San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission met on December 7 to weigh in on whether the Castro Theatre’s landmark designation should be enhanced to cover the interior of the building as well as the exterior. Many people attended this meeting at City Hall in support of the proposed enhancement and to argue that the seating configuration be considered part of it. The Commission ultimately decided not to deliberate but to postpone the issue until Wednesday, February 1, 2023.
At issue is whether the traditional theater seating at the Castro Theatre should be part of its enhanced landmark status. On May 24, 2022, SF Supervisors voted unanimously to extend the Castro’s exterior landmark status to its interior as well. Their resolution amends the Castro’s status by broadening the designation to include not only the façade but “the full historical, architectural, aesthetic and cultural interest and value of the Castro Theatre.”
The resolution was submitted by supervisor Rafael Mandelman (the Castro’s district 8) and co-sponsored by supervisors Connie Chan, Aaron Peskin, Dean Preston, and Matt Dorsey. The theater’s leaseholder, Another Planet Entertainment, supports the resolution but they say that traditional theater seating is NOT integral to the “full historical, architectural, aesthetic and cultural interest and value of the Castro Theatre.” We think it is!
Please see the list at the bottom of this newsletter of people in city government who’d like to hear your thoughts. If you’d like some ideas, click the DRAFT EMAIL button above for our sample letter.
The Castro is the center of San Francisco’s vibrant film scene. The theater is home to every major film festival as well as host to many special film events from big Hollywood premieres to community sing-a-longs. These events and the various independent film and performance festivals that use the theater enrich the cultural life of the City. And they all depend on the traditional theater seating at the Castro.
We welcome the sorely-needed upgrades to the building Another Planet is promising. Along with the cosmetic improvements, the electrical system needs a complete rehaul and the heating and ventilation systems need to be updated to modern standards. But all of that can be done while maintaining the seats and the sloped floors. Like many, many examples around the country, the theater CAN be a full-service multi-use venue, able to host concerts, dance, comedy, and many different live events as well as film.
Seats are NOT antithetical to concert going! But tearing out the auditorium’s seats and flattening the floor enhances only one use—standing concerts—and San Francisco is full of those kinds of venues. The Fillmore, Warfield, Chapel, Regency Ballroom, Bill Graham Auditorium, The Independent, Café du Nord, etc. There’s only one San Francisco venue capable of showing films in many formats, from 35mm to 70mm to state-of-the-art DCP, to a large audience—the Castro.
PEOPLE TO WRITE BEFORE FEBRUARY 1, 2023
Board of Supervisors
Rafael Mandelman (District 8)
Connie Chan (District 1)
Matt Dorsey (District 6)
Gordon Mar (District 4)
Myrna Melgar (District 7)
Aaron Peskin (District 3)
Dean Preston (District 5)
Hillary Ronen (District 9)
Ahsha Safai (District 11)
Catherine Stefani (District 2)
Shamann Walton (District 10, President)
Historical Preservation Commission
This seven-member panel advises the Mayor, Board of Supervisors and City Departments on SF historic preservation goals, policies, and programs. All members are appointed by the mayor subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors.
Diane Matsuda (President)
Ruchira Nageswaran (historic architect and VP)
Kate Black (real estate professional)
Chris Foley (preservation professional)
Richard S.E. Johns (historian)
Lydia So (architect)
Jason Wright (architectural historian)
Rachael Tanner (President)
Kathrin Moore (VP)
Derek W. Braun
Planning Commission Staff
Alex Westhoff (Preservation Tech specialist)
Audrey Merlone (Senior Legislative Planner)
Jonas P. Ionin (Director of Commission Affairs)
Image credit: Pamela Gentile