A lengthy neighborhood battle on Nob Hill is ending to the sound of more music.
Concert promoter Live Nation’s quest to rehab the aging Masonic Center auditorium and turn it into a live music destination is at last moving forward after neighborhood groups — who had spent the past five years opposing the project, first at City Hall and then via lawsuits — agreed this week to drop their opposition in return for a list of concessions.
In plans approved by The City in 2010, Live Nation sought to host nearly 300 live events a year at the auditorium at California and Taylor streets. After unsuccessfully attempting to persuade the Board of Supervisors to intervene, neighborhood groups such as the Nob Hill Association filed a lawsuit citing concerns over increased traffic, graffiti, blight and crime.
Under the terms of a binding 20-year contract signed this week by the Nob Hill Association and other neighborhood groups, Live Nation will be allowed to put on no more than 54 concerts and 25 “comedy/cultural events” a year at the 3,165-seat auditorium. In return, Live Nation promises to fund a children’s playground at Huntington Park, which is across the street from the auditorium, and music programs in local schools. It also will set caps on alcohol service at shows.
The settlement ends a fight that was acrimonious at times. Neighbors painted the Freemasons and Live Nation as uncaring corporate giants, while the neighbors’ resistance was described as racially motivated — a city planning commissioner suggested in 2010 that the Nob Hill Association sought to stop black people from coming to the area.
The auditorium has hosted concerts since 1958, but never more than 20 or 30 a year.
The building will be rehabbed, and construction could begin as soon as the project goes before the Planning Commission later this year. Once approval is granted, construction will take up to eight months.