Noe Valley Voice March 1999

Letters to the Editor

Be Tolerant of Crying Babies


Thank you for your article on the Mother and Baby Support Group at Natural Resources [February 1999 Voice], which I have been attending for the past five months with my baby girl, who is now 6 months old. (I was present when Dodie Hamblen was visiting the group to do interviews for her story.)

As most people know, 24th Street is a booming place for mothers and babies. On any given day, one cannot avoid bumping into a stroller or a baby who has just learned to walk. Your paper, with features like Kids' Picks and More Mouths to Feed, also confirms how this neighborhood is family oriented. However, I would like to voice my anger about an experience I had while having lunch in this "friendly" baby neighborhood.

On Thursday, Feb. 11, after the support group at Natural Resources, I was out to lunch with four other moms and their babies at Barney's during the lunchtime rush hour. My baby girl started to fuss, which I was able to control to a certain point, but then it led to wails as she was fighting to get herself to sleep for a nap. My grilled chicken sandwich was starting to get cold, but as any new mom knows, you get used to cold food.

We were sitting near the front door when suddenly this man came up to me as I was trying to pacify my baby. He said, "There is something wrong with your baby, please go is unbearable."

I was absolutely shocked, and so were the other moms. Were there signs on the walls stating "No Crying Babies Allowed"? Didn't this man realize that babies and crying go hand in hand?

I became upset and felt harassed by this man's comment and decided that the best thing to do was to leave and to get my baby to sleep. Fifteen minutes later I came back, since I'd been able to nurse the baby at Natural Resources.

Before I left, I walked up to the man's table and said to him, "My baby doesn't have a problem. You're the one with the problem." Later on, there was also a snickering remark by another woman, who said that we should have gotten babysitters.

I can understand how people who do not have children or who are not used to having them around might find it unnerving to have to listen to a crying baby. The classic case is getting stuck on the airplane next to the crying baby.

But I expected that on 24th Street, with the number of mothers and babies here, you would find more tolerant people. Unfortunately in this case, the other moms and I were victims of discrimination by a person who could not tolerate what babies do occasionally and naturally.

(May I also point out that many stores on this street are not stroller or wheelchair friendly. This is an issue you might want to investigate for a future article.)

Sophia Woo

Castro Street

High Rents Homogenize the Neighborhood


It was with pleasure and not a little sadness that I read about the former congeniality and neighborliness of Noe Valley and the Mission, as recalled by Isabelle Muzio, an early resident ["A Mission Native Finds Herself in 'Baja Noe,'" February 1999 Voice]. Today's Noe Valleyans come from a different "turf" and represent a highly educated, upper-income, less culturally mixed group. As a consequence, the neighborhood is less vibrant and diverse in its character.

As a former resident, I now realize that the exorbitant rents and home prices have wiped out the diversity, and the many different backgrounds we used to have in the neighborhood. Many small entrepreneurs left years ago, due to skyrocketing rents.

Today, we are besieged by the franchises, which can pay outlandish rents for the commercial spaces. During my 10 years as a landlady, knowing that my mortgage was being paid, I never raised the rent on my tenants. I knew that the payoff in capital gains when I sold my home would be my reward. This practice also allowed me to have long-staying and considerate tenants.

I've often felt that if we had had more caring landlords -- those willing to rent below the market rate to people of low incomes and mixed cultural backgrounds -- Noe Valley might have retained its old vitality.

Name withheld by request

The Fittest Cafes Will Survive


You cannot regulate neighborhood atmosphere ["Coffee Ban Nears Passage," December 1998/January 1999 Voice]. I might add that I have yet to see a fast food outlet in Noe Valley. We have a Starbucks, and if you notice, it is always full. The Chinese place by Wells Fargo? Is that considered fast food? It is a nice, family-run restaurant, which is also always busy.

La Casona [now Casa Mexicana]? They prepare food fast. If they had been restricted from opening, our neighborhood would have a much different feel.

Here are the simple facts: Any unrestricted economy, including a neighborhood economy, will take care of "saturation" problems. Saturation implies that there are too many restaurants and cafes. What is too many? Too many for our liking, or too many for all to survive?

Too many for our liking is impossible. If we, as a collective, did not like them, then we would not shop in them and, in turn, they would not survive.

Too many in order for all to survive is also impossible. When companies are not profitable, they shut down. Who is going to operate a business year after year that loses money? It doesn't happen anywhere outside of Noe Valley, so I'm guessing it does not happen here either.

There are establishments in Noe Valley that I am not fond of. Some have prices that are above the market average, while others have bad customer service. I have chosen to no longer shop in them. But they are always busy, so I assume my neighbors in Noe Valley like these businesses. It would be absurd for me to act in a public manner on these personal feelings, especially if I claimed it was for the good of the neighborhood.

Obviously, the residents pushing through such pointless regulations need a quick education in economics. Competition always leads to more competitive pricing and better customer service, both of which are good for any neighborhood. Regulation kills competition.

Thanks for having such a wonderful local journal. I find it very informative.

Houston Gray

Via e-mail

Bigotry and Discrimination Hurt


Some years ago, my then 11-year-old African-American daughter walked into a stationery store in Noe Valley with her European-American stepsister. While the salesperson in the store smiled at my stepdaughter, she yelled at my daughter to get out and not come back.

When I went to the store owner and asked why they had treated my daughter so badly, he replied, "Last week a black girl was in here shoplifting." The store owner couldn't have cared less that the salesperson had hurt a child. I'm sure it never even crossed his mind to apologize.

When I spoke to the then-president of the Noe Valley Merchants Association (who owned a coffee/gift store, which no longer occupies the corner of Sanchez and 24th), she said, "Ninety-nine percent of the shoplifters in here are black." She thoughtlessly said this in the presence of an elderly African-American lady, who immediately left the store.

This event and others as blatantly bigoted have caused lasting trauma in my daughter's life. She does not feel comfortable walking into stores where she's always viewed as a suspect.

So, it is with obvious interest that I have followed the stories in the Voice about the James Lick kids and 24th Street merchants [November, December, and February issues]. In contrast to the store owners who treated my daughter so badly, David Eiland of Just for Fun seems to care, at least enough to open a dialogue with the school that has the potential of being mutually beneficial. I would like to congratulate both parties on their willingness to sit down, talk, and listen.

The acknowledgment that we are all human beings who have feelings, that we have our own perspectives developed by our own experiences, and that we must "learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools" is crucial.

Bigotry and discrimination hurt. Shop-lifting is a crime. I don't want any other children or families to go through the pain of being treated badly, and I don't want to see merchants disrespected either. As a society, we must care about kids of all ethnicities, or we can't say we care about kids. Kids must be taught to be responsible. Meanness makes things worse. Kindness helps. We already know this.

Please, don't give up trying to get along. Working this out will create a better community and teach all involved a valuable lesson.

Former Noe Valley resident
(name withheld by request)

Pacifica, Calif.

Charlotte's Web Is Nice Too


As a longtime resident of Noe Valley-- 1930 until 1945--I am enjoying your web site. It brings back fond memories. James Lick was my junior high school. I graduated in 1937. The photos are of particular interest. I lived at 14 Vicksburg St. for 16 years. Keep up the great work and thanks for the memories.

G. Conley

Via e-mail

Ball Players Say Give the Grass a Chance


In March the Upper Noe playing field will be closed for a number of weeks. Then the gardeners will work on it. They are trying to prepare the field for the 1999 youth baseball season. I hope that everyone will stay off the field, so we can have a better 1999 youth baseball season.

Peter Schuttish

Duncan Street


I'm a 9-year-old boy, and I live a block away from Upper Noe Recreation Center [also known as Day Street Park].

This month the field is going to be closed for some repairs. In the past, I have played baseball on Upper Noe teams, but we couldn't use our field.

This year I think that baseball is going to be better than in the last two years because we can play at home.

Please keep off our field.

Devin Henderson

People of Noe Valley:

It's great to be back in Noe Valley in our beautiful new home ["St. Paul's School Reopens on Church Street," February 1999 Voice].

Thank you for all the support you gave us on the day of our parade. We are really excited about having a new, multipurpose facility, to use for basketball and volleyball, while still sharing the gym at Upper Noe Recreation Center with the neighborhood's many athletic teams.

We are also thrilled to see the athletic field at Upper Noe closed down so that it can be renovated. It will be wonderful to have a field that we can play outdoor sports on.

Athletes of St. Paul's Parish

Editor's Note: The field at Upper Noe Recreation Center, at Day and Sanchez streets, will be closed for reseeding through March. (See story on Upper Noe, this issue.)