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Saving S.F.'s history

SAN FRANCISCO OFFICIALS and civic boosters love to talk about the city's colorful history, stunning architecture, and natural beauty. But as Savannah Blackwell reports on page 17, when it comes to protecting those assets, the city has a big problem: San Francisco is the only major city in California that has no official preservation plan.

The problem has been especially bad under Mayor Willie Brown, who in 1996 shut down all efforts to complete a citywide preservation plan and gutted the already weak Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board. Now Sups. Aaron Peskin and Jake McGoldrick are mounting an effort on several fronts to change that, focusing on tighter demolition controls.

But what the city may ultimately need is a strong charter amendment that sets preservation standards, discourages demolitions, and gives an independent landmarks commission authority to block planning decisions that imperil the city's historic legacy.