Noe Valley Voice April 2010

A Bottled Water Experiment? No, it’s the top three candidates for District 8 supervisor—(left to right) Scott Wiener, Rebecca Prozan, and Rafael Mandelman— sparring and sharing laughs at a March 25 meeting of the Noe Valley Democratic Club.
Photo by Beverly Tharp

And Now For The Rumors Behind The News

A Steep Learning Curve

By Mazook

NOEONE GOT 100 percent on last month's Noe Quiz. In fact, no one got anything, because I failed to put in my email address. But they could have come close to 100 if they'd done a search at Wandering around online, you can get a nice historical tour of our little urban village.

Question #1, "What year did Dentist Barry Kinney open his office in Downtown Noe Valley?" was one of the few questions that you could not find the answer to online. You would have had to locate your crumbling copy of the March '91 issue of the Voice--where we did a feature story on Dr. Kinney--or ask Dr. Kinney himself.

He will be happy to tell you that he and his wife, Coragene Savio, who's also a dentist, bought the Victorian cottage at 3969 24th Street in 1969. They installed dental offices and preserved the beautiful Italianate façade of the house, which was built in 1896.

"When I got out of dental school in 1969, I was ready to start my practice downtown at 450 Sutter," says Kinney, "when my father in-law [Dr. Edward Savio], who had his offices out at 1712 Church near Day Street, suggested that Coragene and I take a look out in the neighborhood before deciding, which we did. We found this house on 24th Street, made an offer, and the bank agreed to loan us $50,000 to buy the house and build our office. It all happened so fast.

"Gee," he adds, "starting in this neighborhood all turned out so great for us."

If you had searched for Dr. Kinney at the Voice website, you would have seen a fabulous letter to the editor (June 2006) from Shirley McKeever, who forwarded a letter dated April 24, 1906, from someone who was living in Dr. Kinney's house. It told the tale of how the house survived the earthquake and how residents Peter Maloney and his wife Mamie had taken in families to give them shelter. What's really cool is that on our website you can actually SEE the 1906 letter. Check it out!

Dr. Coragene Savio's father, Edward Savio, started his practice in Upper Noe Valley in 1939, where her sister, Tad Savio, and brother, Ted Savio, still practice. Coragene Savio graduated from dental school in 1970. Her grandfather, Dr. Eugene Skelley, first opened his dental office on Mission Street near 29th in 1915.

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THE LUNCH BUNCH: Questions #2 and #3 were related: "When and where did the Noe Valley Deli first open its doors? Who occupied the space prior to Noe Valley Deli (at its current location)?"

Karim Balat and his wife Saheer opened the Noe Valley Deli in 1979 at 4015 24th Street near Noe. He had come from Ramallah, Palestine, to the U.S. in 1967, and went to work as a cook and then as manager of a Zim's Restaurant. Business was good when his lease expired 10 years later.

At that time, Quiche and Carry was sadly (the quiche was great) closing, so the Balats moved the deli down to their spot at 4007 24th Street (after the Tung Sing people bought the deli's building). Fortunately for shawarma and falafel fans, Balat was able to stay in DNV.

Balat attributes his longevity as a deli-teer, 31 years, to "my patience with the customers, keeping up with the changes, and giving people value." He says his most popular menu item these days is either a grilled chicken sub sandwich or the Philly cheese steak. Over the years, the Balats' son Rami has helped his parents at the deli. Almost four years ago, Rami opened Subs Inc. on the corner of 24th and Castro.

The answer to #4, "In 1970, what was the name of the restaurant located on the corner of 24th and Sanchez, where La Boulange is currently?" is Linder's. Linder's was a very popular and inexpensive "family-style" restaurant. It closed in the mid-1970s and became Noe Valley Pizza. That answer, by the way, could have been found in the February 2002 Rumors column.

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A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE YOU-KNOW-WHAT: Question #5 asked, "What year was the East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club organized?" and #6, "Who was the first president of the Friends of Noe Valley?"

As all of you Noe Valleyans who have joined any of the neighborhood groups know (and as readers of the Voice have learned), the E&W was started in 1904. During the 1910s and '20s, the group lived up to their name (e.g., Douglass Park was created through their efforts). In the 1950s through the late '80s, East & West had about 400 members and was led by the neighborhood's benevolent busybody, Fred Methner. Paul Kantus was another longtime member, beloved by his pals and the neighborhood.

In the early 1970s, a new group came upon the scene, the Friends of Noe Valley, founded by local land use lawyer Claire Pilcher, who served as the group's first president. The Friends wanted to slow down the commercialization of Noe Valley and by the late 1970s had achieved making 24th Street a "special-use district" with controls on chain stores, restaurants, bars, and banks. They wanted to keep room for bookstores, shoe repair shops, and other small independent businesses.

The ongoing DNV debate over control versus free market raged in the spring of 1998. If you look at the 1998 April issue of the Voice, you'll see a great article by Denise Minor asking in the headline, "Should We Rein in the Chains on 24th Street?"

Some of you might remember that the debate in '98 focused on how a national chain of coffeehouses, Starbucks, got around the zoning ban and opened on the corner of 24th and Noe.

That brings up the answer to question #7, "What is the name of the building in which Toast and Starbucks are located?" There are some great Victorian residential flats above the ground level, by the way. Anyone can see the building name, which is embedded in the tile at the front entrance: the Elvira.

Also related to the Elvira Building, the answer to #9, "Where was Star Magic's first store in Noe Valley?" It was where Starbucks is now.

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MAKING THE GRADE: The answer to question #8, "Where is the seventh steepest hill in the city?" was a bit tricky because the question itself was unintelligible and stupid. Sorry, folks, dunce chair for me.

The question should have been: Where in Noe Valley is the seventh steepest navigable STREET in the city? That would be the 22nd Street hill from Vicksburg to Church. It has over a 31-degree grade and is a fun walk, up or down, but a one-way street down if you are using a vehicle.

Kinda tricky, because if you look on the Voice site, you will find out from past "Rumors" items that this is the second steepest street. Also, the recent High Tech Scavenger Hunt in Noe Valley used, as one of its clues, the street's gradient numbers (see last month's Rumors).

But there has been some controversy over the steepest street in the city.

Gladys Hansen's San Francisco Almanac did not have 22nd Street on the steepest list, only Filbert, 31.5 percent, tied with the block of Parnassus to Arguello. John Snyder's San Francisco Secrets lists 22nd as the second steepest drivable street in San Francisco behind the 32-degree Filbert Hill, located between Hyde and Leavenworth on Russian Hill.

Wikipedia has a whole section on 22nd Street, with a picture of the beautiful switchback turns up where 22nd Street meets Collingwood.

Wiki calls 22nd Street not only the steepest navigable street in the city but "one of the steepest streets in the world," with a gradient of 1:3:226, and tied with Filbert Street for first place.

But if you check out Matthew Roth's Nov. 11, 2009, posting at, you'll find a study conducted by Stephen Von Worley ( that deeply debunked the "steepest" standings. Since then, Von Worley has re-debunked his previous findings and come up with a list dated Feb. 4, 2010, which shows some very high grades.

In those, 22nd Street has fallen into a four-way tie for sixth place, along with Filbert, 24th Street between De Haro and Rhode Island, and Ripley between Peralta and Alabama. According to the Von Worley study, most of the steepies are in and on Bernal Heights. The steepest navigable street in the city is Bradford Street above Tomkins at a whopping 41 percent grade, then Romolo Alley between Vallejo and Fresno Alley in North Beach, and up in Bernal, Prentiss between Chapman and Powhattan, at a 37 percent grade, and Nevada Street above Chapman, a 36 percent grade.

Look to the end of this column for the answer to quiz question #10, "What costs $5,000 a second?" Then you can come back here and pick up some late-breaking news in DNV.

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SUPE FOR YOU: The Noe Valley Democratic Club held an open forum debate on Thursday evening, March 25, for the District 8 supervisorial candidates in the upcoming November election. It was attended by about 80 neighborhood Democrats (mostly) and three of the candidates: Rebecca Prozan, Scott Wiener, and Rafael Mandelman.

Not present were the other remaining candidates: Starchild, James Boeger, and the newest candidate, Bill Hemenger. Hemenger sent a representative to apologize for his absence because he had to attend a business-related event (he works for Oracle). As you politicos know, Laura Spanjian recently dropped out of the race and has moved and taken a job in the mayor's office in Houston, Texas.

The three who did come to the event are all quite progressive and all have been approved by our outgoing supe, Bevan Dufty. They each introduced themselves as friends of the other two candidates. The two-hour "debate" was moderated by NVDC's new president, Hunter Stern, who was introduced by outgoing president Andy Fleischman.

After opening statements, the group took questions from those assembled. Each candidate answered each question, and it all boiled down to the top three priorities each had on the citywide issues. Prozan: housing, Muni, and schools. Weiner: job growth, transportation, and structuring the budget. Mandelman: budget, housing, and safety.

On Noe Valley issues, both Wiener and Prozan support Dufty's legislation lifting the cap on new restaurants in our business district. However, Mandelman was "not sure" he supported changing a policy that makes Downtown Noe Valley so unique and will no doubt drive up rents.

As for the top three issues they see in Noe Valley, Prozan says, "public schools, housing, and planning." For Wiener the top three are "the economical development of our commercial district, the public schools, and transportation." And for Mandelman "it is the public schools, the J-Church, and vacant stores."

The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation wanted to know what the candidates thought about solving Downtown Noe Valley parking limitations by metering all of the yellow zones so that there is commercial parking from 8 a.m. to noon and then general parking thereafter. That parking plan has worked well in the Marina and might bolster shopping on 24th Street.

Maybe our supervisor, Bevan Dufty, can do something sooner.

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QUIERO FOOD: Throughout the last week of March, rumors were circulating in Downtown Noe Valley that a Mexican restaurant, the Little Chihuahua, was taking over the ill-fated Bistro 24 (4123 24th) and that an ABC application for a beer and wine license had been posted by Patxi's Pizza on the restaurant space that used to be Mi Lindo Yucatan (4042 24th).

Both tales are true.

"We are hoping to open some time in May," says Little Chihuahua co-owner and chef Andrew Johnstone, "and I am so excited about expanding to a second location." Little C opened about two and a half years ago on Divisadero near Page Street, and Johnstone's tacos, burritos, and enchiladas became an instant hit with the neighborhood.

"Because of our small space on Divisadero, about half of our business has been takeout," says Johnstone, who came to San Francisco 11 years ago "from New Zealand via Chile." Before opening on Divisadero, Johnstone was working in research and development at Chevy's Restaurants. He's been a chef for 20 years.

"I think we have been so successful because of our high-quality ingredients, the local produce we use, and the reasonableness of our prices [$7-$11]. Everything is cooked fresh when ordered."

Another very popular eatery, Patxi's Chicago Pizza (pronounced "Pah-cheese"), will be opening its fourth restaurant in the Mi Lindo spot, which is now under construction and being expanded. Patxi is the last name--Francisco is the first name--ofthe co-owner/chef.

"Noe Valley is a great neighborhood for us," says managing owner Bill Freeman, "with family orientation and diversity of people who [will like] our great pizzas and at a reasonable price."

Freeman says Patxi's hopes to open in late September. Prices will range from $10 to $20 a person, and the place will serve three varieties of pizza: extra-thin, thin, and the thick-crusted deep dish Chicago style (for which they are famous). The deep dish weighs in at around 3.5 pounds and is a lot of pizza.

Patxi and Freeman opened their first restaurant in Palo Alto six years ago, to rave reviews. They opened their second in San Francisco's Hayes Valley five years ago, and then a third in the Marina District, on Fillmore near Chestnut.

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WHERE MODERN IS: If you just finished reading the Store Trek column this month, then you know the shop When Modern Was, which features antique furniture and accessories, has moved into Riki's old space on 24th Street. "We opened up our 24th Street store on March 13," says owner Dona Taylor.

However, the late-breaking news is the shop will be out of the [1505] Church Street space by May 1, "after we have a blowout sale," says Taylor.

"We moved to this space [Riki's] because there is so little foot traffic down on Church. Since we've moved, business has gone way up," says Taylor, "and we are trying to keep our prices very reasonable in this economy and give our customers what they want."

Taylor and her husband, Bill Hoover, have been Downtown Noe Valley merchants for the past 21 years, owning and operating Gallery of Jewels up 24th Street near Castro.

Book lovers should mark their calendars. Phoenix Books is celebrating 25 years in Noe Valley this month, and the day after the store has a bash during Noe Valley Book Week (April 15, 6 to 8 p.m.)--see the Voice front page--it will hold a day-long sale (April 16, starting at 9 a.m.), with 25 percent off everything in the store.

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THAT'S ALL, YOU ALL, but before I go I want to answer question #10, "What costs $5,000 a second?" That would be fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

We have, as of March 2010, passed eight years of fighting foreign wars on terrorism. If you do the math, that adds up to 251,596,800 seconds, for a total cost so far of $1,257,084,000,000.

Health care socialism? No, I'd say what we have is military socialism.

Ciao for now.