Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Saving the Harding eyesore---again

David Tornheim should do the neighborhood a favor and stop trying to "save" the Harding Theater, which has been nothing but an eyesore for years.

Way back in March, 2005, I wrote this about the push to preserve the derelict, undistinguished Harding Theater on Divisadero:
Ross warned HANC members Thursday night that he doesn't want to end up with nothing but a derelict Harding Theater "if we don't get our way" on the issue. He pointed out that the Harding theater "looks terrible" from the street. In short, the neighborhood will have to live with condos on the site if he can't get the votes. This is a skill that Supervisor Mirkarimi should cultivate early in his four-year term---speaking truth to the powerless...As supervisor, Mirkarimi seems to understand that he not only needs to reflect community sentiment, but, when necessary, also provide his constituents with a much-needed reality-check.

Apparently Ross got the votes to foil the developer, and ever since we've been living with a ugly Harding Theater blighting the middle of Divisadero. There was some talk at the time about making the building a community center and/or restoring it as a theater, but no one came forward with a commercially viable plan.

So the Harding was "saved" just so it could stand empty and, as Ross feared, continue to look "terrible." What would have taken the place of the Harding without the intervention of David Tornheim and others? A developer wanted to tear down the Harding to build 18 condos, each with parking, with retail space on the street side of the property. Clearly that was preferable then, and, lacking any sensible alternative, is still preferable now. Just because we know the name of the architect who built the Harding and the Grateful Dead played there once doesn't make it worth preserving. It's not a historic building; it's just old---and now it's in the way. Unless Tornheim et al have the money to put that property to good use, they should do the neighborhood a favor and let that ugly old building be torn down to make way for housing.

Since I oppose the Rincon Hill luxury highrise condos, UC's rip-off of the old extension property on lower Haight Street, and the awful Market/Octavia Plan, people ask me, "Gee, Rob, what kind of housing project do you support?" What the developer wants to do on the Harding property seems to me like a perfect infill housing proposal---and it includes parking for the housing units.

An even earlier post on the Harding.

Labels: ,