Noe Valley Voice November 2005

Letters to the Editor

A Sculpture Memorial


I, like so many others, was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of Jesse Zele's death [October 2005 Voice]. The magnitude of his impact on our lives was evidenced by the ever-growing spontaneous memorial at his bench on 24th Street.

I was wondering if anyone had thought of creating a life-size sculpture of Jesse, to be mounted on the bench. It could serve as a reminder to passersby that we take so much for granted and then are left to grieve over missed opportunities to connect.

As a bronze sculptor, although not a portrait specialist, I would be interested in creating, or helping to create, a memorial portrait of Jesse. I would also be willing to contact a foundry that might subsidize the cost of casting and finishing the piece. (There are several in the Bay Area that I have used in the past.)

If anyone is interested in this idea, contact me at

Carole Warner

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Jesse's Positive Spirit


I am Terry of "Terry and Leapin' Lizzie," whose letter to Jesse Zele was quoted in the story about him in your October 2005 issue. I would like to clarify two things:

First, I told the story of Jesse receiving crutches from a friend, not to describe an act of generosity, but to celebrate Jesse's amazing response--"Aren't I lucky?" As someone who bemoans all the tiny physical losses of encroaching age, I am awed by the strength of Jesse's spirit. He wasted no time on the negative. He was a role model for me.

Second, my letter was misquoted. He did not say "ain't" but "aren't," as described above. Jesse spoke perfectly correct English.

Terry Baum
Douglass Street

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No Turnover at Diagonal Row


The other day, I was planning to transact some business on Castro between 24th and 25th streets. I was hoping that the new diagonal parking between Jersey and 25th streets would make parking easier. Since I am handicapped, this is most important to me.

I found out that the parking situation has not changed at all. It seems that the extra spaces are taken up by residents or the business owners--with no turnover.

The question arises, why are we doing this? I was led to believe that transacting business in the area would become easier.

Ellen Benjamin
26th Street

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A Crash Waiting to Happen


Who do you contact regarding a traffic problem? I can't locate the helpful information you ran in the Voice about local government contact numbers. Would you please let me know how to contact my supervisor and the Traffic Department?

The problem is with the new timing of the lights on eastbound Market Street at Clayton (for the left turn lane). The time between changes is so long that traffic is now backed up every morning at all times to above Short Street and often all the way to Romain. There is a partly blind curve there and someone trying to make it past the traffic light at Romain is going to plow into a stopped car because the driver is stuck in a long backup while waiting to turn onto Clayton.

This change occurred in mid- to late-September. The changed timing of the traffic signal may have been an error related to the very nice repaving that was done to the parallel westbound lanes of Market during the summer. (It is an area where a spring in the hillside was constantly leaking water onto the roadway, and the pavement was badly broken up.)

Thanks, as ever, for your wonderful neighborhood news publication. I find it useful and very informative.

Barbara Epremian
25th Street and Grand View

Editor's Reply: The traffic signal repair number at DPT is 550-2736. Supervisor Bevan Dufty's number is 554-6968.

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The Closing of Open Door Yoga

I'm both saddened and disheartened to learn that Open Door Yoga will close its doors at the end of November. Why is it closing? The property owner won the condo lottery and will condo-ize the building. The attractive entrance to Open Door Yoga will become a garage.

This doesn't seem fitting for this beautiful community space, which Open Door owner Lizzie Nichols worked so hard to create. Several years ago, when Yoga Shala suddenly closed its doors in this spot, leaving yoga teachers and students to scramble for a place to hold classes, all breathed a sigh of relief when Lizzie stepped into the space and opened Open Door Yoga. Then, we held our breaths again when the building was sold, and were elated when Lizzie was able to negotiate a lease and remain at the corner of 25th and Sanchez.

Each time an individual business is forced to exit Noe Valley due to skyrocketing rents, I feel a twinge of sadness. But I feel more than personal sadness with the loss of Open Door Yoga. I feel a deep sorrow for our community and regret that the years of fostering a sacred, delightful space, where joy and laughter reigned and hundreds of people thrived, will fall to the bulldozer.

In the early to mid-1990s, Noe Valley had four places to take yoga classes, including Integral Yoga Center on Dolores Street--five if you count the Noe Valley Ministry. When Open Door Yoga closes, there will be one yoga studio, Sanchez Street Studio, a small but sweet space that, luckily, is owned by Pilates and yoga instructor Carol LeMaitre.

I do not teach yoga at Open Door Yoga, but I have in the past. I remember the first yoga class I taught, when Open Door first opened. It was a beginning yoga class and it was large. I was surprised that so many from Noe Valley were new to yoga. Most wanted a way to reduce stress in their lives, some simply desired more flexibility, and others were curious about yoga.

When I wanted to teach a class for seniors--and after being told by other places that seniors weren't really moneymakers--Lizzie welcomed the idea, adding that there were so many seniors in Noe Valley who weren't being served.

People have come from all parts of the United States, and most recently India, to offer classes and workshops at Open Door Yoga. There have been classes for women with breast cancer, for children, for pregnant women, for seniors, for those who meditate, and for folks who just need a break from the rat race. Open Door also employed many yoga teachers from different traditions. Like so many other people, I am forever grateful that I walked through Open Door Yoga's door.

What has always made Open Door Yoga so special is not the enormous sun-filled space to practice and teach yoga, nor the quiet relaxed waiting room with cushioned seats, nor the bowl of water for the occasional dog that wandered in, nor the spontaneous laughter that often erupted, but Lizzie.

You've heard of karma yoga and bhakti yoga? These two types of yoga are often thought of as two sides of the same coin. Karma means "right" action. Those who enjoy helping others without expecting anything in return practice karma yoga. Bhakti is giving to others in a selfless way with a great deal of attentiveness and open heart. Lizzie Nichols is the embodiment of both karma and bhakti yoga, and this planet and community are a richer place because of her.

We can crow all we want about what a great corner of San Francisco Noe Valley is. Like many of you, I choose to live here for the diversity and accessibility of small businesses. However, both come and go more frequently than I'd like to see. Many may applaud another overpriced condo for sale, but others will, like me, lament the loss of another community space. When Open Door Yoga takes down its last tattered prayer flag gracing the front entrance, we might all take a moment to look around and reflect on what our community means to us.

--Stephanie Levin

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THE VOICE welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. Or e-mail Please include your name, address, and phone number. (Anonymous letters will not be considered for publication.) Letters may be edited for brevity or clarity. We look forward to hearing from you.