Cottage fire reignites talk about desolate land

A tiny fire outside a historic Hunters Point cottage may have been doused by firefighters, but the blaze has reignited the debate over the abandoned plot of land.

Firefighters were called to the Shipwrights Cottage at 8:01 p.m. Monday to find a small grass blaze threatening the 132-year-old structure. Less than 15 minutes later, the fire was under control, Fire Department Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.

The flames did not damage the cottage, but firefighters did break down the front door of the structure.

“Our crews accessed the interior to make sure the fire didn’t spread inside,” Talmadge said, adding that fire was not being investigated as arson.

It’s just the latest blip in a long history for the building at 900 Innes St. It used to house ship builders and then served as an office for the for San Francisco Bay’s ship-making industry, which boomed in an era when produce was delivered from the San Joaquin Delta by boat.

In 2008, the 76 acres of waterfront land were donated to the Tenderloin Housing Clinic by local developer Joe Cassidy. The nonprofit organization plans on building affordable housing at the site, although those plans have been held up because of zoning issues, Tenderloin Housing Clinic Executive Director Randy Shaw said.

Shortly after the transfer, the Board of Supervisors approved the building as an historical landmark. Since then, according to neighborhood advocates, the site has fallen into disrepair.

Shaw said his nonprofit can’t afford to provide the insurance, and that he is more than willing to provide access for neighbors to restore the cottage. As for the fire, Shaw said the circumstances sounded suspicious.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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