Noe Valley Voice February 2010

Short Takes

By Heather World

Tango One Night, Fiddle the Next

Temperatures should rise on three nights in February, when sizzling tango and heart-thumpin' bluegrass make their annual visits to the Noe Valley Ministry.

The creative quartet Tango No. 9 arrives on Friday, Feb. 12, with "Tango for the New Decade," an evening of nuevo tango and dance hosted by the Noe Valley Music Series.

Inspired by Astor Piazzolla, the controversial Argentine composer who stirred up traditional tango with elements of classical music and jazz, Tango No. 9 is Joshua Raoul Brody on piano, Isabel Douglass on accordion, Greg Stephens on trombone, and Catharine Clune on violin. The group will be joined on stage by singer Zoltan Lundy, accordion player Rob Reich, and dancers Mila Salazar, Count Glover, Rose Vierling, and Jessie Dishart.

Tickets for the event cost $15 in advance and $17 at the door. The Ministry is at 1021 Sanchez Street near 23rd Street, and the show begins at 8:15 p.m.

Not 24 hours later, the wood floors in the churc h's upstairs hall will shake with the boot-stomping gospel of Fret Not, as the Music Series hosts its part of the 11th annual San Francisco Bluegrass & Old-Time Festival. Led by singer Lori Arthur, Fret Not promises to lift the spirits of disheartened urbanites with strong harmonies emanating from both African-American and white church traditions. Also slated for the Feb. 13 gig are the bands Family Lines and the Wronglers. Family Lines is a folk-blues-roots trio composed of vocalist Susan Nielsen, guitarist Tim McDonald, and veteran plucker Ken Frankel. Fronting the Wronglers is banjo player Warren Hellman, whom you might recognize as founder of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park. The night starts at 7:30, and tickets are $16 advance/ $18 at the door.

The festival continues at the Ministry the following Friday, Feb. 19, with Portland bluegrass band Jackstraw, the Black Crown Stringband, and the Crooked Jades, who mix African and European sounds with Americana roots music. Ticke ts cost $18 and $20 for this show, which also starts at 7:30 p.m.

You can pick up advance tickets at Phoenix Books, 3957 24th Street near Noe Street. For more information, visit www or www.sf, or call 415-454-5238.

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the 11 Ways

Friends of the San Francisco Library is hosting its third annual "Poets 11," a poetry contest in each of the city's supervisorial districts that concludes with a published anthology of winning selections.

Judged by San Francisco's former poet laureate Jack Hirschman, the contest is a platform for both new and established poets. There are no rules about style, length, or form, and past submissions have ranged from lightly humorous to heavily political, says Sarah Rosedale, coordinator of the event. Even language is open--Hirschman is a multilingual poetry translator, and he encourages writers to submit work in their native language.

"The poems really reflect the neighborhoo ds well," says Rosedale, who manages Book Bay Fort Mason, a bookstore run by the Friends.

Submissions of up to three poems are due March 1. Hirschman will select three winning poets from each district, who will join him and read their work at a local branch library. District 8 winners will read at the Eureka Valley Library Tuesday, April 20, at 7 p.m. All the winning poets come together May 8 for a reading in the Main Library's Koret Auditorium. Winners also receive a $50 honorarium.

Last year, Noe Valley's District 8 sent in at least 60 submissions--about 15 percent of the total, says Rosedale. Noe Valley resident Stanley Kiesel was one of the district's three winners.

Entrants must be 18 years or older and live in one of San Francisco's 11 districts. Poems can be emailed to poets11@, dropped off at any branch library, or mailed to Poets 11, Book Bay Fort Mason, Fort Mason Center, Building C, San Francisco, CA 94123.

For more information on guidelines, a map of city district s, and a submissions form, visit

Where to Meet a Caterpillar

This spring, visitors to Noe Courts park can learn about the birds and the bees as these winged pollinators buzz around a new habitat garden planted last month by neighbors, including 30 children.

Nestled in a planter that runs along the 24th Street side of the playground (at Douglass), the 3-by-12-foot garden houses 15 different plants that attract honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds year-round, says Beth Saiki, a Noe Valley mother of two who helped organize the planting.

Depending on the season, you will see monarch butterfly eggs under milkwood leaves, swallowtail caterpillars eating the leaves of ceanothus plants, butterflies sipping nectar from yarrow, and hummingbirds visiting the currant shrub, she says.

Habitat gardens are magical, but don't expect the tidy display of a manicured garden, says Saiki. Fallen leaves will remain on the ground to shelter butterfly eggs, and caterpillars w ill munch some plants to tatters come spring. Mud puddles are prized as a source of drinking water for butterflies.

The project grew out of a $3,000 grant from First Five San Francisco that Saiki and 11 other neighborhood families secured in 2008 (see July 2009 Voice).

"It was a big community-building experience," says Saiki. In preparation, the families took a workshop in habitat gardening offered by Susan Prentice, owner of the plant nursery Independent Nature on Church Street. A store employee and a Recreation and Park Department employee helped design the layout of the plants. The garden was installed by the families and their kids on Jan. 9.

Now that planting is done, the grant families will post educational signs describing the garden and the importance of the bees and butterflies it serves. Then they will take turns maintaining it.

City's Top Money Analysts at Demo Club

City Assessor Phil Ting and San Francisco Budget Director Leo Levenson will be the featured s peakers at the next meeting of the Noe Valley Democratic Club, Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 7:30 p.m. According to Molly Fleischman, vice president of the club, each will talk about the serious financial challenges now faced by city government.

"As the two men come from two differing perspectives--one assesses and collects taxes, one analyzes revenues and projects expenditures--these two perspectives should be interesting to explore," says Fleischman, noting that Ting is often mentioned as a possible candidate for mayor.

Fleischman encourages those attending the meeting to voice their concerns and opinions at a Q&A session following the presentations. Refreshments will be served, and all are welcome to the event, at St. Philip's Church, 725 Diamond Street at Elizabeth Street. For more information, contact Fleischman at 415-641-5838 or

Get Your Geek On

Noe Valley will be home to a high-tech scavenger hunt Saturday, Feb. 6, when friends and family from Alvarado Elem entary School fan out, flashlights and phone cameras in hand, to show off their neighborhood knowledge.

Teams of participants will be given a map with clues to decipher. The clues lead to various locations in Noe Valley, where members take a photo of the answer and email it back to the home base.

"It's a scavenger hunt meets block party," says organizer Tim Smith, who heads the school's technology committee. The event is also a fundraiser, and Smith has already secured sponsorship from Google, Geeknet,, and Circle Bank. District 8 supervisor candidates Rafael Mandelman, Rebecca Prozan, Laura Spanjian, and Scott Wiener have also thrown their hats in the ring.

Smith says the school hopes to raise $15,000--enough money to provide working computers for every classroom.

The hunt starts at 6 p.m. at the school's cafeteria on 22nd Street between Douglass and Eureka. Two hours later, everyone will meet at the Dubliner Bar on 24th Street and compare notes. Prizes from Geeknet and Electronic Arts will be awarded, and the winning team gets a free round of drinks. To join the fun, visit the website at

Restoration Sheds Light on Bernal Library

The Bernal Heights Branch Library, 500 Cortland Avenue, reopened last month after a two-year, $5.7 million renovation. The facelift has turned a windowless basement into a light-filled Children's Room, which now opens onto the adjacent Bernal Heights playground.

The new Children's Room replaced a preschool run by City College, which moved out before renovations began in February 2008. There had always been a community room downstairs, but now the space is more inviting, says Michelle Jeffers, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Public Library.

Built in 1940 by the Works Project Administration, a Depression-era job creation program, the library saw a restoration of its original hand-painted stencils on the ceiling and ornate light fixtures. Wood veneers were refinished to match the original woodwork in the branch, and a new Beaux Arts staircase connects the basement to the main floor. The renovation was designed by the Library Design Studio, a division of the Department of Public Works (DPW).

"Just as the WPA provided much needed jobs for public works projects across San Francisco, the Branch Library Improvement Program today is providing work for architects, contractors, tradespeople, and laborers to rebuild libraries across the city," says Ed Reiskin, director of DPW.

Bernal Heights is the 13th of 16 branch libraries to be renovated under the Branch Library Improvement Program, which is funded by a $105.9 million bond measure passed by voters in 2000. The program includes the construction of eight new libraries as well.

The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, together with the Bernal Heights Library Campaign Committee, will contribute about $500,000 toward the branch renovation to pay for furnishings, fixtures, and equipment not covered by the bond. For more information, contact Marian Cha tfield-Taylor at

Desired: Prom Dresses

Prom night is an adolescent fairy tale, but for some girls that date spells images of Cinderella, who was too poor to afford a dress for the ball. Enter the fairy godmothers--chic Noe Valley women who donate dresses to the Princess Project. Since 2002, the Princess Project has collected gently used dresses and accessories that wind up on racks at spring giveaway events for high school teens. Girls who cannot otherwise afford a prom outfit are invited to select something that is right for them. In its first year, the Princess Project gave away 250 dresses, says board member Melissa Murray. Last year, 3,000 dresses flew off the racks, and this year they expect to distribute 4,000, she says.

The Princess Project asks that donated dresses be contemporary and suitably elegant for a high school prom. They should be dry-cleaned and hung on a hanger. Jewelry, purses, and wraps in good condition are also needed, though the group cannot accept shoes or makeup.

Dresses are being accepted through March and April at these San Francisco locations: Bar Method (3 Embarcadero Center and 3333 Fillmore Street), the Blue Jeans Bar (1827 Union Street), Marc by Marc Jacobs on Fillmore (2142 Fillmore Street), and the YMCA Presidio (63 Funston Avenue).

To learn more, or to host a dress drive, visit

Last Call for Garden Tour

At press time, Friends of Noe Valley sent this alert about the Noe Valley Garden Tour:

The fourth Noe Valley Garden Tour will be held the second weekend in June, on June 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Six to eight gardens will be selected to be on the tour, which is sponsored by the Friends of Noe Valley neighborhood association. Proceeds from the tour will go to help finance neighborhood beautification projects for Noe Valley.

If you would like your garden or a neighbor's garden to be on the public tour, please contact Richard May at 298-2344 no later than Feb. 28. Nominated gardens will be inspected during March, and final selections made by March 31.

Gardens can be of any theme. Each garden must have private access. Volunteers will be stationed at the garden entrance to take and sell tickets, answer questions, and monitor access. Homeowners are encouraged, but not required, to be on hand to talk to their visitors. Nominations from individuals and landscaping firms both are welcomed. Proposals for neighborhood beautification projects are also due by Feb. 28. Requirements are that projects be in a public space for all to enjoy within the boundaries of Noe Valley: Grand View/Diamond Heights Boulevard on the west, 30th Street on the south, Guerrero on the east and 21st Street on the north. Please also call May to discuss possible beautification projects.