San Francisco’s Historic <1 Percent and Eleven Landmark DistrictsJanuary 18, 2013
Since 1967, roughly 260 individual structures have been designated as San Francisco Landmarks. And since 1972, eleven Landmark Districts have been designated throughout the City, including 85 city blocks and a total of 1,132 parcels, the exteriors of which are now regulated by Article 10 of San Francisco’s Planning Code.
With roughly 180,000 property parcels in the City and County of San Francisco, less than 1 percent of the City’s parcels are currently Landmarked, a number that is likely to be too high for some and too low for others.
The eleven Landmark Districts in San Francisco and a twelfth which is in the works:
1. Jackson Square Landmark District
Bounded by Broadway, Sansome, Washington, and Columbus Avenue and designated in 1972, San Francisco’s earliest surviving commercial area features commercial and mixed-use buildings, predominately brick, erected in the 1850s to 1860s. Buildings are typically two- to three-stories with commercial uses at the high ground story. Blocks: 8 Parcels: 82
2. Webster Street Landmark District
Bounded by Jackson, Buchanan, Fillmore, and Clay Streets and designated in 1981, this residential historic district in the Western Addition features a unified collection of builder-developed residences designed in the Italianate style. The single-family residences and duplexes were designed for middle-income home buyers. Blocks: 3 Parcels: 25
3. Northeast Waterfront Landmark District
Bounded by Greenwich, Embarcadero, Montgomery Street, and Broadway and designated in 1983, this commercial and industrial historic district reflectswaterfront storage and maritime activities, from the Gold Rush era to World War II. It features a large collection of warehouses and industrial buildings constructed of brick and reinforced concrete. Blocks: 9 Parcels: 53
4. Alamo Square Landmark District
Bounded by Golden Gate Avenue, Divisadero, Webster, and Fell Streets and designated in 1984, this large residential historic district is clustered around Alamo Square in the Western Addition. It features richly ornamented houses and flats, designed in a range of Victorian- and Edwardian-era styles, primarily for businessmen and the upper-middle class home buyer. Alamo Square Park is also a contributing feature. Blocks: 16 Parcels: 281
5. Liberty Hill Landmark District
Bounded by 20th, Mission, Dolores, and 22nd Streets and designated in 1985, this Mission District historic district features Victorian-era residences designed primarily in the Italianate, Stick, and Queen Anne styles. It contains a mix of uniform developer built tracts for the working class and larger, custom-designed residences for middle-income home buyers. It includes mixed-use buildings, primarily along Valencia Street, that feature ground-level retail spaces. Blocks: 10 Parcels: 298
6. Telegraph Hill Landmark District
Bounded by Greenwich, Sansome, Montgomery, and Green Streets and designated in 1986, this eclectic hillside historic district features the largest concentration of pre-1870s buildings in San Francisco. The residential district features small-scale dwellings accessible only via narrow pedestrian-only lanes and staircases, as well as larger, iconic Modern buildings such as Richard Neutra’s Kahn House and the Streamline Moderne Malloch Apartment Building. Blocks: 6 Parcels: 90
7. Blackstone Court Landmark District
Bounded by Lombard, Franklin, Gough, and Greenwich Streets and designated in 1987, the significance of this tiny mid-block residential district is more historical than architectural. It is centered around the now-filled Washerwoman’s Lagoon. The lot lines, small houses, and location on a pre-Gold Rush trail present a unique physical expression of pre-1906 development in the Marina District. Blocks: 1 Parcels: 4
8. South End Landmark District
Bounded by Stillman, First, Ritch, and King Streets and designated in 1990, this industrial and warehouse historic district features a collection of single- and multi-story warehouses. Constructed of brick and reinforced concrete, the warehouses are associated with maritime and rail activities. The majority of buildings were erected between 1906 and 1929. Blocks: 6 Parcels: 84
9. Bush Street Cottage Row Landmark District
Bounded by Bush, Webster, Fillmore, and Sutter Streets and designated in 1991, the historic district is comprised of residential buildings – primarily of flat front Italianate and Stick design – plus a walkway and a small park. Located in the Japantown neighborhood, the buildings are relatively small-scale and a uniform two-stories in height. In the 1930s, the walkway was commonly known as “Japan Street” due to the neighborhood’s large population of Japanese-American residents. Blocks: 2 Parcels: 23
10. Civic Center Landmark District
Bounded by Market, Fell, Franklin, Golden Gate and Jone and designated in 1996, the Civic Center historic district consists of monumental institutional buildings flanking a central open space, as well as nearby large-scale commercial and apartment buildings. Civic Center institutional buildings are unified in a Beaux Arts Classical design, described as “American Renaissance.” The Civic Center Plaza is a contributing feature. Blocks: 15 Parcels: 61
11. Dogpatch Landmark District
Bounded by Mariposa, Tubbs, 3rd, and Indiana Streets and designated in 2003, this historic district features the oldest enclave of industrial workers’ housing in San Francisco. It is located to the east of Potrero Hill in the Central Waterfront district. The small-scale Victorian-era cottages and flats housed workers from the shipyards and maritime-related industries of the adjacent Potrero Point. Also included are several industrial, commercial and civic buildings. Blocks: 9 Parcels: 131
And the twelfth district which is in the works and includes four blocks and 87 parcels: Duboce Park.
Comments from Plugged-In Readers
The one percent figure dramatically understates how much of SF’s building stock is subject to strict historic regulation under CEQA. Any building over 50 years old has to be evaluated before it is altered. If Planning staff determines it has historic value, then it basically gets treated as a landmark unless you want to spend a year or two and a couple hundred grand doing an EIR. The rational financial choice in most cases is to follow the historic regulations. I wouldn’t be surprised if 25-50 percent of building stock on the eastern side of the city is a de facto landmark.
Who cares? Tear down the “painted Ladies” tear down davies symphony hall for all I care. Just build build build. Minimum of 50 stories, no max. Eliminate all cars, buses and subways. Just walk, bike, or work from home. That seems to be the majorities idea of utopia.
Guess Again, I think you’ve dramatically overstated the CEQA process in regards to historic properties. The CEQA Guidelines do require that lead agencies consider the effects their actions would have on historic resources, but only for those actions subject to CEQA. Most building alterations are exempt from CEQA. Very few projects that ARE subject to CEQA require a full EIR. The vast majority of CEQA documents are Negative Declarations. Note that I’m not saying such alterations are exempt from City regulations regarding historic resources.
Em…Unlike most cities in CA, All building permits in San Francisco are discretionary and are therefore potentially subject to CEQA. If you alter a building in sf, planning decides if it is historic. If the buildings historic, then the permit will only be exempt from CEQA if you follow historic building rules.. I’ve worked on many permits to alter single family homes where the threat of lengthy ceqa review (even neg docs cost tens of thousands and often take the better part of a year to publish) means the owner has to choose between large expense/delay or following historic building rules. Again, in most other cities these permits would not be discretionary and ceqa would never come into play.
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