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Telegraph Hill Dwellers Unfooled by Triplex Disguised as Houses

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A proposal for adding housing to a long-vacant lot across from Coit Tower has brought out the best/worst of Telegraph Hill. 115 Telegraph Hill Boulevard—a.k.a.363 Filbert Street—has been sitting (almost) vacant since 1997, when four of the five buildings on the site were demo'd. Today the Planning Commission will vote on approvals for a design from Butler Armsden Architects for a new 17,645-square-foot three-unit residential building on a lot with an existing rear cottage that will be renovated and restored. The new building will look like three 40-foot single-family houses, and each unit will have one parking space in a below-ground garage accessed near the top of the Filbert Street stairs. All the new "houses" will have a green roof deck.

Planning has received 32 letters of support (including ones from the immediate neighbors, ironically) and 36 letters of opposition (including one from the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, surprise). THD wants the project sponsor to complete a full environmental review and reduce the mass and scale of the property, even though the site is sandwiched compatibly between a two-story and a four-story building. The Barbary Coast News released a "Telegraph Hill Development Alert" lambasting the project, but Butler Armsden Architects issued a pretty face-slapping rebuttal. The architects maintain that they've worked with neighbors to address their concerns, that the little cottage was found not to be historic (but they are restoring it anyway!), and that the new building is several feet under the height limit and the unit count is half what the site is zoned for.

Planning staff is recommending approval, calling the proposal "well-designed vernacular that uses high-quality materials." Nonetheless, the drama in one of the touchiest neighborhoods in SF is bound to create some fireworks at today's Planning Commission hearing.

· Conditional Use Authorization - 115 Telegraph Hill Blvd [SF Planning]

Jensen Architects

833 Market St, San Francisco, CA