Noe Valley Voice September 2003

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

OUR DEAR NOE VALLEY was at the top of the list of "Best of the Bay Neighborhoods" in the July 30 issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The Guardian's staff writer Joyce Staton writes, "Judging from neighborhood write-ups in San Francisco travel guides, it must be required by law to mention Noe Valley's abundance of stroller-pushing families..., but there's a lot more to recommend this upscale area located smack-dab between the Castro and Mission Districts."

According to Staton, we are the neighborhood with the best concentration of Victorian houses built after the Castro Street cable car line was completed in 1887 (the cable car barn was located where Walgreen's is now). That's when Noe Valley first became "a hot ticket, given its nice weather, reliable transportation, and cheap houses quickly constructed by contractors who catered to the flood of newcomers."

Back then, our small cottages were snapped up by Irish, Italian, Russian, and German families for $800 to $2,500, Staton points out. She suggests we take walks along Jersey, Diamond, Sanchez, Vicksburg, and Church streets for the best views of Victoriana. Some specific examples of splendor: 4279 to 4293 23rd Street, 1007 Diamond, 514 Jersey, 1051 Noe, and 1610 to 1618 Castro.

Other attractions that evidence the quirks of our neighborhood, according to the Guardian, are Lehr's German Specialties shop at Church and 27th, for the "best headcheese in a can"; Launderland (Church and 24th) for its parking lot; Fattoush (Church and Clipper) for "the best brunch with no waiting list"; Nifty Vintique (Church and 30th) for its vintage kitchen wares; and the Real Food Company on 24th for its 99-cent bags of "slightly imperfect" fruits and vegetables. Yep, those are a juicy deal.

The other "Best of the Bay" neighborhoods, by the way, were West Portal, the Waterfront, Potrero Hill, and Polk Gulch, in San Francisco, and the entire city of Albany (next to Berkeley) in the East Bay.

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SLIP SLIDING AWAY: Local activists sponsored a party on Saturday, July 19, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Seward Street Slide, a pet project of the Eureka Valley Promotion Association, founded in 1881. (See "Slide Park Turns 30" in the July/August Voice.)

One of the party's organizers, Richard McRee, was very happy that "over 100 people jammed into the park, ate hot dogs, and had slide races." He applauded the help he had in organizing the affair from B. Shimon-Schwarzschild and Effie Kuriloff, who both attended the opening of the park 30 years ago. The event turned into a big reunion for many past and present residents, some of whom made the trip from out of state. The San Francisco Independent was on hand to take photos, although the paper erroneously described the park as being in Noe Valley, feeding a major gripe of many Eureka Valleyites, who feel their Eureka Valley identity has been swallowed up by "The Castro."

The so-called "mini-park" is built on a steep hill and features an exciting two-barreled, 65-foot concrete slide which curves dramatically down the side of the hill. Thrill-seekers and their kids can find it about 30 yards down one-lane, one-way Seward Street, which is off Douglass near 20th Street, just below the Douglass Street Steps.

As neighborhood old-timers know, the EVPA's efforts to create the park were joined by many Noe Valleons, including well-known artist and sculptor Ruth Asawa. At the party, Supervisor Bevan Dufty presented three mayoral proclamations to honor the individuals who had made the park possible: neighborhood activist Effie Kuriloff; B. Shimon-Schwarzschild, who was president of the EVPA in 1973; and Ruth Asawa. Asawa was unable to attend but sent her son Paul Lanier.

The party-goers also made small sculptures out of play dough that will be cast into large concrete tiles. These will be used to complete a 30-foot series of panels of bas relief sculptures, which were installed at the entrance to the park a year after it opened. According to McRee, the tiles should be installed in a few months, along with a bronze memorial plaque.

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BUILD ME UP, BUTTERCUP: You saw history if you were looking into the empty and gutted Star Bakery at Church and 29th streets last month while workers were making final repairs, putting in new walls, and finishing the flooring.

According to contractors Sam and John Cutrufelli, the old walls revealed the original building materials used in 1888, when Star Bakery first opened in the neighborhood that was then called St. Paul's Parish. With the walls exposed, you could see the lath and bulging plaster (which was threaded with deer hair), two floors (one hardwood) with wire mesh in between them (probably to keep rats out of the bakery), the gas pipes used for the lighting, and a set of stairs held together by wood wedges instead of nails.

The Cutrufelli brothers say they are pretty much finished with their work. However, they don't know when the building will be occupied. According to property manager Richard Beale, a lease has yet to be finalized, but "we are about 90 percent sure that the new tenant will be a fitness studio."

Beale refused to comment further, so only time will tell if we have gone from cinnamon buns to buns of steel.

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TRADING SPACES: The 2,400-square-foot former Mikeytom Market on Church and Day Street can be yours for $6,200 a month, says Steven Brown of Better Property Management. There's been a lot of interest, but nobody has signed on the dotted line. "We've had inquiries from a health food store," Brown says, "and a lot of restaurants--French, Italian, Mexican, Vietnamese, and Chinese."

Word is out that the China Pepper restaurant on Church near 29th has closed forever. It had been operated by Joshua Chu and his family since 1983. The building and business went on the market for $900,000, and just sold for a rumored $800K.

In the musical stores department, everyone knows by now that Cover to Cover Books has moved into the storefront on Castro near 24th Street formerly occupied by Natural Resources parenting center. The former Cover to Cover space on 24th near Church is for lease, and I haven't heard a peep about what that spot might become.

Natural Resources is moving its headquarters up to Diamond just off 24th Street, into the spot vacated by Edward Jones Investments. Edward Jones, in turn, has remodeled and moved into the storefront on 24th Street just below Diamond that was abandoned earlier this year by the Tropical Island aquatic pet store. Tropical Island now sleeps with the fishes, I guess.

Meanwhile, Workwear clothing store on 24th near Starbucks has started sharing its space with another retailer, Red Dot Outlet, which operates its main store on Fourth Street in the SOMA area. The Red Dot Annex moved into Workwear in June and offers women's designer clothes and casual sportswear--names like Puma, Pearl Izumi, and Adidas--at outlet (hopefully discounted) prices. Red Dot occupies the left side of the shop (and left display window), and has a big red dot on all its labels.

Now, everybody stay put.

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MARKET QUOTES: A rash of complaints at Bell Market--about the grocery chain's delays in restocking customer favorites and the ubiquity of the "Ralph's" house brand--has prompted bigwigs to visit the local store. And according to Ralph/Cala/Bell spokesperson Terry O'Neil, the store has been "reevaluating the merchandising in all 20 San Francisco stores, and the 24th Street store in particular, to better provide those items requested by the residents of that particular neighborhood."

O'Neil adds that our little Bell Market is "one of the most successful stores we operate in Northern California, and based on square footage, the most successful store in the chain of about 350 stores we have in the state of California."

Local store manager Enrico Fornesi, who was born and raised in Noe Valley, says he'd been taking note of our special requests and altered buying habits, and sending them up the chain of command. With luck, this should translate into the gradual revamping of product choices on Bell's shelves.

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SHORT SHRIFTS: Glenn "Gator" Thompson, head chef and creator of Downtown Noe Valley's "California Creole" restaurant Alcatraces, says he and the Food Network (Channel 35) are talking about doing a cooking show.

Le Zinc bistro, on 24th across the street from Alcatraces, now invites dog owners to bring their pooches with them to the back patio for their bon repast and bone repast during the long dog days of Indian summer. Says co-owner Diana Barand, "You can bring your dog through the parking lot next door and come into the patio via the back entrance of the restaurant." Dogs in cafés--that's so French.

Congrats to Incanto, the Italian eatery at Church and Duncan, for getting rave reviews in the Chronicle in July.

Yes, that probably was former (1958) San Francisco Giants star first baseman Orlando Cepeda you saw eating in Joe's 24th Street Café (at Vicksburg) in early August. "The Baby Bull," as he was known back then, lists Joe's as his favorite restaurant in San Francisco, in a booklet called Giants Appetizers, a collection of recipes culled from players, coaches, and Giants alums. Cepeda also includes the recipe for his favorite dish, Spicy Pollo y Papas Rellenos.

Speaking of history, East & West of Castro Club president Paul Kantus has decreed that the annual Noe Valley History Day will be Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Noe Valley-Sally Brunn Library, 451 Jersey Street. (Last year the event was in September.) Kantus invites those who have any kind of Noe Valley memorabilia--photos, newspapers, postcards, or local artifacts--to give him a call at 647-3753.

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PARK IT: Downtown Noe Valley merchants were quite happy when the Department of Parking and Traffic finally installed nine new parking meters on 24th Street above Castro in early August.

Carol Yenne, current president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, is proud that "after a three-year battle over parking, and all the hard work, especially that of [former association president] Bob Roddick, finally we have more parking for our customers. What really gets me is that two of the residents who were the most vocal and unyielding throughout the process have long since moved out of the neighborhood."

Yenne also wants to announce that the Merchants' annual hayride is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 18. The horse-drawn wagon will once again clip-clop down 24th Street, to the delight of riders of all ages. However, no baby strollers will be permitted on the hayride. I presume stroller valet parking will be available.

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HATS OFF to Pali Boucher, who is the founder and head pilot of Rocket Dog Rescue. She travels to animal shelters all over Northern California, picking up canines about to be euthanized. With the help of 20 to 60 volunteers, Boucher gives about 180 dogs a year a new leash on life.

On the first Sunday of every month, she brings a bunch of these rescued dogs to 24th Street and sets up adoption central in front of Zephyr Realty. Boucher says that Zephyr has been very supportive of her efforts, even though the crowds get so big they sometimes block the entrance of the real estate emporium.

"Noe Valley is one of our most successful locations," says Boucher, "where a lot of dogs are adopted by the neighbors and we have a lot of people, especially kids, who come out and just hang out with the dogs giving them love and affection."

Boucher says that she often gets calls from animal shelters on the day the dirty deed is scheduled, and has to race to the shelter to rescue a particular dog. "We also take disabled dogs (three-legged, one-eyed, etc.) and try to find them a home."

If you miss her on the first Sunday, you can go over the hill to Eureka Valley on the third Sunday of the month, where Rocket Dog sets up its doggy adoption center on the corner of 18th and Castro.

That's all, you all. h