Noe Valley Voice December-January 2004

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

HARI-KERRY: Noe voters came out in record numbers Nov. 2, according to tabulations released by the S.F. Department of Elections. Of 16,768 registered Noe Valleons, 13,399 cast ballots. That's a 83.5 percent turnout. Wow! Congratulations to all of you for setting a record in the blue state of Noe Valley.

The only guys who beat us were our neighbors to the north, the feisty Eureka Valley/Upper Market crowd, who scored a turnout of 84 percent. FYI, the Department of Elections identifies Noe Valley as being south of 21st Street and north of 30th Street, and as far east as Dolores and west as Grand View.

Just as we suspected, in San Francisco (where the overall turnout was 73 percent), Demo John Kerry got 83 percent of the vote. Bush weighed in with a paltry 15 percent. Our Noe Valleon in the State Assembly, Mark Leno, garnered 82 percent of the vote for reelection against his Republican opponent Gail E. Neira, who got 13 percent. Boxer won by the same margin in the U.S. Senate race, as did Pelosi to retain her title in the House of Representatives.

Of course, the massive local Kerry vote had no impact on the national presidential race. And Harry Aleo, Noe Valley's Republican standard bearer, was not above gloating about it.

He posted a message for all us poor liberals, in the window of Twin Peaks Properties on 24th Street:

Hey, Loonies,

Now that Bush has won far and wide,

Don't be upset. Look at the bright side.

Tho' Bush and Cheney will fulfill your fears,

You only have to wait four more years.

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NUTRA-DISPUTABLE: Back in D.C., our woman in Congress, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, has been working with our District 8 representative, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, to resolve the Real Food nightmare that has blighted Downtown Noe Valley for far too long.

As we're sure you recall, Real Food's Utah-based parent corporation, Nutraceutical International, has been enmeshed in two disputes, one with its 24th Street landlords, Jane and Kimball Allen, and another with 29 former employees, who were summarily dismissed when Real Food closed last year (ironically on Labor Day weekend, 2003). The ex-employees filed an immediate complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

Last month, Jane Allen told us that she saw "light at the end of the tunnel" for Real Food's eventual return to her building on 24th Street. But in the labor dispute, it looks like the light has been blocked by a barreling freight train.

Back in May, Pelosi took an interest in the labor issue and wrote a letter to the NLRB's general counsel in Washington inquiring as to the status of the ex-employees' complaint. The NLRB replied in June that it was still investigating.

With a nudge from Dufty, Pelosi then sent a second letter on Oct. 13, asking about "the continued delays in the rendering of a decision on this case." She wrote, "The affected workers and neighborhood residents face continued hardship and deserve a prompt decision from the NLRB without further delay."

The NLRB finally responded to Pelosi on Oct. 28 with an assurance that decisions would be made "within a matter of a few weeks."

After news of the letter got out, rumors ran rampant in Noe Valley about either a settlement or the anticipated filing of an NLRB complaint. Then, in his column in the Nov. 24 Chronicle, David Lazarus reported that pending a last-minute settlement, a complaint would be filed against Nutraceutical. Lazarus quoted NLRB attorney Olivia Garcia as saying, "We found that there is sufficient evidence that the National Labor Relations Act was violated."

Since we were way past deadline (and pasting up our front page), the Voice had to scramble to get a copy of the complaint, but thanks to a last-minute fax from Pelosi, we now can confirm that the NLRB signed a complaint against Nutraceutical on Nov. 26 alleging these violations: 1) Unlawful closure of the store because of union activities; 2) Unlawful discharge of the employees because of union activity; 3) Refusal to hire one individual because of union activities; and 4) Threats that employees would lose their jobs if they brought in a union. The complaint also alleges that Nutraceutical gave employees incentives not to join the union, and told employees (after the store closed) that it would rather close its doors than have a union at the store.

Don't jump to conclusions--the mess is not over. It's just starting, and will be duly processed. The allegations in the complaint are expected to be denied by Nutraceutical, which has until Dec. 10 to formally respond to the complaint.

That means there will be a trial, where the NLRB must prove its allegations. That trial, before an administrative law judge, is scheduled to begin on Jan. 24, 2005, in San Francisco. Don't be surprised if the trial date is postponed, and postponed. Meanwhile, a big empty store sits in the middle of 24th Street.

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THE LIFE OF REILLY'S: Developer Joseph Cassidy's four-story housing complex on the corner of Dolores and 29th Street is the focus of another dispute, one that was to be played out at a hearing before the San Francisco Planning Commission on Nov. 29.

The hearing stemmed from Cassidy's recent request that he pay an "in-lieu affordable housing fee" instead of providing a below-market-rate unit in the two-building complex, as he had previously promised.

The project started a couple of years ago with the demolition of Reilly's Mortuary and a mortuary school that once stood on the site. Building plans were hotly contested at hearings before the Board of Supes, with Mark Leno and the Upper Noe Neighbors objecting to the proposed size and height (too big, too tall).

Originally, the builder won city approval by offering to include two affordable housing units out of a total of 14 townhomes/condos. Then this got reduced to one affordable unit, out of 13. The plans were approved by the swing "aye" vote of Chris Daly, who made a big deal about the affordable unit.

Needless to say, Leno is upset, and so are the Neighbors, with the developer's attempt to renege on his agreement. Says UNN president Vicki Rosen, "This is absolutely outrageous, especially since [the lower-cost unit] was Cassidy's big selling point to the Board of Supervisors when he got his permit."

In a letter to the Planning Commission, Rosen wrote: "The developer got his buildings, the neighborhood got ignored, and now the developer wants to eliminate one of the few good things about the project--a unit that would be affordable to someone who is not rich."

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MORE SHOPPING BAGS TO TOTE: In happier news, the 24th Street boutique called Yoya, which used to be Getups and before that Star Magic (for 20 cosmic years), has been taken over by a new owner, Richmond District resident May Wichinrojjarun.

Wichinrojjarun has changed the store's name to Simply Chic and is expanding the clothing lines to make the shop more "fun and flirty. I'll have more dresses and tops, by names like Laundry, Hype, Mica, and Alexia Admor. But I'm adding some very feminine cardigans, earrings by designers like Lange Pepper, and everyday handbags by Carla Mancini. I'm also going to carry a new line of jeans."

She says she is excited about her new venture, "because I love Noe Valley. I used to live in England, and this neighborhood has more of a European feel. My store is inspired by a cool boutique in England." You can check it out on 24th between Castro and Noe.

Meanwhile, A Girl and Her Dog, the sleek shop on 24th Street near Sanchez, has started carrying men's clothing as well as women's. (No, the name of the store is not going to be changed--A Girl and Her Dog and A Boy and His Cat?)

"Many of my customers' boyfriends, husbands, or whatever were saying, 'Don't you have something for us?'" explains owner Annette Hickey. "And I realized that there weren't too many places for them to shop on the street."

Hickey now has several lines of shirts, pants, and sweaters, including those made by Ben Sherman, phb, and "some original art shirts from Colombia by Skaen. I am finding men who want a type of style that is not on the GAP or Old Navy level. They're looking for something more."

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GOODBYE, BIG FELLOW: Sorry to confirm that Barry McKinney, one of Downtown Noe Valley's more visible panhandlers, has died. For close to 20 years, he claimed a sunny spot on the south side of 24th Street, often singing blues and soul for our quarters. He was a large man who had problems with his feet, which were usually wrapped in bandages.

The news is sketchy, but from what we can determine, McKinney died of a heart attack on July 10 at his residence on 12th Street in Oakland. He was transported to Highland Hospital but couldn't be revived.

The Voice was unable to locate any family members. But we talked to at least one local resident who spoke to McKinney often and had some kind words: "Barry came to Noe Valley most days because he felt like the community was nicer than other spots around the city, and he liked the peaches at Real Food, the burgers at Savor, and the fried chicken at Bell. He panhandled because he couldn't figure out any other way to live, and, he once told me, he was really bad at managing daily life. He told me he once played trombone and was a big fan of jazz trombonist J.J. Johnson. He had a great voice.

"He complained a lot about 'love trouble,' but I never asked for details. He always had a good word for my son, and gave him pennies from his collection cup."

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LIGHTS, CAMERA, NOE: The world will have another opportunity to see Noe Valley in the movies next fall when If Only It Were True will be released. Directed by Mark Waters (Freaky Friday and Mean Girls), and starring Mark Ruffalo (Collateral) and Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde), the movie is a romantic comedy about a lonely architect living in San Francisco who falls in love with a ghost he encounters in his home.

If Only It Were True film crews were shooting in and around the neighborhood in mid-November. They set up on 21st Street between Noe and Castro, then moved down to 20th Street between Church and Dolores, where the cameras got that dramatic panorama of Dolores Park and the city skyline beyond.

Deborah Simmrin, publicist for the movie's producer, Dreamworks, says the movie has been shooting exterior shots all over San Francisco this past month. They'll go back to their L.A. studios to finish filming the interior shots. Simmrin wouldn't say how Noe Valley fit into the plot, but she kept referring glowingly to "Liberty Heights." That must mean there is a happy ending.

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HAPPY BEGINNINGS to all of you for 2005. See you all at the fifth annual Chabad of Noe Valley Fifth Day of Chanukah celebration on Dec. 12, on the corner of 24th and Noe. This year, things will start about 3 o'clock when people will begin building a 10-foot menorah out of Legos. At 5 p.m. sharp, according to Rabbi Gedalia Potash, the candle-lighting will commence. Pray for peas and pass the mashed potatoes. Ciao for now.