Friday, November 14, 2008

Harding Theater Given Another Chance

On November 13, 2008, all seven members of the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved an appeal by The Friends of 1800 historical preservation group regarding a developer’s plans to demolish the back portion of the Harding Theater to build condominiums and make substantial modifications to the remainder. The Planning Department is, therefore, required to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to assess impacts to this historic resource by the plan and propose mitigation measures and alternatives with lesser impacts.

Planning Commissioner Sugaya made the motion that was approved and spoke at length about concerns that the developer’s plans had numerous irreversible impacts, that the Planning Department had failed to consider impacts to its use as a performance theater (the Planning Department only considered impacts for movie use) and that impacts to acoustics had not been considered.

The development project would remove the performance stage, wings, fly and curtain system, orchestra pit, dressing rooms and vintage seats; the raked floor would be removed and flattened; organ grills, front stairways, plasterwork and entrance would be impacted; an emergency exit blocked off; windows and skylight would penetrate the roof and sides of the building.

The Commissioners were not convinced by Planning Department assertions that impacts on historic features were reversible. Commissioner Sugaya said, “If you remove the seats and raked floor and build a new floor, no one is going to pay to remove the new floor and reconstruct the old seating. That’s not realistic.”

Dozens of community members, prominent theater professionals and historic preservationists voiced concerns at the two hour hearing - including directors and advocates from Theater Bay Area, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Brava Theater, Magic Theater, Metro Theatre Center Foundation, the Garage Theater and Independent. Theater leaders expressed an interest in potentially using the theater, and told the Commission that mid-sized theaters such as the Harding are rare. They also expressed concerns that construction and demolition plans would render the theater unusable for performance use.

A recently formed group, The Friends of Harding, will continue its work to assemble members of the performing arts community. The group will do further outreach to work towards alternative win-win strategies with the owner, foundations, nonprofits, public and private funding sources. These strategies would protect, retain and make full use this historic theater resource -- and resume its long established use as public gathering and community space.

The developer has just announced intentions to sell the building for $4 Million, an opportunity for the community, theater, film and cultural groups to raise funds to create a viable landmark theater for the Divisadero corridor.

Please see also:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The hearing is THIS THURSDAY:

November 13, 2008. 1:30 p.m.

City Hall, Room 400

Click here for Agenda.
Please speak to Item #14.

It will probably be called by 4:00 p.m.

If you plan to testify in support, please contact us so we can coordinate our efforts: -or- 668-2353.
Regardless of whether you plan to testify at the hearing, please e-mail decision makers with your concerns by clicking here: E-Mail Planner, Planning Commission and D5 Supervisor (copy to activists). Simple is fine. Just ask for an EIR and give name and address.

Please quickly review any petition you plan to sign to be sure you have the right one. Our petition says "DEVELOPERS MUST FOLLOW LAWS."

Our petitions are at these locations:
* 99cent Store (Divisadero near Grove)
* Nimers (Fulton/Lyon)
* First Edition (Divisadero between McAllister and Fulton)
* Fulton Market (Fulton/Masonic)
* Into Video (Haight near Masonic)

See Friends of 1800 Web-site for their update on the further continuance.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Harding Theater is in jeopardy again. The developers are moving forward with their plan to tear down the back third--the most historic part--as part of a "compromise" to "save" the theater and build their condos. Besides substantially compromising the historic integrity of the building, it will limit the possible uses for what remains. We believe their plan for the front half is for a Walgreens like Cinema 21, Coliseum Theater or Apollo Theater.

The inside of the theater is remarkably intact: See below and also Click here to see recent photos.

How to Help

* Testify at the Hearing: --BEST--

November 13, 2008 [new date]--- 1:30pm (could easily start much later)
City Hall -- Room 400 -- double check: here, 558-6422 or 668-2353 for last minute hearing info.
Agenda will be published here.

* Contact Decision Makers

In correspondence, please include:
* case number--> 2005.0911
* your address [phone opt.]
* all that apply: Live nearby (or in SF)? Long time? Preservationist? Architect? Theater or Film experience?
* your concerns

click here to E-Mail Planner, Planning Commission and D5 Supervisor (copy to activists) --EASIEST--

Please Note: letters & faxes are --BETTER--.

Planner: Glenn Cabreros phone: 558-6169
1650 Mission Street, 4th Floor, SF CA 94103
Fax: (415) 558-6409

Planning Commissioners:

Fax: (415) 558-6409

click here for individual Commissioner contact info.: U.S. Mail, Phone, Fax and e-mail addresses

D5 Supervisor: link: Ross Mirkarimi


contact us:
David Tornheim (668-2353)

LIVE THEATER? The neighborhood has consistently expressed interest in reviving the theater for live performance or movies. Harding is one of the few theaters on the West Coast with a full fly, and live performance space is limited and in high demand. Tearing down the back will make either plan virtually impossible. It will take fund-raising to make either plan happen.

* Movie Theater from 1926-1970 (built 1926) by Reid Brothers (like the Alhambra)—holds 800-1200 people. Numerous uses, including church:
* The Grateful Dead performed there 11-7-71; first performance of “Hideaway." Listen.

* Lamplighters performed there: 1961-1968

Thursday, June 19, 2008

These recent photos of the inside of Harding Theater are by Rebecca McBride (See also "Left in the Dark")

Contact Us:

Important Web-sites:

Preservation Groups that Have Supported Our Efforts:

Friends of 1800 --

Victorian Alliance --

San Francisco Architectural Heritage:

National Historic Trust:

SF Late Night Coalition --

Links (many from Friends of 1800 Market's Web-site (above)):

San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

Cinema Treasures

San Francisco Theaters, Cinemas, Dancehalls, after 1906


The two breaking stories on Harding:

Observer - 01/11/05 by Lubna Takruri
Neighbors Saddened by Harding Theater Imminent Demolition

SF Chronicle - 01/14/05 by Carolyn Jones
Developers, activists debate theater's worth

SF Bay Guardian - 2/2/05
Neighborhood Business: Offscreen drama
Who will win the fight over the Harding Theater?

Observer - 2/14/05
Harding Theater Plot Thickens

Observer - 3/8/05
Neighbors Rally Around Harding Theater

Observer - 4/13/05
Activists Developers Likely to Get Slice of Harding Pie

Beyond Chron - 04/13/05
Harding Feud May Be Resolved Soon

SF Examiner - 04/12/05 [this link no longer works]
Harding Theater Solution Proves Elusive

Bay Guardian - 02/02/05
Offscreen Drama: Who will win the fight over the Harding Theater?

SF Examiner - 01/31/05 [this link no longer works]
Jason Heil's Letter re the Harding

Bay Guardian - 01/26/05
Letter by Jim Siegel