Mission and History

Our Mission​

Since 1947, San Francisco Beautiful, a non-profit 501c3 organization, has been the only organization to advocate for civic beauty, neighborhood character and accessible public art for all in San Francisco.
Friedel Klussmann

Did you know?

We can eat at outdoor cafes because San Francisco Beautiful initiated the legislation that legalized sidewalk tables and chairs? Or, that the City’s Community Challenge Grant Program exists because we crafted the ballot measure enabling businesses to give a portion of their taxes back for beautification grants? 

The Women’s Building
Friends of Alemany Farm
Lincoln Park Steps
Excelsior Action Group
Jennifer Board
Yerba Buena Gardens

Our History

San Francisco’s cable car tracks were being taken up to make way for diesel buses. Telegraph Hill resident Friedel Klussmann, the quintessential citizen activist of her time, waged a well-known battle to rescue the beloved cable cars. In the course of her successful campaign to save the City’s icon, she produced a historical treasure of her own: San Francisco Beautiful.

Friedel Klussmann is invited to serve on the board of the San Francisco Federation of the Arts (a consortium of cultural organizations).


Klussmann successfully rallies public opposition against Mayor Roger Lapham’s proposal to eliminate the historic Powell Street cable cars, forming a Citizens’ Committee to Save the Cable Cars and promoting a referendum to amend the city charter and preserve the routes.


Klussmann tries to parlay her experience lobbying city hall by helping to organize a short-lived urban beautification program under the name “San Francisco Beautiful Association.”

Late 1940s

Board of Supervisors establishes a tree planting program.


Klussmann invites a number of friends and civic leaders to her Telegraph Hill home to discuss a “voluntary group sponsoring tree planting to beautify San Francisco.” Initially named the “Steering Committee for San Francisco Beautification,” the group decides to affiliate with the Chamber of Commerce and devote itself to assisting the city’s street tree planting program as well as promoting the cultivation of green space by businesses and residents.


The Steering Committee for San Francisco Beautification merges with the Chamber’s Litter Control Committee, taking the name San Francisco Beautiful.


“Plant-a-Tree Week” is San Francisco Beautiful’s first initiative.

Learn More1961

The organization branches off from the Chamber of Commerce to pursue a broader mandate: “to maintain, retain, and create civic beauty.”


San Francisco Beautiful takes part in the “freeway revolt” by helping form the Citizens Committee to Save Golden Gate Park to protest a proposed “Panhandle Parkway,” and similarly opposes efforts to connect the Embarcadero Freeway with the Golden Gate Bridge along the Marina, as well as repeated attempts to alter the Golden Gate Bridge by adding traffic control arches or a second deck.


The group formally receives certification from the IRS as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and by 1972, San Francisco Beautiful is fully incorporated. As an independent non-profit, San Francisco Beautiful now took on issues of urban planning and regional transportation, historic preservation against “Manhattanization,” and natural conservation of parks and the San Francisco Bay.


San Francisco Beautiful is an early supporter of a comprehensive sign control ordinance, which is finally adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

Learn More1965

San Francisco Beautiful successfully circulates a petition to halt the proposed replacement of the ornate light standards in the triangle bordered by Market, Sutter, and Mason Streets.

Learn More1965

The organization is one of the groups invited to participate in the Citizen’s Advisory Committee to the planning commission in the development of a comprehensive Northern Waterfront Plan, finally adopted by the city planning commission in 1969.


The group endorses Proposition A, a $24.5 million bond program for the reconstruction and improvement of Market Street that would ultimately fund a host of beautification and improvement efforts.

Learn More1968

San Francisco Beautiful fights periodic attempts to initiate new commercial development in Golden Gate Park and takes part in the 1970 commemoration of the park’s centennial. Shortly thereafter, it backs efforts to restore the Murphy and Dutch windmills through the Golden Gate Park Centennial Windmill Restoration Committee (the Dutch windmill would finally be restored in 1981).


The group raises money to purchase and donate new litter receptacles for the downtown area, and successfully pushes for the passage of an anti-billboard ordinance for the Market Street corridor.

Early 1970s

The organization supports stricter zoning controls over the financial district, including the drafting and adoption of a comprehensive Urban Design Plan for the city.


The organization lobbies to preserve existing Marin-San Francisco ferry service and urges the creation and maintenance of a permanent bus and ferry network linking the North Bay to the city, leading to the establishment of the Golden Gate Ferry and Golden Gate Transit systems.


Friedel Klussmann, “the Cable Car Lady,” dies in San Francisco at the age of 90 on October 22, 1986. The next day, the cable cars are draped with black cloth in mourning.


The organization establishes a Friedel Klussmann Grants program to provide matching funds from the Friedel Klussmann trust for ideas submitted by local non-profits and neighborhood groups, and revives its practice of recognizing the efforts of outstanding individuals and groups with its annual Beautification Awards.

Learn More1987

After the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, San Francisco Beautiful is quick to support the destruction of the Embarcadero Freeway, and helps write the legislation to create a Neighborhood Beautification and Graffiti Clean-Up fund (now known as the Community Challenge Grant Program).