Modernist Diamond Heights Wall May Be Declared a Landmark

A huge redwood wall made in the 1960s may be the newest — and most bizarre? — designated landmark in the city.

The wall, designed by Stefan Novak in 1967. (Google)

It’s a big, beautiful wall — or so thinks the city. The Diamond Heights Safety Wall, a huge 36-foot-tall outdoor wooden sculpture located at the intersection of Diamond Heights Boulevard and Clipper Streets, may receive landmark status from the Board of Supervisors next week.

Often reserved for such feats of historic architecture as the Mission Dolores or Abner Phelps House, the pile of moss-covered redwood beams built in 1968 might seem an odd fit. But the Historic Preservation Committee supports the designation, calling it a “visual landmark for the surrounding residential neighborhood.” 

And it does hold some important history in its bones: Bay Area artist and architect Stefan Alexander was hired by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency to build the wall in the ’60s after the undeveloped hills of Diamond Heights were turned into neighborhoods. Part gateway, part safety infrastructure (ostensibly to prevent cars making the tight turn from flying off the hillside), the wall has become synonymous with the Modernist architectural style of the neighborhood.

Despite its age, the wall has fared quite well. Based on a report from the Historic Preservation Committee, which voted to approve the wall as a landmark in November of last year, it “retains good integrity of location, design, workmanship feeling and association.” The redwood has weathered naturally, and aside from some small graffiti, it’s in “good material condition.” 

If the Board of Supervisors does approve the wall for landmark status, it will be protected from “inappropriate alterations” — and will join the hundreds of other designated landmarks across the city, perhaps even beating the Doggie Diner sign as the weirdest of them all. 

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