SF Neighbors Fighting Noe Valley McMansion Project Say They Would Host Quadruple In His Place


The Noe Valley home, built in 1929, has only 1,200 square feet of living space, but lots of charm. Like the window frames, the garage door and the tiling are matched. Like the large, lush garden that connects with those of neighbors for a magical open space popular with children who can forget for a moment that they live in a bustling city.

Well, all of that is true for now anyway.

Under a proposal made to the town planning department, the new owner would demolish the two-story house. Of course, cities change and old houses don’t last forever. But its replacement would swell to four floors with nearly 6,000 square feet of space. Its new footprint would stretch in three directions, including 30 feet back, eliminating much of the garden oasis. It would include a two-car garage, several floors and even an elevator.

“I call him Will Ferrell from ‘Elf’,” said Jake Schwarz, who owns the house behind, including part of the Bond Gardens, referring to the comedy in which the 6-foot-3 actor plays the one of the little helpers.

The crazy part? In a city that likes to micromanage every possible change – from opening an ice cream shop to erecting a gazebo in your own backyard – this kind of monstrous house fits the bill.

“You can build a 1,000 square foot home or an 8,000 square foot home as long as you meet the height and setback requirements,” said John Rahaim, who retired as planning director of San Francisco in 2019. “It’s a national trend, people with a lot of money to build huge houses because they can.

The even crazier part? A super-rich family could live in 6,000 square feet, but the same-sized box in Noe Valley and the majority of San Francisco couldn’t include homes of 1,500 square feet each for four families. (This proposal would include one unit by law, but the city does not check if they are occupied, and it is believed that there are thousands of vacant units in the city.)

As a rule of thumb, the city and curious neighbors should step aside and allow homeowners to do whatever they want within reason. But in the case of 4250 26th St., neighbors fighting the owner who wants to build a McMansion have a valid point.

We need more housing for more people. No bigger houses for people who happen to be super rich.

“We would support this 100% if it were four families,” said Schwarz, who bought his own house in 2004.

The same goes for his neighbor Steve Boeddeker, who said he was upset with developers picking up houses all over the neighborhood to turn them into McMansions and resell them for millions.

“These big glass boxes are made by people who don’t even intend to live here,” he said. “They’re just trying to get as much square footage as possible.”

“We call them Apple Stores,” said Schwarz, who seems to have a lot of nicknames for these giant houses. “They all watch HGTV a lot. It’s the same style everywhere.

We seem to have ceded a lot of ground lately – especially in Noe Valley, Castro, and Glen Park – to developers to create these Apple stores with elevators, wine cellars, and even personal basketball courts. Multi-millionaire mansions are no longer confined to Sea Cliff, Pacific Heights and St. Francis Woods. They extend in all directions, like their footprints.

This trend continues as teachers, nurses, social workers and artists cannot afford to live here. As ordinary families are pushed to the far reaches of the Bay Area and have to travel long distances to get to work in the city, filling the highways with traffic and the air with emissions.

For a supposedly progressive city, concerned with fairness and concerned with the environment, our professed values ​​do not correspond at all to our reality.

“I don’t think it’s helpful for San Franciscans to turn our existing neighborhoods into luxury neighborhoods for the richest people in the world,” said supervisor Rafael Mandelman, whose district eight is the zero point for them. monster houses. “These are lovely, charming neighborhoods that we would like to see become more diverse and more economically balanced, and we are going in the wrong direction.”

Mandelman’s double-barreled proposal to tackle this trend, first reported here in January, comes forward as great ideas for dealing with the city’s major crises – slowly and without much support.

He tabled a bill last month to allow the conversion of single-family homes on corner lots into quads. It looks at introducing legislation next year to make quads legal on all single-family lots in the city, an idea supported by Sacramento, Berkeley, Minneapolis and other cities, but deemed somewhat apocalyptic. by the San Francisco NIMBYs.

Mandelman also introduced accompanying legislation making it more difficult to build monster houses by requiring developers to obtain the blessing of the Planning Commission in many cases. Building or expanding a house to 2,500 square feet would be good, but building a larger house would require special approval. Mandelman has so far no board support for the legislation, he said.

The current McMansions rules don’t work. They are allowed, although neighbors can file a discretionary review request, arguing that there are “exceptional and extraordinary circumstances” that require further analysis. Five families did it for the Noe Valley home, including Shannon Hughes and her husband, Schwarz.

The families met with a representative from the planning department and the owner’s lawyer in May, and Hughes said the lawyer agreed to reduce the design by 500 square feet, which would take it to 5,800 square feet. A spokesperson for the planning department and the owner’s lawyer did not return requests for comment.

The group is due to meet again next month. Hughes said she would feel different if a neighbor built her dream home, but this is just a developer intending to flip the property. And the city agrees, even in a real estate market where it’s hard to find a single-family home for less than $ 2 million.

“I feel like it’s going to happen,” said Hughes. “There’s no way we can make sure that this house isn’t demolished and that there is a monster house there.”

And with it will come the memories of Lorraine Sherrill, who lived in the cottage for decades. She passed away several years ago in her 80s and her brother sold the house for $ 2.3 million in 2017.

Gone is most of what the neighbors called her “secret garden,” where she grew Swiss chard, asparagus and strawberries and let the children play and pick as many produce as they wanted. Imagine if his replacement home housed four families who otherwise couldn’t afford a house in San Francisco and four groups of children to explore the part of the garden that remains.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Heather Knight appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. Email: hknight@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @hknightsf


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