CFAH

226 Cabrillo 2010
Purchased for $735,000 in October 2006, the 723 square foot fixer cottage on the back of a 25×110 foot lot at 226 Cabrillo returned to the market in July 2008 listed for $799,000.
226 Cabrillo Street View (Image Source: MapJack.com)
After a year on the market, and a few price reductions and re-listings (as “new”) along the way, the property finally resold for $550,000 in July 2009. From the listing at the time:

Cottage/home w/ fireplace situated on super desirable lot in Inner Richmond…Best for Contractors/Developers…Do your research! Buyers strongly urged to reseach [sic] what can be built at planning dept.

As proposed, the cottage on the back of the lot will now be demolished and a more contemporary three-story, two-unit building will be built toward the front.
226 Cabrillo as Proposed
While the Planning Department supports the project, however, the Richmond Community Association and a neighbor oppose citing potential historical significance as an original earthquake shack; “inappropriate” scale, size, and design for the neighborhood; and a lack of consideration for the adjacent building’s access to light, air, and privacy.
A few excerpts from Planning Department staff in response:

[A] Historic Resource Evaluation for the proposed project determined that the building probably started as an earthquake shack; however, the building had lost integrity due to a series of additions and modifications.

The replacement building’s design, while contemporary, responds to its context in massing, fenestration pattern, entrance and level of detail. While the front façade material is a new material not found on the subject block face, it is of a high quality and has been used successfully in other buildings in the City.

New buildings should reflect the time they are constructed and not attempt to imitate past designs or styles. The proposed building is designed to be compatible, yet express a modern aesthetic.

Any loss of privacy, light or air is within what should be expected when living within a dense urban environment like San Francisco. Further, it is incumbent upon any owner to understand their development potential and that of the adjacent properties prior to purchasing a property, especially when it is located directly adjacent to a significantly underdeveloped property such as the subject property.

If only such thinking was consistently applied to projects throughout the city. And with respect to 226 Cabrillo, it’s now up to the Planning Commission to decide on Thursday.
Discretionary Review Analysis: 226 Cabrillo Street [sfplanning.org]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Though boilerplate-like, that was a nicely worded response from planning.
    I think it is a good idea to preserve the city’s history though the existing structure doesn’t seem relevant. It looks like something that was constructed on a budget around 1940ish.
    Is this what the future holds : every parcel redevelopment will be opposed with the standard grab bag of light, air, history, etc. ? It is beginning to look as if frivolous opposition is the standard. Might as well see if you can extract concessions from the developer ?

  2. Posted by sfrenegade

    “Any loss of privacy, light or air is within what should be expected when living within a dense urban environment like San Francisco”
    Hard to believe planning said that, but I’m glad to see them standing up to frivolous opposition, as Milkshake calls it. Now if they could only be consistent, as the editor said.
    I hope in the next big one all the earthquake shacks fall down first. Those things need to go. As I’ve said before, turn 4 of them into museums and peace out on the rest.

  3. Posted by shadrach

    The planner who penned that missive deserves a raise.

  4. Posted by rubber_chicken

    Go Planning!
    Like so many other cases throughout the city, the opposition here is abusing the DR process. The cost of such frivoulous obstruction can only be paid for by downgrading of the building’s construction or by depleting the sponsors’ retirements.
    Support meaningful DR reform when it comes back up!

  5. Posted by sparky-b

    I passed on this property somewhere in those price drops thinking the this would get DRs and thinking planning might agree about the historic nature of the earthquake shack. Glad to hear they are for the project.
    Meaningful DR reform is needed.

  6. Posted by Matt

    Back in the early 90’s I had friends that rented this old cottage. They set up a junky hot tub in the front yard and we had quite a few parties there.
    The shack was in horrible shape. Out of plumb everywhere, the insides had been chopped up except for the living room. I recall a back porch addition to add more plumbing and a cramped space for a washer and dryer.
    Everything under the floor was dry rotted and a mess. More than once my friends put a foot through.

  7. Posted by kthnxybe

    I am fine with them getting rid of the old shack, and for the neighbors to not get to live next to an empty lot anymore, but do they have to put in the same old giant, boxy modern? These things are like the “Richmond specials” of the 21st century.

  8. Posted by Gil

    I am fine with them getting rid of the old shack, and for the neighbors to not get to live next to an empty lot anymore, but do they have to put in the same old giant, boxy modern? These things are like the “Richmond specials” of the 21st century.
    ITA kthnxybe.
    The new version of Richmond special indeed.
    It looks jarring and out of place. Another soon to be over-priced box.
    It’s amazing how all this infill stuff looks so unsightly and so cokkie-cutter. As a rule, SF can’t do good or even half-way good architecture.

  9. Posted by empnor

    Thank you SocketSite for bringing these cases out in the open. People, particularly new buyers, need to see that our own processes make development more costly and less certain which reduces the amount of new housing we build. Less supply means sharply higher prices.
    Having negotiated many project approvals over 25 years of volunteering with neighborhood organizations, I can say it is an excruciating process for both sides and nobody is happy at the end. There must be a better way.

  10. Posted by noearch

    Once again, the armchair critics with little or no knowledge of design simply choose to use vague and undefined terms such as “richmond special” and “jarring” and “overpriced box”. how the hell do you know it will be “overpriced”. you don’t.
    This new building, is, in scale with the adjacent houses and appropriate for that lot and location, and it meets planning and building codes.
    the complaining nimbys here simply have identified themselves as not liking anything at any time. what else is new?

  11. Posted by EH

    It’s going to mostly be covered by those trees anyway.

  12. Posted by sparky-b

    noearch,
    They think it will be over priced because it’s going to be a 2-unit building with the following sunk costs:
    $550K buy
    $80K in permits and plans
    $800K build (a guess)
    $100K carry
    $130K agents, close, tax
    Minumum cost to break even is $830K each= overpriced

  13. Posted by noearch

    Fair enough.
    those numbers are reasonable.
    so how is it “overpriced”. compared to what?
    By some opinions, house prices in Noe Valley were “overpriced” when I bought here in 1986. So what?
    I still say the complainers here more and more sound like a broken record; nothing new to hear, nothing new to learn from them. I don’t operate that way.

  14. Posted by MCM

    The PC argument is it’s an old, ugly building. A valid point. However, saying that the design “responds to its context” can mean “fits in with surroundings” or “is slap in the face to neighbors with high end materials used in other parts of town where we gave permission for them to be used when they were completely inappropriate.”
    The design has some good elements, but it’s not a great design. It’s also very large and, once again takes away backyard open space. Privacy, light and air are the basic to civilization and modern human existence. To decry these concerns as “frivolous” is to belittle people while aggrandizing abstract notions of aesthetics.
    San Francisco is s city of neighborhoods. NIMBYs are only bad if you’re the developer who hates the idea that by building things that are out of scale you ruining the neighborhood feel you’re trying to sell. NIMBYs are bad if they don’t agree with what one person wants. But we live in a society, where restrictions on behavior are required for us to exist.

  15. Posted by sparky-b

    Nimbys are also bad when they make things up to fit their way of thinking.
    Have a look at Google maps MCM of where the current building sits on the property. The new once will match the next door neighbor. Privacy, openspace,light, air. Just the opposite of what you are saying will happen.
    Of of scale height? it matches the next house. They will both be lower than the other 2 places on the street.
    Nimby buzz words in action.

  16. Posted by Tweety

    Looks great! Glad to see some sense in SF Planning.

  17. Posted by noearch

    I think you have it wrong MCM:
    How do YOU define what is an “inappropriate” material? New materials evolve over time, from testing and actual use in the field. Metal panels and cement board siding are far more durable and eco-friendly than the use of redwood siding, as an example.
    What is a “great” design to you? What is “very large” to you? The size of a new project is clearly defined in a number of ways in both the Planning and Building code, based on lot dimensions, setbacks, and occupancy loads, for example. Nimbys think a project is “too large” when it’s larger than their own house, which may have been built 100 years ago.
    Nimbys have decided to redefine what “restrictions on behavior” means: To them it means anything, any building, any material, any size, color, shape or form that is DIFFERENT from theirs is simply NOT acceptable.
    Nimbys can rarely accept change. Great cities keep changing and evolving in order to stay viable.

  18. Posted by DCR

    Every owner has a right to develop their property to the limits of the planning code. That’s why we have a code. The building to the east has enjoyed great light and air access along the western elevation only because the subject lot hasn’t been developed….and I guess they got used to that. They are also enjoying a 2 story over garage structure that the adjacent property should also enjoy.
    You may not like the aesthetic, but as the planning department says, it doesn’t make sense to emulate a style from years ago. Older buildings were originally constructed in a certain way for a variety of constraints which may not be applicable any more. I say vary the aesthetic and keep San Francisco dynamic.

  19. Posted by steve

    “New buildings should reflect the time they are constructed and not attempt to imitate past designs or styles.”
    Will they really prohibit you from building a house with a Victorian/Edwardian reproduction facade? We have a tiny place and from time to time dreamed about tearing down and rebuilding with a classic front.

  20. Posted by noearch

    Excellent points DCR; completely agree with you.
    So many property owners and “nimbys” don’t realize that the current Planning and Building codes are what determines the physical size, shape, form and mass of a new project. It’s NOT based on what they already have.

  21. Posted by tNOB

    I came across this article the other day. Even Andres Duany, one of the modern advocates of public participation thinks it has become and out of control situation.
    http://www.architectmagazine.com/planning/control-the-masses-andres-duany.aspx

  22. Posted by kthnxybe

    Noearch, we simply have different tastes. I really do think this building looks ugly. I think the building on the back of Miss Tilly’s is going to be ugly. I think 152 7th Avenue is ugly. In a different vein, I think 1409 Sanchez is ugly, but you really liked it.
    I’m not saying “there should be a law” or “NIMBYs should control everything.” I am saying I wish we had some fresher ideas than what looks to me like a giant box with big windows going up, which is what these ones in the Richmond look like to me. And I think MCM is right in saying that most people would prefer that the lot next to theirs wasn’t completely filled up with a big obelisk of a building. Which isn’t the same saying anyone who bought on the block first should be able to dictate what all the other houses look like.
    I am not against development. I think the Alexandria, while not exactly groundbreaking design, is going to look okay and not overwhelm the surrounding area. I’m pretty excited about it, actually.

  23. Posted by noearch

    NO, I don’t think it’s that basic: not just about having “different tastes”. It’s about understanding fundamental design principles, materials and detailing.
    The extent of your design criticism seems to be an overwhelming use of the word “ugly”. Pretty limited expression, if you ask me. You and other nimbys seem to dislike a LOT of new architecture, simply because it doesn’t look like what is around you, or what you are “used” to.
    The neighbors who would prefer this lot to “not be filled up”, are the very essence of nimbyism: disliking change, disliking newness, not respecting another property owners’ right to build per the current code. Calling the new building an “obelisk” is simply mis-using the word, and inciting false emotion.
    There are lots of fresh ideas being designed and built. I would encourage neighbors to open their minds and eyes to new ways of seeing urban infill housing, become more educated about modernism, and other design theories…and…
    be more accepting of responsible growth and change.

  24. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    steve wrote:

    Will they really prohibit you from building a house with a Victorian/Edwardian reproduction facade? We have a tiny place and from time to time dreamed about tearing down and rebuilding with a classic front.

    I don’t work in planning, but I based on what I’ve read, if I had to answer, I’d have to answer: No.
    If you’re building or renovating a single family home with no units to rent out, and it meets the local requirements, despite what the planner says above about “New buildings should reflect the time they are constructed and not attempt to imitate past designs or styles” (that’s an unsupported æsthetics opinion, not an explanation of policy), I can’t imagine that they’d actually deny your request.
    My understanding is that you’re entitled to >ministerial approval in that case (I’m not an attorney, either).
    You wouldn’t have to look back through the archives on socketsite to find several projects that did exactly what you’re thinking about, and several architects, designers and builders in both the Bay Area in general and The City in particular specialize in that kind of work. If you haven’t done any reading about this, I heartily recommend Russell Versaci’s Creating a New Old House as an entry point, although with the caveat that it’s a coffee table book more than anything.
    Not everybody is as in love with modernism as Stanley Saitowitz and thank God for that.

  25. Posted by tNOB

    noearch,
    thank you for clarifying the two separate issues that are part of any project in the city.
    Meeting the zoning requirements is an objective issue, it complies or doesn’t. As long as you meet the requirements, neighbors have no right to object. So comments about its size are moot.
    The aesthetics are a subjective issue, and unfortunately linked to peoples’ emotions about place, and community. That where it all falls apart.
    I too am surprised at negative reactions to this building. It follows the SF model very well; projecting bay roughly centered over the aligned garage entrance, building entry to the side, and a gesture of a cornice. Really non-offensive. Some people do just hate change.

  26. Posted by g

    If these NIMBYs want to control the aesthetics of their neighbors’ homes, maybe they should move to a suburban subdivision and join the HOA there.

  27. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    This house just isn’t out of scale. Look at the block from Google maps, or look at the pictures in the planning docs. There are two huge apartment buildings on this block much bigger than this house.

  28. Posted by noearch

    Thanks tNOB for that vote of support. Despite being seen as a very progressive, open, tolerant city with regard to social issues, many residents here maintain a very “provincial” attitude toward design, urban growth and another property owners’ right to build what they want (within codes of course).
    A lot of people do not like change to their neighborhood.
    As for the question about building a “reproduction” Victorian or Edwardian facade, I think the Planning Dept. would not wholly object to it. But the requirements would be strict in terms of correct and authentic details, and proper proportions and dimensions. Too many cheaply built “richmond type” specials are thrown up with a small amount of trim, cornice and bracketing PRETENDING to be Victorian. That approach is not correct, and simply looks cheap.

  29. Posted by Derek

    We’re direct neighbors to the proposed structure, and it’s funny how mention of the neighborhood commission and “neighbor” opposing the construction makes it sound like we’re the ones opposing it. Couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve been waiting with baited breath for someone, ANYONE, to demolish that unsightly shack and put up something new. From Day One, I’ve been in communication with the architect about their plans, and have written supportive letters and emails to and for them. They were kind enough to show us the building plans early on, and we’re excited to see it go up. I’ll be attending the hearing today at City Hall, so there’s no doubt “the adjacent neighbors” are on their side.
    So many SF neighborhoods have mixtures of old and new architecture – that’s what I love about this City.

  30. Posted by kthnxybe

    I don’t like cheap looking buildings with bay window tacked on them either! We agree on that.

  31. Posted by noearch

    Define “cheap looking” or stop hiding behind your undefined words.
    Define “bay window tacked on”. they are not tacked on. Any bay window must be supported structurally by cantilever floor framing of wood, steel or concrete.

  32. Posted by SocketSite

    UPDATE: According to a plugged-in reader the Planning Commission voted 5-1 in favor of demolishing the existing cottage at 226 Cabrillo and approving the new building.
    See: There’s Adjacent And Then There’s Adjacent At Planning Today.

  33. Posted by kthnxybe

    Noearch, I was *agreeing* with your statement, “too many cheaply built “richmond type” specials are thrown up with a small amount of trim, cornice and bracketing PRETENDING to be Victorian. That approach is not correct, and simply looks cheap.”
    Don’t be so defensive. I don’t hate modernism per se, I am not frightened by something that has been around a hundred years, I just don’t particularly like the house in the picture above. I don’t think it’s pretty.
    I don’t like Brussels sprouts either, but your mileage may vary. People like different things! (The difference here of course being that if your neighbor eats Brussels sprouts, you usually don’t have to taste them.)

  34. Posted by sparky-b

    Perhaps you are not cooking your brussel sprouts with bacon and garlic.

  35. Posted by noearch

    Brussel sprouts are not houses. Let’s be clear on that.
    If we had to define all new houses as being “pretty” we’d all be living in a Thomas Kincaid painting complete with swagged drapes and french provincial toilet seat cozy’s.
    Of course people like different things. But when it comes to infill urban housing, we still must rely (largely) on experienced design professionals and Planning Departments to create appropriate and meaningful architecture, built “of its’ time and place”.
    Besides, being “defensive” is part of my job. I’m defending good, modern design and I’m defending intelligent discussions.
    Per sparky-b, I love brussel sprouts with garlic and bacon.:)

  36. Posted by lol

    Brussel sprouts are great with bacon and home fries. Salt, pepper, that’s it. Garlic optional.

  37. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Its Thomas Kinkade. How dare you denigrate one of Northern California’s finest contemporary artists.
    As for brussels sprouts, I used to hate them until I moved to California. Probably because the only brussels sprouts available back east were frozen.
    sparky-b, lol : when’s dinner? I’m getting hungry from your recipes.

  38. Posted by noearch

    my humblest apologies. That’s my mistake for the month.:)
    But I’m sure you get my drift.:)

  39. Posted by [anon.ed]

    Have you ever had Brussels sprouts for dinner, in Brussels? I have. Surprisingly they’re not called “sprouts.” They’re still called “Brussels sprouts”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brussels_sprout

  40. Posted by lol

    I have done the usual Mussel + fries in Brussels.
    In French they are called “Brussel cabagge”. In Flemish they are called “Cabbage sprout”. I guess the English version is a mix of the 2.

  41. Posted by [anon.ed]

    In Wallon French they are “sprouts du Bruxelles” or “des choux de Bruxelles”

  42. Posted by lol

    sprout means “shoot”
    chou means “cabbage”
    Brussels cabbage it is

  43. Posted by Leila

    I know that everyone on this website seems to want this “eyesore” to disappear, and some people seem overly nitpicky about word choice, but there is something inside me that loves this old tacky shack and it’s overgrown yard. To me it is beautiful. It probably needs to come down because it seems to be falling apart but it has character to me and it does have historical value however questionable its historic integrity is. I can definitely appreciate some modern design but some of it can feel rather bland and I don’t feel as if I will ever have any emotional connection to the new building. To me buildings that make up the neighborhood affect the community and help us either feel connected to the place we live or alienated by it and may thus make us uncaring and sometimes even depressed by our environment. I think the idea that property owners can do whatever the planning commission allows because it is legal to do so, is in some ways dehumanizing to the other people who must share the same space. I hope this makes sense to someone and I apologize for the length of the post as I feel it is a bit long!

  44. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    earlier, responding to steve, I wrote:

    You wouldn’t have to look back through the archives on socketsite to find several projects that did exactly what you’re thinking about…

    Just to correct the record, I intended to write that as “You wouldn’t have to look back through the archives on socketsite too far to find several projects that did exactly what you’re thinking about”.
    One example would be this newly-built victorian in noe:3664 22nd Street. Hope that helps.

  45. Posted by sparky-b

    Leila,
    “It probably needs to come down because it seems to be falling apart but it has character to me and it does have historical value however questionable its historic integrity is.”
    But that’s the thing, you can’t tear it down and put it back. It way to far back on the property to meet code. It is falling down, it needs to be rebuilt. The rebuild needs to be up in the front to meet the rear yard requirement.
    Could it be one story without a garage? Sure it could. But nobody would build it. So it’s either the size and scale of this place (1 or 2 units) or a place the falls over. The look of the new build is the only variable.

  46. Posted by sfrenegade

    The other problem with Leila’s comment is that it’s everything that’s wrong with NIMBYs in this city. Too many NIMBYs that would rather have broken rundown housing rather than improving the city. It’s unbelievable that this building makes her feel more connected to her community; rather she doesn’t want someone else to become a part of her community. I’m not a big fan of the re-design either, but it’s a whole lot better than what’s there now, and change is good.

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