Noe Valley Voice October 2004

and now for the Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

SURVIVOR, HAWAII: After I wrote last month's Rumors column, my wife and I took the kids for our summer vacation to the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. We stayed on the south side at Poipu Beach. I won't bore you with the glorious details. Those of you who have been to Hawaii know what I mean: paradise. And an interesting one. (I always found it amazing, for instance, that the Hawaiian alphabet has only 12 letters. The state fish is the humuhumunukunukuapua'a.)

If you know Kauai, then you know you get to Poipu by going through the "Tunnel of Trees" into a beach area that is a veritable tunnel of fun.

After 10 delightful days and nights, we flew back from Lihue to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines and then boarded one of their 767s for the trip back out of the tunnel of fun and into the light of Noe Valley. Whoa, things really have been popping in the neighborhood.

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TO GET TO THE OTHER SIDE: At the top of my list is the Sept. 17, 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony for two new stop signs at the corner of Castro and 23rd streets. At long last, this corner will be a four-way stop, and it only took 40 years of requests from the neighbors. Thanks to them, all of us drivers and walkers who traverse 23rd Street no longer have to face the fear and trepidation of getting across Castro Street. What makes these stop signs so special is how involved the community became in getting the message to City Hall, and how City Hall came through.

The winning push was initiated by 23rd Street resident Jane Garrison, who wrote a letter to the Department of Parking and Traffic complaining that the intersection was unsafe. She had heard a loud crash one afternoon, and her son, Chase Kauf, and neighbor friend Henry Waverka summoned her to come out and inspect the wreckage. They told her that this fender-bender was the fifth accident they had seen in about as many weeks.

Garrison got nowhere with DPT. Then she started to talk to her neighbors, including Friends of Noe Valley president Debra Niemann. The FNV took up the cause, and at Mayor Newsom's Feb. 28 town hall meeting, Niemann stood up and told Gavin about the neighborhood's need for the four-way.

Friends and neighbors followed up with pleas to Supervisor Bevan Dufty and the director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services, Joe Caruso. Bond Yee, deputy director of DPT, wrote to various City Hallers that "based on our investigation, we do not recommend installing the two stop signs at that corner," because "Castro Street carries the predominant flow of traffic, and that intersection has a good safety record over the past five years." He also cited "degraded service" for Muni.

Notwithstanding the DPT recommendations, Dufty got the mayor's support and introduced a resolution to the Board of Supervisors. It went to the Transportation Committee of the Board (Peskin, McGoldrick, Maxwell), and a hearing was held. Support then came from a multitude of neighbors and groups, and from Newsom via Caruso. The resolution passed and went on to the full board, where it proved victorious--hence the ribbon-cutting.

Before the supes' hearing, Garrison had asked Waverka's mom, Addie Lanier, if she could attend. Lanier regrettably had to decline, but asked Garrison and Niemann to convey a message to the supervisors. Lanier was sorting through the personal papers of her mother, Ruth Asawa, a couple years ago, and came upon a copy of a letter to the city written in 1964 by Asawa's 23rd Street neighbor, Sally Woodbridge, demanding a four-way stop at Castro and 23rd because of the dangers to autos and pedestrians.

Lanier recalls: "My mother trained all of us when were little kids, always to cross Castro in the uphill crosswalk, so cars would see us as they sped up the hill." The supervisors obviously agreed that after 40 years it was time to stop the demolition derby.

According to Dufty, who attended the ceremony along with about 30 celebrants, "It was amazing--a swat team from the city came, and within 30 minutes the signs were up. It was like the beauty parlor scene in The Wizard of Oz!"

By the way, Woodbridge has long since moved to Berkeley and become a world-class architectural historian. Asawa, a world-class artist who founded the world-class Alvarado Arts Program in 1968, hasn't moved from Noe Valley and is preparing for a show of her sculpture next year at the de Young Museum. Any of you chickens who want to cross the road can now feel a lot safer.

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LETTUCE BE ACTIVISTS: On Saturday, Sept. 4, more than 100 concerned neighbors marched up 24th Street to protest the ongoing vacancy, with no sign of remodeling, at the Real Food Company. The background: The owners of the building, Jane and Kimball Allen, founded the Real Food Company more than 30 years ago, and they sold the business to Fresh Organics, Inc., a subsidiary of Nutraceutical Corporation, about three years ago. Last year, Nutraceutical shut down the store a couple of days before Labor Day with no notice to employees. Later, there was a dispute about who was going to pay to remodel the store. Since then, Utah-based Nutraceutical has let the storefront remain shuttered. After Real Food closed, an ad hoc group of Noe Valleons formed and was instrumental in setting up the Saturday Noe Valley Farmers' Market.

The Sept. 4 protest rally, which first assembled at the Farmers' Market, was well thought out. Volunteers--dressed as a banana, a carrot, a tomato, and a peapod--greeted the folks attending. After a number of speeches, the group marched up 24th Street to the front of the very empty Real Food store, where they set up tables with "boycott pledges" for people to sign.

According to co-organizer Peter Gabel, "We marched to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Real Food closure and to express how upset we all are that this out-of-state corporation has created an economic and spiritual hole in our neighborhood. We want the space to be taken over by a locally-owned organic food retailer, who has locally-grown organic foods, and who will care what happens in the neighborhood," Gabel says.

Activist Leslie Crawford notes that the protesters also wanted to celebrate the history of Labor Day and give support to the former workers at the store, whose case is currently before the National Labor Relations Board. "While we have been told that the parties came to an agreement on the 'remodel' of the store, absolutely nothing is going on in the store. We have checked to see if any permits have been applied for at that location, and we have found nothing."

Gabel says the group is eagerly awaiting the determination of the NLRB on the complaint of the terminated workers, which should be out soon. "We're also planning a community meeting on Oct. 21 at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez, between 6 and 8 p.m., to discuss the issues. Everyone is invited to attend."

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THIS JUST IN from Supe Dufty, who had tried to mediate between the parties last year and then withdrew in frustration.

Dufty says he recently called Nutraceutical again (September) and talked to a higher-up who was "very conciliatory." He told Dufty that Nutraceutical and the Allens "had agreed in principal," but hadn't been able to work out the specifics of the remodeling, in the past two months.

Dufty has again offered to try to mediate between the corporation and the building's owners to get the issues resolved, so construction can finally start. Dufty says he's hopeful, since Nutraceutical seems receptive. Good luck, Bevan. Let's hope for peas in the Valley.

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SWELLS: The annual Labor Day bash thrown by world-class advertising man Robert Pritikin at his rather palatial premises located on Chenery near 30th in Upper Noe Valley/Lower Fairmount caused quite a splash in the local press.

Pritikin confirms that he announced at that party his plan to bequeath his estate to the City and County of San Francisco, to use as the mayoral mansion or as a cultural center. He is trying to work out the details with the city now. "This property has one of the largest privately owned areas in the city," explains Pritikin. "It stretches across an entire city block, from Chenery to Dolores. I'm told it currently has a value of--and I know it sounds crazy--somewhere around $40 million."

Pritikin's mansion was built 20 years ago and is one monster home that no one really objected to when it was built, maybe because it's in the center of the block, semi-hidden by smaller dwellings. It has expansive grounds, and the parties have drawn an interesting mix of people to the neighborhood. This year, among the 700 partygoers were Carol Channing and Supervisor Matt Gonzalez.

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BLOCK THAT MONSTER: A group of neighbors has successfully blocked the granting of a demolition permit to a developer at 1644 Diamond, at 28th Street. The resistance was led by Michael Rudman, who lives next door. He managed to rally his neighbors and the Upper Noe Neighbors group to stop the planned demolition of a 900-square-foot house in order to replace it with something in the 4,000-square-foot range.

"The hearing was on September 9 at the Planning Commission, and they agreed with us that the proposed project was too tall and bulky," says a very relieved Rudman. "I went to some community meetings and people were very supportive and gave me a lot of insight on what to do and how to do it--and I've learned that winning on these issues is not easy, but it is possible. The commission does look at who's supporting you," says Rudman.

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HAY-YA: The horse-drawn hayride will clip-clop down 24th Street on Saturday, Oct. 16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The annual event is free and sponsored by the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association. Hop on the hayride wagon at the entrance to the Walgreen's parking lot on Castro, and ride down to Sanchez Street and back.

This year, according to Merchants president Carol Yenne, the SFFD will bring some firetrucks to 24th Street for the kids to climb on, and the Farmers' Market plans to have activities for the children and live music. Many merchants along the street will be participating in a sidewalk sale, so look for bargains from aboard the hayride.

Yenne wants to inform everyone that because Halloween, Oct. 31, falls on a Sunday this year, the merchants will prepare for the local school parades on Friday, Oct. 29. The hordes of non-affiliated trick-or-treaters are expected to swoop down on Sunday, although Yenne notes, "We think it will be quieter this year."

Mark Saturday, Nov. 6, when the S.F. Mystery Bookstore, on 24th near Diamond, will have a 30-year anniversary party and open house from noon till closing with refreshments and local mystery writers there to mingle and sign books. According to owner Diane Kudisch, they're expecting appearances by the very popular mystery writers Cara Black, Martha Conway, and Michael Castleman.

The Sept. 11 concert and celebration in Douglass Park, sponsored by the Friends of Noe Valley revitalization group and the Neighborhood Parks Trust, was a stark-raving success. Crowds were estimated at 250 to 300, the weather was beautiful, and everyone enjoyed the barbecue, the wine and beverage stand, and the fabulous rhythm and blues emanating from Edna Love and her band.

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DEMOCRATS KERRY NOE VALLEY: Election Day will be here very soon. Every man, woman, and child in Noe Valley should phone at least five registered voters in some other state and tell them to vote. If only seven out of 10 registered voters actually gets off the sofa and votes, the nation will go the way Noe Valley goes for president.

On Thursday, Sept. 23, KNBC News 11 did a feature on the political issues in San Francisco, and they filmed all of their live shots for the 5 and 6 o'clock news from the corner of Vicksburg and 24th, in front of Joe's 24th Street Café.

They also shot a segment on the political sentiments in our neighborhood, and included Harry Aleo's famous display window at his Twin Peaks Properties office. Currently, as you might well imagine, the space is filled with "Bush for President" slogans, as well as signs welcoming passersby to "Looney Valley."

When KNBC asked Aleo to talk about it on television, he respectfully declined. So they photographed the window and eventually found a substitute, Bill Yenne, and asked what it was like to be a Republican in this neighborhood. In a word, it's "lonely."

For the record, in the March primary election, out of 15,000 registered voters in Noe Valley, 1,250 registered as Republican, and not all of them voted for Bush, so there is little doubt about Kerry being the neighborhood's choice.

Well, stick a fork in me, I'm done. And remember, vote Nov. 2!