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Developer Looks to Turn Abandoned Movie Theater Into Affordable Housing in SF

An abandoned movie theater could determine just how much more affordable housing is coming to a key San Francisco neighborhood.

Some say it’s an eyesore that needs to be torn down to make room for more homes, but others say it’s history and has to be preserved, even if that means fewer affordable homes. 

Developer Brookfield Properties has submitted a proposal to the city to build about 2,900 housing units where the United Artists Theater is located. But some argue the theater, which opened in 1970, should be protected as a historic property.

The theater was essentially abandoned at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. If the developer is forced to preserve either the façade, or the entire building, it could mean scaling back housing on the project.

That idea has triggered lots of opinions from state leaders, city supervisors, and neighbors who walk by the building nearly every day.

Some say to bulldoze the building, others say, it’s historic and at least some of it should be saved.

“Definitely we do need more housing and there’s only limited space in San Francisco,” said Tom Chan, San Francisco resident.

If just the façade is preserved, the housing would need to be pared back by 70 units.

If the decision is to save the whole building, the developer proposes a dramatically scaled back project with just 10 units total.

Not an acceptable option for Historic Preservation Commissioner Chris Foley who spoke during last week’s regular meeting.

“The idea of keeping that building and keeping 10 units, in my mind, is fairly ludicrous,” he said.

Whatever they eventually decide, is all just part of what’s often a drawn out and expensive process that slows nearly every effort to build more housing in San Francisco.

City supervisors will eventually make the call on whether the 42-year-old abandoned theater is worthy of being saved, partially preserved, or completely razed and how many housing units will be approved to be built there.  

Source: NBC Bay Area

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