Noe Valley Voice July-August 2012
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And Now for the Rumors Behind the News

Summer’s Here, and the Time Is Right

By Mazook

THEY CALL ME MISTER TEA: The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) has issued its 2012 Summer Solstice Report, which notes some significant events that will impact business trends in Downtown Noe Valley.

Of course, the big news is that after a public hearing in mid-June, First Republic Bank won Planning Commission approval to open a branch on the corner of 24th and Sanchez streets. (See page 1.)

The hot news earlier in the month was that San Francisco’s famously popular La Boulange Café & Bakery was sold to the even more famously popular Starbucks for $100 million. Starbucks opened its Noe Valley branch in 1993 on the corner of 24th and Noe, and La Boulange de Noe waltzed (slowly) into the neighborhood on November 2009. It appears that Starbucks has plans to open 400 La Boulanges nationwide.

The NVBI predicts it won’t be long before Starbucks Noe Valley starts selling La Boulange breads and pastry and La Boulange starts serving Starbucks coffee.

DavidsTea, the very successful Canadian purveyor of fancy tea (over 150 teas and tea blends), with more than 70 retail shops across Canada (and two in New York), appears to be moving forward with construction of a house of tea on 24th Street, between Holey Bagel and Martha’s Coffee. Workers have been inspecting the former Ladybug Ladybug shop—for tiny red, black-spotted bugs and for any building features that might affect Davids’ remodeling plans.

Interestingly, Starbucks also announced in June that it was planning to open a tea shop by the name of its brand, Tazo, offering 80 varieties of loose-leaf tea priced by the ounce. The first store won’t be here, though—it will be in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the NVBI notes that Whole Foods Noe Valley may soon have a formidable competitor nearby: Whole Foods. After a five-year permit process, June saw the start of construction of a new Whole Foods at the corner of Market and Dolores streets, in the spot that used to house S&C Ford. The first order of business is demolition of the huge car dealership; then crews will lay the foundation of a building that will have a Whole Foods on the ground floor and residential housing on the seven floors above. The 31,000-square-foot store reportedly will be one of WF’s smallest stores, which makes the Noe Valley store, at 17,000 square feet, one of its reallyreally small stores. The new market is expected to open in about two years.

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ADIOS, ELMER & ELVIRA: In other Downtown Noe Valley news, it looks as if Radio Shack is in the final phase of getting permits to renovate its Noe Valley store (4049 24th), which closed last September after a fire in an upper flat gutted the premises. Our NVBI informant says the “Coming Soon” signs will be posted in the window in mid-July and the new Shack will reopen, with a sleek “pristine white” decor, sometime toward the end of August.

Also, the building owner, Diane Connell, says the two upper units will be ready for occupancy in July and one of the tenants who was burned out by the fire will be returning to her former abode.

Over at Tuggey’s Hardware, on 24th near Sanchez, it looks like Elmer and Elvira will be coming out of the front window display very soon, and the 114-year-old institution that was Tuggey’s will close. Owner Denny Giovannoli says he is currently “in negotiations” with the people who are eyeing the store, but that his lawyer forbade him from making public statements about the details. Odds are you will see 40 percent off liquidation prices by summer’s end, and by then we may know who’s taking over the spot.

The Real Food black hole on 24th Street still is emitting no light. Despite assertions by Sergio Diaz, the director of development for building owner Nutraceutical, that new plans for a remodel of the store were about to be submitted for city approval, no plans have materialized, nor will Mr. Diaz return telephone calls.

The NVBI has learned that this spring Noe Valley lawyer and neighborhood activist Charles Spiegel proposed that First Republic Bank take over the Real Food space to open its branch in half of the space and get a retail store to open in the other. There was even a meeting on March 29 with Supervisor Scott Wiener, which was attended by Spiegel, Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association President Bob Roddick, and Noe Valley Association Director Debra Niemann, plus two representatives of First Republic.

According to Spiegel, everyone was receptive to the idea and suggested that Spiegel contact Nutraceutical with the proposal. However, attempts to reach a live human at Nutraceutical were unsuccessful. Now the idea has become moot, since First Republic will go ahead and open in Tuttimelon’s old spot, and the Real Food hole will remain as dark and dense as ever.

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LOTS AND LOTS: The Residents for Noe Valley Town Square group is trying to raise $3.6 million to purchase the parking lot on 24th between Sanchez and Vicksburg from the Noe Valley Ministry, and with another half million turn it into a Town Square featuring an expanded farmers market. In June, the campaign got several boosts, and now there truly could be a miracle on 24th Street.

So far, the city’s Open Space Fund has made a commitment of $2 million to help buy the property. That leaves a $2 million balance to raise locally (including $400,000 needed to furnish the square).

According to Todd David, who with Chris Keene is leading the campaign, Residents has received pledges now exceeding $250,000, and the current goal is to reach $500,000 by the end of the next two months, and $1 million by the end of five months. “We think that if those efforts are successful, then we will have enough pledged as ‘earnest money’ to move forward with the project.”

According to David, several businesses on 24th Street have committed to “generous pledges,” including real estate wiz BJ Droubi, First Republic Bank, and Patxi’s Pizza. David says several pledges, both personal and business, “are now in the five-figure numbers.” So far, Patxi’s Pizza has made the largest pledge, of $24,000.

On June 22, David announced that Josh Mogal of Eco+Historical Homes, which rebuilds historic houses using green sensibilities, had challenged the neighborhood to raise $24,000 for 24th Street and offered $12,000 in a matching grant.

Said the remodel mogul, “My wife Katy and I feel this is our way of sharing our success in the neighborhood and the sense of community we feel in this neighborhood.”

A few days later, David sent out a notice saying the $12,000 challenge “was met in 72 hours by the neighborhood—thanks, Josh and Katy, for helping to raise $24,000!”

Shortly thereafter, the campaign shot out another email, saying an anonymous resident had issued a second $24,000 challenge.

Residents for Noe Valley Town Square is now embarking on fundraising house parties, hosted by people who work for large Silicon Valley companies and have chosen to make Noe Valley their place of residence. The inaugural house party willhappen sometime during the week of July 22.

Meanwhile, David was contacted by Andrew S. Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle, who decided to write about Noe Valley’s Town Square journey in a June 29 column. Ross’ words were pretty positive: “The quixotic idea [of the town square], born two years ago, looks like it just might work —and be a model for other neighborhoods looking to preserve or create space.” He also said the campaign had the backing of Supe Wiener and Mayor Ed Lee.

Perhaps by fall, the Town Square group will have all the dough, and the lure of naming rights for the square will have produced a million-dollar hero (or heroes). The new name could be GoogApplGenenTwitZyngaFace Square.

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TO YOUR HEALTH: Circle your calendars for Wednesday, July 18, 7:30 p.m., when Noe Valleyan Herb Schultz will speak and answer questions at a meeting jointly sponsored by Friends of Noe Valley and Upper Noe Neighbors in the community room at St. Philip’s Church. His topic couldn’t be more timely: it’s the Affordable Care Act, the Obama legislation that survived a Supreme Court challenge last month.

Diamond Street resident Schultz is well qualified to discuss the ACA, since he is the Region 9 director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and received his presidential appointment to the position two years ago.

“I hope to spend some time explaining the [ACA] provisions and benefits and implementation of the plan,” says Schultz.

He says, “This will be the first speaking event I will be attending—and there have been many—where I can walk to it from my house.” 

By the way, refreshments will be served.

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SHORT SHRIFTS: Looks like Cece’s Closet consignment shop, located in Upper Noe Valley at 1781 Church near 30th, has closed temporarily while ramps are being built by the landlord to comply with ADA requirements…

While neighborhood results are not yet available for the June 4 primary election, the Department of Elections did release the numbers on voter turnout. Of the 15,919 of us registered to vote, only 5,635 (35.4 percent) actually voted, same as the turnout over in our sister valley (Eureka). The turnout in Diamond Heights was far above any other neighborhood in the city, at 41.6 percent…

Then there was the news from SF Weekly’s snitch (Albert Samaha) that in an Obama fundraising tour across the 25 San Francisco zip codes, the leader was 94114, “which has given him $248,048 this donating cycle”…

Pr Spirits is a new company headquartered in Noe Valley that according to San Francisco Business Times’ Jim Gardner, has a portfolio of German liqueurs it is importing that have received rave reviews from local bartenders in the know…

Firefly got a great review from the Chronicle’s Michael Bauer, especially for the sea scallop potstickers and the old standby, fried chicken…

And then there was the blurb in the New York Times by Alex Williams, titled “Bachelorville’s Big Fish,” about Silicon Valley’s most eligible bachelors. Among the fish was Ben Rattray, co-founder and CEO of Change.org (and one of Time magazine’s top 100 most influential people). Williams noted, “At 31, Mr. Rattray still drives a 1996 Toyota Camry and shares a cramped Noe Valley apartment in San Francisco with three college buddies.” Watch out, Ben.

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KUDOS go out to the St. Philip’s School baseball team, which was split in two and entered in the San Francisco Youth Baseball League at the seventh- and eighth-grade level, and placed first and third in the citywide tournament. Quite an accomplishment since the rest of the teams consisted primarily of eighth-graders, and the only loss of the third-place squad was the one to its companion team. Great job by coaches Mike Cassidy, Brian Ceinar, and J.R. Hubbard of Selecta Auto Body.

Kudos also go to two St. Philip’s seventh-graders—Maeve Clayton and Rebecca Zumaeta—who took first place in the San Francisco Science Fair with their project about exploring the effects of color on mood. Congrats also to their teacher, Koji Yao.

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THAT’S 30, FOLKS! You all have a great summer vacation. The Voice will be back in September with all the news that fits and all the Rumors Behind the News.