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Charles Collins
Real Estate Developer
Former Fillmore Resident

Charles Collins
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Video Credit: KQED 1999



Fillmore Art Deco sign
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Photo Credit: San Francisco Public Library

On His Early Memories of the Fillmore

I remember that the houses were beautiful; the Victorian houses with all the gingerbread still attached to the buildings, and they were nicely painted. You could walk just about anywhere in the community and feel very safe. I remember at Christmas time how wonderful it was with the decorations across Fillmore Street. There were also wonderful smells. In particular, I remember a coffee roastery and dry goods store right on the corner of Geary and Fillmore. I also remember the great Chicago Barber Shop. It was an absolute deco wonder. It's a shame that these things were taken apart and taken away.


On Urban Blight in the Fillmore

The Fillmore did not feel blighted to me as a child. The only way that you can get to the issue of blight is to determine that the people who were living there, largely African American, had low incomes. And then you have to read into the idea that these absolutely beautiful Victorian buildings were also blighted because they were populated by black people. That's the only way that I think you can get to this argument. It's amazing to me when you look back at the amount of housing that was removed.

On the Physical Changes in the Fillmore

You saw wrecking companies come in and just wholesale destroy blocks upon blocks upon blocks with tractors, bulldozers, cranes, wrecking balls. We also saw this incredible line that goes all the way up along the Geary Corridor. It's like a Mason-Dixon Line. The Geary Corridor is a huge dividing line that separated the black community from what was north, and from Pacific Heights. The central freeway system in San Francisco came right through areas of low income, so economics and race had a strong bearing on how the surface transportation system in the city would work. These are the sorts of changes that Redevelopment allowed to happen.



city blocks leveled by bulldozers
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Photo Credit: San Francisco Redevelopement Agency

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