This piece was originally published in our April-June 2023 edition of SF Heritage News. To view the full issue, click here.
By Karalyn Monteil, President & CEO
On February 9, 2023, Mayor London Breed unveiled her roadmap for downtown San
Francisco’s future, which “lays out strategies and initiatives in response to current economic
challenges and sets a new vision for the role of Downtown in San Francisco’s economy.” The
Mayor’s Downtown Plan aims to “reinvigorate the city and reposition San Francisco as the Bay
Area’s economic hub and a global anchor for commerce.” The roadmap is comprised of nine
strategies including one focused on telling our story, which includes “a branding campaign to
reclaim San Francisco’s narrative into the future.”
Reflecting on new narratives of the city, San Francisco Heritage is asking our members
and other city stakeholders to consider the potential World Heritage values of San Francisco
and the benefits of nominating the City of San Francisco to be a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The UNESCO World Heritage List features natural and cultural heritage sites around
the world with “Outstanding Universal Value” (OUV). These are places with cultural and/or
natural significance so exceptional as to transcend local and national boundaries and to be of
common importance for all humanity. Do our city’s landmark buildings and Victorian mansions
have OUV? What about the Golden Gate Bridge or our Cable Car System? How do our historic
and cultural districts contribute to our city’s potential OUV? The Castro Theatre recently drew
international attention from film and LGBTQ+ communities concerned about the preservation
of its interior and the potential loss of its legendary LGBTQ+ and film programming. Could the
city’s cultural heritage sites associated with LGBTQ+ history and culture make San Francisco
the first World Heritage City recognized for its LGBTQ+ past events and ‘living traditions’?
World Heritage status is renowned for bringing international attention and assistance to
sites inscribed on the prestigious World Heritage List. This international recognition is a
major draw for cultural tourism and a vector for economic development.
SF Heritage organized online and in-person meetings with the Director Emeritus of the
World Heritage Centre, Francesco Bandarin, to focus on ways in which San Francisco’s
historic urban landscape can contribute to sustainable development, social cohesion, and
An Italian architect who is widely published on the management of historic urban
landscapes and World Heritage, Francesco Bandarin served as President of the Jury of the
Venice Biennale of Architecture and Chair of the World Judges Panel for the Prix Versailles. He
was in San Francisco for the California Preservation Foundation’s annual conference, where
he opened their plenary session “Reimagining and Rethinking Placemaking and Placekeeping
— Visions for the Future.”
On April 20, a free public webinar with Francesco Bandarin focused on World Heritage
Cities and Historic Urban Landscapes, as part of our Conversation Series. The discussion
was recorded, shared with SF Heritage members, and made available to the general public
through our web and social-media channels.
In addition, an in-person Q&A session with Francesco Bandarin was organized for select city
stakeholders on April 22 at the Haas-Lilienthal House to discuss the potential World Heritage
values of San Francisco and learn more about the benefits, challenges and responsibilities
of World Heritage status.