Limit Development at the Palace of Fine Arts

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Staff Editorial

Last winter, the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department began a search for a renovator and long-term operator for the Palace of the Fine Arts. Since June of this year, seven separate developers have responded with new proposals for the landmark, including suggestions for adding a luxury gym, a destination restaurant, or a hotel to the landmark. As of last month, the advisory committee working with the Parks and Recreation department has narrowed the selection pool down to three proposals.

One proposal would create the “Maybeck Center at the Palace” and would contain historical exhibits and a small luxury hotel. The second proposal would contain space for local and small retailers and hotel rooms. The third proposal would rename the landmark the San Francisco Museum at the Palace Consortium, and devote almost all of the space to a new history museum, with some space set aside for a high-class restaurant. The committee has given the three groups until the end of May next year to submit finalized proposals for the landmark.

The Palace of Fine Arts is one of the city’s most breathtakingly beautiful architectural attractions. Unlike other attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge or Coit Tower, the Palace is a place that San Francisco residents regularly visit and enjoy. Part of the appeal of the landmark is the fact that it is surrounded by a beautiful park and the immediate surrounding area is not developed.

Because of the unique beauty of the Palace of Fine Arts, it is also a very popular tourist spot. However, the integrity of the Palace–the cultural and architectural value should remain preserved, regardless of who comes to own the landmark.

In order for the authentic, cultural value of the Palace to remain intact, adding a luxury gym or an expensive hotel is not the approach that should be taken. Adding a high-end gym and a luxury hotel to the Palace of Fine Arts does not seem like it is intended for all San Franciscans. Increasing tourist influx via hotels and shopping centers to the Palace seems to shift the focus from preserving an artistic landmark to finding the best way to capitalize off of tourists.

The Palace of Fine Arts is near the Marina, which is not a neighborhood that really requires more development or investment. Adding a gym or hotel instead of a museum about local history gives the impression that increasing tourism in San Francisco is more important than preserving art and culture in the city. One of the proposals contains plans for a museum and a restaurant, and no luxury gym or hotel. For the sake of the preservation of an iconic cultural landmark and arts center, we hope that is the proposal that passes.

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