Redbeardedguy - Posted on 20 October 2010

1. San Francisco and the Redstone Building, a Micro-History

Poormagazine's Elderscholar Bad News Bruce Allison first walked into the Redstone Building in 2000 when Chris Daley, and Mission Resistance, had an office there.  A very small office, but Daley used it as his headquarters to run for Supervisor.  The Redstone has a long history of involvement in the affairs of San Francisco's labor unions and other organizations.

The building is registered as San Francisco Historic Landmark Building Number 238.  The block (its official name is "Block 34") and the building are zoned commercial, and the Planning Commission promised that this zoning would remain in place through the implementation of the Mission Plan of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan.  One would think that "Historic Landmark Building" status would make a structure immune to the games that Planning Commissions and building contractors play, but this is not so!

One of the reasons the building has Historic status is that it was around the 1906 earthquake.  It was destroyed and burned to the ground by the ensuing firestorms, and rebuilt a few years later.  Today, the building has solar panels on the roof that would be shrouded in the shadow of the proposed new structure.

The Redstone's tenants are in considerable danger of being evicted because of a re-classification to Mixed-Use Zoning status.  San Francisco has a lot of history, like the Redstone, some of it dark and vicious:  struggles over the I-Hotel, redevelopment that destroyed the Western Addition neighborhood community and left it in limbo until the power-players-that-be deemed it time to gentrify the Fillmore with Yoshi's jazz club and much more; Lennar Corp owns the Bayview-Hunter's Point area and is content to have its way or the highway with the Navy Yard whitewash...I mean "environmental clean-up"...with the cooperation of Mayor Gavin Newsom and other folks who should know better.

Thus and thus and thus, the San Francisco Planning Commission has been working at Warp Speed to morph the 16th Street end of the Mission District (and the Mission Plan of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan) into something unrecognizeable to anyone paying attention at the official (Sunshiny-like?) beginning of the process of planning...whatever.

The parking-lot make-over, it turns out, isn't the last word in this episode of The San Francisco Twilight Zone.  Another Con-D'oh! slated to be built as part of this project will replace a gas station and car wash across the street.  Anyone remember the song "They Paved Paradise, Put Up A Parking Lot"?  Ironic, perfectly nice pavement (and buildings) being abused, replaced with con-d'ohs.

2.  What's Wrong With This Picture?

The Redstone Building is like many houses that have been built and sold by developers who wanted to make quick bucks from flood-prone areas and didn't bother to tell the hordes of home-hungry folk seeking to become part of the property-owning class.  The area is flood-prone.  The manager of the building, deals with a virtual daily invasion of water in the basement, which would fill it to the ceiling were it left alone.

Division Street (one of many Bermuda Triangle-like streets in some large cities that create pedestrian-unfriendly micro-environments where two neighborhoods meet), at the beginning of Potrero Street--sort of part of the base of the Potrero Hill 'hood--which is within a few blocks of 16th Street, is another flood-prone area.  Residents there have endured several rain-related floods in recent years that have caused a lot of damage and traffic nightmares. 

The combined area once included Mission Creek and Dolores Lagoon, which were covered over and forgotten.  "Gone", but, actually, not forgotten.  Like the ghosts of the "Poltergeist" movies, they keep coming back to wreak havoc. 

Across the street from the Redstone is an underground electrical vault hosting pumps to get rid of more of you-know-what.  Like many other aging and long-unimproved electrical-power-channeling underground vaults in the city, which have exploded and sent human-hole covers flying into the air (sometimes severely injuring people), the pump vault is prone to catastrophic "accidents" every 3 to 5 years, leaving parts of the neighborhood in the dark.

Will the people who want to sell the condominiums they want to build next to the Redstone tell potential buyers of the risks and the frustrations (like a perpetually flooded parking garage!) they will inherit?

The Redstone also sits on top of the ancient neighborhood of the Chutchui village of the Ramaytush-speaking Ohlone people, which came to the light of day during the re-construction of the Redstone (1912-1915) when artifacts were discovered. Back in the day, often, nobody cared and artifacts were either carted off to a museum or ignored.  Today, after many Native struggles for sovereign nationhood, respect, and the honoring of burial grounds and other manifestations of historic Native presence (battles which have to be re-fought too often), one wonders if the Planning Commission knows any of this history...and if they give a damn.

Again, readers seeking to save the Redstone, preserve what little is left of the Mission District, should contact Jeanie Poling, an Environmental Planner in San Francisco’s Planning Department.  The address is 1650 Mission Street, Suite 400, SF, CA  94103.  Contact by phone is:  415-575-9072 (fax # 415-558-6409).  Poling’s email address is:

Readers should also contact Corey Teague, the case planner on the project approval (not the environmental review), at  Bill Wycko, her boss, can be contacted at  Last, but never least, anyone concerned about this should contact San Francisco Supervisors Chris Daly and David Campos, at and

In 2011 concerned people will also need to contact Jane Kim, one of several down-town un-friends of poor people candidates for District 6 who won election to that seat on the Board Of Supervisors, to let her know this is important to you.

The address of the condo project is 490 So. Van Ness Avenue, the case number of it is #2010.0043E.



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