SF Masonic’s Nob Hill NIMBYS

Live Nation and San Francisco’s historic Masonic Auditorium are dancing, but a Nob Hill neighborhood group is threatening to change the tune.

At issue is a proposed multimillion-dollar makeover of the venue and increased concerts in the upscale district, something residents are already making noise about.

The city’s Department of Building Inspection gave Live Nation initial approval to do some $760,000 worth of improvements late last year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, but a major hurdle for Live Nation is that it needs a conditional use permit from the city’s Planning Commission.

To get the commission’s blessing when it meets in April, proposed uses should be “necessary or desirable for and compatible with” the neighborhood – and in famously political San Francisco, public opinion weighs heavily.

Under the proposal, the Masonic Lodge that owns the building and Live Nation, under a long-term management deal, would begin a drastic remodeling of the venue’s main auditorium, improve facilities downstairs and increase services, according to the Chronicle.

Included in plans are a terracing of the auditorium’s main floor, a cut back of its thrust stage and addition of a proscenium stage, according to the paper. The lower level California Room would be turned into a VIP lounge and a kitchen added. Following a recent LN trend at other theatres, Wolfgang Puck would handle concessions.
Live Nation will also reportedly bring in parking consultants to consider an alternative to the building’s limited underground parking.

If approved by the city’s planning commission next month, work could begin and the Masonic could open as a Live Nation venue as early as September.

A management deal with the Masonic would give Live Nation another theatre venue in the coveted 3,000- to 5,000-seat range – and fill the void left after the lease to the Warfield Theatre changed hands to AEG Live / Goldenvoice last year.

But first, the plan has to face organized opposition.

Neighbors are concerned about traffic, noise, alcohol-fueled disturbances, truck loading and tour buses parking on residential streets near the auditorium.

City and County Supervisor David Chiu told the San Francisco Examiner he’s “open to the idea of a new concert venue” in his district, but said neighborhood complaints are “significant” and need to be addressed in advance of any renovations.

John Strazzanti, a member of Protect Nob Hill, told SF Weekly that his group wants firm agreements with Live Nation that it will be responsible for “avoiding gridlock” in the neighborhood and said there have been meetings with the concert promoter.

“Only now that we’ve organized some objections have they made some token efforts to improve things,” Strazzanti told the paper, but added there’s room to negotiate things like traffic mitigation and garbage cleanup.

But Terrance Alan of the city’s entertainment commission told the Weekly he’s not aware of complaints about Live Nation’s efforts in San Francisco, defending it as “one of our best production teams” in the city.