Greetings to all Owners and Friends of the Suites,

The San Francisco Suites City Share Owners Association was incorporated in January 1983 soon after the conversion of what had been a nondescript apartment building at 796 Pine Street into the San Francisco Suites on Nob Hill, with a more prestigious address at 710 Powell Street. The developers’ intentions had been to create a full-service, luxurious urban timeshare in a style mostly evocative of the Edwardian era, but with contemporary conveniences (jacuzzi tubs, stereo systems with turntables) and modern flourishes (art-deco stained glass). To accomplish their stylistic goals, they embarked on a shopping excursion to England to purchase antique furniture and period artwork which was shipped to San Francisco in large crates. Many if not most of these acquisitions still grace our facility, from the elegant chandeliers and a large grandfather clock to the variety of English paintings, prints, and watercolors throughout.

As we approach our 39th year of operation, we can point to the high standards of accommodation and service which have endured despite obvious changes in management, Board direction, and even artistic taste. But what I would like to focus on in this letter is a change that we are experiencing now, which may have significant and exciting consequences for our future, namely the changes in our ownership population.

The first members of the Association, who purchased their shares directly from the developers, paid generously for ownership at the Suites; parlors and masters both sold in five-figures. Many of these owners are still members, loyal, even protective of the Suites’ ambiance and traditions, and actively involved in its governance. But thirty-nine years is a long time, and we are witnessing a kind of transformation whereby these original owners are passing on their shares to younger friends and family members, selling their shares, or deeding them back to the Association if they are free of any legal or financial encumbrances. And what we are also seeing is a new kind of owner buying into the Association. These new owners are often from a later generation whose attitudes, taste, and service expectations may differ from those of 1983. Admittedly, they may have bought into the Association precisely because they like the Suites the way it is and would prefer that it not change to suit them. Even so, the large question remains: how do we balance the Suites’ long-standing traditions and old-fashioned ambiance still enjoyed by most owners against some features of modern life deemed essential by many newer and some long-time owners?

Sometimes technology forces our hand, from installing and continually improving Wifi to upgrading our computer-based reservation system. But almost any alteration in amenities or accommodation is met with some resistance. I remember some concern when the smaller televisions discreetly hidden inside the entertainment consoles evolved into larger outside flat-screen sets; or complaints about the remodeling of the kitchens and bathrooms which necessitated the removal of the brass fixtures and oak-paneled cabinets; or the dismay expressed by some at the newer, “busier” reupholstered window-seat cushions which replaced the older, faded, plainer ones. And who can forget the outrage expressed by many owners at the removal of the beloved stained glass windows, allegedly for safety reasons, when the exterior of the building was remodeled? To illustrate a more recent difficulty in balancing comfortable tradition with modern convenience, the possibility of allowing owners to access their share time use and to reserve directly online has been countered by considerable pushback to keep the personal connection of speaking to the Front Desk to do the same.

Being able to respond carefully to the demands or benefits of modern life keeps the Suites relevant, but seeing familiar faces in the lobby and in the hallways, knowing the light and sounds and comforts of a particular suite, being pampered by the staff who seem to know exactly our needs or preferences – these are the qualities that keep us as members, not the strength of our Wifi signal.

I personally believe that participating in this discussion of old versus new to be the most interesting part of my role as Board President, and that the decisions the Board makes on “change” might be the most important legacy they leave to the Association.

I welcome you back to the Suites,

Geoffrey Bellah
President, Board of Directors