Noe Valley Pioneers Community Building with D.I.Y. Park

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The parking lot at 24th and Sanchez Streets that will be transformed into an open space for Noe Valley residents.

       The Noe Valley Town Square project has ignited hope among neighborhood leaders, residents and business that it will re-establish something lost: community. With support from major figures like the San Francisco Parks Alliance and Scott Wiener, the town square will finally provide Noe Valley with a public gathering space.

     The approximately 9,000 square-foot parking lot is now officially a park. However, it is still far from becoming a town square. Todd David, a local education activist, a non-profit organization founder and the co-founder of the Residents for Noe Valley Town Square, and his team of committed neighborhood leaders have successfully raised  half a million dollars, all on their own.

       The 24th Street parking lot on 24th is one of the few open spaces among “condos over retail,” or residential condominiums over commercial retail spaces, establishments between Sanchez and Vicksburg streets. Local supporters believe the space has much in store for the future, but only if  the remaining funds are raised.

Grassroots Fundraising

  To turn the lot into a park he Residents for Noe Valley Town Square board would have to convince the City that the land should be purchased and turned into a public space. The estimated cost would be $5 million.

        Luckily, David met with Meredith Thomas, the former executive director of the Neighborhood Parks Council (now SFPA), who would introduce the Open Space Acquisition Fund.

The fund is a voter-approved initiative that accumulates a small percentage of money for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. From this fund, another small percentage is set aside for acquisitions. The Open Space Acquisition fund hadn’t been used in ten years.

        “Lots of people don’t know about it,” said Thomas who introduced the fund and helped facilitate the first few community meetings. “But now they do because of the Noe Valley Town Square.”

        After six months of discussing how they would access the fund, convince the City to purchase the land and raise a few million dollars, David was done sitting around.

        “The only thing I know how to do is grassroots fundraising. So I set up a table every Saturday,” said David.

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The parking lot that hosts the weekly Saturday farmer’s market and where David started fundraising.

        In May 2012, David began taking pledges at the farmer’s market. He would gather almost $600,000 in pledges. $330,000 of those pledges have been collected today.

“I said, if we show broad neighborhood support for this project, I think we’ll get the attention of the politicians,” said David.

He was right and they did. With the support of neighbors, NPC and District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, on June 4, 2013, the Board of Supervisors voted to purchase the parking lot.

       Even with the success, more money had to be raised. The RNVTS  fundraised about $550,000 to date and just turned in a state grant for $725,000 which David says looks very promising.

        “The groundbreaking will all be determined by the timing of the state grant,” said David. “The project was to get the property off the market and we got it bought,” said David.

Folklore Past

         Before being a parking lot, the 24th Street space spent decades as a gas station. According to David, the story goes that a mysterious Marin County investment group purchased the land and donated half of it to the Noe Valley Ministry, which is located right around the corner. The Presbyterian turned it into the parking lot that remains today.

           In 2008, David was contacted by Bill Jackson, a representative of the Noe Valley Ministry, and Chris Keene, a local entrepreneur who were interested in the idea of turning the lot into a park.

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        When Jackson and Keene approached David, he had been a resident of Noe Valley for about 10 years and had a strong interest in the land.

         David says the three men agreed that the best use of the land would be to give it back to the people. The idea quickly developed support amongst neighbors. In order to make it happen, the men got the City’s attention and convinced them to purchase and build on the land.

Imagining the Future

         Many ideas for the space are currently under discussion. Ideas include fitness boot camps, tai chi classes, movie nights, festivals and possibly hosting food trucks.

        “We’re only limited by our imagination and ability to bring these things together,” said Nisha Pillai, a RNVTS board member who focuses on marketing the project.

The working design concept for the future Noe Valley Town Square designed by Chris Guillard of CMG Landscape Architecture

The working design concept for the future Noe Valley Town Square designed by Chris Guillard of CMG Landscape Architecture / Photo Courtesy of Chris Guillard

        The decade-old Noe Valley Farmer’s Market will also continue. Leslie Crawford, the co-founder of the Noe Valley’s Farmer’s Market and board member of RNVTS, is excited for the potential growth of the market.

        “If the property were sold elsewhere, the farmer’s market would have to relocate,” said Crawford. “Now it can stay. And having a permanent place means we can commit more.”

        Besides the physical additions, such as more events and permanent playgrounds for children, the future development will provide the neighborhood with it’s own gathering place.

DIY Park Trail Blazers

        David is excited to see the town square bring everyone of all ages together. “Where else in the neighborhood do you get all ages, toddlers, teenagers, parents and the elderly can hang out together?” asked David.

        Crawford thinks it’ll help bring families out into the community. “People [with children] feel quite isolated in fact, for different reasons.” She believes that the idea of a town square will organically produce a strong community bond.

        “Half the people who come to the farmer’s market are people with kids,” said Crawford. In a city where 19.3 percent of households have children, Noe Valley is a good representation of them. Specifically, 14.2 percent of  Noe Valley households have children.

        Crawford believes that communities that have open spaces are more likely to have a stronger community connection. “[Open spaces] solidifies community,” said Crawford.

        Other neighborhoods are quickly taking notice of how people have worked together to create something that belongs to their community.

        Neighborhoods like the Excelsior and the Indian Basin are working towards locating an open space to turn into a space for their community.

A Model for Other Neighborhoods

          The idea of a neighborhood independently producing a public space for its community is quite unique. The NVTS project could become a model for neighborhoods lacking public spaces.

        “I hope we’re a good model for other neighborhoods, ideally set a precedence,” said Crawford.

        David expects fundraising to continue into the new year, but hopes to see construction completed next year. Depending on the outcome of the state grant and continued neighborhood support, the NVTS will become more of a reality within the near future.

       Crawford points out that other neighborhoods and residents are becoming aware of the need for safe gathering places.

        “I think [parks are] an amenity every San Franciscan deserves, but it’s up to neighbors to work together,” said Thomas.

Board of Supervisors Applaud Buck Delventhal

Supervisors Wiener and Campos pose with Buck Delventhal whom they honored for over 40 years of service and leadership.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors honored the man who advised city leaders through Harvey Milk’s succession to marriage equality this Tuesday by declaring October 23, 2013 as “Buck Delventhal Day.”

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced Government Team Chief Attorney Burk E. “Buck” Delventhal, 70, who has been advising members of the City Attorney’s office since 1970, during the usual Recognition of Commendations. However, Delventhal’s recognition brought numerous board members to the mic to thank him for his outstanding duty.

President David Chiu thanked Delventhal on behalf of the entire staff and wanted to recognize Delventhal for his recent receipt of two honorable legal awards.

“You’ve helped us deal with legal matters and trained entire generations of public advocates in the country,” said Chiu. “You’re truly a lawyer’s lawyer.”

Delventhal, who has served the city since George Moscone was in office, has received two prestigious legal awards. The International Municipal Lawyer’s Association honored him with the Charles S. Rhyne Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest award given to attorneys by the IMLA, and the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year Award, which recognizes a public law practitioner with an honorable reputation and high ethical standards.

“He’s seen it all,” said Wiener. “He remains calm and gives great advice.”

While Wiener introduced Delventhal’s extensive history with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, he also reminisced about how Delventhal contributed to his career.

“He has a complete encyclopedia knowledge of municipal code,” said Wiener. “When I didn’t want to do research and be lazy, I’d call Buck. I stopped double-checking the facts because he was right 100 percent of the time.”

Supervisors John Avalos and David Campos also moved forward to speak and thank Delventhal for his contribution to the City’s municipal law.

“It’s really hard to imagine the city attorney’s office without Buck,” said Supervisor Campos.

President David Chiu even joked, “I was thinking of amending Supervisor Wiener’s resolution to request that the city attorney’s office photocopy your brain.”

According to Wiener, Delventhal has provided counsel for numerous lawyers and has argued before the California Supreme Court, California Courts of Appeal, and the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, making him the most sought after counsel throughout the state.

“Buck, you’re such a treasure, not only for the city attorney’s office, but for the city of San Francisco,” said Wiener.

Delventhal stood at the podium throughout the recognition glowing and couldn’t help but smile proudly.

“I’d like to thank you all for allowing me to sponsor this community and all this board for the challenging work you’ve sent my way,” said Delventhal.

Delventhal mentioned the joys of his early days like bringing Dianne Feinstein into office and fighting for marriage equality for all California residents.

“Every minute that I’ve been in this building, we all know that if one person is going to know the answers, it will be you,” said Chiu. “You have answered so many of your questions and you have helped us deal with many legal conundrums.”

Though Delventhal was being recognized, he went on to thank the Board of Supervisors and the City for their support.

“I’ve loved this city since a child,” said Delventhal. “My grandparents and great, great grandparents were here. I was so excited about getting the job, I didn’t ask about the salary. And 43 years later, I’m happy to come to work.”


Gary Kamiya on San Francisco and Writing Well


Gary Kamiya, a taxi-driver turned writer and romantic, visited class last week to discuss his celebrated book, Cold Gray City of Love. His love-letter to San Francisco takes form in 49 chapters, each exploring a different and often forgotten street corner, neighborhood and nook of the city.

Kamiya discussed  the choices he made in piecing his stories together while keeping the reader engaged throughout the chapters. He also advised us on how to strengthen our writing to highlight our neighborhood and how to enjoy the process.

The Berkeley native finds fulfillment in San Francisco’s history, achievements and faults. His book became the medium through which he expressed his fascinations.

“This was home. This was a passion. This was something I know about and wanted to know more about,” said Kamiya.

The majority of stories included among the 49 delve deep past the surface of San Francisco as most of us know it. Kamiya uncovers entire histories, including archaeology and anthropology.

Kamiya admits that book could have easily reached 600 pages. However he needed to remember to strike a balance between quality and quantity. He also had to keep the reader engaged.

I was greatly interested in how he decided to put his stories together in an interesting way that kept the reader motivated. I wanted to know how he decided the order and what he wanted the reader to feel with the shift, for example the first two chapters which are complete opposites.


The author wondered what would be “the most striking, interesting sides of the city.”

“I wanted to open with the Farallons because this book is so much about the city’s terrain. Because that represented the essence or nature of San Francisco as a wild place. I opened with the unexpected,” said Kamiya. “The second chapter is the Tenderloin. I wanted to have an extreme juxtaposition.”

During the editing process of Kamiya’s manuscript, he said he started to write an eccentric history and needed to return to the original writing plan.

“I intuitively shielded away from bringing myself into the book,” said Kamiya. When that didn’t work, Kamiya decided to write himself into the book and it was revealed how writing more personally made the stories successful.

Concerning our final pieces, Kamiya gave us advice on how to engage the reader and what to include or leave out.

“Write more personally,” said Kamiya. “Take the reporter’s hat off a little.”

After listening to Kamiya’s story and advice, I have a stronger sense of where I’d like my final piece to go. I was inspired by his use of chapters, which I think will translate well to the story of the Noe Valley Town Square project since it has happened over a longer period of time. His use of organization also makes me think that organizing topics will make it much easier for readers to digest contrasting topics.

As for descriptive writing, Kamiya is a master of showing, not telling. This is something I’ll also be working on. Since it will be a news story, writing in a very personal way isn’t acceptable. However I’m going to try to use more of my experiences and observations to paint a better picture of scenes or people for my readers.

Todd David Only Asks for the Best

Todd David is sort of a hero. He’s the community activist demanding better lives for families and children. He’s also the guy around the neighborhood people wave at and show their baby photos to.

David,  44, a New Jersey native has his plate full. He is the co-founder of the San Francisco Parent Political Action Committee, the founder of the non-profit edMatch and the president of the Residents for Noe Valley Town Square, not to mention a father of two.

The Wall Street worker of a previous life has switched gears towards bettering all-things education.

It all started when he sent his kids to the local public school. While being a part of the Alvarado PTA, David got the urge to understand why some schools had less resources than others and saw a future in improving San Francisco public schools.

“I had to understand why,” said David. With San Francisco being more like a big town, David believed he could easily make a change. “I’m actually one person removed from a decision-maker. [In San Francisco] you can see the results of the work that you do.”

In his efforts to make changes, David took on the responsibility to make sure the right people were put in charge. Through SF Parent PAC and edMatch, David “[Supports] policy to help make San Francisco more family friendly.”

He also made it a point to meet with each person running for the District 8 Supervisor position in 2012. “If youre asking for my vote, then youre gonna come sit at my house for two hours and I’m going to grill you on education,” said David. “And the funny part is they did.”

David who has remained focused on improving public school policy in San Francisco has now become one of the leading figures in transforming a Noe Valley parking lot into the neighborhood’s own town square.

David thought transforming the lot into a public space just needed some attention.

“I think if we show broad neighborhood support for this, we’ll get the politicians attention,” said David. “So I set up a table every Saturday.”

Through his grassroots fundraising techniques, David quickly gathered $600,000 in pledges. As of today, David, with the help of other community members Bill Jackson and Chris Keene, has raised $550,00 in actual donations.

David has been supporting the transformation of the lot because he simply believes every neighborhood needs a gathering place. He believes such a place will create community.

“[The town square] is going to be a great gathering place. Where in Noe Valley do toddlers, teenagers, parents, the elderly, have a place to hang out together?” said David.

The importance of community emanates from David’s passion. He has been in the game of supporting his community for some time now and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, David only speaks with excitement. The issues he tackles, now and in the past, can seem quite daunting to an outsider, but David approaches them fearlessly.

Board of Supervisors Meeting Review

photo 1 (2)San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed legislation this month requiring employers to consider their workers’ requests for flexible work hours to support those who work and take care of children.

President David Chiu’s legislation will allow busy parents to balance work and family time. In 2011, 36 percent of Noe Valley households are families with children, about 4.5 percent above the number of San Francisco households with children. In a neighborhood with high numbers of children, working parents will have more support from the City.

Though the legislation received opposition from some businesses, they hope it will both benefit employers as much as it benefits working parents.

Chiu presented how other countries, such as Australia, have adopted the measure and have seen an increase in productivity. Chiu hopes this legislation will take steps towards changing the workplace culture and promote more positivity for parents who need to have flexible work hours.

“This is an excellent first step towards supporting working parents,” said Supervisor Eric Mar.

Noe Valley’s district supervisors Scott Wiener is also co-sponsoring one of Supervisor David Campos’ request for analysts to create an economic impact report on San Francisco’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender festivals and events.

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The report would analyze the impact of events including PRIDE, Trans March, Dyke March, Dorey Alley Street Fair, Castro Street Fair and Pink Friday.

Wiener, who actively participates in issues surround San Francisco’s LGBT community, later said in an email that, “We need increased city support for our community’s events. Showing the economic impact of the events will help us make a stronger case.”

Wiener also proposed the “Regulating the Width of Sidewalks” ordinance which passed with an unanimous vote. The ordinance will eliminate the official sidewalk width on a portion of Elk Street, between Chenery and Sussex Street to make way for the renovation of Glen Canyon Park.

A Special Tax Financing Law that Wiener sponsored with the Mayor and Supervisor Katy Tang also unanimously passed. The ordinance will authorize financing by special tax districts of work deemed necessary to bring commercial and private properties into compliance with seismic safety standards or regulations.

Jewish preschool has nine months to prove safety comes first

A Jewish preschool in Noe Valley is working to prove it’s not a safety hazard after neighbors appealed it’s proposed expansion.

Gan Noe Valley, one of the only Jewish preschools in central San Francisco, has nine months to demonstrate that an expansion won’t compromise safety and to meet requirements of a conditional use permit. If they fail to do so, the preschool will not be allowed to double its enrollment numbers in order to  reach more kids.

In July 2013, preschool owners Rabbi Gedalia Potash and Leah Potash began their attempt to double enrollment numbers from 22 to 42 students. A month later residents of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Street received a notice from the City about the plan.

“[Rabbi Potash] didn’t reach out to any of the neighbors about his plan,” said Rich Rochman, the neighbor who initiated the appeal on August 19, 2013. “It was extraordinarily surprising.”

The neighbors successfully appealed the expansion leading to the implementation of the nine-month conditional use permit. They are concerned about the additional congestion that will be a result of more parents dropping off children in unmarked loading zones, possibly leading to an unsafe environment for students.

“Should Jewish children be entitled to less safety? We say no,” argued Rochman. ” Every child is entitled to a safe environment.”

The group of neighbors, led by Rochman, submitted documents supporting the appeal which states that “the 3700 block of Cesar Chavez Street is already unusually dangerous” due to the heavy flow of traffic. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Association reported that this block of Cesar Chavez Street has nineteen times as many traffic collisions than other blocks where child-care facilities are permitted. The block also expects more traffic when the City stripes new bike lanes by 2014.

However, some parents view the appeal as an excuse to combat the inconvenience on traffic.

Gan Noe supporter, Peter Altman, a Dolores Street resident, and his partner sent their 4-year-old son to the Potash’s preschool previously located in the Richmond District. Altman thinks this situation represents how San Francisco is not a child-friendly city and isn’t doing enough to be more accommodating.

“A lot of people don’t have kids and the neighbors don’t understand,” said Altman. There has got to be room for families with kids in San Francisco.”

“Each side has their own view of what is going on,” said Bill Sommer, a neighbor of the preschool who lives adjacent to the property and is in favor of Rochman’s appeal.  “And they’re both slanted. From the parents point of view, they want their day-care.”

Altman believes the preschool provides an ideal environment for not only Jewish children, but children from other religious or non-religious backgrounds.

“[The preschool] has crossed cultural boundaries,” said Altman. “It’s really an exceptional resource.”

“Gan Noe has truly helped us build a sense of community,” said Stephanie Kurek, whose daughter has participated in Gan Noe classes. “It is a wonderful resource, especially when most of organized Judaism is not on this side of town.”

Though supporters of Gan Noe’s expansion seem to think the appeal is questioning the necessity of the preschool, those supporting the appeal sympathize with the needs of the Jewish community.

“I sat through hours of their testimonies in front of the Planning Commission,” said Sommer. “I agree with everything they have to say. I understand it.”

“The appeal never challenged Gan Noe to exist as it does now. We never questioned their ability to exist,” said Rochman.

If no pattern of violations, such as safety issues or safety-related incidents occur, the expansion of the school may be permitted in June 2014.

“If they behave well they can expand to 42 children,” said Rochman. “They needed to walk before they can run.”

Rabbi Potash and Mrs. Potash declined several requests for comment on the situation as they said in an email that they are currently “focusing [their] time and energy on moving forward.”

Profile: District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener (CC Image courtesy of NtugiGroup on Flickr)

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener (CC Image courtesy of NtugiGroup on Flickr)

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener has been called all sorts of names. A prude, a political machine and a giant. Ringing in at 6-foot, 7-inches, Wiener is not easy to miss. He’s immediately noticeable during City Council meetings, even when he’s sitting down.

The 42-year-old New Jersey native has managed to quickly make his way into headlines of San Francisco newspapers and has captured the attention of the city. Wiener was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2010 and has already brought about a few changes.

Wiener represents the Castro, Eureka Valley, Upper Market, Noe Valley, Duboce Triangle, Diamond Heights, Glen Park, Corona Heights, Buena Vista, Twin Peaks, Mission-Dolores, and some of the Inner Mission. Wiener is overseeing a lot of land, people and the issues concerning them meaning he is literally, physically, all over the city. The issues he address are also on all parts of the spectrum.

Only in this past year Wiener has tackled hard questions. Regardless of his seemingly shy demeanor, Wiener didn’t stay quiet when he addressed Russia’s anti-LGBT legislation to the humane treatment of animals in shelters, MUNI and public nudity being the more sensitive items on his agenda.

Wiener has mastered the balancing act. Sure, he might leave some upset or in disagreement but he’s working towards more of an open communication between himself and the people.

Noe Valley in particular is a politically active neighborhood that consistently has numerous groups asking for public engagement along 24th Street. The residents are now wealthier, younger and more tech-savvy. Surprisingly, Wiener has found a specific way to successfully connect with them.

“I do think that he’s really smart to get involved [with] the community on social media.  This is certainly the right crowd for that approach. I was really impressed to see that he was on and actively engaging in conversations,” said Sara Strickler, 26, a 24th Street resident.

On the popular issue of MUNI, Joe Ricioppo, 31, another 24th Street resident said, “I think improving MUNI is a noble cause, and probably something safe to focus on.”

Though Wiener has created dialogue, the issue of public nudity in San Francisco has drawn the line for some.

“This is probably the one thing that really colors my opinion of Wiener. I totally support it,” said Strickler who shares a common opinion with others in such an open and embracing city.

“Naked people don’t hurt me, or really affect my life experience in any way, so I have no issue with it, and am proud to live in a city that’s so quirky and comfortable in its skin,” added Strickler.

This single issue, which aims to change a deeply-rooted tradition of not only the Castro but of San Francisco seems to be focus point from where citizens are drawing their opinion of Wiener. People have become slightly defensive which could be the reasoning behind Wiener’s label as being a goody-goody.

“Also, his name is Wiener. How can you oppose naked people when your name is Wiener?” said Ricioppo.

The Coolest Garage in Town

Liz Winsor’s shop in a garage is a vintage haven and a thrifter’s wonderland

Liz Winsor, owner of Decor Galore on the corner of Sanchez Street and 24th Street

Liz Winsor, owner of Decor Galore on the corner of Sanchez Street and 24th Street

Liz Winsor opened Decor Galore to enter the trade of finding and selling vintage items, not convincing people that her business is not a garage sale. Upon first glance the space could look like a sidewalk sale or a space where a tenant from upstairs is trying to make a few bucks.

“Lots of people assume that I live here. And I don’t,” said Winsor, 54, a San Francisco resident and the woman behind the business. The boutique in a garage has sparked some confusion among customers. “This is a commercial space. I’m in the same building as Pressed Juicery,” clarified Winsor.

Located on the corner of where Sanchez Street meets 24th Street is one of the only shops in San Francisco that is housed in a garage. The space belongs to the lower level of a commercial building that could easily be mistaken for an apartment complex. The bay windows and arched entryway may contribute to this mistaken identity.

Winsor has transformed the space. Once bare walls are now covered with antique mirrors and wall decorations and the tables are lined with numerous vintage items from books to brooches. The shop’s set up is entirely intentional, unlike a randomly thrown together garage sale.


Everything from new and vintage clothing to posters cover the walls of Decor Galore.

Richard De Pointe, 46, a Noe Valley resident of 18 years and friend of Winsor was there at the beginning. “It didn’t look like a boutique at all. There was no organization,” said De Pointe.

Winsor opened Decor Galore, previously known as The Garage Store, in 2007. “It’s been shops for 30 years, probably more than that,” said Winsor. “It was an antique shop, cigar shop, a computer repair store and a mystery bookstore.” Now decades later, Decor Galore celebrated its fourth anniversary this month on September 16.

Though Winsor happily celebrated another year in the neighborhood, she admits running her business has its moments. “There’s a lot of challenges because I’m in a garage,” said Winsor.

Winsor explained how it’s difficult to physically maintain the space and to maintain its image. Customers often think of the shop as a garage sale and not as a commercial retail store. This has sometimes lead them to think that haggling for prices is acceptable. Winsor also makes it a priority to price items reasonably while balancing her profit margin.


Winsor’s Decor Galore offers a variety of vintage home decor and accents.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Winsor, “but I do love it.” Not only does her small shop give her a sense of fulfillment, but her customers keep her happy. Winsor’s focus on customer service shows when people come back whether it be to see what’s new or just to say “hi.”

“About fifty-percent of my customers are regulars,” said Winsor. “I’ve gotten really positive feedback. It’s a sweet neighborhood.”

Being the force behind this one-woman operation, Winsor can’t always leave work at work. When she’s buying for her store she keeps her customers in mind. “I always shop for my customers and keep track of what they’re looking for,” said Winsor.

Winsor also makes an effort to buy what she likes. “Now I’ve made the store my store and buy things I like to sell, rather than what I had to sell before,’ said Winsor. Her customers seem to respond well to her choices. “People really enjoy her taste,” said De Pointe.

Winsor is constantly making changes to her store, whether it be the merchandise or the displays. She independently runs her shop with hopes to consistently please her customers. “I’m it. Everything here I’ve done. It’s all me,” said Winsor.


Winsor adorns the outside of her shop with eye-catching staples and deals.

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Bernie’s: The Place to Be


There’s always that one place where people go to connect with others, be productive, have fun or simply, just to be. For residents and visitors of Noe Valley, that “third place” is Bernie’s. The small coffee shop with no more than seven tables is tucked into the first floor of a beautiful three-story Victorian. It takes the “warm and homey” feel to a literal level.

The walls are tastefully decorated with black and white photos, but the wall of comical children’s drawings add the perfect touch. The coffee menu has all of the basics with a few seasonal items and just enough food options to crave an unexpected appetite. Free Wi-Fi is provided for all customers, which is as good as gold.

Bernie’s is heaven for the cafe campers of Noe Valley.


Bernadette Melvin, or Bernie for short, is the woman who provides for the neighborhood’s families, passers-by and coffee fiends. It seems that none would disagree with the fact that Bernie is a friend that you can depend on. Granted that she’s not running between her Noe Valley location that opened in 2007 and her newest downtown location that just opened its doors this past February, she will happily stop to chat.  Dedan Hyatt, who just started working at Bernie’s last week said, “She’s definitely the anchor of the place.”

Isabel Pedraja has been a frequent Noe Valley visitor since 2004. During the last three years she has spent working on the block, she has stopped in for a coffee or a chat almost daily. Pedraja pointed out that Bernie’s “sure has a lot of competition,” with Philz Coffee, Starbucks and Martha & Bros. Coffee Co. residing on the same street, “but Bernie has a great way of making you feel special, and she does a good job of instilling that skill in her staff.”

Hyatt said that people probably keep coming back because it’s “a comfortable place to be.”IMG_0404

Bernie’s coffee shop has come to represent more than just good, local coffee, but has grown to be a Noe Valley staple. The neighborhood just wouldn’t be the same without it. Though it is essentially a business, the coffee shop can be seen as one unofficial community center. Its visitors gather here for meetings, to catch up with friends or just to relax.

Besides providing local coffee and food that won’t break the bank, Bernie’s provides its customers with real human interactions that isn’t easily found in the busy lives of the average San Franciscan.

“[Bernie’s] makes me feel warm inside. It’s kind of cheesy but true,” said Pedraja.

Hey there, Noe Valley!

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If you live in San Francisco, you’ve probably heard someone’s two-cents about Noe Valley. From the things I’ve heard, a lot of them may be true but only seem to brush the surface. Yes, Noe Valley seems to be part of a perfectly-cut, bunch of cookies. The streets are well maintained, youthful parents enjoy brunch with their children and everyone appears to be happy. In comparison to other neighborhoods, it’s on the verge of feeling Stepford Wives-ish.

Noe Valley is quite obviously an affluent neighborhood. Beautifully designed apartments line the strip of Noe Street as far as you can see in both directions. Buzzing coffee shops are full of patrons working away on their MacBook Airs while beautiful young couples load their Whole Foods groceries into their Fiats. During early afternoons, the streets become quiet as everyone is away at work, probably at their tech job. Mostly dog walkers and nannies are scattered throughout the blocks.

Though Noe Valley seems to be a quiet little neighborhood with not much happening, the sense of a strong community definitely exists. I could literally feel it. Sure, the streets can be empty with a few coming and going but there is much more than meets the eye.

It was hard to ignore my initial assumption that this San Francisco neighborhood might be, well, bland. However, when the people I met entered the picture, excitement filled that dull void. I talked to longtime business owners, new residents and people who just like hanging out in Noe Valley. They all seemed to share a common enthusiasm.

Of the people I talked to, several have lived or owned a business in Noe for over a decade. These people had a long history with the neighborhood and unique understanding of it. They have seen all the changes, good and bad, and continue to love the community that supported them for so long. They also all know each other. After mentioning my intent to report on the happenings of their neighborhood, most immediately suggested other people I should talk to.

To an outsider, Noe Valley may appear to be pretty predictable, normal and maybe even lacking diversity. This is the opposite of the reality. During the last few days I’ve spent in the neighborhood, my curiosity has grown and I’m looking forward to sharing the experiences of its community.