Building Owners Keep Mum After Supe Introduces Resolution To Save Historic Bookstore

A black-owned bookstore in San Francisco’s Fillmore District is in danger of eviction, prompting a city supervisor to introduce a resolution today encouraging the new owners of a building to sell it to someone else to preserve its historical value.

Marcus Books, located at 1712 Fillmore St., could soon face eviction after real estate investors Nishan and Suhaila Sweis bought the building for $1.59 million at a foreclosure sale in April, according to the resolution introduced by Supervisor London Breed.

Breed, who represents the Fillmore District, said the loss of the bookstore would be “a dagger in the heart to this community,” particularly black residents.

“There’s a lot of history here,” she said.

Breed’s resolution notes that Marcus Books has hosted many notable black writers and leaders since opening in 1960, including Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou and James Baldwin.

The building was previously located nearby at 1690 Post St. and also hosted a jazz club that attracted many famous musicians like Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

The building was saved by community members who lifted it off its foundation and moved it to the Fillmore Street location to avoid its destruction by the city’s redevelopment agency, according to the resolution.

The non-profit Westside Community Services has offered to buy the building at a price above what its purchase price was in April, but the new owners are demanding $3.2 million for the building, according to the resolution.

Calls to the Sweis residence in South San Francisco were not immediately returned.

Supporters of Marcus Books held a rally outside of City Hall earlier today to praise Breed’s resolution and again call on the Sweises to sell the building.

Julian Davis, who represents Greg and Karen Johnson, the proprietors of Marcus Books, said, “it’s a bookstore but really it’s so much more, it’s a cultural institution.”

The Johnsons were ordered by a bankruptcy court judge last week to vacate from the upstairs portion of the building and did so, but the bookstore remains in place for the time being, pending further court action, Davis said.

He said the resolution was helpful for the bookstore because it “signals that the city and civic community are behind it.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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