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Contractor alters historic Liberty Hill home, incites city’s wrath

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Owner insists changes were permitted as he labors on the facade of this 1913 classic

How the house’s facade appeared in 2012.
Photo via Redfin

The four-story, Craftsman-style house at 151-153 Liberty is located in the tiny but incredibly storied Liberty Hill neighborhood, and was originally built in 1913.

Now the San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission alleges that the owner, local contractor Brendan McGrath, may have damaged the home’s historic assets when he recently altered its facade.

McGrath, owner of a San Francisco construction company under a variety of names over the years, bought the Liberty Street home in 2012 for $1.28 million.

In 2014 the Planning Department agreed to some alterations, including a garage, roof deck, and new entry stairs.

“The proposed project maintains the historic integrity of the subject property and provides new additions, which are compatible yet differentiated with the historic residence,” planners said at the time.

But next Wednesday, the Historic Preservation Commission, a separate branch of the Planning Department, will call McGrath onto the carpet.

How the home looks today.
Photo via Google

The charge: “Exterior alterations beyond the approved scope.” The complaint makes special note that historic windows have been removed. SocketSite observes the dramatic transition of the facade from 2014 to today.

The paperwork notes that “the completed unpermitted work qualifies as a demolition” and asks that further construction restore the home’s curb-facing front to its original form.

McGrath insists that the Planning Department approved of all the alterations. He spoke to Curbed SF and denied any wrongdoing, but declined to comment further.

The July 10, 2014 project proposal reads:

The project would alter the primary façade by incorporating a new pedestrian entryway into the existing stair wall off of the new stair landing on the first floor. The project would replace an existing doorway and window with a new glazed, single panel wood door with transom and a new double‐hung, wood‐sash window.

On the primary façade, the existing double‐hung, wood‐sash windows would be retained and repaired, as required. Similarly, the existing wood trellis would be reconstructed in kind, due to extensive deterioration.

The proposal also makes multiple mentions of removing the historic stucco and replacing it, although only on the sides and rear. Planners allege that the original windows are now discarded.

In any case, McGrath will have the chance to argue the merits of his permits and the scope of the original ruling on Wednesday.