Purchased by the founder of the Flip video camera company (which was sold to Cisco for $590 million in 2009 and subsequently shuttered) for $1.2 million in August of 2002, plans to expand the “immaculate pano-view Noe Valley home with [an] attractive Mediterranean façade” at 655 Alvarado Street were approved in 2011.

As approved, the plans included a horizontal extension of the 2,700-square-foot home’s existing first floor and basement levels, the addition of a second basement level at its rear, and a partial third story to be added atop the existing structure.

And while shelved for a couple of years, the plans were dusted off in late 2015 and permitted last year, since which time the home has effectively, and rather illegally, been demolished behind its façade.

According to an anonymous complaint filed with the City this past August, the demolition has been causing a neighbor’s home to sink.

And two months later, following a couple of sternly worded letters that appear to have gone unanswered, the building permits for 655 Alvarado were officially suspended.

Last month, plans for an effectively new 5,100-square-foot home to rise on the site were revealed and an application to retroactively legalize the demolition and development already underway have now been filed with the City, noting that the previously permitted work had somehow surpassed the demolition threshold during construction.

As the “existing home” at 655 Alvarado currently appears behind the remnants of its façade:

33 thoughts on “The Flippin Story behind Another Freestanding Facade”
  1. not looking too much better than the prior home, or the temporary façade…. lacking a lot architecturally in the pseudo-adaptation of a historic style…

  2. The penalty for “accidentally” demolishing a property beyond the scope of the permit should be so significant that it effectively prevents these demolitions from occurring, but unfortunately, it apparently is not sufficient to do so.

      1. The approvals to demolish a sound home, whether it’s historic or not, are more time consuming, costly and difficult to acquire versus a permit to “remodel” and construction that somehow creeps beyond the approved scope of work.

    1. Yes, no point if having a permitting system if the owners/contractors just do as they see fit. I would say hefty fines for the owner as well as the general contractor, and maybe a couple of weeks in county jail to bring the point home.

        1. Yeah, who cares if there are zoning restrictions, historical preservation or any kind of laws for this type of activity. People should be able to do what they want on their own parcel.

      1. Jail time?!? That’s the dumbest thing that I’ve heard all day. You nosy liberals in SF can’t even put an illegal immigrant murder in jail. How are you gonna jail a property owner for tearing his house down? Idiot. Screw you.

  3. I’m confused at the shack, the facade and the view. Assume the view was taken recently. When were the top two pics taken?

    1. The first picture is circa 2015, prior to any work. The subsequent two pictures were taken this week.

      Keep in mind that said “shack” measured over 2,700 square feet across three levels which stepped down the hill.

  4. Not a surprising story. It illustrates that there are few if any consequences for exceeding permit scope or even doing major works without permits. Planning & BBI have long operated on a laissez faire philosophy. The only effective way for neighbors to protect themselves against the impact of nonpermit work is to hire a good land use attorney.

  5. After this gentleman sold the Flip Phone to Cisco, he went on to found the Melt restaurant chain.

    [Editor’s Note: From which he was removed as CEO last year having raised money based on a forecast of having 500 outlets by 2017. There are currently 13.]

    1. I love it. “which was sold to Cisco for $590 million in 2009 and subsequently shuttered.” And then the Melt thing – “forecast of having 500 outlets by 2017. There are currently 13.” Pretty much sums up a large portion of our local economy upon which our real estate values are based.

      And then to have the property illegally demolished, Herb Cain would be proud – the Barbary Coast is alive and well…

  6. I can assure you that DBI does come out for “accidental demo”, but it is complaint based and seems to lean heavily on if the property owner is a jerk or not.

  7. Leave this guy alone. What a load of busybodies we have in SF: He has a Permit, & Plans, paid the City fees, and this is quite normal (& very expensive, & time consuming) process. Although admittedly the elevation isn’t too inspiring, but that what you get in SF w/ our planning rules.
    God luck to him.

    1. I disagree – if you don’t like the rules you need to change them, not reward the people who breaks them. This only makes fools out of honest people who actually take the time to work within the rules.

    2. Not a chance. They tried to play by their own rules, not the rules that ALL of us should follow when it comes to building permits.

      1. Unless of course you are City staff, friends of the Mayor, or on the Port Commission. Then you don’t even pretend to follow the building permit rules you are well paid to enforce. Cue Mr. Mel Murphy and his crowd of cronies…. 🙂

  8. Today in San Francisco:

    Guy dismantles more of his house than maybe he was supposed to – internet up in arms. “THERE ARE RULES!”

    Jury acquits undocumented immigrant man 5 times deported for murdering a passerby on the Embarcadero – “IT’S A SANCTUARY – WE ENFORCE THE RULES WE FEEL LIKE ENFORCING.”

    1. Small relation, indeed … although large enough, apparently, to get posted, and much in keeping with the poster’s earlier rants about illegal-demolition persecution fantasies.

      But if we’re going to make abstract comparisons that at least tie-in to the theme of “ask forgiveness, not permission”, shouldn’t they be to the latest revelation that Uber might have run a “dirty tricks” unit (for the purpose of stealing trade secrets)?? When is someone finally going to RICO them out of business, and show that just because you ask to be forgiven, it doesn’t mean you will be ??

    2. That makes no sense – he was acquitted of what, manslaughter, I believe? That’s what was on trial – not his immigration status.

      1. I think the whole range of homicide options – Murder One thru involuntary – was open for consideration, but the fact that he was “5 times deported” shows the “rule” WAS being enforced (since that’s the remedy for unlawful entry).
        Perhaps “b_e_o” – love the name if not always the posts – is hinting our careless flipper should try for a jury trial on his unlawful demo case.

      2. By operating as a sanctuary city, San Francisco does not cooperate with federal enforcement of immigration law. We choose not to enforce these rules. The net result for the victim in the Steinle case is that she was killed by an undocumented immigrant who was not supposed to be in the country. By providing “sanctuary” city government abetted the crime, in my opinion.

        In this story, a home owner cut the top floor off of his middling modest home and the only real argument why this is awful that has been mustered here (Futurist, Out of Town) is that “There are rules and honest people follow them.”

        I find sad irony in the situation that adherence to law is deemed important in the case of the particulars of someone tearing down his own house, while our municipal flaunting of national immigration rules helped result in an innocent person being killed, and the killer being acquitted of murder.

        I understand that this comparison may have been too much for many readers. Perhaps we should move on to something interesting like a condo that trades down 1.5% from 18 months ago.

  9. SF seems to have no “teeth” when comes to various forms of illegal building and demo activity. The city should impose some serious fines for property and permit abuse. Now contractors seem to build in to their estimates those pesky $500 fines.

  10. The NY Times story this week about 1310 Haskell in Berkeley will provide some useful background for anyone unfamiliar with the difficulties of getting a demolition permit in the Bay Area.

    Two projects in my Richmond neighborhood (318 30th Ave and 325 29th Ave) have requested demolition of older tiny homes and been brought to a complete standstill by neighbor opposition.

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