BAY AREA REPORTER - Thursday, December 11, 1998


by Friends of 1800 Market


Friends of 1800 Market Street is a grassroots organization born out of the sudden decision by the Community Center Project (CCP) Board to demolish the Fallon Building, a 104-year-old Victorian that embodies so much San Francisco history, including the history of our own community. We absolutely support the new Community Center Project - we simply want to see that the CCP Board lives up to its original promise to restore this building and incorporate it into the new center.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the California Historic Preservation Office, and all of the local architectural historical groups regard this as an important structure. The combined commercial-residential building is of a unique trapezoidal shape, perfectly fitted to its site. The rooms upstairs fan out from a central stairway which is crowned by a beautiful stained glass dome. Restoration architects as well as some who participated in the CCP design contest agree the Victorian is quite sound and remarkably intact, needing only ordinary cosmetic and seismic work to make it a safe, workable, and aesthetically pleasing public space.

Recognized experts estimate costs to achieve the goal of restoration and incorporation will not exceed $175 per square foot, comparable to the cost of new construction. In contrast, the CCP Board, who has not consulted any restoration architects, estimates $400 per square foot. We believe inflated figures are being used to fool the community into supporting demolition.

Why not buy the building for $1 and move it? This is a red herring, and the CCP board knows it. Their own minutes for the meeting at which they decided to sacrifice the building call this ploy a "diversionary tactic." Among the reasons why it can't be done is the physical impossibility of moving something this size and shape. But equally importantly, this building marks the western edge of the fire from the 1906 earthquake. Every building on Market Street east of Octavia was severely damaged or destroyed. Its greatest historic importance is its site, an assessment with which the California Historic Preservation Office agrees.

The CCP states keeping the Victorian will reduce needed space by 25%. So they threaten to eliminate the child care area, the auditorium, and office space for nonprofits. Ask yourself, "Why would they eliminate these vital services, rather than the huge, useless atrium, with its 'flame' symbol, which many members of the community find offensive?"

Using just the vacant part of the lot achieves the full 41,000 square feet desired by the CCP. Neighborhood associations in the vicinity have stated that they would prefer a taller building to demolition of the Victorian, if that choice had to be made. The SF Planning Department recommended to the CCP Board this alternative, and offered to assist in the sale of 1800 Market to restoration-minded buyers. But the board has rejected this idea.

We realize that fundraising is paramount to the success of the Center. While fundraising is clearly a function of the CCP board, we have already investigated resources available through Federal and State restoration dollars, pro-restoration organizations, and our own supporters. However, for our efforts to be successful, the CCP board must rescind its vote for demolition immediately, opening those doors and wallets for the Center.

While options exist, the CCP board has been unwilling to listen. They have worked hard, and we applaud their effort. However, we feel it's a mistake to ignore the concerns of the community they purport to represent. "Community" means everyone, including those who disagree with them. Fortunately, it also includes a large number of architects, designers, contractors, carpenters, etc., who stand ready to volunteer their services. The bottom line remains: you can't build a community with a wrecking ball.

We are hopeful that this publication will open a new era of cooperation. More importantly, a community reunited, bringing us all together to build the best Community Center in the nation.

copyright 1997

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