Skip to Main Content

Western Addition

An Abbreviated Chronology of the Western Addition

By: Karin M. Cotterman and Nolizwe Nondabula (Originally published in "Jesuits, Jazz, and Justice: Remembering the Past and Working for a More Just Future," Diversity and Democracy, Summer 2018, Volume 21, Number 3.)

10,000 Years Ago Ohlone people live in what is now San Francisco.

1769 Spanish colonization expands into Northern California.

1846 The United States seizes California and raises the US flag at Yerba Buena.

1848 Gold is discovered in Northern California.

1855 The University of San Francisco (USF) is founded as St. Ignatius Academy.

1860 San Francisco expands hundreds of square blocks into the Western Addition due to the gold rush.

1880s–90s An influx of Japanese and Jewish immigrants arrives in San Francisco.

1906–07 After the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, City Hall relocates to the Fillmore District (known as the Fillmore) in the Western Addition. Japanese Americans move from Chinatown to the Western Addition and establish Nihonmachi (Japantown).

1907–45 A rich, diverse population thrives in the Western Addition, including (at various times) Japanese, Jewish, Filipino, Mexican, Russian, and African Americans.

1924 The US National Origins Act largely excludes Japanese immigration.

1927  USF moves to its current location adjacent to the Western Addition.

1935 There are now five thousand African American residents of San Francisco (1 percent of the city’s population). The Western Addition is the only area of San Francisco where Black ownership and rentals are not prohibited.

1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066. Japantown residents are removed to internment camps.

1943 African Americans migrate from the Southern United States to the Western Addition to work in shipyards. The African American population of the Fillmore alone reaches twelve thousand.

1940s–50s  The Fillmore is dubbed the Harlem of the West. Jazz greats Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, and more perform at dozens of nightclubs in the district

1948–49 The first house is torn down under urban renewal. Urban renewal ultimately impacts twenty thousand people.

1959–61 Urban Renewal Project A1 (phase 1 of two phases) begins.

1962  The Student Western Addition Project at USF begins, guided by sociology professor Ralph Lane. By 1969, it is the largest student group on campus, with 250 student participants.

1963 James Baldwin visits San Francisco. Phase A2 is underway.

1966  An uprising begins in the Bayview–Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco after police officers kill an unarmed Black teenager, Matthew Johnson. The uprising spreads to the Fillmore, and the Fillmore and Bayview–Hunters Point are put under curfew. The California Highway Patrol and National Guard join the San Francisco Police Department in a large-scale police mobilization.

1967 Western Addition Community Organization, a grassroots organization that resists redevelopment, is founded.

1968 Chicago’s Barber Shop at Fillmore and Ellis Streets closes. The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency issues Certificates of Preference to encourage displaced businesses to return to the Fillmore. As of 2018, about 20 percent of the Certificates of Preference that were awarded in San Francisco have been redeemed.  

1969 The Black Panther office on Fillmore Street is raided by police.

1970 Between ten thousand and thirteen thousand residents have been displaced; 2,500 Victorian-style homes destroyed; and sixty blocks cleared.

1972 Rev. Jim Jones establishes the San Francisco site of the Peoples Temple near the corner of Geary Boulevard and Fillmore Street, close to the famous Fillmore West music venue. The Peoples Temple actively recruits African American senior citizens from the Fillmore to join the congregation. In 1978, Rev. Jones leads his followers to his compound in Jonestown, Guyana, where more than nine hundred people participate in a mass murder–suicide by drinking poison. A significant number of the dead are African Americans from San Francisco.

1985 The Fillmore Center, which houses stores, apartments, and condominiums, is built on land that was vacant for almost twenty years. Displaced residents are unable to afford housing there.

2000 The Jazz Preservation District is created.

2012 Planning for Engage San Francisco (ESF) begins.

2014 ESF formally launches.


Found SF. n.d. “Western Addition.”

McGloin, John Bernard. 1972. Jesuits By The Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco 1849–1969. San Francisco: University of San Francisco.

PBS. 2001. “Fillmore Timeline, 1860–2001.”

University of San Francisco. n.d. “Our History.”

Ask A Librarian