Addressing Preservation and its Problems in San Francisco

As officials in San Francisco debate the city's historic preservation policies, this column looks back at some of the ways the city has successfully preserved its past and some of the ways the process is broken.
May 5, 2011, 6am PDT | Nate Berg
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"The balancing act here between old and new works more often than not.

The hearing was called by Supervisor Scott Wiener, who insists his goal is nothing more than to "look at how historic preservation fits into an entire range of city issues." The language of the hearing request goes further, asking bureaucrats to report on "the impact of historic preservation policies on other major public policy goals" and "whether legislation is warranted to ensure that all of these policy goals are met."

The fuss might puzzle a layperson who thinks of preservation as something reserved for the likes of the Ferry Building. But critics say that too often the net is cast too broadly, turning anything built more than 45 years ago into a "historic resource" that triggers time-consuming reviews if changes are contemplated. There's also criticism that development foes seek landmark status for anything they want protected, regardless of its historic value."

One common issue, according to urban design critic John King, is that almost anything can be defended as "historic" if people try hard enough.

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Published on Monday, May 2, 2011 in San Francisco Chronicle
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