A Mime Troupe arrest in Lafayette Park

Mime Troupe Meadow in the renovated Lafayette Park honors the historic occasion.

Mime Troupe Meadow in the renovated Lafayette Park honors the historic occasion.

By GARY KAMIYA
San Francisco Chronicle

Fifty years ago this weekend, police prevented the San Francisco Mime Troupe from performing a play in Lafayette Park, arresting the company’s founder as 1,000 people jeered. The dramatic encounter expanded the frontiers of artistic freedom in San Francisco and indirectly launched the career of legendary rock promoter Bill Graham.

Read more: “Portals of the past

KALW: “For the Mime Troupe, the show goes on

Shell station revamp scaled back

The Shell station and garage at California and Steiner Streets.

The Shell station at California and Steiner.

OWNERS OF THE Shell station at 2501 California Street were sent back to the drawing board by the Planning Commission on April 30 and told to return in a month with revised plans — ideally plans that would keep the garage they hoped to eliminate.

The owners, a company called AU Energy that owns more than 100 Shell stations, had sought permits to raze the existing station and garage and replace it with a Loop convenience store and twice as many gas pumps.

“Car repair is a higher amenity than grab and go items,” said commissioner Dennis Richards. “I challenge you to come back with something where you have better integration with the community . . . hopefully including car repair.”

The owners of the station had agreed a week earlier — after neighbors showed up at a Planning Commission hearing to oppose their plans — to scale back the hours the convenience store would operate and to expand only from five to eight fueling stations, rather than the 10 they originally sought. They also extended the lease on the garage, which is owned by an independent operator, through June 30.

The commissioners were clearly sympathetic to the Shell station owner’s desire to renovate the station in a way that would keep it economically viable as environmental upgrades are made.

“We need gas stations,” said Richards, who noted they are disappearing all over the city.

But the commissioners also had heard neighborhood opposition to shuttering the garage and concerns about intensified traffic on an already-busy corner. There were doubts about the appropriateness of the expanded convenience store.

“I am concerned about further suburbanizing that corner,” said commissioner Kathrin Moore. “It looks backward rather than forward.”

The commission voted unanimously to continue the issue until its meeting on May 28.

“We’re directing you to try to incorporate service,” said Richards. “That would be necessary and desirable and hugely compatible” with the location and the needs and desires of the neighbors.

EARLIER: “Shell garage told to close

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.”
(more…)

New limits on chain stores on Fillmore proposed

Graffiti at Fillmore and California, where fashion may replace Royal Ground coffee shop.

Graffiti at Fillmore and California, where fashion may replace a laundromat.

AS FILLMORE STREET continues to rapidly remake itself into a mecca for fashion labels from around the world, supplanting basic neighborhood services, legislation has been introduced at City Hall that would subject more businesses to the city’s limits on chain stores.

Under the existing “formula retail” ordinance — enacted by the voters in 2008 to limit the proliferation of chain stores in the city’s neighborhoods — businesses must obtain a conditional use permit to open on upper Fillmore if they have 11 or more stores in the U.S.

New legislation introduced by District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell would amend the ordinance to include stores located not only in the U.S., but anywhere in the world. That would affect companies that have numerous stores in other countries, but are just beginning to establish a presence in the U.S.

“After hearing from both our merchants and neighbors in the Upper Fillmore about concerns that large retailers were pushing out our smaller and unique ‘mom and pop’ type of stores,” Farrell said, “I introduced legislation to expand the definition of formula retail.”

The legislation would also extend the law to include new businesses started by formula retail companies, whether or not they currently have 11 or more stores. This has been an approach favored by companies such as the Gap, which opened Athleta on Fillmore, and Starbucks, which opened Evolution Fresh.

Farrell’s proposal would apply only to the Upper Fillmore Neighborhood Commercial District, which extends from Bush to Jackson streets.

Similar efforts have been launched in other neighborhoods, including nearby Hayes Street. In response, the Planning Department has resisted neighborhood-specific legislation and instead proposed that the proposals be delayed while a study is conducted to develop uniform rules.

Farrell’s legislative assistant Catherine Stefani said her office would press forward with the legislation despite the Planning Department’s move for a citywide law.

“We have told Planning that we plan to proceed with the legislation despite the study because we felt that it was urgent to do so,” Stefani said.

Back in the neighborhood

President Obama heads to his helicopter this morning at Crissy Field.

PRESIDENT OBAMA returned to the neighborhood yet again last night for dinner with deep-pocketed supporters at the Getty Mansion. He was greeted in San Francisco style by a raucous crowd of protesters opposing the Keystone pipeline, then introduced by the Gettys’ down-the-block neighbor, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Here’s the pool report on the event.

This morning Obama boarded Marine One down the hill at Crissy Field and headed to Silicon Valley.

EARLIER: Inside the Getty Mansion

In Hungary, an ambassador from Pacific Heights

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Markos and Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis

By Markos Kounalakis

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Many of my Saturdays used to start out with a saunter down Fillmore Street for an early morning cup of coffee while the rest of my family was still in bed.

Budapest is also a coffeehouse city, but more famed for the conversations and art that grew out of that culture than the coffee in the cups.

It has been three years since we left San Francisco and moved to a country that only a generation ago was behind the Iron Curtain. As I look outside my office here, I see the Statue of Liberty — not the one in New York harbor, but the one atop Gellert Hill in Budapest, erected by the Soviets after World War II. From her office window, my wife looks toward a Soviet monument in the middle of Szabadsag ter — Freedom Square — a golden star topping the prominent stone memorial.

From our apartment in Pacific Heights, we looked out on the bay, the sailboats and the container ships crossing under the Golden Gate Bridge. President Obama marveled at the view during the couple of times he visited our home before assuming office. He later appointed my wife Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary — a complex and demanding job that brought our family to beautiful Budapest.
(more…)

Guess who’s coming to dinner — again

Don't plan to drive near Outer Broadway while President Obama is back in the neighborhood.

President Obama will be back in the neighborhood for dinner tonight, after stopping in Chinatown to pick up take-out dim sum for lunch. He’s supping and posing with a few deep-pocketed supporters paying $38,500 each at the contemporary Gold Coast home of Oracle heiress Nicola Miner and author Robert Mailer Anderson. Entertainment will be provided by the Rev. Al Green, with dinner prepared by Quince’s Michael Tusk. Here’s the menu:

Tortelloni filled with Barinaga Ranch baserri cheese and wild nettle

Poularde in diverse preparations: Roast breast filled with black salsify, savory cabbage; leg fricassee with chanterelle mushroom

Sweet dumpling squash puree and marble potato

Chocolate Cemeux

Straus Family Creamery milk jam and chocolate caramel dentelle

A public rally and fund-raiser follows at Masonic Auditorium on Nob Hill.

High-tech meters are working, study says

While other San Francisco neighborhoods are resisting the new high-tech parking meters that now line Fillmore Street, they are generally finding favor with local residents and merchants, despite being difficult to use. And a new report suggests that the experimental SFpark program is having at least some of its intended effects.

At the new meters — which accept both coins and credit cards and have no time limits — compared with older meters used elsewhere in the city:
• Citations decreased by 35 percent.
• Net revenue increased by 20 percent.
• Length of stay increased slightly.

“The new meters [resulted in] greater income from payment at the meter and less from citations,” the report states. “In 2010, at the old meters, 55 percent of revenue came from payment, with 45 percent from citations. In 2011, after the new meters were installed, 70 percent of revenue was from meter payment, with 30 percent from citations.”

On Fillmore, some drivers complained they found the new meters complicated to use, but many merchants gave them positive reviews.

“I think it’s good,” said Vasilios Kiniris, owner of Zinc Details. “From a sales standpoint, people don’t say, ‘I’ve got to run out and feed my meter.’ It’s much more convenient to be able to pay with a credit card for as long as you want to park.”

At Design Within Reach, staffer Tony Sison said he rarely has to reach into his stash of quarters for customers anymore. “It’s been a positive thing,” Sison said. “People aren’t just coming to one store. With more time, they can have lunch and visit three or four shops.”

Ambassador from Pacific Heights

The Kounalakises in their Steiner Street aerie.

When they’re in San Francisco, Markos and Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis can often be spotted on Fillmore Street, near their home on the ninth floor of the 2500 Steiner Street tower. But these days they’re mostly in Budapest, where she’s the U.S. ambassador to Hungary.

Among their visitors from the neighborhood: 2500 Steiner’s 12th floor resident, the staunch Democrat Susie Tompkins Buell, who arrived just in time for the unveiling outside the embassy of a larger-than-life statue of former President Ronald Reagan. “We kept our eye on Susie,” the ambassador told the Chron’s Leah Garchik.

Read more

Complaints spur crackdown on hookers

CRIME WATCH | Barbara Kate Repa

Battling what appears to be an upsurge in prostitution, officers at Northern Station have stepped up enforcement efforts in recent months, making a growing number of arrests on Van Ness Avenue.

In April, 88 people were arrested or cited on charges related to prostitution in the district — up from the usual monthly tally of 10 to 20, according to Captain Ann Mannix of Northern Station on Fillmore Street. Charges included prostitution, soliciting prostitution and related offenses such as warrant arrests and traffic violations.
(more…)