Posts by cindy casey:

Articles By: cindy casey

Traveling fanatic and ski addict Cindy lives in the SOMA area of San Francisco. Following in a five generation tradition of Californians she loves the history of her state and the inanity of her town. Cindy left the University of California with a degree in Landscape Architecture and never did anything with it. She loves to wander the streets of the world with her camera seeing what others do not. You can find her rambling thoughts of art and architecture at www.ArtandArchitecture-SF.com

“DMT Mary” by Helen Bayly

It is believed that Dà­ ­a de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) dates back to the Olmec civilization, possibly as long as 3000 years ago. The concept was passed to other cultures such as the Toltecs, Mayas, and Aztecs. Following the conquering of Mexico by Spain and the attempt to convert the native population to Catholicism, old and new blended. Since All Saints’ Day and All Hallows Eve roughly coincided with Dà­ ­a de Los Muertos, the resulting observations drew from both.

Celebrated on November 2nd, Dà­ ­a De Los Muertos is “the path back to the living world. It must not be made slippery with tears.” It is believed that this is the time when departed souls return to visit the living. It is a joyous celebration with gatherings at cemeteries for cleaning of graves, socializing and decorations.

Detail of “Live Vibrantly” by Miriam Bergman, Ana Luisa Cardona, Nina Serrano

“El Corrido del Cortito” by Martinez

Traditionally, altars are set up in the home with favorite foods and beverages of the deceased. Marigolds are the traditional decorative flower that graces most every altar.

SOMArts celebrates Day of the Dead with an exhibition curated by René Yaà±ez and his son Rio. Rene was the founder and former artistic director of Galeria de la Raza and one of the first curators to introduce the contemporary concept of Mexico’s Day of the Dead to the United States in the 1970s.

This year’s exhibition took on a new twist with the theme “Calling On The Spirits To Face the Future,” challenging the artists to bring the centuries-old tradition of building altars fused with the artists’ sentiments on the present state of life and politics.

“I call upon the spirits to help the artists portray hopeful images as we face global economic and social challenges,”  says René Yaà±ez, co-curator. “The Mayans believed that the solar system’s cycles coincided with our own spiritual and collective consciousness and imagined the close of 2012 as a period of rebirth and transition. I have asked the participating artists to interpret the profound and often enigmatic events of the present, while honoring the past and affirming the possibilities of the future.” 

With over 90 participating artists and 40 exhibits the range of interpretation on the theme was staggering.

The traditional altar is prevalent from the moment you walk through the door, and yet the twists placed on the theme are fascinating.

The one entry that struck me as most embracing the concept of the future was by Howard Katz. The explanation read: This exhibition is filled with altars to the dead, and someday, you too may be memorialized here. But thanks to the magic of the Mayans (and Facebook) you get to see a preview of your altar here and now.

Through Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon etc. your online alter ego has a life of its own, a life which will live on after you die. Unfortunately, your privacy has died a long time ago. Katz invites you to log onto your Facebook page and watch as your life pours into the altar. I watched as my obituary was written in the New York Times listing my “friends”  that out lived me, music played off of my music list, and photos of my friends and family filled the picture frames placed around the altar.

Truly a brilliant way to force the ancient customs of Dà­ ­a de Los Muertos into the present world.

Tree for All by Edmundo de Marchena and Jeff Barhoum Lindo. “The tree represents possible contemporary family structures as well as the families of the future. It is an inclusive versus an exclusive model in which there are no constraints or traditions to follow.”

Down the hall was the Tree For All. While hardly the typical altar, it was a perfect personification of San Francisco’s diverse families. The tree asks that you tell about your family using stickers to represent family members. There were stickers for transgender parent, female parent, male parent, female child, male child and transgender child, reminding everyone that family now takes many different shapes.

Keiko Kubo, Betty Segal, Irene LaChance and Nikolas Sikelianos use the Japanese art form Sogetsu Ikebana, a sculptural expression composed of flower and plant material, to honor artist, activist and September 11, 2001 attack survivor Janette MacKinlay

Several altars, while traditional in the fact that they honored the deceased they did so with a strong political statement. There was an altar for Janette MacKinlay, an Ikebana designer that died of brain cancer. She lived across from the World Trade Center and always believed she got her cancer after walking through the toxic cloud created that day.

Another striking altar by Susan Matthews honored journalists killed in the Middle East. Using golden shoes as a reference to journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi, who threw his shoes at President Bush, the message was powerful and heart-wrenching.

An altar by Kathy de Rosas and Ellen Vogel struck me very hard, and truly expressed many thoughts which I as a journalist carry with me.

These artists asked that participants refocus their energies to create the society they want to leave for their children. The purpose was to use the newspapers as a symbol of corporate bad news. The participant was asked to tear the newspapers up and transform them into prayer beads as an act of refocusing and asking, “What can you do to help your community thrive” .

Other artists showing their works in this years Day of the Dead exhibition include:DMT Mary by Helen Bayly, Live Vibrantly by Miriam Bergman, Ana Luisa Cardona and Nina Serrano, El Corrido del Cortito by Martinez, Novus Ordo Seclorum by Javier Rocobado and Where the Air is Clear by Susana Argon Rebaza.

The exhibit is an elegant combination of the traditional Meso-American culture that celebrates the past and its inhabitants in such a joyous way, and the art world. The messages presented prove that you cannot go forward without looking back, and we will grow in a better way as a community and as a civilization if we look back and celebrate and learn from those that went before.

Calling on the Spirits to Face the Future runs through November 10. The SOMArts Cultural Center is at 934 Brannan Street in San Francisco. Admission is free, gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday from 12-7pm, Saturday 11am-5pm and Sunday 11am-3pm.

“Novus Ordo Seclorum” by Javier Rocobado

“La Region Mas Transparente / Where the Air Is Clear” by Susana Aragon Rebaza

Read Reflections on San Francisco’s Day of the Dead Festival, Ann Lam‘s article on Untapped Cities on last year’s Day of the Dead Festival.

Get in touch with the author @PQPP3.

Thursday night was the kick off for the Gensler show Chroma.

The Gensler Art Committee is a volunteer group of individuals whose mission is to provide exposure for emerging arts and designers. Gensler offers the events as a way of giving back to the community and provide inspiration to the people who work in and visit their office. Gensler holds Art Series every quarter at their SF headquarters.

This exhibit curated by Michelle Heinemann of Gensler features well known street artists of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ones first image when walking into the door is of Peter Gronquist’s mixed media sculpture featuring a taxidermy antelope with gold plated automatic weapons for horns. It is a beautiful piece with so much strength and a message that screams at you in 24-karat bling. Gronquists explanation is that he is imagining a ridiculous future where animals have evolved to fight back. He goes on to state that it also comments on masculinity, overt Americanism and excess. While his pieces are not for the faint of heart, and highly controversial, I could not agree more on the symbolism.

From there you are asked to wander the offices of Gensler. Situated on the fourth floor of the historical Hills Brothers Coffee Building at Harrison Street and the Embarcadero, the bare concrete walls of their offices make for the perfect clean palate as you ogle the view of the San Francisco Bay with the Bay Bridge as the focal point. The art you have come to view seems simply to be a continuation of the tastefully appointed expanse.

The remaining artists being featured are all painters. The roster reads like a who’s who of tech office artists and known SF street artists.

Jet Martinez Mural in the Mission District of San Francisco

Tomatillo and Ferrous Bamboo by Jet Martinez

The first artist I encountered was Jet Martinez accompanied by his two adorable children. Jet’s artistic range is impressive. As Facebook’s first resident artist and director of the Clarion Alley Mural Project, Martinez has proved his ability to easily cross between the gallery and the street.

At Gensler he was showing a collection of fauna, but what truly struck me was “Ferrous Bamboo” . A nice diversion from his vibrantly colorful work that I most associate with him.

Ian Ross on Harrison Street in San Francisco

Day Dream by Ian Ross

Ian Ross, the in-house resident artist at Facebook in 2011, also has proven over and over his ability to cross cultures, as it were. Despite having written often about Ian’s work I had never met him. When confronted with this kind, courteous and truly professional man accompanied by his stunning Brazilian wife Danielle it was obvious to me how he easily walks many paths. If that wasn’t enough, one of his murals in San Francisco was featured on the cover of the Wall Street Journal for a story called “Graffiti’s New Enemy, Legal Art” .

Ian’s work around town as well as in this show are broad vibrant strokes of color and form. A style easily recognizable as his and yet varied enough to not become stagnant or cliché.

Chor Boogie on Market Street in San Francisco

As much as I had hoped to meet Chor Boogie, it was not to be. His work is recognizable no matter where he is painting in the world and has always been a draw for me. Chor uses only spray paint to create his works. This true to street art bent makes him one of the traditionalists in the gallery to street world. While most comfortable on the streets, Chor’s most recent project “The Divided State of America”  was unveiled at the Democratic National Convention and is enjoying a national tour.

Richardo Richey AKA The Apexer at Market and Jones in San Francisco (Flower by Mona Caron)

Untitled I, II, and III by Ricardo Richey

Another artist I missed meeting was Ricardo Richey. Painting under the name Apex on the streets, his work consists of colorful abstract patterns. The work he chose to show at Gensler was such a departure it took me a while to realize it was the same person. Three panels, all untitled, of black on canvas, reminiscent of Mark Rothko’s Chapel. This severe departure from form and color made for an interesting contemplative moment. I later learned from Ricardo this explanation of these pieces: “On the street people tag on doorways over and over again and the city paints it out every single time. Texture sometimes builds up and that gave me the idea of painting canvases like this. I enjoy exploring the ways that street art naturally mirrors fine art history”.

Max Ehrman in Hayes Valley in San Francisco

Max Ehrman

Max Ehrman aka E.O.N. 75 was the final artist in the show. Max received a masters in architecture from the Dessau Institute in Germany. That coupled with the fact that the exhibit was in an architecture office, one would expect more linear thinking, but that is hardly the case with E.O.N. 75. His work is vibrant, colorful and a mix of stroke and movement. There is a symphony in Max’s work that takes time to absorb and comprehend. There is nothing simple about it, and yet it will pull you in and force you to stand and study the interactions of light, color and movement until your head spins.

While it can seem intimidating to stroll through someone’s office, the Gensler Art Group has done an excellent job putting together a collection of work that will challenge, delight and make it worth your while.

Chroma runs through December 14th, Monday thru Friday from 8:30 to 5:30 pm at 2 Harrison Suite 400.

Get in touch with the author @PQPP3.

As an inner city dweller, I think about where I am going before choosing my mode of transportation. In San Francisco this choice can be the beginning of all out war.

No matter what type of transportation you choose, someone is going to be mad about it. The City of San Francisco’s transportation goal is 50% of all travel within the city limits in something other than private vehicle by 2018. A laudable goal, but one fraught with animosity. Cyclists and pedestrians say that they are not listened to regarding safety (the city averages 17 pedestrian and 2-3 cyclist deaths every year). Automobile owners suggest this is an anti-car town. The number of parking spaces in the densest parts of the city is shrinking, and the number of parking meters are increasing in parts of town that never had them before. Parking meters are charging more and the metering hours are being extended to include weekends and holidays.

San Francisco is the second densest city in the United States, behind New York and in front of Los Angeles. San Francisco also has the oldest fleet of transit vehicles in North America. This has led to a decrease in service and on time performance of only 57.2% this past August. All this at a time when the riding population is increasing. Those that find public transportation can not meet their needs often have no choice but to opt for cycling or walking.

Bicyclists in San Francisco have increased by 71% since 2006 with approximately 75,000 daily riders. San Francisco is 3rd in trips to work via bicycle for major cities with populations over 300,000 and yet just under 1% of San Franciscans ride bikes to and from work. Less than .02% of New Yorkers ride bikes to work, and in the number one U.S. city Eugene, Oregon, 5.64% commute by bike. San Francisco’s overall bicycling rate looks slightly better, at 3.5 percent of all trips, this number ties for second among major American cities like Seattle, lagging only behind Portland at 6 percent.

Urban bike riding is fraught with dangers, and as a century cyclist, any cycling I choose to do within the city begins at dawn. And yet, when it comes to urban populations, San Francisco is ahead of the curve on the biking war.

Green Wave.

Green Wave

A signal re-timing mechanism called the Green Wave, begun as a test program on Valencia Street, is now permanent. Following examples set in cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Portland, this signal optimization system keeps vehicles traveling at a steady cycle-friendly 13 mph. All-green lights provide a great convenience for bicycle travel, effectively removing the strenuous stop-and-go movement that often encourages pushing red lights. Along with pedestrians, cyclists also experience a much safer environment as motor vehicles travel at minimally fatal speeds. Additionally the Green Wave helps reduce noise and air pollution. What makes San Francisco’s Green Wave unique is that it is the first to work both ways simultaneously.

A second Green Wave was installed on 14th Street this year, and the staff from the SF County Transportation Authority plans to propose “four to six potential new Green Wave corridors along the existing San Francisco Bike Network,”  with hope they could be completed in 2013.

Green Carpets

Green Carpets

Along Market Street bike lanes are “Green Carpets” , not to be confused with the Green Wave. I first encountered this type of bike lane while riding the Tour de Tucson, and believe me I was impressed. I was thrilled to see that San Francisco is adopting this around town. The advantage of this green pavement is two-fold. The motorist is made far more aware that this is a bike lane, and the cyclist knows where to go and what to do. One of the most difficult things to navigate when riding in an urban environment is the turn. The cyclist may be going straight while a car is attempting a right hand turn. On the other side a cyclist must act as an automobile when making a left hand turn. The Green paths make it easy for even a beginning cyclist to understand the rules of the road.

The corner of 8th and Howard in SoMa.

The corner of 8th and Howard in SoMa

The City recently put a buffered bike lane near my house in SoMa: I have ridden on it, it still doesn’t make me feel safe. This lane on Eighth Street was prioritized partially because of its history of pedestrian injuries.

Proposed protected bike and pedestrian lanes.

Proposed protected bike and pedestrian lanes


The recommended long-term plan for Seventh and Eighth Streets includes a parking-protected bike lane, pedestrian bulb-outs, and greenery. By moving the buffered bike lane to the curb and placing the car parking lane to its left, a parking-protected bike lane would provide a physical barrier separating motor traffic and bike traffic, and the design could include pedestrian islands at the crosswalks. Bus stop boarding islands could also eliminate the need for Muni buses to switch. This is an expensive solution, but one that, if implemented in the more dense areas of town, will encourage people to get out of their cars and walk or ride, not only because it is much safer, but because it feels much safer.

Sharrows on The Wiggle at Steiner Street (photo Courtesy of B.I.K.A.S.)

A third busy bike riding area in San Francisco is The Wiggle. The Wiggle is the flattest route connecting the east and west parts of the city, and is a magnet for bike traffic. The twists and turns of the route can confuse new riders, and high-speed motor vehicle traffic makes cycling feel too dangerous for many people. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition envisions wider sidewalks, more public seating, higher-visibility bike markings, and streets engineered for automobile speeds that don’t threaten people traveling on foot or by bike.

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency has already rolled out ladder crosswalks and green-backed sharrows (lanes that are shared by both cars and bicycle) to emphasize pedestrian and bike priority along the roadways of The Wiggle.

The conversation about bicycles, pedestrians and auto owners cannot be complete without the discussion of simple manners. Why do we all forget that? When I drive, I keep an eagle eye out for cyclists. I am sympathetic. I allow the elderly to cross intersections at their own pace, even if it means I sit through two light changes, but I expect the same in return. If I am driving, I expect cyclists and pedestrians to obey the rules of the road. The concept that the pedestrian and cyclist always has the right-of-way, may be legal, but assuming that can also be deadly.

San Francisco is a leader in the push to get people on bicycles and walking as their primary mode of transportation. I simply hope that as we seek new innovations that make safety a priority, we realize there are many types of transportation needs, and divisiveness does not help to solve the problems.

Get in touch with the author @PQPP3.

Atlas Obscura is permanently book marked on my computer. It is my go-to-place for out of the way things to do whenever I hit a city and have some time to spare. They have taken me to the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, shown me the world’s smallest public park in Portland and made my car hum the William Tell Overture somewhere in California.

Today, however, they took me to a few spots in my very own backyard. Along with fellow Untapped writer Sarah Grimes we toured the Lands End area with a group of guides from Atlas Obscura. As these guides are all as curious about everything they see as I am, it made for great conversations about most everything “San Francisco”  under the sun.

The tour gathered at the new Lands End Visitor Center. Designed by EHDD, its simple glass and concrete design, nestled into the sand dunes and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, pays homage to mother nature rather than architecture. This Green building offers one a chance to pick up tourist information, troll the gift shop and grab a cup of coffee before heading out to walk the Coastal Trail.

Octagon House at Lands End (Photo Courtesy of Atlas Obscura).

It was a gorgeous day by the San Francisco Bay as we left the visitor center. Led by Atlas Obscura’s Vice President, Annetta Black, our first stop was the Octagon House. With the increase of shipping after the discovery of gold in California, a warning system became necessary to guide the ships through the treacherous rocky area at the mouth of the bay. The Octagon House was one in a series of buildings that comprised the  Semaphore Warning system that covered the Golden Gate in the 1800s.

The batteries of Fort Miley. Built as part of the late 19th century series of fortifications for the Bay Area.

Next stop, Fort Miley. Built as a part of the harbor defense system that operated between 1891 and 1950, this system included such well known sites as Fort Point and Alcatraz. We climbed throughout the bunkers of Fort Miley as skateboarders and hacky-sack players enjoyed the sun around us, and gazed down over the bay inhaling the gorgeous views.

A little farther along we all sat agape at the audacity of the government to turn a beautiful old lighthouse into a helipad at the most dangerous spot in the Golden Gate, proven by the three sunken ships at our feet. Sadly the ships were not visible during our stay, but if we are lucky Atlas Obscura will offer another tour at low tide.

Labyrinth at Lands End.

We finished with the group wandering a very out of the way labyrinth designed by San Francisco artist Eduardo Aguilera. The Labyrinth sits on an unprotected outcropping with views that will take your breath away, and a drop to the sea that will do the same.

Atlas Obscura is user-generated and editor curated collaboration of amazing places that aren’t found in your average guidebook.  If you’re looking for miniature cities, glass flowers, books bound in human skin, gigantic flaming holes in the ground, bone churches, balancing pagodas, or homes built entirely out of paper, the Atlas Obscura is where you’ll find them.

This venture into guides of the local obscura proved to be every bit as fun and interesting as their site. As Annetta explained, they aren’t out to give guided tours, as much as get you off your couch, into the fresh air, and discover something odd and unusual in your own back yard.

Mile Rocks Lighthouse built in 1904, altered in 1960.

Get in touch with the author @PQPP3.

San Francisco’s Planning Code adds an additional level of review to any chain store within the city limits. The definition of chain store, which applies to several types of businesses, including take out food, states that if a location has eleven or more retail sales establishments located in the United States, maintains two or more of the following features: a standardized array of merchandise, a standardized facade, a standardized decor and color scheme, or standardized signage, it is subject to this additional planning department review.

This is all to protect the small business sector, and also helps to explain why in San Francisco’s 49 square miles, there are only five McDonald’s restaurants, one Wendy’s, one In-N-Out Burger and ten Burger Kings.

The concept of the fast food burger was introduced to the American public in 1921 when White Castle opened the first major fast food chain in Wichita, Kansas. The concept, however, didn’t really take off until after WWII with America’s new found prosperity.

One of these post WWII pioneers was John Hider. In 1944 Hider tore down a house at the corner of South Van Ness and 18th in San Francisco to put up Whiz Burgers. Whiz was only the third hamburger stand in San Francisco, after the Tic Toc and Jets, both of which are gone now. Hider sold hamburgers for 19 cents, but he still made a profit as they only cost 7 cents to make.

He served his burgers from a simple building that is nothing more than a kitchen with a walk up front, parking all around and tables for outdoor eating. The Whiz, and places like it, gave teenagers a place to hang out, share fries, shakes and friendship all while changing the American diet and the concept of the sit down meal.

When built, the architecture of these walk-up restaurants was based on the love of the American automobile, and other than unique neon signs, they were almost always devoid of any local peculiarity.

The buildings were simple square boxes with glass fronts and sloping roofs. The large panes of glass allowed you to read the oversized menus that hung on the back wall and incorporated an order and pickup window. The large overhanging sloped roof kept the weather off those lining up for service.

In 1953 architect Stanley Meston first incorporated the two golden arches into this very design on a Pheonix, Arizona McDonald’s.

Across town on Ocean and Lee Avenue is Beep’s Burgers. The present owner Sing Khan Vang believes that Beep’s was opened around 1960. With its rocket ship sign, he may be right: Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard both went into space in 1961.

Whiz Burgers is now owned by John and Tony Kim. They not only proudly offer a classic menu of fish, veggie and beef burgers but have added some Asian flair to the menu as well, with Chicken Teriyaki and a fabulous mango shake. Beep’s offers eight different types of teriyaki bowls. Thanks in part to San Francisco planning codes and their emphasis on helping independent small businesses, both joints continue to change the concept of fast food and the American diet. The architecture, however, hasn’t changed: these buildings were built for function rather than style, and to that end they are still serving their purpose after all these years.

Get in touch with the author @PQPP3.

Imagine walking down the Champs-Élysées, or Fifth Avenue between 49th and 60th Streets, and when you hit the middle you hail a cab just to go two or three blocks, then get out and continue walking.

This is what has happened to Market Street in San Francisco. The street that best epitomizes the concept of the City Beautiful Movement has a large gaping hole in the middle. The area around 6th and Market has been taken over by the less fortunate, and they have made it their outdoor hotel.

The area between 5th and 10th on Market Street is often referred to as the Mid-Market area in San Francisco.  Like many problematic areas it is worse at its center.  This area has plagued the City of San Francisco since the 1960s.  There have been many mayors, and many commissions putting forth ideas, but no action and no solutions.

The few stores that occupy Mid-Market sit amongst mainly boarded up buildings, they have found it easier to serve the less fortunate than try to entice other types of clientele.  This leaves an overwhelming retail representation of strip clubs, pawn shops and check cashing stores. Tourists do not, and locals hesitate to, walk down this portion of Market Street, essentially ripping this grand boulevard in two.

Sitting in the heart of Mid-Market is the boarded up and abandoned Hibernia Bank Building, once proclaimed the “Most Artistic Building in Town” by the San Fransisco Call. This building is a perfect example of the fact that sometimes all the tax breaks and good intention laws cannot help.

The Hibernia Bank building is ripe for adaptive reuse, a movement that had its American beginnings in San Francisco. The city has eagerly supported the adaptation of buildings for new uses while retaining their historic features, as discussed in last weeks article  about the Savings Union and Wells Fargo Bank buildings. Keeping city centers alive and conserving historic buildings is an important concept, but one that can and will fail when the right cards do not fall into place.

The Hibernia Bank, which stands as the gateway to the Tenderloin District, is still looking for that properly dealt hand. A baroque inspired Beaux-Arts building, the 38,000 square foot bank with its glass domed corner entrance and grand stairway begs to be appreciated for its beauty. Sadly it has become a boarded up symbol of how down and out the mid-market area is.

Designed by Albert Pissis, Hibernia Bank opened its doors in 1892, serving Irish miners who had struck it rich in the California Gold Rush. It also served their widows by paying out 3% on savings accounts. (Ironically Albert Pissis also designed the Emporium Building, now the Westfield San Francisco Center, a mall that attracts thousands of tourists every year.)

After the 1906 quake.  Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Library  

The interior of the building was destroyed in the 1906 conflagration, but the exterior remained somewhat intact allowing the bank to reopen just 5 weeks later.

Hibernia Bank housed a bank up until 1987. Since then the banks columned sides and carved granite walls have been spit on, pissed on and lived on, and today they are fenced in and covered with plywood.  The building has been sold twice since 1987, it even served as a temporary headquarters for the San Francisco Police Department’s Tenderloin Task Force from 1991 to 2000, but today it once again stands empty and neglected.

The Hibernia Bank Building is a San Francisco landmark  and yet that does not help its situation. There are minimal maintenance requirements for privately held historical landmarks in San Francisco. While at both the state and federal levels there are many tax incentives, and laws that help with the restoration, maintenance is not truly covered in any codes.

The Mills Act is perhaps the best preservation incentive available to private property owners in San Francisco. Enacted by the State of California in 1976, the Mills Act authorizes local governments to enter into contracts with owners of privately owned historical property to insure its rehabilitation, restoration, preservation and long-term maintenance. In return, the property owner enjoys a reduction in property taxes for a given period. Mills Act contracts have the net effect of freezing the base value of the property, thereby keeping property taxes low. The City’s Mills Act enabling legislation was adopted in 1996.

When financial times are good many private owners of landmarks spruce up their historic buildings, like the Adam Grant Building and 111 Sutter Street. The Hibernia has not been so lucky.

Since being sold in 2005 for a mere $3.95 million to Seamus Naughton of the Dolman Property Group, the economic times have turned sour. The building needs approximately $18 million for improvements, including seismic retrofitting, asbestos and lead paint abatement as well as disability access.

Even if these improvements can be made, one must ask if it is worth the trouble. The building will still be sitting in the middle of the worst of Mid-Market. At the same time, the restoration of this stunning beauty might be just what the neighborhood needs.

Mid-Market would benefit greatly from an influx of quality housing. Local residents sustain neighborhoods that bring life to the streets and bring in visitors. Most of San Francisco’s vital and interesting neighborhoods for shopping, eating, and drinking are in the midst of dense residential neighborhoods. It would be difficult to imagine how the Hibernia Bank could be turned into housing that would bring in the amount of money needed to turn a profit, and not be so prohibitively expensive as to instantly eliminate the type of person that would buy in a promising, but still down trodden area, and yet that is what is needed.

While San Francisco prides itself on adaptive reuse and historical preservation so many times it falls short in actual action. Preservation and restoration of the neighborhood’s outstanding historic buildings should be a cornerstone of this neighborhood’s revitalization. The Hibernia Bank, at its core, is a good place to start.

The interior central dome. Interior photos are from the real estate brochure.

Ornamental plaster in one of the offices of the Hibernia bank

The Hibernia Bank
1 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 941021[Map]

Get in touch with the author @PQPP3.