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Heritage 50: Artists Fight to Preserve the Goodman Building


The Goodman Building, n.d. Heritage Archives. 

Located at 1117 Geary between Van Ness and Franklin streets, the Goodman Building was saved from destruction at the hands of San Francisco’s Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) by artist commune the Goodman Group in the 1970s. Built as four Victorian residences in 1860 and converted to a residential hotel to fill housing needs after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, for decades the building served as a center for art, performance, and learning.

An example of an event held at the Goodman Building, on March 24, 1974. Foundsf.org.

As the last survivor of low rent, easy access, communal living spaces in the city, the Goodman Building had received many refugees from artists’ hotels across the city when they were demolished or converted to more profitable uses. In piece posted on FoundSF, Martha Senger described the Goodman Building’s community of artists during the early 1970s:

When I first moved in, some thirty artists and assorted visionaries lived there, including an anthropologist-filmmaker, an architect-astrologer, a Buddhist printmaker, two leaders of the neo-Dada movement, and a quite mad concert pianist on the top floor. Janis Joplin had lived in a small room on the second floor in the early sixties, as had Wes Wilson, who created the first Psychedelic posters in his studio there…People would emerge from their private spaces to exchange ideas in the hall, the dining room or kitchen, then disappear into another’s studio to look at their work or perhaps borrow a piece of equipment or get advice on some technique. Invariably they’d be given some information or opportunity they had been seeking though perhaps not consciously.

The Goodman Building, n.d. Heritage Archives. 

When the building was acquired by the SFRA in 1973, residents found eviction notices plastered on their doors. Tenants fought for their home for the next 10 years, meeting weekly to plot strategy, writing grants, and brainstorming alternatives to the city’s proposals for the building. Dozens of organizations rallied to the cause, including San Francisco Heritage. The Board of Supervisors unanimously designated the Goodman Building as a San Francisco Landmark on January 20, 1975 in an appeal hearing which overruled the Planning Commission and upheld a SF Landmarks Board vote. According to Senger, many supervisors made it clear they were supporting the designation not because of the building’s architectural significance, but because of its use by artists and the special value of that. The Goodman Group also successfully advocated to add the building to the National Register of Historic Places on June 18, 1975, which made the building eligible for rehabilitation grants. The Goodman Group’s continuing efforts to save the building also included working with the Landmarks Board to prevent demolition of eight attached (rear) Victorian flats.

In June 1976, the Goodman Group, acting under Heritage’s sponsorship, received a grant of $10,000 from the National Endowment from the Arts to support “a full-scale program of research and feasibility planning designed to save the building, and to further develop its cultural resources for the community and its residents.” To perform the task, the Goodman Group retained architectural and planning firm Marquis Associates to conduct a broadly based, multi-disciplinary study. The study was aimed at providing low-cost housing for the present occupants of the building, allowing residents to perform as much self-help as possible in improving the structure, making the building as safe as possible in case of fire, and bringing mechanical systems of the building up to code. These aims were determined through much participatory planning between building residents and their consultants. The study showed definitively that it was economical to save the Goodman Building if they pursued a low cost, low impact rehabilitation.

Senger on what it was like during their fight:

Plus, the whole time we were creating complex strategies for saving the building…Also, people’s individual work flourished at an unprecedented level throughout all this with the ongoing support of the Group which, unbelievably, met every Monday night for ten years! It was this that kept the whole thing sane and centered through an incredible number and variety of activities and changes.

Then the Goodman Group formed a nonprofit development corporation, called GOODCO, that put these strategies together in an offer and presented it to the SFRA. However, Redevelopment refused their offer, claiming that the residential hotel rehabilitation plan did not fit their standards for individual self-contained ‘units’ with their own kitchen and baths.

Thus, the residents managed to successfully save the building from demolition, but they themselves lost it as a living space and were evicted in 1983 (the building was given to a developer for transformation into low-income housing). In a letter to the Redevelopment Agency, SF Chronicle architectural critic Allan Temko wrote: “Now that the building is to be saved, are we to lose everything we fought for?”

The Goodman 2 building in 2019. Photo by Chris Carlsson.

In the end, the Goodman Group’s protest did bring a key concession. The city, under then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein, offered the displaced artists $570,000 to find a new building. But Senger and others found nothing they could afford, and many of the residents moved to the Cadillac Hotel in the hard heart of the Tenderloin, or left the city. Thirteen years after they were evicted from the old Goodman Building, the remaining artists, which changed their nonprofit from GOODCO to ARTSDECO (Artspace Development Corporation), found a new place to live and create in 1996. “Goodman 2,” as the new arts community was called, was built with 30 studios wrapped around a three-story atrium with a sunny back garden at 18th and Arkansas in Potrero Hill.

Today, the original Goodman Building houses a mix of office space and retail shops, and ARTSDECO owns and operates below market rate live/work units at Goodman 2 dedicated to working artists from San Francisco.

Opening April 17, 2021: Living in the Past


Living the in the Past:
An artist residency project with Jeremy Fish
When: Saturday, April 17, 2021 – June 6, 2021
Location: 215 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

At the end of 2020, San Francisco visual artist Jeremy Fish completed a three-month residency at Heritage’s Doolan-Larson Residence and Storefronts, a National Treasure and city landmark at the corner of Haight and Ashbury. The residency and exhibition, Living in the Past, is supported by San Francisco Grants for the Arts program and will open on April 17 at Haight Street Art Center (215 Haight Street).

The upper Haight is at once one of San Francisco’s best-known and most troubled neighborhoods: the former epicenter of the 1960s counterculture that has since then been both a bustling commercial and residential area as well as a magnet for people experiencing addiction and homelessness. Compounding epidemics in healthcare, systemic racism, and economic inequality have made a difficult situation worse, and like many neighborhoods in San Francisco, the Upper Haight, its businesses, and residents are facing existential threats.

Fish’s artwork is a testament to the history of the Upper Haight – its most famous residents and meeting places; its architecture and character – and the stories that hover over every foot of ground there. His living at the corner of Haight and Ashbury at this moment infuses the poignancy of these images: the fear and hope we all feel now. The exhibition asks how we can best serve the people and the places that make the Haight unique, and central to San Francisco. Most of the work is for sale, both online at haightstreetart.org/livinginthepast and in person at 215 Haight St.

Community Voices: Preserving American Indian Culture in San Francisco


AICD board members Morning Star Gali (left) and April McGill (middle) with Sharaya Souza and at an Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in 2020. Morning Star is Executive Director for Restoring Justice for Indigenous Peoples and is with the International Indian Treaty Council, and April is the Executive Director of the American Indian Cultural Center. Photo by Norm Sands.

This piece was originally published in the April-June 2021 issue of Heritage News. Find the printed version (abridged) here.

BY SHARAYA SOUZA with Mary Travis-Allen and Gregg Castro

sharaya souza

Sharaya Souza

Sharaya Souza (Taos Pueblo, Ute, Kiowa) is the Executive Director and co-founder of the American Indian Cultural District (AICD). She is an ambassador for promoting equitable resource distribution to Native American communities, increasing Native visibility and political representation, and protecting and preserving tribal cultural resources in

the San Francisco Bay Area. To help answer the following questions from Heritage, Sharaya collaborated with AICD board president Mary Travis- Allen (Mayagna, Chortega, Seneca) and AICD advisory board member Gregg Castro (t’rowt’raahl Salinan, Rumsien-Ramaytush Ohlone).

The Ramaytush Ohlone are the original people of San Francisco (Yelamu). What would you like people to know about the Ramaytush Ohlone and Yelamu?

[Gregg Castro] San Francisco claims to have a long history, but most of the real history here is unknown. San Francisco has been established for less than 200 years; in Indigenous times that is merely the blink of an eye. Our ancient oral traditional narratives passed down from our ancestors tell us that we have been here since the beginning of time. Even archeological evidence has shown that Ramaytush peoples have lived on the Peninsula for more than 10,000 years.

This means our people have been here longer, and we know this area better. Even though our story of sojourn during the colonial time is rooted in tragic narratives of the Missions, slavery, disease, and genocide (as with most American Indians), and even though known anthropologists falsely labeled our people as “extinct,” we are still the original caretakers of this land and always have been. The Creator gave us a sacred duty to steward this land, and through gratitude we have an obligation to make sure it is cared for in the best way possible, that includes all life and people within it.

Michelle Antone, April, Sharaya, and Manny Lieras at the Annual Indigenous Peoples Thanksgiving Sunrise Gathering on Alcatraz, November 25, 2020. Photo by Morning Star Gali.

What is the American Indian Cultural District (AICD), and what is its vision?

Founded on March 31, 2020, the American Indian Cultural District (AICD) is the first established Cultural District of its size in the United States dedicated to recognizing, honoring, and celebrating the American Indian legacy, culture, people, and contributions. The Cultural District provides a recognized home base for the American Indian community to ensure that American Indian culture, history, and contributions will not be forgotten or overwritten. AICD is located in the Mission neighborhood but serves as a hub for the greater San Francisco American Indian community.

The Cultural District is made up of two staff, Advisory Board Members, and the Native American Community Coalition. The Advisory Board consists of local American Indian service organizations, elders, youth, and tribal representatives. The Native American Community Coalition consists of a wide range of community members who serve on special interest Councils such as the Elders Council, Youth Council, Two Spirit Council, and the Culture & Wellness Council. Collectively we serve the local American Indian community by preserving and celebrating our unique cultures, strengthening our voices, and increasing our visibility so we can obtain equitable resources, funding, and opportunities for American Indian people. Overall, we seek to empower the urban American Indian community and work together to heal centuries of systemic oppression and racism so we can secure the tools and resources we need to serve our own people. We believe that culturally relevant and culturally competent initiatives are created and enacted by American Indians for American Indians.

What does a meaningful effort to engage in cultural preservation look like for the American Indian community and why is it important?

To create meaningful opportunities for cultural preservation with the American Indian community, you must let American Indian people determine what is valuable and let us define the criteria and process for identifying cultural resources and implementing cultural preservation. We are the original people, the traditional stewards of the lands of the United States, and thus American Indians have a unique relationship and responsibility to the land that does not exist in any other community.

The reason why meaningful engagement is so important is because current and historic cultural preservation efforts in the city, including those led by the San Francisco Planning Department and San Francisco Heritage, have failed to include a cultural lens for documenting and preserving cultural heritage that is inclusive or reflective of the values of the American Indian community. This has left local tribal cultural resources undocumented and unprotected. For example, San Francisco Heritage uses the National Register, Bulletin 38 definition of Traditional Cultural Properties (TCPs) in their 2014 policy paper, Sustaining San Francisco’s Living History. The issue with Bulletin 38 is the broad range of “historical property types” that have rigorous guidelines on continued use and the structural integrity of a site. First Nation people not only have unique cultural resources that cannot always be documented using that criteria, but we are the only group that can trace their connections to the land and resources to prehistoric times; thus, merging traditional cultural resource preservation with a broad range of TCPs does not give respect to the unique relationships and knowledge of First Nation people.

For American Indians, cultural heritage preservation and tribal cultural resource documentation is not just about preserving structures of the past, it is about living culture, passed down knowledge and traditions, and a relationship and responsibility to the land that exists beyond the lifespan and the lens of a physical structure. Tribal cultural resources can encompass sites, features, places, landscapes, sacred places, and objects that have cultural value to Native American people and tribes. To create credence for American Indian values, AICD and the Association of Ramaytush Ohlone have started working with Planning and SF Heritage through meaningful engagement and consultation to create culturally relevant criteria.

From 1970 to 1988, the American Indian Center was located at 225-229 Valencia Street. Originally built in 1914 for the Serbian Benevolent Society, this building housed a wide variety of services, programming, and resources for the American Indian community. Max Kirkeberg Collection, San Francisco State University.

The Cultural District ordinance refers to significant American Indian cultural sites. Can you share some important cultural sites and their significance?

Sites that hold significance to the American Indian community are not just about existing historic buildings. They are also about sites that used to be, and knowledge passed down through oral storytelling that ties the significance of place to our history and culture despite continued use or integrity of the existing area or structure. Sites listed in the AICD ordinance include a wide range of places, from village sites, to cultural centers, event spaces, and Native-owned businesses.

For example, the American Indian Cultural District ordinance highlights the significance of the original locations for the American Indian Centers on 495 Valencia Street and 229 Valencia Street from the 1950s to 1988. The first SF Indian Center was established in the 1950s by the Society of St. Vincent De Paul and later turned over to American Indian Council of the Bay Area in the 1960s. These centers were (and still are) staples for the community. Prior to the fire [that destroyed the first center at 495 Valencia Street] on October 10, 1969, it was estimated that the Indian Center served thirty thousand Native people.

While these sites are no longer active American Indian Centers, they still reflect an important part of our living history, where Native people from many Nations gathered to provide resources, create cultural-based programming, share their culture with one another, and build a strong network. Today, the American Indian Center is known as the American Indian Cultural Center (AICC), which is currently a recognized virtual Cultural Center.

Other sites mentioned in the ordinance include the Al Smith’s Indian Trading Post (2200 Mission Street) and Warren’s Slaughterhouse Bar. These two sites were either across the street, or around the corner from the American Indian Centers, creating a small intertribal village in the cultural district once known as “the Little Rez.” Warren’s Bar (1960s -1970s), known today in a new structure as Este Noche, was once known as the most famous “Indian Bar,” where community members would gather to learn about potential housing, jobs, and inter-tribal politics. Famous Native activist Richard Oakes got his first job at Warren’s. Oakes was known for helping lead the Red Power Movement including the 1969 Occupation of Alcatraz, leading the first Native American Studies Department at San Francisco State University, influencing major positive changes in federal Indian policy, and leading successful tribal land return efforts.

In the book Journey to Freedom: Richard Oakes, Alcatraz, and the Red Power Movement, author Kent Blansett describes the importance of gatherings spaces like Warren’s Bar:

This atmosphere fostered much-needed Intertribal interactions. These bars often cut across class lines, as the necessity arose to interact with other Natives who possessed a shared history and a common background. Bars were also places that promoted social interaction through dating or “cruising” for dates. For newcomers to the city, bars were places where they met or located people from their community and established networks of friends. These networks were crucial for sustaining and building an Intertribal community, in that they imparted survival skills to new migrants within the urban environment. Political organizers in the community took advantage of these networks for lobbying purposes.

Preserving the history and stories of these spaces, and of traditional Ramaytush Ohlone cultural sites is vital as they are fundamental starting points for our ongoing narrative. They shape who we are as an intertribal urban American Indian community today and highlight the importance of the work that we do with the American Indian Cultural District, coalition of local American Indian organizations, our Ramaytush Ohlone relatives, and all our community members. As one Washoe elder shared with us, “I am excited about the hope for a new Urban Rez in the Cultural District, it has been a long time since I could feel proud to be American Indian in San Francisco. Growing up here I was afraid to be Indian because people would pull on my braids and ask me where I am from; now I can gather with my people once again, put on a skirt, and feel pride.”

To subscribe to the American Indian Cultural District’s mailing list and to donate in support of their work, visit americanindianculturaldistrict.org/news-updates.

Heritage 50: Splendid Survivors, Part II


San Francisco Heritage is celebrating its 50th anniversary all through 2021. Each week we will share a short chapter of our history.

Heritage executive director Grant Dehart shows Mayor Dianne Feinstein a map of threatened downtown buildings, May 7, 1982. (Photo by Margaret Lucke.)

by Woody LaBounty

Heritage’s Downtown Survey, conducted in 1977–1978 and immortalized in the book Splendid Survivors, shifted dynamics between the young nonprofit organization and the San Francisco Planning Department. Often on opposite sides of the table in individual preservation battles, Heritage and Planning became partners in the survey, working together to identify evaluation ratings and methodologies compatible with San Francisco’s architectural landscape and history. Planning Director Dean Macris demonstrated the level of growing mutual respect when he nominated Splendid Survivors for a national award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.1

This new shared understanding and the project’s completion reaped dividends almost immediately. Survey ratings of historic buildings from the survey began being cited in environmental impact reports (EIRs), in public hearings, and in the media. In May 1980, the Planning Commission adopted an official list of significant downtown buildings, incorporating all of the “A-” (highest priority for preservation) and “B–rated” buildings listed in Splendid Survivors. Importantly, the consensus of opinion over the validity of building ratings began to change development plans. Instead of a rumored proposal to demolish the Hunter-Dulin Building at 111 Sutter Street, Crocker Bank incorporated preserving both it and the ground floor of the banking temple at 1 Montgomery Street in its new headquarters plan.2

California Pacific Building at 105 Montgomery Street avoided demolition in 1981 thanks in part to Heritage’s survey work. (Heritage Archives)

When corporations didn’t retain historic buildings in their development designs they faced the potential of true resistance from city agencies. Splendid Survivors’ rating and historical information for 105 Montgomery Street was influential in the Planning Commission’s rejection of a demolition proposal for the California Pacific Building in 1981.3

Despite individual wins, intense pressure on San Francisco real estate continued to eradicate historic structures downtown. In the two years after Splendid Survivors was published, three of its A-rated buildings, nine of its B-rated, and 16 of its C-rated buildings were demolished. In the downtown survey’s “secondary areas,” the story was the same. South of Market Street redevelopment for the Moscone and Yerba Buena Centers endangered historic warehouses and boarding houses. Low-income Tenderloin apartment buildings from the early 20th century were targeted for replacement by large hotels.4

On May 7, 1982, Mayor Dianne Feinstein met with Heritage staff in recognition of Historic Preservation Week in San Francisco. More than just a photo op, executive director Grant Dehart and Splendid Survivors author Michael Corbett made sure to show her a map of historic buildings demolished in the three years since the book had been published.

But the tide of public opinion began to turn against new downtown high-rises. Office space in downtown San Francisco had more than doubled between 1965 and 1981 and various interest groups united to resist the “Manhattan-ization” of San Francisco.

The Planning Department began drafting “Guiding Downtown Development,” a new policy report that included preservation guidelines heavily reliant on Heritage contributions and input, including ideas from a Heritage-commissioned study by John Sanger and Associates, “Preservation Strategy for Downtown San Francisco.” Heritage also extended surveying with more information on the downtown’s secondary areas and by 1983 had delivered to the city an additional 1,500 building evaluations in the C-3 zoning area. As the Planning Department put out revised versions of its growing guideline and policy recommendations, the report began being called simply “The Downtown Plan.”

Elements of the plan appeared on five different ballot propositions over the next few years, but in the end only one of these “anti-high-rise” propositions—a measure around shadow-casting over certain parks—succeeded in being passed. Finally, in September 1985, the Board of Supervisors adopted a Downtown Plan by a one-vote margin.

In addition to new design guidelines, limits on new office construction, a lowering of building heights, and a requirement for developers to contribute open-space parks onsite, a number of preservation elements were established. Two-hundred-and-fifty top-rated historic buildings were listed as resources to be conserved, while the retention of 182 contributory buildings was “encouraged.” Six historic districts were created. Transfer of Development rights (TDRs) allowed development potential from historic downtown buildings to be siphoned to other sites.

San Francisco Examiner wondering if the Downtown Plan would lead to a “snazzier” city, September 11, 1985.

The Downtown Plan did not relieve the city’s development pressures, nor did it satisfy most preservationists or those hoping to stop the proliferation of skyscrapers. My favorite quote is from San Francisco Examiner columnist Bill Mandel who wrote that the “Downtown Sham” promised “to control San Francisco’s permanent case of high-rise fever about as well as Casper Weinberger controls the Pentagon’s spending spree.”5 The glass towers did indeed keep coming, redirected a few blocks to South of Market as evidenced by today’s mirrored- and smokey-glass jungle ruled by the polarizing Salesforce Tower.

But there is no doubt the plan saved hundreds of significant historic structures and kept intact relevant streetscapes that could have been shattered apart by the invasion of single ill-conceived boxy office building. The preservation elements of the Downtown Plan germinated from Heritage’s survey work, Heritage’s downtown strategy reports, and the publication of “Splendid Survivors.” Linda Jo Fitz, Heritage’s first employee, has said the effort, in sum, was the most important thing Heritage has ever done.


1. Grant Dehart, “Plaudits Due for the Planners,” Heritage Newsletter, Volume XI, No. 2, Summer 1983.

2. “Heritage in 1979,” Heritage Newsletter, Volume VIII, Number 2, July/August 1980.

3. “The California Pacific Building Victory,” Heritage Newsletter, Volume X, No. 2, Spring 1982.

4. “Two Years Later: Splendid Survivors and the Downtown,” Heritage Newsletter, Volume IX, Number 3, Summer 1981.

5. Bill Mandel, “The Downtown Sham,” San Francisco Examiner, June 23, 1955, page A2.