| March 2010
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EATERIES, MORE OR LESS: More than 100 people showed up at St. Philip's Church the night of Thursday, Feb. 25, for a sizzling community meeting sponsored by the Friends of Noe Valley, Upper Noe Neighbors, Noe Valley Merchants Association, Noe Valley Association, and the Noe Valley Democratic Club.
First on the fun-filled agenda, which was chaired by District 8 Supe Bevan Dufty, was a greeting by Mission Police Station Capt. Greg Corrales. Then came a debate about new restaurants, and a report by Noe Valley Association director Debra Niemann. After that, the five major candidates in the November election for Dufty's seat on the Board of Supervisors introduced themselves to the crowd. Finally, there was a surprise presentation by the Planning Department's Andres Power about plans to create a "park plaza" in Downtown Noe Valley. But we'll get to that later.
Corrales reintroduced himself--he's been Mission captain in the past--and thanked our local beat officer (and last month's Noe Valley Voice cover girl) Lorraine Lombardo for her service. She was given a loud ovation for her efforts as chief constable of the neighborhood.
The main attraction, of course, was Dufty's pending legislation that would lift the ban on new restaurants and food-service businesses on 24th Street (and adjoining commercial blocks), subject to conditional use (CU) authorization. To Dufty's way of thinking, the measure would give worthy restaurants and/or specialty food services the chance to open in DNV, which would stimulate the neighborhood economy and bring more diners and shoppers to our little urban village. He feels lifting the ban still leaves sufficient controls, because the CU process is pretty strict.
Dufty was joined by City Planner Elizabeth Watty, who explained the rigors of obtaining a CU permit and the standards used by the Planning Department. "[This legislation] doesn't make the process any easier," said Watty, "and the Planning Commission would deal with every application on a case-by-case basis," to determine if the proposed CU would be "necessary and desirable."
Others on the pro side said lifting the ban would allow a "free market" to determine what restaurants would make it in Downtown Noe Valley. But opponents--many of whom lived on 24th, Jersey, or Elizabeth streets--cited concerns about increased traffic congestion, parking, noise, and odor pollution.
Dufty called upon longtime neighborhood activist and 24th Street resident Eleanore Gerhardt, who had been leading the opposition to the repeal of the prohibition. Gerhardt brought copies of two Noe Valley Voice articles from 1979, which explained the thinking at that time: people wanted to preserve Noe Valley's mixed-use, services-oriented shopping street, which already had a lot of bars, takeouts, and restaurants, and stop the displacement of residents and apartments by landlords eager to rent to commercial enterprises. Gerhardt also explained how Starbucks was able to sidestep the moratorium on cafes, when the coffee store opened in 1993. (Prior to moving in, Starbucks successfully lobbied the city to allow an "accessory takeout" exception in the zoning code.)
Dufty then opened the meeting up for questions and comments. Many short comments expressed support for the repeal. Many speakers against repeal recalled past problems in the neighborhood.
Jersey Street residents reminded everyone of the huge problems they had with the noise pollution and meat smells wafting from Hahn's Hibachi when it first opened in 1996. The complaints led to a three-year permit battle, resulting in the owners installing a very expensive "Smog-Hog," which reduced the odors to a tolerable level.
Other Jersey residents talked about similar problems they were now having with the very popular Fresca Restaurant. Evidently, the noise has been so disruptive that one resident moved his bedroom from the back of his house to the front so he could get some sleep.
After about an hour of discussion, Dufty called for a "straw vote." According to Dufty's chief of st aff, Boe Hayward, the vote was "a little better than two-to-one in favor of repealing the ban."
Agents of the Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation estimated the four-second show of hands was 70 percent for repeal, 30 percent against.
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PLAZA-BILITY: After the vote, the meeting was turned over to Noe Valley Association director Debra Niemann, who gave a PowerPoint talk about the 24th Street community benefit district's recent activities.
Then the surprise came: an announcement that an application the NVA made last year to Mayor Gavin Newsom's "Pavement to Parks" program had been approved, and that by the summer solstice, Noe Valley would have a park plaza on Noe Street, on the south side of 24th Street.
You might recall that one of these foliage-filled pedestrian areas opened late last year in Eureka Valley, on the block where 17th, Castro, and Market merge.
The Noe Street plaza, of course, was breaking news, well, almost breaking, since the San Francisco Chronicle that v ery morning had published a front-page story about Pavement to Parks which noted that Noe Valley would be one of four neighborhoods slated for a mini plaza.
Andres Power, the Planning Department person who is heading up Pavement to Parks, then spoke to those assembled. The plan is to set up a temporary barricade on Noe at a point approximately 60 feet from the southern edge of 24th Street--roughly at the end of Starbucks and Rabat--and create a small plaza in that space with benches, plants, and an open area for relaxation (sans cars).
"We are starting out with temporary barricades, and Noe Street will become a cul-de-sac for the residents on the south side of that block. We have the funding now, so we will be having community meetings in the near future for input and hope to have a temporary plaza opened by June 2010," Power said.
If you're wondering, only emergency vehicles will be allowed in the cul de sac. And you'll have to find another route to drive across 24th Street.
If you want to give you r input before the next community meeting, contact Power by phone, 415-558-6384, or at Andres.email@example.com.
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GEEK SQUADS invaded Noe Valley on the first Saturday evening of February (Feb. 6). Almost 300 people formed 53 teams, whose members converged on Alvarado School to participate in the "Inaugural Tech Search Party," a high-tech scavenger hunt organized by Tim Smith, who serves on the school PTA's technology committee.
The event was planned as a $15,000 fundraiser for the school, with proceeds earmarked for purchasing a working computer for every classroom in the school (see "Short Takes" in last month's Voice).
Prizes were promised to the top teams in the competition and to the team with the best name. Every team would need a flashlight and at least one very "smart phone," so they could check the Internet for help with the clues during the hunt, then take a photo of their answer, and email it back to hunt headquarters.
The entry fee was 50 bucks, and the start time was 6 p.m. Each team was given a map and 10 clues to decipher, and two hours to find the answers at locations in Noe Valley. Here are the 10 clues (answers at the end of the column):
1. Between Lodge and London.
2. AKA Hugs and Kisses.
3. Where 11 Dwell.
4. Fox Then Sheen.
6. Home of St. Barack.
7. The Gospel According to Goldberg.
8. Credit Card Fee Limitation and Accountability Act and Temple Street.
9. Cost $45,499 in Year of Beverly Cleary's Birth.
10. Noe Valley's Last Movie Theater.
During the race, Smith says, "I tweeted a couple clues for clarification to all the teams." After 8 p.m., everyone congregated at the Dubliner Bar for a free beer and the awards ceremony.
First prize went to a team called the Indomitable Immersion Mamas, who, according to Smith, were a group of five Alvarado moms. They had phoned him "a couple days before the hunt wanting to know if they had to have a 'smart' phone to participate in the hunt." The answer was "yes."
The Mama s' prize was a party pack from Radio Alice, including two tickets to a Bon Jovi concert. Second prize was a $100 gift certificate to Geeknet, and it was awarded to team 26 Skidoo. Third place went to Noe Way Jose, and fourth to team 2+2=5. The best team name award went to Getting to the Dubliner Has Never Been This Hard.
The best PR team was the ScaVantagers from Vantage Communications, "who edged out the Bite PR team, who unwisely stopped in the middle of the hunt to get pizza," Smith said. And for the record, the best political team was supe candidate Scott Wiener's team, and the prize was a baseball autographed by Mayor Newsom.
Smith says a shout-out should go to all the corporate sponsors of the event: Google, Geeknet, Salesforce, and Circle Bank, as well as to supervisor candidates Mandelman, Prozan, Spanjian, and Wiener.
And most importantly, Smith says, over $12,000 was raised for purchase of audiovisual equipment and a flat-panel computer for each of the 28 Alvarado classrooms.
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GOT ART ACADEMY? A great new and très Noe neighborhood service opened in December on the corner of Diamond and Elizabeth streets: Pixie Hall Studios. The place offers a bevy of art classes for children ages 18 months to 7, and for preteens and teens. On Fridays, the kids are treated to Emily Butterfly's Amazing Puppet Show. Yeah, it's an art academy and puppet theater.
Pixie founder Kristin Scagliotti, who has a master's degree in art from U.C. Berkeley, was a school teacher for San Francisco Unified and lives in Glen Park. She says she is so happy she found the (former Andiamo Deli) space at a reasonable rent, so she can develop her art-based curriculum.
"We are pretty excited with the response we've gotten from the neighborhood, and have more than 40 students in the short time we have been open," says Scagliotti. "We have been getting a lot of drop-offs, and the space is great--very open with great sunlight. I am very optimistic about the coming months."
Summer camp signups are starti ng, and coming in August is the Pixie Hall Studios Art Academy, geared for kids 2.5 to 4 years, classes Monday through Thursday. Check it out.
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HAIR AND THERE: Meanwhile, down on Church Street, the Green Twig Hair Salon is completing its one-year plan to move (from 1515 Church) into the long-vacant northeast corner store at Church and 25th streets.
"We will be moving on March 10," says owner/stylist Dana Nelson, who opened her shop here almost three years ago. "I was very happy to be in Noe Valley. Most of my clients from Oakland, where I used to be, followed me to San Francisco, so I started looking for a larger space in the neighborhood over a year ago," she says.
"I went up the street to Hall Realty about a year ago to see if anyone there knew of a vacant store to rent and talked to a man who was there with some other people on some other matter and who overheard [my inquiry]," Nelson continues. "He said he would have a corner store for rent in about a year and showed me the sp ot. The rent was very reasonable, but he first needed to make repairs. I said I would take it. We 'shook hands,' and true to his word, he built out the store, including all the plumbing you need for a hair salon, and we signed a lease last month."
Nelson says she's also happy she will have enough space to sell Aveda botanical products and hair products. Aveda fans will be glad too--Aveda closed its 24th Street store at the end of last year.
You might be interested to know that Green Twig donates its hair clippings to Matter of Trust, which uses them to make mats to soak up oil spills.
Meanwhile, Lynn Ingham will be closing her Lynn Antiques at 1478 Church Street (near 27th) at the end of April, and selling her nearby residence on 26th Street where she has spent the last 14 of her 23 years in San Francisco. She's moving back to her home in Seeley Lake, Montana.
"After five years, I have had a wonderful experience in operating this small business and coming to work every day, but it has become harder a nd harder for all small businesses to stay afloat, and I just couldn't afford to renew my lease," says Ingham.
Bargain hunters might want to check out Lynn's shop soon, because all items will go on sale on March 3.
Rumors in Upper Noe that the very popular Twin Peaks Pizza on Church Street near 29th has changed hands (perhaps because of the ABC notice on the window last month) are not true. "We just changed the business entity from an LLC to a corporation," says owner Bruno Matos, "and we are doing some interior decorating of our dining room to try to encourage more people to dine with us." During the month of March, Matos says he will be selling his house wines to anyone who dines at the restaurant for $2.99 a bottle.
"We found out that about 78 percent of our business is delivery service, 16 percent is pickup, and 6 percent of our customers dine here," he says, "so we are going to make a big effort to encourage our customers to come to the restaurant to eat."
And you can give short shrift to any ru mor that some kind of store is being constructed in Phoenix Books' old space on 24th and Vicksburg. According to building owner Sue Bowie, the building is not currently for sale, nor is the store for rent, but rather she is making repairs to the foundation.
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WIN A DREAM HOUSE: And speaking of real estate, a "Dream House" located in Noe Valley is being raffled off this month to benefit the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. For $150 you can purchase a lottery ticket for the 3,000-square-foot Arts and Crafts home, valued by the raffle's sponsors at $3 million. They won't reveal the exact location of the home, for security reasons, but the NVBI has learned it is within a two-block radius of 24th and Douglass streets.
The grand prize winner in the July 10 drawing can take the house or $1.5 million in cash. If you miss out on the house, there are $350,000 in additional prizes.
To buy tickets, call 1-800-870-7886 or download the registration form at www.sfraffle.com.
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NOE QUIZ: Here is a pop quiz for all you Noekins. Email firstname.lastname@example.org no later than April Fool's Day. The prize for those who get all the answers correct is the satisfaction of knowing you are a bona fide Noe-It-All.
1. What year did dentist Barry Kinney open his office in Downtown Noe Valley?
2. When and where did the Noe Valley Deli first open its doors?
3. Who occupied the space prior to Noe Valley Deli (at its current location)?
4. In 1970, what was the name of the restaurant located on the corner of 24th and Sanchez, where La Boulange is currently located?
5. What year was the East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club organized?
6. Who was the first president of the Friends of Noe Valley?
7. What is the name of the building in which Toast and Starbucks are located?
8. Where is the seventh steepest hill in the city?
9. Where was Star Magic's first store in Noe Valley?
10. What costs $5,000 a second?
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YOUR GEEK SCORE : And here are the answers to the Tech Treasure Hunt:
1. The clue was found between books by authors Lodge and London on the shelves at both Phoenix and Cover to Cover bookstores.
2. Refers to Café XO at 30th and Church.
3. That's Fire Station 11, on 26th near Church.
4. These are the lead actors in the TV comedy Spin City, referring to Spin City Laundromat, 26th and Sanchez.
5. The grade of what is described as the steepest street in the city, the 22nd Street hill between Vicksburg and Church.
6. Just for Fun on 24th sells Obama religious candles.
7. St. Paul's Church on Church near 29th, where Whoopi Goldberg filmed the movie Sister Act.
8. This would lead you to 3977 25th Street. The Act is also known as H.R. 3977, and Temple Street is what 25th Street used to be called over a hundred years ago. (Smith says this is the hardest one, but 12 teams got the answer by using the Internet.)
9. This was the original price tag for the Noe Valley Library, which was built in 19 16.
10. The vacant lot at Church and 28th streets, where the Blue Church was just demolished. Originally built in 1916, it housed the Searchlight Theater. The last movie was shown there in 1965 when it was called the Del Mar.
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UNLIKE JULIUS CAESAR: May you enjoy the Ides of March. We'll meet you back here for April Fool's festivities. Ciao for now.