North Beach Pagoda Theater (Image Source:

In addition to the proposed rehabilitation and expansion of David Ireland’s 500 Capp Street, and a vote on the proposed 48-unit development at 1645 Pacific, the long shuttered North Beach Pagoda Theater is back in front of San Francisco’s Planning Commission tomorrow afternoon.

With authorization to convert the dilapidated theater into 18 condos over ground floor commercial and 27 parking spaces approved by the Planning Commission nearly two years ago, the project sponsors are now requesting an amendment to change their Affordable Housing Requirement from constructing 4 off-site BMR units to paying an in-lieu fee.

With respect to the re-development as proposed:

New openings will be introduced on all elevations to allow for a residential use on the upper floors. A courtyard will be inserted on both the north and south elevations in order to provide additional light, air, and open space to the residential units.

Pagoda Theater Rendering 2010

The ground floor will contain a residential entrance and offstreet parking entrance and two retail commercial spaces – a 1,000 square foot space, and a space for La Corneta restaurant, of approximately 4,000 square feet but less than 3,999. The project does not propose any expansion of the existing building envelope.

The Planning Department recommends approval of the project and we’ll happily note the second floor bay windows have been removed from the latest rendering (while also noting that as a condition of approval, “The project sponsor shall continue to work with Planning Department staff on the details of the design of the project”).

The prior rendering for reference:

North Beach Pagoda Theater: Latest Proposal

16 thoughts on “Pagoda Theater Preview (And Signs Of Progress All Around)”
  1. I hope that the developer has the option of razing the entire structure and rebuilding the facade (complete with marquee and spire) if that is cheaper than renovating the existing structure. The existing shell has no historical merit and is probably not up to current quake codes. Only the facade’s appearance is worth preserving.

  2. More and more developers are finding it makes financial sense for them to pay an affordable housing fee in lieu of actually providing affordable housing units in or near their project. This is bad for neighborhoods, because when an in-lieu fee is paid, the money is unlikely to be spent on housing in the affected neighborhood. Since most of SF is completely built out, there are few opportunities for affordable projects in the neighborhoods where they are needed. Developers should be pushed to put the affordable units on-site rather than just paying a fee that will go to housing in the Bayview or the Tenderloin.
    I hope that the Planning Commission denies their request and makes them build the affordable housing they agreed to build—hopefully right there in North Beach.

  3. “Developers should be pushed to put the affordable units on-site rather than just paying a fee that will go to housing in the Bayview or the Tenderloin.”
    This is a terrible idea because it will raise the price of market-rate units and raise the discrepancy between BMR and MR units. Most of these ideas to create “affordable” housing only make housing less affordable. Only in San Francisco do we have the weird concept that an expensive neighborhood “needs” affordable housing. If only we didn’t have so many market distortions, more housing would be affordable.
    Furthermore, most of SF is not built out. Although SF is dense, it has a ton of single family homes. There is open land here that every NIMBY fights against building on, and we could easily make more housing units if lot mergers were allowed.

  4. One of Peskin’s loyal lieutenants recently told me that their goal was to make North Beach look as much as possible as it did when her grandmother was a girl; i.e., before the the 1906 earthquake. She wasn’t kidding.

  5. Apparently elevating the facades of failed businesses as a shrine to wondrous failure is the centerpiece of this plan. This is about making a museum, not historic preservation.

  6. I just can’t wait til they build more over priced “luxury” units and then put a Mexican restaurant in my home neighborhood. You snobs can have that Italian disneyland! What a sham!

  7. “Developers should be pushed to put the affordable units on-site rather than just paying a fee that will go to housing in the Bayview or the Tenderloin.”
    I disagree. SF zoning/”planning” (ha!) should be streamlined and simplified and then enforced consistently.
    The city could then increase affordable housing by simply increasing allowed density in chosen neighborhoods.
    More units = more affordable.
    instead, planning and zoning are purposefully restrictive in order to cause an ARTIFICIAL housing shortage, which is then “remedied” by a half-butt “affordable housing” program that is a failure at best.
    There may not be a lot of open lots in SF, but there is tons of air upon which to build. (in other words, build up).
    I’ve stated this before, but Paris is 5-6x more densely populated than SF. That dismisses the “there’s no more buildable land” argument in a heartbeat.

  8. I hope this plan is quickly approved and construction started immediately. I have lived in this neighborhood for 3 decades and I am at my wits end with those who want zero neighborhood improvement, why anyone would want this eyesore as opposed to nice and safe condos with a much needed non-Italian eating establishment is beyond me.
    BTW, there is plenty of affordable housing in North Beach, the majority of my neighborhood pay pennies for their flats, ever heard of rent control? We have affordable housing nearby at Bay, all of Chinatown, along Broadway, with a huge new affordable housing development going in the vacant lot at Broadway and Battery (you need to really dig for that info, it seems the City does not want us to know about it…but it’s approved and moving forward). I would like to live in Sea Cliff but alas I cannot afford it, so here I am. If you can’t afford to live in North Beach, move on. Now I must go to work to pay my taxes which pay for the entitlements of the losers sleeping in Washington Square Park.

  9. “BTW, there is plenty of affordable housing in North Beach, the majority of my neighborhood pay pennies for their flats, ever heard of rent control?”
    Rent control doesn’t solve the problem of creating housing that is affordable to lower-income folks, it exacerbates it. Yes, there are plenty of people paying pennies for flats. But are they the same people that can only AFFORD to pay pennies for flats? Not hardly. They are the long-time residents who often have, and make, lots of money. A couple of years ago I read that something like 40 or 50% of occupants of rent-controlled apartments in SF made $100K or more per year.
    I’m not proposing BMR housing in ritzy neighborhoods. But I do think that we have to find a way to allow working class folks to continue to live in our neighborhoods, unless we want a city that is only open to the wealthy.

  10. Dave wrote:

    …I do think that we have to find a way to allow working class folks to continue to live in our neighborhoods, unless we want a city that is only open to the wealthy.

    I agree. But it seems to me that below the surface, most property owners in The City that actually live here seem to prefer the “Adult Disneyland for the rich” model. In fact, I’m surprised that in addition to the already-posted marketplace fundamentalist arguments, no one has yet made the suggestion that everyone who can’t afford a $900K two bedroom condo unit should move to Fresno. That one is also quite the popular “solution” advocated on socketsite.

  11. The City does a lot to prevent affordable housing. Rent control is a very inefficient method of providing “affordable” housing as it just subsidizes people who happen to be able to stay in the same place for a long time — not those who actually need it. People who need to move (because they get married, have kids, need to live elsewhere in the City etc.) get no benefit.
    And, of course, the City all but prohibits condo conversions which would allow people to actually own their own place. Why renters are morally superior to owners is never explained.
    People, like Brahma who is an incensed renter, is typical of the entitled feeling you get from renters. Apparently somebody else owes them a cheap place to rent. It is not that Brahma needs to move to Fresno, but there is no reason the rest of us should subsidize a rent-controlled apartment for Brahman in North Beach. And, the fact is, that people in rent-controlled apartment are subsidized — both by the landlords and by everyone else who is forced to pay higher market rate rents.
    Perhaps, Brahma could explain why he or she is so worthy of a subsidy. But I don’t there is an explanation. It is much easier to whine about the wealthy (i.e. people with jobs) than to actually defend a subsidy for oneself.

  12. Just to be clear, Brahma is not currently and has never leased a rent-controlled unit, in North Beach or anywhere else and so can’t feel “entitled” to one. In case you weren’t aware, there are non-rent controlled units for lease in The City. Brahma is “incensed” with respect to the state of the marketplace for buying, or owning, not renting, and is looking to exit the “renter” part of his status soon, at which point he will no longer be “incensed”. But hey, it’s getting better every month.
    The commenter “Dubocian”, above, was talking about BMR units not being built and in lieu fees being paid by property developers. “Mel” confused the issue by bringing up rent control when it wasn’t even under discussion.

  13. Like the Metro theater on Union, the fight to “save” the theater seems exclusively about the preservation of old signage. I’m just not sure what this says about preservationist’s actual motivations. I hope this passes again, but the “in lieu of” fee makes me a little nervous.
    Otherwise, I’m in complete agreement with ex SFer… There’s a ton of space in SF to build and increase density provided height restrictions become negotiable. The oft-mentioned Geary corridor is grossly underdeveloped. How many crumbling or abandoned buildings are there on that strip? The more approved projects means cost of construction becomes more competitive, which obviously means the new units can be sold at lower prices…

  14. WorkingSF missed the point of this discussion completely, as Brahma said. This has nothing to do with renting vs. owning, although similar problems apply to both. The main point is that if affordable housing is desired, the city should have more policies that encourage affordable housing, such as allowing lot mergers, allowing more multi-family housing, and generally doing things that cause more units to be built.
    Instead, the city encourages BMR units, which raise the cost of market rate units, and has significant barriers on land use, which raises the cost of existing housing. Our current policies produce affordable housing only for a select few and raise the price of housing for everyone else.

  15. Should have raze the building and put up 4,5 floor building. This would have done something to ease the housing supply. To gut the building and fill it with condo is no preservation. It is an insult to history.

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