The 70’s were a time of social awakening, and San Francisco was at the cultural epicenter of it all. The world had seen the Earth from space for the first time in 1969, and this first glimpse of our universal home helped spark the environmental movement. The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, and Congress passed the Environmental Policy Act that same year. Policymakers were examining ways to better utilize their city resources, and one of Page & Turnbull’s founding principals, Charles Page, saw his opportunity to make an impact.
“A broader and more sophisticated understanding of environmental quality should encompass natural and man-made factors that make up our environment.”–Splendid Survivors
In the mid-70’s, San Francisco entered the greatest re-construction boom in building since 1906, and preservationists were losing their fight to save important historic buildings. In 1975, Charles began working with San Francisco Heritage, a nonprofit organization with a mission to preserve the city’s unique architectural and cultural identity. They realized that a more comprehensive preservation strategy was needed, and in 1978, an intensive architectural survey of downtown San Francisco was completed. In 1979, the Downtown San Francisco Survey was published in Splendid Survivors: San Francisco’s Downtown Architectural Heritage, written by Michael Corbett.
Through careful research and awareness of the potential of older buildings, historic preservation and environmental conservation began to intersect. The San Francisco Downtown Survey underscored the value of these buildings and environmentalists took note, realizing these historic properties were often well constructed and better suited to San Francisco’s unique climate. Re-use and preservation were not only key to preserving the city’s unique charm and beauty, but also proved to be environmentally sustainable. This approach was in contrast to the city’s urban renewal policies during prior decades, when entire neighborhoods were being destroyed to make way for new construction.