The next entity to occupy the Palace of Fine Arts will have either a boutique hotel or a restaurant as a cornerstone, despite an online outcry that drew the support of more than 20,000 people and many pleas offered during a Recreation and Park Commission meeting yesterday. The commission unanimously accepted a package of three proposals, giving each the go-ahead to submit a fully developed concept in May. When the number of proposals was winnowed from seven to three late last month, the fact that they all contained a substantial commercial element generated an outburst throughout social media platforms. The position of the opposition is summed up in an online petition on change.org: "We demand that the Palace of Fine Arts be developed ONLY as a cultural/educational center."
At the Recreation and Park Commission meeting, the San Francisco Examiner reports that dozens of San Franciscians spoke out against having a hotel or restaurant on the site. However, Commission President Mark Buell countered with a statement saying the century-old Palace has long been home to commercial operations, including the last long-time tenant, the Exploratorium. "The Exploratorium paid us over half a million dollars a year in rent," Buell said. "Prior to that, there were tennis courts, there [was] military storage… It's always been a commercial piece of property."
The Examiner reports that the next occupant of the Palace would be required to cover something like $20 million in improvements, including seismic upgrades. In that light, having a healthy source of income might be essential.
Earlier, the San Francisco Chronicle summarized the chosen proposals:
- Maybeck Center at the Palace would have a luxury hotel and interactive history exhibits.
- An as-yet-unnamed hotel that would include retail and exhibition space focusing on local artisans.
- The San Francisco Museum at the Palace Consortium would allocate a lot of space to exhibitions and/or programs that would emphasize the city's past, present, and future. It would also include what they call a "destination restaurant."
The online petition, authored by San Francisco resident Kirsten Selberg, carries a statement about the latest action: "None of those proposals preserve the site as the important cultural/educational center San Franciscans have known it to be, nor do they keep it a community space that is open and available to ALL people."
The Palace of Fine Arts was built as part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915.
· Palace of Fine Arts Moves Toward New Tenant as Furor Grows [Curbed SF]
· Hotel, restaurant concepts for Palace of Fine Arts moving forward [San Francisco Examiner]
· Candidates to re-do Palace of Fine Arts winnowed to 3 [SFGate]
· Preserve the Palace of Fine Arts as a Multi-Cultural Arts/Education Center [change.org]