Historic Geneva car barn begins transformation


The Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse, which once housed San Francisco’s first electric trolley system owned by private railway companies, will finally begin renovations for its much overdue makeover.

Last occupied by the San Francisco Municipal Railway before being severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the 116-year-old building is full of cobwebs, mold, gravel, and faded red bricks sprayed with graffiti, along with a roof that may not survive the next storm.

Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) announced on Thursday additional state funding to restore and renovate the crumbling Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse. Mayor Ed Lee, two San Francisco Supervisors and the general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park,  joined Ting in the announcement inside the Powerhouse.

Ting said Rec and Park, who is overseeing the restoration of the building, will receive an additional $3.5 million from the state, bringing the total funds available for the restoration project to $14.5 million.

The total funds for the project also includes $3 million approved by the Rec and Park Commission last month and funding secured by former District 11 Supervisor John Avalos from The City’s budget.

Construction of the first phase of the project will first begin inside the 3,000 square-foot Powerhouse, which Rec and Park officials said will happen by the end of the year. The project will take about nine to 12 months to complete.

The second phase of the project will include the restoration of the adjacent 30,000 square-foot, two-story office building, according Rec and Park officials.

The San Francisco Performing Arts workshop will occupy the Powerhouse building to provide space for arts and cultural programs. There are also plans to use some of the space for community meetings in the future.

Ting said District 11 needs a space for people to meet and congregate:

“What better place than the Geneva Car Barn, which is right across from BART and Muni station… where people can come. It will be a hub for the art community where we can have art space, community space, meeting space.”

The work to convince The City to renovate and restore the dilapidated building took effort from many residents including Dan Weaver, board chair and founder of The Friends of the Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse.

Weaver was part of the group’s effort to convince former Mayor Willie Brown to not demolish the building. The City had planned to get rid of the building in 1998 because of safety issues involving the possibility of the bricks falling onto people passing by the building, said Weaver.

Weaver said of the project:

“It feels like it’s starting.”

District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai acknowledged Weaver’s effort in advocating for the Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse:

“He never gave up and he roped a lot of people in.”

Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg general manager said:

“This particular project where we’re located today, the site of the Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse, I can think of no better example of just true grit, determination and partnership to make it happen.”

Ting also brought more good news for Rec and Park. An additional $2 million in state funding will go towards improvements to the dog park inside Golden Gate Park, located near Fulton Street and 36th Avenue. Improvements include adding benches, dog turf and improving fencing around the area.

District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer said of the improvements:

“Golden Gate Park is such a treasurer in San Francisco and these investments are going to make it even more enjoyable.”

Lake Merced will also benefit from $1 million in state funding for capital improvements around the lake that includes erosion, better signage and dock improvements for boaters near the Lake Merced Boathouse.

Norman Yee, who represents District 7 that includes Lake Merced, said The City needs to expand public spaces because of The City’s growing population:

“We need more space for people to recreate.”

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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