Conversation with a cop


Lt. Ed Del Carlo, all 6 feet 6 inches of him, rises out of his chair in a gritty windowless office inside the fortress-like Northern Station on Fillmore Street and extends a welcoming hand the size of a catcher’s mitt. In his other hand are 32 police reports from the day before. The 25-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department doesn’t try to whitewash the situation: Crime is mushrooming citywide — and it’s worse in the Fillmore.

Lt. Ed Del Carlo

Lt. Ed Del Carlo

“The big growth trend is property crime. But no longer is it only drug dealing addicts who break into cars to steal a laptop, a smart phone, an iPad or any electronic device they can fence within minutes at 7th and Market,” he says. “We’re seeing more sophisticated, more violent criminals who’re coming in from the East Bay, Sacramento, the Central Valley and the Peninsula because they know if they get arrested, chances are they won’t do any jail or prison time.”

The neighborhood crime surge is affecting both residents and retailers, and criminals are more brazen. This year, thieves drove a stolen car through the front glass  door of the Marc Jacobs fashion boutique at Fillmore and Sacramento around 4 a.m., looted its merchandise and were gone in an estimated five minutes. And twice this year, the glass door of the MAC makeup shop on Fillmore near Pine was shattered in the early morning hours and the shelves were cleaned of expensive skin creams. In the summer, thieves smashed the glass front door of Dino and Santino’s restaurant at Fillmore and California and carted off the cash register.

Read more »

‘People’s shoes of Italy’ come to Fillmore

Shop owner Claudia Volpi says Superga is a perfect fit for San Francisco's casual vibe.

Shop owner Claudia Volpi says Superga is a perfect fit for San Francisco’s casual vibe.


Claudia Volpi throws down a friendly ultimatum: “I challenge you to find an Italian who doesn’t own a pair of Superga shoes.”

And she’s hoping the sporty “People’s Shoes of Italy” will soon become common footfare for Fillmore residents as well, now that the doors to her new boutique are open at 2326 Fillmore Street.

The shoes — slip-ons, tie classics and hi-tops for women, men and children — look fresh and modern. But in fact, their origins hark back to 1911, when an entrepreneur in Torino, Italy, Walter Martiny, had the idea of using vulcanized rubber to make waterproof boots, revolutionizing footwear for the agricultural workers there. In later years, the shoes evolved to become tennis wear with carefully crafted cushioning and support — and then fashion statements when leather, wool and silk and thicker soles and wedge heels were incorporated into the designs.

Volpi says she has worn and loved Superga shoes since she was a little girl, and she has the evidence to prove it: a picture of a slightly tattered red pair she wore back in the day, later worn by each of her three children.

Read more »

Architect to the stars

Photograph of 2555 Divisadero Street by Shayne Watson

Photograph of 2555 Divisadero Street by Shayne Watson


The house at 2555 Divisadero was designed by an “important, neglected California designer,” the Planning Department’s Citywide Historic Building Survey in 1976 noted. That architect, Paul Revere Williams, has since been rediscovered.

Williams, one of the few African-American architects working in California in the decades before World War II, is now well known, thanks to the perseverance and publications of his granddaughter, Karen E. Hudson. Her books lovingly tell the story of this remarkably talented and pioneering architect. A key designer of the Hollywood Regency style, Williams was a master at slenderizing and refining Classical forms and motifs, creating a Modern version of shapes and features extracted from traditional architecture.

Often referred to as “the architect to the stars,” Williams designed many Hollywood and Beverly Hills mansions, as well as some iconic Southern California buildings such as the Golden State Mutual Insurance Company — the largest black-owned insurance company west of the Mississippi — and the Music Corporation of America headquarters and the Saks Fifth Avenue store, both in Beverly Hills. He also made important renovations to two luxury hotels: the Beverly Hills and the Ambassador, which has since been demolished.

While Williams’ work in Northern California was limited to a few commissions, he partnered with his clients at 2555 Divisadero to create a Hollywood Regency style house set amidst the much more traditional Colonial Revival houses atop Pacific Heights.

Read more »

Local Anglican archbishop resigns

Archbishop James Provence at St. Thomas Anglican Church in San Francisco

Archbishop James Provence at St. Thomas Anglican Church in San Francisco

JAMES PROVENCE, the longtime rector of St. Thomas Anglican Church at 2725 Sacramento Street — who advanced to become archbishop of his entire breakaway province in 2007 — has resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct with a former parishioner of St. Thomas.

In a July 20 letter to the church’s governing body, Provence wrote that he had been advised  for reasons of my health and chronic medical condition to step down from my ecclesiastical duties. I am therefore submitting to you my resignation as archbishop. I am relinquishing my seat on the council of bishops, resigning as ordinary of the diocese of western states and as rector of St. Thomas Anglican Church, San Francisco.”

His resignation followed a formal complaint alleging “pastoral misconduct within a counseling relationship” submitted for the parishioner by attorney Charles H. Nalls, who is also an Anglican priest and executive director of the Canon Law Institute in Washington, D.C.

“We regard the matter closed,” Nalls told Virtue Online, a website that bills itself as “the voice for global orthodox Anglicanism,” after Provence resigned.

“We presented a detailed complaint with exhibits including photographic evidence,” Nalls later commented on the website. “Mr. Provence resigned shortly after the complaint and accompanying evidence were presented without availing himself of procedure or even offering a defense.”

The former parishioner, Kathy Webb, alleged in a public letter that Provence had engaged in improper sexual behavior with her and with another woman.

Calls and messages to Provence and St. Thomas Church seeking comment were not returned.

EARLIER: “Archbishop of the neighborhood

For Jet Mail, the end is here

Photograph of Jet Mail's Kevin Wolohan by Kathi O'Leary

Photograph of Jet Mail’s Kevin Wolohan by Kathi O’Leary

IT SEEMED AS IF Jet Mail had cheated death.

Two and a half years ago, with its prime retail space at 2130 Fillmore coveted by the onrush of fashion boutiques eager and able to pay far higher rent, the packaging and mailing store moved south to 2184 Sutter. In the process, they sparked new life on a sleepy stretch of Sutter Street.

Now the gig is up.

Jet Mail will go out of business on September 15, ending a 25-year run in the neighborhood. The space will become an insurance office.

Read more »

Jerry Mapp is finding his voice

Singing has helped Jerry Mapp battle Parkinson's disease.

Singing has helped fundraiser Jerry Mapp battle Parkinson’s disease.


For 25 years, Jerry Mapp raised money and cultivated donors to help build California Pacific Medical Center into the respected hospital it has become, with a state-of-the-art new home rising at Van Ness and Geary.

As president and chief executive of the CPMC Foundation, Mapp led a team that raised more than $300 million and helped build a portfolio of assets and endowments.

Then he got Parkinson’s disease.

Read more »

Cathedral Hill tower pushes height limits

Rendering of ADCO's proposed tower at 1481 Post Street.

A rendering of ADCO’s proposed tower at 1481 Post Street.


It may be a sleek luxury high-rise condominium bringing new life to Cathedral Hill. Or it may be a code-violating, too-tall tower adding traffic, wind, noise, parking and shadow nightmares — and opening the door for more spot zoning across the city.

New York developer ADCO Group’s plan to build a 36-story residential tower at 1481 Post Street is drawing mounting concern and opposition from nearby residents. The project is expected to come before the Planning Commission in late September.

The building would replace an above-ground parking structure, fitness center and tennis courts that adjoin Cathedral Hill Plaza apartments at Post and Gough, which ADCO also owns and plans to remodel. The new tower would rise to 416 feet, requiring an exception to the 240-foot height limit the city planning code sets for the site.

Read more »

An Argonaut in Cow Hollow

The Pixley estate occupied the entire wooded block bounded by Green, Steiner, Union and Fillmore Streets.

In this view from Vallejo and Scott Streets, circa 1893, Frank Pixley’s estate occupied the entire forested block bounded by Green, Steiner, Union and Fillmore Streets.


More than 120 years after Frank Pixley — California pioneer, businessman, former state Attorney General and longtime editor and publisher of The Argonaut — enabled the construction of a church on his family’s property at Union and Steiner Streets, it remains the vibrant home of the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

Yet Pixley was an unlikely benefactor. Openly hostile toward churches and churchmen of any denomination,  he described himself as “an agnostic with a touch of atheism.”

Frank Pixley

Frank Pixley

After studying law in his home state of New York and practicing briefly in Michigan, Pixley came to California in 1849 in pursuit of gold. Learning quickly there were easier and more prestigious occupations than placer mining, Pixley entered legal practice and civic life in San Francisco. In 1853, he married Amelia van Reynegom, daughter of a merchant sea captain with extensive property in Marin County in what would become Corte Madera. Gaining stature as an attorney and politician, Pixley was elected California’s Attorney General in 1861 and later served as a regent of the University of California.

Pixley inherited land just east of San Francisco’s Presidio and was among the earliest gentrifiers of Cow Hollow, until then a bucolic enclave of laundries, vegetable gardens, breweries, tanneries and dairy farms. The Pixleys built their estate on the block bounded by Union, Steiner, Green and Fillmore Streets. The entire block was a forested compound, the gracious Pixley mansion screened from the outside world in a central grove.

Read more »

Searching for the city’s secrets

Mural at St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church at 1286 Fillmore Street.

Mural at St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church at 1286 Fillmore Street


For the last few years, Miles, my beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback, and I would walk through the neighborhood every morning. Down to Fillmore, up to Broadway, over to Lyon, back to Sacramento. I would point things out to him. I am a designer, by trade and by nature, and I am finely tuned to detail: the font in a logo, the frame on a window, the way a painting is lighted, the clasp on a woman’s handbag.

I would remark at the details as we walked along. Sometimes Miles would look disdainful, as though to say, “Why are you so fascinated by that?” And so we would go on. He held to his mysteries; I held to mine. Then one day he died. He was 14.

It was Miles who first got me thinking about the nature of interesting places in the city. Our journeys led me to start a blog about art, architecture and unusual places in the Bay Area, which led to my new book, 111 Places in San Francisco You Must Not Miss, one of a series of 111 Places books published by the German publisher Emons Verlag.

Read more »

A grand tour of St. Dominic’s

Photograph of St. Dominic's Church by Alex Mizuno

Photograph of St. Dominic’s Church by Alex Mizuno

THE DOCENT PROGRAM at St. Dominic’s Church at Steiner and Bush is sponsoring “The Grand Tour: An Overview of Church Art & Architecture” on Saturday, August 22, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Docents will lead visitors on a tour of treasures in wood, stone and stained glass inside and outside the church. The event — a “drop in and stay for as little or as much as you like” tour — is free and open to the public. For more information, call 415-517-5572, or email

VIDEO: “Restoring St. Dominic’s”