Noe Valley Voice February 2012

And Now For The Rumors Behind The News

Destination Noe

By Mazook


Reading Dangerously:Our well-traveled journalist Corrie Anders unfurls the Noe Valley Voice outside Mellqvist Kaffebar in Stockholm, a favorite hangout of Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson and his alter ego, journalist Mikael Blomkvist. The Hollywood version of Larsson’s popular novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is currently playing in movie theaters. Go see it, Corrie says. 


Top Shelf Gifts.  Noe Valley escort Debra Niemann (left), Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and a member of Pelosi’s entourage gaze in awe as Chocolate Covered owner Jack Epstein (not shown) scales a ladder to reach some special containers for Pelosi’s sweets: tins bearing the name Presidio Terrace.    Photo by Beverly Tharp 

 Nancy Pelosi made front-page news when she rolled into Downtown Noe Valley on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 11 (yes, our front page).She also made quite a stir among the merchant crowd. Flanked by aides and a Secret Service detail, she spent almost two hours touring 24th Street. The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) had been tipped off ahead of time, of course, but only a few other locals knew that Madame Leader was coming.

“We received official notice from her office that morning that they planned to arrive at about 1:30 in the afternoon, and we would meet at Peekabootique,” reports Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association president Bob Roddick. Roddick said Pelosi’s staff had contacted him the previous Friday asking his assistance in arranging for her to meet and talk with local merchants.

“When they called the morning of January 6, I said I was happy to help, and they said ‘great’ and that they would meet with me that afternoon to walk down 24th Street to map out their path and which businesses they were interested in visiting,” said Roddick. “They wanted to focus on small businesses that sold children’s items or were food-related and had diversity among the business owners.”

At the end of their Friday tour, the advance crew asked Roddick for a list of the shops he’d recommended. Then they left, “but they didn’t tell me when they would return, primarily for security reasons,” Roddick said.

Unfortunately, when they surprised him Wednesday morning, Roddick was “very much under the weather” and had to ask Debra Niemann, director of the Noe Valley Association and a board member of the merchants association, to accompany Pelosi and her staff, and Supervisor Scott Wiener, on their shopping and fact-finding mission.

That same morning, Pelosi’s office sent word to local media that she would be at Just for Fun at three o’clock to greet the press at the end of her stroll down 24th Street. Voice co-publisher, editor, and on-the-spot reporter Sally Smith attended the “press conference”—it was very short—and asked Pelosi the question: “So what prompted your visit to Noe Valley?”

Said Pelosi, “Well, we have, for the past while, been advocating that small businesses should be the centerpiece of the economic recovery of our country, and I came to Noe Valley personally, I wanted to come here officially to listen to the merchants to hear what challenges there are—access to capital, a trained workforce, customers—and they want more customers. I have said all day that there is nothing more optimistic than starting a small business and [it] takes real courage and optimism about the future, and again, that kind of entrepreneurial spirit is what I think is central to the growth of our economy in our community. So coming here to Noe Valley, which has a national reputation for being a successful region, area, for small businesses, was a natural thing to do.”

According to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, House Democrats are trying to make a big push for passage of President Obama’s American Jobs Act, which Pelosi thinks is essential for economic recovery, but the Republican House majority scheduled only five               sessions during the month of January, he said. “We are unable to get the committees to get to work on a long-term agreement extending the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans,” Hammill said.

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NOE VALLEY’S MOST WANTED:Though only 65 people participated, an online survey conducted jointly by the Friends of Noe Valley and the Noe Valley Association from Oct. 1 to Dec. 20 (see Rumors, September 2011) turned up some interesting results.

The survey asked respondents to rank the types of restaurants, businesses, and community events they’d like to see on 24th Street. It also asked about parking and a few other things.

The most desired restaurants—in a list of 15 choices that for some reason did not include Chinese—were Indian, seafood, and Italian. The top three businesses people wanted (among 13 choices) were a wine bar, a micro-brewery, and a penny candy/ice cream/soda fountain.

The top-rated Noe Valley events or activities were the Farmers’ Market, Music in the Park, and a proposed Noe Valley Art Fair. A “February Love Fest (aha)” ranked next among the 14 options in that category.

As for parking, 69 percent (41 and 28) thought parking was “very important” or “somewhat important,” while 31 percent thought it was “not important” at all. Asked about their dining habits, almost half of the respondents said they ate out two to three times per week.

Perhaps most interesting was that almost 60 percent of those responding listed their yearly household income as “greater than $200K.” Another 20 percent were in the $150K to $200K bracket.

FNV’s Linda Lockyer and Gerda Hurter compiled the data. “We were a little disappointed by the low turnout,” says Lockyer, “and will be looking into ways to improve neighborhood participation.” She suggested they might bring the survey out of cyberspace and take it to places like meetings of neighborhood groups and the oh-so-popular Saturday Farmers’ Market.

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DRIVING ME CRAZY: During the holidays, car traffic on 24th Street was the heaviest it has been in many years. Wouldn’t you agree? It is the price we pay for being a go-to neighborhood with a very popular food market.

The raving success of anchor store Whole Foods Market caused major congestion on the Sanchez-to-Noe block of 24th Street. There were double-parkers lined up waiting to get into the lot and others who were trying to make left turns into the lot and left turns out of the lot, ignoring the “No Left Turn” signs at the lot’s exit and across the street.

“Over the holidays, we had constant complaints…and I would tell the drivers they would have to keep moving and go around the block,” says our regular SFPD beat officer Lorraine Lombardo. “And they would get mad at me and refuse to move!”

Lombardo had nothing but praise for the two parking attendants who were trying to supervise the cars, holding up signs informing people that the lot was full. “But some drivers would not obey their directions or mine, making it difficult,” she says.

“I have warned many who have turned left out of the parking lot—it’s very dangerous when traffic is being blocked—and they say to me, ‘I must have missed the sign,’ and I ask them which of the signs they missed seeing,” laughs Lombardo, who currently is on leave while recovering from knee surgery.

“Parking isn’t always easy at our busy store, but we have taken great lengths to make it a safe and painless journey for our customers,” says WF’s spokesperson, Liz Rowland. She says the store has new signage urging customers not to turn left out of the parking lot and “also not to queue.”

Rowland also says that to increase safety for pedestrians, the store is installing speed bumps at the exit, “to ensure that each of our guests is slowing down and stopping at the stop sign before entering the walkway.”

However, this is not the first time people have queued up to get into that store. Longtime Noe Valleons might remember the lines back about 25 years ago, when Bell Market was family-owned and operated, well-run, and a very popular destination. In those days, many Bell customers would sneak across the street to get their produce at Real Food Company, then run back to Bell and drive out of the lot. The practice was tolerated, but not encouraged by the Bell folks. For a laugh, you might check out Fog and Smog Films’ “Whole Foods Parking Lot–Music Video” on YouTube, filmed in a Whole Foods parking lot in West L.A.

By the way, according to Rowland, the three most popular items sold during the November–December holiday season were walnuts, avocados, and coconut water beverages.

And the most popular celebrity customer during the holidays was actor Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain, Source Code, etc.). He was in the Bay Area at the end of last year, when he joined the board of the Alice Waters Foundation and got involved with her Edible Schoolyard proj­­ect. Rumor was that he was staying somewhere nearby. Gyllenhaal has not been spotted for a couple of weeks, but reportedly he was going to be a festival jury member at the Berlin International Film Festival this month. The most popular celebrity customer year-round is local music great Tracy Chapman.

The last Whole Foods item that you may want to ponder is that one of the store’s large vitamin suppliers is Nutraceutical Corporation, the very same Nutraceutical that owns the long-empty 24th Street Real Food’s. Locals say that before Whole Foods opened in Noe Valley, they approached the Nutra people about selling the building but were rebuffed.

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A HABERDASHERY called Sean, selling men’s clothes and accessories, will soon open in the remodeled space on 24th near Castro that for many years was home to Accent on Flowers. The haberdasher himself, Sean Cassidy, says this will be his third store in San Francisco (others are in Hayes Valley and Cow Hollow). His headquarters is in Paris, where he has four stores, but he also has outlets in New York and Los Angeles.

“We were looking for a long time for the right space in Noe Valley, since I love the neighborhood, and finally we got a great space to open our clothing store,” says Cassidy. He says the suits will have a “modern European cut” and will be tailored. Prices will be in the $300 to $600 range (pants and coats are sold separately), and shirts cost from $90 to $150.

Cassidy is hoping to get the store open sometime in February, but no later than the first of March.

Another store opening this month will be Noe Valley Wine Merchants on 24th near Church (the Urban Cellars space). The new shop will be selling high-quality crushed grapes.

“We are hoping to open the doors the first week of February,” says proprietor James Mead, who leased the store and applied for an ABC license back in July. He says that about 90 percent of the stock will be wine and beer, and “about 10 percent will be high-end spirits like single-malt scotches, small batch bourbons, and cognac. We have also set aside an area in the store where we will offer wine-tastings a couple of times a week,” provided by principals from Bay Area wineries.

Mead says he came to San Francisco’s Mission District from Atlanta, Ga., two years ago. He had operated two wine/beer shops there, “but then I got married and we wanted to have a family and live in this great city.”

When he scouted out the various neighborhoods, “the Noe Valley demographics worked for me,” and it wasn’t long before he landed a spot.

The Noe Hill neighborhood welcomes the Shatara family, who will operate the corner grocery store called (and at) 1001 Castro, on the corner of Alvarado. They have operated a “mom and pop” corner grocery at the corner of Stockton and Lombard in North Beach for the past 30 years.

“We liked Noe Valley very much and found this store [which had been called Banner Market for umpteen years], remodeled it, and have expanded wine selections, have fresh produce, fresh coffee, and will also have a self-service laundry service,” says Nasser Shatara. He and his brother Fadi will run the market.

Also new to Downtown Noe Valley (1330 Castro) is attorney Anne Gyemant Paris, who specializes in legal services related to “adoption, surrogacy, and reproductive technology.” She lives in Noe Valley with her husband and their two children, and says “working in the same neighborhood makes things so easy.” Gyemant Paris, whose grandmother and mother were both lawyers and whose mom is a retired San Francisco Superior Court judge, has recently opened her private practice after working in international adoptions for the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service. She also helped launch La Casa de las Madres women’s shelter.

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RAMP IT UP: For some Downtown Noe Valley Merchants, times have become very tough, because they are dealing with a legal assault by (mostly) one plaintiff for alleged violation of accessibility laws. (See Voice, May 2011.) This is now getting statewide attention.

Tom Frankovich, the lawyer who has either threatened or brought legal action on behalf of the plaintiffs, was on the cover of the January issue of The California Lawyer (which is mailed  to all California lawyers), and identified as “The Man Small Businesses Hate.” There is also a feature article about him inside. He specializes in suing businesses that fail to provide the access required under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and he has targeted many local stores.

As you might know, one of those targets has been Video Wave. Owner Gwen Sanderson with Susan Walia from Castro Computer Services co-chairs the NVMPA’s ADA issues committee. Sanderson’s struggle is documented in the article. “Like a lot of people these days, Gwen Sanderson holds down two jobs; one of them is running a small video and DVD store tucked away in San Francisco’s Noe Valley. The other is dealing with an ADA complaint that Frankovich filed against her and her business partner six months ago on behalf of two disabled clients (Ramirez v. Video Wave of Noe Valley).”

Sanderson feels that the suit could be a threat to the store’s existence. If Video Wave goes, the neighborhood would lose its one and only video store. Look forward to Voice updates on this situation.

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THAT’S ALL, you all.  Have a happy Valentine’s Day, and we will return in time to March forth into spring.