While the long vacant lot on which a 76 Station once stood was tagged with a notice of blight a few months ago, a plugged-in tipster reports that construction has commenced on the first of two Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architect designed condominium buildings that are rising on the corner of Divisadero and Ellis Streets:

“The first building consists of 12 units and the second building of 21 units. Principal exterior materials will be similar to Saitowitz’s award winning Beth Shalom Temple at 15th and Clement. The first building is scheduled for completion summer 2012, the second in 2013.”

As the site looked in June:


And as we wrote in 2008 when anti-blight legislation was adopted: “No word on whether or not a construction site on hold might qualify as well.” Apparently the word is yes.

37 thoughts on “Saitowitz Rising On The Blighted Corner Of Divisadero And Ellis”
  1. Not sure what the inspiration for this design is — can’t tell whether I like or not. Initially doesn’t excite, feels somewhat heavy and institutional without the levity in his other works. I’m hoping garage is on Ellis side, and that Divisadero has at least one retail function.

  2. Dreary Beth Shalom may have critical acclaim, but so did the hideous and barely functional Federal Building on Seventh Street. I can’t wait to see the funereal structure that rises near housing projects.

  3. More infill on Divisadero is a great thing.
    Pleased this is moving along, be very nice to get rid of the other ‘gas station ‘ on Divis and Golden Gate

  4. Unfortunately from the rendering it does not appear that there is any retail included. It would be nice to get a few more retail spaces on that section of Divis.

  5. “Pleased this is moving along, be very nice to get rid of the other ‘gas station ‘ on Divis”
    Can’t agree more, & add the three massive stations Divis/Fell & Divis Oak to the list. Not only visual blight, but a pedestrian nightmare in an increasingly bicycling- and pedestrian friendly corridor (still rising, but look around).
    As electric and peer-to-peer car sharing continues to take hold, this passing-through, fill station land use might be old-world relics in a few years. At least on this stretch which is working hard to improve its quality of life.

  6. I know what you mean, i get sick of all the stupid square windows I see in this city. Where’s the imagination and historical awareness?

  7. This looks like a real improvement. Completely residential buildings seem to have fewer conflicts, and with retail in such flux developers have good reason to be cautious about the potential uses they target.
    What bothers me is the massing. The way the top rests on the corners makes it look like the sides got taken in a bit for no particularly good reason. The result doesn’t work aesthetically. Like a kind of uncanny valley it is not minimal enough to claim International or Socialist styling, but the articulation doesn’t work well enough to evoke either traditional or more recent kinds of compositions.
    It’s not super offensive. Hopefully the units end up being priced accordingly. A nice roof deck area could compensate.

  8. I like it; guess I’m drinking the saitowitz cool aid as I liked most buildings he designed in the city.

  9. “Coming soon! Million dollar condos with views of projects and ghettos across the street.”
    Noticed they were doing construction there a few days ago. Finally some movement on this lot. Now time to get other idle projects going.

  10. this is awful…after all the grief that SF Planning gives to everyone, it is appalling that they allow this thing to get approved.
    No planting, no garden area, almost zero interest at sidewalk level…disgraceful design. It is a totally self-centered project that doesn’t relate to the neighborhood — unfortunately all too similar to the wretched, neighborhood-crushing design of the temple by the same artichoke at 15th and Clement. It may have been award winning to some, but ask the immediate neighbors what they think of the monstrosity that City Planning allowed to be dropped on their block.
    On the bright side, at least there is plenty of blank wall available at sidewalk level for graffitti!!

  11. Good points @ neighbor. I agree. That temple is a seriously hideous and unfriendly piece of crap.
    Unfortunately, Saitowitz mostly has the Planning Commission and Department wrapped in the palm of his little greedy hands.
    His work is extremely self-centered, egotistical, and devoid of humanity.

  12. Can you imagine all the griping on the UES when the Guggenheim was built? Not comparing Saitowitz, but whining neighbors are nothing new. Doesn’t mean they’re wrong, doesn’t mean they’re right. Noise in the system, I figure.

  13. It’s probably not that Saitowitz “hates” pedestrians, it’s that his vocabulary of design is totally focused on the object as art, the object as statement, and the object as his ego, without ANY regard for surrounding context, character, people, light, shade, etc.
    He is an ego-maniac architect.

  14. That is one ugly building; and I agree with previous posters about the lack of businesses on the ground level.
    This building will age as well as 1960’s British architecture.
    Very sterile and adverse to life.

  15. @EH – yes, you’re correct about the Guggenheim – it is the absolute pinnacle of an architect’s ego at work, and FLW’s revenge on the east coast art establishment that snubbed him for most of his career. Many people still chuckle about the fact that FLW’s building will forever overshadow any art that tries to show up against the sloped walls and floors.
    However, FLW being the master that he was, the Guggenheim does at least relate to the sidewalk and the pedestrian, and the entrance invites people in from the sidewalk.
    Yes, it was radical, and different, and cutting edge, and there was opposition. But it is brilliant as well.
    This think on Divisadero is just a dressed up box – plain and simple. Maybe the interiors will be fantastic — I don’t know — but the outside certainly doesn’t distinguish itself, and neither does the temple – especially facing Clement as pointed out above.

  16. Ugh. When will this hack retire?
    Infill is great, but my god, we should have some bare minimum standards for quality.

  17. I understand and agree with the socketsite editor’s implicit claim with this post that condominium buildings on this site are better than what was there previously — nothing. But still.
    Thirty years hence architecture critics are going to write books about what must have been a city-wide hallucinogenic drug-induced stupor that came over the people funding these projects because there is no way in hell that Saitowitz’ work is going to stand the test of time. People will stare in amazement at the dreck he managed to get other people to pay to build and wonder aloud “what the hell were they snorting?” that an ordinarily rational person thought this constituted an attractive building for real people to actually live in? The same reaction that a lot of Brutalist buildings evoke today.
    Modernqueen is completely correct; Saitowitz is an ego-maniac. That’s not uncommon in architecture but Saitowitz takes it to a whole new level.

  18. “Thirty years hence architecture critics are going to write books about what must have been a city-wide hallucinogenic drug-induced stupor that came over the people funding these projects because there is no way in hell that Saitowitz’ work is going to stand the test of time”
    Oh please. So you don’t like it. That’s fine. Say why you don’t like it, and move on. Predicting the sentiments of the humans who will inhabit this part of the world 30 years hence is quite a bit of a reach. Not to mention the “bad drugs” lazy writing thing that Tony Bourdain would do well to avoid. I happen to think it’s fine. Sleek and quite contrasting from the rundown Victorians that populate that area. The interiors are going to have abundant natural light too, so I feel as if he utilized the site well. And yes, it’s certainly much better than a hole in the ground

  19. Actually, some of us neighbors prefer the “hole in the ground” to the proposed design.
    And, as for the “rundown” victorians, for the most part they eventually get fixed up. Granted, sometimes it takes a while, especially in this part of town, but it does happen – slow and steady progress – whenever they change hands.

  20. “the humans that will inhabit this part of the world 30 years hence” — haha, as if it’s some sci-fi future world! In 30 years San Francisco will still be populated by many of the people who live here currently. It’s not hard to imagine that Saitowitz’s neo-brutalism will age about as well as its 1960s predecessors.

  21. Looks like an enormous 3-year-old stacked up a bunch of giant cinder blocks and made two rudimentary cubes. Pretty good (for a giant 3-year-old).
    Will also make a good prison if the “30 years in the future” people run out of space to lock up more prisoners.

  22. Saying a building is “fine” is hardly architectural commentary. It’s about as lazy a way of critiquing a building as one can get.
    If you really take time to look at previous work by Saitowitz, you will see that it is devoid of detail, character and any sense of human scale necessary for good urban architecture. His work is not about designing a successful, urban infill project that both respects the context and also enlivens the surroundings in a positive way.
    His work is about HIM creating a piece of “art” that is sublime, cool, detached and only about him.
    It’s a shame, because there are so many other more talented and humanistic architects and firms in SF who would produce a superior building to this grey, steel, ice-cube of a box.

  23. That wasn’t the only thing I said. I called it sleek, contrasting, and a good use of the site as it will be filled with natural light. My writing is hardly lazy there. But yours just was, seizing on one word and feeling like you needed to talk to me. You didn’t.

  24. And yes, “sleek, contrasting, and good use of the site..” says absolutely nothing about the positive qualities that a piece of architecture at this site could bring to the neighborhood.
    The site will be vastly under-utilized, evidence of the largely blank walls at pedestrian level. Abundant natural light at the interiors does little, if anything, to create great architecture at the exterior.
    From the rendering, this project certainly appears to be a dismal failure on many levels.

  25. “”sleek, contrasting, and good use of the site..” says absolutely nothing about the positive qualities that a piece of architecture at this site could bring to the neighborhood”
    Says you. I find stark juxtapositions can be rather uplifting, personally. And I made that point with the faded Victorians comment.

  26. I wonder how much is the developer, versus how much it is Saitowitz . I love much of Saitowitz’s built work … Yerba Buena lofts and the Howard Street Condos come to mind as brilliant. This is far from it … it is seemingly massive and awful. The massing is just HORRIBLE. It’s almost like they maxed out the site and took it to the planning department knowing the planners and community would ask for changes, and then somehow they got lucky or someone was bought and it was approved. Really poor work from an at times brilliant architect.

Leave a Reply

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