Noe Valley Voice March 1999

Rumors: Noe-ing Your Neighborhood

By Mazook

TEST YOUR NOE-LEDGE by answering 10 Noe questions. If you score eight or more, you are "Noe Cum Laude!" But if you answer fewer than two, you must have just arrived in the 'hood on Muni's magical mystery bus, the 11-Hoffman. Okay, here goes...

1. How long has Douglass Park been a park?

2. How long did it take to demolish the old Planters Nursery building on 24th Street?

3. True or False: A Sizzler steakhouse will move into one of the vacant storefronts in that big yellow building next to Bell Market.

4. Where in Noe Valley is the Audrey Penn Rodgers Memorial?

5. Who is the current publisher of the Friends of Noe Valley newsletter?

6. What do they sell at (a) Tuggey's (b) Tully's (c) Danu (d) Drewes?

7. What is the difference between the following two groups: (a) Blanche, Comerford, and Ames; and (b) Kantus, Leno, and Roddick.

8. Where in Noe Valley was the movie Sister Act filmed? (It was great to see Uptown Noe Valley, circa 1992, when TBS broadcast the movie last week.)

9. Name the pair of Noe Valley documentary filmmakers whose award-winning films include Dark Circle, Nagasaki Journey, and Secrets of the Bay.

10. Which San Francisco Examiner editor and KQED "Bay Area Hero" helped found the Noe Valley Voice?

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AND NOW, QUIZ FANS, here are the answers.

1. Douglass Park, the wooded greenbelt on Douglass between 26th and 27th streets, is 70 years old. The park opened in April 1928, after a six-year push by the West of Castro Street Improvement Club, a residents' group started in 1904 and led by Joseph P. Osterloh in the '20s. (The "East" part of the name wasn't added until 1929.)

As many of you may have guessed, the area where the park was built was once a rock quarry. But you might not be aware that 77 years ago, pioneer Noe Valleons were embroiled in a dispute with the city over plans to dynamite the hillside and start up quarry operations again.

According to a newspaper clipping from April 1922, "Hundreds Join in Protest of Valley Quarry." (The protest took place at the old Willopi Hall, which once stood where the public parking lot is on 24th Street, between Hopwell's and Radio Shack.)

Yes, dynamiting was decidedly unpopular in this peaceful burb, far from the hustle and bustle of downtown San Francisco. What was popular was the idea of turning the quarry into a park. So Osterloh activated his West of Castro Club and joined with other locals in pressing City Hall for approval of the conversion.

In 1923, the Board of Supervisors voted to create the park, and also earmarked $25,000 for the project. By 1925, $15,000 had been appropriated for construction, and work had begun.

According to records culled by historian Paul Kantus, who happens to be the current president of the East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club, the work crew consisted of 200 people: "1 power man, 2 mechanics, 4 stone masons, 1 carpenter, 24 drillers, and 168 laborers." (Paul was almost there to count them -- he was born in Noe Valley in 1926.)

Paul has a 70-year-old invitation, printed by East & West, which designated 10:30 a.m., June 16, 1929, as the time and date for the "Unveiling of the Drinking Fountain, which will be presented to the Playground Commission of San Francisco" as a gift from the club.

The fountain still works, by the way. Now if we could only keep the bathrooms open until dusk. Dynamite, anyone?

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LONGWINDED ANSWER TO NO. 2: The Planters Nursery building, which also briefly housed Frankel Bros. Hemp Outfitters, on 24th near Church, became part of history in roughly 10 minutes in the first week of February, 1999.

According to builder/developer Joe Cassidy, speaking on behalf of his brother Leo, who bought the property last year, the Cassidy crew will now undertake to fill the gaping hole with a five-unit residential building, similar to the one Joe built across 24th Street seven years ago (two doors from the laundromat).

"The [Planters Nursery] building was totally infested with termites," says Joe. "It had rotten wood throughout, and basically just fell down." Well, it had a little bit of help.

Joe adds a capper: "What surprised us was that while there was a toilet and a sink in the building, which was built around 1920, incredibly it had no sewer at all. All we found was an old septic tank buried in the back." Yuck.

3. Don't get yourself in a frazzle about the Sizzler. False (as if!) is the answer to number three.

Although building owner Joe Cassidy acknowledged that he is still having trouble renting the three vacant commercial spaces in his large retail/apartment complex, he repeated his pledge to Friends of Noe Valley: "I will not consider renting the space to a restaurant."

That's wise, since the city has put a lid on more restaurants and coffee stores anyway. (The dreaded Coffee Ban of 1998 is still in effect.)

Joe would rather have shops that serve the neighborhood, he says. "Cover to Cover was considering moving in, but they went down the street," to where Suzie's Laundry used to be.

"I've heard from clothing stores and a hairdresser," Joe adds, "and Ace Hardware was interested in a store here, but that didn't happen either."

Maybe we can lure the Philosopher's Stone back from oblivion to fill one of Cassidy's slots with its haunting Friday-night seances. The metaphysical bookstore sat across from the Planters Nursery from 1974 to 1989, in the building that -- you guessed it -- was demolished by Cassidy seven years ago.

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WHAT THE BENCH IS 4. The Audrey Penn Rodgers Memorial is a small bench (more like a big chair) surrounded by plants and flowers on the southwest corner of Sanchez and 21st streets. The hand-carved, redwood-burl bench is a beautiful work of art by sculptor J.B. Blunk. Next to it is a bronze plaque, inscribed with the following words:

Dedicated to
Audrey Penn Rodgers, 1923 ­ 1994
Who Loved San Francisco

by David Rodgers, M.D.,
friends, family & neighbors

Behold the great view,
the rosy golden sunrise,
the warm closeness to
the sheltering sky.

--Laura L. Lengyel

The corner is a pleasant tribute to Audrey, who died in 1994. She was a tireless neighborhood activist who was instrumental in preserving the fantastic Dolores Heights views by obtaining "special use" status for the Victorians and other historic homes on the hill.

Audrey's daughter, Janice Bracken, who has been working on the memorial project for the past four years, says a formal dedication has been set for April and that Mayor Willie Brown will keynote the ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

"I really can't thank the mayor enough for all that he has done to finish this proj-ect and cut through the incredible red tape at City Hall," says Janice.

As you Rumors regulars may recall, the memorial was downsized last year and there was no longer room for a larger, six-foot redwood bench originally built for the spot. Janice is trying to find a home for the bigger bench, but where?

"I would like it to be at the Seward Street minipark that my mom, [artist] Ruth Asawa, and her husband Al Lanier designed. But I think Kite Hill would be a great spot for it, too. Or," she ponders, "maybe over at Douglass Playground, where my parents frequently went, especially to take in that marvelous view."

By the time you read this, Janice will have talked to Paul Kantus, who will have said that the East & West of Castro Improvement Club would very much like to have the bench at Douglass Park, and will put up some bucks to install it too!

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5. As all you FNV members know, Bill Yenne has accepted the task of writing the Friends monthly newsletter. Bill and his wife Carol moved here in 1975, and raised two kids in the neighborhood. Bill is a prolific author and publisher of coffee-table books, and Carol owns Small Frys kids' clothing store on 24th Street.

You can fax Bill at 285-8790, or e-mail him at, if you have something you would like to get into the newsletter. (Of course, don't forget to send a copy to the Voice, too.)

6. You knew these, right? Tuggey's is hardware. Tully's is coffee. Danu sells hairdos. And Drewes sells meats.

7. Trick question, you say? Not at all. The first group are alleys in Noe Valley, and the second group are allies in Noe Valley, as in Paul K., Mark L., and Robert R. (president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association).

8. Every bona fide Noe Valleon knows that this movie, starring Whoopi Goldberg, was filmed in and around St. Paul's Church at Church and 29th streets.

9. The filmmakers are none other than Elizabeth Street residents Judy Irving and Christopher Beaver. Irving is currently producing a film, to be called either "The Wild Parrots of San Francisco" or "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" (as reported in the November 1998 Voice, scooping both the Examiner and the New York Times, eh?). Judy calls it a fiction/ nonfiction hybrid that is a children's fable about a real flock of cherry-head conures, who reside on Telegraph Hill but occasionally wing their way to Noe Valley and Twin Peaks.

The film features parrot-lover Mark Bittner and his relationship with the redheaded birds. The children in the film all come from Synergy School, whose new campus is now closeby on Valencia Street. According to Judy, the film's budget is around $75,000, and they have raised only half of it so far. "We're running out of money and time," says Judy, "because Mark is moving in June."

The Telegraph Hill Dwellers threw a fundraiser last month down at the Eureka Theater (the old Gateway Cinema), which, according to organizer Staci Shember, turned away more than a hundred people. "We had a crowd of 285, and it was standing-room only," Staci says, "but everyone was thrilled to see some clips from the movie [no sound yet] and slides from Mark Bittner."

Supervisor and Noe Valleon Mark Leno was there. He presented a special order from the mayor proclaiming Feb. 11 "Wild Parrot Day" in San Francisco. Shember says $7,500 was raised, which was "about triple what we estimated, and the checks are still coming in."

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LAST BUT NOT LEAST. 10. The very same Corrie M. Anders honored as a "1999 Bay Area Hero" by KQED Television last month was a cofounder of the Noe Valley Voice in May 1977, when he lived on 22nd Street between Noe and Sanchez. He worked as an Examiner general assignment reporter back in those days, and he rallied some budding journalists at Finnegan's Wake (now the Rat and Raven) to start the neighborhood rag.

Corrie moved from Noe Valley to Oakland several years ago, but he stayed with the Examiner -- he's now Real Estate editor -- and he still comes back to N.V. for Voice parties and reunions.

We were proud to see you on TV, Corrie -- Channel 9 ran profiles of its seven honorees in February, in observance of Black History Month. Whenever you want your old job back, it's yours.

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THAT'S THIRTY. Have a happy St. Patrick's Day, and be sure to walk to Downtown Noe Valley for the festivities, so that you can stagger back home when it's all over. Over is what I am, too. See you next month.