Noe Valley Voice December-January 2003

...and now for the Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

THE NOE VALLEY BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (NVBI) released a report titled "Democracy in Peril" on Thanksgiving Day. It stated, "While America maintains that it wants to make the world safe for democracy, the greatest peril to our government today is our own citizenry's failure to vote. Bad things happen when voters don't vote."

The report was also highly critical of Noe Valley: "Everyone in Noe Valley knows better than not to vote, but for reasons currently unknown, many still choose not to vote."

According to the city's Department of Elections (DOE), of the 16,404 registered voters in Noe Valley, a mere 55 percent (8,955) voted in the Nov. 4 municipal election.

Another fact: Since 1997, voter registration in Noe Valley has gone down--way down. Six years ago, we had more than 18,000 registered voters. Last month, the number was just over 16,000. Are there fewer of us here now? Or are we just more apathetic?

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GONZALEZ OR GAVIN: The Nov. 4 vote for mayor showed Democrat Gavin Newsom as the top vote getter in Noe, with 36 percent in a field of nine candidates. Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez came in second with 25 percent. Trailing him were Susan Leal at 14 percent, Tom Ammiano 13 percent, Angela Alioto 10 percent, and Tony Ribera with just over one percent of the vote. In the Noe district attorney's race, Terence Hallinan scored 37 percent, Kamala Harris 34 percent, and Bill Fazio 24 percent.

I'm sure you know by now there will be a runoff election on Dec. 9 between Newsom and Gonzalez for mayor, and Hallinan and Harris for district attorney. The NVBI is predicting that if there is a large voter turnout, Gonzalez will win the mayor's seat, but if the citywide turnout is anything less than 50 percent, Newsom will come away the victor. No predictions on the D.A. race.

To get a clue as to how the mayor's race would be decided in Noe Valley, the NVBI conducted an informal poll at the corner of 24th and Sanchez on Saturday morning, Nov. 22. Passersby who claimed to live in Noe Valley and were registered to vote got to speak up and tell us who would get their vote for mayor.

Out of the 240 questioned, we found 100 certified Noe Valley voters. Of that bunch, 62 said they were voting for Gonzalez, 22 were sticking with Newsom, and 16 were undecided. This result is especially surprising since Noe Valley is over 80 percent registered Democrats. But remember the 2002 gubernatorial race: in that contest, Green Party candidate Peter Camejo got 19 percent of the Noe vote.

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DEMOGREENS? GREENOCRATS? The Noe Valley Democratic Club has not endorsed either candidate. "We are taking no position on mayor in the December 9 runoff," says club president Rafael Mandelman. At the group's Nov. 19 meeting, the members cast secret ballots for one of two choices: Newsom or no endorsement.

"In order to get our endorsement," explains Mandelman, "the candidate must get 60 percent of the membership vote, and that didn't happen."

Put another way, what the Demo Club could not do was name a Green Party candidate as one of its options.

Mandelman adds that S.F. pollster David Binder, in his post-election analysis for the 50 people who attended the meeting, provided a multicolored map and numbers that showed Gavin Newsom had evenly distributed strength throughout the city.

"I could be surprised on December 9th," says Mandelman, "but Gonzalez has a real tough job ahead of him if he hopes to win the runoff."

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NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOE BUSINESS: Everybody wants to know the fate of Cover to Cover's old space on 24th Street now that the "For Lease" sign has been removed from the front window. Well, the Haight Street footwear emporium Shoe Biz has bought the space and will soon start a remodel of the interior. The plan is to open by mid-January, says Shoe Biz's head shoemeister, Mehran Esmaili.

According to Esmaili, he and his wife Nooshin first opened Shoe Biz on Haight Street in 1979. Their specialty was men's and women's designer sneakers. Then they opened a second store on Haight specializing in "junior" shoes. Most recently, they opened a third store, also on Haight, featuring higher-end fashion-trendy shoes, "which are designed by us and manufactured in Spain." The imports must be pretty popular, since the Esmailis are also about to make a major expansion of that store.

"For Noe Valley, we are going to stock the store with our most popular lifestyle streetwear [sneakers] and our imported fashion trend line. It'll give men and women each about 300 styles of shoes to pick from," Esmaili says, "and I think the neighborhood will like the choices we will offer them, at prices they will find affordable."

Why Noe Valley? "Why not?" says Esmaili. "We got a great spot in a great neighborhood, and we're really excited about this opportunity."

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OUT OF WORKWEAR: In other Downtown Noe Valley news, the shop Workwear is vacating its storefront at 3989 24th Street near Noe and a "For Lease" sign has been pasted on the door. Workwear was the second clothing outlet for Cotton Basics, the longtime Noe business located on the corner of 24th and Castro.

"We're planning to close the [Workwear] store after January 1 and will be moving that stock either to our 24th and Castro store or to the new store we are opening in Bernal Heights," says Cotton Basics manager Kay Lamming.

The new store, at Cortland and Andover, "will have about 1,500 square feet, and we plan to add a new men's line to that store, along with our Cotton Basics and Workwear lines."

Lamming says that in anticipation of the opening early next year, she is looking for old pictures of Bernal Heights to feature on the front of a T-shirt. The Workwear T-shirt collection already includes five old-time Noe Valley pictures and one of the Castro Theater. If you've got one of B.H., give Lamming a call at 550-8646.

Over the past four months, a South of Market women's clothing discounter called Red Dot Outlet has shared half of the Workwear space on 24th Street.

Lamming says Red Dot gave notice in November (saying it would move out by Dec. 1) and has decided to put its resources into a new store Red Dot is opening in the Marina.

As for what will fill the Workwear space, Lamming says there has been "a lot of interest in the spot," but she declined to elaborate further.

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GOT GUNS? If you've taken a stroll down 24th Street lately, you couldn't help but gawk at the window of the Real Food Company, which has stood empty since Labor Day, when it was closed "for remodeling." The storefront has become a neighborhood bulletin board, with postings ranging from yoga classes to organic food outlets, to satirical art and political diatribes veering way left and way right.

One flyer that got our attention was a notice posted by the "Noe Valley Gun Owners Association" advertising a noon Nov. 29 meeting in Douglass Park. The flyer also said the group was advocating a gun dealership on 24th Street.

When the Voice e-mailed the name on the notice (George Bennett at noeguns, asking if the association was real or just a premature April Fool's joke, we got this reply:.

"Yes, the organization does exist. We've been around for approximately five years. We currently maintain an e-mail list of approximately 150 Noe Valley residents who consider themselves members. About two-thirds of them are males and one-third female. A good half of our members are homeowners in the neighborhood, married with children of elementary school age. We've been keeping a low profile since we've been harassed (as have our kids) by many of our tolerant progressive neighbors, although I would consider most of our members to be politically progressive.... We estimate that one out of every five homes in Noe Valley has a firearm on the premises.

"Our estimate is unscientific," the writer admits. "It's just a hunch based on our members' experiences and conversations with their neighbors."

Still doubtful, the Voice decided to show up at Douglass Park (both Upper and Lower) at the appointed time on Nov. 29. The gun owners may have been there, but if they were, they were cleverly disguised as dog walkers, kids, and trees.

Maybe all of those pistol-packin' ladies and gentlemen could sponsor a seminar at Alvarado School on gun safety. It might help allay the fears of the other 80 percent of us who think the sooner we ban those dang things (except in the hands of what the Second Amendment calls "a well-regulated militia"), the closer we will be to joining the civilized societies of the world where guns are not tolerated as private instruments of lethal violence.

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DON'T FENCE ME IN: A less controversial group is the Portola Park Stewardship Association, which is trying to save the trees and open space at the top of Clipper Street (at Portola) from development as a housing complex. The group's leader, Marcy de Luce, came down to Noe Valley to elicit neighborhood support for a seven-year fight against what she describes as a "land grab." The developer, Spiers Construction, is planning to build 32 residential units on the site, and the project will block the expansive views to the northeast.

The Stewardship Association was formed by about 15 activists, de Luce says. They presented the Board of Supervisors with a petition signed by 370 neighbors who oppose the city's plan to trade the 23,000-square-foot swatch of open space off Clipper for a piece of land (owned by the developer) adjacent to an existing city park in West Portal.

According to de Luce, developer Spiers "bought the land for $700,000 in 1997. He was denied building permits because the land was unstable. In 2003 [somehow] the city re-assessed the land at $2.95 million, coincidentally the same assessed value as the [city has placed on the] land on Portola and Clipper, with its sweeping view of downtown and the Bay Bridge."

However, her group has learned the hard lessons of City Hall. First, in land exchanges, public notice doesn't have to be given. Then, when a delegation of the group attended the Nov. 18 Board of Supervisors hearing on the city's plan to exchange land parcels, they were surprised that only two supervisors voted against the swap, our District 8 supervisor Bevan Dufty, and Chris Daly. Both Newsom and Gonzalez cast yea votes.

De Luce reports Spiers is wasting no time. Workers appeared at the Portola site the following Saturday with a tractor and a 30-foot-high drill, "to take soil samples." However, it appears that the group will now prepare to fight the permit applications, and de Luce vows they will be taking legal action to preserve the parkland at the corner of Clipper and Portola.

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TROLL THE ANCIENT YULETIDE CAROL: The Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association has pulled its 75 banners out of storage and is again putting them back up on the telephone poles in Downtown Noe Valley. The group is also beseeching all their fellow merchants to put up white lights in front of their stores, and asking the James Lick kids to help red-and-white-stripe the parking meters along 24th Street.

But this year, instead of the usual toy drive, the merchants will be collecting new books for needy children as part of the Mission Y's "Books Not Barbies" program. Carol Yenne, president of the association, says Value Vacation at 23rd and Sanchez is the main Noe Valley sponsor and dropoff point, but that you can also leave a book (new, please) for a child of any age at her shop Small Frys, on 24th near Castro.

Yenne also promises that Christmas carolers will be roving up and down 24th Street the first three Saturdays in December and Santa Claus will be making two pre-Christmas appearances, the first one at Zephyr Real Estate on Saturday, Dec. 13, and the next at the Bank of America on Dec. 20 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

The local churches will be holding special concerts and pageants, of course, such as the one at Bethany Church on Dec. 24 (Christmas pageant at 5 p.m.).

And Hanukkah begins this year on Dec. 19. The first night will be celebrated at the Noe Valley Ministry starting at 6:30 p.m.--be sure to bring your menorah to light.

Noe Valley Chabad is planning its fourth annual giant menorah lighting Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. on the corner of 24th and Noe. Rabbi Gedalia Potash also invites people to bring their kids a little earlier, to a 4 p.m. Hanukkah Arts Fair, where they can make their own menorah.

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That's 30 for '03. You all have a happy and safe holiday season. Peace on earth. Well, I'd settle for peace in Iraq. Bye, kids.