March 28, 2015

This Week in Noe Valley: A Mugging in Broad Daylight, Vintage SF, And Contigo Is Adding A Santa Cruz Outpost

News from, about and for Noe Valley from around the interwebs:
[Photo: Beautiful San Francisco day gugu_brasil]

March 25, 2015

This Week At The Planning Commission: Tom & Rai Will Move Into Rebuilt Bliss Bar

A look at Noe Valley projects in front of the Planning Commission this week. Information is provided by the Planning Commission, and taken from its published agenda. All hearings are on Thursday at 1:30pm, Room 400 in City Hall.

March 26, 2015

4022 – 4026 24th STREET
- north side of the street between Castro and Noe Streets; Lot 010 in Assessor’s Block 3656 - Request for Conditional Use Authorization, pursuant to Planning Code Sections 728.21, 728.41, and 303 to construct an addition at the rear of the building that would add two dwellings and expand the existing ground floor commercial space beyond the 2,499 gross square-foot use size limitation for the District and establish a restaurant with a type 47 ABC license (d.b.a. Tom Rai) that would retain the existing place of entertainment use but amend the conditions of approval contained in Motion 8778 that pertain to the use to expand the hours and permit amplified entertainment. The project includes remodeling the storefront and adding a roof deck with two stair penthouses for access. The project also requires a parking reduction pursuant to Section 161 of the Code and a rear yard variance pursuant to Section 134 of the Code for the ground floor portion that extends into the required rear yard. The project site is located within the 24th Street/ Noe Valley Neighborhood Commercial District and 40-X Height and Bulk Districts. This action constitutes the Approval Action for the project for purposes of CEQA, pursuant to Section 31.04(h) of the San Francisco Administrative Code.

Preliminary Recommendation: Approve with Conditions
In addition:
Request for a Variance pursuant to Section 134 of the Planning Code to construct a three-story addition at the rear of a mixed-use building. The proposed addition would extend the depth of the building to the rear property line at the ground floor and add two dwelling units to the property. The project also requires a parking reduction pursuant to Section 161 of the Code. The project site is located within the 24th Street/ Noe Valley Neighborhood Commercial District and 40-X Height and Bulk Districts.
To summarize: The developer wants to increase dwelling units from two to four, not add parking, build to the rear property line and add a roof deck at the 2nd floor (at the property line) and increase the size of the ground level restaurant. The restaurant will operate until 2am and feature live (amplified) music.

Neighbors aren't please and have demanded an acoustician (among other things) to reduce noise. The developer is working with an acoustician and that, combined with more technical elements, seems to have satisfied planning staff. Expect approval because:
  • The project would not lead to an over concentration of eating and drinking establishments within the district.
  • The project promotes a locally-owned business and contributes to the viability of the overall 24th Street – Noe Valley NCD.
  • The project would not displace an existing retail tenant providing convenience goods and services to the neighborhood, and would decrease the number of bars in the district.
  • The project would create two additional housing units within an established neighborhood that is readily accessible by transit. The new dwellings are smaller, thereby more affordable, yet maintain multiple bedrooms in each unit.
  • The project would implement the recommendations of the sound engineering consultant to ensure that no sound from the commercial use is audible from outside the restaurant.
  • The project meets all applicable requirements of the Planning Code. The project is desirable for, and compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.
  • The business is not a Formula Retail use and would serve the immediate neighborhood.
No letters of opposition (or support) are included in the packet, which combined with the above means the Planning Commission is likely to take staff's recommendation and approve the project.

For those new to the neighborhood, a fire destroyed Bliss Bar and rendered the apartments inhabitable in 2013.

As for the new restaurant called Tom & Rai? We can't find any info beyond the name. How 'bout you?

[Planning: 4022–4026 24th St]

March 21, 2015

This Week In Noe Valley: The Podolls Arrives, A Mailbox Jacking, And An Ode to Valley Tavern

News from, about and for Noe Valley from around the interwebs:
[Photo: Hi, city via carapatriciasf]

March 14, 2015

This Week In Noe Valley: Mike's Shoe Resurfaces, First Apple Watch Spotted At Toast, And Other Signs Of The Times

News from, about and for Noe Valley from around the interwebs:
[Photo: Curbed]

March 13, 2015

Noe Valley Is Getting A New Stoplight On Church Street

Remember that request for public comment regarding a proposed stoplight at Church and Cesar Chavez Streets? Looks like it's happening. The above sign is posted next to Noe Valley Pet Co. The referenced contract number 2419J specifies thirteen intersections around San Francisco (including here) and includes "traffic, pedestrian and transit signal installations, traffic routing and all associated work" for the bargain price of $1.726M. The entire project is expected to take one year, but don't count on construction at this one intersection taking that long.

What's not included in this is the rest of the Church St improvements approved under the same permit. See our post linked above for context (some links no longer work--SF redesigned its web presence and didn't redirect existing links...again). Here's the current page for the J Church Rapid Project. We're concerned that without making all approved changes vehicle traffic will reroute to avoid this light and make other intersections nearby more dangerous. What do you think?

[NVSF: Proposed: Traffic Signal For Intersection Of Church And Cesar Chavez Streets]
[Photo: @F6x]

March 3, 2015

Happy Donuts Is Back - Noe Valley Breathes Sigh of Relief

Y'all won't believe just how many people have contacted us about the status of Happy Donuts over the last couple months. Noe Valley's favorite 24/7 food purveyor closed in December with a promised opening date 2 weeks later. That was extended another 2 weeks. And then the signs disappeared after they failed a DBI inspection, prompting fear that they wouldn't reopen. Today we're happy to announce that you can once again get your 24 hour sugar high--Happy Donuts opened last night.
We assumed they closed for necesarry upgrades, cleaning or to install a fancy new marble counter. We didn't look for permit issues until the opening soon signs came down and the donuts were still MIA. We weren't the only ones curious. Neighbor Chris sent this today:
...It was a sudden development--one day the doors were locked, there was brown craft paper covering the windows, and a sign that said they were closed for "renovations". My wife & I thought this was dubious and just yesterday they reopened with zero renovations (that I could tell).

A quick search of SFDPH's food inspection database revealed a health score of 65 on 12/23/14 from a routine unscheduled inspection. (Any score below 70 is "poor" and a high risk.) They scored a 94 from a subsequent inspection on 2/6/14.

The idea that they were forced to close is a good theory. The DBI permit issued in October describes the project as a "Change of ownership upgrades required by SFDPH. Interior remodel." That permit has not been signed off on, FWIW. The plumbing permit issued in December indicates ADA upgrades to the bathroom and other kitchen upgrades. Neither permit address the non-ADA compliant step to get inside the shop. Alex confirms some updates:

Which is all good. But what people really want to know:

[Photo: @jdeeringdavis]

February 28, 2015

This Week In Noe Valley: Thunderama, Rainbows, And Other Harsh Realities Of Life In Noe Valley

News from, about and for Noe Valley from around the interwebs:
[Photo: Gorgeous skies via oldenburgfreddy]

February 23, 2015

Interview: Kristen Gianaras of NōVY Restaurant

For everyone lamenting the loss of a homey and affordable restaurant on 24th St after Pasta Pomodoro closed there's some good news: a new seasonal, local and affordable restaurant is set to take it’s place in March and it’s the ultimate Noe Valley story. Back in 1970 a young Greek-American couple named John and Vi Gianaras moved to Noe Valley, took over the space vacated by a small grocery store and decided to turn it into a local neighborhood restaurant called Panos, named after John's father. Specializing in authentic Greek cuisine, Panos was a neighborhood favorite for almost 20 years until 1997 when John and Vi decided it was a good run and opted to rent out the space to others.

Pasta Pomodoro opened soon after and remained a neighborhood favorite until October of last year when its lease expired. The Gianaras did not renew the pasta chain's lease. Instead they started necessary building upgrades and offered the restaurant space to their daughters. We caught up with Kristen Gianaras (pictured, right), one of the sisters who will open NōVY next month.

Tell us a little about yourselves. My sister, Kathryn, and I are third generation Greek-American San Francisco natives. My parents, John and Vi Gianaras, were born in San Francisco and went to Lowell High School. Kathryn and I both went to St. Brendan's grammar school, St. Ignatius High School and UC Santa Barbara. And we still aren't sick of each other! Kathryn managed the Club Sports department at UCSB after she graduated and my real estate license still hangs at Zephyr Noe Valley. When we aren't busy showering Kathryn's dog, Rocky, with affection, you can find us playing tennis or dining about town with family and friends.

Where does the name NōVY come from? Deciding on a name was more difficult than we could have imagined! John came up with the name NōVY as a nickname for Noe Valley. We like it because it's short, sweet, catchy and pays homage to the neighborhood. The other contender was to name the restaurant "The G's Spot" but we were worried about the type of crowd we might attract ;)

How long have you lived in Noe Valley? Kathryn and I were raised in the house directly next door to where we live now on Jersey Street. Our old yard taunts me every time I walk down my back stairs! We moved to a home in Balboa Terrace for grade school and high school and then moved back to Noe after college in 2008.

Were you surprised when your parents asked you if you wanted to run a restaurant on 24th Street? Surprised is an understatement! When my mom called me to tell me the idea, my response was "Are you freaking (censored version) out of your mind?!" Then I hung up, slept on it, woke up, called my sister and said "I think we should do this!"

Besides the family connection, what made you want to open a restaurant in this space? Many stars aligned that turned this idea into a reality:
  1. Location: restaurants have run successfully in this location for the last 30+ years.
  2. Timing: Pomodoro's lease was expiring, my parents are still at a point in their lives where they have the time and energy to mentor us, and Kathryn and I are young enough to pour our hearts and souls into this business without any other commitments (one day we will add to the stroller brigade on 24th St - but not quite yet!).
  3. Community: This is the neighborhood that we live in and love, and we felt there was no better way for us to get the restaurant Noe needed than to create it ourselves. NōVY was created by community members for community members. I strongly believe there is no community that is more accepting and encouraging of small businesses than Noe Valley.
  4. Good food: Let's not forget the food! We were tired of having so few dining options in Noe. We put a lot of though into creating a menu that is focused yet diverse, so that guests can dine at NōVY multiple times a week and have a different food experience each time, without breaking the bank.
  5. Jobs: I get too gushy when I talk about how honored and privileged I feel to be able to provide jobs at such an early point in my career. Kathryn and I are excited to nurture a team of people who know that they are respected and appreciated in their jobs and to provide a work environment where our employees can learn, grow and let their personalities shine.

Give us a tour: What will be some of the signature items on the menu? Vi created the menu and then we collaborated as a family to refine it. We want to be clear that NōVY is not a reincarnation of Panos', nor is it a Greek restaurant. Our focus is on fresh, local, seasonal California favorites with a Mediterranean flare. Our meat and produce will be natural and organic whenever possible, and there will be a sizable selection of vegetarian and gluten-free dishes as well. Our all-day menu Monday-Friday features a line of artisan burgers, hearty salads, pita wraps (chicken and pork souvlaki, grilled calamari and portobello), quesadillas with mediterranean flavors, as well as a section of pastas. And don't overlook our small plates offerings, which include fried olives and marcona almonds, grilled halloumi cheese, our 'trifecta' of hummus, tzatziki and taramasalata (a Greek caviar) as well as grilled or fried calamari (as long as John doesn't eat it all.) We will also be serving brunch on the weekends...benedicts, scrambles, egg bakes, a line of breakfast quesadillas and more.

As for our beverage program, it is important to us to do our part in reducing waste. We will be offering all of our beverages on, wine and non-alcoholic (with the exception of sparkling wine.) All will be locally selected from California. The exact list is still TBD, but we welcome feedback from our guests on what they'd love to see on the taps as the months go on! Our vision is for our bar area to be comfortable for a full-service meal but also casual enough to enjoy a snack and a drink after work, etc. You'd be lying if you said you didn't like to people watch over a glass of wine!

Our goal is for NōVY to be place where you can enjoy thoughtful, affordable food in a sophisticated and warm environment, topped off with friendly and personal service. I want our customers to leave with a smile on their face because they had a great time, delicious meal and felt that their business was appreciated.
What’s the story of the stained glass window from the original Panos? When guests enter the restaurant they'll see a stained glass window above the front door with the address '4000' next to a palm tree. Dan Gamaldi, owner of Cradle of the Sun Stained Glass at 3848 24th St, made this stained glass window for the original Panos' in 1977. This stained glass has lived through the original Panos, the 1988 Panos remodel, as well as through Pasta Pomodoro's tenure. We were required to remodel the entryway to comply with ADA, and we were thrilled when we came up with a design that allowed us to keep the stained glass. It gives such a special touch.

Do you and your family plan to work there too? Tell us about the team. Kathryn and I are going to be running the restaurant full-time (we should probably set up a bed in the office.) Everything will be done in house by Kathryn and editing, food quality control, marketing, HR, accounting and daily front and back of house management. Our all-day menu format and price point doesn't require that we have a 'chef' position. Instead, we will have a kitchen manager. Fun story here: when Vi ran Panos', she trained many of the kitchen staff from dishwashers all the way to lead line cooks. Some of these cooks worked with her the entire 20 years she ran the restaurant. We've kept in touch with a few past employees over the years and were so excited when one of Vi's long-time cooks, Carmen, said that he would love to come back and work for us again as our kitchen manager! John and Vi will be present in the opening months to help us get up and running. Vi's focus will be on overseeing the kitchen. John will be contributing his good looks. ;)

When is the opening date? Is March 9 still on target? That date has changed slightly... we will be open to the public for lunch and dinner starting Tuesday, March 10th at 11am. If that date changes, you will be the first to know!

Do you have a special party or event planned for the opening? We have two soft opening events planned for friends and family on March 7th (dinner) and March 8th (brunch.) We also have a lunch seating planned for our Noe merchant friends on March 9th.

Change of subject - what are your favorite local places to shop and eat in Noe Valley? I actually had my first (and only) retail job at Ambiance on 24th St after college. I didn't last long because all of my earnings went right back into the store. I love that you can purchase a complete outfit at Ambiance and they also get an A+ for customer service. And you can't not have a good time walking through Just for Fun. It's my go to place for birthday cards and cute gifts. As for food - we love Contigo, Saru, Griddle Fresh and Caskhouse.

Bernie’s, Philz, Martha’s or Starbucks? This is the most difficult question of them all! I have to say it's a tie between Bernie's and Philz. Both have delicious coffee and a staff that puts a smile on my face every time I visit. I'll give weight to Bernie's because it is closer to our house. Since Rocky likes to 'christen' every tree on our walks for coffee, it can take upwards of an hour to get to Philz and back!

4000 24th St

[NVSF: Closing: Pasta Pomodoro In Noe Valley]
[NVV: Panos' Calls It Quits, Pasta Fills In]
[Photos: NōVY]