Noe Valley Voice April 2003

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

JEST FOR FUN: On April 1, the Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) released a list of the 10 worst "jokes" in the neighborhood:

10. The arduous process of exiting Downtown Noe Valley's public parking lot on 24th Street between Radio Shack and Le Zinc. Fronting in or backing out can be tricky as well as hazardous for both drivers and pedestrians, who have to look both ways before crossing the sidewalk. By the way, one more spot was added to the parking lot last month, after a storm-felled tree was finally removed.

9. The frenzy of Noe Valley parents madly filling out applications, trying to get their children into an elementary/middle/high school of their choice in San Francisco. All you applicant families got your notices in mid-March. Acceptance or rejection? That is the question. Remember the good ol' days when neighborhood schools were filled with neighborhood kids, and that was that?

8. The uselessness of Muni's handicapped ramps at the end of Church Street. They are almost never used, cost close to a million dollars back in 1996 when they were constructed, disrupted an entire business district, and leave riders out in the cold. Making Uptown Noe Valley handicapped-accessible could have been accomplished much more creatively.

7. The non-enforcement of the dog leash law at Noe Courts at 24th and Douglass. The dogs have just about taken over the whole park. The NVBI cited a recent Bureau surveillance on a sunny Sunday afternoon in March, when nine or more off-leash dogs were chasing each other around the lawn area. One dog ran onto the tennis court and fetched balls that were in play and carried them out to the lawn. Another dog invited himself into a one-on-one basketball game between two 10-year-old boys and popped the ball out with his teeth. Dogs were relieving themselves everywhere (although owners were picking up the mess). Of course, the human bathrooms at this lovely open space have been out of order since 1959, forcing parents to take their kids into the bushes or beg local merchants for the use of their water closets.

6. The miniature protest signs erected in piles of dog poop along Church Street. Yes, the anonymous vigilante we dubbed "the Poop Patroller" back in 1999 is again on the loose, planting the small printed signs with messages like "Yum-yum." (Actually, this is a good joke: the piles seem to be disappearing.)

5. The "No Left Turn" sign at Bell Market that nobody obeys. There are hordes of people who turn left onto 24th Street when exiting Bell's parking lot, despite the huge city sign at the sidewalk. Are we that impatient?

4. The number of solicitations to Noe Valley merchants for contributions to various schools, nonprofits, and causes. The NVBI estimates each merchant has to decide how--and whether--to budget from 50 to 300 requests for donations per year. Many merchants keep lists several pages long so that they can keep track of the demand and supply. The retail value of these donations can easily exceed $3,000 for any one merchant over the year.

3. The lack of speed limits on the Clipper Street racecourse. Even a series of recent accidents hasn't slowed down the cars and trucks that zoom down this slalom. It gets especially harrowing between Douglass and Castro during peak hours. Yikes! Could we get some speed bumps up there?

Maybe they could set up one of those radar speedometers that posts motorists' speed. Last month the SFPD had one on Sanchez Street near the 29th Street intersection. According to Ingleside Police Sgt. Tim Plyer, "The speed trailer was requested by some of the neighbors who thought people needed a reminder as to how fast they were going down Sanchez Street. We now think drivers have gotten the message."

2. The San Francisco Planning Commission's creative interpretations of height and bulk limits for homes and commercial developments in Noe Valley. That whole process is a joke. It seems the neighbors are better able to deal with the developers than with City Hall. I used to think our government was, as Abraham Lincoln described it, "of the people, by the people, and for the people." Noe Valley will have to join forces with the other 57 neighborhoods in San Francisco to form a coalition and take back City Hall.

1. And (drum roll) the No. 1 bad joke in Noe Valley this April Fool's Day is that the rest of the world is so surprised that the United States would find itself between Iraq and a hard place. Hello, out there? The folly of our invasion has been the main topic in Noe Valley coffeehouses for a long time.

Did you see the spontaneous, e-mail-driven candlelight peace vigils which brought out hundreds of Noe Valleons to street corners, churches, and parks throughout the neighborhood on Sunday, March 16? A sight to behold.

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POLE-ING FOR PEACE: Noe Valley residents also gathered Saturday, March 29, at the corner of Elizabeth and Diamond (with the blessing of St. Philip's Church) to erect a "peace pole." The monument is actually a six-foot obelisk on top of a four-foot planter box, whose sides are inscribed with the words "May Peace Prevail on Earth"--in four languages: English, Spanish, Japanese, and Gaelic.

Started in Japan about 30 years ago, the Peace Pole Project is an offspring of the World Peace Prayer Society. The group sent 11 people from Japan to attend the Noe Valley ceremony, which included naming all the countries in the world and saying a prayer for each. "Of course, we said special prayers for the U.S. and Iraq, in Arabic as well as in English," said Fumi Stewart, a Cesar Chavez Street resident who helped organize the event.

Fumi wants her neighbors to know they can bring prayers, mementos, and anything symbolic of peace to say, do, or place at the pole. It will remain as a permanent monument in the neighborhood. She also points out that it's our second--the first peace pole stands in front of Video Wave on Castro near 25th Street.

Says Fumi, there are now over 10,000 peace poles planted throughout the U.S. "It's a wonderful way to get people together to think about peace. It's a great visual reminder of peace, and a consciousness-raising activity. I like to call it the acupuncture of the earth."

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IN NEIGHBORHOOD COALITION NEWS: At a March 26 meeting, the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association chose a new president, longtime Noe Valleon Carol Yenne, who owns the kids clothing shop Small Frys. Selecta Body Shop owner J.R. Hubbard will serve as vice president. Indigo V's Diane Barrett stays on as secretary, and Tony Lyau, manager of the local B of A branch, continues as treasurer.

Carol says she is "looking forward to working with other neighborhood groups towards common goals, to help foster a healthy commercial climate in the neighborhood, and to get 100 percent participation in our group by local merchants."

The spring election results also are in for the very active Noe Valley Democratic Club. Rafael Mandelman was elected president, Jury Larsen vice president, Richard Newhagen corresponding secretary, Tamara Dahn recording secretary, and Laura Spanjian treasurer. Rafael says he's "been involved with the club for a couple of years and I feel very comfortable with all of the people and the politics of the club. We have about 60 members, all of whom are good people who really care about this neighborhood."

Noe Valley's oldest group, the East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club, will be celebrating its 100th birthday next year. The members recently decided to start holding their meetings every other month. According to East & West president Paul Kantus, the alternating meetings will make things easier for the members who are also members of Friends of Noe Valley (which changed its meeting schedule to alternating months not too long ago). Paul says with a laugh, "We will have our meetings on the months Friends does not, and vice versa."

It's Friends' turn this month. The FNV meeting will be held on Thursday, April 10 (not April 9, as I mistakenly reported last month), at 7:30 p.m., at the Noe Valley Library. Rec and Park chief Elizabeth Goldstein will be on hand to discuss her department's plans for capital improvements to our neighborhood parks.

If you're there and I'm not, will you please tell her that the first capital improvement should be opening the bathrooms at Noe Courts.

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MEALS READY TO EAT: Two Noe Valley restaurants made San Francisco magazine's "Cheap Eats" list in the April issue: Herb's Fine Foods, in Downtown Noe Valley since 1943, and the Uptown upstart Deep Sushi, at Church and Day.

Of Herb's the editors wrote, "No need to bother with the specials board in the back--an honest order of scrambled eggs, bacon, plenty of golden hash browns, and buttered wheat toast should do it."

As for Deep Sushi, the mag says it's really hopping, despite the lack of a sign outside. "Ask the hip happy sushi chef behind the bar what's good tonight, and he might reply, 'I'm good,' then laugh and fix you one smooth slab of hamachi." The chef's name, by the way, is Kita.

The place was packed like a California roll the night of March 20, due to the fact that Infogrames, a Paris-based computer design company, had booked the restaurant for a 150-person party. Infogrames had just bought out Atari, which was celebrating the release of a new Japanese video game called "Ikaruga." You could play the game on four flat screens brought in especially for the event.

According to Noe Valley native Ray Tobias, who owns Deep Sushi with his partner Galvin Gaviola, the party had "a lot of press people, computer people, people who came over from Japan, and TV people. It was an 'all you can eat' menu, with all the sake you could drink, so I've never seen it so busy. I think they heard about us from their people based somewhere near Boston, since we are seeing a lot of people who are visiting here from the East Coast."

Also bringing national recognition to upper Church Street is the Italian restaurant Incanto, which was honored by the Monterey Wine Festival for having the best wine list in the Casual Dining category, with 100 to 250 wine selections. Incanto owner Mark Pastore will travel to Monterey on April 4 to pick up his award. Says Mark, "We were very happy to win, in a field of over 500 from around the country."

Incanto's sommelier is Claudio Villani, who was born and raised in Florence, Italy. The restaurant stores about 3,000 bottles at any given time, in climate-controlled wine closets.

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OUTER NOE VALLEY IS IN these days. On Feb. 26, the San Francisco Chronicle featured three Church Street stores in Laura Thomas' "Hot Stuff" column: Willa (at 27th), the Pickled Hutch (at 28th), and Nifty Vintique (at 30th).

Willa owner Elena Duggan, who is a third-generation Noe Valleon, was quoted as saying, "This is the best neighborhood in the whole city...we know everybody, their kids, their dogs, what coffee they're drinking."

Her store, named after her dog Willa, sells an abundance of French soaps and lotions, quilts, candles, stationery, jewelry, and baby and pet bedding.

Since the story came out, "it's been kind of amazing," she says. "We've had people coming from all over the Bay Area."

(Elena's assistant Mary Gamma, by the way, was born in Noe Valley in 1926. In 1920, Mary's father, Frank Raffo, opened the Noe Valley Market at 26th and Sanchez, where the clock repair shop now stands. There are four generations of Noe Valleons living in Mary's family.)

Debbie Cole over at the Pickled Hutch antique shop told the Chron about her grandparents and great-grandparents, who lived in Noe Valley, and her "well-arranged jumble" of furniture, rugs, mirrors, paintings, and household wares.

Holly Schneider's Nifty shop was described as "bursting" with kitschy castoffs from the '30s, '40s, and '50s. I agree that it's probably one of the better spots in the city to play "Where's Waldo?"

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PLAYING MUSICAL STORES: Nomad Rugs wandered over from Church Street around the corner to 24th Street, which allowed the Forbeadin' bead shop to occupy Nomad's old space. In May, the artsy Chatterbox will be moving out of its tiny closet-like surroundings into the more spacious premises vacated by Forbeadin', which way back when was Mike's Barber Shop.

Chatterbox owner Julie Anderson is going to celebrate the move by giving up her walls to Noe Valley abstract painter Marc Ellen Hamel, whose exhibit will be up probably by mid-May. As for the space to be vacated by Chatterbox, no news.

Just one more Church Street item, I promise. That filming you saw in mid-January at Drewes Meat Market was not for a movie but rather for a TV commercial for a restaurant chain called Piccadilly, with locations in the southern states. The spot should be appearing very soon in places like North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama...but not here.

Wild Scientific, a production company from Seattle, picked Drewes for the commercial, "because it's an iconic butcher shop," says location manager Peter Kwong. "It has great old-time counters and fixtures, with the old pictures in the background. I searched locations in the Bay Area, and Drewes had the look we needed for the spot, which was comedic and depicted an empty butcher shop on the days the restaurant has its 'Butcher's Meat Specials.'"

Drewes first opened for business in 1888, and still has the steelyard tracks on the ceiling that were formerly used to hook the meat and roll it out of the freezer to the weighing scale. I guess you can't find that sort of thing in Georgia anymore.

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THAT'S ALL, YOU ALL. Be cool. Chill out. Pray for peace. To help you chill, I would suggest spending your weekend brunch time reading the New York Times, listening to Mississippi Delta blues in front of Alcatraces, the Cajun eatery on 24th Street. According to Alcatraces chef Glenn "Gator" Thompson, who gets up there and sings between orders, the band features Herman Wilson on sax, Jimmy Sweetwater on harp, P.A. Slim on guitar, and waitress Sarah Jane singing vocals. Check it out, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. h