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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Concert Fans: Nob Hill Residents Would Like to See Less of You

Posted By on Tue, May 8, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Inside the Nob Hill Masonic Center's auditorium.
  • Inside the Nob Hill Masonic Center's auditorium.

[Post updated 3:35 p.m. on 5/8/12; see below]

Over the last few years, concert promotion giant Live Nation has hosted an increasing number of concerts at San Francisco's Nob Hill Masonic Center. The seated, 3,500-capacity venue doesn't usually hold crazy rock shows (unless you think Weezer is crazy), but Al Green, Yanni, and Roxette are all scheduled to play there later this year, along with comedian Aziz Ansari and others.

At least one group of Nob Hill neighbors isn't happy about that. As the Examiner reports today, the Nob Hill Association is suing to get the city to look more closely at a recent increase in the number of concerts Live Nation is allowed to hold at the Masonic Center.

In January, the city's planning commission conditionally permitted the company to hold 68 "live events" there per year. An appeal from other neighborhood groups eventually brought that number down to 54. But the Nob Hill Association wasn't involved in the appeal, and says the venue has historically only hosted 25 to 30 live shows per year. It's suing to get the city to further review the increase.

Conflict between the concert promoters and the well-heeled dwellers of Nob Hill isn't new. When SF Weekly last checked in with the Nob Hill folks in 2009, they told us that young people would be "experimenting with drugs" and "smashing beer cans against their head" at Nob Hill concerts. (We still have yet to see anyone who paid $40 or more to go to a single, seated concert smash a beer can against their head -- or, for that matter, seen a beer can sold at a big concert -- but maybe?)

The new suit could complicate Live Nation's position in S.F. Currently, the Masonic center is the promotion giant's largest S.F. venue, the next step up from the historic, 1,200-capacity Fillmore. Back in 2009, it had plans to renovate the Nob Hill center to make it a more appealing concert venue. (The current status of those plans is unclear, and a Live Nation representative declined to comment for this post. See below.)

Meanwhile, Live Nation's largest competitor, Goldenvoice, owns the 2,250-capacity Warfield and the roughly 1,300-capacity Regency Ballroom, both in San Francisco. Local promoter Another Planet Entertainment owns the 500-capacity S.F. club The Independent, currently books the 8,500-capacity Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, and also owns the 2,800-capacity Fox Theater in downtown Oakland.

In other words, having a midsize venue like Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco is important to Live Nation's ability to compete for key shows in the Bay Area market. Unfortunately for the promoter, that venue is located in a posh neighborhood where the residents are less than friendly toward concert-goers -- even if many of those residents do seem likely to be Yanni fans.

Update: Live Nation marketing director Chris Martinez sent us this statement:

We remain hopeful that the venue will be upgraded to become a more flexible, modern space to accommodate the many artists who want to play in a great mid-size room in San Francisco. An Environmental Impact Report is well underway to study the potential impacts of the renovation. In the meantime, just as it has since it opened in 1958, the Masonic will continue to host concerts, comedians, graduations, cultural events, special events, fundraisers and community events.

SF Examiner: Group suing over events at Nob Hill Masonic Center

SF Weekly (2009): Live Nation battles neighbors over big concerts at Nob Hill Masonic Center

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