Noe Valley Voice December-January 2009

And Now for the Rumors Behind the News

Apathy: Who Cares?

By Mazook

TWO-BIT VOTERS: The Noe voter turnout for the Nov. 3, 2009, municipal election proved to be the lowest in modern history. According to the Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI), the San Francisco Department of Elections reports that out of 16,034 Noe Valleyans who registered to vote, only 4,149 (just under 26 percent) bothered to come to the polls.

The absent Valleyums failed to cast votes on a proposition allowing city supervisors to hire more aides (Prop. B--it was barely approved), a proposition allowing the city to sell naming rights to Candlestick Park (Prop. C, passed by 57 percent), and two propositions related to outdoor advertising: Prop. D, which would have lifted a ban on Market Street billboards (failed); and Prop. E (passed), which bars additional advertising on city-owned property, like Muni stops and sides of buildings.

For a neighborhood that prides itself on community involvement, Noe Valley seems to have little interest in the nuts and bolts of civic duty. Now if the propositions had been about parking...

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TO SURVEY, WITH LOVE: And then there were the paltry responses to the Noe Valley Association's survey of what kind of shops and restaurants Noeyans would like to see along 24th Street. The NVA, a so-called community benefit district, was created in 2005, and is funded by a special assessment on the 176 property owners along the six-block commercial strip affectionately known as Downtown Noe Valley (24th from Douglass to Church, plus side streets). The NVA conducted the survey to submit to a task force created by the city's Small Business Commission. The commission is expected to make recommendations to the S.F. Planning Department, which has been reviewing the commercial-use codes in business districts throughout the city.

According to NVA director Debra Niemann, 96 civic-minded Noe Valleyans answered the call and participated in the September 2009 survey through the NVA website, (The Voice had publicized the survey in a "Short Take" in our September issue.)

Unfortunately, the rest of the 4,149 Valley voters did not take their responsibilities to the cyber level and complete the NVA survey online. I wonder how many of our 176 property owners weighed in on the survey, which incidentally they paid for.

The survey asked:

1. What types of restaurants would you like to see on 24th Street?

2. What other types of retail stores would you like to see?

3. If you could make changes, additions, or improvements in Noe Valley, what would they be?

4. How would you rate various [neighborhood] community events, in order of preference?

The survey gave you 11 types of restaurants to rank (and failed to include Chinese, for some reason). Of the choices, Health Food, Indian, and Vietnamese were the top picks of the survey respondents.

As for the second question, people wanted a garden store and a home accessories store, but the other two choices, a juice bar or a sporting goods store, were ranked almost as high. In the write-in part of the question, people listed dozens of things they'd like to see, such as a men's clothing store, jewelry repair shop, movie theater, "another health food store," and "a store like Cliff's Variety" in the Castro. Many commented, "No more nail salons!"

In the changes/improvements category, there were 54 earnest responses. One responder wrote "More Parking" 70 times. Another suggested more pods for City Car Share. Others wanted to expand the Noe Valley Farmers' Market to Lick School on Saturday mornings, or make 24th Street a "car-free pedestrian zone" on Saturdays, or bring a full-size gym to Noe Valley. How about we "make the parking lot where the Farmers' Market is currently located [a place] where small classical and jazz concerts and art sales could be held, similar to the plazas found in European cities," one person wrote.

Finally, the top three community events were, in order of preference, the Farmers' Market, the merchants association's Noel Stroll, and the annual Easter Egg Hunt put on by the NVA. (My favorite is the Harvest Festival.)

Maybe all you 4,149 Rumors regulars should log on to the NVA website and ask to take the survey. Get involved!

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NVBI AGENTS estimate that fewer than 20 Noe Valleyites will show up at the Planning Commission's Jan. 14 hearing (1:30 p.m., Room 400, City Hall) to evaluate Bevan Dufty's proposal to remove the restaurant and other food moratoriums governing our commercial corridor (see last month's Rumors).

The Planning Department spokesperson on the issue, Tara Sullivan, expects the commission will recommend the changes and return the proposal to the Board of Supervisors, who will then refer the matter to the Land Use Committee (Sophie Maxwell, David Chiu, and Eric Mar), who will hold public hearings sometime in February or March and then make a recommendation to the full Board of Supervisors.

Bevan Dufty says he intends to hold a town hall meeting "sometime during the second week of February," to hear residents' and merchants' views on lifting the bans.

Sullivan stresses that even if the change is okayed, new restaurants or takeouts or whatever will still have to go through the rigorous "conditional use" permit process. She points out that the most recent conditional use application was filed by the financial institution Circle Bank. The bank had no objections as of Nov. 30, and Sullivan anticipated it would get its approval at the commission's Dec. 3 meeting.

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BONJOUR, BOULANGERIE: Over 600 locals attended the grand opening of La Boulange de Noe on Friday, Nov. 17. There were free baguettes, pâté, and coffee for all attendees, and the neighborhood was happy to be invited.

"We had prepared enough food to serve about 300 people," says co-owner Thomas Lefort, "but we started running low after about 45 minutes, so we rushed to prepare more food for another 300, which was pretty well gone by 6 p.m."

Lefort went on to say, "We are very happy to be in Noe Valley, and the response has exceeded our expectations. This is performing nearly as well as our top café in Hayes Valley." The Noe Valley cafe/bakery is the Bay Bread group's ninth S.F. location, and they have two more in Marin County.

Curiously, under the restrictions in the city planning code, La Boulange will be able to open only one more spot in San Francisco. After 12 locations, they will automatically become a "chain" and banned from other neighborhoods' commercial districts.

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BLOG JAM: Noe Valley became the sixth entry in the S.F. Chronicle's list of neighborhoods featured on its cyber alter ego,, and actually only the second neighborhood in San Francisco with its own site, which will "feature updates from local bloggers as well as opportunities to share photos."

"We started this feature with the island of Alameda, then our Marin site, and then the Mission District in San Francisco, followed by Oakland and then Peninsula Coastside and now, since September, the Noe Valley site," says SFGate news director Vlae Kershner.

Ten stories have appeared on the Noe Valley site: blogs about the opening of Curator, Green 11, Star Magic, St. Philip's Festival, Omnivore Books, Dufty, Cover to Cover, Bernie's Coffee, and the last story, which appeared Oct. 4, about the Whole Foods opening on Sept. 30. That was attributed to the "Noe Valley Buzz" blog.

Kershner says right now "we are looking for bloggers for Noe Valley." All you aspiring Noe Valley journalists, this looks like an opportunity.

According to the Chronicle's Phil Bronstein, who is now editor-at-large and director of content development for the Chron's parent company, the Hearst Corporation, "This is a way to establish relationships with neighborhood blogs [and freelance reporters] and give them a larger audience."

Bronstein, who used to live in Noe Valley on Eureka at 22nd Street, says that all 15 Hearst papers are trying to focus on neighborhoods, and he feels this is being done well in the Bay Area, and also with their Texas paper, the Houston Chronicle.

Bronstein is also proud of the very successful Mission District blog, called Mission Loc@l, which was an outgrowth of a journalism class at U.C. Berkeley where Bronstein lectured.

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THIRTEEN HUNDRED TURKEYS flew out of Drewes Bros. Meat and Fish Market this Thanksgiving, according to owner Josh Epple. "Our customers also make donations to St. Anthony's Dining Room, which are matched by Drewes, and this year we will be sending St. Anthony's about 600 pounds of turkey for Christmas Dinner," says Epple. Drewes also donated turkeys to the Missionaries of Charity at St. Paul's Church, a group established by Mother Teresa in 1982.

Noe Valley's Turkey of the Year Award goes once again, for the sixth straight year, to the owners of Real Food Company for creating nothing but a blight since Labor Day of 2003. It also appears that I will be winning my bet with Bevan Dufty, who said that there will be work starting at the store "by the end of the year."

A quick check with the Planning Department shows that the last chirp made by the owners, Utah-based Nutraceutical Corporation, was an application filed back in May of 2007, to build a three-story, mixed-use structure (commercial and residential), but nothing was done after that date to obtain approval of the plans.

Dufty says he has made several calls to Nutra's point man on the project, Sergio Diaz, who has failed to respond. Tara Sullivan of the Planning Department notes that the owners would have to seek a demolition permit, but could do so only after they obtained city authorization for the plans. The only tool needed for "work" that could be done there these days is a sledgehammer.

So, Bevan: I think I will be ordering a turkey sandwich for lunch on Jan. 2.

Oh, you Noe Valleons might be interested to know that the top three Halloween costumes this year at One Stop Party Shop on Church Street were: (1) Michael Jackson, (2) H1N1 flu shtick like pig noses, and (3) pirate stuff. Says owner Mardie Vandervort, "Michael Jackson was huge this year."

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RESULTS OF THE NVBI SURVEY of holiday gifts in Downtown Noe Valley were released the day after Thanksgiving. Here's what one agent reported after making the rounds of the toy stores:

Peekabootique on Castro has a neat "Band in a Box" (with drum, cymbals, triangle, etc.) for $25 which kids of any age should like, and the shop is also offering Chunky Wooden Puzzles ($5 to $25). Both items are made by Melissa & Doug.

Around the corner on 24th Street, Wink is displaying collectible action figures from Tokidoki Toys, with prices starting at $6. You can also find arty and practical placemats from $9 to $19.

Over at Small Frys, take a look at the various Toys in a Tube, which cost $10.95, or the book Goodnight San Francisco, written by Adam Gamble and illustrated by Santiago Cohen for $9.95.

Star Magic has Space Specs (prism glasses) for six dollars. But probably the coolest items are the Solar Cars ($38), or a small plasma-light ball for $20.

Just for Fun has toys, but it also offers bathroom linens for $9.95 which have witty sayings on them, like: "You can't scare me, I have kids" or "Before I share a man's company I make sure he owns it." Also, you will find scads of ornaments priced from $5 to $19.

Ladybug Ladybug has T-shirts in all sizes that say "Old School San Francisco Native" on the front. They go for $20 each or three for $35.

Down at the Ark, a great stocking stuffer is the timeless Silly Putty for $3.99, or Folkmanis finger puppets from $6.99 to $30. The Monster Balloon sells for seven bucks.

(Turn around and walk back up 24th.) The Urban Nest has really cool designer sink strainers for $13.75, designer oilcloth lunch bags for $12, and a 4 x 7 tablecloth for $36.

Global Exchange stocks decorative picture frames and tableware made from recycled magazines ($6 to $40); recycled aluminum can pull-tabs made into jewelry ($22 to $32), recycled tire inner tubes fashioned into pouches ($10), and wallets for $29.

Back on Castro, Cooks Boulevard has a large assortment of Storehouse Olive Oils with a price range from $12 to $18. Or everyone can use a pair of OXO kitchen tongs for twelve bucks.

Lastly, for a little stocking stuffer, there is a nail salon on 24th Street currently for sale, for the bargain price of $79,000. If you are interested, inquire across the street at Zephyr Realty.

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THAT'S 30, folks. Wishing you and yours a happy, safe holiday season. Ciao for now. Pending drastic climate change, the Voice will be back in February.