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Noe Baby Boom Creates Stroller Gridlock
By Suzanne Herel
If you don't have a baby stroller on 24th Street, you may be looking a bit out of place in the neighborhood these days.
The year 2000 has ushered in more than a new millennium -- it's brought a bumper crop of babies to Noe Valley families.
At the end of July, the city Health Department had logged 7,054 San Francisco births, 451 more than the same time last year. And the hospitals hadn't yet greeted the "holiday babies," those conceived during Christmas and New Year's.
"It's phenomenal," said Lisa Thompson, owner of Little Bean Sprouts, a children's clothing store across from Bell Market. "One day recently, three out of four of my customers were pregnant."
In the past six or eight months, five babies were born to neighbors within two blocks of Thompson's Vicksburg Street home, she added.
But Thompson's not complaining. "This is our best year ever," she said of the eight-year-old store. "I have a smile on my face."
Compared to three years ago, the store owner is ordering three times the amount of newborn and toddler wear, she said -- and she still runs out.
Thompson and other neighborhood merchants and moms and dads attribute Noe Valley's baby boom to a number of factors. First, the economy is good, and people with money are moving into Noe Valley. What's more, in addition to being the kickoff of the 21st century, the year 2000 is the Golden Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar, a popular birth time that occurs once every six decades.
Finally, Noe Valley is a neighborhood renowned for its baby-friendly atmosphere.
"Noe Valley has a reputation citywide," said Lisa Moresco, owner of Natural Resources parenting center on Castro Street. "It's the place to come if you have a family or you're thinking about a family."
Like Thompson, Moresco is not complaining -- just trying to keep up. It used to be her center's birth preparation classes easily took care of the overflow from California Pacific Medical Center. But lately, Natural Resources has to scramble to offer enough classes and workshops.
"We never had waiting lists. Now we have waiting lists out the yin-yang," Mores-
co said. "We can't provide enough classes."
The center conducts workshops ranging from infant massage to child CPR. It also hosts mom-baby support groups and sells baby books, clothes, toys, and a slew of other products and supplies.
While Moresco talked one morning in October, new mother Kim Appelquist browsed with 31/2-month-old Eric. "You are starting to see a lot more babies now," said Appelquist, who lives by Dolores Park.
She's not among those who planned a year 2000 birth, though. Appelquist, who is 36, said she never expected to have children but then began wondering what it would be like. "In the end, curiosity won out," she said with a laugh.
Meanwhile, Sandra Beaudin waited with 5-week-old Ezra for the infant massage workshop to start. Beaudin, 32, said she and her husband decided to start a family now because they were in a good place professionally and had just rented a house, which afforded them more room than their apartment.
"A lot of people who live in the area work in the computer industry and are doing well financially," she surmised.
For Elaine Christian, 40, the decision about motherhood had a lot to do with her age. But she likes the coincidence of her baby, 10-week-old Marie Calin, being born in the year 2000. "I remember on Christmas Eve, I wrote a letter to her telling her how neat it was that she would be born then," Christian recalled.
The increase in the number of babies in Noe Valley has even reached the library, where attendance is up at the Wednesday-night infant/toddler "lapsit."
"During the summer, attendance went down, probably because everyone was on vacation," said Children's Librarian Carol Small, who has worked at the branch for 10 years.
But this fall, there are enough moms and dads to sing "If You're Happy and You Know It" in four-part harmony. "Now, we're getting around 25 to 30 people at the lapsits, which is somewhere between 12 and 15 families," said Small.
Also, the "More Mouths to Feed" column in the Voice -- the regular new-baby feature written by Maire Farrington -- has a backlog of four to five families. Said Voice Co-Publisher Sally Smith, "Sometimes the babies are 1 or 2 years old before we get around to them. But that's okay -- babies take much better photos when they're a bit older. People should still send in their announcements."
Want to put your millennial baby on the waiting list? Mail your announcement (include a phone number, please) to More Mouths to Feed, Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez St., San Francisco, CA 94114.