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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

VIDEO: “Restoring St. Dominic’s”

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.

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.

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

At Nagata, doing more than dance

Photograph of Corinne Nagata in her dance studio in Japantown by Erik Andreson

Photograph of Corinne Nagata, owner of Nagata Dance in Japantown, by Erik Anderson


“I taught my very first dance class half a block away, at the Japanese Community Center, when I was still in college,” says Corinne Nagata, owner of Nagata Dance, a second-floor studio in Japantown with a bird’s eye view of the Peace Plaza pagoda. “And my grandfather had a frame shop about five blocks away on Fillmore Street. He’s 103 now — incredibly witty and somebody who’s influenced me a lot. He was actually my landlord’s Boy Scout leader.”

Nagata, a San Francisco native, says she “went away to New York and did all the dance stuff there,” including stints at Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theatre, the National Dance Institute and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

“But I came back here because it’s my hometown and my family is here. It’s nice to be back in this neighborhood again,” she says. “I also came back to make my home a better place and I think the way I can do that is by teaching dance — and not just teaching it, but sharing it with more people.”

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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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Prelude in blues: opening Gardenias

Margie Conard (left) and Dana Tommasino are opening Gardenias at 1963 Sutter Street.

Margie Conard (left) and Dana Tommasino are opening Gardenias at 1963 Sutter Street.


A  new restaurant. In San Francisco. Which should give fat pause.


The first day we’re officially in the place, I’m out on the street assessing our storefront. A smiling kid I don’t know, maybe 15, from Winfred’s, the longstanding hair salon next door, walks up quickly and asks: “You the new owners?” and, without losing stride, wide-arm hugs me congratulations.

* * *

My girlfriend Margie Conard and I had been looking for a space for years, then finally lost the lease to our restaurant, Woodward’s Garden, which was a funky diner under a freeway in the Mission when we bought it. There was no changing it for kids like us, just starting out and planning at the time to conjure a French-inspired dinner bistro. We rolled paint on and made do for 22 years.

The new space is by far the best thing we’ve ever come across. We name it Gardenias, swooping a little bit of our past Garden into our future.

Inevitably, every friend who first walks into the new space begins to beam and says hushed, reverently, how perfect it all seems: location, size, back patio, kitchen, feel. I glow with it all, too; know what they mean. Know in my bones this is right. And part of me hopes to hell it’s all true.

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Brenda calls off po’ boy shop on Fillmore

Construction began on the space that was to house Brenda's Original Po' Boys, then stalled.

Construction began on the space that was to house Brenda’s Original Po’ Boys, then stalled.

AFTER THREE YEARS of waiting, Cajun food restaurateur Brenda Buenviaje has lost her appetite to open a Southern style Original Po’ Boys sandwich shop on lower Fillmore.

The chef-owner of the widely praised Brenda’s French Soul Food on Polk Street — and the newer Brenda’s Meat & Three on Divisidero — says she has tossed in the towel on a Fillmore outpost after delays dragged on and on. She declined to discuss the specifics of the deal, but acknowledged it was dead.

She was negotiating to combine the two storefronts at 1406 and 1408 Fillmore two blocks south of Geary that were previously occupied by Domino’s Pizza and the Espress Yourself coffee shop.

New Orleans-born Buenviaje envisioned a counter-service shop with a menu offering 20 different versions of her own po’ boy recipes. The menu she was planning included traditional fried catfish, oyster, shrimp and calamari po’ boys.

Last fall, when she opened Brenda’s Meat & Three at 919 Divisadero, she said the Fillmore project was still on, but described it as moving at a “snail’s pace.” Some of her po’ boys are now on the menu of her Divisidero Street restaurant.

READ MORE: Brenda’s “Anatomy of a Po’ Boy” (with recipe)