Noe Valley Voice May 2002

Twenty-Five Years in Voice History

In celebration of our 25th year in print, the Noe Valley Voice is presenting some of the highlights of our neighborhood news coverage from 1977 to 2002. We hope you'll enjoy this nostalgic look at the people, places, and events that have made Noe Valley the unique neighborhood it is today.


Women in Noe Valley were breathing a collective sigh of relief after police arrested and charged a 16-year-old suspect with the rape of two women in connection with a series of sexual assaults that occurred in the neighborhood. In each case, the attacker gained entry into the homes of single women by posing as a newspaper delivery boy or asking for a glass of water.

"Rape Suspect Arrested," December 1977


In March, newly elected District 5 Supervisor Harvey Milk began writing a monthly column for the Voice, called "Milk Harvey," to "initiate a regular dialogue with his constituents." In his first column, Milk told readers that his office was receiving about 20 letters and 40 to 50 phone calls a day. He wrote of his efforts "to give the Muni all the aid and help it can get from the Board. I believe in making Muni the very best for a city of our size. We must develop an excellent rapid transit system for the future." Milk also wrote of his strong opposition to the Jarvis-Gann property tax cut initiative, which had been placed on the June ballot. "The property tax cut a very emotional issue.... Before you take your side, please understand the full meaning of this major tax change." He signed off, saying that he accepted "with warmth" the "widely based, broad support" he received from Noe Valley and other District 5 voters. Nine months later, Milk was dead, shot and killed, along with Mayor George Moscone, by fellow supervisor Dan White.

"Milk Harvey," March 1978


This year's oil crisis, and resulting fuel shortage, meant long lines at local gas stations, including Noe Valley's sole service station, Dan's Shell at 3865 24th Street. Most mornings, gas-hungry Noe Valleyans could be found as early as 6 a.m., waiting outside Dan's to fill their tanks. The line of idling and parked cars stretched up 24th Street, around the corner, and three blocks down Sanchez Street. By most afternoons, the station had run out of gas and was forced to barricade its driveway with oil drums and empty tire racks.

"Dan Shells Out Less Gas," June 1979


Even 22 years ago, Noe Valley residents, like our then­ branch librarian Margaret Wyatt, were feeling the pressure of skyrocketing housing costs in the neighborhood. Wyatt and her 11-year-old daughter were forced to look for a new place to live after her landlord decided to do extensive remodeling and repairs to her flat and other units in her building. "I'm dismayed at $550 for a one-bedroom apartment," Wyatt told the Voice. "I don't care how many hardwood floors it has."

"Wanted: Affordable Housing for Local Librarian," March 1980


Before Noe Valley became filled with coffee shops, nail parlors, and trendy cafés and restaurants, there was room for the occasional specialty shop, such as Wheelchairs to Go. As the name implies, this store built, sold, rented, and repaired wheelchairs. Proprietor and Noe Valley native Mark Clark told the Voice's "Store Trek" column that because 6 out of 10 people would need a wheelchair at some time in their lives, he and his wife Josie decided to develop the comprehensive wheelchair service, located in a storefront on 29th Street near Church.

"Store Trek," January 1981


Nobel Peace Prize recipient Mother Teresa traveled from India to Noe Valley in July to oversee the opening of a novitiate of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order she founded. The Missionaries took up residence in a previously vacant convent, located on 29th Street behind St. Paul's Church, which was once home to nuns who taught at St. Paul's Elementary School. Because the Missionaries were to live a life of self-sacrifice and dedication, they asked that all carpeting, curtains, and modern conveniences be removed from the three-story building.

"Mother Teresa Brings Order to St. Paul's," September 1982


Wells Fargo Bank's automated teller machines went "live" in February, bringing a new "mini-bank" service to Noe Valley. The bank, at 4021 24th Street, opened amidst strong neighborhood opposition. Several local groups, including the Friends of Noe Valley and the Noe Valley Merchants Association, fought the new branch on the grounds that it would add congestion to the area and violate the area's commercial growth restrictions. The San Francisco Planning Commission, however, overrode the objections and gave the bank approval.

"Money Machines Open Their Screens," February 1983


With poster paint and Play Doh fumes wafting through the air, the Noe Valley Co-op Nursery School celebrated its 15th anniversary in 1984. The idea for the co-op came about in 1968 when a group of parents who met regularly at Douglass Playground found themselves bemoaning the fact that not one childcare facility existed in Noe Valley. They decided to launch their own parent-participatory nursery school, and by January 1969 the Noe Valley Co-op had acquired space in the the Lebanon Presbyterian Church on Sanchez Street (now the Noe Valley Ministry). The nursery school still operates there today, under the direction of Nina Youkelson.

"The Little Co-op That Could," March 1984


After three years of fact-finding and picture-taking, residents of a 10-block area east of Dolores Street succeeded in getting their neighborhood officially recognized as a landmark. The city's Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board voted to designate an area bounded roughly by Dolores, Mission, 20th, and 22nd streets as the Liberty-Hill Historic District. "We have the largest proportion of pre-earthquake buildings" in the area, said Risa Teitelbaum, president of the volunteer citizens group and a resident of Hill Street. She noted that "the 1906 fire stopped at 20th Street. It left definite demarcations that leave some of history intact."

"Liberty-Hill Designated Historic Landmark," February 1985


Tearful neighbors were bidding a fond farewell to the Glen Five & Ten, Noe Valley's last old-time variety store. Paul Remak, 71, who owned the 26-year-old store with his two brothers, cited high operating costs, commercial competition, and advancing age as their reasons for closing. "The customer, and I don't blame him, buys his toys in a discount store," Remak told the Voice. "He buys stuff in a grocery store -- even his Christmas and Easter stuff -- and there is not enough for a dime store left." The five-and-dime, at 4083 24th Street near Castro, soon became home to the Noe Valley branch of the U.S. Post Office.

"Landmark to Close Doors on 24th Street," March 1986


In February, police shut down a gay escort service operating out of a home in the 500 block of Clipper Street and charged the owner with two counts each of pimping and pandering and one count of possession of dangerous drugs. The escort service, known as the San Francisco Service Station, was a front for a thriving male prostitution business for nearly two years. Records confiscated by police revealed that the escort service regularly scheduled between 30 and 45 appointments a week and that escorts received from $125 to $400 from each customer.

"Prostitution Ring Busted on Clipper Street," April 1987


Walgreen Drug Stores was given the go-ahead by the San Francisco Planning Commission to move into the storefront at 1333 Castro Street, which had been vacated by Little Bell Market in the fall of 1987. Although it was pretty much a done deal, dozens of feisty neighbors showed up at the Planning Commission meeting to either defend or deride Walgreen's. Some residents stood in favor of the chain store's long hours, large inventory, and discount prices, while others questioned the need for one more drugstore in the neighborhood. (At the time, Castro Pharmacy occupied the corner of 24th and Castro, and a Thrifty Jr. [now Rite-Aid] had just moved onto 24th near Noe Street.) Still other residents voiced their preference for locally owned businesses or housing on the site.

"Walgreen's Runs Gauntlet, But Wins Prize Little Bell Spot," May 1988


Most Noe Valley residents were fortunate enough to come through the 7.1 Quake of '89 with hardly a scratch. Soon after the 15-second temblor hit and power was cut, neighborhood volunteers were out directing traffic at busy Castro Street intersections. Many neighbors took refuge in bars where sports fans had gathered before the quake to watch the World Series between the Giants and A's. Fearful of looting and hysteria, the police stopped in at each bar on 24th Street to halt the sale of alcohol at 8:30 that night.

"Noe Valley Rolls with the Punches," November 1989


Herb Gaines, former owner and operator of Herb's Fine Foods, was living in South San Francisco with his wife Margaret and celebrating his 78th birthday in March 1990. Gaines purchased the 24th Street lunch counter in 1945 and sold it to the current owner, Sam Kawas, in 1974. The place was originally a soda fountain, launched by Cyril Saunders in 1943. Saunders called it the X from Noe, because it was across the street from the Noe Theater. Herb Gaines changed the name in 1953, when theater customers began staying home to watch TV. The movie palace closed a few years later, but Herb's Fine Foods remains popular to this day.

"Rumors," February 1990


Swami Tripurari and his followers departed Noe Valley in the spring, having sold their headquarters at 1301 Church Street ("for something less than the $750,000 the Swami was asking," the Voice reported). The Swami, who wore flowing, peach-colored robes and painted his forehead with yellow clay from the Ganges River, purchased the three-story building in 1987. A disciple of Krishna, he taught Bhakti yoga and translated into English the ancient Sanskrit verses carved on palm leaves he brought back from India. Tripurari told the Voice in 1987 that his philosophy was to blend Western finance with Eastern religion. "India has some spiritual eyes with which to see," he said, "but not much of an economic leg to stand on, whereas America lacks spiritual vision, but has strong economic legs. It is sort of like the blind man and lame man. Together they can see and walk nicely."

"Rumors," May 1991, and "Quiet Swami Settles Down by J-Line," May 1987


Sally Brunn, one of Noe Valley's most beloved residents, died Oct. 19 at the age of 62, following a six-month battle with cancer. During the more than three decades she lived on Hoffman Avenue, Brunn's compassionate spirit and tireless efforts on behalf of public libraries and schools touched many individuals. Brunn first became involved in championing the Noe Valley Library when she moved to the neighborhood and found that the library was not open on Saturdays and had no children's librarian. When the branch was threatened with closure in 1980 and again in 1988, Brunn spearheaded the fight to keep it open. She also chaired the library committee for Friends of Noe Valley. Following her death, Friends of the San Francisco Public Library established a Sally Brunn Book Fund to purchase books on grassroots activism for the Main Library. In 1992, the Noe Valley Library was renamed the Noe Valley ­ Sally Brunn Library.

"Noe Valley Loses Its Library Champion," January 1992


It might have been the early 1990s, but Noe Valley experienced a 1970s fashion time warp one day in mid-June as hip-hugging bell bottoms, vinyl shoes, crocheted ponchos, and leather fringe jackets made an appearance on 24th Street. The reason: a television production team from Great Britain was filming scenes for a miniseries based on local author Armistead Maupin's 1979 novel Tales of the City. Noe Valley was chosen as one of the main outdoor locations for Tales because "producers felt it would be easier to create a '70s look there than almost anywhere else in the city," Maupin told the Voice. The producers used the French Tulip, Astrid's Rabat Shoes, Joshua Simon, La Casona taqueria, and the alley leading back to the Noe Valley Mall as backdrops for the action.

"Armistead Maupin Takes a Peek at Tales of the City Filming," July/August 1993


In her December "Family Album" column, Florence Holub praised her 21st Street neighbors Jerome Goldstein and Tom Taylor for what has become a holiday tradition in Noe Valley -- the towering pine tree on the side yard of their home, which they elaborately decorate every Christmas. "A little after Thanksgiving, Tom Taylor transforms the 25-foot Norfolk Island pine tree into a shimmering vision of Christmas loveliness," Holub wrote. "First, the scaffolding goes up to accommodate his crew, who secure thousands of ornaments and hundreds of lights. A week later, the tip is crowned with a star of gold.... Since Leo and I live directly across the street, we get to observe the many delighted visitors who stop to have their pictures taken in front of the tree. Standing next to the huge [gift-wrapped] presents [some as large as eight feet wide], they look like tiny toy people."

"Noe Valley Is Treemendous!" December 1994


In January, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to rename Army Street for civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, and signs renaming the street went up a few months later. Still, Army Street fans refused to let the issue die. In May, longtime 24th Street realtor Harry Aleo told the Voice that he and members of San Franciscans to Save Army Street (SFSAS) were gathering signatures on a petition that would put the issue to the voters in November. SFSAS members said they were fighting to keep Army, not only for practical and historical reasons, but also as a protest. "At hearings on the street name change, the Board of Supervisors ignored the objections of many citizens and instead acquiesced to the wishes of a small group," the group's campaign literature stated. In November, Prop. O, SFSAS's pro­Army Street measure, went down to defeat (55 percent to 45 percent), climaxing a bitter struggle that pitted neighbor against neighbor in Noe Valley.

"Army Street Won't Go Down Without a Fight," May 1995, and "Rumors," December 1995


The hot celebrity news in Noe Valley the first week of November was that Madonna's hunky boyfriend, fitness trainer Carlos Leon, had bought an outfit for the couple's baby girl, Lourdes, at Small Frys clothing store on 24th Street. Leon was working as a guest actor in the television series Nash Bridges, which had been filming a couple of doors away at Selecta Auto Body. For the record, Leon chose a cream-colored jumpsuit with a faux snow leopard fur-trim collar and a matching jacket for $87. After news spread of the purchase, 9 of the 11 identical jumpsuits that Small Frys had in stock were snatched up by other customers.

"Madonna's Baby's Dad Shops in Noe Valley," December 1996


For once, more people than pigeons turned out to say goodbye to Anna Muru, Noe Valley's embattled "Pigeon Lady," who was flying home to Estonia -- a land she hadn't seen in 50 years. In the spring, she had sold the house she'd owned for the past two decades at 1329 Sanchez Street. The previous fall, a group of neighbors-- mostly homeowners with roofs to protect -- had won a restraining order prohibiting the 84-year-old Muru from feeding the birds on Noe Valley streets. The neighbors' feathers were ruffled because their roofs were slimed by the hundreds of pigeons who waited on the wires for the Pigeon Lady to make her rounds, dropping birdseed from the pockets of her overcoat. Muru received 17 bids for her house, all "way over" the asking price of $199,000. "What we were selling was basically lot value," said realtor Judy Rydell, due to the dilapidated condition of the property. The winning bid of $241,000 was from an East Bay developer who planned extensive remodeling. "That money is what's enabling Anna to go back to Estonia," Rydell said.

"Pigeon Lady Wings Her Way Home to Estonia," June 1997


Clipper Street resident Mark Leno was sworn in as Mayor Willie Brown's most recent appointment to the Board of Supervisors on April 22, filling the seat vacated by fellow Noe Valleyan Susan Leal, who was elected city treasurer in November 1997. Leno told the Voice that he received a congratulatory call from NBC's late-night television host Jay Leno. "He told me that he is always pleased to see other Lenos faring well, and he wanted to know if we had any family in common. "I told him that I was on the Russian-Jewish side of his Italian family," laughed Mark.

"Rumors," June 1998


A disgruntled Noe Valley resident started a grassroots campaign to bring the issue of dog droppings to the neighborhood's attention. In the early months of the year, the mystery man (or woman) flagged more than a hundred piles of dog poop, mostly along Church Street, with small signs stuck on toothpicks. Each sign bore a short printed message, such as "Thank You!" or "Yum Yum!" or "So Good!" "Obviously, Noe Valley's canine commentator deserves a pat on the back for reminding us of our civic responsibility," neighborhood resident and dog owner Jeff Troiano wrote in the Voice. "I, for one, am doubling the number of plastic bags I carry." "But," he added, "I've got just one thing to ask our mysterious mound marker: Who is going to pick up all the little signs?"

"Poop Protester Leaves His Mark," February 1999


For Noe Valley residents, the year 2000 ushered in more than a new millennium. Believe it or not, it brought in an even bigger crop of babies to neighborhood families. Lisa Thompson, owner of Little Bean Sprouts, told the Voice that she had ordered three times the amount of newborn and toddler wear compared to three years before -- and she was still running out. Thompson and other neighborhood merchants and parents attributed Noe Valley's baby boom to a number of factors, including the excellent economy and newlyweds with money moving into Noe Valley. They also noted that the year 2000, in addition to being the kickoff of the 21st century, was the Golden Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar, a popular birth time occurring once every six decades.

"Noe Baby Boom Creates Stroller Gridlock," November 2000


Friends, family members, and fellow San Franciscans mourned the death of 28-year-old Alicia Titus, a flight attendant who perished on United Flight 175 when it crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. In front of Titus' apartment building on Guerrero near Duncan Street, where she lived for three years, friends and neighbors set up a small shrine, adorned with floral arrangements, lighted candles, an American flag, photos of Titus, and notes of remembrance. "Never shall I forget the days I spent with you," wrote one friend. "Continue to be my friend as you will always find me yours. Keep on glowing. We love you."

"Flight Attendant Mourned by Her San Francisco Family," October 2001


The Noe Valley Voice marks its 25th year of publication. Here's to 25 more!