Noe Valley Voice February 2007

Letters to the Editor

Moving to Noe Valley? Be Sure You Like Noise

When I first moved here as a London girl born and bred, I thought I had come to some urban paradise.

The streets in Noe Valley were so quiet I could have been in some glorious English country village. There were hummingbirds in the garden, I could hear church bells in the distance, and the occasional airplane droned softly overhead.

I was from a dirty, crime-ridden part of London, and I felt I had gone from Kansas to Oz in a matter of 12 hours over the Atlantic. It was heavenly.

But sadly, the dream ended last year when I moved from 25th to Jersey Street.

Okay, so I knew there was a building project going on up the street, and another one right next door. The jackhammers were something I'd told myself I could deal with for a few weeks. But I didn't know the remodeling would go on well after my second baby was born. And I had no idea at least three other major building projects were planned on the street.

Jersey Street, which according to my landlady had been pretty quiet for 35 years, became a nightmarish orchestra of hydraulic drills, buzz saws, and earth-movers. Windows couldn't be opened, cars were smothered in dust and grit, and builders' loud music blared for most of the day. I was in home-improvement hell.

Now, six months later, we've learned it's going to last at least another year. As one monster project ends, another one seems to begin. On any given day, three or four worker vans are double-parked on our block. And a silent battle has sprung up between builders and residents: the fight for legal parking spaces.

Secret phone calls are being made to the city, to elicit traffic fines for any resident who dares to challenge the self-proclaimed building kings. Construction workers often move their vehicles grudgingly, as if they are doing us a huge favor by letting us drive our cars out.

As a rule, my neighbors are kind and cheerful, and give you a real sense of belonging. But the builders' disrespect is eroding neighbors' trust. The friendly Noe disposition has been replaced by black looks and tense atmospheres.

Although the smart renovations will undoubtedly make money for the owners, I'm afraid it will be at the expense of what really matters: a sense of community and social responsibility.

It's also disturbing that the building authorities gave the green light to so many disruptive projects on one street in the same time period. Perhaps the people found at home during the day--stay-at-home moms, seniors, students, and home workers--don't really count for much opposition.

Some have suggested we move, but our rent is reasonable for the area and we like our apartment. Well, our stay is coming to an end soon anyway. After enduring all this Noe noise pollution, perhaps the police sirens, traffic chaos, and stress of London won't seem so bad after all.

My advice to anyone moving to Jersey Street? Get some earplugs.

Giovanna Iozzi

Tough Being an "O.G."


I want to thank you for publishing a chapter from Upper Noe in the November issue of the Noe Valley Voice. The mention of the book-signing at the S.F. Mystery Bookstore drew a few people as well. One was a fixture who had lived in the neighborhood since birth over 60 years ago and who remembered the days when Noe Valley was a workingman's neighborhood. His name is Jerry Gurule, and he knew some of the characters in my book Upper Noe. He wore wraparound shades and a plaid shirt buttoned up to the neck, and carried two well-mannered lapdogs under each arm.

Gurule identified himself as an "O.G." (original gangster), although through the years he has managed, unlike some of the characters from our youth, to stay out of trouble and collect a pension from his union. Unfortunately, a few of our other contemporaries from the 1940s and '50s were killed under mysterious circumstances, died of drug overdoses, or went to San Quentin. We talked about a murder that happened when a young teacher was robbed and thrown on the tracks near St. Paul's and a streetcar came by and decapitated him (Gurule was there at the time and it made all the newspapers: the Call-Bulletin, the Chron, the Examiner, the Progress). We reminisced about the time the Red Rock Hills caught on fire (his brother torched it). He told me about a guy in my class at St. Paul's who was shot through the eye in a robbery attempt.

The best that could be said about our generation was that most of us grew up and moved away. No world beaters, no presidents of universities, no captains of industry. Not exactly the type of kids in Noe Valley now, with many parents competing to place their kids in the right preschools and grammar schools.

Gurule mentioned a ballpayer we knew who grew up at 30th and Church above Jimmy's Bar and played third base for a time with the San Francisco Giants, Dirty Al Gallagher.

Jimmy's Bar, by the way, is now a chi-chi Italian restaurant named La something or other [La Ciccia] that is almost impossible to get into without a reservation. Nothing wrong with that, but Jimmy would roll over in his grave if he knew.

Dan Hallford

Sacramento, California

Do Not Pass a Stopped Streetcar


In the September 2006 issue, a Noe Valleyan wrote about the danger of exiting the J-Church streetcar at the stops between 24th and 30th streets where there are no safety zones. Hardly a day goes by where I or my family don't encounter a car passing on the right, endangering alighting passengers.

I e-mailed Supervisor Bevan Dufty suggesting that safety improvements were needed, and he referred the situation to the MTA (Municipal Transportation Agency). I was subsequently contacted by an MTA staff member (Mr. Jerry Robbins), and pending further investigation, the MTA indicated they would take the following actions:

1) Relocate the existing "Do Not Pass" signs to midblock to align with the rear of stopped streetcars;

2) Replace missing "Do Not Pass" signs along Church Street; and

3) Request that the SFPD increase enforcement of the Vehicle Code, Section 21756(a), which prohibits passing of streetcars stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers.

In addition, as part of a traffic-calming project, the MTA is planning to stripe a white line five feet to the right of the M-Ocean View streetcar tracks on Broad Street in 2007. If this measure proves effective, the MTA will consider applying the white line to Church Street as well.

I'd like to thank Supervisor Dufty and the MTA for this follow-up, and I hope this dangerous situation can be corrected.

Leon Traister

26th Street

Update: In late January Leon Traister reported that the Department of Parking and Traffic had followed through on the MTA's first two promises: The "Do Not Pass" signs have been replaced or relocated.

Cyclist Needs a Lesson in Diplomacy


We all realize it's an ongoing process to make San Francisco streets safer for "clean" transport such as bikes, pedestrians, and scooters. On a Wednesday in December, I was an unwilling participant in a perfect example of how not to further this agenda.

I was pulling out of an extremely tight parking spot in front of Tuggey's Hardware, using the kind of driving techniques that make my husband fall on the floor laughing. I was moving forward and back one inch at a time, finally getting the front left quadrant of the car halfway out into the lane. You could have been at the intersection of Castro and 24th and seen that I was pulling out all the way down near Sanchez and still reached me before I exited the parking space!

After my turtle-like extrication from the space, I proceeded at two miles per hour to the intersection in front of the 24th Street Café. Suddenly--blam!--someone was at the side of my car, pounding on the window. I rolled it down and was immediately subjected to a torrent of abuse from a bicyclist who was screaming "You almost killed me!"

I apologized and said, "You must have come up out of nowhere into my blind spot because I was pulling out for nearly four minutes and never saw you." He continued to scream at me. Figuring lack of engagement was the best policy, I started to roll up my window. At that point, he tried to block my window from closing, then began to hit my car repeatedly with his bicycle lock or chain! As I drove away, he followed me down the street, continuing to scream abuse.

I'm acutely aware that bicyclists share our streets--I ride a bike and a scooter myself--when I'm not driving a Prius. But I also think bicycle safety cuts both ways. As a bicyclist, you need to be aware that you are not as visible as a car and ride with caution. Pay particular attention to cars that appear to be exiting parking spaces, as it is even more difficult for a driver to see far down the road behind the car when at an angle to the street. I admit that a lot of drivers carelessly veer into bike lanes, but a lot of bicyclists act like kamikazes, blasting through stop signs and speeding along heedlessly. If you can't avoid me as I crawl my way out of a parking space, you should probably save that bike for the back roads, because you'll never navigate the real hazards of city biking in moving traffic.

We all need to be more vigilant. However, verbal abuse, physical threats, and property damage are not the way to foster "peaceful coexistence" between bikes and cars on San Francisco streets. So let's all be careful and courteous out there.

Name withheld by request

Elizabeth Street

Natural Succession at Jim's Produce


As some of you may have noticed, Jim & Sons Produce at 24th and Church streets changed hands recently. By the way, Jim is his same old curmudgeonly self (thank God, there aren't too many of us left) and recovering well from his serious back surgery.

A young family has taken over the business. They are real nice folks, gradually putting their stamp on the place as "Noe Valley Natural," building up a nice selection of products, really interested in feedback and suggestions, and expanding produce lines to include much more organic. It was about 50-50 when I went in there in mid-January. Check 'em out. Support your local small business.

Patrick Monk

24th Street

Cat Burglar's Footprint


I am writing because I feel the community should know there is a very brazen cat burglar striking Noe Valley. According to the SFPD, there were 20 burglaries in the first two weeks of December between 20th and 26th and Castro and Douglass streets. How do I know? Both my next-door neighbor and I were robbed while sleeping at home.

This criminal is very stealthy and not afraid. He does not care if you are at home. Lock your doors and windows, especially in the rear of the house, as that is where he prefers to enter. He gains access to back yards, then hops fences, finding open windows and doors. He never leaves prints, but if he leaves a mess, i.e., footprints, don't clean it up; wait for CSI to take a report. Once inside, he will quietly survey the common area and steal purses, wallets, keys, and then cars.

Keep a look out and immediately report any suspicious individuals that you notice late at night. This burglar never makes a forced entry, so the solution is to make sure that all of your windows and doors are locked.

Name withheld by request

Noe Valley resident

Editor's Note: A San Francisco man who may have been responsible for some of these burglaries was arrested by San Francisco police on Dec. 21. See our report in this month's Police Beat, page 21.

Scrapple No Match for Pizza


I wrote to the Voice approximately four years ago about my departure from Noe Valley to Royersford, Pa., after living on 25th Street for almost 40 years, in various apartments and the house owned by Art the Barber (Arthur Schembri).

My life in Pennsylvania has adjusted accordingly: the Eagles, scrapple and eggs, cheese steaks and hoagies; cold weather, snow, and the dreadful humidity of summer.

So in August I decided to trek to San Francisco on Amtrak's Zephyr. Back in Noe Valley, my first "stop" was a walk on 24th Street and lunch at Noe Valley Pizza. The minute I stepped into Noe Valley Pizza, Dennis, the son of the owner, recognized me by name and mentioned my previous letter to the Voice. Now that was a wonderful reception.

Sadly, my old home on 25th Street (3976) has been demolished and replaced with a new more modern structure. Art would not be happy if he were alive. But 24th Street remains a lively business center, one that won't be found here in Royersford, a former farm town. I'm so glad I made my visit, and saw old scenes and places. My heart will always be with all of you.

John Pritz

Royersford, Pennsylvania

Wild in the City


Hi there. I was just looking at the Noe Valley Voice web page about wildlife written by Laura McCloskey [Noe Valley Kids Voice, Voice September 2005]. Laura called me this past spring to get information about our local wildlife. Thank you for posting this page. It's wonderfully simple for kids. And thanks for acknowledging SF ROMP for providing natural history information about the wildlife in our city.

Here's a bit of information you might want to add to the section on raccoons. It's true, as you wrote, that in the city raccoons can be found nesting in attics or under houses, especially when they have their babies in the springtime. You might be interested to know that baby raccoons look like newborn kittens. When they are small, they nurse and sleep. When they get a bit older, they play together like kittens and puppies. Once baby raccoons get playful, mom begins to take them out at night with her, teaching them how to climb trees and how to find food. When they are about 3 months old, they leave their natal den and sleep in trees, too.

Jamie Ray, Director

San Francisco ROMP (Rescued Orphan Mammal Program)


Thanks for the raccoon information, and for setting us straight on the spelling of your name. We apologize for our mistake.


THE VOICE welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. Or e-mail editor@noevalley Please include your name, address, and phone number. (Anonymous letters will not be considered for publication.) Be aware that letters may be edited for brevity or clarity. We look forward to hearing from you.