The final days of Kelly Johnson

In the final minutes of his life, Kelly Johnson was surrounded by friends and family.

By ARASH MALEKZADEH

A month ago, I was offered the opportunity to film the last days of Kelly Johnson’s life. I did not know him. I did not know how or why his death was predetermined.

I was told to meet the next morning at Peet’s for coffee. Then I’d walk half a block with my equipment to a beautiful blue Victorian overlooking Fillmore Street where he’d lived since 1969. After climbing two flights of stairs, each step creaking with antiquity, I entered the top flat. I followed an oxygen tube strewn across the carpet.

Kelly Johnson sat on his red couch, calmly staring out the window, as I approached with my camera in hand. A smile stretched across his face as he greeted me. He was ready for his close up.

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The mystery of the three lamp posts

Three old-style lamp posts on Fillmore are dedicated to Katie Flavel. But who was she?

LOCAL HISTORY | JOE BEYER

For nearly a century, three lamp posts on the sidewalk in front of Calvary Presbyterian Church have added enlightenment on the busy corner of Fillmore and Jackson.

The two on either side have plaques attached dedicating them to the memory of Katie Flavel, who apparently died on August 19, 1910. But there is no record she was ever a member of Calvary.

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Curbside Cafe turns 40

THE CREW AT Curbside Cafe had no idea, but they were about to celebrate the restaurant’s 40th anniversary with the person who started it all. Lee Burns came for dinner on Saturday night, May 26, just as he had 20 years earlier, and 20 years before that, when he and partner Manuel Pena (above) opened the restaurant at 2417 California Street, just around the corner from Fillmore.

When they took over what had been the Maison Aji (below), the rent went from $150 to $300 a month. Two years later when the rent went up to $450, they sold the restaurant to concentrate on a second Curbside in Napa. “It was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” Burns said.

Plan to tear down St. Dominic’s School sidelined

A PROPOSAL TO tear down the historic St. Dominic’s School and replace it with a modern new pastoral center over a 59-car below-grade parking garage got a chilly reception from the Planning Commission on May 24.

The project came before the Planning Commission with a recommendation from its staff that the proposal be rejected as inconsistent with the city’s general plan, which calls for preserving historic buildings.

“The project would demolish a known historic resource that has been deemed to be individually eligible for listing on the California Register of Historical Resources because it represents the work of a master architect and possesses a high degree of artistic value,” the Planning Department report noted. “Demolishing the subject building would represent the irreversible loss of a historic resource with significant architectural and aesthetic value.”

Noting that the project was located in what is primarily a residential area, the report concluded: “The department does not find the project to be necessary or desirable, as there is ample space on the subject site, namely the surface parking lot at the northwest corner of the site, that would be better suited for redevelopment. Likewise, there are opportunities to adaptively reuse the existing school building or to construct a rear addition to the building, which would achieve many of the project sponsor’s programming objectives while retaining the building.”

The planning commissioners voted unanimously to continue the proposal indefinitely and told church leaders to come back with a comprehensive plan for the St. Dominic’s block that included the school building.

EARLIER: “St. Dominic’s plans 5 new buildings

The St. Dominic’s Block

A rendering of St. Dominic’s Church from the May 1924 Architect & Engineer.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

One of San Francisco’s most impressive interpretations of Gothic-inspired architecture, St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, at the corner of Steiner and Bush Streets, is the fourth ecclesiastical structure to stand on this site.

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Help save Browser Books

Photograph of Browser Books at 2195 Fillmore by Daniel Bahmani

A PUBLIC APPEAL | CATIE DAMON

We need the help of the neighborhood to ensure that people continue to make memories at Browser Books, as they have for decades.

With the proliferation of online shopping and e-books, it has been challenging to keep Browser’s doors open. When the recession hit in 2008, we almost closed, and my dad, owner Stephen Damon, was forced to double down so that the shop could continue. Business has vastly improved since then, but the debt has accrued. And my dad can no longer sustain the debt and his medical bills.

This month, we begin running a Go Fund Me campaign to save Browser Books. The goal is to raise $75,000 to pay off the store’s debts. Any money received after the debt has been paid will go to building the store’s future. This will enable the bookstore to continue under the direction of its longtime employees.

If we cannot raise this sum, my dad will be forced to close Browser Books at the end of the year and the neighborhood will lose an important literary and cultural center.

For more details — and to donate to the campaign — please go HERE.

UPDATE: The campaign to raise $75,000 to retire the debts of Browser Books and help keep it in business was overwhelmingly successful and topped its goal within a month.

FIRST PERSON: “Growing up at Browser Books

Growing up at Browser Books

Browser Books owner Stephen Damon with young Catie Damon.

FIRST PERSON | CATIE DAMON

Browser Books, the literary landmark on Fillmore near the corner of Sacramento, was originally located one block north, beside the Clay Theatre, in a building that had also been a head shop and a recording studio for Carlos Santana’s first album, called simply Santana and released in 1969.

How my dad, Stephen Damon, came to own Browser in 1978 is, as he acknowledges, a curious and incredible story.

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Monty’s big day out

Monty on a visit to Chouquet’s on Fillmore.

MONTY HAS A SWAGGER. It’s a swagger of self-assuredness, a wiggle. It’s the wiggle-swagger that only a noble and confident West Highland Terrier can have. That was exactly the swagger he wiggled on his recent Big Day Out.

Monty’s best friend, Alison Carlson, was having work done on their home in the neighborhood. Contractors were in and out the door when one of them left it open, and Monty had the idea that he wanted a breath of fresh air. He decided on Chouquet’s, at Fillmore and Washington, where he knows the outdoor terrace well. He walked along the sidewalk unchaperoned, chest-out and proud. He made it to the orange-colored table Alison normally sits at and curled up underneath, unconcerned about the lunchtime diners with confused and worried expressions.

Longtime Chouquet’s staffer Pamela Gioe, who knows Monty well, brought him a bowl of water. Monty lapped it up, squinting in the sun. Luckily, Monty wears a handsome nametag around his neck, and Pamela was able to find Alison’s contact number and call. Unperturbed and feeling right at home, Monty remained curled up under his usual table and laid there Buddha-like until Alison zipped over in a cab to take him home.

It was the perfect rescue ruined only by lack of danger.

— Mark Fantino

Sheba’s keeping jazz alive

Sisters Israel and Netsanet Alemayehu own Sheba Piano Lounge.

By ANTHONY TORRES

Years ago, when I first came to San Francisco, a friend took me to see live jazz at Rasselas, located at that time on the corner of Divisadero and California. That night, Robert Stewart played some incredibly hard R&B-inflected jazz that was incendiary.

In 1999, Rasselas moved to 1534 Fillmore Street, creating a new music venue out of an old fish market, with a second bar, stage and dance floor in a very large back room.

That was eight years before the massive Yoshi’s complex opened two blocks south on Fillmore to great fanfare. While Yoshi’s for a few years attracted the biggest and best nationally and internationally renowned players, Rasselas stayed true to its mission of showcasing some of the best R&B, soul and jazz musicians the Bay Area had to offer — and that was, and is, a lot.

Adding to the mix was the intimate and elegant Sheba Piano Lounge, which opened at 1419 Fillmore Street in 2006.

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A principal makes a difference

Chad Slife has been principal of Cobb Elementary School for three years.

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

Along with the usual playground noise at Cobb Elementary School, at 2725 California Street near Scott, it’s possible to hear something else: the roar of Tiger pride.

That’s because the students at Cobb, Tigers all, are justifiably proud. The vibrant brick red school, which underwent a $7 million modernization a few years ago, now boasts a new library/media center, a redesigned play yard complete with a garden and outdoor classroom spaces, and countless other upgrades.

But most important have been a renewed spirit and focus during the three years the school has been led by principal Chad Slife. “Each year enrollment and achievement have gone up,” Slife says. “I have people emailing me out of the blue who want to teach at our school.”

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