Since 2006, the Veterans of the San Francisco Posts of The American Legion, represented by the War Memorial Commission, the primarily beneficiary of the WMVB Trust Agreement, have been told beginning in mid 2013 through 2015, there will be a seismic retrofit of the WMVB. All occupants must vacate the WMVB during that time. The proposal which was adopted by the Trustees will reduce the amount of space the Veterans currently have by a substantial margin when the Veterans return in 2015. Additionally, the veterans will no longer be occupying the same part of the WMVB as they currently do. The War Memorial Board of Trustees(BOT) is in the process of obtaining a temporary space for the Veterans, the exact location and the amount of space are yet to be known.
We have responded by asserting our rights under the Trust and opposed their applications to begin the retrofit construction. Our goal is to force the Trustees to return to negotiation table. Our voice is primarily heard through The American Legion War Memorial Commission(WMC). Each month the WMC meets and we are updated on the latest development regarding the WMVB. The BOT has cancelled three meetings this year, thus, few discussions if any have taken place about the possibilities of negotiation. The San Francisco Historical Preservation Commission(HPC) has held four meetings to determine if the BOT are required to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness for the interior work of the WMVB. A process that would required the Trustees to articulate the exact changes their proposed demolition and construction will have on the historical significance of the interior structure.
The WMC & Veterans from the Posts have appeared at all four meetings and asked for the HPC not to issue a waiver of the Secretary of the Interiors standards which should have required the Trustees to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness for the interior. The HPC granted the request of the Trustees and the WMC has been busy appealing the HPC’s approval to the waiver the COA for the interior of the WMVB. The WMVB is City Historical Landmark 84 on the exterior, but the interior has not been designated as such. The 8th District is working to collect the historical significance from the Posts that have occupied the WMVB in order to make the case for a historical land marking for the interior of the WMVB. What that means is we have postponed the BOT ‘s construction agenda until September 12, 2012 where an Appeals Board hearing will be conducted at San Francisco City Hall, Room 416 at 5:00 PM. That was a small victory that we’ve achieved. We need a larger victory by having every Veteran we know show up at the appeal hearing so those officials can feel the power of our unity & voice! If the Appeal Board overturns the issuance of the waiver, the BOT will more likely be willing to sit down with the WMC and negotiate our differences. Then the retrofit can move forward properly while we preserve the historical significance & the needed space in the WMVB for generations of Veterans to come.
By John Forrett, 8th District Commander
See this article and more in the September issue of INTELLIGENCER,