If you are reading this, congratulations: you survived the pandemic in 2020 and so far.
At the time of going to press, over 22,000 Franciscans have signed COVID and 182 have lost their lives. Others have lost their homes and livelihoods, and according to those who specialize in disease control and economics, there will be more, including two things that I have no qualifications to forecast about.
When I was tempted to skip the traditional year-end review of the past 365 days, I reminded myself that grief is a process we will all be in for a while, and while it doesn’t feel natural, we can celebrating just as well what we have and what is left of this place and the people who call it home while we are here.
The people whose lives featured in the column that calendar year each made unique contributions to The City, their neighborhoods and communities, be it the Lamea Abuelros Cafe serving early risers in the Mission or Tricia Principes spoiling pet owners in Richmond. Some of the subjects, like Denise Dunne, have moved on and on, although you can be sure that her words, actions, and experiences in San Francisco will have an impact on the people and places that surround her as they adapt to their current surroundings .
Tricia Principe and Cal’s Pet Supply in the Richmond District have continued to serve customers throughout the pandemic. (Kevin N. Hume / SF examiner)
Earlier this year, before the pandemic was on our radar, hairdresser Donnelle Malnik was fed up with The City and ready to move, though hair salon closings at the start of closings made securing a new lease difficult.
“Nobody will rent to someone who is unemployed,” said Malnik over the phone while walking her dog in Golden Gate Park. Yes, she’s still here, but she no longer works in a salon: She used the spring season of the shelter-in-place to purchase an old Fed ex-truck, equip it and turn it into a mobile hair salon than that she accepted to Treasure Island.
“I love it, it’s like being on vacation,” she said. “I cut hair in people’s backyards and in the park in Alameda. Cutting hair outdoors, especially long hair, is difficult, ”she said, but she gets by after seven months without work, two months before and again.
If a reopening is allowed, she will try to park at SPARK, the new shared outdoor social area in Mission Bay, and in the spring she hopes to find a new place to live.
“I see rental signs and hear that rents are falling and are being negotiated. Hopefully I’ll find someone who understands the situation, ”said Malnik. “Cutting my hair on Treasure Island gave me a fresh start and the space I needed to give the Bay Area a second chance.”
The 100-year-old Clay Theater, which closed abruptly before the pandemic, is unlikely to get a second chance. Boarding the historic and popular art house threatened to upset the existing balance of surrounding shops in the upper Fillmore District, suggesting what would come with the pandemic for theaters across the city. We asked Adam Bergeron of Cinema SF, who owns the Balboa and who runs Vogue, if the independent theater alliance would be interested in acquiring the Clay room while negotiations were still ongoing, and he has since provided an update .
“The client has decided not to use the building as a theater anymore,” he explained in an email. “He had Landmark Theaters cleared the seats, projectors, popcorn machines, etc. and said he was not interested in another theater tenant.”
Unfortunately, the historic Clay Theater on Fillmore Street closed its doors for good before the pandemic broke out. (Kevin N. Hume / SF examiner)
In the meantime, The Balboa and Vogue have held their own, providing stability, light and focus in neighborhoods that have seen COVID-related downturns.
“Our cinema and neighborhood communities have been incredibly supportive,” said Bergeron. “We were able to sell popcorn and roadside goods at Balboa, and we built a parklet where we could put movies on a big screen before this final round of shutdown,” he said. “Financially, it has only allowed us to enter water, keep us from switching off and stay part of our community during this pandemic.”
According to Bergeron, some relief for independent cinemas could be in sight with the next stimulus, though that doesn’t solve the dilemma of the Fillmore block where the sound is located. Despite all the closings, the neighborhood has a new tenant a few blocks away: Ericka Scott, a Fillmore District American who we profiled in July, has opened her Honey Art Studio on California Street.
“My mother passed Geary, but I was always intimidated. I could tell the difference between “our” side of Fillmore and “their” side, “said Scott, who has received positive feedback from residents who have crossed the invisible line between the Fillmore and Pacific Heights apartments.
“I don’t like the fact that it matters, but it does,” said Scott of neighboring Honey Art, which offers budding artists the opportunity to hone their skills in painting, fashion design, and architecture. The studio also serves as the base for Scott’s prison art project, Beauty Behind Bars, the virtual exhibition she curated with her husband Pride and featured in this column last year. Efforts to bring inmates’ art outside have been so successful with artists and sponsors that they continue.
“In the end, I got a grant from the SF Foundation to continue the project for another,” said Scott.
Since we spoke to us back in July, Scott has been named co-director of Ebon Glenn of the city’s new African-American cultural district in Bayview’s Third Street Corridor, where new programs will kick off at full speed as the pandemic subsides.
Whether she wears her hat as a curator or a consultant, Scott’s efforts at the Fillmore and Bayview put her at the heart of preserving African American art in San Francisco’s historically blackened neighborhoods and helping restore the Upper Fillmore District to its roots as a culture center for Blacks (something the once promised Jazz District couldn’t deliver). And although this year’s traditional seasonal festivals have been curtailed due to COVID, there are still opportunities to get involved in supporting African American arts and culture.
“The best thing people can do to support black-owned companies is to buy from them,” said Scott.
Some of us thought that gentrification had ruined everything that was holy and good about the city. What the massive cultural disruption didn’t destroy, COVID came and left the job, even though Scott’s story proves the opposite: That a Fillmore daughter is on board to bring The City back to health is cause for hope – a best case study for the reconstruction of our city in the face of the accident and its previously poorly adapted programs such as the so-called redevelopment.
You may remember Denise Dunne who decided she was done with San Francisco and the changing face of Noe Valley and unpacked this summer after 38 years to be close to the East Coast family. Unfortunately, her father died shortly after they arrived, but Dunne’s profile contained some wisdom that should cheer us all on in those literally darkest hours before dawn.
“This current cycle should bring about another creative outbreak,” Dunne cited the American cultural renaissance known as the jazz age of the 1920s. “In a couple of years we’ll probably see something blooming.”
It didn’t have to be that way and yet it was: Nobody said we have to like it, but what other choice do we have than to accept the pandemic changes and everything that goes with them? Endings are of course also beginnings that will soon have their own mids and ends, whether in the next century or the next year. Spring and summer will certainly be there again. Until then, stay safe, stay strong, stay masked and enjoy your life in San Francisco.
Denise Sullivan is a writer, cultural worker, and editor of “Your Golden Sun Still Shines: Personal Stories and Little Fictions in San Francisco”. She is a guest columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of the reviewer. Follow her on www.denisesullivan.com and on Twitter @ 4DeniseSullivan.
Bay Area NewsCoronavirusan Francisco News
If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, you can join our Examiner membership program.
Learn more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/