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Planning Commission approves remodel of Hearst Building with Julia Morgan additions

Developer promises Morgan lobby will remain intact during hotel conversion

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The historic Hearst Building at 5 Third Street will soon become a 170-room hotel under a plan approved by the San Francisco Planning Commission Thursday. The developers behind the project promise to preserve most—but not all—of the Julia Morgan-designed additions to the circa-1909 tower.

Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst built the original Hearst Building on Third Street in 1898 to house the San Francisco Examiner; at seven stories it was the city’s tallest building at the time. The 1906 earthquake destroyed the original structure, but Hearst had the current building raised in its place.

In 1938, Julia Morgan made several new additions to the building, including an ornate lobby. Developer JMA Ventures, who are behind the years-old plan to turn the building into a hotel (presently, it’s all office space), promise to preserve the lobby.

According to paperwork submitted to the Planning Commission this week, the hotel plan includes:

A rehabilitation of the existing 13-story 161,108 square foot building and conversion of approximately 119,237 square feet of office use to a 170-room hotel on the second through twelfth floors as well as the creation of 964 square feet of net new floor area.

Approximately 5,920 square feet of office use will remain on the second and third floors, with approximately 11,393 square feet of retail space maintained on the basement and ground floors. The historic lobby will be retained and a new hotel entrance will be created on Stevenson Street.

JMA President Todd Chapman testified Thursday that “the project will enhance public viewing and enjoyment of the building,” as a hotel will allow more residents and visitors to see the building’s interior, now visible mostly just to those who work there.

Chapman also promises that JMA will help small businesses displaced by the renovation find new sites.

The planning paperwork mentions that “portions of the existing penthouse structures on the 13th floor would be demolished,” which covers elements designed by Morgan.

However, Commissioner Kathrin Moore said Thursday that the parts of the building that face demolition are “small and not at all indicative of her architecture.”

“I’m totally fine with what’s to be demolished,” said Commission Vice President Joel Koppel, who turned in the sole dissenting vote. He wanted the delay the decision a few weeks until JMA has a more formal agreement with the building’s existing tenants.

Because the plan demands a zoning change, the new hotel will need to approval from the Board of Supervisors before commencing.

Photo by Another Believer