1338 Filbert: The 'Historic' Fence
Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin’s proposed Landmarks Preservation Board would wrest control of “preservation issues” from San Francisco’s Planning Commission. The Planning Department isn’t particularly keen on the idea.

The Planning Department and planning commissioners have expressed concern that the new board would have too much authority in instances where new development and historic preservation coincide. In such cases, the proposed Landmarks Preservation Board could have ultimate say over affordable housing issues, the heights of buildings and other zoning questions that are the purview of the Planning Commission.

And while we’re all for historic preservation, and don’t believe it need stand in the way of growth and progress, we must admit we share the concerns. Let’s just say we’ve been to that movie (theater) and we know how it ends (or languishes up on Russian Hill)…
Update: The (not necessarily) counterpoint: “Having a preservation commission with a clear mandate and real power may not be a bad thing. The current landmarks advisory board has a murky role and anything of significance just ends up before the Supes any way. Of course ultimately it depends on appointment selection process and who serves on the body. It should include common sense folks like Jay Turnbull –preservationists who also appreciate modern architecture and progress.”
Powerful new S.F. landmarks board proposed [SFGate]
Landmark Sarcasm Update: Hope For North Beach Pagoda Theater? [SocketSite]
Not For The Faint Of Heart (Or Wallet): Landmark Edition [SocketSite]

20 thoughts on “Landmarks Preservation: Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Fire?”
  1. Well if the boarded up theatre in North Beach is an example of the type of preservation this committee is likely to provide I don’t think the city would be well served by enacting this.

  2. Like CEQA this landmarking stuff has become an end in itself for stopping and delaying development you don’t like
    We needed preservation and growth management in cities 40 years ago and now its out of control

  3. Having a preservation commission with a clear mandate and real power may not be a bad thing. The current landmarks advisory board has a murky role and anything of significance just ends up before the Supes any way. Of course ultimately it depends on appointment selection process and who serves on the body. It should include common sense folks like Jay Turnbull –preservationists who also appreciate modern architecture and progress.

  4. Agreed with JKD. Many cities have Landmarks Boards which do a fine job at distinguishing between things that must be saved and things that don’t. Unfortunately, with a Landmarks “Advisory” Commission, the real power in SF is held by the Board of Supes, and many of these decisions become political. (Remember the Doggie Head, anyone?). Of course, NOTHING can completely remove politics, and thus in SF it will probably always be a mess. But I think in this case Peskin may be correct.

  5. I don’t think any planning commission should be able to overrule the planning commission. Peskin is just trying to take power out of the hands of the planning commission.

  6. As typical of SF, this “board” would be full of Peskin cronies who value “preservation” at all cost. It doesn’t matter if the building is vacant, decaying, and full of rats and pigeons. It’s “old” and they’d rather it rot and fall to the ground than be turned into something attractive or useful. Putting a great deal of power into the hands of a few is never a good idea in SF, because those few invariably turn out to be nuts or so unyielding that any form of compromise is impossible.
    That said, this city is completely schizophrenic when it comes to planning. I know one house in Cow Hollow that’s barely standing, but because the influential neighbor doesn’t like the owner’s plans for the home, she has been able to forestall any and all development; so, for three years now the house sits vacant and decomposing. Meanwhile, a few blocks south, a lovely 1920s mansion has been turned into an almost shockingly modern creation, which, in my opinion, is just ghastly. It looks like a church for some Japanese shinshukyo cult. I keep wondering how something so heinous was ever built here?

  7. I am all for reasonable efforts to preserve historic buildings and properties in any city.
    The problem SF seems to run into is that people don’t seem to understand that preservation includes, at a minimum, maintenance and upkeep of the property and more often restoration.
    To often the properties have been vacant for long periods and are rotten husks that would cost so much to restore that no one wants to touch it.
    As much as residents may want to preserve a historic building without someone willing to shell out the case to make that restoration/preservation possible the city needs to move on and make use of the land, especially in such a land locked area as SF.

  8. At the very least this is a solution looking for a problem. Where is the epidemic loss of historic structures? How are preservation concerns not currently being addressed? We’re light years away from the era when the Fox Theater could be demolished without a second thought. There’s simply no pressing need for this.

  9. Check out the rotting church on larkin and clay for an idea of what more is to come from this legislation. The presbyterian church proposed a way cool modern apt building – not that much different actually from one built in the 50’s a few blocks north. Neighbors went ape sh*t and called peskin – who landmarked the building. Now we have an empty rotting church where homeless people sleep and shoot up in the parking lot.

  10. we are a very young city. How many “historical” landmarks do we really need to preserve?
    1. GGBridge
    2. Grace Cathdral
    3. Jim Jones’ People’s temple
    4. cable car hotdog shop
    5. ???
    do we really need to pay people for this. honestly, i think we have enough committes and commissions

  11. This is the most asinine plan ever concocted. It’s how Aaron Peskin and his horrible wife Nancy Shanahan intend to maintain power and control once Peskin is (thankfully) out of office in November.
    The merits of a discussion about the proper role of a preservation board do not matter to these people. They only want San Francisco to remain exactly as it is, without anything new happening that they disapprove of.
    Aaron Peskin is one of the worst people who has ever held public office in San Francisco. He is an embarassment to the city, and all of its citizens.

  12. We actually should have this, I feel – and because the current process is so easily abused. I have to say that I’m leery about because of who is pitching the idea, but we do need something at least similar sounding.
    Imagine this – a group of decent people go through and decide on a “historical worth” for each building in the city (or group of buildings) – EVERY current structure. Then, developers know before they do anything else whether or not something can be “landmarked” or whatever. Then we might be able to get some of the cronyism out of the current process.

  13. Peskin and his cronies are fascists. We should never allow an appointed set of liberals to over ride the city. Some people in SF like to forget that we live in a democracy.

  14. On what planet it is a good idea for every structure in SF to be evaluated for its “historical worth”
    It takes ten years to develop a SINGLE building – and you expect people to go out and look at everything?
    What are you smoking?

  15. ^^^Not smoking anything. Not every structure would have to be “looked at”. I just want something (include it in one of the already existing databases of every building in the city) that a developer could look at that would say one of three things –
    1. No tear down possible, structure must remain unchanged
    2. Possible changes allowed, but some of the structure must remain or the new structure must “fit in”
    3. Go nuts within the allowed zoning
    The problem now is that there are NO rules. Everything is made up on the fly and anything can be changed on the fly. That is what causes the delays.

  16. ^^^If you don’t have something documented for every single building, you’ll have people trying to block things with the “no one’s ever looked at the historical value of this building!” excuse, even though it is completely ridiculous.
    Case in point – Park Merced.

  17. Great. I guess those of us near 15th and Dolores will have to look at the abandoned “church” forever.

  18. Historic Preservation, like CEQA is a good tool that is so abused by NIMBYs that it smells rotten. A preservation board could add value at the cost of process. But a committee that evaluates one component of a project should not be the final arbitrator – regardless of which component – historic qualities or otherwise. A committee that is required to balance historic needs with the cities need for new housing, affordable housing, transit oriented development, and livable neighborhoods should be the final arbitrator. Theoretically that is the Planning Commission – practically the Planning Commission is both plauged with politics and a lack of quality decision makers. Individual historic buildings can be evaluated in most respects by a historic preservation board – but the questions surrounding historic districts raise too many issues for a single-issue committee to fairly evaluate. I agree with a previous poster – there needs to be a clear delineation of which structures the city as a whole values as historic. A historic preservationist, including Mr. Turnbull can find historic value practically any building over 50 years of age – these specialist feel that if they can tell a story about a building then it has historic merit. I think the story should be comprehendable and important to the general public, not a body of people that look for and love any story.

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