Odd Buildings: Historic Church Turned Into Condos

A man looks at the ruined old parsonage.

A man looks at the ruined old parsonage.

En Español.

The Mission is full of buildings that give one the sense that something interesting is happening inside. We call them Odd Buildings, and this is an occasional series on their stories.

A young man in a red T-shirt walked down Dolores Street one recent sunny morning. Near the corner of 15th Street, he stopped. He wasn’t the only one; several people were there already, staring at the huge hole where the First Southern Baptist Church used to be before 1993, when it was destroyed by fire. Near the hole a house, the old parsonage, lay on beams. Neighbors had seen it moved back and forth around the hole as the workers dug out a basement for it.

After a long journey of false starts, a project is underway at 200 Dolores to build 13 condominiums of one- and two-bedroom units — 10 where the big hole is now and three in the newly renovated parsonage. Construction should be finished in a year, workers said.

Representatives of the developer, Covorn LLC, refused to comment on the project. The Mission Dolores Neighborhood Association strongly supports it, according to the group’s past president, Peter Lewis, who inspected the project closely during the approval process. The property will also include 13 parking spaces.

The project has been a long time in the planning. The church and the parsonage, built in the early 1900s, survived the earthquake and fire of 1906, but a fire in August 1993 destroyed the church and damaged the old parsonage, which was hosting a community center at the time.

The day after that fire, Malcolm Glover wrote in the San Francisco Examiner that investigators believed the fire had started in a homeless encampment in an open area between the church and the parsonage. Division Chief Art Kenney told Glover that the shelter at the community center was filled to its 20-bed capacity and that it appeared some people had set up a small encampment in the space between the two buildings where the fire started.

In 1995, a man and a woman were booked on murder charges after telling police they had helped a teenage girl commit suicide in the burned-out church, Glover reported.

Developers purchased the lot and asked for a permit to demolish the old parsonage and build a four-story, 13-unit condominium building with 17 off-street parking spaces. The Mission Dolores Neighborhood Association got 115 neighbors to sign a petition asking for a focused environmental impact report to determine if the parsonage building — the only one that remained standing — was a historic resource.

It was, the San Francisco Landmarks Advisory Board and the Planning Department decided. That meant it should be saved, and by then the developer had agreed to restore it, said preservation planner Sophie Hayward. The initial study and environmental evaluatin of the plan to renovate the old building was filed in 2008. By then, the property had been vacant for years.

Next came a battle over the parking spaces. The developer’s proposal initially called for 16 off-street spaces for the 13-unit project. The Mission Dolores Neighborhood Association supported the proposal, but the Planning Commission cut it down. The result was a new project with one parking space for each unit.

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