The Elbo Room

With the proposed redevelopment of the Elbo Room – which now calls adding three new stories atop the existing two-story building at 645-647 Valencia Street, converting its ground floor into a 600-square-foot retail space and 4-car garage, and constructing seven apartments above – having been granted a streamlined environmental review and the building permits for the project in the works, the owners of the 3-unit building behind the bar on Sycamore and Lexington have filed a formal challenge in the form of a dreaded Discretionary Review (DR).

645 Valencia Rendering

Citing a potential loss of light, increased shadowing of the adjacent building’s ground-floor garden, and privacy concerns, “with many windows and balconies at our property line with direct views of our bedrooms and other living spaces whereas there are currently none,” the neighbors are seeking to force a redesign of the project as proposed, specifically with respect to its eastern mass.

While the architects and project sponsor have agreed to a number of window and balcony changes in order to address a number of the neighbors’ privacy concerns, they’re unwilling to reduce the project’s overall mass. And with the existing bar having been deemed a historic resource, requiring a 15-foot setback from Valencia Street for the proposed addition, there isn’t any room to shift the proposed mass around.

According to the project team: “Contrary to [the neighbors’] statement that we ‘do not want to change the building design’ with additional setbacks, the reality is we cannot make further reductions and have a financially feasible project.”

And with the neighbors’ Discretionary Review having formally been filed, it will now be up to San Francisco’s Planning Commission to decide. The project team had been positioning to start construction, which is to be phased and last an estimated 16 months, “by the end of 2016.”

The Elbo Room’s current lease ends at the end of this year.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by San Francisco

    this will be interesting

  2. Posted by boojum

    My neighbors all around me have “direct views of [my] bedrooms and other living spaces whereas there [formerly were] none.” My solution: Curtains! Which I highly recommend. Sorry Discretionary Review filer: This is the big city. If your expectation for complete privacy through unscreened windows became the standard citywide, nothing could ever be built. I sympathize, but hope the Planning Commission rejects your request.

  3. Posted by Bernard Thomas

    With the advent of drones, NOBODY can have uncurtained windows with an expecttion of complete privacy. This is a nuisance argument.

  4. Posted by Tony

    That is a terrible use of space.

  5. Posted by Joe

    They should come back and invoke the State’s density bonus. These neighbors object because they can.

  6. Posted by DCR

    DRs are what, $600 or so and free to neighborhood groups? Why wouldn’t you file a DR on the slight chance that either the owner is now forced to work to resolve your issues in order to not wait for a Planning Commission meeting, or failing that, that the Planning Commission might mandate a change as a condition of approval?

  7. Posted by Bobby Mucho

    No doubt that the neighbors were contacted by some NIMBY group to help formalize their otherwise benign concerns.

    The thing that pisses me off the most about this is that this will likely end with the project being delayed again and again while Elbo Room (a long-standing and successfully operating business) loses the space and the property left to sit vacant for years.

    Oh, not to mention it’s the third, or so, iteration of the redevelopment plan—this one yielding the least amount of units, less commercial space (than currently) and ground level garage.

  8. Posted by NIMBY turtle

    Wonder why condo prices are so high in SF? Too many NIMBYs. DR costs $600 to NIMBY. DR cost to builder/owner is $1M or more.

    • Posted by Sabbie

      Nope wrong, it’s because there is plenty of money willing to pay those prices. If there weren’t, prices would come down. In addition, studies have found that building more new condo supply in a neighborhood actually drives up prices due to the gentrification factor. The amount of new supply you’d have to add in order to make a dent in SF prices is massive. Prices have come down lately, but it’s probably much more to do with the latest report that Bay Area startup funding just hit a six year low.

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