Controversial San Francisco lot back in supervisors’ spotlight 


The former site of a recently-demolished 1861 San Francisco cottage is once again the subject of conflict.

The Russian Hill historic structure, formerly at 1268 Lombard St., was torn down in the spring of 2009, despite the protests of preservationists who said it should have been saved.

At the time, a member of the San Francisco Building Inspection Commission determined the cottage had been willfully neglected. The finding added credence to neighbors’ claims that the owners purposefully let the structure become unstable — and left it open to transients — so they could obtain an emergency order, easily demolish it, and then build a more lucrative property at the site.

The owners deny that was their plan, but they do plan to build a four-story building with four units at the address — and that plan is being appealed at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors by the group Russian Hill Neighbors. Opponents say the proposed structure is too tall, does not fit with the rest of the neighborhood and that the street is already over-trafficked and too disconnected from public transportation.

Supervisors are set to consider on May 3 whether to uphold the San Francisco Planning Commission’s February approval of the project. The appeal was scheduled to go before supervisors Tuesday, but the matter was continued after a meeting between the neighborhood opposition and contractors on Monday, according to Marvin Frankel, who represents the neighborhood group.

Frankel said there are very few people in the vicinity who support the project, and many of those same people fully supported other nearby home projects.

“It has been controversial in the past but we took it with clean hands and asked if this was project we could support,” Frankel said. “Just keep it in line with the neighborhood, that’s all we ask.”

Another neighborhood group led by architect and local historian Joe Butler supports the idea of requiring any new building to be a restoration of the original Victorian cottage, which was among The City’s oldest buildings.

Frankel said based on Monday’s meeting, he doesn’t expect a resolution by May 3. The project’s architect was reluctant to comment on the matter, saying only that attempts to find common ground could avoid the matter being decided by supervisors.

“Yes, we’re in negotiations and we hope it is resolved,” said Toby Morris, principal architect at Kerman Morris Architects, LLP.

The March 2009 demolition of the cottage prompted local legislation in August of that year to require vacant property owners to register with the city, pay a $765 fee and keep the empty spaces secure.

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Dan Schreiber

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