Noe Valley Voice February 2005

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

THE NVBI (Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation) has just released its annual economic forecast, and the agency's big prediction is that Downtown Noe Valley, our commercial corridor along 24th Street, will see a major facelift in 2005. This will attract many more local residents, shoppers from outside the neighborhood, and tourists who want to visit our quaint little village, set geographically right in the middle of the city.

In short, the report says, 2005 should be a good year for Noe Valley business, after a glum '03 and '04.

The NVBI predicts that the number one "glummer," the empty Real Food space, will reopen for business by fall. The building's owners pulled the permits and started repairing the interior last month (see front page, this issue). For this reason, the NVBI believes Nutraceutical will have its trial on the union-busting complaint, the ex-employees' claims will be resolved, the store will be remodeled, and customers will come trickling back. The pull of the heirloom tomato is too strong.

NVBI analysts also point to these positive indicators:

* The organic food selection at Bell Market has vastly improved since Real Food closed in August 2003, and Bell will be launching its own extensive store makeover as early as 2006.

* Over the past year, Noe Valley residents in search of more product variety have contacted Bell's parent, Kroger-Ralphs, and been pleasantly surprised by the reaction of senior management. "They've been super-responsive to our wants and needs," said one local foodie quoted in the NVBI report. (The organics of Bell will again be up for discussion at the Friends of Noe Valley meeting at the Noe Valley Library on Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m.)

* Across the street from Bell, Peruvian restaurant Fresca will soon have its grand opening in Tien Fu's old spot, and introduce what sounds like a very tasty menu. (The NVBI has reserved a permanent seat at the ceviche bar.)

* Nearby, Noe Knit should soon be casting off the white paper on Colorcrane's old windows and bringing wool gathering to 24th Street.

* Next door to the knitters, a four-story residential/commercial development has been erected in place of the Lunny House, and by summer we should have at least two new stores on the ground floor.

* And the excitement doesn't stop there--two more new storefronts should appear by summer at the former Launderland on the corner of 24th and Church.

The NVBI also sees a new generation of activist/merchants populating our main street. There's a group organizing regular steamcleaning of the sidewalks (contact Lori Koon at Isa's Salon, 641-8948), and another group reviving the ghost of street fairs past. A planning meeting for a proposed Noe Valley Harvest Festival this fall will be held Feb. 23, 7 p.m., at the library, 451 Jersey Street.

The Bureau concludes its very optimistic forecast by noting the vast increase in public parking that arrived a year and a half ago with the opening of the Noe Valley Ministry lot on 24th near Sanchez. The NVBI reports that a few more parking spaces may become available in Noe Valley this year. Where? Sorry, the NVBI's lips are sealed for now.

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UNSEALED LIPS: One business that's already part of our new economic vitality is Lite for Life, which sits on the corner of Sanchez and 26th streets. Lite offers nutritional counseling and organic foodstuffs to about 150 people a day.

"Our business has increased more than 20 percent in the last year," says Lite for Life owner Kathy Henderson. "It's probably because of the media hammering about the horribles of being overweight, plus people's own desire to eat healthy."

Henderson also saw a big jump in business after Real Food's shutdown, "because we carry many of the same products you would have found there."

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BYE, BYE, BLACKBIRD: There was one empty store on 24th Street last month, and that was Blackbird Arts, near Castro Street. According to Rick Stone, one of Blackbird's co-owners, the shop closed in mid-January "because our 10-year lease ran out, and the operating costs made our retail framing shop barely profitable.... And the rent was going up."

The Blackbird owners currently operate Matthew's, a large wholesale framing plant on Connecticut near Cesar Chavez. They service more than 50 galleries in the area, says Stone.

Blackbird Arts won't remain empty for long. According to rumors on our Main Drag, the storefront will be remodeled and reopened by spring, as a gift shop to rival 24th Street's other gift shops Panetti's and Ladybug Ladybug.

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NOE VALLEY, THE BOOK, has become the neighborhood's best seller since its release in November. Local author Bill Yenne's 128-page historical guide, published by Arcadia, is called San Francisco's Noe Valley. (The Voice featured Yenne and the book in our December 2004 issue.)

According to Laura Moore, who spoke on behalf of the publisher from Mt. Pleasant, S.C., "We've been surprised at the large response we've had to this book, and it's now in its third printing."

Most of the 300 or so people who came to the Noe Valley Library for Yenne's book-signing party on Nov. 19 were happy to meet the author but sad that the book was sold out in the first 45 minutes.

"Even Harry Aleo showed up around 7 p.m. to pick up an autographed copy, and became a wee bit upset when he learned they were gone," Yenne laughs.

Those of you who were hoping to buy the book as a Christmas stocking stuffer also had trouble, since Cover to Cover sold out. Panetti's sold out. Phoenix Books sold out. Just for Fun had a book-signing with Yenne on Dec. 11, and soon after, it too sold out. Even Yenne's wife Carol ran out of copies at Small Frys. "We sold our last one on Christmas Eve," she said.

Yenne is excited about the neighborhood's response. He says he has been hearing from a lot of former Noe Valley residents, who appreciate reading about and seeing the photos of their old neighborhood. Yenne attributes the big demand "to people who live here, or who have lived here in the past, really wanting and having an intense desire for local history. Quite frankly, it is exciting to have a publisher who will cater to people's craving for their local history."

Arcadia has published books about 2,000 neighborhoods in the U.S. And there are five books about other San Francisco neighborhoods: the Castro, Excelsior, Marina, Sunset, and Ocean Beach. Potrero Hill and Fisherman's Wharf books are in the works.

Yenne appeared on Jan. 31 at A Different Light Bookstore, and will appear at B.J. Droubi's March 16 fundraiser at her realty office for the Noe Valley Library. He has an April date, to be determined, in collaboration with Strange de Jim (author of The Castro), at Book Bay Main, in the Downtown Library on Larkin Street.

In case you've still got a stocking to stuff, San Francisco's Noe Valley is back in stock at neighborhood bookstores.

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WE'RE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Last November, certain blocks in Noe Valley were the subject of a study conducted by U.C. Berkeley's Department of City and Regional Planning and Department of Landscape Architecture. Why? The answers will be used, the study said, "to help us better understand the urban design characteristics of your street and neighborhood."

The Hillside Neighborhood Survey asked many Sanchez Hill residents to name three things they liked about their street and three things they disliked. The study also asked: Do you walk to your shopping area? Do you feel safe? Do you know your neighbors?

Then it inquired about the kinds of views residents had of the valley, the hillsides, back yards, front yards, skyline, shops, etc., around their homes. The survey included a map of the street and a picture of each house that was included in the survey.

According to Adam Weinstein, one of the graduate students who directed the survey, the departments chose Noe Valley because it's "a popular place to study the classic model of a good urban place, having a mixed-use commercial district, with a varied housing mixture of single and multiple dwellings, well served by public transit, with a high density of people although it doesn't seem that way. In urban planning circles, Noe Valley is an eminently livable place and makes for an interesting laboratory study."

The conclusions? We like our views and we take them very seriously. We like our wide streets, but we are very unhappy about the overhead power lines. Noe residents are happy they live here, and they form strong social ties with their neighbors. Yes, we knew that.

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DOGGED DETERMINATION: The Commission of Animal Control and Welfare and Supervisor Bevan Dufty's measure to create protections for our dog population caused quite a yip in Noe Valley. Animal Care and Control director and Noe Valley resident Carl Friedman points out, "There are probably more dogs in Noe Valley than there are children."

Passed by the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 11, the new ordinance (which has yet to be signed into law by the mayor) sets out minimum requirements for food, water, and shelter for our canine companions. Doghouses in back yards must have five sides and raised floors. Food must be wholesome and in a clean container, and fresh water must be provided in a non-tippable bowl.

"We welcome this legislation," says Friedman, who was pleased with the elevated public awareness caused by the measure. "It will help us complete our mandate to prevent our animals from being mistreated."

Local pet store people agree that the new law is a great idea for the dogs but think it will have little impact on our neighborhood. Animal Company manager Liz Dimas says, "We have heard very few negative comments about [the new law]. Most of our customers keep their dogs in the house, not out in their back yards, so they aren't affected by the doghouse requirements, and the food, water, and bowls don't seem to be a problem."

Over at the Noe Valley Pet Company, owner Celia Sack, who thinks the new law is a good idea, says she has heard "a lot of talk about the law. Some customers worry about Big Brother issues. We haven't had any orders for new compliant doghouses, because very few, if any, of the dogs around here sleep in the back yard. We carry non-tippable bowls for around $10, which are a good safeguard for the dog at home alone."

Like Friedman, Dufty is pleased that the issue has raised awareness through the media. Of course, the national press was barking that this was an "only in San Francisco" kind of law, and pet patrols would bust dog owners for non-compliance. But Bevan charmed the Fogheads on KFOG radio in January, and he'll be at it again as a guest speaker at the Friends of Noe Valley meeting on Feb. 10.

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DIFFERENT STORES FOR DIFFERENT CHORES: You might be interested to know that the Diamond Heights Shopping Center is undergoing some big changes. Last year, Creighton's Bakery took over the former java joint, and it has attracted many new customers. Then, at the end of December, Burger King surprised everyone by vacating its corner slot. The burgers will soon be replaced by a taqueria. This March, Rite Aid will be closing its store there, to be replaced by another drugstore. Would it, could it be Walgreen's? That's the rumor.

Down in Upper Noe Valley there are some Church Street blues. It looks like Trends hair salon, on Church at Clipper, has closed for good after about 20 years on that corner. Danu women's boutique is moving over to Castro Street, leaving its Church and 27th space up for grabs.

Rumors that the former Mikeytom store at Church and Day has been rented are unfounded. There was a flurry of speculation when the "For Rent" sign came down, but alas, the owner of the building only took the sign down while he was on vacation.

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KIND OF BLUE: Now at last I can give you the San Francisco Department of Elections' official results of the Nov. 2, 2004, presidential election--for Noe Valley, that is. It appears that Noe Valley is one of the bluest neighborhoods in the bluest city in our blue state.

Of the 16,760 of us who registered to vote, 14,088, or 84 percent, actually voted. John Kerry got over 90 percent of our votes; George W. Bush received 8 percent. Curiously, 90 of you voted for "no one" for president.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer and Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi both got approval from 90 percent of those of you who got that far down the ballot. For some reason, 500 voters stopped voting after president. Too nervous, I guess.

Bye, kids.