Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Harding Theater: Mindless preservationism

Not even David Tornheim, of Central City Progressives, can claim that the Harding Theater on Divisadero is of great historical value, even though, yes, the Grateful Dead and The New Riders of the Purple Sage played there in the early 70's. Nor is it an architectural gem. In fact, it's now a vacant eyesore since the last owners, the Berean Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, sold it to a developer who's going to turn the property into 18 two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Tornheim laments the passing of this rather undistinguished building: "It's part of history. This is part of what makes San Francisco so beautiful, having these historic buildings to remind us of what is possible...The new buildings that go in are never close to what the old buildings are" (SF Observer, Jan. 11). But all that's old is not beautiful or of historic significance. There are many old buildings on Divisadero that would improve the look of the neighborhood if they were demolished. The Harding Theater is not a beautiful building, and it has little historic significance, the Grateful Dead notwithstanding. Whatever replaces it won't have to look very good to surpass it aesthetically.

Sue Valentine, of the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association, is quoted in the SF Observer: "We'll have housing on Divisadero, which we're excited about." Sue may just be the exitable type, but it's hard for the rest of us to get excited about new housing that will naturally be occupied by the well-off, which means that the gentrification of the Divisadero corridor will go up a notch or two.

This is what may underly the anxiety about the destruction of the Harding: the fear we all have of the gentrification of the neighborhood and of the city in general.

At least the development will have parking spaces for all 18 of the new apartments, so that our new neighbors won't be competing with the rest of us for already-scarce street parking.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home