, our main baguette supplier for the last 16 years. The shop, which opened on 24th Street next to Herb's in 1982, closed at the end of May. The sign in the window simply said, "That's all, folks."

Bakers of Paris' general manager, Taffy Von Hungen, says the closing was due in part to a rent hike from $2,500 to $4,000 a month. "It seems like a lot of rent to pay when our average transaction was under two dollars," sighs Taffy.

She said she'd heard that a juice joint was looking to fill Bakers' space, which is less than 1,000 square feet. We'll see.

I was glad to hear that Juice It, the juice joint down the street at 24th and Church, had donated some money to James Lick Middle School, "as part of our plan to help local schools."

Hey, could we see the rest of your plan?

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TRAFFICKING IN FOOD: Hopwell's Restaurant, which has a long history in Noe Valley, is probably on its way out. The restaurant, on 24th next to the public parking lot, is presently on the market for $250K. The sellers, who also own the building, are poised to give the lucky buyer a long lease.

Hey, how many of you remember Hopwell's when it was located on 24th near Diamond -- where the Animal Company is now?

The neighbors' two-year stink over the odors rising from Hahn's Hibachi barbecue has finally blown over. Hahn's installed an odor abatement unit, which is now in operation and eating the odors, apparently to the neighbors' satisfaction.

The new stink in Noe Valley's commercial areas is a proposal by Supervisor Gavin Newsom to hike the fine for double-parking from $23 to $100.

Says neighborhood activist Dave Monks, "That will kill a lot of business for the merchants at the end of Church Street, and for other small neighborhood businesses that have customer drop-offs and pickups -- a way of life for many."

I wonder what that sort of fine would do to Noe Valley's bustling garage sales, where double-parked cars line up for blocks on the weekends.

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UPDATING THE UPDATES: The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) has now located several places where local commuters can buy Muni Fast Passes in Downtown Noe Valley.

First, you can get them at Graystone Liquors on the corner of 24th and Castro. When you do, say thanks to Gary Speer, who responded to the public outcry over Home Savings' and others' failure to keep the service this spring. The passes are going fast, Gary says, so don't delay.

If Graystone runs out, try Angel's Market at 26th and Castro. Or you could hop the J-car down to Chuck's Sun Valley Dairy at Church and 28th. He's carried them for a long time.

Veterans Liquors also has 'em. That's on Church between 29th and Day.

It also appears that Rite Aid (24th near Noe) has resumed selling the passes, and June's supply should be available this week. The store's manager says they did not intend to discontinue selling the Fast Passes, but that during their takeover of Thrifty Drugs, they neglected to do the Muni paperwork. All that has been corrected now.

If the NVBI has missed any other stores or businesses selling Fast Passes in the neighborhood, please let the Voice know. The vendor makes 25 cents per pass (after spending probably four dollars in aggravation), so be nice.

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THE 18-MONTH MORATORIUM that was imposed on Downtown Noe Valley in April of '96, barring any new coffee and specialty grocery stores, is now a part of proposed permanent legislation by Supervisor Sue Bierman which would also limit expansion of existing "accessory takeout food service."

As the bill is wending its way through City Hall, the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association is conducting a survey of its members to get their views on the ban.

Diane Barrett, of the Castro Street flower shop Indigo V, served as chair of the Merchants' Committee on Moratoriums, and with the enthusiastic help of her husband Bill Barrett, has issued a report.

The survey's first question was something like: What did you think of the moratorium (which expired last fall)?

According to Diane and Bill, 47% of the 91 people who responded to the survey said they were opposed to the ban on coffee and specialty shops, 44% were for it, and 9% were undecided.

One of the other questions in the survey was: Should we try to maintain our small-scale neighborhood commercial district? About 74% said, "Yes, keep it the same"; 16% wanted more growth, and 10% had no opinion.

"In reading the surveys, I was struck by the fact that people are very concerned about the large stores and chains, but hardly at all concerned about coffee and specialty grocery stores," said Bill. Their allegiance is definitely to the little guy.

Bill decided to do a couple more surveys, to delve even deeper into the local psyche. First, he stood on a corner at 24th and Noe at noon on a Saturday, and asked people walking by where they lived. He discovered that 60% lived in Noe Valley, 30% "lived nearby," and 10% lived further away.

Those surveyed were told that "nearby means the next immediate neighborhood to Noe Valley, such as Glen Park, the Mission, and so on," said Bill. "Of those who were from further away, most were here for work or appointments, and the rest were here just to look around."

Then on another busy Saturday, he walked up and down 24th Street from Castro to Church, and picked up and then sorted through 294 pieces of litter.

Bill determined that our 24th Street trash is composed of 4% shopping bags, 4% candy wrappers, 4% bottles and cans, 6% cardboard, 7% cups and lids, 9% ad fliers (many for pizza), 11% food, 15% newspapers and inserts, and the rest (37%) miscellaneous cash register receipts, ATM receipts, and bus transfers.

I think the late Fred Methner, our beloved litter and graffiti eradicator, must have returned to Noe Valley dressed as Bill Barrett. Good job, Bill!

Those interested in more dirt on these issues should attend the Friends of Noe Valley meeting June 11. The group will have a panel discussion on chains and franchises, and on whether we need further limits on 24th Street commerce. The meeting starts at 7:45 p.m. at the Noe Valley ­ Sally Brunn Library on Jersey Street.

The Planning Commission will also tackle the moratorium matter at its June 18 meeting.

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THE NVBI REPORTS that Fairmount resident Teresa Brown made local and national TV news on Mother's Day after she was appointed "Chief Cuddler" by the nursery at St. Luke's Hospital.

Teresa, along with 15 other volunteers, spends time during the week holding, hugging, and comforting all the newborn babies. "There are about 100 babies that come through the nursery each month," says Teresa, "and anywhere from 6 to 10 on any given day."

She says she gives two days a week to the program and coordinates the other cuddlers' schedules and special projects. "Some of the volunteers even knit baby hats from special yarn from England," she says.

The story ran on local TV and radio stations, and then on CNN and over 30 TV stations across the country.

Teresa says she wants to set the record straight on one point. "One of the local TV newscasters implied that I as chief cuddler and other members of our group were being paid, which is not true since we all volunteer our time. St. Luke's got calls from other hospitals in the area asking how St. Luke's could afford to budget for such services."

If you want to volunteer some hugs to infants who really need it, give St. Luke's a call and join the cuddler crew. You also might want to call some other hospitals in the area and ask if they need volunteers to come hug their babies.

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MANY OF YOU might know that Mark Leno is Mayor Brown's most recent appointment to the Board of Supervisors. He filled the seat vacated by Noe Valleon Susan Leal, who was elected city treasurer last November. Leno was sworn in April 22.

What you might not know is that Mark Leno has lived for 17 years at Clipper and Douglass streets. "Noe Valley is a great place and very welcoming," he says.

Mark says that after the news broke that the mayor had appointed him to the board, he got a congratulatory call from NBC's late-night television host Jay Leno. "He told me that he is always pleased to see other Lenos faring well, and he wanted to know if we had any family in common.

"I told him that I was on the Russian-Jewish side of his Italian family," laughs Mark.

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THAT'S ALL, FOLKS. I sure hope you voted in the June 2 election (and didn't litter the polling place). I'll have the Noe Valley results next month.

I also hope to see each and every one of you at this year's gala party sponsored by Noe Valley's oldest neighborhood group (since 1904), the East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club. The club, along with the Noe Valley Library staff, will celebrate Noe Valley History Month on June 13 at the local branch. The party starts at 1 p.m.

Au revoir, Bakers of Paris. Sorry to see you're now part of our history.