December 11, 2013

A Rather Extensive "Remodeling" (Of Everything But The Façade)

2178%20Pine%20Street%20Facade.jpg

While the façade of 2178 Pine Street hangs like a Hollywood set with nothing left behind, technically the potential historic resource hasn't been demolished but is rather being "remodeled," with permits to convert the first floor (which no longer exists) to habitable living space, remodel the second and third floors of the building (which no longer exist), and to add a garage below.

Last used as a four-unit building, the former Victorian was purchased for $1,663,000 this past April having originally been built around 1900 as a single-family home.

First Published: December 11, 2013 2:45 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Oh man... right behind my old flat on California. When I moved all the other people on Pine were having their ghastly garages put in. Years and years of noise and dust. So glad I moved before this monstrosity began.

Posted by: jwb at December 11, 2013 2:49 PM

Nice to see the building restored and off street parking added.

Posted by: Futurist at December 11, 2013 2:57 PM

Am I the only one who looks at this and says, "Why even bother?" I mean about the facade, not the rebuild.

[Editor's Note: Because a "demolition" permit would have been much more time consuming and expensive, if not impossible, to get.]

Posted by: Legacy Dude at December 11, 2013 3:12 PM


A friend with an old house once joked to me that the city should have a special extension of garbage day when you could just push your old house out to the curb…


Posted by: around1905 at December 11, 2013 3:13 PM

Least they could do is strip off the stucco and restore the missing gingerbread if they are going this far.

Posted by: anon at December 11, 2013 3:30 PM

Someone is doing the exact same thing to a Victorian right next to me on 17th Street near Diamond. They bought the place, gutted it to the point it's just a multistoried shell. They dug out the foundation to put in a garage. The large backyard has been carved out.

Posted by: Mark at December 11, 2013 3:40 PM

I'd much rather have the facade preserved than destroyed - I'd actually rather have the interior period details preserved too, but given the choice I'll take the facade and historic streetscape over a complete demolition.

Posted by: Sierrajeff at December 11, 2013 3:56 PM

>Nice to see the building restored

Thank you for the laugh. Next time we are out of milk I will go to the store, get a new carton of milk, take the front of the old carton and glue it on to the new milk container. I am sure the family will then thank me for having "restored" the milk rather then just getting a new carton.

Posted by: Rillion at December 11, 2013 4:15 PM

I think this would qualify as defacto demo, it appears the all but the facade and one lot line wall has been removed ... hope the planning police doesn't show up.

Posted by: knock at December 11, 2013 5:11 PM

No surer way to wreck the streetscape for pedestrians than to add more garages.

Posted by: EJ at December 11, 2013 5:14 PM

This is facadectomy and the trend itself facadism or facadomy. This rather defacto demo technique is encouraged to prevent the "Sunset Specials" that were such an ugly problem in the 70s and 80s.

Posted by: Pioneer at December 11, 2013 5:21 PM

I assume they're going to preserve the historic lean.

Posted by: BobN at December 11, 2013 5:24 PM

Well, since all the bike nuts who are running the SFMTA are removing our public parking spaces, then we're just gonna have to build off street parking under our houses.

Aren't we?

Posted by: Futurist at December 11, 2013 5:26 PM

Futurist, I see no problem with this. Why should a person get free parking on the city streets. If a person wants a place to store a car, they should pay for that space.

Posted by: SimpleSimon at December 11, 2013 5:37 PM

Ah wait.

It's not free. It's called taxes. We all pay them.

Some more some less. Trouble is, the SFMTA keeps taking away our parking, and not reducing our taxes.

Not cool.

Posted by: Futurist at December 11, 2013 6:10 PM

ban futurist, he's totally insane.

Posted by: david m at December 11, 2013 6:19 PM


Regarding the editor's comments about how hard it is to get a demo permit….. most of these vics have a lot of structural issues -- both in the original construction and also damage/decay over time. I've seen engineer's letters attesting to this sort of thing and these buildings get demo permits.

That said, another issue is that for a reno, your property tax basis doesn't go up that much whereas for a new building, you're probably assessed to market…

Posted by: around1905 at December 11, 2013 6:24 PM

Well, you could also ban all people who disagree with other people.

Just a thought, david m.

Posted by: Futurist at December 11, 2013 6:25 PM

like losing 4 units to an old single family home with parking... how is this good?

Posted by: david m at December 11, 2013 6:26 PM

Ah.

It's called personal choice. It's called pumping money into the economy. It's called creating construction jobs.

It's called keeping some aspect of our Victorian architecture, where appropriate, and not just destroying it.

Posted by: Futurist at December 11, 2013 6:33 PM

It's highly unlikely they won't scrape the stucco off and restore an elegant period facade.

Posted by: Invented at December 11, 2013 6:44 PM

Adding the garage will likely remove two parking spots (based on google streetview) on the street.

Posted by: EJ at December 11, 2013 7:40 PM

Futurist, I pay my taxes so the streets can be maintained so that I can go from point a to point b, not to give some a place to store their car. People pay hundreds of dollars a month for parking. If a person wants to store their care on the street, they should pay the city for that privilege.

Posted by: SimpleSimon at December 11, 2013 8:30 PM

It's good that they will be storing their car off of the street in a garage then, right?

Posted by: Adam at December 11, 2013 8:51 PM

I'm a building professional, and I'm taking some time out here to say how much this project angers me. To all of us who expend precious time and resources navigating the byzantine planning approvals process in the city, and do things "by the book", crap like these guys are pulling is just a slap in the face.

Type "San Francisco Property Information Map" into Google, and when at the city web site, type "2178 Pine" into the address search, and then hit the "building permits" tab to see the permits they have.

Yes, they have permits. But this clearly never went through ANY planning review. And to confirm that, hit the "preservation" tab, and note the projects "B-potential historic resource" status. For any proper approval of a project like this, the existing structure would need to have been reclassified an "A-historic resource" or "C-not a historic resource" status before receiving any permits to be doing this work.

I'm not saying that I don't think the laws and regulations governing building in this city are crazy and screwed up. But the large majority of us play by the rules, nonetheless. Obviously, certain others think that they are above the law. I'll end my rant at that.

Posted by: apropos at December 11, 2013 8:51 PM

Adding to that, looking at Street View... the facade wrapped around the side of the building with the cornice and other details carrying halfway down the side of the house, and I guess that's all gone.

Posted by: Adam at December 11, 2013 8:59 PM

The place is kind of an old wreck, and it would be nice to see it rebuilt. It looks like the basics of the facade are being kept, and one hopes the refurbishment will be complimentary to the houses on either side. For Pete's sake *nothing* is very old in San Francisco, and some people act as though any building built before 1940 is some national treasure. I'm glad they are putting in a garage, and that does nothing to affect the streetscape here. The garages that hurt were the ones that took up front yards. If the City had a lick of sense, they would have built underground garages when they did their recent half-assed restorations of Alta Plaza and Lafayette parks. Neighbors would have paid a fortune in rental income every month.

Posted by: Philip at December 12, 2013 10:30 AM

Isn't this theft of public property and resources? Taking away a public parking space for 1 private individual?

Posted by: sf at December 12, 2013 11:20 AM

@apropros

I share your frustration, as we are renovating a house with a design proposal that required the Planning department's Historical Resource Determination, which took 6 months and several thousand dollars.

A question though for anyone that might know: if this property had been designated "C - Not a historic resource," would this level of de-facto demolition be allowed by the city without obtaining a formal demolition permit? For example, if a property line wall had been maintained instead of this facade, is it ok from the city's point of view to demo the remaining structure?

From what I've seen on this site and in talking to many contractors, it seems the requirement of maintaining some of the old structure (whether for ecological or cultural preservation purposes) has had the opposite effect of what was intended. Demo'ing a decrepit old building would both be more efficient in cost and energy compared to painfully integrating components of an older structure into an updated and improved design.

Informed input appreciated.

Posted by: Rob at December 12, 2013 11:42 AM

@ sf: you're funny.

The same thing could be said for the removal of PUBLIC parking spaces, or a PUBLIC traffic lane for the PRIVATE enjoyment of PRIVATE cyclists.

Just a thought.

Posted by: Futurist at December 12, 2013 11:51 AM

Anti car nuts should love this, a rich guy will be paying to store his car instead of storing it on the street for free. Two public spaces will also be removed which leads to two fewer cars on the streets. Everyone wins!

Posted by: anun at December 12, 2013 1:08 PM

"The same thing could be said for the removal of PUBLIC parking spaces, or a PUBLIC traffic lane for the PRIVATE enjoyment of PRIVATE cyclists."

Hahahaha!

In futurists a parking spot on the street is public, but a bike lane is private. Car fanatics live in a strange world...

Anyway, I have no problem with the project as long as it's being done legally.

I do think it's sad that a public resource (on street parking) can be eliminated to install a private resource (private garage parking).

There should at least be a steep fee to recapture the loss of public utility. Oh well, maybe someday when the car fanatics have died out we'll get some sane regulations on this matter.

Posted by: lyqwyd at December 12, 2013 1:38 PM

and futurist designs (well, most likely he's an assistant) buildings with that logic?

Remind me never to step foot in one of them.

Posted by: sf at December 12, 2013 1:41 PM

It's all rather tongue in cheek, sf.

About as logical as your statement.

Score: 1 to 1.

Posted by: Futurist at December 12, 2013 1:43 PM

Even if it is not a historic resource (C-rating), it would still be considered a demolition and would be required to go before the Planning Commission.Rob, you are correct that it is much easier to tear it down and recycle the materials and build new, but that is absolutely what the Planning Dep't will not allow. It is a complete absurdity how this City processes permits which is why, I assume, this owner chose to go on the path they have.

BTW, the project agent is SF Garage, John Pollard, who is notorious for this kind of thing - applying for numerous incremental permits to ultimately get around the code. What he has done here is illegal and I am hoping he is stopped. The fine for doing work without a permit is 9x the cost of the permit for the work done. In this case, the permit could be upwards of $20,000 which would incur a fine of $180,000!

I agree with apropos that this is crazy and if DBI and Planning don't stop this job then they're completely blowing all credibility that they have with the public!

Posted by: marvinsnephew at December 12, 2013 1:46 PM

Actually, not tongue in cheek. Roads and streets are for public use. Whether that be bikes, foot, hovercraft, or horse and buggy.

This is guy is taking away a public resource.

I hope he gets his driveway blocked constantly.

Oh, and please show us some of your designs, futurist.

Posted by: sf at December 12, 2013 2:02 PM

'...projects "B-potential historic resource" status. For any proper approval of a project like this, the existing structure would need to have been reclassified an "A-historic resource" or "C-not a historic resource" status before receiving any permits to be doing this work.'

My understanding of the process is different.

-Any structure more than 50 years old falls into the vague category B, a 'potential historic resource'

-From a preservation analysis standpoint, the historic nature of a building is primarily expressed through the public facing exterior sides of the building.

-If one's project does not fundamentally alter the public facing sides of the building, the structure itself can remain a category B, 'potential historic resource' without going through a formal Historic Resource Determination review.

-Much rests upon the ability of your architect to create a design that will sidestep the HRD flag and then convince the preservation planner of such.

The tradeoff is that you wind up suspending a crappy stucco facade in free space while you build an entirely new structure to which to attach it. There is no reason to think the participants haven't played by the rules, silly that they may be.

Posted by: soccermom at December 12, 2013 2:22 PM

marvinsnephew , There is a violation on the building as of 12/12/13. Thank you Anonymous

Posted by: somabound at December 12, 2013 3:23 PM

"Oh well, maybe someday when the car fanatics have died out we'll get some sane regulations on this matter."

Good luck with that...As someone stated in another thread, cars along with better public transit is the future.

Posted by: Willow at December 12, 2013 4:47 PM

i doubt the owners/architect are doing this excavation to add a single parking space or that it is even 1:1.
our remodel converted one unused space - as the prior owner used it for storage and parked across the driveway on the street - ( which really is theft in my book as it blocks street parking with no indoor parking) into 3 car parking for myself, a tenant, and a guest. our driveway is spot number 4 when we throw parties or have more then one guest from the bridge or peninsula crowd.
net result, 3 cars not on the street, one additional visitor not circling and causing accidents or taking a space my neighbors covet.
my assessed value and property taxes were raised after the changes.
the city also requires me to maintain the sidewalk in front of my house while it retains ownership. i sweep at least every other day and have hosed down more then my share of other people's vomit from patrons of the bar up the street.
also parking enforcement should neither ticket nor tow a car that blocks a garage that cannot be used for parking. during my urban camping remodel i was asked more then once to open my garage to prove i needed car access. if the city kept a log of garages that were really storage rooms i suspect there'd be little trouble finding parking in most neighborhoods.

Posted by: modernedwardian at December 12, 2013 7:34 PM

@somabound

How did you find out about the violation you cite? I did not see anything relating to that on the SF Property Information Map. Thanks.

Posted by: Rob at December 12, 2013 8:15 PM

Rob, You click this link below and you can search by address. http://dbiweb.sfgov.org/dbipts/

Enter in the address name and hit search.
There will be links to elec. permits, plumb permits, bldg permits, and complaints. Click complaints.

NOTE: the really powerful thing about the DBI site is that you can search by Applicant or Authorized Agent. Say you have name of an architect, engineer, contractor, expeditor or owner you like/dislike, you can search by their name. You enter in the time frame and click search. This will show the addresses of all their permits. You can then spot trends.

Posted by: somabound at December 12, 2013 8:42 PM

OCCUPY PINE STREET
OCCUPY PINE STREET

If we keep this up, we'll keep the city safe from newly-constructed homes with properly-engineered foundations and up-to-date framing that can be easily inspected at each step in the build process by the DBI!

If you seriously think this project could have moved forward with the building department's consent, you haven't built anything in San Francisco. Like they were going to frame it out of brand new wood and the inspector wouldn't know the difference?

The anonymous DBI complaint... when your DR request just didn't do enough.


Posted by: soccermom at December 12, 2013 8:44 PM

I love you Martha.

Posted by: soccermom at December 12, 2013 8:47 PM

@Willow

"Good luck with that...As someone stated in another thread, cars along with better public transit is the future."

And as I stated in that same thread, that future includes a lot less of those cars. Cars aren't going away, there will just be a lot less of them. But the car fanatics, the type of people that ignore the massive amounts health and environmental damage caused by cars, are dying out. It will take a while for sure, but it's happening.

Posted by: lyqwyd at December 12, 2013 8:54 PM

soccermom @ 2:22pm: The builder is significantly altering the exterior of the building. Check the permits online (see my earlier post regarding how to do that). He is adding a garage and garage door to the front of the building. This is a substantial alteration. And he removed a significant amount of the building that was visible from the street (per Adam's comment on Dec. 11, 8:59pm.). If the builder was up front with the city about what he was going to do, he would have been told he had to submit an historic survey as part of an Environmental Evaluation. And had he done that, regardless of the determined status A or C, they would never have allowed this builder to do what he's doing now. Never. As had been pointed out numerous times in other post, this is a defacto demolition, and residential demolitions have more or less been outlawed by the city, except in extreme circumstances.

Maybe some people think city policy is good, and maybe some people think it is terribly flawed (such as I do), but laws are laws. Even bad laws provide order and structure for a civilized world. When laws are so visibly broken, without consequence, the power of authority will diminish, in a very detrimental way.

Another thing that really bothers me when I see stuff like this: I have, and have had in the past, a number of builder/developer clients. They see stuff like this happen in the city, and then they ask me "why can't we do this? I saw..." or " so and so did things like this, why can't...?" Everyone gets this idea that its OK to cheat a little, in one way or another. This put's me in a defensive position a LOT. Too often. It's tiresome, it's exhausting, and it pisses me off.

Posted by: apropos at December 13, 2013 12:23 AM

I agree the permit process is frustrating and not objectively fair. It's not a good business for people uncomfortable with ambiguity.

Posted by: soccermom at December 13, 2013 9:27 AM

Lets watch and see how much of the facade they maintain...I agree with all the comments about skirting the rules. Better oversight is needed at the Building Department and the Planning Department. This is really a demo and so are lots of others all around the City.

Posted by: noe mom at December 13, 2013 10:04 AM

apropos @ 12.23am:

Provided that the building were deemed to be not a historic resource, why would the city 'Never' allow the builder to do this all-but-facade demo? Have residential demos really been outlawed in the city? This is not my understanding.

Provided that the proposed new building meets all contemporary planning requirements (see the planning department's 'residential guidelines' document), all setbacks, and the neighbors do not object, it is not my experience that planning stands in the way when the building is not a historic resource. The folks I have spoken with who have done these kinds of 'all-but-facade' demos have told me that they did it to remain respectful of the neighborhood and avoid confrontation there (where planning really does pay attention).

Nearly all Victorian buildings this old do no meet contemporary seismic codes and environmental codes and cannot be feasibly upgraded to do so. You can't even insulate these homes safely because you can't incorporate house wrap behind the existing siding. There is almost always a case to be made for demo'ing and replacing and if the historic designation is absent, do you really thing that the city will really incur the potential liability of preventing the construction of safe housing?

Posted by: around1905 at December 13, 2013 11:27 AM

Posted by: SocketSite at December 27, 2013 10:28 AM

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