And now some additional information regarding the mystery of the vacant lot.
Further research shows that the apartment building next door (built in 1963), along with the vacant lot, were owned for many years by the Costello and Son homebuilding company, until sold in 1994.
Frank Dunnigan’s Streetwise article from July, 2010 mentions the vacant lot. Frank said:
“Vacant lot for theater (SW corner of 25th)—Per the neighborhood's old-timers, this corner lot was set aside by Costello Homes, a large builder in the area, circa 1940, to become the Noriega Theater, but it was never built.”
Additional information found at the website of the esteemed Western Neighborhoods Project sheds some light on this. One commenter wrote in 2007: “I rented my first apartment from a Mr. Costello at 1825 Noriega. Additionally, the Costello family owned the empty lot on 25th and Noriega. According to my neighbors, it was never developed because of estate-dispute/tax problems. It has since been sold and seems to be pending condo/retail development.” https://www.outsidelands.org/cgi-bin/mboard/stories2/thread.cgi?963,0#msgtitle
As mentioned previously in this thread, the condo/retail development was never built.
That timeline matches a scenario of something being on the site before possibly becoming vacant again in the 1970s. The remaining mystery is why a branch of California Federal was on the site in the 1970s, giving that address in its many advertisements – and what happened to that building.
Personally, I think it would be the perfect site for a roller coaster, since we no longer have Playland. (just kidding) I suppose someday the site will have apartments or condos on it, with retail shops on the ground floor.
Hmmm, it would have been nice to have the Noriega Theater to serve the area.
In any event, we have a genuine prehistoric Sunset District sand dune still existing in 2022! Let us drink a toast to this hardy survivor.