Over in Bernal Heights a battle is being waged over a vintage Coca-Cola ad that typifies all we know and love about San Franciscans. The fight pits neighbor against NIMBY neighbor, preservationist against anti-consumerist, sentimentalist against anti-corn syrup activist and therefore it has the makings of a made-for-KQED movie. You see, as Bernalwood first reported, an anonymous Bernal resident complained to the City about a vintage, painted Coca-Cola sign on the side of a building at the corner of Tompkins and Banks Streets. The complaint: The sign promotes the unhealthy consumption of sugar, and what's more, it violates San Francisco's strict anti-billboard law.
The 15 by 7-foot sign actually predates the 1965 ordinance in question, and Bernalwood later determined that it was from pre-1949, preserved between that date and 1991, when the homeowner removed some asbestos siding that had covered it up (the building was home, until the late 60s, to Tipton's Grocery). It was in pretty good shape when it was uncovered, but the homeowner, Richard Modelo, has kept it preserved at the request of neighbors, repainting it several times in the last 20 years so it looks quite new.
Todd Lappin, the blogger behind Bernalwood, says, "It’s vintage commercial art. This is a historical part of our neighborhood. It’s a way for people to connect to the past." But under city law, the sign is technically illegal, and now that it's been brought to Planning's attention, a special "historic sign district" might have to be created to save it. Supervisor David Campos is contemplating this, but he's getting impassioned emails from both sides, and he's hedging. "We're trying to fight childhood obesity," he says. "We don't want to promote kids drinking Coca-Cola."
Really, now? And what about that HUGE neon Coke billboard by the freeway in SoMa (near 4th and Bryant)? That one's probably a bit more effective on the advertising front, don't you think, Campos?