Legendary venue set for upgrade 

The entertainment scene in San Francisco is about to become a whole lot livelier with the planned $10 million upgrade of the currently seldom-used Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in the heart of Civic Center.

San Francisco lacks a midsize state-of-the-art entertainment venue, and bigger-name acts bypass The City and perform at nearby venues such as the HP Pavilion in San Jose or Oracle Arena in Oakland. But that is supposed to all change with the transformation of the venue overlooking Civic Center Plaza and just a short walk from City Hall, the San Francisco Public Library, the Asian Art Museum and a BART station.

The auditorium, which dates back to 1915, holds just a handful of events annually. Berkeley-based promoter Another Planet Entertainment, which also puts on the annual Outside Lands concert in Golden Gate Park, has officially signed a 20-year lease agreement with The City after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the deal June 29.

Another Planet, headed by Greg Perloff, will sink $10 million into the venue, improving the seating and acoustics. Fifty events annually are expected to be held in the auditorium, which will hold between 5,500 and 7,000 people.

Plans to reactivate the auditorium have been in the works for years as The City was losing money in maintaining the facility, which was once lively with convention business until that industry shifted away to the Moscone Center.

“We’ve been waiting for this to come to fruition for four or five years,” said James Haas, a San Francisco lawyer and coordinator of the Civic Center Stakeholders group during a recent meeting. “The looming presence of this large, empty building has a deadening effect on the area.

“Everyone is really eager to have [Another Planet] come because it will bring vitality back to the area. The restaurants in the area have a hard time maintaining themselves. This is an important ingredient.”

The 20-year lease with The City includes two five-year options. As part of the lease, Another Planet will sink $10 million into the venue, making acoustic, seating and other improvements. Base rent would be $100,000 a year with annual increases of 2.5 percent, with provisions of additional city payments if the venue is having great success.

“The lease and investment will transform the historic Bill Graham Civic Auditorium into a high-quality concert venue at no cost to The City and help revitalize our Civic Center by bringing more foot traffic and customers to the surrounding businesses,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said in a statement issued following the supervisors’ approval of the lease.

More is better

The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium will be upgraded to become a midsize venue for entertainment, including concerts.


1915: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium debuts
20: Years of lease agreement between San Francisco and promoter Another Planet
$10 million: Amount Another Planet will invest in upgrading auditorium
5,500-7,000: Expected new capacity of auditorium
50: Annual events expected at auditorium

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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