Fillmore District, San Francisco

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Fillmore District
The Fillmore Auditorium on Fillmore and Geary
The Fillmore Auditorium on Fillmore and Geary
Nickname(s): The Fillmore, The Moe, Fillmoe, The FeeMoe, Filthy Moe, The Mighty Westside, Harlem of the West
Fillmore District is located in San Francisco
Fillmore District
Fillmore District
Location within Central San Francisco
Coordinates: 37°46′51″N 122°25′32″W / 37.78086°N 122.42542°W / 37.78086; -122.42542
Country  United States
State  California
City and county San Francisco
Named for Fillmore Street and Millard Fillmore
 • Supervisor London Breed
 • Assemblymember David Chiu (D)[1]
 • State senator Mark Leno (D)[1]
 • U. S. rep. Nancy Pelosi (D)[2]
 • Total 0.463 sq mi (1.20 km2)
 • Land 0.463 sq mi (1.20 km2)
Population (2008)
 • Total 12,934
 • Density 27,919/sq mi (10,780/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 94102, 94109, 94115, 94117
Area codes 415/628

The Fillmore District, also called The Fillmore, The Fill, The Moe, or Fillmoe, is a neighborhood in the Western Addition district of San Francisco, California.


Though its boundaries are not well-defined, it is usually considered to be the subset of the Western Addition neighborhood and is roughly bordered by Van Ness Avenue on the east, Divisadero Street on the west, Geary Boulevard on the north, and Grove Street on the south. These delineations are approximate and there are certain irregularities in the geographic shape of the neighborhood; for instance, the Westside Housing Projects are generally considered to be part of the Fillmore District, even though they are located a block west of Divisadero and a block north of Geary. The community also extends south of Grove St. at several points. Fillmore Street, from which the district gets its name, is the main north-south thoroughfare running through the center of the district. The area east of Fillmore St. is locally referred to as Downtown Fillmore, while the area to the west of Fillmore is known by many locals as Uptown Fillmore. Some definitions, particularly older ones, include Hayes Valley, Japantown, and what is now known as North of Panhandle as part of the district and extend the western border further. However, redevelopment — for example, that which followed the Loma Prieta earthquake and the collapse of the Central Freeway — has made these areas more independent and distinct. In addition, the area centered on Fillmore Street to the north of Geary had long been uniformly known as Upper Fillmore, but rising property values in the 1980s and 1990s severely weakened its ties to the largely working-class Fillmore District. Instead, it became increasingly tied to the extremely wealthy Pacific Heights neighborhood to the north. This change in socio-economic identity has caused the Upper Fillmore to be commonly called "Lower Pacific Heights" in recent times, especially by its non-native residents. Overall, most locals agree that the Fillmore has been steadily shrinking for several decades. The Fillmore is almost entirely in San Francisco's fifth supervisorial district, with a small sliver on the district's eastern edge in District 3.[4]


The Fillmore district was created in the 1880s to provide new space for the city to grow in an effort to address overcrowding.[5] After the 1906 earthquake Fillmore Street, which had largely avoided heavy damage, temporarily became a major commercial center as the city's downtown rebuilt and began a period where the district where migrant groups from Jews to Japanese and then African-Americans predominated. Redevelopment programs in the 1960s led to displacement and loss of the district's jazz and cultural scene.[5]

Jewish community[edit]

After the 1906 earthquake, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and those displaced from the SOMA district settled in the Fillmore. Jewish-owned businesses opened on Fillmore and McAllister streets to serve the community. The district had three synagogues, a Yiddish Cultural Center and a school. The Fillmore was considered the center of the Jewish community in San Francisco in the early 20th century.[6]

Japanese immigration and internment[edit]

During the 1910s to 1930s, sections of the neighborhood, particularly around Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard became home to thousands of Japanese immigrants as that area became part of Japantown. Noted Japanese monk Nyogen Senzaki, who is credited with introducing Zen Buddhism in the United States opened the first zendo in an apartment on Bush Street in the Fillmore.[7] In 1942, during World War II, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which relocated all interned people of Japanese origin to internment camps throughout western United States and emptied the Fillmore of Japanese residents.[8]

African-American migration[edit]

The vacant homes in the Fillmore attracted African Americans migrating northward to work in the shipyards, as part of the Great Migration, as well as musicians, and artists.

Soon, many nightclubs (the likes of Leola Kings Bird Cage, Wesley Johnson's Texas PlayHouse, Shelton's Blue Mirror, and Jacks of Sutter) were opened, bringing major musical icons to the neighborhood including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday. However, the neighborhood struggled economically, as sections of the neighborhood became blighted.

Redevelopment and displacement[edit]

In 1948 the Fillmore was designated a redevelopment area. The city's Redevelopment Agency, led by Justin Herman, demolished most of the neighborhood's existing homes and businesses over the course of the next decade. In their place, developers built large, mostly low-rise housing developments, along with some mixed-use buildings concentrated around Fillmore Street. Many of these developments included subsidized units for low-income residents. The project took longer than expected, however, with some plots remaining vacant until well into the 21st century. While the residents of the original homes were, in theory, entitled to return to the neighborhood, many did not do so.

As a result of the project's displacement of residents and businesses, its mixed and arguably discriminatory economic impact, and its design (featuring mid-century renewal concepts such as superblocks and strict separation of uses), the redevelopment of the Fillmore is considered by most to have been unsuccessful and regrettable. Post-redevelopment, encroaching gentrification and the physical decay of cheaply constructed housing complexes have led to a neighborhood of stark contrasts between rich and poor.[9]

Urban renewal[edit]

In the 1990s-2000s, the neighborhood underwent another wave of urban renewal and gentrification in the form of a new "Jazz District" along Fillmore Street with mostly upscale Jazz-themed restaurants, and proposed condominium construction.

Landmarks and Features[edit]

Fillmore Street, the neighborhood's main commercial strip, reflects Fillmore's diversity: family-owned neighborhood-serving retail mixes with chain stores, jazz clubs, and ethnic restaurants of many varieties. Some of the stores, restaurants, and clubs lost to redevelopment are memorialized by plaques on the sidewalk.

Another attraction that draws in many people from all over the world is The Fillmore Center, high rise apartment homes, provide housing to many, and there is a branch of the San Francisco public library located at Geary and Scott.

Fillmore Auditorium[edit]

The historic Fillmore Auditorium is located in the neighborhood at the corner of Geary Boulevard and Fillmore Street. A major national concert venue famous as the focus point of the psychedelic music scene during the 1960s. It was home to early concerts by Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead among others.[10]

Jazz and blues[edit]

The Fillmore was a national center for jazz during the 1940s and 1950s when it was known as the "Harlem of the West" and attracted many leading jazz luminaries including Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and the "Bird" (Charlie Parker). Fillmore Street was filled with nightclubs. Jimbo's Bop City, nationally known for its all-night jam sessions and its location behind Jimbo Edward's waffle shop, is reported to be the only venue to host Parker and Armstrong together at the same time.[11]

As part of efforts in the 1990s to revitalize the Fillmore district, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency created the Historic Fillmore Jazz Preservation District to encourage the development of entertainment and commercial businesses in this historical area. A Jazz Heritage Center was created within a major new apartment and commercial development, the Fillmore Heritage Center, which housed the San Francisco branch of Yoshi's jazz club.[11] In 2012, Yoshi's SF filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and in 2014 it closed and was replaced by The Addition which closed its doors on January 14, 2015.[12]

Markets and festivals[edit]

A farmer's market is held at the Fillmore Center Plaza on Saturdays year round.[13]

The Fillmore Street Jazz Festival is held in July annually. The Fillmore Fridays Outdoor Music and Cinema Series is held Friday evenings between August and October.[14]

Public transit[edit]

The neighborhood, thanks to its central location, is served by several Muni bus lines including the 22, 21, 24, 38, 31, 43, 47, 49, and 5.


  1. ^ a b "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Retrieved November 2, 2014. 
  2. ^ "California's 12th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. 
  3. ^ a b c [1]
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b "Fillmore District". Fillmore Community Benefit District. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Jews of the Fillmore Exhibition". Magnes Home The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, University of California Berkeley. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  7. ^ "The Fillmore Museum". Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  8. ^ "U.S. Aid Asked on 'Japtown' April 21, 1942". San Francisco News. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Chronology of San Francisco Rock 1965-1969". The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "The Jazz Era". Jazz Heritage Center. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Fillmore Farmers Market". Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  14. ^ "SFGate-San Francisco: Western Addition". San Francisco Chronicle. 26 October 2011. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Elizabeth Pepin; Lewis Watts. (2006). Harlem of the West : the San Francisco Fillmore jazz era. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 9780811845489.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°46′51″N 122°25′32″W / 37.78086°N 122.42542°W / 37.78086; -122.42542