Story corrected on Sept. 21, 2011
Police said today that the shooting at Valencia Gardens on Monday at 7:30 p.m., which sent families running and patrons of a nearby restaurant into hiding, was not gang-related.
While it may not be related to the recent upswing in gang violence, the shooting stirred up unpleasant memories for Frankie Soto, 37, who has lived at Valencia Gardens for 20 years — through the time in the ’90s when the Mission District Police Station captain referred to it as a “bucket of blood,” to its redesign and reopening in 2006.
“When I first moved in here there was always gunfire at night and I’d have to hit the floor…I had a one-year-old,” she said.
This was the first shooting near Valencia Gardens since January. Compared to what it was like in the past, Soto said, “It hasn’t been too bad.”
Not all residents are so calm. Ernestine Mabry, 56, moved to Valencia Gardens four years ago to escape the violence that plagued her old neighborhood.
“It’s scary. I went through this already,” Mabry said. “Three guys got killed right in front of my girls” at our old building.
When she first arrived at Valencia Gardens she felt safe. But lately things have gotten “out of control,” she said.
As Mabry considers moving out, trendy small businesses are popping up all around Valencia Gardens. In the last few years the block between 14th and 15th streets and Guerrero and Valencia streets has become populated with new stores and restaurants, especially on the Valencia side. Four Barrel Coffee, at 375 Valencia, was an immediate hit when it opened in 2008. Art spaces and small boutiques have followed.
Last night’s shooting took place on the Guerrero side, but that too has new businesses. The incident began around 7:30 p.m. when a man drove up and opened fire on a crowd that was gathered in front of Valencia Gardens.
“It was eight to 10 shots…rapid succession, like an automatic,” said Bill Clarke, owner of the Mission Beach Cafe, which opened in 2007 on the northwest corner of Guerrero and 14th streets.
Someone in the group shot back, wounding the man in the stomach.
Clarke’s restaurant was half full at the time of the shooting. One of the waiters locked the front door and ushered the diners into the back. Customers were “freaked out for a little bit,” Clarke said.
Meanwhile, outside, the injured man fled in his car.
Once things calmed down on Guerrero Street, guests at the Mission Beach Cafe returned to their tables to finish dinner.
“Everyone was fine with staying,” he said. “Hey, it’s the Mission.”
Unbeknownst to them, the injured man sped east on 17th Street, but caught the attention of UCSF officers, who pursued him through a red light at Folsom Street. Then, at 20th and Folsom streets, the driver hit another motorist.
He then tried to flee on foot, but police detained him and recovered a gun from the vehicle. He is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at San Francisco General Hospital.
The motorist he hit was treated for neck injuries.
Police said they also found a gun at Valencia Gardens. The whereabouts of the second suspect, who shot from the crowd in front of Valencia Gardens, is unknown.
Mabry and other residents blamed the violence on outsiders.
“It’s not the people that live here, they bring friends from other projects…violent people,” Mabry said adding that she’s ready for another change of scenery. “I’m trying to see if I can get Section 8 to move on,” she said.
“Since it happened, it’s been quiet,” said Nick Naval-Mora, a freshman at City College of San Francisco.
Frankie Soto Jr., 19, nodded her head in agreement.
“Yeah, a scary kind of quiet,” she said.
Correction. An earlier version of the story reported that this was the first shooting near Valencia Gardens in over a year. The last shooting in the area took place on Jan. 24, 2011.