New development planned for site of demolished historic cottage

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The Russian Hill cottage was demolished in 2009.

About two years ago, the Guardian reported on the demolition of one of San Francisco's oldest buildings -- the Little House, a cottage on Russian Hill that stood for 148 years at 1268 Lombard Street.

The demolition drew the ire of the Russian Hill Neighbors Association and local historic preservationists, because the historic property came down in the blink of an eye after the owners were granted an emergency demolition permit from the Department of Building Inspection. At the time, surrounding neighbors raised concerns that the Little House had been purposefully neglected in order to get it to a demolish-able condition, so that the lot could be cleared for development without undergoing the standard environmental review process.


Co-owners of the lot (pictured in the box) where the Little House once stood now want to construct a 4-unit building.

The agenda for today's Board of Supervisors meeting includes a public hearing on a conditional use permit for a new building at 1268 Lombard, deemed to be an infill project because it'll be constructed on what's now an empty lot. Co-owners James Nunenbacher and Michael Cassidy are requesting city approval to construct a four-unit, 40-foot high residential project there.

Expect fireworks, as residents such as F. Joseph Butler, an architect with the Little House Committee, haven't forgotten the loss of the cottage, which was one of the only structures on Russian Hill that emerged unscathed after the 1906 earthquake and ensuing fires.

"I think that the project sponsors ... should not be rewarded for tearing down one of our most historic properties," a woman from the preservation community noted at a Feb. 17 Planning Commission meeting about the conditional use permit.

At today's meeting, supervisors could vote either to approve or disapprove the conditional-use permit.

***UPDATE*** No fireworks after all, the item was continued.

Comments

Chiu gets cover to vote with the preservationists against the CU, but does not lift a finger to put together the eight votes needed to make a difference.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

That'll show 'em! Regressive progressive political strategy is all about payback. It is, in the words of Aaron "Tiny" Peskin: "a bitch."

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

I guess it takes one to know one.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 8:59 pm

Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold on to.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

Absent intelligence, compassion, or a sense of humor.
Having no feelings for other people outside a momentary thrill derived from thinking you've hurt them somehow.
Being a bitch probably is all you have to hold on to.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

The irony of your comment to an ironic reply pulled from a cheesy movie is, quite frankly, super ironic.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 21, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

with the City's specific approval, then it seems wrong to punish the owners by disallowing any future use of the land.

The time to have objected was BEFORE the City explicitly approved the demolition.

Posted by Minty on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

See the article we linked to, which explains how neighbors did raise objections before the demo permit was issued.

Posted by rebecca on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

made their permit decision, and the owners fully met their legal obligations.

So if those residents want to sue the city for their bad decision, they are free to do so.

But punishing the owners for acting legally doesn't seem reasonable.

Posted by Minty on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

The world is built on punishment.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 7:05 am

The owners in no way acted reasonably. The City is under no obligation whatsoever to show 'reason'. Just the opposite.

If the City has the legal right to deny the permit, they should exercise those rights as it sees fit, just as the owners exercised their legal rights as they saw fit.

The city needs to deter unreasonable and irresponsible behavior.

Owners of historic properties have a responsibility to preserve and not destroy them like a mad, berserk Taliban.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

I like rubble-strewn, weed-filled lots, preferably surrounded by chain-link fencing. They say so much about a city's character, its innovative spirit and its caring nature. Nothing says "dynamic and progressive" like trash-filled empty lots.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 10:32 pm

the lot in question had a historically important, beautiful little house on it.
Your rushing to defend these lousy fucks proves you do prefer empty lots.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 11:15 pm

I would love to let myself into you house/hovel and start telling you what to do with your belongings.

I think I'm entitled to your trust fund.

Posted by meatlocker on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 1:09 am

Not that simple, meatlocker.

Ok, take the house. Probably had wood rot. But it needed to be documented on the teardown as there was much to see. The Chron's photos tell us that.

I for one would have liked to see what Advertising was on the false front dating to 1861. It was preserved and protected so we could have seen it, but the demolition crew tore it down in an instant.

Please, this is not about property rights or NIMBYs. Occasionally, there is a legit claim re: history. Not to say it all can be or should be preserved. But it at least should have been looked at.

After all, it was one of the oldest buildings still standing in San Francisco.

Charley

Posted by Charley_sf on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 9:58 am

You have a fantastic point Lucretia. The owners should also be forced to clean up the rubble and weeds and a chain link fence is absolutely out of the question.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 6:23 am

Like during the Great Cultural Revolution. He/she should be forced into marathon self-criticism sessions led by members of the Guardian staff and then sentenced to penal servitude with the proletariat to unlearn his/her bourgeois ways. As Chairman Mao says: "for the beautiful flowers to bloom the poisonous weeds must be pulled."

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

If someone want to buy and move these old houses, or the earth quake shacks that were pretty well built after the quake, they have to go through your gods down at city hall.

Posted by meatlocker on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 1:02 am

What part of the 5th Amendment that enumerates the power of government to take property for a public purpose only after due process do you libertarian conservatives not understand?

Are you trying to say that the enactment of planning and historical preservation laws as applied to this building or any administrative decisions regarding those laws were not taken after due process?

I guess those liberal communist socialist deists who wrote the Constitution were pure evil doers who hated property rights, and those Democrats and Republicans who enacted planning, zoning and historical preservation laws were nothing short of evildoers themselves.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 6:05 am

about the fact that the City granted a demolition permit?

If the City wants to buy the lot from the current owners, at the full market price as the law demands, and then rebuild what they now think they should have never order demolished, then let them do that.

I'm sure the owners would rather have the money at this point, than deal with a city that keeps changing it's mind.

Posted by Minty on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 6:37 am

"An error, or "glitch" in the system, is what led to the improper demolition of the Russian Hill cottage at 1268 Lombard, according to the Chron. And by glitch, they mean that a building inspector who should have checked the house against a list of historic properties didn't. And then he didn't send the building permit request to the Planning Department, which would have ostensibly put the whole thing under magnifying glass. These system glitches are awfully convenient, no?"

http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2009/04/06/oops_russian_hill_cottage_demol...

I think we are all sick and tired of real estate vultures playing the system.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 6:32 am

I'm sick and tired of NIMBYs opposing any and all change no matter how signficant or insignificant.
What is it about SF that people are so empowered to try and stop whatever bothers them at whatever point in the process they feel?
The home is demolished. The argument over that point is moot.
Should something be built on the site? Yes.
What purpose does opposing the conditional use of this site serve? Conditional use which is btw, required of almost every single new property in the city.
Why has the opposition of change become the hallmark of "progress" in SF?
The russian hill neighbors is just a wannabe telegraph hill dwellers.
I live in russian hill, and while they have done some good things, the majority of their work involves the prevention of new construction in the neighborhood.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 6:41 am

Dear Guest: please be sure to see the photos in the Chron as the roof was ripped off. You will see something truly historic. If the decision was still demolish due to wood rot or whatever a bonafide assessment showed, then fine: we should have documented the building during the teardown phase.

I for one would have liked to have known what kind of advertising was on that false front dating to 1861. That is what documentation during the teardown would have told us.

Instead: we got some quick shots as the demolition crew demolished whatever.

This has NOTHING to do with NIMBY. So, please keep a more open mind.

Charley

Posted by Charley_sf on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 9:52 am

Unless it's restricting people's ability to do something the regressive-progressives have a problem with - like eating hamburgers, buying a gun or smoking cigarettes - then the advancement of the restriction of rights is of maximum importance.

But building new buildings, cementing relationships with corporations or advancing new solutions for festering pension and homeless problems? The current way is the best way - meaning doing nothing is just fine.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 10:18 am

Serious property developers, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum, consider people who destroy historic properties to be the bottom of the barrel, real scumbags who give the honorable profession of construction a bad name.

Please know that property developers all over the world look at projects like this and feel ashamed.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 7:19 am

San Francisco has a rep for this kind of Frankenstein horror project that happens when glorified real estate agents with a talent for flipping houses learn how to game the intricacies of a flawed permitting process.

Lots of developers won't touch residential construction exactly because it might rub off....

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 9:26 am

This was one of the worst dark-of-the-night operations, literally, to ever hit this City.
It was like a staged play or I should say a play on the gridiron by "the guys"--the network that runs-all-things Development in this Town.

I addressed the Full Board, the Hist.Pres.Commission, the Building Inspection Commission and the Planning Commission in an attempt to SHAME them for allowing this to occur.

For when the roof was ripped off by the demolition contractors at the crack of dawn, we saw fully the 1861 building--its FALSE FRONT demonstrating that it faced the-then ring road which snaked around Russian Hill, how the rock covered hill was landfilled which required the house to reorient from the first to the second floor as the first floor became basement and Lombard Street was built as gasoline replaced horsepower.

San Francisco lost its history, and as far as I am concerned, the House should be rebuilt and the site turned into a park. But that is not how this City is run.

Alternatively? I would sit on the permit until hell freezes over.

Posted by Charley_sf on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 9:32 am

Ridiculous. Rebuild the house and turn it into a park?
Who pays for upkeep in this fantasy? SF cant even properly maintain its existing parks.
And how is it not NIMBY to oppose building something on this site?
If you have a problem with the demolition - your time to take action on that has passed. The issue right now is to allow construction on the site. There is no reason to oppose the construction other than out of spite- and yes that means you are a NIMBY

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 10:45 am

It is the height of irresponsible, repugnant behavior on the part of professional real estate speculators to destroy a part of American history. Are there no depths to which they will not sink?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 11:54 am
Posted by Minty on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

Anyone who thinks that is the only issue is misinformed.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/06/BAQU16NTIB.DTL

"...John L. Molinari, a former supervisor, sought a permit to demolish the home and replace it with a three-story building. But the Planning Department denied his application in 2002, saying the building was listed as a historic resource.

On Nov. 1, 2007, the Molinari family sold the small, vacant home for $1.3 million to James Nunemacher, a principal with Vanguard Properties, and Michael Cassidy, a developer.

Yet little more than a month after the sale, Molinari received a notice of violation from the Building Inspection Department ordering him to stop work at the house. The notice surprised him, he said, because he no longer owned it and had taken out no permit.

It turned out that three months earlier - while Molinari still owned the house - a company called West Coast Inc. had taken out the permit to open the building and repair the dry rot by opening up the facade. Permit records variously list the firm as a "lessee" and "agent," with a post office box for an address. However, postal authorities told The Chronicle that the box number does not exist.

Molinari said he was astonished that anyone could receive a permit to work on his home without him knowing of it. "That sure is lax," he said."

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

"...Yet Debra Walker, a building inspection commissioner who toured the building, said it appeared to have been intentionally left open to the elements to hasten its demise in an effort to get the demolition permit. Cassidy and Nunemacher denied doing that.

An emergency permit allows owners to demolish a building without the rigorous Planning Department review that had blocked the Molinaris from demolishing it.

Supervisors President David Chiu is drafting a measure requiring owners of vacant properties to register them so city officials can better monitor them, prevent safety hazards and protect historic resources...."

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

Again, if a demolition permit it issued by the City, then the building can and should be demolished. That's the sole purpose of it.

Posted by Minty on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

“In two interviews, Cassidy denied knowing about the dry rot permit or West Coast Inc. The Chronicle later obtained a receipt that showed Cassidy paid $234.15 in cash for the permit.
When told about the receipt, Cassidy said he didn't recall the matter, but might have taken out the permit and listed West Coast as a potential contractor for the work. He denied he had tried to hide his role in the permit.”

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/05/BAQU16NTIB.DTL

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

The greased palms are still working for the City.
From the chron article: "Cassidy and Nunemacher sought an emergency demolition permit, saying the building was in imminent danger of collapse. A city engineer concurred."

It took HOURS of mechanical blows to get this building "in imminent danger of collapse" to finally fall. The liars complicit say "it was crushed like balsa wood."

The building did not lie.
Reward these greedy bastards??!
Cars, travel, and cash to those working inside the government?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

Get a rope! It's a house not a person. This is not the functional equivalent of 9/11. If your life is so seriously hampered and ruined by the destruction of a single house then maybe its time to take stock.

This is not the old house ride at San Francisco land. If you take exception to the demolition that is one thing - but that has passed - time to provide a valid reason (spite is not one) for the opposition or get out of the way.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 3:56 pm

“John L. Molinari, a former supervisor, sought a permit to demolish the home and replace it with a three-story building. But the Planning Department denied his application in 2002, saying the building was listed as a historic resource.
On Nov. 1, 2007, the Molinari family sold the small, vacant home for $1.3 million to James Nunemacher, a principal with Vanguard Properties, and Michael Cassidy, a developer.”

“Yet little more than a month after the sale, Molinari received a notice of violation from the Building Inspection Department ordering him to stop work at the house. The notice surprised him, he said, because he no longer owned it and had taken out no permit.”

“It turned out that three months earlier - while Molinari still owned the house - a company called West Coast Inc. had taken out the permit to open the building and repair the dry rot by opening up the facade. Permit records variously list the firm as a "lessee" and "agent," with a post office box for an address. However, postal authorities told The Chronicle that the box number does not exist.”

“In two interviews, Cassidy denied knowing about the dry rot permit or West Coast Inc. The Chronicle later obtained a receipt that showed Cassidy paid $234.15 in cash for the permit.
When told about the receipt, Cassidy said he didn't recall the matter, but might have taken out the permit and listed West Coast as a potential contractor for the work. He denied he had tried to hide his role in the permit.”

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/05/BAQU16NTIB.DTL

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

Fraudulent applications? Deny the permit.
The proposed building is justly part of one project which involved the demolition of the cottage.
If the CU is allowed, then it's a green light to lie, steal, cheat, burn, undermine, do whatever to get the existing building removed---skirting the law---so all can pretend it's just a new application unrelated to the whole.
The City should have done better. But it's not too late to make sure the wrongdoing is not rewarded.
This is not an isolated case. Look at the buildings taken out that start with innocent repairs and end with emergency demos.

But this wasn't any old building.
The legacy of The Little House should include the basis to deny an ill-gotten payday: the chain of applications, on this site and by these parties, relevant to the decision. Let the findings of fact show the whole story. The falsehoods on the applications are grounds for denial by themselves. The BOS has plenty of basis to deny the CU.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

I hope they sue the city if the conditional use is denied. The "legacy of the little house" - sounds like it should be a lifetime made for TV movie
Keep in mind that any allegations of illegality are hearsay at this point, and unfortunately for the luddites that post here, heresay isnt ground for disproving a CU

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

If that permit was issued in error, then sue the engineer who made that decision.

But the owners complied with a city permit. They have done nothing wrong.

And anyway, it's an old building in a city full of old buildings. Anywhere else, it would have been torn down 50 years ago. Jeez.

Posted by Minty on Apr. 21, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

That would fall into the category of having done something wrong.

“It turned out that three months earlier - while Molinari still owned the house - a company called West Coast Inc. had taken out the permit to open the building and repair the dry rot by opening up the facade. Permit records variously list the firm as a "lessee" and "agent," with a post office box for an address. However, postal authorities told The Chronicle that the box number does not exist.”

“In two interviews, Cassidy denied knowing about the dry rot permit or West Coast Inc. The Chronicle later obtained a receipt that showed Cassidy paid $234.15 in cash for the permit.
When told about the receipt, Cassidy said he didn't recall the matter, but might have taken out the permit and listed West Coast as a potential contractor for the work. He denied he had tried to hide his role in the permit.”

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/05/BAQU16NTIB.DTL

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