Heart of the City Archives

Once and future Royal marquee. SFPL

So many updates, so little time
by Hank Donat

Last week I called the restored marquee of the former Royal Theatre a monstrosity in the making. Architect Stephen Antonaros has convinced me to give the marquee de-fašade a second chance. Not only is the architect following Timothy Pfluger's mid-1930s do-over of the 1916 theatre, Antonaros and his partners are adding the lanterns that were part of Pfluger's designs but were not built those many years ago.

The new building - housing and shops - will look even more like a movie house than the Gorilla Gym/Alhambra at Polk and Green. This illusion should be very soothing to preservationists who, like me, may be looking at the skeletal work-in-progress and thinking, "That's not what it was!"

Mark Bittner checks in with an update on "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" and one if the favorite stars of Judy Irving's documentary about Bittner and the flock.

Bittner and Irving recently visited Mingus, the dancing parrot that steals hearts in the film. Mingus was sent to live at the high desert Oasis Sanctuary in Cascabel, Arizona. "Mingus is doing fine," says Bittner, "He lives outdoors year-round and eats much better food than I ever gave him - fresh vegetables!"

Here at home, Bittner and Irving are readying the DVD edition of the little film that could. "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" was a sleeper hit in theatres all over the country thanks to Irving's talents and Bittner's commitment to telling the story of San Francisco's wonderfully boisterous and beautiful airborne mascots. The DVD edition will include new interviews and outtakes.

As for the flock itself, Bittner says, "The eggs have hatched, and the babies are growing inside nest holes throughout the city, getting ready to take their first flights in early September."

I've often said that in San Francisco memories are as vital as blood and now I can prove it. St. Francis Memorial Hospital is conducting a memorabilia drive! Organizers are collecting donations of antique medical equipment, uniforms, pictures, letters, dishes and other items of historical significance. Items will be displayed as part of the hospital's ongoing 100th anniversary celebration. The mayor's office is hosting the "100 Years of Caring for San Francisco" exhibit in the south light court at City Hall from October to January.

A few weeks after I was asked by a writer for sfist.com to name my favorite burrito joint I found a brand new one! Tango 20 just opened up on Fulton Street near Masonic, across the street from the Albertson's that's still remembered as Petrini's Market. So how did Tango 20 win my heart and become an instant favorite? Flavor, flavor, flavor. For a new restaurant, good food is what location is to real estate - everything.

And while housing issues remain a hot topic in San Francisco, it's important to remember that the high cost of shelter is also a problem far outside our city limits. Friend of the City Jason West, mayor of New Paltz, New York says he has been priced out of the upstate village where he made headlines for marrying gay and lesbian couples in 2004.

West, 28, worked his way through college as a house painter and puppeteer. He was elected mayor of New Paltz, population 6,000, in 2003 and, for better or worse, put the village on the map last year as a pillar of the gay wedding movement. He's finally put his legal problems related to the weddings behind him as charges were filed, dropped, reinstated and dropped again in the past year. Now West says he would like to buy a house in the town he has called home for his entire adult life, but he can't afford one on his $18,000 mayoral salary.

"Everyone wants to move here and no one can afford it," West complained to the Hudson Valley area's Times Herald-Record. The median price of a home in New Paltz is $265,000 for a 1,200 square-ft., two-story home. Over there it's not developers who are taking the heat for a surge in home prices, it's wealthy second-home buyers and weekenders. However, West blames old-fashioned greed and realtors who convince sellers they can hit the roof by raising prices. West told the Herald-Record, "If you bought a house for $40,000 years ago, you could sell it for $150,000, make a huge profit and still keep it affordable for someone who lives in the community." Sound familiar?

Marvelous Mike was amused to read in Heart of the City online at MisterSF.com that one Chronicle columnist repeated a colleague's false San Francisco movie trivia only to find out later that the first writer got it wrong. What amused Mike was that on the same day he found Heart of the City, he also read a column by the Chronicle's C.W. Nevius about the problem with readers taking as fact the errors and opinions published by bloggers. Apparently, bloggers do not have a lock on getting it wrong - or right.

"Do you remember the statue of Saddam coming down that was trumpeted across every media outlet in the world?" Mike asks, "It was a blogger who started posting long-shot photos he'd found at CNN that showed the whole event was a phoney, staged act of propaganda. It happened right in front of the Palestine Hotel where all the journalists were staying. Not one of them mentioned what actually happened." Indeed, it is fascinating to watch these changes in our media landscape at the outset of the 21st Century. Can "Podcast News" be far behind?

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Copyright 2005 Hank Donat
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