Noe Valley Voice October 1999

Letters to the Editor

Somewhere Over the Rainbow


I'm here at my computer with a tear in my eye having just read your touching obit for the neighborhood's most celebrated pooch ["Boychik Goes to Dog Heaven," September Voice 1999].

As I take a deep breath and look out into my garden, I think how glad I am to be back in Noe Valley. I was on the road all summer. Away from my little house, my husband, my cats, my friends and neighbors. That old saying about absence making the heart grow fonder is so true. At last, I'm home again enjoying my favorite newspaper over a cup of coffee. Of course, being a sentimental fool, I went right to the Boychik obit...and well, that's where we are.

In my travels, I had the opportunity to reflect on what it means to be not just a Californian or a San Franciscan, but to be from Noe Valley. In Philadelphia (one of the stops on my trip), I was chatting with a woman from North Carolina, and naturally the subject of San Francisco came up. When she asked exactly where I lived and I replied "Noe Valley," she exclaimed, "Oh, I just love Noe Valley!"

Of course, our conversation took quite a turn as we engaged in chatter about the wonders of what I call my Left Coast Brigadoon. I felt proud and happy that my "'hood" was known in such a far-flung corner of America. (She had discovered us on her frequent business trips.)

Yesterday, being home less than a week and digging out from under three months of paperwork, I finally ventured out to look around. I was astonished by all the visible changes on 24th Street just since June! A bit saddened too, I have to admit.

When I arrived here in 1984, things were so different. Even the first big changes I witnessed -- the loss of Glen Five & Ten and the corner drugstore at 24th and Castro -- seemed to come at a slower pace. Now, one minute 24th Street looks one way, and a few days later, voilà, something completely different. It's all part of the information age, I guess. The millennium generation doesn't seem to be long on patience. (Isn't that what "older folks" always say?)

Anyway, I shrugged that off as I walked down the street seeing familiar faces and exchanging pleasantries with shopkeepers. "So what," said I, "it's still Noe Valley!"

There's no place in the city I'd rather live. I even missed the fog while I was gone, and if you know me, you know that's a real stretch. There's just a magical quality about this place, and I feel very lucky to be here.

Home at last to a new fall season, my first one without my beloved Singing Rainbow [Youth Ensemble], so a very different one for me. By the way, I want to thank everyone in the neighborhood who ever came to one of our shows, donated prizes, sang with us, bought our tapes, wrote about us, or supported our efforts in any way. The whole 12 years was a great experience for me. My special thanks to all the wonderful youngsters who made the Rainbow sing so beautifully.

As I move on to the next chapter, I hear Glinda the Good Witch whisper in my ear, "There's no place like Noe Valley."

Candace "Candy" Forest

Diamond Street

Remodeling Shows Progress


Enclosed is a wrinkled front page (see graphic above) from the Noe Valley Progress of 1939 -- 60 years ago. While remodeling my bathroom earlier this year, we discovered that newspapers from 1936 to 1939 (hopefully the work didn't take that long!) had been used to insulate the central heating system. Many literally crumbled upon removal, but this one held up and I decided to forward it to you. Check out the rentals, for sure!

Mary O'Tousa

22nd Street

Off-Leash Dogs a Nuisance at Upper Noe


I'd like to make a couple of points about the caption for the "Dogs Bound for Glory" photo in the September 1999 issue.

The caption implied that kids usually win in disputes involving dogs and children. Unfortunately, this has not been the case with the athletic field at Upper Noe Rec Center on Day Street. The preschool programs have not been using the field as they always have for parachute games, Easter egg hunts, and other fun. The director feels the field is unhealthy due to the dramatic increase in its use by off-leash dogs over the past few years.

Two springs ago, there was no baseball at Upper Noe because the field was so bad due to the destructive digging on the field. It took a major effort by the Rec & Park gardeners to prepare the field this spring. In fact, most of the early practices were held elsewhere. Anyone who has had their child's ball chased, or a child chased, doesn't feel like a winner. Neither does the parent whose child has stepped in dog shit or come home smelling like dog urine feel good either. Besides, is there anything wrong with children winning?

The second point is about the compromise on the hours. Since 6 to 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to closing are the primary hours for the bulk of the current off-leash use (and remember it is illegal to have a dog off-leash at this park, in violation of Section 41.12 of the Health Code), I fail to see how this is a compromise. Dog owners are asking for what they are doing already. Rather than compromise, what happened at the July 22 meeting of the Upper Noe Neighbors was that a moribund organization was revived by a surge in membership of dog owners who paid $10 per person to have a vote and create the appearance of a "majority."

A real compromise might be a fenced-off section of the field, but this was rejected by dog owners at an Upper Noe Advocates meeting on Sept. 7, attended by the mayor and Rec & Park chief Joel Robinson.

The bottom line, the commonsense line, and the line that most parents, caregivers, and children believe is this: Off-leash dogs and athletic playing fields do not mix. Dog owners need to please obey the law at Upper Noe and expend their efforts on getting the city to give them off-leash space elsewhere in the neighborhood. Then you can rightly print "Dogs Bound for Glory!"

Georgia Schuttish

Duncan Street

Harry Street: Stairway of Successes


It is with great pleasure that I report to you the excellent accomplishments of a special contingent of city workers. These gentlemen -- and one lady -- practice their trade for the Department of Public Works. All too often the efforts of such individuals go unsung. Not this time.

I am a homeowner on Harry Street, a block-long set of stairs in the outer regions of Noe Valley (Fairmount Heights to be exact: near where Noe meets Laidley Street). Harry Street has achieved worldwide acclaim for its natural splendor in a truly bucolic setting. The Bay Guardian voted it the top stairway in the city, and the Harry Steps were featured on the cover of Stairway Walks of San Francisco, a book by Adah Bakalinsky.

I have lived here for five years, and have worked hard organizing the neighbors, writing grants, installing irrigation, landscaping, and even tending to our now 20-foot-high banana trees! It is truly a joy to live in this little slice of heaven.

Until recently, some of the wooden stairs (of which there are 258 in total) were rotting and in need of repair. We asked for and received the assistance of the Department of Public Works. They came to view the area, agreed on its unique nature, and accepted to undertake a thoughtful restoration of the structure.

The results have been stunning, and on Sept. 2 the neighbors held a "ribbon-cutting" ceremony attended by Mayor Willie Brown and other city workers, to celebrate the beautification of Harry Street.

The stair repair was not an easy assignment, as material-handling was a major obstacle (imagine hauling 4 x 4 posts and 60-pound bags of concrete up and down 130 stairs!). Not only did the DPW employees approach their work with professionalism, they did so with great spirit. Always conscious of public safety during the work, they took extra time to create a safe and functional bypass for pedestrian use. They were also highly attentive to keeping the area clean on a daily basis. A fantastic job by some fantastic people!

We would like you to know the names of the good people who played a role in this success story: Joe Ovadia, in charge of planning and funding; Wayne Antoine, foreman; Timothy P. Byrne, Dave Yip, and Gary Gualco, carpenters; Daniel P. Feerick, Roy Schunck, and Eric Tobin, laborers; and area supervisor Chris Ellen Montgomery, who provided landscaping material and debris pickup. She has kept her eye on this staircase for five years and routinely assists in its development.

What's important is that these people get a big pat on the back. They are the ones who keep inspiration alive and who help make San Francisco -- and in particular my little corner of the city -- a wonderful place to live.

Daniel Oppenheim

Harry Street