Around the Town...

Comings and Goings

How did it get to be September so quickly? It seems like the summer has just flown by, and here we are in the fall of 2009.

With 2010 on the horizon it is amazing to me to think that it’s been 40 years since Apollo 11 made the first moon landing with Neil Armstrong descending the ladder with “One small step for man…” on July 20, 1969. I was a teenager sitting in Baltimore watching on TV and never imagining that I would be living and working in San Francisco.

Oddly enough, a local store also opened in 1969. Located at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Fairfield Way, this small store, selling records, tapes and blue jeans was originally named, “Pants and Discs”, but the owners soon changed the name, and retail history was made when The Gap was launched.

The company became an important part in my life when I “fell into The Gap”, joining the company after college and eventually relocating to their SF offices. While there I met my future bride, and my one-year “trial period” at headquarters turned into a 13-year career. Although I left the company many years ago, I‘m grateful for the opportunity to move to San Francisco those many years ago, and work with many talented people. To Don and Doris Fisher – Happy 40th anniversary on founding the company. That small store on Ocean Avenue changed the world …and my life.

Speaking of time moving so rapidly, this is the 1-year anniversary of our becoming the publishers of the Westside Observer. We have learned volumes over the past 12 months and have been helped by so many supportive people. The other publishers within the SFNNA (San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association) have been terrific, as have the great writers, columnists and advertisers. Of course, Editor Doug Comstock, “Sales guru” Catha Hall, the guys at MarinSun Printing, and founding publisher Phyllis Sherman have all played an important part in my “rookie” year, as has Julie and her “Open Late” series of comics. I also want to thank you, the readers, for giving us an audience, for sharing your ideas and concerns, and really letting us know what you think. Your passion for San Francisco and the neighborhoods makes it fun and rewarding. Finally, a big “thank you” to my wife, Alice, the best Associate Editor and partner I could have.

Now…about the neighborhood:

The sights and sounds of Indian music filled the Western end of West Portal Avenue on Saturday, August 1 as the streets’ newest arrival, Clay Oven, celebrated their grand opening. Musicians delighted the crowd as they performed on the tabla and sitar. The crowd assembled on the sidewalk sampled some of the delicious food, and were treated to dancing as well. The Clay Oven has an extensive menu featuring entrees such as Punjabi Lamb Curry, Prawn Vindaloo, and many other dishes. If filled tables are any indication, the restaurant has gotten off to a rousing start as the crowds during the first several weeks have looked to be very strong. The restaurant is located at 385 West Portal Avenue in the location formerly occupied by Old Krakow.

While we were on the street we popped in next door to the Paradise Italian Restaurant, for a quick bite prior to seeing the newest Harry Potter film. Sal, the proprietor, convinced us that the pasta would be quick as we had a limited amount of time. My wife and I could only sum it up in one word, “magnifico!” We agreed that the house-made ravioli and fettuccine dishes we had for dinner were the best since we were in Rome several years ago.

For those of you that have sent e-mails asking about the Little Fish Boutique, they are planning to open later in September at their new address, 616 Irving Street on or about the 18th of September. Their telephone number will be the same, 415-681-7242. “Best of luck” to Tori in her new location.

The best golfers in the world (yes, Tiger will be there) will meet at Harding Park to vie for The President’s Cup, from October 8-11. It’s usually a sold out affair, so try to get your tickets early.

There’s some question if the annual Taraval Street Fair will be held this year. The permit fees and associated costs have skyrocketed. Stay tuned for more information.

You won’t find the West of Twin Peaks Central Council follow up in this issue, as they don’t meet in August. We’ll see everyone in the next issue.

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: Be sure to check out the Observer online @

September 2009

Do you know the way to San Jose…Or West Portal Avenue?

Apparently some people don’t. Ursula, owner of the White Rose Boutique on West Portal Ave. reports that several people have visited her store and asked her “How long have you been open?” and are amazed when she replies “Twenty Years.” She asks if they are in the neighborhood, and they acknowledge that they are.

West Portal Avenue is a great street, but can be hard to find for the “newbe,” or someone who hasn’t been there before. One end has the Muni tunnel, and the other an intersection that “may have been designed by Rube Goldberg” – who was famous for his convoluted mechanical solutions to simple problems.

Unfortunately, the avenue doesn’t get the “drive through” traffic that benefits the merchants. Once you find it, it’s a quaint street with great restaurants, interesting retailers, a few watering holes, and a lot of businesses with “spa” or “salon” in their name …and challenging parking.

I write this with sadness that two merchants have announced closures: Little Fish Boutique and Old Krakow Restaurant. The high cost of rent, and the downturn in the economy just proved to be too much in their current locations. I wish them well, and hope to see them possibly resurface in the future as they were great establishments.

The future of the small retailer/merchant is in the balance, as even the big guy’s are suffering (Circuit City / Good Guy’s, Comp USA / Mervyns, etc.). When you are looking to go out to dinner, have a facial, buy a bottle (or glass) of wine, get eyeglasses, a new stereo or TV, make travel plans, or buy a new top or outfit check out the customer oriented shops on the Avenue. The owners are local, they know their merchandise, and give great advice and customer service.

I attended a seminar last month about the state of things in California, entitled, “The Golden State is Tarnished—What can we do about it?” It centered around a panel discussion with several speakers trying to make sense of the terrible fiscal condition that our state is in. Much of the blame can be put on the passage of Prop 13 all those years ago, where tax relief was achieved but the results were far reaching and some of the (unknown) ramifications have helped to put the state in the current situation.

Some ideas can be found at the website of the group “California Forward.” The more I read about the problems and see inaction in Sacramento, maybe it’s time for the voters to move towards a constitutional convention to make some meaningful changes, (like not having the budget held hostage by a handful on “no new taxes” radicals in the Central Valley and Southern California). We also cannot continue to pass well-intended propositions without figuring out where the money is coming from to pay for them. We can’t continue to crave parks, highways, social services, and other amenities without looking at the earmarked funds within the government, and the lack of revenue that California is bringing in.

It’s important to fix (or dismantle) Sacramento, as money and services should be focused on the local cities and towns where we have a better local feel for governance. As it is today, “ol’ Sacto” will be siphoning off more of the local taxes to fund their insatiable demand for larger government.

Best Wishes…

A quick “Get Well Soon” to my niece, Lindsay Bull, who lives in Maryland. She is recovering from a tonsillectomy and we wish her a quick and speedy recovery. Use this column to hit your dad up for an ice cream to soothe that throat.

And a quick note of congratulations to Supervisor Sean Elsbernd and his wife on the birth of their first child. Best wishes to the family.

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: Be sure to check out the Observer online @

July/August 2009

Comings and Goings

As we move past the Memorial Day holidays, Spring is finally here and with that the end of the school year. This is the time of year to honor all of the soon to be graduates and wish them well, as they are our future.

What kind of future they will have to work with is the big question. The resounding defeat of the “Governator’s” fiscal ballot measures will probably mean dracionian cuts in both Sacramento and the cities and counties. It’s a tough balancing act to try and fund all of the programs that we want (and vote in by Proposition) without having a solid and stable plan on where the revenues are coming from. When times are flush, Californians are really good at spreading the wealth, with little regard to how this will work when times are not so good…welcome to today. It’s easy to blame the legislators, but any of us who continue to vote yes on every Proposition that sounds great without a clue to where the money is coming from share in the process. Several ideas have been forwarded from revising Prop 13, to going after corporate loopholes… I sincerely hope the group in Sacramento can hammer out some reasonable answers and work together as Californians…not just sticking to failed party ideologies.

Lots of merchants had tables and wares out for the “Show and Shop” street fair on West Portal Avenue on May 16th. It was a great chance to see the variety of goods and services that our shops and service providers have to offer. From Optometry, to Games, to Spa services, to Banking, many merchants participated. I was kind of disappointed that the banking table wasn’t handing out free samples…

Speaking of free…the winner of our “Great Westside Observer Survey” is John Zinn of 21st Ave. We will be sending John 2 movie tickets for participating in our survey. A big “THANK YOU” to everyone who sent in their comments and ideas, some of which we have already tried to incorporate into the paper.

Bart and Judy Lewis have announced a new series of “Social Ballroom Dance Classes for Couples.” From the Cha Cha Cha to the Waltz they will be teaching classes on Thursday evenings at the Forest Hill Christian Church, Fellowship Hall. The location is 250 Laguna Honda Blvd., and classes begin on June 25, for 6 weeks. The 6 one-hour lessons will be $70 per couple. To make reservations call 661-2746.

Are you 60 plus? If so you are wanted on the campus of SF State. “Sixty Plus” of SFSU welcomes anyone with a lively mind who is 60 years of age or older to join in a variety of activities at this lifelong learning organization. The annual membership fee is $75, but interested people are encouraged to go to a meeting and “try it out” before the next year starts in September. For information, contact Eileen Ward in the Sixty Plus office at SFSU, 1600 Holloway Ave. HSS 242, or e-mail

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: Be sure to check out the Observer online @

June 2009

Comings and Goings West of Twin Peaks


Around the Town

Friday Night Lights - If you haven’t already visited the new deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park make the trip. The museum sponsors great events on Friday evenings, opening their galleries, showcasing music and dance and other activities. Alice and I visited the current “Warhol Live” exhibition, listened to some World music, dined in their café, went to the top of the observatory tower (great views) and watched the movie “Factory Girl,” a tragic biopic of 1960s Warhol-promoted “superstar” Edie Sedgwick. The museum is terrific, and the very modern architecture is stimulating and thought provoking. San Franciscan’s should be very proud.

Also make time for the California Academy of Sciences, located just across the drive from the deYoung. The building is also of a breathtaking design and the exhibits should thrill young and old alike. They are offering free admission on special nights, arranged by zip code. Check out their ad on the back page of the Observer.

Congratulations to Sanford Johnson and Kimberly Lesher, owners of Sunset Pet Supply on Taraval Street. They have opened a second location, “Sunset Pet Supply – Ocean Beach” at 3809 Noriega Street (at 45th Ave.). What’s Next – Sunset Pet Supply – OC? We wish them the best of luck on their new venture. They are good people who really give back to the community.

Restaurant Cheers and Tears Dept: We recently dined at Villa d’Este for Easter brunch. Owner /Chef Ramon Oropeza and his staff turn out an amazing variety of choices at very reasonable prices. In an era where portions are shrinking and ingredients are compromised, the Villa still offers “complete” dinners that include antipasto, soup, salad, pasta, coffee and ice cream for between 17.50 and 25 dollars. “A la carte” selections are $4 less and still include a choice of soup or salad. To top it off, the restaurant features live music on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Sadly, we have to report that two of our favorites, the Granada Café, and Julius’ Castle have closed for the time being, with the Granada being a victim of an early morning fire. It’s been reported on the blog, “Eater SF” that the operators of Julius’ Castle are in a nasty dispute with their landlord. We hope they both will reopen soon, as they represent real “old school” San Francisco. Another favorite, Alfred’s, is featured in our Business Corner this month.

This is the last week to check out the SFSU museum exhibit, “Caravan across Persia: An Architectural Tour of Iran,” as it ends May 8th. Rare 1930s photographs and ancient and medieval ceramics are featured. Located in the University Museum in the Humanities Building 510, the exhibit is open from 11 to 4 on Monday through Friday. Admission is free.

The Commodore Sloat School is preparing for a Silent Auction Fundraiser for their annual “Rainbow-A-Fair,” to be held on May 9th we hear it’s a “one of a kind event.” The school is located at 50 Darien Way.

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: Be sure to check out the Observer online

May 2009

Around the TownPhoto of previous Essence Oil seminar

Some friends and I recently had the pleasure of attending the 6th annual Tim Baptista Memorial Crab Cioppino dinner at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep HS. Over 340 people were in attendance for the dinner and the silent auction. The food was terrific as ever, and there were lots of good prizes in the silent auction with the proceeds for the evening going to support the programs at the school. Tim’s family also sponsors a golf tournament in the summer. It’s also a fun event, and it seems like half of San Francisco is there. For more information on these events, visit the website:

A new “Private Spa” has opened on West Portal, and some of you may be familiar with the proprietor…Leslie Villarreal has returned to the Avenue, opening Relaxologie, at 262 West Portal Ave. You may remember her from when she ran Relax Now, from 1998 to 2004. She features her own line of skin care products, Relax Now Skin Care, and handles all of the spa services personally. Take the time to pamper yourself and make a date with Leslie. All appointments are “by appointment only.” To experience this “private world” you can ring her at 415.999.8720.

I was at the WOTPCC meeting on Tuesday, and was surprised to see Rae Doyle, with her arm in a sling. It seems that she recently had shoulder surgery and is on the mend. We wish her a speedy recovery.

Observer columnist Sharon Caren conducted a workshop last month focusing on the many beneficial ways to use essential oils in your life (see the photo above). The workshop, held at the Curves-Twin Peaks on Portola Drive, was a great way to learn about and test some of the oils. The peppermint oil is amazing, just one drop in a bottle of water creates a tasty and invigorating drink. For those who missed the presentation, she will be hosting an encore presentation on April 19th. The location will again be at the Curves-Twin Peaks, located at 608 Portola Drive.

Make a point to visit the West Portal Avenue Arts and Crafts Fair on April 3-5. Many artisans will have their work on display, along with good food. It’s a great time for the neighbors to get out and see each other. Let’s hope the weather will cooperate.

The Commodore Sloat School is preparing for a Silent Auction Fundraiser for their annual “Rainbow-A-Fair”, to be held on May 9th. If you have anything that you would like to donate as a auction prize, please contact Aaron Goodman at 415.786.6929, or send the donation to “Commodore Sloat School, attn: Auction, 50 Darien Way, SF, CA. 94127.”

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: Be sure to check out the Observer online @

April 2009

Around the Town Restaurant Roti

Comings and Goings…

We’ve looked at the overview of the stimulus package, but yet to see anything that’s going to jumpstart the collective psyche…people are worried and very tentative on doing anything out of the ordinary. Is this a “west coast” thing? I spoke to a friend recently that just got back from NY and said that people are spending money in Manhattan like it was…2005. Hopefully, I am mistaken and a newfound consumer confidence will bloom like the daffodils and jumpstart the recovery out here.

On a positive note a new store, Baby Street has opened at 207 West Portal Ave. Owners Julie and Al Picache have created a store that carries a delightful selection of baby “mobility” goods. The store is filled with items such as booties, little shoes, baby crocs, designer baby carriers, and lots of other attractive things. Catering to the “1 month to 24 month” set, they are THE place for “Babies on the go!!”

Baby Street is open 7 days a week from 10-6. Stop by and say hello to Al or Julie. As if starting a retail store isn’t a big enough challenge, they also are the proud parents of a baby girl.

Will we be seeing SF City Hall in a “pink and blue” light??

Proud papas to be are all around. Congratulations to Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Ross Mirkirimi and their wives. Both couples have announced they are expecting their 1st children. Not to be left out, the Mayoral newlyweds have also announced they are expecting. Maybe the PUC should be checking the water out at the Grove Street address.

Just kidding…best wishes to all three couples.

“Jewels on West Portal Ave. Department” – my wife and I recently spent time at several West Portal locations. First we treated ourselves to some pampering on Valentine’s Day, by doing facials and neck and shoulder massages at Fruition Day Spa. Total relaxation, visible results and a nice way to spend time in the neighborhood.

We also did a “dinner and a movie” date. As we like to pair cuisine with a foreign film, as we were slated to see (India’s) Slumdog Millionaire, we went to Restaurant Roti for a pre-movie dinner. A friendly staff, great atmosphere, and a very diverse menu of both Northern and Southern Indian cuisine, (we did lamb kabob and several vegetarian dishes) it made for a terrific prelude to a very entertaining film.

If you’re looking for a sumptuous dessert try Tuttimelon. It’s a great frozen yogurt and gelato shop that just opened at 44 West Portal Ave. Lots of flavors in cups, cones and with toppings. Hours are from 11-10 Sun – Thurs, and 11-11 Fri and Sat. Check it out.

But …enough about me…

What about you? If you have an interesting snippet, or some other fact you’d like to get into the paper just drop it to us. You can reach me at: Be sure to check out the Observer online @

March 2009

Fans oftheObserver read the latest in San Miguel Mexico

Julie Behn and Ron Casson enjoy reading the Observer from their casita in San Miguel deAllende, Mexico. The couple, formerly of San Francisco, enjoy reading the neighborhood news and reviews ..especially since it is printed in English! There are only a few English-language papers available in SMA. SMA is a colonial Spanish city in Central Mexico, about 3 hours from Mexico City.

Are you going on a trip?

Bring along a copy of the Westside Observer with you and send in a photo of you and your family and friends reading it at your favorite destination. Please include information about the trip and the names of those in the photo. Email photos and information to:, or mail it to: Westside Observer, P.O.Box 27176, San Francisco, CA. 94127.

Feb. 2009

The 2008 Holiday Season upon us, and we are awash in the daily deluge of bad economic news from layoffs to bank failures. It is a time to reach out to family and friends and reflect on the past year and look forward to 2009.

I would like to take the time to thank everyone associated with the newspaper, including our readers, our advertisers and our colleagues to making the Westside Observer a fun, vibrant community paper. I am looking forward to more stories and meeting new people in 2009.

This week the West Portal Merchants sponsor the Holiday Tree Lighting event (on the 5th) and are having “Festive Fridays” with all of the merchants staying open until 8 PM on Friday evenings. When doing your holiday, or other shopping, look to our local merchants - Shop the Ave.!!

In these difficult times, it is easy to be caught in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives and to forget about those who are much less fortunate. During this season, please don’t forget programs such as: Local Food Banks; Toys for Tots; The Salvation Army; Glide Memorial, or your favorite local charity. The need is greater this year and a small donation can go a long way to help those in need.

In this issue of the paper, we are conducting a small survey to get a better understanding of what it is you want to see in our paper. Do you like/dislike: Sudoku, Movie Reviews, Political Commentary, Brain Food, Featured Columnists, Cartoons...let us know. I look forward to the diverse opinions of our readers.

Of course you can always just send me an email.

You can reach me at: Be sure to check out the Observer online @

Happy Holidays !—See you in 2009!

December 2008

It is fortunate that San Francisco continues to have many vibrant, active communities within its’ borders, and the community newspapers are a reflection of this. All of us at the Observer value your thoughts and feedback, and we have a very eclectic mix of writers, columnists and other contributors. After all, it is the community that makes a true community newspaper successful.

Unfortunately the Irish Delights store, located on West Portal Ave. has closed its doors. A sign hanging in the window thanks the customers for 22 years of support. Let’s hope the current economy doesn’t claim any more “victims”.

You can reach us at: Be sure to check out the Observer online @

November 2008


You may have noticed some changes in the Observer last month, such as a change from the West of Twin Peaks Observer to the Westside Observer. That’s not the only thing to change.

With the September issue of the paper, new publishers have taken the reins. Mitch and Alice Bull have taken over the duties of Publishers from Phyllis Sherman. Phyllis will continue to be associated with the paper. You will continue to find her monthly musings in her column “Phyllis’ Findings.”

The new owners are not new to the area, Alice is a native San Franciscan, and Mitch has been in town for a little over 26 years, so they kind of know their way around. Although you may continue to see small changes in the format and look, the Observer will continue to bring our readers the same news, features and event information that we always have.

It is fortunate that San Francisco continues to have many vibrant, active communities within its’ borders, and the community newspapers are a reflection of this. All of us at the Observer value your thoughts and feedback. After all, it is the community that makes a true community newspaper successful.

You can reach us at: Be sure to check out the Observer online @

Festivals Galore…Pull out your calendars. September and October feature two community festivals to highlight the fall season.

On Saturday, September 13, 2008, the Sunset District Autumn Moon Festival Committee will present the 4th annual Autumn Moon Festival in the Sunset. This annual festival has become an integral part of the San Francisco culture, attracting thousands of people to enjoy entertainment, art, products and, of course, delicious food. A “Kids Corner” will also be an attraction with a petting zoo and bouncy house.

Many local organizations and merchants have participated in the planning, including the Tzu Chi Foundation and the Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. There is a long and storied history to this traditional Chinese celebration held to commemorate the successful revolt to drive the Mongols from China during the Yuan Dynasty.

The festival will take place from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Irving Street, between 22nd and 25th Avenues. Admission is free. For more information about the Autumn Moon Festival, visit the website at

Food and fun moves to Taraval Street on October 25th as the Taraval Merchants Association presents the 2nd annual Taraval Street Fair. Taraval Street, between 46th and 47th Avenues will be closed to make way for food booths, artisans, and a stage for bands. The festival will run from 10:30 A.M. to 6:00 PM. Admission is free, so join in the fun. For more information visit the website at

With the Olympic games wrapping up in Beijing, a local China event is also wrapping up in September. Power and Glory: Court Arts of China’s MING Dynasty ends at the Asian Art Museum on September 21st. Make it a point to catch these rare objects while they are still on display in San Francisco. For more information visit

September 2008

Copperfield’s Stationers, a fixture at 254 West Portal Avenue for 23 years closed their doors at the end of May as the owners decided to retire. The storefront was not vacant for long as Back to Sports Fitness and Therapy moved from their current location at 342 West Portal to the larger space formerly housing Copperfield’s. The larger space will allow them to provide more expanded services to their clients. The center is a full service fitness and therapy location with personal training, physical therapy and chiropractic services available, in addition to the large compliment of fitness machinery.


Cynthia Pagan and her husband, Darren Badong, the owners of “Back to Sports Fitness”, as well as the Just Because Card and Gift Shoppe at 162 West Portal, are excited about moving the Fitness center to the new space because it allows them to retrofit the space at 342 West Portal into a comprehensive group exercise studio. The new studio “Back to Sports Studio” will focus on group exercises such as yoga, pilates, kick boxing, and aerobics. Eventually they would like to add dance classes in ballroom and salsa to the mix. The opening of the exercise studio is slated for mid-July.


Everyone who is interested in 20th Century art should check out the Frida Kahlo exhibit at SFMOMA. The exhibit consists of approximately 75 of Kahlo’s works, as well as photographs of her and her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera. An interesting side note is that Rivera and Kahlo lived in San Francisco in both 1931 and 1940. During 1940 they were remarried at City Hall, after being divorced in 1939. While Rivera was the more famous artist during their lives, it may be Kahlo’s intense pieces that will be longer remembered. The exhibit runs through September 28. The best way to get tickets is online, as admission is timed due to the large turnout of people visiting the museum. Visit the SFMOMA website for more information.


July-August 2008