Redwood Mortgage to New 1269 and 1268 Neighbors
After the April 1998 Planning decision and approval for 1269 and 1271-79 lots, I recall describing the changes a group of neighbor's were able to impose on the proposed development to a longtime friend. I knew him primarily for schools and Scouting, but also understand that he knew much more than me about San Francisco residential renovation and building, including in our neighborhood. His firm conclusion was: Economics will keep it from ever being built. And that was before the hurried excavation without shoring, failed retaining wall and countless other formidable challenges that lay ahead. Ultimately, my friend but it took 15 long years and a very kind San Francisco high end home real estate market as well as response to lessons from attempt in 1990's.
1271 and its new separate 1275 rear unit were completed in early 2000's, even though with the modern uniqueness of 1275, it wasn't sold until after revival of plans for a new proposal for 1269 Lombard. The only participant from 1997 through the final 2013 completion of 1269 was Redwood Mortgage, albeit in very different roles. In 1990's their interest in 1269-79 development was primarily as a provider of construction financing. Needing to foreclose on some or all of 1269 and the newly completed 1271 and 1275 units they needed to assume responsibility for a home sale of 1275 and developer for 1269. Some of the same neighbors were involved while others were less involved with review and opinion on aspects of the new proposal for 1269, The Russian Hill Neighborhood Association ultimately took a much more positive position.
1263-79 Lombard View S from Lombard, ...............1269 Plans and Neighbor Lots,.............Lombard Block 501, 1269 Plans
1269 Midlot Open Space Between Front and Rear Units replacing 1269 1980 Extension into Midlot by 10'-25'
After looking gaping excavation scar in front of abandoned 1269 cottage neighbors were probably unanimous in wanting something completed. A group of uphill Lombard neighbors were most interested to limiting completion to what had been approved in 1998. But that was not being proposed. Instead of raising height and extending forward the existing 1269 cottage, Redwood Mortgage and architect Chuck Bloszies were proposing construction of two separate houses, one at front and a second at rear property line separated by the required rear yard open space as mid lot open space between them. Restoring this midlot open space was consistent with uphill lots, but front unit may not have fit the fact or fiction story of four Italian gardeners pact a century before.
Polk Lombard Corn Aeirial SE,...................1269 Lot Plans and Neighbors Aerial,............1269 Plans with 1263, 1271 Lombard Fronts
Neighbors also probably recognized a level of professionalism and quality in new proposals with which they weren't familiar in 1990's proposal. As for us as the most affected owner, we were strong supporters of what was eventually approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in January 2010, even though it included alterations that negatively affect us and uphill properties regarding sunlight and open space.
1269 Construction Site After 2011 Existing Rear Cottage removal
During the long and complex construction from 2011 to mid 2013, we worked effectively with Ross Palisades builders to help them and as well as making needed upgrades to our buildings that were consistent with what was to become their lovely new downhill homes. Before construction began, we worked effectively to reach agreement on how they might help correct some of damage from failed wall in 1998, as well as height concerns of front building at 1269 and retaining walls to enable them to complete their project at 1269. We understood then as now that Redwood may not have been legally obligated to pay for many or all of those considerations, but do understand that the most expensive, associated with retaining walls, worked to both our benefit.
1265 Rear Cottage West Wall, Property Line Retaining Walls, and Vacant 1269 Rear Construction Site
During the long two year plus construction at 1269, life was even further complicated for Lombard by 1268 even larger project directly across the street at same time. We learned how difficult having two construction projects at same time were for neighbors in a thanks email response to tenant who had identified abuse in mislabeling times of 'No Parking Tow Away' signs on 1268 project and contrasting that with 1269 where no street parking spaces were taken ever.
After all the lapsed years since 1997, we now have two new tasteful additions to our neighborhood at 1269-75 Lombard and across Lombard at 1268. Looking back, I find it interesting to think that the only significant dispute with current 1269 downhill project pertained to use of land behind 1269 property, which may not have been reconciled to Planning Commission rear yard limitations, and a height agreement on front home of 1269, that may not have been translated to or reconciled with construction drawings.
1265 Rear YardView NE,.....1265 Yard View W..............1380 Greenwich Rear Yard,...1269,1265 Rear View NE from 1380
1263-67 W Stairway, 1269 Deck,........1269 Rear Scaffold View N to Front Unit,..............1263-67 W Stairway New 1269
As to any regrets, I will always think back to years we looked out the windows of our top 1267 flat at the blank concrete wall towering above the old 1271 Lombard, which was moved forward to front of lot, saving it from 1898 fire. I then thought of how much interesting a giant mural on all that bland empty space might be, perhaps recalling something similar done by Mitchell Brothers further south along Larkin. But mostly thought of projection, just as I once saw of a movie on a similarly bland and bland towering wall to west where we now live. I imagined instead of having a photo projected that would be exactly what we would see of the Marina, Presidio and Golden Gate if we simply could still see through the wall as everyone before it was built in 1929 could.
Since it wasn't my wall, I never got opportunity. However, with controversy generated with original 1269-79 development proposal, I thought I had my chance. Other than focusing on integrity of our buildings faced with massive downhill excavation, I thought I had answer that would satisfy both neighbors and builder: Design and build a vertical extension consistent with the old 1870's vintage Lombard ridge cottage below all the way up to roof of 1299 corner apartment building to west.
That would have created more new livable space than the builders proposed as well as more open space on 1269-79 than neighbors ever hoped for. It would also have aesthetically enhance downhill view west from all uphill properties without impairing any light or open space. Whether it could have been reconciled with Planning height code is interesting, since it would have been consistent with Planning Commission's Motion 10909 a decade before on transition from large newer building to older neighborhood. I was familiar with 1090 because it was somewhat due to our neighbor response to what became Polk Greenwich condominiums just a lot away on our block. However, in 1998 I was closer to neighbor renegade than neighbor leader.
During recent years of 1269 development, I couldn't revive 'cover the wall' approach, since proposal was only for 1269, not 1269-79 as in 1990's. I encouraged green roofs on both front and rear 1269 buildings, based around shrubs and plans in planters rather than turf, which probably have been of more benefit to uphill Lombard neighbors. But I'm not sure neighbors supported that idea, and we had bigger issues to deal with Redwood Mortgage on in both planning and construction than green roofs.
I always wondered why neighbors didn't ask why we didn't put green roofs on our buildings, if we thought it was such a great idea. Having looked out in all directions from our new downhill rear neighbor at 1269, I thought, perhaps we can someday, after recent neighborhood construction disruptions fade. Then I thought about the 1870's Lombard ridge cottages, which have been the focus of these notes. I thought there are only three left 1249-51, 1261 and our 1265. And only our 1265 and 1261 sorely need attention to help them last as far into future as they have already come since 1870's.
1269 Rear Roof Deck West to North View
Who knows, if 1263-67 and 1257-61 owners work jointly, a plan for essential upgrade of 1261,65 that would not only please neighbors and Planning, but secure longevity of those two remaining 1870's Lombard ridge cottages. Perhaps in the process, a long ago wrong could be righted. Meussdorffer's designed of 1257-59, before he went on to design the grand residences in and around Lafayette Park as well as other stunning Pacific Heights and San Francisco neighborhood icons. With it being uphill to 1263,67 some of its lost west light might be restored. Time, along with neighbors and Planning, will tell. In the meantime we have the wonderful new neighbors to enjoy, as well as their chance to appreciate the views and neighborhood we have long enjoyed, from 1269 which replaced an ugly excavation gap, to new 1268 replacement of one of SF's oldest, to three remaining Lombard ridge cottages.
1257, 1263-67, 1269 Lombard Front,.............................1269 Lombard Rear Front,...........1257-1271 Lombard Front
...............1268 Lombard Four Units,..........................1268 Roof Deck View North,......................1249-51, 1261, 1265 Lombard Ridge Cottages
Perhaps the most fitting way to finish these notes on past and present Lombard ridge and environs is to acknowledge a remarkable study that was completed in 2006. The West Slope of Russian Hill by William Kostura is a historical context and inventory of historic resources for residential buildings around Lombard and Larkin Streets. As one of it's instigators wrote on a cover note when it showed up on our doorstep 'Everything you wanted to know'. It certainly was that and much more, for it largely provided a framework for other research that led to this Highlights and Memories of 1200 Lombard Block as well as its broader Lombard and Pacific Heights Ridge 1850-1915 Historical Perspective.