April 14, 2009

118 Cervantes: From Architecture Watch To (Almost) On The Market

118 Cervantes Boulevard: 4/14/09 (www.SocketSite.com)

In the words of a reader with regard to 118 Cervantes Boulevard:

For all of you wondering how this design managed to be approved by the neighbors... it wasn't.
I live a couple houses away on the same side of the street and we received no notification. We're not pleased.
And FWIW... a sale sign went up this weekend.

Listing to be (and Sotheby’s sign out front) by Rebecca Schumacher.

118 Cervantes Boulevard (www.SocketSite.com)

No word on whether or not it’s only one of the units heading to market or the two.

Editor's Note: Another plugged-in reader adds:

According to the online database the project went out for Section 311 Neighborhood notification and was signed off by planning back in 2004.

Architecture Watch: 118 Cervantes Boulevard Gone Green/Modern [SocketSite]

First Published: April 14, 2009 4:00 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

I'm not shedding any tears for the neighbors. Interesting house, if not everyone's cup of tea, and is a welcome break from the usual sf blandness.

Posted by: dch at April 14, 2009 4:09 PM

Why on Earth would the neighbors get to approve this design? Is the Marina suddenly Disney's Heritage USA?

What a load of entitled, misguided crap. Probably the only building on the block that won't fall down in the next shaker.

Posted by: amused at April 14, 2009 4:21 PM

According to the online database the project went out for Section 311 Neighborhood notification and was signed off by planning back in 2004. Perhaps the unhappy neighbor moved in after that... or did not bother to check his mail.


Sec 311 mailed 11/01/04 exp 12/01/04
approved for horizontal addition, facade alterations, interior modifications per plans and application

Posted by: Ummm at April 14, 2009 4:22 PM

It might be new and interesting, but it still looks like my cheesy old woodgrain bookcase stereo, the one I keep in the kitchen because I don't care if it gets grease splatters on it.

Posted by: kthnxybe at April 14, 2009 4:30 PM

If you're on the same side of the street then why do you care anyway? You don't have to see it from your place.

Posted by: yourboringhome at April 14, 2009 4:32 PM

I drove an out of town friend of mine through SF during his visit, and when driving through the Marina, he commented how "ugly" the buildings were there. And he's from Miami.

Posted by: sf at April 14, 2009 4:32 PM

More than likely most neighbors got the notice from planning and tossed it. Boo Hoo - honestly people behave like were in a gated community in the east bay or something. Makes for an interesting neighborhood conversation piece.

Posted by: Eoral at April 14, 2009 4:33 PM

who knew it would take 4 years since the permit was granted to see the final product. Only in Sf.

Posted by: viewlover at April 14, 2009 4:37 PM

Twenty years from now they will laugh at it as a bad example of turn of the century. If the Marina hasn't burned down after a quake by then. But then some future preservationist will complain when they want to update the place. God i love this city.

Posted by: bvneighbor at April 14, 2009 4:44 PM

kthnxybe- weird I consistently think to myself when reading your comments-- "my thoughts exactly".

It is true that the 1920s style buildings in the Marina seem to be so familiar to us here in SF that they breed contempt after a while... but the other thing that breeds contempt is ugliness.

Posted by: Katherine at April 14, 2009 4:51 PM

"I live a couple houses away on the same side of the street and we received no notification. We're not pleased."

Cry me a river. Sell your house and start a nice HOA out in Albuquerque where you can set the specific tone of "auburn sunset" paint color you want all the houses to be.

Or, since it's for sale now, buy it and de-renovate it to what it was before. Otherwise, you should (and do) have no influence

Posted by: brian at April 14, 2009 4:52 PM

Who gives a shizz if the neighbors approved or not - this isnt a jackbooted gated community despite what every aging boomer preservation fetishist likes to think.
Thank god someone dares to think outside of the box in this town.

Posted by: Joe at April 14, 2009 4:54 PM

This looks so odd to me between those very traditional style houses. I

Posted by: jessep at April 14, 2009 4:59 PM

Katherine - exactly. :-) I definitely prefer modern design for new construction, but that doesn't mean I don't want it to be pretty!

Posted by: kthnxybe at April 14, 2009 5:04 PM

gotta echo above comments

"we're not pleased"

the strains of an uber-weenie with a hyper inflated sense of entitlement

ok editor, now I'll try to "add value" -- I think I said something about loving the juxtaposition the last time this house was posted. I just think its so cool amongst all the "marina-style" houses. It would be far less cool if if were beachfront in Newport Beach, CA. (which is kinda what it looks like to me)

Posted by: Rubicon at April 14, 2009 5:08 PM

When did the complainer move in? I am guessing post-2004?

Approvals are taking so long, I am starting to think that parents should submit plans on behalf of their small children. "Just in case".

Posted by: Mark at April 14, 2009 5:14 PM

It was my understanding that if developers don't play the NIMBY San Francisco game, including the not-fully-legally-required "community input" the Planning Dept would not be nearly as forthcoming with approvals, etc.

I.E. a developer who only performs community notification to the letter of the law and doesn't take the feedback seriously that the plans would not be approved.

Posted by: Eric in SF at April 14, 2009 5:40 PM

The issue is not whether the neighbor should be notified based on moral grounds or opinion. It is whether he should have been notified based on the existing regulations. The barbs seems inappropriate.

Posted by: fred at April 14, 2009 5:44 PM

I think the issue is whether the neighbor lived there at the time, and if he did, whether he paid attention to the notification. It went out. But agreed, no reason to beat up on a guy who didn't know that a notification already went out.

Posted by: anonn at April 14, 2009 6:09 PM

I live down the street from this house. I don't mind a contemporary contribution to the neighborhood. However, the solar panels are a complete disaster. Approved or not, this is not a handsome addition to the street.

Posted by: Luke at April 14, 2009 6:36 PM

I still think it looks like a robot. BUt I like the view of the place from these angles better than the pics from a couple weeks ago.

As to neighbors' input.....

I think the only reasons neighbors should have input is if their view is being impeded or if a structure has historical significance. If they want all the houses to be so strictly regulated they can move to Rancho Santa Fe. I don't mind the houses there.... but a whole town that looks the same? Blech.... No thanks.

I say keep this house... It's better than a lot in SF and while not my taste, I think it helps create uniqueness in our wonderful city.

Posted by: StockBoySF at April 14, 2009 8:01 PM

Oh no!!

Someone killed jessep @ 4:59pm!!

Posted by: Debtpocalypse at April 14, 2009 8:19 PM

Well, I can totally understand why some of the neighbors are up in arm. Let's just say the house next to you got remodeled badly (or turn fugly), the the value of your house will go down with it (because the ugly house limits the future buyer of your house. Who wants to live next to a weirdo or ugly house?) That's just a simple fact. So I can see why the neighbors would want some say into how you want to remodel your own place. With that said, the wood part of the exterior is totally fine but the solar panel part begs to differ..... You can get photovoltaic windows these days (although they don't get as much energy out of it). There's no need to hang solar panels right in the front facade and scream to the neighbors that you are greeeeeeen.

Posted by: juju at April 14, 2009 9:35 PM

I've been living in SF since 1860. I'm still mad that they put up those new-fangled Marina-styled homes next to my Victorian?!?! Dad-gummed newcomers! Be gone. All o' ya!

Posted by: tipster at April 14, 2009 9:48 PM

The facade revision is excellent and exactly what we need to see more efforts at achieving in this fine city. More than half the homes in the Marina need to be torn down and rebuilt anyway for seismic reasons. These unhappy neighbors are a shameful reminder that the "rich" are different - and not in a good way. The sense of entitlement that this unhappy neighbor excretes permeates every neighborhood of this city - why don't you stay out of other people's business? The planning commission should be given full and exclusive authority over all of these matters - neighbors be damned. I'm so sick of hearing this nimby sentiment whenever a modern work is proposed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the solar panels, the materials, the scale, the massing, etc., of the Cervantes home.

Posted by: B. G. E. Haussmann at April 14, 2009 11:07 PM

In all seriousness, the reality is that the objection is entirely to the "mechanical" portion of the home being visible. If someone strapped their furnace to the front of their house, or the water heater, they'd get just as many complaints.

It is conventional to hide mechanical aspects of the home because they are not considered attractive. I think the neighbors had every right to expect that there wouldn't be a water heater bolted onto the front of the house. If you don't go over your neighbor's plans, it's partly because you kind of expect the city to stop such a design.

Solar panels belong on a roof, not the facade. The fact that you just invented the greenest furnace known to man, and want to strap it to the front of your house for all to see is really not a valid design issue. I like the overall design, and modern is fine, but the solar panels are stupid and asinine, and the fact that they are SO in your face (on a part of the house that doesn't even make full use of them) is way over the top.

No doubt some yuppie will buy it and think its really great. However, I can see how the neighbors would be irritated that the mechanical portion of the home wasn't hidden or at least more out of the way. If there is a sense of entitlement, it's that normal design standards will be adhered to. It's particularly galling when someone does this and then doesn't even intend to live there themselves. No doubt their own neighborhood does not have such an eyesore in it.

Posted by: tipster at April 15, 2009 7:43 AM

In all seriousness, the reality is that the objection is entirely to the "mechanical" portion of the home being visible

Where did you see or read that?

Posted by: anonn at April 15, 2009 7:55 AM

Solar panels belong on a roof the way polar bears belong in a zoo.

In the year 2145, decades after wrapping buildings in solar panels is as established as wrapping them in stucco became post-WWII, there is going to be neighborhood outrage that this historic example of progressive San Francisco condo-design is being pulled down to the advantage of some retro-Marina SFR....

Posted by: Debtpocalypse at April 15, 2009 7:56 AM

The green movement has all the hallmarks of a religion. The objection to the 'public display' of the solar panels seems to me to be at least two millenia old:

Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you....

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-7; 6:16-18, NAB)

The other "religion" in SF is of course real estate ;)

Posted by: LMRiM at April 15, 2009 8:16 AM

Wow. Talk about a reach. Where are the green zealots you refer to in this thread? The objections are largely that folks got the notification part wrong, still think that views are sacred in SF, and name their own assumptions "the reality" of what happened.

Posted by: anonn at April 15, 2009 8:22 AM

Someone took Easter pretty seriosly this year...

Posted by: Eoral at April 15, 2009 8:28 AM

have we confirmed this is still a 2 unit building? it'll be interesting to see the discussion when we get the official listing, price, sq footage, the "green" claims, etc. I wouldn't think from the 25x100 lot size and strict rules for building footprint that this home grew very much from the original. Appears from tax records that the owners have a very low cost basis on it.

Ms Schumacher's current contingent sales in the Marina are listed at $878/sqft, $873/sqft, $876/sqft - if they sold for anywhere near asking I have to applaud her (despite my disdain for agents).

Should we start guess on pricing for this building yet? Or did I miss it already? OK, I'll take a shot.
If it's a 2 unit and they only sell off the bottom one, I'll guess $1.8M asking assuming they captured a bit of the garage level as living space. If it's just one level then 1.7M.

Posted by: resp at April 15, 2009 8:32 AM

I actually agree with tipster on this one. The issue is the blatant display of techno-greenness on the front facade.

At a guess, some will think it's novel and cool, but most will think it's fugly, or at least strangely out of place.

Posted by: mediated at April 15, 2009 9:22 AM

UH. Great call on the whole strapping the water heater to the front of the building..except THERE ISNT A WATER HEATER STRAPPED TO THE FRONT OF THE BUILDING.
There are flat black solar panels - this is no different than discussion of paint color.
Life goes on people. You cant control everything.

Posted by: Joe at April 15, 2009 9:51 AM

For those of your keeping track at home: this is like strapping an UNINSULATED water heater to the front of your home for all to see. The front panels will be producing much less than 50% of their potential output due to a horrible tilt angle and shadow effects (which reduce the output by 50% except for the moment when the sun is directly overhead). I'm also starting to get worried about the roof panels as the facade slopes upwards and may present some shadowing challenges. I would hope that any installer worth their salt would take this into account (but you never know, after looking at the panels on the front of the building).

Posted by: EBGuy at April 15, 2009 11:25 AM

this thread makes me think of the line "opinions are like ***, everyone's got one". we've got some strange characters on this site.

i'm curious how many of the haters have actually seen the home in person? or do we hate based on photos, or the concept, alone?

Posted by: hangemhi at April 15, 2009 11:55 AM

Thank god the nimby's didnt win with this one. This is a handsome, creative addition to the street facade. When are people and the planning dept. going to realize that sameness is bland and boring?

I hope we see more new design like this thruout the city. If the neighbors dont like it, they can move.

Posted by: noearch at April 15, 2009 11:56 AM

Why in the world would neighbors get to "approve" of something anyway? Isn't that the planning commissions job? This isn't in a gated community is it?

Posted by: anon at April 15, 2009 12:24 PM

For God's sake. "We are not pleased." This is why I hate this pathetic, pseudo-liberal town. Sure, we're the most "progressive" city in America, except when it comes to altering the city from how it looked in 190-freakin'-5.

Hey snobby neighbor, howabout when you walk by, you drape a doily over your head so you don't have to look at it, or maybe you have your servant hold the parasol to block your view?

Ugh! Pathetic!

Posted by: anon at April 15, 2009 12:28 PM

Have you heard? They're letting coloreds into the neighborhood! We are not amused!

Posted by: dude at April 15, 2009 12:30 PM

I don't have a problem with the style of the house. Actually I think it is refreshing.

However, I just don't understand why they have the panels like that. It is extremely inefficient.

First, they are facing southwest, meaning they don't do anything in the morning.

Second, they are vertical, so they are most effective during sunset, not so at noon.

Third, the left panel is blocked until afternoon.

That's what I call gimmick

Posted by: John at April 15, 2009 1:53 PM

But they have panels on top of the house too. And maybe in the back (don't know.)

Posted by: anonn at April 15, 2009 1:58 PM

My bet is it will list for 3M++ and it is a 'two unit' building that is currently being used as a SFH. There are 3 meters and 2 front doors, so it will be interesting to see the floorplan!

Posted by: MarinaLocal at April 15, 2009 2:11 PM

I never saw any designs, but I don't care either way. If it's your place, do what you want. I hope there are panels on the roof though.

Posted by: lolcat_94123 at April 15, 2009 2:44 PM

Folks in THE MARINA actually have the nerve to complain about this architecture? That, the neighborhood of the ugliest cheesy stucco fake spanishy bungalows in the city. Hey folks, this is real architecture. And who says you have to hide the systems that run our technological world? Ever hear of Centre Pompidou - that is now 25 years old - and the thousands of other buildings since then that do the same thing? Once again, SF shows it is populist not progressive when it comes to planning and design.

Posted by: Jim at April 15, 2009 3:09 PM

SF shows it is populist not progressive

What did "SF" do here in order to be so slagged? Seems to me that "SF" approved this build.

Posted by: anonn at April 15, 2009 3:16 PM

C'mon "Jim"...you wish you lived in the Marina.

Sure this place is butt ugly with those stupid solar panels, but why cry over spilled milk? The place is built, so move on.

It's better than living next to some dilapidated house that hasn't been painted since the Carter adnministration.

Rebecca will sell it too, she's on fire down there these days.

Posted by: gh at April 15, 2009 4:00 PM

it's definitely got 2 front doors but both main levels at the front of the house are open to each other with a sort of floating staircase. the area behind the garage is developed. very difficult to tell how it's split up into 2 units. as marinalocal says its probably designed to be a "phony 2 unit" for a single family. scratch my original price estimate as the configuration is still unclear.

Posted by: resp at April 15, 2009 4:05 PM

I drove by earlier today.... I like it. Reminds me of "The Fountain Head". Good architecture is fugly and wasteful to others? To me, the water heater comments are ridiculous. It's glass and we have glass towers downtown. What's the big friggin deal? And if the solar panels are half as efficient as they could be, that's far better than EVERY building everywhere else.

I agree with StockBoySF in the earlier thread "we need to support these technologies so they will be fantastic in the future." I especially like the cell phone analogy. Anyone remember the gigantic gray cell phones... Gordon Gecko used one on the beach of his Hampton's house, and I live in NYC at the time they came out and remember how ostentatious the users seemed to me.... now I can't live without my blackberry.

As for driving down re-sale value if you live next door, that's nonsense. Let's all get over it... and welcome it the SF.

Posted by: hangemhi at April 15, 2009 11:57 PM

"And if the solar panels are half as efficient as they could be, that's far better than EVERY building everywhere else."

I think you missed the point here. Solar panels require energy to manufacture and install. Currently they have not yet reached the break-even point meaning that they will produce less energy during their useful life compared to what was consumed to manufacture them.

So even properly installed rooftop panels are a net energy loss. This installation is even worse. Ironically a building with no solar panels is more energy efficient than one with panels today.

That doesn't mean that solar panels are not a good idea now. We need to ramp up our knowledge and experience. Eventually photovoltaic will break even. You'll know when that occurs when the price of land in the Mojave skyrockets.

I've got no complaints about the look of this house. It is OK, but I do think that the exposed panels are a little corny. I've seen a much classier example on a mid-rise in Germany though those panels were mounted exactly vertical, even less efficient !

After photovoltaic pushes well past break-even, it will make sense to clad entire walls with solar panels. This could take a long time though.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at April 16, 2009 10:31 AM

Solar panels require energy to manufacture and install. Currently they have not yet reached the break-even point meaning that they will produce less energy during their useful life compared to what was consumed to manufacture them.

Are you sure about that? I thought it was that the pollution required to create them was not offset by the lack of pollution their clean energy creates. Not energy to energy.

Posted by: anonn at April 16, 2009 10:38 AM

I think you missed the point here. Solar panels require energy to manufacture and install.

my point was that you have to start somewhere. someone has to be willing to waste money (and energy) to move the technology along.

Posted by: hangemhi at April 16, 2009 11:29 AM

looks like megatron, it will be awesome when it transforms into a robot and thrashes the marina.

Posted by: j a at April 16, 2009 1:06 PM

What I'd like to know is why so many Marina home owners have stopped painting their sidewalks red. Always liked that...

Posted by: BobN at April 16, 2009 1:28 PM

annon - you might be right. I haven't checked for a while but was assuming that the energy ROI was still negative for photovoltaic. Energy ROI is extremely hard to compute because you have to examine the manufacturing supply chain really deep - all the way to the amount of power that us used to heat the sales manager's coffee of the company that supplies the cleaning fluids to clean the bathrooms in the factory that makes the solar cells. I exaggerate here but yeah : a ton of numbers go into the eROI calculations.

The true test will be if someone can successfully run a "breeder factory". In other words a vertical solar panel manufacturing facility that itself is powered entirely by solar cells (including charging up electric trucks to deliver the finished product). When that occurs it will really make my day.

Posted by: the Milkshake of Despair at April 16, 2009 5:56 PM

It's on the MLS. Asking $3 million and $1,000 SqFt.

To answer one of the questions:
"Membrane roof with solar panels and evacuated tube solar hot water collectors"

[Editor's Note: 118 Cervantes Boulevard: Listed, Numbers, And Your Peek Inside.]

Posted by: hangemhi at April 17, 2009 11:41 AM

I wonder how much the original property was purchased for back in 2004 (assuming it was purchased then). Looked at the listing agent's website, for some reason I get the feeling it may be her and her husbands project? Seems pretty overpriced but I bet someone ponies up for it somewhat close.

Posted by: Blue42MM at April 18, 2009 8:08 AM

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