115 Telegraph Hill Blvd Site

Tech moguls and foreign oligarchs take note: San Francisco’s Supervisors have upheld the necessary approvals for three modern townhomes to rise on upon the mostly vacant lot at 115 Telegraph Hill Boulevard, denying the Telegraph Hill Dwellers’ bids to block the development.

The Dwellers’ appeals – one based on the Planning Commission’s approval for the project and another based on the development’s potential environmental impact – were rejected by the Board of Supervisors in two 7-3 votes with Supervisors Avalos, Kim, and Mar dissenting.

The Telegraph Hill parcel has been on the market since 2006.  And while now approved for development, permits for the project have yet to be issued.  We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

56 thoughts on “Tech Moguls, Oligarchs, And Telegraph Hill Dwellers Take Note”
    1. Second that…STRONGLY….THD just sound so ridiculous at this point that I’d vote against pretty much whatever they are for. They have that bad of a name to me.

    1. Agreed. Eric Mar is an embarrassment to the Richmond. It still amazes me that he was re-elected. Of course the legions of SEIU workers who flooded into the district in the last election had something to do with it.

  1. Glad this passed – I HATE the rich and privileged NIMBY attitudes –

    And Jane Kim – voting to block development – She can kiss my……

  2. Having taken out of town friends to Coit Tower and having seen this empty lot first hand a number of times, I’m just stupefied that there was an effort to actually try to block an infill project.

  3. Oh noes, the Telegraph Hill Dwellers are going to have to learn how to share their hill with newcomers. A lesson they missed in grade school, I guess.

  4. I understand- maybe – that the neighbors prefer to keep an empty lot but I don’t understand a supervisor voting against the planning proposal for infill that looks almost the same.

  5. I think this is an entirely appropriate thing for the THD to weigh in on. It is, after all, in the middle of Telegraph Hill. What’s wrong with people in the neighborhood expressing their opinion?

    As someone who walks those stairs regularly I think this is going to be a really ugly addition to that area.

    As for labelling it “infill” I think it’s fine to build something there but it needs to be compatible with the things around it.

    Sadly, Socketsite (or at least its comments section) has become an echo chamber of growth boosterism (“Love it, make it twice as high!”), rent control rants, and real estate porn (“The sixth bathroom lacks double sinks, but I’d still buy it for $20 million) mixed with a libertarian angle (“They own it, they can do with it anything the hell they want”).

    Would love it if there was actual thoughtful debate here but not so much. I guess it’s Gresham’s law applied to speech…

    1. You can voice your opinion all you want on this site but to say this is not compatible with things around it you are crazy. I have lived in the Marina for over 35 years and my family has owned several pieces of property in SF for over 90. I have walked by this empty lot for many years and am very excited to see a great infill project, finally being approved. What would you consider to be compatible with the things around it and want to see built there?

    2. 1) Nothing wrong with the neighbors expressing their opinion. But these groups take it farther, attempting to block any development that they don’t like…which sure seems to be most developments You’re right though, why shouldn’t a neighborhood get to decide what is built on on empty lot? I mean, it is their neighborhood. It’s not like the person who owns the lot should get to decide, that would be crazy. Isn’t that the American dream? To buy a little piece of land and then ask your neighbors what they would like you to build on it?

      2) It is “infill”. How else would we label it? The lot was empty, now it won’t be. That is called infill.

      3) If you want a thoughtful debate you have to start it by saying something thoughtful.


      1. 1) I think there are lots of places in America where the neighbors have a say in what you can build. Sometimes it is enforced through CC&R’s, other times through zoning or the kinds of protest voiced here. The people who bought this lot to develop certainly knew that when they bought it and it was probably factored in to the purchase price. Obviously, property rights are somewhat limited in America. Just owning the land doesn’t mean you can do whatever the hell you want with it. Where that particular line should be drawn is open to honest debate, but, no, we’re not living on the frontier in 1850 or something. Your neighbors and other citizens do have some say in what you can do with your property.

        2. I think infill generally refers to repurposing land that was previously non-residential into residential. A lot of stuff near the ballpark, Mission Bay or SOMA is infill as space that was previously industrial is now being used to house people. If I recall correctly, this particular lot was in fact residential, and there was a cute cabin on it that was removed. Let’s agree to disagree, but in my book that really stretches the definition of “infill”

        3) Thanks. Ad hominem insult. Back at ya!

        2) Um, you lost track of numbers and hit send too soon. No biggie, it’s late. Have a good night.

        1. Ha, an extra 2) and it is indeed late. However:

          1) The “neighbors having a say”. San Francisco has plenty of regulation, more than the vast majority of the country. There are a lot of limitations on what can be built on any particular piece of land – most of them good ideas and just as importantly most of these regulations are not applied case by case. There is no “whatever the hell you want with it, 1850’s frontier” scenario here, and that is the point. The regulation already exists, these constant objections are superfluous. The owner is adding SFH’s to a neighborhood that features SFH’s on a lot that is zoned for SFH’s! As for CC&R’s, they are part of what you buy in a condominium/gated community kind of situation – you agree to them when you purchase by the simple act of purchasing. Are we now saying that cities should work like suburban golf course communities? You automatically join and become subject to the whims of the neighborhood association when you buy in? Each neighborhood gets to decide what can and can’t be built – on a case by case basis? After the design work is done and a large investment has already been made? With no regard for property rights? Because that is how these groups function. Are you suggesting that it is a good thing that developers have to automatically build in the “neighborhood opposition tax” for every project? Ever wonder why it is so expensive to live here? Can I possibly use any more question marks?

          2) Cute cabin or not, it is empty land now. We can certainly agree to disagree, but in the end it is semantics. There isn’t anything there and the owner would like to build something. Hence, “filling in” a vacant lot in the middle of a city that has a housing deficit. Or in the case of the cabin, filling in a lot that is not using space in an efficient way.

          From cute cabin to three SFH’s seems like a great use of the lot and in keeping with the existing density of the neighborhood. If they were putting in a hotel or a strip club, I would understand! But three new houses in a residential neighborhood? What is the rationale to allowing this kind of objection, in your mind?

        2. You plainly do not know the definition of ad hominem. Telling someone that her comments are not thoughtful is not an attack on the person but rather an attack on the substance of her argument.

    3. Can you perhaps point me to some construction that THD has supported? As far as I know, they have tried to block every single thing on that hill and often construction only tangentially nearby, like 8 Washington.

      The commentary has gotten less balanced lately, but the only solution for that is to express yourself. Expect to get harassed for being outside the mainstream opinion here.

      1. I’m not sure that it is as simple as pointing to things the THD have “supported” because if they don’t object to something they really don’t have any record of “support.” I do know that some things have happened on Telegraph Hill and there’s no record of THD trying to block it.

        I agree that the THD has weighed in on things pretty far afield and I sure don’t agree with all the positions they’ve taken (the North Beach Library in particular..thank God it got build over their objection).

        As for the commentary on this site, I’ll gladly put on my s@### helmet, but reading this stuff is increasingly feeling like a waste of time. Calling anyone who disagrees “crazy”, ranting about rent control, immigration, “communists” on the BOS, etc., just degrades the site and drives away thoughtful debate.

    1. Given building height and density limits, we are not even remotely close to monetizing every square inch or even a small fraction thereof. If we made SF as dense as Paris (a city I am sure you love, doesn’t everybody?) we would be doubling or tripling density in most neighborhoods, most especially Telegraph Hill. You wouldn’t hear me complain.

      1. Paris has a density of 55,000/ square mile. SF has 18,000. A 1 to 3 ration sounds about right. Nobody will ever accept to live like Parisians. Yes you could build the density, but as long as public transportation is still the running joke that it is, SF will have huge issues moving people around.

        1. I find this to be a far more valid concern than “preserving views” or “making new construction look like the old”. Public transit is a joke here and we do need to address it if we want to increase density. Or rather, as density increased whether we want it to or not.

    2. How do you propose we make the city more liveable then? Interested to hear your solution that does not involve adding more housing…

      1. livable for incumbent property owners
        – very different than –
        livable for new residents or renters

    3. It’s private property. Repeat as necessary – if you want to control someone else’s private property, then either buy it yourself, or have the city condemn it. But you should have no right to block a project on someone else’s private property, so long as it fully fits within planning and building codes.

  6. Fair enough, so for your comment of “as for labelling it ‘infill’ I think it’s fine to build something there but it needs to be compatible with the things around it,” what would you propose?

    1. Hey, call me “crazy”, but I think that maybe the design could look more like things around it. I don’t think the neighbors are against building anything at all there, they just want it to look a bit more in keeping with the size and look of other things in the same area. I think the folks in Sausalito, Carmel or any number of other similar places all over America have similar feelings. I’m no architect but the design seems really incompatible with that area. Then again I think the new buildings on Market near Castro are awful looking. There is some great architecture in this city, but none of it is happening now in my view. Again, call me crazy and flame away…

      1. So you prefer faux retro Victorian or what? Well, good for you, we’re all entitled to our taste. Fortunately this is not how things work in this or any other neighborhood. Next!

      2. “Look more like the things around it”? The only thing they could possibly do to make it look more like what is around it would be to use more stucco, because it is almost identical in massing to the buildings to the east, simply more contemporary in design (just as those buildings were when they were built).

      3. Wonkster,

        Ironically, the “great architecture” that people associate with SF was primarily built during a time when zoning and planning was far less stringent. And groups like the THD did not exist.

      4. Personally, I hate stucco. Detest it, to the core of my being. And if my neighbor was doing a remodel and was just about to slather on the first layer of that awful stuff I would…do nothing. Because it isn’t my house and my tastes don’t matter. At all. If I wanted to have control over such things, I would go live in a gated golf course community…which sounds like prison to me personally, but for those who want everything to look the same I am sure it is paradise.

        One of the great things about this city is the variety or architectural styles. We have done a lot to preserve the architectural history of the city, nobody is tearing down a Victorian to build this. And the problem with “…none of it is happening now, in my view” is contained in the statement itself. “In your view”. Some people love this kind of thing and will be very excited to live there. It wouldn’t be my choice either – I am actually in the market for a Victorian that has not been “white boxed” and still has most of the period detail intact. But I have friends who don’t want an old house or a modern imitation of an old house. They want modern, Dwell-ish homes. Why shouldn’t they be able to have one?

        1. Correct! Whose opinions ultimately matter? Whoever is paying the bill. None of the arguments by renters saying they have skin in the game by indirectly paying property taxes ergo renters have a giant voice over building owners. There is a old saying about servants lording over their masters. Pony up half a million or a million+ bucks before your views matter.

          As for this board being one sided, it is merely the effect from a long-simmering feud. Same reason why Republics took control over the Senate. Is anyone here calling the Bay Bridge the Willie Brown bridge yet?

      5. This doesn’t even make any sense. Telegraph Hill is an utter melange of styles and building sizes and eras. I am betting that ANYTHING proposed for this lot would be too big, too modern, too faux, too bulky, just “too too”.

        Besides. If one demands utter conformity in design, might I suggest Daly City. Or Tracy?

        What slays me is the suburban demands and attitudes among some SFers. In a massive metropolitan area which offers thousands of square miles of suburban joy for the taking. Why must every neighborhood be Foster City?

  7. Oh my my my…first the SF Guardian then Ted Gulicksen and now OMG the THD…what in the world is this town coming to?

    But best of all…the three dissenting votes…the loyal left, have finally become marginalized. But wait…was Campos asleep when this got voted on….or is there a grudge match going on between him and the angry short guy?
    I hope this means won’t be hearing much more from the angry short guy…hee…hee…heee.

    Maybe there is some hope for San Francisco after all. Now if only they can fix the flaws in the rent control laws…uhmmm…I’m not going to hold my breath for that one…

  8. Thank you Wonkster for providing a counter view to the boosters. I am happy to see there are some left in SF who embrace an interesting view, as one drives or walks or bikes around a curver and WOW you see that view in the second photo. Enjoy it wile you can

    1. There’s not denying it’s a great view. BUT, it’s private property. What is unclear about that? If you want to block development on someone else’s private property, then either buy it yourself, or have the city condemn it. But no one should have the right to block otherwise conforming development on privately held land.

    2. I can guarantee that if you were the property owner, and a group of people acting as a quasi-governmental authority were attempting to dramatically degrade the value of your investment, you’d be mad as hell about it.

    3. The view is great, no doubt about that! It’s a shame you can’t get the same view in a public space right next to this lot…that would really be something! In all seriousness, views are great but you covet something that does not belong to you. The fact that an empty lot is “nice” and affords great views for passersby is nowhere close to being a good argument for blocking this project.

      1. The same govt which may preserve this view is convesely responsible for allowing the trees tovvovergrow the view further up the hill in the parking area.

        Wonkster was providing some brakes to mad rush of “in fill at any cost”. We all know there are limits (good or bad) to property rights that somehow trump the publicb benefit.

        It would be nice if somehouw the special things of SF could be preserved . A surprise view is one of those things.

        1. I hear you, but there was already a house here. It was a residential space, a developer bought it to build something new. What should we do? Tell the developer, “hey sorry – as soon as you tore down that little shack we realized how nice this view is. This is ours now, thanks for clearing it.” I realize that you had something else in mind – maybe the city purchasing the lot? But do you see the issue? That should have happened long before the lot was purchased and development began, if that was the plan. And I would argue that the city has a LOT of protected space and spending millions on this lot would not be a very good use of resources. But I certainly understand others feel differently.

  9. I hear that Mayor Art and [Aaron Peskin] are getting a petition together to get this on the ballot…wouldn’t surprise me.

  10. This is just another lost battle of the left. They realize that they are a diminishing force, even with the 8 Washington victory, but they are going to fight on. Each of these three houses would have at least two people, probably residents eligible to vote. That would be six more votes against them. It sounds like a trivial reason to oppose it but it is surely part of the equation.

    Someday, sooner than we thought, the period of the left in SF politics, from Agnew to Campos, will look like just another quaint part of our civic history, along with Emperor Norton, the Beats, the Hippies. I suspect the major figures in the charming story of 2000 to 2010 will center around Daly, since he was so colorful in language and so entirely out of control. But there will also be chapters on Agnos himself, and Camp Agnos that he fought to preserve on City Hall Plaza, a chapter on Peskin, and a interesting footnote on Olague, formerly the third leftie on the Planning Commission, later the inarticulate sacrificial lamb sacrificed for the Sheriff.

    But their time is fast coming to an end.

  11. I walked the stairs recently with friends for the first time in a while. Most of the housing I saw looked pretty crappy. I’m sure it’s expensive as the views are great but I do not agree that this new housing looks any worse than what’s already there.

  12. I am not sure I understand how this decision was a defeat for any “left”. NIMBYism to protect wealthy homeonwers doesn’t seem very left to me.

    But the incessant chuckling by some here about the demise of this mythical “left” also seems silly as well. Hopefully SF will not just become another Bizness Friendly fiefdom of right wing politics. There is always Texas for those that prefer that.

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