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San Francisco Residents Angered by Palace of Fine Arts’s Possible Future as Luxury Hotel

As San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts—constructed for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915 —whittles down its list of prospective long-term tenants, citizens of the city have started to organize over concerns that the shortlist of potential occupants includes hotels, restaurants, and other enterprises not focused on promoting the arts. According to the San Francisco Examiner’s Laura Dudnick, an online petition urging Mayor Ed Lee to save the site as a cultural and educational center has collected nearly fifteen thousand signatures.

To be fair, the hotels and restaurants still under consideration have submitted proposals that include “historic displays, galleries, or event facilities,” as Dudnick writes. But the petition takes a critical stance nonetheless, saying that two of the development projects involve “remaking the old Exploratorium site into a luxury hotel with small nods to the arts, and the third involves creating a high end restaurant with ‘museum.’"

Kirsten Selberg, who began the petition, wrote: “None of those proposals preserve the site as the important cultural/educational center San Franciscans have known it to be, nor do they keep it a community space that is open and available to ALL people.”

Following the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the location was to undergo demolition, but after a group of residents successfully fought for its preservation, the palace became San Francisco’s first art museum. Its current tenant, Innovation Hangar, stages exhibits, workshops, community events, and educational programming. The following tenant will be responsible for footing a nearly twenty million dollars bill towards renovations of the palace, which is just over 140,000 square feet.