With Tragedy Still Fresh, Developers Looking to Buy Fire-Destroyed Mission Market

With the burned wreckage of Wednesday night’s fire barely settled, those affected by the tragedy are faced with the daunting task of picking up the pieces. For the 54 residents displaced, for the business owners whose livelihood is now in question, for those dealing with the terrible physical and emotional injuries caused by fire, and for the family and friends of the deceased—recovery will undoubtedly be a long and slow process.

The often painfully slow ordeal that is coming back from a disaster of this sort is notable for many reasons, one of which being how starkly it stands in contrast to the reaction of a different group of individuals—developers. With some longtime residents of the now destroyed building questioning whether they’ll be able to remain in the city they still for now call home, real estate developers are already on the scene.

In a story focused on Wise Sons Deli, which was using a commercial kitchen located in the now fire-destroyed building, Inside Scoop makes note of what has come to be expected in our beautiful city by the Bay:

On early Thursday morning, I still met with [Wise Sons owners] Bloom and Beckerman. They were among the crowd hovering around the corner of 22nd and Mission, a swarm of displaced residents, nervous business owners, reporters, television cameras, and like moths to a flame, slimy developers looking to buy another property.

And with the brand new Vida condo development next door fetching sky-high rents, it is unfortunately no surprise that mixed in with all the pain and suffering caused by this fire some see gold.

Bum Jovi

No Longer Scaring Valencia Street Shoppers, Omer Travers Now Partying in The Desert With Young Women

Long a fixture of Valencia Street, Omer Travers (AKA “Bum Jovi”) spent many years alternatively delighting and pissing off those that happened to stroll by his seemingly permanent perch in front of Good Vibrations.

Described on Yelp as everything from “batshit crazy” to “legend,” Travers was nothing if not a very in-your-face reminder that Valencia still had a little life left in it. That changed when Travers disappeared around November of 2013, leaving us with only his Facebook page for our daily dose of confused rock and roll.

Well, it seems that Travers has been busy. Capp Street Crap reports:

Controversial Valencia Street fixture and entertainer Omer Travers may have traded San Francisco for Arizona but he still has an audience. 

Earlier this month, a music video for a song called “Apollo” by French electro-pop band Ruby Cube was posted to Travers’ Facebook page. From 2013, it shows Travers, a.k.a. Bum Jovi, cavorting with a group of fundamentalist girls gone bad. He even has a speaking part. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s kind of amazing.

Amazing it most certainly is.

[Photo: The Tens]


Mission & 22nd Shut Down As Fire Burns

The intersection of Mission and 22nd is entirely shut down as a four-alarm fire continues to burn on the northwest corner of the street. The building that looks to be hardest hit by the fire contains both the Popeye’s and the offices of Mission Local—in addition to numerous residential units.

The street closure has forced the rerouting of both the 14 and the 49 down South Van Ness for the time being.

The fire appears to be spreading west up 22nd Street, as these two photos taken moments apart (looking east from 22nd and Bartlett) seem to show:

Update Jan. 29th, 10:30am: Last night’s fire damage was extensive, both to persons and to property. San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White confirmed this morning that one adult male perished in the fire from a cardiac arrest, and Mission Local is reporting that “at least six additional people were being treated at an area hospital for smoke inhalation and burn wounds.” This is in addition to the roughly 54 residents that have reportedly been displaced. 

Chief Hayes-White said that it would be “days or weeks” until the origin of the fire is discovered, and that there are “concerns about [there] not [being] an audible fire alarm system and reports of people having difficulty accessing the fire escape.”

She went on to say that Mission Street will remain closed to traffic until at least midday, when they hope to open at least one lane for Muni.

The damage from last night’s fire extends past Mission Street, up 22nd. And while it is clear that the businesses directly affected by the fire itself will remain closed for some time, it is less clear what will happen to the businesses up 22nd, like Escape From New York and Revolution Cafe. When asked about when those businesses might be able to reopen, one SFPD officer informed Uptown Almanac that as there is extensive flooding and damage to electrical on buildings adjacent to the fire, SFFD would need to OK any business before it is allowed to reopen.

As of now, the future is uncertain for both the residents and businesses displaced.

Furry Friends

Soothe Your Lonely Soul With Free Booze And Adorable Kittens

The San Francisco SPCA is once again providing us with a reason to look forward to February. On Friday, February 6th, the Alabama Street location will play host to the 4th annual BE MINE Adoptathon: Catwalk, Tattoos and Cocktails—an event that features an open bar, plenty of animals to pet, and an opportunity to get the likeness of your favorite feline tattooed on your thigh.

From the event page:

This year’s bash will treat guests to a fashion show, (real!) tattoo pop-up shop, hosted cocktail bar, and delicious vegan/vegetarian bites, all while meeting the SF SPCA’s adorably adoptable animals. All adoption fees will be waived during the event and throughout the weekend.

According Jason Walthall, SF SPCA co-president, last year’s BE MINE event resulted in the adoption of 81 dogs and cats—a number he’s hoping to beat this year.

The event is free, but a reservation is required. It goes from 5pm to 9pm, and you can RSVP here. Oh, and while you’re putting back those free drinks and taking in the glory that is the 7pm “catwalk,” do remember to donate some cash.

[Photo: Rod Kilpatrick]

Music Music Music

Lee Bob & The Truth Dumps on Google Glass, Plays A Show at Viracocha

In the lead up to the February release of their album The Truth, San Francisco’s Lee Bob & The Truth has been playing what amounts to a mini tour across the Bay Area. On top of four shows in the last two weeks, the band has an upcoming January 31st gig at the now legit Viracocha. Their music, which has a bluesy/rock and roll vibe, engages with San Francisco both obliquely and directly. An example of the latter is the single “Mission Breakdown,” which gets straight to it:

hope eternal in the shadow of the twitter sign
prosperity gospel all the way to the bread line
celebrity weekend at the start-up engine…
methadone clinic / soup kitchen
lookin’ pretty hip 16th & Valencia
on your first trip out to California

And in the same lyrical exploration of the New Mission, the band both calls attention to the exodus of artists from San Francisco and presciently suggests that Google’s face computers are best suited for the dustbin:

fifteen years it’s a split decision
tell my friends I’m leaving the mission
pack your trash you Google Glass
and your creepy vacant stare

Lee Bob & The Truth is also playing a free show in the Mission tomorrow night. The concert, which is going to be broadcast live on’s Cheetle Radio, starts at 7:00 PM. Tickets are free, and you can get on the list/find out the location by RSVP’ing to

[Photo: Kaitlyn Miller]


Business Insider Boldly Declares The Mission "A Million Times More Hipster Than Brooklyn"

In a feat of journalist excellence, New York based Business Insider has officially declared that “the Mission is a million times more hipster than Brooklyn.” Calling the neighborhood a “Williamsburg on steroids,” the Business Insider piece continues a long tradition of East Coast publications obsessing over the Mission.

Assembled by Melia Robinson, a reporter well versed in using the listicle form as a means to unpack complicated truths, the Business Insider piece seeks to understand the neighborhood by searching for meaning in all thebeards, denim shirts, artisanal cheese, bicycles, and overpriced lattés” found within. And while the piece seems to use the terms “hipsters” and “tech workers” interchangeably, it is unwavering in its one-dimensional view of the Mission as a place overrun by an “earthy-crunchy yuppie invasion.”

But perhaps we’re not giving Business Insider enough credit. They have, after all, already done away with the article’s tired, East Coast/West Coast hipster-themed headline pictured above. The new headline, which reads “The Tech Boom Turned This Working-Class San Francisco Neighborhood Into A Hipster Haven,” demonstrates that Business Insider truly gets it by bringing the focus back to what we actually care about in San Francisco: tech.


Welcome to The New Mission, Where "Fantastic" Just Means "Expensive"

Construction of the Vida building, one of the more recognizable condos to have sprung up in the Mission over the past few years, is finally complete. Although those with $600,000 to spare on a junior 1-bedroom have been able to secure a spot in the development since at least last November, Vida’s website is now proudly declaring that potential residents can “move in now.”

The building’s design, which is somewhat questionably described by its developers as “literally weaving the urban fabric of the Mission into the building itself,” stands out significantly from the surrounding neighborhood. Apparently this uniqueness extends past the condo’s jutting, many-chinned facade all the way to the interior, as this Craigslist post titled “Fantastic Brand New Luxury 2bed/2bath Condo in the Mission” calls out:

It is difficult to imagine what exactly is just so “fantastic” about this place, and with a rather dreary looking two bedroom renting for $7,499 a month, it appears that the only fantastical element about the entire thing is the price.

And while the project’s developers may have envisioned some form of grand integration with the surrounding community (the accomplishment of which would have truly been fantastic), their promise that residents will be able to “watch the large, flat-screen TV with friends as the vibrant Mission moves by outside” suggests a vision for Vida’s future inhabitants that is a tad more limited than the language of this bombastic Craigslist post suggests.

[Photo: Erik Wilson | h/t Cosmic Amanda]


Real Estate Company Appropriates Artists' Work Without Permission, Doesn't Understand Why It's Being Sued by Said Artists

Real estate company Zephyr Real Estate cares about San Francisco. Real estate company Zephyr Real Estate cares about community. Real estate company Zephyr Real Estate cares about artists in the community, especially muralists, and thinks what they do is “really cool.” So cool, in fact, that real estate company Zephyr Real Estate decided to appropriate a bunch of local muralists’ work, without permission or compensation, for a 2013 promotional calender used to help sell multi-million dollar homes. Real estate company Zephyr Real Estate doesn’t understand why the artists would be upset by this.

Courthouse News Service has the story:

SAN JOSE (CN) - In a lawsuit that spotlights tensions over soaring prices and gentrification in San Francisco, the creators of several iconic city murals sued a real estate company for using their art to advertise “luxury homes.”

Eight artists accuse Zephyr Real Estate, the city’s largest independent real estate firm, of infringing on their copyrights by reproducing their work in a 2013 promotional calendar without asking for permission.

“It just rankles that a company that is selling multimillion-dollar homes and really contributing to the gentrification of the city uses these beautiful pieces of public art for their private profit,” said attorney Brooke Oliver, of 50 Balmy Law, who spoke to Courthouse News on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The images in the calendar come from neighborhoods all around the city, including Chinatown, Dubose Triangle and the Mission. […]

Zephyr president Randall Kostick said he’s surprised the issue has come to a lawsuit. He said the company tried to resolve the problem after an artist complained. “After I researched I found out that, yes, we should have gotten permission - it’s a technicality of the law I was unfamiliar with - and we apologized,” he told Courthouse News in an interview. […]

“They’re cool calendars,” [Kostick] said. “They try to take one aspect of the city that is really cool and highlight it every year.” […]

“The artists can say, ‘You guys are involved in the gentrification that’s taking place,’ but the bottom line is we’re not creating that gentrification. We love the art, that’s why we published it. And it’s a little bit hard for me to understand why an artist doesn’t want their art published.”

Real estate company Zephyr Real Estate didn’t realize it was doing anything wrong. Real estate company Zephyr Real Estate thinks that even if they did do something wrong, well, they apologized, and really isn’t that what counts? Real estate company Zephyr Real Estate just doesn’t understand why artists wouldn’t want their work used to sell luxury homes.

Maybe real estate company Zephyr Real Estate should stick to things it does understand, like its 2010 calendar featuring “the setting for the invention of Chicken Tetrazzini.”

Update January 9th, 11:00am:

Uptown Almanac has obtained part of the calendar in question, and it is easy to see why the artists are so offended. Take the below page—right next to the reproduction of Mona Caron’s mural is a house, rendered in the style of the mural, that Zephyr sold. In a time when many artists are being forced to leave San Francisco due (in part) to exorbitant housing costs, using an artist’s work (without permission) to market a home as “an exceptional investment opportunity” seems particularly tone deaf and offensive.

The mural pictured at the top of the post is by Mona Caron, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and has since been removed. The other artists/plaintiffs are Francisco Aquino, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Jetro Martinez, Sirron Norris, Henry Sultan, Jennifer Badger Sultan and Martin Travers.

[Photo: Mona Caron | h/t Capp Street Crap]


The Soft White Sixties’ Brick and Mortar Residency Starts Tonight

Tonight, The Soft White Sixties kick off the first night of their month-long residency at Brick & Mortar. It’s going to be sweaty, it’s going to be funky, and it will mark a much anticipated hometown show for a band that spent 2014 touring all over the US. 

The first time I saw Soft White Sixties was at a SoFarSounds show. For the uninitiated, SoFar sounds hosts intimate shows in apartments, houses, and warehouses across the world.

TSWS tried to keep their soulful funk tunes to living-room level dynamics. But the deeper they sank into grooves, the rowdier the crowd grew.

Quickly, an acoustic show in the outrageously fancy Pacific Palisades neighborhood, feet away from Billionaires Row, turned into a party. When a private security guard from a nearby mansion told the concert organizer to keep it down, savvy audience members grabbed a mattress and propped it up against the french doors behind TSWS to muffle the sound dispersion. The impromptu sound padding held up for long enough for them to play an encore.

Now they’re bringing all that energy to their hometown crowd in a venue that can actually contain their sound—Brick and Mortar. Don’t miss this one (or four) this month. Grab your tickets here.

[Photo: The Soft White Sixties]

Calling Bullshit

It'd Be Nice if Valencia Street Restaurants Stopped Blaming the Minimum Wage for Their Failures

It was reported today that Valencia Street beer hall and restaurant Abbot’s Cellar will close at the end of January. In an interview with SFist, co-partner Nat Cutler trots out the tired excuse that his decision to close the restaurant was a response to the voter approved increase in the minimum wage:

While the restaurant was very well received, the long-term sustainability just wasn’t there — and that’s before two recent wage increases: 3% in January (2015), and 14% from 2014 levels in May.

This is not the first time we’ve seen a restaurant owner use the looming specter of a minimum wage increase to justify closing shop. But despite owners’ protestations to the contrary, there’s a more likely reason for these Valencia Street closures. Local blogger/dude Mr. Eric Sir puts it succinctly:


In other words, perhaps there’s just too damn many of them.

Restaurants are, quite famously, one of the riskiest business ventures one can embark on. In recent months, we’ve seen a few high-profile places along Valencia shutter. It’s not unreasonable: the street is saturated with restaurants certain they’re worthy of a place in the foodie pantheon, yet that are unable to draw a steady crowd. Empty tables lead to loses and eventually restaurants give up and shut down. But instead of owning failure (or just closing quietly a la Grub), sometimes owners throw a fit and attempt to excuse it away.

Take Abbot’s Cellar: a four-dollar-sign reclaimed-wood nightmare that opened in 2012. While they originally benefited from a bit of hype, their tables didn’t remain full for long. Now they’re shutting down with the stated reason that the city raised the minimum wage, not that customers didn’t dig their dishes.

We understand that Cutler is likely bummed about the closure of his restaurant, a sentiment probably shared by other owners when the decision to shutter is made, but that doesn’t excuse the ongoing efforts to cast the minimum wage in the role of villain.

[Photo: Abbot’s Cellar]