Noe Valley Voice June 2011

Short Takes

Starr Shines as Children’s Librarian

Beloved for her Tuesday Toddler Tales at the Noe Valley/Sally Brunn Library, neighborhood mom Catherine Starr has moved up to become the branch’s permanent full-time children’s librarian.

“We got lucky. [She was] the perfect person waiting in the wings,” said Alice McCloud, branch manager.

A professional librarian who once interned at the branch, Starr most recently worked as a part-time children’s librarian at the West Portal Library. Her few hours a week in Noe Valley generated two pages of enthusiastic comments from parents who’d been asked to give feedback, Mc-Cloud said.

Noe Valley has not had a full-time, permanent librarian since Carol Small left in 2009. Jean Sweeney took the job part-time but returned to her “home” branch in Presidio when it reopened in March.

Starr, who is also a trained singer, was expected to start at the branch on May 28 and continue leading the Tuesday-morning story time and film series for children (for details, see More Books to Read, page 38).

In her previous stints, she had sparked a number of friendships by getting sixth-graders and older kids to volunteer at the library, helping younger children sign up for the summer reading program, Mc-Cloud said.

Children interested in enrolling in the summer reading club should drop by the branch at 451 Jersey St. (415-355-5707), or enroll online at

Cesar Chavez Shovel-Ready

Long-awaited work to upgrade sewers and enhance pedestrian pathways along Cesar Chavez Street is scheduled to start this month at the eastern end of the boulevard.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will begin by digging trenches and replacing sewer pipes in three-block segments starting at Hampshire Street. The work will squeeze traffic to two lanes in each direction, and parking along the work areas will be prohibited.

Work aboveground, which will be managed by the Department of Public Works, is scheduled to start about six blocks into the pipe replacement. When the two-year project is complete, vehicles will have two lanes in each direction, with left-turn pocket lanes nestled into the ends of a widened, planted median. Bikes will have one lane in each direction. Pedestrians will have wider sidewalk corners, more trees, and new lights along the busy corridor.

The changes will end at Guerrero Street, where Cesar Chavez Street currently narrows to a single lane in each direction.

For more information, visit the projects section at or call Alex Murillo from DPW at 415-437-7009.

The Ball Is in Noe Courts

Neighbors hoping to win grant money to improve Noe Courts Park are scrambling to make a June 24 grant deadline— hosting community meetings, soliciting cost estimates, and gathering letters of support from local leaders.

Improving the park’s drainage is their top goal, said Laura Norman of Friends of Noe Courts Park. “It’s a mud pit for most of the winter,” she said. But the group also wants to put in benches and picnic tables and plant drought-resistant plants along the edges of the park, located at 24th and Douglass streets.

To Friends, the project seemed a good fit for a grant from the park department’s Community Opportunity Fund, which pays for small improvements to city parks. Grantees can win up to $250,000 in each of the three years of the grant.

Norman and fellow organizer Justine Sears had attended a spring grant workshop with an eye toward applying for a 2012 grant when they realized they had a chance to pull together enough material for 2011.

They arranged a meeting May 31 at the library, where they asked for feedback on their ideas and showed drawings of possible seating and greenery, offered pro bono by Terra Ferma Landscapes.

Norman hopes the plan will please all users of the park—kids, parents, dog owners, and sunbathers.

“The idea is to benefit the whole community, because the nicer the park is, the better people will take care of it,” Norman said.

For more information, email

Farmers’ Market Sprouts in Glen Park

Glen Park is home to a new farmers’ market that will run Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Oct. 16 in the BART parking lot at Bosworth and Arlington streets. So, if you find yourself needing fresh cucumber both days of the week-end—the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market is held on Saturdays—you’re no longer in a pickle.

The market boasts about two dozen vendors, selling seafood, flowers, baked goods, and, of course, vegetables, all produced within a 125-mile radius of San Francisco. They include Frog Hollow Farms from Brentwood, Divine Petites from San Francisco, and Sunrise Nursery from Watsonville. Vendors will change with the seasons, and there is room for more, says Vince Scalise, operations manager of Pacific Coast Farmers’ Markets, which partnered with BART and the Glen Park Merchants Association to bring in the market.

Rain and the Bay to Breakers race marked the market’s opening day May

15, and organizers were uncertain how many people would actually come.

“We didn’t know what we were going to get, and whatever we got we were going to be happy,” said Scalise.

When the final head count was estimated at 1,500 people, they knew they had a winning idea, he said.

For more information, go to www.

A Chance to Grill the Next D.A.

The Noe Valley Democratic Club will sponsor a forum featuring three candidates for San Francisco district attorney in the November election. The event will be held Wednesday, June 22, at St. Philip’s Church, 725 Diamond St., between Elizabeth and 24th streets.

Participating in the debate will be the current district attorney and former San Francisco police chief George Gasc—n; David Onek, a former San Francisco police commissioner; and Sharmin Bock, an Alameda County prosecutor.

In an op-ed commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle, Gasc—n said he had personal reservations about capital punishment and would seek it only for “the most heinous cases.” Onek has countered that he wouldn’t seek the death penalty under any circumstances and accused Gasc—n of “trying to have it both ways.”

Bock heads the human trafficking and cold case units of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and lives in San Francisco. She says she is the only candidate for district attorney with courtroom experience and a track record of achieving justice.

At the forum, candidates will have 10 minutes each to make formal statements. Afterwards, there will be 30 to 40 minutes of rebuttals and questions from the audience.

To contact the Democratic Club, email Molly Fleischman at Molly@

—Noel Lieberman

Ministry Going to the Chapel

The Noe Valley Ministry Presbyterian Church has moved Sunday services from its 1021 Sanchez St. building, which is slated for renovation, to the stained-glass chapel inside St. Luke’s Hospital at Cesar Chavez and Valencia streets.

“It couldn’t be more different for this little community,” said Rev. Keenan Kelsey. The cozy sanctuary—complete with organ and piano—seats about 65 people, though the Ministry’s 10:30 a.m. services have not been that densely packed.

“We have had a few patients and staff who have come, too,” she said.

Wednesday prayer services, the Ministry’s book group, and choir rehearsal still happen at the Sanchez Street building because the remodeling building permits continue to be delayed, she said. Though Kelsey is working from home to recover from an unexpected illness, the church offices are still in the building, too.

Permits to start the 18-month renovation should come in August, Kelsey said.

Most tenants in the formerly busy building have left: the Noe Valley Cooperative Nursery School moved up to the Christopher Playground clubhouse in Diamond Heights, the Noe Valley Music Series moved to St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church by the Panhandle, and the Noe Valley Voice is working out of the editors’ homes and post office box.

To follow the progress of the congregation, visit its website at www.noevalley, which hosts a blog with periodic updates.

Playing with Construction

Plans to renovate Dolores Park and its playground have leaped forward in separate bounds.

The playground, which is being overhauled with city and private funds, has named a contractor, who is scheduled to begin construction this month.

“This is a very exciting milestone,” said Nancy Gonzalez Madynski, chair of the Friends of Dolores Park Playground, which helped raise the $3.25 million needed for the project.

The chosen contractor, Bauman Landscape & Construction, will follow a design developed with lots of input from the community. Children can look forward to a suspension bridge, climbing nets, a shipwrecked boat, and a 36-foot slide built into the hillside behind the playground.

The new playground will be named the Helen Diller Playground at Dolores Park in recognition of a $1.5 million donation to the project from the Mercer Fund, a fund of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation. Another $1.5 million came from a 2008 bond passed to benefit city parks, and a final $250,000 came from the city’s general fund. Diller is a Bay Area philanthropist.

The play area will be closed during construction, which is expected to last until February 2012.

Meanwhile, the design for Dolores Park itself is beginning to take shape. Rec and Park will host four design sessions over the summer, on June 2, June 30, July 21, and Sept. 1. The public is invited to dream up possibilities for the 13.7-acre park and create a list of priorities. The department will then draw up a plan for review. The park has been given $13.2 million from the ’08 park bond.

If all goes as planned, work should finish by spring of 2014. The park will remain open, though areas will be closed as they are being remodeled.

For maps and timelines, visit www or call Jake Gilchrist, Project Manager, at 415-581-2561. For information about the playground renovation, visit or call or call Madynski at 415-828-5772.

—Heather World