Noe Valley Voice April 2004

...and now for the Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

THE TOWN HALL MEETING in Noe Valley on Saturday, Feb. 28, hosted by Mayor Gavin Newsom, was a political love fest not seen since the days of Harvey Milk. Newsom's fans, young and old, packed the James Lick School auditorium, which was brightly illuminated to accommodate all the local and national TV cameras (yes, 60 Minutes was there, too).

"We had 567 people in the auditorium," says Joe Caruso, director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services. "Unfortunately, we had to turn away over 500 more." Nobody was going to allow people to block the exits, with the fire chief and chief of police sitting right up front.

The 11 a.m. meeting started after a 10-minute delay, because that's how long it took the crowd to end the standing ovation for the mayor. Once everyone had stowed their "Thank you, Gavin" signs, Newsom humbly expressed gratitude for San Francisco's support for his decision to sanction same-sex marriages. "What an incredible city [this is].... No city in the world can compete with the people in this city. I'm so proud of you."

The rest of the meeting covered the typical Town Hall issues: crime, parking, traffic, housing, and store reshuffling (including the Real Food fiasco). On the traffic issue, many people requested a four-way stop at the corner of Castro and 23rd, to remedy the enormous challenge of crossing Castro--by foot or by car.

By the time the meeting was over at a quarter past one, everyone seemed to share a sense that the Newsom administration was going to get things done.

"It was the most amazing community meeting I've ever been to," says District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who moderated the meeting.

Afterwards, the mayor, Dufty, and their entourage walked from James Lick to Joe's 24th Street Café for lunch. They were joined by a few local guests, including bicycle beat cop Lorraine Lombardo and Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association prez Carol Yenne.

Yenne says they talked about the parks in Noe Valley being in disrepair (Noe Courts and Douglass), the rise in burglaries in Noe Valley, and the diagonal parking plan for Castro Street from 24th to Clipper, which has been stalled by Muni since 2001.

Yenne fired off a memo to Muni's Maggie Lynch the Monday after the town hall, saying she hoped the angled parking plan would get back on track. The city derailed the plan more than three years ago, after Muni determined that it would have to move its trolley wires.

"The city just dropped the ball after all the hard work we [the NVMPA] had done to get those 11 new parking spaces," Yenne says. "This became the subject of a civil grand jury report in August 2001, which recommended completion of the project in sixty days."

On the crime detail, she says everybody has been concerned about the recent rash of store and home break-ins in the neighborhood (see this and next month's Police Beat). Things are so bad that Officer Lombardo had her police bike stolen on 24th Street. "I parked my bike at the door of a local merchant and went inside for no more than 30 seconds. When I turned around to exit the store, somebody had ridden off with my bicycle," Lombardo said.

As for the four-way stop at Castro and 23rd, Dufty said in mid-March that the request had been referred to S.F.'s chief traffic engineer. Our supe is optimistic that the stop signs will be forthcoming.

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GLEN PARKERS, DRIVERS, AND WALKERS: Shortly after the town hall, Supervisor Dufty went to Washington, D.C., to make sure that $3.3 million of the $275 billion Federal Surface Transportation Act now moving through Congress goes to fund the Glen Park Community Plan. Approved by the San Francisco Planning Department last year, it's a plan for improving traffic flow, pedestrian access, and parking in and around the Glen Park BART Station and downtown Glen Park.

Dufty says he wished there were a billion-dollar Federal Park Service Act that would fund improvements to Glen Canyon Park's fabulous fields and beautiful wood-paneled gym. They sure don't build 'em like that anymore.

While we're dreaming, just one more plea to our mayor: Can you get Rec and Park to send out a crew to rid Glen Canyon and Douglass Park of those wretched potholes? They terrorize the ankles of the youngsters and us oldsters trying to play ball on the baseball diamonds.

And it would mean a lot if you could stop Rec and Park's new revenue scheme of charging the baseball and soccer kids a "use fee" for playing in our parks. Taxing kids to make up fiscal deficits is outrageous.

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THE REALITY OF REAL FOOD'S vacant storefront on 24th Street is that it will reopen "sometime during this summer," says Sergio Diaz, spokesperson for Real Food's real owner, Nutraceutical Corporation, which does business as Fresh Organics.

You will recall that in the last couple of months, Diaz has been negotiating with Kimball and Jane Allen, the Real Food building owners, about fixing the "substantial structural problems [that] were discovered" when the store tore out the old fixtures in preparation for remodeling.

Well, according to Diaz, Nutraceutical and the landlord have now reached an agreement to remedy the building's structural and sanitary problems. "So now we can build out a more user-friendly store. We'll make the produce department easier to navigate, add an organic fish and meat department, widen the aisles to accommodate handicapped people and parents with strollers, install better lighting, and upgrade the bulk department," Diaz says. "We want to warm up the store."

Diaz says he has no comment on the labor issues raised by the store's abrupt closing last fall, which resulted in complaints to the National Labor Relations Board. Those issues should be addressed by Nutraceutical's lawyers, Diaz says.

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THE METER'S RUNNING: Final touches are being made to an agreement reached between American Parking Management and the Noe Valley Ministry group, which should result in the long-awaited opening of the Ministry's 31-stall parking lot on 24th Street where Dan's Gas and Diesel once stood.

American Parking is owned by Scott Becker and Luke Aguilera, and headquartered in North Beach. The two met 20-something years ago, when they were both working for Flying Dutchman, and they've been providing valet parking and managing parking lots ever since.

Aguilera says he used to live in Noe Valley. Becker's local connection is his wife Kris Redmond, who works at Value Vacation on the corner of 23rd and Sanchez.

Says Aguilera: "We are anxious to open the lot, which for the most part will be self-service. At the end of the month [March], we plan on attending the Merchants Association meeting to get suggestions and discuss business validations and our rates. We're currently knocking around numbers to determine the parking rates we will have to charge--most probably flat rates during the day and hourly rates during peak times. And we'll take into consideration the needs of the church, the farmers' market on Saturday mornings, and church services on Sunday," adds Aguilera. "During peak times, and special events, we can also bring in attendants to valet-park the cars, thereby increasing the lot's capacity. I can hardly wait to start my workday in Noe Valley," he says. We can't either.

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS for Saturday, May 1. That's when Noe Valley Pet Company on Church Street will hold its five-year anniversary celebration, "so we can give a big thanks to the community for supporting our store," says co-owner Paula Harris. "There will be liver, turkey, and beef treats for the dogs, champagne for the adults, and juices for the kids," Harris says, "and we're also going to give away prizes." According to Harris, the most popular items in the store are the cozy dog beds and the huge selection of dog collars. The party is from noon to 6 p.m. Now don't eat too many treats.

See Jane Run Sports on 24th Street will also throw an anniversary party (its fourth), this one on April 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. Owner Lori Shannon says there will be "big prizes, a podiatrist with massage table, the regular Sunday morning 5K fun run, and a bake sale." Proceeds from the bake sale will go to benefit the Bay Area Girls Center, which helps underprivileged girls.

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SOMETHING TO ES-CROW ABOUT: Nowadays, "Upper Noe Valley" seems to describe house prices rather than just geographic location. A four-bedroom, four-level house located in a cul-de-sac at 575 Valley Street near Diamond recently went on the market for a hefty $2.8 million (actually $2,775,000). According to the listing agent, Shamrock Realty, this "stunning, brand-new view home" boasts a three-car garage, fiber optic and CAT5 wiring, a solarium, and elevator service to all four floors.

This is the first time in about three years we've seen home prices back at this ozone level. The last $3 million house offered for sale was an "old" one on 22nd Street below Dolores, in what real estate agents described as "Liberty Heights."

Another Noe Valley property that is likely to go on the market before the end of the year is Bethany Methodist Church, located on the corner of Sanchez and Clipper. According to Pastor Karen Oliveto, the church will be moving to a temporary location by end of '04, while its new church is being built on the long-vacant corner of Noe and Market streets over in Eureka Valley.

While there may not be a big market for a new church in Noe Valley, the 7,500-square-foot lot certainly might be attractive for developers to create more condos. Or how about a movie theater?

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Y NOT BETHANY? The Noe Valley Task Force, created by the YMCA and headed by Friends of Noe Valley President Marybeth Wallace, met last month to discuss efforts to find space for building a YMCA facility in the neighborhood.

"The problem," Wallace says, "is that while the Y would like to build a big, fabulous facility here in Noe Valley, the land space is just not available. The closest thing in our neighborhood that would work for the Y would be James Lick School or in one of our parks, like the Noe Valley Recreation Center, or even to create some programs at the 30th Street Senior Center."

Wallace says the YMCA is looking for any opportunity to provide more services to the neighborhood, such as the successful day camps held at the Noe Valley Ministry last summer. She thinks, however, that finding a more spacious location will be a long arduous process.

Still, the task force will take a hard look at the Bethany site, given its anticipated availability next year.

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TO THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE: Alvarado Elementary School Principal and Noe Valley resident David Weiner will soon publicly announce his candidacy for a seat on the board of the San Francisco Unified School District. The election is the first Tuesday in November.

In the two years since he's been principal at Alvarado, Weiner has turned the kids' test scores upside down, or should I say right-side up? The students are rapidly climbing toward the top of the state's test performance list. ("Next year!" says Weiner.) Alvarado is also very much in demand by parents and kids in the school district's annual placement lottery.

So why the move? "I have decided to run for a seat on the school board because I think it is critical that we have at least one member who actually has experience both in running a school and working in the classroom of a school," Weiner says. "Nobody with those qualifications currently serves on our school board or as far as I know, is running for the school board in November."

Before he came to Alvarado, Weiner got his master's degree in Urban School Leadership from Harvard. Previously, he was a K-3 teacher at de Avila Elementary School over on Haight and Masonic.

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WHAT WE WANT BESIDES PEACE: The Friends of Noe Valley has distributed a survey to its members and around the neighborhood, and the results will be revealed at the group's April 1 meeting at the Noe Valley Library, 7:30 p.m. Friends planning chair Debra Niemann gave the Voice a hint of some of the businesses neighbors said they would like to see on 24th Street. The top three suggestions so far: a better grocery store, a good sports and athletic equipment store, and--you guessed it--a movie theater.

Anyone who wants to weigh in on the survey should go to for the questionnaire. No, it's not too late.

That's 30, folks. Ciao for now. m