Noe Valley Voice April 2008

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: San Franciscans are soooo provincial. We fashion our domains from the unique topography of the 47 square miles we have claimed as our own. Each of our 43 hills leads to at least as many valleys. We have a penchant for our "uppers" and our "lowers," designate our "outers" and "inners," and point to our "heights," "gulches," and "hollows." You're either north or south of Market or the Panhandle, in the streets or out in the avenues. Everyone always want to know your "cross street."

Noe Valleyans all know that our neighborhood is bounded by the Mission on the east, Dolores Heights and Eureka Valley to the north, Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights to the west, and Fairmount Heights, which is located at the south-westerly end of your basic Noe Valley, on the south.

But where are the boundaries? Not everyone agrees where the boundary lines should be drawn.

For the record, Noe Valley's official metes and bounds were set by San Francisco archivist Gladys Hansen, in her 1975 San Francisco Almanac, as follows: "Clipper and Douglass to Dolores and over Dolores to 25th Street. Down to Mission, out Mission to San Jose, south on San Jose to Miguel, west on Miguel to Laidley Street, over Laidley to 30th Street to Castro, over Castro to Valley, Valley to Diamond and back to Clipper Street."

By the way, the map in said Almanac was compiled by none other than Noe Valleyan Bill Yenne (author of San Francisco's Noe Valley in the "Images of America" series from Arcadia Press).

Yenne says that as far as he is concerned, 21st Street is the northern boundary and 30th the southern. In his eyes, Grand View is the western edge, and Dolores the eastern, "although I am willing to go down to Fair Oaks." Yenne can't quite figure out how Hansen came up with her borders, which he says "are quite clearly bogus."

So, where are we?

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WHERE IT'S AT: The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) has just completed its own exhaustive investigation of the boundaries of Noe Valley after the turmoil created by the S.F. Department of Elections' vote count for Noe Valley in the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday primary. At issue for the NVBI was exactly what boundaries were being used by the Elections Department to count the Noe Valley vote. For the NVBI, it was also a jurisdictional issue--just how far do their investigative powers reach?

It might surprise many living in Upper Market or on the eastern slopes of Twin Peaks, or in Dolores Heights, Liberty Heights, and the Fairmount, that they are all "Noe Valley" voters to the city. Many in Upper Noe Valley are casting their votes as Diamond Heights-ers rather than Noe Valleyans.

For the Department of Elections, Noe Valley starts at the northeast corner of Randall and San Jose Avenue, and heads northerly to and along Guerrero to 24th Street, then left for one block up 24th to Dolores. Go north on Dolores to 22nd, and turn right down to Fair Oaks, then up a block to 21st and turn left (west), going all the way up to Grand View (with a few one-block jags on the way up), and then south on Grand View until Alvarado, then turn west, go across Upper Market to Corbett and turn right (north) on Corbett. Climb up to Twin Peaks boulevard, turn left and head south on Twin Peaks until you reach Portola Drive, then turn left and head back north to Clipper. Are you dizzy yet? Head east down Clipper to Douglass and turn right up the hill to take a left at Cesar Chavez, then travel east again to Noe. Turn right and go out Noe to 30th Street, then turn right at Church and up a block, then left on Randall, and back to San Jose Avenue.

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YOU ARE HERE: Of course, no one agrees with the Department of Elections. When the NVBI asked Noe Valley activist Carol Yenne for our boundaries, she replied, "That's easy. It is 30th Street on the south to 21st Street on the north, and Grand View to the west and Dolores on the east."

Noe Valley Association president Debra Niemann agrees with Yenne, except she thinks that our eastern border goes down to Guerrero Street. Donna Davis, co-president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, agrees with Niemann. "Of our 104 member businesses, about 97 percent are within those boundaries," says Davis.

Paul Kantus, Noe Valley historian and past president of the now dormant East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club, contends that the southern boundary is 30th Street and the northern is 21st Street, but he starts at Guerrero on the east and goes up to Corbett on the west. Kantus, who has lived at 21st and upper Douglass since 1926, points out that technically he lives in Eureka Valley. "My dad always said we lived in Eureka Valley at its border with Noe Valley, and East & West always had members that lived above Upper Market on Corbett."

Downtown Noe Valley realtor David Pennebaker (from B.J. Droubi) agrees with Kantus but thinks that the western edge stops at Upper Market. He is unclear, however, where Upper Noe Valley stops and Fairmount Heights begins, "although many refer to Fairmount as Glen Park, which it isn't, and many realtors think of northeast Noe Valley as Liberty Heights, which is not shown on any neighborhood map."

Zephyr's Noe Valley branch manager, Randall Kostick, points to the San Francisco Association of Realtors map as delineating our "official neighborhood boundaries": 30th on the South and 22nd Street to the north, with the eastern line going from 30th along San Jose and then Guerrero to 24th, then one block up to San Jose to 22nd, and then west as a straight line along Grand View, then Diamond Heights Boulevard, and across Billy Goat Hill to 30th Street.

"My personal view," says Kostick, "is that valleys are created from the peaks between one hill and the next, so Noe Valley is bounded on the south by the top of Fairmount Heights (above Laidley), the west by Twin Peaks, the north at 22nd Street, and the east down to probably the east side of Fair Oaks or the west side of Guerrero."

Mission Police Captain Tim Hettrich, a SFPD 38-year veteran who resides off of Monterey Boulevard, says that the Noe Valley he knows is bordered by 27th Street on the south, 22nd Street on the north, Homestead on the west, and Church on the east. "The police beat for the commercial strip goes from Douglass to Dolores between 23rd and 25th streets."

The NVBI contacted the San Francisco Chronicle to ascertain where they thought Noe Valley was, and the editors turned to longtime Chron reporter and Bernal Heights resident Carl Nolte to respond.

"We put together a map of the San Francisco neighborhoods in about 1990," says Nolte, "which has Noe Valley borders going east-west from Hoffman to Dolores and north-south from 22nd to 30th Streets." According to Nolte, we are but one of 122 neighborhoods on the Chronicle map.

In concluding its report, the NVBI has now adopted the Department of Elections' expanded view of Noe Valley and has also included Upper Noe Valley from Noe Street up to Billy Goat Hill to Beacon. The NVBI is seriously considering whether to return Noe Valley to the very inclusive 1840 boundaries of Don José de Jesus Noe's Rancho de San Miguel, which would include the areas from Eureka Valley on the north all the way past Glen Canyon on the south, and Twin Peaks on the west down to "Rancho Bernal" (Islais Creek) on the east.

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THE BEAT GOES ON: Everyone is happy that Downtown Noe Valley has seen the return of SFPD Officer Lorraine Lombardo, after a four-year hiatus. You all will remember that she patrolled here from 1991 through 2004.

"Yes, I'm on the beat," Lombardo says, "mostly on my mountain bike, because it's easier to get around that way. I'll be getting to know--or renewing my relationships with--the merchants and residents on 24th Street and the residential areas around it."

She says she'll be paying special attention to the double-parkers on 24th Street, to make sure the traffic keeps flowing. "I've also had a lot of complaints about people making left turns out of Bell Market," she adds. "People should know better than to do that!"

Last month, she was investigating a rash of 24th Street store burglaries (see Crime Beat) and helping merchants figure out how to secure their doors.

But she was happy to be back in Noe Valley. "It's nice to see everyone at the Saturday Farmers' Market, smiling and's a happy neighborhood.

"Coming back this time, I feel like I'm home," she adds. "It makes me realize how effective all those years of community policing were, because people remember me.... I've watched families grow up. I've even had one older teenager who is now working on 24th Street whom I knew as a little girl come up to me and say, 'Remember me? I used to play with your handcuffs!'"

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Photo by Pamela Gerard
SHINY & NEW: The newly retrofitted Noe Valley-Sally Brunn Library reopened to great fanfare on March 8. Huge crowds, including lion dancers, filled the street before lining up to enter the building. Kids pounced on the books and drawing materials, while the adults started grabbing bestsellers and DVDs or sat down to work at the new computer terminals.

On hand to dedicate the branch were Mayor Gavin Newsom, Assemblyman Mark Leno, State Senator Carole Migden, and Supervisor Bevan Dufty with daughter Sidney in tow.

Special thanks went out to Noe Valleyans Kim Drew, David Brodwin, and Bill Yenne, who were very involved in raising funds and in working with the contractor and the city to get the doors to reopen.

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SHORT SHRIFTS: Debra Niemann reports that the Noe Valley Association is planning on putting some planter boxes on the easterly wall of the newly renovated children's playground at Noe Courts to help prevent kids from climbing up on the wall and falling over the edge into the flowers below.

The spot recently vacated by Les Petit Ninous, at 1195 Church near 24th, has been taken over by a new shop called Mabuhay (a Filipino greeting meaning "long life"). Owner Camille Nelson Seiberling says the store, which opened in mid-March, specializes in environmentally-friendly clothing and toys for babies and toddlers. Many of her wares are by local designers, she says.

Last month, Wells Fargo opened its new, much larger branch in the space where Rite Aid used to be, at 4045 24th Street. The bank, which now will have eight live tellers, will take up about two-thirds of the space. The other third will be occupied by the California State Automobile Association. CSAA, which sells memberships and travel packages and insurance, will have a grand opening party on April 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bank of America has also completed a refurbishing of its Noe Valley branch. The only complaint we've heard is that the picture of bank founder A.P. Giannini was removed from the wall. Insiders tell us the portrait was saved and will be put back up soon.

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KUDOS to the Reverend Dr. Karen Oliveto, who was pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church on Sanchez and Clipper for 12 years before she left in 2004 to teach at the Pacific School of Religion. She has been hired as an assistant pastor at the internationally renowned Glide Memorial United Methodist Church.

You might remember that Oliveto performed what she called "the first legal gay marriage inside a United Methodist church." The wedding generated worldwide attention and got her into a heap of trouble with the church hierarchy, which filed a formal protest against her. She ultimately prevailed and now stands at the forefront of Methodist LGBT rights. Oliveto will share duties with a new co-pastor and Glide founder Cecil Williams.

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THAT'S 30, FOLKS. Warning: If you turn this column upside-down, you will NOT be able to read it. Have a foolishly splendid April and see you back here on May Day.