Examiner Editorial: Time to close the loophole at blighted Alexandria Theater 

It’s long past time for the San Francisco Planning and Building Inspection departments to stop fooling around with the blighted Alexandria Theater. The once glamorous 2,000-seat movie house was shut down six years ago and has steadily degenerated into a public nuisance that has neighbors and businesses pleading for help.

The 1923 movie theater at Geary Boulevard and 18th Avenue, renowned for its Reid Brothers architecture and Egyptian-style décor, now sits neglected with a crumbling façade, graffiti galore and a boarded-up box office. The expansive marquee entry is a popular overnight bedroom for transients, where flies and a urine stench mark the piled cardboard used as mattresses.

Meanwhile, the foreign-based owners and The City bureaucracy have wrangled endlessly over the details and red tape of an ambitious mixed-use conversion — each accusing the other of unreasonable delays. The owners claim they would have broken ground a year after the theater closed, if not for excessive Planning Department obstacles. Planners counter that the owners altered their plans several times and are often difficult to contact.

We suspect there is partial justification in both sets of complaints. But the fact remains that The City has not forced the owners to decently maintain their property. A new law requires owners of vacant or abandoned buildings to keep up the property or be fined. But the Alexandria was exempted because two small businesses still operate at the rear of the building.

However, on the same day as The Examiner front-page story about the Alexandria’s downfall, a building inspector visited the dilapidated site and posted a declaration that the theater is now officially an abandoned building. The owners must pay a piddling $765 annual fee. But now they can be fined for every failure to secure their property in good condition. The first violation notice was for a broken window.

It is imperative for The City to continue using both the carrot and the stick to bring the Alexandria owners to the table and expedite a project that does credit to the Richmond district’s bustling primary thoroughfare.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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