Noe Valley Voice May 2003

Short Takes

By Laura McHale Holland

A Supremely Sociable Scene

It's time again to stroll down past Dolores Street to the Fair Oaks Neighbors Flea Market and Street Fair, set for Saturday, May 10. Now in its 28th year, the fair is a teeming garage sale--five blocks long--that donates a portion of its proceeds to Jamestown Community Center, an after-school and summer youth program.

"We all know our neighbors pretty well here, and Jamestown is kind of our pet charity," says Michael Plaut, an active member of Fair Oaks Neighbors. "Last year, they were able to take about 40 children to summer camp with the funds we generated."

More than 100 families are expected to put out wares, including clothing, books, toys, housewares, electronics, antiques, even computers. Residents will also be selling drinks and homemade food.

"You find amazing stuff here, good bargains--many in the $1 to $5 range. There are no professional sellers here. It's a very friendly, low-key, real old-fashioned community event," says Plaut.

Sidewalks on Fair Oaks Street between 21st and 26th streets will spring to life at 9 a.m. and close down at 4 p.m. If it rains, the event will be postponed until May 17. Plaut is the amicable neighbor to call if you have questions. His office number is 510-987-7700, ext. 110. In the evenings, call 415-401-0110.

It's Pedals to the Metal in May

Do you know the Noe Valley Wiggle? It might come in handy on this year's Bike to Work Day, Thursday, May 15.

"The Noe Valley Wiggle is a route from Valencia Street into Noe Valley," says Josh Hart, program director at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. "A lot of people assume that to bike into Noe Valley from the Mission you have to go straight up 22nd or 24th, but the best way is to go up 22nd to Chattanooga, turn left, and then make a right on Jersey. It's not very hilly at all."

The main goal of Bike to Work Day, founded in 1956 by the National League of American Bicyclists and sponsored locally by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, is to encourage people who drive to work to try riding a bicycle instead.

"We hear a lot from our members that the way they got started bicycle commuting was on Bike to Work Day. Bicycling is one of those things where you try it once and you can get hooked. It's really fun to do, and it just gets overlooked as a commuting option," Hart explains.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition estimates that 40,000 people biked to work during the event last year.

No signup, membership, or admission fees are required. Just put on a helmet and hop on a bike. For tips on safe urban cycling, visit Also, Hart will field questions at 432-2453, ext. 23.

Put on Your Walking Shoes

In a departure from recent practice, San Francisco City Guides is not offering a Noe Valley walk this May. However, two popular walks are being offered nearby, rain or shine: the Duboce Triangle Walk and the Excelsior Stroll. The Noe Valley Walk will be offered in October.

The Duboce Triangle expedition will be led by Noe Valley resident Sharon Moore on Saturday, May 17. It will begin at 10 a.m. in front of St. Francis Church, 152 Church Street between Market and Duboce. The walk is an architectural and history tour of the once bustling hub of the city's Scandinavian community.

The Excelsior Stroll will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 31, at the Excelsior Library, 4400 Mission Street at Cotter. This walk explores terrain that was once a Mexican land grant. Then came land speculators, followed by Ligurian and Tuscan truck farmers. Walkers will hear the history and more recent story of this urban village.

"I think the best way to get to know a city is on foot, and we have a city with such wonderfully rich and diverse neighborhoods. Taking a walking tour is the perfect way to get an insider's look at something just right around the corner," says Abby Daniels, program director for City Guides.

Now in its 25th year, San Francisco City Guides is a nonprofit project of the Tides Center and sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library. It has 200 trained volunteers conducting more than 40 different walking tours throughout the year. (Special neighborhood walks take place only in May and October.)

No reservations are required, and all walks are free--though donations are accepted. Walks last from an hour and a half to two hours. Bring an umbrella in case of rain. Your guide will be wearing an identification badge.

For further information about these and other walks, call City Guides at 557-4266, or visit

Fairmount's First 'FiestaVal'

Before this year, fundraising during Fairmount School's Cinco de Mayo celebration consisted of students selling their handmade piñatas to their parents. But now the elementary school has set its sights far higher by producing FiestaVal, scheduled for Saturday, May 17, from 1 to 4 p.m. Open to the public, this festival promises much more than colorful piñatas.

"We're doing things we've never done before," says PTA co-president Marcia Zorilla. "We'll be selling artwork done by children in each grade [kindergarten through fifth], plus we'll have a silent and a live auction, and a raffle. There'll be plenty of food and drink. And we're going to have about 10 booths. Each booth will have a particular art project for children to do right there. One will be especially for preschoolers. Several booths will focus on arts from Latin America. One is going to use all recycled products so people can see what beautiful art pieces can be created from recycled materials." Also planned is entertainment featuring the school choir, professional musicians, and performances of Ballet Folklorico.

Money raised at FiestaVal will go toward the school's enrichment programs. "Because of budget cuts, we're losing funding for our library, and our P.E. and arts consultants. Those are not incidental things. They're really needed for the health of children's minds and bodies," notes Zorilla.

Fairmount School is at 65 Chenery Street at Randall Street. Admission is free. For further details call 695-5669.

City College Expects Overflow

If you plan to brush up on your French or take an acting class at City College in Noe Valley this summer, you'd better register now. Due to state budget cuts, the Castro/Valencia Campus, located within James Lick Middle School at 1220 Noe Street, is offering only 15 summer classes, and they're filling up fast.

"It's unfortunate that the state budget is forcing us this summer to cut our classes. Overall, our credit courses were cut 50 percent, but when we looked at where high demand was, Castro/Valencia is the most popular credit program outside of the Ocean Avenue main campus, so our summer classes [at James Lick] were reduced by only 40 percent," says Bruce Smith, dean of the campus.

By slashing summer classes so drastically, the college hopes to have to cut only 4 percent of classes from the fall semester. Classes offered at James Lick this summer are Western Art History, Reading and Composition, Tai Chi, Jazz History, Photography for the Enthusiast, Fundamentals of Oral Communication, Beginning Acting, Women in Film, and various levels of French, German, Italian, and Spanish. All classes will be on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9:45 p.m.

Summer session runs from June 10 through July 24. You may register online at or by phone at 452-0600.

Book Club for Those Who Dare

Mystery enthusiasts can now stir the plot during the monthly gatherings of a new reading group at the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore. The next book fingered will be Cara Black's Murder in the Marais on Wednesday, May 21, at 7 p.m. (To get a glimpse of Black's most recent novel, see this month's Last Page.)

"We'll be having the reading group month in and month out, but you don't have to commit to all of the meetings. Just come when the book interests you," encourages Diane Kudisch, owner of the bookstore, located on 24th near Diamond. "May's meeting will be a lot of fun because Cara will be there, and she'll certainly be able to answer a lot of questions. She'll facilitate the discussion in many following months as well."

All meetings will take place on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. Kudisch has selected books through November that represent a wide range of styles. They are The Lost Coast by Roger Simon on June 25; Dead Midnight by Marcia Muller on July 23; Mayhem by J. Robert Janes on Aug. 27, In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming on Sept. 24; The Pizza House Crash by Denise Danks on Oct. 22; and A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss on Nov. 19.

Group members will receive a 20 percent discount on all books (by any author) that they purchase on meeting nights.

For further clues about the group, or for leads about book-signings and other events (including a mystery panel discussion coming up at our local library on May 28), call Kudisch at 282-7444 or visit

Some Excellent Music Students

The 13th annual "Pursuit of Excellence" concert is coming to the Noe Valley Ministry on Sunday, May 18, at 7 p.m. A joint venture of the San Francisco Community Music Center (SFCMC) and the Noe Valley Ministry's Chamber Music Series, this concert features students from Community Music Center, James Lick Middle School, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. "Top students will present a diversity of music--ensemble and solo--in classical, baroque, Latin, and jazz styles," says the event's founder and artistic director, Betty Anne Wong. "We especially want to give students who are graduating the opportunity to play in venues outside of school and to celebrate their many years of discipline."

The event also commemorates the 30th anniversary of Community Music Center's Chinese music program, founded by Wong and her sister Shirley. "We'll have students and their parents playing authentic Chinese instruments, including the guzheng, a 2,000-year-old lap zither," says Wong.

The James Lick Middle School students being showcased are in a jazz ensemble program taught by SFCMC faculty member Harvey Robb. Other faculty at the Music Center and at the Conservatory will also make guest appearances. A reception will follow the show.

The Noe Valley Ministry is at 1021 Sanchez Street near 23rd. For more information, contact Wong at 587-3956 or at