Noe Valley Voice February 2001

S.F. Merionettes in Synch


Two local Noe Valley girls, Abby Haber and Alexa Rogers, who have been swimming with the San Francisco Merionettes for five and six years, respectively, invite you to the season premiere of the Merionettes' synchronized swim team on Feb. 11 at 5:30 p.m., at Balboa Pool, San Jose Avenue and Havelock Street.

The Merionettes have offered kids like Abby and Alexa the opportunity to learn the sport of synchronized swimming for more than 40 years. The team is a small nonprofit club under the auspices of the city's Recreation and Park Department and the only synchronized swimming club in San Francisco.

New swimmers start with a pre-competitive program designed to develop basic swimming strokes and endurance. As swimmers master their basic skills, they move on to synchronized swimming and become part of a team. Then they start competing in regional and national meets, as Abby and Alexa are doing now.

Currently the San Francisco club has swimmers up to age 18 in competition. All children aged 6 through 12 are eligible to join. Fees start at $55 per month for beginners and increase as swimmers progress to higher levels.

Depending on the level, swimmers commit to practice two to five times per week at selected public pools. To find out more, contact Ellen Burns, membership coordinator, at 648-0180, or leave a message on the club's voicemail at 273-5402.

National Read Aloud Day


National Read Aloud Day is March 2, 2000. Come celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday by spending an hour sharing your favorite story with a public school class near your home or work. Need some inspiration? The group San Francisco School Volunteers will provide you with a list of dozens of titles to choose from.

Do you also have some extra time each week that you would like to spend volunteering at a school? Alvarado Elementary and James Lick Middle School in Noe Valley are always looking for volunteers to work one-on-one with students who need extra help in reading or math. Or maybe you'd like to read a Harry Potter book to an entire class. If you speak Spanish, you could stay on your toes by working with students learning English.

Whatever your interests or experience, you have something valuable to offer students in public school. For more information about signing up to participate in Read Aloud Day or getting started as a regular classroom volunteer, contact San Francisco School Volunteers at 749-3700 or visit the SFSV web site at

Free Earthquake Prep


The city's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, NERT, is offering a free six-week series of earthquake preparedness classes. (And the Voice staff is especially eager for Noe Valley and Castro area residents to attend.)

NERT was started by the San Francisco Fire Department after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The classes will cover all the basic skills to assist your family and neighbors in times of disaster, including first-aid and triage, firefighting, search and rescue, and team organization and management. The last class of the series will feature hands-on training and an Award of Achievement for those who successfully complete the course.

The classes meet on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. at the Davies Medical Center's North Tower, Room B2. The center is located on Castro Street near Duboce. To enroll or get more information, call 558-3459 or go to

Grown-ups Learn to Share Cars


Are you tired of driving around the neighborhood looking for a parking place? Do you hold on to your car for a few essential trips like buying groceries or picking someone up at the airport, but wish you could forgo the hassles of car ownership? Well, car-sharing is coming to town, and it may be the ride for you.

City Car-Share is being launched in San Francisco by a coalition of activists, environmentalists, and city planners interested in solving our pollution, traffic, and parking problems. A neighborhood-based car rental service, Car-Share allows people to use vehicles when they need them, and pay based on how much they drive.

Members can take a car on an hourly or daily basis, to fit the length of the trip. Cars are kept in small neighborhood lots, within easy walking distance. When a member wants to use one, he or she calls the 800 number and reserves it. Smart cards are used for access, and cars are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Members pay a $300 refundable deposit up front, then a $10 per month administrative fee. Car use is billed at $2.50 per hour, capped at 10 hours for a full day (i.e., $25 max. per day), plus 45 cents per mile. The price includes insurance, gasoline, and taxes.

City Car-Share, a nonprofit funded by grants from environmental foundations and public funds for its startup, was inspired by dozens of successful car-sharing projects in Europe and Canada. Organizers say most shared cars will be small and fuel-efficient, but if you need a pickup truck to carry something big, those will be available, too.

Locations opening soon will be in the Fifth and Mission Garage, North Beach Vallejo Garage, Golden Gateway Garage, and the Performing Arts Garage at Grove and Gough streets. But in the future, Car-Share hopes to open lots on or near 24th Street, 16th Street in the Mission, and Duboce Triangle, depending on neighborhood interest and involvement.

Applications will be accepted on or after Feb. 19 at You can get more information, or an application (after Feb. 19), by calling 995-8588.

Friends See the Real Cuba


Friends of Noe Valley kicks off a new year with "Cuba: Better Homes and Gardens," a slide show and discussion by architect Robin Levitt and community activist Adam Brown.

Off limits to most U.S. citizens for nearly 40 years, Cuba has one of the highest literacy and life expectancy rates in the world. Yet the country has had to adapt to post­Cold War reality. Cuba is struggling to preserve a treasure trove of architecture from the 1500s to the 1950s, much of which is crumbling.

Also, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba no longer has access to expensive fertilizers. The good news is that the country has replaced its export-driven plantation system with sustainable organic and urban farming practices.

You can find out about all this and more at the meeting, Thursday, Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m., at the Noe Valley Library, 451 Jersey St. According to Friends President Dave Monks, the group will also discuss neighborhood development projects and whether to participate in an upcoming Rescue Muni rider survey. For more information, call him at 821-4087.

Alvarado School Auction


Donations are needed for Alvarado Elementary School PTA's "Not So Silent Auction," scheduled for Saturday, March 3. This yearly event raises money for the visual and performing arts programs, computer and science labs, and other learning essentials at the Douglass Street school.

Last year's donations ranged from antiques to zoo passes, and included merchandise, personal services, gift certificates, food, and trips. Donations are tax-deductible and can be sent directly to the school, care of the Silent Auction Committee, 625 Douglass St., San Francisco, CA 94114. Or, to arrange for a pick-up of a donation, call Wendi Grasteit at 641-4322 or Julia Harrison at 206-9400.

Alvarado also welcomes new or used equipment suitable for the use of the students, including slide projectors, computers and related items, and furniture.

Historical Photos Wanted


The Noe Valley Historical Archives at the Noe Valley­Sally Brunn Branch Library is looking for photos and artifacts of our neighborhood's past. Especially welcome are photos of now-defunct businesses on 24th and Church streets, and pictures of Noe Valley houses with people posing in front of them.

Photographs and other materials can either be copied and returned to you, or donated directly. For information, call Paul Kantus at 647-3753. The library is located at 451 Jersey St. near Castro.

School Bells Are Ringing


If you have a child ready to enter a San Francisco public school in the fall, it's time to apply, if you haven't already. If your child is new to the school district or is going into sixth or ninth grade, he or she will not be automatically assigned to a school without an application.

While the official enrollment deadline was Feb. 2, applications will still be accepted for families that missed it, and for new arrivals. If you met the deadline, you'll be notified of your school placement by March 16; late applicants will be placed and notified after March 16. To be eligible for kindergarten, children must turn 5 on or before Dec. 2, 2001.

"Many parents believe that they can only apply to "alternative" schools, but that's not true--all schools are open to them as long as there's room," says Sandra Halladay, associate director of Parents for Public Schools, a group that is helping the school district get the word out.

Many families also continue checking out schools after their applications are turned in, especially those who applied to popular schools that get more applicants than they can accommodate. "Parents should keep their minds open about lesser-known but still excellent schools," Halladay says.

Applications may be submitted to any San Francisco public school, any Child Development Center, any Parent Information Center, or to the Educational Placement Center at school district headquarters, 555 Franklin St., Room 100. If you have questions about the application process, call the Educational Placement Center at 241-6085 or go to

Parents for Public Schools can help, too. The local chapter has a number of Noe Valley families and is dedicated to recruiting students, involving parents, and improving public schools. Call PPS at 642-6260, or check out www. parents4

Get Me to the Plane on Time


Travelers flying out of SFO can now get to the airport more easily--and cheaply--by riding public transit. First, you need to ride BART to the Colma BART Station (make sure you take a "Colma" train, rather than the one going to Daly City).

Then at the Colma BART Station, you can catch an express bus, the SamTrans BX, which takes riders directly to the airport. The bus is equipped with luggage racks, and runs from 5:47 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on weekdays, and from 7:02 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on weekends. The bus runs every 15 to 20 minutes during weekday hours and every 15 to 40 minutes on late-evening and weekend hours.

SamTrans recently expanded the BX service to Saturday and Sunday evenings to accommodate more weekend travelers. Bus fare is $1.10 each way.

"This service is popular with both passengers and employees, and we are sure SamTrans will fill its buses quickly," says Airport Director John L. Martin. "Ridership has already increased 35 percent in the past three years."

The SamTrans BX bus schedule can be viewed online at For more SamTrans information, call 1-800-660-4287.