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Rumors Behind the News
IT'S A NEW YEAR and a special one at that. It reads the same forwards and backwards, which makes me wonder if it will be a repeat of 1991, or 1881, or déjà vu all over again. For Noe Valley, a major issue of 2002 is bound to be parking, just as it has been for the 25 years I've lived in this valley. How many times have I made that good old Noe Valley U-turn: you know, the midblock, 180-degree, 8-mph wheelie to get to that just vacated parking space on the other side of the street before anyone else spots it?
San Francisco in general, and Noe Valley in particular, has for many years had more cars than places to park them, and now it's getting tough even for motorcycles. Our hills do not fill with the sound of music, but with the roar of the internal combustion engine.
It seems that not only are there (1) more residents who own cars and use them to do their shopping on 24th Street, (2) more Noe Valley workers who drive here because they can't afford to live here, and (3) more tourists and visitors from other neighborhoods, here to see the many treasures along our commercial strip, but (4) more commuters from heaven knows where, parking their cars and then taking Muni downtown to do their business.
In the last two or three years, the lack of parking has reached epic proportions. And as reported in the Voice on numerous occasions, residents have started begging City Hall to create restricted parking zones in the neighborhood.
Well, take notice. For all you residents who live from 22nd Street to 28th Street between Dolores Street and San Jose Avenue (Group A), and those of you who live above Dolores all the way up to Sanchez on Clipper, Cesar Chavez, and 27th streets (Group B), and those on 24th Street from Quane Alley up to the west corner of Sanchez Street (Group C), I have some good news and some bad news. So, which do you want first?
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THE GOOD NEWS is that Mayor Willie Brown signed a law on Nov. 30 that created a new permit parking zone, Area Z, for the originally proposed area (Group A). He then approved an amendment on Dec. 10 adding the blocks in Group B.
According to DPT program coordinator Kathleen Zierolf, her department will notify residents by mail about how to obtain the Area Z permit stickers sometime in March, and the signs should start going up in "late spring."
Cars without a sticker will be limited to two hours, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Violators will have to pay DPT fines, as well as contend with the ire of the locals.
As you Voice readers know (see the June and December 2001 issues), residents on Guerrero Street banded together and got petitions to the Department of Parking and Traffic to get this ball rolling. A DPT survey showed that only 61 percent of the cars parked in their area were registered to residents, and that the occupancy rate for parking spaces was 101 percent, if that's possible.
Some of you in Group B might be surprised to learn that you made the cut, since your blocks were squeezed in at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Dec. 10. Those blocks are 28th Street between Guerrero and Dolores; Cesar Chavez Street between Church and Sanchez; and Clipper Street between Church and Sanchez.
As for Group C, the Z zone stops at Quane Alley, just below Dolores, and doesn't extend any further west. Some of you might have been confused by the DPT maps published in the Voice, which had thin shaded areas on 24th Street all the way up to Sanchez Street. Those darkened areas just showed where there are existing parking meters. This was a relief for the merchants, who were quite worried about the prospect of Area Z creeping up 24th Street.
If you're feeling left out, Zierolf says DPT welcomes further petitions from residents of blocks not currently in Area Z. She will send applications to anyone who asks for them, along with instructions on how to complete them. Her number is 554-2339.
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THE BAD NEWS is that to get the parking privileges afforded by the sticker, you're going to have to fill out another application, and pay $27 per year. That's a pain -- and a hardship to many.
And, of course, those people who do not live in the area or who are not otherwise able to gain a permit (including many who work in Noe Valley) must find alternative transportation. Or, they could try to park their cars, vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks somewhere else -- on streets that aren't in Area Z.
By September of 2002, I predict that there will be another wave of protests as the 101 percent occupancy rate spreads up the hills of Noe Valley, all the way to Diamond Heights.
Hope we don't have to call in the Marines.
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SPEAKING of making the world safe for democracy, perhaps some 19.5 percent of you might be interested in the Noe Valley results of the Dec. 11 runoff for city attorney. According to the Department of Elections, in the Noe Valley precincts, Dennis Herrera prevailed over Jim Lazarus by a vote of 2,004 to 1,321.
But the bigger news about the election was the absolutely abysmal voter turnout. The citywide average was 16.5 percent of registered voters. The Noe Valley turnout was only slightly higher, 19.5 percent (of the 17,155 people registered). Presumably, the remaining 80 percent either didn't know there was an election, didn't remember, didn't care, were incarcerated at the time, or were in some other way too busy toiling for democracy, justice, and the American way to bother to vote.
Better mark your calendars right now for California's big primary election. It will be held early this year, on March 5, not in June as it historically has been. Hot items on the state ballot are the race for governor, and the Mark Leno Harry Britt 13th Assembly District contest.
The hot ballot items are Prop. A (instant runoff elections), B (cost of living adjustments for city retirees), C (non-citizens on commissions and boards), D (changes in the way the Planning Commission and members of the Board of Permit Appeals are chosen), E (spouse and domestic partner benefits), F (citizen oversight of general obligation bonds), and G (limits on outdoor advertising) -- in other words, all of them.
Local neighborhood leaders like Dave Monks and Vicki Rosen are supporting Prop. D. With Randy Zielinski, Kate Black, Dee Andrews, and Wade Crowfoot, they co-hosted a fundraiser featuring special guest Supervisor Sophie Maxwell on Jan. 25. About 60 people showed up, including Maxwell's colleagues on the board, Jake McGoldrick and Aaron Peskin.
The measure would allow the Board of Supervisors to appoint three planning commissioners and two Permit Appeals members. Right now, they are all chosen by the mayor. In Monks' view, "Prop. D will bring a balance of different perspectives to the planning process. Right now it's tilted toward downtown, and we need to hear some voices from the neighborhoods." The Prop. D motto is, "Change begins with you!"
Monks is practicing what he preaches: he himself will be on the March 5 ballot. He is one of 42 candidates running for 12 spots on the Democratic County Central Committee in the 13th Assembly District (which is the east side of the city). Monks says he is happy with this challenge and has gotten endorsements so far from eight members of the Board of Supes (Leno, Ammiano, Newsom, Daly, Gonzalez, Maxwell, McGoldrick, and Peskin).
"I want much more outreach from the Central Committee to the Democratic clubs in the district," said Monks, "and I want to put the word 'party' back into the Democratic Party, you know, events that connect the young party activists to the Democratic leaders. That will encourage more participation in progressive ideas."
Monks also came out in support of Mark Leno, over Harry Britt. "It was truly a tough choice for me since I respect them both, but Leno has been in the thick of it over the past few years and done some good things."
Monks, who lives on Valley Street, is currently pushing for removal of the traffic light at 30th and Dolores, which he contends has been the source of many hits and near misses. Drivers on Dolores have been speeding through the yellow light in their haste to get on or off Highway 280. "Let's go back to a four-way stop," says Monks. If you share his opinion, give him a call at 821-4087.
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OUR EARS ARE BURNING: Noe Valley items have popped up in several publications recently. For example, the Chronicle's Dec. 9 Sunday Real Estate section featured a story about us being "one of San Francisco's many gentrified neighborhoods that not long ago was considered a working-class district."
The article, by Dan Levy, quotes Zephyr Real Estate's Bill Drypolcher as saying, "Noe Valley has always been alternative-minded, but it's also been a leader in price appreciation. I remember when I first started out in real estate (in the late '60s), there used to be some Spanish-speaking realty companies here. It was thought of as part of the Mission. Now it's all yuppie."
Levy has concluded that in our little village, "corporate coffee has replaced the greasy spoons. A number of upscale restaurants -- Bacco, Firefly, Hamano Sushi, and the newly opened Le Zinc -- attract foodies from all over the city." There was a nice picture of Le Zinc co-owners Max Braud and Diana Barrand, with a caption noting they "hope to import a Euro vibe with their new restaurant, Le Zinc."
And then there was the November issue of In Style magazine, which listed our own Bliss Bar in their "seven-city guide to the latest bars with a twist." Bliss was described as "an unexpectedly hip retreat in Noe Valley, a neighborhood best known for its baby strollers and SUVs." The guide recommended you order "the Cosmos with infused vodkas (flavors change nightly)," and "watch the rotating DJ, who spins in the front window." Now, that sounds painful.
S.F. Weekly then scooped the Voice, reporting in its Jan. 23 issue that Bliss Bar had been acquired by the Cypress Club's former manager Pierre Chaltry and former bartender Pierre Lepheure. Now that the two Pierres have taken over (Jan. 3), the music is softer and more loungey, and that makes the neighbors more comfy.
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THE REAL SCOOP on the food front is the new restaurant called Alcatraces, which is in the space formerly occupied by Legume (across from Radio Shack).
I haven't been to Alcatraces yet, but the place has been packed every night since it opened the first week of January.
"We were kind of surprised ourselves," says Glenn "Gator" Thompson, or Chef Gator as he prefers to be known. "But it looks like people are really enjoying what I call California Creole." The menu has a New Orleans bent, with such things as gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish etouffée.
The Spanish name Alcatraces refers to Chef Gator's birth flower, the lily. He says his most popular dish so far has been the Sweet Potato Catfish with Hot-Link Gravy, followed by the Gator Sausage Under a Bush (yes, it has real alligator meat) and the Garlic Crab Ravioli.
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PERSONALS: Local guy Jeffrey Decoster contributed "The Bench," a short essay with illustrations, to a collection of tales called "How We Met: Stories of Friends, Lovers, and Partners Around the Bay" in the Jan. 2 romance issue of San Francisco magazine. Decoster writes about the people who have become lasting friends via the bench in front of Martha's Coffee on 24th Street.
Meanwhile, a local lawyer, Barry Willdorf, who has lived in the Fairmount for the past 30 years, has a new book out. He says it's a fictional take on the turbulent times of the late '60s and early '70s, and about a young couple who put their beliefs and relationship to the test by defending in court the Marines opposed to the Vietnam War. Not coincidentally, that was what Barry was doing back in those days, when he first moved to Noe Valley. The book is titled Bring the War Home!
Barry says the things he misses most about the Noe Valley of the '70s are "the good old family restaurant Linders, which was on the corner of Sanchez and 24th [where Noe Valley Pizza is now]; hanging out at the Meat Market [the coffeehouse, now Miss Millie's restaurant]; and being able to park on 24th Street."
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CONGRATULATIONS to the James Lick Middle School basketball team, which recently won the city middle school championship by beating Enola Maxwell School, 43 to 30, at Kezar Pavilion. The team is being coached by José Montaño, who also teaches language arts and social studies in the school's Spanish-immersion program.
"It was a really tough season, as we were 8 and 3 overall after a 5 and 0 start, but these guys really learned teamwork," Montaño says. The team starters were 6-foot-2 center Michael Wilson, guards Lionel Primus and Clarence Lewis, and forwards Camilo Senchyna-Beltran and Victor Zacca (the only seventh-grader).
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WELL, GOTTA GO gator hunting.