37-39 Llyod Rendering
The neighbors aren’t too pleased with the two-unit, four-story building as proposed for the vacant lot at 35 Lloyd, but with a few modifications to its design since applying for a permit (including increased setbacks, a smaller penthouse stairway/deck, and an “enlarged notch” to match a neighboring lightwell) the Planning Department recommends its approval.

The Department required that the fourth floor be set back a minimum of 15 feet (the original setback was 6 feet); it required that the building have a raised entry because of an established pattern on the subject and facing block face; it required that the building have an projecting cornice as is common in the potential historic district; and it required that the building’s fenestration pattern have a more vertical orientation.

[The Planning Department] also encouraged the project sponsor to maintain a contemporary feel so that the building reflected its time and did not present a false sense of history, which would have a negative impact on the potential district.

Finally, while the adjacent buildings have pitched roofs, this is not a consistent feature on the subject block or the potential district. The proposed building is permitted to have a flat roof because this is a feature consistent with the block and potential district.

In response to one neighbor’s objection:

Impacts to light should be anticipated and expected when living in a dense urban environment like San Francisco. While the neighbor across the street may experience decrease in light, given the existing development pattern on the street and the development potential of the subject lot, the Department finds that it is a reasonable loss.

And in response to another, “Residential Design Guidelines do not protect light access to rear yards, only the interior of abutting or adjacent structures.”
On Thursday, the San Francisco Planning Commission decides if it’s the project or people who will get to see the light of day (so to speak) on Lloyd.
35 Lloyd Street (aka 37‐39 Lloyd Street) Discretionary Review [sf-planning.org]
San Francisco Planning Commission Calendar: 9/16/10 [sf-planning.org]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by EH

    I’m not as high-strung on the issue as a lot of people around here, but I shudder to read the term “potential historic district.”

  2. Posted by sunnysideup

    “Residential Design Guidelines do not protect light access to rear yards, only the interior of abutting or adjacent structures”
    can someone help me understand what that means? my neighbor has covered our property line windows with boards because she does not like the light that eminates from them. the statement above would seem to suggest that light access to the interior of structures is protected and i can tell her to take them down. thoughts?

  3. Posted by xyz

    Ironically enough, the project sponsors live in a designated historic district in the Mission in an historic Victorian house. They are small time developers who specialize in remodeling/building condos. They were the developers on a Church street development in Noe that was very contentious with the neighbors.
    The Lloyd st property that they are wanting to develop was the garden of the adjacent house, which I believe is an historic house. At a recent Historic Preservation meeting the owner of the adjacent house tried to get the trees designated as historic resources because the current owners had started to cut them down. The HPC agreed to hear the case at a later date.
    Too bad these developers want to build such an ugly structure on such a quaint and historic street.

  4. Posted by Joe

    This is one of the more choice letters of opposition. I am pretty sure if this building is built, this person will immediately cease to exist:
    “Dear Commissioners,
    For 13 of the 23 years I’ve owned 49 Scott St., I lived with an architect who frequently spoke of San Francisco’s tough requirements to make design changes because the City was determined to preserve the world famous and unique beauty of its neighborhoods. Now on Lloyd St., I understand that the narrow empty lot that was a lovely neighborhood garden filled with trees is about to be destroyed by a massive, ugly monstrosity far taller than the rest of the neighborhood – with NO concern for the irreparable damage it will do to the style and Victorian beauty of that rare and lovely block.
    The one block, narrow Lloyd community will lose its cohesive character, dozens will lose their privacy with windows suddenly peering into their bedrooms and gardens, including mine, where I sit on my small deck enjoying the sun. I will lose hours of sunlight because of the absurd height of the building. My garden will be destroyed. My enjoyment of my deck will be ruined.
    This travesty is not even the mistake of someone constructing this terrible building to live in and join our community. It is being built by two outsiders only interested in selling and making a bundle quickly, with no regard for the destruction to our neighborhood. Because the lot is narrow, the plan to go a minimum of one floor too high, plus build an overly large roof penthouse that will be an eyesore visible from multiple vantage points in the City, it will stick out like an ugly sore thumb.
    Our neighborhood has in recent years attracted numerous tour buses driving down Scott St. multiples times a day – a great source of tourism revenue for the City. This tall, bunker like edifice which pays no heed to beauty, will greatly detract from the integrity of our very old and unique neighborhood.
    I intensely oppose the City’s condoning the erection of this investment property. I am shocked and dismayed that those given the power to decide what may be constructed in this City would even consider such a blight to the character of this area we all love so much. I cannot help but ask myself why City officials would allow so many individual homes and apartments to suffer and lose what is so special about living here.
    Allowing this grievous error permission to be build cannot but help me question those I long trusted to preserve what is great about San Francisco!”

  5. Posted by Q

    “Potentially historic.” San Francisco surely is an amazing city. Every where you look, it has historic houses, trees, libraries, bookshelves. It’s unbelievable how much history you can pack into such a young city. On a density/longevity scale, we put Europe to shame!

  6. Posted by jason

    The neighbors are opposed to a contemporary design.
    The planning department is opposed to a “false” historic design.
    So what exactly do we want the owners to do with the lot they paid $635,000 for??? Lemme guess…an open-space mini-park for the homeless??? Or a single-screen theater that will soon become historic???
    San Francisco socialism at it’s finest.

  7. Posted by noearch

    @sunnysideup: I don’t know your exact situation, but it does seem like the neighbor has no legal authority to even touch your building with any boards or other material to block your windows. That sounds pretty illegal.
    I would suggest you call the Planning Dept. and speak to a planner about this issue..They can probably help and point you in the right direction.

  8. Posted by Salarywoman

    @sunnysideup:
    Be careful. Your property line windows may not be legal. I’d get an assessment by an architect or real estate lawyer – someone who know the code issues involved – before complaining to the Planning Department. Otherwise you may find yourself looking at something more permanent that a few sheets of plywood – and on your own nickel to boot. Maybe noearch could come over to take a look.

  9. Posted by mikey woodz

    If these nimbys wanted to keep the park they should have all split the lot themselves…whats 635k between a few neighbors to save some trees and keep out some “modern building”… But seriously living next to an empty lot you have to expect this

  10. Posted by stucco-sux

    So then why the hell do they let people build heinous stuff all the time that totally overshadows and eclipses everything adjacent to it?
    Our planning department has two sets of rules. Those for rich neighborhoods, and those for everyone else.
    Its disgusting.

  11. Posted by Skirunman

    @sunnysideup: as pointed out by others, property line windows are a complicated subject. Here is a link to some info on what you need to do to install one today. http://www.sfdbi.org/ftp/uploadedfiles/dbi/downloads/AB009_2007.pdf
    May be worth reading as well as the links to the various code sections before contacting a lawyer.

  12. Posted by BobN

    We live in a city with lot-line construction all over the place. If you want “light and air” to surround your home, rebuild it with set-backs all around, don’t expect your neighbor to build with restrictions you yourself don’t meet.
    The neighbor across the street complaining of loss of light must have quite a set.

  13. Posted by BobN

    The raised-entry requirement seems absurd, as does dictating the fenestration pattern. Those aren’t “planning” decisions, they’re design decisions.

  14. Posted by Skirunman
  15. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Plannings response seems reasonable here. Matching the neighbor’s light well depth seems … well just neighborly. Encouraging a contemporary design that fits the rough morphology of the block (2nd story entry for example) is really the only way to preserve continuity as the neighbor evolves. In general I find the opinions from professional planners to be far more well thought out and genuine compared to the other stakeholders : politicians, preservationists, neighbors.
    I cannot believe that one of the neighbors feels entitled to the light passing through this missing tooth in the block.
    And wow, that letter that Joe posted from an opponent is crazy hyperbole. I get the feeling that even lopping off the penthouse floor won’t satisfy that neighbor.

  16. Posted by g

    The requirement for raised entry sounds kind of nuts to me because the planning department is purposely making the building less accessible for people with lesser mobility just for the sake of matching the rest of the neighborhood.

  17. Posted by noearch

    @salarywoman: Let’s be clear on one thing, ok?
    I mentioned nothing about “complaining” to the Planning Dept. They can simply be a very first step to help out this homeowner with the property line windows. It’s a complex issue.
    But it does seem clear to me, according to the statement made by sunnyside that a neighbor is “attaching” boards to his building. Could be a legal issue.
    Please don’t twist around what I said, and please don’t speak for me.

  18. Posted by kathleen

    they should not allow this building to be four stories. It is inappropriate for the block
    The roof lines that run up the street make sense. Lloyd is a lovely alley. I told the neighbors to be on the look out for something too big for space to be coming soon. wh ythey couldn build a nice simple SFR?
    Outside of this wierd drawing, are there more detailed plan and interiors available to view?

  19. Posted by MCM

    How did we come to be a “green” city that imagines bike lanes make up for cutting down trees, removing backyards and filling up every inch of open space with giant houses?
    Like the planning department and the planning commission, setbacks are a joke. They just make for uglier buildings and are a way for developers/speculators to get what they want no matter what it does to residents or to the face of the city. They give out variances so often that all the rules are useless, so the only way neighbors have is to invoke some sort of preservation laws.
    No one wants to live in the dark (for one thing, greenies, we use more electricity when we lack natural light) and the idea that backyards are not protected from shadows is completely bogus. How would you feel if your vegetable garden suddenly dies for lack of sun or your expensive patio is a concrete hole surrounded by tall buildings?
    This isn’t someone’s home, this is some speculator’s investment plan. It’s a really ordinary pseudo-modern box on box design that in a couple of years will look like an old grocery bag.

  20. Posted by Kathleen

    The support letters were all from developer’s attendees and cronies:
    lawyers, and realtors, with a prefab letter with P.R. buzz words
    built right in for your protection.
    The specific, intelligent, well thought-out complaint –
    look how the development looks in the complaint,
    as opposed to the drawing above,
    which grays out the reality of the nearby buildings
    and how the scale relates to its surroundings.
    Then you get a real sense of the rape of scale.
    The neighbors’ complaints were cohesive and intelligent,
    but they forgot to get more people Involved.
    The neighbors are not anti modern –
    it’s about scale and persevering light and trees.
    Saying this building fits into the scale of Lloyd Street
    is like saying trees cause pollution or ketchup is a vegetable.
    This city will always pay attention to the squeaky PR paid for,
    developer sponsored, wheel, instead of what is best for the neighborhood.
    This developer is not doing Lloyd Alley any favors.
    But hey, he isn’t going to live there.
    We neighbors are the ones who will get stuck looking
    at this monstrosity for the rest of our lives.
    This would never be allowed on Telegraph Hill.
    My prayer:
    Dear good fairy godmother Oprah,
    Lend me a bulldozer, a dozen real estate attorneys
    and some bail money.
    These out of scale designs
    are wrecking my charming city,
    one lot at a time.
    Lloyd Street has a charming scale.
    Soon to be past tense.
    Light should matter in gardens.
    Its green to grow your own food –
    can’t do that in perpetual shadow.
    Solar rights should be carefully
    guarded as it is a free, renewable source of power,
    Hard to get the panels a blazing when tall buildings
    cast shadows on neighbor’s roofs and gardens.
    What is up with the planning department?
    It routinely allows overblown designs
    to squeeze the charm right out of the city.
    The planning department compromises
    satisfy no one, friend or foe, of the build.
    We won’t be America’s favorite city anymore.
    We will look like Downtown San Jose.
    This neighborhood needs to be better organized
    in opposition to out of scale development, like Telegraph Hill.
    This is a turn of the century alley.
    All the buildings relate in size and scale = that is what gives it a quiet charm.
    The collective rooflines from Scott to Divisadero/Castro
    draw a lovely pleasing line that draws ones eye up the alley.
    And that is what gives the homes on this block value.
    This building will have a negative impact on the long term
    value of the other homes, as it will build the quaint right out of the alley.
    Who would support a building that will permanently mar the character
    of a quietly charming lovely block.
    Give me Oprah’s checkbook and a bulldozer.
    Do not forget the bail money.

  21. Posted by John

    Nice to have upside down photos in the online review. ;-)

  22. Posted by kathelen

    Will another econobox 2 unit ulcerate the City?

  23. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    I agree with the sentiment that if the neighbors wanted the lot to be permanently empty they should have gotten together to buy the lot themselves.
    Since they didn’t, and it is a residential lot, it should come as no surprise that someone is building a home there.
    Again folks, you live in a dynamic every changing city not a snowglobe. Your neighbors are going to remodel, homes will be torn down and rebuilt, and the amount of light and your views are going to change, period.
    If you didn’t expect that, and bid on your home accordingly, when you purchased in the second most densly populate urban environment in the United States that is your problem not the private property owner who bought a residential lot and then, surprise!, actually plans to build a residence on it.

  24. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    @kathleen – is there a reason why a developer who purchased a piece of residential property should not be allowed to build a residence there?
    Why was a developer allowed to build your, or your neighbors, residences but not one on this lot?
    Any buyer next or near the empty lot should have fully anticipated that someday it would be developed.
    If the residents wanted to garuntee it remained empty they should have purchased the lot themselves.

  25. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    sorry kathleen, I think I may have misread the tone of your comment (*jetlag*)

  26. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    g – I also wondered about the 2nd floor entry requirement inhibiting disabled access. Then I realized that there’s no restriction on creating an interior ground level access through the garage.

  27. Posted by Kathleen NIMBY

    Rape of scale. Thats all that I really needed to say.
    This proposed building should be brought up on RAPE charges -because it RAPES the scale of scott street.
    People are uneffinbelieveable.
    What is this really about? loss of control?

  28. Posted by Joe

    Can someone please explain to me how green in SF has come to mean not utilizing development lots for housing?
    It seems that one could argue that trees are not green because they block light.
    Green does not mean you get to be a selfish controlling neighbor that is justified in forcing your desires on property you do not own

  29. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Kathleen – Would you feel that the scale is appropriate if the top floor were removed ? Perhaps that’s the answer for this development.

  30. Posted by sfrenegade

    You know, it might be BS for a bunch of developers to have written shill letters, but the letter Joe posted above is probably full of more BS. Furthermore, that neighbor’s light is not protected just because no one built on that lot before. The real problem here is that we have people willing to meet obnoxious and ridiculous building and planning requirements that make no sense, and the neighbors are still given undue influence in the process.
    I posted a Google Street View in the URL. Even the building directly across the street looks taller than the proposed building here, and certainly with no setback like this place. And there are certainly non-Victorians on the block.
    Good luck to the owner of 35 Lloyd. Stare down these NIMBYs. If they wanted to keep the lot, they should have bought it themselves.

  31. Posted by A.T.

    This is the most telling point in the report:
    “Exhibit G: Many Other Properties Larger than Project at 35 Lloyd Street Especially Homes of DR Applicants
    DR Applicant Telthorst at 41 Scott Street has tall three story rear addition that almost fully encroaches into required rear yard setback”
    The complainers simply want the free private park next to their big, overgrown homes to remain a free private park and not be replaced by the property owner’s own big overgrown home. This is nothing more than selfishness. Don’t pretend it is anything noble.

  32. Posted by Skirunman

    The support letters for the project are certainly somewhat disingenuous. However, it is the current SF planning and 311 process that has created the demand for these letters as part of a “popularity contest”. Certainly neighbor’s have the right to voice their concerns, but they should stick to legitimate planning code issues and their concerns should be secondary to the property owner’s rights IMO. I read most of the analysis and from my perspective the proposed project seems reasonable for this lot according to the planning code and design guidelines, especially with the desire to build 2 units that will be attractive to families (3BR/2B).
    Two things I would change. First, I really detest stair penthouses. I would prefer that SF require stairs to occupied roofs to use a stairwell instead. Yes, stairwells are harder to build/waterproof, but we don’t have a “thumb” sticking out of the flat roof either. I built one on Russian Hill earlier this year. Secondly, I would re-work the front facade a bit to fit more in to the street context including removing/changing the wood roof overhang and massing of the fascia on this overhang, but that is just my amateur design sense. All in all, I like the project.

  33. Posted by DeniseB

    San Francisco is already an extremely densely populated city with little open space. There is a big difference between living in a 3-story neighborhood and a 4-story neighborhood. I moved here from Manhattan 38 years ago in part because I wanted to feel the sun on me when I walk down the street, and not feel like I’m at the bottom of a pit. Yes, many of us resist change: because you can go anywhere else in the whole country if what you want is an oversized modern house, but there is only one place like San Francisco. I would like it to stay that way.

  34. Posted by Joe

    Sorry, we cant preserve the city in Amber so that it personally suits your desires.
    Thanks for proving the selfishness of some residents.
    SF seems to be deemed perfect and unchangeable as soon as someone new moves in and gets settled.

  35. Posted by lyqwyd

    I’d like to point out that the steps up to the front to not rule out handicapped access, as there is a garage access at ground level. Since it’s a multi-story building it would require lifts or an elevator, which could also be installed at the garage level as well. I don’t know if that’s ideal for somebody with disability, but at least it can be done.

  36. Posted by A.T.

    I’ve lived here most of my life, and I agree that SF is a beautiful place. But I’ve always found the ugliest neighborhoods are generally those that are not densely built with higher structures — outer sunset, West Portal, much of the Richmond, Bernal, Portola and other Eastern neighborhoods. Not to say that some dense neighborhoods are not ugly — much of the Tenderloin — but it is certainly not as simple as saying dense = ugly. Paris is geographically smaller than SF and much more dense, and certainly quite beautiful.

  37. Posted by BobN

    “Plannings response seems reasonable here. Matching the neighbor’s light well depth seems … well just neighborly.”
    I’m not sure what’s so “neighborly” about requiring your new neighbor to have a ten-foot light well if they don’t want or need one.

  38. Posted by noearch

    I think the building is completely appropriate and in scale for the neighborhood and that street, including the top floor. The top floor is well set back from the front elevation and it can NOT be seen from the sidewalk when walking by.
    The exterior design is clean, fresh and compatible with the other residential expressions adjacent.
    If the neighbors want to keep the lot as open space, they should buy it, or shut up.

  39. Posted by bgelldawg

    Did some of the supporters of this project even read the letters that they signed?
    20th Street and Liberty Street are not “very near” this project!
    It looks too tall to me.

  40. Posted by Skiruman

    Of course everyone is entitled to an opinion, but comments like “It looks too tall to me” really should have no bearing on the planning and approval process. What should have bearing is the planning code/zoning, RH-3 40′ height/bulk district in this instance, and design guidelines. The object criteria are mostly in the planning code and would allow a much larger 4 story structure to be built if followed strictly. It is only the subjective criteria in the design guidelines that are really up for debate. Yes, I did read most of the letters and some concerns have merit, but most of those concerns have been addressed in the latest set of the sponsor’s plans and most of the other concerns have no merit. Just because a neighbor does not like it is not a valid reason not to approve it. If you don’t like the planning code or design guidelines then spend your effort to lobby to get those changed. Property owners rights should trump those of non-owners in most circumstances, and frankly, is the underlying foundation of our constitution and society. In SF, those rights are generally not well protected.

  41. Posted by noearch

    Exactly. Well said.
    If people don’t like the current Planning and Building codes regarding height, setback, bulk, rear yard open space, etc., then lobby to CHANGE THE CODES.
    Owners should be allowed to build within the codes.

  42. Posted by BobN

    Owners should be allowed to build within the codes.
    I propose t-shirts. On one side:
    The code IS the compromise.
    On the flip side:
    The compromise IS the code.
    Catchy, no?

  43. Posted by sfrenegade

    The code is supposed to be a measure of predictability with respect to building housing in the city.
    Building and Planning purport to enforce the code, but their suggestions add more than enough uncertainty to this process. The fact that every NIMBY in the neighborhood is allowed to give input and have this much discretion on top of this is ridiculous. The process here is broken. The lot is not narrow, as one of the letter writers suggested, but rather the neighbors on this street are.

  44. Posted by noearch

    The code is not a compromise. The code, as presently written, is a defined set of requirements for particular zoning issues and building types.
    But I basically agree with sfren: It’s the planners and the opinionated members of the Planning Commission who simply mess up the code by adding way too much of their personal bias and opinion.

  45. Posted by bloggy

    So WTF happened at the Planning Commission meeting on Sept. 16?
    The suspense is killing me!!!

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