“Theaters of San Francisco”

by on November 21, 2005

To the Editor:

Thank you for your review of Jack Tillmany’s Theaters of San Francisco. I agree that it would be smart to see Mid-Market revitalized as an arts and entertainment district based on the historic past of the area and the re-use of the remaining historic theaters in the downtown area, as so many other American cities are doing. Complimentary historic signage could strongly enhance the aesthetics of the area. All much more exciting than the upscale condos as cited by your article.

One sentence in your review caught my attention:

The city over the past two decades has largely supported historic preservation efforts (the destruction of the Bill Bailey cottages in North Beach, notwithstanding), and historic streetcars now bring the flavor of the past to Market Street.

While it is true that the *citizens* of San Francisco strongly support, endorse and believe in historic preservation, I question the commitment of the *city* of San Francisco to historic resources. Our elected officials, with the notable exception of Board President Aaron Peskin, do not represent the views of the average citizen with regard to preservation. As for the City’s agencies that are responsible for historic structures, the Redevelopment Agency, the Planning Department, City College of SF (a State agency with a deplorable record in this regard), their records speak for themselves. Have we San Franciscans learned from the demolition of the Fox Theater and the City of Paris? I would have added more recent examples to those you cite. In addition to the Bill Bailey cottages, we have recently lost many important buildings, the Emporium, the Elevated Shops at O’Farrell and Powell (new H & M Store), the Young Men’s Institute at 50 Oak Street, the Belli Buildings. All examples of facadism, a poor preservation practice. The Belli Buildings were the earliest Masonic buildings in California dating to the 1850s, designated city landmarks, but all that remains behind the two Montgomery Street brick facades is dirt. The near future will bring 14 upscale condos to the site. A sign of the times.

Katherine Petrin

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