CFAH

701 Taraval Site

Plans to raze the old Parkside Cleaners on the southwest corner of Taraval Street and 17th Avenue and construct a four-story building, with three 2,200-square-foot condos over 1,500 square feet of retail, are in the works.

Standing in the way of the development: Section 145.1 of San Francisco’s Planning Code which requires any ground floor space within 25 feet of a street that’s at least 30 feet wide (as are both Taraval and 17th) to serve an “active use.”

701 Taraval Rendering

While the proposed retail space fronting Taraval counts as an active use, as does the proposed residential entrance to the building on 17th, the building’s proposed three-car garage is considered “inactive,” which is a little ironic considering the city’s position that garages promote the active use, rather than storage, of cars.

A variance to allow the project to rise on the corner as designed could be approved by San Francisco’s Zoning Administrator next week.  But if not, it’s back to the drawing board for Gabriel Ng + Architects and the Parkside parcel at 701 Taraval.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Serge

    God that looks terrible. Better use than a single story laundormat, but boy is that ever an uninspired and dull design.

    • Posted by joey

      (1) it’s a eldery and conservative neighborhood (which I’m sure you’re not aware of) and (2) if you have a problem with it, put your money where your mouth is. Oh yeah, you’re broke, right? I bet you’re not an architect either.

      • Posted by Serge

        Quite familiar with the area. It is conservative to an extent, but with decent public transit, quick access to the freeway and good shopping just blocks away, why does it have to look cookie-cutter?

        Not broke, but thank you for playing the “I know everything about your life” game. Definitely not an architect and if I were, I wouldn’t put my name on a “design” like this. There isn’t much “architecture” involved when you pull out pre-made designs in the Autocad library.

      • Posted by Serge

        Also, holy moly did you ever take offense to my post! You’d think you were the “architect” of this IKEA cabinet design.

        • Posted by joey

          I didn’t see your original post offer anything of substance. Just a child crying about things that aren’t even his business. Yeah, it looks crappy. Reminds me of those dumps at the upper end of Alemany. Considering the location I’m surprized they didn’t just make it all flat stucco and throw some large medallions on the front of the building.

          Also, I mis-read and thought this building was on West Portal Ave itself. Taraval and 17th Ave is Sunset, despite what RE agents may want to call it. Parkside (by my definition) is SFSU to Juniperro Serra to Sloat to Sunset Blvd, back to SFSU. Excluding Park Merced, of course.

          Regardless, if our Grand Dame Serge wants a charity boxing match, he can wear his finest Speedo or Depends and we can duke it out over Gay Pride weekend behind the Slider Burger parking lot.

          • Posted by Serge

            You agree that it looks crappy, yet you decide to go and talk trash by calling me childish? Pot, meet kettle.

          • Posted by jenofla

            Parkside is NORTH of Sloat. So saith Wikipedia, and me (and I live there).

      • Posted by Sierrajeff

        zero to 60 with the flaming, eh?

        have a nice day.

      • Posted by Mark

        I’m amazed by people on here who are quick with the attacks but who offer absolutely nothing to the thread.

        Okay, back to the subject. I live in Parkside (I’m neither old nor conservative…hmmn) and agree that the design is weak. However, given the relative size of the units (a generous 2,200 sq ft) I’m assuming the goal is to attract families to this family-oriented, yet urban/suburban, neighborhood which warrants a 3-car garage (1/unit).

        • Posted by NoeNeighbor

          I agree; it is nice to see a development that would really work for families. The design is uninteresting but not horrible.

  2. Posted by Brian M

    Not every project has to be “great” architecture. It’s perfectly fine in a modestly scaled way.

    • Posted by Serge

      No, it doesn’t, but we also should not make the same mistakes we did in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Just look at all the “Richmond/Sunset Specials” with their flat facades, lack of character, and dated looks. Just because it looks fine now, does not mean it will look good in 20, 10, or even 5 years. Brutalism looks good when it was built, too, but I don’t think anyone is going gaga over them now.

      • Posted by Alai

        Hear, hear. Although I have a theory that the Richmond Specials would not be considered nearly as offensive if their ground floors were not all blank walls, garage doors, and narrow entrances. Which I guess is the point of the “active use” rules referenced in the article.

        • Posted by Serge

          Don’t forget those fake rock walls on the ground floor. What were people thinking?

      • Posted by Brian M

        I see lots of windows, an attempt (not great, but there) to add some rhythm to the facade, some variation in color and massing.

        Again…not great. But then, a majority of the commercial architecture in West Portal is pretty conservative, even banal. Something “creative” from the Cult Compounds might not work here either.

        I would go for something more interesting IF I were the property owner and/or the architect.

        Even the Richmond Specials: the bigger problem is a lack of street trees (the what, 15′ wide sidewalks are needed?) and greenery. Richmond is not all that much worse than typical mid density suburbia you might see.

  3. Posted by Alai

    “the city’s position that garages promote the active use, rather than storage, of cars”

    I want to know more about that– is there a reference?

    “Section 145.1 of San Francisco’s Planning Code which requires the ground floor space within 25 feet of any street that’s at least 30 feet wide, such as 17th Avenue, to serve an “active use.””

    This seems to prohibit garages entirely on streets greater than 30 feet wide– which is basically all of them. How does this square with minimum parking requirements?

    Ok, I did my own research. Seems as though the entrances are fine, it’s just that the parking spaces themselves can’t be closer than 25 feet from the street, if there are more than two spaces, because the frontage is supposed to be preserved for active use. Still, this seems to prohibit multiunit buildings on 25 foot corner lots entirely, because you obviously can’t put parking further than 25 feet from the street, but you must still provide parking. In fact, I can think of new buildings, like the one on California & 4th Ave, where most of the ground floor is used for parking and which has large blank walls around the parking garage– how is that not a violation?

    • Posted by Serge

      Is there any word on the number of parking spaces?

      • Posted by Alai

        From the text above, “proposed three-car garage”. Makes sense since that’s the minimum required.

    • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

      Good point about corner building will be bar from having parking entirely. Has this been enforced elsewhere?

      California & 4th ave have great architecture. though. I haven’t pay attention to their garage.

      • Posted by Alai

        Not just barred from having parking, but barred from having any apartments, because in order to build apartments you’re required to build parking.

      • Posted by moto mayhem

        i live 2 blocks from the building on California and 4th. It is an abomination. I would much prefer this boxy thing than the building at Cal and 4th thats totally out of place and hideous design.

    • Posted by Jake

      If you want a good example of ‘inactive use’, directly across 17th ave from this building is a 3-story residential building with curb cuts for 8 separate garage doors. The lots are about the same size. If they build this as proposed the contrast would make a statement about how you can have cars and curbs.

      • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

        That’s real sad. it is only fair if there are annual fees imposed on the length of curb cut. After there are city resources allocated to the exclusive use of the owner.

        • Posted by Alai

          Yes. It’s funny to me that a parklet which replaces two parking spaces is so controversial– because those parking spaces are just so valuable to the community– while my neighbor has a curb cut which has probably not been used once in the last decade, but is kept clear 24/7.

      • Posted by Alai

        Well, yes and no. The difference is that the building with 8 separate garage doors also has 9 apartments. Now, I agree that it’s ugly, but one of the side effects of the “only one garage entrance” requirement is that it restricts the number of parking spaces and increases the amount of space required for those parking spaces (because they need additional maneuvering room). The limited number of parking spaces, in turn, limits the number of apartments allowed, and so you get a few large, expensive apartments, instead of a bunch of smaller, cheaper apartments, which has a direct impact on affordability.

        In fact, when I walked through that 4th & California building, it seemed to me that the layout of the apartments was very awkward, with a lot of space devoted to stairs and hallways. It seemed to me that it would have worked much better as an 8-10 unit building, instead of the six unit building it is, and I wondered if that was a result of the limit placed by the number of parking spaces they could fit.

        • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

          There’s still maneuvering room required for the 8 separate garage doors building. Just that the maneuvering occurs on the public sidewalk and street, blocking traffic when someone backs out. One parking garage entrance doesn’t really increase the amount of maneuvering room required, it just places it in the private realm where it belongs.

    • Posted by frog

      Is there any reason a car elevator isn’t appropriate in this part of town? I know they are annoying to use (I use one), but it’s a simple way around the planning code.

  4. Posted by Mark

    And for the record, this isn’t West Portal, it’s Parkside.

    [Editor’s Note: Since corrected above.]

  5. Posted by jenofla

    Kinda boring, but could be worse (just a box). Maybe the spare facade will make the units more affordable?

    • Posted by Mark

      Supply and demand determine affordability, not facades, window shapes or a skylight alignment with Orion.

      • Posted by Futurist

        I agree. The armchair design critics don’t have a clue as to much budget, time, entitlements, fees and consultants can affect the final physical “look” of new affordable housing. Stucco, simple materials, aluminum windows and minimal detailing are critical in actually getting a project like this built.

        Not every project has to be “world class” or “award winning” to be successful.

        The critics here should learn that.

  6. Posted by invented

    Love the fact that the flats are 2000sf. Yes, we have families. More please.

    As for the proposed design, it’s just that Taraval, Geary and other forgotten areas will benefit from some high quality design. There’s demand for good housing (design and materials) throughout the city, not just in select ‘hoods Do better than flimflam plywood with spray-on-stucco.

  7. Posted by Amewsed

    Glad that they will build these eventually. There are a number of these newer corner buildings along Taraval Street down to 34th Avenue, if not further. Large corner condos. designed for families and are indeed purchased by families to live in, not flip. Interesting to note is how fast these units sell (w/o a lot of open houses, marketing, etc.) due to the demand and demographics of this neighborhood. The Parkside Public Library is nearby and is always packed with kids and their parents on days with children story time or arts and crafts. A lot of the parents know each other and everyone is in a good mood, smiling, and relaxed. I don’t mind children running around making noise, as opposed to younger folks with earplugs in all day and glued to the smartphones.

    Also, with the L-Taraval subway trains running directly in front, it is noisy and the building residents will feel the rumbling as the subway train roll by. One of my college roommates lives a block away from Taraval and said the trains can be felt. It takes getting used to I guess. Her family still lives there and they love the area.

  8. Posted by katdip

    I’ve actually met the architect (in another context) and he is OK, though his work is fairly bland. This is fine for this space – very similar to what is going up all over town. Not cutting edge architecture, but not terrible or offensive. This is certainly an upgrade from what’s there now.

    • Posted by Paul

      i agree that the proposal is fine for this space. Not every building in SF needs to be the Lady Gaga of architecture.

      The architecture may be ‘meh’ – but it is more important to actually get housing built than to have endless design meetings about a modest residential building in a not so prominent location.

      it’s not like the existing building has any redeeming architectural quality….

  9. Posted by 4Oceans

    Eat at Marcellos, stay for the wild mushrooms!

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