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Rumors Behind the News
IN SEARCH OF PEACE AND HAR-MUNI: In an update of last month's Rumors item about the noisiness of the city's new electric buses, everyone should be happy to hear that the San Francisco Municipal Railway has pulled the plug on the trolleys' high-decibel turn signals.
The incessant beep-beeping of the signals, on the electric buses Muni acquired last year from Electric Transit, Inc. (ETI), has been driving everybody batty, especially on and off the 24 line. As Noe Valley resident Joseph Hughes (of the newly formed Committee for Quieter Buses) said in this column and in an April interview on KCBS Radio, "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." (See this month's Letters to the Editor for more venting by residents.)
According to Muni spokesperson Maggie Lynch, the immediate solution to the signal problem was simple. "We put duct tape over the beepers to muffle the sound-- it was definitely a low-tech, temporary solution to a high-tech problem. Now we have found an even easier interim solution, to shut them off on all of the new ETI buses."
However, says Lynch, another problem is making Muni drivers tear their hair out. "We have received most of the complaints about the exterior announcements, so we've tried to turn the volume control down to its lowest levels, but it [automatically] turns itself back up," she says. Engineers haven't figured out how to keep the volume down. So Lynch says they're going back to ETI and demanding a fix.
"All of these [noise] problems were a big surprise, since they were not in our specifications when the buses were ordered," moans Lynch, who lives two blocks off the 24-line herself and is sympathetic to the complainants. "We thought we were getting safety and convenience -- bike racks, wide aisles, etc. -- not inconvenience and irritation."
The new, emission-free but noise-polluting electric coaches are currently being used on five of the 17 city bus lines that are electric, she says. According to Lynch, Muni has taken delivery of 27 of these 40-foot buses (at a cost of $576,000 each), and the total order from ETI calls for 240. Also coming soon are 33 larger articulated buses with a seriously articulated price tag of $835,000 each.
Some simple math tells us that 273 more of these noise monsters could easily drown out the disaster siren we hear every Tuesday at noon.
Still, I can only hope that all our buses and cars will be electric someday. Maybe we can ban the internal combustion engine in San Francisco by 2008. Will the South Pole have melted by then?
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A LITTLE OFF THE TOP: The building that houses J&S Barber Shop at the corner of Church and 25th streets has been sold, forcing the barbershop to seek new quarters -- after 50 years in that spot. Stephanie Holstein has been barbering there for the past 81/2 years. Her dad, Mike, has been barbering in Noe Valley for the past 49 years, the last four at J&S. "My daughter's now my boss," he laughs. Stephanie says, "I was born above a barbershop, the one he [Mike] first worked at on 24th Street, where Matsuya is now, so I guess I was destined to be a barber."
The good news is Stephanie and semi-retired Mike have found a new place in "Downtown Noe Valley," at 41371/2 24th Street, a site which has been a barbershop ever since Mike can remember. Old-timers will remember it being called Ernie's, then Alfie's Beauty Salon.
"We should be moving around the first of June, and I will be calling the new shop Of Barbers and Bears," says Stephanie, who also creates stuffed teddy bears and porcelain dolls.
"We have a great new landlord and a rent we can afford for at least the next 10 years, so I can stay in the neighborhood. It is a smaller space, but there will still be room for my bear and doll displays."
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PUPPET LOVE: Stephanie Holstein has recently been doing work for M5 studio, which has a huge warehouse down near the end of Army/Chavez near Third Street packed with puppets, props for puppets, and special effects paraphernalia. M5 has worked on over 800 commercials.
Holstein designed and created the wardrobe for the cast of M5 puppets who appeared in an ESPN ad campaign for the Winter X Games in January 2002. "I did the costumes for the models and marionettes in the four different spots," says Holstein, "and they do really cool stuff in that studio, I'll tell ya." Holstein's costumes also appeared on the cover of the Dec. 10 issue of Adweek.
M5 studio's founder and owner, Jamie Hyneman, was surprised to learn that his costume designer was a barber, with a shop just a few blocks from his house. Hyneman and his wife have lived in Noe Valley since 1995. "We actually moved here from a boat in Sausalito," he says, "and were attracted to the neighborhood because it's sunny and warm and our house is close to the shops on 24th Street."
Hyneman says he just finished working on a commercial for Geico Insurance.
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SUPES TO NUTS: The big question is who is going to run for the Board of Supervisors seat that will be vacated if Mark Leno wins his bid for State Assembly in next November's election. Being the Democratic candidate in a district populated rather heavily with voting Democrats, Leno should be a shoe-in. According to Noe Valley Democratic Club President Dee Andrews, the most likely supe candidates are BART board member Tom Radulovich and AIDS and tenant activist Eileen Hansen, who ran against Leno in last year's district elections. Other names surfacing are Green Party candidate Medea Benjamin, and Sean O'Hearn, both of whom have run in previous elections.
Andrews reported that the speakers at last month's NVDC meeting, Commissioner Quentin Mecke and Bruce Williams from SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association), explained redistricting, and showed how District 8 has become geographically larger now. In essence, we have lost population and therefore need a larger space to get our allotted voters. "The upshot," says Andrews, "is that the District 8 borders have moved eastward towards Mission Street, and we've gone more towards the Castro on the north and more into Glen Park on the south."
Andrews also reminded me to invite all of you to the next NVDC meeting, to be held on May 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez, where members of the Democratic County Central Committee will talk about "the future of grassroots democracy in San Francisco." The answer, I think, will be found when they figure out how to get people to (1) register to vote and (2) actually vote.
Andrews added that Tom Radulovich will discuss the recently released feasibility study of a BART station at Mission and 30th streets, and Paul Fenn, the guy behind the solar power plan on the last ballot, will talk about implementation of the Proposition H.
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PREZ ON: After serving as president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association for five years and three months, Bob Roddick finally and happily turned over the gavel to his vice president, Kathy Zucchi.
"It was kind of an interesting feeling last month for me, since it was the first time in 63 months that I didn't have to write a newsletter and send it out to the membership," Roddick said, savoring the thought. "Ahhh, no newsletter."
Roddick noted "that if one of the goals of the association is to promote the Noe Valley commercial corridor for more business, we have succeeded, because it has become a 'destination' now. Also we established the James Lick Students/Merchants Alliance, and we continue to have monthly meetings with merchants and students, and we hope we can involve other schools in the neighborhood and expand this program.
"Kathy is already organizing 'stroller struts' for this summer to get a crowd to walk 24th Street to raise money for the renovations to our neighborhood library," Roddick continued, "and the Merchants are going to have a sidewalk sale on Saturday, June 29, from 10 to 4, so everyone can join in on the event."
Roddick says he is happy to take a break, since "we [the NVMPA] are in the black now financially, and hopefully we will get more merchants to join and more people involved."
The association has its regular monthly meetings on the last Wednesday of the month at 9 a.m., at the Bank of America on 24th and Castro.
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STRANGER THAN FICTION: Cover to Cover found out that many of its customers had no idea that nonfiction titles were shelved on the store's mezzanine, or even that the store had a mezzanine.
"We recently decided to move all of our nonfiction books down to the main floor, and we're now putting all our sale items upstairs," says co-owner Tracy Wynne. The sale items are mostly remainder books discounted from the publisher, "but we also are stocking the shelves with some used books," she says.
"Since we've made the change, we've been surprised at how few of our regular customers knew there was an upstairs," says Wynne, "even though we have been at our new store now for three years."
Wynne says sales have increased anyway, and customers seem to like the bargains at the top of the stairs.
Wynne also wanted to emphasize that the store has a very limited number of used books and has absolutely no intention of competing with Phoenix Books up the street, which is full of pre-owned titles.
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THE 64-TOOTHPICK QUESTION: I'll leave you with a Noe Valley quiz to ponder until next month:
(1) Name the longtime Noe Valley resident who was the voice of that ancient (1950s) TV cartoon character Crusader Rabbit.
(2) Who was the first president of the Friends of Noe Valley?
(3) What was Herb's Fine Foods originally called when it opened in 1943?
(4) Where was the original Hopwell's Restaurant located?
(5) What year was the East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club formed?
That's all, you all. If you can answer all five, send your answers in a letter to the editor. You may be eligible for valuable prizes (perhaps some toothpicks from Herb's). We'll at least publish your name in the paper.
Now it's ciao.