The wait is over

BBFlowers

FIRST PERSON | BARBARA WYETH

For us early morning folk, the long awaited opening of Blue Bottle Coffee on the busy Jackson and Fillmore corner is a blessing. In my mind, a strong cup of coffee is always a good thing, any time of day. That bracing dark, sweet shot of warmth and energy is one of life’s simple pleasures. Sometimes it’s also a necessity, a predictably effective motivator if I am going to accomplish anything the rest of the day.

We in the Jackson and Fillmore pro-coffee faction mourned the day the friendly, patient staff at Tully’s closed their doors. Once a beacon of light, warmth, and caffeine — especially in the winter months — the corner remained dark for two years. I would often see  members of our tribe looking wistfully at the closed doors and the posted notices on the papered-over windows. It was especially difficult this last very cold and very wet winter. Sloshing through puddles to a distant cafe early in the dark morning was not an ideal way to start the day. I would occasionally catch the eye of a former Jackson-Fillmore regular scurrying up the hill with soggy paper cups and trays.

When the sparkly new Blue Bottle Cafe opened, I saw many of those same folks standing patiently in the line, looking relieved, and eager to enjoy the much-acclaimed coffee. The cafe is modern, bright and open, with wrap-around windows to watch the comings and goings on that lively intersection. The cheerful staff seems eager to make friends of all the neighborhood folk. And those meticulously prepared espressos and macchiatos and pour overs are are gradually clouding my memory of the long wait for that early morning elixir. Truth be told, they take a little too long for me, at least most mornings — but damn, it is mighty fine coffee!

Sherith Israel completes retrofit

A crane hoists roofing material to the temple's historic dome.

A crane hoists roofing material to the temple’s historic dome.

ESPECIALLY SWEET MUSIC will rise up into the freshly repainted and retrofitted dome atop Congregation Sherith Israel’s historic home at California and Webster on June 9 at a special Shabbat service celebrating the end of a long-running renovation.

“We did it!” exclaimed David Newman, co-chair of the seismic retrofit campaign. “The Sherith Israel community has risen to the occasion.”

“We are in compliance with all of the city’s seismic requirements,” said former congregation board member Ellen Schumm, who has been involved with the project since its inception. “This building is so stable, it’s awesome.”

The $16 million project to strengthen the 1905 building — which survived the earthquake and fire the next year and served as a temporary courthouse during the rebuilding — was spurred by new standards established after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

The first phase of the project, completed in 2011, included an innovative engineering plan to reinforce the exterior walls of the sanctuary without affecting the elaborately painted interior walls. It also stripped away the salmon-colored paint that had been unwisely applied to the sandstone walls half a century earlier.

The second phase, just completed, involved reroofing, repainting and waterproofing the dome, removing the last vestiges of salmon paint and returning the dome to the color of the sandstone on the base. It also added solar panels on the roof and included work on nearly every other part of the building.

“Our beautiful sanctuary will be here — and be strong — for generations to come,” said senior rabbi Jessica Graf.

EARLIER: In a video from January 2011, the retrofit project was underway.

Cottage Row Zen garden moves forward

Issei

A PLAN TO CREATE a Japanese Zen rock garden at the foot of Cottage Row has been green-lighted by the Planning Department and is scheduled for a go-ahead vote on June 15.

The garden would honor the first generation of Japanese residents in San Francisco, the Issei, who established Japantown in its current location 110 years ago after the 1906 earthquake and fire.

The memorial was proposed last year by leaders and supporters of the nearby Japanese Cultural and Community Center, who enlisted renowned gardeners Shigeru Namba and Isao Ogura to create a garden on the Sutter Street side of Cottage Row that would honor the Issei generation.

“Cottage Row is the only place in Japantown they would recognize,” said Paul Osaki, director of the center, because the rest of the neighborhood was torn down and remade during redevelopment in the 1960s.

Osaki presented the proposal last year at a series of five sometimes raucous neighborhood meetings. Some neighbors disputed the Japanese heritage of Cottage Row and insisted that any memorial should honor everyone who had lived in the area.

A subsequent review of census records showed that Cottage Row was in fact occupied almost entirely by Japanese-Americans until they and the other residents of Japantown were interned during World War II.

After committee review on June 1, the Cottage Row proposal is slated to come before the city’s Recreation and Park Commission on June 15. The commission agenda describes the plan as “an in-kind grant valued at approximately $56,000.”

A staff report notes that the garden plan is supported by 100 nearby residents, 23 community organizations and 463 people who signed petitions, in addition to supervisors London Breed and Aaron Peskin. Ten nearby residents and one other person registered their opposition to the plan.

EARLIER: “Zen garden sparks a fight

“This place is magic”

Fred Martin has worked there for 36 of Browser Books' 40 years.

Fred Martin has worked at Browser Books on Fillmore for 36 of its 40 years.

“LOVE WAS IN THE AIR,” says Fred Martin of the days when he and Browser Books were both young.

And on many nights, it still is.

“This place is magic,” he says of the bookstore, where he has worked for 36 of its 40 years as it grew into a landmark on Fillmore Street. “People love this place. They get caught up in interesting conversations.”

And sometimes more. Many lasting connections have been made in Browser Books: couples on dates uncovering mutual interests, spouses returning to a favorite haunt, chance meetings that grow into romance.

The store is filled with love stories — from the stacks of Neruda that sell out on Valentine’s Day, to Romeo and Juliet on high school reading lists, and the middle-aged professional proudly unembarrassed to ask for Fifty Shades of Grey.

“It’s the most realistic portrait of the romantic idea of working in a bookstore I’ve ever had,” says Jordan Pearson, the newest of the Browser clerks. “It’s being a bartender without the liquor — and sometimes I wish I had a bouncer late at night.”

“I always feel like I’m the party host,” says Fred Martin. “I want the store to be a place where people can be at home and talk about anything. I love being part of that.”

Browser Books opened in 1976 a block north next door to the Clay Theatre.

“It was a real artist hangout,” says Martin. He recalls a couple who met in the old store and got married under the avocado tree in the garden out back, near the fountain with a sculpture of brass instruments. Just recently they stopped by, back in town from Oregon, and talked about moving back.

In 1989 Browser gave up used books and moved south to its smaller current location.

“We’re not just a little library, like a lot of other places,” says Martin. “People have always been friendly and outspoken here.”

The Beat poet Latif Harris worked at the old Browser for a time and lived upstairs above the shop. He met his wife when she came browsing into the store one day. Fred Martin also met his spouse there. And so have others.

 MORE: “Book Lovers

Luxury condos boost late summer sales

VIDEO: Grand opening of The Pacific condos at 2121 Webster on September 15.

REAL ESTATE | PATRICK BARBER

The period before Labor Day is typically a slow time for real estate. But this year was a lot busier, thanks to new condominium buildings that have been opening across San Francisco’s northern neighborhoods.

There were 32 condominium sales in Cow Hollow, Lower Pacific Heights, Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights between mid-August and mid-September — almost three times as many as the same period last year.

Three more units recently sold at the LuXe, a seven-story, 34-unit building at 1650 Broadway between Van Ness and Franklin. Two nearly 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom condos in the building sold on the last day of August, one for $2.1 million and the other for $2.5 million. Also that day, a three-bedroom penthouse in the building fetched $5.1 million.

The Pacific, another new building located just steps from the heart of upper Fillmore at 2121 Webster Street, saw two big ticket sales recently, with two three-bedroom units selling for $6.2 million and $9 million. One of the penthouses in The Pacific has also closed, with a selling price of $11.5 million.

EARLIER: For buyers with cash, condos promise cachet

Hello from the other side

WHEN SHE’S NOT at her day job in a medical office near Fillmore, singer-songwriter Candace Roberts can often be found on the stage or in a cabaret.

Her recent music video, “Hello Ed Lee” — an adaptation of Adele’s mega-hit “Hello” — is a plaintive cry to the mayor of San Francisco about what she calls “a tale of two cities, and not the book, but reality.” Over images of street tents housing the homeless, she sings: “Oh this city is filthy rich, yet there’s crisis in the streets.”

Hello Ed Lee” follows Roberts’ 2014 video, “Not My City Anymore,” which strikes a similar theme.

Things are really cooking at Browser Books

PERHAPS YOU HAVE noticed something unexpected coming out of Browser Books lately — the smell of soup cooking, or shrimp scampi sauteeing, or fragrant onions softening in a skillet.

That’s an added benefit of the new cooking demonstrations Browser Books is now sponsoring each month. Randy Denham, a retired caterer who two years ago began working in the bookstore on weekends, is in charge, cooking in the store and serving up samples.

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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.

LOCALS | THOMAS REYNOLDS

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.

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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 ourlabs@mac.com.

VIDEO: “Restoring St. Dominic’s”

City owed $18 million for Fillmore Heritage Center

The showplace club and restaurant that once housed Yoshi's now sits empty.

The showplace club and restaurant that once housed Yoshi’s now sits empty.

IT HAS NOW cost more than $18 million in city funds to build the Fillmore Heritage Center and keep it afloat.

There is no new tenant in sight for the huge empty spaces formerly occupied by Yoshi’s jazz club and restaurant. The garage is losing $10,000 a month now that the building has few visitors. The Lush Life gallery also sits empty and has no potential new tenants. The restaurant 1300 on Fillmore continues to operate, but its future is in doubt.

These are some of the details that have finally begun to emerge about exactly what is happening with the project opened in 2007 to revitalize the stretch of Fillmore Street south of Geary once known as the Harlem of the West. Public hearings on July 13 and July 27 brought out scores of restive neighbors, and a thick “informational memorandum” laid out the sad financial facts, complete with spreadsheets, term sheets, notices of default and lease terminations attached.

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