Noe Valley Voice May 2004

and now for the Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

SURVEY SAYS: The Friends of Noe Valley has announced the results of its neighborhood survey, sent to 240 FNV members and doled out to shoppers at the Noe Valley Farmers' Market. As you can see from our story on page 1, the 53 Friends and 17 others who answered the questionnaire are chewing on some ideas that could lead to a smorgasbord on 24th Street. Either that or a food fight.

My recommendation is that we all bring a healthy snack to the Friends' June 9 meeting at the Noe Valley Library, co-sponsored by the Noe Valley Merchants Association. The main topic will be whether local residents should try to relax the ban on new restaurants in Downtown Noe Valley, or just enroll in cooking classes. Larry Badiner from the city's Planning Department will be on hand to explain how current zoning controls work and how new chain store legislation might impact Noe Valley.

It is purely coincidental that neighborhood stalwart Marybeth Wallace will announce her resignation as president of Friends at the group's May 18 board meeting and "turn things over to our very able vice president, Debra Niemann." Wallace's term would have ended this September, when Friends' officer elections are scheduled.

"I'm doing way too many things, and I feel the need to devote more time to my three kids," says Wallace, who also sits on the board of directors for Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, the Cathedral School board, Rec and Park's Dog Advisory Committee, and the Noe Valley YMCA Task Force. But she adds, "I'm very, very confident in Debra's abilities to take charge--she is great!"

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WHO KNEADS DOUGH: Speaking of food, and children, Noe Valley Bakery and Bread Company has closed down its big bakery operation on Bayshore near Alemany and ended its wholesale business.

"We were doing great," says owner Mary Gassen, who with her husband Michael first opened the NVBBC on 24th Street in February 1995, "but it was not making us happy. We have two children under six. It was that simple. So this February, we closed down our entire wholesale operation. We had to let 75 employees go, and stop our fleet of four trucks making the deliveries."

Over the last nine years, the bakery (and in particular its yummy raisin bread) has attracted a lot of people to Downtown Noe Valley. Things were going so well that in 1997, the Gassens decided to expand into wholesale, both in the city and in Marin and the East Bay. But, Mary says, "it just became too much, and then last year when I had to pay almost a quarter of a million dollars just for Workman's Compensation Insurance, it became more than we could handle.

"We've moved our baking back to Noe Valley, where we live. Now we can just focus on improving our products and keeping everything fresh and interesting in our retail stores here in Noe Valley and on Solano in Albany."

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IS THAT OIL THERE IS? Bay Area olive oil lovers will be flocking to Noe Valley, now that Stonehouse California Olive Oil Company is opening a retail store on the corner of 24th and Sanchez (in Dharma's old spot). Yes, an olive oil store.

"We are really excited about opening our Noe Valley store," says Trish Baldwin, president of the small company that seems to be growing faster than their olive groves located near Oroville, Calif. "We have our own groves and our own [crushing] mill in Corning, which can produce about 40,000 gallons of olive oil annually for us," she says.

Stonehouse's first factory outlet was in Fairfield, Calif. Then last fall they opened a retail shop in the Ferry Building. "I know an olive oil store sounds kind of funny, kind of like that Saturday Night Live skit years ago about a Scotch tape store, but a lot of people come to our stores," Baldwin says. "We wanted to open up a store out in a San Francisco neighborhood, and we settled on the neighborhood I always shop in when I come to San Francisco--Noe Valley."

Olive oil will be sold by the half liter for $10, 750 ml for $14, a liter for $20, and a gallon for $55. If you bring your own container, the store will reduce the price by two dollars on any size. The oil is a blend of Mission, Manzanillo, and Barouni olive varietals.

The shop will also have citrus oils, which are produced by crushing the fruits together with the olives, and garlic oils. Oh, and yes the store will also carry several kinds of vinegars to go with all that oil. Baldwin says she will personally manage the store, and she hopes she can soon walk to work after she moves to Noe Valley, from Berkeley.

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THE DEPARTMENT OF REDUNDANCY DEPARTMENT has confirmed that the Noe Valley Ministry parking lot on 24th Street near Vicksburg will be officially open for business by mid-May. I know, I know, we've announced this before. But the people running the lot, American Parking Management, have gotten the green light from everybody now.

According to APM boss Luke Aguilera, "We've met with all the people at the church [Noe Valley Ministry] and addressed their needs. We've met with the merchants and discussed their needs, like validations. Also, we've had to look at the short-term parkers and the long-term parkers. We've met with the Farmers' Market people. And we've met with the lawyers, who have met with all the other lawyers. It's a difficult process, but I think we will be ready to roll very soon, most likely around May 15."

And what about the parking rates, for the general public? "That's what we're figuring out right now."

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SPIN CYCLE: The Launderland parking lot behind the facility on the corner of 24th and Church will soon be history, as will Launderland itself.

The owner of the property has filed a building permit application with the Planning Department, asking to extend the existing building northward into the lot, and then split the whole space in half. His stated intention is to create "two equally sized commercial spaces" fronting onto 24th Street, and my spies tell me that neither space will be a laundromat.

Over the past 35 years, Launderland has become a Noe Valley institution, serving the thousands in the neighborhood who wear clean socks. Seriously, a significant number of residents are going to be wringing their hands over this loss--the only laundry with its own parking lot.

Planning Department spokesperson Delvin Washington says the time for filing objections expires May 5. Oops, is it too late?

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GIVE ME A SIGN: Bond Yee, deputy director of the city's Department of Parking and Traffic, has nixed the notion of installing a four-way stop at the intersection of Castro and 23rd streets. Locals raised the issue to Mayor Newsom at the Feb. 28 town hall meeting at James Lick.

Yee recently wrote to various City Hall supplicants that "[b]ased on our investigation, we do not recommend installing stop signs at the intersection of 23rd and Castro at this time." He pointed out that Castro Street carries the predominant flow of traffic and that the intersection "has had a good safety record...over the past five years."

Yee continued, "With regard to speed control, our general experience has shown that placement of stop signs does not effectively control excessive speeds, except at the intersection itself. We will therefore ask the police department, by copy of this letter, to consider increasing enforcement of the speed limits in this area."

Another factor he cited was "degrading" Muni service. In other words, another stop on Castro would slow down the buses too much.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty's office says that despite this setback, the supervisor is strongly considering introducing a resolution in favor of the stop sign before the Board of Supervisors. What do you think?

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UPDATING DOWNTOWN: It looks as if the Real Food tsunami has washed Wavy Footprints away. The kids' shoe store, which is directly across from Bell Market and two doors down from the empty shell of Real Food's, will close its doors May 31 after a four-year run. "Sales started to drop dramatically right after Real Food's closed last year, and we were never able to recover," says store manager Tucker Davis. According to Davis, "Business has been bad," and when Wavy moved next door and added toys and clothing in an effort to boost revenue, it didn't work.

If you blinked, you might have missed See Jane Run's quick sprint a block up the street to the vacant Toko storefront last month. A shop called Ladybug Ladybug flew into SJR's old space at the end of April, selling gifts, art, and greeting cards.

Lisa Sherratt, and friend and partner Sheila Musgrave, relocated Ladybug Ladybug from its original site in the Richmond District. "I am so happy that we finally found a place, and the timing was right," says Sherratt. "I have been hanging out in Noe Valley on my days off, and really think it is a fun street, so our store will fit right in."

There are some pretty solid rumors that Colorcrane will soon vacate its space and make way for a knitting supply store offering knitting classes. I remember the last yarn store in Downtown Noe Valley went out of business circa 1979 (it was located where Ocean Front Walkers is now). Still, knitting is popular again.

Kate Rosenberger over at Phoenix Books says she has 1,000 signatures on her petition in support of the store staying in its current location at the corner of 24th and Vicksburg. The landlord has put her on a month-to-month basis. "But no news is good news," says Rosenberger.

There are rumors that the old Safeway storefront on Church and Day (most recently Mikeytom Market) has two interested parties. One is thinking furniture store, and the other a bakery. "There have been some talks," says Steve Brown of Better Property Management, "but nothing has gone down on paper."

Sorry to see that two small Noe Valley corner grocery stores have gone out of business. The Noe Courts Grocery at Douglass and Elizabeth is vacant and for rent, and the Resident Grocery Store at the corner of Noe and 22nd is also gone; in fact, the entire building has been gutted.

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GOOD FOOD NEWS is coming from Julio Calvo-Perez. Who he? The man who plans to open a third branch of his popular Peruvian restaurant, Fresca, in the space formerly occupied by Tien Fu Restaurant. Perez says his best guess for opening is "by mid-July."

Perez opened his first Fresca in West Portal eight years ago. His son José Calvo-Perez worked with him in the kitchen while he was growing up, and rejoined the business after he graduated from the S.F. Culinary Academy two years ago.

"We opened our second Fresca in the upper Fillmore [at California Street] a year and a half ago," says Julio, "and we have been very encouraged by the response of the neighborhood."

Why Noe Valley? "I live in West Portal and have been shopping in Noe Valley for years. I eat at my favorite restaurant, Savor, whenever I get a chance, so when this opportunity came up, I was very lucky and happy to get a space on 24th Street."

Some of the Fresca favorites are Ceviche Sampler, Chilean Sea Bass, Peruvian Beef, and Rotisserie Chicken.

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A BUSH-BASHING BASH is being sponsored by an ad hoc group of Noe Valleons who are volunteering their time and money to John Kerry's campaign for president. The party, with a no-host bar, is scheduled for Thursday, May 13, from 7 to 9 p.m., at Le Zinc café on 24th Street between Noe and Castro.

One of the organizers, Richard May, notes that the "Beat Bush Bash" is a fundraiser, and that attendees will be requested to donate $50 at the door. "That money will go to the Kerry Campaign, to be used in the battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, and Missouri." Kids 12 and under go free, and strollers are welcome in Le Zinc's back patio.

City Treasurer Susan Leal will be giving a speech to the crowd. May says Mayor Gavin Newsom has been invited "and may make a surprise visit to the party to show his support."

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THE NOE VALLEY BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION has finally released the Noe Valley vote count from the March 2 presidential primary election.

Of San Francisco's 448,948 registered voters, 54 percent identified themselves as Democrats, 12 percent Republicans, 3 percent Greens, and 27 percent called themselves non-partisan. Citywide, only 42.5 percent of them actually voted.

In Noe Valley, 15,912 souls are registered, but 8,328 voted. That's 52 percent. Noe Valley's Democrats voted 52 percent for John Kerry, 22 percent for Dennis Kucinich, and 16 percent for John Edwards. Howard Dean got 6 percent, Joe Lieberman 2 percent, and Al Sharpton, Wesley Clark, Carol Mosely Braun, and Dick Gephardt shared the remaining 2 percent of the vote.

That's 30. Have a crazy daisy May, and stay in tune for June.