Redevelopment blues - Page 2

Devastation and hope in the Fillmore

"It's all been bulldozed down. It shouldn't be called 'preservation district.' It should be called 'resurrection district.'<0x2009>"

All that's left are memories and photos, which she and coauthor Lewis Watts gathered for their book and curated for 1300 on Fillmore's walls. Pepin has done her share of work for the agency and the neighborhood, helping to fill the empty storefronts with posters of the area's musical history, and is all too familiar with its fumbles. "The Redevelopment Agency just can't get out of its own way — a disaster over and over again. Even the best intentions — for example, they hired me to do these names." She points to the monikers of local musicians like John Handy on the bricks of the sidewalk, running perpendicular to pedestrian traffic. "Why did they turn them this way? You put them the other way so people can read them as they're walking, and then they're so small nobody notices them!"

Still, she has her hopes, like everyone else who loves the Fillmore: "I want it so badly to succeed." The arrivals of Yoshi's and 1300 on Fillmore are exciting, she agrees, though she wonders whether the old scene can truly be re-created. "One, when jazz was here in the '40s and '50s, it was superaffordable. Two, it was the music of the day, the rap music of the day, and all the people went out and danced," she explains. "It does worry me that everyone is pinning their hopes on this one corner to bring back everything else."

"Oddly enough, the Fillmore jazz district is probably more well-known in Europe among jazz collectors than in our own backyard," says Guardian contributor and cohost of KUSF's Friday Night Session Tomas Palermo. He believes the area's jazz history should be included as part of the core curriculum at SF public high schools, and he urges Yoshi's San Francisco and other "jacket-and-tie" jazz outlets to "open up to new sounds," citing London's Jazz Cafe, which books everyone from Roy Ayers to 4hero. He agrees with other watchers: the last parcel of land razed by the redevelopment wrecking crews shouldn't become yet another exclusive club for the moneyed elite who roll down Fillmore from Pacific Heights and across the bridges. It has to be accessible to the community and the creatives who once made it what it was and what it could be, taking it even further from what Pettus once described as "Fillmo — no mo'." "Now," Pettus says, taking a break from cutting heads, "it's 'Fillmore — maybe!'"

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