‘Harding Theater’

by on February 25, 2005

Dear Editor-
Your February 22 article on The Harding Theater contains significant errors.

1.On a minor note, Jim Siegel’s store, Distractions, is not “nearby” to the Harding theater which is on Divisadero, while Distractions is on Haight St., probably half a mile away.
2. As to Seigel’s $1.5M offer to buy the Harding, —I have been told by real estate sources I believe to be reliable that it was never made. Did Jim, himself, tell you he had made this offer or is it the same unconfirmed rumor that’s been floating around since the beginning of the controversy?
3. Although a longtime member, Jim Siegel has not been on the board of ASNA during at least the last 10 years. His accusation, at least as reported by you, that the ASNA board refused to “go to the community” is false. More on this later. The statement that “the developers told the ASNA that the building’s interior, particularly its seating, was in very poor condition and claimed it would need substantial investment to refurbish” is absolutely true. They made the statement and the statement itself is absolutely accurate. I have been inside, and although it is true that the interior is largely intact although, in my opinion plain, no one would deny that it needs “substantial investment”.
As to the ASNA Board’s “choosing not to go to the community”, —here is a list of “ASNA Bulletins” (sent to all ASNA members) or ASNA general membership meetings (open to the public) which featured descriptions or discussions of the development plans for the Harding Theater site.
a)Minutes from the Jan. 2004 ASNA Bulletin which describe Dec.15, 2003 general membership meeting in which then ASNA President Sue Valentine first reported on plans to build housing on the site.
b)”ASNA Bulletin”, March 2004- announcement of “Development Planned for 616 Divisadero Street” as well as the copy of a letter sent to City Planning supporting the project’s ground floor commercial space and the moving of the garage curb cuts to Hayes Street.
c)ASNA general membership meeting held on Aug. 23, 2004. A presentation by project architect, Mark Topetcher, of early stage plans for housing on Harding site and cited in August, 2004 ASNA Bulletin.
d)ASNA general membership meeting held on October 25, 2004.A full presentation of plans for housing to be built on the site followed by a question and answer period, and described in the Nov. 2004 ASNA Bulletin.

I guess Jim Siegel hasn’t been reading his “ASNA Bulletin” or attending ASNA meetings for the last two years.

I wish that before you published this article you had checked your facts better or sought out sources on both sides of this contentious issue.

Winston Montgomery
Longtime ASNA member and former member of the ASNA board.

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