The following letter by Jim Siegel appeared in the January 26, 2005 issue of the BAY GUARDIAN
The Harding Theater at Divisadero and Hayes Streets is a true architectural gem. A diamond in the rough, this theater is intact, waiting to be restored as the catalyst for a much-needed commercial revitalization of Divisadero Street.
The theater was built in 1926 by the Reid Brothers, who built the Alhambra Theater at the same time. It has an art deco interior in the Moorish style and is similar in scale and significance to the Castro Theater.
A plan by local businesspeople for the New Harding Theater is to create a live performance space in the main area and street-level retail, with a cafe in the lobby. It has a seating capacity of more than 1,200.
It came up for sale and was immediately put into competition with several developers who seeded the land value of the site for future condo development.
Even though the speculative overbidding of the developers has pushed the price into the stratosphere, there currently is a plan by local merchants to restore this beautiful and classic San Francisco theater to its former glory. With storefronts on either side, this space could be an elegant and chic commercial venue.
Most area residents were unaware of this sale and future demolition and are shocked and outraged by the developers' condo plans. Currently, San Francisco has a housing surplus. The need is for affordable housing, not more expensive condos for purchase; only 2 of the 18 proposed units would be affordable.
This is an opportunity to resurrect a beautiful and culturally significant piece of San Francisco history and to have a thriving artistic venue of which we could all be proud. Don't let this bit of old glory be destroyed by developers. Please attend the Board of Supervisors hearing February 15 and demand that an adaptive reuse plan be explored.