Little Hope for Saving Coltrane Church, Last Vestige of SF Jazz District

Archbishop Franzo King, co-founder of the St. John Coltrane Church (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

The St. John Coltrane Church in San Francisco's Fillmore District is in danger of eviction and barring an injection of cash, it looks like there's little the church can do about it.

The storefront church is tiny, but attracts worshipers from around the world because of its Sunday performances of music by saxophone legend John Coltrane, still a towering figure in jazz nearly 50 years after his death.

Archbishop and co-founder Franzo King says the landlord, the West Bay Conference Center, is trying to raise the church’s rent from $1,600 a month to $4,000. But King says the issue is bigger than a rent hike. The church, he says, is one of the last black-owned businesses in a neighborhood known as the "Harlem of the West," before the city redeveloped the Fillmore in the 1960s.

"The outmigration of the African American community is what we’re fighting against. The salvation of black culture and people in this community," King said.

Since the closure last year of the jazz club The Addition, the John Coltrane Church is also the only jazz presenter in a neighborhood San Francisco has named the "Fillmore Jazz Preservation District.

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A board member for the landlord had no comment on negotiations with the church. An aide to Supervisor London Breed says the supervisor wants to help the church find a new home, but that’s a challenge when so many non-profits are being priced out of the city.

Archbishop King says, "That’s our goal now, to find a home for this church that has proven itself to be something that is very necessary for the culture on a global level.”

Earlier this month, King started an online petition in the hopes of gathering enough signatures to pressure local politicians to help the church stay around.

This isn't the first time the Coltrane Church has faced eviction: back in 2000, the church was forced out of its storefront space on Divisadero St., which had been its home since 1971.