Noe Valley Voice July 2011

NVHOO: Taking the Guess out of Guesthouses

By Heather World

Rachel Donovan and Jeff Yih would like residents to know about the dozens of vacation nooks in Noe Valley, including their own garden studio on Duncan Street.    Photo by Pamela Gerard

Where do you recommend your out-of-town relatives or friends stay if they can’t crash in your Noe Valley pad? The St. Francis Hotel downtown? Motels on Lom­bard Street? Youth hostels south of Market? 

Well, you might suggest they book a cozy room in a Noe Valley guesthouse, close to 24th Street shops, rows of Victorians, and the J-Church streetcar.

Except you didn’t know the neighborhood had such hideaways. That’s why this spring a group of local proprietors started a website to publicize Noe Valley’s many and varied lodgings, says webmaster Rachel Donovan, who with Jeff Yih owns the SF Vacation Hut, a garden studio on Duncan Street.

Donovan says visitors from far-flung countries like New Zealand and France, seeking a neighborhood experience over a downtown stay, have found her place, yet she still meets neighbors who were unaware of her business.

“I encounter people all the time who have lived here a long time and had no idea these rentals were here,” says Donovan. “We wanted to make it easier for our neighbors to find us.”

The site,, offers a directory of guest rooms and apartments in Noe Valley, an area defined by the group as 22nd to 30th streets and Market to Guerrero. It also gives a short description of each rental, as well as links to the vacation nooks’ own websites.

The range of accommodations is wide: from a private studio in a home to a four-bedroom flat. Many have full kitchens, laundry, and private gardens or patios, and other conveniences. Costs generally run from $500 to $2,900 a week.

The website was a spinoff of the newly formed Noe Vacation Home Owners Organization (NVHOO). The group has about 10 members so far, operating more than two dozen vacation rentals in the neighborhood. Members share information on everything from how to secure the proper homeowners insurance to where to go to buy sheets.

Donovan estimates there are at least 100 short-term rentals in Noe Valley, but it is hard to determine the exact number because proprietors can list on a half-dozen websites, and not all of those sort listings by neighborhood.

Through emails and casual brunch meetings, NVHOO members have gotten to know each other and each other’s properties—who takes pets, who has a two-bedroom unit, and who can accommodate the disabled. Consequently, referrals are less of a guessing game, says group member Kathy McCahill, who opened her three-unit guesthouse on Sanchez and 29th streets three years ago so she would have a place for her out-of-town daughters to stay when they visited.

McCahill says the group believes strongly in promoting local businesses in the area. Part of her job is to act as a concierge, and as such she is often asked for restaurant tips or directions to the nearest grocery store. She has plenty of good recommendations for Noe Valley, she says. “It’s the community of people here that makes everything about the place so wonderful.”

Donovan agrees that Noe Valley is a star attraction for tourists, especially those with kids. “This is Baby Stroller Central, and a very safe neighborhood,” she assures her visitors.

Because local residents already take pride in that, her next mission is to create a walking tour of vacation rentals in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, she says, all are invited to check out the website or join its listserv: