SF Parks Commission Looking at Three Bids for Palace of Fine Arts Project

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Birds swim near the Palace of Fine Arts rotunda.  (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission held a public meeting at City Hall Thursday to solidify the top three proposed redevelopment concepts for the Palace of Fine Arts. The winner of the redevelopment bid will score a 55-year lease to the historic San Francisco arts center that was built 100 years ago as part of the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915.

The top bids include two that plan to turn the Palace of Fine Arts into a hotel, and one that proposes it remake the iconic building into a fine-dining restaurant and educational museum. Representatives from all three perspective projects attended the meeting at City Hall Thursday as well as a sizeable crowd who protested the Commission’s rejection of proposals aimed to preserve the Palace of Fine Arts’ cultural legacy.

Julie Mushet, Executive Director of The Center for Global Arts and Cultures, the non-profit that hosts of the annual Ethnic Dance Festival, submitted a proposal that aimed to turn the Palace of Fine Arts into a multi-cultural arts center. Their proposal was rejected by the Park and Recs Committee and on Thursday, Mushet asked that it be reconsidered and added to the final list of redevelopment contenders.

“Our proposal is really the only one that will attract and provide the necessary access to the most expansive and inclusive definition of community,” Mushet told KQED Arts. “One of the proposals that’s a finalist said that they’ll make $9 million in profit a year off of the theater. So it really raises the question that if there’s a hotel and a theater, is this Las Vegas? Is this going to be Cirque Du Soleil?


Equity Community Builders (ECB), the development firm that holds one of the final bids, has prior experience refashioning historic Bay Area buildings. In 2008, ECB transformed Fort Baker’s old army barracks into the chic Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito. Ben Golvin, one of ECB’s lead developers, says their plan is to remodel the Palace of Fine Arts into a hotel built above “an arcade devoted to the arts and the maker culture in San Francisco.”

While Park and Rec Commissioners Mark Buell and Gloria Bonilla both voted Thursday to uphold the decision to name only three top bids, Julie Mushet said she will continue to fight for her proposal.

UPDATE: An online petition asking the city to reject all three proposals is gaining popularity, which you can read about on KQED Arts.