July 16, 2012
The Story Behind The Modern Little Dwelling At 368 Vallejo
Dwell’s summary (and slideshow) for their piece on the 900 square foot home at 368 Vallejo which hit the market last week listed for $999,000:
More than half a decade elapsed between the purchase (December 1998) and house--warming (November 2004) of Dulkinys and Spiekermann’s hillside house. When architect Nilus de Matran’s trilevel plan for a modern makeover came up against the obstructionist politics that defines construction in San Francisco, the house sat in limbo until architects Chris Wendel and John Holey devised a less radical renovation that involved a lot of excavating but preserved much of the house’s original demeanor.
And according to Dwell, the house measures nine and a half feet across.
UPDATE: While Dwell reports the property is nine and a half feet wide, a plugged-in reader reports the house is 12 feet wide on the outside, approximately 11 feet on the inside. The reader's qualifications, you ask? He lives there.
∙ Worth The Wait [Dwell]
∙ A Peek Inside (And Behind) The Modern Little Dwelling At 368 Vallejo [SocketSite]
First Published: July 16, 2012 8:30 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
Let me guess......it's the neighbor on the left with the illegal windows on the property line complaining about losing a view?
Posted by: Jackson at July 16, 2012 8:46 AM
What's the purpose of that secondary door (the one that's to the left in front)?
Posted by: Unplugged at July 16, 2012 9:29 AM
Do you think we will ever see the day when private homes for sale must meet ADA laws?
Posted by: sf at July 16, 2012 9:40 AM
Now, now, let's not harsh on the obstructionists. In this case, this little building is a perfect example to show future generations how the pressures of location popularity, travel distances and cost, limited budgets, etc. in the late 1800s forced builders and residents to consider unconventional in-fill development. Of course, I'm not entirely sure why those future generations couldn't glean the same lessons from a building built in the late 1990s, but I'm sure there's some important distinction, cuz it can't be that little bit of dentile molding....
Posted by: BobN at July 16, 2012 9:42 AM
The door on the left is where the garbage/recycling bins are kept.
Posted by: 94114 at July 16, 2012 9:56 AM
Since the ADA covers public accomodations, I would say there will never be a day when private homes have to meet ADA laws.....(and why should they? Even as a liberal, I see that as way too much government intrusion into private property).
Posted by: DukeLaw at July 16, 2012 10:28 AM
Simply imagine a wheelchair ramp going to the 2nd floor. There's not enough room to even make a workable ramp!
Also, do I understand that the reason they couldn't expand up was easements? Could it be the upper neighbors has a "no blocking our windows" easement? How does that work with the building code that limits opening in between buildings to prevent inter-spreading of fires? I guess the same goes for a rooftop deck. All of this was probably known at the time they purchased the property.
Now, since solar panels do not require as many permits in SF as other additions, that would be a nice way to make the best use of that roof... Neighbors might not like it, but I do not think you need their opinion for solar panels...
Posted by: lol at July 16, 2012 10:34 AM
Solar is exempt from any "aesthetic" issues under California law.
Posted by: sf at July 16, 2012 12:53 PM
The old way of angering NIMBYs was to paint your house flashy purple or puke. Solar Panels would be an environmentally friendly way to stick it to the NIMBYs...
Posted by: lol at July 16, 2012 1:01 PM
What an insult to lose a NIMBY battle against an obvious rent-control landlord.
Posted by: EH at July 16, 2012 3:17 PM
I know it's the unpopular position on ss, but I reserve my sympathy for the needy and not the greedy. This for me is the key 'graph:
“I’d always wanted to live on Telegraph Hill, and when I saw this house, I knew I had to have it,” recalls Susanna Dulkinys, of falling in love with the fixer-upper she likens to a doll’s house…the view from this steep street of secret alleys and garden-shrouded stairways is so rife with iconic signifiers—the swoop of the Bay Bridge, gulls cruising the water, palm trees lining the Embarcadero, and the tip of the Transamerica Pyramid—it could be identified as San Francisco by a Martian
Emphasis added. I think it's a bit arrogant on the part of these wealthy, rootless cosmopolitans (they "spend half the year" in Europe) to assume that their wouldn't be opposition to their initial plan, since the character of the place, including the "views…so rife with iconic signifiers" that they "fell in love with" are also the factors motivating the existing owners in the neighborhood to preserve the environment they bought into.
There ought to be a handy term, akin to the ever popular NIMBY or "obstructionist", that describes people that arrive from far elsewhere with lots of money, and want everyone already present in their newly-fallen-in-love-with destination to just get out of their way when they concoct some grand plan to make dramatic, sweeping changes (here, "architect Nilus de Matran’s trilevel plan for a modern makeover") in order to make themselves a lot of money down the line.
And then, when the existing residents resist said plan, decide to whine in the media to gain cheap sympathy for their "renovation travails". Were the relevant easements not disclosed prior to the close of escrow? The Dwell article doesn't say.
There's nothing at all specific to San Francisco about this, you can find equivalent stories about any highly sought-after neighborhood in any major city in California (and some suburban towns) possibly with the notable exception of Los Angeles. And all the whines take the form "Why can't people here just let me implement my grand vision for this building (which could be built anywhere) in this neighborhood in a similar amount of time and expending a similar amount of effort that it would have taken in the [neighborhood/city/state] where I came from?"
The answer's pretty simple to understand. Because "here" isn't "where [you] came from", where it's easy to execute radical renovations. If it were, people from all parts of the world wouldn't come here, see a house in a specific neighborhood, and immediately "know they had to have it".
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at July 16, 2012 7:43 PM
The handicapped need places to live too. Just because you are in a wheelchair you can't have a cool house?
Posted by: sf at July 16, 2012 11:56 PM
SF, if you'd like to promote accessibility then I might suggest that you start by using a term other than handicapped. Many find that to be an offensive, derogatory term.
Posted by: Accessibility at July 17, 2012 6:33 AM
The house is 12 foot wide on the outside, i.e. approx 11 on the inside. I know, I live there.
Posted by: erik spiekermann at July 17, 2012 2:29 PM
...wealthy, rootless cosmopolitans...
How can you deduce such prejudice from a short quote? Susanna is US-American and I am German. We are married and want to spend as much time together as possible. So we divide our time between two countries, felling at home in both. Does that make us rootless? And does buying a tiny house get you qualified as wealthy? We bought the house back in 1998 and got a bigger mortgage in 2005 to turn what was essentially a lean-to shack with no exterior walls into a place that two people could live and work in.
If you could confine your comments to facts instead of envy and prejudice, your arguments might carry weight. As it is, they just reflect badly on you.
Posted by: erik spiekermann at July 17, 2012 2:39 PM
Well said Erik.
Brahma, the incensed renter, continues to demonstrate his narrow thinking.
Posted by: Jackson at July 17, 2012 4:04 PM
Erik, Are all you houses in Dwell? Love that one in germany!
Posted by: mikey woodz at July 18, 2012 9:52 AM
Yes, my envy and prejudice and narrow thinking strike again. What a hater that Brahma is, why doesn't he just shut up or at least congratulate the seller for having the fortitude to see their ground breaking vision through to completion (and then shut up)?
I was reading the entire article, and quoting from a small part of it. I concede that it's a generalization, but people who are not wealthy don't undertake extensive remodels on two different properties in two different countries during a close time frame, and wealthy people do.
The fact that someone took out a mortgage is meaningless. Mark Zuckerberg recently refinanced $5.95 million on his Palo Alto home with a 30-year adjustable-rate mortgage. Is he somehow automatically not wealthy because he has a mortgage? No. His home is not the biggest in San Mateo county. Does that mean he's not wealthy? No.
The size of 386 Vallejo or the financing that might have been involved with its improvement doesn't have anything to say about the financial wherewithal of its current owners/sellers, and trying to imply that it does is just a rhetorical tactic to silence criticism.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at July 18, 2012 11:15 AM
You used words such as arrogant and rootless, buddy. It was plainly rude as can be, not to mention presumptuous. Own it.
Posted by: anon1 at July 18, 2012 11:25 AM
If someone from somewhere (far) else buys into an existing, established neighborhood with close-to-iconic architecture and features, starts out trying to build a (originally proposed as much larger) home that clashes dramatically with the existing built environment in the place of a very small existing SHF (shack or no, lean to or not) and then expects the existing residents to roll over and not say anything about, that would be one thing.
btw, I already said that I thought they did a great job with the end-result.
But when that same someone does all of the above and then turns around and rips on said existing residents/neighbors in a widely-read magazine in a bid for sympathy; well, I don't have a completely fitting description for it (as I said above, I'm feeling around for a phrase), but "arrogant" would be close. I do own it.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at July 18, 2012 3:11 PM
Looking at small homes on Youtube, I found that there's even a short video clip of the house (from a few years back). It claims the house is in Russian Hill, but apart from that, it gives a pretty good picture of it:
Posted by: TimeMachine at July 19, 2012 12:00 AM
Thanks for the link!
Posted by: Sara at July 19, 2012 12:24 PM
You used words such as arrogant and rootless, buddy. It was plainly rude as can be, not to mention presumptuous. Own it.
Thinking about this another way, let's imagine that the situation was reversed.
Suppose you moved to Berlin and bought some property in a well-established, almost iconic and high-priced and prized neighborhood. You then hire an architect to take the property, a small admittedly dilapidated home located in between two traditional styled homes, and draw up elaborate plans to replace the dilapidated original home with a radical modernist home that clashed dramatically with the surrounding elements as well as being substantially larger than the original.
Your new neighbors resist. You're "forced" to revise your plans and then hire a different architect, one more pragmatic, who can and does design a more scaled-down, less dramatic house.
You proceed with building, and it takes you longer than you think it should take to get the necessary permission to build.
You then proceed to do an interview with the English language edition of Der Spiegel, where you get quoted saying things like this:
These neighbors simply didn’t want any work to happen at all,” exclaims anon1, recalling the frustration. “Our house in San Francisco was completed in half the time, despite being located in an earthquake zone &endash;and all the drawers and doors open and shut properly!"
You're probably laughing right now, because you wouldn't do this.
You'd know, ahead of time, that you'd get called a stereotypical ugly american, and that your German neighbors would think you plainly rude as can be, not to mention presumptuous.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at July 19, 2012 12:39 PM
But you're basing judgments and using rude language off edited magazine articles, and assumptions, and 1's and 0's. You don't know what transpired. You think you do. You think you have a very good because it looks a certain way, to you. But you don't really know, and the language you chose to employ was flatly rude. There was no reason for it.
Posted by: anon1 at July 19, 2012 2:17 PM
I am pretty sure that if you take a dilapidated building in most cities in Europe and do something modern instead, people will give you a medal or the keys to the city. Actually, it's almost the opposite of SF.
For instance my sis lives in a remote historical (protected) French village full of older houses dating from the 15th to the 18th century. A few were badly damaged during WWII. An American couple (yes, they happen to be American) bought an old farm with 3-foot walls and very few openings apart from the beamed-up gaping hole that German artillery made in September '44 (how nice of them).
The farm was structurally sound and they hired an architect to create an outside patio and restore the opening with country style French doors. The architect told them "Non Monsieur". Rules are that architectural additions have to be of the period in which they were built. This rule is there to avoid the fact that typical villages slowly become "Smurfville".
futurist would have been very happy with this project. The more inventive the addition, the happier the inspectors are.
Posted by: lol at July 19, 2012 2:34 PM
Funny, no one knows where "rootless cosmopolitans" originated? It was Stalin's code word for jews, used extensively in the post-WWII purges.
Posted by: ForgotMyScreenName at July 19, 2012 2:41 PM