Noe Valley Voice July-August 2008

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

SHOWING OFF: For Noe Valleyans preparing to welcome family and friends from back east, the Noe Valley Bureau of Tourism (NVBT) is offering a special Noe Walk through neighborhood hills.

The NVBT points out that visitors should be warned to bring warm clothes, because summer in San Francisco doesn't arrive until Sept. 21 (the autumnal equinox). Till then, the city is ensconced in the "Foggy Season." That means there will be early-morning and late-afternoon fog rolling over Twin Peaks, causing temperatures to drop from 60s and 70s during the day to 40s or 50s at night.

The NVBT suggests that you start this walking tour less than a mile from Noe Valley, near the corner of 16th and Dolores, at the oldest building in San Francisco, Mission Dolores, which is where the city was born 232 years ago, on June 29, 1776. It was there on the shores of Lake Dolores (La Laguna de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores) that a mass was celebrated by Father Francisco Palou. Palou was the chaplain for a small band of Spanish soldiers sent here by Capt. Juan Bautista de Anza to establish a military outpost (which they did, at the Presidio).

You can point out that members of the family of our namesake, José de Jesus Noe (1805-1862), are buried at Mission Dolores. Noe was the last Mexican mayor of San Francisco, then called Yerba Buena, and in 1846 he was granted a huge swath of land called Rancho San Miguel, which stretched from what is now Eureka Valley to Glen Park and beyond.

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GIVE ME LIBERTY: Walk south on Dolores past Mission High, San Francisco's oldest high school, founded in 1896 and rebuilt in 1927 after burning down in 1922. Turn into Dolores Park, first opened in 1905 and a year later turned into a refugee camp for almost 2,000 families (1906 ring a bell?).

Climb diagonally southwest across the park and go up to the corner of 20th and Church. There you will find the gold-painted fire hydrant which gushed enough water to save the houses north of 20th Street during the conflagration that followed the '06 earthquake. The marvelous story is told by Bill Cereske at

Turn back to 20th Street and head east two blocks to Valencia Street. Turn right (going south again) and walk one block to the foot of Liberty Street. Turn right and climb up the hill into a most amazing Victorian neighborhood, with rows of mostly Italianate houses built from 1867 to 1911. The area is now designated the Liberty Hill Historic District.

You might want to point out that the house at 159 Liberty was built in 1878 and owned for many years by Judge Daniel J. Murphy. According to the authors of Here Today: San Francisco's Architectural Heritage, the house was "a hotbed of the women's suffrage movement," as evidenced by an invitation to the house by Murphy "to meet Miss Susan B. Anthony, Reverend Anna Shaw, and others interested in the 'Woman's Suffrage' question, for a social chat."

As you climb Liberty Hill, make sure to check out the row of houses from 533 to 579, which were built in the Eastlake Style and used as a set in the 1948 movie I Remember Mama, starring Irene Dunne.

As you climb Liberty, take the high road after you cross Church--here Liberty Street has been split in two. Turn left at Sanchez and wind up to 21st Street for a glorious view at the corner of Sanchez and 21st. The large Tudor mansion on the corner was built in 1929 by longtime San Francisco mayor (1912-32) James J. Rolph, allegedly as a "cottage" for his mistress (oh, those Roaring Twenties). "Sunny Jim," as he was called, became a U.S. senator in 1932 and died in '34. Then the house was purchased by an eye surgeon. The fountain in the front is rumored to have been a gift from Benito Mussolini for a successful eye surgery for a member of his family in the mid-1930s.

You might be interested to know that the whole top floor is one big living/rec room with a spectacular view of City Hall, and the kitchen and bedrooms are on the first level. When the house was on the market about 15 years ago, it had no kitchen, but one has since been added.

The Rolph house was sold to the Salaman family circa 1940, and it's still owned by the family trust.

You might see a "For Sale" sign in front. Yes, it is. Sotheby's Payton Stiewe is offering the property for "between $3.5 and $4 million." He says there will be open houses on the weekends "from mid- to end July." Currently, the house has been vacated by the family and is being staged for the sale. It will be a rare opportunity to see what is truly a neighborhood jewel.

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GO WEST on 21st Street all the way to Collingwood, look left and admire the Eureka Valley views, then turn right and go to the top of the hill (at 22nd) and see the spectacular views to the east, turn right and go west down the 22nd Street steps to Diamond. Turn right at Diamond and walk to 24th Street. Turn left and stroll into Downtown Noe Valley for shopping, stroller sidestepping, and latte-sipping.

Mandatory stops are the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore for the past and Bespoke bike shop for the future. At the corner of Castro, remind your friends that where Subs Inc. is now Bud's Ice Cream once reigned as the Noe Valley destination in the 1960s and 70s.

Pause to contemplate Harry Aleo's window at Twin Peaks properties. Stop at Qoio jewelry store and go to the back garden for some tranquility. Visit our unique shops, like for example, Global Exchange, Just for Fun, and the Ark.

When you reach Church Street, it will be time for lunch (or maybe dinner), so either back up on 24th or go down Church, to find your favorite restaurant. When I reach that corner, I celebrate with a cinnamon twist from Happy Donuts. Bon appetit!

If this hike is too adventurous, or you'd like a different route, show up at 11 a.m. any summer Sunday morning at the gilded fireplug at 20th and Church. That is the starting point for a free walking tour of the Mission Dolores neighborhood offered by the group San Francisco City Guides. Check out all their tours at

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VERY NOE VALLEY is the Independence Day event at Bethany Methodist Church at Sanchez and Clipper. Reverend Lauren Chaffee invites you to an "alternative" July 4th celebration, "Peace Is Patriotic," from 3 to 7 p.m. There will be live music, grilled food, a children's play area, chair massages, and most important, the unveiling of the architect's rendering of renovations to be made to the church's buildings. Bethany just celebrated its 100th birthday on May 18. The birthday song was led, of course, by our city supervisor, Bevan Dufty.

"We are all very excited about this project," says Rev. Chaffee, "and expect to be moving out this coming January, with construction to start next April. We'll be coming back in about 18 months with a fantastic space."

According to Chaffee, the renovations will include earthquake retrofitting, preserving the sanctuary and its Mission-style architecture, a major makeover of the gym/social hall, excavation of a basement, expanding the number of classrooms/community meeting spaces with new bathrooms and showers, creating a courtyard in the middle of the building, and installing elevators to the second-story sanctuary.

"We will have a lot of room to help the non-profit community groups (e.g., 12-step programs) and also become an earthquake preparedness center and stock supplies in case of disaster," say Chaffee. "On the whole, we'll triple our space using green construction [techniques]."

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KUDOS GO OUT to two very destination-Noe Valley businesses: the venerable Lovejoy's Tea Room on Church and 24th Street's See Jane Run.

Lovejoy's was the setting of a May 23 celebration for the kids in Leonard Flynn School's "Reluctant Readers" book club. After a long school year, the reward for the students was high tea at Lovejoy's, with a full array of finger sandwiches, scones, and fruit. Lovejoy's opened an hour early for the affair and donated the party, says thankful teacher Lisa Bishop.

After high tea, each of the kids was presented with a $20 gift certificate from the Children's Book Project, and it was off to Modern Times bookstore to pick out whatever reading material they wanted.

See Jane Run, which opened its first store in Downtown Noe Valley in 2000 and now has two more locations (one in Alameda), sponsored a benefit run in Alameda on May 31. More than 1,500 women runners and walkers participated in the second annual women's 5K/half-marathon and kids run.

See Jane Run donated $10,000 to the non-profit Girls Inc., which provides programs for girls 6 to 18 in science, math, and computer science. More than 80 people volunteered to help with the run, and participants raised $2K for the benefit.

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JOBY'S RUN is likely to be the name of the new dog play area at the freshly renovated Upper Noe Valley Park on Sanchez Street. The dog run will be located on the 30th Street side of the park. Rec and Park memos confirm that the proposal has jumped through most of the hoops at City Hall.

Joby Shinoff, who lost his struggle with cancer last November, was a leading advocate for the off-leash run at Upper Noe. He started a group called Day Park Dogs about nine years ago, and spent countless hours meeting with park users and dog owners to carve out an area for dogs that would be separate from the athletic field. The first "trial" dog run was established in 2000. Shinoff also worked with Rec and Park to include a permanent dog run in the renovation plans. Unfortunately, he died before the new dog run was constructed. About 500 neighbors have signed a petition asking that the dog run be named for Shinoff. As to when the park renovation will be completed, we're having a hard time sniffing that out. The latest word from insiders is August.

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LILY OF THE VALLEY: A bouquet goes out to the Friends of Noe Valley and to those of you who participated in the May 10 Noe Valley Garden Tour. Friends sold 265 tickets (at $12 each) and sponsors donated another $900. According to FNV president Richard May, after expenses of under a thousand dollars, the event raised just over $3,000. The money will go toward "neighborhood beautification."

May wants to thank the Noe Valley residents who opened their lovely gardens for the event, as well as Friends board members Cynthia Hogan, Andrew Keeler, Beth Daecher, Scott Maddux, and Mindy Kershner.

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IN OTHER NOE NEWS: It looks like the space on Church Street recently vacated by the Pickled Hutch antique store will become MoBu, a dance studio owned and operated by Takami Craddock. You might recall that Craddock taught dance at the Noe Valley Ministry, then opened a studio temporarily on the corner of 23rd and Sanchez. She also has a studio in the Sunset District. Look for the Church Street studio to be renovated and open this fall.

Condolences go out to the family of Alvin Edlin, who died last month at age 96. His nickname in Downtown Noe Valley was "Bud," and not coincidentally he owned and operated Bud's Ice Cream on the corner of 24th and Castro from 1952 to 1980. The shop space was ultra-small, but Bud made all of his famous flavors in the creamery in the back of the store.

Bud sold out to a group of investors in 1980, and later was bought out by Berkeley Farms. You can still find Bud's Ice Cream in supermarket freezers, but it just ain't the same.

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NOE VOTES tabulated by the Department of Elections in the June 3 primary election show that 47 percent of Noe Valleyans who are registered to vote cast ballots (citywide, the turnout was 40 percent).

The hotly contested battle for a state senate seat among Mark Leno, Carole Migdon, and Joe Nation, was won by Leno with 2,768 votes. Migdon got 1,091 votes, and Nation came in third with 480.

The political season will resume on or before Labor Day. The week after, the Voice will start distributing its September issue. Now it's vacation time, and I look forward to taking friends for a stroll up Liberty Hill. See you there!

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BEFORE I SAY GOODBYE for summer vacation, I'd like to extend my condolences to the family and friends of Twin Peaks Properties owner Harry Aleo, whom we lost to cancer on June 21. Harry always referred to the Noe Valley Voice as "that radical rag," but he was a great source of news for Rumors over the years. Lost in the Fog, a documentary by John Corey about Aleo and his winning racehorse Lost in the Fog, had its world premiere the evening of June 10 at the Kabuki Theater. Aleo got out of the hospital that day, but was unable to attend the event. Said a sad Corey to the large theater audience, "I wish Harry were here tonight." He told the crowd, however, that Harry had delighted at seeing a special screening of the movie before he went into the hospital. Hopefully, Corey will organize a benefit screening in Noe Valley, but if that doesn't happen, check out the movie when it's released on DVD.

That's 30.