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Epic Preservation Fight: Letter From an Objector

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Earlier this week we rounded up some of the rich literature out there on the new Aaron Peskin/Chris Daly historic preservation legislation. Turns out, as you may have noticed, it was way preservationist-heavy. But every campaign should get equal air time, yes? So we present to you some words from a guy with a pretty recognizable name in SF development circles. He's not what you might lovingly call a greedy developer, but you won't see his name here, because "the politics here are pretty scorched earth." (One can only hope there will be projectile ice buckets...)

If you love 3-5 year entitlement "process", then you'll LOVE where the folks behind this want it to go. ... I'd ask why this highly complex legislation was on a 90-day calendar (fast-tracked) without hearings and no one knowing anything about it. What was the rush? ... From my vantage point, the more folks that learn about it, the more uncomfortable they are with it. But, hey, why should anyone be opposed to historic preservation? It's a good thing, right? But wait, there's more. Deep Throat says that having spent forever on the Board of Supes, Aaron Peskin now totally owes his wife, reigning queen of Telegraph Hill and brand-name preservationist Nancy Shanahan. And the fallout from the legislation passing would be much greater than advertised: There's gonna be an enormous proliferation of historic districts – not bad in itself. The 1 percent figure is a red herring – enormous areas are being surveyed for significance and the threshold of what constitutes a historical district is radically lowered. However, under the Peskin/Daly legislation, within the historical districts, enormous power is taken from the Planning Commission and given to the Historic Preservation Commission. The Planning Commission is required under City Charter to consider ALL City priority policies (preservation AND economic development, affordable housing, transit-oriented development, open space, etc). The Historic Preservation Commission is only ALLOWED to consider one priority policy. Guess which.

Under the legislation, demolition of contributory buildings is effectively prohibited, regardless of their merit or economic value. The threshold of significance is 50 years.

These concerns are not abstract, as the Mission Armory and the 55 Laguna (UC Extension) projects richly demonstrate. ... So explain to me again our crisis of demolition of historic buildings this legislation is intended to fix?

Aaron is one of the smartest land use wonks this city has ever seen. He's passionate about preservation and, I'm told, after 8 yrs on the BoS, owes Nancy really, really big-time.

· Preservation Freakout Continues, Some Wonder Why [Curbed SF]
· Trouble at 55 Laguna? Yep, Looks Like It. [Curbed SF]
· The Armory, 20 More Years of Empty? [Curbed SF]

[Frank Chu historic preservation cast of characters via ACME ChuMaker. Last one, we swear.]