Extinct manzanita saved in the Presidio

Preparing the Franciscan manzanita to be transplanted. Photograph by Mark Frey.

A rare Franciscan manzanita long thought to be extinct was transplanted to a protected location in the Presidio this week after it was discovered along the Doyle Drive rebuilding project by a biologist who happened to be driving by.

“It’s an incredible find, like Christmas morning when you’re five,” says Mark Frey, an ecologist with the Presidio Trust. “For decades everyone has thought this plant was gone and the chance of finding it again was virtually non-existent. As part of our restoration efforts we scour that area all the time and yet there it was, right in the middle of the corridor.”

The Franciscan manzanita was last seen in the city for which it was named in 1942, at the Laurel Hill cemetery, near what is now the USF campus. But for a limited number of plants growing in botanical gardens, the species was believed to have been lost to the wild when the cemetery was bulldozed to make way for commercial and residential development.

VIDEO: Watch the relocation

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The one that got away

The architectural imagining of a new soul food restaurant for the Fillmore Jazz District.


A communal table meanders like the mighty Mississip.


Check out these stunning images of an upscale soul food restaurant called Mississippi Blues designed for the Fillmore Jazz District by hot-shot architect Stanley Saitowitz.

“Like the river, a single table meanders through the space — here everyone sits around and eats as a family,” reports Arch Daily.

Unfortunately, it’s old news, says Eater SF: “Last the folks at Saitowitz heard from the project sponsor, it was before the economic meltdown, when they were working on getting Fillmore-area redevelopment funds. If — if! — the restaurant ever happens, we’re told it would head to an empty space right across from Yoshi’s.”

Local emergency teams join forces

A new group called 4 SF Heights combines emergency response teams from Pacific Heights, Lower Pacific Heights, Laurel Heights and Presidio Heights. In the wake of the disaster in Haiti, the group has scheduled monthly practice sessions.

“Our goal is to revitalize all four teams and build the critical mass required to respond more confidently and effectively, both as individuals and as a neighborhood team, when disaster strikes close to home,” says coordinator Barbara Graham. Continue reading

At Vivande’s auction, timeless treasures

At auction: Vivande's equipment and furnishings.

At 9 this morning, Vivande opened its doors to the public for the first time in three weeks. At 11, an auctioneer began selling the furnishings and equipment.

Most of the two dozen people milling around seemed to be dealers in used restaurant supplies, although there were a few neighbors, too. Back in the kitchen was owner Carlo Middione, who had a story to tell about nearly everything he’d amassed during 29 years in business.

Carlo Middione at the auction.

Over his shoulder was a cello, lot number 107. It was a prop at a party he catered honoring the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma. He’d baked 800 sugar cookies shaped like cellos — which he decided must have strings piped on. “Not one string, but four,” he recalled, shaking his head. “After about 100, I wondered, ‘Whose idea was this anyway?’ ”

There was a huge whisk leaning against the brick wall. “That’s a damn good whisk,” Carlo said. It came from Paoli’s at Montgomery and Bush and was used for stirring a huge pot of polenta. A neighbor mused: “Now we won’t have anyone who likes to ‘stir shit the Sicilian way,’ as Carlo always said.”

Three hours later nearly everything had sold. Some of the choicest items — including the big whisk and the lighted cafe sign in the front window — went to Joan O’Connor, proprietor of Timeless Treasures on Sutter Street.

To Haiti on a medical mission

Dr. Eduardo P. Dolhun

Neighborhood physician Dr. Eduardo P. Dolhun is with a team of doctors in Haiti treating earthquake victims. Here is a portion of his first dispatch from the front:

“Within a matter of minutes we were presented with a wide assortment of severe illnesses, all of them traumatic and now nearly six days old.

“The first patient was a 78-year-old woman who had gotten her hand crushed by a fallen concrete slab in her kitchen. She was preparing dinner for her children and grandchildren. She was calm and patient, as we slowly removed the gauze that had not been changed for five days. The dried blood and puss had fused the dressing in a patchy assortment of wet and dry areas, with bubbles percolating up from the wet areas, indicating anaerobic bacterial (bacteria that cause gangrene) infection. One is able to diagnose this type of infection with the nose: It has a distinctive and unforgettable odor.

“As we methodically unwrapped and gently cut away the bandage, we had time to get to know her and also to prepare her for the probability that she would likely lose the entire hand, adding to the loss of her five fingers.”

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A master in our midst

A local gallery is presenting “Theophilus Brown: Nudes,” spotlighting one of the pioneers of the Bay Area Figurative Movement, which helped change the course of art history in the 1950s.

Triple Self Portrait by Theophilus Brown

Brown, now 90, moved to the neighborhood in 2001. He still works daily in his nearby studio and recently joined a new drawing group.

“I paint three or four hours every day,” he says. “I like to work. I think it’s the secret to staying alive and interesting and as vital as you can be — and besides, there’s no telephone in the studio, so it’s peaceful.”

His exhibition at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery, at 2291 Pine Street, continues from January 16 to February 27, 2010.

Brown lives at the San Francisco Towers, the residence for seniors on Pine Street. “I’m glad I’m here,” he says. “It’s pretty posh. If you want to see friends, all you do is get on the elevator.”

He has found among his neighbors collectors of his work old and new. And a connection all the way back to the beginnings of the figurative movement: His fellow painter Richard Diebenkorn’s widow Phyllis also has an apartment at the Towers.

His health is good, although in the fall he had his second knee replaced. “Now I hope I’ll have a lot more energy,” he says. “I’m gonna get serious one of these days.”

Opening night at Via Veneto

FIRST PERSON | Andre Bolaffi

It was a Friday night in January 1990, exactly 20 years ago. We had been in our new home on Bush Street for five years. My wife Janice suggested we walk up Fillmore to the Clay Theatre to see a French film, “Claudine-Claudel,” about Rodin, his work and his mistress. We went to the 7 o’clock show with plans to have dinner afterward.

The movie was sold out, but we managed to excuse and pardon our way to the remaining two empty seats in the dead center of a front row. After half an hour, I said to Janice — quietly, I’m sure, despite the shushes from nearby theatergoers — “If something doesn’t develop soon, I’m going to leave.”

“You can’t leave,” she said.
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