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Arts & Entertainment

Historic San Francisco movie theater sign torn down

The Alexandria Theater sits idle at Geary Boulevard and 18th Avenue in San Francisco on April 13, 2004. | Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images | Source: Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

An iconic symbol of San Francisco's past was torn down Friday, as a construction crew removed an eponymous sign from the historic Alexandria Theater in the Richmond District.

The theater on Geary Boulevard has sat empty since its closure in 2004, and the property has changed hands several times over the years. In September, representatives of the theater's previous property owner, TimeSpace Group, sent a letter to city officials letting them know it hoped to convert the property into dozens of new homes.

TimeSpace built 43 luxury condominiums on the site's former parking lot, according to its website. Five of the units were permitted at below-market rates.

City officials on Friday said the property is under new ownership but did not provide further details. The Standard reached out to the new owners through the city's Department of Building Inspection.

City officials issued a Notice of Violation for the theater on Jan. 10, detailing how the sign was "becoming unattached" from the south side of the building and creating a potentially unsafe condition.

"The sign will be preserved. The removal work is being done under the direction of a licensed structural engineer and they will obtain the building permit afterwards," Patrick Hannan, a spokesperson for the city's Department of Building Inspection, told The Standard in an email. "This is something we allow when there is an immediate safety concern."

Advocates for a thriving arts scene in San Francisco have been less than pleased with developments regarding the theater going back to last year.

Alfonso Felder, a board member of the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, previously told The Standard that using the Alexandria property just for housing would be a missed opportunity. Until now, housing had never been previously proposed for the property.

"From a community perspective, everyone loses because the building just sits there, and there’s this pressure to just see something built, and the original agreement gets lost along the way," Felder said.

But not everyone agrees, as other proposals have not come forward.

Dan Sider, the Planning Department's chief of staff, told The Standard in September that building housing on the site makes sense for the area.

"[Housing] is appropriate for this site—there’s no question," Sider said. "But everything else is an open book."

Josh Koehn can be reached at josh@sfstandard.com