Noe Valley Voice October 2011

Letters to the Editor



An Open Letter to Noe Valley

Editor’s Note: Two buildings were damaged and seven tenants were displaced as a result of a major fire at 4049–51 24th Street the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 10 (see “Benefit Planned for Tenants in 24th Street Fire,” home page). Christina Vo, one of those who lost her home due to the blaze, sent the Voice this open letter to the community, writtenfour days after the event.


An Expanded View of Home

In the last few days since the fire that destroyed our Noe Valley apartment, I’ve been thinking more than ever about the concept of “home”—and trying to extract any meaning from our temporary loss. We’re lucky, though, and I know that: nobody was hurt in the fire, and we were able to salvage most of our belongings.

Our upstairs neighbors, however, were not as fortunate. They lost many of their personal items.

We’d just begun to settle into our place, when this fire hit.

While I had never initially made a target of living in Noe Valley (not fitting into the stereotypes, since I am both childless and dogless), I couldn’t help but fall in love with the apartment when I first saw it—the light, the large rooms, the hardwood floors, the huge closets. The apartment had just had a fresh makeover, after 20 years’ occupation by the same tenant, and it was beautiful. Our landlord was amazingly kind and trusting; she let us come over a few weeks before the apartment was finished to repaint the rooms in the color of our choice, to paint cabinets, and to make small modifications for our aesthetic pleasure.

Have fun playing house, she said to us.

Having a naturally nomadic spirit (in the last 10 years, I had lived in North Carolina, Hanoi, Saigon, London, San Francisco, Hanoi, Geneva, Hanoi, and San Francisco)—I was more than ready to call this apartment my home. My housemates—one who’d just moved here from Boston—were equally ready to commit to the place. We befriended our upstairs neighbors and a week after we moved in, we’d already thrown our first full house party. A Halloween party, hosted by the two apartments, was already in the works.

I focused on perfecting the back rooms: the kitchen and the living room. I wanted it to be beautiful, I wanted it to be home. I found a customized reclaimed wood table for the kitchen, had shelves installed, painted tables and chairs bought from Craigslist, found vintage tins, ordered lamps from a vendor at the Alameda Flea Market, and displayed the items I’d brought from Vietnam.

All of us worked to create an ambience that would reflect our three personalities: a space we could all call home. We wanted to put love into this house, to make it grow and flourish.

After about six weeks, we weren’t quite finished. One of my housemates had arranged to have all his childhood belongings sent to the house. His boxes sat in the front room, waiting to be unpacked. Though it was still unfinished, the house had already started feeling like home to us. We held dinner parties, received friends visiting from other cities and countries. Always, I felt secretly delighted when friends would comment: how beautiful the house was; how warm it felt. Congratulations, one said.

For the first time in my life I relished the fact that I felt no desire to leave. I felt rooted and solid in this physical structure, certain that my San Francisco life was beginning—now that I finally had a real home. I relied on this structure to ground me in a place. I kept telling myself to consider the importance of “home”: that for a person to really flourish, he/she needed to feel grounded in something.

We were at a barbecue on Saturday afternoon when we began receiving worried texts and calls from friends in the neighborhood. One text: I don’t mean to alarm you, but I think your building is on fire. I didn’t really believe that the fire was in our building. It wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be. In the taxi, my friend called Radio Shack, which is located on the first floor of our building: no one answered. He then called Valley Tavern, the bar across the street from our house, who confirmed that it was the Radio Shack building that had caught fire.

It didn’t really hit me on Saturday night, even after I had seen for myself the damage inside our apartment. It didn’t really hit me on Sunday or Monday. I was too busy thinking about what was next—where were we going to live; trying to move what remained of our belongings out of the house. There was too much to do to really absorb the reality, let alone what it might mean in the long run.

Over the past few days, we’ve received an outpouring of support from neighbors and friends who’ve offered to help us in any way possible. The night of the fire, Valley Tavern gave us free drinks, Patxi’s brought pizzas to us, Bernie continues to offer me free coffee and kind words. One concerned neighbor left a note on the door, asking if she could host a fundraiser for us. Supervisor Wiener’s office calls us almost daily (sometimes twice a day). We were amazed by the support.

Even though my housemates and I are temporarily staying in other neighborhoods, we still go back to Noe Valley to attend to business, trying to extract the rest of our belongings. The benches on 24th Street have become the new meeting place for the displaced tenants of 4051 and 4051A, as we put the pieces back together.

What I’ve come to realize, only a few days after the fire, is that one of the lessons that I’ve already gained from this ordeal is a broadened perspective of home.

Now, I see that home is not just about the physical structure, or the comfort, say, of my bedroom. A truehome extends beyond the actual structure. Home to me now encompasses the upstairs neighbors, our friends in Noe Valley, and the beautiful city of San Francisco. It’s so much more than I thought it was—so much bigger, so much stronger, so much more beautiful.

Thank you, Noe Valley.

Christina Vo
4051 24th Street


Church Should Alert Parishioners About Abusers


Thank you for publishing the article on Father Don Flickinger [“Former St. Paul’s Priest Accused of Child Abuse,” September 2011 Voice]. Your article reminds parents to be alert even when an environment is thought to be safe. It was indeed puzzling that Flickinger was assigned to a parish with an elementary school when a police report was made years ago about his troubling sexual behavior with a child.

Your article also provides an opportunity for those who may have been abused to step forward and reach out for help and support. As a survivor of clergy sexual abuse at age 13, it took me over 30 years to take a step forward and face my abuse.

The Archdiocese failed to take the necessary corrective action years ago, namely, to alert parishioners when a clergy has been criminally charged, credibly accused, admitted guilt, or settled in a lawsuit for child sexual abuse. The church leaders, both locally and internationally, need to change their ways and consider the welfare of our children as being primary, not the concerns of its hierarchy and reputation.

Tim Lennon
S.F. Leader

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)


Drive to Donate 500 Pizzas


Hello there. My name is Bruno Matos and I am the owner at Twin Peaks Pizza, located at 1681 Church Street in San Francisco. I am originally from Brazil and immigrated to the USA in 2000. I worked very hard to be where I am right now, and like the words on the Bruno Almeida Matos Day proclamation signed by former Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2010, I try to “make a positive impact to those less fortunate.”

That said, I decided to give back the community more than I usually do. We at Twin Peaks will donate 5,000 slices of pizza to San Francisco’s homeless shelters and we need your help.

We would like to motivate people, as well as businesses, to follow in our footsteps and give back to the community. We have told customers, civilians, and local businesses that when we reach 5,000 “likes” on Twin Peaks Pizza’s Facebook page, the slices will be donated. However, we have found that it motivates others to start giving if they see us donating slices as we go.

We are hoping to donate 500 pizzas (5,000 slices) by Christmas. So far we already have 486 people who “liked” our page.

Can you help us collect these 5,000 “likes”? Thank you.

Bruno Matos
Twin Peaks Pizza and Pasta

1681 Church Street




P.O. Box 460249

San Francisco, CA 94146

The Noe Valley Voice is an independent newspaper published monthly except in January and August. It is distributed free in Noe Valley and vicinity, on or before the first Friday of the month. Subscriptions are available at $30 per year ($25 for seniors) by writing to the above address.

The Voice welcomes your letters, photos, and stories, particularly on topics relating to Noe Valley. All items should include your name, address, and phone number, and may be edited for brevity or clarity. (Unsigned letters will not be considered for publication.) Unsolicited contributions will be returned only if accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

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Contents ©2011 The Noe Valley Voice