September 17, 2013

This Week At The Planning Commission: Millionaires Behaving Badly

Noe Valley has hit the big time: we now have the sort of NIMBY battle usually seen in Malibu, Belvedere and Sea Cliff. At issue this week is 645 Duncan St - a vacant view lot right next door to, and down the street from, some of the most expensive homes in Noe Valley. Plans to build a new, modern, 4200sf home to the west have met resistance from one Bruce Gilpin, who 5 years ago paid over $5M for 625 Duncan - 6000sf on a 50 foot wide lot and 270 degree views. Here's item #18 at this week's Planning Commission:
September 19

– south side between Diamond and Castro Streets; Lot 039 in Assessor’s Block 6604 – Request for Discretionary Review of Building Permit Application No. 2011.11.17.9087, proposing to construct a new single-family dwelling on a vacant lot within an RH-1 (Residential, House – One-Family) Zoning District and 40-X Height and Bulk District.
Staff Analysis: Full Discretionary Review
Preliminary Recommendation: Do Not Take Discretionary Review and Approve
We first received news of the online petitition to stop the project a few weeks ago (347 signatures, 10 by hand), but the negotiations go back to 2011 per Planning documents. The original design has been scaled back, but apparently the loss of a western view is still driving objection to the project. Despite many changes to the design, on Sep 11, 2013, Mr Gilpin's lawyer delivered another strongly worded objection to the project to Planning Commission President Rodney Fong citing setback, height, facade finishes and a lack of negotiation in good faith.

Planning Staff has determined that the proposed project meets Residential Design Guidelines, is in character with the surrounding neighborhood, and complies with all codes. The Staff Analysis is clearly annoyed by this DR: "Angling the 2nd and 3rd stories to mirror the eased setback of the DR Requester, who is the exception in the neighborhood with a 50'-0" wide home, would not be consistent with the prevailing 25'-0" wide neighborhood facade patterns." Discretionary Review reform can't happen soon enough.

The full analysis, with plans, arguments, letters, renderings, etc, is worth a read if you're interested in how to spend your money when you have tons of it.

FWIW - The owners of the small building directly to the west at 647 Duncan are in strong support. Maybe they'd like to build something someday?

Update 9/19: DR denied - Planning Commission approves project 7-0.

[SF Planning: 645 Duncan St (PDF)]
[Socketsite: A Rather Ironic Noe Valley Fight Continues, Decision This Week]
[NVSF: Hot Properties: The $5M Club]


Anonymous said...

It seems that the DR has a lot to loose here in natural light with the proposed building. Might also suggest that a property less grand might maintain the value of the DR property instead of competing for value on the block, but this is ludicrous given the state of the market currently.

Rebecca the neighbor down the street said...

Why didn't Bruce purchase the empty lot next door, when he bought his 6000 square foot mansion for $6 Million in 2008 (he bought it unfinished, btw, and still had to pay to complete it). He probably could have picked up the empty lot next door for a song then -- and given that his huge castle takes up his entire double lot, couldn't he use the yard for his kids and dog? At any rate, Bruce really should stop spending money on lawyers and re-visit the idea of buying that lot if he wants to keep his Western view.

Although having to respond to all of his complaints about the proposed home has undoubtedly increased the price at which the developers can sell the empty lot next door, this price increase is no one's fault but Bruce's own.

Meanwhile, the only home that is out of character on that block is that empty lot. I'm psyched to see another beautiful home there as I walk my dog past it every morning.

Nelson said...

Ooh ooh! I have an opinion on these peoples homes! 625 Duncan looks like a beautiful house. But I can't imagine building two story wrap-around windows with a western view on the assumption that no one would ever build the empty lot next door. That's just crazy. What's funny is the design revisions don't even seem to impact the view from 625 Duncan much.

Is 645 Duncan the home to that gorgeous enormous tree on top of the hill? I'm fine with removing trees to build houses, but I'll be sad to see that one go.

Here's a link to Google Street View:

Anonymous said...

When did Noe Valley become Qatar?