Divide in the Fillmore

I set out to the Jazz District and interviewed the locals on what they thought about the divide between “upper” Fillmore and “lower” Fillmore.

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The Moe No ‘Mo

Before I started reporting in the Fillmore for my Reporting class at San Francisco State University, all I knew was that when my friend and I got lost looking for the The Fillmore venue trying to see a Yellowcard concert, we walked in the wrong direction and followed the smell of Extreme Pizza. When we finally headed back in the right direction, a homeless man at the Fillmore and Geary bus stop said that I looked like a dove. That was my extent of knowledge of the Fillmore.

I decided to give Fillmore a second chance. I’ve heard more about it’s rich music history and music is something that I’m always interested in so I thought this would be a great place for me to report.

But I got so much more from reporting in the Fillmore.

Throughout my experience here, I’ve learned that the Moe is way more than music; it’s culture and community. I saw the divide between “upper” and “lower” Fillmore. I’ve learned about how the gentrification in San Francisco has affected the Fillmore community. I’ve met so many wonderful people from the group of older people that gather on a regular basis at the park adjacent to Fillmore Plaza, to the musicians and merchants at the Fillmore Farmer’s Market, to the owner of an aquarium store, to the father-daughter management team at an ice cream shop, to the young sales associates at Brooklyn Circus and many, many more. Milk Tea on Fillmore and sandwich meals from Mitchell’s were my saving grace between interviews.

Even outside the Fillmore, I’ve had amazing experiences. I’ve had the chance to eat crepes and watch sumo wrestlers fight in Japantown, talk to passionate seniors against new towers being built in Western Addition and see Mike Brown Sr. speak at a Baptist church in the Alamo Square neighborhood.

As I’m walking down the street for the last time this semester, I hug Quentin Hoskins and he asks me how I’m doing. When I’m walking back to the bus stop to catch the 38, I catch Teresa Bennett’s eye through the glass window at Mitchell’s and I wave hi. I cannot stop emphasizing how many amazing people I’ve met running this blog.

Anyway, it’s been interesting reporting on the Fillmore. I’d like to thank everybody who was kind enough to let me interview them and thank you to those who have actually read and kept up with this blog. I can honestly say that there was never a dull moment because the heart and soul of the city of San Francisco is so alive.

Thanks for reading!

-Angeline Ubaldo

 

 

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One Year Anniversary of Alamo Square Tour Bus Ban

Today, visitors to Alamo Square Park can enjoy an unobstructed, scenic view of the backdrop to ‘90s sitcom Full House and one of San Francisco’s most famous attractions, the Painted Ladies. But it wasn’t like this a year ago.

On Nov. 19, 2013, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors unanimously voted to restrict all commercial vehicles carrying nine or more passengers from varying streets surrounding Alamo Square Park, with the exception of employer shuttle buses.  This restriction went into effect in January 2014. Bus drivers that are found in violation face a $100 fine. Signs have been posted around the neighborhood that read “Tour buses and vans (seating capacity of eight or more passengers) prohibited”.

As the one year anniversary of the implementation of the ban approaches, many of the residents are feeling its effects.

“I definitely have not seen [tour buses]. I have noticed a lot more tourists on foot,” Jeanne Hallacy, a resident on Oak St. said.

Misael Vazquez and Brian Williams have also noticed a decrease in the number of tour buses passing through the Alamo Square neighborhood.

Vazquez said that before the bus restrictions were implemented, there weren’t very many buses on the weekdays and the effects of the bus ban weren’t noticeable to him because he worked on weekends.

Williams, on the other hand, said “I come out here to the park every weekend. The crowd of buses was just really annoying.”

Other residents, like Lauren Desantis on Fell St, said that she has not noticed a significant change in tour bus volume since “they’re all stopping by my window now.” This is due to the tour bus loading zone that the SFMTA established north of Fell St., east of Pierce St., and west of Divisadero to decrease traffic immediately adjacent to Alamo Square Park.

Robert Lyles, deputy spokesperson for SFMTA, said that SFMTA is satisfied with the results. “The volume of tour buses on Hayes St. alongside Alamo Square has declined by over 90 percent as a result of these restrictions.”

In a study conducted in 2011, the SFMTA has observed one tour bus or van that passed through the Alamo Square area for every three minutes. That’s 85 buses or vans observed in a four and half hour period of time. That number has dropped significantly from one tour bus every three minutes to a total of just three tour buses in a study conducted in August 2014.

On the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association page, members are encouraged to report of any tour bus activity on the restricted residential areas to the San Francisco Police Department.

History

The Alamo Square Neighborhood Association has been combatting tour buses in the area since 2011 due to complaints of engine and amplified speaker noise, traffic and parking impacts, vehicle size, gas emissions and a large volume of tour buses that travel through the nieghborhood.

“We all complain about [the tour guides] from time to time,” Desantis revealed. “Some characters that drive the buses can drive you nuts if you’re home.”

The ASNA formally requested restrictions in September 2011, according to Lyles.

According to SFMTA’s agenda from their meeting in November 2013, some members of the San Francisco Tour Operators Association voluntarily stopped operating in Alamo Square in 2012 but continued on the streets directly adjacent to Alamo Square Park in 2013.

The SFMTA agenda states that in April 2013, “SFMTA organized a Tour Bus Workshop with representative of various neighborhoods concerned with tour bus issues, the visitor industry and several public agency representatives.”

SFMTA committee meetings, which were open to the public, were held throughout late 2013. On an Oct. 4 public hearing, 30 people spoke about their opinions regarding tour buses in the Alamo Square neighborhood. According to the agenda, of the 30 speakers, 19 spoke of negative impacts of tour buses in the area while 11 spoke in support to continue allowing tour buses in the neighborhood.

There is a Facebook page titled “Tour Buses Behaving Badly” with the description “A group of neighbors who want to document tour buses behaving badly.” Pictures of tour buses parked around Alamo Square posted by residents and links for news articles about tour bus complaints by Alamo Square neighbors make up the bulk of the content on this page. There have only been three posts in 2014. The last post, from June 30, shows two pictures of a bus on Steiner and then on Hayes St.

“SFMTA occassionally recieves complaints that a tour bus or ban has violated restrictions,” Lyles said. “In these cases, we contact the management of the tour bus company and remind them of the restrictions and instruct them to remind their drivers of the restrictions. This approach has been effective in deterring repeat violations.”

Alamo Square Park on a Sunday afternoon is populated with both visitors and residents who hike up the hills to take pictures, sit in the grass and take their children out to play at the playground even with the dark, ominous clouds looming overhead. Susan Grossten, a visitor from Seattle, stands in front of the Painted Ladies and snaps pictures.

She says that Alamo Square Park is on their list of San Francisco attractions to visit after Golden Gate Park and Union Square. “I didn’t notice any tour buses. It’s good that they banned them because this–”she gestures her arm to the city in the distance”–is an iconic view.”

 

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Fillmore Concert-Goer Robbed at Gunpoint

After seeing Foxygen at The Fillmore, it was around 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 when the victim said that a man wearing a bandana and a hooded sweatshirt came from behind, demanded his backpack and told him to empty his pockets.

“I was walking to Van Ness at Geary and Laguna,” the victim said. “I was just in a post-concert haze. I should have been paying more attention.”

David Breitenbuecher, 25, a graduate student at University of Chicago home to Mill Valley since classes has ended, said that he wished the robbers took everything of value and left his thesis notes and textbook. He said that the robbers took his backpack which had his textbooks, his thesis notes, an iPad, and his passport. He gave them his iPhone and his wallet but didn’t want his credit cards or ID, which he thought was odd.

“He had what I believed to be a gun under his sweatshirt because I could feel something metal under the cloth,” he explained. “[He] said, ‘I’m not playing with you, man.’ I did exactly what he said. [He] wanted me to turn around and walk to a side street. [He] told me not to get anyone’s attention, don’t do anything fishy, don’t look at the cars.”

Breitenbuecher said that the perpetrator had a partner with him that acted as a lookout as he was emptying his pockets. “I thought to myself, ‘I would be lucky if I got away with this without getting hurt.’”

Both men, according to Breitenbuecher, were wearing hooded sweatshirts and bandanas. Both were African American and athletically built, one about 6 feet 1 inch tall, the other about 5 feet 9 inches.

Breitenbuecher reported the incident to the Tenderloin Police Station the following day.

He said that he attempted to track his iPad and phone and found that the theives were selling them at the Lainey College Flea Market.

A few weeks later, his passport and wallet, were mailed back to him. “I guess somebody found it in the trash and sent it to the police department or something,” Breitenbuecher said. “There was no return address.”

His advice for for future concert-goers in the Fillmore District? “Be more alert when the concert gets out. This is common sense, don’t bring anything you wouldn’t want to lose.”

According to the San Francisco Police Department Crime Maps, there have been a total of 26 robberies within one mile of The Fillmore from Oct. 1 through Dec. 12.

As for Breitenbeucher, he has taken his own advice and become more careful walking in the streets now. “Im much more alert when I walk now. I’m checking the alley ways, and scanning the block ahead of me. If people are following me too closely, I’ll cross the street. I’m not going to let that stop me from going out.

Mission Police Officers Involved In Strange Narcotics Bust Testify

When the defendant claimed to be having a miscarriage during a strip search at Mission Police Station, she had to be rushed to San Francisco General Hospital in order to have a plastic bag extracted from her vaginal canal.

A preliminary hearing was held last Thursday, November 13 for defendant Renee Malone, charged with transport, sale, distribution, import into state of a controlled substance; possession and purchase for sale of cocaine; one count of falsely impersonating another; resisting, obstructing, delaying; and assault with a weapon that is not a firearm, causing great bodily injury.

Officers on duty at the Mission Station when Malone was in custody on Sept. 6, were put on the stand to testify.

Officer Cameron Stokes said he and Officer Cody Barnes were on surveillance. They watched Malone for about an hour and noticed that she wasn’t going on any buses or into any businesses. She was pacing back and forth when a Latino man allegedly gave currency to the defendant, she supposedly retrieved a plastic bag from inside her jeans in exchange.

Officer Stokes said he took her into custody and told him her name was Yessenia Martin. After searching through the California Photo System, Officer Stokes concluded that Malone gave him a false identity.

Later, Officer Abigayle Lin was called in to perform a strip search. “Initially, the subject was compliant, then made movements to shove something out of her anal or vaginal area.” She said she saw a concealed plastic bag coming out of Malone’s vaginal area when she helped her take off her underwear.

Officer Lin said that Malone resisted and bit down on Officer Lin’s middle, ring and pinky fingers. She struggled to free her hand from her mouth.

“According to my report, [Malone] said, ‘I have HIV, I have STDs, and I hope you get them because I bit you, you bitch,’” Officer Lin testified. She called in Officer Barnes to help her restrain the defendant.

When Malone didn’t comply to a squat and cough test to remove the objects from her vaginal area, Officer Lin said she made an aggressive digging motion with her hands and said something along the lines of “I can’t get to it, I shoved it too far up, it’s in my booty.” She took her to the hospital and she saw a few drops of blood in her hand.

Officer Barnes pulled a small plastic bag from a manila envelope with 7.8 grams of cocaine-based substance that was extracted from Malone’s vaginal cavity. He said that he had suspicions that she intended to sell the substance because she held loosely held cash on her person.

More preliminary hearings will resume in the following week.

 

Painting Sounds and Molding Minds: Larry Douglas

Larry Douglas is still trying to figure out how technology works.

“Come on, thing,” he says, aiming a remote control at a stereo system in his living room. “Oh, there you go.” And with that, the sounds of an uptempo, dance-y trumpet melody fills the room. “This is what I was working on in the studio yesterday,” he shouts over the music.

At age 64, Douglas seems to have done it all: Joined the army and rose through the ranks to become first sergeant in the ’70s, played with the military band in “literally all” of the cemeteries in the Pacific Rim, tried out for the San Francisco 49ers, dropped out of San Francisco State University, performed in SuperBowl III, toured the United States with musician Johnny Otis and toured internationally with his son, Shuggie Otis in 2012 and 2013, taught instrumental music in schools all over San Francisco until 2010. And he is currently recording his own CD under his own record label.

“People will tell you what you play,” he says after turning off his demo. “I don’t play jazz, I don’t play Latin music. When I’m playing Larry Douglas music, I’m playing ‘SoPa.’” SoPa, an acronym for “sound painting,” is a genre that Douglas has created himself.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in music from Florida A&M and a master’s degree in trumpet from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he explains how he uses the trumpet as his main paintbrush to paint sound. “I may not be the very best musician on that instrument but when I’m playing my music, I may sound like the best instrumentalist in the world because I’m playing something from passion and I’m playing what I know. I’m not playing anybody else.”

Douglas’s best friend of 40 years, Ignacio Rodriguez, sees this originality in him. “He doesn’t limit himself. He’s open and doesn’t want to be pigeonholed.”

His music resume includes being part of a self-proclaimed, original Earth, Wind, & Fire band, Funk Incorporated (“We were supposed to have gotten a contract with Columbia, and if it would have happened, we would have come out just before Earth, Wind, & Fire hit the market”); Part of Grammy-nominated Johnny Otis and His Orchestra; and band leader of the Larry Douglas Alltet. Being part of all that, he still comes to the Fillmore Farmer’s Market every second and fourth Saturday to play for donations to give back to the community.

“I will not miss a Saturday going out there and playing for the community because feel like I do make a difference. Regardless of whether I do make a difference or not, I feel I make a difference,” he says. “My favorite part about playing at the Fillmore is that I get a chance to give back, what I’ve earned.”

Among the venues in the Fillmore, Douglas has played at 1300, Yoshi’s lounge, Sheba’s, Rasselas, and the now African American Art & Culture Complex.

He explains that many times, he pays to play at the Fillmore because “the musical presence in the Fillmore was what the Fillmore was all about.”

As an educator, he has taught instrumental music in middle and high schools all over the San Francisco Unified School District and was an adjunct professor at University of California, Santa Cruz and the Peralta Community College District, following in his parents’ footsteps. His father was the assistant principal at the high school he attended and his mother was an elementary school teacher in Georgia where he grew up.

Douglas reveals that he teaches, not just because his parents taught, but for that moment of clarity every student has in their academic life. “The light bulb goes off and they can see the outcome, they can solve the problem. After that, it is the confidence that that student gained from knowing that they have been empowered from their knowledge. And I love that.”

Rodriguez says that if there’s one word to describe Douglas, it would be mentor. “He’s a very good teacher. He’s alive and involved. He will help you find a way. Not just with music. He taught me about serendipity.”

With that, Douglas has become a mentor and a father to five children of his own. All of them followed in his musical footsteps. One of his sons, LaDamon, also known as Fatboi, is a hip hop producer in Atlanta, Ga. who has produced music for big names such as Gucci Mane, Flo Rida, and 2 Chainz.

Douglas plays “The Hustle” by Rocko and Nas on his tablet and says that not only has his son produced the track but has recruited his father to play on it as well. “I’m playing vibes, trumpet, and flute on it.”

When asked how many instruments he plays, he gestures to his living room where the vibes are set up in front of the fireplace across from the piano and there are various stands holding wind instruments placed along the perimeter of the room. Of the many instruments in his repertoire, he names flute, clarinet, vibes, trumpet, trombone and piano.

A framed caricature on the wall in the hallway shows an animated cartoon Douglas playing trumpet with the words “Les Joulins” scrawled on the side.

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At Les Joulins Jazz Bistro, Douglas walks around the restaurant playing an upswing jazz rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” directly to patrons at their tables who smile at him and sing and bob their heads in tempo and clap as he leaves to move on to play to the next table.

Reuben Almanza, waiter at Les Joulins, says that Douglas has been coming and going, playing at the restaurant for 20 years. “He reminds me of the song ‘What a Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong. He’s that song.”

“When I play to people… their faces are tight, twisted, from all the stress,” Douglas explains.  “But if I get a chance to release that demon and change that tight face into a smile, I can move them from where they are and take them to another place where they are free. That’s what it’s all about.”

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Prop J for Justice for minimum wage employees in Fillmore?

This November, San Francisco voters will decide on a measure that will put more money into minimum-wage employees’ pockets.

Proposition J is the ordinance that would increase the $10.74 minimum wage to $15 in 2018. If passed by voters, the minimum wage would go up in small increments from $12.25 in 2015 to $15 in 2018, then adjust to inflation from there.

Small business owners, such as Teresa Bennett of Miyako’s Old Fashion Ice Cream on Fillmore, believe that the minimum wage should have started at $15. “It’s more of a positive thing than a negative thing,” she says. “Folks will come to work with a better attitude.”

Others, like Carlos Quintanilla, manager of Extreme Pizza on Fillmore, are more skeptical. “It seems like an amazing idea, but there are a lot of things to be taken into account,” he explains. “Like for people earning $15 now, is their salary going to be bumped up?”

The measure only specifies a pay raise to employees who are earning the $10.74 minimum wage. The minimum wage ordinance will not affect high-wage earners.

Prop J was unanimously agreed upon by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The Board noted in a statement in favor of the proposition, “Currently, San Francisco’s minimum wage is set at $10.74 per hour. That means that a full-time worker with two children earns less than $22,400 per year, a wage below the federal poverty level.”

Gabriel Toya-Melendez, a theater employee at Kabuki Sundance Cinemas in Japantown, supports the measure. “I have friends who work two to three jobs just to pay rent in a small room.”

Proponents have contributed more than $600,000 to the measure with most of the support coming from San Francisco police officers and fire fighters.

Although there isn’t an active campaign to fund opposition to Prop J, the San Francisco Council of District Merchants Association has come out against it. “The rising cost of living will only escalate with the increase in minimum wage,” the association said in a statement. “Raising the minimum wage will encourage those from outside the city to compete with San Francisco workers thus entry-level local workers will have difficulty in finding employment.”

The association also claims that small businesses will be hurt by the measure because of the “impact on income” it will have on low-wage workers who may have to be laid off.

Bennett of Miyako’s disagrees. “No, it won’t affect us. We look out for each other here.”

Prop J may offer relief to low-wage earners in the Fillmore.

“With higher minimum wage, we can relax,” Toya-Melendez says. “I feel like it would allow my peers and I to live instead of survive.”