Forget Lower Pacific Heights — now it’s LoPa

By BARBARA KATE REPA

When Vasilios Kiniris opened a huge new home for Zinc Details, his upscale design and furniture emporium, last month at 1633 Fillmore in the former dollar store, he called it an “expansion” and a “remaking.”

Others called it brave. Or foolhardy.

But Kiniris, with 24 years of design and retail experience — most of it in the neighborhood — sees the move as a way to change with the times: to meet the needs of a changing demographic, to take his business in new directions and to build a sense of community among other independent business owners who call the area home.

“We’re stretching the goodness of Fillmore down the street,” he says.

It’s a tough stretch. Imbibing dudes hang out on the Geary bridge, chic by jowl with the line forming nearby for the best new restaurant in America, as the James Beard Foundation last year dubbed State Bird Provisions.

What was once the Western Addition is now Lower Pacific Heights, according to the real estate listings. But Kiniris has another idea. “We’re calling it LoPa,” he says.

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Dental school condos may top $10 million

Rendering of The Pacific, now under construction at Webster and Sacramento.

The Pacific, now under construction at Webster and Sacramento Streets.

By CHRIS BARNETT

When the developers and designers of The Pacific were hunting for inspiration and ideas for San Francisco’s plushest and priciest condominium complex, they looked east and heavenward.

The team transforming the former University of the Pacific dental school at 2121 Webster flew to New York and swarmed over 96-story 432 Park Avenue, Manhattan’s tallest residential building, where full-floor penthouses a quarter-mile in the sky are selling for up to $95 million.

A squadron of local executives and architects also looked into the 82-story Four Seasons Hotel and Residences under construction in New York’s eternally hip TriBeCa neighborhood, where the asking price for a modest 1,500-square-foot two-bedroom condo on the 60th floor is $5 million. And they  checked into boutique hotels including the five-star Bulgari in London and Milan to see firsthand how moneyed and discriminating guests are pampered.

But they didn’t stop there. Trumark Urban, The Pacific’s builder-developer in the estimated $158 million venture, and financial partner Hillmark, chaired by Dallas property magnate Ross Perot Jr., pored over a list of San Francisco’s most successful residential real estate brokers and invited 50 of the top producers to join a board of advisors.

At an invitation-only cocktail party at Spruce restaurant on Sacramento Street and in a follow-up detailed questionnaire, Trumark Urban mined a mother lode of informational nuggets and advice on what the city’s wealthy and worldly would like to see — and might buy — in an opulent Pacific Heights condominium building.

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Alta Plaza Park readies for a makeover

Alta-Plaza-Master-Plan

LOCALS AGREE there are problems with Alta Plaza Park, situated atop a former rock quarry and bounded by Scott, Clay, Steiner and Jackson Streets. Among them: decayed columns, stairs, walls and pathways; haphazard and incongruous plantings; outdated and ineffective lighting; and drainage and irrigation issues. So far, the fixes have been piecemeal — and ineffective, particularly the new no-mow grass and attempts to stop leakage onto surrounding sidewalks.

In February, the community group Friends of Alta Plaza Park enlisted landscape architect Jeffrey Miller — whose firm designed the new playground that was part of the recent renovation of the neighborhood’s Lafayette Park — to help formulate a master plan for an integrated overhaul of Alta Plaza’s infrastructure and aesthetics.

Miller solicited community feedback as he developed his plans, and at a final public meeting in November he unveiled the latest iteration of his proposals.

Among other things, the master plan, published above, features reworked entryways and plantings along the park’s perimeter. It adds a picnic area and creates a central plaza with a seating area overlooking the view of the city to the south. It also adds a new pathway and additional seating at the top of the park.

The plans, which will be presented to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission for approval in February, were considerably revised and scaled back from earlier proposals, which included a large central amphitheatre, an oculus with a view locator and relocated tennis and multi-purpose courts. The overwhelming public outcry was for less construction and fewer bells and whistles, with refurbishments that would make the park more functional while maintaining its formal elegance.

The first phase of the project, slated for completion next year, will be confined to the north side of the park, with $3 million of the expected cost already available from various sources. The park’s south side still suffers water issues that need to be resolved, even after a redo of its irrigation system last year. The Friends of Alta Plaza hope to raise money for the rest of the project through grants and fundraising.

Another meeting place disappears

TULLY’S COFFEE has closed, leaving the corner of Fillmore and Jackson without a coffeehouse for the first time in decades. Filmmaker Erika Tetur chronicles the final days.

No more group yoga at International Orange

AFTER A DOZEN YEARS upstairs at 2044 Fillmore, with its oversized windows overlooking the heart of the neighborhood’s retail row, International Orange is demonstrating its flexibility by shaking up its yoga and retail offerings.

As of November 15, group yoga classes will be eliminated and instruction will only be given one-on-one or semi-privately to two or three practitioners at a time.

yoga_group

Leslie Su, retail and brand manager, says the change was prompted by current clients asking for more “individual wellness” when they come to the studio and spa.

Future yoga clients will meet with IO staff to assess what they would like to work on and their preferred styles of practice. “We will then pair each person with an instructor and set up sessions based on the time and style that works for them,” says Su. “We like to go first with the style.”

Five of IO’s current instructors will stay on to work with clients in private sessions: Allison Hodge, Lindsay Thomson, Nicole Cronin, Marie Murphy and Erin Gilmore. Su says that collectively they have experience in offering athletic, rejuvenative and pre- and post-natal styles of practice.

The individualized instruction comes with a price: $125 for a 60-minute session — a substantial hike over the current rate of $12 for a drop-in class, several of which run 90 minutes.

And while private yoga clients get the added perks of full access to the spa amenities — steam, shower, sun deck and “relaxation lounge,” Su acknowledges that some longtimers are bucking at the price hike — and especially at the move away from group practice.

“Certain clients are pretty sad about it going away. But restaurants take away your favorite dishes. And many people just don’t like change of any kind,” she says. “Besides, there are a ton of other yoga studios in the area. We are seen as a luxury spa in San Francisco. The price for one-on-one yoga instruction is comparable to the cost of a facial.”

She adds that IO aficionados have been given a month’s notice, and that those with outstanding credits for classes can use their value for private yoga or spa treatments such as waxing, facials and massages.

A “transition celebration” is slated for Sunday, November 2, when all final group classes will be free. Juice cleanses and other wellness samplings and discounts will also be offered.

As part of the transition, the spacious group studio will be divided into a more intimate space for private clients and an additional treatment room and more retail space. The yoga studio and spa will be closed from November 17 through 20 for construction.

IO has offered organic In Fiore complexion and body treatments nearly since its opening. In Fiore founder Julie Elliott will relocate her Post Street parfumerie to a shop-within-a-shop as part of the remodeling.

Su says this change, too, was prompted by client demand. “More clients care about what they’re putting on their skin, but the science behind it also needs to be top-notch,” she says. That includes organic make-up as well. “We will certainly be growing this segment as part of our retail expansion,” Su says.

Shell station makeover moving slowly

WHEN PLANS WERE UNVEILED earlier this year to remake the Shell service station at California and Steiner and add more pumps and a 24-hour Loop food store, neighbors were up in arms. Many decried the prospect of added traffic and “a 7-11 with a salad bar.”

According to city planner Sharon Lai, the project is proceeding, but still awaits an environmental report and further review. She said it is unlikely to come before the Planning Commission until next year.

“It has not moved very swiftly,” Lai said. “There are still outstanding issues to be resolved.”

Much of the opposition to the project was sparked by its elimination of Shell Auto Repair, the garage independently owned and operated by mechanic Doug Fredell. Nearly 200 supporters and customers of the garage have signed a petition opposing the project.

“We’re certainly aware there’s a lot of neighborhood concern,” Lai said, adding that the department’s position is not influenced by public opinion. “The commissioners are the appropriate body to consider comments from the public,” she said. “That’s their job.”

A similar Loop convenience store is being built at the Shell station at Lincoln and 19th Avenue by Golden Gate Park.

EARLIER: “Shell station may lose garage

Nick’s still got it

Photograph of Nick Nickolas by Daniel Bahmani

Photograph of Nick Nickolas by Daniel Bahmani

NICK NICKOLAS got his first restaurant job in Oakland in 1955 at a very fine restaurant called Villa de la Paix. He went on to a six-decade career in which he opened more than 30 restaurants nationwide — most notably his Nick’s Fishmarkets in Honolulu, Beverly Hills, Chicago, Miami and other cities. Then he came home to the Bay Area and retired.

Or so he thought.

“So I’m back in the Bay Area,” says Nickolas, “and my nephew asks me to come over and take a look at his operation,” Dino & Santino’s, the neighborhood pizza joint at Fillmore and California owned by longtime local Dino Stavrakikis. “Before I realize it, three years have passed and I’m still coming over.”

Uncle Nick, as he’s become known to Dino’s regulars, has brought a touch of the big-time to the neighborhood, with his flashy clothes, toothy smile and smooth manner.

“Sometimes you can’t get enough of this business,” he says. “When it becomes a big part of your life it’s no longer work, but a way for you to express a love of hospitality.”

Family-friendly Dino’s is a considerable contrast to the high-flying restaurants Nickolas ran for most of his career.

“My restaurants were mainly white tablecloth with tuxedoed waiters — fancy and expensive,” he says. “But price doesn’t change hospitality. If you spend $10 or $10,000, the hospitality should not change.”

Dino was already in the process of remodeling and upgrading his corner spot at the heart of the neighborhood, and his Uncle Nick helped him up his game.

“There’s a new menu and new decor,” says Nickolas, “but the same good food and the same attitude. Dino and Santino’s fits into the Fillmore in a unique way — and it’s one of the few remaining family-run businesses.”

He adds: “Food is not what the guests remember, but the way they were treated. A good waiter can save a mediocre meal, but bad hospitality can sink the entire experience altogether. Were you greeted properly? Were you seated in a timely fashion? Were you thanked on the way out? If you were, the food tasted better — period.”

Dino is not the only old friend Nickolas has reconnected with since he came back home to the Bay Area. Through Facebook, he also got back in touch with Judy Steinberg, a friend he met for the first time in 1968. Their initial romance turned into a friendship that lasted on and off for 45 years. Now it’s back on again, and they are engaged — and working together on a website and a new book they’re calling Sexy at 70: It’s Never Too Late! (The Judy and Nick Story).

Read more: “Sexy at 70

He found his niche

HE’D HAD A successful and rewarding career as a bookseller and then settled comfortably into retirement in his book-filled flat on Bush Street across from St. Dominic’s Church.

Then disaster struck Richard Hilkert.

Richard Hilkert (1928-2014)

Richard Hilkert (1928-2014)

He was walking home from a 78th birthday massage early on the afternoon of August 29, 2006, when a rampaging driver ran him over in the crosswalk at Sutter and Steiner. More than a dozen local residents were injured and one died when the deranged driver’s spree came to an end. Hilkert had a broken shoulder, but recovered — and found himself more popular than ever, his plight having received wide news coverage.

“I think people had forgotten I was still alive,” he said a few weeks later. “Now they’re calling and inviting me for lunch.”

So his charmed life continued for eight more years, until he died on October 9, 2014, at age 86.

Hilkert had continued to live alone in his apartment, surrounded by books and art and music, tended to by a caring circle of friends and neighbors — including those across the street at St. Dominic’s, where he was a member.

He was delighted when St. Dominic’s built a columbarium behind its main altar and he secured a niche for himself.

“I only have to move across the street,” he would say, having prepared detailed instructions for how he wanted his final rites to unfold.

That will happen on November 14 at 1 p.m. when a memorial service will be held in the Lady Chapel at St. Dominic’s.

Hip ice cream shop on the way

smitten

 

By Chris Barnett

SMITTEN, a made-to-order ice cream venture that opened its first shop in a converted shipping container in Hayes Valley, is scooping up the small space recently vacated by Copynet at 2404 California Street.

Copynet relocated to 2174 Sutter Street  at the end of September as its 20-year lease was about to expire and the rent was to increase by $4,000 a month.

Selling just four to six flavors of ice cream at any one time, Smitten’s founder, Robyn Sue Fisher, is in the final stages of signing a lease with the landlord, Russell Flynn of Flynn Investments. The longtime San Francisco property investor owns the venerable Preston Apartments on the corner of Fillmore and California, which includes six street-level storefronts.

Flynn hoped to rent the 960-square-foot storefront on California Street to Wells Fargo Bank as a limited service branch filled with automated teller machines. Wells Fargo, which theoretically could easily pay the $10 to $12 per square foot asking price for monthly rent, is in a dispute with the city over claims its two ATMs embedded in the exterior wall of the bank building facing California Street violate local disability codes because the sidewalk is too steep.

But the deal fell through.

Flynn said he approached First Republic, his longtime bank, with a similar offer but was turned down.

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Alamo Square and the families who lived there

BOOKS | JOE PECORA

Very soon after I moved to the historic and architecturally rich Alamo Square neighborhood in 1979, the untold stories of its vintage housing stock piqued my curiosity. When I could discover very little photographic or written material, I began my own research and eventually composed old house profiles for the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association newsletter from the 1990s on. By personally contacting descendents of the early owners and occupants of these antique residences and institutional buildings, I was able to secure a wonderful trove of previously unpublished photos and family stories.

The sequence of the profiles was dictated by whichever homeowner in the neighborhood would agree to host an association meeting in their home. In exchange the owners would receive a house history by me and a drawing by former architect Jack Walsh.

Now I have gathered these profiles, drawings and photographs into a new book called The Storied Houses of Alamo Square.

Many of the homes in the Alamo Square Historic District were designed by some of the city’s most prominent architects and contractor-builders for a clientele that included a number of the downtown’s prosperous businessmen. Several families residing here were listed in the pages of Our Society Bluebook. Except for the handful of large 20th century apartment buildings, our housing inventory shows a similarity of scale and building materials that evokes a pedestrian-friendly, residential atmosphere.

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