Making Good Use of Our Crumbling Stock of Theaters

The Grand Theater to Become Performance Venue and "Cultural Incubator"

After sitting derelict following the closure of its occupying 99¢ store, Mission Street’s Grand Theater has been taken over by the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts with the goal of turning the space into a media center, venue with capacity for 500 people, and training facility.  Their press release is chock-full of buzzword gobbledygook, but it sounds like a welcome addition to the neighborhood:

Taking inspiration from startup incubators and co-working spaces, Gray Area’s cultural incubator will blur the lines between culture and commerce, providing a framework to amplify social impact, reach a sustainable practice, and scale up. Over the next decade, the program will be home to hundreds of civic and creative projects that have been developed and will be developed by our ongoing initiatives. […]

Members will be an eclectic group of creative practitioners representing a large variety of disciplines including: creative code, product design, interactive installation, performance, architecture, urban planning, film, data science, gaming, writing, journalism, music, and many more. Beyond developing their own projects, members will be showcasing and performing their work to a public audience in the Theater. […]

Last year, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Gray Area $100,000 to develop an immersive theater for experimental surround cinema with Recombinant Media Labs. While the grant allowed for us to secure this historic building, we will be raising additional funds from our community and institutional partners.

They go on to mention that they locked down a 10 year lease on the space, reminding us that the “current real estate market is pricing cultural organizations out of San Francisco. This campaign brings back a historic cinema to the creative community at a critical time in the city’s history.”

Of course, they have a grip of work ahead of them.  The gutted theater currently looks like an abandoned office:

Which they plan on turning (in part) into this:

Perhaps the most promising aspect of the forthcoming 10,000 square foot space is their slate of public programming:

Gray Area’s consistent, diverse programming is an interface between artist and audience. In a single month, we will produce a dozen events including artistic performances, classes, creative prototyping nights, meetups, film screenings, panel discussions, and local community meetings regarding pressing issues.

No opening date has been released, but we’ll be keeping an eye out for it.

[Exterior Photo: Dave Nelson]

At Least It Wasn't a Hellhound Infestation

Following Grim Reaper Visitation, Amber Dhara Shut Down For Rat Infestation

Well that was fast: mere weeks after scorned union workers packed up their grim reaper setup outside of Amber Dhara, health inspector Douglas Obana closed the perpetually desolate restaurant over a rat infestation.

“They were closed due to rodent activity in their bar and waiter station,” Obana told Eater SF. “It was a repeat violation. I was there in April and again in early May, and I came back this time and closed them down.”

The restaurant has been provisionally reopened now that (presumably non-union) contractors have been brought in to plug up rat holes in the building’s elevator shaft.  Not that any of this will help their non-existent customer situation.

[Eater SF]


Gun Scare Hits Dolores Park Playground

A tipster sends this facebook post our way:

Two guys fighting with guns in Dolores park, right next to the playground!!! Tones of kids!!! WTF!!!!! I am in shock!!! Right in my neighborhood park!!! No mas!!!!!

We don’t have any details, other than it happened around 1pm this afternoon, but multiple tweets corroborate:

We’ll update when we learn more.

Update: Karen Solomon tweets, “Three guys tried to pull a holdup with a realistic-looking bbgun. Cops got ‘em. No injuries. Just a lot of scared kids.”

Buzzkill at the Ballot Box

The Case Against Prop B

Left: The Ferry Building, as it stands now. Right: The Ferry Building, if it were built under Prop. B’s rules.

The fight over Proposition B, which goes to a vote on Tuesday, June 3rd, has been fairly one-sided thus far.  After crushing the 8 Washington development, which would have allegedly erected a “Wall on the Waterfront,” the unlikely alliance between mega-rich property owners and progressives have enjoyed popular support against waterfront development.  And because of that support, the opposition has been relatively silent regarding the ballot initiative which would require all development over 40 feet on Port property to be approved by voters—so quiet that ordinarily pro-development Mayor Ed Lee and Sup. Scott Wiener aren’t fighting it.

But what makes the situation weird is so many progressives will privately admit that it’s terrible legislation, even if their clubs, employers, or candidates support it.  So why is this a done deal?  Are progressives really concerned about the Giants turning their sprawling parking lot into a public park and housing development?

For a different take on the matter, Mark Hogan recently put out this great case against Prop B.  The whole thing is worth a read, but here’s the meat:

Planning at the ballot box doesn’t make sense because the typical voter doesn’t have the time or background to analyze urban design, land use planning, or the tradeoffs involved in various options. A lot of people walk into the voting booth, read the one line description on the ballot, and vote. The current process for exceeding the height limit on a parcel takes years of meetings (public meetings for anyone interested in attending), approval of the Planning Commission, and approval of the Board of Supervisors. Changing a height limit cannot simply be done with an exception to the planning code: it involves rezoning that piece of land at a taller height, and it is not a simple process.

Our current planning process also has a number of public benefits built in. Developers must comply with affordable housing laws (either through a fee or providing on-site units), fees to pay for infrastructure and they are held to public scrutiny at numerous meetings where public comment is collected.

What is Proposition B proposing? Proposition B would require proposed projects to skip the typical approvals process and instead go to a vote of the people. Why does the City’s Planning Department think this is a bad idea? “There is a potential for developers to circumvent required City review and craft subsequent ballot initiatives that combine height increases with other aspects of project approval.”

How often to voters read the full text of things they are voting on? Not very often, I can assure you. Developers could hypothetically skip many steps of project approval by spending enough money to get a project approved at the ballot box without having to comply with all of the other rules that have been put in place to ensure a good outcome for the City and the residents of the area.

Read on.

Another Dive Bites the Dust

The Hot Spot, Mid-Market's Underappreciated Treasure, Is Kaput

The Hot Spot was always the kind of place that every dive-themed bar aspires to be: filled with folks from every walk of life, all stuffed between delightfully downtrodden walls, and with Hungry Man dinners on the menu.  It remains the only bar on the planet I’ve walked out of with more money than I walked in with, only because every round came with a free scratcher and occasionally those fuckers choose to pay out.  Undoubtably The Hot Spot should have been a local’s haunt in some Red State backwater yet, miraculously, it was spitting distance from San Francisco’s City Hall.

Despite its perfection, The Hot Spot closed in January for a few weeks worth for renovations.  But then the bar found itself completely gutted, the weeks became months, and then the staff dropped this bomb on Facebook:

To our Hotspot patrons, our reopening date is now cancelled due to legal action that we have with our slumlord. The bar is not functional and we will not know when or how long before we can reopen.

With that, yet another one of SF’s prized dives has gone under the knife, never to return.  But fortunately for us, the ever-funny Ivy McNally shares with us this piece remembering her preferred neighborhood haunt:

San Francisco remains chockablock full of dive bars, but nuh-uh, not anywhere near my neck of the woods — the desolate, windswept no man’s land between Civic Center and Hayes Valley. You know what I’m talking about: Mid-Market. The “Twitterverse.” My home stretch for nigh on five years now, all that time dangerously nearing the precipice of becoming an uncool place to live.

(Is it becoming uncool specifically because I live there? Possibly! I once wore a construction paper mustache to the premiere of Anchorman and NOW LOOK WHERE WE ARE.)

Well guess what dummies, it finally happened. Venerable despite being virtually unknown, The Hot Spot has disappeared from those lonely blocks in between the Sort of OK Walgreens and Pretty Scary Walgreens. It follows Marlena’s’ and the Buck Tavern’s departure, leaving me bereft of establishments within stumbling distance from my apartment where I can read and drink alone surrounded by men over age 45.

Where am I supposed to go now? The library??

What initially attracted me to this otherwise intimidating dive was a very poorly attended Thursday night karaoke party. Is there anything better on this earth than a poorly attended karaoke party? Not if you’re as arrogant and anti-social as my friends are! If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing your voice mingle with those of the Honda dealership car wash crew to create soothing background music for lonely old people to get drunk to, then frankly I just feel sorry for you.

It should also be said that in a city so reverential of karaoke jockeys, KJ Eve is criminally underrated. In addition to absolutely nailing Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” every single week, KJ Eve is also a paralegal and a medical illustrator, with a robust crochet bikini business on the side. I do miss her so.

Also missed and worthy of mention: Adorable bartenders Michelle and Amanda, who always remembered my name even though I was usually far too drunk to remember theirs. Over the years, I saw a lot of cute girls crack under the pressure of daily 86ing dentally-disadvantaged patrons who reminded them perhaps a bit too much of their folks back home — but never those two. Those gals are tough and they taught me things about Jello shots I never even dreamed I wanted know.

If you never had a chance to visit the Hot Spot, I think you should know — although I almost hesitate to tell you because it’s so depressing now knowing its fate — but Hot Spot was home to the only Drinko game I’ve ever seen off the Isle of Alameda. If you are unfamiliar with Drinko, it’s simply Plinko, but with shots in place of cash prizes. If you are unfamiliar with Plinko, you have way bigger problems than the Hot Spot having closed.

Being somewhat isolated, the Hot Spot’s clientele were mostly regulars and the whole place had a rec room vibe, if for some reason your parents had painted the rec room to match the hue of a prostitute’s favorite eyeshadow. It had MegaTouch. It had three TVs, two of which were typically airing UFC press conferences. It had a pool table upstairs that I actually only saw twice; one of those times I was just up there making out with a guy from OkCupid. Days later, I realized there was a small closed circuit television behind the bar playing the whole mess, but I guess it probably wasn’t that big of deal because what do Amanda and Michelle care? THEY’VE SEEN WORSE AND MUCH WORSE!

As an institution, the bar served as an excellent barometer of character. If a boyfriend didn’t like the Hot Spot, it probably meant he was too good for me. And if a boyfriend loved the Hot Spot, it probably meant he was going to fuck a stripper while we were dating. Why do I choose to love things I know will hurt me, such as deserted dive bars that are destined to shutter? Probably because it took me 18 minutes to write an obituary for my mother, but this one has taken two hours.

To conclude, while we can never know exactly why The Hot Spot closed its doors, we do know it will be missed by many. And what we will miss most of all is…

The Hot Spot Special: Any well shot, any bottled domestic beer, and a lotto scratcher for $5.

FIVE DOLLARS. That my friends was the last great deal this city will ever see, and I seriously doubt Alta CA has plans to replicate it despite me tweeting it at them repeatedly.

[Photo: Dennis Brumm]


Mr. Bubbles Mural, Reborn

Mr. Bubbles’ famed GIANT LOADS mural had long been a 24th Street icon.  But after years of persistent vandalism, the owners covered up the mural will dull, tan paint in 2012 and left the corner of 24th and Florida looking drab.

Finally, after the two year dry spell, a new mural has gone up on their wall.  It’s no dancing washing machine (how could you replace such a thing?), but the new work from Jonathan Matas is rad in its own right.

DP FanFic

Dolores Park Gazette: A Chronicle of Changing Times

826 Valencia is currently running a Dolores Park history piece from the Your Store project in the form of historical covers from the fictional Dolores Park Gazette.  Your Store writes:

These days, especially on the weekends,  Dolores Park is a very happening spot in San Francisco.  So it was no surprise that when we asked people to tell us stories about the Mission District many people mentioned the park.  In the Dolores Park Gazette, now displayed in the window of 826 Valencia, we offer a short timeline of the park history.

The display will be up until June 1st, but you can see the whole series on their website.  A few of our favorites, after the jump:

Thank You, LA!

Shotwell's, Bender's and Lucky 13 All Need Remodeling, According to Bar Rescue

A few weeks back, noted Mission beer outpost Shotwell’s tweeted out that the folks behind Bar Rescue had been repeatedly calling the bar and breathing talking into their answering machine.  It seemed like a weird pick for a make-over show—Shotwell’s is a fine bar, regularly is packed with customers, and has the distinction of being one of the few in the Mission with usable bathroom.

However, since Shotwell’s tweet, we’ve since heard that the Bar Rescue crew has been on a tear, cluelessly hitting up multiple SF dives for an on-air renovation, including local stalwarts Doc’s Clock, Bender’s, Lucky 13, Emperor Norton’s Boozeland, Molotov’s, and Whiskey Thieves. [Update: And The Peaks, Uptown, 500 Club, and Mission Hill Saloon, too.] (We even heard Zeitgeist was on their list, but couldn’t get a confirmation.)

Tom from Shotwell’s fills us in on their experience:

I checked the bar’s old fashion answering machine the other week. Bar Rescue had left three messages, stating that Jon Taffer will be in town and he’s looking to make over a bar in San Francisco. I deleted the messages and started my usual pre-opening cleaning routine, scratching my head thinking they picked the wrong town. Then the bar phone rang, “Yes this is a producer from Bar Rescue on Spike. We noticed your Yelp reviews aren’t very good and was wondering if you’d like Jon Taffer to come in and redo your bar.” [Editor’s note: Shotwell’s current Yelp rating is 4.5 out of 5.]

I was immediately offended… thinking this bar doesn’t need a make over, or does it?  Just the thought that we were singled out for a Bar Rescue made me second guess myself.

But I quickly got my confidence back and politely rejected his offer. Then he asked, “can you recommend a bar in San Francisco that needs a rescue?” That made me laugh at the possibility of an amazing practical joke. God I wish I knew the guys over at Southern Pacific.  Wouldn’t that be funny? “Yeah Shotwell’s said you need a make over.” (Of course they don’t.)  I didn’t give the producer a name [of a bar], but I’m very curious who said yes to Spike.

Hopefully whoever said yes fares better than the Rocky Point Cantina, a bar that was forced closed after officials discovered all of Bar Rescue’s work was done without proper permits.

[Photo: Tobin Jones]

The NSA For Coffee

Philz Coffee is Scanning and Tracking Customer's Cell Phones

Philz has long been a neighborhood favorite thanks to its welcoming atmosphere and no bullshit staff.  But despite its neighborhoody feel, the burgeoning coffee chain founded on 24th and Folsom has been seeing itself as a start-up in recent years, raising buckets of venture capital (valuing the company between $40 and $70 million) and partnering with Facebook to test a “check-in for wifi” scheme.  Now, according to the SF Appeal, Philz has graduated to spying on customers and passersby:

Beginning in 2012 the coffee company partnered with retail analytic firm Euclid, installing devices in their stores that detect the “pings” Wi-Fi enabled devices send out while searching for networks to connect to. The “pings” include what’s called a device’s Media Access Control (MAC) address (which is kind of like a unique device serial number) that’s used by Euclid in aggregate to provide business intelligence, in order to, they say, to improve operations.

It’s not just a business’s customers that are tracked, however: Euclid’s technology also scans devices of those passing by.

Philz’ CEO told the Appeal that the tracking tech is “a useful way for us to help deliver a better customer experience” and they’re “particularly interested in is dwell time [so] we can restructure the furniture in various locations to accommodate commuters or customers who camp out.”  However, a spokesperson for the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out that there are “legal concerns” with location eavesdropping on US citizens.

UPDATE: Philz backed down and will disabled the tracking system, according to ABC 7.

[SF Appeal | Photo: Ed Schipul]