698 Joost Avenue Before

The single-family Sunnyside home at 698 Joost Avenue was purchased for $705,000 without a garage or off-street parking space in January of last year.

Last month, the buyer of the home met with San Francisco’s Planning Department to discuss excavating the home’s sloped lot using Excavation Contractors to build a parking space and was informed that his plans would be challenging to get approved and would require a public hearing and variance from the City’s Planning Code.

That being said, if he plans ever did get approved then there is a lot of planning that would need to be involved in this sort of project. No matter how big the plan is they would need to consider things like whether dry hiring is worthwhile (you can find dry hire explained here for more information), how they would dig up the land and what the best course of action would be so nothing important got destroyed.

And so, without an approved plan or permit in hand, it appears as though the owner simply engaged a Marin-based landscaping company to start excavating the home’s yard and reroute it’s sewer line in order to create a coveted, and completely illegal, off-street parking space. When it comes to having to replace and repair the sewer line, it is important that you have the necessary planning permission. This is because this sort of work can disrupt the houses and buildings that surround the area, so informing the relevant authorities before starting the project is paramount.

698 Joost Avenue Excavation

A complaint about the unpermitted work was filed with the City’s Department of Building Inspection over a week ago, but despite the size of the excavation, its proximity to foundations and utilities, and a forecast for rain this week (which could erode the hill and create a mess), a building inspector has yet to visit the site and work continues.

But hey, who’s going to notice and what could possibly go wrong?

We’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: Within an hour of our story going live, a Building Inspector was on-site and a Notice of Violation was issued. As such, the homeowner will have 15 days to secure a permit or potentially be order to restore the slope. And technically, until a permit is secured, no further work is allowed (not that it was before).

UPDATE And with respect to that pesky No Parking sign which would make it difficult to pull into the newly dug spot, apparently it was moved soon after the inspector departed:

698 Joost Avenue after NOV

In for a penny…

99 thoughts on “In For A Penny…”
  1. Well if they can get some rebar, forms, and pour then likely not much would happen, provided they can channel uphill water runoff around the pore and out to the street. Just kidding.

  2. Meanwhile, as this is going on, my neighbor down the street in Parkside goes ahead and paves over his entire front yard.

  3. who cares…..honestly….Most SF’ers have too much time on their hands. Who cares if he builds 1 or 20 parking spaces on his property. I certainly don’t. The whole SF system of the hoops you have to jump through to get anything done and approved and then you need to bribe or blow your neighbors so they don’t file an appeal practically begs you to cut corners whenever possible. :p

    1. Exactly. This person has probably been trying to work within the ridiculous system for almost a year and finally gave up. I don’t blame them. Unfortunately they probably had to settle for a less than great contractor to do the work since there’s no permit. But that’s on the city.

      1. Actually the article says he met with the building department last month, not “almost a year” and his “working with them” seemed to be limited about asking about the possibility of a parking space without actually filing for a permit. But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

        1. It says the owner met last month but that doesn’t mean it was the first time or it was when the permit was applied for. The house was purchased almost a year ago. My comment is more of a rant on the city’s stance on building and improving private lands. You obviously disagree.

          [Editor’s Note: No applications for permits have been filed with the City.]

          1. The cities “stance”? You mean that they have a planning code to control what is built like pretty much every developed area? The planning code pre-dated his purchase, they bought into the house and the planning code.

            They didn’t do their due diligence if they planned on adding the garage.

    2. Who cares? The neighbors who rely on street parking might, since this will result in removal of at least 1 public-use street space for one private-use space.

      Why should the whole block suffer to enrich one arrogant property owner?

      1. really? your suggestion is that this guy can’t build a garage for a house that he “owns” and “pays taxes” b/c 1 public-use street space would be used up — and the whole block would suffer.

        clearly the guy should have not done this without a permit, but your response seems like its coming from somebody who doesn’t own a house and pay property taxes.

        1. Exactly. Not to mention you lose 1 parking spot (technically a fraction of one) in exchange for the property owner not using the 1 full spot on the street. If the curb cut width can be kept to a minimum, it will cause very little loss of street parking.

        2. Since when does “owning” a house and “paying taxes” (sic) guarantee private rights and ownership to public use street space? I’ll help you out: Unless the driveway has been permitted by the city, then it does not.

          Also, to correct you further, it is at least one spot at a minimum. Since we can’t see where the next block or driveway starts & ends, or what type of car is parking there at what time of day, we can only say that it is at least one spot.

          In San Francisco, a single publicly available parking spot can mean the difference between parking near home, or a 5+ block walk which may be a big deal for elderly or less mobile neighbors. Many of the hills in this neighborhood are very steep, too. So yes, there is a detriment to the neighbors.

          Maybe the owner wants to get his property reappraised after his illegal driveway is complete and cut his neighbors as a percent increase on the difference for all future sales. What do you think? Otherwise, no. Get a permit.

      2. Neighbor here. It would be better if he had a driveway/garage because this dude has two cars and two motorcycles that he has to cycle around for street cleaning. However, the dig is only big enough to hold the motorcycles.

        1. If he just wants to park motorcycles there, he might not need a curbcut, no? Could he legally just put in a concrete pad with supports for the slope, call it front yard hardscaping, and just put his motorbikes there?

      3. Permits are also used to ensure compliance with building codes; ensuring safe, proper construction. This protects neighbors and potential future buyers.

    3. The curb where the curbcut goes is public property. The owner is privatizing that public (parking!) space for his or her own use. That’s why it’s a public matter. Not complicated.

  4. Oh man, I live 5 houses down on that block and was joking with my neighbor that I didn’t see any permit posted and that I thought it might be tough for him to get a permit for a curb cut – I actually thought maybe he posted the permit on the Gennessee side of the house. I was happy that he redid the landscape and took down that chain link fence. [and no I wasn’t the one that filed a complaint]. Will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

  5. Are they going to relocate the sign and add a curb cut or just drive around it and over the curb?

    [Editor’s Note: See UPDATE above.]

    1. That is exactly why I assumed they pulled permits – they’d have to take down that sign to access it. The thing is, the house entrance is on Gennessee – which is a street that always has parking available because it is steep so people don’t want to park there.

    1. What does that mean “B”? you are going there to look for Planning Violations. Do you work for planning? They don’t come out to look at houses.

    1. You can rest assured your complaint # 201537481 regarding 247 Ney still shows as active. Complaints do not automatically resolve without inspection for compliance.

      Now, the question is why are you so interested? You a jealous neighbor, ex-lover, etc? Your prurient interest displays a certain kind of ugliness so often seen in the City.

      The property owner of 247 Ney will have to answer the DBI at some point in the future.

      1. DBI has done nothing in the past seven months. Are you telling me than an inspector is going to visit the house again after all this time?

        And, to answer your question, I am an etc.

  6. Folks are still paving over their fronts in my West of Twin Peaks neighborhood despite it being supposedly illegal. No one seems to care – surely not the local vaunted neighborhood association which I stopped being a member of, cause of this kind of stuff, several years ago,

    It’s weird, SF has the harshest rules re: planning and at times no rules at all. Go figure.

      1. Good god, seriously? Because it’s f’ugly, for starters; it increases runoff (and dirty runoff, at that) into storm drains and hence the Bay and Ocean, instead of allowing rain to percolate down; it increases urban heat island effects, and en masse it creates incredibly inhumane, boring “landscapes”. Oh, and did I mention it’s f’ugly?!

        Half the time I’m walking through the Richmond or Sunset, I day-dream about how much concrete could be jack-hammered away to create spaces for trees (shade, cleaner air, noise mitigation) and vegetation…

        I think I’d have to reconsider a friendship with anyone bat-sh*t dumb enough to pave over a yard.

        1. Some friends of mine in the Sunset re-did their front yard because it was paved over. It looks really nice now – they used some low water, low maintenance plants and landscaping.

        2. When I read BayviewSF’s comment I assumed it was facetious. No one with the mental capacity to operate a keyboard could seriously ask what is wrong with paving over your front yard.

        3. Amen. Not to mention they encourage people to use the sidewalk as additional parking. I too look forward to a day when all front yards in the Sunset and Richmond are returned back to their natural state.

          1. In my neighborhood that is almost always the reason fronts get paved over. For more parking and with mostly 25 foot fronts one ends up with SUVs parked (squeezed in) at an angle to the house. It look awful.

            Landscaping adds to the value of a home and the overall value of a neighborhood. Two recent major renovations near me, set up for sales, had partially cemented in fronts and, once the homes were redone, the fronts were too. Putting in trees and low maintenance but attractive plants and pulling up the cemented area and planting it too.

  7. For another great example along these lines (but more cleverly executed), check out 3326 23rd St., the SFH next to Walgreens b/t Mission and Bartlett. It sold last spring, w/o parking and with a big Magnolia tree in front, for about $400,000 – $600,000 less than two other very similar homes on the same block with parking. The contractor then “inadvertently” caused major structural damage to the tree while digging a channel under the house, necessitating emergency removal of the tree, and now there’s a new lower level with parking going in. Ta da!

    The penalty, per posted signs, is equal to the “full cost” of replacing the tree. Whatever this is, it’ll be a tiny fraction of the ~$500,000 that the owner saved by buying the home that didn’t have parking…

    1. But it’s absurd that a tree should prevent a home owner from modifying his property. The tree — I assume you mean the bigger one behind the curb-side one, is entirely on his/her property. As for the curb-side one, which I presume also went away, the City should require replacement, putting it in front of the stairway.

    2. Too much city regulation and too strict planning code. City should approve homeowner’s request to add a garage, a tree should not reduce home value by $500,000.

  8. Why the heck should it be difficult for this home owner to put in a garage? Virtually (literally, I checked Google street view) every house in every direction from here has a garage, complete with driveway and curb cut.

    I could see if Planning said he had to put it under the house or set it back under the side yard (with a terrace on top or something). But what other reason could they have for anything other than a routine approval (which I guess they wouldn’t/couldn’t do on principle…).

        1. Why don’t you give us your address so we can come over and jackhammer the sidewalk in front without calling USA North 811 first. Hopefully we wont hit any utility, sewer or water lines.

          1. This is not news and it is certainly not worthy to be published on the Socketsite I know and love.

  9. No one said he couldn’t, they just had some hoops to jump through. Owner decided he was too important or too special to have to follow the rules. Glad he got dinged, hope the fine is large.

  10. I’ve run into these [kinds of] owners before.

    I’m a young architect in the city and was speaking with a client about a basement conversion and deck addition. When I found out that the work was already under way, and he had been issued a stop work order by the city, I said that I wouldn’t be taking on the project. He didn’t understand what the problem was.

    I think some people just don’t want to bother with the regulations.

  11. UPDATE: And with respect to that pesky No Parking sign which would make it difficult to pull into the newly excavated off-street spot, apparently it was moved soon after the inspector departed (see new photo above).

  12. Out of curiosity, what happens if a Notice of Violation is issued but they keep working?

    They didn’t listen to the city once, why would they stop now that there’s a huge dirt hole in their front lawn – they’re pot committed.

    Does the city station a police officer in front of the home to stop future work? Confiscate the house via eminent domain? Put a lien on the home? Are there any real punishments, or is it just finger wagging?

  13. Wow. Moving a public parking sign from the cement moves this guy from casually arrogant to sheer douchebaggery.

  14. I can guarantee you this: [Pick any meat and three sides] if it had been forty stories, ugly as hell, requiring the tear down of a cherished mid-century gem, replacing a gas station or car wash, an Academy of Art micro-dorm, a techie micro-dorm, a navigation center (can anyone PLEASE explain to me what that means?), Ron Conway’s house, any BOS member’s house, an AirBnB house, a Blue Bottle, a start-up, a Soul Cycle or a crack house… Jake would have been told to go home and Bob would be your uncle.

    1. You really shouldn’t make implied threats on the life of this site’s owner, especially when you choose to post them under the moniker, “hitman.” Are you the owner of the property in question, by any chance? If I were you, I’d back off now.

      1. I’m not making a threat. I just don’t agree with salting another man’s game. It’s not cool and the fact that you take offense demonstrates the kind of person you are – probably some entitled dude used to running to his mommy.

        Player hating is for tricks and little b’s.

        1. @hitman: you sound like someone who doesn’t think the rules apply to him — and then you whine when you get in trouble. You need to grow up, man up and stop spouting sillly rhymes. Most people don’t want some one like you as neighbor.

    2. I think “Snitches get stitches” was the law of the [Hollywood] Gangland, not just the Bay. Unless you live only in the Bay. Then it is the law of the Bay.

  15. Such initiative should be celebrated and promoted. In a city where homeowners are responsible for trees planted in their sidewalks, this owner has gone to the extra effort to replant a street sign while increasing the value of San Francisco, and all with as minimal a burden on our backlogged agencies as possible. Win, win, winner.

    If only we could unleash more independent citizen initiative and volunteer labor to make improvements based on their unique local expertise, surely we could solve more problems at less cost. I may be inspired enough to reroute 3rd St tonight, it was all backedup today. Just leave it to me.

    WRT to our astute city Inspectors, as another Jake said to another inspector:

    Lt. Escobar: You must really think I’m stupid, don’t you Gittes.
    Jake Gittes: I don’t think about it that much but, gimme a day or two and I’ll get back to yuh. Now I’d like to go home.

    1. “I may be inspired enough to reroute 3rd St tonight, it was all backed up today.”

      That made me chuckle. Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer widens the highway. There is a reason some things require a permit.

  16. With respect to obtaining a response from DBI i admit i have filed a number of complaints with DBI only to see them filed, cases opened, inspectors doing drive by’s and posting notices. If a homeowner does not respond to a notice some time soon after apparently on some kind of schedule reminder they return to post a second notice. Notices are posted over and over again until finally generally close to a year the complaint is brought to a director’s hearing at which an order of abatement might be issued. That order of abatement often stands as the last action by DBI until such time (could be up to another year) that the case is then referred to the City Attorney. The process rarely yields much tangible action and in cases where i have seen action it has only come when i bypassed the process to directly contact DBI management, copy media for the sake of it, or create a scenario where people feel the need to C.Y.A.

    @BayviewSF…with regards to those paving over front yards…while it seems like it may simply be arbitrary to do so, what starts with one home often becomes entire blocks (i.e. The Sunset, Bayview, Excelsior, Richmond). The issue then becomes a very different neighborhood aesthetic but more significantly the lack of green space means more runoff to city sewers, and thus a greater flow to the Wastewater Treatment Plants. Capacity increases to those facilities on a capital improvement level is in the hundreds of millions bordering on billions, and greater street storage means more collection boxes or larger sewer lines…all which would come by means of rate hikes to secure bonds. So while it may seem like it comes down to one persons property, it effects a service supported and paid for by all. Thus the call for more street trees, green space in setbacks, permeable concrete, etc. Right now every development has to pay a capacity charge for a new sewer connection as it relates to new flows to the system, paving over a driveway essentially is adding unaccounted for flows to the system so it cumulatively is a huge concern especially as large development areas like SoMa, Pier 70, Mission Bay, Hunters Point, Park Merced are already slated to add significant flows to existing infrastructure.

  17. Joost is like most Sunnyside streets; too narrow for everyone to park on the street. It’s not exactly a block known for beautiful sprawling lawns, and more than a few of those houses have wild front yard jungles, with parked cars that look like they would explode if someone tried to drive them.

    What’s going on there that the consequences of this seemed like a better option?
    They at least intended to do the right thing and met with Planning.

    1. I live on Mt. Davidson quite a bit above Sunnyside. The streets here are too narrow also for everyone to park on the street and that is a big part of the problem on Mt. Davidson. Most homeowners have 2 cars and many have 3. Few use their garage. Everyone insists on parking on the street and its a jumble.

      Just go down Gaviota early in the morning. Parked wall to wall with cars. I have friends there. They have two cars. They used to park one in the garage religiously back when the husband got home earlier and could park carefully in front of the home. In the morning he’d leave just before his wife and she could back out fairly easily. Now he gets home late and the space in front of their house and next door are taken. She has hit her car several times trying to back out on this narrow street. Their only solution was to park both cars outside.

      There is a parking crisis that drives folks to this but the city and most neighborhoods won’t address it. There is an obvious solution.

      Beyond that, Fowler (try driving down that street mid-day on a weekday), Juanita and other streets are parked full all day as folks from outside the area park there and walk down to Forest Hill station to catch Muni to work. They can’t park between Forest Hill Station and up to Portola as that neighborhood quite a while ago had 4 hour parking limits put on all the streets during the week – for those without a resident permit. It works well – those streets are not jumbled up with wall to wall parked cars during the weekday.

      Again, th solution to this problem is obvious too.

      1. The only solution is that people use their garages….problem is a lot of these houses no longer have garages…which still leaves driveways, and parking up on the curb… the neighborhood associations used to require this.

        We’re talking about streets that become one way, one lane because residents are parking wide pickup trucks, SVU’s, etc. on both sides of the block, on streets that are narrow to begin with, winding around with up and down slopes. A lot of families have multiple cars they park in from of other people’s houses, making it difficult to use their driveways or for two cars to determine right of way, and find room to pull over.

        With Uber/Lyft and other delivery services, there’s new traffic unfamiliar with the area, which also happens to be foggy on a frequent basis.

        Add in poor street lighting at night, and it’s a bad recipe.

        1. There is various themes on this issue but the main one is a big housing mismatch in a dense city. My grandparents old house and many on their street are now tenements with people living in garages with 3-4 cars per house and paved over landscaping and all of that

          Those old houses were meant for nuclear families and quite modest ones at that. Now they are either filled with immigrants or middle class people who want and need more space these days

          We really need way more modern multi-family housing

      2. To me, it seems the ‘obvious solution’ would be for the city to issue only as many neighborhood parking permits as there are street parking spaces.

        For most areas, that would be no more than one permit per building.

        If the residents there need to park more than one car, then they should clean out their garage and park the extra one inside.

        If they need to park more than two cars, then they are living in the wrong city.

        1. Bingo. One permit per household per street parking space. Coupled with 4 hour parking limits as in Forest Hill, it would work. That would allow the typical two car household still the option of parking one car on the street, but force them to park the other in the garage.

          The city can’t limit the number of cars someone owns but for those who own 3 I’d say allow purchase of a second resident permit at a steep cost. Like $1000/year.

          1. California state law limits the price of residential parking permits to the cost of administering the program. SF can limit the permits/residence.

          2. Jake is right, but – I think – this can be changed with a 2/3 vote. The real value of a street spot is high, and I’d vote for increasing parking permit fees, especially for multiple cars.

          3. I was told the same thing by my District Supervisor that the City can only charge for RPP based on the cost to administer the program. I would be glad to work as the RPP program administrator at an annual salary with City benefits of 50 million dollars per year or whatever amount would be required to raise RPP pricing to 1000/year. I was unsuccessful in getting current RPP issued numbers from the MTA, so I don’t know how many permits are issued each year.

  18. @ Jake – I did not know that. Then limit the permits per residence to 1. Forcing two car households to use their garage for what it was intended for with one of their cars.

    I suppose an option opened up for the few people who have just one car and park in their garage to sell their permit to someone in the neighbor hood who has 3 cars. There are a few older folks in my area who don’t drive and have no car. It would give them the opportunity to rent their garage and perhaps get some much needed income.

    The 3 car households in my area probably half belong to owners renting their homes out room by room. So a three bedroom home has 3 or more young folks each with a car.

    1. You’re right, parking permits would help somewhat, but these aren’t areas where Meter Maids are hanging out.

      I live across from a home where the husband and wife each have extended body pickup trucks, a project car in disrepair parked in their driveway, and each of their 4 college aged kids has a car. They have family visiting often, who arrive in more than one car, and then I’m pretty sure they keep a backup car around, and they’re apparently big believers in driving gas guzzlers. They lack the common sense to space out their cars. That’s an extreme case, but every house on my block has 2-3 cars, and it seems like the only people who use their garages, moved here before the 80’s. On some of these blocks, you feel like you’re going to scrape cars just to use the roads. I’m sure people are reading this thinking how this sounds like a trivial suburban problem, but we’re talking Mt. Davidson down to Ocean, so it’s a sizable chunk of the city.

      Putting the car up on the curb used to help.

      1. Oh yeah. On one street here there is a wide construction worker type of truck. Owned by the homeowner. He puts cones out at night with reflectors as the truck extends so far into the road. And of course there is the car parked directly on the other side of the street so you really do have to go slow as there is not much room on either side to get through.

        As to meter maids the reason they are not in my area of Mt. Davidson so much is there are no restricted parking signs. They are all over Mollie Stones and Juanita MS’s which has two hour parking.

        Plus, do they start before 6AM? Its so bad on my street people park within 2 feet of the fire hydrants at night. Knowing I guess that they will leave for work and drive away before the rare meter maid comes by on the street.

  19. I live in mission terrace, and on my street I’m one of only 3-4 houses (out of 32) that actually park a car in the garage. Nearly everyone else either has developed the garage space (mostly illegally) or has it completely filled with junk. Most households have 2-3 cars, including a number of beaters that only move on street cleaning.

    We finally had pay the MTA to paint our curbs so we could actually have room to get in and out of our driveway, which of course reduces parking even more. I wish there was a way to make people use their garages for cars – it would make the streets much safer and reduce a lot of parking tension.

    1. Limiting parking permits to no more than one per address would also help with the problem of ‘beaters’ and ‘project cars’ that do little more than sitting around for 6 days at a time looking ugly.

      These old beat-up legacies are particularly prevalent in the Southern neighborhoods. They take up valuable street parking, while also lowering neighborhood aesthetics and property values. As it is, their owner’s only incentive not to scrap the things is the hassle of moving them once a week for street cleaning. If they weren’t allowed to get a second parking permit for their old beater, then they’d either have to keep it inside (out of sight) or get rid of it altogether.

      Very few families actually *need* more than one permit, and those who actually do get more than one or two are usually the ‘hobby collectors’ who average 2-3 vehicles per resident (or 8-12 vehicles per house), and selfishly take up half the street spots on the block, making city living just that much more frustrating.

      There are lots of reasons for the city to limit parking permits to no more than 1 per address, and almost no good reason not to do so.

      1. You complain about scrap beaters and the Southern neighborhoods, but surely Danielle Steele would summon a louder voice in the matter.

  20. I live in Marin with a 2-car garage and room behind my gate for many more automobiles. When people come over, the empty streets allow easy parking in front of my house.

    However, hypothetical parking complaints by reality-removed suburbanites, or liberal San Franciscans-by-choice, are petty bourgeoisie concerns. This is because “problems” that can be fixed with money are not really problems.

    1. “petty bourgeoisie concerns.”

      Definitely get that, but we’re not talking about anything hypothetical, we’re talking about congestion and safety on streets like Joost. No money in the world can fix the narrow streets of SF (not Marin) so it comes down to neighborly conduct.

      Bigger issues to be had, which is why the situation is so out of control.

  21. It doesn’t look like they have a proper retaining wall planned.

    To hold back that much dirt, the foundation of the wall would have to be pretty deep and therefore, the waste pipes would have to be buried beneath that, which means it won’t drain properly into the sewer. So the under designed retaining wall won’t hold back the hill, which could lead to uneven settling of the house’s foundation. At best he will have really bad cracks in his walls, at worst, the foundation could be damaged and do some serious structural damage to his house. It can also impact his neighbor’s house as well.

  22. On a typical day a car is parked in every space on this street.

    In building this private parking space the new neighbor is removing one public parking space, leaving his neighbors and transients (i.e. CCSF students) fewer places to park their cars.

    A hearing is in order so others may offer formal comments/complaints to the DBI.

    Yet construction continues.

    If he wants to get along with his new neighbors he might want to play by the rules.

    1. CCSF students have no reason to park there. It’s 100% residential.

      The process is a hearing, but that wasn’t always the case. Only a handful of the oldest houses on the block are without driveways/parking pads.

      1. @HGH I live here. Students have been parking here as long as I’ve lived here (32 years). Where do you get your information?

        1. Live where? Sunnyside? On Joost? Yeah right. Very few if anyone is parking on the other side of Monterey and walking 10 minutes. Plenty more convenient streets if you’re going to pick a residential one. Plus the school has parking.

  23. RE: street parking

    not that it’s feasible in SF, since DMV policies are set by the State, but in major Japanese cities you simply are not allowed to register ownership of a vehicle unless you can provide proof of off-street parking for said vehicle (ie. a leased spot or home title). the fundamental problem is that we Americans feel entitled to the use of the public street space for our personal property. if you don’t pay for parking, you don’t get parking — and shouldn’t own a vehicle. harsh yes, but a straightforward arrangement that resolves multiple issues (illegal paving of front yards, for one), and vastly increases support for desperately needed improvements to public transit.

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