Noe Valley Voice March 2003

and now for the Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

REILLY RESURRECTION: The dust has settled at the corner of Dolores and 29th streets, after the Reilly Co. mortuary building, circa 1925, fell to the wrecking ball in early February. The local monument, which also housed a funeral school, will be replaced by a condominium complex built by developer Joe Cassidy (see Voice June 2002 issue).

But the mortuary lives on. For the past six years, Reilly Co. has been operated by the Duggan­Welch family, which has owned and operated mortuaries in San Francisco for more than 120 years. Reilly Co. is not closed, as was implied here last month, but has relocated to 3434 17th Street, where it now shares space with Duggan Welch Funeral Services.

Steve Welch and his father, William "Bill" Welch, are currently operating Reilly and Duggan, respectively. "Steve is the fifth generation in our family business," says Bill Welch. "It was started by my great-grandfather James Hagan in 1883, down on Valencia Street at Duboce, which used to be called 13th Street."

In 1916, Hagan's daughter married William Duggan, Bill's grandfather, who was a founder of Duggan & O'Reilly at 1230 Valencia, and then moved it to its current 17th Street location in 1929.

Steve Welch says Reilly Co. was able to maintain the 29th and Dolores location as long as the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science occupied the second floor (located there since 1995), but when the school moved to American River College in Folsom, Calif., the loss of rental revenue "made the numbers challenging," and at that point, the family decided to consolidate the two locations.

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PUSHING THE BUILDING ENVELOPE: It appears that Mel Murphy, the developer-owner who has proposed a residential project at 949 Sanchez, has met with the neighbors and agreed to scale back his plans. He says he will preserve the existing 900-square-foot 1905 house at the back of the property.

The initial plans called for demolishing the house and building a three-story, two-unit building at the front of the lot, plus a two-story building for garage and studio/storage area at the back of the lot. A few months ago, the neighbors formed a committee with the name "Save Sanchez Street," to deal with the 5,350-square-foot project.

At the end of January, the neighbors and the owner's architect, Drake Gardener, along with lawyer Alice Suet Yee Barkley, met to discuss the issues dividing the two sides. According to Save Sanchez Street spokesperson Dick Juhl, to the surprise of most assembled, "the developer was willing to change his plans and significantly reduce the project."

According to lawyer Barkley, "The new proposal would construct a new two-story single-family home at the front, and renovate the existing building in the rear of the lot to a single-family home, without any changes to the existing building envelope [height, depth, and width]." Architect Gardener says the total project has been trimmed to 3,600 square feet, and "has met the concerns of the neighbors."

The developer will submit his revised plans to City Planning in the near future, he says. In the meantime, the neighbors say they will withdraw their original requests for a discretionary review. It all seems so simple. We'll have to see.

An interesting footnote: The architect, Drake Gardener, who has his offices in Novato, will soon make another appearance on the local scene. He is designing the new residential/commercial development at the boarded-up house on 24th Street, across from Bell Market.

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THAT'S AMORE: The Jan. 31 closing of Noi's restaurant--on 24th Street just above Castro, where Little Italy reigned for so many years--took everyone by surprise and created a mild panic among fans of this classy Italian bistro. Things got even more interesting when the place went through a seven-day remodel and reopened with a new fireplace, slightly different ambience, new menu, and an easier-to-pronounce name, Lupa ("LOO-pah").

If you recall, Noi's was opened about two years ago by chef Stefano Coppola and Diego Ragazzo, who acted as the maître d'. Turns out that Coppola and Ragazzo have now dissolved their partnership, and Coppola has taken over the eatery, bringing in a whole new crew.

"It was an amicable breakup," says Coppola. "We just each wanted to go in different directions, especially with the menu. I wanted to serve a more traditional Italian fare: more pastas and homemade breads, and maintain reasonable prices for our customers."

The new staff came over from Luna Rossa, Coppola's other restaurant on Russian Hill, which he just sold. "I am really happy now that I can make the decisions on my own, and can devote my [undivided] time and energy to this restaurant."

Over at the very popular Eric's Chinese restaurant at Church and 27th streets, owner Tony Sung wants to thank the neighborhood for putting up with the two huge trash bins that have been parked on 27th Street outside his building for the better part of a year, thereby depriving us of two valuable parking spaces. Sung also apologizes for the inconvenience caused by his construction project, and explains that he has been doing a seismic upgrade of Eric's c.1890 building.

And he adds, the bins should be removed by the time you read this (end of February). The upgrading work should be finished soon, too.

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DEPT. OF STOP AND GO: On Feb. 4, the Board of Supervisors passed several resolutions about parking zones in our neighborhood. Probably the most significant was the one that extended parking meters up 24th Street from Castro toward Diamond. The new meters will run about 100 feet up on the north side, and almost 150 feet up on the south side of the street.

Hopefully, this will satisfy those merchants and residents who have been at odds over the number of meters to be installed. Now all we need is enforcement of the one-hour parking limit, so 24th Street shopkeepers and their employees won't park their cars all day and run out and feed the meters--a common complaint in Downtown Noe Valley.

Also, several more blocks have joined Areas S and Z--the residential permit parking zones slowly creeping into Noe Valley. The new blocks include both sides of 25th Street between Dolores and Church, Fair Oaks between 21st and 22nd streets, the east side of Valencia between 22nd and 23rd, and both sides of 23rd Street between Noe and Castro streets. Without a permit sticker on your car in these zones, you will be limited to two-hour parking between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Curiously, everything but parking was on the minds of the 60 or so souls who showed up for the Friends of Noe Valley meeting on Feb. 13, which featured our new District 8 supervisor, Bevan Dufty.

The big-time issues in our little province were the need for more stop signs and for limits on the spread of monster homes in our neighborhood. Friends also wanted to know what Dufty was going to do to improve our schools. The last issue was dessert, and people really enjoyed the baked goods donated by the Noe Valley Bakery.

The general public is invited to the next Friends meeting on Thursday, April 10, to discuss the fate of our local parks, following expected budget cuts at Rec and Park. Bring your thoughts to the Noe Valley­Sally Brunn Library at 7 p.m.

Maybe we could establish a citizens brigade of volunteers who would go lock and unlock the restroom facilities at our neighborhood parks each day. We need them open from sunup to sundown, especially in the spring and summer. I betcha the gardeners would really, really appreciate that, if you catch my drift.

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MOVIN' ON UP: True to its name, Nomad Rugs has relocated from its smallish store on Church Street into much larger quarters on 24th Street, in the long-vacant spot next to Echo Furniture (near Chattanooga). Nomad owner Chris Wahlgren says he has gone from 700 square feet to 2,500, and almost doubled his inventory of fine Oriental rugs. "I have also imported some tribal furniture from Pakistan and West Africa," says Wahlgren.

Cover to Cover has gotten some fresh energy from its new partners Paula and John Foley, who join Tracy Wynne and Mark Ezarik in operating the very popular 24th Street bookstore. The Foleys are longtime Noe Valleyans who recently moved to Cole Valley. Ironically, Paula, who has become involved in the day-to-day operations of the store, now has to commute to work.

The upcoming major event at Cover to Cover is the Saturday, June 21, 12:01 a.m. release of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. A pajama party is planned, and the bookstore will donate 10 percent of its Potter profits to the school of your choice. Back in 2000, hordes of people in their jammies camped in and around Cover to Cover, awaiting the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

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BATTER UP THAT PRAWN: Former S.F. Giants baseball manager Dusty Baker was spotted on 24th Street last month, enjoying the local nightlife. Speaking from his spring training camp in Mesa, Ariz., Baker confirmed to the Voice that he had indeed made a trip to Downtown N.V., to go out to dinner at Alcatraces restaurant, on 24th near Castro. Baker said he may be from Sacramento, but he loves that Cajun cuisine.

"It was one of the places I wanted to go before leaving the Bay Area for Arizona," said Baker, who now manages the Chicago Cubs. "I also want to thank all the regulars at the Peaks [bar], for inviting me in for a drink before dinner."

Baker explained that before hitting Alcatraces, he had parked his car on Castro in front of the Peaks tavern. "They brought me in for a goodbye toast and wanted us all to do 'shooters,' but I settled for just one shot of Scotch," he said. When everybody told him how sorry they were to see him leave the Giants, he clarified that it wasn't exactly that he wanted to leave, but rather that he was "told to go."

His interview with the Voice ended when somebody in the background yelled, "Hey, Dusty, we gotta go," which was to play a game against the Giants in the opening series of the Cactus League.

Baker wished everyone in Noe Valley good cheer and said he hoped to stop by again soon, when he's back in town. Did he think his Cubbies would face the Giants in the next National League Championship Series? Baker: "Nothing would make me happier than to bring a winner to Chicago."

The last time the Cubs won the National League pennant was in 1945, and their last World Series win was in 1908. Makes you wanta say: Go, Cubs!

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JUNGLE WEBBING: A Noe Valleon named Karen Gray is working on a unique project centered in the tiny village of Phon Kham, located in Laos, some 7,500 miles away. She's the volunteer project manager for the first Laotian outpost of the World Wide Web. This venture is sponsored by the Jhai Foundation, a non-profit organization, and led by Silicon Valley legend Lee Felsenstein, who invented the portable computer, and Lee Thorn, who funded the project.

Writer Kevin Fagan described the project in the Jan. 17 issue of the Chronicle: "Early next month, a villager in the mountainous jungles of northern Laos will climb onto a stationary bicycle hooked to a handmade, wireless computer and pedal his people into the digital age. It will be the first time a human-powered computer has ever linked a Third World village to the Internet by wireless remote."

Tech TV came out to cover the project and took footage of the computers being put together in the basement garage of Gray's Sanchez Street home.

Gray has just returned from those "mountainous jungles" and reports that although the trip did not produce all the desired results, it was invaluable in nearing the goal. The plan is to get this new computer, which they call Jhai, Laotian for "hearts and minds working together," to run on Linux software. When it's working, it will not only send e-mail in the Lao language (a project in itself), but also allow two-way telephone service over the Internet.

"The village has neither electricity nor telephone communications," explains Gray. "We had to set up a wireless network that connects the village to a nearby town, which has electricity and phone service. The computer is set up in the village school, with the 12 watts of electricity (we normally require 90 watts) coming from a pedal-pushed generator." The generator sends the digital data to a relay station, "which is an antenna mounted on a teak tree that's also fitted with solar panels for power." The teak tree relays the info to the town and on to the phone lines.

Gray says the problems are "technical. We just have to build a stronger computer that has no moving parts and can be sealed off from this very difficult environment, which is hot, humid, dusty, and very wet in the monsoon seasons." She says the group is going to rebuild the computer and go back to Laos "before the rainy season starts in May."

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THERE'S NOE BUSINESS like show business, and Noe Valley comic actor extraordinaire Geoff Hoyle has successfully staged his newest act. His Feast of Fools has had an extended run at the Marines Memorial Theater, but hurry and go, because it's closing Sunday, March 2, after the matinee performance.

According to the theater's managing director, Joe Mack, "We had great numbers during this run, and [Hoyle] has quite a group of followers. He is a crowd pleaser, and the critics like him, too." The only reason Feast has to close, he said, is to make way for a previously scheduled show (Hollywood film couple Joe Bologna and Renee Taylor are performing their comedy If You Ever Leave Me I'm Going with You).

Regular Rumors readers might know that Hoyle arrived here from England via Paris in 1973, and started the street theater group called the New Depression Follies. Then he became a part of the Pickle Family Circus, performed with Cirque du Soleil, and appeared with Robin Williams in the movie version of Popeye, as well as in the original Broadway production of The Lion King.

He says he is excited about Feast, which he created with composer and musician Brit Gina Leishman and longtime friend and director Richard Seyd. "We plan to take it to the Edinburgh International Festival this summer and probably go from there to open it in a London theater by fall. Then we hope to take it on a worldwide tour," says Hoyle.

He could even take it to the jungles of Laos, since the production has no words. Hoyle does it all in mime, to the accompaniment of Leishman's music. "All three of us are Brits, and now we're returning and could become the next British invasion," he laughs.

Well, good luck, Geoff, Karen, Dusty, and all the rest of you out there in Noe land. Ciao for now. h