June 8, 2010
160 San Marcos: Revised Designs (And
Renew ed Opposition)
On the market for $695,000 in 2008 as a lot with plans for a Craig Steely home, the proposed design for 160 San Marcos has evolved since (along with opposition).
The proposed project is the construction of a five-bedroom, 4,003-square-foot (sf), single-family home with 3,390 sf of living space on three levels over a 613 sf ground-floor garage with parking for two vehicles. The building would be 40 feet tall when measured from the existing sidewalk elevation at the front property line and would follow the contour of the property, never exceeding 40 feet above the natural grade line.
The proposed residence would have a two-car garage on the ground level; a family room and half-bath on the first floor; a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms and bathroom on the second floor; and three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the third floor. An elevator would run from the rear of the garage to the top level.
The challenge to the project in the form of a requested Discretionary Review (DR):
The DR requestor is concerned that the scale of excavation proposed is excessive and would adversely impact the livability of the neighborhood by causing traffic and stress on the roadway infrastructure.
And the history:
In 2005 a similar project by the same architect was proposed for the subject property...None of the neighbors requested discretionary review on that project and the project was approved by the Department. The permit was later cancelled due to a lack of response by the sponsor. The Department supported the original project and for consistency supported the current project when it was submitted over three-years after the 2005 permit was approved. The Department assumed that the neighbors who did not object to the 2005 project would not object to the 2008 project.
In front of the Planning Commission on Thursday, the Planning Department recommends approving the project as revised and proposed. What's that they say about making assumptions?
First Published: June 8, 2010 9:15 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
It's really a shame that ever bit of open space has to be covered over with buildings in SF.
In my neighborhood a large backyard was sold off and now a developer is seeking to build 3 homes on a lot that only fits 2.
Posted by: Gil at June 8, 2010 10:09 AM
holy cow that thing is a cacophonous monstrosity. Yuck. Why is it that some modern designers have decided that being modern necessitates breaking symmetry as much as possible?
Still, unless in a historic neighborhood or in a place of significance, I would be happier if the planning department erred on the side of personal property rights and green-lighted projects like this.
Posted by: rr at June 8, 2010 10:11 AM
Like the proposed building (altho glad that the odd setback top level is wholly invisible to street). Playful, almost kinetic. I do recognize that we lose a view of hillside topography with these in-fill constructions -- and love buildings which curve with a street or cling to a hillside, but still liking...
Posted by: Invented at June 8, 2010 10:20 AM
So what happens with the utility pole in front of this great house? Does it stay?
Posted by: midcentfan at June 8, 2010 10:21 AM
Yes! You see this house comes equipped with active glass that dynamically photoshops the utility pole out of your views. What will they think of next.
Posted by: diemos at June 8, 2010 10:27 AM
diemos, they will just move the pole next door.
Posted by: tipster at June 8, 2010 10:32 AM
I think the pole is on the other side of the street, where the first photo was taken.
Posted by: John at June 8, 2010 10:45 AM
If you treasure "open space", buy it and maintain it as a public park.
These objections are ridiculous and the fact that they can hold up a project is absurd.
Posted by: BobN at June 8, 2010 11:01 AM
I am seriously considering requesting DR on every single project going before the planning commission just to highlight how ridiculously easy it is for on e single malcontent to hold up anything and everything.
Posted by: joe at June 8, 2010 11:03 AM
This town is ridic- The DBI made me change my windows- that is right windows- on my BP's because they did not keep with the neighborhood aesthetic. My street has no real aesthetic- EXCEPT for the people who remodeled.(no victorians etc) The only reasonable objection to a building plan is a view blocking issue. Otherwise suck it up and buy the property if you don't want people to build/remodel. Ohh that is right- no money- SO SHUT IT.
Posted by: jmwt at June 8, 2010 11:20 AM
All these houses have been built at some point and their neighbors just had to suck it up. Today's people are sooooo sensible, or simply have too much time on their hand. That's what happens when too big a proportion of people are either "protected" retirees or idle rich (usually both, thank you Prop 13). Busybody meddling making your life a living hell is a new staple of San Francisco.
Posted by: lol at June 8, 2010 11:25 AM
Well whaddya know, neighbors with inward facing windows.
Posted by: EH at June 8, 2010 1:12 PM
I love how it's "open space that should be preserved" (perhaps as a community garden or park?) when someone besides you owns the land, but when you own it, it's those damn "busybodies" always interfering with your God-given property ownership rights.
Life in SF -- always on the extremes, because, by definition, the middle ground lacks morality and conviction.
Modern versus stucco and bay windows?
Number of restaurants per block?
Whole Foods / Trader Joe's: Friend or Foe?
Dogs versus kids in the parks?
Oh, we have so many critical issues to argue about here in SF, where "everyone has a right to be heard" and there's always more time (decades, in fact) to "gather the facts and discuss" with all the "stakeholders" in the "community" before taking any action.
Posted by: Kurt Brown at June 8, 2010 1:32 PM
The proposal is an atrocious mess, but it should be approved anyway.
Posted by: Mole Man at June 8, 2010 1:39 PM
Take a look at this site on Google earth - driving by you will essentially see only the garage door. There is nothing across the street but a steep drop off. The site is worthless as open space. This will affect no one but the next door neighbors who were foolish enough to buy houses with windows facing into a temporarily vacant lot. Build it.
Posted by: Jim at June 8, 2010 3:04 PM
@Gil: this is not open space; it is an ugly vacant lot. Putting a house here makes total sense. This particularly design is a bit awkward and bulky for my taste, but it is more attractive than its future neighbors.
Posted by: John Doe at June 8, 2010 3:07 PM
Development proposed for steep terrain that would ordinarily (in a sane world) be considered 'not feasible' for health and safety are routinely referred to along the coast and by the Coastal Commission as 'bunker' style houses. Build that thing like a 'bunker' because it is going to have to hold up the entire hill. Safe living? Not exactly.
Posted by: 4oceans at June 8, 2010 3:53 PM
Wow, I can't believe that some people consider this ugly vacant lot to be "open space." The problem with the approvals/permits process in SF is that it incentivizes every buyer to go for the maximum possible because they're afraid that they will never be able to get incremental improvements.
I'm not even a big proponent of property rights like those libertarians, but the attitudes of the busybodies and NIMBYs in this city pushes me more in that direction than I'd like. It seems like every change in this city gets treated as if it were in a NYC co-op.
Posted by: sfrenegade at June 8, 2010 4:12 PM
4oceans: your comment has no basis in reality - maybe you should go back and re-take high-school physics.
There's not a lot of expense in engineering a hillside excavation like this so as to be stronger than the hillside that is being removed. And at least the new structure will have known properties, as opposed to a natural hillside which typically fails in unpredictable ways. There might be some construction niceties with lateral support for the neighboring houses if the new one is built out to the property lines, as is typical in SF, but nothing that is not routine.
So I'd rather live in this house than one sitting below the slope in its natural condition.
Posted by: BobTheBuilder at June 8, 2010 4:34 PM
Another factor here is that access to the lot is on a narrow one-way street (sign says "narrow street - trucks not advised"). Hard to move in construction vehicles.
Posted by: fred at June 8, 2010 5:22 PM
Uh, the construction vehicles that were brought in to build the NIMBY neighbors' houses apparently didn't have a problem with the "narrow one-way street".
Posted by: builder8 at June 9, 2010 10:02 AM
The houses to either side and all along the street were obviously constructed with materials hauled by burros.
Posted by: BobN at June 9, 2010 10:57 AM
To see the street, go to http://www.mapjack.com/ and type in the address.
Posted by: fred at June 9, 2010 1:29 PM
"There's not a lot of expense in engineering a hillside excavation like this"
Just out of curiosity, what is the additional expense when building on a lot like this?
Posted by: sfrenegade at June 9, 2010 3:05 PM
^^^ The extra expense really depends on the geology of the site. If the slope is a slide zone then there's a lot of extra stabilization work required. Even then you're not in control of what happens above your parcel. Fortunately most of the SF steeps are stable. Underground streams can require extra work as well.
Beyond that vague assessment I have no numbers. Maybe BobTheBuilder can chime in with a ballpark figure.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at June 9, 2010 3:19 PM
While I rather like the design and neither house flanking the lot is anything special my objection is more personal. I live at the corner through which all 400+ truckloads will have to pass. There is no other route, the streets are especially narrow and slippage is a problem on San Marcos. No environmental impact report was required and no notice was given to neighbors prior to the previous permit award. There will be a significant and long term impact during the excavation and building process. Parking will be obliterated for the sake of the construction project, a quiet street that where it's safe for kids to play will be rendered dangerous and the noise will be terrific. How would you like to have a line of dump trucks idling outside your bedroom window for weeks on end? This is an ill-considered spec home.
Posted by: S. McElwee at June 25, 2010 6:07 PM