BAY AREA REPORTER - March 12, 1998

CCP Board, Preservationists Should Reach Agreement on Fallon Building Soon

by Cynthia Laird

Demolition of three small structures on the site of the planned Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center took place this week as the project moves forward, even though no decision has been reached about the fate of the Fallon Building.

The demolition did not adversely affect the Victorian building; in fact, both the Community Center Project (CCP) Board of Directors and the Friends of 1800 Market Street, the group that formed to rally against razing the Fallon Building, supported tearing down the small buildings. Both groups stated the action was needed to prevent access by squatters to the Fallon, thus protecting its interior from further vandalism.

Plans for the $9.5 million community center at market and Octavia streets are moving forward, and negotiations are said to be near completion between the CCP board, Friends of 1800 Market Street, the Foundation for San Francisco's Architectural Heritage, and the mayor's office. The groups began meeting several months ago to reach agreement on the project's design. A second feasibility study done by preservationist architect Jay Turnbull and the CCP's architects has shaved $1.5 million off the cost of restoring the 104-year-old Victorian building, although keeping the historic structure would increase the center's budget by about $500,000.

CCP board members Scott Shafer was asked how much longer the negotiations would continue and how long the CCP board was willing to wait; the center is already a few months behind schedule, although it is still projected to be open in late 2000. Shafer said the CCP board is anxious to resolve the issue and hopes to have a decision by next month's board's capital campaign - corporate donors and foundations are leery and many will not commit to making a donation without schematic drawings of the center; those drawings can't be completed until the CCP has made a decision about whether to retain the Victorian as part of the gay community center.

Mark Leno, co-chair of the center's $3.5 million capital campaign, told the B.A.R. that the lingering issue of the Fallon Building is beginning to affect fundraising. "Foundations want to see some hard numbers and we don't have that. Because we don't have that, it's held up [fundraising]. Until that is resolved, it's difficult." Leno said that to date, the CCP has raised $1.6 million of the $3.5 million needed. That figure does not include any costs to restore the Fallon Building.

Last year, the CCP board stated that restoring the Fallon Building and making it part of the community center could cost an additional $2.6 million. According to Gary Goad of Friends of 1800 Market Street, and Shafer, the feasibility study recently completed by Turnbull has significantly lowered that cost to around $500,000. Gone are initial CCP plans for a rooftop deck on the Victorian and some other costly items, Goad said. "There were a number of things done to reduce costs," Goad said of the second feasibility report. "Negotiations are continuing and another meeting has been scheduled with the mayor's office."

Mayor Willie Brown got involved late last year after the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board voted to pursue whether the Fallon Building should be examined for landmark status. Since last November, several meetings have been held with staff from the mayor's office and progress has been made at each one.

Goad said CCP board President Brenda Barnette and director Barbara French attended the last Friends of 1800 Market Street meeting at the group's invitation. "I think it's right on," Goad said of the negotiations. "I'm really glad we've gotten involved and I think everyone's going to win."

Friends of 1800 Market Street has not officially committed to helping raise funds for the community center, which is something the CCP board would like to see, particularly if the Fallon Building is restored. "We haven't voted on it, but the consensus is yes, if the building is part of the project, Friends of 1800 Market Street would raise money specifically to help pay for the restoration," Goad told the B.A.R.

The demolition work was done by the San Francisco firm of Peak Engineering, Inc. at a cost of $20,000. The necessary permits were obtained from the Planning Department and supported by the Friends of 1800 Market Street. Sunset Scavengers, a subsidy of Norcal Waste Systems, donated debris boxes worth up to $10,000 for the demolition cleanup, said Shafer.

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