Noe Valley Voice April 2002

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

DOGGONE BEEPING BUSES: The San Francisco Municipal Railway has spent 20 bazillion dollars on their brand new electric buses, which went into service at the end of last year. And by now they must have received 19 bazillion complaints from people who live along the routes. The problem is the industrial-level beeping noise the buses make when they use their turn signals.

"We have measured it at 92 decibels," says Joseph Hughes, spokesperson for the Committee for Quieter Buses, a new citywide group based in Noe Valley. "For those of us who live on a 24-hour electric trolley line -- for me it's the No. 24 line-- the effect of these new turn signals is like living in a construction zone 24 hours a day. It's as if a beeping backhoe or bulldozer is going by, roughly every 10 to 20 minutes, all day and all night."

It seems that there have also been a lot of complaints about the volume and frequency of street announcements, which come boom-boxing out the door as passengers enter and exit the coach.

"We think that the frequency and noise levels of the public announcements in the bus, as well as the blasting turn-signal beepers are going to drive passengers away because it has become so annoying," complains Hughes.

Since he lives near the corner of 26th and Castro, a turning point for the 24 bus, Hughes says that he is now sleeping in his dining room in the middle of his house, "because my bedroom overlooks the street and the noise was severely disturbing my sleep."

At press time, Muni had arranged two meetings with the Quieter Buses Committee and sent out their general superintendent of safety and training, Bud McNaughton, to hear the residents' concerns. According to Hughes, "The discussions were very productive."

Something must be happening, since the beeps lately have become "muffled," he says. Reliable sources say Muni's muting mechanism for these million-dollar machines is, believe it or not, duct tape.

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BIG WHEEL, KEEP ON ROLLIN': Those opting for bicycle transportation will be delighted to learn that the Board of Supervisors recently passed Mark Leno's resolution to create a striped bike lane on San Jose Avenue, northbound from Milton Street to Randall Street and southbound from Randall to the Arlington Street exit, and on the Arlington Street off-ramp between San Jose and Arlington.

Evidently, what impressed the supervisors was the success of the new Valencia Street bike lanes and the need for cyclists to link up with San Jose Avenue.

Leno's original plan included bike lanes on Dolores Street from 29th Street to Dolores' merge with San Jose Avenue. But a lot of folks protested that a traffic mess would be created by narrowing Dolores to one lane in both directions for those three blocks. Of great concern was the effect the narrowing would have had on parking for Reilly's funeral home, which the neighborhood had fought to preserve over the last two years. Neighbors also feared traffic gridlock would occur on Dolores during the morning and evening commutes. Also in the mix was the controversy over the traffic signal at 30th and Dolores that was installed last year to replace the four-way stop sign, which many neighbors insist worked so well for so many years (like those old electric buses).

The neighbors contend that the new traffic signal has encouraged drivers to speed along Dolores Street to make the green light, and that people take their lives in their hands when crossing the street. Valley Street resident Dave Monks, who is an avid supporter of restoration of the four-way stop sign, insists, "Green lights at that corner do not have any traffic calming effects for drivers."

Well, according to Upper Noe Neighbors President Vicki Rosen, the stoplight battle might be close to a resolution. The Department of Parking and Traffic has just informed her that starting around April 1 the signal will be switched to flashing lights during the night. "They told me that there will be four-way flashing red lights from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.," she says. (Let's hope the lights don't beep.)

You might also see more police in the vicinity during the day, nabbing the speeders and red-light slow down already.

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SLOW, ENCHANTED FOOD: Everyone has their eyes on the new restaurant being constructed on the corner of Church and Duncan streets, where Speckmann's once reigned. Mark Pastore bought the building, gutted the insides, and has been working for over a year to build out what will no doubt become a hot spot for the city's culinary crowd.

"We are hoping to open in a couple of months and start serving a rustic [country-style] Italian cuisine," says Pastore, who will be calling the place Incanto, which means "enchantment" in Italian.

"Paul Boscemi will be our chef, and Claudo Villani, who just arrived from Florence, Italy, will be the dining room manager and professional sommelier. He'll stock our wine cellar with some very special wines that are not well known outside Italy, and are good values." The wine cellar will be climate-controlled, natch.

The floor of the entrance will be finished with marble from Italy, the walls of the dining rooms are all mahogany paneled with handcrafted stone detailing, and the room will have brick, barrel-vaulted ceilings. Local muralist Tom Mogenson will create something appropriately enchanting to put on the banquet room wall, Pastore says.

And the scoop on Isabella's Ice Cream and Dessert Café is that the controversy has subsided. We reported last month that Rory's Twisted Scoop closed and Isabella's would soon open. Eagle-eyed neighbors observed the remodeling work, and for whatever reasons, feared Isabella's was going to become a fast-food joint. They called City Hall, which brought out the building inspectors. Well, it appears that the neighbors' fears have been assuaged, and we're only talking ice cream and cake, and Isabella's will open soon. Hurry.

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SHORT SHRIFTS: What's up, you ask, with the renovated but still vacant Star Bakery at Church and 29th? The building is still for sale, and the asking price is $1.2 million.

The Episode is the name of a new hair salon and spa, opened by Steffon Yan on March 22, at 1360 Church Street near Clipper. Currently there are three hair stylists rarin' to go, and Steffon says that by this month, "facials, nail, and massage services" will be available.

Meanwhile, up Church Street at the corner of 25th, the building that was most recently owned by ophthalmologist Dr. Robert Neger, has been sold. That's not news. However, the rumor is that an "upscale" salon and spa is being planned (permit applications have been posted) for the location.

And two doors down from there, at 1311 Church Street, an art gallery has been opened by Noe Valley resident Melissa Peline. "I have a background in art history and worked downtown in two galleries. Now I walk to work and bring my dog, Joey Poochiano."

A gift shop named Willa will be opening on the corner of Church and 27th, where the Fountain of Youth used to flow. The sign says it will feature items for "home, garden, and soul -- a tiny gift shoppe to stroke the senses."

By the way, I loved that item in Beth Lisick's column on "As for Sharon [Stone], when she recently dined at Noe Valley's Firefly, she apparently found a parking spot on the notoriously busy 24th Street corridor straight away. The restaurant's prices are so reasonable, the extra $250 for parking in the bus zone probably didn't matter."

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POLL EARTH ACCESS: Neither new Noe Vee nor old Noe Vee seems to be voting these days. The neighborhood, according to the San Francisco Department of Elections, had a 38 percent voter turnout in the March 5 primary election. Says the SFDE, there are 16,744 registered voters in our neighborhood, of which 6,382 actually voted. FYI: 10,843 are Democrats (41 percent voted), and just for diversity we have 1,450 Republicans (a few more than 41 percent voted), 635 Green Party members (47 percent voted), and 231 Reform Party members (8 percent voted). The turnout was 32 percent for the 103 American Independents among us and a high 67.7 percent for the 40 Libertarians, but only 2 of the 21 who vote Natural Law showed up at our polls. Mine had cookies, and I was voting strictly orthodox.

As for the results: Gray Davis (who else?) got 85 percent of the Demo vote; and, Simon and Schuster, uh, excuse me, Riordan, almost evenly split the Republican vote.

Half of the Noe Valley Democrats, in the hotly contested 13th State Assembly District, voted for Mark Leno; Harry Britt got a little over 36 percent; Steve Phillips garnered just 9 percent; and 5 percent went to Holly Their.

Other Noe votes of interest were: For assessor, Doris Ward, Ronald Chun, and Mabel Teng divided up the vote fairly evenly, with the ultimate citywide winner being Teng. Public defender Jeff Adachi got almost 3,300 Noe votes, to almost 2,500 for Kimiko Burton. Nancy Davis captured 82 percent of the vote for No. 3 judge, and Gail Dekreon got almost half of the Noe vote for No. 10 judge.

The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation conducted a survey of Rumors readers and found a staggering 94 percent of you were registered to vote. Based on NVBI exit polls, it appears that all but 136 of you know who you are.

That's 30, folks. Happy Earth Day, and ciao for now!