Noe Valley Voice September 2006

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

THE NOE VALLEY ASSOCIATION (NVA), which is what the 24th Street Community Benefit District (CBD) is calling itself these days, has announced that on Sept. 12, some 50 trees will be planted in "Downtown Noe Valley" by the San Francisco Bureau of Urban Forestry and Friends of the Urban Forest, with the aid of volunteers from Levi Strauss & Co.

"We are very excited that our work in putting together this tree-planting project is becoming a reality," says Debra Niemann, the NVA's executive director. "There will be a second planting of around 30 more trees near the end of this year."

A big chunk of the funding for the trees came from a $10,000 grant awarded to the NVA as part of the city's Community Challenge Grants Program (also known as the Neighborhood Beautification Fund). The NVA's was one of 23 city projects that received"community-greening" grants totalling $500,000. Niemann was pretty happy about the award, since she wrote the proposal.

"We also received an additional $3,200 grant from San Francisco Beautiful," says Niemann, "and a lot of volunteer support from neighborhood people like Carol Yenne, Rob Evans, Ned Smith, and Isabelle Salvadori."

The NVA's tree group had the task of picking the types of trees and the sites along 24th Street. They considered the effects the trees would have on PG&E wires, sewers, and doorways, and then obtained the property owners' consent. "We had to wind our way through five city agencies," Niemann says.

The trees were chosen for size, color, and durability. The NVA looked for tall, strong trees with small canopies, Niemann says. Some of the winning candidates were the Double-Cherry, Callery Pear, Tristania, and Little Gem Magnolia. Don't worry, they're not fruit-bearing.

Later this year, the NVA will be planting some London plane trees, which have a large canopy, on Noe and Sanchez streets near 24th.

"It has been quite a process, taking hours and hours in each phase, as we went step by step since January," says Niemann, "and we are still looking for sites. I never knew how hard it was to plant a tree! It has been a great experience, however, and we were able to meet some true gems in our city government who wanted to help us make this happen. A special thanks to Carla Short, who is a manager at the Bureau of Urban Forestry. She's been just wonderful."

In other green news, last June's Garden Tour, organized by Friends of Noe Valley, raised over $3,200 , according to Friends President Richard May. The money will be given to the NVA also, and earmarked for four ornamental metal flower boxes, to be placed on 24th Street. If you missed this year's tour, which featured half a dozen gorgeous backyard gardens, Richard May says the event will sprout again next year, possibly with a plant sale.

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A BEAUTIFUL PARKING JOB: Even more benefits from the CBD are appearing at the city's public parking lot on 24th Street between Le Zinc and Radio Shack.

On behalf of NVA, Just for Fun's David Eiland has been working with the Department of Parking to do a makeover of the space. "Several months ago, representatives of the city came out to Noe Valley looking for way to beautify our neighborhood business district, and among other things, they took an interest in our public parking lot," says Eiland.

As you might know, the lot has hosted homeless people in the past, who have slept behind the front wall. What's worse, drug needles have appeared, and this brings up some serious safety issues.

Eiland et al. were asked to come up with a design for the lot's renovation, and work was started last month. The plans are to repave the lot and entrance, tear down the brick wall, create a micro-mini-park featuring seating off the sidewalk, place two new bulletin boards on the Radio Shack wall (a smaller one for NVA news and a larger one for neighborhood postings), and install benches for the public and even a game table. There will also be room for cars to park.

Eiland says a community meeting will be held sometime in the next few months, to discuss long-term planning.

In one last NVA item, Niemann says she is "delighted with the splendid job" that MJM Management, which was hired to keep 24th Street clean, is doing. (I especially like the sidewalk-steaming.)

She says if you sight a spill (trash, dog poop, anything) on 24th Street, call the NVA/CBD dispatch number, 559-8492.

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MARKET MY WORDS: Following up on tips from City Hall, the Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) has learned that an escrow account has been opened for the transfer of Bell Market to Harley DeLano, the "hometown" grocer who owned Bell in the 1990s.

When the NVBI called for confirmation, DeLano confirmed that Bell might soon be his. "Yes, that's true--it's a pretty tight escrow. We now have 60 days to complete the transaction, and 30 days to get the landlord's approval. We are about to set up a meeting with the landlord. Then we have to make an application to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for the transfer from Kroger. Hopefully, we will close the sale by the first week of December."

DeLano's group is buying 11 Cala/Bell markets in the Ralph's chain: six in San Francisco (Noe Valley, Eureka Valley, California/Hyde, Geary/27th Avenue, South Van Ness, and Silver Avenue) and five in Marin (Fairfax, Novato, Mill Valley, and two in Tiburon).

"We are excited to be coming back to Noe Valley, and we are anxious to set up a community meeting to hear what things our customers want to see on the shelves," says DeLano. "We will be contacting Supervisor Dufty to set up the meeting."

When the NVBI called Bevan Dufty, he said he'd already talked to DeLano and agreed to look for a date and a suitable meeting place. (Should we get the James Lick Auditorium?)

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DRY AS A TURNIP: In a related food item, the NVBI unfortunately has no news to report on the ghostly Real Food Company, which Nutraceutical Corporation closed three long years ago at the beginning of the Labor Day weekend. Even a supervisor can't get the scoop. "I have tried to follow up several times with them about the architectural plans they said they were working on, but I've had no response," Dufty says.

Maybe we can have a "neighborhood meeting" with the Nutra-folks and find out what they can do for the neighborhood. (Should we get the Civic Auditorium?)

Speaking of large corporations existing in quaint little neighborhoods and looking for ways they can help, there's good news about Walgreen's. Our local drugstore, on Castro near 24th, will cheerfully recycle all your batteries, as well as the old ink cartridges from your computer printers. Talk to store manager Yong Li about how your ink-cartridge recycling efforts will be rewarded with a gift of several free prints. But don't tell him you heard about it from me.

By the way, when Walgreen's took over the Little Bell space many years ago, they made a deal with neighborhood groups that there would be one hour free parking for all Downtown Noe Valley shoppers, whether or not they shopped at Walgreen's. That deal still stands.

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IN THE "WE LOVE NOE VALLEY" department, Hill & Co. Real Estate is climbing to the top fast. The firm is expanding its operation--they already have two offices in Cow Hollow--and opening up a new branch on the corner of 24th and Sanchez, in the building once occupied by Designers' Club.

According to spokesperson Eileen Mougeot, Hill is hoping to open the new Noe Valley office by Nov. 1. "We plan on having 20 agents at that location and 90 agents in our Cow Hollow offices."

Why Noe Valley? "Well, this is a family-run business, started in Cow Hollow in 1956. It grew as a family-owned neighborhood business, and we have seen our clientele in Noe Valley grow steadily over the years. We all just love the neighborhood, so the [Costello] family that owns the company decided it was time to do it," says Mougeot, who has been with Hill & Co. for 25 years.

Mougeot says Hill & Co., which owns the building, is joining the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association and will be sponsoring the "Pumpkin Patch" booth at the Oct. 21 Harvest Fest. The business is also looking forward to participating in the NVA's efforts to beautify the business district.

Both of the upstairs residential units have been remodeled and turned into condos, and they're being offered for sale this month (by Hill, of course). Each flat has three bedrooms and two baths, a deck, and parking, and "should be in the million-dollar range," says Mougeot.

Also new to Noe Valley is a women's clothing store which moved into the spot vacated by Guys and Dolls, on 24th Street just east of Church. It is called Nisa, which means "woman" in Arabic, and it features a locally-designed women's clothing line. The styles were originally created by owners Shinobu Sering and Umay Mohammed, who first opened Nisa SF on Guerrero and 19th streets in 1996. The two designers have been quite successful since then, with their comfortable, colorful knits. Ivy Chan and Marie Biscarra have joined them in the venture.

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PULLING FOR LOST IN THE FOG: Saturday, July 16, was a strange day in Noe Valley. That was the day award-winning thoroughbred Lost in the Fog, last year's national sprinting champion, ran a race at Calder Racetrack near Miami, Fla. The Fog is, as most of you know, the pride and joy of Downtown Noe Valley businessman Harry Aleo. The same day, Aleo entered another horse he owns, Victorina, a 3-year-old philly, in Calder's Azalea Breeders' Cup.

Well, Victorina won her race, but the 4-year-old Fog finished ninth in his, even though he was an 11-to-10 favorite. "Lost in the Fog ran the worst race of his career," the Chronicle's Larry Stumes reported the following day. It was clear to all his fans and to his trainer and owner that something just wasn't right.

As it turns out, Lost in the Fog ran his last and probably one of the more valiant horse races in history on July 16. At the time of the race, as Aleo found out a few weeks later, Lost in the Fog had been suffering "anywhere from the last four months up to a year with malignant tumors on his spleen and under his spine, both of which are inoperable," grimaced Aleo. "Oh boy, I don't know how he did it!"

According to Aleo, "We learned quite by accident. On Sunday, Aug. 13, Greg [Gilchrist, the trainer] noted that Lost in the Fog had a slight fever and was not eating, which are symptoms of colic and which can be fatal when the intestines get clogged up. So we took him to the vet for an examination. They found no colic, but they did find a tumor on his spleen about the size of a football. Tumors are very rare in horses--they occur in less than one percent of all horses, so this was quite a surprise.

"Obviously, the prognosis is not so good," Aleo said in the last week of August, "but we are trying some new drugs that we hope might cause the tumors to shrink. He has been doing much better these past few days, eating better, and being more frisky nipping at all of us, so we are hoping for a miracle. You know I feel sad for [the Fog] because he never got to run his best race, while he was in his prime," says Aleo.

When asked about the millions of dollars he could have gotten if he had sold Lost in the Fog, Aleo responded that he has absolutely no regrets. "This is all about the horse, not the money. Thoroughbreds get everything from bone chips to bad ankles and knees, so just one misstep, and that's it. You're always just one step from nothing. And besides, what would I do with all the money--buy more expensive racehorses? I already have one of the best, who has given me such joy. It was a great run!"

Aleo will be out at Golden Gate Fields on Sept. 16, when Victorina will be running in the Noe Valley Stakes. "She has won six out of her last nine races," smiles a very melancholy Harry Aleo.

That's 30, you all.