Hugo Hotel Sign (www.SocketSite.com)
With an assessed tax value of $474,894 (despite an estimated value of at least $3,250,000), and a yearly tax contribution of only $7,269.58, yesterday’s post concerning the Hugo Hotel quickly turned into a debate over propostion 13 (which we’ll let rage on).
But for those who might be more interested in a discussion about the actual building, we’ll offer up a select few comments to get things started:

Patel cites the building’s 50-foot height restriction as a way for the city to keep her property’s value low. “It is unfair that I don’t have the same development opportunities as everyone else,” she says by way of explanation for the property’s dilapidated state.”

“They’ve always marketed the building touting it’s high zoning height limit which is just absurd. It’s barely feasible to develop in a sketchy location like that and it gets less feasible the taller the building as your development costs go way up when you switch from wood frame to concrete and steel construction at over 4 stories.”

“The reason this eyesore remains is that David Patel is impossible to deal with. The last time I tried, he said he wanted $50,000 up front to talk.”

“Practically the entire south of market has a 50′ height limit, and it has for decades. Drop all your conspiratorial theories. In fact, the Planning Dept has proposed raising the height limit in that vicinity to 85′.”

And now back to the building in specific (or at least eminent domain in general).
JustQuotes: Eminent Domain For Affordable Housing On Sixth Street? [SocketSite]
Artwork for sale, and so is building [SFGate 9/06]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by S&S

    Oh, yeah, what I originally meant to comment on (until I got sidetracked by all the tax talk) … eminent domain.
    While I feel the condition of this building is an eyesore, at the same time, I do also like the funky furniture hanging off of it. It’s … eclectic (kind of what I would associate with San Francisco), kind of fun to look at.
    “(City may use eminent domain to claim historic hotel)”
    Eminent domain should only be exercised in extreme cases, when it is for the GREATER public good. In this case, I don’t see how the fact that the city wants to turn this place “into affordable housing units with stores at street level” is for the greater public good. It would serve to benefit only a select few, those who supposedly can’t afford housing. Yes, a new development would certainly make it “prettier,” probably, for most of us, BUT … that is not reason enough to exercise eminent domain on a property owner.
    “Stores at street level”? We’ve got PLENTY of stores, and stores are NOT a public necessity.
    If the city were going to build a road, bridge, something of absolute necessity, over this property where it would truly benefit the general public, then I say, yea, when do we get started? But claiming eminent domain to force this owner to give up their property to pretty up the corner is an ABUSE. It’s opening up a can of worms for eminent domain to be grossly abused in the future.

  2. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    I don’t understand the rationale of the 50 foot height limit. This location is close to a lot of transit (Muni rail, BaRT, CalTrain) and close to parcels with taller buildings. Seems like one of the places in the city where taller buildings would easily fit in.
    Developers are securing permits to build to 50′ in the suburbs. Shouldn’t this urban location accommodate larger structures ?
    And I agree with S&S : eminent domain should be reserved for much more extreme cases. Is there any other way that the city can pressure the owners into developing other than ED ? Maybe the solution will naturally fall out once the owners see declining RE values over the coming year and decide to strike while the market is still warm.
    It sounds like the city and this building’s owners are butting heads. The residents of the neighborhood are the losers.
    (and um, I too will miss the Defenestration installation.)

  3. Posted by Zig

    to the above; the Supreme Court doesn’t agree with you and has ruled as such many times over the years
    Its a myth that “public use” equals bridge or school
    It is controversial but they even take property and give to developers in cases
    In this case having the redevelopment agency take the property seems well precedent. There are many other cases where blighted structures have been taken.

  4. Posted by whorfin

    I’m sorry, but I have to say that a burnt out building sitting empty and in disrepair for two decades, through a couple of boom/bust cycles, is an invitation to imminent domain. It’s a classic case of blight, despite the funky artwork. It’s not doing anybody any good.

    I suspect that the initial reasons for refusing the zoning change were the city’s general disapproval of more tall building in the past. However, that all evaporated about 8 years ago or so, when the new towers first started sprouting again, right? I suspect that by now, the steadfast refusal to do anything useful for the city with the property for so long has made the city unwilling to grant any concession to these particular owners. Bad faith being repaid in kind.

    I would, however, like to know the rational justification the city has the height restriction given the location. seems to me that there is a taller building on the exact opposite corner of the intersection. I haven’t measured it, but it appears to be 7 stories from the pics. And I don’t want to consider that the floors are just 6 1/2 – 7 feet high (shudder).

    Plus, one block down at 5th and Howard is the new inter-continental, and several taller buildings on mission street nearby (SOMA Grand just past 7th)

  5. Posted by S&S

    I didn’t mean to imply that “‘public use’ equals bridge or school.” I was just using that as an example of what more of the general public would have access to/use of as opposed to just “affordable housing and shops.”

  6. Posted by VultureB oy

    Looks like truth, justice, and the American way has prevailed:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/01/27/BAFEUMLTH.DTL

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