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Comment sought on demolition plan for old MCC-SF site

by Tony Taylor

The Castro site of the former LGBTQ-identified Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco at 150 Eureka Street will go before the San Francisco Planning Commission next year to determine the environmental impacts of a planned housing development, which includes demolition of the building.

Published December 6, the draft environmental impact report, an informational document detailing significant environmental effects and alternatives to the 150 Eureka Street project, is accepting public comments through January 23.

According to the draft EIR, the proposed 150 Eureka Street Project would demolish the existing building and redevelop the large underutilized site with high?quality, sustainable, and economically feasible, three? and four?bedroom residential dwellings.

MCC-SF sold the dilapidated church in 2015, along with an adjacent four-unit apartment building. At the time, church officials said the building that housed the church was beyond repair.

However, the pending construction threatens a sidewalk memorial installed by MCC-SF in 2011. "Miracle on Eureka Street," outside of 150 Eureka Street, is composed of yellow bricks engraved with names of LGBTQ activists, politicians, business leaders, military heroes, allies, community members, LGBTQ groups, and people who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. Founding Bay Area Reporter publisher Bob Ross, who died in 2003, is among those memorialized.

As part of a 2011 MCC-SF fundraising campaign, Miracle helped fund the repaving of damaged sidewalks due to overgrown tree roots on the building's exterior. According to the church website, the sidewalk restoration campaign sold 256 bricks and raised a total of $63,700 for the church.

Mark McHale, president of Castro-Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, told the B.A.R. via email that his group and its Planning and Land Use Committee are generally in favor of preserving the history of the neighborhood whenever possible.

"The MCC sidewalk memorial is an important artifact of our LGBT and friends of history; each brick is a testament to the lives of actual residents who, in their way, made contributions to the community and culture of our neighborhood," McHale said.

The draft EIR notes that the project sponsor is required to reach out to the Castro community to create an authentic approach for the project site and neighborhood. And prior to the issuance of demolition or site permits, the project sponsor shall fund the undertaking of a historic American building survey of the property, the document states.

In February 2015, 150 Eureka Street was sold to developer David R. Papale for $2.325 million. According to Hoodline, Papale, a San Francisco native, is managing partner of Laurel Village Realtors and has been a real estate agent for 37 years. He also bought and renovated a six-unit building above Hearth Coffee Roasters at 3985 17th Street.

"We look forward to working with the developer through our PLUC to arrive at design and preservation decisions that complement the proposed property's surroundings and preserves the memorial in an appropriate manner," McHale said.

For 36 years, MCC-SF occupied the two-story, 5,550-square-foot facility on Eureka Street, having purchased the building for $200,000 in 1979, according to the church's website. MCC-SF vacated the dilapidated building in February 2015 and moved in with the First Congregational Church at 1300 Polk Street.

A public hearing on the draft EIR will be held December 20, before the Historic Preservation Commission. The meeting starts at 12:30 p.m. in City Hall. The public hearing before the Planning Commission is scheduled for January 18 at 1 p.m.

Papale told the B.A.R. that the bricks are likely to go.

"When we purchased the building in February 2015, MCC-SF removed all of the stained glass windows but they did not want to take the bricks," he said. "Instead they were going to reprint miniature bricks and create a replica for their new location when they relocate. They were also going to create an image of the sidewalk and create a banner for services at their new location."

Papale added that this summer the Reverend Annie Steinberg-Behrman, pastor of MCC-SF, restated that the church is not interested in keeping the bricks, but would like them to be donated, if possible, to the Openhouse building for LGBT seniors.

"Discussions are underway to replicate [Miracle on Eureka Street] at a different location," Steinberg-Behrman told the B.A.R.

Karyn Skultety, executive director at Openhouse, told the B.A.R. via email that Openhouse and MCC-SF are working on "identifying a way to re-create the bricks/memorial as part of our new building and construction at 75/95 Laguna." She noted that "this was not Openhouse's decision per se. The decision [came] from the folks at MCC after talking with David [Papale and Laurel Village Realtors]."

"We support the spirit of this beautiful memorial and would be thrilled to keep it alive and even grow the project as we build a strong community that honors those who we have lost and the LGBTQ elders who live today to tell their stories," Skultety added. "We have to work through the process with the city and Mercy Housing. I think details of how it will look here are best held back until we have more confirmed and planned."

Gina Simi, the communications manager for the planning department, did not return a request for comment.

Sidewalk bricks that make up Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco's memorial Miracle on Eureka Street project front the church's former building at 150 Eureka Street. Photo: Rick Gerharter

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