Heart of the City Archives

Frosty air crosses the City on Golden Hills
by Hank Donat

With plenty of time before the sun rises on the new year, Heart of the City offers an overview of San Francisco's highs and lows of 2004. From Beach Blanket to Wedstock, it was a year to remember.

Best make-over: The dome over the Palace of Fine Arts went from drab gray to fab burnt orange in the latest stage of its multi-million dollar rehabilitation.

Fond Farewells: Miz Brown's Feedbag, Mister Lee's, Pon & Hom's hot dog stand, Denis Dumont's parfumerie, and Quality Junk all shut their doors for good in 2004. They join Dr. Bombay's, the ferry Golden Gate, the Compass Rose, and Deovlet & Sons in the annals of San Franciso's past.

Worst photo-op: Mayor Gavin Newsom and wife Kimberly Guilfoyle were all smiles on Ann Getty's area rug for the pages of Harper's but the public said, "Cheese!"

Best technical innovation: Union Square goes wi-fi.

Best anniversary: Beach Blanket Babylon producer Jo Schumann Silver gave an unforgettable four-day party for the revue's 30th Anniversary in June, and that's not all. As part of the fun, Silver donated more than $400,000 to San Francisco-based non-profits.

Worst eulogy: Former Secretary of State George Shultz's attempt to honor Ronald Reagan on Steve Silver's Babylon stage was received by stone cold silence from the audience. In attendance were author Armistead Maupin and others who lost countless friends to AIDS in the 1980s while Reagan stayed silent on the epidemic.

Best Comeback: Maupin announced, "Micheal Tolliver Lives," a new novel that will feature Tales of the City characters, but don't call it a sequel the author says. Runner-up: The Vaillancourt fountain springs to life.

Best new restaurant: Sydney's Home in the new Jewish Community Center at California and Presidio.

Worst attempt at Euro-ization: Drivers in the Haight were clueless as to how to negotiate a roundabout on Page Street. Also, Mr. and Ms. San Francisco balked at the possibility of paying for grocery bags.

Best holiday performance: San Francisco's home-grown musical comedy star PA Cooley is a gas as The Man Who Came to Dinner through January 9 at Theatre Rhino in the Mission.

Best political surprise: Call it Wedstock as thousands of gay couples said "I do" at City Hall beginning two days before Valentine's Day. The California Supreme Court voided the nuptials, which were later scapegoated for the Bush victory, but Newsom says San Francisco did the right thing. Runner up: Newsom names Angela Alioto as homeless czar for San Francisco. Heart of the City and others had accused Newsom of teasing Alioto with a well-dangled carrot in exchange for her endorsement for mayor. Mea culpa.

Best landlord dispute: Tony Hall, the mayor of Treasure Island, found himself in a brouhaha with the film commission as the mayor attempted to breathe new life in the City's flagging film industry economy. Director Chris Columbus will bring his new musical here, but Hall raised the roof for more Rent. Runner up: Angelo Sangiacomo agrees to build 500 affordable housing in exchange for a green light to demolish Trinity Plaza.

Best anti-climax: No one takes the rap for Fajitagate as judge and jury clear officers and brass who were implicated in a Union Street brawl over leftover Mexican food and an alleged cover-up in 2002. Former officer Alex Fagan Jr., the only remaining former officer on trial, may still prove the cheese stands alone, or did he take the wrap?

Brightest political career nipped in the bud: Heather Hiles had high hopes after turning a leadership position in the Newsom campaign into a short-term appointment to the Board of Education, but the electorate said no thanks to a full term for the once-rising star.

Best Tom Ammiano punch line: Regarding the controversy over elephant care at the San Francisco Zoo, Ammiano quipped, "There's a lot of talk about public-private partnerships and whether they work. The elephants died - this one's not working!"

Best Redux: Sears Fine Foods had deteriorated under the weight of its owner's financial woes - not to mention decades of maple syrup - before it closed early in '04. New owner Man J. Kim, a onetime immigrant cab driver who also owns Lori's Diner, renovated and reopened the 65 year-old Swedish pancake institution in August. In doing so, Kim worked with the City to put formerly homeless individuals to work at Sears. First runner-up: PJ Corkery returns to the Examiner with an update on the old three-dot formula, three times a week. Second runner-up: Trader Vic's attempts to merge the mojos of Stars and the original Vic's as the epicenter of political and social culture in the City.

Best San Francisco guide books: David Weintraub's hiking guide "Afoot & Afield in the San Francisco Bay Area" provides access to some of the City's most beautiful natural spaces. It also demonstrates why San Franciscans have great calves and terrible knees! Mike Sullivan's "The Trees of San Francisco" is the ultimate tree-huggers guide to the City. Adah Bakalinsky's perennial favorite "Stairway Walks in San Francisco" was re-released in an updated 20th anniversary edition.

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Copyright 2004 Hank Donat
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