March 30, 2023 Last week John King, who has the architecture beat for the SF Chronicle, wrote a piece about 1455 Market Street. Bank of America erected the undistinguished structure in the late 1970s to house “back office” operations. Reddit acquired it in 2019 when tech companies were still flocking to that end of Market St. Now Reddit has sold it and moved to a smaller space closer to the Bay. I sent King a note with some trivia:
In 1996, when it was still Bank of America’s building, the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement used 1455 Market as a vantage point to surveil (and probably to video) the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, which was directly across the street at 1444 Market. Dennis Peron’s office was on the mezzanine overlooking Market St., and his desk was close to the window, so the narcs had an excellent view of him and whoever came calling.
When I was covering the Proposition 215 campaign in 1996, Dennis remarked the contrast between the scene at his club and the B of A’s “back-office” site across the street. “You know what they do all day?” he asked as if it was unbelievable. “It’s like a sweatshop but they’re not making anything. They’re just keeping track of who owes how much to B of A. Down to the penny!” One of the workers was a club member and had filled him in.
Dennis would have appreciated your noting that “the floors of the tower are more than half an acre, designed to pack as many workers inside as possible.”
The building that housed the club at 1444 Market had a unique slanted shape. When it was Zack’s Electronics, back in the day, you could enter on Market and exit with your vacuum tubes on Grove (or vice versa).
It was pessimistic of you to declare, “That’s how cities work. In boom times, economic tides rise so far and so fast that it seems as if they never will stop. Then comes a recession or worse, and those same forces recede.”
That’s how cities work under capitalism.
Attached is a photo of Dennis outside his club. It reminds me of the “Slow Train Coming” album cover. The fortuitous cross is a reflection from the B of A building across Market Street. You can make it out in the photo by Santiago Mejias that accompanied your piece in the Chronicle.
PS The current owner, the Dolan law firm, hastily removed the plaque installed near the entrance dubbing 1444 the “Brownie Mary Rathbun building” and remodeled it beyond recognizability. Maybe Mr. Dolan feared the city would declare 1444 a landmark and prevent alterations. (No worries, Chris, San Francisco isn’t that hip.)