170 Valencia Street

The rather exceptional Art Deco building at 170 Valencia Street, which is currently owned and occupied by the Baha’í Faith in San Francisco, is now on the market and will be delivered vacant at the close of escrow.

Designed by architect Harold Stoner and built for the Independent Order of Foresters in 1930, the three-story building, which measures a little over 23,000 square feet, has been owned by the Baha’i Faith and used as a temple since the 1976.

The façade of the building, which is divided into three bays with an ornate fountain and floral motif, is considered by some to be one of the country’s most elegant Art Deco designs and much of the building’s original interior finishes remain.

While a registered historic resource, the site upon which 170 Valencia Street sits is zoned for development up to 50 feet in height and both commercial and residential use.

And as noted by Colliers International in their offering memorandum for the property which has started to quietly make the rounds with an undisclosed price, there’s an “opportunity to increase [the building’s usable] square footage by approximately 20%.”

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by MDG399

    normally i’m not stuck on saving architecture – esp if it’s, ‘meh’ like much of the older buildings in SF. this one, however….. deserves respect. Re-use, sure, no problem. but leave that facade alone. thank you

    • Posted by Elitist Pig

      Right. Keep the Valencia side, build up on the Elgin Park side.

    • Posted by HousingWonk

      Completely agree in all parts. Every NIMBY in the City screams historic preservation over seemingly every other ho-hum building in SF. However, this is quite clearly NOT that, and really should be preserved.

  2. Posted by Notcom

    Really ?? I think it needs to be covered with a perforated metal screen, one that could, say, shade the windows yet remain transparent enough to see through from the inside, and transform the building’s façade (depending on light conditions)…who really needs to look at all that glazed, unchipped terra cotta anyway?? There’s plenty of it in the FiDi

    • Posted by Scott

      Wait. You’re kidding, right? 🙂

  3. Posted by Dave

    This building is exquisite and truly worthy of saving. Despite the protestations of many (some), SF has few historic buildings. In part because it is a young city by world and even US standards.

    The fact that the owner is emphasizing the expansion of usable space by 20% is heartening. I don’t see the façade coming down and I don’t see this as being a retain the façade but build up behind it situation. Leave the massing as is. Building 1/2 stories on top would detract.

    The building to the right – built much more recently obviously – it looks as if the architect attempted to complement its facade to that of this Art Deco building. Kudos to that person – it works. Great streetscape

    • Posted by Orland

      The building to the right is a totally distinct style of its own which is a great example of why new buildings should not necessarily have to conform to their surroundings.

      When built, the “temple” was clearly an outlier and might have been blocked on that ridiculous basis.

    • Posted by AnonAnon

      You see the building to the right as complimenting the facade of this building? I don’t see any similarities and find it to be pretty much an eyesore.

  4. Posted by Sam

    This would make such a great concert venue, perhaps if this was available a decade ago – I imagine it’ll be an extremely overpriced restaurant below bland condos

    • Posted by Peter

      It already is a rehearsal venue, for the SF Gay Men’s Chorus.

      • Posted by Sam

        That’s good to know, I meant more of a replacement for 12 Galaxies however

  5. Posted by jj

    One of the few examples of something actually worthy of being a historic landmark, unlike the graffiti strewn auto repair garages that some of these silly NIMBYs try to preserve.

  6. Posted by Anon94123

    Dear Editor, the Baha’is do not use the building as a “Temple”, but instead as a meeting center. The only Bahai Temple in North America is just north of Chicago.

    • Posted by AnonAnon

      True that, my sister lives around the corner and we walked over and checked it out last time I was there. It is a pretty spectacular building.

    • Posted by curmudgeon

      learn something new every day.

  7. Posted by Jim

    “The building to the right – built much more recently obviously”

    According to the City records, the building to the right was built in 1912, almost two decades before the Bahai temple, as should be apparent to anyone with a modicum of design knowledge.

  8. Posted by Raj

    Oh no. This is going to be another facadist travesty with an incongruous 10 story glass and steel box popping out of the top and set back a few feet.

  9. Posted by eddy

    Listing says its 23,270 square feet. Anyone venture a guess at the asking price? Buyers must sign a confidentiality waiver.

  10. Posted by jkd

    My guess is it will still be for sale when the market sinks in a year or so and then an independent school will swoop in and buy it well below current asking price. That’s what happened with 601 Dolores and a bunch of other historic buildings around the city. Not sure if San Francisco Friends School has enough space in the Levis building a block away, but that institution would be an obvious candidate.

  11. Posted by kevin west

    I agree it should be saved. Mind you am not biased because my grandfather Harold Stoner designed it.

  12. Posted by Fedros Samadani

    Kevin, I’m an architect and am at awe with the amazing balance and beauty of this work of art. Harold Stoner was a true credit to our profession. i hope this building will be preserved for generations to admire and appreciate its beauty.

  13. Posted by Edward Sell

    A new National LGBTQ Center for the Arts will begin offering programming this fall in [this] $9.6 million, four-story, Art Deco building located in the heart of San Francisco.”

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