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Citywide Cultural Resources Survey

The San Francisco Citywide Cultural Resources Survey (SF Survey) is underway! SF Survey aims to identify places and resources of cultural, historical, and architectural importance to San Francisco's diverse communities. Cultural resources may also qualify for historic preservation incentives.

The San Francisco Citywide Cultural Resources Survey (SF Survey) is a multi-year effort supported by the San Francisco Planning Department to identify and document places and resources of cultural, historical, and architectural importance to San Francisco’s diverse communities. These places and resources include tangible aspects of our environment, such as buildings, structures, objects, sites, and districts, as well as intangible aspects, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, festivals, and traditional crafts. SF Survey is taking steps to center preservation in racial and social equity, better reflecting the dynamic cultural resources that make San Francisco unique.

Purpose

Support Cultural Empowerment

San Francisco is a culturally layered and dynamic place. The transmission of knowledge across generations brings continuity to the way of life and culture of communities. A deeper understanding of our histories and the contributions of those who came before us enhances our collective sense of belonging and agency in our communities. By cultivating community partnerships, bringing people together through community programming, and acknowledging all forms of cultural heritage, SF Survey helps contribute to sustaining San Francisco’s diverse cultures.

With a focus on inclusive representation and community-led efforts, SF Survey recognizes community and neighborhood history through the Citywide Historic Context Statement, Intangible Cultural Heritage Methodology, Community Stories, SF Survey Findings, and SF Cultural Heritage (see “Methodology” section). In collaboration with various stakeholders, SF Survey identifies sites that are eligible for the Article 10 Landmarks Work Program, Legacy Business Registry Program, California Historical Building Code, tax benefits like Mills Act, and other historic preservation protections and incentives.

Standardizing Historic Resource Review

SF Survey leads to a more comprehensive understanding and recognition of San Francisco's history as told through the built environment. Survey results make determinations on the historic resource status for all those parcels which have not benefited from previous survey efforts.

This includes turning properties with a Planning Department Historic Resource Status of Category B – Unknown / Age Eligible as indicated in the San Francisco Property Information Map (PIM) to either Category A - Historic Resource Present or Category C – No Historic Resource Present. As we like to say, making the unknown known. This amounts to evaluating approximately 120,000 parcels. These determinations help standardize the historic resource review process for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), building permit applications, development projects, and area plans. 

 

Find out more on the components of the survey.

Timeline
Component Schedule
Citywide Historic Context Statement  2020 to 2026 
Intangible Cultural Heritage Methodology (research approach)  2021 to 2026
Fieldwork, Research, and Evaluation  2022 to 2027 
Findings and Adoption  2023 to 2027 
Community Engagement  2020 to 2027 and beyond 
SF Cultural Heritage (online platform)  2023 and beyond 
SF Survey Overall  2020 to 2027 and beyond 

Timeline Diagram

graphic of engagement schedule

Click on schedule to enlarge.

Methodology diagram
graphic of methodology diagram
Click on diagram to enlarge.

SF Survey is an intensive, historic context-based cultural resources survey that will result in the identification, documentation, and evaluation of the tangible and intangible aspects of San Francisco’s cultural heritage. This effort makes evaluations in consultation with community members for properties with cultural associations.

SF Survey will be completed through five interrelated components that build off one another: Community Engagement​; the Citywide Historic Context Statement; Fieldwork, Research, and Evaluation; Findings and Adoption at the Historic Preservation Commission; and the culminating online platform SF Cultural Heritage.

Many of the components of the survey will take place in tandem and will see us through the next several years.

Community Engagement

Engagement diagram
graphic of engagement strategies venn diagram
Click on diagram to enlarge.

SF Survey heavily relies upon input from community members. In keeping with Planning’s previous cultural heritage based-work, the Intangible Cultural Heritage Methodology, capacity-building, and implementing a multi-media approach to engagement, critical consultation with the community is key for developing inclusive findings. Through this level of engagement, Planning ensures that aspects of the city’s history important to respective communities are shared according to the wishes of those communities.

SF Survey’s Community Engagement Framework, developed with guidance from community members and consultant in common, aligns with the Historic Preservation Commission’s racial and social equity resolution, forging civic partnerships to include and engage communities typically underrepresented in historic preservation. 

Citywide Historic Context Statement

The Citywide Historic Context Statement, established in 2020, forms the foundation for fieldwork and decision-making for SF Survey. It builds upon the Department’s past historic context and survey efforts and incorporates recently completed and in-progress historic context statements. The Citywide Historic Context Statement aims to determine resource significance and rarity more accurately by examining sites thematically and on a citywide scale.

The in-progress Citywide Historic Context Statement consists of contexts, sub-contexts, and themes which are organized within three broad categories of Architectural, Cultural, and Thematic contexts. Each context statement provides an evaluative framework that establishes significance, based on the California Register and National Register criteria. Each context’s evaluative framework also provides an integrity analysis to guide future determinations, such as allowing for lower integrity if a property is associated with significant events (particularly cultures and/or cultural events) and/or persons

Learn more about completed and in-progress context statements.

Fieldwork, Research and Evaluation

Staff collect information, conduct research, and refer to the Citywide Historic Context Statement to determine California Historical Resources Status Codes for previously unevaluated, age-eligible properties across the city (45 years or older at the conclusion of the SF Survey).

The Status Codes define eligibility for listing on the California Register and National Register. Survey efforts are three-fold: pre-survey, in-field, and in-office data collection. Staff evaluate individual buildings, objects, structures, and sites, along with cultural landscapes and districts. Phasing is based on community readiness, historic context statement status, and staff capacity. In areas of the city with previously adopted historic surveys and evaluations, staff have been auditing findings to ensure accuracy and conformance with current standards.

Findings and Adoption

Surveyed properties are assigned a California Historical Resource Status Code, which is simplified into a Planning Department Historic Resource Status of either Category A - Historic Resource Present or Category C – No Historic Resource Present. The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) holds public hearings on adoption of components of the Citywide Historic Context Statement and on adoption of draft and final survey findings for individual properties in phases throughout the life of SF Survey.

At each hearing, the HPC may elect to immediately adopt the findings with or without modifications, or they may take no action and direct the team to incorporate revisions or provide additional information. Prior to those hearings, the SF Survey Team conducts outreach to share and discuss the context statement and/or draft findings of historic resource status with the community and key stakeholders. Property-specific reports and detailed information are made available on SF Cultural Heritage.

Upon adoption of draft findings, the San Francisco Property Information Map is updated. Once the HPC adopts all portions of the Citywide Historic Context Statement and all SF Survey phases are complete, staff will prepare a final resolution to adopt all Draft SF Survey Findings as final and forward these Final SF Survey Findings to the State of California Office of Historic Preservation.

SF Cultural Heritage

SF Cultural Heritage is an online information management platform created specifically to support SF Survey efforts. This publicly accessible website highlights the interconnections of San Francisco’s cultural heritage and shares SF Survey Findings, including information gathered through community submissions and historic research.

SF Cultural Heritage is the result of a partnership between the San Francisco Planning Department and the Getty Conservation Institute, with the assistance of Farallon Geographics. It is powered by Arches, an open-source heritage data management platform developed by the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund. SF Cultural Heritage will interface with existing systems like the SF Property Information Map. The platform serves as San Francisco’s living cultural resources inventory, a digital resource that is accessible and interactive; the culmination of the SF Survey project. It is intended to allow for future additions and changes to the city’s cultural resources over time, as new information is aggregated.

 

Over the next several years, SF Survey will occur throughout San Francisco and primarily concentrate on previously unevaluated, age-eligible properties across the city (45 years or older at the conclusion of the SF Survey).

map of eligibility areaClick to enlarge.

With the adoption of the San Francisco Neighborhood Commercial Buildings Historic Context Statement in 2022 and considering the certification of the Housing Element with rezoning efforts along commercial corridors on the west side of the city, Phase 1 of SF Survey fieldwork, evaluations, and draft findings focuses on neighborhood commercial districts (NCDs). NCDs are defined by the Planning Code and Zoning Map of the City and County of San Francisco. Staff aim to complete fieldwork and evaluations in NCDs by the end of 2024.

Once all NCDs are complete, staff will conduct fieldwork in the remaining areas to include residences, schools, libraries, churches, etc. Future phase locations will be determined based on community readiness, historic context statement status, and staff capacity. Additionally, staff have been auditing evaluations throughout the city to ensure accuracy and conformance with current standards.

The current SF Survey phasing map as shown is also available on SF Cultural Heritage and SF Property Information Map (see "Active SF Survey Areas" under the Historic Preservation section).

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) holds public hearings on adoption of draft and final survey findings in phases throughout the life of SF Survey. At each hearing, the HPC may elect to immediately adopt the findings with or without modifications, or they may take no action and direct the team to incorporate revisions or provide additional information.

Prior to those hearings, the SF Survey Team conducts outreach to share and discuss the context statement and/or draft findings of historic resource status with the community and key stakeholders. Property-specific reports and detailed information are available on SF Cultural Heritage.

Pending adoption, the Draft SF Survey Findings are reflected in the SF Property Information Map and used during the historic resource review process for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), building permit applications, development projects, and area plans.

Once the HPC adopts all portions of the Citywide Historic Context Statement and all SF Survey phases are complete, staff will prepare a final resolution to adopt all Draft SF Survey Findings as final and forward these Final SF Survey Findings to the State of California Office of Historic Preservation.

Draft SF Survey Findings are available for the following areas: 

Phase 1: Neighborhood Commercial Districts 

Inner Sunset Neighborhood Commercial District

 

Share Your Story

Everyone has a role in sharing and sustaining culture. If you see us in identifying SF Survey gear, feel welcome to come out, meet us, and share any photos or memories that you feel are important to the story of your community, neighborhood, or San Francisco. Staff will be collecting information on survey devices, or you can share by contacting staff.

Your contributions will help inform SF Survey findings and enhance our collective sense of belonging and understanding of the City's history – share your story here.

Date Event/Audience Component Documents
May 31, 2023 Osaka Way Open House (Tabling) General SF Survey Update  
December 20, 2023 Historic Preservation Commission Hearing General SF Survey Update and Findings Draft Survey Findings Executive Summary
December 4, 2023 Japantown Task Force: Review Japantown workshop outcomes and community-led opportunities   General SF Survey Update and Findings Japantown Task Force: Review Japantown workshop outcomes and community-led opportunities
November 15, 2023 Housing Element Open House: County Fair Building (Tabling, Community Stories, and Draft Findings Review)  General SF Survey Station 3: Building Stronger Communities With New Housing
November 8, 2023 Housing Element Open House: SF LGBTQ Center (Tabling and Community Stories)  General SF Survey Station 3: Building Stronger Communities With New Housing
September 25, 2023 African-American Historic Context Statement Open Forum (Public Programming) Citywide Historic Context Statement Project webpage
September 18, 2023 Japantown Task Force Japantown Workshop (Draft Findings Review)  Fieldwork and Findings Link to Event (expired)
August 30, 2023 Japantown Task Force Virtual Community Briefing (Public Programming and Informational Presentation)  Fieldwork and Findings Recording (forthcoming)
August 29, 2023 Inner Sunset Merchants Association Meeting General SF Survey  
August 24, 2023 Fillmore Merchants Association Meeting General SF Survey  
August 2, 2023 Monthly Cultural Districts Meeting General SF Survey  
July 11, 2023 Housing Element Open House: County Fair Building (Tabling and Community Stories Pilot)  General SF Survey Station 3: Cultural Heritage & Urban Design: Integrating New Housing While Enhancing Neighborhood Environment & Culture
June 22, 2023 Housing Element Open House: SF LGBTQ Center (Tabling)  General SF Survey Station 3: Cultural Heritage & Urban Design: Integrating New Housing While Enhancing Neighborhood Environment & Culture
May 4, 2023 Sunset Chinese Cultural District Work Group Meeting General SF Survey  
January 18, 2023 Historic Preservation Commission Hearing General SF Survey Memo to the Commission
Presentation
January 17, 2023 Community Walk Tour with Japantown Task Force General SF Survey  
January 10, 2023 Nihonmachi Community Coalition Meeting General SF Survey  
September 21, 2022 Historic Preservation Commission Hearing General SF Survey Update Memo to the Commission and 2022 SF Survey Progress Report
June 23, 2022 Planning Commission Hearing General SF Survey Update Memo to the Commission
Presentation
May 4, 2022 Historic Preservation Commission Hearing Citywide Historic Context Statement Executive Summary to the Commission
Architecture, Planning, & Preservation Professionals: A Collection of Biographies Supporting Documents
April 20, 2022 Historic Preservation Commission Hearing Community Engagement Memo to the Commission
Presentation
March 16, 2022 Historic Preservation Commission Hearing General SF Survey Update Memo to the Commission
Presentation
November 17, 2021 Historic Preservation Commission Hearing General SF Survey Update Memo to the Commission
Presentation
November 17, 2021 Historic Preservation Commission Hearing Citywide Historic Context Statement Memo to the Commission
Earthquake Shacks Theme Presentation
April 7, 2021 Historic Preservation Commission Hearing Citywide Historic Context Statement Memo to the Commission
Residence Parks Supporting Presentation
April 7, 2021 Historic Preservation Commission Hearing General SF Survey Update Memo to the Commission
Presentation
November 18, 2020 Historic Preservation Commission Hearing General SF Survey Update Memo to the Commission
Presentation

Get in touch by emailing CPC.Survey@sfgov.org or leaving a voicemail at (628) 652-7573. 

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