Once a beacon of neighborhood revival as the San Francisco home of jazz club Yoshi's, the Fillmore Heritage Center has become bedeviled by litigation.
In August of 2018, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit to recover $5.5 million borrowed by Heritage Center developer Michael Johnson. In September, Johnson filed a countersuit claiming breach of contract, and that city interference ruinously undermined the project.
Most recently, a November lawsuit in federal court alleges that officials, including Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Vallie Brown, committed fraud resulting in approximately $100 million in failed public and private investments. It further charges that the city officials steered control of the center to “chosen cronies.”
“What was promoted as the flagship of the City’s renewal of the Fillmore community has instead become a glaring symbol of urban neglect, mismanagement, and corruption,” the suit reads.
Plaintiff Agonafer Shiferaw, a neighborhood businessman who previously operated Rasselas Jazz Club on Fillmore Street, has repeatedly tried to buy the crisis-stricken cultural center. His suit seeks monetary damages and a court injunction prohibiting the city from selling or leasing the property.
At the center of the suit, which the New Fillmore first reported, is an early 2017 request for proposals (RFP) to relaunch the 240,000-square-foot cultural center. Shiferaw alleges the outcome of the process was predetermined. And because he complained to the Public Ethics Commission, the suit claims, the city canceled the public process in favor of private negotiations.