| June 2012
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Gas stations were a common sight in Noe Valley in the 1960s. Can you guess the location of this one? See question #1. Photo courtesy Bill Yenne
WE’VE GOT QUESTIONS:
1. Where in Noe Valley did a Standard Gas Station once stand, as seen in the 1967 photograph to your right? You will find the answer at the end of this column. But before you go there, here are some more history riddles for all you Noe Valley trivia buffs.
2. Before Bernie’s, there was Tully’s. What was in that spot before Tully’s?
3. When, in 1852, John Meirs Horner bought more than 5,000 acres in the future Noe Valley to develop as housing, he mapped out a grid with his own street names, including John Street, Horner Street, and Park Street. What names were those streets changed to in 1861, when “Horner’s Addition” was incorporated into the City and County of San Francisco?
4. What was the name of Noe Valley’s first grammar school? Where and when was it built?
5. What is the name of Noe Valley’s most famous graffiti fighter? This man was so notorious for painting out tags that, according to the March 2002 Noe Valley Voice, “one devilish youngster sprayed a message on a Church Street wall: ‘Don’t paint this out, old man!’”
6. True or False: Don Jose de Jesus Noe, for whom our valley is named, is buried in the family crypt beneath Mission Dolores.
Okay, put down your pencils. Did you get them all right?
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THE PHANTOM PLANS: Another question we’d like to have answered is: Why has the Real Food Company space, in the heart of our commercial strip at 3939 24th St., sat empty for almost nine years? You’ll recall that Nutraceutical Corporation, which owns the grocery (now called Fresh Organics) and also the building, abruptly closed the store the day before Labor Day 2003.
We may never know the answer to that question. But last month, an agent within the Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) leaked a report that had a Real answer to another.
The agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that in May, when he made his semi-annual call to Sergio Diaz, vice president for development of Nutraceutical, to ask if the company had any plans to reopen the Noe Valley store, Mr. Diaz actually answered the phone, throwing him for a loop. “It was the first time in four years that I’d gotten a live response,” said the salivating agent.
He said Diaz apologized for not returning past calls and explained that Nutraceutical had abandoned plans to build a new development on the property. Instead, Diaz told him, “we are currently working with our architects on plans that will be a simple project of making the existing space functional and suitable to operate, and will resolve all the building issues,” such as a poor foundation and a failing roof.
Diaz added he was “cautiously optimistic that plans will be submitted in the next few weeks, and the approval process will go as quickly as possible.”
To see if others had heard the same news, the NVBI agent called Supervisor Scott Wiener’s office, but spokesperson Andres Power said he had not received any word from the Nutraceutical people.
However, when the NVBI contacted Downtown Noe Valley activist and former president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association Carol Yenne, who has been trying to get the company to rebuild, sell, do anything for many years, she said she had recently had contact with Diaz.
Yenne explained that she had sent an email to Diaz in April telling him that “as a small business and property owner, it is so discouraging to know that my customers have to walk by your abandoned building to get to my business to shop.... During these last few years, it has affected the bottom line of every single small store in our neighborhood each and every day since you closed the store,” she said.
“I even tried to arrange a meeting with them last month at their Utah headquarters, since I was traveling to Salt Lake City to research work on a project, but I had no response [on the meeting idea].”
Yenne did get a response from Diaz, who wrote: “Following your concerns, we continue working on getting a prompt solution. Hopefully, the new city authorities will be receptive of the future proposal, and the approval process will go as quickly as possible. We are working on developing a much simpler project that resolves the building issues, making it functional and suitable to operate.”
However, Yenne said she checked with City Planning, “and they are not aware of any plans that have been submitted for that location, so I tend not to believe what Mr. Diaz has been telling us.”
Hopefully, the NVBI will be able to update us next month, and if the company’s plans materialize and are approved quickly and construction starts soon, the store will reopen by Dec. 25, 2012. Wait, am I dreaming?
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JUST FOR FUNDS: There was good news for Residents for Noe Valley Town Square last month. Spokesperson Todd David reports that as part of the Residents’ efforts to raise $3 million to acquire the Noe Valley Ministry parking lot at 24th and Vicksburg, the group has received over $100,000 in pledges and is hoping to reach $500,000 soon.
“We were very encouraged when a Google employee in the neighborhood pledged $10,000 to the project, which means because of our 501c3 status that Google will be matching that pledge,” David said.
David said no large sponsor had stepped forward with the nearly $2 million needed for naming rights to the square, but “we are getting pledges in the mail, online, and at our table in front of the Noe Valley Farmers Market every Saturday, from 10 dollars to many hundreds, and some in the thousands.”
There was also good news related to increased police attention to bicycle thefts during the past several months. The SFPD’s Dan Mahoney, who is captain of Ingleside Station, posted a message saying that “as a result of more excellent investigative work on the part of Sergeant Josh Kumli, we have recovered over 115 bicycles from a residence in the Bayview and two storage lockers in Oakland.”
If you’ve had your bike stolen lately, you might want to check in with the captain. Call 415-404-4030. Good luck!
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A LITTLE NOE MUSIC: A Noe Valley–based band, Steer the Stars, had its debut as a headliner at the Great American Music Hall on May 26. The group also was recently nominated as “artist of the month” by the Deli online music magazine and has a new CD release titledLight Life Sleep and the Sea.
Band co-founders and longtime 24th Street residents are Eric Jonasson (piano, guitar, and vocals) and Naomi Husaruk (accordion, synthesizer, and vocals). With Alle Emershaw, who plays banjo, flute, and vocals, they’ve been performing as the group Bay to Boulders at the Noe Valley Farmers Market and at Friends of Noe Valley and Noe Valley Association events. In Steer the Stars, they’ve hooked up with Logan Barrier (drums), Chris Erbacher (pedal steel guitar), and Victoria Perenyi, Eva Trigueros, and David Boyden (violins).
The music on the new CD is described as “sleepy folk Americana,” but it’s pretty sophisticated with intelligent songwriting backed up by strong vocal harmonies.
Well-versed congrats also go out to Athena Kashyap, whose poems about Noe Valley first appeared on the Last Page of the May 2009 Voice. Kashyap has published a book of poetry, Crossing Black Waters, that includes some of the poems set in the neighborhood. Many of you might have seen her at the Odd Mondays series at Phoenix Books at the end of April.
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VALLEY OF THE HUNGRY: For all those out there who think they can cook, the NVBI reports that two restaurants in Downtown Noe Valley are for sale, although it is withholding the names of the restaurants as “confidential,” out of respect for the owners who feel it will hurt their business.
It appears both are on 24th Street, with one offered at $150,000 and the other at $250,000. The listing for the latter appeared at Restaurant Realty Company through broker Steve Zimmerman, whose description says, “This is located in one of the most desirable locations in Noe Valley, one of San Francisco’s most popular neighborhoods,” and continues, “the current concept is outdated [the name and menu are not included], and a new concept could maximize this opportunity.” Ouch.
However, this “outdated concept” currently has a gross monthly revenue of $40,000 and pays a monthly rent of $5,200 for the 1,400-square-foot space, although “a new long-term lease is negotiable.” Zimmerman can be reached at 945-9701, but you will have to sign a confidentiality agreement as to who is selling.
As for the $150,000 eaterie, the owner wants to retire and has actually reduced the asking price. If you are interested, contact his/her broker, Jim Appenrodt, at Noe Valley’s Laurel Realty, 641-1500.
One new restaurant, Saru Sushi Bar at 3856 24th, which was featured in the Voice Store Trek for April 2012, is on a roll. Saru Sushi has received rave reviews and many are lining up to squeeze into the very small restaurant. And Philz Coffee on the northeast corner of 24th and Douglass is jammed in the mornings—many cars are seen double-parked with blinking lights as their drivers rush in and out for their Philz phix.
Everybody is waiting for the grand opening of DNV’s new frozen yogurt shop, Easy Breezy (at 4028 24th), by Noe Valleyans Ariel and Durand Ford. According to Ariel, the shop will have a “soft opening”—so to speak—toward the end of June, and will feature frozen yogurts, custards, as well as some non-dairy options.
World-famous chef Chris Cosentino of Noe Valley’s Incanto Restaurant on Church Street will talk about his first cookbook, Beginnings: My Way to Start a Meal, on Monday night, June 4, 6 p.m., at Omnivore Books on Cesar Chavez. The book came out in early May, and focuses on what tasty things he recommends for first courses. You’ll find his trademark Italian salumi showing up in the recipes.
Noe Valley foodies probably already know that Chloe’s Café will be having a party on June 15, from 7 to 9 p.m., to celebrate the 25th year of its very popular breakfasts and lunches at the corner of Church and 26th streets. Refreshments will be served and entertainment provided by operatic star Christie Springer, a Chloe’s regular for the past 25 years, and 80-year-old jazz legend Frank Jackson.
Pre-1987, owners Melanie Kang and Steven Baker had been caterers in the motion picture industry. “Our last movie was Dirty Dancing,” says Baker, “and we wanted to get off the road and settle down.”
“We found this little café that had been opened as Bernhard’s Bistro,” recalls Baker, “it had no stove and the rent was $470 a month, but we loved the neighborhood and put together a menu and hired fabulous people to help us, and have had a great run.”
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ON THE BANKS OF NOE VALLEY: Just as you mightexpect, some resistance has formed to First Republic Bank, which stated last fall it wanted to open a branch on the corner of 24th and Sanchez streets in Tuttimelon’s old spot (see September 2011 Rumors).
After getting approvals from federal and state agencies, the bank was hoping for a green light from the city’s Planning Commission last month. But after the neighborhood started buzzing, the May 17 hearing on First Republic’s application for a conditional use permit was continued until June 14 at noon at City Hall.
Although the Planning Department has recommended approval, there is an ad hoc group of Noe Valley residents and merchants who are voicing their opposition to another bank opening in Downtown Noe Valley. For the record, there are now five financial institutions on 24th Street: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, Sterling, and Circle Bank.
“We are very concerned about 24th Street becoming too sterile by having six banks in a three-block stretch of 24th Street,” says longtime Elizabeth Street resident Peter Gabel, “and another bank is not necessary and does not contribute...to a lively spirit on the street…and [will] not [be] good for foot traffic.”
“I am against all of these high-end lotto stores moving into our neighborhood,” says 24th Street resident Leslie Crawford. “We are collecting letters of opposition and will be presenting them to the planning commission at the next public hearing.”
Just for Fun owner David Eiland says he opposes any application for any commercial use permits other than for retail stores. “We need more retail stores, plain and simple.”
Gabel says he expects about 20 people to show up at the hearing in June.
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SHORT SHRIFTS: Sorry to see the closing of La Sirena Botanica, which had been at 1509 Church St. for more than 15 years, selling mystical crystals, charms, incense, and oils to friends of the occult… Next door, the storefront at 1513 Church (recently vacated by Loft 1513, which moved to 24th Street) is now occupied by a real estate company, Blue Property Group, Inc., operated by Michael Young. It is affiliated with Realty World, and according to Young, has about 30 working agents… Closing abruptly at the end of May was the Kohler-Jones furniture and design store on Church Street at Day.
And a final shrift: In a May 17 story in the L.A. Times about the spending boom expected after the Facebook IPO, journalist Jessica Guynn wrote, “Finding a home listed under $2 million is becoming a challenge in the San Francisco neighborhood of Noe Valley, whose sunny microclimate and historic character are attracting techies in T-shirts and jeans carrying fat wallets.”
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YOU’VE GOT ANSWERS: 1. The gas station was located on the southeast corner of 24th and Diamond streets. The picture was taken in 1967 looking north up Diamond Street toward St. Philip’s Church.
2. The answer is Spinelli’s Coffee, which opened its flagship store in Noe Valley in 1986, and grew to 14 stores, which were all sold to Tully’s in 1998. Bernadette Melvin’s coffee shop Bernie’s replaced Tully’s in 2007.
3. John Street became 22nd Street, Horner became 23rd Street, and Park became 24th Street. Note that Horner, whose wife was named Elizabeth (hence Elizabeth Street), came from New Jersey to San Francisco in 1846 via a Mormon farm settlement in Nauvoo, Ill.
4. James Lick Elementary School opened on the southwest corner of Noe and 25th streets in 1874. The current structure, James Lick Middle School, was built in 1932.
5. The graffiti fighter was Fred Methner (1907-1991), a Jersey Street resident whose tenure as secretary of the East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club spanned 30 years.
6. False (probably). According to historian Mae Silver (see September 2001 Voice), it is unlikely that Jose de Jesus Noe is buried beneath Mission Dolores because his name is not carved on the floor stone, as those of Jose Noe’s wife and two children are. But evidence has not been found of an alternative place of burial.