San Francisco News

Commission votes to designate Marcus Books historic landmark

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The nation's oldest black-owned book store got what supporters think is good news Wednesday. The San Francisco Preservation Commission voted to designate Marcus Books a historic landmark. But is that enough to keep the store from being evicted from its home on Fillmore Street?

In the 50s and early 60s, it was Jimbo's Bop City, a jazz club. When urban renewal leveled much of the Fillmore neighborhood, that building was spared and since 1981 it's been the home of Marcus Books, which was founded in 1960.

"This bookstore is not just a book store; it's part of our community, part of our history," San Francisco Supervisor London Breed said.

Breed and other supporters are hoping if the city designates the building a historic landmark that might somehow save the bookstore which is slated for eviction. Commissioner Diane Matsuda says Marcus Books is significant to both the black and Japanese American communities, which have shared the Fillmore neighborhood for decades.

"I think it's important for those of us in 2013 us to recognize and remember the Fillmore of that day," Matsuda said.

Marcus Books is in danger after a bad financial decision led to bankruptcy and new owners have been trying to evict the old. A neighborhood non-profit has offered to buy back the property and keep the bookstore.

But Joseph Sweis says his parents, who purchased the place months ago, have a legal right to takeover.

"They aren't against preserving the value of the building or history, just not being able to access the building at all," Sweis said.

"As caretakers of a legacy business we have no intention of moving out at this moment in time we're going to fight this 100 percent," Greg Johnson said.

The commissioners voted unanimously to support the landmark designation, but that's no guarantee Marcus Books will remain.

"Landmarking is definitely recognizing its history, but it won't necessarily protect the future," Commissioner Aaron Hyland said.

This is just the first step at City Hall. Eventually, the landmark designation must be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

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books, pacific heights, e-books, san francisco board of supervisors, san francisco news, carolyn tyler
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