A new era begins at Yoshi’s

Photograph of opening night at Yoshi's on November 27, 2007, by Mina Pahlevan

Photograph of opening night at Yoshi’s on November 27, 2007, by Mina Pahlevan

By Chris Barnett

AFTER A DIZZYING seven year roller-coaster ride — from its opening as the hot new jazz club on the West Coast to a plunge into bankruptcy — Yoshi’s on Fillmore was taken over by new owners July 1 and is tuning up for its next gig.

Yoshi’s San Francisco, launched at the end of 2007 as the offspring of 42-year-old Yoshi’s in Oakland, will no longer be a jazz club, despite its heritage and its locale in what was once the fabled Harlem of the West. In fact, it hasn’t been a jazz club for several years, and the music promises to get still more eclectic under new management.

The big question is what the new Yoshi’s is going to look like, sound like and taste like. It’s hard to say just yet because the take-over management team, headed by longtime minority owner and successful urban developer Michael E. Johnson — who developed the Fillmore Heritage Center housing Yoshi’s, 1300 on Fillmore and 80 condominiums above — took control suddenly last month without a fully developed business plan. Even as the curtain rises this month, the new Yoshi’s, including its new name, is a work in progress.

This much is known: The business known as Yoshi’s San Francisco — which includes the 420-seat club and the 370-seat Japanese restaurant and lounge — was sold by an investment consortium headed by Yoshie Akiba and Kaz Kajimura to the Fillmore Live Entertainment Group, where Johnson is the managing director. No one including Johnson is saying what Fillmore Live paid, if anything. The club complex, separate from the building Johnson developed and controls, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2012. The sale does not affect the mothership Yoshi’s in Jack London Square.

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How the Yoshi’s deal went down

Yoshi's will still have jazz, but it won't be a jazz club, its artistic director says.

Yoshi’s will still have jazz, but it won’t be a jazz club, its artistic director says.

By Chris Barnett

YOSHI’S ON FILLMORE is already booked this summer with acts lined up before the ownership changed on July 1.

But it almost went dark. Just a few weeks ago, the mood at Yoshi’s was deathly. Backstage, insiders could practically hear a New Orleans funeral band playing Just a Closer Walk With Thee, the traditional dirge of the deceased.

But on the way to the cemetery, a miracle happened. Almost every investor with a financial stake in Yoshi’s — owners, borrowers, lenders, private citizens, city and state governmental agencies — took a haircut, and in some cases a real scalping, so the club could emerge from bankruptcy and survive. Investors who despised each other set aside their differences and, in some instances, ponied up more cash or personal commitments to rescue a dream that had turned into a financial nightmare.

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The year of women in jazz

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By JASON OLAINE
Artistic Director, Fillmore Jazz Festival

While 1992 might have been tagged the “Year of the Woman” in politics, this year’s Fillmore Jazz Festival might well be dubbed the same, as we raise our flags up and down the street to salute talented “Women in Jazz and Beyond.”

Here in the Bay Area — and this weekend on Fillmore — we are blessed to have a cornucopia of talented female artists who not only excel at their craft, but run the gamut of styles, perform on a variety of instruments and excite and energize audiences. Whether it’s jazz or blues, flamenco or folk, world music or soul, the women performing this weekend have style and substance in spades.

Some of the performers in 2014 return to the festival and are household names up and down the peninsula — including jazz and blues singers Faye Carol, Kim Nalley, Lavay Smith and flamenco pioneer Yaelisa and her group Caminos Flamencos, who tore the non-existent roof off of the festival in 2012. Other artists are household names but are here for the first time or returning after a long sabbatical — including singers Kitty Margolis, Pamela Rose, Carla Helmbrecht, Shayna Steele, Anna Kristina and Ila Cantor.

We are lucky to have bands or groups with us that feature or are led by women, including the all-woman world music outfit Azúcar Con Aché, the dynamic, multi-cultural 15-member strong Oakland Jazz Choir, the most in-demand blues bassist on the planet, Bay Area resident Ruth Davies and her band Blues Thing, vocalist Ariel Friedman’s Waves of Silver and the California Jazz Conservatory’s Arabelle Schoenberg and Nora Stanley Group.

With such a diverse and inspiring lineup, the best tip might be to arrive early and stay late — and wear comfortable shoes. These streets were made for walking, and I know that’s just what I’ll do. There’s so much music to catch, so many artists to support, so many arts and crafts and goods for sale that the weekend will be gone before you know it.

ENTERTAINMENT SCHEDULE

‘Music transcends language’

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ARTISTIC DIRECTOR | JASON OLAINE

When artistic director Jason Olaine began planning this year’s lineup for the Fillmore Jazz Festival, he found himself booking so many women performers he had a theme.

“There are so many great women jazz artists in the Bay Area,” he says, “and not just vocalists.”

Olaine’s day job as director of programming and touring for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York keeps him on the front lines of jazz around the world. But Olaine says he is always happy to come back to the Bay Area.

“The Bay Area is my home — I am a third-generation Palo Altan,” he says. “My first jobs in the jazz world were at Yoshi’s in Oakland and the Gavin Report back in the early ’90s. I also interned at KJAZ and Jazz in the City, now SF Jazz. When Jazz at Lincoln Center approached me in 2011, there were a few things I asked for. One was whether I could continue as artistic director of the Fillmore Jazz Festival.”

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At the top of his game

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POSTER ARTIST | MICHAEL SCHWAB

You’ve seen them all across San Francisco in recent weeks — striking posters featuring a wavy-haired female vocalist silhouetted against a fiery orange background. The image for this year’s Fillmore Jazz Festival poster and street banners was created by Marin artist Michael Schwab, one of the country’s leading graphic artists. His dynamic posters and logos for the Golden Gate National Parks, Major League Baseball, America’s Cup, Amtrak, Robert Mondavi, Peet’s Coffee, the San Francisco Opera and Nike, among many others, are icons of our time. Schwab talked about creating his third Fillmore jazz poster with ARThound editor Geneva Anderson.

What makes a really effective poster? And why are so many posters today so bad?

Simplicity. There’s way too much visual noise out there. Graphic messages are conveyed much more effectively when the design is simple, bold and efficient.

You’ve had a long involvement with the Fillmore Jazz Festival. What is it about jazz that lends itself to visual expression?

I love all kinds of music, but jazz in particular inspires me. I love this project because I’ve had complete freedom to do whatever I want. The bass player I created eight years ago was my first Fillmore jazz poster and I envisioned him as a Ray Brown-like bass player. If you’re driving down the street, you’ve only got a second or two to get the message, so I wanted to evoke the romance and history of jazz in the Fillmore. Four years later they called me again. At the time I was really into Miles Davis and was playing Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, his soundtrack for the Louis Malle film, a lot. I made a Miles Davis-esque horn player. I wanted a really cool color so I went with a deep blue that evokes that late evening jazz atmosphere that’s so special on Fillmore. Now, four years later, I realize I’ve been slowly creating my own jazz band. It was time for a singer — and a woman.

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Paolo Shoes staying on Fillmore

Photograph of Paolo Iantorno, owner of Paolo Shoes, by Daniel Bahmani

Photograph of Paolo Iantorno, owner of Paolo Shoes, by Daniel Bahmani

By Chris Barnett

THE RANCOROUS LEASE DISPUTE between Paolo Shoes and its landlord has been resolved out of court, and the custom Italian shoemaker won’t be taking a hike from the corner of Fillmore and Pine for at least two more years.

The clash between the two San Francisco real estate dynasties was recently settled as Paolo Shoes and Webco Group LLC and their lawyers met in the halls of the courthouse awaiting a mandatory settlement conference of a lawsuit based on a disagreement that had dragged on for 10 months with neither side budging.

“We made amends and settled on a rent that is twice what I am paying now, but still below market,” says Paolo Iantorno, the tenant and owner of the store. Under terms of the agreement, he will pay $10,000 a month rent for the first year and $10,500 a month in the second year. Previously, he was paying $5 a foot for the 1,000-square-foot storefront at 2000 Fillmore Street.

Patrick Szeto, a member of the family that owns Webco Group and American Realty and Construction Co., did not return calls or respond to an email seeking comment.

“We met for four hours in the halls and we each had our lawyer with us,” Iantorno says. “The mood, to be honest, was fine. Very constructive. There was no anger or emotion and we talked everything out.”

Still, both sides were at an impasse and ready to go to trial until Iantorno’s father, Sergio Iantorno, showed up and acted as unofficial mediator. His son will not disclose what precisely brought the factions to an agreement. But he hints that his dad made certain amends and pointed out that Paolo had been in the storefront for 10 years and in the Fillmore neighborhood for 15 years and had been a good tenant during those years.

“For Patrick, I now understand that it was business and not personal,” says Iantorno. “We settled our differences — despite the fact that he had a prospective tenant ready to move in and pay $15,500 to $16,500 a month.”

The amiable resolution was a 180 degree turnaround from earlier this year when Paolo Shoes faced eviction on Valentine’s Day when his lease expired. Webco would not extend the lease, claiming Iantorno’s request in July 2013 for an extension did not meet a deadline in the existing lease.

Both sides hired lawyers and spent the fall and winter haggling.

These days, Paolo Iantorno, who has two other retail stores in Hayes Valley — including one called Duke et Duchess that sells its own line of jeans and accessories, — is spending most of his time working for the family real estate business, Realty West. He is doing hands-on renovations of apartment complexes and mixed-use retail and residential properties.

Iantorno says he is grateful his Fillmore Street hassle is behind him.

“My dad and I were talking,” he says. “Maybe there is some way our two families can work together on a deal. I would like that.”

EARLIER: “Getting the boot

Empty lot becomes an orchard

Rendering of the orchard of apple, pear and fig trees growing at Divisadero and Geary.

Rendering of the orchard of apple, pear and fig trees growing at Divisadero and Geary.

“LET A thousand flowers blossom,” Chairman Mao supposedly said.

Kaiser Permanente has taken a similar approach with the block-long empty lot at Divisadero and Geary it fought — and paid dearly — to clear for a new medical building, now delayed.

Just beginning to bear first fruit in the summer sun is a new orchard with four kinds of apple trees, three varieties of plum trees, plus a few figs, all chosen for this microclimate. They’re planted in four huge stone planters and surrounded by hundreds of other plants and vines growing along an estate-quality fence. [View the landscape plans.]

“We needed a solution that everyone, including the city, was going to be happy with,” says Randy Wittorp, a spokesman for Kaiser.

The orchard grew out of a collaboration between Kaiser and Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), urged on by a community task force. Kaiser bought the property years ago with an eye to future expansion. It reportedly paid more than six figures each to get longtime tenants out of a deteriorating 21-unit pink apartment building and, with a group of local ministers, built 21 replacement apartments across O’Farrell Street.

“Kaiser came up with a lot of money — a lot of money,” says Bush Street resident Jan Bolaffi, a member of the task force. “By the time all that was done, the demographics of the city had changed.”

Kaiser decided its new medical building should be in Mission Bay and put off plans to expand at Geary and Divisadero. But what to do with the empty lot?

“We’d heard that FUF was going to be planting these urban orchards,” says Jay Murphy, manager of capital projects for Kaiser, who served on FUF’s board of directors for three years. “We thought, what if instead of traditional landscaping we gave the community an orchard?”

The trees will likely be moved at some point when construction proceeds.

Marcus Books locked out

Eviction notice on the locked door of Marcus Books at 1712 Fillmore Street.

Eviction notice on the locked door of Marcus Books at 1712 Fillmore Street.

THE LONG FIGHT to keep Marcus Books in its historic home on Fillmore Street reached another milestone — and perhaps its conclusion — when the new owners of the building locked out the owners of the bookstore May 6. An eviction notice was posted by Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

In an open letter emailed to supporters, the owners of the bookstore wrote:

“It was difficult to know what to tell you about our struggle to stay in our building, its winding path of lawyers and judges and protests and promises, hopes and gravities made it difficult to report our status on a curved road. But the current property owner has changed the locks to the door of 1712 Fillmore Street.”

Read the full letter

EARLIER: “We are refusing to let Marcus Books close

Shell station may lose garage

The Shell station and garage at California and Steiner Streets.

The Shell station and garage at the corner of California and Steiner Streets.

PLANS HAVE BEEN UNVEILED to demolish the Shell station at 2501 California Street and replace it with a new high-end convenience store called Loop.

Loop is the next evolution in service station retail,” said Nick Goyal, one of California’s largest operators of Shell service stations, who now controls the local station and more than 100 others. During the past year he has opened six Loop stores at Shell stations in the Bay Area, with more on the way.

Loop stores offer groceries and fresh foods along with wine, espresso, smoothies, frozen yogurt, sushi and a soup and salad bar. “It will change your expectation of what you can purchase at your next fill-up,” Goyal said.

Shell Auto Repair would be eliminated and the fuel pumps reconfigured and rebuilt, if the project is approved by the city.

EARLIER: “50 years at the Shell station

Fillmore a case study on chain stores

The Kooples, now under construction at 2241 Fillmore, has more than 300 clothing boutiques worldwide but only six free-standing stores in the U.S. and therefore is not considered a chain.

The Kooples, now under construction at 2241 Fillmore, has more than 300 clothing boutiques worldwide but only six free-standing stores in the U.S. and therefore is not considered a chain.

FILLMORE STREET CONTINUES to remake itself into a mecca of high-end fashion labels from around the world, despite the city’s professed intent to limit chain stores in neighborhood shopping districts.

Partly that is because the rules limiting “formula retail” — defined as companies with 11 or more stores — do not include stores outside the U.S.

An attempt to change the rules to include international stores and spinoffs of existing chains was put on hold last year when the Planning Department commissioned a study of the issue. Now the Berkeley consulting firm conducting the study, Strategic Economics, has produced a draft of its final report, which will be the basis of policy recommendations to be presented to the Planning Commission on May 22.

The report includes detailed case studies of three neighborhoods, including the Upper Fillmore Neighborhood Commercial District, stretching from Bush to Jackson Streets. The other neighborhoods included in the study are Ocean Avenue and a portion of outer Geary Boulevard.

“Upper Fillmore . . . is a rapidly changing district that in recent years has seen a significant shift in the types of retailers occupying local storefronts,” the report says, including “a growing number of new high-end formula clothing stores and other chain retail establishments.”

The report notes: “As the mix of retail in the district has changed, residents have raised concerns about a loss of neighborhood-serving businesses, while some independent retailers have expressed unease over competition from national brands.”
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