Harlem of the West
Written by Pepin & Watts


The Fillmore and the Western Addition, although thriving, also had its share of problems. By the late 1940s the housing stock, some of the oldest in the city, was beginning to fall apart. Between 1950 and the 1970s, many major cities began redevelopment projects, most focused on poor, non-white neighborhoods.

In 1948, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency was created. Their first project was demolishing the old produce market and rebuilding it as the Embarcaderro Center. Considered an extremely successful project, the Redevelopment Agency set their sights on the Western Addition as the next Redevelopment project. As soon as the project was announced, Japanese America, Jewish, and African American community leaders in the Fillmore got together to discuss the project. While recognizing that the neighborhood had problems that needed to be fixed, several at the meetings expressed concern for the way the Agency was planning to carry out the project.

Their concerns were dismissed and the first house in the Fillmore was demolished in 1953, kicking off "Western Addition Project A-1," what would become one of the largest redevelopment projects in the United States, encompassing hundreds of city blocks and impacting more than 20,000 residents. It was soon clear that the community leaders' concerns were indeed coming true.

With much of the neighborhood under redevelopment, and residents displaced or leaving the area, many of the businesses and nightclubs began to move to other neighborhoods or to close. Residents begin to band together, creating WACO, the Western Addition Community Organization in 1967 to fight against the displacement of the Fillmore residents by the Redevelopment Agency, ultimately winning a lawsuit against the city to stop the wholesale demolition of the neighborhood. While the group won, in many ways it was too late, as entire blocks had been stripped of buildings.

The last two of the original jazz clubs to close in the Fillmore were Minnie's Can-Do, which lasted until 1974, when it moved from Fillmore Street to Haight Street, and Jack's, which relocated from its original space on Sutter Street to several other spaces before ending up on the corner of Fillmore and Geary. It still exists as a nightclub, although it was bought by blues musician John Lee Hooker and a bevy of backers in the late 1990s, and renamed the Boom Boom Room.

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Fillmore Street Destruction
Demolition for JapanCenter
Champaigne Supper Club