Noe Valley Voice December-January 2008

Rumors Behind the News: Changes Left and Right

By Mazook

OBAMA-RAMA: The results of the Nov. 4 election were bittersweet. The sweet spot was the election of Barack Obama, someone who believes government is, to quote Abraham Lincoln, "of the people, by the people, and for the people." The bitter pill, for many of us, was the passage of Proposition 8, halting gay marriage in California.

Prop. 8, unless overturned, will deprive gay--and all other couples--the equal protection that is guaranteed under the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ratified by the states in 1868).

With feelings running strong about both the prop and the president, voters in Noe Valley turned out in record numbers. Of the 16,582 who registered to vote in Noe Valley, according to statistics compiled by the San Francisco Department of Elections, 89 percent came to the polls or mailed in their ballots. We were second only to Eureka Valley and Upper Market voters, who topped all city neighborhoods with an 89.5 percent turnout. Diamond Heights weighed in at 87 percent, and North Bernal 86 percent.

Obama won a landslide in Noe Valley, racking up 13,434 (91%) of the 14,754 votes cast. John McCain pulled in 950 votes (6.4%), and Ralph Nader came in a distant third with 129 votes (1%).

In the Congressional race, it was Nancy Pelosi 10,647, followed by Cindy Sheehan with 2,247 votes. On Prop. 8, the Noe nays were 13,080 (89%) to 1,273 yeas (11%).

In other state props, Noe Valley voted yes on farm animal standards (10,913 yes, 3,008 no); and no on parental notification (12,357 no, 1,683 yes).

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VALENTINE'S DAY has been circled on the calendar for the transition of 24th Street's Bell Market to Whole Foods (see last month's front-page story at

According to Whole Foods' vice president of development for Northern California, Glen Moon, who is in charge of this project, Bell will be closing its doors on Feb. 14 and moving all its stuff out of the building by the last day of February.

"We will take possession on the first of March," Moon says, "and work through the permitting process for our plans to [build out] the store. Depending on how long it takes for permits, the store will reopen anywhere from, very optimistically, four to six months."

Moon adds that "the people at Bell Market [Kroger Foods/Ralphs] have been very accommodating and helpful to us in making this transition and giving us full access to make the measurements necessary to draw the plans. They've actually been extraordinarily cooperative, which is unusual in my experience. It shows great respect for the neighborhood and their customers," he says.

Evidently, Moon travels all over the U.S. helping Whole Foods open new stores. "I recently was able to open a store in Massachusetts in just over four months, but there the permitting process went very smoothly," says Moon. "Six months is more realistic for this location."

The Bell site will be the fifth Whole Foods location in San Francisco.

"We are working now to expedite the permit process, and also working with San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty."

Moon says he is also reaching out to various groups and individuals in Noe Valley, to explain Whole Foods' plans and to respond to people's concerns. He says he enjoys coming to our "vibrant" neighborhood and is currently scheduling meetings with the Noe Valley Association, the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, and the Friends of Noe Valley. He looks forward to meeting their memberships and getting neighborhood input, he says.

Sounds great. But might I also suggest that Whole Foods offer the Bell Market staff, many of whom have served us in the neighborhood for years, positions at the new market?

Oh, and what's going to happen to my Club Card, and all those points I earned? Can I transfer them to Whole Foods?

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24TH STREET SPIN: It looks as if Streetlight Records could close by the end of January. The space is currently available for lease by Rockwell Properties, and agent Mark Kaplan says, "We've been getting a fair amount of interest in the space, primarily by clothing retailers, and we actually are negotiating a lease for a clothes store right now."

The rent being asked for the 2,000-square-foot store, according to Kaplan, is $12,000 per month. The basement is also available for storage for an additional $3,000 per month, "but that's negotiable," he says.

Closing up and moving after roughly six months is the sunglasses store Glare, which sat in the small shop at 4021 24th Street.

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RESTAURANT ROUNDUP: Rumors that the restaurant space where Kookez used to be will be reopening by the end of December are true. (See last month's Rumors.) The new spot will be City Grill, according to one of the owners, Stefano Coppola.

That's right. Coppola is the chef at Lupa Italian Restaurant, next door to the Grille. Apparently he will be competing with himself.

"No, not at all," smiles Coppola. "We are going to have classic American fare, you know, burgers, steaks, chops, and ribs, as well as chicken and fish, and end with an apple pie or cheesecake."

Opening the last week of November in Uptown Noe Valley was Henry's Hunan Restaurant, on Church near 29th Street. This is the fifth Henry's to open in the city, with the first started in 1974 on Kearny Street in Chinatown.

Restaurant manager and longtime Henry's employee Eddie Zhu says, "Things are just great here, ever since we opened November 22. People in this neighborhood understand how Hunan is different from other Chinese cuisines."

When asked which of the 81 dishes he serves are the most popular, he said without much hesitation, "Numbers 59, 53, and 56." Those would be Chicken with String Bean, Henry's Special Seafood, and Curry Chicken. He adds, "If you like hot and sour stuff, try it here."

Henry's Hunan has free delivery for orders of $20 or more, and the menu is available online.

A Noe Valley family who opened the Kasa Indian Eatery this summer, on the corner of Noe and 18th streets over the hill in Eureka Valley, has received rave reviews from the San Francisco Chronicle's "Bargain Bites," 7x7 magazine, and ABC's The View from the Bay. The reviews point out that Kasa has exciting food--particularly the Kati rolls, at affordable prices.

"Yes," says Tim Volkema, who with wife Meredith moved to Noe Street (near 24th) this summer, "we are doing pretty good, but what really gets me is that now we have several diners who are coming in four to five times a week. Needless to say, we are very pleased."

Volkema encourages Noe Valleons to go online ( and look at the menu, and phone or send in your order. "We provide Noe Valley with free delivery," he says.

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JUST AWESOME GAMES is the name of a new shop opening at 816 Diamond just south of 24th Street, in the space vacated several months ago by Financial Title Company.

"We should be opening in mid-December," says co-owner Erik Mantsch, "and we will be featuring a wide variety of board games and educational games."

Mantsch says he moved to San Francisco from Portland to start up his own business, and found that "there were very few game stores in the Bay Area. I found only one other [specialty] game store in San Francisco, and we wanted to open in a family-friendly neighborhood. So everything worked out."

Everything has apparently also worked for Cary LaScala, who just opened a women's and men's clothing store called Cary Lane. It's on 24th Street near Church, across the street from Shoe Biz.

Besides being an entrepreneur, LaScala is a serious musician, who plays the drums and has a recording studio in the back of the store. He was last with the San Francisco band Bellavista, and currently does session work for the New York group Fischerspooner, which is big in the electro-dance genre.

"I used to be a clothing buyer for a major department store and have always liked working in retail sales, so I decided to focus on buying and selling authentic designer labels at a discount, anywhere from 20 to 60 percent off their original retail price," says LaScala.

The labels? "For men, we carry Apolis Activism, J. Lindeberg, Rosasen, and Oliver Spencer; Addict, Ben Sherman, and Paper Denim & Cloth for both men and women; and Loomstate, Kasil, Miss Sixty, Ksubi, and Mark Jacobs for women."

Also brand new on 24th Street is the Jewelry Box, which has taken the space formerly occupied by Rose Quartz. The new boutique is being operated by Jenny Khouri, whose husband Mousa Khouri and brother-in-law Mike Khouri have owned and operated St. Clair's liquor store next door on the corner of 24th and Sanchez since 1991.

"We are selling all kinds of jewelry from rings and bracelets to necklaces and earrings and have a lot of gemstones on sale," says Mike Khouri.

Although the jewelry store space was an icehouse until 1998, Mike says the store does not carry any diamonds.

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CONGRATS GO OUT to the Noe Valley Association, which was awarded "Best Community Benefit District" of the 12 CBDs in San Francisco by the Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN). Over 400 people attended the awards dinner at City Hall, where the presentation was made by KFOG radio personality Peter Finch and the award accepted by NVA director Debra Niemann. "It was quite an honor," says Niemann.

FYI, NEN is a partnership of city agencies, local non-profits, and neighborhood organizations, and is administered in the city's Administrations Office.

By the way, next up on the NVA calendar is a Dec. 9 hearing before the News Rack Commission at City Hall, about placement of news-rack pedestals in Downtown Noe Valley. The NVA wants to replace all those individual boxes on the sidewalks.

Thanks to Drewes Meat Market and its customers, more than 100 turkeys were donated to the Sisters of Charity, the Mother Teresa nuns headquartered at St. Paul's Church. Drewes sold 1,200 turkeys this Thanksgiving. You are all probably still eating the leftovers.

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BEFORE SIGNING OFF for 2008, special thoughts go out to the families of three stellar Noe Valleons: Daniel Cassidy, Albert Lanier, and Paul Kantus. Cassidy and Lanier died in October, and Kantus in November.

Daniel Cassidy was an author, filmmaker, scriptwriter, singer, and composer, and an activist in this city's Irish and labor communities. He won the 2007 American Book Award for How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads. And he was featured in these pages in March 2008.

Albert Lanier, the husband of Ruth Asawa and father of five kids and many grandchildren living in Noe Valley, was another Renaissance man. Actually, he was a Bauhaus man and a leader in the field of architecture, with several local houses to his credit. He also contributed his gardening and artistic talents to the library and local schools. (See story on page 7.)

Finally, Paul Kantus, born in Noe Valley in 1926, was the keeper of the Noe Valley Archives and the president of the now moribund East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club, founded in 1904. Kantus also was a friend and a great resource for this Rumors column. I believe he attended every community meeting held in Noe Valley in the past 35 years. (Read the obit on our front page.) I will miss you, Paul.

Have a happy New Year's, and we'll see you back here in February.