The first item on the agenda for San Francisco’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee this afternoon, a report requested by Supervisor Wiener on “the impact of historic preservation policies on other major public policy goals, such as housing (e.g., affordable, infill, and accessible), parks, libraries and pedestrian safety; and whether legislation is warranted to ensure that all of these policy goals are met.”
The background materials for the hearing are well worth a read for those interested in the subject or planning to join the debate.
One background letter written by Judy Irving in support of historic preservation also speaks to the ability of individuals to put their money where their mouths and interests lie, an approach we can’t help but applaud:
Judy Irving letter in support of preservation
San Francisco Land Use and Economic Development Committee: 5/2/11 []
Landmarks Preservation: Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Fire? [SocketSite]
Effects of Historic Preservation Policies on Other Major Public Policy []

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Not Bashing

    Love this story and the way they chose to approach the problem. Historic preservation is important, I don’t want to minimize or discard the history of our beautiful city. However, it’s awfully easy to tell other people what they have to do with their money (oftentimes making projects impossible to do, leading to vacancy, blight, etc.) or to request/demand government funding. It’s much harder to get out there and actually do something yourself. Bravo!

  2. Posted by KC

    Wow, great letter/story. As a lifetime NYer it’s so inspiring to know that in other major cities it’s sometimes still possible to overcome the Bland Condo Takeover that’s destroying our communities in the name of the almighty dollar. Ms. Irving presents such a refreshing take on the affordable housing/historic preservation issue. Situations like this are a thing of the past in these parts as government deals for developers have gone completely off track and left NYC looking like a McCity or a City Suburbia with not a unit of affordable housing to speak of, no cafes or shops but lots and lots of banks, GAP, Starbucks and mini mall style Popeye/Dunkin Donut/Subway combos. The best that can be said for my once unique city of NY is that it can serve as a vivid cautionary lesson to other cities. Viva San Francisco!

  3. Posted by Joe

    Agree, thank god we dont have to deal with all the economic vibrancy that NYC has to offer. Keep everything here the same forever, just like Disyneyland!

  4. Posted by sfrenegade

    It’s commendable that this group took on historic preservation in a private manner. Unfortunately, we rarely see loudmouth NIMBYs who will put their money where their mouth is. Too many of them want something for nothing.

  5. Posted by sf

    Must this be about both ends of the extreme spectrum? I really admire the downtown bustling, dense, concrete canyon, star reaching skyline. I also really like the quaint steps of Telegraph Hill, mini parks, and gardens throughout the northern neighborhoods. I think both philosophies should be preserved. I’d like to see more thoughtful, attractive development in both low and high density buildings.

  6. Posted by kathleen

    I love those steps. I lvoe those cottages

  7. Posted by noearch

    Yes, we can have both: the newness of Mission Bay and the quaint, historic character of Telegraph Hill. Both are important parts of our city; one is about the past, and one is pointing toward the future.
    I would hope that Historic Preservation can respect both of those architectural communities.
    As for what KC says about all of the chain businesses/minimalls/Gaps, etc.: I would pose this. Those businesses would not be around and successful if humans did not spend money in them.

  8. Posted by Snark17

    Not sure how window replacement comes into play, but IMO, cheapy vinyl and fake-paned windows are ruining the look of so many otherwise great old buildings. It would be great if they were banned.

  9. Posted by noearch

    The Planning Dept. Residential Design Guidelines has some pretty clear regulations for replacing windows that face the public way.
    The trouble is this: Many homeowners and even contractors simply do NOT secure a building permit for window replacement and put them in without regard to approvals. I see this happening a lot in Noe Valley.

  10. Posted by Dude

    Excellent letter. The hearing today chaired by Supervisor Weiner was a transparent attack on historic preservation, although Wiener professes to support preservation. He allowed many city agencies ample speaking time, but the Historic Preservation Commission’s chairman was cut short. Weiner highlighted some of the conflicts inherent in preservation while ignoring the benefits. You can bet that Wiener will be the recipient of a lot of developer money next time he runs (District 8). So if you like development, vote for Wiener.

  11. Posted by LD

    the “newness of Mission Bay”?!!! Have you even been down there noearch? It’s the most bland, unrelenting, insulting excuse of a developer’s wet dream, where the market rate housing could easily be mistaken for the student housing which looks pretty much the same as the biotech buildings. And the bulk of the recreation space is located directly underneath the 280 off ramp. Ever tried to shoot some hoops and have a casual conversation at the same time? It’s exactly projects like Mission Bay that cause “nimbys” to try to take the situation into their own hands.

  12. Posted by Toady

    Historic preservation should be for what’s historic.
    Old != historic
    But that’s too nuanced for San Francisco.

  13. Posted by noearch

    Yea, LD I go down there a lot to bike or to walk along the waterfront. It’s a developing neighborhood, slowly creating its’ own character and style. It will take years and many residents to make it unique.
    There is some excellent architecture at the UCSF campus, and other surrounding buildings. There is some average, but not offensive work as well. There’s recreation space all over, not just under the freeway. The waterfront is developing into a continuous biking/walking path.
    No, I don’t “shoot hoops”. why the hell would I want to?
    Mission Bay is developing and growing. I refuse to see it as a solution “half empty”, but rather a neighborhood “half full”.
    You see what you want to see.

  14. Posted by Not Bashing

    @ LD – I’m not big on the looks of mission bay either, but it is mostly new construction and there are (many) people who really like it. I think what the others were saying is that there is room for both – the new condos that a lot of people actually do like in Mission Bay and near the ballpark and the historic neighborhoods in many other parts of the city. I know the city is only 7×7, but there’s still enough room for variety…

  15. Posted by Jimmy (No Longer Bitter)

    I doubt anyone on this board would object to people using their own money to do whatever they want with their property. Including doing nothing (as the writer above did).
    However, one does wonder if the price for the Telegraph Hill property was discounted as a consequence of the long legal battle that the developer would have faced in order to tear down the existing structures and re-build.

  16. Posted by brandno

    This is how it should be done.

  17. Posted by KC

    @ Joe I think the moral of the story here is that a city can actually be economically robust while preserving it’s historically significant structures. People like Ms. Irving improve and save neighborhoods, increasing property values and contributing to the livability of the neighborhood. Developers often actually contribute to the destruction of neighborhoods bc they’re only interested in making money, completely disregarding factors that keep communities unique and livable.
    @ Noearch as we’ve all seen, when a community is invaded by chain type stores the landlords see the rents the chains pay & eventually the rents go up astronomically and poof – there goes any possibility of an independent business owner setting up shop (or even staying in the spot they’ve had for yrs). The community is left without a choice to make (besides, Popeye’s or KFC).

  18. Posted by noearch

    The focus of the conversation is about San Francisco, not New York.
    We have very strict rules on so called chain stores here in SF.
    Again, it sounds like some people just hate chain stores as part of their social/political agenda to tell others how to live. I don’t support that philosophy.
    If you don’t like Gap/Starbucks, etc. then don’t shop there. They will become unsuccessful.

  19. Posted by sfrenegade

    “If you don’t like Gap/Starbucks, etc. then don’t shop there. They will become unsuccessful.”
    Similarly, if you want to make sure the local pet store stays around, shop there. Whatever you do, don’t make a ridiculous “fast food and pet store district” that keeps out competing pet stores to give a monopoly to someone.

  20. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Some people may indeed “just hate chain stores as part of their social/political agenda to tell others how to live”, but that’s not the reason that many cities and municipalities have legal restrictions on “formula retail” on their books and in their planning codes.
    The proliferation of formula retail chain stores makes every place look like any other place interchangeably, degrades the overall aesthetic experience that makes a particular place unique and a reflection of its own history. You’d think that a trained architect that likes to rail on about “disneyfication” on blogs would understand that.

  21. Posted by noearch

    I know you like to rant on me Brahama, but really, I don’t care. You’re entitled to your opinion.
    My comments about the “Disneyfication” of SF is about historic preservation and the saving of facades. It’s not about formula retail/chains. Sorry you missed that.
    As I have said, the public really has enormous power to make a store succeed or fail. And, seriously, not all “chain” stores are evil or hated. The Starbucks on 24th St. in Noe Valley is always pretty busy, along with the other local coffee places. People make a choice. Both can work together, adhering to planning and zoning requirements.
    Adhering to just local stores does not guarantee the enhancement of our aesthetic experience, or even reflect on our own history. No guarantees.
    There are quite a few shops in Noe Valley that are pretty unappealing on the exterior. And they often look just like every other little “mom and pop” shop you might find on many main streets in small town America. They don’t necessarily “look” like San Francisco.

  22. Posted by GoBlueInSF

    Lovely letter. Lovely story. However its nothing to broad reaching public policy on.
    The plural of ancedote is not data.

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