by David Troup, DTNA Historic District Project Manager
In 2019, DTNA kicked off a fundraising effort with the goal of completing historic surveys of all properties in the triangle formed by Castro and Market Streets and Duboce Avenue, for which our neighborhood was named. Our neighborhood is one of the most historic in the City, with most buildings dating back to a period which began in the late 1800s and continued through the 1920s. Today, even those “newer” 1920s properties are nearly a century old!
Longtime residents of the Triangle will remember that DTNA began advocating for an understanding of the historic resources of our neighborhood more than a decade ago, during the rezoning and development of the Market and Octavia Area Plan (which was adopted by the City in 2009). Then, as now, DTNA advocated for new development on appropriate parcels while also balancing the need to recognize and preserve historic resources. Our balanced and thoughtful approach gained recognition from developers who had been asking for “certainty” in knowing which structures were considered historic and which were not. We also received kudos from then-Supervisor Scott Weiner, as well as other elected officials and the Planning Department, for our advocacy, which is why you see most of those proposed developments already built out, with only a few left in the permitting stages. Residents of the Triangle very much supported this approach, and now have come to appreciate how the old and the new work together to make our neighborhood much more livable and unique.
Our original stated goal was to gain listing of our historic neighborhood on the California Register of Historic Places. This state-level recognition would provide historic properties with some additional protection against demolition, without adding any significant new burden on property owners or making it more difficult to improve or renovate properties (the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) already applies to all structures over 50 years old). It is so much better to know in advance, rather than after the fact, what historic resources exist! Instead of each development project needing to undergo a full historic resource evaluation report when a project is proposed, developers now know beforehand where to focus their efforts on new development thereby providing them the “certainty” that they would like, rather than sinking time and money into a proposal only to find out that there is a historic resource on the site after they propose their project. It also benefits residents and preservationists as it pretty much eliminates the conflicts that would arise when a historic resource becomes known after a project is deep into the entitlement process.
DTNA successfully raised about $15,000, with another $5,000 promised by Sterling Bank. In addition, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman secured $24,000 in the City’s budget for the project. With funding for the work thus secured, DTNA entered into an agreement in 2019 with VerPlanck Historic Preservation Consulting, a respected local firm, to begin the survey work.
The portion of the triangle east of Noe Street had already been surveyed as part of the Market and Octavia Area Plan, which was adopted in 2007. The consultant’s initial job was to survey the remaining parts of the neighborhood – DTNA expanded the initial footprint to include properties on both sides of Castro St – as well as updating the older survey with information on properties which had changed since 2007, as well as the addition of properties which have aged into historic status since 2007.
The work kicked off in mid-2019 and was proceeding well when 2020 happened — the pandemic threw a wrench into almost everything, and this project was not spared some significant delays. But it did continue, and by the Spring of 2021 every property in the project area had been surveyed and the information entered into a database that will ultimately supplement historic records kept by the City. Next, the historic consultant began preparing the Historic Context Statement for our neighborhood. This fascinating document is basically the story of our neighborhood and how it came to be, beginning in its earliest days before western civilization, and proceeding through its development, particularly during the second half of the last millennium. Once this document is finalized, DTNA hopes to make it available on our website for anyone to read.
The completed surveys will hopefully be accepted and adopted by the City. Once that happens, you’ll be able to see the historic survey information for your property or others in the neighborhood on the City’s Property Information website. We’ll publish a follow-up article when that happens. We are also discussing additional steps we may consider to ensure that our neighborhood’s many historic buildings will be here for future generations to enjoy while also welcoming in the development that our neighborhood needs for the future.