Nestled bellow Twin Peaks, the neighborhood of Noe Valley is a small but lively community. It is home to many young families, tech workers, and local business owners and employees. The main drag, 24th street, is lined with trees, shops, cafes, and restaurants, as well a recently build town square.
Noe Valley is one of the oldest neighborhoods in San Francisco. The area was once known as Horner’s Addition, founded by Jose Noe who lived where Valencia and 24th street are now. The first people to move to the neighborhood were the Irish, and the area is still predominately populated by those of Irish decent. By the 1880s, nearly one quarter of San Francisco’s population was Irish. Noe Valley and Eureka Valley housed most of that population.
The area is cute and classic, mostly residential, featuring Victorian and Edwardian architecture similar to many other homes in San Francisco. Noe Valley does not have much of a night life, what with the population being mostly young families, which is why it has been dubbed “stroller city”. In fact, outside Charlie’s Corner Bookstore is official stroller parking roped off from the rest of the sidewalk.
Jeff Gomez has worked as a manager and graphic designer at Charlie’s Corner Bookstore for almost 3 years. “I love it. It’s a great neighborhood. Very friendly. Everybody gets to know each other very soon. It’s a very nice place” As a children’s bookstore, Charlie’s hosts four story times a day, bringing in many families to gather, socialize, and read children’s books. They also host children’s books author events once or twice a month for all ages.
On the popular Castro street, Cyd Harlow works at Mapamundi Kids, one of the areas many baby stores. “I really like [the community] it’s good for this particular business because there’s so many kids in the neighborhood.” said Harlow, referring to how many families live in the valley. “It’s where families and moms go to get things that they need. People come over from Diamond Heights; they’ll drive into Noe Valley because it has everything.”
Like most areas in San Francisco, Noe Valley has gone through many changes. Especially in the last five years, the change has seemed to accelerate. According to a poll done by Progress Noe Valley, many of the locals enjoy the newer businesses that have come to the valley.
However, there are always conflicting opinions.
“The changes has a little bit affected the business[sic], but not only that.” Paola Haines is from Italy but has been working and living in Noe Valley for the past 20 years. She has noticed a lot of change in that time, especially as long-term residents leave and tech people flood in. “You know, someone that lives here[sic], to me it also affects the neighborhood, because now some people who live here they leave in the morning and they come back at night.”
“I witnessed a lot of changes over the last 10 years.” said Inci Caner, who has worked in the neighborhood for the last decade at Rabat Boutique. “This neighborhood got a lot, I mean, a lot, of new people.” said Caner.
Locals continue to have a large stake in local business and try to support it the best they can. “There’s a real sense of ‘we’ve gotta keep these small businesses going’.” Said Aren Haun, a resident and employee at Folio Books on 24th street. “It’s a huge part of our business, the fact that people want us to be here.”
24th street is home to four landmark businesses of Noe Valley. The two coffee shops, Martha and Bros. and Bernie’s have been in the valley since 1987 and 2007 respectively.
Martha’s is considered a local institution, and now has four locations in the surrounding area. Bernie’s, on the other hand, is a more recent addition, but is as much a part of the community as Martha’s. Bernie’s is in the basement on an old Victorian and has a warm, home-like, atmosphere. Another landmark business is Rabat Boutique. Located on the corner of 24th and Noe street. Rabat has been in business for over 40 years.
Noe Valley also has some landmark buildings and murals. The Noe Valley Ministry has been open on Sanchez street since 1881, and has since become a center for neighborhood gatherings, religious practice and teachings, and outreach programs. There are also two popular murals in the heart of Noe Valley. They face each other in the new town square and feature a ribbon winding through vegetables and a birds-eye view of the neighborhood.
Many of the long-time residents don’t like the direction the neighborhood is going. They see new people coming in and not joining the community. As the rent gets higher and locals have to leave, that community is slowly disappearing.
Sources are from interviews conducted with 10 Noe Valley residents and employees.
Additional source material:
A short article on Curbed SF about the town square breaking ground found at https://sf.curbed.com/2016/1/6/10849102/new-noe-valley-town-square-officially-breaks-ground also the official town square website at https://noevalleytownsquare.com/
Found at an SF digital archive, a brief history of Noe Valley at http://www.foundsf.org/index.php?title=Noe_Valley_History
Also has information about housing costs and those changing that affect residents. https://www.progressnoe.com/welcome-changes/
Information from the official Rabat website found at http://rabatshoes.com/about-us/
Information found on the website of the murals’ designer and painter at https://monacaron.com/murals/noe-valley-murals