Press Release from…
The Commonwealth Club of California
555 Post Street, San Francisco, California 94102
For Immediate Release
September 10, 2017
Dr. Gloria Duffy
Commonwealth Club New Headquarters
Grand Opening September 12, 2017
Ceremonies at 110 The Embarcadero/115 Steuart Street
Celebrate Club’s “Home for Ideas”
Dignitaries, Labor Leaders, Club Officers, Neighbors and Community Partners Will Attend
On Tuesday, September 12, 2017, after 114 years moving among various rented spaces in San Francisco, the Commonwealth Club will formally open its new headquarters at 110 The Embarcadero/115 Steuart Street, with a ribbon-cutting and other festivities. Speakers at the ceremony will include:
· San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee
· Supervisor Jane Kim
· Former Secretary of State George Shultz and San Francisco Chief of Protocol Charlotte Shultz
· San Francisco Port Commission President and International Longshoremen’s Union Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams
· Commonwealth Club Board Chair Richard Rubin.
Rabbi Beth Singer of Temple Emmanu-El, and University of San Francisco President Father Paul Fitzgerald will offer benedictions and Dr. Gloria Duffy, the Club’s President and CEO, will officiate as emcee.
A brass quintet from the San Francisco Symphony will play “Fanfare for The Commonwealth Club,” newly composed for the occasion by San Francisco Conservatory of Music graduate student Michael Smith. Mr. Smith’s composition was selected through a competition at the Conservatory, sponsored by the Club’s longtime Board member, Dr. Carol Fleming.
The celebration will begin with a 12:30 pm procession across The Embarcadero from the Ferry terminal, down Mission Street to Steuart Street, and on Steuart Street to the Steuart street entrance to the Club’s new building. The procession by Club Board members and staff, donors to the building and dignitaries will be accompanied by the Niner Noise drum and flag team. Remarks from a stage on the Steuart Street side of the building at 1 pm will be heard by an audience of several hundred invited guests.
Plaque to be Dedicated
During the ceremony, a plaque on the new building will be unveiled and dedicated, entitled “Legacy of a Union,” commemorating the Club’s building site as the founding headquarters of the International Longshoremen’s Association (now Union). ILWU founder Harry Bridges worked from the building, the 1934 Pacific Coast dock strike was organized from the location, two strikers slain by San Francisco police during a demonstration on July 5, 1934 – ever since called Bloody Thursday – lay in state in the building, and their funeral cortege left from the Steuart Street side of the building. The Club has restored the Steuart Street façade of the building to its 1934 appearance, in honor of these historic events.
In 2016, the Commonwealth Club was honored by the California Heritage Council, the state’s oldest historic preservation organization, with an award for its building which incorporates the building’s labor history in its design. http://www.californiaheritagecouncil.org/
A celebratory display by San Francisco fire boats will take place in the Bay at 2 pm.
From 4-7 pm on September 12th in the new building, the Club will host “micro-programs” for the invited ceremony guests and longtime Club members and donors. These will be discussions about the building itself, the labor history and the Club’s history of striving for its own space, with speakers including the building architect Marsha Maytum, President and CEO Gloria Duffy and San Francisco history and architecture expert Rick Evans, who does popular walking tours of the city.
Event and Honorary Committees
Honorary Chairs of the event are Charlotte and George Shultz. A committee led by former Dominican University president Dr. Joseph Fink planned the Club’s Grand Opening events. The Honorary Committee for the Grand Opening includes Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Ambassador James Hormel, former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin, Former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich, former US Defense Secretary William Perry and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as well as numerous business, philanthropic and community leaders. Rob Adams, an engineer at Cisco Systems and the great-great grandson of the Club’s founder, San Francisco Chronicle editor Edward F. Adams, also serves on the Honorary Committee.
The Presenting Sponsor for the opening ceremony is The San Francisco 49ers. Grand Sponsors include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the S.D. Bechtel Foundation, United Airlines and Total Wine And More.
Small pre-opening gatherings and tours were held last week for Club volunteers and the leading donors to the building. A broad-based community organization with over 22,000 members, the Club is hosting numerous events so that as many people as possible will have a chance to see the new facility during its first month following completion. In the two weeks following the Grand Opening the Club will host a reception for its business supporters, a rooftop gathering for Inforum members, and open houses and tours for members and the general public.
The Club’s first public program in the new building, the popular Week-to-Week series, in which a panel of journalists discuss current news topics, will take place on September 25th. Starting in early October, the full lineup of Commonwealth Club programs will take place at 110 The Embarcadero. The upcoming schedule is here: https://www.commonwealthclub.org/events
Importance of a Home for the Club
Club President and CEO Gloria Duffy points out that in 1903 the Club’s founders originally, albeit briefly, called the organization “The Agora,” which in the ancient Greek city-state was a
central place of assembly. She notes that the Club is bringing this idea to life with the new building, through which the Club will offer San Francisco and the Bay Area a welcoming and well-equipped facility in which to meet for civic dialogue. She said,
“We have pursued this facility and chosen this location because of both its beauty and its accessibility to downtown and public transportation, so it is easy for people from around the Bay Area to obtain unbiased information and participate in civic engagement. We are dedicated to strengthening respectful, non-partisan civil discourse, at a time when our public debate in America is so polarized. A neutral place, like the Club, to offer new ideas and differing views and approaches is essential to our capacity to solve our problems.”
Tad Taube, a lead donor to the project and a Club Board Member for 14 years, said:
“Our beautiful new home on the Embarcadero will be a triple-winner – benefiting The Commonwealth Club itself as well as the Bay Area and interested people across the country. Moving into our own home will save us some $600,000 a year in rent, thereby freeing substantial resources to strengthen our programs and outreach – which serve at the heart of our mission to be the nation’s leading forum for impartial discussion of significant issues. Next, by providing a stunning home for our programs, I believe it will encourage more people to attend, become members and, ultimately, enrich the dialogue.”
The Club is the latest in a series of cultural activities to locate on the San Francisco waterfront, which now include the Exploratorium, the Ferry Building with its food court and farmer’s market, and the Giant’s stadium.
The Commonwealth Club headquarters was designed by San Francisco architects Leddy Maytum Stacy (LMS), who won the American Institute of Architects “Architecture Firm Award” for 2017, based on their body of work over the past decade. This is the most prestigious award annually presented to an American architecture firm.
The Club is honored that its building has been designed by this award-winning firm, and benefited greatly from the expertise of Marsha Maytum, senior partner in the firm and lead architect for 110 The Embarcadero. In honoring LMS, the AIA praised the firm for its “highly influential work that advances issues of social consciousness and environmental responsibility.” The design for the Club’s headquarters embodies these values.
The Gensler architecture firm also contributed earlier to the project, by designing a thoughtful space plan that was able to accommodate the Club’s many different activities and functions in a challenging building only 45 feet wide.
The site at 110 The Embarcadero presented some other unique challenges, since the 1910 building present when the project began rested on its original wooden pilings driven into the Bay mud, as was the case with many buildings along the Embarcadero. A leading and ingenious structural engineer, Berkeley-based Steve Tipping, and his firm Tipping Structural Engineers devised a way to strengthen the foundation and place a light-weight glass third floor on the still-solid pilings without disturbing them.
Sadly, Mr. Tipping passed away suddenly in August while bicycling in the East Bay hills, not living to see the completion of his design. Club leader Gloria Duffy praised Mr. Tipping as “an extraordinary expert, creative thinker and steady presence throughout the Club’s building process.”
A Unique Building Design
110 The Embarcadero, which the Club calls a “Home for Ideas,” is, to the Club’s knowledge, the only modern building in the US designed specifically for use as an ongoing civic forum. It has many special attributes and facilities for this purpose, including two auditoriums, the Taube Family Auditorium, which will seat an audience of 299, and the Toni Rembe Rock Auditorium with a capacity for 150. A smaller meeting space seats about 60.
The Taube Auditorium is state-of-the art, featuring the Meyer Sound Constellation audio system, and a Copper Loop hearing system which synchs with hearing aids to bring sound directly from the audio system to those who are hearing challenged. A nine-screen backdrop and two side screens bring full digital media capabilities to the space, for the Club’s speakers and forums. Berkeley-based Meyer Sound generously collaborated and contributed to the Club’s project in many ways.
These facilities will host the majority of the Club’s 450 annual programs, which feature timely speakers and panels on history, business, ethics, politics, foreign policy, medicine, the sciences, health, the media, national security, technology, governance, the arts, culture, the environment, the economy and a myriad of other subjects. It will be home to the Club’s special series such as Climate One, which focuses on climate change, and Inforum, which hosts forums engaging younger community members. And it will house the California Book Awards, whose jury each year since 1931 has awarded prizes for the best writing in California.
Currently about 100,000 people annually attend the Club’s programs in person, and that number is expected to increase with the new facility. Around 600 people can utilize the new building at one time. The Club’s largest events, which draw up to 3,000 attendees, will still take place offsite.
The “Home for Ideas” was designed with several spaces where members and guests can informally meet and discuss the presentations they have heard and the issues of the day. These include the Irvine Foundation Library, a lobby conversation area, the second floor Hormel-Nguyen Lounge and a third-floor reception space.
The building includes audio and video production facilities for the Club’s radio and Internet broadcasts and its podcasts, which each year are watched and listened to by millions of people across the nation and around the world.
Digital screens in each meeting and reception space will offer a variety of content including practical guidance to events within the building, historical material on the Club and its building, information about the environmental sustainability of the building, background on the topics and speakers appearing, photo and video streams from the Club’s domestic and international study trips, and interactive features like a news quiz.
The Farmer Gallery will offer the opportunity for local artists to exhibit their work. The first show will begin in mid-October with an exhibit of Tom Killion’s woodblock prints of the California landscape. https://tomkillion.com/home
The Kaiser Permanente roof patio and garden offers spectacular views of San Francisco Bay, the Embarcadero and the San Francisco cityscape. Equipped with sound and lighting, it will provide an outdoor space for the Club’s activities.
A Sustainable Building
110 The Embarcadero has an energy efficient air cooling system utilizing electronically controlled operable windows in both of its facades and large ceiling fans to bring outside air into the building. LED lighting and Energy Star appliances will also diminish energy use in the building.
Wood paneling and cabinetry throughout the building was reclaimed from old growth fir floor and ceiling joists dismantled from the 1910 building on the site and re-milled at 9Wood, a company in Springfield, Oregon. The building is furnished with sustainable Interface carpet, Crossville tile made in the US partially from crushed and recycled porcelain bathroom fixtures, and low-flow bathroom equipment. Bottle-filling water fountains are located throughout the building, to encourage reusable bottles.
Levi-Strauss donated UltraTouch denim insulation, sourced from Bonded Logic in Arizona, for the entire building. The insulation in the new building contains approximately 7,800 pairs of jeans. Recology supported the project by donating the removal of debris from the building’s
demolition and construction, and the company’s artist-in-residence designed and used recycled materials to build the meeting table for the Club’s boardroom.
A roof garden is planted with drought-tolerant plants.
A LEED Gold certification is expected for the building. Solar generating panels, which would have helped to achieve LEED Platinum status, were not possible due to a taller building next door which shadows the site.
History of the Building Search
Housed in rented facilities for 114 years, the Commonwealth Club has long been the only major cultural organization in San Francisco without its own dedicated space. As a non-profit, it became increasingly difficult for the Club to remain centrally located, and to balance its budget with the increasing cost of rent in downtown San Francisco. Ticket revenues and membership dues cover only a portion of the Club’s budget.
Obtaining a building for the Club was the dream of famed child film star and diplomat Shirley Temple Black, who served as the volunteer president of The Commonwealth Club in 1984. Determined that the Club’s eight decades of paying rent come to an end, she appointed the Club’s first formal building committee, asking friends Stephen Bechtel, Jr., and others including San Francisco businessmen Joe Perrelli and Joe Epstein, to serve on the committee.
Epstein remembers, “If I hadn’t happened to sit next to her at a dinner, she would not have recruited me for the building committee and I would not have become involved at the Club.” Both men became volunteer leaders at the Club themselves, later serving terms as president, and both served on the more recent building committee that located and chose 110 The Embarcadero for the Club’s home.
At Ambassador Black’s initiative, the 1980s Building Committee looked at several buildings as potential homes for the Club. But the committee reluctantly abandoned the search after three years, due to financial constraints.
In 2010, the Club finally returned to this project, resuming the search for real estate, this time accompanied by a capital fundraising drive. By October of 2012, the Club had raised enough funds to purchase the site at 110 The Embarcadero on San Francisco’s waterfront from long-time owners the Accornero family. On June 14, 2014, the Club broke ground for this long-desired building.
Richard Pivnicka, a local real estate attorney and Club Board Member, was instrumental in choosing 110 The Embarcadero as the Club’s building site and co-leading the recent Building Committee with Mr. Epstein.
The Shirley Temple Black family is among the donors to the new building, leading a special fund in memory of Ambassador Black, whose dream has finally come true. They are also members of the Honorary Committee for the Grand Opening,
Board and Campaign Leadership
Nearly $29 million has been raised, in the Club’s first-ever capital drive, the Second Century Campaign, to purchase the site and construct the new headquarters. Bringing about the Club’s new headquarters has required sustained attention from several generations of the Club’s board and campaign leaders. Former Secretary of State George Shultz and San Francisco Chief of Protocol Charlotte Shultz serve as Honorary Chairs of the campaign. The Club’s Board Chair Maryles Casto first chaired a Campaign Cabinet, followed by Board Chair John Farmer who chaired the final fundraising group, called the “Finish Line Committee.”
Other Club Board Chairs whose dedicated leadership advanced the project included Dr. Mary Bitterman, during whose chairmanship the project was initiated, Anna Mok and the current Board Chair Richard Rubin.
Many Club board members served on the fundraising committees and worked for over seven years to raise funds for the building, including Oracle General Counsel Dorian Daley, Adobe Systems co-founder Chuck Geschke, retired Chevron Global Community Involvement Manager Skip Rhodes and retired Chevron Vice Chairman Dennis Bonney.
Over 300 individuals, foundations and companies have contributed to the Club’s building fund, in a broad outpouring of community support. Like the Club overall, the donors span the political spectrum and include long-established companies and newer tech firms, individuals young and old, and a variety of charitable foundations.
The top donors are listed below. Many members of the Club and community members, who will be listed on a donor wall in the new building, made modest contributions that helped to make the project a reality.
Taube Philanthropies Anonymous 1 The Koret Foundation
Anonymous 2 Arthur Rock & Toni Rembe William K Bowes, Jr. Foundation Maurice Kanbar
James C. Hormel and Michael P. Nguyen Franklin P. and Catherine H. Johnson The Osher Foundation S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
The James Irvine Foundation
The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation Eric & Wendy Schmidt The Briger Family John & Tawna Farmer Charles & Nan Geschke Nion McEvoy in Memory of Nan Tucker McEvoy The David & Lucile Packard Foundation
The Shirley Temple Black Fund Athena Blackburn Joe & Judi Epstein Doug & Lisa Goldman Fund
John & Beth Allen John & Marcia Goldman Foundation Lata Krishnan & Ajay Shah Vickie Soulier Foundation George & Judy Marcus Reni & Shantanu Narayen Travers Family Josephine Shuman In Memory of John Robert Shuman Mark and Jessica Zitter
Financing for the building project was provided first through a Program Related Investment (PRI) from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, which the Club repaid two years ago from the donations raised for the project. Construction financing has been provided by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.