The Columbus Tower building on Thursday, July 30, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Francis Ford Coppola to turn part of landmark Columbus Tower into boutique hotel

Famed ‘Godfather’ director speaks about North Beach plans at local hearing

The famed film director Francis Ford Coppola got the green light Thursday to convert several floors of the landmark Columbus Tower in North Beach into hotel rooms.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the plans after Coppola, who directed films like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, called into the virtual hearing to speak about his love for North Beach and affinity for the building.

Coppola recalled his “first glimpse” of the landmark at 916 Kearny St., which is also known as the Sentinel Building, and said it was “really love at first sight.”

“The idea that it could be mine and that our fledgling film company could be based there was hard to believe,” Coppola said. “It stood proudly as a symbol of North Beach, the kind of bohemian neighborhood I’d always dreamt about, the home of so much history and so many legends.”

Coppola purchased the building in 1972. The building currently has office space for a variety of companies including his own on the second through seventh floors. The eighth floor is home to a private residence, while the first floor is restaurant space used for Café Zoetrope.

The plans call for converting floors three through seven into hotel rooms with the capacity to accommodate 15 guests.

The other floors will largely remain the same.

While the bottom-floor cafe named after Coppola and George Lucas’s film company, American Zoetrope, will continue serving patrons, it will be slightly reduced in size to accommodate a hotel lobby area.

“I am more than delighted to support repurposing of the office space to hotel,” said Planning Commissioner Kathrin Moore. “This particular building has been an inspiration to me for the many, many years that I have lived right around the corner from it.”

Due to the need for construction and permitting, the hotel is not expected to open until after The City begins recovering from the lull in tourism caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coppola said the hotel could serve as a major contributor to the post-coronavirus rebirth of the North Beach.

“It’s my thought that the North Beach of today, maimed by fires, heartbreaking vacancies and this pandemic, but still remains The City’s center of desirable bohemianism, could be reborn and spread out from all sides of a small new boutique Sentinel Building hotel,” Coppola said.

The commission approved the plans without opposition.

This story has been updated to include additional information.

dsjostedt@sfexaminer.com

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