Noe Valley Voice November 2011

Short Takes

A Second Look at James Lick

New energy and a $10,000 grant are fuel­ing a campaign to support the neighborhood’s increasingly popular public middle school, James Lick.

“We want people to start thinking about James Lick as the neighborhood middle school,” says Todd David, president of Friends of Noe Valley, which recently “adopted” the school and donated $1,750 to its Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA).

Jean-Paul Samaha, the top realtor at Noe Valley’s Vanguard Properties and a godfather to a Lick sixth-grader, donated $5,000, matched by $5,000 from Vanguard. The goal is to raise another $10,000 to net $20,000 for the 2011-12 school year, Samaha says.

“It’s quite appalling how much funding schools need in terms of basic supplies,” says Samaha. “We as a community need to band together and support our local public schools.”

James Lick, at 1220 Noe St., has lived in the shadow of the neighborhood’s popular public elementary school, Alvarado, since the latter became coveted about 10 years ago. (As the school district implements its new assignment plans over the next six years, Alvarado students will be automatically assigned to Lick, along with students from five other elementary schools.)

In recent years, Lick’s test scores have shot up and a rising number of parents have requested the school, according to district data. Still, many remain wary. Friends of Noe Valley is trying to move its events over to Lick, which will make the school more familiar to neighbors, David says.

The school is relatively small by middle school standards—around 600 students—and has a strong arts program, a Spanish-immersion track, and a bilingual theater production.

One of the school’s math teachers was recently honored for education excellence, and the school was rated “Best Middle School 2011” by Bay Area Parent magazine, says Anne Moses, a parent at the school.

“Our teachers are amazing,” she says. “I cannot figure out how people do not know this.”

Though the school’s PTSA raised about $50,000 last year, the money still falls short of making up for what has been lost in district funding, Moses says.

“There are a lot of needs that aren’t getting met right now,” she says.

For more information, call Samaha at 415-321-7005 or visit

—Heather World


Cook Offers Election Spin

Political junkies and those simply curious about how the hotly contested race for San Francisco mayor was decided can get a candid perspective at a forum Nov. 16 at St. Philip’s Church on Diamond Street.

Corey Cook, a University of San Francisco professor and political scientist, will review and analyze the Nov. 8 election results during a joint meeting of the Noe Valley Democratic Club and San Francisco for Democracy.

Cook also will weigh in on the races for district attorney and sheriff, as well as pension reform and other key ballot measures. The effort to replace interim Mayor Ed Lee will be the attention grabber, however.

“I think the mayor’s race will be the hot topic because of the quantity of candidates—and the ranked-order voting makes it so interesting,” says Molly Fleischman, the Democratic Club’s vice president.

Fleischman says Cook also will put the local election into the context of state and national politics.

“He talked about the Tea Party last year,” Fleischman says, “and I’m sure he’ll talk about Occupy Wall Street and relate it to all the other things that are going on.”

The meeting is free and open to the public. It is set for 7:30 p.m. at the church, located at 725 Diamond St. between Elizabeth and 24th streets.

For more information, contact Fleischman at or 415-994-4610.

—Corrie M. Anders


Local History Happens Here

Author Bill Yenne will lead a discussion about Noe Valley history at the San Francisco History Association meeting Tuesday, Nov. 29, 7 p.m., at St. Philip’s Church.

Yenne has written six dozen books, including the Noe Valley edition of the sepia-toned Arcadia neighborhood history series. He says he will start the evening with a slide show.

“I’ve got a number of pictures, many of which appeared in the book,” he says. “Some are more recently discovered pictures that I wish were in the book.”

The evening will be interactive, not a lecture, Yenne says. As has happened in the past, Yenne hopes his presentation will be a catalyst for recollection and conversation, he says.

“It will be like I brought my slide projector into somebody’s living room,” he says. “It’s always fun to hear people’s memories of things.”

Yenne has plenty of his own memories here. He has lived in Noe Valley with his wife Carol since 1974, and the couple raised two children here. His books include a biography of Sitting Bull and a history of the Guinness beer brewery. He has two books due out before the end of the year: a biography of Julius Caesar and a historical overview of the European obsession with finding riches in the New World, called Cities of Gold.

Doors will open at 7 p.m., and the program begins at 7:45 p.m. Admission is $5 and free to SFHA members. Light refreshments will be served, and some of Yenne’s books will be available for sale.

St. Philip’s Church is located at 725 Diamond Street at Elizabeth Street. To learn more about the SFHA, visit To learn more about Yenne, go to

—Heather World                    

Food and Friendship Served to Seniors

From left: Conchita Lopez, Rosa Lopez, and Griselda Fontes are among the hundreds of seniors who enjoy a hot meal and the warmth of companionship at On Lok’s 30th Street Senior Center. Lunch is served at noon and 1 p.m., Monday through Saturday. 

What does it take to get a tasty homemade meal with friends around here?

It takes 60 years and a willingness to join others at the On Lok 30th Street Senior Center between Dolores and Chenery, where seniors sit down to a three-course lunch six days a week.

The center’s Congregate Meals Program features Latino, Asian, and traditional American fare along with vegetarian offerings. A resident dietician makes sure each meal includes protein, grains, fruit, and vegetables, says Valorie Villela, director of the center.

“Good nutrition is one of the factors that helps older adults remain healthy and independent in their communities,” says Villela.

The program also is designed to prevent social isolation, she says. Participants can take advantage of arts and crafts classes, gardening, group outings, and dance and other fitness activities.

“We want to get people connected to other people and engage the body, mind, and spirit so that they live longer, more satisfying lives,” says Villela, who was recently honored for her 30 years of service at the center.

Seniors can attend one of two lunch seatings, at noon and at 1 p.m., Monday through Saturday and all holidays. Anyone 60 years of age and older is eligible. A $2 donation is encouraged, but no one is turned away for lack of funds, Villela says.

The On Lok 30th Street Senior Center is located at 225 30th St. For more information, visit or call 415-550-2210.

—Heather World


Dolores Park Has a Plan

Project designers unveiled their vision for a rehabilitated Mission Dolores Park, which includes two “living roof” bathrooms, winding concrete paths, and a subterranean maintenance building, at the project’s final two meetings in late October.

Much of the final debate centered on the two-story stucco clubhouse in the center of the park, which now houses bathrooms. Preservationists feared its removal would jeopardize the park’s eligibility to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

“We don’t want this park to lose its historical significance,” said Peter Lewis, co-president of the Mission Dolores Neighborhood Association, which hopes to have a significant chunk of the Mission established as a historic district.

While the proposed design reflects a sensitivity to the park’s history, the goal was to accommodate its modern uses and maintenance needs, said Jake Gilchrest, the project manager for the Recreation and Park Department.

The design includes two off-leash dog sections, two soccer fields, tennis courts, a basketball court, a multi-use court, and the children’s playground, which is being remodeled as a separate project.

Other concerns included the use of too much concrete in the 13.7-acre park, the layout of the entrance on Dolores Street at 19th, and the bother of having visitors scrambling on top of the living roofs. (“You could plant poison oak up there,” suggested one helpful participant.)

Manish Champsee of Cumberland Street said he felt the community’s feedback had been respected in the final plan.

“The changes have been relatively minor, which is exactly what the community asked for,” he said. “I think the park will look very much like it does today.”

The proposal now goes to the city’s Planning Department, where officials will determine what level of environmental impact review, if any, will need to be done. Landscape architect Steve Rasmussen Cancian said he expected the next public meeting to happen in late January or early February, when the phased implementation of the plan and its cost would be discussed.

The $13.2 million project is funded by a park bond measure passed in 2008. According to Rec and Park’s website, work should finish by spring of 2014. The park will remain open, though areas will be closed as they are being remodeled.

For maps, timelines, or further information, visit and search for Dolores Park, or call Jake Gilchrist at 415-581-2561 or Steve Rasmussen Cancian of the project design team at 415-409-1814.

—Heather World