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Dig Up the Roots of Homelessness
Regarding the Noe Valley Association's effort to beautify the public parking lot on 24th Street, reported in your September issue Rumors column: This project was prompted by the dreaded appearance of homeless people sleeping behind the low brick wall for protection from the elements, as well as the super-dreaded appearance of needles. (I always wonder about the latter. How visible are these needles? Do people regularly inspect the area on their hands and knees, or do these needles stand out with tags attached to them stating, "For use by the homeless for illicit drug injection"?)
But I digress from the request I'd like to make that the NVA address on some level the causes of homelessness and drug abuse. I remember the program you reported several years ago about merchants hiring students from James Lick to work in stores as a work-experience project. The program seemed like a real winner, and I'm wondering if it's still active. There is so much energy in the NVA and its sponsors, it seems like some gesture could be made toward alleviating the causes of homelessness in our society.
More Neighbors on 22nd Street
I was pleased to read the "Livin' on the Edge (of the Neighborhood)" article in the September issue, focusing on the interesting new businesses opening up in the 22nd and Guerrero area. The creative feel of this neighborhood is exactly why I jumped at the opportunity to relocate my business when I saw a "For Rent" sign at 22nd and Dolores. Now I can proudly say that my skincare business, Total Skincare by Andrea, is also located "on the edge of the neighborhood," along with Jennifer Skowlund, D.C., Chiropractic.
3496 22nd Street
People Live Where They Can Afford to Live
I read with interest and some irritation Rebecca Freund's letter titled "Noe Valley--Exclusive Playground of the Wealthy?" [September 2006]. Ms. Freund says that coming from the Midwest, she thinks housing prices in Noe Valley of $1,800 per month for a one-bedroom apartment are outrageous and irrational. I too come from the Midwest, where I owned a six-unit rental building. Three years ago, I purchased a five-unit rental building in San Francisco. The housing and rental prices in Chicago were on a par with those of San Francisco. Yes, some of my tenants here are paying $1,800 per month, but one of my tenants is paying $225 per month, including a garage space. This tenant is not a low-income tenant. Myself and the other tenants paying market rent subsidize her lifestyle.
Does Ms. Freund know anything about San Francisco's restrictive rent control laws? We didn't have to contend with such laws in the Midwest. Ms. Freund talks about senior citizens and disabled folks on fixed incomes who may not be able to afford to live in Noe Valley. I can't afford to live in Pacific Heights. I live where I can afford to live. Does anyone have the right to live anywhere and be subsidized by someone else? No one subsidizes my mortgage to live in Noe Valley. Why should I subsidize the rent so someone may live in Noe Valley?
Is Church Street Business a Good Thing?
I'm very concerned about the new merchants association Church Street Business (CSB), featured in the September issue of the Voice. CSB's assertion that Church Street is a shopping street without an identity and that's something they intend to change is frightening, to say the least. They say they want to "bring new shoppers to stores and cafes along the strip."
Noe Valley is a mixed residential and commercial neighborhood, and I like it that way. As it is, you can still find some parking, and the pace of traffic isn't too frantic. That's going to change if CSB realizes its dream of commercializing Church Street. Many of these merchants don't even live in our neighborhood, but their businesses are here and they'd love nothing more than seeing the traffic and customers increase manyfold. After all, their motivation isn't the betterment of our neighborhood but rather making money. These merchants are already exploiting the charm, relative safety, and easy access of our neighborhood. But they want more.
Think about what will happen in our neighborhood once the well-funded CSB gets rolling. They can run advertisements encouraging people from outside Noe Valley to come to Church Street. They can start targeting businesses already on Church Street that don't generate much traffic, such as the insurance agent and the spiritual reading shop. They can find out when their leases come due and approach their landlords offering more rent for businesses that will generate more customers. They can pressure City Hall to post more signage (i.e., "colorful banners"), permit sidewalk sales, and ultimately install parking meters, all in an effort to increase traffic and customer turnover.
The CSB instigators say, "We sort of live in the shadow of 24th Street." Yes, and I like it that way! I know some may say my views are NIMBYism (not in my back yard). They'd be absolutely correct. However, I live here with my family and I'm going to fight for the right to decide who's going to make the call regarding the tone and tenor of our neighborhood.
Thank You, Noe Valley
At the beginning of August, my husband and I suffered the loss our 31/2-year-old dog Bella. She died as a result of an accident. We felt as if we'd been robbed of a precious part of our lives--all the more so because she was young and we thought we'd have many more years with her. Suddenly she was gone.
Laetitia Phelps from the French Tulip flower shop and Raven Voss from Scribbledoodles (at Just for Fun) came to the rescue by organizing a raffle, bake sale, and sidewalk sale to help defray our staggering vet bills. A lot of Noe Valley merchants donated merchandise and gift certificates for the raffle. Raven and Laetitia told me stories of people who happened by the store I manage on 24th Street, heard our story, and went home to get things to donate. All in all, they raised $3,000.
I've been working in this neighborhood for 20 years and have felt my life enriched by the interesting people and small-town intimacy. This experience made me realize how fortunate I am to be surrounded by such sincerely caring, generous people. My husband Blair and I want to thank you all for your donations and kind concern. Bella will be missed by everyone who knew her.
Manager, Astrid's Rabat Shoes
3909 24th Street
Shops Welcome Costumed Tots--and a Logo Designer
Thank you for your coverage of our newly formed group Church Street Business [September 2006]. Our first meeting was a rousing success in that it brought together neighboring business owners who had never met formally.
We had our second meeting Sept. 18, and decided to welcome all trick-or-treaters to Church Street on Halloween (all day until 7:30 p.m.). Merchants will be giving out special goodie bags (to good and bad children alike), as well as posting "Trick-or-Treaters Welcome" signs in our shop windows. In addition, we discussed creating a logo for our nascent association. We are hoping a local graphic designer will step forward to donate some time to help us create a lasting identity. It would be a great help to the association--and a feather in the cap of anyone's graphic design business.
If anyone out there is interested, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members, Church Street Business
Blessings from Clipper Street
In the early 1970s, we purchased a small home in Noe Valley, and I remember your early papers. Now you've grown and grown, to a sizable paper I try never to miss. But first, my motivation to write: I recently had a near-death experience and am on the road to recovery. I'm in a rehab now, and heading back home in the near future, and I've read the latest Noe Valley Voice from cover to cover. Thank you, you've enriched my life.
I have many other thank-you's to express. Thank you to Martin Economou of the Frog Shop [formerly at 24th and Castro], where I used to stop a minute to rest; to Carol Yenne of Small Frys, who also allowed a break at her store; to Gary and Victor of the Animal Company, for their many kindnesses; to Cradle of the Sun for the lovely colors that enhance the ambience of Noe Valley; to Cover to Cover, which will deliver my books on request; to Esther Goldman and Rik Sanjour, who always welcomed me to Star Magic--I still grieve for its loss; to Glen Potter of Accent on Flowers, who has rescued me on a number of occasions; to Mylene's hair salon and Walgreen's for good service; to Tuggey's Hardware for answering my obscure questions with grace; and to Harry Aleo for bringing us Lost in the Fog.
Thanks also to my Clipper Street neighbors, friends, and extended family. You know who you are, and I am deeply grateful. And last but not least, thank you to my dear son Steve, who has borne my idiosyncrasies and sometimes wacky humor with considerable grace. Being an "elder" (I'm 84) has its advantages.
I do hope I have enhanced the neighborhood and can stay a while longer in this place, which has its own special charm and warmth. When I finish my journey, I hope to do so with grace, dignity, and humor on Clipper Street.
From my heart to your hearts, and to the heart of the universe, peace.
Editor's Note: This letter was addressed to the folks at First Choice Video, a popular video outlet at the corner of 24th and Church streets which closed for liquidation in late September.
Dear 24th Street Video Guys:
Seeing that you are closing touches a weepy little spot down inside me. Your store played a significant role in my daughter Lucy's growing up. She is now nearly 15 and has been a customer of your store her entire life. It was the first place in the neighborhood she was permitted to go on her own. She had to take the dog along for safety, but she was being independent, and that's huge to a little girl. She had to cross multiple streets, she had to have money, she had to make her own video choices (I'm not sure how many times she was directed to return age-inappropriate movies to the rack), and she had to come back with the correct change. I remember watching the clock nervously awaiting her return. How long should I allow for indecision? How long for disaster?
Among the lessons she learned from your business were: late fees, obtaining and paying back credit, rewinding the rental, remembering to check that the movie was actually in the box, and how to scramble out of the car like a "bat out of hell" to return multiple movies to the return slot before an impatient motorist started honking for me to move. She also learned that being a good customer can at times get you a break when it comes to minor infractions.
The lessons I learned from your business were: My kid knew how to make adult friends on her own (I remember she baked cookies for one of your birthdays), she had good manners even when I wasn't standing there, she will by genetic predisposition choose "chick flicks," and we are part of a community where trust is precious and you should remember to say thank you to the people who show kindness to you and your family.
Thank you for all the years of friendly entertainment. Thanks for being nice to my child. I'm glad we never went to the big chain video stores, because you deserved our business. I wish you all the best of luck in the future.