City Celebrates Ribbon Cutting of Bayview Opera House After Extensive Renovations

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Historic building gets new life as vital arts hub for performing arts and community events and meets today’s ADA and seismic standards

Photo: Lauren Dyer

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Today, Mayor Edwin M. Lee, joined by District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, City department heads, and members of the Bayview community, cut the ribbon on the newly renovated Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theater (BVOH). The celebration marked the end of an extensive renovation project that improved ADA access in and around the historic landmark and transformed the plaza adjacent to the building into a more inviting community gathering space for music and performing arts programs. See more images here.

“I am proud to have the opportunity to celebrate this historic milestone with the Bayview community,” said Mayor Lee. “This facility has been a beloved anchor in the community for generations. With improved access and a wonderful new public plaza where families can gather and enjoy live entertainment and celebrate life events, we are confident that the cultural center will continue to grow its audience and be a beacon for the dynamic Third Street corridor.”

The $5.7 million renovation was led by the San Francisco Arts Commission, which owns the property, in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office on Disability, San Francisco Public Works and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority. Renowned landscape architect and artist Walter Hood of Hood Design in partnership with TEF Design/Knapp Architects, Joint Venture oversaw the redesign of the plaza, which improves the streetscape of the entire intersection at Third and Newcomb.

The plaza expands the cultural center’s programming potential with a newly designed wood stage and permanent seating surrounded by sustainable landscaping, including a grassy area that was created especially for children’s activities and larger community-wide events.

“I am delighted and looking forward to seeing the Opera house re-opening, and witnessing the next generation of students and artist grow. The Bayview Opera House is a critically important and historic cultural institution for the City, nestled in the heart and soul of the Bayview,” said District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, “I applaud the San Francisco Arts Commission and its partners, on this incredible transformation.”

The architects worked closely with the Mayor’s Office on Disability to develop a design that was sensitive to the historic character of the building, while making much needed upgrades for accessibility and functionality. The exterior entry staircase was enlarged and connected with elevated walkways to the side porch and back stage, creating a more operational and seamlessly accessible facility that improves circulation throughout the compound. Interior improvements include three fully accessible ADA restrooms and seismic stabilization of the historic balcony. Extensive dry-rot mitigation, resulted in an entirely new south facing wall, which is located behind the outdoor stage.

Deborah Frieden & Associates provided valuable consultation to ensure that the project captured the community’s priorities, served its primary purpose as an arts center and maintained the historic features of the building while meeting 21st-century needs.

According to Hood, “The design is owed in large part from the many meetings and conversations I had with members of the community who wanted to see an increase in access and a high quality, welcoming space, which I believe we’ve achieved in the creation of an elegant new entrance, an exterior glass walkway connecting the Newcomb Street entrance and the stage area, and enhanced program area. The community empowered us through their passionate appeal to ‘give the Opera House back to the community!’ The new design is inspired by this mantra…..the new walkways are the embrace of the community.”

“We know from the monthly ‘3rd on Third’ street celebration that bringing the arts out into the open and into the core of a commercial corridor can boost local business and bring a community together,” said San Francisco Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny, “Providing a beautifully designed plaza dedicated to the arts ensures that the community can now have a breadth of outdoor activities, from street festivals to fine arts. The new plaza is living proof that accessible design can be both functional and beautiful.”

“I am very excited and proud to be a part of this project as director of San Francisco Public Works and as a long-time resident of this neighborhood,” said Mohammed Nuru. “The Bayview Opera House is a community gem, the town center of our neighborhood. These improvements will ensure that one of San Francisco’s oldest buildings will continue to serve generations to come. As our neighborhoods continue to evolve, it’s important to have places like the Bayview Opera House to remind us of our history.”

Additional project support was provided by: OneSF, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the Community Challenge Grant program, Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure and Office of Economic and Workforce Development. This project also was made possible by the generous support of The Kaiser Permanente and the John & Marcia Goldman Foundation.

“We are excited to welcome the community back into the Bayview Opera House for the fall grand reopening. We can’t wait to activate the incredible new space with live performances and to see it continue to flourish as the neighborhood cultural hub,” stated Theo Ellington, BVOH Board Vice President.

About Walter Hood
Walter Hood, an artist, designer, and educator, is the Creative Director and Founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, CA. He is also a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and lectures on professional and theoretical projects nationally and internationally. Hood Design Studio, founded in 1992, engages landscape, urban site design and planning, art installations and research, unveiling the emergent beauty, strangeness, subjectivity, and idiosyncrasies of place. Walter and his work have been featured in publications including Dwell, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fast Company, Architectural Digest, and Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Walter Hood’s own writings include his monographs “Urban Diaries” and “Blues & Jazz Landscape Improvisations,” which won an ASLA Research Award in 1996. Other writings appeared in the Princeton Press, “Diversity and Design,” Routledge, “The Mesh Book,” MIT Press, “Nordic Architecture and Landscape,” Archipress and “Climates: Architecture and the Planetary Imaginary,” Columbia Books.

About the San Francisco Arts Commission
The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC), the $24 million City agency that champions the arts as essential to daily life by investing in a vibrant arts sector, enlivening the urban environment and shaping innovative cultural policy. Established by San Francisco’s City Charter in 1932, the SFAC is charged with overseeing the design quality of all new public infrastructure, stewarding the Cultural Equity and Cultural Center Endowments (totaling over $6 million in annual grant investments) and implementing San Francisco’s ‘2% for Art’ public art ordinance. Additionally, the SFAC manages San Francisco’s street artist licensing program as well as oversees the capital management of four city-owned cultural centers, three public exhibition spaces and San Francisco’s Civic Art Collection, which includes over 3,500 objects worth an estimated $90 million.

About Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theater
Built by the Masons in 1888, the BVOH, is the oldest standing theater in San Francisco and survived both the earthquake and fire in 1906. It is the first and so far only building in San Francisco’s District 10 to be included in the National Register of Historic Places. Run by the non-profit, Bayview Opera House, Inc., the facility is dedicated to providing arts education for at-risk youth year-round for free or at a low cost. The organization also presents many cultural events throughout the year for all ages, including art exhibits, concerts, plays and community celebrations, as well as the recently established 3rd on Third event.
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Mayor’s Office of Communications, 415-554-6131
San Francisco Arts Commission, Kate Patterson
T: 415-252-4638 E: