February 7, 2014
Plans To Raze The Elbo Room Are More Than Preliminary
As we first reported last week, the owners of the Valencia Street building which is currently leased to the Elbo Room have filed their preliminary plans to raze the Mission district building and construct a five-story condo building in its place.
While some felt our report overstated the intent and seriousness of the plans, including Matt Shapiro, the operator of the Elbo Room, who dismissively posted that the Elbo Room wasn’t closing "any time soon" and that the owners of the building weren't serious about acting on the plans, our report was actually understated.
A detailed set of architectural plans has been drafted for the project and the building’s owners have authorized the architects to act as their agents in submitting applications for environmental reviews, a historic resource evaluation, variances and Conditional Use. That's every step required to get the project formally approved.
In fact, a month after the Planning Department provided their feedback on the preliminary plans, the application fee for which was nearly $5,000 alone, a follow-up meeting was scheduled between the Planning Department and architects to discuss next steps and plans for submitting the Environmental Evaluation and Historic Resource report for the project to move forward.
Our report isn't based on hearsay, a carefully worded statement or conjecture, but rather actual documents of which we have copies in hand. And yes, we have the preliminary designs for the proposed five-story building to replace the Elbo Room as well:
We don’t know if Mr. Shapiro is simply out of the loop or trying to cover up the extent of planning for the project that has been happening behind the scenes. And while it is, of course, entirely possible that the building’s owners abandon their plans at any stage, the extent of work, forward progress and expense to date would suggest that this is more than simply an exploratory exercise.
First Published: February 7, 2014 8:15 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
Oh, such a lovely cookie-cutter shoebox. Hope all those people who downplayed the loss of the Elbo Room (and its building) are happy with this proposed replacement. The inevitable Starbucks on the corner should be really fun.
Posted by: Sierrajeff at February 7, 2014 8:22 AM
A Starbucks? No way. If you want to blame the owners for attempting to maximize/cash out when numerous Valencia neighbors have done similar, then fine. But snark better. Personally I like the Chapel a lot more than the Elbo Room these days anyway.
Posted by: Bob Johannsson at February 7, 2014 8:50 AM
The longstanding Hispanic mission residents (who everyone claims to be so concerned about) will be crushed that their favorite hangout spot will be gone.
Posted by: Mike at February 7, 2014 9:05 AM
After my initial extreme annoyance at the thought of this bar leaving, it makes sense. It's an anachronism in this location as it is. I remember going to this bar in the early 2000's before I was even 21, but its 2014 now, Valencia is rarely ever worth stepping foot on (eh I do kind of like tacolicious, so sue me).
Elbo Room will be fine being located near Knockout, and El Rio, or wherever they decide to move. I feel like at this point the logical step is to move to Oakland, but we shall see.
Posted by: Sam at February 7, 2014 9:08 AM
As pro-development as I am, I do like these well-maintained period buildings, but of course support this dev. There's so much flim-flam, plywood crap construction all over the city that I wish those would be sites for redev rather than something which has quiet resonance and charm -- even if not historic.
Posted by: Invented at February 7, 2014 9:10 AM
I've never been a NIMBY before but this project is making me one. Not because of Elbo Room, but because this thing is so fugly and cookiecutter. A child with sketchup made this project. Can we PLEASE preserve the building underneath and add on top? Make an interesting building?
Posted by: seriously at February 7, 2014 9:23 AM
SF - Getting a little less interesting every day.
Posted by: mwsf at February 7, 2014 9:32 AM
@seriously: You absolutely have every right to attempt to acquire the property and apply to build anything you desire that either fits the zoning or can make it through the approvals process. Money talks, make it happen big guy!!
Oh right... you're broke and just spouting off on the internet.
Posted by: Jimmy the House Flipper at February 7, 2014 9:35 AM
Elbo Room really has outlived itself. I've had many a good time there too but in recent years when I've been - and that's only once or twice since I am also growing up - it has been pretty empty. Certainly not the hotspot it used to be.
That said, I understand the nostalgia. What I don't understand is why people think the building is worthy of special protection. Really? An excrement-colored box with blacked-out windows is now something we should preserve at the expense of badly-needed housing? Somebody has been smoking too much of that which you always smell at the Elbo Room. Or maybe they've been gnawing too much lead paint off the banister. Either way, get real.
Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at February 7, 2014 9:45 AM
When is Chernin's ever going to go away? That's the thing that really stands out as a development opportunity on Valencia.
Posted by: curmudgeon at February 7, 2014 9:56 AM
I agree. Anyone have any intel on Chernin's?
I live on that block and it really needs to go.
I will miss the Elbo Room.
Posted by: chitrana at February 7, 2014 10:02 AM
My first impression is that it's a horrible building (and I like a lot of the Mission Bay architecture!) But in 50 or 100 years, blocky with modern bay windows will be quaint and NIMBYs in the city will be bellyaching over the loss of another turn of the millennium building. And like most edwardians and victorians today, most of the turn of the millennium buildings won't be worth preserving.
As for the Elbo Room, I had a great time getting to level 17 in Ms. Pacman there once as my friends drunkenly cheered me on. But I haven't been there in half a decade. Time to create some new memories somewhere else.
Posted by: frog at February 7, 2014 10:05 AM
Did you try to get a comment from the building owners?
Perhaps they are trying to get approved plans to up the selling price of the building?
[Editor's Note: We didn't try to get a comment. That would be our guess as well.]
Posted by: Dan at February 7, 2014 10:14 AM
Chernins sucks, with terible service but actualy has a niche for those (like me..) who live in a smallish apartment.
Think we've bought both a washing machine and fridge from there in past year or two.
Thats about $1,500 more than I ever spent at Elbo Room but still said to see it go as live music is part of SFs heritage.
Have been to Chapel and found it Ok, but, somewhat ironically given the name, found it a little soulless and the acoustics not great!!! Unconvincd by the layout also.
Posted by: TheGrimREpa at February 7, 2014 10:16 AM
The longstanding Hispanic mission residents (who everyone claims to be so concerned about) will be crushed that their favorite hangout spot will be gone.Huh
Posted by: Mike at February 7, 2014 10:18 AM
if i'm not mistaken, power realtor susan ring and her husband own this building...
Posted by: insiderinfo at February 7, 2014 10:26 AM
Take one of the city's primary nightlife entertainment districts and start tearing down the entertainment venues. Great plan. The Mission is a victim of its own success.
Posted by: James at February 7, 2014 10:34 AM
As a 20-somethin year old in my office said, Valencia Street? Who goes to Valencia Street? Everybody goes to Divisadero. Yup, time for the Elbo Room to move on.
Posted by: Jim at February 7, 2014 10:38 AM
How arrogant and self-centered. Because you've "outgrown" it and no longer go there, it should be torn down. Hell, I no longer go to high school, so let's tear'em all down!
The Chapel isn't a substitute, it's a completely different scene.
Posted by: two beers at February 7, 2014 10:43 AM
Divisadero? I only ever see 30-40 year olds at Madrone, Mojo is pretty cool though.
Posted by: Sam at February 7, 2014 10:50 AM
I would love to hear from any developers/builders on this site whether the ugly sameness of buildings such as these is due primarily to (1) city planning demands for "aesthetic compatibility" with existing buildings, (2) neighbor/NIMBY pressure ("boring" buildings less likely to trigger DR demands and ongoing litigation), or (3) normal economics (buyers like the units in these buildings and they're cheap to build).
I am pro-development but I dread the thought of Valencia and Mission streets turning into half- or quarter-height versions of Mission Bay. (The new building going up next to the New Mission Theater offers perhaps some cause for hope. As does 8 Octavia. But these seem to be exceptions to the rule of Boring Sameness.)
Posted by: observant neighbor at February 7, 2014 10:56 AM
Chernin's need not go, Chernin's empty unused parking lot needs to go.
Posted by: chitrana at February 7, 2014 10:56 AM
Interesting comments about Chernin's. I bet an older owner who is not selling and kids who will the minute he passes.
I like the way Valencia St is now. I take my daughter down there on her tricycle sometimes for a walk. If I can get away I watch a Giants game at the Phoenix. I am close to middle aged. When we move to the suburbs I am sure we will come back and walk around Valencia St. and go to the Mission Playground from time to time. My 70 year old parents dine on Valencia Street now. Young people process all of what I just said as you like.
Posted by: Zig at February 7, 2014 11:30 AM
glad this is happening, but
the building could be at least 2 floors higher.
they could put a little more into the design. it is very basic.
It seems like they could get more than 9 units in this prime location for housing.
Would be nice to have more retail space.
Need a bit more underground parking to support residents and retail. will ease congestion due to street parking circling
Posted by: moto mayhem at February 7, 2014 12:13 PM
Divisadero? I only ever see 30-40 year olds at Madrone, Mojo is pretty cool though.
Mojo has great coffee, and don't miss the pop-up Vietnamese on Thurs nights at Mojo -- always satisfying, boisterous -- all while you bring in your bike for fine tuning.
Have I gone off topic?
Speaking of Divis -- proposed condos on Grove and Divis part of the Alioto building.
Posted by: Invented at February 7, 2014 12:34 PM
@mayhem: Yeah, seven, eight, nine stories of hideous, cheap-o, cookie-cutter box, sounds great. Why not just be honest and say that you want to turn Valencia into a sh*tfest?
Posted by: two beers at February 7, 2014 12:38 PM
you might have notices that i also mentioned the design was too bland.
we have a housing shortage.
i think tearing elbo room down to build only 9 units in an ugly box with limited retail that might just add to off-street congestion might not be worth it.
on the other hand, building an 18 unit building with a nice design with more retail and more offstreet parking to ease congestion is definitley worth it.
Posted by: moto mayhem at February 7, 2014 12:49 PM
Posted by: Jay Sherman at February 7, 2014 1:17 PM
To everyone saying that Elbo Room isn't as fun as it used to be...I think you're just not as fun as you used to be. That bar is great and still very busy on the weekends.
That being said, I'm in favor of this development. Elbo Room can move further South/East, where rents are cheaper, or to Oakland.
Posted by: OMN at February 7, 2014 1:30 PM
Sad, but this is why The Chapel will live on where Elbo Room did not: management owns the property, instead of merely renting it.
Posted by: bp at February 7, 2014 1:50 PM
All the hand wringing and crying and whining about the Elbo Room itself, is irrelevant.
The bar, its' following, the character, the style, the vibe, the music, the drunks can ALL relocate nearby, farther away or even in the ground floor corner of the new proposed building.
Putting aside the proposed design: relax people, it's merely a quick digital concept, it's hardly final and subject to MUCH discussion and revisions. It's called a place-holder, so relax all you armchair critics.
That said, I hope it goes ahead, below grade parking included, and space for retail or a BAR on the ground floor.
Posted by: Futurist at February 7, 2014 1:55 PM
30 units please and a six pack of BMRs
Posted by: markk at February 7, 2014 2:44 PM
The Elbo Room building has enough character to warrant its keeping. Valencia should be a mix of old and new.
Posted by: Marten at February 7, 2014 2:46 PM
You moving to the suburbs Zig? Why???
I liked the Elbo Room and will be sad to see it go, but we need housing. There is probably not 16 units here because of people like Campos, who has tried to block any development along here. Look what has happened to 1050 Valencia.
Posted by: NoeValleyJim at February 7, 2014 2:57 PM
Yes I think we are moving to the suburbs. Why not? The areas we can afford in SF are like the suburbs except dreary, foggy, windy with a more complicated school system to navigate.
I'd prefer a small house/yard that is walkable to shops a park and near mass transit in the suburbs but sadly these areas are very scarce because our city planning has been terrible since 1940
Posted by: Zig at February 7, 2014 3:10 PM
I fail to see the architectural value of the current building - neither that of the new one, actually. However, it adds much needed housing. The owner of Elbo room and his wife are reasonably affluent and certainly are not pushed to the economic margins by this. If it is viable and works with the code build it. (Maybe get some more interesting architecture.) I am not concerned Valencia is running out of watering holes any time soon.
Posted by: Brooder at February 7, 2014 4:04 PM
Cherin's won't go away because they supply appliances to buildings like this. Although years ago there was an appliance store on 24th Street where Savor is now....so who knows?
The proposed building is generic and uninspired, but what else can we expect?
Posted by: noe mom at February 7, 2014 11:25 PM
I hear this argument all the time: "It doesn't look good, but we need the housing! Who cares if it looks ugly; we need more units on the market now!"
There is something that everyone fails to take into consideration. These new ugly buildings are not temporary housing projects, they are intended to be there for generations (as long as a century, most likely). But their "architecture merit" and "design qualities" will expire within the next 10 years and become another bland and boring monolithic slab. Sure, you can renovate the exterior, but a box is a box.
Imagine, a beautiful warehouse (yes, a warehouse) that looked similar to Ghirardelli Square was torn down to build the Fontana Towers. That warehouse had more architecture significance in a single brick than all of Fontana.
Don't get me wrong, I'm pro-development. But why not leave at least the facade of the old building and make the new one blend in instead of trying to forcefully stand out?
Posted by: Serge at February 8, 2014 8:41 AM
@Serge: make the new one blend in
This sentiment is exactly what leads to the bland, derivative same-ness of all construction in San Francisco, new and old. You are the problem but you cannot even conceptualize this fact.
We can be thankful that the designers of the Trans-America building, at least, did not succumb to the need to "fit in."
Are there any other comparably iconic pieces of architecture in this city? Nothing springs to mind...
Posted by: Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM)) at February 8, 2014 9:14 AM
Ah, I see your logic: 9 units would be too congested, but 18 units as many would mean less congestion. BY your logic, hell, why not build a hundred units-- that would really ease congestion!
Posted by: two beers at February 8, 2014 10:21 AM
The build-it-now gang isn't preoccupied with the future. There's money to be made now. This bubble won't last forever, so it makes sense for the banker/developer/realtor sector to try to maximize profits now.
Eve though it makes sense from a business pov, that doesn't offset the socially-destructive long-term consequences of boom-town politics.
Posted by: two beers at February 8, 2014 10:32 AM
I don't support tearing down the Elbo Room, but I do support building housing during bubbles, when there is ready financing. Then, during the busts, overbuilt market rate housing becomes more affordable.
Posted by: Dan at February 8, 2014 11:25 AM
I'm talking about car congestion as related to off street parking and garages. If all units had a garage space, there would be little congestion impact. With only a few garage spaces street parking circling and car congestion worsens. Not worried about people congestion. 18 vs 9 is to build for housing shortage and long term growth. A 9 unit building is not enough unless all are 3bdr
Posted by: Moto mayhem at February 8, 2014 12:46 PM
What's wrong with following design patterns that have existing architectural value? You're essentially saying that change for the sake of change is good, even if it's not for the better. The Transamerica Pyramid per your example is an extremely rare instance where contemporary design (that was initially not well received) ending up being iconic. You would have also included the Golden Gate Bridge which was met with an equal, if not greater, amount of opposition.
Conversely, what is happening today is nothing more than copy-paste architecture. I imagine all these "architecture" firms have a script they wrote for AutoCAD that designs these tacky boxes. At least Saitowitz has some unique and creative designs that may stand the test of time. Even Forum Design is doing fantastic work (albeit lots of their recent work falls into the "Mission Bay Architecture" category). Just look at 77 South Van Ness or the Greenwich.
According to your argument, every bit of construction needs to be new. What exactly is wrong with existing architecture? Surely you can't say that Beaux Arts, Art Deco, Chicago School, Neo Gothic, and the like are not worthy of our modern times?
Posted by: Serge at February 8, 2014 4:51 PM
1. leaving the "façade" of the old building adds enormous costs involving shoring and increased structural integrity to the new building, AND increasing the cost even more of new construction. It's also called "facadism" and it's fake. The existing building has zero redeeming architectural details and style.
2. "Ugly" is highly subjective and generally a word that the average public Joe uses to describe a building they simply don't like.
3. There are those who love and adore a Saitowitz building. I am not one of his fans. His buildings are more expensive to build, especially on the exteriors. His interiors are generally inhumane, sterile and bland. Some will like. Some will not.
4. When the public wants a building to "blend in", they typically are saying they don't like change, visually or otherwise. You're just pretending the new building was there all along, and that you got USED to it. Time changes all.
5. The architectural styles you mentioned are all worthy and important styles, to the period they were built in and thus reflected that period in the arts, or a particular location. You may pine for the Beaux Arts period, but it's not relevant to the 21st century. Designs built today that may reflect those styles is merely stage set and false. RE: The rejected Lucas Art Museum at the Presidio.
6. Design style of new work being built today in SF is heavily driven by budget. And yes, to a certain extent by the talent, intelligence and goals of the architect/developer/client. Yes, there are hits and misses, but not all new buildings in SF are bland and boring.
Posted by: Futurist at February 8, 2014 5:56 PM
@Serge: all those styles had their time and place in the world. In the past. They're gone now and the world moves on. If the city truly embraced cutting-edge architecture, then every building would, or could, be a novel and engaging design. Let's say, for the sake of argument, an EXPEDITED approvals process for "significantly different" buildings and designs. But it is the opposite. Challenging designs have to be rammed through endless DRs and litigation by small-minded people who demand nothing but aesthetic conformity du jour.
That's why, in their day, every new building was "Victorian" or "Art Deco" or whatever. IT was fashionable, and profitable, to fit in. End of story.
Take any building, iconic or not. Let's say MIT's campus -- Eero Saarinen (Kresge), Simmons Hall, Frank Gehry (Stata Center). Could any one of those buildings EVER be built in San Francisco?
The city is far too parochial, insular, backward-looking now. Forget it. You want buildings that "fit in," you'll get "Mission Bay Modern" and like it. You people made your bed, now lie in it for the next hundred years.
Posted by: Jimmy (Not a real San Franciscan (TM)) at February 8, 2014 9:04 PM
I'm not cynical like Jimmy...at all.
"Mission Bay Modern" is not a failure. But to the armchair critics and those not well informed about design, those buildings are a "failure". It's too easy to just criticize for the say of wanting to appear that YOU know what is really good design, maybe even "iconic".
There are a lot of well designed buildings being constructed now, some are more "background", some will be admired. Some will be hated.
The City keeps changing, and learning. It's not all downhill as Jimmy seems to imply.
Posted by: Futurist at February 8, 2014 9:57 PM
Post earthquake reconstruction saw a lot of utilitarian Edwardians going up. Many of them are not particularly unique nor do they really stand out from each other. These sort of buildings feel like that to me. Not every building needs to be iconic. It's a generic building though just as generic as the one it's replacing. The Elbo Room made the current building into something valuable, not the other way around.
Posted by: S at February 10, 2014 12:03 PM
At this point, I'll take housing in this city at just about any means necessary.
Posted by: S at February 18, 2014 4:57 PM
Posted by: SocketSite at February 27, 2014 3:04 PM