Following seven months of debate, proffers and delay, San Francisco’s Planning Commission has rejected the requested Discretionary Review (DR) that would have required a redevelopment of the under-permitted designer home at 3847 18th Street.

As we first outlined back in May:

Purchased for $1.5 million in August of 2014, when bank-owned, two legal units and partially tenant occupied, the “classic Victorian” at 3847-3849 18th Street, half a block from San Francisco’s Mission Dolores Park, has since been rather spectacularly “reimagined for 21st-century living, adding contemporary and high-tech conveniences behind a timeless façade” and returned to the market listed for $11.85 million early last year.

Highlights of the reimagined home, the list price for which has since been reduced to $9.4 million, include “designer living and dining areas, an open concept chef’s kitchen, a skylit family room, three bedroom suites, and walls of glass overlooking a bright atrium,” with an outdoor kitchen and “a 1,300-square-foot guest level with a private entrance, a four-car garage, and elevator access to four of five levels.”

But according to a series of complaints and requested Discretionary Review (DR), the plans for the reimagining “were submitted [to Planning] in a manner that presented all scopes of work presented as being exempt from Section 311 neighborhoods notification requirements, in some cases by not correctly portraying the existing conditions,” and the development far exceeded the scope of what had been permitted, including the elimination of two equal-sized units (and an illegal third unit as well).

While the requestor of the DR has requested that the Planning Commission order the developer, Dawson & Clinton, to return the building to its original configuration as a multi-unit building, “as many other similar properties have been required to do by the Planning Commission,” San Francisco’s Planning Department is recommending that the team be allowed to legalize its work, having identified the following list of under-permitted changes which have been performed:

  1. Two-story horizontal addition at rear SE corner of the building
  2. Enclosure of existing lightwells (east and west sides) at levels 1 & 3
  3. Enlargement of the existing lightwell (west) at levels 2 & 3
  4. Increase the habitable square footage of the attic space
  5. Addition of a bay window at front of the basement level, located beneath the front stairs
  6. Front addition to the garage to align with the front property line
  7. A 40 SF roof deck at the rear of level 3
  8. The combining of two “exempt” dormers into one single dormer
  9. A 11′-4″ (max height) wall along the east side property line
  10. A 4′-8″ white laminated glass guardrail/privacy screen along the east side property line
  11. A new steel garage door and pedestrian gate.
  12. Retaining walls and guardrails at front property line
  13. Cumulative excavation for all work performed, estimated at 882 Cubic Yards

In addition, the city’s Residential Design Advisory team has requested that the front gable window be reduced to match the proportions of the original window, the front entry way be “solidified,” and the window design of the building’s façade be maintained.

As such, while Dawson & Clinton will be required to return the gable window to its original size, the other under-permitted work and changes will effectively be legalized pending a requested Variance from existing rear yard and front setback requirements which were violated, a variance which is likely to be granted by San Francisco’s Zoning Administrator.

And while the Planning Commissions’ decision did include a finding to recognize an offer from the project team to gift the city $250,000 in lieu of having to add a third unit back to the building, and reject the requested DR, keep in mind that said offer isn’t legally binding or enforceable. We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Notcom

    “…will be required to return the gable window to its original size”

    VICTORY!! Let’s face it, that’s what most people noticed/cared about anyway.

  2. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    $250,000 wouldn’t even amount to a slap on the wrist (what is that, like, 2.1% of $11.85M?), and to make matters worse, Dawson & Clinton would be able to deduct it as a business expense.

  3. Posted by AY

    Completely spineless Commission and Administrator.

    C&D willfully thumbed their noses at the code/rules, got caught and will clear $2-3M for their misdeeds.

    I like the project but not the approach. It’s a terrible precedent the Commission just set for acting illegally.

  4. Posted by mary_jane_jacobs

    What a fine victory for civilized people! Thank goodness we devoted time to this instead of poop and needles! Where can I file a Discretionary Review request for the abdication of municipal responsibility for unsanitary conditions throughout 33% of our streets? Gabled window adjustment indeed.

  5. Posted by Scott Parsons

    Quid pro quo… San Francisco runs on it. I mean literally… “permit expediters”.

  6. Posted by JRrid

    Gifting the city for $250k in return for a city approval. Isn’t that a nicer way of saying they just bribed the city here?

    • Posted by Jordan

      The best part is that the gift is voluntary, the city can’t enforce Dawson and Clinton to pay it. Basically, you only need to promise that you would pay. It’s not even pay-to-play.

      Completely spineless Commission!

  7. Posted by frozentoast

    I would estimate the reno cost with developer discount at around 4M. Add 500k for fine, carrying costs, lawyers etc and the 1.5 purchase price. They’re in for a very rough estimate of 6M so lets see what it sells for.

    Looking closer at the floor plans – from the main area you have to walk up the stairs and thru a bedroom to get to the main deck? Very awkward

    • Posted by OMN

      There looks to be a non-glass door to the main deck that doesn’t go from a bedroom. The bedroom’s door to the deck is all glass.

      • Posted by jenofla

        Looks like the only way to main deck is thru that bedroom. In the photo from the deck into the bedroom, that non-glass door is the wooden door between bedroom and rest of house. The glass door between bedroom and deck is open. So this is essentially a 2 bedroom house (on different levels), if you don’t include the in-law. That pass thru bedroom probably better utililzed as something semi-public, like an exercise room or study or game room.

  8. Posted by katdip

    Meanwhile DBI comes down hard on the guy on the Appeals Board by revoking his permits for minor discretions that normally get fixed, simply because he had the temerity to call out the cronyism and corruption at DBI. But Planning allows the genteel Dawson and Clinton to get away with permit-murder with a slap on the wrist and millions in profit. Maybe they were just more polite about their graft?

    • Posted by Jake T

      Or zone every lot for 6-8 stories of apartments so these are not the most lucrative improvements one can make to a dilapidated property.

  9. Posted by Bayview_Rising

    I see no incentive to follow the laws in this city. I live in a home that we bought as flipped and had to put >$100k into it w/in the first 5 years because of stuff that wasn’t built to code (aka, lipstick on a pig), yet DBI signed off on the [conservative] permits. DBI is asleep at the wheel. Whether it’s incompetence, promises of bribery, or simply too much work for too few people, it doesn’t really matter when the wealthy get a different set of rules to play by than the rest of us who have to work for a living.

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