By Dawn Van Osdell
Family-friendly Noe Valley is popular partly because of its location, tucked in as it is beside the Mission and shielded by Twin Peaks from much of the fog and wind that frequently cloak the rest of the city. Its other big draw is its main drag, 24th Street, a pedestrian-friendly stretch of road loaded with coffee shops, hip restaurants, cute boutiques, and strollers and dogs on leashes fighting for space on the sidewalk. The neighborhood makes a happy home for Dr. Juli Fraga, a maternal health psychologist who specializes in issues such as postpartum depression, fertility, and eating disorders; her husband, Stephen, owner of Academyx, a computer training company; and their daughter Lucy, age 6, a kindergartener at the all-girls Convent Elementary School, located just two blocks from her mom’s office in Pacific Heights.
Here they guide us through a typical family weekend in and around Noe Valley, and some of their other favorite hoods throughout the city.
Why is Noe Valley such a good home base for your family?
Juli Fraga: We moved here about 2-½ years ago from the Lower Haight because we loved the overall family-friendly energy of the neighborhood and of course, the sunny weather. There's a tennis court and park right near our house, and Lucy loves riding her scooter there, and practicing soccer. She’s excited to hone her basketball skills there, too.
Is your home as family friendly as your neighborhood?
Juli: Yes! We have a two-level house built in the 1930s. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and there is lots of open space, which we love. There’s a large kitchen that leads into a large dining area. As a family, we spend a lot of time in our kitchen and dining area. Downstairs, there's a playroom for Lucy that is great when friends come to visit. We also have a backyard area that we enjoy occasionally—although we live on a hill, which means we get a lot of wind and fog. We live here with Squirrel & Mango, our cats.
Take us through a typical Saturday with your family.
Juli: We have a young child so we wake up early, usually by 7:00 am. We’ll have coffee at home and then make our way down 24th Street for breakfast, usually to Toast or maybe for a donut at Happy Donut. Of all the options in Noe, our daughter loves Starbucks; she says it’s her favorite restaurant! After breakfast, we stop back home to pick up Lucy’s bike or scooter and head to Douglas Playground, where there is always someone for her to play with—a neighbor, friends, or a new friend to make. If it’s basketball season, we’ll head to the JCC for Lucy’s Saturday game.
Stephen: We really like to get outdoors and go to events. Things like flea markets, festivals, and hikes are some of our favorite ways to spend a Saturday in the city.
Noe Valley is a shopper’s paradise. Do you do much of that?
Juli: I love to shop. Lucy is obsessed with the art store, Artsake. We stop to pick up canvases, paint, crayons, markers, and stickers. If we’re shopping for clothes for her, we’ll visit Small Frys. If I’m shopping alone, I’ll head to Pacific Heights to hit Elizabeth Charles on Fillmore; or Dish, Rand & Statler or something for Lucy at Fiddlesticks in Hayes Valley.
How do you spend your weekend nights?
Juli: We don’t go out much during the week because of Lucy’s kindergarten schedule. We cook or order take-out, usually from Dragon Well. We almost always go out on the weekends, typically not in Noe Valley but rarely far from home. Lucy loves to go to Tree Frog Treks, a wonderful place where we can drop her for a science program or to play with reptiles while Stephen and I go to dinner. Our date night favorites are nearby Firefly or something in Hayes Valley, where we have a lot of friends; or we’ll go to Bistro Aix or Kokkari , which are closer to Pacific Heights.
What about Sunday?
Juli: We like to do brunch, often at the Presidio Social Club, then we tend to split up. I run my two-mile loop down 24th to Church and back.
Stephen: I like to take a nap, maybe watch some TV. Nothing too fancy.
Juli: We also like to host play dates for Lucy on Sunday mornings. Often times, in the afternoon, we’ll go to the Mission to play in the park or grab ice cream, or I'll take Lucy to a movie. Sometimes we’ll all go up to Marin to take a walk.
Where do you go when you feel like getting away from the city?
Juli: This weekend we’re headed to Santa Cruz for a Saturday night get-away. We’ll go to the beach and then we’ll find a sitter so Stephen and I can sneak away for a date night. We love weekend trips to LA, too. We have a lot of close friends who live there, and we all love going to the beach; Venice Beach and Santa Monica are our personal favorites.
Stephen: One of the best parts about visiting LA is that our friends who live there have a daughter; and our daughters are friends, too. But, I’m pretty happy sticking close to home!
Photography by Matt Mimiaga