RETURN TO HOME PAGE
Rumors Behind the News
AROUND THESE HILLS and valleys, Halloween is the major holiday of the year. Everywhere you turn, you see skeletons hanging from poles, black-draped haunted houses, scary orange and black doodads in the windows, and of course, pumpkins, little ones, big ones.
As I'm writing this column in the last week of October, I'm among those parents who are assembling their kids' costumes, then worrying about assembling their own. We are really into this!
If the last couple of years are any indication, every kid in Noe Valley will show up in the parade of masked marauders on 24th Street during the afternoon of the Oct. 31. By 5 p.m., revelers reach the thousands, and Downtown Noe Valley is rockin'.
Treat-laden merchants gleefully welcome the children. Of course, they're hoping the little goblins will return with their parents to do their Christmas shopping. It's called "good will," and it's a valuable item on their balance sheet. But that's what we like about Noe Valley.
By nightfall, the kids have gone home to eat their candy, and every available parking space will be snatched by the big goblins from all nine Bay Area counties, who show up for the really big show over the hill in the Castro.
According to local expert Mardie Vandervort, operator of the One-Stop Party Shop on Church at 28th, you will see many more witches this year than in years past, and they will be parading with the likes of Spider Man, SpongeBob Squarepants, and Anakin Skywalker.
Also, there is a home-on-the-range theme. "This year, we're seeing a lot of kids coming in to get parts to a costume they are making themselves," says Vandervort, "and there are many requests for accessories for cowboys and Indians."
My kids are making their own costumes. One will be a stop sign, the other a chocolate chip cookie. So much for Dracula.
= = =
THE LIFE OF REILLY'S: There was no celebration for the parade of neighbors who appealed the Planning Commission's approval of the demolition of Reilly's Mortuary and construction of a four-story, 13-unit residential development on the corner of 29th and Dolores streets.
Rumors reported in the September issue that the bitter dispute came to a head at the end of August, when the Board of Supervisors failed to overrule the Planning Commission, which had approved plans offered by developer Joe Cassidy. Supervisor Chris Daly had surprised everyone by joining Supervisors Hall, Newsom, and Yee in voting for the project, against the neighbors' appeal. The neighbors' main request was to cut back the size of the fourth floor.
Supervisor Mark Leno, who was spearheading the neighbors' cause, got the supes to rescind that vote and continue the matter until Sept. 17. It was continued again until Sept. 30, when finally the mortuary became a dead issue, so to speak.
"We fought the good fight," said Leno, "and tried to reach a compromise on amending the decision of the Planning Commission, but in the end we came at least one vote short [of the eight] we needed to grant the appeal of the neighbors."
Vicki Rosen, president of the group Upper Noe Neighbors, managed to find one bright spot. "Mark tried everything he could to get the neighbors a decent compromise, and in the end the developer agreed to take four more feet off at each end of the fourth floor, and agreed to keep plans to build 26 parking stalls for the 13 units. However, in this whole process, we lost one of the two 'affordable housing' units that were in the original plans, which is unfortunate."
Rosen said she was surprised by how cutthroat board politics seemed over this issue. I was surprised, too. So here are the rumors about what really happened: The neighbors went into this appeal thinking that all but three of the 11 supervisors would vote in their favor on the appeal. They knew Hall, Newsom, and Yee would side with the developer of the project.
Everyone assumed Supervisor Daly would vote with the neighbors. But this is an election year, and he is big on affordable housing. By the time the final vote was taken on Sept. 30, another supervisor, Gerardo Sandoval, had also switched his vote.
According to several sources, Sandoval, Yee, Daly, and Hall had been on the side of the neighbors against a developer of a four-story, 40-foot, nine-unit residential project out on the corner of 39th Avenue and Noriega in the Sunset. There, too, the neighbors wanted to take off the fourth floor. Leno opposed that request. Now they've opposed his request.
As you can see, one byproduct of district election of supervisors is the Balkanization of San Francisco.
= = =
A PARKING SPACE ODYSSEY: it looks as if Dan's Gas Station might be demolished before Thanksgiving. That means the long-anticipated parking lot planned by the Noe Valley Ministry should be completed by Valentine's Day, 2003.
The Ministry's construction manager, Tim Leistico of Thetacon Services Group, has finally received the official notice from the Planning Commission, which has been posted on the property and mailed out to the nearby residents. This allows for objections to be filed, so let's cross our fingers and hold our breath.
Leistico does not expect any problems with the merchants or the neighbors, since they all met many moons ago and ironed out their disagreements (soundwalls, lighting, mini-park, kiosk, to name a few), before the final plans were submitted to the Planning Commission.
"We started this process with a variance hearing before the Planning Commission Dec. 12, 2001, and filed our application months ago. We've been waiting for the city to process the application," Leistico explained. "But I do want to thank hardworking city planner Dan Sirois down at the Planning Commission for helping us get this far in the process. My job is to make this lot self-supporting, which has been very difficult up to now. The property taxes alone are over $40,000 a year and have to be paid without any revenue being generated yet. Also, we have had to budget an additional $300,000 in construction costs to address neighborhood concerns."
I hope next month I can report that the public was noticed and had no objection, permits were issued and that Dan's Gas is history. Leistico anticipates that once he gets the permits, construction of the 29-stall lot should take anywhere from 8 to 10 weeks. Maybe by St. Patrick's Day, Tim?
= = =
SHORT SHRIFTS: The current mystery in Downtown Noe Valley is the fate of the boarded-up building at 3953 24th Street, across from Bell Market. Trash has been collecting out front, and graffiti artists are signing their autographs. The eyesore would have made a suitable ghost-house backdrop for the Halloween parade.
Attempts to reach the new owner, who lives west of Twin Peaks, have been unsuccessful, so I can't tell you what his plans are. According to records at City Hall, he bought the property in May for $700,000, so I'm betting this won't be a restoration project.
A "For Sale" sign went up on the building at the corner of Castro and 25th streets, now the home of Open Door Yoga. According to real estate agent B.J. Droubi, "The building went on the market in October, and the asking price is $1,095,000." Droubi added that there is a sale pending, but didn't want to make any other comments. If you want to make a backup offer on the property, hurry and give Droubi a call. If you know the history of that building (before its previous incarnation as the 25th Street Workout), hurry and give the Voice a call.
The Krispy Kreme craze hit our neighborhood, and those Noe Valleons who absolutely, positively must have one right now can try either Sun Valley Dairy on Church at 28th or Shufat's Market on 24th at Church. Supplies are limited, so go early and don't tell anyone else.
If you've been missing the art show displays that local architect Ross Levy sponsored in his now vacant offices on the corner of 23rd and Vicksburg, don't despair. Levy has moved his offices to a much larger space at 3361 Mission Street, near 29th Street.
"We've tripled the space we have for our art shows, and expect to start that program after the first of the year. We were so sorry to have to move out of Noe Valley, but the space became too small over the three years we were there. Our new space is very close by, and we still go to 24th Street for our smoothies."
Tully's is our newest ice cream outlet on 24th Street. They have concocted what they call a "Reese's Espresso Shake" and also a "Reese's Peanut Butter Shake." According to Tully's, the PB Shake is winning the popularity contest. I checked out their Espresso Shake, described as "a caffeinated blend of ice cream, Reese's Peanut Butter cups, espresso beans, and a Ristretto shot, which is a short pour of highly concentrated espresso." All I can say is "whoa!" But caution: it is definitely not a late-night drink.
Common Scents, a 24th Street institution since 1971, got a nice write-up in the Chronicle magazine recently. "As Noe Valley accumulates more upscale cafes, boutiques, and sidewalk traffic, Common Scents remains an oasis of calm." I guess the Chron folks have never squeezed into the tiny storefront during the Christmas season, when it is filled not only with marvelous odors but with shoulder-to-shoulder people scarfing up stocking stuffers.
= = =
THE METER'S TICKING: In the Parking and Traffic Department, by the middle of November every parking meter in Noe Valley will have been uprooted and replaced with one of the new electronic McKay meters, which will allow you to buy time not just with quarters but with dimes and nickels. Also, the new meters will eventually accept prepaid cards.
According to Diana Hammons, DPT spokesperson, the job of replacing all the meters in San Francisco started last month in Bernal Heights. The installers are working their way west and are due to arrive in Noe Valley by the middle of November.
"The company we contracted with to replace the parking meters presently is doing at least 100 per day and by the time we get to Noe Valley, their capacity should increase to over 200 a day," Hammons promised. She says the 23,000 meters will be installed in the neighborhoods first, and then downtown.
As for new meters being installed on 24th Street west of Castro, Hammons says there has been no further action taken by the DPT on proposals made last year by the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association. "We are not aware of any resolution that was reached between the proponents and the opposition," she says, "and it appears there was no consensus in the community."
And in other car news, it seems more and more blocks are being added to the residential permit parking areas. Area S, with a two-hour time limit from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., goes down Castro Street on both sides from Hill down to 23rd Street, and along 23rd up to Diamond Street. Also, Area Z, with two-hour parking from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., has climbed up Duncan to Sanchez.
Soon we will all need permits to park our cars on the streets. I have no problem with the permits, but there are no places to park. How about giving us permits to double-park?
= = =
THAT'S 30 for this month, folks. Don't forget to vote on Nov. 5 for your favorite candidate or two. I'll have the results of the local vote next month, so let's make it look good.
And don't forget to put a flag in your window on Nov. 11 to celebrate the armistice reached at the 11th hour on that day in 1918, which ended "the war to end all wars." I'm hoping for an armistice with Iraq by Thanksgiving.