Jim San Jule: Tireless Crusader - Page 6

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

Back in San Francisco in the early 1960s he worked on some of the largest and most important residential and mixed-use projects in the city’s history. One was the $200 million Golden Gateway redevelopment along the Embarcadero, for the firm Perini Land and Development Company. San Jule’s title was vice president for marketing and public affairs. He also worked on a Perini project in West Palm Beach, Koshland says.

Golden Gateway gave the city “a new skyline,” the San Francisco Examiner proclaimed, along with “attractive residential facilities…in mass volume,” replacing a neighborhood that had become “a sad symbol of community neglect and decay.”

The project involved relocating the city’s longtime produce market, and San Jule did the dirty work.

“Throwing all the people out of the farmers’ market was considered politically incorrect at the time,” Teresa Rea says. “But the importance of getting the Embarcadero Golden Gateway houses built superseded that. San Jule was very high-minded about it. He felt it was the right thing to do, and he was very proud of what happened there.”

In the early 1960s San Jule also worked on St. Francis Square, an affordable housing project designed to accommodate people who’d been displaced from the redevelopment that leveled thousands of Victorians in the Western Addition.

The “widely acclaimed cooperative and interracial apartment development,” the Examiner wrote, provided 299 apartments. Half the residents were white, a quarter black, and a quarter Asian. Revels Cayton was manager. Funding, which San Jule apparently arranged, came from the ILWU Pension Fund and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents ship owners.

In the mid-1960s San Jule was living in Chevy Chase, Maryland and working in Washington, D.C., running seminars as educational director for the NAHB. That’s where he met Tishman, who says the nationwide seminars were innovative and highly successful.

It was in Maryland that Koshland, distressed at her husband’s drinking, left the marriage and returned to school to study planning. Her thesis was on low- and moderate-income housing, a passion she’d imbibed from her husband. She later became planning director for the Association of Bay Area Governments.

After a brief, lonely stop in St. Louis, where San Jule helped put together a high-rise residential and mixed-use project, Tishman says, he returned to San Francisco. He married for a third time.

Among the many projects San Jule shepherded to completion during the rest of his career, Tishman’s 1,300-unit Fillmore Center in the mid-1980s was one of the largest. San Jule helped initiate the project, working with business people from the city’s black community who were unable to get financing.

San Jule convinced Tishman to take over. He also “developed the concept” for the project, telling Tishman about a similar infill development in Berlin. Tishman flew them both to Europe, where San Jule introduced his friend to leading architects.

To get Fillmore Center built, San Jule chased off more than drunks. “When we started, those ten acres had been used by the neighborhood as Victory gardens,” Tishman says. The gardeners wouldn’t move. “He took care of it. He got them to leave,” Tishman says.

After 50 years apart, San Jule (left) was reunited with Matt Kahn (center), Eichler Homes original interior designer, at the Celebrate Eichlers event in Palo Alto, 2002. San Jule was a guest speaker. A smiling Eichler Network director Marty Arbunich (right) looks on. Five months later, San Jule passed away at age 89.
After 50 years apart, San Jule (left) was reunited with Matt Kahn (center), Eichler Homes original interior designer, at the ‘Celebrate Eichlers’ event in Palo Alto, 2002. San Jule was a guest speaker. A smiling Eichler Network director Marty Arbunich (right) looks on. Five months later, San Jule passed away at age 89.

San Jule tried to sell the ILWU on an even bigger project, Tishman says—integrated housing communities in cities up and down the West Coast.

San Jule finally quit drinking in his later years, thanks to the efforts of his fourth wife, Joan. She was well off and politically connected. On their wedding in 1978, the Chronicle’s columnist Herb Caen wrote: “Housing shortage alleviated! Joan Byrnes, chairman of the S.F. Housing Authority, marries Housing Consultant Jim San Jule on Dec. 29, thereby making one apartment available.”

San Jule never made much money. As Tishman says, “He was like me, except he didn’t look at the bottom line.” San Jule’s last major project was done pro bono—his crusade to turn more than 500 formerly industrial and under-used acres along the city’s Central Waterfront into a new city.