It was almost a lovefest among preservationists and board members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center Project (CCP) at the board's March 18 meeting; directors voted unanimously to rescind their September 1997 resolution condemning the 104-year-old Queen Anne Victorian to demolition, and heard one fervent supporter of the Fallon Building publicly apologize for previous statements - and even offer his own historic Victorian home for a fundraiser for the center.
Under the resolution, the CCP board will not seek to demolish the Fallon Building, but will incorporate the building in the event the community center is built at the 1800 Market Street site, in conformance with a revised feasibility study that preservationist architect Jay Turnbull did earlier this year. The CCP board will also investigate available alternatives for financing the approximately $500,000 necessary to reuse the Fallon Building.
Friends of 1800 Market Street member Gary Goad read a prepared statement in support of the CCP's decision, and then Jim Siegel spoke. Last year, Siegel lashed out against the CCP board, starting what escalated into a nasty public attack that turned constructive at the end of 1997 when negotiations began between CCP directors; Friends of 1800 market Street; David Bahlman, executive director of the Foundation for San Francisco's Architectural Heritage; and representatives of the mayor's office. Those negotiations are continuing.
While the CCP board was expected to rescind its decision last week, Siegel's comments were unexpected; he had been a vocal critic of the center and the board last year.
"My world is pretty limited and in the last two to three months, I've realized the need for a gay community center and I've turned completely around," said Siegel. He called on the board to make a final decision on the site as soon as possible and committed to making a "sizable donation," to the project if the board keeps the site with the Fallon Building. "Immediately, I'd like to offer the use of my house for a fundraiser cocktail party," he said.
Siegel owns the landmarked Westerfeld House at Fulton and Scott streets; the Victorian is also erroneously known as the old Russian embassy. He also expressed interest n being on a committee to clean up the Fallon Building and said he was sorry for remarks he made last year. "I apologize so much. I want to apologize to everyone for my actions," Siegel said.
Bahlman said the foundation was also pleased with the CCP board's change of heart and ready to use its expertise to help the project.
Originally, the community center was to incorporate the Fallon Building into the design of the project. After an initial feasibility study, however, the CCP board scrapped that plan and unanimously voted to get rid of the building. Preservationists quickly organized and brought the matter to the city's Landmarks Preservation Advisory Commission, which last November voted to initiate the process to determine if the Fallon Building should be designated as a landmark.
It was after the meeting that all sides got together at the request of Mayor Willie Brown to see if a compromise could be reached. As part of those talks, the Friends of 1800 Market Street postponed discussion of landmark status by the commission until next month. By its next meeting April 8, the CCP board is expected to make a final determination regarding the site.
In early February, a second feasibility study was conducted with the center's architects, Jane Cee and Peter Pfau, and Turnbull, who was brought aboard as a result of the negotiations. His findings revealed it would cost much less to keep the Fallon Building than was previously stated, although it still puts the $9.5 million project approximately $500,000 over budget.
Barbara French, who is a CCP board member and on the negotiating team, thanked everyone. "Thank you all for the incredible trust. Personally, it's been very constructive."
CCP Board President Brenda Barnette reiterated the center's mission to be inclusive and said program development will be a key to "making space for all in the community."
John Wullbrandt, who was the last legal tenant of the Fallon Building and who has maintained his love of the building through artwork, reviewed some of the rich history the building holds for the gay community.
In other matters, the board accepted a $2,500 donation from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and heard of plans to enter into negotiations for temporary office space while the center is being constructed.
The April 8 CCP board meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the third floor conference room at City Hall, 401 Van Ness Avenue. For more information about the center, call (415) 437-2257; for more information about Friends of 1800 Market Street, call (415) 643-1236.
The March 12, 1998 article "Small buildings demolished at community center site," stating that $1.5 million had been shaved off the renovation work needed at the Fallon Building was incorrect. According to the Community Center Project, the second feasibility study done by CCP architects and preservationist architect Jay Turnbull reduced the cost by $400,000, leaving the cost of renovation at more than $1.4 million, down from $1.88 million, but still more than $500,000 over the projected $9.5 million cost for the planned Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center.
We regret the error.