Both the City of San Francisco and San Francisco Heritage lost one of its greatest champions with the death of Gertrude “Gee Gee” Bland Platt on December 13, 2023.
The idea and the practice of preservation locally was practically invented under Gee Gee’s direction and guidance. In 1963, she served as the chair of the Junior League’s architectural survey of the city, later republished as the influential 1968 book Here Today: San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage. In 1968, she was appointed to the first Landmarks Advisory Board in the city. During her 13 years on the board, seven of which she served as president, the first 110 San Francisco city landmarks were designated.
Gee Gee served on San Francisco Heritage’s board for years. She served on the board of the California Preservation Foundation (CPF) and twice was its president. She was integral to the creation of the California Preservation Alliance, the first preservation political action committee. She spearheaded action against the developers of the old Emporium department store site when they demolished part of the original building. A $2.5 million settlement created a city-administered fund to support numerous important preservation projects in San Francisco.
In pursuit of the best preservation outcomes, Gee Gee always asked pointed questions and her unfiltered opinions of development proposals could be legendary. Former SF Heritage board chair Courtney Damkroger:
“I met Gee Gee in 1989 when I joined the western office of the National Trust. To be honest, at first, she terrified me. Gee Gee advocated for the Trust’s attention to preservation matters in San Francisco. She was determined, persuasive and impatient with any delay. She had an impressive memory and could support her demands and challenges with a formidable library of resources. Gee Gee was not afraid to call foul when necessary. I quickly learned that in addition to her drive and intelligence Gee Gee was a warm and generous woman. She was generous with her time, her resources and her hospitality. I’m grateful to have known her for so long and will miss her deeply. San Francisco is a better place because of her.”
Gee Gee was an ever-present advisor to San Francisco Heritage and personally donated to fund key initiatives and programs at the organization. She was an inspirational trail blazer for many women in preservation. San Francisco Heritage board member Katherine Petrin:
“She has touched every aspect of historic preservation in San Francisco through philanthropy, her strategic thinking, and as a mentor to many. I’m forever grateful to Gee Gee for the time she took to share her many insights and for her lasting influence in the way I think about San Francisco history, historic places, advocacy, and the value of what we do.”
On behalf of San Francisco Heritage, president and CEO Woody LaBounty extended sincere condolences to the Bland and Platt families and added these thoughts:
“Gee Gee was a personal friend, but she was also a professional role model to me and countless others who care about San Francisco. She paved the way and I often apply a ‘What would Gee Gee say?’ test to tough decisions. She showed me how one can be both tenacious and graceful to fight for the best result. Her legacy is written in the hundreds of important buildings, public artworks, and iconic landscapes she helped save for this city she loved.”
Watch a tribute to Gee Gee’s life and preservation work in San Francisco, given by Shayne Watson as part of our Preservationists on Preservationists, a program in our 2020 Lecture Series.
Gee Gee’s family plans to celebrate her life sometime in 2024. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that anyone wishing to honor her contribute to San Francisco Heritage.