Jim San Jule: Tireless Crusader - Page 5

Eichler Homes’ original marketing director worked hard and passionately so others could live well

Dan Solomon, who became good friends with San Jule while working on Amancio Ergina Village, believes he led a tragic life because he missed his calling. “He would have loved to have been a historian,” Solomon says, adding, “There was a very scholarly side to him, a deep knowledge of history.”

Yvonne Koshland, who remained married to San Jule 13 years, says his tragedy had another cause: drinking. Others agree. “He had one problem in his life,” Tishman says. “Booze.”

When he drank, friends and family recall, San Jule could lose his temper. He could wander from the bar and not be seen for days.

The late Pietro Patri, an architect and close friend, remembered the first time he drove to San Jule’s house. “I heard this symphonic music blaring all over the neighborhood,” he told a reporter. “That was him—full blast everything.”

A meticulous dresser, San Jule loved a night on the town. The more expensive the restaurant, the better. He’d talk about music, the local jazz legends he knew, Vernon Alley, Bob Scobey, his friendships with Louis Armstrong and Jack Teegarden.

“He was a great pontificator,” Teresa Rea remembers. “He loved capturing the attention and imagination of a dinner table with stories of the good old days, and his thoughts.” He was a great cook, she recalls—but would pour the cheapest red wine, decanted “so you wouldn’t know what it was.”

“He didn’t live a healthy lifestyle,” Tishman says. “Once I asked him what he had been doing, exercising?” San Jule’s answer was, yes. “What sort?” Tishman asked. “I breathed,” was San Jule’s reply. San Jule did not follow sports, though he knew professional athletes.

San Jule read voraciously: history, economics, social science, the Futurist magazine. He had an extensive library of books on architecture and planning. “I would describe him as a Renaissance man,” Rea says.

The Golden Gateway at San Francisco’s Embarcadero, 1965.
The Golden Gateway at San Francisco’s Embarcadero, 1965.

San Jule loved taking the family to historic sites, Koshland remembers—Lexington and Concord, Mount Vernon, Williamsburg. In later years, Tishman remembers, San Jule and his fourth wife, Joan, often traveled to archeological sites in Mexico.

When Dan Solomon discussed his Amancio Ergina project at the University of Virginia, he brought along San Jule because of his fascination with Thomas Jefferson, who had designed the campus.

While on his early morning jog, Solomon came upon his friend. “Jim was standing in the middle of the lawn. He was weeping.” He told Solomon, “I slept in the bed that Alexander Hamilton slept in during the writing of the Federalist Papers.”

Then there was the time Solomon showed up at San Jule’s house expecting to be reimbursed for expenses during Armancia Ergina Village. Instead, he found his employer well into his second pitcher of martinis.

It was a momentous day in American history, San Jule told him, and well worth a celebration. “This is the day in U.S. history that a black man has announced he is running for president,” San Jule said. Jesse Jackson had thrown his hat in the ring.

Soon, San Jule was regaling Solomon about all of his friends in San Francisco’s black community. He also let slip, apocryphally or not, that he’d once had an affair with Billie Holiday.

After leaving Eichler, San Jule briefly worked for two Peninsula firms that built modern homes, Burke and Wyatt and Stern and Price. By the late 1950s he’d formed the Corporation of the 20th Century, and was working on Peacock Gap, a planned community in Marin County, and on apartments in San Jose.

San Jule “took some bad advice from financial people” on the Corporation, Koshland says, and the endeavor went bankrupt.

In 1959 San Jule took on the ‘Mad Men’ lifestyle, working first for a small ad agency in San Francisco, representing a lumber and building firm, then for the firm Young and Rubicam in New York, commuting from Wilton, Connecticut, Koshland says. His clients including Reynolds Aluminum, which made aluminum siding.

San Jule also said, in his timeline, that he worked with Henry Kaiser on the Hawaii Kai planned community on Oahu.

“It was not a very happy experience all the way around,” Koshland says of the New York venture. San Jule was “doing things for industry when what he really wanted was to do things for people.”