A longtime neighbor and local historian stood guard after an iconic San Francisco movie theater sign was torn down—fearing it could be stolen and not restored and replaced as planned.
The 1920s sign previously donning the historic Alexandria was removed due to an emergency concern for public safety Friday.
Richmond resident and historian Woody LaBounty took to Twitter in real time to air his concerns for the now decrepit theater’s frontage as it was stripped away.
He visited three times over the weekend for about an hour each time, sharing photos and updates to other concerned neighbors.
I’m hanging out, basically making sure they don’t come out with any of the gilded medallions or other interior material. pic.twitter.com/cQ84BqQlV7— Woody LaBounty (@WoodyLaBounty) January 21, 2023
When he was watching the removal, passersby expressed anger about the situation to him, said LaBounty. “We had a little crowd of people here sort of mourning it.”
The city’s Department of Building Inspection said Friday that the sign will be preserved. It has since been sawed into multiple pieces for removal and is now gathering dust behind a theater gate as of Monday.
Having lived in the city his whole life, LaBounty had fond memories of the theater in its heyday. And he wasn’t the only one—multiple passersby chimed in while the two of us spoke out front to spread the love.
“This has been the iconic image of the center of the Richmond District,” said LaBounty. “It’s a historic building. […] It shouldn’t be allowed to deteriorate, crumble and be graffitied.”
“It was the place to be, big time,” reflected Phil Torres as he passed by, who has lived in San Francisco for most of his life.
The Geary Boulevard theater 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 said Friday 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.
Morgan Ellis can be reached at [email protected]