In its effort to preserve the past of San Francisco, the Historic Preservation Commission might just be hindering the city from having any kind of real future -- one with affordable housing, good transit, and healthy redevelopment.
It was a good thing for San Francisco when voters in 2008 passed Proposition J -- a measure pushed by then-Supervisor Aaron Peskin -- which elevated the Historic Preservation Commission from an advisory body to one that wields real authority.
Just as there is such a thing as too much development, there can also be too much preservation. In the last year alone, historic preservation advocates have been running around town trying to mark libraries, buildings, trees, and parks as historic.
More recently, the city hired consultants to survey properties citywide and decide what they thought was historically significant. Consultants looked at buildings built more than 50 years ago, but as some developers pointed out, that doesn't necessarily mean they are historically significant.
In other words, the term "historic" has become so broad that it touches almost every neighborhood, hindering development and creating new expenses for property owners. The issue has been bubbling under the political surfaces at City Hall, where some are calling it a power grab in the name of preservation.
Commissioners last week started reviewing the surveys, using them as a tool to create widespread historic districts.
Supervisor Scott Wiener took the bold step today,
calling for a hearing to rein in the heavy-handed preservationists
before they stamp out important development. He pointed
out that there are efforts to preserve parts of Dolores Park that
desperately needs renovation.
advocates for historic preservation --only advocates -- that is a problem," Wiener said. "Wesee an increase in the use of surveys, that, if unbalanced, can
jeopardize future affordable housing development and transit-orient development."