Supervisor David Campos’s office called today to share some very good news: Campos plans to introduce new legislation that will amend the City’s planning code to create a straightforward mechanism for preserving the historic-but-endangered Coca-Cola mural in Bernal Heights — as well as other historic signs throughout San Francisco. Wooot!
The legislative digest of the Campos proposal explains why this matters:
The look and style of signs have evolved over time. For that reason, a sign that has existed in a particular place for years gives continuity to the public space and becomes part of the community memory. In an era where signs are mostly uniform, a historic sign can add some individuality to the neighborhood in which it exists and also to the City as a whole. Michael J. Auer, in his article “The Preservation of Historic Signs,” notes:
Signs often become so important to a community that they are valued long after their role as commercial markers has ceased. They become landmarks, loved because they have been visible at certain street corners — or from many vantage points across the city — for a long time. Such signs are valued for their familiarity, their beauty, their humor, their size, or even their grotesqueness. In these cases, signs transcend their conventional role as vehicles of information, as identifiers of something else. When signs reach this stage, they accumulate rich layers of meaning. They no longer merely advertise, but are valued in and of themselves. They become icons.
Yes. Precisely. Just as Bernalwood and so many of our neighbors have argued all along.
In a nutshell, the new legislation would:
- Create a clear definition of a historic sign as being one that “depict(s) in text or graphic form a particular residential, business, cultural, economic, recreational, or other valued resource which is deemed by the Planning Commission to be of historic value and contributes to the visual identity and historic character of a City neighborhood or the City as a whole.”
- Stipulate that historic sings can be restored, framed, and regularly maintained, BUT property owners cannot change the art or copy of the original design.
- Enable preservation of a single sign through a standard conditional-use permit issued by the City Planning Commision, without the need to go through all the hassle, expense, and hoo-ha of creating a special “Historic Sign District.”
This is great news, because it holds out the promise of a lasting solution not only for Bernalwood’s beloved Coke mural, but for historic signs throughout the city. Bravo!
Kudos to Supervisor Campos and his aides for making this happen, to the City Attorney’s office for the assist, and a round of snaps to every Bernalwoodian who raised hell to make it clear that the eradication of Bernal’s Coca-Cola mural was intolerable.
Supervisor Campos plans to introduce the legislation during the Board of Supervisors meeting that will take place this afternoon. From there it will go to a committee (probably Land Use), yadda yadda, then (hopefully) it will secure approval during two votes of the full Board of Supes before heading off to the Mayor for his John Hancock. Or his Edwin Lee. Or whatever.
We will keep you posted on the status and progress of this proposal as it moves through the lawmaking process, but for now, this is great news for our neighborhood, and for the fate of other historic signs all over town.
Photo: Coca-Cola mural by Telstar Logistics