Quick end to a stickup at Sterling Bank

The Sterling Bank branch at Fillmore and Bush.

CRIME WATCH | DONNA GILLESPIE

Sterling Bank at 1900 Fillmore was the target of an alarming, if ultimately unsuccessful, robbery attempt on January 16. It happened at 4:50 p.m., just before closing time.

Some inside the bank were aware of a man in a blue rain poncho pacing up and down the sidewalk in front of the small, glassed-wrapped bank, but at first no one paid much attention. Then the man entered the bank, confronting manager James Rensch. Covering his face with one hand and wielding a gun with the other, the robber told Rensch: “Give me all your cash or I’ll shoot.”

In accordance with bank instructions, “I complied,” said a clearly shaken Rensch. He said the man was in the bank for a tense three minutes before he fled with the cash.

Rensch called 911, and two plainclothes policemen, along with beat cop Gordon Wong, were nearby. The plainclothes officers chased the suspect up Bush Street and caught him just past Webster. The apprehension was witnessed by the bank’s neighbor, HiHo Silver shop owner Victoria Dunham, who was leaving her flat as the arrest unfolded outside her front door.

Police dispatch had given the officers a description of the man, but during his short flight he had managed to shed his clothes and don new ones. Although the suspect was arrested, the police investigation is still ongoing and the FBI is now involved.

More Yoshi’s fallout: Black Bark is moving

Black Bark owners Monetta White and David Lawrence

THE CITY’S DITHERING over the future of the Fillmore Heritage Center has claimed another casualty: Black Bark, the modern barbecue joint at 1325 Fillmore, did not reopen after a holiday break.

Only weeks after ending regular dinner service across the street at their upscale 1300 on Fillmore restaurant, owners Monetta White and David Lawrence decided to remain closed as they continue negotiations to move Black Bark to another location “on the other end of Fillmore,” White said, gesturing toward the Marina but refusing to be specific until a lease is signed.

White and Lawrence have already begun moving their equipment and say they hope to reopen in the spring.

White said the food, the concept, the graphics and the furnishings will all remain the same. Since it opened two years ago, much of Black Bark’s thriving takeout business has come through delivery services, and they are preparing to launch a line of sauces and other products.

But they want more foot traffic, and that may take years on a block where the entire east side is occupied by massive empty spaces that for a few years housed Yoshi’s restaurant and jazz club, plus a gallery and screening room.

In November the city threw out the bids from five potential buyers and said the process of finding a future for the heritage center will begin all over again.

Fillmore 1996: a moment in time

TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHS BY LUCY GRAY

Two decades ago, in the summer of 1996, I photographed shopkeepers and workers on Fillmore Street. I thought there were wonderful looking people in my neighborhood, people who looked like characters. They understood the performance aspect of small shops, the need to create a style.

I could see that the street was changing, as independent stores and thrift shops diminished and branding put a shellac over individual expression. I wanted to hold on to a moment when individuality was celebrated. The people in this series of photographs all owned or dreamed of owning their own shop, or they were living the dream of expressing themselves through their choices. There was an ideal of earning a modest living through self-expression that may have been sentimental, but it was an era when to be inimitable was prized.

I regret not taking a picture of Cheryl, who was given the dress shop Jim-Elle by its previous owner, which was true for several shops on the street. She was very funny and I can still hear her joking. She married the handsome Irish UPS driver we’d all known for years and she was gone in a snap. Lucky guy.

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Bringing life into the present tense

Kelly Johnson composed and performed the music on his new CD.

FIRST PERSON | KELLY JOHNSON

In the sunset years of my life, I sometimes realize that many of my friends don’t see me as I see myself. They see just an old guy on the corner outside Peet’s. But inside my head, I know I’ve had an interesting life — even if the interesting parts all seem to be in the past.

Recently I took on a new project that involved writing original music for ballet class, publishing a CD and developing a website. It was life changing.

And it turned out to be the glue that holds together all of the disparate parts of my life: as a child performer in vaudeville, later at the S.F. Dance Theater, which started on Fillmore Street; then as executive director of the Berkeley Symphony, followed by my years as a concert pianist and now my newest work as a composer.

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Serenely Modern: William Wurster in Pacific Heights

Photographs of William Wurster’s neighborhood homes by Shayne Watson

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

In a prolific five-year period between 1937 and 1941, one of California’s premiere Modernist architects, William Wilson Wurster, designed several important houses in Pacific Heights.

Drawing on an established reputation as a residential designer, Wurster crafted these homes for urban living. However, each takes advantage of its distinctive site to include an outdoor room or significant garden space, sometimes designed by Wurster’s long-time collaborator, landscape architect Thomas Church.

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A tree of light

The tree atop UCSF is controlled from a room just underneath.

The tree atop UCSF is controlled from a room just underneath.

FOR DECADES it has been a familiar sight during the holidays for drivers headed west on Pine Street: a 40-foot Christmas tree in the sky made of lights — 3,000 lights, on 60 strands, with 50 lights each.

The tradition started when Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. built its four-story black glass headquarters in the 1950s on the site of the old Laurel Hill Cemetery, after the bodies were dug up and moved to Colma. The tree has continued to rise every year since the University of California-San Francisco took over the building in 1985.

As the university prepares to move this neighborhood campus to Mission Bay and development plans for new housing on the site proceed, the fate of the tree is in doubt.

Photographs © 2017 Jean Collier Hurley

Photographs © 2017 Jean Collier Hurley

Photographs © 2017 Jean Collier Hurley

Our little village

Photograph by Barbara Wyeth

FIRST PERSON | THOMAS R. REYNOLDS

I’d run into Lois Tilles a couple of Saturday mornings ago at the Fillmore Farmers Market, near the bright orange persimmons and the deep red pomegranates glowing in the morning sun. She was sporting her usual warm smile. We’re both in a group that has been walking together for 25 years at Crissy Field early on Saturday mornings and has coffee together afterward. Lois’s husband Richard usually came down on his bike for coffee, then rode over for his weekly volunteer gig in the Presidio. Lois and I chatted for a minute at the market. I was buying fuyu persimmons. She asked: “What are those?” Then: “How do you eat them?”

When we got back home after a week away, there was a phone message from the guiding spirit of the walking group. Richard was suddenly very sick. So I got fuyus at the market to bring as a get well gift. But it was too late. Richard had died — on Saturday morning, about the time of our coffee hour.

I remembered local artist Barbara Wyeth’s fondness for photographing fuyus, so we stopped by Bloomers on Washington Street, where she works, to pick up one of her hand-crafted cards. It turns out she’d made two: of a single and a double. On Thanksgiving eve, a neighbor and I walked down to Richard and Lois’s flat near Union Street and left a bag of fuyus, with the card of a single, on the doorknob for Lois. On the way down Steiner, we dropped the card with the double through the mail slot of the couple who started the walking group, and who brought us all together.

This holiday season, I am thankful to live in this wonderful neighborhood, and for good friends, especially those who live and work nearby in our little village.

P.S. On Thanksgsiving morning I got an email from Lois: “Did you know? The farmers market now delivers! I got some beautiful persimmons delivered right to my front door.”

Photograph by Barbara Wyeth

Photographs by Barbara Wyeth

Teaching human kindness

Photograph of Deb Anaya and friends by Suzie Biehler

Photograph of Deb Anaya and friends by Suzie Biehler

By LIV JENKS

On the corner of Fillmore and Jackson stands the imposing edifice that is home to Calvary Presbyterian Church, moved there from the western side of Union Square just in time to open with a community Thanksgiving service in 1902.

Often overlooked is the warm, bright preschool located on the top floor of the adjacent education building, with its rooftop playground, which has been welcoming and shaping 3- and 4-year-olds since 1956.

Deborah Anaya has been director of Calvary Nursery School for 19 years. As she walks through the six mini classrooms that divide the preschool’s open, inviting space, she points with pride to the reading corner, the student artwork that hangs on the walls, the portfolios tracking the progress the children made in learning how to write their names.

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Learning more about Santana

Santana book

BOOKS | LEWIS WATTS

I have always admired Carlos Santana, but I think I had begun to take him for granted. He made his career in San Francisco during the Summer of Love, starting in the Fillmore. I’ve always loved his music, especially his early albums, but I only knew a few particulars about his life. So I borrowed my wife’s copy of his autobiography, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light, which is well written and makes you feel as if you are sitting in a room with him having a conversation.

Santana was born in Autlán de Navarro, Mexico, the son of a professional Mariachi musician. He developed his blues chops playing guitar in strip clubs in Tijuana. He moved with his family to San Francisco in the early 1960s and formed the Santana Blues Band in 1966. I remember seeing him play with B.B. King at the Fillmore. His international reputation was sealed by his performance at Woodstock.

Santana always had a wide variety of influences in music. His unique style was formed by expanding his foundation in the blues to include Latin and jazz influences. One of his first big hits was “Oye Coma Va,” originally recorded by Tito Puente. I was fascinated to see that he was very tight with people like Miles Davis, Alice Coltrane, John Lee Hooker and many others.

Santana was married for many years to Deborah Santana, the daughter of Saunders King, a prominent R&B guitarist during the heyday of the Fillmore District in the 40s and 50s, featured in Harlem of the West. He is now married to Cindy Blackman, a drummer who has played with Lenny Kravitz and many jazz ensembles. One of the notable qualities of Santana’s life is his deep spirituality, which has taken a number of forms, and which has sustained him and influenced his broad musical reach.

I was happy to learn more about Santana. The book made me break out his old albums in my collection — and then seek out some of his new music. It’s a good read.

Lewis Watts is co-author of Harlem of the West: San Francisco’s Fillmore Jazz Era.

A clubhouse for millenials

The Snug opened November 29 at the corner of Fillmore and Clay.

The Snug opened November 29 at the corner of Fillmore and Clay.

SALOONS | CHRIS BARNETT

The Snug conjures up a cozy corner in a centuries-old smoky pub where big-bellied Brits and tweedy types quaff suds, trade insults and argue politics The new Snug, at 2301 Fillmore, is the polar opposite — a sleek, fun, split-level cocktail bar with friendly skilled staffers mixing, pouring and serving classic and creative libations at reasonable prices.

In a stylish makeover of the former Mehfil Indian restaurant, the centerpiece here is a 31-foot-long bar fashioned of the trunk of a single Douglas fir. The barstools spin. There’s plenty of table seating for a couple, a foursome or a crowd. Mercifully, there’s not a single blaring TV on the premises. To justify its name, the owners have a carved out a small snug that seats four, but frankly it looks a little uncomfortable.

The Snug has more than a dozen craft beers and ciders on tap, five wines by the glass and six or seven house cocktails ranging from a White Lily #2 — gin, rum, orange liqueur, absinthe and curry leaf — to a timeless Old Fashioned, with bourbon, bitters and sugar. A tall wall of every spirit imaginable overlooks the airy space. There’s no happy hour.

The kitchen puts out snacks and a few inventive small and large plates. A burger and a $16 Cobb salad top the list. Brunch is coming soon.