Hours before she was likely rejected by the San Francisco Board of Directors at its Tuesday meeting, Historic Preservation Commission Mayor Christina Dikas withdrew her nomination. Dikas has been the fourth person in a row to be appointed to the regulator by Mayor London Breed in recent months. Because of her appointment, Dikas met fierce opposition, which meant there would be no LGBTQ representation on the commission.
The regulatory committee at its meeting last Monday, April 5th, voted 3-0 against Dikas, an architectural historian and cultural resource planner who works for Page and Turnbull. The vote was expected because all three committee members had told the Bay Area reporter that they would not support Dikas when their nomination was announced.
The BAR editorial board had urged the full board to reject Dikas at its April 13 meeting, as had local LGBTQ heritage protection advocates and the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club’s political action committee. A source had told the BAR on Tuesday that there are likely to be at least six votes on the board of directors against confirming Dikas, the minimum required to turn down her nomination.
Faced with this opposition, Dikas announced to Breed Tuesday morning that she would take her name out of consideration for the oversight role. She thanked the mayor for trusting her and said it was her honor to be considered.
“I looked forward to joining the Historic Preservation Commission and eager to continue the work and conversation to balance our city’s development needs and the rich historical and cultural character of our city and its various communities through landmark labels and other conservation programs to recognize initiatives, “Dikas wrote. “In my work and volunteer efforts at the California Preservation Foundation, both based in San Francisco, I will continue to be involved in heritage conservation discussions and initiatives about housing needs, the effects of climate change, and the recognition of previously underrepresented people Communities and Voices. “
Jeff Cretan, a spokesperson for Breed, did not immediately respond to the BAR’s request to comment on Dika’s decision.
The mayor will certainly continue to be under pressure to nominate an LGBTQ person for the seat. In February, Breed did not reappoint the two gay members of the Historic Preservation Commission, Jonathan Pearlman and Aaron Hyland, who had served as president of the commission. Pearlman’s 3rd place is slated to be occupied by an architectural historian, and LGBTQ community leaders have encouraged Breed to name Hyland.
Breed had appointed Ruchira D. Nageswaran as Hyland’s seat and reappointed Commissioners Diane Matsuda and Chris Foley. The regulators then confirmed that the three will apply in the HPC on December 31, 2024.
Instead of putting Hyland or another LGBTQ person in Pearlman’s seat, Breed nominated Dikas in early March, who at the time did not respond to the BAR’s request for comment. She has worked on various historical conservation projects with minority communities in the city, from Japantown to the South of Market district of the Philippines.
She also worked on an oral history project with the Polk Gulch Restaurant Grubstake Diner, aimed at the transgender community in the 1970s. The property was the focus of a protection struggle, as it is intended for renovation.
“I am very pleased to have the opportunity as Commissioner to contribute to the heritage of my city,” Dikas told the members of the rules committee last week.
But District 8 gay supervisor Rafael Mandelman, the board’s only LGBTQ community member, declared his rejection of her appointment by reaching out to one of his board predecessors, the late gay supervisor Harvey Milk. In the 1970s, Milk routinely requested diverse leadership in city administrations and commissions, which included LGBTQ people in his columns in the BAR and on the Campaign Path. He himself was one of the first to be appointed to a city inspectorate by a mayor.
“Harvey Milk was a very strong believer and often said it was important not only to have allies in positions of power, but also strange people, as it was important that all minorities are represented on commissions and elected bodies,” said Mandelman, the vice chairman of the rules committee.
While stressing that Dikas was qualified for the position, Mandelman said he still could not support her and accused the mayor’s office of not nominating an LGBTQ person for the seat. Following Dikas’ decision to back out, Mandelman again urged Breed to appoint an out agent who could continue the work Hyland cited on LGBTQ conservation issues.
“I know there are strange women and people of color who are ready, willing and able to continue this work,” Mandelman said during the board hearing when regulators 11-0 for filing on Dika’s decision of the point were correct. “I think this is an opportunity to look for candidates who can continue this work and increase the diversity of representation on our commissions.”
District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, Chair of the Rules Committee, and District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan have repeatedly agreed with Mandelman’s claim that a member of the LGBTQ community must be on the Historic Preservation Board.
“I’m looking forward to an appointment that really represents the LGBTQ community on the Historic Preservation Commission,” Chan said last week.
On Tuesday, Peskin noted how rare it was that the rules committee turned down an appointed mayor and that he did not seek the seat after a dispute with Breed’s government. But he again urged the mayor to appoint a qualified LGBTQ person ready to serve and is committed to addressing LGBTQ heritage conservation issues in the city.
“I think we should start there instead of letting the mayor appoint people who are LGBT but don’t have that commitment and demonstrate the story,” Peskin said. “I’ll leave it there and thank Ms. Dikas for withdrawing her name from the exam this afternoon.”
The question of the seat on the board of directors comes from the fact that a number of LGBTQ listed items are going through the city’s approval process. The city’s landmarks are also going through the approval process for the Noe Valley residence of the late pioneer lesbian couple Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, as well as the gay Eagle bar in SOMA, popular with the leather community.
However, other local LGBTQ historic sites remain on the city planning department’s list of future potential landmarks for the city as initial talks focused on transforming Milk im Castro’s former home and camera business into a national historic site.
UPDATED on 04/13/2021 with comments from supervisors Mandelman and Peskin.
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