Purchased as a “grand and totally vacant” 2-unit building, “with ample opportunity for expansion and renovation in a prime Presidio Heights location,” for $3.95 million in October of 2019, a permit for an “in kind only” and non-structural renovation of the 4,165-square-foot Victorian at 3665 Clay Street was approved and issued in June of last year.

An application to secure an over the counter permit for a more extensive remodeling and fourth floor expansion was subsequently submitted to the city in early September but was never approved.

And on September 15, 2020, the city received a tip that the foundation of the building had been removed.

A site inspection confirmed that the foundation had been removed along with around 40 yards of soil and that the unpermitted work had undermined the foundations of the buildings on either side. And as such, an emergency permit to pour a new foundation was summarily approved and completed.

While the original permit for the “renovation” was revoked, the aforementioned application for a more extensive remodeling, which was on hold, is now close to being approved.

But with another complaint having noted that the underlying plans for the “renovation” appear to have been drawn to yield a single-family home, sans an approved dwelling unit merger or Planning review, a formal Notice of Complaint has just been issued by Planning and no permits will be issued until the alleged violation is resolved.

And yes, these are the type of infractions which the proposed “Expanded Compliance Control List” aims to address.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Neighborhood Activist

    Is the developer/contractor a known “bad actor” from previous projects?

    I certainly hope they don’t get away with the no-way-in-hell-should-it-be-approved lot merger. We need another 5,000 sf mansion like we need 5,000 more homeless addicts. The two previously-existing units in the building were already generously-sized and neither should end up smaller than it was before the renovation started.

    • Posted by Ohlone Californio

      I don’t have a feeling on this one way or another. However, it’s not a mansion, it’s not 5000 sq ft, and it’s not a lot merger.

      Rafael Mandelman’s exploitive language is pervasive disinformation, and it has people assimilating lies.

    • Posted by Miraloma Man

      Hah! Hah! Exactly.

    • Posted by AdmiralGrace

      A case of “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than get permission”?

    • Posted by MarinaBoy

      People need space to move around and a family of four or five could need that much space easily. I live in 2,450 sf with my partner and two dogs and I wouldn’t want anything smaller,

    • Posted by Tom Mason

      It is not your property. As long as the zoning laws (including max. height and setbacks) are kept with no infringements, no one, especially “Neighborhood Activists” should have a say on how the property is rebuilt.

      Your hope or opinions should not be relevant here: the city of SF needs to remove the well-intentioned yet – badly abused nimby procedures, here: it simply violates property rights.

      Anyone with true interest in funding local public policies should not oppose development projects of this type: The city will gain a large revenue from this development: transfer tax, increased property taxes for many years to come.

      + I doubt you are a true neighbor to this project. and I wonder who is sponsoring the anti-development activists.

  2. Posted by Juan Doe

    Appears Giovanni Italiano (do names get more Italian?) is the culprit. I don’t believe he’s on anyone’s outside the scope of work permit radar. The conspirator’s (owner) profile appears to yield some classic real estate trends.

    • Posted by Chris

      I am not sure what anyone’s ethnicity has to do with the price of eggs? Giovanni Italiano is a native San Francisco (somewhat of a rarity these days) who co-founded the construction company in questions, Excelsior Building Group. Whether they have any other history of permit complaints aside from this project, I have no idea. But, I would focus on actions, not extraneous details, especially when in your screen name you have a somewhat dubious play on the name “John Doe” (if your real name is “Juan,” fine, if not, then I think you know how it looks).

    • Posted by AstrosFan

      That is not the name on the DEED…

  3. Posted by Adam

    Forget broken car windows- unidentified scofflaws keep making off with the city’s very foundations!

    I’m still not sure if the city has realized yet that their approach to these infractions has only perpetuated them. Foundation gone? Well obviously they will approve the pouring of a new foundation, they have to. Which was the clear goal of the developer anyways. They might never have gotten permission in the first place but they have it now, and so breaking the rules becomes part of the cost of business.

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      I wonder why the city would reject a foundation replacement permit application. I can understand why the city might have an issue with the excavation to create more livable space. But replacement of a foundation or any structural component that has reached end of life should be automatically approved.

      • Posted by Adam

        We don’t know if there was anything wrong with the foundation or not. We don’t know if the new foundation allows for more headroom on the ground floor to allow for the now obligatory media room. Since they did not just apply for a permit from the beginning the reasons are suspect.

      • Posted by Chris

        I do not see anything in the posted blurb saying the city denied a permit to repair/replace the foundation, it simply seems no permit was submitted, unless the foundation work was included in the permit still under review for a more “extensive remodeling.”

        I agree with tougher enforcement of permit scofflaws, but I also believe overly-restrictive and complex rules lead to the sort of widespread gaming of the system you see going on. Many cities maintain high architectural standards and preserve their housing stock without having such a byzantine permitting system. If the rules were simpler and less onerous, yes, you would still have some individuals who tried to break them, but there would be far fewer, and they would be easier to identify and punish accordingly.

      • Posted by katdip

        Probably they didn’t want to pay the permit fees, nor add the cost of the new foundation to the valuation of the house (raising their property taxes). Ahh, the libertarian approach to home renovation – those stinking rules are meant for other people, not the Masters of the Universe!!! But they paid no real penalty for trying to get away with it, except a construction delay to get the foundation permit.

      • Posted by SocketSite

        A permit to replace the foundation, which was never requested, beyond the emergency action, would have triggered a formal Planning review and required approvals for the project versus an over the counter (OTC) request.

        • Posted by sparky-b

          Why would the foundation replacement need Planning approval? Assuming that it is replace in the same location it would only need Building approval, I think.

          Side note, until OTC actually returns they need to come up with a new name. OTC is really months out from drop to to review.

        • Posted by Chris

          Socket Site: No, that isn’t true. Voluntary foundation upgrade, including replacement, is allowed without Planning Dept’s meddling.

      • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

        I am aware that no permit was pulled for the foundation. My question was about why the builder didn’t file a permit that should just be rubber stamped OTC, assuming the plans meet building codes. the closest explanation so far is what katdip said about the extra permit fees and resulting increase in assessed value. (Does replacement increase assessed value? I’d think that replacing like for like would have a net zero effect on the assessed value).

        Another explanation is that the builder’s goal was to increase living space, not simply replacing an old foundation.

  4. Posted by CalCulver

    The foundation has been removed? What’s it sitting on….Old tires?

    • Posted by Ohlone Californio

      You laugh. But I’ve seen kegs as foundation.

      • Posted by Notcom

        Kegs?? We can all top that (so to speak)

        • Posted by Ohlone Californio

          Yeah, that one. I was in it prior to the sale after which this guy put it up on a car jack.

          I’ll never forget it. There was like a trap door and a whole lower level room that was straight outta some sort of movie. Like, ancient dolls that had been an adult’s prized possession, and things like that, odd scribblings, odd celebrity shrines on the wall, think like Potsy from “Happy Days,” or similar. My business partner at the time turned to me and said, “let’s get the ____ out of here.” One of the weirdest spaces I’ve ever seen.

          • Posted by Notcom

            What a schmuck!!
            E-V-E-R-Y-one knows for a house you need two jacks.
            Hello
            🙂

          • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

            I’ve successfully done minor repairs for an unevenly settled foundation with a pair of cheap hydraulic bottle jacks. But the scope of the jacking was limited to lifting no more than 15′ of cripple wall and the max lift was about 3 inches, enough to slip in shims and level the floors, not enough for a catastrophe.

          • Posted by Notcom

            The fourth word there is integral to the second.

  5. Posted by Hayes Valley Denizen

    Doesn’t it just need to have a stair case with a door and a kitchenette to be considered two units still, even if it will obviously never be used as or live as one? That’s what Peskin did.

  6. Posted by soccermom

    I don’t care if two units get merged in a wealthy neighborhood. We’re building condos and people are moving out. Please stop petty criminals from breaking into garages. Clean up the city. Stop the fauxtrage about home renovations.

  7. Posted by Chris

    Funny how all of these people are creating a scandal where there is none!

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