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Archive for March, 2010

Did you know that San Francisco used to have its own amusement park? It was called Playland and it was right next to Ocean Beach where Cabrillo and Balboa streets are today. It began in the late 1800’s with a few rides and attractions and eventually became known as Playland at the Beach in 1926 when George Whitney took it over. It encompassed 10 acres and had a wide variety of rides and attractions. Playland at the Beach remained open until Labor Day Weekend in 1972  when it was torn down.

But the legacy of Playland at the Beach does not end there. Besides being the birth place of It’s-It ice cream sandwiches, Playland at the Beach inspired a full length documentary all about the former San Francisco amusement park, called “Remembering Playland.”

The documentary premiered at the Balboa Theatre to a sold out crowd on March 16. And it has been so popular that the Balboa Theatre has added additional showings of the film: You can catch the additional showings this coming Saturday, March 27, Sunday, March 28,  and next Saturday, April 3, all shows are matinees and start at noon. You can purchase advance tickets here (and it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to do so as previous shows have sold out.) And if you can’t make any of the upcoming showings but still want to check it out, the documentary will be available on DVD beginning in May.

And for those of you who, like myself, were not around to see the original Playland at the Beach here is a fun video of what it looked like in 1960.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Save the Stow Lake Boathouse Party. Since then, more than a thousand people have signed the Save the Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition‘s petition to maintain the boathouse in its current state and character. I recently received an update from the coalition detailing the progress they have made toward their goal in the last month since the party.

According to Suzanne Dumont from the coalition, in additon to having added more than 1,300 singnatures to the petition, boathouse supporters have “been busy putting pressure on the Recreation & Park Commission to retract and correct their 5th RFP/RFQ (Request for Proposal/Request for Qualification), which is the document that is supposed to correctly inform all potential applicants for the Stow Lake Concessions.”

According to Dumont, Rec & Park have changed the language on the most recent RFQ to reflect the fact that a restaurant is not wanted at the boathouse and instead “table service will be discouraged” and “limited counter-service” will continue. She goes on to say that Rec & Park will most likely be picking a new tenant for the property who could potentially move onto the property beginning in August.


Supporters of the boathouse are worried that putting a restaurant in the bottom level of the boathouse, which would require removing the snack bar and boat  hoist, would ruin the character of the historic boathouse and would push out affordable recreation in Golden Gate Park.

To find out more about the Save the Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition and how to get involved in their effort, visit them at: http://www.savestowlake.org/

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The Alexandria Theatre, at Geary and 18th, closed its doors in 2004 after more than 80 years in the Richmond District.

Since then, the future of the theatre has been uncertain. Several plans have been discussed over the years but the theatre has remained vacant. But according to District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar, all that will soon be changing.

Mar has recently revealed to both SF Appeal and the Richmond Review that a new plan for the theatre is almost complete and that changes will be happening at the theatre very soon.

The plan, which according to Mar is soon to be approved by the SF Planning Department, calls for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) which will include a mixed use building that will include residential units and retail establishments for the theatre and parking lot.

Mar says that a a 250 seat theatre would remain on the upper level of the theatre and that a second level with a restaurant will be constructed. He also says that he wants to preserve much of the character of the original Art Deco building.

Mar’s announcement is no doubt welcome news to the theater’s neighbors as the space has been vacant for the past 6 years and has been seen by many in the neighborhood as a blighted property.

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Last Tuesday, the Balboa Theatre had a special showing of the new documentary “The Mighty Uke“- a film entirely devoted to the quirky but lovable instrument that is the ukulele. The theatre was packed almost to capacity and the night featured not only a screening of the film but a performance by the talented James Hill, one of the musicians featured in the documentary.

There were almost as many ukuleles as people in attendance as Hill lead the audience in song and everyone was encouraged to participate. After, I sat down with Tony Coleman, the director of the film, to find out more about the film and the instrument that inspired it. Listen below:

And, for anyoe who may be interested in seeing more, here is the trailer for the film:

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