Dolores Heights History: Audrey’s Bench

Do you know the story behind the carved wooden bench on Sanchez near 21st Street? It’s a lovely place to sit and enjoy a sunny day or to catch your breath after walking up Sanchez Hill.

J.B. Blunk carved the bench from a giant redwood, smoothed and coated with a protective finish to reveal its rich tones. On March 27, 1999 Mayor Willie Brown dedicated the bench in honor of Audrey Rodgers, President of DHIC during the 70s and 80s. She organized neighbors to plant trees, underground power lines, preserve open space and – her last and biggest accomplishment – to gain passage of the Dolores Heights Special Use District (DH SUD) in 1980.

In the late 70s the San Francisco Planning Department proposed new residential zoning with heights at 40 feet and reduced rear yards to 25% of the lot. Audrey organized neighbors to obtain standards appropriate to Dolores Heights’ character. At hearings they described the neighborhood with its uniform scale of buildings, mixed with abundant landscaping in yards and steep street areas, rows of houses that step down hillside streets with building setbacks with front gardens and interesting entryways. The Board of Supervisors passed the Dolores Heights Special Use District – setting 35 foot height limits and 45% rear yard setbacks. DHIC supplemented the SUD with its Residential Design Guidelines.

Policy 2.7 of the Urban Design Element of the Comprehensive Plan recognizes Dolores Heights as “one of five examples of outstanding and unique areas which contribute to San Francisco’s visual form and character” and in which neighborhood associations should be encouraged to participate in the cooperative effort to maintain the established character. Audrey Rodgers’ leadership helped to retain these striking visual elements of Dolores Heights that we and many visitors enjoy today.

Janice Quinn, Audrey’s daughter, and other family members will be in Dolores Heights on Saturday, August 1 to visit and clean the bench. Stop by to say hello. For more information, email us (info@doloresheights.org.) And here’s Florence Holub’s lovely first-person narrative in the June 1999 Noe Valley Voice.

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