North Beach Pagoda Theater

“A gutted hulk of an old movie house in the heart of San Francisco’s North Beach took a big step toward a new life Thursday when the Planning Commission approved converting the [Pagoda Palace Theater] into condominium dwellings and a Mexican restaurant.”

North Beach Pagoda Theater: Latest Proposal

“It is widely believed that opponents will appeal the granting of the permit to the full Board of Supervisors, which would then have the final say. The board’s new president is David Chiu, who represents North Beach.”

33 thoughts on “North Beach Pagoda Theater Plans Approved By Planning, But…”
  1. So the only thing that is allowed to go in is a Mexican restaurant? Peruvian or Salvadoran is not allowed under the planning code?
    The central planning in this city is getting out of control.

  2. Diemos: you beat me to the punch.
    I hate sushi, and fish in general. But now I want to open a sushi restaurant in that space and sue the city for racial discrimination.
    honestly, who comes up with this stuff?
    No more restaurants in North Beach.
    Only a Mexican restaurant can go into the old theater?
    regardless: as to the fate of this project, one song keeps going through my head, from En Vogue in the 1990’s I think:
    “Never gonna get it, never gonna get it!
    Never gonna get it, never gonna get it,
    Never gonna get it, never gonna get it,
    Never gonna get, Gonna get it!”
    we should just set it on fire and get it over with. Make it part of “historic Fire Row”. Ahh… that sounds like too much work too. Just let it sit as it has for 15 years or whatever. “historic skid row”.

  3. Odd that the Planning Commission finally decided to get a spine, 2 days after Peskin is off the Board … probably won’t last though, once the new Politburo Chief finds his feet.

  4. Hahahaha. A mexican restaurant? Well, that certainly blends well with the local neighborhood vibe and culture. And if there is one place in the city I go for good mexican, it’s definitely North Beach.
    It’s not so much that a mexican restaurant shouldn’t go there, but how it’s specifically emphasized. “Hey everyone, it’s going to be great, you’re going to get a new Mexican restaurant.”

  5. Its probably specified to be Mexican because it won’t compete with the Italian restaurants… Planning and development in The City is so broken I’m not sure it will ever get fixed.

  6. Did any of you stop to consider that maybe it was approved for a mexican restaurant because that’s what Joel Campos applied for? Of course understanding the facts would get in the way of everyone trying to be clever.

  7. Just build it already…the dead Pagoda probably contributed to the two empty storefronts next to it. This will be an interesting first test for our new Board President.

  8. Do you usually have to specify the type of restaurant when submitting plans? When I have seen plans posted in the past the spaces are tagged as ‘Retail’ ‘Commercial’ or ‘Restaurant’. I don’t see why the developer, unless he HAD to in order to get approval, would specify ‘Mexican’ vs. ‘Japanese’ vs. anything else…

  9. I can’t take this website anymore, the snarkiness and snobiness of people here is really to much to bear.
    I think it’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood and is sure better than a grafitti blighted nothing that’s been there for years.
    Very happy to see it happen =)

  10. I wonder – will the depressed state of the economy affect the Supes’ decision on letting this go forward? Normally they devote an extraordinary amount of attention to *suppressing* economic activity (with the possible exception of pot dealing and prostitution). I just wonder if the current economic circumstances might produce a different result in this case.

  11. I know this is off topic here, but for all you tech watchers out there, I have heard that ORCL did fairly significant lay offs today, I know a few people that were let go. Must not have been enough to file for, but the folks I know were in different parts of the company, so it seems pretty extensive to me, sales, marketing and consulting were affected.

  12. Anybody who thinks that North Beach needs another Italian Restaurant is an idiot. A good Mexican place would do wonders for people who actually live in North Beach, and get tired of the below average, often overpriced turist fare. Cities are not theme parks.
    Of course, it’s probably better to have it completely boarded up for another ten years….mamma mia!

  13. Anybody who thinks that North Beach needs another Italian Restaurant is an idiot. A good Mexican place would do wonders for people who actually live in North Beach, and get tired of the below average, often overpriced turist fare. Cities are not theme parks.
    Of course, it’s probably better to have it completely boarded up for another ten years….mamma mia!

  14. They may not be super hip or anything, but it seems to me that there’s actually a dearth of larger sit down style Mexican restaurnants citywide. They serve their purpose, you know? I bet they will be packing them in if it ever gets built.

  15. Since Mexicans cook practically everything consumed in this city… it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see some great Italian offerings at that restaurant.

  16. Do not forget that in Mexico, one of their cuisines is French, from the time when Napoleon’s brother (who like Napoleon was Italian or at least Corsican) was on the throne of Spain. So they could serve French and Italian and Corsican food in a Mexican restaurant.

  17. I’m delighted to see that this building will finally be occupied. The biggest problem in North Beach right now is creeping blight.
    The second biggest is, of course, the micro-management of development. But I’m willing to presume, for the sake of argument, that the restaurant will be Mexican because that was the developer’s tenant.
    Please, no more Italian food here. Sushi would actually be nice (we have once place and it’s *bad*). I was sad to see North Beach Pizza expanding – maybe the offerings will improve?

  18. This building is hideous. Why does NB want to preserve ghettos, low income housing, and vacant lots? Chui will rule the board of supers and planning commission with an iron egg roll.

  19. The “preservation” of North Beach will be someday looked back upon as a complete failure. The signs are already visible throughout that neighborhood as it continues to look more shabby, boring and seedy. Like Fisherman’s Wharf, it now trades off a historic memory that is known to a shrinking number of tourists and residents who don’t know what it is they are supposed to remember.
    North Beach could have been like the Marais in Paris, where you preserve some of the architectural vocabulary, context and historic scale, but at the same time permit new shops, restaurants and residents to create young urban energy in what was a dead neighborhood.
    How could anyone worry about ice cream and Chinese take-out places when there is so little worth going to in North Beach in the first place? North Beach and Fishermans Wharf are now two neighborhoods most San Franciscans never visit, and I fear the next neighborhood to die will be the Castro itself, which is now also being “preserved” for visitors so they can “remember” when it used to be dynamic, different, and entertaining.
    San Francisco, which prides itself as a major tousist destination, will need to offer more to visitors than memories of decades ago when our urban neighborhoods were real commnunities and not decaying shrines placed under glass.

  20. Morgan I agree Castro is next to go.. it’s already going… going… Soma is the new gay mecca, and it is much more inclusive to all types of people than Castro, which is why me loves it so much more. Has anybody seen the cable car turnaround at the end of Mason St @ Bay St? It’s a large stucco complex of ghetto housing.. this is what tourists will remember of North Beach. It’s so bad that the management offices carry firearms with them at all times. The Inner Richmond, along Geary and Clement streets, have much better restaurants, more life, and a better quality to everything than North Beach. As long as the city wants to keep all the ghetto housing in one neighborhood, that’s fine with me, since I don’t go there anyway unless I have to for work.

  21. Can you imagine someone from London, Paris, Sydney or EVEN Los Angeles traveling here so they can have their picture taken in front of the “saved” Pagoda Theater!? What a joke neighborhood groups play on themselves. This is why San Francisco is now in such a critical crisis, for some think that every square inch of this city is special and must be “saved”, when in fact the only thing that is unique is the civic passion of some groups to think that such things as this are worth preserving.
    THAT is the difference between Paris and San Francisco. Paris long ago decided that to make the central historic part of that city an urban museum that should remain unchanged would cause the death of the city itself as something more than a tourist destination. Sure some of the things they created were not first popular, but look at them now; the Centre Pompidous, the new Louvre pyramid entrance plaza, the Palais Royal sculpture garden, etc. etc.
    What San Francisco neighborhood groups need to fear is their own selves. In trying to “save” the neighborhood they remember from their youth, they in fact cause the death of the district. Agreed with SF, what young vibrant gay youth would want to move or hang out in the Castro today? What poet, writer or artist would want to sit in a run down tourist cafe in North Beach? What gourmet shopper would want to go to Fishermans Wharf for seafood?

  22. The only thing that appears to have been “saved” from the old building is the window size and placement on the first level above the street.
    I’m sure future generations will appreciate that.
    A lot.
    Tons, even.

  23. Morgan – great posts. Hit the nail on the head. With this design we get yet more ‘fake history’ crap (for the tourists?, come on they’re smarter than that, no?). Paris, not to mention London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Basel, even Vienna, etc etc around the world, all build great contemporary architecture amidst the older buildings worth preserving, rather than this mimicry and mediocrity constantly foisted on this city. The friggin grafitti on the derelict building is more interesting aesthetically than this pile they’re proposing!


  25. I agree with the sentiment held above, but will argue just a few things:
    London and Paris guard their architecture FIERCELY. In many ways MORE than is done in SF.
    Paris allows little to no deviation in “the plan”, architecture-wise, in the central hoods (1st-6th arrond. as example).
    London often only allows deviation in the newer buildings (built after WWII). This is because so many buildings were leveled due to bombing during WWII. so you can tear down a 1955 building and put up a very modern building in it’s place… but can’t tear down a 1755 building. you gotta leave the facade up.
    sure, the GOVERNMENTS of those locales will build inspired architecture, but don’t think you as an individual can put a modern abode into the Marais, because you can’t. (you can do it, but you gotta keep the old facade)
    but what they DON’T do in Paris (as much) is make such severe restrictions on what type of establishments can be here or there.
    I don’t think it’s the architecture that’s what’s causing North Beach to “die”. It’s the restriction on growth and change.
    The Marais was predominantly Jewish and then fell into disrepair, and then changed from Jewish to Gay and Artsy… and now it’s gotten so chic that it’s losing it’s “artsy” flair which is moving over to Canal St. Martin. I wouldn’t be surprised if soon Canla St. Martin is the “hot” neighborhood. (it’s commonly called gay gentrification, and occurs across the globe).
    In SF that doesn’t happen, because some NIMBY would require all the establishments to remain Jewish, even if no Jewish people wanted to shop there. So it would get worse and worse.
    Paris is so vibrant because it’s allowed to move and change. Neihborhoods come in and out of fashion (when I lived there the 5th arrond or Latin Quarter was hot as example). They are allowed to change their character. The architecture remains, but the vibe changes dramatically.
    many SF neighorhoods stagnate because people refuse to allow the needed transformation and change to occur. So you have too many Italian Restaurants in North Beach, and not enough of other things to do. So it loses its appeal. It isn’t allowed to change the way the residents desire, so they leave. in sum, the neighborhood stagnates (doesn’t die).

  26. I like the design, of course I’m comparing it to what’s there now and after enough time, anything that can get built is a good design.
    This should get through as the new board seems to be busy focused on issueing opinions on Gaza, Obama, Darfur and waterboarding rather than potholes, schools, tourism and city budgets…

  27. Is that rendering correct? It only looks like three stories, though it’s supposed to be four stories of housing over the restaurant. I’m confused.

  28. ex SF-er: A small sampling of Parisian contemporary architecture in the midst of traditional buildings, off the top of my head: Pompidou Center(Piano & Rogers), Foundation Cartier (Nouvel), American Center (Ghery), Arab Institute (Nouvel), Musee du Quai Branly (Nouvel), Citroen Showroom (Vrignaud), Communist Party HQ (Neimeyer), Canal + (Meier), Villa dal Ava (Koolhaas); plus if you go back a bit, all the Le Corbusier and Malet Stevens bldgs, etc. etc.

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