Noe Valley Voice October 2005

Letters to the Editor



Mollie Stone's Too Expensive


The sale of Bell Market to Mollie Stone's or a similarly high-priced grocery store would be somewhat of a disaster for seniors, the disabled, and others living on fixed incomes who do not drive or who have limited mobility. If Bell does indeed vacate its 24th Street location, high-end grocery chains should be discouraged from moving in. What the neighborhood needs is a Safeway, Albertsons, or other reasonably priced supermarket.

John Hirschberger

26th Street

A Housing Project--That's the Ticket!


I see from the Voice that the Cala/Bell stores are for sale ["Ralphs Looking for a Buyer for Bell Markets," September 2005]. So, we must make sure that our priorities as a society are met in selecting a replacement.

Seeing our reaction to the Home Depot big-box situation, it is easy to conclude that a supermarket is unneeded and anti-competitive against the small mom-and-pop stores, so we must reject it. What we need is low-cost housing. Therefore, the city should buy Bell Market for projects, with the ground floor devoted to public parking. This would have the benefit of bringing diversity to Noe Valley, as well as more teenagers to provide companionship to our children.

So many progressive goals met with one change of use!

James Keefer

Guerrero Street

Neighborhood Activists Should Get Off Their Soapbox


With the ongoing two-year Real Food debacle firmly entrenched in Noe Valley culture, nothing has struck me as clearly as the anti-business mentality of many residents who presume to speak for all of us. Although it seems likely that Fresh Organics Inc./Real Food Company fired its workers without cause (and let them be punished for it), I fear this was simply a catalyst for neighborhood--and other city--activists to pursue their own social goals at the expense of local businesses.

In a neighborhood with extremely high business rents, an unforgiving margin causes rapid turnover for many small businesses. And with the antiquated restaurant moratorium, they cannot be helped by increased foot traffic from new establishments, which could attract a fresh clientele. Now, with self-aggrandizing threats of boycotts and lawsuits, under the a nebulous concept of "social justice," no one seems willing to attempt to really resolve the Real Food issue, meanwhile becoming all the more belligerent in their anti-business rhetoric. Supervisor Bevan Dufty, to his credit, did try to resolve this, but I currently see no difference between the dogmatic stances of the recalcitrant Real Food Company and the Noe Valley neighbors.

One may expect this behavior from a company whose job it is to maximize profits, but what are the neighbors up to? It is curious that the organizers of the successful farmers' market are the most boisterous supporters of the status quo of no Real Food (read: boycott threat). And for many people, buying food at a farmers' market has even more status than buying from a local organic produce store. Hey, I like that bluegrass band, too, but I'd surely trade it in for a healthy and diverse business community. Finally, this issue has sadly become a platform for those with ideological problems with the very concept of business.

This mess could likely be settled if the two sides' attorneys sat down to work out a settlement and/or a compromise with the backing of the community. Just get it done. I'm guessing Real Food wants a way out as well, but now it's become a battle of wills. Yet I've seen little evidence from many Noe Valley residents (and to some extent the Noe Valley Voice) that a compromise is a desired outcome.

Instead, I often hear the poorly defined words "principle" and "justice," which are generally used to stifle debate. So be it, but I hope the view of the empty store from the moral high ground is a good one, while other local businesses down below suffer in this difficult climate.

David Latterman

Fair Oaks Street

A Hamlet for Omelets


I found myself walking up Powell Street, past Union Square, at 9 a.m. one recent weekend. The streets were thronged with discontented-looking tourists. These people obviously had money burning holes in their pockets, but no place to spend it. The only things open were a few restaurants (with long lines), the cable cars (lines around the block), and a Walgreen's. The tourists must have been in the habit of waking up at 6 or 7 a.m., and had found themselves at loose ends.

Businesses sometimes hold a late closing day. Why not an early opening day? If I owned a business or restaurant in Noe Valley, I would try to club together with others to open at 8 or 9 a.m. one day a week. Once enough people signed up, they could promote this to the tourists by talking to hotel concierges and leaving flyers at the hotel desks. They might even attract some early-rising locals.

"Take the historic F streetcar and explore a charming San Francisco neighborhood," the flyers could read. "Eat a leisurely breakfast, then fit in some early morning shopping." Then they could list the businesses and restaurants and give their hours and specialties, with a map and transit instructions.

Noe Valley is a great place to shop, and I think this might really catch on, with tourists telling other tourists about this way to make their vacations more fun. If the experiment were a success, the merchants could print up a fancy advertising booklet and really promote their businesses.

Merrill Sanders

Church Street

Fair Warning of CBD


In a letter published in the September Noe Valley Voice, Mr. Harry Aleo complained about an alleged lack of notification to property owners as the Community Benefit District was being formed. The facts completely contradict his claim.

The steps and timing of the CBD formation process were as follows:

1. Research into the feasibility of a Noe Valley CBD began in October 2004, with a survey mailed to all property owners in the potential CBD district. The Noe Valley Voice reported on this in the October 2004 issue. The survey responses showed a very high level of support in what the CBD would do and a willingness by those property owners in the district to pay for it.

2. Based on the survey, a public hearing was held and the Board of Supervisors voted to support a petition drive for a CBD. The petitions were mailed to all property owners in the district in March 2005, with complete details outlining the costs and the benefits. Under state law (Prop. 218) governing this type of property tax assessment, only property owners can vote, and the voting is weighted based on the property size and amount assessed. Again, during this phase of the process a large majority of property owners who responded expressed their support for the CBD.

3. As a result of the favorable petition drive, ballots were mailed, again with complete details, to all affected property owners in May 2005, with a 45-day deadline to return the ballot. At least 50 percent of the affected property owners had to vote to validate the election. Again, the Noe Valley Voice did an extensive article on the process in the June issue, which, ironically, was also the issue featuring Mr. Aleo and his famous horse, Lost in the Fog.

4. On Aug. 2, 2005, with more than 65 percent of the affected property owners voting, a public hearing was held, and the ballots were opened and counted. The weighted majority of the property owners voted yes, and the formation of the CBD was approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Contrary to what Mr. Aleo wrote, the property owners who will pay for the investments made through the CBD received three separate mailings and had numerous other opportunities through this paper as well as articles in the Chronicle and The Examiner to learn about the CBD. The voter turnout was 65 percent, and of those voting, the weighted voter support was 57 percent in favor.

It doesn't get any more democratic than that.

Debra Niemann

Former President,
Friends of Noe Valley

Founding Community Member,
Noe Valley CBD

A Street Person Who Touched Many Lives


I currently live in Las Vegas, but recently lived for a year with my sister Leslie Scott on 24th Street. I fell in love with Noe Valley, and would still be there if I could afford to live in San Francisco.

When I lived in Noe Valley, I met a friend of hers and of many Noe Valley residents: Jesse, an apparently homeless Vietnam veteran, who was a mainstay in the neighborhood on his cement bench on 24th Street.

Jesse Zele died in early September, and my sister tells me his bench filled up with flowers and notes from the neighborhood [see story, front page]. Jesse befriended everyone, loved everyone, accepted everyone, appreciated everyone.

Though he was homeless at times, crippled, and dying, he personified the saying, "Stop and smell the roses." He was loved, and will be missed.

When I lived in the neighborhood in 2001, I noticed him one rainy day on his bench as always, water streaming down his face. I picked up an umbrella at the drugstore and gave it to him, but I had trouble getting him to accept it. Other Noe Valley residents had done the same, he said, but he kept losing the umbrellas because they would be stolen when he'd walk away from the bench.

I sat and talked with him for a while--watching the activity on the street with him, as he did all day every day--and was inspired to write this poem:

Jesse in the Rain

Heads down,
we rush past each other,
wet, 24th Street strangers.

From his bench
our Noe Valley homeless one
greets us, each one,
inquiring after our cats
and our children
by name.

--Sidney Scott

q 2001

Crying "Racism" Avoids Real Issues


I am writing in response to a letter in the September issue regarding the controversy over the Green Cross medical marijuana club on 22nd Street which basically said that the reasons the neighbors were protesting the club were "racist."

Is the writer saying that those in more modest-income neighborhoods care less about crime or children's safety? A cry of "racism" is a last-ditch provocative slur some people use when they don't want to delve very deeply into an issue.

Neighbors living near the club, who, interestingly enough, include Asian, black, and Latino residents, have voiced their concerns because the club is not abiding by its permit requirements. Its clientele have caused disruption with speeding cars, open resale of the marijuana outside the club, and smoking and loud music coming from inside the club. The area has experienced an increase in break-ins. The club has driven out the operators of an adjacent long-term hair salon.

Neighbors are particularly concerned about these problems occurring in a location that is sited within one block of a school which also serves as a location for an after-school program for low-income youths. There are two additional middle schools within two blocks of the club.

Accusations of racism are serious charges. Using the term indiscriminately just to get a reaction is inexcusable.

Kim Stryker

Fair Oaks Street

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