January 31, 2015

This Week In Noe Valley: Hipster Coffee Battles, Debating Stanford Douchebags, And Other Signs of the Times

News from, about and for Noe Valley from around the interwebs:
[Photo: Happy homes via juliahengel]

January 24, 2015

This Week In Noe Valley: Real Foods Redo, Fire At 23rd At Douglass And A Memorial For Greg Gutknecht

News from, about and for Noe Valley from around the interwebs:
[Photo: Artful Noe Valley steps via boldcursive]

January 23, 2015

The Big Reveal: Real Foods Building Presentation

Last night there was a pre-application community meeting for the project to (finally) replace the Real Foods building on 24th Street. Turnout was solid – all the chairs were filled, mostly with longtime Noe Valley residents who touted their tenure in the neighborhood as a badge of honor when giving comments. Few look like they take a shuttle bus to work. One person described herself as an “oldster” - a term that generally described the room.

Scott Wiener was the MC of the meeting, first giving the floor to Peter Gabel. Peter spoke of the recent passing of Greg Gutknecht and noted that there will be memorial potluck Sunday at 3pm at Valley Tavern.

Then Scott took the floor. We didn’t record what he said, but here’s a close approximation:
The Real Foods space has been vacant for more than a decade. In my 4 years in office, a week doesn’t go by that I don’t get an email or tweet from someone in the neighborhood asking why it’s empty and what can we do about it.

A year ago, someone in the neighborhood who wishes to remain anonymous introduced us to the head of Neutraceutical Corporation, the owners of the building. Three of us flew to Park City, Utah for a meeting with senior management that was supposed to take just half an hour and ended up being a very friendly 3 hour meeting. By the end of the meeting, Neutraceutical had committed to moving forward to make good use of the space and build a mixed use retail and housing space. Those plans are now moving forward.

As is common in a conditional use development that needs to appear before the planning commission, we are convening a community meeting to hear feedback on the plans. There are a lot of politics associated with this space and we're all entitled to our opinion. However, tonight we are looking to the future - to something we've all wanted, which is not a vacancy in the former space. The goal here is to listen with an open mind and have a productive dialog.
Scott then turned the floor over to Sergio Diaz from Neutraceutical (who was involved in the labor settlement with the employees of Real Food). Sergio nervously thanked everyone for coming and hastily handed the meeting over to Brian Liles and Julie Jackson, principals at Jackson Liles Architecture (Julie is also a proud parent and member of the PTSA at James Lick Middle School). They proceeded to go through a series of slides about the existing site, the plans, and the things they took into consideration when thinking about the design.

First, let's make sure we know what's allowed at the existing site:
  • The lot is 50' wide and 114' deep, requires a 28.5' rear yard and is zoned for 40' in height. Rear yard required: 28.5'.
  • The Noe Valley Commercial District prohibits office space on the 2nd floor of new construction.
  • A Conditional Use permit may (or may not) be required for whatever moves into the ground floor.
Here's what was proposed last night:
  • The retail level has 14' ceilings and is 3345sf – slightly smaller than the former Real Foods space. The space could be divided into two storefronts with 1470sf and 1875sf.
  • Four 2bd/2ba loft-style condos. The two facing 24th St are 1226sf; the south-facing units are 1540sf and all have decks.
  • The terraced design will allow more light onto the street and keep it inline with the surrounding buildings like Fresca and The Bagel Shop.
  • The façade will have wood siding on it's upper levels and stone facing the sidewalk at the retail level. Trees will green the sidewalk.
  • Neutraceutical pledged once again to not open a store on site - they will lease the ground floor.

The meeting was then opened up to public comment, paraphrased here to give a sense of the tone and who goes to these meetings:

  • Neighborhood architect says: Thoughtful, addresses the streetscape, good usable units on 24th St. I have no negative comments.
  • I applaud Scott Weiner for his efforts here – we have an opportunity to create a great space. Good things have come out of Real Foods closure including the Farmer’s Market and Town Square – here’s to more.
  • The façade is ugly– the masonry blocks look better suited for Van Ness than 24th St.
  • The drawings are generic – there's an opportunity here to do something that defines the neighborhood instead of 2 small skinny retail spaces.
  • The terraces are very hipster-like – too hip for our neighborhood. I'd like hipsters to stay away.
  • “Where are the people going to park? This is bullsh*t!”
  • Angry lady living at 3933 24th St/next door over the bagel shop: The building is dilapidated because Neutraceutical ripped off the roof – they’re a bully of a company that doesn’t give a crap. Don’t know why we’re all praising them.
  • The street doesn’t warrant those terraces. I don’t to know who’s living there and what they’re doing – I don’t think there should be terraces.
  • I live near the senior housing down the block – relatively new project – a year later there was no parking, there are 3 residences with 6 cars and it’s a nightmare; also, the design is hideous and doesn’t fit in.
  • No amount of bike lanes is going to make parking easier.
  • What about trash bins and recycling? The design doesn’t show bins for those.
  • What about parking and middle income housing?
  • I live on Jersey with my backyard facing this building – I’m worried about privacy from the decks and the placement of mechanicals (noise).
  • I’d love to sell my single family home and live out my retirement in a one bedroom on 24th St and walk my grandchildren down a sidewalk without curb cuts.
  • Why have a two story elevator to a two story loft with stairs?
  • Please make the retail not be a nail salon, title company or bank.
  • Design is nice contextually. Different heights and styles. Why not make more units that are smaller to attract younger buyers instead of car owners?
  • No matter what is built, please continue to work with the neighborhood.
  • Our community is happy to see change – it’s been blighted for 10 years. Let’s not shoot for lowest common demoninator. I’d like to see better options than a brew pub or having Whole Foods use it for their food use facility. Let’s make it like the Ferry Building with food stalls or carts – something innovative.
We asked Jackson Liles today what they thought of the process and what changes they may be considering. They said they enjoyed the process and are sorting through all the info. They will work with the design team over the coming weeks, but have not settled on a direction yet. We'll keep you posted.

[NVSF: Coming Soon: Plans To Develop Real Foods Building]
[Photo: Noe Valley community meeting #realfoods]

Wizard of Oz / Mago de Oz At James Lick Middle School

Come see the talented and amazing students of James Lick Middle School perform the musical The Wizard of Oz / El Mago de Oz during four nights in January (Monday Jan. 26 ~ Thursday Jan. 29th at 6 pm). JLMS students have worked hard on every aspect of this musical, by taking the lead in direction, choreography, costuming, lighting, gaffing, set production and so much more with the support of JLMS teachers Mr. Stookey, Mr. Cavazos and Ms. Uttley. Special presentation by the James Lick Band under the direction of Mr. Brendan Reilly.

The show is free, but donations are gladly accepted! Refreshments will be for sale each night and all proceeds benefit the JLMS PTSA.
What: The Wizard of Oz / El Mago de Oz
When: January 26, 27, 28 and 29th at 6pm
Where: James Lick Auditorium
Cost: Free, donations accepted

January 22, 2015

RIP Greg of 24th Street

We were sad to hear about the passing of Greg Gutknecht earlier this week, the affable and talkative gentleman who had become a fixture on 24th Street and around Noe Valley. Greg had been homeless for 10 years, picked up work at the Farmer's Market, frequently did odd jobs for area merchants, and as one local put it “was just a sweetheart.” He had a place to call home the last couple years and had been doing well.

Greg collapsed in front of Bernie's coffee shop on Monday morning. According to the staff in Bernie’s, EMTs worked for more than 30 minutes but were unable to revive him. 

There are flowers and notes in front of Bernie’s from those who miss him. We’d like to post more details about Greg. If anyone has stories of his life and/or photos please email us, post in the comments or tweet us @noevalleysf.

Update: There will be a memorial potluck for Greg this Sunday the 25th at Valley Tavern at 3PM.

January 21, 2015

Meeting: What Should Happen To The Real Foods Building?

It’s true: There are plans underway to develop the empty storefront across from Whole Foods on 24th St – the space formerly known as Real Foods. So what will it be: A Trader Joe’s? A climbing gym? A brew pub? Condos? Nails/Waxing? Now is your chance to find out – and more importantly to weigh in.

At 7pm Thursday (that's tomorrow) at St. Philips Parish Hall the developers will be offering a preview of what’s in the works. There will be plans displayed and architects on hand to describe the drawings and answer questions. Stakes are high for such a central location in Noe Valley – this should be worth attending.

What: Real Foods Building Plans Presentation
When: Thursday, January 22nd at 7pm
Where: St. Philips Parish Hall, 725 Diamond St

[NVSF: Real Foods: I Wish This Was...]

January 17, 2015

This Week in Noe Valley: Co-Housing, Spare The Air Sunrises, And Get Ready For Drones

News from, about and for Noe Valley from around the interwebs:
[Photo: Noe Valley morning via bone dry on Reddit]

January 1, 2015

This Year In Noe Valley: The Big Stories Of 2014

Nationally 2014 was the year of Sochi, the World Cup, Ebola, ISIS, the Ice Bucket Challenge, Ferguson protests and Serial madness among many other things. Bay Area residents will remember 2014 as the year the drought got scary, a big one hit Napa, Robin Williams died, the Giants again took the Series and the Niners moved to Santa Clara and canned Harbaugh.

2014 was also the year of the God View - the word longtime Noe Valley resident and linguist Geoffrey Nunberg picked as word of the year.

In that spirit, here's a God View of Noe Valley for 2014 - the stories that preoccupied us, made us smile and that sometimes drove us crazy in our little village.

Endings, Beginnings and Coming Soon
As usual, the only constant this year was change and we saw plenty of it. In February Café Ponte closed and reopened as Diamond Café. Around that same time we were saddened to hear of the death of Josh Epple of Drewes Meats - RIP. Incanto closed in the spring, was reopened as Porcellino in the summer – and then abruptly closed again in November. Mike’s Shoe Repair was replaced by Rare Device. Be Yoga closed after just a few months (with a controversial awning) and was replaced by the clothing shop Lola. Joshua Simon closed and will be replaced this spring with a lunch spot called Lazeez from the same folks who run Savor. Pasta Pomodoro closed abruptly and a new American/Mediterranean restaurant will move in once a seismic retrofit is done. Global Exchange closed and will be replaced with a café in 2015. Hooters? Not replacing Bliss BarIndependent Nature was evicted, Blue Ova moved into the former FIMA Photography space, and Peekaboutique closed only to be replaced by Mapamundi Kids. The UPS store changed hands and is going through an ADA upgrade; an artist collective called L’Atelier moved in next door. Ambiance consolidated into one store in the old Streetlight space. Decore Galore closed and was replaced with Martin Mattox. Upper Noe got a new market called Bom Dia on Sanchez St. And finally, after a brief fakeout early in 2014, there appears to be some possible real action on the Real Foods front (maybe).

Art, Art Everywhere
Noe Valley got several new art installations this year. The first one was completed in April and commemorates the fish that used to swim in local streams. Cardio-Tone on outer Church commissioned a mural from local artist Amos Goldbaum. Shawn Bullen plied his craft to create a giant mural on the Radio Shack building as part of Shop Small Saturday. There was a wanna-be-Banksy sighting. The delightful Wishing Tree returned. As for Bini? They're turning up everywhere.

“Wow, It’s Expensive to Live Here.”
That’s been a common refrain for years but this year made previous years look sane by comparison. First there was the Duncan St. home that sold for $7 million (the most expensive in Noe history - and may get even bigger soon), followed by 465 Hoffman for $5.1 million, and most recently the $5 million sale 50 feet from the J Church that includes a 5 car garage. Even fixers are so hot no one knows how to price them. Overall home prices crossed $1100 per square foot this year and rents in the neighborhood are up 29% year over year – and Airbnb renters are cleaning up.

Package Thieves, Bank Robberies and Big City Problems
Noe Valley might feel like a little village but we had plenty of big city problems this year – many caught on film. Brazen package thieves. Grinchy santas stealing poinsettias. Car break ins. Tree killers. Yikes. Not caught on video were an attempted child abduction, a foiled armed robberypistol-whipping and bank robberies. Stay alert and be safe folks.

Noe Valley Bakery started a trend (and a firestorm of criticism - see comments) when they asked local patrons to fund their Kickstarter “because we went to Paris last summer and saw how incredible the cookies look displayed on marble counters and we want to bring that experience home to our neighbors.” Of course the campaign was funded. Spin City also ran a Kickstarter to expand (which was better received) and also funded. The owner of the Jeep that was torched in a recent arson rampage in the Castro/Dolores neighborhood has so far been less successful.

You may have heard CA is experiencing a bad a drought. But finally in December it rained. And rained. And rained. And yes it knocked out power and other things. But bring it… we need it. The more rain the better in 2015. #stormdoor

What's Ahead In 2015?
There’s so much to look forward to in 2015 in Noe Valley. Two new pedigreed restaurants are opening on the edges of Noe. The Town Square is due to break ground in August 2015 for a projected opening in the Spring of 2016. Real Foods might finally see real change (here’s hoping). The towering retail space across the street from Shufat on 24th St will likely see tenants this year. And construction of the green areas and bulbouts on 24th St will start in January.

Here's to a safe, fun and prosperous 2014. Happy New Year, Noe Valley!

Feeling nostalgic? These were the big stories in 2013.