The Last of A Dying Breed

Bottom Of The Hill Fights For Clubs, Community, and Culture


Let’s play a game of San Francisco music scene MadLibs based on articles you’ve probably read lately.

It looks like the beloved [music venue] in [desirable neighborhood] will be closing its doors to make room for [number] new luxury condos opening in [future date]. The owner of the [music venue] says that he would have to raise [woefully exorbitant amount of money] in order to keep [music venue] open. The condos will accommodate the [adjective] employees of [giant tech company] in search of housing in [desirable neighborhood].

Scanning the news, we picture an inverse relationship between fancy condos and musicians. The more condos spring up in San Francisco, the more musicians flee to the East Bay, LA and Portland in search of a more reasonable cost of living. It’s easy to be cynical about the whole thing, but cynicism alone doesn’t solve the problem. Amidst all the recent club closures, Google Bus protests, and other signs of the apocalypse, Bottom of the Hill has been fighting for their life, and yours. You just didn’t know it.

Neighbors, Noise Complaints, and Managing Expectations

One day in late 2010, a single person moved into a condo behind Slim’s. And within months, Slim’s was shelling out nearly $260,000 on soundproofing so those neighbors didn’t call the cops every night. The game has changed. San Francisco music venues now have to play a high stakes, Whac-A-Mole-style game of stomping out problems before they threaten their business.

Bottom of the Hill takes tales of woe like Slim’s seriously. “My heart breaks every time a nightclub closes because of neighbor complaints,” Bottom of the Hill co-owner Lynn Schwarz told Uptown Almanac. “The law doesn’t differentiate between real problem clubs, and clubs who are doing their best to keep noise levels down. One neighbor with a grudge and zero tolerance can single-handedly get a club shut down.”

The only way to stay alive and avoid a costly confrontation is to get ahead of it. Schwarz attends meetings about the three proposed developments—totaling in over 400 new units—in the club’s area of Potrero Hill, and sets expectations for developers as best she can.

“We let the developers and architects know that we require extra soundproofing and other structural considerations in order to support their projects. We also have banded together with our neighbors, both fellow merchants, through Potrero Dogpatch Merchant Association, and neighbors, through the Potrero Hill Boosters and a group that recently formed called Save the Hill.”

Looking To The Future, From The Bottom Up

Bottom of the Hill is currently in no danger of closing down. They’re confident that their 20+ years as a San Francisco music institution says something about their staying power. And the huge ace up their sleeve is the fact they own their building, making them immune to exponential rent increases that have put other clubs out of business.

But they’re not naive. They see the changing tides, and recognize that they might have a few fights in their future.

“I think the Bottom of the Hill nightclub will survive past whatever happens on our block in the next five years. That doesn’t mean I’m not scared of the annoying fights we could have ahead with neighbors who knowingly move in across the street from us,” said Schwarz. “The city has got to find a way to stop coddling neighbors whose level of tolerance to noise is best suited to the suburbs, and not a thriving city. This city will cease to be interesting when most of its nightclubs have been silenced.”

Lynn sees hope for the music scene in the possibility of extended BART hours, the strength of community organizers and fellow club owners. But the real fix is the simplest: “All it will take to help out is for you, as a music lover, to make it a point to support your local music venues and your local bands.”

I’ll leave you with one final Mad Lib for the future.

If [developers / employees of aforementioned giant tech company] are so eager to live in [desirable neighborhood] that in the process they close down the [cultural institution(s)] that made them want to live there, why even move at all?

[Photo: The Zender Agenda]

This Is Our Last Dance

BART Releases Safety Video With Queen Soundtrack

Demonstrating that BART does, in fact, have a sense of humor, everyone’s favorite public transit option has released a new safety video with Queen’s Under Pressure as the soundtrack.

With lyrics such as “pressure pushing down on me, pressing down on you” and “it’s the terror of knowing what this world is about, watching some good friends screaming, ‘Let me out!’” Under Pressure seems a logical anthem for BART’s consistently overcrowded train system. 

[Via Curbed]

Activist Buzzword Gymnastics

Now There's an Anti-Tech Gentrification Walking Tour of the Mission

The Mission District is famous for its walking tours—the murals walks, the emerging breed of foodie strolls, and even the occasional architecture tour. However, when we saw this tweet yesterday, declaring there was an “anti-tech gentrification tour” on 24th, we couldn’t believe it. Why would anyone possibly come to San Francisco to see where the city’s culture used to reside?

However, as far as Uptown Almanac can tell, these tours are actually real.

According to a press release published on LatinBayArea, the next “Real Estate Reality Tour” is scheduled for this Saturday. The tour, sponsored by the San Francisco chapter of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)—the same group that has protested the Local’s empire over alleged racial discrimination—aims to shed light on a landlord that uses the Ellis Act to evict tenants. Emphasis added:

Sergio Silva-Lainez and his wife, Magaly, are refugees from the Nicaraguan civil war, displaced by violence in their home country. Now they are facing displacement again at the hands of landlords bent on evicting them from their home of 23 years. Saturday, they will be touring the eight Mission District based properties owned by their landlord, Leona Fong, and delivering “bad landlord certificates” to illustrate the wealth gap between the tenants and the landlord, and the fact that the Fong family can afford to keep Sergio’s family in their home. 

The Silva-Lainez family moved into their rent-controlled Mission District apartment on 24th and Bryant Street in 1991, a year after coming to San Francisco, and the apartment is the only place their three children, now 22, 16, and 13, have called home. Now, the family is facing an Ellis Act eviction, in which a landlord can simply “go out of business” by getting rid of their tenants, then sell off the units in the building at a profit. Sergio works for himself as an electrician, and Magaly works as a childcare provider out of their apartment. In the new San Francisco, if they are evicted, they would be unable to find a place to live in the city they call home, their children would be forced to transfer to another school district, Magaly would lose her business, and Sergio would be forced to commute torturous distances just to continue to work in San Francisco. […]

“The Fongs have a lot of places. We only have this one, and we have nowhere to go if they kick us out,” says Sergio. “They should leave us alone. They can afford to do the right thing and let us stay here in the Mission.”

The Mission has seen its share of bizarre walking tours before, but perhaps none as depressing (and unnecessary) as this. However, should you want to catch the next tour and be the choir to some housing activist preacher, the tour meets at 2pm this Saturday, August 16, at the 24th and Mission BART Plaza.

Rock 'n' Roll

Leo's Music Club is Already Rocking Temescal

One of Oakland’s trendier neighborhoods just got another feather in its cap. It was a bummer when Leo’s Pro Audio, which served the East Bay for over 60 years, went under in 2012. But its rebirth as Leo’s Music Club is one the happier stories on the local music scene.

The Paris Entertainment Group, which also owns Oakland’s New Parrish and the Mission District’s Brick & Mortar Music Hall opened the mid-size venue just two weeks ago. But 300 person performance venues like these are kind of a sweet spot, giving up-and-comers a great stage to get exposure.

The venue is mixing national touring acts and local talent, and a flurry of great Bay Area groups have already come through. And if you want a reason to check out the new venue, this Thursday offers a good opportunity with the PianoFight Music Department EP release party. PFMD is the musical arm of theater and comedy group PianoFight Productions, who are opening their own venue later this year. PFMD is an awesome, high-energy mix of soul and surf rock, and they are selling the whole thing as a “big sweaty dance party,” which sounds pretty rad.

Tickets are $10 in advance and are on sale now.

[Photo: Cristián Valenzuela]

A Truly Noble Cause

SFPD Calls Out Kids Running Donation Scam in Dolores Park

We’ve been seeing these kids roll through Dolores Park for years now, hitting up gullible boozers for cash for everything from “jerseys for our basketball team” to “tickets to get to Reno for a football tournament.”

Well, according to both the Boys & Girls Club and SFPD, this is an ongoing city-wide scam. So consider yourself warned, and save your loose bills for a more noble park cause (like getting blitzed on those rum-filled coconuts from that dreadlocked machete-wielding guy).

Lazy Foodies Unite

Pay Someone Else to Wait in Line for You While You Browse Menu Options On Your Dedicated App at San Francisco's Most Authentic Street Food Festival Ever

Love basking in the reflected hipness that is street food, but hate the hassle of, you know, actually being on the street? Well then you’re in luck, because this Saturday’s Street Food Festival in the Mission has you covered.

For a mere $25.00, you can comfortably sip spritzes in a fenced-off area while a “runner” waits in line to purchase food on your behalf. The festival website explains:

As you enjoy your complimentary drinks, food runners will take your food order from the festival footprint so you don’t have to stand in line!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “this sounds great and all, but if I can’t visually confirm a food’s Instagrammability from my private seated area, how will I know it’s worth buying?” 

Enter the SF Street Food Festival App:

Promising “inside access to festival games and contests,” the 2014 6th Annual San Francisco Street Food Festival App allows you to plan out your menu in advance, and provides a more meaningful way to connect with local sponsors like Google, Wells Fargo, and Wild Turkey Bourbon. 

You have to hand it to the increasingly unfortunate Street Food Fest: they’ve managed to combine the two things San Francisco loves most (twee foodie pretension and worthless apps, natch) in service of what is clearly the most authentic street food experience SF has to offer.

Get it while it’s hot.

[Photo: SF Gate]

Local Music

A Responsible And Irresistible Use of Chops: Black Cobra Vipers Kick Off Their Month-Long Residency at The Chapel

Black Cobra Vipers have chops and they know it. Better yet, they know when and how to use their chops. Consider them a bands’ band that also happens to sell out The Chapel on a fairly regular basis. They’re sticking to what they’re good at and kicking off their second month-long residency at The Chapel along with Flagship and French Cassettes on Thursday.

Take, for example, “You Already Knew.” The first time I heard this song it was about 2am and I was in bed. By the second chorus I was trying to suppress my urge to air drum. The band knows how to edge their audience.

As any good drug dealer knows, the first taste is always free. The same goes for the chorus of “You Already Knew”. The chorus drops heavy, and immediately transitions in dynamics to a minimalist verse with Gregory DiMartino’s vocals slinking over Julian Borrego’s winding bassline. Drummer, Rob Mills peppers in some rimshots just to hint at the impending chorus, and right when you’re begging for that hook, it hits.

That, my friends is edging an audience. That is responsible use of chops. And that is a shitload of sound for three dudes to be producing.

Tickets are $12 and available at The Chapel’s box office.

Necessary State of Mind to Suffer Through Tiësto

Portrait of Two Spun Out Outside Lands Partiers

Perhaps capturing the essence of every blue-haired psychonaut descending upon Golden Gate Park this weekend wasn’t what Zoltron had in mind when he pasted these two monsters outside 18th and Mission. But, really, it’s the perfect Outside Lands portrait. Just look at those eyes: