MisterSF.com Archive: Ask Mister SF Answers

555 Mission Street: Tower City Rises

04/11/07; 7:00 PM

rene asks, you said you'd never say Frisco but you wore a Frisco t-shirt. What gives?

Your referring to my "satire shirt," as Jeff calls it. Yes, it boldly says Frisco, but I won't. (Still the official policy of Mister SF is, call the City what you like but do call it, take it out, and spend some money on it.) The question makes me want to tell you a story. One night Jeff says, "Let's go to Starbucks." I said, "I can't go to Starbucks. Mom and Pop would have my head." "Yes you can," he tells me, "it's customer appreciation night. Lattes are free. You'll be depleting their resources without supporting them with your dollar." I let him talk me into it. A month later, the scene replayed itself exactly, and on we went. Once inside we found ourselves facing a glass display case with community clippings and photos of patrons with some snaps of smiling folks on "Customer Appreciation Night," including those smiles of the Laverne and Shirley of lattes, also known as me and Jeff. Shirley distracted the barrista while Laverne picked the lock on the case and the photo mysteriously disappeared.

Chris asks, is Mister SF married?

Yes. As I told Jeff on the day a court struck down the 2004 gay marriages, including ours, "God saw you [take your vows.]" The law will follow, I'm sure.

mltallen asks, I was disappointed that you have not made the Examiner's list of possible next mayors. Undoubtedly an unfortunate oversight right?


Jai asks, are you among the Newsom-bashing bloggers and sites like gavinnewsomsucks.com?

No way! I wrote one finger-shaking essay because I felt that Newsom is fiddling while we burn in too many ways in a culture that shrugs everything off. When I see Nazi effigies used to campaign against Newsom it makes me sick. With George Bush it's okay because of the element of truth. But, I also got a stomach ache when BART spokesperson Linton Johnson called Newsom "the new Martin Luther King" in a documentary that aired on KQED following the gay weddings. But to your point, no.

3/27/07; 10:11 PM

AJ asks, what was the route from the Chronicle building that Herb Caen used to stay dry on rainy days?

AJ his route from Le Central on Bush Street to the paper at 5th and Mission no longer exists in its entirety. (I revisited the route in a 2002 column.) Here is Caen's trajectory: Bush to Sutter through Sutter-Stockton Garage; Hyatt Union Square; Union Square Garage; Macy's (escalator down); O'Farrell-Ellis Garage (elevator down); Woolworth's; BART; Emporium basement (escalator up); rear exit; Giannini's Market (Jessie); and "arrive at Chronicle reasonably dry." The shortcut is included in Caen's November 17, 1981 column. Have fun!

03/26/07; 7:27 PM

Starr asks, Did you get a record of 555 Mission Street before the tower got started?

Yes! It is an opportunity to witness the City transform itself once more. San Francisco has been compared to a female lover more times than I care to grind an old saw. Ultimately, I think it's true and I think she's Madonna. So here we are again with another makeover in progress. The Tower City of the West rises around the bones of places in this district like the old M&M cafeteria and Rockin' Robin's, among the quirky, original joints stretching past what would become Yerba Buena Gardens to the M&M bar and beyond the Chronicle Building. When I was a lad I worked at the Russell's pharmacy on Mission near the Transbay terminal. It's still there, 320 Mission Street. One night I was working during the height of the evening commute when a customer was killed by a runaway bus coming out of the terminal at Mission and Fremont Streets. It was one of those tragic moments that leaves an imprint on San Francisco, and on a young San Franciscan when the City seems so big and life so long ahead.

Brian asks, My gosh, Hank, is it true they're turning Ghirardelli Square into condos?

It's true that upper floors have been converted into Fairmont Heritage Place, luxury time-share condos starting at $250,000 per share. I know how you feel Brian, but look. It's not the original Ghirardelli location (that's 417 Jackson Street) and it hasn't been a chocolate factory for ages. Okay I'd fight to save the sign (itself a more contemporary icon as it was added in 1923) if it ever came to that, but... Mister SF has to strive with the stream once in a while, and by that I mean the clock and calendar. I encourage everyone to visit the northwestern section of Fisherman's Wharf including Aquatic Park and on to Upper Fort Mason. The area is rife with beauty. But if commercial tenants can't sustain themselves in the Ghirardelli Square market on the fringe of the tackier parts of Fisherman's Wharf that we locals tend to love from afar, then it should be allowed to find a new life.

More Answers >>

What's your question for Mister SF?

Copyright 2001-2007 Hank Donat
mistersf.com home