Writing in the Chron, John King examines the current state of the Tonga Room preservation debate, in which preservation architect Chris VerPlanck is preparing a nomination package for saving the Fairmont hotel's pseudo-Polynesian paradise as a historic interior. "My preservation ethos gears me toward pop kitsch and industrial vernacular," says VerPlank, whose firm Kelley & VerPlanck is working on a 21-page report (link via Grub Street SF) to be filed with the Historic Preservation Commission. Unlike New York City, where places like Philip Johnson's Four Seasons Restaurant have been declared landmark interiors, San Francisco's preservation board doesn't yet have a protocol for preserving interiors -- only buildings, sites and landscape features. VerPlanck argues that the Tonga Room "represents a highly evolved and rare example of the so-called 'High Tiki' style," but King isn't buying it, playing devil's advocate and asking whether we should be saving anything that anyone claims a kitschy attachment to.
At present, the Fairmont's owner, Maritz, Wolf & Co., are still in the proposal and design stages for their new 28-story condo tower, and we doubt the project hinges on whether or not the Tonga Room gets demolished. But you can join this Facebook group and show up to the Preservation Commission hearings if you truly care about High Tiki style. Otherwise, at least go have a Scorpion Bowl or three to show your support. The owners are likely to think twice before destroying a cash cow.