Historic recording studios sing last song

An array of history-steeped music recording studios in the Tenderloin used since 1969 by influential bands and artists such as Santana and The Grateful Dead will be cleared out to make way for condominiums.

The historic two-story Film Exchange Building at the corner of Hyde and Eddy streets was built in 1930 as a storage and distribution center for film studios including 20th Century Fox and MGM, according to city documents.

Various recording studios have leased space in the building since the late 1960s, including current tenants Hyde Street Studios, which took over the rooms and equipment in 1980, according to the company’s Web site.

On Thursday, the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved plans to preserve the building’s façade but gut its interior and replace the 9,000 square feet of studio space and 18,000 square feet of vacant space with 65 condominiums.

Commissioners approved the project on the condition that property manager AF Evans place a plaque outside the converted building with a list of famous albums that were recorded there.

Los Angeles-based engineer and producer Mark Needham said he has used the studios for decades to record artists, including a yet-to-be-released album by Chris Isaak.

“Some of the biggest rock albums of all time were recorded in those studios,” Needham said. “That was the place to go.”

The studios are the oldest in San Francisco and they’re among the oldest in the Bay Area, Hyde Street Studios owner Michael Ward said.

“A lot of deeply impactful stuff has come out of here and continues to come out of here,” Ward said.

Ward acknowledged that the building could generate a lot more money for its owners if converted into condos, saying the studios raked in more dollars per hour in the 1960s than today.

“It’s a stupid business from a monetary point of view — it doesn’t make any sense, but we soldier on,” Ward said.

Ward said he hopes to relocate his company and its valuable equipment “if and when” it’s forced to abandon the painstakingly fine-tuned studios.

AF Evans Company project manager Jaqui Braver said a construction timeline will be prepared once building permits have been secured. The condos are expected to need 75 new parking spaces, but following a growing trend in The City, the developers will not be required to provide any additional parking.

jupton@examiner.com

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