A proposal to allow the Fillmore Auditorium to add a large vertical marquee advanced closer to approval Monday to clearly designate the neighborhood as a cultural destination. But for one Fillmore cultural institution, the days appear numbered.
Archbishop Franzo W. King has for 48 years presided over the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church he co-founded based on Coltrane’s jazz, notably his famous “Love Supreme” composition. But landlord West Bay Center, a private nonprofit, has served the church with an eviction notice, citing a failure to pay rent.
King said he was notified about West Bay’s intent to evict the church back in September but had hoped for reconciliation.
King acknowledged the church wasn’t always on time with the $1,600 monthly rent.
“We pay. We catch up. We pay,” King said.
But King also suggested financial and political motives for the eviction. The church, he said, “is a revolutionary outpost in the Western Addition,” giving a voice to the downtrodden.
Board of Supervisors President London Breed, who represents the Fillmore, said she has attempted to bring both sides together but hasn’t met with success. “I can’t force somebody to pay rent,” she said. “I can’t give the church money.”
But Breed said late Monday that her office is now working with King about possibly occupying a small theater space in the Fillmore Heritage Center at 1330 Fillmore St. — the complex previously occupied by Yoshi’s jazz club.
The official posting of the eviction by the Sheriff’s Department is expected on Wednesday, King said, but he thinks he may be able to hold on for a Sunday service this weekend.
The anticipated eviction comes as many of San Francisco’s legacy businesses have shuttered amid rising rents. The loss would represent another blow to The City’s effort to revive the once “Harlem of the West” as a Jazz district following the devastating redevelopment era.
Yoshi’s, part of the revival effort, shut down in 2014. The long-standing black-owned bookstore Marcus Books also closed in 2014.
A petition supporting Coltrane Church has received 2,591 signatures as of Monday evening. “Presently the population and culture of the African American community has all been but destroyed,” the petition on change.org says of the Fillmore.
Amid the outpouring support, West Bay’s attorney issued a statement Monday afternoon saying the eviction “is based on a single issue: SJCC’s failure to make rent payments for more than one year,” adding that West Bay “has the highest level of respect for the spiritual and cultural benefits SJCC brings to the Fillmore community.” West Bay is overseen by director Floyd Trammell and a five-member board, which includes board chair Gordon Greenwood, an attorney, and Rev. Amos Brown.
King said: “We need that hallowed space that has been consecrated,” but he allowed for other possible locations. “We’re a community of faith. I believe God has a place for us.”
Monday, Supervisor Eric Mar said he will commend King during the Board of Supervisors meeting for Black History Month, honoring “King and the church’s social justice work in our communities from the Bayview to the Fillmore.” Mar added that he was “supportive of making sure they can stay in the community” at some location.
Meanwhile, the board’s land use committee approved Breed’s legislation Monday to allow the Fillmore Auditorium to install a large sign to “signify” the Fillmore as a cultural destination. The full board is expected to approve it next week.