Scott Wiener wants to know if preservation could hinder San Francisco’s future 

The mark of history is everywhere in San Francisco and the Historic Preservation Commission, by its very nature, leans toward preserving it.

But Supervisor Scott Wiener wants more information on exactly how preservation goals might conflict with The City’s other priorities, like providing affordable housing near public transit, or even pedestrian safety.

Noting the anger of preservationists over a new North Beach Library branch set to replace one built in 1959, Wiener said he will be raising questions at Monday’s meeting of the Land Use and Economic Development Committee about how to strike a balance between The City’s past and its future.

An environmental impact report for the new library was unanimously passed last week by the Planning Commission, but the approval process went on two or three years longer due to preservationist attempts to save it.

“For many people, myself included, it is not a building that should be preserved at the expense of a new library and open space for the community,” Wiener said about the plan to raze the old building, build a new branch and shore up some of the green space around the Joe DiMaggio Playground.

Wiener said other potential conflicts exist at historic sites like unused Muni bus shelters, shuttered Golden Gate Park public restrooms commonly used by vagrants, and the median of Dolores Street, which might prevent safety updates to crosswalks near Dolores Park.

Wiener said he was a supporter of the voter-approved Proposition J that launched the Historic Preservation Commission in 2008, and supports the board’s goals in general.

“This will be a discussion about where you draw the line,” Wiener said. “The key is not having tunnel vision and making preservation decisions in a vacuum.”

The Planning Commission periodically conducts surveys of The City’s potentially historic resources, which supervisors decide whether to endorse as landmarks or districts, such as Alamo Square. Once that happens, the Preservation Commission has decision-making powers in those areas, like a Planning Commission would for a non-historic project.

Projects involving historic resources require more time and money to execute because they often involve hiring firms to draft environmental impact reports and the like.

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Dan Schreiber

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