Noe Valley Voice June 2007

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

FLYING PLANTERS: When you're strolling down 24th Street, look up. Downtown Noe Valley is blooming with floral displays hanging from poles along 24th from Diamond to Church. The Noe Valley Association (NVA) has achieved one of the goals it set early in its 18-month existence: to decorate our commercial strip with flowers.

At the beginning of May, the flower baskets went up at the intersections of 24th and Church, 24th and Castro, 24th and Diamond, and Castro and Jersey. Bonus blooms are hanging in front of Bell Market and the Just for Fun gift store.

Debra Niemann, NVA director, says the association entered into an agreement with the County Garden Nursery, located in a little Oregon town called McMinnville (on Poverty Bend Road). The nursery came down and installed the planters, and will provide new floral arrangements every six months. The plants will be watered regularly and attended to by a crew headed by Bryan and Mary McCue (MJM Management), who have been keeping 24th Street's sidewalks clean of trash and debris and our walls free of graffiti for more than a year.

In order to get the baskets put up, Niemann had to get permits from Muni, the Department of Public Works, and the Public Utilities Commission. But it was worth it, she says. "We are all about being clean and green, and we hope everyone enjoys them."

Niemann also wants everyone to know that the NVA has hired a gardener who will take care of the 136 trees planted in Downtown Noe Valley in September and April.

The NVA, a "community benefit district" funded by property owners along 24th Street, was the brainchild of Friends of Noe Valley, the Noe Valley Merchants Association, and Noe Valley's oldest neighborhood association, the East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club, founded in 1904. The masthead on that group's newsletter declares that the club is "dedicated to the safety, cleanliness, and well-being of our community."

East & West isn't very active anymore, but in its first 10 decades the club was a force to be reckoned with. It was instrumental in getting the valley's dirt roads paved and in adding streetcar lines to the neighborhood (we used to have a streetcar on 24th Street, and another climbing over the Castro hill to Eureka Valley).

In the 1920s, East & West got the city to buy an old rock quarry and turn it into Douglass Park. During the '70s and '80s, East & West's "first secretary," the indefatigable Fred Methner, drove around with brushes and paint cans in his car so he could jump out and paint over graffiti on neighborhood homes and storefronts. In the past 40 years, Douglass Street resident Paul Kantus has carried on the club's activist tradition. He helped found the Noe Valley Archives, a valuable collection of photos and memorabilia preserving our local history.

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SOMETHING CONCRETE: The flower baskets in front of Just for Fun will soon be hanging over a new "green" sidewalk, says NVA Green Committee co-chair David Eiland (who is also co-owner of Just for Fun).

"Our landlord has given us the go-ahead to install a porous or permeable concrete sidewalk [in front of the store], which looks like regular concrete except it will absorb the rainwater and any pollutants rather than send it into the sewers and down to the Mission District and into the Bay," says Eiland. "We hope this will be a model project for the rest of the neighborhood."

This new eco-technology is catching on in other Bay Area communities, which are testing porous parking lots, streets, and driveways. (Menlo Park has paved one of its public parking lots with a grant from the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.)

Eiland, with help from the locally based non-profit Urban Ecology (which has been working with the NVA on the greening of 24th Street), is wending his way through the city bureaucracy, which means he's having lots of discussions with DPW, Stormwater Management, and the Public Utilities Commission.

"Hopefully, we will get through the process," he says, noting, "on one day in May, there were 27 e-mails--everyone is weighing in on this project."

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WE SEE THE LIGHT: Also going green in May were two Downtown Noe Valley merchants: Carol Yenne, who owns Small Frys children's clothing store on 24th, and Donna Davis, owner of the jewelry shop Forbeadin (at Church and 24th). As role models for the Merchants Association, both are volunteering to test more energy-efficient lighting systems at their stores.

Yenne says she tried using energy-saver lights 10 years ago, "but we stopped after about a month, since there just wasn't enough light coming out." The new lighting system she is trying now "definitely has much more light, but we will be using a mirrored bulb for better lighting of our displays."

Davis reports she is very happy with her new eco-lighting system. "I've only had it three weeks, but I love it. I was very apprehensive at first, because I have gem stones and I knew the light from fluorescents was harsh and irritatingly blue," she says. "But they've now come out with much warmer fluorescents that are so far ahead of our old conception of what a fluorescent light is."

Davis says her lights are from Friel Energy Solutions, and she got a deal on them by going to San Francisco Energy Watch (, which is a city-PG&E partnership.

"They will link you with a company that will come out and replace all your old bulbs and give them to you at wholesale cost. But you have to do it through S.F. Energy Watch," she says.

Evidently, the whole neighborhood is starting to use the new fluorescent lights. Walgreen's had a sale on the Feit Electric EcoBulb--a four-pack for the rather remarkable price of $1.99--and quickly sold out. Tuggey's Hardware also sold out of the "Mini-Twist" lights manufactured by Lights of America, but the store may have received a new shipment by the time you read this.

The buzz over eco-lighting was started by Noe Valleyans for Community and Social Justice, a group of activists who are hoping to make Noe Valley "Green and Fair-Trade Central." They have produced a pamphlet that is being spread around the neighborhood "to increase community awareness of social and ecological business practices that will both make it more meaningful to live and work in Noe Valley and make it more profitable as well for our local merchants, whom we want to support by attracting socially conscious consumers from throughout the Bay Area." To make Noe Valley a destination point for "consumers with a conscience," the group is asking local shops (and shoppers) to sell (buy) fair-traded items and avoid selling (buying) "sweatshop-produced products."

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GROUP THERAPY: The members of the newly formed Church Street Professionals are also very active these days.

As many of you know, Church Street shops conducted a book sale on May 11 to benefit the Noe Valley Library on Jersey Street. Church Street Professional and Artery art studio owner Paula Benton is glad to report that the sale raised $2,250. About 1,000 leftover books will be donated to the San Francisco Library, to be sold at its annual used-book sale.

In other group news, the Upper Noe Neighbors held its monthly meeting on the last day of May, as this paper was going to press. Everyone was anxious to hear from the developer what the plans were for our landmark "Blue Church," on the corner of Church and 28th. The structure was originally a movie theater called the Del Mar when it was built in 1916, but it has been a Pentacostal church for decades. When the developer first appeared at a UNN meeting last year, the plan was to demolish Big Blue and erect six residential units and one commercial space, "starting in April 2007." But the place is still standing.

Also at the May 31 meeting, the Upper Noe group heard from a developer who has mixed-use plans for the old Kelly-Moore paint store site at Cesar Chavez, née Army, and Mission streets, which many of us pass daily on the way to the freeway. Representatives of Friends of Noe Valley Rec Center also attended the meeting, to tell us what the new playground will look like after renovations at the park are completed.

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SQUEEZE PLAY: The loss of Upper Noe Rec Center for the '07 baseball season has affected a lot of Noe Valley kids. Parents have sent e-mail complaints to the Rec and Park Department through our supervisor, Bevan Dufty, regarding where ball players can and cannot practice.

The complaints multiplied at the beginning of May, when Rec and Park, without any warning, removed the baseball backstop, the pitcher's mound, and home plate at another neighborhood park, Upper Douglass Park, which has had a baseball diamond since it opened in 1928.

As you Voice readers know, Upper Douglass has been an official "off-leash dog play area" since 2005 (really since 2003). Still, the spacious park has continued to be enjoyed by local kids and parents, in addition to dogs and their best friends. For the record, the city policy states that "off-leash use does not preclude other use in these areas.... The public can use [the dog play areas] at their discretion."

Although the field was far from ideal for games, many people felt they could occasionally use the diamond to bat balls with their kids, as long as they checked it out with the dog owners. To most observers, the two groups--dog people and baseball people--were co-existing nicely.

Earlier this year, however, some dog owners complained to Rec and Park that the fly balls were becoming a danger to their pups. Evidently, Rec and Park agreed.

That left Day Street Park (a.k.a. Upper Noe or Noe Valley Rec Center) as the only place in Noe Valley with a baseball diamond, but that park has been closed for months and will be until the rec center's renovation is finished sometime next year.

Somehow, I don't think we have heard the last of this.

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BERRY GOOD: Construction should start soon on a new eatery on Castro across from Walgreen's, in the space once occupied by Castro Computer. Brett Emerson, chef/owner of the new Olallie, says that after a 10-month planning and permit stage, the contractors should be arriving in July and the opening ceremonies held "by winter."

Emerson last worked in the kitchen of Eccolo on Fourth Street in Berkeley, under Chef Christopher Lee from Chez Panisse. He says that the Olallie menu will change daily and "will be all about farm-to-table deliveries." That means the food will be, as much as possible, locally produced.

Although the Olallieberry was created in Oregon in 1935, it's quite famous in Sweden. "You can pick them yourself," says Emerson. Olallies are a cross between a blackberry and a European red raspberry, in case you wondered.

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FOSTER CARE FINDS A HOME: Family Builders, a foster-care and adoption agency based in Oakland and operating for more than 30 years, has moved one of its branch offices into the ground floor of the Lunny Building, the two-year-old modern Victorian across from Bell Market on 24th Street.

The Family Builders satellite office will be the home of Adoption S.F., the official adoption program for children who wind up in the city's foster-care system. "We do recruitment and preparation of the families who want to adopt children from the City and County of San Francisco," explains Jill Jacobs, executive director of Family Builders.

Jacobs says she found out about the space on a tip from Supervisor Dufty. "It kind of fell into our laps," says Jacobs. "We are especially happy to be in Noe Valley because our families will really like coming to this neighborhood and community when they come see us about Adoption S.F."

The program, which matches kids with families of all stripes--including LGBT parents, single parents, renters, and middle-income folks--anticipates doing 40 to 50 adoptions per year. At the present time, there are about 1,700 kids--ages 0 to 17--in foster care in San Francisco, "and about 60 percent need permanent families," Jacobs says.

For more info, e-mail or drop by Suite C2 in the Lunny Building, 3953 24th Street.

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SHORT SHRIFTS: It's nice to see T.J. Jackovich back home at Chloe's Restaurant, on the corner of Church and 26th. The last time he worked there, in 1997, he waited tables, and now, in 2007, he's the manager. He was called back from his temporary digs in Seattle when Chloe's popular chef Kris Weingard died in December.

The rumor that MoBu is going to move its dance studio from 23rd and Sanchez sadly are true. The doors will close June 15, and dance teacher Takami Craddock is scouting for a new Noe Valley spot. "We are looking right now, and hopefully we can find something nearby," says Craddock, "soon."

Rumors about Bell are always cooking. The one on the front burner now is that Ralphs will close the supermarket when the lease is up, in April 2009, even though this is the Southern California chain's most profitable store per square foot. Then, the rumor goes, the building will be demolished and a mixed-use building will go up with a supermarket on the ground floor. Probably not Ralphs, though.

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OYE, COMO VA: Carlos Santana appeared at James Lick Middle School, his alma mater, on May 12, and helped dedicate the school's 75th-anniversary project: a peace and art garden at the school's Noe Street entrance. The music star didn't play or sing, but he signed a lot of autographs (and at least one guitar) and he gave an inspiring speech.

The crowd roared when Santana, true to his '60s roots, said, "The same thing that happened in Vietnam is happening again now in Iraq with that stupid, idiot-face Bush." Go out and march for peace, Santana told the students. "You have the capacity to create peace on earth now. Don't leave it to the man. Stick it to the man!"