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Julius Castle lawsuit thrown out

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Owner hopes to reopen Telegraph Hill landmark hilltop eatery by end of year

The exterior of Julius Castle, looking faded and in poor repair.
Julius Castle in 2015.
Photo by Daderot/Wikicommons

Ever since late 2017, neighbors have besieged Julius Castle, the landmark restaurant atop Telegraph Hill that opened for dining in 1923, with a lawsuit that has prevented the longtime eatery from reopening.

Last week, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee threw out complaints against the property and its owner, ruling that, among other things, NIMBY neighbors had not properly followed city procedures for challenging the Julius Castle permits. She also suggested that their complaints were baseless.

Julius Castle closed in 2007, but a new owner received permission to reinstate service in 2017. A series of challenges by a few area homeowners kept the building in limbo.

The suit alleged that reopening the business would be “extremely disruptive to neighboring residential uses” and would “subject them to loud noises every evening, create traffic and parking congestion and resulting safety and pedestrian hazards.”

The City Attorney’s Office, pressed into defending the various city boards’ decisions about the permits, pointed out that Julius Castle operated in the same place for so long prior to 2007 that the restaurant wasn’t likely to start being a disruption now.

The judge’s decision concurred, citing the long tenure Julius Castle previously held as one of the main factors in her decision against the complaint:

Substantial evidence supports the City findings that no unusual circumstances exist. [...] Petitioners fail to establish that re-opening Julius’ Castle will have a significant environmental impact.

Although the guidelines do not define ‘unusual circumstances, a party can show an unusual circumstance by demonstrating that the project has some characteristic or feature that distinguishes it from others in the exempt class

[...] The most compelling fact supporting the City’s conclusion that reopening Julius’ Castle as a restaurant does not constitute “unusual circumstances” is that it operated as a restaurant in | the very same location under the same name for 84 years.

The judge also concluded that petitioners—i.e., John Lee, Gordon Francis, and Dan Lorimer—didn’t exhaust their other legal options for challenging the permits before resorting to court proceedings.

Julius Castle was named for the original owner, Julius Roz, and designed by noted Craftsman architect Louis Mastropasqua. Current owner Paul Scott bought the property in 2012.

Commenting on the decision via email, City Attorney spokesperson John Coté called the case “a baseless lawsuit from the start,” saying that “trying to argue it was incompatible with the neighborhood was just nonsense.”

Scott told CBS 5 he hopes to reopen Julius Castle by the end of the year.