170 St. Germain Before
Having been expanded both horizontally and vertically and completely rebuilt since being purchased for $1,400,000 in 2003, 170 St. Germain Avenue has just returned to the market as a 4,300 square foot contemporary home listed for $4,500,000.
170 St. Germain Today (www.SocketSite.com)
According to the listing, “professional photos” are to follow and there won’t be any Sunday open houses. We’ll keep you plugged-in on both accounts.
∙ Listing: 170 St. Germain Avenue (4/3) 4,300 sqft – $4,500,000 [MLS]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    The agent supplied photos are just fine for understanding the property. And floorplans included – yay!

    • Posted by SFarchitect

      would you happen to still have these floorplans? I’m a student doing a project on architecture in the area and it would really help me out!


  2. Posted by mikey woodz

    hmmm this is odd I saw this on Craigslist for rent a few months back….for somewhere between 5-6k

  3. Posted by mikey woodz

    that is the cheapest looking 4.5m facade i have ever seen, looks like a east bay townhouse..

  4. Posted by stucco-sux

    How ugly can ugly be? Off to the ugly races!

  5. Posted by tc_sf

    “hmmm this is odd I saw this on Craigslist for rent a few months back….for somewhere between 5-6k”
    While I can’t verify the accuracy of this, were this to be true it does illustrate the ROI challenge posed when prices are much higher then rental equivalent.
    On a short hold, the selling costs will be amortized over the short hold period. On a long hold, the monthly negative cash flow & opportunity cost can really start to add up.
    Not that this could never work out to be ROI positive, but rather that at the above prices any buyer would need some decent annualized price increases or rent increases or inflation with a fixed rate loan for the purchase to work out ROI positive.
    Popping in the list price and 6k for the rent in the NYT calc requires dialing up the annualized home price increase to 6% before buying wins out (after a 21 year hold).
    6% annualized over 21 years corresponds to a 340% increase in price.
    Not that any of this is a new concept, but when looking at ex post results on this blog some posters complain of cherry picking. So it may be worthwhile to look at the situation ex ante to illustrate the selling price increase required to overcome deeply negative monthly cash flow.

  6. Posted by Jim

    they think they can ask $4.5 and they can’t bother hiring a decent architect? jeeez!

  7. Posted by GetOffTheIvy

    This place has so much Dwell it toasts its points.
    That east bay condo was built in the 90’s right?

  8. Posted by justme

    How ugly can ugly be? Off to the ugly races!

    I’m sure it’s entirely the fault of the Planning Department. Someone will be here momentarily to explain why the architect and developer really had no hand whatsoever in the design, and how wonderful it would have come out if they had been left alone with six or nine years to build it. Clearly, the Historic Preservation Commission came down hard and mandated that it had to be just as hideous as its neighbors across the street or it would throw off the curve. I’m sure they went as far as to specify the unfortunate shade of brown the place has been dipped in. I mean, that’s how it works, right?

  9. Posted by North Beach Tony

    I can’t believe the Historical Preservation Commission didn’t prevent the destruction of that incalculably valuable architectural resource. The resultant rend to our socio-historic fabric is nothing short of disastrous.
    This would be satiric sarcasm, campadres.

  10. Posted by jason

    Did the Planning Department force them to replace the master bath vanity mirror with a window??? Because that’s what I want to see while I’m shaving…the bay…not my face.
    Can we at least place SOME of the blame for bad design on the builders and architects?

  11. Posted by sparky-b

    By all means blame the builder for the ugly brown color, I’m sure it was his idea. Blame him for the window placement I’m sure that he convinced the architect to make sure it was there. You don’t know the builder was the developer, but that is always the assumption here. Lots of times it’s not the case. The builder is just building.
    And this place has nothing to do with the planning commission. I guess other than it this work was for a ’03 permit that got DR’d and postponed like 4 times. All the while the planning department being all for it.
    **and justme, I think you are talking to me (and noearch) in your post. Why don’t you re-read what I said about Steiner street. I said you get more flexibility in a single family home than on a location like that with multiple units. So I would not blame the planning commission for this place, yes there we fine with it but they would have been fine with a better design too. I do blame them for the shape of the buildings at Steiners it’s right there in the documents they created. The planning commission and Historic both overreach, but lets not get them more involved in single family remodels. It took over 3 years to get this permit as it is, how would you like more scrutiny than that at your house.

  12. Posted by curmudgeon

    I believe all the comments about the Planning Department and Historic Preservation Commission are meant sarcastically in this post…they are referencing the recent Dolores and Alamo Square posts. In this case, the dubious beauty of this project has to do with the Developer and Architect. (agreed, Sparky-b..the builder builds…I think what folks meant was “who ever is responsible for building this sh*#-colored beauty”.) OK, that’s all the “interpreting” I’m going to do.

  13. Posted by Footie

    The facade of this house looks like a stroke-ridden Hershey chocolate bar.

  14. Posted by sfrenegade

    curmudgeon has it right — the posts are clearly sarcastic and a response to bad designs where people tried to blame Planning.
    Wow does this not look like a $4.5M house. Will the views save it?

  15. Posted by SocketSite

    UPDATE: Our exterior “after” photo has been updated above.

  16. Posted by lol

    For once I agree with the interior architecture. The modern layout really help to enhance the fantastic views.
    About the price, I’d say $850/sf or 3.65M, Clarendon Heights and all.

  17. Posted by MCM

    Why all the asterisks on the MLS listing?
    It looks like an almost trendy, just outside the part of town you want to be in, $4.5 million hotel.

  18. Posted by noearch

    From my experience, in most cases you can NOT blame the builder/contractor on poor design choices.
    If the project has an architect involved and that architect has produced a competent set of construction documents, you want and assume the builder will follow what has been designed on paper.
    Here’s where it gets tricky: The owner and contractor can end up changing things without the architect’s involvement or knowledge. It’s not right, but it’s done, since the owner thinks since they are paying the architects fees they can do what they want. It happens, but it means the relationship has broken down.
    You can also have a very incompetent, inexperienced architect who simply designs crap. I would say someone like that designed the exterior facade. The front is pretty bad, it’s crude, it’s boxy, the windows are poorly located and proportioned. The detailing is crude and heavy.
    And yes, the color is horrendous.
    A good contractor will recognize he is part of the team, and will build what the drawings and specs call out for, unless there are code/safety/assembly issues with a particular detail. That’s when all parties: owner, architect and contractor discuss the issue together and resolve it in the best way.

  19. Posted by knock

    that facade is down right horrendous … the layout is pretty messed up too, especially with that serpentine stair.
    and seriously: can you not get floorplans without revision clouds on them? or at least take ten minutes to photoshop them out?

  20. Posted by kathleen

    First impressions mean so much, why publish bad pix? Why not wait for professional photos?

  21. Posted by 94114

    For that kind of money, I’d rather have 100 Palo Alto, which has now been on the market for 300 days.

  22. Posted by Been there

    I’ve been inside, and it’s massive. Some quirks, but nicely finished. And it has a sizable flat yard, which is rare for a hillside home. So you get views and a yard and a dead end street. Nice for families,’ but not the easiest place to walk to and from if you’re pushing a stroller.

  23. Posted by sfrenegade

    Far be it from the owner who is actually paying for it to change elements of the architect’s design, noearch! 🙂 Once the architect has been paid for the services, the owner can do what they want. End of story.
    I don’t understand the criticism here of owners and contractors, but am open to your explaining it. I don’t see the problem with the owner and contractor making tweaks to the design without consulting the architect. It seems easy enough for the architect to put into the contract: “if you make changes to this design that I don’t approve, you cannot claim that this house was designed by me” if the concept of “moral rights” is the issue.

  24. Posted by noearch

    Then sfrenegade, with all due respect you really do NOT understand the role of the architect in the process. Your very first sentence shows that lack of understanding.
    A successful project is the result of an equal collaboration between owner, architect and contractor, with mutual respect. But that does not happen all the time.
    An owner who truly respects the architect he/she hires and understands the role and responsibility of the architect will never undermine his place in the process by making changes without discussions first.
    An architect is far from just a “draftsman” and drawer of lines upon paper.
    You might want to go to the AIA website and download some great pdfs on hiring and working with an architect. It goes into much more depth than I have allowed here.

  25. Posted by sfrenegade

    The biggest PDF I can find at AIA.org suggests that I can choose which services I would like from my architect and that there’s no standard way things operate. That suggests there’s nothing wrong with engaging an architect for a limited number of services, e.g. just being a draftsman.
    Do other people feel differently about this?

  26. Posted by noearch

    Of course, sfrenegade. You always seem to want to “catch” me on some technicality or mistake.
    There is no mistake. And no, there is nothing inherently “wrong” with hiring an architect for limited services. The contract then must clearly spell out the limitations of service AND of liability.
    For myself, I prefer only to work with clients who want full services, from SD thru Construction Administration.
    Don’t forget: Architects also “choose” clients. I have turned down some who don’t fit well within my practice philosophy.

  27. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “Architects also “choose” clients. I have turned down some who don’t fit well within my practice philosophy.”
    Or more generally contractors and clients mutually choose one another. Rare are doctors, plumbers, marketing specialists, lawyers, landscapers, etc. who would take just any job.

  28. Posted by sfrenegade

    I’m not sure what I caught you on, noearch, but I assure you I know the role of an architect and as a client can determine what that role should be.
    Agree with Milkshake — pretty much any professional of any sort should be choosing their clients carefully, or else they may be putting themselves at risk. You can find bad clients in pretty much any field.

  29. Posted by noearch

    ok, fair enough sfrenegade. I’m wondering, maybe you mentioned before what you do.
    What is your professional background? Are you a licensed contractor or in the design profession?
    Just wondering.

  30. Posted by hiitsme

    Noearch, are architects licensed by the state in california?

  31. Posted by noearch

    Of course they are. I assume you are asking this seriously.
    The term “architect” is a legal term and a person cannot use it (although some try) without being licensed by the state in which they are practicing.
    Each state has their own licensing regulations. In Ca, there are extensive laws regarding the use of the term “architect”, and you can be fined for “holding oneself out as an architect” if you are not licensed.
    Check out California Architects Board: cab.org for lots more info.
    and yes, I am licensed in Ca.

  32. Posted by bernalkid

    OT but wondering about the earthquake shack thread a few days ago. In terms of historic preservation, does the shack have to stay on the foundation, or can you jack up the shack and build a normal house under it and have a penthouse shack?

  33. Posted by noearch

    I doubt if that earthquake “shack” is an Historic Resource. You would need to discuss that with a Preservation Officer at the Planning Dept. If it is, then you’d need to get a “categorical exemption” from CEQA to determine what you can do with it. It’s complicated to say the least.
    If it’s not, then why not just tear is down and build a new house on the site. Lifting the shack up one floor would be very expensive and you’re then left with and old structure on top of new construction.

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