Neighbors object to addition of events at Masonic Center 

click to enlarge The Planning Commission last week approved a conditional-use authorization for the Masonic Center. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • The Planning Commission last week approved a conditional-use authorization for the Masonic Center.

It looks as if the battle between the Nob Hill Masonic Center and its neighbors isn’t over yet.

Neighborhood groups that took the center to court over its expansion plans last year will likely appeal a decision by the Planning Commission to allow the entertainment venue to increase its annual events by 25 percent.

Thursday, the Planning Commission approved a conditional-use authorization for the Masonic Center, which the venue needed renewed in order to continue operating. The agreement included a condition that limits the center to 68 live-entertainment events and 219 events without live entertainment, a 25 percent increase over the venue’s average annual use between 2002 and ’07 that planners said would not create significant change in operations, according to planning documents.

“The issue continues to be the nature and extent of the use of the Masonic temple and the arguable or alleged intensification of that use,” said Denis Shanagher, who represents the Nob Hill Association, a neighborhood group. “Until that gets resolved in some fashion — in court or otherwise — it’s going to continue to be a problem.”

Shanagher said neighbors take issue with the Planning Department staff’s estimates of annual events and disagree with the assessment of the impacts of additional events, and will likely appeal the commission’s decision.

“They don’t object to the current use of the temple for entertainment and other events,” Shanagher said. “They do object to any intensification or increase in use.”

Live Nation, an international entertainment company that manages the Masonic Center, has been trying to make improvements to the facility in an effort to put the venue on par with others in The City.

Last year, the Nob Hill Association won a lawsuit against Live Nation, in which a Superior Court judge said planned improvements lacked appropriate environmental review.

The Planning Commission’s approval of the conditional-use authorization is crucial to continuing the venue’s existing use, while Live Nation takes a second stab at improvement plans.

Jessica Berg of BergDavis Public Affairs, a consultant for Live Nation, said the company is in the early stages of an environmental impact report, a more stringent environmental review process.

Berg said Live Nation’s plans for the Masonic Center include state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems and a reconfigured stage.

“It’s become obsolete, it hasn’t been living up to it’s potential in recent years,” Berg said of the Masonic Center. “Our hope is through the upkeep and through thoughtful maintenance, to increase its use and make it a competitor in the Bay Area venue market.”

Trying to grow

3,282: Seating capacity of the Nob Hill Masonic Center

229: Average events held per year between 2002 and 2007

287: Events per year allowed in conditional-use authorization

Source: Planning Department

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