Design revealed for Jerry Garcia commemorative plaque in SF

The design of one of two plaques San Francisco plans to install to commemorate the boyhood homes of The City’s native son Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead for 20 years, was revealed Tuesday.

Supervisor John Avalos, who represents the Excelsior District where Garcia grew up,
introduced legislation Tuesday to install commemorative plaques near Garcia’s boyhood homes and unveiled the design for one plaque that The City will install on a Mission Street sidewalk at Harrington Street.

The plaque was designed by Beth Byrne and includes an image of Jerry Garcia from a photograph by Baron Wolman, who worked for Rolling Stone Magazine, and the image of the Harrington Street home from a photography by Mike Koozmin, a former San Francisco Examiner photo editor.

“Garcia lived his first five years at 121 Amazon Ave. in the Excelsior District,” the legislation says. “After Garcia’s father drowned in a fly-fishing accident and his mother began working full-time to provide for the family, Jerry and his brother Tiff moved in with his maternal grandparents at 87 Harrington St., also in the Excelsior District.”

Avalos announced his plan to install the plaques in July 2014, but the process took longer than expected with discussions over designs, fee waivers (the legislation would waive The City’s fees) and precise locations for placement.

The City plans to install both plaques not directly in front of the homes, but a short distance away on sidewalks along Mission Street.

It’s now it’s expected the Mission and Harrington streets plaque will be installed before August, a significant month since Garcia was born in San Francisco on Aug. 1, 1942, and died Aug. 9, 1995, at the age of 53.

Also, every August there is a tribute to Garcia known as Jerry Day when bands play honoring the spirit of Grateful Dead music and his legacy at the Excelsior’s McLaren Park, which was officially renamed the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in July 2005.

There are other steps before the plaque installation. The specific sidewalk square needs to be selected for the 3-foot-by-3-foot plaque, and the Arts Commission and Department of Public Works need to approve of the plaque.

Avalos, who has attended a handful of Dead shows, is also termed out of office in December, meaning this is his last chance to get the plaques installed.

“‘What a long, strange trip it’s been,’” Avalos said Tuesday when introducing the legislation.

The surviving members of the band are still touring. Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir are working with guitarist John Mayer, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and bassist Oteil Burbridge under the band Dead and Company, which has a summer tour planned. Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh remains active playing at his San Rafael venue Terrapin Crossroads.

The plaques may also boost the foot traffic in the area.

“Placing commemorative street plaques on the Mission Street commercial district near the homes will bring new attention to the Excelsior Outer Mission Neighborhood Commercial District while minimizing any potential impacts to residents on Harrington and Amazon Streets,” the legislation says.

“The Friends and Advocates of Crocker-Amazon and the Excelsior neighborhood group will be the custodians of the plaques and hopes they will be the beginning of an ‘Excelsior Walk of Fame,’ honoring other notable residents of the neighborhood,” according to the legislation.

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