Teatro ZinZinni’s tent will be reconstructed at the site of a parking lot between Davis and Vallejo streets. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)

SF Planning Commission gives greenlight to Teatro ZinZanni, hotel and park at waterfront

Teatro ZinZanni will return to San Francisco, along with a hotel and a new public park.

Teatro ZinZanni will return to San Francisco, along with a hotel and a new public park, as part of a waterfront development project that received the San Francisco Planning Commission’s approval Thursday.

“Ever since Teatro ZinZanni closed, I wanted them to come back. It was a big disappointment when the port and city could not find a location for them. We need them back,” Janet Clyde, owner of North Beach’s Vesuvio Cafe, said about the world famous circus displaced by the 2013 America’s Cup.

The commissioners agreed. Teatro ZinZinni’s tent will be reconstructed as part of a 26,100-square-foot entertainment venue on a lot currently used for parking between Davis and Vallejo streets, the commission decided with a unanimous vote. A 192-room hotel and a 14,000-square-foot public part are also part of the deal, which has been some four years in the making.

Per planning documents for the development, which spans Seawall Lots 323 and 324, two existing parking lots will be demolished to make room for the project’s three components. The hotel is expected to open in 2021, pending approval by the Board of Supervisors and the Port Authority.

Architect Mark Hornberger said that in recent years, the project’s sponsors have had more than “90 meetings with neighborhood groups and members of the community … and have tried to bring the best ideas together in a building that’s compatible with the district and its neighbors.”

While the commission received some letters in opposition from neighbors concerned about the loss of parking space, about a dozen people who spoke in support at the hearing on Thursday urged the commissioners to greenlight the project, including members of labor and hotel unions as well as former Teatro ZinZanni actors and employees.

“Not only do we produce a show that spreads joy and inspiration around the community but the performers go out into the community and work at different circus centers in town,” said Kathy Rose, Teatro ZinZanni’s former production manager. “We are the epitome of world class circus in the Bay Area.

Cynthia Gomez, a research analyst with UNITE Here Local 2, said that the hotel workers union said the project should be approved on the grounds that it will provide living wage jobs to San Francisco.

“It’s supporting jobs for the construction and staffing of the hotel that will allow a living wage in San Francisco, which is no small thing,” said Gomez.

Commissioner Joel Koppel said that “a lot of people lost their jobs” when circus closed “overnight.”

“This is a tremendous opportunity if approved here today,” he said. “This is in my opinion the best night out in San Francisco, hands-down. It has everything — it’s completely international , demonstrates arts, culture, hospitality, live music, comedy, dance, acrobats and circus performances it’s literally unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced here in San Francisco.”


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