aside City publishes African American Citywide Historic Context Statement

In 2013, the Historic Preservation Fund Committee awarded the San Francisco Planning Department (City) a grant for the preparation of a historic context statement (herein referred to as the African American Citywide Historic Context Statement, or Historic Context Statement) to assist the City to identify and evaluate individual properties and other historic resources associated with San Francisco’s African American community. Though San Francisco has a longstanding historic preservation program dating back to 1967, the contributions of the City’s African American residents, as well as other minority communities, have long remained under-examined. Traditionally, historic preservation efforts have targeted architecturally significant properties and mainly ignored those with cultural associations, especially those linked to marginalized communities.

The completion of the African American Citywide Historic Context Statement is a logical step in the realization of San Francisco’s historic preservation goals. In a city that has historically given short shrift to communities of color, this document will assist City staff and commissioners, property owners, business owners, residents and other stakeholders gain a better understanding of the development and evolution of San Francisco’s African American communities. It identifies properties and types of properties that may have important associations with Black San Francisco, and provides integrity thresholds that a property should retain for it to be eligible for designation as a landmark at the local, state, or national level. This document lays the groundwork for the identification of longtime African American residential enclaves, Black-owned businesses, properties associated with prominent African Americans, and important religious, cultural, political and labor organizations that have played important roles in the making of Black San Francisco.

The African American Citywide Historic Context Statement is not meant to be a comprehensive history of San Francisco’s African American community. This history has already been well-documented over the last 25 years in books, articles and socio-economic studies – most of which were prepared by African American scholars. Rather, the focus of this document is the identification of important themes in the development of San Francisco’s African American community from the Spanish and Mexican colonial era onward, and more important, how these themes helped to determine the shape of the built environment. Key historical themes discussed in this document include the following:

  • Patterns of Migration and Settlement
  • Employment Trends
  • Education
  • Development of Residential Enclaves and Housing Patterns
  • Formation of Religious, Fraternal, Social Organizations
  • Commercial Development
  • Civil Rights
  • Impacts of Redevelopment
  • Artistic and Cultural Contributions

    This document provides a framework for evaluating properties associated with these themes and for determining their eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (National Register), the California Register of Historical Resources (California Register), and Article 10 of the San Francisco Planning Code, which regulates local Landmarks and Landmark Districts. It also provides information on integrity thresholds that a property (resource) must retain in order for it to be listed in the above mentioned inventories. Finally, the African American Citywide Historic Context Statement is intended to help City staff and other decision-makers, property owners and members of the general public of all backgrounds to understand what types of properties are important to protect and enhance the character of San Francisco and its diverse communities.

To see the draft document in its entirety, click on this link.

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