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Rec & Parks Approves $3 Million To Transform Geneva Car Barn

Empty since 1989, the Geneva car barn was built in 1901. | Photo: Todd Lappin/Flickr
By Will Carruthers - Published on June 15, 2017.

Today, the SF Recreation and Parks Commission approved $3 million in funding from a 2012 parks bond to fund design and construction on the Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse.

The unanimous vote brings total funding to $11 million for the project to transform the vacant building into an arts and events space. 

The Car Barn opened in 1901 for use by San Francisco's first electric railway system. Since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which damaged the property, the Car Barn—comprised of two buildings, the 3,000-sq.-ft. Powerhouse and the two-story, 13,000-sq.-ft. Office Building—has been vacant. 

The Powerhouse was used to generate electrical power for the trains, while the Office Building was for administrative workers.

Ever since it was damaged, residents and history buffs have fought to secure funding to transform the buildings into community meeting and arts spaces for District 11 residents.

Former District 11 supervisor John Avalos secured $3.2 million in general funds for the renovation while current District 11 supervisor Ahsha Safai secured a $3.5 million pledge from the Historic Preservation and New Market Tax Credit Funds and $1 million from the Community Arts Stabilization Trust.

With the renovation funds, Rec and Parks will begin finalizing a conceptual design package approved by the commission in 2014 before putting the Powerhouse segment of the project out for bid for construction. The Office Building will not be updated with the current funding.

“We look forward to design and build a creative space that will become a community hub for healthy recreations for generations to come,” said Rec and Parks general manager Phil Ginsburg.

"This is really moving forward, finally, after many years," said Daniel Weaver, founder of the Friends of Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse.

The Car Barn in the 1970s. | Photo courtesy of Friends of Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse.

The Car Barn's location next to the Balboa Park BART Station transit hub and the building's historic nature have attracted fans who have spent years imagining the possibilities of the vacant building and advocating for funding.

A hub of streetcar operation throughout the twentieth century, the Geneva Car Barn was designated as a San Francisco landmark in 1985, four years before it was damaged in the earthquake.

Neighbors rallied against a plan to demolish the building in 1998, convincing Mayor Willie Brown to save the building. In 2004, SFMTA sold the buildings to Rec and Park for $1 with plans to transform the space into a arts and events space. 

Illustration by Neil Ballard

“The Geneva Powerhouse renovation will restore this historic landmark and create one of the premiere performing arts and cultural centers in San Francisco, right here in District 11,"  said District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, noting that the district is home to the largest number of children under the age of 18 living in San Francisco. 

In three other agenda items related to the Car Barn at today's meeting, the commissioners approved an increase in funding for a designer working on the project and allowed Rec and Park to begin negotiations with the Community Arts Stabilization Trust and Performing Arts Workshop, two groups that will lease, manage and provide arts programming at the Powerhouse.

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