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Heritage 50: Landmark Fund

Aug19th

A set of cards Heritage created in 2017 to promote the Landmark Fund, featuring (clockwise from the top) the Community Music Center (legacy business), El Rey Theatre (city landmark), Joe Goode Performance Group (legacy business), and the Glen Park BART Station (city landmark).

San Francisco is celebrated for its distinctive architecture, thriving neighborhood commercial districts, and rich cultural history.

However, the city’s official inventory of historic landmarks does not adequately reflect the diversity of its people and places, favoring downtown edifices and master architects, leaving large swaths of the city and entire ethnic groups virtually unrepresented. Recognizing this, and in commemoration of Heritage’s 2021 50th anniversary, the Landmark Fund was launched in 2017 to directly support the nomination of 50 buildings, districts, businesses and nonprofits for city landmark, Legacy Business Registry, or other type of historic designation, including inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Interior of the Glen Park BART Station, one of the city’s finest examples of Brutalist architecture. Heritage awarded a grant to the Glen Park Association in 2017 to nominate the station for landmark designation.

Historic designation is the most effective and proactive way to safeguard important places from demolition, destruction, and displacement. The Landmark Fund has supported work leading to the designation of businesses, buildings, and institutions such as The Great Cloud of Witnesses collage-mural in Ingleside Presbyterian Church (city landmark); Bimbo’s 365 Club (legacy business); 24th Street Dental operated by Dr. Bernardo D. Gonzalez III, AKA “Dr. Rock” (legacy business); the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (National Register); the Royal Baking building in the Excelsior District (city landmark); and the Lyon-Martin House in Noe Valley (city landmark).

dr rock poses for a photo in his dental office

Dr. Gonzalez, aka “Dr. Rock,” in his dental office at 24th Street Dental. Located at 2720 24th Street in the heart of the Mission District, 24th Street Dental is more than an important bilingual dental practice; it’s a significant place for San Francisco’s Latin Rock history.

As we celebrate our Golden Anniversary in 2021, we continue to actively pursue designation for several more Landmark Fund projects to reach our goal of 50 places. This includes spearheading the effort together with Supervisor Connie Chan to designate Lincoln Park, the location of the former City Cemetery; and working with our Heritage in the Neighborhoods’ community groups to designate the Trocadero Clubhouse in the Parkside District as a city landmark and the Italian American Social Club in the Excelsior District as a legacy business.

The Kong Chow funerary monument in Lincoln Park, a significant piece of Chinese American history in what was formerly City Cemetery.

Thank you to all of those who have called in to hearings, written letters, and have overall supported our Landmark Fund work to date. If you would like to make a financial contribution towards the Landmark Fund, please choose “Landmark Fund” when designating your gift.

Advocacy win in Shipwright’s Cottage rehabilitation project

Aug18th

The rehabilitation of the Shipwright’s Cottage at 900 Innes Avenue is part of a larger San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department project to redevelop and improve public accessibility along the Indian Basin shoreline. Design by consultant and landscape architect Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN).

On August 18, 2021, San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) approved a request for a Certificate of Appropriateness for exterior alterations to the Shipwright’s Cottage at 900 Innes Avenue, including new accessible entryways on two non-secondary facades. The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, which owns the property, plans to rehabilitate the cottage as part of a larger open space improvement project on the India Basin waterfront.

Heritage and numerous India Basin/Bayview-Hunter’s Point community members advocated for the building’s rehabilitation plan to include a robust interpretive program on the site’s history. In response, Recreation and Parks is now working with San Francisco Planning Department staff to incorporate interior interpretive displays into the cottage’s redevelopment plan. Public comments at today’s HPC hearing reiterated the importance of having the main floor of the cottage used as an interpretive center dedicated to the history of the India Basin area, from the early history of the Ohlone up through the impact that the shipbuilding industry had on the development of the entire Bay Area. Representatives of the community particularly spotlighted how including the site’s full story in the redevelopment plan will contribute to the equitable development of the site, preserving and sharing the site’s cultural inheritance with future generations.

900 Innes (far left) boatyard with water tower looking north, 1907. Photographed by R. Weinstein. Source: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, A04.16, 813n (SAFR 21374). The passing on of knowledge was a cultural practice among the boat-building families of India Basin. The shipwrights in India Basin – Dircks, Stone, Siemer, and Anderson – passed on their craft to their native-born American sons, developing a three-generational tradition of boatbuilding in the neighborhood.

The Shipwright’s Cottage (SF Landmark no. 250) is one of the oldest known residences in the India Basin area, constructed in 1875. During the late 19th century, working-class ship builder’s settlements characterized the Hunter’s Point peninsula with a string of boatyards populating the shoreline. The modest-sized vernacular residence was constructed for Netherlands-born Johnson J. Dircks, the first known boat-builder to move to Hunter’s Point. It includes a gabled roof, horizontal shiplap siding, wood windows, and front façade decorative features including architraves with scrolled brackets; bracketed window sills; and upper transom panels.

Historic primary (southeast) facade of the Shipwright’s Cottage from ca.1920. Source: VerPlanck Historic Preservation Consulting

Historic southwest facade. The bathroom addition near the west corner of the house had not yet been built. Photographed by the Planning Department in 1976.

The cottage is the natural place for a welcome center for the new park, with educational material on the site’s history.

Here is an excerpt from the project summary, prepared by firm Page & Turnbull:

“The Shipwright’s Cottage will be rehabilitated to serve a new use within the park as a welcome center with interpretive history exhibits at the upper level and a public multi-purpose space for classes and exhibitions at the lower level. The exterior character-defining features will be generally restored based on physical and documentary evidence, with new wood windows, trim, and bargeboard to replicate the missing historic features. Doors meeting accessibility requirements will be added to the first floor at the northwest facade in the area of a removed non-historic addition, and to the basement where an existing non-historic door and window will be removed. Existing interior partition walls will be removed, and the interior will be rehabilitated to serve the new, compatible use. Interior floor finishes at the first floor will be rehabilitated and detailed to show the historic arrangement of the walls and rooms as part of the interpretive program.”

Shipwright’s Cottage facade in 2011. Google Street View image.

900 Innes Avenue Park Shipwright’s Cottage rear view, design from GGN.

Heritage 50: Designating the Port of San Francisco

Aug12th

A view towards the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero from the San Francisco Bay. Photo by Spencer Brown.

Much like the genesis of important early Heritage surveys like the Downtown Plan, the nomination of the Port of San Francisco Embarcadero Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places was borne out of piecemeal threats to the port’s historic infrastructure. Alarmed by early planning policies that called for the removal of historic buildings to open up views to the bay, Heritage joined Port staff and a Port committee of waterfront stakeholders to explore the possibility of a National Register nomination in the late 1990s. This came on the heels of San Francisco voters approving initiative Proposition K in 1990, calling a halt to non-maritime development on Port property until a comprehensive land use plan was in place.

A slingload of green coffee sacks, 132 pounds to the sack, is offloaded at a Port of San Francisco dock May 16, 1960. The year prior, more than 110,000 short tons of coffee from Central & South America, Mexico and Africa, valued at over $81,000,000, was imported here for local processing. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Demolition of Embarcadero Freeway, Ferry Building in the background. July 1991. Courtesy of Greg Gaar. OpenSFHistory / wnp72.16966d

Port leadership eventually embraced historic designation—and the tax incentives that can flow from it—as essential to waterfront revitalization efforts. A National Register nomination was one of the implementation measures for the 1997 Waterfront Land Use Plan and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s San Francisco Waterfront Special Area Plan, both of which established a policy framework for the revitalization of the waterfront through the rehabilitation of historic resources.

Pier 45, Sheds A and B: Embarcadero facades, view east; Port of San Francisco Embarcadero Historic District. Photo by Brian Vahey for the Port of San Francisco, February 2002.

Boundaries of the Embarcadero Historic District. National Register listing unlocked tax credits for development projects meeting the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. The designation process also helped to establish guidelines for the treatment of all the resources in the district, setting clear standards from the start for potential developers.

In the end, a broad-based community effort made the National Register nomination a reality. Joining Heritage were the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, South Beach Citizens Advisory Committee, Fisherman’s Wharf Northeast Waterfront Advisory Committee, Northeast Waterfront Advisory Group, Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, and San Francisco Tomorrow, as well as the city’s labor unions, tenants of the rehabilitated Ferry Building, and other waterfront tenants and developers.

Historic waterfront businesses operating out of small wood buildings on bulkhead wharves, like Pier 23 Cafe, are listed as contributors to the district.

Serving on the Nomination Advisory Committee were Alice Carey, Charles Chase, Jennifer Clary, Tim Kelley, Bridget Maley, Stewart Morton, Gee Gee Platt, Nan Roth, Nancy Shanahan, Chris VerPlanck, and Joe LaClair, senior planner with BCDC. At the Port, Monique Moyer, director; Byron Rhett and Diane Oshima, director and deputy director of planning and development; and Mark Paez, preservation planner, worked effectively—with technical support from the Office of Historic Preservation and the National Park Service—to address concerns that arose among the interested parties. Architectural historian Michael Corbett (also author of Heritage’s Downtown Plan) lead the preparation of the Port-funded National Register nomination. The approximately 500-page document qualified a three mile area for designation as a National Register historic district in 2006.

Following this milestone advocacy effort, in 2011 Heritage published the definitive volume on the history of the waterfront, Port City: The History and Transformation of the Port of San Francisco 1848-2010, also by Michael Corbett.

The cover of “Port City.”

Despite the Embarcadero’s historical significance and numerous successful rehabilitation projects since the National Register designation, the district continues to face two major physical threats: earthquakes and sea level rise. To help encourage action, Heritage nominated and won recognition for the Embarcadero Historic District’s plight on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2016 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. In addition to formidable threats posed by sea level rise of up to 66 inches by 2100, a recent earthquake vulnerability study revealed greater than expected risk to the three-mile-long seawall. The dual seismic and climate change threats require a coordinated local, regional, state, and federal response with creative strategies to assure long-term resilience for the Embarcadero’s rich heritage.

View from Embarcadero to Bay Bridge, king tides flooding pier in the foreground

“King tides” along the Embarcadero, which are about a foot above the average high tides along the San Francisco coast, offer a glimpse into what the future could look like with rising sea levels.

Heritage remains part of the coalition formed during the National Register process, which meets regularly to address Port waterfront resilience and the management of its cultural resources.

Read more:

“Port to Seek National Register District for North Waterfront,” Heritage News, March/April 2000, Vol. XXVIII, No. 2

Heritage 50: San Francisco’s Legacy Businesses

Aug4th

Threats to local institutions underscored the need to develop new strategies for protecting places with intangible cultural significance. “Legacy Bars and Restaurants,” Heritage’s a groundbreaking initiative from 2013 that invited users to experience the history of some of San Francisco’s most legendary eateries, watering holes, dives and haunts, was the first step in documenting the city’s vast commercial heritage and promoting businesses that did not necessarily qualify for formal historic designation. This program directly inspired the creation of the city’s now existing Legacy Business Registry program, administered by the Office of Small Business.

Recently, Heritage engaged filmmaker and native San Franciscan Joey Yee to create a special video segment on legacy businesses for our 2021 Soirée. Joey’s now popular videos “cut through the fog” to cover his favorite San Francisco things – big trees, bridges, city landmark show-downs, you name it. Here, Joey visits some of the city’s most beloved legacy spots — from Buena Vista Cafe to Green Apple Books and Beep’s Burgers — and shares Heritage’s history of advocating and protecting these special places.

Legacy businesses, like all small businesses in the city, have suffered greatly from the pandemic. While we continue to advocate and lobby for prioritization of aid and relief to these institutions holding the city’s intangible heritage, we encourage everyone to patronize them as the city recovers.