Fairmont Hotel


900 Mason Street at California
Built 1906; 1960s
Reid Brothers; Julia Morgan

Brief History

The Fairmont Hotel in Nob Hill. Photo by Wally Gobetz on Flickr.

The Fairmont Hotel was conceived and financed by Tessie Fair Oelrichs, the daughter of Senator James G. Fair, who made his fortune in the Comstock silver mines.  She hired James and Merrit Reid to design a six-hundred room hotel in the Italian Renaissance style.  The 1906 Earthquake and Fire damaged the Fairmont to the point that many experts thought that it could not be salvaged. Although the structure survived, the interior was heavily damaged by fire, and opening was delayed until 1907. Architect and engineer Julia Morgan was hired to repair the building.

Current Project Background

A residential conversion project calls for the replacement of the 1960s tower and podium with a 26-story residential tower and five-story mid-rise townhouses. It also includes renovations to the historic 1906 structure for conversion into a boutique hotel.

The luxurious lobby of the Fairmont Hotel. Photo by Jonathan Caves on Flickr.

A Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR)  is currently under review of the Planning Department. The Planning Commission did not certify the document at a hearing on Oct 21, 2010, as the vote was tied 3-3. The dissenting commissioners asked for more information on the project, specifically regarding traffic and construction impacts and questions about whether the existing hotel tower could be remodeled to accommodate the planned condominium units. The Major Environmental Analysis department of the Planning Department is in the process of revising the EIR to address the commissioners’ concerns. The Final EIR will be back at the Planning Commission for another vote on January 27, 2011.

Heritage Position

The interior of the Tonga Room. Photo by Brandon Doran on Flickr.

Heritage submitted written comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in June 2010, and provided public testimony on October 21, 2010. Our comments highlighted deficiencies in the DEIR with respect to historic resources. These include: inadequate mitigation measures to avoid impacts on the identified potential Residential Apartment District; insufficient information to assess the potential significance of the Halprin garden and Gaidano podium/tower; and insufficient information to establish the purported infeasibility of alternatives that would preserve the Tonga Room.

UPDATE: In April 2011, the owners of the Fairmont Hotel withdrew their application, reportedly because the owners failed to gain the support of the hotel workers’ union.

Heritage Comments

October 21, 2010 – Public testimony at Planning Commission hearing
June 16, 2010 – Fairmont Hotel DEIR comment letter

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