The gray, stone-faced Masonic Memorial Temple atop Nob Hill has been the Masons of California’s headquarters and, since 1958, a concert hall; musicians Van Morrison and Sinead O’Connor are among its upcoming headliners.
Since 2008, the building’s owners have been stymied in their efforts to capitalize on the site’s entertainment potential. Temple owners the California Masonic Memorial Temple and the venue’s concessionaire, Live Nation, have been in court for years with neighbors who opposed what they saw as an expansion of the tame temple into another of The City’s rowdy concerts halls.
Live Nation and the Masons have disagreed with the residents’ position, arguing they only intend to renovate the interior of the 1111 California St. temple, which has been a venue for decades.
On Thursday, the Planning Commission signed off on the last few hurdles for that renovation: an environmental review that found no negative impacts and a conditional use permit to permanently serve alcohol; both steps following a January court settlement between the parties.
That fight has included four court cases and numerous Planning Commission decisions.
The agreement — which was facilitated, according to community group leaders, by District 3 Supervisor and board President David Chiu — called for 50 conditions. They included limiting the amount and type of events, noise reduction measures, controls on alcohol consumption and a community monitoring group.
The settlement agreement additionally requires Live Nation and the Masons to pay the Huntington Park preservation fund $100,000 a year for the next three years, $30,000 annually afterward and 50 cents per ticket sold.
The money will be administered by the Nob Hill Foundation, an arm of the Nob Hill Association.
“We are very happy with how we ended up,” said Greg Galanos, a board member of the association and president of the Nob Hill Coalition, both parties to the settlement agreement.
But Linda Chapman, one of two opponents at the Planning Commission’s hearing, said the agreement won’t stop the venue from turning Nob Hill into a busy, loud and traffic-filled mess. What’s more, she claimed the process was flawed since a small group of self-appointed people made all the calls.
Not so, said Commissioners Katherin Moore and Rich Hillis, who pointed out that the process had given people in the neighborhood a say and the conditions are an example of that.
“We’ve agreed to … conditions,” said Live Nation California Chief Operating Officer Matt Prieshoff, adding they are more onerous than at any other venue the company runs.
The facility’s main floor seating will be removed and the stage will be renovated, along with the addition of a commercial kitchen and additional bars in the lobby. The temple will be allowed to hold 79 large events with more than 250 people annually, only 54 of which can be concerts.
All of this, said Galanos, will allow the Masonic Temple to “go head to head with the Fox” Theater in Oakland.