April 25, 2007
Not For The Faint Of Heart (Or Wallet): Landmark Edition
San Francisco Historic Landmark #232 is comprised of four dilapidated Russian Hill cottages built in 1907 and currently hidden behind a plywood fence at 1338 Filbert Street. And as a “plugged-in” tipster notes, “[l]ooks like the current owner is selling it because using it as a tear-down isn't possible” (at least not any more).
The owner of the cottages “filed an application for demolition and was planning for new residential construction in their place” in 2001. Prior to any demolition or development, however, a “community-based preservation group” with the support of the “Russian Hill Neighbors and Telegraph Hill Dwellers” successfully lobbied the Board of Supervisors to designate the cottages a San Francisco Historic Landmark in 2003.
And while the aforementioned groups were all quite eager to help protect this cultural landmark, we're guessing they're not going to be quite so eager to help fund any part of the landmark's desperately needed renovation and rehabilitation.
∙ Listing: 1338 Filbert Street #1 (2/2) – $840,000 [MLS]
∙ Listing: 1338 Filbert Street #2 (2/2) – $635,000 [MLS]
∙ Listing: 1338 Filbert Street #3 (2/2) – $525,000 [MLS]
∙ Listing: 1338 Filbert Street #4 (2/2) – $600,000 [MLS]
∙ San Francisco Landmark 232: 1338 Filbert Cottages [noehill.com]
∙ San Francisco Architectural Heritage Newsletter: Jan/Feb 2003 [sfheritage.org]
First Published: April 25, 2007 3:30 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
I wonder if these would even get a certificate of occupancy? 525 for a fixer upper isn't too bad. I'm sure these places are dumps though.
I'm all for preservation; but at some point you have to question the reality.
Posted by: eddy at April 25, 2007 9:17 AM
Tyranny of the mob, so to speak. And Peskin is their Robespierre.
Posted by: Usually Named at April 25, 2007 10:20 AM
In a word, embarrassing. I feel like I'm constantly defending the culture of this great city to my friends that are from other parts of the country and that buy into all the media hype about this being the city of the hippies, the tree huggers and "San Francisco Values", and then you see stuff like this and it's like, no wonder they give me a hard time.
Posted by: RinconHill_Res at April 25, 2007 10:27 AM
At least we are not as bad as Berkeley. There they have landmarked empty lots where buildings like this simply once stood purely out of spite so that no one can profit from developing the site.
Posted by: redseca2 at April 25, 2007 10:37 AM
San Francisco's politics and values are as illogical as they are unexplainable. These cottages are likely to be left to rot anyway. I hope the neighbors are happy.
Posted by: CameronRex at April 25, 2007 10:37 AM
This is lame!
Posted by: Deepak at April 25, 2007 10:55 AM
"San Francisco's politics and values are as illogical as they are unexplainable. These cottages are likely to be left to rot anyway. I hope the neighbors are happy."
I'm sure they are, because they go to bed at night secure with the knowledge that they are changing the world for the better, one rotting shack at a time. Talk about the definition of the word "liberal elite", which phrase I generally abhor. But I'll make an exception in this case.
Posted by: RinconHill_Res at April 25, 2007 10:58 AM
Unbelievable! Well, actually believable in the bay area. What idiots these people are. Now SF has four more run down shacks that will sit and rot for the next 20 years. And then the same people will come along and ask why no one is developing here and why there is a lack of housing.
The hypocrisy of a liberal socialist elitist cannot be underestimated.
These are just the people I would like to see kicked out on their asses to make way for my new condo high rise!
Posted by: sean at April 25, 2007 12:50 PM
Mmmm, so how do you know that the neighbors are "liberal social elitists?" They could just as well be conservative social elitists, of which this city has plenty. Especially in the Russian and Telegraph Hill neighborhoods.
Posted by: Phil at April 25, 2007 1:18 PM
Phil -- all you need to do is look at the leadership of Telegraph Hill Dwellers, and you know it's the "liberal social elitists." Especially when the VP is married to Peskin, the leader of the ironically named Progressives.
So there, Phil.
Posted by: Usually Named at April 25, 2007 1:34 PM
Oh Well, these comments are soooo Rush Limbaugh, guess I better go and join San Francisco Heritage and get even more shacks landmarked.
Posted by: redseca2 at April 25, 2007 2:09 PM
I'm with you redseca2. They'd sell their souls for a piece of real estate in SF. I used to like this site, now it seems to be populated by mouth-breathers. Time to de-bookmark.
Posted by: kelton at April 25, 2007 2:41 PM
Gosh, I'm completely appalled at all the negativity expressed here. We should consider ourselves lucky that they're not charging us an admission fee to come see these landmarks that are so symbolic of and so define the true San Francisco.
Posted by: Sexy & Sassy in SF at April 25, 2007 2:47 PM
"Gosh, I'm completely appalled at all the negativity expressed here. We should consider ourselves lucky that they're not charging us an admission fee to come see these landmarks that are so symbolic of and so define the true San Francisco."
"I'm picking up on your sarcasm.
Well I hope so, cause I'm layin' it on pretty thick."
(More bonus points to the first person that can name that one).
Posted by: RinconHill_Res at April 25, 2007 3:05 PM
"Unbelievable! Well, actually believable in the bay area. What idiots these people are. Now SF has four more run down shacks that will sit and rot for the next 20 years. And then the same people will come along and ask why no one is developing here and why there is a lack of housing."
Hmmm, and then perhaps a porn studio that specializes in some sort of sex in a decayed cottage fetish porn will buy the site. Then the neighbors will wonder why that is happening to them....
Posted by: CameronRex at April 25, 2007 4:28 PM
Does anyone smell something burning? OMG! It's the cottages!
Those darn homeless! You just can't keep them out of a place like this...
Posted by: tipster at April 25, 2007 6:49 PM
weird. sure looks like the reflection of a naked back in that second picture in the window (sorta fits in with the porn comment)
Posted by: kim at April 25, 2007 6:59 PM
This topic has definitely become more of a rant than anything, including my post, but it is obvious that things like this are extremely frustrating.
On the RHD website they claim to protect the quality of life on Russian Hill, improve the physical environment and beautify the neighborhood. These intentions might be there but declaring these cottages as a historical landmark is not going to help them achieve their goals. These cottages now have a good chance of just sitting there dilapidated forever. Instead of just blindly lobbying the city and letting these cottages rot, why don't groups like this present a plan to do something good with the properties? Why not raise money to restore them? Why not turn them into a park? Groups like this AND the city could be smarter and actually do something that is beneficial with properties like this. I feel that declaring something a landmark comes with responsibility which cannot be pushed on the owner. Otherwise, it will just damage the economy.
Posted by: sean at April 25, 2007 7:05 PM
These poor cottages have obviously received more attention lately than they ever did from 1907 until about 2003 when someone tried to pull a Demo permit.
I would love to see the ownership/sales history. You could probably have bought the whole shebang for peanuts until very, very recently. Purchased earlier, for far less money, it would have made financial sense to restore the existing cottages. They would have been charming $250K TIC's 5 years ago and everyone would be happy. But with the property value run up of the last few years, they are too hot to touch unless you go in and nuke the site and develop to the theoretical max.
Given the modern San Francisco social mix, I really do not have real issues with either the thwarted developer or the neighborhood association gone wild. Rather, who let these things just rot into the ground. For the first 95% of their lifespan you could have done just about anything you wanted.
Posted by: redseca2 at April 25, 2007 7:36 PM
What nobody has mentioned here is the propriety of a group like the RHD flexing their political muscle (for that is what it is), and esentially usurping the rights of this property owner. I am somewhat familiar with this property and what was done here was a traversty.
Posted by: broadview at April 25, 2007 7:48 PM
"Rather, who let these things just rot into the ground. For the first 95% of their lifespan you could have done just about anything you wanted."
That is where your logic is flawed. You have no idea why these properties are in their current state. The responsibility cannot always be put on the owner. Perhaps the previous owner ran out of money. Perhaps the owner passed away and his family did not have the time to deal with it. There could be many reasons for the property being in this state that have nothing to do with the owner being irresponsible.
The city and neighborhood associations need to take more responsibility if they blindly pass ordinances like this. Otherwise, nothing will ever get done. You cannot force the responsibility on the owner and no one else will ever touch it. It does not make economic sense. It also sends the message of "buyer beware of neighborhood," and will make people apprehensive about making any real estate investments in the area.
Posted by: sean at April 25, 2007 7:58 PM
I must ask: Why, with all of the intelligent and well received comments that recognize the complete absurdity of this situation, do we still have the most inept and borderline "moronic" board of supervisors in the entire Country? Does anyone besides extremists vote in SF? This is merely the latest of many examples of SF idiocy perpetuated by its own beauracracy. I love this City, but loath the people who run it.
Posted by: JohnK at April 25, 2007 9:17 PM
What makes one cottage more desirable to the tune of $315k than the lowest on that lot?
Are these cottages being sold as single family, TICs, condos?
PS: What happens to the historic landmark status when the current or future owner accidentally lets one of those fireplaces in the units burn the whole place down to the ground.
Posted by: eddy at April 25, 2007 9:47 PM
Sounds to me that the laws need to be changed so that preservationists can't come before the board and lobby for landmark status of specific properties without having a plan in pocket as to how to redevelop/rejuvenate (if needed) the property they want to designate as historical.
Posted by: Can't think of cool name at April 26, 2007 7:50 AM
How about having the neighborhood associations required to shell out money to compensate the owner for not being able to do anything with the property. They're benefiting from the restriction of housing/views/etc. from restricting development.
They've basically taken money out of the pocket of the owner. Sounds like just compensation.
Posted by: Usually Named at April 26, 2007 9:27 AM
I like the idea of "Usually Named" @ 9:27 AM. S/he is right, and it's only fair.
Posted by: Sexy & Sassy in SF at April 26, 2007 9:53 AM
Someone wrote: Mmmm, so how do you know that the neighbors are "liberal social elitists?"
He propably knows all seven registered Republicans that live on Russian Hill...
Posted by: Pac Heights Renter at April 26, 2007 9:53 AM
Sorry for the long post, but I have been trying to find on-line links to an event from 1991 that is the mother of all San Francisco stories of over-reaching neighborhood groups, resulting in a triple murder/suicide. It seems to pre-date the internet though, so I will paraphrase. I knew these people and have kept copies of the newspaper articles to this day:
There is a tall, very square modern house near the corner of Twin Peaks Blvd. and Graystone Terrace. This house was built in the late eighties against the objections of the Twin Peaks Neighborhood Council. The council hated this building, and enacted revenge using various means, like blocking the certificate of occupancy with complaints and the like, until the developer was forced to sell out. I believe the property passed through intermediate owners, without anyone ever actually living in it until it was picked up by a real estate agent/investor. Though a brand new well built building, it was underpriced because of the "issues" and very tempting to risk takers. The new owner often worked with two friends as partners, agents, making/taking loans, making Enron's finances look simple in comparison. With this property and the neighborhood council the new owner met his match. The Twin Peaks Council successfully kept it locked up in litigation. time went by. His partner/friends/paper holders needed their money. This again was the eighties, and these guys used cocaine as a business tool. There was a final meeting in the back room of a real estate office in Noe Valley where guns came out like a spaghetti western, and all three died.
So I have been keeping the Russian Hill shack story in context with memories like that.
Posted by: redseca2 at April 26, 2007 10:22 AM
That is an amazing and horrifying, yet believable story, given what I know about this business. But - you can tell me - am I just being gullible by believing it?
Posted by: EllaMental at April 26, 2007 1:46 PM
Sad but true. I knew one of the guys well and in 15 minutes of the story hitting the 10 O'clock news, I had talked to people who knew the other two guys. It headlined the Chronicle and Examiner the next day, with continuing stories, and an editorial about real estate greed in SF (!!!) on following days. I saved those old newspapers and may try to create PDF's at some point because it does top them all.
Posted by: redseca2 at April 26, 2007 4:42 PM
According to The Examiner (02/17/2010), total area for the proposed project is about 11,486 square feet of living space. At $350 per square foot, that is about $4 million. The above figures do not include the 8-car subterranean parking gagare ($2 million), architects, engineering and consultants fees. On top of this, the owner/s paid $2.1 million for the property in 2007. In Russian Hill neighborhood, that is what you called affordable housing...
Posted by: Kayn at April 11, 2010 2:22 PM
This project was just finally approved, despite the opposition of ONE person. The appeals went to Superior Court. Note the quote from the attorney:
"While most project sponsors breathe a sigh of relief after obtaining Planning Commission approval for their project and surviving any appeals, a recent project we entitled reminds us that such approval may be just one milestone in a longer fight. Recently a small historic renovation project on Russian Hill designed to rehabilitate and restore four small landmark cottages survived a challenge in Superior Court. The case was Friends of the Landmark Filbert Street Cottages, et al vs. City and County of San Francisco (Case No. CPF-11-511263). The case upheld several important legal determinations that many projects rely on every day in the City: that building permits issued pursuant to a Conditional Use authorization are not subject to appeal to the Board of Appeals and that categorical exemptions under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) are legally sufficient and appropriate for many preservation cases."
Also, a geotechnical engineer was hired by the opponent to question the professional integrity and competence of the project's geotech. Would love to know who this gun for hire is...
Posted by: Tom at January 3, 2012 9:05 AM