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Theater of Absurdity: North Beach Wars Over Pagoda Development

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Thanks to the Chron's C.W. Nevius for helping us with our homework— Nev's picked up the scent on the (hopefully) soon-to-be-new-and-improved Pagoda Theater across from Washington Square Park. Last month, a Curbed SF reader alerted us to the proposed project, which calls for 17 residential units (according to our source; Nevius says 20) underground parking, and ground-floor restaurant space. The latest proposal is one in a long history of "almost" and "could've been" plans for the site, which was built in 1909 and has survived many incarnations since, including a stint as a 24-hour Rite Aid. A Rite Aid pharmacy. In North Beach. Imagine.

Paging Naomi Campbell and her Blackberry: Naturally, nabe cronies from rival groups the North Beach Neighbors and the Telegraph Hill Dwellers are going fisticuffs over the plan which, if approved (as if!), could be under construction as soon as August. Everyone has something to say on the subject, of course, least of all Supervisor Aaron Peskin and Marsha Garland, president of the NB Chamber of Commerce. Says Garland of Nancy Shanahan, Telegraph Hill Dwellers president (and Peskin's wife) who Garland claims puts the block on any and every project: "She says, 'It doesn't look like it did back in the '30s,' " ... "Well, neither do you, lady." Harsh. (Hired!)

Not to be outdone, Peskin passes his buck on to the building's owner, Joel Campos, who has been struggling for four years to transform the building into something viable: "If they were serious, this would have been done," Peskin said. " ... (Campos) has a magical genius for surrounding himself with people who don't know what they are doing." Defending the notoriously impossible process that governs building construction in North Beach, Peskin also blames Campos for firing an "endless number" of architects and changing his plans frequently. Given the upcoming election year, Nevious seems to believe that there will, in fact, be progress made along Columbus Street. He quotes another local business owner: "Enough with the plywood."

Has North Beach reached its breaking point? One Curbed correspondent from the 'hood did shed some light on the inter-warring between the THD and the NBNA: "I wish people would stop saying 'Telegraph Hill Dwellers' oppose some project as though THD were some monolithic thing. It's not like THD sends out a referendum to its membership on the different projects that the Zoning and Planning Committee are monitoring and decides whether to support or fight a project depending on the vote results from the membership ... " Reasonable enough. But what would North Beach be without its civil wars? Well, it might have a 24 hour Rite Aid ... (Admit it: they're damn well convenient, and you know it. )
· Improving an eyesore turns into headache [SF Gate]
· (Pre) Development Watch: Reincarnation at Columbus and Powell [Curbed SF]
· Ask Curbed SF: Graf Can't Mask North Beach Eyesore [Curbed SF]