SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – The Palace of Fine Arts is one of San Francisco’s most iconic buildings. But a proposal to turn the location into a hotel has led to an online backlash.
It is San Francisco’s last physical vestige of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and at exactly 100 years old, it is also the city’s newest development fight.
“So we’re looking for a new tenant to both restore and operate the Palace of Fine Arts,” said Sarah Ballard of San Francisco Recreation and Park.
There are now three different proposals for the space vacated by the Exploratorium. While the building’s theater space will stay, the city wants the new tenant to shift operating costs away from taxpayers. Two of those three proposals would also include hotel space.
“For someone to be able to put in the $20 million necessary to bring the building up to code, there does need to be some economic engine,” Ballard said.
Deciding the fate of the Palace does not happen in a vacuum. San Francisco just came off a citywide election that revolved primarily around fear that money and wealth were somehow polluting the city itself. Now that notion has been tied to the fate of the building.
“Absolutely, that was my first thought, the commercialization and monetization of San Francisco landmarks,” said Kristen Selberg, who launched an online petition after hearing about hotel plans at the palace.
The “Preserve the Palace” petition is now closing in on 12,000 signatures.
“That kind of development pushes us further and further away from what we believe to be ours and part of our heritage,” Selberg said.
People who filled out the petition filled out comments, including “might as well bulldoze Golden Gate Park” and “Break out your pitchforks.”
“It’s understandable that there is a gut reaction to any sort of change,” Ballard said.
A final decision may take up to two years.