Designs for Bonview Homes Revealed at Tense Review Meeting

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Your Bernalwood editor attended last night’s meeting of the Northwest Bernal Heights Design Review Board at the Bernal Library to see the big reveal of the proposal to build two new homes at the top of Coso at Bonview.

You can read the background on the project here.  There was a capacity crowd of 45 at last night’s session, making it by far the biggest northwest Bernal design review meeting in a very long time.

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As you can see up above, the architects shared some renderings of what the completed project might look like.

Here’s the front elevation:

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The rear elevation:

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And the site plan:

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As for the meeting itself, in general it was tense but civil. A small number of Bernal neighbors seemed dead-set against the project for reasons that seemed to combine aesthetic disgust with an enthusiasm for class conflict. But overall, most neighbors had perfectly reasonable questions about how the proposal might impact their own circumstances in one way or another.

The architects were not particularly polished, and their presentation tools were clunky, but they had a very good grasp of the details and were (mostly) able to provide clear answers to probing questions. Their responses probably didn’t satisfy everyone in the room, but they did convey the sense that they had tried to create a design that was sensitive to existing neighbors and the neighborhood.

One issue seemed a little dodgy: As proposed, the height of 6 Bonview raised some eyebrows, because it was calculated via some quirky ways the designers chose to measure the undulating elevation of the site. Time will tell how this issue plays out, but otherwise, the design appeared to meet Bernal’s existing codes.

And most exciting of all, there will be more meetings just like this one to continue the review process.   So don’t worry if you missed last night’s session — you’ll soon have another chance to watch your design review board in action as our Bonview adventure continues…

Bernal Architect Designs Affordable Housing That’s Beautiful

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San Francisco needs more affordable housing. Much more.

But affordable architecture gets a bad rap. It’s ugly. It’s too institutional. It’s too homogeneous. It’s visual blight.

Often, those generalizations are true… which has the very unfortunate effect of making San Franciscans (even more) resistant to new affordable housing projects. That’s super extra-bad, because San Francisco really needs more affordable housing. Much more.

Architect Owen Kennerly is a resident of Holly Park, and he was the co-designer of a new affordable housing project in Mission Bay that’s so gorgeous it makes San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic John King swoon.

The building is 1180 Fourth Street, and here’s as taste of what The John King has to say about it:

Architecturally, the six-story wedge of 150 apartments adds an assertive spark in a young district with too many boilerplate buildings. At ground level it’s engaging, a pleasure even before the generous retail spaces are filled. There’s a social payoff as well: The units are reserved for low-income families, adding youth to the neighborhood scene.

None of this is by chance, and it shows how planning priorities can translate to good city building — especially when determination and creativity are added to the mix.

The first step was the decision long ago to reserve the site for affordable housing. It’s a prime location fronting a park where Mission Creek is crossed by Fourth Street, the entryway to the 200-acre-plus southern part of the Mission Bay redevelopment district established in 1998. Setting it aside for lower-income residents was a symbolic reminder that economic integration should be pursued when and where it makes sense. But a well-meaning gesture isn’t the same as a well-done piece of architecture. That’s where smart design comes in.

The architectural effort was led by Daniel Solomon and Owen Kennerly, whose relationship goes back to the 1990s when the latter was a UC Berkeley student and an employee of the former. Kennerly now has one of the most visually inventive small firms in the city.

This is not Neighbor Owen’s first rodeo. He’s created several cool buildings around San Francisco, including a gorgeous house that got the sexy treatment from The New York Times. Neighbor Owen’s design for the affordable housing at 1180 Fourth takes his work in a wonderful new direction, and it shows that his architectural kung-fu is extremely versatile.

Great work, Neighbor Owen, and thank you. Oh, if you have some spare time, could you please pull together some sketches for a mixed-use housing and supermarket retail project to go on the site of our managerially blighted Bernal Safeway? Mmmkay? That’d be great.

PHOTO: San Francisco Chronicle

Clever Bernal Neighbors Adapt Funky Bernal House to Fit a Growing Bernal Family

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Like the humans who live in them, many of the houses in Bernal Heights are quirky. Partly because of our hilly topography, and partially because of 150 years of piecemeal construction and ad hoc infill, Bernal Heights is full of funky houses that challenge the creativity of their 21st century occupants.

This week, our friends at the CurbedSF website did a charming house profile of Bernal neighbors Jess and Michele, who are adapting their 426 square-foot cottage to serve as a home for their newly expanded family.

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CurbedSF writes:

When Jess and Michele began house hunting, they were planning to start a family, so they made the rounds of the few two-bedrooms in their price range. They put in a few bids, but they were outbid. And outbid again. Then the couple went to see a tiny one-bedroom cottage in Bernal Heights. When the cottage was first built, in 1926, it was essentially a 426-square-foot glorified studio constructed over a garage. The most recent occupant had sealed off part of the garage and converted it into a bedroom, connected to the main house by a set of houseboat stairs. Jess and Michele—who prefer not to give their last names—fell in love with the cottage’s bright interiors, white brick fireplace, quirky layout, and rustic rooms, some of which had been updated and edged in reclaimed wood by the seller, an architect. “Our realtor thought we were a little bit crazy,” says Jess. “We were just like, ‘We can make this work because it’s so damn cute.'”

You should definitely read the whole thing to see all the clever ways that Neighbor Jess and Neighbor Michele turned their tiny house into an awesome home. But before you do, Neighbor Jess shared an important addendum in an email to Bernalwood:

The only quote missing from the article that I wanted to share with the Bernal community is that our home is perfect for us because of the inside and outside — our location and introduction to the Bernal community has been so amazing.  We had no idea how lucky we were finding this little cottage and moving to Bernal.  We won the lottery with this place and location.  Thank you neighbors and businesses who make Bernal special!

PHOTOS: Top, Neighbors Jess and Michele and their brand-new wallpaper. All other photos via CurbedSF.

Did You Know? The Board of Supervisors Eliminated Off-Street Parking Requirements

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EDITOR’S NOTE 8 Jan., 2014: This article and its headline has been revised to reflect updated information provided by the San Francisco Planning Department. Writer Brandon Powell reached out to the Planning Department several times while reporting, but the Department provided clarification only after the original article was published.

There are two topics about which many Bernalese — nay, many San Franciscans — tend to have very strong opinions: parking and housing.

Neighbor Brandon Powell calls our attention to a change that was recently made to planning requirements here in Bernal Heights — a change which will impact both the design of new housing and the inventory of on-street parking here. Neighbor Brandon sits on the Northwest Bernal Heights Design Review Board, and in that capacity he shares these details about changes to the City’s planning requirements that have come to his attention. Neighbor Brandon reports:

This is the language establishing the planning rules that govern the Bernal Heights Special Use District:

“In order to reflect the special characteristics and hillside topography of an area of the City that has a collection of older buildings situated on lots generally smaller than the lot patterns in other low-density areas of the City, and to encourage development in context and scale with the established character, there shall be a Bernal Heights Special Use District.”

Since January 1991, new construction in Bernal, or alterations to existing structures which expand the building’s envelope, are subject to the restrictions of the Bernal Heights Special Use District outlined in Section 242 of the planning code. One of the key elements of Section 242 is the requirement to provide off-street parking, with the number of off-street spaces tied to the square footage of the building.

The City’s approach to parking—and the philosophy behind that approach—has evolved since 1991, and today Transit First is the order of the day. Rather than enshrining the automobile and its use in the Planning Code, the City has progressively scaled back parking requirements for new developments, especially for multi-unit buildings near transit nodes.

In July 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved the addition Section 150(e) to the Planning Code which allows for the substitution of permanent bicycle parking for off-street automobile parking:

(e) Reduction and Replacement of Off-Street Parking Spaces. Notwithstanding subsection (d) above, off-street parking spaces may be reduced and replaced by bicycle parking spaces based on standards provided in Section 155.1(d) of this Code. Once bicycle parking spaces replace an automobile parking space, such bicycle parking shall not be reduced or eliminated. Such bicycle parking spaces may be converted back to automobile parking space, provided that the required numbers of bicycle parking spaces subject to Sections 155.2 and 155.3 of this Code are still met after removal of bicycle parking spaces.

In practical terms, the City no longer requires that new construction (or substantial additions to existing homes) include off-street car parking. This is a fairly radical change to the Planning Code, but there are strong arguments in favor of having market forces determine the demand for car parking and letting developers figure out how best to satisfy that demand.

A holistic approach, however, demands that the City simultaneously address the issue of free street parking. If there is no longer a requirement for property owners to provide car parking, there likely will be increased demand for the limited number of street-parking spaces and more conflict between neighbors.

PHOTO: Folsom Street in Bernal Heights, by Telstar Logistics

Bernal Houses and Matching Cars: A Color-Coordinated Photography Collection

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For reasons that remain entirely mysterious and unknown, several photographers have submitted photos to the Bernalwood group on Flickr that show Bernal Heights cars parked in front of color-coordinated Bernal Heights homes. It’s an ad-hoc photo show! Veerrrrry innnnnteresting.

The photo of the low-rider Chevrolet and matching house you see up above was captured by Chris Martin.

Neighbor Markus Spiering captured this All-Amercian collection of a faded old Ranchero, a white picket fence, and a trio of muted Bernal houses:

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Neighbor Jane Underwood found a red door in Bernal Heights that came with a matching Miata:

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And finally, Neighbor Ben Rosengart shot this faded Jaguar with a tan roof that blends smoothly with the house behind it:

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Want to help create more ad-hoc photo patterns? Share your sexxxy Bernal photos in the Bernalwood photo group. Please!

UPDATE: Here’s a minty-fresh midcentury pairing on Montcalm, shared via the comments:

Spotted on a dog walk: Double mint. #onlyinsf #dscolor #wheelsandwalls

A photo posted by Kelly Lack (@kellyalack) on

Also, Jason Lashinsky emailed us this greyscale house-scooter pairing:

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Midcentury Bernal Shoebox House Flips After 21st Century Makeover

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Somewhere relatively high up on Bernalwood’s List of Things We Really Want to Cover Someday is an item called “What’s Up with Those Bernal Shoebox Houses?”

You know the type, because it is very common here. The Bernal Shoebox is what I call those vaguely modern inflill homes that were built all over Bernal Heights in the 1950s and 1960s. Rectangular shapes. Double-wide garage door on the bottom. Residential space above. Standardized construction. Raise and Repeat… all over Bernal Heights (and San Francisco’s southern neighborhoods) during those heady postwar years.

For example, here’s tony Nebraska Street, just north of Cortland, as seen through Google Earth Street View:

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As a genre, Bernal Shoebox houses are now found in various states of repair, upkeep, originality, adaptation, and/or disrepair. There’s even one in the Bernal Heights Architectural Coloring Book:

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Some Bernal Shoeboxes look rather Midcentury Chic…

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…which is why clever graphic artists have even created new posters like this:

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Space Age grooviness aside, these types of houses have some notable advantages as a residential resource. They’re plentiful, they are structurally uncomplicated, they usually offer a generous amount of interior space, and they’re relatively easy to reconfigure and remodel to accommodate our fabulous 21st century lifestyles.

So someday, Bernalwood hopes to tell you more about this particular building type. Where did the basic design come from? Who did it? How were these homes built? And by whom? And for how much? And who bought them? That kind of stuff. Stay tuned. (Have insights on the topic? Share them in the comments or via email)

In the meantime, our cyberpals at the CurbedSF real estate blog recently found this example of a Bernal Shoebox for sale at 357 Franconia after a full makeover:

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CurbedSF writes:

Back in March, flippers purchased a worn-out Bernal fixer for $770K and set about transforming it into a super-slick contemporary box. Out front, the forlorn white siding was switched out for a new stucco facade with lava stone cladding and black metal trim. Inside, the kitchen is all new, an unwarranted third bedroom seems to have gone legit, and a second bath was added, along with some welcome skylights. At $1.395M, the new ask is a more than 80 percent boost over the sale price eight months ago. Looks like the sellers are getting their money’s worth, too—the property went into contract after only five days on the market.

OK, so, that’s obviously a rather dizzyng bump in price. And yes, it’s obviously a reflection of our wacky-doodle, supply-constrained real estate market. Blah blah blah.

Yet it’s also, likely, a reflection of what will become of more and more Bernal Shoeboxes, and how many of them will evolve in the fabric of Bernal’s streetscape during decades to come. Shall we call them DwellBoxes?

PHOTOS: 357 Franconia via Redfin and CurbedSF. Bernal Shoeboxes by Telstar Logistics

New “Bernal Heights Architectural Coloring Book” Celebrates 2014 Bernal Outdoor Cinema Festival

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Neighbor Mason Kirby is an architect who lives on Mullen and works from a cute little office on Bocana just off Cortland. A few years ago, Neighbor Mason created a fabulously clever Bernal Heights Architectural Coloring Book, which he generously shared with Bernalwood readers.

Now, just in time for the 2014 Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema festival that gets underway next week, Neighbor Mason shares a new edition of his Bernal Heights Architectural Coloring Book for wannabe Bernal architects of all ages:

We’ve created a second, collectors, edition of our Bernal Heights Architectural Coloring Book. Download away! In this new edition, we didn’t need to include any houses from Noe Valley (……hisssss……hooray!). Also, we included a moon-like reminder about the Precita Park screening of Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema (which we are helping sponsor) that will happen on Saturday September 6th at 6:30.

Download your copy of the 2014 Bernal Heights Architectural Coloring Book right here!!

Don’t have a printer? No problem! Neighbor Anne tells us where you can pick up a hard copy:

The coloring books are available at Precita Park Café, Charlie’s Café, Precita Valley Center, and the Bernal Library. In addition, we will have a stack of them at the Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema information table at Precita Park on Saturday, September 6.

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Got that, kids? Sharpen your colored pencils, line up your crayons, try and stay within the lines, and don’t forget that all your pictures must conform with the Bernal Heights East Slope Design Review Guidelines. (Just kidding about that last part. Sort of.)

And meanwhile, get ready for Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema 2014, which kicks off with a gala Opening Night Party at El Rio  on Thursday night, Sept. 4.