Noe Valley is a neighborhood of contradictions. It’s home to both liberals and conservatives, it has attracted the working class, dot.com millionaires, Hollywood film crews (“Sister Act,” “Nash Bridges”), and, in the 1970s, followers of controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Recent problems with storefront vandalism stand in sharp contrast to Noe’s clean-cut image and the fact that it’s chock full of upscale restaurants, home-decor boutiques, and chic clothing shops. Since the dot.com boom began waning, housing prices have dipped slightly and there has been some turnover on the main shopping drag, but it remains a prosperous, shopper-friendly neighborhood whose bistros, coffee shops, and bookstores are always lively, and where parking is always at a premium.
The hills that surround Noe Valley give it an air of remoteness and removal from the city which, along with the plethora of pretty, long-standing Victorians, is what attracts families with kids, dogs and strollers to the neighborhood. This, in turn, has attracted merchants who cater to those looking for handmade Guatemalan textile products, upscale beauty products, or Eileen Fisher ensembles.
Some residents have grumbled that Noe Valley has become a great place to have coffee and a bagel but a terrible place to buy what you actually need if you’re lucky enough to live there. Others joke about Noe Valley’s mammoth stroller population and bourgeois sensibilities; columnist Debby Morse once quipped in the Examiner, “Many Noe Valley walkers push babies in strollers, often using them as battering rams in crowded situations.”
One thing’s for sure — Noe Valleyans enjoy their neighborhood — especially on weekends, if the dense foot traffic on 24th Street is any indication.