At long last there are signs of progress toward settling the sometimes bitter dispute between the board of directors of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Project and preservationists opposed to the board's plan to demolish the historic Fallon Building, locate don the CCP site at 1800 Market. The apparent breakthrough came during the second in a series of City Hall meetings between the two sides organized by Mayor Willie Brown.
At the meeting, held Jan. 8, representatives of the Community Center Project, the Foundation for San Francisco's Architectural Heritage and Friends of 1800 market signed a document in which all agreed to jointly ask the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board to put off its hearing on landmark status for the Fallon Building until early March. In return the CCP representatives agreed to ask their full board to "direct" its architectural - engineering team to reconsider the scope of the work needed to preserve 1800 Market Street, while allowing the changes necessary to meet the Community Center Project's mission, and further to retain a preservation architect to participate in that review."
The agreement, which the CCP board was expected to ratify at its Jan. 21 meeting, appears to mark a fundamental shift in the board's position on saving the building, from "it can't be done" to "maybe it can." Spokesman Scott Shafer added that the group's building committee would recommend that a member of the board of the Foundation for San Francisco's Architectural Heritage be hired as the preservation architect to participate in the reevaluation, a move more likely to please the preservationists.
Meanwhile, an offer by Fallon Building supporter Jim Siegel to buy the building from the board for $500,00 so that the CCP could then build a larger building on the remainder of the parcel remains on the table. For the moment, however, the center of attention seems to have shifted away from that idea and to the renewed look at renovating the structure and making it a part of the Community Center.
Although the dispute is far from being fully resolved, both sides appear relieved to be moving from confrontation to at least a measure of cooperation, and both expressed cautious optimism,. "We are hopeful about the direction of the negotiations, but it's not over yet," noted architectural historian Tim Kelley, who represented the Friends of 1800 Market in the discussions. "We really need people to continue to voice their support for preserving the building."
Shafer added, "The issue has been and remains the cost. Even if we can do the work [of restoring the building] for less money than we thought, we still have to identify a source for those funds. We hope they will work with us on this."
Members of the Friends group have repeated expressed a willingness to help raise money for the preservation of the structure but have been reluctant to make specific commitments without a concrete plan in place for its restoration and incorporation into the Community Center. The process of developing such a plan can now get under way, and Kelley noted that Friends and the CCP board have had "some preliminary exchange of ideas" on how to proceed. He termed the discussions "pretty satisfactory" so far.
The next meeting between the parties is now scheduled for Feb. 17.