Help save the light at St. Gregory’s, San Francisco

Posted on April 25, 2016

St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, designed by the renowned architect John Goldman and built in 1995 at 500 DeHaro Street in Potrero Hill, is a treasure for the whole city. Its unique design features a rotunda illuminated by beams of natural light and encircled by a monumental icon of dancing saints; as the artist Mark Dukes, who painted the icon over a period of seven years, said, “The essence of iconography is the handling of light.” Today, St. Gregory’s draws architects, pilgrims, and visitors from all over the world — as well as 400 hungry families from all over San Francisco who receive free, fresh groceries every week.

A developer is proposing to build a 4-story building immediately next to the church. That height would completely block the southern clerestory-level windows that allow light into the rotunda, which is the focal worship space of the church. Losing that light would devastate the architectural intent and inspiring spirituality of the rotunda. St. Gregory's is a destination church for liturgists, artists, and architecture aficionados from around the world. It won a Religious Architecture Award from the American Institute of Architects, which praised the building's “marvelous sense of community” and “abundant daylight.”

St. Gregory’s offers daily religious services, as well as secular and spiritual community support throughout the year. It is a vibrant part of the Potrero Hill neighborhood, and serves communities all over San Francisco and the entire Bay Area. Its outstanding art and architecture draw visitors from around the world. Groups that use St. Gregory’s beautiful space include The Food Pantry, Calling All Choir, Mission Fusion, and other community music and dance groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, UCSF staff, The Live Oak School, KQED, Homeless Prenatal Program, FOG free summer camp for children, Potrero Hill Library, and other non-profits. 

More than 700 local people use the space every week, and the church hosts more than 1,000 additional visitors each year from all over the country and world, coming to see St. Gregory’s. 

St. Gregory’s needs your help to save the light!

You can help St. Gregory’s by writing a letter and coming to support us in person at the San Francisco Planning Commission hearing on June 2.

Write a letter

Send emails to, and cc: and
or send letters by mail to Kimberly Durandet, San Francisco Planning Department, 1650 Mission Street, Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94103 

Please email or mail a copy of your letter to Sara Miles at or 500 DeHaro Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

What to put in the letter

Be sure your letter clearly indicates you are writing RE: Item 2014.0559ENX 540 DeHaro. Say that you are writing to oppose the current plans of the developer at 540 DeHaro, and that you want to save the light at St. Gregory’s. Then say who you are (neighbor, student, community member, visitor, member, etc.) and why you care about this issue. 

For example, you might choose to talk about: 

  • your own experience of the light at St. Gregory’s, what it means to you 
  • something about the architecture and art in St. Gregory’s and how light matters to 
  • stories about people coming to SGN from around the country or around the world 
  • stories about the role that SGN plays in the community (camps, after school programs, Live Oak School events, Food Pantry, 12-step meetings, concerts, conferences, voting location, etc.)
  • why you feel SGN is an important part of San Francisco’s cultural and artistic life and heritage; the importance of preserving cultural touchpoints in SF even as the city grows and changes

End by asking the Planning Commission to ensure that St. Gregory’s light is protected. 

Send your letter by May 16!


Come support St. Gregory’s in person at the San Francisco Planning Commission hearing

When: Thursday, June 2, 12 noon
Where: Commission Chambers, Room 400, City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco

Please email Sara,, if you are planning to attend. She will send you details, meet you, and give you a St. Gregory’s badge to wear. If you would like to speak on St. Gregory's behalf, she will be sure you are on the list and have an opportunity to help save the light.