New Deal-era murals at UCSF medical school will remain in place for now, judge says

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Work to remove New Deal-era frescoes depicting “the history of medicine in California” from the UCSF medical school campus in Parnassus has been temporarily halted by court order.

The petition for a restraining order, requested by the San Franciscans for Balanced and Livable Communities to stop the construction of a new hospital complex, was granted by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch . It prohibits any “construction or demolition activity … related to the execution of plans to remove the … murals from their current location in UCSF Toland Hall until a preliminary injunction hearing can take place. September 16, “the ruling reads. by Roesch.

The restraining order put an immediate end to a $ 3.2 million project started in January to remove and store the 10-panel fresco painted in 1938 by Bernard Zakheim.

The signs are located inside a medical school building, UC Hall, which has been deemed seismically dangerous and is slated to be demolished next year. The skylight was lifted from the building to create an opening large enough to clear the panels using a crane. Work was underway to cut out the murals from the wall for air transport. This project was suspended by the court order and the opening of the skylight covered with plywood and thick plastic.

According to UCSF spokesperson Kristen Bole, the murals themselves have three layers of protection. The artist’s descendants and the head of the conservation company hired to remove the art fear the protection is insufficient.

“This exposes the murals to the array of elements, and it’s a very disheartening thing to hear for my family,” said Adam Gottstein, artist Zakheim’s grandson and family spokesperson. The family were not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, but generally support efforts to keep the murals where they are, Gottstein said.

A delay in the removal project could cause “irreparable damage to the murals,” said David Wessel, director of conservation services for the architectural resources group. As a witness opposed to the restraining order, Wessel noted that the project will now have to be postponed until spring 2022, after the rainy season. He said water from leaking buildings had already damaged the murals.

The building’s air conditioning system was removed, putting art at risk, Bole said. The delay, with a crane already on site, is expected to cost an additional $ 200,000 and that number will increase if the roof requires a more permanent solution to get through the winter.

The push to save the murals is part of a larger strategy to stop the expansion and redevelopment of the UCSF campus in Parnassus Heights. In February, three neighborhood organizations – San Franciscans for Balanced and Livable Communities, the Parnassus Neighborhood Coalition, and the Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium – each filed a lawsuit to overturn the board’s decision to allow construction of ‘a 2 million square foot medical center and university center. installation in the already dense neighborhood of Parnassus Heights, south of Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park.

Removing the murals is “the tip of the spear,” said Patrick Soluri, lawyer for the Parnassus Neighborhood Coalition.

“The only aspect of the project moving forward was the removal of the Zakheim murals,” Soluri told The Chronicle. The court order “stops construction and preserves the status quo until the preliminary injunction can be issued.”

The UCSF said it will respect the judge’s order to stop the removal of the mural. But the administration disputes that this order stops the plan to demolish UC Hall, which contains Toland Hall as part of its major construction project.

It was “inaccurate and misleading to claim that the temporary order applied to anything other than the temporary suspension of the work to remove the murals until the Alameda court could consider the PNC’s request to the light of the facts, ”Bole’s statement read.

Sam Whiting is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: swhiting@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SamWhitingSF



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