Furor Growing Online Over Proposed Plans for Palace of Fine Arts

Birds swim near the Palace of Fine Arts rotunda

Birds swim near the Palace of Fine Arts rotunda. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Furor over three proposed plans that the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission is considering for the Palace of Fine Arts has grown since the plans were made public last Thursday, as evidenced by the fast-spreading popularity of an online petition asking the city to decline all three proposals.

The petition on change.org demands that the commission keep the Palace of Fine Arts as a “multi-Cultural Arts/Education Center.” Created Sunday, it has garnered nearly 10,000 signatures in two days and has just as many comments.

“I’m signing this because I believe culturally and historically significant landmarks should NOT be sold to the highest bidder for the sole pleasure of the wealthy elite,” petition supporter Alicia Kat Vancil wrote. “The fact that you are even considering it is an unbelievable insult to the citizens of the Bay Area and the creators of these beautiful PUBLIC establishments.”

In a public meeting held last week, the commission revealed that it was considering two proposals that would turn the century-old landmark theater into a hotel, while the third would convert it into a restaurant and museum. The winning proposal would sign a 55-year-lease with the building, which was originally constructed as part of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

“None of those proposals preserve the site as the important cultural/educational center San Franciscans have known it to be, nor do they keep it a community space that is open and available to ALL people,” the petition states. “Once again, our officials are preparing to sell out from under us another piece of San Francisco heritage, a heritage that belongs solely to the citizens of this City and to those who share a love for it.”

To learn more, please read our coverage of last week’s meeting.

Furor Growing Online Over Proposed Plans for Palace of Fine Arts 13 November,2015Kevin L. Jones

  • Alice PiperMorris

    its becoming overwhelming exhausting and disappointing the many negative positions the city has become, SF once had principles and prided itself on Innovation and manufacturing, importing & exporting, community living and tourism. I don’t feel safe to bring guests here any longer either.. The city doesn’t show respect and values of what this city was founded on. Many Cities around the bay talk about how its losing its character that the city was known and stood for. Change can be good, but not at the cost of the community and founding principles that support the city .

    • Carol Brown

      This is what you all get for voting in money-grubbers like Mayor Ed Lee. You will see all our beautiful historic buildings bought up by tech firms and builders constructing “affordable housing” in every inch of space.

  • sfparkripoff

    Won’t Anybody Think of the Poor Corrupt Officials? Everyone ignoring the root cause of why SF public spaces have been aggressively sold off to private companies. The crushing weight of San Francisco City employees’ salaries and benefits is the reason why the city has a $7.9 billion budget. Over one-half of the Mayor’s budget — $3.9 billion — will be dedicated
    to City employee salaries and benefits.

    For Fiscal Year 2013–2014 the City INCREASED SPENDING increased by $710 million, adding 866 more City government employees, bringing the total to 27,722 full-time equivalent employees.The average City employee makes
    $99,000 with benefits, while the average citizen makes about $73,000
    with few or no benefits………And dont forget that 11,361 workers – or nearly a quarter of the city’s full-time workforce – made more than $100,000 last year.

    Watching officials deal with SF city finances is like viewing a slow-motion train wreck. Salaries plus the the oncoming wave of public pension debt will eventually drown the city budget in red ink.

    • maxnord

      Blaming the city workers for the city’s financial problems is like blaming the 2008 global economic crash on homeowners. Duh! It’s the working class who are carrying the economy, paying their taxes, buying products, and keeping afloat. Maybe if corporations like Apple, Facebook, and Exxon paid their taxes, instead of inversions – we would have public funding to maintain public facilities such as this.

    • Chuck

      The Mayor’s Office of Housing boasted that it was the first in the nation to create a new short term rental bureaucracy. It was reported they took 3 employees from Housing and 3 from Planning—apparently they were not needed in those departments. But watch this bureaucracy grow. This is the latest bureaucracy but look at the growth of every other city bureaucracy such as Planning, DBI, rent control, etc. No city can match SF for number of employees/ resident and salaries paid. Add that to favored contractors and funded non-profits and you see why basic services have to be neglected and revenue sources increased. SF is the City that knows how to issue fines to every tourist and citizen.

  • ricksf1

    Join our Facebook page and help us Save the Palace of Fine Arts!


  • ricksf1


    Join the effort to Save The Palace of Fine Arts!

  • Spencer Seidman

    For Darcy Cohn

    Dear Rec and Park Commission, Mayor Lee and Supervisors:

    I’m writing to voice my opposition to the proposals the Rec and Park Commission is currently considering for the transformation and commercial development of the Palace of Fine Arts. This is AN HISTORICAL LANDMARK, not private property designed to cater to the privileged classes living and visiting San Francisco. And yet these are the only proposals that have been selected by the commission.

    It’s time to recognize that everything in this city shouldn’t be for sale. These proposals represent nothing more than another sell off of public space. Why are you even considering commercial development when you have the opportunity here to encourage great public projects with VISION? Here we are in a city full of extremely intelligent people; I find it shocking that no one can come up with a proposal that honors this landmark, looks ahead and offers a non-commercial cultural use of this site? Or have these not been considered?

    The Palace of Fine Arts has served many past functions: a home for the Exploratorium, a concert hall for arts and cultural productions, a former venue for the San Francisco Film Festival and a valuable facility for non-profits to hold benefits, as well as, myriad other activities. I’m sure all of you have attended events at the Palace of Fine Arts over the years, as have many San Francisco residents. We are a rich, rich city that is shamefully poor in public/community spaces. We need more, not less. Please recognize the history of this landmark and think about what kind of entity will look ahead, honor the cultural heritage of the Palace of Fine Arts and be open, available and affordable to allpeople.

    At a time when many smaller cultural and arts institutions cannot even afford to operate and are leaving the city because of soaring rental costs, why are you offering this enormously valuable land/ building to a private entity that can easily afford to locate anywhere in the city? You should be seeking and encouraging proposals from non-profit organizations whose prime purposes are cultural, educational, a benefit to the local community and are inclusive of all segments of society. There are many cities that have found smart, culturally-oriented and forward looking ways to repurpose and transform important historical sites. Why can’t San Francisco do the same? And if the Rec & Park Commission doesn’t immediately receive proposals that meet these values and goals, then wait until you do. Don’t settle for mediocrity, and please do not sell off OUR LANDMARK to the highest bidder. We’ve all had enough of the crass and shameful privatization of public space in this city.

    And as for the Park and Rec budget, if it is not sufficient and is, in fact, guiding your decision about the future of the Palace of Fine Arts, then get the mayor and supervisors to cough up the money you need to run your department capably. God knows the city has got the funds for Rec and Park, if there is a will to do so. After living in this city for many years, it’s clear to me that the way in which enormous funds collected from the city’s residents have been appropriated has been, for the most part, unwise, unfair and utterly, horrendously wasteful. I’m even happy to pay a few more dollars on my property bill to make sure Rec and Park gets the money they need. But please, not at the cost of losing one of our storied and significant landmarks to commercial development.

    Thank you.

    Darcy Cohn

    San Francisco resident

  • Jeremy S

    I’m sure everyone is going to hate me for saying this haha, but I must chime in. I’m a native San Franciscan along with multiple generations of my family. Our family fitness and lifestyle club, the Bay Club proposed building out an amazing sports center much of which also had large public spaces that are intended to enrich the area. I liked their proposal most (the hotel proposal was offensive to me).

    Here goes my honest rant. The Palace of Fine Arts is not anything more than a parklet right now. People visit, take pictures, try their best to absorb the (inconsequential) level of city history that the landmark actually possesses, and then leave. This is great but really doesn’t make our city amazing at all. I loved that the exploratorium was there and it gave people a great reason to come to the area and take in its beauty. The idea that letting private businesses come in to modify it to serve their profits along with the community is not a harmful one. Just voice in with these entities and try to make it something we can all enjoy! Don’t let the place just get burried by lack of use (current).

    • James Windsor

      In other words you dont mind taking our public parks and turning them over to your rich friends.

      • Jeremy S

        Please refrain from insulting the rich or poor, they’re all just people. None of the plans showed anything regarding destroying public spaces that access the fake lake and fake dome. In fact most of them only pertain to the Exploratorium structure, which is currently not a publicly accessible area anyway.

        • James Windsor

          What do you know. Nothing. You are just a sell out who thinks everything is about you.

          • Jeremy S

            That’s preposterous. My opinions are just as valid as yours. Do not resort to bullying to make points. Just a concerned citizen who will be buying some seats to help lobby now.

          • James Windsor

            You are a sell out and that is all you will ever be. You should not even live in San Francisco.

          • Jeremy S

            I’m a landlord of 12 properties in SF proper and rent them out at rates that would seem cheap even in 2005. Grow up and stop trying to make our city so elite about who’s allowed and who isn’t.

          • James Windsor

            I knew you were some kind of capitalist pig.

          • Jeremy S

            Actually, I’m probably just a person.

          • James Windsor

            …………………. who only cares about himself.

          • Jeremy S

            Haha. I’m sure we would have a grand time together. Want to grab a coffee sometime?

          • James Windsor

            Forget you.

          • Jeremy S

            I was serious! Let’s talk about this more 🙂

          • Everett Engbers

            It usually comes out in the end doesn’t it? The Capitalists don’t believe in leaving anything alone, especially if it has any aesthetic value. If it can’t be used for some money making enterprise, then it’s not worth saving. They are trying to turn everything over to the well heeled who will stay at the “boutique”, (AKA Unaffordable), hotel and fancy restaurants where the elite can feast on over-priced “food” that takes a paragraph to explain.

  • James Windsor

    You can blame Ed Lee for this, he only sees San Francisco as an investment opportunity for his rich friends.

  • maxnord

    This is what happens when criminal corporations and wealthy CEOs don’t pay their taxes. They use the money to buy elections and pass these ridiculous policies. Inch by inch the corporate elite has savagely undermined our public services and attacked the working class in this country. While the politicians get their sweetheart deals and profit immensely. Just look at Diane Feinstein’s husband, Rich Blum who stands to make over $1 billion by selling off the old post office buildings. It’s trillions of dollars of our money, that built all the infrastructure, that pay for the public services, that own these public cultural landmarks. If the city is short of money they should pass a provision for a “assessment district” and require all big corporations and wealthy residents in the city to pay an additional tax to cover the funding of maintenance and rehab of these sites. If these very same people can donate millions to PACs, they certainly have the extra cash!

  • Sharon Gabilan Buckley

    Yeah, that’s what San Francisco needs — another hotel or restaurant. Hell No!


Kevin L. Jones

Kevin Jones reports on the Bay Area arts scene for KQED. He loves his wife and two kids, and music today makes him feel old.

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