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Historic Preservation

For a city with such a marvelous architectural heritage, historic preservation in San Francisco has always been a difficult, frustrating, and often unsuccessful battle. Only a few mayors have been even remotely sympathetic to the preservation of older buildings and neighborhoods. Mayor Brown's appointees to the Planning Commission and the Board of Appeals have been highly pro development and at times hostile to the idea of retaining our architectural heritage. Nevertheless there are active preservation and neighborhood organizations that have long fought to preserve older buildings. Few people understand how important these neighborhood organizations have been in helping to preserve and maintain the residential and architectural character of their neighborhoods in the face of unrelenting development pressures. Many of these neighborhood organizations publish informative, well written newsletters. Nearly all neighborhood organizations are dependent on a faithful core of very dedicated people and can always use help and money. If you are interested in the quality of life in your neighborhood, you should join and support their efforts. Both you and your neighborhood will be better for it. There are many more active neighborhood organizations beyond this list, and I will add the most active.

  • National Trust for Historic Preservation: the major national preservation organization, founded in 1949 and headquartered in Washington, DC, has fought many important preservation battles, alone and in partnership with local preservation organizations. The NTHP has a strong education and advocacy role, including support for legislation at all levels of government to help preserve our built environment. The NTHP has local offices in many major cities, including San Francisco. It is a very worthwhile organization that publishes an excellent bimonthly magazine, Preservation, and has a good web site at nationaltrust.org
  • San Francisco Architectural Heritage: a large, active member-supported organization dedicated to the preservation and adaptive reuse of architecturally and historically significant buildings in San Francisco. SFAH has fought many battles, winning some, and contributing immensely to preservation in this city. It is headquartered in, and owns and operates a fabulous Queen Anne, the Haas-Lilienthal House (2007 Franklin). www.sfheritage.org
  • Victorian Alliance: a smaller, but very active preservation and study group with monthly meetings at architecturally interesting homes. www.victorianalliance.org
  • Alamo Square Neighborhood Organization: an active neighborhood group often concerned with preservation issues. Tel 552-0673. PO Box 15372, SF, 94115
  • Cole Valley Improvement Association: strong, well organized association that has done much to improvement its neighborhood and encourage historic preservation. Outstanding newsletter. PO Box 170611, SF 94117 or cviasf@aol.com
  • Pacific Heights Residents Association: one of the city's oldest neighborhood groups; instrumental in establishing height and zoning limitations. Strongly supports preservation. www.phra-sf.org
  • Telegraph Hill Dwellers Neighborhood Association: the oldest, probably the most active, and certainly best organized neighborhood association. Telegraph Hill, as a residential neighborhood, would have been destroyed without the efforts of this group. Outstanding website and newsletter. www.thd.org
  • Western Addition Neighborhood Association: another small group that has been very influential in neighborhood preservation in a area that has been so damaged by the Redevelopment Agency. Jan Bolafi, 931-1091.
  • Potrero Boosters: a old organization but reenergized, that has fought rampant development and the planned power plant. www.potreroboosters.org

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