2853 Broderick Street

Sitting vacant since damaged by a fire in 2010, the renovation plans for 2853-2857 Broderick Street included raising the height of the two-unit Cow Hollow property by 3 feet to install a new two-car garage below.  And in March of 2013, the house was successfully raised following the issuance of a valid building permit the month before.

The plans attached to the permit, however, incorrectly stated that the existing home was 34-feet tall and would rise to a final height of 37 feet after being lifted the 3 feet as approved.  Instead, the then 37-foot-tall home was raised 3 feet to a final height of just under 40 feet, which is the height limit for the lot.

Having commissioned an independent survey of the home prior to the lift having occurred, the owner of the home next door appears to have been well aware of the discrepancy between the stated heights on the plan versus reality but never mentioned it before.  Said neighbor is now requesting that the lifted home be lowered back down to 37 feet in height as it now exceeds the stated height on the plan which was approved.

Rather than lowering the home, San Francisco’s Planning Department is recommending that the stated heights on the plans simply be corrected. The Department is also in support of a proposed unit merger for the building along with a couple of little additions and a new roof deck.

San Francisco’s Planning Commission is tasked with attempting to resolve the fight this week.

UPDATE (12/17/20): Having been listed for $9.5 million in July of 2020 and then reduced to $8.5 million in August, the sale of 2853 Broderick Street, which has been completely remodeled, successfully merged, and now measures roughly 4,526 square feet (with six bedrooms, five and one-half baths and the aforementioned new roof deck), has closed escrow with a contract price of $8.4 million or roughly $1,856 per square foot.

41 thoughts on “New Lows In Fight Over Neighboring Home’s Height”
  1. What inspires people to be so mean and bitter? (And in this case, stupid – if the neighbor had pointed out the issue at the time, they would have had a greater (though still low) chance of getting traction on the issue. There’s virtually no circumsance where a house would have be lowered 3 feet, post-completion, over an issue like this.)

    1. “What inspires people to be so mean and bitter?”

      Good question. But when we remodeled our building several years ago, one of the neighbors complained almost daily for the several months it took to complete the project. We weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary (kitchen, bathrooms, roof, painting) but they felt that they were entitled to peace and quiet and didn’t like the noise or constant parade of contractors. Fortunately, the DBI realized that they were cranks early on in the process and basically started telling them to stuff it after their complaints became more outrageous.

      Of course, we are not so friendly nowadays with this particular neighbor!

  2. This is a very minor case, and the plans should be corrected for current height values. On the other hand, contractors disturbingly often flout the intent of the law by constructing out of limits, assuming that the city would never insist on construction being removed once built. I think, in certain cases, the law should have the teeth to require people to remove new construction that violates the intent of the law. But, this instance doesn’t look so serious. I mean, three feet???

  3. Welcome to Crank Francisco. I live in a building that was 15 years old when I bought the condo. Some neighbors across the street were in a fight with the original builder and to this day they are sending me dirty looks and refusing to reciprocate a simple “good morning”. One time my son was riding his tricycle on “their” sidewalk (I was walking ten steps behind) and this miserable old hag squinted at him and said tersely, “don’t you live on the other side?” before she quickly went inside slamming her front door. Beware of the dark side of NIMBYism.

    1. “Don’t you live on the other side?” …..Wow…the same thing happened to me walking my dog on Prado street one time, though in my case, the homeowner came out from inside her home to scold me with a finger wag no less.

      1. I was out walking my dog and stopped to pick up some dog poop from another dog that was in a tree well. The resident came out the front door and started yelling at me about picking up dog poop. He went on and on shouting at me. I tried to tell him I was being a nice neighbor and picking up dog poop that wasn’t from my dog and was, in fact, his responsibility more than mine. He kept screaming at me. I asked him, “So, you believe it is the dog owner’s responsibility to pick up his or her dog poop, correct?” He said yes, so I put the dog poop back and walked away.

        1. That story is just bizarro. We need more good neighbors like BobN and fewer feces protecting weirdos.

          1. We had a fight with an elderly neighbor whose sewer overflowed, and left bits of toilet paper dried onto the sidewalk for weeks. In fact they are still there. He yells at us about our dog… which is quite interesting considering he literally leaves his feces on the sidewalk for all to walk in.

  4. I was proposing to build a 2 story house on a vacant lot of the flats of Berkeley on a street of 1 and 2 story houses. Many of the 1 story houses were over a low garage, and many of the two story houses had point roofs. My proposed building had a flat roof with parapet, so it would not have stood out as being tall in the streetscape.

    The person living across from the lot in a rental apartment over a two car garage (himself living in a two story dwelling!) complained at the zoning hearing about his view of the Berkeley hills being blocked. The zoning adjustment board trooped down there later that week to stand in the man’s living room to look at the view.

    They ultimately dismissed his desire but about 6 months later the apartment/garage burned to the ground. I had nothing to do with it.

    Some people are just mean. Unfortunately many of them own property.

  5. Tell the neighbors to get a life –

    3 feet –

    Who gives Flying fart…?

    What mean spirited A-Holes
    (I’m trying not to use 4 letter expletives editor….)


  6. We allow such utter disrespect of the process – so I am not at all surprised that the neighbor is exercising the rights that San Francisco expressly provides for him.
    This is our problem, not the A$$hole neighbors.

  7. Yeah, I have friends in SF who have been trying to add a garage and some other expansions for 6 years. These will all improve the look and the neighborhood, without reasonable dispute. Two neighbors have used every process available to complain and delay.

    When we moved a couple years ago, we limited our search to houses that would need no changes at all — life is too short to deal with SF planning idiocy. And we’ve fully supported our neighbor’s plans to add a garage (even though it will mean we live in a construction zone for 4 months). We will be living next to them for 20 years, perhaps, and I’m not going to manufacture discontent. Not saying that no project is ever worth complaining about, but SF’s processes strongly encourage and support discord.

  8. It is the process. I had to approve my neighbor raising his roof line a few years ago, I was not familiar with the process but was surprised that an architect was flown up from southern california for a meeting. I didn’t think much of it so I said fine, my view was not going to be impacted much. I called the planning department afterwards to try and understand why there was so much attention on my decision. The planniing dept. lady said I could pay $350 dollars for the appeal process, even though views were not potected and ultimately the building would be raised, it was an opportunity for me to delay the process, i.e., be an asshole. The planning department opens the door for to all of this meaness, law abiding or not, it’s still being mean.

    And I really don’t understand why people are so bitter and mean in this city, my screename aside, we live in a beautiful city, you’d think people would be happier.

  9. Good philosophy!

    My two cents — the jobs of a LOT of people in planning depend on endless make-work and delays. The taxpayers pay them to deal with it. So it is in their interest to foment it. Call me cynical, but I know a lot of people in city govt, and 95% of them agree with me that this attitude is pervasive.

  10. I think the good news is that the process should make this right. Frustrating that the job gets held up, but I would wager that (if it is indeed true that the complainant was aware of the discrepancy beforehand) the PC will allow the plans to be corrected.

    A lot rides on whether the building party comes across as honest and innocent of shenanigans.

  11. Sadly, I have seen the opposite, where contractors and owners are the a**holes that flaunt the process and almost never get caught by the city.

    I helped an elderly Chinese neighbor fight a contractor who way overbuilt the house next door – first doing way more work than was permitted, they lying on the plans about the original layout of the house to justify overbuilding. They made life hell for the neighbors – encroaching on their property, taking down their drain pipe and fence without permission, and being a complete dick. DBI did nothing even though we had photographic evidence of out-and-out fraud on the building permits. In preparing for the Appeals Board hearing I discovered this contractor had done more than 70 projects over the past 3 years, and more than half included complaints for work beyond the permit. By the time we got to the Appeals Board the contractor hired an architect to smooth things over and agreed to fix some of crap work he did. And deconstruction can happen – he actually had to take out an extra room he constructed illegally all the way to the lot line. But he only did it because the neighbors made a stink – I can only imagine the crap he got away with in all his other projects where the neighbors didn’t have the wherewithal to complain.

  12. Happened to be in the Zoning Commission mtg for this in the spring and had to sit through both sides. Architect was nearly in tears but they really didn’t get their ducks in a row with drawing corrections, etc. old man making the complaint seemed like he just wanted the attention and got pretty out of hand calling the application fraudulent, etc. pretty out of control and unnecessary.

  13. If I were a neighbor, I’d probably be an asshole about it. The height doesn’t particularly concern me, but adding the garage does. It seems every large project is adding garages, effectively privatizing the shared street parking with new curb cuts, and destroying the pedestrian realm in the process. While one garage doesn’t make a difference, the cumulative effect of all the new garages on some streets has been horrendous.

    1. Indeed. You can see in the photo above how the pedestrian realm has been destroyed, what with the utter lack of vehicles parked across the street from the subject house.

    2. @Alberto: Why be a jerk over one parking space? If you really think curb cuts are a menace then work to change public policy. Otherwise, don’t get all self-righteous when your neighbor builds what the law allows. There is no indication that the curb cut or the height are really creating a problem for anyone.

        1. A curb cut removes 1 space from the street but you can cram 2 or 3 cars under most of these houses so it is a net gain in parking which is a positive step.

          1. Not true — 30% of city traffic is people looking for parking. You assume all 3 cars will be on the road at once. I own 5 cars but only drive 1 at a time, so whether I have 5 or 500 cars is really irrelevant to gridlock.

          2. Ah, the infamous 30% of central business district congestion is cars looking for parking, which Donald Shoup originated (pdf at namelink), is based on the following 6 study results:

            19% 1927 Detroit
            34% 1927 Detroit
            17% 1960 New Haven
            74% 1977 Freiburg
            30% 1985 Cambridge
            08% 1993 New York
            30% Average

            Also, notice that while the average is 30%, the standard deviation is 23%.

            Shoup is a serious guy that makes a lot of good points and has done some original data studies, but beware that this is just a simple minded averaging of a handful of old and very old studies with a huge spread in results.

            Next time an SFMTA or SPUR spokesperson uses this to justify a project like SFPark instead of doing an actual study, ask them why our CBD traffic is more like 1985 Cambridge than 1993 New York (not to mention much more like 1927 Detroit than 1977 Freiburg); because that is what they are implying.

            I’ve driven in and parked all three in those timeframes and doesn’t seem like it to me. But this 30% number is easy to remember and quote if you are oblivious to the meager facts behind it.

            Also, this location is far from the CBD.

        2. @Chris: Disagreeing with someone is not being testy — particularly when they have stated their intent to be an asshole to their neighbor. I guess you are just uncomfortable that someone has different views than you.

  14. So the neighbor hired a surveyor prior and I would guess after to verify height? That’s some next level NIMBYISM. Couldn’t he just work it out with the owner, neighbor to neighbor?

  15. I believe that is called the Sin of Omission as in:

    “Most merciful Father, we confess that we have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”

  16. I’m all for pushing the limits and boundaries to get what you want done in the city. If they are not going to do site visits and in-field verifications then they are inviting this sort of action. Collect fees and do nothing. Great.

    Also, before we hang this NIMBY without a trial, I couldn’t help but to notice the Google street view from May 2014 also shows the subject property as under some state of construction. So it’s possible that the survey was done as part of their own project taking into consideration the neighbors height without really concerning themselves with the process; and only later realizing the mistakes made.

    There are 2 ways to lower a house. Drop it. Or alter the roof line. Or raise the height of the subjective home.

  17. I was at at Board of Appeals hearing in January where an older man (likely the DR requester) was contesting the curb cut for the garage. The woman who owned the house was nearly in tears when the Board of Appeals provided no help and the Zoning Administrator put a freeze on all of the site permits. I know things need to be exact on the plans (or else we have chaos) but come on — this is / was an honest mistake and the bureaucracy of SF Planning does not have any out to rectify an easily corrected issue.

    I believe this NIMBY fight over this house has been going on for a few years now — can you imagine having to live / work through permits, construction, terrible neighbors, etc. for years on end? I can only hope that the Planning Commission puts this to bed once and for all.

  18. 2 sides to this story – project sponsor is a developer, neighbor is an attorney. The right answer is somewhere in the middle of the 2 viewpoints.

  19. So 2853 Broderick is going back on the market. After 8+ years of renovation, the developer is selling for $9.5M. Janet Feinberg Schindler is the listing agent.

    Given the long and sordid history behind this project (and the developer), any buyer would be wise to triple check the disclosures.

  20. Can’t believe this place is back in the news. Its been boarded up for years! Its called the “bad karma” house – previous owner tried to burn it down, dishonest developer, next door neighbor constant harassment, NIMBY neighbors, etc etc. Would I pay $9,500,000 to live in this house? No thanks.

  21. And… just like that 2853 Broderick price is dropped one million dollars. Has anyone told the these people there’s another house three doors up the hill going for $5.5M? You could literally buy that place, do a million dollars in renovations and you’d still have paid TWO MILLION DOLLARS LESS than 2853 Broderick!

  22. UPDATE: Having been listed for $9.5 million in July and then reduced to $8.5 million in August, the sale of 2853 Broderick Street, which has been completely remodeled, successfully merged, and now measures roughly 4,526 square feet (with six bedrooms, five and one-half baths and the aforementioned new roof deck), has closed escrow with a contract price of $8.4 million or roughly $1,856 per square foot.

  23. I hope the new owners of 2853 Broderick know about their new, litigious neighbor. Or maybe the better question to be asking is whether or not the sellers fully disclosed the legal entanglements currently outstanding.

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