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The Next Thousand Years
WHILE THE WORLD CRUMBLES outside our little valley's boundaries...to our dismay, we Noe Valleons are faced with our own day-to-day annoyances.
Forget about the impending global warming disaster that is being predicted by the world's scientists. Don't think about that smirky fellow who is now president of the United States and how we've been bush-whacked by a bush-leaguer. And I will try to forget about the imaginary visions I've had, of Bush and Cheney joking at their inauguration about how it was "too bad that all those folks out there in Noe Valley, California, won't be watching us on TV because their electricity is out--but then again, that's their problem...ha, ha, ha."
No, no, no. Let's talk about the things that really matter around here.
Let's start with the J-Lurch. People around here are getting pretty tired of riding those carbon monoxide-belching buses back and forth to Market Street, where they "change planes" to commute downtown. The work on the Church Street tracks has been going on since last Nov. 25, and enough already!
And everyone local has a monster of a monster home to show you, coupled with a story to tell you about it. Front-page news right here in the Voice is the retail / residential monster that may soon consume the site of the late Dan's Gas and Diesel. And then there is the Reilly Co. funeral home on Dolores, which will be laid to rest (via the wrecking ball) and replaced with a high-priced condo complex.
The rents, they go up, and the businesses, they go down. The game of "What Did That Storefront Used to Be?" gets more complicated -- and sadder -- every month. Who's next?
Finally, I must note the shameful local voter apathy in the Dec. 12 runoff election for the Board of Supervisors slot. Noe Valley's measly 34.3 percent turnout doesn't exactly reflect our political savvy ...or maybe, alas, it does.
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BUT, BUT, BUT, neighbors and friends, the most immediate news that hit the hardest for me (and I can't be alone in this) had to be Bell Market's decision to discontinue the fresh-roasted turkey in their deli. They used to cook the turkeys, right there, early in the morning, then cool them and put them in the counter for sale.
When I showed up to get my usual "quarter pound fresh-roasted turkey, sliced thin" for the kids' next-day lunch, I got the bad news from a very apologetic clerk: "We don't have that anymore." My kids watched as I threw a minor "what-do-you-mean?" tantrum.
The clerk offered me the understanding I needed at the time, and assured me that a lot of other people have also been disappointed. He invited me to try "on the house" the store's top-quality, pre-cooked-and-cooled Renaissance Columbus brand turkey breast.
So I tried it. It was good; my kids ate it. But still, why not the real thing? I asked Andy Small, a senior executive at Ralph's Northern California, the parent company in charge of our Noe Valley Bell Market.
"Changes in the health laws no longer allow us on-site preparation of the turkey," he regretfully explained, "and we neither have the equipment required to comply nor the space to install the equipment [if we wanted to]."
Andy was referring to the very strict Health Department HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) regulations, which govern handling procedures and temperatures for cooking and cooling, and then displaying and selling meats...like my fresh-roast turkey.
The head Bell man assured me that the turkey the store is now selling has been prepared in strict compliance with the federal regulations. "This top-end quality turkey is a salt-free, preservative-free product.... And we'll give anyone who asks a free sample." No pushing, please.
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THE GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS on the J-Church line, according to Muni project manager Fariba Mahmoudi, is that the trains should be back on their tracks by Feb. 4 (hooray!), but they'll be taken off again for a brief time in about six months, when Muni will finish the "23rd Street Crossover" (boo!).
Fariba says that Muni anticipates "closing down the line for only a few weekends" to finish replacing all the streetcar tracks that twist and turn around the scenic back yards from 20th Street to 23rd Street. Fariba estimates that this job will cost "a little less than $2.5 million."
"The track [between 20th and 23rd] was very old and worn, so our newer trains [the Breda cars] were causing a lot of noise and vibration issues," says Fariba.
The crew now moves on over to do similar work on the K line, then the N and L lines, before coming back and hitting the Church and 23rd Street intersection.
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FOLDING PAPER: Paper Plus, which sells discounted gift-wrap, cards, party favors, and doodads, has alerted its customers that the doors of the shop on Castro Street (next to Walgreen's) will close permanently at the end of February.
Manager Penny Brill says that the key reason the store is folding up its tent and moving its stock back to the Berkeley store (1643 San Pablo Ave.) is "the landlord doubled our rent, and we just decided that we weren't going to pay it. It's really that simple."
Penny says that she is sorry they have to leave this "great neighborhood," and that she "didn't realize that so many of our customers would be so upset by our decision."
Almost directly across Castro Street, Diane Barrett says she was forced to close up her flower shop, Indigo V, because after the old lease expired, "my landlord not only refused to give me a new lease, putting me on a month-to-month basis, but also raised my rent 40 percent.
"Luckily, I was able to find a storefront around the corner on 24th Street which has more space for less money and a nice landlady who gave me a lease," smiles Diane. That space, on the north side of 24th between Castro and Diamond, was last occupied by the sportswear and tennis shop, 40 Love.
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POTTERY IN MOTION: The Terra Mia pottery studio has already moved around the corner to its new digs at 1314 Castro St. (between 24th and Jersey, next to the Peaks bar). New owner Christine Simmons, a native Noe Valleon, says, "We were really lucky to get a larger space with a lovely garden, and we now even have skylights and a private party room."
To the store's credit, Terra Mia has been working with many local schools and involving the kids in pottery and pottery painting projects.
Christine is inviting every neighborhood kid to come in and design and paint a four-inch tile, which will then be installed on a wall in the back garden. "We will also soon be starting pottery classes and workshops," she adds.
What will happen in Terra Mia's old spot, once a notorious bar called the Cork 'n' Bottle, is anybody's guess.
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FOOL FOR PASTA FAZOOL: You all remember that Little Italy owner J.P. Gillen abandoned his business several months ago, leaving his employees to board up the doors and go home. It's been hard recently for most of us older-timers to pass by the bleak, unswept entrance of the closed restaurant without getting nostalgic for the heavy garlic scent, the fried mozzarella and pesto ravioli, and the noisy crowds of yesteryear ('80s to '90s).
Now the Max Selva/For Sale sign on the restaurant's window has been removed. Also, a large dumpster at the curb has been filled with burned-out kitchen equipment and culinary castoffs.
Well, two guys from Italy have just signed a lease and are planning to open-- you guessed it -- a new Italian restaurant. The two are no strangers to the restaurant business, but "we don't know what we are going to name it," says chef Stefano Coppola. "We just got the keys to take over the space, and now we can go to work on our menu."
Stefano's partner, Diego Ragazzo, says, "We are going to clean the place up, give it a facelift, and install a brand-new kitchen. Hopefully, we will be open by the middle of April."
Remember, guys, use lots of garlic.
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THE NOE VOTE in the Dec. 12 District 8 supervisorial runoff election gave Mark Leno the nod over Eileen Hansen, 3,134 to 2,933 -- a mere 201 vote margin. The district went to Leno, a winner by 712 votes (9,578 to 8,866).
Despite the fact that a healthy 70 percent of registered Noe voters went to the polls for the Nov. 7 general election, a rather embarrassing 34.3 percent showed up Dec. 12. Remarked District 8 incumbent and winner Mark Leno, "I got almost as many votes in the November general election as all the votes cast in the runoff election in December!"
Says Leno, spinning positively, "Being a member of the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco is a great job, and the price of admission is working hard in the campaign, and the runoff election gave me a greater opportunity to tell the voters why they should vote for me."
With the election behind him, Leno is now pressing forward with his legislation to control monster homes. He has had meetings in the last week of January with neighborhood activists from Eureka Valley to Glen Park, asking their input on how to control the invasion.
Friends of Noe Valley representatives Dave Monks and Claire Pilcher joined Vicki Rosen from the Upper Noe Neighbors in voicing their opinion. Monks, who recently resigned as president of the Noe Valley Democratic Club to become president of the Friends of Noe Valley, says he wants Leno to "revise the legislation as little as possible and get it to the full board as soon as possible."
"This new board gives us all great opportunities now," Leno says. We'll see.
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HOT FLASHES FROM SHANGHAI: An international panel of hundreds of scientists at a United Nations conference recently issued a report concluding that our global carbon dioxide pollution from burning oil, gasoline, and coal will warm up this planet by over 10 degrees during the next hundred years. The result will be melting ice caps and raised sea levels.
While the George W. Bush agenda is all about abortions, school vouchers, tax cuts, and faith-based welfare, Klaus Top-fler, who heads the U.N.'s Environment Program, warns that our leaders better start looking at the big picture. "The scientific consensus presented in this report should sound alarm bells in every national capital and in every local community."
Rumor is that Detroit car makers are going into a joint venture with the oil companies in the design and manufacture of a new, truly all-terrain vehicle: the ark.
That's 30, folks.