115 Telegraph Hill Blvd Site

Over the objections of a number of Telegraph Hill dwellers, including one who derisively characterized the development as housing for “high tech mogul(s) or a second home for a foreign oligarch,” a characterization which was made by way of a dictated email, San Francisco’s Planning Commission approved the plans to build three modern townhomes at 115 Telegraph Hill Boulevard last month.

A single ramshackle and uninhabitable cottage has occupied the Telegraph Hill parcel since 1997.

115 Telegraph Hill Blvd Site

As designed by Butler Armsden Architects for Telegraph Hill Housing LLC, the modern development to rise upon the lot would actually be a single building of nearly 18,000 square feet but is designed to appear and function as three single-family dwellings with a shared underground garage for three cars.

115 Telegraph Hill Blvd Rendering

The project also includes the renovation and restoration of the existing cottage at the rear of the lot, with no expansion of the existing building envelope and access by way of a pedestrian path between the townhomes and through the common garage.

115 Telegraph Hill Blvd Rendering Rear

While approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission with the blessing of the Planning Department, the development has since been appealed by the Telegraph Hill Dwellers.  From the Dweller’s official statement:

The proposed new condominiums that are intended for the most affluent buyers, are not “necessary and desirable” for or “compatible” with the neighborhood. They will not enhance the supply of affordable housing in the City, but will instead create additional pressure on the existing affordable and workforce housing in the community, resulting in a decrease in the neighborhood’s economic and demographic diversity.

The fate of the project in the working class neighborhood of Telegraph Hill, a neighborhood in which the median list price for a home has been running around $1,250 per square foot, is now slated to be decided by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors next month.

67 thoughts on “Dwellers Don’t Want Homes for Tech Moguls or Oligarchs”
  1. Typical THD nonsense. How can anybody believe that building more housing puts “additional pressure on the existing affordable and workforce housing” is beyond me. Aaron Peskin and his army of NIMBY trolls will be all over this one. I hope they put it on the ballot and get the spanking they deserve.

  2. I can understand why people dislike losing that beautiful vista, but that is a buildable lot and the project seems to fit in with the neighboring buildings.

  3. I will be starting up a charitable fund for the neighbors, whose suffering is unlike any the world has seen. PM me for details.

  4. ROFL! We prefer to house no one and keep the ramshackle as is in perpetuity. The only person I know living in Telegraph Hill is Dr. Eileen Aicardi, the famed pediatrician (part of medical group P.P.B.A.G.) She is well-connected in the city and quite affluent. I think she would beg to differ from THD. I could be wrong…

  5. They should accept their complaint and build some public housing – maybe move some of the potrero projects over there.

  6. 6 or 7 years ago I saw these lots were for sale. Was it 6M? In any case, I believe this location would go way north of 1200/sf.

    In any case, the Napoleon of Telegraph Hill still has a few minions admiring his fantastic obstructionist accomplishments. They will fight to the death on this, and having lived in TH I really wish good luck to the developers.

  7. Another win for foreign oligarchs. They’re taking over the city! No wait, that’s pigeons. If any foreign oligarchs move here, they’re not going to live on the tourist driveway leading to Coit Tower.

  8. There are NIMBYs, and then there are hypocrites. If they want this land as a public park, then buy it (er, convince the City to use scarce public funds to buy it, I guess, based on what happened on the north waterfront recently). But this is private land, on which will be built homes no different in scale or bulk than the homes in which these whiners live. The laws that allow these travesties must be changed.

  9. What do they mean by ” compatible with the neighborhood”? Like people who live on TH are poor?

    Telegraph Hill, where the Billionaires kick the Millionaires out

  10. in all seriousness though, 18,000 square feet for 3 families is a bit much. Surely that amount of space can be repurposed into smaller units which by virtue of their size, will be accessible to more people and more affordable without having to designate them as such.

    1. that is the difference between public and private projects. public ones are for the benefit of the city and private ones are for the benefit of the property owner.

      1. then we need to think critically about this system and how to make it work better. It used to be that developers built, made their money, and people in the community lived in those homes. Now there are rich people all over the world looking to park their money in real estate and developers are catering to that. There’s no way to compete with that and building one multimillion dollar property after another does nothing to address our housing shortage. At the end of the day, housing just gets more expensive for everyone. There has to be a way to fix the system so that developers can build what we need and make a profit without them simply making an obscene amount of money while we all deal with the higher cost of housing.

        1. @S

          Is there any fact based study done that supports the statement that developers are building housing merely for he ultra rich to park their money? I know some of the activists point to the fact that a number of the owners of units in the Millineum and other “luxury” buildings have their property tax statement sent to another address, but that’s not really evidence of buying a unit solely as an investment. I’m not arguing that it’s not true, but I haven’t seen any factual evidence.

          All of that said, I see more units being built that are intended for the upper middle class rather than the ultra rich. Unfortunately, in SF the upper middle class tends to be pretty well off and can afford $1M+. In a functioning market, the middle class would then be buying units in the older housing stock. But with Prop 13, rent control and the concern about displacement, we are not seeing enough inventory in this category to sop up demand.

          1. Yeah I read that article too. They said that only 60% of property tax bills were being sent to addresses other than the residence for new construction, as if this is somehow unusual in San Francisco.

            In The City overall, 2/3 of all residents live in rentals, so for only about 1/3 of all properties are the property tax bills being sent to the same address as the property.

            So this means that new condo construction is almost twice as likely to be owner occupied as the average San Francisco dwelling. They didn’t mention this fact because it didn’t advance their agenda, which is to try and stop the construction of all market rate housing.

    2. @S, You are right, but I don’t think the neighbors objection would go away if this was a 10 or 12 unit building.

    3. Why is it a “bit much”? It’s not your business. They can build what they want, within the codes. If they desire to build 3 large residences, then I support that.

      1. shocking.

        IMO there’s nothing wrong with making tweaks to the capitalist system to get it to produce the results you want – the ones that go along with the values of a given society. There is no true capitalist society in the world for a reason.

        I’m not hating any individual players – just hating the game. Obviously if there’s intense demand for normal units that middle and lower income people can afford, yet none of them can ever be built, the old “supply and demand” argument is broken.

        Why not give developers tax credits, for example, to incentivize the units that we actually need built? Or grant them an exception from having to contribute to the affordable housing fund?

        1. Granting an exception to the affordable housing fund is a great idea, but I think you would find that unless all of the units were BMR then you would have political pushback. The fact is it costs $600k to build a basic unit in SF. It will be difficult to surmount that hurdle.

          1. The extra cost for Mercy is because those units are larger than the SPUR example units. I just did the math and the average unit size for the 6th Street development is 1165 square feet. If you multiply their average unit cost with the ratio of the SPUR unit size to the Mercy unit size, you get $473k.

            I can show my math if you like. A “basic unit” in my book is 800 square feet or even smaller, not 1165 square feet. 1165 is big enough for a family of four, my family lives in a place only a bit larger than that.

          2. NVJ,

            Remember that the SPUR estimate is actually for a 640 sq ft unit. That’s not too small for a single person or a couple, but pretty tough for your average American family.

        2. Supply and demand is not entirely broken.This is a big country. A 1/2 commute buys you twice more house for 1/2 the money. This might be unbearable to you but this the life of most of the BA.

          1. This is life everywhere. The socioeconomic class of people who live in queens and Manhattan are different and that’s fine. Baristas and waiters and garbage men and police officers and teachers commute and that’s fine. We do need a better regional transportation system. There’s no problem with taking BART from Oakland or San Bruno or Daly City . The Vallejo ferry is not a bad commute either. I wish I could own a mansion in aspen, but I can’t. We live in Market based economy.

          1. Yes, Tim I’ve also said that a number of times here before, as well. I agree.
            There are plenty of other cities to live in that are “affordable” to those who cannot afford San Francisco.

    4. We live in the US, and individuals get to decide for themselves how much space they do or do not need to live–you are welcome to pick up and move elsewhere where the government can dictate your living conditions to you.

      Also, the BS neighbors appeal has NOTHING to do with affordable housing. The Telegraph Hill Dwellers are a bunch of rich, white, privileged, old hypocrites who simply want to limit their old rich white privilege to as few people as possible. They don’t want neighbors period, whether those neighbors are rich or working class. They are simple against development of any kind in their neighborhood, and they want to keep it as exclusive and walled off as possible.

  11. S: Given the crazyness of the land costs, and given the apparantly (temporarily) bottomless flood of tech and tourist money flowing around SF, it’s easier and may make far more sense to build large, expensive houses than small, million dollar “affordable” ones. Otherwise, given the rarity of a Telegraph Hill address, I would imagine a mogul or oligarch buying two or three and knocking them togather. A family needing 6,000 square feet does seem…excessive…but that is the way the winners in our economy these days roll.

    1. @Frog + @Brian M – just goes to show you who the Planning Dept really works for. No wonder lots of people are opposed to new developments. Time and time again the planning dept demonstrates that they have no commitment to building the type of housing people here actually need. SF Govt sees dollar signs just like the developers.

      1. Telegraph Hill is a nice place. I’d like to live there and so do others – which is why I can’t afford it. Developers are going to maximize profit. As am I, in my business. And that’s why someday I will be able to afford to live on Telegraph Hill if I choose to.

        Pointing to the greed of city officials is kinda silly. They are going to get their pension and it doesn’t matter how they zone things.

        1. @Frog they can still do that. Just saying that 6,000 sq units likely to be priced in the millions doesn’t do much for our housing crisis and it’s no wonder neighbors are opposed to these types of projects.

          SF Gov gets more property taxes while at the same time, doesn’t have to pay for schools, roads, etc that would come if this were a denser project. They have a similar incentive to the developer – this doesn’t produce the most productive project for that land – just the most efficient in terms of turning a profit.

          @R – the planning department does get to influence projects by withholding permits. They don’t seem to mind allowing their opinions regarding aesthetics or amount of parking spaces to go unheard.

          1. These 3 large units have NOTHING to do with the “housing crisis”. And they don’t have to.

            And turning a profit on a project is neither illegal nor immoral. That’s what a good developer does.

      2. “the planning dept demonstrates that they have no commitment to building”

        Um, the planning department doesn’t build anything..

  12. Does anyone know how many oligarchs there are in the world today? Is it different than the list of the world’s richest people? Are Putin’s cronies hiding their money in San Francisco real estate? Am I mistaken or is communist San Francisco trying to keep the capitalist Russians out?

    1. I think it will mostly be the Chinese. Because if some son of a undersecretary for thought crime in Beijing decides he doesn’t like you, you can be ruined rather easy. So…park some money here.

  13. Oligarchy (from Greek ὀλιγαρχία (oligarkhía); from ὀλίγος (olígos), meaning “few”, and ἄρχω (arkho), meaning “to rule or to command”) is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people.
    Evidently, the local oligarchy doesn’t welcome competition from foreign oligarchy. No one could have predicted….

  14. My question is, why would anybody want to live here?? A 20 minute wait to go one block to get into your own driveway.

    1. Well the views will be gorgeous and if the headquarters of your hedge fund are in the financial district (likely), you can walk to work.

  15. Even better, I think that the city should take the houses on both sides of Peskin’s, by eminent domain, and turn them into a homeless shelter for people currently living in the heart of the Tenderloin. They should be encouraged to invite their best friends from the street to take up beds too. Residents will be allowed to stay only 90 days per year, but during that time they will be allowed to AirBNB their spaces, and keep the profits except for 14 percent tax.

  16. If the onjection referred to “tenderloin moguls” or “foreign impoverished people” the city would be up in arms. Got to love double standards.

  17. I agree. Even better, they should build an annex for SF General Hospital here, and include a hillside funicular for shopping carts.

  18. such a bummer! as you can see from the picture, this is a superb view of the city’s skyline as you climb toward coit tower. especially on a bike, at dusk.

  19. The narcissism! “Obviously all of the oligarchs and moguls of the world want to live in MY neighborhood!” It kills me.

  20. Well he’s at it again…

    The angry [man] and his minion of selfish, self righteous THD’ers are at it again preserving their mountain top castles and million dollar views. It’s a simple fix, buy the lot and donate it to the city, then the public street view can be preserved for eternity. Otherwise they should their traps shut and enjoy their views from their million dollar McMansions.

    BTW not a single private view will be blocked by this house. I can’t wait to read the appeal…more nonsense and wasted public dollars on public hearings…poor commissioners having to sit and listening to millionaires drone on about how this single family house is going to destroy the integrity of the neighborhoods of San Francisco. Blah……blah….blah……

  21. What if the developer agreed to sell the building only to an old, cranky, bitter, entitled white person who made all their money the old-fashioned and only really honorable way, by inheritance. Then would the development be okay?

    1. The secretary of THD is married to Aaron Peskin, who used to be Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Back then, they pretty were a quasi-governmental organization. Now, not so much, but they haven’t gotten the memo yet.

  22. Poor angry Peskin. If the THD is so upset about the lack of affordable housing why did they force a huge, City owned, vacant parcel to be turned into their own special park?

    1. agreed if THD were in favor of affordable housing, they would have supported 8 washington and the increased supply that would bring to the neighborhood

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