by JIM MEKO
An early morning fire this past Sunday did to the so-called purple building on 11th Street what years of controversy failed to do.
Once the target of anti-residential zeal, the entertainment lobby convinced Supervisor Jane Kim to change the zoning along 11th Street from WMUG (friendly to residential development) to WMUO (mixed-use office), which precludes housing. Entertainment advocates had pushed for a down-zoning to service and industrial uses but Kim and the Planning Commission chose instead to create a different sort of up-zoning. The residential project proposed for the site has since been changed to an office development.
Owen Loo, owner of the property said – and the Inspection Report confirms – that there were people living illegally upstairs and, given the time the fire started, he suspects they must have had something to do with it. The person who rents the downstairs would probably not be working at 4:00 AM, Loo said.
Ten years ago, another controversial development at the corner of 11th and Harrison burned to the ground in a fire that was widely attributed to entertainment industry extremists. No mention of arson has surfaced yet on this latest blaze but members of the California Music and Culture Association (CMAC), an entertainment industry lobbying organization, turned out legions of passionate supporters for city hall hearings to excoriate the owners of the purple building for ruining their fun.
Ironically, the fire may have the unintended consequence of speeding up change along the 11th Street corridor. High end office use can have the same gentrification-related influence on property values as housing and the damage will probably lead to the early demolition of the purple building.