November 2, 2012

Proposed Design And Planning's Refinements For Alamo Square Infill

1470-1480 McAllister Rendering

As proposed, the double lot upon which the historic three-story over basement building at 1480 McAllister was built in 1902 will be subdivided, the existing Edwardian building within the Alamo Square Historic District will be rehabilitated, and a new three-family, four story contemporary building will be built at 1470 McAllister, the vacant half of the lot.

1470%20McAllister%20Rendering.jpg

The Planning Department’s recommended design refinements for the proposed infill:

1. The bays at the front façade would benefit by a deeper projection, which would relate to the varied planes of the historic facades. A deeper projection would also provide space for side windows in the bays.
2. The façade has an overly solid appearance in comparison with the historic buildings which incorporate significant areas of glazing. This could be addressed by expanding the window openings and adding side windows in the bays.
3. The cornice element appears somewhat bulky and perhaps too bland. A section detail of the cornice element should be submitted for final design review.
4. The materials and finishes for the front stair and railing should be resolved. While a contemporary design may be appropriate, the texture, scale, and character of the elements should relate to historic entrances in the district.

Next week, San Francisco’s Architectural Review Committee will weigh-in and offer their perspective on the proposed plan.

Request for Review and Comment: 1470-1484 McAllister Street [sfplanning.org]

First Published: November 2, 2012 7:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Good to see new homes here.
Looks like a dormitory in a state college.
Kill the cornice hanging over the roof. It's an unneeded gesture to the exquisite Vics across and Edwardian next door.
Building as is is dull and forgettable.

Posted by: Invented at November 2, 2012 7:25 AM

Amateurish design. By all means be modern, just do it well. This design is neither modern, transitional or traditional, it's just sort of "something".

As difficult as it may be for some to hear, it makes one thankful that there is a Planning Department pushing for some degree of refinement.

Posted by: Porter at November 2, 2012 8:32 AM

I like this design. I agree with Invented a bit. It reminds me of some mid-century styled buildings that you'd find on campuses but built 30 or 40 years later. But there's nothing wrong with this if it fits in. With the right finishes it could be a very attractive property.

Posted by: lol at November 2, 2012 8:53 AM

Quite the juxtaposition next to the original building. Agree with Invented, it looks like a mid-century flat-sided dormitory building.

If you look across the street and near by, everything is a beautiful Victorian-style building. This stands out too much and provides little-to-no architectural quality to the area.

To be honest, the empty space on that lot looks better.

Posted by: SFer at November 2, 2012 9:16 AM

Addendum: Looked at the ghastly assisted living building at the end of the block. Yuck. This new design fits in quite well with that look.

Posted by: SFer at November 2, 2012 9:18 AM

This design is insulting.

Posted by: moz at November 2, 2012 9:20 AM

OK, I usually try to keep my architectural opinion comments on SS mostly positive (there are plenty of negative ones without me adding to the fray), but... oy. What a disappointment.

This is how you exploit an extremely rare (in SF) degree of freedom with property line windows? Stock sized cutouts from the Home Depot prefab window aisle?

As government sponsored housing, it's great. Compared against any other metric, it is, as the previous poster said, insulting.

Posted by: Kurt Brown at November 2, 2012 9:52 AM

That looks like a 3-story dental office.

Posted by: Snark17 at November 2, 2012 9:56 AM

An utterly graceless design. There were actually architects involved in this? They should be ashamed.

Posted by: steve at November 2, 2012 10:03 AM

I agree this is crappy architecture, but I doubt those are lot line windows. Notice that the garage entrance is on the side as well.

Since it's a subdivision I'm guessing the lot line is closer to the existing building.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 2, 2012 10:06 AM

The project sponsors should have been bold and had the courage to go against planning commission pro-modernist group think and propose a new, full on repro Victorian or Edwardian and went all in on that.

The above is ridiculous, it has no meaningful relationship to the other buildings on the street to either side ("…relate to the varied planes of the historic facades"? Spare me.) and any amount of "refinement", whether motivated by comments from planning or otherwise, is just so much polishing of a turd.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at November 2, 2012 10:37 AM

I'm confused. If the Edwardian falls within the historic district, shouldn't the rest of the lot as well? In that case, shouldn't the new building evoke some kind of semblance to the historic architecture that surrounds it? If not, even if the need is to go modern, go all out and create something spectacular, not post-WWII East German housing.

Posted by: Mark at November 2, 2012 11:24 AM

I don't like it at all, but "Planning's" "suggestions" are useless and shouldn't be allowed. It's a modern building. If it meets the height, bulk, and materials requirements, just say "OK". If they don't like the windows, they shouldn't buy a unit. If they don't like the stair materials, they shouldn't buy a unit. If they don't like the cornice, they shouldn't buy a unit.

Posted by: BobN at November 2, 2012 1:43 PM

And what's with the garage door on the side?

Posted by: BobN at November 2, 2012 1:44 PM

Agree that this entire building is pretty bad, amateur design, bulky, crude, lacking elegance, scale, appropriate materials and refinement.

I do hope the architects, Gabrial Ng and company listen well to the Planning Dept. Staff and completely redesign this piece of crap.

Otherwise the client should hire a new firm.

Posted by: futurist at November 2, 2012 2:56 PM

Oh, dear God, no.

Posted by: Q at November 2, 2012 3:16 PM

To BobN and Mark - the project is within a historic district, and therefore merits extra scrutiny on how well it meshes with the historic district. So Planning has a legislated role in making the "suggestions" that BobN disparages. However, projects aren't simply supposed to replicate the previous style (speaking to Mark's comment). It's a difficult row to hoe....producing a building that is both respectful of the district, but distinctively of THIS time. Difficult for the architect, and also difficult for the planner trying to "encourage" that result.

This one certainly fails. I think we can almost all agree on that.

It's a great street...the entire facing block is intact victorians, many of them fully renovated and in great shape.

Posted by: curmudgeon at November 2, 2012 4:50 PM


@ Brahma: you don't really understand about integrity and honesty in architecture. Creating a fake Victorian or Edwardian would do nothing to respect the existing character of the neighborhood, but only mock it, in a very cheesy way.

A new building, designed in an honest vernacular, should not pretend to be of another era. I agree that the current proposed design is simply bad and amateurish, I only hope the architects ( or a new one) can produce a building of the time, without resorting to Disneyesque language.

Posted by: futurist at November 2, 2012 8:15 PM

Oh, I do understand honesty and integrity in architecture. I just reject the implicit claim that all new buildings have to be modernist or contemporary, especially in neighborhoods with a prevailing style, and if they aren't, then somehow the building is attempting to imitate past designs or styles. Who says what is "past design"? The members of the architecture illuminati?

I also understand why certain types like to throw around the insult "Disneyesque" or "Disneyfied" about buildings that don't reflect the current orthodoxy. I just reject it. I don't think it really means anything except as an insidery kind of secret handshake that people who've sat through lots of Arch school crits can pass around amongst each other so they can feel superior.

There doesn't have to be anything "fake" about a newly-built Victorian or Edwardian. It doesn't have to "pretend" to be from another era. That's just rhetoric invented by folks who want everything to be modernist, even if such buildings clash with their surroundings.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at November 2, 2012 10:51 PM

It would be an interesting experiment to build a Victorian-style home from an original plan, using the tools and methods of the time--sash windows, hand tooled woodwork, lath and plaster, etc. I expect that it would be outrageously expensive and we would not like the result. Boxy little rooms, drafty halls, very few electrical outlets, your only heat a coal fireplace. No one lives like that anymore, so we use vinyl windows, sheet rock, forced air heating with factory millwork. The result is one of those faux country homes you can see in The Village, that twee little development in Vallejo designed by Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light (TM).

Times and architecture have moved on. We need torecognize that fact. It's possible to incorporate a nod to one's Victorian house but to build a whole house that way would be like building a new car that looked like a 1904 Hispano-Suiza. It was a great car in its time but its time has passed.

Posted by: Patrick at November 3, 2012 1:00 AM

Brahma is correct about "Disney-esque or Disney-fied" Victorian or Edwardian architecture being superior to what is currently planned.

As long as the house is built with good materials and the fine craftsmanship of the Victorian or Edwardian age, I fail to see Futurist's objection to such.

I live around the corner, and think this proposed structure shows a cheapness in design and building materials.

Of course, certain members of the SF Planning Commission stated they wanted no "faux Victorian" designs for the proposed "Painted Gentlemen" on Steiner Street, a few blocks away, either.

The 1470 McAllister proposal has tacky design all over it. Hopefully, the developer can improve the design to something with more expensive finishes to counter the well maintained Victorian homes on the south side of the street.

It also would be a great infill project to take the trash strewn, seldom used, First Baptist Church parking lot next door and build housing there too. Perhaps by eminent domain?

Posted by: Jackson at November 3, 2012 4:45 AM

Patrick, I can only speak for myself, but having a Victorian or Edwardian shell on the outside does not require a return to dark, drafty, energy inefficient construction on the inside.

Posted by: Jackson at November 3, 2012 4:55 AM

I'm with BobN @ 1:43pm. Why do a few people at the planning department get to be a tax-funded random peanut gallery capable of altering designs? That's what sites like this are for. There is no objective analysis other than whether or not the design meets the code requirements.

Posted by: soccermom at November 3, 2012 10:39 AM

But you see Brahma, you're real concern is really that a new building doesn't "clash" with the existing context. That's your biggest fear. Then by that ill fated logic a red house clashes with a blue house that clashes with a green house. And a Victorian clashes with an Arts and Crafts house, which clashes with a Craftsman bungalow which clashes with an Edwardian.

And on and on. And of course a purely "modern" or "modernist" house will also class with those others mentioned.

So what? At least the modern design is not fakey or made to satisfy granny and her rocking chair.

Posted by: futurist at November 3, 2012 6:46 PM

So ugly.

Posted by: Shane Davis at November 3, 2012 8:39 PM

@ Jackson a house as you describe presents an authentic Victorian or Edwardiam exterior while having every modern convenience inside. As compared with a new home that is built.to look old which looks fake because it is. I think you could build a new old home if you faithfully used materials and craftsmanship of the period but it.would be outeageously expensive.

Posted by: Patrick at November 3, 2012 11:57 PM

Wonder who these people are, bashing the poor architect. Sure look like personal attacks here. If these bashers were to design this building, wonder if they would do a Victorian replica , ultra modern or something in between. Certainly they won’t call out Home Depot specials. But how can they tell from these pictures the materials proposed are cheap?

Posted by: Econ101 at November 5, 2012 10:16 AM

Move over, Armchair General
Please welcome Armchair Architect

Posted by: lol at November 5, 2012 12:44 PM

To BobN and Mark - the project is within a historic district, and therefore merits extra scrutiny on how well it meshes with the historic district.

But what does "meshes" even mean when they decide that building can't be Victorian or Edwardian? How does a Georgian Revival "mesh" with Victorian neighbors? How does Bauhuas "mesh" with Victorian neighbors? How does Dwell "mesh" with Victorian neighbors?

Obviously, they don't.

Walk around Alamo Square Park and look at the buildings around the park. Radically different architectural styles sit cheek by jowl, absolutely not "meshing" with each other, and the City and the park are the better for it.

Posted by: BobN at November 5, 2012 2:15 PM

^ BobN...that was kinda my point exactly. It's good in theory, but very difficult in reality. It becomes something that is defined by taste, and then (as we've seen) people start getting ugly.

Posted by: curmudgeon at November 5, 2012 2:54 PM

I don't even think it's good in theory.

Posted by: BobN at November 5, 2012 3:18 PM

Exactly BobN: this entire concept or "desire" by some to make sure all architecture "meshes" is completely off base and no solid planning or architectural merit.

Great neighborhoods, here and elsewhere, are always developed over time with different styles, materials and details. That's what makes a neighborhood architecturally interesting.

Posted by: futurist at November 5, 2012 4:44 PM

It mashes more than it meshes...

Posted by: BobN at November 5, 2012 6:03 PM

Disgraceful. Whoever came up with that "design" (aka uninspired mediocrity at best) should be fired and then never be allowed to design anything ever again. And I mean ever. Pathetic. If I lived on Alamo Square, I'd raise hell.

Posted by: Gregg at November 14, 2012 3:19 PM

…you're real concern is really that a new building doesn't "clash" with the existing context. That's your biggest fear. Then by that ill fated logic a red house clashes with a blue house that clashes with a green house. And a Victorian clashes with an Arts and Crafts house, which clashes with a Craftsman bungalow which clashes with an Edwardian.
It's not a "fear", its a strong preference.

I don't think it applies to simple things like colors and I've never said that. Obviously, "an Arts and Crafts house" wouldn't clash with "a Craftsman bungalow", what the heck are you talking about now.

But if a block overwhelmingly already has Victorians or Edwardians on it, then yes, I think a builder who wants to (granted, this owner may not) should be able to and should be encouraged to build something compatible with the neighborhood, and not just build some cast concrete and steel mound of ugliness because they can or because it's cheap or because that single grey-haired lady whatshername on the planning commission sees her personal sacred dharma as making sure every new building is modernist.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at November 15, 2012 12:03 PM

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