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Rumors Behind the News
AS WE RECALL: It was no on yes and yes on no when Noe Valley went to the polls for the "special election" Oct. 7 and voted in large numbers against the recall of Governor Gray Davis. Does it ever seem to you like we're strangers in a strange land?
According to the unofficial results released by the San Francisco Registrar of Voters, of Noe Valley's 16,303 registered voters, 11,458 voted in the election, or just under 71 percent.
On the recall question, 87 percent of Noe Valleons answered a resounding NO (San Francisco was 80 percent against the recall). We answered the question of "If yes to the recall, then who?" with a nod to Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante (7,590 votes).
The other 3,868 local votes, in descending order, went to Action Hero Arnold Schwarzenegger (1,303 votes), Green Party candidate Peter Camejo (798), conservative Republican Tom McClintock (416), and political commentator Arianna Huffington (153). Thirty-nine Noe voters chose porn purveyor Larry Flynt, but only 23 cast their lot with former Olympics chief Peter Ueberroth.
A quick reality check with San Francisco pollster David Binder shows that a majority of Noe Valley voters are European Americans (80%), between the age of 30 and 49 (53%), and women (51%). They're also sexually straight (71%) renters (52%), who are college graduates (78%) and, for the most part, Democrats (72%) rather than Republicans (11%).
Obviously, that last statistic is key to our outsider status. The voters in the rest of the state voted overwhelmingly to recall Gray and to substitute Ah-nold. The last time people in California became sick of politicians was 1966. Then we elected another actor as governor, who went on to become president of the United States. What we must do next: secede.
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VOTE FOR MAYOR: The Oct. 1 mayoral forum sponsored by Friends of Noe Valley and others was well attended by the neighborhood and the candidates. Over a hundred neighbors showed up to grill the leading contenders: Newsom, Ammiano, Leal, Gonzalez, and Ribera (Alioto was a no show).
Noe Valley Democratic Club President Rafael Mandelman says the forum was very informative. He thinks Susan Leal, who has the club's endorsement, "did a great job in what was a good opportunity for her to get critical votes in the neighborhood."
Mandelman says that although Leal is trailing in the polls, "our club thinks she is a most credible, well-qualified, and experienced alternative to Gavin Newsom." She also has local ties. "There is a lot of sentiment and respect in the neighborhood for Susan, who grew up in Noe Valley, and has been a regular at our club in the past. She was always very responsive to neighborhood issues, especially when she was on the Board of Supes."
Though Mandelman agrees there is little question that Newsom will be the top votegetter on Nov. 4, he believes the second-place finish is truly up for grabs, and Leal is definitely in the running. For that matter, if all the Republicans in Noe Valley voted for Ribera (who is the only Repub on the mayoral ballot), then even he would have the "dark horse" hope of making the cut. Half the vote divided five ways is 10 percent.
Don't forget to vote, and tell a friend to vote and so on. If we can get 15,000 Noe Valleons to the polls, maybe we can make Ripley's Believe It or Not. Stay tuned next month for our neighborhood results.
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HOT IN THE KITCHEN: Downtown Noe Valley is no longer a destination for Chef Glenn "Gator" Thompson's spicy California Creole cuisine, since Alcatraces on 24th near Castro closed its doors on Oct. 2. In its 20 months of business, the very popular restaurant brought in folks from all over the world.
Apparently a dispute arose between Thompson and the owner of Alcatraces, Victor Juarez. And it got a little too hot in the kitchen. Thompson ended up resigning his position and walking out. One flash point, says Juarez, was that Thompson let it be known that the 26-person capacity of the restaurant had caused him to look for a larger space to spotlight his Louisiana-style dishes. "I was very surprised to learn that," says Juarez.
The second point of contention, of course, was money. But I'm not going to go there. Except to say, money was certainly on the minds of the 16 other employees who lost their jobs when the doors abruptly closed.
According to Juarez, Alcatraces will be reopened, with a significantly altered menu, by the time you read this. "I've hired a new executive chef, Rene Villanueva, who was born in Mexico. He moved out here from New York City, where he worked after graduating from the New York Culinary School in 1997," Juarez says. "We will be serving traditional Mexican food and developing what we hope will be a unique menu." Juarez says all the former staff are welcome to come back to work.
Victor Juarez also operates Casa Mexicana, between Sanchez and Noe, and a second Casa Mexicana on Church Street just north of Market. At the Alcatraces location, he took over the lease several years ago from the failed La Salsa (which was one of Chevy's many national chains), and briefly operated a vegetarian Mexican eatery called Legume. He then hired Gator and went Creole.
Juarez informed me that Carl's Jr. now owns the master lease on the premises. I don't think their menu and logo would fly in this neighborhood, do you?
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AS FOR GATOR'S SIDE: "I was very sad to have to resign my position of executive chef at the restaurant," Thompson says, "but I felt I had no choice under the circumstances. I have been looking for a new place to open, either in the neighborhood or nearby."
The plan, he says, is to call his new restaurant Gator's Swamp City Café and to serve the same dishes that made Alcatraces famous in Noe Valley.
Thompson says he and business partner Hal Russek are very close to finding a new spot. If terms can be negotiated, he will have an 80-seat eatery over the hill in Eureka Valley, on Market near Sanchez. "I looked in Noe Valley and nothing was available. I hope this location will be close enough so that all my customers come to my new place, which hopefully will have a full bar and a great display kitchen."
Thompson says he will be expanding the menu to include not only more California Creole dishes, but also a broader variety of Southern home cooking. "I'm going to start making my own vinegar, and watch out for my new Alabama goat cheese and other surprises!"
Thompson also wants to "tell all my friends in Noe Valley that I have really appreciated meeting all of them and having their business, and I will miss 24th Street a whole lot." We'll miss you, too.
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LET'S GO TO CHURCH: China Pepper Restaurant, out on Church at 29th, has changed its owner, its menu, and its name. The new place, called Long Island Restaurant, should have opened its doors at the end of October.
New owner Shu Au "Jimmy" Hsin says this will be his third Long Island. He opened the first in New York City 12 years ago, and it's now being run by his eldest cousin. The second, opened six years ago in Washington, D.C., is being run by his second oldest son. Hsin and his wife, Su Chin, will be serving a Hunan-style Chinese menu, featuring Mandarin Duck, and the house specialty, Sizzling Fish.
"We moved here from the East Coast, because the weather here is just beautiful--not too hot and not too cold, and no snow," Hsin says, with nodding approval from his wife. "We hope the neighborhood likes our food."
It's all but certain that Star Bakery will soon turn into a fitness spa catering to women who want to lose weight. Richard Beale, the real estate agent who has been handling the leasing, has confirmed that a franchise of the national chain Curves will be bouncing in.
There's no truth to all the rumors that have been flying up and down Church Street about Mikey and Tom coming back to reopen Mikeytom Market in their oldstorefront. According to Steve Brown of Better Property Management, the Mikeytom space is no closer to having a new tenant than it was last month.
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BOOKING THE REHAB: Library renovation workshops were held at the Noe Valley-Sally Brunn Library on Oct. 4 and 9. Those gathered discussed how to best make our branch ADA-compliant and more user-friendly, including plans for a sorely needed new community room.
According to Friends of Noe Valley whirlwind Jeannene Przyblyski, who attended the Oct. 4 affair (Friends organized the noon potluck lunch), the discussions centered on building a ramp, installing an elevator, and redesigning the community room. The group also considered ways to best utilize the garden and the deck.
While only a small group of the neighborhood's hardcore planning types attended the daylong meeting, the crowd on the following Thursday was much larger and very inquisitive.
Proposed design plans are currently on display on the first floor at 451 Jersey Street. "People should stop by to see them if they have a chance," urges Przyblyski. "People should get involved in this planning process now because it will go out to bid in early 2004. The library will probably close in the summer of 2004 for the renovation."
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CROWNING GLORY: Hair stylist Alicia Elliott, who runs the Bamboo Salon on Diamond near 24th Street, has applied to be a local registry for a group called Locks of Love. They collect long hair and make wigs to give to cancer patients undergoing radiation treatments.
Elliott, who opened her salon in February, says it is difficult to find donors because "basically, I need people who are long-hair-to-short-hair-right-now types, because the strands have to be at least 10 inches long to meet the requirements of Locks of Love. I have submitted the hair from three women so far, and I have another one scheduled in a couple of weeks. I know she won't cancel because she has grown her hair specifically to donate to the cause," Elliott says.
If you could be one of those sudden long-to-short-hair types, give Elliott a call at 824-4090.
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BEFORE I GO, I want to wish everyone a very happy Armistice Day, which is coming up on Nov. 11. Armistice Day celebrated the end of World War I, "the war that would end all wars." They changed its name to Veteran's Day in the 1950s to acknowledge the American soldiers who fought and died in subsequent wars: WWII and Korea. Now add Vietnam, Gulf, and Terror--did I miss any?
It was at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that the Germans accepted the terms of armistice from Allied Commander Marshall Foch. WWI saw the end of the Russian and Ottoman empires. France and Great Britain divided up the spoils and called it the Treaty of Versailles. American soldiers are still fighting and dying on the terrain of the Ottoman Empire because of that failed treaty.
So on Nov. 11, put a yellow ribbon in your window for all the vets who have made it back alive, and for all our soldiers over there now, who need to come home alive, now.