New Housing Proposed For Hidden Lot in Northeast Bernal Heights



Neighbor Margo writes on about a plan to build some new houses on a secret lot in the interior of a block in northeast Bernal Heights, alongside Cesar Chavez Blvd.:

The owner of the interior lots bordered by Hampshire, Peralta, York and Cesar Chavez is planning to build on that land soon. He will bring preliminary plans to an open meeting of the East Slope Design Review Board on Wed., May 14, at 7 p.m. at the Precita Community Center, on Precita near the park.

The owner, Patrik Quinlan, came by our house last night and showed us plans for four single family homes of about 2,200 square feet, placed on an angle on the lots, so they would face northeast.

He also plans two small units in a building on top of a driveway through the lot on York Street that would serve as the access to the interior lots. So those would be an odd new sort of home – above a driveway.

On the interior-lot land, the buildings and their driveways would be situated on the property line nearest Cesar Chavez Street. So the people on Cesar Chavez would have a driveway, possibly on the ground and possibly on a ramp (Quinlan wasn’t sure), right on their property lines. Because of the slope of the hill, that driveway or ramp would be way above their heads. So… I think this means that long-term, their lives would be most affected by this.

In the past, Quinlan has presented plans for four or five duplexes, that is 8 or 10 units. So this is much less dense than he’s proposed in the past.

Issues that have come up in the past over development on this land are: fire truck access; where to place garbage containers; parking, of course; views and light; the geologic stability of the hill; potential displacement of underground streams.

Anyway, anyone interested should come to the meeting.

38 thoughts on “New Housing Proposed For Hidden Lot in Northeast Bernal Heights

  1. The lot has has been empty for the 50 years I’ve lived here and probably back to the time of José Bernal, maybe the last ice age. Every few years a new plan emerges promoted by wishful thinking owners. And every time it has foundered on the fire access issue. With a very large fire how would those big trucks get in? It’s not a small lot.

    • i heard bernal heights fire station at holly park is the only one in the city with small fire trucks. just something interesting I’ve heard 🙂

      • Uh,not true. They have regular sized engines like the rest of SFFD. Don’t think they have a tiller truck but the engines are the same.

      • According to my husband, a SFFD firefighter, their engines are shorter and taller because of the narrow streets they must navigate.

  2. Do the lot owner have an easement somewhere we can’t see? it’s not clear to me how the new homes would access Cesar Chavez? Something tells me the lot owner is going to have to buy one or more of the single family homes bordering this property to make a development feasible.

    • The description makes it sound like he also owns one of the spaces along York street: “He also plans two small units in a building on top of a driveway through the lot on York Street that would serve as the access to the interior lots. So those would be an odd new sort of home – above a driveway”.

      I’m sure the neighbors of that block are all going to hate any possible development plan, but I’m generally of the opinion that we should be lowering barriers to new residential construction in this city. The fire access could definitely be a barrier in the plans, however if you look at satellite imagery of the city there are lots of interior block developments that look like they have about the same level of access as these would.

      • I expect they’d require fire sprinklers in all the units because of their distance from the main streets. That’s typically one way to get around fire access issues.

  3. How did Quinlan purchase this property? Doesn’t there have to be an access that complies with the city’s definition of “street”? For example, there is one length of Ogden, in south Bernal, that has never been paved because it is too steep to qualify as “street”. However, in an emergency, there is open access for trucks. The houses there have addresses on recognized streets that cross Ogden, not on Ogden. The houses along Ogden have been there quite a while.
    There may still be a few other access routes that don’t meet city standards.
    I would be surprised if the city allowed new housing without street access. Well, maybe not too surprised…

    • Speaking of Ogden, but completely off topic here, what’s up with the stretch of Ogden between Gates and Prentiss that is barely paved, with no sidewalks, and uneven earth/hills/dirt all over the place? It’s a pretty rural-looking street there, for no apparent reason given the presence of sidewalks and normal pavement all around it. Those blocks aren’t too steep, there’s no indication that they are privately owned, it’s not a one-way or a dead-end, etc… Anybody know?

      • that’s the part that doesn’t comply with definition of street that I wrote about above, so city does not take responsibility for it.

      • I’ve always loved that stretch of Ogden. I hope they leave it alone. It gives us a respite from “sidewalks and normal pavement all around it.”

      • Eugenie — sorry, I thought you were talking about the staircase part of Ogden. This part is definitely not too steep, so there must be something else that keeps the city from normalizing it. And I’m with Target; I love that little slice of imperfection (I don’t want to call it decay but it seems headed that way) too. But given the intensity of the recent sidewalk pavement repair activity a few months ago just up the hill on Prentiss and Jarboe, I’m surprised that 2 or 3 whole blocks get a total pass — no sidewalks required at all!

      • It has a gas line under it that is in very poor shape. There are schools nearby too!

    • the maximum grade for a street in SF is supposed to be 25% and that street is nowhere near that. I think what you mean is that it’s an “unaccepted” street (or they’re called something like that). Basically a street that the city doesn’t want to maintain or pay for but for no good

    • I love little streets like that. There’s also Emmett off Precita (btwn Coso and Folsom). If I remember right, the property may own both the Precita house and the house behind it, but Emmett still has it’s own official street name and sign leading to what is essentially an interior lot.
      Probably a half dozen others like it in Bernal alone.

    • How much do you think it would cost to dwell there? More than most renters could afford, I bet. Mr. Quinlan is in this to make money, not to support our community and its residents.

      • Horrors! Someone who wants to MAKE MONEY!!! Heaven forbid that should happen in the BHSSR! (Bernal Heights Soviet Socialist Republic!

      • Most renters should have bought a place long ago #sorrynotsorry, but because rent control rules they have been beneficiaries of below market rate rent and thus reducing their incentives to buy(Econ 101 – Incentives matter). If market forces were allow to work naturally long time renters would be presented with a greater incentive to move and buy(decades ago).

        To answer your question on the cost to dwell there, the homes that they will build will cost as much as someone is willing to pay for them, no more no less(seems fair to me). This is something the seller will have no control over, what if the market crashes and they lose money it could happen. Because someone will make money is not a good enough reason to block a new family from enjoying our little hill. I am not going to tell a family sorry I was here first and you’re not welcome solely because you can afford it. Call me old fashion, I’m inclusive.

        By turning a pile of parceled dirt(it is not a park) into three dwellings that can be inhabited by new neighbors, I say we win. The other option is that they invest in an existing building and evict the family living there. I say let them build, with in the code which is already onerous, and let new people enjoy what we do, an amazing, progressive, inclusive, and open minded neighborhood.

      • @Brian – I don’t think rent control is the reason that people don’t buy property. It’s probably because they are of limited means. I was a beneficiary of rent control for 10 years living in SF. I used that to save money and my partner and I were lucky enough to buy in Bernal before the prices reached these levels. I’m not saying that this is in no part to work that we did to prepare for this but I realize that many are not in the same position we are in. We have no kids, no elderly parents to care for, both have a college education and good jobs, etc. You’re living in a dream world if you think that everyone in this country has access to the same opportunities. We are very lucky but I don’t look down on people who don’t have the same opportunities that we did/do.

      • Well said, Marek. I’m not especially opposed to construction on this site, but trying to suggest that new luxury construction on this lot equates to fewer people being evicted is farcical nonsense.

      • It’s not completely farcical, Herr Doktor. Every new apartment or house in the city relieves overall housing demand by a little bit, and thereby relieves price pressure on every other place on the market, including cheaper ones that would be bid up slightly more if the higher priced new unit had not come on the market. Four units more or less will not make much difference, but an extra say 2000 units a year all over town would drop all prices considerably I would suppose…

    • What a huge leap. And I haven’t bought a house because I don’t have the money, not because of rent control. I can still live in this city — where I’ve been for 15 years, where my family lives and where I work — because of rent control.

      • Hear, hear. People who think tenants are choosing not to buy because of rent control are simply fooling themselves.

  4. seems like a lot of work just for four houses. they should make each building a duplex. at least then it will at least be SOMEWHAT more affordable.

    • It says “In the past, Quinlan has presented plans for four or five duplexes, that is 8 or 10 units. So this is much less dense than he’s proposed in the past.” He was probably blocked on that idea.

      • yeah I guess. I just think they could probably squeeze two units in the same envelope they’re allowing for 1 unit. PS I took a quick look as I rode by this morning. The plot is actually a lot smaller than it appears in this photo. There is a building not quite on the corner of CC and York that’s just a garage/shed. That’s probably where the entrance will be.

    • If your basement is in the area where that underground stream gets diverted, yeah, you do care. The water has to go somewhere and we don’t always like where it ends up. Geology and hydrology count when building around here folks, and they should.

  5. i can’t stay quiet…this discourse is just the kind that makes me crazy. first we start with information about a development for housing on a hidden lot and wind up pointing fingers and defending our rights as renters/owners of land. doesn’t anyone reading these posts have an original idea pertaining to hidden lots? isn’t it most interesting that there’s one right her and most of us didn’t even know it? an how many of these voices will be attending the meeting that the poster noted?

  6. Pingback: Neighbor Attends Design Review Meeting, Gets Depressed, Sees “Dark Heart” of San Francisco Housing Crisis | Bernalwood

  7. Pingback: Wednesday: Another Design Review Board Meeting for Long-Delayed Infill Housing in Northeast Bernal Heights | Bernalwood

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