Alexandria Theater at 5400 Geary (Image Source: MapJack.com)

The proposed renovation of the Alexandria Theater and construction of a mixed-use building on the theater’s adjacent parking lot is up for approval this week with a design that has been changed from “modern/contemporary” to “Spanish/Mediterranean.”

Renovations to the Alexandria Theater include its conversion from three screens to a 221-seat single-screen theater, the creation of new retail spaces on the ground floor, and a 7,000 square foot restaurant space on the second floor.

Upon the adjacent parking lot, a four-story building with retail on the ground floor, 37 condos on the upper three floors and underground parking for 122 cars will rise:

The new building’s unit mix includes 13 one-bedrooms, 18 two-bedrooms, and 6 three-bedrooms, with four of the 37 condos to be sold below market rate (BMR).

Shuttered in 2004, by 2010 the theater at 5400 Geary Boulevard had become “a haven for homeless” with a crumbling façade, a boarded-up box office and a once-vibrant entrance riddled with flies and the stench of urine.

As part of the project, the theater’s marquee, blade, and art deco bode sign will be restored along with the terrazzo flooring at the entry and marble clad ticket booth.

The Planning Department recommends the Planning Commission approve the project.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by eddy

    This seems like a great infill and use of space.

  2. Posted by Mark

    Nice to see parts of it will be restored and incorporated into a renovated building.

  3. Posted by Ralber

    Yes, the single-plex theatre model is a proven winner in today’s market. Hope they build the seating so the Academy of Art will be interested in 2015.

  4. Posted by Dan

    The theater is not meant for profit, but rather to preservation-wash the whole project, so it is not seen as a destruction of another neighborhood cinema. If the theater finds commercial success it’s just an incidental bonus, but either way, the commercial spaces and condos will already be built.

  5. Posted by Sam

    It’s time to build Geary higher

  6. Posted by extra

    Great. An obsolete movie theater and tacky, kitschy, twee “Spanish/Mediterranean” condos in the fog. The NIMBYs don’t even know what they’re fighting for.

  7. Posted by anti-extra

    Twee? You must be an architect.

  8. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Yep. The architecture Dwell-everywhere crowd always cries “tacky, kitschy, twee” every time someone dares challenge the steel/glass/cast concrete modernist orthodoxy. I’m surprised no one deployed the ever useful “Disney” criticism yet.

  9. Posted by apropos

    I think this is a great project, all in all. No issues here with the fact that it’s got Spanish/Mediterranean flavor, vs. contemporary/modern, but if you are going to go the Spanish/Mediterranean route, do it right. That facade really needs some more attention. A little more trim or decoration of some sorts. As shown, it looks a little “cheapo-developer” if you know what I mean. A little extra trim detail would go a long way, cost very, very little in comparison to the overall construction cost, and provide some “curb appeal”, as they call it.

  10. Posted by anon

    I’m not really convinced of the need for ground floor commercial here (with vacancies on Geary abounding), but whatever, that’s for the developer to worry about.
    Not sure why 40′ is sacrosanct though. This would make a lot more sense at 60-65′.

  11. Posted by sf

    I could swear this is historic Barcelona.

  12. Posted by extra

    You just did, Brahma, and you’re right on the mark. Spanish/Mediterranean? I got news for you, honey: we’re about 6,000 miles away from Sitges. I don’t wear my Halloween costume every day, and I don’t want my condo to, either.

  13. Posted by Alai

    Can the critics point to an example of what they think would be better? I’m curious.

  14. Posted by cbf

    “I got news for you, honey: we’re about 6,000 miles away from Sitges.” -extra
    And I got news for you, honey: SF has a Mediterranean climate and was founded by the Spanish. I don’t blame anyone if they don’t like this building, but let’s not act like the words “Mediterranean” and “Spanish” have absolutely no connection to San Francisco.

  15. Posted by lol

    SF has a Mediterranean climate
    Technically, yes. But I wonder if the guys who put SF in the Köppen “Mediterranean Climate” had shares in the local tourist industry. I always have a laugh when I see tourists raiding the fleet jacket racks on Fisherman’s Wharf after they arrive from their desert trip into our “Mediterranean climate”.

  16. Posted by anon

    ^Someone’s never been to Gibraltar in June. Every bit as cold and windy and foggy as SF, if not more so.

  17. Posted by lol

    In that case it should be classified as an Atlantic climate, like some of Portugal or Galicia or Northern Morocco. I have been all around Spain, thank you very much. And Southern France. And Italy (most coasts). And the former Yugoslavia. And Greece. And Turkey. I do know what a Mediterranean climate looks and feels like.
    I am still waiting to use my bathing suit on Ocean Beach. When that happens, I’ll confirm our climate is indeed Mediterranean.

  18. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    ^^^ This is San Francisco, no bathing suit required. Just use your birthday suit.

  19. Posted by anon

    I am still waiting to use my bathing suit on Ocean Beach. When that happens, I’ll confirm our climate is indeed Mediterranean.
    I’m confused as to why you haven’t. We have plenty of 80+ days in the late summer/early fall. You seem to be acting like a Mediterranean climate means Hawaii or something. It’s too cold to swim most of the year in Barcelona…

  20. Posted by lol

    Plenty of birthday suits on Baker Beach, but no one in the water. Mediterranean it is not.

  21. Posted by lol

    It’s too cold to swim most of the year in Barcelona…
    They still have 3 months at 70+ degrees. We are lucky if the water is over 60, and the beach over 70. Yes, there’s days with 80 degrees. They’re called October 14th and 15th.

  22. Posted by soccermom

    It’s a new ugly building next to an old ugly theater. Knock down the theater, start from scratch, make it a beautiful or at least coherent site. There’s nothing historically important about hobo pee.

  23. Posted by anon

    They still have 3 months at 70+ degrees. We are lucky if the water is over 60, and the beach over 70. Yes, there’s days with 80 degrees. They’re called October 14th and 15th.
    Ok, so you’ve decided to base your “definition” of Mediterranean climate off of the number of 70+ degree days. Why? That’s a significant minority of the year for Barcelona and San Francisco (and 75 degrees in Barcelona to swim is insane, very few people do it). By any other measure, SF and Barcelona have nearly identical climates and weather – amount of rain, median winter temperatures, etc.
    The fact that you can swim 23 days a year in Barcelona versus 13 days a year in SF seems like a pretty insignificant difference. Again, you seem to be thinking that Mediterranean means something like Hawaiian.

  24. Posted by lol

    you can swim 23 days a year in Barcelona versus 13 days a year in SF
    Try 120 days vs zero.

  25. Posted by lol

    ^ that’d be june 15th to October 15th, by the way.
    Here are the temps for the Barceloneta Beach
    http://marbcn.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2012-01-01T00:00:00%2B01:00&updated-max=2013-01-01T00:00:00%2B01:00&max-results=2

  26. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    extra: these condos won’t “wear a Halloween costume every day”, San Francisco has a long and distinguished connection to Spanish Colonial, Spanish Colonial Revival, Spanish Eclectic and Mediterranean Revival style residential architecture, from the establishment of Mission San Francisco de Asís on forward until today.
    If you don’t like it, just say that.
    The modernism you see exemplified in Dwell doesn’t have any real connection to San Francisco, and I guess that’s part of the point: it’s not native to anywhere, and so wherever it’s built, it tends to make a neighborhood look like it could be anywhere. It’s completely detached from a sense of place.
    There’s no authentic connection to San Francisco to the flavor-of-the-month style modernism you see exemplified in Dwell.
    A bit of history for socketsite comment thread readers who haven’t drunk the Dwell kool aide: modernism was/is the result of a concerted attempt to promote a unified style for modern architecture through an organization called Congres internationaux d’architecture moderne, or CIAM, that was largely the work of Le Corbusier in the mid-20th century. Before it became known as modernism, it was called The International Style.
    CIAM maintained consensus by deliberately excluding the opinions of architects with views about what modern architecture should be that differed with their own.
    IMHO, what Dwell, the S.F. planning commission and the architects that can’t produce anything other than the cast concrete-and-steel structures that show up in those pages are trying to do now is re-establish the CIAM orthodoxy.
    I applaud the designers of this project for having the fortitude to go against the crowd.

  27. Posted by sf

    Uh, the SF climate is cold, wet, gray, and depressing. How are some people even arguing against that?

  28. Posted by anon

    Anyone who thinks SF is “cold” has probably never been outside the nice little California bubble or is used to living somewhere tropical. I just got back from Chicago yesterday – that place is COLD. I’m heading to Prague next week, another astoundingly cold place. SF is appropriately known for its mild Mediterranean climate.

  29. Posted by lol

    Question of opinion. My original post was:
    I wonder if the guys who put SF in the Köppen “Mediterranean Climate” had shares in the local tourist industry.
    My opinion is that weather specialists had to find a classification for “coldish but rather sunny”. Barcelona is a good comparison on several levels, but not all. SF is more like a dry Santander.

  30. Posted by jill

    “By any other measure, SF and Barcelona have nearly identical climates and weather – amount of rain, median winter temperatures, etc.”
    Please pass the crackpipe. I have lived in both. SF for 20. Barcelona for 3. THey are nowhere near the same climate. SF may be like barcelona in march, april, OCt and Nov.
    In may through Sept, SF is more like the English Coast (where I have also lived: Brighton for 1 yr)).
    Dec-Feb in SF is hard to explain. it used to rain 4x wk here during that time, but the last few years have been quite different.
    SF doesn’t ahve a mediterranean climate. the rest of the Bay Area maybe, but not SF.
    ANyway, what does this ahve to do with the architecture. WHo cares? Just make it nice looking and get rid of this fake historic crap. IF its less than 100yrs old, then its not historic

  31. Posted by lol

    Well, in the 60s and 70s many old vics got defaced, slapped with Stucco or even Asbestos tiles. They were not historic at the time. People were also calling them “fake historic crap” too because they were pale copies of 1800s British interpretation of neoclassical architecture.
    The theater is typical of the 1920s style. Not the most brilliant of course. Coincidentally the 1920s were also a decade when the Spanish colonial revival was very much in fashion.
    I think this style is quite an appropriate parallel to the theater. Not optimal, of course, but very easy on the eyes. Something more adapted could have been a late Art Deco / streamlined style with more windows.
    Brutalists will not like it. But that’s a given.

  32. Posted by cbf

    “Uh, the SF climate is cold, wet, gray, and depressing. How are some people even arguing against that?” -SF
    SF is not “cold”…the average high temperature is 65 degrees, the average low is only 51 degrees, It hardly ever freezes, snows even less frequently, there are 5 months where the average high is around 70 degrees, and heatwaves bring temperatures above 80 at least once on most years, sometimes as high as 100 degrees. In what world is that cold?
    As for “gray” and “rainy”, I have no idea what SF you live in. Maybe you spend all your time in the richmond or sunset (which get plenty of sun and warmth in addition to fog and wind, by the way…I would know as I live there myself), and/or are usually inside in a cubicle in the middle of the day when SF sees most of its sunny and warm weather? Or maybe your baseline definition of “not cold and grey” is Phoenix or Sacramento? Which are kind of extreme cases, all things considered…
    SF get more sunshine hours and less rain than most American cities that are not in the southwest. SF only gets 23 inches of rain per year (once again, less than most american cities not in the southwest), nearly all of it in the winter, while the rest of year ranges from very dry to completely dry. And that’s the basic definition of a Mediterranean climate, by the way: mild, wet winters, and warm, dry summers (the only reason summers in much of SF proper are not usually that warm is because of the fog and wind coming off the pacific). As for the comparison to coastal england, that’s not the best comparison. SF gets far more sun and than anywhere in the UK, gets rain only in the winter, unlike the UK, and has slightly higher average temperatures too.
    As someone who has has been all over California, including the central valley, southern California, inland far Nor Cal all in the summer, the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, Hawaii, Mexico, North Carolina in the summer, as well as all over the mid-Atlantic and New England in the summer, I still don’t consider SF to be cold, grey, or depressing… because it really isn’t, objectively speaking.
    “SF doesn’t ahve a mediterranean climate. the rest of the Bay Area maybe, but not SF.” -jill
    What is it with people making up definitions based on their personal opinions?
    You’re wrong, San Francisco DOES have a Mediterranean climate. The entire Bay Area, and much of California has a Mediterranean climate. Places like SF and Oakland have what is called a “warm-summer” (or “cool summer”) Mediterranean climate, due to temperatures being regulated by the cold Pacific ocean (some other cities with this type of climate include Porto and Cape Town). More inland areas like San Jose, the outer east bay, the central valley, and much of the rest of California to the south, has what is called a “hot-summer” Mediterranean climate, because….you guessed it, summers are hotter! Some other cities with this climate are Rome and Barcelona.
    Of course this could all have been cleared quickly up if you had bothered to search google or Wikipedia for “Mediterranean climate”. Or maybe the climatologists and meteorologists (and my horticulture professors and landscaping/gardening bosses here in SF) are all wrong, and the definitions are all wrong, and you’re actually right! I wonder where the truth lies!
    Sorry for the off-topic wall of text, but some funny ideas needed to be corrected.

  33. Posted by lol

    cbf, you didn’t have to climb on your high horse. A quick glance at the posts would tell you that we’re questioning the official classification of SF’s climate as Mediterranean.
    But I’ll bite.
    warm, dry summers.
    Yeah, if you discount the 2+ months of fog going back and forth over 70% of the territory.
    A good comparison would be The southern Atlantic part of Spain: Huelva, Gibraltar, Cadiz.
    Of course this could all have been cleared quickly up if you had bothered to search google or Wikipedia for “Mediterranean climate”.
    Very patronizing. I did just that before posting my original comment:I wonder if the guys who put SF in the Köppen “Mediterranean Climate” had shares in the local tourist industry.
    Why don’t you read other people’s posts before grandstanding?

  34. Posted by anon

    People on this site crack me up about SF weather.
    And is “Mediterranean climate” really used as some kind of positive most of the time? I never hear about people saying, “oh, I loves me some Italy in November cuz’a that Mediterranean climate.” People say that about Hawaii, but not so much about the cold shores of the Mediterranean.
    And looks like we’ll have one of those “rare” 80 degree days three or four days consecutively next week, so here’s your chance to go to the beach.

  35. Posted by anon

    ^All the while Barcelona is shrouded in rain for the next ten forecasted days…

  36. Posted by lol

    looks like we’ll have one of those “rare” 80 degree days three or four days consecutively next week, so here’s your chance to go to the beach.
    Mediterranean on the beach, Northern Pacific in the water.

  37. Posted by Legacy Dude

    I’m surprised you people are still bickering about this. Our climate may be mediterranean by some metereological textbook definition, but in practicality it’s usually mediterranean in a fog bank in a wind tunnel. If you head to Ocean Beach for a nice refreshing swim on a June afternoon, you risk drowning from rip tides or undertow, or getting hypothermia from the upwelling. Not exactly San Tropez or an Estrella Damm commercial.

  38. Posted by anon

    ^Correct, and if you’re walking around Rome, you’re not going to go for a swim in the Mediterranean since it isn’t on the coast, but it would be outlandish to say that Rome doesn’t have a Mediterranean climate.
    lol seems to be convinced that the ability to swim in an immediately adjacent body of saltwater is what determines the entire climate of a place. Strange.

  39. Posted by lol

    Ironical: “Mediterranean” as in “Mediterranean Sea”.
    If you fail to grasp the importance of the Mediterranean Sea on its region climate, there’s nothing much more to say.

  40. Posted by anon

    I fail to see the relation to swimming in a sea and what that has to do with regional climate.
    You’re overly concerned with water temperature, and completely dismissive of air temperature, precipitation, etc (hence your above comment: “Mediterranean on the beach, Northern Pacific in the water”.

  41. Posted by R

    This is potentially the most ridiculous debate ever on Socketsite.
    The sky is blue.
    No it’s green.
    No it’s blue.
    No it’s green. And on and on.
    San Francisco is a ‘Mediterranean climate’, whether anyone chooses to believe it or not.

  42. Posted by lol

    R uses the usual “this is ridiculous” then takes sides.
    everything started from a very simple statement:
    Technically, yes. But I wonder if the guys who put SF in the Köppen “Mediterranean Climate” had shares in the local tourist industry.
    Then anon took whatever he could to try and start a cause celebre. straw, strawmen, the works.

  43. Posted by R

    There is no ‘side’.
    It’s a fact. You can’t take sides on whether it’s a fact or not. It just is.

  44. Posted by lol

    Please re-read my original post that I have reposted already 3 times.

  45. Posted by JustSaying

    I know one city where there is NO debate as to whether the climate is “Mediterranean”, and that is LOS ANGELES. (The city that San Francisco pretends does not exist)

  46. Posted by R

    Yes, lol, we’ve all read your post.
    But then you spent the next two days arguing that it wasn’t a Mediterranean climate.

  47. Posted by lol

    And me and others are saying that it is not. You and anon are saying that it is. Well, we know where we stand.
    These are opinions. Don’t make it into more than what it is.

  48. Posted by R

    It’s not an opinion that we’re in a Mediterranean climate. It’s a fact.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_climate
    I guess if you choose not to believe in facts there’s not much more to say.

  49. Posted by lol

    Already answered.
    {long sigh}

  50. Posted by anon

    Similar conversation with someone today who claimed that there’s no way that the forests around Seattle and Vancouver are rainforests because they’re not hot enough.
    Sigh.
    And @JustSaying, lol would probably claim that Los Angeles isn’t a Mediterranean climate either because the water’s cold sometimes.

  51. Posted by lol

    Well, water can get into the upper 60s or even into the 70s during the summer around Venice Beach.
    Definitely Mediterranean ;)

  52. Posted by SocketSite

    UPDATE: The redevelopment of the Alexandria Theater was approved as proposed.

  53. Posted by REpornaddict

    “In may through Sept, SF is more like the English Coast (where I have also lived: Brighton for 1 yr))”
    as someone who lived in Brighton for 7 byears, I think you are over nostalgizing the Brighton weather! May, June especially here are usually warm, often wet and cloudy in Brighton.
    The British summer, apart from some stretches in August, and a mini Indian summer of a week or so in early Sep, often fails to materialize at all.

  54. Posted by kthnxybe

    Yeah, it’s hideous. But not as hideous as a parking lot and blighted building. I don’t even care anymore, just do something!

  55. Posted by Alai

    So, weather aside, that’s a huge amount of parking! What’s up with that?

  56. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Alai – My guess was that the project is either providing parking for the theater venue or providing replacement parking for the surface lot being built on. Or both.
    Either way this project isn’t exactly in a dense and transit rich part of the city so I can understand why they’re going for more parking.

  57. Posted by G

    This is not an attractive redevelopment or a particularly well thought out plan. I am for redevelopment and favor higher density. However, the proposed plan is unsightly and ill-fitted to its surroundings. Further, I am skeptical of the neighborhood’s capacity to support a movie theater or a new restaurant. Please redevelop this land in a way that creates lasting value. This plan will not do that and should not have been approved.

  58. Posted by anon

    Either way this project isn’t exactly in a dense and transit rich part of the city so I can understand why they’re going for more parking.
    Um, that census tract has a density of 36,000 ppsm. Why do people think the Richmond is not dense? It’s denser than 99.9% of neighborhoods in the US, and denser than most neighborhoods in SF (including the Marina, Pac Heights, etc). It’s roughly the same density as NoPa and denser than Noe Valley.
    Even the transit part I’d question you on – it’s directly on Geary, a street currently in the process of getting hundreds of millions of dollars in transit upgrades and already the busiest bus corridor in the country.
    I’ve never understood the dismissal that the Richmond gets just because it’s west of the center of the city. Very, very strange if you start actually looking at numbers

  59. Posted by In the Med-dle

    anon, Richmond gets dismissed because its not on the Mediterranean side of the City.

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