First St. John's United Methodist Church at Larkin and Clay (Image Source:
San Francisco’s Planning Commission first disapproved of the proposal to demolish the dilapidated church at 1601 Larkin Street and construct a new six-story building with 27 condos and 29 off-street parking spaces on the site back in 2010.
1601 Larkin Rendering as Proposed
The Commission cited several specific reasons for its disapproval at the time, including:

1. The project would result in an abrupt change in scale compared with existing buildings in the vicinity.
2. The massing of the project was not sculpted to appropriately transition to adjacent lower building or to reflect the underlying topography.
3. The design did not sufficiently break the apparent scale of the building into discrete elements to a degree that justified the requested bulk exceptions.
4. The project proposed a palette of finish materials that includes glass, concrete, and bays wrapped in metal screens that contrasted with the typical finishes found on other buildings in the area, which area generally characterized by warm materials such as wood, brick, or stucco.
5. The project would result in the demolition of an historic resource (the existing church).

Having kicked the proposed Stanley Saitowitz design to the curb, the project sponsors returned to the Planning Commission six months ago seeking approval for a much less modern design featuring “revised massing, architectural language, and finish materials.”
1601 Larkin Rendering
With the Planning Department flip-flopping on its previous recomendation for the project, the Planning Commission formally rejected the revised proposal in August, “reiterating many of [their] previous concerns with the mass and scale.”
Working with members of the public and Planning Department, the project sponsors have once again returned with a revised design. And while the revised-revised design is similar to the last proposal, there are a couple of key aspects which have changed:

The height of the proposed development has been reduced by one story to a maximum roof height of 55 feet with modified setbacks, including 3- and 4-story elements along the streetscape. New colors and materials have been added to the facade. And a ground-floor community room has been added as well.
Seeking input from the Commission prior to another formal rejection ruling, the revised-revised design for 1601 Larkin will be informally presented to the Commission this week with the project sponsors now plannig to pursue a formal approval early next year.
1601 Larkin: Planning’s Flip-Flop And Expected Disapproval Today [SocketSite]
1601 Larkin Street Design Sneak Peek Take Two (Or Three) [SocketSite]
Praying For/From One Big Penthouse Atop 1601 Larkin As Proposed [SocketSite]
1601 Larkin Street Design Sneak Peek Take Three (Or Four) [SocketSite]
Development Of 1601 Larkin Disapproved By Planning Commission [SocketSite]
1601 Larkin: Comments, Responses And Latest Renderings [SocketSite]

12 thoughts on “Sponsors Of The 1601 Larkin Street Development Try, Try Again”
  1. this is so galling. at a time when we’re suffering through an undeclared housing crisis, the goddamned planning commission is rejecting proposals because they bring too many units into the neighborhood?? it’s like a sick joke. i live on hyde street and i literally feel sick to my stomach that i didn’t go down to city hall to defend this project back when it was at the saitowitz iteration.

  2. So now we get an inferior building with a reduced height. It’s really getting hard to stay in this city. I almost can’t handle it sometimes, maybe Ill finally put in for that transfer to the NY office

  3. As congregations shrink more and more houses of worship fall into neglect. In this case, salvage the stuff worth saving and put up a mixed-use building 6+ stories. While you’re at it, demolish the Soviet-inspired 60s piece of crap across the street. As for parking, is there really a need for 29 spaces for 27 condos (original design)? Once again, defer to the auto instead of transit. However, given the crap transit in this city perhaps it makes sense.

  4. I walk from Hyde & Jackson down to Hyde & McAllister every day, and the most urine I smell along the route (through the t-loin) is when I walk by this “historic” church.

  5. Good call. Totally out of scale with the buildings around it. If you want density and height, upper Polk area is not the right neighborhood for it.

  6. I’ll be disappointed if this design gets rejected, but the previous iterations were just too tall and bulky for the locale.

  7. A clarification – the Planning Department did not flip flop on the earlier design. The Planning Department made a recommendation to the Planning Commission for approval with a draft motion for the Commission to consider. The Commission rejected the recommendation and directed the Planning Depart to prepare a motion for denial. Staff has to comply.
    [Editor’s Note: Thank you for the clarification. To be clear, the flip-flop to which we are referring is the Planning Department’s characterization of the project as “necessary and desirable” and “compatible with the surrounding neighborhood” in June, while in Augustit was characterized as “not desirable for or compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.”]

  8. Wow. I didn’t think it possible, but they have managed to make this nearly as ugly as the beast across the street. I can’t wait to see the next step in the evolution of this thing.
    I normally pooh-pooh folks that blame everything on the PC, but in this case it sure does look like their hand cranking up the “Suck” knob.

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