December 31, 2015

This Year In Noe Valley: The Big Stories Of 2015

Nationally, 2015 will be a year remembered for terror attacks, ISIS and the Syrian refugee crisis. It’s also the year same sex marriage became a constitutional right (yay!), the presidential race got off to a crazy-early start (ugh), and too many people died in mass shootings. In San Francisco, people were worried that the rich are getting too rich and the middle class is getting squeezed out. Oh, and we’re finally getting some much needed relief from the drought (thanks, El Nino!). But never mind that. All news is local, and here in Noe Valley we had different things on our minds. Here are the top stories of 2015 that preoccupied us, made us smile and that sometimes drove us crazy in our little village this year.

New Places to Eat
2015 was a good year for food in Noe. NoVY opened in the old Pasta Pomodoro space. Hamlet replaced Horner’s Corner with better food and friendlier bartenders. Starbucks killed La Boulange (aka La Boring) and La Boulangerie de San Francisco moved in instead. The owners of Savor opened Lazeez to mixed reviews, two restaurants at the edges of Noe got Michelin stars (Aster and Al’s Place) and the former Incanto/Porcellino space is slated to become Uma Casa in the summer of 2016. Meanwhile, the chain café La PanotiQ says it still plans to move into the former Global Fair Exchange at 4108 24th Street – only a year behind schedule.

So Long and Farewell
Sadly, there were lots of closings in 2015 too including several businesses that have been in Noe Valley for decades such as Noe Valley Music (now a nail salon), Cradle of the Sun (moved to Ocean Ave), The Ark (bankrupt), and Common Scents (becoming online only). The burned out Bliss Bar is slated to be a new restaurant called Tom & Rai with expanded housing above but construction appears to be stalled. Martin Mattox also closed and has been replaced with another pop-up duo Tejido & Somi. Successories, the little shop next to St. Clair’s liquors moved to Pacifica. Next door, the pop-up kids clothing store TugTug vacated to Guerrero St and a string of popups continue to inhabit the two storefronts while the permit for the 3 story addition to the building languishes in Planning. Isso also closed and the space remains empty. Meanwhile, the Noe Valley Radio Shack was miraculously spared a closure – at least for now – despite the national chain filing for bankruptcy. Another sign of the times: On Sanchez St, Life for Life and its pieces of fake fat left the neighborhood for good, only to be replaced by The Root, a midwife practice. Farther out on Church Street, K9 Scrub Club abruptly closed due to a personal situation and the space remains for rent. An artifact from another departure in 2014, the shoe sign from Mike’s shoe repair also turned up – in a private home at Mission and 24th (we ask again: is that stealing?).

The Neverending Real Foods Story Is Far From Over
In major 24th Street developments, 2015 started out so optimistically! The owners of the old Real Foods building hosted a presentation to unveil the plans for the Real Foods building. Amazing! Turnout to the meeting was solid. Drawings were shown. Questions were asked and (mostly) answered. And since then… nothing. No meetings, no updates and not even Scott Wiener has any info. What was supposed to be the Big Reveal was just the Big Tease. Whatever happens, we’ll believe it when we see it.

The Drones Have Arrived
You knew this was coming. It was only a matter of time before drones became a nuisance in our techie enclave – and realtors are proudly using them too anyway (here’s one of 147 Day Street). This will get worse before it gets better. In the meantime, watch your windows.

Crime Sucks
Despite reports that nationally crime is at an all-time low, there were plenty of reports of crime in the hood including: package thieves, suspects in a white Mercedes stealing phones and notebooks, succulent snatchers, a fatal dog attack at Douglass, copious bike and car thefts, an attempted rape and muggings. One bright spot: A traffic-snarling bomb scare turned out to be just a blender in a box. Stay frosty, Noe Valley.

RIP Vicki Rosen and Greg Gutknecht 
Two longtime fixtures of Noe Valley left us this year. Vicki Rosen, president of the Upper Noe Neighbors and longtime community activist, died on June 11 after a long fight with cancer. In January, Greg Gutknecht, the affable and talkative gentleman on 24th Street who did odd jobs for area merchants collapsed in front of Bernie's coffee shop and EMTs were unable to revive him. RIP Vicki and Greg – you are missed. 

New Beginnings
The Noe Valley Town Square got the final green light in 2015 and is set to become a reality soon. Construction is slated to start in January 2016 and the ribbon cutting is scheduled for October 2016. In the meantime, the Farmer’s Market will convene on 24th Street between Sanchez and Vicksburg on Saturday mornings. In other happy news, Video Wave of Noe Valley, which has been renting videos and DVDs at 1431 Castro St for 27 (!) years found a new home in the Buttons Candy Bar on 24th Street.  Other signs of renewal: The bulbouts and greening of 24th Street this year were welcome changes, and we were happy to see the Solstice Cracked refreshed again in June.

It’s Still Insanely Expensive to Live Here
2015 was a year of more "monster homes" in the hood – and more frustration from those that don’t want them here. A small but vocal group fought to Save the Shack at 369 Valley Street – and was successful in getting it designated a historic site. But that was the exception. Mostly we just saw lots of new homes, including a new Most Expensive House at $7 million - on Elizabeth Street and backing up the new development at Bliss Bar. A building boom also continues to update the Church end of 24th Street. And for good or ill, many of the neighborhood’s Permastoned houses are disappearing too, although plenty still survive.

The Forecast Is Beautiful
On a happier note, the drought and spare the air days this year made for some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. And more sunrises and sunsets. And rainbows. All year long. Yep, we Noe Valleyeons and our visitors are not shy about photographing our beautiful neighborhood. Huzzah!

There are so many good things on the horizon for 2016. The Town Square breaks ground on January 4 and we should have a new park and plaza in the center of our village by the fall. SF's first high end Portuguese restaurant, Uma Casa, is slated to open on Church St in June. And here’s hoping the open retail spaces on 24th Street become something useful and entertaining for the neighborhood. Whatever happens, we live in paradise and we’re all incredibly lucky to call this place home.

Happy New Year, Noe Valley! Here's to a safe, fun, and prosperous 2016.

Feeling nostalgic? Here were the top stories of 2014, 2013 and 2012.

Did we miss anything? Share it in the comments!

[Top image: @TYxMcFly]


Jack said...

Why is no one commenting on Pomello which is in trouble and will probably close. We love this place! What happened?

J said...

It seems that in this time of "prosperity" we have just as many open store fronts as we did during the recession for the same reason - they cannot afford the rents -- more and more stores are moving off of 24th and church. It is sad to see.

Anonymous said...

I for one was sad to see Horner's Corner fail. At least it was trying to carry on the tradition being a neighborhood bar and grill. Hamlet might have better food, but it comes at twice the price. The bartenders might be friendlier, but with glasses of wine starting at 12 bucks and going up from there seems restrictive. Many locals who used to meet and greet there, and stop in for an affordable meal and a pint have been priced out. The mix of folks used to be more eclectic, and that gave it a neighborhood feel and it seemed more welcoming. Hope 24th street isn't on the way to becoming a upscale cloister for the well heeled. That sort of misses the point of what made the neighborhood great...doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

I liked Horner's too but it seems that after a great start it went down hill with their greatly reduced menu and inconsistent service. But they always seemed pretty busy so I'm wondering why they closed?