485 Elizabeth circa 2008
Officially it’s a $1,750,000 “horizontal and vertical extension” of 485 Elizabeth, a 1,098 square foot single-family home that’s on its way to becoming two foot single-family dwellings (numbers 485 and 489) over four parking spaces in total.
485 Elizabeth 2010
The property was purchased for $1,400,000 in April 2008 with the stipulation that the seller deliver 311 approval to build two 3,000 square foot units on the lot. The seller had purchased the property in November 2005 for $860,000 with no such stipulation in place.
We’re assuming it’s speculative development and the two homes will be coming soon. Would any plugged-in readers care to claim and share the inside scoop?

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by eddy

    Could you please photoshop out those overhead wires and insert a blue sky into the picture so I can see what it’s really going to look like when it hits the market. Thanks!

  2. Posted by sfrenegade

    Also, will you please use a wide angle lens for the photos so we can get a more accurate picture of how long the rooms are and how wide the doorways, appliances, and windows are? Thx.

  3. Posted by auden

    This your brother’s anonn?

  4. Posted by stucco-sux

    So what is up in this town with set-backs? It just crusts my hide that they let someone extend 8 feet past their neighbors, but damn when the deal is done why not at least do the same?
    Must be some archaic zoning from hell coda that makes its impossible to tease your own hair as high as the girl next door.
    It just ruins the frontage, imho.

  5. Posted by Invented

    Love the me-too addition to the garage at right An adorable white picket fence! Someone has a good sense of humor, and somehow I’m loving that little garage or portal to the backyard even more now. The house? Can’t quite digest it yet–need to see in person. Note to self while there: figure out the curious framing on top.

  6. Posted by noearch

    Finally. This is not some faux-Victorian piece of
    Disneyfied crap we normally see.
    A nice fresh, very modern addition to the neighborhood. Setbacks are defined in the planning code and very important to bringing light and air to adjacent properties. they make sense.
    I like the simple expression of fenestration and use of just two materials. The exposed wood framing elements at the roof line are quasi-sunshade devices and also act as a defining cornice line.
    Very well done.

  7. Posted by BobN

    Setbacks are defined in the planning code and very important to bringing light and air to adjacent properties. they make sense.
    Nonsense. Are the neighbors allowed to put windows on the side of their buildings if they stick out to the property line, thus allowing the light and air into their property? No.
    All the set-backs do is widen the street (which would be fine, I suppose, if it didn’t rob people of 1) backyard space or 2) square footage INSIDE the home.
    There are plenty of charming neighborhoods with gobs of air and light and homes that all front right to the lot line.

  8. Posted by Q

    The exposed wood looks good now. Wait until it turns “silver.” Then we’ll be left with a fading monotone.

  9. Posted by Someone

    Something doesn’t make sense.
    I can’t see how you build a 6K sqft structure plus 4 car parking on a standard lot, especially when you already lost 8 ft in the front.
    You have 125 ft deep, which you must leave 45% backyard setback and even with the 12′ pop out in the rear I can’t see 1500 sqft/floor. In this case they certainly don’t take the entire footprint, so call it 1300 x 3 PLUS some space behind the garage MINUS shared stair case.
    Maybe 4500 sqft

  10. Posted by noearch

    Let me help you understand the planning codes a little bit, BobN:
    You’re confusing planning code issues with building code issues when it comes to property line windows at the sides of buildings. Windows are not allowed there due to fire-resistive construction requirements. It’s a safety issue.
    Front yard setbacks are primarily designed for allowing modulation in the front elevations when a NEW building is added to the block adjacent to existing buildings. If you read the planning code you’ll see there are many variations for the front yard setback allowable. No one is “robbing” anyone of rear yard space or interior space.
    Older, existing buildings typically were typically shorter in length, allowing for larger rear yards. New buildings, like this one, based on the more current planning code are allowed to be deeper thus resulting in smaller rear yards.
    As for the streets where plenty of homes are built to the front property line, as you suggest, those streets typically have little if any yard space or green space. The sidewalk fronts right to the edge of the front building wall, making for some fairly hard edged streets. The current planning code setbacks are designed to allow for more yard and green space, benefiting the entire neighborhood. It’s a good thing, I believe.
    This new building is built to the current planning code issues of allowable height, setback, and rear yards.

  11. Posted by noearch

    The exposed wood appears to be stained and sealed Ipe or some other exterior hardwood. It’s not going to turn silver, if well maintained. Not all wood turns silver.

  12. Posted by DanRH

    i like it. at least someone took a bit of a chance / did something different.

  13. Posted by bernalkid

    sad to see the houses with the fake stone siding disappear one by one

  14. Posted by Rillion

    I agree, I am sad to see them disappearing one by one. I would much prefer if they all just disappeared in mass.

  15. Posted by lolcat_94123

    What’s with the wood things attached to the very top – do they serve a purpose? I remember similar things attached to the place on page between octavia and gough w/ the funky car mover in the garage.

  16. Posted by tipster (not really the developer)

    I’m the developer, and I thought I’d answer your questions regarding the wooden top.
    The building was prefab. It was assembled in a factory in China, then shipped on a pallet upside down for the same reason wine is shipped upside down in wine boxes.
    The wood thing is the pallet, and we’ll be removing it when we take away the rest of the wrapping. It’s been taking us weeks to remove the stickers on the windows or we’d have it done sooner.

  17. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    ipe wood is supposed to be retreated annually with Messmer’s oil or the like to prevent it from turning grey. From the looks of this design that will be a nontrivial job requiring long ladders or maybe even scaffolding. Figure a weekend per year for the DIY homeowner or maybe a kilobuck to a handyman.
    This is much more expensive to maintain compared to standard painted stucco or wood. It might even cost more to maintain than a ten color Victorian facade.
    Skip one year and you can never go back to the original finish.
    ipe looks pretty good with a gray finish though so maybe this is not a big deal.

  18. Posted by stucco-sux

    Just to be clear, I like setbacks. What I don’t get is how stuff an be built with no regard for adjoining setbacks creating the broken tooth effect in evidence here.
    My point was that once the set back has been compromised by adjacent buildings, I don’t get why new construction wouldn’t be moved up & flush with what’s next to it.
    I assume(d) the answer is that its easier from a permitting approval perspective and would love tipster developer to answer that question.

  19. Posted by hugh

    Stucco (the rest of the exterior) is such a bad material for SF, with all the moisture and city grime/dust… it starts looking bad very quickly.
    I drove by this place last week… Looks like it was constructed in the late 90s. perfect example.

  20. Posted by lol

    Someone (doubting the 6000sf):
    The lot is 2962 sf. The house has 3 levels from the front, but probably has an extra garden level due to the down slope towards 24th street. The original house had 1 level front and 2 levels back, by the way.
    My guesstimate if the footprint is around 1900sf: 1700 X 3 + 900sf = 6000sf
    Very doable, imho.

  21. Posted by Someone

    it’s incredible hard to build 1700 sqft per floor in Noe, unless you are on 24th street (special zoning) or you are working to secure the retirement of someone in planning department.
    Indeed the lot is sloped, hence they could’ve built 5 stories at the rear, but that won’t add that much space.
    I’ll let noearch confirm my math, but here is rough calculation.
    2962 == 123.5 x 25
    You lose 8 ft in the front (I think that’s conservative) and 55.5 in the back (45% setback), which leaves you with 60′ x 25′ = 1500 PLUS 12′ x 15′ pop out in the rear = 1680.
    BUT it’s pretty obvious you are losing 4′ on the right of the property for at least half the length and some on a bigger gap on the left but less deep.

  22. Posted by mikey woodz

    How is it 2 single family homes? Did they split the lot?

  23. Posted by noearch

    From zoning maps this appears to be an RH-2 lot,”house-2 family” therefore the two units.
    As for front setbacks, this project I feel adhered to the code very well. Front setbacks are based on the average setback of adjacent buildings, up to 15′ or 15% of the lot depth. Again, these are designed to modulate the front elevations of all NEW buildings, so as not to create a solid, single line front wall, as in a street lined with older buildings. This is good urban planning.
    As for stucco, it can be a very good exterior material here in SF, when applied properly with the right substrate and flashing materials. It can last for 30 years or more, with minimal maintenance, just painting and sealing.
    I agree the Ipe wood will require some maintenance and re-sealing, but it’s not an impossible job and not that costly. Again, some things are worth doing the right way and the more expensive way. What’s with this attitude that everything about design and construction should be the cheapest and easiest to maintain?
    Quality contributes to a neighborhood. Quality sells, and Quality lasts.

  24. Posted by mikey woodz

    Regarding an RH-2 lot wouldn’t that effectively make these condos?

  25. Posted by resp (not the developer)

    i am the developer. the wood on top is technically know as a “thingy used to make low income housing look like it’s not.”

  26. Posted by A.T.

    Not if it is a single estate. “Condo” is a legal term of art where multiple dwellings on a single lot are divided into separate estates.

  27. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “What’s with this attitude that everything about design and construction should be the cheapest and easiest to maintain? “
    Well of course not, I’m just pointing out that this is a high maintenance facade treatment (or not if you don’t mind the gray color). Painted treatments only need to be renewed every 5 to 10 years and if you snooze there are remedies for prepping the surface back to “new”. With tropical hardwoods, if you snooze you’re either on the path towards gray or in store for a very labor intensive fix.
    “Quality contributes to a neighborhood. Quality sells, and Quality lasts.”
    That warm orange color will definitely not last unless unless meticulously maintained. I doubt most homeowners are up to this in the long run. I expect most of these ipe facades will end up gray within a decade.

  28. Posted by BobN

    Let me help you understand the planning codes a little bit, BobN:
    Thanks ever so much.
    Does it dawn on you that the fact that, back in the old days when lots were deep and houses were short and people still put their homes right up to the property line, people actually prefer to have backyard space over front yard space? You know, before planning decided what’s best for everyone.
    And thank you for pointing out that no one actually benefits from supposedly increased light and air.

  29. Posted by BobN

    This is good urban planning.
    No, it’s urban planning YOU like. Can you point to any of the world’s great cities which have a similar requirement to set back all new buildings regardless of what the context is?

  30. Posted by noearch

    BobN: You are certainly entitled to your opinions. I would submit that perhaps you are a bit stuck in “the old days”..All cities change and evolve as lifestyles and attitudes change.
    But a couple of points to clarify”
    1. Lot depths have not changed in the past 100 years. They are the same depth they have been. As planning codes evolved the rear yard open space was reduced to allow for longer buildings and pop-outs. It does reflect the desire for larger houses than in the “old days”, I agree.
    2. I’m not going to convince you of the benefits of front yard setbacks that allow for increased light and air. You need to decide for yourself. I essentially support the planning code front setbacks and it does provide benefits.
    3. Front yard setbacks are actually good urban planning as defined by many Urban Planners and Architects, and property owners. It’s not just what I like, sorry. One example of a great city where this is required is in Chicago; Look at the front yards in some of the residential neighborhoods. All houses and buildings are set back to provide for front yards and landscaping. I would call Chicago a great city.

  31. Posted by sfrenegade

    Agree with Milkshake here. Another one I point out sometimes is marble in kitchens and baths. It might look nice, but marble is very porous and can stain easily. I worked in an office with marble tables, and they used to get them sealed about twice a year, and things like champagne glasses left on the surface for too long (as would happen with any acidic item) still left a legacy.

  32. Posted by noearch

    Just a thought: maybe it’s just how I read Milkshakes comments here and on other properties.
    But he always seems to come across negative about anything, or pointing out the doom and gloom of what can go wrong..hmmm.. Does he like anything here, ever?
    I see the glass as half full. He seems to see it as half empty.

  33. Posted by EBGuy

    Just a couple of notes:
    annon’s bro appears to be the contractor (at least on one of the permits).
    A permit was pulled in April for sprinklers (due to change of use). I’ve read elsewhere that a sprinkler mandate is coming in California (2011), but what use would require sprinklers now (or are they just preparing for the future).
    Am I the only one who thinks you’d have to be brain dead not to file a condo map (pennywise, pound foolish). Or are there reserve requirements that are onerous? Or some other reason?

  34. Posted by Willow

    Noearch: I think you’re confusing Milkshake with Tipster…

  35. Posted by noearch

    Willow:…….well, maybe, maybe not. But milkshake does seem to be always in a despairing mood.

  36. Posted by tipster

    Nothing wrong with knowing the total cost (and hassle) of ownership up front.

  37. Posted by noearch

    The word hassle is not in my vocabulary.

  38. Posted by Jack B. Nimble

    Milkshake is only pointing out “false idols”, and I am glad he does it. I like the building above very much, but think the wood is a big mistake from a maintenance standpoint. It would stop me from buying it…I think a lot of modern buyers want minimal maintenance – and less maintenance is also usually more environmentally friendly. Also agree on marble counters. Just stupid.

  39. Posted by lol

    The word hassle is not in my vocabulary.
    Of course it is not. Once he house is delivered what you have left is nice drawings an the unwrapping pictures. Let the homeowner live with the hassles (and costs) of bad architectural choices.

  40. Posted by curmudgeon

    Don’t mess with MoD! He has some of the best Haikus on this site, and generally offer a ton to the conversation with a minimum of snark. He’s also generally right in the middle of the road on the lover/hater divide.

  41. Posted by 45yo hipster

    I’m with milkshake on the wood facade: within 10 years most of these wood facades will be silver, as well intentioned yuppies realize what a pain in the tooches it is to seal it every year or maybe two. And going up 3-4 stories is most likely going to require added pain in the tooches scafolding, which is time consuming, expensive and unsightly. Not gonna happen.

  42. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Ha! Yeah, I was hardly trying to be negative and in fact I like the way that ipe fades to gray. I’m letting the wood I installed last year fade to gray. It is half way there after about a year.
    Funny that you should call me out on negativity noearch. Didn’t you slam a couple of fake historic buildings that I liked recently ?
    I do try to use my “how will this property age” crystal ball (especially before making an offer !). There’s a lot of stuff out there that looks all shiny and new when placed on the market. It does a great job of selling the place, but could disappoint buyers who don’t understand how the property will age. A really obvious example is fresh sod thrown over unprepared and unirrigated soil. Back during the boom someone (the listing agent?) could hand water that sod and keep it looking green and lush long enough for the 30 days list-to-close cycle to complete. Then of course that nice looking lawn quickly degrades to look like … well … neglected and dying sod.

  43. Posted by noearch

    Yea, whatever milkie. I like the Ipe siding, and with the right maintenance and sealing it can look rich and orangish for years.
    I never slam anything. That’s a childish term. I do criticize fake historic facades and restoration, however. And I do criticize bad design, bad materials and bad urban planning. Don’t like it? Then don’t read it.
    I also applaud good design and well planned projects that contribute to the overall quality of a neighborhood, and are not built to the lowest common denominator, as most developers and some builders will do.

  44. Posted by lol

    Sure it can look good for years.
    How about decades?
    We can see a ton of mid-century rental boxes that looked really nice at the time. By the 70s they got bad already, because they were cheaply built and buyers could be fooled only once. Now mid-century goes through a fad either in renovation or revival, but today’s flashy boxes will certainly look different in 2020. What counts is design choices that do not get in the way of durability.

  45. Posted by ryan

    looks like the setback was clearly maintained to allow light to the yard behind that fence next door. I generally disagree though that the feel of SF with setbacks, ect. makes for good urban design. I prefer the solid wall of rowhouses, brownstones, ect. with stoops, I think a more solidified, consistent feel. However, yes, this can definitely have impacts to the light reaching the houses and yards beyond.
    and the wood thingy at the top? thats what the planners make you put there. They need a cornice, or a modern interpretation of it.

  46. Posted by BobN

    BobN: You are certainly entitled to your opinions.
    I’m surprised you think that.
    1. Lot depths have not changed in the past 100 years.
    As residential neighborhoods were developed, lots got shorter and shorter. Compare the blocks around Alamo Sq with those in the Avenues.
    It does reflect the desire for larger houses than in the “old days”, I agree.
    And no one wants big houses anymore, apparently.
    2. I’m not going to convince you of the benefits of front yard setbacks that allow for increased light and air.
    To whom? To people walking down the street perhaps. Look at the property in question.
    Who is getting MORE light and air? Not the existing neighbor because he/she isn’t allowed to put windows on the lot line. Certainly not the owner of the new building, as his/her windows are now forced back into a nook.
    3. Front yard setbacks are actually good urban planning as defined by many Urban Planners and Architects, and property owners.
    And just as “many” disagree, especially when the adjoining buildings are not set back. The policy is a one-size-fits-all approach.
    Chicago, I would agree, is a great city and the almost universal set-backs contribute to that. It’s a great idea IF everyone has done it and continues to do it. But if it isn’t the pattern, it’s a bad idea.

  47. Posted by BobN

    Check out a street view of the property and pan from side to side, up and down the block.
    This new construction is now the ONLY set-back property in sight.
    The old house was also set back because it had a front stairway to the living floor above the garage.

  48. Posted by kathleen

    The wood on the top is for architectural interest. Without out there is none.
    Get rid of the stucco(add wood) and
    then paint the thing.
    How abouta a photo shop contest.
    Age this buildinhg 15 years.

  49. Posted by curmudgeon

    I’m with BobN on this one. It really makes no sense to me, in planning terms, to force this house to have a setback given it’s context. There is no “light and air” context that makes sense for anyone other than a passerby on the sidewalk. It was silly if SF code forced the current massing.
    Oh, and I’m a planner. There is no universally understood “good urban planning” but most thoughtful planners think that context matters, and if the rules don’t seem to make sense in an individual situation, then a variance should be granted that is more suitable to the situation.
    Good planners are not usually absolutists. If you want to meet one of those, talk to a traffic engineer.

  50. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “Good planners are not usually absolutists. If you want to meet one of those, talk to a traffic engineer.”
    Funny and there is some truth to that statement (especially when it comes to “Level Of Service” goals). But there are enough traffic engineers who are flexible and fortunately that number seems to be growing as the engineers who graduated from programs that only considered cars as traffic retire.

  51. Posted by noearch

    Well, I read the arguments against the front setback issue and I still feel it is appropriate. In addition to providing increased light and air, the setback also allows for front yard landscaping (mandated) and relief from a tight street wall at the edge of the public sidewalk.
    I’m surprised so many here don’t really understand what setbacks are for and how many don’t support front setbacks. Again, it’s good urban design and planning. Period.

  52. Posted by BobN

    Again with the “increased light and air”. TO WHOM? Where in the planning code does it call for increased light and air for PEDESTRIANS? The requirement or encouragement is for INDOOR light and air. This set-back REDUCES light and air for the new construction and is completely neutral for the neighboring property. (I wouldn’t be surprised if it REDUCED light and air at the rear of the property by forcing the builder to move further into the back of the lot.)
    And there is no requirement for front yard landscaping when there is no front yard.

  53. Posted by noearch

    ok, BobN…I can lighten up on the “light and air” issue if you like. It is a broad term and probably subject to various interpretations and exact definitions.
    I use the term to describe the “transition” from hard sidewalk edge to building front. These setbacks are put in place for those reasons: To provide for a gradual and “pedestrian friendly” edge. And, quite frankly, to modulate the building edge in a block. As I’ve said before, a single wall line down an entire block is pretty harsh.
    And, of course, when there is no front yard, there is no landscaping, except that the new street side landscaping permits do allow a property owner to cut out the concrete squares directly at the property line to provide for new landscape, as well as curbside landscaping. It’s not a bad thing, I’m sure you would agree. Just go down a street with new street side landscape and see how much more pleasant and enjoyable it is. Again, in most residential neighborhoods we don’t need sidewalks that are 16-19′ wide.

  54. Posted by Conifer

    “Light and air”: another of the great shibboleths of this list, also including
    painting original dark wood to “lighten” it, hardwood floors that are either very light or almost black,
    formal dining rooms turned into “family” rooms, as at 1823 Jackson,
    “work triangles” in kitchens
    What all these have in common is a 1960s and later suburban aesthetic. Forcing these on San Francisco houses that were built from 1860 to 1930 is pandering to people who want to live in San Francisco but want the housing of a different place.
    Brokers would seem to have no choice but to appeal their customers. It might be more honest but less profitable to suggest to buyers that some changes can destroy the architectural integrity of the house.
    There are other changes that adapt existing features to fashion without changing anything permanently: gyms in the basement, media rooms in the top floor, wine storage in closets.

  55. Posted by curmudgeon

    I actually agree with Noearch that the transition zone is important, and that having even a little bit of space for greenery is great.
    I would argue that on this particular site, it’s not an issue because there is effectively a building wall along both sides of the block. So why insist on that “transition zone” for this property only. It just ends up looking odd. But along a street where many or most properties were set back, I would argue for a contextual set back for new development.
    And yes, the new rules about landscaping the sidewalk space are wonderful, and are beginnning to have a real impact. (although there are some nonsensical rules about their installation regarding ADA issues, but at least it’s going in the right direction).
    Finally, it is one my pet peeves that so many landscaped front yards have been lost to the installation of driveways and garages in this city. That is one area where the common good..not just the aesthetic enjoyment of the neighbors and passersby, but also the curb side parking that is lost from the curbcut, runs totally counter to the idea of “transition” that noearch expresses. I believe it’s now at least moderately more difficult to get a permit to install a garage, but in my opinion it’s been much too easy for years. But I’ll end my thread hijack with that.

  56. Posted by noearch

    Actually, the “light and air” component of the planning code is an essential one to having livable buildings. Think about it.
    Light and air refers to providing windows,open space and fresh air to all habitable spaces. If we didn’t have that, many buildings, new and old, would build out huge footprints, maximizing space and sacrificing rear yards, light courts and light wells. Setbacks, stepping down of building bulk, and rear yard requirements are all part of making a neighborhood pleasant to be in and livable.
    The garage/curbcut issue is a tough one, I agree. I still support off street parking for all new buildings. The ratio is currenly up for some discussion. But an existing property owner should have the right to add garage space to their house or building.

  57. Posted by eddy

    485 Elizabeth is on @ $1.775 for 2384 sqft

  58. Posted by DanRH

    Looks like both are now priced. Full details / floor plans / etc, look available at 495-489elizabeth.com

  59. Is it true that Travis Pacoe, agent listing 485 and 489 Elizabeth Street, has a history of protesting developers and their projects?
    Could the politics of real estate in San Francisco be really that hypocritical and dysfunctional?

  60. Posted by tipster

    485, reduced to 1.675.
    Build.$715K @$300psft

  61. Posted by sparky-b

    That build is way off tipster. If you take that and add the other units feet you get $1.65M to build the place. It didn’t cost that much, two units gets some economy of scale on plumbing, electrical, most subs, but more importantly there is only 1 roof and 1 foundation.

  62. Posted by tipster

    Fair enough, sparky. What psft number would you use?
    Here’s the listing so you can see the inside:

  63. Posted by sparky-b

    I would guess they spent about $1.15M total on the build vs. the $1.65M you get when you use $300K so that works out to about $200/ft.

  64. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    For some reason I thought that sparky-b was the builder of this structure and would have an excellent (!) idea of what it cost. Even if he didn’t build this I’d place a lot of weight on his estimates.

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