Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Harding Theater

Harding Theater

The folks at Neighbors Developing Divisadero send this message:

Time for eminent domain?

The Harding Theater made the news again because the property owner, Michael Klestoff, turned down a $4 million offer from community-minded businesses and orgs to transform the 1200-seat theater into a bookstore and multi-performance venue (live music, dance performances, lectures/authors, and more).

The property owner recently submitted a revised version of an earlier plan to demolish the stage and make condos to the planning department. Although a similar plan in 2008 was pushed back against by city-wide efforts to save the space from being chopped up and underutilized. After saying no to multiple above market-rate offers and campaigns to revitalize the protected theater in support of neighborhood culture and arts-related jobs, the city should seriously consider the use of eminent domain so that this historic community asset (protected under the state law, CEQA) is not allowed to blight the neighborhood and deteriorate further. Or perhaps there is an in between solution? Perhaps the property owner could receive an incentive from the city to develop low-income housing for artists on the property if he sells the theater to the bookstore/performance venue group?

On an important note, a bookstore was one of the top desires voiced by neighbors for Divisadero in two community input surveys from NOPNA (2007) and NDDIVIS (2012).

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