From Fillmore to Tanzania

FIRST PERSON | ERIN LEMOINE

I’ve lived in this neighborhood for eight years, so I tend to make a lot of decisions when hanging out on Fillmore Street. Dino’s or the Elite for dinner? Yoga at International Orange or Mindful Body? Recently, while having coffee and surfing the web at Jane, I made a bigger decision: to quit my job, leave the safe confines of the neighborhood and go to Africa on a humanitarian project.

I’ve enjoyed a successful career as an event planner in the entertainment, tech and sports marketing industries. It’s been fun and rewarding. But the last couple of years have left me wanting more. I’ve always wanted to make a more significant impact by doing work that helps people help themselves. I realized it was now or never.

Erin LeMoine on Fillmore Street

Erin LeMoine on Fillmore Street

I had been searching for a project for some time and that morning at Jane I discovered the website for Mama Hope, an organization working with African organizations to build schools, health clinics, children’s centers, clean water systems and food security projects. I was so excited about the opportunity that I hiked half a block up to Peet’s and completed the online application.

Mama Hope isn’t the usual volunteer opportunity; you must apply and interview for the fellowship program. Luckily, I made the cut. Now I must raise $20,000 to help build a student dining hall and community center in Tanzania. This new structure will provide a space for children to eat meals together, and will also serve as a gathering place for meetings, events and celebrations.  Most importantly, the community center will attract more paying students, which means more poor and vulnerable children can get a free education.

Soon I’ll board a flight for Moshi, Tanzania, and live there for three months, collaborating with community leaders to begin the project. When I come back to San Francisco, I’ll spend three months doing a mixture of monitoring and evaluation, reporting and public speaking.

Even though I’m leaping into the unknown, the move aligns with my passion for service. Maybe it’s innate; my father was a firefighter and my sister is a teacher. I intended to get a graduate degree in public health after college and I almost joined the Peace Corps. Instead, I ended up planning elaborate tech parties. However, I’ve reconnected to my passion over the years with some volunteer yoga teaching and a two-year tutoring stint at Rosa Parks Elementary School on Webster Street.

Now it’s time to really go for it.

Fundraising hasn’t been easy. The last time I asked for money, I pleaded with my parents for cash for Duran Duran concert tickets. Yet I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the generosity of people and businesses in the neighborhood and throughout the city. NARS Cosmetics, Yoga Works, Caryn Cohen at Secret Agent Salon, massage therapist Wendy Parker, International Orange, Soul Cycle, Equinox and Prana are just some of the local merchants that have stepped up to the plate. With their support, we’re connecting our community with the community in Tanzania.

I’ll miss my friends who sit on the bench at Peet’s every day. I’ll miss fall, my favorite San Francisco season. But the sacrifice will be worth it. And perhaps my work in Tanzania will open doors to a career in international development.

And to think, it all started on Fillmore.

Learn more about Erin LeMoine’s project and follow its progress.

His baton is at rest

Ever-playful music man Alden Gilchrist with a sculpture by Ralph O'Neill

Ever-playful music man Alden Gilchrist with a sculpture by Ralph O’Neill

JUST AFTER MIDDAY an email message went out: Alden Gilchrist, the widely beloved music director who served Fillmore’s Calvary Presbyterian Church for more than 60 years, had died the night before, on September 1, Labor Day, at age 83.

A few hours later, as dark descended, several dozen of Gilchrist’s friends and admirers instinctively gathered at the church for music and an informal memorial.

“He had that unique ability to make everyone feel like his best friend,” said pastor John Weems.

Gilchrist first came to the historic church at Jackson and Fillmore in 1951 to play the organ. Except for a brief study tour in France, he never left. He was named director of music in 1965, and in the decades since he has been widely acclaimed for his commitment to enlightened and enduring music. He initiated a community concert series, which brings professional musicians to perform at the church and benefits local charities. He led the church choir on three European tours, including performances at Notre Dame in Paris and at the historic cathedral in Chartres. More recently he pioneered a popular Sunday evening jazz service at Calvary.

“He survived six different pastors,” said choir member and church historian Joe Beyer, a friend of Gilchrist’s for more than 50 years.

In October 2011, a concert honored Gilchrist on his 60th anniversary at the church. He remained at the podium through the annual Christmas concert last year, when he conducted the choir and accompanying orchestra in two major works, the Gloria by Francis Poulenc followed by the equally famed Gloria by Antonio Vivaldi.

Shortly afterward, he suffered an illness that kept him in and out of hospitals for much of this year. Gilchrist’s friends and the church staff kept rigid rules in place to limit visitors. “Those who know him — which includes most of greater San Francisco — know also that the gregarious musician would have had nonstop visitors partying with him if the choice were left to him,” said his friend Fran Johns.

Gilchrist’s public sentiments were mostly musical. Weems recalled asking Gilchrist to pray at a staff meeting. He promptly responded: “I already did.”

EARLIER: “60 years of making music

Not all square footage is created equally

2858 Vallejo Street

2858 Vallejo Street

REAL ESTATE | PATRICK BARBER

A pair of recent single-family home sales in Pacific Heights underscores that affluent San Francisco buyers will often pay a whole lot more for location and views than they will for size.

On the surface, 2858 Vallejo Street and 1948 Pacific Avenue are similar. Both were built around the turn of the 20th century, boast 5-plus bedrooms and sit on similar-sized lots. Both properties also needed substantial renovations. However, at 7,360 square feet, the Pacific Avenue property is more than twice the size of the Vallejo Street home. Yet 2858 Vallejo sold for $6.1 million — 30 percent more than the asking price — while 1948 Pacific sold for $5 million, or 6 percent less than the listing price. The Vallejo Street home’s stunning panoramic views and desirable location commanded a large premium.

The English Craftsman home on Vallejo stands west of Divisadero Street, a location that many Pacific Heights residents covet. It also sits about a block from the end of Vallejo, which adds privacy and seclusion. Importantly, the Vallejo Street home offers incredible vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and San Francisco Bay — a perk no buyer could ignore.

1948 Pacific Avenue

1948 Pacific Avenue

Patrick Barber is president of Pacific Union.

‘I don’t see anything to pull it back’

Patrick Barber

Patrick Barber


REAL ESTATE | PATRICK BARBER

WE’RE PLEASED to welcome Patrick Barber, a native of the neighborhood and president of the Pacific Union brokerage, as our new real estate columnist.

So you’ve lived in the neighborhood a long time. Yep, 48 years. I grew up on Clay Street not far from Fillmore. I went to Stuart Hall and St. Ignatius. It was quite a bit different than today. As parents, we’re so hard-wired to be worried about our children. In those days, there was a roll of nickels near where we kept the mail. We’d grab a nickel and walk up to Presidio to catch the 3-Jackson and go to school. It was a wonderful neighborhood to grow up in.

And you knew you wanted to come back after college? I went to UC San Diego, then moved back. I’ve been in real estate for 26 years. I started at TRI and was on the sales side for 9-plus years. Then I started Sotheby’s, their 11th office in the world, because I felt the local real estate companies weren’t offering clients enough marketing and reach. I was there for 12 years before we took Pacific Union back private and teamed up with Christie’s. I’m happy to have a local company with international reach.

What have you observed during three decades in the real estate market in this neighborhood? The old adage “location, location, location” has always held true and still holds true today. Houses in this neighborhood — Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, Cow Hollow, the Marina — they’ve all held their values very well. Even in the face of adversity like the earthquake in ’89, most people held on through the rebuilding and reconstruction, and the values came back strong.

After the economic crash in ’08 there wasn’t a big decline. There certainly was a pullback and a slowdown. But it probably lasted only about 12 months in Pacific Heights. The way you make money in real estate is by holding it, not selling it. And many people in this neighborhood didn’t have to sell. We were fortunate. We also had interest rates trending down during that time.

The demand has been pretty constant. There’s been a lot of construction and reinvestment over the 26 years. People have sometimes invested well beyond what their home in the near term will ever be worth. They’re invested in building a place to live in one of the best neighborhoods in one of the best cities in the best country in the world. People often have built what they wanted, without concern for what price it would bring. It was intrinsic value they were building, not just an investment. We’ve seen that so many times, where people build beyond today’s property values. They’re doing it for themselves, particularly in this neighborhood.

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The last great saloonlord

Photograph of Perry Butler by Susie Biehler

Photograph of Perry Butler by Susie Biehler

By Chris Barnett

DID YOU HEAR the one about the architect in a cab on Union Street who realized he was short of money? “Pull over at Perry’s; they’ll cash a check,” he told the cabbie. “Wait here,” he said to his date. “I’ll be right out.”

As he walked in, barkeep Michael McCourt yelled “Hey Russ, the usual?” and poured him a stiff one. Another regular came over. “Hey Russ, good to see you. Let me buy you a drink.” Another pal waved from down the bar. “Next one’s on me.”

Ten years later, the architect, Russell Gifford, was perched on his favorite stool at Perry’s and his date from that night walked in the door. He saw her in the backbar mirror, turned around and cracked: “I thought I told you to wait in the cab.”

The top bartenders in town — who worked at Perry’s at some point in their careers — are still telling that one. Yet this month on the 45th anniversary of the Union Street thirst parlor and restaurant bearing his name, you would never hear that tale told by the proprietor, Perry Butler. He’s too much of a gentleman.

In a city where barrooms have morphed from brawling whiskey and beer joints in canvas tents to temples staffed by high priests of the shot glass who dub themselves cocktailians and mixologists, Perry’s on Union stands alone as San Francisco’s last great saloon.

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A familiar face is missing

Karen Pearson (second from left in photo) is remembered in a posting at Peet’s.

Karen Pearson (second from left in photo) is remembered in a posting at Peet’s.

THE VENERABLE Victorian building at 2550 California Street had already seen its share of troubles. A fire a few years ago had done significant damage and left its tenants in temporary quarters during a lengthy top-to-bottom renovation. They finally moved back in a few months ago, but the fire trucks were back again on Sunday afternoon, July 6, when one of the tenants, Karen Pearson, was found dead in her apartment.

The news traveled quickly to her wide network of neighborhood friends, centered around a coffee group that convened early most mornings at Peet’s on Fillmore. Pearson was a regular, quick to say hello and make introductions, or smile at a child, or pat a dog. She was one of those familiar faces often seen around the neighborhood.

Many of her friends gathered at Peet’s for an impromptu memorial a week later, on Sunday, July 13, and remembered her as a kind neighbor and friend, one who sometimes asked the baristas for “just an extra splash” of coffee, as if Peet’s were a local diner.

“Life had dealt Karen some particularly hard blows in the last 10 years,” her friend Fiona Varley wrote in an email to more than 125 of her friends, “from being diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer, being homeless for five years when her building was struck by fire, being unemployed for many years and now finally going through the eviction process.”

Yet friends remembered her as relentlessly upbeat. Several recalled her frequent invitations to events at the Mechanics’ Institute at 57 Post Street, where she was a longtime member and a dedicated volunteer. A more formal memorial will be held there on Friday, August 22, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

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

FJF14

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’

FJF14

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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