Noe Valley Voice July-August 2010

And Now For The Rumors Behind The News

Future Not Pluperfect

By Mazook

THERE'S A PARKLET IN MY PLAZA: The second community workshop on the controversial Noe Street plaza idea, organized by Pavement to Parks (P2P) and a cast of thousands at City Hall, was held Wednesday evening, June 30.

So what happened at the workshop? We don't know.

Let us explain. The Voice tries to hit the streets on or near the first Friday of the month, which in this issue's case is July 2. To make the deadline, this column had to be to the editor and on its way to the printer by midday June 30. Hence, neither we nor the Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation could report on the gathering, held at St. Philip's community room.

But to make sure you get your plaza fix, here is the exciting buildup to the meeting.

You will recall that last month the second meeting on this volatile issue was originally set by P2P for June 23. Supervisor Bevan Dufty announced it in his newsletter and we listed it in the Voice, but there was a scheduling snafu at St. Philip's, because the Noe Valley Democratic Club had already booked the room for the same night.

Notices of the mix-up and the rescheduling to June 30 were sent into cyberspace by Planning Department project manager Andres Power on June 14, in a letter addressed to "Dear Noe Valley Neighbors". Wrote Power, "At this upcoming community meeting, we'll continue the conversation we began on April 8. We'll take a step back and talk about the goals of the project and how we might meet these goals with a menu of different options." Okay.

On June 25, Power e-mailed another letter to the same group of folks, this time addressed as "Dear Noe Valleyans". It had the agenda of the June 30 meeting and a whopping five options on the menu of discussion topics: (A) Noe Street Plaza, (B) Noe Street Parklets, (C) Vicksburg Street Plaza, (D) Sanchez Street Plaza, and (bonus option) 24th Street Parklets (one to three).

Also included was a fact sheet with some traffic-volume-per-day statistics for several streets around the proposed Noe plaza site. It revealed that surveys conducted by the Municipal Transportation Agency this spring found that Noe Street between 24th and Jersey streets had 2,500 vehicles per day traveling in the southbound direction and 1,900 in the northbound direction.

Other nearby blocks had a range of car volumes: The numbers were 6,600 per day for Castro Street, 3,900 for Sanchez, 1,200 to 1,400 for Elizabeth, and 2,800 to 3,200 for Jersey Street (west of Noe and west of Sanchez, respectively).

If Noe Street were closed for the plaza, according to MTA predictions, the surrounding streets would see a traffic increase ranging from 20 percent (Jersey west of Sanchez) to a dramatic 55 percent for Sanchez Street. Twenty-fourth Street, which now has 6,400 cars, would go up 20 percent. There were no stats on Vicksburg Street...

So, if you attended the June 30 meeting, did you like the new "options"? Were "breakout groups" formed? Did everyone settle on a Vicksburg plaza, or will the skirmishes continue in this micro-civil war? Will there be another meeting? Will we need a bailiff?

We also wonder if anybody talked about how Jersey Street has now become the official bike lane through Downtown Noe Valley. Last month, DPW painted bike path insignia on the Jersey Street pavement from Diamond Street east to Dolores.

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LET'S PLAY MUSICAL STORES: Downtown Noe Valley is almost fully occupied. Believe it or not, only four storefronts appear to be for rent: the site of the former Cooks Boulevard (1309 Castro); GNC's old space (3934 24th); the space next door, recently vacated by Lisa Violetto (3932 24th); and Twin Peaks Properties--Harry Aleo's former hangout at 4072 24th--where a "For Lease" sign was posted last month.

The two contiguous stores at 3932 and 3934 24th Street--each 1,200 square feet--are being offered, according to Peter Mikacich of Brick and Mortar Commercial, for $5,000 per month (each).

He says his firm has received a number of inquiries about renting the space. "They've run the gamut from retail outlets for dry goods and women's apparel to retail services like hair salons, nail salons, and dry-cleaning agencies, as well as business offices," he says.

Mikacich points out that many prospective tenants are proposing uses that require permits and need escape clauses because the process could take a lot of time. He says the easiest move-in would be retail dry goods, such as a clothing store.

Over at Cooks Boulevard, property co-owner Mario Crotti says he has had no takers yet for the 1,800-square-foot space. "[I] have had a lot of interest in the space, from people who want to open a baby goods store or an exercise studio," he says. Crotti would not confirm that he was asking $6,200 a month for rent (as reported here in May), but suggested that he would be happy to negotiate the terms of the lease.

The space does have some history. In the 1960s, it was the site of Noe Valley's first psychedelic cafe, Magnolia Thunderpussy.

Before we go around the corner for the scoop on Aleo's old haunts, there is a storefront with papered-up windows across Castro at 1352 that was recently vacated by Castro Nail Beauty Spa. Castro Nail owner Susie Mills says the lease expired and the building owner refused to renew, even though she'd been there close to 10 years. So she moved her salon to 1791 Church Street near 30th.

"We are keeping our same name," says Mills, and offering a special 15 percent mani-pedi discount ("and free beach sandals and exfoliation for feet") to clients. "I just want to say thank you to my customers for all their support. I really appreciate it. Come and see me in my new very nice neighborhood."

Next to Mills' old spot on Castro, under the same roof, is another store, Michelle's Tailor, owned by Michelle Nguyen. People have been worried that her shop might also become papered up.

However, building owner Bart Murphy says he will be taking over either the space vacated by Castro Nail or, more likely, Nguyen's space on the corner and offer her the other space.

As for Nguyen, she says, "I am just waiting to see what the owner wants to do, but I don't want to leave--I have been here for over 20 years."

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LOONEY VALLEY VINTAGE: It looks as if Harry Aleo's memorabilia on display in the front windows of his Twin Peaks Properties office will soon be removed. A "For Lease" sign has just been posted, two years after Noe Valley icon Aleo died.

The property manager for Aleo's estate, Stephanie Gordon, says Aleo's family has until the end of July to take what they want from the offices, and then the space will be available for lease. Gordon thinks removing all of Harry's stuff will be "quite challenging, since he had accumulated so many things over the years," including a treasure trove of old photos and Republican keepsakes.

"The estate is looking for a tenant who will make capital improvements to the space, which makes the terms of the lease very negotiable," says Gordon.

Gordon says she has received some calls about leasing, "but honestly, most of the calls I have been receiving are not interested in renting the space, but interested in buying the memorabilia."

The storefront also comes with a parking stall in the parking lot behind the store, which is also owned by Harry's estate.

Gordon, who has lived in Noe Valley and been in the property management business for the past 21 years--her offices are now on Potrero Hill but used to be on the corner of Castro and Clipper--wants to assure everyone that "there will be no drastic changes," which is good news for the other three adjoining stores now being managed by Gordon.

With luck, we will have an update on the fate of Harry's collection in the September issue of the Voice. As many of you Aleo fans know, in addition to the items in Harry's office, there currently is a mound of his personal memorabilia in storage. Local realtor Joel Panzer and estate trustee Anthony Lyau hope to have it all added to the Noe Valley Archives--currently in the possession of local historian Bill Yenne--and put on display somewhere in Noe Valley. Could that place be the library?

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VIVA FRENCH TULIP! We are glad to report that the closure of the French Tulip flower store, reported right here in May, was short-lived. Within a month, the shop (3903 24th near Sanchez) reopened under new ownership. That would be Noe Valley florist Andrei Abramov. You know him--he was the manager of Flowers of the Valley, on 24th near Castro, about three years ago.

According to Abramov, "I was walking down 24th Street and saw that the shop had closed, so I contacted the landlord as soon as possible, and was happy that we could [come to an agreement]."

Abramov says he was able to open just before Mother's Day, "which is a pretty big day for a florist. Business has been doing very well ever since. I try to keep a positive attitude about everything." He also tries to keep his bouquets unique and competitive with the other florists in the neighborhood as well as with Whole Foods' floral department.

"There is enough business for all of us, since the neighborhood is very much into flowers," he says.

Around the corner from the French Tulip, on Sanchez, the Garage Store (1104 Sanchez) is under new management and now known as the Garage Store Merchandise Lounge.

Liz Winsor bought the secondhand business and took over the myriad consigned items several months ago. She is trying now to focus on lamps and small furniture items.

"We have hundreds and hundreds of items filling the whole basement on sale right now," says Winsor, "but I am limiting items I will now take on consignment, since the paperwork in selling all the consigned stuff I took over when I took over the store was overwhelming."

Winsor says she will be looking at consignments with a value of at least $30. "I want to change the image from a junk shop to a nice shop with quality items at great prices."

There has been no change in ownership of what until two months ago was Star Magic: The Next Generation (4028B 24th). SMTNG just changed its name to Cosmic Wizard.

The shop is still owned by Robert Hanfling and his son Michael, and still occupies the same space as the original Star Magic, which wowed customers in the 1980s and '90s.

However, this spring, after opening their celestial shop last October, the Hanflings received a "cease and desist" letter from a New York lawyer representing the owner of the store "Star Magic, Inc.," alleging infringement of his trademark. The original Star Magic owner still sells items on the Internet, although it doesn't appear there is another retail store with that name.

Discretion being the better part of valor, the Hanflings decided to comply with the demand and changed their name, logo, and signage.

Welcome, Cosmic Wizard!

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NOE VOGUE: Two women's designer boutiques on Church Street are becoming certified shopping destinations.

Loft 1513, located at 1513 Church Street, has been very active in promoting its featured designers, including Ikohl, RAG-Doll Designs, Audrey Acosta, Kayo Anime, Invisible Hero Industries, Rachel Znerold, and Freedom Fibers. Each month since April, 1513 sponsors a fashion show and party with music by pretty cool deejays at their shop and in the back garden, and these events have attracted hundreds.

The next soiree is scheduled for July 8, starting at 6:30 p.m., and will feature two local bellydancers and, according to co-owner Jessica Summers-Miller, "a huge sale of from 10 to 40 percent off on all items."

By the way, the just-opened Heliotrope, next door at 1515 Church, purveyor of skin, aromatherapy, and body products, will also have a party that day to get all of you scented up before, during, or after the bellydancing next door.

Down Church Street at 1767, Curator Boutique owners Stacy Rodgers and Deirdre Nagayama report they have expanded the products available at their retail outlet to include not only many new clothing designs but also accessories like Swedish Happy Socks, Cheap Monday Jeans, and designer drinking mugs.

According to Rodgers, their clothing designs (She-Bible) are being manufactured locally in their wholesale operations south of Market, and sold in over 60 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

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SAVING THE BEST: Downtown Noe Valley's newest savings establishment, Circle Bank, reported that during their first month they "rang up more than $3 million in new account deposits."

According to bank branch manager Carlos Rivera, "We feel welcome in this neighborhood, since we opened up over 200 accounts last month, and also 50 merchant's accounts." Rivera also says that the first month, the bank received 12 loan applications from local small businesses and so far has funded three loans.

People were flocking to DNV's newest restaurant when news spread that The Little Chihuahua (4123 24th) had opened its doors for lunch for three days starting on Tuesday, June 22. "We just opened the doors at 11 a.m. to see how things would go and to get any glitches in the service ironed out before we opened for lunch and dinner on Friday," said co-owner Chris Patella. "By the end of the first lunch, around a hundred people had come in to eat."

On Friday, June 25, when the doors flew open for the first dinner service, "we were pleasantly surprised at the turnout for dinner since we took orders for over 300 people. Lots of families came in. It was just great for us, and business is exceeding our expectations."

Noe-noteworthy are the Noe Valley businesses that readers and editors chose as "The Best Of" in this year's SF Weekly poll (May 25 issue). Best Wine Bar: Noeteca, Best Italian Cuisine: La Ciccia, Best Barcelona Experience: Contigo, Best Microbrewery: Elizabeth Street Brewery, Best Shoe Store: Shoe Biz, Best Boutique and Women's Clothing: Ambiance, Best Geek-out: Neon Monster, Best Hot Tubs: Elisa's Health Spa, and the Best Place to Put a Spell on You was La Sirena Botanica. "Cookbook Queen" Celia Sack of Omnivore Books was featured in a special profile in the food section.

The Elizabeth Street Brewery is an especially interesting choice, since Richard and Alyson Brewer-Hay have not sold one ounce of their homemade brews. They have been cooking up five- and 10-gallon batches for the past seven years, which have been sampled by their friends and neighbors, and reported on the ESB blog.

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IF A TREE FALLS IN NOE VALLEY: Printer's ink didn't quite reach to the edge of the paper on last month's Voice Crossword puzzle page, to the chagrin of all you word charmers. For that reason Michael Blake's June twister has been repeated this month (see page 6).

After the paper came out, Blake reported that he happened to get together with Dan Feyer, the "fastest man alive at doing crossword puzzles," when Feyer visited San Francisco last month. (Feyer, by the way, took first place in this year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the contest made famous in the 2006 film Wordplay.) Blake gave Feyer a copy of the June Voice, and asked him to give it a try. The five or six missing clues were no impediment to Feyer, says Blake. "He did the crossword in 3:05 minutes, all the while participating in an unrelated conversation around him. It was great fun to watch."

Finally, the picture above should use up enough printer's ink for you to see one large fallen tree.

About half past one on June 21, a sunny Monday afternoon and the first day of summer, the quiet of Downtown Noe Valley was disrupted by a big thud.

It seems that a large truck was trying to get into a small parking space in front of Zephyr Real Estate, and it backed into the tree, causing it to uproot and fall to the pavement. Fortunately, no one was injured, but two moms with strollers were narrowly missed.

After the truck driver hit the tree, he or she immediately drove away. Of course, the truck had a rather large "Tharco" logo on the side, so the errant driver would not escape responsibility for the misdeed.

Timber! A large truck trying to squeeze into a small parking space knocked down a tree June 21 in front of Zephyr Real Estate on 24th Street. Pedestrians were scattered, but fortunately no one was harmed. Photo courtesy Ana Carolina

"We immediately tracked down the owner of the truck," says Zephyr manager Aimee Arost, "and found that the company who owned the truck was a drayage company called Scully."

According to Arost, the city had a crew out almost immediately and had cut up the fallen tree within two hours. The Noe Valley Association will soon be planting a cherry tree, says Arost.

That's 30, folks. Have a great summer and see you back on these pages on or about the first Friday of September.

Oops, before I go, I want to set the record straight on last column's statement that Todd David was a "pro-plaza" person. David says that he is now and has always been "neutral" on the plaza issue, and wants to hear all sides before taking a position. We apologize for the editorial glitch.