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City and County of San Francisco





Meeting Minutes


Hearing Room 400

City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place

Wednesday, May 5, 2010



12:30 P.M. 




Regular Meeting




COMMISSIONERS PRESENT:         Chase, Damkroger, Hasz, Martinez, Matsuda, and Wolfram





STAFF IN ATTENDANCE:  John Rahaim – Director of Planning, Kelley Amdur – Director of Neighborhood Planning, Tim Frye – Acting Preservation Coordinator, Angela Threadgill, Linda Avery – Commission Secretary








Kathy Howard – Golden Gate Preservation Alliance Group (GGPAG) and California Preservation Foundation (CPF) filed an appeal on the ruling regarding the Beach Chalet to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) last Wednesday.  Department of Recreation and Park issued press releases on Friday that an Environment Impact Report will be done.  GGPAG & CPF would request a scoping hearing as a next step.  They will continue to work with Recreation and Park in an effort to shape the project that benefits the soccer players and the Park’s land.  Ms. Howard urged HPC to continue to participate in the process.

Christopher VerPlanck – Cofounder and Co-ring Leader of SOS Tonga Room – He requested HPC to take action to amend the existing case report on the Fairmont Hotel to include the Tonga Room as an important interior space.  He believes the Tango Room is subject to Certificate of Appropriateness approval.

Erika Shultz – Member of SOS Tonga Room – The SOS has submitted an amendment to the Fairmont Hotel Landmark case report to include the Tonga Room as a significant interior feature.  She requested HPC take action on this amendment.

Alice Carey – Request a ruling on open meetings law for the public seeking to meet with commissioners.

Gee Gee Platt – commented that the Fairmont Hotel project has to be looked at more carefully.




Acting Preservation Coordinator:

The Library Commission – Planning staff, at the request from the Library Commission, made an informational presentation regarding the landmark designation process, Proposition J, Article 10 and Planning Code at their May 6, 2010 hearing.

2462 – 27th Avenue – At the April 7, 2010 Board of Supervisors (BOS) hearing, the BOS heard an appeal of the determination of the exemption from an Environmental Impact Report for the site.  The BOS voted 10-0 upholding the Categorical Exemption issued by the Planning Department.

Park Merced Project – An informational presentation on the proposed project was given to the Planning Commission and did not include DEIR discussion.  The DEIR is scheduled for HPC review and comment on June 2nd and to the Planning Commission June 17th, respectively.

Director Rahaim announced that he plans to join HPC for at least the first hearing of each month, if not more.  He looks forward to those meetings.




President’s Report and Announcements


Commissioner Chase:

 [Misner Stein] from Mayor’s Disability Counsel requested HPC’s presence at their 5/21/10 hearing to report on accessibility policy for HPC actions.  He requested a member of HPC to go in his place because can’t attend that day.

Meetings and Conferences for people who are interested in historical restoration:

            1. California Preservation Foundation held in Nevada City (Grass Valley) May 13-15.

            2.  Association for Preservation Technology in Denver, Colorado - October 6-9.

            3.    National Historical Preservation Conference in Austin, Texas - October 27-30.


3.         Rules and Regulations.


a)     Disclosure – Discussion of the definition of disclosures including, process, and options for the Commission.


Deputy City Attorney Ruiz-Esquide – She will present several options for the HPC regarding communications and disclosure at the next hearing.

Commissioner Martinez asked the reason for having a disclosure discussion.

Commissioner Wolfram explained that he went to the National Trust Conference and attended a Best Practices session that discussed ex-parte communication with project sponsors.  Ex-parte meaning individual commissioners who meet with project sponsors might form a personal relationship and could develop an opinion outside of the hearings.  That was discussed as not a good practice.  He didn’t see the benefit of learning more information when the rest of the Commissioners do not have the same benefit.

Planning Director Rahaim stated that generally the recommendation is not to have such contact, but there are other options for consideration.  There’s is a range from where contacts are not permitted to contact is a default at a hearing.  These are the range of things that are being considered and for City Attorney’s Office to provide some options for those ranges.

Commissioner Chase said HPC could come to a conclusion by establishing a policy based on one of the four options or a variation that is within the confines of state law and city regulations.

Commissioner Damkroger agreed with what Commissioner Wolfram had outlined and felt uncomfortable with individual contact.  She felt that individual members could get information that may not be made available to the public.  Often the contact was combined with a tour of the site where one might see something the others might not get to see.  One way to get around that and to discourage individual meetings for sites that are difficult to access easily is to do a special site visit that requires notification.  People will be able to see the site and have equal access to information that seems most pertinent.

Commissioner Martinez valued certain meetings with project sponsors where he could ask technical questions without wondering if he was using the limited time of the hearing.  Unfortunately there’s a negative connotation to these meetings.  If HPC does have a disclosure policy, he would prefer to not meet with project sponsors at all.  He suggested one actual improvement is to have a disclosure category next to the item.  Members of the public may not be here at the beginning of the hearing when the current disclosure category typically happens.  Commissioners should say what they learned at the meeting and share the benefit with the rest of the commissioners and the public.  That way it balances things out.

Commissioner Wolfram said the HPC gets an excellent preservation staff in the Planning Department.  They work through the whole Certificate of Appropriateness (C of A) process with the project sponsor for a period of time.  It is the last step of the process when the project comes to us and it should not be at that time that HPC learns something they don’t know about.  Leaving staff out of individual meetings with commissioners can be confusing.  HPC needs to be really careful and conscious of including the Planning Staff.

Commissioner Chase mentioned that Commissioner Wolfram recently prompted for a project to go through staff.  It took more staff time but there was a quality of uniformity and clarity of what the HPC and Planning Department were hearing. 

Commissioner Damkroger – It should not be one’s judgment that someone else is interested in a particular question.  There maybe someone in the audience or the commissioners who would benefit from that information despite the fact that we might be uncomfortable while asking some arcane question or taking too long.  The benefit is having a more predictable way of learning each project.

Commissioner Hasz expressed that he thought the Commissions job here was to balance staff out – hear what staff is saying and hear what project sponsor is saying, and balance it out. He would not want to set up something where HPC is under the view of staff all the time.  That is too influential on one side.  He preferred it separate, as HPC is set up as a separate body from the staff.  Neither would he want to set up a policy where project sponsor and public access to Commissioners is not balanced.  HPC would want to have equal representation regarding access.

Commissioner Matsuda agreed with Commissioner Wolfram that HPC members rely on staff and the public to provide information.  Staff objectively provides information to HPC members and to the public to talk about concerns and issues that affect the project.  She also agreed with Commissioner Damkroger that HPC should schedule site visits as needed to respond to issues that need in-depth approach.  Given the alternatives or information from the City Attorney’s Office, a number of options would be available to us.



Bridget Maley – Former Landmarks Preservation Board Member – She thought there should be some guidelines flexible enough for the Commissioners to react to the public and project sponsor but at the same time let people know when they cross the line.  The C of A packet should have enough information included for the HPC to come to some conclusion.   It would be good to have the guidelines and adequate information as a set of policies so projects could move forward with a reasonable pace.

Gee Gee Platt – She suggested that none of the commissioners should ever see a project sponsor alone.  The idea of flexibility is good and she encouraged HPC to have site visits as often as possible.


b)     Hearing Procedures related to receipt of new information during a public hearing.


Commissioner Chase – This discussion is about what HPC should do when new information is provided at the hearing and establish the rebuttal process for the new information.

Commissioner Martinez asked staff to explain why receiving new information from the public or project sponsor was a problem.

Director Rahaim – The concern that Planning staff has had at the hearing was related to the Market/Octavia Survey.  The concern raised in that situation was the consultant representing the project sponsor and had prepared the survey brought new information to the hearing that staff had not seen and presented that to the Commission. He said the Planning Commission made it really clear that if they don’t have material in their packets several days in advance, they will not consider new information brought to the hearing, whether there’s a change to a drawing or whatever.  They have informally made that a policy that a new drawing brought forward the day before or the morning of the hearing is not something they will consider because they haven’t have a chance to look at it.  The concern expressed by staff, and the way the survey was brought forward, by whichever organization, is equivalent to having a project sponsor come forward with the project.  It seems that information should be submitted in advance so everyone has a chance to review it.

Commissioner Damkroger supported the last page of the Planning Commission’s Rules and Regulations which stated revisions submitted at the hearing are discouraged and only considered at the commissioners’ disgression.

Commissioner Martinez supports that HPC adopt the Planning Commission’s language.

Commissioner Chase – Formal representation of information that has not been provided [to staff] by the project sponsor was the larger issue here.   HPC could establish, as the Planning Commission has, a deadline for new information that comes forward.  If there is new information from the project sponsor at the hearing, formal rebuttal then is a request by staff to defer or have a continuance.



Gee Gee Platt – She thought what had happened with Market/Octavia needed a significant conversations on 1) bigger district versus worm like districts; 2) Planning Department’s idea of districts; and 3) the feeling that the Department is unwilling to consider Article 10 historic districts such as Alamo Square if the concern about larger districts is that they won’t be manageable.


Acting Preservation Coordinator Frye responded to Ms. Platt’s comment and said the Survey Advisory Group at its first meeting in April had discussed the issue of large scale versus small definitive finite districts.  He hoped to bring the result of the discussion back throughout the summer as part of the survey adoption.  The main concern he had was that the consultant had prepared a fairly lengthy rebuttal that staff did not have the opportunity to digest and fully understand.  The staff should have certainly deferred to a continuance.

Commissioner Damkroger asked if the Planning staff did not get the rebuttal opportunity in advance.  Mr. Frye responded that staff did not.

Director Rahaim addressed Ms. Platt’s concern on staff’s recommendations.  If the draft motion did not reflect the commission’s final wishes, the motion is to redraft the document to come back at a later meeting for final action as an intent to approve or disapprove.   He agreed it may be good to have a broader discussion in the coming month about the nature of directions on historic districts - one that encompasses a very big area, and the other a very small finite areas where there is consistency or clear historic patterns.

Commissioner Martinez – He suggested that HPC rules state the Planning Commission’s Rules and Regulations language on “Motion of Intent” on Section 6, subsection b. explicitly.

Commissioner Damkroger – She asked that the draft form be brought back at the next meeting for review and adoption.  Commissioner Chase concurred.

Commissioner Wolfram – The Planning Commission’s Rules and Regulations mentioned time limits in the hearing procedures.  In an organized opposition testimony, a project getting three minute increments would sometimes last for hours; it may all be organized but is not acting in an organized manner.

Commission Secretary Avery –There’s a time limit for all categories. Organized opposition must make a case in advance for a 15 minute block of time.  Their case will then be forwarded to the Commission’s president or whoever chairs the hearing for a decision.

Commissioner Chase – He asked how to hear from individuals who are not representing the organization but are associated with that block of time and if that’s the only time the organization gets to speak?

Director Rahaim – It is a judgment call.  There is a sense that they are speaking for the organization as they request the time, but it doesn’t mean other people who didn’t speak within that 15 minute time can’t speak their own 3 minutes.  They are not necessarily speaking for that organization.

Commissioner Wolfram – He suggested under Standard Cases III.j for DEIR to change “all speakers will be limited to a period not to exceed 3 minutes” to “all individual speakers will be limited to a period not to exceed 3 minutes”

Commissioner Martinez – He suggested adopting Planning Commission’s Rules and Regulation around time limits for different categories.

Commission Secretary Avery – She recommended adopting the Planning Commission’s Rules and Regulations for Standard Cases.

Commissioner Matsuda – Planning’s Rules were adopted May 8, 2008.  She asked Ms. Avery if there were anything she would improve, amend or recommend to HPC in terms of procedures.

Commission Secretary Avery – Only that the HPC Rules and Regulations should be as precise as the Planning Commission’s.



Bridget Maley – It would be helpful to have the block of time, but there should be some clarification on what that time limit is to be prior to the hearing.

Commissioner Secretary Avery – The request for the block of time needs to be in writing 24 hours in advance of a hearing.  More than one group can ask for a block.

Commissioner Martinez – He requested that under HPC Rules and Regulations’ Duties of Officers should be amended to explicitly say the president is to approve the agenda.  It also should say the Commission as a whole by a majority can hear something on a particular date.  HPC has the power to control its own agenda.  If other commissioners agree, those two things should be added somewhere to HPC’s Rules and Regulations.  The reason why he wanted it in there was before this Commission, the LPAB said they wanted to talk about something and then it never happened.  It fell through the cracks.  This is a mechanism where it becomes real instead of just a good idea.

Commissioner Chase – He didn’t disagree.

Director Rahaim – He expressed his understanding and has no problem with the proposal.

Commissioner Matsuda – She asked to correct a typo under III, Section 2 “appoint one of the number to act temporarily as President” to “appoint one of the members to act temporarily as President”.

Commission Secretary Avery – She would add Commissioner Martinez points under Article IV, Section 1, Regular Meetings.


c)     Discussion on the format and material required for submittal of Historic Preservation Commission Hearing Packets.


Commissioner Chase – The HPC receives paper volumes of DEIRs.  The document HPC is responsible for reviewing is a very small percentage compared to the full DEIR. He asked if HPC could get the DEIRs electronically by CDs or in PDF format.

Commissioners Chase and Martinez stated their preference is to get both DEIRs and HPC regular hearing packets electronically

Commissioners Wolfram, Damkroger, Hasz, and Matsuda preferred to get DEIRs electronically but HPC regular hearing packets in paper.

Commissioner Martinez – He asked HPC to consider a discussion on reviewing and commenting on actual applications for Certificates of Appropriateness, CEA, landmarks, and historic districts.  He also asked whether or not the HPC needs to use the AND forms for local designations.  Submittals to HPC do not include enough information on surrounding buildings, especially those in interim controls.  After some discussion with the HPC members, he summarized that minimum information should include physical context, adjacency, back and facing properties across the right-of-way to illustrate the historic context of the project; and possibly more if staff feels that is necessary to communicate the relationship between the project and its surroundings.

Commission Secretary Avery – stated that using the Planning Commission’s Rules and Regulations, Appendix A, Standard Cases, II - Content of Submittals, as a guide, along with the suggestions offered by Commissioner Martinez, she will draft modified HPC Rules and Regulations for the Commission’s consideration.



Bridget Maley – The C of As are reviewed at the schematic stage and often do not have structural, mechanical, and electrical details.  In many cases, the huge part of potential impact to a historical building is inserting all the building systems.  It’s good to have a clearer and stronger guideline for the project sponsors to understand what they need to submit for the HPC to make a timely decision.  She suggested that reviewing the Preservation Bulletin and this [HPC’s Rules and Regulation] at the same time would make sense.

Gee Gee Platt – She would like to see the return to a stepped process for C of A approval on an as needed basis.  Project sponsors would get a limited approval based on information provided and understand that he has to return for final approval.  She would like HPC to see explicit documents before finalizing the project so project sponsors know precisely what HPC has approved.  She wanted HPC to start being precise and legalistic about their approval for documents and not leaving it to staff.

Johanna Street – She wondered why historic structural reports are not required.  Preservation architects do these reports before they do a project.  If all projects come forward with historic structural reports, everything is laid out in a scientific and direct way of going about a project.  She encouraged that HPC use the National Register format for designations.


Commissioner Chase – He asked Mr. Frye what is the expectation of the Planning Department in the C of A process for documents that come before the HPC?  Mr. Frye replied that traditionally it is whatever is submitted as required for a site permit is forwarded to the HPC for review.  Additional information like window details and etc. that staff feels the HPC would benefit from would also be brought to HPC for review.  There is nothing specified anywhere that requires that information to be provided.

Commissioner Wolfram – He asked Mr. Frye if the preservation specialist review the building permit to make sure that it is in conformance with the C of A and does it come back to staff for final inspection?  Mr. Frye replied, generally the preservation specialist is the same planner assigned to the permit, or if it is assigned to another planner, the planner will work in consultation with the preservation specialist to make sure all conditions of approval within the C of A is complied with.  And, when the permit is at the Building Inspection phase, it is in the hands of the Building Department.  However, the Planning Department requires that the C of A be part of the documents of the site permit.

Commissioner Hasz – He commented that Ms. Platt’s two tiers for the C of A process was something to talk about.  The amount of money it takes for a smaller scale project for a built out drawing to include a mechanical system is much higher.

Commissioner Martinez – Smaller projects haven’t done value engineering about mechanical systems when the enveloped of the project is just blocked out.  It might be helpful to have some preliminary procedure where somebody could find out if the volume is workable first before spending too much money.  He would be open to approving the volume and the details later when they come back to HPC.

Commissioner Damkroger – She thought that the two tier process could be cumbersome and expansive.  It might be helpful to repeat the motion at the end of the hearing to insure that all points are taken.

Commissioner Wolfram – He suggested that at HPC’s disgression, one method could be to give project sponsors a conditional approval, but he wouldn’t open it up that much and would be cautious because there might be a complete change to the whole mechanical system.

Director Rahaim – There are pros and cons. Conditional approval might be a way, but it would be the responsibility of the Commission to say what HPC is and isn’t approving.  It ought to be very clear to the staff and the project sponsor what they can move ahead with and what they need to change.  If HPC is able to do it, it would be very helpful.  HPC probably has to call it something different.  Legally, C of A has a specific meaning.  For projects that require both commissions approval, HPC has to approve the C of A first.  In an ideal world it would be better to approve step one and then it went to the Planning Commission, but a straight reading of Proposition J suggests that HPC has to approve everything first.  That might be something to discuss - whether there is any flexibility with that.  There is an important legal distinction between what the C of A approval is vs. what some other approval is.  We need to figure out with the C of A what could be possible and what kind of C of A “light” could trigger others.

Commissioner Chase – Until HPC grants a final C of A it is not a C of A?

Planning Director Rahaim – A straight reading of the proposition would suggest that.  It would be an interesting question for the City Attorney.

Commissioner Damkroger – The C of A can be amended though.

Acting Preservation Coordinator Frye – A new C of A would need to be filed when a project sponsor adds an additional scope of work.  The C of A could move on to the Planning Commission for a conditional use. But if any scope of work under the conditional use requires additional review by HPC, Planning would not be able to move it forward to the Planning Commission until HPC has granted that final C of A associated with that additional scope of work.



Gee Gee Platt – HPC needs to be able to see the typed up proposal from staff regarding the C of A approval process at the next meeting to ensure it reads the way HPC wants it.  Project sponsors have to come back to give HPC more information when they know more about maintenance and construction of the building.


d)     Discussion on the submittal requirements for applications for Historic District Designation.


Commissioner Martinez – After reading Section 1004.1 of Article 10, “Initiating designation......,” he said this Commission does have the power to initiate.  He would at least like to see a report on the district or the project before designation.  If the public requests the HPC or individual members to take up designation on their own, there should be some guidelines.  He would like to have a discussion about what HPC would want to see to do that. 

Director Rahaim – Maybe HPC and the Planning Department should figure out a way to have a focused and lengthier discussion on this and probably a couple of others topics. He suggested organizing a Preservation Summit where the preservation and neighborhood communities, HPC, and City Hall development community could spend a day together and have a detailed discussion.  It would also help informing the final resolution on Articles 10 and 11.

Commissioners Chase, Martinez and Damkroger – They thought it was a great idea.  Commissioner Martinez didn’t want to wait too long.  Commissioner Damkroger would like to see the full commission and the public involved but not the developers at this time. She would like to set three to four discrete topics that are policy related on an agenda in advance.



Gee Gee Platt – For Alamo Square and Webster Street, the neighborhood wanted to designate their district and got together to do this and paid for the research.  They brought their work to the Department and they wouldn’t have done so if they didn’t have substantial concurrence.  She would like to think that for this to continue, which is the hope, that neighborhoods that have done its work will come in to the Department.  With Market/ Octavia and other plan areas, the Department has done its notices.  The notice will be out there and the public will have plenty of time to make comments. She didn’t want a checklist to see how many will sign on supporting an initiation, for that is a great burden.


Bridget Maley – She thought initiating designation is a bigger discussion and would hope the item be calendared as an agenda item.  The HPC cannot take it on itself to try to get something designated because it is much too involved.  She would like to see HPC and the Department take on a proactive stance about getting historic designations achieved in the city.  The City needs to do more outreach to neighborhood associations to talk to them about the benefits of designation and clarify mis-information.


Note:  A resolution honoring Angela Threadgill for her contribution to the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission was added to the calendar.  Commissioner Wolfram amended the resolution to add a “Where As” to the resolution to say Ms. Threadgill is an expert and strong advocate for the City’s modern resources.  Commissioner Chase asked that “the” be omitted in the title adopting findings in the second line.  Commission Secretary Avery read the resolution for the record.


ACTION:               Adopted resolution

AYES:                   Hasz, Martinez, Matsuda, Wolfram, Damkroger, Chase

ABSENT:              Buckley


4.                 Drafting a policy statement consistent with Universal Accessibility and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards at the request of the Mayor’s Disability Council.


Note:  After some discussion, the HPC members felt the item needed further discussion for appropriate language that the HPC could adopt as a policy.  Commissioner Chase would communicate the HPC stance with the representative of the Mayor’s Disability Council.  This item was continued to a future hearing date to be determined.



5.                 Discussion of the thresholds used to determined eligibility of historic districts.

[A unanimous vote of the Commission continued this item to June 2, 2010]


6.                 Discussion of the pending Articles 10 and 11 Planning Code amendments and possible interim edits to bring the existing Code sections in compliance with Proposition J.

[A unanimous vote of the Commission continued this item to June 2, 2010]


7.                 Explore partnership with other City Agencies regarding promotion and identification of designated City Landmarks and raising awareness about history of neighborhoods.

Note:  Item was discussed and continued to a future hearing date to be determined.



8.                 Discussion of general historic preservation policies including, local interpretations of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and options to codify those interpretations.

[A unanimous vote of the Commission continued this item to June 2, 2010]


ADJOURNMENT:     4:21 P.M.

The minutes was proposed for adoption at the Regular Meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday, June 16, 2010


ACTION:           Approved

AYES:              Buckley, Chase, Damkroger, Hasz, Martinez, Matsuda, and Wolfram


Last updated: 7/8/2010 1:43:47 PM