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.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    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. Posted by NoeNeighbor

    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. Posted by Livable City

    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. Posted by ess

    How did a lot of THD residents acquire their residences, inheritance?

  5. Posted by Live Smart

    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…

  6. Posted by Real Person

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

  7. Posted by Live Smart

    Would THD feel better if this was Section 8 housing? Dementia comes early for some of these folks.

  8. Posted by San FronziScheme

    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.

  9. Posted by SF Agent

    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.

  10. Posted by anon

    How DARE an oligarch try to achieve the same standard of living as I already have?

  11. Posted by woolie

    Wealthy residents oppose development project aimed at wealthy residents. News at 11.

  12. Posted by Sierrajeff

    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.

  13. Posted by S

    lol ok turn it into a housing project instead

  14. Posted by San FronziScheme

    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

  15. Posted by S

    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.

    • Posted by frog

      I think the developer gets to make that decision, most of the time.

    • Posted by Mike

      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.

      • Posted by S

        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.

        • Posted by parklife


          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.

          • Posted by NoeValleyJim

            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.

    • Posted by NoeNeighbor

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

    • Posted by Joel

      They should design them to accommodate in-law units, then legalize them.

    • Posted by Futurist

      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.

      • Posted by S


        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?

        • Posted by parklife

          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.

          • Posted by NoeValleyJim

            I am curious where you get that number from? SPUR says it is $469k for a 800 sq foot unit.

            [Editor’s Note: Don’t miss the fine print which most people gloss right over: “…does not include construction financing expenses, contingencies or developer’s profit, among other things.” For a real-world example versus an oversimplified estimate with a nice infographic see: Cost To Build Affordable Housing On Sixth Street: $690K Per Unit.]

          • Posted by NoeValleyJim

            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.

          • Posted by parklife


            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.

        • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

          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.

          • Posted by Spencer

            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.

        • Posted by Tim

          San Fran will never be affordable for you. Get over it.

          • Posted by Futurist

            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.

    • Posted by Chris Brown

      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.

  16. Posted by Brian M

    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.

    • Posted by S

      @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.

      • Posted by frog

        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.

        • Posted by S

          @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.

          • Posted by Futurist

            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.

      • Posted by R

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

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

  17. Posted by frog

    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?

    • Posted by Brian M

      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.

  18. Posted by Mike

    They look great!

  19. Posted by Jake

    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….

  20. Posted by jlasf

    We don’t need to import oligarchs. We have our own home-grown billionaires.

  21. Posted by Xman

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

    • Posted by NoeNeighbor

      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.

  22. Posted by Spencer

    Great idea!! We’ll see if they really care about affordable housing

  23. Posted by Spencer

    Housing is cheap in North Korea. We live in a market based economy.

  24. Posted by MysteryRealtor

    The City needs to condemn this land and build high density public housing for recent parolees.

    • Posted by Keepitup

      I will second that…..

      • Posted by Brian M

        Only if said parolees are suffering from multiple addictions to Schedule I narcotics!

  25. Posted by Conifer

    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.

  26. Posted by anon

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

  27. Posted by Schlub

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

  28. Posted by good christian

    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.

  29. Posted by extra

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

  30. Posted by Keepitup

    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……

  31. Posted by MarketSt

    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?

  32. Posted by matt

    all of these comments about the dwellers prompted me to check out their web site. check out their presentation guidelines for people wishing to get their blessing (?). it sure reads like they think of themselves as a government agency with authority to kill and entitle projects as well. that doesn’t seem right to me.

    • Posted by NoeValleyJim

      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.

      • Posted by NoeValleyJim

        My bad, she is the historian now. She was secretary when he was in power though.

  33. Posted by NJ

    “a characterization which was made by way of a dictated email” the telling detail, Well done socketsite!

  34. Posted by boher

    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?

    • Posted by Spencer

      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

  35. Posted by Not a Techie

    Why do people think they need such huge houses these days? Hubris.

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