Noe Valley Voice September 2004

Short Takes

UnBuilding the Planning Department

Policy wonks, take note: At its next meeting on Thursday, Sept. 9, the Friends of Noe Valley will host a presentation by members of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) and the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The two groups will present a paper they co-wrote, "Planning the City's Future: An Agenda for Change," which summarizes their recent 9/11 Commission­like analysis of the city's Planning and Building Inspection departments.

Rather than specific zoning trends or demolition battles, the analysis focuses on the inner workings of our creaky and somewhat entrenched planning bureaucracy. "We're trying to look at the city in a comprehensive way and get people to think more about the system itself," says Alan Martinez, a board member of AIA who was involved in the project. "It's a benefit to everyone to examine how the departments work or don't work and see what solutions are possible."

Among the group's recommendations for change are conducting a national search for a new planning director; clarifying the division of labor between the Planning Commission, the Mayor's Office, the Board of Supervisors, and others; holding departments accountable for finishing work on time and within budget; and accommodating the views of neighborhood residents, as a way of restoring faith in the planning process.

The Friends of Noe Valley meeting will be open to all neighbors and will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Noe Valley­Sally Brunn Library, 451 Jersey Street. If you want to bone up beforehand, the paper is posted on SPUR's web site at

Let Your Fingers Do the Pickin'

There's a plucky new orchestra rehearsing at the Noe Valley Ministry on Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 9 p.m. It's a plucked-string orchestra, consisting mainly of mandolins, with a bit of guitar, mandola, and harp thrown in for good measure.

The Mandolin Orchestra, which currently has about a dozen members, is the brainchild of musician and teacher Nicola Swinburne. "I give private mandolin lessons, but the private lessons are only worth doing if people have somewhere to take the music. I needed to provide a place where people could just play and enjoy the music with others," she says.

Swinburne is introducing orchestra members to folk music from all over the world, including Italy, Spain, Greece, and France. A goal for the group is to perform at small concerts, festivals, and wineries.

The orchestra is coached by Swinburne and costs $15 per session. She is also offering a music reading class for mandolin and violin players from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, from Sept. 8 through 29. The fee is $60 for the four-session series. Classes will meet at 1021 Sanchez Street.

To learn more about this musical adventure, visit or call Swinburne at 647-6491.

Motown in the Park

When was the last time you attended a free concert in Douglass Park? You'll have your chance on Saturday, Sept. 11, thanks to the San Francisco Parks Trust, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, and the recently formed 24th Street Revitalization Committee, a group within Friends of Noe Valley that is drumming up support for the neighborhood.

From 3 to 5 p.m., the park will be jamming to the sounds of Motown recording artist Edna Love, along with other special guests. On the sidelines will be the Noe Valley Democratic Club, the 24th Street revitalization group, the Parks Trust, and other organizations hoping to introduce their work to the neighborhood. Wine and food will also be available, for a donation.

"Come and pack a picnic for a sunny September afternoon in a beautiful Noe Valley park. It'll be great fun for everyone--families, singles, old, and young," says Cynthia Hogan, one of the event's organizers and a member of the revitalization committee. "This is our first official event, and we would love to make it an annual event. Our neighborhood's wonderful sense of community is due in part to the vitality of 24th Street. We are dedicating our efforts to see that this is not lost," she adds.

The concert will be held in Lower Douglass Park, also known as Douglass Playground, whose entrance is located at Douglass and 26th streets. Want to volunteer? Call 206-0601.

Help Tend the Farmers' Market

The Noe Valley Farmers' Market doesn't yet sell meat, but it needs fresh blood--in the form of volunteers, that is. It operates Saturday mornings on 24th Street from 8 a.m. to noon and offers local shoppers an array of seasonal organic fruits and vegetables. For volunteers, it provides an opportunity to contribute to a growing neighborhood institution.

"Working at the market really expands your idea of what a community is. You get to know who your neighbors are, and you're helping something that's important to the community," says Leslie Crawford, a member of the collective that got the market off the ground last December.

While membership in the collective is open, volunteers do not need to join the group or attend its meetings to participate in the market. Extra hands are needed to help set up from about 6:30 to 7:30 a.m., to take shifts greeting people during the market itself, and to help clean up from about noon to 1 p.m.

If this appeals to you, call John Friedman at 642-6206. The Saturday-only market is located in the parking lot at 3865 24th Street between Sanchez and Vicksburg streets.

Meet GalaxyGoo's Guru

Techies in the know have dubbed Noe Valley resident Kristin Henry a Flash goddess and an action script superhero. For the Luddites among us, Flash is a powerful computer-animating and programming tool. Henry will be holding court at a book-signing and benefit starting at 7 p.m. at Cover to Cover Booksellers on Thursday, Sept. 16. She is one of 13 contributors to the book Masters of Flash, published in August by Friends of Ed. (The company's name is "sort of an unknown inside joke," says Henry.)

Henry was tapped to contribute because of her work for the neuromuscular junction simulation, a teaching tool for anatomy and physiology students. Her contribution to the simulation is now in the semifinals of the National Science Foundation's science and engineering visualization challenge.

Proceeds from this event will go to GalaxyGoo, a nonprofit venture in education that Henry founded in the late 1990s. GalaxyGoo strives to spread the joy of science to both students and the general public. Its web site functions as a combination community center, collaboration space, and gallery of experiments in multimedia and online technologies.

The evening will include wine-tasting and the awarding of door prizes, such as science kits from the Ark toy store. "There's one kit I actually want myself. It's called Snap Circuits, and you can build these little electronic kits. It's for ages 8 to 108," Henry says.

Cover to Cover is at 1307 Castro Street at Jersey Street. For further details call the store at 282-8080.

An F-Line Scavenger Hunt

San Francisco City Guides is holding a fundraiser from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 19. Called the Great City Guides Streetcar Adventure, it's a scavenger hunt that will highlight historic places within an easy walk of Muni's F-line (the classic car line that runs down Market Street from the Castro).

Amateur sleuths will check in at noon at Koret Auditorium in the Main Library and then form teams of three to six people each. At 1 p.m. they will test their knowledge of San Francisco history by finding answers to clues and solving puzzles and riddles. The team that turns in its answer sheet on time and with the most correct answers will be crowned the champs.

City Guides, the beneficiary of this event, is a non-profit organization with more than 200 trained volunteers. Throughout the year, the guides lead 30 historic and architectural walks each month, free of charge, in neighborhoods across the city, including Noe Valley.

Tickets are $35 until Sept. 15 and $40 thereafter. For more information, see or call 557-4266.

What to Do on Those Odd Mondays

The Odd Mondays lecture/discussion series has a diverse lineup of distinguished guests this fall. Now in its third year, the series showcases artists, activists, and others who have made a valuable contribution to society.

On Sept. 13, Manfred Wolf, professor emeritus of English at SFSU and current faculty member of the Fromm Institute at University of San Francisco, will read from his literary works, including Albert Verwey and English Romanticism, Amsterdam: A Traveler's Literary Companion, and a recently completed memoir.

Aileen Hernandez, current chair of the California Women's Agenda, will take the podium on Sept. 27. An expert on human rights, civic activism, and race and gender relations, Hernandez was appointed to the Equal Opportunity Commission by President Lyndon Johnson.

Three poets and teachers will read from their work on Oct. 25. They include Rafaella Del Bourgo, author of I Am Not Kissing You; Jean Pumphrey, who penned Sheltered at the Edge and Poetry: The Way Through Language; and Leslie Scalapino, author of R-Hu, Goya's L.A., and Dahlia's Iris, among others.

Oscar-winning film director Bertram Salzman will impart gems of wisdom on Nov. 1. He is the author of Being a Buddha on Broadway: Access the Power of Your Naturally Peaceful Mind.

And on Nov. 15, Gerard Heather, professor of political science at San Francisco State University, will provide a presidential election wrap-up.

All gatherings begin at 7 p.m. and are held at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez Street at 23rd Street. Admission is free. For those who'd like to meet the speakers beforehand, there is a 5:30 p.m. no-host dinner at Noe Valley Pizza Restaurant, at 24th and Sanchez streets. For further details, e-mail Judith Levy Sender at

Dance and Drama for Youth

If your kid does soliloquies in the bathtub, pirouettes over to the refrigerator, or just plain rockets around the house, some nearby dance and drama programs are ready to welcome your offspring this fall.

The youth dance program of Dance Brigade's Dance Mission Theater offers a plethora of classes for toddlers through teens. Classes include tap, ballet, modern dance, hip-hop, samba, salsa, jazz, creative movement, and dance for children with special needs. Dance Mission Theater is at 3316 24th Street, at Mission Street. For more details call 273-4633, ext. 4, or visit Early registration is recommended.

Meanwhile Marie Riccobene is giving twice-weekly dramatic arts instruction for youths 11 and up at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez Street. Students will have an opportunity to practice improvisation, gain confidence in front of groups, learn to recite contemporary and classic stories, and prepare for School of the Arts, university, or professional auditions. Initially trained in several of New York's premier acting studios, Riccobene has been educating San Francisco youths for a dozen years. Each session of 28 classes is $560. Call 647-1456 for details.

Slow Down for Block Party

Carrying signs with slogans like "Speed Limit 25" and "Let Me Cross," some 100 people turned out at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Guerrero streets in July to protest speedy traffic along the Guerrero/San Jose Avenue corridor, a busy thoroughfare popular with motorists heading out to I-280.

On Sept. 19, from 1 to 4 p.m., they'll shut down traffic altogether, when neighborhood residents host a peña/block party at "San Jose Park," the triangle formed by San Jose, Guerrero, and 28th streets.

The event sponsor is the San Jose/ Guerrero Coalition to Save Our Streets, a coalition of eight neighborhood groups working to narrow car lanes, add bike lanes, widen median strips, and time stoplights to keep drivers from exceeding the posted 25 mph speed limit on San Jose/ Guerrero from Cesar Chavez to Randall Street. Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Bevan Dufty, as well as representatives from St. Luke's Hospital and several city agencies, will be on hand at the party, to address residents' concerns.

The Coalition is looking for volunteers to help stage the event, which will offer food and entertainment for kids and adults. Spanish speakers who can help translate would be especially welcome. For information, call 285-8188 or send an e-mail to

Hearts and Minds Re-Release

Hearts and Minds, Peter Davis' classic Vietnam War film, opens Friday, Sept. 24, at the Castro Theater. It won the 1975 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. A definitive antiwar documentary, the film includes historic newsreels, stock footage clips, and interviews with both seminal policy-makers and ordinary citizens. With such riveting scenes as a former American POW presenting a patriotic speech to high school students, and a Vietnamese man building coffins for children who died from exposure to Agent Orange, the film puts a human face on the terrible cost of war.

The Castro Theater is located at 429 Castro Street, near 17th Street. The film is rated R. For showtimes, call the theater at 621-6120 or e-mail castroweb

This month's Short Takes were written by Laura McHale Holland and Peter Orsi.