As proposed, the little two-story building with two small dwelling units and a bit of commercial space on the northwest corner of Clement Street and 26th Avenue will be razed, the parcel will be divided, and two four-story buildings will rise on the site.


The proposed buildings include a 45-foot-tall building fronting Clement Street with three dwelling units and four parking spaces over a ground floor commercial space and a 40-foot building fronting 26th Avenue with another three dwelling units and parking spaces.


While San Francisco’s Planning Department recommends the development be approved as proposed, a neighbor vehemently disagrees and demands the application for “such a monstrous design constructed for nothing more than profit” be aborted.

From the “beyond appalled” neighbor to the planner overseeing the project:

“I am writing in regards to the above cited address and application. I am beyond appalled that this Building Department would even consider entertaining such a monstrous design constructed for nothing more than profit without consideration for the pre-existing dwellings and families surrounding it. The individual who has submitted this permit has one goal in mind – to reap the greatest amount of personal benefit from this lot without regard for those who have resided next to it for decades.

As the immediate neighbor at 2510 Clement Street, a Four Story Building on my Eastern side would literally knock my lights out. With three stories towering above my one story home – I would NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY. It would not only take away my natural light and place an end to my gardening but cut off my air flow. The size and structure of the building would also tower and overshadow 2512, 2514 as well as 2518 Clement Street which are all TWO story buildings, as is the neighboring building on 26th Avenue. These buildings are homes of long time residents of San Francisco, some with children and others are senior citizens. We deserve respect and consideration.

From the start, Ms. Mary Tom, has vehemently refused to work with the adjacent property owners in designing a building that would be financially beneficial to her as well as respectful to those of us around her. She has gone so far as to up the initial plans for two three story buildings and added an additional fourth story to her permit. There are no words to describe my disgust at this vulgar lack of consideration.. I demand this permit be aborted.

I will be looking forward to hearing from you.”

San Francisco’s Planning Commission is slated to review the application tomorrow afternoon.

UPDATE: Another perspective on the project site which might shine some light on the situation and help explain the neighbor’s ire:


81 thoughts on “Plans For Four Stories In The Avenues And A Neighbor Is Appalled”
  1. I look forward to the citywide vote on this project. Cause you know, all projects should now be voted on by everyone.

  2. It looks like they aren’t counting the business below them as a story, the same with not counting the garage on the bottom of the building on 26th Avenue as one, yet of course they are counting the new buildings as being four stories, with retail and garages on the bottom floor.

  3. “constructed for nothing more than profit ”
    I think the Empire State Building and the TransAmerica Pyramid were constructed for the same reason.

  4. Look at that unique and inspiring architecture! Looks a lot like the 70s/80s dreck next to it (on the 26th Ave side).
    Ahh, the Mission Bay copy-paste design continues to permeate every corner of the city.

  5. Does the Robert B. Mellard of ‘Robert B. Mellard Real Estate’ still exist? Based on the age of his sign, I bet old Bob has got some stories to tell.
    If I am not mistaken on identity, the apellant is a quite a vocal citizen and has also lobbied proactively for a stop sign to be installed near this intersection. Champion of the online petition.
    Proposed looks like street retail, varied surfaces, some bayish windows. Bingo planning points. Can they fit enough garage spaces in there? Other than parking, looks like they are right down the middle with the design. No better place than a corner to put the 40 in 40X.
    Everyone has to give a little to solve a housing shortage.

  6. I live in the Outer Richmond and do not see anything wrong with the project that is only slightly taller then its neighbor.
    This will bring a few more units of housing that are so needed into the Outer Richmond

  7. There is a tiny house sitting in the backyard of 2510 Clement. It can only be seen from the street view from 26th ave. I always wondered if it’s a separate property and how do people even get out of there.
    Anyway, the design could be better, but I hope this will get built.

  8. I can’t find any indication that there is a 2510 Clement building address; the Café is 2512 and the corner bldg. is on 26th. Could this complaint be just a hoax?

  9. Whereas the complainant’s house was built out of loving (and entirely nonprofit) compassion and a scrupulous deference to pre-existing conditions.

  10. Reminds me of the crap that I watched getting built on Judah/10th Ave back in 2002. Poor construction material choices for that area. The wood siding and window trim began to rot within a couple years.

  11. Build it, please. Quickly. It’s banal, but completely appropriate.
    Ms. Beyond Appalled can get skylights– she doesn’t live in a 1-story home as stated in her complaint. She’s on the second floor of a 2-story building. Makes on wonder what else she’s mis-stating.
    [Editor’s Note: Not exactly, see update and added photo above.]

  12. UPDATE: Another perspective on the project site which might shine some additional light, so to speak, on the situation and help explain the neighbor’s ire has been added above.

  13. You gotta hand it to “beyond appalled”, at least she knows how to play the light and air game properly.
    I too would be miffed by such a huge change next door. But a four story building is appropriate for this corner.
    Prediction: developer backs down to three stories which is where she expected to end up anyways.

  14. I agree with the old coot. No way this should be allowed. It will create a 4-story wall right at the edge of her property, which was there first and is a little 1-story house. No way that should be permitted. If the developer wants to build this, he/she can buy out the old coot.

  15. Presumably “Beyond Appalled” doesn’t own the concrete yard abutting 26th, so even a 2-story SFH on that parcel would cut off her light and “airflow”. Frankly I’m not 100% sure that 4 stories is right for this location; Clement isn’t a major arterial and most of the buildings around there are 2 and 3 stories. But that said, the proposal is hardly radical or noxious.

  16. Dear Beyond Appalled
    So – Profit is a four letter word in your world….
    I sure hope you work for a non profit….
    As for the design and the building
    whatever -looks completely acceptable.

  17. Using “Beyond Appalled’s” language:
    “There are no words to describe my disgust at this vulgar lack of consideration.”
    In reference to the petition to the planning department, of course.
    This should be taller. No reason that we should be underbuilding so badly on a street like Clement, sandwiched between two gigantic transportation arteries (Geary and California).

  18. The home of the complainant looks like it could be a pair of old Earthquake Refugee Shacks joined together. It would not have been uncommon to see those remain at the back of a lot after a proper building was constructed at the front. Just idle speculation.

  19. The “light of day” in the Outer Richmond seems to be vastly overrated by this fogdwelling coot.

  20. Here is a solution. Make the approval contingent upon the developer unconditionally offering the complainer, say, $1.5 million for the little house. That way, the neighborhood gets to grow into reasonably-sized larger buildings, but the complainer does not have to bear all the costs while the developer reaps all the profit. The complainer is free to say “no” and stay in her little house. Or she can accept the buy-out and buy any one of a million alternative places.

  21. ^No reason to reward an extortionist just because. Are there legal reasons that a 40′ building can’t be built here?

  22. If so, wouldn’t you expect the Planning Derangement to have considered them before making their recommendation?

  23. I can’t help but feel sorry for the owner of 2510.
    The real solution for her is to sell out to another developer who will put a full-height building up against ‘Lot A’, thereby knocking out its view over her yard, and taking her $$s and buying a home whose lot configuration and zoning isn’t vulnerable to this kind of issue.
    If she wants to sock it to the developer, she might bail before the developer gets a chance to realize any extra profits from selling units overlooking what is now her garden…

  24. The developer is asking for a variance – rear yard and street frontage. You want the variance, you pay off the complainer, who has a valid interest in not having a 40-foot wall built (requiring a variance) next to her property.

  25. ^Thanks anon, that’s what I was wondering. I saw that the planning department “recommended approval”, but I wasn’t sure if a variance was needed.
    If that is the case, I still wouldn’t recommend “paying off the complainer”. I’d recommend redesigning to eliminate the need for a variance, and/or starting a ballot campaign to rezone the area to something more reasonable and appropriate for a spot between two major transit thoroughfares.

  26. But wait, I thought the free market ruled all. If there shouldn’t be height restrictions and minimum parking requirements in SoMa, why should there be setback requirements in the Richmond? If people want to live in buildings set back from the property line, won’t they just gravitate to such buildings – and people who don’t want setbacks can live here.

  27. ^Whoa, whoa, whoa! Of course there shouldn’t be height restrictions or minimum parking requirements here. What in the world made you think that anyone here supported those in the Richmond, but not in SOMA?

  28. Wait, doesn’t the city want to preserve existng affordable units? Why did they allow two small units to be razed? I thought this goes against their principle.

  29. In a city of over 800,000 with several more important construction projects either planned or under construction, why is this project even newsworthy? And why does it, like every other development in this city, have to set off a great debate?
    In short:
    (1) It’s entirely appropriate for the site. It’s on a major transit corridor and the area is zoned for buildings of that height. And, even the requested setback variance is not a real deviation from the character of the neighborhood.
    (2) There are similar scaled buildings nearby and throughout the neighborhood.
    (3) No, it’s not “great architecture,” but who cares? It looks perfectly fine. Als, this is a growing city that needs more housing–as long as it is safe, clean, and reasonably attractive, that is good enough. Not every building can or should be beautiful.
    Finally, I would not that I didn’t flip out when a tall tower went up right next door to my condo that blocked my view and limited my natural light (I figured, “Hey, that’s life”), and the homeowner should not get up-in-arms over a rather short building (40 feet is not even tall by small-town standards) planned next door to her.

  30. “I would not that I didn’t flip out when a tall tower went up right next door to my condo that blocked my view and limited my natural light (I figured, “Hey, that’s life”)”
    What a chump! I live in an SFR (2 story). If someone wanted to put a 40-foot building right next to my house that blocked all my light, I would object to planning, then appeal that, then tie up the project in court as many years as I could. No way I would just shrug and say “Hey, that’s life” to someone knocking several hundred thousand dollars off the value of my property! Am I a NIMBY? Not even. But a direct encroachment like that? No way would I let myself be screwed so effortlessly. The woman objecting to this construction is doing precisely as she should.

    1. Seeking to sic government on your neighbors just because you don’t like what they want to do with their property? I’d say you are a NIMBY.

      But you aren’t really to blame for taking advantage of what the law wrongheadedly allows — it’s the system that incentivizes people to be NIMBYs. It encourages residents who’ve already “got theirs” to essentially demand that any further changes in the neighborhood have only a positive effect on the value of their property. No one thinks about the people being screwed by not having a place to live, because it never got approved to be built.

      This perverse regulatory system is a big part of the reason that San Francisco housing is so expensive and people can’t afford to buy or many times even rent a home here. Planning laws that accommodate NIMBYism also create community disharmony. They pit neighbor against neighbor and waste huge amounts of time and money that are spent fighting over this stuff.

      Everyone would be better off in the long run if we simply respected property rights, period. You get to do what you want with your own property without any permits, zoning restrictions, development fees, or other regulatory hurdles, and so do your neighbors.

      Such an approach would give people an incentive to get along and act with consideration when making developments, or compensate neighbors directly for any loss of value, instead of this whole absurd government process. That way if a neighbor acted to put in a big multi-story residence next to your place without taking your interests into consideration at all, you could respond by selling to a developer intending to open a strip club. The ability of any owner to respond in kind would tend to balance things out and produce fair outcomes in most cases.

  31. Thanks for the update. The 1-story building looks like a pair of earthquake shacks– there must be dozens of them still standing in backyards around town.

  32. Interesting comments –
    I notice “Beyond Appalled” lives in a building with windows on the property line – in this case a property line that has no building butting up against hers
    “Buy her out….” WHy….?
    Litigate all you want…..it will just be throwing your money away. It’s clearly stated and the court precedents have been set to honor this for the last 100+ years…
    End of Message……..

  33. i would be annoyed if i were her too, but dont see any reason for this not to get built. If she wants a garden, she can sell this place for a pretty penny and build a nice garden in a nice yard with some sun in Marin. This building is ugly as hell, but it is progress and the richmond could certainly use more density

  34. Y’know, I lived in that building for a year and a half. After spending the previous five years at the corner of 25th & Valencia (and hearing gunshots on a regular basis the entire time) the quietude and calm were a potion for frazzled nerves. The ability to walk to China Beach, Baker Beach, and Land’s End, some of the most beautiful spots on the whole SF Peninsula were deeply attractive.
    I found the place by walking by and calling the number on the “For Rent” sign. The old way. The owner was the grandson of the guy whose name is on the sign. The place had been sitting empty for 15 years after he died. This previous-to-the-present-owner was a stand-up guy, who put in a huge amount of work on the place to bring it up to code and make it livable. When I saw the ‘Sold’ sign on the property recently my blood ran cold.
    I guess what I’m saying is, for all you recent transplants, rent-control haters, snarkmeisters and Randians, is that every home in SF has a story. Some of them are more interesting than others. I’m proud to know part of the story of this place, and have some understanding of how special this building was. How it was loved by a family as a home for two generations.
    Believe me, I gave thanks every day I lived there for the opportunity to love my home and enjoy having that much space. And a backyard. And a parking lot.
    San Francisco is a special place. This place has history, and that history is being devalued and trashed by people who don’t have much idea of the value of it.
    To that, I shrug and say “That’s too bad.” Not much I can do about it. Except perhaps call attention to one of the little stories of the city that, in this small way, can be told.

  35. ^Every place has a history. Every place also has a future. We’re trying to make that future better instead of simply living in the past.

  36. yeah, like, the history of these little apartment buildings (like the one proposed on this site) is going to be pretty uninteresting if the city becomes so expensive that its residents belong to a single social/employment class.
    encouraging the artificial land shortage is poor stewardship of the interesting history of the city. if anything, i’d say build this one taller as rentals rather than condos. also – why so few units? 6 units?? that site could support like 12.
    also, per the nimby’s specific objections – how can she expect the board of supervisors to side with her need for a garden and lotline lighting over 6 potential dwelling units built pretty much within the current zoning envelope? i can see why she’d try and jam up the process as long as possible but to expect to win is irrational.

  37. I am a day late to this conversation but so be it.
    Question: Who of any of us would want to live next to this and Who of any of us would want to live in this?
    Please be honest in your answer.
    Thank you historybuffer for your lovely little story. I enjoyed it.

  38. noe mom, if I were fine with living in the Outer Richmond in the first place then in this or next to it would be just fine. It may not be exciting but it certainly has better curb appeal than 90% of that neighborhood.

  39. Agree with fd of the n. If I chose to live in the Outer Richmond, I’d rather live in a new, well insulated, modern building then the old substandard units all over the neighborhood. Leaky uninsulated windows, lack of electric outlets, no central heat, cracking plaster, no sound insulation, sub standard plumbing with questionable availability of hot water….
    But more to the point (and much like the rest of San Francisco), the Outer Richmond is hardly a hot bed of outstanding residential architectural design. The proposed buildings will fit in just fine.

  40. Count me in as someone who would DEFINITELY live in this building – it’s one of my fav parts of the Outer Richmond! Plenty of stuff to walk to, and brand new construction would be sweet compared to the substandard crap that passes for housing out there.

  41. This building fits in fine within this neighborhood and I would be happy to have it in my immediate vicinity. In fact, I would prefer it to the residential/commercial/parking lot current status.
    Also, in spite of the Socketsite consensus that bay windows are tacky, I think they are helpful in what is a rather gloomy part of the city for 6 months of the year.
    Finally, is it really so difficult to understand that the addition of 6 new dwelling units (likely occupied by more than one person) is more important that one person’s light and air in a dwelling that would generally be forbidden under current planning rules?

  42. I expect that will see more development in this part of town and more gentrification in and around this section of Clement Street heading back to 19th Ave. I’m not really sure where the demarcation point is between inner middle and outer Richmond but this is close to transit and about 15 to 20 minute commute to the financial district and soma. If I were the developer I would try to buy out this owner and expand the project to make it even bigger. But it doesn’t seem like that is even necessary as planning seems poised to approve this one. So long as it is built with a standard level of high-quality I would expect that these units would absolutely fly off the shelf. It really isn’t that far from Seacliff and while I don’t think this building would get a view they are very well located in the grand scheme of SF.
    I do feel for the surrounding residents as it always hurts when your surroundings change. But when you’re on a corridor such as clement it’s to be expected unfortunately

  43. Not sure what it is in real estate terms but in most residents’ minds the demarcation between Outer and Inner Richmond would be Park Presidio Blvd.

  44. I’ve always kind of thought of the Inner Richmond ending at Park Presidio and the Outer Richmond starting at 33rd, with just “The Richmond” in between. It feels weird to call Geary and 17th the “Outer Richmond”, since the built environment is still very dense and urban. Not until after 33rd do you start to see some larger setbacks, etc.

  45. A realtor would call it Central Richmond rather than Outer Richmond, just as a realtor would call where I lived Lake Street rather than Inner Richmond. Granted I did live ON Lake St. but I never thought of it as being its own neighborhood separate from Inner Richmond. Maybe the rich people across the street did. My friend has a business on Geary and 23rd. I’ll ask her what neighborhood she thinks that’s in. I bet she’ll say Outer Richmond.
    Apparently I also used to live in Hayes Valley (although to me and everybody else it’s Lower Haight) and Nob Hill (which to me was Russian Hill but I guess I was on the wrong side of Broadway). Those are just marketing terms for realtors. Have you looked at how fragmented everything between Buena Vista and Lake Merced is? Who the hell knows where “Westwood Highlands” ends and “Sherwood Forest” begins? Aside from Robin Hood.

  46. Really, the Richmond is one of those neighborhoods that actually needs some of the realtor-speak to take hold. The neighborhood is too huge to refer to it as a single entity. It just seems very, very wrong to say that someone at 17th and Lake lives in the same neighborhood as someone at 45th and Fulton. Those areas couldn’t be more different.

  47. District vs. neighborhood. Every address in the city needs to have some district designation for real estate marketing purposes, zoning purposes, election purposes, etc. That goes without saying. But how people define a “neighborhood” is often different and often connected to the nearest business district or landmark. This would be Little Russia to many locals, at least that stretch of Geary which is only a block away. And I bet you that someone who lives just a block to the north, at California and 26th, would claim to live in Sea Cliff. But this is a real estate discussion so let’s stick to the MLS definition which is Central Richmond.

  48. my definition.
    Inner richmond is arguello to 8th
    middle is 8th to 25th
    outer is after 25
    The inner richmond north of geary to the presidio is very very nice and is now proceed north of $800/sq ft

  49. I was just watching online, and this got continued for some weird reason? They didn’t want to even talk about it. And who’s Julie Lee?

  50. goniners:
    If what you say is true it’s very fishy. I was watching online last night and saw them call it off before anyone could even speak, very suspicious knowing that this is related to someone known to be tied to corruption and fraud…
    Honestly the existing building is an eyesore, are these people hiding something???

  51. Ellabella and I live (semi) diagonally across. The new building would be VERY welcome compared to what exists there now.

  52. Just watched the Board of Appeals meeting and basically what a waste of everyone’s time. If a District Supervisor makes a call to planning regarding the continuance, they should send a rep to explain.

  53. @goniners- wow…so this “appalled” neighbor is willing to shove out blind elderly people for her own profit, but when people want to restore a neighborhood and add more housing next to her suddenly everything gets held up? VERY suspicious and VERY FISHY!! I personally think the building would go VERY WELL.

  54. To whoever posted Julie Lee’s criminal history and her association with this complaint – you’ve hit it right on the head.
    The ONLY reason this complaint is being filed is because the developer has refused to pay graft requested by Ms. Lee under the table to show her the “respect and consideration” for not standing in the way of letting this building getting built. Given her criminal history, Ms. Lee appears to be under the delusion that she has the power and ability to put her hands in anyone’s pockets to share a slice of the pie; rather, the facts of the matter are that she is doing nothing but using buffers and middlemen to run a protection racket that Vito Corleone would be proud of. The developer should be proud to stand up to Ms. Lee’s brand of thuggery.
    Is the proposed building compliant with local codes and regulations? If so, let it built and send Julie Lee a message that she no longer runs this town.

  55. to res: right on, why did Eric Mar step in? Something smells really bad here.
    We’re in the worst housing crisis in SF history, shouldn’t it be the supervisor’s job to encourage building more housing?

  56. Word on the street is that Julie Lee asked “compensation” from the developer, who is meeting with Supervisor Eric Mar today.
    If Julie Lee can get away with this, then what’s stopping ANYONE from halting new housing construction in San Francisco over a flimsy excuse, seeking an under-the-table “gift”?

  57. If this project doesn’t go through, what does the opposition, Eric Mar, Planning dept suggest for this site? It doesn’t make sense to make anything lower density than proposed. Housing is already a shortage in San Francisco. These units seem like the standard 3 bedroom types that families can live in. If it is built with only 2 residential over commercial, it would be a waste of a large corner lot. Its not like this is being built in the middle of the block of SFR’s

  58. You people couldn’t possibly be native San Franciscans or you would be as “beyond appalled” as the beyond appalled neighbor. The Outer Richmond District has some beautiful homes, designed in the 20’s by famous architects. Ever heard of Hermann Baumann or Rousseau? You obviously don’t know what you are blathering on about.
    Units such as the prosed building described here lower property values for the surrounding houses, create more density and lose much needed street parking.
    Those of us who choose to live in the City’s western neighborhoods live here because it is NOT dense.

  59. “Those of us who choose to live in the City’s western neighborhoods live here because it is NOT dense.”
    Hint – Population continues to grow and everywhere in the Bay Area will become more dense. Even Milpitas, Marin, and the western neighborhoods.

  60. Oh great, the “native San Franciscan” argument. Would it make you feel better if the new units included deed restrictions that only people born in San Francisco could purchase or live in them? On the other hand, if auslanders moved in and had children, would the children live in shame once they realized they were living in a unit all true San Franciscans would call an abomination? Or would they be condemned to never wear that honorific? Would they tell their friends they live in Frisco?

  61. lower property values for the surrounding houses
    Source for this? Please, show me one example of denser housing built in the last 20 years that caused the neighboring property to go down in value.

  62. FWIW there is a ‘candlelight vigil’ being held at this site tonight at 7pm to mourn the loss of unbuilt housing. While I find the exercise fairly toothless, it is great to read about people motivated to start advocating for housing SUPPLY in San Francisco.

  63. I live in the Richmond and followed this drama unfold. It went through planning but was appealed and then rejected at the Board of Supervisors. Every type of resistance came out against this project. From the neighbor living in the earthquake shack to rent control units, height, to parking. So the summary is demolish the run down 2 unit building on an oversized corner lot, and put up 6 condos. It seems planning was fine with it ultimately, but Supervisors(especially District Supervisor Eric Mar) do not like the idea of removing rent control units. I think this was a typical “do whatever we can” to save rent control units, even it means losing the 6 family sized condos. From what I remember the existing building has a 2bd unit, 1 bd unit, and small commercial/office space. Oh well, the city talks about housing crisis, but simple economics will show that more supply is needed. It won’t happen over night. It will need 10 years to put back the needed supply, to keep some form of middle class in the city. This project is at a corner, near main transit, within pretty close to height/density similarities to existing nearby buildings. So the city would rather have a 2 bd and 1 bd unit vs 6 family 3bd units?

    1. Worse than meh.

      Seems the neighbor would have had better chance fighting the parcel split, than the building. By maintaining it as a single lot, the required rear yard would have aligned with at the neighbors garden.

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