Jazz-venue pitch off-key 

Millions of dollars and years of planning to transform the Lower Fillmore district into a jazz destination might not be enough to stop a famed New Orleans jazz venue from opening in the Mission district.

But the Fillmore is not just about jazz, say key stakeholders who are involved in an effort to revitalize the area — they’ve even stopped calling it a jazz district.

“While we are not going to give up on jazz, it is not enough,” said Jennifer Matz, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Businesses, city officials and residents are finalizing an aggressive three-year, $800,000 plan for marketing, business attraction and other forms of investment in the Fillmore area to help existing businesses survive the economic downturn and bring more vitality to the area. The effort is being overseen by the Economic and Workforce Development Office, and the funding is from the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, which has been criticized for displacing residents years ago and leaving the neighborhood revitalization unfinished.

Forty years ago, much of the Fillmore district — once considered “the jazz Harlem of the West,” where such legends as Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong performed — was demolished by the agency. In 1995, the Redevelopment Agency created the Fillmore Jazz Preservation District to help revitalize the commercial area of the Lower Fillmore.

But despite being labeled the jazz district, New Orleans’ historic Preservation Hall is in talks to open a San Francisco location in another neighborhood: the Mission.

However, there are “no solid plans” regarding the Mission jazz venue. A director for the New Orleans Preservation Hall — described as a musical venue in the French Quarter founded in 1961 “to protect and honor New Orleans jazz” — is in talks with Jack Knowles, proprietor of Oakland restaurant A Coté. The two could open the jazz venue and restaurant at 777 Valencia St., a building owned by Knowles that used to be New College.

But, having a jazz-focused music venue in the Mission doesn’t sound like a sour note to Kaz Kajimura, who owns Yoshi’s, the jazz club and restaurant seen as an anchor tenant for the Fillmore area. Kajimura said if anything, having another jazz club in another neighborhood would go a long way to “raise the consciousness” that San Francisco is the place to come for live music.

“A vibrant arts and culture scene is a core part of San Francisco’s economy, and that means there’s room for music, including jazz, in every neighborhood,” said Tony Winnicker, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom.




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