Board’s designation of landmark status cheers committee of supporters
St. Brigid Church, which dates back to 1864, has found protection in a landmark designation granted Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.
The designation came amid opposition from the church’s owner, the Academy of Art University, which purchased the building in 2005.
The landmark designation ensures preservation of the church’s exterior, which includes stained-glass windows manufactured in Dublin, Ireland at the Harry Clarke Studios.
When the Catholic archdiocese shut down the church, located at 2151 Van Ness Ave., in 1995, a group of parishioners formed the Committee to Save St. Brigid Church in an effort to preserve it.
After purchasing the church, the Academy of Art University petitioned for the church’s removal from the national and state registry of historical landmarks. The Committee to Save Brigid Church has sought to keep these protections in place while advocating for local ones.
"[Landmark designation] has been something that we’ve been working on for quite some time," said Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who drafted the landmark designation ordinance. "St. Brigid Church is an extremely important and a very valuable place, not just because of architecture, but the history associated with it."
Beatriz St. John, chair of the Committee to Save Brigid Church, said the board approval is a "tremendous first step," but the committee also wants protection for the church’s interior. "I don’t know what their motivations are," St. John said. She added, "We’d hate to see ‘facade-ism.’ It would be very heartbreaking to see the interior space ruined."
Elisa Stephens, Academy of Art University president, disagreed with the board’s decision.
"We felt and continue to feel that a private agreement addressing the treatment of specific features would be far more clear and useful in preserving the significant features of the building and allowing the building’s day-to-day use by the owner," Stephens said in an e-mail.
Stephens said the school plans to repair the building, "not demolish, reconfigure or sell the building."
The school and the committee are currently considering an agreement on the building’s interior. "Hopefully in the near future we will have a contact with them so that our neighborhoods will also be able to use this building that they have not actually been able to walk through the doors of over the last 10 years," Alioto-Pier said.