Burning Man HQ Up For Grabs


Photos by George Post copyright 2011

Burning Man arrived in the central Mid-Market district a few years ago with great fanfare. They announced their move a day after the city provided a new payroll tax break, trying to lure employers to the area – suggesting that getting BMHQ was considered a coup by the city. Larry Harvey gave a speech at the United Nations Plaza, as did Mayor Ed Lee and President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu. They talked about how Burning Man’s art and vibrant culture was going to transform the rather seedy part of Market Street, near the Tenderloin. And Larry spoke of the exciting change to make Burning Man into a non-profit. Harvey described the neighborhood, with its oh-so-urban mixture of hipster tech workers and street hustler crackheads, as “very like Black Rock city” in its diversity. He humbly offered to make the neighborhood a better place with their presence: “as humble immigrants into this neighborhood, we mean to contribute to a neighborhood that is already vital

From the SF Examiner:

The Burning Man Project plans to build an “urban cultural center” in San Francisco that will provide, among other things, collaborative gathering and gallery spaces, classrooms, and sites for ritual and ceremony, according to the group.

“It’s one thing to put up a sculpture somewhere, which is good, but we’ve never had the opportunity to look at a whole group of neighborhoods like this as a potential for our endeavors,” Burning Man founder Larry Harvey said.

larry ed lee painting todd berman

Painting by Todd Berman

Sadly, none of this seems to have happened. Except for a single rusty flower on arrival, there was no Burning Man art put on Market Street, no collaborative cultural center, no real community engagement with the Tenderloin. The area still looks pretty much like it always has. Burning Man is making bigger profits than ever for Black Rock City, LLC, the private corporation who remain the owners. The Burning Man Project is now well into it’s third year, and we’re still waiting for it to announce some of the charitable things that it’s done.

And Burning Man are now moving out of their fancy corporate tower.

If you’re looking for nearly 20,000 square feet of A grade commercial office space, 5 entire floors of their $17 million building at 995 Market Street are available. You’d be in good hi-tech company with Twitter, Spotify, Benchmark Capital and Zoosk all nearby.

Burning Man’s total rent bill in 2012 was $615,944, if all that was for this building then that works out to about $2.50/square foot per month – which seems like a pretty good deal to me, especially since they got a payroll tax break on their $7 million salary bill to offset the rent costs.

From craigslist:

Burning Man Sublease (downtown / civic / van ness)

 photo Market_995_Eflyer_CL.jpg
Market Street at 6th Street (google map) (yahoo map)
[Update 6:05pm] George Post has commented that there was art on Market Street. I have found only this one flower, which seems to have appeared around the time the BMOrg arrived. If anyone else has any photos of Burning Man art or events in Market Street, please share.
flower market1flowermarket2
There were high hopes when Burning Man arrived…

Burning Man organizers eye move to redeveloped mid-Market Street arts district

SF Public Press
 — Jan 28 2011 – 9:03am

In much the same way as they annually transform a desolate stretch of the Nevada desert into a week-long countercultural art festival, the organizers of Burning Man are now hoping to transform a desolate stretch of San Francisco’s Market Street.

The group that builds a temporary city of more than 40,000 creative vagabonds at the end of each summer is in talks to move into the nine-story early 20th century Warfield Building, at Market Street where Taylor and Sixth streets converge. The building is in the heart of a depressed and crime-ridden three-block zone that San Francisco has been trying to redevelop for years, and is now offering incentives to turn it into cluster of arts organizations.

Marian Goodell, director of business and communications and one of the founders of Burning Man LLC, said the organization has been looking at a number of office spaces on Market Street. She said the Warfield Building in particular has “many characteristics that we like.”

Goodell said the group has also been talking with other arts groups that are looking into the mid-Market area and that an arts renaissance there is imminent.

“We’re willing to go into a neighborhood that no one else really wants and liven it up,” Goodell said. “We’re pretty engaged. I can imagine that whatever a neighborhood might need we would be open to help.”

The group, which has 30 employees and thousands of volunteers who work on a variety of artistic, performance and media projects, would provide foot traffic and a financial boost to retail business in the area.

…San Francisco officials have provided Burning Man with logistical help. Amy Cohen, director of neighborhood Business Development for the city, said the city has actively encouraged Burning Man to move into the area.

“We are interested in anyone who can bring people into the area,” Cohen said. “There is a movement to have Market be an extension of downtown. We see a niche that is developing as a civics-oriented arts district. There’s a lot of entrepreneurial energy moving into this area and Burning Man represents this energy.”

The city’s efforts to revive the forlorn stretch between Fifth and Eighth streets have been slow to gain momentum. Last year Mayor Gavin Newsom announced an $11 million loan fund to encourage arts groups to settle in the zone. But as of last month, only one business — a hamburger restaurant — had taken the city up on the offer. Part of the problem has been that due to restrictions on federal funds, the money must be used to generate new jobs, not just relocate existing ones.

Cohen’s office has conducted walking tours of office spaces in the mid-Market area. She said she will help the group navigate complex city approvals. One way her office could help Burning Man is by speeding up the temporary arts licensing process.

Tomas McCabe, executive director of the Black Rock Arts Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Burning Man, said his group’s main focus is finding places for temporary public art on the street outside the office complex.

“I’m talking large-scale projects,” McCabe said. “One problem that cities have in putting in public art is there’s lots of bureaucracy. And sometimes after years and years of work, nothing happens.”

Temporary public art is meant to be installed for a short time and then either removed or replaced with a different installation.

McCabe used the group’s installation of Hayes Green Temple, a intricately carved wooden structure, at Patricia’s Green in Hayes Valley as a showcase of its public art installation work.

“We worked with the local community and they have started their own arts commission,” he said. “They basically curate that one spot in their park. We were the first ones to place public art there.”

He said the residents became instant art critics and have shown a strong civic interest in what is placed there.

“Its fascinating,” McCabe said. “People might not like a piece but they know it’s going to be in a few months and they can’t wait to see the next one.”

McCabe said Burning Man is now looking at ways to bring additional temporary public art into the mid-Market area. Last year the city installed several displays in the Warfield and other buildings as part of its Art in Storefronts project to spruce up the street, where dozens of storefronts have sat vacant for years and even warehouse space for rent.

“We’re looking at doing some window display art and refurbishing a vacant lot and turning it into a bit of an art park,” McCabe said.

The group was recently named in a National Endowment for the Arts grant to pursue this type urban art initiative.

The Burning Man offices are currently located on the edge of the Bayview district in an anonymous office park near a sewage treatment plant.

“The city would love to see us in the mid-Market area, and we love the idea of moving in there,” McCabe said. “I don’t know if it is going to happen, though it looks like it might happen. We’re already talking about the possibilities of engaging the community and getting art out.”

He said moving out of their current offices and into the heart of the city is essential for public participation. “That’s not really happening in an office park in an industrial neighborhood,” he said.

The group is considering using a storefront in the Warfield Building for a museum and cafe.

“I am not sure what it’s going to look like,” he said. “I know it will add a lot of color to have Burning Man there. People know we are here, but it is going to be really exciting for people to actually see us and know where we are.”

The Warfield Theatre, on the first floor of the Warfield Building, opened in 1922 and has been host to vaudeville shows, jazz artists and bands including the Grateful Dead and U2. Early in the last decade the building was briefly home to the San Francisco Examiner.

– See more at: http://sfpublicpress.org/news/2011-01/burning-man-organizers-eye-move-to-redeveloped-mid-market-street-arts-district#sthash.8VXv4NOO.dpuf


7 comments on “Burning Man HQ Up For Grabs

  1. Pingback: The late 2013 developments of ALTERMAN47 : The Alchemical Voyage! | ALTER MAN 47

  2. Telling that photo credits aren’t issued, perhaps?

    Sadly, none of this seems to have happened. Except for a single rusty flower on arrival, there was no Burning Man art put on Market Street, no collaborative cultural center, no real community engagement with the Tenderloin. The area still looks pretty much like it always has.

    There has been some pretty interesting burner artwork placed in public in SF. The continuum of that is kind of omitted from the snark here, though. The rocket was on the waterfront next to the Ferry Building. There was a David Best thing in the park on the Octavia corridor. Bliss Dance was on Treasure and I’m pretty I’ve seen others from that series on the waterfront/Emb too, I’m pretty sure. And isn’t FLG’s Xylophage going out there too at some point? That awesome big tall thing that was in Civic Center Plaza, with all the legs. I forget the name. The Flock maybe?

    Speaking of some point, what the hell is mine? Mostly it’s this: it feels like kind of a pedantic criticism to name only the rusty flower on Market, and use that to build a full timeline between speeches and moving out of the space. Is it the ONLY thing to appear MID-MARKET in the time SINCE the speeches? Maybe so. It’s also part of a bigger pattern of BRC art and artists whose work has appeared around SF, in ways and places that would have blown my mind twenty years ago. Was it some politicians’ speeches that made this happen? I doubt it. It does suck that there was no immediate build-out of the cultural education center. We all know how it’s incredibly easy to open up something unusual in SF. Landlords just love radical ideas for use of their space, and neighbors always show up in droves to support whatever the newest folks in the neighborhood want to create. Moving business offices and of course the ease of handling the ticket sellout and then the Great Ticket Lottery Fiasco left them with scads of extra time to move forward with promised projects that weren’t burning out of control at the moment. Did they hire anyone to own these additional, community-based projects and make them happen? I hope so. Adding to the payroll should be a no brainer, given the wads of cash flowing up there at HQ, and the fact that no one ever makes hay about their budgets. Hopefully the sarcasm here is coming through.

    The post has already been corrected once, to include the flower and its somewhat plagiarized images. Good on ya for amending the post and asking others hey, have you seen any other art? I like the openness and call for collaboration. Bu the kind of statements you’re making about their offices, their plan, their members, that this whole art/cafe thing never materialized… I dunno dude. You should have found out what has and has not appeared in public and/or mid-market since their offices opened there before writing on the subject. And I wonder how you can know that there was “no real community engagement with the Tenderloin”. If you missed the flower on Market Street (I didn’t!) how are you so sure there was no “real” engagement between an entire neighborhood full of a mad variety of people and a business/cultural group which, by all accounts, you can’t stand anymore? Either you work for the Borg or have some deep access to everything they’ve been up to and can just look it up, or you’re basing this on what you can see. I guess you may be doing just that, as one of your most major citations of data is the fact that the place “looks” pretty much the same as it always has. Do you live in the ‘Loin?

    Do you spend much time down there, mid Market, Tenderloin? In two years I’ve seen lots of building projects, some awesome bike lane changes, those public bike things installed here and there. Tu Lan’s doors are open to spread filth and poison patrons once again, there’s serious other work on 6th underway to try to address some of the problems there. Businesses have opened and closed. This happened: http://www.sfpostcardproject.com/blog/safer-6th/ and it looks kind of cool. The SF Postcard Project is definitely doing neat things, very positive things. Artis Mobilis too. Did the Borg do all this? No. They may not have lifted a finger in support! (Though there was some promotion about events from the Project, and one can argue that lending their very big promotional voice to a grassroots project can totally make the difference for the little project. That’s what Kickstarter is, after all.) And there are probably other examples of changes that I don’t know about and won’t go research. The point is, though, did you?

    That the area looks “pretty much the same as it always has” sounds a little pre-judged to me. As if someone’s saying “they all look alike to me.” Maybe that’s not where you’re coming from. If it isn’t, You might do better to write in such a way as to not give off that impression.

    We readers know you think the Borg is little more than whorish money grubbing sellouts. You don’t like them, expect them to fail, want them to fail. There’s obvious bias, so if you want to prove a point with anyone who is not already on board with those feelings and biases, you gotta give ’em more.

    Last I heard, the move comes from a cultural or business or some other kind of other incongruence between the Borg and the building’s new owners. Not exactly kicking the Borg out, but something along those lines. That was hearsay passed on to me, but that ought to pass for news here on this board. If anyone knows more though, or better yet knows actual real stuff, please share! I’m already standing in anticipation of being corrected.

    • the point you’re missing is that they got tax breaks from the city, because they were going to contribute to the Central Mid Market community. That didn’t happen. Larry Harvey stood there on UN Plaza with the Mayor and made a grand speech, full of vision. I was in the audience, as were several dozen other Burners. It was not just about them transforming SF, it was also about them now becoming a non profit and bringing Burning Man to the world, whatever that means. A great vision, and you can’t blame Burners.Me that BMOrg didn’t fulfil it. Don’t shoot the messenger!

      I lived in the area for several years, and have been involved with some real estate projects there. I am a supporter of [freespace] at 7th and Mission, who were able to use Burner values to achieve more in a month than BMOrg did in 3 years. OK, BMOrg’s staff were busy with a ticket lottery crisis of their own making, and a reality TV-style movie they were filming in their offices, but still, there are a lot of staff, there’s a lot of money, and there was a lot of talk. [freespace] had no money, no employees, and got more done.

      We’re just pointing out that hey, BMOrg said they were going to do this, in fact they made a big deal out of it; and now they’re moving out, and it seems like all they did was that one flower. I would be happy to be proven wrong, and hear about all the amazing ways Burning Man helped the central mid Market community with its presence.

      As far as I know, and again, happy to be proven wrong on this – all the other Burner art you see around the city has happened without any funding from BMOrg, and is not related to the payroll tax breaks the city of SF gave to Black Rock City LLC for relocating. Some of it might have received funding from BRAF.

  3. Actually some Burner art was displayed along mid-market at various times. Also: it would have been appreciated if you had included the photo credit “Photos by George Post copyright 2011” below the images.

Leave a Reply to burnersxxxCancel reply