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Rumors Behind the News
THE LANDSCAPE OF NOE VALLEY was drastically altered at 7:30 a.m. on May 20, 2003. It took a mere 44 minutes for the wrecking ball to pummel the last remnants of Dan's Gas, which had been stationed on 24th Street near Vicksburg for over 70 years. Directly across the street, the regulars at Martha and Brothers Coffee (and some irregulars, too) gazed in awe at the newfound view beyond the rubble.
A chain-link fence still surrounds the site, but a new 29-spot parking lot should materialize sometime over the next 10 weeks. It probably will take another 10 weeks to recover from the jolt we'll feel when the new parking rates are posted. An anonymous group of Presbyterian donors bought the property almost two years ago so that church members and others attending Noe Valley Ministry gatherings could have a place to park their cars on Sundays and weekday evenings. As a favor to the community, and to make the lot pay for itself, the Ministry planned to allow the public to (pay to) park on the off-days. Since the price tag for Dan's was a molten $3.25 million, the rates the church mothers and fathers may have to charge are likely to blow a few gaskets.
Walgreen's drugstore, which has the lot at Jersey and Castro, has set the neighborhood standard for parking fees, and last month Walgreen's hourly rates jumped from $8 to $15. Ouch! However, Noe Valleons should know that anyone and everyone can park there free for the first hour, whether they shop at the store or not. (Neighborhood groups extracted that promise years ago.)
Walgreen's has also allotted one of its precious parking spots for the use of the popular City CarShare program. The Friends of Noe Valley has attempted to convince Bell Market to do the same thing with one of the sacred parking spaces in its lot in front of the store. But Reggie Owen, district manager for Ralph's Grocery, which owns Bell Market, declined Friends' request. His official reason was: "We have a very limited parking lot at the Noe Valley location, and we have a parking lot attendant on duty at the most critical times to prevent people from using our limited parking spaces to park without patronizing our store."
The Friends and other neighbors then wrote to Mr. Owen again, asking him to reconsider Bell's decision. But according to FNV president Jeannene Przyblyski (say Za-bliss-key), there has been no response, and she sees no reason to be particularly optimistic. "It's a shame," she says, "because the only place for a CarShare parking stall is in a private parking lot, since the merchants will protest any effort to get space in the public parking lot [next to Radio Shack]."
But you can't get too mad at Bell. The store has permitted its lot to be a site for a neighborhood recycling center and restricted parking in front of the recycling depository to accommodate the neighborhood (although it has become an ATM for a growing number of street scavengers).
The penalty for violating Bell's posted parking rule, by the way, is a two-hundred-and-something-dollar towing bill.
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UPPERTIME: The neighborhood's political landscape was drastically altered recently when Vicki Rosen stepped down as president of the very active Upper Noe Neighbors. "I just decided not to run again," says Vicki, "because I simply needed a break after being actively involved in Upper Noe Neighbors for 15 years, the last three as president. I want to step back for a while and not have to organize the monthly meetings."
That task will be taken over by Tom Mogensen, who has lived in the neighborhood for 22 years. Tom says he wants to jack up the pressure on City Hall. "The main issue we face is lack of representation at City Hall," says Tom. "We need more involvement by neighborhood groups in city government, and we have to make sure that we know what they are going to do that affects our neighborhood. Government is run by those who show up." He's right about that one.
Tom says he will provide a forum for the local hot topics at the UNN's monthly meetings (last Thursday of the month). For example, at the May 29 meeting, the group hosted Tom Maravilla talking about Mikeytom Market's big rent hike (see front-page story), the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition discussing improvements for two-wheelers, and neighbors decrying a rash of burglaries on 26th and Duncan streets (above Church Street).
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COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT is also on the mind of Carol Yenne, who took the helm of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association this spring. "Our membership has been growing in the past few months, and a lot of young people are joining our association. Meeting attendance [last Wednesday of the month] is up from last year," says Carol, who owns Small Frys on 24th Street.
She agrees with Tom from Upper Noe that "City Hall doesn't have good communication with the neighborhoods. Decisions are made [downtown] and then the public is notified later, with no discussion with neighborhood groups. We saw that happen with the handicapped ramps on Church Street, changing the name of Army Street, and when monster buildings were approved by our Planning Department. Every time, they put out the image that they are helping people in the neighborhood, when all they are doing is helping themselves."
But things may be opening up a bit. "Supervisor Bevan Dufty is now sending a representative to our meetings every month," says Carol, "and he seems to want to be more informed about and responsive to the neighborhood's issues and what our association is doing. Right now, the merchants are very interested specifically in what kind of development will be built across the street from Bell Market, and more generally interested in the San Francisco Planning Department's City Action Plan. The City Action Plan will encourage the reduction or removing of parking requirements for new housing projects on the so-called transit corridors, which includes Church Street and maybe 24th Street, and allow more building density for housing, especially corner lots."
There's a pretty big space on the corner of Church and Day that will soon be vacant.... Uh-oh, here we go again.
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OUR MAN IN SACRAMENTO, the 13th District representative in the State Assembly, Noe Valleon Mark Leno, has been quite busy taking neighborhood politics to our state legislature. He is sponsoring 12 separate pieces of legislation, including a bill to allow election officials to use alternate procedures when the electronic voting system fails or if they run out of precinct ballots (which is what happened in Diamond Heights in last year's runoff). He is also promoting a bill banning gender-based discrimination in housing and employment, and a piece of legislation that would make bike lanes easier to create by exempting them from the California Environmental Quality Act. Finally, he has drafted a medical marijuana resolution, signed by 50 state legislators, urging Congress to pass legislation turning the issue over to the states.
Mark says his biggest surprise since he shifted to the statehouse has been "how extremely partisan it is here, and how often the Bible is quoted on the Assembly floor, [which] makes it difficult sometimes to have an intelligent conversation."
So what's the main difference between the State Assembly and the S.F. Board of Supervisors? Says Mark, "Sixty-nine votes. There are 80 here, and 11 there."
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GOODBYE, GOODBYE: It was a surprise to shoppers early last month when one of everybody's favorite Bell Market checkers, Maudine Chappel, suddenly announced her retirement. Maudine, who had worked at the Downtown Noe Valley store for the past 21 years, told co-workers that she didn't want to announce it sooner because she didn't want all the emotion of long goodbyes.
"It was time to retire," says Maudine, now relaxing in her San Leandro home. "And this was my second career. Before coming to Bell, I spent nineteen-and-a-half years working at the Emporium, so now I want to stop and have some fun before it's too late."
According to Maudine, the commute to Noe Valley had became harder and harder, and "when I'd get there for my shift, I would have to circle the block to find a place to park, which was usually three or more blocks from the store, and then climb up the hills after a nine-hour shift. But I sure do miss all the beautiful people there--I really think they are the greatest people in the world. I have made some lasting friends among my co-workers, some of whom grew up in Noe Valley, as well as some of the customers in the neighborhood."
Also leaving Noe Valley soon is Joshua Chu, who raised his family in a flat on Church near 29th, above China Pepper, the restaurant he and his family have operated since 1983. "All of my kids have grown up and moved out, so now I will sell the building and close my business. It's time to move on."
While pointing at the other restaurants along outer Church Street, Joshua observed that there is "too much competition for me now, and I don't have my kids to help me anymore."
The For Sale signs should soon appear on the front of his freshly painted building. According to Joshua, the asking price for the property will be $900,000. He says he will be closing China Pepper when escrow closes on the sale of the building.
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FAME AND SHAME: The 2003 Best of San Francisco list in the S.F. Weekly cited only one Noe Valley "best." In the category of "Best Brunch Alternative to Chloe's," the winner was Fattoush Restaurant, on Church near Clipper. "On any given sunny weekend morning, the corner of Church and 26th streets is jammed with people waiting to get into Chloe's, a tiny Noe Valley brunch institution," the Weekly wrote. "But what those hungry-looking people don't know is that half a block away is a gem of a restaurant with a beautiful courtyard, outstanding breakfasts, and no line." Oops--another neighborhood secret is out of the bag.
And speaking of lists, word is out that San Francisco Beautiful, a sponsor of Proposition G, last March's anti-billboard initiative, is in the process of compiling a "Billboard Hall of Shame" for the City of San Francisco. A Noe Valley billboard has the dubious distinction of making that list: the one owned by Viacom on the corner of Church and Day above Hall Realty. Currently appearing on the board is a big shark promoting the new Disney-Pixar film Finding Nemo.
Says S.F. Beautiful director Dee Dee Workman, "This [Viacom billboard] sits right in the heart of a very quiet and low-key mixed-use commercial/residential neighborhood with beautiful old buildings and unique architecture, and creates a visual blight." Workman also noted that the mural which Mikeytom Market painted on its (now former) building at Day and Church, as a replacement for a billboard, had been a welcome relief to many.
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LOONEY TUNES: I'll leave you with a Harry Aleo-ism I saw in his front window at Twin Peaks Properties. Between the picture of Ronald Reagan and the "Goldwater for President" placard is a sign reading, "Notice to Looney Valley liberals: Latest poll shows 81 percent of the people support President Bush and our troops! Talk that over on your cell phones!"
As Harry must know, most of us Looney Valleons support our troops, but 81 percent of Noe Valley voted for Gore in the last election. And what's great about Noe Valley, Harry, is that all of us liberal looneys appreciate all you have contributed to the betterment of Downtown Noe Valley over the years, especially that public parking lot you helped us get back in the 1950s.
That's 30, folks. Ciao for now. h
Pigeons on Red Alert (photo)
Joe Cepeda, a butcher at Drewes Market, got up early one April morning to witness the activities of a red-tailed hawk near 30th and Church streets. In the close-up photo at left, the hawk holds a pigeon it has killed. Hawks and falcons dine regularly on pigeons, according to Carl Friedman of Animal Care and Control. "They only eat one a day," says Friedman, who also notes that Glen Canyon is a favorite hawk haunt and that it's not unusual to see them in Noe Valley. Photos by Joe Cepeda