Noe Valley Voice February 2013

And Now For The Rumors Behind The News

Po No Mo’

By Mazook

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DECADE MAKES: Looking for some perspective on the State of the Valley 2013, we can turn the clock back 10 years and look at the 2003 Noe Valley Voice.

Back then, the news was that the Noe Valley Ministry Presbyterian Church was finally going to demolish the gas station it had been deeded in 2001. You remember the station: Dan’s Gas and Diesel, formerly McCarthy’s, a fixture at 3865 24th St. for 70 years (opened 1932). Well, demolish it they did, in May 2003, with plans to open a parking lot.

Later that same year, Real Food’s abruptly closed, leaving its employees and customers in the lurch. What did Noe Valleons do? They planted an idea that grew into the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market—booths to fill the Ministry’s lot and to fill the neighborhood’s Real gap in fresh and organic produce.

Today, the farmer’s market is thriving, with about 2,500 visitors every Saturday morning, rain (less) or shine (more). But three years ago, the Noe Valley Ministry decided it had to sell the parking lot, to pay for an upgrade to its Victorian church at 1021 Sanchez St.

Hoping to keep the lot an open space for our neighborhood, the Ministry patiently waited for the right buyer for the property. And waited. And waited. And just when the church was on the verge of selling the lot to a developer, a new neighborhood group sprouted: Residents for Noe Valley Town Square. It is putting together a $4 million offer, with $2 million in Open Space funds, maybe $1.4 million in state funding (Prop. 84), and pledges from Noe Valleons of close to a half million dollars.

Got déj vu? Try this. Back in 2003, a group of neighbors on Vicksburg Street was protesting a developer’s plans to build a large residential complex on Sanchez Street, one that would loom over their back yards. The Vicksburg group proposed to join some Sanchez Street neighbors who also opposed the development. The idea was that the two groups would buy that property to keep it as “open space” and use it as a “residential parking lot,” la the Noe Valley Ministry buying Dan’s Gas. They didn’t, but the builder toned down the scale of the monster development, preserved the antique house in the back, and everyone was and is happy, especially those who live in the several new units of housing.

Interestingly, Rumors back then was all about the vacant storefront on the corner of Sanchez and 24th, which had previously been Tom and Dave’s popular Juice-It. If you look now, it is, well, it’s déj vu all over again.

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BACK IN THE OLD DAYS: Ten years ago, according to the Voice’s “Cost of Living” column (thank you, Corrie Anders), single-family homes around here were going anywhere from around $450,000 to a shocking $1.2 million. The average was $800,000. Condos ran from $400,000 to $1 million, and averaged $700,000.

Today, as you can see, the cost of living in those same houses ranges from $837,000 to $3.8 million, averaging $1.6 million. Condos range from $600,000 to $1.5 million.

The Voice in February 2003 was reporting about a rash of home burglaries; the unique condo plan three developers had for the Lunny house “across from Bell Market,” purchased for $700,000; CarShare getting a spot in the Walgreen’s parking lot; and an invasion of ants in the neighborhood.

There were feature stories about Noe Valleons Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, leaders in the struggle for lesbian rights, and the Feb. 13 (Valentine’s Day eve) opening of a film about the famous pair at the Castro Theater. The Voice wrote about Downtown Noe Valley’s best-known doctor, Michael J. McFadden, who had passed away in December of ’02.

Del and Phyllis were finally married in San Francisco not too many years thereafter, the Lunny house is a three-story condo building with High Class Nails in the storefront, City CarShare still has a spot at Walgreen’s plus about six others in the neighborhood, and Dr. McFadden’s children own all the property on 24th Street that he had acquired over the years. Burglaries and ants, well, some things never change.

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REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PASTOR: The Noe Valley Ministry renovation should begin sometime in March 2013, according to church spokesperson Chris Keene. The gray and white Gothic Victorian was built in 1886, and until 1977 was called the Lebanon Presbyterian Church. In the early 1970s, the Ministry became home to an interesting conglomeration of neighborhood families who opened the space to neighborhood-minded groups, including the Noe Valley Music Series, a preschool, and none other than the Noe Valley Voice.

Keene was also quite happy to announce that a new pastor, Rev. Diana Nishita Cheifetz, had been chosen to lead the congregation. “She will be starting on February 15, and we are all very excited about her coming to the Noe Valley Ministry.”

As many of you know, Rev. Keenan Kelsey has retired. She has led the Ministry since January 1999, and she played a large role in the restoration of the landmark church.

Rev. Cheifetz is a Japanese-American Presbyterian minister married to a Presbyterian minister (Jeff Cheifetz) with a daughter who is also a Presbyterian minister, and a son who is…an artist.

The NVM currently is holding services at the Chapel in St. Luke’s Hospital. The renovation is expected to take around two years. Hope springs eternal that it will be sooner, not later.

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ANALYZE THIS: David Binder—that political research master—deconstructed the 2012 presidential election at last month’s meeting of the Noe Valley Democratic Club. It was standing room only in the St. Philip’s community hall, as Binder shared details about his work for the Obama campaign—from 2006 all the way through to the president’s 2012 reelection.

He said his research, primarily on focus groups, took him to “key states” like Colorado, Florida, and New Hampshire, with his main focus being on Ohio, Virginia, and Iowa.

An analyst since 1982, Binder identified the swing voters the campaign was trying to reach: broadly speaking, those who were either (1) fiscal conservatives/social liberals, (2) those who just don’t know, or (3) those who hate politics.

He found that “people got tired of all the ads, which created a backlash,” that people had no trust in the mainstream media, and that people just stopped watching TV. “The big issues were public schools closing, cutting all the foreign aid, and [curiously] wanting to cut pay for members of Congress.”

Binder powerpointed a nasty message sent by Donald Trump to Republican strategist Karl Rove, congratulating Rove “on blowing $400 million this cycle. Every race [your super PAC] ran an ad in, the Republicans lost.”

The return on investment was very poor for the anti-Obama crowd. Rove’s American Crossroads had a 1.29 percent return on the $105 million it spent, he said.

Binder projected the red/blue national results, which looked remarkably like the political divide in 1846 between slave states and free states (my words, not Binder’s).

He also pointed out that the Repubs lost votes when the so-called “47 percent” video went viral on YouTube. Also, their voter-suppression tactics—required photo ID, difficult absentee balloting, and stopping early voting—seemed to backfire, and their ads were out of sync even with suburban America.

Binder said that as election day arrived, “I was really sweating, and thought it could be very close, and I was not so confident.”

Exit polls showed that Romney won 52 percent of the male vote, Obama 45 percent. Women voted the reverse: 44 percent Romney and 55 percent Obama.

“It wasn’t even close,” smiled Binder, when the graph shown on the wall illustrated how Obama got five million more votes than Romney (66 to 61 mil, with 2 million voters in the “Other” column).

You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from all those assembled.

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THE SHACK IS BACK: 24th Street buzzed as many flocked to the new and improved Radio Shack mid-January, closed since a building fire 14 months ago.

“We are very excited to be back,” says store manager Chuck Weyland, “and business has been very good.” Weyland says he’s “happy with the new layout, and all the shelving is now metal rather than the wooden ones that were here before.” New to the store are a lot of tool kits and electronic boards, according to Weyland.

There will be changes at the Noe Valley Deli. Owner Karim Balat has agreed to sell his business and will take some time off after 33 years in Downtown Noe Valley. “I am 63 now and want to slow down…but am really going to miss all my customers,” says Balat.

He is pretty sure that the new owners will be changing the cuisine, but didn’t make any other comment. He did point out that he has felt heavy competition from Whole Foods, “which is where a lot of people go now, although a lot of the Whole Foods workers come here to eat.”

Bernie’s owner Bernie Melvin (right) and assistant Julian Rodriguez will soon be bringing the coffee shop’s warm and cozy traditions to a second Bernie’s Coffee, in Crocker Galleria in the Financial District. But do not fear, Bernie’s is here to stay on 24th Street, she says.    Photo by Sally Smith

Then there’s Noe Valley daughter Bernie Melvin, proprietress of the very popular Bernie’s Coffee (on 24th next to Whole Foods), who will be opening her second location, in the Crocker Galleria in the Financial District on Valentine’s Day.

“I have come full circle,” says Melvin. “I started on 24th Street with Spinelli Coffee in 1996 and went on to work for Tully’s Coffee in 1998 when they bought out Spinelli, and then I was able to buy the shop five and a half years ago from Tully’s, and now Tully’s has gone bankrupt and my new location was a ­Tully’s.”

She says that the people who own the Galleria called and asked her if she would like to open in the space. “I was so flattered. I feel like this is a big present, a really big New Year’s gift.” 

Although she will run the new shop for the first month, not to worry, “we’re not going away” in Noe Valley, she says. She plans to work at both coffee shops. Her employee for the past three years on 24th Street, Julian Rodriguez, will be leaving to manage the Galleria store, however. So make sure you drop by to say goodbye.

Also expanding from her longtime Noe Valley base is Martha Conroy, who has just opened a new location (her fifth in the city) at Fifth and Irving near Parnassus Heights. The space used to be the Daily Dose, which closed down. “I really like the location,” says Conroy, “and we already see a lot of people from [UCSF].” Local muralist John Milestone, whose art circles the 24th Street Martha’s, is working on a mural for the new location, adding some local color.

Word over at Starbucks is that they will be “launching” their La Boulange–brand pastries citywide in April, according to Noe Valley Starbucks manager Christle (no last names, company policy). They are currently testing the pastries at eight locations in the city, mostly in the Financial District. “We are really excited to offer them here,” says Christle.

Down at the former Joe’s Cafe (24th and Vicksburg), the new Caskhouse opened its doors the middle of last month, serving a variety of California draft beers at seven bucks a pint with some select bottled and canned beers. Wines are also served by the glass. The bar also has a hearty, albeit limited, menu of beer-simpatico foods and snacks like salt-and-pepper chips, and porter-braised beef short ribs with pickled onion and horseradish sour cream.

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MUSIC TO MY EARS: Thanks go out to all those who created and sponsored the local festivities on 24th Street during the holidays. Probably the best performance of the season (and so many of the musicians and carolers were fabulous) was the singing of Loose Interpretations, a 13-member a cappella women’s choral group from San Francisco. They sang in the parklet in front of Just for Fun the early evening of Dec. 17, and were definitely shopper-stoppers.

You might be interested to know that the solo singer in the group was none other than Liz Rowland who heads the marketing team at Noe Valley Whole Foods. She is a soprano and has been with the group for three years.

Loose Interpretations will be performing on March 23 at the 50 Mason Social House (guess where that is) with another local phenom, Hookside, and the show starts at 7 p.m. There are also rumors that the folks at the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market are trying to schedule the Loosies (as they are called) for a Saturday appearance. That would be very cool. You can listen to a lot of their repertoire on their website,

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ON A PERSONAL NOTE: It was a sad night for me this Jan. 16. My dearest Auntie Po left our reality and was captured by the universe. Some of you might have known her as Dear Abby. I knew her as Aunt Popo, and others knew her as Pauline Esther Phillips, née Friedman, born in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 4, 1918. She started writing her column at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1955…and the rest is history.

My cousin Jeanne, who had worked with her mom on the column, took over writing Dear Abby in the late 1980s, and officially stepped into Dear Abby’s shoes in 2000. The column appears in more than 1,400 papers worldwide and has a daily readership of more than 120 million.

I lost a true friend. When I started writing this Rumors column in 1981, Aunt Po immediately subscribed to the Voice, and each month for many years she would cut out my column, make comments in black ink, and send the clipping back to me. She liked to read about our neighborhood, especially the politics and the liberal-progressive groups in our neighborhood, and she came here for visits on several occasions.

She understood the joy of this life. “Ciao, baby” is what she would say to me at the end of the telephone call, letter, or visit. In the latter days of her writing career, she would also remind me that “nothing is forever.”

Quite the contrary, Aunt Po, your wisdom will endure through the ages. She has written several books, collecting her best advice. Two of my favorites from her column are:

Dear Abby, I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can’t afford to spend a lot of money to do it. Do you have any suggestions? M.J.B.

Dear M.J.B., Yes. Run for public office.

Dear Abby, My wife sleeps in the raw. Then she showers, brushes her teeth, and fixes our breakfast—still in the buff. We’re newlyweds and there are just the two of us, so I suppose there’s really nothing wrong with it. What do you think? Ed

Dear Ed, It’s O.K. with me. But tell her to put on an apron when she’s frying the bacon.

There were several songs written about Aunt Po. Her favorite was “Dear Abby,” done by recording artist John Prine in 1973. Several years ago, she asked me if I had ever heard the song, and when I said no, she told me, “It’s a real hoot” and sent me a copy.  Now it’s on

So, Auntie Po: Ciao, baby.