Noe Valley Voice July-August 2004

Rumors Behind the News
The Women Are Strong, the Men Are Good-Looking, and the Pizza Has Parking

By Mazook

FOUR SCORE people showed up for the joint Friends of Noe Valley/Noe Valley Merchants Association meeting on June 9 at the Noe Valley Library. It was standing-room-only in the community room; listening-room-only in the hallway.

Since Voice reporter Liz Highleyman attended, I got to go as a "concerned neighbor," which I surely am. It was great to see Planning chief Larry Badiner, District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and Joe Caruso, director of Mayor Newsom's Office of Neighborhood Services.

Badiner explained our Downtown Noe Valley zoning restrictions, which let loose a flood of questions from the audience. After that, everyone was given two to three minutes to speak his mind. I was impressed by how many merchants and neighbors spoke up. Many expressed fears over the potential loss of vitality on our commercial strip. Some said maybe we need to tweak the zoning restrictions and allow more restaurants. Others warned that we shouldn't tinker with the zoning formula that has served our quaint little urban village for the past 20 years. I used up my three minutes early on in the proceedings and stole an additional 90 seconds near the end. People were talking up such a storm, they had to send someone to the store for "more water."

It was fun, informative, and thought-provoking. It was live theater, far better than anything on TV or for rent at the video store. Let's do it again.

(News Flash! Friends President Debra Niemann reports that 15 Noe Valley residents who attended the meeting have volunteered for a new 24th Street Revitalization Committee. The group met to map out goals on June 16 and scheduled a follow-up meeting for Aug. 16, 7 p.m. If you'd like to get involved, contact Niemann at or 282-9918.)

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TA-DA! The chains finally fell from the entrance to our brand-new $4 million parking lot on 24th Street. By the third week of June, the kiosk had a live person in it and drivers were paying money to park their vehicles. Wow!

"We just started putting attendants on duty on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons and evenings, so we can get an idea of what the usage will be," says Luke Aguilera of American Parking Management, the North Beach­based business hired by the Noe Valley Ministry and its anonymous benefactors, who bought the property around three years ago. "We are officially starting on July 1."

Aguilera says the lot will charge a flat rate of $5 for all day or all evening, with evening rates on weekends going up to $7. However, Aguilera adds, "during the day, we are allowing parking for the first 15 minutes for 50 cents. After that, it will jump to the flat $5 rate." This is to accommodate the mobile java junkies who might want to zip into Martha's across the street. You can purchase your tickets at the automated system outside the kiosk.

Aguilera stresses that these rates are just "introductory," until they figure out what the demand will be. Noe Valley Ministry parishioners can park free on Sundays, and the now organically growing Noe Valley Farmers' Market will be parked in the lot every Saturday morning on a permanent basis.

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THE WELLS FARGO STAGECOACH will be dropping off a teller and two bank officers at the 24th Street mini-branch at the end of July, according to bank manager Bruce Belknap.

"We will be offering full-service banking to the neighborhood so that people can come in and open new accounts, make deposits, cash checks, make credit card payments, and conduct other business with the bank," Belknap says.

As all you Wells bankers know, our Downtown Noe Valley branch has been an ATM-only stop since it opened about 10 years ago. Belknap, who has managed the branch for the last year, says he's very happy that it's going full-service. "People have been asking for teller service, and this makes it much more convenient for all of our customers. It will really enhance the level of our banking services."

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THERE'S NO BIZ LIKE SHOE BIZ, which has opened up its sixth San Francisco store right here in Noe Valley. Shoe Biz has four stores on Haight Street and a fifth store on Valencia near 19th. June 19 was the grand opening of the 24th Street store, in the former location of Cover to Cover, near Church Street.

"It has been truly amazing," says Shoe Biz general manager Julie Hardt. "From the time we opened the doors, people have been coming in and telling us, 'We are so glad you are here!' And I can tell you, we are so glad to be here--this is a great neighborhood!"

Shoe Biz is stocking the store with more than 30 brands of women's, men's, and children's shoes, from $9 Chinese slippers to $500 dress boots. "People are telling us that they are so happy to have a wide selection to choose from. Our sneaker section has been very popular," says Hardt. "The people we have working in the store also seem to be quite happy, because they're residents of the neighborhood who all get to walk to work, which is real nice."

Owners Mehran and Nooshin Esmaili started the Biz 25 years ago in the Haight, but they have expanded rapidly in the past two years. They bought their space and have totally remodeled the interior of the store, so they promise to keep Noe Valley well shod for a long time.

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ALMOST READY TO WEAR: Another walk-to-worker will be Noe Valleon Teresa Gay, who is throwing the grand opening party for her new women's clothing store, La Coterie Style Studio, on July 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. The boutique is located at the former site of Lit'l Lizards, right across from Bell Market.

Gay says she has been in preparation for this day for over a year now. She decided to leave the corporate world behind--she was a marketing consultant for name-brand apparel manufacturers--and open a store "selling great women's clothes in my own neighborhood, which I love, and I get to walk to work."

Gay has lived on 26th Street for the past six years and can trot to the store in about five minutes. "I've been looking for the right store in Noe Valley since January and was quite lucky to get this space," she beams. Gay has staffed her boutique with neighborhood people, so they too can walk to work.

The clothes, she says, will be from the best designers Milan, Paris, New York, and San Francisco have to offer, such as Paola Frani, Chaiken, Tocca, James Jeans, Vince, and Twelfth Street.

"We are planning to have trunk shows, where a designer will bring everything into the store that they've created for a season. We'll have fun shopping nights where we stay open until 10 p.m. with refreshments for our customers. We'll also be offering personal shopping services, style assessments, sizes from 0 to 12, and most important, alterations." You can reach Gay by telephone at STYLE-911.

Church Street residents Abraham Amireh and Ruth Niehues will also walk to work when Amireh opens his new coffeehouse on the corner of Dolores and 26th streets. That spot has been a tax preparer's office for at least 20 years.

"The owner of the building has been very supportive, and we feel good being in such a comfortable neighborhood," says Niehues, who will manage the coffee shop. "We'll be serving coffee and pastries and have local artists' works shown on the walls, and we will be Internet-friendly," she adds.

The couple say they will unveil the coffeehouse the third week in July. "Let the name be a surprise," says Amireh.

But both are brimming over about the new venture. Says Niehues. "We'll serve the best coffee in the Bay Area, by a local roaster. And we'll be giving lots of free coffee to the neighborhood when we open."

Not only do we have another clothing boutique and another coffeehouse, but to round out the Noe Valley supply-and-demand scenario, we'll soon have another nail salon, Noe Valley Nails, on the corner of 27th and Church. It's owned by Kenny and Helen La, of Angel's Nails fame. (See Letters to the Editor, this month.)

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SHORT SHRIFTS: The "For Lease" sign should be up again on the vacant Mikeytom storefront at the corner of Church and Day, thereby ending speculation that a bakery is ready to sign a lease. Alas, the deal fell through.

Dominic Maionchi, the owner of Launderland on the corner of 24th and Church, says he hasn't had any viable offers to lease the whole laundromat, so he'll proceed with plans to divide the space in two and extend the back, reducing parking from 11 stalls to five.

Pizza lovers, please note that Cybelle's, on 24th at Church, has changed ownership recently. Also note that Haystack and Noe Valley Pizza will now have a huge parking lot nearby. I wonder if the three have plans to validate parking.

Sushi fans will relish a new restaurant at 3299 Mission, by 29th Street, called Stray Fish. It had a grand opening June 14.

Local realtor Sue Bowie has started a web site,, which has a good list of local restaurants with photos, for hungry Valleons who want to plan their dinners ahead of time (or pay vicarious visits while they sup on a bowl of cereal).

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REAL FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The likelihood of Fresh Organics reopening Real Food anytime soon seems remote. The store has been closed, ironically enough, since last Labor Day. There seems to be no progress between landlord and tenant in the dispute over who's going to pay for certain renovations. Or at least neither side will admit progress.

However, there is some interesting news emanating from Washington, D.C. When the store closed abruptly in '03, the 29 Real Food employees were trying to unionize the shop. Since then, they've filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, making allegations that the closure was related to their attempts to unionize. Fresh Organics denies this.

As those of you who attended the Friends/Merchants meeting last month heard Bevan Dufty report, our member of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has now become involved in the dispute and wrote a letter to the NLRB in early May.

Pelosi received a reply on Flag Day, June 14, from NLRB Assistant General Counsel Nelson Levin. Levin wrote, "The alleged unlawful closure of the [24th Street] store and the mass layoffs were the focus of an intensive investigative effort by our San Francisco Regional Office. The Region has not made findings in the matter nor issued a complaint, pending review of the evidence and decision by our Division of Advice at Headquarters in Washington, D.C."

Levin further stated, "The employer [Fresh Organics] has provided evidence in response to the charge that presents a defense of business necessity, specifically, that the store was closed in order to allow a total remodel of the premises in furtherance of a new store concept."

That's not news, but Levin noted something else. "In addition, the Region has requested a supplemental position statement from the employer, in response to information we received that the anticipated remodel that was the basis for the closure may be abandoned."

It certainly does look abandoned from here.

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OUR ARMS PROBABLY HURT from patting ourselves on the back. The readers of San Francisco magazine have voted Noe Valley the "Best Neighborhood" in the Bay Area. (See the results of the magazine's "Best of the Bay Area" poll in the July 2004 issue.)

The magazine's editors wrote: "Apparently Noe Valley is the urban, Left Coast version of Lake Wobegon, where women are strong, men are good-looking, and children are above average. The weather and the general disposition seem sunny for most of the year, and eternal brunching and bookshop-browsing look like your idea of paradise."

In the same issue, local culinary star Firefly was honored as the "Best Neighborhood Restaurant Deal" in the Bay Area. "Noe Valley's Firefly, just up the hill from the busy stretch of 24th Street, offers scandalously reasonable prix fixe menus Sunday through Thursday. At $29 for three courses, diners can have their pick of the entire new American menu."

On Sunday, June 13, the Chronicle Magazine's "Facetime," by Sam Whiting, featured the smiling faces of Josh Epple and his brother Isaac, dubbed the "Butcher Brothers." We know them better as the Drewes Brothers, who are maintaining the tradition of Drewes Meats. On Church Street near 29th since 1889, the market still has a barn out back that's been there since 1849.

Wrote Whiting, "What's unusual is that Josh is 32, and with shaved head, ear and chin piercings, and a telephone headset, looks more like a nightclub doorman. Isaac, 29, could clean up to be a reality TV star." In the article, Josh explained that he had lived around the corner and found his way to Drewes as a place to get a sandwich. He and Isaac both started working there when they were 16.

In response to the question: "How did you come to be owners of this piece of history?" Josh said, "The owner used to say, 'This place will be yours someday.' I'd say, 'Yeah, right. I wouldn't want this place even if it fell into my hands.' And sure enough, it fell into my hands!"

Isaac got off the best line of the Q & A. In response to the question "What makes a good butcher?", he said, "Ten fingers."

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THAT'S THIRTY for this month, dear neighbors. Have a sane and safe summer, and we'll see you back here in September. I can't resist one tip: Your summer reading list should include Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies. But my editor recommends Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett. Well, read both.