1268 Lombard (Image Source: MapJack.com)

From the Chronicle with regard to the pending demolition of 1268 Lombard:

“Over preservationists’ protests, city officials are poised to approve demolition of one of San Francisco’s oldest buildings – a two-story, wood-frame Russian Hill cottage built in 1861. The city attorney’s office, meanwhile, has opened an investigation into whether the owner willfully neglected the building at 1268 Lombard St. to skirt rules intended to protect historic structures.

“It looks to me like this was allowed to deteriorate so they don’t have to deal with routine rules, so they [get] to have an emergency demolition and tear down the building and have a vacant lot, which in San Francisco is the most valuable thing you can have,” [Building Inspection Commission member Debra Walker said].”

Valuable as long as one can secure permits to build. And in this case, we’d hate to be the ones applying.

UPDATE: The recent ownership trail from a plugged-in reader:

“Property was recently owned by MJSF Investments, LLC and was transferred to 1268 Lombard Street, LLC. MJ is registered to Marge Vincent at 2501 Mission Street, a Vanguard Properties office. Current entity, 1268, is registered to James Nunemacher at 1841 Market Street.”

James Nunemacher is the CEO Vanguard Properties.

58 thoughts on “The “Resourceful” Demolition Of A Historic Resource? (1268 Lombard)”
  1. Maybe the city could raise the structure off its foundation and move it over to a more fitting location for preservation, like Park Presidio or Golden Gate Park.

  2. I feel bad for our [descendants] 150 years from now. Nothing will be get built! SF needs to learn from Europe that just because something is old does not mean it has to be kept for eternity!

  3. Wow, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a “Little House Committee”. SF aims towards higher density, these committees are fighting an uphill battle with these developments. Per PropertyShark.com, this lot is zoned RH3 and this ruin could be replaced with 3 units. 3 families instead of 0. It’s a no brainer as long as all the rules are respected.

  4. I like old homes (and old cars) but feel that if as a society if we want to preserve something we need to “buy” it (with tax dollars) not just pass a law that prohibit someone from putting a deck on a Victorian (or 20″ rims on a Jag E Type)…

  5. I think Mr. Brogue has the win-win solution, but I doubt our town could ever be that bright.
    This reminds me a little bit of 226 Cabrillo, but about that particular house even I am saying, “hrm, that may be old, but it has pretty much nothing that needed to be preserved for future generations.”
    (From the asking price of 226 Cabrillo and how long it has been on the market, I am assuming that it’s also somehow been identified as some kind of never-tear-downable historic shack, even if it’s probably post-quake.)

  6. Deborah Walker. Formerly of the Harvey Milk club, long since devoid of its original mission and taken to extremist politics. Deborah Walker, now on a commission courtesy of her benefactor, Chris Daly. Deborah Walker, lives in a live work loft and beneficiary of much recent special treatment with respect to her own residential zoning — queen of political shenanigans. Deborah Walker, soon to be candidate for D6 seat. For her to go after the owners of this building (whose work was stopped by the same people who accuse them of leaving the building in semi-constructed state) is akin to Bernie Madoff going after CitiGroup. Its all inside baseball and the game is rigged. Come clean, Deb.

  7. Echo Jimmy’s post …
    Property was recently owned by MJSF Investments, LLC and was transferred to 1268 Lombard Street, LLC. MJ is registered to Marge Vincent at 2501 Mission Street, a Vanguard Properties office. Current entity, 1268, is registered to James Nunemacher at 1841 Market Street.
    Nothing like a little transparency. Why the Chronicle could not do that research is beyond me.

  8. Whoah! One of the pieces that makes San Francisco so sought out is that it has great, old architecture. The 1960s made parts of the city pretty ugly. And, in 1960, I am sure people thought that the new buildings that went up were pretty. We don’t need a remake on this.
    It is one thing if this cottage was always in such ruins that it needs to be knocked down. But, it is another thing to buy a half-decent home and ignore it so, it can be eventually knocked down. If the later is the case, I hope City Hall does not give him permission to level it. Instead, they should hand the owners a fine for mistreating a historical site.

  9. it is another thing to buy a half-decent home and ignore it so, it can be eventually knocked down.

    While I do agree, these types of homes are extremely expensive to maintain and if there is no one willing to bear the expense of the ongoing maintenance and restoration what are the alternatives?
    I do think this home is probably worth preserving but there needs to be a person or entity who can and will. In this case, that doesn’t seem to exist.

  10. We looked at this one when it was on the market. Deep lot. Nowhere near as deep as the potential problems it instantly brought to mind. If I’m not mistaken there’s some political infighting going back in time with the former owners of this property and some of the powers that be in the city. But regardless of what it once was, the structure there now is unsafe and worthless.

  11. Whoah! One of the pieces that makes San Francisco so sought out is that it has great, old architecture.
    There is nothing architecturally significant about this cottage; tear it down and build something usable. An empty lot is more interesting than this ‘old’ cottage. Only in SF would a place like this warrant anything more than cursory attention.

  12. I think a Gary Gee rusty steel and glass box would be beyootiful here! As a side benefit, we won’t have to worry about our descendants having to preserve the crap-lofts 150 years from now, ’cause the shoddy [Removed by Editor] bilt contraptions won’t last half that time.

  13. “What’s the history or significance of this being a Vanguard/Nunemacher project?”
    Hard to argue the house needs an emergency demo after “accidentally” falling into disrepair if Nunemacher owns it. Obviously the plan all along.
    First Frank Norris Place now this, what else has Vanguard has been up to?

  14. I understand the need for preservation, and I agree with mrbogue that it should be done at the city level. Either they relocate the cottage or they keep it in place but in both cases the city should shoulder the expense, including the loss in potential value (you can’t build the 3-units that this place can accept). Fair is fair. If you can’t afford your policies, don’t push the cost to private citizen.

  15. Nunemacher and co. only acquired this in 2007. It was already in disrepair. They probably set about trying to get demo permits immediately afterward. The decades of “neglect” occurred on someone else’s watch.
    You can’t internalize speculation and then regurgitate more speculation like that, not if you’re gonna be accusatory or defamatory. Typical SS tripe once again.

  16. If anyone needs me to testify to shape of this place in ’07 I am happy to do it. It was a teardown then. Plus, I don’t think that facade was original, nor the shady bridge you take to get in the house. If the city wanted this place maintained they should have maintained the original street level.
    Fluj, I can’t thank you enough for telling me to pass on this one.

  17. All those beautiful 1890 Victorian houses… what do you suppose was demolished to build those? Probably row after row of 1860’s shacks. Who cares?! Knock down the last one and get it over with already.

  18. What’s up with all of the Irish contractor bashing lately, “two beers” ? These are ethnic slurs and have no place in polite discourse.

  19. “On Tuesday morning, Walker toured the property and said the ground floor had partly collapsed and was creaking. She said the building’s back windows and door had been removed, exposing the interior to the elements.
    “It looks to me like this was allowed to deteriorate so they don’t have to deal with routine rules, so they got to have an emergency demolition and tear down the building and have a vacant lot, which in San Francisco is the most valuable thing you can have,” she said.”
    No surprise that anonn doesn’t know the difference between a building in disrepair and one that qualifies for an emergency demolition but shouldn’t sparky know better?

  20. You’re right, milkshake, I apologize for the inappropriate comment. In keeping with my love for Hibernian music, ale, literature,and women (most definitely not in that order), I will strive to learn to love the RBA, and admire the loving care they’ve put into all their quality offerings. I know they had nothing to do with the sloppy blindwall boxes that have sprouted all over the city like clover after a spring rain.
    I also apologize for any implied slurs of the respective ethnicities of Gee, Sternberg, etc.

  21. Sorry folks–I can’t help myself here. I am loving reading comments that say if the City wants something the City should bear the cost. As a rental housing provider of a pre-1979 rent controlled building, I am the beneficiary of the City’s attempts to keep rents affordable–with the ability to raise rents by 60% of CPI annually and no way to control the cost of ownership . . .
    Anyhow, our city is swell at making others pay for its well intentioned policies . . .

  22. “No surprise that anonn doesn’t know the difference between a building in disrepair and one that qualifies for an emergency demolition but shouldn’t sparky know better?”
    Actually Sparky and I both know what should amount to emergency demolition, and the likelihood of obtaining such a permit. We had an informational meeting at DBI late summer. Do you? Did you view the property in 2007? If the answer to either of those questions is no, and I think it is, I gotta think you’re merely taking exception to me questioning your unwarranted innuendo earlier.

  23. The city should focus on making sure what’s built is up to code for structrual, electrical, plumbing, etc.
    When governments are in charge of what to keep and build, you get some classic East German style 1965 archeticture.
    But then a communist like Debra Walker doesn’t see anything wrong with the works of East Germany circa 1970.

  24. so if the city could be persuaded to buy these buildings, what does it do with them after restoration? sell them back? rent them? a bunch of museums? community centers? upscale crack houses?

  25. From my experience the owner would have a much better shot at a demolition permit if he were applying for a construction permit at the same time and the new project had the support of the neighbors.

  26. Anna,
    The property I’m sure deteriorated a lot between ’07 and now. What I said is that it was a piece of non-historic crap then, and you could have made the case for a tear down then as well. And for what it’s worth I’ve got me one of those engineering degrees, so yes I do have some idea of what is sound and what isn’t.

  27. When governments are in charge of what to keep and build, you get some classic East German style 1965 archeticture.
    Or Paris, circa now. or pretty much any other major European city center.
    I also disagree strenously with SF style “planning”. however, government control of what is buildable happens all over the world, sometimes to fantastic end results. it’s rarely (IMO) “East German” in outcome.
    the difference is that much of what is called “historic” in SF isn’t… well… historic.
    also: the process is transparent and clear in other world class cities. In SF it’s about connectedness.
    but really it’s because most of the “historic” buildings in SF just aren’t interesting or historic. For goodness sakes, didn’t someone recently want to have a “historic” auto row or something to save an old car dealership???

  28. ex SF-er –
    You are completely off base with the Paris comparison. All that was built with church and royalty money long long ago with peasant labor.
    Recent look at any non-central Paris development would lead you to see an ungodly amount of 15 story concrete tenements on the outskirts of Paris (build by the socialist leaning government in the past 30 years). They are nasty to look at or live in.
    So Paris is a good example of what Debra would want… if you look at the tenements… because that is classic post WWII Euro “below market housing”… exactly what Debra wants.

  29. Uh… Paris actually has very few really old structures. Much of the city was razed and rebuilt in the 1700s.

  30. UM to the poster commenting on 1960’s building styles, are you sure you know that this building is 148 years old and if you could go back in time and ask the original owners/builders if they really expected that A. if they thought this thing would still be standing 148 years later, and B. if they thought it was worth ‘preserving’ As a 4th generation SF’er I know what my ancestors would have done and I am really surprised that the Molinari’s weren’t smarter with this piece of property back in the day!

  31. About Paris,
    Paris has a preservation ordinance that virtually encompasses all of the city. Most streets are called “historical monuments”. Which is why so little is built. Plus building height limitations make most ventures uneconomically possible.
    A few buildings still manage to get built but that’s not for the faint of heart. You have stone facade buildings and stucco/crap/whatever was available buildings (one renovation on a 1790-ish building where I had 2 condos had odd-shaped stones, bricks, stucco, adobish-stuff, wooden beams and metal rods in it. The stones facades are of much better quality and often from the Haussmann period (roughly 1850 to 1895, both “Real” Haussmann and the post-Haussmann building on the momentum), while the stucco/crap are from all periods, from the 1700s even up to the 1920s. These do deteriorate faster than the better built ones as the owners are less affluent and the structures were not made to last 200 years. This is the kind of building that can be torn down under very special circumstances. The city has to call it a ruin, then take over the management, do some temporary work to prevent the building from collapsing and ultimately declare the place uninhabitable. In the mean time, they hire their “own” carpenters for outside structural reinforcement (Les Charpentiers de Paris usually) that are 2-3X pricier than market rate and bill the landlords who will not pay anyways because they all know where this is going. They even charge a “rent” for the wood that they use! This ends up when everybody is dry in a repossession, tear down then rebuilding at similar heights (except in 18th, 19th, 20th districts where they love the East German style and build much higher) with a big chunk of social housing. When the city has more than a few buildings in the street, they can unilaterally decide a wider reconstruction with eminent domains and change in the sidewalks, traffic pattern, even street design.
    All landlords in Paris are sh!t-scared of this and will do whatever it takes to prevent this from happening, because this basically wipes you clean with no recourse. If you stayed current on HOAs and outside fees (and accepted the special assessments to compensate for the defaulting HOA members, sucker!) you can get a fraction of your loss back. But I haven’t seen it very often. This is city-driven. A building almost next to one I owned 2 places got torn down and rebuilt in the mid-90s. Some of the old landlords moved back after 4 years, the rest was put for sale but couldn’t sell. It went back to the city that then decided to use the remaining of the condos as lodging for policemen.
    An individual cannot very easily do all of this. You need to stay clean with the city and have good reasons for rebuilding, like declare your building them as “in peril” then do all the paperwork with a lot of hurdles and fees. Of course, if you have tenants you have to compensate/relocate them at your own expense. This will take 5Y+. A major problem like a subterranean river or a fire can help things go more smoothly. Not easy from what I have heard and I have never seen it done personally by a private entity. Tear down/rebuilds in Paris are mostly a city-driven game.

  32. Recent look at any non-central Paris development would lead you to see an ungodly amount of 15 story concrete tenements on the outskirts of Paris (build by the socialist leaning government in the past 30 years). They are nasty to look at or live in.
    yes they are. but they prove my point not yours. Many of those tenements were built by “free marketeers” and were only allowed due to RELAXED govt control of what could be built. There is intense argument among Parisians about whether or not they should continue allowing the highrises in the city of Paris.
    So the nasty “East German” architecture in Paris is a result of the RELAXATION of building ordinance control (or relaxed govt) not increased planning.
    (much like allowing SoMa towers vs forcing everybody into Victorian architecture)
    on a side note: if you notice most of those highrises are in the poor neighborhoods… so they really are “tenements”. difficult question to answer: how do you get housing more affordable when there really is no more land on which to build??? (Paris is 4-5x more dense than San Francisco). the solution was to build UP. by definition it was poorer housing. Many French are rethinking that strategy.
    The tenements/tall buildings are even worse OUTSIDE the city limits, or in the other French Cities, where building codes aren’t as strict.
    there are some “nice” highrises, but more of the highrises are not nice.
    I disagree SOMEWHAT from what Fronzi states. I too have lived for some time in Paris. And I agree that there is not much “new” built. however, there is a fair amount of redevelopment. But there are strict rules to the development. Typically, they leave the facade up and knock down the rest of the building… then rebuild behind the facade. It is done not unfrequently.
    The building codes ARE onerus and difficult. However, they are uniformly practiced WITHIN each arrondissement. (the neighborhoods are slightly more defined and “powerful” in Paris compared to SF). You either build to code and keep in code, Or you don’t. c’est la vie.
    Clearly “keep in code” is not as stringent in the poorer arrondissements compared to the richer ones. But even then it’s fairly consistent.
    whether or not the city govt charges 2-3x the ‘market rate’ for cost to rebuild rundown decrepit buildings is immaterial. also remember SFronzi’s position: landowner in a strictly controlled city. it explains some of his ire.
    An example of rebuilding is the Marais. It is currently the hottest Paris neighborhood. There is a TON of rebuilding there. But it’s not knock-down rebuilds. Instead it’s either complete interior renovation, or leaving the facade up and knocking down everything behind (which is allowed, but is very expensive so not done very often).
    In the Marais you will NEVER NEVER see someone tear down a Haussman building and put up a modern building. Even if they’re the love child of the Mayor (who is gay) and Audrey Tatou, and a direct descendent of Charles de Gaulle and Charlemagne. It ain’t gonna happen.
    If something fugly goes up, it will be because the government itself does it. (like Centre Pompidou or the Eiffel Tower… now beloved by most).
    There are intermittent surges to allow “growth” and “change” and “modernization” but they typically fail horribly leaving a bad taste in Parisians mouths, so it’s short lived. This growth/change/modernization movement is sometimes govt sponsored (to increase density) and sometimes private (people want to pack in skyrises for personal gain).
    But then you see Montparnasse and the East German Tenements that are here and there and the growth/change mantra dies a little death.

  33. I’m sorry for turning a discussion about how the planning commission oversteps their authority into an elitist conversation escalating into a contest of who knows more obscure facts about buildings and development policy in a city that 99% of San Francisco residents have never been to.
    SF is not Paris, or any other Euro city… Fee Simple ownership should mean just that.

  34. ex_SFer,
    There are not many rebuilding projects in Paris. I agree about the keep-the-shell knock-down projects that all started in the 90s (my previous job’s headquarters went that way close to the Opera). They are mostly businesses though (older buildings are a logistical nightmare for IT and work flow). When it’s an apartment building it’s only for very high value.
    An upcoming large scale brand new building venture that comes to mind is very close to my pied-a-terre: Terrains Cardinet which used to be an old railroad yard. It’s city-driven using private developers. These multiple-acres redevelopments are rare. This is the last plot of land where anything large scale can be done in Paris. Housing for 20,000 but no credible provision for extra public transportation…
    SFronzi’s position: landowner in a strictly controlled city. it explains some of his ire.
    No real ire apart from the typical local frown;) I stayed clear from buildings that could be taken over by the city, though they were very cheap at the time. Also my pricepoint was so low that whatever constraint (mainly rent control) didn’t matter for ROI which was my goal. Rent covered 5Y mortgage, property taxes were

  35. personally I enjoyed the Paris discussion. I like seeing the planning/development perspectives of other vibrant, high density cities. Some of the dynamics between gov, residents and developers are global in nature, and speak to the general future of key cities in the USA and elsewhere. Some of Richard Florida’s writings also speak to these global trends, and I think they’re interesting.

  36. This is just another round in a long-running Debra Walker vs. the Cassidys war (cue the Photoshop rendering of Walker dangling by the hair from Cassidy’s demoltion excavator parked up there on Lombard).
    Another good reason to keep any sort of activist of any persuasion off city commissions.

  37. Don’t you anti-preservationists get it? The developer of this place is a dishonest player who is gaming the system by letting an acknowledged historic resource fall into disrepair. He should be arrested, jailed and fined and set up as an example to other bad actors who would rob our architectural and cultural heritage.

  38. There is essentially no such thing as historic preservation in San Francisco. What the so called “preservationists” in SF are practicing is antiquarianism – the collection of old things for the sake of collecting old things. The fighting to save old “stuff” for its own sake in fact damages the chances for a dynamic and rich historic preservation movement because sensible people are turned off by this kind of nonsense. And the other problem is that “historic preservation” is the major new tool of the NIMBYs. Anything 50 years or older can be declared precious by someone and change is stopped. I can’t wait for the Society to Save the Aluminum Curtain Wall is formed.

  39. Wake Up – explain how someone should be put in jail for owning property… why not just drag them off to the Gulag.
    You may want to save the commie stuff for the Daily Kos.

  40. Funny to see that some places targeted by preservation movements were “built to last until the next fire”. Another fun fact is that if we keep renovating these ruins for a few more 100s of years, all the original wood will eventually have been replaced. We will have maintained what is basically an “historically significant replica” at great expense.
    How about housing families instead?

  41. Regardless of the merits of whether the city should preserve cottages, or make owners do so……
    We are overlooking the VERY OBVIOUS. The Molinari family was denied a permiit to tear the property down. Regardless J Nunemacher bought the cottage. James Nunemacher builds multi unit buildings. He did not buy this tiny cottage to fix it up. He bought a similarly old cottage on Hancock Street and built a multi unit nightmare that towers over all the historic homes on the block. Those doors and windows were removed to make certain an emergency demolition permit would be issued.
    How much do you want to make a bet that all the “tear down the cottage” postings and “Walker is a communist” postings on this page are coming from Vanguard offices.

  42. If it is so valuable as a piece of history, then why doesn’t the city simply pay to disassemble the historic structure and reassemble it in a city-owned museum or park?
    Answer: Because it really is only just an old crap cottage.

  43. There is a home nearby on Broadway that was added to by Willis Polk that is 10 years older, I can see saving THAT structure, but not this SHACK. What about the Phelps house on Oak Street built in 1853 in New Orleans, and shipped around the horn all the way to this city, now that is historic. There are structures worth saving and we already have, this shanty does not make the preservation cut in my opinion.

  44. I agree with Morgan that this shack has no historical value and should be demolished but I also agree with JJ that James Nunemacher’s actions questionable. Gaming the system because you don’t like the rules is wrong. Is this typical of how Vanguard operates?

  45. Anna, the key word is “rules”, not laws and gaming them is the only way to get things done in this town.
    Now if we could get Debra Walker to move back to whatever midwest town spawned her and her medicore art, all property owners would be better off.

  46. Hi, My name is Geoff for over 40 years my Father lived at 1268 Lombard st. From time to time my Sister and I also lived there. Ms. Marwadell lived downstairs at 1270, same building. Ms. Marwadell took great care maintaining the front garden and everybody passing by fell in love with both the house and garden. The House was truely Old San Francisco the way it really was. Oh, and my Father Died in that House Too. So my family has a lot of very fond memories about 1268 Lombard st. What a shame San Francisco!

    1. Mr. Hoyt,

      I work for the Des Moines Public Schools and we have a trust fund in your father’s name that was set up back in 1957. The fund was set up that when we earned $300 in income, a scholarship would be made available, currently we are not receiving $300 per year in income. We are asking if we could use the principal and interest to create a $500 yearly scholarship until the funds have been paid out. We would set up a committee to make the selection for the annual scholarship. The scholarship would be awarded to the recipient’s college of choice in the receipt’s name.

      Thank you for your consideration,

      Helene Rosauer
      Des Moines Public Schools

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *