The Jackson Square Historic District Association announced today that they will be holding a rally and press conference Wednesday, June 30, 2004 at the historic Belli buildings at 722 and 728 Montgomery Street in an effort to influence the authorities of San Francisco to take immediate action to prevent the loss of one of San Francisco's most important historic landmarks.
The Belli buildings, most recently the offices of renowned San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli, known as "The King of Torts," were built in 1851 and 1853 and originally housed the Langerman's tobacco warehouse and the original meeting house of the Masonic Lodge. The buildings are two of only ten from that era.
"It's great to see what a galvanized community effort can do for a good cause," said Real Estate Developer & Strategic Consultant, C. Howard Korrell of K2K Development, who helped organize the rally.
The buildings survived several fires during the late 1800's and the 1906 earthquake. However, after sustaining some damage in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and following the death of Melvin Belli in 1996 at the age of 88, the buildings' current owner Nancy Ho Belli, Belli's sixth wife of fourteen weeks, has been able to do what 150 years and the forces of nature could not do, bring the buildings to the brink of destruction.
Belli died bankrupt after representing some of the most high profile celebrities and criminals including Errol Flynn, Lenny Bruce, Mae West, Muhammad Ali, Lana Turner, the Rolling Stones, Sirhan Sirhan, and Jack Ruby among others.
Since 1989 the buildings have not been properly maintained, and due to actions taken to remove the roofs of the buildings, the winters and rains over the years have eroded the mortar between the bricks, causing the walls to be in imminent danger of falling.
In February 1997, the San Francisco Bankruptcy Court accepted an offer of $915,00 from Belli's widow, who made a commitment to turn the Melli Building into a museum commemorating her husband's life. Her plan was to restore his office to it original grandeur, the way it looked when the he was alive. The museum was to be filled with memorabilia from his famous cases, photographs of his clients, books and tokens from his travels around the world.
"Despite years of litigation by the city and the unfaltering efforts of supervisor Aaron Peskin, neighborhood activists, and preservation groups, Ms. Belli, ironically a former Landmarks Board Commissioner, has been able to wield her power and her former husband's influence and political connections to thwart the city's efforts," said The Jackson Square Historical Association.
The pattern of the behavior, as evidenced by the long and detailed history of complaints and violations followed by complete inaction, has brought the situation to a crisis point.
In fact, one week ago another violation was issued by the Department of Building Inspection stating that the buildings were in such disrepair that they were in immediate danger of falling and injuring passers by.
The Jackson Square Historic District Association, the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Association, the San Francisco Architectural Heritage Association and the community call on the City of San Francisco to utilize its powers to take over this property and cause repairs to be completed, at the expense of Ms. Belli, to stop the deterioration of the buildings and save these San Francisco landmarks.
Jackson Square's Historic Belli Building
If you are interested in supporting the association's efforts, their rally is scheduled for Wednesday, June 30th between 10am-11am in front of the Belli Building.
The Belli Building is located at 722 and 728 Montgomery Street in the heart of Jackson Square.
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