Paintings by Metro Hotel owner's late father found after Divisadero U-Haul theft [Updated]

The Metro Hotel, at Divisadero and Page streets. | Photo: Teresa Hammerl/Hoodline
By Teresa Hammerl - Published on February 07, 2020.

Last Friday, a U-Haul containing about 120 paintings by the late Ted Soulis was stolen across the street from The Metro Hotel (319 Divisadero St.), which is owned by Soulis' daughter, Shana. 

Ted Soulis and his wife, Ellen, first purchased the hotel in 1985, and ran it prior to Ted's death in 2017. But guests of the boutique hotel may not have known that Ted Soulis was also a prolific painter, trained at the San Francisco Art Institute. 

Last month, the Metro closed temporarily to undertake some renovations, including painting the walls and adding new furniture. The highlight of the makeover was to have been the installation of dozens of Ted Soulis' paintings throughout the hotel. 

"We made it our goal to honor Shana's father," said Gene Barnes, a family friend who is also Shana's creative partner. "We thought it would be so nice to recognize his legacy."

But now, Ted's artistic legacy has gone missing, along with the U-Haul that held it.

The paintings inside the U-Haul, prior to its theft. | Photo: Gene Barnes

The trouble started last Thursday, January 30, when Barnes drove the 15-foot U-Haul to pick up the paintings in Sonoma, where Ted Soulis' art studio was located.

"It took all day to load them," Barnes said, and when he got back to the city, it was so late that he decided to wait until the next morning to unload them. It's a decision he now regrets.

To make room for street cleaning that night, Barnes moved the U-Haul from in front of the hotel to a spot across the street. When he returned around 6 a.m., the truck was gone.

"I was shocked," Barnes said. He immediately filed a police report, and spoke to nearby business owners to see if they had any surveillance footage. One Divisadero business owner saw someone leaning against the U-Haul around 3 a.m., but so far, there appear to have been no witnesses to the actual break-in.

Barnes is still holding out hope. "The hope is that when the U-Haul turns up, that the artwork is still there," he said.

A U-Haul spokesperson tells Hoodline that its local and corporate teams are working with police in efforts to locate the truck. SFPD did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

A U-Haul location on Valencia Street. | Photo: Teresa Hammerl/Hoodline

Despite their size, U-Hauls and other moving trucks have become popular targets for theft in San Francisco, which is struggling with an epidemic of auto thefts and auto burglaries

Last March, a U-Haul containing all the possessions of a Sunset family was stolen the night before their move to Los Angeles. In 2016, thieves stole a Budget moving truck containing all of a newly arrived Parkside family's possessions. And in 2015, a woman's U-Haul, with all her belongings inside, was stolen just before her move from San Francisco to the East Bay.

A signed painting from Ted to his wife, Ellen. | PHOTO: GENE BARNES

Barnes and Soulis are offering a no-questions-asked cash reward for the paintings' return.

"At this point, we just want the paintings back," Barnes said.

Anyone with information about the U-Haul or the artwork is also encouraged to send an email to [email protected].

Update, 2/12, 3:07 p.m.: Barnes confirmed that the U-Haul has been found by police, with the missing paintings still inside. While he and Soulis haven't done an official count, he believes that none were taken from the truck. 

The paintings are now back at the hotel, and will be hung in the coming weeks as part of the renovation. There's still no information on the thief or thieves who stole the truck; we'll update this story as we learn more.

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