110 The Embarcadero is not just historic because it is 100-years-old

It was Harry Bridges’ headquarters during the 1934 waterfront strike


by
DAVE OSGOOD

If you support historic preservation, you’ll want to join the effort to protect one of the most historic buildings in town. 110 The Embarcadero is not just historic because it is 100-years-old, it was Harry Bridges’ headquarters during the 1934 waterfront strike. According to the July 1934 phone book, both the strike committee and union were headquartered there. History was made in this building. On “Bloody Thursday” the SFPD fired teargas through the windows on both sides of the building. The Commonwealth Club is trying to cover-up this history so they can avoid preservation requirements.  

The club plans to destroy the Embarcadero facade and replace it with a modern glass wall. The building would be gutted. The back side would only be partially restored. The club is still unwilling to keep even one of the four healthy “significant” trees on the Steuart Street side.

The Planning Commission voted to destroy the entire building in 2009, and, true to form, they rubberstamped the current plans. So we filed an appeal, and the matter will be before the Board of Supervisors on January 27. Please write a letter to the board and ask your organization to back the cause. Get the ball rolling today. Thanks go to groups, such as the Victorian Alliance, that initiated resolutions.

The ILWU voted unanimously that this building should be land-marked at its international convention in Seattle. One SF planning commissioner did ask the club to seek landmark status, but the club’s president would not commit to doing so. (One has to wonder what would be land-marked anyway if the front facade is gone and the interior gutted. Imagine if this damage had been done to Ford’s Theater. Would we be land-marking the air inside?)

This has been a total planning train wreck, and it could easily have been a win-win-win situation instead. The Commonwealth Club initially wanted to keep a dignified facade on the Embarcadero. For reasons never explained, the Planning Department told them to go modern. For years they have been requiring developers to maintain the traditional SoMa look, and suddenly they do a complete 180 at this most visible location. They have refused to explain why, and not one of the planning commissioners bothered to ask why. The modern design clashes horribly with the beautiful Audiffred Building next door and the rest of the block.

It’s not just this one building. The block is the last remaining block of mostly 100-year-old buildings facing the water. They have many of their original details. This is what the city side of the Embarcadero used to look like from China Basin to Fisherman’s Wharf. Even the two newer buildings on the block have a more appropriate look than what is now being proposed by the club. Any world class city would preserve the traditional look at an historic waterfront location like this.

I’m told the city has never land-marked a union-related building because of its history. On the other hand, at least one building on King Street used by the strike-breakers in 1934 was honored. After 80 years, it’s time for San Francisco to stop disrespecting the heroes of that strike.

The Commonwealth Club has thousands of members and loads of resources. They have one of the best law firms in town working for them. We have no finances and no one able to work on this full time.

Please write the board and cc your supervisor. The very least the Commonwealth Club could do is maintain the traditional look of the front of the building – what they originally proposed. (It actually has the high second floor ceilings and large windows that they want.) And ask that at least two of the “significant” trees be kept on Steuart Street. Tell them what they should already know by now: the people have clearly demanded that the Embarcadero be done right.

Thank you.

osgood@rinconneighbors.com

More info at: http://www.rinconneighbors.com/common.html

Contact:

Board of Supervisors
City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 244
San Francisco, Ca 94102-4689

Re: 110 The Embarcadero appeal 1-27-15

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