Noe Valley Voice July-August 1999

Now Entering Noe Valley:
Do We Need 'Welcome to Noe' Billboards?

By Mark Robinson

Bob Roddick was on his way to Colma in May when he saw a sign that said, "Welcome to the Top of the Hill Daly City." That started him thinking: Why shouldn't there be a marker that says, "Welcome to Noe Valley"?

Since then, Roddick -- president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association -- has been floating the concept among store owners and political activists in the neighborhood. There's no official proposal yet, but he thinks the idea deserves a hearing.

A lawyer with offices on Castro Street, Roddick says the signs would help give the neighborhood an even stronger identity. It might improve real estate values, and it would draw visitors to Noe Valley's shops and restaurants.

"It would be kind of nice," he says. "I'm sure there are people who would donate to have these signs erected."

He envisions a slogan on the sign that would read, "Welcome to Noe Valley, the Heart of San Francisco." He imagines putting signs at Dolores Street and San Jose Avenue, at 24th and Dolores, at Castro and 22nd, and at Clipper and Grand View Avenue.

Roddick grew up in the neighborhood and remembers when Noe Valley was considered part of the Mission. "People were always asking, 'Where's Noe Valley?'" He doesn't worry that marking the rough boundaries of the neighborhood could suggest an elitist attitude.

"I don't think identifying what is so is elitism," he says. "People who live in Noe Valley are proud of living here."

If officially proposed, though, Roddick's idea is sure to provoke dismay among residents who worry that real estate prices are too high and parking too scarce.

"I think people already feel welcome here," says Miriam Blaustein, a longtime neighborhood activist and former president of the Friends of Noe Valley. "We don't need signs when you enter the neighborhood. We need signs to direct people to the library."

Blaustein worries that attracting more tourists and visitors will mean worse parking problems and more chain stores -- both of which she opposes.

Of course, as head of the 130-member Merchants Association, Roddick wants to see more business for neighborhood stores. But he, too, is concerned about the lack of parking on and around 24th Street.

But he has another plan that might help with that: Get the city to convert the red bus zones on 24th Street to parking spaces. He estimates this could free up as many as 51 slots between Douglass and Dolores streets.

The curb stops would be converted to "coach stops," and buses would pick up and let off passengers after stopping in the lane of traffic. Roddick said any traffic delays would be worth the extra parking.

The association has been lobbying Muni for just such a change for almost two years. But with a new man, Michael Burns, at the head of the transit agency, Roddick thinks now might be a good time to make a pitch. Burns was planning to attend the association's meeting on July 28.

Merchants or residents who would like to talk about parking (or explore the "Welcome to Noe Valley" idea) should give Roddick a call at 641-8687.