Noe Valley Voice July-August 2002

Car Plows Into 24th Street Sushi Bar

By Kathy Dalle-Molle

Fusai Ponne, the 77-year-old proprietor of Matsuya Restaurant at 3856 24th Street, says she was "shocked" when police came to her home on the evening of May 26 to tell her a woman driving a Honda Prelude had rammed into her restaurant. The car crashed through the storefront's plate-glass window and destroyed several tables and chairs inside the restaurant, which has been a 24th Street fixture for more than 25 years.

"I just felt lucky that we were closed, so no one was inside the restaurant," Ponne told the Voice. "We're so lucky that no one on the sidewalk got hurt either. There are so many people and kids and dogs that walk by. We're all just so lucky."

Ponne, who has kept the restaurant closed since the Memorial Day­weekend accident, is awaiting a settlement from her own insurance company and the driver's insurance company so she can begin making repairs, which she believes will "cost thousands of dollars." She hopes to reopen in early July.

In addition to damaging the building façade and interior, the accident caused her to lose a large amount of fresh fish and other food intended for Matsuya's sushi customers. Most of it spoiled within a week of the crash, Ponne said.

She also thanked her customers and 24th Street neighbors for their understanding. "We appreciate your patience and hope to be open again very soon."

Driver Saw a Parking Spot

According to the accident report, the 39-year-old driver of the red 1985 Prelude told police that she was driving down 24th Street on Sunday, May 26, at about 5:30 p.m., when she suddenly felt faint. She pulled into a red zone on 24th Street near Vicksburg to rest. A few minutes later, she saw a legal parking space in front of her car open up. Thinking she would pull into the spot, she turned on her engine and started to move her car forward. But, she told police, the accelerator pedal malfunctioned, making her car speed up and over the curb. She said she tried to apply the brakes, but they failed to work, so she steered into the Matsuya storefront to avoid hitting pedestrians on the sidewalk.

Witnesses told police that the driver appeared to be struggling with the steering wheel as she drove into the storefront.

The driver complained of neck and back injuries and was removed from the car by paramedics, placed on a stretcher, and taken to San Francisco General Hospital.

Police cited the driver for operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner.

Like Fusai Ponne, Noe Valley Beat Officer Lorraine Lombardo, who was the first police officer on the scene, was relieved that no one was hurt. "I'm really grateful that there weren't people walking by or inside the restaurant, because the situation could have ended up so much worse," Lombardo said. "I've seen accidents like this happen over and over. We all really need to pay attention and be very careful when we drive."