1982-1990 Polk Greenwich Condominium Development
In the early 1980's Lombard and Greenwich neighbors organized to review and respond to a proposal for a large condominium project on the empty lot that ran 162 feet along Polk St. more than half the block from Greenwich to Lombard. It also ran up Greenwich from Polk 122 feet. Carma Developers was based in Calgary and funded by substantial oil revenues from a wealthy Edmonton investor.
The large empty lot was mostly at bottom of steep cliffs about 70' below the Lombard ridge probably dating from the 1894 Polk Cut from Greenwich to Lombard. Much of that cut material as well as more from the lot may have been used in grading of Lombard and Greenwich from Polk to Larkin about the same time as Polk cut.
Carma's proposal was to use the area running east from Polk up to the Lombard Ridge as the required 25% rear yard. That would allow building from the Polk Greenwich corner east to the property line and north to required rear yard. Following the 40 or 65 foot height limit on this large lot east would result in rear unit foundation being at level of 1265 cottage rear yard on Lombard ridge, and permit the height at rear property line to rise 40 or 65 feet further.
It is not clear which of the threats to Golden Gate views of Greenwich neighbors, north west views to Pacific Heights of those on ridge between Polk and Lombard, or to large Monterey Cypress trees on lot to East were most significant. However, problems in the oil and resultant real estate effect in Canada probably contributed as much as anything to termination of plans before a project permit was approved as indicated by:
The company was founded in 1958 by a group of 45 Calgary-based home who got together to purchase bulk quantities of land to be used for housing developments in the booming young city of Calgary. Two individuals were largest initial shareholders, each with 20%.
In the 50 following years the company built close to 60 communities in Calgary, the first being the community of Rosemont where houses sold for between $18,000 and $22,000. The company grew rapidly during the economic boom of the 1960s and 1970s, using the funds from sales to buy other pieces of land, soon expanding past Calgary, and into the United States as well.
In 1970 one of 20% owners sold to Nu-West, and others sold out, until in 1972, when Carma went public, the company had developed and sold more than 11,000 residential lots and developed 500 acres (200 hectares) of serviced land for multi-family or commercial development.
By 1979, 75% of the company's shares were owned by Carma members, including Nu-West, which owned 48%. In 1980, Carma bought Allarco Developments, a huge publicly traded holding company controlled by Edmonton surgeon Dr. Charles Allard, and Carma instantly became a billion dollar company, active in everything from petrochemicals and investments to auto sales.
Things began to get tough in the early 1980s when the Canadian federal government brought in the National Energy Program (NEP), which didn't allow Albertans to sell oil to the Canadian market at world prices. This policy decimated Alberta's Petroleum industry. People left Alberta in droves and almost no one bought homes, with existing owners walking away from mortgages. Real estate prices plummeted and the industry collapsed. Carma had 500 employees in 1983, declining to just 17 by 1985.
Carma was able to negotiate with the banks to keep certain assets to get rid of debt. They downsized, recapitalized, and under the direction of Murray Fox, who was hired in 1983 as chief financial officer, the company got back to the original business of developing residential land and again flourished despite the odds.
By 1987, Brookfield Properties, headquartered in New York City, saw the potential in Carma and bought into the company. Today Brookfield owns 100% of it. Carma bought Nu-West's Canadian operations in 1989, and Carma's growth has been noteworthy ever since, with master-planned communities in every quadrant of the City of Calgary, and since 2011 are fully owned and merged into Brookfield which has some projects in Northern California, but none in San Francisco.
The owner of 1249-51 Lombard led the neighbor group on the evaluation of the Carma Polk Greenwich proposal, probably focusing on protecting trees and shifting required rear yard from Polk frontage to border east property line next to threaten trees.. At about the same time, the owner was proposing to build in front of their rear lot building which had been enlarged considerably since it's 1876 origins as a small cottage home on top of ridge. That proposal like the much larger Carma proposal did not go ahead, in the case of 1249-51 probably relating to not overturning a similar earlier proposal.
1275 Lombard E to 1265 Rear, ................Polk Greenwich Condominiums NE, ............1265 Lombard Rear SW over cliff
Several years later another proposal was made for development of the northeast Polk Greenwich corner vacant lot. Neighbors again organized and responded to the new proposal presented by Gene Lam Architect. Much of neighbor views focused on height and density, but the provisions relating to required rear yard may have been most significant. With the required rear yard now across the east end of the lot to help protect the ridge trees above, the rear yard provisions in Planning Commission Motion 10909 in January 1987 also specify how the new 33 units will make a transition to it's older neighboring structures on lots to the east. The Monterey Cypress to the east appear to have been well cared for since the construction. However, other rear yard provisions appear to have been important in considerations relating to both Peinado and Hauser project at 1269-79 Lombard, but also the recently completed Redwood Mortgage project at 1269 Lombard.