December 31, 2019

This Year in Noe Valley: The Biggest Stories of 2019

What a decade. It's not a stretch to say Noe Valley and the world have changed more in the last 10 years than in the previous 100. Between the iPhone, Amazon, and social media to instadelivery apps and ridesharing – our 2010 selves would barely recognize Noe Valley today. Except we would – because the things we love about our little village are still here and still enchant us.

So while the national news whipsawed our attention with impeachment, apocalyptic climate disasters and tragically accelerating hate crimes and mass shootings (and that was just in December!) here at home there were smaller but no less important dramas and delights.

To wit, here were the biggest stories of 2019 in Noe Valley:

Real Foods Finally Turned Into … SkinSpirit 
Our long local nightmare has finally ended (kind of). Real Foods did not become housing, or a grocery store, or even a lively row of cool things that we once hoped it might. It's now a skin salon. Or as the SF Chronicle put it: The very sad saga of how Real Foods stood closed for 16 years – and then became a skin clinic. Read it and weep.

The Retail Apocalypse Is Real
In other corners of retail, most of the news was about closings or near-death experiences. Shoe Biz shuttered after several fits and starts (case in point: it's a temporary popup shoe store right now but it's basically gone). Rare Device closed it's Noe Valley outpost and consolidated to its Divisadero location – and was promptly replaced by a psychic (yes, really). The owner of nearby Lucca Ravioli retired and shuttered the business – and we all lost a great San Francisco institution. VideoWave is hanging on for dear life. Even a $1500 a month doggy daycare can't make it on 24th St. In happier news, YogaFlow finally filled in the old RadioShack space. Charlie's Corner got a new lease on life thanks to the kindness of benefactors and a GoFundMe. We also got some new lash and beauty spas but no new major retail openings of note. Meanwhile, the Noe Valley Whole Foods got some unwanted national attention as activists briefly shut down the store to protest animal cruelty (and hate on Jeff Bezos). Sadly, there are still way too many empty storefronts on 24th Street with no sign that this is likely to change anytime soon. The reality is that we can expect more SkinSpirits and One Medicals if the economics of retail don't change.

It's Hard to Run a Restaurant in SF
Let’s just say that retail has nothing on restaurants for hardship. We saw the abrupt closings of Chez Marius, Pomelo, and Toast on 24th. Patxi's sold itself to Los Angeles-based Elite Restaurant Group at the end of last year and the business is now 50% takeout/delivery. The once vibrant Pasta Gina is now a ghost kitchen delivery outpost. And the former Le Panotiq was supposed to become Wallflower but appears to be in limbo. There were a few openings: Le Cupboard became Inle Burmese, Fattoush is now Bernal Heights Pizzeria, Holy Kitchen has become Bon Appetikka, and the old Contigo space was replaced by Mahila. Here's hoping San Francisco figures out how to be friendlier to restaurants.

Climate Change is No Joke
California burned and the smoke and effects were not lost on Noe Valley. We also had our share of heatwaves. Thank goodness for rain.

Housing in Noe Valley Is Hella Expensive
With $6 million mansions hitting the market monthly in our neighborhood, even Steph Curry had sticker shock here. And then there were the alarmist headlines like The IPO millionaires are coming! that only exacerbated the frenzy. Meanwhile, tech-savvy Compass real estate has swallowed Alain Pinel and now has at least four offices on 24th St. alone. The average cost of a home here in 2019 was $2.6 million. Those who are fortunate enough to own a house here should feel very, very lucky.

People Behaving Badly
Like every neighborhood, Noe Valley had its share of people behaving badly in 2019. This fall there were two scary gang assaults on commuters on 26th and Jersey, one of which was caught on video, there was the so-called “wine bottle murder,” at least 9 cars had their tires slashed at Cesar Chavez and Castro, and First Republic on Castro was smashed by a truck and the perps made off with a 374-pound ATM machine. But perhaps the most shocking was the anti-vaxxers at More Mojo dispensing alarming misinformation with impunity and The Noe Valley Voice gave the crazies a megaphone with a front-page feature story. Just yikes.

The New Decade Beckons
But, but, but… it wasn't all doom and gloom. There is still so much to look forward to in 2020. Spin City will reboot as a new cafĂ©/roastery with small snacks and great coffee. Cole Hardware is showing signs it will be reborn so we’ll once again have a nearby hardware store. Church Produce closed abruptly but Baron's Meats stepped into the gap by offering 100+ new grocery items and has awesome fish and meat. 
Noe Valley also has the best chocolate shop on the planet (and a local Recchiutti-trained chocolatier sells his confections there). The head of the SFMTA lives in Noe Valley and the J Church has nowhere to go but up. We have world-class restaurants here including La Ciccia, Al's Place and Saru. Master sushi chef Jiro Lin works his craft at Hamano. Firefly continues to thrive. Telmo Faria serves SF’s most innovative Portuguese food at Uma Casa on Church St. We have a great bakery. Just for Fun is a local treasure. Noe Valley Cheese Co is better than ever after 33 years. We have gorgeous local murals. We have a Town Square with fun gatherings and an awesome Farmer's Market. And beautiful houses and street scenes. Even the fairies are happy here.

And there's more! Omnivore is amazing – we have world-class chefs visiting our hamlet to talk about their books and share food! There's an oyster bar and fish market called Bellingsford slated to open sometime in 2020 (fingers crossed). And we have treasures like the amazing story of the custom shoe shop on Church (spoiler: it involves the Holocaust and Mother Theresa). We also have one of the most beautiful (and Instagrammed) flower shops in San Francisco. Even our library entrance is lovely. And the sunsets and views! How lucky are we?!

So on that high note, it’s a wrap for 2019. We made it. Happy New Year, Noe Valley! Here's to a safe, fun and prosperous 2020.

This blog turned 11 this year - time flies! Thanks for reading both here and on Twitter @NoeValleySF.

Yearning for simpler times? Here were the top stories of 201820172016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.

[Photos: Golden skies via gustojr, SkinSpirit via Haute Living, Whole Foods via Direct Action Everywhere/SFGate, assault video via NBC Bay Area, Mahia via Azalina Malaysian, beautiful doorway via oldsoulhouses, fire sky via joannepruess, beautiful fog via ninadietzel


Anonymous said...

Many thanks to the editor(s) of the Noe Valley blog. I always look forward to new posts -- great way to keep abreast of goings-on in the 'hood. Happy New Year to all!

Anonymous said...

I second the earlier comment! Thank you for taking the time to pull together and post all of this content about Noe. It's much appreciated!!