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And Now for the Rumors Behind the News: The Moment of Truth
MORE THAN 200 fire-eating Noe Valleons attended the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' meeting held in James Lick School's auditorium on Monday, Aug. 21, at 6 p.m. sharp.
Over the past two years, each supervisor has had an opportunity to hold a regular board meeting in a city neighborhood. Supervisor Mark Leno was the last one, and he chose Noe Valley as his site.
Before the meeting, the word on the street was that Leno would announce new legislation roping in "monster home" development in Noe Valley, the Castro, and Glen Park. Thus, many neighbors came to the hall armed with signs, petitions, and speeches about their monstrous experiences with developers, and with planners and bureaucrats at City Hall.
The meeting was being broadcast live (a first in board history -- it's usually taped and played later) on cable channel 26. TV media was there -- channels 5, 20, and 35 -- and even the Spanish station, 14. Print reporters, including yours truly, hovered around the speakers podium.
Just before the meeting, Leno and his aide informed us that he was "fine-tuning" the legislation and would introduce it at the board's next meeting, Aug. 28 (after my press time, folks). The rumor is that he'll ask for the 40-foot height limit on new construction to be lowered to 30.
After opening remarks by Leno and Board President Tom Ammiano, Ammiano asked those who wanted to make public statements to line up in the center aisle. I want to tell you, about a quarter of the people in the room marched to the center and formed a line that went out the door. Ammiano then reminded those assembled that the meeting would have to end by 8:30, and encouraged speakers to try not to use all of their three minutes.
One of the first speakers on the monster issue was Dave Monks, president of the Noe Valley Democratic Club. He set the tone for the parade of neighbors to follow.
Monks told the board that the rise in monster homes -- 5,000 and 6,000 sq. ft. structures that dwarf their neighbors -- was "causing great anxiety in our neighborhood. People are increasingly frustrated, angry, even traumatized by the way they're being treated at City Hall.
"Battling against monster homes," he said, "leaves neighbors drained and feeling that their city government is working actively against their interests -- that the deck is stacked against them. That needs to change." The crowd cheered.
Monks, and almost every speaker after him, told of encounters with the Planning Department staff and the Planning Commission. People talked about taking time off from work (and life) to attend meetings, only to be told when they got there, "The matter has been continued."
"We are all happy with the tidal wave of economic prosperity," said John Barbey of the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association, "but we need a seawall right now to protect us from all this prosperity."
Rae Leaper told the supervisors that the demolition of a cottage near her home galvanized her group, the Collingwood Hill Neighbors. Membership jumped from 75 to 120 in one month, she said.
Other groups, such as the Billy Goat Hill Neighbors Association, appeared to be forming on the spot.
Speaker after speaker pleaded with the board to adopt legislation that would "protect the character and history of our neighborhoods." Finally, after 50 people had exercised their first amendment rights, an exhausted crowd cheered once again when Loke Devone told the board, "If the Planning Commission had been doing their job, we all wouldn't be here."
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MEANWHILE, the pleas of the neighbors near the intersection of Castro and Jersey have been heard. At the James Lick meeting, the board adopted a resolution in support of a four-way stop at that intersection. This apparently was done over the objections of both Muni and the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT).
DPT was telling the neighborhood as recently as the end of July that while "we share your concern about traffic safety and have conducted an evaluation for the possibility of installing additional stop signs at this intersection..., we make our recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, which in turn makes the final decision [and] based on our investigation, we do not recommend installing additional signs to stop Castro Street."
However, the neighbors, backed by the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association (NVMPA), kept pounding the city with petitions, describing the many car accidents that have occurred at the intersection. Alexander Gardener of Video Wave even started a collection of crash photos.
Mitch Schoenbrun, representing the Castro Street neighbors, presented a bundle of petitions that night. So when Mark Leno said the board had sided with the neighborhood and that "stop signs should be installed within the next 60 days," the audience let out a big "Hurray!"
By the way, still pending is the Merchants' petition for diagonal parking on Castro. Rumor is that the city is leaning toward diagonal parking on one side of Castro, between Jersey and Clipper streets.
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HURRAY FOR East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club, which has purchased two benches for Downtown Noe Valley. The steel-coated outdoor sofas will find homes in front of Hot Headz hair salon, on the south side of 24th between Castro and Noe, and Peek-A-Bootique, at the outbound bus stop on Castro at 24th.
Club member Carol Yenne, who owns Small Frys kids' store, has also added one more bench to East & West's order. This one she'll pay for herself and put in front of her store, on the north side of 24th near Castro. Says Carol, "The new benches cost $400 to $500 each, but are made of materials that last forever. I would really encourage other [non-food] merchants to put benches in front of their stores."
My favorite benches once sat in front of Panos' Restaurant, on the corner of 24th and Noe. Unfortunately, they were removed in favor of sidewalk tables and chairs (by Panos' replacement, Pasta Pomodoro). The tables are now taxed by the city and are for patrons only.
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ALL THE NOES FIT TO PRINT: If you just got back from vacation and are still catching up on the evolutionary jerks in Downtown Noe Valley, you better sit down. Yes, Dan's Gas is gone. That is front-page news in the Voice. What will take its place will also be front-page stuff.
Other big news is that Phoenix Books, the only used bookstore in Downtown Noe Valley, lost its lease when the building (at 3850 24th St.) was sold in August. Rumor has it that a new, one-year lease has been obtained, but at a higher rate than Phoenix can pay and still stay in business. The bookstore, which also sells some new books and new and used music CDs, has been in Noe Valley for 15 years, 13 at its present location near Vicksburg.
Phoenix owner Kate Rosenberger is not talking about the details right now, she says, because she is still negotiating with her new landlord, a longtime Noe Valley resident. But she wants to express how much she appreciates the support she has received from her customers in her struggle to keep Phoenix open. "It would be a real shame if Noe Valley, the affluent and intellectual neighborhood that it is, can't keep its last surviving used bookstore."
As for the news from Uptown Noe Valley: Recent reports (here) that Mikeytom Market (Church and Day) had been sold were premature. The deal was on, lease negotiations faltered, and now the deal is off. Mike and Tom's retirement has been put on hold.
The rumor that Star Bakery is for sale is true, but the rumor that the 111-year-old fixture at Church and 29th has been sold and will become a Chinese restaurant à la Eric's or Alice's is premature.
Rumors that the building and business at Cafe J (Church near Day) are for sale are true. Rumors that it has already been sold are not true. Rumors that the popular restaurant will change management are probably not true.
The buzz on Church Street this summer -- that the Golden Gate Metropolitan Community Church at Church and 27th was closing -- turned out to be true. The "For Sale" sign on the building was a dead giveaway. But the rumor that the building was sold in July is false.
According to Herth Realty spokesman Larry Stebbins, there was a sale pending, but it fell through. In late August, his firm was still "marketing the property." Oldtimers might remember that the building was built back in '49 as a bakery. The current asking price is $499K.
By the way, the last services at Golden Gate were held on July 30. Church Pastor Jim Mitulski said the congregation of the larger MCC in the Castro made a decision to close the Noe Valley church due to dwindling attendance. But you will recall that the church and its neighbors were at odds last winter over the site being used as a homeless shelter for city youth. That was front-page Voice news then.
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NOE VALLEY'S GARAGE SALES are the "Best of the Bay," according to the S.F. Bay Guardian's annual survey. That may be true, but the accompanying description of Noe Valley is somebody's fantasy. Opines the BG: "Known as the 'lesbian and bisexual mecca,' Noe Valley is a lovely residential neighborhood that's a little bit Mission and a little bit Castro." Hunh? The tabloid goes on: "Blue-haired dykes walk their bulldogs down streets where multicultural groups of kids play ball." News to me.
As for our being the garage sale mecca, the BG says, "[Noe Valley] is the perfect place to troll for garage sales, especially on Sunday mornings when everyone puts out their vintage trinkets and weird old domestic items for sale." (But we know the best time is Saturday morning.)
Fountain of Youth's "Pup Cup" won in the BG's "Best Doggie Treat" department. The Church Street (at 27th) ice cream parlor serves up a "doggie-safe" scoop of vanilla surrounded by dog biscuits. I have tried the item and thought the Double Rainbow Ice Cream was fabulous, but I didn't particularly like the biscuits. By the way, the bathroom at Fountain of Youth is one of the cleanest in the city and well worth the price of the Pup Cup.
Amberjack Sushi (across from Fountain of Youth) turned out to be the Best of the Bay in the most dubious category in the BG's entire survey: "The Best Restaurant to Evaluate Male Ponytails." According to the editors, "Nothing says young and wealthy dot-com dude quite like a ponytail...." Yeah, that's what I go to Amberjack for.
I was happy to see that the Marsh's Mock Cafe (at 22nd and Valencia) was selected as "The Best Place to Spot Robin Williams." But I will be unhappy to see the entire Bay Area mobbing the club, making it impossible to get seats. Oh well, the walk back up the 22nd Street hill is still the best climb in the city.
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OUR OWN Tuggey's Hardware at 24th and Sanchez is still the best hardware store for miles. Writer Mike Weiss had a heartwarming encounter with Tuggey's -- the kind we all have been having for more than 30 years -- and wrote about it in the July 9 Sunday Ex/Chron: "[At Tuggey's] you find the nails on a contraption like a lazy Susan, six rows high with 10 scoop-shape bins to a row.... They're sold by the ounce. I took a small brown bag and scooped out a few of these, a couple of those, and some of the others. Couldn't have been more than 50 cents worth. The man at the register -- I recognized him as the proprietor but didn't yet know his name was Denny Giovannoli -- asked me: 'That all you need?'
"Yep, I said, just the nails.
"'Ah well,' he said, 'no charge.'"
Mike went on to describe the glow he felt for the rest of the day: "Mark Twain once said that most of us can run all day on a single compliment, and it's just as true of a single act of kindness, decency, or generosity." You said it.
Speaking of our own, the Voice's "family adventures" columnist, Janis Cooke Newman, wrote a hilarious story for Examiner Magazine's Aug. 13 edition. Hope you saw it. It was the piece called "Diary of a Grade School Applicant," about Janis and her husband Ken's tortuous dealings with the public/private school lottery in San Francisco. Congratulations, Janis, on finally getting revenge in print, after your son was accepted to a good school.
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BEFORE I GO, I gotta tell you that Scott Ostler's column in the July 18 Chronicle had a zinger of an item about Noe Valley. He wrote: "For rent, a nice little two-bedroomer in Noe Valley, and the owner was asking $1,800 a month. Sunday, more than 100 prospective renters showed up, each kicking in the $100 credit-check fee that the owner was asking in hopes of weeding out casual shoppers. The place finally rented for $3,000 per."
Hey, don't pay those prices, people. It's hard to believe, but 25 years ago this place was a "mecca" for blue-collar workers.
That's all, you all. See you next month with all the items that I couldn't fit in this month.